28 April 2017

The Holy Prophet Ezekiel

The Holy Prophet Ezekiel lived in the sixth century before the birth of Christ. He was born in the city of Sarir, and descended from the tribe of Levi; he was a priest and the son of the priest Buzi. Ezekiel was led off to Babylon when he was twenty-five years old together with King Jeconiah II and many other Jews during the second invasion of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.

The Prophet Ezekiel lived in captivity by the River Chebar. When he was thirty years old, he had a vision of the future of the Hebrew nation and of all mankind. The prophet beheld a shining cloud, with fire flashing continually, and in the midst of the fire, gleaming bronze. He also saw four living creatures in the shape of men, but with four faces (Ez. 1:6). Each had the face of a man in front, the face of a lion on the right, the face of an ox on the left, and the face of an eagle at the back (Ez. 1:10). There was a wheel on the earth beside each creature, and the rim of each wheel was full of eyes.

Over the heads of the creatures there seemed to be a firmament, shining like crystal. Above the firmament was the likeness of a throne, like glittering sapphire in appearance. Above this throne was the likeness of a human form, and around Him was a rainbow (Ez. 1:4-28).

According to the explanation of the Fathers of the Church, the human likeness upon the sapphire throne prefigures the Incarnation of the Son of God from the Most Holy Virgin Mary, who is the living Throne of God. The four creatures are symbols of the four Evangelists: a man (Saint Matthew), a lion (Saint Mark), an ox (Saint Luke), and an eagle (Saint John); the wheel with the many eyes is meant to suggest the sharing of light with all the nations of the earth. During this vision the holy prophet fell down upon the ground out of fear, but the voice of God commanded him to get up. He was told that the Lord was sending him to preach to the nation of Israel. This was the beginning of Ezekiel’s prophetic service.

The Prophet Ezekiel announces to the people of Israel, held captive in Baylon, the tribulations it would face for not remaining faithful to God. The prophet also proclaimed a better time for his fellow-countrymen, and he predicted their return from Babylon, and the restoration of the Jerusalem Temple.

There are two significant elements in the vision of the prophet: the vision of the temple of the Lord, full of glory (Ez. 44:1-10); and the bones in the valley, to which the Spirit of God gave new life (Ez. 37:1-14). The vision of the temple was a mysterious prefiguring of the race of man freed from the working of the Enemy and the building up of the Church of Christ through the redemptive act of the Son of God, incarnate of the Most Holy Theotokos. Ezekiel’s description of the shut gate of the sanctuary, through which the Lord God would enter (Ez. 44: 2), is a prophecy of the Virgin giving birth to Christ, yet remaining a virgin. The vision of the dry bones prefigured the universal resurrection of the dead, and the new eternal life bestowed by the Lord Jesus Christ.

The holy Prophet Ezekiel received from the Lord the gift of wonderworking. He, like the Prophet Moses, divided the waters of the river Chebar, and the Hebrews crossed to the opposite shore, escaping the pursuing Chaldeans. During a time of famine the prophet asked God for an increase of food for the hungry.

Ezekiel was condemned to execution because he denounced a certain Hebrew prince for idolatry. Bound to wild horses, he was torn to pieces. Pious Hebrews gathered up the torn body of the prophet and buried it upon Maur Field, in the tomb of Sim and Arthaxad, forefathers of Abraham, not far from Baghdad. The prophecy of Ezekiel is found in the book named for him, and is included in the Old Testament.

St Demetrius of Rostov (October 28 and September 21) explains to believers the following concepts in the book of the Prophet Ezekiel: if a righteous man turns from righteousness to sin, he shall die for his sin, and his righteousness will not be remembered. If a sinner repents, and keeps God’s commandments, he will not die. His former sins will not be held against him, because now he follows the path of righteousness (Ez. 3:20; 18:21-24).

Apolytikion of Prophet Ezekiel

As we celebrate the memory of Thy Prophet Ezekiel, O Lord, through him we beseech Thee to save our souls.

Kontakion of Prophet Ezekiel

O divine Ezekiel, as God's true Prophet, thou foretoldest unto all the Incarnation of the Lord, the Lamb of God, the Artificer, the Son of God, the Eternal made manifest.

26 April 2017

Saint Meletios the Confessor of Mount Galesion on the Aerial Toll Houses

The following is from The Departure of the Soul, the first comprehensive presentation of the teachings of over 120 Orthodox Saints and dozens of holy hierarchs, clergy, and theologians on the subject of the soul's exodus to the next life. With over 750 pages of source material featuring many rare images and dozens of texts translated into English for the first time, The Departure of the Soul is unique as both the sole reference edition on the subject and a fascinating and spiritually profitable book for anyone seeking insight into one of the greatest mysteries of all. The book also reveals over 100 falsifications, misrepresentations, and errors contained in the publications of authors who oppose the teaching of the Church, thus definitively ending the 40-year controversy in the Church. The book features: ~ Full endorsements by eight Orthodox hierarchs ~ Foreword by His Eminence Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki (Church of Greece) ~ Spans the 2,000-year history of the Orthodox Church with chapters on Holy Scripture, The Liturgical Services, The Writings of the Fathers of the Church, The Lives of the Saints, Iconography, Commemoration and Prayer for the Departed and Contemporary Opponents of the Church's Teaching. Many rare images and dozens of texts translated for the first time from the original languages. Think of it as a massively expanded and more detailed version of The Soul After Death.

Called by God at a young age, Saint Meletios abandoned his homeland and his beloved family and set out as a pilgrim for the Holy Land. Becoming a monk on Mount Sinai, he spent weeks without food and nights without sleep, continuing in fasting, vigils, and ceaseless prayer to the astonishment of all his fellow monks. Having wandered through the desert, like a diligent bee gathering the nectar of the virtues from the holy ascetics he met, St. Meletios settled on Mount Galesion at the Monastery of St. Lazarus, becoming perfect in obedience and the ascetical life.

Christ the Lord appeared to him in glory, commanding him to go to Constantinople to defend the Orthodox Faith, which was in danger from compromises with the Latins that Emperor Michael VIII had made for political reasons. Presenting himself at the imperial court, St. Meletios boldly reproached the emperor for betraying the Faith. Thrown into prison, he was then exiled to the island of Skyros where he authored a long poem, excerpted here, in which he desired to set forth all the essentials of the Orthodox Faith in a single Gathering. Sent to the pope in Rome for trial, St. Meletios continued to boldly confess the Orthodox Faith, confronting the Latin scholastic theologians and rebuking their errors. Imprisoned for seven more years, he was then sent back to Skyros and shut up in a dark dungeon. The peoples’ proclamation of the saint as a confessor of the Orthodox Faith stirred the Emperor to summon him back to the imperial court. Steadfast as ever in proclaiming Orthodoxy, the saint was condemned to torture. He was hung on a dry tree which burst into leaf upon receiving him. His tongue which had so bravely spoken the truth was cut out, but miraculously he was able to continue proclaiming the true Faith. Finally released from imprisonment on the death of Michael VIII, St. Meletios played an important role in re-establishing Orthodoxy. When he departed from this world to God, his face shone like the sun. His body remained incorrupt, becoming a wellspring of
countless miracles.

