Friday, January 29, 2010

The Drag The Rush The Road The Closet The Chapel My Sneakers

The past month or so running has been treated with a basic neglect. I have not accepted any genuine responsibility for engaging in the playful challenges that running has faithfully provided. I only find myself running to church (both literally and figuratively). The fourteen+ mile trek becomes the battleground for what consumes or errodes my peace, patience and consolation. It becomes a battle of will and a beating of my body into submission and then using it to work out  my salvation, figuring our how to be loving and kind.  Sin doesn't get thrown into some abyss lost to God, but rather I do think it gets washed over. Sin has a very long shelf life as it were and the misgivings of childhood and young adulthood remain steadfast reminders of how the old is always waiting on the new to give way. I will begin to commit to running again to decide that it is important for many reasons and that I am not healthier for my sporadic haphazord approach. I have not even freed my schedule  (insert laugh) I just replaced running time with more down time, loitering about the house or taxing the kids to and fro. There has been growth in the churching of me which is odd because I have been actively churched for years now. My home chapel is firmly established and I enjoy and look forward to my prayer time, as I do my running and more so. In my recent history, running was the temple for my prayer now I have a temple and chapel to prayer privately and more openly with my children. The prayer of Saint Ephraim has been weighing on my mind and I have been praying it daily. I hope this Lent I learn true patience and love.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Co dependence (a font of selfishness) evidence of resentment

The heresy of false piety a trap for all. Stop the vicious cycle of concete and self doubt. Stop people pleasing and trying so much. This requires a change in attitude, behavior and even venue (where and with whom you roam). Stop relying on the testimony of non-believers, doubters and of those who fail to understand and rely on personal convictions and your own testimony of who you are and how you will be. By holding on to anger or resentments you delude yourself into thinking that your anger is justified and that you are approaching the situation from a power position when in fact you are weakened and more vulnerable and most importantly not justified.
Codependence or people-pleasing is clearly demonstrates fear, insecurity and dependence. Looking to others to find value by finding some excuse to be with them is time consuming self serving and fails to ultimately improve self worth or self concept. Despite the efforts and the good works they remain fruitless because self worth and value has been set by performance based approval or an external rating system to determine value. These accolades and praise or secondary gains are without value.
When a co-dependent person stops the cycle of being half there is a retraining of those around them which takes place. The now independent and whole person re-teaches others how to treat them. There are two common reactions to this change the first is that some people will protest and ultimately leave the friendship. This is a kind of pruning and discarding of what is fruitless. There will also be those who are eager to embrace the new dynamic of the relationship now too being afforded the privilege of giving as well as receiving. The second change is an internal one self concept will dramatically improve as your confidence in your innate value is affirmed. It is the result of accepting and receiving from others and not feeling the need to contrive or control  the circumstance too much.
When you embrace the good and the abilities in others instead of being in crisis mode and processing difficulty a whole new way of being unfolds like a flower. It is the harvest. Remember that when you are dependent on helping others you oblige them to also remain impotent and half.
As with any new situation or task when stepping out of our comfort zone it raises all sorts of psycho-social resistance to the demand set before us. There is avoidance, regret and an increase in irritability and anxiety. Self-doubt or lack of trust in personal ability and fortitude will dissipate when as the risk increases so too does the rate of small successes. This pairing of adventure with acheivement is powerful and a practical approach to what ails us all. It is the short term objectives which reenforce achievement thereby confirming competence and increase self-confidence. We must be practiced and look for forums to practice what challenges us and stretches us beyond our comfort zone. By moving through the insecurity and unsure footing and crowing our efforts with success and achievement or progress the circle of comfort is increase and our skill set expanded.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Oldie but Goodie with a Gender Twist

"A man was gossiping with his friend about a woman whom they hardly knew - I know none of you have ever done this. That night, he had a dream: a great hand appeared over his and pointed down on him. He was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day he went to confession. He got the old parish priest, Father O' Rourke, and he told him the whole thing. 'Is gossiping a sin?' he asked the old man. 'Was that God All Mighty's hand pointing down at me? Should I ask for your absolution? Father, have I done something wrong?' 'Yes,' Father O' Rourke answered him. 'Yes, you ignorant, badly-brought-up man. You have blamed false witness on your neighbor. You played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed.' So, the man said he was sorry, and asked for forgiveness. 'Not so fast,' says O' Rourke. 'I want you to go home, take a pillow upon your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me.' So, the man went home: took a pillow off his bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to his roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then he went back to the old parish priest as instructed. 'Did you cut the pillow with a knife?' he says. 'Yes, Father.' 'And what were the results?' 'Feathers,' he said. 'Feathers?' he repeated. 'Feathers; everywhere, Father.' 'Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out onto the wind,' 'Well,' he said, 'it can't be done. I don't know where they went. The wind took them all over.' 'And that,' said Father O' Rourke, 'is gossip!'"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rapture Modernday Heresy

By Anthony M. Coniaris
As I was driving one day I encountered a bumper sticker admonishing me: “WARNING! In the event of Rapture, this car will be driverless.”

The strange belief in the Rapture teaches that some day (sooner rather than later), without warning, born-again Christians will begin to float up from the freeway, abandoned vehicles careening wildly. There will be airliners in the sky suddenly with no one at the controls! Presumably, God is removing these favored ones from earth to spare them the tribulation of the Anti-Christ which the rest of us will have to endure.

Unfortunately the Rapture has been promoted widely by the Left Behind series of books that have sold over 70 million copies.

The Rapture represents a radical misinterpretation of Scripture. I remember watching “Sixty Minutes”a year ago and was appalled to hear the announcer say that “the Rapture is an unmistakenly Christian doctrine”. It is not!

It is a serious distortion of Scripture. It is astonishing that a belief so contrary to Scripture and the tradition of the Church could be propagated by so-called “Christians”.

According to the Bible and according to the belief not only of Orthodox Christians but also of the Roman Catholic and most Protestant mainline churches, the true Rapture will not be secret; it will be the great and very visible Second Coming of Jesus at the end of the world. That is the one and only “Rapture”. It will not be a separate, secret event but one that every eye shall see (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

The word rapture is not found in Scripture but hearkens to 1 Thess. 4:17 where St. Paul says that when the Lord comes again “we who are alive…shall be caught up…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” This “being caught up…in the clouds”—arpagisometha in Greek, is translated by some as “raptured”. The word itself is not found in Orthodox theology.

The notion of a rapture in which Christ comes unseen to take believers away secretly, and only later comes back again for everyone else publicly—this whole teaching is quite novel. It was almost unheard of until John Nelson Darby formulated it in the 1800s as part of a new approach to the Bible, sometimes called “dispensationalism”.

The purpose of the “Rapture” is to protect the elect from the tribulations of the end times. Yet Jesus said nothing about sparing anyone from tribulation. In fact, He said, “In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” Nowhere did Jesus ever say that He would return secretly to rapture the elect. Rather, He promised to be with His elect in all tribulations. “Lo, I am with you always. I will never leave you or forsake you.” He even had something good to say about being persecuted: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10).

Those who espouse the Rapture claim that Matthew 24:40-41 refers clearly to the rapture of the just, “Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” The entire passage, however, refers to Christ’s second coming where He will judge the living and the dead and separate the just from the unjust.

Darby taught as dogma that when the Scriptures reveal that the Lord will reign on earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4), this figure is to be taken literally, rather than as a symbol for eternity as we believe. The Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431 condemned as heresy this teaching which is calledchialiasmos (millenianism or 1000 years). In fact, the Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787 A.D.) in which the essential truths of the Christian faith were defined never mention a rapture. Yet evangelical Christians and Pentecostals keep using obscure passages of the book of Revelation which purport to give a detailed timetable of what will happen at the end of the world, despite the fact that Jesus Himself warned that no man knows either the day or the hour when the Son of Man shall return.

A major problem with the Rapture is that it ends up teaching not two but three comings of Jesus—first His birth in Bethlehem; second, His secret coming to snatch away (rapture) the “born-again”; and third, His coming at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead and to reign in glory. Yet only two not three comings of Christ are mentioned in the Bible. We have the clearest definition of this in the Nicene Creed when we confess that “the Lord Jesus Christ…will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. His Kingdom will have no end…. I expect the resurrection of the dead. And the life of the ages to come.” There is no mention of a “Rapture”.

