Thursday, January 29, 2009

All for one and one for all

I haven't done this before, but I am republishing a blog post from September, 2006, without changing anything, just to bring it to the attention of new visitors to this blog, because "the time is close."

“All for one and one for all”
is best known as the motto of the characters in the book The Three Musketeers, by the nineteenth-century French author Alexandre Dumas. All the members of a group support each of the individual members, and the individual members pledge to support the group. At the end of a very long day, as two friends and I sat together in a coffeehouse, just before we broke up our session, those words came to mind, “All for one and one for all.” I blurted them out, because somehow they indicated for me what we had just experienced—a session—sitting together in the presence of the Lord and worshipping “in Spirit and in Truth” by letting ourselves communicate and share what the Lord is doing with us.
In a coffeehouse? Yes.

There, in a coffeehouse, we met together, and our invisible Lord was in our midst, teaching us His precious and all-powerful Word through our discourses with each other, helping us to understand that our lives, which we three had given to Him, really are now in His mighty and yet tender hands. There, a few hours of chrónos time were plucked out of this plummeting age and, transformed into kairós time, were laid up for us in the “city not made with hands.”
One of us, a man I know in Christ, spoke at one point with such calm passion and Christ-like simplicity and order, about the lives we have been given back by Jesus, lives of willingness to suffer for His name, all I could say, over and over, after each pause in his voice, was AMEEN, but softly, so as not to interrupt him. He spoke like the good angel I know him to be. Almost never have I heard such a discourse from a priest, and certainly never from anyone, except in the writings of the Fathers, expressed with such God-imploring humility.

Kept coming to my mind the remembrance of the new martyrs of Russia who, though young in years like my brother, were wise like the ancient Fathers. They struggled against an atheistic Christ-hating state, refusing to take the “mark of the beast” in any form. They suffered for the Truth, and the wonder-working faith that was the fruit of their endurance, fed each other as they were, one by one, led as Christ's innocent lambs to the slaughter. Two of the young men pictured met this fate, one came through it alive. Yet their three-fold unity mirrored the three-fold radiance of the all-holy God, the Almighty, the Deathless, the unearthly Triad, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

What is my purpose in writing this? I need to memorialize those moments which I shared with my brother and sister in Christ.
I cannot evade testifying that there is Truth on earth, even now. Defying the barking dogs in their mangers who do not go into the Kingdom of Heaven themselves yet prevent those who want to from going in, Jesus walking among us still casts the money-changers from His Father's house, crying out, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, for to such as them belongs the Kingdom of God!”

When I was not much older than you, adelphós mou kai adelphí mou, while persecution still raged in Russia, there was a book, Russia's Catacomb Saints, by I. M. Andreyev, that had this symbol in the frontispiece, saying “This book is dedicated to the Christian Martyrs, today in Russia, tomorrow in America.” I pondered then what form this martyrdom would take. Now, thirty years later, the words are coming true, and the form of our martyrdom is gradually appearing, and I am alive to see that this will be your cross, and I want to share it with you. What is different and perhaps even more cruel than an atheistic Christ-hating state is what we have to face now, in America… I cannot even say it, but you know what it is, because you have already seen in your young lives what the divine, God-breathed scriptures was telling us of, when Jesus said, “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.” (John 16:2-4 NIV)

The time is now very close. “O gar kairós engýs” (Revelation 1:3). That is why we are reading the Apokálypsis more and more, even in Greek, to understand its message intimately and spiritually—not like the expounders of end times theoretica—but as men and women of faith, “who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:4). How can we know that the time is very close? We can see what is happening to the churches. Though we do not abandon our institutional churches, we cannot let ourselves be trapped in them. The time is now very close. We do the work we see our Father doing and, following Jesus, in company with Him, we know and accept His great commission, to go forth with Him to seek that which was lost. And where Jesus is, there is the Holy Spirit, there is the Church. “With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us…” (Hebrews 12:1 JB).

“It is all clear to me now, either Christianity is fire,
or there is no such thing.
I just want to wander through the world, calling,
‘Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.’
And to accept it if people revile me
and say all manner of evil against me.”

Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dying and reviving gods

The theme of death and resurrection is a common one in the religions of mankind, starting from the earliest ages. The Egyptian Osiris, the Akkadian Tammuz, the Greek Adonis, and yes, according to Wikipedia, the Christian Jesus. All of these are listed, and many more, under headings of mythology, yes, even under Christian mythology. You can’t blame Wikipedia; they have to stay objective.

What all of these deities, except Jesus, have in common is that they are all in some special way related to the annual cycles of vegetation. Even the Canaanite god Baal is a dying and reviving god. Fraser’s The Golden Bough has taken us on an imaginative, guided tour of many of these deities, and C. S. Lewis has easily debunked the lumping of Jesus into this group of vegetation myths in his writings, and I have nothing to add to either of these.

What I have been thinking of is the effect of these dying and reviving gods on their worshippers. We have little to go on except the historical record of some of their rites, but not much on what, if any, was the moral effect they had. This is where, I think, there is a big difference between Jesus Christ, the only historical figure known to have been executed and resurrected, and all these other gods.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ, even if the world does not accept its reality, has an effect on His followers that is consistent and can be documented from the earliest times until now. In fact, one does not have to be a scholar to research this effect: it is open to anyone who dares to follow Jesus, not just study Him.

Everyone who has followed Jesus has had this experience: There is always something in them which they cannot at any cost keep and still follow Jesus. For some it is a specific experience they desire, something they want to be, or have or do, which they cannot be, have or do and still, in good conscience, claim to follow the Master. Why is this?

Because Jesus is the Word of God, the only Teacher of mankind, and there is a book, the Holy Bible, the only divinely revealed scriptures ever given to humanity, which claims to be the written image of Who He is. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” Christians have something from Jesus that the devotees of the dying and reviving gods did not have, divinely revealed scriptures, the Hebrew Old Testament, and the Greek New. These two scriptures mean endless trouble for those who want to keep living in the ordinary human way and still try to please God. In fact, they say it’s impossible.

And so, that’s the predicament we find ourselves in, with Jesus.
This is why the only true dying and reviving deity is paradoxically called the Living One, the one who was dead but is alive, while His remedy for His disciples’ dis-ease is, in fact, Death.

Though He was Himself God, He humbled Himself, hiding His glory (as do many of the pagan gods in the myths when they come down to man), assumed the condition of a slave (this none of the pagan gods was able to do), and became as all men are, experiencing with us and for us all that it means to be a human being, including physical death. Somehow, His work for us has achieved what man could not do on his own: He reopened for us the gates of Paradise, and gave us access to the Tree of Life which, it turns out, was the very Tree on which He was suspended between heaven and earth.

But back to us, we cannot have things the way we want and still follow Him on the path He led the repentant thief, the path to Paradise.

