IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW ….
The Children of Israel began building the “Mishkan” (also called the “Tabernacle” – a portable sanctuary to house the Divine presence in their midst as they journeyed through the desert) on the 11th of Tishrei of the year 2449 (1312 BC) – six months after their Exodus from Egypt, three months after the revelation at Sinai, and 80 days after their worship of the Golden Calf. The construction of the Mishkan, which followed a detailed set of instructions issued to Moses on Mount Sinai, lasted 74 days, and was completed on the 25th of Kislev; but the Divine command to erect the edifice came only three months later, on the 23rd of Adar, when Moses was instructed to begin a 7-day “training period.”
During the week of Adar 23-29, the Mishkan was erected each morning and dismantled each evening; Moses served as the High Priest and initiated Aaron and his four sons into the priesthood. Then, on the “eighth day” — the 1st of Nissan — the Mishkan was “permanently” assembled (that is, put up to stand until the Divine command would come to journey on), Aaron and his sons assumed the priesthood, and the divine presence came to dwell in the Mishkan.
We must think that during that night at Gethsemane the thoughts and feelings of the God-man encompassed all fallen men in their many billions, and wept with loving grief for all of them individually, which, of course, was only possible to the Divine, all-knowing heart. This was our atonement … We are sure that the terrible sufferings of the Saviour at Gethsemane took place while beholding the sinful life and sinful nature of all human generations and that the words of the Lord “Let this cup pass from me” are not pointed to his upcoming Crucifixion and death, but to this, completely depressing to Him, feeling of profound grief for the sinful human race so beloved by Him.
Metr Anthony Khrapovitsky
The tradition of asking forgiveness on the last Sunday before Great Lent dates back to ancient Egyptian monasticism. Their life was not an easy one: when departing into the desert for the entire forty days of the fast none was certain that they would return from their solitude. Therefore they would ask forgiveness of one another, as before death, just before leaving.
Do we know what true, profound forgiveness is? How it differs from reconciliation? How to prepare for Forgiveness Sunday and for the Church’s Rite of Forgiveness in such a way as not to reduce it to a formality? Priest Andrei Lorgus, Rector of the Institute of Christian Psychology, responds to these questions.
Reconciliation and forgiveness are two different things.
Reconciliation can be achieved through various means, including through material means. I can cause damage to another person and can subsequently reconcile with him through some action of a sacrificial nature: I can give him money or provide him with some service in order to achieve reconciliation. But this will be neither forgiveness nor repentance.
All the same, the Church has foremost in mind not reconciliation, but forgiveness: moreover not so much receiving forgiveness, as asking for it. On Forgiveness Sunday it is much more important to offer repentance to another – to say, “Forgive me!” – than it is to receive forgiveness.
I think that the ancient tradition of asking forgiveness of one another before Great Lent implied primarily this half, this part: not reconciliation, not receiving forgiveness, but namely asking for forgiveness. Of course, this asking combined both personal repentance and asking something of someone, while the important thing was not so much asking forgiveness of him so much as reconciling with him in one’s soul. Even if this person is very unpleasant, even if this person wishes me harm, even if this person is ready to manipulate and laugh at me… I need this!
Asking forgiveness of him and becoming internally reconciled: I need this; this is my spiritual exercise; this is the beginning of my Lenten repentance.
Yet very often people think that if I ask forgiveness of someone I will still owe him something: that after this I must become his friend, I must become close to him, I must become family to him. But this is dangerous. What if he begins again to laugh at me, to mock me, to humiliate me? One must bear in mind that asking forgiveness, reconciling with him in one’s soul, by no means implies communicating with him later, because the decision to reconcile internally does not correspond to the decision to carry on some sort of close relationship with him later.
I can ask forgiveness, all the while deciding for myself that I will no longer have anything to do with this person, because he is dangerous and wants to mock me – or simply because I no longer see any prospect of communication. This is my decision and my responsibility. Therefore forgiveness by no means requires that one become close to this person.
But if this is a loved one – and, as a rule, we sin above all against our loved ones and relatives – then there can be no question of a split or an estrangement. There is nowhere to go. All the same, family is family.
This, of course, requires an internal commitment not only to ask forgiveness, but also to become reconciled, to restore one’s love for him in one’s soul and to draw nearer to one’s own love, since it is still there. When it comes to loved ones, then we already love them, which means that we must somehow purify that love, somehow draw closer to it, somehow find new means by which to live with this person. This, I think, is the most important thing.
What if something thinks: “Well, I suppose I’ve forgiven him in my soul,” but decides not to say a word about wanting to be reconciled. How correct is this? How far removed is this from a real achievement?
