Poorest President

H/T: here

‘Poorest president’ donates 90% of his salary

How’s this as a man of the people: The president of Uruguay, José Mujica, has earned a nickname, “el presidente mas pobre” (translation: “poorest president”).

The 77-year-old recently admitted to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that he donates almost all of his presidential salary, making him the poorest, or, as Univision pointed out, most generous president, in the world.

El presidente explained he receives $12,500 a month but keeps only $1,250. The public servant told the newspaper, “I do fine with that amount; I have to do fine because there are many Uruguayans who live with much less.”

He and his wife—a senator who also donates part of her salary—live in a farmhouse in Montevideo. His biggest expense is his Volkswagen Beetle, valued at $1,945.

Perhaps not surprisingly, under the former guerrilla fighter, who was elected in 2010 as a member of the left-wing coalition, the Broad Front, the country has become known for being one of the least corrupt on the continent.

Mujica has no bank accounts and no debt, and he enjoys one thing money can’t buy: the companionship of his dog, Manuela.

The Uruguayan is not the first president to donate his salary. U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who came from wealth, donated his salary when in office, as did President Herbert Hoover. Hoover, who grew up poor, decided to never accept money for public service, so he could not be accused of corruption.

War on Halloween

H/T: ABCNews (here)

Russia’s War on Halloween

MOSCOW – While many in the U.S. bemoan what they see as a war on Christmas, in Russia a very different holiday is under attack: Halloween. Here some don’t see it as the holiday of tricks and treats, but as a sinister celebration that endangers children.

The latest salvo came from a group of Russian Orthodox Church leaders and a group of Cossacks, who are spearheading an effort to cancel Halloween celebrations in the region of Stavropol Krai, in southern Russia. A nearby region, Krasnodar Krai, recently prohibited celebrating the holiday in schools.

But why are the church and the Cossacks, the feared horseback defenders of the tsars, spooked by Halloween?

“I consider it absolutely unacceptable for certain reasons. Halloween celebrations have been imposed on us for 20 years, and we are perfectly aware of how it all looks: revelry, baboonish behavior and scoffing at death, and thus at the memory of our deceased loved ones, whom all of us certainly have” said Andrei Sakhno, a youth leader at the local diocese in Stavropol Krai, according to RIA Novosti.

The head of Stavropol city’s Cossack community agreed, saying “I believe this holiday must be banned.”

RIA Novosti also quotes the regional education ministry saying Halloween “contradicted the principle of secular education and could have a destructive impact on young people’s morals and mental health.”

The justification in Krasnodar Krai is similar. The Education Ministry there quoted unnamed psychiatrists saying the holiday “poses a great danger to children” and their mental health, suggesting it could make young people more likely to commit suicide.

Like Valentine’s Day, which has also been criticized as it has grown in popularity here in recent years, Halloween is a western holiday that was imported after the fall of the Soviet Union. While some Russians have embraced them, others fear them as foreign to the country’s culture.

In 2003, Moscow’s Education Department banned Halloween celebrations from the city’s schools, citing concerns about “rituals of Satanically oriented religious sects” and saying it promotes “the cult of death.”

“Two Brave Lads of Christianity”

Today is the feast day of St. Demetrios the Myrrh-bearer of Thessalonica according to the New Calendar. Last night I attended a beautiful Vespers service on the eve of the feast at a neighboring Greek Church dedicated to this holy martyr, who together with St. George the Great-Martyr, as the homily below (taken from the Russian Church here) notes, is one of the “two brave lads of Christianity”.  Presiding over the service  was His Eminence Metropolitan Savas of Pittsburgh, pictured above.

Today, dear brothers and sisters, we have gathered in this Holy church to glorify with our prayers St. Demetrius, the Patrone of this Holy temple and Parish.

I would like to humbly present to you the life of the holy Great Martyr St. Demetrius the Myrrh-Bearer of Thessalonica.

Our Lord declared: “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know Him Who sent Me” (Jn. 15.20-21). And so they did persecute our Lord, and they did persecute the Twelve, and so they continue to persecute his disciples, including the Great Martyr Demetrius, whose memory we commemorate today: because they do not want to know Him Who has come and revealed Himself.

THE FEAST DAY of St. Demetrius is a great feast for all of Orthodoxy. St. Demetrius along with St. George are the two brave lads of Christianity. These two are below on earth, and the two Archangels Michael and Gabriel are above in heaven.