Religion would make rules for us, forbidding this and that, and give us methods of self-denial that, if followed religiously, would somehow make us worthy of the Garden, but the makers of religion hide from us and from themselves the certain truth of Christ’s own words, that if we want to live, we must die. Back we are to acknowledging that there are some things we cannot take with us when we follow Jesus into Life, and among those things there will always be at least one that we know we cannot live without. Hence, we must die.

Dying and reviving gods, before Jesus, there were none in reality: all were but myths, mankind’s dreaming of heaven.

Dying and reviving gods, after Jesus, literally following Jesus, there have been, are and will be many: these are they who, laying down their lives for love of Him, follow the Lamb wherever He goes and, like Him, dying they live forever.

Sheep without a shepherd

It’s truly ironic how eloquence or any other personal excellence can be a trap that keeps one from entering the Kingdom of God.

There are people who imagine that Christianity, or any religion, is just an organized framework whose purpose is to elevate humanity from lower to higher cultural levels, and that when this goal has been achieved, the usefulness of religion is finished. To them it seems entirely justified that religion should wither away or be maintained only for sentimental, historical or artistic reasons. Look around you, and see if there isn’t evidence that actually substantiates their view. And it isn’t just people who’ve left the Church (because they feel that they’ve “graduated” and no longer need organized religion) who think this way; it’s also people who still “go to church,” indeed even people who “run the whole show.” For this last group, religion is to be maintained for an additional reason—because it makes good business sense.

After a long wait of many weeks during which appointments were made and then broken, I finally made it to my first meeting with a new priest, a man of marked intelligence and, though a recent convert, fully fluent in the Greek language and conversant in all of our many customs and traditions, a literal genius. The bishop must’ve thought he was really doing us a favor to send us one like him, who could preach circles around our Greek assistant pastor (who wasn’t deemed ready to take over the responsibilities of so great a parish, when our former proistámenos was “rewarded” for his good job of raising money by being transferred to a larger community in California). It must’ve been thought best to let the assistant pastor stay on for the time being, so as not to traumatize the parish by transferring both priests at the same time.

Initially impressed by his eloquent sermons, I was beginning to exercise some caution after noticing that our new proistámenos (yes, this honorific title, usually reserved for pastors of long and faithful service, was bestowed on him quite soon) was in the habit of leading scripture by his own ideas, instead of letting his ideas be led by scripture. Knowing this to be a common failing of beginners kept me from passing premature judgment on his ministry which was only starting—he had never been in charge of a parish before. My meeting with him, I thought, would be a good opportunity for us to share our spiritual life stories with each other, what I usually call our testimonies. I hoped it would let us see each other a little more authentically, because talking dispels mere imagining about another.

Outside, maybe in a nearby park or some other “neutral” location, was where I wanted to meet, but he wanted to get together in his office, so I consented. At the time I didn’t realize this was a security measure he had to take. Part of the mystique of the professional clergyman is to always keep the parishioner aware of his position as laity, and office visits are one of these methods.
So we began our visit.

We both shared a little bit about ourselves, his journey to Orthodoxy, my pilgrimage to Christ. He had come from a Baptist type “tradition,” whereas I had been brought up in a Catholic type “tradition,” though not Roman Catholic. I put tradition in quotation marks because this is not the way I talk about faith.

To me, faith is not a “tradition” but rather a living and ever-present reality, or it is nothing at all. You can’t pass it down to your descendants directly; it’s something that must be apprehended, accepted and applied afresh in every generation. Knowing this, I can accept all the externals of the Orthodox faith for what they are—a complete tool kit for working out the details of one’s Christian life in accordance with scripture, within a community in which salvation is possible. The background “music” of my life is this Orthodox faith, it’s always the “given” in every equation, it’s always been that for me at some level or another, and it’s the only dependable feature of human life I’ve ever known, it’s always there, dead or alive.

So we talked, and talked, and talked.

Little did I suspect at the time, that I’d finally found a person who could talk more than me. To be fair, I think I talked more in that meeting than did the dear young father, although he’s won the war of words since then, if lengthy discourse is the criterion.

After the exchange of our pasts, the talk moved on to our presents. He told me how he had many plans for the parish, many changes, but that he would not be able to introduce them all at once, but only gradually because, as we all know, Orthodox don’t like change.
(A fast change in Orthodoxy, they say, takes about four hundred years. I hope that’s a joke.) On my side, I shared with him some of the things I was doing at the time, especially the Bible-reading ministry downtown that I shared with my co-laborer Brock. I also had brought with me a sampling of some of the booklets I publish and give away to people on request. I like to write.

As he was a new priest, I wanted to assure him of my support for him in his new ministry. In my dadly sort of way, I tried to lay before him some ideas about ministering in our community, reminding him that to be a presbyter in the Church is a call to love the people and serve them in such a way as to draw them to the life of salvation. He was now God’s bondservant, with no private life really, but only what was granted him from above; but that God would be faithful to supply all his needs and be strength in his weakness at all times and in every circumstance, so he need never be anxious about anything.

What’s more, I told him, there were many persons like myself, who already knew how to minister to others, who could teach, who could pray, who had various talents to use in building up the Body of Christ at our church, and were only waiting to be asked to help (not that many weren’t already doing things on their own inside church or outside it).

An important part of a presbyter’s job, I told him, is to know his congregation, to know who within it can accept a share of the ministry, so that a community consists of one or more presbyters assisted by ministry teams made up of laity. One or two priests cannot minister to eight hundred families. That’s not how the Church was set up to work in the first place. In some Orthodox communities, like the Ethiopians, roughly ten per cent of the men are ordained to some kind of ministry. So I tried to encourage him to start seeking out people to share his ministry with, and even offered the idea that he should find a small group of dedicated servants of God to pray with him regularly two or three times a week, with the sole purpose of asking God’s direction and blessing on the parish.

Then, he interrupted me at one point and said the most alarming thing I’ve ever heard come from the mouth of an Orthodox priest. He said, “But I am afraid of the people. I can’t trust them.” He elaborated, and again said (speaking for priests in general), “we are afraid of the people, we can’t trust them.”

I was stunned. Here I was, having just revealed my spiritual life, my ministry and prayer concerns, my essential faith to one whom I regarded as my priest, and now I was hearing that, as one of “the people,” I was a threat, I could not be trusted. The meeting made an abrupt turn at that point as I tried to understand better what he meant, but try as I might, I could not make sense of what he was telling me. Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough. Perhaps we were both tired out. The meeting had run over limit, the one hour morphing into two and a half. I should’ve warned him that I run on kairós time, not on chrónos time. I don’t think I even had a watch on that day.

Not faulting this priest, but just to bring up the point that he made, if it is true in any sense, for anyone, even if only for him, I have to ask, what then is the purpose of ministry in the Christian church? What does a man do, that we should call him “pastor,” or “father”?

