Thursday, February 11, 2016

eNewsletter from Fr. Dcn. Basil

A General Sharing from Proto-Deacon Basil Yakimov in Australia: Old historic photos of Sarov Monastery, etc. see captions please below... [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

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Dan Everiss

AttachmentWed, Feb 10, 2016 at 12:06 AM








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Subject: Old historic photos of Sarov Monastery, etc. see captions please below... [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
Date: Wed, 10 Feb 2016 04:00:05 +0000
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The Meeting of Our Lord

When the Egyptian king Ptolemy Philadelphus, founder of the glorious library of Alexandria, wished to have the Old Testament books in the Bible translated from Hebrew into Greek, the Jewish Sanhedrin (High Council) chose 72 righteous men from among the Hebrews, six from each tribe of Israel, who knew both languages well. Among these 72 men was a certain elder named Simeon.
While translating the Book of Isaiah, he stopped at a prophecy well-known to him: “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son…” (Isaiah 7:14). Simeon had doubts about the word “Virgin,” and after pondering for a while, decided to replace it with the words “young woman,” as being more understandable and believable. But suddenly an angel appeared before him and, staying his hand, said: “Believe in what is written. You shall see with your own eyes the fulfillment of this incomprehensible prophecy.” This took place about 270 years before the birth of Christ.

And so years, decades and centuries passed. Simeon patiently waited for the fulfillment of God’s word, announced to him by the angel, and daily visited the temple of Jerusalem. And thus, when the Most-Holy Virgin Mary, in accordance with the law of Moses, brought the Infant Christ to the temple on the 40th day after His birth, Simeon was divinely inspired to recognize Them, together with the prophetess Anna who lived at the temple. Piously he bowed down to the Infant and His Mother, and taking the Infant God up in his arms, he turned to Him with the following moving prayer: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace…” (Luke 2:29-32).
We read this prayer at the end of each vespers, at the end of the day, which symbolizes the end of life, since sleep is the foreshadow of death.
Thus the holy prophet Isaiah’s words came to pass, and the righteous Simeon’s expectation was fulfilled: in the temple he met Christ born of a Virgin, and for this reason the holiday is called the Meeting of our Lord.
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Meeting of our Lord

For many years afterwards the event of Christ’s presentation at the temple of Jerusalem was commemorated, but after a while the memory of this event apparently began to fade. And then in 542 A.D. there was a terrible plague in the Byzantine Empire, so that many thousands died every day, and the bodies of the dead lay for a long time without being buried, while in the city of Antioch another natural disaster was added – a severe earthquake. Many buildings were destroyed, burying in their ruins those who had survived the plague. At that time a certain pious person received a revelation from above that people should begin celebrating the day of the Meeting of the Lord, as well as other feasts of the Lord and the Theotokos. Thus, on the eve of the 40th day after the Nativity of Christ, i.e. the day of the Meeting of our Lord, when the all-night vigil was served, followed by a procession with the cross, – the plague and the earthquake immediately stopped. The joyful inhabitants gave glory, praise and thanks to the Lord God and His Most-Holy Mother.
The meeting with the Infant Christ had great meaning for the elder Simeon. But what meaning does it have for us and for our salvation?
To understand the deep significance of this holiday we must turn to the service for this day, because the Holy Church has expressed its understanding of Gospel events most fully in its services. “In the Law – in the shadow and in the Scriptures – do we, the faithful, behold the symbol: every male child opening the womb is consecrated to God…” (9th ode of the canon). In the Old Testament law, which only served to foreshadow the coming law, each first-born male from each family of the chosen people was dedicated to God. This law was established at the time when the Lord smote with death all the first-born of Egypt, sparing the first-born of the ancient Jews, who henceforth began to be considered as God’s property, and whom their mothers were obligated to give over into full service to God, i.e. consecrate to God, in other words – make them their priests and intercessors before God. However, since many families found it difficult to give up their first-born for service to God, Moses, not without God’s approval, modified this law to some extent, replacing the first-born from each family with a universal first-born from the entire people – with the tribe of Levy, which became totally dedicated to God and became the priesthood of the ancient Jews. In order to authenticate this exchange, each mother had to bring her first-born to the temple on the 40th day after his birth, offer a sacrifice to God, and redeem her infant in order to obtain the right to get him back, while transferring his obligations to the priests.
Such is the origin and the meaning of Old Testament priesthood. However, all these institutions, though established with God’s approval, were only human prerogatives and thus lacked grace, because they only served to foreshadow the future. The service of the priesthood openly prophesied to the people the forthcoming High Priest and the forthcoming salvific Sacrifice. All Old Testament “gifts and sacrifices… were imposed on them until the time of reformation… but Christ the High Priest, neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood entered once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:9-12).
Faced with the Infant Christ, the entire Old Testament priesthood could be considered as having fulfilled its temporary foreshadowing service and could say to Christ together with the elder Simeon: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart…,” and not only in terms of wishing quick deliverance from earthly life, but also quick deliverance from its priestly service which was inactive (i.e. lacking grace) in the face of the eternal High Priest and the redeeming Sacrifice.
The content of the holiday service reveals to us the chief meaning of the coming of the Son of God to earth, which lay not in a glorious establishment of a universal earthly kingdom of the Messiah, as the leaders of the Jewish people wished it, but in His service as a High Priest to the world and in His priestly sacrifice of atonement. The elder Simeon speaks of this to the Most-Holy Virgin Mary, as he prophetically views Her future station at the Cross and likens it to a sword piercing Her heart. And the elder himself, already seeing in the Divine Infant the beginning of the redeeming sacrifice for which He had been born, expresses his desire to descend as quickly as possible into hell, in order to proclaim to the prisoners languishing there the great joy of the first rays of the Paschal Sun (7th ode of the canon). Amen.
Protopriest Igor Hrebinka

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Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Land, Pray to God For Us!
Found on: <http://internetsobor.org>    http://video.meta.ua/4298799.video

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Heads of Russian Orthodox Church and Roman Catholics to meet in Cuba - tragic meeting that will bring ECUMENISM to the Russian land!!!