As already stated, most Christians, Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants do not believe in the Rapture. In fact, one Protestant pastor, John L. Gray, summarized magnificently what we Orthodox and most other Christians believe about the Rapture when he wrote these remarkable words,
Though many believe and teach this “Pre-Tribulation Rapture” theory, they erroneously do so, because neither Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, nor any of the other writers of the Bible taught this. Nor did the early church fathers, nor any others for many hundreds of years…. Did you know that NONE of this was ever taught prior to 1812, and that all forms of Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching were developed since that date? …. If I were to preach something, or believe something, supposedly from the Bible, but cannot find that ANYONE ELSE before 1812 ever believed it or taught it, I would seriously question that it is based on the Bible.

Thus the Rapture is foreign to the Bible and to the living tradition of the Church. It is what we call a heresy, a false teaching. False teachings, such as this, happen when people—like John Darby—believe that they have the right to interpret the Scriptures individually apart from the Living Body of Christ—the Church—where the Spirit of Truth abides and leads us to all truth.

I can think of no better words to conclude than those of Jesus when He speaks of the one and only “Rapture”, the Second Coming:

“Be on guard. Be alert! You do not know when that time will come…keep watch…if he comes suddenly, do not let Him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!” (Mark 13:32-37).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Git er done

Today I was able to make my pilgrimage to church. My husband was able to watch the baby and I had secured at least one ride home from vespers. Basically this is shorthand for I had over extended myself, over committed, and had to run. I was not in shape, I am not in frame of mind to run fourteen miles. I did it of course but walked on and off loathing my pitiful state more and more. I knew the only way out was to move forward, determine my direction and keep the course. There would be no turning back, no calling for a ride, only forward; one foot in front of the other. My thoughts roamed as I tried to keep focus or at least find motivation. Basically I forced myself to do it because the opportunity arose. The weather which was a bit warm will only get hotter and then a vespers run will not be feasible. It would appear that the effort put into these inconsistent sporatic runs is wasted but these experiences are never mindless or pointless. I know that these seemingly meaningless challenges build me up and make me stronger. It shakes off the laziness and reminds me to move. I don't know why this was so difficult. I understand why my body was uncoordinated. My gait was sluggish as my core is severely weakened from under-use. How little does one have to run not to be a runner? Church was a blessing although my metatarsal on my left foot was searing. Bible study was dominated by a catechumen who recited at nauseam heretical beliefs and unknowlingly his baptist background. He is knows a lot of stuff but his filter is off.  He resides just north of where I live so he offered me a ride which meant that my two alternate rides wouldn't travel 30+ miles out of their way. Never again next time one of the girls will do just fine. I know how unappreciative I sound but this is suppose to be honest. God bless him but he talked incessantly about his journey to orthodoxy.  The worst part for me even in expressing this scenario is that he is very nice and polite and kind but what an annoyance. He taught me to give pause when speaking long enough to account for the other person. I totally believe that I have been (even recently) that annoying to others. God bless them all.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Coptic Christians Rally Worldwide for Believers in Egypt
Coptic Christians Rally Worldwide for Believers in Egypt
Posted on Mon Jan 18 2010
Christian Post--Last week, as Coptic Christians prepared to observe Christmas Day on Jan. 7, gunmen traveling in a car opened fire in a shopping district in Nagaa Hammadi and later in front of the southern Egyptian town’s main church as worshipers emerged from midnight liturgy.
Since last week’s deadly Christmas Eve shootings in the Egyptian town of Nagaa Hammadi, demonstrations have been held in cities across the world and more are on their way.
On Saturday, hundreds of Coptic Christians took to the streets of Tampa, Fla., to protest what they described as 1,400 years of persecution of Copts in Egypt.
"We're raising our voices for those in authority to stop what is happening in Egypt to Christians," said the Rev. Moussa Saleh, leader of Tampa's St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, according to Tampa Bay Online.

One day earlier, Copts in northern Texas rallied in front of the Federal Building in Dallas to draw the attention of the world to the sufferings of Christians in Egypt and to call upon Muslim extremists to end the violence against their brethren in hopes that Copts in Egypt can enjoy the right to religious freedom.
They are also hoping that the Egyptian government “will take serious steps to deal fairly with all the issues and matters of this crime and other religious freedom subjects,” according to rally organizers.
Last week, as Coptic Christians prepared to observe Christmas Day on Jan. 7, gunmen traveling in a car opened fire in a shopping district in Nagaa Hammadi and later in front of the southern Egyptian town’s main church as worshipers emerged from midnight liturgy.
At least five Coptic Christians reportedly died from the shooting and at least seven others injured.
Though police arrested three men two days later, some Coptic Christians believe the Christmas Eve attacks will go unpunished or draw light sentences, as is frequently the case.
Christians in Egypt and elsewhere have often criticized local authorities in Egypt for their handling of such cases, with many increasingly accusing the Egyptian State Security and other security authorities of having a hand in many of the crimes taking place against the Copts in Egypt.
Some even say the latest attack was in retaliation to the victim church's refusal to participate in government-sponsored "reconciliation sessions" after a November 2009 attack by Muslims on Coptic properties.
According to the 2009 U.S. State Department Report on Egypt, “reconciliation sessions” are commonly used by the government to deter Coptic Christians from seeking justice following sectarian attacks.
The reconciliation sessions “generally obviated the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against Copts and precluded their recourse to the judicial system for restitution," the State Department noted.
The department also made mention of government torture and detention of Christians for no reason other than religion.
“Recently, there have been numerous reports of dozens of similar Muslim mob attacks on Christian homes and businesses that occurred in the presence of police,” noted The Free Copts, which reports news on the persecution of Christians in Islamic countries.
“Additionally, reliable sources report that tens of Christians were unjustifiably taken into custody by the government in the days following the attack,” it added.
Last week, over 100 Christian teens were reportedly arrested without warrants or reasons by security forces in Egypt, including some who were subjected to electric shocks. More recently, bloggers, democracy and religious freedom advocates traveling to Naga Hammadi were reportedly taken into custody, sparking immediate remarks from the U.S. State Department.
“The United States is deeply concerned by today’s arrests of individuals traveling to the Egyptian town of Naga Hammadi to express support for those tragically killed and injured during Coptic Christmas celebrations on January 7,” Acting Spokesman Mark C. Toner expressed in a statement Saturday.
“We call on the Government of Egypt to uphold the rights of all to peacefully express their political views and desires for universal freedoms and to ensure due process for those detained,” he added.
Next week, rallies for Copts in Egypt will be held in New York, the District of Columbia, Tennessee, Arizona, France, Holland, Austria, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Greece and Australia.
Rallies with thousands of participants have already been held in Rome, California, Texas, Israel, and Cairo, among others.
“Copts throughout the world are speaking out about the lack of justice for Copts in Egypt,” The Free Copts reported.
According to the CIA World Fact Book, about 9 percent of Egyptians are Coptic, or Christians that descended from the ancient Egyptians. Ninety percent of Egyptians, meanwhile, are Muslim.
Although Egypt’s Christian population is small, it stands as the largest Christian community in the Middle East and is also among the oldest.
According to Egypt’s constitution, Islam is the “religion of the state” and the country's “principle source of legislation.”

