Monday, September 30, 2019

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ORTHODOX WEB


Questions

English Orthodox Web 5

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY – MULTILINGUAL ORTHODOXY – EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH – ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΙΑ – ​SIMBAHANG ORTODOKSO NG SILANGAN – 东正教在中国 – ORTODOXIA – 日本正教会 – ORTODOSSIA – อีสเทิร์นออร์ทอดอกซ์ – ORTHODOXIE – 동방 정교회 – PRAWOSŁAWIE – ORTHODOXE KERK -​​ නැගෙනහිර ඕර්තඩොක්ස් සභාව​ – ​СРЦЕ ПРАВОСЛАВНО – BISERICA ORTODOXĂ –​ ​GEREJA ORTODOKS – ORTODOKSI – ПРАВОСЛАВИЕ – ORTODOKSE KIRKE – CHÍNH THỐNG GIÁO ĐÔNG PHƯƠNG​ – ​EAGLAIS CHEARTCHREIDMHEACH​ – ​ ՈՒՂՂԱՓԱՌ ԵԿԵՂԵՑԻՆ​​

ORTHODOX WEB: http://orthodoxweb.blogspot.com - Abel-Tasos Gkiouzelis - Email: gkiouz.abel@gmail.com

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What is the Eastern Orthodox Church?

The Eastern Orthodox Church is Orthodox but not Jewish, It is Catholic but not Roman, It is Evangelist but not Protestant. It is the Church who founded by Jesus Christ Himself since 33 AD.

The Eastern Orthodox Church has believed, taught, preserved, defended and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the Day of Pentecost 2000 years ago.

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How can I know if God exists?

Evidence for God’s existence can be found in several ways:

1, In creation – we see nature all around us, for example in flowers, landscapes and mountains. Creation implies a creator.

2, In design – a computer is more complex than a chair. A hierarchy of designs from simple to complex implies that there must be a supreme designer of all of them. An analogy was provided by William Paley (1743-1805) and runs like this: Suppose someone found a watch in an empty field. The complexity of the design would lead one to conclude that it could not be the product of random events, but rather of some creative intelligence.

3, In morality – the sense of right and wrong. Where does this sense come from ? This points to a supreme lawgiver.

4, In causality – every effect must have a cause. Thus the world must have been caused by something else. However, there must be something that is uncaused, something not dependent on anything. That something is God.

5, In contingency – we observe that some things are dependent (‘contingent’) on other things for their existence. However, not everything can be contingent, so there must exist something that is not dependent on anything else (i.e. God).

Source:

http://atheismanswers.blogspot.com

ATHEISM - ANSWERS

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Where is God when bad things happen?

Abbot Tryphon All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington, USA

We often wonder why God allows bad things to happen, sometimes even questioning if God cares at all about the evil things that happen to good people. Yet we forget that our God created us in such a way that we can freely return His love for us, and that in this freedom, we can even love others. We have all been given the freedom to do what we want, and to live our lives the way we please. The Lord lets us do drugs. He lets us be disrespectful to our parents, or cruel to those we decide are beneath us. He lets us avoid paying our taxes, or commit fraud for our own gain. God lets us avoid going to the services in our temples, while allowing us to choose partying with our friends on a Saturday night, over communing with our Creator God.

Our God allows us to spend all our time pursuing entertainment, and mindlessly focusing on social networking, to the exclusion of communing with Him. He lets us speed and cross the centerline into oncoming traffic, and although He doesn’t like it when we do, He refrains from forcing Himself on us. He lets us make bad decisions, but is sad because He knows what will come of it.

Our God, Who is ever loving, caring, and compassionate, watches over each and every one of us. God even has hopes and plans for us just like our families do. But just like our earthly parents, He allows us to make our own choices on what we want to do, and, like our friends and families, is saddened when we make bad choices. Bad things happen, not because God doesn’t care, but because, in our free will, we, His creatures, make bad things happen by choosing to do what we want, regardless of the consequences.

Finally, we live in a fallen world. This is not God’s doing, but our own. God did not create evil, we did, and the end result was that death entered our world. Christ came to destroy the power of death by His own death, and holy resurrection.

Love and blessings,

Abbot Tryphon

Source:




ANCIENT FAITH – MORNING OFFERING


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What is the 40-day season of the Eastern Orthodox Church before the Holy Easter?

FASTING AND GREAT LENT

THE TRIODION (3 ODES)

Great Lent is the 40-day season of spiritual preparation that comes before the most important Feast of the Christian year, Holy Pascha (which means “Passover” and is commonly called “Easter”,). It is the central part of a larger time of preparation called the Triodion season.

The Triodion begins ten weeks before Easter and is divided into three main parts: three Pre-Lenten weeks of preparing our hearts, the six weeks of Lent, and Holy Week. The main theme of the Triodion is repentance—mankind’s return to God, our loving Father.

This annual season of repentance is a spiritual journey with our Savior. Our goal is to meet the risen Lord Jesus, Who reunites us with God the Father. The Father is always waiting to greet us with outstretched hands. We must ask ourselves the question, “Are we willing to turn to Him?”

During Great Lent, the Church teaches us how to re­ceive Him by using the two great means of repentance— prayer and fasting.

THE LENTEN FAST

The word “fast” means not eating all or certain foods. As Orthodox Faithful, we can fast completely at certain times of great importance, and especially each time before receiv­ing Holy Communion. Usually, fasting means limiting the number of meals and/or the type of food eaten.

The purpose of fasting is to remind us of the Scriptural teaching, “Man does not live by bread alone.” The needs of the body are nothing compared to the needs of the soul. Above all else, we need God, Who provides everything for both the body and the soul. Fasting teaches us to depend on God more fully.

The first sin of our parents, Adam and Eve, was eating from the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:1-19). We fast from food, or a food item, as a reminder that we are to fast from sin­ning and doing evil.

There are several benefits of fasting. Fasting helps us pray more easily. Our spirit is lighter when we are not weighed down by too much food or food that is too rich. Through fasting, we also learn to feel compassion for the poor and hungry and to save our own resources so that we can help those in need.

Fasting is more than not eating food. Saint John Chrysostom teaches that it is more important to fast from sin. For example, besides controlling what goes into our mouths, we must control what comes out of our mouths as well. Are our words pleasing to God, or do we curse God or our brother?

The other members of the body also need to fast: our eyes from seeing evil, our ears from hearing evil, our limbs from participating in anything that is not of God. Most important of all, we need to control our thoughts, for thoughts are the source of our actions, whether good or evil.

Fasting is not an end in itself. Our goal is an inner change of heart. The Lenten Fast is called “ascetic.” This refers to a ctions of self-denial and spiritual training which are central to fasting.

Fasting is a spiritual exercise. It is not imposed or forced upon us. In the same way that true repentance cannot be forced upon anyone, each of us makes the choice to turn away from our sinful ways and go toward our loving, for giving Father in Heaven.

THE PRELENTEN WEEKS

Before Great Lent begins, four Sunday lessons prepare us for the Fast. Humility is the theme of the first Sunday, called the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Lord’s parable in Luke 18:10-14 teaches that fasting with pride is rejected by God. For this reason, there is no fasting the week following this Sunday. This includes no fasting on Wednesday

and Friday that week. (Wednesdays and Fridays are usually fast days throughout the year—Wednesday’s Fast recalls the betrayal of Christ by Judas; Friday’s Fast commemorates the Lord’s Crucifixion.)

Repentance is the theme of the second Pre-Lenten Sunday, called the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. Before we can return to God, we need to recognize that we are far from God because of sin. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), we are in a self-imposed exile. Will we come to our senses as did the Prodigal Son and return to our Father?

The next Sunday is called both Meatfare Sunday and the Sunday of the Last Judgment. The second name refers to the Gospel lesson (Matthew 25:31-4 6) read on this day. The Lord tells us we will be judged at the end according to the love we have shown for our brother. “I was hungry..thirsty..naked…a stranger…in prison…sick… What­ever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine you did for Me.” Almsgiving goes hand in hand with fast­ing. This Sunday is called Meatfare because it is the last day meat, fish or poultry is eaten before Easter, for those keep­ing the Lenten Fast.

The last Pre-Lenten Sunday is called both Cheesefare Sunday and the Sunday of Forgiveness. This is the last day dairy products are eaten before the Fast. The Gospel lesson (Matthew 6:14-21 ) read on this day tells us that our fast must not be hypocritical or “for show.” Our work and our appearance are to continue as usual and our extra efforts are to be known only by God. The Gospel reading also reminds us that God the Father will forgive us in the same manner as we forgive our brother. With this promise of forgiveness, Great Lent begins on the next day, which is called Clean Monday. Clean Monday is a total fast day, except for a little water. No other beverages or food are taken.

GENERAL RULES OF THE LENTEN FAST

The Lenten Fast rules that we observe today were established within the monasteries of the Orthodox Church during the sixth through eleventh centuries. These rules are intended for all Orthodox Christians, not just monks and nuns.

The first week of Lent is especially strict. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, a total fast is kept. In practice, very few people are able to do this. Some find it necessary to eat a little each day after sunset. Many Faithful do fast com­pletely on Monday and then eat only uncooked food (bread, fruit, nuts) on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the fast is kept until after the Presanctified Liturgy.

From the second through the sixth weeks of Lent, the general rules for fasting are practiced. Meat, animal prod­ucts (cheese, milk, butter, eggs, lard), fish (meaning fish with backbones), olive oil and wine (all alcoholic drinks) are not consumed during the weekdays of Great Lent. Octopus and shell-fish are allowed, as is vegetable oil. On weekends, ol­ive oil and wine are permitted.

According to what was done in the monasteries, one meal a day is eaten on weekdays and two meals on weekends of

Great Lent. No restriction is placed on the amount of food during the meal, though moderation is always encouraged in all areas of one’s life at all times.

Fish, oil and wine are allowed on the Feast of the An­nunciation (March 25) and on Palm Sunday (one week before Easter). On other feast days, such as the First and Second Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist (February 24) , the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9), the Forefeast of the Annunciation (March 24) and the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel (March 26), wine and oil are permitted.

HOLY WEEK

The week before Easter, Holy Week, is a special time of fasting separate from Great Lent. Like the first week, a strict fast is kept. Some Orthodox Christians try to keep a total fast on Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday. Most eat a simple Lenten meal at the end of each day before going to the evening Church services.

On Holy Thursday, wine is allowed in remembrance of the Last Supper. Holy Friday is kept as a strict fast day, as is Holy Saturday . Holy Saturday is the only Saturday in the entire year when oil is not permitted.

In short, these are the Lenten rules for fasting. Traditionally, the Church Fathers recommend that someone new to fasting begin by resolving to faithfully do as much as he or she is able during the Lenten period. Each year as one matures as a Christian, a fuller participation can be under­taken. However, it is not recommended that a person try to create their own rules for fasting, since this would not be obedient or wise. The Faithful are encouraged to consult with their priest or bishop regarding the Fast when possible.

Personal factors such as one’s health and living situation need to be considered as well. For example, an isolated Or­thodox Christian required to eat meals at their place of employment, school or in prison may not be able to avoid certain foods. The Church understands this and extends leniency.

It is important to keep in mind that fasting is not a law for us—rather, a voluntary way of remembering to not sin and do evil, and to help keep our focus on prayer, repentance and doing acts of kindness, for we “are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

EASTER, BRIGHT WEEK AND THE PASCHAL SEASON

The Lenten Fast is broken following the midnight Easter service. With the proclamation, “Christ is risen!” the time of feasting begins. The week after Easter is called Bright Week and there is no fasting. For the next 40 days, the Church celebrates the Paschal (Easter) season. Joy and thanksgiving are the fulfillment of our Lenten journey.

A PRAYER FOR LENT

The Prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian is traditionally said many times throughout each day during Great Lent, in addition to our daily prayers.

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. (+)

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to your servant. (+)

Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sin and not to judge my brother, for You are blessed from all ages to all ages. Amen. (+)

(The “(‘+)“ indicates that those praying make a deep bow or prostration at this point.)

Source:


CATECHISM - ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY

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Why do Orthodox Christians “cross themselves” different than Roman Catholics?

They touch their right shoulder first, then their left, whereas the Roman Catholics first touch their left shoulder. Is this difference important? Does it make any difference?

Orthodox cross themselves from right to left. first we will describe the mechanics of making the cross, then explain why it is indeed important that we make the sign of the cross correctly.

