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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Elder Paisios: The Youth Must Pass the Test of Purity


A few female students came to see me today and told me, "Geronda, pray so that we may pass our exams." I said, "I will pray that you pass your purity exams. This is the most important thing. Everything else falls into place after that." It was the right thing to say, wasn't' it? There's no greater sight than that of modesty and purity in the faces of young people today! No greater sight!

Some traumatized young women come to see me. They live unruly lives with young men and they don't realize that these men do not have good intentions and, of course, they end up getting hurt. "What must I do, Fa­ther?" they ask. "The tavern owner," I replied, "may have the drunkard as a friend, but he will never accept him as his son-in-law. Stop having relations. If the man really loves you, he will appreciate it; if he leaves you, you will know that he doesn't love you and this way you will not be wasting your time."

The cunning devil takes advantage of young people, who, on top of everything else, have to deal with the re­bellion of their flesh, and he tries to destroy them during this difficult period of their life, when the mind is not yet mature, the experience is missing and their spiritual reserves are almost non-existent. This is why, during this critical period, young people must always seek the advice of their elders, so that they may not slip down the sweet secular slope, which will only fill their soul with anxiety and separate it eternally from God.

I know that a physiologically healthy young person cannot easily attain a spiritual state where there is neither male nor female (4). This is why the Spiritual Fathers recommend that young men and women, no matter how spiritual they may be, should not spend time together; at their age, problems will naturally arise and then temptation will step in and take advantage of their youth. It is better for a young man or a young woman to bear this heavy cross and risk being considered a fool by the opposite sex for his or her spiritual prudence and innocence. This heavy cross hides all the power and wisdom of God, making a young man stronger than Sampson (5) and wiser than Solomon (6). Better, then, that he walk down the street praying rather than looking left and right, even if relatives may misunderstand him and think that he snubbed them by not speaking with them. 

Otherwise, if he walks looking around with curiosity, he may get in trouble or get misunderstood by lay people who always harbour suspicious thoughts. It's a thousand times better to leave Church right away, after Liturgy, like a lone animal, and keep his spiritual good sense and whatever he learned intact, rather than stay around and stare at fancy furs or ties, and become spiritually agitated as the enemy starts scratching at his heart.

It is true, unfortunately, that there is so much filth in this world that no matter what path the soul that desires purity may follow, it will get soiled. The difference is that God will not make the same demands on a Christian who wishes to remain pure today that He made in the past. Purity requires nerves of steel; a young man must try every means to resist temptation, and he will surely have Christ's help. When divine eros is kindled in his heart, the burning is such that every other desire and un­seemly picture will be burned out. 

When this divine fire is burning in us, we experience pleasures so divine that all other pleasures pale in comparison. When we taste heavenly manna, wild carobs will mean nothing to us. This is why we should hold fast to the steering wheel, make the sign of the cross and not be afraid. After every little struggle, heavenly delights follow. If we are brave when temptation comes, God and the Panaghia will help miraculously.

The Elder Augustinos had told me the following sto­ry (7). When he was a young novice, he lived in a Monas­tery in his native Russia. Most of the Fathers there were old and so they would use him for various chores such as helping a Monastery employee with fishing, the Monas­tery's main means of support. One day the daughter of that employee came and asked her father to return home for an emergency and she stayed to help in his place. But the poor girl was seized by temptation, and without think­ing, came on the novice with sinful intentions. Antonios, this was his name when he was in the world, was tak­en aback because everything happened so suddenly. He crossed himself and said, "My Christ, I'd rather drown than sin!" and plunged into the deep river. 

But the Good Lord, seeing the heroism of this chaste young man, who acted like Saint Martinianos (8) in order to remain chaste, kept him afloat and completely dry! "You see," he ex­plained to me, "I jumped head first into the river and I still cannot figure out how I found myself standing up with my clothes dry!" At that moment, he had felt an in­ternal peace and inexpressible sweetness that made every sinful thought and carnal desire caused by the indecent gestures of the young woman go away. When she saw Antonios standing up on the water, she was overcome by repentance and started weeping, deeply moved by this great miracle.

Christ does not require big things from us to help us in our struggle. He expects very little, a tiny bit. A young man was telling me that he went to Patmos (9) to worship and fell into temptation's trap. A female tourist jumped on him and hugged him while he was walking. He pushed her away saying, "My Christ I have come for worship not for love" and he went away. That same night in his hotel room, during prayer, he saw Christ immersed in Uncreated Light. Do you see the reward he received for that one push? Others strive for years in the ascetic life and may never be blessed with something like that. And he saw Jesus Christ only because he resisted temp­tation. 

And this experience, naturally, made him stronger spiritually. Later on, he saw Saint Marcella, Saint Rap­hael, and Saint George more than once. One day, he came and told me "Father, say a prayer for me so that I may see Saint George again and be consoled. I cannot find any consolation in this world!" And then you see where other young people end up.

A young man with his elderly uncle came to the Kalyvi once and told me, "Pray for a young girl who broke her spine in an accident. Her father fell asleep at the wheel, killing himself and injuring her. Let me show you a picture of her." "It's not necessary", I said. He insisted and they showed me the picture of a girl who was lying down and two men were embracing her. "Who is this young man?" I asked. "A friend" he answered. "Will he marry her?" "No, they are just friends," he replied. "Don't hold it against them, Father," the uncle told me, "that's how young peo­ple are today." "I will pray," I thought to myself, "but she does not just need her spine to be straightened out, her mind also needs correction and so does yours, you hope­less man." 

Where is the respect? His uncle should have told him off. And they were supposedly spiritual people. It is so sad to have spiritual guidance and still be in such a state of spiritual confusion! Even if he intended to marry her, there was no reason for her to be stretched out be­tween the two men, and for the man to be showing me the picture. It never crossed his mind that what he was doing was wrong. I am not bothered by the picture, but it is still not right. What sort of family will these young people have? May God help them come to their senses!

In the old days, young women would sacrifice every­thing to keep their chastity! I remember, during the war against Italy, they had drafted some villagers and their animals, and they got trapped on a hill by heavy snowfall. The men gathered under the snow, covered spruce trees and made some shelters using spruce branches to protect themselves. The women were forced to seek protection from their fellow villagers, people they knew. 

Two of them, one young, one elderly, from a faraway village, had to enter one of these shelters. Now, unfortunately, there are those faithless cowards for whom even a war will not make a difference. They have no feelings whatsoever for their fellow human being, who may die or get injured; if they get the chance, they will do their best to sin, because they are afraid that they may get killed and try to use all the time they have to have fun. When in danger, people should repent.

One of these men, who had sin rather than repentance in his mind, was harassing the young woman so much that she was forced to leave the group. She preferred to freeze to death from the cold rather than lose her chastity. When the elderly woman saw that her young companion had left the shelter, she followed her tracks and found her, thirty minutes away, under a small shed, in a Chap­el dedicated to Saint John the Forerunner. 

