St Severus of Antioch…

We celebrate 15 centuries since the ascension of this eloquent and holy saint as patriarch of Antioch…St-Severus-of-Antioch-06-by-Samy-Hennes-2004-at-St-Mina-Monastery-Egypt

Born in Sozopolis Pisidia, modern day Bulgaria in 456AD, Saint Severus of Antioch was born of non-believing parents.  Upon the death of his father 485AD, his mother paid for him to travel with his two older brothers to Alexandria to learn grammar and rhetoric, a pre-requisite for legal studies .

The birth of this blessed saint comes in the aftermath of Chalcedon, where the holy father and Patriarch of Alexandria St Dioscorus was persecuted without just cause.  St Dioscorus had championed himself against Nestorianism and any discussion of two natures of Christ after the ineffable union, an error which had spread through the Church and even Rome.  Pope Leo had written a Christological statement upholding two natures after the union, which St Dioscorus anathematised.  St Dioscorus was persecuted and placed in exile at Gagra.  He upheld his theological position as that which had been received from the fathers of the Church, especially the dogmatic teachings of St Cyril of Alexandria, the definitive statement of Nicaea “One Lord Jesus Christ” and in unison with the voice of both Latin and Cappadocian fathers.  St Severus would champion the theological correctness of St Dioscorus, St Cyril, the Nicaean faith and the non-Chalcedonian Oriental Churches.

As a student in Alexandria, St Severus was in one of the world’s foremost epicentres of learning and education.  The city was rich with philosophy, religions and of course the most influential theological school in the ancient world.  He had access to the great library of Alexandria, with its uncountable treasures, and of course the tomes of the theological school of Alexandria!

It was at this time the saint was introduced to the fathers by the Coptic people, St Basil and St Gregory of Nazianzen. He began a lifelong friendship with Zachariah Scholasticus, another student who would become his biographer.  St Severus at this time acted as a young advisor to his fellow Christian students, who were fighting and struggling against the pagans, both whilst in Alexandria and in Phoenicia. These same Christians persuaded him to put aside reading the rhetoric of a secular scholar Antiochene Libanius in favour of St Basil and St Gregory.

Saint Severus became captivated by the inspirational writings of the Cappadocian fathers, and he even believed they would hold him accountable on judgement day, for he received the faith they had faithfully delivered in apostolic succession from Christ.

Zachariah Scolasticus joined with him in pursuing their legal studies weekdays, they would rest Saturday morning, and then he would spend the rest of the weekend with St Severus studying and reading theology.   After 5 years in Beirut, St Severus graduated master of law.  He remained interested in canon law through his life.st leontius

At this time, he received formal catechetical teaching from a monastic father and was baptized at the shrine Church of the holy martyr Leontius at Tripoli in modern day Lebanon.  This had significant meaning as St Leontius the martyr was credited with power in converting pagans and overcoming demons – which St Severus attests to in his own life as having converted (in a text of one of his surviving homilies).

The Bishop in Beirut at the time was Chalcedonian which is perhaps why he left the capital to pursue baptism elsewhere.

Ascetic tradition was strong amongst the faithful orthodox believers of Palestine and Egypt, and St Severus became an extreme ascetic.  He was journeying home to Pisidia to purchase his official legal robes of trade and become a lawyer, when he met disciples of the holy Saint Peter the Iberian, who convinced him of his spiritual vocation, and he became a monk at Peter’s monastery near Gaza, in 490AD.

Here Peter_the_iberianhe parted with his friend and biographer Zachariah, who wished to fulfil his vocation to law at the wish of his parents.

At Peter the Iberian’s monastery St Severus joined a melting pot of ascetic monastics, intellectuals, bishops and administrators that would have a profound effect on his development.

From the monastery St Severus graduated to the anchoritic ascetic life and fled to the wilderness of Eleutheropolis, where his asceticism weakened him so much one of the monks carried him back to the monastery of St Romanus to be nurtured to good health.  So many monks began to follow the example of this holy father that he used his family wealth to build a monastery to house them in near Gaza at Maiuma.  He was ordained around 500AD a priest by Bishop Epiphianus of Magydon, Pamphilia.

