Friday, February 28, 2014

"The Passion of the Christ": An Orthodox Perspective

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

On occasion films are created that display the Cross and Passion of Christ as their content, in order to move Christians in regards to these great events. We see this also in our days with the new movie about the Passion of Christ titled The Passion of the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson.

The Orthodox Church does not give much importance to such screenings for serious theological reasons. We will identify primarily three reasons.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Archbishop Christodoulos on the Future of Europe

By His Beatitude Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece

Address to the University of Iasi - "Futurum" June 2003

Right Honorable Chancellor,
Honorable Professors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My very dear youths, our pride and hope,

I am deeply moved as I speak to you in your University today, in this town where, during the years of slavery, a Greek School flourished. At that time we spent together stony years, years of persecution and of death, years of suffering. Freedom remained hidden like embers smouldering in the souls of your forefathers, and of the Greeks who lived here with you and thanks to your hospitality. In those years learning was a rare good and the price to be paid for it was high, sometimes with persecution, sometimes even with one’s own life. Those years have left memories deeply engraved, as if by a penknife, on the marble of our hearts. May our address today be considered a homage to the memory of your forefathers, who wrapped the Greek School in the cocoon of their affection.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

St. Basil of Ostrog and U.S. Senator Bill Barr

Saint Basil of Ostrog (Feast Day - April 29)

Among the Serbian and Montenegrin people there are an innumerable amount of stories of miracles performed through the holy relics of Saint Basil of Ostrog. One of the most interesting stories is that of the United States Senator William (Bill) Barr.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Speech of Pyotr Mamonov at the Premier of the Film "Ostrov"

In the summer of 2006, actor Pyotr Mamonov gave a speech in Sochi, on the Black Sea. It was immediately after the premiere of the film Ostrov (The Island). The transcript below shows that he, being a tremendous actor and notable musician, understands very well the spiritual life and shows his role in the film as its lead character was not accidental. His speech was as follows:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Information Overload: From the Printing Press to Social Media

Don't Touch That Dial!

A history of media technology scares, from the printing press to Facebook.

By Vaughan Bell

A respected Swiss scientist, Conrad Gessner, might have been the first to raise the alarm about the effects of information overload. In a landmark book, he described how the modern world overwhelmed people with data and that this overabundance was both "confusing and harmful" to the mind. The media now echo his concerns with reports on the unprecedented risks of living in an "always on" digital environment. It's worth noting that Gessner, for his part, never once used e-mail and was completely ignorant about computers. That's not because he was a technophobe but because he died in 1565. His warnings referred to the seemingly unmanageable flood of information unleashed by the printing press.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Believe In God, Not Yourself

"Nowhere does the Gospel tell you to believe in yourself, but to believe in God - that God can help, that God can heal. Some people, however, take this the wrong way, and say, 'Man has powers, and must believe in himself.' To believe in one's self contains either egoism or demonism."

- Elder Paisios the Athonite

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On Empty Philosophy, Myths and Worldly Teaching

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"Brethren, see to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

Brethren, do not let philosophy enslave us, which by conjecture, says that there is no eternal life nor resurrection from the dead. For we do not arrive at the Truth through the conjecture of man, but by God's revelation. That which we know about the truth we know from Truth Himself which was revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ and which was communicated to us through the faithful and wise witnesses of the Truth: the apostles and the saints. If we, because of our sins, were to reject these witnesses and accept the conjecture of humans, we will fall into the dark and bitter slavery of nature and of the body, to sin and to death.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Popular Depictions of Jesus On Screen

Jesus On Screen: Movies That Tell Christ’s Story Have Always Been Popular

Brian Murphy
March 24, 2010

Filmmakers just can’t resist going back to tell Jesus’ tale over and over.

The Bible has it all — murder, sex, lies, wars, plagues, redemption, forgiveness, pharaohs, love, hate, sibling rivalry. And you don’t have to pay royalties.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Three Laws of Logical Thought

By John Sanidopoulos

The laws of thought are fundamental axiomatic rules upon which rational discourse itself is based. The three classic laws of thought are attributed to Aristotle. These three laws are samples of self-evident logical principles. Only the supernatural can exceed these natural laws. Everyone should memorize these laws.

1. The Law of Identity (Whatever is, is.)

The law of identity states that an object is the same as itself: A = A.