Greece Cannot Fold to International Pressure

TRUE ISLAM listen to Wafa Pray for Wafa

Monday, January 18, 2010

Scribblings Spiral Notebooks and Highlighting

For my regular readers I feel compelled to write. As you have guessed my running is lagging for reasons of convenience and reluctance. Stuffing all the information all the bits of data into spiral notebooks and now laptop computers has been a pastime of mine for decades. Big ideas, thoughts and theories. Big Thinker spiraling around the recess of my mind. All those years of nodding curiously and scribbling in code expanding my world view a metamorphosis of sophism to finally know very little with all the pomp and fair of the good prime minister. I sadly have equipped myself with catchy jargon designed to exclude and elude. Good for a nod or minor acknowledgement but what has really become of all those interspersed thoughts, truisms, and popular theories contained in those spiral notebooks and binary code. As if my mind could be illumined by dayglo highlighters. I may now find myself in a worse state then before. All the lessons roll in my skull like marbles racing clanking and knocking around in all the empty space. The echoing in the void like a ringing in my ear can only be silence by prayer or exertion. My essence has been cluttered with half truths, misquoted facts, incorrect dates and misplaced words. Humankind and its determination for its own vision, has not been at good teaching it's worldview doesn't seem to intersect with God, has left me more muddled and not better for all  the writing and scribbling.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Archon Aktouarios, National Commander

Anthony J. Limberakis, MD
Archon Aktouarios, National Commander

My sincere congratulation and prayer go out to Dr.Limberakis as he celebrates his name-day. Know that my family and I pray for him and for the efforts of Archons in safeguarding the Ecumenical See.  
Dr. Limberakis is a true example of Orthodox Living (Orthopraxis). Leading by example he works with his fellow Archons, clergy and laity alike to ensure the safety of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
Fortitude requires courage, loyalty, determination, dedication, and endurance to remain steadfast in the difficult and painful circumstance  of discipleship. Dr. Limberakis' willingness to participate fully in the vocation of Christian discipleship as bond servant, through his tireless effort on behalf of the Ecumenical Throne, is irrefutable.

Endurance speaks to the very core, constitution or construct of  Dr. Limberakis. It refers to the tolerance for prolonged exertion. It refers to the ability of the individual to survive despite the personal cost or liability. It is the manner in which one accepts and manages the ravages of  commitment and circumstance. 

Stamina describes a type of strength, energy or resistance to discomfort demonstrated by Dr. Limberakis. This is a true gift that our Lord has bestowed to him because unlike endurance, stamina refers to an abiding aptitude and energy an enduring persistence or talent. This innate tolerance and regeneration is what creates the ease and grace in which some can do extraordinary feats. There is a perpetual and simultaneous rejuvenation for those who are endowed with a healthy generous dose of stamina.  

Thank you Dr. Anthony Limberakis for your example and leadership. Thank you for forging ahead to fight injustice in the most inhospitable forums. Know that you are certainly laying up heavenly treasure.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Track Running And Octpob

My full intention was to run to church for vespers and bible study and get a ride home but no ride could be arranged. I fit my run into a small window of time where I had to pick up Stavro from basketball tryouts at his school. I arrived about thirty min. early and ran on the track. I know I ran at least 3 miles but I lost track of my laps. Pathetic I know but I just lost count. I don't care for track running very much and that might me attributed in part to the composite of the actual track.  The track was asphalt with a thick layer of paint over it. Not what I was expecting. I have never run on a track for any length of time. The photos posted periodically here of me on a track where taken by Theophani for a photography class and was a complete mock up. Then after rushing home and washing for church I attended vespers and bible study. We are covering the book of Ecclesiastics and watched a dvd on st Haralambos. Very inspiring. I borrowed a copy of Father's DVD Octpob and it was life changing. It ranks 1 in my list of favorite movies. The movie must be viewed to be understood or to approach understanding. Those who have ears to hear let them hear.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Collection of Articles Concerning Lust & Self-Abuse (Masturbation)

This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
The Orthodox Psychologist: A Column from Orthodox Tradition
The phenomenon of onanism, or self-abuse, taken by many contemporary psychologists and even Churchmen, unfortunately, to be a natural appetency, is something which we have only reluctantly addressed in this column in the past (see Orthodox Tradition, Vol. IX, No. 1 [1992], pp. 30-31). It is a subject which demands not only careful study but tremendous pastoral discretion, especially with regard to adolescents. This is partly because the scientific rigor of medical and academic psychology has, in the last decade or so, largely been set aside for the inane pronouncements of pop psychology; such superficial ideas as co-dependence, bizarre therapies, and the supposedly more enlightened models and therapies of holistic and New Age philosophies have erased away much of the traditional study of human behavior.
The concerns of even so ostensibly liberated a figure as Sigmund Freud (at least with regard to his thoughts on human sexuality) about the negative psychic effects of self-abuse have been tossed aside as symptomatic of the superstitious and medieval attitudes of antiquated cranks. And as a result, even Orthodox Pastors have come to speak of this sexual anomaly, once more, as a natural proclivity. (In this respect, one modernist Priest in America was heard to say in a seminary class, several years ago, that we shouldnt make too much of the narrow-minded ideas of some of the Fathers about the innocent aspects of human sexual behavior.) In the name of correcting some of the admittedly curious theories about onanism that held forth in eighteenth-century medicine, psychologists, psychiatrists, and clergymen have too often abandoned all sobriety with regard to this abusive habit, succumbing at times to a do-what-feels-right philosophy that is opposed both to Christian teaching—Scripture and the Churchs Canons consider self-abuse a serious sin—and the more circumspect theories of normal sexual development that prevailed when psychology was still a science and when normal was a word understood by all.
With the ascendency of the trashy morals and questionable cultural values that have entered into American life from television situation comedies, assaulting even those of us who do not—and will not—watch them, the question of onanism is of little import to most Americans today. In a society which enjoys armpits and half-nude bodies paraded across its newspapers, magazines, and television sets, not to mention open advertisements everywhere for personal products that even a decade ago were sold on the back shelves of pharmacies, onanism has even become the subject of humor. Not only is it considered normal, rather than abnormal and psychically and spiritually harmful, but a recent issue of a magazine for teenagers, according to a recent CNN report, ranked it among one of the significant pastimes of American youth: a harmless preoccupation! What in my generation was either unknown to young people, or at least an issue not at all to be mentioned outside confession, is now the subject of casual conversation. Added to the degraded state of the psychological sciences and the abandonment of their pastoral responsibilities by the clergy, the prevailing amoral culture in America and in the West serves simply to reinforce the idea, and this especially among youth, that self-abuse is not, as the Church and more responsible counsellors teach, a retreat into sin and destructive fantasy. Consequently, even Christians come to believe that this sexual sin has no consequences for the soul and for the psyche.
In an attempt to offer some sober guidance on this subject to our readers, I would like to recount two stories that were told to me by my spiritual Father, Metropolitan Cyprian—an accomplished spiritual therapist—, one told to him by a spiritual son and the other from a spiritual book that he read some time ago. I have used both stories to counsel and to enlighten a number of young people who have come to me for advice. They are about real people, neither of whom is now living (the stories therefore constitute no violation whatsoever of any individuals privacy), and offer us a vivid picture of the spiritual consequences of onanism: indeed, a very clear and effective corrective to all that we have said above about contemporary attitudes towards sexual self-abuse. May these stories help to enlighten many about the true consequences of this sin and thus save them from both spiritual and psychological harm.
Archbishop Chrysostomo
+ + +A young man once related the following to me. As a teenager, he was interested in sports, especially wrestling. At about fifteen, a teammate introduced him to the sin of self-abuse. Out of shame, he did not confess the sin. One day, a month later, he was wrestling at home, on the living room floor, with his older brother. Inadvertently, his brother, who was very hefty, fell on his chest with such force that he could not breathe and literally died. In this state, he observed his own body, the shock of his brother and his mother, who had rushed in to help him, and his soul, accompanied by his Guardian Angel, as it ascended above his house, high over the city where he lived, and finally into the heavens. He then found himself in a long, dark tunnel, at the end of which he saw a light and Paradise. As he entered into this light, he saw the Theotokos, who asked his Guardian Angel why he was there. The Angel then related to her the details of the boys death. At this, the Theotokos turned to him and said, Your mother has prayed fervently to me for your return, and my Son has granted her request. The boy, overwhelmed by the beauty of Paradise, begged to remain. The Mother of God, however, replied: No. For the sake of your mother, you must return. But hear me: You must confess the sin that you committed a month ago. This is a frightful sin, and unless you confess it to a Priest, behold what will happen to you. At these words, the Theotokos asked the Archangel Michael to escort him to a precipice that overlooked the torments of Hell. The view was so frightening that the boy almost fainted. Afterwards, he re-traced his path through the dark tunnel, down through the heavens, over the city in which he lived, over his house, and then into the room where his family was gathered over his dead body. Then, feeling a tremendous pressure on his body, his soul returned to its place and he opened his eyes. He then related to his family all that had happened to him. His grieving mother, on hearing all that he told them, gave thanks to the Theotokos for her intervention with Christ on the boys behalf, and, weeping uncontrollably, embraced and warmly kissed him.

