Search This Blog

Monday, December 31, 2012

HUMOR: How to Make a Muslim (PHOTO STORY)





Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh: Begin the New Year with courage!


Before we pray, I should like to introduce our prayers so that when we pray, we do it more effectively, with one mind and with one heart. Year after year I have spoken of the New Year that was coming, in terms of a plain covered with snow, unspoiled, pure, and called our attention to the fact that we must tread responsibly on this expanse of whiteness still unspoiled, because according to the way in which we tread it, there will be a road cutting through the plain following the will of God, or wandering steps that will only soil the whiteness of the snow. 
But a thing which we cannot, must not forget this year perhaps more than on many previous occasions, is that, surrounding, covering this whiteness and this unknown as with a dome, there is darkness, a darkness with few or many stars, but a darkness, dense, opaque, dangerous and frightening. We come out of a year when darkness has been perceived by all of us, when violence and cruelty is still rife.
How shall we meet it? It would be naive, and it would be very unchristian, to ask God to shield us against it, to make of the Church a haven of peace while around us there is no peace. There is strife, there is tension, there is discouragement, there are fears, there is violence, there is murder. We cannot ask for peace for ourselves if this peace does not extend beyond the Church, does not come as rays of light to dispel the darkness. 
One Western spiritual writer has said that the Christian is one to whom God has committed responsibility for all other men, and this responsibility we must be prepared to discharge. In a few moments we will entreat for both the unknown and the darkness, the greatest blessing which is pronounced in our liturgical services, «Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost» – blessed is the kingship of God.
These words are spoken rarely: at the beginning of services, at the outset of the Liturgy, as a blessing upon the New Year, and at moments when eternity and time unite, when with the eyes of faith we can see eternity intertwined with time, and conquering. The Christian is one who must be capable of seeing history as God sees it, as a mystery of salvation but also as a tragedy of human falleness and sin. And with regard to both we must take our stand. Christ says in the Gospel, «When you will hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled»; lift up your heads. 
There is no space in the heart and in the life of the Christian for cowardice, faintheartedness and fear, which are all born of selfishness, concern for self, even if it extends to those whom we love. God is the Lord of history, but we must be co-workers with God, and we are sent by Him into this world of His, in order to make the discordant city of men into the harmony which will be called the city of God.
And we must remember the words of the Apostle who says, whoever will wish to work for the Lord will be led into trial, and the words of another Apostle who tells us not to be afraid of trial by fire. In the present world we must be prepared, ready for trials and ready to stand, perhaps with fear in our heart for lack of faith, but unshaken in the service of God and the service of men.
And when we look back at the past year the words of the litany hit us and accuse us. We ask God to forgive us all that we have done or left undone in the past year. We claim to be Orthodox; to be Orthodox does not mean only to confess the Gospel in its integrity and proclaim it in its purity, but it consists, even more than this, in living according to the Gospel. And we know that Christ comes to no compromise with anything but the greatness of man and the message of love and worship. We can indeed repent because who, looking at us, would say as people said about the early Christians, «See how they love one another!» 
Who would say, looking at us, that we are in possession of an understanding of life, of a love which makes us beyond compare, which causes everyone to wonder where it comes from? Who gave it to them? How can they stand the test of trial? And if we want this year to be worthy of God, of our Christian calling, of the holy name of Orthodoxy, we must singly and as a body become to all, to each person who may need us, a vision of what man can be and what a community of men can be under God.
Let us pray for forgiveness, we who are so far below our calling, let us pray for fortitude, for courage, for determination to discount ourselves, to take up our cross, to follow in the footsteps of Christ whithersoever He will call us.
At the beginning of the war King George VI spoke words which we can repeat from year to year. In his message to the Nation he read a quotation: «I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown, and he replied: go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God that shall be better to you than light and safer than a known way.»
This is what we are called to do, and perhaps we should make today a resolution, determined to be faithful to our calling and begin the New Year with courage. Amen


50% British voters would leave the European Union

The public mood of Euroscepticism is hardening, according to the poll that finds 51 percent of respondents would vote to take Britain out of the EU, against just 40 percent who say they would vote to stay in.



This is the first time that poll results show that more than a half of British citizens are opposed to the EU, even though in autumn 2011 opinion was already leaning in the anti-European direction, by 49 percent against 40 percent. 

The Guardian points out that the citizens’ stance toward Brussels has drastically changed in the last decade. When ICM asked a slightly differently worded question in May 2001, the public indicated that it wanted Britain to remain a member of Europe by 68 percent to 19 percent. 