You see how Saint John the Baptist cared about this honest woman and led her to his Chapel which she never knew it existed! And guess what else the Saint did! He appeared to a soldier (10) in his sleep and told him to go to his Chapel as soon as possible.

So the soldier got up in the middle of the snow-lit night and headed to the Chapel; he had a rough idea where it was. When he got there, he saw the two women stuck in the snow up to their knees, blue in the face and frozen from the cold. He immediately opened the Chapel and they all entered and felt better. The soldier had noth­ing else to offer them, besides a scarf for the old lady and a pair of gloves which he told them to share, so that they could warm first one hand and then the other. 

 They then told him about the temptation they had confronted. "Why," the soldier asked the young woman, "did you decide to leave in the middle of the night, with all this snow and head to an unknown place?" And she replied, "I did all that I could do for my part, and I was convinced that Christ would take care of the rest." Feeling their pain and trying to console them, the soldier said spon­taneously, "Your troubles are over, tomorrow you will be home." These words made them happy and they felt even warmer. Sure enough, the Battalion of Mountain Transports opened the road and, in the morning, military trucks came, and the poor women were taken home. 

It is Greek women like them, vested in divine Grace - rather than stripped of clothes and divine Grace alike - who de­serve our praise and admiration. Later, that beast - may God forgive me for this word - told the Commander that a certain soldier had broken the Chapel's door and put mules inside! The Commander replied, "I don't believe the man you accuse would do such a thing." In the end, he was sent to prison.




source 

Elder Paisios: Don't Touch the Children




- Geronda, what will become of so many children who grow up today without discipline?
- For them, there will be mitigating circumstances. It is the parents who never understood the nature of discipline that now allow their children such excessive freedom and turn them into little hooligans. You say one word to them and they will respond with five, and with such impudence! These children may one day turn into criminals. Today many children are totally unraveled by too much freedom and no discipline. "Don't touch the children!" These are the slogans in society. 

And of course what do children think? "Where else are we going to find a better regime than that?" In other words, they are deliberately turning them into little rebels who do not want to listen to parents, to teachers, or to anyone else. This serves their designs perfectly, for if children are not first taught to be rebellious, how can they end up later destroying everything? And you can see the poor youth looking like they are virtually demonized.

If we, monks, cannot put freedom to good use in the spiritual life, what is one to expect of people who live in the world? If freedom is not put to good use, it is worth nothing. All it brings is disaster. This is why the country is heading in the wrong direction. Can today's people make good use of the freedom given to them? 

When freedom does not serve the cause of true progress, the result is catastrophe. Combined with secular progress, this sinful freedom has given rise to spiritual slavery. True spiritual freedom is spiritual obedience to the will of God. But you see, whereas it is obedience that will give us true freedom, the tempter, out of malice, presents it as enslavement, and so our youth today who have been poisoned by the spirit of rebellion, reject obedience. It is understandable that these young people are tired of the various ideologies of the twentieth century, which unfortunately distort God's beautiful creation and fill His creatures with anxiety, putting a gap between them and the true joy that is God.

Have you any idea what we went through when we were discharged from the army? If we were at all like today's youth, we would have gone on a rampage and destroyed everything on our path. It was in 1950, when the Guerilla War was over and many classes of recruits were discharged simultaneously from the Army. Some of us had been to war for four and a half years, others for four, others for three and a half. Well, after all these hard­ships, we arrive in Larisa and we head for the Transit Centres, only to find them full. So we tried some hotels but they would not accept us. "Soldiers!" they must have thought, "If they lodge here, not a single blanket will be left clean!" 

We, of course, had the money to pay the rate. It was March and very cold. Fortunately, an officer saved us, may God keep him well. He went and found out the train schedules and their manoeuvres and arranged to have us spend the night in the trains. "They will do manoeuvres throughout the night," he told us, "but don't be afraid, the trains will depart at this or that time in the morning." And indeed, the trains were manoeuvring all night long. Finally we got to Thessaloniki. Some of us were from around there and went to their homes. The rest of us went to Transit Centres but they too were full. Next, we tried the hotels but no luck. 

I pleaded with them at the hotel, "Please give me a chair to sit on and I will pay double the rate of a room!" "Sorry, we can't do that," they replied. They were afraid that someone might see me and turn them in for not giving a soldier a room. I spent the whole night outside with other soldiers standing up and leaning against a wall. There were soldiers lying down on all the pavements, as if we had a parade. If today's youth were in our place, they would have burned Larisa, Thessaly and the entire province of Macedonia to the ground. Although they face nothing compared to what we had to go through, they still do takeovers, destroy property... And back then, all those poor soldiers, were thinking so differently. 

They felt hurt and bitter but it never crossed their mind to do anything bad. They had been through so many hardships in the snow. Many had been wounded and crippled in the War - they sacrificed so much! - and now they had to sleep out on the street; that was the "thank you" they got! I can't help comparing today's youth with the young men I knew then... No more than fifty years have gone by, but look how the world has changed.

Today's youth resembles a calf that is tied in a meadow, and constantly kicks and pulls on the rope to remove the stake and run away. Then it breaks loose, runs off and gets all tangled up and finally beasts come and devour it. When a child is young, it helps to apply the brake. You see, for example, a mischievous young boy climbing a wall, where he may fall and hurt himself badly. 

"No, no," you shout, and you give him a slap or two. Next time he will be careful, not because he will think of the danger, but because he will be afraid of being slapped. Today no punishments are given out in schools or even in the army. This is why young people are such a menace to their teachers and the nation. In the army, in the old days, the more austere the basic training was, the greater the bravery the soldiers would show in battle.

A young person needs a spiritual guide, someone who will advise him and be eager to listen to his concerns, in order to proceed with spiritual security, without dangers, fears and dead ends. All of us, as we grow older, acquire experience from our own life and from the lives of others. But a young person lacks this experience. An older person should use his experience to help inexperienced youth avoid blunders. When young people refuse to take advice, they end up experimenting with their own lives. But if they take the advice given to them, they will have much to gain.

Young men from a Christian organization visited the Kalyvi once, and were boasting with self-confidence, "We don't need anybody; we'll find our own way!" Who knows why they said that? Perhaps they had been pressured too much and were rebelling. When they were about to leave, they asked me to point them the right direction for Iveron Monastery. "Which way should we go?" they asked. "Wait a minute," I told them, "didn't you, boys, say that you needed no one, that you will find your own way? 

Didn't you just say that? Miss this road and you'll have only a minor inconvenience; at some point, you will run into someone and he will show you the way. But who is going to show you the road to Heaven? How will you get there on your own without a guide?" One of them said, "You know, the Elder may have a point."




source 

Elder Paisios: About Directives From Dark Powers



Today many young people are being misguided and destroyed by all kinds of ideas and theories. This is why so many of them are upset and confused. They want to go in one direction, but the current of our times takes them elsewhere. 