+ + +

Another teenage boy also fell to the sin of self-abuse and, again out of shame, failed to confess it to his spiritual Father. It so happened that he contracted a fatal disease and was dying. His family sent word to the boys Confessor about his condition, but were unable to find him before the boy died. At the time of his death, the young man's soul was seized by two horrible demons, which began to drag him to a place of terrible torment. In the meantime, the boys spiritual Father arrived at his home and found the grieving family. If you had come earlier, they cried, you might have prevented his death. Please, please bring him back. The Priest began to pray and, lo, a miracle occurred. The boy indeed returned to life. He immediately cried out to his Confessor, You have saved me. And he then began to relate to him his terrible encounter with the demonic forces that, just before his revival, were on the verge of casting him into Hell. Not knowing of the boys sin, the Priest asked of him, How could this have happened to you? Why would these demons claim your soul? The boy then confessed his misdeed. Do you sincerely repent of this, my son, the Priest asked. Yes, the youth replied. Are you sure? the Priest asked once more. The boy replied, O yes, Father! The Priest then continued: And do you want to go to Heaven? You mean I can be with my Christ right now? the boy exclaimed. His spiritual Father assured him that he could. Then I wish to die, the boy said, crossing his arms on his chest. The Priest made the sign of the Cross on the boy, and the youth, closing his eyes, blissfully reposed.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIV, No. 4 (1997), pp. 10-12.

About the editors of The Orthodox Psychologist. Dr. Thomas Brecht is a psychologist in private practice with the Alabama Psychiatric Services and a member of the Association of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. The Most Rev. Dr. Chrysostomos has taught psychology at Princeton University, where he received his doctorate, the University of California, Ashland University, and the Theological Institute of the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

+ + +

The following article was written for this column in 1989 by Archbishop Chrysostomos. A number of readers have asked that it be reprinted, owing to its instructive content and because of the paucity of writing on this important issue by traditional Orthodox thinkers.

I have long hesitated to undertake the task of approaching the intimate problem of human sexuality from an Orthodox point of view. In normal circumstances, this subject is personal, a matter of confessional guidance, and something not to be addressed in mixed company or in a public forum. But the circumstances of the society in which we live are anything but normal. Not only are sexual matters openly discussed in the least appropriate arenas, but a wholesale perversion of the nature of human sexuality reigns in modern society. Clergymen, then, cannot remain silent—even those of us in the monastic ranks.

In addressing various matters of human sexuality, I bring with me into this area of study two things: first, the teachings of the Orthodox Church, to the extent that I understand them after several decades of reading in the Fathers; and second, my background as a psychologist, which includes some years of study and research in the area of psychosexual development. Certainly there may be others better qualified to write on these matters, but the necessities which I feel as a pastor of the flock prompt me to speak out in a time of need, putting aside my admitted limitations in knowledge and expertise.

One troublesome problem that pastors and Church counsellors confront these days is that of self-pollution (or masturbation), a problem which one Church Father in particular, St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, has considered at length. His comments and the teachings of the Church have been largely hidden under the cover of modern theories which pastors have unfortunately gleaned from heterodox (and even un-Christian) sources. Moreover, the natural embarrassment that a pious Christian feels in discussing a matter such as this has served to allow misunderstanding and wrong teachings to proliferate, such that Churchmen have become remiss in teaching young people the true position of the Church with regard to this very serious matter.

Sexuality is part of our fallen nature. It is evil only to the extent that we misuse it—misuse that most certainly begins with the curiosity that young people develop at the age of puberty. At the age of sexual self-discovery, the problem of self-pollution is, whether we like to admit it or not, a rather universal one. Pastors have always realized this and have exercised care to deal with adolescents who fall to this sin with patience and careful guidance. With time, these youngsters can be led to understand its nature, to put an end to it before it becomes a habit, and to understand that the sexual urge, like any other, is subject to control.

While normal, healthy instances of adolescent purity do exist (despite the prevailing attitude that this is abnormal), the practice of self-pollution often does become more or less habitual through the younger years. Self-control is not something easily achieved by young people in the confused, first few years of sexual maturity. This is an unfortunate fact, but a fact; and here, again, we must guide young people with understanding and patience. But our guidance must focus on the fact that this activity is wrong, must be corrected, and certainly is not a matter of what today's social mors call "natural instincts." Habits cannot be overcome if we believe them to good or innocent. We must know that they are bad and detrimental, before we are prompted to control them. And it is this important perspective that the Church must restore. Self-pollution is not, as many Orthodox pastors today claim, a small matter or something incidental. It is a sin, and a serious one when it is habitual.