The texts excerpted below provide a significant early witness to the saints of the Orthodox Church embracing not only the teaching of the toll-houses but also the Life of St. Basil the New, the most complete and vivid description of the toll-houses:

“The soul that yearns for God and does good things, gladly departs to Him when it is called. It soars above the evil demons and with peace proceeds to the assembly of the angels, having certainly passed through safely. The things that are said about the toll-houses are from experience which the divine Theodora has stated wonderfully. You certainly know these things, how fearsome, how terrible, how frightful, how full of shock the time of death is.… The venerable Basil says that they examine that [dissolute] life as well….”

T. Simopoulos, ed., Μελέτιος ὁ Γαλησιώτης (Meletios Galesiotes) (Athens, 1978), no. 180, “On the Remembrance of Death,” p. 492, lines 49–57, 71. (In Greek.)

“The Savior at the time of the Passion said that the ruler of this world will find nothing in Me (John 14:30). But in someone else he will find many or few things. However many passions someone says he has, he has the same number of demons. Each one is marked by the corresponding toll-house. According to the words of the venerable and divine Theodora, each demon incites us towards sin.”

Ibid., no. 181, “On the Separation of the Soul and the Resurrection of the Body,” p. 493, line 15–20. (In Greek.)

Besides these above linked amazing books, you can find more information about the ancient Orthodox Christian teaching of the Aerial Toll-Houses/Toll-Booths at the following links:

21 April 2017

The Mysteries (Sacraments of the Church)

Due to popular demand , I am posting links to my blog post articles on the Sacred Mysteries (Holy Sacraments) of the Orthodox Christian Church and their history from the Old Testament to the Apostolic Times to the Writing of the New Testament to the Modern Age:

BAPTISM & CHRISMATION
  1. Infant Baptism
  2. The Lord is My Shepherd: A Traditional Look at a Well Known Psalm by Archbishop Dmitri
  3. HOW-TO: What to do if You are Having a Baby!
CONFESSION/PENANCE
  1. The Holy Mysteries of Penance/Confession and Unction
  2. HOW-TO: A Comprehensive Guide for Confession
  3. Twelve Questions & Answers on Orthodox Confession & Worship
COMMUNION/EUCHARIST
  1. The Gospel According to Saint John, Chapter 6: Parallel of the Passover and the Exodus of Israel
  2. Children and the Church by Archpriest Basil Zebrun
UNCTION/ANOINTING
  1. Holy Wednesday Unction: Anointing the Physically & Spiritually Sick
  2. The Holy Mysteries of Penance/Confession and Unction
HOLY ORDERS/ORDINATION
  1. The Clerical Orders of the Church
  2. HOW-TO: Address Orthodox Christian Clergy
MARRIAGE/MATRIMONY
  1. The Orthodox Wedding Ceremony
  2. The Gospel According to Saint Mark, Chapter 10: The Gospel of Family and What is Important
MORE ABOUT MYSTERIES OF THE CHURCH
  1. The Didache (This Apostolic Document Speaks of all the Church's Mysteries)
  2. The Orthodox Prayers for a Pregnant Mother and Her Unborn Child(ren)
  3. The Blessings of... ...Everything!
  4. The Prayer at the Blessing of Vehicles of Travel

20 April 2017

Most Popular Blog Posts, Books, Movies, and Toys of All Time!

I found this kind of interesting. These are the 10 most popular posts on my blog over the last 14 years! Orthodox Ecclesiology focused posts are #3, #5, #6, and #10. #1, #2, #4, and #8 are posts about the World. #7 and #9 are posts that I rewrote much better and put on the spin-off blog, Steamies vs. Diesels which reviews Thomas and Friends. And actually, come to think of it, #4 and #8 would better fit on the spun-off blog, How to Get Married in China.... This blog started more Worldly-focused and became more Orthodox Christianity focused over time, so I imagine with time, the rankings of the top posts will change. For instance, this Pascha, #5 just made it on this list, bumping off another popular Orthodox Christian Theological post off the top 10 list.
  1. 44,650 Unique Visitors: Sleeping Positions of Married Couples and What They Mean
  2. 14,294 Unique Visitors: Tattoos
  3. 10,453 Unique Visitors: A Timeline of Church History: Tracing the Birth and Continuity of the Christian Church from Pentecost to the Present
  4. 4,993 Unique Visitors: HOW-TO: Get a QQ Number for English Speakers and Mac Users (Updated!)
  5. 3,912 Unique Visitors: HOW-TO: Make a Traditional Pascha (Easter) Basket and the Meanings of Each Item
  6. 9,910 Unique Visitors: 30 Severely Corrupted Scriptures in the New Living Translation (NLT) Bible
  7. 3,432 Unique Visitors: Thomas the Tank Engine and his Racist Friends, "The Steam Team" Part Two: Day of the Diesels
  8. 2,950 Unique Visitors: New QQ International Version for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux
  9. 1,723 Unique Visitors: Thomas the Tank Engine and His Racist Friends, "The Steam Team" Part Four: Misty Island Rescue
  10. 1,384 Unique Visitors: My Favorite Orthodox Christian Android Apps (with Links)
What are your top 10 favorite posts on this blog?

Also of interest, the top ten ordered items over the last year via links from my blog to Amazon:
  1. 19 people bought the $44 Transformers Platinum Edition Optimus Primal Figure
  2. 13 people bought the $12 Transformers Generations Titans Return Titan Master Fracas and Deluxe Class Scourge
  3. 10 people bought the $143 Transformers Generations Titans Return Titan Class Fortress Maximus
  4. 9 people bought the $20 Transformers Animated: The Complete Series DVD Box Set and the $90 Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Computron Collection Pack
  5. 8 people bought the $16 Transformers Japanese Collection: Headmasters DVD Box Set
  6. 7 people bought the $1 The Orthodox Church (1963 Version) Paperback Book by Timothy Warethe $16 Transformers Japanese Collection: Super-God Masterforce DVD Box Set, and the $16 Transformers Japanese Collection: Victory DVD Box Set
  7. 6 people bought the $15 American Tall Tales Hardcover Book by Mary Pope Osborne
  8. 5 people bought the $7 Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Legends/Legion Class Warpath Figurethe $7 Lionel FasTrack Half Straight Track, and the $7 Lionel FasTrack Full Straight Track
  9. 4 people bought the $6 Lionel 1-3/8" Track Section and the $20 Beast Wars Transformers The Complete Series DVD Box Set
  10. 3 people bought the $90 Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Computron Collection Pack
You readers really love your Transformers and Trains

10 April 2017

The Green Patriarch on Environmental Peace

"If human beings were to treat one another’s personal property the way they treat the natural environment, we would view that behavior as antisocial and illegal. We would expect legal sanctions and even compensation. When will we learn that to commit a crime against the natural world is also a sin?"

"The way we respond to the natural environment is directly reflects the way we treat human beings. The willingness to exploit the environment is revealed in the willingness to permit avoidable human suffering. So the survival of the natural environment is also the survival of ourselves. When we will understand that a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and sin against God?"

"We have traditionally regarded sin as being merely what people do to other people. Yet, for human beings to destroy the biological diversity in God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by contributing to climate change, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, land and air – all of these are sins."

"We are treating our planet in an inhuman, godless manner precisely because we fail to see it as a gift inherited from above. Our original sin with regard to the natural environment lies in our refusal to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and neighbor on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that divine and human meet in the slightest detail contained in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust."

