(Please note, I will continue not including the full names of those who write in at the request of many in order to encourage more write ins. However, when you write in, I am going to put your first initial and town. This way people can see where people are writing in from) Send your questions to fatherharryL3@yahoo.com, and in the subject line put "Ask Father"
Question: Does the Orthodox Church change? D from WA
Answer: “Change” is a word that has several different meanings. It is, therefore, a tricky word. The Orthodox Faith does not change. However, to make the statement “the Church changes” or “the Church does not change” is not a decision, it is understanding how both of these statements are true. For example, the tree in your back yard (let’s say it is a fruit tree) is the same tree as it was when it was younger. It has not changed into another tree. It has not changed into a non-tree (i.e. it has not changed into a rock or a car). It has all the same essential qualities of being a tree as it did when it was younger and likewise has the same qualities of being the same particular tree. It lives by the same source. It bears fruit and blossoms in its season. It gives oxygen to its environment the same as it did before, etc. In that sense, it has not changed. Yet it has grown and developed while maintaining the same essentials it had before. In that sense, it has changed.
Question: According to some sources, Christ was not born on December 25, or January 7, or whatever. Who is right? Is everyone wrong? P from CA
Answer: Since in some cultures everyone's birthday is celebrated on New Year, while in other ancient cultures it was celebrated on the first of the month they were born, the question of His actual date of birth is irrelevant with regard to when we celebrate it. The Church picked a day. However, it did not pick a day ignorantly, nor without basis, including Scriptural basis. The Biblical math of Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to the flesh is quite straightforward. Zechariah was serving in the Temple on the feast of tabernacles (which followed the day of atonement in September), until it ended on September 23 according to the Roman-Julian calendar as it existed in those days. And immediately after those days, Elisabeth conceived. 6 months later (March), Mary conceived. 9 months later (Late December) Christ was born. Now there is the argument as to exactly how many days off our modern December 25 is to December 25 in those days. However, we do know that Dec. 21 was the winter solstice in Rome while in Alexandria it was the 25, so it was “close” to our reckoning today. Enter the historical exchanges years later. In 337AD Julius I became Bishop of Rome, and there was an exchange of letters between the Bishop of Jerusalem and the Bishop of Rome. In several places in the Church, some celebrated all the manifestations of Christ together on January 6, the feast of Theophany, or Epiphany (included Nativity, the Baptism of Christ, the first miracle at Cana, etc.), whereas others were celebrating Nativity on December 25 and the Baptism alone on January 6. We see this also in the exchange between Bishop John of Nicea and Zacharias of Armenia Major, where it was also brought up a dispute as to the exact date. In his first reply to the Julius of Rome, the Bishop of Jerusalem asked the question "how can I participate simultaneously in the celebration of the Birth in Bethlehem, and the celebration of the Baptism in the Jordan River?" Julius replied that there were several historical records in the historical archives to which they are bound, including one from 1st century historian Josephus which stated that the birth of Christ took place on the 9th of the month Shevat of that year (=December 25).
As for the question of December 25 vs. January 7, this was already answered in a previous question below. However, I will briefly address it again. There is no Orthodox Church that celebrates Nativity on January 7. There are some who celebrate on December 25 if reckoning the leap years that have passed for 2000 years according to the current astronomical reckoning (i.e. on December 25 of the current astromical calendar, often called "new calendar"), and some who celebrate it on December 25 if reckoning the leap years that have passed for the past 2000 years according to the old Julian leap year assessment (i.e. December 25 of the Julian calendar, which happens to currently fall on January 7 of the civil calendar, but 150 years ago fell on January 6 and 90 years from now on January 8). In other words, all celebrate on December 25, some according to the newer civil reckoning of the date, and some according to the older civil reckoning the date with less leap years having elapsed in the past 2000 years, which makes the older reckoning fall 13 days later than the newer civil reckoning, that is, it falls on January 7 of the civil calendar, even though it December 25 according to the Julian Calendar.
Question: I learned the other day that we humans were vegetarians until God allowed Noah and descendants to kill animals for food after the flood. That is something I didn't know. In the passage it says that God allowed us to use all animals for food. My question is, where do all the dietary regulations that both Jewish and Islamic people use come from since God allowed us to use all animals for food? Or did I misinterpret the passages. R from FL
Answer: No, you did not misinterpret the passages. The regulations were given specifically to the Israelites in their journey's in the desert (where certain types of animals were known to have their diseases). It was continued thereafter even when they reached the promised land to remind them of their journeys in order to encourage their vigilant walk for the coming Messiah. Keeping away from diseased animals was a symbol of keeping away from sin. Once the Messiah came who would take away the sin of the world, these regulations would be removed (and, indeed, they were).
Question: Why does God permit evil? It would be a much better world without it. F from NJ
Answer: Would the world really be better if there was not evil and yet no free will? In order to have good, one needs to will it. In order to have love, one needs to will it. We as human beings tend to appreciate having when we first have experience what it means to not have. When we adhere to our creator and cooperate with his divine grace as coworkers in his vineyard, we grow from being innocent infants to being spiritually mature. With us, to whom much is forgiven, they love much, and "to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7.47). The book of Hebrews tells us quite clearly that "Now no chastening [discipline] seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb 12.11). Discipline is not just "punishment" done for something in the past, but rather training the child (even if he is an adult, he is a child of God) to walk in the right path and not stray into the way of his or her own destruction.
Would the world really be better if God took away free will, and in so doing, along with taking away all evil he also took away all love and all good? The one who suffers redemptively, is he not closer to God and to life eternal than the one who never suffers--the one who it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for such a person to enter the Kingdom of God? We know that physiologically those who are in a traumatic state near death are relieved of feeling their suffering through chemicals that we are designed to release when we are in trauma, so we cannot accuse God of wanting us to suffer--He has built it in physically so that we do not suffer beyond what we can bear. This of itself is a miraculous thing. Yet, as every parent knows, it is better for the child to suffer the rejection of punishment than to run out in the street without punishment and be killed. It is part of maturing. Likewise, God's naturally built in chastening is part of our opportunity to grow spiritually. Either we can rebel, or grow spiritually. He does not punish us to "satisfy His wrath," but rather, as Scripture tells us, chastens us as a parent does a child so that they are able to grow without being self-destructive. I thank the Lord every day for His chastening as a loving parent to keep me from being self-destructive, for delivering me from my own reasonings, and I hope that you come to as well.
Question: I was talking to one of my friends and we got on the subject of substitutionary atonement. It is from my understanding that that is not an Orthodox doctrine, but I did not know how to respond to this. He also asked me how do we reconcile between God in the Old Testament and the New Testament, referring to the wrath of God explicitly expressed in the Old Testament and the emphasis of His love and grace in the New Testament. I again did not have a response for this either but I am curious as to how the Orthodox Church explains what seems to be a change in the character of God from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Also, if you could refer me to any other sources on this topic as well I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you a lot for your help and guidance. A from Florida
Answer: The short answer is that protestants tend to "anthropomorphize" God, applying to him "passions" and emotions as if they were human. But God's "wrath" is not human wrath. The following article does well in explaining the "long answer." Here is the article: http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm
Question: Lately I feel more conflicted about Orthodoxy, I feel like I definitely want to become Orthodox... but some days I am doubtful about believing in anything at all but I want to believe in Christ. Part of me feels it is important to be questioning, but I am getting wary of the idea of everyone relying on themselves and having to verify everything on their own. It doesn't seem to get most people anywhere, and it seems like it just makes most people self centered. The one thing I feel certain God has impressed on me is that living solely for one's self and to gratify our senses/desires is to be dead and worthless. I feel kinda lost, should I always continue waiting until I know my mind won't sway towards something else for a short time at some point in the future, would that invalidate everything if I were Orthodox? J from Florida
Answer: Certain forms of doubt are sin. But just because doubt rears its head does not mean that belief is altogether absent. Likewise, questioning is not sin, unless you have received adequate answers and will not receive them "no matter what." As with any other sin, if we were to wait for all strain of sin to disappear before we did anything about taking our next step in God's path for us, we would never move anywhere, and be washed away with the tides. It does not require that you are not a sinner, but rather that you repent, and commit to the struggle of perpetual repentance, the "race" as St. Paul calls it. It does require belief, but does not require that your belief is perfect, nor that doubt is absent, as we see in Scripture, the Lord accepts the faith that says "Lord I believe, help my unbelief."
St. John Chrysostom, commenting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, calls the Church a spiritual hospital. Its purpose is not to enter in perfectly, but to enter in that we might be healed, and draw ever nearer to God. If doubt is one of the sins that trouble you, then it simply means that this is one of the items of the soul that need put in subjection. Doubt is merely the lack of active believe. Notice I said active, because there is no virtue that is non-active. There is no virtue without effort. The soul that is not a co-laborer with God withers, and becomes tormented. The Church is here to provide this exercise, this cooperation with the divine Energy. In Ephesians 3 we read: “…that the nations should be fellow heirs of the same Body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective Energy of His Power (Gr. energeian tis dynameos autou). To me, who am less that the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ, and enlighten all in that which is the Communion of the Mystery (kai photisai pantos tis i koinonia tou mystiriou) which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the Church to the principlaities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose of which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through the Faith in Him (dia tis pisteos autou)” (Eph. 3.6-12).
Notice the Greek does not say "through faith in Him" but rather with the definite article "through THE Faith in Him." I have here the Greek transliteration in small letters but, of course, the original Greek is in all capital letters.
Therefore, relying on our "personal faith" (our own insight) often leads us astray, which is why we have to rely on the Faith of God, which will not lead us astray. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the Faith (ti pistei), as you have been taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving (eucharist—Gr. en auti en eucharistia). Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him, Who is the Head of all principality and power: in whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in Baptism, wherein also you are risen with Him through the Faith of the Operation of God (Gr. dia tis pisteos tis energeias tou Theou—literally “through the Faith of the Energy of God”), who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2.6-12). God does not require that we have a perfect personal faith, but rather that we put our trust in Him and in the Faith "delivered once for all to the Saints" (Jude 3) which is transmitted by the Holy Spirit "in word and our epistle" throughout the generations.
If you can honestly say: "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief"; that you will put your trust in Him, in "the Faith of the Energy of God" mentioned in Colossians, despite your unbelief, then do not hesitate to enter in, for the Divine Grace always makes up for that which is lacking in each of us. Some of our healing may be quick, and some of it may be slow to the point in which it takes our whole lives on this earth, but the spiritual hospital is a sure place for the medicine of immortality.
Question: Where does Jesus indicate that He was founding a hierarchical Church? I just don't see it. P from NH
Answer: For starters, all of Matthew 10 is about Christ setting up a hierarchical Church. Matthew 10.5: These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying…” NOTE, ALL THAT FOLLOWS IS SAID ONLY TO THE TWELVE, as the Gospels states very clearly. What are some of the things that He commands them?:
--preach the kingdom of heaven (v7)
--Proved neither gold nor silver…the worker is worthy of his food (vv9-10)
--To inquire whether a city is worthy of their word or not (vv 11-13)
--To depart from a house or city that does not receive their words , and informs them that such a rejection has eternal consequences (vv14-15)
--In their teaching office to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (v16)
--That to the twelve do not need to worry about what they are going to say, because it will be given to them (v. 19)
--That it is not the 12 who speaks, but the Spirit of their Father that speaks in them (v. 20)
--When they persecute any of the twelve in a city, that they are to flee to another (v.23)
--To speak what Christ told only to them openly to all (v.27), that the word might come to the rest through them
--To not fear those the kill the body (vv.30-31) because they are very valuable to God
--That whoever confesses Christ before men will be confessed by Christ before the Father, and likewise whoever denies Christ will be denied before the Father (v.32-33). Although this instruction is given to all of the twelve, it becomes particularly meaningful to St. Peter, who is the first to confess Christ, but later is the first to deny Him. This is why St. John has the post resurrection account of Peter 3x affirming his commitment and love for Christ, in order to repent of the denial.
--That He comes to them before all others (v.37)
--That they must take up their crosses and follow Him (v. 38) and that their life is in Him, not in the world (v.39)
--That THEY are to recognize that whoever receives them, the 12, receives Christ, and whoever receives Christ receives the Father who sent Him (v.40), and that they are both prophets and righteous men in the eyes of God (v41).
And notice that Matthew, just in case we want to think that Christ’s words might apply more broadly, or at some point are addressed to “all Christians,” makes it clear that the whole of Matthew 10.5-42 is spoken only to the 12 Apostles in the first verse of chapter 11 after the report of the discourse: “Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed form there to teach and to preach in their cities.” Matthew makes it clear when He again speaks to the “multitudes” in 11.7, after He had sent the Apostles to John.
Now, one could argue that “later” this authority given to His apostles is given individually to all believers, and at that point became “non-hierarchical” ( We will deal with this claim shortly), but our topic of discussion is whether what “He founded” was hierarchical, and clearly it was.
I will give several more examples:
When the Lord feeds the 5000, he does not give directly to the multitude, but “he blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes” (Matt. 14.19). It was still Him that gave, but He gave through them, there was a hierarchal protocol of order. We see in Matthew 15.12f that Christ expressly states that it is not hierarchical order which He rejects, but rather self-appointed interpreters and teachers such as the Pharisees that He rejects. But the Apostles were planted as such. Again, in Matthew 15.35ff in the feeding of the 4000, “He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude.” In Luke 9 he chooses the Apostles and in Luke 10 70 others also giving them similar instructions to those given to the twelve in the passage just cited in Matt. 10. In Luke 22.29 He bestows the Kingdom upon the 12, and it is also through them that the New Covenant in His Blood was secured in the upper room—not to all, but to the twelve, and through the twelve to the rest. In Matthew 16 he promises to give the keys to “lock and unlock” the kingdom of heaven to Peter and then to all 12 Apostles in Matthew 18, and confirms this gift to all the twelve in the Gospel of John after the resurrection by saying “receive ye the Holy Spirit, whosoever sins you remit…etc.”
You can argue that this hierarchical Church did not carry on beyond the Apostles, but you cannot say that when it was established it was not hierarchical, since it is on the foundation of the Apostles.
