HOMILY FOR THE NATIVITY OF THE HOLY THEOTOKOS
Grant me, O Lord, the power to glorify according to my ability and by the grace of God this great Christian feast – the Nativity of the Most-holy Virgin Mary, predestined by the Creator of ages to be the Mother of the Son of God in flesh.
Mentally I compare the two maidens: the virginal Eve, when she was first created, and the Most-holy Virgin and Ever-virgin Mary, the Mother of God.
The first maiden became the willful cause of universal sin, damnation, death, and all the misfortunes to which we are subjected even to this day and from which we suffer terribly; the second Maiden became, through God’s will, the cause of righteousness, blessing, and eternal life, which were showered upon us by God the Word, Who was born of Her in the flesh.
The first maiden was created from Adam’s rib for the sake of unity of mankind’s provenance from the same blood; the second Virgin – the cause of today’s celebration – was born from the faith, ardent prayer, and charity of old and barren parents, the righteous Joachim and Anna, in order to destroy sin, damnation, and death, for God the Word Who was born from Her did eliminate iniquitous sin among the faithful and expelled damnation and death, granting blessing and eternal life instead.
Such are the two antitheses – the progenitor of mankind Eve and the intercessor for Christians, the Holy Virgin Mary! Wondrous is God’s Providence in regard to mankind! Wondrous are the righteous people, who engender truth, peace, blessing, and eternal life in the world, and the first among them is the Holy Virgin Mary. Wondrous is also God’s mercy towards mankind in restoring it from the Fall. Through Her nativity the Holy Virgin Mary united God the Word with men, made divine our nature that had been rejected because of sin, and led mankind into contact with the angelic, bright, blessed world, thus helping humans become celestial denizens.
Through God the Word’s incarnation from the Holy Virgin, mankind became the recipient of countless boons from God, of which it could not even dream while it remained submerged in all the impurities of sin. From the Lord, Who had suffered voluntarily for the sins of the world, mankind received the font of baptism, salvific repentance, the all-enlightening Word of God that instructs us in piety; the Church has been founded, providing sanctified pastors; communion of the Body and Blood of Christ has been given, purifying us of all sin, renewing our nature corrupted by sin, and adorning and making fragrant the humble and believing souls.
Man’s salvation has been made dependent upon faith, repentance, and man’s good deeds, while without faith in Christ, God’s Lamb, Who has taken upon Himself the sins of the world, and without earnest and fruitful repentance it is impossible to be saved; for this reason, too, the faithful have been given an All-powerful Intercessor – the Holy Virgin.
Let us ponder the meaning of our feasts and let us raise our minds and hearts upwards – to God, to heaven, to our homeland on high.
HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF THE LORD’S PROPHET
AND FORERUNNER, ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
Today is a lesser Great Friday, a second Great Friday. For today has been killed the greatest of all people born of woman – the holy Forerunner of the Lord, St. John the Baptist. On this day of a holy and great feast people have the greatest one of all people. It is not I who am saying “the greatest.” What are my praises to the great and glorious John the Baptist worth, when the Lord’s lips have glorified him more than anyone among men, more than any of the apostles, or angels, or prophets, or righteous ones, or wise men. For the Lord’s lips have issued the following words about him: “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). There is no greater praise in the universe.
Thus today is a lesser Great Friday. Look at how insane people are killing the greatest one among the righteous. Does he inconvenience them? Yes, he inconveniences the lecherous King Herod and the depraved Herodias. God’s truth and God’s veracity inconvenience the iniquitous, inconvenience the poor sinners, inconvenience all who are in the grip of their passions. Look, even today do not Christ’s enemies cry out: crucify, crucify Him? Even today do not Christ’s enemies demand the head of Jesus from Nazareth? And since they demand His head, of course they also demand the head of John the Baptist.
What is this? Has this world turned upside down? People do not want God, do not want the greatest Righteous One in this world. Yes, when people lose their minds from pride, when they lose their reason from egoism, then they have no need of God, then they have no need of God’s truth. They declare themselves to be gods. They declare their trite, earthly, corrupt semblances of truth to be the greatest truths, for they reckon they have no need of Christ’s Truth, they do not want God’s truth. Yes, people with blind minds and blind souls do not see and do not wish to see that in this world man, genuine man, cannot live without God. Why? Because the world is full of Herods, full of Pharisees. The Herods demand the head of St. John the Baptist, the Herods demand the head of all righteous people in the world, while the deceitful Pharisees, the deceitful sages of this world, demand the death of Christ, the Son of God.
Yes, today’s feast is a second Great Friday. Why? Because there is no greater crime than that committed on the day of Great Friday and that committed now, when Herod destroyed the greatest among them that are born of women. Why did the Saviour so glorify St. John the Baptist among all other people? Why? Because, brethren, the holy Forerunner encompassed within himself, within his personality, all the virtues of heaven, the virtues of all the prophets, all the apostles, all the martyrs, all the heavenly angels, all the confessors. Today we celebrate the beheading of the first apostle among the holy apostles, for the Lord’s Forerunner was the first one sent by God to see the Saviour of the world and to announce Him to the world. Long before Apostle Peter, before Apostle Nathaniel, before all the others he testified and announced to the world the God Who became incarnate and appeared as the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the first apostle to see the Holy Spirit descending from heaven upon Jesus Christ, when he baptized Him in Jordan and declared Him to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. He is also the first evangelist among the evangelists. He was the first to indicate to the world the Bearer of all glad tidings for mankind – the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Gospel of heaven and earth, the Gospel of God for the people of this world. – “Here is the Lamb of God, Who takes upon Himself the sin of the world.” In just a few words the Forerunner stated the entire Gospel.
Looking towards the east, he told all of mankind, from Adam to our days:
”Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The Kingdom of Heaven? Here it is – the Lord Jesus from heaven. Within Him is the Heavenly Kingdom. Looking to the west and seeing people drowning in sins and death, he cried out to them too: “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He looked to the north and the south – the same people, all servants of sin, servants of death, servants of the devil. To all of them he announced the glorious, holy, and salvific Gospel: “Repent ye, people, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He was such an Evangelist, having such great power!
When the Lord began to preach His Gospel, to preach with power, He took these words as the beginning of His Gospel. From that time Jesus began to preach and to say: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). Thus the holy Forerunner is the very first Evangelist among Christ’s evangelists.
Today people have seen an Angel in the flesh – an earthly Angel and a heavenly man – St. John the Baptist. Not only did the Old Testament prophet call the Forerunner an angel of the Lord, but the Lord Himself said that this is an Angel sent before Him to prepare the way for Him (Isaiah 40:3; Matt. 11:10). Not only a prophet, said the Saviour about the Forerunner, but even greater than a prophet – an Angel of the Lord. And it is such a one whom people do not want, whom they try to expel from this world! Thus, the holy Forerunner is truly the first Angel in the flesh among the future multitude of angels in the flesh, God’s shining lights, who lived on this earth as heavenly angels, and were angels on earth, and then in heaven they live on as people of God, holy people.
Today we celebrate the great feast of the first one among New Testament prophets. He announced to the people that the Lord Jesus Christ appears to the world not only as a Saviour, but also as a Sanctifier and a Judge of the world. In His hands are both the axe and the shovel: the Lord will purge the earthly field on the day of the Last Judgment and will part the wheat from the chaff, the righteous from the sinners. All of this was foreseen by the great and glorious prophet, the Forerunner of the Lord. For this reason we glorify him today as a holy New Testament prophet, murdered by the iniquitous and criminal King Herod.
The holy Forerunner was affirmed by the Lord as being the greatest among those born of woman also because he became the first New Testament martyr among all other holy martyrs. Look at how he suffered for God’s truth in this world! Suffered with great joy! Today’s main hymn and prayer to the saint mention that he suffered, rejoicing, and went to his death, rejoicing. And with this he became the first example and the first inspiration for all the holy New Testament martyrs, from the first martyr Stephen to this day. All holy martyrs go to their death rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ, go to their death knowing that death cannot hold them in its fetters, knowing that for their holy souls death is simply a door – an open door into the Heavenly Kingdom. How else, dear brethren, can we explain the joy of the holy great-martyr George, when his body was being torn apart, his bones were being crushed in a wheel, and yet he joyfully cried out to the Lord, for he saw Him, saw God’s angels standing around Him, and the angels stopped the wheel. Look at the joy in this terrible torture, especially when afterwards the holy great-martyr arose and stood whole and unharmed before the godless Emperor Diocletian. The first discoverer of the joy of martyrdom was the holy Forerunner of the Lord, St. John the Baptist.