"It should not be fear of impending disaster with regard to global change that obliges us to change our ways with regard to the natural environment. Rather, it should be a recognition of the cosmic harmony and original beauty that exists in the world. We must learn to make our communities more sensitive and to render our behavior toward nature more respectful. We must acquire a compassionate heart – what Saint Isaac of Syria, a seventh century mystic once called "a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation: for humans, for birds and beasts, for all God’s creatures"."

"The fundamental criterion for an ecological ethic is not individualistic or commercial. It is deeply spiritual. For, the root of the environmental crisis lies in human greed and selfishness. What is asked of us is not greater technological skill, but deeper repentance for our wrongful and wasteful ways. What is demanded is a sense of sacrifice, which comes with cost but also brings about fulfillment. Only through such self-denial, through our willingness sometimes to forgo and to say “no” or “enough” will we rediscover our true human place in the universe."

"This sacrifice for the sake of sharing means learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is learning to share and to connect with others and with the natural world. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion. It is regaining a sense of wonder, being filled with a sense of goodness, seeing all things in God, and God in all things."

"If we are guilty of relentless waste, it is because we have lost the spirit of worship. We are no longer respectful pilgrims on this earth; we have been reduced to careless consumers or passing travelers. This spiritual vision of worship guides us to a life that sees more clearly and shares more fairly, moving away from what we want individually to what the world needs globally. Then, we begin to value everything for its place in creation and not simply its economic value to us, thereby restoring the original beauty of the world, seeing all things in God and God in all things."

"We have been commanded to taste of the world’s fruits, not to waste them; we have been commissioned to care for the world, not to waste it. When Christ fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fish on a hill in Palestine, he instructed his disciples to “gather together the fragments which remain over, that nothing might be lost.” (John 6:12) This instruction should serve as a model in a time of wasteful consumption, where even the refuse of affluent societies can nourish entire populations."

"It is a qualitative element of our faith that we believe in and accept a Creator, who fashioned the world out of love, making and calling it “very good.” Tending to and caring for this creation is not a political whim or a social fashion. It is a divine commandment; it is a religious obligation. It is no less than the will of God that we leave as light a footprint on our environment."

"It is never too late. God’s world has incredible healing powers; and human choices can change the tide in global warming. Within a single generation, we could steer earth toward our children’s future. With God’s blessing and help, that generation can begin now. For the first time in the history of our world, we recognize that our decisions and choices directly impact the environment. It is up to us to shape our future; it is up to us to choose our destiny. Breaking the vicious circle of ecological degradation is a choice with which we are uniquely endowed, at this crucial moment in the history of our planet."

"Ecology cannot inspire respect for nature if it does not express a different worldview from the one that prevails in our culture today, from the one that led us to this ecological impasse in the first place. What is required is an act of repentance, a change in our established ways, a renewed image of ourselves, one another and the world around us within the perspective of the divine design for creation. To achieve this transformation, what is required is nothing less than a radical reversal of our perspectives and practices."

"Poverty is not caused by the lack of material resources. It is the immediate result of our exploitation and waste. There is a close link between the economy of the poor and the warming of our planet. Conservation and compassion are intimately connected. The web of life is a sacred gift of God -- ever so precious, yet ever so delicate. Each of us dwells within the wider ecosystem; each of us is a part of a larger, global environment. We must serve our neighbor and preserve our world with both humility and generosity, in a perspective of frugality and solidarity."

"All of us have to work, each from his or her own place in the world; indeed, we must work together, irrespective of religious conviction, racial origin, and professional discipline. Our efforts will remain meaningless and fruitless if they remain fragmented and isolated. For, the protection of the world’s natural beauty is one consideration, one concern, one song, to the glory of God and all creation."

"Climate change is much more than an issue of environmental preservation. Insofar as human-induced, it is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem. To persist in our current path of ecological destruction is not only folly. It is suicidal because it jeopardizes the diversity of our planet. Moreover, climate change constitutes a matter of social and economic justice. For, those who will most directly and severely be affected by climate change will be the poorer and more vulnerable nations (what Christian Scriptures refer to as our “neighbor”) as well as the younger and future generations (the world of our children, and of our children’s children)."

"Indigenous peoples throughout the world are the stewards and guardians not only of the forests and the seas, as well as of a vast store of knowledge about the natural world, which they regard as the “library of life.” They know the properties and potential uses of every living thing around them. The rest of the world is sometimes jealous of that knowledge, and indigenous peoples are understandably, and often justifiably, cautious about sharing it."

"The word “ecology” contains the prefix “eco,” which derives from the Greek word oikos, signifying “home” or “dwelling.” How unfortunate, then, and indeed how selfish it is that we have reduced its meaning and restricted its application. This world is indeed our home. Yet it is also the home of everyone, just as it is the home of every animal creature and of every form of life created by God. It is a sign of arrogance to presume that we human beings alone inhabit this world. Moreover, it is a sign of arrogance to imagine that only the present generation enjoys its resources."

"Whenever we narrow religious life to our own concerns, then we overlook the prophetic calling of the Church to implore God and invoke the divine Spirit for the renewal of the whole polluted cosmos. For, the entire world is the space within which this transformation is enacted. When we are transformed by divine grace, then we discern the injustice in which we are participants; but then we will also labor to share the resources of our planet; then, we realize that eco-justice is paramount -- not simply for a better life, but for our very survival."


"As Orthodox Christians, we use the Greek word kairos to describe a moment in time, often a brief moment in time, which has eternal significance. For the human race as a whole, there is now a kairos, a decisive time in our relationship with God’s creation. We will either act in time to protect life on earth from the worst consequences of human folly, or we will fail to act. May God grant us the wisdom to act in time. Amen."

20 March 2017

Who Founded the Ancient Christian Pentarchy, the Later Patriarchates, the Autonomous Orthodox Churches, and Autocephalous Orthodox Churches?

The Short answer is Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit through the Apostles founded the Orthodox Christian Church. But you may not know who founded each local Orthodox Church. Many were founded by the 12 Apostles, but some were founded by the 70 Apostles (Luke 10:1–24) or later Saints who were called Apostles to other lands because of their missionary work on founding many churches and translating the Bible and Service Books into the local languages. So here is a list which is now also in the right row of links as well:

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH PENTARCHY OF PATRIARCHATES
  • The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Orthodox Church of Rome) was founded by Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle
  • The Patriarchate of Alexandria (Orthodox Church of Egypt) was founded by Saint Mark the Apostle & Evangelist
  • The Patriarchate of Antioch (Orthodox Church of Syria) was founded by Saint Peter the Chief Apostle
  • The Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Orthodox Church of Palestine) was founded by Saint Iakovos (James) the Apostle & Brother of the Lord
  • The Patriarchate of Moscow (Orthodox Church of Russia) was founded by Saints Cyril & Methodius the Apostles to the Slavs
NON-PENTARCHY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH PATRIARCHATES
  • The Orthodox Church of Bulgaria was founded by Saint Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles
  • The Orthodox Church of Georgia was founded by Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle
  • The Orthodox Church of Romania was founded by Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle
  • The Orthodox Church of Serbia was founded by Saints Cyril & Methodius the Apostles to the Slavs
APOSTOLIC ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCHES

  • The Orthodox Church of Albania was founded by Saint Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles
  • The Orthodox Church of Cyprus was founded by Saint Barnabas the Apostle of the Seventy
  • The Orthodox Church of Greece was founded by Saint Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles
  • The Orthodox Church of Poland was founded by Saints Cyril & Methodius the Apostles to the Slavs
  • The Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands & Slovakia was founded by Saints Cyril & Methodius the Apostles to the Slavs

AUTONOMOUS ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCHES

  • The Orthodox Church of Belarus was founded by Saints Cyril & Methodius the Apostles to the Slavs
  • The Orthodox Church of Bessarabia was founded by Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle
  • The Orthodox Church of China was founded by Saint Thomas the Apostle of the Twelve
  • The Orthodox Church of Crete was founded by Saint Titus the Apostle of the Seventy
  • The Orthodox Church of Estonia was founded by the Saint Yaroslav the Wise Prince
  • The Orthodox Church of Finland was founded​ by Saint Willibrord the Apostle to the Frisians
  • The Orthodox Church of Japan was founded by Saint Nicholas (Nikolai) the Apostle to the Japanese
  • The Orthodox Church of Latvia was founded by Saint Bruno (Boniface) of Querfurt the Apostle to the Prussians
  • The Orthodox Church of Moldova was founded by Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle
  • The Orthodox Church of Ohrid was founded by Saint Justinian the Great Emperor
  • The Orthodox Church of Sinai was founded by Saint Helena (Helen) the Empress & Saint Constantine the Great Emperor
  • The Orthodox Church of Ukraine was founded by Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle
Of note, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) counts as its founder, Saint Herman the Wonderworker of Alaska, although when he helped establish the Orthodox Christianity in the Americas in the 1700s it was as an eparchy (diocese) of the Russian Orthodox Church since Alaska was still part of Russia.

19 March 2017

Saints Olga the Empress & Vladimir the Prince, and the Baptism of Rus'

In 957, Saint Olga visited Emperor Constantine VII in Constantinople. He admired her looks and intelligence, noting to her that 'You are fit to reign in this city with us.' She agreed to be Baptized and thus became a Christian, with name Helen, after the Patriarch Polyeuctus had instructed her in the faith. Before her Baptism, Constantine asked her hand in marriage, but Olga deferred claiming that she wanted to be Baptised an Orthodox Christian first. Again, after the Baptism, Constantine requested her hand in marriage, but the quick-thinking Olga tricked him (since he was her Godfather in Baptism), noting that he called her his daughter in Baptism and so such a union is forbidden under Christian law. While Constantine commented to Olga about her trickery, he lavished gifts on her when she returned to Kiev. In Kiev she instructed her son, Svyatoslav, and entreated him to be baptized. While he could not bring himself to commit to Baptism, he would not forbid others.

In 968, while Svyatoslav was occupied elsewhere, Pechenegs surrounded Kiev in a siege where Olga was living, caring for her grandsons Yaropolk, Oleg, and Vladimir. As the people became weaker with hunger and lack of water, Olga inspired a lad to escape the siege and bring relief. By this time sickness had come upon the aging Princess Olga. At the same time her son wanted to move his residence to Pereyaslav on the Danube River, leaving Olga in Kiev. Olga restrained Svyatoslav from leaving until after she had died. She died on July 11, 969 and was buried by a priest, having ordered that there would not be a funeral feast.

While Olga was not successful in converting her son or many others to the Christian faith, her example may have been a great influence on her grandson, Vladimir, who in 988 became an Orthodox Christian and led the inhabitants of Kiev and Rus' to follow him in the Baptism of Rus'. For her leadership in bringing Christianity to Russia, she is considered the first saint of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Introduction of Christianity into the lands of the Slavs began at least a century before the great event in Kiev. Traditionally, the missionary brothers Saints Cyril & Methodius are credited with bringing Orthodox Christianity to the Slavs, in their own language, in the 860s, although the southern Slavs had already known Christianity thanks to Saint Andrew the Apostle. Among the eastern Slavs, whose ruling princes, the Rus, were descended from the Varangian (Norse) chieftains/traders, introduction of Christianity appears to have occurred in several stages.

As early as 867, Patriarch Photius of Constantinople advised the other Orthodox Patriarchs that members of the Rus, who had been baptized by his bishops, had become enthusiastic Christians. As the Primary Chronicle and other sources noted the Rus of the ninth century remained staunch pagans, and the outcome of the missionary efforts of Photius’ bishops is not clear. Constantine VII and later Byzantine historians, including John Skylitzes and John Zonaras, continued to maintain a story of Christianization of the Rus, including enumeration of Orthodox Sees among the Rus.

The Primary Chronicle notes that a sizable part of the population of Kiev was Christian in the mid tenth century although noting the ruling princes continued following pagan customs. The Chronicle describes the actions in the mid tenth century of the ruling regent of Kiev, Princess Olga of Kiev, who visited Constantinople with a Priest Gregory. While it is unclear when and where she was Baptized, she became an Orthodox Christian and attempted to convert her son, Svyatoslav. But, he remained a stubborn pagan to his death in 972. His son and successor, Yaropolk I, appeared to be conciliatory towards Christianity and may have entertained visiting Christian missionaries.

After Yaropolk’s death in 980 and the ascension of his brother Vladimir as the ruling prince, Vladimir led a pagan reaction to Christianization efforts. This revitalization of pagan worship failed, however. By the mid 980s Vladimir realized the need to adopt the true religion. In 987, as reported in the Primary Chronicle, and after consulting with his boyars (knights), Vladimir dispatched envoys to study the religions of neighboring nations. Upon returning, the envoys reported their impressions, noting their objections to the religions of the Muslims, Jews, and German Christianity, while expressing the joy of the festive ritual in the cathedral Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

Concurrently, Emperor Basil II in Constantinople approached Vladimir for aid suppressing a revolt of some of his generals. In response, Vladimir sent troops to help Basil put down the revolt. As part of their earlier agreement, Vladimir was baptized with the Christian name Basil, and followed his baptism by a marriage to Basil II’s sister, Anna Porphyrogenita in the town of Chersonesos in Crimea.

Having accepted Christianity, Vladimir then called the people of Kiev to Baptism in the Dnieper River - the iconic event of the Baptism of Rus'. First, Vladimir’s twelve sons and many boyars were baptized. Then, the next day all the residents of Kiev were called to the river, where the Orthodox priests completed the sacrament of baptism. In the following days the ceremony was observed throughout the realm of Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kiev and Novgorod.

By the act of Baptizing his subjects, Vladimir signaled the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity as his state religion. Also, it was this event that Russia, the lands of the Rus and the Slavic east, entered into the greater Christian world as part of the Hellenic Christian heritage. For the Byzantines, the Baptism of the Russians signified their integration into the Byzantine Roman empire itself."

18 March 2017

Saint George the Great-Martyr, Victory-Bearer, and Wonderworker

The Holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer, was a native of Cappadocia (a district in Asia Minor), and he grew up in a deeply believing Christian family. His father was martyred for Christ when George was still a child. His mother, owning lands in Palestine, moved there with her son and raised him in strict piety.

When he became a man, Saint George entered into the service of the Roman army. He was handsome, brave and valiant in battle, and he came to the notice of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and joined the imperial guard with the rank of comites, or military commander.

