Τρίτη, 17 Απριλίου 2018

The Wisdom of the Orthodox Church in the Orthodox African Americans (2 videos)


Fr. Paul Abernathy pastors a mission parish in the Hill District of Pittsbrugh, PA. This video is from before he was ordained a priest running FOCUS Pittsburgh-- an outreach ministry to serve the poor. Everyday Fr. Paul and others lead noonday prayers and Paul shares a word. www.mosestheblack.org 


 
The X Annual Lenten Retreat sponsored by Holy Virgin Cathedral SF:
 


The Wisdom of the Orthodox Church in Burundi: Victory Against Death - The Sadness and Joy of Holy Saturday!


The Icon of Resurrection of Jesus Christ or The descent into Hades (more here). From here.

Report by:
Reader Timotheos (Tito) TWUNGUBUMWE
Orthodox Diocese of Burundi and Rwanda
Bujumbura, Easter Holy Week 2018
In the Orthodox Vineyard of Africa



On Holy Saturday of the Holy Week of Easter 2018, His Eminence Innocentios Byakatonda, the Bishop of the Orthodox Diocese of Burundi and Rwanda, conducted the Matins of the Sunday of Resurrection of Pascha 2018 in the Cathedral of the Holy Dormition of the Theotokos / Bujumbura.
This is the Blessed Sabbath. The “Great and Holy Sabbath” is the day which connects Good Friday, the commemoration of the Cross, with the day of His Resurrection. To many the real nature and the meaning of this “connection”, or “middle day”, remains obscure. For a good majority of churchgoers, the “important” days of Holy Week are Friday and Sunday, the Cross and the Resurrection. These two days, however, remain somehow “disconnected.” There is a day of sorrow, and then, there is the day of joy. In this sequence, sorrow is simply replaced by joy, but according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, expressed in Her Liturgical tradition, the nature of this sequence is not that of a simple replacement. The Church proclaims that Christ has “trampled death by death.”
It means that even before the Resurrection, an event takes place, in which the sorrow is not simply replaced by joy but is itself transformed into joy. Great Saturday is precisely this day of transformation, the day when victory grows from inside the defeat, when before the Resurrection, we are given to contemplate the death of death itself. All this is expressed, and even more, all this really takes place every year in this marvellous morning service, in this liturgical commemoration which becomes for us a saving and transforming present.
On coming to the Church on the morning of Holy Saturday, Friday has just been liturgically completed. The sorrow of Friday is, therefore, the initial theme, the starting point of Matins of Saturday. It begins as a funeral service, as a lamentation over a dead body. After the singing of the funeral troparia and a slow censing of the church, the celebrants approach the Epitaphion. We stand at the grave of our Lord, we contemplate His death. Psalm 119 is sung and to each verse we add a special “praise”, which expresses the horror of men, and of the whole creation, before the death of Jesus:
“O all ye mountains and hills, and all ye gatherings of men,”
“Mourn, weep and lament with me, the Mother of your God”
And yet, from the beginning, along with this initial theme of sorrow and lamentation, a new theme makes its appearance and will become more and more apparent. We find it, first of all, in Psalm 119 – “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.” 


Photo from here

The death of Christ is the ultimate proof of His love for the will of God, of His obedience to His Father. It is an act of pure obedience, of full trust in the Father’s will; and for the Church it is precisely this obedience to the end, this perfect humility of the Son that constitutes the foundation, the beginning of His victory. The Father desires this death, the Son accepts it, revealing an unconditional faith in the perfection of the Father’s will, in the necessity of this sacrifice of the Son by the Father. Psalm 119 is the psalm of that obedience, and therefore the announcement that in obedience the triumph has begun.
But why does the Father desire this death? Why is it necessary? The death of Christ is described as His descent into Hades. “Hades” in the concrete Biblical language means the realm of death, which God has not created and which He did not want; it also signifies that the Prince of this world is all powerful in the world. Satan, Sin, Death – these are the “dimensions” of Hades, its content. For sin comes from Satan and Death is the result of sin – “sin entered the world, and death by sin.” (Romans 5:12).
The entire universe after the fall had become a cosmic cemetery, it was condemned to destruction and despair. And this is why death is “the last enemy,” (1 Corinthians 15:20) and its destruction constitutes the ultimate goal of the Incarnation. This encounter with death is the “hour” of Christ of which He said that “for this hour have I come.” (John 12:27) Now this hour has come and the Son of God enters into Death. The Holy Fathers of the Church usually describe this moment as a duel between Christ and Death, Christ and Satan. For this death was to be either the last triumph of Satan, or his decisive defeat. The duel develops in several stages. At first, the forces of evil seem to triumph. The Righteous One is crucified, abandoned by all, and endures a shameful death.
He also becomes the partaker of “Hades,” of this place of darkness and despair. But at this very moment, the real meaning of this death is revealed. The One who dies on the Cross has Life in Himself, i.e., He has life not as a gift from outside, a gift which therefore can be taken away from Him, but as His own Essence. For He is the Life and the Source of all life. 


