Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"John the Blessed": A New Year's Eve Tale by Photios Kontoglou

Describes a visit of St. Basil on New Years Eve, which is also the eve of his feast, years after his repose.

John the Blessed

A Tale of Photios Kontoglou

The Nativity Feast having passed, St. Basil took his staff and traversed all of the towns, in order to see who would celebrate his Feast Day with purity of heart. He passed through regions of every sort and through villages of prominence, yet regardless of where he knocked, no door opened to him, since they took him for a beggar. And he would depart embittered, for, though he needed nothing from men, he felt how much pain the heart of every impecunious person must have endured at the insensitivity that these people showed him. One day, as he was leaving such a merciless village, he went by the graveyard, where he saw that the tombs were in ruins, the headstones broken and turned topsy-turvy, and how the newly dug graves had been turned up by jackals. Saint that he was, he heard the dead speaking and saying: “During the time that we were on the earth, we labored, we were heavy-burdened, leaving behind us children and grandchildren to light just a candle, to burn a little incense on our behalf; but we behold nothing, neither a Priest to read over our heads a memorial service nor kóllyva, as though we had left behind no one.” Thus, St. Basil was once again disquieted, and he said to himself, “These villagers give aid neither to the living nor to the deceased,” departing from the cemetery and setting out alone in the midst of the freezing snow.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"The Gleaner: A Christmas Story" by Alexandros Papadiamantis

Alexandros Papadiamantis is not only considered a "Dosteovsky of Modern Greece", but one can argue he is a Charles Dickens of Modern Greece as well. Like Dickens, Papadiamantis wrote a few Christmas tales of a beneficial nature that deserve a read. One article, making the comparison between Papadiamantis and Dickens, writes:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas in Greek Literature

Christmas, the great feast of Christianity, is celebrated throughout the world in different ways. Prior to the advent of technology, literature was the only way to document culture-specific traditions concerning Christmas, which eventually emerged as the ideal setting for fairy tales, short stories and novels.

Despite their differences, a multitude of works, from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol to Nikolai Gogol’s Christmas Eve and Agatha Christie’s The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, all attest to the fact that this period of year signifies a closure, a time of resolutions and decisions on a universal level. Greek Literature includes a great body of works whose focus is Christmas, imbued by the religious spirituality closely linked with the Greek psyche.

Leo Tolstoy's "Papa Panov's Special Christmas" (animation)

Papa Panov, an old shoemaker almost too blind to thread a needle, has a dream that Jesus will visit him on Christmas Day.

He anxiously and eagerly waits all day, but his only visitors are a tramp, a roadsweeper, and a pauper woman with her cold and hungry baby.

Despite his disappointment and fading hope, Papa Panov gives them his coat, his money, his soup, and even the tiny shoes he was saving as a present for Baby Jesus.

As night falls and his special visitor still hasn't arrived, Papa Panov thinks himself a silly, old fool.

But then he has another dream, a dream which convinces him his special visitor did come after all ....

This short story of Leo Tolstoy can be read here.

Below is a cartoon based on the original tale, titled "Red Boots For Christmas":

Nikolai Gogol's "The Night Before Christmas" (1951 - Animation)

It is the night before Christmas and devilry is afoot. The devil steals the moon and hides it in his pocket. He is thus free to run amok and inflicts all sorts of wicked mischief upon the village of Dikanka by unleashing a snowstorm. But the one he'd really like to torment is the town blacksmith, Vakula, who creates icons of the devil being vanquished. Vakula is in love with Oksana, but she will have nothing to do with him. Vakula, however, is determined to win her over, even if it means battling the devil.

Taken from Nikolai Gogol's first successful work, from the story collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka.

Russian Cartoon: "The Christmas Visit" (1959)


Thursday, December 25, 2014

1971 Animated Version of "A Christmas Carol"

A Christmas Carol (1971) is a 25-minute animated cartoon adaptation of Charles Dickens' book which was originally shown on Dec 21, 1971 on ABC television in the United States.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"The Story of the Other Wise Man" (1989 - Animation)

The Story of the Other Wise Man is a short novel or long short story by Henry van Dyke. It was initially published in 1895 and has been reprinted many times since then, including a "centennial edition" published in 1996 by Ballantyne Books.

