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Monday, January 31, 2011

St. Athanasius and the “Scope of Faith” by Fr. George Florovsky
Fr. George Florovsky

 The situation did not change in the Fourth century. The dispute with the Arians was centered again in the exegetical field — at least, in its early phase. The Arians and their supporters have produced an impressive array of Scriptural texts in the defense of their doctrinal position. They wanted to restrict theological discussion to the Biblical ground alone. Their claims had to be met precisely on this ground, first of all. And their exegetical method, the manner in which they handled the text, was much the same as that of the earlier dissenters. They were operating with selected proof-texts, without much concern for the total context of the Revelation. It was imperative for the Orthodox to appeal to the mind of the Church, to that "Faith" which had been once delivered and then faithfully kept. This was the main concern, and the usual method, of St. Athanasius. The Arians quoted various passages from the Scripture to substantiate their contention that the Saviour was a creature. In reply St. Athanasius invoked the "rule of faith." This was his usual argument. "Let us, who possess τον σκοπον της πιστεως [the scope of faith], restore the correct meaning (ορθην την διανοιαν) of what they had wrongly interpreted" (c. Arian. III. 35). St. Athanasius contended that the "correct" interpretation of particular texts was only possible in the total perspective of faith. "What they now allege from the Gospels they explain in an unsound sense, as we may discover if we take in consideration τον σκοπον της καθ ημας τους Χριστιανοθς πιοτεως [the scope of the faith according to us Christians], and read the Scripture using it (τον σκοπον, ton skopon) as the rule— ωσπερ κανονι χρησαμενοι" (III. 28) On the other hand, close attention must be given also to the immediate context and setting of every particular phrase and expression, and the exact intention of the writer must be carefully identified (I. 54). Writing to Bishop Serapion, on the Holy Spirit, St. Athanasius contends again that Arians ignored or missed "the scope of the Divine Scripture" (ad Serap., II. 7; cf. ad episc. Eg., 4). The (σκοπος) skopos was, in the language of St. Athanasius, a close equivalent of what St. Irenaeus used to denote as (υποθεσις) ipothesis — the underlying "idea," the true design, the intended meaning (See Guido Müller, Lexicon Athanasianum, sub voce: id quod quis docendo, scribendo, credendo intendit). On the other hand, the word σκοπος skopos was a habitual term in the exegetical language of certain philosophical schools, especially in Neoplatonism. Exegesis played a great role in the philosophical endeavor of that time, and the question of hermeneutical principle had to be raised. Jamblichos was, for one, quite formal at this point. One had to discover the "main point," or the basic theme, of the whole treatise under examination, and to keep it all time in mind [See Karl Prächter, Richtungen und Schulen im Neuplatonismus, in "Genethalikon" (Carl Roberts zum 8. März 1910), (Berlin, 1910). Prächter translates skopos as Zielpunkt or Grundthema (s. 128 f.). He characterizes the method of Jamblichos as an "universalistische Exegese" (138). Proclus, in his Commentary on Timaeus, contrasts Porphyry and Jamblichos: Porphyry interpreted texts merikoteron, while Jamblichos did it epoptikoteron, that is in a comprehensive or syntretic manner: in Tim. I, pp. 204, 24 ff., quoted by Prächter, s. 136.). St. Athanasius could well be acquainted with the technical use of the term. It was misleading, he contended, to quote isolated texts and passages, disregarding the total intent of the Holy Writ. It is obviously inaccurate to interpret the term (σκοπος) skopos in the idiom of St. Athanasius as "the general drift" of the Scripture. The "scope" of the faith, or of the Scripture, is precisely their credal core, which is condensed in the "rule of faith," as it had been maintained in the Church and "transmitted from fathers to fathers," while the Arians had "no fathers" for their opinions (de decr., 27). As Cardinal Newman has rightly observed, St. Athanasius regarded the "rule of faith" as an ultimate "principle of interpretation," opposing the "ecclesiastical sense" (την εκκλησιαστικην διανοιαν, c. Arian. I. 44) to "private opinions" of the heretics [Select Treatises of St. Athanasius, freely translated by J. H. Cardinal Newman, Vol. II (Eighth impression, 1900), pp. 250-252]. Time and again, in his scrutiny of the Arian arguments, St. Athanasius would summarize the basic tenets of the Christian faith, before going into the actual re-examination of the alleged proof-texts, in order to restore texts into their proper perspective. H. E. W. Turner has described this exegetical manner of St. Athanasius:

Against the favorite Arian technique of pressing the grammatical meaning of a text without regard either to the immediate context or to the wider frame of reference in the teaching of the Bible as a whole, he urges the need to take the general drift of the Church’s Faith as a Canon of interpretation. The Arians are blind to the wide sweep of Biblical theology and therefore fail to take into sufficient account the context in which their proof-texts are set. The sense of Scripture must itself be taken as Scripture. This has been taken as a virtual abandonment of the appeal to Scripture and its replacement by an argument from Tradition. Certainly in less careful hands it might lead to the imposition of a strait-jacket upon the Bible as the dogmatism of Arian and Gnostic had attempted to do. But this was certainly not the intention of St. Athanasius himself. For him it represents an appeal from exegesis drunk to exegesis sober, from a myopic insistence upon the grammatical letter to the meaning of intention (σκοπος skopos, χαρακτηρ haraktir) of the Bible" (H.E.W. Turner, The Pattern of Christian Truth, London, 1954, pp. 193-194).

It seems, however, that Professor Turner exaggerated the danger. The argument was still strictly scriptural, and, in principle, St. Athanasius admitted the sufficiency of the Scripture, sacred and inspired, for the defense of truth (c. Gentes, I). Only Scripture had to be interpreted in the context of the living credal tradition, under the guidance or control of the "rule of faith." This "rule," however, was in no sense an "extraneous" authority which could be "imposed" on the Holy Writ. It was the same "Apostolic preaching," which was written down in the books of the New Testament, but it was, as it were, this preaching in epitome. St. Athanasius writes to Bishop Serapion: "Let us look at that very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, which the Lord gave (εδωκεν), the Apostles preached (εκηρυξαν), and the Fathers preserved (εφυλαξαν). Upon this the Church is founded" (ad Serap., I. 28). The passage is highly characteristic of St. Athanasius. The three terms in the phrase actually coincide: (παραδοσις) paradosis [tradition] — from Christ himself, (διδασκαλια) didaskalia [teaching] — by the Apostles, and (πιστις) pistis [faith] — of the Catholic Church. And this is the foundation (θεμελιον, themelion) of the Church — a sole and single foundation. Scripture itself seems to be subsumed and included in this "Tradition," coming, as it is, from the Lord. In the concluding chapter of his first epistle to Serapion St. Athanasius returns once more to the same point. "In accordance with the Apostolic faith delivered to us by tradition from the Fathers, I have delivered the tradition, without inventing anything extraneous to it. What I learned, that have I inscribed (ενεχαραξα, eneharaksa), conformably with the Holy Scriptures" (c. 33). On an occasion St. Athanasius denoted the Scripture itself as an Apostolic paradosis (ad Adelph., 6). It is characteristic that in the whole discussion with the Arians no single reference was made to any "traditions" — in plural. The only term of reference was always "Tradition," — indeed, the Tradition, the Apostolic Tradition, comprising the total and integral content of the Apostolic "preaching," and summarized in the "rule of faith." The unity and solidarity of this Tradition was the main and crucial point in the whole argument.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blessed Elder Archimandrite Philotheos Zervakos of Longovarda (1884-1980)

Blessed Elder Archimandrite Philotheos Zervakos is a well-known 20th-century Greek Orthodox elder, from Paros island, and spiritual son of St. Nektarios of Aegina. He was imprisoned twice by the Turks during the final years of the Ottoman occupation of Thessaloniki and many have witnessed the saint to "float/walk on air". Although he has not been glorified he is considered a saint in Greece.