St. Nicodemos calls this sin a snare and points out that, according to other Fathers, those who are caught in its net have great difficulty extricating themselves and thus imperil their souls. (See Pedalion, Athens, 1982, pp. 704-705.) Indeed, the eighth canon of St. John the Faster assigns to a layman who falls to this sin, in addition to exclusion from Holy Communion, one hundred prostrations daily for forty days, along with a diet of nothing but bread and water. St. John's tenth Canon imposes a suspension of one year on any Priest who falls to self-abuse and, should he continue in such a sin two or three times, deposition. Moreover, St. Paul's famous and unequivocal statement in I Corinthians 6:9-10, that those who practice sodomy and who are "effeminate" cannot inherit "the kingdom of God," St. Nicodemos observes, can also be interpreted to apply to those who practice self-abuse: a sin which "damages" the soul (ibid.).
Aside from attributing to self-pollution various negative physical effects, St. Nicodemos rightly stresses that this sin opens the mind and soul to demonic influence. It is a path to self-seduction and the complete distortion of the meaning of human sexuality and, of course, the pure image to which the human being seeks to be restored in the spiritual life.
There are today few physicians who would attribute to self-abuse the negative physical effects mentioned by the Fathers of the Church. However, this is not on the basis of careful research, but stems from their acceptance of prevailing theories. The Fathers based their observations on data from pious physicians who carefully monitored their patient's moral lives and the consequent effects on their physical health. Such things are not done today. Therefore, the observations upon which the Fathers base their conclusions are often called into question. Nonetheless, the Fathers base themselves on empirical data, modern physicians on untested theory. Moreover, there is ample support by inference for what the Fathers and what Christian physicians in the past so firmly believed.
Today we know that there is a close link between the mind and the body and that, to be sure, the Fathers were correct in linking the health of the body to that of the soul. Therefore, while we may not have contemporary empirical studies to support the claims of the Fathers with regard to the negative effects of self-abuse, we can certainly affirm that the theory upon which they based their views—that one's moral life, a matter of the mind and soul, has consequences for the physical health of the organism—is valid. Furthermore, those of us trained in more traditional psychology are perfectly aware that masturbation has profound effects on the psyche and, thus, ultimately on the physical body. (Even Freud, whose revolutionary view of human sexuality is at times less than healthy and edifying, advised his daughter and other patients to avoid self-abuse.)
Self-abuse has two very serious psychological effects. Firstly, it focuses human sexuality away from the interpersonal dimension and thus distorts its natural goal: procreation—which in turn involves two people, a man and a woman. In so doing, it individualizes human sexuality and turns one entirely to himself. This narcissism can be unhealthy for the psyche, leading to selfishness, a lack of concern for others, and, in fact, sexual dysfunction. And to the extent that this practice focuses one on the self, it is perfectly possible that it leads one to the abnormality of fixation on those of them same sex. This in turn can lead to homosexuality. Thus, it is perhaps no accident that, at a time when society and even clergymen teach that self-abuse is normal, homosexuality (or bisexuality) is at least more open, if not more prevalent in the human population.
The other negative consequence of self-abuse is that it fosters delusions and fantasy. Human sexuality is bridled. Sexual passions are, indeed, quite quickly satisfied (for which reason they are reasonably easily controlled). Thus, whatever the fantasy one may have, in actuality sexual behavior is bounded on all sides by physical limits. Moreover, normal sexuality, involving both a man and woman, also rests on the personal, loving relationship of two people, which tends to transform passionate fantasy into a form of intimacy and into a union which is both decent and capable of sanctification (within the bonds of the Mystery of marriage). When the reality of an interpersonal relationship is absent, fantasy allows one to do whatever he wishes. And this acting-out, should it ever become real, can lead to poor and even violent relationships.
A mind which is turned in on itself, an individual who can live within the world of the passions without taking into account the reality of interaction with others, will ultimately come to a state of serious imbalance. And this imbalance will not only affect his or her physical health, as we have suggested, but will invite the action of negative psychic powers: demons. An individual who lives in proper harmony with those around him and who either controls the sexual impulse or expresses it in a marital context is healthy. His health keeps him watchful against evil and helps him develop as an individual and as a Christian. One who lacks such balance, whose mind has been twisted by the tyranny of the passions, is prey to things demonic. And so it is, of course, that the Fathers speak of self-abuse as a demonic ruse.
Absolute sexual purity is the result of mental health. It is normal. Sexual indulgence is abnormal. This is what we must stress to our young people. If the imbalance that accompanies adolescence leads to certain falls, young people must be guided away from these falls. They must know that sexual health actually resides in a life of absolute purity (ruling out self-abuse, of course) or marriage, in which the passions are modified by a Mystery of the Church and, at the same time, by the natural uprightness that accompanies physical acts carried out in an atmosphere of mutual love and respect. Self-abuse is not normal, but abnormal. And if great guilt attaches to it, this is not the result of the Church calling this sin abnormal; rather, it is the result of that which naturally proceeds forth from something which perverts the mind, body, and soul. It is as natural as the guilt which one feels at taking another life, whether intentionally or not, and helps us to understand the serious abnormality of what is today called an "unimportant and natural thing."
Bishop [now Archbishop] Chrysostomos
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Conversing with Fr. Macarius, I happened to tell him that living in society, it happens that for no particular reason some girl will strike one's fancy. One word follows another, and one becomes so attached to her that afterwards one finds it necessary, out of fear of jealousy, to hide it from one's wife. Even at prayer and in the church of God, one is always thinking of her. Of course, with the passage of time this attachment passes all by itself and is forgotten, but still....
"Yes," said Fr. Macarius with a sigh, "to you people of high society, such frivolity seems nothing, insignificant. But all the same, a terrible evil is hidden in it, causing an abyss of troubles and misfortunes and robbing your spiritual treasury. The Savior plainly says, Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:28). You see—you only looked lustfully, and the sin has already been committed and the commandment of God broken. Even from a worldly point of view, how many bitter sorrows are caused by such predilections! Here, as I see it, you are now living happily and peacefully with your family. You love your wife and she loves you. You are candid with her, and have in her a friend who participates wholeheartedly in your sorrows and joys. But as soon as the thought of faithlessness enters your heart, the tempter will seize upon it right away and draw you with such strength that it will already be difficult for you to stop yourself and return to your sacred duty. From here it is not very far to a fall, and, if you commit it, everything is upset. In your wife, if she is faithful to you, you will have an enemy instead of a friend; you will begin to feel hatred towards her instead of love. instead of comfort, you will see in her a hindrance to the satisfaction of your crude and inhuman passion, and you will not even notice that you have become a lawless enemy to your lawful spouse. What a bitter future there is in such a life! But that is just here—what will happen beyond the grave? Terrible... It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God" (Heb. 10:31)
"Instruct me, then, Father," I said, "how to protect myself from the terrible temptation of passions in general, and from tempting thoughts while praying at home or even in church."
"The beginning of all these temptations," the Elder responded, "Is pride. A man imagines that he is living piously, not judging his own sinfulness at all, but sometimes even judging others—then, the Lord allows the enemy to lay snares for him. Be attentive to your own way of life, check your conscience, and you will always come, however unwillingly, to the conviction that you have not yet fulfilled even one of the Lord's commandments as a Christian should. Reasoning in this way, you will clearly see your spiritual weaknesses, which cause fleshly falls. In order to deliver yourself from these falls, you must acquire humility. As far as the sinful thoughts at church or while praying at home are concerned, since they are not caused by you, but by the enemy, you don't have to be troubled. Try not to dwell on these thoughts, but turn to God instead with the prayer: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!' Here is an example for you: when parents take their little children out for a walk, they usually let the children go ahead, not letting them out of their sight. Suddenly, from out of some corner, a dog runs out and jumps at the children. What do they do? They rush right over to their parents, crying 'Papa! Mama!' With childish simplicity and pure faith, they expect their parents to help them. The same goes for you on the path of your temporal life. If our tempter, the devil, even starts laying snares for you, don't be disturbed, and do not even think of getting through it on your own, but with childlike simplicity hurry to the heavenly Father with the cry, 'Lord, I am Thy creation, have mercy on me!' Finally, I'll tell you that, in my opinion, it is hard to protect oneself from worldly temptations while living in big cities. How can a man who is still spiritually weak hold his ground against the temptations of the contemporary world? Take note that high society consists in part of people with other beliefs, and in part of Christians who, although Orthodox, have been so seduced by the customs of the world in their weakness, that they are Orthodox in name only, while in reality they have drifted far from true Orthodoxy. It's hard to fight the passions, but it is incomparably more difficult to withstand continuous temptations. Finally, luxury, the pursuit of fashion, the goals of this way of life—all of this is so expensive that no financial means would suffice to satisfy all the demands of high society.
"You have said yourself that your financial affairs are in disarray, but as you live longer in the village your financial situation will improve. Yes, and not only that! The human soul, as an immortal being, cannot remain in the same condition—it is either improving or deteriorating. It is no wonder that, by living a quiet country life, and of course with the help of God, your spiritual state should improve at least a little."
From Elder Macarius of Optina, by Fr. Leonid Kavelin (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Press, 1995), pp. 342-344. This was Letter 4 in a series of letters to a young, wealthy, married landowner in 19th-century Russian high society.
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Our second struggle is against the demon of unchastity and the desire of the flesh, a desire which begins to trouble man from the time of his youth. This harsh struggle has to be fought in both soul and body, and not simply in the soul, as is the case with other faults. We therefore have to fight it on two fronts.
Bodily fasting alone is not enough to bring about perfect self-restraint and true purity; it must be accompanied by contrition of heart, intense prayer to God, frequent meditation on the Scriptures, toil and manual labour. These are able to check the restless impulses of the soul and to recall it from its shameful fantasies. Humility of soul helps more than everything else, however, and without it no one can overcome unchastity or any other sin. In the first place, then, we must take the utmost care to guard the heart from base thoughts, for, according to the Lord, out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, unchastity and so on (Matt. 15:19).
We are told to fast not only to mortify our body, but also to keep our intellect watchful, so that it will not be obscured because of the amount of food we have eaten and thus be unable to guard its thoughts. We must not therefore expend all our effort in bodily fasting; we must also give attention to our thoughts and to spiritual meditation, since otherwise we will not be able to advance to the heights of true purity and chastity. As our Lord has said, we should cleanse first the inside of the cup and plate, so that their outside may also be clean (Matt. 23:26).
If we are really eager, as the Apostle puts it, to struggle lawfully and to be crowned (2 Tim: 2:5) for overcoming the impure spirit of unchastity, we should not trust in our own strength and ascetic practice, but in the help of our Master, God. No one ceases to be attacked by this demon until he truly believes that he will be healed and reach the heights of purity not through his own effort and labour, but through the aid and protection of God. For such a victory is beyond man's natural powers. Indeed, he who has trampled down the pleasures and provocations of the flesh is in a certain sense outside the body. Thus, no one can soar to this high and heavenly prize of holiness on his own wings and learn to imitate the angels, unless the grace of God leads him upwards from this earthly mire. No virtue makes flesh-bound man so like a spiritual angel as does self-restraint, for it enables those still living on earth to become, as the Apostle says, citizens of heaven (cf. Phil. 3:20). A sign that we have acquired this virtue perfectly is that our soul ignores those images which the defiled fantasy produces during sleep; for even if the production of such images is not a sin, nevertheless it is a sign that the soul is ill and has not been freed from passion. We should therefore regard the defiled fantasies that arise in us during sleep as the proof of previous indolence and weakness still existing in us, since the emission which takes place while we are relaxed in sleep reveals the sickness that lies hidden in our souls. Because of this the Doctor of our souls has also placed the remedy in the hidden regions of the soul, recognizing that the cause of our sickness lies there when He says: Whoever looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:28). He seeks to correct not so much our inquisitive and unchaste eyes as the soul which has its seat within and makes bad use of the eyes which God gave it for good purposes. That is why the Book of Proverbs in its wisdom does not say: Guard your eyes with all diligence but Guard your heart with all diligence (Prov. 4:23), imposing the remedy of diligence in the first instance upon that which makes use of the eyes for whatever purpose it desires.
The way to keep guard over our heart is immediately to expel from the mind every demon-inspired recollection of women even of mother or sister or any other devout woman—lest by dwelling on it for too long the mind is thrown headlong by the deceiver into debased and pernicious thoughts. The commandment given by God to the first man, Adam, told him to keep watch over the head of the serpent (cf. Gen. 3:15. LXX), that is, over the first inklings of the pernicious thoughts by means of which the serpent tries to creep into our souls. If we do not admit the serpents head, which is the provocation of the thought, we will not admit the rest of its body—that is, the assent to the sensual pleasure which the thought suggests—and so debase the mind towards the illicit act itself.
As it is written, we should early in the morning destroy all the wicked of the earth (Ps. 101:8), distinguishing in the light of divine knowledge our sinful thoughts and then eradicating them completely from the earth—our hearts—in accordance with the teaching of the Lord. While the children of Babylon—by which I mean our wicked thoughts—are still young, we should dash them to the ground and crush them against the rock, which is Christ (cf. Ps. 137:9; I Cor. 10:4). If these thoughts grow stronger because we assent to them, we will not be able to overcome them without much pain and labour.
It is good to remember the sayings of the Fathers as well as the passages from Holy Scripture cited above. For example, St Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, said: I have not known a woman and yet I am not a virgin. He recognized that the gift of virginity is achieved not so much by abstaining from intercourse with woman as by holiness and purity of soul, which in its turn is achieved through fear of God. The Fathers also say that we cannot fully acquire the virtue of purity unless we have first acquired real humility of heart. And we will not be granted true spiritual knowledge so long as the passion of unchastity lies hidden in the depths of our souls.
To bring this section of our treatise to a close, let us recall one of the Apostles sayings which further illustrates his teaching on how to acquire self-restraint. He says: Pursue peace with all men and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). It is clear that he is talking about self-restraint from what follows: Lest there be any unchaste or profane person, such as Esau (Heb. 12:16). The more heavenly and angelic the degree of holiness, the heavier are the enemies attacks to which it is subjected. We should therefore try to achieve not only bodily control, but also contrition of heart with frequent prayers of repentance, so that with the dew of the Holy Spirit we may extinguish the furnace of our flesh, kindled daily by the king of Babylon with the bellows of desire (cf. Dan. 3:19). In addition, a great weapon has been given us in the form of sacred vigils; for just as the watch we keep over our thoughts by day brings us holiness at night, so vigil at night brings purity to the soul by day.
From The Philokalia, Volume 1, pp. 75-77. This is excerpted from the treatise On the Eight Vices, written by St. John Cassian (all italics mine). Although The Philokalia as a whole is typically viewed as advanced reading that is unsuitable for most lay people, this treatise is especially valuable for anyone trying to live a pious spiritual life, either in the world or in a monastery. St. John's writings on lust were not translated in the classic 38-volume church fathers set that is so widely available. His writings on lust and fornication can be found, however, in the translations of his Institutes and Conferences by Boniface Ramsey.
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Relevant Passages from Holy Scripture that are Worth Memorizing to Combat These Passions
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God." (1 Thess. 4:3-5)
"Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." (1 Peter 2:11)
"Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust...But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Romans 13:13-14)
"But fornication, and all uncleanness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthinessFor it is a shame to [even] speak of those things which are done of them in secret", let alone do them. (Eph. 5:3, 12)
"For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." (Roman 8:13)
"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." (St. Matthew 5:28-29)
For "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me." (St. John 14:21).
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The Prayer of St. Justina Against Lust
The maiden was accustomed to offer up prayer to the Lord every night; and when at the third hour of the night she had arisen to pray to God, she suddenly felt in her body as it were a strong wind, an evil tempest of carnal desires, the burning of the flames of Gehenna. She was beset by this assault and inner storm for a long time: the youth Aglaias came to her mind, and wicked thoughts arose in her. She felt her blood boiling in her as in a kettle, and the maiden was amazed and ashamed of herself for considering that which she had always regarded as vile. The wise Justina perceived that it was the devil who had stirred up this struggle within her, and straightway she took up the weapon of the sign of the Cross. She hastened to God in fervent prayer and cried out to Christ her Bridegroom from the depths of her heart, saying,
"O Lord Jesus Christ, my God, lo, mine enemies have risen up against me and have prepared a snare for my feet! My soul is brought low, but I have remembered Thy name in the night and am made glad. When they compassed me round about, I have fled unto Thee, hoping that mine adversary might not rejoice over me, for Thou knowest, O Lord my God, that I am Thy [servant]. For Thee have I kept the purity of my body, and to Thee have I entrusted my soul; wherefore, preserve Thou Thy lamb, O good Shepherd. Do not permit the beast which seeketh to devour me to consume me, and grant me to prevail over the evil desires of my flesh."
Having prayed thus for a long time, the holy virgin put the enemy to shame. Overcome by her prayer, he fled from her in humiliation, and calm returned to Justinas body and heart. The flame of desire was quenched, the conflict within her ceased, her boiling blood was calmed, and she chanted a hymn of victory, giving glory to God....
"We cannot", [the devil] said, "bear to look upon the sign of the Cross but must flee from it, for like fire it burns us and drives us far away."
From the Lives of Sts. Cyprian and Justina, The Great Collection of the Lives of Saints, October, p. 32, 34. Those suffering from carnal passions would do well to read the "Prayers for Purity" from the Book of Needs (Euchologion). St. Nectarios Press sells these prayers as a small book. A shorter version is also available.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ecumenical News International

