Metropolitan Pavlos of Siatista, reposed in the Lord

 

Suddenly today, Metropolitan Pavlos of Siatista, reposed in the Lord. He was a very beloved and respected hierarch of the Church of Greece and a spiritual child of St. Iakovos of Evia. His words, example and advice carry great weight and his talks are filled with true love and wisdom. Below are a brief biography and a wonderful recent talk of his with English subtitles. May he have a blessed Paradise, and may we have his blessing!
Brief Biography of Metropolitan of Pavlos of Siatista
He was born in Halkida in 1947. After his cycle of studies he entered the Theological School of Athens and graduated in 1971.
In 1973 he was ordained a Deacon by Metropolitan Nikolaos of Halkida, Istiaias and Northern Sporades and appointed to serve in Mantoudi.
In November 1974 he was ordained a priest and received the position of Archimandrite from Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Halkida and served the parish of Mantoudiou for 25 years.
In that area, he became the Hierarchical Representative and was a respected preacher and pastoral guide. For over thirty years he focused on the youth and their problems, as a priest, spiritual father, catechist, and educator, while at the same time he was called to speak to schools of parents, religious and youth gatherings in many Metropolises in Greece and Cyprus.
On February 28th, 2006, he was elected by the hierarchy of the Church of Greece as Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Sisaniou and Siatistis, his ordination taking place on March 4th, 2006 in the Holy Metropolis of Athens.
He took special care to cultivate the ranks of priests and monastics in his Metropolis.
In his 14 years of shepherding the Holy Metropolis of Sisaniou and Siatistis, he built and consecrated many holy churches, founded new parishes and ordained new clergy.
He was the author of books and had circulated many religious articles.
His last night he spent in the Monastery of St. David of Evia and St. Iakovos, which he loved so much, and until noon of his last day he was near there in Rovies, serving his final Divine Liturgy on Sunday January 13th next to the Precious Skull of St. David.
In his home town of Halkida there will be a viewing on Monday, January 14th in the Church of St. Paraskevi. There will be a vigil that evening served by Metropolitan Chrysostom of Halkida. On January 15th, the body of the blessed Metropolitan Pavlos of Sisaniou will be brought to Siatista where there will be another viewing. His funeral will be served on Wednesday, January 16th at noon in the Metropolis Church of St. Demetrios in Siatista.
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The Central Problem of the Lack of Change in the World is the Excess of Good Wishes and the Absence of Good Deeds

Protopresbyter Antonios Christou

Dear readers, by God’s grace, here we are at the start of a new year, only a few days after the last one ended. We’ve been here before and have shared thoughts and resolutions for a better year in all aspects of our life. In our first article for the new year of the Lord (or better, for us, ‘with the Lord’) 2019, we’ll discuss the title. Certainly, it’s a polite and wonderful custom to exchange good wishes with other people, one which we all enjoy doing, but, if we’re content with that, in the long term it becomes at the very least an incipient illness which, unfortunately is persistent and general and which, because it’s unobtrusive, is hard to identify. If we sit down and reckon up how many good wishes we’ve given or received- verbally, in writing or pictorially, through the internet or our cell phones- we’ll see that we have a surfeit of good wishes, but we’re suffering and starving from a lack of good deeds […]

We stress this particularly so that people don’t think that the Church just prays and blesses, without doing anything else. It is, of course true that its pastoral task (the multi-faceted work it performs on behalf of people in need) always begins with an appeal to Divine Grace, through the sacraments and services of the Church. Christ emphasizes this strongly: ‘Without me you can do nothing’ (Jn. 15, 5). And we also say: ‘Start with God’. That’s where we begin and then we go on to work with people.

So the problem isn’t that we wish for something; it’s that we shouldn’t stop there. As far as we’re concerned we should apply the old saying: ‘God helps those who help themselves’. In Aesop’s Fables, there’s the story of a rich Athenian man who’s shipwrecked and who, instead of trying to swim, keeps imploring the goddess Athena to deliver him, without the slightest effort on his part. Often in our lives we’re like that drowning man. We have greater or lesser concerns and should act, but we’d rather stick our head in the sand or demand that other people assume the responsibilities which are really ours. And, on the pretext of piety, we may even assign these responsibilities to God.

To be honest, isn’t it inconsistent of us to wish for world peace, but through our vote or our silence, to allow the geo-political interests of states to prevail and to apply the law of the rich to the detriment of the poor? In the society in which I live, how can I oppress those in inferior positions or other fellow human beings? Isn’t it contradictory to wish ‘Good Health’ just when we are, or are about to become, under the influence of alcohol and a host of other gastronomic excesses and ‘festal’ peccadillos? How can I have health when I do the opposite to what the human organism naturally wants? Isn’t it contrary for me to wish for love to prevail, but without cultivating humility? My inflated ego is unable to see other people as equals, but looks on them rather as possessions from which I can take something (instead of offering it to them). Isn’t it odd that I should wish for happiness but, in practice, identify it with consumerism, lots of money, worldly enjoyments and sensual delights, which bring us temporary pleasure but quickly backfire and overwhelm us? Finally, isn’t it strange that I should require that something in our life should change, when, in practice, I mean that everything and everybody should change, but not one jot of my character or my goals.

My friends, if we really want things to change and improve in 2019- and more generally, in all the years God will allow us to continue to live- let’s all make a really good effort, one that’s fitting and commensurate. The Bishop in his see; the priest in his parish; parishioners in whatever post the local church has entrusted them with: all together in the country and world in which we live. If we do what we can in practice, then we can wish and pray for those things which exclusively depend on and concern other people and God. Let’s do just a little, but all together. Then it’s certain that 2019 will be better than 2018. And even if it’s not, we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that we did what we could. My friends, may you have a fruitful and blessed new year.

First published in the newspaper Κιβωτός της Ορθοδοξίας

The long lead up to the separation of the Ukrainian church

Andreja Bogdanovski December 25, 2018

 

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People attend the first liturgy since the creation of a new Ukrainian church independent from Russia in the Saint Michaelʼs Golden-Domed Cathedral in Kiev on December 16, 2018. On December 15, a historic council of Orthodox bishops in Kiev created a new Ukrainian church independent from Russia. The move followed a synod by Ukrainian priests in Kiev’s 11th-century Saint Sophia Cathedral which was snubbed by representatives of the Moscow-loyal branch. The council of bishops chose as the head of the new church 39-year-old Metropolitan Yepifaniy, whose secular name is Sergiy Dumenko. / AFP / Genya SAVILOV

 

The process of creating an independent Ukrainian church, removed from Russian influence has dominated recent news from eastern Europe. The decision of 15 December to elect the 39-year-old Metropolitan Epiphany as the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a newly formed body, is a momentous development. It marks the last stage in a process establishing an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church recognized by the leading figure in the Orthodox world and it is the culmination of many years of hard work of religious leaders and politicians.

In the last 30 years, Ukraine has experienced five presidents, open aggression from Russia and the break-up of the Soviet Union. The idea of an independent Ukrainian church persisted throughout these turbulent times and has become a reality in 2018.

The religious picture of Ukraine is complex. Since independence in 1991, there have been three religious structures competing for dominance over Ukraine’s religious life. The first is the Moscow Patriarchate, a Ukrainian church subordinate to the Russian Orthodox church, and which has the largest number of parishes in Ukraine. Due to its connection with the Russian Orthodox Church, it was widely recognised by the other Orthodox Churches. The smaller Kyiv Patriarchate (from which the newly appointed Metropolitan Epifaniy comes) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church have functioned as unrecognised churches since the 1990s. They have been the main instigators of a break with Russian influence and the establishment of a new independent unified church.

