26 March 2011

Update on Deaths, Orthodox Churches Destroyed in the Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami

Bishop Seraphim of Sendai has released more information about the effects of the earthquake and tsunami on the Orthodox Churches of the Western Diocese. From the information available now, five Orthodox Christians have reposed and four are missing, though not all parish members have been contacted. In addition to the Church of the Annunciation in Yamada which was destroyed, two more parishes – St. John’s in Kannari and Holy Transfiguration in Sunuma suffered serious damage and may be unusable.

St. John the Theologian Church and Ishinomaki Parish
-The church and the priest’s residence were not flooded much. Cleaning and minor repair are necessary.
-Reposed; Nikanol Komi Tsutom
-Missing person; , Andrei Yonesato Kimiyoshi and Feodosii Yonesato Hajime
-some families stay at the shelter

Prophet Isaiah Chapel and Wakuya Parish
-Reposed; Sophia Nakagawa Tsuneko
-Missing person; Moisei Nakagawa Iyoji

Holy Ascension Church and Sakari Parish in Ofunato
-Reposed; Lyubov Ise Mie, Petr Ise Daigi, Martha Ise Ai

Holy Annunciation Church and Yamada Parish
-missing person;one

St. John the Apostle Church and Kannari Parish
-According to the investigation of Kurihara city, stones of the basement were subsided, regarded in danger to collapse.

Holy Transfiguration Chapel and Sanuma Parish
-Some parishioners house and stores were damaged much, regarded as dangerous
-Chapel, probably in danger.

Holy Resurrection Chapel and Kesennuma Parish
-Chapel and meeting room survived
-Two family of parishioners are safe. But their houses were damaged immensely. They now stay at the shelter but will soon move to the meeting room of chapel.

Holy Transfiguration Chapel and Tkashimizu Parish
-The roof of the chapel was damaged. Parishioners are safe.

Please add the names of the reposed and missing persons in your prayer.

25 March 2011

The Unfolding Revelation of the Tao in Human History: Part Two of Two

Departure From The Way: Knowledge of God in the Earliest Historical Cultures

Continued from here...

After his primordial departure from the Way, man as a whole was still more simple and innocent, closer to God an nature, than he is today. Thus, his knowledge of God was more pure. This is substantiated by records that have come down to us fro the earliest periods of ancient civilizations. The religion of Egypt's first dynasty, for example, was much more pure than the forms of polytheism that arose in later dynasties. Mircea Eliae writes, "It is surprising that the earliest Egyptian cosmogony yet known is also the most philosophical.  For [the Supreme God] Ptah creates by his mind (his 'heart') and his word (his 'tongue').... In short, the theogony and cosmogony are effected by the creative power of the thought and word of a single God. We here certainly have the highest expression of Egyptian metaphysical explanation.... It is at the beginning of Egyptian history that we find a doctrine that can be compared with the Christian theology of the Logos.

The same is true for the primal period of Chinese civilization. The oldest book of Chinese history, the Shu Ching (Book of Documents), relates that in China's first dynasty, the Hsia (ca. 2300-1700 B.C.), the people believed in one supreme God, Whom they called Shang Ti 上帝—Shang meaning "above," "superior to," and Ti meaning "ruler" or "lord". "At this point," writes historian John Ross, "the very threshold of what the Chinese critics accept as the beginning of their authentic history, the name of God and other religious matters present themselves with the completeness of a Minerva. We are driven to infer that the name and the religious observances associated with it are coeval with the existence of the people of China.
"It is therefore evident that the belief in the existence of one Supreme Ruler is is among the earliest beliefs of the Chinese known to us. Of an earlier date, when no belief existed or when the belief in polytheism did exist, we find no trace. Nowhere i there a hint to confirm the materialistic theory that the idea of God is a later evolutionary product of a precedent belief in ghosts or departed ancestors, or that the belief had arisen indirectly from any other similar source." 
During the next dynasty, the Shang (ca. 1700-1100 B.C.), the supreme Deity was more commonly called by the name T'ien 天 —meaning "Heaven"—though the name Shang Ti continued to be used interchangeably with it, sometimes side by side* The Chinese Emperor had to possess what was called the "mandate of Heaven" or the "mandate of Shang Ti," which he earned by living and ruling virtuously. If ever he ceased to rule according to the Way of Heaven, he would lose the mandate and fall from power. This understanding of government remained intact in China until the early twentieth century.

