Our Souls at Trial

Below is an excerpt from Elder Ephraim’s The Art of Salvation which someone read to me so it might not match the actual text:

“We are ignorant and therefore cannot fully grasp the meaning of the word eternity. This word is defined as life without end, without sunset. Just as God’s existence has no end similarly man’s soul will live without end. Consequently, in the event that we fail to attain salvation we will live in eternal misfortune. This misfortune will not be limited to one type of pain or to something that can be overcome or forgiven. No, unfortunately we will live in a frightful and horrific never ending hell. This is why I say that we have no grasp what will take place after death.

Through her teachings, her preaching and her mysteries our Church enables our mind to open and comprehend  the crucial matter. The only thing we are in need of not to be condemned to hell. We must become attune to our spiritual condition and regulate our life accordingly, we must give this our immediate attention as we do not know what tomorrow will bring. We do not have tomorrow at our disposal, time is not in our possession. When we get up to leave from here something can possibly happen to end our life. Shortly thereafter the book of our conscience and our life will be opened before God and the trial will commence. Christ will turn the pages, one by one and point out, here you did this on that day you did something else. Our conscience will respond, Indeed these things occurred, this is how it is, everything is true. And once the entire book has been read during the trial our soul will quiver with fear like an autumn leaf in the wind or like a live fish out of water.

This is how the soul will tremble before the awesome tribunal as it wonders what God’s decision will be. If it is positive then we cannot fathom the depth, height, extent of our achievement. The soul will enter into the Kingdom of God, it will come to know Him as much as possible and it will return to her own God and Father. Just think, God is the source of all happiness.

In the case of a negative decision and unsuccessful outcome and an incriminating verdict most dreadful hell will unfold before this unfortunate soul. If someone were to grasp the meaning of this fully his mind would instantly stop working. Under no circumstance can the horrific extent of hell be understood. I will give you an example. When we have a sever toothache we almost lose our mind on account of the pain and we frizzly search for medication in order to stop it. But what is this pain or what is any other pain we experience which oftentimes is severe, unbearable and compels us to seek medical attention immediately? What will happen however when the soul confronts hell. If a person were to see a demon with his physical eyes he would die immediately on the spot. Yet, a condemned person will live together eternally with not only one but with millions of demons. Is it possible for anyone to live in such a state? And yet this is how things are. This is why our Christ, our love, our Savior, our God-man who spilled His immaculate blood on the Cross….”


Second Baptism of Russia


H/T: spc.rs (here)

Speaking to a group of Italian students about the Russian church, Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department of External Church Relations,stated “…beginning with 1998 a new era began in our church which we refer to as ‘The Second Baptism of Russia’. The end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s saw a massive baptism of the Russian people.”

“Today we have 35,000 churches, that is to say, in 28 years 29,000 new churches were opened. More than a thousand churches are opened per year, or three churches a day….We had three spiritual schools, today there are over fifty.”

According to the metropolitan, such a growth of faith is unparallelled in Russian history.

Poland archbishop’s comments

H/T: USAToday (here)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The leader of Poland’s Catholic Church has come under a wave of condemnation by appearing to suggest that children are partly to blame for being sexually abused by priests.

Archbishop Jozef Michalik, head of Poland’s influential Episcopate, was commenting this month on revelations about Polish pedophile priests. A child from a troubled family, Michalik told reporters, “seeks closeness with others and may get lost and may get the other person involved, too.”

The words triggered an immediate uproar — one that Michalik tried to stamp out the same day by apologizing and saying he had been misunderstood. He had not, he said, meant to suggest that child victims were in any way responsible.

But the damage was done.

Ordinary citizens joined prominent politicians in expressing outrage, and intense debate continues more than two weeks later. The media pointed out that Michalik had supported a parish priest convicted in 2004 of child sex abuse, and one of the priest’s victims said she was horrified by Michalik’s latest remarks.

“Archbishop Michalik’s words make us feel fear and revulsion,” Ewa Orlowska said.

