Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Elder Arsenie - On Suffering

Cross will remain at Ground Zero World Trade Center Atheists smack down

NEW YORK (RNS) A cross-shaped beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center can remain on display in the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, dismissing a lawsuit brought by atheists.
The World Trade Center cross, also known as the Ground Zero cross, is a group of steel beams found amidst the debris of the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The World Trade Center cross, also known as the Ground Zero cross, is a group of steel beams found amid the debris of the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.Creative Commons image by Imelda
American Atheists filed a federal suit in 2012 claiming the 17-foot display at the museum built with a mix of public and private funds was unconstitutional. The group said its members suffered from both physical and emotional damages from the presence of the beamed cross, resulting in headaches, indigestion and mental pain.
The atheist group filed an appeal after a lower court dismissed the lawsuit, shifting the focus from the cross to asking for an added plaque that would say something like “atheists died, too.”
An observer would understand that the cross was also an inclusive symbol for any persons seeking hope and comfort in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, federal Judge Reena Raggi wrote in the court’s decision.
“Such an observer would not understand the effect of displaying an artifact with such an inclusive past in a Museum devoted to the history of the September 11 attacks to be the divisive one of promoting religion over nonreligion,” she wrote. “Nor would he think the primary effect of displaying The Cross at Ground Zero to be conveying a message to atheists that they are somehow disfavored ‘outsiders,’ while religious believers are favored ‘insiders,’ in the political community.”
The beam was found by rescue workers two days after the terrorist attacks and is part of the 1,000 artifacts in a 100,000-square-foot underground museum. American Atheists can appeal to the entire court or ask the three-judge panel to reconsider its decision before it can file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We argued from the beginning that this was a flawed legal challenge designed to re-write history and eliminate a powerful historical artifact,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal firm that filed a brief in support of keeping the cross. “This bizarre legal challenge from an atheist group was exposed for what it was — a skewed legal challenge that had no merit.”

Monday, July 14, 2014

His Eminence Metropolitan Stefanos of Kallioupolis and Madytos on behalf of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

News and Messages

Greeting by His Eminence Metropolitan Stefanos of Kallioupolis and Madytos on behalf of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the Clergy-Laity Congress of the Holy Archdiocese of America

