Τετάρτη, 6 Οκτωβρίου 2021

Orthodox Christians Against Color Racism

 

 
"We are Orthodox Christians who affirm traditional standards of ethnic identity (language, location, and religion) and thereby oppose the classification of personal ethnic identity based upon color categories" (see here).
 
You can see the page
 

Κυριακή, 3 Οκτωβρίου 2021

The Church, the Body of Christ

Orthodox Christians of different nationalities in the Orthodox Church in Toronto (photo from here)

Christos Sp. Voulgaris

Myriobiblos

The author is Dean of the school of Theology, University of Athens

All New Testament authors agree that the condition in which creation found itself after the fall, caused by man’s disobedience and sin (cf.f.e. Acts 13,22-31. Rom. 8,18-25 etc.,) suggests also the way to its restoration. Indeed, re-creation consists in God’s action on the human level, through the incarnation of the Son, where He combats satan who had become “the ruler of this world” (Matth.9,34. 12,24. Mk.3,22. Lk.11,15. John 12,31. 16,11. 14,30. Gal.1,4. etc.,), breaks his power and sets man free from his subjection to him and, along with him the entire creation as well (Rom.8,15ff). This is to say that salvation is not accomplished by man himself, but by God and in particular by man’s appropriation of Christ’s human nature to himself. In other words, sin and evil enter the world after man’s estrangement and separation from God, while salvation is the condition caused by man’s communion with God. Both conditions affect the entire creation. Summing up this idea St.John observes that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,…and from his fullness have we all received and therefore, “to all who received him, believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1,12-16. cf. Rom. 8,14-17. Gal.4,4-6, etc). Therefore, the real, i.e. the Son’s incarnate presence in the world and effects of his work upon men, consisting in their adoption again as God’s sons, constitute an ecclesiological event which excludes the possibility to regard the Church as an invisible entity in a cosmic sense, in accordance with the platonic ideas or the Gnostic myths, because the historical reality of the incarnation, experienced by all those who believed in the Son, stresses also the historical reality of the Church as that specific human society of all those believing in and saved by the incarnate Son.

This, however, is not enough when we refer to the Church as a historical reality, because it cannot be restricted to a mere human institution. As a historical reality, the Church combines in itself both, the divine and the human. As St. John says again, “our fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” became possible by the Son’s entrance into history: “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands… and the life was made manifest, and we saw it… that which we seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1John 1,1-3. cf. Phil. 2,5-11. Col. 1,15-20. 1Tim. 3,16 etc.,). This fellowship with Christ is an endless reality for humanity, continuing even after his exultation because it is worked out by the Holly Spirit (John 14,8) and is realized within the Church, since it is the Holy Spirit who makes Christ present in the believers: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matth.28,20. John 17,11ff). Because the Church came into being as a historical reality by Christ’s presence and in the world, it follows that Christ’s Church are inseparably knit together. This is why the Church’s task and mission in the world is “to make known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord… and make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Ephes. 3,9-11). The Church extends to the whole creation which is thus re-created by joining it. This is the mystery in God’s manifold wisdom which Paul speaks about in Ephesians and Colossians by extending the boundaries of the Church to the boundaries of creation. Thus the Church is God’s new creation because in it all things are re-capitulated in Christ, “things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephes. 1;10). Though visible and historical in appearance, and divine and human in nature, the Church is a mystery in itself, as a mystery is the person of Christ in who are inseparably united the divine and the human, uncreated and created.

This explains why any definition of the Church is absent in the New Testament. Instead of a definition, the New Testament authors give plenty an information with regard to the place and life of the Church in the world and describe it by a variety of symbolisms which express the same reality, i.e. that within which God’s communion with man and the entire created order takes place in the person of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. The common denominator in all these metaphors is the person of Christ who is the formative factor and the connecting link of the members. This is how St. John Chrysostom speaks about them: “Christ is the head, we are the body… He is the foundation stone, we are the building; he is the vineyard, we are the wine; he is the groom, we are the bride; he is the shepherd, we are the sheep; he is the way, we are the walking ones; we are also the temple, he is the resident; he is the first-born, we are the brothers; he is the heir, we are the co-heirs; he is the life, we are the living; he is the resurrection, we are the risen; he is the light, we are the enlightened” (In 1 Cor. Hom. 8,4. M.P.G.61,72.).

Belonging to the whole, all parts form a unity and as such their relationship to one another is defined by the whole which is Christ, their generating and formative factor. This reality is better expressed by St. Paul’s metaphor about the Church as “Body”, “the body of Christ”. No doubt, the metaphor of the “body” offers the most appropriate and accurate description of the Church’s nature because it presents it as the extension and continuity of the incarnation of the divine Logos, so that Ecclesiology proper is directly related to Theo-logy, to Soterio-logy and to Eschato-logy. In this way the Church is, as Paul puts it, “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephes. 1,22,23), i.e. as that entity within which the unity of the entire creation is again achieved (Ephes. 1,10).

Looking at it closely, the “body” metaphor is not new with Paul. It is also used in the Septuagint (with no equivalent in the Hebrew Bible), the Rabbinic literature, Stoicism and Gnosticism, and as such it was know to Paul’s readers. Nevertheless, while in them it denoted collectivity and solidarity, in Paul it denotes the Church as a living organism, i.e. the body of Christ, and there is no trace of a stage at which he regarded the Church as “body” without considering it as “the body of Christ”. This is to say that the Church is a “body” only with reference to the person of Christ.

The first instance in which Paul works out the metaphor with reference to the Church is 1Cor. 12,12-27 where he concludes (v.27) that Christians form a body as members of it only because they are members of Christ by participating to him on account of their appropriation of his saving work to themselves. This makes it clear that the description of the Church as “the body of Christ” is not occasioned by the metaphor; rather, it was the Church which was first defined as “the body of Christ” and then the conception of the Christians as members of the body was formed. In other words, Christians are members of the body because they participate in the body of Christ which as the Church. Obviously then, this idea clearly gives priority to the incarnation event for the formation of the body of Christ. Christology thus is the foundation of Ecclesiology.

