Monday, December 31, 2012
Before we pray, I should like to introduce our prayers so that when we pray, we do it more effectively, with one mind and with one heart. Year after year I have spoken of the New Year that was coming, in terms of a plain covered with snow, unspoiled, pure, and called our attention to the fact that we must tread responsibly on this expanse of whiteness still unspoiled, because according to the way in which we tread it, there will be a road cutting through the plain following the will of God, or wandering steps that will only soil the whiteness of the snow.
But a thing which we cannot, must not forget this year perhaps more than on many previous occasions, is that, surrounding, covering this whiteness and this unknown as with a dome, there is darkness, a darkness with few or many stars, but a darkness, dense, opaque, dangerous and frightening. We come out of a year when darkness has been perceived by all of us, when violence and cruelty is still rife.
How shall we meet it? It would be naive, and it would be very unchristian, to ask God to shield us against it, to make of the Church a haven of peace while around us there is no peace. There is strife, there is tension, there is discouragement, there are fears, there is violence, there is murder. We cannot ask for peace for ourselves if this peace does not extend beyond the Church, does not come as rays of light to dispel the darkness.
One Western spiritual writer has said that the Christian is one to whom God has committed responsibility for all other men, and this responsibility we must be prepared to discharge. In a few moments we will entreat for both the unknown and the darkness, the greatest blessing which is pronounced in our liturgical services, «Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost» – blessed is the kingship of God.
These words are spoken rarely: at the beginning of services, at the outset of the Liturgy, as a blessing upon the New Year, and at moments when eternity and time unite, when with the eyes of faith we can see eternity intertwined with time, and conquering. The Christian is one who must be capable of seeing history as God sees it, as a mystery of salvation but also as a tragedy of human falleness and sin. And with regard to both we must take our stand. Christ says in the Gospel, «When you will hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled»; lift up your heads.
There is no space in the heart and in the life of the Christian for cowardice, faintheartedness and fear, which are all born of selfishness, concern for self, even if it extends to those whom we love. God is the Lord of history, but we must be co-workers with God, and we are sent by Him into this world of His, in order to make the discordant city of men into the harmony which will be called the city of God.
And we must remember the words of the Apostle who says, whoever will wish to work for the Lord will be led into trial, and the words of another Apostle who tells us not to be afraid of trial by fire. In the present world we must be prepared, ready for trials and ready to stand, perhaps with fear in our heart for lack of faith, but unshaken in the service of God and the service of men.
And when we look back at the past year the words of the litany hit us and accuse us. We ask God to forgive us all that we have done or left undone in the past year. We claim to be Orthodox; to be Orthodox does not mean only to confess the Gospel in its integrity and proclaim it in its purity, but it consists, even more than this, in living according to the Gospel. And we know that Christ comes to no compromise with anything but the greatness of man and the message of love and worship. We can indeed repent because who, looking at us, would say as people said about the early Christians, «See how they love one another!»
Who would say, looking at us, that we are in possession of an understanding of life, of a love which makes us beyond compare, which causes everyone to wonder where it comes from? Who gave it to them? How can they stand the test of trial? And if we want this year to be worthy of God, of our Christian calling, of the holy name of Orthodoxy, we must singly and as a body become to all, to each person who may need us, a vision of what man can be and what a community of men can be under God.
Let us pray for forgiveness, we who are so far below our calling, let us pray for fortitude, for courage, for determination to discount ourselves, to take up our cross, to follow in the footsteps of Christ whithersoever He will call us.
At the beginning of the war King George VI spoke words which we can repeat from year to year. In his message to the Nation he read a quotation: «I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown, and he replied: go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God that shall be better to you than light and safer than a known way.»
This is what we are called to do, and perhaps we should make today a resolution, determined to be faithful to our calling and begin the New Year with courage. Amen
The public mood of Euroscepticism is hardening, according to the poll that finds 51 percent of respondents would vote to take Britain out of the EU, against just 40 percent who say they would vote to stay in.
This is the first time that poll results show that more than a half of British citizens are opposed to the EU, even though in autumn 2011 opinion was already leaning in the anti-European direction, by 49 percent against 40 percent.
The Guardian points out that the citizens’ stance toward Brussels has drastically changed in the last decade. When ICM asked a slightly differently worded question in May 2001, the public indicated that it wanted Britain to remain a member of Europe by 68 percent to 19 percent.
Even worse news for the pro-Europeans emerges when respondents were asked about how definite they were in their view, the paper writes.