Today we similarly glorify the first confessor of the Gospel and Christianity, the first confessor of God in this New Testament world. Look at how fearlessly he spoke and preached God’s truth face-to-face: “King, you should not have the wife of your brother, your living brother. You have taken your brother’s wife away from him. All the laws of heaven and earth are against you, and I, I am telling you these laws of heaven and earth, because that is why I have been sent. King, you cannot have your brother’s wife.” He was fearless as a lion, fearless as a cherubim in the flesh. Thus he was the first confessor of Christ’s faith, and after him came hosts of glorious confessors of Christ in this world, – confessors attesting to and affirming before the entire world, before the east and the west, the north and the south – that the Lord Christ is the One true God in heaven and earth. And despite all persecutions, all the falsehoods of those who try to rebel against Christ in this world, despite all heresies, despite all God’s enemies, despite all Christ’s persecutors, – they are the fearless conquerors of all, and their host is immeasurable, beginning with the holy Forerunner and to this day. They affirm and declare this truth to the entire universe. Christ is before all and above all! He is the One True God.
Yes, the holy Baptist is the first Christian confessor, and thousands and thousands of glorious confessors of Christ in this world streamed after him as after a helmsman.
My dear brethren, a great mystery permeates this feast, just as threads run through a piece of material and make it up. You have heard in today’s Gospel reading: the disciples tell the Saviour that the Forerunner has been beheaded. The lips that have been announcing Thee to the world, Lord, have become silenced! What now? Who are we in comparison to Thy great Baptist? The Lord remains silent. And, inexplicably, He calls His disciples and retreats with them into the desert. What is this? Is the Lord fleeing, is He fleeing from Herod? Look – He, the all-merciful Miracle-worker, gazing upon the unfortunate widowed mother, resurrects her son, who is unknown to anyone except the mother and Himself. But now, Lord, Thy Forerunner is lying dead, murdered, and why dost Thou not resurrect him? Thou hast resurrected the daughter of Jairus, the head of the synagogue. But now the one whom Thou hast called the greatest among those born of woman has been beheaded by the iniquitous king. Lord, preserve Thy Truth, defend Thy first apostle, Thy first martyr, first evangelist, first Angel in the flesh, first prophet, first confessor. Resurrect him! But the Saviour remains silent, goes away into the desert, and prays to God. Why, Lord?
Because the holy Forerunner must also become the first apostle in hell, in the kingdom of death, whither were bound the souls of all the people from Adam to the time of the Saviour’s coming into this world. In this kingdom of death, called hell, i.e. an impenetrable place, where no one sees anyone else, in this kingdom of death were all the people – both the righteous and the sinners – all the Old Testament people before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sin brought death into the world, into man’s environment. And the kingdom of death was the sole abode of human souls after their physical death in this world. The Forerunner was due to also become the Forerunner in hell, in the kingdom of death, in order to preach to the souls of all the people: Behold, He for Whom you have been waiting, Whom you so eagerly wished to see, has come down to earth. Behold all of you, righteous ones: Moses, Abraham, David, all the holy prophets and saints. He has come down to earth as a man, as a Saviour, and He works such miracles as all of you together have never seen. His glance heals all illnesses, His word resurrects from all deaths, His voice expels demons from all those who are possessed. Truly the Saviour of the world has come down to earth, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so I am coming before Him, in order to bring you these wonderful tidings, these joyful tidings: He will also come down here to us. In a little while He will descend and you will see Him. You will see His human soul, all filled with God and shining with an eternal light.
The holy Forerunner appeared in the kingdom of death as the first evangelist, in order to preach Christ’s Gospel to all the souls in the kingdom of death. He also appeared before them as the first martyr, in order to show them how people will joyfully go unto death for the true God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, until death is vanquished and trampled upon. They will not be afraid of death, because they will be mightier than it. The Lord will grant victory over death of the body by the resurrection of His own body. And so the glorious Forerunner entered the kingdom of death as the Forerunner of all Christ’s confessors in the world and all true prophets in the world, in order to announce to all the souls in the kingdom of death: Behold, death is conquered, the demons are vanquished, the kingdom of death shall be destroyed when the Lord appears here in a brief while. And you shall be led out of this horror into celestial joy, into the heavenly world.
And for this reason the Lord remained silent, for this reason He did not resurrect the greatest one among those born of woman, for the latter had to perform his apostolic, his evangelical, his martyric, his confessor’s endeavor in hell, in the kingdom of death.
Thus for us, Christians, this day is similar to Great Friday. And just as the Resurrection comes for the Saviour after His Great Friday, so does the Forerunner joyously embrace death, for he sees the victory over death and knows that for him, too, the Lord has prepared eternal life and resurrection from the dead on the day of the Last Judgment.
When the Lord was crucified, He descended with His human soul into hell, into the nether world, into the kingdom of death. His body lay in the sepulcher, while with His Divine soul He descended into the kingdom of death. And how amazed were all human souls in hell, when they beheld God in a human soul that was glittering with an indescribable light totally unimaginable to man. Who would not believe in Him, who? Especially since He appears in the kingdom of death so entirely filled with Eternal Truth and Eternal Life. He appears as the conqueror of death. And since the kingdom of death was unable to hold the God Who was contained within Christ’s soul, was unable to restrain God in its hands, it fell apart because of Christ’s Divinity, because of His holy soul, which contained God Himself. And so the Lord led out of the kingdom of death all those who had believed the Forerunner’s words and had come to believe in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the true God in heaven and earth.
The Lord led them out of hell and led them into the Heavenly Kingdom. It is for this reason that the Lord Jesus Christ did not resurrect the holy Forerunner, St. John the Baptist.
Today, in glorifying this great and glorious first apostle, first martyr, first evangelist, and the Forerunner of all true Christians from the beginning of time, we venerate his joyous suffering for Christ’s truth and his preaching, his apostolic endeavor, his holy martyrdom. Behold, it is now almost two thousand years that the one who allowed the iniquitous king to behead him works countless miracles in the world, living in it together with the Lord Jesus Christ. For two thousand years he continuously performs miracles of all the souls who appeal to him with prayer.
Dear brethren, when you are in great sorrow, turn to this great apostle of Christ, and he will help you in all your difficulties. And if some misfortune occurs, turn to this first evangelist. No matter what bitterness may overcome your soul, he will sweeten it with Christ’s grace, which he will send mysteriously from the heavenly world into your tired soul. And when you are amid the temptations and horrors of this earthly life, appeal to this holy confessor, tell him what is in your heart, pour out your sorrows and spiritual needs, and you can be sure that he will come into your soul in a mysterious and divine manner and will save you, will deliver you from all temptations and misfortunes. But if you are due to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ in this world: you are being attacked on all sides by the ungodly and the anti-Christians, who want to devour you, destroy you for being Christ’s, who want to silence you when you speak of Christ – then think of him, the first martyr, and call out to him: O holy martyr, O first evangelical martyr for Christ, hasten to my aid! Grant that I, too, may die for the Lord Jesus Christ, may discard this body like unwanted clothes, and may move forward into Christ’s kingdom along the path of holy martyrdom! And he will intercede with the Lord for you to enter the ranks of the saints. Thus today’s lesser Great Friday turns into great paschal joy for us. The Friday is lesser, but the resurrection is great – the resurrection of all Christians of all ages. And for all of us today: for me, and for you, and for each current Christian today’s Great Friday is also a resurrection, for we glorify the holy Forerunner, St. John the Baptist, who is eternally alive in heaven – we glorify how he conquered the death brought upon him by Herod, and how he ascended into the celestial world, in order to be the first one, after the Holy Mother of God, to stand alongside the Lord Jesus Christ. You have seen the icon called “Deisis”: the Lord sits on the throne of glory as a Heavenly King, while on His right side is the Holy Mother of God and on his left is the holy Forerunner. Both of them pray to Him on behalf of mankind.
