19 August 2017

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America's Response to the Racist & Extremist Violence in Charlottesville

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America stands with all people of goodwill in condemning the hateful violence and lamenting the loss of life that resulted from the shameful efforts to promote racial bigotry and white supremacist ideology in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Orthodox Church emphatically declares that it does not promote, protect or sanction participation in such reprehensible acts of hatred, racism, and discrimination, and proclaims that such beliefs and behaviors have no place in any community based in respect for the law and faith in a loving God.
The essence of the Christian Gospel and the spirit of the Orthodox Tradition are entirely and self-evidently incompatible with ideologies that declare the superiority of any race over another. Our God shows no partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17, Romans 2:11). Our Lord Jesus Christ broke down the dividing wall of hostility that had separated God from humans and humans from each other (Ephesians 2:14). In Christ Jesus, the Church proclaims, there can be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or femalebut all are one (Galatians 3:28). Furthermore, we call on one another to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to expose them (Ephesians 5:11). And what is darkness if not hatred? The one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness (1 John 2:11)!
Furthermore, in 1872, Hierarchs from around the world assembled in Constantinople and denounced all forms of xenophobia and phyletism. They agreed that the promotion of racial or national supremacy and ethnic bias or dissension in the Church of Christ is to be censured as contrary to the sacred teachings of the Christian Gospel and the holy canons of the Church. It is formally condemned as heresy, the strongest category of false teaching.
Finally, such actions as we have witnessed in recent days, by self-proclaimed white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and various racists and fascists, betray the core human values of love and solidarity. In this, we pray wholeheartedly for the families of those who lost their lives or suffered in these tragic events. In like manner, we cannot condone any form of revenge or retaliation by any group or individual. Therefore, we fervently appeal to every person of good will, and especially the leaders of our great nation, to consider and adopt ways of reconciling differences in order to rise above any and all discrimination in our history, our present, and our future.

The bishops of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America includes:

  • Geron Archbishop Demetrios of America
  • Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta
  • Metropolitan Antony of the East
  • Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico
  • Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey
  • Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco
  • Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York
  • Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver
  • Metropolitan Joseph of North America
  • Metropolitan Joseph of the USA, Canada, and Australia
  • Metropolitan Methodios of Boston
  • Metropolitan Nicholas of Detroit
  • Metropolitan Nikitas of Berkeley
  • Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh
  • Metropolitan Tikhon of America
  • Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco
  • Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America
  • Archbishop Mark of Philadelphia
  • Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh
  • Archbishop Michael of New York and New Jersey
  • Archbishop Nathaniel of America
  • Archbishop Nicolae of the Americas
  • Archbishop Nikon of New England
  • Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America
  • Bishop Alexander of Dallas and the South
  • Bishop Alexander of Ottawa, Eastern Canada and Upstate New York
  • Bishop Anthony of Toledo and the Midwest
  • Bishop Antoun of Miami and the Southeast
  • Bishop Basil of Wichita and Mid-America
  • Bishop Daniel of the West
  • Bishop David of Alaska
  • Bishop Demetrios of Chicago
  • Bishop Irinej of Eastern America
  • Bishop John of Caracas and South Americaa
  • Bishop John of Worcester and New England
  • Bishop Longin of New Gracanica-Midwestern America
  • Bishop Maxim of Western America
  • Bishop Nicholas of Brooklyn
  • Bishop Pankratij of Mexico
  • Bishop Paul of Chicago and the Midwest
  • Bishop Saba of North America
  • Bishop Thomas of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic



Here are some of the Bible verses in context from the Assembly's statement (Old Testament quotes are from The Orthodox Study Bible and New Testament quotes are from The Orthodox New Testament, Volume Two):
Deuteronomy 10:17-19: For the Lord your God is the God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, and loves the resident alien, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the resident aliens, for you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt. 
Galatians 3:26-29: For all are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as were baptized into Christ, ye put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male and female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. 
Ephesians 5:11-12: And cease having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 
1 John 2:9-11: The one who saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the darkness until now. The one loving his brother abideth in the light, and there is not an occasion of stumbling in him. But the one hating his brother is in darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not where he goeth, because the darkness blinded his eyes.

