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Offline Fr. George

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September, October, and November 2011 Posts of the Month!
« on: December 30, 2011, 07:36:23 PM »
The long-awaited Post of the Month winners for September-November 2011!

September 2011: Father Giryus

There appears, at least to me, to be a problem of intellectual 'scrupulosity' amongst many converts and within certain segments of the native-born.  Protestantism devolved rather quickly into 'salvation through the most correct theology,' which accounts for the myriad of denominations they now have.

Being 'correct' is very consoling when one is uncertain about the future.  So, for example, when people convert into the Church and enter a 'new world' of which they are unfamiliar, they immediately want the consolation of knowing what things are before they experience them.  On the other hand, many 'cradle' Orthodox like having the certainties of things being the way they understand them so that the shifting tides of life do not sweep them away.

Knowledge, then, becomes a kind of 'god.'  It is the 'source of salvation' because it defines how and by what you will be saved.  It gives you comfort because it dictates exactly what you must do in order to stop worrying.  It is predictable and has no will of its own and no plans.  It just 'is' and that's that.

To trust in a God who is a person, we must struggle with our fears: What if He changes His mind?  What if I annoy Him (like I do everyone else)?  What if I misunderstood what He said?

Knowledge can be a way of hedging God in, setting boundaries for His behavior and making Him much more 'predictable.'  The Toll House story, while bizarre and terrifying on the one hand, brings a great deal of certainty to what was previously unknown to a large extent.  The Scriptures say little, and the Fathers say different things at different times and not everything matches up.  We want to know, and by our knowledge be prepared, and by our preparedness be saved.  Thus, knowledge and salvation become intimately connected.  So, get a holy elder who has enough good works to bail me out from the demons, spend lots of time rigorously preparing myself by examining my sins in light of 20 categories, and I should be good to go, right?

But, this isn't the Christian message at all.  The message of Christ is one of love for men, whether they repent or not.  Failing to repent makes it far more difficult to receive this love, that is for sure.  But, it really is not a matter of special knowledge, just common sense: if you perceive God's love, you will repent of your sins because your conscience troubles you.  Repent, allow God to dwell in you more fully, and He will inspire you to do acts of mercy and charity.  These acts are not supposed to be about getting through Toll Houses, but because we love our neighbor.

That's the difficult part of all this: realizing that God's love for us is unwaivering and unlimited.  He loves the sinner and the saint.  He seeks to draw all men to Himself.  He will rescue us from ourselves if we let Him.

The difficulty with so much knowledge is that it becomes a stumbling block to repentance.  Once we have certainty, we can 'kick back' and deceive ourselves into thinking that everything we are doing is correct.  When this false image is broken, then we revert back to scrupulosity and indulge in more and more perfectionistic learning, until we patch the hole in the dyke and return to the status quo we had before.  Knowledge is a levee against the terrors of the uncertain waters of chaos outside.  But the levee cannot repent, for to do so would mean it would break and the flood would come.  So, we build it up higher and higher.

If knowledge saved with would be 'Orthognostics.'  We are not.  We use a less precise term 'doxas' or glorifying.  I think it is worth taking so time to contemplate the ramifications of the difference.

Thank you Father for a well thought-out posting. I appreciated the "Holy Borg" analogy! 