Even worse news for the pro-Europeans emerges when respondents were asked about how definite they were in their view, the paper writes. 

Fully 36 percent say they would definitely vote to pull Britain out, against just 22 percent who definitely want to stay in. That compares with 18 percent who say they would probably want to stay in, and 15 percent who indicate that they would probably want to get out. 

The deteriorating standing of the EU emerges at the end of a year in which it has won the Nobel peace prize for its success in bringing peace to a continent, but also – and perhaps more significantly – a year which has been marked by the crisis of the single currency moving from an acute to a chronic phase, the Guardian writes. 

When voters were asked to provide a "school report grade" for the work of various institutions, the EU was awarded a D+, somewhat worse than the C- average mark awarded to both David Cameron and Ed Miliband. 

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1002 adults over the age of 18 by telephone on December 19-23, 2012.

ALBANIA: 42 Orthodox clergy against census and Albanians Abp. Anastasios

amastasops
 After the publication of the official statement on what critics said was an inaccurate 2011 Census,  Archbishop Anastasios was accused by some Albanians of “unconstitutional acts” and of having worked with extreme nationalist circles of Greece for “anti-Albanian activity against Albania’s territorial integrity”.


The 42 Tirana archdiocese Orthodox clergy released a joint statement in defense of Abp. Anastasios Yannoulatos. Their attitude comes after strong reactions against the Red and Black Alliance, in support of Archbishop Anastasios and after a census that claimed a miniscule amount of Orthodox lived in Albania.
It was reported that a death threat was made against the Archbishop and his supporters denounced what they called a a “sick,slanderous attack” against him. They said criticism against him for his assertions the census was false were just a “morbid figment of imagination” and are “completely unfair as they distort the truth”.

FOOD: Greek Cuisine Big Hit in China


Golden Olives, a new Greek restaurant at Xiamen Wanda Plaza, Fujian, Chinais enjoying a brisk business as Chinese are taking to the taste of Greece. The menu includes Greek and Mediterranean salads, meat, olives, feta, pita bread. Pita Gyros are being gobbled up, while customers also love Greek-style stuffed tomatoes and peppers, a Greek way to taste their traditional food, rice.
According to a report in Sunday’s Ethnos, three Greek businessmen, Thomas Karavasilis, Vasilis Babaolos and John Findanides, decided to move to China, given the difficult living conditions in Greek, and offer the Chinese Mediterranean food and culture. The three men have opened two stores in Xiamen, a city of more than 4.5 million people. The restaurant in Wanda Plaza is serving 550-600 customers daily.

TURKEY: Christianity no longer a religion, says Turkish minister


Erdoğan Bayraktar. AA Photo Christianity has ceased to be a religion but has become a culture of its own, Turkish Environment and Urbanism Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar said at a recent conference hosted by the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) Women's Group. 
 
"The biggest three countries in the world are not Muslim countries. China, India – only the U.S. believes in a single God. Spirituality and religious feelings are weakening," Bayraktar said.
 
"There are 2.5 billion Christians in the world," Bayraktar said. "Christianity is no longer a religion. It's a culture now. But that is not what a religion is like. A religion teaches; it is a form of life that gives one peace and happiness. That is what they want to turn [Islam] into as well."




Clinton Injured, US Navy Seal Killed In Secret US Mission To Iran


A new Foreign Military Intelligence (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today is saying that United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [photo 2nd left] was injured, and a top US Navy Seal Commander killed when their C-12 Huron military passenger and transport aircraft crash landed nearly 3 weeks ago in the Iranian city of Ahvaznear the Iraqi border.

Iranian intelligence agents quoted in this GRU report confirm that the C-12 Huron aircraft is still in their possession in Ahvaz, but will only admit that the plane was “forced to land because of technical problems.”

The US Navy Seal member reported killed in this bizarre incident, this report says, was indentified as Commander Job W. Price [photo 3rd left] who as a leader of this highly specialized American Special Forces unit protects high-ranking diplomats traveling in Middle Eastern and Asian combat zones.

Curiously, US media reports on Commander Price’s death say it being investigated as a possible suicide as he died from what the American Defense Department describes as “a non-combat related injury.”

Equally as curious, US media reports state that Secretary Clinton will return to work next week after her having suffered what they describe as a “nasty bout with stomach flu” and a “concussion” which have kept her missing from public view the past three weeks.
This GRU report, however, states that US military flight logs recorded by Russian air and space forces confirm that Commander Price, and other members of US Navy Seal Team 4, left their base in Urozgan Province, Afghanistan on a flight to US Naval Support Activity Bahrain where they met up with Secretary Clinton and all of them transferred to the C-12 Huron that began a flight path to Baghdad, Iraq.