This, of course, is the avoidance of any real achievement and the avoidance of real life. It is as if I saw a very tasty dish on the table and ate it in my soul. In reality I would remain hungry. It is exactly the same thing here.
What should one do if we do not feel ourselves guilty, but a loved one makes us ask forgiveness by manipulating us and calling into question our future relationship?
Makes us? No, this is impossible. The decision to forgive and be reconciled with this person is born in the heart; no one can force me to do this.
It might be another story if there are special circumstances, if for legal reasons one needs to offer repentance to someone or to seek reconciliation through the newspaper. But that is another story. Do understand that this is not forgiveness.
There can be no sincere forgiveness where there is manipulation; before Lent we are talking about sincere forgiveness and sincere inner reconciliation, because all of Great Lent, strictly speaking, exists for this reason.
Great Lent is not about formal things, but about internal things; it is only for oneself.
Incidentally, the tradition of a general Rite of Forgiveness is very difficult in this sense, because it is one thing to ask forgiveness of one’s loved ones, and quite another thing to ask forgiveness of everyone in church. At least 80% of the people in church have never had anything to do with me. In this case I ask forgiveness of them formally, but this is only a formal rite. This is precisely what makes it a temptation for many people, since it seems like a formality.
This is also a temptation for priests, by the way, since people from different parishes, from different regions of Moscow and even different cities, suddenly show up and also ask forgiveness, although this may be the only time in our lives that we will meet. This, of course, has a symbolic meaning, but none, of course, in a literal or substantial sense. The Rite of Forgiveness exists for entirely different ends. These are different things.
The general Rite of Forgiveness has, of course, a formal character. The church is open to everyone, our parish does not have clearly defined boundaries, parishioners do not belong to only one parish, and therefore all kinds of different people might turn up for the Rite of Forgiveness. And, conversely, it could happen that those who would be very important to me might not be there.
Therefore, when we celebrate the Rite of Forgiveness we offer the possibility for anyone to participate in it openly. Each person can independently determine the inner significance of this event for himself. He can then take the rite into the heart of his home, calling loved ones or asking forgiveness of them at home.
But this does not relieve anyone of the necessity of performing this Rite of Forgiveness for oneself not just formally, but substantially, essentially, and fundamentally. This means that one has to prepare for it. This means that one needs to think ahead of time about with whom one needs to be reconciled and of whom one should ask forgiveness. Of course, while one is preparing one needs to place first and foremost the weightiest transgressions one has done to someone, the most difficult relationships, and then go in descending order. This is what requires the most amount of effort.
Generally speaking, the main part of forgiveness is preparation: deciding that “yes, I want to be reconciled to this person, to repent before him, to ask forgiveness.” Second, there is the feeling from which this decision is born: this is the feeling of repentance, the desire for reconciliation, the desire to ask forgiveness.
It is this inner desire, when it arises, which offers hope that the Rite of Forgiveness will be meaningful and substantial.
John Rucyahana, in a response to an evangelical minister who was indifferent to the ordination of Gene Robinson because it was not in his church, “They laid hands on that man. They called on the Holy Spirit to bless and consecrate him. You know the Holy Spirit doesn’t do that. He will not bless sin……So what spirit came upon him? What spirit was released into your country on that day? Do you know?….How can you say, ‘Not my problem?’ Fire is ranging in the house of God. Can’t you feel the heat? Doesn’t the smoke fill your nostrils with burning pain?….You Americans sleep while the devil goes after your children.”
John then goes on to the minister’s indifference to that of the world of the tragedy of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and points out that homosexuality is only the beginning, “It’s not about the gay movement, it’s true, they are the first. They have done what no one in church history has every done before. But they are deceiving the world. They have one purpose in mind” to attack the Bible, to deny the gospel, and to condemn all Christians who believe Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life. You see they claim the Holy Spirit has spoken to them. He has given them a new gosepl that blatantly contradicts His own Bible.”
Orthodoxy is dynamic, its liturgy is the vehicle of sacred mystery and truth, it faithfully re-presents the eternal and life giving Gospel with each generation – paradosis. It is multi cultural, it is the history of the faith of ancient Britain, it exhorts and disciples its children in lives of the blessed disciplines of chastity, fasting and prayer as commissioned in the Gospels. It has two thousand years of living history in the cultivation and nurturing of souls, and it is anything but tired. It is not a relic of the past but the action of God for each generation. As such it rejects anything which falls short of its explicit standards – and continues to bear fruit. It is not the place for theological catchphrase and riddles to advocate that which those outside would accept, but it has the maturity and Divine economy to deal with the world. Jarrod Ryder.
