ORTHODOX HEART SITES
100+ Stories of Our Days – Coming to Orthodoxy
The guest of today’s program is Anton Gotman, who had been practicing Buddhism for a long time. In this interview, he will tell us what he was looking for but couldn’t find in Buddhism and how Christ touched his heart.
Fr. Gregory had previously served as an Anglican priest, but in 1992 he became disappointed in Anglicanism and embraced Orthodoxy. Three years later he was ordained and since then has served at a parish of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch in Manchester—one of the largest English cities—for over twenty years.
Speaking with strangers in streets about the innermost things is a real challenge, a personal podvig which can only be performed by somebody who came to wholeheartedly believe in the Truth and strives to live according to Its will.
In this short video, well-known Russian priest Fr. Andrei Tkachev talks about the phenomenon of people converting to Orthodox Christianity throughout the world, here esecially focusing on America and Turkey. As Fr. Andrei explains, people are looking for the deeper undercurrent of their lives and cultures, and are finding it in the Christ’s true Orthodox Church.
All the names of the people I talked with have been changed. They agreed to tell me about their greatest secrets in the hope that these stories will help people understand that no matter how dark the night, there is always a path to the light.
In this engaging video, Fr. John Valadez speaks of the soul-destroying pitfalls of the punk culture he once found himself wrapped up in, and how the zine Death to the World, founed by former punks turned monks, helped him and many others to find the light of Christ in the Orthodox Church.
Alexander read many atheistic and anti-Christian books trying to convince himself that Christianity was unviable, but discovered the depth and intellectual power of Orthodoxy instead. He will tell us how his intellectual quest led him to faith.
He awoke at the grinding sound of the door opening. The guards had come. Releasing Tolya from the handcuffs, they led him upstairs. “Well, this is it,” he thought, “now they are going to kill me and my wasted life is going to end.” They took him outside. Anatoly winced, thinking it’s the end.
his happened in the monastery of Vatopedi, when Elder Joseph “the Younger” still lived there. It was late November. I was then fulfilling the obedience of guest master. In those days, there were conflicts arising in the Polytechnic University in Athens between students and police.
No, he has never studied theology, he has never heard of any modern ‘theologians’ (though he does know something of the Lives of the Saints), he cannot tell you about the history and structure of the services, has never met a bishop, does not know the Bible backwards, will not give you lots of pious talk about prayer and fasting, has never heard of ‘the Council of Crete’ and knows nothing about Catholicism and Protestantism.
The guest of today’s program is Abdias Bijanov, an Orthodox Assyrian. His search for the meaning of life initially led him to the Nestorian Assyrian Church of the East, but eventually he found the Truth in Orthodoxy.
Pierre Haab, a Swiss ex-Catholic who was disappointed with his religion and was carried away by Buddhism, Hinduism and other screamingly “fashionable” Eastern teachings and who is now a subdeacon of the Orthodox Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Cross in Geneva, speaks about his conversion to Orthodoxy.
The guest of today’s program is James Evans, an Orthodox Englishman. He will tell us why he prefers to live in Russia rather than in England, what he gets from singing in the Orthodox church and how his journey to Orthodoxy began.
Antigua and Barbuda is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. Amongst its sons, George MacGuire, the founder of the “African Orthodox Church” occupies a worthy place. By the time he died the Church numbered about 30,000 faithful, fifty clergy, and dozens of parishes in the U.S.A, Uganda, Kenya, Canada, Venezuela, Cuba, and Antigua. Who was this man, and why did he turn his spiritual search toward Orthodoxy?
Today the guest of Father George’s program is Priest Sergius Labunsky. His adolescent interest in Medieval Europe initially led him to a Catholic church and even to a Catholic monastery, but eventually he found the path to the true Orthodox faith.
Sergei is totally paralyzed except for his head, neck and shoulders. By our hero’s own admission, nothing remained for him but to learn how to do something with the muscles that still had some potential for movement. This desire proved to be enough to find his calling in life. His sole chance to maintain contact with the world was via the computer, and his old friend Igor Sitnikov, now living in Canada, encouraged him to paint icons. His friend’s idea found a place in his heart, and besides, he had always drawn well, although, admittedly, it is hard to imagine with what difficulty Sergei could do this!
Teymuraz Kristinashvili, a guest of Spas TV program My Path to God, will tell us about his journey to God and how a nun’s humble prayer overcame the resentment of a sick person. We will hear about the miracles and inexplicable events that happened with his family and learn how a businessman can enter the Heavenly Kingdom.
Why do patriotic young men turn into followers of Nazi ideology? What is the difference between Russian and European skinheads? What makes Neo-Paganism attractive to soccer fans? Is it easy to overcome prejudice toward Christianity? Do we need to preach Christianity in the streets? These are the topics of the interview with Ivan Katanayev.
Faith, as the knowledge of God, Whom my eyes have seen and my hands have touched, Whom I have come to know with all my senses, as He was with me in sorrow and joy—we can only talk about such faith with young people out of personal experience of a meeting with God. This experience of meeting God first transforms the person himself, and then he has something to share with others—the joy of personal transformation.
In the teenage years a person finds himself at the crossroads: He is reevaluating what his parents have already managed to teach him, is looking for his “own way”, his own approach to truth. How can we talk to young people about the Church? How can we find the right words and not drive him away? How must we ourselves spiritually prepare ourselves for this dialogue, which is not so simple?
Personally speaking, I had to come to the African equator, a place not purely Christian, in order to see things “in practice”. I had to go to places which either had never heard of Christ before, or if they had, they had heard, seen and lived everything through the prism of heresies and the schism.
The guest of today’s program is Margarita Kaplun, of Jewish descent and a daughter of an Assistant Rabbi. After personally experiencing the power of praying to Our Lord Jesus Christ, she was baptized and led her parents to faith.
In this interview, Khurshed Ishonkulovich Numanov, Major General of Police, professor of the Special Investigative Techniques Department of the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, will tell us about the police work, his journey to Orthodoxy, his native land of Tajikistan and his father’s legacy.
The journey has just begun. Yesterday I was called “Marlon” but today I am called “Moses” after my Patron Saint Moses the Black/Ethiopian. I’m no Saint. I’m a sinner. My Christian walk over the years was never perfect and I’m not ashamed for saying that. In fact, looking back and seeing where I’m coming from humbles me.
In today’s epistle we hear some of the words of encouragement from the great Apostle St. Paul to the Christians of Rome. These words are a beautiful reminder to all of us who are here together to build this mission and spread the Orthodox faith.
Despite his rationalist/ evolutionist background, physicist Andrey Vetchinkin was acutely unhappy with the scientific basis of the theory of evolution. He converted to Orthodoxy after encountering phenomena that could not be explained or understood by his usual rationalistic approach.
Today Father George will discuss with hieromonk Diomedes (Lukyanyuk) such questions as why people become monks, can obedience be the reason for monks to go into schism, how to avoid the temptation of going into schism, what is monastic renunciation of one’ own will, and whether there is a difference between Greek and Russian monasteries.
Each of us has his or her own memories and special God-sent people and life events. I miss those whom I met on my paths of life. Whenever I see or learn that someone has a need I pray for them to God as I rarely have a chance to help people substantially. When speaking with the poor, I try to give these people (who do not receive simple human attention, love and care) the opportunity to pour out their souls to me, to share their worries and concerns with me.
The guest of today’s program is Archpriest Lev Semyonov. After taking interest in their interpretation of the Bible, he joined the Unification Church … How did he, a Unificationist preacher and one of the leaders of the Russian division of this sect manage to separate the truth from lies? Is it difficult to quit a sect and why? What should you do if your close friend has joined a sect?
I saw a video somewhere of a monk at St. Katherine’s Monastery of Mt. Sinai‚ tediously beating out a rhythm on the semantron‚ walking up the stairs of the tower to the bells‚ and then masterfully weaving a brilliant web of mysterious sounds. Somehow I instantly related to this kind of strange and foreign ritual‚ and I recognized it as prayer. Gradually‚ the possibility of prayer became a key factor that pulled me into the Church.
The guest of today’s program is Priest Igor Zyryanov. He started his journey to God in his early youth, but initially this path led him past the Church. He was a Protestant for 18 years, 12 of which he was a pastor of a Pentecostal community and an active missionary. Several years ago, he and his community converted to Orthodoxy.
I visited the faithful of Ixcan with Father Andres nearly four years ago for the first time. What I found was a faithful remnant living in the most humble of circumstances and praying in weathered shanty-like structures consisting of wooden slats, dirt floors covered with fragrant pine needles, and rusty tin roofs, from which colorful streamers hung. I call these the cathedrals of the poor, magnificent in their unassuming simplicity.