The metaphor of the body expresses an ontological entity of a variety of members with different functions but of the same nature (Rom. 12,4-5. 1Cor.12,12-31. Ephes.4,11-16). What connects the members to each other is not their external similarity and uniformity but the oneness of their nature, and in this case the human nature of the incarnate Son of God in which they participate through Baptism. Their unity in nature, however, does not make them identical as persons, but one in Christ, because in baptism each individual person-member imitates sacra mentally Christ by putting on his own human nature free from sin (Gal.3,27) and so enlightened by the Holy Spirit he becomes son of God by adoption and thus is led into perfection and immortality (Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Pedagogue, I,4). This is what Paul stresses in Rom.6,3-11. The “first fruits of the Spirit” (Rom.8,23.Cf. 2Cor.1,22. Gal.4,6. Ephes.1,13. T it.3,5 etc.,), repeats at baptism the event of Pentecost within each individual and so the baptized one becomes “pneumatikos” (1Cor.2,13ff. Gal.6,1. 1Pet.2,5) by being re-created and reborn into a new life, the life “from above”, i.e. “of water and the Spirit” (1John 3,3-6). It is this radical change affected at baptism which attaches every individual into the body of Christ, the Church, where every distinction disappears to the extent that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for they are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3,28). Salvation becomes an experience only when man joins the body of Christ and becomes part of the whole. Therefore, the individual can become a member only if he belongs to the body of Christ, the Church, in which he is united with him and with the other members. In the Church, his body, Christ’s humanity reflects its prerogatives upon his members who thus do not live to themselves but to Christ to whom they ever since belong (Rom. 14,7-8. Gal. 2,20. 2Cor. 5,15. Phil. 1,21. 1Pet. 2,4-5), because the life of the head is poured out to its body. This makes it clear why writing to the Corinthians Paul does not ask if the Church is divided, but rather if Christ is divided (1Cor. 1,13. 12,12). In the same sense Christ reproved Saul on the road to Damascus not by asking him why he persecuted the Church, but rather why he persecuted him (Acts 9,4). 


Photo from here (Orthodox Church in Uganda)


The close unity between Christ, the Church and the Christians has nothing in common with the idea of a “corporate personality” put out in Europe at the end of the 19th century. Their unity is centered in Christ’s human nature in which individual members retain their individuality as persons. No one is absorbed by the other, as in Gnosticism. We can see this clearer in 1Cor. 12 where Paul speaks about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church. In order to emphasize the unity and the variety in the body of the Church, Paul says that the variety of the gifts comes “from the Spirit”, in the same way as the variety of the services stems “from the same Lord” and the variety of the workings comes “from the same God” (1Cor. 12,4-5), because “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (v.7), “who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (v. 11). The oneness of the Spirit does not lead to the confusion of the various gifts. The same principle, Says Paul, applies to the Church which as a body has a variety of members baptized into it “by one Spirit” (vs. 12-13), but with different functions. In the Church, Christians “are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (vs.24-27). The opposite creates confusion which destroys the reality of the body, the Church :”if all were a single organ, where would be the body? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (vs. 19-20).

In his epistles to the Romans and to the Corinthians, when he speaks about the Church as the body of Christ, Paul never depicts Christ as the head of the Church. In them he only stresses the unity of the Christians in Christ as members of the Church. The idea of Christ as the head of the Church, his body, occurs in the epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians where the Apostle speaks about the relationship of the Church as a whole to Christ (Ephes. 1,22. 4,15. 5,23. Col. 1,18). However, as in 1Cor. 12,3 “no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit”, so also in Ephes. 3,16 the riches of Christ’s glory can be “strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man”, so that the Body of the Church consists of members ;filled with the Spirit” (Ephes. 5,18). In other words, “the equipment of the saints… for building up the body of Christ” is worked out by the Holy Spirit, but comes from Christ as a source “who is the head,… from whom the whole body joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and up builds itself in love”(Ephes. 4,12-16. Cf. Col. 2,19). Christ’s place as the head of the one body of the Church underlines the unbreakable unity of both, while at the same time it distinguishes the head from the body as two separate entities, as it also distinguishes each member of the body from the rest. Christ and Church can not be identified, nor do the members of the Church. Their unity is considered in a collective sense, in which each part is united with the rest in substance, while it retains its individuality and distinct entity. Furthermore, Christ’s place as head of the Church indicates that neither the Church can be body without the Church as his body. This makes it plain why the Church is necessary component of Christ’s divine-and-human person, “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephes. 1,23).

This phrase describes the divine-and-human nature of the overall body of the Church as a living organism, i.e. the unbreakable unity of its divine and human elements, in which the divine is the head, Christ. While the human is Christ’s humanity appropriated by the members of the Church in baptism. Thus the Church is connected with the event of the incarnation of the divine Logos and through him with the other two persons of the Holy Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit, with which the Logos-Son is related by their common divine nature. Being the human body of the incarnate Son, then, the Church realizes the unity and communion between the Triune God and humanity achieved by the incarnation and the overall redemptive work of the Son. Since the son ship of Christ is an internal issue of the Holy Trinity, on account of the common divine nature of its persons, likewise the Church must be seen in the context of Christ’s “consubstantiality” with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Or, to put it in other words, the Church as a historical entity falls within the context of its inner relationship with Christ, because its nature is defined by its unity with Christ, on the human level, and by his consubstantiality with the Father and the Holy Spirit, on the divine level. Through his incarnation, the Son connects the Church with the Holy Trinity in his own divine-and-human person (Cf.Ephes. 2,4-6). 

Christ’s perfect humanity forms the nature, as well as the entity of the Church which in this way constitutes the perpetual continuation of his incarnation extending beyond time. Hence, any thought of an ontological separation between Christ and Church rules out both, the fact of Christ’s incarnation and the reality of the Church. Without its ontological connection with Christ, the Church becomes a mere social organization. Christ and the Church together from a “whole”; without Christ is nothing; in him the Church is everything. Without the Church, Christ the Son is not incarnate, because after his incarnation the Son can be thought of only as both, divine and human and, therefore, only with the Church, while the Church can be thought of only in Christ and with Christ as his human body, i.e. as “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephes. 1,23). Here we meet with the extreme paradox: the unity which Christ forms with the Church is in some way identified with himself: he is the whole Christ, body and head. While he is a part of the whole, he is also the whole, the incarnate divine Son. And while the Church exist as a community in its own right, it at the same time is the body of the distinct person of Christ, the humanity of the incarnate Son and Logos.