09 June 2017

The Biblical Stand Against Nagging, Arguing, or Being Angry (Especially With Your Spouse)

Do you nag your spouse? If so, then stop! Why? The Bible (both Old and New Testaments alike) clearly tells us not to.

Psalm 36(37):8 Cease from anger, and leave rage; have no emulation to do evil.

Proverbs 14:1 A wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish will pull down with her hands that also which is built.

Proverbs 14:29 He that is patient, is governed with much wisdom: but he that is impatient, exalteth his folly.

Proverbs 19:11 The learning of a man is known by patience and his glory is to pass over wrongs.

Proverbs 19:13 A foolish son is the grief of his father: and a wrangling wife is like a roof continually dropping through.

Proverbs 21:9 It is better to sit in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling women, and in a common house.

Proverbs 21:19 It is better to dwell in a wilderness, than with a quarrelsome and passionate woman.

Proverbs 22:24-25 Be not a friend to an angry man, and do not walk with a furious man: Lest perhaps thou learn his ways, and take scandal to thy soul.

Proverbs 25:8 The things which thy eyes have seen, utter not hastily in a quarrel: lest afterward thou mayst not be able to make amends, when thou hast dishonoured thy friend.

Proverbs 25:24 It is better to sit in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman, and in a common house.

Proverbs 27:15 Roofs dropping through in a cold day, and a contentious woman are alike.

Proverbs 29:11 A fool uttereth all his mind: a wise man deferreth, and keepeth it till afterwards.

Ecclesiastes 7:8-10 Oppression troubleth the wise, and shall destroy the strength of his heart. Better is the end of a speech than the beginning. Better is the patient man than the presumptuous. Be not quickly angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of a fool.

Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother without just cause shall be liable to the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca' shall be liable to the Sanhedrin, but whosoever shall say, 'Thou fool,' shall be liable to the fire of Gehenna.

Romans 12:14-18 Keep on blessing those who persecute you; keep on blessing, and not cursing. Be rejoicing with those who rejoice, and be weeping with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Mind not high things, but bring yourselves down to associate with the humble. Cease becoming wise in your own deceits. Render to no one evil for evil. Provide for yourselves right things before all men. If possible, as to that which depends on you, be at peace with all men.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 Love is long-suffering, is kind; love is not jealous; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; doth not behave unseemly, seeking not its own, is not provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things, Love never falleth away. But whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether tongues, they shall cease; whether knowledge, it shall be done away.

Ephesians 4:26-27  Be ye angry, and sin not. Let not the sun set upon your provocation. Cease giving place to the devil.

Ephesians 4:29-32 Let not any rotten speech proceed from your mouth, but if any, such that is good for building up, as the need may be, in order that it may give grace to those who hear. And cease grieving the Holy Spirit of God, in Whom ye were sealed until a day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and anger, and wrath, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice; and keep on becoming kind to one another, compassionate, graciously forgiving one another, even as God in Christ also graciously forgave you.

Ephesians 5:22-25 Wives, be subordinating yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also the Christ is head of the Church, and is Himself Saviour of the body. But even as the CHurch subordinates herself to the Christ, so also the wives to their husbands in everything. Husbands be loving your own wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her.

Colossians 3:8 But now ye also put off from yourselves all these things: wrath, anger, malice, blasphemy, foul language out of your mouth.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Wherefore be comforting one another and building up one another, even as also ye do.

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 Now we exhort you, brethren, be admonishing the disorderly, be consoling the faint-hearted, be supporting the weak, be longsuffering toward all. See ye that no one render evil for evil to anyone, but always be pursuing the good both toward one another and toward all.

1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an elder, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, elder women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.

Iakovos (James) 1:19-21 Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for man's wrath doth not work out God's righteousness. Wherefore lay aside all filthiness and surplus of wickedness, and receive in meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Iakovos (James) 1:26 If anyone among you seem to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, the religion of this one is vain.

Iakovos (James) 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, the world of injustice. So the tongue, the one which defileth the body, is being set in our members and setteth on fire the wheel of birth; and it is set on fire by Gehenna.

Iakovos (James) 4:11 Cease speaking against one another, brethren. He who speaketh against a brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh against the law, and judgeth the law. But if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. One is the Lawgiver and Judge, Who is able to save and destroy. But who art thou who judgest another?