 

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 Believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate pray in front of the parliament building in Kiev, Ukraine December 20, 2018. Reuters

 

On 11 October 2018, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul (historically known as Constantinople) and regarded in the worldwide Orthodox Church as the “first among equals”, decided in principle to proceed with the grant of autocephaly, in effect recognition of independence, to the Ukrainians.

He then abolished what he considered to be a temporary measure dating from 1686. In that year his predecessor, Dionysius IV, gave permission to the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kyiv (head of an ecclesiastical province). The Ecumenical Patriarchate decided that the 1686 decision had come to an end due to a number of violations of its terms such as the non-recognition of the overarching authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch as well as the failure of the Russian Orthodox Church over the last 30 years, to address the church split in Ukraine. Given the silence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on this issue for over 300 years, the Russian Orthodox Church was taken by surprise.

In response, the Russian Orthodox Church decided to break all ties with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The result has therefore been a huge split in the Orthodox world and huge blow to Orthodox unity. There are about 150 million followers of the Russian Orthodox Church out of 300 million Orthodox adherents worldwide. Among other things, Russian Orthodox believers will no longer be able to take communion in the churches of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Its biggest effect will likely be felt in diaspora communities such as in the United States, where those baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church will not be able to take part of services or sacraments at a church that is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The annulment of the 1686 decision allowed the territory of Ukraine to be returned to the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople, until the Head of the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine receives the tomos of autocephaly, a formal decree of independence, expected to take place on 6th of January 2019.

The idea for an independent Ukrainian church first emerged in 1921 during the short-lived Ukrainian National Republic but the religious oppression of the Soviet rule and the lack of recognition by the rest of the Orthodoxy meant the idea didn’t gain momentum until after Ukraine became independent in 1991.

In the first years of Ukraine’s independence after 1991, its ecclesiastical life was turbulent with frequent changes in the church structures. These include the Russian Orthodox Church charging Filaret with leading the Moscow Patriarchate into schism in 1992, a failed church unification attempt the same year and the appointment of Metropolitan Filaret as a Head of the Kyiv Patriarchate in 1995.

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 Newly elected Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine Yepifaniy Sergiy Dumenko conducts the first liturgy of the new Ukrainian church in the Saint Michaelʼs Cathedral in Kiev on December 16, 2018. AFP

 

In the years after 1991, the Kyiv Patriarchate worked hard to secure an independent church driven by the country’s political independence. This coincided with the Ukrainian secular authorities showing an interest in the autocephaly project. As early as 1993, Ukraine’s first President, Leonid Kravchuk, sent a representative to discuss the possibility of autocephaly with the Ecumenical Patriarch. President Leonid Kuchma kept a more balanced approach towards the autocephaly question, while President Viktor Yushchenko worked hard for autocephaly and unification of all the Ukrainian churches, but with little result. With the election of the pro- Russian President Viktor Yanukovich in 2010, presidential support for an autocephalous church declined.

The proxy war with Russia in Ukraine’s east and the annexation of Crimea in 2014 revived the religious battle over autocephaly. The Moscow Patriarchate has often been portrayed as a mouthpiece for Russian President Vladimir Putin. It has been criticized by the Ukrainian administration for its role regarding the war, with claims that it has sided with pro-Russian forces. President Petro Poroshenko has frequently described Russian interference in Ukraine’s religious life as a matter of hybrid warfare and portrayed the push for church independence as a national security question.

The Euromaidan protests at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, and the ensuing annexation of Crimea provided a valuable boost to President Poroshenko’s bid for church independence. The protests, which were triggered by the non-signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union, resulted in more than 100 deaths, with many more injured. Pro-Russian President Yanukovich fled the country in February 2014 and Mr Poroshenko won the following elections in the first round with his pro-EU narrative and the promise to reclaim Crimea and the eastern parts of Ukraine.

During Mr Poroshenko’s presidency, the question of church independence for Ukrainian believers gained in importance and became politicised. As President, Mr Poroshenko has used the entire state machinery to persuade the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to grant autocephaly.

January 1 – A Day of two and a half Celebrations

But first, let’s get Christmas out of the way.

Sorry, folks, it’s all over. Western Christians get a full 12 days of Christmas, but we Orthodox get only 7. No fair – though our fast-free period lasts for 12 days till Epiphany. However, in our liturgical calendar December 31, this coming Sunday, is the “Leavetaking (last day) of Christmas”. (For what it’s worth, Khouria Dianna and I keep our house Christmas decorations up till the Leavetaking of the Epiphany, January 14 – and our “winter” lights in the windows beyond that. Anything to help us get through our long, cold, dark Wisconsin winter nights.)

This Sunday is also titled the Sunday before the Epiphany. Already we  prepare for Christ’s Manifestation to the World. (For any Westerners who may be reading, Epiphany in the West is the feast of the Visit of the Wise Men. Orthodox cover that on Christmas morning.) Orthodox Epiphany, also called the Theophany, is the feast of the Baptism of Christ.*  In ancient times in the East, the Epiphany was considered more important than Christmas. Poor Epiphany – these days hardly anyone has even heard of it. More about that next week.

* By the way, Old Calendar Orthodox keep the same feast dates but move them ahead 13 days because the Old Julian calendar is now 13 days out of sync with nature’s calendar. Are you Westerners all still with us?)

But moving back to January 1: In the Orthodox Church this is the feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus Christ, and the feast of Saint Basil the Great. January 1 is also, of course, the Civil New Year. Orthodox New Year’s Day is September 1. Nevertheless the Church also appoints some new year’s prayers for January 1. So we’ll call this our half-a-feast. Let’s take these 2 /12 in order.

1 The Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord Jesus Christ

On the eighth day after birth Jewish boy babies are circumcised and named and join the Old Covenant community. The name Jesus (“Yeshu”), given to Joseph by the angel, means “God saves”. Jesus said later to the Samaritan woman, “Salvation comes from the Jews.” And so he did. From that one Jewish Man God’s saving grace has reached out to all the world. We Orthodox still have 8 day Naming prayers for new babies, but the New Covenant equivalent of circumcision is Baptism which includes both males and females on an equal basis. This is what Saint Paul called the “circumcision not made with hands”, i.e. performed directly by God. Through the waters of Baptism we are joined to Christ’s body, the Church, the New Covenant community, and become partakers of his death and resurrection and enter into eternal life.

I have not seen many icons of the feast of the Circumcision.  Several I have seen show the priest with a long knife welcoming the infant Lord in a rather menacingly way.  I give special thanks on this feast that I, a Christian priest, do not have to perform circumcisions!

2 The Feast of Saint Basil the Great

Saint Basil the Great – my patron, and a rather intimidating patron he is. He was one of those people who did everything well. Basil (in his own way, of course) reminds me of the guys I knew in high school and college: football star, scholar, musician, handsome. Saint Basil was like that for the Church.

Born in 330 into a wealthy Christian family of Caesarea of Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, his father was a prominent teacher, his mother a devout Christian. His was a family of saints: His grandmother Saint Emelia guided and preserved her family during the years of persecution. His sister Saint Macrina  founded  women’s monasticism and was spiritual guide to her brothers. One of Basil’s brothers was Saint Gregory of Nyssa. Another Peter was a bishop.

Basil was brilliant, studied classics in Constantinople and Athens. He was unsure about Christianity but then, influenced by Macrina, he returned to faith. He traveled east, spent time in Jerusalem, in Alexandria and among the desert fathers. Then he returned to Caesarea and formed a small monastery, apparently the first west of Egypt, where he took the preliminary monastic rules of Saint Antony the Great, refined and added to them, and to this day they are followed in every Orthodox monastery. A generation later Saint Benedict in Italy used them as the foundation of his monastic rule which became the norm in the west. Visit almost any Western Benedictine monastery today, and you’ll find that, while the modernized Mass seems foreign to us, the Daily Offices and general atmosphere still retain an Orthodox feel.