O, may the Baptist’s holy prayers ascend today, and tomorrow, and always; may they ascend for all of us, Christians, and for all the people in this world, that the Lord bring all of them to repentance, show mercy to all of us, save all of them, that all the people, led by the glorious Forerunner, forever venerate the One True God in heaven and on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due honor and glory now and ever, and unto all age of ages. Amen.
(Homily of St. Justin Popovich, leading Serbian theologian of the 20th century.)
THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE SEVENTH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL
Today, dear brethren, the Church commemorates the Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council. At different times throughout the year the Holy Fathers of the other six councils are likewise commemorated. The Church has decreed that the ecumenical councils be remembered, first of all, in order to honor the great Church Fathers, who, guided by the Holy Spirit, have labored so earnestly to cleanse the Church of iniquitous heresies and to restore the truth of Church dogmas. But that is not the only reason. It is also very important for us not to forget the work of the ecumenical councils because, although all the heresies that were examined at the councils were absolutely condemned by the Holy Fathers, these heresies have not disappeared from church life.
These heresies exist among us even today, the sole difference being that, on a par with the microbes and viruses which have so proliferated in our surrounding physical environment, these heresies have mutated, have adapted themselves to current times, have taken on contemporary forms. It is, therefore, very important for us, while appreciating the fact that we are within the true Church, and remembering the efforts of the Holy Fathers in this matter, to acquaint ourselves with the heresies which the Fathers had condemned, and to try to discern them in our contemporary life, in order to avoid being ensnared by them.
The Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council, whom we commemorate today, condemned the heresy of iconoclasm. This heresy originated in the early 8th century, when the Greek Emperor Leo III decreed that all holy icons be taken out of the churches and homes, and burned in the city squares. The decree was motivated by a false belief that the veneration of icons was a form of idolatry. When the people began to resist this decree, to the persecution of icons Emperor Leo added the persecution of their venerators, and many of the faithful were tortured and killed at that time. Nevertheless, the people continued to revolt against the Emperor’s decree, and prominent theologians of those times wrote from all sides, denouncing Emperor Leo: as, for example, St. John Damascene from Syria and Pope Gregory II from Rome.
After the death of Emperor Leo, his son and successor, Constantine Copronimus, continued the iconoclastic efforts of his father, but decided to try a different approach. He convoked a false council, at which the clergy that he had set up condemned the veneration of icons. As a result of this false council not only did icons continue to be destroyed, but also priceless frescoes on the walls of famous cathedrals were plastered over. From persecution of icons Constantine turned to a persecution of holy relics, and then to a persecution of monasteries, which were all either destroyed or turned into barracks, while all the monks were brutally martyred.
The heresy of iconoclasm continued practically throughout the 8th century, and only towards the end of it, during the reign of the pious Empress Irene, the veneration of icons was restored. Through the efforts of the Empress, backed by the Patriarch of Constantinople Tarasius, the 7th Ecumenical Council, attended by more than 300 bishops, was convoked in A.D. 787. The council fully condemned the heresy of iconoclasm, condemned the false council that had been convoked by Copronimus, and triumphantly restored the veneration of icons by establishing the principle that in honoring icons we honor and venerate those who are depicted on them.
Centuries passed, dear brethren, and iconoclasm seemed to be a thing of the past, but in the 20th century it raged anew with great force in the Christian countries that had been subjugated by godless Communism. And once again one could see icons being burned, churches and monasteries being destroyed and defiled, the clergy and the faithful being martyred.
But now everything appears to be quiet again, and it seems that this heresy has finally disappeared for good, since nowhere apparently are holy icons being destroyed, nor is anyone being martyred for venerating them. And yet, dear brethren, iconoclasm continues to live on, it has not disappeared, it is alive and active, it has simply changed its form. For the devil is quite cunning: he has seen that open persecution of icons simply engenders martyrdom, which does not suit his plans at all. And so he has decided upon a different approach. Instead of suppressing the veneration of icons, he has decided to replace this veneration with another kind of worship.
This is in accordance with the same principle on which the Antichrist will operate. In Greek the word “anti” not only means “against,” but also “in place of.” Thus, after appearing in the world, the Antichrist will not only act against Christ, but also instead of Christ, i.e. he will set himself up in Christ’s place. The devil has applied the same method to iconoclasm: instead of struggling against icons, he has put forth other objects of worship in place of icons.
What are these anti-icons which we see around us, dear brethren? Regard: in the majority of contemporary homes you will rarely see true icons – icons of the Saviour, of the Theotokos, of the saints. At best, and only in the homes of the faithful, somewhere in the corner, in accordance with ancient custom, you will see one small icon, which often, moreover, embarrasses us in front of visitors of different faiths. But in the majority of homes, particularly in the rooms of young people, you will surely find pictures of rock singers, actors, and other contemporary idols. Even in modern technology computer images are called “icons.” It is these anti-icons which the devil slips to us in the place of true icons. And the same principle applies in this case: in honoring these images we honor those who are depicted on them. Thus it turns out that instead of God we worship idols. So cunningly has the devil ensnared us!
Dear brethren! Let us reject these anti-icons of the anti-religion of the coming Antichrist. And, in commemorating today the Holy Fathers of the 7th council, those great fighters for the true veneration of icons, let us follow their example: let us restore the veneration of icons in our hearts, in our lives, in our homes. Let us come to church, where the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, the saints – all look upon us so tenderly, where we can communicate with them directly by venerating their images. And in our homes let us, without any embarrassment, hang up in the most prominent places icons of the Saviour, the Theotokos, various saints – who protect us from evil, guard our homes, look after us; with whom we can always “converse” by means of prayer, share our joys and our sorrows, ask for help; so that even when we are alone at home, we are never lonely. Thus, through the veneration of icons, let us communicate with the heavenly dwellers, so that we, too, may someday become denizens of the heavenly realm. Amen.
Homily on the ecclesiastical New Year
Today, dear brethren, we celebrate the ecclesiastical New Year. This holiday is totally different from its civil counterpart. In celebrating the civil New Year we mark the passage of a certain period of time. There, new year after new year carries us inexorably forward, as though along a horizontal line.
Along this line life constantly changes: people are born, grow old, and die; the same happens with entire nations and even civilizations. Everything moves ahead – both time and life on earth; everything proceeds towards its end – the life of each individual and the existence of humanity in general. In accordance with one of the basic principles of nature, life on earth consists of a constant and inexorable decay of everything and everybody, until the time when, according to God’s prophecy, “the earth and all the deeds thereon shall be burned… and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.”
The ecclesiastical New Year is quite different. There we see not a horizontal line, but a circle. This circle is continuously renewed and never changes, and with its constancy and immutability it gives us – in our earthly life, which is so severely bound up with time, with the movement of time, – this circle gives us stability, gives us a chance to experience eternity, where everything is constant and immutable.
Let us look at the essence of this circle and why the Church commemorates its constant renewal. The celebration of the ecclesiastical New Year was established by the Holy Fathers at the first ecumenical council in A.D. 325. At that time, under the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great, Christianity became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire. Thus, in celebrating its New Year, the Church commemorates the beginning of freedom for Christianity, and also the advent of a new period of grace and of “the favorable year of the Lord.”
The words “favorable year of the Lord” are taken from the following event, described by St. Luke the Evangelist: during His life on earth, the Lord Jesus Christ once entered a synagogue and stood among the teachers. It was customary among Jews to have one of the teachers read a certain passage from the Old Testament books and then to explain that which had been read.
On that day Christ was given the book of the prophet Isaiah, and opening the book, He found and read the following passage: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to give joy to the sorrowful and to preach the favorable year of the Lord.” Closing the book and giving it back to the minister, Jesus then began to say to them that the prophecy which He had read has been fulfilled in Him, that He is the true Messiah, Who has been sent by God the Father for the salvation of man and the renewal of life on earth.