1 Peter 3:10-12 For the one who doth wish to love life and to see good days, let him stop his tongue from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are toward their entreaty; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.

1 Peter 4:8-9 And before all things have fervent love among yourselves, for "love shall cover a multitude of sins." Be hospitable to one another, without murmurings.

Verses from the Books of the Old Covenant/Testament are from the Douay-Rheims Holy Bible, except for the Psalms, which are from The Orthodox Psalter: The Psalterion of the Prophet and King David According to the Seventy, with the Nine Odes and Commentary. Verses from the Books of the New Covenant/Testament are from the The Orthodox New Testament Volume 1: Evangelistarion - The Holy Gospels and The Orthodox New Testament: Volume 2: Praxapostolos - Acts, Epistles, and Revelation

12 May 2017

HOW-TO: Get Amazon Prime for FREE!

For a very limited time, Amazon is giving away 30 days of Amazon Prime for FREE at https://goo.gl/gJYYHK

Students can get 6 months of Amazon Prime for FREE, then HALF PRICE for the next 6 months if they continue by signing up at https://goo.gl/gJYYHK

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Why would you want to get Amazon Prime? Here's a few reasons:

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02 May 2017

HOW-TO: Find Orthodox Summer Camps for Summer and Winter in America

Every Summer, parents look for (spiritually, physically, and mentally) healthy, enlightening, and educational activities for their children. In order to help with that, I have done my best to find all the Orthodox Christian Camps available for Orthodox Youth in America. I have also added them to one of the side sections of my blog as well. I hope parents and grandparents find these useful. If I have missed any Orthodox Camps, please let me know in the comments below with their name, location, and website, so that I can add them to both lists!

ARIZONA
CALIFORNIA
COLORADO
CONNECTICUT
GEORGIA
IDAHO
ILLINOIS
INDIANA
IOWA
KANSAS
KENTUCKY
MARYLAND
MICHIGAN
MINNESOTA
NEW HAMPSHIRE
NEW JERSEY
NEW MEXICO
NEW YORK
OHIO
OKLAHOMA
OREGON
PENNSYLVANIA
SOUTH CAROLINA
TEXAS
WASHINGTON
WISCONSIN

01 May 2017

Other Interesting Blog Stats

While my blog's audience is definitely mostly American, here are the top 15 countries that my visitors are from:

  1. United States of America
  2. Russia
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Germany
  5. France
  6. Canada
  7. India
  8. Ukraine
  9. China
  10. Australia
  11. Romania
  12. Ireland
  13. Singapore
  14. South Korea
  15. Macedonia
Here are the top 7 browsers they use:
  1. Microsoft Internet Explorer
  2. Google Chrome
  3. Mozilla Firefox
  4. Apple Safari
  5. Opera
  6. Samsung Browser
  7. Lynx
Here are the top 7 Operating Systems used to access this blog:
  1. Microsoft Windows
  2. Apple Macintosh (Mac OS X)
  3. Apple iPhone (iOS)
  4. Google Android
  5. Linux
  6. Unix
  7. Blackberry
Here are the top referring sites to my blog: 

29 April 2017

Conservation of the God-Created Environment in the Holy Bible

We as Christians should be conservation minded, to take care of the environments on the world that we live on. We are called to be stewards of that which we are blessed with, including our planet, earth. But where can we find this in Sacred Scripture? Let's look at this in detail, in both the New and Old Covenants/Testaments of Holy Writ.

Verses from the Books of the Old Covenant/Testament are from the Douay-Rheims Holy Bible, except for the Psalms, which are from The Orthodox Psalter: The Psalterion of the Prophet and King David According to the Seventy, with the Nine Odes and Commentary. Also consulted were The Lives of the Holy Prophets: The Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament and Genesis, Creation, and Early Man. Verses from the Books of the New Covenant/Testament are from the The Orthodox New Testament Volume 1: Evangelistarion - The Holy Gospels and The Orthodox New Testament: Volume 2: Praxapostolos - Acts, Epistles, and Revelation

