Δευτέρα, 18 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Sunday after the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross: "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me"

"The Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is referred to in the Byzantine tradition, appropriately enough, as the “Sunday before the Holy Cross.” Likewise, and equally appropriately, the Sunday after this feast is known as the “Sunday after the Holy Cross.” Aside from the unassailable logic of these designations, there is the underlying fact that this feast, and hence the mystery of the Holy Cross, is of exalted importance in the faith and life of the Christian. The only other feasts that have Sundays immediately before and after on the liturgical calendar are Christmas and Theophany. While the Gospel of the crucifixion itself is read on the feast, the Sunday before gives us a little of the theology of the Cross, and the Sunday after gives its practical application" (from here).

Bishop Innocentios Byakatonda in western province Rwanda Nyamaseke district...

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

There is a story about a monk who despaired of the cross God had given him and complained of it constantly. God finally relented and offered him a chance to select a different cross. He led the monk into a room filled with several crosses from which to pick. The monk was appalled at what he saw: huge crosses, bloody crosses, crosses with nails. He wandered through the room and finally spied a lovely small silver cross tucked away in a corner. He picked this cross and held it up saying, "I'll take this cross!" God simply replied, "But that is the cross you already had!"
We should ask ourselves: Do I embrace the cross God has given me? Or do I try to take my salvation or as St. Paul says, my justification, into my own hands? Am I trying to get to heaven without God's help or guidance? In today's gospel, from the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Precious Cross (Mark 8:34 - 9:1), Jesus says, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" (v.34). Like the monk we may not want the cross we've been given, or we may think we know a better way than the way Jesus is leading us.

This relates to St. Paul's words from today's epistle (Galatians 2:16-20) where he says, "A man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ" (v.16). Let us take a closer look at this verse. Whenever we hear the word "justify" in the scripture, we should think of the more accurate translation "righteous." So to be justified is to be made righteous which means to act in an upright, moral, virtuous way. When we hear "works of the law" we should think of the Mosaic Law, the Tablets of the Law given to Moses by God (Exodus 20ff).
This Law gave commandments for life that instructed the Israelites on how to relate to God and to each other. This law revealed the difference between good and evil and functioned as a tutor that would lead them to the Messiah—Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24). In this particular verse "faith in Christ" should be translated "faith of Christ." The faith of Christ is the absolute trust and obedience Jesus placed in God the Father that He demonstrated throughout His life, especially leading up to and including His crucifixion and death. Reflected in many of his epistles, St. Paul was addressing the problem of Judaizers in the early Church. Judaizers were those Christians who demanded that new followers of Christ must be circumcised and follow the Jewish dietary laws.

Uganda, children in the Orthodox Church with the Holy Cross (from here & here)

So how does all of the above relate to us 2,000 years later? We no longer have the problem of Judaizers but we still have the problem of people thinking that their righteousness apart from Christ can do them good. How often do we think, "I did a good deed yesterday, I don't need to pray today; I went to liturgy last week, I can probably skip liturgy this week; I confess to God in my personal prayer, I don't need to go to the Sacrament of Confession with the priest; I received Holy Communion last year during Holy Week so I'm all set until next year." Even worse may be, "I did something good for someone or I attended liturgy or I received communion, so now I can sin a little bit. I deserve it or I earned it." It's like how some people approach dieting or fasting. Unfortunately, what we're doing is taking our spiritual life into our own hands instead of placing our trust in the the Lord.
In order to be made righteous by the faith of Christ, we must seek to imitate as best we can, the absolute trust in and obedience towards God the Father. Bargaining with God using our righteous actions as leverage is making the same mistake that the ancient Judaizers did: Placing our faith in our works rather than in God. To think or try to become righteous before God in order to get to heaven without living in the life of His Church, the Body of Christ, is to be ashamed of Christ and His words (Mark 8:38).

Orthodox Nuns in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Holy Monastery of St Nektarios the Wonderworker (from here)

"God, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help in all things to rely upon Your holy will. In every hour of the day reveal Your will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me and teach me to treat all that come to me throughout the day with peace of soul and firm conviction that Your will governs all things. In all my words and deeds guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen
Kolwezi, from here
events let me not forget that all things are under Your care. Teach me to act firmly and wisely without embittering or embarrassing others. Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring. Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray Yourself in me."

