The Washing of Regeneration

On this day, the Apodosis of Theophany, I post this beautiful article taken from (here). The last day of the Feast is called the Apodosis, a Greek term meaning “giving back or giving away”, it’s the liturgical “Leavetaking” of a great feast. And in a very real way I welcome this day of “leavetaking” as a new beginning. The beginning of this new year has been somewhat rocky. I was sick, tested positive and unable to serve, my mother passed away, we were forced to cancel some church events due to others being sick….In the picture above, taken on Theophany, we had only a fraction of the parishioners attend who typically fill the church on this feast. So, yes, I welcome this leave taking. May the upcoming feasts be blessed.

The World of Faith. Theophany

Evgeny Poselyanin

The Jordan appears to us as it is in Alexander Ivanov’s painting, “The Appearance of Christ before the People”, and Michael Nesterov’s canvases—flowing between white rocky banks with sparse vegetation.

When I was driving from the Dead Sea to the Jordan, to the very place where, according to tradition, Christ was baptized and where every year on January 6 a solemn service is celebrated in the presence of predominantly Russian pilgrims, I was struck by how the surrounding landscape closely resembled the rivers of central Russia—the same willows and leaves of trees descending over the water, the soft outline of the coast, and the greenery. All that was missing was a landowner’s estate and an old house with columns.

The Jordan water is silty, so it is taken into bottles and usually filtered at the parking lot. When I plunged from the boat into the water of the sacred river, I remembered distant Russia and the ardent faith that throws Russian common people on this day into ice-holes in rivers and ponds where the Great Blessing of Waters was performed.

How beautiful Theophany Vespers is, and what poetry breathes through the prayer, in which God’s Almightiness is expressed in artistic words:

“The sun sings Thy praises; the moon glorifies Thee; the stars supplicate Thee… The fountains are Thy servants.”

In the Holy Trinity Monastery of St. Jonah in Kiev I happened to see the Great Blessing of Waters, which resembled the Jordan in its abundance of water. Instead of small fonts, which we use in the north, there were more than a dozen huge barrels so all the brethren and pilgrims could have plenty of water.

One can argue against religious rites. But there is irrefutable evidence of the miraculous power contained in them. One proof of this is that time does not affect holy water—it cannot harm it. Even after decades, Theophany water, protected from dust, is as fresh as it was when it was just taken from its sources.

And the next day, the clergy walk with holy water around the parish, which has great mystical significance for believers, since the prayers for the blessing of waters speak directly of the protective power of Theophany water: “Let all adverse powers be crushed beneath the sign of the image of Thy Cross”…

Water!.. What a purifying, mysterious power is in it, which people comprehend more and more! And how many diseases, previously considered incurable or requiring expensive and complex treatment, are now healed by water alone.

I saw people in one Russian city who were being carefully experimented on by doctors, who were seemingly doomed to death; but meanwhile, when they got into the hands of a doctor who worked only with water, they regained their health.

A woman was brought to such a doctor in someone else’s arms; she was suffering from total exhaustion of the body because of an incurable stomach disease. She was dying of starvation. Two or three months later, the person who had seen her in that condition met her with rosy cheeks, healthy, cheerful, and observing the fasts. And how simple was the method applied: The so-called circumabdominal compress, involving a moistened towel wrapped around the waist, over which is wound a piece of flannel. This doctor has given medicine only once and only to one of all his patients over the years of his practice.

Another case is even more striking. A hieroschemamonk in a strict monastery had been paralyzed for several years. Unable to move, he was fed by spoon. By wrapping his whole body in wet sheets covered with warm blankets on top, everything deposited and dead in the tissues began to be drawn out into these sheets through the pores (including even medicines that had previously been taken into the body but had not dissolved in it). Within a few months a complete recovery was achieved. For several years now, this hieroschemamonk has been enjoying an extremely active lifestyle, standing on his feet every day for six hours of monastic services, receiving people for general blessing and confession. This is the healing power the Lord placed in water, and this is why water was the brightest symbol of that “washing of regeneration”, which is Baptism.

Evgeny Poselyanin
From the book, Ideals of Christian Life
Translation by Dmitry Lapa


Open your hearts not your phones

The newly elected Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Coastlands, His Grace Joanikije, in his homily on June 6, 2021 during the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Trinity Church, Lower Ostrog, spoke of the frequent use of cell phones during the divine services, calling upon the faithful to not do that:

“There is a blessing for a photographer or a camera to discreetly record during the service, even the most striking moments of the service. What has now become customary has exceeded every measure. We’ll come to some service, to some sabor or gathering, and everyone is holding up their cell phones and everyone is recording. It’s really too much. Are these people participating in the service properly? Everyone today takes out their cell phone and records. Can that which is the most important be captured by a cell phone? It cannot. That which is most important in the service cannot be captured by any camera or any sort of technology. And much attention is given to it which is the reason why people are moving away from the service. We should open our hearts, not our cell phones.