Wednesday, 9 July 2014
Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America,
Your Eminences, Your Graces, Beloved brother hierarchs in the Lord,
Venerable Representatives of Christian Churches and Confessions,
Honorable Clergy,
Esteemed Archons of the Ecumenical Throne,
Honorable Representative of the government of the great United States of America,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors,
Distinguished and beloved friends,
It is with great joy that, together with my beloved brother hierarch Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium, we are responding to the directive of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to represent the Venerable Center of Orthodoxy and the Mother Church of Constantinople at this 42nd Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of the Holy Archdiocese of America, which is convening in Philadelphia, within the Holy Metropolis of New Jersey.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, to which all of us have the distinct privilege to belong, follows with particular concern the spiritual path of this great and populous Eparchy of the Throne, the Holy Archdiocese of America, and boasts in the name of Christ that the seeds of the Gospel have been systematically sown and the vineyard planted by God in the New World is being cultivated and produces much fruit, as well as that – together united under the leadership of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America – both clergy and laity are making progress, imbued with faith and courage, on the path that leads to the Kingdom of God. On this path, the Mother Church of Constantinople is always beside you, morally uplifting you with all the spiritual means at its disposal.
The theme of this year's Clergy-Laity Congress, "The Orthodox Christian Family," inspired by the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, provides me with the opportunity to share some simple thoughts with you.
First of all, in speaking of the family, and particularly the Christian family, we mean the union of a man and a woman, who receive the blessing of the Church, through faith in God, love, peace, harmony and mutual understanding, to live together. As stated by His All-Holiness our Patriarch in his Christmas Encyclical last year: The institution of the Christian family constitutes the cell of life and an incubator for the spiritual and physical health and development of children. Therefore, the manifold support of the institution of the family comprises the obligation of the Church . . . In order for a child to be raised in a healthy and natural way, there must be a family where man and woman live in harmony as one body, one flesh, and one soul, submitting to one another.
This is why, as a contemporary theologian (Prof. Alexandros Stavropoulos) observes, the phrase "and the two shall become one flesh" (that is, the two spouses will become one flesh) means, before Christ, the physical union of the spouses; after Christ, however, "one flesh" is realized when man and woman participate in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Church. It is only in this eucharistic context of the sacred institution of matrimony that the teaching of the Church about monogamy and the one, indissoluble marriage can be understood.
In addition to this, I would like to mention briefly the attributes of the Christian family, which is characterized by the Apostle Paul as "κατ' οἶκον ἐκκλησία", that is to say a church in the home, and by St. John Chrysostom as a "small church". The comparison and symbolism indicate that the characteristics defining the Church must be present on a small scale in the family as well. The fundamental characteristics of the Church are unityholinesscatholicity and apostolicity, just as we recite at the end of the Creed, the Symbol of Faith: "In one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church." So let us consider how these characteristics apply to the Christian family.
1. The Church is one, which is why the spouses are called to an indissoluble, lifelong, ontological union. This union is the great Sacrament of Matrimony, of which the Apostle Paul speaks to us. Two people come together undivided, without however being confused. They overcome all separation and division – biological, social, or individual – and compose their own personal community. All the problems and differences that exist in the family are immediately resolved once the spouses consider the consequences that arise from the theological dogma of the unity of the Christian family, which participates in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and thereby acquires a unity that is real and sacramental, transcending rational conception and not merely carnal.
2. The Church is holy, which is why the family must be holy, that is, devoted to God. In the betrothal as well as the marriage services, the Church prays for perfect lovepeaceblameless manner and way of life. This is done in order for the future couple to understand that the aim of the family, founded at the Sacrament of Marriage, is the sanctification of the spouses and their children. Moreover, the Church prays to God to grant the new couple longlived offspringfruit of the womb,fertility to produce virtuous childrenand the opportunity for the enjoyment of fair offspring. The Christian family aims to create Saints, who will in turn work in schools, construction, agriculture, shipping and so forth, transforming all of society as much as they can. That is why, as St. John Chrysostom teaches us, Christian parents should first consider how they will raise their children according to the instruction and counsel of Christ, and only afterward how they will secure for them the necessary material and spiritual resources for their lives.
3. The Church is catholic, which is why it grows not only qualitatively but quantitatively. This means that the Christian family must acquire new members. It should strive to be a microcosm, which would not avoid sacrificial love and absolute self-offering to its members. People today often ignore sacrificial love, and that is why they are also unaware of what fatherhood and motherhood are in their real dimensions: namely, the offering of ourselves for the sake of others. Nobody has the right to refuse the gift of life. The birth of a child is the sacred gift of co-creation between God and humans, a unique transmission of life to others, a "great entrance" into the communion of love with God and our fellow human beings.
4. The Church is apostolic, because its eternal and immutable foundations are the teachings of the Apostles. At the same time, this means that the Church always has the zeal, passion, and the desire of the Apostles to spread the message of the Gospel everywhere. These characteristics of the Church must also characterize the Christian family. We have vivid examples from the New Testament: for example, Aquila and Priscilla, and the family of Stephanas. In his Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul praises this holy couple, presenting them as his fellow-workers-in-Christ in Corinth, in Ephesus and in their own city, Rome, where they made it possible for the Apostle to the Nations to visit the Eternal City. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul also speaks of the family of Stephanas. This entire family believed in Christ and spread Christianity in Achaea. Afterward, they set their sights on spreading the Gospel even further. Thus, their contribution brought encouragement not only to Paul but also to the Corinthians. The apostolic characterization of the Christian family means that it acts, operates and breathes within the climate and of the missionary mindset.
Bearing in mind today's family, I feel that what we need is not the creation of a religious family but of a Christian family. Today, we do not just have a crisis of the family, but a crisis of the Christian family. In order to remedy the situation, the family should systematically and urgently study the evangelical and patristic teachings. It should exemplify the biblical model of the family and the richness of our ecclesiastical tradition, while at the same time living the sacramental life of the Church. Only then will we truly see one, holy, catholic and apostolic family.
It is with these humble thoughts that I greet all of you from the martyric Phanar. I wholeheartedly congratulate His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America. I sincerely thank the venerable hierarch of the host Metropolis. I greet all of my beloved brother hierarchs here. I express the gratitude of the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Honorable Vice President of the United States of America for the protection, support and assistance provided by his government to our Holy Archdiocese and its faithful. At the Phanar, we vividly and fondly still recall your visit to the Holy Center of Orthodoxy in December of 2011.
And lastly, I convey to all of you the affectionate love, paternal prayers and vigilant personal concern of His All-Holiness our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for this great and dynamic Eparchy of the Throne, assuring you of his constant prayers and supplications as the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world. I entreat you to remain united in the bond of love in Christ, faithful to the truth of His Gospel, and dedicated to the Mother Church of Constantinople.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen. (2 Cor. 13:14)

Address of His Eminence Metropolitan Stefanos (Clergy Laity 2014)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ecumenical Patriarch: Cohabitation of Same-Sex Couples Contrary to Gospel