"Being is."
- Parmenides the Eleatic (circa BC. 490)

"Now 'why a thing is itself' is a meaningless inquiry (for—to give meaning to the question 'why' — the fact or the existence of the thing must already be evident — e.g., that the moon is eclipsed — but the fact that a thing is itself is the single reason and the single cause to be given in answer to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musician musical, unless one were to answer, 'because each thing is inseparable from itself, and its being one just meant this.' This, however, is common to all things and is a short and easy way with the question."
- Aristotle, Metaphysics

2. The Law of Non-Contradiction (Nothing can both be and not be.)

The oldest statement of the law is that contradictory statements cannot both at the same time be true, e.g. the two propositions A is B and A is not B are mutually exclusive.

"It's plain that the same thing won't be willing at the same time to do or suffer opposites with respect to the same part and in relation to the same thing."
- Plato, The Republic

"It is not possible to say truly at the same time that the same thing is and is not a man."
- Aristotle, Metaphysics

"Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned."
- Avicenna, Metaphysics

3. The Law of Excluded Middle (Everything must either be or not be.)

The Law of excluded middle is the principle that for any proposition, either that proposition is true, or its negation is.

"It is impossible, then, that 'being a man' should mean precisely 'not being a man', if 'man' not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance.... And it will not be possible to be and not to be the same thing, except in virtue of an ambiguity, just as if one whom we call 'man', and others were to call 'not-man'; but the point in question is not this, whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be a man in name, but whether it can be in fact."
- Aristotle, Metaphysics

"Every judgment is either true or false."
- Leibniz, New Essays

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Philosophy Does Not Satisfy

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

If the philosophies of men were able to satisfy man, why did the philosophers Justin and Origen become Christians? Why did Basil, Chrysostom and Gregory, who in Athens studying all the philosophy of the Greeks, receive baptism? And why did Blessed Augustine, who knew the wisdom of both the Greeks and the Romans, throw away all and seek salvation and illumination in the Faith of Christ? And St. Clement of Rome, who was very wealthy and very learned? And St. Katherine, who was from the royal house and knew all the worldly wisdom of the Egyptians? And the young Crown Prince Joasaph in India, to whom was known all the Indian philosophies? And many, many more who primarily sought explanations to the puzzles of the world and illumination for their souls in philosophy and, after that, entered the Church and worshipped the Lord Christ?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Paul Evdokimov on Existentialist Philosophy

By Paul Evdokimov

Existentialist philosophy appears more nostalgic than aggressive. Its pessimism seems to be deliberate. An aphorism of Heidegger expresses a certain virility in despair: “Man is a powerless god.”

Unquestionably all goes back to Kierkegaard and to his violent reaction against Hegelian rationalism. Hegel’s panlogic speculation introduces no harmony into the real, and it offers no salvation. Kierkegaard centered his very personal and very concrete reflection on the religious question: What must I make of myself? in other words, what must I do to be saved?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Myth of Byzantine Caesaropapism

The article below is a response to an article titled The Real Islam, Ctd which made the following statement: "You could argue, in fact, that Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as a state religion was an original sin from which Christianity has still not recovered."

Constantine And Christianity

February 1st, 2010
by Daniel Larison
The American Conservative

You could argue this, but it would have no basis in fact. This may seem a minor point, but the misunderstanding of Constantine’s relationship to Christianity is a common and very frustrating one. Regardless of what one thinks Constantine’s reasons for becoming first a patron of Christianity and then a convert may have been, it is very important to understand what his patronage and involvement did not entail. First of all, Christianity did not become a state religion under Constantine. Christianity became the emperor’s favored religion, and this meant a diversion of wealth away from pagan cults and towards the Church, but the religion did not achieve a distinct and higher legal status until considerably later.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"The Century of the Self" (4-part Documentary)

The Century of the Self is an award-winning British television documentary series by Adam Curtis. It focuses on how the work of Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud, and Edward Bernays influenced the way corporations and governments have analyzed,‭ dealt with, and controlled ‬people.

"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy." —Adam Curtis' introduction to the first episode.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Capitalism and the Spirit of the Church Fathers

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos 
of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlassios

Deification of money, hedonism and easy living are the things that prevail in the age we are living in.

The utilization and exploitation of money came to be developed within Protestant circles, within a morality that presumed money to be God’s blessing and the rich as those blessed by God. This topic has been expounded in detail by Max Weber in his widely-known classic, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. In it, he maintains that Capitalism, the rationalized utilization of money and life, are the result of all the principles that were developed by the various Protestant groups in Europe.

