Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sermon on the Sunday of St. Gregory Palamas: The Second Sunday of Great Lent

Today, the second Sunday of the Great Fast, the Orthodox Church worldwide celebrates the memory of St. Gregory Palamas, fourteenth-century Archbishop of Thessaloniki and one of the greatest Fathers of the Orthodox Church.

Until this century, because of the influence of the West—the Jesuits in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century Russia and the Lutherans who were appointed as the Ministers of Religion under the first King of Greece, a German Lutheran, placed in power in Greece after its liberation from the Turkish Yoke at the beginning of the nineteenth century—, St. Gregory Palamas was a virtual mystery to Orthodox theologians. This man, whom we hymn as "ho phoster tes Orthodoxias" (the "Enlightener of Orthodoxy") and "to sterigma tes Ekklesias" (the "Pillar of the Church"), taught and lived our Faith in a purity which, except in the hidden confines of monasteries and in the hearts of the simple people—who could not articulate what they knew of Orthodoxy—, was lost to the neo-Papism of Patriarchalism, Western notions of "officialdom," and to nationalism and ethnicity, which are nothing more than a return to heathenism.

Even the life of this great Saint is obscured by modern Western ideas. One of the few commentaries on his life, in a book dedicated to the Pillars of Orthodoxy, refers to him as a member of the "Palamas" family, as though this great Saint were remembered for the nobility of his parents, who were, indeed, members of the Imperial Byzantine Court. Many names at the time, of course, were not like family names as we know them today, and the name "Palamas" was an honorific name derived, not from St. Gregory’s bloodline, but from the Greek word for "clapping," thus meaning that the Saint’s family was lauded and honoured. And so, this worldly honour was transformed by St. Gregory into spiritual honour, which we commemorate when we refer to him as "Palamas," one applauded for his spiritual stature. Nor was St. Gregory Palamas influenced by the Bogomils, as the theologian Father John Meyendorff so wrongly taught; neither did he teach an innovative theology, as many modern Orthodox theologians teach. Rather, he codified and wrote about the deep, mystical theology of the Orthodox Church which is, indeed, a teaching passed down through the Fathers, both in writing and by word of mouth, from the time of the Apostles.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Theotokos and the Church by His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

The Church of Christ, my beloved brethren, is the Divine-human Body of Christ. The Church of the Old Testament was spiritual and consisted of the righteous, who did not overcome death, but with the incarnation of Christ the Church became physical, that is it was recruited by Christ and became His Body. This was accomplished together with the Panagia, because she gave her body to Christ, who deified it and made it a church. This alone shows the great worth of our Panagia, and that she is the joy and cause of our deification.

Therefore, when we say Church we mean Christ the Bridegroom, the Mother of Christ the Bridegroom, and the friends of Christ the Bridegroom, the saints. Within this communion the deification of man is achieved as well as the sanctification of all creation, and of course great changes occur in society and the world.

In the sermons of the months that have past and are ahead of us, we mentioned and will refer to the Mysteries of our Church, and we saw the importance they have for our lives. There cannot be a spiritual life outside the Mysteries of our Church, especially without Holy Baptism, Holy Chrismation, and Divine Communion. But these Mysteries also involve our Panagia. The visitation of the angel at the Annunciation and the receiving of the Holy Spirit was the Baptism and Chrismation of our Panagia, because by this means she was purified according to her image and was anointed by the Holy Spirit. If we view Holy Baptism through the Orthodox perspective, not simply as a release from inherited guilt, but as the purification of the image, then we will also understand the situation of the nature of the Panagia during the Annunciation. With the conception of Christ in the womb of our Panagia one could say that the Panagia communed with Christ. The close relationship of Christ the embryo with His Mother shows that the Panagia had nine months during which she bore Christ in a constant Divine Communion. With her dormition and her bodily rise to heaven, the Panagia lived the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of her body.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Identical Twin Studies Prove Homosexuality Is Not Genetic

Eight major studies of identical twins in Australia, the U.S., and Scandinavia during the last two decades all arrive at the same conclusion: gays were not born that way.

