The New Ottoman Empire

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Lest we forget, this past Wednesday was the 560th anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople.

The U.S. Helps Reconstruct the Ottoman Empire

by Robert E. Kaplan

Since the mid-1990s the United States has intervened militarily in several internal armed conflicts in Europe and the Middle East: bombing Serbs and Serbia in support of Izetbegovic’s Moslem Regime in Bosnia in 1995, bombing Serbs and Serbia in support of KLA Moslems of Kosovo in 1999, bombing Libya’s Gaddafi regime in support of rebels in 2010. Each intervention was justified to Americans as motivated by humanitarian concerns: to protect Bosnian Moslems from genocidal Serbs, to protect Kosovo Moslems from genocidal Serbs, and to protect Libyans from their murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Other reasons for these interventions were also offered: to gain for the United States a strategic foothold in the Balkans, to defeat communism in Yugoslavia, to demonstrate to the world’s Moslems that the United States is not anti-Moslem, to redefine the role of NATO in the post-Cold War era, among others.

Each of these United States military interventions occurred in an area that had been part of the Ottoman Empire. In each, a secular regime was ultimately replaced by an Islamist one favoring sharia law and the creation of a world-wide Caliphate. The countries that experienced the “Arab Spring” of the 2010s without the help of American military intervention, Tunisia and Egypt, had also been part of the Ottoman Empire, and also ended up with Islamist regimes.

full text

Cyber Monk

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While it’s usually blogs that I plug on this page, I take some time now to plug a Twitter page you might want to add on to your Favorites. It is the most informative page of Fr. Sava Janjic, abbot of the 14th century Decani Monastery in Kosovo, at times affectionately referred to as the “cyber monk”. (Click on image above.)

Below is some video footage he took of Western Kosovo Plain.  Enjoy.

Waters of Piety and Waves of Impiety

midpentecosthermitageFrom today’s Divine Liturgy. Fr. Andrew Gall from the local Ukrainian Church and Fr. David Mastroberte from the local Carpatho-Russian Church joined me for a pan-Orthodox liturgy on today’s feast of Mid-Pentecost. Afterward we had our monthly clergy meeting at the local Panera Bread.

Christ is Risen!

H/T: Ora et Labora (here). A homily given by Metropolitan Philaret of Eastern America.

We all know that, beginning Wednesday of this past week, the Church began to sing the meaningful and touching troparion of the feast of Mid-Pentecost, in which is said: “At Mid-feast give Thou my thirsty soul to drink of the waters of piety.” This appeal to the Christian soul is understandable to everyone, especially, of course, in our terrible time, when we hear not about the “waters of piety,” but rather about the waves of impiety pouring more and more over the entire world and over the entire human race. The Christian soul, under the pressure of this impiety, prays that the Lord would water it, thirsty, with the waters of piety. The answer to this appeal comes in the Gospel we heard today at the Liturgy, in which the Lord, as if coming out to meet the soul calling out to Him in the troparion, says: Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [Mt 11:28]. You also know another moving passage in the Gospel, in which the Lord says: Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light [Mt 11:29].