Blessed Elder Archimandrite Philotheos (Zervakos) was born in the small and remote village of Pakia in Sparti, Peloponesse, Greece, in the year 1884 and was given the name of Constantine at his baptism. From childhood he demonstrated an exceptional love for God.

He was 18 years old, when he was inspired by the 54th Psalm to follow the monastic life. He departed from his paternal home with neither shoes or any possessions; he only had his tunic and a small gospel. In 1912, April 22, Father Philotheos was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Gabriel of Trifilia and Olympia. In 1924, he made an extensive pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Egypt. This is all described in his book published in 1925, Great and Wondrous Pilgrimages to Palestine and Sinai.

In 1930, Elder Ierotheos reposed, and Fr. Philotheos succeeded him as abbot of Longovarda. By this stage, Fr. Philotheos had the reputation of a saint. In 1934, he made another pilgrimage, this time to Constantinople. He returned to Greece and founded the convent of Panagia Myrtidiotissa Thapsanon (The Virgin of the Myrtle Tree), 4 km from Lefkes on the island of Paros, Greece.

Throughout his life, the Elder preaches the word of God and heard confessions for 68 years (1912 to 1978). During this time, he visited the islands of Paros, Antiparos, Naxos, Amorgos, Thera, Syros, Tinos, Andros, Sifnos, Patmos, Rhodes, Chios, Mytilene, Aegina, Hydra, Cyprus, Kefallinia, Zakynthos, Evoia, Skiathos, Prigippos. He also visited over 54 cities and towns throughout Greece, including Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thessaloniki etc. and internationally including Alexandria, Cairo, Constantinople, Suez etc

During his life, he built 12 churches, two monasteries, three cemeteries and two schools. The money he would receive from the faithful he would distribute to the poor, the widows and the orphans.

On the morning of May 8, 1980, the blessed Elder Philotheos died in his cell at Thapsana, Paros. His funeral was conducted by Archimandrite Dionysios of Simonopetra Monastery of Mt Athos. His relics were laid to rest at the convent in Paros, in a place that he chose beside the chapel dedicated to his spiritual mentor, St. Nektarios of Aegina (November 9).

He wrote :

Everything that the all-wise Holy Apostles and the Godly-wise Fathers of our Holy Orthodox Church handed down to us, many of their successors today want to abolish and so dislodge the Church. However, they will be unable to do this, because the Lord will crush them like vessels of clay. And the few elect will be shaken, and few out of the few will remain unshaken. Let us force ourselves to remain faithful and unshaken in whatever we have received from the divine Apostles, the Holy Fathers, and the teachers of our Church ... do and write as much as you can, but todays generation has eyes and sees not, ears and hears not... [Jer. 5:21; cf. Ezek. 12:2, Ps. 134:16-17, Mark 8:18]....

Our Lord said that His followers would perform miracles just as He did. Certainly, the life of Blessed Elder Philotheos gives ample evidence of his belonging to the company of Christ's true disciples. This is further confirmed by the abundant grace he possessed as a wonderworker, both during his lifetime and since his repose. His popularity as a confessor was heightened by his gift of clairvoyance: there are numerous examples of how he would remind people of specific sins they had forgotten or neglected to confess. There are recorded cases of barren couples who conceived soon after asking the Elder's intercession. Others have reported healings from goiter, from gangrene, from severe headaches and toothaches. A Striking miracle was recorded by Efstathia and Andrew Brouma of Athens.

A son, George, was born to them in March 1963. He appeared to be a normal, healthy baby, but as the weeks went by, he stopped eating. A pediatrician diagnosed the problem as "hepatitic enlargement of the tubes" and blood tests revealed Cooley's Anemia, a condition requiring repeated blood transfusions. The prognosis for; the infant was grim. A few days after the baby had been admitted to the hospital, the mother's sister recommended that they go see Elder Philotheos, who had just arrived in Athens from Partos. They did so, and, at the mother's tearful entreaty, the Elder accompanied them to the hospital.

The infant's weak breathing gave the only visible sign of life. The Elder prayed and made the sign of the Cross over the child. He then placed an icon of the Mother of God on the pillow. "What should I do?" asked the distraught mother. "Should 1 let him die here or should I take him home?" "No,:!' replied the Elder, "the doctors will give him to you in two or three days. However, in a year's time bring him to me on Paros." Those gathered around the crib were dumbfounded. "Father, what are you saying?" explained a nurse. "The child is at his end. It is unlikely that the doctors will even be able to perform the transfusion." "You are thinking one thing," responded the Elder, "and the Panagia is thinking another."

That night, the baby's fever rose and he had difficulty breathing. By morning, however, the fever had subsided and when the nurse weighed him she was puzzled to discover that he had gained two and a half ounces: the baby hadn't eaten anything for two days.
It was a miracle. On the third day, the baby was released from the hospital. His discharge papers read simply, "Anemia." The mother took her baby to Elder Philotheos to thank him for his wonderworking intercession. The Elder called the boy, "Moses-Theosostos" (God-saved).

Link this page: 

Counsels For Students- By: Elder Philotheus (Zervakos) of Paros

Elder Philotheus (Zervakos) of Paros (1884-1980)

Continue your lessons and don’t look at what this or that person is doing- just pay attention to yourself (Deut. 15:9). If many of your fellow-students are lewd, impious, blasphemous, and unruly, don’t you imitate them. When the Lord sent His disciples into the world to preach the Gospel, He told them: “I am sending you as sheep amid wolves: become wise like serpents and innocent like doves” (Matt. 10:16). And you, my child, are like a sheep amid wolves: become wise, and do not let the wickedness of the depraved, lewd, and impious influence you. Imitate the honey bee, which knows many impure, foul-smelling, and filthy places, but does not stop at these. 

He selects the fragrant and choice blossoms of the bushes and tress, and he gathers up the honey and the fragrant, aromatic wax. If you see anyone who is good, wise, pious and virtuous, imitate and keep company with him. Anyone you see that is lewd, filthy, impious, blasphemous, proud, envious and vindictive, do not approach him and do not keep company with him; but do not find fault with him, for Christ said: “Do no judge, so that you may not be judged, and do not condemn, so that you may not be condemned” (Luke 6:37).