At this time theological wars began to be waged between the monks of Palestine St Sabas who opposed the anti-chalcedonians.  Letters and verbal attacks increased, and a certain Nephalius caused an uproar against St Severus in Jerusalem that saw him expelled.  St Severus travelled straight to Constantinople with 200 monks to plead his case before the righteous emperor Anastasius. Nephalius followed with an entourage of monks and Constantinople was over run with monks waging theological war against each other.  Anastasius believed rightly and St Severus was appointed theological advisor to the emperor.st-philoxenus-of-mabbug-61

St Severus received the support of St Philoxenus, another holy father who had travelled earlier to uphold the true faith.  St Severus and St Philoxenus would only be content with outright rejection of Chalcedon.  Whilst Anastasius believed the Orthodox faith, he had the duty of holding the empire together and sought peace by a document called the Henotikon – which sought to unite both sides again.  This failed, and so St Severus was commissioned to draft another document without anathematizing Leo.  He did so, and to the embarrassment of the Chalcedonians in later years it was accepted by many of their bishops throughout the empire, whilst upholding the faith of St Dioscorus.

The addition of the Trisagion Agios o theos to uphold true Christological teaching happened at this time – inserting the words “Who was crucified for our sake” which cancels the error of Nestorius by upholding God the Word incarnate was crucified. Huge fights ensued as the opposition tried to claim somehow that this was a reference to the impassable Godhead.  This created further rifts and the continued opposition of the chalcedonian patriarch of Constantinople, Macedonius, who was eventually deposed.  He was replaced by the more moderate Timothy – evidence that St Severus did not seek power as the chaplain to the emperor he could have pursued the office himself had he wanted to.  At this time wars still continued, especially with the Akoimetoi – sleepless monks objecting the new trisagion hymn and arguing was commonplace throughout the capital.

With St Severus in the capital and St Philoxenus in Palestine, the theological postion of the Orthodox father St Cyril of Alexandria took dominance throughout the empire.

A summons came from the Emperor Anastasius in 512AD calling St Severus to attend Antioch.  As he arrived in the city, crowds gathered, chanting “Free us from the doctrines of the Chalcedonians, the cursed council and tome of Leo has turned the world upside down.  He who will not do so is a wolf not a shepherd!”  St Severus submits to the will of the people and is enthroned as Patriarch of Antioch, taking the see of the Holy Ignatius, and following on as a new eloquent mouth in the tradition of the Golden Mouth, St John Chrysostom.

st severus...stephane reneTwelve bishops including St Philoxenus concelebrated his enthronement, and he delivered the first of 125 cathedral homilies to the crowd of faithful.  In the homily he confirmed, “Christ out of two natures, a single Lord, a single Son, and not two natures after the ineffable union.” He then denounced the Chalcedonians as the new Jews, and upholds the use of two dissolves the unity and destroys the economy of salvation.  At the conclusion of the ceremony he signed a decleration of faith in front of 13 Bishops. Persia to the borders of Roman territory remains non-Chalcedonian, but the situation was different in the capital Constantinople.  Problems ensued and saw Emperor Anastasius stand down one day after St Severus’ accession to the patriarchate.

If you have any doubt as to the problem of Nestorianism, or that elements of the Antiochene theological school continued to teach this error, the name of Nestorius was used in the commemoration of ‘saints’ in the diptych in Tarsus, and a number of prominent figures followed him such as Theodoret of Cyrus who wrote opposing St Cyril of Alexandria.

The metropolitos of Antioch rivalled Rome itself, and had a powerful status in the time of St Severus. Many pilgrims passed through on route to Jerusalem.  St Severus opposed the Olympic games which took place in the city due to the riots which it caused, often between the religious factions. Saint Severus also had to deal with judaizers in Churches, who were influenced by the example of the Macabees and sought to judaize Christianity – influenced by the large Jewish population in Antioch.  There is cause to believe they influenced the use of good luck charms which St Severus railed against.  The Chalcedonians had fluctuated between being moderate and seeking some form of peace to murdering their opponents.  Despite the pluralism and political turmoil in the city, St Severus remained steadfast and a true example of a monk-theologian.  He ensured the removal of the names of all Chalcedonians and Nestorians from the diptych in his patriarchate to send a clear message of faith.  The name of St Dioscorus and St Timothy – the Cat were returned to the diptych.

