28 July 2010

The Holy Martyr Eustathios

from the Synaxarion:

The Holy Martyr Eustathios was a soldier. For confessing the Christian faith he was arrested and brought before the head of the city on Ancyra. At the interrogation, the saint firmly and bravely confessed himself a Christian and was sentenced to tortures. They beat him without mercy, they bore into his heels and, having tied him about with rope, they dragged him in the city to the River Sagka (Sangara). At the bank of the river they put the martyr into a wooden chest and threw it in the water. An Angel of God brought the chest to shore. The saint, situated in the chest, was singing the 90th (91st) Psalm: "He that dwelleth in the help of the Most-High..." Beholding the miracle and sensing himself disgraced, the governor having drawn his sword killed himself. The holy martyr, having received Communion from the hand of an Angel, gave up his spirit to God (+ c. 316). His venerable relics were buried in the city of Ancyra.

23 July 2010

The Priest-Martyr Apollinarius, Bishop of Ravenna

From the Synaxarion:

During the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius (41-54), the holy Apostle Peter came to Rome from Antioch, and he ordained the Antiochene Apollinarius, who had come with him, to be bishop of Ravenna. Arriving in Ravenna as a stranger, Saint Apollinarius asked shelter of a local inhabitant, the soldier Ireneius, and in conversation with him revealed also for what purpose he had come. Ireneius had a blind son, whom Saint Apollinarius healed, having turned to the Lord with prayer. The soldier Ireneius and his family were the first in Ravenna to believe in Christ. The saint stayed at the house of Ireneius and preached about Christ to everyone wanting to hear what he said. One of the miracles done by Saint Apollinarius was the healing of the incurably sick wife of the Ravenna tribune, Thecla. After she stood up from her bed completely healthy -- through the prayers of the saint, not only did she believe in Christ, but so also did the tribune. At the house of the tribune Saint Apollinarius constructed a small church, where he offered the Divine Liturgy. For the newly-baptised people of Ravenna Saint Apollinarius ordained two presbyters, Aderetus and Calocyrus, and also two deacons.

Saint Apollinarius preached the Gospel at Ravenna for twelve years, and the number of Christians steadily increased. Pagan priests made complaint against the bishop to the governor Saturninus. Saint Apollinarius was brought to trial and subjected to grievous tortures. Thinking that he had died, the torturers took him out of the city to the sea-coast and threw him in; but the saint was still living. A certain pious Christian widow rendered him aid and gave him shelter in her home. Saint Apollinarius stayed at her home for six months and continued secretly to preach about Christ. The whereabouts of the saint became known when he healed the loss of speech of an illustrious resident of the city named Boniface, at the request of his wife, who besought the help of the saint for her husband. After this miracle many pagans were converted to Christ, and again Saint Apollinarius was brought to trial and tortured, this time setting his bared-feet on red-hot coals. They removed him from the city a second time, but the Lord again kept him alive.

The saint did not cease preaching until they expelled him from the city. For a certain while Saint Apollinarius found himself elsewhere in Italy, where as before he continued to preach the Gospel. And again having returned to Ravenna to his flock, Saint Apollinarius again went on trial and was sentenced to banishment. In heavy fetters he was put on a ship sailing to Illyrica to the River Danube. Two soldiers were responsible to convey him to his place of exile. Three of the clergy voluntarily followed their bishop into exile. Along the way the vessel suffered shipwreck and all drowned, except for the rescued Saint Apollinarius, his acompanying clergy and the two soldiers. The soldiers, listening to Saint Apollinarius, believed in the Lord and accepted Baptism. Having found shelter nowhere, the travellers came to Mycea, where Saint Apollinarius healed a certain illustrious inhabitant from leprosy, and for which both he and his companions received shelter at his home. In this land Saint Apollinarius likewise preached tirelessly about Christ and he converted many of the pagans to Christianity, for which he was subjected to persecution on the part of unbelievers. They beat up the saint mercilessly, and boarding him on a ship sailing for Italy, they sent him back. After a three year absence, Saint Apollinarius returned to Ravenna and was joyfully received by his flock. The pagans, however, having fallen upon the church where the saint made Divine Liturgy, scattered those at prayer, and dragged the saint to the idolatrous priests in the pagan temple of Apollo, where the idol fell just as they brought in the saint, and it shattered. The pagan priests brought Saint Apollinarius for trial to the new governor of the district, named Taurus.