Love, respect and take care of your parents, and your brothers as well. If they don’t listen to you, and scorn you, then don’t tell them anything. Just pray that the Lord may enlighten them to be at peace with one another. Also pray that the Lord may grant peace to the whole world and that we may all be deemed worthy of the heavenly and unending life and kingdom. Amen.
Excerpt taken from the book:
Father Philotheos Zervakos: Paternal Counsels
, Vol.1

St Anthony the Great: Thirty-Eight Sayings

1. When the holy Abba Anthony was living in the desert, he was in a state of melancholy (ακηδια) and his mind was darkened by a multitude of imagined things (λογισμων), and he said to God, Lord, I want to be saved, but these thoughts will not leave me alone. What shall I do in my trouble? How will I be saved? A little later, when he went outside, Anthony saw someone like himself, sitting and working, then rising from work and praying, and again sitting and plaiting a rope, then again rising for prayer. It was an angel of the Lord, sent for the correction and insurance against stumbling of Anthony. And he heard the angel saying, Do this, and you will be saved. And when he heard this, he had great joy and courage, and did this, and was saved.
2. When Abba Anthony meditated upon the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, saying, Lord, how is it that some perish when short-lived, and some live to extreme old age? And why are some poor, and yet others rich? And why are the unrighteous rich, and yet the righteous are poor? And he heard a voice saying to him, Anthony, keep your attention on yourself, for these things are the judgments of God, and they will not benefit you to learn them.
3. Someone asked Abba Anthony, saying, What must we keep in order to be pleasing to God? And the elder answered, saying, Keep what I tell you. Whoever you may be, always keep God before your eyes. And whatever you do, do it from the witness of the Holy Scriptures. And in whatever place you live, do not leave quickly. Keep these three things, and you will be saved.
4. Abba Anthony said to Abba Poimen that this is the great work of man: always to reproach himself for his own faults before God, and expect temptation until the last breath.
5. The same said, No one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven untempted. He said, Remove the temptations, and no one would be saved.
6. Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, What should I do? The elder said to him, Do not put your trust in your righteousness, nor regret past actions, but control your tongue and stomach.
7. Abba Anthony said, I saw all the traps of the enemy spread over the earth, and groaning, said, What can get through these? And I heard a voice saying to me, Humility.
8. He also said that there are some who have worn out their bodies in asceticism, and because of this they do not have judgment, being far from God.
9. He also said that from a neighbor is life and death. For if we gain a brother, we gain God. And if we scandalize a brother, we have sinned against Christ.
10. He also said, Just as fish die on dry land, thus also the monks loitering outside their cells or spending time with those of the world lose the intensity of quiet (ησυχιας). And so, like the fish to the sea, so we must hurry to the cell, lest we loiter outside and we forget our inner guard.
11. He also said that one living in the desert and in quiet (ησυχαζων) is delivered from three battles: of hearing, and speaking, and seeing. He only has one: fornication.
12. Some of the brothers came to Abba Anthony to tell him the dreams they had seen, and to learn from him if they are true, or from demons. Now they had a donkey, and it died on the way. When they finally came to the elder, he said to them first, How did the little donkey die on the way? They said to him, How did you know that, Abba? And he said to them, The demons showed me. And they said to him, That is why we came to ask you, lest we be led astray, because we have seen dreams, and many times they are true. And the elder fully convinced them by the example of the donkey, that they are from demons.
13. Once someone had been hunting wild animals on the desert, and saw Abba Anthony joking with the brothers [and was scandalized]. And the elder, wanting to fully convince him that it was sometimes necessary to relax (or “condescend” συγκαταβαινειν) with the brothers, he said to him, Put an arrow to your bow, and shoot. And he did thus. He said to him, Shoot again. And he shot. And he said again, Shoot. The hunter said to him, If I shoot without limit, the bow may break. The elder said to him, So it is with the work of God. If we shoot more than the limit of the brothers, they will promptly shatter. Therefore it is necessary for one to relax with the brothers. The hunter heard these things, was pierced by remorse, and being greatly helped by the elder, went away. And the brothers, strengthened, went away to their place.
14. Abba Anthony heard about a certain young monk who had performed a sign (or “miracle” σημειον) on the road. As this one saw some elders walking along and struggling on the road, he ordered wild donkeys to come and carry the elders, until they came to Anthony. So the elders told these things to Abba Anthony. And he said to them, It seems to me that this monk is a ship full of goods, but I do not know if he will come into the harbor. And after a time, Abba Anthony suddenly began to weep, to pull out his hair, and to mourn. His disciples said to him, Why do you weep, Abba? And the elder said, A great pillar of the Church has now fallen (for he spoke about the young monk). He said, But go to him, and see what has happened. So the disciples went, and found the monk sitting on a mat, and weeping for the sin he had committed. Seeing the disciples of the elder, he said, Tell the elder to entreat God to give me only ten days, and I hope to have defended myself (απολογησασθαι). But after five days, he died.
15. A certain monk was praised from among the brothers before Abba Anthony. So when he came, he tested him, whether he could bear insult. And finding that he could not bear it, he said to him, You seem like a village which is beautifully adorned outside, but plundered by robbers inside.
16. A brother said to Abba Anthony, Pray for me. The elder said to him, I will have no mercy on you, nor will God, if you yourself do not make every effort and beseech God.
17. Some elders came to Abba Anthony, and Abba Joseph was among them. And the elder, wanting to test them, put forward a saying from the Scriptures, and began to ask from the youngest, What is this saying? And each spoke according to his own ability. And to each the elder said, You have not found it. Last of all, he said to Abba Joseph, How do you explain this word? He answered, I do not know. So Abba Anthony said, Most certainly, Abba Joseph has found the way, for he said, I do not know.
18. Brothers were coming to Abba Anthony from Sketis, and got into a boat to come to him, finding there an elder also wanting to come to him. And the brothers did not know him. And they sat in the boat, speaking the words of the Fathers, and from the Scriptures, and also about the work of their hands. And the elder was silent. When they came to the dock, they found the elder also going on toward Abba Anthony. When they came to him, he said to them, You found a good fellow-traveller, this elder. And he said to the elder, You found good brothers with you, Abba. The elder said, Good they may be, but their courtyard has no door, and whoever wants to enter the stable may let loose the donkey. And he said this, because they were saying the first things that came to their mouths.
