Don’t insult my religious feelings

H/T: RT (here)

Putin signs ‘gay propaganda’ ban and law criminalizing insult of religious feelings

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed two controversial laws strengthening the penalties for “propagating homosexuality among minors” and for insulting people’s religious feelings in public.

Vladimir Putin has signed the so-called ‘gay propaganda’ bill after the upper house, the Federation Council, approved it on June 26 and the lower house, the State Duma, on June 11.

It introduces fines for propaganda of non-traditional sex relations to minors, including in the media, on the internet and via viral adverts.

Under the amended law holding LGBT rallies is now prohibited as well as distribution of information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual concepts in children, describing such ties as attractive, promoting the distorted understanding of social equality of traditional and non-traditional relations and also unwanted solicitation of information that could provoke interest in such relations.

Thus, for giving children propaganda about homosexuality – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community – individuals could be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($US 152) for such ‘propaganda’ and foreigners could be fined the same amount, held in jail for 15 days and deported.

Officials will have to pay up to 50,000 rubles (about US$ 1,500) and companies – up to 500,000 rubles (about $US 15,000).

Using the media or the internet for the promotion of non-traditional sex relations carries even harsher punishment. Individuals will have to shell out up to 100,000 rubles (about US$ 3,000), while organizations – a million rubles or face a 90-day suspension of activities.

The bill was slammed as “anti-gay” by gay rights activists both in Russia and abroad. However, the Russian president tried to cut short the criticism coming from Western countries and, speaking at the press-conference in Finland earlier this month, called  on them not to interfere with Russian internal affairs.

“Some countries … think that there is no need to protect children from this. We do. We are not going to interfere,” he said. “But we are going to provide such protection the way that State Duma lawmakers have decided.”

Meanwhile, one of the recent polls conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center (VTSIOM) in early June showed that 88 per cent of Russians supported the amendments to the law. Only 7 per cent said they are against. Some 54 per cent said homosexuality should be banned and face criminal liability.

Also on Saturday Vladimir Putin signed another controversial bill that criminalizes insulting people’s religious feelings.

The law allows fines up to half a million rubles (about $15,600) and up to three years of jail time for people convicted of intentionally offending religious sensibilities at places of worship and a year in jail for offenses committed elsewhere.

Premeditated and public desecration of religious objects or books will also be punished – by fines of up to 200,000 rubles (over $6,200).

The law was initially advanced in September 2012, half a year after three Pussy Riot members were arrested for staging an anti-Putin punk prayer in Moscow’s main cathedral. The three convicts – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich – were sentenced to two years in a medium-security prison for ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and enmity’ in August 2012. One of them later had her sentence suspended.

The Pussy Riot case attracted unprecedented attention and divided Russia’s society into those who think Pussy Riot’s actions deserve to be punished harshly, and those who think there was no criminal intent.

The case also prompted wide public discussion both on the limits of freedom of expression and on the proper punishment for attacking other people’s beliefs.



A Resurrectional Funeral

justin1H/T: Mystagogy (here)

Testimonies of Miracles Following the Repose of Elder Justin Parvu

By Archimandrite Demetrios Athanasiou

In the Romanian website Blog de Dogmatică Empirică, there is a testimony from Professor Marian Maricaru regarding miraculous events that followed the venerable repose of Elder Justin Parvu at the Monastery of Petru Vodă in Moldavia. Comments below this article by other witnesses confirm the details of these events.

As we know, the blessed Elder reposed on Sunday 16 June 2013 and was buried on Thursday 20 June 2013.

justin2According to the testimony of witnesses, the body of the Elder showed no rigor mortis, which also occurs with Athonite monastics. The skin of his hands were soft, even four days after his repose, and an unusual fragrance came from his relic. Even those who were initially skeptical of the myrrhgushing, saw at the embrace of his body drops of liquid from which derived an exquisite fragrance coming out of the hands and forehead of the Elder.The entire atmosphere of the funeral was resurrectional. Nowhere could be seen a resemblance to the grief of people at death. The tears of the people were tears of joy and not sadness. The body of the Elder itself, with his venerable form, made you feel the joy of the Resurrection. According to Professor Marian, he had never felt this at any other funeral.Another source reports that following the repose of the Elder, during the night of Sunday the 16th towards the 17th of June 2013, tears came from the eyes of the Elder. The Monastery invited a team of doctors to interpret this event, but none were able to give a scientific explanation.

