The truth drew hatred…

 

The Head of the Honorable Forerunner

The Head of the Honorable Forerunner

“Seest Thou what suffer those who censure,

O Word of God, the faults of the unclean.

Not being able to bear censure,

lo, Herod cut off my head, O Savior.”

Today, on the 29th day of the month of August, the Holy Church commemorates the Beheading of the Holy, Glorious, and Honorable Prophet and Forerunner of Christ our God, John the Baptist.

Of this holy day, which the Church observes with a strict fast, the Blessed Bishop of Hippo, Augustine, writes, “So John decreased by an head, even as Christ’s height was made higher on the Cross. The truth drew hatred. It could not be borne in patience that the holy man of God should utter a reproof, although he sought by his reproof nothing but the soul’s health of them to whom he addressed it. And they repaid him evil for the good he offered them.

“For what could the Baptist say but that whereof he was full? And what could they answer him but that whereof they were full? He sowed wheat, but he reaped thorns. He had said unto the king: It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. Lust had got the better of the king, and he kept a woman whom it was not lawful for him to have, even his brother’s wife.

“But she pleased him, so that his cruelty was lulled. He respected the Saint who had spoken the truth to him. But the vile woman conceived hatred, and in due time brought forth what she had conceived. And when she brought forth, she bore a dancing girl who through her lasciviousness accomplished murder.”

How often does the truth, which saves and enlightens and sets free, draw out the hatred of those who oppose it because, by their evil manner of living, they have chosen to follow a lie. The number of lies in the world has appeared to increase to the point where many would not only oppose truth, but even refuse to acknowlege its existence, preferring instead to make many truths for themselves, submitting themselves to none of them in actuality, so much has man’s worship of himself supplanted the worship of God.

The preaching of the Honorable Forerunner, however, cut through the lies with which Herod, Herodias, and Salome had fooled themselves. Their evils were unmasked, not so that they would be shamed and humiliated, but so that they might recognize their sins and repent of them. Instead of repentance, however, their wounded pride moved them to resentment, and they returned evil for good.

For they did not believe the blessed man of God had done them a service out of love for the salvation of their souls, but instead they called good evil, and justified murder as a just redress for being wronged.

This scenario still plays out today, though too few censure evil with the grace, innocence, and spiritual authority of the Honorable Forerunner of Christ.

The Kontakion of today’s Feast, like all the hymns for the occasion, is most instructive:

“The beheading of the glorious Forerunner was by divine providence, that the coming of the Savior might be preached to those in hades. Let Herodias, therefore, mourn, she who sought unlawful murder; for she hath not affected the law of God, nor hath she sought eternal life, preferring the worldly one.”

Those who would prefer the passing worldly life to the real, eternal one are greatly to be pitied, but those who go so far as to seek unlawful murder mourn forever through the justice of God. This is not a truth that many people like to think about, but just because something is unpleasant does not make it uninstructive and inconducive to salvation. Some misguided and pitiable persons even go so far as to distort the truth and say that there will be no eternal punishment, or that God will destroy the souls of sinners to prevent them from suffering eternally. They think that this makes God more merciful. But, by teaching such things, they distort the Holy Gospel itself, a very grave crime.

For more on the Orthodox teaching on the eternal punishment, see Elder Cleopa’s excellent book “The Truth of our Faith,” Chapter 17 “On the Eternal Torments of Hell.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“God offers eternal joy to the righteous, who struggled for a time to carry out good works here on earth, but as a just and righteous God, He also chastises eternally the ungodly that transgressed in this temporal life. Why is it so? Because the wounds incurred from sin that are not healed in this life through the appropriate repentance will remain infected eternally in the presence of God.”

And, from “Nihilism,” by Fr. Seraphim Rose: “Hell is the love of God rejected…But God loves even such men too much to allow them simply to ‘forget’ Him and ‘pass away’…out of His presence which alone is life to men; He offers, even to those in Hell, His Love, which is torment to those who have not prepared themselves in this life to receive it.”

God loves every person, and this continues for eternity. Everyone feels the love. How we will feel it depends on us. If we reject God’s love in this life, we make a choice for eternal punishment–for by the mercy of God eternity is the unmitigated experience of God’s love. Of course, God wants everyone to accept His love, but He made us free to choose, giving us this life to make that choice. If God destroyed someone because He didn’t want them to suffer, that would mean that He would also be cutting them off from His love and going back on His promises of eternal life. If God destroyed a person, completely obliterated him, just so he wouldn’t suffer, He would be a very terrible God indeed. Who would love such a being that kills in the name of mercy? It would not be mercy at all, really.

So, in that all experience the fulfillment of the promises of God and the unmitigated experience of God’s love in eternity, we can say with several of the saints, wherever we find ourselves, in blessedness or in torment, glory to God for all things. God is just and merciful in all that He has done, is doing, and will do for us. The blame is rather with us for our sins. But, then, let us repent of them and God will forgive us and grant us again the opportunity to embrace His love. And so again and again until the hour God appoints for our eternal reunion with Him.