Hopefully, we can now understand better that to lose our life for Christ and the Gospel is expressed when we deny ourselves from what we want or what we think is best (Mark 8:34-35). That taking up our cross is to be crucified with Christ. And finally, that to place our complete trust in God is to have the faith of Christ. Thus, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).


Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi
St Mark

Mark 8:34-38
34 And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 9
1-And He said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, that there are some of them that stand here who shall not taste of death till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power.”


Marcos 8:34-38
Cada um deve levar a sua própria cruz
34 E, chamando a si a multidão, com os seus discípulos, disse-lhes: Se alguém quiser vir após mim, negue-se a si mesmo, e tome a sua cruz, e siga-me. 35 Porque qualquer que quiser salvar a sua vida perdê-la-á, mas qualquer que perder a sua vida por amor de mim e do evangelho, esse a salvará. 36 Pois que aproveitaria ao homem ganhar todo o mundo e perder a sua alma? 37 Ou que daria o homem pelo resgate da sua alma? 38 Porquanto qualquer que, entre esta geração adúltera e pecadora, se envergonhar de mim e das minhas palavras, também o Filho do Homem se envergonhará dele, quando vier na glória de seu Pai, com os santos anjos.

Marcos 9
9 Dizia-lhes também: Em verdade vos digo que, dos que aqui estão, alguns há que não provarão a morte sem que vejam chegado o Reino de Deus com pode


ﻣﺮﻗﺲ 8:34Arabic Bible: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV-AR)

34 ثُمَّ دَعا إلَيهِ الجَمْعَ مَعَ تَلامِيذِهِ، وَقالَ لَهُمْ: «إنْ أرادَ أحَدٌ أنْ يَأتِيَ مَعِي، فَلا بُدَّ أنْ يُنكِرَ نَفسَهُ، وَأنْ يَرفَعَ الصَّلِيبَ المُعطَى لَهُ وَيَتبَعَنِي. 35 فَمَنْ يُرِيدُ أنْ يُخَلِّصَ حَياتَهُ، سَيَخسَرُها. أمّا مَنْ يَخسَرُ حَياتَهُ مِنْ أجلِي وَمِنْ أجلِ البِشارَةِ، فَسَيُخَلِّصُها. 36 فَماذا يَنتَفِعُ الإنْسانُ لَو رَبِحَ العالَمَ كُلَّهُ، وَخَسِرَ نَفْسَهُ؟ 37 وَماذا يَستَطِيعُ الإنسانُ أنْ يُقَدِّمَ لِيَستَرِدَّ حَياتَهُ؟ 38 لِأنَّ كُلَّ مَنْ يَخجَلُ بِي وَبِكَلامِي فِي هَذا الجِيلِ الفاسِقِ الخاطِئِ، سَيَخجَلُ بِهِ ابنُ الإنسانِ حِينَ يَأتي فِي مَجدِ أبيْهِ مَعَ مَلائِكَتِهِ المُقَدَّسِينَ
.»9 ثُمَّ قالَ لَهُمْ يَسُوعُ: «أقُولُ لَكُمُ الحَقَّ: إنَّ مِنْ بَينِ الواقِفِينَ هُنا أشخاصاً لَنْ يَذُوقُوا المَوتَ قَبلَ أنْ يَرَوا مَلَكوتَ اللهِ آتِياً بِقُوَّةٍ.»

Marko 8:34
34 Ndipo akawaita wale watu pamoja na wanafunzi wake aka waambia, “Mtu ye yote akitaka kunifuata, ni lazima ajikane mwe nyewe, auchukue msalaba wake, anifuate. 35 Kwa maana mtu ye yote aipotezaye nafsi yake kwa ajili yangu na kwa ajili ya kuitangaza Habari Njema, ataiokoa. 36 Mtu atafaidi nini kama atapata ulimwengu wote lakini akayaangamiza maisha yake? 37 Au mtu atatoa nini apate tena maisha yake? 38 Mtu ye yote atakayenionea aibu mimi na maneno yangu katika kizazi hiki kiovu na kisichomjali Mungu, na mimi, Mwana wa Adamu, nitamwonea aibu wakati nitakapokuja katika utu kufu wa Baba yangu na malaika watakatifu.”
Marko 9
9 Yesu akaendelea kuwaambia, ‘ ‘Ninawahakikishia kuwa wapo watu hapa ambao hawatakufa kabla ya kuuona Ufalme wa Mungu ukija kwa nguvu.