19. Brothers came to Abba Anthony, and said to him, Speak a word for us. How may we be saved? The elder said to them, You have heard the Scriptures. You have the means well enough. But they said, But we want to hear from you, Father. And the elder said to them, The Gospel says, If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, also turn to him the other. They said to him, We are not able to do this. The elder said to them, If you are not able also to turn the other cheek, then permit just one to be struck. They said to him, We cannot do this. The elder said, If you are not able to do this, do not give as you have received. And they said, We cannot do this. So the elder said to his disciple, Make them a little soup, for they are weak. If you cannot do this, and will not do that, what can I do for you? You need prayers.
20. A brother renounced the world and gave his possessions to the poor, keeping a little back for his own reason, and went to see Abba Anthony. And learning this, the elder said to him, If you want to be a monk, go into the village, and buy meat, and place it around your bare body, and come back here thus. And the brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore his body. And when he came back to the elder, he wanted to learn if he had done as he had advised. When that one showed his torn up body, the holy Anthony said, Those who renounce the world, and want to hold onto possessions are thus torn by demons battling them.
21. Temptation once happened to a brother in the monastery of Abba Elias. And, cast out, he came to the mountain, to Abba Anthony. And the brother remained near him for a time, then he sent him to the monastery he had been expelled from. When they saw him, they expelled him again, and he returned to Abba Anthony, saying, They did not want to receive me, Father. So the elder sent to them, saying, A ship was wrecked in the sea, and lost its cargo, and with difficulty came safely upon the shore. And you want to cast back upon the sea what has made it safely to the shore. When they heard that Abba Anthony sent him, they quickly received him.
22. Abba Anthony said, I think that the body has a natural motion entangled with it. But it cannot act without the soul being willing. And it only signifies in the body a passionless motion. And there is also another motion, from nurturing and caring for the body with eating and drinking. By these the heat of the blood arouses the body toward action. So the Apostle also said, Do not be drunk on wine, in which is debauchery. And further the Lord in the Gospel commands His disciples, saying, Watch, lest your hearts are weighed down in indulgence and drunkenness. And there is another motion of those who struggle (or “compete” αγωνιζομενοις), coming from the plotting and envy of demons. You must understand that there are three bodily motions: one is natural, and another from negligence of intake, and the third from demons.
23. Further, he said that God does not send the same wars upon this generation as upon the ancients. For he knows that they are weak and cannot bear them.
24. It was revealed to Abba Anthony in the desert that in the city was someone like him, a physician by profession, who gave his surplus to those having need of it, and who all day sang the Trisagion with the angels.
25. Abba Anthony said that the time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will rise up against him, saying that you are mad, because you are not like them.
26. Brothers came to Abba Anthony and said to him a saying from Leviticus. So the elder went out into the desert, and Abba Ammonas followed him secretly, knowing his usual practice. The elder went very far, standing for prayer, and cried out in a loud voice, O God, send Moses, and he will teach me this saying. And a voice came to him, speaking with him. So Abba Ammonas said that though he heard the voice speaking with him, he could not learn the word from it.
27. Three of the Fathers had a custom to visit the blessed Anthony annually. And two of them would ask about distracting thoughts (λογισμων) and the salvation of souls. But the one was always silent, never asking. Now after a long time, Abba Anthony said to him, Behold, so long a time have you been coming thus, and you don’t ask me anything. And he answered, saying to him, It is enough for me only to see you, Father.
28. They say that one of the elders asked God to see the Fathers, and he saw them except Abba Anthony. So he said to the one showing these things to him, Where is Abba Anthony? And he said to him that in the place where God is, there he is.
29. A brother in a monastery was falsely accused of fornication, and he got up and went to Abba Anthony. And the brothers came from the monastery to heal him and take him back, and they started to charge that he did so. But he defended himself that he did no such thing. Now Abba Paphnutius happened to be there, and he said this parable: I have seen a man on the bank of the river stuck in the mud up to his knees, and some men came to give him a hand, plunging him in up to his neck. And Abba Anthony said this to them about Abba Paphnutius, Behold a genuine man, able to heal and save souls. So they were pierced by remorse at the word of the elders, and they offered repentance to the brother. And, encouraged by the elders, they took the brother to the monastery.
30. Some say about Abba Anthony that he was a Spiritbearer (Πνευματοφορος), but he would not speak about it with men. For he revealed things happening in the world, and things yet to come to happen.
31. Once Abba Anthony received a letter from Emperor Constantine, in order to come to Constantinople, and he considered whether to do it. So he said to Abba Paul, his disciple, Ought I to go? And he said to him, If you go, you may say [your name is] Anthony, but if you do not go, [it remains] Abba Anthony.
32. Abba Anthony said, I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear.
33. He said, Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember Him who gives death and who gives life. Hate the world and all the things that are in it. Hate all fleshly recreation. Renounce this life, so you may live for God. Remember what you have promised to God, for it will be required of you in the Day of Judgment. Suffer hunger, suffer thirst, suffer nakedness, keep vigil, mourn, weep, lament in your heart. Test yourselves, to see if you are worthy of God. Disdain the flesh, so that you may save your souls.
34. Abba Anthony once travelled to Abba Amoun, to Mount Nitria, and after meeting one another, Abba Amoun said to him, Because of your prayers, now the brothers are more numerous, and some of them want to build cells further away in order to have quiet. How much do you suggest is a far enough distance for the cells to be built from here? And he said, Let us eat at the ninth hour, and we will go out and we will investigate the desert, and look at the place. And so they travelled the desert until the sun came to set, and Abba Anthony said to him, We will make prayers and erect the cross here, so that those wanting to build will build here. So also those there, whenever they will visit these, having eaten their little bit of bread at the ninth hour, they may visit thus. And those leaving here, doing the same, may remain unworried when visiting one another. And the distance is twelve [mile] signs.
35. Abba Anthony said, Whoever strikes a lump of iron, first considers the thought of what he intends to make, a scythe, a sword, an axe. So also we ought to consider what kind of excellence we should pursue, so that we do not toil in vain.
36. Further, he said that submission with self-control subdues beasts.
37. Further, he said, I know monks that have fallen after many toils, and came to an ecstasy of pride, because they put their hope in their works, and were deceived about the commandment which says, Ask your father, and he will tell you.
38. Further, he said, If he is able, a monk ought to be confident in telling the elders how many steps he takes, or how many drops of drink in his cell, so that he will not stumble in them.