October 2011: jah777 and Hiwot



Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.Psalm 116:15

okay IMO these attacks started centuries ago, it comes and goes some time it gets worse than the others, but it was started and still is instigated by the Muslim militants as evidenced once it starts there is no mercy but  applying whatever pretext it is for the use of un proportional violence to decimate the unarmed helpless public. a public which has every right to demand what they were demanding. the suffering of the Copts is innumerable and has been going on for centuries and a few times in their  long history of suffering  there was a time or two  when the Emperors of Ethiopia were in power, and the Egyptian Pasha did not know the full potential of their power,they would send letters of threat to cut off the Nile if they did not stop their attack against the Copts and their Monasteries and Church's. this goes back as old as the 16C and at one point the pashas were so terrified  of the prospect of  the Nile drying up,they used they made peace with the copts and made the pope to be an intermediary between king David of Ethiopia and the Pasha of Egypt. it was a bluff threat ofc , doing so would have harmed the Copts also , however the Lord made the pashas believe the threat and it was effective in setting things straight for a while.  it pains me , it infuriates me to see what is being done to our beloved Copts. the injustice they have been suffering time and again at the hand of the Muslim oppressors. Who ever is in power Copts have been fair game to attack to discriminate against and slowly to exterminate and make Egypt a Muslim only country. But these butchers are fighting against the un defeatable! they just don't know it yet. the King of Kings the Lord of Lords Christ the Victorious still watches over the Copts! and the Copts have been utterly loyal to him, accepting the cross he blessed them with! Lord have Mercy on thy Children who trust in thee! do not abandon them in this hour of their need , lead them to the Glory that awaits the Blessed of Your Father. Mother of Light  Most Holy Theotokos,come come to the aid of your  beloved children the Copts, shelter , protect and intercede for them, for you are the mother they run to for shelter and comfort. amen!

selam hunu

I just wanted to chime in here with a few comments after seeing some of the recent additions to this thread, though I don’t have the time to directly respond to everything stated.   Of interest to me in this discussion is not the astronomical question of “which calendar is scientifically better”, but rather with the claims of the Old Calendarists who say, among other things, that those who have adopted the New Calendar are “under anathema” and outside of the Church.  I’m sure most here agree that the unilateral adoption of the New Calendar by individual local churches, and the subsequent liturgical disunity which resulted, has not been good for the Church.  I’m sure most here would also lament the fact that this change resulted in the formation of schismatic Old Calendarist groups in some local churches, regardless of how unjustifiable such schisms are canonically.  I personally think that the Old Calendar is “better” in that prior to the 20th century all Orthodox churches celebrated Pascha and all of the major feasts together on it, whereas today they only celebrate Pascha together.  Who does not lament this fact?  I think all local Orthodox churches should return to the Old Calendar unless and until such a time that a change can be made together by all local churches to a calendar which respects and maintains the current relationship between the Paschalion and Menologion while also adhering to the decisions of the First Ecumenical Council regarding the common celebration of Pascha.  With that said, I would like to briefly touch upon a few of the Old Calendarist assertions that have resurfaced in recent postings:

1.    The calendar change was primarily driven by Patriarch Meletios
2.   Patriarch Meletios was a notorious Freemason and Ecumenist, and the primary reason for the calendar change was to foster unity with the heterodox
3.   The calendar change hastened Ecumenism
4.   Patriarch Meletios and others who adopted the New Calendar cared more about unity with the heterodox than with the other Orthodox
5.   Those who adopted the New Calendar “fell under” the anathemas of the 1583, 1587, and 1593 Pan-Orthodox Councils
6.   Before the 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress, Abp Chrysostom of Athens said that a local church could not adopt the New Calendar without being seen as schismatic by the rest, and then proceeded after the 1923 Congress to adopt the New Calendar, thereby becoming schismatic

I find the above points all to be problematic for the following reasons:

1.  The calendar change was primarily driven by Patriarch Meletios

The State Church of Greece was actually the first Synod to propose changing the calendar and this proposal was made prior to the 1923 Congress.  At the Congress, the Metropolitan Iakovos of Dyrrachion, a member of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, reported on this decision of the Holy Synod as follows:

The Synod of Hierarchs of the Church of Greece decides:

“The conclusion of the report of His Beatitude the President is accepted, according to which thirteen days are added to the Julian calendar, absolutely without changing the Paschalion and the Heortologion of the Orthodox Church.  However, if it might come to pass that the Pan-Orthodox Congress which shall be gathered in Constantinople concerning this question might make a decision on another solution for the celebration of Pascha, entirely consistent with the relevant decision of the First Ecumenical Council, the tradition, and the canons of the Church, the Church of Greece will accept it.”