The pagan emperor, who did much for the restoration of Roman might, was clearly concerned with the danger presented to pagan civilization by the triumph of the Crucified Savior, and intensified his persecution against the Christians in the final years of his reign. Following the advice of the Senate at Nicomedia, Diocletian gave all his governors full freedom in their court proceedings against Christians, and he promised them his full support.

Saint George, when he heard the decision of the emperor, distributed all his wealth to the poor, freed his servants, and then appeared in the Senate. The brave soldier of Christ spoke out openly against the emperor’s designs. He confessed himself a Christian, and appealed to all to acknowledge Christ: “I am a servant of Christ, my God, and trusting in Him, I have come among you voluntarily, to bear witness concerning the Truth.”

“What is Truth?” one of the dignitaries asked, echoing the question of Pontius Pilate. The saint replied, “Christ Himself, Whom you persecuted, is Truth.”

Stunned by the bold speech of the valiant warrior, the emperor, who had loved and promoted George, attempted to persuade him not to throw away his youth and glory and honors, but rather to offer sacrifice to the gods as was the Roman custom. The confessor replied, “Nothing in this inconstant life can weaken my resolve to serve God.”

Then by order of the enraged emperor the armed guards began to push Saint George out of the assembly hall with their spears, and they then led him off to prison. But the deadly steel became soft and it bent, just as the spears touched the saint’s body, and it caused him no harm. In prison they put the martyr’s feet in stocks and placed a heavy stone on his chest.

The next day at the interrogation, powerless but firm of spirit, Saint George again answered the emperor, “You will grow tired of tormenting me sooner than I will tire of being tormented by you.” Then Diocletian gave orders to subject Saint George to some very intense tortures. They tied the Great Martyr to a wheel, beneath which were boards pierced with sharp pieces of iron. As the wheel turned, the sharp edges slashed the saint’s naked body.

At first the sufferer loudly cried out to the Lord, but soon he quieted down, and did not utter even a single groan. Diocletian decided that the tortured one was already dead, and he gave orders to remove the battered body from the wheel, and then went to a pagan temple to offer thanks.

At this very moment it got dark, thunder boomed, and a voice was heard: “Fear not, George, for I am with you.” Then a wondrous light shone, and at the wheel an angel of the Lord appeared in the form of a radiant youth. He placed his hand upon the martyr, saying to him, “Rejoice!” Saint George stood up healed.

When the soldiers led him to the pagan temple where the emperor was, the emperor could not believe his own eyes and he thought that he saw before him some other man or even a ghost. In confusion and in terror the pagans looked Saint George over carefully, and they became convinced that a miracle had occurred. Many then came to believe in the Life-Creating God of the Christians.

Two illustrious officials, Saints Anatolius and Protoleon, who were secretly Christians, openly confessed Christ. Immediately, without a trial, they were beheaded with the sword by order of the emperor. Also present in the pagan temple was Empress Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian, and she also knew the truth. She was on the point of glorifying Christ, but one of the servants of the emperor took her and led her off to the palace.

The emperor became even more furious. He had not lost all hope of influencing Saint George, so he gave him over to new and fearsome torments. After throwing him into a deep pit, they covered it over with lime. Three days later they dug him out, but found him cheerful and unharmed. They shod the saint in iron sandals with red-hot nails, and then drove him back to the prison with whips. In the morning, when they led him back to the interrogation, cheerful and with healed feet, the emperor asked if he liked his shoes. The saint said that the sandals had been just his size. Then they beat him with ox thongs until pieces of his flesh came off and his blood soaked the ground, but the brave sufferer, strengthened by the power of God, remained unyielding.

The emperor concluded that the saint was being helped by magic, so he summoned the sorcerer Athanasius to deprive the saint of his miraculous powers, or else poison him. The sorcerer gave Saint George two goblets containing drugs. One of them would have quieted him, and the other would kill him. The drugs had no effect, and the saint continued to denounce the pagan superstitions and glorify God as before.

When the emperor asked what sort of power was helping him, Saint George said, “Do not imagine that it is any human learning which keeps me from being harmed by these torments. I am saved only by calling upon Christ and His Power. Whoever believes in Him has no regard for tortures and is able to do the things that Christ did” (John 14:12). Diocletian asked what sort of things Christ had done. The Martyr replied, “He gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, healed the lame, gave hearing to the deaf, cast out demons, and raised the dead.”

Knowing that they had never been able to resurrect the dead through sorcery, nor by any of the gods known to him, and wanting to test the saint, the emperor commanded him to raise up a dead person before his eyes. The saint retorted, “You wish to tempt me, but my God will work this sign for the salvation of the people who shall see the power of Christ.”

When they led Saint George down to the graveyard, he cried out, “O Lord! Show to those here present, that You are the only God in all the world. Let them know You as the Almighty Lord.” Then the earth quaked, a grave opened, the dead one emerged from it alive. Having seen with their own eyes the Power of Christ, the people wept and glorified the true God.

The sorcerer Athanasius, falling down at the feet of Saint George, confessed Christ as the All-Powerful God and asked forgiveness for his sins, committed in ignorance. The obdurate emperor in his impiety thought otherwise. In a rage, he commanded both Athanasius and the man raised from the dead to be beheaded, and he had Saint George again locked up in prison.

The people, weighed down with their infirmities, began to visit the prison and they there received healing and help from the saint. A certain farmer named Glycerius, whose ox had collapsed, also visited him. The saint consoled him and assured him that God would restore his ox to life. When he saw the ox alive, the farmer began to glorify the God of the Christians throughout all the city. By order of the emperor, Saint Glycerius was arrested and beheaded.

The exploits and the miracles of the Great Martyr George had increased the number of the Christians, therefore Diocletian made a final attempt to compel the saint to offer sacrifice to the idols. They set up a court at the pagan temple of Apollo. On the final night the holy martyr prayed fervently, and as he slept, he saw the Lord, Who raised him up with His hand, and embraced him. The Savior placed a crown on Saint George’s head and said, “Fear not, but have courage, and you will soon come to Me and receive what has been prepared for you.”

In the morning, the emperor offered to make Saint George his co-administrator, second only to himself. The holy martyr with a feigned willingness answered, “Caesar, you should have shown me this mercy from the very beginning, instead of torturing me. Let us go now to the temple and see the gods you worship.”

Diocletian believed that the martyr was accepting his offer, and he followed him to the pagan temple with his retinue and all the people. Everyone was certain that Saint George would offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint went up to the idol, made the Sign of the Cross and addressed it as if it were alive: “Are you the one who wants to receive from me sacrifice befitting God?”

The demon inhabiting the idol cried out, “I am not a god and none of those like me is a god, either. The only God is He Whom you preach. We are fallen angels, and we deceive people because we are jealous.”

Saint George cried out, “How dare you remain here, when I, the servant of the true God, have entered?” Then noises and wailing were heard from the idols, and they fell to the ground and were shattered.

There was general confusion. In a frenzy, pagan priests and many of the crowd seized the holy martyr, tied him up, and began to beat him. They also called for his immediate execution.

The holy empress Alexandra tried to reach him. Pushing her way through the crowd, she cried out, “O God of George, help me, for You Alone are All-Powerful.” At the feet of the Great Martyr the holy empress confessed Christ, Who had humiliated the idols and those who worshipped them.