INTERVIEW WITH MARINA MADEJ, A FORMER CATHOLIC FROM POLAND WHO CONVERTED TO ORTHODOXY THROUGH BAPTISM
In this interview with Marina Madej, a former Catholic from Poland who converted to Orthodoxy through Holy Baptism, we find one of many unfortunate examples of not allowing a convert who desires Holy Baptism to be baptized, forcing upon them oikonomia unnecessarily to the point that it drives them to a distant land seeking Baptism as their conscience urges.
The guest of today’s program is Yevgeny Verner, actor and producer. As a descendant of an old Jewish family, he came to Christ through Judaism. In his interview to Father George, he tells us his story about how the Savior literally called him. He also discusses so-called “national” religions, Cabbala and whether or not modern-day Judaism is the successor of the Old Testament traditions.
In this two-part interview Kevin Allen “George” who became a Sunni Muslim at age fourteen and studied to become an Imam at a madrasa. He left Islam and became an Orthodox Christian twenty years later. Among other things, Kevin and his guest discuss Islamic theology, common misunderstandings of Christianity by Muslims, differences between “orthodox” Islam and the Nation of Islam, the true understanding and practice in Islam of slavery and jihad, and the extraordinary journey that led “George” to Orthodox Christianity.
In this two-part interview Kevin Allen “George” who became a Sunni Muslim at age fourteen and studied to become an Imam at a madrasa. He left Islam and became an Orthodox Christian twenty years later. Among other things, Kevin and his guest discuss Islamic theology, common misunderstandings of Christianity by Muslims, differences between “orthodox” Islam and the Nation of Islam, the true understanding and practice in Islam of slavery and jihad, and the extraordinary journey that led “George” to Orthodox Christianity.
“Because Ignatius was a contemporary and disciple of the apostles, his understanding of the apostolic faith would have been identical to that of the apostles. Yet his 7 epistles, which are his last will and testament, indicate multiple doctrines that did not fit my Evangelical image of the early church and interpretation of Scripture.”
Actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who starred in the movie “Priest-San: Samurai’s Confession” accepted baptism in the Russian Orthodox Church. The sacrament was performed by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk. The newly-baptized man received the name of Panteleimon. The actor also stated earlier that he was going to take Russian citizenship. Mr. Tagawa described his life’s journey and his conversion to Orthodox Christianity several hours before his baptism.
“Recognizing your sin and your helplessness should drive you to Christ. It does bring despair, as it should, because sin – leads to death unless you have Christ. The fact that you are conscious of your sin and know that you believe in Christ, is enough to quiet your soul and find the rest Jesus promises above. Yes, turn from your sin (it often feels like our own effort) but realize that it is he who gives you that desire to do so and it is he who gives you the grace and strength to do so.”
By all accounts, Fr. Daniel Sysoev was a powerful and effective missionary priest. As a direct result of his efforts, and in accordance with his express desire and sense of calling, he crowned his ministry with martyrdom, being murdered in the nave of his own church on the night of November 19, 2009.
I am somewhat of a typical ‘Australian’ with British ancestry, and I grew up in the Anglican Church. After doing some religious searching in my university years, I eventually joined the Orthodox Church in 2013, and have been spiritually, intellectually and socially fulfilled ever since.
Campbell said he was most nervous about the incredible spiritual responsibility of acting as priest, such as asking for God’s blessing over the sacraments, performing weddings and hearing confessionals. The parish, founded in 2002, is more of a close-knit family than the larger churches Campbell served in New Jersey, and that sense of community is what Campbell said binds them together.
Father Thomas, a German raised as Lutheran, converted to Orthodoxy from Catholicism. He will tell us about the driving force behind his spiritual quests and the importance of dedicated insistence upon the Truth. We will also learn the answers to such questions as “Should we say in conversations with members of other denominations that their teachings are heretical?” and “What should our attitude be toward the Branch Theory?”
In early 2015, Pravoslavie.ru posted in both Russian and English an article by Clement Nehamaiyah on his path to the Orthodox Church. To our pleasant surprise, we learned that the article was read in India and prompted an Indian non-Chalcedonian Christian to write a letter to Clement in which he attempts to prove that the “Indian Orthodox Church” is the true Church of Christ as it was brought to India by the Apostle Thomas. We asked Clement to answer this very interesting letter, and his brother Polycarp, who became Orthodox together with his brother, responded.
OrthoChristian.com correspondent Vasily Tomachinsky recently travelled to Boston, where he became acquainted with Clifford Isaac Gardner, Senior Administrative Manager of Research in the Division of Nephrology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and member of a number of refugee humanitarian relief missions in the Middle East. Isaac, once a Southern Baptist, is now a parishioner of the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church in Boston. He tells Vasily about his journey to the Church through icons.
“The whole thing is about transformation,” he says. Painting icons is an “alchemical/incarnational process” of the artist transforming paint minerals into a sacred image, Balter explains, while also noting the change from Icky’s to St. John the Wonderworker, and from addict to iconographer.
Ultimately what ended up leading me to wanting to pursue Orthodoxy and seminary was my involvement with visiting so many monasteries, and I was trying to understand what led people to want to give up their whole lives and world so as to become monastics. And in the process, not only to become monastics, but to become seriously devout and selfless, repentant, humble Christian monastics. Many of them became miracle workers, they became saintly. They became able to perform miracles that defy the laws of physics. And also, in meeting these individuals, one on one, and being able to witness some of these miracles myself, that led me into having sort of a born again conversion, if you will, into the Orthodox Church.
I quit the Roerichian sect completely after I saw a Miracle of God. Several years ago, they started broadcasting the Descent of the Holy Fire live from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. When I first saw this miracle with my own eyes, I suddenly realized that this was the true faith in the living God, who is close to each of us faithful, rather than somewhere in a mysterious Shambhala that nobody ever saw. I understood that that was where Christ was.
While the famous quote, “Go west young man,” alludes to growth and maturity, John said he found his spiritual growth and maturity by researching the Eastern expression of Christianity as found in the Orthodox churches and is now planning to become an Eastern Orthodox priest.
Today Father George’s guest is an Orthodox priest and missionary Stanislav Rasputin, who was formerly a member of the Salvation Army. In this interview we learn how Father Stanislav found this path to Church, what may help Protestants overcome their prejudice against Orthodoxy, and how important missionary work is for every Orthodox Christian.
The postures of yoga are not religiously neutral. All of the classic asanas have spiritual significance. For example, as one journalist reports, the Sun Salutations, – perhaps the best-known series of asanas, or postures, of hatha yoga – the type most commonly practiced in America – is literally a Hindu ritual.
On one of the roads leading into my small city a billboard has recently appeared. It is part of a larger campaign by a nationally known evangelist who is to have a revival in Knoxville. The sign is simple. In very large bright yellow letters (all caps), the sign says: HELL IS REAL. In small letters beneath it, in white, that can be read as your car nears the sign is the statement: so is heaven.
As concerns Yezidism, we should begin by saying that Christianity is the one religion which reveals the light to mankind, which opens the Heavens to him, while paganism exists only here, on earth. In paganism all the attention is directed to external things submerged in the earth’s elements. Paganism lacks the Heaven that Christianity teaches us about.
I was born in a regular Korean family. Koreans have a difficult spiritual legacy—It is a mixture of Buddhism and shamanism. So if I followed in the footsteps of my ancestors, I would have probably gone in the same direction. However, God gives the right of choice to every person and after comparison and analysis we can make the best decision. My journey wasn’t easy.
In association with the Russian SPAS (Savior) TV channel, Pravoslavie.Ru has begun publishing a series of remarkable stories about our contemporaries who embraced the true faith after following various false teachings.
What is the Crown Princess of Bali doing in an Orthodox church, why do Russians prefer to confess to Indonesians, and why Orthodoxy is a blessing for Indonesia—these and other themes are discussed in the Indonesian notes of Fr. George Maximov.
There were many leaders of radical teenage gangs—they are the ones who would eventually attend every class. They could not understand what was happening to them; I had to call them for individual discussions, to explain, and there were often disputes in the groups on this subject. Later many were baptized and escaped from their former demonic state.
Father John Musther, an Orthodox Englishman, serves in the Orthodox missionary parish of Sts. Bega, Mungo and Herbert in Keswick, Cumbria, North West England. His community, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is part of the ancient tradition of the Orthodox Church. The congregation is a living witness of the truth of Holy Orthodoxy to the people living nearby.
The Word of God acts gently within your soul. God transforms us through his word, so it is very necessary to allow the Word of God to sink into you. And the right interpretation of the Word of God has to sink within you, not the word of God spoken by heretics and schismatics. The Orthodox Church helps you to know the Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth.