In ancient times there were painted without armor, but in later years they were depicted armored with swords and spears and dressed in metal breastplates. On one shoulder they have their helmet hanging, and on the other their shield. At the waist they are girded with the straps which hold the sheath of the sword and the quiver which has in the arrows and the bow. In recent years, after the conquest of Constantinople, these two saints, and many times other soldier satins also, are painted as riding horses, St. George on a white horse, St. Demetrius on a red one.

This armor which these Saints wear, depicts spiritual weapons, like those of which the holy Apostle Paul speaks saying, “Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Princeipalities and the Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high. Therefore talk up the armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of justice and having your feet shod with the readiness of the Gospel of peace, in all things taking up the shied of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God” (Eph.6:11-17). This heroic and perserving character, which the warriors have who were martyred for Christ like harmless and innocent sheep, has reference to spiritual things.

St. DEMETRIUS, the Great Martyr, was born in Thessalonica in 260 A.D. His parents were illustrious people and along with the transitory glory which Demetrius had from his family, he was adorned with imperishable virtues, with prudence, with sweetness, with humility, with justice, and with every noble comeliness of the soul. All these were like precious stones which shone on the crown which he wore, and this crown was the faith in Christ.

In those days, there reigned in Rome Diocletian, and he had appointed as caesar in the parts of Macedonia and the East a hard-hearted and bloodthirsty general who was called Maximian, a beast in human form as were all those military rulers who then ruled the world with the sword. He in turn appointed Demetrius ruler of Thessalonica and all Thesaalia. When Maximian returned from a certain war, he gathered the officers of Thessalonica in order to offer sacrifice to the idols. Then Demetrius revealed that he was a Christian, and did not accept hewn stones as gods.

Maximian went into a rage and ordered that he be tried and imprisoned in a bath. And all the while he was imprisoned, the populace ran with mourning to hear Demetrius teach the people of Christ. A young lad, Nestor, also went every day and heard his teaching.

During those days, many brave men fought in the stadium and Maximian rejoiced at these spectacles. He even had a great honor a certain henchman Lyaeus, a beastly man, brass-knuckled, an idolator and blasphemer, brought from some barbarous nation. Nestor, seeing that this Lyaeus had defeated all the boasted that he had the strength of Ares, the pagan god of war, and that no native dared wrestle with him, went to the prison and besought St. Demetrius to bless him to defeat and put to shame Lyaeus and Maximian and their religion.

St. Demetrius prayed and made the sign of the Cross over him, and immediately Nestor ran to the stadium and wrestled with that fierce giant, and he threw him down, and slew him. Then Maximian became beside himself with rage and learning that Nestor was a Christian and that St. Demetrius had blessed him, he ordered the soldiers to have them put to death.

And they going to the bath lanced St. Demetrius with their spears, and thus he received the eternal crown on the 8th of November, 296 A.D., at the age of thirty-six. It is written that when he saw the soldiers thrusting their spears at him, he raised high his arm and they lanced him in the side, so that he might be deemed worthy to receive the lancing which Christ received in His side, and there ran blood and water from the wound. Holy Martyr Nestor of Thessalonica was beheaded the next day.

The holy Christians took the holy remains and buried them side by side, and from the grave of St. Demetrius there came forth holy myrrh which cured many diseases. For this reason he is called Myrovletes. Over his holy grave and the place of his holy martyrdom there was built a church in the form of a basilica which stands to this day.

This then is the holy martyrdom of St. Demetrius the Great Martyr, who loved our Savior above all things of this life – – pleasures, wealth, honors – – and longed to be dissolved that he might be found with Him in the celestial Kingdom, through whose prayers may we also be deemed worthy of like fate.

The memory of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica is historically associated in Rus with the military, patriotism and the defense of the country. This is apparent by the saint’s depiction on icons as a soldier in plumed armor, with a spear and sword in hand. There is a scroll on which is written the prayer of St Demetrius for the salvation of the people, “Lord, do not permit the city or the people. If You save the city and the people, I shall be saved with them. If they perish, I also perish with them.” St. Demetrius is regarded as a protector of the young, and is also invoked by those struggling with lustful temptations.