“Placing the cross on oneself”

-We place our thumb and first two fingers together in a point, and our last we fingers flat against our palm. The three fingers together represent the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the two fingers in the palm represent the two natures of Christ.
-We touch our forehead, then our belly, tracing the vertical part of the cross.
-From our belly, we bring our hand up to our right shoulder, touching it.
-We finish placing the cross on ourself by touching our left shoulder.

The act of “Placing the cross on oneself” is a request for a blessing from God. We make if from right to left to mirror the actions of the priest when he blesses us. The priest, looking at the parishioners, blesses from left to right. Therefore, the parishioners, putting on the sign of the cross on themselves, do it from right to left.

Because the Lord separated the sheep from the goats, putting the faithful sheep on His right side, and the goats on the left, the Church always treats the right side as the preferred side. We only cross ourselves with our RIGHT hand. The priest, when blessing a person, first touches or points to their RIGHT side, then their left. Also the censing of the Holy Table in the Altar is always done from the RIGHT side first; censing of the Ikonostasis, the Congregation and of the Church itself always begins with the right side. The priest always gives communion with his RIGHT hand, even if he is left handed. There are other examples of this right side preference.

When a parent makes the sign of the cross over a child, they will cross them from left to right, just as the priest blesses. When they make the sign of the cross over themselves, they would do it, logically, the other way.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that in the Roman Catholic Church, the faithful crossed themselves from right to left, just as the Orthodox do, until the 15th or 16th century. They must explain why they have changed an ancient and apostolic tradition. We cannot answer as to their motivations.

Is it important to cross ourselves a particular way? In a word, YES. We do not have the authority to choose willy-nilly what parts of the Christian Tradition we want to follow. Our fathers, and countless saints crossed themselves from right to left. Ancient icons show Christ or bishops beginning a blessing from right to left. the right side is referred to in a preferential way many times in scripture and our sacred hymns What should we want to change?

ΒΥ

FR. ALEXANDER LABEDEV

Source:

http://romancatholicsmetorthodoxy.wordpress.com

ROMAN CATHOLICS MET ORTHODOXY

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Why do women cry?

A little boy asked his mother, “Why are you crying?” 

“Because I’m a woman,” she told him.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

His Mom just hugged him and said, “And you never will.”

Later the little boy asked his father, “Why does mother seem to cry for no reason?”

“All women cry for no reason,” was all his dad could say.

The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why women cry.

Finally he put in a call to God. When God got on the phone, he asked, “God, why do women cry so easily?”

God said:

“When I made the woman she had to be special.

I made her shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world, yet gentle enough to give comfort.

I gave her an inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times comes from her children.

I gave her a hardness that allows her to keep going when everyone else gives up, and take care of her family through sickness and fatigue without complaining.

I gave her the sensitivity to love her children under any and all circumstances, even when her child has hurt her very badly.

I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart.

I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly.

And finally, I gave her a tear to shed. This is hers exclusively to use whenever it is needed.”

“You see my son,” said God, “the beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart – the place where love resides.”

Anonymous

Source:


ORTHODOXY IS LOVE

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What is the Holy Confession?

Holy Confession

One of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Orthodox Church

Holy Confession (or Repentance) is one of the holy mysteries (or sacraments) in the Orthodox Church, as well as many other Christian traditions. Through it, the penitent receives the divine forgiveness of Christ for any sins that are confessed. Confession is typically given to a Spiritual Father (usually a parish priest or monastic). Confession can be individual or general. The frequency of required confession (as well as whether or not general confession is permissible) can vary from parish to parish, and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The better is once a month or twice a month.

Confession In the Bible

Old Testament

“He shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.” (Num. 5:7)

“Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the guilt of their fathers. While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day and spent another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the LORD their God.” (Nehemiah 9:2-3)

“And read out publicly this scroll which we send you, in the house of the LORD, on the feast day and during the days of assembly: ‘Justice is with the LORD, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our fathers, have sinned in the LORD’S sight and disobeyed him. We have neither heeded the voice of the LORD, our God, nor followed the precepts which the LORD set before us.'” (Baruch 1:14-18)

John the baptist

John the baptist practiced confession

“Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” (Matthew 3:6)

“And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:5)

The Church

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

“Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.” Acts 19:18

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Preparing for Confession

Reflection on the Ten Commandments is often recommended as part of an examination of conscience.

Confidentiality

From “Guidelines for Clergy” (Orthodox Church in America):

“The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from the fact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel, mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a principle without exception.”

In St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite’s Exomologitarion, he writes:

“Nothing else remains after confession, Spiritual Father, except to keep the sins you hear a secret, and to never reveal them, either by word, or by letter, or by a bodily gesture, or by any other sign, even if you are in danger of death, for that which the wise Sirach says applies to you: “Have you heard a word? Let it die with you” (Sir. 19:8); meaning, if you heard a secret word, let the word also die along with you, and do not tell it to either a friend of yours or an enemy of yours, for as long as you live. And further still, that which the Prophet Micah says: “Trust not in friends… beware of thy wife, so as not to commit anything to her” (Mic. 7:5).

For if you reveal them, firstly, you will be suspended or daresay deposed completely by the Ecclesiastical Canons. Secondly, you become a reason for more Christians not to confess, being afraid that you will reveal their sins, just as it happened during the time of Nektarios of Constantinople when the Christians did not want to confess on account of a Spiritual Father who revealed the sin of a woman. The divine Chrysostom both witnessed these things and suffered because of them on account of his trying to convince the people to confess. It is impossible for me to describe in words how much punishment this brings upon you, who are the cause of these things.”

St. John of the Ladder writes:

“At no time do we find God revealing the sins which have been confessed to Him, lest by making these public knowledge, He should impede those who would confess and so make them incurably sick.”

The Byzantine Nomocanon states, in Canon 120:

“”A spiritual father, if he reveals to anyone a sin of one who had confessed receives a penance: he shall be suspended [from serving] for three years, being able to receive Communion only once a month, and must do 100 prostrations every day.”

Source:

http://holyconfessionofyourheart.wordpress.com

HOLY CONFESSION OF YOUR HEART


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What about our Guardian Angel?


Guardian Angels not only suggest to us good thoughts for eternal salvation—they truly guard us in our life’s situations. The word, “guardian” is not at all an allegory, but the living and precious experience of many generations of Christians. There is a good reason why, for example, in the prayers for travelers we ask the Lord for the special protection of our guardian angel. It’s true—when else but while traveling do we especially need God’s protection?

About thirteen years ago, I was in the Pskov Caves Monastery with one of our parishioners, Nicholai Sergeyevich Leonov, a professor of history and lieutenant general in military intelligence, with whom we had been working for many years on the television program, “Russky Dom” (Russian House). There in the Pskov Caves Monastery, Nicholai Sergeyevich had met Fr. John (Krestiankin) for the first time. As Nicholai Sergeyevich later related, the elder had not only made a very deep impression on him, but had greatly helped him by his prayers.

During those years, Nicholai Sergeyevich was just beginning to enter into the life of the Church, and he still had many questions. One of those questions he asked me was regarding the Orthodox teaching on the angelic world; about guardian angels. I tried very hard, but to my dismay, I still felt that he was disappointed by my artless explanations.

That early summer morning, Fr. John saw us off as we left the monastery for Moscow. The road ahead of us was a long one, and so I asked the mechanics in the monastery garage to look over the car and check the oil before we left.

We sped along the deserted road. I was at the wheel, listening attentively to a story about one of his overseas assignments. He had long promised me that he would tell me that one. I have never met such an interesting storyteller in my life—Nicholai Sergeyevich’s stories leave you breathless. That was how it was that time.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, I caught myself strangely thinking that something was happening to us right then, at that very minute, which was out of the ordinary and threatening. Our automobile was driving along as usual. Nothing—not the indicators, nor the smooth ride, nor any sort of smell—signified any trouble. Nevertheless, I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable.

“Nicholai Sergeyevich, it seems to me that there is something wrong with the car!” I said, making the decision to interrupt my traveling companion.

Leonov is a very experienced driver with many years of practice behind him. Attentively appraising the situation, he finally reassured me that there was nothing wrong. But this did not relieve my inexplicable anxiety in the least. To the contrary, it increased with each passing minute. I felt ashamed about my faintheartedness, but I was simply overwhelmed by a gripping fear.

“Probably we should stop!” I finally announced, feeling that I was breaking out in a cold sweat.

Nicholai Sergeyevich again looked carefully at the indicators. Then he looked through the windshield at the hood. He listened to the automobile’s movement. Looking at me with surprise, he repeated that from his point of view, everything was alright.

But when I repeated for the third time—not understanding why—that we had to stop, Nicholai Sergeyevich consented.

No sooner had we come to a stop, when black smoke came billowing out from under the hood.

We jumped out onto the road. I lunged to lift the hood, and an oily flame burst forth from the motor. Nicholai Sergeyevich grabbed his jacket from the back seat and smothered the flames with it. When the smoke cleared and we were able to investigate what had happened, we could see that the monastery mechanics had forgotten to replace the cap after filling the oil pan. It was still lying next to the battery. Motor oil had been spilling out over the heated motor the entire way, but because of our high speed, the smoke had spread under the wheels, and we did not feel anything inside the car. Just two or three more miles, and the whole thing could have ended tragically.

After cleaning up under the hood a little, we slowly returned to the monastery, and I asked Nicholai Sergeyevich if he needed any additional elucidation concerning guardian angels and their participation in our fate. Nicholai Sergeyevich answered that this was quite enough for today, and he has satisfactorily assimilated that question of dogma.

Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov

Translated by Nun Cornelia

Source:


HOLY ANGELS OF YOUR HEART

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How can God be one in three persons?

Christians call this the Holy Trinity (literally: ‘Tri-unity’).

To explain this, we must distinguish between God’s nature and his manifestation to us. God’s nature is oneness, yet he has revealed himself to us in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All three are God, yet are also distinct persons within his one nature.

We can think of the Holy Trinity mathematically: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 rather than 1 + 1 + 1 =3, which would imply that there are three gods.

Source:

http://heartquestionsandanswers.wordpress.com

HEART QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

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What about Marriage?

Marriage

by

Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery,

Holy Mount Athos, Greece

When you see difficulties in your marriage, when you see that you’re making no progress in your spiritual life, don’t despair. But neither should you be content with whatever progress you may have already made. Lift up your heart to God. Imitate those who have given everything to God, and do what you can to be like them, even if all you can do is to desire in your heart to be like them. Leave the action to Christ. And when you advance in this way, you will truly sense what is the purpose of marriage. Otherwise, as a blind person wanders about, so too will you wander in life…

It is an adulteration of marriage for us to think that it is a road to happiness, as if it is a denial of the Cross. The joy of marriage is for husband and wife to put their shoulders to the wheel and together go forward on the uphill road of life. “You haven’t suffered? Then you haven’t loved,” says a certain poet. Only those who suffer can really love. And that’s why sadness is a necessary feature of marriage. “Marriage”, in the words of an ancient philosopher, “is a world made beautiful by hope, and strengthened by misfortune.” Just as steel is fashioned in a furnace, just so is a person proved in marriage, in the fire of difficulties…

marriage, then, is a journey through sorrows and joys. When the sorrows seem overwhelming, then you you should remember that God is with you. He will take up your cross. It was He Who placed the crown of marriage on your head. But when when we ask God about something, He doesn’t always supply the solution right away. He leads us forward very slowly. Sometimes He takes years. We have to experience pain, otherwise life would have no meaning. But be of good cheer, for Christ is suffering with you, and the Holy Spirit, “through your groanings is pleading on your behalf” (cf. Rom. 8:26)…

Marriage is a road: it starts out from the earth and ends in heaven. It is a joining together, a bond with Christ, Who assures us that He will lead us to heaven, to be with Him always. Marriage is a bridge leading us from earth to heaven. It is as if the sacrament is saying: Above and beyond love, above and beyond your husband, your wife, above the everyday events, remember that you are destined for heaven, that you have set out on a road which will take you there without fail. The bride and the bridegroom give their hands to one another, and the priest takes hold of them both, and leads them round the table dancing and singing. Marriage is a movement, a progression, a journey which will end in heaven, in eternity.

In marriage, it seems that two people come together. However, it’s not two but three. The man marries the woman, and the woman marries the man, but two together also marry Christ. So three take part in the mystery, and three remain together in life.

in the dance around the table, the couple are led by the priest, who is a type of Christ. This means that Christ has seized us, rescued us, redeemed us, and made us His. And this is the “great mystery” of marriage (cf. Gal. 3:13). (The Orthodox Word vol. 50, no. 3 [296])

Source:

http://orthodoxsaintvalentine.wordpress.com

ORTHODOX SAINT VALENTINE

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What is the Holy Bible?