Even if the Roman Catholic side recognises in some measure the Orthodox claims. The Filioque, for example, can’t stand as a distinct formulation. If they indeed mean the same thing as is argued (and St. Photios the Great would disagree if he were alive I think), then the Catholic Church ought to return to the Nicene formulation since they hold that council as authoritative as well.
Another point. Catholic papal history has plenty of its own conflict between Church and State, or more specifically, King and Pope since the Church was perceived as a landed kingdom within landed kingdoms. Has he forgot about the Borgias, or the internal fractures leading to Avignon for example?
There is always a certainty in the Pope as institutional head of a geographically universal Church in Catholic thinking. It’s from this standpoint that Orthodox ecclesiology seems in complete disarray. It’s true that Orthodox affairs are often in disarray, but it is not true that this apparent disunity fractures the Church. The evidence is in the worship. Even with a Pope, much of the Catholic Church lost its ancient Liturgy that has led to a very serious crisis of self-understanding among the Catholics themselves, a problem the Orthodox by and large don’t have. For the Orthodox, changing the Liturgy is, frankly, unthinkable. So while a Pope preserves a certain kind of order with the Catholic Church, the apparent disorder of Orthodoxy manages to preserve order too, what some would consider an order even more needful. From a comment by Fr. Johannes Jacobse.
“The truth is that the Infallibility and Universal Ordinary Jurisdiction of the Pope, far from being ‘the ancient and constant faith of the Church’, had in quite modern times not reached many parts of the Roman Communion. Though taken for granted at Rome and in Southern Europe, at least since the days of Bellarmine, they were formally rejected in France, under the Gallican Articles, until the Revolution; they had not penetrated into the British Isles before 1831, but them became widespread through the work of Cardinal Wiseman in England and Cardinal Cullen in Ireland; and in the German speaking countries, there was still at the time of the Vatican Council (1869-70) a large party which had never held them.” – The Rev. C.B. Moss, ‘The Old Catholic Movement, Its Origin and History’, 2nd Ed. 1964
I think that there is a massive and deliberate misunderstanding in the USA of the position of Russia.
I have studied the subject, and it is clear now that the communists in Russia are a very small percentage of the population.
The US media has played up the protests in a couple of Russian cities, but they are in fact miniscule.
What American sophisticated elitist media people hate is the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church is becoming VERY strong indeed and they absolutely refuse to understand that Putin and Medvedev are both personally strong Christians.
It needs to be understood that Russia will NEVER be an American style democracy – for which I giver fervent thanks. The Russians understand that they need a strong leadership – the kind of guided democracy that they are getting. They are just beginning the long process of reinstating the monarchy as a Constitutional Monarchy – the first region has just passed the model legislation.
Russia will in my view become a strong Christian bulwark. We need to take that into account – look at the map and see what a strong Christian Constitutional Monarchist democracy controlling its landmass could mean in geopolitical terms. It may not be apparent to people in the western media but the Russian Church is now present in the USA – with some millions of members and it stretches all around the world – in the UK and on the Continent.
Looked at this way, provides an interestingly different slant on what is happening.
WESTERN RITE ORTHODOXY
“Ever since 1995 I have struggled to have plain English Catholic practices allied to strict Orthodox theology as the norm for Western Rite Orthodoxy.
The strictly English Catholic would never tolerate the extra Roman innovatory devotions – there were no stations of the Cross or bleeding statues or birettas or lace or novenas or Benedictions or tabernacles or Big Six or any of this late post-reformation (mostly ultramontanist) papalism.
What we had and sought to bring in was a very serious western Orthodox catholicism. Unfortunately we have been overrun by an indiscriminate mixture of extreme Anglo-Catholics and vagantes permitted to enter and bring all their baggage with them, it has not been Orthodoxised, instead it is allowing a very dangerous western heretical element into Orthodoxy by the back door.”
We are truly blessed to have a Christian Monarch. And I was heartened to read about Her Majesty praying before an Orthodox icon which was made for her and now hangs in Buckinham Palace. God save the Queen! The original article (with a picture of the icon) is at http://www.mosnews.com/culture/2009/03/20/britishqueensicon/
A year ago, His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent expressed a wish to obtain a holy Orthodox icon as a gift for the Queen during his informal visit to the town of Nevjansk in Sverdloskiy Region.
