Δευτέρα 21 Ιουνίου 2021

National Identity and Unity: From Babel to Pentecost

by Archbishop Makarios of Kenya
Incommunion - Website for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship

The Tower of Babel, the God (Holy Trinity - three "angelic" figures), the separation of nations and the patrons angels of the nations, which God installed in all nations (Deuteronomy 32:8, Daniel 10:13, 20-21). Mural painting at the Saint Paraclete (Holy Spirit) Orthodox Monastery, Oropos (Greece)

Despite many areas of progress, the last one hundred years has been the most brutal age in the history of humanity. What is most shocking about modern conflicts is that it is not the combatants who have been the main victims, but rather the most vulnerable members of society: children, women, the elderly, the sick. This is due not only to violence but also to malnutrition and disease made worse by armed conflict. Wars disrupt food supplies, destroy crops and agricultural infrastructure, wreck water and sanitation systems, and disable health services. Wars displace whole populations, tearing families and communities apart.
Most modern wars are principally instigated or manipulated by what might be called the “phyletistic personality syndrome,” a phenomenon which pits humans against humans in the most violent of confrontations in the name of national or tribal identity, ethnic cleansing, racial supremacy, or cultural exclusivism, often with distinct religious components.

Nationalism, in the sense of fanatical patriotism, is an obsessive sense of national superiority over other nations and a belief in one nation’s inherent and pre-determined glorious future destiny. Ethnocentrism gives rise to tribal or racial intolerance and leads to the perception that one must eliminate, exclude, or dominate the “lesser tribe.” In the case of cultural-ideological exclusivism, the values and norms of one’s culture are regarded as superior to all others and must therefore be adopted by others or imposed on them. To better understand the phenomenon of ethnic and national identities and cast some light upon the search for human unity, it is necessary for us to explore the biblical and theological explanations for our propensity toward tribalism and nationalism.
In the period immediately preceding construction of the Tower of Babel, we learn that all people were of one race and spoke one language. The diversification of human languages was a consequence of human sin incurred during the building of the Tower of Babel, a rebellion against God’s ordinances, the ambition of “making a name for one’s self” by constructing a human empire and culture independent of the will and assistance of God.

Despite the post-Babel second human Fall, the freshly diversified global situation provided humans with the freedom either to identify with a wise and blessed sense of ethnic affiliation in a theocentric direction or to let their differences degenerate into demonic anthropocentric-nationalism, ethnocentrism and tribal pride. Clearly, the latter path was taken.
The step from ethnic identity to fanatical ethnocentrism, and from national identity to obsessive nationalism, which lies behind most of our violent conflicts, must be understood through a theological, biblical prism as a fallen, corrupt human state, a spiritually dysfunctional condition, which must be condemned by the Church.
How then can the Church assist in the search for the path of human unity? Can the Church be effective? I believe the answer is yes.

A Byzantine kontakion chanted on the Sunday of Pentecost is most illuminating in terms of the post Tower of Babel potential for a unified human condition initiated by Christ and confirmed by the Holy Spirit:
When the Most High came down and confused the tongues, He divided the nations; but when He distributed tongues of fire, He called all to unity. Therefore, with one voice, we glorify the all-holy Spirit!
The Pentecost event in the Upper Room is God’s reversal of the punitive measures taken at Babel. Through the “tongues of fire” and the speaking in various human tongues, the potential for reunification of humanity is made possible through the unify-ing operations of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit possesses a creative force to transform and renew. The Pentecost event transformed the disciples into bold witnesses for Christ by renewing their hearts and minds. This transforming “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is capable of transfiguring human hearts and making former enemies into friends and brothers. In our search for human unity, we need to consistently experience the empowering anointing of Pentecost, becoming faithful instruments of the Holy Spirit.

The initial celebration of the Lord’s Supper was inaugurated not as an individual institution but within a communal setting, that is within the messianic or ecclesial community presided over by Jesus among his disciples. He formed a new, united community dedicated to loving and serving one another as well as “giving thanks” to Him who established it. The partaking of the holy Body and Blood of Christ by the ecclesial community becomes a source of growth in the image and likeness of Christ and the ultimate bond of spiritual and social unity, for it doesn’t discriminate against gender, class, or race in its sanctifying energy. In this way we are made ready to “receive one another as Christ received us.”
The challenge we face is eradication of phyletism within the Church. Sadly, we Church members are often guilty of promoting nationalism at the expense of our catholic (in the sense of universal) identity. Churches constituted on national lines often involve themselves in national wars, even blessing weapons before battle, and even encouraging war and nationalism in the name of Jesus Christ! While nationalistic church leaders are certainly well intentioned, in reality they oppose the work of the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Christ.

It is significant that, at a time of heightened nationalism, a pan-Orthodox Synod held in Constantinople in 1872 condemned ethno-phyletism as a heresy: “We renounce, censure and condemn racism, that is racial discrimination, ethnic feuds, hatreds and dissensions within the Church of Christ, as contrary to the teaching of the Gospel and the holy canons of our blessed Fathers which support the holy Church and the entire Christian world, embellish it and lead it to divine godliness.”
As the Orthodox canon lawyer, Grigorios Papathomas, explains, “the Church must not be confused with the destiny of a single nation or a single race.”
The Orthodox Bishops of Kenya, Neophytos
Makarios & Athanasios (from here)

In Pauline terms, we may say that nationalism is the direct consequence of a “fleshly” anthropocentric disposition rather than a spiritual and theocentric human orientation. Nationalism remains in the realm of the “flesh” rather than the “spirit” as a manifestation of the powers and principalities at work in the “present evil age.” In his letter to the Galatians, Paul insists that among Christ’s followers there is “no longer Greek nor Jew” but only the unity, peace, and blessedness that derives from membership in the new “Israel of God,” the Church. This unity however can only be perceived, appropriated, and accomplished in a theocentric manner by those who are reconciled in Christ. It can only be made manifest by those who bring forth the “fruits of the Spirit.” It is in this way that we may receive one another as Christ receives us and thus aspire toward authentic human unity. History is littered with the failed scraps of torn anthropocentric peace treaties, international accords, and cease-fire agreements.