Movie: "The Fourth Wise Man" (1985)

You can read the classic tale by Henry Van Dyke in 1896 here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Story Behind "It's A Wonderful Life"

It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, that was heavily adapted from the short story "The Greatest Gift", written by Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939, and privately published by the author in 1945. The film is considered one of the most loved films in American cinema, and has become traditional viewing during the Christmas season, comparably to film adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Marley's Bowels of Compassion (or Lack Thereof)

Charles Dickens writes in A Christmas Carol, describing the spirit of Jacob Marley when he appears to his business partner in life Ebeneezer Scrooge:

"Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now."

Monday, December 22, 2014

G.K. Chesterton's Biography "Charles Dickens" (1906)

I was about to write a personal essay on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but I decided to leave that off for the future and replace it with a biographical sketch of the man who helped revive modern Christmas and good-hearted cheer despite the secular age we live in. I also recommend the reading titled Christmas According to Dickens by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts.

Chesterton's books and essays on Charles Dickens are among his best. Growing up in London Chesterton found Dickens his best guide to his own background and much of his philosophy came from Dickens's own "social gospel." To understand Chesterton you need to read his biography on Dickens. It will help you understand why he called himself a "disreputable Victorian".

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Theological Journey

As the final installment of the Warner Bros fantasy blockbuster, The Hobbit, hits the cinema screens, Dr Alison Milbank of the University of Nottingham’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, offers her insights into J.R.R.Tolkien and his famous novel. The film, based on the adventures of Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf companions, will, she says, fulfill deeper needs in modern society than pure entertainment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Ancient Babylonian Music Sounded Like

Singer and composer Stef Conner’s album The Flood is probably the first ever to be sung in ancient Sumerian and Babylonian, and it’s hauntingly beautiful.

Below are four tracks from The Flood, by The Lyre Ensemble, with Stef Conner on vocals, Andy Lowings on lyre, and produced by Mark Harmer.

To read more about the making of this album, see here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Doménikos Theotokópoulos Before El Greco

El Greco will always be Domenicos Theotokopoulos for Greece and there are five exhibitions in Athens alone to prove that.

December 5, 2014

As a tribute to the 400th anniversary of the death of the Spanish Renaissance artist, several art exhibitions are being held in Museums around the world, five of which in the city of Athens alone.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Russian Orthodox Priests Meet British Rock Band That Inspired Them

October 13, 2009

The British rock group Procol Harum met with Orthodox diocesan priests, who believe rock music inspired their spiritual search, in the Moscow Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in the Lazarevskoye cemetery.

"Group leader Gary Brooker was very glad. He was especially impressed there were about eight priests from various dioceses and other people, who were youngsters in the sixties and seventies. They said:, "thank you so much" to the Procol Harum and to Gary for all they did for them. "Their music awoke us then," Hegumen Sergy (Rybko) told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Plato's Allegory of the Cave and Christian Salvation

The great Greek philosopher Plato (427–347 BC) famously illustrated the difference between reality and illusion through a story about men who lived all their life in a cave. In Plato’s allegory, these men were chained to pillars and could see only shadows cast on the cave’s back wall by a fire that burned behind them, out of sight.

The men in the cave took great pride in their eyesight and in their interpretive abilities—yet all the time they were looking at shadows, mere illusions. Then, one of the men breaks out of the chains and makes it outside of the cave where he discovers a whole new world. When he reenters the cave to tell his friends about his marvelous epiphany they reject and resent him to the point of wanting to kill him.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Timely Episode of "The Twilight Zone"

"A sickness known as hate; not a virus, not a microbe, not a germ - but a sickness nonetheless, highly contagious, deadly in its effects. Don't look for it in the Twilight Zone - look for it in a mirror. Look for it before the light goes out altogether."