Regards Victor
It is very easy with just a few links to demonstrate that there is NO TRUE ORTHODOX INTENTION of Kyrill of Moscow in meeting with the Pope in Cuba on the 12 of feb 2016, which will place just a few days from now.
There are those amongst us that are blind to this most obvious fact. Pls see the 3 LINKS below that demonstrate this most clearly
1st link - in which the Pope promotes love & unity amongst all  faiths. This is fully blown Dogmatic Syncretism (the heresy of interlife of different faiths).
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vI0tiN88ldE
2nd link - is the promotion of the same heretical love/deception by Kyrill of Moscow
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxbNva4n-DiVYzQ2S3BqTVpxbmc/view?ts=5653d183
& this, again Kyrill of  Moscow
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxbNva4n-DiVMjkyUzBSaVZNdW8/view?ts=5652810f
What is clear is that - ecumenism historically has 3 main types,
1 Protestant centric Ecumenism, championed by the WCC - in which no church has the right to claim that, only it is the one true church, which is a denial of Apostolic Orthodoxy
2 Papal centric ecumenism - dialogue between the Orthodox & Papist - that states heretical Papists are a graceful sacrament bearing Apostolic church - which is a denial that the 'One' Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is Synonymous only with the Orthodox Church
3 The assembly of world religions - which professes the cult of belief in the One God of all religions and faith communities which are equal in their capacity to unite man with God -- which is denial of the God/man Christ as the only saviour of mankind.
When we see in the links above that both the Pope and Kyrill are equally implicated and confess this 3rd and most evil of all constructs. THEN WHAT SORT OF CHRISTIAN TRUTH IS WILL TAKE PLACE ON THE 12TH OF FEB IN THIS MOST UNFORTUNATE YEAR OF 2016 - LET THOSE POOR & IGNORANT SOULS WHO ENTERTAIN SUCH FOOLISHNESS HAVE EARS WITH WHICH TO HEAR - NO SUCH THING WILL TAKE PLACE.
PLS FORWARD ON     Sasha……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
A Clear Voice for Orthodoxy in the Twentieth Century http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/ea_rocor.aspx
 
 
   cid:image002.png@01D16413.486A7E70—Metropolitan Philaret, A Sorrowful Epistle
Metropolitan Philaret of New York: a brief article introducing this modern confessor of the faith and clear voice of Orthodoxy.
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The Tragic Results of the Church Union

In arguing for the union of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad (ROCA) and the Moscow Patriarchia (MP), the ROCA First Hierarch and bishops assured the flock with great confidence that they could “work from within” to influence the MP and most notably, its ecumenist and sergianist policies.  As is clear for all to see, these assurances were at best optimistic and at worst outright falsehoods.  The MP’s ecumenism and sergianism remains completely unchanged since the union and may possibly be even more aggressive.  The reality is that since the union in 2007 the episcopate and clergy of what is now the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia-MP (ROCOR-MP) has been completely absorbed and drawn in  by the MP and does everything possible to imitate the ranks of MP clergy.  Unlike the example of Met. Philaret and the bishops of the past, the ROCOR-MP clergy and bishops of today demonstrate the same sense of privilege as their Moscow counterparts, to include an indulgence in expensive automobiles, fine vestments, gourmet meals and many other luxuries incompatible with the life of a monastic or clergyman.  They have absorbed the mindset, manners and approaches to the flock of the Moscow Patriarchia.  The ROCOR-MP clergy dutifully and publicly express their support for the nationalist and revanchist policies of the Russian state and remain silent on issues that would have been condemned in the past by the ROCA. 

In another shameful example of the compliant imitation of their Moscow rulers, the ROCOR-MP has time and again demonstrated the avarice and lust for property that so sadly distinguishes the MP.  All the churches of ROCA clergy who agreed to the union are kept under tight control, while the few churches of those who did not agree are under direct attack and feel the constant threat of legal action.  The size of the individual church, its condition, or how large or small the parish, are of no consequence.  The ROCOR-MP insists that every attempt be made to deprive faithful church members, who decided against going down the path of union and its attendant spiritual ruin, of a place to worship.  To add insult to injury, every manner of deceit and guile is used to tear the church away from its rightful owners.

Examples of this lust for property are many.  The Holy Trinity parish in Oxnard, California, spent thousands of dollars to resist relentless legal attacks.  The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos parish in Buena, New Jersey, spent years in the courts.  The Holy Trinity parish in Santiago, Chile, at which Archimandrite Benjamin has been faithfully ministering in that part of the world for decades, has also come under attack.  Recently ROCOR-MP Bishop John of Caracas and South America managed to obtain the keys to the church and had the locks replaced.  In the presence of indifferent local police, he invaded the church and took possession of it, barring the 89-year old archimandrite from the church he lovingly tended to for over 35 years.  One cannot help but think back on the MP seizure of ROCOR property in the Holy Land and how at the time Archbishop Mark (then a bishop in the ROCOR) howled in protest at those unlawful and despicable actions of the MP.  Now it is apparently a new day, for Archbishop Mark and his fellow bishops readily and eagerly engage in the same contemptible behavior.

The latest target of ROCOR-MP is the Dormition parish in the Richmond Hill section of New York City.  The church is a storefront in woeful condition, and the parish is small and faces many financial difficulties.  Yet, even such an unassuming place of worship must be torn away from its parishioners and ROCOR-MP has served them with legal papers demanding they relinquish their home.  The parish led by Fr. Sergey Klestov, is under the authority of Bishop Stefan (Sabelnik), formerly of the Russian True Orthodox Church.  Our hearts and prayers go out to them in their hour of need.  These parishes are just but some examples.  There have been others and there will surely be more to follow.

Little account is made by the ROCOR-MP episcopate of how they spend the thousands of dollars raised from their church members, who presumably donate in the hope that the monies will be devoted to doing good and not to fund attacks on helpless parishioners.  And where is the outrage among the senior clergy of the ROCOR-MP?  These are their brothers in Christ under attack.  They have known many of these rectors for most of their lives, studied together at the Holy Trinity seminary in the Jordanville, sharing the same school bench.  How can they in good conscience turn their backs on them?  Why do they not speak out against these injustices?  Is this the age-old human failing of thinking you can save yourself by sacrificing others?  Do they not understand that they can find themselves in the same position very easily, if they do not continue to obey their new rulers in a church that shows a false piety to the world, while preying on the weak and helpless?  Such are the bitter fruits of surrendering and abandoning your principles.  Who knows what parish will be the next target of this avarice?  It is said that the fire of the Russian Revolution eventually consumed everyone including those who sparked it.  That ravenous beast lives on today and will in time devour ROCOR-MP and those who succumbed to the union, until its noble history becomes a mere footnote in history.  God help us all.

Editorial Group – www.rocana.org   January 3, 2016   http://www.rocana.org/#!blank/c24jx