The archbishop’s comments forced the Episcopate’s spokesman, the Rev. Jozef Kloch, to state that Poland’s church has “zero tolerance” for pedophilia but that it needs to learn how to approach and talk about the matter. The controversy has since led bishops under Michalik to apologize for “priests who have harmed children.”

It all comes amid a tide of allegations that Poland’s church is sweeping cases of sex abuse under the carpet, putting it at odds with Vatican efforts since 2001 to punish abusers. The scrutiny has also further undermined the church’s status in Poland as a moral and political leader — cemented by Polish-born Pope John Paul II through his critical role in inspiring the fight against communism. The church’s defenders say that priests are being singled out for condemnation when teachers and sports coaches have also been caught sexually abusing kids.

John Paul himself came under criticism for a reluctance to heed accusations against priests. While the Vatican in 2001 ordered bishops to submit cases of alleged pedophilia to the Holy See’s review, it was largely the initiative of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. After the church sex abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in the United States, Ratzinger pressed for faster ways to permanently remove abusers from the church.

The crackdown against pedophile priests gained intensity once Ratzinger became Benedict XVI. In 2011, Benedict instructed bishops’ conferences around the world to submit their own guidelines for keeping molesters out of the priesthood and to protect children.

Poland’s Episcopate has issued guidelines for the church’s punishment of priests and support for the victims. But it sees no need to report priests to state investigators and says that the financial compensation rests with the wrongdoer, not with the church. That approach may soon be tested by a man who is readying Poland’s first sex abuse lawsuit against the church.

In several countries, including the U.S., Canada and Australia, the church has been paying millions in compensation over sex abuse cases.

Michalik also recently raised eyebrows by saying that the roots of pedophilia lay in pornography and divorce, both of which are “painful and long-lasting wounds.”

The debate started last month after Dominican Republic investigators revealed child sex abuse allegations against two Polish clergymen: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ambassador, and Rev. Wojciech Gil, a parish priest. Wesolowski has been forcibly removed by the Vatican. Gil has denied sex abuse and suggested that Dominican drug mafia is taking revenge on him for his educational work.

Some 27 Polish priests have been tried for sex abuse since 2001, but most cases ended in suspended prison term — indicating a general leniency for the church in Poland, where religion is taught in schools and senior church officials attend state ceremonies.

One in Christ

crete3(Thank you Byzantine Texas)

“…Our primary task, as Hierarchs of the United States, is not to argue over the Council in Crete. We don’t have the luxury for such debates. As shepherds of the Lord’s flock we must remain bound to one another; steadfast in our mission; and committed to overcoming any challenge and utilizing all opportunities in a fraternal, truthful, and conciliar manner. We are an Assembly of Orthodox Bishops; there is nothing anyone can say or do to change this. We are one in Christ. If we don’t live up to our responsibility to work as one body, dear brothers, we leave the faithful at the mercy of a cold and unforgiving world. And we can rest assured that society will not ask whether someone is Greek or Bulgarian; Russian or Ukrainian; Serb or Romanian; Georgian or Antiochian; convert or cradle Orthodox. Our people will all eventually become prey to attack and ridicule. My prayer is that we, under the present conditions and challenges, can all recommit ourselves to one another as an Assembly of Bishops….”

Archbishop Demetrios

Full here

The Eternal Bread


His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije, in speaking about Christ as the eternal bread that came down from heaven so that everyone who believes in Him does not die but has life everlasting, said: “And as such we yearn for such bread and Him do we seek, being taught by God’s holy prophets, the holy apostles, the witnesses of Christ. At the same time, it is that deep yearning and need of our human nature and life, that living in this world, man, as a being gifted by God, yearns for that which is eternal and unchanging.”