There are dark powers out there pushing their propaganda on young people who may not be very intel­ligent. In schools, for example, some teachers will say to their students, "If you want to develop initiative, do not listen to your parents; do not obey them." Words like these ruin young people. They no longer listen to their parents or teachers. 

And you can't blame them really, since that's what they think is expected of them. On the one hand there is the state, which often supports this kind of behav­iour, while on the other hand we have people, who care nothing about country and family, issuing directives and taking advantage of the young people to achieve their evil ends. As a result, our youth has been so harmed that some of them end up under the direct leadership of the devil himself. Satan worship is widespread. 

One can hear peo­ple in clubs singing all night, "Satan we adore you, we do not want Christ. You give us everything." What a horrific thing! But what is it that the devil will give you and what will he take from you, miserable children?

You see young men and women, adolescent youths, who have a wild look in their eyes from the many coffees they drink and the many cigarettes they smoke... Their eyes do not sparkle; the glow of God's Grace is nowhere to be seen on their face. An architect was right when he said to a group of young people whom he was escorting to the Holy Mountain, "Our eyes resemble the eyes of spoiled fish." He had accompanied a group of ten young men between the ages of eighteen to twenty five to the Holy Mountain. He himself had made a spiritual turn in his life and felt bad for young people who lived prodigal lives. So, he convinced some of them to come to the Holy Mountain. 


I met them on my way down from the Kalyvi. I said to them, "I am on my way out, but let's sit here for a while." And we did. At the same time some students were returning from the Athonias Academy and I invited them to join us. And we all sat together. The architect asked his company, "Have you noticed something here?" The young men were puzzled. "Look at each other's eyes and then look at the eyes of these students. Do you see that their eyes sparkle while ours resemble those of a spoiled fish?" And indeed, when I looked carefully at them, I realized that their eyes did resemble the eyes of spoiled fish: dull, spoiled, while the Athonias students' eyes would sparkle. 

The youths from the Academy made prostrations, attended regular worship services. The eyes are the reflection of the soul. This is why Christ said, Your eye is the lamp of your body (3). So many youths come to the Holy Mountain or go to other Monasteries and become monks, and despite the fact that monastic life is, what should I say, no piece of cake, the joy they experience radiates from their face! But for so many who live in the world, life is sheer hell; they have everything they want but their life is full of pain.

Various trends have come to us today from all di­rections. Hinduism and other occult religions have come from the East, communism from the north, various theo­ries from the West, from the South; from Africa, we get magic and other forms of "cancer". A young man wound­ed by such beliefs came to my Kalyvi once. I understood that it was his mother's prayers that brought him to me. 


After we had conversed for a while, I told him, "Look, son, you must find a Spiritual Father so that you may go to confession, receive the Holy Chrism and get some help in the beginning. You must be anointed again with the Holy Chrism because you have renounced Christ." The poor child was crying, "Father, please pray for me," he was pleading, "I cannot get rid of all these ideas, they have brainwashed me. I know that my mother's prayers have brought me to you."
Oh! How a mother's prayers can help us! These poor children are ruined, they get trapped and then they panic, they become anxious and turn to drugs, and go from one evil to another. May God help them!

- Geronda, does it help to tell these youths that these are satanic things?

- Of course it helps, but you must find the right way to say it.


- How can these youths get to know Christ?

- How can they possibly come to know Christ, when, before learning anything about Orthodoxy, they go to the gurus of India and stay there for two or three years? Then, after they get dizzy with all the magic tricks, they find out that there is mysticism in Orthodoxy and end up here seeking to see lights and have experiences of a higher nature. And if you ask them, "How long has it been since you received Holy Communion?" They say, "I do not remember if my mother had taken me to receive Holy Communion when I was little." You ask them, "Have you ever been to confession?" "I don't care about confession," they reply. How can you get anywhere with these people, when they know nothing about Orthodoxy?

- How will they be helped, Geronda?

- Well, how can you help them if they see the Church as "the establishment"? You realize that it will be very difficult to find common ground with them. But young people of good disposition will be helped and will, in the end, return to the Church.



Archmandrite George, Abbot of the Monastery Gregorios of the Holy Mountain: Universal primacy for the Pope of Rome

On the recognition of universal primacy for the Pope of Rome during the first millennium
Archmandrite George, Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Hossios Gregorios of the Holy Mountain

Holy Mountain, 22 September 2009


Church mosaic Saint Apollinaire Ravena Italy


The Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics will be convening in Cyprus this October, in order to discuss the subject: «The role of the Pope of Rome in the communion of the Churches during the first millennium». The matter was brought up by the same Commission in the familiar Ravenna Document (2007) and is summarized in the question: What was the role of the bishop of Rome during the first millennium, when there was communion between the Churches of the East and the West, and how should the teaching of the Vatican I and II Synods regarding the universal primacy of the Pope (para.45, detailed below) be understood?

45. It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the “first see” in an ecclesiology of koinonia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text? How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millennium? These are crucial questions for our dialogue and for our hopes of restoring full communion between us.
The outcome of the said Convention is causing consternation to our pious people, because the Vatican's diplomacy has created the following prerequisites, which forbode anti-Orthodox developments.

In July of 2007 Pope Benedict XVI in a Vatican Directive had characterized the Orthodox Churches as ecclesiologically "deficient", and that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church “subsists in the Catholic Church".  In footnote No.1 (below) of the Ravenna Document the Roman Catholic delegation crossed that line, whereas the Orthodox delegation confined itself to stressing the self-awareness of the Orthodox Church as comprising the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church

1. Its Orthodox participants felt it important to emphasize that the use of the terms “the Church”, “the universal Church”, “the indivisible Church” and “the Body of Christ” in this document and in similar documents produced by the Joint Commission in no way undermines the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which the Nicene Creed speaks. From the Catholic point of view, the same self-awareness applies: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church “subsists in the Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium, 8); this does not exclude acknowledgement that elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion.
In other words, while the Roman Catholic side had boldly echoed the ecclesiology of the Vatican II Synod, (that it recognized only certain elements of the true Church in the Orthodox Church), the Orthodox did not dare to state that the Roman Catholic church is heterodox -to say the least- when the proper thing would have been for them to express with clarity what we believe about it: that "the now Roman Church is one of innovations, of adulteration of the writings of ecclesiastic Fathers and of the misinterpretation of the Holy Bible and the Oroi of the holy Synods; for which reason, it was justifiably and rightly renounced and will still be renounced, as long as it persists in its fallacy»[1].

In the Ravenna Document, the primacy and conciliarity in the Church are being discussed, pursuant to the Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians having "mutually agreed upon and confirmed the ecclesial character of both churches (with Apostolic faith, valid introductory Sacraments, Priesthood and Eucharist, and with Apostolic Succession), based on the joint statements of Munich, Bari and Balamand.