I greet you all, dear brothers and sisters, with today’s celebration. Through the prayers of St. Demetrius, may the Lord preserve you and your families in good health, spiritual joy, and every happiness. May our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ send His blessing with upon each one who came today to glorify with love and prayer our intercessor before God.


Once Saul, always Saul

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon’s
Pastoral Ponderings

The Bible does not explain why the name of Saul, the early persecutor of Christians, was changed to Paul, but also the Bible does not discourage speculation on the point. Undiscouraged, then, let us speculate.

A modern view speculates that the man in question had two names all along; he was known as “Saul” among Jews and as “Paul” among Gentiles. This explanation sounds reasonable, I suppose, to those of us who have Jewish friends we know as “Stanley” and “Ashley” at the bowling alley, but who are called “Shlomo” and “Hadasha” at the local temple. (Greeks are like this, too.)

Among Christian readers over the centuries, however, the change from “Saul” to “Paul” has usually been associated with the man’s conversion from persecutor to Apostle. Thus, when William of St. Thierry published his commentary on Romans in 1137, he began the work with this prayer: “Thou hast known Saul, who derived the form both of his persecution and his name (formam trahentem iam persecutionis quam nominis) from a proud king and a persecutor, but Thou hast not known him from afar. For Thou didst humble him like a proud man wounded, and by the Spirit of grace, Thou hast changed him from Saul to Paul” (Exposition of Romans 1.1).

He began life, then, as Saul. Since the Apostle bragged to the Philippians that he was a Benjaminite (Philippians 3:5), it is not surprising that his parents would have named him for that ancient King Saul, who was a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

After his conversion, I suspect that the Apostle gradually became unhappy with the name “Saul.” He apparently adopted his new name during the early mission to Cyprus, where his preaching converted the Roman proconsul of the island, a man named “Sergius Paulus.” Luke describes this Sergius Paulus as “an intelligent man,” who “called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.” Luke goes on to inform us, “. . . the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” This was the context in which Luke suddenly switches the Apostle’s name from Saul to Paul (Acts 14:6-12). From that point in the apostolic saga, the narrator always of “Paul,” never again of “Saul.”

The circumstances of his conversion, I believe, prompted this change. Let us recall that the Lord, when he encountered Saul on the road to Damascus, shouted out to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When he heard that voice of reproach, Saul immediately recognized the irony of his name, an irony enunciated in Jesus’ very question. He recognized that voice. It was the voice of David wandering in the desert, during that period when he was pursued by Israel’s first king.

The great sin of the ancient Saul, as Holy Scripture describes it, was his persecution of the Lord’s Anointed One. When the future Apostle heard that question—“Why do you persecute me?—he was confronted by a massive fact: Just as the ancient Saul had persecuted David, this new Saul was persecuting David’s son! And this persecutor recognized the same voice of reproach.

The correspondence between the two cases is clear in the relevant Greek texts. Jesus asks Saul, Ti me diokeis —“Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4; 22:7; 26:14). The identical verb, dioko, appears several more times in reference to the same persecution (Acts 9:5; 22:4,8; 26:11,15; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13,23; Philippians 3:6; cf. 1 Timothy 1:13).

In the Septuagint of 1 Samuel 24:15, David asks Saul, “Whom do you persecute—katadiokeis?” Again, in 1 Samuel 26:18, David inquires of Saul, “Why does my lord persecute (katadiokei) his servant?” This stronger form of the verb, katadioko, is used several more times with respect to Saul’s persecution of David (1 Samuel 23:25,28; 25:29; 26:20).

While this verbal correspondence suffices to demonstrate Luke’s intent as the author of Acts, it is also worth considering the Semitic original of Jesus’ question, since we are told he spoke to Saul tei Hebraidi—“in Hebrew” (Acts 26:14). In Hebrew the burden of the question Saul heard from Jesus was essentially the same conveyed in the earlier question of David. David had asked Saul, mi ‘attah rodeph—“Whom do you persecute?” Jesus now asks the new Saul, lamma tirdepeni—“Why do you persecute me?”—‘anoki Ieshu’a ‘asher ‘attah rodeph—“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”

Hearing this, Luke tells us, Saul was struck with blindness, like the blindness of Israel’s first king, in the dark cave at Engedi. And during those days of darkness Saul could still hear ringing in his ears, the same question that David had put to his own persecutor. This accusing voice would haunt the Apostle for the rest of his days. In his former life, he imagined himself God’s faithful servant, but Paul learned that he had been, in fact, just another Saul.

Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos

For some time my brother in law had been looking for a job. He applied, had numerous interviews and, more than anything, spent much of his time waiting. These were difficult and stressful times for him and his young family: months and months of uncertainty. Despite the disappointments which each interview inevitably brought, he kept his faith. He prayed regularly and faithfully and quite fervently, convinced that his day was coming. Finally, glory be to God, it came and he was able to find a job. It was a good job, one in his own field which ended up taking him to the very center of the financial world: Wall Street. This meant that he had to move and as the move was sudden it found him a bit unprepared. In this new and bustling environment he had to quickly find a temporary place to stay before he got on his feet. Luckily, his new company offered him a solution: they had corporate housing which he could use during this interim period. As he was looking around this corporate apartment on his first day, trying to get settled, he opened one of the drawers and was shocked at what he found: it was an Orthodox icon of the Mother of God. Here – in not only this country’s – but the world’s financial capital, was this holy image waiting to be found. In truth, however, he did not find the Mother of God then, she had been with him all along and while he was praying to God that whole time to find a job, so she also prayed, interceding on his and his family’s behalf before the Holy Throne of God.

That’s what we celebrate today. Today is the feast of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God. This holiday, like all holidays, has a history to it. Namely, in the year 911, on October 1st,during the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, there was an All-night Vigil in the Blachernae Church of the Mother of God in Constantinople. The church was full of people. There was a man there named Andrew, who was a fool-for-Christ, he is a Saint in the church. When a Saint is given this title “fool-for-Christ” it is because of their outward appearance of insanity and madness but, in fact, they are filled with holiness and zeal for God. And with St. Andrew was his disciple, Epiphanius. At four o’clock in the morning, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared above the people, holding her omophorion outstretched as a protective covering for the faithful. She was clothed in gold-encrusted purple, and shone with an ineffable radiance, surrounded by apostles, saints, martyrs and virgins. St. Andrew said to Blessed Epiphanius: “Do you see, brother, the Queen and Lady of all praying for the whole world?” Epiphanius replied: “I see, Father, and am struck with amazement!” The Feast of the Protection was instituted to commemorate this event, and to remind us that we can prayerfully receive the unceasing protection of the Most-holy Theotokos in any time of difficulty.*

We find ourselves in a very similar situation this morning. We’re all in church this morning. We too are in prayer. But what would we say, what would we do if – all of the sudden – we were to see the Holy Theotokos appear to us? You know, in reality, that’s not completely impossible. We know that in church, at the Divine Liturgy, we are surrounded by angels, we are surrounded by the invisible world. We know that in church, at the Divine Liturgy, the very Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is present. What’s more, as Christians, we know and believe that God watches over us and is with us everywhere we go. We remember the words of our Lord who says in Revelation, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me” (3:20).

More than anything today’s feast should remind us “that we sinners, upon whom the righteous anger of the Lord should come crashing down, are covered by the saving Protection of His Holy Mother. And when the Lord, angered by our sins, turns His holiest of eyes, He sees the Omophorion of His Mother. She has covered us. Let us never despair, regardless of our sorrows and trials, but always call on the Mother of the Christian race, that She not take away Her Motherly care.”** Amen.


*The Prologue
**Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)

A Small, Wooden Cross

On what kind of Cross we should wear. (I think. I couldn’t find exactly the question that was posed but the following is an answer given by a very close friend, Fr. Dragan):

“When the Resurrected Christ settles in our hearts we are then adorned by the most luminous and most golden Cross, which is the victory over death – with the Kingdom of Heaven.  At Holy Baptism we put on Christ which means that we are buried and we resurrect with Him. Afterwards, we are chrismated with the Holy Chrism. Behold, from the very beginning we are with the Cross, in the Cross and on the Cross which means that we have been prepared to be with Christ and in Christ. To be with Christ means that we were brought into the Church cross-wise, which was built on the Cross sacrifice and the Resurrection of Christ. If Christ is in us then His Cross is in us as well and not some rich, ornate one but a regular wooden one which goes unnoticed – but everyone recognizes it; which is not seen, but all take note of it.

Let us bear on our  chests the smaller, wooden cross,so that in our hearts the golden Cross of Christ might enter.”

Fr. Dragan Lj. Zaric