Apollinarius worked here a new miracle: he healed the son of the governor, who had been blind from birth. In gratitude for the healing of his son, Taurus strove to shelter Saint Apollinarius from the angry crowd. He dispatched him to his own estate outside the city, where the son and wife of Taurus were baptised, but he himself fearing the anger of the emperor did not accept Baptism, but conducted himself with gratitude and love towards his benefactor. Saint Apollinarius lived for five years at the estate of Taurus and preached without hindrance about salvation. During this time pagan priests dispatched letters of denunciation to the emperor Vespasian with a request for a sentence of death or exile of the Christian "sorcerer" Apollinarius. But the emperor answered the pagan priests, that the gods were sufficiently powerful to take revenge for themselves, if they reckoned themselves insulted. All the wrath of the pagans fell upon Saint Apollinarius: they caught hold of him when the saint left the city setting out for a nearby settlement, and they beat him fiercely. Christians found him barely alive and took him to the settlement, where he survived for seven days. During the time of his pre-death illness the saint did not cease to teach his flock and he predicted, that after persecution Christians would enter upon better times, when they could openly and freely confess their faith.

Having given those present his archpastoral blessing, the Priest-Martyr Apollinarius expired to the Lord. Saint Apollinarius was bishop of Ravenna for 28 years and he died in the year 75 AD.

(Image is of the altar in the Church of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna.)

21 July 2010

Beginning at the Beginning

As mentioned in the previous post Democracy, Anyone?, I've been working on exploring some interesting connections between religion and government and, because I'm an Orthodox Christian (and happen to believe that in Orthodoxy all of the human experience is capable of being restored by the operative power of God's grace) I, quite naturally, wanted to try to understand it from that point of view. I am aware that there are other points of view; this on-going study is not really an attempt to convince anyone not starting at the same baseline. And, while I would like to convince people in my own tradition, I am aware that so many of us are unwilling to give up some fundamentally held beliefs that have been inculcated in us Westerners (and those cradle Orthodox who have grown up and been educated in the West)--specially Americans—that this whole project may be about as useful as fairy wings on a cement truck. Nevertheless, I think this is a worthwhile thing to look at, and, frankly, I am pretty shocked that the subject is so taboo among modern Orthodox.

Since I need a way to break all this down and organize it in some fashion, and because I'm terribly out of date and old-fashioned, I decided an Aristotelean approach would be best. So as I make these posts, I'll be breaking down the Orthodox political worldview accordingly by attempting to answer the following four questions: What does the Orthodox political vision contain, or, of what is it made? Second, how does it manifest itself in the world? Third, what principle(s) guide or move Orthodox politics? And, finally, what is its aim or purpose? I will, of course, be drawing parallels from the reality of the political world, particularly America, by way of contrast and explanation.

There are, of course, simple answers to each of these questions—and those simple answers, which I have encountered many times in my relatively short time in Orthodoxy, are true up to a point, but they often are subject to misinterpretation through omission and ambiguity (whether these are honest or intentional I am not sure, but, nevertheless, they lead to distortions and confusion about what the Orthodox Church has taught about the political life of human beings for centuries). There is also a shocking amount of political agnosticism among contemporary Orthodox in America (of course, there is also a shocking amount of American politicization, too; both are, I think, bad). Then there is the tendency among the descendants of those cradle Orthodox (and, it must be said, the ex-Uniates) who came to the U.S. in particular seeking escape from political oppression and the economic disasters of 19th and early 20th century Europe not to criticize the form of government which allows them the protection of “freedom of religion.” This is entirely understandable and even, on some level, a noble impulse—I'm sure that some view it as a corollary of Japeth and Shem walking backward and throwing a cloak over their father, so as not to see him in his nakedness and shame (Gen. 9:23). But the simple fact remains that many of the dearest-held beliefs about the origin and intent of the liberal government of the U.S. is nothing more than deception and delusion.

