A Standing Miracle

H/T Here

Iconic Serra Cross in Ventura standing tall after area ravaged by Thomas Fire

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A standing miracle. That’s how many residents are describing the fact that the iconic Serra Cross atop Grant Park in Ventura is standing stall despite the Thomas Fire scorching the area surrounding it.

It’s said that a large wooden cross was planted on top of a hill overlooking the Mission San Buenaventura church soon after the Mission’s funding as a road sign for travelers in search of the Mission.

The Mission is the ninth in the series of California Missions and Father Junipero Serra’s last.

The Serra Cross has been a point of contention in the past with a potential constitutional lawsuit in 2003 threatening to remove the cross after the city of Ventura was accused of violating the principle of separation of church and state by owning and maintaining the cross.

The Ventura City Council opted to sell the cross and an acre of land surrounding it which helped the cross stay in place.

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Birth Date or Birth Place

IMG_0794I grew up hearing stories of Stapar. It’s a small town outside Sombor in north Serbia. It’s where me and my sister were born. It’s where my father was born and his father and so on. The stories were in epic fashion. You’d think it was some magical place where kings ruled and everyone lived happily ever after.

In reality it’s a small, agricultural town. I still have family there and visit when I can. The photo above is from a trip to Stapar almost a decade ago with Vaso. I went two years after that with Lazo and the plan was to continue the visits with Nikolina, Jelena and so on. I was very happy that Vaso got to visit on his own last year.

But here’s the thing, while all this emphasis and all these stories of where I’m from spread during my childhood, my birthday would go unnoticed. Granted, not completely. We’d have so-called birthday parties but it was usually my parents and their friends getting together.

A similar thing happens when we think of the Saints – we know where they’re from but we don’t know when they were born. Tomorrow is St. Mardarije of Libertyville or as Metropolitan Amphilohije will refer to him as: St. Mardarije of Ljesan-Libertyville. The region of Ljesan is where he was born. Next week is St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. He was born in Patara which is in Lycia (so is Myra where he served as bishop). St. Demetrios of Thessaloniki, St. Elijah the Tishbite all come to mind.

Of course this isn’t the general rule and some Saints are known for other things “the Baptist”, “Chrysostom”, “the Merciful”, and so on. The old saying comes to mind: Never forget where you’re from.

Oddly, there’s no mention of when.

 

The Lilac Fire

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With all these posts about the Book of the Revelation, the end times, Satan, the Antichrist…look at this picture taken yesterday just north of Los Angeles.

Then this morning I’m driving down the highway and I see smoke over the hills.  Apparently a brush fire broke out , the Lilac Fire, in the Bonsall area, roughly a half hour drive from here. Currently it is: 2,000 acres and 0% contained.

Sign of the Times

In our discussion group Tuesday evening we talked about the Book of Revelation.  It was almost, ahem…. prophetic, as news broke the next day that Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Is this a step towards peace or are we moving closer to a war of all wars?

Blessed Augustine was of the opinion that those watching for the signs of the times would be taken in just as easily as those who weren’t. Moreover, St. Seraphim of Sarov taught: “Adam was made so wise by the breath of life which was breathed into his face from the creative lips of God, the Creator and Ruler of all, that there never has been a man on earth wiser or more intelligent than he, and it is hardy like that there ever will be.” If Adam was the wisest man his helpmate was not at all stupid. Yet, we all know how easily they got tricked.

The Book of Revelation is not intended to be used as a road map to the end of the world. As someone noted a few nights ago, chapter 10:4 is of great significance: “And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.” The Orthodox Study Bible comments that “this command not to write down the utterance shows John’s revelation does not exhaust divine decrees for humanity: undisclosed mysteries remain”.

When the Apostles asked the Lord when He would restore the kingdom of Israel He replied by telling them it’s none of their concern (Acts 1:7). Then, right afterward, He ascended into heaven.  And the Apostles just stood there, gazing up into the heavens. Two men in white clothing appeared and said: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

I think those angelic men in white are asking us the same question: Why are you guys looking into the sky? There is a difference between what we know, what has been written down and what we don’t know and, moreover, was commanded not to be written down. And that is that “He shall come again to judge the living and the dead”. This we know and confess and await.

As far as Jerusalem goes our eyes need not be fixated on the Middle East but “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2).”

Priest or Presbyter

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Listening to a talk given by Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed repose a few days ago he mentioned how in the Orthodox Church the clergy are called presbyters which translated means elders, and not priests. The use of the word priest comes later. I think he mentioned the 4th century but not sure. Anyway, here is an interesting article on the topic from Just Genesis (here)

Is a Presbyter a Priest?

Alice C. Linsley

Before reading this article, I recommend that this article be read first: What is a Priest?

In the New Testament the word “presbyter” is used to designate the one who presided when the body gathered for worship.  This probably didn’t mean a priest, as only men born in the priestly lines would be considered priests and among these only some would have been sacrificing priests.  So the terms “presbyter” and “priest” do not represent the same concept.

Some of the Apostles were likely born of the priestly lines, but that hardly matters since the Church’s High Priest is Jesus and he was born of the priestly lines on his mother’s side and Joseph’s side.  Mary and Joseph were of priestly lines and cousins. Mary’s father was the shepherd priest Joachim, and Joseph was of the priestly line of Mattai.

Ken Collins writes: “In the New Testament, the Temple has hierarchs and the church has presbyters. Most translate hierarch as priest, which is really incorrect, because priest is just an English contraction of the word presbyter. But if the translators put down priest for presbyter, it looks like they are discrediting churches that do not call their clergy priests. But if they put down presbyter, which is the untranslated Greek word, or elder, which is the word’s meaning, they discredit the churches that are so old that the word presbyter turned into priest as the language of their members changed.”

When did this morphing happen in history? Where do we find this expressed in Scripture? Clearly, there was a disjunction when the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. thus bringing the sacrificial system to an end. However St. Paul and St. John clearly believe that there is an eternal priesthood (in the Platonic sense) that nothing can destroy. They see it as a fixed ordinance in the Kingdom of God, derived from the one True Priest, Jesus Christ. In other words, the priesthood lives in Jesus Christ, the Sacrifice once offered who is to be the focus of every gathering.

HE is the continuation of the only priesthood that the Apostles knew, a priesthood that maintained itself through a particular kinship pattern among Abraham’ s Horite caste. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of Abraham’s ruler-priest bloodline.

Collins is right that many churches don’t have priests. These are churches removed from the Holy Tradition concerning the Christ received by the Apostles. Most are products of the Reformation and the many subsequent divisions that characterize churches that don’t hold to the sacramental center of the faith symbolized by the priesthood.

Now to Collins’ most provocative suggestion: that the oldest churches somehow morphed the word “presbyter” into “priest” over time. This is simply not the case.  Presbyter refers to elders, not priests.  There is no need to substitute priest for presbyter.  The early church had gatherings which were not presided over by priests.  No surprise there.  Many of the priests were hostile to Christians.  Yet some of those ruler-priests, men such as Nicodemus, came to believe and through them the Church recieved its priests after the order of Melchizedek, the prefigurement of Jesus Christ.

The true meaning of priest is defined by the Son of God whose Blood was shed for the life of the World. This Jesus was born to a long line of ruler-priests who are identified with the “order of Melchizedek” as an eternal priesthood. Presbyter means elder and not all elders are priests. But this is no reason to insist that the ancient churches which have priests have got it all wrong.

Related reading: The Priesthood in England (Conclusion); Who Were the Horites?; What is a Priest?; Growing Consensus that WO Must Be Addressed