In China's oldest book of literature, the Shih Ching (Book of Odes), which dates from the middle of the Chou dynasty, 800-600 B.C., we find such phrases... [that mirror the Old Testament Kingdoms] ... 

Of all thr primordial peoples save the Hebrews, the Chinese—together with their racial cousins the native North Americans—retained the purest understanding of the one God, the Supreme Being. ... 

 ... As centuries passe, the original monotheism of China continued to be obscured. Since the Chinese culture is so strongly based in tradition, however the ancient religion could never disappear entirely. Above all, it was preserved in the state worship. The Emperor continued to offer the Great Sacrifice to Shang Ti twice a year, at the winter and summer solstices, according to ancient custom. The practice continued into modern times, and ended only with the fall of the Manchus in 1911.**

Ever from the popular mind, the ancient monotheism could not be completely eradicated. To Westerners it is a little-known fact that in China and Taiwan even today, vestiges of the original Chinese religion are found in the Taoist and Buddhist temples. When people come to these temples, they burn incense and pray to Shang Ti at a special area inn the narthex, and only then do they enter the main temple area. 

Still, it must be conceded that much of Chinese religion has descended to polytheism through the centuries, and that the worship of the one God, Shang Ti, has been confused by pantheons of deities if various ranks.***

The same would have happened in ancient Hebrew culture as happened in China—and at many times in Jewish history it almost id happen—but God, through the Prophets, continually called this people back to the worship of Him alone. he intervened in this way because it was out of the Hebrew race that He was to one day take flesh and reveal the ultimate mystery of His Being to the world. 

*See, for example, Bernhard Karlgren, tr., The Book of Documents (Shu Ching), p. 48. On how T'ien and Shang Ti were used to designate the same supreme Diety, see James Legge, The Religions of China, p. 10.

** For the fascinating text of the Chinese Emperor's sacrifice to Shang Ti in A.D. 1538, see James Legge, The Notions of the Chinese Concerning God and Spirits, pp. 26-31. Also published, with commentary, in James Legge, The Religions of China, pp. 43-51.

***For a description of later Chinese polytheism, see James Legge, The Religions of China, pp. 167-170. 

19 March 2011

The Unfolding Revelation of the Tao in Human History: Part One of Two

Departure From The Way: The Primordial Departure

When man, in wrongly using his free will, first departed from the Way (Tao), he corrupted his primal simplicity and became fragmented. Divested of the primal glory, of the garment of Uncreated Light that had enveloped him, he now found himself "naked" (Genesis 3:7). His spiritual corruption and death made him subject to physical corruption and death.

"After his transgression," writes St. Macarius of Egypt (†A.D. 390), "man's thoughts became base and material, and the simplicity and goodness of his mind were intertwined with evil worldly concerns." His will became divided. Now his "natural will," which remained incline to follow the Way in all things, was set against his "free will," which had now taken on itself an inclination to depart from the Way.

Before his primordial departure from the Way, man had experienced only that which was natural to him. Now, however, he also experienced what was unnatural to him. Thus he self-willfully usurped the "knowledge of good and evil," destroying the primal simplicity and bringing duality into the world.

Before, man ha been spontaneous, like a child. At every step, he freely chose, without thinking, to act according to nature, according to the Way. Now, however, at every step he ha to stop and think, to calculate: "Should I follow the Way or not?" Thus he became a complex being, inwardly divided, an always vacillating.

Only God is self-existent. when man began to fall under the illusion of being a self-existent individual, he was essentially making himself into a little god. This was the meaning of the primordial trap into which he fell: "Knowing good and evil, you will be as gods." (Genesis 3:5)

Man had been created to rise, in his simple and uncompounded nature, in noetic contemplation of the simple and uncompounded God. To rise in love, and to unite all of creation with himself in love, raising it also to the Creator. Instead of regarding the Way, however, he choose to regard what was easier and closer at hand: his own visible self. Instead of rising with God, he fell in love with himself.
 ...All evil in the world can be traced to... self-love... 
Because of all this, God allowed suffering to enter the world. he did this not out of vengeance, but out of love for man, so that through suffering arising from self-love... ...and the resulting desire for created things, man might see through the illusion of his self-sufficiency and return to his original designation: the state of pristine simplicity and communion with the Way.

To be continued here...

14 March 2011

Japan: Your Worst Nightmare x 1 Million!