Within minutes of leaving Bahrain airspace, this report says, the C-12 Huron carrying Secretary Clinton and her US Navy Seal protectors, “without notice,” deviated from their assigned flight path heading, instead, directly towards Iran’s Ahwaz International Airport where, coincidentally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had previously landed on an “unscheduled” visit.

Important to note, GRU analysts say in this report, was that when the C-12 Huron entered into Iranian airspace neither American nor Iran air force units responded clearly indicating that this secret mission was sanctioned.
Upon the C-12 Huron landing at Ahwaz, however, this report says it encountered “extreme turbulence” causing it to leave the runway where its main landing gear then collapsed causing it to crash.

Within seconds of the C-12 Huron crashing, this report continues, Iranian emergency and security personal responded freeing the victims, including Secretary Clinton who was reportedly unconscious and “bleeding profusely.”
After emergency aid was given, GRU agents stationed in Iran state that another US military flight was dispatched from Bahrain to Ahwaz which evacuated all of those wounded and killed in the crash including Secretary Clinton.

Strangely to note, this report says, is that in the aftermath of this crash, Iran’s main oil company announced today that they were buying the Ahwaz airport with the intention of moving it because, they say, oil was discovered beneath it.

To what the Americans mission to Iran was about this report doesn’t speculate upon, other than to note that with the Gulf State Monarchies rapidly approaching a union of their oil rich nations to counter Iranian power, and with President Obama signing a new law this past week to strengthen American borders against threats from Iran, and with the highly-publicized “Velayat 91” Iranian military exercises now taking place across a wide area from the Strait of Hormuz, a new and catastrophic  war in this region is much closer to being a reality than many realize.

To if Secretary Clinton’s mission was meant to forestall such a war it is not in our knowing, other than to note, that with the United States continued backing of some of the cruelest dictatorships in the world, our entire planet is but one spark away from a fire that could very well consume us all.  





source

UK: Christians have no right to refuse to work on Sundays, rules judge


Celestina Mba, who lost an appeal against her former employers earlier this month
A new ruling by a High Court judge - the first on the issue in nearly a decade - says that Christians have no right to decline working on Sunday as it is not a “core component” of their beliefs.
The judgment - which upholds an earlier decision - means that individual Christians do not have any protection from being fired for not working on Sundays.
Campaigners said the decision puts Christians at a disadvantage to other religions and means the judiciary are deciding what the core beliefs of Christians can be, which they say is an interference in the right to practise religion.
The judgment was issued by Mr Justice Langstaff as he ruled on an appeal brought by a Christian woman who was sacked after she refused to work on Sundays at a care home.
Celestina Mba claimed the council she worked for pressured her to work on Sundays and threatened her with disciplinary measures - even though other workers were willing to take the shifts. The 57 year-old, from Streatham Vale, south London, worships every Sunday at her Baptist church, where she is also part of the ministry team offering pastoral care and support to the congregation.
She said that when she took the position in 2007 providing respite care for children with severe learning difficulties at the Brightwell children’s home in Morden, south-west London managers initially agreed to accommodate the requirements of her faith.
But within a few months of starting the job, Miss Mba said managers began pressuring her to work on Sundays.
She found herself repeatedly allocated Sunday shifts and threatened with disciplinary measures unless she agreed to compromise her church commitments, meaning she had no alternative but to resign from the job she loved, she said.
The care worker launched an unsuccessful legal claim in February this year and this month lost her appeal in the High Court.
Her constructive dismissal case was funded by the Christian Legal Centre which instructed Paul Diamond, a leading religious rights barrister.
Mr Justice Langstaff, who as president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal is the most senior judge in England and Wales in this type of case, upheld the lower tribunal’s ruling which said it was relevant that other Christians did not ask for Sundays off.
The fact that some Christians were prepared to work on Sundays meant it was not protected, the court said.
The senior judge said that a rule imposed by an employer which affected nearly every Christian would have a greater discriminatory impact than one which only affected a few.
There was evidence that many Christians work on Sundays and this was relevant in “weighing” the impact of the employers’ rule, and the earlier decision did not involve an error of law, he added.
Campaigners said the ruling showed that Christians are being treated less favourably than people from other religions, such as Muslims, Jews and Sikhs. They pointed to cases where the courts offered protection to other religions even when only a minority of adherents were affected.
In 2008 Sarika Watkins-Singh, then 14, successfully claimed she was a victim of unlawful discrimination because she had been excluded from school in Aberdare, south Wales, for breaking a jewellery ban by refusing to remove a “kara” bangle which she said was central to her faith.
But in her case the court did not examine how many Sikhs wanted to wear similar items of jewellery.
The judgment in Miss Mba’s case will fuel concerns that judges are promoting secularism. A report from the cross-party Christians in Parliament group warned earlier this year that there was a lack of religious literacy among judges, politicians and officials.
Andrea Williams, director of Christian Concern, said of the latest ruling: “The court in this case created an unrealistic test which means that people like Celestina who wish to respect the Sabbath will be forced out of the workplace.
“The court seems to be requiring a significant number of adherents of the Christian faith to observe a particular practice before the court is willing to accept and protect the practice.
“In the past year we have seen mandatory tests of faith in relation to the wearing of crosses by Christians, belief about marriage between a man and a woman and now observing the Sabbath when in all cases reasonable accommodation could have been made.
“Such tests do not appear to be similarly applied to Muslims who are permitted to wear the hijab and observe prayers and Sikhs with the kara bracelet.”
In 1994, when Sunday trading in England was liberalised shopworkers were given a guarantee that working would be strictly voluntary, but the guarantee did not apply to people in other sectors.
The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations, published in 2003, say employers must justify Sunday working as a “legitimate business need” and does not give a blanket right to Christians not to work.
If employers fail to treat staff fairly and proportionately, the employee may be able to claim discrimination, the rules add.
The last ruling by judges was when a quarry worker claimed his Christian beliefs had been treated with “contempt” by employers who tried to force him to work on Sundays in 2003.
Stephen Copsey lost his case at the Court of Appeal in 2005, with judges ruling his employer had “compelling economic reasons” for insisting that he worked on Sundays.
Yvette Stanley of Merton council, Miss Mba’s former employers, said it did its best to allow religious practice but also had a duty to meet the needs of the disabled children for whom it cares and added: “We are pleased with the outcome of this second tribunal. Staff recruited in the respite care service are advised that it is by its nature a weekend service.”