We have over 200 pages of text in English containing the Acts and Decisions of this Congress.  Subcommittees were set up to discuss all aspects of the calendar change, such as the dogmatic and canonical implications of changing the calendar, how local churches might respond to the calendar change, and to examine different proposals for a future calendar that would correct the errors of both the Julian and Gregorian calendars.  If you read these texts, there is much discussion and Patriarch Meletios comes across as a fair and very balanced moderator, rather than as a dictator giving orders.  All participants are allowed to express their views on the subject of the calendar change, and no representatives express objection to the temporary shifting of the Julian by 13 days.  The only objection raised, which was agreed to by all, is that they should not adopt the Gregorian calendar because it is also inaccurate and because Rome would exploit this decision to the harm of the Orthodox.

2.  Patriarch Meletios was a notorious Freemason and Ecumenist, and the primary reason for the calendar change was to foster unity with the heterodox

Patriarch Meletios was a Freemason and an Ecumenist, but unity with the heterodox cannot be said to be the main driver behind the calendar change.  Regarding his ecumenism, his efforts were mostly directed towards the Anglicans.  In the 200+ pages of Acts and Decisions from this Congress, several times the subject of unity with other Christians is mentioned, but always strictly in the context of celebrating Pascha and the Nativity of our Lord on the same dates as other Christians.  I find little in this discussion that is objectionable in itself, and no plan was laid out in the Congress about uniting with others without agreement in matters of faith.  Also, while celebrating Nativity and Pascha at the same time as other Christians was one reason stated for changing the calendar, two other reasons were given that were perhaps much more significant: 1) the fact that all Orthodox lands adopted the Gregorian calendar as its civil calendar and the felt need for the Church calendar to coincide with the civil calendar (the Church was the largest civil organization in Greece), and 2) the concern that Orthodox immigrants in Western lands were not attending services on the Nativity of our Lord and other feast days because the Orthodox feast days did not correspond with Western holidays.  Both points may not be sufficient justifications for the calendar change, but it is important to point out that these were the reasons stated in the 1923 Congress for shifting the Julian by 13 days, and not simply syncretistic ecumenism. 
Furthermore, it is important to recognize the widespread immigration that was occurring at that time, as well as the working conditions that immigrants often found themselves in.  Some of us have little problem celebrating the Nativity of our Lord and other feasts on the Old Calendar because we have stable jobs with vacation time and good benefits, and many of us are able to take vacation and personal time whenever we want to attend special services.  If you are such a situation, it is important to realize that the same was usually not true of the working conditions of newly arrived immigrants in America or other non-Orthodox lands. Orthodox immigrants may also be more vulnerable to proselytism by the heterodox if the Orthodox are not able to get off work for the Orthodox feast days but are able to attend heterodox services on recognized holidays.   

Regarding Patriarch Meletios’ overtures towards the Anglicans, this is important to understand in the context of Patriarch Tikhon’s similar overtures in earlier times, and the general “special relationship” that the Orthodox and Anglicans shared for several centuries prior.  For instance, there were cases in the 1800s of the Serbian Patriarchate allowing Anglicans to receive communion in Orthodox churches without need for conversion.  While such cases are objectionable, probably rare, and certainly were not performed with the acceptance of the entire Orthodox Church, it is nevertheless important to realize that Patriarch Meletios was not alone in such overtures.  Even as late as 1951, the Anglican Bishop of Southwark was invited to stand fully vested in the altar during the consecration of ROCOR’s Metropolitan Vitaly (Ustinov) in London.  Of course, that such things were done does not mean that such things were justified, but I couldn’t imagine such a thing happening today.  In 1922, Patriarch Meletios issues an encyclical acknowledging Anglican orders, but to his credit he sent the encyclical to the other autocephalous Orthodox churches for a response.  The Patriarch of Jerusalem agreed with the encyclical and the Church of Cyprus responded stating:

”inasmuch as clergy entering the bosom of the Orthodox Church from these churches [Roman Catholic, Armenian, Old Catholic] are received without re-ordination, we declare our judgment that the same should hold good in the case of Anglicans; while intercommunion by which any person would be able indiscriminately to receive the Sacraments at the hands of an Anglican, even though he adhere to Orthodox dogma, is reserved until such time as dogmatic union between the two Churches, Orthodox and Anglican, is brought about.”

Patriarch Meletios’ encyclical, then, is seen as acknowledging Anglican orders upon the reception of Anglican clergy into the Orthodox Church, and not as recognition of their orders per se.  Today, there is no such optimism regarding the Anglicans and Orthodox. 