That this paradox is so, i.e. that the appropriation of humanity by the divine Logos at his incarnation is tantamount to the formation of the Church as his body, in an objective sense, even before any human persons joined it as members, is evident in Ephes. 5,22-30, where the unity between man and woman in the Sacrament of Marriage is placed parallel to the unity between Christ and the Church after the incarnation. The expressions: “as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Ephes. 5,25. Cf., Acts 20,28), and “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (v.26), suggest the objective existence of an entity before the incarnation proper living in sin, which the Son took to himself by becoming human and cleansed it. Christ’s body here is the entire human nature “per se”, not the body’s human members who are added to it by appropriating to themselves the human nature of the Son. Human nature cleansed from sin comprises the Church as Christ’s and so human persons are added to it as its members afterwards, so that we can say that as Christ’s body the Church exists as an objective reality even before or regardless of its members. The Church exists objectively at the incarnation and because of it, even without members. Christ’s human nature, being his human body, is the place within which he works out eternally the redemption and salvation of each particular human person and through them the salvation of the entire created order, to which humanity belongs (Cf.Rom. 8,14ff).

Now we can understand better Christ’s expression “in me” (εν εμοί) in John 6,56 and 15,1-10, as well as Paul’s frequent expression “in Christ” (εν Χριστώ) denoting not man’s identification with or absorption by Christ, but his unity with and in Christ’s humanity. Man’s unity with Christ does not deform him, but conforms him “to the image” of the incarnate Son (Rom. 8,29. 2Cor. 3,18. Gal.2,20.), which has nothing to do again with the idea of “corporate personality”. In the Church, the relationship is a member relationship to the head and the body, the whole Christ. In the same sense is also understood Paul’s formula “in Christ” with reference to Christ’s correspondence with Adam which defines the relationship between the “one” and the “many”. On account of the unity or the oneness of human nature, Adam’s fall extends to all of his descendents, while their individuality is preserved by their active participation in Adam’s sin when each human person does exactly what Adam did in the past, being thus for it personally responsible: “εφ’ ω πάντες ήμαρτον» (“because all men sinned on account of it”, Rom. 5,12). Influenced by satan fallen human persons inherit Adam’s sin which is “Like the transgression of Adam” («επί τω ομοιώματι της παραβάσεως Αδάμ»,Rom. 5,14). This fact rules out the rabbinic idea, according to which Adam constitutes the coherence of mankind in the sense that all men were created “in him”. 

Restricting the hereditary transmission of the original sin and ignoring satan’s role in it, we are forced to deny the existence of righteous men in the Old Testament, on the one hand, and accept the universal salvation of all men by Christ without their active appropriation of his saving work to themselves, on the other. In this case, personal freedom and responsibility are done away with, and together with them active membership in the Church as well. In Paul’s expression “for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor. 15,22), we must understand the fall and restoration of human nature as objective conditions to which men participate personally by their own free will. Being unable to achieve salvation because of his fallen nature, man in Christ obtains it by actively sharing in Christ’s human nature cleansed from sin. This is why the Old Testament law could not save man (Heb. 7,19), even though, as Goad’s work, the law was “holy” and “good” and “spiritual” (Rom. 7,12-16), being thus restricted to the role of “our custodian until Christ came” (Gal. 3,23). Conditions changed however, when :God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8,3-4). Thus, “in Adam” and “in Christ’ we understand human nature in its two conditions: of sinfulness and sinless ness, i.e. the body of Adam, human nature, and “the body of Christ which is the Church” (Col. 1,24).

In conclusion, we observe that it is in full agreement with Pauline thought when St. John Chrysostom comments that at his incarnation Christ “took to himself the flesh of the Church” (“εκκλησίας σάρκα ανέλαβεν”). Homily before the exile, (2. M.P.G. 52,429) and formed it into his own body animated by himself as its head. The mystery of Christ “which was kept secret for long ages” (Rom. 16,25. Ephes. 3,4;5;9. Col.1,26) has been disclosed as Church in the fullness of time “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephes. 1,10), “that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephes. 3,10-11. Col. 1,16-20). Comprising all creation, visible and invisible, the Church unites in itself “all things” with Christ as “head over all things” (Ephes. 1,22-23), so that in the Church man comes into communion not only with those other human members of it, but also with all those creatures which are subjected to Christ and accept him as “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” (Col. 1,15).


Τετάρτη, 29 Σεπτεμβρίου 2021

مواجهه با افکار

 


 

oodegr.com/persia

دعای خم شدن سر در خدمات دعاى مغرب با این درخواست خاتمه می یابد: "ای خداوند ، خدای ما ... ما را از هرگونه اعمال مخرب شیطانى ، از هرگونه افکار بیهوده و خاطرات شر، حفظ کن." اعمال شيطانى ، افکار و خاطرات شر در تلاش هستند تا روح و بدن مسیحی را آلوده کنند. ما این درخواست را با عبارات مختلف دیگری که تقریباً در تمام خدمات مقدس کلیسای ما تکرار می شود ، روزانه می شنویم.

همه این استدعاهاى کلیسای ما وجود دارند تا مومنان بتوانند افکار پاك و پاكيزه داشته باشند و از اعمال بد محافظت شوند. علاوه بر این ، اندیشه انسان ، که به فيض خدا منور شده است ، مى تواند طرز تفکر ، تصمیمات و همه اعمال او را هدایت کند. کلیسا بر این موضوع پافشاری می کند زیرا ، همانطور که خدا گفت ، " ذهن انسان از جوانى  با جدیت درگیر چیزهای شر است" (پیدایش 8: 21). رام کردن افکار شیطانی از نظر انسان دشوار است. آخرین دعای قبل از عشاء مقدس ربانى مى گويد: "خداوندا ، من در برابر دروازه های معبد تو ایستاده ام ، هر چند از افکار بد دور نشده ام."

موضوع افکار برای سلامت روحانى هر مؤمن بسیار جدی است. همانطور که خداوند فرمود، شما ممکن است گناه جسمی را با بدن انجام نداده باشید ، اما اگر رضایت داشته باشید و آن را با قلب و ذهن خود بخواهید ، انگار قبلاً آن را مرتکب شده اید. "هر که به زنی نظر شهوت اندازد، همان دم در دل خود با او مرتكب زنا شده است" (متی 5: 28).

اما افکار شیطانی از کجا می آیند؟

یکی از علل ، گرایش به شر است که پس از سقوط نخستين انسانهای خلق شده در هر انسانی باقی مانده است. خداوند ما بر ما آشكار كرده است که وقتی قلب انسان با سرسپردگى و محبت کامل به خدا تقدیم نشده باشد ، آنگاه از چنین قلبی "خيالات بد ، قتل ، زنا ، فسق ، سرقت ، شهادت دروغ ، و کفر" بر مى آيد (متى 15: 19). هواهاى نفسانى انسان توسط افکار شیطانی تولید و از آنها تغذیه می شوند.

