Fr. Daniil murder a warning to +Kyrill?


From an American Orthodox priest reader living temporarily in Russia:

I wanted to thank you for reporting about the martyred priest Fr. Daniil. I thought you might also be interested to know that there is some thought in the Church here that Fr. Daniil was murdered as a warning to Patriarch Kyrill. The patriarch has been very outspoken about missionary work. He believes that the years since the fall of communism have seen the “restructuring” of the Church here, but now is the time for real mission work, not only making the new Orthodox truly Orthodox (or “churching the people” as he often puts it), but reaching outside the Church to those who are non-Orthodox. He was very supportive of Fr. Daniil and all missionary priests here; openly so and very vocal about it.

So, Fr. Daniil was murdered on the evening of the Patriarch’s birthday as a perverted “gift” to him. By killing one of the most visible and well-known of his missionary priests, they were warning him what the cost would be to him and the Church if missionary work continues.

This is still very much a place where one’s faith has a high cost. A number of friends (and family) have warned me about always wearing my cassock and cross in public, on the subway, on the streets, at the university. But I find that so many people are attracted to a priest and are very sincerely interested in the faith, and have so many questions to ask, that just wearing the cassock in public is “missionary.”

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

We commemorate today St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist. Actually, we commemorate two St. Matthews.

After the Resurrection of Christ and after the Holy Spirit descended on the Disciples and they were sent throughout the world to preach the gospel, St. Matthew preached, among other places, in Ethiopia. It was there that he appointed his follower Plato as bishop. St. Matthew baptized the wife and the son of the prince of Ethiopia which greatly enraged the prince.

The prince sent soldiers to capture the holy apostle but when they arrived they said they were able to hear Matthew’s voice but couldn’t see him. The prince then sent out a second guard and this time Matthew shone with such heavenly light that the soldiers were not only unable to see him but they were filled with such fear that they returned to the prince to tell him what had happened. The prince, finally, decided to go himself. Matthew radiated with such light that the prince was instantly blinded. The holy apostle, however, had a compassionate heart and prayed to God so that the prince was given back his sight. Unfortunately, he saw only with physical eyes and not spiritual eyes. He arrested Matthew and subjected him to cruel tortures. After miraculously surviving one torture after another the apostle finally prayed to God and gave up his spirit. The prince commanded that the martyr’s body be placed in a lead coffin and thrown into the sea. The saint appeared to Bishop Plato and told him where the coffin bearing his body could be found. The bishop retrieved the coffin with Matthew’s body from the sea. Witnessing this new miracle, the prince was baptized and  during his baptism a voice was heard that the prince’s new name should be: Matthew. After that, the prince left all the vanity of the world and became a priest.  Later, when Plato the bishop died, the Apostle Matthew appeared to the priest Matthew and advised him to become the new bishop. He accepted the new position and, for many years, was a good shepherd.

Reading this from the life of St. Matthew the Evangelist it’s interesting to note how the prince was not only baptized but a point was made to change even his name.  We find an example from Holy Scripture of the significance names can play when we read in the very first pages of the Bible how Adam looked at the woman and said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Of course, “Adam” is not a name so to speak, as much as it is the name of a species. Adam means “dust” but it also means “man, mankind”. And so when man saw woman, the name he gave her was “woman.” Later, however, we see how this changes.  That first man and woman, as we all know, fell into sin. As a result not only were they kicked out of paradise but God prophesied to them of man’s miserable future: the sweat, the toil, the sorrow and, of course the worst of all, death. And the only good news was that the woman would bear children. So, Adam re-names the woman from woman to Eve, which means “living.”  In other words, Adam doesn’t focus on how miserable their future will be. Rather, he finds hope in that one good thing, from that hopefulness comes the first genuinely proper name in the Bible. (*)

Subsequently, when we give our children names and we name them after Saints it is with this same desire, this same hope that our children will find inspiration in their namesake. Whatever the case, however, the names we give them should come from prayer, a desire for their salvation and not according to any personal liking or fad.  We go back to the Bible to see an example of this when Eve named her first child. She named him Cain and with a prideful boast said, “I have acquired a man through God”.

Cain, as we remember from the Bible story, inherited this pride of his mother and he would later became a very proud farmer. So proud was he that even killed his brother Abel when God choose Abel’s sacrifice and not his. He wanted to secure his place as number one. Interestingly enough, it seems that Eve finally got the hint and when she bore another child she names him not with a prideful boast but with a bit more humility, realizing that children are not human creations, she says, “For God has appointed me another seed in place of Abel.”

After the gift of life, the first gift of parents to a child is its name. Indeed, it is a gift that lasts not only during a lifetime  but even afterward. When we are gone, our name carved in stone and the memories it evokes will be all that remains.(*) Whatever our name might be the name each and everyone of us must live up to today and all the days of our lives is the name by which we are all of us collectively are called – that is, a Christian.