3.  The calendar change hastened Ecumenism

If this was the intent, it was a miserable failure.  We are quickly approaching 90 years since the adoption of the New Calendar, and we have yet to see a heretical union between the Orthodox Church and any heterodox body.  Syncretistic ecumenism reached a peak in the 1960s through the overtures towards Rome of Patriarch Athenagoras (more than 40 years after the calendar change), but the Ecumenism under subsequent Constantinople patriarchs have neither matched nor exceeded that of Patriarch Athenagoras.  Celebrating feasts at the “same time” as heterodox has only very rarely led to any kind of joint or ecumenical service comprising Orthodox and heterodox clergy.  The rare “Ecumenical Vespers” has lamentably occurred, but such instances seem very rare and amount to very little in the way of “Ecumenical progress”.  Most Orthodox people probably have never heard of an “Ecumenical Vespers”, and those self-proclaimed “True Orthodox” and “Anti-Ecumenism” news websites that are set up precisely to expose such things have a hard time digging up more than a handful of such events every year in the entire Orthodox world.  Since the fall of Communism, and the greater involvement of the Russian Church in the ecumenical movement to counter the influence of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, if anything the pace towards some kind of false union has been greatly decreased, if not abandoned altogether (if there ever was much of a movement towards a false union in the first place).  I could not imagine an Anglican bishop standing fully vested in the altar with ROCOR bishops today as took place at the consecration of ROCOR’s Bishop Vitaly (Ustinov) in 1951, for instance. 

4.  Patriarch Meletios and others who adopted the New Calendar cared more about unity with the heterodox than with the other Orthodox

If you read the Acts and Decisions from the 1923 Congress you will see that this is the exact opposite of the truth.  If he did not care about the unity of the Orthodox Church, why did he labor so much towards convening a future Pan-Orthodox Council to resolve various serious matters of Pan-Orthodox concern?  Why did he consult with the other Orthodox churches before changing the calendar?  While the adoption of the New Calendar did have unfortunate results, it is very clear that Patriarch Meletios cared more about the unity of the Orthodox Church than did the Old Calendarists.  Whereas Patriarch Meletios first consulted with the other Orthodox churches before changing the calendar, the Old Calendarists responded to the calendar change in Greece by unilaterally condemning the entire Church of Greece as schismatic and devoid of the grace of the Holy Spirit in its mysteries without even consulting with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem or any other local church which had remained on the Old Calendar at that time.  Also, it is important to note that the shifting of the Julian by 13 days was seen as a temporary measure to harmonize the church and civil calendars until such a time that the Patriarch of Constantinople could work towards the universal adoption of a more perfect calendar.  So, with this in view, any liturgical disunity among Orthodox which resulted from different calendars was to be overcome eventually.  This view was mistaken, but it is nevertheless important to understand.  When Met Anastassy of ROCOR asked in Session Four of the 1923 Congress what would happen of some local Orthodox churches did not adopt the recommended calendar change, Patriarch Meletios responded by stating that such a decision would be unfortunate but should not result in the breaking of communion between churches.  Patriarch Meletios further emphasized in his response to Met Anastassy that ideally a decision regarding the calendar change would be made together, unanimously, by all local Orthodox churches rather than unilaterally.  Unfortunately, decisions to change the calendar were made unilaterally after the Congress rather than unanimously as Patriarch Meletios had hoped.   