 «On the basis of these common affirmations of our faith...», they characteristically note (para. 2, 3), even though the said common statements have not received any Conciliar approval, by any of the Orthodox Churches.

3. On the basis of these common affirmations of our faith, we must now draw the ecclesiological and canonical consequences which flow from the sacramental nature of the Church.
The Orthodox are discussing the primacy as though the Roman Catholic church is an Orthodoxizing local Church, without taking into account that synods and Fathers have perennially regarded it as cacodox and heretical.

Saint Gregory Palamas wrote about the Filioque and its consequences: «Such are the depths of Satan - the mysteries of the evil one», and he concludes immediately after, as a God-enlightened pastor of the Church: «But we, having been taught by the divine wisdom of the Fathers to not ignore its inferences as something whose principle is entirely obscure to the many, shall never accept you (the Latins) as communicants, for as long as you say the Spirit is also from the Son»[2]

Saint Mark of Ephesus also stresses very emphatically: «From where, therefore, did they suddenly appear before us as orthodox - they, who have for so many years and by so many Fathers been judged to be heretics?»[3].

Four hundred years later, the Patriarchs of the East with the Conciliar Encyclical of 1848 once again proclaimed: «It is for this, that our one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church - by following in the tracks of the holy Fathers, both the eastern ones and the western ones - had in the past, during the time of our Fathers, proclaimed - and is proclaiming once again today synodically - that this unprecedented belief (that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND the Son) is essentially a heresy and its followers heretics, whoever they may be, per the aforementioned Conciliar decision of the holy Pope Damasus; and that the congregations that they form are heretic ones, and every spiritual and religious communion of the Orthodox children of the Catholic Church with such as them is irregular, and in fact by virtue of the 7th Canon of the 3rd Ecumenical Synod (para. 5)»[4].

Even His Beatitude the Most Holy Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew had stated on the 1st of October1997 from the official rostrum of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki that:

 ««...Two single words [OODE note: he means the "Filioque": "and Son"] can overturn the entire structure of the world and justify the infallibility and the authority of one individual on earth. The sense of freedom that Christ freed us with, does not allow the Eastern Orthodox Church to accept Her absolute submission to the will of one individual, and for that reason refuses to acknowledge the uprightness of those two words, upon which that one individual strives to support his power.»[5].

What possible planning could obligate the Orthodox Churches in the Theological Dialogue to embark on discussions regarding the Primacy of the Pope, by bypassing the opinions of Saints and Synods - and even that relatively recent statement by His Beatitude the Patriarch - as though the Roman Catholics comprise a Church of the same beliefs?  

The Joint Commission (Ravenna Document para 2) directs to the Balamand Statement (1993), which has equated the Roman Catholic church to the Orthodox Church, by acknowledging valid Sacraments, Apostolic Succession, and the confessing of the Apostolic Creed, even though only nine (9) local Orthodox Churches were present and official ecclesiastic bodies such as the Sacred Synod of the Church of Greece had rejected it as unacceptable.  The Orthodox representatives nevertheless went ahead and signed the Ravenna Document.

While Unia remains in place and is being fortified thanks to the ecclesiological cover of the Vatican, the Orthodox are retreating more and more on this matter.  First we accepted the presence of Uniates in the dialogue, despite the contrary decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Conventions, then we agreed to the resumption of the dialogue (2006), in spite of the audacious papal intervention during the Baltimore Convention (2000) in favour of Unia.  Now we are still continuing with the dialogue, and even though the Pope has re-confirmed Unia in various ways, we Orthodox are compromising with the presence of Uniates in official meetings between Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

The holy Fathers would theologize and act, «following behind the holy fathers».  Nowadays, it is the academic theologians among the initiators of the theological discussion panels who publicly declare that the Orthodox must transcend the Holy Fathers, in order to attain the union with the Roman Catholics (Meeting of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki School of Theology, 20/5/2009)

All the above justify our concerns and are clearly indicative of the Vatican's excellent planning of the course of the Theological Dialogue, and that with the Ravenna Document, it has created the prerequisites for us Orthodox to acknowledge that the Pope of Rome already had universal primacy during the first millennium.

The bases for the discussion of the aforementioned issue have been laid in the Ravenna Document.  These bases are regarded by the Joint Commission for the Dialogue as «a firm basis for future discussion of the question of primacy at the universal level in the Church» (para.46, below).

46. We, the members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, are convinced that the above statement on ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority represents positive and significant progress in our dialogue, and that it provides a firm basis for future discussion of the question of primacy at the universal level in the Church. We are conscious that many difficult questions remain to be clarified, but we hope that, sustained by the prayer of Jesus “That they may all be one … so that the world may believe” (Jn 17, 21), and in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we can build upon the agreement already reached. Reaffirming and confessing “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph 4, 5), we give glory to God the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has gathered us together.
And yet, that "basis" is not at all "firm" - which forebodes that the conclusions to be reached in October will range from precarious to dangerous. The reasons are as follows:

First. It has already been agreed in Ravenna that during the first millennium the primacy did in fact exist, and at a universal level, and that the Pope of Rome was the first in rank among the patriarchs of the ancient pentarchy (para.43)

43. [...] Concerning primacy at the different levels, we wish to affirm the following points:

1. Primacy at all levels is a practice firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church.

2. While the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West, there are differences of understanding with regard to the manner in which it is to be exercised, and also with regard to its scriptural and theological foundations.
We wonder:  Will the primacy of the bishop of Rome be interpreted in an Orthodox manner - that is, ONLY as a primacy of honour, with the commemoration of his name cited first in the Diptychs, and as the one presiding over the Ecumenical Synods, or will the term be given a Pope-centered content of an "active role" and "prerogatives" beyond the aforementioned ones?  (paras. 42, 44);
San Vital de Ravena

Second. In the Ravenna Document mention is made of an "ecclesiology of koinonia", in the framework of which the role of the bishop of Rome during the first millennium must be understood (para.45). 

We wonder:  Will the fact that the communion of the ecclesiastic Sees of both the East and the West during the first millennium was securely based on the un-innovated Apostolic Faith - in spite of the heretical teaching of the Filioque that was brewing in the West - be taken into account, or will the «unity in the diversity» of the dogmas be understood as an «ecclesiology of communion», and the dogmas be understood as «differing theological approaches of the same truths of the faith»?

Third. In the Ravenna Document it is mentioned that in the East and the West, the universal primacy was understood, established Scripturally and theologically and was exercised in a different manner (para.43 above)

We wonder:  Will this mention constitute a reason and an opportunity for the Orthodox to articulate an Orthodox invitation during the Cyprus Convention to the Roman Catholics, so that they might see the Pope's primacy with those Orthodox hermeneutic prerequisites which had secured in the East a balance between conciliarity and authority, or will the Roman Catholic side be allowed to uphold its own prerequisites, which had led to the dogmas of Primacy and Infallibility in the Vatican I and II Synods?