The Archbishbp of Caesarea convinced Basil to be ordained priest. Only 8 years later Basil at age 40 was chosen as his successor. Now his greatness came into full blossom. He showed himself to be a profound theologian, preacher, teacher and writer. He wrote the definitive theology on the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit. (See his book On the Holy Spirit, part of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press’ Popular Patristics series, available from Saint Vladimir’s, Light and Life Publishing, on Amazon and other places.) The latter part of the Creed on the Holy Spirit and the Church was chiefly Basil’s work. He wrote on monastic life, on problems of youth, on controversies plaguing the Church, and a multitude of other things. In a sermon on the book of Genesis he suggested that the term “day” in the creation story may refer to a period of time, an “age”, an “aeon”. He compiled the core of the Divine Liturgy which goes by his name, shortened from earlier longer liturgies, because he felt his people were not as pious as earlier Christians and could no longer handle 4 hour liturgies! Perhaps 90% of the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil is composed of Scriptural passages pulled together. Though long by our standards, it is magnificent and I think the best summary of the history of salvation ever written. I hope the priest reads it aloud in the your church. People should hear this masterpiece. If so, when it comes up at Christmas and Epiphany and during  Lent, don’t endure it. Listen to it; pray it. It reflects Basil’s concern for every person, every human need. It is said Archbishop Basil responded personally to every letter written to him, giving advice to orphans and widows, to businessmen, to the clergy whom he valiantly tried to reform (clergy are always getting lax), humorous letters to his friends and firm letters to emperors, defending his people against injustice and promoting Orthodoxy.

Saint Basil was bold. Once the Arian emperor Valens threatened to silence him by confiscating his possessions or exiling him or maybe executing him. Basil replied to the emperor’s envoy (I paraphrase here) that he had already given away his possessions so he had nothing to lose, he would welcome exile for it would give him a chance to get some rest, and if he was executed the people of Cappadocia would rise up in revolt. The envoy was amazed; he said he was accustomed to compliant bishops. Basil responded, “Perhaps you’ve never dealt with a real bishop before.” The emperor backed off.

Indeed Archbishop Basil had given away his possessions. He spent nearly all his inheritance building a community for the poor just outside Caesarea. It included a hospital, several homes for poor widows, orphanages, a leprosarium, inns where poor travelers could sleep without charge, food kitchens where the poor could eat without paying. He also used his resources to endow the upkeep of the town so that money and food would be distributed regularly for the poor. He inspired the wealthy to give and threatened them with hellfire if they didn’t give generously. He also got government aid – what we now call (and many despise) federal “welfare”- and for centuries afterwards Byzantine emperors supported the charitable work of the town. After Basil’s death it was named Vasilios in his honor.

When famine struck Basil wrote to his people: “If you are reduced to your last loaf of bread and a beggar appears at the door, then take that loaf, lift your eyes to heaven and say, Lord I have but this one loaf: hunger awaits but I revere your commandments more than all else. If you should say this, then the bread you gave in your poverty will be changed into an abundant harvest.” (Read another little book of the Popular Patristics series, On Social Justice, with Basil’s quotes on the subject. If you think today’s social justice advocates are radical…)

So great was Basil’s charitable work that in Greece to this day it is not Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus who brings gifts, but rather Saint Basil on his feast day, January 1.

Archbishop Basil was a tireless worker, often remaining sleepless at night writing, praying, thinking. He had fasted strictly all his life from the time he was a young monk. Finally it all got to be too much for his system. He died exhausted of kidney failure on January 1, 379, at age 49. Only 49. He had been bishop less than 10 years, ordained only 17. In those few years he had accomplished all this. Yet he wrote once to a friend, “Because of my sins I seem to fail at everything.”

Thousands gathered at his funeral. The crowds pressed so hard to touch his coffin that it is said some were crushed or asphyxiated. Even within his lifetime he was considered a saint, After his death people quickly titled him Saint Basil the Great. Little wonder. Holy Basil, pray for us.

Speaking for myself again, I’ve been ordained over 50 years now (counting my time as both an Anglican and as an Orthodox priest) and compared to him, I have done so very little. I told you he is an intimidating patron saint. Look at him over there staring at me. Holy Basil, pray for me.

2 1/2 The Civil New Year

The date of the new year is completely arbitrary. Unlike days and seasons and years, which are ordered by nature, the date of the new year could be fixed at any time – as with the Chinese New Year, the Jewish New Year, Western Christian Advent, and our Orthodox ecclesiastical New Year, September 1, which is almost completely ignored –  apparently ever since the Emperor Constantine decided it should be taxation day in the empire – and you know how we Americans celebrate April 15! (Though at Saint Nicholas, Cedarburg, we have occasionally brought out a little champagne on September 1.) In the pagan Roman empire, January 1 marked the new year, and for some reason that seems to be taking over most of the world. From Australia to China to Europe to North America, it’s fireworks on January 1. So even we immovable Orthodox have some new year prayers for January 1.

No matter how people now describe the years – Anno Domini or Christian Era or Common Era or whatever may come next – the obvious fact is that they are all measured from the birth of Jesus Christ. The truth is that even the modern secular world can’t get away from him.

The even more important truth is this: Every day we begin a new year. Every day we start all over again with a new beginning, a new chance for each of us. Every day is a fresh gift of God. Every morning is God’s new creation, the first morning in Eden.

So Happy New Year to you – today and tomorrow and every day.

 

Entering the Mystery of Christmas

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Orthodox Christianity is deeply associated with the word “mystery.”  Its theological hymns are replete with paradox, repeatedly affirming two things to be true that are seemingly contradictory. Most of these things are associated with what is called “apophatic” theology, or a theology that is “unspeakable.” This same theological approach is sometimes called the Via Negativa. This is easily misunderstood in common conversation. An Orthodox discussion takes place and reaches an impasse. Inevitably, someone will remind us that some things are simply a “mystery,” etc. But this “unknowableness” is actually a misuse of mystery and its place in the Church’s life. For though mystery, paradox, and contradiction frame something as “unknowable,” they do so for the purpose of knowing.

To know is not the equivalent of mastering facts. Knowledge, in the New Testament, is equated with salvation itself (Jn. 17:3). But what kind of knowing is itself salvific? In the simplest terms, it is knowledge as participation.

Then they said to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” (Joh 8:19)

and

O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (Joh 17:25-26)

Christ is by no means speaking of knowledge as information. Instead, it is knowledge that “dwells” in them. Such knowledge cannot be gained by the simple sharing of information nor by the acquisition of a system of ideas. It is experiential, on the one hand, but in a manner that is itself transformative.

We experience things all the time. It is possible to say that we are changed by experience. But it is another thing to say that the experience itself now dwells in you and communicates a new life to you. At its very heart, this is the nature of revelation. And this is key within the life of Orthodoxy. What dwells in us as “knowledge,” is, in fact, Christ Himself as knowledge. Christ Himself is the revealer, the revealing and what is revealed.

It would be possible to “master” Orthodoxy as a system of thought. One could know a set of doctrines and teachings, and even be able to enter into discussion and argument. But this in no way actually constitutes true knowledge of Orthodoxy, much less Orthodoxy as saving knowledge.