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The wisdom of sorrows
Whatever the reason for the sufferings that are sent us, they are all invariably sent for our benefit – for the salvation of our souls, for the remittance of our sins, and in the case of innocent Christians – to merit a crown in the Heavenly Kingdom. The elders Barsonuphius the Great and John say: “Everything that happens to a man serves to test him on the road to salvation, in order for him to endure and believe himself to be unworthy. It is a good sign that you are sorrowing. Do you not know that whenever someone asks the fathers to pray for him, or asks God to give him aid, then his sorrows and temptations are increased to test him? Thus, do not seek bodily rest if the Lord does not send it to you, for bodily rest is vile in the eyes of the Lord, Who said: In the world ye shall have tribulation (John 16:33). Know that those who wish to have rest in everything will hear at a certain moment: Remember that thou in thy lifetime received thy good things (Luke 16:25). The one who is unable to bear tribulation will not see glory. Do you not know that there are many sorrows for the righteous and through them they are tested like gold by fire? Therefore, if we are righteous, we shall be tried by sorrow; if, on the other hand, we are sinful, we will suffer sorrows as being worthy of them. Let us remember all the saints and what they endured in doing good: they were hated and reviled by other people until their very end. Accept the suffering of sorrow in everything, in order to be the descendant of saints, and whether you experience sorrow, or deprivation, or insult, or illness, or physical labor, – for everything that befalls you give thanks to God.”
Saint Isaac the Syrian writes: “God did not wish for His beloved to rest while they are in the body, but wished that they, while living in the world, live in sorrow, hardship, labor, deprivation, solitude, need, illness, insult, in sadness of the heart and exhaustion of the body. The Lord knows that those who live in bodily comfort are unable to remain in His love. However, when illness, need, bodily exhaustion or fear of bodily harm trouble your mind and deprive you of joy and hope in the Lord, then know that you are being ruled by the body and not by Christ. Therefore, concerning all sorrows that befall you openly or secretly, make a cautious judgment that this has happened to you rightfully and justly. And be grateful for everything.”
Thus, in all cases suffering is meaningful. But we can also speak not only of the wisdom of suffering, but also of its necessity for man. N. N. Fioletov writes: “The soul of a man who has never suffered, never gone through tempests, agitation or struggles, often becomes covered with the crust of vanity, banality, self-satisfaction; it faces the danger of becoming immersed in a state of inertia and dullness. We can see in everyday examples how often people who have not suffered through anything are unable to understand the feelings of others, remain indifferent to the suffering of others, how often they lose the realization of the higher purpose and meaning of life, and become immersed in a bog of triviality. This state of complete self-satisfaction and dullness is commonly mistaken for happiness.”
 Thus, all suffering sent from God is not a violation of universal harmony, but on the contrary, in all cases suffering is the manifestation of one of the forms of God’s constant Providence over man, proof of God’s love and charity towards fallen mankind. In view of God’s benevolence and wisdom, it could not be otherwise of course. Holy Matrona of Zadonsk often said: “Sorrows in life are presents sent to us from paradise.”
A Christian must essentially reject the worldly understanding of the word “misfortune,” for “all sorrow, united with patience, is good and beneficial for us,” – writes Saint Peter Damascene. There is no “misfortune” in a world ruled by the benevolent Lord God, and that which people call misfortune is rather a merciful admonition from God the Father, a testing by Him of a Christian’s faith. Apostle Paul writes that, in a Christian, tribulation engenders patience, and patience – experience, and experience – hope, and hope does not shame us (Rom. 5:3-5).
Saint John of Tobolsk says the same: “If man’s will were directed towards virtue and were truly submissive to and in accord with the will of God, then hardships, illness, sorrows, and other misfortunes which each man encounters in life would not seem to him to be a punishment, for he would suffer them with a joyous heart and love for God, reasoning and believing that they had been sent to him by the will of God for an unknown, but obviously good purpose.”
Moreover, saints and righteous people reached a stage where they, understanding the beneficial meaning of sorrows for man’s soul, not only suffered them good-naturedly, without grumbling or agitation, but joyously, and even hoping for them and seeking them. Thus the wise Abbess Arsenia writes: “After the Lord helps you get rid of passions, then sorrows become the greatest joy in life for your soul; it rises above them, it is not overcome by them, but only realizes and feels God’s great help, which strengthens the spirit by means of life’s sorrows and tribulations; realizes the great wisdom of God’s paths, which through these sorrows lead man to freedom, purify him, and always place him on the right path. Then the soul feels power and joy, and gives thanks to God for these sorrows, which seem insignificant to the soul in comparison with the blessings which it receives from the Lord through these sorrows.”
And another righteous one said: “The greatest joy in the world is the joy of suffering.” The righteous priest John writes: “All of us can complain when we do not experience suffering, for nothing else makes us as comparable to the Lord as the bearing of His Cross.” The philosopher Eckhart provides the following spiritual aphorism: “A quiet and tranquil life, spent in God, is good; a life full of tempests, spent in patience, is better; but to find tranquility in a life full of suffering is the best.”
We must always remember that a good-natured endurance of suffering is possible only with God’s help, and is God’s gift to Christians. St. Peter Damascene writes about it thus: “To endure insults with joy and meekness, to do good to one’s enemies, to lay down one’s life for others, and similar qualities are God’s gifts, which are sent to those who yearn for them, and who earn them from God by means of suffering.”
Thus, only he cannot endure “trials” and “tribulations,” who does not place his trust in God, who is not aware of his sinfulness, who does not feel the need to purify his heart, to save his soul, and who is not aware of his powerlessness to achieve this solely through his own efforts.
Elder Siluan writes: “If misfortune befalls you, think of it this way: the Lord sees my heart, and if He so wishes, everything will be well with myself and others, – and thus your heart will always be tranquil. But if anyone should grumble: this is bad, and that is not good, – such a one will never have peace in his heart, even though he keep the fast and pray at length. Some people suffer greatly from poverty and illness, but do not become humble, and so they suffer in vain… If you humble yourself, you will see your woes turn into tranquility, so that you will say to yourself: why have I tortured myself and sorrowed so greatly up to now? But now you are joyous, because you have attained humility and the grace of God has descended upon you.”
The same elder also says that “sorrows invariably accompany love and grow in one’s soul just as Christ’s love grows in the soul. This is understandable: Christ’s love (in the soul of a Christian) encompasses the entire world, and painfully and ardently co-suffers with all the sorrows of the world, just as Christ suffered and shed tears, looking upon Jerusalem and foreseeing its forthcoming destruction.” Therefore, writes Schema-Archimandrite Sophronius, “whoever loves God, passes through sufferings which the one who doesn’t have great faith in God is unable to endure and spiritually falls apart.” But – “great faith and love engender great courage.”
St. Isaac the Syrian writes: “Whoever lives in virtue without suffering sorrow, will see the door of pride open before him.”
But the Lord’s care and aid to man in developing humility within himself permeates the entire world. Abbot John says: “All the facts and circumstances of earthly life are designed to humble man, to erase the pride of his feelings and his mind, enlightening him with an awareness of God’s mercy and suppressing his egoism. In this lies the meaning of innumerable illnesses, incurable ailments, humiliations, poverty, dependence upon others, feelings of impotence concerning one’s past, present, and future… At the same time this engenders gratitude to God and the collapse of all futile faiths, all vain hopes and false ideals.
How terribly would man’s pride grow were he not humbled by all that now humbles him on earth: death, illness, physical suffering, helplessness, frailty, moral torment, humiliation, labor, ingratitude, unreason, an ugly exhibition of inner passions, the judgment of one’s conscience…”
And Bishop Varlaam Ryashentsev adds: “Only then do we begin earning some merit in heaven when we, being innocent, undergo suffering with all humility, without grumbling, accepting it as God’s will and trial of us. In this manner the soul is cleansed of spiritual corruption. Without deep and innocent suffering, without a cross, no one can enter paradise. The path of God is a daily cross.”
Father Alexander Elchaninov writes similarly: “I often believe that all the thorns and brambles of our earthly situation are expressly set up by God to heal our souls.
Sorrows erase our sins. ‘Where there are no sorrows there is no salvation,’ – says St. Seraphim of Sarov. Not only the suffering that is sent by God, but all spiritual endeavors, all voluntary deprivations, all sacrifices are immediately exchanged for spiritual wealth within us: the more we lose, the more we gain. It is for this reason that ‘it is hard for the rich to enter the Heavenly Kingdom,’ because they do not undergo this exchange of earthly, temporal, corruptible benefits for heavenly, incorruptible benefits. Thus, woe is unto those who are satiated, laughing, merry – they will become deprived to the point of complete spiritual poverty.
Brave souls instinctively search for sacrifice and suffering, and become spiritually strengthened by tribulations. There are numerous proofs of this in the Gospel and in the writings of the apostles, especially Apostle Paul. Even non-Christian religions are aware of it: thus fakirs, yogis, and dervishes torture themselves with cold calculation.
We must ask God to send us trials, and we must feel concern when we live prosperously. Children who grow up in luxury and satiation grow up with spiritual emptiness, while those who go through illness and poverty grow up with great spiritual strength, for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, earns us a far more exceeding and eternal glory (2 Cor. 4:17).
The Lord pities us greatly, but sends us suffering: only if we are struck by misfortune and calamity can we produce some sparks, some holy fire. Therefore, endure your sorrows with patience: even lower creatures do not live without suffering, and the higher is man, the more he suffers.
Illness has taught me much. It has strengthened my understanding that whoever is with Christ lives with suffering, and that there is no other path for a Christian except through internal and external pain. And, thinking of the multitude of suffering in the world, I have come to the realization that it is by means of such innocent suffering that the invisible Kingdom of God is built up, and His suffering Body – the Church of Christ – is assembled. Great is the purifying power and the value of suffering. Our spiritual growth depends primarily on how we undergo suffering. Courage in the face of suffering, a willingness to undergo it – such is the mark of a true Christian soul. But we must not search for suffering or make it up.”
The Lord often sends great suffering before one’s body dies. In this we can also see the aptness of such suffering: the more suffering the soul leaves on earth as it passes into the other world, the greater joy it finds in that world of “blessed repose.” Here we must remember the Lord’s words: but woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep (Luke 6:24-25).
It is for this reason that spiritual people pity those who sin in this world, who do not repent of their sins, and who live a life of amusement and vanity. It is said of such: “the Lord has abandoned them.” Of those who suffer tribulation it is said: “the Lord has visited them.”
Those who bask in earthly happiness lose their spiritual compass in life, they are the most miserable of men: their personal life is in danger. Thus, all wise men, both the ancients and contemporaries, and not only Christian, avoided earthly happiness, and their awareness of the world beyond prevailed over the visible world, and their sense of responsibility for their life was exceedingly developed… Wise people do not try to become comfortably settled on their earthly path, in order not to fall spiritually asleep and miss the Bridegroom’s coming at midnight…
Neither should a Christian’s mind be troubled at the sight of the suffering of innocent children. Even here God’s wisdom and providence are present. Most often the Lord wishes, through the suffering of such innocent children, to bring their parents or relatives to their senses, to impede the latter from stepping onto the path of sin and to place them upon the path of repentance. The children themselves will be subsequently exalted by God to a much greater degree than the temporary duration of their suffering.
At this point we should recollect the Lord’s words to St. Anthony the Great. St. Anthony once ruminated at length about the multitude of trials and afflictions which befell children, about the suffering of innocent children, and about other matters that were difficult for the human mind to comprehend. Then he heard the following words: “Anthony, such are the fates that are sent by God. It is detrimental to the soul to investigate them. Look rather to yourself.”