From history

Our Tuesday evening parish Discussion about our Faith has turned to church history to look through the historical path of the Christian Church. Appropriately enough we’re using Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s “The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy”. Reading through and discussing this book has introduced our readers and participants to some of the historical moments and figures from church history. This includes some of the heretical, wrong teachings and teachers. Fr. Schmemann, for instance, mentions the appearance of Montanism, a heresy from Phrygia in about the year 150 where a new convert to Christianity together with two women started to teach and announce the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised in Scripture. This movement also introduces us to another name from early church history, Tertullian.

OrthodoxWiki gives us some more insight into this heresy:

While claiming a conversion to Christianity, Montanus preached and testified what he purported to be the Word of God as he traveled among the rural settlements of his native Phrygia and Asia Minor. In these travels he proclaimed the village of Pepuza as the site of the New Jerusalem. The Orthodox Christians, however, regarded his teaching to be heretical. He claimed not only to have received a series of direct revelations from the Holy Spirit, but personally to be the incarnation of the paraclete mentioned in the Gospel of John 14:16. Montanus was accompanied by two women, Prisca, sometimes called Priscilla, and Maximilla, who likewise claimed to be the embodiments of the Holy Spirit that moved and inspired them. As they traveled, “the Three” as they were called, spoke in ecstatic visions and in the first person as of the Father or the paraclete. They urged their followers to fast and pray, so that they might share these personal revelations. His message spread from his native Phrygia across the Christian world of the second century, to Africa and Gaul.

Prisca claimed that Christ had appeared to her in female form. When she was excommunicated, she exclaimed “I am driven away like the wolf from the sheep. I am no wolf: I am the word and spirit and power.”

It is generally agreed that the movement was inspired by Montanus’ interpretation of the Gospel of St. John — “I will send you the advocate paraclete, the spirit of truth” (Heine 1987, 1989; Groh 1985). The response to this continuing revelation split many Christian communities of the second century, and the Orthodox clergy fought to suppress it. Bishop Apollinarius found the church at Ancyra torn in two, and he opposed the “false prophesy” (quoted by Eusebius 5.16.5). But there was real doubt in Rome. Pope Eleutherus even wrote letters supporting Montanism, although he later recanted them (Tertullian, “Adversus Praxean” c.1, Trevett 58-59).

The most widely known defender of Montanists was undoubtedly Tertullian, onetime champion of orthodox belief, who believed that the new prophecy was genuine and began to fall out of step with what he began to call “the church of a lot of bishops” (On Modesty).

Although the Orthodox Christian church prevailed against Montanism within a few generations, elements of Montanism persisted. Inscriptions in the Tembris valley of northern Phrygia, dated between 249 and 279, openly proclaim their allegiance to Montanism. A letter of St. Jerome to Marcella, written in 385, refutes the claims of Montanists who had been troubling her (letter 41). A group of “Tertullianists” continued to exist in Carthage. The anonymous author of Praedestinatus records that a preacher came to Rome in 388 where he made many converts and obtained the use of a church for his congregation on the grounds that the martyrs to whom it was dedicated had been Montanists. He was obliged to flee after the victory of Theodosius the Great  who supported the Orthodox belief.  Augustine records that the Tertullianist group dwindled to almost nothing in his own time, and that the remnant of the group finally was reconciled to the church and surrendered their basilica. It is not certain whether these Tertullianists were Montanist or not.

In the sixth century, John of Ephesus, at the orders of the emperor Justinian, led an expedition to Pepuza to destroy the Montanist shrine there, which was formed around the tombs of Montanus, Priscilla, and Maximilla.

The Gift of Love

“The holy Apostle Paul teaches us that in all things we need to be servants of God, to be known and unknown, to be those who own nothing and have everything. The word ‘talent’ means gift, the greatest gift which every person receives from the Lord is the gift of His love. To bury one’s talent in the ground, according to the Holy Fathers means to waste one’s life in the transient things of time, thus the Lord does not punish the evil and lazy servant by sending him to a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, but He simply allows him to continue his manner of life, towards destruction…..”

Bishop Irinej of Bachka