First let's look in the Old Covenant/Testament to see to whom all of creation belongs and how we should treat it. All 5 Books of the Mosaic Law speak to this, let's find out where.
Genesis 1:6-12, 21-25, 31 And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament, from those that were above the firmament, and it was so. And God called the firmament, Heaven; and the evening and morning were the second day. God also said: Let the waters that are under the heaven, be gathered together into one place: and let the dry land appear. And it was so done. And God called the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as yieldeth seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit, having seed each one according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. [...] And God created the great whales, and every living and moving creature, which the waters brought forth, according to their kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And he blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the waters of the sea: and let the birds be multiplied upon the earth. And the evening and morning were the fifth day. And God said: Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds. And it was so done. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, and cattle, and every thing that creepeth on the earth after its kind. And God saw that it was good. [...] And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good. And the evening and morning were the sixth day.
Genesis 2:15 And the Lord God took man, and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it, and to keep it. 
Exodus 20:13-17 Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house: neither shalt thou desire his wife, nor his servant, nor his handmaid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his.

Exodus 23:10-11
Six years thou shalt sow thy ground, and shalt gather the corn thereof. But the seventh year thou shalt let it alone, and suffer it to rest, that the poor of thy people may eat, and whatsoever shall be left, let the beasts of the field eat it: so shalt thou do with thy vineyard and thy olive yard.