But those who reject God’s love, reject the truth in this life cannot embrace it in eternity. There, no longer able to lie to themselves, they are faced with the eternal revelation of truth and their rejection of it. Thus, they mourn, knowing they have none but themselves to blame.

On this day is commemorated also our Holy Father among the Saints Medericus (or Merry) of Autun in France (+700).

“St. Merry was born at Autun, in the 7th century, and from an early age realized that the end of human life is the sanctification and salvation of the soul. That he might wholly give himself to God, when he was still very young, he entered a local monastery, probably St. Martin’s in Autun.

“In that monastery then lived 54 fervent monks, whose penitential and regular lives were an object of edification to the whole country. Merry, in this company, grew up in habits of virtue by example, walking before them in every duty; and the reputation of his sanctity drew the eyes of all men upon him.

“The distractions which continual consultations from all parts gave him, and a fear of falling into vanity, made him resign his office and retire into a forest four miles from Autun, where he lay hid for some time. He earned himself all necessaries of life by the labor of his hands, and found this solitude sweet by the liberty it gave him of employing his time in heavenly contemplation and work.

“The place of his retreat at length becoming public, and being struck down by sickness, he was obliged to return to the monastery. After having edified his brethren and strengthened them in religious perfection, he again left them in old age in order to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Germanus of Paris (also a native of Autun) in that city.

“There, with one companion, St. Frou (or Frodulf), he chose his abode in a small cell adjoining a chapel dedicated in honor of St. Peter, in the north suburb of the city; and, after two years and nine months during which he bore with patience a painful lingering illness, he died happily about the year 700.”

–from Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Complete Edition, 1956.

Through the prayers of St. John the Baptist, St. Merry, and all the Saints, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us for Thou art good and lovest mankind. Amen.

Will the Heterodox be Saved?

by Archimandite (Metropolitan) Philaret, of blessed memory (+1985)
Metropolitan Philaret of New York

Metropolitan Philaret of New York (+8/21 November)

 

Question: “If the Orthodox faith is the only true faith, can Christians of other confessions be saved? May a person who has led a perfectly righteous life on earth be saved on the strength of his ancestry, while not being baptized as Christian?

Answer: “For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth [struggleth], but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16). In the Orthodox Church we have the path of salvation indicated to us and we are given the means by which a person maybe morally purified and have a direct promise of salvation. In this sense St. Cyprian of Carthage says that “outside the Church there is no salvation.” In the Church is given that of which Apostle Peter writes to Christians (and only Christians): “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:3-8). And what should one say of those outside the Church, who do not belong to her? Another apostle provides us with an idea: “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). God “will have mercy on whom He will have mercy” (Rom 9:18). It is necessary to mention only one thing: that to “lead a perfectly righteous life,” as the questioner expressed it, means to live according to the commandments of the Beatitudes—which is beyond the power of one, outside the Orthodox Church, without the help of grace which is concealed within it.

The question: Can the heterodox, i.e. those who do, not belong to Orthodoxy—the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church—be saved, has become particularly painful and acute in our days.

In attempting to answer this question, it is necessary, first of all, to recall that in His Gospel the Lord Jesus Christ Himself mentions but one state of the human soul which unfailingly leads to perdition—i.e. blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:1-32). The Holy Spirit is, above all, the Spirit of Truth, as the Saviour loved to refer to Him. Accordingly, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against the Truth, conscious and persistent opposition to it. The same text makes it clear that even blasphemy against the Son of Man—i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God Himself may be forgiven men, as it may be uttered in error or in ignorance and, subsequently may be covered by conversion and repentance (an example of such a converted and repentant blasphemer is the Apostle Paul. (See Acts 26:11 and I Tim. 1:13.) If, however, a man opposes the Truth which he clearly apprehends by his reason and, conscience, he becomes blind and commits spiritual suicide, for he thereby likens himself to the devil, who believes in God and dreads Him, yet hates, blasphemes, and opposes Him.

Thus, man’s refusal to accept the Divine Truth and his opposition thereto makes him a son of damnation. Accordingly, in sending His disciples to preach, the Lord told them: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16), for the latter heard the Lord’s Truth and was called upon to accept it, yet refused, thereby inheriting the damnation of those who “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thes. 2:12).

Incorrupt Relics of Blessed Metropolitan Philaret of New York

Incorrupt Relics of Blessed Metropolitan Philaret of New York

The Holy Orthodox Church is the repository of the divinely revealed Truth in all its fullness and fidelity to apostolic Tradition. Hence, he who leaves the Church, who intentionally and consciously falls away from it, joins the ranks of its opponents and becomes a renegade as regards apostolic Tradition. The Church dreadfully anathematized such renegades, in accordance with the words of the Saviour Himself (Matt. 18:17) and of the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), threatening them with e ternal damnation and calling them to return to the Orthodox fold. It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth…* They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy. The Lord, “Who will have all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation In His own way.