The Orthodox faith is a making-known-of-the-mystery. And this is utterly essential. However, the Orthodox faith is not static content, but the dynamic reality of the living Christ. It is, properly, a revealed faith, and cannot be had in any other manner. And strangely, the mystery is as essential as the knowing. Only that which is hidden can be revealed.

It is a common mistake to treat the New Testament itself as the revelation of God, or the collection of the information newly revealed through Christ. We historicize Christ’s work as a set of teachings, an assemblage of theological information that we may now discuss, dissect and comprehend, rendering into nothing more than religion. However, the New Testament (and the fullness of the Church) have the mystery within them, and must be encountered first as mystery before they can be acquired as knowledge.

Paradox and contradiction, hiddenness and mystery are all inherent means of saving knowledge. Their presence within Scripture and the liturgical tradition are not mere styles of communication. They provide an access into a form a knowledge that cannot be communicated in any other manner. They are not mere screens shielding wonderful knowledge from our view, a knowledge that once revealed can then be shared without reference to the mystery. Because the kind of knowledge that is saving knowledge both causes and requires an inner transformation, it cannot be shared in a manner other than that through which it was first acquired. The single most important means of saving knowledge in the Tradition is the liturgical life of the Church. It is there that we sing the mystery. The hymns of the Church delight in paradox and contradiction. They urge the heart to enter into this mystical bounty. Those who have no experience of Orthodox liturgical worship can only wonder at this. Those who do, I daresay, understand exactly what I am saying.

We can say that it is not merely the rationalization of Christian teaching that is problematic, but even the efforts to make plain and straightforward and easily accessible what can only be known through mystery, paradox and contradiction. For this reason, it is true that most engagement in theological speech is done by those who don’t know what they are talking about. What passes for “theology” can easily be little more than one swine discussing pearls with another.

True theology is as much a matter of how we know as it is what we know. Further, everything about our own condition also matters in both what we may know and how we may know it. Saving knowledge cannot be isolated from the whole of who we are and how we are. The experience encountered in paradox and mystery is frequently a necessary condition for knowing the truth. We may very well come away with knowledge, and yet be speechless.

I studied Orthodoxy and the Fathers for over 20 years before I was received into the Church. But there were some things that I only began to know on the day of my reception. More than that, a slow process began in which everything I thought I knew was changed. The manner of knowing the faith as a communicant made the content of faith something other than what I thought I knew. Christ is quite clear that purity of heart is essential in the knowledge of God. St. Silouan says that we only know God to the extent that we love our enemies. So it is always right to ask of ourselves, “What is the state of my heart as I approach this mystery?”

We are drawing near to the feast of Christ’s Nativity, His birth as a child and entrance into the human condition. That event is among the greatest mysteries of the faith, surrounded by paradox and contradiction. It can (as so much else) be reduced to a greeting card or a doctrinal fact. But such a reduction cannot save. “Peace on earth, goodwill among men,” is a greeting of paradox and contradiction.

If you would enter into the mystery, then, like Christ Himself, you must become small, weak, poor, misunderstood, and willing to be broken. You cannot know Him if you refuse to be like Him. This is the only path that is truly Christian. Outside the mystery, there is nothing to be known, nothing that will save.

Why Does God Hide?

God hides. God makes Himself known. God hides.

This pattern runs throughout the Scriptures. A holy hide-and-seek, the pattern is not accidental nor unintentional. It is rooted in the very nature of things in the Christian life. Christianity whose God is not hidden is not Christianity at all. But why is this so?

In a previous article, I wrote:

Our faith is about learning to live in the revealing of things that were hidden. True Christianity should never be obvious. It is, indeed, the struggle to live out what is not obvious. The Christian life is rightly meant to be an apocalypse.

God is not obvious. That which is obvious is an object. Objects are inert, static and passive. The tree in my front yard is objectively there (or so it seems). When I get up in the morning and take the dog outside, I expect the tree to be there. If it is autumn, I might study its leaves for their wonderful color change (it’s a Gingko). But generally, I can ignore the tree – or not. That’s what objects are good for. They ask nothing of us. The freedom belongs entirely to us, not to them.

This is the function of an idol – to make a god into an object. He/she/it must be there. The idol captures the divine, objectifies it and renders it inert and passive.

The God of the Christians smashes idols. He will not stay put or become a passive participant in our narcissism. He is not the God-whom-I-want.

Christ tells us, “Ask, and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened.” The very center of the life promised us in Christ requires asking, seeking and knocking. The reason is straightforward: asking, seeking and knocking are a mode of existence. But our usual mode of existence is to live an obvious life (a life among objects).

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to buy an icon and add it to your icon corner than it is to actually spend time and pray in your corner? There is a kind of “Orthodox acquisitiveness” that substitutes such actions for asking, seeking and knocking. Acquisition is part of our obvious form of existence. We have been trained in our culture to consume. We acquire objects. On the whole, we don’t even have to seek the objects we acquire, other than to engage in a little googling. We no longer forage or hunt. We shop.

But we were created to ask, seek and knock. That mode of existence puts us in the place where we become truly human. The Fathers wrote about this under the heading of eros, desire. Our culture has changed the meaning of eros into erotic, in which we learn to consume through our passions. This is a distortion of true eros.

Christ uses the imagery of seeking or true desire (eros) in a number of His parables: The Merchant in Search of Fine Pearls; The Woman with the Lost Coin; The Good Shepherd and the Lost Sheep; The Father in the Prodigal Son; The Treasure Buried in a Field…

But how does seeking (eros) differ from what I want? Are these parables not images of consuming? Learning the difference is part of the point in God’s holy hide-and-seek. The mode of existence to which He calls us must be learned, and it must be learned through practice.

Objects are manageable. They do not overwhelm or ask too much of us. Consumption is an activity in which we ourselves always have the upper hand. St. James offers this thought:

You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)

What we seek (eros) in a godly manner, is something that cannot be managed or objectified. It is always larger and greater than we are. As such, it even presents a little danger. It may require that we be vulnerable and take risks. We are afraid that we might not find it while also being afraid that we will.

The parables are not about a merchant with a string of pearls, or a woman with a coin collection. The merchant risks everything he owns just for the chance of buying this one pearl. The woman seeks this coin as though there were no other money in the world.

When I was nearing the point of my conversion to Orthodoxy, a primary barrier was finding secular employment. It’s hard for someone whose resume only says, “priest,” to get a job or even an interview for a job. That search had gone on, quietly, for nearly two years. It was not an obsession – rather, more like a hobby. But one day, a job found me. The details are not important here. But the reality is. The simple fact that a job was likely to happen, that I only had to say, “Yes,” was both exciting and frightening in the extreme. If I said yes, then everything I had said I wanted would start to come true (maybe). And everything I knew as comfortable and secure would disappear (with four children to feed). And if everything I said I wanted began to come true, then the frightening possibility that I might not actually want it would also be revealed! I could multiply all of these possibilities many times over and not even begin to relate everything that was in my heart.

But the point that had found me was the beginning of the true search. The risk, the reward, the threat, the danger, the joy and the sorrow, all of them loomed over me, frequently driving me to prayer. I made the leap and began a tumultuous period in my life. But my life, like most, eventually settled down and slowly became obvious.

st cuthbert praysSt. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, one of the great monastic heroes of the Celtic lands, had a way of dealing with the obvious. He would walk into the North Sea from the island where he lived, and stand in the waves up to his neck. It was a dangerous sea, not like an American beach. He stood there at the point of danger – and prayed. St. Brendan crossed the Atlantic with his monastic companions in a boat made of animal hides. Countless thousands of monastics wandered into deserts, forests, holes in the ground, islands, all in order to place themselves at that point where God may be found. Seeking God is not done in the place of safety, though it is the safest place in all the world.