“At best genetics is a minor factor,” says Dr. Neil Whitehead, PhD. Whitehead worked for the New Zealand government as a scientific researcher for 24 years, then spent four years working for the United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency. Most recently, he serves as a consultant to Japanese universities about the effects of radiation exposure. His PhD is in biochemistry and statistics.

Identical twins have the same genes or DNA. They are nurtured in equal prenatal conditions. If homosexuality is caused by genetics or prenatal conditions and one twin is gay, the co-twin should also be gay.

“Because they have identical DNA, it ought to be 100%,” Dr. Whitehead notes. But the studies reveal something else. “If an identical twin has same-sex attraction the chances the co-twin has it are only about 11% for men and 14% for women.”

Because identical twins are always genetically identical, homosexuality cannot be genetically dictated. “No-one is born gay,” he notes. “The predominant things that create homosexuality in one identical twin and not in the other have to be post-birth factors.”

The predominant things that create homosexuality in one identical twin and not in the other have to be post-birth factors.
Dr. Whitehead believes same-sex attraction (SSA) is caused by “non-shared factors,” things happening to one twin but not the other, or a personal response to an event by one of the twins and not the other.  For example, one twin might have exposure to pornography or sexual abuse, but not the other. One twin may interpret and respond to their family or classroom environment differently than the other.

“These individual and idiosyncratic responses to random events and to common environmental factors predominate,” he says.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Sunday of Orthodoxy: The First Sunday Of Great Lent

"This is the Apostolic faith, this is the faith of the Fathers, this is the Orthodox faith"

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, you will hear these solemn and significant words in the Rite of Orthodoxy which the Holy Church has established to be served on this day. The first week of Holy and Great Lent has ended a week of intensified prayer and ascetical repentance. Now the Holy Church, desiring to encourage and console us, has established for us in this first week of Great Lent, on its first Sunday, a spiritual celebration, one most dear and close to our hearts -- The Triumph of Orthodoxy.

This celebration was first performed in 842 in Constantinople in the presence of the Blessed Empress Theodora by His Holiness Patriarch Methodius in memory of the overthrow of the last terrible heresy to shake Christ's Church, the heresy of iconoclasm. But in this celebration the Holy Church marks the triumph of the holy Orthodox faith in general, her victory over all impious heresies, false teachings and schisms.

Our Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour founded His Church on earth so that all belonging to her could be saved, could elude the nets of the devil and enter into the Heavenly Kingdom prepared for them.

The devil exerted all his strength to overthrow and destroy the Church of Christ and, through this, to hinder the salvation of men, At first he raised up terrible persecutions against the Church on the part of the Jews and pagans. For almost three centuries the blood of Christian martyrs flowed without ceasing. But the devil did not succeed in his task. The blood of the martyrs, according to the apt statement of the Christian apologist Tertullian, became the seeds of Christians. Christianity triumphed over its persecutors. The meek lambs of Christ's flock transformed the wolf-like rage of their persecutors into lamb-like meekness.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Response to a Question About Sexual Abstinence During Fasting Periods


...Scripture establishes well the practice of fasting from the flesh (both in the Old and New Testaments). So do the ancient texts of the Church. If these people who question abstinence would read the lives of the Saints and the Fathers, they would understand that, in challenging us for adhering to the Faith, they show their own utter lack of understanding of what they claim to believe. How can anyone have the gall to challenge Church customs without reading such basic discourses as those by St. John Chrysostomos, who, in his "On Virginity," clearly states that married couples should abstain from marital relations when fasting? In times past, a simple, uneducated village Priest would have been as familiar with this advice from one of the Great Hierarchs of the Church as he would have been with St. Paul’s statements on the subject in his First Epistle to the Church in Corinth or the similar words of the Prophet Joel. And one would be hard-pressed to argue that the witness of St. John Chrysostomos is somehow not ancient.

Since they have also rejected our argument about the inspired and sacred nature of the Holy Canons, many modernists also ignore the canonical witness of Orthodoxy (when they are not using it in a legalistic way to justify their deviation from Holy Tradition). 