With reference to the above question, it is particularly instructive to recall the answer once given to an inquirer by the Blessed Theophan the Recluse. The blessed one replied more or less thus: “You ask, will the heterodox be saved… Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins… I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever.”

We believe the foregoing answer by the saintly ascetic to be the best that can be given in this matter.

* The Greek word for “heresy” is derived from the word for “choice” and hence inherently implies conscious, willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church.

From Orthodox Life, Vol. 34, No. 6 (Nov.-Dec., 1984), pp. 33-36.

Port Arthur Icon of the Triumph of the Most Holy Theotokos

Port Arthur Icon of the Triumph of the Most Holy Theotokos

Port Arthur Icon of the Triumph of the Most Holy Theotokos

Link to Icon and History: http://www.holycross-hermitage.com/pages/portarthuricon.html

Link to Akathist to the Port Arthur Icon of the Triumph of the Most Holy Theotokos: http://www.archdiocese.ca/resources/pdf/Akathist-PortArthurMotherOfGod-English.pdf

Hermitage of the Holy Cross
The Port Arthur Icon of the Triumph of the Theotokos

It is not given to us to perceive what is awaiting the Church ahead. Woes and persecutions often accompany the life of a Christian. But the miraculous reappearance of the icon of the most Holy Theotokos proves her gracious Intercession for all Orthodox Christians. This will give us courage and selflessness in bearing our own cross. -Archbishop Veniamin of Vladivostok and Primorye

In December 1903 an aged sailor who was one of the last defenders of Sevastopol during the Crimean War came to the city of Kiev to pray before the holy relics of the Lavra of the Caves.

One night some strange noise woke the old man up and he saw the Theotokos with angels around her, among them the Archangel Michael and the Archangel Gabriel. The Theotokos was standing upon two discarded and broken swords on the shore of a bay, with her back turned to the water. She was holding a white aer with blue fringe, upon which was an Image of the Savior, “Not-Made-By-Hands.” Angels in the clouds of blinding light were holding a crown above her head and the Lord of Sabaoth was sitting still higher on the throne of glory, encircled with the blinding radiance.

The old man was moved and experienced the uttermost awe, but the Theotokos comforted him and said, “Russia will soon be involved in a very difficult war on the shores of a far sea; many a woe is awaiting her. Paint an icon showing my appearance as it is now and send the icon to Port Arthur. If the icon is in that city, Orthodoxy will triumph over paganism and Russian warriors will attain my help, my patronage, and their victory.” The blinding light filled his room and the vision disappeared.

Port Arthur was a city named for a captain of the English vessel Algerino, founded in Manchuria in 1858 on the site of a former Chinese settlement, Lao Shun. Forty years later China leased this city (along with its nearby territories) to Russia because of the Japanese threat. Thus Russia became the intercessor and defender of the Far East territories. In 1902 the St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral was built there.
This appearance was the first revelation of this kind in 20th century Russia. The 20th century has been called the time of the Russian Golgotha but also the Age of the Glory and Triumph of the Most Holy Theotokos, for in it the Theotokos manifested many miracles, signs, and revelations. The Most Pure One is ever present where her Son is being crucified. Therefore she did not forsake Russia’s Cross in that mournful time.

In Kiev they took heed of the old sailor’s story, and but two months after the appearance of the Theotokos it was spoken about all over Russia. In the beginning of 1904 the Russo-Japanese war broke out with the attack of Japanese torpedo boats on the Russian ships of the port of Incheon, Korea.

Russians remembered the behest of the Theotokos and began to raise money. Ten-thousand people donated, giving kopeck by kopeck, and the icon was executed exactingly according to the description of the old sailor. It was blessed during Holy Week and sent to St. Petersburg, being entrusted to the care of Admiral Verkhovsky. The people of Kiev expressed their hope that the admiral would make every possible effort, losing no opportunity to deliver the icon safely and as quickly as possible to the fortress of Port Arthur.

The icon was in the admiral’s house by Pascha, but he did not hasten to send it to the Far East. For several days his home was like an artist’s salon. Generals, senators, and representatives of the local authorities dropped by to have a look at the icon. Metropolitan Antony of St. Petersburg also paid a visit and reminded the admiral that the icon was rightly to have been delivered to Port Arthur and that he should have made haste to fulfill the will of Our Lady.

On March 31st the commander of the Russian Navy, Stepan Makarov, perished not far from Port Arthur. During those days the Emperor Nicholas II wrote in his journal, “All the day long I could not come to myself because of this heartbreaking woe. Let God’s will abide in everything, but we shall ask for His mercy towards us who are sinful.”