Ecumenical Patriarch laments loss of sacred vision in Europe
By Ecumenical News International 11 Jan 2010
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I, a spiritual leader who represents Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has urged young Christians to resist secularisation in Europe in a message to an ecumenical meeting that was greeted by global and regional leaders - writes Jonathan Luxmoore.
"After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe no longer recognises the place for Christianity that history dedicated to it - it is as if Christianity were being expelled from the history of Europe," said Bartholomeos I, the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The Patriarch made his appeal in a message sent to a five-day European Youth Meeting, organised by France's ecumenical Taizé Community in Poznan, Poland.
"We wish to recall here that the identity of Europe is primarily Christian and cannot be considered without this legacy," he said in his message to the 29 December-2 January gathering.
"The secularisation of Europe here takes the form of a rejection of the God of history. Nonetheless, the mobilisation of Christians throughout Europe is an important initiative recalling the Christian roots of this continent, its identity and its values."
Bartholomeos noted the emergence of "golden calves" marked by a tendency to sacrifice "justice, equality and freedom on the altar of consumerism". He said Europe should remember the part played by churches in its recent history, at a time when secularisation was denying "the sacredness of the world, breaking the link that exists between God, man and creation".
The Patriarch said, "Europe has just commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event not possible without the mobilisation of Christians.
"From the non-violent demonstrations organised by the Protestant churches of Leipzig; to international efforts by the Pope of Rome, John Paul II, who kept on crying out 'Do not fear'; through the mobilisation of Orthodox churches inside and outside the Soviet bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall is not only the end of a historical sequence or a purely political event; its greatness is ecumenical."
A Taizé Community statement said that more than 30,000 young Europeans turned out for [the] meeting, the 32nd since 1978. They were accommodated at 150 Roman Catholic parishes in Poland's Wielkopolska region.
Taizé's German prior, Brother Alois Loser, urged participants, who were most numerous from Poland, Germany, France and Ukraine, to show solidarity with persecuted Christians in China. There the Taizé Community is distributing one million Bibles, he said. He also called on participants to work for "changes" in social structures as well as for greater justice in the world's economic and financial system.
The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in his message to the gathering said humanity had been "defaced and injured by false ideas of wealth, by false ideas of security, by false ideas of freedom".
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I, for his part, said Europe's future will depend on young people's readiness to promote "justice, Christian morality and the idea of the common good".
At the same time, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the meeting's emphasis on social issues and called for "collective action to change the world for the better".
The Poznan meeting was the fourth such Taizé gathering organised in predominantly Catholic Poland, and will be followed in December by a meeting in Rotterdam.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

Monday, January 11, 2010

O Pure Virgin by Holy Nectarios of Agina

O Pure Virgin (tube with phonetics

An Email Forward Worth Forwarding

It was you who taught me...
As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big 'F' at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, 'Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around.' His second grade teacher wrote, 'Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.' His third grade teacher wrote, 'His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest, and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken.' Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, 'Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.' By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, 'Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used too.' After the children left, she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her 'teacher's pets.'
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life. Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life. Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, 'Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.'
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, 'Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you.'
For you that don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.