Cameroon, Monday after Easter 2018, Holy Liturgy (from here)
 
“In Him was Life and Life was the light of man.” The man Jesus dies, but this Man is the Son of God. As man, He can really die, but in Him, God Himself enters the realm of death. This is the unique, the incomparable meaning of Christ’s death. In it, the man who dies is God, or to be more exact, the God-Man. God is the Holy Immortal; and only in the unity “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation” of God and Man in Christ can human death be “assumed” by God and be overcome and destroyed from within, be “trampled down by death.”
Death is Overcame by Life Now we understand why God desires that death, why the Father gives His Only Begotten Son to it. He desires the salvation of man. Hence the necessity of the Incarnation and the necessity of that Divine death. Death was not only destroyed by God, but was overcome and trampled down in human nature itself by man and through man.
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15;21) Sabbath, the seventh day, achieves and completes the history of salvation, its last act being the overcoming of death. But after the Sabbath comes the first day of a new creation, of a new life born from the grave.
However, we are still in Great Saturday before Christ’s tomb, and we have to live through this long day, before we hear at midnight ‘Christ is Risen!’, before we enter into the celebration of His Resurrection. Thus, the third lesson — Matthew 27:62-66 – which completes the service, tells us once more about the Tomb – ‘which was made secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.” But it is probably here, at the end of Matins, that the ultimate meaning of this “middle day” is made manifest. Christ arose again from the dead. His Resurrection we will celebrate the next day on Pascha (Easter). This celebration, however, commemorates a unique event of the past, and anticipates a mystery of the future. It is already His Resurrection, but not yet ours.
We will have to die, to accept the dying, the separation, the destruction. Our reality in this world, is the reality of the Great Saturday; this day is the real image of our human condition. We believe in the Resurrection, because Christ has risen from the dead. We expect the Resurrection. We know that Christ’s death is no longer the hopeless ultimate end of everything, Baptised into His death, we partake already of His life that came out of the grave. We receive His Body and Blood, which are the food of immortality. We have in ourselves the token, the anticipation of the eternal life. 


Easter eggs from the Orthodox Church in Rubaare, Uganda (more here)

All our Christian existence is measured by these acts of communion to the life of the “new eon” of the Kingdom, and yet we are here, and death is our inescapable share. But this life between the Resurrection of Christ and the day of the common resurrection, is it not precisely the life in the Great Saturday? Is not expectation the basic and essential category of Christian experience? We wait in love, hope and faith. We wait for “the Resurrection and the life of the world to come” (see Nicene Creed).
Every year, on Great and Holy Saturday, after this morning service, we wait for the Easter night and the fullness of Paschal joy. We know that they are approaching — and yet, how slow is this approach, how long is this day! But is not the wonderful quiet of Great Saturday the symbol of our very life in this world? Are we not always in this “middle day,” waiting for the Pascha of Christ, preparing ourselves for the day without evening of His Kingdom?
Holy Week is dedicated to the remembrance of the last days of the Savior's earthly life, His suffering on the Cross, death and burial. Due to the greatness and importance of the events, every day of this week is called holy and great. Therefore, in these days, neither memory of saints nor remembrance of the departed is performed. The church encourages believers to take spiritual participation in the services performed and to become partakers of sacred memories.
From the apostolic times, the days of Holy Week were in deep esteem among Christians. Believers spent the Passion Week in the strictest abstinence, zealous prayer, in the deeds of virtue and mercy.
All the services of Holy Week, distinguished by the depth of pious emotions, contemplation, special touch and duration, are arranged so that in them the history of the sufferings of the Savior, His last divine instruction, is alive and gradually reproduced. Every day of the week a special memory is learned, expressed in hymns and gospel readings of Matins and Liturgy.
Participating in the sufferings of the Savior, "conforming to his death" (Philippians 3, 10), the Holy Church in this week takes a sad image: sacred objects in temples (throne, altar, etc.) and the clergymen themselves dress in dark clothes and worship takes place predominantly in a sad nature, the Passion of Christ. In modern liturgical practice, they usually perform Lenten worship in black vestments, replacing them with bright ones on the Great Sabbath. In some monasteries and temples the service is performed, according to more ancient practice, in purple vestments, and in Passion Week - in scarlet - burgundy, the colour of blood - in remembrance of the sufferings on the Cross for the salvation of the world of the Savior's Blood.