Today, as every year, dear brethren, that is what we celebrate: the advent of the favorable year of the Lord, i.e. a period of time, a year during which we commemorate all the events of Christ’s life on earth and the establishment of His Church, beginning in chronological order with the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Mary and ending with Her Dormition, which have the purpose – as Christ Himself said – of saving mankind and renewing life on earth.
The new ecclesiastical year begins anew that constant and immutable circle in which we spiritually live and find salvation. This circle comprises God’s entire plan of creation, i.e. the design whereby the Lord God has achieved the salvation of man after his Fall, and has not only reinstated man’s former dignity, but more than that – through His Son’s incarnation as man, God has made man part of Himself.
Beginning the new ecclesiastical year today, the new circle of salvation, let us look, dear brethren, at the life around us. We have mentioned many times already that the forces of evil are attempting to destroy our planet and all of humanity. Even here we see evidence of their efforts. What is our life today? It is a whirlpool in which we twist and turn in a constant rush, under constant pressure, and we hurry and hurry… where? Towards eternal life? Not at all! We never even think about eternal life. No, we are whirling and turning and hurrying… nowhere. We are locked into a vicious circle of a constant and completely fruitless rush. The devil is robbing us of time and is locking us into this futile circle, so that we would have no time to stop and think: to think about God, about eternal life, about the salvation of our souls.
As we begin the new ecclesiastical year, let us renew ourselves, dear brethren; let us try to reject Satan’s wiles and leave the vicious circle of busyness; let us try to enter the quiet, dependable, and joyful circle of church life, which will lead us to eternal life. Amen.
ORTHODOX VENERATION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
VI. “Zeal not in accord with reason”
The Roman Catholics’ distortion of the true veneration of the Most-holy Theotokos Virgin Mary by means of the newly-invented dogma of the “immaculate conception.”
When all those who denigrated the Holy Virgin’s chaste life disallowed Her eternal virginity, rejected Her merit as the Mother of God, and disdained Her icons were denounced, – at a time when the glory of the Theotokos shone throughout the entire world, – there appeared a teaching which supposedly elevated the Virgin Mary, yet in reality rejected all Her virtues.
This teaching is called the teaching on the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception, which was accepted by successors of the Roman papal throne. It comprises the belief that “from the first moment of Her conception, by the special grace of the Almighty God and by special privilege, and for the sake of the future merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, the Most-blessed Virgin Mary was preserved free of all the iniquity of original sin” (papal bull of Pope Pius IX on the new dogma). In other words, the Mother of God was preserved from original sin at Her very conception, and by the grace of God it was made impossible for Her to have personal sins as well.
Christians did not hear of this until the 9th century, when for the first time Abbot Paschasius Radbert expressed the opinion that the Holy Virgin was conceived without original sin. Beginning with the 12th century this idea began to spread among the clergy and flock of the Western Church, which had already fallen away from the Universal Christian Church, becoming thus deprived of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, by far not all members of the Catholic Church were in agreement with the new teaching. Even the most famous Western theologians, pillars of the Catholic Church so-to-speak, were divided in their opinion. Thomas of Aquinas and Bernard of Clervaux rejected it decisively, while Duns Scotus defended it. The division spread from the teachers to their disciples: the Dominican monks followed their teacher Thomas of Aquinas and preached against the teaching on immaculate conception, while the followers of Duns Scotus – the Franciscan monks – tried to disseminate it everywhere. The battle between these two movements continued over the course of several centuries. On both sides stood individuals who were regarded by the Catholics as the greatest authorities.
The issue was not brought any nearer to resolution by the fact that some people reported receiving revelations from above. The well-known among 14th century Catholics nun Brigitte spoke in her notes about visions of the Holy Theotokos, Who purportedly told her Herself that She was conceived immaculately, without original sin; while the even more famous contemporary saint, Catherine of Sienna, asserted that the Holy Virgin was conceived in original sin, which revelation she supposedly received from Christ Himself.
Thus, neither on the basis of theological theses, nor on the basis of mutually-contradictory miraculous visions was the Catholic flock able to decide for a long time wherein lay the truth. The Roman popes up to Sixtus IV (end of the 15th century) stayed away from these arguments, and only this Pope approved in 1475 a service wherein the teaching on immaculate conception was expressed fairly clearly, while several years later he forbad the condemnation of those who believed in immaculate conception. However, even Sixtus IV was not yet resolved to affirm that such is the immovable teaching of the Church, and thus, while forbidding the condemnation of those who believed in immaculate conception, he also did not judge those who believed otherwise.
Meanwhile, the teaching on immaculate conception gained more and more adepts among members of the Roman Papist church. The reason for this was that it seemed quite pious and pleasing to the Theotokos to glorify Her as much as possible. The people’s desire to glorify the Heavenly Intercessor on the one hand, and the digression of Western theologians into abstract discussions leading to seeming truth (scholasticism) on the other hand, and, finally, the patronage of the Roman popes who succeeded Sixtus IV, – all of this led to a situation whereby the idea of immaculate conception, postulated by Paschasius Radbert in the 9th century, became a universal belief of the Catholic Church in the 19th century. It only remained to conclusively proclaim it as Church teaching, which was done by Pope Pius IX, who announced during a ceremonious service on December 8, 1854 that the Holy Virgin’s immaculate conception was a dogma of the Catholic Church.
Thus the Roman Church added yet another digression from the teaching which it had confessed while it was a member of the Holy Apostolic Church, and which belief the Orthodox Church continues to hold inviolate and unchanged to this day. The declaration of the new dogma satisfied the wide circle of people who belonged to the Catholic Church, who in the simplicity of their hearts believed that the declaration of the new teaching would serve to the greater glory of the Theotokos, Whom they were supposedly presenting with a gift; the vanity of the Western theologians who had defended and developed this teaching was also satisfied; but most of all the declaration of the new dogma brought benefit to the papal throne itself, because by proclaiming a new dogma through his own power, the Catholic pope thus openly ascribed to himself the right to change the teaching of the Roman Church and placed himself above the testimony of the Holy Scriptures and Tradition. This led to the direct conclusion that the Roman popes are infallible in matters of faith, which the same Pope Pius IX also declared to be a dogma of the Catholic Church in 1870.
Thus was altered the teaching of the Western Church, which fell away from communion with the True Church. It continues to introduce new and new precepts, thinking in this manner to glorify Truth the more, while actually distorting it. While the Orthodox Church humbly confesses the teaching it had received from Christ and the Apostles, the Roman Church dares to supplement it, either from “zeal not in accord with reason” (Romans 10:2) or digressing into the vain babblings and oppositions of false reason (1 Tim. 4:20). It could not be otherwise, for only to the true and universal Church has it been promised that “the gates of hell would not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18), while the following words apply to those who have fallen away: “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me” (John 15:4).
It is true that in defining the new dogma it was stated that it is not a new teaching that is being established, but only an existing one that is being formalized in the Church; moreover, one which had been professed by many Holy Fathers, excerpts from whose writing were set forth. However, all the cited references speak only of the Virgin Mary’s great honor and chastity, give Her many appellations defining Her purity and spiritual strength, but nowhere do they mention an immaculate conception. Meanwhile, the same Holy Fathers elsewhere speak of the fact that only Jesus Christ was entirely free of sin; all people, being born of Adam, had a body that was subject to the law of sin.
None of the Holy Fathers say that God miraculously purified the Virgin Mary while She was still in the womb, while many of them indicate directly that the Virgin Mary, like all other people, underwent a struggle against sinfulness, but was victorious over all temptations and was thus saved by Her Divine Son.