Diocletian immediately pronounced the death sentence on the Great Martyr George and the holy Empress Alexandra, who followed Saint George to execution without resisting. Along the way she felt faint and slumped against a wall. There she surrendered her soul to God.

Saint George gave thanks to God and prayed that he would also end his life in a worthy manner. At the place of execution the saint prayed that the Lord would forgive the torturers who acted in ignorance, and that He would lead them to the knowledge of Truth. Calmly and bravely, the holy Great Martyr George bent his neck beneath the sword, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 23, 303.

The pagan era was coming to an end, and Christianity was about to triumph. Within ten years, Saint Constantine would issue the Edict of Milan, granting religious freedom to Christians.

Of the many miracles worked by the holy Great Martyr George, the most famous are depicted in iconography. In the saint’s native city of Beirut were many idol-worshippers. Outside the city, near Mount Lebanon, was a large lake, inhabited by an enormous dragon-like serpent. Coming out of the lake, it devoured people, and there was nothing anyone could do, since the breath from its nostrils poisoned the very air.

On the advice of the demons inhabiting the idols, the local ruler came to a decision. Each day the people would draw lots to feed their own children to the serpent, and he promised to sacrifice his only daughter when his turn came. That time did come, and the ruler dressed her in her finest attire, then sent her off to the lake. The girl wept bitterly, awaiting her death. Unexpectedly for her, Saint George rode up on his horse with spear in hand. The girl implored him not to leave her, lest she perish.

The saint signed himself with the Sign of the Cross. He rushed at the serpent saying, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Saint George pierced the throat of the serpent with his spear and trampled it with his horse. Then he told the girl to bind the serpent with her sash, and lead it into the city like a dog on a leash.

The people fled in terror, but the saint halted them with the words: “Don’t be afraid, but trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in Him, since it is He Who sent me to save you.” Then the saint killed the serpent with a sword, and the people burned it outside the city. Twenty-five thousand men, not counting women and children, were then baptized. Later, a church was built and dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos and the Great Martyr George.

Saint George went on to become a talented officer and to amaze the world by his military exploits. He died before he was thirty years old. He is known as Victory Bearer, not only for his military achievements, but for successfully enduring martyrdom. As we know, the martyrs are commemorated in the dismissal at the end of Church services as “the holy, right victorious martyr....”

Saint George was the patron saint and protector of several of the great builders of the Russian state. Saint Vladimir’s son, Yaroslav the Wise (in holy Baptism George), advanced the veneration of the saint in the Russian Church. He built the city of Yuriev [i.e., “of Yurii.” “Yurii” is the diminutive of “George”, as “Ivan” is of “John”], he also founded the Yuriev monastery at Novgorod, and he built a church of Saint George the Victory Bearer at Kiev.

The day of the consecration of Saint George’s Church in Kiev, November 26, 1051 by Saint Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus, has entered into the liturgical treasury of the Church as a special church feastday. Yuriev Day is beloved by the Russian people as an “autumn Feast of Saint George.”

The name of Saint George was also borne by the founder of Moscow, Yurii Dolgoruky (+ 1157), who was the builder of many churches dedicated to Saint George, and the builder of the city of Yuriev-Polsk. In the year 1238 the heroic fight of the Russian nation against the Mongol Horde was led by the Great Prince Yurii (George) Vsevolodovich of Vladimir (February 4), who fell at the Battle at the Sita River. His memory, like that of Igor the Brave, and defender of his land, was celebrated in Russian spiritual poems and ballads.

The first Great Prince of Moscow, when Moscow had become the center of the Russian Land, was Yurii Danilovich (+ 1325), the son of Saint Daniel of Moscow, and grandson of Saint Alexander Nevsky. From that time Saint George the Victory Bearer, depicted as a horseman slaying the serpent, appeared on Moscow’s coat of arms, and became an emblem of the Russian state. This has strengthened Russia’s connections with Christian nations, and especially with Iberia (Georgia, the Land of Saint George).

Saint George is the Patron Saint of Aragon in Spain, Beirut in Lebanon, the Boy Scouts of America, Bulgaria, England, Ethiopia, Georgia, the Hellenic Army, Malta, Montenegro, Moscow in Russia, Palestine, Portugal, Sufferers of Skin Diseases, the U.S. Army's Armor Branch, and World Scouting.

Saint George's Feast Day is celebrated on April 23rd. He is commemorated on April 24th in the Czech Republic and Hungary; In Georgia he is also commemorated on both April 23rd and November 23rd. When Pascha (Easter) falls on the Feast Day of Saint George, his feast day is transferred to Bright (Easter) Monday instead.

1st through 3rd grade Eastern Orthodox Scouts (Tiger, Wolf and Bear Cub Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and Daisies and Brownies in the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.) can earn a Saint George Medal after completing the Saint George Program offered by the EOCS: Eastern Orthodox Committee of Scouting, an agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.

Troparion

You were bound for good deeds, O martyr of Christ: George; by faith you conquered the torturer’s godlessness. You were offered as a sacrifice pleasing to God;thus you received the crown of victory. Through your intercessions, forgiveness of sins is granted to all.

Kontakion

God raised you as his own gardener, O George, for you have gathered for yourself the sheaves of virtue. Having sown in tears, you now reap with joy; you shed your blood in combat and won Christ as your crown. Through your intercessions, forgiveness of sins is granted to all.

17 March 2017

Saint Patrick the Enlightener of Ireland

Saint Patrick, the Apostle of the Irish, was seized from his native Britain by Irish marauders when he was sixteen years old. Though the son of a deacon and a grandson of a priest, it was not until his captivity that he sought out the Lord with his whole heart. In his Confession, the testament he wrote towards the end of his life, he says, "After I came to Ireland - every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed - the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was so moved that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many at night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountain; and I would rise for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm." After six years of slavery in Ireland, he was guided by God to make his escape, and afterwards struggled in the monastic life at Auxerre in Gaul, under the guidance of the holy Bishop Germanus. Many years later he was ordained bishop and sent to Ireland once again, about the year 432, to convert the Irish to Christ. His arduous labours bore so much fruit that within seven years, three bishops were sent from Gaul to help him shepherd his flock, "my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord - so many thousands of people," he says in his Confession. His apostolic work was not accomplished without much "weariness and painfulness," long journeys through difficult country, and many perils; he says his very life was in danger twelve times. When he came to Ireland as its enlightener, it was a pagan country; when he ended his earthly life some thirty years later, about 461, the Faith of Christ was established in every corner. His Feast Day is celebrated on March 17th in the Orthodox Church.

Apolytikion 

O Holy Hierarch, equal of the Apostles, Saint Patrick, wonderworker and enlightener of Ireland: Intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

Kontakion

The Master revealed thee as a skillful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who honour thy memory.