دومین علت ، آن شرير است ، شیطان ، منشاء شر ، که از ویژگی های منحصر به فرد انسان سوء استفاده می کند ، نقاط ضعف شخصیت انسان را جستجو می کند و افکار شیطانی را در آنجا می کارد. و در اینجا بلافاصله این سوال مطرح می شود: 

چگونه یک مسیحی می تواند از خود در برابر افکار شیطانی محافظت کند؟

تقریباً همه پدران مقدس کلیسا به این موضوع پرداخته اند که چگونه باید با افکار شیطانی مواجه شد. با خواندن آثار آنها می توانیم منابع روحانى زیادی در این زمینه جمع آوری کنیم. با جمع بندی این تجربه روحانى ارزشمند ، به طور مختصر و تا آنجا که زمان به ما اجازه می دهد ، می توان موارد زیر را گفت:

   - ما نمی توانیم از آمدن افکار جلوگیری کنیم؛ اما ما مى توانیم آنها را نپذیریم. همانطور که ما نمی توانیم کلاغ ها را از پرواز بر فراز خود بازداریم ، اما می توانیم آنها را از ساختن لانه هايشان بر بالای سرمان باز داریم.

   - هنگامی که فکر بدى به سراغ ما می آيد (مهم نیست که چقدر کثیف باشد) ، اگر اجازه ندهيم آن در درون مان بماند بلكه فوراً آن را بیرون کنیم ، به هیچ وجه در آن گنهكار نیستیم.

   - هنگامی که خودخواهی و غرور در روح ما وجود دارد (چیزهایی که فيض خدا را از ما بیرون می کند) ، آنگاه روح ما در معرض دید آن شرير قرار می گیرد ، او وارد می شود و افکار شیطانی را با نتایج عالی می کارد. پس تنها چیزی که می تواند این افکار را دور کند فروتنی است.

   - شیطان (به شرطی که ما نخواهیم چیزی با او داشته باشیم) هیچ قدرتی برای ورود و ایجاد افکار بد در روح ما را ندارد. به همین دلیل است که ما نباید با این ترس زندگی کنیم که شیطان بر ما غلبه خواهد كرد و حتی اگر ما مایل نباشیم، ما را با افکار شیطانی آلوده مى کند.

   - ما باید مراقب حواس خود باشیم: تا چشمان ما با کنجکاوی تصاویر ناشایست را نبیند؛ گوش ما نباید به توصیفات و آهنگ های رسوا توجه کند؛ دستهای ما نباید بدنها و اشیایی را که حواس تحریک كننده را بر می انگيزد لمس کند. ما نباید از موادی که ذهن را تار می کند و باعث می شود کنترل اعمال خود را از دست بدهیم ، بچشیم ... آن شرير از چنین چیزهایی استفاده می کند و از طریق این "پنجره های کوچک" باز، افکار شیطانی خود را در قلب ما می ریزد.

   - تحقیری که با آن ما در مواجهه با افکار بدى که شیطان می کارد برخورد مى كنيم او را فراری می دهد. و این به این دلیل است که شیطان مغرور است؛ او می خواهد مردم به او توجه کنند ، با او مشغول شوند و او تحمل نمی کند که مردم او را تحقير کنند.

   - دعای قلبى ، دعای تک جمله ای ، "خداوند، عیسی مسیح ، بر من رحم فرما" قوی ترین سلاح برای کسی است تا بتواند بر افکار شیطانی غلبه کند. قديس جان [نویسنده] نردبان با تاكيد می گوید: "همچنان دشمنان را با نام عیسی شلاق بزنید ، زیرا هیچ سلاحى قدرتمندتر از اين در زمین و آسمان وجود ندارد".

   - ما باید براى صلح ، شادی و محبتى كه از مسیح مى آيد درخواست کنیم و به افکار گناه آلود توجه نکنیم. تا صورت خود- تمام وجود خود را حفظ نماييم.

   - دائماً به سوی مسیح روی آورده و در جستجوی صورت او ، رحمت او باشيم. به این ترتیب ، کم کم ، ناخودآگاه ، ما مقدس می شویم. انسانيت كهنه که با خواسته ها و افکار خود ما را آزار می داد، عزيمت مى كند و ما همانطور که قديس پورفیریوس کائوسوکالیویتس توصیه می کرد ، "انسانيت تازه را که به صورت خدا آفریده شده است" (افسسيان 4: 24) می پوشیم.

   - برای هر وسیله دیگری که ما را از افکار بد محافظت کند ، ما باید از پدر روحانی خود مشورت بگیریم که همراه با آمرزش گناهان ، راهنمایی های روحانى را نیز ارائه می دهد تا بتوانیم برای روح و جسم خود به حالت تقدس برسیم. آمین

~ متروپوليتن سوتيريوس از پيسيديه

 

 https://www.oodegr.com/persia/sermons/sermons.htm

Τρίτη, 28 Σεπτεμβρίου 2021

Patmos, the Holy Island: The “Island of Apocalypse” or “Jerusalem of the Aegean”

The Island of Patmos

Municipality of Patmos

«On the previous day, shortly after midnight, “I was in the isle that is called Patmos”. As dawn was about to break, I was high up in Chora. The sea, immobile like metal, bound the surrounding islands. Not a leaf stirred in the strengthening light. The peace was a shell without trace of a crack. I remained nailed to the spot by the force of the place; then I felt I was whispering: “Come and see…”»

George Seferis, I Apokalypsi tou Ioanni (preface to Seferis’ translation of the Revelation of St John), Athens, Ikaros, 1966


Patmos, like a paradise on earth, awaits its guests to reveal them all of its beauty that derives not only by its nature, but also by one Supreme Power that may determine its fate and destination.

The Island of the Apocalypse and the Jerusalem of the Aegean – as Patmos is called worldwide – the island where Saint John the Theologian was exiled to become a hermit and then to write in 95 AD the sacred book of Revelation, is one of the most important religious and atmospheric destinations, without lacking the cosmopolitan air of an Aegean island or the cultural tradition.

The multifarious indented coastline, ten times larger than the coastline of Greece in relation to its size, creates unique bays and beaches, some pebbly, others with sand or rocks and caves that make Patmos an ideal destination of peace, tranquility, mysticism and leisure, embracing with its aura every visitor.

The medieval town of Chora, with Kastromonastiro (castle-monastery) of St. John the Theologian, which dominates like a crown at its peak, the picturesque and labyrinthine alleys and mansions that surround the Monastery, and the unique architecture of the settlements, offer the visitors the unique opportunity to experience a world whilom and modern at the same time, a world that combines tranquility with the unpretentious cosmopolitan element and culture.