Let us open our hearts, receive God’s mercy and grace, which descends invisibly and elusively to open hearts, our souls and minds. Leave the things were are idle and trifling, we’ve gone too far, we must return to the right path. This path doesn’t lead anywhere. Not to mention all the temptations which occur as a result of these recordings, how it is nicely used against the Church, against Christians, against our faith, against priests. Have nothing to do with this. When you come to the Church, leave the phone in the car or turn it off, and put it in your pocket.”

Croatian archbishop seeks pardon from gay people

H/T: here

A Croatian archbishop today asked for a pardon from gay people who felt rejected by the Church, an unprecedented move in the staunchly Catholic country.

Archbishop Mate Uzinic warned that some Catholics wanted to “serve Christ and the Church with discrimination, aggression and violence… targeting homosexual people”.

He used the international day against homophobia today to express regret that some Catholics still refused to accept 2016 guidelines widely seen as softening the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

In the 2016 document, Pope Francis wrote that “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration.null

“I regret that there are still Catholics who do not agree with this,” Uzinic, archbishop of Rijeka, wrote on Facebook.

“I seek pardon from homosexual people for they can still feel rejected from the Church due to that … and also for not getting a careful pastoral guidance that should be guaranteed to them,” the archbishop said.

Croatia, an EU member since 2013, where almost 90% of people are Catholic, has seen a gradual liberalisation of gay rights in recent years.

But gay people still face threats and the country’s conservative society remains under the strong influence of the Catholic Church, which still refuses to accept the legitimacy of gay unions.

More attacks on church in Kosovo

A loose translation of the article from the Diocesan website of Ras-Prizren (here)

Frequent attacks and provocations of Serbian Orthodox Churches in Kosovo and Metohija Continue

The Diocese of Ras and Prizren has expressed deep concern today over the latest in a series of attacks on religious buildings of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija. Last night around 10pm, stones were thrown at the church of St. Petka in Vitina and on St. George’s Day unidentified persons attempted to remove the church flag (tri-color, red, white and blue) from the bell tower from the Sts. Peter and Paul Church in the town of Klokot. We remind you that money and church valuables were stolen from the neighboring town of Partes earlier this year from the Holy Trinity Church (here).

These incidents before Pascha were not isolated in the southern parts of Kosovo and Metohija. In the village of Drajkovce near Strpce, the church of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and the Church of St. Demetrius in Donja Bitinja were broken into. All of those reported attacks and robberies, which the police allegedly took over for investigation, have not been resolved, or at least our Diocese has not been informed of it, nor has the damage been compensated. The biggest damage was done near the church in Vitomirica, where construction material worth 4,000 Euros were stolen.

Today, in the protected zone of the church of the Most Holy Mother of God in Lipljan, the local priest reported to the police that stones were thrown on the church. During the incident, a window on a 14th-century church was broken. The priest reported the incident to the police, however, there was no reaction because the police officers on duty did not speak Serbian. UMNIK and international representatives were informed about the incident.

Stones were thrown at the St. John the Baptist Church, known as the “Metropolitanate”, in the center of the city of Pec a few days ago. A window was broke during the attack. The attackers either entered the church gate, which is allegedly secured by the police, or they threw stones at the church from a nearby building. A priest who lives alone in the parish house beside the church is concerned about this incident as this, like many other churches now being looted and attacked, was set on fire and desecrated during the great Albanian pogrom of 2004 when, in two days, 32 churches were destroyed or severely damaged and two monasteries were completely destroyed.

This latest wave of violence is not only – as Kosovo institutions would like to say – part of everyday life which also includes break-ins in mosques. Attacks on Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo and Metohija are occurring continuously and for the most part have an ethnic and religious background as they are directed specifically against a community whose presence obviously bothers someone.

The Diocese of Ras and Prizren will inform the head of the European Mission in Kosovo and the head of the EULEX mission, as well as the Quint ambassadors and KFOR representatives, about these latest attacks. Complaints to Kosovo institutions are pointless because this violence is the product of aggressive rhetoric coming from the very top of Kosovo institutions, which instead of solving the problems of population, economy and facing the COVID pandemic, attack Serbia every day with the the most offensive words and collectively accuse the Serbian people and even our church.

Such behavior directly produces a dangerous potential for violence and international representatives must be aware that local authorities are politically manipulating the population in order to amortize their own problems. At the same time, the pressure on Serbs complicates the everyday life of our people, who have already lost all trust in the police and institutions of Kosovo Albanians due to disrespect for laws and court decisions, as is the case regarding the Visoki Decani Monastery.

The Diocese will seek from the international representatives additional protection from the violation of our basic religious and human rights. We expect the institutions of Serbia, which regularly help us, to start solving our problems at a higher international level.

Gracanica-Prizren May 10, 2021

Take my hand, I am dying….