14 March 2017

Venturing and Sea Scouts' TRUST Award Requirements

The following are the requirements for the Venturing and Sea Scout's TRUST Award:
  1. Receive the religious emblem appropriate to your age and religious affiliation. This would be the Alpha Omega Award for Orthodox Christian Scouts.
  2. Visit with your religious leader and discuss your beliefs and why you accept those beliefs. Compare your personal beliefs with those formally accepted by your religion. Following this discussion, write an essay explaining your beliefs and review it with your religious leader and your crew Advisor. Make a 15- to 20-minute presentation (discussion, video, slideshow, etc.) to your crew or another youth group explaining your beliefs.
  3. Explain the Venturing Oath and the Venturing Code in your own words. Explain how they have an effect on your daily life, your life goals, and how you live your life as a part of your community.
  4. Talk with a history/social studies teacher, attorney or other legal professional, or other knowledgeable adult about the U.S. Bill of Rights, and especially about the concept of freedom of religion. What did this concept mean to our founding fathers? What does this concept mean today? What limitations have been imposed on this freedom? What happens when freedom of religion and freedom of speech clash with each other? Hold a discussion (not debate) about freedom of religion with members of your crew.
  5. Find out what religious groups are worshipping in your community, and whether they have been there for generations or whether they are relatively new to the community. Talk to at least five adults in your community about the impact various religions have on your community. Report your findings to your crew.
  6. After extensive research on the selected religion, present a report to your crew or other youth group (such as a troop, crew, religious group, or school group). The report should detail the history of the religion, its modern application as a religion, and important historical events. Also include information about where and how the religion is commonly practiced.
  7. Attend a religious service/gathering/festival with a parent, Advisor, or religious professional. Write about your experience and how it relates to the thoughts and practices of the religion. 
  8. Meet with two youth working on a religious emblem approved by the BSA. (Saint George or Chi-Rho) These young people can be members of the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, or any other youth organization. Discuss with them their current religious journey.
  9. Contact an official in an inter-religious organization (interfaith coalition, council of churches, etc.). Discuss how religious tolerance is important in both local and global issues.
  10. Attend an inter-religious festival and talk with two people from another religion about the similarities and differences between your religion and theirs. Report your findings to your religious leader.
  11. Learn about the culture you most identify with. Talk to relatives or other knowledgeable individuals to learn about your family history, cultural identity, and family identity.
  12. Attend two cultural events. Supplement the information you learned at the events with research on the culture in today's global society. Compare these two events and their cultures with your own culture. Report on your findings to your crew or another youth organization.
  13. Invite an adult and a youth from another culture to speak to your crew about their culture. Alternately, interview two people who were born outside the United States who have immigrated to your community or a nearby one. In either case, discuss with them why they decided to come to the United States and to your community. Discuss the differences in community between where they live now and where they lived before they emigrated.
  14. Research and present your findings about an interreligious/ intercultural conflict affecting the world in historical or current times. Include how the conflict started and ended. Explore both causes and effects of the conflict, including those in the current day. Include general information about all the cultures and religions involved in the conflict.
  15. c. Research a cultural group (other than your own) that has had an impact on the U.S. melting pot. When did they begin to arrive? In what ways have they had an influence on the United States? On your community? Where have they settled (primarily); why? Report on your findings to your crew or youth group.
  16. Complete a community service project and learn about organizations in your community that serve youth.
  17. Plan and carry out a service project to better your local community. This project should be carried out in conjunction with an established community service agency. Involve at least five other Venturers or youth in carrying out the project. The project should be well thought out and lasting in its effects. Use the Eagle or Quartermaster Service Project booklet as a guideline. Be sure this project is reported to your council as part of the Messengers of Peace program.
  18. Meet with a member of your local government. Discuss how the community governs itself on matters such as zoning, taxes, education, religion, and acceptable behavior. Report your findings to your crew or another youth group. Lead or participate in a discussion on ideas to change your community for the better.
  19. Become a volunteer first aid or swimming instructor or swimming aide with the American Red Cross or a similar organization. Teach first aid or swimming at least four times in a six-month period. Explore other volunteer opportunities with that organization. Report on your experiences at the end of this time, especially how the community benefits from the organization and from your volunteerism. OR Participate for six months as an active volunteer with any other community service agency approved by your Advisor. Examples are therapy or guide dogs, food pantries, hospital aides, etc. Report on your experiences at the end of this time, especially how the community benefits from the organization and from your volunteerism.
  20. Take part in a counseling skills training session of at least eight total hours. Examples include peer counseling, suicide or abuse hotlines, and first-contact training programs, and may be provided by local service agencies/hotlines or by local government divisions. Tell your crew what you learned and how you plan to put your knowledge into action.
  21. Discover what addictions are having a negative effect on your local community (such as alcohol, drugs, tobacco, gambling, pornography, etc.). Pick one of these and find out what local resources are available to deal with the problem. Talk to a counselor who deals with this issue, and tell your crew how this issue is affecting the community in which you live.
  22. Lead or actively participate in at least four Ethical Controversies within a six-month period. These may be at the unit, district, or council level within Venturing, or at a youth event attended by members of several churches or religious institutions.
  23. Visit and tour a correctional facility. Talk to a correctional facility chaplain about his/her responsibilities and experiences. Ask the chaplain for stories of success/transformation that have helped former inmates become contributing members of society. OR Study the document "Scouts and Peace" prepared by the World Organization of the Scout Movement. Lead a discussion with your crew about the document and how Scouts can be involved in world peace. Then prepare a 10-minute presentation on the document and give it to a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop.
  24. Meet with your religious leader to explore his/her duties, the preparation necessary to assume those duties, and what he/she believes is the most important element of the position.
  25. Serve as a volunteer in your place of worship for at least three months.

08 March 2017

Messengers of Peace, An Initiative Started by Two Kings

What is "Messengers of Peace"?

Messengers of Peace is a World Scout Committee initiative designed to promote and recognize service projects that contribute to world peace.

What is the program’s goal?

The goal of Messengers of Peace is to inspire millions of young men and women throughout the world to work closer toward achieving peace. Using state-of-the-art social media, the initiative lets Scouts from around the world share what they’ve done and inspire fellow Scouts to undertake similar efforts in their own communities. The result will be a mosaic of stories, data, and results showing the impact of the Scout movement—a tool for recruiting members, assuring parents, inspiring donors, and making existing members proud to be Scouts.

Who runs the program?

The initiative is inspired by the World Scout Committee, administered by the World Scout Bureau, and driven by youth volunteers worldwide. Participation by the Boy Scouts of America is being coordinated by the International Department and a team led by Peter E. Hyman.

How did the initiative come about?

The initiative stems from the 10-year-old Gifts for Peace program, which has inspired over 10 million Scouts in 110 countries to work toward peace in their local communities. After hearing about this work, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia noted that “Scouts are the messengers of peace.” He and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, honorary chair of the World Scout Foundation, formally launched the Messengers of Peace initiative in September 2011.

What do we mean by peace?

Scouting defines peace as more than just the absence of war. In terms of the MOP initiative, peace encompasses three dimensions:
  1. The personal dimension: harmony, justice, and equality
  2. The community dimension: peace as opposed to hostility or violent conflict
  3. Relationships between humankind and its environment: security, social and economic welfare, and relationship with the environment
What types of projects qualify as Messengers of Peace projects?

Any project that has a significant impact on the community in any one of the three dimensions above would qualify. Messengers of Peace projects include unit-level service projects, William T. Hornaday Award, and Eagle Scout service projects—any projects undertaken within a Scouting context that impact peace

How do we know if our project qualifies?