Eros does not shop. True desire, that which is actually endemic to our nature, is not satisfied with the pleasures sought by the passions. It will go to extreme measures, even deep into pain, in order to be found by what it seeks.

All of this is the apocalyptic life of true faith. The question for us is how to live there, or even just go there for once in our lives. I “studied” Orthodoxy for 20 years. All of my friends knew (and often joked) about my interest. Many said they were not surprised when I converted.

I was. I was surprised because I know my own cowardice and fear of shame. If you liked Ferraris, your friends wouldn’t be surprised if you had photos and models, films and t-shirts. But if you sold your house and used the money to make a down payment on one, you’d be thought a fool, possibly insane. Seeking God is like that.

There are quiet ways that do not appear so radical. The right confession before a priest can be such a moment. Prayer before the icons in the corner of a room can become such a moment, though it takes lots of practice and much attention. They cannot be objects and the prayer cannot be obvious.

All of this is of God, may He be thanked. We do not have to invent this for ourselves. It is not “technique.” The God who wants us to seek is also kind enough to hide. Finding out where He is hiding is the first step. Finding out where you are hiding is the next. But the greatest and most wonderful step is turning the corner, buying the field, selling everything that you have, picking up the coin, making that phone call, saying “yes” and “yes” and “yes.”

Internationale Commissie voor de Anglicaans-Orthodoxe Theologische Dialoog

Communiqué
Malta 14 – 21 Oktober 2017

22.10.2017

Malta – In de naam van de Drie-ene God, en met de zegen en begeleiding van onze Kerken is de Internationale Commissie voor de Anglicaans-Orthodoxe Theologische Dialoog van 14 tot 21 oktober 2017 bijeengekomen in Sliema, in de Republiek Malta, onder het co-voorzitterschap van Zijne Eminentie Aartsbisschop Richard Clarke van Armagh (Kerk van Ierland) en Zijne Eminentie Metropoliet Athenagoras van België (Oecumenisch Patriarchaat). De Commissie is de Anglicaanse Kerk en het Anglicaans Bisdom in Europa zeer dankbaar voor de hen aangeboden uitgebreide en warme ontvangst. De Commissie verwelkomde haar nieuwe orthodoxe medevoorzitter, Metropoliet Athenagoras, en de nieuwe vertegenwoordiger van het Patriarchaat van Antiochië, evenals de nieuwe vertegenwoordigers van Anglicaanse Kerk.

 Zoals steeds werd het werk van de Commissie ondersteund door dagelijkse gebeden. Op zondag woonde de Commissie de Eucharistie bij in de Anglicaanse Pro-Kathedraal van de Heilige Paulus, en op dinsdag werd een Goddelijke Liturgie gevierd in de Orthodoxe Parochiekerk van de Heilige Georgios in Valetta, die behoort tot het Orthodox Aartsbsdom van Italië en Malta.

 Zoals overeengekomen op de vorige vergadering in Armagh, is de Commissie verder blijven werken aan het theologische begrip van de menselijke persoon, volgens de principes in zijn overeengekomen verklaring “Naar het Beeld en de Gelijkenis van God: een met hoop gevulde anthropologie (Buffalo 2015)”. Dit jaar concentreerde de Commissie zich op de practische implicaties van de verklaring, in het bijzonder in verband met de complexe en dringende vraagstukken rond milieu en ecologie, en in verband met het einde van het menselijk leven.

 Leden van de Commissie hebben in de plenaire vergadering vier basisverhandelingen over deze materies, en schriftelijke antwoorden hierop besproken, werk van zowel Anglicaanse als Orthodoxe leden. Vertegenwoordigers van de Commissie werden de taak toegewezen om over de twee thema’s de diverse standpunten te verzamelen die voortvloeiden uit de presentaties, alsook reacties en besprekingen die daarop volgden. Deze zullen samen gebracht worden ter verdere formulering als voorbereiding op toekomstige gezamenlijke verklaringen. De Commissie heeft haar werk afgerond door te constateren dat in de besprekingen een belangrijk niveau van theologische convergentie over deze kwesties werd bereikt.

 De gepresenteerde papers waren:

 1. “Ecology: An Orthodox Approach” door de Eerwaarde Dr. Valentin Vassechko (Πατριαρχείο Μόσχας),

Anglicaanse reactie: Eerwaarde Kanunnik Dr. John Gibaut
Orthodoxe reactie: Z.E. Metropoliet Serafim van Zimbabwe.

 2. “”And it was good”: The Love of God and the Fragility of Creation” door Zijne Excellentie Dr. Humberto Maiztegui Gonçalves van Porto Alegre

Anglicaanse reactie: Zijne Excellentie Graham Usher van Dudley
Orthodoxe reactie: Prof. dr. Miltiadis Konstantinou.

 3. “Anglican Approaches to Death and Dying” door Zijne Eminentie Dr. Richard Clarke van Armagh en de Eerwaarde Kanunnik Dr. Sarah Rowland Jones

Anglicaanse reactie: Eerwaarde Kanunnik Dr. Alison Joyce
Orthodoxe reactie: Eerwaarde Vader Jonathan A. Hemmings.

 4. “Euthanasia and the Orthodox Approach” door Aartspriester Prof. George Dion Dragas

Anglicaanse reactie: Eerwaarde Kanunnik Philip Hobson OGS
Orthodoxe reactie: Z.E. Metropoliet Chrysostomos van Kition.

 In de context van milieuproblemen en de ecologische crisis waarmee ons gemeenschappelijk huis geconfronteerd wordt, heeft de Commissie in de voorbije jaren dankbaar bijdragen gekregen van Orthodoxe en Anglicaanse leiders en een groeiende inzet in onze gemeenschappen voor milieu-rechtvaardigheid en duurzaamheid mogen vaststellen.

 De Commissie bracht eer aan de Paulinische banden met Malta door pelgrimages te houden naar heilige plaatsen, zoals de St. Paul’s Grot in Rabat, gelinkt aan de aanwezigheid van de Apostel op het eiland na zijn schipbreuk tijdens zijn reis naar Rome (Handelingen 27 en 28). De leden van de Commissie werden er met grote vriendelijkheid door Maltese christenen onthaald, naar de traditionele lokale gastvrijheid (Handelingen 28.2). Bezoeken werden gebracht aan de Rooms-Katholieke Kathedraal van de H. Paulus in Mdina en aan de Co-Kathedraal van St. John in Valletta. Monseigneur Charles Jude Scicluna, Aartsbisschop van Malta, ontving de Commissie royaal voor het avondmaal in zijn officiële residentie. Dit bezoek vond plaats in de schaduw van de moord op journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Op de laatste dag heeft de Commissie een receptie bijgewoond bij Marina, Lady Marks.

 De Commissie spreekt haar hartelijke dank uit aan de uittredende medevoorzitter, Zijne Excelentie Metropoliet Kallistos van Diokleia, en aan andere zich terugtrekkende leden van de Commissie. De werkzaamheden van de Commissie zullen verder gezet worden op haar volgende vergadering in oktober 2018, met als gastheer de Orthodoxe Kerk van Cyprus.

Ο Zijne Eminentie Dr. Richard Clarke, Aartsbisschop van Armagh, 
Anglikaanse medevoorzitter.

Zijne Eminentie Metropoliet Athenagoras van België Oecumenisch Patriarchaat, 
Orthodoxe medevoorzitter.