Loose translation of Bishop Grigorije’s ponderings on the phenomena of death (here):

The departure of our loved ones and friends these recent months have once more intensified my thoughts about the phenomenon of death, which has always been understood and experienced in different ways. Recently death has seemingly come knocking on the door of the entire world giving me the impression that views that have relativized death are, in one way or another, fading away. For instance, the views of those who favor the so-called secularist view of the world and who see death as an unfortunate phenomenon, which should be mitigated in all ways and which should be accepted as a momentary obstacle to the further development and progress of society. Then there are the views of those who are very religious and have an understanding of death that varies depending on which religion they belong to and what that religion teaches them. They most often experience death as a transition from this to that life, moving from one, often bad, to a better place.

Amidst all of this, what would the Christian view of death be? Jesus Christ was the first Christian. How did He battle with it and how did He, in the end, defeat death? Namely, Christ, “clothed” Himself in the human flesh (nature), first agreed to be humiliated and mocked, and not only that – he went to death voluntarily, thus He experienced and went through suffering, fear and uncertainty, which goes hand in hand with death. This voluntary suffering of Christ was preceded by a striking event described in the pages of the New Testament, when Christ comes to the grave of his dead friend, Lazarus, and weeps bitterly, just as we would weep over the graves of our deceased. One of Lazarus’ sisters says to Christ, “If you had been here, our brother would not have died.” And then Christ called Lazarus by name, and Lazarus arose. It is the moment in which immortality – embodied in Christ – touched mortality, was embodied in Lazarus. This event was one of the immediate reasons for the high priests to start a final showdown with the one who called Lazarus from the dead and brought him back to life, who would then crucify Him on the cross.

What is that perhaps confuses and amazes us the most in this unforgettable event of Christ’s suffering and resurrection, which turned the course of world history? For me, it has always been that terrible moment when Jesus, dying, cried out from the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me!?” This sentence is confusing because it was uttered by Christ, who died voluntarily. It should also not be forgotten that before his voluntary suffering He prayed to His father: “If possible, let this cup pass from Me “. This drama reveals much to us, but on this occasion the most important thing is to look at the fact that Christ really and truly dies on the cross and that, just like ordinary mortal, He felt loneliness, fear and uncertainty in the hours before His death. At the hour of His death He identifies himself with us and undergoes the agony inherent in every man at the hour of dying. He who had never experienced loneliness until that moment cried out to the Father from the cross not to leave him alone. So, if loneliness and fear did not pass from Christ in the last hours of His life how can we deal with loneliness and fear in similar moments?

Let us examine what the New Testament reveals to us in connection with this event. After Jesus’ death – which resulted in those closest to Him to flee from the crucified One expect for a few, mostly women – the burial was performed by a distinguished judge, practically alone. I would like this to serve as some consolation to all those who buried their deceased these past months modestly, with just their closest family, because here we see that Jesus Himself was buried in that same way. That event took place on Good Friday. And then comes Holy Saturday and something even more important and comforting, it seems to me, as an announcement of Christ’s final victory over death. On Holy Saturday Christ will go through death, coming to life, because He is in eternal communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Christ defeated death by his death, because “it was not possible for him (death) to hold him” (Acts 2:24).

Thus Christ goes through death and with His experience of it – by coming in contact with it – He confirms to us that death is solitude and the departure from God, and then He descends to Hades, to the earth, among the dead, all the way to Adam and Eve and all those buried in the earth until then, and revives them – resurrects them. By descending to Hades, Christ plunges his love into human loneliness, annuls it and brings it out of the darkness of death into the glory of life. Without His descent into the night of death there could never be hope and our anticipation of the day of the resurrection. A mortal man would remain mortal forever.

Of course, the phenomenon of death could be viewed and pondered from many different angles, but as I watched my loved ones leave, and in recalling the description of Christ’s own hour of death in Scriptures, I realized that when it comes to death itself, I am most preoccupied with this idea of loneliness, which has come to the fore especially during this past year. Perhaps because it seems to me that the loneliness of the dying, the loneliness that befalls them at the hour of death, is as heavy as death itself. Loneliness is the taste or prelude to death. How many patients who died these past months had no one beside them who could touch them and take their hand? “Hold my hands, for I am falling into the abyss,” my father told my mother the night before he passed away, frightened and lonely at the hour of his death. On the other hand, even when we are here, in addition to the dying, their loneliness and our helplessness before death are immeasurable, and we, being mortal beings ourselves, cannot completely comfort or alleviate them. Loneliness at the hour of dying, fear and uncertainty, that is, death itself, can be overcome and banished only by one who is Himself immortal, one who has already conquered death. Christ.

Death therefore is among us and we can ignore it, deny it or think about it from the angle that implies us confronting it as the last and greatest enemy, as the Apostle Paul called it, and that is precisely through our presence for we crush and drive away the loneliness and fear from each other both during life and at the hour of death. Death is the court and the hour of our searching and that observation that someone made is perhaps true that the only thing which will remain is that which survives the search of death.  We will all need to pass through the gates of death but it is comforting to know that Christ, by going through death, made His resurrection become ours as well.