Fallout of Coptic killing in Egypt continues

Mohamed Abdel Salam

10 January 2010 in Egypt, Featured, News
CAIRO: The reactions to the deadly attack on the Copts in Nag Hammadi on the eve of Coptic Christmas that resulted in the killing of 6 Copts and one Muslim security officer and the injury of 7 others last Wednesday, continued with the condemnation by the Egyptian Government, the Catholic Pope, Sheikh of al-Azhar, the Muslim Brotherhood. This has been followed with reports spreading about Coptic Pope Shenouda III being holding a hunger strike while mourning the death of the Copts.
The country’s interior ministry announced shortly before noon on Friday, the arrest of three suspects for the massacre at Nag Hammadi. The ministry announced the names of the three suspects, led by Mohammed Ahmed Hassan Al Komi, also known as Hammam Al Komi, after they surrendered to police the same day.
Security forces had imposed a massive security siege in the area between the village of Farshout and the town of Nag Hammadi in an effort to curtail further violence.
Major General Adly Fayed, the First Deputy of the Minister of Interior for Public Security Bureau, in statements to Egyptian daily newspaper al-Dostour said that the accused had surrendered after security tightened its grip in the area.
He added: “We interrogated the accused in the State Security Intelligence headquarters to find out their motives for the crime and the first suspect said that the idea of the massacre just came to his mind and he denied receiving money from the family of the raped girl in Farshout.”
For his part, the Bishop Kirolos of Nag Hammadi held a press conference in the Orthodox Diocese to unveil details of the incident. He said: “I knew about the details of the attack before it took place and I informed the security leaders to make the necessary arrangements, but no one took any action for our protection, thus, I met the leaders of churches and told them to finish the service as early as possible and I told my sons not to come to the Patriarchate.”
He added that “I hope for a better presence of security planning in the province of Qena, so we feel secure as Christians and Muslims. I saw with my own eyes the offender Kamoni with another person opening fire on innocent people as the worshippers were leaving the church and then contacted the security services to inform them of what had happened and the whereabouts of the suspects.”
More than 100 activists of the Copts Abroad in Britain organized a protest in front of the headquarters of the BBC on Friday morning to protest and condemn the events. Dr. Ibrahim Habib, the head of the United Copts Organization in England said in a special statement to al-Youm al-Saba’a that it is the first time in the history of England, when the Copts hold a demonstration because of the events. The protest, according to Habib, came to protest “the lack of objective coverage of the BBC of the events in Egypt, as the channel covered the story in a false way.”
In a related development, Free Copts and the Coptic Voices Organization in the United States, called for a peaceful march be organized on Tuesday, January 19, in front of the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, in order to protest the recent sectarian violence incidents.
The Egyptian Center for Development and Human Rights, in turn, called on President Mubarak to intervene personally to end the “sectarian sedition” in Qena Governorate.
The statement also demanded the dismissal and resignation of both of the interior minister and security chief of Qena, Magdi Ayyoub, “as they are failing to protect the security of Egyptian citizens in that province.”
The group criticized the role taken by the Egyptian media, “in an attempt to delay the incident and showing it as an individual incident, which is totally untrue.”
Several human rights activists also launched sharp attacks on the official and religious institutions of the state, accusing them of being responsible for the violence in the town, adding that the state “pursues policies and promotes political speech that has enshrined discrimination against the Copts, and restricts freedom of religion for non-Muslim citizens.”
El-Din Hassan, Director of the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies, argued that this unfortunate incident is a continuation of the deterioration over the last decade of Coptic issues, stressing that this incident reveals the “absence of political will on the political system to solve the crises of Christians and other religions including the Shiites, Baha’is and Quranists,” indicating that the real culprit is not the unknown suspects who committed the incident in question, “but it is in the hands the government and the official religious establishment and security services, formal education and the sheikhs of the satellite channels. Their hands are stained with the blood of the Coptic victims.”
Hossam Bahgat, Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, stressed the need to investigate the security agencies, which failed to prevent the accident, “although it was aware that a number of Copts received threatening messages two months before the incident by Muslims in revenge for the rape of a Muslim girl in November 2009.”
Bahgat said that the responsibility for the recent incident is on the state that discriminates against the Copts and adopts policies that would slander them, calling for immediate action as a deterrent to criminals, and the introduction of legislative amendments that criminalizes discrimination against the Copts.
Like Bahgat, many activists have demanded reforms of the education curriculum and the discourse in the official media and to review the position of sheikhs on popular satellite channels and the official religious establishment “that encourages hatred of non-Muslims.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Loving the Sinner Detesting the Sin

Not much time today to write but I just wanted to note that we don't have to accept sinfulness as a perpetual state to prove that God loves the sinner.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Misfit Among Misfits and the Freezing Cold

First I'd like to say that there is much to do perhaps about nothing when we talk about the lack of inclusion in the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church has a standard of personal choice which exceeds all other Christian groups and sub denominations. It states little publicly about private personal matters and has a strong tradition of leaving personal issues to the parties involved. The wave of converts in America who have yet to shake their heretical mindset fault leadership for not going public in secular forums to denounce the obvious like abortion. The Orthodox don't get preachy to non orthodox but pastor and council those in the faith or of the faith. To denounce or disparage an entire religious group for the bigotry of a few vocal morons seems ironically moronic. In the same vain to relish one's sin and bask in the stench to prove some loyalty or brotherhood is equally moronic. We are called to put off our old nature and put on Christ. "Those who have been baptized in Christ have put Christ on". We don't just sin against each other or our selves but against God. To remain a prostitute in a fained attempt to show God loves the sinner is missing the point entirely. Seek righteousness by seeking the Kingdom. Love above all but love doesn't lead to debauchery but to purity in communion not in isolation. Nihilist need not apply.
As for my run it was freakin cold. Really cold by New York standards. When the wind blew it cut through my clothes. I needed a hat which I didn't wear. I did sport my longer running pants which only get to wear a couple of times a year. Experts say when you race in the cold its for time when you run in the heat its for place. This tells me in the cold I have no excuse not to keep going. I am quietly thankful I'm not running Disney's Marathon tomorrow with a start temp. of 25 degrees. Every obstacle is for good. Anyway I had a rather sizable revelation or epiphany while running today. I realized that running is all about resistance not about going with the flow. It is about resistance about doing what is uncomfortable and somewhat unnatural beyond a childhood game. Why do people from all walks of life run extended distances and put themselves through some of the most grueling experiences voluntarily without clear 'profit'. For me I feel like learned resistance, a commitment to consistent repetitive tempered behavior, to focus and habitual looking inward is the first of many steps home to God. In a real and not corny or metaphorical way. How else do we practice our discipline and determination and stamina but by really enduring and running the good race.