“In other words doctor, speak to us frankly.” “I have determined that Olga will not make it. She is slowly dying.” “What do you mean, she is slowly dying doctor.” I dared to ask? “I mean as we are talking, in a few hours, maybe during the course of the night she will die. I believe, without any doubt, she will not live through the night. Theoretically I can give you a time that she might make it to tomorrow.” “In other words, doctor, only a miracle can save her,” says the mother. “Yes, only a miracle,” repeats the doctor. The father continues to cry with controlled sobs.
Something that Orthodox people from various countries often experience when visiting Russia is a problem stemming from their own name. A Serb named Milorad, a Bulgarian named Lilia, or an American named Donald might piously approach the holy chalice to receive Communion, but when they pronounce their names, heads turn and stare in suspicion. Who is this person’s patron saint?
In the zone being fired upon by the Chechen fighters there remained three on the ground—two rescuers and one special forces agent. Death seemed inescapable, but when an enemy hand grenade fell at their feet and didn’t detonate, they understood it as a sign from on high that their time had not yet come.
When I saw him praying in church, then I thought: if there is some person who holds the helm of the whole world, it isn’t the president of America, it isn’t a communist, it isn’t any person of this world—it’s Elder Paisios. He is able to steer the rudder of the whole world.
A group of Hillsboro residents practicing centuries-old traditions of Orthodox Christianity does not need reminders that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Observances of Christ’s birth started for them in mid-November, and will continue for many days after Dec. 25.
Most parents have run up against the fact that at a certain age, children are not able to concentrate on the services; they become capricious and distract other parishioners from a concentrated experience of the Divine services. What we do when this happens—become a source of trouble for those around you, or limit the time you and you children attend church?
On November 20, 2014, five years passed since the day that priest Daniel Sisoyev’s life was cut short; he was murdered in the Church of the Apostle Thomas where he served. Many people remember him thankfully, and testify to how his words and example influenced their lives.
Some Orthodox people travel to Milan to meet and talk with a man of lofty faith and sincere Christian convictions, living in our own day. Archimandrite Dimitri (Fantini)—a native Italian. Batiushka’s fate and his road to Orthodoxy are one of the multitude of miracles with which God glorifies His Church.
The key to St. Tikhon’s greatness lies in his personality, his character. Prof. Zaichenko recalls: “By nature Bishop Tikhon was kind, responsive and unusually sensitive. In his character he was quiet, merciful, good-natured and always tried to preserve in himself serenity, a serenity which he transmitted to the souls of all those around him.”
“Where did that icon come from? I gave it to a German soldier!” She exclaimed in amazement. I recognize it by a characteristic dent in the frame.” I explained that this icon was given to the church by the German Consulate in our city. The woman broke into tears, said that her name was Vera, and told the story of how her Orthodox family icon ended up in Germany.
One day an old woman came up to him and said, “It’s so good that you’re standing here. I killed my child and even now 40 years later I am still crying.” Fr. Seraphim has dedicated his life to helping assure that there will be as few such women as possible.
One of the main problems faced by Christians and especially monastics today is that people are not used to restraining themselves, to enduring, or forcing themselves to do anything, to assume obligations, first and foremost to prayer. For some reason we stubbornly and persistently chase after sin, but good deed—alas!
During the 1990s, perhaps 150,000 people perished in the hellish violence that raged over the Balkan peninsula. Although the conflicts were largely defined by ethnic differences, religion played a critical role in the three-sided war between Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, and Muslims.
“Some churches’ roots are not deep, so people pass through those churches like water through a pipe,” Bishop Mark said. “People drift from church to church. Some may come to feel that the church they are attending is not the church they grew up with, that somehow the rug’s been pulled out from under them.”
St. Anthony of the Desert is a mission of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. All services are in English with a little Spanish. We are in the communion of international Orthodox Churches, with 350 million people worldwide, and in America we participate in the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops.
“I hear you’re a minister,” the hygienist remarked, fastening the bib around my neck for a dental cleaning. “May I ask what kind?”“Eastern Orthodox,” I said quickly, as the tools of her trade descended. Hygienists are often good conversationalists.
Twentieth-century readers knew Kerouac’s On the Road and Jack London’s earlier hobo classic, The Road, but how many of us know what the 21st-century counter-culture is up to, their life-styles and aspirations? We see the tattoos, nose-rings, attitudes, but do we hear the cries of the heart from young people searching for truth? In the following interview Rainbow (Xenia) Lundeen and Seth (John) Haskins, both baptized Orthodox after this conversation, share the by-ways they’ve taken in trying to live out the Gospel in their lives.
“Pascha?” I asked. “What’s Pascha?”The man chuckled and said, “You know it as Easter.” He then spent ten minutes explaining why “Pascha”—the “new Passover” by which the entire human race passes from slavery to freedom under Christ—should replace “Easter” as the favored term for the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.
Fr. Artemy Vladimirov, an English-speaking Moscow priest from the Church of All Saints at Krasnoselskaya, has, for the past decade, been a mainstay for Western Orthodox converts living in Moscow and visitors seeking a deeper spiritual life. His staunchly traditional belief, deep insight, warm humor, and willingness to reach out to souls from diverse backgrounds, have brought more than a few foreigners to Orthodoxy. As the expatriate community has come and gone, Fr. Artemy has generously presided over numerous missionary dinners, high teas, and spontaneous talks—unforgettable gatherings that awaken souls and delight the spirit.
The term orthodoxy, understood as “right belief” or “right worship,” carries immense weight. Determining orthodoxy draws lines between the Christian and the non-Christian, between the saved and the unsaved, between those we associate with and those we do not. Defining it is essential, but maintaining relationships in the process can be intensely difficult.
A curious phenomenon can be observed in the interactions between pastors and their parishioners at the beginning of each major fast of the Church. Pastors attempt to call their parishioners’ pious attention to the spiritual heights of fasting: the fighting against sin, the conquering of passions, the taming of the tongue, the cultivation of virtues. In turn, parishioners pester their pastors with purely dietary questions…
Metropolitan Philip Saliba, who in nearly 50 years as leader of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in North America fostered a growth in membership and parishes while encouraging unity among Orthodox churches, died in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., of heart failure. He was 82.
We often think of the mysteries or sacraments of the Church in a personal, individual way. We even look at our life as, “me and Jesus”, and this does great damage to the Gospel and the words of Jesus Christ, when He said “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am also.”
Love always comes with care for the other, not care for yourself. If you love it’s always about the other, not about you. If it’s about you, it’s love of yourself. If you were in a room of ten people and you said, “I love everyone in this room except that person,” it means that you don’t love one out of ten. Do you really love anybody? Of course not! The only one you love is yourself.
So why is it that some would see a need for Great and Holy Lent? We said we were going to talk about the themes and the reasons; I think some of the reasons for Great Lent are in the calendar of events that proceed and mark our time through Great Lent. So let’s step back and take a look.
How did the Church arrive at such a season and structure of services? And whether you’ve been through Lent before or this is going to be your first season, you will see that this is a rather complicated season; there is a lot going on, a number of services you haven’t seen. There are new names and phrases for things. Certain spiritual disciplines are highlighted that you may not be aware of, or at least you don’t typically them see during the rest of the season.
But then let us think about what kind of purity a man must acquire in order to enter into this Kingdom. Let us not put off our salvation till later, nor hope that we will be purified before death or even at the time of death, or that we will land in “purgatory,” as the Catholics mistakenly think. For those who say, “Later,” it will never come. Therefore let us be concerned about our salvation now, while it is still possible to say, “Now.”
Erkhan was a Moslem, but the more time he spent with the Christian Stoyan, the more he saw the priest’s striving to do good, the more he wanted to change his religious views. Spending time with Fr. Stoyan and other priests, Erkhan saw them serving molebens, and he began to secretly go to the church and pray for Tanya and himself.
Have you not read what David did, when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? … So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.
There are so many traces of the undivided Church, the beginnings of Christianity, and by these very archeological facts, I was “pushed” to dig deeper into the foundations of the Church. I am a historian by formation, a numismatic.
As the Lord said in the Gosples, He that is able to receive it, let him receive it (Mt. 19:12): one person may be capable of living an intense inner life, regularly go to church, and continually search his own conscience—as St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) says, so that their minds would always swim in the Gospels, in the teachings of Christ. Another person might be so inwardly disposed that it is an ascetic labor for him to receive Communion only twice a year.
Ask most East Texans about the major divisions of Christianity and their response will probably mention only two of the three: Roman Catholics and Protestants.The third branch of Christianity, Eastern Orthodox, is relatively unknown in most of the southern United States, but that’s beginning to change.