Lastly, the website reports on a woman who was demon possessed being healed after she was brought to the relic of the Elder. The video is below, which may be disturbing for some audiences:

Marriage and Friendship

The below quote is taken from an interview Fr. Josiah Trenham conducted with Roman Catholic Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco about same-sex marriages. Listen to the full interview here:

“….it [legalization of same sex marriage] will also undermine our understanding of friendship. Because what they call the revisionist view of marriage as opposed to the conjugal view, the classical view…. The only difference in marriage is that it’s not one of type but of degree, it’s the most intensive type of a friendship and of affection. And so people will begin to see that the only way to express friendship is in this way and they won’t see marriage as being a unique relationship and friendship having its own unique relationship as well, they won’t be able to understand the difference between marriage and friendship and so it’ll undermine also our capacity for friendship.

Philosophers and Saints

east_westTaken from an article that appeared in the Serbian Patriarchal newspaper Pravoslavlje (no. 1110), Western Philosophy and Eastern Philosophy...:

“Until recent times the dominating thought in Europe has been that ancient Greece is the cradle of philosophy. When it came to a more serious and studious investigation of culture’s orientation, in the mid 19th century and the onset of the 20th, this thinking changed. More and more researchers see primeval philosophy in India.

Bishop Nikolai was assured of the same. He even respected Eastern philosophy much more than Western. He believed that the East has certain predispositions for philosophy, while the West for science.

India is the mother of all philosophies (Beyond the East and West, 802). Transcendence is  a characteristic of the East, naturalism of the West (ibid, 759). The West fights for the visible (science), the East for the invisible (philosophy) (ibid, 808). The East has Saints and wise men (philosophers), the West has researchers (scientists) and conquerors (ibid, 808). The East yearns for an escape from the world, the West for a subordination to the world (ibid, 809). The West is the land of science, the East of philosophy (ibid, 800).  “Neither is the East for science, nor the West for philosophy” (ibid, 801).  Nikolaj is drawn to the Indian thought of philosophy because, first of all, it is firmly connected with life, in which truth and good are inseparable. That philosophy always implies asceticism and a virtuous life, which is the not the case with the West.

“All Indian philosophers are ascetics” (ibid, 802), he says. They are considered “saints” there (ibid, 802). Eastern philosophers are saints, while the Western are professors (ibid, 802).   And the space between saints and professors is greater than the distance the East is from the West (ibid, 802).”

Orthodoxy and Yoga


[H/T:  Mystagogy here]

An encyclical issued on June 4, 2013 by Metropolitan Markos of Chios on Christians who practice Yoga and whether or not it is merely a physical exercise. He basically explains that the Hindu religious practice of yoga was established for the sole purpose of entering into a spiritual state, and never had anything to do with exercise until a few decades ago when Hindu yogis explained it this way when they were trying to win converts in the West.

Encyclical 14: Is Yoga Exercise?

To the Sacred Clergy and Pious People of our Sacred Metropolis,

My brethren,

A key feature of our time is the confusion observed in various aspects of human life. A characteristic example of this spiritual and existential confusion is the fact that yoga is fundamentally a religious technique of Hinduism, advertised in our country, in Europe and in the United States as an exercise-fitness solution which is offered to release us from the numerous problems stemming from a stressful lifestyle.

But what is yoga? The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yujwhich means to “unite”, meaning the union of the individual soul with the impersonal Absolute One of Hinduism (see P. Schreiner, Yoga: Wörterbuch des Christen-tums, 1995, p. 1376). This union is considered a liberation and redemption of mankind from karma, that is, from the consequences that result from our choices and actions in supposedly previous lives.

Moreover, concerning the term yoga, we must stress that it is used as a qualifying term of one of the six classical orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy (see H. Baer, ​​”Yoga”, in the Lexikon der Sekten, Sohdergruppen und Weltanschauungen, 7th Ed, 2001, pp. 1166-1174).

But is yoga exercise? Can one isolate the practical exercise from its religious content and background? Can one ignore the purpose for which it is used? Unquestionably no.

And what about the claim of various centers, institutes, schools, groups, journals and gyms, that present it as lacking a religious nature, alleging it to be a “scientific” psychosomatic practice, or a practice for a simple existence and spiritual self-knowledge? Without doubt these assertions are inaccurate. They oftentimes misinform and confuse using an extremely attractive vocabulary (see R. Hauth, (Hrsg), Kompaktlexikon Religionen, 1998, p. 366).