What if your home, your work, your family, your friends, your city, everyone and everything you had ever known were destroyed in a matter of minutes? What if after all this disaster nuclear plants started to have explosions and 2,000 dead bodies washed up on your nation's shores? Unfortunately this is not a nightmare or a horror film, but reality for many in Japan.

Japan was hit by an enormous earthquake on March 11, 2011, that triggered a deadly 23-foot tsunami in the country's north. The giant waves deluged cities and rural areas alike, sweeping away cars, homes, buildings, a train, and boats, leaving a path of death and devastation in its wake. Video footage showed cars racing away from surging waves. The earthquake, which struck about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo, had a magnitude of 8.9, which is the largest in Japan's history. As of Sunday, March 13, the death toll had reached over 10,000.

Disaster struck again on Saturday, March 12, when about 26 hours after the earthquake, an explosion in reactor No. 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station caused one of the buildings to crumble to the ground. The cooling system at the reactor failed shortly after the earthquake. Officials feared that a meltdown may occur, and radioactive material was detected outside the plant. These fears were realized on Sunday, when officials said they believed that partial meltdowns occurred at reactors No. 1 and No. 3. The cooling systems at another plant, Fukushima Daini, were also compromised but the situation there seemed to be less precarious. More than 200,000 residents were evacuated from areas surrounding both facilities. Problems were later reported at two other nuclear facilities.

My family donated 10,000 Yen ($123.45 USD) at http://tiny.cc/HelpNippon and Bank of America matched it and all employee donations 100% in addition to their 100,000,000 Yen donation. I challenge you to match my personal donation too!

Think what a difference we can make if we all donate 10,00 Yen today. If you were in the shoes of the suffering Japanese right now, you would hope others would choose to rise to the challenge!

This is not what I hoped to be blogging about for my 555th blog entry, but it may be the most important blog post I have ever posted. Pray for Japan, and if you can, give to Japan too!

13 March 2011

Excerpt from the 7th Century Synodicon of the Church

As the Prophets beheld,
as the Apostles have taught,
as the Church has received,
as the Teachers have dogmatized,
as the universe has agreed,
as Grace has shown forth,
as Truth has revealed,
as falsehood has been dissolved,
as Wisdom has presented,
as Christ has awarded:

thus we declare,
thus we assert,
thus we preach Christ our true God,
and honor His Saints

in words,
in writings,
in thoughts,
in sacrifices,
in churches,
in Holy Icons;

on the one hand worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord;
and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all,
and accordingly offering them veneration.

This is the Faith of the Apostles;
this is the Faith of the Fathers;
this is the Faith of the Orthodox;
this is the Faith which has established the universe!

(as was written in the 7th century AD, before there were any "denominations", and was only the One Church, the Orthodox Christian Church.

07 March 2011

Order of St Ignatius awards $3000 grant renewal for continued Chinese Translation of Lives of Saints

The Order of St Ignatius of Antioch, at its governing council meeting held in Jacksonville, Florida on October 22, 2010, approved a $3,000 grant renewal to the Orthodox Fellowship of All Saints of China.

This grant comes with the archpastoral blessing of Metropolitan PHILIP at a critical juncture after the inaugural publication of the Chinese translation of the January volume of the Prologue from Ohrid by St Nikolai of Zica supplemented with additional lives of selected saints from other synaxaria.

The grant will make possible the uninterrupted translation and publication of subsequent monthly volumes of this invaluable work for the daily spiritual nourishment of the
Chinese speaking Faithful and inquirers into the Faith from other confessions, in and outside of China .

As a supplement to the grant, consider sponsoring for a specific daily reading of the Prologue from Ohrid, for the good health or in memory of loved one, for a names day, wedding anniversary, day of repose, or any other special occasion, which will be noted on the bottom of each sponsored entry of the Prologue, and those reading the daily devotion for that day can pray for your loved ones. Check feast day available for sponsorship at http://prologue.orthodox.cn/prayers.html

For more information about the Chinese Orthodox Translation Project or other initiatives of the Orthodox Fellowship of All Saints of China, contact Nelson Mitrophan Chin at mitrophan@orthodox.cn or Fr Dionisy Pozdnyaev of the Orthodox Brotherhood of Saints Apostles Peter and Paul in Hong Kong at church@orthodoxy.hk.

For more information about The Order of St Ignatius of Antioch, contact Joanne B. Hakim at theorder@antiochian.org.

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