One title means shepherd, the other means, well, begetter. In Orthodoxy we know that the presbyter, or priest, is a human icon or image of Christ among us, and that the honor we show him as priest is directed to the prototype, Christ the Great High Priest, and the mysteries we receive at his hands are actually received from Jesus. At least that is what I was taught by the priests who handed over the Orthodox faith to me. In every mystery Jesus is there—in Communion He gives Himself to us, in Baptism He baptizes us, in Marriage He pronounces the blessings over us, and so on. This is part of the reason and purpose of the ministry in the Church, but not all.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Mark 6:34 NIV

Lord, we are still that large crowd, so have compassion on us, because we are like sheep without a shepherd.
Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In His presence

This poem by The Postman is so short that I needn't direct you to the link, but instead I will quote it directly. After you read it, please visit his blog to read his many other excellent testimonies in poetic form. If we must be poets, let us sing of Him.
That's what The Postman does.

He has just published two more exceptional poems: No Longer Free, and Thy Will Be Done, which I hope you will also read and be blessed.

Psalms 16:11
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

In HIS presence
Alone, I turned to the Lord,
In the sweetness of His fellowship
I wondered why I had not done this before,
Wondered why I had let go
Of such glimpses in the past!

And there I should remain
In prayerful decisiveness,
Day by day
In brokenness,
In the shadow of the Almighty;
There I will be led
Into the centre of HIS will!

Psalms 34:18
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Isaiah 57:15
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Friday, January 23, 2009

To be more like Jesus

I too sometimes catch myself condemning sinners with the words of my lips, or with the words I have written (which are in some ways harder to take back). It usually happens, though, when my soul is mobilized by something outside me, like people who are being oppressed, or whatever.

When I stop and just get quiet, with the Lord being right there with me as He always is, it doesn't even enter my mind to judge or criticise even someone who has purposely wronged me. That's why I always retreat to that private chamber as often as possible, certainly every day, usually several times a day.

The world has a way of soiling our feet as we go about in it. Only Jesus can wash those feet clean again. And He is so faithful to forgive us and turn the other cheek to our sin.

[Based on the first comment left on this post, I have edited some phrases and placed them in square brackets. My apologies for possibly mis-reporting “news” items, but I do not watch TV or listen to the radio, and so whatever news I get is often at third or fourth hand. “…if new roofs be risen in the ancient cities, whose empire is it that now sways the world, and if any still survive, snared in the error of the demons?” as a desert father once asked.]

Earlier this week I heard mention that the mayor of my city has [been accused of] having sexual relations with [a young man] who was working with him, probably as an intern of some kind. This young man is now over 21. Upon hearing of this, I commented that it was too bad, but in my soul I felt no passion to condemn. It is so obvious to me after living a very tempestuous life, that the function of the Law is, as holy apostle Paul says, to simply tell us what is wrong. It's the prognosis, but not the cure. Only the living One, the only Lover of mankind, the only Physician, Jesus, can cure, but the medicine He applies is Death. For many “Christians” that is too severe a treatment, so they prefer to hobble along with the burden of their unforgiven sin weighing them down. In that condition, being too sick to live but afraid of Death, they yield to the kind of grouchiness that exhibits itself as judgmentalism.

Who has been forgiven much, loves much.

Back to the mayor. The men I work with here in engineering spent a part of one afternoon nit-picking the mayor and his public sin, and debating whether he should step down and why or why not. The consensus was that he step down. None of my co-workers are Christians, all are apostates or have never been Christians (I am not saying this with judgment, but as a demographic fact), yet they judged as harshly a man whom they don't even know by a standard they don't even acknowledge, as they complain that Christians judge.

I didn't know that Sam Adams was an openly practicing homosexual, a “gay” man, and I can't remember if I voted for him or not. If I had known he was gay, I probably would not have voted for him, simply because his personal baggage could cause trouble to the smooth functioning of the city government. But the odd thing is, those of my co-workers who live in my city most probably did vote for him to be mayor, because most of them approve of the “gay” lifestyle.

I didn't join in the debate, but inside my thought was, “Leave him alone. You elected him, and now you are condemning him for what he did, which is what you know he was likely to do.” The boy he [is accused of having] “molested” was one whom he was openly mentoring into the gay lifestyle, and that was known at the time. So why this hair-splitting? The boy grew up to be a man, and he now lives in the way he chose, based on his feelings and the advice of his “mentor.”

How sick our world is! How deceived we all are! Only by turning to Jesus, who is always near, can we be delivered “from this body of death,” by conquering death by death, as He did, and finally be freed from bondage so that we, like Him, can bring life to those in the tombs…

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ὧν οὐκ ἦν ἄξιος ὁ κόσμος

Of whom the world was not worthy…
Hebrews 11:38

One of my favorite Bible verses, and may it be found true of me.
I know, however, that it is true of a young poet in India, who has again blessed me with these bright words…

One man who stood for God
One man against the multitude;
One man by faith in God
One man who condemned the world.

One man heaven seeks,
One man who will stand steady;
One man who will join them,
For whom the world was not worthy.

I am weak and foolish my Lord,
Too scared to even voice my thoughts;
But if you will have me and make me,
I will be that man! I will be that man!

These verses are taken from the complete poem, entitled Noah, which you can read by following this link:
Heb 11:38 The world was not worthy of them.

Freedom or slavery

As the purpose of this blog is not political, it is my intention to shy away from subjects merely political, and to focus on the purpose of human life, which for me and others means discipleship to Jesus Christ, and all that concerns it. Sometimes it's difficult to disentangle politics and religion, and this is especially true in the case of the movement called al-Islam, and so I have posted on the subject of al-Islam from time to time.

Long before it appeared in the
U. S. Bill of Rights, freedom of speech was an ideal and a principle among many peoples, particularly the Greeks and the Jews, who each came at it from different directions, yet both arrived at the same place. Christianity is the heir to both Hellenism and Judaism, and so it's not surprising that the principle of free speech should have become enshrined in the U. S. constitution, whose authors were by and large men of Christian heritage.

What I want to say in this post is something very brief but still very important.

I would rather have the exercise of free speech for myself and every other human being, even at the risk of being slandered, mocked, lied to, seduced, tricked, and insulted, even at the risk of hearing the country I love vilified, the faith I espouse ridiculed, and the God I believe in blasphemed, than to let anyone or anything put a stop to it.

The new series of laws taking shape across the global village to limit the exercise of free speech will have the effect of killing it altogether. I think I am convinced that the exercise of free speech is the source of all other human liberties, of freedom itself, and that the curtailing of it is nothing less than the institution of slavery.

My favorite poet, Walt Whitman, the greatest American poet, put it very succinctly:

To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States,
Resist much, obey little,
Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved,
Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city of this earth,
ever afterward resumes its liberty.

It is the "unquestioning obedience" which in my mind relates to the exercise of free speech.

Mankind's ancient enemy has not laid down and died, but like a lion is up and about, prowling through the world, looking for someone to devour. We know who he is, and we also can sense when he is at work in people and systems with which we have to do.

If the exercise of free speech is captured and subjected to regulation, forbidding people to tell the truth, allowing people to speak freely only when what they say is politically or religiously correct, then freedom is dead, and slavery reigns.