We believe the Holy Bible, comprised of the Old and New Testaments, to be the inspired, infallible, and authoritative Word of God (Matthew 5:18; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In faith we hold the Holy Bible to be inerrant in the original writings, God-breathed, and the complete and final authority for faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

While still using the individual writing styles of the human authors, the Holy Spirit perfectly guided them to ensure they wrote precisely what He wanted written, without error or omission (2 Peter 1:21).

Source:


MULTILINGUAL HOLY BIBLE

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Can a Christian practice yoga without getting caught up in the religious aspects of it?

by Jeremy Butler

By defintion, Christians should not practice yoga. They can, however, stretch. Stretching is good. The philosophical occult aspects of yoga are not. Yoga is religious in nature and an eastern philosophical one. Remember, the point of the practice of yoga is to unite oneself with “God.” Take this quote from the Yoga Journal…

“Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.”

As one can see, Yoga is more than just a physical exercise. We do not want to leave our minds open to false teaching.

Source:

http://whataboutyoga.wordpress.com

WHAT ABOUT YOGA

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What is Reincarnation?

Reincarnation (which literally means ‘to come again in the flesh’) is the belief that at death the soul separates from the body to then be reborn in a new body. A person’s deeds in their lifetime (known as karma) determine their fate in the next. To break this cycle of death and rebirth, one should strive to eliminate karmic debt through good deeds and attain Nirvana, a state of inner peace. Reincarnation as a belief is found in many eastern religions (e.g. in Hinduism, where it is known as Samsara.)

Christianity rejects reincarnation as contrary to the sovereignty of God – the ultimate judge of all. Furthermore, the cycle of rebirth and death as a way of dealing with our sins would negate Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, made for the sins of all mankind.

“Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him” (Hebrews 9:27-28).

Source:

http://faithbookorthodoxy.wordpress.com

FAITHBOOK - ORTHODOXY

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Does God have a sense of humor?

Of course God’s humor is never cruel the way humans twist it to be at times. In fact, God is entirely pure and untainted, thus so is his humor. Such a God inspired the author of Proverbs to write, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful” (15:13), or seen from the opposite point of view in verse 30, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart.” Proverbs 16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Aren’t you glad?

Proverbs is a funny book at times. If you read it aloud to a group, it’s difficult not to laugh. Proverbs 21:9 says, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (21:9). However, my favorite proverb is 22:13, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside!'” That sounds like as good excuse as any to me on days when I feel lazy. I don’t recommend trying it with your boss next Monday though. And there’s the night person’s favorite verse, “If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse” (27:14). I had a roommate in college who quoted this to me, reminding me that not everyone wakes up cheery.

In Jonah 4:9 he complains about the vine saying, “I am angry enough to die.” Doesn’t it make you want to say, “Good grief, Jonah. Lighten up!” God must have had a sense of humor not only to put up with but use Jonah for his glory and purposes.

J. Reardon

Source:


HAVE FAITH - ORTHODOXY

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What does it mean to take up your cross?

Saint Nicholas Velimirovich of Serbia:

“What does it mean to take up your cross? I means the willing acceptance, at the hand of Providence, of every means of healing, bitter though it may be, that is offered. Do great catastrophies fall on you? Be obedient to God’s will, as Noah was. Is sacrifice demanded of you? Give yourself into God’s hands with the same faith as Abram had when he went to sacrifice his son. Is your property ruined? Do your children die suddenly? Suffer it all with patience, cleaving to God in your heart, as Job did. Do your friends forsake you, and you find yourself surrounded by enemies? Bear it all without grumbling, and with faith that God’s help is at hand, as the apostles did.”

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “The Great Fast – Third Sunday: Of the Holy Cross,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

Source:


ORTHODOX CHURCH QUOTES

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Why is the Church called Apostolic?

Topic 274 of the Catechism

of Saint Philaret of Moscow, Russia (+1867)

Because she has from the Apostles, without break or change, both her doctrine and the succesion of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, through the laying of consecrated hands. In the same sense the Church is called Orthodox, or Right-believing.

“You are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Eph. 2:19-20).

Source:

http://saintsofmyheart.wordpress.com

SAINTS OF MY HEART

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Were Jesus’ miracles really true?

The fact that Jesus was sent from God clearly indicates that he was able to perform miracles. This was recognised not just by the disciples, but by others too. For example in John 3:2, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, says of Jesus:

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.”

Another example is the feeding of the 5,000, which is found in all four gospels.


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What the Saints say about Paradise?

Saint John of Damascus

“An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith”

Concerning Paradise

BOOK II CHAPTER XI

Now when God was about to fashion man out of the visible and invisible creation in His own image and likeness to reign as king and ruler over all the earth and all that it contains, He first made for him, so to speak, a kingdom in which he should live a life of happiness and prosperity. And this is the divine paradise, planted in Eden by the hands of God, a very storehouse of joy and gladness of heart (for “Eden” means luxuriousness). Its site is higher in the East than all the earth: it is temperate and the air that surrounds it is the rarest and purest: evergreen plants are its pride, sweet fragrances abound, it is flooded with light, and in sensuous freshness and beauty it transcends imagination: in truth the place is divine, a meet home for him who was created in God’s image: no creature lacking reason made its dwelling there but man alone, the work of God’s own hands.

In its midst God planted the tree of life and the tree of knowledge. The tree of knowledge was for trial, and proof, and exercise of man’s obedience and disobedience: and hence it was named the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or else it was because to those who partook of it was given power to know their own nature. Now this is a good thing for those who are mature, but an evil thing for the immature and those whose appetites are too strong, being like solid food to tender babes still in need of milk. For our Creator, God, did not intend us to be burdened with care and troubled about many things, nor to take thought about, or make provision for, our own life. But this at length was Adam’s fate: for he tasted and knew that he was naked and made a girdle round about him: for he took fig-leaves and girded himself about. But before they took of the fruit, They were both naked, Adam and Eve, and were not ashamed. For God meant that we should be thus free from passion, and this is indeed the mark of a mind absolutely void of passion. Yea, He meant us further to be free from care and to have but one work to perform, to sing as do the angels, without ceasing or intermission, the praises of the Creator, and to delight in contemplation of Him and to cast all our care on Him. This is what the Prophet David proclaimed to us when He said, Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He will sustain thee. And, again, in the Gospels, Christ taught His disciples saying, Take no thought for your life what ye shall eat, nor for your body what ye shall put on. And further, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. And to Martha He said, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her, meaning, clearly, sitting at His feet and listening to His words.

The tree of life, on the other hand, was a tree having the energy that is the cause of life, or to be eaten only by those who deserve to live and are not subject to death. Some, indeed, have pictured Paradise as a realm of sense, and others as a realm of mind. But it seems to me, that, just as man is a creature, in whom we find both sense and mind blended together, in like manner also man’s most holy temple combines the properties of sense and mind, and has this twofold expression: for, as we said, the life in the body is spent in the most divine and lovely region, while the life in the soul is passed in a place far more sublime and of more surpassing beauty, where God makes His home, and where He wraps man about as with a glorious garment, and robes him in His grace, and delights and sustains him like an angel with the sweetest of all fruits, the contemplation of Himself. Verily it has been fitly named the tree of life. For since the life is not cut short by death, the sweetness of the divine participation is imparted to those who share it. And this is, in truth, what God meant by every tree, saying, Of every tree in Paradise thou mayest freely eat. For the ‘every’ is just Himself in Whom and through Whom the universe is maintained. But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was for the distinguishing between the many divisions of contemplation, and this is just the knowledge of one’s own nature, which, indeed, is a good thing for those who are mature and advanced in divine contemplation (being of itself a proclamation of the magnificence of God), and have no fear of falling, because they have through time come to have the habit of such contemplation, but it is an evil thing to those still young and with stronger appetites, who by reason of their insecure hold on the better part, and because as yet they are not firmly established in the seat of the one and only good, are apt to be torn and dragged away from this to the care of their own body.

Thus, to my thinking, the divine Paradise is twofold, and the God-inspired Fathers handed down a true message, whether they taught this doctrine or that. Indeed, it is possible to understand by every tree the knowledge of the divine power derived from created things. In the words of the divine Apostle, For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. But of all these thoughts and speculations the sublimest is that dealing with ourselves, that is, with our own composition. As the divine David says, The knowledge of Thee from me, that is from my constitution, was made a wonder. But for the reasons we have already mentioned, such knowledge was dangerous for Adam who had been so lately created.

The tree of life too may be understood as that more divine thought that has its origin in the world of sense, and the ascent through that to the originating and constructive cause of all. And this was the name He gave to every tree, implying fulness and indivisibility, and conveying only participation in what is good. But by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we are to understand that sensible and pleasurable food which, sweet though it seems, in reality brings him who partakes of it into communion with evil. For God says, Of every tree in Paradise thou mayest freely eat. It is, me-thinks, as if God said, Through all My creations thou art to ascend to Me thy creator, and of all the fruits thou mayest pluck one, that is, Myself who art the true life: let every thing bear for thee the fruit of life, and let participation in Me be the support of your own being. For in this way thou wilt be immortal. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. For sensible food is by nature for the replenishing of that which gradually wastes away and it passes into the drought and perisheth: and he cannot remain incorruptible who partakes of sensible food.

Source:

Saint John of Damascus

An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith

BOOK II CHAPTER XI

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Why do Orthodox Christians not to use musical instruments when they worship the Lord?

Sounds

The Orthodox Church traditionally does not use any instruments in the liturgy, instead relying entirely on choral music and chanting. Essentially all the words of Orthodox services, except sermons and such, are either chanted or sung by readers and choirs and when possible the congregations.

Chanting

Nothing in Orthodox worship is simply said; it is always sung or chanted. Chanting in the Orthodox tradition can be described as being halfway between talking and singing; it is musical but not music. Only a few notes are used in chanting, and the chanter reads the words to these notes at a steady rhythm. The notes and rhythms used vary according to what the occasion is, but generally chanting is relatively low-toned and steadily rhythmic creating a calming sound. Chanting not only is conducive to a calm and elevated state of mind but also allows chanters to read through large portions of texts (particularly Psalms) more clearly and quickly than possible with normal speech while also conveying the poetry in the words. That is the essential reason for chanting. Worship at its heart is a song and is beautiful; therefore the words of Orthodox worship cannot be simply said but must be melodiously chanted to express the true nature and purpose of the words.

Singing

Words not chanted in Orthodox worship are sung by a choir. Originally singing was done by the entire congregation, however this rapidly became cumbersome and a select group of singers was selected to represent the congregation. Since then Orthodox church music has expanded and become more elaborate. The Church uses eight ‘tones’ or ‘modes,’ which are broad categories of melodies. Within each of these tones are many small more precise melodies. All of these tones and their melodies rotate weekly so that during each week a particular tone is used for singing music. Singing naturally developed from chanting but, unlike in the west, Orthodox music developed from a Greek musical background. Even though Orthodoxy has spread and its music adapted to its various regions, still Orthodox music is distinctive from European music. Singing is used in place of chanting on important occasions thus some things which are chanted at minor services are sung at more important services. Singing is as varied and multi-faceted in its forms as chanting and vestments, it changes with the Church ‘seasons’ of commemoration thus singing during Great Lent is always somber and during Holy Week nearly becomes a sorrowful dirge while during Pascha (Easter) and the Paschal season the notes are high and quick and as joyful as they were sad during Lent. The power of music is not lost on the Orthodox and it is used to its full effect to bring about spiritual renewal in the listeners.

Bells

In Orthodox churches bells are often used. The size of the bells can vary widely as can their number and complexity of tone. Generally however they are rung to announce the beginning and end of services or to proclaim especially significant moments in the services. They are not used as musical instruments in the strict sense, that is, they are not used in conjunction with a choir and are not a part of the worship itself and are always positioned outside the church building.

Source:

http://textsorthodoxy.wordpress.com

TEXTS - ORTHODOXY

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Should Christians Practice Yoga?

by Jeremy Butler

No, Christians should not practice yoga since the intention of yoga is a path to attain salvation through union with a false deity. Some Christians practice yoga and say that all Christians can practice yoga. But, that is incorrect. Christians should not be involved in any meditative methodology that deals with energy balancing, focused energy movement, chakras, etc., of which yoga advocates.


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What does the Bible say about dinosaurs?

Are there dinosaurs in the Bible?

The Bible does mention dinosaurs, though it never actually uses the word “dinosaur.” Instead, it uses the Hebrew word tanniyn, which is translated a few different ways in our English Bibles. Sometimes it’s “sea monster,” and sometimes it’s “serpent.” It is most commonly translated “dragon.” The tanniyn appear to have been some sort of giant reptile. These creatures are mentioned nearly thirty times in the Old Testament and were found both on land and in the water.