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Fr Deacon Christopher Henderson, from Holy Cross Australian Orthodox Mission in Sydney, Australia, has kindly agreed to allow us to post his weekly church bulletin in English on our site. If you would like to contact Fr Christopher, his email address can be found in any one of the Newsletters below
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The Light of Christ (Homily for the Sunday after Epiphany) 
Some time passed after the Lord Jesus Christ’s temptation in the wilderness. He came to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, but He did not stay there long. He saw that the arrogant scribes and Pharisees, and together with them the commoner Jews, were less ready to hear His divine teaching than the less educated but simplehearted Galileans. The land of Galilee is the northernmost part of Palestine, where the descendants of Jacob’s sons Zebulon and Nephthalim lived. There were no educated scribes here, as there were in Jerusalem and Judea, but the Galileans were not so infected with various prejudices and false beliefs concerning the coming Messiah as were the innate Jews. It was here that the Lord preached for the most part, from here He chose His disciples, here He performed many miracles.
Truth to say, there was a lot of ignorance in Galilee concerning the teaching of faith, and many zealots, including the entire Judea, looked upon the Galileans with disdain. The Jews even had a saying: “Can anything good come from Galilee?” However, all of the Galileans’ prejudices and errors in faith stemmed from ignorance, whereas among the Jews they were the result of their Pharisaic pride and vanity.
It is this land of Galilee that is spoken of in today’s Sunday Gospel: “The land of Zebulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matt. 4:15-16).
“Before Christ’s coming mankind was in a most disastrous state: surrounded by darkness and idol-worship, people did not know where to go; according to the prophet they no longer even walked, but ‘sat in darkness’: this means that they no longer had any hope of being delivered from this darkness” (St. John Chrysostome).
In His life on earth our Lord Jesus Christ left us a perfect example of piety. His entire life was a single expression of continuous, ardent piety and fervor for piety. He was the ideal of perfection. And now this ideal of perfection expressed His preference for the ignorant land of Galilee with its simplicity and sincerity. The historical consequences of this were such that, as you all know, Christ was crucified by the proud experts in Mosaic law, while from Galilee came the first apostles and the primary core of the New Testament Church in general. Even the Roman Caesar Julian the Apostate, three centuries later, called the Christians – Galileans.
Thus, humility and simplicity in faith and in life draw a person nearer to God. At the same time, these humility and simplicity stem from a realization of one’s insignificance in the face of eternity, and from here it is only a single step to a mood of repentance.
It was precisely with this word – “Repent!” – that St. John the Baptist began his preaching. With this same word the Lord Jesus Christ, too, began His preaching. The mood of repentance is inherent in every believing Christian. A repentant mood helps us grasp the mysteries of faith, for man realizes quite clearly that he is nothing without God’s help in everything. If the mood is not there, then even simple things become difficult and often lead the worldly sage to an impasse.
Recently a story appeared in the press about a gathering on the West Coast of professors of science, who teach that man is superlative to nature, i.e. that man influences nature and his environment. And then, as an experiment, a group of such scientists was placed in the most elementary conditions of life, wherein they did not have such basic amenities as electricity, telephone, etc. And so these people came face-to-face with real nature. Their general conclusion was that nature’s influence upon us is immeasurably greater than our influence upon it. We have become used to having nature under our control, but no one thinks or talks about what would happen if it were to go out of control… To some degree this can be evaluated as a “repentant mood,” if one notices the fact that more and more often we hear of man’s inferiority and of the superiority of machines. And that is true: without faith man can fall very low. Such was the state of mankind before the coming of Christ.
However, a man who has faith in God, who has a living faith in his Creator, is far from such comparisons. There are examples of this in the history of the Christian era. The light of Christ illuminated all those who exhibited even the slightest response to His appeal. I think that each one of us has had bright examples of faith in our lives, has experienced the warmth of faith.
Unfortunately, many people do not have living faith, to which all of us can attest, and the consequences of such lifeless belief are heavy indeed. But I would like to note that there are live offshoots of faith too, that the “Great Light” shines also in our holy churches. These churches themselves were built through the living faith of their parishioners.
Let the turbulent sea of life rage around us, let the waves of the world rise high, but the Light of Christ will shine as long as He, the Lord Jesus Christ, allows it, and He will be with us until the end of time.
Thus, let us build our lives and maintain them on a church foundation, gear them to our churches. One can live a church life under any condition whatsoever, as long as one’s faith is not lifeless. If we walk before God in the light of faith, in the light of knowledge of God’s truths, – we will feel our entire being fill up with spiritual joy, and we will glorify God with the words: Glory to Thee Who has shown us the light! Amen.  Protopriest Igor Hrebinka
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What is Orthodoxy and does it even have a future? 
In 1976 the late Father Seraphim (Rose) wrote the following: “Orthodox Christians live today in one of the great critical times in the history of Christ’s Church. The enemy of man’s salvation, the devil, attacks on all fronts and strives by all means not merely to divert believers from the path of salvation shown by the Church, but even to conquer the Church of Christ itself, despite the Saviour’s promise (Matt. 16:18), and to convert the very Body of Christ into an organization preparing for the coming of his own chosen one, Antichrist, the great world-ruler of the last days.
Of course, we know that this attempt of Satan will fail… But the great question of our times for all Orthodox Christians to face is a momentous one: the Church will remain, but how many of us will still be in it, having withstood the devil’s mighty attempts to draw us away from it?”
“Orthodoxy” or “Orthodox Christianity” has come to mean a number of different things to different people in different Orthodox jurisdictions. There are all kinds of “Orthodoxy” around today. Some of it is recognizable; some of it seems very strange, very abnormal. For some, Orthodoxy is just a “place we go to” on Sunday mornings – just like other Christians. For others, Orthodoxy is an ethnic club, where one can hear the cherished language and music of one’s youth in the old country – in itself, not wrong. For still others, Orthodoxy is a career, a way of making money, of meeting friends. But for a few, a very few, Orthodoxy is the very Ark of Salvation, created by the Living God Almighty in order to bring us safely through this world to the next.
So before we can talk about the future of Orthodoxy, we must first have an understanding of the term “Orthodox.”
Orthodoxy is an “other-worldly” faith 
Most Orthodox, converts included, tend to think of the faith as something very eastern, very Russian, or perhaps Greek, or Byzantine. Actually, this is correct only as far as it goes. But if asked, it’s unfortunately unlikely that most of us would say that Orthodoxy has to do with holiness, with sanctity, or with a peculiar concept called “other-worldliness.”