- Rod Serling, "I Am The Night - Color Me Black" (The Twilight Zone)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Aleksandr Proshkin's "The Miracle" (2009, Movie with English Subtitles)

In 2009 the Russian movie The Miracle was released by the acclaimed Russian director Aleksandr Proshkin, based on a shocking true story of a fascinating miracle wrought by St. Nicholas in Russia in 1956. It can be read about in the links below. The first movie below is in Russian with English subtitles, and the second movie under it is in Russian with Romanian, Greek, and Bulgarian subtitles.

About Aleksandr Proshkin's "The Miracle"

"Nicholas of Myra" - the Motion Picture

Synopsis of the Film Currently In Production:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. In New York, December 1822, Dr. Clement Moore -- a professor of world literature -- is inspired to pen a whimsical Christmas poem for his young children. Influenced by the folklore of Old World culture, Moore crafts his poem into a magical tale about a kind and generous gift-bearer that secretly visits homes on Christmas Eve. It is while musing about this mythical character that Moore first learns of the ancient legend of a gift-bearer from the Greco-Roman Era -- one that he comes to believe may be the origin of all the similar myths throughout the world. What Moore finds is a story that ironically would one day be lost to the lore he was about to create. He soon discovers the surprising tale of a mighty empire at the crossroads of history, an enigmatic emperor who would forever leave his mark on the world, and an orphan boy named Nicholas, who one day -- in the face of boundless greed and persecution -- would prove that not every hero swings a sword.

Friday, December 5, 2014

St. Nikolai Velimirovich on Technology and Ethics

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Originally, religion was the mother of ethics and technology. First of all, religion was a torrential spring flowing from hidden depths, ethics a life carrying river, and technology with the help of artistic channels, carried the water from this river into all the arteries of man's life.

God announced to man the law of faith, the law of behavior, and the knowledge of technology.

By the directions of God, Noah built a boat that traveled one of the longest journeys in the history of navigation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyva, the Patron of Science and Technology

By Christodoulos A. Protopapas, CEO of Hellas-Sat

No saint until today in the Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church has so much to do with modern technology as Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyva. The wisdom by the grace of God acquired by Saint Porphyrios was unique, and the way in which he did his miracles in this life and after his death was so significant that it leaves us "technologists dumbfounded", as our holy Church rightly says.

It is worth mentioning that Saint Porphyrios lived at a time when technology was growing rapidly together with various other sciences throughout humanity, to the point where some Orthodox thinkers of his time had begun to demonize and villainize technological progress.

Friday, November 28, 2014

St. Porphyrios: "It is Good to Listen to Music"

"It is good to listen to music. The highest of all is Byzantine music, because it doesn't disturb the soul, but unites it with God and gives it perfect rest. If you really want to, you can listen to secular music, but I say that it is preferable to listen to music without words."

- Saint Porphyrios of Kavsokalyva

Monday, November 24, 2014

PJ Harvey and St. Catherine Chapel In Abbotsbury

St. Catherine's Chapel in Abbotsbury
The musician PJ Harvey once visited St Catherine's Chapel in Abbotsbury, England (she grew up and lived nearby) which has a wonderful acoustic quality and decided to record a song there. The chapel is situated on a hill, as are most chapels to St. Catherine (Katherine) in the West, probably in reference to her shrine on Mount Sinai. It dates to the 13th or 14th century, but it is probably built on the ruins of an earlier Christian church, which was probably built over pagan ruins.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bram Stoker on Christ and Fiction Writing

By Bram Stoker, 
author of Dracula

Fiction is perhaps the most powerful form of teaching available. It can be most potent for good; and if we are to allow it to work for evil we shall surely have to pay in time for the consequent evil effects. 