From the Aphothegmata Pateron, Anthony 1-38

St Macarius the Great: Man needs Christ - Homily 45

He who has chosen the eremitical life ought to regard all things in this world as strange and as the cross of Christ, denying all things, ‘even his own life also,’ (Luke 14.26). He ought to have his mind focused on the love of Christ and prefer the Lord to parents, brother, wife, children, friends, possessions. This the Lord taught, saying: ‘Everyone that has not left father or mother or brothers or wife or children or lands and does not follow me, is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10.37). In nothing else is there found salvation for men and rest as we have heard.
How many kings have appeared from Adam’s race, possessing dominion over all the earth, thinking great things because of their kingly power! And yet none of them, for all that they had in their favor, had the power to know the evil which had infiltrated the sould because of the first man’s transgression and had darkened it. They did not know the change that had come over the mind that at first was pure and contemplated the Master and was held in honor. And now on account of its fall the mind is clothed with shame and the eyes of the heart are blinded so as not to see that glory which our father Adam before his disobedience beheld.
There have been diverse wise men according to the world, among whom some were noted for their ability in philosophy, others have been admired for their sophistic abilities, others for their oratorical skill, still others were men of letters and poets and composed summary histories. There also were various artisans who practised the arts according to the world. Some carved in wood types of birds and fishes and images of men and in those they diligently sought to display their talent. Some fashioned by hand bronze statues similar to real humans and other things. Others build mighty and very beautiful buildings. Others dug out of the earth silver and gold that peris; others sought precious stones. Others possessed beauty of body and were pleased with their comeliness, and, all the more enticed by Satan, they fell into sin. And all of these artisans, being captured by the serpent dwelling within them and, not knowing the sin that abode in them, became slaves of the power of evil. They profited nothing from their knowledge and art.
Therefore, the world, filled with every variety, is likened to a rich man who possesses splendid and big houses, gold and silver and various possessions and all kind of service in abundance. But he is still seriously laden with sicknesses and afflictions and his whole family stands around, with all his riches, and is unable to relieve him of his infirmity. Thus no pursuit in this life, no brothers, no wealth, no courage, none of all the things mentioned above relieve man of sin, man who has been submerged in sin and cannot see things clearly. Only the presence of Christ can purify soul and body. Therefore, let us put aside every care of this life, and, crying out to the Lord night and day, let us devote ourselves to Him. This visible world and the rest found in it seem to comfort the body, but they aggravate all the more the passions of the soul and increase its suffering.
A certain prudent man desired to apply himself diligently. He strove with care to gain experience of all the things of this world, if he might be able to find some profit from them. He went to kings, potentates, rulers, and found no healing cure there to help his soul. And after spending much time with them, he found no improvement. He went again to the wise men of this world and the orators. He left them again in the same way, not having found any help. He toured the rounds of painters and those who mine gold and silver from the earth, and all the artisans, and he was unable to find any healing for his own wounds. Finally, having left them, he sought God for himself, the One who heals the sufferings and sicknesses of the soul. But as he was pondering about himself and meditated on these things, his mind was found wandering distractedly among those things from which he had visibly withdrawn out of hatred for them.
Take the example of a certain worman in the world who is rich with much money and a magnificent house, but she lacks any protection. And those who attack her to injure her and lay her buildings to waste are many. She, refusing the injury, goes out to seek a powerful husband, capable and educated in all respects. And after much struggle she finds such a man. She rejoices in him and has him as a strong wall. In the same way, the soul after transgression, and for a long time having been afflicted by the adverse power and having fallen into great devastation, ‘a widow and desolate’ (1 Timothy 5.5), was deserted by her heavenly Husband because of disobedience of the commandment. She was made fun of by all the opposing powers (for they drove her out of her mind and confused her in her heavenly knowledge), so she does not see what they have done to her, but only things she was born like this from the beginning. Then, after she had learned through hearing of her solitude and barrenness, she deplored her desolation before God, the Lover of mankind, and found life and salvation. Why? Because she went back to her family. For there is no other family tie and helpfulness like that between the soul and God and between God and the soul.
God made various kinds of birds. Some to fashion their nests in the earth and there to have their nourishment and rest. Others he ordained to build their nests under water and there to have life. He fashioned two worlds: one above for the ‘ministering spirits’ (Hebrews 1.14), and he arranged it that they have their communication there; the other world is below for men under this atmosphere. He created also sky and earth, sun and moon, waters, fruit-bearing trees, all kinds of animals. But in none of these did God rest. All creation is ruled by Him, and still He did not establish His throne in them nor did He enter into fellowship with them. But it was only with man that He was please, fellowshipping and resting in him. Do you see the relationship of God to man and of man to God? Therefore, the wise and prudent person, after passing through all creatures, took no rest in himself, but only in the Lord. And the Lord was well pleased in nothing except man alone.
If you raise your eyes to the sun, you find its orb in the sky, but its light and rays stretch to the earth and all the power of its light and its splendor is aimed at the earth. So also the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father ‘above all principality and power’ (Ephesians 1.21), but He casts His eye on the hearts of men on earth, in order that He may raise up to where He is those who accept help from Him. For this reason He says: ‘Where I am, there shall my servant also be’ (John 12.20). And again Paul says: ‘He has raised us up together with Him and made us sit together with Him at His right hand in heavenly places’ (Ephesians 2.6). Irrational animals are much more consistent than we. For they are all joined, each to its own nature, the wild animals to the wild and sheep to their own species. But you do not rise up toward your heavenly family with is the Lord, but you give yourself over and consent in your thoughts to the thoughts of evil. You make yourself a helper of sin and you wage war with it against yourself. Thus you make yourself a prey for the enemy, like a bird caught by the eagle and eaten up, or the sheep by the wolf, or an ignorant child that would be bitten by it and would be infected. For the parables act as models in the spiritual life.
As a wealthy maiden, espoused to a fiancé, may receive no matter how many gifts before the consummation, either ornaments or clothing or precious vessels, she is not satisfied with these until the time of the marriage arrives and she arrives at full communion, so the soul, betrothed as bride to the heavenly Bridegroom, receives as pledge from the Spirit gifts of healing or of knowledge or of revelation. But it is not satisfied with these until it reaches the perfect communion, that is, of love, which is unchangeable and unfailing. It makes those free from passion and agitation who have desired it. Or as an infant, decked out with pearls and costly clothing, when it is hungry, thinkgs nothing of the things it wears, but ignores them. It cares only for the breast of its nurse, how it may receive milk. So likewise consider it to be with the spiritual gifts of God to whom be glory forever. Amen.
St Macarius the Great. Homily 45

Surrender Yourself Completely to Him- by: St. Macarius the Great

How is it possible that in the face of so many exhortations and promises, we still refuse to accept totally to go to him and surrender ourselves completely to him? How can we refuse, as the Gospel says, to deny all other things, even our own soul (Lk 14:26), and to seek him alone with our love and give it to nothing else? But, look, all these things and such glory given! Look at all the loving dispositions of God manifested in the times of the fathers and the prophets! What promises! And what exhortations! What great mercy of the Lord has been shown us from the very beginning! Finally, in his own coming on this earth he has shown to us an ineffable kindness through his crucifixion in order to convert us and bring us into life. And yet, we do not will to give up our love for the world nor our evil tendencies and habits. In this way we show ourselves persons of little or absolutely no good faith. And in spite of all this, he still shows himself kind to us. He protects and cherishes us invisibly, not turning us over (according to our sinful deserts) to the deceits of evil and the world. He, in his great compassion and long-suffering, watches from above, waiting for the time we shall return to him.
Excerpt taken from the book: Pseudo-Macarius, The Fifty Spiritual Homilies & The Great Letter.

Meteorologists Cannot Explain the Miraculous Cloud of Mt. Tabor


Science cannot explain a mystery of the cloud, that every year descends on Mount Tabor where, according to the Bible, the Transfiguration of the Lord took place.
Sergey Mirov, a participant in the research organized this summer by the working group on miraculous signs at the Synodal Theological Commission, the investigation was conducted by Russian and Israeli meteorologists, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily writes.
According to him, summing up the results, the experts concluded that fog cannot be generated in such dry air and temperature.
Mirov stressed that the “descending of the blessed cloud” takes place only in the territory of the Orthodox monastery. He said that during the festival service (the miraculous phenomenon happens on the Orthodox feast of Transfiguration) a glaring sphere rushes over believers, then the cloud appears above the cross of the Transfiguration Church, it grows in dimensions and descends on believers, covering them and pouring life-giving moisture over them.
In his turn Pavel Florensky, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences academician and head of the working group on miraculous signs, said that his team examined the appearance of the Holy Fire at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Easter eve with the help of modern highly accurate equipment.
“The conclusion is simple: the appearance of fire is accompanied with powerful piezoelectrical phenomenon in the church and adjacent territories similar to those that take place during thunderstorms, but there was no thunderstorm… Thus, it means that this event can be considered miraculous,” he believes.


AFRICA: The 1,700-year-old Christian monastery hidden deep in Egypt's desert

By Christine Theodorou, CNN January 7, 2011 -- Updated 1816 GMT (0216 HKT) STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • St. Anthony's Monastery is one of the world's oldest inhabited monasteries
  • The monastery's founders were disciples of St. Anthony the Great
  • St Anthony lived as a hermit for more than 40 years to be closer to God
St. Anthony's monastery in Egypt maintains the 2000-year tradition of the Coptic Church.
St. Anthony's monastery in Egypt maintains the 2000-year tradition of the Coptic Church.
Photograph by Thomas Abercrombie/National Geographic
Ain Soukhna, Egypt (CNN) -- On the day when much of the world was marking Christmas, I traveled with friends to a remote location deep in the Eastern desert in Egypt. Nestled in an oasis within the Red Sea Mountains is one of the world's oldest inhabited monasteries: The Coptic Orthodox St. Anthony's Monastery.
Festivities here were still some ways off; Christmas in the Eastern Orthodox tradition falls 13 days after the western one.
The founders of this monastery were disciples of St. Anthony the Great, widely considered to be the Father of Monasticism because he initiated Christian monastic life as we have come to understand it today.
Our guide was Father Ruwais Antony who helped us understand how this 4th century monastery made Egypt the origin for a movement that spread throughout Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia and ultimately Europe.
The story goes that St. Mark, one of Jesus Christ's 12 apostles, arrived in Alexandria to spread the word. In a city rife with various schools of thought and religious beliefs, St. Mark was confronted with philosophers who were convinced his teachings were at odds with their own beliefs.
To defend his beliefs, St. Mark founded a theological school, teaching Christianity from a philosophical point of view. He lived a life modeled after Jesus and attracted many converts who ultimately became disciples.
These were the first monks.
The disciples followed a way of life that consisted of prayer, reflection, and fasting -- all elements of an ascetic way of life, but not in total isolation.
They lived and practiced their ideals close to their communities and families, and in the next century these ideas spread throughout Egypt.
Next, Father Ruwais sent us hiking up a winding staircase that would take us to St. Anthony's hermitage.
St. Anthony the Great was born in Upper Egypt to a family with considerable wealth but was inspired to adopt an ascetic lifestyle after coming into contact with the disciples.
In an effort to be closer to God, he chose to isolate himself for more than 40 years in a primordial landscape that is now the location for St. Anthony's Monastery.
At the summit, surrounded by stunning views of the desert and the Red Sea, is the cave's entrance and inside, a very narrow, dark, 10-meter pathway leading to a small shrine to St. Anthony. Small pieces of paper with prayers written on them were pushed into every crevice.
The monastery itself has five churches, a mill, and a water spring.
It was St. Anthony's church that left the most indelible impression. At the end of the 15th century, Bedouins managed to occupy the church and painted over frescoes dating from the 6th century. They were painstakingly restored in 1996 by Italian conservators.
One of the more extraordinary paintings Father Ruwais pointed out depicted the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the baby Jesus.
Father Ruwais went on to explain that it is believed St. Anthony's remains are buried beneath the main altar, so every Sunday afternoon the monks honor him by holding a candle and singing for him.
At the end of our tour Father Ruwais said his wish was for people to come closer to God, to hold the ideal in their heart, not just in words.