While on a trip to Russia in 1998, I had the privilege of venerating the holy relics of Saint Innocent of Alaska. Although he had died, full of years and honors as Metropolitan of St. Innocent of AlaskaMoscow, a great deal of his life had been spent as a married priest, Fr. John Veniaminov in Alaska, and then, later, as a bishop. In his journal, kept over a period of years while he was a missionary, he tells a remarkable story about his visit, unannounced and unexpected, to a particular island one day in April of 1828. As he stepped ashore he saw all of the natives standing there in a festive and joyous mood. They told him that they had been expecting him. And although some of them had been baptized into Orthodoxy many years before, they have been given no instruction in the Faith whatever. Where Orthodoxy was concerned, they were functionally illiterate. But an old man of their village had told them that a priest would come on this day and, when he came, he would teach them how to pray. The old man had also carefully described the priest – and indeed this was a description of Fr. John Veniaminov himself.
When he met the old man, the missionary was amazed at his knowledge of Scripture and Orthodox Christian doctrine – especially since he could not read or write and, like the other natives, had been taught nothing about the Faith. “There was no ‘normal’ way for him to know these things… The old man replied quite simply that two companions had informed him of these things. ‘And just who are these two companions of yours?’ he asked the old man. ‘White men,’ he replied… ‘They live nearby, in the mountains. And they visit me every day.’ The old man then provided a description which tallied very closely with the way in which the Holy Archangel Gabriel is portrayed on icons: in a white robe with a rose-colored band across the shoulders.” As this story unfolded, Saint Innocent learned that the old man had been visited regularly – daily, in fact – over a period of thirty years by two angels of God, who had taught him the depths and mysteries of Orthodox theology. When Fr. John asked if he could himself meet these spirits of God he was informed that he could. But “something unexplainable” then happened to Fr. John, as he reports to the bishop:
“I was filled with fear and humility, and thought to myself: ‘What if I really were to see them – these angels? I’m a sinful man, unworthy of talking to them. If I were to decide to see them it would be nothing but pride and presumption on my part. If I were to meet real angels, I might exalt myself for having such great faith, or start thinking too highly of myself… No, I’m unworthy; I’d best not go’.”
In this account we glimpse the element of the supernatural, the “other-worldly”; the fact that there is another world besides this one, and another life, different from the life we lead here; and this other world sometimes, according to God’s will, impinges upon us here in this life, in this world. This means that in order for us to have true Orthodoxy, and in order for Orthodox Christianity to have any kind of future at all, we must ourselves first of all have some sense, some awareness of that other world and its closeness to us.
Knowing about “other-worldliness” isn’t about having supernatural or some kind of “occult” experiences. But it is about remembering that this life is only very temporary, a pilgrimage in fact, and we should not hold onto it tightly because, ultimately, all of it will be taken away from us at death, anyway, and then we will have only the virtues that we have managed, by God’s grace, to acquire.
This is an extremely important message for us Orthodox Christians to bring to the world: that there is indeed another world, that this is not myth or a fairy tale but something which is real, and that this present life here on earth is a preparation for that life which is to come, that there is accountability and responsibility and judgment, as well as reward or punishment awaiting us after death, and that the saints and angels are aware of us (as are also the fallen angels, the demons) and are longing to help us join them finally in the Kingdom of Heaven. In spite of appearances to the contrary, the world really does want to know this, wants to know the truth of this, and is longing to hear it from us in a convincing way.
Orthodoxy is an ascetic faith 
Several of the 20th-century teachers of the Church – men like St. John of Shanghai, Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, Fr. Seraphim Rose, and others – have explained to us more than once and in several ways that Orthodoxy is, above all, an “ascetic” faith. What does this mean? The future of Orthodoxy – if it actually even has a future at all – depends on whether we understand the essence of Orthodoxy, which is asceticism.
Our word “ascetic” comes from the same root as the word “athlete,” and this is not a coincidence, for the ascetic and the athlete have some common characteristics.
The athlete works out, trains hard, and exercises in order to develop the muscles of his body so that he can compete in various kinds of sports or special events. He works very hard. He may go to an exercise gym every day and work for several hours. He follows a special diet and in every possible way takes good care of himself.
The ascetic is an athlete, too – an athlete of the spirit rather than of the body. The ascetic also exercises; however, he exercises not his biceps or other physical muscles, but the various dimensions and faculties of his soul. He “works out,” spiritually, through prayer and fasting, through standing at vigil, and by preparing properly to receive the sacraments. He, too, must compete, but not in a sports arena with a javelin or in some other event; no, the ascetic competes in the wide arena of this world, and his adversary, his opponent, the Devil, is quite real – as Holy Scripture teaches us. The athlete runs a race, but we, too, as Saint Paul tells us, run a race, a race to obtain the crown of immortal life with Christ in heaven. But to run this race, we must be athletes of the spirit.
It is this ascetic dimension of Orthodoxy that makes Orthodox Christianity different from every other Christian religion on the face of the earth. But from what I’ve said thus far, “asceticism” is still just an abstract concept. What does it mean in practice?
Again I turn to Saint Innocent of Alaska. While he was working with the Aleut and Klingit Indian tribes of the Alaskan peninsula, he was very anxious to properly communicate to them this “essence” of Orthodoxy. So he wrote a little booklet that has become a kind of classic and is widely read and studied today by people like us who are otherwise very far removed from the Native Americans of the Northwest. The little book is called The Indication of the Way to the Kingdom of Heaven. In this important little book Saint Innocent talks about asceticism in the same way that our Lord Himself does: he compares it to the carrying of a cross. Our Lord said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:24-25), and: “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).
Now in life there are two kinds of crosses, Saint Innocent explained. The first kind of cross consists of those daily annoyances, temptations, and difficulties that come to everyone just because we are human beings. Ill health, financial setbacks, misunderstandings with others, various kinds of afflictions – all of these are crosses, but they are what Saint Innocent calls “involuntary crosses.” That is, they come to us according to God’s will, whether we want them or not. If we bear these crosses without complaining, without murmuring, then they become ascetic labors that are for our salvation; but if we complain and murmur, then they are for our condemnation. It is extremely important to understand this.
The second kind of cross, according to Saint Innocent, is what he calls “voluntary crosses” – that is, those special ascetic exploits or labors that we voluntarily take upon ourselves, such as strictly keeping the fast days and seasons of the Church year, standing for long hours at vigil services, and other kinds of asceticism or crosses that we may, with the blessing of our spiritual father, take upon ourselves.
These are some of the ascetic aspects of our Holy Faith which are signs of true and authentic Orthodoxy, ancient Orthodoxy, the Orthodoxy of the saints.
The need for “holy zeal” 
But to this concept of asceticism must be added one other element, which we call “holy zeal.” Here is what the late Archbishop Averky of Jordanville had to say about this:
“The chief thing in Christianity, according to the clear teaching of the word of God, is the fire of divine zeal, zeal for God and His glory – the holy zeal which alone is able to inspire man in labors and struggles pleasing to God and without which there is no authentic spiritual life and there is not and cannot be any true Christianity. Without this holy zeal Christians are Christians in name only… Meekness and humility do not mean spinelessness and should not yield before manifest evil… a true Christian should be far from sugar-sweet sentimentality…” (The Orthodox Word, 1975).
But this does not mean that we should be rigid and uncharitable towards others, or that we should have no discernment. Archbishop Averky himself pointed out that we must avoid what Scripture calls “zeal without understanding.” Especially, he said, we must avoid what he called a “false, lying zeal, behind the mask of which is concealed the foaming of ordinary Archbishop Averkyhuman passions – most frequently pride, love of power and honor, and the interests of a party politics… for which there can be no place in spiritual life.” (The Orthodox Word, 1975). True Orthodoxy walks a thin line between fanaticism and looseness, between self-righteousness and “spinelessness.”
Orthodoxy in the West today 
Concerning the extremes of the “right” and the “left,” Fr. Seraphim (Rose) said that “zeal not according to knowledge” was simply “an excuse for pharisaic self-satisfaction, exclusivity, and distrust” of others – something to be avoided at all costs, and it is the exact opposite of what Archbishop Averky called “being in step with the times.” The future of Orthodoxy should belong to neither of these two extremes, neither of the right nor the left, for “holy zeal” is not extremism, it is simply true and authentic Orthodoxy.
Therefore, in order to see the future and its possibilities, we must know something about what’s going on with Orthodox Christianity in both the East – in the historic countries of our origin such as Greece and especially Russia, – and we must be fully aware of what’s going on in the apostate West, too. Shortly I will speak in some detail about Orthodoxy in Russia, but first we should look briefly at what is going on with Orthodoxy in the West today.
In the United States, in particular, there is a kind of broad “spectrum,” from left to right. On the extreme right we have a relatively small number of Greek Old Calendarist groups. Many of these otherwise very sincere and pious believers often squabble among themselves, sometimes for good reason, sometimes not. Fr. Seraphim (Rose) called the extremist Greek Old Calendarists “exclusivists.” Partly because of this, and partly because of the disagreements among themselves, in America they have been relatively ineffective at reaching the Western mind and soul, often presenting (perhaps without intending to do so) a very rigid and even haughty face to prospective inquirers into the Faith. In my opinion, these groups are not the future of Orthodoxy.
On the “left” we have several groups that follow the New Calendar, and they have quite consciously accepted the principles of liturgical reform, innovationism, and modernism. One of these groups, in particular, is anti-monastic, which means that it vigorously opposes traditional Orthodox spirituality; repeatedly there is a call for what is called “American Orthodoxy.” Just exactly what this means, however, is difficult to say, but it is a contradiction in terms. America and its culture are by definition liberal, constantly changing, and unstable, interested in keeping her citizens comfortable and entertained and distracted from spiritual realities and needs. America also embraces everything that is modern and fashionable. True Orthodoxy, on the other hand, is by nature conservative, stable, and unchanging, even reactionary, and concerned with eternal verities, focused not on what is comfortable and perishable, but on the carrying of crosses as the only way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Some of these Orthodox groups are very open to missionary opportunities – and in this sense they can be very creative – but what are they bringing new converts to? Authentic Orthodoxy or some kind of “Eastern Rite Protestantism”? In other words, a church which more and more resembles the culture of the Anglican or Episcopal Church and is no longer Orthodox but something that is attractive on the outside, looking and smelling and sounding like the “real thing,” but inside it is an empty shell, incapable of giving the abundant life our Saviour promised in the Gospels.
The very fact that these modernist Orthodox are involved in liturgical reform and modernization – which often means drastically shortening or even completely eliminating some of the services, (and it also now means abolishing fasts and the churching of women after childbirth, it means the use of girl acolytes, and the tonsuring of female readers) – all of this is already a very serious and dangerous attack on our holy Faith, and virtually no one is objecting, no one is criticizing, and no one has the courage to stand up and cry out, “The Emperor has no clothes!” Our Blessed Metropolitan Philaret of holy memory would speak out, were he with us today, just as he spoke out courageously in his famous “Sorrowing Epistles” in the late 1960s. And our Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco would have spoken up, too. Decades ago he reminded us that we cannot and must not tamper with the Divine services because these “church services contain in themselves the fullness of the Church’s dogmatic teachings and expound the path to salvation. They embody a priceless spiritual wealth. The more fully and properly they are done, the greater the benefit received by those who participate in them. Those clergymen who perform the services negligently and abbreviate them out of laziness are robbing their flock, denying it vital bread, and abducting from it a valuable treasure…”
It is true that in some of these New Calendar Churches there was an initial burst of missionary growth, some of it healthy, some not. But that time is now passing as many of their new faithful discover the lives of the saints, the traditional spirituality of the Church, and other things that they had not been given when they first converted to Orthodoxy. They now want something deeper, something capable of sustaining and nurturing a profound and lasting spiritual life. Many of these seekers find their way to us, to the Church Abroad. So, clearly, the future of Orthodoxy – in spite of appearances just a few years ago – does not lie with the modernists. History shows that those who are too far to the right or to the left do not, in the end, carry the day either and, ultimately, will not even survive. Is there another way, another – “middle” – path to the future of Orthodoxy? I believe that there is.
“The Royal Path”
Between these two extremes of right and left is the “balance point,” or what the Fathers of the Church themselves called “the Royal Path.” As Fr. Seraphim (Rose) wrote: “This true Father Seraphim RoseOrthodox moderation is not to be confused with mere lukewarmness or indifference, or with any kind of compromise between political extremes… Its emphasis is constantly on the spiritual side of true Orthodoxy,” which neither the extremists of the left or the right know or completely understand. As Fr. Seraphim wrote unequivocally: “The Russian Church Outside of Russia has been placed, by God’s Providence, in a very favorable position for preserving the ‘royal path’.” He continued:
“Living in exile and poverty in a world that has not understood the suffering of her people, she [the Church Abroad] has focused her attention on preserving unchanged the faith which unites her people… Today, – Fr. Seraphim continues, – more than at any other time, we must struggle to preserve Orthodox tradition in an age of apostasy, so that the voice of true and uncompromising Orthodoxy could be heard throughout the world and have a profound effect on the future course of the Orthodox Churches… It is of critical importance, therefore, that this voice be actually one of true, that is, patristic Orthodoxy.” (The Orthodox Word, 1976).
Fr. Seraphim also observed – and this is very important – that “the ‘royal path’ of true Orthodoxy today is a mean that lies between the extremes of ecumenism and reformism on the one side, and a zeal not according to knowledge on the other.” (The Orthodox Word, 1976).
 Father Alexey Young
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SubjectGeneral  Sharing, in human-English and with the link to the  original-Russian captions:  Old historic photos of Sarov  Monastery, etc.
Date:  16 January  2016 20:34:25 GMT