Fully 36 percent say they would definitely vote to pull Britain out, against just 22 percent who definitely want to stay in. That compares with 18 percent who say they would probably want to stay in, and 15 percent who indicate that they would probably want to get out.
The deteriorating standing of the EU emerges at the end of a year in which it has won the Nobel peace prize for its success in bringing peace to a continent, but also – and perhaps more significantly – a year which has been marked by the crisis of the single currency moving from an acute to a chronic phase, the Guardian writes.
When voters were asked to provide a "school report grade" for the work of various institutions, the EU was awarded a D+, somewhat worse than the C- average mark awarded to both David Cameron and Ed Miliband.
ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1002 adults over the age of 18 by telephone on December 19-23, 2012.
After the publication of the official statement on what critics said was an inaccurate 2011 Census, Archbishop Anastasios was accused by some Albanians of “unconstitutional acts” and of having worked with extreme nationalist circles of Greece for “anti-Albanian activity against Albania’s territorial integrity”.
Christianity has ceased to be a religion but has become a culture of its own, Turkish Environment and Urbanism Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar said at a recent conference hosted by the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) Women's Group.
"The biggest three countries in the world are not Muslim countries. China, India – only the U.S. believes in a single God. Spirituality and religious feelings are weakening," Bayraktar said.
"There are 2.5 billion Christians in the world," Bayraktar said. "Christianity is no longer a religion. It's a culture now. But that is not what a religion is like. A religion teaches; it is a form of life that gives one peace and happiness. That is what they want to turn [Islam] into as well."
A new Foreign Military Intelligence (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today is saying that United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [photo 2nd left] was injured, and a top US Navy Seal Commander killed when their C-12 Huron military passenger and transport aircraft crash landed nearly 3 weeks ago in the Iranian city of Ahvaznear the Iraqi border.
Iranian intelligence agents quoted in this GRU report confirm that the C-12 Huron aircraft is still in their possession in
, but will only admit that the plane was “forced to land because of technical problems.” Ahvaz
The US Navy Seal member reported killed in this bizarre incident, this report says, was indentified as Commander Job W. Price [photo 3rd left] who as a leader of this highly specialized American Special Forces unit protects high-ranking diplomats traveling in Middle Eastern and Asian combat zones.
Curiously, US media reports on Commander Price’s death say it being investigated as a possible suicide as he died from what the American Defense Department describes as “a non-combat related injury.”
Equally as curious, US media reports state that Secretary Clinton will return to work next week after her having suffered what they describe as a “nasty bout with stomach flu” and a “concussion” which have kept her missing from public view the past three weeks.
This GRU report, however, states that US military flight logs recorded by Russian air and space forces confirm that Commander Price, and other members of US Navy Seal Team 4, left their base in Urozgan Province, Afghanistan on a flight to US Naval Support Activity Bahrain where they met up with Secretary Clinton and all of them transferred to the C-12 Huron that began a flight path to Baghdad, Iraq.
Within minutes of leaving Bahrain airspace, this report says, the C-12 Huron carrying Secretary Clinton and her US Navy Seal protectors, “without notice,” deviated from their assigned flight path heading, instead, directly towards Iran’s Ahwaz International Airport where, coincidentally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had previously landed on an “unscheduled” visit.
Important to note, GRU analysts say in this report, was that when the C-12 Huron entered into Iranian airspace neither American nor
air force units responded clearly indicating that this secret mission was sanctioned. Iran
Upon the C-12 Huron landing at
Ahwaz, however, this report says it encountered “extreme turbulence” causing it to leave the runway where its main landing gear then collapsed causing it to crash.
Within seconds of the C-12 Huron crashing, this report continues, Iranian emergency and security personal responded freeing the victims, including Secretary Clinton who was reportedly unconscious and “bleeding profusely.”
After emergency aid was given, GRU agents stationed in
Iran state that another US military flight was dispatched from Bahrain to Ahwaz which evacuated all of those wounded and killed in the crash including Secretary Clinton.
Strangely to note, this report says, is that in the aftermath of this crash,
Iran’s main oil company announced today that they were buying the Ahwaz airport with the intention of moving it because, they say, oil was discovered beneath it.
