KIEV, Ukraine (NY Times) — After riot police officers stormed Independence Square here early Saturday, spraying tear gas, throwing stun grenades and swinging truncheons, dozens of young protesters ran, terrified, scattering up the streets. It was after 4:30 a.m., the air cold, the sky black. As they got their bearings, the half-lit bell tower of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery beckoned.
Inside, the fleeing demonstrators found more than warmth and safety. They had arrived in a bastion of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate, where they were welcomed not only on a humanitarian basis but because the church, driven by its own historical tensions with Moscow, is actively supporting their uprising. It strongly favors European integration to enable Ukraine to break free from Russia’s grip, and has joined the calls to oust the Ukrainian government.
From the conversion of Princess Olga, the regent of Kievan Rus, in the 10th century to the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Orthodox Church has generally flourished by acting in close concert with political powers. Its efforts to confront the authorities have tended to go badly, as when Philip II, the metropolitan of Moscow, protested political massacres in 1568 by refusing to bless Ivan the Terrible. He was jailed, chained around the neck and strangled.
But in recent days, the Kyivan Patriarchate, which controls St. Michael’s, has emerged as a powerful ally of the thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich and the revival of the far-reaching political and trade accords with the European Union that he has refused to sign. Some priests have even led prayer sessions in Independence Square, which protesters have occupied.
“Our church is together with the people,” the Kyivan Patriarchate’s 84-year-old leader, Patriarch Filaret, said in an interview. “It supports Ukraine entering the European Union. We pray to God that he will help us enter the European Union in order to keep our statehood, to keep peace and to improve the life of the people.”
On Wednesday, the demonstrators who have laid siege to public buildings in the rattled Ukrainian capital expanded their protest, blockading the central bank, setting up tents and lighting bonfires on the sidewalk outside.
Protest leaders had vowed to surround more government buildings after the Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday defeated a measure calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his government. But as of Wednesday morning, their goal of blockading the presidential administration building had not been achieved.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Is the Church too negative about sex?
Beginning with this provocative question, Fr. Lawrence Farley explores the history of the Church’s attitude toward sex and marriage, from the Old Testament through the Church Fathers in his new book One Flesh: Salvation through Marriage in the Orthodox Church. He persuasively makes the case both for traditional morality and for a positive acceptance of marriage as a viable path to theosis.
About the author
Archpriest Lawrence Farley currently pastors St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church (OCA) in Langley, B.C., Canada. He received his B.A. from Trinity College, Toronto, and his M.Div. from Wycliffe College, Toronto. A former Anglican priest, he converted to Orthodoxy in 1985 and studied for two years at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania. He has also published the multivolume Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series, as well as The Christian Old Testament: Looking at the Hebrew Scriptures through Christian Eyes and Let Us Attend: A Journey Through the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
(The Guardian) - A leading Greek bishop has warned lawmakers that they risk incurring the wrath of God – and will be excommunicated – if they vote in favour of legalising same-sex partnerships.
In a letter lambasting homosexuality as "an insult to God and man", the Metropolitan of Piraeus, Seraphim, pleaded with the country's deputy prime minister, Evangelos Venizelos, not to condone gay unions.
"I beseech you from the heart not to proceed," he wrote.
"You will deny yourself the blessing of the most just Lord whose help and protection we daily need as much personally as nationally … during these critical times for our country."
Last week, the 57-year-old former monk, a prominent personality in Greece's powerful Orthodox church, threatened to excommunicate any MP who endorsed civil unions among gay couples following condemnation of Athens's failure to do so by the European court of human rights.
"For the church fathers, homosexuality is the most disgusting and unclean sin," he railed in a nine-page missive made public last week. "[Such relationships] are an insult against God and man … an unnatural aberration not even observed in animals."
The cleric's stance, which opens a new front in the crisis-plagued country's often strained relations with the EU, comes days after the Strasbourg-based tribunal ruled that Athens was in violation of the European convention on human rights. Although Greece has passed legislation recognising civil partnerships among couples of opposite sexes it remains the only EU country apart from Lithuania to refuse to extend that right to same-sex couples.