5.  Those who adopted the New Calendar “fell under” the anathemas of the 1583, 1587, and 1593 Pan-Orthodox Councils

The 16th century councils were called in response to the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar by Rome, and Rome’s insistence that the Orthodox Church and the whole world likewise adopt the Gregorian.  In a previous post I dealt with the codex of the 1583 Pan-Orthodox Council and the forged “Sigillion” of the monk Jacob of New Skete (codex 772), namely the false insertion of the anathema against the Gregorian Menologion and the monk Jacob’s (Iakovos’) creation of the illegitimate Sigillion in general.  Various documents and letters from the time of the 16th century councils indicate that the primary objection to the Gregorian Calendar was the change of the Paschalion which contradicted the First Ecumenical Council.  In the previous post on this subject, however, I also mentioned (as did Met Cyprian of Oreoi in his article) that even if the Gregorian Paschalion and Menologion were individually anathematized by these councils, this would still not have any applicability to the adoption of the New Calendar by some local churches for the reason that the Gregorian Menologion and the New Calendar Menologion are not the same.  While Old Calendarists may ridicule this assertion since the Gregorian and Revised Julian calendars currently agree (except for the Paschalion), and the difference between them only amounts to about 24 seconds, this difference was not a small point for those who participated in the 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress.  In several instances in the Congress, Patriarch Meletios and the other participants clearly stated that they would not give any consideration to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar precisely because 1) Rome would use this fact for its own propaganda and the exploitation of the Orthodox, and 2) both the Gregorian and the Julian calendars were inaccurate scientifically.  Regarding Rome, the concern of the 1923 Congress was that if they adopted the Gregorian calendar Rome would use this fact to assert its authority and attempt to subjugate Orthodox through the Unia.  Regarding the inaccuracy of the Gregorian, Patriarch Meletios wanted to propose to the League of Nations an altogether new calendar and Paschalian that all Christians could agree with scientifically and canonically.  While we can say this ambition was misguided, it was very clear that Patriarch Meletios’ proposal was intended both to foster unity with the non-Orthodox, but *also* to enhance the prominence of the Orthodox Church before all Christians.  He wanted the Orthodox Church to be seen by all Christians as the leader of all Christians and the criterion and foundation of unity.  The participants in the 1923 Congress agreed to *not* adopt the Gregorian but to rather temporarily shift the Julian by 13 days to bring the Church and civil calendars into harmony until such a time that the Orthodox Church can lead the formulation and adoption of an altogether new calendar that the whole world would wish to adopt. 

Interestingly, neither the 1920 Patriarchal Encyclical, nor the 16th century Pan-Orthodox Councils were mentioned or referred to in all of the Acts and Decisions of the 1923 Congress.  The only explanation I have for not referring to the 16th century Pan-Orthodox Councils is that these dealt with the Gregorian Calendar and none of the Orthodox churches were even considering adopting the Gregorian calendar at the 1923 Congress, and perhaps the 16th century councils were not considered to be “Pan-Orthodox” by all participants in the Congress.

6.  Before the 1923 Pan-Orthodox Congress, Abp Chrysostom of Athens said that a local church could not adopt the New Calendar without being seen as schismatic by the rest, and then proceeded after the 1923 Congress to adopt the New Calendar, thereby becoming schismatic

In a letter from a monk of Holy Transfiguration Monastery concerning the calendar change, which Jonathan referenced above, the assertion was made that Abp Chrysostom of Athens initially said that one local church could not adopt the New Calendar without being seen as schismatic by the rest, and this is used to assert that the Church of Greece then became schismatic after adopting the New Calendar.  Abp Chrysostom’s initial remarks, however, were made to the Synod of the Church in Greece to the effect that if the State Church of Greece unilaterally changed the calendar without consulting other local churches, other local churches would view the State Church of Greece as having committed a schismatic act.  This is not at all the same as saying the Church of Greece would actually *become* schismatic by adopting a new calendar.  As was mentioned before, the Synod of the Church of Greece was the first Synod to make a proposal regarding the calendar change.  In preparation for the 1923 Congress, Patriarch Meletios sent out a letter to the other Patriarchs to invite representatives from these churches to the Congress and to understand the views of the other local churches regarding this proposal to change the calendar.  While some of the patriarchates did not participate in the Congress, and some (particularly Jerusalem) said they would not be changing the calendar regardless of what was decided at the Congress, nevertheless all of the Patriarchates stated that the shifting of the Julian calendar by 13 days by any local Orthodox church would not create an impediment to communion with the other Orthodox churches.  The 1923 Congress did not claim to have the authority of a Pan-Orthodox Council and therefore made no decisions of a binding nature.  Rather, they formed a “consultation” representing several local churches which made a series of proposals to be considered and adopted by the various local churches at their discretion.  It seems that most of the proposals from the Congress were not adopted by most local churches, but the adoption of the New Calendar by the Church of Greece cannot be said to be entirely unilateral since this decision was only enacted after confirming through the 1923 Congress that other local churches would not break off communion with them for shifting the calendar by 13 days.  This was still unfortunately somewhat unilateral, however, since the Church of Greece did wait to see how the other churches would respond to the recommendations of the Congress. 

