Our intercession for the dead

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Taken from “After Death”, by Archimandrite Vasilios Bakogiannis –

“We are not willing to be crucified for our own salvation, how much less for that of our neighbor. God was crucified for our salvation! And that means that He desires our salvation more than we ourselves do. As the Holy Gospel says, Christ healed the sick, He healed the body. Will He not then have mercy on the soul, which is higher than the body? He heeded the entreaty of the demons, who requested that they not be cast into Hell. Will He then not heed a similar entreaty from Christians?

And there is something even more noteworthy: prayers we make for the dead are even more powerful that those we make for the living. Living people have “free will”. They decide for themselves what to do. Whether they go to Paradise or not. Nobody forces them, nobody puts them under pressure. Not even God. God simply shows them the ways and means to repentance. And they choose.

But the dead no longer have free will. They are no longer masters of theirs souls. So it is easier for God to have mercy on a soul. This is why whatever we do for souls is heeded by God! What precisely can our prayers achieve for souls? Two things: the first is that at the exact moment when we pray the soul receives mercy; the second is that the soul can even get out of Hell. And go to Paradise! The first is certain, the second uncertain, but not impossible. “Almsgiving, liturgies and remembrances serves are of great benefit for the soul: they are even able to release it from Hell” (Revelation of the Angel to Saint Makarios).

The fact that a soul is able to get out of Hell is apparent from the following words of the Lord: “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). That is:

In the next life, only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (according to the fathers this is unbelief or heresy) is unforgivable. People do not go to Hell only for this sin, but only this one remains unforgivable. It follows, then, that all other sins, however serious they are, perhaps can be pardoned. And then the soul will get out of Hell. Why else do we say the “Thrice-holies” and the Remembrance Services?

Envy Us on Facebook!

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H/T: Daily News (here)

Facebook leaves many users envious and unhappy, German researchers say

By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON — Witnessing friends’ vacations, love lives and work successes on Facebook can cause envy and trigger feelings of misery and loneliness, according to German researchers.

A study conducted jointly by two German universities found rampant envy on Facebook, the world’s largest social network that now has over one billion users and has produced an unprecedented platform for social comparison.

The researchers found that one in three people felt worse after visiting the site and more dissatisfied with their lives, while people who browsed without contributing were affected the most.

“We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,” researcher Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of Information Systems at Berlin’s Humboldt University told Reuters.

“From our observations some of these people will then leave Facebook or at least reduce their use of the site,” said Krasnova, adding to speculation that Facebook could be reaching saturation point in some markets.

Researchers from Humboldt University and from Darmstadt’s Technical University found vacation photos were the biggest cause of resentment with more than half of envy incidents triggered by holiday snaps on Facebook.

Social interaction was the second most common cause of envy as users could compare how many birthday greetings they received to those of their Facebook friends and how many “likes” or comments were made on photos and postings.

“Passive following triggers invidious emotions, with users mainly envying happiness of others, the way others spend their vacations and socialize,” the researchers said in the report “Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?” released on Tuesday.

“The spread and ubiquitous presence of envy on Social Networking Sites is shown to undermine users’ life satisfaction.”

They found people aged in their mid-30s were most likely to envy family happiness while women were more likely to envy physical attractiveness.

These feelings of envy were found to prompt some users to boast more about their achievements on the site run by Facebook Inc. to portray themselves in a better light.

Men were shown to post more self-promotional content on Facebook to let people know about their accomplishments while women stressed their good looks and social lives.

The researchers based their findings on two studies involving 600 people with the results to be presented at a conference on information systems in Germany in February.

The first study looked at the scale, scope and nature of envy incidents triggered by Facebook and the second at how envy was linked to passive use of Facebook and life satisfaction.

The researchers said the respondents in both studies were German but they expected the findings to hold internationally as envy is a universal feeling and possibly impact Facebook usage.

“From a provider’s perspective, our findings signal that users frequently perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may, in the long-run, endanger platform sustainability,” the researchers concluded.

Theophany 2013

On Sunday we had our second annual Pan Orthodox Theophany celebration, River Blessing in the Shenango Valley. We were downtown Sharon, our usual spot, where we blessed the Shenango River. His Eminence Archbishop Nathanael, Archbishop of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate, was visiting the local Holy Cross Orthodox Church and was our special guest and officiated over the service.

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In Memoriam: Fr. Jacob Myers

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I just learned of the sudden passing of Fr. Jacob Myers. I was a priest in Atlanta when I met Fr. Jacob. I remember getting a call from him soon after I arrived.  He called for something or other and we got to chatting, which is what he was like. He liked to talk. He was friendly.  Though he truly did seem like a very nice priest I later learned from the other clergy that he was part of a non-canonical group, the Holy Order of MANS.  But we were to meet again. A few years afterward, that group was formally received to canonical Orthodoxy: a group of them were received into the Serbian Church, a group into OCA and others to the Bulgarian Church. Fr. Jacob’s church in Atlanta fell under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America.