Fourth. The Ravenna Document states that Orthodox and Roman Catholics «disagree on the interpretation of historical evidence», which pertains to and interprets «the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos» (para. 41 below).

41. [...] They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos, a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium.
We wonder:  Will we Orthodox remain faithful to the hermeneutic guideline of the Holy Fathers, which had preserved the Orthodox Faith and the Conciliar polity in the East intact, or will we compromise for the sake of a dubious «unification of the divided Christian world», based on some roman-centered re-interpretation of the «historical evidence of the first millennium» and be subsequently led with mathematical accuracy to the «teaching of the first and second Vatican synods on the matter of universal primacy, in the light of (the now reinterpreted) ecclesial practice during the first millennium» (para.45 above) ?

The Papist ankyloses in their interpretations of the «historical evidence of the first millennium» are only too familiar (see for example Dositheus of Jerusalem, Dodecabiblos), so that any retreat whatsoever by the Orthodox theologians from the Roman Catholics' arguments for some of those interpretations would be a dangerous one.

We would like to present some of those historical facts, indicatively:

1. The «testimonies» of Christian literature regarding the «office of Peter». We wonder if these testimonies are going to be interpreted in the Papist manner, the way that Papal Decrees have been doing until now, or, in an Orthodox manner, the way that the works of the holy Fathers and Conciliar opinions have recorded them?  Will the Orthodox remain faithful to those opinions (for example of the years 1848 and 1895), or will they give in to theological innovations - like the assertion that the canonical tradition of the Church during the first millennium contains the idea of primacy for the bishop of Rome, in the "office of Peter" ?

2. The «testimonies» regarding the «appealing» of all the bishops of the entire Church to the Roman See and its bishop.  We wonder if these testimonies will also be interpreted in accordance with the canonical Tradition of the Orthodox Church, which gives the prerogative of appealing to the exarchs of ecclesiastic administrations (the patriarchs) and for matters of greater importance to an ecumenical synod - or, in accordance with the Papal tradition, which requires that all its bishops appeal to the Pope of Rome, thus leading to the conclusion that for the Easterners also, the See of Peter has played an important role in matters of appeals?

3. The «testimonies» regarding roman authority in matters of the Faith or the interpretation of the Scriptures. We wonder if they will take into account the instances of heretic popes that have been recorded by History, which have debunked Papal Infallibility, or, will they find a way to justify that notorious dogma of the Vatican I Synod?

We hope that the Orthodox representatives involved in the Theological Dialogue in Cyprus will uphold the word of the Truth and help the Roman Catholics understand that a true communion with the Orthodox Church presupposes a congruence of Faith and does not permit any kind of «otherness» (diversity) in dogmas, and that for this reason, they must renounce the heretic dogmas of the Filioque, of created Grace, of Primacy and Infallibility, of immaculate Conception etc.; and to also discard the secular spirit of the Vatican and embrace the divine-human ethos of the Orthodox Church.

We hope that the Orthodox theologians will not be agreeing to the existence of a universal papal Primacy during the first Christian millennium - whether as a primacy of power or as a supposed office of ministry. We fear that if this does occur, there will be uncontrollable schismatic moves within the body of the Church. The faithful Orthodox people will come to realize that they are being forced into a new, Uniate type of union with Rome.





[01]. Conciliar, Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895 (para.20), in the work by John Karmiris, "The Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church, Vol. ΙΙ, Graz-Austria 1968, page 942 [1028].

[02]. On the procession of the Holy Spirit, Demonstrative Word Α’, in: Writings by Gregory Palamas, Pan. Christou publications, Thessaloniki 1962, page 26.

[03]. Saint Mark of Ephesus, To those in all the world..., in the work by John Karmiris, "The Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church, Vol. Ι, Athens 1960, p. 426.

[04]. John Karmiris, "The Dogmatic and Symbolic Monuments of the Orthodox Catholic Church, Vol. ΙΙ, Graz-Austria 1968, page 908 [988].

[05]. See Volume "HE HATH VISITED US" (Patriarchal Visits to the co-regnant City, 1997-1999-2000), published by the Sacred Metropolis of Thessaloniki, 2000, σελ. 275.

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Putin tells of secret christening at Orthodox Christmas


 
 

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended an Orthodox Christmas service on Saturday at the church in his hometown of Saint Petersburg where he said he was secretly christened as a baby in Soviet days.
Both members of the Russian ruling tandem, Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, attended services for Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on the night of January 6 and on January 7, a public holiday.
Putin, who hopes to win a third presidential term in March elections, went to a midnight service in a cathedral in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg and was shown on television standing in the front row of believers.
After coming out of the cathedral, he told journalists: "This is a special cathedral for me. I was christened here," in comments published on his official website.He said that his mother and a neighbour took him secretly to be christened, fearing the disapproval of his father, a member of the Communist Party, which promoted atheism as the official state ideology. Putin was born in 1952, a year before the death of Stalin.

"My father was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He was a consistent, strict person. They did this in secret from him -- or at least they thought it was in secret," Putin said in unusually personal comments.
He added that funerals for his mother and father were held in the same cathedral.
Putin served as a member of the Soviet KGB secret service, which also frowned on religious beliefs, but has openly talked of his faith since becoming a politician and often meets top church officials.
In a Christmas message released Saturday, Putin called for the Church to continue 'developing constructive cooperation with state and public institutions' in spheres including 'counteracting extremism'.
Medvedev and his wife Svetlana attended a midnight service at the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, led by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
The Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas and other religious holidays according to the Julian calendar, while other Christian churches have adopted the later Gregorian calendar.

Εcumenical Patriarchate Denounces Russian Interference in the Ephraim Case


Τhe Ecumenical Patriarchate denounced the interference of the Russian Orthodox Church in the case of Abbot Ephraim of Vatopedi, after the Holy Synod concluded on Tuesday.

In its official announcement, the Patriarchate points out that Mount Athos lies within the jurisdiction and borders of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and though it may include Orthodox monks of different national backgrounds, its matters hold no pan-orthodox interests. Therefore, no other Autocephalous Church is allowed to interfere with the operation and issues of Mount Athos in any way.
The announcement followed a long discussion on the issue of the pretrial detention of Abbot Ephraim of Vatopedi. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed his regrets over the whole situation surrounding the case of Abbot Ephraim.
The announcement also emphasizes that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has always avoided intervening with any judicial matters and investigations, due to respect of judicial independence, and will continue its policy, especially as far as this case is concerned, in which the Patriarchate does not know the content of the relevant papers in the case.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate had asked Abbot Ephraim to leave his post until the judicial control of the Monastery’s affairs was over. This suggestion was followed by Abbot Ephraim at first, but later on a second decision of the Monastery’s Council allowed him to return to his duties.