In addition to mentioning these giant reptiles, the Bible describes a couple of creatures in such a way that some scholars believe the writers may have been describing dinosaurs. The behemoth is said to be the mightiest of all God’s creatures, a giant whose tail is likened to a cedar tree (Job 40:15). Some scholars have tried to identify the behemoth as either an elephant or a hippopotamus. Others point out that elephants and hippopotamuses have very thin tails, nothing comparable to a cedar tree. Dinosaurs like the brachiosaurus and the diplodocus, on the other hand, had huge tails which could easily be compared to a cedar tree.

Nearly every ancient civilization has some sort of art depicting giant reptilian creatures. Petroglyphs, artifacts, and even little clay figurines found in North America resemble modern depictions of dinosaurs. Rock carvings in South America depict men riding diplodocus-like creatures and, amazingly, bear the familiar images of triceratops-like, pterodactyl-like, and tyrannosaurus rex-like creatures. Roman mosaics, Mayan pottery, and Babylonian city walls all testify to man’s trans-cultural, geographically unbounded fascination with these creatures. Sober accounts like those of Marco Polo’s Il Milione mingle with fantastic tales of treasure-hoarding beasts. In addition to the substantial amount of anthropic and historical evidences for the coexistence of dinosaurs and man, there are physical evidences, like the fossilized footprints of humans and dinosaurs found together at places in North America and West-Central Asia.

Source:

Ken Ham, The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved! A Biblical View of These Amazing Creatures, MASTER BOOKS / 2000 / PAPERBACK

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Is there really a Patristic critique of Icons?

G. V. Martini, Washington, USA

Is There Really a Patristic Critique of Icons? (Part 1 of 5)

Is There Really a Patristic Critique of Icons? (Part 2 of 5)

Is There Really a Patristic Critique of Icons? (Part 3 of 5)

Is There Really a Patristic Critique of Icons? (Part 4 of 5)

Is There Really a Patristic Critique of Icons? (Part 5 of 5)

About G. V. Martini
G. V. Martini works as a senior product manager for a software company and is a subdeacon in the Orthodox Church. He and his family attends St. Innocent Antiochian Orthodox Church in Everson, Washington.

Source:

https://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.com

https://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.com/2013/07/martinis-defense-of-icons.html

ORTHODOX APOLOGETICS

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How can Jesus be both God and Man?

In John 1:14 we read that “…the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…”

This is what Christians call the Incarnation: Christ was truly God and yet truly man. His two natures were not merged or confused in any way, but were totally separate. Christ could identify with every human emotion (he wept for example – See John 11:35), yet as God he had the authority to forgive sins (see Luke 5:20).

Paul expressed his belief in Jesus position as truly God and truly man as follows:

“For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

Source:

http://easternorthodoxchurch.blogspot.com

EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH


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What’s so special about the Bible?

Christian belief is that the Bible is the word of God, revealed to Man. God’s word is true, unchanging and eternal.

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness”(2 Timothy 3:16).

Proof that the Bible is the word of God is found in 1 Peter 1:23:

“You have been born anew, not from perishable but from imperishable seed, through the living and abiding word of God…”

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Did Christianity copy from
pagan or other religions?

No, Christianity did not copy ideas from other religions. Generally, the criticism is that there were religions that were older than Christianity that had similar concepts, such as the Virgin birth, God becoming flesh, resurrection from the dead, etc. But, similarities don’t mean that Christianity was copied from other religions any more than similarities in two different paintings mean that one was copied from another.

Christianity is derived largely out of the Old Testament Scriptures which contain the themes that are found in the New Testament. If one religion is older than another and, as the critics maintain, that which is new was borrowed from that which is older, then we would have to conclude that many religions borrowed from Judaism because the Old Testament, which was written between 400 and 1600 BC, was before them. Take a look at the following chart.


Theme / Old Testament Reference / New Testament fulfilled in Jesus

Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God Ps. 110:1 Matt 26:64; Acts 7:55-60; Eph. 1:20

Atonement by blood Lev. 17:11 Heb. 9:22

Baptism Exodus 40:12-15; Lev. 16:4; Gen. 17:10; Ezek. 36:25 Matt. 3:16; 28:19; Col. 2:11-12; Heb. 10:22

Begotten Son, Jesus is Psalm 2:7 Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5

Creative work Gen. 1:26 John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17

Crucifixion Psalm 22:11-18; Zech. 12:10 Luke 23:33-38

Damnation and Salvation Dan. 12:2 Matt. 25:46

Eternal Son Micah 5:1-2; Psalm 2:7 Heb. 1:5; 5:5

First and Last Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12 Rev. 1:8,17; 22:13

God among His people Isaiah 9:6; 40:3 John 1:1,14; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Matt. 3:3

Incarnation of God Ex 3:14; Ps. 45:6 Isaiah 9:6; Zech. 12:10 John 8:58; 1:1,14; Heb. 1:8; Col. 2:9; Heb. 1:1-3

Monotheism Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8; 45:5 John 10:30; Eph. 4:5

Only Begotten Son Gen. 22:2. See Typology John 3:16; Heb. 11:7

Priesthood of Jesus Psalm 110:4 Heb. 6:20; 7:25

Resurrection of Christ Psalm 16:9-10; 49:15; Is. 26:19 John 2:19-21

Return of Christ Zech. 14:1-5; Mic. 1:3-4 Matt. 16:27-28; Acts 1:11; 3:20

Sacrifice of the Son Gen. 22. See Typology Heb. 9:27

Salvation by grace Gen. 12:3; Gen. 15:6; Hab. 2:4 Gal. 3:8-11; Rom. 4:9

Sin offering Ex. 30:10; Lev. 4:3 Rom. 8:3; Heb. 10:18; 13:11

Sin offering made outside the camp Ex. 29:14 Heb. 13:12-13

Sin offering without defect Ex. 12:5; Lev. 22:20; Deut. 17:1 Heb. 9:14

Son of God Psalm 2:7 John 5:18

Substitutionary Atonement Isaiah 53:6-12; Lev. 6:4-10,21 Matt. 20:28; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18;

Trinity Gen. 1:1,26; Job 33:4; Gen. 17:1; 18:1; Ex. 6:2-3; 24:9-11; 33:20; Num. 12:6-8; Psalm 104:30; Gen. 19:24with Amos 4:10-11; Is.48:16 John 1:1-3; John 1:18; 6:46; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14

Virgin Birth Isaiah 7:14 Matt. 1:25

Worship of Jesus Psalm 97:7 Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33; 28:9; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6

As you can see from the above chart, Christianity is in agreement with the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. Many of the books of the Old Testament were written hundreds and hundreds of years before such religions as Mithraism. So, can we conclude that Mithraism borrowed from the Old Testament?

Furthermore, if the critics want to accuse Christianity of borrowing from pagan religions, then they need to establish their case. Simply making an assertion doesn’t prove it is true. But since the Old Testament clearly shows New Testament themes, we can conclude that Christianity did not copy from other religions. It fulfilled the Old Testament.

Source:

http://blackandwhiteorthodoxy.wordpress.com

BLACK & WHITE - ORTHODOXY


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Should Christians Practice Yoga?

by Jeremy Butler

No, Christians should not practice yoga since the intention of yoga is a path to attain salvation through union with a false deity. Some Christians practice yoga and say that all Christians can practice yoga. But, that is incorrect. Christians should not be involved in any meditative methodology that deals with energy balancing, focused energy movement, chakras, etc., of which yoga advocates.

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How to know God?

How can we know God? The Creator Himself imparted to man the beginnings of wisdom and spirit, so that man might know Him and His will. Throughout our entire life, we are called to continually and ever more discover and know our Heavenly Father, to love Him, and to find our eternal blessings in Him. There is no creative work of any kind, whether in the realm of science, art, or other creative activity in the world, that is conceivable without that origin of reason and spirit. Through his faith, through higher intuitive comprehension, man begins to see and perceive God; with his inner hearing, man is capable of hearing Divine truth and love. The world was created with love that is greater than worldly love, and believers begin to love that love, to serve it amid all that is encountered in the world, all of the trials and tests the soul faces in preparing itself for its higher, eternal existence… The Gospel states that who has been faithful over a few things will be faithful over many things. The purpose and meaning of our earthly existence is to ascend through this brief, temporal, life, to eternal life on high.

All of the teachings of the Gospels are directed toward understanding of that very exalted, higher, meaning of life, love toward God and service to the Kingdom of love among men. Everyone is called to serve God and to help others, our brethren here on earth, in God’s truth. People are not simply one another’s brethren, but even more than brethren; they are blood relatives, brothers sharing the same Heavenly Father. Living in various countries, belonging to various peoples, they are all compatriots in one single Heavenly, eternal Native Land.

How does one come to knowledge of God? One obtains knowledge of God from four sources:

1.From God Himself, through His Divine Word and revelation of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

2.From God, through knowledge of the order of the world He created, of its harmony, its great loftiness, its beauty, its integrity and from how little it is comprehensible to man; and through познание of his own human nature and profundity. Honest higher learning leads ever more greatly toward knowledge of the mysteries of creation. Higher learning refutes faith in materialism; the very understanding of matter is constantly changing, approaching ever closer to the realm of the spirit.

3.We learn about God through a myriad of accounts of the saints, i.e. people who did not and do not utter falsehoods. Likewise, we learn about God from those sinners who have left their dark, sinful way of life and gone on into the bright holy life.

4.Finally, we learn about God through our own eternal souls, cleansing the conscience, through prayer and submission to God’s will, through obedience to God’s Commandments and directions…

From all these different sources, the same one Truth of God enters into our consciousness, feeds our subconscious and animates our higher consciousness. That is God’s revelation of Himself, and at the same time our expression of all true humanity, of what within us is capable of knowing God.

A wise Antiochian Christian who lived in antiquity used the following to explain the mystery of knowing God to a pagan: “If you should say ‘show me your God,’ I answer, ‘Show me your man, and I will show you my God. Show me what the eyes of your soul see… If the surface of a mirror is rusty, it cannot reflect the human face. Likewise, a man in whom there is sin cannot contemplate God.” The philosopher Plato had already arrived at the conclusion that the eye of the mind is given to us so that when clean it might be used to contemplate the true Reality that is “The fountain of all attainable by the mind…” It is “that one thing, beautiful and good, that appears in a flash in noble souls because of their affinity to and desire to see Him.”

The pure language of Truth, which illuminates and calms man, sounds in the Gospel words of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man. Let whosoever wishes to hear this word open the Gospels, let him likewise open his heart before the light of Jesus, let him delve without guile or doubt into the Gospel. There, open to us, is everything we can and should know about God, about man, and about the goals of human life.

The Gospels free us from the spirit of ignorance and evil; they draw out that hidden goodness in man and put it in the forefront of life. Christ’s Word cleanses and educates the inner depths of our human existence, “the heart,” the conscience…. Whosever wishes to know Truth must first of all open up within himself that man who is capable of knowing that Truth.

Christ says to us, “I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” (John 15:5). “I am the Way…” (John 14: 6)… “I am the Door…” (John 10: 7).

There is our common human Path and our life in the Father. Christ Jesus is the focal point and the goal for the world, the Spirit of the human soul…

From: Parish Life, a publication of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (July 2018).

Archbishop John Shahovskoy

Source:



ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY

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Why do we venerate 
Constantine the Great as a Saint?

The very name of Constantine is enough to move the heart of any Christian. It moves us because the first to bear the name Constantine I, the Great, was not merely one of the greatest men in world history, but he was something more besides: a saint.

And when they hear the word “saint”, the trumpeters of atheism and unbelief start to sound off. Is he a saint? General, yes. King and Emperor, yes. Great, yes. But saint? No, he’s not a saint, they say. Because, they say, Constantine the Great committed crimes: he killed his son Crispus; he killed his second wife Fausta; and so shouldn’t be considered a saint*.

What can we say in response to those who are against Constantine the Great for no other reason than that he was a Christian? Had he not been a Christian, but an idolater like Julian the Apostate, who betrayed the Church, then they would be praising him. But, no. Constantine, who supported the Orthodox faith and established firm foundations, is slandered and hated by the enemies of Christ.