Historical Background
The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 was fought on account of competing claims to dominion in south-eastern China and Korea. In February of 1904 Japan initiated war by attacking Port Arthur, the defense of which lasted into the beginning of 1905. The Japanese defeated the Russian Army in the general battle at Moukden, and the Russian Navy at the Korean Gulf (Susima Island).

When the War ended, Japan’s military resources were running short but Russia was only beginning her military actions. Nevertheless, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty left Port Arthur and half of Sakhalin island to Japan, brought Korea under Japanese influence, and completely liquidated the Russian Pacific Navy.

An American historian Dennett wrote in 1925:
Now very few suppose that Japan was deprived of the fruits of its forthcoming victories by concluding the Portsmouth peace treaty. The contrary opinion predominates: Japan had already been exhausted by the end of May and only that very treaty saved it from complete defeat in its collision with Russia.
Admiral Verkhovsky apparently did not see the tragedy of Makarov’s death as sufficent cause to deliver the icon the Triumph of the Theotokos. Thus it continued to be a decorative element of his apartment.

Admiral Nikolai Skryidlov was appointed to the position of the perished Makarov. When he was preparing to set out for the battlefield of Port Arthur, the Dowager Empress Maria (mother of Nicholas II) decided to take responsibility for the icon. After a short moleben the icon was delivered to the carriage-wagon of Admiral Skryidlov. He promised personally to bring the icon right to the cathedral of Port Arthur.

But the admiral’s train did not go immediately to the Far East, as he himself was busy straightening out home and family affairs. In the end of April of 1904 Port Arthur was besieged and as a result Skryidlov came to Vladivostok instead of Port Arthur.

One of his contemporaries commented in a written account of what came to pass, “The miraculous icon the Triumph of the Theotokos was temporarily placed in the Cathedral of Vladivostok on August 2, 1904.” This indicates that it was not placed in the Church for public veneration until ninety days after Admiral Skryidlov’s arrival. He, busied with concerns, simply forgot the icon. It was after a decree of Empress Maria that the icon was finally taken from the admiral’s house to the Dormition Cathedral.

An eyewitness wrote:
Kneeling people in tears and with deep faith were praying before the icon. Those from the navy and the infantry, from soldiers to the admiral and general fell down before the icon and were asking in their zealous prayers for the consolation, encouragement, and intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Bishop Evsevy of Vladivostok spoke these words August 6th before serving the first moleben before this miraculously revealed icon:
Though the icon has not reached Port Arthur, let not the heart of the old sailor who was made worthy of this vision nor the hearts of those who raised money for the icon be troubled. The Lord is All-merciful and Almighty, and though the icon of His Most Pure Mother is in Vladivostok she is able to help the warriors of Port Arthur, and all Russian warriors. Let us, citizens of Vladivostok, leap for joy to have such a holy thing.

But almost everyone felt that something wrong had been done. The publishing house of the Orthodox News and the military authorities received scores of letters daily. This one summarizes the people’s opinions:

As the icon has not come to the point of its final destination, it cannot give the grace-filled help and protection of the Theotokos. Now it is high time we asked for heavenly intercession, and if this help was promised upon the fulfillment of certain conditions, we ought not to have left things halfway done. Let every way of delivering the icon be attempted, however hazardous; this being the will of the Theotokos, Her icon is sure to get to Port Arthur. Even if it does not happen we will submit our will to the Theotokos, and there will be no reproach in our souls for our inattention to what the Heavenly Queen has told us through the old sailor.

A group of young Orthodox officers tried several times but failed to deliver copies of the icon to Port Arthur. In the Dormition Cathedral molebens before the icon did not cease, an eyewitness wrote that there were as many crying and praying people as ever and one could hear the oft repeated question: why did they not send the icon to Port Arthur after all? Why was there no person who out of sheer love for the Motherland could take on a perilous but noble quest of delivering the icon of the Theotokos?

It was then that the person appeared who could attempt such a noble deed: a retired officer, Nikolai Fyodorov. He was in his fifties and suffered from rheumatism and stomach disease, and surely never thought of any daring feats living as he did far from the Far East in Gatchina (near St. Petersburg). But then he came across the newspaper article expressing the view that nobody could fulfill the mission of taking the icon to its destination.

So Nikolai Fyodorov told his wife about his taking a risky journey to the Far East and immediately made for the city of Kronstadt to ask the blessing of the great pastor of the Russian land, St. John of Kronstadt. Later he recounted that during his travel many little miracles occurred and all the difficult problems were somehow easily solved. He said that it was not surprising, as he had St. John’s blessing.

On October 7th Nikolai arrived in Vladivostok. On the same day Admiral Skryidlov received from Copenhagen a telegram from the Dowager Empress, which said that he should let Mr. Fyodorov take further care of the icon.