The Greek State, recognizing and accepting the specificity and thus the sacred side of this site, proclaimed Patmos in 1981 as “Holy Island” by law of the national parliament, while Unesco in 1999 placed the Chora(town) of Patmos, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse in the World Heritage Monuments, noting once again the importance and unspoiled beauty and charm of this island over the centuries. Alongside, Patmos belongs to the network COESIMA, as one of the seven most important sites of pilgrimage in Europe. .

Patmos is the island ,witch with its devoutness and its original beauty consisted a source of inspiration not only for the Nobel-laureates Greek poets Seferis and Elytis, but also for the German lyric poet Friedrich Hölderlin, who shocked by the natural beauty of the island wrote:

(…) On the sea’s uncertain plain, shadowless roads enough
Though my seafarer knows the islands. And since I had heard,
That among those near at hand was Patmos,
Much I desired to put in there and be close to its dark cave.
For not like lordly Cyprus, with its abounding waters,
Nor like any other island does Patmos dwell,
But still hospitable in her poorer house is she,
And if a stranger comes from shipwreck or grieving
For his lost homeland or distant friend
She listens, and her children,
Voices of the hot thicket, a trickle of sand,
Earth splitting in a field, her sounds,
They hear him and a loving echo flows from his lament.
Thus did she care once for the god-beloved Seer
Who in his blessed youth had walked
With the Son of the Highest, inseparably (…)

Friedrich Hölderlin (1803), trans. Robert Huddleston

The Island of the Apocalypse

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches.”

Revelation (1:9) , Apostle John
(Bible, King James Version (KJV)
)

And with these holy and providential words begins the Holy Book of Revelation, which the beloved disciple of the Lord – John, wrote in the homonymous cave of Patmos to determine the fate and destiny of Patmos and to make the name of Patmos known from all over the world.

According to Christian tradition Patmos is one of the two places in the world that the voice of God was heard. More specifically in the “Holy Cave of the Apocalypse”, which still exists, John the Evangelist spoke with God and He recited the holy book of Revelation that John recorded with the help of his student Prohoros. This book has caused admiration and awe among the faithful Christians who find it prophetic and come from the ends of the world to visit and worship this place.

The “Island of Apocalypse” or “Jerusalem of the Aegean” -which attracts thousands of visitors and worshipers from all corners of the world- with the Greek state law was declared in 1981 “Holy Island”, while in 1999 the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization of the United Nations («UNESCO») listed Chora of Patmos, the Monastery of St. John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse among the World Heritage Monuments.

Patmos is a place blessed by God,with natural beauty and rich cultural and especially religious heritage. It is a spiritual beacon radiating over the world, calling the worshippers to come and experience the unique divine and mystical aura.

Patmos monastery

Greek News Agenda

The small island of Patmos, part of the Dodecanese complex in the central Aegean, is known, above all, as the location where John the Apostle received his visions and recorded them in the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament. An impressive monastic complex, dedicated to him, was founded there in the early 11th century.

The monastery stands on the site where Saint John is believed to have written his Gospel, including the Book of Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse); it is also located near the grotto where the apostle is said to have received his Revelation, hence called the Cave of the Apocalypse. Both the Monastery and the Cave, along with the rest of the historic centre of the island’s Chora (main town) have been declared a joint World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 as an "exceptional example of a traditional Greek Orthodox pilgrimage centre of outstanding architectural interest".

The Cave of the Apocalypse

The island of Patmos was first settled by Dorians and then by Ionians. When it became part of the Roman Empire, it served as a place of exile, along with other small islands of the Aegean.

John the Apostle, traditionally identified by the Eastern Orthodox Church with John the Evangelist, and referred to as "John the Theologian", is considered to have been exiled to Patmos during a time of persecution under the Roman rule of Domitian in the late 1st century. According to tradition, while residing in a cave on the island, he received a series of prophetic visions which he recounted in the Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament (a word coming from the Greek apokálupsis, "unveiling, revelation"); he is hence also known as John of Patmos and John the Revelator.

1024px Patmos mosaik ovanför grottentrenMosaic above the entrance to the Cave of the Apocalypse (by Njaker via Wikimedia Commons)

The site of the revelatory visions, known as the Cave of the Apocalypse, is situated halfway along the road linking the port with the Chora (main town), which sits on top of the island’s mountain. The Holy Cave of the Apocalypse has been transformed into a place of worship, where visitors can see the dent on the wall of the cave, where the Evangelist was said to lay his head; according to tradition, the Voice of God could be heard coming from a cleft of the rock, which is also still visible today. The southern part of the cave has been turned into a church dedicated to Saint John the Theologian, while later a Chapel of Saint Anne (mother of Mary) was added, incorporating the cave, which is now entered through the chapel.

The Monasteryof Saint John the Theologian

In the 7th century, Patmos was ravaged by raids of Saracen pirates and remained virtually uninhabited for the next two centuries. In 1088, Abbot Christodoulos Latrinos (now known as Saint Christodoulos the Blessed of Patmos), who had already founded monasteries on Leros and Kos, presented himself at the court of emperor Alexius I Comnenos in Constantinople, proposing a plan to repopulate Patmos by creating a monastic community; Alexius indeed granted sovereignty over the deserted island. In 1091, Christodoulos began the construction of the monastery Saint John the Theologian, over the ruins of a fourth-century basilica also dedicated to Saint John.

Ph.Patmos Monastery 01Interior of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian (by Thanasis Christodoulou via Wikimedia Commons)

The monks were chased off by pirates in 1093 but returned a few years later to resume the works, bringing with them the relics of Christodoulos, who had died on the island of Euboea. The monastery was heavily fortified for fear of pirate attacks; through the years, it received various contributions from the emperors Alexius and Manuel Komnenos. Following its establishment, the repopulation of the area was encouraged, with a settlement evolving around the monastery’s walls. In 1204-1261 the monastery was affiliated with the Empire of Nicaea and acquired many territories in Asia Minor.

Inside the monastery, the main church features impressive icons and frescoes, while the Chapel of the Virgin, outside the main courtyard, has the oldest frescoes. The monastery houses an extensive library of 330 manuscripts (267 on parchment), including 82 manuscripts of the New Testament; it also houses important relics, including the skull of Saint Thomas the Apostle. Asteep flight of forty-three steps leads from the monastery to the Cave of the Apocalypse.