We would answer: they either forget or do not know that, in our faith, there is a great thing called repentance. One tear from a sinner, whatever act they’ve committed, one tear at the sacrament of confession, redeems any fault. Were there no repentance, paradise would be empty, we wouldn’t have a calendar of feasts nor any saints, because there isn’t a saint who hasn’t cried and hasn’t repented sins. There’s no other way to Paradise, beloved, than the door of repentance. Constantine wasn’t born a saint, he became one. He made mistakes, but he repented. Let’s not forget that he was brought up in the inhuman surroundings of the courts of Diocletian and Galerius, yet he disagreed with people like them.

He’s a saint because his presence in the world is the light of Christ. This light is also shown in his call, which is remarkably like that of Saint Paul and which is why it is mentioned in his dismissal hymn. Saint Paul was called by Christ in a vision when he was walking along the road to Damascus; he saw a shining light and heard a voice saying: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” In the same way, Saint Constantine was called in a vision. A historic vision which is reported by contemporary historians[2]. What was the vision? When he arrived outside Rome on 28 October, in the year 312 A. D., the army of his rival was three times larger and defeat stared him in the face. As he sat there pondering, in broad daylight, he saw a great sign: the stars in the heavens formed a cross and below the cross he saw the words: “In this conquer” (In hoc vinca). And from that moment on, he was convinced that the future of humanity rested with Christ. He then adopted the banner which proceeded his troops and, with this sign, “In this conquer”, he defeated Maxentius, entered Rome and proclaimed to the whole city that this victory did not belong to his legions but to the Honourable Cross.

His edicts are light. The first edict, in February, 313, was for the persecutions to cease. Just imagine. The persecution of Christians had lasted 300 years. It was forbidden to be Christian. The very word “Christian” was cause enough for conviction, nothing else needed to be investigated: “Are you Christian?”. That was it. Possessions confiscated, incredible sufferings, horrifying tortures. How many martyrs? 12 million. For 300 years, Christians begged: “Lord, give us peace”. And He did. Peace came into the world through the chosen vessel of divine providence[3], Constantine the Great.

How, then, can we not honour him? We ought to do so if for nothing other than that edict which he signed with his holy hands. His nobility of soul and forgiving nature were also light. They say that some idolater enemies once decapitated a statue of him. When the news was brought to him he raised his hands, took hold of his head and said: “This is my head here. There’s nothing missing. Don’t punish them”. On another occasion he said that if he saw a cleric sinning, he would cover him with his robes, so as to prevent other people seeing his sins. This showed his intense concern that the Church should not be subjected to scandals.

He abolished the worship of the Roman emperors, who were considered gods on earth.

His legislation was also light. For the first time, Christian legislation was introduced. His vision was rare. What vision? To make a Christian state, on a global scale, and offer it to Christ for sanctification and deification. This is why he’s depicted holding an orb. And just as the Patriarch Abraham heard the voice of God telling him to leave his homeland and settle in a land that God would show him (Gen. 12, 1), so, too, Saint Constantine left Old Rome, the city stained with the blood of innocent Christians criminally killed, and built a New Rome on the Bosphorus, which, after his repose, was quite rightly called Constantinople. And from here he took measures aimed at raising the spiritual state and sanctity of the people.

What measures? He closed all the night-time places of corrupt pleasure. There were places of entertainment where women gathered under the protection of disgusting divinities, Aphrodite centres, Bacchus centres and he closed them all. He closed the oracles and got rid of the magicians who were exploiting people and deceiving them. He forbade blasphemy. He said he would forgive anything, except blasphemy. If anyone blasphemed the name of Christ, they were immediately arrested and exiled.

He honoured Sunday by edict. He declared it a great and splendid day and forbade any shops to open. Horse races, places of relaxation, everything closed.

He supported small land-holders and workers and took measures against usury and every of other form of injustice. He was the first to support human rights, he protected widows and orphans, and showed particular concern for social welfare.

He protected the Orthodox faith. When Arius, the leader of the heresy named after him, came along and opened his dirty mouth against our Lord, Jesus Christ, and said that He was not really God and of the same substance as the Father, Constantine convened the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea, Bithynia, to write the Creed. He himself went to the convention, not as emperor and ruler of the planet, but in humility and kissed the hands of the holy bishops, many of whom still had the marks of their mistreatment fresh on their bodies. Not being a theologian, when he was asked for his opinion, he replied: “I respect what I do not know”.

He supported missionary work. It was during his time as emperor that the Armenians and Georgians became Christians, and the light of Christ reached as far as India.

It was at his command that the Honourable Cross was found an d the first churches were built in Jerusalem. He was the initiator and founder of a Christian Empire that lasted one thousand one hundred years.

Finally, beloved, when he realized that his earthly end was approaching, he surrounded himself with bishops and confessed his sins and wept. He was then baptized, at the age of about 63, and never again put on the royal robes, the splendid imperial vestments, but wore only his white baptismal robes, telling people that he now really did feel like an emperor. He took communion, the Body and Blood of Christ, and, pure and clean, rejoicing and praying, departed for the heavenly kingdom.

Beloved, even if we ignore all the above, there are two criteria for the Church regarding his sanctity: a) the vision of God and the grace which the saint enjoyed, as we have mentioned; b) his miracles after death.

After his departure from this life, his sacred relics were buried with imperial honours in the narthex of the church of the Holy Apostles, where they gave off a powerful aroma and myrrh and performed many miracles[4]. It may be that some people wonder whether what the Christians say is really the truth. Beloved, even if some people don’t believe, there are two criteria for his sanctity and only two. It is with the seal of God that Constantine is a saint and Equal to the Apostles. History has shown him to be great and the Church to be a saint.

[1] Words attributed to Konstantinos XI Palaiologos in a poem about the capture of Constantinople (trans. note).

* The truth of the matter is as follows: when Constantine the Great was Caesar in the West, Rome proclaimed the cruel, anti-Christian, Maxentius, as emperor, who wishing to cover his back in the west, since he feared Constantine, forced him to divorce his wife, Minervina and marry Fausta, a very ambitious and cunning woman who was also Maxentius’ sister, in order to control him. When she saw Constantine’s eldest son, Crispus, distinguishing himself in battles and being groomed for the succession, she wanted to destroy him at all costs, in order to promote her own three sons to positions of power. So she slandered Crispus by saying that he had tried to rape her and kill his father in order to seize power, like a new Absalom. Unfortunately, Fausta’s plot was so convincing and her lies so persuasive that Constantine and the generals fell into the demonic trap. And they allowed Crispus to be put to death, in accordance with the law. When the queen mother, (Saint) Helen, who was many miles away, learned what had happened she rebuked her son severely for his decision. Constantine instituted exhaustive enquiries, from which it became clear that he was the victim of a criminal conspiracy on the part of his wife, Fausta, and her supporters. So he ordered that she, too, be put to death. These two murders of people of his own family greatly distressed Constantine, who regretted them bitterly to the end of his days and sought God’s forgiveness. And I order to show his repentance publicly he had a statue erected to Crispus, with the inscription “To my much-wronged son”.

[2] Lactantius (De Mortibus Persecutorum, 44), Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. IX, 9.1-11, Socrates (Eccl. Hist. I, 2.5-10), Sozomenos (Eccl. Hist. I 1) et al.

[3] In his book “The Ecumenical Synods”, Saint Nektarios writes that Saints Constantine and Helen were the hands of divine providence.

[4] See the calendar of the Church.

by Meletios Stathis

Source:



Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong & South East Asia

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What does the Holy Bible say about mediums?

Holy Bible verses about mediums:

Leviticus 19:31
“Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.

Isaiah 8:19
And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?

Leviticus 20:6
“If a person turns to mediums and necromancers, whoring after them, I will set my face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.

Deuteronomy 18:9-12
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

Revelation 21:8
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

1 Chronicles 10:13-14
So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.

Deuteronomy 18:9-14
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, …

Deuteronomy 18:10
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer

2 Kings 21:6
And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.

Acts 16:16
As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.

Deuteronomy 4:19
And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

Matthew 6:34
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Galatians 5:19-22
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

2 Chronicles 33:6
And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.

2 Thessalonians 2:9
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders,

John 14:1
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

Revelation 19:20
And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.

Hosea 13:14
Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.

Jeremiah 27:9
So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.’

Isaiah 19:3
And the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out, and I will confound their counsel; and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers, and the mediums and the necromancers;

Deuteronomy 18:10-12
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

Acts 19:19
And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Acts 19:17-19
And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Ezekiel 13:18
And say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive?

2 Kings 23:24
Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.

2 Kings 9:22
And when Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” He answered, “What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?”

Source:

http://walkingbytheseaorthodoxy.wordpress.com

WALKING BY THE SEA - ORTHODOXY

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Why children lose their faith in God?

Fr. Sergius Chetverikov, Washington, USA

Before answering that question, I want to say a few words to those who assert that one should not “impose” religious beliefs on children.

Religious faith cannot be imposed upon a person. It is not something extraneous to a person, but rather an essential, necessary requirement of human nature, the principal content of a person’s inner life.

When we take care to see that a child should grow up truthful, kind, when we nurture within him a proper understanding of beauty, taste for excellence, we do not impose upon him something alien or contrary to his nature; we merely help him to extricate him from himself, as it were to take him out of diapers and allow him to perceive for himself those attributes and impulses that are entirely characteristic of the human soul.

The same must be said about apprehension of God.

Following the principle of not imposing anything on the child’s soul, we would have to entirely refuse to participate in the child’s development and strengthening of his spiritual powers and abilities. We would leave him entirely to himself until he grows up and distinguishes between what he should and should not be.

However, in doing so, we would not rid the child of outside influences, but would merely give him up to influences of a disorderly and arbitrary type.

Let us return to the question of why some people, to the very end of their lives, preserve within their souls a constant, unshakable faith, while others lose their faith, sometimes utterly losing it, and sometimes returning to faith only with great difficulty and suffering.

What is the reason for this phenomenon? I think that it depends upon the direction the impulses of a person’s inner life take in early childhood. If a person manages – whether instinctively or consciously – to preserve a proper relationship between himself and God, he will not fall away from faith. Should his ego occupy in his soul an inappropriate, superior place, faith in his soul will become eclipsed. Ordinarily, in early childhood the individual identity has not yet taken precedence, has not yet become an object of worship. This is why it is said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” With the passing years, the personality, the individual’s self-identity grows ever greater within us, and becomes the center of our attention and something to be pleased.

And this self-absorbed, selfish life ordinarily follows two impulses – the drive toward sensuality, serving the body, and the drive toward pride, narrow reliance on and worship of reason in general and one’s own judgment in particular.

Usually one individual does not have within him both of these impulses. In some, the temptations of sensuality are predominant, while in others the temptations of rationality. With advancing age, sensuality turns into frank sexual sickness, something of which rational, proud natures are free.

Sensuality and pride, two ways of serving one’s personal “self,” are those very attributes that we know were manifested by the first-created people in the commission of original sin, and that raised up the barrier between them and God.

What happened to the first-created people is happening to us.

Following an unhealthy direction in our inner life from childhood, one that engenders in us the development either of sensuality or pride, sullies the purity of our inner, spiritual vision, and deprives us of the capacity to God. We depart from God, and remain alone in our selfish way of life, with all of the attendant consequences.

Such is the process of falling away from God.

In those people who manage to preserve the proper relationship to God, the process of development of selfish, sensual, and proud attitudes encounters a barrier by their keeping God in mind. Such people keep within themselves both purity of heart and humility of mind; both their body and mind function within the boundaries of their religious consciousness and duty. They look upon everything that happens to them in the soul as if from a certain height, from the height of their religious consciousness; they make the appropriate assessment with their senses and aspirations, and do not give them free rein. In all of the temptations they encounter, they do not lose the principal religious impulse and direction in their lives.

Thus, the problem and difficulty of religious direction rests in helping a child, then preserving in the young boy or girl the proper relationship between him/herself and God, and not allowing the development within the self of the temptations of sensuality and pride, which besmirch the purity of inner vision.

Remembering my youth, I must confess that I experienced the very internal process, the loss of religiosity of which I am speaking, at the age of 13 or 14. A developing attraction for sensuality and excessive reliance on the intellect, and pride in reason, were killing my soul. It was not just me – many of my friends were suffering from the same thing. Had an observant, experienced spiritual director been nearby and looked into our souls, perhaps he would have found something good, but the main things he would have observed would be laziness, self-indulgence, lying, secretiveness, self-reliance, excessive faith in our own powers and abilities, a critical and skeptical attitude to others’ opinions, a penchant for making hurried and not well-considered decisions, stubbornness and a gullible attitude toward any negative theories, etc.

What he would not find in our souls is remembrance of God and the inner calm and humility that [keeping God in mind] engenders.