Stalin's daughter took communion from Ilia II in 1980s

Moscow, January 26, 2012



Yakov Nemstsveridze, who knew Svetlana Alliluyeva well, told about religious sight of her life.
In 1984, Stalin's daughter returned to the USSR. Nemstsveridze tried to help her settle down in her Motherland and accompanied her everywhere. Then he worked at the Representation of the Georgian SSR at the USSR Council of Ministers.
Alliluyeva spent two years in the country and always carried an icon of the Mother of God in a cheap copper frame with her, the Krestovsky Most Orthodox paper quotes Nemstsveridze as saying.
"I often saw this icon in her hands. I couldn't understand how one can grow up in such a family and be a believer. Once I asked her about it and she said: "It doesn't depend on you and your family. When God considers you worthy to be a believer, He will call you Himself," he said.
According to Alliluyeva's friend, when she visited Georgia she wished to meet with Georgian Patriarch Ilia II. The meeting took place, she communed and then asked to leave her alone with the Patriarch.
Then Ilia II invited her to all church feasts, they were friends. When Alliluyeva failed to find common language with Georgian party officials and decided to return to the West she said good-bye only to the Patriarch.
Stalin's daughter was secretly baptized at the age of 36 in a Moscow church. 

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The Monk Moses of the Holy Mountain: Mother of God's Fifteen Days of August Has Arrived

Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, a great theologian, saw the Panagia in a vision and wrote: With what human words can we describe your God-illumined beauty, Virgin Mother of  

God? Your grace is impossible to be identified with either words or thoughts. Only her divine vision gives brilliance, joy and exultation.
The beauty of her face comes from her beautiful soul and pure heart. It's as light poured from the inside out giving it unparalleled decency, all-good beauty.
The beauty, coming from her purity, modesty and humility, caught the eye of God on her and made her the Mother of God and of the people. The God-bearer Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite urges everyone to embrace the mindset of the holy Mother of God.
Let us spruce our hearts appropriately in order for the virtues of the Panagia to reside within us, so that by seeing them on us we will receive rich spiritual graces and heavenly goods.
The Mother of God's fifteen days of August has arrived. The year so far has given us death in Japan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Cyprus, Norway and elsewhere. Everyday we receive calls and letters for us to remember in prayer the critically ill patients and the dead from heart problems, cancer, and from various incurable diseases, and to light a candle to the All-Holy Virgin.
The Panagia hurt a lot and knows well how to co-suffer, to reach out and to comfort.
On the warm evenings of beautiful August, the supplications are as a balm caressing pained hearts and make us feel exquisite pleasure like sweet dew. The miracles of multiple icons, with sleepless vigil lamps, unquenchable candles from beeswax, myriad offerings, ornate silver decorations, the repentance, the tears, the greetings, the vows, the promises, the supplications and the thanksgivings. Many fast, confess and commune.
The sacred and beautiful face of the Theotokos entices. It makes you want to place on her your heaviness, your pain, your bitter thoughts, your moods, your fatigue, and the sigh of your unhappiness.
Greece, Cyprus, and all Orthodoxy are full of churches, monasteries, hermitages, and shrines dedicated to her. There are pilgrims by the thousands. Mount Athos, her wonderful garden, has numerous hymns to the Economissa, the Paramythia, the Portaitissa, the Tricherousa, the Akathist, the Terrible Protection, the Sweet-kissing, the Gorgoepikoos, the Myrovlytissa, the Galaktotrophousa, the Axion Esti.
The Sacred Church of Protaton celebrates the Dormition, as well as many cells of the Monastery of Iveron. The Mother of God is the speedy helper of the Holy Mountain and it rejoices. The Mother of God is the protectress of Greece and it rejoices.
She who is the most beautiful in the face and heart, the most all-pure, the one more honorable than the Cherubim, the Panagia, is above all the saints. There was never a more holy person, a more good woman. Her jewelery is her purity, her modesty, her humility, her silence. She taught well by her example, with her virtuous life. Our times have need of inspirational and instructive personalities.
Talkativeness, insolence, shamelessness, high-mindedness, ugliness, filth, and opacity have become very tired.
We all thirst for openness, honesty, shame, silence, seriousness, purity, genuine humility. The current fifteen days of August lead us in contemplation, in a meeting with the Theotokos, in the revitalization of nested virtues, with the embrace of her icon, by listening to her life, and by singing the beautiful chants of her Supplication Canon. 

Byzantium and Us - interview with Sir Steven Runciman




The most slandered and misrepresented historical period of Romanity[1]

The following interview with the great historian and Byzantologist Sir Steven Runciman can be characterized as the quintessence of his great work, which is globally renown and recognized. His statements are momentous and his words mature and wise in meaning, extractions of thorough and objective life-long study of all expressions of the 'Byzantine' civilization. They truly are blows to the profane mouths which regurgitate generalizations, smear-talk and insults about anything relating to this millennium. And the most detestable thing is that the majority of these unlearned people who follow this trend is that they are 'ours', being 'Romans (Romioi)'*. And so, deservingly they receive the brash title of 'Greekling*', while this Celtic scientist of noble descent sits on the bright firmament of Hellenophiles.
* a Greek not worthy of their cultural heritage; servile to foreigners and things foreign

The following viewpoints of Sir Steven Runciman are more relevant in modern days than at any other time. He warns us so that we can finally wake up and understand the real reasons that drove us to today's degradation, to the new state of occupancy of our nation―surely to the worst one so far, since everything takes place fraudulently and behind the scenes. We must understand that it is impossible to build our future as a healthy nation when we have rejected our bright past, at the advice of opportunists. Let us listen to the people who have demonstrated their honest love towards our tormented race through their life and morals.

At the end of the interview the respectable researcher makes reference to Orthodoxy in relation to other dogmas. We believe it is important to consider the views as perspectives of a man who is not part of this sphere. We note that certainly it is not possible to perceive them as regular Orthodox teachings. Besides, the speaker was not Orthodox.   
******
BYZANTIUM AND US
  
“Sir Steven Runciman: We Need Spiritual Humility”, Nov. 6, 2000,
Εxtract from an interview with Sir Steven Runciman

The following interview was given by Sir Steven Runciman, in Elseselds, Scotland, in his ancestral chateau, in October 1994, for ET3, to journalists Chrysa Arapoglou and Labrini H. Thoma. Because of technical reasons it never aired on TV. Both journalists consider this interview as one of the most important in their career since it was one of those 'discussions' that shape you and which you never forget. They believe it should be made public, at least on the occasion such a sad event, as is the death of this great friend of the Greek nation. Flash.gr has published, for the first time, unpublished extracts from this interview.         
      