Let not anyone with a non-understanding or misapplied moral sense say or believe that fiction, being essentially based on something that is not true, should be excluded altogether from the field of morals. The highest of all teachers and moralists, Christ Himself, did not disdain it as a method or opportunity of carrying great truth. But He seemed to hold it as His chosen means of seeking to instil truth. What is a parable but a novel in little? A parable may be true in historical fact — its ethical truth may be complete, but if so the truth is accidental and not essential. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Movie Review: "Beyond the Hills" (An Orthodox Christian Perspective)

By John Sanidopoulos

April 8, 2013

Warning: Contains spoilers

Beyond the Hills (Romanian: Dupa dealuri) is a Romanian film that was released there in October 2012, and was inspired by the non-fiction novels of Tatiana Niculescu Bran, who investigated the 2005 death of a novice during an exorcism ritual in a Moldavian monastery. It was directed by Cristian Mungiu and stars Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur. The film received world-wide attention when it premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where Mungiu won the award for Best Screenplay, and Stratan and Flutur shared the award for Best Actress. It was also selected as the Romanian entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards, making the January shortlist.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Movie Review: "The Hunger Games"

When the first Hunger Games movie was released a few years ago, I wrote a review to answer some of the concerns parents had about this movie. The review is re-published below, since the third movie in the series will be released this weekend.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

By John Sanidopoulos

March 30, 2012

Story: Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match.

Director: Gary Ross
Screenplay: Suzanne Collins
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson

Official Trailer
Official Website


The Hunger Games is based on the best-selling Suzanne Collins dystopian novel of the same name. It is rated PG-13 mainly due to its brutal child-on-child violence and death. The film currently holds the record for the third best opening weekend box office sales of any movie ($152.5 million) in North America behind The Dark Knight ($158 million) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($169 million) and the biggest for a non-sequel. It was well received by critics, who praised Lawrence's performance and its themes and messages, whilst it was mildly criticized for its watered-down violence and its filming style. It has also been hailed as "darker than Harry Potter, more sophisticated than Twilight."

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the Capitol of the nation of Panem (as in panem et circenses, Latin for "bread and circuses") forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. They are living under the constant reminder that the Capitol obliterated District 13 for their rebellion, and for this they began the annual event. Part twisted entertainment, part government intimidation tactic, the Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which 24 "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains.

Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), who enters the Games voluntarily to replace her younger sister, is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Entering the movie, I had not read the book but did have high expectations knowing how popular the book has become. I was not disappointed, as I found it to be a compelling, intelligent and action-packed film which is well-acted and entertaining. However, the quick, jumpy movements of the camera throughout was hard to handle at times. For the most part, I didn’t notice the jerky camera shooting, except during the action scenes. Perhaps this was a way to keep the movie PG-13 and not show the gore and violence going on, but at the same time it adds to the film a sense of danger since the book is written from the perspective of the main character Katniss, and one would think this is how she would view the events around her. I would have also liked the soundtrack to be more dystopian, with a song like "Disposable Teens" by Marilyn Manson which is about how teenagers are disposable in a dystopian society, as opposed to Taylor Swift, although she is more palpable to younger audiences.

I have heard parents worry about their children viewing the movie. The movie does handle heavy subjects and issues and is violent, at least suggestively, so I would be cautious having any child under 10-years-old seeing this movie. Beyond that the film is careful to not dwell too much on the violence so as to make it viewable for younger audiences. The first time I saw it was opening day with my brother-in-law and he was strongly against having his 8-year-old daughter seeing it, but the second time I saw it was with my two 12-year-old nephews who loved the film and their only complaint was that it was a bit long. Personally I think the beloved children's movies I grew up with were much more frightening, like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Goonies, but the serious tone and the length of The Hunger Games is more designed for teenagers.

As far as the morality of the story, some caution could be made. I don't know what the books say, but Panem appears to be a godless society that has reduced itself to the pagan-like entertainments of barbaric times. Some would see this as a negative, but I more view it as a caution as to what we can become. The viewer knows that what he is seeing in this post-apocalytpic society is wrong and they are cheering for the victims. Altruistic sacrifices are made throughout the movie, and virtues are displayed as opposed to vices. The lack of public outcry against the barbarity of the Hunger Games is lacking severely however and one voice of reason would have been nice to see, but the end does have such a moment which I assume carries into the second book.