We did not have such a director. Our teacher of the Law of God, a very respected archpriest, barely had enough time to ask us about the lesson in the Law of God and then to explain the following one. For us, those classes were of a type with our other classes – just as external/superficial, and making no difference for us. Outside of class, we never saw the teacher. We approached our annual Confessions with little awareness [of the Mystery].

And nothing kept us from spiritually failing and becoming spiritually numb.

Fr. Sergius Chetverikov

Parish Life, A Monthly Publication of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Washington, DC, June 2018

Source:



ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
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Who cannot be saved?

Fr. Andrew Konanos, Greece

To feel Christ among us, to feel His love, to enjoy His presence, His warmth and care, His image. To communicate with each other in an atmosphere of love and unity.

Why do not we indulge ourselves in such pleasant exercises? You and me… Indeed you only live once… After all, you do want to be saved. Me too. Who does not? A person’s will plays a great role in it. If one does not want something, how will it happen? Remember that Christ, before performing a miracle, asked the person, “Do you want to become healthy?” Do you want to feel well? Do you want to be saved? Do you really want Me to give you the gift you are asking for? This is what you say you want, but is it really something that your heart wishes? Christ asks, “Do you want to join paradise and joy?” If we say that it is what we want, it will be so. Yes, we want this. We want to join the Light. We want to join Christ. We want to join God. We want to join the happiness and joy of paradise. Sometimes, however, there are difficulties on the way to paradise.

Complex personality takes us away from this path. We upset our close ones. We do things that irritate others. How can one be saved? There is no place for aggressors who make life difficult for others in Heaven. I do not know if you are like this.

Of course, there are many people like this. And they are practicing Christians. Those who know them speak badly of them, “They are very irritable, my child, they suppress others.” They constantly teach others in an annoying fashion. If they see you, they immediately start to preach, “You should change! You should give up this and that.” They constantly make other people suffer. But the one who is an aggressor cannot be saved. After all, he or she always hurts their neighbor. How will they be able to see the image of God?

God is absolutely free and He respects our choice. He respects our actions, our freedom, and our time. He never pushes anyone. With absolute respect, He awaits the moment when each of us freely decides and wishes to deliberately think about certain things.

Christ Himself is a living example of respect and freedom. So how can we force ourselves to live in His Name? Christ led a quiet and ordinary lifestyle. For 33 years. His life was peaceful and quiet. From a secular point of view, it was unimpressive. His goal was not to agitate us. He also brought neither earthquake nor turmoil. He did everything peacefully and quietly. He was the Son of God, in other words God Himself, in a human form. He was humble. He never caused any trouble, was not an aggressor, and did not demand anything. He always said, “Who wishes. If you wish. If you love Me. If you feel My love. If your time has come. If you feel that you are ready.” Christ behaved this way and thus showed us the criteria of life and morality.

From the book by Andrew Konanos, “Marriage Has Its Own Difficulties”.

Translated by pravmir.com

Source:


PRAVMIR.COM

ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY AND THE WORLD


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What does the Bible say about clothing?

Clothing has played a major role in the history of God’s interactions with man and is featured prominently from Genesis (3:7) to Revelation (22:14). Outward attire sometimes symbolizes inward realities, and in the Bible clothing often has spiritual significance.

The first mention of clothing is in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, their eyes were opened (Genesis 3:6–7), which means they had a new awareness that they were naked. The accompanying shame propelled them to fashion the very first clothing—they sewed fig leaves together to try to cover their bodies. So, even from the beginning, clothing has symbolized the need to cover our sin and shame. God, in His mercy, killed an animal and made garments for Adam and Eve from the skin of the animal (Genesis 3:21). This act of God serves as a picture of our inability to effectively atone for our own sin. The fact that an animal had to die—blood had to be shed—in order to cover Adam and Eve’s shame is a foreshadowing of the later sacrifice of Christ. Our inability to cover our own sin necessitated God’s Son coming to earth to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves (Philippians 2:6–8; Titus 3:5).

Throughout human history, clothing styles and colors have been indicators of a person’s status, wealth, position, and gender. The Bible contains many examples of clothing used to communicate different things. Royal robes were worn by kings to distinguish them from commoners (2 Chronicles 18:9; Esther 6:8; 1 Kings 22:30). Sackcloth, a coarse material that was uncomfortable to wear, was worn during times of grief and mourning to symbolize the inner pain someone felt at the loss of a loved one (Joel 1:8), to show repentance (Jonah 3:5), or to mourn a political tragedy (Joel 1:13; 2 Kings 19:1). Prostitutes had a certain manner of dress and could be recognized by their clothing (Genesis 38:14–15; Proverbs 7:10). Leather belts were a sign of poverty or asceticism; Elijah and John the Baptist both wore leather belts (2 Kings 1:8; Mark 1:6). Men and women were commanded in the Mosaic Law to wear only gender-appropriate clothing (Deuteronomy 22:5), because wearing the clothing of the opposite sex conveyed rebellion against God’s design.

Throughout the Bible, white clothing symbolizes purity. At the Transfiguration, Jesus’ clothing “became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). In the book of Revelation, Jesus describes the attire of those who had been found worthy to rule with Him in His eternal kingdom—the clothing is white (Revelation 3:18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9). Jesus is usually seen wearing white in prophetic visions (Daniel 7:9; Mark 9:2). And angels are often described as wearing white robes (Matthew 28:3; John 20:12).

Clothing is one of the basic necessities of life (1 Timothy 6:8). Jesus taught His followers, those who seek first His kingdom, not to worry about having clothes to wear because the One who clothes the grass of the field will also clothe His children (Matthew 6:28–33). The universal standard for women’s clothing is modesty: “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with . . . expensive clothes, but with good deeds” (1 Timothy 2:9–10). Much more valuable than pricey outfits and famous name brands are the good works that flow from a life committed to the Lord.

Clothing has been a major part of human history and began as a response to mankind’s sin. Clothing is good because of our need to keep our bodies covered, both for protection and for modesty. God pronounced judgments upon those who “uncovered the nakedness” of others improperly (Exodus 20:26; Leviticus 18:6; Isaiah 47:3). In Scripture, nakedness is almost always associated with sexual sin and/or shame. Not only are our eternal robes significant, but God considers our earthly attire significant as well.

Source:

Ralph Gower

The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times, Revised and Updated

MOODY PUBLISHERS / 2005 / HARDCOVER

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Yoga and Orthodox Christianity:
Are They Compatible?

Dr. Christine Mangala, India

Dr. Christine Mangala was raised in India and brought up a devout Hindu. Her family was close to one of India’s leading Hindu gurus and teachers. Now an Orthodox Christian writer and teacher, she and Illumined Heart host Kevin Allen speak about whether various aspects of Hindu Yoga are compatible with Christian faith and practice, or whether Yoga should be shunned entirely.


The interview video of Dr. Christine Mangala & Kevin Allen

* * *

Mr. Allen: Welcome to The Illumined Heart on Ancient Faith Radio. As many of you know, we have spoken often on this program about the influence of eastern, non-Christian, spiritual ideas, metaphysics, and worldviews on our culture. And this is the spiritual background I came out of, one which continues to be a subject of interest to me, and, I hope, for some of you as well.

Recently, my parish in southern California has begun to see a trickle of enquirers coming from various eastern traditions, especially those of Hinduism. So I hope our conversation today—Yoga and Orthodox Christianity: Are They Compatible?—will bring light to the subject.  In addition to enquirers from eastern spiritual traditions, many Christian believers also practice yoga asanas, physical postures which have become virtually mainstream in North American and European life, and even some forms of Hindu-influenced meditation. So the question of the compatibility of yoga in its various meditative and especially the physical postures forms with Eastern Orthodox Christianity is one that we’ll attempt to address on the program today.

My guest, whom I’m very very enthused to be speaking with, was born a Hindu, a Brahmin, the highest and priestly caste in India. She was brought up on yoga. Her grandfather, in fact, was a personal friend of one of the expounders of modern yoga and Vedanta philosophy, the well-known Swami Sivananda, who is the founder of the Divine Life Society. And Dr. Christine Mangala became a Christian at age 22, and later converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. She received her doctorate in English literature from Cambridge University, and has authored articles on literature and books of fiction, of which she has written several, as well as various spiritual subjects, including yoga and Christianity. She is married to Dr. David Frost, the director of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies in Cambridge, England—a fine program, by the way—with whom she has four children, and she attends St. Ephraim’s Russian Orthodox Church in Cambridge, UK, England.

Her excellent article, “Yoga and the Christian Faith,” provided the impetus for this program, and I’m speaking with my guest today by telephone in Cambridge, England. Dr. Christine Mangala, welcome to The Illumined Heart on Ancient Faith Radio. It’s great to have you as my guest.

Dr. Mangala: Thank you very much, Kevin. It’s a great pleasure and privilege to be on this program.

Mr. Allen: Thank you so much. It’s good to have you as my guest. I’m going to enjoy this; I can tell already. Let’s begin with this first question, Christine, if I might. Speaking of yoga, not in its modern and popularized context, but in its classic context, as you were probably taught the yogas, is yoga understood as spiritual practice in its native Indian tradition, or is it thought of merely as some form of relaxation or physical exercise or both?

Dr. Mangala: Well, I have to say yoga in its classical context is a manifold discipline. At the core of it is a spiritual goal, and, therefore, it would be very fair to say that [in] the classical context it was understood as a spiritual practice, but by the time the late 19th century reformers got to work, and on, even in the early 20th century, the relaxation aspect of it also had started to dominate. But the Indian teachers of yoga, from Sivananda onwards, always have reiterated that the spiritual goal is the primary aim of yoga, and the postures and exercises and other things are an aid to it. If you read teachers like Ashok Kumar Malhotra, and even the most popular of yoga writers, like B.K.S. Iyengar, emphasize this.

Mr. Allen: Yes, and the point I’m trying to get to is—and we’re going to be talking about this rather continually throughout and building up towards it—is can these yogas be somehow separated from their spiritual context, so that’s why I wanted to start there. Now most of us, Dr. Christine Mangala, in Britain and in Europe and North America, are most familiar with the physical postures yoga, which is called Hatha Yoga, but it’s merely one of several classic yoga disciplines. Could you briefly summarize for our listeners the five—as I know them—classic yogas, the spiritual disciplines of Hinduism?

Dr. Mangala: Yes. In fact, you mentioned five—it’s a bit like the sacraments in the West: some say seven and some say countless, and so on. In fact, if you look at the Bhagavad Gita, every chapter is headed “Yoga of Something-or-other”; it’s a bit confusing, but we’ll stick to the five. And the five are: the Karma Yoga, which is the yoga through work to cultivating detachment and achieving a state of dispassion state, in which you do the work, and there’s a wonderful phrase in the Bhagavad Gitawhich talks about “work in worklessness” and “worklessness in work” and its paradox is to be realized in our everyday life; that is the Karma Yoga. Now, Jnâna Yoga is the yoga of true knowledge, true discrimination, and this is the exercise of the intellect in various forms, to discriminate truth from falsehood, ignorance from enlightenment, and so on. Now Bhakti Yoga, which is in fact the most popular one in India, I would say, widely practiced, simply recommends simple devotion and love to our chosen deity or to god in general. Then you have Raja Yoga which is a much more advanced form of mental and psychosomatic control. Now, Hatha Yoga, the one that is very popular in the West, focuses on getting fit, really, tuning the body up, if you like; that is to do with all the physical postures.

Mr. Allen: Thank you for that summary; I think it’s an excellent summary. So, Christine, in the context of classic yoga, as we’ve been speaking, how are these physical postures, the asanas, the Hatha Yoga, seen as being related to the other yogas? I mean, are they a spiritual partner, equally; a lower form; a prelude to the others; you know, can one be liberated in the Hindu context exclusively through the use of yoga postures or asanas, etc.?

Dr. Mangala: Yes, well, I would say that in the classical yoga, you can look at it in two ways: one is to see it in terms of a gradual ascent; perhaps that’s a bit misleading. I would see it much more like spokes in a wheel: there are various aspects, and the idea is to get to the center, and the physical postures are to be practiced along with all the other things as well, so that you actually do a simultaneous practice of several aspects of the yoga discipline. It is a manifold discipline, and I think in ancient—definitely in the ancient days, there was no question of achieving liberation—spiritual liberation—through just practicing the postures alone. The idea wouldn’t even have entered the minds of these ancientrishis—the yogis who practiced them—because they were fully aware of the whole range of psychosomatic problems that had to be overcome in any spiritual journey.