Original  Russian language captions with these  photos:   http://internetsobor.org/russkaya-pravoslavnaya-tserkov/tserkovnye-novosti/russkaya-pravoslavnaya-tserkov/pamyati-prp-serafima-sarovskogo-fotografii-sarovskoj-pustyni-nachala-xx-veka

 In  memory of Venerable Saint Seraphim of Sarov. Photos of  Sarov, at the beginning of the XX century Author: Vera nun incl.  January 16, 2016 . Published in the  Russian Orthodox Church (Views: 34)Tags: Orthodox shrines, Sarov, photosBlack and  white photographs of Sarov, at the  beginning of the XX  century. Many photos are from 1903, made during the  canonization of St. Seraphim of Sarov, by MI Gribov, a  hereditary Moscow photographer.
 The chapel and 'swimming pool' at the spring of Venerable  Fr. Seraphim (This is where many pilgrims, to this very day in 2016,  take a  holy-bath in this sacred pool, to receive  blessings). Place of the  stone, upon which,  for 1000 nights, St. Seraphim  prayed . The  newly consecrated Holy Trinity Church, built  over the cell of  the Venerable St.  Seraphim Near his  holy 'pustinka'/desert, of Fr. Seraphim Procession at the  Seraphim-Diveevo monastery to Sarov  Hermitage, July 17, 1903 The  arrival of the procession from the Seraphim-Diveevo  monastery to the  Sarov  Hermitage Present  were  Their Imperial Majesties, on the border of the  province of Tambov, with deputations of  bread and  salt, to greet them. Arrival  of Their Imperial Majesties in Sarov, July 17, 1903 Meeting
of Their Imperial Majesties by Metropolitan Anthony of  Sarov, 17 July 1903 Exit  of Their Imperial Majesties from the Assumption  Cathedral, July 17, 1903 The  Emperor walking on the way to the spring of Venerable  Seraphim Their  Imperial Majesties visit the stone upon which Ven. Seraphim  prayed 1000 nights Their  Imperial Majesties visit the Far Hermitage of Venerable  Seraphim, July 18, 1903 Presented  was the icon from [or to?], Their Imperial Majesties,  of the  horugvenostsev [?] icon, July 18, 1903 Translation  [transferring]  of Holy relics of St.  Seraphim from the  Church of Sts. Zosima and  Sabbatius during vespers, July 18, 1903, to the Cathedral of  the Assumption Removal  of the relics from the Assumption Cathedral, 19 July 1903 The procession with the Holy relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov,  July 19, 1903 The  procession to the altar of the Assumption Cathedral July 19, 1903 The procession with the Holy relics of St. Seraphim. Return of  the procession to the Cathedral of the  Assumption Exit of Their Imperial  Majesties from the Assumption Cathedral, 20 July  1903Departure  of Their Imperial Majesties from Sarov. Their  Majesties, preceded by the clergy, go to the  Holy Gate, July 20, 1903 Visit  of Their Imperial Majesties, to the  bogomolcheskogo  [?], town of Sarov, July 20, 1903 General  view of Sarov Palace  of Their Majesties in Sarov The  Cathedral - dedicated to The Life-Giving Spring and The  Assumption Shrine of  the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov, a gift of
 their Imperial Majesties The chapel over the tomb of Holy Venerable  Seraphim Tomb of Holy Father Seraphim, in its present  form Outside  view of the cell of the  Venerable St. Seraphim,  where the  Monk Seraphim died(over this cell there  was  built a new large temple in the name of the  Holy Trinity) Interior  view of the chapel, where there is the  spring of the Venerable St.  Seraphim Seraphim-Diveevo nunnery (left side) - the refectory, the parish church, the  bell tower and the Cathedral Sarov  Hermitage The  miraculous icon of the Holy Virgin of Tenderness, before  which The Righteous Venerable St. Seraphim  died. A  source Tags: Orthodox  shrines Sarova  photo