 ORTHODOX DIOCESE OF NYERI AND MT KENYA, EASTER 2018 (from here)
Click

Bondage, faith and spiritual revolution in the Orthodox Holy Liturgy of Holy Saturday
The Passion of Jesus Christ and the Passions of Africa... 


Christ is Risen (in Africa)! Orthodox Holy Easter (Pascha): the resurrection of the race of mankind
About The Paschal LambThe Icon of Resurrection or The descent into Hades
The Lord’s Pascha
in Search of Orthodoxy

Why Orthodox Men Love Church
 
The Way - An introduction to the Orthodox Faith  

Yesu Kristo - Mungu akawa mtu na mtu inakuwa kama mungu
Theosis (deification): The True Purpose of Human Life
Theosis, St. Silouan and Elder Sophrony
 

The Church as the Liberated Zone: "All we Christians are terrorists..." (and 2 videos, from Tanzania, Maasai, & DRC)

Orthodox Christian Holy Week and Easter 2018 Worldwide – photos, videos. Semaine Sainte chrétienne orthodoxe et Pâques 2018, photos-vidéos. À l’échelle mondiale !
 

The Mystery of the Touch of Saint Thomas and the Empirical Experience of the (Orthodox) Church

 
+ HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
 
Beloved brethren, Christ is Risen!

The feast of the Resurrection of Christ, Pascha, is the central feast of the entire ecclesiastical year and the last of the Triodion and Great Lent, but also the beginning of another period that concludes with the great feast of Pentecost. This feast we celebrate today as well as throughout the entire period of the Pentecostarion, and every Sunday which is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ.

Many events occurred on the first day of the Resurrection of Christ, as well as the days that followed. Christ appeared to His Disciples, who had prepared properly to see Him Risen and this appearance contributed to their salvation.

On the first day, late in the evening, the Risen Christ appeared to His Disciples, although Thomas was absent, and the next Sunday He appeared again to His Disciples in the Upper Room, with Thomas present. The Apostle Thomas wanted to put his finger on the mark of the nails and his hand on His side to be assured of His Resurrection. It is known that the nails of the crucifixion created wounds on the body of Christ and the lance opened His side from which flowed blood and water. For Thomas to see the wounds caused by the Cross and to touch them he considered it as an assurance of His Resurrection.

Christ, by His appearance after eight days, invited the Apostle Thomas to touch the wounds of His body and His side. This is the extreme humility – emptying of Christ, to accept to be touched, as well as His love towards man by satisfying all of his sacred desires. This is why in a hymn of the Church it is written: “Rejoice, investigator!”. In other words, Christ rejoices when we investigate. As soon as the Apostle Thomas saw Christ and heard His invitation to touch, he proclaimed: “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:19-29). This is a confession of the divinity of Christ with the vision of the Risen Body of Christ.

The Gospel of John does not confirm whether the Apostle Thomas touched the Risen Body of Christ, but it only records his confession.

However, in the hymns of the Church it is written that the Apostle Thomas confessed Christ, since previously he had touched the wounds of Christ created by the Cross. “Therefore, having touched and beheld, he confessed that Thou art an unabstract God, and an unsimple Man.” In another hymn it is written that the Apostle Thomas by “touching the side theologized the One incarnate”. He recognized that the Son of God suffered in the flesh and he preached the Risen God. Thus, in Orthodox theology the vision and touching of God are connected.

In another hymn it is written that John, who leaned on the breast of Christ, drew up from there the depth of theology, while Thomas was made worthy of the mystery of the divine economy by touching, that is, he came to know the mystery of the incarnation of Christ and he initiated us into it. Again, in another hymn it is written that Thomas, by putting his hand in the fiery side of Jesus Christ, was not burned by the touch, but the unbelief of his soul changed to verification.

The desire of the Apostle Thomas to see and touch the wounds of the body of Christ was not an unbelief in today's meaning of the word, but it was his desire to go from faith by hearing to faith by seeing. He did not only want to hear from the Disciples that Christ had risen, but he wanted to see and verify the Resurrection with his senses. This shows that the life of the Church is empirical, a spiritual relationship, a touching of Christ.

The Church is not an abstract system, but life in its fullest. Christ is not imaginary, but the God-man who has a resurrected body, that shines with the Light of Divinity and we have the ability to touch Him. The Church is the Body of Christ, that consists of its Mysteries, is expressed by its dogmas and sacred canons, and is established by a particular ecclesiastical government. The theology of the Church is empirical, it is “the mystery of the touch”.

We commune of the Body of Christ, when we Clergy liturgize we hold it in our hands. We kiss the Cross, the sacred relics of the Saints, the sacred icons. And when a Christian prays with spiritual strength, he touches eternity and participates in the glory of God.