Human Trafficking Watch

Pornography and Its Apologists
Published by mkanderson on March 9, 2008 02:35 pm under Pornography, Schools
Update 03/18/2003 8:00 PM
Presca Ahn of Yale posted a comment where she copied a letter to Brent Bozell, whom I quoted below. Please note her comment related to the events of the evening in question.
Original Post
For quite a while now, I have been putting together a post about pornography. It’s one of the principle reasons for this new blog, since it seems so out of place next to a review of Microsoft Office 2007 or an article on weak computer security. I have been wanting to show the link between human trafficking and the porn industry. I went through several drafts in my head and have been doing tons of research online (no, not that kind) to discover that it’s nearly impossible to grasp what is going on with this industry. That’s because the porn industry is about perception and who communicates that perception to others.
Just like the optical illusion drawing of the two faces / goblet, porn is described by many as this natural, healthy expression of free speech performed by consenting adults for other open-minded adults. However, the more you learn about the actual reality going on behind the scenes, you start to see the goblet along with the two faces.
My epiphany related to porn was around five years ago when I started reading about sex workers in Europe who were used as fodder to get fast and cheap images used on free porn sites. Nothing is really free and free porn certainly costs somebody. Since pornographers are not philanthropists, somebody is paying somewhere. You have to wonder where the vast plethora of free images come from. Did all of these women, young girls, and boys suddenly decide to pursue a career in the adult industry?
I am fascinated by the complete lack of regard for the sources of pornographic content. The American defenders of the pornography industry long ago changed perception of what was once an embarrassing, underground activity to something that had to do with free speech. Obviously, this was a smart tactic because it made the issue of pornography about the porn consumer rather than the content providers. As a free speech issue, stupid liberal academics now defend porn as some kind of entitlement for all Americans; meanwhile, they willfully choose to remain clueless about how the industry continues to make record profits and who is used and discarded as part of the process.
Brent Bozell’s excellent column last week regarding Sex Week at Yale accidentally showing a rape fantasy film demonstrates my point about liberals and porn:
The Yale Daily News reported that at about the same time Newsweek was putting its saucy story on the presses, the organizers of Sex Week at Yale were throwing a porn-movie screening in the law school auditorium. Hardcore pornographer Paul Thomas was invited to show films and have a question-and-answer session (and plug sales for his Vivid Entertainment DVDs). Unfortunately for Yale, Thomas brought footage of graphic rape fantasies and the labeling of a woman as a “slut” who “deserved” violent sexual degradation.
Oops. Apparently, when you run Sex Week, you don’t think of pre-screening anything. After all when does the concept of “inappropriate” porn arrive with this crowd? Everyone wants to be “cavalier,” because anything less makes you Jerry Falwell. But there’s a force at Yale far more powerful than Christianity.
Enter the feminists at the Yale’s Women Center, who were not pleased. Presca Ahn, who is the “fellowship coordinator” there, declared: “In porn, sex is not a normal, healthy part of normal, healthy lives; it’s fetishized, exaggerated or embellished. Porn isn’t honest. We need to talk honestly about it: It hurts women.”

The film clips were abruptly ended, and the session went right into the Q&A. Sex Week coordinators made it very clear to the Yale Daily News they do not support the practices displayed in the film. Colin Adamo, Sex Week event coordinator, called the screening a grave mistake. “We really dropped the ball on this one,” he said. “No one watched the movie before Paul showed it to the audience.”
Unsurprisingly, that was not the pornographer’s opinion. The Daily News reported that Adamo described the images as sexually unhealthy and disrespectful to women. But the pornographer’s response “insinuated that he was a prude and just needed to watch more porn, Adamo said after the screening.” Thus the solution to having any moral qualms about pornography is to drown yourself in more pornography.
No one in this controversy asked: Where are the grownups? Isn’t there a one questioning his return on the annual $45,000 investment in “education”? Where are the administrators? Is there anyone at Yale who can provide students with a more rational voice than a hardcore pornographer? This whole controversy gives off a whiff of the inmates running the asylum.
To expect the Ivy League to reflect traditional values is to dabble in fantasy. But it’s a sad cultural signpost when it’s considered a prudish traditional value to object to films that seek to encourage men to build fantasy scenarios about violent sexual assault.
And that is really the point. This is a cultural problem. So much so that rape fantasies are part of mainstream porn. How many of these fantasy films are actual rapes? Many former adult stars have written about how they were forced to perform much of what they did. Many claim that drugs are used to keep the women agreeable. We come back to my original point: nobody questions where the content comes from. Sex Week at Yale was all about the end-users and their fantasies. The faculty were shocked that a rape video was even conceived by their invited guests. I was surprised they were surprised. But then again, they were responding to criticism from a liberal organization and that put them in a tough spot.
I do realize there are many people who voluntarily give themselves up to be in porn, whether it’s amateur, self-published or somebody who really wants to do it for the money. However, I firmly believe that the number of willing volunteers in the worldwide porn industry pales when compared to those who ended up there from unfortunate circumstances, desperation, manipulation, or outright slavery. I’m still looking for studies to back up my assertion, but there seems to be a serious lack of academic research into content providers and porn. Imagine that.
So you might say to me something about consenting adults using pornography to enhance their sex lives and that there’s nothing wrong with that. In theory, I agree. But the fact is you never know where the individuals in the porn come from. As happened to me, I saw the goblet and now I can’t help but see it even when I’m concentrating on the two faces. Look past the selfish consumers of porn to see what this industry does to its participants.

Christian Martyrs of Nag Hammadi Massacre - Families of Victims Wailing and Crying Over their Dead

Funeral Service the "religion of peace" is doing! A Massacre URGENT:

Gunned Down Video

Accountability for One Another

Accepting accountability, authentic ownership for one's thoughts, feelings and behavior is only possible when individuals stop blaming previous trauma, cease undoing their past by discontinuing behavior and interrupting thoughts which disrupt sound judgement and by controling the passion/feelings which can feed the cycle of despair or destruction. Choosing love and affection is not synonymous with a free-for-all. We are humans and made in God's image we are called to a different standard then the rest of the known creation. Whenever mankind abandons good measure we are told it's natural regardless of the vice but natural like the fallen nature becomes the crutch to explain away our over indulgence and lack of control. Afterall what is holy, what is purity, what is discipleship about? We each need to decide as best as we are able what is moderation and how much of something is good for us based on individual need like diet restrictions for the diabetic or someone riddled with coronary disease will be different then for someone without such diseases. Still what is beneficial to each may not differ much. Do no harm is not sufficient for the Christian we must cleave to what is beneficial and good for the overall economy of the church. Those who are stronger and able should lead by example a loving example and help those strive for greater health. We help the homeless the hungry the sick and afflicted I am referring here to the spiritual side of mankind only. Love which demonstrates mercy and acceptance is not to be conflated with denial of need. To use secular terms we can lend our ego (strength) to those who are more fragile thereby helping them love themselves, helping them suffer less until such a time that they can muster the courage and strength to dig deep and heal to want more for themselves.

Friday, January 8, 2010

reaction formation is classic for undoing the wrongs of primary objects

If conduct (behavior), cognition (thoughts/obsession) and emotion (feelings/mood) are driven by an external source and thereby quite possibly contrary to one's truer nature; in short, if decisions are essentially reactive then one would have to delve deeper ontologically to the source of such a prolonged pervasive influence.  It is not enough to argue overcompensation for prudish parents or hung up confessors. Ego dystonic actions or belief systems are the result of an underlying trauma or conflict. The anxiety which results from basic approach avoidance can bring with it the most primitive defense mechanisms. For example reaction formation is classic for undoing the wrongs of primary objects. Discussing marriage as if it is simply a sublimation of the sex drive is absurd both to the layman and clergy. More importantly it helps no one. To throw caution to the wind is reckless and is dangerous for the participant. To argue that pornography for example is useful despite the widespread trafficking abuse and exploitation because parents and church guardians fail to explain the mechanics of sex is a non argument. The rationalization for such an education is faulty and primitive. The celebration of the sexes can be done with proper discernment where the individuals are not objectified and the union loving. The couple learns together not in a made dash for climax but overtime. More damage has been perpetrated against unsuspecting teens by overstating or understating the importance or expectations of sexual relations. The marital bed doesn't dispense with the emotional baggage we carry but it is a perfect forum to explore one's journey to God with a partner; a life partner. Health and happiness are not found in the climax. In fact the marital bed is generally the toxic waste field where shame and sorrow are left to be masked by sensuality.