However, if you argue that that which was given specifically to the Apostles was given to all believers, Paul states specifically “are all Apostles?” –no, not all are Apostles. It was to ordained Bishops and Presbyters, such as Timothy and Titus to whom St. Paul said “guard the deposit which has been given to your trust.” This is the same deposit that Christ spoke of in Matthew 10. But let us say the words of Paul are of no avail to you. Nonetheless, if it is true that whatsoever the Apostles bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, is that not also true of their appointments? Even if you try to argue “no,” the book of Acts tells quite a different story. It tells the story of “appointing presbyters in every city,” and that, as seen in Acts 15, these presbyters had the same Apostolic authority as did the Apostles themselves. THUS, THERE ARE ONLY TWO OPTIONS: EITHER 1. THE APOSTLES LED THE CHURCH INTO APOSTASY, OR 2. IT IS TRUE THAT WHAT THEY BOUND ON EARTH WAS BOUND IN HEAVEN, AND THAT THE PRESBYTERS THEY APPOINTED WERE RIGHTLY GIVEN AN EQUAL FOOTING AT THE APOSTOLIC COUNCIL. I will not go into the epistles in that I know that you think they have less weight, so I will leave it at that.
Furthermore, when we try to look at what Christ meant when He said “I will build my Ekklesia,” we must look to the old testament Scriptures that Christ was referring to when He said it. We find that Moses was the leader of the “ekklesia of the Lord” and that any who did not listen to him was excluded from the ekklesia. “But this was the old covenant.” Quite right, the leadership of the 12 tribes from the old was made anew in the leadership of the 12 Apostles. To overlook the details of the choosing of the 12 is an accident. Likewise, why did he choose “70 others also”? Because the old covenant had the 70 that translated the Septuagint, that were “aids” to the prophets of the 12 tribes, making universal their writings, and the new covenant, just as the old, would have these 70 others also.
Question: Is it true that the Orthodox Church asks for abstinance from marital relationships during all fast periods? I have been Orthodox all my life and just heard this from a friend of mine who was told by a monk that this is the case. If so, this is very upsetting? Do the rules of the Church require this? C from Denver
Answer: No, this is not true. In fact, this is an illness of ecclesiological thinking. The canons of the Church say the following: "Persons who are self-sufficient and married ought to be judges of themselves. For we are told in writing by St. Paul that it is fitting that they should abstain from each other by agreement for a time, in order that they may indulge in prayer, and again come together." The Rusyn Church in the Synod of Volodymyr in 1274 issued guidelines for married clergy for all of the Rusyn lands. They included as days of mandatory abstinence from sexual relations only the first and last week of Great Lent, the two weeks of Dormition Lent, and Wednesdays and Fridays during Nativity Lent and the Lent of the Holy Apostles. The only other canonical restriction is that of St. Timothy, who states in Canon 5 that a couple ought not have intercourse "during the night" before taking communion because they are, if awake that late, to be engaged in prayer in preparation for Communion. He reinforces this in Canon 13, but clearly also adds the words of Scripture that they are to then quickly "come together again that Satan not tempt you on accoutn of your failure to mingle." Thus, the night before Communion and certainly the morning of Sunday itself since we are engaged in prayer in Church, and if we are to partake on a given Saturday or other high holy day, such as soul Saturday or another where there is Liturgy, the same there. Thus, coinciding with our fast before communion, from the middle of the night before, until we partake of communion, no intercourse should ensue since we are in a vigil of prayer.
Fr. Alexander Lebedeff wrote the following: "The married state is blessed and the marriage bed is undefiled. The Holy Church in protecting the sanctity of marriage and the well-being of the spouses, as well as encouraging procreation and the raising of 'fair children' has no interest in creating artificial impediments to preclude spouses from 'rejoicing in one another.'"
Question: I am having a problem with something. I am rather bothered by some things that I have been reading. For example, that the story of the Theotokos, taken from the Protoevangelion of James, was borrowed from the Old Testament story of Hannah. Also, that some of the Saints lives are legend verses historical fact. Also, the scientific reality of some of the stories of the Bible.
Answer: I have been engaged in dialogue recently with a person who is having the same problems. My first response is that, is this story "borrowed" from another or is it simply in continuity with it? In other words, why is it harder to believe that an event "foreshadowed" another as opposed to believing that it is a work of fiction "reworking" an older story? If we would do that in relationships, we would be imposing "Imago" shallow similarities and making assumptions that they relate to another person or occurrance. This would destroy the relationship and, furthermore, often prove to be untrue in substance. In other words, person A in our past did this and this and this and the actions are similar to person B who is here now. We know from personality theory that, indeed, they are "likely" for different reasons (there is only a 1 in 16 chance that they are for the same reasons). Yet many are willing to take that gamble and destroy the relationship.
But I will say this, that it is true, if you are going to believe in Christianity, you must believe in miracles. To say "this is implausible" that is the point--either God has the power and will and purpose to breach the powers of nature or he doesn't. That is why several times we read that "with God all things are possible." The point is, that with man (and nature), what is impossible, with God is possible. Existence altogether is impossible--highly statistically improbable. There should be no such thing, but there is. Either you believe that God can and does these things, or you do not. It is that simple. If you believe it, then the "unlikely stories" are not so unlikely. If you do not, then there is never a possibility of you believing in them. Nonetheless, regardless of what we think, reality is reality. Either Moses and the Israelites crossed the sea as if on dry land or he did not. Either Christ rose from the dead or he did not. Either the universe exists (highly improbable, bordering on impossible), or it does not. Yet it does. If you believe it does then you believe in at least one thing that is "supernatural" i.e. beyond nature--the coming into existence of the universe and its natural order. If you believe in this, why not in the rest?
Furthermore, are your questions truly from intellectual pursuits, or are you listening to sirens and your ship is wrecking? The prayers in Thanksgiving for communion ask God to deliver us from our own reasonings. This is because our own reasonings are misleading. "My ways are high above your ways" says the Lord. Do we not think that the Creator of all has the full picture? Do we think we have it? No, we see in a glass darkly. For us, some mysteries will remain a mystery.
Question: Father, I do not get it with the full moon and how it relates to the determination of the Resurrection. If the full moon is up, why is it not always the first Sunday after it?
Answer: The answer to this question is rather complicated. The full moon is based on a computation of cycles determined long ago. However, instead of going into the complex mathematics of the lunar-solar cycles, I will give you a few facts that may help you. The determination of the Paschal formula as is banally presented today in no way can be found in the decisions of the first Ecumenical Council. Since we have no extant Acts of the Council, we only know if its decisions from the letters of the Emperor and Bishops to their dioceses on the decision of Nicea. Again, many are ignorant of many of these letters. Again, I believe that getting into this subject at this point will complicate matters. Typically today, people try to present a simple formula of "the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox, after the Passover." There is no such formula that can be found in the writings on the decisions of the fourth Council.
With that, let me alleviate some of your confusion. Take note that the current Jewish way of determining Passover has been changed several times since the time of Christ. But here are some facts that you need to know about the determination of Passover at the time of Christ:
1. It was observational, and it fell in the Hebrew lunar month of Aviv (later known as Nisan), which was the first full lunar month after spring began, on the "14th day of the moon"
2. There is a difference between the crescent new moon observed by the Hebrews, and our modern day definition of new moon which is the moon before it makes its new appearance.
3. The "new moon" that we have today (i.e. the first day that no moon is showing, called "astronomical") was, at the time of Christ, not the beginning of the month, but the end of a month. The beginning of the month according to the ancient reckoning was to begin 1.5-3.5 days later, when the moon would makes its first appearance as a young crescent in the evening sky (hodesh, literarrly "reappeared" or "renewed" moon).
4. Thus, the first day of Aviv/Nisan was 1.5-3.5 days after the concealed (completely darkened moon), since the ancient Israelites would, at the end of the previous lunar month, watch the moon get thinner and thinner in the morning sky until it disappeared. They would anxiously await its reappearence 1.5-3.5 days later in the evening sky, and this would be the beginning of the month, that is, the beginning of the new moon cycle.
5. The "14th day of the moon," the day of the Passover which fell on that original Holy Thursday, was the 14th day after the first citing of the crescent new moon in a new cycle (hence "new moon" meaning the actual citing of the moon at the beginning of the lunar cycle as a young crescent). Thus, if we were reckoning it in our day based on the ancient reckoning, the 1st of the lunar month of Nisan observationally falls in Jerusalem, depending on the year, 1.5-3.5 days after what we today call the astronomical full moon, making the 14th of Nisan fall on the 15th-17th day after the same in the evening, as it was moving into the next day (the Hebrew day began in the evening). Thus, the original Pascha Sunday fell on the 17th of the lunar month of Nisan, which in that year began 16.5 days from the concealed moon at the end of the previous month (what we call astronomical new moon and would in our day consider it the beginning of the new lunar month, rather than the end of the month past). This would mean that Holy Thursday, the Passover, fell 2.5 days after what we would call the "full moon." However, for the ancient Hebrews, it was not a single day, but was an entire week that was considered "full moon," meaning the moon had reached its fullness but not yet reached the waning half. Thus, Passover had to fall sometime after the appearence of what we would call the full moon (they would consider it full 1-3 days later than our modern reckoning of a full moon).
6. Thus, we observe that our Orthodox calendar always has Holy Thursday falling on or after the 14th day of the ancient new moon (the young crescent, not the astronomical new moon), so that Pascha in each year, just as that first Pascha, has at least 3 days elapsing between the Passover by ancient reckoning and the Sunday Pascha. Since the modern reckoning of Passover falls 1-3 days before the ancient reckoning of Passover, this will sometimes dictate that another week elapses from the modern Passover that the Jews observe (on the 14th day from the concealed moon), since not only Pascha itself, but also Holy and Great Saturday, Friday, and Thursday also must fall within the time of Passover according to the ancient reckoning (on the 14th day from the crescent new moon).
7. Since both the Hebrew and Julian calendar receded at about the same rate year after year, the two were tied together as a single lunar-solar accounting with cycles. This also yields a recession of the determination of the first lunar month of the vernal equinox, which is why it sometimes falls in the solar month following.
I hope this helps!
Question: I’m a Roman Catholic and my friend is Ukrainian Orthodox. What’s the difference? Emily from Detroit Michigan
Answer: There are several differences between Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity, some important and some less important.
Some of the more important differences are as follows:
1. The view of the Trinity. For Orthodox Christians, God the Father is the sole Cause and Source of the Holy Trinity; this is not true for Roman Catholics. For Orthodox, the Son of God is “God from God” as is the Holy Spirit because the Son is eternally begotten of God the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from God the Father. In Roman Catholic teaching, God the Father is the sole source of the Son, but both Father and Son are the source of the Holy Spirit. Why is this important? Primarily because the entire structure of Orthodox life is a reflection of the Holy Trinity. Every relationship we have and the very structure of the Church is an image of the Trinity. Every family is an image of the Trinity. To have a wrong view of the family impacts not only “theoretical” theology, but also our very lives and the way the Church should be structured. Just one example is the Episcopacy. For Orthodox, all Bishops are equal in the essence of the office of Bishop. All hold the complete office equally. Yet, in their relation to one another, in Synods, one is counted as head. The same with higher synods, one is counted as head. When it reaches the Ecumenical level, Christ alone is head. As St. Cyril of Alexandria states and the Ecumenical Councils bear witness, Christ alone presides as Head of the Church and alone presides as head over Ecumenical Councils and “Pan-Orthodox” Councils, with the most senior Bishop functioning as the eldest brother among the Apostles (as reflected in the icon of Pentecost, with Christ invisibly enthroned at the head of the Apostles, with Peter and Paul to his left and right, Peter and Paul both being the “mouthpieces” of the Apostolic college as eldest brothers, but still yielding to Christ as the sole head). However, because of the view of the Trinity in Roman Catholicism having two heads or arches in the Trinity (Father and Son), this opens the door for there to be two heads of the Church, one in heaven (Christ) and one on earth (the Bishop of Rome). From the Orthodox perspective this skews the nature of the Church.
2. The view of the Church. For Orthodoxy, the Church is founded upon Christ as He comes to us in the fullness of the Christian Faith that was handed down once for all from the beginning. For Roman Catholicism, the Church is founded upon Peter, and upon his supposed sole representative on earth, the Pope of Rome. Thus, for the Orthodox, the locus of the Church is the Faith; and for Roman Catholicism, the locus of the Church is the Bishop of Rome. For Orthodox, Christ needs no vicar on earth for He rules from the Altar of every Church in the Eucharist. There are Priests who serve parishes and High Priests (Bishops) who serve dioceses of various importance, but Christ is the sole High Priest on heaven and earth. Orthodoxy believes that the Church in heaven and earth are one and that Christ rules them both as its sole head. Roman Catholicism believes that the Church on earth is substantially different from that in heaven and thus Christ rules directly the Church in heaven but on earth He utilizes a “vicar,” the Pope of Rome.
3. For Orthodox, the Faith does not change. There may be external changes in the operation of the Church, but the “Faith delivered once for all” (Jude 3) and the essentials of Christian doctrine do not change. Orthodox of this century believe the same as in the 10th, 5th, or 1st century. In Christian worship as well, there are some external changes in things subject to variation, but the essentials of Christian Liturgy must remain and be preserved and nothing has been added to or subtracted from her Faith. Orthodoxy emphasizes God’s revelation above rationalism, and as the consequence the views of Christ’s atonement, the nature of humankind, and other matters differ between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.
4. God alone participates in His Essence. This alone is what is unique to the Trinity. Creation participates in God’s Energy, or uncreated Grace. God’s Energy is that which is communicable to his creation, but the essence of God is shared only by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For Orthodoxy, this is a core doctrine that, if departed from, leads logically to pantheism (that everything is God or becomes God). But for Orthodoxy, it is very important that we understand that we are called to union with God, but that his is union with his Energy whereby we retain our unique personhood and are not “absorbed into” another. For Roman Catholics, the emphasis is not on salvation as theosis (union with God by his energy and grace), but rather in being justified of sins, hence the need for the expiation of sins in purgatory.