The Hunger Games is a post-apocalyptic take on a familiar American myth. We have seen the gist of the story time and time again and everyone has been exposed to one form of the story in one way or another. When Shirley Jackson published "The Lottery" in 1948 it also had wide controversy, but today it is considered one of the best short stories in American literature. Similar things could be said for William Golding's Lord of the Flies and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The Hunger Games is a bit of a combination of the three. I would also add in the dystopian movies Metropolis, Blade Runner, Death Race 2000, The Truman Show, Cube, Gattaca, Zoolander, The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man and even Spartacus. One also sees traces of television reality shows like Survivor and The Bachelorette. I was also amazed how similar this movie was to Kinji Fukasaku's Japanese film Battle Royale, but there are differences and the Japanese film, also based on a book, is much more violent and cut-throat. Equally I was amazed how similar the society created in The Hunger Games was similar to that of the mini-series Amerika, which also had America divided into twelve districts by the communists. Even in ancient literature and history we find the themes spoken of in The Hunger Games, such as in the stories of Theseus and the goddess Diana, as well as in Robin Hood, the gladiatorial games of Rome, the scapegoat of the Old Testament, and even the sacrifice of Christ. It is common for artists to borrow from and improve on many sources; after all Quentin Tarantino has built his career on this principle.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Movie: "Time Of Violence" (a story of Balkan Christians under Ottoman rule)

Time Of Violence (1988; 288 min.) is a MUST WATCH Bulgarian movie and its free of charge (see links below) with English subtitles.

The year is 1668 AD. The Ottoman jihad is in its heat in Southeastern Europe. The Turkish siege of the Venetian fortress of Candia (now Heraklion in Crete) has been lasting for a second decade now. The Rhodope Mountain is seen as a strategically important base of the war but its Christian population is a potential source of instability. The sultan orders its conversion into "the right faith". The sacred forests and valleys, where according to the legend Orpheus was born, now screams under the yataghans enforcing the foreign creed in blood and fires.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Spiritual Invocation" by Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis

Blessed Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis (1886-1983) was for forty years Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou at Mount Athos. He has been called "the abbot of abbots of the twentieth century", and "a great man of Greece and of the Orthodox Faith".

Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, who has written the only existing book in English on this significant elder whom he knew personally, characterizes Elder Gabriel as a "remarkable confessor and spiritual guide, a profound analyst of twentieth century society, and an inspiring writer on many vital topics". Below is a piece he wrote in 1965 and is just one of many examples in which his wisdom is manifested, offered here on the anniversary of his falling asleep which occurred on November 6, 1983.

Spiritual Invocation

By Elder Gabriel Dionysiatis

So many years have passed and we still cannot forget the horror of the Second World War and the foreign occupation [Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy]. What can we remember first? The fear and terror of the barbarian conquerors? The bombarding or the hunger? The hundreds of thousands in Greece who were killed or died of starvation? Remembrance of these things chills the blood of man.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Mystique of Hitchcock's "Psycho"

One of my favorite movies of all time is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, released in 1960. There are many reasons for this, but it is pretty much unanimously agreed by film buffs and critics that this film is the hinge in Hollywood history that changed the movie experience like no other. With the release of the movie Hitchcock in 2012, an interesting and informative piece was written in Entertainment Weekly that I thought may be of introductory interest. Below are some excerpts:

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Monsters Among Us

October 30, 2012

With Halloween approaching, people turn their attention to the spooky and the scary, reveling in stories and images of ghosts, ghouls and witches for the holiday. However, while some monstrous characters only come out to play in October; others enjoy attention year round.

For example, in recent years, vampire media has gained popularity, from Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series of books and films to HBO's "True Blood," which finished its fifth season this summer. Zombies have recently seen a resurgence in popularity as well, evidenced by new takes on the genre, such as Zach Synder's 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead," Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" and Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead." Zombies have even shambled onto the television screen with AMC's "The Walking Dead."

Hollywood is quick to cash in on what's popular, but why do themes gain popularity in the first place? Does the prevalence of a certain monster reflect what's going on in our society today?