Vertegenwoordigers van de Orthodoxe Kerk:

Z.E. Metropoliet Serafim van Zimbabwe
Patriarchaat van Alexandrië

De Eerwaarde Vader Jonathan A. Hemmings
Patriarchaat van Antiochie

Aartspriester Prof. George Dion Dragas
Patriarchaat van Jeruzalem

De Eerwaarde Dr. Valentin Vassechko
Patriarchaat van Moskou

Professor Dr. Bogdan Lubardic
Patriarchaat van Servië

Z.E.. Metropoliet Nifon van Târgovişte
Patriarchaat van Roemenië

De Eerwaarde Aartspriester Prof. Dr. Giorgi Zviadadze
Patriarchaat van Georgië

Metropoliet Chrysostomos van Kition
Kerk van Cyprus

Professor Dr. Miltiadis Konstantinou
Kerk van Griekenland

Z.E. Bisschop Ilia van Filomelion
Kerk van Albanië

De Eerwaarde Dr. Christos B Christakis
Co-secretaris

Aartsdiaken Philadelphos Kafalis

Vertegenwoordigers van de Anglicaanse Gemeenschap:

Zijne Eminentie Dr Phillip Aspinall, Aartsbisschop van Brisbane
De Anglicaanse Kerk van Australië

Zijne Excellentie Dr Humberto Maiztegui Gonçalves, Bisschop van Porto Alegre
De Episcopale Anglicaanse Kerk van Brazilië

Zijne Excellentie Graham Usher, Bisschop van Dudley
De Kerk van Engeland

De Eerwaarde Kanunnik Dr Alison Joyce
De Kerk van Engeland

De Eerwaarde Kanunnik Dr Sarah Rowland Jones
De kerk van Wales

De Eerwaarde Kanunnik Philip Hobson OGS
De Anglicaanse Kerk van Canada

De Eerwaarde Gcebile Phumzile Gina
De Anglicaanse Kerk van Zuid-Afrika

Zijne Excellentie Michael Lewis, Bisschop in Cyprus & de Golf
De bisschoppelijke kerk in Jeruzalem & het Midden-Oosten

De Zeer Eerwaarde Kanunnik Hosam Naoum
De Episcopale Kerk in Jeruzalem en het Midden-Oosten

De Eerwaarde Marc Billimoria
De Kerk van Ceylon

De Eerwaarde Kanunnik Dr John Gibaut
Medesecretaris

De Eerwaarde Neil Vigers
Kantoor van de Anglicaanse Gemeenschap

Verontschuldigde leden:

Zijne Eminentie Dr Rowan Williams,
vertegenwoordiger van de Aartsbisschop van Canterbury

2e Zondag ná Pinksteren – Synaxis van alle Athonitische Heiligen

“ Toen Hij nu langs de zee van Galilea ging, zag Hij twee broeders, Simon, die Petrus genoemd wordt, en Andreas, diens broeder, een net in zee werpen; want zij waren vissers.
En Hij zei tot hen: ‘Komt achter Mij en Ik zal u vissers van mensen maken’.
Zij nu lieten terstond hun netten liggen en volgden Hem. En vandaar verder gegaan zijnde, zag Hij nog twee broeders, Jakobus, de zoon van Zebedeus, en Johannes, zijn broeder, in het schip met hun vader Zebedeus, terwijl ze bezig waren hun netten in orde te brengen, en Hij riep hen.
Zij lieten dan terstond het schip en hun vader achter en volgden Hem.
En Hij trok rond in geheel Galilea en leerde in hun synagogen en verkondigde het Evangelie van het Koninkrijk [der Hemelen] en genas alle ziekte en alle kwaal onder het Volk [de Kerk]” Matth.4: 18-23.

Athosmonnik, ‘n ‘andere kant’ van de wereld

“ Heerlijkheid, Eer en Vrede over ieder, die het goede werkt, eerst de Jood en ook de Griek. Want er is geen aanzien des persoons bij God.
Want allen, die zonder Wet gezondigd hebben, zullen ook zonder Wet verloren gaan; en allen, die onder de Wet gezondigd hebben, zullen door de Wet geoordeeld worden; want niet de [toe-]hoorders van de Wet zijn rechtvaardig bij God, maar de daders [uitvoerders] van de Wet zullen gerechtvaardigd worden.
Wanneer toch heidenen, die de Wet niet hebben, van nature doen wat de Wet gebiedt, dan zijn dezen, ofschoon zonder Wet, zichzelf tot Wet; immers, zij tonen, dat het werk van de Wet in hun harten geschreven is, terwijl hun geweten mede getuigt en hun gedachten elkander onderling aanklagen of ook verontschuldigen, ten dage, dat God het in de mensen verborgene oordeelt volgens mijn evangelie, door Christus Jezus” Rom.2: 10-16.

Op de 2e Zondag ná Pinksteren vieren wij in de Orthodoxe kerken samen met de heiligen van andere landen dan hun eigen land de Synaxis van Alle Heiligen op de Berg Athos, hetgeen werd ingesteld door de Heilige Nicodemos de Haghiorite.

Beginnend met de voorafgaande avond van dit feest wordt er door iedere monnik en asceet een nachtwake gehouden. Geen klooster, skete, kellia of cel zal deze nachtvigilie overslaan, welke gehouden wordt ter ere van de Heilige Vaders, die meer dan duizend jaar al door hun aanwezigheid het Licht van Christus door middel van hun leven hebben doorgegeven. Ieder nacht is er in de kloosters ook ten minste één van de monniken, die de nacht biddend doorbrengt en bidt voor degenen, die niet waken, want het verblijf op de Athos is een ‘intensief‘ bestaan en ook monniken zijn gewone mensen en hebben hun slaap hard nodig.
De Heilige berg is de enige plaats op de wereld waar iedere 24 uur minstens 100 keer de Goddelijke Liturgie gevierd wordt tot heil van de wereld.

Alheilige Moeder Gods, abdes van de berg Athos

De Heilige berg Athos wordt niet voor niets de ‘tuin van de Panaghia’ genoemd en is een ‘onafgebroken brandend Licht’ van voortdurend gebed tot de Heer.
Monastiek leven is een niet aflatend gebed tot God, waarbij Onze Heer, Jezus Christus, door het gebed van het hart wordt aangeroepen: “Heer, Jezus Christus, Zoon van de levende God, ontferm U over ons arme zondaars”; zelfs in hun slaap zijn er hoogstaande beoefenaars, die dit gebed ‘als behorende tot het Leven’ voortzetten.
Met dit gebed vragen zij de Almachtige God, ons mensen te doen herleven, te verzorgen, te versterken, te verlichten en Zijn dienaren in nood bij te staan, hen barmhartigheid te verlenen.
Deze heilige plaats, waar de monniken zich uit de wereld hebben teruggetrokken, is toegewijd aan “de Al-heilige Moeder Gods”, de Theotokos, de Godbarende, die alle mensen in nood ter harte neemt en hen tot redding aanbeveelt bij haar Zoon.
De monniken vragen zowel Christus als Zijn moeder aandacht voor de zieken in de ziekenhuizen, in het bijzonder zij, die op een afdeling ‘intensive care’ zijn beland, voor de eenzamen en ontheemden, ontvoerden en gevangen mensen, de dak- en werklozen, de weduwen en wezen en allen, die hen bijstaan in hun ellende. Het is goed dat wij, in de wereld, ons met deze Vaders op de Heilige berg, die ‘in God’ Wijsheid hebben ontvangen, verbonden weten.
In de Orthodoxie zijn het de monniken en Monialen, die ons orthodox christenvolk door hoogte en dieptepunten hebben voort geholpen; zij stonden ons met raad en daad bij.
Monniken van de Athos hebben assistentie verleend bij de eerste vertalingen van de statenvertaling, waartoe de staten Generaal der Nederlanden hen indertijd uitnodigde. Dit gemeenschappelijke feest, waarbij alles wat dit oord aan heiligen heeft voortgebracht, zowel degenen waarvan de namen bekend zijn als degenen die -in alle stilte en eenvoud- niet gekend zijn; zij zijn echter bekend bij de Éne, heilige Drie-eenheid, als broeders in de geest en zijn heengegaan naar de eeuwige rust. “Zij zijn als de [gewijde] olie [Myron], Die uitgestort is over het hoofd van Aäron en naar beneden druipt in z’n baard en als de dauw van de berg Hermon” cf. Psalm 132[133].
Voor zover dit niet eerder nodig werd geacht, vond de Heilige Nicodemos de Haghiorite het noodzakelijk, dat degenen die voor ons welzijn ‘welbehaaglijk’ waren aan de Heer, gezamenlijk dienden te worden onthaald op een feestelijke gedenkdag. Daarom nemen we vandaag in onze gedachten ook de anachoreten [kluizenaars] en die van de cenobieten [gemeenschapsmonniken] in de wereld; wij komen samen om ons – gelijk het betaamt – gelukkig te prijzen; onze kinderen, de jongeren, de ouderen, de vaders en moeders; de zondaars met de ons verblijvende heiligen en zingen hardop eendrachtig:
“ Heer behoud deze plaats, die u heeft als uw woning hebt uitverkoren
en bescherm haar tegen elke vorm van het kwaad.
O veelheid van Heiligen, die op Athos hebben geleefd,
die rond de troon van God staan, door uw heilige gebeden,
bidt God voor ons, onze zielen te redden! “