Venizelos, whose socialist Pasok is the junior party in a conservative-dominated coalition, vowed to press ahead with legislation recognising the partnerships after rightwingers, taking fright at the bishop's threat, withdrew their support for the amendment in a draft anti-racism bill before the Greek parliament.
Today is the prelude of God's good will/ and the proclamation of the salvation of men./ The Virgin hath manifestly appeared in the temple of God/ and proclaimeth Christ unto all./ To her let us cry aloud:/ Rejoice, O thou fulfillment// of the Creator's dispensation!
Kontakion - Tone 4
The most pure temple of the Savior,/ the precious bridal chamber and Virgin,/ the sacred treasury of the glory of God,/ is on this day brought into the house of the Lord,/ bringing with her the grace that is in the divine Spirit./ To her do the angels of God chant the hymn:// She is the heavenly tabernacle!
(Prologue from Ochrid) - When the Most-holy Virgin Mary reached the age of three, her holy parents Joachim and Anna took her from Nazareth to Jerusalem to dedicate her to the service of God according to their earlier promise. It was a three-day journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem but, traveling to do a God-pleasing work, this journey was not difficult for them. Many kinsmen of Joachim and Anna gathered in Jerusalem to take part in this event, at which the invisible angels of God were also present.
Leading the procession into the Temple were virgins with lighted tapers in their hands, then the Most-holy Virgin, led on one side by her father and on the other side by her mother. The virgin was clad in vesture of royal magnificence and adornments as was befitting the ``King's daughter, the Bride of God'' (Psalm 45:13-15). Following them were many kinsmen and friends, all with lighted tapers.
Fifteen steps led up to the Temple. Joachim and Anna lifted the Virgin onto the first step, then she ran quickly to the top herself, where she was met by the High Priest Zacharias, who was to be the father of St. John the Forerunner. Taking her by the hand, he led her not only into the Temple, but into the ``Holy of Holies,'' the holiest of holy places, into which no one but the high priest ever entered, and only once each year, at that. St. Theophylact of Ohrid says that Zacharias ``was outside himself and possessed by God'' when he led the Virgin into the holiest place in the Temple, beyond the second curtain-otherwise, his action could not be explained.
Mary's parents then offered sacrifice to God according to the Law, received the priest's blessing and returned home. The Most-holy Virgin remained in the Temple and dwelt there for nine full years. While her parents were alive, they visited her often, especially Righteous Anna.
When God called her parents from this world, the Most-holy Virgin was left an orphan and did not wish to leave the Temple until death or to enter into marriage. As that would have been against the Law and custom of Israel, she was given to St. Joseph, her kinsman in Nazareth, after reaching the age of twelve.
Under the acceptable role of one betrothed, she could live in virginity and thus fulfill her desire and formally satisfy the Law, for it was then unknown in Israel for maidens to vow virginity to the end of their lives. The Most-holy Virgin Mary was the first of such life-vowed virgins, of the thousands and thousands of virgin men and women who would follow her in the Church of Christ.
Now if a similar deal can be reached on the Church of the Resurrection and that darned ladder can be moved.
BETHLEHEM (NC Register) — The Church of the Nativity’s leaky roof and windows are finally being repaired, thanks to a rare act of cooperation between the three major churches that share and maintain the church, built atop the traditional place of Jesus’ birth.
In August, officials of the Palestinian Authority and Latin Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Apostolic Armenian Churches signed an agreement authorizing an Italian restoration company to fix the church, whose basilica was built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian about 600 A.D.
The original Church of the Nativity, built in 330 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Constantine, was mostly destroyed 200 years later. The existing church was built on the same site.
The structure has been leaking for more than a century, but turf battles between the Churches, each of which maintains its own section, prevented a proper resolution to the problem. Of most concern are the church’s wooden beams, some of which date back 1,500 years, according to Church officials.
Despite the repairs, which will take several months at the very least, the basilica is open to visitors and will welcome pilgrims for Christmas services. The church is the jewel in the crown of Bethlehem, which will host a variety of services, fairs and concerts during the days leading up to Christmas.
Palestinian Authority Assistance
Although the Israeli government had tried for years to foster an agreement between the three Churches to repair the church, it was not until the Palestinian Authority took the controversial step of asking UNESCO, the cultural wing of the United Nations, to designate the church an “endangered” world heritage site that the Churches signed off on the renovation.