Hence, while it may be of little use in confronting those who war with Orthodoxy in the name of the Faith, you should note the canonical data in support of the ancient practice of fasting from the flesh: the commentary and notes on the sixty-ninth Apostolic Canon, which contain very enlightening and informative statements about fasting in general; the thirteenth Canon of St. Timothy, which, addressing fasting from the flesh on Saturday and Sunday, dates to the fourth century; regarding the clergy in particular, the commentary and notes to the thirteenth canon of the Sixth Œcumenical Synod; and any of the major canonical commentaries (such as those of Balsamon) that anyone daring to criticize the Church should at least have read thoroughly and carefully.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday)

The Sunday of Forgiveness is the last Sunday prior to the commencement of Great Lent. During the pre-Lenten period, the services of the Church include hymns from the Triodion, a liturgical book that contains the services from the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the tenth before Pascha (Easter), through Great and Holy Saturday. On the Sunday of Forgiveness focus is placed on the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, an event that shows us how far we have fallen in sin and separated ourselves from God. At the onset of Great Lent and a period of intense fasting, this Sunday reminds us of our need for God’s forgiveness and guides our hearts, minds, and spiritual efforts on returning to Him in repentance.

The Sunday of Forgiveness, the last of the preparatory Sundays before Great Lent, has two themes: it commemorates Adam’s expulsion from Paradise, and it accentuates our need for forgiveness. There are obvious reasons why these two things should be brought to our attention as we stand on the threshold of Great Lent. One of the primary images in the Triodion is that of the return to Paradise. Lent is a time when we weep with Adam and Eve before the closed gate of Eden, repenting with them for the sins that have deprived us of our free communion with God. But Lent is also a time when we are preparing to celebrate the saving event of Christ’s death and rising, which has reopened Paradise to us once more (Luke 23:43). So sorrow for our exile in sin is tempered by hope of our re-entry into Paradise.

The second theme, that of forgiveness, is emphasized in the Gospel reading for this Sunday (Matthew 6:14-21) and in the special ceremony of mutual forgiveness at the end of the Vespers on Sunday evening. Before we enter the Lenten fast, we are reminded that there can be no true fast, no genuine repentance, no reconciliation with God, unless we are at the same time reconciled with one another. A fast without mutual love is the fast of demons. We do not travel the road of Lent as isolated individuals but as members of a family. Our asceticism and fasting should not separate us from others, but should link us to them with ever-stronger bonds.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Visions Outside the Orthodox Church

Many people have heard that the Mother of God has supposedly appeared to Roman Catholics in various places. They do not know what to think about these events. Some even go so far as to think that since the Mother of God appears to Roman Catholics, it follows that the Roman Catholic Church is a true, grace-filled church, especially since various miracles and healings take place at the locations of the visions. Fatima, in particular, has aroused much interest among Russians living abroad because the apparition allegedly speaks about Russia in strongly anti-communist terms, leading them to overlook the heretical and anti-Orthodox content of the message as a whole. What are we to make of these appearances and the claims made for them? What criterion should we use to guide us in testing the truth of visions outside of the Orthodox Church? Hopefully, what follows will help in understanding such phenomena.

The Holy Fathers, knowing that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light, advise us to be cautious and distrustful of all appearances in the visible world. “If you are silent in a good way, desiring to be with God,” says St. Gregory the Sinaite, “never accept any physical or spiritual appearances, either outside or inside yourself, even if it might be an image of Christ, or an angel, or some Saint, or if light should appear, or imprint itself in the mind...Be attentive, that you may not come to believe something, even if it is something good, and be not captivated by it before consulting those who are experienced and are able to analyze the matter, so that you do not suffer harm...God is not displeased with the person who is attentive to himself, even if he, out of fear of deception, does not accept even that which is from Him, without consulting and testing....” 

We might add that the Lord God could at all times give full assurance to a person, if He is pleased to do so, concerning the truth of a vision. If such caution is necessary concerning visions WITHIN the Orthodox Church, how much more circumspect should we be in relation to apparitions OUTSIDE the one, true Church! The sole criterion for examining these visions should be their Orthodoxy. If in any respect their Orthodoxy is lacking, then they must be rejected: even if 99% of the message is Orthodox and only 1% deviates from the doctrines laid down by the Church, then the whole must be rejected. God cannot deny Himself or preach untruth even in the smallest degree.