Another interesting aspect to this issue is that in 1935 (11 years after the calendar change), when three hierarchs broke off from the Church of Greece to lead the Old Calendarists, they specifically stated that they refused to follow the New Calendar because they did not want to be viewed by the other patriarchates (Jerusalem, Antioch, Serbia, etc.) as schismatic.  As I have mentioned before, ironically when one of these Old Calendarist hierarchs (Met Chrysostom of Florina) went to the Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1937 hoping that the Patriarch would support the cause of the Old Calendarists, the Patriarch would not acknowledge Met Chrysostom as a bishop since the Church of Greece deposed him for going into schism from his Synod.  So, the Church of Greece, after adopting the New Calendar, remained in communion with the Old Calendar Patriarchates, whereas the Old Calendarists actually became viewed as schismatics by the Old Calendar patriarchates.

The above comments, while long, are not intended to be entirely comprehensive, but I thought it might be beneficial to give some attention to the 1923 Congress and certain misconceptions associated with it and the subsequent calendar change.  To reiterate, the manner in which the New Calendar was adopted unilaterally by individual Orthodox churches was very problematic and created unnecessary conflict and disunity, though prior to such changes the churches agreed that communion would not be interrupted by such a change.  I would personally like to see all Orthodox churches come to agreement on one liturgical calendar which maintains intact the complex cycles of the Old Calendar Paschalian and Menologion, which respects and adheres to the decisions of the First Ecumenical Council regarding the celebration of Pascha, and which allows Orthodox Christians to celebrate the same Feast more than once a year.  The Gregorian is problematic, as is the Revised Julian, so either a return to the Old Calendar (the logical choice) or the development of an entirely new calendar is needed. 

November 2011: FatherGiryus

My experience is that the absolutist attitude of many laity is not something they bring back, but one that they generally go up there with beforehand.

What most laity are used to is the priest pounding away on them about THE Orthodox way of doing things, and so they understand the Church in a very black-and-white manner.  They can't fathom that there might be a number of differing practices.

I recall a few years ago visiting Mt. Athos.  On the ferry to Karyes, the pilgrims drank, smoked, and ate sausage (it was Advent).  What struck me was how little these pilgrims resembled the monks they were going to visit.  What I realized was that the monks still received them and still handed out the same advice, and most of the pilgrims understood that they were not going to follow much of the admonishments they were given, but they went nonetheless.

We are fools in a certain way because we assume we can follow the advice we are given and can pass the test.  In many ways, the monks are free to give advice as they want because they assume you are not going to follow it, or will try and fail.  For most of them, that's OK so long as you repent.  The real problem for you is if you think you can pass every test given to you by a monk.  The monk will tell you, "Fast like me, pray like me, be chaste like me!" because that's what he does.  Go ahead and try it, but don't be foolish and think that you can.  He went to a monastery and gave up the world to do that.  He's pointing out how little you have given up for Christ.  He is there to give you the gift of repentance, not an instruction manual on how to cook up a Christian life.

I know people who have destroyed their marriages and ministries trying to live out the letters of the advice they received, but the real problem was their own pride in not relenting once they saw that they could not carry out the impossible task.  We fast because it is, in all actuality, too hard for us.  Were it not, it would have no effect.

What our task here in America is about is to teach our people about the way of repentance, not the way of law-keeping.  They must understand that they are supposed to feel a bit bad about missing the mark, and we codependent priests need to back off and let people feel bad once in a while and not worry about lowering the bar so that no one feels inadequate.  We are all inadequate.  That's why we need Christ to begin with.

The biggest cause for concern is the Pharisaical attitude that many of the faithful who visit these communities bring back to their parish. Instead of worrying about themselves they feel it necessary to make sure every knows how pious they are and force others to join them in their piety. 

Please join me in proclaiming them: AXIOI!  WORTHY!  AXIOI!
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Offline mike

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