And even then, the yogi who just sits under a tree simply impressing people with postures or lying on a bed of nails was always slightly, I would say, regarded as a spectacle, a butt of ridicule. Even now there are people who do this at pilgrim centers, and I call them the “bizarre bazaars,” you know, just like a spectacle. And this definitely was not encouraged at all: just focusing on the physical aspect of the postures to expect somehow for you to take that into any spiritual state often leads into byways and dead ends, like some psychic feats become possible, but it doesn’t necessarily mean spiritual liberation. This is recognized by the Indian teachers in the classical context.

Mr. Allen: Speaking of yoga and its practice, in an organic sense, what is the ultimate goal of yoga, Christine, as defined by Patañjali and his classic Yoga Sutras and other writings like that?

Dr. Mangala: Well, Patañjali, in fact, speaks of Yoga as “eight-limbed” (ashtanga): eight-limbed postures, an eight-limbed discipline, and, in fact, postures—the practicing of postures, asanas—figures third in the list. It actually begins with moral and psychological preparation. And it starts with the five restraints, you know, you have to control your senses.; and five disciplines, this is the obverse side of it: you have to be trained to do the right things. And then you have third is physical postures. And then you go on to regulation of vital force and withdrawing of the sense organs (pratyahara), and then concentration and meditation, and, finally, you have the word “samadhi”—“absorption.” Now this is usually regarded as the ultimate goal: samadhi or absorption.

Now it becomes a tricky question as to what exactly are you absorbing into? And I’m afraid there are different answers to this question given by different schools of Indian/Hindu traditions. Some would say it is absorption into a kind of impersonal Brahman—that’s where the individual becomes identical with the universal; and some would say it’s absorption into a trans-personal, a godhead; and, of course, if you are in the Buddhist tradition, there’s no question of any godhead whatsoever, in the original Buddhist teaching: and so you enter Nirvana, which is blowing out. Absorption or samadhi, this is the key phrase which describes the Yogi Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Mr. Allen: So it would be fair to say that sticking with the classic understanding of the yogic disciplines, the ultimate goal of which would be this samadhi. So I think we need to drill down a bit, then, and talk a little bit about that. And samadhi is often described in terms ofsaccidananda, pure consciousness, bliss, and so on. How does that compare, and is it compatible with our views within Christianity, of the kingdom of God and so on?

Dr. Mangala: Well, the notion, the concept of saccidananda, which is sort of truth, knowledge, bliss—it’s a tripartite description of this ultimate experience—to my mind it sounds wonderful but it’s a static concept, and it’s also an abstract concept. Now, when Jesus speaks of the spiritual goal of human beings, as the kingdom of God, to me it’s an incredibly rich, exciting, dynamic, inspiring vision. For, it’s not only internal, but also external; it’s not only personal, but it’s also corporate: it involves other human beings. And, besides, the kingdom of God that Jesus speaks of encompasses not only human beings, but all of Creation. We human beings are to be transfigured, but also Creation along with us. What’s more, it’s not a static goal, it is rooted in the Christian notion of Godhead, which is “life-creating Trinity,” we sing in the Liturgy, which means it’s a very dynamic, active force of love and of relationship.

And therefore you have an incredible vision here, a vision of faith, and it’s also, to me, even greater because it doesn’t end; it’s not a goal that you score and that there is an end to it, but it continues. It’s a continuing transformation from glory to glory as St. Paul talks about. I can go on talking about this, but too many words perhaps are not a good idea. But there is one very important reminder about the kingdom of God which I would like to just conclude with: the kingdom of God is achieved onlythrough the cross of Christ, only by following Christ. What that means is suffering alongside with Him.

This is the other thing that excites me as a Hindu, a Hindu convert from Hinduism, one of the reasons I became Christian, was that I found the Hindu answers to evil and suffering extremely inadequate and even pathetic; simply to postpone the problem to karma or some life in the past was not good enough. Whereas, through embracing suffering wholeheartedly, and, conquering it, through love, through faith, we heal our own wounded self, also the wounded world. And now this is concurrent with the kingdom of God. And so all this just to suggest that the Christian idea of the kingdom of God is a far cry from what I would call—I expect I will offend people if I say it, but I will say it anyway—it’s a kind of “do-it-yourself kit” idea of samadhi. And also, samadhi, inevitably, becomes self-centered. Even if people talk about community work and so on, ultimately it does leave the world behind, it leaves the other people behind, and it leaves the Creation behind.

Mr. Allen: Do you think that—I’ve always been confused about this idea of samadhi, especially within the context of Bhakti Yoga which I practice, which, as you pointed out earlier, is devotion to a personal deity—and here is my confusion; maybe you could shed some light on it. And we’re talking about people like Vaishnavites who worship Krishna, and in my case it was Ramakrishna, and there are others that worship Holy Mother and Kali and so on and so forth. My question is: Is samadhi always, Christine, a losing of self? Of course, in Christianity, our personhood in the image of God is key. Is it always a losing of self or is it not always a losing of self or a “blowing out of self” as the Buddhists might say?

Dr. Mangala: Well, I think the “self” that is spoken of in Hindu traditions is not the same as the Christian understanding of a human person; the whole human anthropology is understood differently, and this creates a lot of problems, because when you talk about— when you look at the Bhagavad Gita, it’s one of the classic examples of the way the human being is looked upon as a kind of— the soul indwelling the body. The body-soul division is extremely strong, so what really matters is the soul; the body is just an aggregate of various elements. You have a very similar idea in other Hindu schools of philosophy, even in Buddhism, and Buddhism goes even further by demolishing the very notion of self as well. So when you ask, “What is it that absorbs?” Any illusory sense of self is what most Hindus would say. In other words, there is no sense of the value of a distinctly created human person to start with.

Now this is where I find Christianity so liberating, because we talk about— we have a clear idea and a cogent idea in Christian theology of God is love and God is a creator-God and the lover of mankind. Now, these two things matter immensely when you think about what human beings are, because if human beings are made in the image of God, they also have these personal qualities, if you like. And that is incredibly important, and when you talk about the kingdom of God or theosis and other notions that come with it, because human beings are intrinsically valuable, because they’re made in the image of God. Now, I don’t have anywhere in the Hindu thinking a parallel notion. And so samadhi, naturally, it’s confusing, because there are different ways of defining the human being, but mostly you will find they have a Gnostic undercurrent: the soul becomes important, but the body does not.

Mr. Allen: I’ve spoken though with some in this country who are in the Hare Krishna movement. We have folks that have started to become inquirers into our church—thank God—and they argue that we’re not talking about absorption into an impersonal deity, we’re talking about living forever as a unique being in a “loca” with Krishna, with their deity. So I was confused about whether we’re talking about loss of self in all cases or just in some of the Vedantic schools.

Dr. Mangala: One problem with so many manifestations of Hinduism of late is that it’s rather difficult to track cross-currents that are going on. You would find a lot of Christian terminology taken over and what I call these actually “leavening the lump” from within, meaning that so much of Christian thinking and Christian terminology and Christian notions have been absorbed into Hinduism and regurgitated as Hinduism back to the West. And this idea of living in a loca—it’s a wonderful fantasy. I met a Hare Krishna in the street some years ago, and he was trying to sell me aBhagavad Gita, and I felt sympathetic and I said to him, “Okay, I’ll buy a copy”—I mean, I was working on translations of the Bhagavad Gita at the time—and I said to him, “You know, all you are dreaming of is a poetic fantasy. What is real is Jesus Christ, who has actually come as a human being. God has actually come at a historical point in time to this, to us, to offer all this that you’re dreaming about.” And that is where I would put the Hare Krishna movement.

Mr. Allen: That is such a brilliant way to put it, because, for myself, Christine, when I was meditating in the ashram and had my experience of Christ, as a prelude to that, I started to come to believe that my projections and my visualizations and my meditations as I was taught by my guru, were, in fact, poetic fantasies; they were my desires for something versus anything actually happening inside of me, if you know what I mean. So that’s a well-done, well-done overview. Did you have anything you wanted to add to that?

Dr. Mangala: I was going to say that I would extend the— you know the word “type” that is used in the Church Fathers and others, they use in their commentaries that there are certain types and images of what we expect, and Christ is the reality. And once you have the reality, the types are no longer needed. And there is a sense in which you do have a lot of types imaged in other religions. Some of them, at best, induce people to look in the right direction; at worst they can be demonic, that’s the difference. There’s no way of telling, and you need the spiritual discernment to find out which is which. Actually, the predictions can be so strong that you can actually hallucinate these images, too. Agehananda Bharati, who is an Austrian convert and a monk in the Hare Krishna order, talks about how he actually saw his goddess, and he’s very clear about what had happened, how it had happened to him, too.

Mr. Allen: Yes, and, of course, Rama Krishna had visions all the time with Kali and so on and so forth in some very, frightening to me, frightening ways and aspects. You wrote in your article on yoga and Christianity, Christine Mangala, that a key problem with yoga is that itencourages people to think that there is a way to wholeness of body and mind through the use of human techniques, that is, yoga, without grace and faith in salvation through Jesus Christ. Yet here’s a kind of a paradox I want to throw at you. The Orthodox, as you probably know, are sometimes accused, especially by Protestant Evangelicals, because of our emphasis on theosis and synergy with God, as advocating some form of the same sorts of things you accuse yoga of, you know, spiritual effort, works of righteousness. So can you help us understand how you make the distinction between yoga as false spiritual effort if you like, and theosisand synergy as appropriate or effective spiritual effort?

Dr. Mangala: I have to admit, first of all, I love the concept, the Orthodox concept of synergy. It’s the most beautiful and inspiring way of recognizing human freedom. Now, Orthodox writers emphasize synergy because they recognize this as part of being made in the image of God, the freedom that we have. God hasn’t stinted anything; He’s given us this freedom. And, of course, the idea of effort is something that can be easily misrepresented. It’s not a case of us pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but it’s much more the case of exercising this God-given energy and directing our energies—physical, mental, spiritual—towards God, towards Christ, through the Spirit.

Let me give you an example; it’s not a very brilliant example, but a crude example. Let’s say someone is driving headlong with all his passion and eagerness to achieve something, except he doesn’t know quite where he’s going and perhaps he’s even on the wrong road, maybe the SatNav has let him down. But the moment that he realizes he’s not getting anywhere, he has to turn back. Now, that is what most of us are like, that in our fallen condition we are misled by our sins, by our passions, by the distractions of the world and confusion, and we seek our solace at first in all sorts of things which the world—what the Bible calls “the world” or “the flesh”—offers, but when we realize that none of this is working, weliterally turn back, that is, we repent. Now if this action of turning back, the redirection of our energies, towards our proper human goal, which is to seek and find God and worship and glorify Him, once this turning back takes place in all sincerity, we are infused by the Holy Spirit. In other words, God’s energies start to flow into us. This is why I love the word “synergy,” because it recognizes two aspects of the spiritual life. So when we pray, when we struggle, it is the Holy Spirit which is praying through us. This is the answer I would give to the Protestant Evangelical suspicions of this so-called “synergy” being some kind of effort.

I will actually give you another of my favorite examples, which is taken from the saint of our parish, St. Ephraim the Syrian. He has a beautiful image which tells us what kind of effort we are to make. St. Ephraim sees the human person as the “harp of the Spirit,” this lovely musical instrument. To play well the music of the Holy Spirit, we need to be clean: the harp needs to be clean and well-tuned, and its strings neither too tight nor too slack. That is our spiritual effort, the ascesis, all the things that are recommended in the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox tradition of fasting, almsgiving, repentance, thanksgiving, prayer: all these are means to achieve the tuning. That is what I see synergy is: a redirection of energies God-wards so that God’s energies can flow into us and transform us. I hope that answers some of the criticism.

Now, similarly with theosis; it’s a bit of a daring and a frightening word for some people;  they feel it’s presuming too much, but it isn’t at all if you look at the Bible, because what are we told there? We are commanded by God, we are told “to be holy even as God is holy.” How can we ignore this command? And it’s not as if He is asking us to do it by ourselves, not at all; He’s pulling us up, if you like. It’s not a military order, but it’s a command of love. God is willing. He is the great Lover. We keep singing “the Lover of mankind” in all our services. We mean what we say: “God is the Lover of mankind.” He is eager to share His life, and He seeks us first. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a classic instance of telling us how He seeks us first. And when we are still far away, He still comes running to us.