An apostle said once that the Lord’s commandments are not grievous [1 Jn 5:3]. Here the Lord calls us to learn from Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart. If we learned this meekness and humility from Him, we would immediately find rest for our souls. Here is our present life, with its vanity and defilement, with all its hardships and difficulties – is it some evil trick lying upon man, under which he suffocates and loses strength? The Lord says, in contradiction to this: My yoke is easy, and My burden is light, and not at all that terrible burden that the world, gone out of its mind, lays on its children. If only the children of this age would understand the Lord’s appeal, that only the Lord can give rest to the soul and remove that burden that lays on it, then all of life would change quite wonderfully. But alas! We know both from the Gospel and from the works of the Holy Fathers that the darkness resting over mankind will continue to thicken and condense, and will grow darker yet. One only needs to remember that both the Gospel and the Holy Fathers have warned us that life will become worse and more difficult. Certain of them speak of some sort of subsequent improvement. But the great Elder Ambrose of Optina waned in advance that this darkness will thicken and thicken, and that things will become more and more difficult for people. Finally the era of the Antichrist will arrive, in which those who are truly faithful to God and the Church will endure such tribulations as no one has ever before known. At the same time, those who are faithful to the Lord will cry out that the Lord’s yoke is easy, and His burden light. He who bows his head under this good yoke and this light burden of Christ will immediately feel that he is free, that the yoke of Christ does not choke him, that it does not make his life more difficult but, to the contrary, eases it. If only mankind, gone out of its mind, would at last understand this Evangelic appeal and turn to its Savior, Who calls them to Himself, and learn from Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart – then mankind would understand where in fact truth and light are, and where lies and falsehood are. But, I repeat, there is no hope that mankind will understand, because the predictions of Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers do not speak of this at all. But the Christian should not grow downcast in spirit. The Lord knows His faithful ones, and protects them as the apple of His eye. Recall how approvingly the Lord, in the Apocalypse, speaks to the angel of the Church of Philadelphia, which can be taken as all those who are faithful to Him. He says: Because thou hast kept the word of My patience (His Divine word), I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world [Rev 3:10]. The Lord Jesus Christ, as we know all too well, never spoke an untruth: if this is what He said, this is what will be! It follows that our task must be to maintain fidelity to Him. If we will keep His the word of His patience, His Divine word, as holy, and fulfill it, then He will fulfill His Divine word, and can save us from those afflictions, from those years of temptations that have already begun and which are still ongoing. Amen.

Christ is Risen!

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H/T: Metropolitan Paul Yazigi (here), Archbishop of Aleppo , Alexandretta and Dependencies

Christ is Risen!

“And the light shineth in darkness;
and the darkness comprehended it not”

When we hear the Gospel Passage for the feast of Pascha, we often ask ourselves where is the mention or the meaning of Pascha in this passage?

All the hymns, however, tells us about the joy of some new event that occurred, and a new dawn and a new beginning that has shone on us. So “Come let us drink a beverage new…” The week following Pascha is called the Bright week, because it has something new that the Christians ought to acquire and experience. What is this newness being talked about? What is the meaning of this feast?

The Gospel passage unveils a secret: ” The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). This is the greatness of light in the Gospel of St. John. The light is reality, true existence, but the darkness is nonexistence, nothingness, because it is the absence of light. The glory of light then disperses the darkness and overcomes it.

The passage reminds us of the battle of darkness and the victory of the light. This light in the language of John is life, “And the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). The passage here reminds us of the victory of death over life, the annihilation of death and the overflowing of life, and the trampling down of death by the death and Resurrection of Christ.

One of the hymns says: “Early in the morning let us arise and bring to the Master a hymn instead of myrrh, beholding Christ who is the Sun of righteousness granting life for all.” This then is the Gospel of the victory of life, that is the Gospel of the Resurrection. Christianity is not just a religion but rather an overflowing of life. In other words, it is the religion of life. Our God is the God of the living and not of the dead. What life are we taking about here? If someone asks us about the meaning of life, we would have discovered that several of us have different opinions about this matter.

For some life came by coincidence, an accidental phenomenon, or a some kind of an unknown cosmic blind force. For some, the life of mankind does not mean more than staying healthy or living longer.

For other people, life is dynamism and motion, and everything that has renewal. Renewal is the stamp of life. Everything is renewed, but its essence remains. For them Man stays alive through his progeny and by all the inventions that he leaves behind… He leaves his works and his name… As if life is what one leaves behind, and not what he takes with him?!!

Others still, facing the painful and shameful reality of death, consider themselves existentialists. They repeat the words of the Epicureans, in a modern way, saying, “Eat, drink, and, be merry for tomorrow we die.” For them, life is fulfilled by self-indulgence unto the satiation of the desires. In the best cases, they may think of life as romantic, that is the love of money, literature and the arts.

The reality of death, however, makes bitter all these conceptions, making them appear as solutions that do not save man, but rather anaesthetize him, as if man has at the end to just surrender to annihilation and death.