Specifically on the worth of money, Max Weber quotes the guidelines given by Benjamin Franklin, which we find in his books, Necessary Hints To Those That Would Be Rich and Advice to a Young Tradesman. In these books, Franklin advises:

"Remember that TIME is Money…Remember that CREDIT is Money…Remember that Money is of a prolific generating nature. Money can beget Money, and its Offspring can beget more, and so on... Remember this saying, that 'the good paymaster is lord of another man's purse'. He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the Money his friends can spare...."

This is the basic principle of the financial market that is nowadays undergoing a crisis.

Max Weber comments that man is governed by his thirst to acquire money - an acquisition that is expressed as a life objective. When asking himself why people must make money, Max Weber comments on the advice given to Benjamin Franklin by his strict Calvinist father and his reference to the Book of Proverbs: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings.” (Prov. 22:29). According to Weber, “The acquisition of money within the contemporary financial order is – if done legitimately – the result and the expression of virtue and progress in a profession, and this virtue and progress are – as can be easily surmised – the true alpha and omega of Franklin’s morality.”

This mentality of modern-day man is clearly capitalistic. It is observed in the West and it has influenced many, all over the planet. This is what contemporary, foreign theologians have observed, who have analyzed the respective teachings of the Holy Fathers of the Church.

* * *

Professor of the Pacific Lutheran University of Tacoma, Mrs.Brenda Ihssen, wrote two essays in which she analyzed this matter. The first is titled Usury, Hellenic Patrology and Overall Social Teaching, in which she touches on topics such as: “What do the patristic authors say about social morality?”, “Who are considered usurers?”, “What are the significant questions that should be posed that the researcher should be aware of when approaching a patristic, social-moral text?”, “Under what prerequisites or up to what point can patristic sources be regarded as contributing towards the overall social teaching?”. Within these central chapters we can we find many subdivisions, such as “The Prohibition of Usury in the Bible”, “the usurer as a threat to the community (mean, wild beast, liar, even murderer)”, “the spiritual indigence of the usurer”, usurers as “members of the community”, “if there are exceptions to lending”. She furthermore responds to three basic questions, such as:

“Do the texts of the Hellenic Fathers have any bearing on reality?”

“Are they interested in the texts having a bearing?”

“Is the presence of Hellenic-Roman matters incontestable?”

Her second essay is titled Basil and Gregory’s Sermons on Usury: Credit Where Credit Is Due. In it, she examines their motives for preoccupying themselves with the matter of usury; the influences they were subjected to by philosophers; the use of the Holy Bible with regard to the demand for interest, to usury as a form of stealing, to the turmoil caused by usury; to the images that are used to describe the usurer, and to the celestial “interest”.

At this point, I would like to present Brenda Ihssen’s Introduction, the Conclusion to her first study, and a basic excerpt from the central theme. And I regard this to be a good thing, inasmuch as she was born, raised and teaches in a University in America, where the exploitation of money is a science on its own.

In her Introduction, she writes:

“It is an undeniable ascertainment that the discussion of the moral repercussions of interest and usury no longer provokes the interest of the average citizen. Interest is not regarded as a problem, but a natural element of life. ‘We are happy to pay 4%, as long as we can buy the holiday pillows that the specialists insist we are in need of’. Unfortunately, millions of people on the planet are suffering at the hands of others, who are happy to keep them in poverty, through exorbitant and exhaustive compound interest.

"In my class, students wonder where the problem is if someone borrows money and pays it back with interest, if they are adults and are aware of what they are doing. It is my conviction that the problem lies in the fact that the 21st century holds grievous poverty, hunger, homelessness and deaths, for both debtors and their families. A further issue is the salvation of the usurer, whose acts cut him off from the sight of God.

"In antiquity, interest on loans was condemned in Jewish society, whereas it was considered a normal part of transactions in the Hellenic and Roman system (although it had not become fully accepted in the Hellenic system). Thus, although condemned by Plato (who considered it a “vulgar” thing), interest was regarded as fair compensation for the time and the risk that was undertaken by the lender. Inasmuch as the lender was unable to use the money he had loaned, interest is seen as a form of 'gratitude' for the time required for its return. 'Risk' meant that the lender may never see his money again, consequently, the larger the risk, the larger the compound interest would be.

"Nevertheless, for Hellenic Patrology, time and risk did not count. Any guarantee whatsoever against money loaned was regarded as dishonesty; any percentage above the principal loaned constituted usury. Even a one percent desire for profit placed one’s salvation in jeopardy.”

In a certain point of her text she mentions what bearing the Church Fathers’ teaching against usury had on reality. She writes:

“The excerpts that show our theologians as addressing acquaintances in their own community lead us to the conclusion that they are referring to a problem closely linked to the reality around them.