Journalist: How does a man feel that has studied the Byzantium for so many years? Are you tired?
It is hard to answer. My interest never dissipated. When I started studying Byzantium, there were very few people in this country (i.e. Great Britain) that were interested, even minutely in Byzantium. I like to believe that I have created 'interest' in Byzantium. What satisfies me, especially today, is that now there are several, very good representatives (i.e. in the study of Byzantium) in Britain. I may say that I feel like a father towards them. So I am glad that I chose Byzantium as my main interest.  

And was it attractive to you all these years?
I believe that if you start studying every event in history thoroughly, it can become exciting. I find Byzantium especially exciting because it was a self-sufficient civilization. To study Byzantium, you must study its art first, study religion, study a whole way of life, which is very different to today's.

Better or Worse?  
Look… I am not sure that I would like to live in Byzantine times. I wouldn't like, for example, to grow a beard. Still, in Byzantium they had a way of life which was better structured. Besides, when you have a strong religious sense, your life 'is given shape' and is much more satisfactory than today's, where one does not believe enough in anything.     

So was it a religious state?
It was a  civilization in which religion constituted the main way of life.

In all the eleven centuries?
I think people talk about Byzantium as if it remained the same, a stagnant civilization during all those centuries. It changed dramatically from the beginning to its end, even if some basic factors lasted throughout its entire duration―such as the religious sense. They may have had disagreements on the various religious matters, but they were all believers and this feeling was constant. Respect and appreciation to the arts, as those that please God, those were preserved as well. And so, despite the fact that fashions changed, the economic situation changed, the political status quo changed, there was a very interesting integrity, on the whole.
We are talking about religion and morals. Byzantium is considered by many a period of wars, murders, intrigues, 'Byzantinisms' that had nothing to do with morals.
Many murders also occurred then, but there is no period in history from which they are missing. One time I was giving a lecture in the USA, and in my audience there was the daughter of President Johnson, who was studying Byzantium. She came to the lecture with two body guards, two tough men who watched over her. She explained to me that they love Byzantine history, because it is filled with murders and brings to mind school lessons (homework). I had the tact not to tell her that up until then, the percentage of American presidents that had been murdered was much higher―in relation to the years the US has existed―from the percentage of murdered Byzantine emperors during the empire. People continue to murder. Open your eyes!
You have written that in Byzantine civilization there was no death penalty. 
Indeed, they did not kill. And the big difference is evident in the initial period. When the Roman Empire turned Christian, one of the most essential changes was to stop gladiatorial games, not throw people to lions anymore, and all those things. The empire became much more humanitarian. And they always avoided as much as possible the death penalty. At times, some emperors resorted to it, but the majority used as a last resort punishment, a method that today seems hideous to us: some sort of mutilation. But I think that most people would rather have a hand cut, for example, than be put to death.     
For some time, an open dialogue has been taking part in Greece. There are contemporary Greek intellectuals that claim that Byzantium is not particularly worth studying, since it did not create anything, as it entailed commentators of the scriptures and not intellectuals. In a phrase “it was nothing memorable”.
I think that those Greeks are very biased with their Byzantine ancestors. It was not a society without intellectuals; it's enough to look at the work and progress of Byzantine medicine. One may dislike religion, but some of the religious writers like the Cappadocian fathers, and many others, up to Gregory Palamas, were people of unique spirituality... Intense intellectualism and spiritual life existed in Byzantium. Especially, in the late Byzantine years, i.e. The period under the Palaiologoi. It is especially curious, that at the time when the empire was shrinking, intellectual thinking was blossoming more than ever. 
Others claim there was no art.
Then they must not know anything about art. Byzantine art was one of the greatest art schools worldwide. No ancient Greek would have been able to build St Sophia, this required a very deep technical knowledge. Some, as you know, claim that Byzantine art is static. It was not at all static, but it was one of the most important art schools in the world, which as time passes, it is more appreciated, and the Greek intellectuals who tell you that Byzantium did not create anything are blind.

So the ones that characterize Byzantine art as “simple imitation and copying” are probably mistaken.
If you make something excellently, then you can repeat it excellently. But there were always differences. Looking at an icon, we can assign a date to it. If they were all the same this would not happen. There were specific traditions that were maintained, but this art is very different from century to century. It got 'stuck' and remained the same after the fall of Turkish rule, because illuminated sponsors were missing from your country.[2] The art of the Palaiologoi is very different from the art of the Justinians. Certainly it was also analogous, but it was not imitative. Things are simple: the people who persecute Byzantium never studied it, and started out with prejudices against it. They do not know what it achieved, what it accomplished.   
     
Greece, Byzantium, modern Democracy
Some claim that Byzantium was not Greek and was not a continuation of ancient Greece. There was no democracy, or even democratic institutions.
I don't believe that contemporary Greeks are more Greek than the Byzantines. In time, in the course of centuries, races do not remain pure, but certain characteristics of culture remain ethnic. The Byzantines used the Greek language―that has changed a little, but languages change. They were very interested in philosophy and the philosophical life. They may have been subjugated to an emperor, but this emperor had to behave correctly, because uprisings among the people took place easily. The worse that one could say about Byzantium was that it was a bureaucratic state. But it had a very educated bureaucracy, much more educated than the bureaucrats in today's world.
And, what do you mean when you say the word “democracy”? Was all of ancient Greece democratic? No. I would say to the Greeks who claim such a thing, to read their own history, especially that of classical Greece. There they will find a lot to judge... I never understood exactly what “democracy” meant. In most places of the world today, democracy means to be governed by mass media, newspapers and television. Because it is desirable to attain what we call “people's vote” but, from the minute that people cannot judge on their own―and there are many people in the modern world that do not think―then they transfer this authority to the hands of the Media, who, with the power they have, should choose the difficult path and educate all whole world. Many, not all fortunately, are irresponsible. Democracy can exist only if there is a highly educated public. In a city like ancient Athens, there was democracy―without considering how slaves and women went through―because the men were very well educated. Usually they did not elect their governors, they drew lots, as if they were leaving it in God's hands―nothing like the House of Commons.   

Was there a social state in Byzantium?
The Church did a lot for the people. Byzantium had utter social understanding. The hospitals were very good, as well as the nursing homes, which mainly belonged to the Church, but not only to it; there were also public ones. Let us not forget that one of the most senior officials was the head of orphanages. Surely, the Church played a key social role. It was not only about a regime of hermits sitting on Mount Athos. There was also that, but there was a system of monasteries in the cities. The monasteries looked after the homes for the elderly, and the monks educated the youth―especially boys, as girls were educated at home―and most provided a very good education. Girls in Byzantium often received a better education, because they “enjoyed” more private attention. I think the marks we would give to the social work of the Church in Byzantium would be particularly high.
And their education, according to Basil the Great, had to be based on Homer, the “teacher of virtues”.            They were experts of ancient Greek Writings. It is worth mentioning, nevertheless, that they did not pay particular attention to the Attic Tragedians, but to the rest of the poets. There is the famous story of an attractive lady, a friend of an emperor, that Anna Komnene narrates to us. As the lady was passing by, someone yelled a homeric phrase to her, referring to Helen of Troy, and she understood the innuendo. Nobody needed to explain to her, whose lyrics they were. All boys and girls without exception knew Homer. Anna Komnene never explains the points referring to Homer, all her readers were familiar with them. 
     