Here is an example of what I am talking about, though the link will take you to a blog which many will find deeply offensive, Infidel Bloggers Alliance, nonetheless it is something we must be aware of. The house of a near neighbor has caught fire in the night. Are we to go back to bed and slumber, thinking that the fire won't reach our own house? If your eyes are delicate, shield them from carnal profanity nearby and focus them on the post at issue, Geert Wilders To Be Charged For Making Anti-Islamic Statements.

Now that I've had my say on this issue, I will return to my usual preoccupation, to "keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near."

Confronting sin, confronting the sinner

With every start of a "brave new world" the people of God have to inspect their foundations, make sure that they're still built on the bedrock of Jesus' words, and be ready to follow their Lord wherever He goes. More and more this is apparent, as we see and hear "church" leaders and dignitaries mouthing not the Word of God but the ideologies of men, seeking their approval.

The Church Age and the age of Christian Empires is over. We're not in a post-Christian age, though, just a post-Church one. Where the Church as an institution has trouble in reaching the unsaved, the Church as people, you and me, can do what we see the Lord doing. Even today, He is out there, looking for His lost sheep. We can follow Him there, and do what we see Him doing.

"The Word of God is alive and active." Without our help in the form of commentaries and preaching, the plain and simple Word of Truth can convict souls of sin. The problem is, the sinner, as in the case of a person guilty of sexual sin, for example, homosexual acts, already has more than half the world preaching at him. Though the preaching is usually coupled with an invitation to accept God and His Word, the emphasis is placed on turning from the sin and living righteously. This the sinner cannot see himself doing. He may have tried it, and failed. Of course, he probably tried to live righteously by his own will power and hoped to achieve righteousness by his own efforts. That's precisely why he failed. Then, maybe even after trying this many times, he simply gave up, gave himself over to the sin, and decided, it's either God's fault, or else the scriptures need to be "interpreted" to include his particular sin as not sinful.

What the sinner has to understand, and what every Christian should understand, is that we cannot be righteous in the way humans think of righteousness. The Word says, "all our righteousness is filthy rags," and "the righteousness that comes by faith in the One who justifies the sinner," namely Jesus Christ, "the Righteous," is He in Whom our righteousness subsists. It is the righteousness of Christ that must cover us, not our own.

When the sinner understands this, then he can begin to have hope, and the healing of the soul, and deliverance from the bondage of sin and death, can begin to take place. It's when the sinner is confronted by his sin and the demands of the Law, without understanding this, that he has little or no desire to seek the Lord.
And can you blame him?

"What I desire is mercy, not sacrifice," says the Lord.

Mercy is not to accept the sin, but to accept and welcome the sinner with the good news, Jesus Christ risen from the dead, alive today, our righteousness and our justification, our savior, who saves us from sin and death.

How can we tell the sinner this, by our words or by the fruit of our lives in Christ which we, like trees planted by His Father, bear for others?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The dignity of a Christian

"When you come to Scripture, you can't just find some text and come up with some interpretation that no one has ever thought of before and have a plausible argument that it's true. There's a saying that I like to quote: "All that's old might not be gold, but if it's new it can't be true" -- and when it comes to Scripture that's certainly true. If you read Scripture and you find something that after 2,000 years no one has ever thought of until you came along, you know it's wrong."

The passage quoted above from an Orthodox blog that I sometimes visit, is an example of the kind of Orthodoxy (forgive me for saying this) that I abhor. It essentially says nothing about the Word of God, but says a lot to insult the intelligence and undermine the dignity of a Christian, not to mention what it does to project to outsiders the impression that Orthodoxy is monolothic, dogmatic, and priest-ridden.

The same blog also linked to Fr Stephen's excellent post on the Word of God which I linked to under the title The Word of God, but on this blog the link took a characteristically belligerent tone in the title chosen, What Jesus is… and the Bible ain't. I supposed it's part of the author's style to say things like that, but to me, it seems disrespectful.

In teaching such things as, "If you read Scripture and you find something that after 2,000 years no one has ever thought of until you came along, you know it's wrong," it cuts off right at the start the confidence that a believer should have in his ability to stand on his own two feet by God's grace, and implies that only "the Church," whoever that is supposed to mean, can rightly interpret scripture. But if that were true, why are we anointed (chrismated) for the gift of the Holy Spirit?

I thank God that the Greek priests who taught me as I was growing in Orthodoxy did not have this attitude or ever say such things to me. Instead, they encouraged me to read the Bible constantly, to attend liturgy regularly, to make regular confessions and seek counsel when needed, and to learn the true meaning of scripture by living out its words in my life, not just by sitting alone and thinking without doing. Sometimes I wonder if that's not what some church authorities do, thinking without doing, that they should come up with such distortions of Orthodoxy.

I know where the priest who authored the passage quoted is coming from, but he needn't exert himself or his and the Church's authority in this way, but instead lead others to Christ and to the true faith by living a life in Christ and seeking the Kingdom first.
Heresy has a way of destroying itself without any help from us, according to one of my teachers, Archimandrite Vasileios.

I am not the first or the only one to interpret the scriptures the way I do, even when an application I make is not one that is shared by many others or can be found in a "church father." To declare that God cannot reveal to "one of the least of these" a meaning or an application of scripture that is unique and new is to muzzle the gift of prophecy, and to stifle that which the Holy Spirit teaches us personally and often individually, as He sculpts us into the shape of the image He created us to be. "Do not quench the smoking flax."

What I am asserting is not heresy, but the very way of discipleship to the Lord Jesus. Yes, "by their fruits you will know them," but this applies to clergy as well as laity in the Church. What we find who study the scriptures "with the fear of God, with faith and love," even without a priest standing behind us looking over our shoulders, is that the Holy Spirit teaches one and the same thing to us and to those who came before, because He always points to Jesus, who is "the Author and Finisher of our faith," and the only Truth, yes, the only Christ.

I recently came across a screwball website that declares that the Church was not founded on the day of Pentecost but had its beginnings in the Old Testament, and the author gave eleven scriptural references to prove this. I looked at the references and they all made sense. I could see the point the author was making. Such things have been written even by Orthodox sometimes. There was nothing wrong with his reasoning. Yes, in some sense, the Church has existed since the call of Abraham, or even earlier, from Adam. But this, though it is a possible way of looking at the issue, is simply not how the Church has expressed itself from ancient times, in every place, and by all believers (as described by Vincent of Lerins in his Commonitory).

Where this website and its author went wrong, and very badly wrong, is in raising his opinion against the universal witness of the Church. This is the sort of thing that the priest whose passage I quote above is reacting against, but his reaction is just as damaging to the Body of Christ as is the error that he would oppose.

So heretics quote the Bible (to prove their opinions), and their opponents quote the Church Fathers (or worse yet, their own opinions which they attributed to the Fathers), but in the end this kind of confrontation does nothing but "destroy those who are listening."