5. The view of original sin and sin in general is different. For Roman Catholics, sin is primarily a violation of law in which God’s wrath needs satisfied. This comes largely from the theology of Anselm of Canterbury and others like him. Consequently, “original sin” for Roman Catholics means that every human being is “guilty” of the sin of Adam even from their mother’s womb. For Orthodoxy Christianity, original sin does not mean that every human being is guilty of Adam’s sin. Rather, it means that we inherited souls that have a deadly corruption and are prone to spiritual illness and death. Thus, for Orthodox Christians, original sin is primarily illness of the soul inherited from our forefathers. In other words, our soles are prone to spiritual illness, but are not “guilty” of the sin of Adam. It is something that needs healed, and not “expiated.” This has produced different in doctrine:
Doctrines of Roman Catholicism that Orthodoxy does not accept:
a. That Baptism is necessary to wash away “inherited guilt”
b. That Purgatory is necessary to “expiate” sins which were unforgiven after death and to satisfy God’s wrath.
c. That the Virgin Mary was the sole person born without the guilt of Adam’s original sin (i.e. the “Immaculate Conception of Mary”)
For Orthodox Christians, Baptism has many purposes, but mostly to bring a person into the Body of Christ and to be spiritually reborn in Christ and to remit sin. Orthodoxy does recognize a need for purification of the soul and also recognizes the “intermediate” state after death, but since sins are fully forgiven in Christ, there is no need for the person to “expiate them” themselves. This was taken care of at the cross and the soul united to Christ has forgiveness in his washing away of the writ against us. However, even once sins are forgiven, there is a need to get rid of the illness. Just as a person who smoked himself to lung cancer, the smoking can be forgiven, but the cancer is still there. The same thing with “cancers” of the soul. This is why we constantly pray not only for the “pardon” but also for the “remission” of sins. Pardon is step one, but the root and corruption of sin is still there. For example, we can be forgiven all of our sins, but, if we are addicted to drugs when we die, for example, will our soul still not long for the drugs. Or let us take something a little more applicable on the broad scope. If we die addicted to food, in other words, we don’t just long for food when we are hungry, but long for it even when we are not and thus addicted to it. That addiction does not go away. The soul that is not addicted to food will not long for it after death because the body is not hungry, and therefore there is no longing. But if we were addicted to food, the soul even after death will long for it—this is the sin of gluttony. It is not sin because “it makes God mad” but because we are ill in the soul, because the soul is not in its natural (natural being naturally “healthy” state) and thus suffers because of it. These sins, or illnesses of the soul, come originally from some bad choices or a series of bad choices that we made, and the soul needs to be brought to its naturally healthy state.
There are many other differences as well, some more important, some less important:
a. Orthodoxy sees even infants as full members of the Church and thus Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation) and Eucharist are administered together even to infants. Just as an infant needs physical nourishment regardless of his capacity to understand its benefit, so also the infant needs spiritual nourishment, again, regardless of his capacity to understand its benefit. To deprive an infant of spiritual nourishment to the Orthodox is just as horrific as one who would physically starve an infant.
b. In the Orthodox Church both the Body and Blood are administered to the laity. For Roman Catholicism, the chalice is not given to the laity.
c. A married man may be ordained a Priest in Orthodoxy. In Roman Catholicism only celibates may be priests.
d. The Sacrament of Holy Unction in the Orthodox Church is administered at any time one is in need of healing of soul and body, and not just “Extreme Unction” for one approaching death as it is in the Roman Church
e. Orthodoxy uses leavened bread, and Roman Catholicism uses unleavened bread for Eucharist. In the Greek of the New Testament, Christ uses “Artos” to institute the supper of the new covenant. Artos is not a neutral term but specifically means leavened, bread, and since it is the Sacrament of the Kingdom of God, it ties into Christ’s parable that the Kingdom is like leaven which was hid in three measures of meal.
f. The determination of the annual feast of the Resurrection for Orthodox is of necessity bound to the rules laid down by the First Ecumenical Council. Currently, Rome does not find this necessary. In general, the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils of the early Church are more important to Orthodox than to Roman Catholics, who see them as relics of a past age of the magisterium.
There are other differences, but mostly ones that are not of faith, but of culture.
In the end, however, regardless of how many "items" above are agreed upon, the obstacle that remains is this: For the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church to be in full communion with each other, from the Orthodox side there must be complete submission of both sides to the Faith of the first millennium that we all shared in common at that time without innovation, but from the Roman Catholic side, there must be complete submission on both sides to the Roman magesterium, even if this means accepting innovation.
Question: I am having struggles with my faith. I was referred to you by a priest. I am not Orthodox, although I have been looking into it. Nonetheless, on a "bigger picture," there are many that have claimed that religion has been a big problem. I read the response you gave in the "Ask Father" section of the website. Do you have specific statistics to back up your claims? It would be helpful to those who are trying to make up their mind. If it is true, why do the anti-religious people keep saying that religion is such a big problem if it is not true? P from Tampa FL
Answer: This is a huge issue these days, since there is a battle as to what our world should look like: faith-based or faith-less. Here are the specific statistics on mass democide/genocide:
1. 76,702,000 Murdered by the ATHEIST Communist Chinese Regime
2. 61,911,000 Murdered by the ATHEIST Soviet Gulag State
3. 20,946,000 Murdered: The NEO-PAGAN/ATHEIST Nazi Genocide State
4. 10,214,000 Murdered: The depraved ATHEIST Chinese Nationalist Regime
Consider that these four alone are responsible for 169,773,000 murders, which is 36,626,000 more murders than entirety of democide murders from the beginning of human history. But wait, we are not done yet! We have to consider some of the others:
5. 5,964,000 Murdered: Japan's Savage SECULAR Military
6. 2,035,000 Murdered: The ATHEIST Khmer Rouge "Hell State"
7. 1,883,000 Murdered: Turkey's SECULARIST MUSLIM Genocidal Purges
8. 1,670,000 Murdered: The ATHEIST Vietnamese War State
9. 1,585,000 Murdered: ATHEIST communist Poland's Ethnic Cleansing
13. 1,503,000 Murdered: The Muslim Nationalist Pakistani State
14. 1,072,000 Murdered: The ATHEIST regime of Tito and the balkan communists
Consider that just the first four ATHEIST regimes alone, the largest mass murderers in history, exceeeded the amount of people who populated the planet earth at the time of Christ. There is nothing in the crusades or inquisition or even in the extreme muslim instances of genocide that even compares to the multi-millions of human beings who lost their lives to atheist regimes. It is not religion, but rather Atheist and Secularist (God-less) states that have been the cause of the most massive attrocities on the history of the earth. That is a statistical fact. If you would like to check these statistics please do so: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE1.HTM and http://freedomspeace.blogspot.com/2005/11/reevaluating-chinas-democide-to-be.html. As for why anti-religious people say untruths, there are several reasons. One is simply ignorance. But a second reason is more important. Although we have several atheists who are ethical, without God and an objective moral code, there is nothing in their worldview that tells them that to lie and bear false witness is wrong. Thus, an ethical atheist is the exception rather than the rule. Many adopt utilitarian ethics, which ultimately lead to some evil conclusions by God's standards.
Question What is the Church's stance on same-sex marriage and unions?
Answer The answer from the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America can be found by clicking the following link: Statement by Standing Conference on the Moral Crisis in our Nation. This clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman and also rejects any same sex union that is state sanctioned and "similar to marriage" (i.e. presumably sexually active, etc.). Domestic laws that deal with presumably non-sexual relations among roomates and such are not of themselves the issue. But in the past several years new forms of law have been created, and even the old laws morphed and utilized to advance the cause of "same sex marriage." Some of these laws advocate ceremonies similar to marriage that are meant to sanction a relationship as if it were a marriage. In any case, within the Church, there can be no such thing as either same sex marriage nor sexually active "unions similar to marriage differing in name only." That our nation has come to this point of moral confusion similar to the pagan Roman empire before its fall is frightening. That we have not learned from history means that we are doomed to repeat it.
Question: (follow up from question below): Father, I think that I understand. But why when we remember somebody is their birthday always the most important day when it was not so with Christ?
Answer: Actually, when a person has died, we consider both their date of birth and date of death equally important, and we give both their birth and death dates (i.e. Jan 2 1937-Feb 3 2007). But Christ had something that the average person has not had yet: the resurrection to eternal life in body and soul. But think of it this way. Do you consider Thomas Jefferson's birthday more important or the 4th of July more important? His birthday was when he was brought into the world, but the 4th of July was the day that he finished composing the declaration of Independance and it was signed, and a new nation was born, and his work gave freedom to many for generations to come. Of course his birthday is important, and of course without it we would have no declaration of Independance. And yet still it seems fairly obvious why 4th of July is a greater national holiday that Thomas Jefferson's birthday. The day in which Charles Lindburgh's airplane was built was a great day, but still greater was the day when it took man for the first time, in the person of Lindburg, across the world. But even moreso, the PURPOSE for which Christ came into this world and died was precisely to harrow hell, raise all the dead, and offer resurrection and deification to all, and to bring forth a new and everlasting Kingdom that would be incorporated into His own Body. We could not have one without the other, but the one is the first steps toward the fullfillment of the purpose, and the latter is the completion and fullfillement of the purpose.
Question: Father, I do not understand why Easter is more important than Christmas. Thank you, A from Brandon, FL
Answer: Because his purpose began at the Annunciation, he was given to the world in his Nativity, he was made manifest with the Father and Spirit in the Theophany and began his ministry. But it was only at the holy days of Pascha that the words "it is finished" were utterred. His flesh was revealed to us in the Nativity, but we were engrafted into it on Holy Thursday, hung on the cross with it on Friday, laid in the tomb with it on Saturday, and "in the late evening" "after the Sabbath had passed" we were raised with it. We became members of him and He of us during the days of the Pascha.
Question: Father, there is [sic] a lot of things on the news about how some of the greatest attrocities have been committed in the name of religion or the name of God. How do we answer this? It starts to make me worry. T from San Francisco (California)
Answer: Thank you for your email. However, let us get our facts straight. The three worst instances of genocide over the past 100 years were all in the name of...not God...not religion...but, yes indeed--ATHEISM. That's right, topping off our charts is the mass extinction is Chairman Mao in China with 70+ million, followed closely by atheist hater of religion Joseph Stalin at 60+ million, followed by Adolph Hitler in Germany who massacred 6 million Jews and 14 million "Jewish sympathizers," or anti-Nazis, for a grand total of 20 million people. Hitler despised Christianity and the idea of God and tried to wipe it from the earth and replace it with a national atheist religion, with himself as the hero, but no god. Let's not forget the Armenian genocide in the name of early secularism. The "religious" Sultan of the Ottoman empire may have persecuted the Armenians, but it was not until the sultan fell and the secularist three young dictators came to power that persecution turned into murder. Sure, they exploited the religious differences between the majority of Turks (Muslim) and the Armenians (Christian) to reach their goals of doing away with the Christian population, but they themselves were secular ultra-nationalists. 60 years prior to that we have, in the mid-1800's, the Teiping rebellion, responsible for the loss of lives of 280,000,000 lives! Clearly the enemy is not God nor dedication to him, but quite the opposite--it is atheism and secularism that cause genocide, mass murder, and many other attrocities. Even if you count the Armenian genocide as "religious" in character, all 5 of the top 5 instances of genocide-democide all had one thing in common: the perpetrators were all anti-Christian and hated the Christian God. Therefore, the next time you are fearing for your life, remember that 18 of the top 20 intances of genocide and mass murder in the 20th century were perpetrated by anti-Christian forces, and the other two instances led by persons who were not committed Christians and exploited the ethnic and religious differences of people in a given region.
Question: With all the scandal in the (jurisidiction's name withheld), there are has been much talk among the laity about restoring the married episcopate [i.e. office of the bishop]. Why do we make our bishops become monks. It is a joke, because they don't live like monks. I think we should have more widowed men as bishops too. Anyway, that's what I wanted to say and any comments you have are appreciated. Sincerely, C from Pittsburgh, PA
Answer: Certainly there are many issues to deal with here. I know many bishops who live as faithful Orthodox Christians and many who respect their monastic vows, so to paint with a broad stroke is to falsely accuse many. We must look at the reason why Bishops had to start taking monastic tonsure in the first place. Although in the early church they formulated canons against the Bishop taking church property as his own, the problem was that, over a millenium ago there developed a serious problem with Bishops (both married and unmarried) embezzling church property and calling it their own. Thus, the only solution was to turn to the one church vow in which a person renounces all personal possessions: monasticism. It was considered inappropriate for a man with a wife and family to renounce his possessions and stay married, since that would be neglect of family (it is for this reason that for a while even a married priest if there were no children involved and his wife was willing without coercion of her own full consent to become a nun and also renounce all possessions, that he could take monastic tonsure and become a bishop while his wife was still living. That practice had a short life to it, however, due to obvious problems), but in order to stop the madness, this was the only thing that could be done at the time. Of course now, monastic tonsure or no monastic tonsure, Bishops have possessions and the problem that was supposedly being eliminated through the celibate-widowed episcopacy is back even with Bishops being tonsured monastics, so the primary purpose of the rule has been de facto nullified. Today it may be easier to assess the possessions of the Bishop vs. possessions of the Church. In any case, perhaps there should be a better balance of widowed and celibates in the episcopacy. There are some parts of experience that just cannot be replaced. But the problem is that the person must also be qualified. We are not electing "a celibate" or "a widowed priest" or, as you suggest "white clergy," to the episcopacy, but rather a specific PERSON is elected. We don't elect categories, but people, and the people must be qualified. So if we want a balance, we need to find qualified people--no matter what "category" they fall into--and also continue to curb the problems.
Question: Father, why are certain words considered swear words? Why is a word that is not using God's name in vain an swear word? H from Tampa, FL (youth)
Answer: This is a good question. There are some words which were created by people with no good meanings to them, only vulgar meanings, and so we should avoid such words for obvious reasons. It is interesting that it is now socially acceptable to take the Lord's name in vain by saying "O my ___(God's name)" all the time without thinking about it, since, according to God's standards, this is even worse than the vulgar words. There are still other words which of themselves are not bad, or do not represent only vulgar concepts, but having been given a usage that is vulgar. There are still other words which, like the Lord's name, should not be taken vainly or lightly, such as "damn" which refers ultimately to God sending someone to hell, or the word hell itself. Neither is something to be taken lightly. Likewise no one has the right to damn someone else, for this is God's prerogative. Thus, if we condemn someone by saying this to them, we must remembered the Lord's promise that those who show no mercy and wish damnation on their enemies will likewise be shown no mercy. Even if you are kidding, this is still disrespectful to God. "I don't think God would send me to hell because I said it," someone might object. What does that have to do with it? If went into a store where the clerk catches you stealing but does not send you to jail, does this make that stealing right? No, it makes it even more of a sin the next time, because you were forgiven, and your Lord says that when you are forgiven you are to "go and sin no more."