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Observations on the Text Prepared  for the Pan-Orthodox Council: “Relations of the Orthodox  Church with the Rest of the Christian World” Dr. Dimitrios Tselengidis     

Another source: http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/90489.htm  *Also found in a Russian translation on: http://internetsobor.org 
Source: Impantokratoros

February 3, 2016
      
Professor of the Theological School at the Aristotle  University of Thessaloniki, Dr. Dimitrios Tselengidis has  sent his first theological observations to the Orthodox  hierarchs of several Local Orthodox Churches (including  those of Greece, Russia, Serbia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Alexandria and Antioch) concerning the text:  “Relations  of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian  World.”    * * * This text displays recurrent theological inconsistency and  contradiction. Thus, in the first article it proclaims the  ecclesiastical self-identity of the Orthodox Church,  considering Her—and very rightly—as the  “One, Holy,  Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”  In article six, however,  there is a contradiction with respect to the formulation of  the above article (1). It notes characteristically that the  “the Orthodox Church recognizes the historic existence of  other Christian Churches and Confessions not in communion  with Her.”
 Here the reasonable theological question arises: If the  Church is “One” according to our Creed and the Orthodox  Church’s own self-identity (art. 1), then how is there  mention of other Christian Churches? It is clear that these  other Churches are heterodox.
  Heterodox “Churches”, though, cannot at all be called  “Churches” by the Orthodox. Considering things from a  dogmatic perspective it is not possible to speak about a  plurality of “Churches” with different dogmas, and this,  indeed, with regard to many different theological issues.
Consequently, as long as these “Churches” remain firm in  the erroneous beliefs of their faith, there is no  theological justification to grant them ecclesial  recognition  —and this officially —outside of the  “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”
 In the same article (6), there is another serious  theological contradiction. At the beginning of the article  the following is noted: “According to the ontological  nature of the Church, it is impossible for [Her] unity to be  shattered.” At the end of this same article, however, it  is written that, by Her participation in the Ecumenical  Movement, the Orthodox Church has as its “objective aim  the paving of the way which leads toward unity.”
 Here the question is put: Given that the unity of the Church  is an acknowledged fact, what type of unity of Churches is  being sought in the context of the Ecumenical Movement? Does  it perhaps mean the return of Western Christians to the ONE  and only Church? Such a meaning, though, does not emerge  either in the letter or the spirit of the entire text. On  the contrary, indeed, the impression is given that there  exists a long-established division in the Church and that  the prospects of the [Ecumenical] dialogues focus on the  disrupted unity of the Church.
  Theological confusion is also caused by the ambiguity in  article 20, which reads: “The prospects of the theological  dialogues of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian  Churches and Confessions shall always be determined on the  basis of Her canonical criteria of the already established  ecclesiastical tradition (canon seven of the Second  Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext  Council).”
 But, canon seven of the Second Ecumenical Council and canon 95 of the Quinisext address the reception of specific  heretics that had demonstrated their desire to join the  Orthodox Church. However, it is apparent from the letter and  spirit of the text, as judged from a theological  perspective, that there is no discussion whatsoever of the  return of the heterodox to the Orthodox Church, the only  Church. Rather, in the text, the baptism of the heterodox is  considered an accepted fact from the outset—and this  without a Pan-Orthodox decision. In other words, the text  endorses “Baptismal Theology.” Simultaneously, the text  deliberately ignores the historic fact that the contemporary  heterodox of the West (RC & Protestant) have not one,  but heaps of dogmas that differ from the Orthodox Church  (besides the filioque, created grace in the sacraments, the  primacy of the pope, papal infallibility, the rejection of  icons, and the rejection of the decisions of the Ecumenical  Councils, etc.).
  Article 21 also raises appropriate questions, where it  notes that, “the Orthodox Church ... has a favorable view  of the documents adopted by the Commission [referring to the  Committee for ‘Faith & Order’] . . . for the  rapprochement of the Churches.” Here it must be observed  that these documents [of the Committee] have never been  adjudged by the Hierarchs of the Local Orthodox Churches.
  Finally, in article 22 the impression is given that the  Upcoming Holy and Great Council is prejudging the  infallibility of its decisions, since it considers that,  “the preservation of the authentic orthodox faith is  ensured only through the synodical system, which has always  rested in the Church and which constitutes the appropriate  and final judge on all matters of faith.” In this article,  the historic fact is ignored that in the Orthodox Church the  final criteria is always the living dogmatic consciousness  of the fullness of the Church, which in the past confirmed  even Ecumenical Councils considered robber councils. The  synodical system by itself does not mechanically ensure the  correctness of orthodox faith. This only happens when the  Synod of Bishops has the Holy Spirit and the Hypostatic  Way—Christ—working within it, and thus as  “syn”—“odikoi” [i.e.,  “traversing together on  the way”] they are, in practice, “following the Holy  Fathers.”

General Assessment of the Text
  With all that is written and what is clearly implied in the  text above, it is clear that its initiators and authors are  attempting the institutional and official ratification of  Christian Syncretistism-Ecumenism by means of a Pan-Orthodox  Synod. This, however, would be catastrophic for the Orthodox  Church. For this reason I humbly propose the text’s total  withdrawal.
  * * *  In closing, one theological observation on the text,  “The Sacrament of  Marriage and its Impediments.” In article 5.i, it
notes:  “The marriage of an Orthodox person with a  heterodox person is not permitted according to canonical  akrivia [the ‘rule’] (canon 72 of the Quinisext Council  in Trullo). However, it is possible to be blessed through  condescension and love for man under the express condition  that the children of this marriage will be baptized and  raised in the Orthodox Church.”

Here, the express condition that, “the children of this  marriage will be baptized and raised in the Orthodox  Church” clashes with the theological guarantee of marriage  as a sacrament of the Orthodox Church. The reason for this: because child-bearing shows itself—in connection with the  baptism of children in the Orthodox Church—to legitimize  the service of mixed marriage, something clearly forbidden  by a Canon of the Ecumenical Councils (canon 72 of the  Quinisext). In other words, a synod that is not Ecumenical,  such as is the upcoming Holy and Great Council, explicitly  turns a decision of an Ecumenical Council into something  relative. This is unacceptable.
  And finally this: If the blessed marriage does not provide  children, is this marriage theologically legitimized simply  on account of the intention of the heterodox spouse to place  any possible children in the Orthodox Church?
  For the sake of theological consistency, article 5.i, needs  to be removed.
 Dr. Dimitrios Tselengidis  Translated by Rev. Fr. Matthew Penney with assistance by Fr. C. AImpantokratoros09 / 02 / 2016

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