LEWISTOWN — In an old red brick church down a winding road, Gregorian chants and incense rise up to the bell tower.“Kyrie eleison,” the congregants intone, while at the altar, a retired cop-turned-Orthodox priest performs rituals as old as Christianity. When he steps down to face the crowd, he delivers a sermon like a country preacher, sweat beading on his forehead.
Though many in the United States are largely unfamiliar with the Orthodox faith, it’s the second-largest Christian religion in the world, second only to Catholicism. It is the dominant religion in Russia and much of Eastern Europe and has a significant presence in some Middle Eastern countries.
God’s providence leads us through life; and how good it is for those who can hear it in time, who try to understand God’s will for themselves. If we make plans for one thing or another but find numerous obstacles on our path to attaining it, we have to slow down and try to discern—is this plan God’s will for us? Sometimes the Lord protects us from danger, holds us back from our impulsive race through life, but we don’t understand it, we keep fussing, insisting upon our own will, instead of simply stepping back, waiting a bit, trying some other way…
Again, the focus of these cults and their “rituals” was to ensure—or rather, to attempt to ensure—that their crops would be fruitful at the time of harvest. The movement of these “gods” and “goddesses” from life to death was symbolic of, and intimately connected with, the life and death of their crops (and the resulting offspring). This, of course, begs the question: What does this have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only-begotten Son of God the Father?
A few months ago I witnessed my first “Churching”—a liturgy said for a new mother when she returns to church, usually 40 days after the birth of her child. Often it is done just before the child’s baptism. The mother waited with her infant daughter at the back door of the church, facing the iconostasis. The priest came and read the Churching prayers and then led them and their friends and family forward to the baptismal font set in front of the royal doors. Churching follows a long tradition of purification prayers for new mothers used in both the Christian East and West, but they have fallen out of use in some places because people are ambivalent about what these prayers mean, particularly references to the woman’s uncleanness and sin.
THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND BETWEEN THE TRUTH AND A LIE” (ST. MARK OF EPHESUS); OR, TO WHAT CHURCH DO THE FOLLOWERS OF PRIEST GEORGIY KOCHETKOV BELONG?
Priest Georgiy Kochetkov is the leader of a heretical movement within the Russian Orthodox Church. His activities have lead to a considerable disturbance among the Orthodox, and his community is in conflict with the rest of the Orthodox community in Russia. Even more alarming is that it he is not content to confine his activity to Russia, but is attempting to spread it in other countries among people new to the Church, who do not know better. Biblical scholar and hieromonk of Sretensky Monastery Fr. Job (Gumerov) explains why Fr. Georgiy Kochetkov’s teachings are heretical in the extreme.
The interior of the 100-year-old stone church on Camp Meade Road has been painted many times, always pure white. But since July, many new colors have been appearing on the walls. Seraphim O’Keefe, an iconographer, has been filling the church with images of holy men and women from across the centuries.
It’s cold. Thorny flakes of snow strike his face amidst the swirling snowstorm. Where is the earth, where the sky? Nothing but whiteness and indifference, nothing but loneliness and anguish, just like the life of Slavka, otherwise known as “the Czech”. He has nowhere to go; no one is waiting for him, anywhere. Why is he living? Why was he born? He tries to forget, raising his head to the empty sky to forget all that is bitter and wearying, to spill out his pain.
That night, about 110 Catholics joined the Orthodox faith. The next day I was also able to baptize about 74 people from 10 Pakistani families. I asked people why they were so interested in my sermon, and they said that they were touched that I, as an Indian, came to them to preach Orthodox Christianity to them, and that I did not look at them as some kind of bad people, I did not judge the way they looked—these Pakistanis are poor, simple peasants.
During my conversion to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, I had myriad experiences that sat in stark contrast to the nondenominational, Protestant faith I had carried since childhood. One of the most challenging things to grasp was the apparent prominence of the Virgin Mary in the Church.
It was all a very homey atmosphere. The head cowboy, for example, said, “We have with us today John and Mary. They are on their honeymoon trip. Let’s give them a warm welcome! Let’s be glad for them, that they are so beautiful and young, have had their wedding and are now travelling around our country. John and Mary, come on up!” This young couple comes forward and everyone shouts, “John and Mary, hello! All the best to you!” This was touching, what can I say…
ARCHIMANDRTIE TIKHON (SHEVKUNOV): “SEEING YOUNG CHINESE CHRISTIAN SEEKERS IS THE MOST ASTOUNDING EXPERIENCE I’VE HAD IN A LONG TIME.”
It all began when some Chinese people calling themselves Christians expressed the desire to make my acquaintance after one of them read my book, Everyday Saints in English. To tell you the truth, these new acquaintances of mine couldn’t really say what confession they are in—they just read the Gospels, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, pray to Him, and firmly and stubbornly consider themselves Christians. Some of them are not baptized at all, others were baptized by Protestants, yet others by Catholics…
“EACH OF US MUST BECOME AN APOSTLE.” A TALK WITH ARCHIMANDRITE THEOLOGOS (CHRYSANTAKOPOULOS), A MISSIONARY TO THE CONGO
A missionary should first of all witness the good tidings of the gospel as it has been preserved by the Orthodox Church over the centuries—without change, without additions, without omissions. We have to look at our brothers (and we are all brothers, children of the one God, be we baptized or not) as at an icon, the image of God. We must respect the traditions by which people live, apply what is best of them. If tradition contradicts the spirit of Christianity, we have to explain this to people with love, without offending them.
Jack Kerouac, John Lennon, Bob Marley and to a lesser extent, Phil Lynott of the Irish Rock group Thin Lizzy, have all been considered as liberal icons by more than a few who consider themselves left-of-center both politically and socially.
The Metropolis of Chicago, one of the Greek Orthodox managing bodies in the United States, granted the small community of Orthodox Christians in the heart of Missouri parish status in 2002. The church was named St. Luke’s the Evangelist Greek Orthodox Church. And from day one, St. Luke’s has been growing, but it has never been just Greek. “I consider it my home now,” Ina Cernusca said. Cernusca and her family immigrated to Columbia from Romania in 2001, and have been a part of St. Luke’s since it was established.
The Church is a unity of charismas (a variety of orders and ministries) all of them existing simultaneously and in intimate interdependence. This unity of orders and the clergy-laity distinction marks the early Church in a decisive way. In this context, the head of this community (bishop) did not have authority merely intrinsic in his office alone, but in everything he said and did was in constant need of the presence and so to say the approbation of the other orders in the Church.
On November 19, 2009, priest Daniel Sisoyev was killed. He was a missionary, a preacher, and a talented orator, whose word both spoken and written roused people from their spiritual torpor and led them to Christ. Fr. Daniel’s followers speak different languages, live in various countries, and have varying experience in preaching, but they are all united by one thing—they know that it is their duty to spread to as many people as possible the truth of these words: “there is no salvation outside the Church”.
When we become truly conscious of the gifts of God, we no longer have the time to ask for anything. We keep going and saying Thank You….Thank You…Thank You…Thank You… We see a person…Thank You…We see a flower…Thank You…We see a glass of milk…Thank You…Thank You….for everything! And such a joy enters into our life that many, even of those that are close to us, cannot understand what’s all this. When I lived in England sometimes people asked: What’s up? Why are you so happy”? “Because I am alive and I see you…Good day to you”!
For those who aren’t aware, Catholic Lane is a well-maintained Roman Catholic news and resource site that I have had the pleasure of contributing to from time to time (by the gracious invitation of their staff). While there are (from an Orthodox perspective) a great number of differences between our two churches — and we are not in full communion, nor really anywhere close to it — there are still many ways in which our two worlds overlap and our distinctives and theological viewpoints merge.
The following conversation with Schema-Archimandrite Gabriel (Bunge), the renowned patristics scholar from the Skete of the Holy Cross in Switzerland, was held during his visit to Moscow in early November 2012
Every year, the Novosibirsk floating church, with priests and doctors on board, visits villages 60 miles out from the banks of the Ob River. The idea of sending a floating church down the Ob came from the Rev. Alexander Novopashin, dean of the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky. The first time the boat set off on a missionary trip was in 1996. A year before this, priests had travelled through Novosibirsk Region on the Memorial Train, which was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of V-E Day.
In America, people speak openly and eagerly about religion. This is a special characteristic of the American people. That doesn’t necessarily mean serious, profound discussions of matters of faith. People walking to the grocery store, or taking a walk, are genuinely interested in what church their friends go, what their faith is about, which religion they confess, etc. The overwhelming majority of Americans consider themselves religious, even if they don’t attend church. This allows us to talk to them freely about our Orthodox Faith.