Russia sends another naval ship to Syria

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian news agencies say the navy is sending another ship to the Syrian port ofTartus, where Russia has a naval base.
The reports Sunday by the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agency cited an unidentified official in the military general staff as saying the Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, has set sail from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. The ship is expected to arrive in the Tartus area in early January.
The reports gave no information on the ship's intent. But Russian diplomats have said that Moscow is preparing a plan to evacuate thousands of Russians from Syria if necessary. The Defense Ministry announced two weeks ago that several ships were being dispatched to the Mediterranean.

Greece: Licences handed in as austerity hits car owners


Second cars, and in some cases even the one and only vehicle, are the latest casualties of austerity in Greece – with cash-strapped owners unable to pay their car tax.
With other more pressing bills, many can not afford the levy and are queueing up at tax offices to hand in their licence plates – around 15 percent more than last year.
Greece’s government has been able to unlock the next installment of its much-needed bailout, worth 49.1 billion euros, by slashing public spending.
However, with cuts to wages and pensions, it is the ordinary people who are bearing the brunt of austerity.

Swiss Freeze $300 mln of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak


Swiss Freeze $300 mln of Mubarak Cash - Reports        MOSCOW, December 30 (RIA Novosti) - The Swiss authorities have frozen $300 million in Credit Suisse accounts in Geneva held by the sons of the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Swiss media reported on Sunday.
The funds are in accounts that belong to Alaa and Gamal Mubarak. Both sons of the deposed president are currently in an Egytian jail awaiting trial of charges of massive corruption.
Swiss media reports said the funds were transferred to Credit Suisse in 2005.
A Credit Suisse spokesman declined to comment.
Reports also said funds believed to also have come from corrupt officials in Egypt had likewise been frozen at the Swiss office of French banking giant BNP Paribas.
Switzerland is currently investigating 14 people close to Mubarak – who was toppled by a popular uprising in 2011 - suspected of massive embezzlement of public funds.
Mubarak is serving life imprisonment for ordering the killing of protesters during the revolt.