Question: Father, I am originally Canadian and was raised in a parish of the UOCC. I had a discussion with a priest in Canada recently about the fact that when I got to the United States the word "Pastor" is used more than "Rector" for the priest who is in charge of the parish. He said that this is not right, that Pastor is a protestant word, and that Rector is the appropriate title. However, in my parish here [in the US] the priest says that Pastor is just as good. Which is it? S from Vineland NJ
Answer: First of all the word Pastor is not a Protestant word. In the Constitution of the UOCUSA it uses both titles for the head priest in a parish: Rector and Pastor. That being said, I agree that by itself Pastor is insufficient. The Priest is Pastor (shepherd) and the Bishop Archpastor, and Christ the sole universal Great Archpastor. So the Priest truly is Shepherd. The problem is that "Pastor" by itself carries with it the connotation of protestantism, that the pastor is the spiritual elder, but not the overall leader. The term Rector (nastoyatelya, proistamenos, proestos), which means "leader" or "headman" leaves no ambiguity as to who is the leader in the parish. The term Pastor alludes metaphorically to the fact that the Priest is the leader, but the term Rector says it outright. It is good to use both and, again, the Metropolia Constitution uses both.
Question: A friend of mine goes to a new calendar parish, and I go to an old calendar parish. I tried to tell him that our Christmas is more correct, but he disagreed. Who is right--is it Dec. 25 or Jan. 7 that is more correct? T from New York NY
Answer: First of all, to even understand this properly, one needs to understand that it is not "Dec. 25 vs. Jan 7" but rather "New Calendar Dec. 25 vs. Old Calendar Dec. 25." The Meneion of the Church has always stated that Nativity falls upon December 25. The only question is, do we reckon December 25 according to the modern civil calendar or December 25 according to the old Roman-Byzantine Civil Calendar (often wrongly called "the Julian Calendar") after years of astronomical regression, currently falling 13 days later than the modern reckoning? This is indeed tough, and I believe that reductionists on both sides need to admit that there is validity to both sides of the argument. When Christ was born, the calendar in use at the time the winter solstice fell upon Dec. 25, and this is precisely why it was chosen as the date of celebration, because Christ was understood as being conceived in the vernal equinox and born on the winter solstice. Leaving aside arguments about whether it could have been another day, let us assume, for the sake of argument, that it was indeed the winter solstice that Christ was born on. That would make even the modern Civil Calendar December 25 off by several days from the Winter Solstice. It should be noted that in some parts of the Church in early times celebrated on what falls on Jan. 18 according to the modern civil calendar, and that the Armenian Apostolic Church still celebrates "old old Christmas" on what we reckon as January 18. The point is that neither side is wrong in that both are following the statute to celebrate the feast on December 25. One side simply thinks that this should be December 25 according to the modern civil calendar, and another thinks it should be celebrated on December 25 according to the ancient civil calendar, which falls 13 days later. However, again, in the 4th and early 5th centuries, half the Church celebrated on Dec. 25 and half celebrated 12 days later. The two sides united the celebrations back then, it just took time. The same thing now, it takes time, but they will be reconciled. However, the Old Calender reconciled both the civil and Hebrew cycles rather perfectly mathematically so that the two parts of the Church Calendar (the Sunday Cycle, based on the Hebrew Calendar, and the Menaion, based on the civil calendar of the time) were in perfect sync. However, it is a little more difficult to do that with the modern civil calendar, from which the Hebrew Calendar regresses without being able to be put neatly into relatively reasonable indictions, but that is another story...
Question: Father, I will just be straight with you and tell you that I am Orthodox, but I am uncomfortable talking about my Faith with others because sometimes I feel like I don't know what I am talking about or don't know how to answer. It mentions on the front page [of your website] that the official name of the worldwide Church is the Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ. But when people ask if we are Catholics, we do not tell them yes, do we? Also, I never know what to say after I tell them I am Orthodox and they respond back "do you mean Russian Orthodox" or "do you mean Greek Orthodox"? B from Clearwater, FL
Answer: I wrote several articles in the UOW which address this very thing. Part of the problem is that we are so concerned about not being identified with the Roman Communion that we have failed to utilize part of our name. Although it is true that the Church is Catholic and Apostolic, it would be confusing or even misleading to others to simply say "I am Catholic" or "I am Apostolic" without using the word Orthodox. Certainly no one should describe themselves as "non-Catholic" or as "non-Apostolic" just because the Roman Communion calls itself Catholic and the Armenian Communion calls itself Apostolic. As members of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, we are Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic Christians, regardless of what anyone else calls themselves, and it is more important to retain our full identity than to abandon it so that others don't "confuse us with those people." St. Peter Mohila of Kyiv (Kiev) calls all those in union with the Orthodox Church repeatedly "Orthodox Catholic Christians." St. Paisius Velichovsky calls the Orthodox Church "the Eastern Catholic Church" and calls Orthodox Christians "Eastern Catholic Christians," without using the term Orthodox at all! The Church is named "Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ." "Christian" means "of Christ," and so you could just as correctly say "Orthodox Catholic Christian Church" as "Orthodox Catholic Church of Christ," although the latter may be slighly better grammatically, the former may help people understand better that we are the original Chrisitan Church. However, when speaking with others, the most consistant thing that the services of the Church, it speaks of the Church as the Orthodox Catholic and Aposolic Christian Church, and members of this Church as "Orthodox Christians." Therefore, when someone asks you, what you are, you could say "a member of the worldwide Orthodox Catholic Christian Church" or you could say quite simply "I am an Orthodox Christian." I think that is it in a nutshell. As for people's response back to you to clarify, they are simply going based on your own reference point. I think that this question could be broken down into two parts, the first is: "do I have to explain that the Orthodox Church is one Church of Christ?" The answer is yes, you do. Every time someone asks you about your Faith, understand that this is God giving you another opportunity to witness to them, and, frankly, to invite them to Church. But you are also asking "what do I say--yes, no, sortof." Here is one way you could answer: "Ukrainian, Russian, Greek, Serbian are all distinct ways of expressing the one Orthodox Christian Faith." But then don't stop there. Ask them if they have ever been to an Orthodox Church before. If they have not, tell them "O, you have got to experience it" and invite them to a service or church event with you. When they show up remind people to be friendly to newcomers--they may be without a spiritual home and just might become your newest parishioner...
Father, I just saw on [a major news show on a major news network] a debate on a Roman Bishop in another country who wants Christians to start calling God Allah. The Roman Catholic priest that appeared as a guest commentator said that God does not care what we call Him, that it is only important to us what we call Him. Is this true? G from Worcester MA
Let's look for a minute at the most major prayer in all of Christendom, the one in which our Lord teaches us how to pray, and let's look at the first two lines. In the first line, we are taught to recognize God as our Heavenly Father. In the second line, we are taught that His Name is holy, and TO RECOGNIZE IT AS SO. This is so important that it is the first thing we do after we call upon God as Father--to recognize his name as holy. Also, several times in Scripture God reminds us that His name is holy and he expects us to keep it so. Thus, on that point, the commentator priest was wrong, for it does matter what we call God.
That being said, Allah is the Arabic word for God, stemming from the Aramaic word for God Ellah, which in turn comes from the Hebrew El or Elohym. It is used by not just Muslims but, even before Islam came along, was used by Arab-speaking Christians and Jews. Of course, since Pentecost, each would call upon God in the language in which He speaks, and use it reverently. So often today we have people using God's name loosely, and this is truly using His name in vain. But what we call Him is important, for it enables us to participate in Him through His Name, just as when we call the name of a loved one with a fervant love and they obtain a loving interaction from it, so also we ascend to a level of certain grace by calling upon the name of the Lord with reverence and love.
Regarding the incarnation of the Lord. Is any of this incorrect?
1. It is proper to say "God was born"
2. It is proper to say "God wept"
3. It is proper to say "God died"
It is also proper to say these things in a qualified manner
1a. God was born according to His humanity
2a. God wept according to His humanity
3a. God died according to His humanity.
It is proper to say these things either way but it is not proper to refuse to say things after the manner
of 1, 2 and 3 but to insist on 1a, 2a, 3a.
It is never proper, to say these things ...
1b. God was not born
2b. God did not weep
3b. God did not die
It is never proper to say these things ...
1c. God was not born but Jesus the God-man was born
2c. God did not weep but Jesus the God-man did weep
3c. God did not die but Jesus the God-man did die
Now for the point of all this. Is it proper to say that "Jesus did not die a spiritual death because he
was never separated from God and spiritual death is separation of man from God." In what sense
did Adam 'surely die' on the day he ate of the fruit? Was it not being separated from grace? So Adam
died spiritually but not seeing separate of soul and body (until later) and the Lord died (separation of soul
and body) but not 'spiritually?'
S from PA
Inquirer said: It is proper to say these things either way but it is not Proper to refuse to say things after
the manner of 1, 2 and 3 but to insist on 1a,2a, 3a.
Fr.H: That is correct. In fact, their relationship would be that 1a, 2a,and 3a are explanations and further
clarifications of 1,2,3, but could not be used "instead of" them, nor as the "only legitimate usage." Thus, the
perspicacious disciple would say that a causal relationship may be inferred from a proper causal pairing: 1
because 1a; 2 because 2a; 3 because 3a.
Let's move on:
> It is never proper, to say these things ...
> 1b. God was not born
> 2b. God did not weep
> 3b. God did not die
Fr.H: That's true, but because Scripture often uses "God" with the specific connotation of the person of
God the Father, we could perhapsconceive of encountering it patristically, but certainly within the context
that these three could ONLY be said if they refer ONLY to the person of the Father. Thus the ambiguity
of the statement (i.e. the not adding "God the Father" for the sake of clarification) would necessarily
be eliminated in the context of the patristic (or liturgical) statement.
> It is never proper to say these things ...
> 1c. God was not born but Jesus the God-man was born
> 2c. God did not weep but Jesus the God-man did weep
> 3c. God did not die but Jesus the God-man did die
FrH: That's true, it is never proper to say these things.
> Now for the point of all this. Is it proper to say that "Jesus did
not die a spiritual death because he was never separated from God and
spiritual death is separation of man from God." In what sense did Adam
'surely die' on the day he ate of the fruit? Was it not being separated from grace?
So Adam died spiritually but not seeing separate of soul and body (until later) and the
Lord died (separation of soul and body) but not 'spiritually?'
FrH: One of the hymns of the Paschal hours is "in the tomb with The body and in hell (hades) with the soul, in paradise with the thief and on the
throne with the Father and the Spirit, wast Thou O Christ our God filling all things uncircumscribed." Remember that the removal of grace (i.e.
Divine Energy) is not an act of wrath, but in the case of a sinful person in particular is, rather an act of mercy for those to whom grace for the
sinful soul would be far more anguishing than the absence of grace. The wrath of God and the grace of God are both the same Divine Energy
in different states. Grace is tortuous to a sinful human soul that is evil. But as we read in the Fathers, the wrath of God when it is poured out upon
the just is received as grace. When received by a repentant soul who still has sin, however, although received as grace it still has some unpleasantness
about it because it is purifying. Thus, God permitted death, as St. Basil says, not to punish man, but so that his now sinfully empassioned
self may be delivered from the body which led to eternal death.
It is the same "grace" or "energy" in a different form that is both the warming fire of heaven for the saints and the anguishing fires of
Gehenna for the heathen, for no matter how you cut it "our God is a consuming fire." St. Paul's saying is that "he is not far from each one
of us." Thus Adam died the death in that the thing that was abundant life had turned into abundant wrath, and God removed Adam from
Himself. Of course, in place, God is here, in grace, various levels of it are there. Life itself is a grace of the Spirit, and thus Adam still
continued to have that grace, but not the grace of living in paradise. Adam "died the death" because he no longer had communion (i.e.
because, from his end, sin interrupted the synergeiathe ability to communicate with God's grace in a redemptive manner).
When did Christ die the spiritual death? To some degree right from The beginning of the Incarnation. One of the things that differs us
from the Franks (the Roman Catholics) is that the "Immaculate Conception" dogma is faulty, not just with regard to Mary, but with regard to
Christ Himself. He did not exempt Himself from the stain of Adam, nor from death itself. The only thing different is that he did not sin,
by His perfect choice and perfect use of His human will. But more specifically at the Last Supper, through the passion following and death.
First He poured out his blood spiritually on Thursday afternoon, and physically thereafter, culminating in the full and complete death the next day.
He "died the death" spiritually when He gave all His blood, when He went into Gethsemane and felt the absence of God. Hence the Psalm of the
Messiah "Eli Eli, lama sabachtani." Thirst didn't exist until Adam "died the death." Thus, the meaning of the report on the Cross that Christ said "I thirst."
He did not say I thirst according to my humanity. That would be absurd, because He is one person, it is obvious that it is according to His humanity
since the divinity cannot undergo passion. Please understand also that when we speak of grace being "removed," in both the case of Adam and the case
of Christ, it is, again, not in place, for God is everywhere, but in communicative activity. But we also must remember that something was also
going on that did not happen in the case of Adamthe humanity of the Second person of the Trinity feeling this "absence" of the Father and
the Spirit in death, but even (by necessity given the unified energies of God) the voluntary withdrawal of communicative activity of His own divine
energies from the (human) energies of His soul, so that He may be able in all things to undergo all that mankind does in "spiritual" and "physical" death.
Question: Why don't we have women priests? G from Denver, CO
Answer: I think that the question itself is the result of a misunderstanding. Orthodoxy has both male and female eldership neither of which is superior and inferior, and both of which are needed. Every male monastery has a father superior and elder. Every female monastery has a mother superior and eldress. Every parish, on the other hand, ideally has both. Although in today's world, because of a shortage of priests and for several other reasons, celibate priests are often appointed pastors of parishes, traditionally in Orthodoxy (i.e. for the first 19 of 20 centuries), white clergy (married) serve parishes, and black clergy (celibate) serve monasteries. A monastery, because it only has men or women, the superior (Abbot or Abbess) is the same sex as the monastery. However, since all parish churches are mixed and have both men and women, the parish, with a married priest and priestwife, receives both a father (Batushka, Batko) and a mother (Matushka, Matka), both an Elder (Presbyter) and an Eldress (Presbytera), both a priest (Ar. Khoury) and a 'priestess' (Ar. Khouria); both a "dad" (Papa) and a "mom" (Papadija). It is to the Presbyter that the Lord, through the Bishop, gives the hieratic ministry, and he is the spiritual father of the parish. To the presbytera (mother or matushka) is given the role of comforter, a paracletic role, in the parish. The latter may take the form of contemplative ("Mary") or economic ("Martha") ministry. This is the priest and the priest's wife, who shares in His ministry. The ministry of the priestwife can vary quite a bit, since her primary role is to "be a help meet" in their ministry. This role entails being the "director of household affairs" in the "first family" of the parish, as well as to be motherly and guiding toward the children of the parish, just as she is toward her natural born children, and to offer the role of the Spirit--to offer comfort and loving motherly presence. Some priestwives may take on additional roles, but should not be expected to take on any roles other than that already stated. That being said, some might have additional charisms which lead them to take an intercessory role, such as her going to her husband and explaining that a person needs help. Other priestwives may have a charism where they can help introduce people in need to a good Christian doctor, psychologist, counselor, debt management consultant, or a monastic elder for solution to various problems. Other priestwives may just be "a shoulder to cry on" for younger women in the parish. And yet still others may have more of a primary role toward the household of their immediate nuclear family so that the husband may focus more time on parish rather than immediate household affairs.