To what the Americans mission to Iran was about this report doesn’t speculate upon, other than to note that with the Gulf State Monarchies rapidly approaching a union of their oil rich nations to counter Iranian power, and with President Obama signing a new law this past week to strengthen American borders against threats from Iran, and with the highly-publicized “Velayat 91” Iranian military exercises now taking place across a wide area from the Strait of Hormuz, a new and catastrophic war in this region is much closer to being a reality than many realize.
To if Secretary Clinton’s mission was meant to forestall such a war it is not in our knowing, other than to note, that with the United States continued backing of some of the cruelest dictatorships in the world, our entire planet is but one spark away from a fire that could very well consume us all.
|Celestina Mba, who lost an appeal against her former employers earlier this month|
A new ruling by a High Court judge - the first on the issue in nearly a decade - says that Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs.
The judgment - which upholds an earlier decision - means that individual Christians do not have any protection from being fired for not working on Sundays.
Campaigners said the decision puts Christians at a disadvantage to other religions and means the judiciary are deciding what the core beliefs of Christians can be, which they say is an interference in the right to practise religion.
The judgment was issued by Mr Justice Langstaff as he ruled on an appeal brought by a Christian woman who was sacked after she refused to work on Sundays at a care home.
Celestina Mba claimed the council she worked for pressured her to work on Sundays and threatened her with disciplinary measures - even though other workers were willing to take the shifts. The 57 year-old, from Streatham Vale, south London, worships every Sunday at her Baptist church, where she is also part of the ministry team offering pastoral care and support to the congregation.
She said that when she took the position in 2007 providing respite care for children with severe learning difficulties at the Brightwell children’s home in Morden, south-west London managers initially agreed to accommodate the requirements of her faith.
But within a few months of starting the job, Miss Mba said managers began pressuring her to work on Sundays.
She found herself repeatedly allocated Sunday shifts and threatened with disciplinary measures unless she agreed to compromise her church commitments, meaning she had no alternative but to resign from the job she loved, she said.
The care worker launched an unsuccessful legal claim in February this year and this month lost her appeal in the High Court.
Her constructive dismissal case was funded by the Christian Legal Centre which instructed Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister.
Mr Justice Langstaff, who as president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal is the most senior judge in England and Wales in this type of case, upheld the lower tribunal’s ruling which said it was relevant that other Christians did not ask for Sundays off.
The fact that some Christians were prepared to work on Sundays meant it was not protected, the court said.
The senior judge said that a rule imposed by an employer which affected nearly every Christian would have a greater discriminatory impact than one which only affected a few.
There was evidence that many Christians work on Sundays and this was relevant in “weighing” the impact of the employers’ rule, and the earlier decision did not involve an error of law, he added.
Campaigners said the ruling showed that Christians are being treated less favourably than people from other religions, such as Muslims, Jews and Sikhs. They pointed to cases where the courts offered protection to other religions even when only a minority of adherents were affected.
In 2008 Sarika Watkins-Singh, then 14, successfully claimed she was a victim of unlawful discrimination because she had been excluded from school in Aberdare, south Wales, for breaking a jewellery ban by refusing to remove a “kara” bangle which she said was central to her faith.
But in her case the court did not examine how many Sikhs wanted to wear similar items of jewellery.
The judgment in Miss Mba’s case will fuel concerns that judges are promoting secularism. A report from the cross-party Christians in Parliament group warned earlier this year that there was a lack of religious literacy among judges, politicians and officials.
Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, said of the latest ruling: “The court in this case created an unrealistic test which means that people like Celestina who wish to respect the Sabbath will be forced out of the workplace.
“The court seems to be requiring a significant number of adherents of the Christian faith to observe a particular practice before the court is willing to accept and protect the practice.
“In the past year we have seen mandatory tests of faith in relation to the wearing of crosses by Christians, belief about marriage between a man and a woman and now observing the Sabbath when in all cases reasonable accommodation could have been made.
“Such tests do not appear to be similarly applied to Muslims who are permitted to wear the hijab and observe prayers and Sikhs with the kara bracelet.”
In 1994, when Sunday trading in England was liberalised shopworkers were given a guarantee that working would be strictly voluntary, but the guarantee did not apply to people in other sectors.
The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations, published in 2003, say employers must justify Sunday working as a “legitimate business need” and does not give a blanket right to Christians not to work.
If employers fail to treat staff fairly and proportionately, the employee may be able to claim discrimination, the rules add.
The last ruling by judges was when a quarry worker claimed his Christian beliefs had been treated with “contempt” by employers who tried to force him to work on Sundays in 2003.