St Severus wrote a number of homilies and hymns, including the famous hymn ‘O Monogenes’ used by the Syriac orthodox and the Coptic Church on Good Friday. Soon Anastasius grew sick and passed away, opening the way for the installation of a Chalcedonian supporting emperor Vitalian, with strong connections to the power brokers of Chalcedonianism.  Vitalian was the godson of Flavian and sought to avenge his godfather, who had been put aside by St Dioscorus, and the days of St Severus would be numbered.

St Severus left Constantinople anathematized by the Chalcedonians with the weight of the Roman empire behind them, was called to have his tongue cut out, but he managed to escape to the port of Seleucia Piera where he took ship for Alexandria and sanctuary.

He was welcomed by our Coptic father and Patriarch St Timothy IV, who sent him to a monastery of Enaton, and opposition increased from the Capital city of Constantinople with false accusations of sorcery against him and St Philoxenus, and iconoclasm for the use of pictures of doves in the Church as if they were following some obscure pagan connection to Aphrodite Goddess of love!

St Severus spent the next 20 years in exile, a dangerous time for him.  No one knew where he was living, but he managed to write a huge number of theological treatises and letters to encourage the faithful everywhere, through a contact in Palestine named Theodore.  He had returned home to his love of asceticism.  During his time in the deserts of Egypt, St Severus travelled disguised as a simple monk, and strengthen the orthodox faith of the people.  Whilst visiting a church during the Divine Liturgy, he stood at the back corner.  The priest offering the liturgy began to uncover the altar and the Korban bread of the offering had disappeared!  An angel of the Lord spoke to the confused priest who was looking around the altar, that God had hidden the offering because he was in the presence of a high priest (patriarch), and then revealed St Severus at the rear of the Church.

The priest went forward to take the blessing of the holy patriarch, who commended him to continue the offering of the liturgy.  As he returned to the altar, the Holy Korban was back in its rightful place.

St Severus was eventually summoned back to the capital at the initiative of the God fearing empress Theodora, under the auspices of an attempt at peace and reconciliation.  He went to engage discussions and uphold the faith once more.  Whilst there the patriarch of Alexandria died, and Theodora saw a deacon of St Severus’ party enthroned as patriarch, St Theodosius.  A new patriarch was enthroned in Constantinople as well who having met St Severus entered into communion with him, revoking Chalcedon.  However, the patronage of Queen Theodora could not withstand the union between the Roman Pontiff Agapetus and Justinian the emperor.

Agapetus purportedly a Nestorian who denied to call St Mary the Theotokos came and visited Justinian his friend and the King in Constantinople.  It is said of his arrival in Constantinople, there were ominous signs in the heavens, different kinds of eclipses, and ferocious sea storms driving spray from the coast.  Agapetus and the King were very close as they spoke the same language, and he turned the emperor against St Severus.  His wife, Theodora was a true believer in Orthodoxy as the former Emperor Anastasius, and protected St Severus because of her love for him.  Agapetus refused communion with Saints Severus and Anthimus – the patriarch of Constantinople who would not take on the innovations or additions to the faith made at Chalcedon, and they the more with him.  Agapetus claimed of the two one was an adulterer and the other a Eutychianist.  Eventually the pair were driven from the city.  Because of the impiety of Agapetus, he suffered a form of tongue cancer and died.

St Severus returned once more to Alexandria for the final time, living his final years as an ascetic in the wilderness of Scetis (sheheet) and the mountain of Assuit.  He died at Xois – Sakha and his body remains in Zughag in a monastery.  He was revered among the Copts as an ascetic miracle worker One collection of hymns totals 295 making him a significant liturgist, and the greatest theologian of the One nature of God the word incarnate theology, testified by a number of biographers.  He was eventually succeeded by one Jacob, from where our Syrian brothers receive the name Jacobite from.

He was responsible for the powerful and 1500 year brotherly relationship between us and the Syriac Church along with the prayers of St Timothy IV, evidenced in the recent enthronement of Pope Tawadros II and the role played by Mar Ignatius Zaka I with an entourage of Syriac priests.

Preparatory Contemplation for the great fast of Holy Lent

What is the purpose of the Christian life?