Since his school years, Tokashi has been practicing various kinds of martial arts. In the process he started to gradually realize that the knowledge of fighting techniques and methods alone could not satisfy his desire to become really strong. This made him wonder where the strength comes from and who grants it as he felt it is not just the result of training and exercise.
Redemption is not always found where you might expect it. For Christopher Yuan, a former drug dealer who had been living the promiscuous homosexual lifestyle, the new beginning he so desperately needed was found in one of the unlikeliest places on earth: a prison trashcan.
By passport he is George. His baptized name is Vasily. He often signs his correspondence using names pen names Georgy Georgiyevitch and Alexander after his favorite Russian Emperor Alexander the Third. A former American programmer, now a toiler of the Pochayev Laura Monastery found his spiritual Motherland in Russia. In interview to Vitaly and Valentina Trubetskoy he told a lot of unexpected troubles he met in Russia.
September 2 of this year marks thirty years since the repose of a righteous man of our time, Hieromonk Seraphim Rose. Father Seraphim’s contribution to the spread and deepening of Orthodoxy not only in America, but throughout the world cannot be overstated. A gifted man from birth, he came to his deep faith in Christ and firm belief in the truth of Orthodoxy through intense struggles of soul and mind—struggles so painfully familiar to people of our age that we cannot but acknowledge the veracity of the conclusions he unwaveringly drew from them. His life edifies even in its imperfection, for truly he was “one of us”: For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:8).
If that consensus continued unbroken over the centuries, then that seems to be the Holy Spirit’s leading. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). It’s not always easy to discern a clear consensus, but there’s no problem here. For 20 centuries, the Orthodox Church has not ordained women priests. That doesn’t mean there weren’t women preachers, though.
Occasionally, friends ask about our conversion because they themselves are contemplating going away from the Church. They do not understand why someone would deliberately change their faith or join an Orthodox congregation. “Look at all the problems,” they say. In this case, our answer is to testify to the truth of Orthodoxy and to the splendor of Orthodox faith and worship. This is the Church of Christ. This is where we, and they, belong.
Above all else in life we must be grateful. Pushkin once wrote to Zhukovsky: call me crazy, call me eccentric, but just don’t ever call me ungrateful.” We essentially lose what we have when we forget to be grateful for it… His harmony is ever full of our faith’s core values: warmth and compassion, for which we must ever strive with dedicated astonishment.
PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS FIND HOPE IN EASTER AND WOMEN IN BETHLEHEM OFFER THEIR TRADITIONAL EASTER COOKIE (MA’MOUL) RECIPIE
…Indeed, Easter celebrations in Palestine in general and in Bethlehem and Jerusalem in particular have a special vigor. From Palm Sunday until Easter Day sounds of church bells, drums, boys and girls scouts performing in the streets, and the chanting of hymns create a magical atmosphere that expresses a sense of spirituality that is deeply rooted in a community that is literally thousands of years old. According to Aida, ” Jesus was Palestinian. He is one of us. As the followers of Jesus we are the first Christian community and we have lived for centuries in the same towns and villages where he lived.”
Christians often celebrate Easter on different Sundays, as is the case again this year, because of differences in how the date is determined by the Eastern and Western churches. Whether it be April 8 (West) or April 15 (East), there’s agreement that lamb is one of the most symbolic dishes you can place on the table at Easter.
This rule of fasting, to be sure, is not intended to be a “straight-jacket” for Orthodox believers, nor a source of pharisaical pride for anyone who keeps the letter of the Church’s law. It is rather the rule, the standard, against which each is to measure his own practice, and towards which one must always strive, according to one’s strength and circumstances.
In January, 2012, an almost three-year-long effort came to a successful conclusion. Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy’s The Law of God was translated into the Thai language. This was done by Priest Danai (Daniel) Vanna, the first Thai Orthodox priest, a graduate of St Petersburg Theological Seminary; Mrs Naparta Aphichataphong, former official translator of English for the Parliament of Thailand, now studying at SPTS; and Mr Yingsak Samsen, a specialist in the Russian language.
Alfred Einstein stated: “Dostoevsky gives me more than any other thinker.” Nicholas Berdyaev was professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow until he was expelled by the Communist regime in 1922. Berdyaev testified that Dostoevsky “stirred and lifted up my soul more than any other writer or philosopher has done…when I turned to Jesus Christ for the first time.
On February 9, 1881, Feodor Dostoevsky parted this world as his family read to him the Gospel parable of the prodigal son. This article from Orthodox America from the 100th anniversary year of Doestoevsky’s death commemorates the great writer, and shows his significance to the Orthodox Church.
“People ask me, ‘How often should we go to church? Can we go once a week, or even once a month?’ I answer them, ‘You can stop going altogether. Just like that! Don’t go at all. Live your life without the Church, die, and you’ll go to hell. Then you’ll find yourself there, next to Hitler. You’ll be forever next to him. But just think about it: eternally! In hell. With Hitler.’”
Fr Job, we sometimes publish your answers to “Questions to a Priest” posted on pravoslavie.ru. You manage to find simple and persuasive answers to difficult and ticklish questions which are within the grasp of people who don’t delve very deeply into religious matters. How are you able to find just the right words, what literature do you refer to, what experiences do you draw from?
The origin of what today is the Diocese of Mexico of the Orthodox Church in America were planted in the early 20th century, curiously through the Mexican National Catholic Church, distinct from the nation’s Roman Catholic Church. It was during the Revolution that antagonisms against the Roman Catholic Church were aroused by its historic association with the Spanish colonialists.
A Christian lives in two dimensions—time and eternity. May God grant us in this new year to be worthy citizens of our Fatherland, both earthly and heavenly. No matter what trials await us on earth, if we are faithful to the Lord, He will once again prepare heavenly consolations for each of us on the feast of the Nativity of Christ.
From its founding more than 150 years ago, through its seizure by the government of Guatemala and its return to a descendant of the founder, Orthodox Christian nun Madre Inés Ayau García, in the 1990s, the story of “The Hogar” and its impact on the life of children and adults involves one miracle after another.
Only standing upon the above-mentioned axioms is it possible, without noticing the entire absurdity of such a combination, to consider ourselves believing Christians and yet suppose that we know better what the Virgin Mary did and didn’t do than the Christians of the second century, than Sts. Herman and Tarasius of Constantinople, St. Gregory Palamas, and others who wrote about these events as facts; and finally, better than the Church herself, which instituted this feast.
My decision did not come quickly just in a vacuum. The Russian Orthodox Church has also shown mercy in words and in deeds. I want to belong to the Church where I can see love and mercy. In the moral and theological views, the Russian Orthodox Church is seriously Christian, when the Western Churches are quite secular.
We are all sinners when we start off, and I know that I have remained so but I’m not about to walk away for that reason, however uncomfortable the struggle may seem at times, and to anybody who has spent some time teetering on the edge of Orthodoxy but hasn’t made the leap, and who has survived reading this far without becoming bored or too affronted to continue, I urge you to consider the reasons for your own inertia and ask yourself whether they justify your continued separation.
It is only when we have a heart transfigured by God’s power, when we live a truly Christian life and bear its witness in the world, that we can then see what the world truly needs—and not simply what it thinks it needs, or what it wants. It is precisely in seeing the difference between the true life we live as Christians, and the life of the world, that we can point at this dimension or that like wise doctors and say ‘Aha! It is that which must be cured, if my patient is to be well!’ We see this through our lives, and the way our lives interact with those of the world.
Things being as they are, it would seem that there is no basis to hope for any sort of growth of Christianity among the inhabitants of Pakistan. But, in fact, there is now a functional Orthodox mission in Pakistan, headed by a Pakistani priest, and already consisting of about five-hundred newly-converted Pakistanis.
In literally a few weeks, a group of Orthodox Christians established a parish in the Russian Orthodox tradition. This group included not only Russians but dyed-in-the-wool Americans. Today St Seraphim Parish also boasts Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians and other Orthodox Christians.
The first contacts, which became the basis of the friendship between our Churches, go back to antiquity, in the tenth–eleventh centuries, when the recluse Procopius, like St. Sergius of Radonezh, founded a monastery in the forest wilderness not far from the Sázava river, which later became a large, famous monastery.
In the mid 1980’s, one Italian young man, after a long search, found his path to God in Orthodoxy. He wanted to become a priest and went to Mt. Athos to Elder Paisios to ask what Orthodox country he should serve in. The answer he received was, “Stay in Italy. Soon, as if by a wave of the sea, the country will be covered by Orthodoxy. Divine services will take place in every city. You will be needed in your homeland.”
The man in the next seat recently asked the priest a question he has heard many times: “What is Orthodox Christianity, anyway?” Ironically, Finley was — at that moment — writing some comments about a contest in which participants prepared a 30-second “elevator speech” response to strangers who asked that very question.