Consider what has been said by the much-beloved Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko, Dean Emeritus of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, on this very subject:

As long as the "American experiment" remained rooted in its Christian soil, it worked. It was truly the worst possible form of human society, except for all others. It deteriorated to its present condition not only by evil and sin, or as some say, by ceasing to be overtly Christian, and even Protestant. It decomposed when democracy became an idolized end-it-itself and every participant and group demanded its right not only to be respected and tolerated, but to be affirmed and approved without condition or question. It collapsed, and continues to collapse, not only through the loss of basic Christian doctrine and ethics, but through the loss of the conviction that there is truth and righteousness for all people in any form at all. Because of this, the transformation of modern American liberal democracy into a post-modern pluralistic plethora of hostile and warring interest groups, including some which bear the name "Christian", was inevitable. [1]

What Fr. Thomas says here is true to a point, but it misses the fact that the “American experiment” was never imagined to be a democracy, nor does he seem to understand the roots and origins of democratic government (perhaps even believing the liberal lie from the Enlightenment that selfish human interests are a good thing and will, when unfettered, lead to unlimited progress and social good—aka “enlightened self interest”) or its historically predictable outcomes, nor still yet that the grand experiment was never rooted in explicitly Christian soil. (Certainly not Orthodox or even “orthodox” Christianity.) It is probably better understood now than ever that the deistic/theistic impulses of many of the Founders of the U.S., while dressed, perhaps, in the trappings of Christian heritage, had at its root not Christianity, but a rival religion inspired by (and in many causes purporting to be the continuation of) the pagan mystery cults and “rational religion” of pre-Christian antiquity. Among these many groups (Freemasons, Rosicrucians, the 'Illuminati,' among others) was conceived and articulated a “new” conception of humanity: a brotherhood of all men, transcending nationality and creed, dedicated to the ideal of perfecting humanity through knowledge, learning, and freedom from the traditional confines of European culture and society (which must, no matter what one thinks of Western Christianity since 1054, be understood as deriving from the Church and upheld by the institution of monarchy).

The pervasive nature of these ideals, and their inculcation as tenets to be held against tide and time at all costs, shows just how influential these groups promulgating their doctrine of man's perfectibility through his own means have been; and yet, it does not take a saint or even a particularly good biblical scholar to detect as an enthymeme in that declaration the words of the serpent from Genesis: “For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). The liberal promise has always been the exact same...to make people better through “freedom.” We contrast this to the words of the holy Orthodox elder of modern times, Elder Paisios the New of the Holy Mountain, who said “Freedom is good when the person can use it appropriately. Otherwise it is a disaster.”[2] And it is precisely through the promise of greater and greater “freedom” (or, in more modern terminology “justice”) that the “new” liberalism—that is, socialism—devoid of its sacred cow of private property as a basic human right, has ensnared generations of Westerners with the promise of freedom from want and necessity. [3] It makes for n interesting juxtaposition for anyone familiar with the wording of the Great Ektenia from Eastern Rite liturgies where the priest asks God “For our deliverance from all tribulation, wrath, danger, and necessity...” [4] Apparently, we don't need God; human progress can do that all on it's own.

That the roots of this political and spiritual plague are in the Schism between the Churches I hope to demonstrate more fully at a later time; and while it is in the East that the purity of Orthodoxy was preserved, there were many from the East that were responsible in large part for the rise of humanism which elevated the worth of pre-Christian antiquity (primarily Greek, but Latin as well) over and above the esse of Western civilization which is Orthodox Christianity (and which, like it or not, the Russo-Byzantine east is actually the major and only surviving part)...leading directly to the religious and political factiousness of the 15th century (not only the Protestant reformation, but the ultimate fall of the Eastern Roman empire in 1453). That this disease manifests itself first as a hostility to tradition, and to the traditional of the principle of monarchical power, and then moves on to the Church, then to the principle of “religion” in general, is not coincidental, and I hope to demonstrate those connections more thoroughly in subsequent posts. I also hope to point to a more specific cause (or causes) than has generally been the wont of historians or theologians or philosophers, or anyone else who has bothered to look into these things.

This, then, is the beginning of the beginning. I make the commitment to this to finish it as best I am able, by God's grace, and to be dedicated only to the truth—as best as it can be judged by a sinful and unworthy man. May the prayers of our fathers among the saints Justinian the right-believing emperor of the Romans, King Alfred the Great of England, King and Martyr Edmund of East Anglia, Prophet and King David, ancestor of the Lord, and all the holy Orthodox monarchs of all ages enlighten and bless this work which is dedicated to them and the memory of their wise and just rule and their dedication to the Holy Orthodox faith. In name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

[1] Fr. Thomas Hopko, "Orthodoxy in Post-Modern Pluralistic Societies." (http://www.svots.edu/fr-thomas-hopko-orthodoxy-in-post-modern-pluralistic-societies/).