The following is an excerpt from the Message of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to the 42nd Clergy-Laity Congress in Philadelphia, delivered July 7, 2014.
Our Lord, through His first miracle in Canaan, Galilee, blessed the holy sacrament of marriage, in which two persons of different sexes come together to unite into one body: and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one and I’m saying that it refers to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5: 31-33).
Through this union of the two persons male and female in Christ the family becomes a dwelling of Christ, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Eph. 3: 15-16); every family, i.e. every genealogical origin and presence on earth of which the family is the cell from Adam and Eve, through which life goes on, the earth is inherited, and the heavenly kingdom granted to the man who has been created in the image and likeness of God.
Human life is certainly a serious matter, a spiritual battle and a course toward a goal that is heaven. Marriage is the most critical and most important vehicle of this course; the marriage in Christ and the marital bond, the undefiled marriage (Heb. 13, 4), the profound sacrament (Eph. 5, 32). It has also been shown that the success or failure, the progress or destruction in spiritual life begins with the marriage.
We all realize that in the society we live, the God-sanctified institution of the family suffers serious blows from the prevalent climate of contemporary blissfulness, which does not favor the total offering of one spouse to the other and of both to the children, but nurtures fleeting, personal relationships aiming at the release from the duties of the communion of the marriage and the egotistical self-gratification of man, rendering man essentially empty, miserable and isolated, deprived of the blessing of God.
The institution of Marriage and the Orthodox Christian family is foremost a course of love, secondlya course of common spirit and common exercise, thirdly a course of creativitycommon creativity and continuation of life, and, fourthly a common course toward heaven, toward the heavenly kingdom. It is a calling of God, it is a joining of diversity that leads to perfection, and, therefore, the spouses become also joint heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3, 7).
Taking into account the Patristic saying according to which nothing holds together life as the love between man and woman, the living together of people of the same sex as couples is not an accepted practice within the bosom of our Orthodox Church, which preserves undefiled the wholesomeness of the evangelical truth. It is irreconcilable with the commandments of God and contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. As deacons of the Church and her salvific work, we ought to keep always a clear and unambiguous stance on this subject that resurfaces constantly, becauseonly where there is husband and wife and children and concord and people connected by the bonds of virtue there, in their midst, is Christ, says St. John Chrysostom (On Genesis, Homily 6, P.G. 54, 616).
Mother Church who is always affectionate toward all her children accepts and calls everyone to salvation, the devout and the sinners, the healthy and the sick, the strong and the weak. Not only does she accept everyone but also gives everyone the opportunity at a moment of time to repent and be saved. The Church, regardless of the passing of so many centuries, condemns and reproaches sin and does not change her stance against it, as against something allegedly natural but only slightly different.
Sacrament, then of the Church and norm of the presence of God is the marriage at which man and woman come together and become one. If the two do not become one they cannot produce many … The child is a bridge (St. John Chrysostom, Memorandum to the Letter to the Colossians, Homily 12, P.G. 62, 386-387).
It is necessary, at all costs, the struggle for the preservation of the traditional Orthodox institution of family with the cultivation of marital fidelity, the treating of one spouse by the other as a person created in the image and likeness of God, the togetherness and the unity, the following of the same path by showing obedience preferably to the same spiritual father, and mostly the constant self-denial and sacrifice, without which sanctification and spiritual progress of the family will be unattainable.
We know, brothers, sisters and children, that you live in a materialistic society that is continually distancing itself from the Orthodox morals and traditions and not favoring the traditional life; a society where faith and devotion to the principles of our Orthodox tradition often seems or is deemed by some as something anachronistic and foreign to the demands of the modern social life. It is here where the responsibility of both the shepherd and the flock lies. You, our spiritual children in America, on free will and choice and after much toil you possess the treasure of the genuine apostolic faith and tradition, of the truth and genuineness in the Grace of the sacraments, the treasure of tradition and family, despite environmental and societal limitations, as pure as the Mother Church of Constantinople has preserved it throughout the centuries. Thus, by lifting the cross of life may you offer witness of the truth of Christ, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.
We, therefore, urge all of you brotherly and paternally from the Mother Church: Continue, brothers, sisters and children, Orthodox faithful of the Holy Archdiocese of America, to always be sanctified and remain vigilant, as your tireless spiritual father, Archbishop Demetrios of America, does and teaches; the shepherds in their pastoral ministry to you, the priests in their priestly vocation, the preachers in the preaching of the divine words, the lay people in the diakonia, the spouses toward their families, the ladies of the Philoptochos Society in God-loving philanthropy, everyone where his calling is. Rest assured always that our Modesty, your Patriarch keeps you close to his heart and prays continuously for your illumination, well being, success and salvation, and also for the stability and progress of the Holy Archdiocese of America, for which we take pride in the Lord.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

“To merely tolerate one another is, in reality, a process of separating yourself from the other”