Panagia Portaitissa, de Glykophilousa
Net als de Panagia Portaitissa, de Glykophilousa een icoon is van degenen die in de iconoclastische periode werden gered en wonder boven wonder over gebracht werd naar de berg Athos.
Deze icoon was oorspronkelijk in het bezit van Victoria, de vrome vrouw van de senator Simeon.
Victoria was degene die de heilige iconen vereerde en in het bijzonder de icoon van de Allerheiligste Moeder Gods, bij wie ze elke dag haar gebeden deed. Haar echtgenoot daarentegen was een beeldenstormer, die haar vroomheid maar aanstootgevend vond, want hij verkondigde net als Keizer Theophilos [rond 829-842], dat de verering van iconen verwerpelijk was. Simeon vertelde zijn vrouw hem haar lievelings-icoon te geven, zodat hij deze zou kunnen verbranden. Met het oog deze icoon van de ondergang te redden, gooide Victoria haar heimelijk in de zee en deze dreef recht op de golven van haar heen.
Na een paar jaar verscheen deze icoon door aan te spoelen op de oevers van de berg Athos, waar hij met grote eer en vreugde door de vadertjes [liefdelijke uitdrukking van de gelovigen voor de monniken] werd ontvangen nadat zij – door een openbaring van de Theotokos [de God-barende] op de hoogte waren

Bright Tuesday, the arrival of the Holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa, to the Holy Monastery of Iviron

gesteld. Een stroompje water ontstond daarop op de plek waar ze het icoon aan wal kwam [bij het klooster Iviron]. Elk jaar wordt er op de dinsdag van de ‘Lichte week’ [ de week na Pasen] een processie gehouden, waarbij de monniken van de Athos massaal met ‘de icoon van de Moeder Gods’ uit wandelen gaan en er een zegening van de wateren plaats vindt. Talrijke zijn de wonderen, die bij deze icoon hebben plaatsgehad.
▪︎ Hoewel er vele wonderen van de Glykophilousa Icoon bekend zijn, zullen we er maar een paar op noemen. In 1713, beantwoordt de Moeder van Gods de gebeden van de vrome Ecclesiarch Ioannikios, die klaagden over de armoede van het klooster. Zij verzekerde hem dat ze in de materiële behoeften van het klooster zou voorzien. ▪︎ Nog een wonder vond plaats in 1801. Een pelgrim, nam zich, na het zien van de kostbare offers die via de icoon werden geschonken, vóór deze te stelen. Hij bleef in de kapel achter nadat de Ecclesiarch deze had gesloten. Vervolgens stal hij datgene wat was aangeboden- en naaste zich naar de haven van Iviron, hetgeen een 500 meter vanaf de kapel is. Daar vond hij een boot die zou afvaren naar Ierissos [een plaats op het vaste land].
Na een tijdje wilde het schip vertrekken, maar ondanks het uitstekende weer, bleef het stil in de zee liggen. Toen de Ecclesiarch ontdekte wat er gebeurd was, zond de abt monniken in verschillende richtingen uit, op zoek naar de dader. Twee gingen naar de haven van Iveron en toen zij het schip onbeweeglijk in de haven zagen liggen, beseften zij wat er gebeurd was.
De schuldige man die deze vreselijke heiligschennis gedaan had – heeft hen om vergeving gevraagd. De monniken waren grootmoedig en wilden niet dat de dief zou worden gestraft en lieten hem heimelijk ontsnappen. ▪︎ Een pelgrim uit Adrianopolis bezocht een van de Athos kloosters in 1830. Hij had aandachtig geluisterd naar de geschiedenis van de heilige icoon, die een monnik verhaalde en tevens van de wonderen die ermee verbonden zijn, maar hij beschouwde het als een fictief verhaal dat slechts een kind zou kunnen geloven. De monnik was bedroefd over het ongeloof van de man en probeerde hem ervan te overtuigen dat alles wat hij had gezegd was absoluut waar. De onfortuinlijke pelgrim liet zich niet overtuigen. Diezelfde dag liep deze pelgrim op een van de hooggelegen balkons, gleed hij en begon te vallen. Hij riep uit: “AlHeilige Moeder Gods, help me!” De moeder Gods hoorde hem en kwam hem te hulp. De pelgrim landde volledig ongedeerd op de grond.
De Glykophilousa Icoon behoort tot de Eleousa iconen [de Maagd van Tederheid] een categorie van de iconen, waar de moeder de genegenheid laat blijken, hetgeen door het Christus.kind wordt aanvaard. Deze icoon krijgt in het bijzonder op 27 maart en op de dinsdag na Pascha speciale aandacht.
De icoon toont de Moeder Gods, die een buiging naar Christus maakt, Die haar op zijn beurt omhelst. De Moeder Gods lijkt Christus strakker dan in andere iconen te omhelzen, en haar expressie is meer aanhankelijk; deze icoon is op een pilaar geplaatst aan de linkerkant van de katholikon [hoofdkerk]