Question: What do you do when the priest's wife has emotional problems? She is no good to the parish like that, so is it wrong to ask the bishop to transfer them? Some people think it is wrong of me even to think that way, but I don't see what is wrong with it.
Answer: Just because she has a place of eldership does not mean that she should be expected to be a "perfect role model." If the priestwife runs into problems, she should be treated by parishioners as they would treat their own biological mother if she was having a nervous breakdown, and the priest as they would treat their own biological father when he has problems. Each parish is a family in Christ, and we should treat each other as such. She also can function as an intercessor with her husband on many fronts, again, these expectations from her husband or from the parishioners should not get unreasonably high (just as those for any spouse or any parent or any child should not be unreasonably too much).
One misunderstanding is the commonly held belief that the priest is married to the parish before his wife and children. Of course, his wife and children are part of the parish, so this is nonsense and completely warped thinking. They are not the last of all parishioners, but the first, and the priest must not neglect them or else he is committing a sin, even if it is one he was told to commit by a seminary professor or a hierarch. The canons forbid the priest's neglect or putting away of a wife or family "under the pretext of piety" or priestly duty, for, indeed, he must show an example to all other fathers in the parish--that the family has priority over many other trifling matters of work. A wife having a nervous breakdown and a child needing a little attention is more important than getting the bulletin done. A bulletin 70% done in such cases is good enough. The homily and service preparation and a balance of time with the needs of others must take a priority, but, again, every priest should try and have back up homilies for "rainy weeks," for example. Anyway, with clerical divorce rates going through the ceiling, the two primary examples of what a marriage should be like in a parish (the should not be neglecting one another, but kindly affectionate and "recharging" one another in their shared ministry, and bearing one another's burdons when they break down--not saying "I don't need this from you right now, I have enough problems from other people"). As one article states: "Whether we call her "popadija", "matushka' or "presbytera," the name itself tells part of the story. The priest's wife becomes an extension of him. Women who thought this would be a symbol of status and honor are often mistaken. Frequently, it only makes them a target and the wife of a priest can often suffer more stress than her husband..." ("In the Shadow of a Priest", Orthodox America 1996). But this is not what it is all about.
Also, what is wrong with the question is the implication that it is normal for priests to be shifted around all the time. It is not. Even though this seems to be the common practice today, a priest is to stay on a parish, not moving unless promoted. For a priest and his wife to think that a parish is "easily dispensible" and for a parish to think that the priest and his family are easily dispensible is reminiscent of the divorce culture that we are in right now--a family does not give up on one another so easily--they treat each other with love and respect and understanding, and sometimes firmness and resolve, but never with the "I'm gonna leave you the next time you subtly offend me" or "I'm gonna make things miserable for you" type of mentality.
Christ said it simply: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples (i.e. are Christians), if you have love for each other." To put it simply, if we do not have love for each other--fellow parishioners for one another, priest and family for parishioners, and parishioners for priest and family, then we are neither Christian nor Orthodox. It is not only the Sacraments that make us Orthodox and Christian, but it is the obedience to His commandments and true repentance when we fall short of them.
Question (follow up to question above): I understand what you are saying about the priest's wife, but wouldn't that have to go then to any laymen who is a board member who is having problems. Can we not kick them off the council then? Would not the church eventually fall apart?
Answer: If someone is having that many problems you would not "kick them off the council" but rather find someone to relieve their duties, and, if need be, replace them on the council either temporarily, or perhaps long term. However, they would be permitted to retire from the council, and not be "kicked off" by their brothers and sisters in Christ. If the person becomes belligerent, then they need boundaries and need gently but firmly corrected. They may be unconsciously "looking for a way out," and we as a parish ought not be an aid in their self-destruction, but, rather, show them they they can have a way out without self-destructing and without destroying long-build friendships and relationships. I hope that answers the question.
Question: Why is plant life removed from the Church during the 40 days of Great Lent?
Answer: On the First Day of Great Lent we remember the fall of Adam and Eve from Paradise and of all of humanity's absence from the fullness of the garden due to sin. Thus, as a season of repentance and anticipation of the Resurrection, we look forward to the celebration of the regaining of the garden at the Week of Palms (Holy Week) and Easter. The nave (inside of the church building) represents the place where God has prepared for us to be, and in Great Lent, that place is "the desert" with Him in the 40 days. Thus, although there is nothing wrong with plant life in the Church building, we await the end of the season of repentance, preparation, and anticipation--Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday (and Holy Week and Pascha following), before we adorn the inside of the Church with plant life again for several reasons. Although all Sundays even in Lent we could have plant life brought in, it is rather wasteful to bring flowers in for a day only to be discarded the day after, so the custom is not even then. One exception during the forty days is the Sunday right in the middle of it--the Sunday of the Holy Cross, in which the cross is decorated with flowers (but typically nothing else) to show that the Cross is the way back into the Garden (remember, not only was Eden in a Garden, but the Lord's Tomb, the place of Resurrection, was in the midst of a Garden), and to tell us midway through Lent to "hang in there"--the Resurrection and all that it comes with--festal foods and decorations and celebrations--are on their way back soon, that is, after we do our yearly spiritual pilgrimage through the "desert" and the "high mountain" where Christ fasted for forty days in a barron wilderness with no flowers or beatiful trees (and thus to remind us that we remain in the desert and on the mountain with him until the end of the 40 days). On top of this, as sinful people we tend to appreciate things more when they are absent for a time. The awe of a blind person who regains their sight is testimony to this, but this latter detail is not theological, only practical. We get the garden when we repent and rejoin ourselves to Christ through the cross and the Resurrection, that's the message that the absence of plant life during Great Lent, and its restoration in Holy Week, gives us.
Question: I have another question, Do most of the archdiocese automatically fall under the Greek Church officially, with the Greek Church being the say, 1st among equals?
Answer: This is a good question. Of the nine jurisdictions of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America, four are jurisdictions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Many people mistakingly think that the Chairman of SCOBA is the Archbishop of the Greek Archdiocese because the Greek Archdiocese is the largest, which in part was the original reason for it (voted upon in its 3rd meeting, the size being one of the factors involved). While it may be true that it is the largest Archdiocese, and that originally this is the reason why the Archbishop of the GOA is always Chairman, this is not the reason why it is ranked first any longer. You will notice a pattern of the hierarchs with regard to the first few, at least. It is now practice for them to be ranked based upon the ranking of the jurisdiction they are in. Because the Archbishop of the Greek Archdiocese is the Exarch of Constantinople, for this reason he sits as first (Exarch is a rank just below a Patriarch, and Constantinople is first among equals in the world). Thus, in terms of ecclesiology, it is not because he is Archbishop of the Greek Archdiocese, but because he is Exarch of Constantinople, that he sits as first among equals on SCOBA. But, of course, the primary non-ecclesiastical reason given for the Archbishop of the Greek Archdiocese to sit first is that the Archdiocese is the largest.
Question (follow up from question below): Greetings Fr. Harry! I was looking at the response regarding pork and I haven't been able to find anything in Galatians or elsewhere where it states that he ate pork in the company of the Gentiles or otherwise. Could you tell me the specific verse you were referencing?
Answer: Scripture does not talk about meat and pork that much. Most Old Testament references, for instance, don't mention pork but rather the flesh of ritually unclean animals. Galations 2.11ff mentions Paul "eating with the Gentiles," meaning that he, of course, ate Pork., but withdrew for fear of those of the "circumcision party," who felt that Gentiles should be forced to be circumcized and not eat the flesh of unclean animals (i.e. Pork). Again Galations 2.14 expressly accuses Peter of being a hypocrite for "living like the Gentiles" I.e. ate pork) while require Gentiles to "live like Jews" (i.e. refrain from Pork) when he was around the circumcision party, not because it was right, but because he feared them. I believe I gave you the references to Pork in that the Acts 15 passages that I referenced refer to all foods and the only restriction on foods is now not between clean and unclean (unclean being pork), but rather to things strangled and things offered to idols. Christ himself taught that it is not what goes into a man's mouth that defiles him, but what comes out. In the Old Testament itself, there is a distinction made between laws that applied to Jews only and laws that applied to Gentiles. Some laws were singled out as for Jews only, especially the food laws (Dt 14:21). This is where the crisis came about in Acts: did Gentiles need to get circumcized and give up pork? The council of Acts 15 ruled no restriction on what kind of meat, but there is a restriction if the meat was either offered to idols or strangled. While Jesus did not abolish the law per se (Matt 5:17-19), the Mosaic laws which separated the Jew from the Gentile were done away with, because it separated Jew from Gentile (Eph 2:14-15). And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) Mark 7:18-19
Question: The Bible says this and that, so a lot of people understand what's said. Yet there's plenty that's not said but we can learn through deducting the facts. You know it's like the dietary laws of Judaism, pork was forbidden. I haven't found anything to justify eating it yet, but as you mentioned justification the other day, it's a normal tendency as people want to fit in and with something as common and accepted as eating pork here in the US, there's not many that would contradict the status quo, nor would they have the nerve to even upset an industry as powerful as the pork industry which would also affect grocery stores and distribution centers, not to mention political significance or pork. But going back to the Bible as the central point of tradition to guide us as a whole, we know Christ never ate pork and his apostles never ate pork by the simple fact if he did what was good by healing a man on the Sabbath, they would have had him much sooner if he violated the forbidden practice of eating pork.
Then there's another issue, the Sabbath. Saturday is the Sabbath and always has been the Sabbath. Then at the council of Laodicea, Sunday was pronounced the Lords' day. But in protestant churches, playing on peoples' ignorance, they're told Sunday is the Sabbath. I assume this is where with the protestant reformation, the people left the church and carried on it's traditions but forgot it's roots that molded regular practices as the councils. But, if you can, could you elaborate on how this became twisted around as from Orthodox doctrine, I find the church still acknowledges the Sabbath. Even when I was a child, stores would close for Sunday as it was the Lords' Day. Saturday and Sunday were originally both revered as Holy Days in this country at one time, but the churches and clergy have sold out to mammon, which I could elaborate on extensively. Yet, I still find those who violate what the church itself teaches which actually lead me to the church because the truth has been retained through the fathers and homilies of the saints. Anyway, I hope you could elaborate one way or the other as to the stance the church holds.
With regard to Pork, St. Peter himself struggled with this. In the book of Galations, St. Paul criticized St. Peter because St. Peter was abstaining from pork when in the company of the "party of the circumcision," even though otherwise he ate it. We read in the book of Acts that St. Cornelius was sent an angel, and then St. Peter was. St. Peter was torn over the Mosaic dietary laws and whether Christians were bound by them. So God made it clear to him, he showed him animals of pork: "...and a voice came to him 'Arise Peter; kill and eat.' But Peter said 'Not so, Lord! for I have never eaten anything common or unclean." And a voice spoke to him again the second time, 'What God has made clean, you must not call common.' (Acts 10.12ff). Then Peter mentions this again in Acts 11 and also adds that, ultimately, the "unclean animal" ritually indicated a heathen or heathen sacrifices. But now that the Messiah had come "so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord" (Acts 15.17), the shadow of the law has passed and finally, the whole council of the Apostles in Acts 15 agrees, that pork is not forbidden, but only "to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood" (Acts 15.29).
As for the Sabbath, it is true that we still recognize the Sabbath. In many traditional languages Saturday is literally Sabbath--in Greek Sabbaton (Sabbath) for Saturday and Kyriaki (the Lord's Day) for Sunday. The "Lord's Day," of course, comes from Scripture with regard to Sunday. In Revelation John was "In the Spirit on the Lord's Day." Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday are a "little" good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Pascha for us, as one can see in the hymns of the Octoechos (Paraklitiki). The Sabbath is important in that man rested--but "man" here ultimately referring to Christ i.e. the second Adam rested in the tomb that He might go and rescue first Adam, also resting in the tomb, and raise him up. Thus, the Sabbath is still an important day for us. Except for Great Saturday, it is never a strict fast day even in Lent, but together with the Lord's Day is "for us as a holiday," as the canons say. But remember that the 7th day is not the only day called the "Sabbath." In fact, for instance, during the feast of Tabernacles: "on the First day shall be a holy assembly: you shall do no servile work...when you have gathered in the fruit of the earth...you shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days; on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a Sabbath" (Leviticus 23.40). The years in which this feast feel exactly the 1st and 8th on a Sunday and the 7th on a Saturday were special jublilee years, for a perfect "week of years" had passed. Since the coming of the Messiah fulfills the feast of Booths/Tabernacles in that now, in the Church age (the age of Pentecost--the 1st day after a week of weeks), every week is a week in which the Church "gathers in the fruit of the earth," as Christ says "the harvest is ready," and we are to harvest and even "fish" for men.. the Christian week is a fulfillment of this Feast of Tabernacles/Booths. Sunday is both the first day and the eighth day, in which we experience a foretaste of the age to come.
To close out, regarding both pork and sabbaths, I will simply point out the words of Holy Scripture:
--So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. (Col. 2.16, 17)
Christ's rest in the tomb is the fulfillment of the Sabbath as the day of rest, Christ's rising and sanctifying all things makes all formerly impure or unclean animals clean. Anyway, hope this helps!