Were there no uneducated people in Byzantium?
The problems of Byzantine writing were different. They were so knowledgeable of ancient Greek writings that they were influenced in their linguistic formation. Many historians wished to write like Thucydides; they did not want to write in the language that was more natural to them but in the ancient. The great tragedy of Byzantine writings was their dependence on classical writings. Not because they did not have enough knowledge, but because they had more knowledge than necessary, for their own “creative” well-being.
  

Would you like to live in Byzantium?
I don't know personally if I would be suited for the Byzantine period. If I lived at the time, I think, I would find comfort in some monastery, living, like many monks lived, an intellectual's life, buried in the wonderful libraries they possessed. I don't think I would want a life in Byzantine politics, but it is very hard to find a period in world history in which you would like to live... It all depends on the government, the society, the class in which you are born. I would like to live in 18th century Britain, if I was born an aristocrat. Otherwise, I wouldn't like it at all. It's very difficult to answer your question.   ...  

Orthodoxy.
How do you view Orthodoxy within this circle?
I have a deep respect for Christian dogmas, and especially for Orthodoxy, because only Orthodoxy recognizes that religion is a mystery. The Roman Catholics and Protestants want to explain everything. It is pointless to believe in a religion, believing that this religion will help you understand everything. The point of religion is exactly to help us understand the fact that we cannot explain everything. I think that Orthodoxy retains this valuable feeling of mystery.    

But do we need mystery?
We need it. We need the knowledge that implies that in the universe there is much more than what we can understand. We need intellectual humility, and this is missing, especially among Western ecclesiastical men.
This is a characteristic of Orthodoxy and their Saints―the respect for humility.
How do you comment on the fact that many Saints got involved in politics and practiced political?
All who wish to influence people use politics and are politicians. Politics means trying to organize the 'Polis' (city) in a new way of thinking. The Saints are politicians. I never believed that you could separate the faith toawrds the Saints from intellect. I return to what I said about the Churches. From the minute you try to explain everything, you essentially destroy what should constitute human insight, which connects intellect to Saints and the sense of God.       

Intellect, politics, and faith in the Divine: So, can they march together?
Your town, Thessaloniki, is an example. It was very famous for its intellectuals, especially in the later Byzantine years. But it also had help from its military, as Saint Demetrios, were coming to rescue her on the right moment. Faith in Saints gives you courage to defend the city from attacks, as Saint Demetrios did.

How do you view the other churches?
The Roman Catholic Church was always a political institution, apart from being a religious one, and was always interested in the law. We need to remember that when the Roman Empire collapsed in the West, and the barbaric kingdoms arrived, the Roman rulers were lost, but the church officials remained, and they were the only ones with a Roman education. So they were used by the barbarian leaders to impose the law. In this way, the Western Church was “muddled up” with law. You can see the law in the Roman Catholic Church; it wants to legally secure everything. In Byzantium―and it is interesting how even after the Turkish conquest the substructures remain―the Church is interested only in the Canon, the law of the Scriptures. It does not desire to determine everything. In the Western Churches that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, the need of law, of absolute specifications, has been inherited. It is very interesting for one to study―and I have been studying for some time―the dialogue between the Anglican Church of the seventeenth century and the Orthodox. The Anglicans were rather unsettled because they could not understand what the Orthodox believed regarding the turning of wine and bread into body and blood. The Orthodox said “it is a mystery which we cannot comprehend. We believe it happens, but how we do not know”. The Anglicans, like the Roman Catholics, wanted a clear answer. This is the typical difference of the Churches, and that is why I love the Orthodox.              

What do you think about modern Greeks?
This quick understanding of things and situations is still alive among the people. There is also a strong presence of the other quality of the Byzantines: lively curiosity. And modern Greeks retain, like the Byzantines, perception of their importance in the history of civilization. All this indicates historical unity. Besides no race can retain all its characteristics untouched. A lot depends on the language, which is the best way to retain tradition. The writers of Byzantium were hurt from their relationship to the ancient writers. Fortunately, the modern Greeks have modern Greek that has allowed modern Greek writers to advance, to progress in a way that the Byzantines did not manage, excluding Cretan literature and Digenes. The great Byzantine masterpieces were most probably folkloristic.     

A Walk in the Garden and Poetic Stories[3]
I first met Seferis when I was in Greece, right after the war. When he came as an ambassador to London, I used to see him often. During that time, I passed a lot of my time on an island of the west coast of Scotland, with its mild climate because of the Gulf Stream. An alley of palm trees lead to my house. He came and stayed over together with his wife. The weather was wonderful as it often is there, and he said to me “It is even more beautiful than the Greek islands”―very polite on his behalf. We corresponded by mail regularly up until his death... when he left London, for Athens, he left me his cellar, a cellar containing exclusively ouzo and retsina. I still have not drunk all that ouzo, I have... he had said that “the Celts are the Romioi of the North”, yes, he enjoyed making such remarks. However, here he is quite right...  
Kavafis is one of the greatest poets of the world, and indeed original... I cannot read Kazanzakis, I knew him personally, but I cannot read him, I never liked him to be honest. I like Elitis and once in while I find something special in Sikelianos. I don't know the younger ones; I stopped following, as you know I belong to a very old generation. 

FOOTNOTES
[1]Trans. Note: Often also referred to as “Romiosini”. Some also explain the word as referring to the Greek Roman Empire of the East. However, as Prof. Clifton Fox says: “The people of the 'Byzantine Empire' had no idea that they were Byzantine. They regarded themselves as the authentic continuators of the Roman world: the Romans living in Romania.” It is a word still used by some Greeks and, though it has no set definition, it is usually used for those Greeks who adhere to the Orthodox Christian faith and a certain ideal and spirit connected to the Byzantine Empire. (See: http://www.romanity.org/htm/fox.01.en.what_if_anything_is_a_byzantine.01.htm)

[2]the Byzantine iconographers are not known to us because the maker of the church was considered the sponsor, the one who granted the money and of course retained an opinion on the total outcome. In very few instances we know the name of the iconographer or architect, in the nine centuries of Byzantium, but almost always the name of the sponsor is known to us.
[3]Sir Steven guided us around the garden of his home, after the interview, talking freely, about his beloved greek friends. The conversation was almost all of it “off the record”, except from the extracts being published here, which in his knowledge were told “on camera”, as he was showing us the most ancient tree in his garden.

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