Stephen Copsey lost his case at the Court of Appeal in 2005, with judges ruling his employer had “compelling economic reasons” for insisting that he worked on Sundays.
Yvette Stanley of Merton council, Miss Mba’s former employers, said it did its best to allow religious practice but also had a duty to meet the needs of the disabled children for whom it cares and added: “We are pleased with the outcome of this second tribunal. Staff recruited in the respite care service are advised that it is by its nature a weekend service.”
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian news agencies say the navy is sending another ship to the Syrian port ofTartus, where Russia has a naval base.
The reports Sunday by the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agency cited an unidentified official in the military general staff as saying the Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, has set sail from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. The ship is expected to arrive in the Tartus area in early January.
The reports gave no information on the ship's intent. But Russian diplomats have said that Moscow is preparing a plan to evacuate thousands of Russians from Syria if necessary. The Defense Ministry announced two weeks ago that several ships were being dispatched to the Mediterranean.
MOSCOW, December 30 (RIA Novosti) - The Swiss authorities have frozen $300 million in Credit Suisse accounts in Geneva held by the sons of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Swiss media reported on Sunday.
The funds are in accounts that belong to Alaa and Gamal Mubarak. Both sons of the deposed president are currently in an Egytian jail awaiting trial of charges of massive corruption.
Swiss media reports said the funds were transferred to Credit Suisse in 2005.
A Credit Suisse spokesman declined to comment.
Reports also said funds believed to also have come from corrupt officials in Egypt had likewise been frozen at the Swiss office of French banking giant BNP Paribas.
Switzerland is currently investigating 14 people close to Mubarak – who was toppled by a popular uprising in 2011 - suspected of massive embezzlement of public funds.
Mubarak is serving life imprisonment for ordering the killing of protesters during the revolt.
“It’s me, Your great ascetic!”
“You’re not ready; I’m not opening the door for you!”
The ascetic was worried: “I wonder why?” And he went again to the door and knocked.
“Who is there?” asked the Lord.
“It is you!”
“If you are Me, enter!” – That is to say, God gathers with those who are gods by grace.
So it is not permitted to knock at Christ’s door with stains, since any little sin is not small! If should not be understood that the struggle is to become perfect only in not committing sins! This is a little brash, and it is not the way of humility. You have to believe that the grace of God is helping you and that if you’re something it’s only by God’s grace.
This is how I understood the words of St. Silouan, uttered to him by the Savior: “Keep thy mind in hell and despair not!” Our deeds can’t save us; therefore, we have reason for a continuous and authentic humility; not a rational humility, but a true humility.
Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth. For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth. From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh, and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God.
And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life. For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation. For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin. (Proof of Apostolic Preaching, 32-33)
Sunday, December 30, 2012
One day, sitting at the bench outside of Stavronikita, the Elder was visiting with pilgrims, among whom was a high school teacher of theology. The theology teacher, repeating a popular Western error, claimed that Abba Isaac the Syrian was a Nestorian. Father Paisios tried to persuade him that Abba Isaac was not only Orthodox but also a saint, and that his Ascetical Homilies possess great grace and strength. But the Elder’s words were in vain: the theology teacher stubbornly insisted on his views. The Elder left for his hermitage, praying and so sad that he was in tears.
When he had come to a spot on the path near a large plane tree, something happened to him. These words, “something happened”, were the only description he gave us of the incident, not wanting to reveal the exact details. According to one testimony, he saw in a vision the choir of the holy fathers passing before him, and one of them, stopping, said to him, “I am Isaac the Syrian. I am completely Orthodox. The Nestorian heresy was indeed present in my region, but I fought against it.” We are not in a position to endorse or to reject the reliability of this witness. We know for certain only that the Elder experienced a supranatural occurence that confirmed with perfect clarity the holiness and total Orthodoxy of Abba Isaac.
(Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac pg. 226)
3/4 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
3 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp anise seed
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 Cups granulated sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
A coin, wrapped in a bit of foil
Make the Cake:
Combine the almonds [or hazelnuts], brown sugar, and honey in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and anise seeds.
Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen has announced that it will pay tens of thousands of dollars to anyone who kills the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa or an American soldier in the country.
|al-qaeda in yemen|
ATHENS—A corruption scandal involving a list of thousands of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts took a new turn Friday, focusing on the former finance minister who received the list on Greece's behalf.