Dostoevsky and Spiritualism

By Thomas E. Berry, University of Maryland

From the reign of Catherine the Great to the Revolution of 1917, Russian society and literature were affected by the relationship between Western spiritualism with its seances and mediums and an ancient folk tradition with its superstitions and fancifulness. The common Russian belief in spirits, combined with the Western occult science, brought charlatans into the highest court circles throughout the last hundred and fifty years of the Romanov's rule. Cagliostro drew the attention of Catherine II; the Baroness Krudener instructed Alexander I; D.D. Home had the patronage of Alexander II; and Rasputin and Dr. Philippe had a close relationship with Nicholas II. The Czars were the inheritors of two strong social forces: a folk tradition based on the mystical and the miraculous dating back hundreds of years and a fervent search for historical and spiritual meaning among the Russian intelligentsia. Only Nicholas I failed to understand the popularity of spiritualism in Russia and his jack of interest separated him from the mainstream of Russian life. Most Russian monarchs were greatly influenced by the spread of spiritualistic forces. It was as if folk superstitions and Western spiritualism were destined to blend together and contribute to the fall of the Russian Empire.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alfred Hitchcock on Filmmaking, Suspense, Nightmares and more (video)

"I Deal In Nightmares." - Alfred Hitchcock

The video below is a 20 minute interview from 1966 with Alfred Hitchcock on filmmaking, simplification of identification, visual clarity, actors and improvisation, the Hitchcock-woman, humor of the macabre, being a traditionalist, making television, suspense and more....

"An audience should be given all the facts. For example if you take suspense, suspense can only be achieved by telling the audience as much as you can... We could be blown up this minute and the audience would get five seconds of shock, but if we tell them five minutes ahead of time there is a bomb that's going to go off, that would get five minutes of suspense where we didn't have suspense before because the audience were in ignorance." - Alfred Hitchcock

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

G.K. Chesterton on Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

Robert Louis Stevenson

In my opinion, the last chapter of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the best written chapter in any book in the English language, as far as I've read, and it is one of my favorite fictional stories. G.K. Chesterton is one of the few Christian thinkers who holds a similar high regard for Stevenson and his philosophical romances, as expressed below:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" as a Response to Miltonian Christianity

By Joseph Pearce

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one of the most influential novels of the nineteenth century. From the very beginning, on the title page itself, we are given tantalizing clues concerning the aesthetic and philosophical roots of Mary Shelley's inspiration and perhaps an inkling of her purpose. In giving Frankenstein the alternative title of The Modern Prometheus, and coupling it with the epigraph conveying Adam's complaint from Paradise Lost, we see the leitmotif established concerning the relationship between Creator, creature, and creativity. The allusion to the Prometheus myth conjures images of the creation of man in defiance of the gods; the citation of Adam's complaint conjures the image of the creation of man in defiance of man:

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me man?
Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?"

Friday, October 10, 2014

Exercising the Brain With Reading

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The era of the economic crisis has been consistent with the sales of books; people do not buy new books and hence they do not read. Most make out with what is given to them for free or with television. However, reading books can be an "antidote" to the economic crisis, and it can help us in many ways.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Edgar Allan Poe As A Philhellene

By John Sanidopoulos

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston on the 19th of January, 1809. In 1822 he entered the University of Charlottesville where he studied Greek and obtained distinctions in Latin and French in 1826. His love for the Greek language, Greek mythology and ancient Greece are clearly evident in his poetry.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dostoevsky On Edgar Allan Poe

Excerpt from the Russian translation of the introduction to The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and The Devil in the Belfry titled:

Three Tales of Edgar Poe

By Fyodor M. Dostoevsky (Vremia, 1861)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Elder Paisios: "Light Reading Does Not Redeem"

Elder, when someone is tired or upset, he usually wants to read something light and easy, a short story or a novel, perhaps, or something like that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Does Media Help Us Appreciate Life In Its Fullest?