Church backs Vladimir Putin's ban on Americans adopting Russian children


 The Russian Orthodox church has been attacked for supporting a new law banning Americans from adopting Russian children, at the end of a year that saw it plagued by scandal and accusations of collusion with an increasingly authoritarian Kremlin.
Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a high-ranking priest and a spokesman for the church, said the law was "a search for a social answer to an elementary question: why should we give, and even sell, our children abroad?"
Speaking to Interfax, a state news agency, last week, Chaplin said the path to heaven would be closed to children adopted by foreigners. "They won't get a truly Christian upbringing and that means falling away from the church and from the path to eternal life, in God's kingdom," he said.
Vladimir PutinRussia's president, signed the controversial ban into law on Friday, in retaliation for a new US law that bans Russian officials accused of human rights abuses from travelling to or having bank accounts in the United States.
The ban, which effectively targets the hundreds of thousands of children condemned to Russia's decrepit orphanage system, has been widely criticised by many Russians, including some of Putin's most loyal ministers. Chaplin later said the law should include exceptions for ill children who required medical treatment abroad.
Critics say the church's support for the law is the latest example of its submission to the Kremlin, in which it acts more like a government ministry than an independent spiritual body.
"Everything is repeating – it's like the 19th century, when the church lay completely under the state," said Valery Otstavnykh, a theologist and Kremlin critic. "Everything was calm and fine until churches started getting blown up in 1917 and they all asked, 'Why?' "
The arrest of Pussy Riot thrust the church into the spotlight this year. When members of the feminist punk band performed a song inside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February, begging the Virgin Mary to "drive Putin out", their goal was to highlight the church's explicit politicisation. Patriarch Kirill, the church's leader, repeatedly praised Putin during his contentious presidential campaign, once calling the era of his rule a "miracle of God".
Maria Alyokhina, a Pussy Riot member serving a two-year jail sentence after being found guilty of charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred", said during the trial: "I thought the church loved all its children, but it seems the church loves only those children who believe in Putin."
The case opened the floodgates on church scandals, with particular attention on its alleged corruption. The church has grown rich under Putin, and has been given vast tracts of valuable land and property. It also runs several businesses, including a bank. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour maintains several firms on the site, including a car wash and a business centre it rents out for conferences.
In early April, Patriarch Kirill was involved in a dispute over a property he owned in the House on the Embankment, once home to the Soviet elite. A renovation by his neighbour, a former health minister, prompted a lawsuit in which Kirill won 20 million roubles (£400,000) – which he later said he would donate to charity. The lawsuit revealed that a woman – identified as a "keeper" named Lidia Leonova – was living in his flat, prompting widespread speculation.
On the heels of that scandal, came another. The church apologised for publishing on its website a photograph of Patriarch Kirill in which an expensive watch had been airbrushed from his wrist. The $30,000 Breguet still appeared in a reflection in the photograph.
In August, a priest crashed a BMW with diplomatic plates in central Moscow. In October, another priest assaulted two women pensioners in a fit of road rage in St Petersburg. Later that month, Russia's opposition cried foul after the church decreed that priests could run for political office. Two weeks later, the state news agency RIA-Novosti cited an anonymous source as saying that a bordello was uncovered in a Moscow monastery.
"The church has also done a lot of good," said Otstavnykh. "But the church as an organisation must change."

Elder Dobry from Baylovo - Bulgaria ( VIDEO - english subtitles)



Elder Arsenie Papacioc: It’s me, Your great ascetic!


Someone knocked at Jesus’ door, and Jesus asked,“Who is there?”
“It’s me, Your great ascetic!”
“You’re not ready; I’m not opening the door for you!”
The ascetic was worried: “I wonder why?” And he went again to the door and knocked.
“Who is there?” asked the Lord.
“It is you!”
“If you are Me, enter!” – That is to say, God gathers with those who are gods by grace.
So it is not permitted to knock at Christ’s door with stains, since any little sin is not small! If should not be understood that the struggle is to become perfect only in not committing sins! This is a little brash, and it is not the way of humility. You have to believe that the grace of God is helping you and that if you’re something it’s only by God’s grace. 
This is how I understood the words of St. Silouan, uttered to him by the Savior: “Keep thy mind in hell and despair not!” Our deeds can’t save us; therefore, we have reason for a continuous and authentic humility; not a rational humility, but a true humility.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons: From the Will and from the virgin earth


 
Whence then is the substance of the first-formed (man)? From the Will and the Wisdom of God, and from the virgin earth. For God had not sent rain, the Scripture says, upon the earth, before man was made; and there was no man to till the earth. From this, then, whilst it was still virgin, God took dust of the earth and formed the man, the beginning of mankind. So then the Lord, summing up afresh this man, took the same dispensation of entry into flesh, being born from the Virgin by the Will and the Wisdom of God; that He also should show forth the likeness of Adam’s entry into flesh, and there should be that which was written in the beginning, man after the image and likeness of God.
 