The Prince particularly liked one of the most highly cherished icons in Russia, Our Lady’s icon “Tenderness”. St. Seraphim of Sarov, a highly revered 19th-century Russian monk, kept it in his cell and treasured its healing power. He called this the ‘Tenderness icon’ representing Mary’s feelings of tenderness at the Annunciation, the “Joy of All Joys”.
“Besides having a miraculous healing power, it also has a pacifying holy effect,” icon painters explained to the Prince.
Painting the “Tenderness” icon for Her Majesty took Nevjansk icon painters almost a year. “It is an extremely time consuming process. The icon is made of copper, covered with braid gold and painted with special dyes made by a special formula minerals found only in the Urals”, they explained.
The Queen’s Private Secretary’s office sent a formal letter to Nevjansk confirming that the icon had found its place in one of the Buckingham Palace halls. “Her Majesty sincerely thanks you for the miraculous icon, “ it said.
Queen Elizabeth has already offered her prayers for her family and her subjects before the icon, Life.ru reports.
Her Majesty’s husband Prince Philip was Baptised in the Orthodox Faith as an infant and his mother, Princess Alice of Battenburg became an Orthodox nun in later life. There is an Orthodox Chapel at Windsor Castle that was built especially for her when she visited the Royal Family.
1. We must begin with the premise that God designed Matrimony to be “Holy Matrimony,” that Eve was created from Adam, for Adam, and as such can never be separated from Adam in the Eyes of God. This is borne out by the word “A-dam” in Hebrew being itself a plural: Man and Woman is one A-dam. It is for this reason that the posssibility of Theosis exists in Holy Matrimony, in a way that it cannot do in “living together with benefits” or in homosexual relationships, no mattter how intentionally loving these might be. The form of Holy Matrimony of Man and Woman as Lord and Lady of Creation, to use the quaint mediaeval titles, symbolized by the crowing of bride and groom, is a necessary pre-requisite for the love that fills that form and that works out its salvation within the confines of that God-graced, God-ordained, God-blessed form.
That said, like ordination, Holy Matrimony” is not a “sacrament necessary to salvation” as are Baptism and the Eucharist (from the Western perspective, at least) and a man or woman is free to hear God call him or her into Holy Matrimony, into Holy Orders, into the monastic life, even into the “untonsured” monastic life of service to those near or far, either for a time or for one’s lifetime. But it does remain the “normal” and “normative” model for both human relationships, as for divine ones, as between Christ and His Bride the Church (wherein there are so many distressing people with so many problems that I hardly know how to cope with them until I realise that I AM “them” and that I am likely a “problem” for many of them as they are for me, and this is the first step to reality, to repentance, and to humiility}.
2. Secondly, as most marriages (and we pray God this is so) result in the fruitful offspring of children, “Theosis” is often experienced in the “perilous paths of parenting” as much as it is in relations with one’s spouse. (The temptation for many couples is to turn their attention from their common spousal life in Christ to the “tasks” of “parenting the children” and “earning a living.” And thereby all: parents, children, grandparents, employers, fellow-employees, customers) are deprived of the blessings of Theosis in our lives as we relegate “family” and “work” to mere roles and refuse the Divine Energies pouring toward us through these situations.) It is always the child who causes us the most headaches, who asks the infernal “why?” repeatedly (and sincerely), who is as headstrong as we ourselves are, who takes on our unlovely qualities of manipulation of our spouse as the “right way to have a romantic relationship”; it is THIS child that God is at work through in our own lives if we will have the humility to accept this and to be changed into “the image and likeness of Christ” in the life and for the sake of that particular child. Each child has different psychological needs and so “being fair” does not mean “everyone gets the same thing,” as tempting as that is to pull on the parental “Because I said so.” Each child’s special makeup, a soul made uniquely by God for THAT child is His gift to us, and his invitation to come “Higher up! Further in!” to the ineffable light of His love.
“After all, before God we all stand in line not by the order of our ordination, and not by the number of crosses, and not by whether you serve in a mitre or kamilavka. It may come to pass that the Patriarch will be standing behind a cleaning lady and will look into her eyes and say: “Maria Ivanovna, could you pray for me …” Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow.
“The Ancient of Days is become a Child, to make us children of God. From glory in the Heavens, because of His love for mankind, He now lies in a manger. He has taken on my body, so that I am made capable to have within myself His Spirit. He has taken unto Himself my nature, being garbed in my body, and gives me His Spirit, so that I, giving and in turn receiving, might discover the treasure of life.”