Roman Catholic theologians also say that the Virgin Mary was saved by Christ, but they understand it to mean that Mary was preserved from the impurity of original sin on the basis of Christ’s future merit (papal bull on the dogma of immaculate conception). According to their teaching the Virgin Mary supposedly received in advance the gift which Christ brought to mankind by His suffering and death on the cross. Even more than that, speaking of the anguish experienced by the Theotokos as She stood at the cross of Her beloved Son, and of the sorrows which filled the life of the Mother of God in general, they regard them as a supplement to Christ’s suffering and Mary as our co-redeemer. According to the Roman Catholic theologians, in the matter of our redemption the Virgin Mary stands next to Christ Himself and is elevated almost to an equal status with God. One cannot go any further. Even if this has not yet been officially formulated as a dogma of the Catholic Church, nevertheless Pope Pius IX, having taken the first step, has indicated the direction towards further development of this universally-acknowledged belief of his Church.
Thus, in its attempt to glorify the Most-holy Virgin, the Roman Catholic Church goes along the path of Her full deification, and if at present the Catholic authorities regard Mary as an adjunct to the Holy Trinity, then we may soon see a time when the Virgin will be worshipped as God.
This same path was chosen by a group of religious thinkers, who thus far belong to the Orthodox Church, but who are constructing a new theological system based upon the philosophical teaching on Wisdom – Sophia – as a special force which unites Divinity and creation. In likewise developing a teaching on the dignity of the Mother of God, they wish to see in Her a being that is somewhere between God and man. On some issues they are more moderate than the Roman Catholic theologians, while on others they have, perhaps, even exceeded them. While rejecting the teaching on immaculate conception and freedom from original sin, they nevertheless teach of Her complete freedom from all personal sin, seeing Her as an intermediary between men and God, comparable to Christ. This striving to deify the Mother of God can be observed primarily in the west, where at the same time, on the other hand, great success is enjoyed by various Protestant sects, together with the main branches of Protestantism – Lutheranism and Calvinism, which completely reject any veneration of the Mother of God and prayerful appeals to Her.
But in the words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus: “There is equal harm in both these heresies, the one that denigrates the Virgin and the one that, on the contrary, glorifies Her beyond measure.” The Holy Father denounces those who glorify Her as divinity: “Mary should be honored, while the Lord should be worshipped.” “It is not meet to venerate saints beyond measure, but one should worship their Master. Mary is not God and did not receive a body from heaven, but according to God’s promise has been elected to take part in God’s universal design. On the other hand, however, no one should dare to denigrate the Holy Virgin either.”
The Orthodox Church, while lauding the Theotokos highly in its hymns, does not dare ascribe to Her that which has not been reported of Her in the Holy Writ or Tradition. “Truth is far from any exaggeration or understatement: to all things it allots an appropriate measure and an appropriate place” (St. Ignaty Bryanchaninov). In glorifying the purity of the Virgin Mary and Her courageous endurance of sorrows in Her earthly life, the Holy Fathers nevertheless reject the idea that She was an intermediary between God and men in terms of a joint redemption of mankind. Speaking of Her readiness to die together with Her Son and to suffer with Him for universal salvation, the famous Father of the western Church, St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, adds: “But Christ’s suffering was not in need of any aid, as the Lord Himself had forecast it way in advance.” The same Holy Father teaches of the universality of original sin, whose only exception is Christ. “Of all those born of women there is not a single absolutely perfect person safe the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the special new means of immaculate birth, did not undergo any earthly corruption.” “God alone is without sin. All those who are born of wife and husband, i.e. from a physical union, are subject to sin. Consequently, whoever has no sin was not conceived in the regular manner.” “Only one person, the Mediator between God and men, is free of the fetters of sinful birth, because He was born of a Virgin, and because, while being born, He did not receive any adjunct of sinfulness.”
The above-cited words of ancient Church teachers confirm that even in the West the teaching that is now being spread there was previously rejected. Even after the falling away of the western Church, one of its greatest authorities, Bernard, wrote:
“I am horrified to see that some of you have now desired to change the state of extremely important things, introducing a new celebration that is not known to the Church, not approved by reason, and not justified by ancient tradition. Are we really more knowledgeable and more pious than our fathers?… You will say that we must glorify the Mother of God to the fullest extent possible. That is true. However, the glorification accorded to the Queen of Heaven requires some differentiation. This regal Virgin does not need false glorification, since She possesses a true crown of glory and a scepter of dignity. Glorify rather the purity of Her flesh and the sanctity of Her life; be amazed at the multitude of gifts in this Virgin; worship Her Divine Son; laud the One Who conceived without lust and gave birth without pain. What else should be added to these merits? It is said that we should venerate the conception which preceded the glorious nativity; for if the conception did not come first, then the nativity would not have been glorified. But what could be said if someone demanded that the father and mother of the holy Mary be honored for the same reason? The same could equally be demanded for all the forefathers ad infinitum. Let it not be said that the Holy Virgin was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not of man; I firmly assert that the Holy Spirit descended upon Her, but did not come into the world with Her.”
“I am telling you that the Virgin Mary could not have been sanctified before Her conception because She did not yet exist; and since neither could She have been sanctified at the moment of Her conception due to original sin that is inseparably connected with all conception, one is left to believe that She was sanctified after being conceived in Her mother’s womb. This sanctification, by destroying sin, makes holy Her nativity and not Her conception. No one has been given the right to be conceived in holiness. Only the Lord Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and He alone was sanctified from His very conception. Except for Him, to all other descendants of Adam apply the words that one of them has said of himself, in all humility and awareness of truth: ‘Behold, I was conceived in iniquity’ (Psalms 51:5). How can one expect this conception to be holy, when it did not come from the Holy Spirit, not to mention the fact that it came from lust? The Holy Virgin will obviously reject the glory that, apparently, glorifies sin; She will never justify an innovation established counter to the teaching of the Church, an innovation that is the mother of imprudence, the sister of disbelief, and the daughter of levity.”
The above-mentioned words clearly reveal both the novelty and the absurdity of the Roman Catholic Church’s new dogma.
(To be continued)
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On October 19th (the 6th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the holy Apostle Thomas.
Apostle Thomas was one of the 12 apostles and was called Didymus (the twin). Little is known to us of his life. He was apparently distinguished by several character traits, among which stood out a penchant for doubt in matters of faith, which was particularly exhibited after the Saviour’s resurrection. The majestically moving description in the Gospel of John (20:20-29) tells us of how the resurrected Saviour appeared to His disciples, gathered behind closed doors together with Thomas, who was doubting His resurrection, and allowed him to thrust his hand into His side and to feel His wounds. “Be not faithless, but believing,” – the Lord then said to Him. “My Lord and my God!” – was Thomas’s exultant reply. But earlier, in the Gospel of John, the holy Apostle Thomas is singled out twice among the other disciples, namely: when Jesus Christ declared His intention to go to Judea together with His disciples, in order to resurrect Lazarus, Thomas said to the others: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (11:16). Another time, when the Lord said to His disciples during His farewell talk with them before His suffering: “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know,” Thomas said to Him: “Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?” (14:4-5). According to tradition the holy Apostle Thomas preached the Gospel in India and was martyred there. On the shores of Malabar in India there still remains a considerable number of Christians who call themselves St. Thomas’s Christians. Apostle Thomas is also commemorated on the first Sunday after Pascha, which is consequently called the Sunday of Thomas.
“Thomas’s good disbelief”
In our life we often hear the common expression, “Well, I am a doubting Thomas,” meaning ‘I am not very quick to believe’. The person who uses this expression usually never imagines of what in reality this disbelief of the apostle Thomas consisted, the disbelief which the Church in its prayers has named “Thomas’s good disbelief.” When we read those passages in the Gospels in which there is mention of the holy apostle Thomas, we see that in the person of this apostle we have a skeptic. For instance, when our Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples before the resurrection of Lazarus, “Let us go into Judea,” the apostle Thomas said to his fellow apostles, “Let us also go that we may die with Him.” These words are the combination, on the one hand, of the unconditional love of the apostle’s heart, which is ready for anything, even unto death with his beloved Teacher and, on the other hand, of a sort of skeptical mistrust — could anything come of this journey? Could one expect any other result from it than the death of a beloved Teacher and his disciples? And then at the Mystical Supper our Lord, while conversing with the apostles, tells them that they know where He must go —“And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” Then followed Thomas’s answer, “Lord we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?” In other words, ‘we do not know where you are going, and how could we know?’ And finally the account of Thomas’s need to feel Christ’s pierced side. We know what the apostle Thomas, who had not yet seen the resurrected Teacher, said to his fellow disciples when he heard them tell of His resurrection. “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.” A week went by. The apostle still could not believe. How dark, how difficult this week must have been for him. The other apostles were exulting and rejoicing, and still he did not believe. Seven days later the Lord appeared to His disciples, and Thomas was among them. After saying “Peace be unto you,” Christ said to Thomas, paraphrasing the very words with which Thomas had renounced his faith: “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” Then from the lips of the apostle Thomas burst forth that magnificent heartfelt confession to which he remained faithful even until his death. “My Lord and my God,” he exclaimed. The last vestige of doubt had fled from his soul.