And just as through a disobedient virgin man was stricken down and fell into death, so through the Virgin who was obedient to the Word of God man was reanimated and received life.  For the Lord came to seek again the sheep that was lost; and man it was that was lost: and for this cause there was not made some other formation, but in that same which had its descent from Adam He preserved the likeness of the (first) formation. For it was necessary that Adam should be summed up in Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up and overwhelmed by immortality; and Eve summed up in Mary, that a virgin should be a virgin’s intercessor, and by a virgin’s obedience undo and put away the disobedience of a virgin. (Proof of Apostolic Preaching, 32-33)

Elder Cleopa Ilie: The Soul After Death




Sunday, December 30, 2012

Elder Paisios and Saint Isaac of Syria


One day, sitting at the bench outside of Stavronikita, the Elder was visiting with pilgrims, among whom was a high school teacher of theology. The theology teacher, repeating a popular Western error, claimed that Abba Isaac the Syrian was a Nestorian. Father Paisios tried to persuade him that Abba Isaac was not only Orthodox but also a saint, and that his Ascetical Homilies possess great grace and strength. But the Elder’s words were in vain: the theology teacher stubbornly insisted on his views. The Elder left for his hermitage, praying and so sad that he was in tears.
When he had come to a spot on the path near a large plane tree, something happened to him. These words, “something happened”, were the only description he gave us of the incident, not wanting to reveal the exact details. According to one testimony, he saw in a vision the choir of the holy fathers passing before him, and one of them, stopping, said to him, “I am Isaac the Syrian. I am completely Orthodox. The Nestorian heresy was indeed present in my region, but I fought against it.” We are not in a position to endorse or to reject the reliability of this witness. We know for certain only that the Elder experienced a supranatural occurence that confirmed with perfect clarity the holiness and total Orthodoxy of Abba Isaac.

(Elder Paisios of Mount Athos by Hieromonk Isaac pg. 226)

FOOD: Vasilopita - Greek Saint Basil's New Year's Cake


 
The story of the Vasilopita goes like this: Once, long ago, there was a terrible famine in Greece. The emperor at that time levied a sinfully excessive tax upon the people there. The tax was such a heavy burden upon the already impoverished people, they had to sell or give up family heirlooms, or what few coins they had.
Basil (now known as St. Basil the Great), the archbishop of Caesarea, saw his flock’s suffering. He took up his bishop’s staff and the book of the holy Gospels and entreated the emperor to repentance. This being a tale of miracles, the emperor repented [of course], canceled the tax, and instructed his henchmen to turn over to St. Basil all of the coins and jewelry which had been paid as taxes by the poor people of Caesarea.
Not knowing how to return each family’s treasures to them, St. Basil had all the treasures baked into one huge pita. He then called all the townspeople to prayer at the cathedral, and, after giving the Divine Liturgy, the bishop blessed and cut the pita, giving a piece to each person. As you might have already guessed, each owner miraculously received in his piece of Vasilopita his own valuables.
Today, Greeks celebrate St. Basil’s Day on January 1, New Year’s Day, with this traditional Vasilopita, or coffee cake. A lucky coin is wrapped in foil, dropped into the cake batter and baked. The person who finds the coin in their piece of cake is said to be blessed with good fortune in the coming year.
INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
3 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp anise seed
1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 Cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
A coin, wrapped in a bit of foil




Make the Cake:
Combine the almonds [or hazelnuts], brown sugar, and honey in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and anise seeds.

In yet another large bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the six eggs one at a time, beating one minute with a mixer on low speed after each addition. Add the lemon juice and vanilla. Combine the flour mixture with the butter mixture, alternating with the 1 cup of milk, and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide one-third of the nut mixture between two buttered cake pans: a 9-inch round cake pan and a little 4-inch round cake pan, scattering the nuts evenly over the pans’ bottoms. Fill the smaller (4-inch) pan 2/3 full with the cake batter, then pour half of the batter that remains into the larger (9-inch) pan.
Bake both cake layers for 20 minutes, until the cakes become a bit firm. Sprinkle half of the remaining almond or hazelnut mixture in an even layer over both cakes. Now place the foil-wrapped coin on top of one of the partly-baked cakes. [Some versions of this recipe say you should close your eyes and make the sign of the cross during this step - Elis.]
Pour the remaining batter on top of each cake layer. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted in the center of each pan comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes.
Serving suggestions:
Remove the cakes from their pans, and place the smaller layer atop the larger one. Top with the remaining almond mixture, and serve warm.