Giving Thanks for All Things – The Cruciform Life
An Atonement of Shame – Orthodoxy and the Cross
Jesus Christ and Nicodemus - A little of the theology of the Cross: The Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14): the crossroads of history and the Tree of Life...  

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

St. Barnabas orthodox church Mahua, Kenya (more herehere)

Khanya (Orthodox Christian blog from South Africa)

In a discussion on an interreligious discussion forum someone said:
I think many people conflate religion with spirituality to their own
and society’s loss.

To me religion has two components. One is all the trappings that make
a particular relgion outwardly distinct from other religions. The
other is the inner core of spiritual practices that help the
practitioner to grow spiritually.
I’m not too happy with the terms “religion” and “spirituality”, for various reasons, but it appeared to me that what he was talking about was what Orthodox Christians call “orthodoxy” and “orthopraxy”, and I said that for Orthodox Christians they could not be separated. Someone else then asked me to explain this in generic Christian terms, since he wasn’t an Orthodox Christian, and would find a generic explanation easier to understand.
I thought he was asking too much. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different groups of Christians with their own traditions, theologies and understandings. They are pretty diverse, and to get inside all of them, or even a significant number of them would be beyond my capacity. Besides which, they also differ from place to place.
I don’t want to reproduce all that particular discussion here (though anyone, of any religions background, is welcome to join us in discussing that and other topics in  the Religionrap forum). My reason for mentioning it here is to try to order my thoughts (with the help of anyone who cares to comment) on the difficulty of explaining things like this in “generic” terms.
The one who asked me for a “generic Christian” explanation is from somewhere in the USA, of a liberal Protestant background, I think Christian Church-Disciples of Christ. I have spent all of two weeks in that part of the world, attending an Orthodox mission conference, and doing some research for my doctoral thesis in a seminary library, so it’s not a Christian culture I know very much of at first hand.
Kenya, from here & here
I once lived for a year and a half with a family who were fairly close to what I think his tradition may have been. They were an American missionary couple from the United Church of Christ working in Natal in the 1970s. I wasn’t allowed to visit the congregations they were most involved in, though I can guess at what went on there, because there is a sort of generic Protestantism developing in South Africa, and so it would be fairly similar to the Anglican equivalents I was more familiar with at that time, but generic Protestantism in South Africa would be very different from the equivalent in North America, where I doubt that the “imvuselelo” (all-night revival service) is very common, and nor, I should imagine, are uniformed women’s organisations (manyanos). The one in the Congregational Church, which my friends were involved with, was called “isililo”, which means weeping, because, as they said, “we are crying for our children”. The Anglican Mothers Union wore a different uniform, but the same kind of thing went on at their meetings.
It has taken me about three years to realise what “emerging church” people were talking about on the blogosphere. They used code words that they understood among themselves, like “attractional” (as opposed to missional), “seeker-sensitive” and many others that either I did not understand at all, or I understood in a quite different sense. And in the same way, they might understand Orthodox terms, like “orthodoxy” and “orthopraxy” in a quite different sense, for example in this blog post, where the author appears to interpret them in terms of “faith” and “works”. And they would probably be completely flummoxed by theoria and praxis. The Wikipedia article on theoria probably has more than most casual enquirers want to know, but the introduction should suffice. But it is the Orthodox eqivalent of what the writer quoted above probably means by “spirituality”.
For Orthodox Christians orthodoxy and orthopraxy go hand in hand. One cannot separate one from the other without distorting both. This is illustrated by a story told about a seeker who was interested in Orthodox “spirituality”, and the mystical side of things, and to learn more he approached a starets (spiritual elder) and asked for guidance. And the starets asked him “Are you keeping the fasts of the Church?”


Justice and mercy
Protestants ask: Why be Orthodox?
The Road to Rome? Why Orthodoxy Deserves a Look   

Κυριακή, 17 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

The Holy Egyptians & Palestinians Martyrs & the Holy Martyr Sophia with her Daughters (September 17)

Lives of the Saints / September 17

The Holy Martyrs Peleus and Nilus, Bishops of Egypt, Presbyter Zeno, Patermuthius, Elias and another 151 Martyrs suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). The majority of them were Egyptians, but there were also some Palestinians among them. Firmilian, the governor of Palestine, arrested 156 Christians. They gouged out the eyes of the holy martyrs, cut the tendons of their feet, and subjected them to all manner of tortures. They beheaded 100 of the martyrs, and burned the rest.