My beloved brethren,

The Risen Christ is not a man who once lived, but He is the God-man who is always with us. The Resurrection of Christ is not an event of the past, but it is experienced within the life of the Church. We are not people who believe in God only in theory, but we are members of His Risen Body. Christ calls us to touch Him and we must respond to this invitation. This is “the mystery of the touch”. The mystery of divine communication.

I wish you all many years and exclaim: “Christ is Risen”.

With resurrectional paternal blessings,

The Metropolitan
+ HIEROTHEOS of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
Source:  https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com  
 
See also

Sunday of Saint Thomas (2nd Sunday after Easter) - The example of the doubting
Why I'm not an atheist 

In the Steps of the Apostle Thomas - The Orthodox Church in West Bengal, India 
The Lord’s Pascha
in Search of Orthodoxy

The Way - An introduction to the Orthodox Faith 
Father Moses Berry: From Hippie Bad-Boy Cool-Cat to Humble…

The Sundays after Easter in the Orthodox Christian Heritage!

Father Moses Berry: From Hippie Bad-Boy Cool-Cat to Humble…




Orthodox Christianity
Greek American Girl
ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ για το θέμα εδώ

You wouldn’t suspect that the jovial Orthodox priest who carries the gold chalise with such reverence from behind the iconostasis of “Mother of Unexpected Joy” church was once a drug dealing, rambling hippie and coffee-house owner with his own underground band, not to mention an illegitimate descendent of Nathaniel Boone, the son of the legendary American hero Daniel Boone. Father Moses Berry, who is by now in his 60s, is still a rolling ball of fire, overflowing with spontaneous exuberance. He bounces from one story to another as he moves from one section of the Ozarks Afro-American Heritage Museum he founded in his native town of Ash Grove. He is a man who unravels a ball of tightly-wound stories, one knotted to another and yet another.

Father Berry’s story, in fact his entire existence, is rooted in the dark history of American slavery.

The three-room museum he opened is jam-packed with heirlooms, objects and artifacts culled entirely from his family’s possession. Two faded sepia prints in oval frame reveal pictures of his great-grandmother, Maria Boone, mistress to Nathaniel, and her daughter, Caroline Boone Berry, his grandmother. They are wearing stiff, laced-up dresses with matching bonnets fashionable for ladies in the 19th century. He says that the child of a slave mistress is born between the dark and the daylight, raised in the shadowland, not of this world. They are children whose existence is denied, whose marked absence in the American consciousness is a mark of their presence.

A collage of black-and-white photos, yellowed historical documents, tools, and everyday objects align the walls of Father Berry’s personal museum revealing how the intimate personal facts of a family’s life create the historical impersonal account in a textbook. He points to a faded photo of a young Black girl in a white dress. “This is Fanny Murray at age 13 in 1866,” Berry explains. “Fanny saved a young man’s life just by doing his laundry for 10 cents a week. This is why every little thing you do is important. A simple act of loving kindness, a seemingly insignificant gesture can have an incredible impact.”

The young man, who had gotten in trouble and whose family had consequently disowned him, eventually became a history professor. Underneath is another photo, color this time, of an old woman in a pink dress and a wide, flamboyant Sunday hat. “This is Ms. Olivia Murray, Fanny’s daughter, who died at 93 in 1991. She would walk down these streets in long dresses with a bonnet even after the 60s. She was an Aunt Jemmima figure and quite an embarrassment to the young people in the town. ‘Check her out,’ they would point and stare, but I would tell them you can’t dismiss people at a glance. We don’t know who the person is, who s/he really is.”

Through the personalized tour of his family’s history, Father Berry spins his own story.

 


Over forty years ago, an African-American teenager, Karl, leaves home at 15 after hearing that in California young people were shooting flowers instead of bullets. “California, man,” he recalls in his black rassa, blacker than his glistening skin in the hot May sun, “Once I heard about California, about flower power, and how people were living together in love, I had to go.” He hitched his way west from his native town of Ash Grove, Mo. In California, he lived in a commune, learned how to roll hashish, and to tie-dye t-shirts. He returned to his native state of Missouri where he settled in Columbia, Mo.

There he “hustled” by selling leather goods, Latigo of London in particular, out of a small store front on the corner of 8th Street and Broadway, “The Strow Away.” At night he jammed jazz rock with his group “Honey Chile,” which even had a hit single in the area. He was active in the Stony Brook commune that convened by a creek in the granite hills of the area. His fortune changed when he opened an underground coffee shop, the Rainbow Bread Company. While it fronted as a “coffee shop,” as was the case with most coffee shops of the period, it made a bigger profit selling hashish and marijuana.

It would have continued as a lucrative underground establishment had the Columbia police department not set it on fire. As it could not secure a search warrant, the police forced a raid. During that forced break in by the police, which resulted in almost total devastation of the coffee house, Karl and his partners were forcibly arrested and taken into custody.