And even then, it took the Palestinian Authority quite some time to finesse an agreement with the Churches and to secure the funding.
Roughly half of the project’s $2.6-million price tag will be borne by the Vatican, Russia and other nations, while the other half will be supported by sponsors and private funds raised by the Palestinian Authority.
At the time, Israel insisted that UNESCO’s 2012 designation of the church as “endangered” — a designation generally reserved for sites in imminent danger of destruction or collapse — was a political move intended to bolster Palestinian claims of sovereignty over the West Bank, whose final status has yet to be determined through negotiations.
It is the first site under Palestinian jurisdiction to be afforded heritage status.
At a press conference, Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator and activist, called the church’s inclusion in the heritage site list “a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land and our commitment to the protection and preservation of such significant Palestinian cultural and religious sites in spite of the Israeli occupation and all its prejudicial measures.”
Israel, Ashrawi said, “is a belligerent occupant” and “a major threat to the safety and the responsible preservation of that important segment of human civilization in Palestine.”
The church has been on the World Monuments Fund’s “globally endangered heritage site” list since 2008. The fund noted that “the roof timbers of the church are rotting and have not been replaced since the 19th century. Rainwater seeps into the building and damages not only its structural elements, but also its 12th-century wall mosaics and paintings. Due to this influx of water, there is also an ever-present chance of an electrical short-circuit and fire.”
According to Vatican Insider, the company Piacenti Spa was chosen to carry out the work due to its vast experience in large-scale restoration work.
Monday, December 2, 2013
Damascus (AsiaNews) - Islamist rebels have kidnapped a group of nuns from the Greek Orthodox monastery of St Thecla (Mar Taqla) in Maaloula (north of Damascus). Mgr Mario Zenari, the Vatican nuncio in Damascus, confirmed the information after speaking with the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate. Through the Vatican diplomat, the latter "calls on all Catholics to pray for the women religious."
"Armed men burst in the monastery of St Thecla in Maaloula this afternoon. From there, they forcibly took 12 women religious," Mgr Zenari said, citing a statement from Patriarchate. The group of Islamist rebels has apparently taken them to Yabrud, some 80 km north of the capital. Neither the nuncio nor the church Greek Orthodox Church know reason behind the kidnapping.
Islamist Rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had invaded the small town on 5 September after driving out regime troops with the support of al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Brigades. After taking control of the city, they went on a rampage against Christian buildings, killing three young Catholic men.
More than 3,000 people, the town's entire Christian population, fled their homes seeking refuge in Bab Touma, the Christian quarter of Damascus. Some found shelter with relatives in Lebanon or in local Greek-Catholic convents.
Only Muslims were left in town, plus 40 nuns at the St Thecla Monastery who stayed to help care for dozens of orphaned children.
As of yesterday, Maaloula became again the scene of heavy fighting between the army and Syrian rebels, including many members of the extremist Jabat-al-Nusra militia.
Clashes are concentrated mostly in the upper, oldest part of the town, where the St Thecla Greek-Orthodox and the Sts Sergius and Bacchus Greek-Catholic monasteries are located.
From there, the rebels have launched repeated attacks against army positions in the lower part of town.
Fighting is intensifying, sources told AsiaNews. "The army is trying to regain control over the villages north of Damascus. For this purpose, it has launched a major offensive against the rebels, who are trying to hold government forces back through a scorched earth policy in the areas under their control."
(World Bulletin) - Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Metin Kulunk has refused to resume the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary until Greece reopens the Fethiye Mosque in Athens.
“Have no doubt, Turkey has not taken a step to re-open Halki Seminary and it will not take a step until Greece, who did not hold up the promise it gave in Lausanne, opens the Fethiye Mosque in Athens,” Kulunk said in a Western Thrace Turks Solidarity Association meeting in Germany.
Turkey has been demanding the re-opening of the Fethiye Mosque in Athens, the only European capital city without an official mosque, in return for moves to reopen a Greek Orthodox school in Istanbul’s Heybeliada Island, which was closed in 1971.