The Holy Martyrs Saint Sophia and her Daughters Faith, Hope and Love
The Holy Martyrs Saint Sophia and her Daughters Pistis (Faith), Elpis (Hope) and Agapi (Love) were born in Italy. Their mother was a pious Christian widow who named her daughters for the three Christian virtues. Faith was twelve, Hope was ten, and Love was nine. Saint Sophia raised them in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Sophia and her daughters did not hide their faith in Christ, but openly confessed it before everyone.
An official named Antiochus denounced them to the emperor Hadrian (117-138), who ordered that they be brought to Rome. Realizing that they would be taken before the emperor, the holy virgins prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking that He give them the strength not to fear torture and death. When the holy virgins and their mother came before the emperor, everyone present was amazed at their composure. They looked as though they had been brought to some happy festival, rather than to torture. Summoning each of the sisters in turn, Hadrian urged them to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. The young girls remained unyielding.
Then the emperor ordered them to be tortured. They burned the holy virgins over an iron grating, then threw them into a red-hot oven, and finally into a cauldron with boiling tar, but the Lord preserved them.
The youngest child, Love, was tied to a wheel and they beat her with rods until her body was covered all over with bloody welts. After undergoing unspeakable torments, the holy virgins glorified their Heavenly Bridegroom and remained steadfast in the Faith.
They subjected Saint Sophia to another grievous torture: the mother was forced to watch the suffering of her daughters. She displayed adamant courage, and urged her daughters to endure their torments for the sake of the Heavenly Bridegroom. All three maidens were beheaded, and joyfully bent their necks beneath the sword.
In order to intensify Saint Sophia’s inner suffering, the emperor permitted her to take the bodies of her daughters. She placed their remains in coffins and loaded them on a wagon. She drove beyond the city limits and reverently buried them on a high hill. Saint Sophia sat there by the graves of her daughters for three days, and finally she gave up her soul to the Lord. Even though she did not suffer for Christ in the flesh, she was not deprived of a martyr’s crown. Instead, she suffered in her heart. Believers buried her body there beside her daughters.
The relics of the holy martyrs have rested at El’zasa, in the church of Esho since the year 777. 

Σάββατο, 16 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Jesus Christ and Nicodemus - A little of the theology of the Cross: The Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

The Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is referred to in the Byzantine tradition, appropriately enough, as the “Sunday before the Holy Cross.” Likewise, and equally appropriately, the Sunday after this feast is known as the “Sunday after the Holy Cross.” Aside from the unassailable logic of these designations, there is the underlying fact that this feast, and hence the mystery of the Holy Cross, is of exalted importance in the faith and life of the Christian. The only other feasts that have Sundays immediately before and after on the liturgical calendar are Christmas and Theophany. While the Gospel of the crucifixion itself is read on the feast, the Sunday before gives us a little of the theology of the Cross, and the Sunday after gives its practical application.

In the Gospel reading (John 3:13-17), Jesus instructs Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Why did Moses lift up a serpent? You have to get the story from the Book of Numbers (21:4-9). The Israelites were once again grumbling against God and Moses in the desert, and God was getting fed up with it, so He sent poisonous serpents to attack them. With this incentive, the people repented and the Lord told Moses to mount an image of a serpent on a pole, and their looking upon this would be the antidote to the serpents’ venom. 

But now we have to ask: Is Jesus saying that a serpent is an image of Himself?—“As Moses lifted up the serpent, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” No, we’ve already seen the devil appear in the form of a serpent in Eden, so Christ would not adopt that image for Himself. What connects Him to that event in Numbers is the term “lifted up.” Moses “lifted up” the serpent in the desert, and Jesus would be “lifted up” on the Cross (in fact, “lifting up” was a euphemism for crucifixion at that time—see John 8:28: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, you will know that I AM,” and John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”).

So, lifting up means crucifixion, but the question remains, why link that with Moses and the serpent? The Book of Wisdom gives us the answer in its own commentary on that event: The serpent on the pole was a “sign of salvation” (16:6), and the author makes it clear that it was not the serpent that healed the people, but God, “the Savior of all.” So Jesus is telling us that his crucifixion, his being lifted upon the Cross, is a sign of salvation, and that He, as the Son of God, is the Savior of all.