Ask this question and you are sure to get a variety of answers, as varied as ‘Go to Church’, ‘Pray to God’, or ‘Do the commandments’ or even ‘Do good’.   Fasting, prayer, vigil and other spiritual disciplines are not the sum aim of the Christian life but the means to an end.

The true aim of the Christian life is this – the acquisition of the Holy Spirit by the grace of God.  This is the path of discipleship of Christ, to become ‘Christ-like’, which is why we venerate the holy martyrs first and foremost amongst the community of saints for their self sacrifice.  Fasting, prayer, almsgiving and good deeds done – for Christ’s sake – are the only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit.  Of course I am speaking to the Christian community who has undergone the light of illumination by entering into the sacramental mysteries, particularly Baptism and Chrismation.

Ephesians 4:25 ff

25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbour”, for we are members of one another. 26 “Be angry, and do not sin” do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.’

The holy apostle Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians reminds us that our Christian virtue is our identity, and we must not corrupt ourselves because in doing so we grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom we were ‘sealed’.  I want to comment on the term – sealed.  Cain was marked on his forehead as a warning to the people of his murderous crime against the holy and righteous Abel.  Alternatively, Christians in the Orthodox Church are marked with cross during the sacrament of Chrismation, one of the eastern Churches actually refers to this as ‘sealing’ in their liturgical acclamations.  Unlike the mark of Cain, this sign is the sign of victory and blessing, the sign of the true messianic community.  This is the sealing of the Holy Spirit on a believers life, and yet it is evident that His grace can be grieved and even leave us should we chose to forsake His path, which is why we are taught in our daily prayers to pray for mercy, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.’

All we do that is not done for the sake of Christ brings no reward in the future life or the grace of God in the present – even if it is an apparently good act.  We are reminded that the path to destruction is broad compared to the way of life…

Thank God then, that his love and mercy are infinite!  Recently, we celebrated the fast and feast of Jonah the holy prophet.  The people of Nineveh, upon hearing the prophetic warning of doom responded in a most unusual fashion – as a nation of gentiles, they repented, en masse, and covered themselves in sackcloth and ashes, including their livestock.  Of course, this is a sign to us that the message of repentance and the path to salvation would be opened up to all nations and peoples.  Did you ever hear of such repentance in all of Israel?

Perhaps, Israel came close in the time of the forerunner Saint John the Baptist.  He brought a message of condemnation for sin and invoked people to repentance, and indeed his fame as a holy man was known through all the land.  He baptised a nation, excepting the temple authorities, the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees who treated him with jealous contempt.  However, even they would not dare to bring accusation against him in the sight of the people, in whose hearts his authenticity as a prophet was true.  He taught people, to fear God…

It is common in society to portray the ancient Churches as promoting fear of God to maintain some kind of totalitarian rule over ignorant masses.  However, the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom, because it leads to the pursuit of holiness in our life, which is the act of purifying ourselves in the majestic light of divinity – which ultimately is an experience of the love of God!

Back then to deeds, it is actually Christ our Lord Himself, who makes our deeds living!

Hebrews 6:1

‘…let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…’

The inference here is that there are works which are dead, and those which are living.  Those committed for Christ’s sake are then those which are living.

In the Church Fathers there is a teaching that ‘There is a way which seems good at the beginning, but it ends at the bottom of hell!’  We may see this as a warning against making bad decisions and being trapped into thinking we are progressing spiritually in what seem good deeds.  This is the danger of those who would try to lead their own spiritual path without the wisdom of the Church.

Saint Anthony, the great instigator of monasticism taught in his letters the following.

We are influenced by three wills.  Firstly, God’s all perfect and all saving will.  Secondly, our own will, which if not destructive is neither, saving.  Finally, there is the Devil’s will which is completely destructive.  The third will prompts no good deeds, or for them to   be committed for vanity.”

It is vital then for the spiritual life that we follow the example of the Gospel and commit ourselves to live out the commandments of Christ.  There is a warning in one of the parables of the danger of forsaking this urge to practice good deeds for Christ.