SYRIA: Bashar al-Assad isolated and ‘fearful’ of assassins


Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad has become “isolated and fearful” as his regime looks ready to crumble under a 21-month-long rebellion that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, according to a published report.
Assad, who has repeatedly said he has no intention of stepping down, has “all but vanished from public view,” as the country’s civil war drags on, The Washington Post reports.
“Assad is nearly as invisible within the shrinking world of his presidency, restricting contacts to a small circle of family members and trusted advisers,” the report said, citing anonymous sources.
The Syrian leader has grown so paranoid he changes bedrooms every night and is apparently worried about being poisoned, “tightening controls over food preparation to thwart would-be assassins,” sources told The Post.
Even members of Assad’s own regime have publicly acknowledged they are unlikely to defeat the rebellion. Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa told a Lebanese newspaper earlier this month that Syrian security forces cannot reach a "conclusive" result with the opposition.
Meanwhile, rebels continue to gain ground in the country. Armed fighters captured the town of Harem near the border with Turkey on Tuesday, and the exiled Syrian National Coalition has now been recognized by more than 110 nations as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Even Syria’s biggest supporter, Russia, has now admitted that Assad might fall. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Assad’s regime is growing weaker but warned that his decline might worsen the country’s civil war.
Ongoing efforts by the United Nations and Russia to broker talks between Assad’s government and the rebel groups have been unsuccessful. On Saturday, they essentially announced another stalemate.
Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no intention of stepping down and warned against international efforts to pressure him out of office.
Assad “will stay to the end in his post,” Lavrov said, adding the Syrian leader maintains he is acting to “defend the Syrian people, Syrian sovereignty and so forth...There's no possibility to change this position."
Lavrov met Saturday in Moscow with the U.N envoy to the Syrian crisis, Lakhdar Brahimi. Brahimi held talks with Assad in Damascus this week, but announced no compromise. The envoy also expressed concern about the conflict, saying it is becoming "more and more sectarian."

YEMEN: Al Qaeda offers bounty for killing U.S. diplomat

Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen has announced that it will pay tens of thousands of dollars to anyone who kills the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa or an American soldier in the country.

al-qaeda in yemen
An audio produced by the group's media arm, the al-Malahem Foundation, and posted on militant websites Saturday said it offered three kilograms of gold, worth $160,000, for killing the ambassador.
The group said it will pay 5 million Yemeni riyals ($23,000) to anyone who kills an American soldier inside Yemen.
It did not say how the bounty could be collected, but said the offer is valid for six months.
The bounties were set to "inspire and encourage our Muslim nation for jihad," the statement said.

 

Washington considers al Qaeda in Yemen to be the group's most dangerous branch.

Scandal Deepens Over Greece's 'Lagarde List'

ATHENS—A corruption scandal involving a list of thousands of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts took a new turn Friday, focusing on the former finance minister who received the list on Greece's behalf.