Cousins of then-finance minister George Papaconstantinou were among the names of Greeks associated with 2,062 offshore banking accounts on a list that France handed over to Mr. Papaconstantinou in 2010, a Greek court official and a senior government adviser said Friday. A version of the list that was later handed to prosecutors didn't include three accounts associated with the relatives, the officials said.
Mr. Papaconstantinou, who negotiated Greece's first international bailout and was unpopular in the country for presiding over the government's first round of austerity measures, has denied any wrongdoing. He hinted that others were seeking to incriminate him.
"I have not made any intervention in the details that I asked for and received from the French authorities," Mr. Papaconstantinou wrote on his personal website Friday. "If there are accounts on the list that relate to people in my wider family environment, this is something that I did not know of until today."
Friday's allegations stoked public scorn toward politicians and deepened the saga surrounding the list of Greeks with Swiss accounts that Christine Lagarde, then the French finance minister, handed over to Mr. Papaconstantinou.
Many Greeks have argued that austerity measures undertaken by Mr. Papaconstantinou and other officials have struck disproportionately at the country's poor, and that the government has done a little to crack down on tax evasion by the rich or tackle corruption by the country's business and political elite.
The disclosure this fall that government officials had in 2010 received a list that could lead them to potential wealthy tax evaders—and that officials hadn't pursued these leads amid two years of recession and painful austerity measures—has touched off months of controversy.
On Friday, Greece's socialist party Pasok, a member of the three-party coalition government, expelled Mr. Papaconstantinou, who doesn't hold a parliamentary seat. The coalition government is preparing to launch a parliamentary probe into the matter as soon as Monday, said government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou.
The Lagarde List, as it is widely known here, is drawn from data obtained by former employees of the Geneva branch of HSBC, HSBA.LN -0.11% who electronically copied details of 24,000 clients. The information wound up in the hands of French tax authorities, as well as those of Italy and Spain. All three countries started probes to recover unpaid taxes.
In late 2010, Ms. Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, gave a compact disc containing information on Greek account-holders to her Greek counterpart, according to testimonies in Greek Parliament. Mr. Papaconstantinou has said in the testimony that he handed the information to Greece's special tax police but otherwise didn't act on it. The head of Greece's tax police testified that his department had received 10 names.
In 2011, Mr. Papaconstantinou was removed as finance minister and says he passed the list to his successor—Evangelos Venizelos, now head of the Socialist party.
When word of the Lagarde List became public in recent months, Mr. Venizelos initially denied knowledge of it. Later, in early October, he passed a flash drive with a list of accounts to the prime minister's office. He has said he hadn't pressed tax police to pursue the names on the list, saying lawyers had told him the information couldn't be acted upon because it had been obtained illegally from HSBC.
In October, a Greek investigative journalist published a version of the list, with the names, companies and professions of those associated with 2,059 accounts, but not the monetary values. It included the wife of one former conservative minister and the name of a second, now deceased, and a current adviser to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
As questions over the integrity of the two-year-old list grew, Greek prosecutors asked France for a fresh copy, which they received and examined last week. The new list included 2,062 bank accounts—three more than the list disclosed by the journalist—according to the two Greek officials.
According to these officials, Mr. Papaconstantinou's two cousins and their husbands were linked to the three accounts. One is reported to contain $1.2 million, according to local media. The family members couldn't be reached for comment.
In a second statement issued on his personal website, Mr. Papaconstantinou pointed the finger at Mr. Venizelos, the Pasok party chief.
"I am saddened that the president of Pasok rushes to lay blame for a possible falsification of the Lagarde List on me personally. If the list has really been doctored, and even more so with the removal of persons related to me, justice and the authorities have to immediately investigate who had the motive to doctor it so heavy handedly with the aim of incriminating me," he wrote. "Also, the question of why the investigation I had ordered into the names on the Lagarde List stopped as soon as I left the finance ministry must be answered."
Mr. Venizelos didn't respond publicly.
The matter coincides with a separate corruption probe involving millions of euros allegedly embezzled at Greece's national tourism agency and apparently implicating several political appointees. Many Greeks were openly skeptical that anything would come of a parliamentary probe on the Lagarde List, with the latest allegations, whether borne out or not, only serving to confirm a deep-rooted suspicion of government.
"Nothing is going to happen," said Nikos Galanos, a 45-year-old warehouse manager. "The politicians all look after each other.This is the finance minister that formulated all these tough new austerity measures on ordinary people and at the same time looks like he was covering for members of his own family. That's hypocrisy at the highest level."
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