Greeting By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew On the Occasion of the 21st Anniversary of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy.
Delivered by His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France Moscow, 26 June 2014“To merely tolerate one another is, in reality, a process of separating yourself from the other”
Esteemed Dignitaries,
Dear Friends,
On behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we would like to congratulate you on the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. We especially congratulate all of the young scholars and winners of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy International Scientific essay contest, and we look forward to the contributions these young people will make in the future.
It is with joy that we deliver greetings to you from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is a symbol of unity and serves the Orthodox Church, promoting solidarity throughout the world for nearly two millennia. We thank God for each of you and your willingness to discuss the important subject of “Parliamentary Democracy – Christianity – Orthodoxy”.
In reflecting upon the values of this topic in public life, the success of the twelve Apostles came to our mind, and we are humbled with the thought that from these twelve Apostles in the first century after Christ’s crucifixion, the Christian presence in the world has flourished now to over two billion Christians. This fact alone clearly demonstrates that Christianity has something to offer humanity.
Of the two billion Christians in the world, 300 million are Orthodox – many of which are from the countries represented here. Εach Orthodox Patriarchate is able to trace their Christian heritage to one of the first twelve Apostles of Christ. In this part of the world, our Apostolic ancestor to some extent is St. Andrew, who was invited by Christ Himself to “come and see”.
As you are assembled this week, perhaps this sacred invitation to “come and see” could serve as a basis for what parliamentary democracy can learn from Christianity – what can be learned from going out into all the world and propagating a message of peace to a variety of people? There are many values that can be shared, but the one thing that has the ability to revolutionize the world is found in the words of Christ: “You shall love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Embracing these tenets could change so much with what troubles our world today. If the people in Syria, who kidnapped the two Orthodox Bishops last year, had chosen to embrace their neighbors in love, then they would have overcome their hatred toward Christians, and love would have prevented the kidnapping. If there was love, Christians who have been hanged on crosses to die in recent weeks would not have been martyred.
If those leading the Sudanese government could see a Christian mother with love, they would not have sentenced her to death for her beliefs. If those in Egypt could love their Coptic Christian neighbors, the murderous mobs would not be attacking fellow Egyptians, destroying lives and properties.
If those who are in Nigeria could love those Muslim and Christian school girls as Christ loves us all, they would not have kidnapped the young women and forced them into marriages. If those in Iraq could love their neighbors, there would not be the tragedy of Muslims killing other Muslims.
Unfortunately, the message of loving God and loving your neighbor has not been realized, and at least 60 nations are experiencing some level of persecution. Why are the ideals, values and concepts of parliamentary democracy unable to address the world’s problems effectively? Perhaps, it is because humanity cannot effectively outlaw the emotion of contempt, nor can it practically legislate love. It must come from within each person.
As Orthodox Christians, we know that the directive given by Christ to love God and our neighbor will in essence provide the only sure way of overcoming the temptation to feel contempt for another person or group. These are our eternal values with which we govern our behavior. We choose to pursue love, for the call to tolerance is no longer enough. It is a great deception.
The idea that tolerance is the answer to ethnic tensions and religious persecution is short sighted, for to merely tolerate one another is, in reality, a process of separating yourself from the other. Once we accept separation, we can become vulnerable to the emotion of contempt, and fall into the sin of contempt. As people develop contempt in their hearts for others, peace becomes an increasingly difficult aspiration.
It is encouraging for us to recall the wisdom of the ancient Psalm:  “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” The challenge for the delegates of this assembly is to create a new vision that will enable all to go forth and embrace the essence of brotherhood which exists in all of humanity.
Love unifies people across all nations, and it is the foundation for a lasting peace. This is what prompted us to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis in Jerusalem recently on the 50th anniversary of the first meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I. In the Common Declaration made between us and Pope Francis at this meeting, there was a shared commitment to the principle of loving God and our neighbors, and living in peace with all the world.
The outcome of those gestures of love in Jerusalem, and our mutual commitment to peace, prompted us to participate in an unprecedented assembly earlier this month, which was organized in order to pray for peace in the Middle East. At the request of His Holiness Pope Francis, we jointly met and prayed alongside him, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Rome on the 8th of June. It is our hope that a new journey to peace can begin, considering that the peace talks were not successful earlier this spring. This convocation demonstrates that loving God and our neighbors is possible when we commit to reaching out in a spirit of dialogue and love to those who are different from us.
There is also evidence of this same kind of love found in the discussions of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Church last March at the Phanar, where all have agreed to join together for the Great and Holy Council, the Pan-Orthodox Council to be held in 2016.
In closing, let us think about these miraculous things. Governments, rulers, and philosophers come and go, but Christ is eternal. When love becomes the core concept and highest value of parliamentary democracies, it will guide a flawed and fallen humanity away from the emotion of contempt and toward peace.
As it is written in the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13:13), We pray for faith, hope and love to abide – love, of course being the greatest of these three.
Thank you and may God bless all of you.