According to UNESCO, "there are few other places in the world where religious ceremonies that date back to the early Christian times are still being practised unchanged"; this includes the Byzantine ritual of Niptir ("Maundy"), a reenactment of the symbolic event of Christ washing his disciples’ feetahead of the Last Supper, which takes place on the Thursday of the Holy Week (also called Maundy Thursday). In accordance with this 4th-century ritual, after the Divine Liturgy takes place at the monastery, a solemn procession leads to the town hall square, where the monastery’s abbot (hegumenos) washes the feet of 12 priests.

In the MonasteryInterior of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian (by Yiannis Theologos Michellis via Wikimedia Commons)

The Chora

The Chora (main town) of Patmos, located 4 km from the small port of Skala, has continuously evolved since the 11th century, when the founding of the monastery transformed it into an important place of pilgrimage. In its centre, on the mountaintop, the imposing monastery of Saint John the Theologian with its grey fortified walls dominates the area. According to UNESCO, it is among the oldest and best preserved main townsof the Aegean islands, and is also the only example in Greece of an organised settlement which has developed as a supporting community around a fortified monastic complex. Still today, the Chora is a quaint town with white-washed houses, narrow arched streets and some picturesque small plazas.

UNESCO also cites as an important criterion for the inscription of the site the fact that Patmos’s Chora "is one of the few settlements in Greece that have evolved uninterruptedly since the 12th century", adding that "the authenticity of the settlement is also ensured by the retention of its morphological features and its building techniques with the use of similar or even the same, as far as this is possible, traditional methods and materials in building new constructions".

The property is protected by the provisions of the Archaeological Law 3028/2002 "On the Protection of Antiquities and Cultural heritage in general", and by separate ministerial decrees published in the Official Government Gazette. Protection and management are carried out by the Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs through the responsible regional service (Ephorate of Antiquities of the Dodecanese). Effective site management is also achieved through cooperation between secular and ecclesiastical authorities in all areas of common concern, to ensure that the character of the settlement will not be tainted by tourism.

Read also via Greek News Agenda: The Monastery of Daphni: retracing the city's Byzantine past; The historic Sumela Monastery in Trabzon; The medieval ghost town of Mystras; Early Christian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki

N.M. (Based on an article published on Punto Grecia; intro photo: Chora of Patmos and Monastery of Saint John the Theologian [by Valeria Casali via Wikimedia Commons])

The Letters of Saint John the Apostle & Evangelist (September 2): “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”

Orthodox Church in America

The three letters of Saint John were written by the Lord’s beloved apostle who also wrote the fourth gospel. They were written at the close of the first century and have as their general theme a fervent polemic against the heretical “antichrists” who were changing the doctrines of Christ and denying His genuine appearance “in the flesh” for the salvation of the world, denying thereby both “the Father and the Son” (l Jn 2.22, 4.3, 2 Jn 7).

The first letter of Saint John is the simplest and deepest exposition of the Christian faith that exists. Its clarity concerning the Holy Trinity and the Christian life of truth and of love in communion with God makes it understandable without difficulty to anyone who reads it. It is the best place to begin a study of the Christian faith generally, and the Bible in particular.The first letter begins in the same way as Saint John’s gospel to which it is most similar in its entire content and style.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life . . . we proclaim also to you, so that you may have communion with us; and our communion is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete (1.1–14).

The first letter of Saint John proclaims that Jesus is truly “the Christ,” the Messiah and Son of God who has come “in the flesh” to the world as “the expiation of our sins, and not ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (2.2). Those who believe in Christ and are in communion with Him and His Father have the forgiveness of sins and the possibility not to sin any more (1.5–2.12). They “walk in the same way in which He walked” (2.6) being the “children of God” (3.1, 5.1). They know the truth by the direct inspiration of God through the anointment [chrisma] of the Holy Spirit (2.20–26; 6.7). They keep the commandments of God, the first and greatest of which is love, and so they are already recipients of eternal life, already possessing the indwelling of God the Father and Christ the Son “by the Spirit which He has given us” (2.24–3.24).

Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God has sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.

In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation of our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (14.7–16).

The hatred of others is the sure sign that one does not love God (4.20) and is “in the darkness still” (2.9–11). The one who hates his brother is “a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (3.15). Those who love God are hated by the world which is in the power of the evil one” (5.19, 2.15–17).

The first letter of Saint John is part of the Church’s lectionary, with special selections from it being read at the feast of the apostle John.
The second letter of Saint John is addressed to the “elect lady and her children” which is obviously the Church of God and its members. Again the truth of Christ is stressed and the commandment of love is emphasized.

And this is love, that we follow His commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward. Anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son (6–9).

The third letter of Saint John is addressed to a certain Gaius praising him for the “truth of his life” (3) and “urging him not to Imitate evil but imitate good” (11). “No greater joy can I have than this”, writes the beloved apostle, “to hear that my children follow the truth” (4).

Repose of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian

The Holy, Glorious All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, Virgin, and Beloved Friend of Christ, John the Theologian was the son of Zebedee and Salome, a daughter of Saint Joseph the Betrothed. He was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be one of His Apostles at the same time as his elder brother James. This took place at Lake Gennesareth (i.e. the Sea of Galilee). Leaving behind their father, both brothers followed the Lord.

The Apostle John was especially loved by the Savior for his sacrificial love and his virginal purity. After his calling, the Apostle John did not part from the Lord, and he was one of the three apostles who were particularly close to Him. Saint John the Theologian was present when the Lord restored the daughter of Jairus to life, and he was a witness to the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor.

During the Last Supper, he reclined next to the Lord, and laid his head upon His breast. He also asked the name of the Savior’s betrayer. The Apostle John followed after the Lord when they led Him bound from the Garden of Gethsemane to the court of the iniquitous High Priests Annas and Caiphas. He was there in the courtyard of the High Priest during the interrogations of his Teacher and he resolutely followed after him on the way to Golgotha, grieving with all his heart.

At the foot of the Cross he stood with the Mother of God and heard the words of the Crucified Lord addressed to Her from the Cross: “Woman, behold Thy son.” Then the Lord said to him, “Behold thy Mother” (John 19:26-27). From that moment the Apostle John, like a loving son, concerned himself over the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and he served Her until Her Dormition.

After the Dormition of the Mother of God the Apostle John went to Ephesus and other cities of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, taking with him his own disciple Prochorus. They boarded a ship, which floundered during a terrible tempest. All the travellers were cast up upon dry ground, and only the Apostle John remained in the depths of the sea. Prochorus wept bitterly, bereft of his spiritual father and guide, and he went on towards Ephesus alone.