The Livonia woman, who was raised a Missionary Baptist and converted to Lutheranism, visited an Orthodox Christian Church one day several years ago and watched as white worshippers kissed the image of a dark-skinned man. It was the feast day of St. Moses the Black and the congregation had lined up to venerate his icon.
(From Year of the Lord.) It all seems to me that everyone is only thinking about apples. The Lord is also here with all of us, and He is also thinking about apples; after all, we’ve brought them to Him—look, Lord, how good they are! And He looks at them and says to all, “Well, good, and eat them to your health, children!” And they will be eating completely different apples—not store-bought, but church apples, holy ones. This is the very Transfiguration.
On the 26th of March, on the banks of the River Ubangi, I performed the third group Baptism at Impfondo. Among the catechumens, twenty-seven were prepared, of whom the twelve were little children. The seventeen were Bandu, of which the ten were Pygmies—four men and six women.
Maybe that’s the crux of it, when it comes to Klaus Kenneth. Mystics will say he found God, psychologists will say he found closure, but the story’s much the same whichever way you want to tell it: the story of a man who was raised without love, coldly and abusively – who “lived in Hell,” as he puts it – wandered for years trying to find inner peace, and finally found it.
A Christian must fight for freedom for everyone in this world, yet at the same time we must be very strict with our own tradition. This is a tight-rope, and this is what it means to be a Christian. The Moslem-Arab way, the “moderate middle,” is to be always wise and moderate, but we Orthodox can never be proud or sure of our path, because we believe that everything that is done on earth is done through the medium of sinful people.
So, whether he is worthy or unworthy, the priest’s work depends on Grace, not on anything else. So don’t rush to judge him, because you’re making an enormous mistake. And here I must get back to a previous question – you should not judge anyone, not even some terrible murderer – let alone a priest!
I grew up in Australia and am an English teacher myself, so I’ve thought quite a lot about Church translation. If you take, for example, the phrase, “The Lord is with us,” in Greek it is O Theos Methimon. It resonates with such grandeur that you feel as if you are offering something beautiful to God, that this language is worthy of the Lord.
“ORTHODOXY, IN ITS ENDURANCE AND FAITHFULNESS TO ITS ROOTS, WILL ALWAYS MANIFEST A CERTAIN SPIRITUAL NOVELTY.”
Orthodoxy is not the Russian Orthodox of which St. Seraphim of Sarov spoke as of a retaining wall, but is an entity in and of itself, something that is not necessarily for everyone, but it would be good, living this Orthodoxy, to share it. These treasures will not be taken away from you if you display them, in word, and in deed, and in thought, no?
The greatest concentration of Ukrainian Orthodox is in the small town of Fram, in Itapua. With amazing energy and drive they have made an agricultural paradise out of this piece of jungle. Weaving their Ukrainian culture and traditions with their Orthodox Faith, they demonstrate order and discipline, and have become an exemplary town throughout Paraguay.
The fact is, the historical reality of Christ’s Church remains undivided and unchanging, waiting with quiet patience for those who would return to Her for rest, stability, the fullness of Truth and joy. How long will those who are thirsty for this continue to visit empty wells, and remain restless and unsatisfied?
Missionary work in this area is always dangerous. We hope in God’s grace and the protection of the Mother of God. I am often in hot spots of Eastern Congo; we experience all those events, and are consoled and thank God that we have endured these trials. We have Christians there, missionary centers and parishes, which must not be abandoned.
As a vicar bishop, I cannot avoid dealing with matters involving youth: to hold divine services and participate in Orthodox youth conferences, give lectures and lead meetings and spiritual discussions. These are all the most common types of missionary events in our diocese.
One of the most important questions that Orthodox mission faces at the beginning of the 21st century is that of evangelism and proselytism and the difference between them. Some have said that there is no difference between them. If people talk about the need for evangelism, they meet with the response, “The Orthodox Church does not proselytise”, as if evangelism and proselytism were the same thing..
Obviously, I made new friends in the seminary. I see them all as the best people on the planet—they are all talented, noble, good, understanding, sympathetic, and always eager to help. Their remarkable qualities are innumerable. Now as I am nearing the end of my studies, I become more and more aware of how sorely I will miss them after graduation. But it is necessary to be separated now, in order to be together again in the future life.
Fr. John eagerly explained. “We know three theologians in the Church. The first is St. John the Theologian, the apostle and beloved disciple of the Savior. The second is St. Gregory the Theologian. The third is St. Symeon the New Theologian. These are the only ones the Church has named “Theologian” over its entire two thousand years of existence. You, then, are the fourth?”
Expectation and presentiment of joy fixes everyone’s limbs, and only their eyes look toward the holy doors. Now, quiet singing can be heard from the altar, and as if with an unbelievable effort, the curtain is pulled aside, the holy doors open, and a flood of light and sound streams out of the altar into the church, from the church into the nocturnal darkness, then spreads out commandingly over all the earth. Fr. Archimandrite and clergy proceed from the altar in gleaming festal garments that multiply the Paschal rays, and following the marked path, go forth from the church.
ARCHBISHOP MARK OF BERLIN AND GREAT BRITAIN SPEAKS WITH THE STUDENTS OF SRETENSKY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
When I enrolled in university, I met some Russian emigre youth my first year, wishing to deepen and broaden my knowledge of Russian and get more practice. It happened that I would attend church with them: on Saturday evenings, Sunday mornings, on holidays… I went for many years, not having been Orthodox yet. So the impulse to accept Orthodoxy arose in me, but I was afraid of the reaction of my relatives, and so I put off that decision. But at age twenty I finally became Orthodox. Some twelve years later I was tonsured a monk.
Heal me, Lord! Seal the flow of impurity, sin and vice. Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Ps. 50:10). Because of my deeds I deserve eternal torments, but the Lord secretly nourishes a hope in my soul for His mercy. Otherwise, it would be beyond my strength for me to live.
Of course our loved ones’ passing over to the next life is a sad event; but it is by no means a reason for despair. Death is not only our grief over the person leaving us. It is also a great solemnity for a Christian—passage into eternal life! We must help him in any way we can to prepare for this most important event.
Forty–five years after he signed the visas, Sugihara was asked why he did it. He liked to give two reasons: “They were human beings and they needed help,” he said. The other reason he gave and he was always fond of saying it, “I may have to disobey my government but I can’t disobey God.” He told the journalist interviewing him that he was an Orthodox Christian.
Repentance is a freely-willed, internally cultivated process of contrition and sorrow for having distanced ourselves from God through sin. True repentance has nothing to do with intolerable pain, excessive sorrow and relentless guilty feelings. That would not be sincere repentance, but a secret egotism, a feeling of our “ego” being trampled on; an anger that is directed at our self, which then wreaks revenge because it is exposing itself and is put to shame—a thing that it cannot tolerate.
They found me, and they knocked on my door, asking me to receive them. I sent two priests to go and meet them so that we could determine who they are and if their request is serious and valid. I was stunned. It was a “group” of more than 500.000 people, with 338 churches and chapels, most of whom were natives of Guatemala – and in fact of the ancient race of Mayans!
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that so many have suffered from their activities in the occult and that there are so many documented facts relating to the danger of occultism, a multitude of people continue to hold on to the myth that the occult is inoffensive charlatanism or an innocent pastime or even a positive spiritual quest. It is none of the three. The opinion that besides the “dangerous” form there exists a “benign” form of occultism is also false. Some hope that with proper precaution one can derive some benefit from the occult.
I was a Yazid. As all Yazidi, I went as a child with my relatives to the Orthodox church; we had icons at home, before which we placed candles on Sundays and feast days—that is, it was considered normal to worship the sun and go to church at the same time. But I was very drawn to Christ. When I heard about Him on television, or when someone would tell me about Him, I would always listen with great curiosity. In 2002, my family and I moved to Moscow. Here, someone gave me a copy of the New Testament. That is where it all began…
So you think that the existence of suffering proves that there is no God. But can I ask a question? How would you eliminate suffering? What would a world without suffering look like? You have free rein—make it any way you like.
In the Russian north, there is an amazing union of past and present, modernity and history, man and nature. There is such a light and tender harmony of water, air, the sunrise-sunset skies of the white nights, and the stark power of uninhabited space and snowy winters. But the main thing about the north for a Russian is that it is the most Russian place…
He was particularly able to win people’s hearts, and the patients always remembered him. He was ever serious, and at the same time amiable and affectionate, calm and satisfied with everything, always inwardly joyful. He attracted people, and they would become attached to him. Patients of all categories loved him—political and criminal, young and old.