Quickly he became an active member of our newly formed Clergy Brotherhood. He loved photography and was very good at it. He came to the blessing of our new chapel in Lilburn and took a bunch of fantastic shots. But more than photography, feeding the poor was his real mission. His parish is pretty much in the ghetto, in South Atlanta but his doors were always open. For everyone. He fed the homeless, they were always around the church. Fr. Stephen Freeman posted an anecdote on his blog today about Fr. Jacob which I’d like to share. He writes:  “I gave Fr. Jacob a ride to the airport in Dallas, TX, once. He saw a man begging by the side of the road. I stopped at a stoplight and Fr. Jacob insisted that I roll down my car window. He called the beggar over and handed him money through the window. “Pray for the priest Jacob who is traveling!” he called out.”

I can’t help but think of all the thousands and thousands of homeless he fed that are now feeding him with their prayers.

May his memory be eternal!

For ever and ever

“Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false. Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live for ever. Perhaps my bad temper or my jealousy are gradually getting worse – so gradually that the increase in seventy years will not be noticeable. But it might be absolute hell in a million years: in fact, if Christianity is true, Hell is the precisely correct technical term for what it would be. And immortality makes this difference, which,  by the by, has a connection with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilization, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilization, compared with his, is only a moment.”

C.S. Lewis
from Mere Christianity

“People who criticize the Church….”

The article below appeared on the Serbian patriarchate website this morning which I instantly felt compelled to translate. *In the meantime the patriarchate has published my translation here.

A group of priests from Cacak, in their disagreement with the regulations of the Church and the spiritual authority of the leadership in the Church, have formed an electronic forum known as “Borba za veru” (“Struggle for the faith”), so that by means of this site they might allow the public to know of their opposition to the Serbian Church. Here we must instantly cite the words of the Apostle Paul from Holy Scripture which are compulsory to all, which state: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2). This was said during the time of pagan rule. It was meant directly for the governing rulers, and all the more to the spiritual, church rulers. What rulers are these? The Church is, by succession from Christ our Lord, apostolic. And by its conformation, through the Apostles, it is episcopal, under the leadership of the bishops.

The highest ruling body of a local Orthodox Church is the Holy Assembly of Bishops, in which all hierarchs of that Church, in a conciliar fashion, make decisions regarding all the issues and problems of church life. This Assembly, to an extent, can be compared to the role of a country’s national assembly.

The Holy Synod of Bishops is the executive body of the Holy Assembly of Bishops. This is church government, similar to civil government. The president of the Holy Synod, as well as the Assembly of Bishops, is always in our church the Patriarch. Members of the Holy Synod are four hierarchs from our church, while the secretary of the Holy Assembly of Bishops and the officers, as the support staff, carry out the administration of the Synod.

Each diocese is administered by a bishop, who has the fullness of the archpastoral grace in liturgical serving, teaching and ruling of the Church in his diocese. The priest has all of this in his own parish, but to a lesser degree, depending on the blessing of his bishop.

All the faithful of the Orthodox Church are must fulfill the requirements of their Church with love and obedience. The Church awards those very zealous faithful. If the need arises to assert warnings, reprimands or other disciplinary measures (epitimija – penance), it is carried out by the governing church rulers.

The Holy Synod is in charge of the bishops and, and ultimately, the Holy Assembly of Bishops.

The diocesan bishop is in charge of clergy and monastics of his diocese.

The diocesan bishop issues congratulatory citations, warnings, reprimands and other epitimija to the faithful as members of the Church.

The state does the same, except it will use force, or even weapons, on unruly citizens.

The Church, however, does not do that. When God created man He gave them freedom, reason and a moral law, to know how and for what purpose will they use that freedom. If they abuse it, then follows, according to the words of Christ, an evangelical warning from the clergyman who is in charge. If this is not sufficient, they take two persons (not just whoever) as two witnesses. If even then they do not listen and repent, then they are to tell it to the Church – which in practice signifies the higher, hierarchical rulers. If they do not even listen to the Church then, with no coercion, they are excommunicated from the Church, for whom, until they come to their senses and repent, they are treated as pagan, godless. But if they realize their sin and violation and they sincerely repent and seek forgiveness, the Churh, as a good Mother, will accept them with love and their error and sin she will forgive according to the Lord’s commandment: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…”.