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins awaiting the bridegroom is the perfect example from the mouth of Christ our Lord Himself.  Oil is symbolic and the means by which God’s grace and Spirit are transmitted in both the Old and New Testaments.  The acquisition of the Holy Spirit then is like the oil the foolish virgins lacked, and so they went out into the marketplace (the world) trying to find some and in doing so missed the coming of the bridegroom.  They are foolish then because they forgot the fruit of virtuous deeds.

On this point I want to share a point from Saint Isaac the Syrian.  Indeed, some modern commentators have contemplated whether Saint Isaac the Syrian was Enoch walking the earth again, bathing in the light of eternal glory due to the immense depth of his teaching.   Regardless, he is one of the most loved spiritual writers of all ages amongst a broad spectrum of apostolic Churches.

When we commit works with purity as their goal for the sake of Christ, we do not shake off or erase blameworthy deeds committed in the past, but they do take away the grief of the memory from our minds….The whole sum of deeds of mercy brings the soul into the unity of God.”

Clearly there is transformative power in following the directions of the Gospel.  I would like to encourage all of you to work at this and increase our time in prayer and reflection.

I want to share with you a spiritual practice I hope I can work at this lent – Reading the Holy Scriptures.  We should not read the Holy Bible as we read any other book.  It is sacred text, which reveals God to us – Emmanuel, the Logos.  It is not a text to be ’investigated’, as is common amongst many so called experts who approach it, but rather we are to put the text above our minds and read it (aloud) with careful, prayerful diligence, submitting ourselves to its meaning allowing God to inspire us through His word.

On the feast of the presentation of the Lord in the temple which has just passed, it is the Coptic Orthodox liturgical tradition after the reading of the Gospel for the priest to take the Gospels and after a procession around the altar, he stands at the royal doors, the entrance to the heykal – sanctuary  (a symbol of both the heavenly temple, a reminder of the elder Symeon holding the incarnate Christ), and the people come forward to take the blessing of the Gospels as a symbol of the incarnate Logos.  How blessed we are for the rites of the ancient Church!

Spiritual memorisation, through prayerful study, is a Divinely inspired spiritual practice which reveals deep truths from the Holy Scriptures, as opposed to the intellectual path of analytical investigation prevalent amongst protestants and other western groups.  Whilst historical study is useful, it is not the way to approach the books as the key to unlocking their secrets, which is essentially a form of Gnosticism.  The ancient monastic method of studying the Holy Bible prayerfully is the inspiration of the great theological contemplations of the early Alexandrian Fathers in particular; thus the mind is open to the text allowing the Holy Spirit to be our teacher.

 John 14:26

 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

God gives us this understanding, a promise from Christ our Lord, and when we are truly inspired we don’t just remember a verse but there is an irresistible wisdom and spiritual power revealing the glory of the verse and the power of God within it.

This is the opposite of using the Holy Bible as a source of proof texts and verses, for the ‘Words I spoke to you are Spirit and life…’ JOHN 6:63

Revelation 19:10

“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” and this is especially true of the sacred Gospels, for these books are spiritual, and cannot be fathomed by purely intellectual pursuits.  In fact, if you are living outside of it you cannot possibly understand them, which is why they belong at the heart of the Orthodox liturgy and worship.  Our understanding increases according to how much we follow and carry out its commandments.

Let us increase our spiritual and prayerful reading of Scripture this great fast of lent, and if you are attracted to anything in this contemplation it is because the teachings come from the fathers as our received tradition, without which we have nothing.