On the contrary, yoga is a religious systematic theory, technique and method that evolves in stages and practices, one of which is meditation, which leads those who use it, with the guidance of a teacher (guru), to a singular life joined to the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism. In this way a person is redeemed and atones for the errors and mistakes made during the source of all supposedly previous incarnations.

From the above, therefore, we observe that the view of yoga simply as an exercise is incorrect. And this 1) because it is a fundamental feature of the Hindu system, 2) it cannot be stripped of its religious character according to the conditions of the content and purpose of exercise, 3) it is intrinsically linked to the anti-Christian concept of reincarnation, and 4) because it constitutes a humanistic effort towards redemption through techniques and exercises.

Why are the various techniques of yoga dangerous? The answer is given to us in an article on yoga from an authoritative encyclopediaΔο­μή. It says there: “It is known that the practice of yoga creates for the individual not entirely physiological properties – and parapsychological – because it reverses certain physical and mental functioning” (Δο­μή, vol. 4, p. 199).

To conclude this brief offering of ours on whether or not yoga is exercise, we must again remind all of the obvious. The value of our identity as Orthodox Christians is incompatible with the use of Hindu religious practices in any aspect of our lives.

The salvation of man which is freely housed within the Church, is the work and offering of the love and grace of our Christ. For us does Paul say with all gravity: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27), and: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15).

With warm fatherly prayers,

The Metropolitan of Chios, Psara and Oinouses, Markos

Two Christs and no church!

H/T: Cleveland Plain Dealer (here), by Andrew Harmon in the Religion section of Saturday’s paper.

Same-sex marriage not condoned
by Eastern Orthodox Church:
Messages of Faith

Over the last few years I have been asked many times about same-sex marriage. Especially in the last few months, as this issue has become so big, the question repeatedly comes: “What does the Eastern Orthodox Church say about this matter?”

Some denominations will now perform such ceremonies. Within some denominations, some pastors will and some won’t. The Orthodox Church is the second largest Christian body in the world and usually considered the most traditional. Will the Orthodox Church do same-sex marriages?

No, we won’t.

Let me explain why. Marriage has always been between males and females. That is the very meaning of the word. Some cultures in history, most famously ancient Greece, were — shall we say — rather easygoing about homosexuality. But even they never accepted same-sex marriage as an open and legal institution.

If this huge change now takes place, as it seems it might, it will be a first in the history of the human race. Marriage is one of the holy sacraments of the church. And it has always been between a woman and a man. To change this would be to change the very nature of the sacrament and that we cannot do.

The sacrament of Christian marriage reflects the loving union between Jesus Christ and his church. This is clear in the epistle lesson written by the Holy Apostle Paul, Ephesians 5:21-33, which is read at every Orthodox wedding. In this epistle reading, St. Paul clearly teaches that the marital union reflects the union between Christ, the bridegroom, and his spouse the church, the bride.

A human bride and groom hopefully have a similarly loving relationship and union as do Christ and his church. But the marriage between Christ and the church can’t work if there are two Christs and no church, or two churches and no Christ! And, similarly, the human marital reflection of the union between Christ and the church won’t work if there are two human brides and no groom, or two grooms and no bride.

To have such a “marriage” would make nonsense of everything Paul says and that fact shows that such a “marriage” really isn’t marriage, no matter what terminology we humans wish to use. Ultimately, real marriage is what God says real marriage is, not what we say it is. Through the inspiration of Scripture by the Holy Spirit, God has spoken through the writings of St. Paul.

Both the Bible and the tradition of the church teach that same-sex sexual activity is sinful. It’s not an unforgivable sin or the worst sin, but it is a sin. Therefore, the church asks those who are tempted to such sin to refrain from it and be chaste. In a similar way the church asks those with no same-sex struggles to refrain from heterosexual sexual activity outside of marriage. Chastity is asked from both and it is believed that God can help a person remain chaste.

So in closing, the Orthodox Church is happy to minister to those struggling with homosexuality. Such ministering goes on pretty much everywhere and in most parishes –our people have the same struggles as everyone else does. We certainly have no hatred against people with this struggle and no interest in “gay bashing.”

We will not turn someone away because of a particular sin they struggle with. They are sinners like the rest of us who need God’s forgiveness and help.

But performing or approving of same-sex marriages? No, we can’t do that. That would be saying that what is a sin isn’t a sin. That would be a lie, so we can’t participate or approve.