Back to the issue of understanding the Bible, it's worth the risk to encourage the Christian people, who are called "a royal priesthood and a holy nation," to study the Word of God and seek to understand it by incorporating it into our lives, thereby all becoming theologians in Christ, as opposed to having it handed to us by "professional theologians" (I assert there is no such thing), and keeping us at the level of spiritual infants. The holy apostle Paul teaches us, that we are to be infants where sin is concerned, but adults in spiritual things, in understanding, in wisdom, in purity and self-control, in love for the brethren.
This is the dignity of the Christian.

Old Calendar Theophany

When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son.
And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!

The Orthodox Church unfortunately follows two calendars, the Julian (Old Calendar) and the Gregorian (New Calendar). All of us follow the Old Calendar when it comes to Easter (Pascha), because despite disagreements within the Church about which calendar to use, we all want to celebrate the Lord's resurrection together. So Pascha and all the time leading up to it, Sarakostí (Lent), and all the time after it up to Pendekostí (Pentecost) are on the Old Calendar. The rest of the year, Orthodox churches in the Western World (Greek mainly, and American Orthodox in the lower 48) follow the New Calendar (the standard calendar reformed during the pontificate of Pope Gregory XIII) so as to be in line with the rest of Christendom. There are now 13 days between the Old and New Calendars, so Theophany (January 6) is observed on January 19 in terms of the standard calendar. Numerically speaking, more Orthodox Christians follow the Old Calendar, and most of the monasteries on Mount Athos use it also. There may be a very good reason for doing so. Two public miracles happen regularly every year in the land of Israel on Old Calendar dates: Pascha (Easter) and Theophany (January 6, but 19 as the world reckons it).

I have known about the public miracle that occurs on Pascha for many years: God sends a mysterious "fire" (phos, in Greek) in the Church of the Resurrection's kouvouklion (the actual tomb of Jesus, inside the church), which lights two bundles of candles that the patriarch takes with him into the tomb. He is searched ahead of time, and so is the tomb, by Israeli authorities, to make sure that there is nothing on him or in the kouvouklion that can be used to make fire. Then the patriarch is sealed into the tomb. After he prays, he waits until the fire appears and lights the candles, which he shoves through two apertures in the wall to worshippers waiting outside. When the Latins (Roman Catholics) took over the church during the Crusades and ejected the Orthodox patriarch, they tried to obtain this "holy fire" but were unable to. In the end they decided that the fire must be some kind of Greek trickery, and left it at that. The fire only appears on Orthodox Easter, except in those years when Orthodox and Western Easter fall on the same day. More about this miracle can be learned at this site.

The other public miracle, I think I heard tell from a Greek priest once, but I forgot all about it until today, when I noticed this post on Fr Milovan's blog, Again and Again. This miracle is the reversal of the flow of water in the Jordan River every year during the Great Blessing of the Waters that takes place on Old Calendar Theophany. Someone correct me if I'm wrong about this, but it seems that this happens only on Old Calendar January 6. As I wrote earlier, this gives one pause to consider whether there is something to the Old Calendar, or at least what it represents, after all. You can see a video of this miracle (or phenomenon, for those who don't believe in miracles) and read about it, by going to Fr Milovan's post, The Jordan Reversed Its Flow!

I just wanted to share this with my brother Christians, as another testimony that Jesus Christ is among still, just as He said He would be, "till the end of the age."
Glory be to Him, to His Father and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Word of God

I have just read the best explanation of the Orthodox view of holy scripture that I have ever found, and I want to point any readers of my blog to it, in case they might also like to read "another point of view" which lies wholly outside the frame of reference and the battle of "science versus the Bible." I have tried to explain this view in my own way many times in my blog, and in testimonies I have given about the Word of God both locally in person, and to people I have met over the internet. I’ve profited much from reading Fr Stephen's post, Is the Bible True? and I hope you will too. Some of his approach is a little different from mine, but we both end up at the same place. These were a few of my favorite passages…

The Bible is not God’s revelation to man: Jesus Christ is God’s revelation to man. The Scriptures bear witness to Him and are thus “true” as a true witness to the God/Man Jesus Christ.

Not only does Scripture treat history as quite relative (Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, He is also the “Lamb slain from the foundations of the earth”), it in fact makes history subject to the end of things - making history simply one aspect of lived eschatology. Thus time and chronology do not govern reality - God governs reality. By the same token, Holy Scripture is a Divine account of reality, not itself explained by chronology nor subject to historical validation, but subject to the Truth as it is made known to us in Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ Himself is the Truth. This is not to say that He is the Truth as compared to some external criterion of truth, but rather that He Himself is the criterion and definition of what is true. Things are true and false only as they are compared to Him. He may be compared to nothing else.

Well, I could end up copying Fr Stephen's entire post, but I'd like you to just go to his blog and read it yourself, which you can do by clicking HERE.

Thank you, Fr Stephen, for your testimony on the Word of God.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV

I commented this on the blog of a Christian brother who had expressed the following…

But what I was doing was trying to remind God of His Words. I was trying to throw the bible at Him and say “Look, God, you said it right here. Are you going to live up to it?”

This is what must happen in the mind of every Christian soul at the beginning of his walk with Christ, particularly in those churches that push this attitude down his throat and tell him it is the right way to think. "Take God at His word!" and "Name it, and claim it" and the so-called Word of Faith preaching that abounds on TBN and is central to the "prosperity gospel"… "God doesn't want you, precious saints, to be poor, so be rich!" and "If you are poor, you do not trust in God enough to bless you." All this pathetic, nauseating, gut-busting, false prophesying just turns my stomach. Forgive me for mentioning it, but it has destroyed individuals, families, even whole churches.

But, as I said, every Christian, perhaps, has had this thought, and it comes from the Bible, especially in Psalms, that if you fear God and keep the commandments, God will bless you.

The first half of my adult Christian life was a gradual proof of this principle, and I really identified with Joseph in Egypt—even though I was “in prison” in the world system, by having faith in God, keeping my mind on the things above, staying simple and uncontaminated by the world, etc., by just being consistent, I found myself being advanced into not only prosperity but even domestic happiness—for a while. Like I said, it seemed like my life was “proving” God’s Word right, just as I expected.

Then, in the second half of my adult Christian life, uh oh, things started changing. From being a mere laborer I had been raised to general manager of a company that I had helped get started; then overnight, one day, for no apparent reason (and none was ever given), after seven years of service I was demoted to the bottom of the corporate pile, becoming the subordinate of a middle manager I had hired (now he was upper management). No matter what I did, I was never allowed to be even a lower manager again. As I said, all this was done to me without any explanation. I should have left, but I didn’t, because I follow the principle of following the cloud: when the cloud moves, I move. The cloud didn’t move! Oh well, so much for identifying with Joseph in Egypt. But this was not all.

Gradually (now that I look back, I can see it started about twenty years ago), my domestic life, wife and family, started going awry. What about the rewards of a man who fears Yahweh? “Your wife a fruitful vine on the inner walls of your house, your sons around your table like olive shoots,” and all that kind of blessing. Everything was developing so nicely, not that we didn’t have periodic challenges on the material level, but the spiritual blessings made up for them—until some dark shadow started coming between family members, driving us apart like an irresistible wedge. Now, I have found a new character from the Bible to identify with—Job. All this time I have feared God, fulfilled the commandments, kept away from sin, etc., etc., and look at me now! I’m not sitting in the ash pit scraping my sores, not yet anyway, but where did the “blessing” go, and why?