Glory be to the Holy Trinity…

the Faith of the Ancients…

Sir.50

[1] The leader of his brethren and the pride of his people
was Simon the high priest, son of Onias,
who in his life repaired the house,
and in his time fortified the temple.
[2] He laid the foundations for the high double walls,
the high retaining walls for the temple enclosure.
[3] In his days a cistern for water was quarried out,
a reservoir like the sea in circumference.
[4] He considered how to save his people from ruin,
and fortified the city to withstand a seige.
[5] How glorious he was when the people gathered round him
as he came out of the inner sanctuary!
[6] Like the morning star among the clouds,
like the moon when it is full;
[7] like the sun shining upon the temple of the Most High,
and like the rainbow gleaming in glorious clouds;
[8] like roses in the days of the first fruits,
like lilies by a spring of water,
like a green shoot on Lebanon on a summer day;
[9] like fire and incense in the censer,
like a vessel of hammered gold
adorned with all kinds of precious stones;
[10] like an olive tree putting forth its fruit,
and like a cypress towering in the clouds.
[11] When he put on his glorious robe
and clothed himself with superb perfection
and went up to the holy altar,
he made the court of the sanctuary glorious.
[12] And when he received the portions from the
hands of the priests,
as he stood by the hearth of the altar
with a garland of brethren around him,
he was like a young cedar on Lebanon;
and they surrounded him like the trunks of palm trees,
[13] all the sons of Aaron in their splendor
with the Lord’s offering in their hands,
before the whole congregation of Israel.
[14] Finishing the service at the altars,
and arranging the offering to the Most High, the Almighty,
[15] he reached out his hand to the cup
and poured a libation of the blood of the grape;
he poured it out at the foot of the altar,
a pleasing odor to the Most High, the King of all.
[16] Then the sons of Aaron shouted,
they sounded the trumpets of hammered work,
they made a great noise to be heard
for remembrance before the Most High.
[17] Then all the people together made haste
and fell to the ground upon their faces
to worship their Lord,
the Almighty, God Most High.
[18] And the singers praised him with their voices
in sweet and full-toned melody.
[19] And the people besought the Lord Most High
in prayer before him who is merciful,
till the order of worship of the Lord was ended;
so they completed his service.
[20] Then Simon came down, and lifted up his hands
over the whole congregation of the sons of Israel,
to pronounce the blessing of the Lord with his lips,
and to glory in his name;
[21] and they bowed down in worship a second time,
to receive the blessing from the Most High.

This quote from LXX Sirach, describes the celebration of the ancient liturgies in the temple of Ancient Israel.  For anyone who has attended Orthodox liturgy, the parrallels are clear – the interaction between the congregation, deacons and priest reflect the worship lead by Simon the High Priest in former times.  The Divine Liturgies of the Orthodox Church are clearly inheritors of the traditions of ancient Israel as indeed the Church is Israel and as the true Israel is not disjointed from the life and prayer of the fathers dating back to our father Adam.

New Years Bombing in Egypt

FatherJames
Our hearts are saddened by yet again another fundamentalist New Years present to the suffering Coptic Christians of Egypt. Those who are killed like sheep for no reason other than they were Christians coming out of Church are most definitly true martyrs of Christ and are now under His throne praising Him.

All Australian brothers and sisters of the Coptic Orthodox Church offer their deepest condolences to the relatives of the New Martyrs of Alexandria, to HH Pope Shenouda III, The Coptic Holy Synod and all Bishops, Fathers and lay people of the blessed Coptic Orthodox Church and to Mrs Ghaly of Melbourne for the loss of multiple members of her family in Alexandria, Egypt.

 

 
 ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – A powerful bomb exploded in front of a crowded Coptic Christian church a half hour into the New Year early Saturday, hitting worshippers emerging from a holiday Mass in the Egyptian city of Alexandria and killing at least 21 people in an attack that raised suspicions of an al-Qaida role.

The attack came in the wake of repeated threats by al-Qaida militants in Iraq to attack Egypt’s Christians. A direct al-Qaida hand in the bombing would be a dramatic development, as Egypt’s government has long denied that the terror network has a significant presence in the country. Al-Qaida in Iraq has already been waging a campaign of violence against Christians in that country.

Police initially said the blast came from an explosives-packed car parked outside the Saints Church in the Mediterranean port city. But the Interior Ministry later said it was more likely from a suicide bomber who blew himself up among the crowd…

 

The Four Incorporeal Creatures Mission stands in solidarity and love with the families of all who have been killed and injured in this heinous act.  Our love, support and prayers are with our brethren in Alexandria at this time.

Please remember to consider these families in our prayers, and we hope you are comforted by the message of Christ revealed to St John the Evangelist in the book of Revelation –                                                                                                                                                                                

 
REVELATION 16:4 Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying:

“ You are righteous, O Lord,
The One who is and who was and who is to be,
Because You have judged these things.
6 For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink.
For it is their just due.”