Question: What is the place of the choir and the faithful in Orthodoxy? (note, the question was raised regarding an article on the following website: http://www.st-luke.org/why_do_we_sing_in_church.htm
It is true that prior to the last 500 years we cannot find a service book that says:
and even still today many of the original language service books, especially in Greek say:
The Priest/Choir came first in the Greek because of Turkokrateia, as Fr. Stavros said.
The official service books for our diocese read this way although I think OCA read Priest Choir. The "choir" came to take the place of the "faithful" when the "faithful" started being "co-standers" or "penitents" by not partaking of communion. The Russian books changed from being "Priest People" to being "Priest Choir" under the Nikonian reforms. An authoritative source for this is Meyendorff's book Russia, Ritual and Reform.
By definition, there are 4 categories of people who are in Church:
1. The faithful (people who take communion--all children should be in this category, and most adults). In theory, they are to stand closest to the altar. These are supposed to sing and respond to the priest. Since this is the only group that is supposed to say all the responses, when the 16th-17th century started to have infrequent communion in many places, they needed "stand ins." This became the chanters or the choir.
2. The co-standers (people who are regular communicants but do not take communion for a particular Sunday but have special permission from the priest for that Sunday not to partake of Communion for a particular reason--perhaps a short penance, etc.). These need not take Confession before returning to communion, unless one abstains for more than 3 weeks, in which case they make themselves a penitent. These may also sing and respond to the priest on certain parts.
3. Penitents (people who do not take communion because they have excommunicated themselves by perpetual sin or sin unto death, or by not coming to Church for 3 weeks in a row, or for not taking Communion for 3 weeks in a row without dire circumstance, which per the canons excommunicates a person and them must receive penance/confession). There are several classes of penitents, including mourners (outernarthex) weepers (may only stand in the inner narthex until penance complete, may not stand in the nave of the church at all), and hearers (may stand in the nave until "catechumens depart" and then, according to St. Symeon of Thessalonica, must exit to the narthex, although St. Symeon mentions in his time, already, that because of infrequent communion that would mean a fairly empty church in many places, and so they let them stay. Technically a penitent is the only one who can kneel on a Sunday since they do not partake of the resurrection through communion nor do they offer the oblation. Thus, it is no wonder that people got into the habit of kneeling on Sundays because they, by definition, as people who took communion only 4 times or maybe even just once per year, were penitents.
4. Catechumens (learners)
Part of the problem is that many of our modern day Churches do not have narthexes as before (for instance, many of the rubrics for the services are to be done or at least start in the narthex, not the nave), but only a narrow entryway, and so some of the rubrics became impracticable.
Anyway, the idea of a "choir" as replacing the people is foreign to Orthodoxy. We have mention of the "singers" who led the people in singing on the under level of the Ambo in Constantinople. St. Symeon of Thessalonica's writings are probably the most authoritative on describing sung vespers of Constantinople giving way to chanted, etc. I know that his treatise on prayer mentions some of this.
...over the last few days I have come a across a few disturbing statements made by Orthodox clergy of various jurisdictions. So instead of letting it continue to cause me despair, which it had, I have decided to prayerfully seek answers from representatives of various Orthodox jurisdictions. Any help and guidance you give me would be greatly appreciated.
Here are my two questions:
1) On the OCA website a priest said that the Orthodox Church believed in the possibility of evolution? I have done some reading on other websites and it seems that some Orthodox agree, some disagree. What is the true Orthodox stance? What does your jurisdiction believe on this issue?
2) Some said that the Orthodox Church views Adam and Eve as a myth/legend, is that true? One person even claimed that the whole Old Testament was a legend? Surely this was not the view of the Fathers, was it?
Thank you for your time and prayers.
Pray for us
There are a few facts here that I would like to state. 1. The understanding of 1st Adam and 2nd Adam is very crucial in Patristics 2. Although it is true that Scripture is not a science book, that also does not mean that we are to simply toss out what it says and reinterpret things apart from the traditional and continous understanding, which, as Orthodox, we believe to be lead by the Holy Spirit. The absolute-allegorizing of most of the Old Testament is something that has been verifiably condemned in Church history (particularly in Origen of Alexandria). 3. About "evolution" in general terms, the Bible is silent. Certain aspects of evolution (i.e. not the theory but of observable continuation of mutations and related observations) are undeniable. Various levels of theistic evolution attempt to explain the relationship of the facts about evolution to traditional belief, but most of these are insufficient when we read Scripture in light of the Holy Fathers. But what we will call the facts of evolution, and the the "Darwinian Theory of evolution", are two different things. Beyond this, there is not one theory of evolution, but many theories. Darwinism, which claims there is no design nor creator are clearly rejected by Scripture and by the Church, and science itself cries out against it.
I did not read the article you were referring to about myth, but I certainly hope that they were utilizing the term by its dictionary definition rather than its popular definition. Certainly calling something a "myth" by dictionary definition refers to it as a story, which neither has implications of it being true or false. I believe that the definition has it as being a story which is plausibly or ostensibly historical but not necessarily fully "demonstrable" as history by modern standards. The term legend is a little more disturbing, in that it does not indicate plausibility but rather presumability. However, I believe that these words are being used to be more academically astute--to try and be "objective" by modern "university standards" in order to "win over" more "educated readers" and make Orthodoxy more appealing to the "modern world." This, I believe, is a tragic error. Indeed, it is truly disturbing to hear that there are some who are "second guessing" the first Adam. About Creation and the existence of Adam, Scripture and the Church certainly are not silent: there was a creation and there was an Adam, who is called in almost every authoritative venue of the Church "our ancestor."
But enough of my opinion, here is the Orthodox stance:
"Whosoever says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal, [and wrongly says that] whether he had sinned or not he would have died in body--that is, [they say] he would have gone forth from the body, not because his sin warranted this, but by natural necessity, let him be anathema" (Canon 109, Council of Carthage 419AD, Approved by 6th and 7th Ecumenical Councils). Thus, Adam is "the first man" and was not "created mortal"but rather became mortal because it was warrented due to his sin, and not "natural necessity", i.e. it was willful transgression, not determinism by which he fell.
Also, the Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church clearly recognizes Adam as a historical person. In the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ we read that on this day "we celebrate all those who from ages past have been well-pleasing to God, beginning from Adam even unto Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos, according to the genealogy, as the Evangelist Luke has recorded historically (Luke 3.23-38)". Thus it is not the book of Genesis which claims the "historicity of Adam," but rather the geneaology of Christ in the book of Luke.
Again, in the verses for Matins and Beatitudes for Mondays we read: "Adam the Forefather set aside Thy commandment, and Thou, O Christ, didst banish him from Paradise, to which Thou didst admit the Thief who reverently confessed Thee on the Cross, crying: Remember me..." (Octoechos, Tone 3 for Mondays). There are at least 27 other references to Adam as a person in the Orthodox services.
To deny Adam a historical existence on any website betrays a clear ignorance on the part of the writer of not only Scripture, but of the Orthodox services (perhaps this writer has never served the daily services, or was not paying attention?) as well as the canons and other official Liturgical dogmatic statements. Anyway, I would not take any of these disturbing writers' answers as "official answers", but as perhaps misguided or ignorance on the part of the writer.
If there is no Adam, there is no sin of Adam and thus no fall, and no common Anthropos, and no "seed of Adam" and, worst of all, no second Adam. This, of course, is absurd. Certainly Adam "sums up" humanity, but this logically only makes sense if Adam is our historical forebearer, for the first Adam sums it up because all others are his seed, and the second Adam sums up humanity in that He became the seed of the first Adam, raised it up from its fallen state, and mingles this raised body with our own in the Eucharist, and in this same Mystery He mingles His most precious saving blood--"Adam's blood" renewed on the Wood of the Cross for our salvation, with our own thus sanctifying it.
As for the claim that the whole Old Testament was a legend, if by "legend" is meant an unhistorical or wholly allegorical document, this is rejected by the Church and certainly by the Fathers, who condemned Origen of Alexandria for precisely this error. Clearly allegories are included, but most are designated by the Fathers as typology, not allegory. We are living in an age of anything goes, and it is disturbing what one reads, sometimes on "official" websites or in official documents.
As for evolution, please read a few of my notes on our website: www.forGodiswithus.org and click on "Science and Faith". If you need anything else, certainly feel free to call or email me.
With Prayers and Love in the Lord,
Question: Is it true that Kerygma and Dogma are distinctive aspects of our Faith?
Answer: Let us define our terms
Kerygmaproclamation, announcement, preachingspreading the Faith
DogmaOfficially pronounced doctrine
It is somewhat true that kerygma and dogma are distinctive elements, but only because dogma is experienced or understood as much as possible in Mystery. Thus the two things that are even more distinctive in the Apostolic ministry of the Church are witnessed in the Liturgy itself: Kerygma (found in the Liturgy of the Word/Catechumens) and Mysterion (Mystery, found in the Eucharistic Synaxis/Liturgy of the Faithful).
Dogma (officially proclaimed doctrine as opposed to simply implicit doctrine) is the proclamation of the Church within itself of Mysteries that have been hidden till then, but then had to be more expressly revealed, i.e. in a more official manner. But this official proclamation was still primarily toward those who were already members of the Church. Hence, we find the creed and the other official pronouncements of the councils within the realm of Dogma. Is the creed a kerygmatic statement? And if so, does this mean that kerygma overlaps with dogma even though they have very distinctive purposes for existing (dogma for the maintaining and growth of the Body of Christ in the Trinitarian Mysteries of Truth, and kerygma for the obedient task of proclaiming the saving grace of God and calling one to the Trinitarian Mysteries of Truth who still remain without).
Now here is the answer to the question is the creed a kerygmatic statement, since it sums up many of the central elements of the Gospel and the rest of Scriptures? The answer is, that the creed (more properly the Symbol of Faith) is moreso a statement of Mystery than it is a statement of kerygma, even though there is some overlap of content. Why? Because of its primary usage is as an affirmation of the faithful in the context of the highest of the Mysteries of the Church.
For the creed we find, not within the Synaxis of the Word (which ends with the dismissal of the Catechumens), but in the Eucharistic Synaxis (Marked by the petitioning of the faithful and the Great Entrance). The Gospel is to be heard by all, but the creed to be proclaimed only by the faithful. Hence, dogma still lies within mystery, and mystery is understood only within the viewpoint of the Church as the Body of Christ, which is so because it partakes of the Sacrament who is Christ.
For although catechumens were to learn the Symbol of Faith and the Lords Prayer in private so that they would know it by heart for their baptismal affirmation, but do not fully experience its reality except when they proclaim it within the context of the Mysteries of the Church for the first time at Baptism/Chrismation/Communion (traditionally, since catechumens used to be dismissed before the creed was said, this would have been the first time the catechumens said the creed in a Liturgical context, hence experiencing it, not as concept, but as part of the Eucharistic Mystery, in which we have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, and have found the true Faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity who has saved us. We express this Symbol of Faith/Creed with whole hearts in the context of Mystery. This is not so with the Epistle or Gospel, because these were parts of the kerygma expressed by the Church to the world.
Hence, the proclaiming of the Gospel was the focal point of the Churchs kerygma, whereas the Eucharist and the partaking thereof is the focal point of what? Of dogma yes (for the ultimate purpose of expressed dogmas is the Communion with God of mankind), but more broadly, of Mystery, in which dogma (as an expression of otherwise hidden truths experienced in Mystery) maintains a central role and finds its experienced meaning--the experience of God Himself.
Now again, God foreknew and predestined us (Romans 8.29) prior to the kerygmatic calling. Then came the Kerygmatic calling (Rom. 8.30), for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. After that came the Mystery, and hence justification by making oneself Mysteriously one with the Just One Himself, and glorification, by being identified with the Glorious One Himself (Rom.8.30), in which we gain understanding of the incomprehensible by Grace. Thus kerygma is one concept, and Mystery another to be understood as two primary distinctive supplements in Gods salvation plan.
Joyfully in Christ,
P.S., this understanding of kerygma is why even those who1st heard the Gospel in settings outside the Church can still being called by and through the Church, since it is only available to others because the Church first preserved it after the first generation of the Church wrote it. Hence the Church still plays a role, even though it seems passive with regard to that person in this generation (since they may have learned it from the lips of a protestant minister), nevertheless, we should not ignore the dynamis, i.e. the power and the non-passivity of the Church for over one thousand years which caused it to be proclaimed and preserved and loved so much that it was one of the few things that Protestants and Catholics kept in common with each other and with us. They are still called to salvation through the Church in this sense, if they assent to the calling of the Gospel, even if they have never heard of the Orthodox Church.
Now the Gospel is the pinnacle of kerygma, and yet it is also at the heart of the Mystery (an example of which is the anemnesis, whereby the Gospel truth of the Mystery of Mysteries is revealed, and the calling down of the Holy Spirit, the Lords prayer, etc.). So then, is part of the Gospel kerygma and part Mystery? No, but rather the Gospel is the written word of God, i.e. truth revealed in written form (i.e. primary expression of revelation), which is a basis for both a revealed on different levels: by Mystery and Kerygma. Hence the Gospel penetrates both Mystery and Kerygma, and is found at the heart of both.
To evangelize, then, refers to two things: 1. the Gospel-based edification of the faithful
2. Calling people home to the Church by the proclamation and enactment of the Gospel.
Where does the principle of philoxenia (hospitality) fit in here? Well, there needs to be several things:
showing hospitality to strangers for thereby you might be entertaining angels unawares i.e. those who you do not know if they are Orthodox/Christian or not.
showing hospitality to those who you know are not even accustomed to Christianity
showing hospitality to those who are familiar with Christianity but not Orthodoxy
showing hospitality to those who are familiar but not members
showing hospitality to a brother or sister in Christ from another place
In all of these things we have a model: the hospitality of Abraham, in which when we show hospitality to strangers, be it in category 1,2,3,4 or 5, we are on some level showing hospitality to God himself, and hence: if you have done it to any of the least of these, by brethren, you have done it unto me.
How do we go about doing any of this?
1. kindnessoffer service books, handshakes, smile or some other gesture, etc.
Also, does your Church have something which could hinder someone in any of the 5 categories above (i.e. dollar amounts on the candle baskets, candles only in the front of the Church, a disorganized coffee hour, whereby long lines are a problem, cliques in the social hall, leaving visitors or even co-parishoners isolated and alone.
2. and 3. both need help with following the services and explanations.
4. needs to feel that they will belong. They need to feel a sense of reality in the parish of love and oneness.
5. needs to feel the comfort of the spirit.