Leviticus 25:3-5 Six years thou shalt sow thy field and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and shalt gather the fruits thereof: But in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath to the land, of the resting of the Lord: thou shalt not sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. What the ground shall bring forth of itself, thou shalt not reap: neither shalt thou gather the grapes of the firstfruits as a vintage: for it is a year of rest to the land. 
Leviticus 25:23-24 The land also shall not be sold forever: because it is Mine, and you are strangers and sojourners with Me. For which cause all the country of your possession shall be under the condition of redemption. 
Numbers 35:33-34 Defile not the land of your habitation, which is stained with the blood of the innocent: neither can it otherwise be expiated, but by his blood that hath shed the blood of another. And thus shall your possession he cleansed, myself abiding with you. For I AM the Lord that dwell among the children of Israel. 
Deuteronomy 20:19 When thou hast besieged a city a long time, and hath compassed it with bulwarks to take it, thou shalt not cut down the trees that may be eaten of, neither shalt thou spoil the country round about with axes: for it is a tree, and not a man, neither can it increase the number of them that fight against thee.
Now let's look at 4 (of the 9 Books) of the Books of Wisdom from the Old Covenant/Testament which remind us of the above lessons, and that humans can learn about God from His creation, but also warns us not to fall into the error of worshipping the earth or her creatures, who were so beautifully created by God.
Psalm 23(24):1-2 The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the inhabited world and all those dwelling in her. He founded her upon the seas, and upon the rivers He prepared her. 
Psalm 94(95):3-5 For the Lord is a great God and a great King over all the earth. For in His hand are the ends of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are His. For the sea is His, and He made her; and the dry land did His hands fashion. 
Job 12:7-12 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee: and the birds of the air, and they shall tell thee. Speak to the earth, and it shall answer thee: and the fishes of the sea shall tell. Who is ignorant that the hand of the Lord hath made all these things? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the spirit of all flesh of man. Doth not the ear discern words, and the palate of him that eateth, the taste? In the ancient is wisdom, and in length of days prudence. 
Proverbs 12:10-11 The just regardeth the lives of his beasts: but the bowels of the wicked are cruel. He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that pursueth idleness is very foolish. He that is delighted in passing his time over wine, leaveth a reproach in his strong holds. 
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15 For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living. For he created all things that they might be: and he made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor kingdom of hades upon the earth. For justice is perpetual and immortal. 
Wisdom of Solomon 2:1, 6-9, 21-24 For they have said, reasoning with themselves, but not right: [...] The time of our life is short and tedious, and in the end of a man there is no remedy, and no man hath been known to have returned from hell: Come therefore, and let us enjoy the good things that are present, and let us speedily use the creatures as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine, and ointments: and let not the flower of the time pass by us. Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered: let no meadow escape our riot. Let none of us go without his part in luxury: let us everywhere leave tokens of joy: for this is our portion, and this our lot. [...] These things they thought, and were deceived: for their own malice blinded them. And they knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for the wages of justice, nor esteemed the honour of holy souls. For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of his own likeness he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world: And they follow him that are of his side. 
Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-7 But all men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman: But have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world. With whose beauty, if they, being delighted, took them to be gods: let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they: for the first author of beauty made all those things. Or if they admired their power and their effects, let them understand by them, that he that made them, is mightier than they: For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby. But yet as to these they are less to be blamed. For they perhaps err, seeking God, and desirous to find him. For being conversant among his works, they search: and they are persuaded that the things are good which are seen.
Next, we will look at the 19 Books of Prophecy, specifically 3 (of the 7 Books) of the Major Prophets of the Old Covenant/Testament who tell us not to harm the earth.
Isaias(Isaiah) 24:4-5 The earth mourned, and faded away, and is weakened: the world faded away, the height of the people of the earth is weakened. And the earth is infected by the inhabitants thereof: because they have transgressed the laws, they have changed the ordinance, they have broken the everlasting covenant. 
Jeremias(Jeremiah) 2:7, 9-10 And I brought you into a fruitful, plentiful land, to eat the fruit thereof, and the best things thereof: and when ye entered in, you defiled my land, and made my inheritance an abomination. [...] Therefore will I yet contend in judgement with you, saith the Lord, and I will plead with your children. Pass over to the isles of Cethim, and see: and send into Cedar, and consider diligently: and see if there hath been done anything like this. 
Ezekiel 34:18 Was it not enough for you to feed upon good pastures? But you must also tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures: and when you drank the clearest water, you troubled the rest with your feet.
Now we will move on to the New Covenant/Testament. First let us check 1 of the (4) Holy Gospels written by the Holy Evangelists which shows us how to be stewards of what we are given, including the earth from the Word of Our Lord and Saviour, God the Son, the Son of Man, and the Sun of Righteousness, Jesus Christ
The Gospel According to Saint Luke 19:11-26 And as they heard these things He added and spake a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God was immediately about to be shown forth. He saith therefore, "A certain well-born man went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And having called his own ten slaves, he gave ten minas to them, and said to them, 'Transact business while I go and return.' But his citizens kept on hating him, and sent forth an embassy after him, saying 'We are unwilling for this man to reign over us.' And it came to pass, when he returned, having received the kingdom, that he commanded those slaves to be called to him, to whom he gave money, in order that he might find out what each gained by trading. And the first came up, saying, 'Lord, thy mina gained ten minas.' And he said to him, 'Well done, good slave! Because in a very little thou wast faithful, be thou having authority over ten cities.' And the second came, saying, 'Lord,thy mina made five minas.' And he said also to this one, 'Be thou also over five cities.' And another came saying, 'Lord, behold thy mina, which I was keeping laid up in a napkin. For I was afraid of thee, because thou art an austere man. Thou takest up what thou didst not lay down, and reapest what thou didst not sow, and gatherest together where thou didst not winnow. He saith to him, 'Out of thy mouth will I judge thee, O wicked slave. Thou knowest that I am an austere man, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow, and gathering together where I did not winnow; and why didst thou not give my money to the bank, and indeed after I came I would have exacted payment from it with interest?' And to those standing by he said, 'Take away the mina from him, and give it to the one who hath the ten minas.' And they said to him, 'Lord he hath ten minas.' For I say to you that to everyone who hath shall be given; but from the one who hath not, even what he hath shall be taken away from him."
Now let's check from 1 of the (21) Epistles that the Holy Apostles wrote in the New Covenant/Testament, teaching the Word of Christ to the local individual churches of the Church.
The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans 8:19-22 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaiteth the revelation of the sons of God. For creation was subjected to vanity, not willingly, but on account of Him Who subjected it in hope, that the creation itself shall be freed from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth together and travaileth together until now.
And finally we will check 1 of the Apocalyptic Books written by the Saints of the New Covenant/Testament that warn us about our future and the consequences of our actions.
The Revelation of Saint John the Theologian 11:18 And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath did come, and the time of the nations to be judged and to give the reward to Thy slaves the prophets and to the saints, to those fearing Thy name, to the small and to the great, and to destroy those destroying the earth.

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 7 years (The blog is actually 14 years old, but metrics were not recorded all this time)! 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.
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