7 And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

In the Apocalypse, the murderers shall be made to drink the fruit of their evil as the waters turn to blood as they did in the day of Moses. The reply from the altar is the voice of the martyrs crying out for the just judgement of the Living God – the call to DIVINE JUSTICE. THE UNJUST SHEDDING OF BLOOD SINCE THE DAY OF ABEL VIOLATES THE COSMIC ORDER OF GOD’S CREATION.

Genesis 4:10 (God is talking to Cain) “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”

So it was that the earth shook and the heavens darkened at the crucifixion of the Holy One of Israel – and He will return on that great and terrible day of the LORD to execute judgement on all mankind – may God have mercy on us.

 

“The day will come when they will Kill you thinking they do God a service.” Jesus Christ…

St Antony said these words in the 300’s AD. “The day will come when those who are insane shall call you insane for not being like them.”

 
 

Egyptian churches praise US report on religious Freedoms

Amr Bayoumi
19/11/2010

Egyptian churches welcomed, for the first time, the American religious freedom report, stressing that Christians face discrimination in Egypt, and that the Egyptian government bears responsibility for Egypt’s poor ranking because the government has ignored past criticism and failed to address legitimate concerns.

A senior bishop in the Orthodox Church who requested not to use his name, confirmed that there is clear, explicit discrimination against Christians in Egypt.

“Because of the intensity of discrimination Copts face, Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Copts in Egypt, has refrained from comment on these events except for one sentence: our lord is present,” the bishop said.

Pastor Safut al-Biyadi, head of the Anglican communion in Egypt, also confirmed that Christians in Egypt face discrimination.

“If we were confronting our problems ourselves, then the West would not get involved, but we are the ones who are giving them the opportunity to interfere,” Biyadi told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Father Rafiq Greish, the Catholic Church spokesperson, agreed that there is discrimination against Christians in Egypt. He pointed out that some government jobs exclude Christians, such as the state security apparatus.

Greish said that Christians recognize that there is an intense discrimination against them, and that the government has failed to correct mistakes.

The annual US State Department Report on the Status of Religious Freedom around the world, published on Wednesday, criticized “the practice of religious discrimination against Christians and Baha’is”, saying that they did not enjoy equal opportunities to pursue government jobs.

The report said that converts from Islam to Christianity are subject to numerous restrictions, the most noteworthy of which is the refusal of authorities to issue them new identity cards which reflect their conversion to Christianity.

An Indian Church’s Colourful Tribute to Mary

WEST SAYVILLE, N.Y. — Without doubt, many more people line the sidewalks to see the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan than to watch the St. Mary Malankara Indian Orthodox Church’s annual Assumption Day Parade, which began here on Sunday with the usual blowing of the kumbu horn and the dancing of the koladi by the congregation’s teenage girls, dressed in saris and banging sticks.

But the Indians’ parade has its longtime devotees: neighborhood residents, mostly, who say they look forward to the procession because it is practically the only time when the people of the congregation venture outside, not counting getting in and out of their cars.

None of St. Mary’s 100 or so parishioners live in West Sayville, a predominantly white, middle-class community on Long Island’s South Shore where in the last few decades a surfeit of empty church buildings has attracted various religious communities on wheels.

The Indian congregants drive in from Queens, Brooklyn, western Nassau County and even New Jersey and Staten Island, to worship in a former Dutch Reformed Church building they bought in 1992. Inside, they speak Malayalam, the dialect of the Indian province where most have their roots, and they worship according to an Orthodox Christian liturgy that traces its origins to the teachings of the apostle Thomas.

At an hour or more, their road time is longer than the average trip to church, but national surveys show that most Americans travel farther to religious services than they used to, just as they journey farther to work. Except for Orthodox Jews, who are required to do so, hardly anyone walks to a house of worship anymore — a shift in the landscape that may be best illustrated by the now-unimaginable tableau of Norman Rockwell’s 1953 work “Walking to Church.”

In West Sayville, the congregation and its parade have assumed a mysterious, almost mythical status, despite the procession’s official permit and the three Suffolk County police cars assigned to traffic control.

“If you didn’t actually see this with your own eyes, and some people around here haven’t, you might think I was making it up,” said Christopher Bodkin, a local historian and a former town councilman. “I mean it is so rococo, wonderful, Hindu-esque, with the flower petals, the girls holding the decorative parasols — everything but the elephants.”