Delivering the icon by land was out of question so Nikolai decided to take it first to the city of Shanghai, China. The Norwegian steamer Eric was to take the icon on November 22nd. The Diocese News wrote that during the entire time before the appointed date Fyodorov fasted, made confession, and took Holy Communion.

The steamer left and the believers waited hopefully for some news, but it did not come; Port Arthur fell on December 20th.

At last on January 11th a letter came to Vladivostok in which Fyodorov said that there had been no sail wind for some time and he had had to stop at Chifu. At that time four torpedo boats returned from Port Arthur with the most grievous news. Port Arthur had given up. But the ways of God are unknown, and so it was not God’s will for Fyodorov to reach the city.

The head of Russian Orthodox mission in Korea Archimandrite Pavel said:
Glory to God that there was a man in Russia who manifested the Christian courage and faith that we lack. Alas! The history of the icon of the Triumph of the Theotokos was a test for our faith, and the fact of its having been painted in Kiev is as unusual as the lesson which Port Arthur taught us.

Having entered the 21st century we should not forget the will of the Most Pure One revealed to us one-hundred years ago. It was not fulfilled because some military officials lacked belief in her intercession. All of this left a sorrowful memory and a wound in the Russian heart. St. John of Kronstadt used to say that Russia failed because of negligence towards the holy icon.

Let us think: is it not because Russian people have left their religious unity and forsaken the ancient holy things and testaments of their forefathers that woes and disasters now torment Russia? The Lord bestowed upon our nation the role of a keeper and protector of holy things. These holy things are the religious and moral foundations for establishing one’s personal, family, and social life so as to draw away the evil and give an ample space for the good.
-Metropolitan John of St. Petersburg

Nikolai Fyodorov had to give the icon to his military commanders. Afterwards it returned to Vladivostok in May 1905, having been in the itinerant church of the commander-in-chief.

Following the revolution of 1917 the Dormition Cathedral was closed and then demolished. The icon of Port Arthur was lost in the whirl of tragic events that fell on Russia in the 20th century. There was much conjecture as to where the icon might be. Then the Lord was pleased to reveal yet another of His miracles.

Though many attempted to erase the memories of the past, a command of the Theotokos cannot be rescinded. On February 18th, 1998 pilgrims from Vladivostok came across the icon of Port Arthur in an antique shop in Jerusalem!

On May 6th, 1998 the Port Arthur icon of the “Triumph of the Theotokos” returned to Vladivostok. The joyful believers welcomed it with a Cross Procession and triumphant bell ringing. Now the original icon is in the chapel of the Vladivostok diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church.

On Pascha of 2003 the doors of a new church in honor of this icon opened in Vladivostok. The church began holding services during the year of the 100th anniversary of the appearance of the Theotokos. There then emerged a public movement called “Blessing the Far East.” Soon an exact copy of the icon was produced, and this copy was carried in a seaside Cross Procession along the coast of the Primorye Region.

In 2004 a second Cross Procession took place. A ship, the Pallada, delivered the icon to the city of Port Arthur (now Lushun, China). The Blessing the Far East organization, the church dedicated to the Port Arthur Icon, and the Far Eastern State Technical Fisheries University carried out this memorable event. The project was headed by Fr. Roman, the dean of the church dedicated to the Port Arthur Icon, as well as Dmitry Astapenko, the director of Russian club in Dalian, China. They, with the captain and crew of the Pallada, celebrated a triumphant service in the Russian cemetery of Port Arthur with prayers of penitence for those who had doubted the will of the Theotokos. Thus the Russian warriors who perished there received the icon after one-hundred years of waiting.

Another copy of this icon from St. Petersburg had visited the cemetery one year earlier on May 9, 2003. This copy was made the same year and traveled all over Russia, the Far East, Serbia, the Caucasus, and the Ukraine.

In January 2004 two guests from America, Dan Kendall and Gale Armstrong, of St. John Orthodox Community in Alaska, visited the Church of the Port Arthur Icon in Vladivostok. They became acquainted with the history of the icon. A copy, with inscriptions in English, was given to them after the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Nativity. Thus began the triumphant glorification of the icon all over North America.

In September 2006, the St. Innocent Orthodox Missionary Society of Toronto delivered a miracle-working copy of the icon to Canada that had been executed in the Archangel Michael Russian Icon Art Salon exclusively for the Orthodox Christians of North America. The director of the Blessing the Far East organization, Yuri Korsakov, and the chairman of Russian St. Innocent Society, Arkady Mukhin, supported this missionary project. The Bishop of Anchorage, Sitka, and Alaska was the first to welcome the icon on its way to Canada in his blessed land spiritually related to Russia. Then the akathist for the icon was translated into English in St. John’s Cathedral (Eagle River, Alaska). The Port Arthur Icon of the Triumph of the Theotokos began its triumphant tour across North America. Today this miracle-working copy has found its permanent home in Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.