It qualifies if it meets the definition of peace given above. No one beyond the unit has to approve a project’s Messengers of Peace status.

What about projects Scouts do through schools or religious institutions?

Messengers of Peace is only designed to recognize projects undertaken through Scouting. Many of those projects may involve other organizations, which is fine, but there must be a Scouting connection.

What about Girl Scout projects?

BSA members who participate in a Girl Scout project that meets the MOP definition above are eligible to receive MOP recognition.

Can you give me some examples of qualifying projects?

Projects like these inspired the Messengers of Peace initiative:
  • Scouts in El Salvador working to disband violent street gangs
  • Scouts in New Orleans working on the ground to rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans
  • Scouts in the Great Lakes region of Africa running an inter-ethnic peace education project
  • Scouts in Sierra Leone rebuilding their communities following a decade of civil war
  • Scouts in Ireland bringing young Catholics and Protestants together
  • Scouts in Haiti doing work in rescue, relief, and rehabilitation after the deadly earthquake in 2010
Do we have to work with specific national organizations on Messengers of Peace projects?

No. Working with local organizations with similar goals to Messengers of Peace can be an excellent approach.

Who should report Messengers of Peace service projects?

MOP service projects should be reported by the individual in each unit designated to report Journey to Excellence service projects.

How do I submit a Messengers of Peace project?

To designate a Messengers of Peace project, simply select Messengers of Peace as the partner organization when entering a service project through the Journey to Excellence website (www.scouting.org/Awards/JourneyToExcellence).

Can an individual complete an MOP project? If so, how does he or she submit it?

Yes, individuals can complete MOP projects. (An Eagle Scout service project is a good example.) Reports must be submitted by the unit’s designated person for registering service hours. The individual will get credit for the hours he or she worked.

Should we submit our projects on the Messengers of Peace website?

No, just submit your project through the Journey to Excellence website, as described above. The BSA is working with the World Scout Bureau to have projects posted on the Messengers of Peace map. Also, the BSA is working with the World Scout Bureau to collect information on all projects that have already been registered in the world system.

We would like to share a video of our Messengers of Peace project. How can we submit it for consideration?

Send a message to international@scouting.org with the subject line of "Messengers of Peace."

What recognition items are available?

In addition to the unit certificate, any Scout or Scouter who participates in a qualifying project is eligible to wear a Messengers of Peace ring patch around the World Crest on his or her uniform. A unit representative can purchase these ring patches at a local Scout shop, council service center, or ScoutStuff.org.

Can an individual earn Messengers of Peace recognition more than once?

Yes, but only one ring patch may be worn.

Do Messengers of Peace ring patches go to all unit members or just those who participate in a Messengers of Peace project?

Only those who participate in an MOP project are eligible to receive the ring patch.

Is there a Messengers of Peace video we can use to promote the initiative to our Scouts and the public?

Yes, video clips highlighting specific MOP projects are available on this website.

07 March 2017

HOW-TO: Join Scouting programs in America

Since my posts about the Orthodox Scouting awards available through the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops' E.O.C.S. (Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting) and P.R.A.Y. (Programs of Religious Activities with Youth) I have had many people asking how to sign their children up to be Scouts in the various Scouting programs that the EOCS is associated with. So much so, that I decided to make a blog post with links to all of them:

Boy-Only Programs


Girl-Only Programs


Co-Educational Programs





06 March 2017

Martyr Alexandra the Empress

The Holy Empress Alexandra was the wife of Diocletian (284-305) and was so impressed by the courage and martyrdom of Saint George that she became a Christian and fell under the same persecution. Her feast day is 21 April.

Many events occurred during these years. In 305 the emperor Diocletian resigned the throne and power passed to his co-ruler Maximian Galerius (305-311), a fanatic pagan, as well as a coarse and fierce soldier. His wife was Saint Valeria, the daughter of the holy Empress Alexandra, whom Diocletian had given in marriage against her will.

Saint Alexandra raised her daughter in Christian piety. When Galerius died, the emperor Maximinus sought her hand in marriage. When he was refused, he banished Saint Valeria to Syria, where she lived with her mother.

After the death of Maximinus in 311 the mother and daughter arrived in Nicomedia, trusting in the mercy of the emperor Licinius (311-324). Together with Saint Constantine, he had subscribed to the Edict of Milan, which gave Christians the freedom of religion, but secretly he remained an enemy of Christianity. Licinius gave orders to execute the holy Empress Alexandra and her daughter Valeria. She also was condemned to be beheaded but when she arrived at the place of execution she asked to be allowed to sit down. Her request was granted. She sat down and died quietly before the executioners could carry out their task. They were beheaded, and their bodies thrown into the sea.

Apolytikion Of Alexandra The Martyr
Fourth Tone

O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great in mercy.

31 January 2017

Scout Sunday 2017/7525

Please see the following announcement from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America about Scout Sunday for 2017:  
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Scout Sunday is an annual event among all faiths which recognize the good work that is done by Scouts in our religious communities. This year, Scout Sunday will be observed on February 5, 2017. The observance of Scout Sunday tradition was started years ago to make people in the church aware of Scouting, and to allow Scouts to live out of what is pledged each week. The Scout Law says that a “Scout is Reverent” and the Scouts of all ages promise to do their “Duty to God”. These values strengthen youth character in their family, community and faith.

In 1960, the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas [SCOBA] endorsed Scouting as viable part of their youth ministry and created the Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting [EOCS]. This was the first agency created by SCOBA and presently an agency under The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas.

The EOCS Executive Board encourages all Orthodox Churches to recognize and celebrate this Scout Sunday even if their church does not sponsor a Scout unit. Anyone interested in their good work can go to the EOCS website at www.eocs.org to learn more about Scouting and the Orthodox Church. This year will be the National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia from July 23. Once again the EOCS will be sponsoring an Orthodox booth, holding services and meetings with Orthodox Scouts from around the country and around the world. I would encourage all Orthodox Scouts to attend and be involved at the Jamboree.

Some Scout Sunday Ideas:
  • If your parish sponsors a Scout unit have them arrive in full uniform.
  • If the church does not have a Scout program, have the Scouts come in uniform. Many priests are aware of Scout Sunday and will discuss Scouting at some point of the service. You can have the uniformed Scouts:
  1. Serve at the candle table in the narthex
  2. Serve as Ushers
  3. Help pass the collection tray
  4. Help serve during the coffee hour
  5. And any suggestions from the parish priest
  • Present Eastern Orthodox Religious Scout Awards and/or any other Scout Awards earned.
  • Have a Scout Display and recruitment.
  • Think of sponsoring or establishing a Scout unit in your parish.
  • Approach a local Scout unit and give them ideas for service projects which can benefit your parish and community.
  • Look at the many Orthodox Scout awards and encourage your Scouts to earn them. Scouting has proven to develop stronger church membership and it is a natural fit. Good Scouts make better Church members and good Church members make better Scouts.
  • Volunteer to assist the local Scout troop/pack/crew.
  • Take a collection and contribute funds to the EOCS so they can continue their good work. Think about establishing a local EOCS committee so all Orthodox Scouts in the region can gather and support one another.
May the Lord God send His Blessings upon our Scouts, our leaders and the many volunteers across the United States of America.

+ Bishop DANIEL
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the United States
Episcopal Liaison to the Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...