Icon from here

This is made clear in the next two verses, the first one being one of the most famous and important verses of the whole Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God sent the Son into the world…that the world might be saved through him.” So we see that even if God gets fed up with us because of our sins, his first choice is not to send the destroying angel, but rather to send his Son, so that we might put our faith in Him and be saved. But Jesus didn’t merely appear on earth, saying, “believe in Me and be saved.” His mission was much more costly than that. He says, “Believe in Me who have come to suffer and die for you, so that your sins may be forgiven, so that it will be possible for you to be saved.” For without the forgiveness of our sins, it is impossible for us to be saved.

The evangelist goes on to say that the Light, meaning Christ, has come into the world for our salvation, but many loved darkness instead of the Light. And his next comment is both spiritually and psychologically astute: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Everyone who does what he knows is wrong tries to hide it, to keep anyone from knowing about it, because if it comes to light he will be exposed as a transgressor. But the Lord also said that whatever is hidden will eventually be revealed and come to light, so that all will know who has tried to hide his sins, and who is able with a clear conscience to bring his deeds into the light of God.

Taking a quick look at practical applications, we turn to St Paul in the epistle reading for this Sunday from Galatians (6:11-18). “Far be it from me,” he exclaims, “to glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” Since he understands so well the mystery of the Cross, he glories in nothing else, for he wants nothing else but communion with Christ, “who loved me and gave himself for me,” as he says earlier in this letter. Paul realized that we have to undergo a kind of mystical crucifixion if we are to be free from sin and the dead weight of this world.

Baptism is the indispensable beginning of this, as he explains in Romans, but there is a whole life’s work that follows it. Death must precede resurrection, and throughout our life of faith, little deaths must prepare the way for little resurrections. If we are to attain humility, then pride must be crucified; if we are to attain purity, then impurity must be crucified; if we are to attain peace and inner freedom, then anger and disobedience must be crucified, and so on.

Orthodox Christian Holy Cross in Ivory Coast (here)

Paul goes on to say that he bears the marks of Jesus on his body. The word in Greek is stigmata. Does this mean that his hands and feet and side were miraculously pierced, as happened to some later saints? Probably not, but we know that he suffered many actual scourgings and beatings for the sake of Christ, and these are Paul’s stigmata. This should make us aware that anything we suffer for Christ’s sake, or any suffering we offer for his sake, or in union with his Cross, will be in a sense the stigmata on our bodies and souls, our communion with the Crucified.

In any case, let us glory only in the Cross of Christ and not in the passing and deceptive attractions of the world and the flesh. All that matters, Paul concludes, is that we become a new creation in Christ. This can only happen through faith and sacramental immersion in the mystery of his death and resurrection, his “lifting up”—his ascent of the Cross and his ascension into Heaven—for our salvation. God so loved the world that He sent his Son to save us. Do we so love God that we will respond with our whole heart to his offer of salvation? “Peace and mercy upon all,” says the Apostle, for Jesus Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.


Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

John 3:13-17
13 And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man who is in Heaven.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved


От Иоанна 3:13-17
13 Никто не поднимался на небо, кроме Того, Кто сошел с неба, то есть Сына Человеческого[a]. 14 И как Моисей поднял змея в пустыне[b], так будет поднят[c] и Сын Человеческий, 15 чтобы каждый, кто поверит в Него, имел жизнь вечную[d], 16 Ведь Бог так полюбил этот мир, что отдал Своего единственного Сына, чтобы каждый верующий в Него не погиб, но имел вечную жизнь. 17 Бог послал Сына в мир не затем, чтобы осудить мир, но чтобы спасти мир через Него.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross at St. Mark Orthodox Church in Nyeri, Kenya (herehere)