image
Ex-Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou
 was expelled from party
.
Cousins of then-finance minister George Papaconstantinou were among the names of Greeks associated with 2,062 offshore banking accounts on a list that France handed over to Mr. Papaconstantinou in 2010, a Greek court official and a senior government adviser said Friday. A version of the list that was later handed to prosecutors didn't include three accounts associated with the relatives, the officials said.
Mr. Papaconstantinou, who negotiated Greece's first international bailout and was unpopular in the country for presiding over the government's first round of austerity measures, has denied any wrongdoing. He hinted that others were seeking to incriminate him.
"I have not made any intervention in the details that I asked for and received from the French authorities," Mr. Papaconstantinou wrote on his personal website Friday. "If there are accounts on the list that relate to people in my wider family environment, this is something that I did not know of until today."
Friday's allegations stoked public scorn toward politicians and deepened the saga surrounding the list of Greeks with Swiss accounts that Christine Lagarde, then the French finance minister, handed over to Mr. Papaconstantinou.
Many Greeks have argued that austerity measures undertaken by Mr. Papaconstantinou and other officials have struck disproportionately at the country's poor, and that the government has done a little to crack down on tax evasion by the rich or tackle corruption by the country's business and political elite.
The disclosure this fall that government officials had in 2010 received a list that could lead them to potential wealthy tax evaders—and that officials hadn't pursued these leads amid two years of recession and painful austerity measures—has touched off months of controversy.
On Friday, Greece's socialist party Pasok, a member of the three-party coalition government, expelled Mr. Papaconstantinou, who doesn't hold a parliamentary seat. The coalition government is preparing to launch a parliamentary probe into the matter as soon as Monday, said government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou.
The Lagarde List, as it is widely known here, is drawn from data obtained by former employees of the Geneva branch of HSBC, HSBA.LN -0.11% who electronically copied details of 24,000 clients. The information wound up in the hands of French tax authorities, as well as those of Italy and Spain. All three countries started probes to recover unpaid taxes.
In late 2010, Ms. Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, gave a compact disc containing information on Greek account-holders to her Greek counterpart, according to testimonies in Greek Parliament. Mr. Papaconstantinou has said in the testimony that he handed the information to Greece's special tax police but otherwise didn't act on it. The head of Greece's tax police testified that his department had received 10 names.
In 2011, Mr. Papaconstantinou was removed as finance minister and says he passed the list to his successor—Evangelos Venizelos, now head of the Socialist party.
When word of the Lagarde List became public in recent months, Mr. Venizelos initially denied knowledge of it. Later, in early October, he passed a flash drive with a list of accounts to the prime minister's office. He has said he hadn't pressed tax police to pursue the names on the list, saying lawyers had told him the information couldn't be acted upon because it had been obtained illegally from HSBC.
In October, a Greek investigative journalist published a version of the list, with the names, companies and professions of those associated with 2,059 accounts, but not the monetary values. It included the wife of one former conservative minister and the name of a second, now deceased, and a current adviser to Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
As questions over the integrity of the two-year-old list grew, Greek prosecutors asked France for a fresh copy, which they received and examined last week. The new list included 2,062 bank accounts—three more than the list disclosed by the journalist—according to the two Greek officials.
According to these officials, Mr. Papaconstantinou's two cousins and their husbands were linked to the three accounts. One is reported to contain $1.2 million, according to local media. The family members couldn't be reached for comment.
In a second statement issued on his personal website, Mr. Papaconstantinou pointed the finger at Mr. Venizelos, the Pasok party chief.
"I am saddened that the president of Pasok rushes to lay blame for a possible falsification of the Lagarde List on me personally. If the list has really been doctored, and even more so with the removal of persons related to me, justice and the authorities have to immediately investigate who had the motive to doctor it so heavy handedly with the aim of incriminating me," he wrote. "Also, the question of why the investigation I had ordered into the names on the Lagarde List stopped as soon as I left the finance ministry must be answered."
Mr. Venizelos didn't respond publicly.
The matter coincides with a separate corruption probe involving millions of euros allegedly embezzled at Greece's national tourism agency and apparently implicating several political appointees. Many Greeks were openly skeptical that anything would come of a parliamentary probe on the Lagarde List, with the latest allegations, whether borne out or not, only serving to confirm a deep-rooted suspicion of government.
"Nothing is going to happen," said Nikos Galanos, a 45-year-old warehouse manager. "The politicians all look after each other.This is the finance minister that formulated all these tough new austerity measures on ordinary people and at the same time looks like he was covering for members of his own family. That's hypocrisy at the highest level."

Google+


Category

1915 Armenian Genocide 21st-century Christian martyrs‎ africa al assad Al Qaeda albania anti-Morsi protests Apostles Arab Christian Arab-Orthodox Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov army Asia Australia bank BBC Belarusian Orthodox Church Bethlehem bible Bible movies bible translations bulgaria Bulgarian Orthodox Church Byzantine byzantine music C.I.A. Cairo China Christian Armenians christianity christians christmas Christmas Traditions Christmas tree church Conspiracy Constantinople coptic church copts cyprus daily news Documentary Easter economy Ecumenical Patriarch Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople egypt egypt pope elder Elder Ephraim of Vatopaidi elder joseph of vatopaidi elder Paisios Elder Porphyrios english subtitles Epiphany europe food Fr Seraphim Rose france FREE books FREE Greetings Cards fyrmacedonia Georgian Orthodox Church germany greece greek greek food greek music Greek Orthodox Church Greek Orthodox Easter greek orthodoxy health and medicine Holy Fathers Holy Scripture Holy Tradition icon Internet Interview iran islam islamist israel Italy jerusalem Jesus Christ jews jihad killed libya mafia Middle East Miraculous Icon monastery money mother of god mount athos Mount Sinai Movie Trailers music muslim muslims news orthodox church Orthodox Church in America pakistan Palestine patristic tradition photo photos picture politics pope Prophecy protests quotes recipes religion romania romanian orthodox church Russia Russian Orthodox Church saint Saints science Shroud of Turin Son of God spy St Nicholas of Myra syria The Mount Athos Food Evolution theotokos travel turkey tv UK Ukraine Ukrainian Orthodox Church usa Vatican vatopaidi video war Watch FREE full movie world
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...