Now the worst thing is for any of these to come in with children, and to have the children feel isolated. Help outlet them know that you could be their childrens godparents and friends of the family. Children must not feel creepy in your church (you know there is something wrong with your parish when a child feels uneasy when they are regular churchgoers. Help to take care of their children while in Church (i.e. hold the children, let them see the icons, take them for walks, etc.).
Also, traditional processions and banquets on feast days need again to be a regular occurance. Processions are a traditional way to reintroduce Orthodoxy to a neighborhood or a town. Not just on Pascha night either!
Employers need to regulate employee policies to reflect the life of the Churchdays off for the twelve great feasts (for other employees, they could take off for 12 other religious holidays). They also need to take care of Orthodox brethren. It is a shame what has happened, people not taking care of one another.
In any case, kerygmatic activities also include soup kitchens, houses of hospitality, hospitals or charitable doctor services, etc. Are you taking care of your brethren. When you participate in any professional charitable day (free dentist day, for example), post it in the parish and in announcements so that fellow parishioners who dont have and dont know will be able to take advantage of it first (as St. Paul says, we must minister to all men, but especially to those of the house of God).
Question: Father Harry,
Reading through Fr. Alexander Schmemann's HISTORICAL ROAD OF EASTERN ORTHODOXY. He
has a very negative view of Justinian, seeing him as the culminating episode
in the effort by the Empire to co-opt the Church for its own pragmatic
purposes. Details in Justinian's tyranny include his brutal suppression
of the last vestiges of paganism, his forced removal of any bishop he
didn't like and replacement with puppets who were only able to maintain their
chairs by police protection, his embarrassing strongarming of the Pope
and others in the awful events leading up to the 5th ecumenical council, and
several other similar things, culminating in the loss of Egypt and Syria
forever. Schmemann thinks his"symphony" philosophy of church and state was essentially Pagan--the
State failing to understand that the Church was more than an instrument for
imperial unity and divine blessing. Do you think Schmemann is wrong in
all of this characterization or would you grant this portrayal but stress at
the same time Justinian's philanthropy, Church construction, and other good
Answer: I want to say first that, although there is much value in Fr. Schmemann's works, the Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy is by far Fr. Schmemann's least impressive work. It is difficult for a historian to take it seriously. He was very valuable as a Sacramental Theologian but as a historian left much to be desired.
First of all, Schmemann is one of those who thinks that we have "progressed" past the Empire. The claim is that neither the Empire (Byzantine nor Kyivan nor Russian nor Serbian, etc.) nor monasticism was altogether successful as a vehicle of spreading Christianity properly, since both imposed cultural restrictions in missionary activity, and carried pagan roots with it. This is a common view in our day. Of course, on some levels this is true, and on others it is misleading. To blame St. Justinian for losing Syria and Egypt is unfair, since they were already lost. I read two historians (cannot remember either of names right now) who state that the ratios actually changed in Egypt for the better from the mid-sixth through mid-seventh centuries due to two figures: Emperor Justinian and St. John the Almsgiver of Alexandria. There are no recorded bishops that went to "their side" based on teh 5th council. But there are, verifiably in the historical records, bishops who came to "our side" because of the 5th council. Also, who can ignore his famous "Letter to the Monks of Alexandria Against the Monophysites". In it, he formulates it in the language of Alexandrian "flesh" theology which was accused only radical monophysites, and not the "mainstream" non-Chalcedonians of heresy.
As for symphony of Church and state, Justinian never advocated such a thing. This is a clear misunderstanding of his teaching. He advocated symphony of priest and ruler within the Church, not a symphony of church and state within the world. His vision only applies to rulers who are Orthodox laymen and who are functioning in their distinctive roles. This synergy of church and state was good in terms of their being Ecumene, but outside of a completely Orthodox government he thought symphony to be impossible, since only faithful Orthodox laymen are obedient to the Church and the Lord thereof and thereby can be Emperors of the Ecumene. This cultural relationship likewise was not responsible for their leaving, the theology "simply being an excuse." Tyranny is a clear exaggeration on Schmemann's part. As for brutality, there are several instances which are not even verifiably historical, but are called by some "mere character assassination." I suppose the nation of Israel carried pagan roots with it in his mind, with its prophet-king symphony? This was the basis of Justinian's thinking, that God ruled all men, through the state in corporal matters and through the priest in spiritual matters, but because these two cannot be separated in man, but are a symphony in man (i.e. soul and body), and were a symphony in Israel, so should it be on earth. All is the Church in such a model: Civil rulers are distinctive lay members of the Church with a specific God-appointed role and jurisdiction (St. Paul's idea, not his). The danger is, of course, confusing the "Empire" with the "Church", the earthly kingdom with the heavenly kingdom. But Justinian did not, and I think that this was clear from his writings. He acknowledged that earthly kingdoms are fleeting, but saw as ideal an earthly kingdom that was ruled by sons of the heavenly kingdom.
As for his character, he built and rebuilt, out of his own funds, monastary and church buildings for existing and new communities as they sprouted up. St. Justinian was superb in his almsgiving, with his own money establishing hospitals, hospices, establishing and redoing poorhouses and orphanages so that the persons in them could live well, even inviting the poor into his own banquets. He made a law stating that it was required of Christian Emporers that they, out of their own funds, are responsible to maintain and build churches and philanthropic services (hospitals, etc.) with their own funds. The doors of his palace were always opened to all without distinction of nobility or commoner (one of the few emperors that did this, since assassins could easily get in and kill him). Incidentally, no one ever did. Whenever someone was put in jail due to speaking or acting against the emporer, he pardoned them and asked them their pardon whatever he did not provoke them. He married Theodora, a commoner and (worse yet in those days) an actress. He was the first Christian Emperor to make it fully possible for someone born in illegitimacy (by concubine, servant, etc.) to become fully legitimate and to do away altogether with the "pagan concept" of labelling someone made in the image of God as illegitimate, simply because their parents had sinned.
Question: What is the unforgivable sin spoken of by John? What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Thank you
Answer: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is "to speak (Greek perpetual/continuous present tense) against the Holy Spirit" which "will not be forgiven...either in this age or the ages to come (Matt. 12.32). Mark is helpful in filling us in even further in Mark 3.20-30: "'He has Beelzebub...by the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.' So He called them to HImself...Assuredly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against he Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation' [He said this] because they said, 'He has an unclean spirit.'" Thus, to continually declare (Greek perpetual present--i.e. not repented of) that the Holy Spirit is unclean or to not recognize that it was by the Holy Spirit that Christ caste out demons or healed, is blasphemy. Christ does not say it is "unforgivable" but rather "will not be forgiven".
The "sin unto death" in 1 John 5 may be unforgiven if one does not follow the instructions earlier given in 1 John to openly "confess your sins", but it is nowhere called "unforgivable", but rather sin that is unrepented of (thus growing into perpetual practice) or grievous. Unforgivable would be something that under no condition would be forgiven. Forgivable is something that may or may not be forgiven depending upon the person's repentance. God Bless.
Question: What was the gulf of separation as stated by Christ in Luke 16:26?
Was it literal or allegorical?
Answer: It is not, strictly speaking, metaphorical nor wholly allegorical. There is a gulf fixed--a gulf much like the pillar of cloud and fire that stood between Pharoahs armies and Moses. Remember that hades is not yet been caste into Gehenna (cf Rev. 19-21), but the same principle applies, and likewise those in Abrahams bosom do not yet have their bodies back until all humanity is fulfilled. Our Lord was crucified in Jerusalem, yet it was not Jerusalem inside the walls but outside. Yet it was still seen outside as having Gods presence. Gehenna (the local garbage dump for Jerusalem) again did not lack Gods presence, but there was a gulf between the dump and the city. Likewise there was the walls of Jerusalem, which you cannot enter unless you enter by the gate who is Christ. It is true that to pass the gulf is impossible. Yet with God, even that which cannot happen is possible. We cannot put God in a box. He will not repent (change his mind) from his good deeds but mercy prevails over judgement. Thus our souls go to a place and a state. The state is the same: the river of fire of Gods energies. As for the placesame river and same town, different side of the riverbank/different part of town. The general place is the same as well with a spiritual chasm to divide the two. Just as before the second coming so also afterwards. Those who are in Abrahams bosom in soul will be in the New Jerusalem in soul and body, and those who are in hades in the soul will be in Gehenna in soul and body. There is one general resurrection (John 5). However, to those who are over the chasm/outside the walls (i.e. their hateful and sinful hearts cannot even recognize the Gate to the city let alone know how to get to it) experience Gods wrath whereas those inside the walls experience this same river of fire as a warming love.
Question: If it does not depend on the conditions to be unbearable on the earth before Christ returns, why did He say in Mark 24:37 as in the days of Noah so it shall be when then the Son of Man comes in which scripture states in Genesis 6:5-8 That it was so corrupt the LORD was sorry He made man on the earth.(and those were the days of Noah where He brought a flood on the earth ) and in various apocrypha it is said that first the LORD would flood the earth and then burn it with fire which Peter also refers to in 1 Peter 3:3-9.How is it possible that billions of people will be converted before His return when the opposite is happening against Christianity and even Christ stated Luke 18:8 When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on earth? Is it not a remant group He is referring to that is to be saved i.e.Luke 18:26-37.
Answer: In any case, I was speaking of causality and dependency and purpose. Please note that I did not say that things would not be bad, but rather that the end of the world does not depend upon this fact, but rather the wickedness is a symptom that will be found, but will not be the primary REASON why God brings the world to an end. Much of the wickedness is fulfilled all throughout the last days (the entire time since Christ) and not just at the last part of it. My point was that we have been in the last days since Christs first coming, and these signs are fulfilled all throughout on different levels. But with the Lord a days is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day, so the times, time and a half of time are rather different for him than for us, who think that 50 years is a long time.
Rom. 11:25: blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentlies has come in. (cf. Luke 21.24). Therefore the end comes BECAUSE Christ wishes the Gospel to be preached to all nations (Mat. 28) and to every creature (Mk 16): And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24.14). Practically speaking, the Koreas, China, and much of Africa, and the southern Arab lands are getting the Gospel preached to them for the first time, and still is not quite widespread. Despite the tribulations, the Gospel will still finally go out into all the earth.
As a brief aside, the apocrapha (I assume you are speaking of non-canonical books such as Enoch and the book of Moses and other such things), of course, from early times have been excluded from the canon, and to those who listen to them there is nothing we can do unless God sheds light upon their hearts. Why should I not listen to these lost books? For the same reason I do not listen to the Koran or the book of Mormon, because it is made up and has never been accepted by Gods people as having authorityit is not Scripture. As opposed to the deuterocanonical books of Scripture, which have always been utilized in the church, the unaccepted books of lost wisdom have not.
Matt. 24.37 is clear when we look at the verse in context. Where does he start the context? 24.36. We know that Matthew 24.37 is not speaking of a similarity in Gods intentions because God himself promises this. The exact words of Scripture are: And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the earth any more for mans sake; for the imagination of mans heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done (Gen. 8.22). The covenant with Noah of the rainbow and no further destruction of the whole earth was a foreshadowing of the church and was also one of the old covenants. We speak of an Old Testament but truly it is a series of old covenants culminating with that of Moses and fulfilled in the new. The new covenant was promised in the covenants of old.
Please understand Matt. 24.39 exactly as it says in the original (but actually you can pick it up in the King James English to some degree), it reads as such: they knew not until the coming of the flood
so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be. In other words, the analogy is the flood to Christ in its coming. He even then compares himself to a thief in vs. 43! But just as he is not identify every aspect of his coming with the thiefs coming in .43 neither is he identifying every aspect of the coming of the flood with his coming in .37. Clearly in both he has set the tone in .36that it will be a surprise just as with the flood and just as with the thief). Those outside the ark in the analogy are those who are outside the Church and unbelievers who, though have set foot in the ark left before the rains came and before the door was shut because they did not believe God, as St. Cyprian said in the 3rd century (On the Unity of the Church 37). God promised the flood, no one believed it was coming; God promised the second coming, no one but those who cared enough to believe and enter the ark and remain on it until the flood are concerned about it. Thus, just as those outside were surprised by the flood when it came but it was too late because the ark had been shut and sealed, so also when Christ comes it will be too latethey will be caught off guard due to their unbelief and their failing to prepare at all times for his coming as he commanded. Keep vigil, therefore, for you know not what hour your Lord comes (.42).
Sodom and Gomorrah was a localized incidence and had nothing to do with universal covenants except for its ties to evacuating Abrahams family since through Abraham would come the final three covenants. The first covenant was that God promised that man would live and that the earth would be free of corruption if man was obedient, but that, in the case of disobedience, the earth would be removed from the blessing and fall corrupt and subject to decay and death.
Although one could number the covenants in the Old Testament many times, we must point out the a covenant is a two way street, a promise is a one way street with no conditions, although a promise may also be called a covenant in old testament broad definition. But the covenant was that man if he was to come inside the ark before it was sealed would be saved, but otherwise would perish in his disobedience.
The third promise after the flood was that God would not destroy the entire earth again because of mans sinfulness (Gen. 8.22--rather, it would be purification in the fulfillment of all things, as we would find out later).
We should probably number a few other things that were covenantal in nature--Babel was that in obedience man would have a unified mode of communication, but in disobedience and sinfulness language would be confounded and difficulty communicating with one another.
The fifth covenant and promise was to Abraham, the promise of the Christ as seed (singular) and the promise that first there would be a deliverance of seeds from Egypt (Mosaic Covenant and Law) but also that eventually by his seed (sing. Christ/Messiah) all nations of the earth would be blessed (New Covenant under Christ).
The sixth was to Moses and the Hebrews
The seventh was to and from Christ Himself. All others preceding in some way pointed to this New and everlasting Covenant. But now I am probably sidetracking a bit.
The earth melting with fervent heat in 2 Peter and the other places is a reference, not to destruction but to purification. For either God is a liar and does not keep his promises, or the second coming will be a purification and renewal of heaven and earth (theosis), and that the former things and the fallen and corrupt nature of the earth as it is now shall pass away like impurities out of gold when it is melted in the fire.
The term remnant biblically does not necessarily mean a small number, but indicates those who remain after destruction (Josh. 12.4; 13.12). In our case it will be a relatively small number (1/3 saved vs. 2/3 unsaved) but nonetheless, still indicates a significant number of people. The remnant is of Israel. A remnant in Biblical terms is 1/3, which literally would be nearly 2 billion being saved and 4 billion going straight to hell.