May God have mercy on all of us sinners and bring us to repent of our sins and bring us all into his heavenly kingdom.

The Rev. Andrew Harmon is pastor of St. Matthew Orthodox Church in North Royalton.

The Church Visible and Invisible

churchInteriorH/T: Preachers Institute (here)

Fr. John Romanides

On The Church

The Church is the body of Christ, which is comprised of all those faithful in Christ; of those who participate in the first resurrection and who bear the betrothal of the Spirit or even those who have foretasted theosis (deification).

The Church has existed even before Creation, as the kingdom and the glory that is hidden within God and in which God resides, along with His Logos and His Spirit. By a volition of God, the aeons were created, as were the celestial powers and the incorporeal spirits or angels therein, and thereafter, time and the world within it, in which man was also created, who unites within himself the noetic energy of the angels with the logos-reason and the human body.

The Church is both invisible and visible; in other words, She is comprised of those who are enlisted (in active duty) on earth and those who are in the heavens, that is, those who have triumphed in the glory of God.

Among the Protestants there prevails the opinion that the Church is invisible only – where the sacraments of Baptism and the Divine Eucharist are merely symbolic acts – and that only God knows who the true members of the Church are. The Orthodox Church, on the other hand, also stresses the visible aspect of the Church. Outside the Church, there is no salvation.

The Church, as the body of Christ, is the residence of God’s uncreated glory. It is impossible for us to separate Christ from the Church, as it is to separate the Church from Christ. In Papism and Protestantism there is a clear distinction between the body of Christ and the Church; that is, one can participate in the body of Christ, without being a member of the Papist church.

This is impossible for Orthodoxy.

According to the Calvinists, after His ascension, Christ resides in heaven, and consequently the transformation of bread and wine into the actual Body and Blood of Christ is impossible. A complete absence of Christ. Approximately the same thing is highlighted in the Papist church, because Christ is regarded as absent, and through the minister’s prayer, He descends from the heavens and becomes present. This implies that Christ is absent from the Church.

Members of the Church are – as mentioned previously – those who have received the betrothal of the Spirit and the deified ones.

When the ancient Church referred to the body of Christ as the Church, and Christ as the Head of the Church, they of course did not mean that Christ was spread out bodily all over the world and that He – for example – had His Head in Rome, the one hand in the East and the other in the West, but that the whole of Christ exists in every individual church with all its members, that is, the Saints and the faithful of the universe.

In this way, according to the teaching of the Fathers, when we perform the Divine Eucharist, not only is Christ present, but all His Saints and the Christians of the Universe are present, in Christ. When we receive a tiny morsel of the Holy Bread, we receive all of Christ inside us. When Christians gather together for the same reason, the whole Church is gathering together, and not just a fraction of it. This is the reason that it has become predominant in Patristic Tradition to refer to the church of a monastery as the “Katholikon”.

The destination of all the faithful is theosis (deification). This is everyone’s ultimate objective. This is why a Christian must proceed “from glory to glory”; in other words, the slave must first become a salaried worker, then a son of God and a faithful member of Christ.

There cannot be salvation outside the Church. Christ offers redemptive grace to all people. When one is saved outside the visible Church, it means that Christ Himself has saved him. If he is a heterodox member then he is saved because it was Christ who saved him, and not the religious “offshoot” that he belongs to.

His salvation therefore is not effected by the ‘church’ he belongs to, because One is the Church that saves – and that is Christ.

Wherever the Orthodox dogma does not exist, the Church is in no position to opine on the authority of the sacraments. According to the Fathers, the Orthodox Dogma never separates itself from spirituality. Wherever there is an erroneous dogma, there is an erroneous spirituality and vice-versa.

There are many who separate the dogma from piety. That is a mistake. When Christ says “become ye perfect, as the Father is perfect” it implies that one must be familiar with the meaning of perfection. The criterion for the authority of the sacraments for us Orthodox is the Orthodox dogma, whereas for the heterodox, it is Apostolic Succession.

For the Orthodox Tradition, it is not enough to trace one’s ordination back to the Apostles, but to possess the Orthodox dogma.

Piety and dogma are one identity and cannot be separated. Wherever there is upright teaching, there will be upright action. “Orthodox” means:

a) upright glory
b) upright action

The terrestrial, actively engaged Church is the Orthodox Church. “Orthodox dogma” and “Scriptural teaching” are one and the same thing, because the dogma exists, and it comes from within the Holy Bible