In short, in the West they really have not lost the taste for all authentic, Christian, that the Eastern tradition has preserved. But, alas, it changes nothing in real life of people and society on the whole. The interest in Orthodoxy is more cultural. And those wretched people like me who have a spiritual interest in Orthodoxy, are left in the minority. We are like weirdos; we are seldom understood.
The Star of Bethlehem has been seen by many Christians as a miraculous symbol of the birth of Jesus, but there are also those who see it as an actual astronomical event—a nova, comet or a special conjunction that occurred at the time of the foretold birth. A conclusion about such an event has yet to be reached by most astronomers.
It doesn’t take much for a parent to understand that children don’t hear very well. It may take me telling the children three times (very Orthodox ?) that their shoes belong in the shoe basket before they understand what to do with their footwear. For a child, going to a church where hearing is the only sense they can use in worship is flat out boring.
I was born a Moslem. I was orphaned in childhood, and grew up with my brothers. Their personalities were the opposite of mine. They liked to be with people while I was a solitary, introverted person. Although I did not know the Lord Christ, when I heard the word of God, shivers went up my spine. I sought Him very hard. Even as a child I wanted to know where the truth is, and I sought the truth, but did not know where to find it.
Every Christian mother considers it one of her primary obligations to teach her child prayer as soon as his consciousness awakens — prayer that is simple and easy for him to understand. His soul must be accustomed to the warm and fervent experience of prayer at home, by his cradle, for his neighbors, his family. The child’s evening prayer calms and softens his soul, he experiences the sweetness of prayer with his little heart and catches the first scent of sacred feelings.
We continued our conversation, and I discussed, in brief, the Faith and our Church and finally said that we had come to seek his permission to bring this religion to his village through Fr. Zachariah, who would return later. But not only did we want to bring this to the people in his village, we wanted him to consider becoming Christian. Immediately and without hesitation he replied, “Of course. I can feel that what you have is good. Yes, my answer is yes.”
Russia’s greatest contribution to the world over time is not oil or gas or arms. ”Rather it’s been the successive generations of Russian writers capable of examining life’s emotional and intellectual restlessness, its complexity and intensity.
Father Stephen Georgeson Hatherley was such a man with a mission. He was an Englishman who converted to Orthodoxy in the late 19th century when it was difficult to do so. Such a move invited scorn and persecution from the prevailing intolerance of the establishment.
Currently the Church of England is racked by division concerning the ordination of homosexual clergy and female bishops. There are now Anglicans who have already left or who are planning to leave the Church of England because they cannot square such ‘modernisation’ with their consciences.
In an age where unity is so much sought after, it is thus our task to present to the reader some little part of the unity of that Christian Commonwealth, as it can be seen in the history of Anglo-Saxon England, most particularly at its beginning and at its ending. This we do with the wish that one day this former Commonwealth will be spiritually drawn together once more.
In 1879, the Convocation of the Church of Russia determined that the Western Liturgy could be used by Orthodox people. In 1904, upon a submission made by Archbishop Tikhon (later Patriarch of Moscow, Martyred by the communists and canonised as Saint Tikhon) the Convocation set up a Commission to investigate the adaption of the services of the Book of Common Prayer for use by Orthodox people. In 1907 it received and approved the Commission report.
Secondly, I remember when we first discovered the Orthodox Church, before we were even in, and all six of my kids were at home, we’d go on family vacations—we’d drive, maybe on a two-lane highway, through several small towns, and then we’d get back on the freeway. We’d pull through a town and my kids would say, “Dad, there’s the Catholic church, there’s the Lutheran church, there’s the Methodist church, the Baptist, where on earth is the Orthodox church?” And I’d have to say, “Kids, we’re just starting out on the job of evangelizing here in America.”
A convert priest says that men are drawn to the dangerous element of Orthodoxy, which involves “the self-denial of a warrior, the terrifying risk of loving one’s enemies, the unknown frontiers to which a commitment to humility might call us. Lose any of those dangerous qualities and we become the ‘JoAnn Fabric Store’ of churches: nice colors and a very subdued clientele.”
As Orthodox Christians, we conform ourselves to the Church’s apostolic understanding that man is a creature of time and space who sets about ‘redeeming the time’ (Eph. 5:16) and who is created to ‘fill and subdue the earth’ (Gen. 1:28). Thus, our salvation is not momentary but eternal. We do not simply think about Christ, nor does He simply ‘do’ something to us. We choose to desire to pursue Him; therefore we ‘deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him’ (Matthew 16:24).
A Conversation with Sergei Fomin, keeper of the Icon of the Theotokos, ”The Softening of Evil Hearts”
This icon is the contemporary work of Sofrino craftsmen. It is an ordinary lithograph. It had been in the apartment of Muscovite Margarita Vorobyova, where it began to gush myrrh. This happened in 1998, after it had been placed on the relics of the blessed Matrona of Moscow, during her glorification on the 2nd of May. After some time, the icon was miraculously transformed, and now many who have seen it cannot tell that it is a lithograph and not an icon painted long ago.
First of all, Fr. Seraphim spoke of the monastery with enormous, inexpressible love, as of a most great treasure: “You cannot even imagine what a monastery is! It is a… pearl, a wondrous diamond in our world! You will only appreciate and understand this later.” Then he told me about the main problem with monasticism these days: “The trouble with our monasteries today is that people come to them with a weak will.” Only now do I have an increasingly greater understanding of how deep Fr. Seraphim’s remark was.
The Central Coast of Australia, with its lakes and ocean beaches, is the nearest recreational area for the four million people living in Sydney. Over the last twenty years, with improvements in roads and public transportation, many people have decided to move from Sydney to this area to be closer to the sea, where the cost of living is lower. Over 300,000 people now live there, many of whom are Russians. The closest Russian Orthodox church being over an hour away, ten years ago, a small group of people in the Gosford area decided to establish their own church. The Diocese supported this endeavor and appointed an Australian priest to the parish, Fr James Carles. Over this decade, many changes have taken place.
Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh passed away exactly seven years ago August 4, 2003. He founded a unique Russian Orthodox diocese in Great Britain and united not only Russian natives, but thousands of English believers. Even Prince Charles came to his church services. The number of parishioners is still growing as new Russian immigrants are joining them.
A talk with Nicholas Zakharov, warden of the Vladimir Mother of God community in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Costa Rica is probably the most peaceful country in Latin America. It has everything a person could dream of. Only an Orthodox church is needed to make a Russian completely satisfied there. In the mid 1980’s, there were practically none of our countrymen there.
When the Ottomans of Asia Minor heard of the Greek insurrection, there was a fierce backlash and Trebizond’s governor, Hesref Pasha, gathered the city’s professed Christians into the Ottoman citadel, the Leontokastro, intending to execute them. They were saved only through the efforts of the Ottoman Muslim military commander, Pasha Satir Zade, who warded off the unjust slaughter. Although the news of the Peloponnese revolt was welcomed in the crypto-Christian community, the initial joy was overshadowed by the death of the patriarch, and Kromni’s crypto-Christians worked quickly to counter attempts to fanaticize Kromni’s Muslim neighbors against the professed Christians.
There was also, for us, the humorous and long-standing belief of the Turkish Muslims in the surrounding areas that the air of Kromni was very good because no one ever died there! This was because the crypto-Christians held their funerals after dark in their house chapels. In the countryside, people had (and still have) the legal right to bury the dead on their own property, so in Kromni, the crypto-Christians were buried with Orthodox rites in their own gardens. Muslim outsiders never saw the burial services.
Although some Greeks remained openly Christian, burdensome taxes and discrimination caused many to convert to Islam and their children today are Turkish Muslims. Another large group said, “No, we will keep our religion, but how will we survive? How can we save our lives and the honor of our daughters?” In the end, they became secret Christians. Although denying Christ, even outwardly, is a sin for a Christian, during these times when many civic leaders, the educated, and wealthy turned to Islam, how could illiterate and primitive mountain people be held accountable? In many cases the Eastern Christian Church accepted the solution of crypto-Christianity so as to withstand the waves of voluntary and compulsory Islamization that were leaving churches empty of believers.
The history of the Christian world is the history of dramatic interrelationships between God and His new people. The Lord chose and raised up a hitherto unknown people who were sitting in historical darkness. The Lord gave them Himself, and it was good for them, as long as He was their main wealth.
Today South Ossetia is a fertile field for pastoral work. Most of the people who live there consider themselves Orthodox, and feel linked with Russia not just politically, but more importantly, spiritually. The gap which formed in Church life under the soviet regime is now disappearing. People are going to church, and there is a great thirst for the word of God. The holy fathers say that the most important conditions for salvation are memory of death and fear of God—and that is what people who live there have.