Feast of Three Hierarchs - Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel;
it is the power of God for salvation
to every one who has faith…. (Romans 1:16)

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In this first month of the new year we are blessed to have in the calendar of our Holy Orthodox Church the commemoration of the Three Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom.  On this day of their feast, we honor the lives and witness of these holy and brilliant men, who brought glory to God through their amazing service to the people in the name of Christ.  Their lives offer to us a genuine image of the power of the Gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, as they each believed in Him to the depths of their hearts, souls, and minds and as they were transformed by His presence into godly men imbued with divine power and wisdom.  Further, the Three Hierarchs present a witness of the Gospel through their ministry of teaching, their defense of the faith, and their love of learning, together with service to others characterized by compassion, humility, and sacrifice.
The lives of Saints Basil, Gregory, and John Chrysostom are beautiful testimonies of their acceptance of and total commitment to the Gospel.  Each was influenced by holy family members and teachers who had received the message of Christ and believed.  Each overcame struggles of mind and soul, challenges that were ultimately resolved in complete acceptance of divine grace.  Through their life-long commitment to God, they conveyed the priority and purpose of our human existence in receiving the Gospel and being restored to communion with God.
The belief of the Three Hierarchs in the Gospel was the foundation for their lives of service to God and to others.  What they believed and preached, they lived. The Gospel was for them not only a message of truth leading to true life and salvation, it was and is a ministry.  For Saints Basil, Gregory, and John Chrysostom the purpose of the message of God’s love extended beyond their own spiritual destiny to the needs of others.  Thus, they served in compassion and humility, denying their own selves and sacrificing any personal gain for the sake of their fellow human beings.  They lived the Gospel because they took upon themselves the example and ministry of Christ, oblivious to what they suffered, and generously offering all so that souls might be saved.
The Three Hierarchs were fully aware of the transforming power of the Gospel. It is the power of the Gospel that changes our understanding of all facets of our human existence.  This was reflected in the love of learning and language expressed by the Three Hierarchs as they affirmed the great potential of our God-given human abilities and the role of the mind and word in communicating the truths of life and faith.  This is why today is also a celebration of Greek Letters.  We recognize the role that Greek thought, language, and culture has had in furthering knowledge and understanding of our world.  Methods of thought encouraged intellectual clarity and contributed to great scientific discoveries and advances; the Greek language became a foundation for many areas of modern language, offering conciseness and structure; and Greek culture as an expression of thought, art and language, set standards in literature, rhetoric, art and architecture.  Saints Basil, Gregory, and John Chrysostom recognized the relevance of this in communicating the Gospel of Christ.  In addition to acknowledging the benefits of learning in the development of the mind, they also tapped the resources of Greek language and thought in order to illuminate great theological truths and to explore the implications of the divine revelation for our minds, souls and all of the created order.  They also saw the relevance of adapting various cultural elements, which were expressions of the creativity and ingenuity of humanity, as means of communicating the Gospel.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, on this feast day of the Three Hierarchs and the celebration of Greek Letters, let us look to the example of these great Saints of our Church and emulate their love of God and their faith in the Gospel of salvation.  May we build a life of service and witness on the foundation of our belief in what Christ has done for us.  May we also be grateful for the great inheritance we have received, one that nurtures a love of learning and language in the service of God and the ministry of the Gospel so that all humanity may hear, believe, and receive a Gospel leading to eternal life.

With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Judas’ Profile... - Fr. Eugen J. Pentiuc

Judas’ Profile in the Psalms: Meditation on the Holy Wednesday
Rev. Eugen J. Pentiuc, Th.D., Ph.D.
Excerpt taken from Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2006.
The most evocative component of the episodes of Christ’s suffering is perhaps the ambivalence of the incident of betrayal. At once we witness the valleys and the peaks of the human condition and we are drawn into a polemic that challenges us to glimpse the light amidst a deep darkness. Within the ambivalence, then, there exists this antagonism,
which only exacerbates the humanness of the story, and ought to give us greater pause. There is breadth of emotional dimension present in the various gospel accounts of the betrayal: friendship and trust, juxtaposed against greed, deceit, and fear. Not only does Christ have the onus of Judas’ perfidy to bear, but he is also beset by abandonment by others of his chosen twelve. Perhaps the most poignant of the recallings is the fleeing by the others in Mark’s narrative (Mark 14:50–52). Not only did they forsake their Master, but they left everything behind in doing so; this is in stark contrast to the original call of Christ to leave everything and join him (Matt 8:22; Mark 10:29). The fear of condemnation and death was greater even for the disciples than was the discarding of the one in whom they sought their salvation. Against this backdrop of disturbance and melee, we see the tremendous potential for humanity as Christ is led to and endures his sacrifice. These various dimensions should beget in us a keen perception of the vagaries of our humanness; that our individual, small efforts are insufficient to the task of our own improvement; and that our hope lies in turning over our lives to the one who took on our flesh and redeemed us from the darkness. By reference to the events and person of the Messiah, the Old Testament made available for the faithful of the early common era the apparatus of belief and understanding by which the perception of Christ as the Messiah could be conceived. It continues to make this apparatus available for contemporary readers of faith.

Two Messianic Psalms on Judas Iscariot

Ps 41:10/9: “Even my colleague, in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, lifted up [his] heel against me.”

Ps 55:13/12–15/14: “For it is not an enemy who taunts me, that I could bear; he who hates me did not lift his heel against me, then I could hide from him. But it is you, a person of my own rank, my compatriot, my confidant. For we used to sweeten our secret together in the house of God.”

Christ’s suffering begins with Judas Iscariot’s treachery, as he is sold by his trusted disciple. In looking at the prophetic hints of the betrayal, two questions arise: (1) Who was the one who delivered?; and, (2) How does the Old Testament portray the betrayer and the events leading up to Christ’s death on the cross?

John tells us of Christ’s words to Pilate, the man who would ultimately sentence Christ, and order his death, “[He] who delivered me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). For the sake of a presentation which parallels the elements of the gospel narratives, we will begin with a profile of the betrayer himself. What are the passages of the Old Testament which give us indication that the Messiah would be betrayed? That, he would be turned over to the authorities? That, as a result of the betrayer’s actions, he would be killed? We can specify the attributes of “the one who delivered” Jesus to the Jewish authorities and eventually to Pilate, the Roman governor. We will turn first to an examination of the Old Testament portrayals of the most famous betrayer.