According to the resurrection of Christ, Christianity alone has revealed to us the truthfulness of the eternal life. The death and Resurrection of Christ has shown that life extends even after the death of the body. Among Christians themselves however, there are three lines of thought. The first emphasizes the beauty of eternity. When this line of thought compares this present life with eternity, it shows how painful, vain and absurd the present is, and how glorious eternity is. Very often we read Christian articles and books that talks about how low and temporal the present is. It says that this present life ends but the future life will last forever, and mankind pays the value of this future life during his present earthly life. Our present life then is understood as the atonement of our sins and to pay for our entrance to the Kingdom. That’s why the Christian needs to rush to humanitarian works and charitable and social organizations for all these are works of atonement, or “certificates of absolution.”

The second line of thought is not very different from the first one regarding its view of the present life compared to the future eternity. The only difference is that the people in that line of thought believe that the entrance to the Kingdom is a free gift, and it is by faith alone and not works that we gain the eternal life. Just believe and you will be saved. For the present life ‘s aim is to spread the faith in Jesus Christ and to preach by word.

All these are conceptions of life, but ours is different.

All these explanations are pictures of life, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but in any case they are not the life that we read in the HolyScriptures, especially in the Gospel of St. John.

An existentialist philosopher once said that faith in a future life is the biggest deception and crime in life itself. We agree with his reaction, which can be justified for he ignores the life that he defends.

Life as defined by the Gospel is the light that came into the world. It is the Word that became flesh and this Word is God. Put simply, life is the acceptance of this light. The passage is clear in saying that light overcomes darkness, and the light was rejected by His own. Light is stronger than darkness,, but the light does not impose Himself on the human will. Life is stronger than death, but it is in the freedom of mankind. To draw from the light our life, to participate in the light, and even to live in and for the light is LIFE. To have a personal experience with Jesus is LIFE. If one does not have this personal experience with Christ, then all the institutions and charitable organizations, all the faith and progeny, all the healthy living will not help. To proclaim with the Apostle Paul ” nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal.2:20), “The Lord is my life, my light, and my salvation.”

Life then does not start after death. Life starts from the time we accept in us the Light. Eternal life starts from Baptism, and not from Burial.

“The future life” becomes the present. If we do not experience the divine longing and its consuming fire, we will not be in fellowship with Christ in this present life, and will not know Him in the future life either! It is “life” to experience the warmth of the divine presence every day of our lives. St. Seraphim of Sarov defines the life in Christ as the acquisition fo the Holy Spirit. St. Silouan the Athonite prayed fervently to God, saying, “Make everyone know Thee O Lord,” that is to make everyone live in you.

Therefore, if Christ did not rise, our faith is futile. If Christ did not rise, what light will make me burn? How will I be able to experience life? In this way we understand the words of Saint Seraphim:

“My joy, Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!”

Now Hiring: Exorcist Priests

H/T: FoxNews (here)

Madrid’s Catholic Church says it only has 1 exorcist priest and needs more

The Catholic archdiocese in Madrid says it needs more exorcists to help some of its faithful cope with the devil.

An archdiocese spokeswoman said Friday that Madrid only has one exorcist priest and that it is considering a plan to train more. She spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with archdiocese policy.

“The devil exists. That’s a fact,” she told The Associated Press.

Only a priest authorized by a bishop can perform an exorcism and the brief rite involves blessings with holy water, prayers and an interrogation of the devil by the exorcist during which the demon is asked to leave the victim.

ReligionenLibertad, a Catholic website, blames the growing secularization of Spanish society for what it calls an increase in people asking for help with their demons.

Triumph of the Slavic Script

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On Friday we celebrate the feastday of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, according to the Old Calendar.  The year 2013 in Thessaloniki, Greece will be devoted to Saints Cyril and Methodius, Enlighteners of the Slavic nations.  The decision to celebrate the memory of the enlighteners of the Slavs in their native city was made in connection with the 1150th anniversary of their chief missionary feat – making the first Slavic alphabet in 863.

H/T: Sofia’s News Agency (here)

Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church celebrates Saturday, May 11, the feast day of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, two of the fathers of the Slavic literary culture.

The two brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius were born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century, in 827 and 826 respectively. They became missionaries of Christianity among the Slavs and influenced the cultural development of all Slavic people.