On the fourteenth day of his journey he stood at the shore of the sea and saw that the waves had cast a man ashore. Going up to him, he recognized the Apostle John, whom the Lord had preserved alive for fourteen days in the sea. Teacher and disciple went to Ephesus, where the Apostle John preached incessantly to the pagans about Christ. His preaching was accompanied by such numerous and great miracles, that the number of believers increased with each day.

During this time there had begun a persecution of Christians under the emperor Nero (56-68). They took the Apostle John for trial at Rome. Saint John was sentenced to death for his confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord preserved His chosen one. The apostle drank a cup of deadly poison, but he remained alive. Later, he emerged unharmed from a cauldron of boiling oil into which he had been thrown on orders from the torturer.

After this, they sent the Apostle John off to imprisonment to the island of Patmos, where he spent many years. Proceeding along on his way to the place of exile, Saint John worked many miracles. On the island of Patmos, his preaching and miracles attracted to him all the inhabitants of the island, and he enlightened them with the light of the Gospel. He cast out many devils from the pagan temples, and he healed a great multitude of the sick.

Sorcerers with demonic powers showed great hostility to the preaching of the holy apostle. He especially frightened the chief sorcerer of them all, named Kinops, who boasted that they would destroy the apostle. But the great John, by the grace of God acting through him, destroyed all the demonic artifices to which Kinops resorted, and the haughty sorcerer perished in the depths of the sea.

The feast of St. John the Theologian in the Holy Island Patmos, in Greece (here)
 

The Apostle John withdrew with his disciple Prochorus to a desolate height, where he imposed upon himself a three-day fast. As Saint John prayed the earth quaked and thunder rumbled. Prochorus fell to the ground in fright. The Apostle John lifted him up and told him to write down what he was about to say. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8), proclaimed the Spirit of God through the Apostle John. Thus in about the year 67 the Book of Revelation was written, known also as the “Apocalypse,” of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. In this Book were predictions of the tribulations of the Church and of the end of the world.

After his prolonged exile, the Apostle John received his freedom and returned to Ephesus, where he continued with his activity, instructing Christians to guard against false teachers and their erroneous teachings. In the year 95, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus. He called for all Christians to love the Lord and one another, and by this to fulfill the commands of Christ. The Church calls Saint John the “Apostle of Love”, since he constantly taught that without love man cannot come near to God.

In his three Epistles, Saint John speaks of the significance of love for God and for neighbor. Already in his old age, he learned of a youth who had strayed from the true path to follow the leader of a band of robbers, so Saint John went out into the wilderness to seek him. Seeing the holy Elder, the guilty one tried to hide himself, but the Apostle John ran after him and besought him to stop. He promised to take the sins of the youth upon himself, if only he would repent and not bring ruin upon his soul. Shaken by the intense love of the holy Elder, the youth actually did repent and turn his life around.

Saint John reposed when he was more than a hundred years old. He far outlived the other eyewitnesses of the Lord, and for a long time he remained the only remaining eyewitness of the earthly life of the Savior. 

  

Icon from here

When it was time for the departure of the Apostle John, he went out beyond the city limits of Ephesus with the families of his disciples. He bade them prepare for him a cross-shaped grave, in which he lay, telling his disciples that they should cover him over with the soil. The disciples tearfully kissed their beloved teacher, but not wanting to be disobedient, they fulfilled his bidding. They covered the face of the saint with a cloth and filled in the grave. Learning of this, other disciples of Saint John came to the place of his burial. When they opened the grave, they found it empty.

Each year from the grave of the holy Apostle John on May 8 came forth a fine dust, which believers gathered up and were healed of sicknesses by it. Therefore, the Church also celebrates the memory of the holy Apostle John the Theologian on May 8.

The Lord bestowed on His beloved disciple John and John’s brother James the name “Sons of Thunder” an awesome messenger accompanied by the cleansing power of heavenly fire. And precisely by this the Savior pointed out the flaming, fiery, sacrificial character of Christian love, the preacher of which was the Apostle John the Theologian. The eagle, symbol of the lofty heights of his theological thought, is the iconographic symbol of the Evangelist John the Theologian. The appellation “Theologian” is bestown by Holy Church only to Saint John among the immediate disciples and Apostles of Christ, as being the seer of the mysterious Judgments of God.

Σάββατο, 11 Σεπτεμβρίου 2021

The Bread, The Wine, and The Mode Of Being (& the ancient terror of the pandemic)

 

by Chrysostom Koutloumousianos, Hieromonk

Death to the world - The Last True Rebelion (about)

The recent reappearance of the ancient terror of a pandemic has prompted fertile conversation among theologians and literary people across the world. Various opinions have been articulated, such as that disease can be transmitted through the current way of distributing holy communion, or that the Eucharistic Gifts themselves can be bearers and transmitters of pathogenic germs. It is said that since the bread and the wine do not alter their essence and essential properties, it follows that they are subject to decay and can also spread toxic viruses. This idea has supposedly found Christological grounds as well in that the human body of Christ is a carrier of germs which can be harmful to us, though not to Him; after all, germs themselves are not bad, since there is nothing bad in creation.

Within this framework the following evidence drawn from the writings of the Fathers might be relevant and useful.

Undoubtedly, there is nothing bad in creation. No form of life, nor even natural destruction can be considered as bad, because evil is only that which alienates us from God. However, at the same time one should not ignore or deny the products of personal sin, such as, for example, a dangerous laboratory hybrid, as well as the effects of the ancestral Fall, namely decay and death, to which the human being has been submitted. Now, God’s incarnation manifested something entirely new in the world.

Let us open a short parenthesis to delineate the Orthodox belief regarding the Eucharistic elements. Do we hold that they are merely a representation of the Lord’s presence in the congregation, as is the general understanding in Protestantism? In this case, the holy bread could be offered in sterilized bags and the holy wine in certified sealed bottles. If, on the other hand, in accord with the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, the holy gifts are Christ with respect to their essence, then either we must commit ourselves to worshipping the gifts or fall into unbelief when thinking they can be corrupted.

The Greek Fathers speak neither of transubstantiation nor symbolic function but of the ‘change’ of the material elements. This ‘change’ signifies a new mode of being, inaugurated through the appearance of God in the flesh. Here we must consider the patristic distinction between the logos of nature and the mode of existence, a distinction which is useful for an Orthodox approach to the mystery of Christ.