Without representation, Karl was placed in solitary confinement. “It was a cell literally 5 feet by 3 feet by 7 feet. No windows. Just a chink where they could throw you a piece of stale bread.” Karl could not say for how long he was confined in the dark pit. But he feared the worst. Under the statutes, his sentence could stretch for up to 15 years in a penitentiary. “I had hit a low point. This was the end,” Father Berry remembers puncturing the somberness of the event with his full, guttural laugh that reaches down through his heart and soul to the bottom of his shoe soles. “I remember the day before I was supposed to get my sentence. I got down on my knees in that dark, narrow cell and prayed for the first time in my life. I prayed and called out to God as I had never done before. I said, ‘Lord, get me out of this one, and if you do, I promise to serve you.’”

The next morning Moses heard a key turn in the cell door. At first he did not want to come out. He had heard how the guards would periodically beat prisoners and then return them to their cells. Haunted by the visions of the brutal beatings the prisoners received at the hands of the guards he witnessed before he was placed in solitary confinement, he refused to exit. The guards had to drag him out into the light while they shouted, “You’ve been released! Get out!”

“He repented,” Father Berry muses. “The police officer who had pressed charges against me had repented. He had come to the precinct before midnight and dropped all charges. He must have come just about the same time as my prayer.” From that day forth, Moses Berry’s life changed completely. His soul had heard the call of the divine.



It would be several years, however, before Moses’s course led him to Orthodoxy. Upon his release, Moses traveled to New York City, where he became a teacher in Harlem. It was there where he met his wife, a liberal, Jewish teacher. “I remember walking down the streets of Harlem, arm in arm, singing Beatles’ songs. People must have thought we were crazy,” Father Berry reminisces. On a spontaneous whim they accepted an invitation of a friend to visit in Richmond, Virginia. After driving eight hours, they were prodded by this same friend who was Orthodox to visit an Orthodox chapel another two hours away. 


While the reluctance was strong, they did find the chapel; it was on the second floor of someone’s Colonial house. “This wasn’t a church; this was somebody’s living room,” Berry says. But upon entering, even with the makeshift choir of three or four women, never had he heard a service like this. “I heard things like ‘Rejoice, Laver purifying conscience. Rejoice, Wine-bowl over-filled with joy. Rejoice, sweet-scented Fragrance of Christ. Rejoice, Life of mystic festival.’ This was poetry. This was beauty and peace and love. There was incense. There was reverence. Nowhere had I heard liturgy like this. I became Orthodox from that point on.”

Since that time, Berry has striven to live out his promise to God. He has worked with at-risk youth, prisoners, and drug addicts. One of his many accomplishments included starting up a 7-step drug rehabilitation program in Detroit based on the principles of salvation in Orthodox theology.


His two most recent achievements include founding a museum and church in Ash Grove, MO. Father Berry and his family have returned to his roots. They moved out of a comfortable three-story Victorian house in suburban St. Louis into a 150-year old unmarked farmhouse, the same farmhouse in which his great-grandmother was born. “Most of the Blacks moved out of Ash Grove. My family stayed. When they heard I was going to open up a museum in that little town, ‘Be careful’ they told me, white people are not going to like it.” The museum, however, has been successful and has become a point of pride for the town.


The Ozark African-American museum houses a uniquely personal assortment of historical objects tied intimately to the “dark side” of the Boone family. Some are quilts his great-grandmother and grandmother collaborated on. One quilt, a 1790 piece, featured prominently in the Underground Railroad. The quilt in triangular green, brown, and yellow patterns would be draped over the porches of “safe houses” a signal that welcomed entry for runaway slaves. Over the doorway to the second room is a “two-lady saw,” another object the two women would use. It is smaller, thinner, and shorter, at least by a foot, than a regular saw.


Among the other objects on display is a minted coin commemorating the lynching of three Black men on Good Friday 1906 in the Ozarks and an authentic 1858 AG Brock slave tag that was used during slave auctions at the houses of that company around the South. Father demonstrates a “screw lock” which looks like a menacing wrought-iron horseshoe with a long screw transversing it at the edge of which a bolt slowly tightens over a slave’s ankles. According to Berry, it is the origin of our slang expression for “screw” as slaves would report among themselves “so-and-so got screwed.” A leather-bound, yellowing volume of The Remarkable Advancement of the Afro-American by Lancaster Water, 1898 edition, and behind that, in a glass case, the same title but the original binding from 1852. 


The painting and photos in the museum tell the stories of slaves who fought in the Union army and were later freed for their service, of 12-year-old runaways who were frozen to death, married couples who started churches, of rebel slaves who saw visions and organized services in the forest eventually founding the African Methodist Episcopalian church.