By John Sanidopoulos

Modern media, whether it is literature, film or any other, often is dark, depressing and full of angst. It identifies with the modern soul, and helps those with similar emotions and thoughts feel as if they aren't alone in their lonely and confused existence. When coupled with a moral foundation or ending, it can be quite powerful in expressing existential truths and give some meaning where meaninglessness seems to reign. And if we can't identify with tragedy, then maybe we can at least learn something from the tragedy of another.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Transgression" In Rock and Roll According to Marilyn Manson

In 2012 The Stool Pigeon conducted an interesting interview with Marilyn Manson on transgression in rock music. Below are some of the least offensive excerpts, but still there are parts below that may be found offensive and it does contain a few swear words (Warning!). Too often Christians evaluate rock music based on their own worldview without listening to what rock musicians actually have to say about what they do, and this creates a never ending cycle of reactionism. This is not only a rock star's evaluation, perhaps the last rock star at that, of "transgression" in Rock and Roll, but also a way subversive musical artists tend to view society and why they create the art they do. Some things you may agree with, some things not, but it is still interesting nonetheless, especially in a time when rock music is speedily declining, though not its influence.

The Stool Pigeon: I want to ask you about the role of transgression in rock music, where transgression is going, and even if the outrageous, controversial rock star of the late 20th Century might be redundant.

Marilyn Manson: I think by its nature it’s redundant. You can’t really ever make any art without getting someone’s attention… constantly. You have to say something differently, constantly. Dali said that anyone who doesn’t steal isn’t an artist and you have to take things and make them your own, and then when you’ve done that, you have to realise how not to cannibalise yourself, but how to transform constantly. This record I’ve just made allows people to witness that I’ve made a transformation. All music comes from heartache and all music comes from pain and suffering. That’s never going to go away, so it’s how do we learn to adapt to the fact that the whole world is able to talk really loud now? You know, everyone’s a journalist now – everyone’s got an opinion – and I think that just levels the playing field. Andy Warhol told us that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes and he was very accurate. So we have to invent new ways to make it interesting to other people because we’re trying to appeal to other people. You have to make this conversation interesting to someone else who wants to read it.


Monday, September 22, 2014

A Question on Vanity and Entertainment

Below is a question I received five years ago along with my reply:

John, since you are a pious Orthodox with an interest in the arts, how do you participate in them and enjoy them and yet keep the spirit of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem's catechetical instruction?

"Now the pomp of the devil is the madness of the theatres, horse-races and hunting, and all such vanity; from which the holy man praying to be delivered says unto God, 'Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity'. Be not interested in the madness of the theatre, where you will behold the silly gestures of the players, carried on with mockeries and all indecency, and the frantic dancing of effeminate men." (On the Renunciation of Satan).

Saint John Chrysostom says similar things also.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Kenotic Theology of the Cross and Popular Culture

In popular culture, religion is generally marked by supernatural special effects and a dualistic worldview. A theology of the cross challenges such simplistic portrayals, offering a more viable and hopeful theological response to human suffering and the ambiguity of life.

Below is an excerpt worth pondering and offering many valuable insights written by Ernest L. Simmons from his article titled "Theology of the Cross and Popular Culture", which can be read in its entirety here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Three Hermits" - A Beneficial Tale By Leo Tolstoy

Three Hermits

By Leo Tolstoy


'And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.' - Matt. 6:7-8.

A BISHOP was sailing from Archangel to the Solovétsk Monastery; and on the same vessel were a number of pilgrims on their way to visit the shrines at that place. The voyage was a smooth one. The wind favourable, and the weather fair. The pilgrims lay on deck, eating, or sat in groups talking to one another. The Bishop, too, came on deck, and as he was pacing up and down, he noticed a group of men standing near the prow and listening to a fisherman who was pointing to the sea and telling them something. The Bishop stopped, and looked in the direction in which the man was pointing. He could see nothing however, but the sea glistening in the sunshine. He drew nearer to listen, but when the man saw him, he took off his cap and was silent. The rest of the people also took off their caps, and bowed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

St. John of Kronstadt: "Count Leo Tolstoy, the Worst Heretic of our Evil Days"

Russian Patriarchate: Leo Tolstoy's Excommunication Will Not Be Reversed

November 18, 2010

Despite high praise of Leo Tolstoy's works, it is impossible to remove his excommunication from the Orthodox Church today, a hundred years after his death, as it was Tolstoy who excommunicated himself, executive secretary of the Patriarchal Council for Culture Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov) believes.