Up until World War II all Orthodox Christians of our Church who, with good intentions, wrote about the Church or discussed something regarding the life of the Church, did it with the blessing of their diocesan bishop or the Holy Synod, under whose jurdisdiction was all church education and published materials. Under the many years of communist rule, that practice and rule came out of practice. And so today anyone will write whatever they wish and say whatever they want, whether that be for the Orthodox faith or their own on behalf of Orthodoxy, whether it be for or against the Church in which they were baptized, these self-proclaimed critics, with a multitude of ignorant comments, as a truth of their own, they will drag their readers and listeners into fallacy. This is done in some extreme vain desire of theirs to falsely portray the Orthodox Church in Serbia, and even in Russia and other places, as if it is supposedly falling apart and so they are forced to take the rudder, without the bishops or clergy, in order to “save the Church”.

They do not know, nor do they want to know what the Church is, what church hierarchy is and what our Orthodox faith is about.

They do not know, nor do they want to know, that Christ our Lord is God and the Son of God, that He is infallible, that He descended from the heavens and was incarnate on earth to teach us with the teachings of His Gospel that we live and find our salvation by it. They do not know that the Christ’s Church is also infallible and indestructible as Christ is. They do not know that we Christians are saved in the Church and through the Church: She saves us and not we Her.

People who criticize the Church and its representatives on earth, without the authority to do so, pour fire on their heads, for they do not know, nor do they want to know, that Christ is the Judge over all mankind and not them, they are especially not called to judge the archpastors of Christ’s Church on earth.

For this reason the group of citizens in Cacak who have named their non-church forum “Borba za veru” (“Struggle for the faith”) should know, as well as everyone else, that it is neither a part of the Church nor was it launched with the blessing of the Church but it was founded by a group of sectarian minded rebellious citizens to battle against the Church, her elders and its liturgical and disciplinary order. For all those things which have been done away during the time of our enslavement to the Turks, or wartime enslavement, as well as any other abnormal difficulties and troubles, it is the obligation of the Church to, in time, bring to normal order. The local Orthodox Church – each one, as well as ours – is controlled and is judged by the ecumenical Orthodox Church, and not a sectarian minded group of rebels who are obsessed with themselves, their vanity and their ignorance of themselves, their Church, their duties and responsibilities and place in the Church.

All such sectarian minded, spiritually unsound and misguided critics, if they could see and face their errors, would be ashamed and would rush to make peace with themselves and their souls with their Church and would rush all the more to bring peace, unity and love both in their souls and their surroundings instead of rebellion; which is the opposite of what they have now done, towards the end of December 2012, as they showed with their rebellious and blasphemous lies against a number of bishops, as well as against a candidate who as a priest peacefully defended his doctoral thesis.

Here it is good to remember that folk wisdom: don’t run in front of the thill or the wagon will run you over.  The Lord, through the Church, has given us everything we need for our salvation. The fulfillment of that He Himself has affirmed with the human body which He took upon Himself. Furthermore, without any bargaining with us, He keeps silent and waits. His Church does the same. There is no rush to eternity in Heaven. They wait for us and watch to see with what will we fill the span of our lives here on earth with. In respect, love and obedience with patience for our Creator and His holy Church or in rebellion and pride which had once turned an angel into Satan and rejected God and His Church. God is not the God of many but the chosen. He who makes an effort to seek out the wisdom of Holy Scripture, should understand and comprehend that.

Archimandrite Jovan

Second Chances

So much for New Year’s resolutions. Actually, I didn’t make any. Even if I did I doubt posting more on my blog would make the cut. Not enough time in the day to worry about such things. But inactivity is unappealing wherever it might show up. And seeing the sparse postings I’ve been having recently has only motivated me to at least try to dedicate just a little more time here.

There are always second chances. Even with resolutions. Especially when you take into consideration that according to the old calendar the New Year has just arrived today. (Happy New Year’s, by the way.) A good quote, in the same vein – sort of, from Fr. Ted’s blog (here):

“Even if you are not what you should be, you should not despair. It is bad enough that you have sinned; why in addition do you wrong God by regarding Him in your ignorance as powerless? Is He, who for your sake created the great universe that you behold, incapable of saving your soul? And if you say that this fact, as well as His incarnation, only makes your condemnation worse, then repent; and He will receive your repentance, as He accepted that of the prodigal son ( cf.Luke 15:20)  and the prostitute (cf. Luke 7:37-50). But if repentance is too much for you, and you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the publican ( cf. Luke 18:13): that is enough to ensure your salvation. For he who sins without repenting, yet does not despair, must out of necessity regard himself as the lowest of creatures, and will not dare to judge or censure anyone. Rather, he will marvel at God’s compassion, and will be full of gratitude towards his Benefactor, and so may receive many other blessings as well.” (St. Peter of Damaskos in The Philokalia – The Complete Text, Volume Three, pg. 160)