I have been studying the book of Job a lot lately, but I don’t presume to compare what has been happening to me with what happened to him. Still, the mystery is there, and I am exploring it because I have no choice. God’s will is inscrutable, and He is not a tame God, yet He is not capricious either—He works everything to obtain the good of His worshippers, even when the things that happen to them don’t fulfill the “promises” and the “blessings” in the pages of scripture.

The result of my life experience of 33 years as an adult Christian is that I trust God more than ever, and trust myself less, including how I view what happens to me. I don’t use the Bible anymore (if I ever did) to “gauge” God’s promises against my expectations, or to keep accounts to make sure I am being rewarded by Him tit for tat. The fact alone that God is, and that He is with me, whatever more could I want or desire? As for His blessing and protection, why it’s always been there even in the worst of circumstances. As deep as the hole is that we can ever fall into, He is always waiting at the bottom to break our fall, and lift us up, perhaps in a way we never could have imagined.

Blaise Pascal carried his testimony on a piece of parchment sewn into the inner lining of a jacket that he always wore. I carry a piece of my testimony, which I wrote down in a time of great anxiety and trouble that I was going through about fifteen years ago, in the inner fold of my wallet. It’s written on a now much frayed old piece of yellow notepad paper. I will take it out of my wallet, and copy down what it says for me and you…

In times of suffering and distress
remember that the Holy Spirit is still present with you.
Hardships are there to remind us that we are,
after all, only disciples.
And Jesus can walk anywhere.


There, I’ve put it back in the little zipper-protected hiding place inside my wallet. I haven’t looked at it in a couple of years, but it is in this knowledge and realization that I have been living my life at least since the time I wrote it down.

Where did the words come from?
Oh, nowhere in particular, just from the Lord.
You see, He talks to me a lot,
and sometimes I actually listen.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

If you desire…

Here I am stealing again, Romanós the thief. "The thieves were stealers, but reason condemned Him, and the grave was empty where they had laid Him." (Incredible String Band, Job's Tears)
I have run across a testimony of great value, translated from the Serbian by Fr Milovan and published at his blog Again and Again.
If the passage I am quoting below sounds helpful to you, read the entire piece by clicking the link If you desire…

If it is to be first you desire, be last. If to rule, be the servant. If to be heard, be silent. You desire to have, then give. If you desire to buy, then save. If it is a well mannered child you desire, nourish him. If a learned child, teach him. If the love of the child, love him first. If respect, respect them first. If honor, love those around you. If you desire they love you, suffer long, be amiable, do not get angry, nor exaggerate, nor boast. Love your neighbors and you, too, will be loved. If you desire to be God’s, do good for life, respect your older brother and you will have the respect of the younger one…

The testimony from which this passage was taken is of Fr Simon Turkic, a Serbian Orthodox presbyter. The translation of the entire testimony into English is by Fr Milovan Katanic.

Thank you, Fr Milovan!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

He never did take off his hat

In my childhood in Chicago, Gypsies were the people who lived in store fronts and hung sheets in the display windows for privacy. They told fortunes, and you had to be desperate to go and knock on the window or door of a Gypsy "tent" and ask for an oracle, since (believe it or not) fortune-telling for money was illegal in those days. I don't ever remember seeing Gypsy children.

In Portland, I met the Gypsies. They are likeable folk, and the years between childhood and manhood having passed through the marches of Hippiedom, for me there was no strangeness in dealing with or seeing them.

They have a local hierarchy. The "king of the Gypsies" lives on a large suburban estate on the east side of town in a rambling ranch house surrounded by immaculate white corral fencing, and there are cast lions on either side of the driveway entrance. My godmother, who is a real estate professional, knows the king (or knew him, I heard he recently passed away, and I'm not sure who his successor is), and many other gypsies. They tend to interface more with our women than with us men, except in the case of an incident I will now relate.

One day a late middle aged gypsy gentleman waltzed into Aghía Triás church after liturgy had started, like most of us do. He was wearing a floppy hat hung with pins, had on a nice Gypsy sport jacket with a clutch of numerous heavy occult and Christian trinkets and baubles suspended against his chest between its lapels. He gamboled down the middle aisle, which none of us would do, and found a seat right in the center of the sanctuary, grinning broadly as he looked about him in an outgoing manner.

Communion time finally came, and I wondered what he would do.

As the usher invited the people in his pew to enter the communion line that forms in center aisle, surprisingly he left his place and stepped right in line, grinning and flirting with the children and babies like a clown. I was far enough back to where I never even got into the line while he approached Father Elias (eternal be his memory) holding the Communion cup and spoon.

As the Gypsy came face to face with Father Elias, there was a distinct pause, and you could see that Father was questioning him. (Communion is only for the Orthodox, and a stranger has to identify himself to the priest in order to receive communion.) After the brief interruption, it looked like Father Elias gave the Gypsy communion, and the man walked off, forgetting to pick up a chunk of antídoron (the bread of fellowship we all take after receiving communion) as he walked back. (Gypsies are sometimes Orthodox.)

Smiling now more broadly than ever, and even chortling audibly to himself as he flashed happy eyes at everyone he passed on the side aisle, he finally came to my row, though I was standing in the middle, not the end, of the pew. At the end, however, stood a very handsome Greek-American man groomed and dressed in Country Western style, complete with gleaming cowboy boots, someone whom I knew slightly, but a very private kind of guy and perhaps a little older than me.

As the Gypsy came up to him, he suddenly turned aside toward my friend, grabbed him in an irresistible bear hug, and planted a big, luscious kiss on his cheek, let him go briefly, gave him a mighty friendly handshake, and then continued on his way down the side aisle, and out the door.

I looked back over my shoulder to see where he went. Still smiling and congratulating the people standing around in the narthex by brusquely shaking their hands, he passed out of view, out the door and into the street.

He never did take off his hat.

He proved himself their saviour

He proved himself their saviour
in all their troubles,
It was neither messenger nor angel
But his presence that saved them.
Isaiah 63:8b-9a Jerusalem Bible

Though there are indeed angels, as scripture informs us, to do God’s bidding, as did the one named Gabriel in bringing to the Jewish girl Mary the good news that she had found favor with YHWH, Israel’s saviour and the world’s only living God, and had been chosen to bear His people’s King, His Son, though she had known no man and was yet a virgin—it is YHWH Himself through His presence among us that saves us, and nothing but nothing else, and that, only when we respond to His call with, “Yes, Lord, let it be done unto me according to Your Word.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Religious animals

Sometimes it seems to me that modern man, modern Christian man, is no better off with regard to God than were his ancient pagan ancestors. The gods of the nations, our old gods, were very mysterious, very enigmatic, hiding themselves from us by day, revealing themselves to us in fleeting, dreamlike encounters by night, fostering an ever-increasing legacy of mythology that, poetic though it was, offered no real clues that could be followed to their source. As C. S. Lewis mused in his greatest novel Till We Have Faces, “why must holy places be dark places?”