Another curiosity is the hand-crocheted African Mammy doll, a caricature of the Caribbean slave trade figure. The doll stands alone on a green draped coffee table at the exit of the museum. Hand-made with double lacing, the doll’s woolen face exaggerates lips nose and eyes. She is wearing a green and yellow headdress from under which protrudes black woolen cornrows. “Mammie is a West African matriarch,” Father Berry explains the subtle shadings of cultural history in everyday objects as he turns the doll upside down. “She is a Josephine Baker fruit dancer underneath,” he says as the doll transforms into a bare-bellied, buxomous exotic dancer bearing the typical platter of bananas and pineapples on her head. The doll provides a casual metaphor for the transformation of a people, a subtle symbolism for the complexities of the soul at its surface and at its depths.


St Moses the Black, a thief, a gang leader, and murder who became a venerated saint; Father Berry's namesake St Moses the Black, a thief, a gang leader, and murder who became a venerated saint; Father Berry’s namesake
 
Father Berry ends with one final story that underlines the importance of relationship, the one thing that can transcend the impersonality of history, the division of race, the misunderstanding of class. Several yards from the Berry-Boone farmhouse is the family cemetery. Gray stones mark the resting place of slaves who never reached their final destination on the Underground Railroad. One of Harriet Tubman’s porters is there. 

So are the graves of Maria Boone and Caroline Boone Berry. “It was maybe three months after we had moved into the farmhouse, so things were still messy. I drive back from the church and all of a sudden, I see this red Corvette with California plates parked by the gate blocking the way to the cemetery. I see these three blonde kids in the back. ‘What are you doing here?’ I ask them. 

‘Well, I’m sorry,’ they say all polite and all. ‘We didn’t know anyone lived here.’ (He puts on a high-pitched voice mimicking all too many “white boys”). Now, I call back to them all gruff and all, ‘I am here to tell you I live here, and you are on my property. What are you doing here?’ It turns out these kids had been raised by a Black nanny who was buried in this field. ‘Mammie raised us from when we were seven years old when our own mother died,’ they said. So, these kids had been coming to her grave every year on the anniversary of her death to put flowers on her grave.’” He ends his story like a sermon. “A simple act of kindness can reach into eternity; it can save your soul besides another’s.”
 

“Orthodoxy is the truth. It is the one true path to salvation,” Father Berry confesses. “Once you understand what it is all about, there is no hiding from the truth.” Once Orthodox, he confesses the greatest challenge for staying Orthodox is hopelessness. “The hardest thing to do in Orthodoxy is to learn how to have hope.”
 

Father Moses Berry now serves hope from a golden chalise every Sunday at 10 a.m. in a small, white and red barn church with a golden onion dome in the middle of a cornfield in rural Missouri. “There is no other hope than in our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ,” he smiles. “I am a living example of the immanent love of God for His children, even those who have gone far astray, of despair turning into hope. We must never lose hope.”

Learn more about the African tradition in Orthodox Christianity (for example the life of the Holy Saint Moses the Black, Father Berry’s namesake) and Father Berry’s books at www.mosestheblack.org

See also

Fr. Moses Berry, a descendant of African slaves, Orthodox priest and teacher in USA   

About st Moses the Ethiopian 

Δευτέρα, 16 Απριλίου 2018

Sunday of Saint Thomas (2nd Sunday after Easter) - The example of the doubting


Orthodox Archbishopric of Zimbabwe & Angola

In the joy of Resurrection, our Church spotlights the example of the doubting Thomas, who through the greatness of his faith, constitutes a lesson for all those who pass through the phase of unbelief.


So, even if the doubting Thomas was close to Christ for three whole years where he had an opportunity to witness miracles and various good works, still he found himself doubting the Resurrection of Christ, insisting on touching and feeling the nail marks of the crucified body of Christ.

The meaning of unbelief has either a well-intentioned or ill-intentioned quality.

It has a well-intentioned quality when you are struggling to believe something because it seems to you unlikely and you are seeking more evidence, more information, so that you might believe. However, unbelief also has an ill-intentioned quality when you reject something, which can help you simply, and only because you are negatively predisposed towards whatever it is that you cannot comprehend.

Naturally, the term unbelief has many meanings, like the mistrust between spouses when their love begins to fray. Beyond however the moral and material quality of unbelief, there exists also the religious quality of unbelief. This is the situation where man falls into the error of rejection of every religion and religiousness.

It is the situation where man becomes presumptuous, arrogant, and selfish, where he levels out everything, rejects everything in order to give an exclusive priority to himself, to his self, to his ego. However, a person can also be unbelieving in relation to contemporary scientific knowledge, where he finds it impossible to believe new scientific facts and he insists on living in his enclave of darkness.
Today’s Gospel extract however refers to well-intentioned unbelief where man, with every good intention, seeks much more evidence so that
he is able to believe whatever he is struggling to believe due to his limited knowledge.