In fact, St. Peter and the Lord are basically assuming that we are familiar with Zechariah 13.8-9, which ties the remnant and the fire ideas together. In those days, especially with the Saducees renouncing the doctrine of the resurrection, passages such as this one were the John 3:16s of their day. Thus also Revelation 9 assumes that you will know the 1/3 2/3 references that it makes.
The reference in St. Peter is to Baptism, which Christ said he would not come until it was fulfilled that all nations are baptized. There are many allegories and references to the end that imply different numbers. For instance, sheep and goats, those on the right and the left. A remnant in biblical terms is 1/3. Remember also the parable of the Vinedresser and the Vineyard.
These days shall be shortened for the elects sakewe do not know what that means. But the PURPOSE and reason for the end of the world is not to end things because it gets so bad, but to inaugurate the kingdom because the fullness of time is at hand. I stated that, although there will be these conditions at the end of the world, they are symptoms, not causes. Though the conditions may be the same as that of Noah the purpose is different: the fullness of mankind has come in is the purpose. He is not destroying the earth in wrath which he promised he would never do. The Parousia is the coming and fulfillment of man.
Millions of people are being converted to Christ, even daily in nations which had never accepted it before. Therefore it is untrue to contend that people are not being saved. Despite all the evil of the 20th century we had more martyrs than can be counted. Just because Europe is going to hell and the US not far behind does not say anything about the rest of the world.
As for the statement about Christ as to will he find faith upon the earth, this might make us a bit frighteneddoes this mean 2 million people will be slaughtered by 4 million unbelievers. Or does this refer to the rapture. Literally the term earth here is ground or land (as opposed to sea and air). I will not go into the passages on this because I believe that you know them already (including the Thessalonian and Corinthian accounts of the rapture and believers being caught up into the airthe opposite of earth). But we also know that the answer lay in the fact that there will be two things that happen at the end of time. Many of those born into Christian families will altogether leave the church (apostasize) and even renounce it and persecute it. However, we also know the strange thing that many of Israel will return to the fold of the Church! Remember Christs definition of Faith is different from ours. The Apostles were constantly being asked where is your faith. He is not alluding to people being saved, for in fact when he returns every tongue will confess Christ which is why not everyone that calls me Lord Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven. The believers will apostasize. Those new people will still be struggling with faith and with prayer but nonetheless, they shall be saved. We as of yet dont have faith the grain of a mustard seed.
Question: When is the day when the Son of Man will be revealed ? (Luke 17:30)
Answer: This whole passage in Luke is basically a commentary by St. Luke on the corollary passage in the Gospel of Matthew. Luke throughout makes sure that details that St. Matthew left out that explained things were put into his narrative. As lightening comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together (Matt 24.27). Likewise, St. Luke lets us know a different time that the Lord taught the Lords prayer, because he wanted us to know that the Lord was not giving us a formula but something that should be prayed from the heart. We know that the sun was darkened and the moon turned into blood at the cross.
The carcass is the body of Christ and the eagles are the saints.
It is interesting to note that the son of man will come in the same manner in which he went. Again, the signs that were given at the beginning will also be toward the end of the age. Hymn at Vespers of the Last Judgement: When Thou shalt come, O righteous Judge, to execute just judgement, seated on Thy throne of glory, a river of fire will draw all men amazed before Thy judgement-seat; the powers of heaven will stand beside Thee, and in fear mankind will be judged according the deeds that each has done. Then spare us, Christ, in Thy compassion, with faith we entreat Thee, and count us worthy of Thy blessings with those that are saved. Again, this is the same river of fire I referred to before. 2 Thessalonians 1.7
when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire exacting vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He created us precisely so that this consuming fire which God is will be destruction from his face, which functions as retribution and vengeance for those who have not turned from their sins and who know him not, but is an embracing warmth and light to those who know him. This entire passage in Matthew is speaking of two distinct things simultaneously. First it is speaking of his first coming and his suffering and resurrection. The day that the Son of Man was revealed was the day of the Resurrection. This whole passage in Luke then is also speaking of the rapture, and that is where the allegorical connection is made with Noah and with Sodom. As you can see from the verse before, in Luke 17.29, that the remnant brought out of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the remnant (those who are saved) are called up into the ark, which is raised up off the ground into the sky, in Noahs time by the waters, in the last days by His angels.
Question: Why is it impossible for Christ to be an Essene?
Answer: It is impossible for Christ to be an essene for several reasons. \
--Celibacy is mandatory for essenes that was imposed upon others, whereas Christ stayed at his Apostles mother in laws house, which was against essene law
--Essenes were extreme fanatics about he mosaic law, and Christ was constantly doing and permitting and saying things that were never allowed in Qumran. Just one example is that Essenes were more fanatical about he Sabbath than the Pharisees were. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and stated a very anti-essene statement: The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. If he was an essene at this point he would never have been allowed back into the community. I could go on and on but there is no need to, this point is obvious for anyone who knows Scripture.
--Christ predicted the temple to be destroyed (the Essenes expected and required the belief in the opposite, that there would be a permanent restoration of temple worship).
--The Essenes believed firmly in avoiding sinners. To associate in any way, even to attempt to convert sinners, meant immediate expulsion. An essene would have never made a statement go into all the world and make disciples
To associate at all with outsiders was out of the question
--Baptism once and for all again contradicted the numerous and constant immersions of the Essenes
--The Messiah of the Essenes was one who would inaugurate the Kingdom through violent war and angels fighting at their side slaughtering all the Gentiles and enemies of the Essenes.
--Jesus directly addressed and contradicted Essene teaching. For instance, the essenes taught hatred of enemies: I have heard it said that you are to love you friends and hate your enemies, BUT I SAY UNTO YOU love you enemies
--The Essenes believed, not in a single Messiah, but in two messiahs, one Christ that was from Judah and Davidic and the other Christ that was anointed from the Levitical priesthood.
--Christ warned not to follow anyone who claims that here Christ is or there Christ is whereas it was required essene belief that he would appear here or there in the desert. He warned not to follow people in the desert if they wanted to see the Messiah.
CONCLUSION: If Christ was an Essene at one time he clearly rebelled. He made just as many statements against Essene teaching as he did against the teachings of the Scribes, Pharisees, and Saducees.
What about the language issue?
Question: I read your article with great interest. You listed many reasons voiced by people for not attending Sunday Liturgy. I try not to be one of them, but find I have one of the symptoms you mentioned. My concern is that I do not understand the Ukrainian language, even though I am of Ukrainian parents. I am of Social Security age and beyond. Classes at this stage in my life will not help me understand the Liturgy as spoken by the priest. Is there a program that is being looked at to convert the US churches to American language? Some churches have a once a month American and others have combined Ukrainian/English Liturgy and with one all Ukrainian.
The Ukrainian founders of local churches are, more than likely, from Ukraine. They have established these churches and want to retain the Ukrainian Heritage. This a wonderful goal. My concern is for the future of the Church. I believe all religions in the US have the same problem - attracting and keeping younger members. I don't have a solution. I will assign this task to you. Thank you for listening. (For those who are not aware, the reader is referring to an article in the UOW January 2006 issue in which I had listed some excuses for not coming to church, one of which is "I don't like the language they are using". )
Answer: Dear faithful fellow member of the Body of Christ, I am glad that you brought this up. It is natural that you feel this way. Ps. 47.7 tells us to "Sing praises with understanding..." regarding our worship of God. I can only assume that your priest is dealing mostly with Ukrainian speakers. As Scripture states, "So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me" (1 Cor. 14.9-11). What everyone has to realize is that in order to bring in others, they cannot be made to feel like foreigners. Even doubling up on language still produces this feeling. "In Church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue [that is not understood]" (1 Cor. 14.19). Thus, we are called to worship in a language that is common to the people, and one that is EDIFYING to the people (1 Cor. 14.5;12). It is our goal that our parish "pray with the spirit" and also "pray with understanding" (1 Cor. 14.15).
When I made this remark in my article, although I was not clear about it in the article itself, I was referring to those who do follow several languages, but who romanticize one over the other. These people say "I would only go to church more often if...". There is an English camp and a Ukrainian camp. You know what is funny? In my parish, I did a mixed liturgy for a while. However, the turnout was not that high and parish growth seemed to be off in the distance. Now I do morning Matins (Utrenia, Orthros) in Ukrainian with some Slavonic, and I do Liturgy all in English. Saturday night I new do Vespers with Compline in English, and Nocturnes in Ukrainian for the benefit of immigrants. One thing that was an immediate change with the switch to English is the number of children and families that began coming regularly to Liturgy. The children understand it. I also began to increase the number of family oriented activities in the parish. This pleased many of the older members to see an increase of children and famillies coming, while others older members were turned off--they left for an older parish (After all, this is the "American way," if you don't have something your way you can just go to the next place without any sense of loss--what a shame). Also, many adults who used to come very infrequently come more frequently (including many who at first were not pleased with the move to English they are learning more about their faith and appreciating it on a different level than before, and thus come more often). Now here is the "kicker": many of the people who said "I would come more often if it was more in English" are not the ones who come more often (rather, it is those who sat silently patiently hoping for it to change to English)!
When I began at this parish, there was no weekly activity whatsoever with regard to children, and the children of the parish were mostly gone when I arrived or attached to fairly inactive families (not necessarily inactive in the faith altogether, but some would split time with parishes that had more that was relevant for them and their children). When I started two years ago, I had one child besides my own in church on a regular basis, and that family (a military family) moved away. Now, I rarely see less than 12-15 children in church--on a good day 20+! Many of the families who came occasionally before are now full timers! Why? Because they have needs and those needs need to be provided for. But what it took was a mission statement--identifying who we are and where we are going. It also takes a lot of effort and family oriented activity. To be honest, one of your questions I cannot answer. I do not know of any program to move to English. I do know this, that most parishes will not grow without a clear view of what their mission of existance is. And what the mission is will largely determine you language usage. Is it to preserve Ukraine on American soil? Will we let our churches diminish if we cannot have this? Is this what our Lord taught us was the mission of the church? Do we care about what God thinks on this matter?
As far as preservation of Ukrainian culture, you must remember that until Ukraine was independant, the only way to preserve it was "in diaspora." It was one of the missions of our Metropolia to do this because, under the soviet system, there was constant attempts to eradicate Ukrainian culture. However, new that there is an independant Ukraine, those in diaspora are no longer needed for this purpose--it is up to the now independant Ukraine to preserve and live Ukrainian culture. Now that this function is no longer needed, it is difficult for people to accept change--the change that our mission is now different than it was before. People loved feeling needed and that they could fulfill that need. Thus, the need now is to define what is now required of us by our Lord and is of utmost importance. Our parishes need the Orthodox Faith to become relevant and living in their lives. But again, it takes time and patience. In the meantime many of our parishes will die, but many will become much more alive who come to this realization, and new parishes will be established that are able to rise to the dual challenge that faces us.
We are living in the United States of America, and Orthodoxy has a strange role to play in the United States--to minister to everyone who seeks the Faith of the Apostles. However, that includes a wide range of people. One mission of our Metropolia is to minister to those who are here but also to minister to immigrants, which presumably would include teaching them English so that they can get decent jobs and live a decent life here on American soil. This would not conflict with the use of English except for romanticism--nostalgia--remember the good old days. Until we are one Church in the United States, we as a Metropolia are responsible to make Orthodoxy accessible to all in in the US, but also to take care of immigrants and reach back to the motherland. Once there is one church in the US, all Orthodox in the US will be responsible for taking care of all motherlands--everyone will be looking after Ukraine. But until that day, it is you and I--it is our Metropolia that has this task. This poses a problem for parishes that do not have two priests and two altars, it is like a juggling act in which the parishes struggle to grow. Again, there is also an ego problem in the parishes, in which other Orthodox "in theory may become members" but second class members they will be because "we are a Ukrainian church". In the creed we confess One Church. We are require to believe in this one Church and the ecclesiology which is associated with it. Not every parish can be geared toward immigrants that cannot speak English. Realistically, as a Metropolia consisting of three dioceses, because we have a twofold mission, we need two kinds of parishes. One type of parish will focus on bringing the United States to Orthodoxy and the other type to focus on the immigrants. I believe that without the first kind of parish that our Metropolia will dissolve and shrivel into nothingness. I also believe that without the second the souls of immigrants will dissolve and shrivel into nothingness. There is NO PARISH which should be stuck on making sure that sentimentality and status quo are provided to make people "feel good". We are called to spiritually grow and sacrifice for others, and sometimes this does not "feel good", at least not immediately. Those who are not willing to do so are only nominal Orthodox Christians anyway, and should have a change of heart and repent and return to the Lord their God. We must be driven by Gospel principles and not primarily "based on" good memories of our grandmothers house and days gone by. This does not mean that there is not a place for these good memories, but without the Gospel of Christ we cannot place them properly in our lives and in our churches. Our world is destroying itself and our children need us. Heritage is important, but looking at priorities in a world that is perishing, more than heritage our children and younger generations need their souls pulled out of the muck and mire of Satan's playground known as the fallen world. As our Lord said, "what would it profit a man if he gained the whole world but loses his soul." Are we willing to say that if they don't care as much about heritage as they do about the Faith that we will deny them the Faith handed down to us? If we do not step up to the plate, who will? I don't know which parish you belong to but I do know this, that you should be going to an Orthodox Church every week as an Orthodox Christian. It is also good for you to support your parish. It sounds like you need a parish of type A (or at least one that is transitionally mixed) when you are in one of Type B. As I said, there are very few which have two altars and two priests. But "do not neglect the gift that was given you..." the gift above all that is given you is your Faith. Find a way to practice it every day and to start out every week communing with the Lord, but also to do so with understanding. As a priest I will tell you to talk to the priest--see if he is aware of the problem, see if he will talk to you about it. Most importantly, find out his position and the position of the parish. Your parish may not have a mission statement in writing, but it probably has one in spirit. The Orthodox Christian Faith is so rich--do not waste another minute in failing to go and participate and learn just because your parish does not speak your language. Find out if your priest is willing to do mixed language and, if not, don't be bitter. This, your parish, will probably help many immigrants just like your parish come in. If so, support this parish in its efforts, but go to another nearby UOCUSA or other Orthodox parish which will help feed your soul. I know already of too many of our parishioners who have fallen away altogether from the Faith because they have not been encouraged to do this, to our own shame. God bless.