Calling Greece “a church state,” he questioned why a mosque was not being given permission to exist in Athens while many mosques, churches and synagogues stand side by side in Istanbul.
In October, Turkey’s EU minister Egemen Bagis said that Turkey would be encouraged to reopen the Halki Seminary in Heybeliada if Greece took steps to open a mosque in Athens.
Greece is home to many Muslim communities, both native and migrant, but refuses to grant permission for the construction of new mosques.
The 150,000 strong Turkish Muslim community of the Western Thrace province near the Turkish border have complained that they are being refused to build new mosques as well as rebuild old mosques from the Ottoman era.
They are also refused the right to elect their own religious representation to the Greek government.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
H/T: Met. Savas of Pittsburgh. When the members of the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir met with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople on Friday, November 29, the sons of two of the priests in the choir somehow managed to beat him to his seat. Dimitrios S. Panagos was there to capture the moment.
(SFGate) - Miguel Alvarez had never worked in a senior care home. He had never administered medications. The only reason he took the janitor job at Valley Springs Manor in early October was to save money for Christmas gifts for his children.
Yet last week, as the Castro Valley care home plunged into chaos amid a state-ordered closure, Alvarez found himself changing diapers, bathing, spoon-feeding and otherwise comforting more than a dozen seniors who had been abandoned there.
"I'm a janitor - I didn't know what I was doing. I just tried the best I could," Alvarez, 33, said Thursday at his home in San Leandro.
Alvarez was one of two employees of the care home who stayed when everyone else - including management - left as the state yanked the facility's operating license. On Thursday, he told his story to media members for the first time.
He cried as he described a nightmarish scene of confused seniors shouting for help, some becoming weak and "zombie-like" because they hadn't received medications in several days, and others trying to escape.
"I'd never want to see my parents or grandparents go through anything like that," he said. "I liked these people. I wanted to treat them well."
Last Friday, While Alvarez and cook Maurice Rowland were busy with other residents, Edmund Bascom, 65, walked out of the facility. He still has not been found.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Chicago, IL (SOC-NASA) - Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago has founded the Fellowship of St. John Vladimir to serve the young adult community. This fellowship will have focused instruction on the application of Orthodox Chrisitanity. Meetings begin December 17th and will be held every Thursday at 7pm.
I posted on the opening of this conference and normally I would just append the closing notes to the old post or leave it to those interested to follow-up, but there were some intriguing points made below that deserved a separate post. I found the section on a perceived need to create a critical edition of the Slavonic Bible as a prerequisite to beginning the process of translating a Russian text.
November 28, 2013 (mospat.ru) – the 7th International Theological Conference of the Russian Orthodox Church on the Modern Bible Studies and the Tradition of the Church convened by the Holy Synod Decision of January 30, 2013, concluded its work at the conference hall of the Department of the External Church Relations in Moscow.
The forum was attended by leading bibleists and theologians of the Russian Orthodox Church, secular scholars and specialists from abroad.
The first plenary session on November 26 was opened by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. He noted the need for the reception of achievements made by modern bibleistics in the context of the Holy Tradition of the Church. In this connection, His Holiness also pointed to the need to develop relations between church educational institutions and research and education centers both in Russia and other countries and to the importance of teaching ancient languages in the theological schools of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Department for External Church Relations, chairman of the Synodal Biblical and Theological Commission and rector of the Ss Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies, presented a programmatic paper on the Translations of the Bible and Modernity.
Among the speakers at the plenary session were also Metropolitan Antony of Borispol and Brovary, chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and rector of Kiev Theological Academy, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and president of the International Catholic Biblical Federation, Prof. Christos Karakolis, University of Athens, M. Seleznev, head of the Chair of Bible Studies of the Ss Cyril and Methodius Institute, V. Akimov, pro-rector, head of the Chair of Bibleistics and Theology at the Minsk Theological Academy, and Prof. Johan Lust, Catholic University of Leuven.
The conference continued its work in sections under the themes “The Bible and its historical context”, “The biblical exegesis in the church tradition”, “The translation of the Bible”, “The reception of modern biblical scholarship in the Catholic Church”, and in the round tables on “The Six Days and its context”, and “The translations of the Bible in the languages of peoples comprising the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church”.