So the modern Christian often complains of finding God, his God, mysterious, elusive, unresponsive, disprovidential, and even absent. It makes good subject matter for book writers, both for those who lodge the complaint and for those who seek to defend God against it, as well as for those who try to lay down some method to track and trap God, so that the believer can finally pin Him down and make Him own up to His responsibilities.

All this comes from a pre-existing religious condition in mankind. This is something that, like original sin, seems to be universal. Every race of mankind has it, something like a spiritual birth defect, a built-in compensation for original sin. It makes mankind a species of religious animals, always trying to cover up their nakedness before God, while simultaneously shifting the blame elsewhere, and hoping to gain God’s approval somehow.

Religious animals is what we became after the fall of Adam. Before that fall, there was no such thing as religion. Man walked with God, and God walked with man. Our mutual familiarity and intimate friendship left no room for religious exercises. We walked with God, He walked with us. That was all the exercise we had need of.

But after the fall, what do we find?
Starting with Adam’s grandson Enosh the son of Seth, scripture says, “At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 4:26 NIV). Now it’s not a bad thing to call upon the name of the Lord, but it shows perhaps that we believe that God is somewhere else, or that we are, and He has to be called. Hence, religion came into being as a channel of communication with Him with whom we used to talk face to face.

Now, this is where we find ourselves in the natural man. An opaque veil shrouds us from the Divine Nature, to protect us, in the same way that the Ark of the Covenant is shrouded when carried among the people, not to hide the Ark from their eyes, but to protect them from it. The natural man follows after the First Adam, no longer able to walk with God because of sin, or to see Him and speak to Him face to face.

There has come a Second Adam, however, who like the first is called “the Son of God” but who, unlike the first, has not disobeyed and fallen. He still walks with the Lord and speaks to Him face to face, and this ability to speak to the Father and to walk with Him side by side, as in the Garden, He has given “to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name.” To them, to us, “He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13 NIV). This is something that appears quite incredible to the world, and to the natural man, but to the spiritual man, the man of faith, this is an open door. The Second Adam has opened the gates of Paradise to us, starting with the repentant thief who, not being able to steal the things of this world anymore because he was nailed like Jesus to a cross, stole something immeasurably greater, re-admittance to the Garden, going in as thoroughly naked as an infant enters into this world.

What happened to the religious animal that is the natural man? Walking in the Garden with Jesus, side by side with His Father and our Father, speaking to Them both face to face as one speaks to his friend, religion like the skins of animals has been left behind without being replaced by fig leaves.

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”

Luke 2:14 NIV

Monday, January 12, 2009

Canonized by Jesus

This year so far, thank God, I don't seem to have any thoughts of my own. I've been stealing good words and good thoughts right and left, from the holy scriptures and from the brethren. This afternoon, looking at a blog post on OrthoDixie, my attention was turned once again to the good thief, the man who was crucified next to Jesus, and who said, "Lord, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom," and to whom Christ replied, "I tell you truly, this day you will be with Me in paradise."

Looking this man up in Wikipedia (he has been given a personal name in the Orthodox Church—Dysmas), I found this interesting passage (the first line, especially, grabbed me for some reason):

Though never canonized by the church, "Dismas" carries the distinction of being the only human to be canonized by Jesus himself, if by 'canonized' one means the formal recognition of a person's place in heaven. According to tradition, the Good Thief was crucified at Jesus' right hand, and the other thief was crucified at his left. For this reason, depictions of the crucifixion often show Jesus' head inclined to his right, showing his acceptance of the Good Thief.

In the Russian Orthodox Church, both crucifixes and crosses are usually made with three bars: the top one, representing the titulus (the inscription that Pontius Pilate wrote and was nailed above Jesus' head; the longer crossbar on which Jesus' hands were nailed; and a slanted bar at the bottom representing the footrest to which Jesus' feet were nailed. The footrest is slanted, pointing up towards the Good Thief, and pointing down towards the other.

The biblical account of the repentant thief is foundational to the teaching of the church regarding
Baptism of desire, whereby one who desires baptism, but is prevented by circumstances beyond his control from actually being baptized, may be saved by the grace and mercy of God. Traditionalist Catholics who argue that the Church has never taught Baptism of Desire say that Dismas died and was saved under the Old Law, not under the New Law in which all must be baptized.

Just for the record, I strongly disagree with the last line in the preceding paragraph.

Oh, and I guess I do have a thought of my own after all—if I should ever hope to be canonized as a saint, I too want to be canonized by Jesus!

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Matthew 16:24-26 NIV

Sunday, January 11, 2009

In general about the close of the age…

Last week I was going through a book shelf that I don't visit very much. All the books I use on a regular basis are in my little office, the "cave," but the upstairs book shelf has books that I've read once and didn't really need to read again… with some exceptions, as I found out!

There I found a softbound booklet with colorful glossy covers that I'd forgotten I even owned, a publication of Orthodox Kypseli Publications, of Thessalonica, Greece—the city whose church the holy apostle Paul wrote two letters to, both of which had teachings about the end times, and in the first of which occurs one of my favorite Greek words, ἁρπαγησόμεθα (arpaghisómetha, Greek, "to take by force" or "be caught up"), describing one of the events of the last days, "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Having quite forgotten what this booklet contained, and thinking it might be an Orthodox interpretation of the book of Revelation, I started perusing it. As I did, it came back to me that this was not an interpretation of Revelation at all, but on the contrary, just passages from scripture and the Church fathers that offered us who are living at the close of the age instructions and guidelines to follow, so we will not be lost. This is very much in keeping with the sorts of things I have written both in my blog, A ramble on Revelation, and in comments on the subject to others. I was happy to see that all I've been doing is handing over what was handed to me in this booklet.

I'm also posting the front and back covers of the booklet. The back cover shows the whole icon from which I used an excerpt, a close up of Christ with the seven stars in His hand on my post ごらんなさい 私はすべてを新しくします. Both images will come up large if you click on them, even though the back cover is shown smaller (right).

Here are some excerpts I'd like to share for the benefit of the brothers who are not within the Orthodox koinonía. (This booklet is an English translation out of a modern Greek original, and somewhat awkward in places. I have not edited anything.)

The Revelation of the Evangelist Saint John the theologian is the last godly inspired book of the New Testament. It was written on Patmos in 95 A.D. and comprises 22 Chapters, which refer to prophecies which are mainly ecclesiastical, political and about wars. What people could not even think about one hundred years ago, [e.g., the possibility of nuclear wars] the Book of Revelation foretold nearly 1,900 years ago.