Why does the Church call Thomas’s disbelief good? Because, brethren, Thomas loved his Teacher just as much as all the other apostles did, and they loved Him so much that we can only pray to God to grant us one-hundredth part of the love that was in their hearts. When the Lord died on the cross, the apostles felt that the sun, as they say, had been extinguished in the world. The world became terrible for them, dark and cold. They knew Whom they had lost. Thomas could not believe it. Without faith, without his Teacher, the world became empty for him. Because his Teacher was so exceedingly dear to him, his heart yearned too much for the kind of faith in which there was not a shadow of doubt. And the truth of Christ’s teaching about the resurrection was similarly too dear for the apostle. And thus the Church calls his disbelief good, because it showed to what extent his heart and his soul remained faithful to his Teacher even while his mind could not believe.
Is that how things are in our times? Are those who say ‘I am a doubting Thomas’ really like the apostle Thomas? Usually their disbelief is as far removed from the disbelief of the apostle Thomas as east is from west, as heaven is from earth.
See, my brothers, how precious to the apostle Thomas was the truth of the Resurrection, the truth of the Holy Gospel! But the characteristic of our times lies precisely in the fact that people are becoming increasingly indifferent to the Divine Truth. They speak many beautiful words, but actually, in reality, people are completely indifferent. They are as indifferent as was Pontius Pilate when the Lord stood before him for judgment. Before Pilate stood Truth itself, but he, nevertheless, skeptically declared, “What is truth?” In other words, ‘Is there truth? And even if there is, it is too far from us. And maybe there is no truth.’ And with complete indifference, Pilate turned away from Him Who brought him truth, Who was Truth itself. That is how indifferent people are today. You have no doubt heard, and heard often, beautiful, grandiloquent speeches, Christian-sounding speeches, about uniting mankind in one faith, one religion. But remember that what underlies all this talk is indifference to the truth. If truth were precious to man, no man would be fooled by this talk. It is precisely because people are not really interested in truth but just want to live more simply, more comfortably, even in the matter of religion, that they say, “We should all be united.” In other words, each one of us must admit that his faith is not the true faith, and only when all these untrue faiths are melded into one, then somehow, from somewhere, true faith will appear.
Let us, brethren, fear such indifference to truth. Our Lord Jesus Christ clearly shows us in the book of Revelation how dreadful is indifference to truth. Addressing the angel, the head of the Church of the Laodiceans, He says, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So, then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,” (warm is neither one nor the other, i.e. truth is not dear to you) “I will spew thee out of my mouth.” In the Slavonic text it is said even more harshly, more forcefully: “I will vomit you forth from my mouth,” just as any organism expels what is decidedly noxious and harmful to it.
Let us remember that this indifference to truth is one of the principle disasters of our age of apostasy. O man, cherish the truth! Be a champion of the truth. Remember how fervently the apostle Thomas loved the truth of Christ’s resurrection, the divine truth of the Gospel. This apostle’s love of truth, his love for the Teacher of truth, is an example of how precious truth must be to man, how man must love Him Who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life,’ our Lord Jesus Christ. O man, place truth above all things in life and never stray from the way of truth. Of course, we are all sinners, in our infirmity we all fall. But it is one thing to fall because one is infirm, and quite another to fall because one is indifferent to the truth, because one consciously departs from the truth. Let that not happen to us! Let each one of our parishes, as a united spiritual family, stand firm in the truth and be like a faithful nucleus of our Holy Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. You have no doubt noticed how frequent attacks on the Church Abroad have recently become. No other church is so reviled these days as is ours. No clerics of other churches are so reviled, as are the clerics of the Russian Church Abroad. What does this mean? It is the surest sign of all that our Church is built on truth, and that is why a war of lies and untruths is now waged against it. If our Church were not built on truth, it would not be attacked. Everything would be quiet and peaceful. But becauseit is built on truth, because it preaches truth, proclaims it and defends it, it is now under attack.
Let us understand this, and let us together treasure the fact that together we belong to the holy Church which has not in any way transgressed against the truth, but maintains it just as was commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy apostles. Amen.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION
The scientific beliefs of St. Basil the Great
St. Basil says in regard to the relativity of time: “The know-all man has so extended himself that he is defining the nature of time for us, saying that time is a qualitative movement of the sun, the moon, and the stars, with the power to move by themselves. But what will this man, who deems himself so knowledgeable, call the period of time from the beginning of the existence of heaven and earth to the creation of the stars? What will he call the extension of the day, when in accordance with Joshua’s command the sun remained motionless and the moon stood still? What definition will he give to such a moment? For if the nature of time had become scarce, then obviously it had been replaced by eternity. But is it not insane to define a small portion of the day as eternity? Days, hours, months, years are units of measure and not part of time. Time is space stretched out over the universe, and it measures all movement, whether of the stars, or animals, or any moving object…” St. Basil also teaches that the “days” mentioned in the Bible as periods of creation of the world are not regular days; moreover, there could not be any regular days at a time when the sun was still not created. “Moses called the beginning of time a single day, so that this day would be associated in its appellation with an eon, for it is said: ‘The day of the Lord is great and very glorious’ (Joel 2:11). For in accordance with our teaching we also know that everlasting day, which has neither succession nor conclusion, and which the writer of the psalms designates as the eighth. Therefore, whether you call it a day or an eon, you will express one and the same concept.” Let us remember that the Church defines all the time that has passed since the creation of the world as the seventh day, and the eighth day is the period that will come after the end of the world.
The day the sun stood still
(Discourse on Joshua’s miracle)
The holy Bible’s narrative about Joshua’s “stopping the sun” is one of the most favorite places for attacks and arguments on the part of the godless. However, the latest research and scientific discoveries, as well as archaeological excavations being conducted in Mesopotamia, confirm without any doubt the historical veracity of all biblical events.
The well-known English scientist and archaeologist Arthur Hook (died in 1952) says in regard to the issue of Joshua’s miracle: “We must understand first of all that the question is not whether God could perform such a miracle, but whether He did perform it… If someone tells me that such miracles are impossible, he wants me to accept the theory that the One Who created the universe does not have the power to subsequently adapt part of His creation for His own purposes; in other words – that the One Who created the whole cannot alter part of it.
But that is totally absurd!
If we meticulously examine the text, we discover that it contains several important ideas which can be used as data from the astronomical point of view. The matter is as follows. At the time when a man who stood on the road leading to Mount Beth-horon could see the sun over Gibeon and the moon over the valley of Ajalon, a hail of “great stones” fell from heaven between the Beth-horon road and Azekah, and the 24-hour day was extended for almost another 24 hours.
Now let us note the words Joshua uses in his prayer; in it we find that his request was literally as follows: “Sun, stand thou still (quiet, calm) upon Gibeon.” Here is used the Hebrew word “damam,” which means “to be still, to be inactive.” It is precisely this word which is used in the Jewish original in all the three instances mentioned in the Book of Joshua, where we read: “stand,” “stopped,” and “stood.”
Science has proven that light has a vocal attribute; in other words, the quick fluctuation or vibration of airwaves, which represents light, causes a special sound, although our ears are not sensitive enough to hear it. Many scientists believe that the action of the sun upon Earth makes the latter revolve around its axis.