ﻳﻮﺣﻨﺎ 3:13-17

13 وَلَمْ يَصْعَدْ أحَدٌ إلَى السَّماءِ، إلّا الَّذِي نَزَلَ مِنَ السَّماءِ. وَهُوَ ابْنُ الإنسانِ.
14 وَكَما رَفَعَ مُوسَى الحَيَّةَ فِي البَرِّيَّةِ، [a] يَنبَغِي أنْ يُرفَعَ ابْنُ الإنسانِ، 15 لِكَيْ يَنالَ كُلُّ مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِهِ الحَياةَ الأبَدِيَّةَ.»
16 فَقَدْ أحَبَّ اللهُ العالَمَ كَثِيْراً، حَتَّى إنَّهُ قَدَّمَ ابْنَهُ الوَحِيْدَ، لِكَيْ لا يَهلِكَ كُلُّ مَنْ يُؤْمِنُ بِهِ، بَلْ تَكُونُ لَهُ الحَياةُ الأبَدِيَّةُ. 17 فَاللهُ لَمْ يُرْسِلِ ابْنَهُ إلَى العالَمِ لِكَيْ يَدِيْنَ العالَمَ، لَكِنَّهُ أرسَلَهُ لِكَيْ يُخَلِّصَ بِهِ العالَمَ.


Yohana 3:13-17
13 Hakuna mtu ye yote ambaye amewahi kwenda juu mbinguni isipokuwa mimi Mwana wa Adamu niliyeshuka kutoka mbinguni. 14 Na kama Musa alivyomwi nua yule nyoka kule jangwani, vivyo hivyo mimi Mwana wa Adamu sina budi kuinuliwa juu 15 ili kila mtu aniaminiye awe na uzima wa milele . 16 “Kwa maana Mungu aliupenda ulimwengu kiasi cha kumtoa Mwanae pekee, ili kila mtu amwaminiye asipotee, bali awe na uzima wa milele. 17 Maana Mungu hakumtuma Mwanae kuuhukumu ulimwengu bali auokoe ulimwengu.

Please, see also

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14): the crossroads of history and the Tree of Life...
An Atonement of Shame – Orthodoxy and the Cross  
Two miracles of the Holy Cross in Africa (Congo)

Πέμπτη, 14 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14): the crossroads of history and the Tree of Life...

"Honoring the Honest Cross on the Crucified Continent"

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi
(Photos from In the Orthodox Vineyard of Africa)
The instrument of our salvation

Orthodox Christian Holy Cross in Ivory Coast (here

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated every year on September 14, recalls three historical events: the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine; the dedication of churches built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulchre and Mount Calvary; and the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by the emperor Heraclius II. But in a deeper sense, the feast also celebrates the Holy Cross as the instrument of our salvation.
This instrument of torture, designed to degrade the worst of criminals, became the life-giving tree that reversed Adam's Original Sin when he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.


After the death and resurrection of Christ, both the Jewish and Roman authorities in Jerusalem made efforts to obscure the Holy Sepulchre, Christ's tomb in the garden near the site of His crucifixion. The earth had been mounded up over the site, and pagan temples had been built on top of it. The Cross on which Christ had died had been hidden (tradition said) by the Jewish authorities somewhere in the vicinity.


Sts Constantin & Helen with Holy Cross (from here)

According to tradition, first mentioned by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem in 348, Saint Helena, nearing the end of her life, decided under divine inspiration to travel to Jerusalem in 326 to excavate the Holy Sepulchre and attempt to locate the True Cross. A Jew by the name of Judas, aware of the tradition concerning the hiding of the Cross, led those excavating the Holy Sepulchre to the spot in which it was hidden.
Three crosses were found on the spot. According to one tradition, the inscription Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum ("Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews") remained attached to the True Cross. According to a more common tradition, however, the inscription was missing, and Saint Helena and Saint Macarius, the bishop of Jerusalem, assuming that one was the True Cross and the other two belonged to the thieves crucified alongside Christ, devised an experiment to determine which was the True Cross.

In one version of the latter tradition, the three crosses were taken to a woman who was near death; when she touched the True Cross, she was healed. In another, the body of a dead man was brought to the place where the three crosses were found, and laid upon each cross. The True Cross restored the dead man to life.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Ivory Coast (herehere)


In celebration of the discovery of the Holy Cross, Constantine ordered the construction of churches at the site of the Holy Sepulchre and on Mount Calvary. Those churches were dedicated on September 13 and 14, 335, and shortly thereafter the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross began to be celebrated on the latter date.The feast slowly spread from Jerusalem to other churches, until, by the year 720, the celebration was universal.