I am absolutely certain that during my journey I both physically and spiritually felt the Grace of God proceeding from the icon.
-Nikolai Fyodorov

St. John Maximovitch reports on the Patriarchate of Constantinople

The Decline of the Patriarchate of Constantinople

by St. John Maximovitch, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco

(An excerpt from a report on all the Autocephalous Churches made by Archbishop John of Shanghai to the Second All-Diaspora Sobor of the Russian Church Abroad held in Yugoslavia in 1938. It is illustrative of how the Ecumenical Patriarchate has expanded its jurisdiciton beyond its canonical boundaries to cover the whole inhabited world.)

THE PRIMACY among Orthodox Churches is possessed by the Church of the New Rome, Constantinople, which is headed by a Patriarch who has the title of Ecumenical, and therefore is itself called the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which territorially reached the culmination of its development at the end of the 18th century. At that time there was included in it the whole of Asia Minor, the whole Balkan Peninsula (except for Montenegro), together with the adjoining islands, since the other independent Churches in the Balkan Peninsula had been abolished and had become part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarch had received from the Turkish Sultan, even before the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, the title of Millet Bash, that is, the head of the people, and he was considered the head of the whole Orthodox population of the Turkish Empire. This, however, did not prevent the Turkish government from removing patriarchs for any reason whatever and calling for new elections, at the same time collecting a large tax from the newly elected patriarch. Apparently the latter circumstance had a great significance in the changing of patriarchs by the Turks, and therefore it often happened that they again allowed on the Patriarchal Throne a patriarch whom they had removed, after the death of one or several of his successors. Thus, many patriarchs occupied their see several times, and each accession was accompanied by the collection of a special tax from them by the Turks.

In order to make up the sum which he paid on his accession to the Patriarchal Throne, a patriarch made a collection from the metropolitans subordinate to him, and they, in their turn, collected from the clergy subordinate to them. This manner of making up its finances left an imprint on the whole order of the Patriarchate’s life. In the Patriarchate there was likewise evident the Greek “Great Idea,” that is, the attempt to restore Byzantium, at first in a cultural, but later also in a political sense. For this reason in all important; posts there were assigned people loyal to this idea, and for the most part Greeks from the part of Constantinople called the Phanar, where also the Patriarchate was located. Almost always the episcopal sees were filled by Greeks, even though in the Balkan Peninsula the population was primarily Slavic.

At the beginning of the 19th century there began a movement of liberation among the Balkan peoples, who were striving to liberate themselves from the authority of the Turks. There arose the states of Serbia, Greece, Rumania, and Bulgaria, at first semi-independent, and then completely independent from Turkey. Parallel with this there proceeded also the formation of new Local Churches which were separate from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Even though it was unwillingly, under the influence of circumstances, the Ecumenical Patriarchs permitted the autonomy of the Churches in the vassal princedoms, and later they recognized the full independence of the Churches in Serbia, Greece, and Rumania. Only the Bulgarian question was complicated in view on the one hand of the impatience of the Bulgarians, who had not yet attained political independence, and, on the other hand, thanks to the unyieldingness of the Greeks. The self-willed declaration of Bulgarian autocephaly on the foundation of a firman of the Sultan was not recognized by the Patriarchate, and in a number of dioceses there was established a parallel hierarchy.

The boundaries of the newly-formed Churches coincided with the boundaries of the new states, which were growing all the time at the expense of Turkey, at the same time acquiring new dioceses from the Patriarchate. Nonetheless, in 1912, when the Balkan War began, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had about 70 metropolias and several bishoprics. The war of 1912-13 tore away from Turkey a significant part of the Balkan Peninsula with such great spiritual centers as Salonica and Athos. The Great War of 1914-18 for a time deprived Turkey of the whole of Thrace and the Asia Minor coast with the city of Smyrna, which were subsequently lost by Greece in 1922 after the unsuccessful march of the Greeks on Constantinople.

Here the Ecumenical Patriarch could not so easily allow out of his authority the dioceses which had been torn away from Turkey, as had been done previously. There was already talk concerning certain places which from of old had been under the spiritual authority of Constantinople. Nonetheless, the Ecumenical Patriarch in 1922 recognized the annexation to the Serbian Church of all areas within the boundaries of Yugoslavia; he agreed to the inclusion within the Church of Greece of a number of dioceses in the Greek State, preserving, however, his jurisdiction over Athos; and in 1937 he recognized even the autocephaly of the small Albanian Church, which originally he had not recognized.