De 12 Apostelen, icoon I.M.Karakallou, Athos

Het gebroeder- zuster-lijk samenleven ziet het samenleven allereerst als geprivilegieerde weg om beter en sneller te groeien tot een biddend leven. Als weg om elkaar te helpen trouw te blijven aan het gebed en het zoeken van God.
Als weg tot zelfkennis en nederigheid, want niets maakt méér ontvangst-bekwaam voor het bidden van Christus’ Heilige Geest in ons, dan juist zelfkennis en nederigheid. Dit samenleven heeft daarom een eigen positieve gevoeligheid voor de ongemakkelijke kanten van het samenleven: juist die vormen een indringende leerschool om jezelf te verliezen, zodat Christus alles ‘in je’ kan worden – en het gemeenschappelijke [liturgisch] gebed God des te meer zal verheerlijken.
Twaalf mensen werden uitverkoren en discuteerden onderling wie er nu elke plaats zou verkrijgen in het Koninkrijk der Hemelen. Zij waren de eerste menselijke stenen van de Tempel Gods, waarvan Christus de poort is. Met de huidige stand van zaken en de verdeeldheid in de kerken, is het geen wonder dat mensen openlijk sceptisch worden over Waarheid en Gerechtigheid. Inderdaad, het probleem met rechtvaardigheid is dat onze praktijk van rechtzinnigheid [ons gevoel met wat rechtzinnig is] niet langer meer ontvankelijk is voor een menselijk oordeel. Er komt echter een dag, wanneer de dingen anders -radicaal anders- zullen zijn en daar wijst Paulus vandaag op in bovenstaande Apostellezing, de dag dat God de mensen zal oordelen.
Er is geen noodzaak tot een dispuut [discussie]; God behoeft niet recht te praten wat krom is en behoeft niet te luisteren naar kerkrechtelijke strategieën. Geen Christelijke bloedgroep behoeft zich ‘boven‘ de andere verheven te voelen – wij zijn allen dienaren, die als vreemdelingen [vluchtelingen] zijn aangesteld in een vreemd land, want onze Stad-staat bevindt zich vèrre van hier.
In de wetenschap wáár onze Stad-staat Zich bevindt, waarom verwerven jullie je hier in het ondermaanse dan, landerijen, kostbare meubels, gebouwen en zwakke woningen? Iedereen die deze dingen voor zichzelf in dit ondermaanse zal verwerven, kan niet verwachten dat hij dé weg naar z’n eigen [innerlijke] stad [tempel] vindt. Dwaze, dubbelzinnige, miserabele mens: “Weet je niet dat al deze dingen hier niet van jou zijn, dat ze slechts door eigen machtsuitoefening in handen zijn gekomen? De heerser van de [Hemelse] Stadstaat zal hierbij zeggen: Ik laat niet toe dat je in Mijn Stad woont! Nee, je hebt je van deze Stad afgewend, want je houdt je niet aan Mijn Wetten! “. Nu hebt u eigen landerijen en velden, gebouwen en vele andere bezittingen en je wordt door de Heer der Heerscharen verdreven! Wat ga je nu doen met je landerijen, je velden, je huizen [kerken?] en alle andere dingen die je hebt verzameld? Heel terecht zal de Heerser u zeggen: “Let op Mijn wetten of verlaat Mijn land!” cf. de profetieën van de Herder van Hermas [140-150 na Chr.]

Er zal geen behoefte zijn herinnerd te worden aan wat er in werkelijkheid zoal gebeurd; God is alwetend en alomtegenwoordig. Hij weet -beter dan de mens- wat er zoal plaatsvindt en hoe een heeft plaats gevonden; inderdaad Hij [God] was erbij toen de daden werden verricht en of dit onder Zijn toezicht en verantwoording heeft plaatsgevonden. Er zal geen behoefte noodzakelijk zijn om onderscheid te maken of iemand daadwerkelijk de waarheid spreekt of niet; nogmaals, God ‘weet’ alle dingen al, Hij kent ons door en door.
Kort geformuleerd er zal uiteindelijk slechts één perfecte situatie doorslag geven: één heilige Opperrechter, Die ‘niet‘ kàn liegen òf zondigen, Die ‘niet‘ kan worden omgekocht of door degenen, die -ons kent ons- te bevoordelen of door wat voor manier dan ook ‘beschadigd‘ is.
Deze Almachtige Opperrechter zal beschikken over de volledige kennis van alle verzachtende factoren en omstandigheden en Zijn laatste Oordeel zal rechtvaardig zijn en er zal geen gelegenheid zijn tot Hoger beroep.
Inderdaad het zal een radicaal andere dag inhouden, voor een Almachtige, Alwetende en Heilige Rechter, Die een definitief [finaal] standpunt zal innemen en ieder menselijke kwestie voor eens en voor altijd zal oplossen.
Op welke basis zal God de mensen dan beoordelen?
Paulus geeft hier vandaag een antwoord op:
“ ten dage, dat God het in de mensen verborgene oordeelt volgens mijn Evangelie, door Christus Jezus“.

Christ Pantocrator enthroned with four Evangelists

God oordeelt de mensen overeenkomstig de Blijde Boodschap – onpartijdig, naar hun werken en in Waarheid en om hier inzicht in te krijgen dienen we vanaf het begin van deze perikoop te lezen:
“ Daarom zijt gij, o mens, wie gij ook zijt, niet te verontschuldigen, wanneer gij oordeelt. Want waarin gij een ander oordeelt, veroordeelt gij uzelf; want gij, die oordeelt, bedrijft dezelfde dingen.
Wij weten echter, dat het oordeel Gods onpartijdig gaat over hen, die zulke dingen bedrijven.
Rekent gij wellicht hierop, o mens, die oordeelt over hen, die zulke dingen bedrijven, en ze zelf doet, dat gij het oordeel Gods ontgaan zult? Of veracht gij de rijkdom van Zijn Goedertierenheid, Verdraagzaamheid en Lankmoedigheid en beseft gij niet, dat de Goedertierenheid Gods u tot boetvaardigheid leidt? Maar in uw weerbarstigheid en on-boetvaardigheid van hart hoopt gij u toorn op tegen de ‘Dag van Gods Toorn’ en van de Openbaring van het Rechtvaardig Oordeel van God, Die een ieder vergelden zal naar zijn werken: hun, die, in het goeddoen volhardende, heerlijkheid, eer en onvergankelijkheid zoeken, het eeuwige leven; maar hun, die zichzelf zoeken, ongehoorzaam aan de waarheid en gehoorzaam aan de ongerechtigheid zijn, wacht toorn en gramschap. Verdrukking en benauwdheid [zal komen] over ieder levend mens, die het kwade bewerkt” Rom. 1: 1-9.
Gelovigen [ja, óók christenen] die heidenen of ‘anders niet-gelovigen’ hypocriet beoordelen en daarmee dus de Genadegaven van God verachten, zullen ‘zelf’ -onpartijdig en overeenkomstig de waarheid en hun werken door [‘hun’] God worden beoordeeld. Eenieder wordt dus op dezelfde wijze beoordeeld. God zal eeuwig leven voor hen, die door volharding in goede werken ‘Goddelijke Glorie en Eer zoeken’ en daarmee onsterfelijkheid verkrijgen. Daartegenover staat wraak en woede voor degenen die in geldingsdrang [hoogmoed] zwelgen en de Waarheid [van Christus] niet gehoorzamen, maar ongerechtigheid bedrijven. God is onpartijdig; er zullen verdrukking en nood komen voor degenen die kwaad doen en Heerlijkheid, Eer, Vrede, voor iedereen die het goede doet.

de weg van Christus

De weg van Christus loopt dus verder dan ’s-mensen neus lang is – Gelovigen die heidenen hypocriet beoordelen en daarmee Gods Genadegaven verachten, zullen ‘zelf’ door God onpartijdig
worden beoordeeld. Sommige gelovigen tonen minachting voor Gods Zachtmoedigheid, etc. zich niet realiserend dat Zijn Geleidelijkheid leidt hen tot bekering; God beschikt over de tijd, Hij wacht op ieder mensenkind dat zich bekeert.
Niet-gelovigen bezitten kennis van God en zij zullen de werken Gods in gelovigen herkennen, je behoeft hen nog niet eens te spreken over de werken Gods, want dit staat in hun harten geschreven en zij zullen het herkennen. hierom en het feit dat hen “van nature” kan verwezen naar de innerlijke realiteit, lijkt mij de meest geëigende methode om hen mee te nemen in het “doe de dingen die nodig zijn overeenkomstig de Goddelijke Wet”.
”Liefde overwint alles, laten wij ons eveneens overgeven” conf. Vergilius, Eclogae 10.69