The Fathers use this distinction as a tool for explaining God’s miracles in history. When God intervenes to perform a wondrous act, He does not alter the nature of things — that is, their logos or principle; instead He innovates the manner in which their nature operates, so as to fulfill the divine economy. The innovated mode means nature operating beyond its own ordinance, beyond its limits, translating the human being “into another form of life”, as for instance when Noah remained unharmed amid wild animals and holy men would walk upon the waters.


The Incarnation was the climax of all divine interventions. The incomprehensible mystery that took place in the Logos Incarnate was the indissoluble union of divine and human nature. Such union meant the exchange of the natural properties in Christ, in the same way that a blade becomes fire when thrown into fire while at the same time fire acquires a sharp edge. Human nature remains intact while its mode of existence is altered. This is why Christ was born both in a divine and a human way, that is, carried by a woman, yet without labour pains and corruption. He was not subjugated to nature; instead, elevating it to Himself, He made nature “a transcendental mystery” Christ’s human nature operates in a divine mode, and it operates in a divine mode because it carries the fullness of divine activity.(1)

This same reality and understanding can be applied to the Eucharistic mystery. Here also an alteration of the material elements takes place. Neither is their logos or essence changed, nor their natural properties, but their condition and conduct, that is, their mode of being. Just as in Christ everything human has a transcendental mode, since human nature in Him has the fullness of divinity, so the Eucharistic Gifts receive and transmit to its participants the same theandric activity of Christ. We partake, therefore, not of something that is subject to decay and deterioration, but of God Himself, through matter that has become life-giving, as the very flesh of Christ is life-giving.

Clearly, authentic communion has to do not only with the presence of Christ in bread and wine but also with His presence within us. Union and assimilation with God is not accomplished without the good resolve (prohairesis) and synergy of man, nor is it exclusively fulfilled in the Eucharist.(2) We need to follow and wholeheartedly imitate Christ freely and be born in the Spirit. Divine activity operates in various inscrutable ways according to the measure of each one’s faith and longing.

Thus, when Christ is offered as bread, He does not alter the nature of bread but its ‘economy’. Christ’s human nature was passible, yet, one with the Divinity, and for this reason it could not be seized and possessed by death. And as His body was dead and risen, since it was never detached from Divinity, similarly, when we receive this body we foretaste the resurrection. Just as Christ suffers as a human being, yet acts as God, in the same way the consecrated elements, though subject to ‘suffering’ and corruption, act upon us as uncreated divinity. As St Cyril of Alexandria says,

The body of Christ is holy and has the power to vanquish every illness. It was and is holy, not merely as flesh with its natural powers, but as the temple of the indwelling divine Logos, who sanctifies His flesh with His Spirit. This is why Christ vivifies the daughter of the leader of the synagogue not only through His omnipotent command but also with His bodily touch. (Αναστασίου, Doctrina Patrum, σ. 129, 131-32)

Therefore, to those that receive communion with faith and true repentance the Lord’s body becomes a ‘safeguard’, ‘for strength, healing and health of soul and body’, maintenance and deification of human nature.(3)

The consecrated elements operate as the deified body of Jesus. Through matter God grants life uncorrupted. And although immortality is an eschatological condition, and we shall all, sooner or later, cross to the other side of the bank, yet ‘doses’ of incorruption are given in this mortal life according to the measure of each one’s faith, longing, godly fear and love.

Source

Post Script Regarding the Spoon

By Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou, Ph.D.

Fr. Chrysostomos explains that just as Christ suffers as a human being, yet acts as God and rises from the dead, in the same way the consecrated elements (Holy Communion), though subject to ‘suffering’ and corruption themselves, act upon us as uncreated divinity in order to transform and perfect our fallen nature, not to change us from being physically corruptible, but to enable us to become partakers of the divine nature (2Peter 1:4), even in the here and now.

Therefore, to those who receive Holy Communion with faith and true repentance the Lord’s body becomes a ‘safeguard’ ‘for strength, healing and health of soul and body’, maintenance and deification of their fallen human nature.(3)

The consecrated elements in the Holy Eucharist operate as the deified body of Jesus. Through corruptible matter, God grants life uncorrupted. And although immortality is an eschatological condition, and we shall all, sooner or later, cross to the other side and receive it in its fullness, yet ‘doses’ of incorruption are given to us in this mortal life according to the measure of each one’s faith, his/her longing and godly fear and love.We are transformed into a different mode of existence by the touch of Christ’s Body and Blood.We are sanctified and deified by being united with Him.

The Chalice and Spoon of Holy Communion are also changed as they come into contact with Christ’s Body and Blood. They are transformed to a different mode of existence; they are sanctified. Their nature is not changed, but, rather, in the same way as a blade becomes fire when thrown into the fire . . . the Chalice and the Spoon are also changed and sanctified. Their mode of existence is altered so that they may transfer life to us, just as his garment heals the flow of blood in the woman when she touches it, just as the sea is calmed by the touch of Christ for the safety of the disciples, just as the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow are brought back to life by the touch of Christ.

The Body and Blood of Christ, along with the sacred vessels (the Chalice and the Spoon) utilized to deliver it to us cannot be a threat to our bodily health if we approach with the “Fear of God with Faith and with Love.” On the contrary, they will lead us to healing of soul and body and eternal life as they deliver to us the healing, salvific touch of Christ.

Hence, as we return to Holy Communion, let us surrender in faith to God’s Mercy and Forgiveness and ask that He may restore us again in His good favor, and protect us from disease, calamity and eternal condemnation.

COVID-19 is a tribulation (δοκιμασία), a test to our faith. The only way to overcome tribulations is by surrendering to God’s Love and Mercy completely and unconditionally in faith and trust. Holy Communion is the place to do that, even as He is offered to us through the shared Chalice and Spoon.

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Notes to First Article

(1) See Maximus the Confessor, PG 91.298-300, 344, 1048-1056, 1273-1276, 1341-1345.

(2) See Chrysostom Koutloumousianos, The One and the Three: Nature, Person and Triadic Monarchy in the Greek and Irish Patristic Tradition, James Clarke, Cambridge 2015, pp. 119-22, 132-34, 150-53.

(3) John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, 87. Also see Prayer before the Holy Communion, and Gregory of Nyssa, Catechetical Oration, 37.

Please see also

Governments evicting God – from inside the Christian Chalice? / Is Holy Communion safe to consume? - A compilation dedicated to answers provided by medical specialists

Ελληνικά: Είναι ασφαλές να κοινωνούμε;