A true artist should transform the world, inspire it, uplift man above his animal nature, raise his thoughts to heaven, and reveal to him the image of God that is within himself. Bad art “animalizes” the viewer, arouses his instincts, and finally lowers his human dignity.
An interview with His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada
In early December of 2009, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah of All America and Canada (Orthodox Church of America) visited Russia to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the OCA’s representation in Moscow. Correspondent Miguel Palacio took the opportunity to talk with Metropolitan Jonah about the OCA’s presence in Latin America.
Father Daniel Sysoev carried out his missionary activity among Moslems. His Evangelical preaching was very successful: He converted and baptized many people; he received death-threats in response. His answer to such threats was to preach Christ with still greater zeal.
ON THE DEATH OF MY HUSBAND: THE MATUSHKA OF THE MARTYRED PRIEST DANIEL SPEAKS AND REVEALS THAT A PROPHECY HAS BEEN FULFILLED
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for your support and prayers. This is the pain which cannot be expressed in words. This is the pain experienced by those who stood at the Cross of the Saviour. This is the joy which cannot be expressed in words, this is the joy experienced by those who came to the empty Tomb.
New from Sretensky Monastery, a classic of Christian apologetics by Professor Alexei I. Osipov: The Search for Truth on the Path of Reason, is now available in English. Alexei Ilych Osipov of the Moscow Theological Academy is possibly the most widely known professor of Theology in Russia today.
SAINT HILARION (TROITSKY). THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD CONFERENCE OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES
This brilliant defense of traditional Orthodox ecclesiology by the Holy New-Martyr Archbishop Hilarion — who received a martyr’s crown on December 15th, 1929 —, does not seem to be well known, probably owing to its limited publication decades ago by a small monastery press in Canada.
At present, the spiritual fire of the people is not nearly as bright and intense as it was in the beginning of the 1990’s. This is because many people, having already entered the Church, have understood that the path which has opened up for them is not so simple and easy. To walk that path, one must cultivate oneself spiritually; but this is a constant task: morning and evening prayers, prayers throughout the day, confession, participation in the services, seeing one’s mistakes and struggling to correct them.
We sincerely love Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. We have Byzantine crosses on our cupolas, but everything else is Russian: the architecture, the icons, and the frescos. People, when they see the Russian cupolas, understand right away that there is an Orthodox church before them. Our parish keeps to Russian traditions in the services, keeps to the Julian calendar; and the nuns wear the Russian monastic habit.
Jakarta, Indonesia- Metropolitan Hilarion (Kapral) of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand arrived in Indonesia today and served a liturgy in Jakarta were he ordained 2 Indonesians deacons to the Priesthood. During the course of his visit to Indonesia His Eminence will ordain 4 priests and 1 deacon. In the ROCOR mission of Indonesia there are already over 2500 Indonesian Orthodox parishioners. The Dean of the Indonesian Orthodox mission Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro held a press-conference with www.pravoslavie.ru to describe the difficult situation in the rapidly expanding Orthodox mission in Indonesia.
FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REBIRTH OF MONASTIC LIFE IN SRETENSKY MONASTERY. THE EXPERIENCE OF INNER DISCIPLINE
My mama couldn’t accept it at first. But when she saw where I live and work, and had the chance to talk to people here, she told me, “You know, son, you can stay here as long as you need to.” When I asked how she came to that decision, she answered, “All the young men here actually radiate love, and between you are the kind of relationships which I have always wanted to create in our family. We’ve achieved it in our family to a certain extent, but the ideal I’ve seen only here with you all.”
FIFTEENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE REBIRTH OF MONASTIC LIFE IN SRETENSKY MONASTERY. HIEROMONK LUKE: “KNOWLEDGE IS A FIRM FOUNDATION ON WHICH TO BUILD THE SALVATION OF THE SOUL.”
I am grateful to the Lord, to the Mother of God and to Batiushka Tikhon that they gave me such joy and happiness—the chance to study. Knowledge is a firm foundation to use in building the salvation of one’s soul. Of course, such spiritual building is based on firm faith and fulfillment of the Gospel commandments. For us, the path of ascension to God is traveled under the guidance of the holy fathers. They teach us how to correctly fulfill the Gospel commandments.
Father Alexy Aedo, Chilean native and archpriest with the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, is the pastor in Chile of two Orthodox communities — that of St Silouan of Mount Athos in the city of Conception, and that of St Nectarios of Aegina in the city of Santiago.
“How should I tell the priest about my sins? Is a feeling of repentance indispensable during confession? After confession, should one expect a feeling of spiritual relief, or lightness of soul? These beginners’ questions often remain troublesome even for very experienced parishioners.
On Wednesday July 2, I had an online interview with Patrick Barnes and Patrick Phillips to discuss their their views on the Church. Since my two guests were both named Patrick, after their opening statements Patrick Barnes is referred to below as Barnes, while Patrick Phillips is referred to as PP.
I was immediately attracted to the quality of the stillness that I found in that small room. That has been something that I have consistently valued in the Orthodox Church ever since. It is a quality which is difficult to talk about, but it happens when one goes into a space which is so obviously God-filled.
WESTERN EUROPEANS IN SEARCH OF TRUTH THE NATIVITY OF THE MOTHER OF GOD CONVENT, ASTEN, THE NETHERLANDS
The founder and Abbess of this small community is Mother Maria, who was born in Den Hague. Mother Maria is an edifying example of one who sought and found, asked, and received. The visible result is this convent.
PHOTO-REPORT OF THE ARCHPASTORAL VISIT OF ARCHBISHOP HILARION TO THE PARISHES OF THE ORTHODOX MISSION IN INDONESIA
The aim of the visit of His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion to the parishes of the Orthodox Mission in Indonesia was to lend support to the clergymen and laypersons who do missionary work throughout the parishes of the Orthodox Mission in Indonesia, to meet with local authorities on the status of Orthodox Christians in this country and to strengthen the Mission through the ordination of worthy candidates to the priesthood. Archbishop Hilarion was joined by His Grace Bishop Mark of Egoriev and Archimandrite Daniel (Byantoro) and their fellow travelers.
It takes real courage to become a Christian in India — and it takes courage to remain Christian. Converts are often rejected by family and friends, but they know that to be rejected for love of Christ is cause for rejoicing. One man told me that, when he converted and his home became a center of Christian worship, the villagers threatened him and his family with bodily harm. He remained firm, however, and now years later many in his village are Orthodox. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. And even when it does, acceptance and peace come gradually and often with pain.
In discussing what it means to bear witness to our Faith, we should emphasize that, in all situations, we must act and speak with love. Christ told His disciples: By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35). We have the fullness of Truth, yes, but this Truth must be spoken and given in love, lest it be corrupted in the very manner in which it is presented. People will look for God in us, and if they see no love there, they will not recognize the presence of God, even if we know all the Orthodox dogmas and can recite Scripture verses and the Nicene Creed by heart.
The time of the martyrs has gone, for the moment, now is the time of the confessors. We need the common witness of both St John of Shanghai and St Luke of Simferopol, of St Jonah of Manchuria and St Sebastian of Karaganda, of Abbess Rufina (of Harbin) and the Elder John (Krestiankin), and all the saints and righteous of both sides. The saints unite us; people of this world disunite us. In the face of the threats of the contemporary, post-Christian world, we Orthodox Christians must stand together, sturdy spiritual warriors.
INTERVIEW WITH FR. DAMASCENE (CHRISTENSEN), FROM THE MONASTERY OF ST. HERMAN OF ALASKA IN PLATINA, CALIFORNIA
On Wednesday, the fourth day of the annual Nativity readings began the conference section dedicated to the «Orthodox understanding of creation of the world». One of the speakers was an Orthodox hieromonk, Fr. Damascene (Christensen), an American from the Monastery of St. Herman of Alaska in Platina, California, which belongs to the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America. This monastery is well known in Russia as the home of Fr. Seraphim Rose, its founder, and Fr. Damascene is a member of the Brotherhood from the time of Fr. Seraphim’s repose. He is the author Fr. Seraphim’s biography (due to appear in a new Russian version this year under the title Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works), and is something of an expert on Fr. Seraphim’s Life and writings in general.
When I was young, I enjoyed intellectual activities. But now, having the main part of my life behind me, I have come to the conclusion that knowledge is far from everything. The most important thing is the spiritual state of our souls and hearts, which leads to salvation.
The last week of my stay in France I felt nostalgic, missed my poor Chuvashia and my parishioners who are my brothers and sisters. Both Russia and Chuvashia are my motherland now, because I was born anew there. As the Lord said : Who left his family or fatherland for the sake of Christ, will find a new family and motherland.