"As far as our age is concerned, I have to admit that they continue to have a bearing on reality, for the following reason: because each community continues to contain people who are willing to profit at anothers expense. Consequently, I believe that we can learn what these authors had to say about the results of greed within a community. Their writings also comprise a reflection of the ascetic ideal of theologians, for whom the chief importance of the text was the extraction of a moral meaning for implementation in current situations.

"Finally, all these theologians believe that money – whether someone possesses it or not, or whether someone loans it or not – constitutes an obstacle for one’s effective relationship with God" (page 5).

In her Conclusion, she writes:

“The virtue of offering is a continuous course that never reaches perfection. According to our theologians, he who gives instead of lending is distancing the obstacles that sin created; obstacles that do not allow people to have wholesome and maintainable relations between each other. True love desires to share whatever is its own, while true greed desires only whatever is to its own advantage. Usury represents the exact opposite of love, and in fact with a benevolent fa├žade. A self-serving Christian can assert that he has a right to lend money with interest – even with an exorbitant compound interest – firstly because it is legal, and secondly because a Christian is freed of the law. This is the same logic that the Apostle Paul had encountered in Corinth, where his response was 'everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial'.

"To summarize, the Hellenic Fathers regarded usury as something that is not moral, cannot be justified and is not beneficial. Contemporary authors maintain that the matter of usury is dead in our age, given that everyone lends and borrows with interest, without giving it a thought. I hope they are mistaken. Universal poverty is such that the matter of usury is significant to all those who contemplate on contemporary financial catastrophes that are brought about by unfair loan practices. Capitalism has subjugated human health and dignity to financial ends for far too long. As a topic, usury does not provoke discussions; poverty provokes them. We need to be deeply concerned about the evil that interest on loans inflicts on people, on families, on communities, on countries and – if our theologians are correct – even on the salvation of each and every one of us” (page 8).

* * *

We are living in an age where loaning – the official and legal one through banks – prevails and is somehow also regarded as moral. Many seek loans to acquire a house, to put their children through school, to afford a vacation, etc. In certain cases, like acquiring a house, one can say that loans are beneficial. In these cases, a fair society can be of help to those in need – without of course causing damage to those who aren’t. The science of political economics can balance out things, so that banks will benefit with measure, legitimately, but at the same time, those in need can be helped to solve the problems in their life without losing their freedom. If this is put into effect in a legal and fair manner, then it can function along the principle of brotherly love.

However, when lending is linked to hedonism, easy living, bliss, the quest for wealth, etc., then it cannot be acceptable. We need to address the issue and the passions that it cultivates, along with the overall mentality that it develops when our mind is fixed only on money and possessions and is not allowed to attend to other, more important matters.

We must stigmatize and cauterize usurers who exploit the anguish of their fellow-man and who remain unemotional in the presence of their misfortune.

The characterizations of the Fathers for these people are extremely weighty ones. In such cases, those who have money should practice philanthropy and provide interest-free loans to those who are in need of money for coping with the hardships of their life. Furthermore, according to contemporary reality, the hoarding of money in banks is considered a necessity and interest is something fair and legitimate. No one can deny such a logical possibility, especially for householders. However the crucial matter is that when bank savings are seen in the context of the passion of acquisition and avarice, and more so when charity and philanthropy are withheld and man’s hopes now hinge on money, and his faith in God’s Providence is cast out, then this cannot be justified by ecclesiastical morality.

Generally speaking, we should not increase our “needs”. We should not strive to live opulently; that way, we will not be forced to borrow money, because that is the way we will lose our freedom. A frugal life is a respectable life. Besides, “poor” is not the one who does not possess money, but mainly the one who generates the need for many “needs” and is obliged to borrow from banks and from people, and as a result, lose his freedom. The Holy Metropolis is frequently visited by people who have lost their fortunes and their homes on account of such loans.

The ascetic lifestyle, which also involves avoiding luxury and bliss, can benefit us in the present area also, so that we can preserve our spiritual freedom and our non-dependence on situations that literally subjugate us. In a capitalist society where everyone lives with the dream of money and reality shows, which is also what the various lotteries aspire to, we have a duty to live ascetically and to labour honestly and thus adhere to the word of the Gospel. And our mind should always be turned in the direction of the pre-fallen life of Man and to the eschatological life; in other words, in the words of Saint Gregory the Theologian, "to look not towards the pursuant division, but to the initial isonomy-equality".