The Exaltation of the Holy Cross at St. Mark Orthodox Church in Nyeri, Kenya (herehere)

In the early seventh century, the Persians conquered Jerusalem, and the Persian king Khosrau II captured the True Cross and took it back to Persia. After Khosrau's defeat by Emperor Heraclius II, Khosrau's own son had him assassinated in 628 and returned the True Cross to Heraclius. In 629, Heraclius, having initially taken the True Cross to Constantinople, decided to restore it to Jerusalem. Tradition says that he carried the Cross on his own back, but when he attempted to enter the church on Mount Calvary, a strange force stopped him. Patriarch Zacharias of Jerusalem, seeing the emperor struggling, advised him to take off his royal robes and crown and to dress in a penitential robe instead.
As soon as Heraclius took Zacharias' advice, he was able to carry the True Cross into the church.
For some centuries, a second feast, the Invention of the Cross, was celebrated on May 3 in the Roman and Gallican churches, following a tradition that marked that date as the day on which Saint Helena discovered the True Cross. In Jerusalem, however, the finding of the Cross was celebrated from the beginning on September 14.


It's easy to understand that the Cross is special because Christ used it as the instrument of our salvation. But after His Resurrection, why would Christians continue to look to the Cross?
Christ Himself offered us the answer: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). The point of taking up our own cross is not simply self-sacrifice; in doing so, we unite ourselves to the sacrifice of Christ on His Cross.
When we participate in the Mass, the Cross is there, too. The "unbloody sacrifice" offered on the altar is the re-presentation of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross. When we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we do not simply unite ourselves to Christ; we nail ourselves to the Cross, dying with Christ so that we might rise with Him.
"For the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness . . . " (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). Today, more than ever, non-Christians see the Cross as foolishness. What kind of Savior triumphs through death?
For Christians, however, the Cross is the crossroads of history and the Tree of Life. Christianity without the Cross is meaningless: Only by uniting ourselves to Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross can we enter into eternal life.

"Honoring the Honest Cross on the Crucified Continent" (Julius Papadopoulos Kihara, herehere)

See also

An Atonement of Shame – Orthodoxy and the Cross  
Two miracles of the Holy Cross in Africa (Congo)
The Sunday before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Τετάρτη, 13 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Nigeria cholera outbreak threatens more than 1 mln people in refugee camps

Photo from here

af.reuters.com, September 8, 2017
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - At least 1.4 million people uprooted by Boko Haram’s insurgency in northeast Nigeria are living in ‘cholera hotspots’, prey to an outbreak of the deadly disease which is sweeping through camps for the displaced, the United Nations said on Thursday.
An estimated 28 people have died from cholera in the conflict-hit region, while about 837 are suspected to have been infected with the disease, including at least 145 children under the age of five, said the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF).
The outbreak was first identified last week in the Muna Garage camp in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, which is the heart of jihadist group Boko Haram’s brutal eight-year campaign to carve out an Islamic caliphate in northeast Nigeria. 

About 1.8 million people have abandoned their homes because of violence or food shortages, U.N. agencies say, and many live in camps for the displaced throughout northeast Nigeria.
Several aid agencies last month told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Nigeria’s rainy season could spread disease in already unsanitary displacement camps, and 350,000 uprooted children aged under five are at risk of cholera, UNICEF said.
“Cholera is difficult for young children to withstand at any time, but becomes a crisis for survival when their resilience is already weakened by malnutrition, malaria and other waterborne diseases,” UNICEF’s Pernille Ironside said in a statement.
“Cholera is one more threat amongst many that children in northeast Nigeria are battling today in order to survive,” added Ironside, UNICEF’s deputy representative in Nigeria. 

UNICEF said aid agencies have set up a cholera treatment centre at the Muna Garage camp, chlorinated water in camps and host communities to curb the outbreak, and mobilised volunteers and local leaders to refer suspected cases to health facilities.
The disease, which spreads through contaminated food and drinking water, causes diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. It can kill within hours if left untreated, but most patients recover if treated promptly with oral rehydration salts.
The latest figures represent a 3.3 percent fatality rate - well above the 1 percent rate that the World Health Organization rates as an emergency. The short incubation period of two hours to five days means the disease can spread with explosive speed.
More than 20,000 people have been killed in the conflict with Boko Haram, at least 2.2 million have been displaced, and 5.2 million in the northeast are short of food, with tens of thousands living in famine-like conditions, U.N. figures show. 