In order for the day to be extended upon Joshua’s command, Earth’s revolution around its axis – if this theory is accepted as being correct – should have been delayed to some degree. Moreover, this manifestation could have taken place as a result of a neutralization of, a decrease in, or, to some extent, a counteraction to the process of the sun’s influence on Earth.
From this it is evident that Joshua’s words are in exact accord with the discoveries of modern science: “Sun, stand thou still, or inactive.” If, therefore, the influence of the sun was temporarily decreased, Earth should have revolved much more slowly and the day should have been longer.
The great astronomer Newton proved how easily Earth’s revolution could have been slowed down totally unnoticed by its inhabitants.”
Arthur Hook then reports that an experienced scientist in Copenhagen told him that he had a supposition concerning the “great stones” falling from heaven that threw the Amorites into confusion. For the stones he posited the tail or part of a large comet, which had reached an appropriate proximity to Earth. This scientist expressed his certainty that if a search were made at the indicated spot, stones of meteoric origin would be discovered.
We have here, apparently, the explanation for the miraculous event.
It is known that heavenly bodies exhibit the attribute of mutual magnetic gravity, and it would not be unfounded to suppose that the arrival of a large comet within the sphere of Earth’s influence could be a significant impediment to the sun’s influence on Earth. Could anti-gravity have taken place here? – I think, – says Arthur Hook, – not a single scientist could tell us that. But, in any case, it is extraordinary that this shower of meteoric stones, – which could very well have been the tail of a comet, – coincided with a disturbance in the process of Earth’s revolution around its axis.
The scientist Immanuel Velikovsky also asserts with due cause that the comet which passed near Earth became the planet Venus. He confirms that ancient Hindu documents and Egyptian writings from the 4th millennium B.C., which knew about the existence of planets, do not mention Venus. On the other hand, Babylonian records from the year 1,000 B.C. speak of the appearance of a new planet, “a bright star which joined the other stars.” From that time on, the planet Venus begins to be mentioned in astronomical works.
Nevertheless, for such events as are described in the Book of Joshua, astronomy demands facts, and history confirms that these facts truly took place.
Professor Totten in America researched this subject very meticulously from the astronomical point of view and published the results in terms of mathematical calculations. It turns out that only once were the sun, the moon, and the earth in the positions described in the Book of Joshua. In working over his calculations, which encompass the time from our days all the way back to Joshua’s time, the professor finds that it is impossible not to conclude that a whole 24 hours were added to world history.
E. Mander, a scientist at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, – this wonderful center of astronomical science and research, – also published a work on this subject. He determined the day on which this miraculous event took place and discovered the exact spot on which Joshua should have been standing at that time.
But that is not all! One should note the content of the biblical text: “So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hastened not to go down about a whole day.” Professor Totten’s calculations establish that, although exactly twenty-four hours had somehow been added to world history, Joshua’s times, however, account for only twenty-three hours and twenty minutes, just as it is written in the Scriptures – “about a whole day.”
Consequently, the twenty-four hours demanded by astronomical calculations lack another 40 minutes. Here we can once again observe the exact precision of the Bible. In the second Book of Kings, 20:8-11, we read of how at the request of King Hezekiah the Lord gave a sign through the prophet Isaiah – the shadow on the sundial returned backward ten degrees. “Ten degrees” equal precisely 40 minutes. These forty minutes fill to a minute the twenty-four hours mentioned by Professor Totten that have mysteriously accrued in the history of our planet.
Let us see what history tells us of Joshua’s extended hours, – says the scientist Arthur Hook.
There are three ancient peoples who have retained their historical data: the Greeks, the Egyptians, and the Chinese. All of them have legends about a single extraordinarily prolonged day. The Greek Herodotus, who is called “the father of history,” told in 480 B.C. of how several Egyptian priests showed him records of the extension of a certain day beyond twenty-four hours. In ancient Chinese records it is asserted that this event occurred in the reign of Emperor Io, while Chinese genealogical tables indicate that this emperor reigned in China in Joshua’s times.
Lord Kingsborough, who embarked upon a special exploration of primitive Indians in America, determined that the Mexicans, who had reached a high degree of civilization way before America was discovered by the Europeans, had a legend of how the sun “stood still” for a whole day, and this was in the year which they call “the seven hares.” The “year of the seven hares” corresponds exactly to the time when Joshua and the Israelis were conquering Palestine. Thus we have independent corroborations of the veracity of the biblical narrative that cannot be doubted – from the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Chinese, and the Mexicans. The same is confirmed by Finnish, Japanese, Peruvian, and other legends – says scientist Immanuel Velikovsky.
“Once, – reports Arthur Hook, – a certain individual said to me, after I had given a lecture on this subject: ‘In regard to the phenomenon I must submit to the verdict of science, but I just cannot allow that all of this happened only because of the prayer of one person’.
This could confuse others too, perhaps. I therefore make use of this opportunity to note that this miracle sheds amazing light on the mystery of active prayer.
God knew from the very beginning, of course, that this event would occur, but He also knew that Joshua would pray. Joshua, being in communion with God, was stimulated to pray in such a way that his plans turned out to be in agreement with God’s pre-determination. Prayer was the link between Joshua and the majestic event which God was about to unfurl. If Joshua had not been in communion with God, he would possibly have prepared his troops for a night attack, and in this case the prolonged day would have been disastrous for him.
God’s work is taking place all around us, and He can always adapt even a single one of his countless resources to our any need. God does it not by altering His wise plans, but by inciting us to adapt our egos and change our plans in accordance with the Creator’s pre-determined and divinely perfect objectives. In such a case we receive answers to our prayers. Experience has shown that people who give themselves over to God most fully and who eagerly reject their own plans for the sake of God’s plans, – always receive answers to their prayers, and these answers border on the miraculous.” Thus speaks the great scientist and archaeologist, Professor Arthur Hook.
(From Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy’s book “The Law of God”)
NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE FORMATION OF THE RELIGION OF THE FUTURE
(beginning see here)
The New Age movement is only the “spiritual” side of a much broader movement which has mushroomed in the decades since Father Seraphim Rose’s death. This is the multi-faceted movement towards “globalism,” which is very much in the interest of those whose goals may not be religious at all.
In recent years international investment bankers and corporations have made enormous strides toward their goal of a hegemony of world finance and a global economic system. In 1980 the following warning was issued by Admiral Charles Ward, a former member of the elite Council on Foreign Relations, which includes major government figures, heads of multinational corporations, and representatives of the largest banking firms in the world: “The most powerful cliques in these elitist groups have an objective in common – they want to bring about the surrender of the sovereignty and the national independence of the United States. A second clique of international members in the CFR… comprises the Wall Street international bankers and their key agents. Primarily, they want the world banking monopoly from whatever power ends up in the control of global government.” More recently, in 1993, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Les Gelb, announced on television: “You had me on before to talk about the New World Order… I talk about it all the time… It’s one world now… Willing or not, ready or not, we are all involved… The competition is about who will establish the first one-world system of government that has ever existed in the society of nations. It is control over each of us as individuals and over all of us together as a community.”
This vision of the future has been shaping the foreign policy of many governments, not least that of the United States. A clear declaration of the globalist agenda was made in 1992 by Strobe Talbott, long-time personal friend of President Bill Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State during the Clinton administration and one of the chief architects of the U.S.-led military intervention in the Balkans: “Nationhood as we know it will be obsolete; all states will recognize a single, global authority.” In Talbott’s view, nations are nothing more than social arrangements: “No matter how permanent and sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary… It has taken the events in our own wondrous and terrible 20th century to clinch the case for world government.”
With the establishment and expansion of the European Union, the creation of the Euro currency, the advances toward a cashless society, the control of former Eastern-bloc countries by Western financial interests, the formation of an international criminal tribunal by the United Nations, and the consolidation of state armies as “peacekeeping” forces under the United Nations and NATO, we see what appear to be the forerunners of such a one-world system. Some of these developments are not necessarily evil in themselves. Taken together, however, they help to set up a global apparatus which can make way for the rising “religion of the future.” Such was the expectation of Alice Bailey, who in the 1940s wrote: “The expressed aims and efforts of the United Nations will be eventually brought to fruition, and a new church of God, gathered out of all religions and spiritual groups, will unitedly bring to an end the great heresy of separateness.” Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, expressed the same belief on the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995: “At the beginning the United Nations was only a hope. Today it is a political reality. Tomorrow it will be the world’s religion.” A proponent of the teaching of both Alice Bailey and Teilhard de Chardin, Muller says that mankind’s goal should be “to see the religions globalize themselves urgently in order to give us a universal, cosmic meaning of life on Earth and give birth to the first global, cosmic, universal civilization.”