Now all this is very difficult for a modern sensibility to register because they haven’t even begun to think of God as love. They are still trapped in the old-style ideas of God as the punisher, God as the sin-picker, and God as the law, and all these false gods have to be got rid of first. And when you read the Bible and pray, you discover the God of love, which is where you have to start. But what happens when love is offered? Many people these days—and they’ve done it in the past and they do it still—saying, “No, thank you. I am sufficient unto myself.” But the moment you shut, you close the door, God is not going to force himself. So I like to think of theosis as being transfigured by God’s love. The more we open the windows, which is [what] I would call our effort, the more the light of God streams in, and the light of the— we have to remember it’s not a static light, it’s the dynamic light of the Trinity—is allowed to penetrate and illuminate us and transform us. This is what theosis is, in my limited understanding.

And that it is possible in this life, we get a glimpse of in the life of the saints. They have shown us, down the centuries, that this kind of transformation is possible, to become transparent to God in this life is possible right in this life and it will be more fully realized in the life to come.

Mr. Allen: And thank God for that. Absolutely. And that’s one of the reasons I think that Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the Orthodox tradition, and I’m assuming you agree, have so much, you know, when you say “to offer” it somewhat sublimates the great Hindu tradition as well, but we have things in common that we can share, I think. Eastern Orthodox Christianity, of all the forms of Christianity, would be very attractive to Hindus. Do you agree?

Dr. Mangala: I think so, because of the Hindu’s natural sense of the sacrament, of the mysterious and mystical dimension of life. And in Orthodox Christianity they will find a home. I remember I was with my family, my husband, and we were traveling in India, and we were went to Haridwar up in the north and watched the evening lamp-lighting ceremony there. You know, hundreds and hundreds of people were lighting lamps, and at a certain time they were saying prayers and floating them down the River Ganges as the mother of all life and life-giver and so on. And I couldn’t help thinking how easily this could be transformed into a Christian service of thanksgiving, and the Orthodox would be capable of doing it, because, you know, we approach everything in a mystical, in a sacramental way, and the Hindus naturally would find that compatible with what they grew up with.

Mr. Allen: And Hinduism is so physical, even with the duality of soul and body, there are so many physical aspects to it, and, of course, we— the physical aspect within Orthodox Christianity has been sanctified through the Incarnation, so I agree with you. How and when, Christine, did modern postural yoga and modern meditation yoga become, as you wrote in your article, “remolded in the idiom of American schools of self-help and positive thinking and become marketed as a safe and easy pathway to bliss within the grasp of all”? Was this Vivekananda in the 1800s or was it Maharishi before that or after that or who?

Dr. Mangala: Actually, it goes way back, believe it or not, and I don’t want to sound as if I’m putting it all squarely in America, but what happened was in the early 19th century, there were certain literary figures, like Emerson and Thoreau, who were the beginning of this movement. And Emerson, of course, was a total Transcendentalist and a Unitarian, and he found the concept of the Over-soul and he wrote poems on Brahman and so on. But did you know Thoreau, the Boston Brahmin, was the first to practice yoga?

Mr. Allen: No, I did not know that. Really?

Dr. Mangala: Yes, I believe he was. And then these people actually probably were reacting against their excessive Calvinistic Puritanism, I don’t know, but that’s the background. And they reintroduced a more idealistic notion of human beings. I always feel whenever in history, this is the way the Holy Spirit works, whenever in history, something gets forgotten or not recognized sufficiently, someone comes along and it gets overemphasized, you know, and you have to recover the balance somewhere or other. And then the waters get slurred and muddied because of other people coming in and having their input. I mean, there were people who are flirting with Swedenborgian ideas and Madame Blavatsky and her Theosophists and all these people—the details are difficult to go into now, but I have a book to recommend on that, I will do that in a minute—but they created an ethos, this is the important thing; they created an ethos of psychologized psychic religion.

Now, interestingly, when Vivekananda got to his parliament of religion, this was the air he breathed, and he very quickly saw the potential, and it was an extraordinary criss-crossing of the East and West once again. And he changed, he reformulated classical Hindu metaphysics, and he produced something called “practical Vedanta,” which is in fact far from what Shankara, the original Vedantan philosopher, taught. With his “practical Vedanta,” even for Vivekananda it was a bit too abstract, so then he produced his manual on Raja Yoga, and this is what was highly influ— this was a— the language of this manual is incredibly very like [that] of the self-help books and taking charge of oneself. He says bluntly that the whole aim is to take control of oneself and to control nature.

And in his writings there’s sometimes, what I feel is preposterous, and sometimes very brusque promises of instant results, and this appeals to the emerging consumerist mentality. Now after him this kind of approach, of “instant results” and “quick fixes,” if you like, “do it yourself,” all this “here and now” and “in your own home and in your own self, don’t bother going anywhere else,” you know. This developed further with people like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Rajneesh and whole peoples any number of swamis and matajis and whatever.

I did mention this book, and I think your readers might be interested. It’s called A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericismwritten by Elizabeth [de] Michelis and she has some very useful information about this extraordinary cross-fertilization of Eastern and Western ideas in the late 19th century and how it eventually produced these two forms of yoga: postural yoga and meditative yoga.

Mr. Allen: Give for our listeners again— could you give us the title and the author; spell the author’s last name?

Dr. Mangala: Yes, the author is Elizabeth [de] Michelis: M-I-C-H-E-L-I-S, and her book is called A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericism. It was published by Continuum Books in 2004.

Mr. Allen: Carrying along on this line that we’ve been on—we’re starting to descend a bit—is there anything wrong, in your opinion, with using yoga as a form of relaxation or physical exercise? And as a follow-up to that, should Christians be aware of or troubled by any spiritual baggage that often goes along with yoga? And do you think yoga can be a completely non-religious activity?

Dr. Mangala: Paradoxically, the movement which started then and has now resulted in—let’s give an example—the department of health and sports in England recommends yoga for its footballers and athletes. The National Health Service here recommends yoga for people with medical problems and so on. It’s become very much used as a form of physical exercise and relaxation, alongside physiotherapy and other such things. And, in a way, I think this is a good thing because what they have done is to dissociate it, and, definitely, a few stretches or proper breathing does help the posture and realign and calm the mind.

Here there has to be a word of warning. Exercise in moderation is a fine thing, and yoga exercises can be, in moderation, a fine thing. But, I would have also noticed this, is with some people—someone I know, this has happened—is that some of these people get bored with the simple ones and then they go on to the more complex ones, and then it becomes an addiction. When I say “addiction”—because the good hormones it produces , it gives you a high and you become dependent on it—the same way runners get addicted to running, and other such things. And that is the time to stop and consider what exactly is going on, you know, whether you are just relaxing or actually binging on it, if you like. And that’s a danger point.

And the second thing I would say about the spiritual baggage is: Christians definitely—I’m speaking for Christians here—definitely need to be careful what they receive by way of spiritual baggage whether they are reading books or whether they are going to yoga classes. First of all—there are two things to do—first of all, they have to be, Christians have to be fully grounded, and properly grounded in their Christian faith and prayer and worship. Only then we Christians will have the light, the proper light of Christ, to discern the good and take it and leave the bad. Now I have this rather simple image Christ is like— People ask me, “How do you deal with your past, your Hindu past?” I say, “Well, there are some good things in the attic and some rubbish, and Christ is the magnet.” I’m using metaphors here. Christ acts like a magnet. He will attract to himself the good things and the rest will fall away.

Now we need that light, otherwise we will not be able to tell what’s right and wrong. The second thing is to watch out if these yoga teachers, whether they stay with the postures alone or whether, by implicitly or explicitly, they go on to other things which take you into the Hindu spiritual ethos which is alien in its goal of samadhi and self-realization and all those other things, and that is, as I have said, incompatible with Christianity, where we are to look for the kingdom of God. And to go along with those things, I would even say, is a form of apostasy at its worst. And so, and I’m quite clear: there are two things needed. You have to be grounded in good Christian faith and worship and prayer, and also therefore to be able to discern. And also watch out when these exercises are— just stay as exercises or whether they subtly morph into something else.

A friend of mine here, who is doing research, went to these classes to keep fit, and after a while she found that the teacher was giving them mantras, and she started entering into strange mental states— and she was already doing her Ph.D. research which is enough to send anybody into a strange mental state anyway, and that didn’t help—and she got rather alarmed and then retreated very fast, because she is an Orthodox girl and so she knew there was something wrong here, and she stopped. So I’m talking—we do have to exercise discernment, and that’s very important.

Mr. Allen: Yeah, you know, as an aside to that, when I went through the transcendental meditation class, many many many years ago, before I became a Christian, they tried to take it outside of Hindu religious ethos, however, you are told you have to bring a piece of fruit and you have to bring something else, and then when you go there, the American instructor places it before a photograph of Maharishi and his guru, some Sanskrit words are given, and then you are given a Sanskrit mantra to repeat, so this is very much transcendental meditation within the context of Hinduism. So your point’s very well taken. What do you make of the attempts—as we’re coming to a close, Christine—of the attempts to “Christianize” yoga techniques, you’ve written about Déchanet and some of the others. Can there be a true, Christian yoga?

Dr. Mangala: Déchanet is a very interesting case. He’s a very clear-minded writer. Do you know his work?

Mr. Allen: I don’t. I was, frankly, introduced to him through your article, and I’m going to read him now that I’ve learned about him.

Dr. Mangala: He’s very thorough, and he’s very careful also to distinguish the yoga’s spiritual ethos from Christian beliefs and he’s made it very clear that they are incompatible. He’s very clear-headed and very sound. Then in the second part of the book he makes some very specific recommendations about how to use the postures to glorify God and to sing His praises and to express our contrition and so on. It’s a kind of a synchronizing of Christian— phases of Christian prayer and worship withyoga postures.

Now I thought this sounded exciting, so I spent some more time when I was writing this article practicing it, doing what he recommended. Then, after a while, I had this uneasy feeling that I was terribly self-conscious in my prayer. I wasn’t forgetting myself; I became excessively conscious of myself. I didn’t like that at all. I wanted to focus on God, not on how I was performing. And this distracted me too much. So my personal experience was that I would rather simply do the exercise and then pray without thinking about my postures in that sense.

Mr. Allen: Interesting. As we’re coming to a close, if there are listeners that are listening today, Christian or not—but I think I’m going to ask you to really focus on this as we conclude, for the Christian listeners—what have you concluded about the practice of yoga as an Eastern Orthodox Christian? Do it, don’t do it, with limitations, etc., etc., etc.?

Dr. Mangala: Well, I think I— people, provided they know what they’re doing… If, for instance, some of the asanas in the early stages are okay to do them, if you take them as a form of relaxing and as a form of tuning up the body and of learning to breathe properly—most of us don’t know how to breathe properly—but that is as far as I would go. Anything more complicated becomes a challenge anyway because you have to be in a fit medical condition. For instance, if you suffer from high blood pressure, you shouldn’t do the sirsasana pose. You know, that’s bad for you, and you have to know these things.

Mr. Allen: The headstands.

Dr. Mangala: Yes. If you have a thyroid condition, you have to be careful about what asanas you do and not. So you do need more knowledge than most people have who go to these classes. So already the trouble starts there. And then as for meditative practices and chant and mantras and so on, definitely no, because they take you into psychic states and that sometimes can become very dangerous. So I would say a very minimal use. Minimal in the sense in— and one doesn’t even have tothink of it as yoga if you like.

Mr. Allen: Well, I just want to add one thing. I knew a woman who was 42 years old, and she took up Hatha Yoga; she became a practitioner, maybe an addict. She did not know she had high blood pressure. She did these headstand postures regularly and during one of them—she’s a very close friend of my mother’s—during one of them she suffered a brain aneurism and died on the spot.

Dr. Mangala: Well, that’s an extreme instance. In fact, one of our more, I would say humorous gurus in India, regards some of these yogic practices— he pokes fun at them, saying these postures actually damage the capillaries of the brain, and people— you suffer from some kind of a mental damage, and they think you enter this state of bliss because you simply no longer know what’s what.

That’s an extreme criticism, but there is a danger, and even doctors, when they recommend, they have to be careful as to what they are recommending people. I hope they do know. Otherwise, I myself find every time I forget, every time I’m stooping in front of the computer too much, if I sit back and breathe a bit, more slowly and so on, I feel better. That’s about as much as it comes to, and, similarly, when the limbs get stiff, you do some of the basic postures and it helps. I’m not a very good practitioner, so I’m not one to talk. I go from doing nothing to doing something. Yes, I’m glad you mentioned that story because the medical condition is an extremely important one when people start doing these things.

Mr. Allen: Yes, as with any physical exercise. Well, my guest on the program today has been Christine Mangala, Ph.D. Christine, thank you so much for being my guest on The Illumined Heart on Ancient Faith Radio. It’s been a lot of fun and very fascinating.

Dr. Mangala: Thank you very much. It’s been a great pleasure talking to you.

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ANCIENT FAITH

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