We can further say that our Church by spotlighting the example of the doubting Thomas tries to console us, to give us courage and to support us when we also go through the phase of unbelief similar to that of Saint Thomas. Therefore, if one of Christ’s disciples, who experienced so many of Christ’s miracles at such close range, could arrive at the point of doubting the Resurrection and divinity of Christ, is it not possible that some of us, after two thousand years, who did not personally live Christ’s miracles, will also pass at a specific time through this phase of unbelief, which in reality is an expression of faithlessness?

It is necessary however at the difficult testing moments of our unbelief, with patience and prayer and the spiritual guidance of our spiritual advisor to strengthen our belief. The example of Saint Thomas comes to console us and simultaneously to remind us of his confession of the person of Jesus Christ as the real God.

Therefore, the important point of today’s Gospel extract is not the unbelief of the doubting Thomas, but the confession of Saint Thomas’ belief that Jesus Christ is the Son and Word of God, our Lord and our God.

The genuine realization on our part concerning the Divinity of Christ is shown with our resolution to follow His Divine Commandments to live according to these all our life. This is exactly what all of Christ’s Apostles did, like the Apostle Thomas and all the Saints of our Church.

The framework within which we can follow the example of our Saints is from inside our pure and indiscriminate love towards every person who needs our help, black, white, relative, friend, stranger, young or old – just as Christ and his disciples and our Saints would do.

 
Orthodox Church in Rwanda (Holy Liturgy),
Saturday on 14th April 2018 (from here)


ST. THOMAS SUNDAY (ANTIPASCHA) - BELIEF AND UNBELIEF


St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea
Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

It was very, very, extremely hard for the apostles to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ had risen.
They considered the words of the Myrrh-bearers who brought them this news to be lies.
When they went to Galilee, to the mountain as Jesus had commanded them, and saw Him, some fell down and worshipped Him while others stood petrified and did not believe their own eyes.
When Jesus appeared to all of them in the upper room in Jerusalem, they thought that they were seeing a spirit.
Strongest of all was the unbelief of the apostle Thomas, who had to place his fingers on the wounds from the nails on the Savior’s hands and feet and his hand on His side before he would believe.
Why did the apostles believe even their own eyes with such difficulty? After all, they were witnesses to the Lord Jesus resurrecting the son of the widow of Nain, the daughter of Jairus, and even Lazarus, the four days dead.
But after all, these were the acts of a very great Miracle Worker, and the dead did not resurrect of their own strength; but to believe in the possibility of a dead body coming back to life by itself, of its own power, was immeasurably more difficult.
Thus, it was extremely difficult for Christ’s apostles to believe even what they saw with their own eyes.
But for us who have seen neither the living nor the resurrected Jesus—is it harder or easier to believe what we read in the Gospels and in the writings of the holy apostles? Oh, of course it’s easier, much easier—for the great multitude of historical facts and events convince us beyond a doubt of the truth of Christ’s resurrection.
What is there to say about the fact that the preaching of unlearned Galilean fishermen and their successors over the course of just a few centuries won over the entire inhabited world of the time—not only cultured Greeks and Romans, but even half-wild Germans, Galls, and Celts, and dealt a fatal blow to paganism?
Could this have been possible if Christ had not risen? Wouldn’t have any preaching about the Crucified One as the Son of God been met everywhere only with mockery?

The martyrdom of st apostle Thomas, in India (from here)

Would it have been thinkable that tens of thousands of holy martyrs would have gone to horrifying tortures and terrible deaths if they did not believe in the Resurrection of Christ and were not on fire with love for the Conqueror of death?
Would the hard ascetic labors of fasting and prayer of numberless anchorites and monks for the sake of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ and for the acquisition of the mind of Christ have been possible?
Millions upon millions of people of all ages and sexes were true Christians, especially during the first fourteen centuries since the Birth of Christ.
However, no matter how enormous was the power of preaching and the works of Christ, no matter how the Son of God’s death on the Cross and His Resurrection from the dead shook the world, not all believed in Him.
Already among the Lord Jesus’s and His apostles’ contemporaries even the majority of God’s chosen Jewish race did not believe in Him.
Unbelief, which has crashed like a huge wave over our modern nations of Europe and America, all formerly Christian, is ever growing and spreading. It began of course not during the Renaissance era of science and arts, not from Voltaire and the other Encyclopedists, but incomparably earlier, already during the first century after the Birth of Christ.
What does this mean? It means that our Lord and God Jesus Christ does not forcibly draw people’s hearts to Himself, something He of course could do with His divine power, but looks for voluntary love and faith.
Not every heart joyfully accepts His great commandments. Proud and domineering people laugh at the commandments of poverty of spirit, meekness, and mercy; they do not even think about God’s higher and eternal truth, they only want to hear about the rightness of social relationships, and they consider only proper relationships between nations to be the highest ideal.
Do many want to be persecuted for righteousness sake, to be reviled and slandered for Christ’s sake?
Do many enter through the straight gates by the narrow path, so that at the end of their difficult road they might hear the blessed call: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 24:34)?
What will the scientist say to you if you try to preach Christ to him? Of course he will reply with annoyance, “Don’t bother me, I am busy with my science, because for me all truth is in it.”