Leo Tolstoy and the Orthodox Church

Since Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew referenced Leo Tolstoy as being an Orthodox Christian in his lecture on November 3, 2009 at Georgetown University, I thought I would remind Orthodox Christians that Leo Tolstoy not only was not Orthodox, but he rejected Orthodoxy and in turn excommunicated himself from the Orthodox Church and was thus excommunicated for this rejection. Below is more information to enlighten those unaware of the false teachings of Leo Tolstoy. He was a great novelist and story teller, but unfortunately a poor theologian.

100 Years After Excommunication, Church Cannot Look Kindly Upon Tolstoy

Russian Orthodox hierarchy rejects request of writer's great-great-grandson.

Andrei Zolotov

A hundred years after it excommunicated Leo Tolstoy, the Russian Orthodox Church has ignored a plea by his great-great-grandson, Vladimir Tolstoy, to reconsider the writings and reflections of the famous novelist.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Myth of the Excommunication of Nikos Kazantzakis

There is a persistent myth that Nikos Kazantzakis was excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church. This is not true. Despite the very controversial topics he wrote about, it was eventually seen that he was a novelist and artist and not a theologian, and that what he wrote about was not doctrine but about his own personal struggles, no matter how vividly and shockingly it was portrayed. There was indeed a campaign for his excommunication, but it never fell through. Neither the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece signed it, nor did the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Upon his death, his body was viewed in the Cathedral Church of Saint Menas in Heraklion. Much can be written on this topic, but I think a good summary is given in the book Dialogic Openness in Nikos Kazantzakis by Charitini Christodoulou (the first 20 pages can be read online here, with citations that I did not include), so I am offering a few excerpts below that deal with this issue specifically. Below that are a few articles that delve a bit deeper into the issue.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Ultimate Heresy: The Heartless God in "Parker's Back"

By Stephen Sparrow

"Parker's Back" was the last story Flannery O'Connor wrote. Caroline Gordon Tate recalled visiting O'Connor in hospital shortly before she died, and tells how O'Connor said she wasn't supposed to be working but then smiled and pulled from under her pillow a notebook in which she said she was putting the finishing touches to something. What she was touching up was "Parker's Back." I think it is easily her most profound short story, dealing as it does in a unique way with heresy3: the ultimate heresy if you like; viz. the idea that spirit and matter are separate and opposite manifestations of good and evil, and that Man is unable to approach God and God is unwilling to draw near to Man.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Christian and Fantasy Media

By Gene Edward Veith

One of the first explicitly Christian discussions of literature was The Apology for Poetry written in the sixteenth century by the statesman, soldier, man of letters, and devout Protestant, Sir Philip Sidney. He took on the Puritan Stephen Gosson’s charge that poetry — by which he meant creative, imaginative fiction — is a lie, since it recounts things that are not real.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Oscar Wilde and the Greek New Testament

Oscar Wilde dressed in 19th century Greek costume.

By John Sanidopoulos

Oscar Wilde was sometimes called the "apostle of beauty"; he once said "the Greek text of the Gospels was the most beautiful book in the world."[1]

Friday, August 22, 2014

Russian Orthodox Group to Finance Russian-themed Films in Hollywood

Tamerlane the Great

August 21, 2014

A group of Russian religious philanthropists have announced plans to finance a number of big budget Hollywood feature films focused on Russia. Andrei Poklonsky, chairman of the Russian Club of Orthodox Philanthropists, told Izvestia that one of the first projects to be funded will be the story from the life of 14th-century Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur, also known as Tamerlane the Great. Australian actor Hugh Jackman is said to be being considered for the lead role.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Biography of the Hermit and Former Actor Jozef Van den Berg

Jozef [Joseph] Van den Berg (Beers, 22 August 1949 ) is a Dutch puppeteer, playwright and actor, who nowadays lives as a hermit.