* It was this fine article, What’s Your Name which served as inspiration for the above sermon. 

Divine Liturgy — To Go

As nearly all dioceses of the Serbian Orthodox Church organized transportation for Patriarch Pavle’s funeral last Thursday, Fr. Jovan Plamenac ran into a little bit of a problem. As he serves liturgy every day the train ride from Montenegro to Belgrade would not give him the opportunity to do this. So he was left with no other option but to serve the liturgy…on the train. (Of course, he received the bishop’s blessing.)

For more photos see here.

On God’s Predestination

The text below is taken from the Daily Reflections of Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon. See here (for Sunday, February 8.)

“Romans 9:14-24: God’s “predestinations,” His predetermined adjustments to the unfolding of history, are not arbitrary. They are founded on divine foreknowledge. “Predetermination is the work of the divine command based on foreknowledge,” wrote John of Damascus in the eighth century (De Fide Orthodoxa 2.30). God’s sovereignty over history, then, is no detriment to man’s ability to make moral choices. That divine sovereignty is chiefly manifest, rather, in God’s ability to bring good results out of man’s bad choices. God’s sovereignty is in no way challenged by man’s decisions.

For this reason, God’s election frees no man from his moral obligations. God’s ability to bring good out of evil does not warrant anyone to do evil. Nor should it lessen any man’s efforts to do good. “Now if men in their choices choose what is best,” said John Chrysostom, “much more does God. Moreover, the fact of their being chosen is both a sign of the loving kindness of God and of their own moral goodness. . . . God Himself has rendered us holy, but we must continue to be holy. A holy man is someone who partakes of the faith; a blameless man is someone who leads an irreproachable life” (Homilies on Ephesians 1).

The man whom God rejects, therefore, has no just case against God. God causes no man’s failure. Even though the Scriptures speak of God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (verses 17-18; Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12), this is a metaphor describing God’s providential use of Pharaoh’s hardened heart. Pharaoh himself is the only one responsible for his hard heart (Exodus 7:14,22; 8:5,19,32). Pharaoh’s sin cannot be ascribed to God, as though God had decreed that sin. God foreknew that sin and determined ahead of time—predestined—how to employ that sin to bring about His own deliverance of Israel from Egypt. There is no unrighteousness in God (verse 14).

Like Esau’s, Pharaoh’s role or place in salvation history is negative. It represents a resistance to grace that God employs to show even more grace. The resistance to grace, on the part of Esau and Pharaoh, is providentially subsumed into God’s plan of deliverance, being used as the opposing force (the “push backwards”) in a process of historical dialectic, much as when a man steps on a rock, the friction and resistance from it enable him to go forward. This is what Paul sees happening among the greater part of the Jewish people of his own day. Their resistance to God’s mercy has served only to enhance and extend that mercy, for God does nothing except in mercy.

It is fallacious, therefore, to argue that God’s ability to bring good out of evil should oblige Him not to blame those who do evil (verse 19). Paul had earlier refuted that line of argument (6:1,15).

To someone who would argue this way, Paul responds, “So who put you in charge of history?” God takes into His hands the raw material of history, “the same lump” (verse 21), and shapes it as He wills. He forces no one to be evil; He compels no man to be a vessel of wrath and dishonor, but God does have His uses for vessels of wrath and dishonor.

On this image of God as a ceramic potter, cf. Isaiah 14:9; 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Wisdom 15:7; Sirach 38:39-40; Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum 2:26. God is fashioning His purpose from the common clay of human history. The prophet Jeremiah, far from regarding this image as an excuse for human failure, employs it as a summons to repentance: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil ways, and make your ways and your doings good” (18:11).

“Prepared for destruction” (verse 22) means “ready for the dump.” Some vessels, after all, are not worth keeping. After they have served their purpose, they are no longer part of the process of salvation history. Such were Esau and Pharaoh, who serve no other purpose in Holy Scripture than as examples of men who resisted God. Doing evil, they thus served their purpose in God’s redemptive interventions of grace, and now they have been tossed out on the ashbin. This lot they brought upon themselves, as is clear in the biblical accounts of them.

The vessels of honor, on the other hand, the “vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory” (verse 23), share in the everlasting exaltation that marks God’s work of deliverance. These are taken from among Jews and Gentiles (verse 24).”

A Beautiful Video

Take some time and watch this beautiful video. You know, Patriarch was famous for his simplicity, for taking public transportation, for walking. It occurred to me watching this that he was the one led by a car while nearly all of Belgrade walked to his funeral. His famous words were, “Budimo ljudi” – (“Let us guard against inhumans, but let us guard even more against becoming inhuman ourselves. Let us be human.”)

One comment that I read somewhere online said: I was at the funeral of Patriarch Pavle this morning. What dignity, what exemplary behavior, spirituality and exemplary humility from the hundreds of thousands in the procession, something that we should all be proud of. We showed His Holiness that we know how to be human.