Cyril and Methodius are known as the creators of the Glagolitic alphabet, the first alphabet used to transcribe the Old Church Slavonic language. The Cyrillic alphabet, which was based on the Glagolitic alphabet, is used in a number of languages, including Bulgarian.

After their death, their pupils continued their missionary work among other Slavic peoples. Their disciples introduced the alphabet in Bulgaria, putting the beginning of its journey to the world. Several centuries later, Patriarch Evtimii launched a literary reform and updated the alphabet, assuming that words are the expression of the divine essence of things.

Both brothers are venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church as saints with the title of “Equals to the Apostles.”

In 1880, Pope Leo XIII introduced their feast into the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1980, Pope John Paul II declared them Co-patrons of Europe, together with Saint Benedict of Norcia.

The two brothers had some early missions, but in 862, they were to enter upon the work which gives them their historical importance. That year the Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia, who sought to assert his independence from the Franks, expelled missionaries of the Roman Church and instead turned to Constantinople for ecclesiastical assistance and political support. Rastislav requested that the Emperor Michael III and the Patriarch Photius send missionaries to evangelize his Slavic subjects. The task was entrusted to Cyril and Methodius, who began translating the Bible into the language now known as Old Church Slavonic and travelled to Great Moravia to promote it.

For the purpose of this mission, they then devised the Glagolitic alphabet and wrote the first Slavic Civil Code, which was used in Great Moravia.

In 867, Pope Nicholas I invited the brothers to Rome. Their evangelizing mission in Moravia had by this time become the focus of a dispute with Theotmar, the Archbishop of Salzburg and bishop of Passau, who claimed ecclesiastical control of the same territory and wished to see it use the Latin liturgy exclusively. They arrived in Rome in 868 where they were warmly received, partly because they brought with them the relics of Saint Clement and despite the rivalry with Constantinople.

The brothers were praised for their knowledge and respected for their influence in Constantinople. Their project in Moravia found support from Pope Adrian II, who formally authorized the use of the new Slavic liturgy. The ordination of the brothers’ Slav disciples was performed by Formosus and Gauderic, two prominent bishops, and the newly made priests officiated in their own tongue at the altars of some of the principal churches.

Feeling his end approaching, Cyril put on the monastic habit and died fifty days later, on February 14, 869.

Repentance in the afterlife

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An excerpt from a very interesting post by Fr Aidan at Eclectic Orthodoxy. One of my favorite prayers, which I consider to be one of the most beautiful and most powerful, is the third prayer at Pentecost Vespers, mentioned in the full version of this post.  Full post here.

“….May the sinner repent of his sins in the afterlife? Absolutely, answers Bulgakov. The departed soul does not lose his freedom and creative energy. He has acquired a new kind of existence that involves an expansion and deepening of spiritual knowledge. Repentance in the afterlife must be different from repentance in our earthly life. The departed soul no longer acts in the world as he once did. Hence he no longer has available to him the kind of penitence made possible by historical existence. But still the person may repent and change his orientation toward God:

“Of course, here too, the fullness of the life of the living is different from that of the dead, and the measure of their repentance is not the same. Clearly, the repentance of the deceased, as a complex inner process of awakening to spiritual life, differs from what takes place in the living. Earthly life is a foundation for the future life, but it is not the only foundation. Earthly life and the afterlife are connected as different aspects of the one life of one and the same spirit. One usually prefers to conceive the afterlife state of “sinners” (but who is free of sin and therefore does not need to repent?) in the juridical and penitentiary form of a sentence served in an afterlife prison, without possibility of pardon or parole. However, it is completely impossible to allow that the spirit could be in a state so static, so frozen in an unchanging spasm or so immersed in passive contemplation of its past actions and deprived of the capacity for future life. … From all this we conclude that the afterlife state is not death, and not even a stupor of the spirit, but a continuation of the life of the spirit begun on earth. Thus, despite the reduced condition for this life which passes outside the body and despite a certain passivity resulting from this, the afterlife state cannot be considered as given once and for all and unchanging, with the total absence of creative freedom. Rather, it is a continuation of spiritual life, which does not end on the other side of death’s threshold. The afterlife state is a stage of the path leading to resurrection.” (pp. 365-366)