[2] Elder Paisios, Elder Paisios the New of Mount Athos. (http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english elder_paisios_mount_athos.htm#_Toc61750930)

[3] F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom. pg. 77.

[4] from The Divine Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints John Chrysostom. (http://www.orthodoxyork.org/liturgy.html)

16 July 2010

The Fourth Ecumenical Council

From the Synaxarion:

The Fourth Ecumenical Council, at which 630 bishops participated, was convened in the year 451 in the city of Chalcedon under the emperor Marcian (450-457). Still back in the time of the emperor Theodosius II (408-450), the bishop of Dorileuseia Eusebios in 408 reported to a Council held at Constantinople under the holy Patriarch Flavian (Comm. 18 February), concerning a personage of one of the monasteries of the capital, the archimandrite Eutykhios, who in his undaunted zeal against the soul-destroying heresy of the Nestorius -- went to the opposite extreme and began to assert, that within Jesus Christ the human nature under the hypostatic union was completely absorbed by the Divine nature, in consequence of which it lost everything characteristic of human nature, except but for the visible form; wherein, such that after the union in Jesus Christ there remained only one nature (the Divine), which in visible bodily form lived upon the earth, suffered, died, and was resurrected.

The Constantinople Council condemned this new false-teaching. But the heretic Eutykhios had patronage at court, and was in close connection with the heretic Dioskoros, the successor to Sainted Cyril (Comm. 18 January) upon the patriarchal see at Alexandria. Eutykhios turned to the emperor with a complaint against the injustice of the condemnation against him, and he demanded the judgement of an Ecumenical Council against his opponents, whom he accused of Nestorianism. Wanting to restore peace in the Church, Theodosius had decided to convene a Fourth Ecumenical Council in the year 449 at Ephesus. But this Council became branded in the chronicles of the Church as the "Robbers Council." Dioskoros, appointed by the emperor to preside as president of the Council, ran it like a dictator, making use of threats and outright coercion. Eutykhios was exonerated, and Saint Flavian condemned. But in the year 450 the emperor Theodosius died. The new emperor Marcian raised up onto the throne with him the sister of Theodosius, Pulcheria.

Restoring peace to the Church was a matter of prime importance. An Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 451 at Chalcedon. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Anatolios (Comm. 3 July) presided over the Council. Dioskoros at the first session was deprived of his place among those present, and at the third session he was condemned with all his partisans. The Sessions of the Council were 16 in all. The Chalcedon holy fathers pronounced anathemas against the heresy of Eutykhios. On the basis of Letters Saint Cyril of Alexandria and Pope Saint Leo the Great, the fathers of the Council resolved:

"Following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach to confess as one and the same the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect in Divinity and perfect in humanity, truly God, truly man, of Whom is a reasoned soul and a body, One in Essence with the Father through Divinity and that Same-One one-in-essence with us through humanity, in all things like unto us except for sin, begotten before the ages from the Father in Divinity, but in these latter days born for us and our salvation from Mary the Virgin Mother of God in humanity. This self-same Christ, Son and Lord, the Only-Begotten, is in two natures perceived without mingling, without change, without division, without separation [Greek: "asugkhutos, atreptos, adiairetos, akhoristos"; Slavic: "neslitno, neizmenno, nerazdel'no, nerazluchno"], such that by conjoining there be not infringement of the distinctions of the two natures, and by which is preserved the uniqueness of each nature conjoined in one Person and One Hypostasis, -- not split nor separated into two persons, but rather the One and Self-same Son, the Only-Begotten, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, as in antiquity the prophets taught of Him and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us, and as the Creed-Symbol of the fathers has passed down to us."

In the two final Sessions of the Council, 30 Canon-rules were promulgated concerning ecclesial hierarchies and disciplines. Beyond this, the Council affirmed the decrees not only of the three preceding Ecumenical Councils, but also of the Local Councils of: Ancyra, Neocaesarea, Gangra, Antioch and Laodiceia, which had occurred during the fourth century.

13 July 2010

Democracy, Anyone?

