Over the threshold

In order not to stumble over her husband’s threshold the first time she enters, a Roman bride is always lifted over it.

– I, Claudius; Robert Graves

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If you fear a plot

3962-lec13-1536x865The Jesuits knew that if you want to confound your enemies, the best technique is to create clandestine sects, wait for dangerous enthusiams to precipitate, then arrest them all. In other words, if you fear a plot, organize one yourself; that way, all those who join it come under your control.

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

Because it is the covenant of the Lord

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H/T: here

John the Apostle – the Theologian in Silence

The 8th of May is a feast day dedicated to the Apostle John, the Evangelist and Theologian. Among all the Apostles, the title “Theologian” is only bestowed upon St John, which attests to the spiritual heights to which he attained, and the depth of the heavenly wisdom he was granted. The author of the profound Fourth Gospel and the witness of Divine Revelation, it is to this Saint that the contemplative mystics of later centuries looked to as a model of Faith and Prayer. It is the icon of St John the Theologian “in Silence” (Rus:Иоанна Богослова “в молчании”) that best depicts this ideal Theologian.

Various icons of St John in Silence appeared in Russia from the 16th century onwards. John was the only Apostle not to have been martyred, and lived a good seventy years after Christ’s death, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven. It was towards the end of his life that St John wrote his Gospel, which explains why it is so different in layout to the other three, and why it concentrates less on the chronological events of Jesus’ life, which were already well-known, but concentrates on the spiritual meaning behind them.

The icon shows the Apostle John in these latter years, as the elder “Theologian”. In his hands he holds the Gospel, with the words: “In the beginning…” (John 1:1). To his left, an angel is shown whispering the Gospel into John’s ear, yet the Apostle does not look to him, but casts his eyes down in contemplation. The Saint’s right hand is raised up, making the sign of the cross over his mouth, guarding it lest he were to say something from his own imagination: the great Evangelist is reduced to silence.

The inspiration for the image could be the words of John himself when he writes: And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25).

Yet there is something else. St John’s pose here resonates with the 4th century monastic saint Evagrius Ponticus’ words on prayer: “Do not cherish the desire to see sensibly angels or powers or even Christ lest you be led completely out of your wits, and taking a wolf for your shepherd, come to adore the demons who are your enemies.”. He also writes: “Keep your eyes lowered while you are praying. Deny your flesh and your desires and live according to the spirit.”

And perhaps St Evagrius’ most famous line: “If you are a theologian you truly pray. If you truly pray you are a theologian.”

The Apostle John, then, is shown as a true Theologian: in prayer, and specifically in silent, contemplative prayer.

During the late 14th century, the silent, contemplative, prayer of the Athonite monks (called: Hesychasm) came under attack from within the Church by those who believed such prayer was a waste of time, time which would be better spent in gaining intellectual knowledge of the Divine. The hesychasts, with St Gregory Palamas as their champion, successfully defended their way of life. It may be that icons of St John the Theologian “in Silence” made their way to Russia by the 15th and 16th centuries as a result, and found a home among the monasteries of the Northern wilderness where such contemplative prayer was also practiced.

Already a lot of words have been spent on describing an icon which shows the Great Theologian in Silence; better to end here with the final words the Apostle himself, this beloved friend of Christ:

When he was dying, his disciples asked him for a final counsel to keep with them. “My children,” he said, “Love one another,” and then repeated it again. “Is that all?” he was asked. “That’s enough,” John said, “because it is the covenant of the Lord.”

RE: Pan-Orthodox Celebration 2019

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Concerning Pan-Orthodox Concelebration in 2019

During the first week of the Great Fast, as we are preparing to once again on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, in a visible way with all other Orthodox Christians, celebrate the Triumph of Orthodoxy and the Restoration of Icons, the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church hereby notifies its priests and faithful to steadfastly maintain to the current practice of concelebration with other Orthodox bishops, priests and faithful from all the Orthodox Dioceses in the United States of America. In other words, that they do not interrupt any such common fellowship or concelebrations which they have been doing for decades on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, as well as on other feasts and times of the year. It is only through liturgical participation of the people of God which protects the communion with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:13)

Since some of our faithful, less familiar with the situation, have heard confusing and sometimes inaccurate information, in which is heard that the Serbian Church supposedly is not in communion with some of the Orthodox Patriarchates or autocephalous churches, we set forth following:

We recommend that all Orthodox believers entrusted to our Diocese, not to be subject to any disinformation regarding the alleged non-participation of our Church in Pan-Orthodox services. There are strange and contradictory attitudes coming from various sides whose messengers are somewhere claiming and somewhere suggesting that the Serbian church is supposedly recommending that we distance ourselves from those with whom, until now, we have been in communion. In this regard, we state that it is unacceptable to turn to an uncanonical separation from communion in the eucharistic-hierarchical unity with the other Orthodox Churches in the Diaspora and the whole world.

We remind everyone of the wise ecclesial words of the distinguished Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios (Yannoulatos) as well as those of Metropolitan of Dioclea, Kallistos (Ware), that the Holy Liturgy (communion) can never be allowed to be used as a tool in a fight against those who think differently from ourselves. Metropolitan Kallistos, who will also be the keynote speaker at the Church Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church in America in July 2019, expressed his concern that one church has decided to break communion with another church, and explicitly recommends that “this question should be decided in the spirit of brotherly love, without interrupting the Eucharistic community.”

Therefore, we want to encourage our clergy, monastics and faithful to be more earnestly united in the prayer and Eucharistic communion with all Orthodox Christian faithful in America, and more specifically, with representatives of all canonical jurisdictions: Ecumenical Patriarchate (all of its hierarchs and its Dioceses of the United States), Antiochian Patriarchate, Moscow Patriarchate (including the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), Serbian Patriarchate, Romanian Patriarchate, Bulgarian Patriarchate, Georgian Patriarchate, and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). By this church-building unity and love, the Serbian Church in America, by action and participation in full fellowship in Christ, by the grace of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father, give a blameless example to other Orthodox Christians.

In conclusion, in this year when our Serbian Church celebrates 800 years of its autocephaly, we are invited all to act as such a jubilee prescribes: celebrating unity in an overall way and witnessing to the spirit of unity both among our people and in relation to other Orthodox Churches.

The Bishop of West American Diocese Maxim