The texts which specifically refer to the betrayer are Psalm 41:10/9 and Psalm 55:13/12–15/14. In the following pages, we shall explain these texts in their prophetic light and establish a profile of the betrayer in order to demonstrate the veracity of the prophetic message vis à¬-vis the events of the gospel narratives. The substance of both Old Testament passages is king David’s great disappointment, not only by the actions of his enemies, but by the actions of his intimate friend and counselor who sided with his enemies. The imbricated identity of the betrayer in these psalms is unfolded gradually, as it is in the gospel fulfillment account.

In its typological interpretation, Psalm 41 is messianic in both wide and narrow senses. In the wide sense, it conveys general statements of betrayal and humiliation to be suffered by the Messiah in the carrying out of his royal, prophetic and priestly tasks. Narrowly construed, it also conveys, as seen in verse 10/9, the specific image of David, the royal persona, betrayed by a close and trusted friend. The imagery and sentiment is repeated in the gospel narratives, and the duplicity of Psalm 41:10/9 is fulfilled by the chronicling of Christ and Judas and the scene of betrayal in Gethsemane. To view the prophetic message of our passage in its fullness, we must evaluate the signal components of the text.

a. Colleague. King David refers to the betrayer as “my colleague,” a phrase which, in Hebrew (ish shalom), is attended by undertones of significant relationship. In the Septuagint, the Hebrew idiom is rendered literally as “the man of my peace” (ho anthropos tes eirenes mou). Similarly, the Vulgate version delivers to us homo pacis mae, a virtually identical image. That ish shalom is a difficult idiom can be seen from the fact that the Targum, the Aramaic version on Psalm 41 inserts the word dtb’ “who seeks,” the whole phrase meaning, “the man who seeks my welfare (peace),” which actually fits quite well with Ahitophel’s profile. The original Hebrew idiom, however, means “colleague, comrade, companion”; in short, it connotes a specific and deep bond of shared intimacy. Neither the Greek nor Latin translation adequately brings forward the original metaphorical value of the Hebrew idiom; both render unsatisfactorily the idea of the close relationship between betrayed and betrayer.

In the garden of Gethsemane, at the time of his arrest, Christ called Judas “comrade, companion” (hetairos) which clarifies Judas’ status as one of the apostles, and sums his position as a co worker of Christ. Matthew (26:47–50) relates the scene in the garden with a particular clarity, and juxtaposes the act of betrayal by Judas against Christ’s commendation of him as “comrade.” The crowd, the kiss, and the arrest of Christ as he poses his poignant question to Judas, “Comrade, why are you here?” give a particularly weighty flavor to Judas’ deception, and intensify the agonizing aspect of the incident.

b. Trusted one. The trusted one (lit. batachty “[the one on whom] I trusted”) of Psalm 41:10/9 has been identified with Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, who sided with Absalom in his rebellion against his father the king (2 Sam 15:12). David wrote Psalm 41 after he learned that his friend had joined Absalom in his conspiracy (2 Sam 15:31; 16:23). The full psalm situates David in the context of bodily illness, and calumny brought upon him by surrounding enemies and, most bitterly, by his colleague. In spite of his lament, David successfully crushed Absalom’s rebellion, and his colleague, Ahithophel, hanged himself in remorse and abnegation (2 Sam 17:23).

In its realization in the New Testament equivalent, Judas was entrusted with the finances of the group (John 13:29), which gives us insight into the trust placed in him by Christ. As the fulfillment of the antitype Ahithophel, Judas joined in the conspiracy of the priests and scribes who sought Jesus’ life. It is significant that Judas paid the same price as Ahithophel for his mistake: he hanged himself (Matt 27:5). We should also note that none can avoid judgment when standing before Jesus: not Judas, not Pilate, and not the gospel reader of today. We must be careful not to exempt ourselves from the implications of faith and of being part to the Christian community. The gospel accounts are not historic exhortations to no longer extant communities; rather, they are intended for every generation of faith, to be understood and incorporated into the daily living of one’s personal and communal faith.

c. Meal Sharer. The relationship lamented in Psalm 41 has been posited to be that between David and Ahithophel. This was a cherished relationship of trust and mutual confidence, as indicated by the referent “colleague,” and further indicated by the act of eating together. The act of sitting at table with one’s closest companions is a nearly universal theme of hospitality, trust, and deep emotional connection between the sharers of the meal.

In the Hebrew text (“the one who was eating my bread”), the form of the verb used for “eating” (‘okel) is a participle, which expresses continuous or habitual activity, and some scholars suggest that it was a covenantal meal, shared in order to consecrate the friendship of David and Ahithophel. The use of the term “bread” (lechem) supports this hypothesis.

These themes of repetitive, continuous activity, and communion take on greater significance in the New Testament context of the relations between Christ and his disciples, and their shared life. For example, the habitual activity of the meal of Psalm 41 can be understood as an indicator of the several occasions when Jesus and his disciples used to eat together. The suggestion of a relationship based on a covenantal meal in Psalm 41 may also hint at the revelation Jesus made at the Last Supper regarding the identity of the betrayer, and the institution of the Eucharist (see, e.g., Matt 26:20–29; John 13:21–30). Typologically, “my bread” (Ps 41:10/9) may be a reference to “my body” (Matt 26:26–29); that is, it may refer to Jesus’ body, the Eucharist.

d. Despiser. The Hebrew reading higdil ‘al ‘aqeb “to lift the heel against somebody” is a hapax legomenon, an idiom found only in Psalm 41:10/9. It suggests, perhaps, a stamping with the heel of a boot, or giving a great kick spitefully. The main idea is that David and the royal family are rejected and humiliated by both a rebellious son and an intimate friend turned overnight into an enemy.

Christ himself witnesses to the scriptural reference to him in the Gospel of John, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread (ho trogon) has lifted his heel against me.’ I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he (i.e., Yahweh, the Lord)” (John 13:18–19). (NRSV) John continues, “After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray (paradosei) me”’ (13:21). (NRSV)

It takes little imaginative process to conjure the sentiment of betrayal. The poignancy of Judas’ act against Christ is augmented by the metaphorical reference to the kingdom of God as found in helplessness, rather than through the wielding of power over others. Jesus demonstrated the greatest vulnerability in his endurance of the trial, the humiliation, physical torture, and death. Crucifixion was deliberately designed to display the victim’s lowliness and the disdain in which he was held by the authorities. It was the most ignoble method of putting criminals to death.

e. Co equal. Psalm 55:14/13 adds an additional layer of detail to the profile of the betrayer. Interestingly, the Targum on Psalm 55 inserts the name of Ahitophel in order to clarify the identity of David’s “equal.” The Septuagint renders the Hebrew phrase ‘enosh ke’erky “a person according to my valuation, my equal” or “a person such as I,” as isopsychou “of equal spirit,” underscoring the point of shared intent of purpose, although not necessarily of the same rank. It is an ideological equivalence, distinct from the Hebrew idiom, which implies political and social equality. No longer is he simply a comrade of the Messiah; he is also, according to this psalm, an equal of the Messiah, his close friend, and confidant. Coupled with the hues of meaning implicit in the sharing of bread between intimate friends (see above), this additional layer of significance further belies the great accord of the friendship to which the psalmist refers.