"[...] a new demonic outpouring is being loosed upon mankind. In the Christian apocalyptic view...we can see the power which until now has restrained the final and most terrible manifestation of demonic activity on earth has been taken away (II Thess. 2:7), Orthodox Christian government and public order (whose chief representative on earth was the Orthodox emperor) and satan has been "loosed out of his prison," where he was kept by the grace of the Church of Christ, in order to "deceive the nations" (Apoc. 20:7-8) and prepare them to worship antichrist at the end of the age. Perhaps never since the beginning of the Christian era have demons appeared so openly and extensively as they do today."
Fr. Seraphim (Rose) of Platina, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, p. 109.
"Masonic and mystical symbolism has been used on American currency since the very beginning, and was employed as a means of of distinguishing our money from that of Old World Europe, which invariably featured the bust of the reigning monarch. In contrast, America's founding fathers agreed that American money should be decorated with symbols of the anti-monarchist, pro-democratic Enlightenment philosophy upon which the Republic was founded, and many of these ideals were Masonic in origin. [...] The Rosicruicians and proto-Masons believed that if a system of government could be set up somewhere that was not beholden to any church, or to any royal house, then its citizens would be free to learn these ancient [occult] truths and explore these new ideas. Then they could export their wisdom, and their enlightened form of government, to the rest of the world."
Tracy R. Twyman, Solomon's Treasure, pg. 3, 18-19.
"Conservative refers to someone who recognizes the old and natural through the "noise" of anomalies and accidents and who defends, supports, and helps preserve it against the temporary and anomalous. [...] Just as a hierarchical order exists in a family, so there is a hierarchical order within a community of families--of apprentices, servants, and masters, vassals, knights, lords, overlords, and even kings--tied together by an elaborate and intricate system of kinship relations; and of children, parents, priests, bishops, cardinals, patriarchs or popes, and finally the transcendent God. Of the two layers of authority, the earthly, physical power of parents, lords, and kings is naturally subordinate to control by the ultimate spiritual-intellectual authority of fathers, priests, bishops, and ultimately God,"
Hans Herman Hoppe, Democracy: The God that Failed, pg 188.
"The Holy Fathers agreed with Eusebius. Thus St. Gregory the Theologian wrote: 'The three most ancient opinions about God are atheism (or anarchy),polytheism (or polyarchy), and monotheism (or monarchy). The children of Greece played with the first two; let us leave them to their games. For anarchy is disorder: and polyarchy implies factious division, and therefore anarchy and disorder. Both these lead in the same direction – to disorder; and disorder leads to disintegration; for disorder is the prelude to disintegration. What we honour is monarchy…' 'What we honour is monarchy…' That certainly appears to imply that monarchism is part of the Orthodox world-view, even if it does not figure in any of the Creeds. We find the same in the Fathers of the fifth century. Thus Archbishop Theophan of Poltava writes: 'St. Isidore of Pelusium, after pointing out that the God-established order of the submission of some to other is found everywhere in the life of rational and irrational creatures, concludes from this:‘Therefore we are right to say that the matter itself – I mean power, that is, authority and royal power – are established by God.'"
Vladimir Moss, The Restoration of Romanity, pg. 275.
"The two greatest gifts which God in His infinite goodness has granted men are the Priesthood and the Empire. The priesthood takes care of divine interests and the empire of human interests of which is has supervision. Both powers emanate from the same principle and bring human life to its perfection. It is for this reason that emperors have nothing closer to their hearts than the honor of priests because they pray continually to God for the emperors. When the clergy shows a proper spirit and devotes itself entirely to God, and the emperor governs the state which is entrusted to him, then a harmony results which is most profitable to the human race. So it is then that the true divine teachings and the honor of the clergy are the first among our preoccupations."
St. Justinian, Novella Six
Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:17

I realize that this post is going to end up being rather cryptic, but I wanted to give a sort of update on things I've been working on lately. As someone who has been critical of what passes for Western culture for a while, I've been interested in an on-again off-again way with the causes of Western decline. No doubt, this is the Aristotelian in me. However, as a result of last semester's final project for my class on the topic of Justice, Law, and Government, I began thinking about the relationship of chaos and order, of law to government (and justice to each), of democracy to monarchy, of secularism to the Orthodox Christian worldview...and certain things began to "click." As a result I've been working (when I've had time this summer, which has not been much, alas) on revising that project and expanding it to be less consumed by the abstraction of theory, and putting it to more concrete, practical use as a framework for understanding the interrelatedness of the Schism, humanism, the 'Renaissance,' the Protestant Reformation, the 'Enlightenment,' the occult, and the downward spiral of the West. More on this will follow, but for now, I ask you to read over the quotes I've pulled out here, and really think about them--not just react according to the dictates of modern western bias.