The boundaries of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the number of its dioceses had significantly decreased. At the same time the Ecumenical Patriarchate in fact lost Asia Minor also, although it remained within its jurisdiction. In accordance with the peace treaty between Greece and Turkey in 1923, there occurred an exchange of population between these powers, so that the whole Greek population of Asia Minor had to resettle in Greece. Ancient cities, having at one time a great significance in ecclesiastical matters and glorious in their church history, remained without a single inhabitant of the Orthodox faith. At the same time, the Ecumenical Patriarch lost his political significance in Turkey, since Kemal Pasha deprived him of his title of head of the people. Factually, at the present time under the Ecumenical Patriarch there are five dioceses within the boundaries of Turkey in addition to Athos with the surrounding places in Greece. The Patriarch is extremely hindered in the manifestation even of his indisputable rights in church government within the boundaries of Turkey, where he is viewed as an ordinary Turkish subject-official, being furthermore under the supervision of the government. The Turkish government, which interferes in all aspects of the life of its citizens, only as a special privilege has permitted him, as also the Armenian Patriarch, to wear long hair and clerical garb, forbidding this to the rest of the clergy. The Patriarch has no right of free exit from Turkey, and lately the government is ever more insistently pursuing his removal to the new capital of Ankara (the ancient Ancyra), where there are now no Orthodox Christians, but where the administration with all the branches of governmental life is concentrated.

Such an outward abasement of the hierarch of the city of St. Constantine, which was once the capital of the ecumene, has not caused reverence toward him to be shaken among Orthodox Christians, who revere the See of Sts. Chrysostom and Gregory the Theologian. From the height of this See the successor of Sts. John and Gregory could spiritually guide the whole Orthodox world, if only he possessed their firmness in the defense of righteousness and truth and the breadth of views of the recent Patriarch Joachim III. However, to the general decline of the Ecumenical Patriarchate there has been joined the direction of its activity after the Great War. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has desired to make up for the loss of dioceses which have left its jurisdiction, and likewise the loss of its political significance within the boundaries of Turkey, by submitting to itself areas where up to now there has been no Orthodox hierarchy, and likewise the Churches of those states where the government is not Orthodox. Thus, on April 5, 1922, Patriarch Meletius designated an Exarch of Western and Central Europe with the title of Metropolitan of Thyateira with residency in London; on March 4, 1923, the same Patriarch consecrated the Czech Archimandrite Sabbatius Archbishop of Prague and All Czechoslovakia; on April 15, 1924, a Metropolia of Hungary and All Central Europe was founded with a See in Budapest, even though there was already a Serbian bishop there. In America an Archbishopric was established under the Ecumenical Throne, then in 1924 a Diocese was established in Australia with a See in Sydney. In 1938 India was made subordinate to the Archbishop of Australia.

At the same time there has proceeded the subjection of separate parts of the Russian Orthodox Church which have been torn away from Russia. Thus, on June 9, 1923, the Ecumenical Patriarch accepted into his jurisdiction the Diocese of Finland as an autonomous Finnish Church; on August 23, 1923, the Estonian Church was made subject in the same way, on November 13, 1924, Patriarch Gregory VII recognized the autocephaly of the Polish Church under the supervision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate—that is, rather autonomy. In March, 1936, the Ecumenical Patriarch accepted Latvia into his jurisdiction. Not limiting himself to the acceptance into his jurisdiction of Churches in regions which had fallen away from the borders of Russia, Patriarch Photius accepted into his jurisdiction Metropolitan Eulogius in Western Europe together with the parishes subordinate to him, and on February 28, 1937, an Archbishop of the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch in America consecrated Bishop Theodore-Bogdan Shpilko for a Ukrainian Church in North America.

Thus, the Ecumenical Patriarch has become actually “ecumenical” [universal] in the breadth of the territory which is theoretically subject to him. Almost the whole earthly globe, apart from the small territories of the three Patriarchates and the territory of Soviet Russia, according to the idea of the Patriarchate’s leaders, enters into the composition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Increasing without limit their desires to submit to themselves parts of Russia, the Patriarchs of Constantinople have even begun to declare the uncanonicity of the annexation of Kiev to the Moscow Patriarchate, and to declare that the previously existing southern Russian Metropolia of Kiev should be subject to the Throne of Constantinople. Such a point of view is not only clearly expressed in the Tomos of November 13, 1924, in connection with the separation of the Polish Church, but is also quite thoroughly promoted by the Patriarchs. Thus, the Vicar of Metropolitan Eulogius in Paris, who was consecrated with the permission of the Ecumenical Patriarch, has assumed the title of Chersonese; that is to say, Chersonese, which is now in the territory of Russia, is subject to the Ecumenical Patriarch. The next logical step for the Ecumenical Patriarchate would be to declare the whole of Russia as being under the jurisdiction of Constantinople.

However, the actual spiritual might and even the actual boundaries of authority by far do not correspond to such a self-aggrandizement of Constantinople. Not to mention the fact that almost everywhere the authority of the Patriarch is quite illusory and consists for the most part in the confirmation of bishops who have been elected to various places or the sending of such from Constantinople, many lands which Constantinople considers subject to itself do not have any flock at all under its jurisdiction.