As with Psalm 41:10/9, the idea remains that it is tolerable to be jostled and oppressed by one’s enemies, for it is expected from those who hate. The bitter gall of betrayal by one as intimate as the psalmist indicates, however, is all but unbearable. The lament of loss is the psalmist’s appeal to God, his effort to lay bare the extent of his soul and plead for compassion. This petition made to God by the injured man as a result of the betrayal stands in stark relief to the betrayal itself. The brokenness of heart is the point of convergence for God and the broken hearted, the point at which the psalmist finds solace. Destroyed by one so intimate as his “equal,” the psalmist lifts up his eyes to God. He turns his faith in the eternal Judge when his belief in his friends has been shattered.

The New Testament alludes to the intent of the psalmist in defining this broken relationship. In John 15:15, Jesus names his disciples “friends,” and treats them as equals and co workers, rather than as ignorant servants, “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (NRSV) A “friend” (philos) is more than a “comrade” (hetairos). The former designates a close relationship based upon equality between two persons; the latter refers to a professional cooperation.

f. Compatriot. The Hebrew term ‘allup I means “close (family) friend,” and is related to the term ‘elep, which means “clan, tribe, settlement, region,” and hence confers the sense of “compatriot.” However, in the Septuagint we find ho hegemon mou, meaning “my leader, commander.” This presupposes the Hebrew homonym ‘allup II “tribal chief, leader,” which does not fit well into the context of Psalm 55, because the betrayer is described as equal to David.

This begs the question of whether Judas Iscariot, the New Testament betrayer, could be called a compatriot of Christ; that is, can we find evidence that Judas came from the same region as Christ?

The first element of the betrayer’s name, “Judas” (Ioudas), is the Hellenized form of the Hebrew name “Judah” (yehuda). As for “Iscariot,” this appears to be a nickname used to distinguish this apostle from others also bearing the name “Judah” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; John 14:22). There are several interpretations surrounding this nomenclature. The following two of these interpretations are the most discussed.

(a) The first assumes that Iscariot is a compound word, which derives from the Hebrew term ‘ish for “man” or “the one of,” and Qeriyyoth, a town, probably the hometown of Judas. If this interpretation is correct, then Judas, probably alone among the twelve, was a Judaean (from the village of Kerioth, cf. Josh 15:25), as Jesus was.

(b) Other scholars believe that the Aramaic name Iscariot means “man from the City” (qiryeta’), namely, from Jerusalem. According to either of these interpretations, Judas Iscariot seems to be the only apostle originally from Judaea, and a good candidate to the title of “compatriot” of our Lord. These two readings support the sites in the psalms where the betrayer is called “close friend, colleague, compatriot” of the Messiah, who shall be from the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10).

g. Confidant. As with the analysis of “a person of my rank,” examination of the term meyudda’ “confidant” (from the Hebrew verb yada’ “to know”) reveals that the psalmist is referring to a person entrusted with the knowledge of one’s private affairs. This title is very close in meaning to rea’ “friend,” and points to the new appellation given by Christ to his disciples at the Last Supper, “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). (NRSV) The implication is that the Father has revealed pertinent and specific information to Jesus, and that Jesus has, in turn, shared this information with his disciples, “Then the disciples came and asked him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given”’ (Matt 13:10¬–11). (NRSV) The mysteries are not for general consumption, but are given to the closest of the collaborators of Christ. We might guess at the content of this revelation, but it is not vital for our task. It was, of course, privileged information, and required enormous trust for disclosure. Despite his impending duplicity, Judas was graced with this trust; because of this, he fits the description as confidant.

h. Participant in a secret gathering. This clause serves as a conclusion and a rationale for all the titles and attributes of the betrayer vis-à-vis his master. The Hebrew phrase namtiq sod means literally “we used to sweeten together [our] secret,” which conveys the sense of “we held close company together.” The rendering of the clause in the Septuagint reads, “who in companionship with me sweetened [our] food.”

The Hebrew word sod in this phrase means “secret council,” and designates either the gathering of individuals joined to conduct secret business, or the secret content of their discussions. Here again we find themes of community and trust. This “secret” or “mystery” may hint at the eucharist instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper prior to Judas’ leaving the upper room (Luke 22:19–23; but note Mark 14:18b–21, which places the betrayal before the institution account). A compelling facet of this possibility is the intent of the term for “sweetening,” which means to make the mystery (e.g., the sacrificed body and blood of Christ) accessible to a community of believers.
The betrayer is emerging very clearly as the trusted, intimate friend. He is relied upon by his victim. He is a sharer of fellowship and the confidential details of his victim’s life. He is the one who originates from the same tribe. In essence, the betrayer and his victim were accustomed, during their relationship, to coming together to share a meal, perhaps a covenantal meal; to sharing converse of secret content, including the revelation of God the Father to his Son, and the institution of the most sacred of worshiping mysteries; to sharing in the redemptive work of God. These are immense dual interests, and the familiarity necessary to the successful disposition of such a reciprocal association is plain. We are challenged then to delve into the depth of the sedition perpetrated in prophetic allusion in the Old Testament by Ahithophel against king David, and consummated in the New Testament by the abhorrent activities of Judas against Jesus Christ.

If you have a heart... - Abba Pambo

Abba Pambo said, "If you have a heart, you can be saved."

God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of all, of believers or unbelievers, of the just or the unjust, of the pious or the impious, of those freed from passions or those caught up in them, of monks or those living in the world, of the educated and the illiterate, of the healthy and the sick, of the young or the old. He is like the outpouring of light, the glimpse of the sun, or the changes of the weather which are the same for everyone without exception.

Miracles by the Holy Belt of Most Holy Theotokos

37. The doctor did not believe us
Nea Palatia
In June 1997 I was in a difficult psychological mood, because of a serious family problem. (My wife could not have a child)
We appealed to science and after 18 months of trouble we were told by our doctor that we must proceed with artificial means if we were going to have a child.
Our spiritual father has always been telling us not to lose hope and have our faith in God and our Lady. As a result, I have decided to visit the Holy Mountain.
The monk gave me the blessed ribbon and told me that by praying and by touching the ribbon on my wife’s belly while she was asleep, our Lady would help us.
I returned home full of happiness and hope for our Lady’s assistance.
After fifteen days my wife happily that the miracle had happened. Our happiness was impossible to be discribed and our gratitute to our Lady great.
After nine months we have managed to hold in our arms a healthy baby girl and after another 19 months we also had a boy.
With your blessing,
Nicholas Mihas

38. Despite our efforts we could not have a child
Vatopedi monastery
We have been married for two years and despite our efforts we could not have a child. Thirty days ago my wife had a dream in which she was kissing the Holy Belt of our Lady. In the morning, she put on the ribbon which I had brought from Vatopedi and told me that something good was bound to happen soon. On the same day, she had a pregnancy test made unexpectedly and she found out she was pregnant.
She is now two months pregnant and I have come to the monastery to kiss the Holy Belt and thank our Lady and pray that the pregnancy goes well and that we will be healthy to hold a good baby in our hands.
With my deepest respects,
Luke Gkoulta

39. All is going well
Solomou 100, Yerakas Attikis
Some time ago a friend of mine, when he saw that we couldn’t have a baby, he brought over from Vatopedi the blessed ribbon of the Holy Belt of our Lady. As soon as my wife put it one her, she became pregnant. Today she is on her fourth month and everything is going well. Something similar happened to another friend and today he has a healthy daughter.
I would like to express my warmest thanks and to ask you to send me another blessed ribbon to give to a pious,friendly couple.
In Christ’s love,
Demitris Kapopoulos


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