Writing By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

Cholera – Nigeria

People displaced by Boko Haram (photo from Uhuru spirit)

Disease Outbreak News
12 July 2017

World Health Organization
On 7 June 2017, World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of a cholera outbreak in Kwara State, Nigeria, where the event currently remains localized. The first cases of acute watery diarrhoea were reported during the last week of April 2017 and a sharp increase in the number of cases and deaths has been observed since 1 May 2017. However, the number of new cases reported has shown a decline over the last four reporting weeks.
As of 30 June 2017, a total of 1558 suspected cases of cholera have been reported including 11 deaths (case fatality rate: 0.7%). Thirteen of these cases were confirmed by culture in laboratory. 50% of the suspected cases reported are male and 49% are female (information for gender is missing for 1% of the suspected cases). The disease is affecting all age groups.
Between 1 May and 30 June 2017, suspected cholera cases in Kwara State were reported from five local government areas; Asa (18), Ilorin East (450), Ilorin South (215), Ilorin West (780), and Moro (50) (information for local government areas is missing for 45 of the suspected cases).
Poor sanitation conditions observed in the affected communities is one of the predisposing factors for this cholera outbreak. An important risk factor is the lack of access to clean drinking water and poor hygiene conditions.
Public health response 
The State Ministry of Health has established an Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the outbreak response with support from the Nigeria Centers for Disease Control, Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, WHO, and partners. The following response measures are being carried out:
  • National multidisciplinary teams were deployed to Kwara State to provide technical support.
  • Cases are being managed in local health care facilities in Kwara State. Active case searching is ongoing in the affected and surrounding communities. These have been strengthened with the formation of surveillance teams made up of the above mentioned partners, and the deployment of local government area Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers (DSNOs).
  • Collation and data entry of cases is currently ongoing.
  • In order to improve laboratory investigations, cholera rapid diagnostic tests are being distributed to selected facilities and health care staff trained on their use.
  • Efforts to improve case management are ongoing. On 15 June 2017, clinicians from the three most affected local government areas were trained on cholera case management, and infection prevention and control (IPC). The current IPC capacity is not well developed and there is poor access to safe water, poor sanitation and hygiene conditions as well as severe challenges to adhere to IPC standards. Efforts are further impeded by limitations of supplies, and a general requirement for patients to pay for treatment.
  • Social mobilization activities continue with the use of Yoruba language radio ‘jingles’, and religious leaders had been sensitized in the affected state to create awareness and prompt early presentation to healthcare facilities. Communities have been mobilized through house to house sensitization on the use of Aquatab for household water treatment and safe water storage.
  • Environmental investigations are ongoing, and water samples (a local community well and household drinking water) have tested positive for Vibrio cholerae.
  • Laboratory response activities include the prepositioning and on-the-job training on use of rapid diagnostic tests in two health facilities. Sensitivity results of Vibrio cholerae shows resistance to Tetracycline and Ampicillin. Also, additional rapid diagnostic kits are expected to arrive.
  • A multisectoral approach needs to be emphasized and participation encouraged. This would include ensuring proper medical waste management by the State Ministry of Health and access to clean portable water by the Ministry of water resources.
WHO risk assessment 
The current outbreak occurs while the country is facing a serious humanitarian situation and is recovering from a large meningitis outbreak. At this stage, the overall risk is moderate at national level.
Potential issues of concern for this outbreak include the ongoing rainy season, the capacity challenges at the State level to manage the outbreak and the sharing of borders with five other States as well as Republic of Benin. Although these issues can potentially lead to the worsening of the outbreak and its spread to other States and neighbouring countries, the country has capacities to quickly control the outbreak.
The surveillance system should be strengthened in neighboring States to ease early detection of any potential spread of the outbreak.
WHO advice 
WHO recommends enhanced surveillance for the detection of new cases and improvement of record keeping and data management at healthcare facility level. WHO recommends the urgent establishment of cholera treatment centres in the most affected areas, ensuring that adequate logistics are in place and that medical supplies are in stock. The establishment of a multisectoral approach is imperative to successfully addressing this outbreak.
WHO does not recommend any restriction on travel and trade to Nigeria on the basis of the information available on the current event.

See also

Nigeria (tag)
The Orthodox African Church (Patriarchate of Alexandria) denounces the exploitation of Africa by contemporary colonialists - Momentous statements by the Metropolitan Alexander of Nigeria, in the cadre of the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church