A homily attributed to Saint Gregory Thaumatourgos (the Wonderworker) of Neo-Caesaraea, 3rd century
The Paradox of Grades: Many people assume that if you receive an “A”, then you have mastered the material. Unfortunately, very few teachers have the time, the opportunity, or the ability to design a class that measures learning and conceptual thinking. No test can cover all the facts in a given topic, so the teacher must decide which facts to test. Homework and tests then become exercises in fact-finding, instead of yardsticks to measure students’ progress as they integrate facts into larger concepts. The goal of learning is then shifted from developing understanding to finding the information that the teacher wants. After years of conditioning, students become habituated to this process and start to learn only the facts that they think will be tested. Tackling complicated problems—without a certain result—appears inefficient, if not counterproductive. An inverse relationship starts to manifest between academic success and learning: those who succeed academically cannot reason independently, and those who can think independently cannot succeed academically. The evidence for this dichotomy is overwhelming as one listens to successful inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs when they discuss their conflicted experiences in the educational system. They will even go far as to state that their success has come despite of what they learned in school, rather than because of it.
THE THIN PLACES
The Celts – the Early British Church had a saying about “thin places” – the concept that there seemed to be some very few places on this earth where the division between the Heavenly dimension and the worldly dimension seemed very thin indeed – where it was possible to see transition – to understand more easily the Heavenly dimension. There are indeed such places, for some reason they are easier to pray in – not “easy” like a quiet chapel or inspirational building – but “easy” as in the division “seems’ thin.
Such places vary – some find it on a particular mountain – some find it in a real desert, some find it in one of those places where sea, land and sky seem to merge, it matters not.
The scientists now seem to agree with Saint Paul, that there are indeed at least four more dimensions in this universe, and that the universe as we know it could not continue to exist if they were not there. We Christians know that perfectly well – that without these dimensions of Heaven, this universe would no longer exist.
The universe is stupendously immense – we learn that from the modern sciences – we may never be able to discern how far the universe extends, we may never see with our telescopes the farthest star. It is beyond our educated imaginings. Yet, here, sitting in some thin place, we feel close – very close to the dimension of Heaven which encompasses the entirety of this stupendous cosmos.
We feel exceedingly close to God – closer than elsewhere, close to His intentions for us, close to His thinking for us, close in every way – and drawn to His dimension – a far better place to be – a place to be desired with our whole being.
This God, this Master of the universe, our God, our Master, whom we can scarcely comprehend is there, close, accessible, waiting. We draw near, we pray not with words but with our desire to be with Him, to be as like Him as He desires us to be. This is indeed a thin place.
SAINT ARISTIBULE BISHOP OF BRITAIN
The Holy Disciple from among the Seventy Aristobulus, Bishop of Britanium (Britain), was born on Cyprus. Together with his brother, the holy Disciple from among the 70, Barnabus, he accompanied the holy Apostle Paul on his journeys. Saint Aristobulus is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 16: 10). The Apostle Paul made Saint Aristobulus a bishop and the Church at Tyre sent him to preach the Gospel in Britanium (as is recounted by Saint Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre), where he set up in the south-east of Wales and Somerset and converted many to Christ, setting up The Church in the British Isles in AD 37, for which he suffered persecution by the pagans. Saint Aristoboulus died in Britain. His memory is on the 31st of October and on the 4th of January and also in the Assembly of the 70 Disciples.
YOUR SOUL AND YOU
Luke 12:20 is translated in the King James Version as:
“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”
In the commentary of Blessed Theophylact, he makes a point about the verb translated by the KJV in the passive voice as “shall be required”, but he points out that that it is is in the active voice, third person, plural — and so should be “they shall require”.
The Youngs Literal Translation has it as:
“And God said to him, Unthinking one! this night thy soul they shall require from thee, and what things thou didst prepare — to whom shall they be?”
Blessed Theophylact says “Notice also the words “they will require”. Like some stern imperial officers demanding tribute, the fearsome angels will ask for your souls, and you will not want to give it because you love this life and claim the things of this life as your own. But they do not demand the soul of a righteous man, because he himself commits his soul into the hands of God and Father of spirits, and he does so with joy and gladness, not in the least bit grieved that he is handing over his soul to God. For him the body is only a light burden, easily shed. But the sinner has made his soul fleshy, something difficult to separate from the body. This is why the soul must be demanded of him, the same way that harsh tax collectors treat debtors who refuse to pay what is due. See that the Lord did not say, “I shall require thy soul of thee,” but, “they shall require.””
THE FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
Once again, at the outset of the Christian year, on this first Sunday of Advent, we contemplate the everpresent King, the Saviour Who came and Who will come again to this earth. Luke 4:16-22 is an admirable early Advent text which reads: “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: And, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto Him the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And He began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears”.