Today, those with a globalist agenda in the political and financial sectors work alongside globalists in the religious sector, particularly with “interfaith” organizations such as the United Religions Initiative (founded as a religious counterpart to the United Nations), the Temple of Understanding (an official consultant of the United Nations Economic and Social Council), and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (a revival of the World’s Parliament of Religions, which first convened in Chicago in 1893). It is interesting to note that in the last decade, witchcraft has played a prominent role in the interfaith movement. At the centennial conference of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Chicago in 1993, Wicca took center stage. As “Covenant of the Goddess” officer Don Frew notes, “We witches found ourselves the media darlings of the conference!… By the end of the nine days, the academics attending the Parliament were saying, ‘In 1893, America was introduced to the Buddhists and Hindus; in 1993, we met the neopagans.’… From that point on neopagans would be included in almost every national or global interfaith event.”
Although interfaith organizations usually affirm that their only aim is to promote “understanding” and “dialogue” among religions, it is apparent that in some cases this aim is only a first step in a larger program: the “convergence of religions” in the New Age. As William Swing, Episcopal Bishop of California and founder/director of the United Religions Initiative expressed it in his book The Coming United Religions: “The time comes… when common language and a common purpose for all religions and spiritual movements must be discerned and agreed upon. Merely respecting and understanding other religions is not enough.” Bishop Swing imagines all the world’s religions as paths up a mountain, converging from below on a single point, a “unity that transcends the world.” At the top of the mountain, the esoteric believers from each faith would “intuit that they were ultimately in unity with people from other religions because all come together at the apex, in the Divine. Everyone below the line would be identified as exoteric.” Like Blavatsky, Bailey, and Teilhard before him, Bishop Swing looks to this convergence of religions with messianic expectancy. In his opening address to the 1997 summit conference of the United Religions Initiative, he proclaimed: “If you have come here because a spirit of colossal energy is being born in the loins of the earth, then come here and be a midwife. Assist, in awe, at the birth of new hope.”
9. Denatured Christianity
Although not all globalists and globalist organizations share specifically religious goals, they are certainly united in their view of what kind of religion will not fit into the one-world system they are working to create. Conservative, traditional adherents of a religion, who believe that their religion is a unique revelation of the fullness of truth, will not be welcome in the “global village.” As Paul Chaffee, board member of the United Religions Initiative, said in 1997: “We can’t afford fundamentalists in a world this small.” The same view was expressed at the 1998 State of the World Forum (sponsored by a host of international investors and corporations), where Forum president Jim Garrison announced: “If my theology is an impediment, then I have to get rid of my theology… I think history is moving beyond dogma… During times of transition, orthodoxies fall and the heretics and mavericks are the people creating the new orthodoxy.”
Also in 1998, this subject was discussed in some detail by one of the more recent ideologues of the “new religious consciousness,” Ken Wilber. A popular author whose works have been praised and avidly studied by both former President Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore, Wilber outlined the agenda that the world must follow in order to combine science with religion, as well as to establish a “universal theology” which all religions can embrace without losing their outward differences. “Religions the world over,” he writes, “will have to bracket their mythic beliefs,” and he cites as examples Moses parting the Red Sea, Christ being born of a Virgin, and the creation occurring in six days. Further, he says that “religion will also have to adjust its attitude towards evolution in general,” and “any religion that attempts to reject evolution seals its own fate in the modern world.”
As we have seen, evolution is a key element in the New Age utopian dream. A pantheist, Wilber believes that the entire universe is God, evolving throughout billions of years towards Teilhard de Chardin’s “Omega Point.” Man, having evolved from a primordial soup, now evolves toward total God-consciousness, and in this way even God is in the process of becoming. According to New Age thought, with Darwin’s “discovery” of physical evolution, and even more so with the “discovery” of spiritual evolution, evolution has become conscious of itself, and this new paradigm shift will accelerate the process of cosmic evolution. Thus it is that, in Wilber’s view, those religious believers who reject evolution and “pledge allegiance to a mythic Eden in any actual sense” are destined for extinction. Only those who embrace the new religious consciousness, or who at least “bracket” their religious beliefs, will survive in the coming global society, which Wilber says will be marked by a “worldcentric” awareness based in “universal pluralism.”
Since traditional Christianity is an obstacle to the dreams of globalists both on the secular and spiritual fronts, there is now a concerted effort to reinterpret and denature the Christian faith – to transform Christ from a Divine-human, unique Saviour of Christian orthodoxy to a mere “spiritual guide” of the New Age variety.
We have already discussed how the feminist theologians of the Re-imagining movement have sought to reinvent Christianity: for them, Christ is not particularly unique, but is only one of the many “expressions” or “servants” of the goddess Sophia. These theologians, however, represent only one facet of the cultural trend to denature Christianity.
If, according to the neopagan view, we and everything else are but emanations of God, then there is nothing for Christ to do but guide us back to knowledge (gnosis) of what we already are. This idea is precisely what is being promoted today under the guise of being the authentic, esoteric teaching of Christ. In actual fact, it is but a revival of the ancient Gnostic heresy, based on pagan philosophy, that was rightly condemned by the early Fathers of the Orthodox Church. This message of Gnostic “Christianity” is being publicized today through the writings and media appearances of scholars with an obvious bias against traditional Christianity, chief among whom is Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief. The same message has recently received much attention through the quasi-historical novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: a blasphemous assault on traditional Christianity that has sold over twelve million copies since its publication in 2003.
Ken Wilber speaks of the teachings that are being “rediscovered” in the ancient Gnostic texts: “It is obvious from these texts that Jesus’ primary religious activity was to become incarnate and be as his followers, not in the manner of the only historical Son of God (a monstrous notion), but of a true Spiritual Guide helping all to become sons and daughters of God…” Elaine Pagels points out that there are three essential strands to the esoteric message of Christ, as revealed in the Gnostic Gospels: (1) ‘Self-knowledge is knowledge of God; the highest self and the divine are identical.’ (2) ‘The “living Jesus” of these texts speaks of illusion and enlightenment, not of sin and repentance.’ (3) Jesus is presented not as Lord but as spiritual guide.’
Here is a clear outline of the “new Christianity” that can easily be accommodated by the “religion of the future” – an imitation Christianity that leads not to Christ but to antichrist. Here, Christ is seen as a vague concept of ultimate Good, the belief in Him as the only begotten Son of God is rejected as a “monstrous notion,” and the idea is put forth that we ourselves can be just like Him. This is a crucial element in the “religion of the future,” for by it the antichrist will actually convince everyone that he is another incarnate Son of God.
In one sense, the imitator of Christ will appear as a kind of saviour, solving man’s economic and political problems and offering to satisfy his spiritual aspirations through what Fr. Seraphim called a “melting pot” of science and world religions. According to the worldview of the “new religious consciousness,” however, the ultimate saviour will be evolution itself, moving forward in a natural development of this world into supposedly the Kingdom of God. The last great deceiver, who in the end will pretend to be Christ, will be seen as but another magnificent product of evolution.
(To be continued)
There are illuminating moments:
The earth is so incomparably fair!
And such unearthly bliss and rapture
Encompass our soul.
To the Creator of the world
The flower gifts fragrance, the bird – its song:
And all creation to its Maker
Does offer thanks.
O if we could only join together
With flower, and bird, and all of earth,
And with them all pray just as they do
In single prayer;
And without words, thoughts, or entreaties
Let our trembling soul flame in delight,
Full of life’s joyous wonderful oblivion
And reverent awe!
— K. R.
— Translated by Natalia Sheniloff