It is time for the godly inspired book of the Revelation of the Evangelist John the Theologian to be studied by all the faithful Christians, in order to avoid the dreadful traps which the instruments of the Antichrist are craftily setting up. The Holy Spirit Himself urges us to do this through the godly-wise Evangelist, John, not only to hear and read; but also to keep the godly inspired words it teaches us, telling us: "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy and keep what is written in them. For the time is near" (Revelation 1:3)

The word of God is always useful to us, especially during these last wicked times; when, because of our many and great sins, the all-seeing God will allow the just punishment of unrepentant humanity with a multitude of great afflictions.

The signs of the times shout to us that we are living in apocalyptic times, and the things which the Holy Spirit has prophesied about our days are being fulfilled. Our general apostasy bears witness to the worldly and satanic train of thought—contrary to God's will—that imbues us.

Then, the booklet first goes through the New Testament, particularly the epistles, quotes passages, then applies them to how we must conduct ourselves in the last days. After it reviews the teachings of the Bible, it then gives a number of quotations from the Church fathers, and also shows how to apply them in the last days.

This little booklet in all is only 45 pages long, and it was prepared and published in Greece, where as a result of being absorbed into the European Union, Christians are starting to see the beginnings of the regime of Antichrist. Reading it, I wondered to myself if they weren't perhaps "jumping the gun" on some things, but then, mentally looking around where I live, maybe we are just not as vigilant as they, or as perceptive.

As we prepare to enter the "new era" promised by the supporters of our next American president, let's continue to be watchful, for as the Word of God says, "the time is close."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Καλημέρα Πάντες ω! Αδελφοί

The Lord's Epiphany
Kaftoun, Mount Lebanon.
Anonymous, 13th Century A.D.

The epigraphy of the icon is written in three languages: In Greek, we find below the circle segment in the center, the main inscription: "The Baptism", above Jesus' crucifix halo: "Jesus Christ". In the upper left corner abbreviated: "The Prophet David" and in the upper right corner: "The Prophet Isaiah". In Syriac, on the open scroll that the prophet Isaiah holds in his hand, we read a composed text: "Thus the LORD has spoken: Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 1: 16; 12: 3). In Arabic, on the scroll held by David: "The sea saw it and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, The little hills like the lambs of the forest. What ails you, O sea, that you fled? O Jordan, that you turned back?" (Psalm 114) "The waters saw You, O God, the waters saw You and were troubled."

The music that is playing when you enter this blog is my favorite Greek Epiphany song. The commemoration of the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan by the honourable prophet and forerunner John the Baptist is coming up quickly, January 6th to be exact. I want to share this song with everyone who visits my blog. Of course, on the eighth day of Epiphany, I'll be removing the song. If you like it as much as I do, you can download it from here.

Καλημέρα Πάντες ω! Αδελφοί, ακούσατε την σήμερον εορτήν.
Σήμερον τα Φώτα και εορτή και λαμπρά ημέρα δεσποτική.
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

Εν αρχή ως ήρχισεν ο Θεός εποίησεν την γην και τον ουρανόν.
Ύστερον δε πάλιν από αυτά, έκαμεν τα ζώα και τα φυτά.
Έκαμεν την θάλασσαν, ποταμούς, τον μέγαν Ιορδάνην και αλλουνούς.
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

Ο Αδάμ και η Εύα ημάρτησαν και εις αμαρτίαν υπέπεσαν.
Την απάτην στον όφην την έριξαν και του θεού δεν είπαν πως έφταιξαν.
Αλλ’ ο όφις ήτον διάβολος, των πονηρών δαιμόνων διδάσκαλος.
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

Μα ο Ιησούς ο φιλάνθρωπος ήρθεν εις τον κόσμον ως άνθρωπος.
δια να λυτρώσει πάντας ημάς από αυτάς τας χείρας τας μιαράς.
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

Και τον Ιωάννην εζήτησεν και στο βάπτισμά του τον έκραξεν.
«Ιωάννη Πρόδρομε σου ζητώ, στον μέγαν Ιορδάνην να βαπτιστώ».
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

Και ο Ιωάννης του έλεγεν και σφοδρώς το σώμαν του έτρεμεν.
«Πώς να σε βαπτίσω ω! Λυτρωτά όπου η χειρ μου τρέμει και δειλιά!
Πως τολμώ να βάλω την χείραν μου, εις την κορυφήν του Σωτήρα μου»!
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

«Άφες φόβον Πρόδρομε σου ζητώ στον μέγαν Ιορδάνην να βαπτιστώ».
Τότε τον βαφτίζει ο Βαπτιστής και έλαμψεν η έρημος παρ’ ευθύς.
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

Και το πνεύμα ως είδος περιστεράς και λεπτής και ωραίας και καθαράς.
Και φωνή ηκούσθην εκ’ του πατρός, «ούτος είν’ ο υιός μ’ ο αγαπητός»
και τα χερουβείμ θυμιάζουσιν και τα σεραφείμ τον δοξάζουσιν.
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

Δια τούτο πάντες ω! Αδελφοί ακούσατε την σήμερον εορτήν.
Να την εορτάσομεν αδελφοί, ότι είν’ ημέρα δεσποτική.
Καλημέρα, καλημέρα, καλή σου μέρα αφέντη με την κερά.

Και εις έτη πολλά. Και του χρόνου να ’στε καλά.

A very loose translation of this song is in the first comment…

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Λειτουργία — Worship

As the door of the year AD 2008 closes, and that of the year AD 2009 opens, the Lord finds me with Him in the apostle’s letter to the Hebrews, cover to cover. In the twelfth chapter we find what describes heavenly worship…

What you have come to is nothing known to the senses.
Hebrews 12:18a

What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church in which everyone is a “first-born son” and a citizen of Heaven. You have come to God Himself, the supreme Judge, and been placed with the spirits of the saints who have been made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator who brings a new Covenant and a Blood for purification which pleads more insistently than Abel’s. Make sure that you never refuse to listen when He speaks.
Hebrews 12:22-25a

We have been given possession of an unshakable Kingdom. Let us therefore hold on to the grace that we have been given and use it to worship God in a way that He finds acceptable, in reverence and fear. For our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:28-29

…and in the thirteenth chapter, how we are to walk in the presence of Jesus, our great High Priest…

Continue to love each other like brothers, and always remember to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Keep in mind those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; and those who are being badly treated, since you too are in the one Body. Marriage is to be honored by all, and marriages are to be kept undefiled, because fornicators and adulterers will come under God’s judgment. Put greed out of your lives and be content with whatever you have; God Himself has said, “I will not fail you or desert you,” and so we can say with confidence: With the Lord to help me, I fear nothing: what can man do to me?
Hebrews 13:1-6

Remember your leaders who preached the Word of God to you, and as you reflect on the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be forever.
Hebrews 13:7-8

…and finally, in the apostle’s own words, my prayer for the new year.

I pray that the God of peace, who brought our Lord Jesus back from the dead to become the great Shepherd of the sheep by the Blood that sealed an eternal Covenant, may make [us] ready to do His will in any kind of good action; and turn us all into whatever is acceptable to Himself through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Hebrews 13:20-21