The apostle Paul speaks in his epistle to the Corinthians about the wise and prudent who have rejected faith in God for the sake of science: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are (1 Cor. 18–28).
Even during His earthly life, our Lord Jesus Christ called those who believe in Him His “little flock”.
Do not be disturbed by this, but rejoice. And know that belonging to this flock throughout the ages and until the present day are very many quite important scientists, scholars, and philosophers, who were able to combine their belief in science with their higher faith in God and His Christ. And of those who reject religion based upon scientific data, the vast majority in fact have nothing to do with science and talk about it only on hearsay.
And for you, simple, unlearned people, let the words of Christ be a strong support: Except ye be converted,[1] and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3).

See also

In the Steps of the Apostle Thomas - The Orthodox Church in West Bengal, India 

The Lord’s Pascha
in Search of Orthodoxy
The Way - An introduction to the Orthodox Faith 
Father Moses Berry: From Hippie Bad-Boy Cool-Cat to Humble…

The Sundays after Easter in the Orthodox Christian Heritage!

The Sundays after Easter in the Orthodox Christian Heritage!

 
 Orthodox Easter 2018 in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo (from here)

 
 
 

Sunday of the Samaritan woman (5th Sunday of Pascha): "Close to God is he who in his daily life becomes the light of Christ who enlightens his neighbours..."

Sixth Sunday of Pascha: Sunday of the Blind Man
  
African Pentecost 2017
(icon)

"We are called to holiness!" ― Two orthodox voices from Africa about the Sunday of All Saints (Sunday after Pentecost)

"That is the purpose of the Church, to make people holy" : Sunday of All Saints 

 

 

Σάββατο, 14 Απριλίου 2018

Patriarch of Antioch condemns Trump’s hasty Syria tweets



Orthodox Christianity
Damascus, Syria, April 13, 2018
 
His Beatitude Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East has released a short statement in response to recent tweets from President Donald Trump about the possibility of war in Syria.
The statement, which condemns the president’s threats of intervention in Syria, has been posted on the Antiochian Patriarchate’s official Facebook page.
“We deplore any possible American aggression on our people,” the spiritual head of Antioch states.
Syrian opposition activists, rescue workers, and medics are claiming that more than 40 people were killed on Saturday when bombs filled with toxic chemicals were dropped on the town of Douma by government forces. The town was the last in the Eastern Ghouta region still held by rebels, reports the BBC.
It has since been taken back by pro-Assad forces.
Bashar al-Assad’s government has categorically denied perpetrating any such attack, although many governments and media outlets have already assumed that it did.
Further, Russian Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov announced one month ago, on March 13, that the Russian Defense Ministry had obtained “reliable information” that just such an attack would be carried out by terrorists in the Eastern Ghouta region and would be blamed on the government, as can be seen in a Sputnik video. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeated this claim since the alleged attack.
In response to the news of an attack, President Donald Trump tweeted on April 8, “Many dead, including women and children in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria… President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay.”
Following Russia’s response that it would defend Syria from any U.S. attack, Trump tweeted on April 11, “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
In response to the president’s tweets and to rising global tensions, Pat. John X of Antioch released a short statement yesterday:
We condemn recent US public statements and threats to Syria based on mere allegations of using banned weapons. We deplore any possible American aggression on our people that will cause the country and the region to be further devastated.
The patriarch’s reference to “mere allegations of using banned weapons” is reflected in yesterday’s statements from Defense Secretary General Jim Mattis, in which he acknowledged that the U.S. currently has no proof not only that the Syrian government was behind the chemical attack, but that a chemical attack even happened.
In a testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Mattis cautioned against launching an attack against Syria too hastily, stating that the U.S. and its allies “don’t have evidence” that the Syrian regime attacked its own people. Further, it is as yet not proven that such an attack even occurred, although he personally believes one did. “I believe there was a chemical attack and we’re looking for the evidence,” Mattis said, reports military.com.
He further notes that even the work of an investigative team will shed no light on who was behind the alleged attack: “We will not know who did it. Only that it happened. That's where we're at right now,” Mattis told the committee.
President Trump's latest tweet, from April 12, shows him backing off somewhat from his earlier messages: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”