The moral authority of the Patriarchs of Constantinople has likewise fallen very low in view of their extreme instability in ecclesiastical matters. Thus, Patriarch Meletius IV arranged a “Pan-Orthodox Congress,” with representatives of various churches, which decreed the introduction of the New Calendar. This decree, recognized only by a part of the Church, introduced a frightful schism among Orthodox Christians. Patriarch Gregory VII recognized the decree of the council of the Living Church concerning the deposing of Patriarch Tikhon, whom not long before this the Synod of Constantinople had declared a “confessor,” and then he entered into communion with the “Renovationists” in Russia, which continues up to now.

In sum, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in theory embracing almost the whole universe and in fact extending its authority only over several dioceses, and in other places having only a higher superficial supervision and receiving certain revenues for this, persecuted by the government at home and not supported by any governmental authority abroad: having lost its significance as a pillar of truth and having itself become a source of division, and at the same time being possessed by an exorbitant love of power—represents a pitiful spectacle which recalls the worst periods in the history of the See of Constantinople.

From Orthodox Word, vol. 8, no. 4 (45), July-August 1972, pp. 166-168, 174-175.

A Morning Song

A Morning Song

by our Father among the Saints, Ephraim the Syrian

from “A Spiritual Psalter,” arranged by St. Theophan the Recluse

(No. 95)

Praise God in the morning, ye children of the Church. Every morning let us exalt the Good One and worship Him, Who arranged the luminaries in the day and night skies.

When the veil of night is lifted and God’s light has shone forth over creation, the arrival of morning wakes those who sleep. May Thy light, O Lord, irradiate our hearts.

Thyself, O our Lord, teach us to exalt Thee and put life in our souls. As Thou hast led us out of darkness, so also deliver us from gehenna.

According to Thy mercy, nourish the children of the Church, who have cleaved themselves unto Thee. May Thy loving-kindness be our helper, O Lord of the morning and the evening.

May Thy grace, O Lord, accompany us and lead us to the great morning. May Thy generous right hand shower us with blessings and bring us across the sea of fire.

May heaven and earth and all that is within them together exalt Thee at our return. Exaltation to Thee, to the Father Whom we worship, to Thine Only Begotten Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A blessed (Western Orthodox) All Saints’ Day

Icon of All Holy Unmercenary Healers

On this day of salvation, we commemorate the Holy and Wonderworking Unmercenary Healers Cosmas and Damian, as well as the Glorification of our Righteous Father among the Saints, the Wonderworker and Priest, St. John of Kronstadt. The ancient Orthodox West, together with modern Western RIte Orthodox Christians, however, keep the Feast of All Saints on November 1, and, on November 2, commemorate All Souls of the Faithful Departed.

So, in honor of the Western Orthodox All Saints Day, we have a hymn for Vespers of the Feast, Christe, Redemptor omnium. A good thing it is to invoke the intercessions of all the Saints, especially on this night which has, sadly, been too often put to evil purposes by those laboring under impious delusion.

1. O Christ, Redeemer of us all,

Protect Thy servants when they call,

And hear with reconciling care,

The Blessed Virgin’s holy prayer.

2. And ye, O ever blissful throng

Of heavenly Spirits, guardians strong,

Our past and present ills dispel,

From future peril shield us well.

3. Ye Prophets of the Judge adored,

Ye twelve Apostles of the Lord,

For us your ceaceless prayer outpour,

Salvation for our souls implore.

4. Martyrs of God, renowned for aye,

Confessors ranged in bright array,

Let all your orisons unite,

To bear us to the realms of light.

5. O sacred Virgin choirs, may ye,

With Monks of holy ministry

And every Saint of Christ, obtain

That we His fellowship may gain.

6. From lands wherein Thy faithful dwell

Drive far away the infidel;

So we to Christ due hymps of praise

Henceforth with eager hearts may raise.

7. To Thee, O Father, born of none,

And Thee, O Sole-Begotten Son,

One with the Holy Paraclete,

Be glory ever, as is meet. Amen.

Blessed King-Martyr Harold and the 14,000 with him at Hastings, +1066

Today, we remember the martyrdom of Blessed King-Martyr Harold II of England and the 14,000 pious Orthodox soldiers who fought with him for the love of their country and the faith of their fathers. Not fearing the excommunication of a false pope or the wrath of William the Bastard, these faithful sons of the Orthodox Church gave their lives for the love of Jesus Christ, Who, we pray, give them rest in His blessed company of holy martyrs, and grant that they may ever intercede for our salvation and the return of their homeland to the true faith.

The following link is from an old blog of mine. It has more information, pictures, and links. At some point, I will revise the information therein, because I know more details now. But, it is a good introduction.

http://orthodoxtidings.blogspot.com/2006/10/among-first-orthodox-christians.html


Sitka Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos

Sitka Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos

Blog Stats

  • 22,649 visits
October 2014
S M T W T F S
« Aug    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.