On Sunday, people watched with a mixture of fascination and neighborly nonchalance as the procession made its way around the block, marking the annual observance of Mary’s ascent into heaven. At the front was a float with posters of Mary and Thomas and other saints perched on cottony white clouds. Then came the men playing the Indian kumbu horn and chemda drums, the women keeping time with little brass cymbals called Ilathalam, then the littlest girls in angel wings and then the teenagers dancing.

The congregation’s women followed behind, pastel-colored saris billowing in the breeze as they flung paper flowers of red and blue. Bringing up the rear was a car carrying the Rev. Paulose Adai, the parish priest, whose plaintive singing of the devotional hymns was greatly amplified from a loudspeaker on the vehicle’s roof.

“Usually, they’re very quiet people,” said Kathy Ahern, a neighbor, shouting to be heard over the din. “I mean, this is the only day we hear anything from them at all.” She laughed.

Across the street, some people sat on their porches, glancing occasionally over the tops of their newspapers at the passing parade.

Malankara Christians trace their origins to the first century A.D., when St. Thomas is said to have taken the heavily traveled trade route from the eastern Mediterranean to Kerala, a province on the southwest coast of India where today about 20 percent of the population is Christian. They have had churches in the United States since the early 20th century, but have grown significantly since the 1970s, when immigration policy opened the doors to many nurses trained in the Christian hospitals of Kerala. Nationwide there are about 100 parishes.

Though the churches hew closely to Orthodox Christian liturgy, members also sustain many Indian cultural traditions. Worshipers remove their shoes before entering the church. Men and women sit separately.

And as is still customary in large segments of Indian society, young people accept the notion that their parents will be deeply involved in their selection of a mate.

“It’s not, like, ‘arranged marriage.’ But your parents have to approve of him, and have a meeting with his parents, and you probably wouldn’t marry anyone outside your religion,” said Judy Geevarghese, 30, who is married to Christopher Geevarghese, 28, whom she met at a cousin’s wedding in another St. Mary Malankara parish. They have a daughter, Arianna, 19 months old.

Varghese Poulos, one of the congregation’s founders, said church members originally met in a rented basement in Astoria, Queens. Every Sunday, it had to be completely furnished — from the portable altar to the folding chairs.

Finding out that there was an empty church for sale, even an hour’s drive away, was “like a miracle to us,” he said.

Mr. Bodkin, the former councilman, suggested there was an oddity in the move: The Indian Orthodox congregation, with its bells and drums, had taken over what was once an outpost of the strictest Calvinist worship.

There is no Dutch Reformed Church in the United States anymore. It has splintered into several new churches. But Jim Stasny, a former pastor of one of those offspring churches in West Sayville, who now lives in Washington, D.C., said he was pleased that someone was putting the building to good use.

“It would be better, perhaps, if they weren’t honoring saints, of course — we don’t believe in saints, you know,” he said. “But hey, things have changed. We wish those folks well.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/nyregion/17procession.html?_r=2

The Luminous Eye

    The Luminous Eye is a concise introduction to the mystical writings of Syria’s favourite monk, St Ephrem the Syrian.  Universally revered in the east, his poetry has encapsulated the spiritual eye of generations of Orthodox Christians.  The poetry of St Ephrem and his hymns are a wonderful re-working of Scripture endowed with the spiritual vision of the patristic mind and a living testimony to the living stream of this holy tradition.  St Ephrem’s writings are at once both simple and complex, although the simplicity at timescould betray to the undiscerning mind the rich tapestry of theological reflection interwoven as great themes collide in his work.

The Luminous Eye is another Cistercian Publication, who are to be commended for translating and publishing a number of rare patristic books from the original languages such as “Pachomian Koinonia” from the Coptic.  Whilst the “Luminous Eye” acts as good general introduction to the work of St Ephrem, SVS Press have previously published St Ephrem’s “Hymns on Paradise” perhaps some of his most beautiful work – which is to be reccommended to go into greater depth through his hymns in sequence rather than in the format in “The Luminous Eye” where only portions are quoted and then expounded by the author.

However you encounter him, St Ephrem is one of the great and often underestimated writers of the patristic era.  Well worth reading on a nice day outdoors in the company of creation!

Just another WordPress.com weblog