If the Church is to accomplish the task of human unity, it must practice its God-appointed calling. This requires that we abandon ethnic ghettos. We have been appointed to participate in Christ’s great commission, the evangelization and baptism of all nations. This global evangelization mission of the Church bearing the message of unconditional love and forgiveness will eventually enable humans to “Receive one another as Christ received us” (Rom. 15:7).
I end with this question: Who is Jesus Christ for us? Is he merely a tribal leader who facilitates national unification? Or is he God, who saves us from malediction and death? For the believing mind, the answer is self-evident. 

Τρίτη 15 Ιουνίου 2021

1822: The abolition of slavery in Greece

In Greek: 1822: Η κατάργηση της δουλείας στην Ελλάδα

Translation K.N.

The 1821 Revolution had proceeded with daring for the abolition of slavery

Mural in the Hall of Parliament House

When embarking on the struggle for independence in 1821, the Hellenes were already deeply conscious of the meaning of slavery.  They had endured for more than 400 years the force and the brutality of the conqueror, which had rendered free people slaves, and selling them to the slave markets of the Mediterranean. We are witnessing analogous phenomena in our times, under the name of “trafficking”, where women and young children are essentially being sold as slaves in sleazy, “nocturnal” slave-markets.

In 1821, amid the flames of the Revolution, the fighters had also hastened to create institutions for freedom and fair administration. The first, important movement took place with the First National Convention, which had convened in Epidaurus and had voted the first Hellenic Constitution.

With that Constitution, the Hellenes had (entirely innovatively, for colonially-oriented Europe) also instituted the abolition of slavery.

Various European states, mainly after the French Revolution of 1789, had begun to abolish slavery, but only for their own lands. The slave-possessing status quo had entirely hypocritically persisted, throughout all the Europeans’ extended colonies.

Let’s also not forget that when Europeans had essentially wiped out the native population of the American continent, the demand for laborers was covered by slaves brought over from Africa, thus commencing the longest-lasting exploitation of human slavery. It is estimated that from the 15th to the 18th century, more than 20 million Africans had been transported to North, Central and South America. 

Movements for the abolition of slavery were noted during the 18th century; the 1788 Constitution of the U.S.A. had made provision for the liberation of slaves within a period of 20 years; and yet, slavery ad continued to exist, in the southern states of the U.S.A...  At the beginning of the 19th century, Britain, France, and most of the new, independent nations of South and Central America had abolished slavery.  However, in their new country (America), the Portuguese and the Spanish also covered their “needs” in manpower by bringing over Africans as slaves.

Sample of Theodore Negris’ signature

 Our guide, the 1921 Revolution

Safeguarded in the Archives of the Hellenic Renaissance that are stored inside the Library of Parliament House is a document that is characterized as one of vast historical and humanitarian value.  It is registered as Document 151 and its date of publication is the 25th of February, 1825.  It is signed by the chief Secretary of State, Minister of External Affairs and President of the Ministerial Council, Theodore Negris.

This document with its immense value is addressed to the War Minister, Notis Botsaris, containing the following statements:

“Per the prescript of the Administration, the War Minister is hereby advised that, because the Administration has as its fundamental principle the abolition of slavery:

A.  Unless a special law be issued, the sale and purchase, throughout the State, of people of either gender, of every nation, is forbidden.

B.  In the event that purchased individuals exist or hereafter are discovered, from that moment on, they are free and by their masters shall no longer be sought.

 The War Ministry shall act upon this command, since it belongs to this same Ministry.

In Korinth, on the 25th of February 1822.”

In our day and age, the phenomenon of slavery has been substituted by the phenomenon of trafficking; which, in spite of the struggles by the prosecuting authorities, has been spreading ferociously on account of the hypocrisy – but also the insatiable behavior of a significant portion of perpetrators – because the profits from this disgraceful operation are massive.  “Trafficking” is the term used for the illegal moving and trading of people for the purpose of sexual-financial exploitation; the enlisting, the transporting, the transferring, installation or acquisition of persons through threats or the use of violence or other means of coercion.

See also

Ecumenical Patriarch Opposes American Slavery in 1862 (καταδίκη της δουλείας στις ΗΠΑ από τον Οικ. Πατριάρχη Ιωακείμ Β΄ το 1862!)

OLD PROBLEMS IN THE NEW WORLD: A Forum on Modern Slavery in the Ecumenical Patriarchate

Σάββατο 12 Ιουνίου 2021

On the 11th - 15th of June (and a movie about St. Luke the Doctor: Healing Fear, Saint Luke the Surgeon)...

Please, see:

St. Luke the Doctor & Wonderworker, Icon and Hymn of Theotokos "Axion Estin" & the Naked Saints Onuphrius the Egyptian & Peter of Mt Athos (June 11 & 12)  

Healing Fear, Saint Luke the Surgeon (movie)

St. Justin Popovic (June 14): Whither does humanistic culture lead? 

St Augustine of Hippo & St Doulas the Passion-Bearer of Egypt (June 15)
St. Augustine (June 15): "love the sinner, hate the sin"

The Holy Monastery of Sagmata


The Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration of Christ, Sagmata (here)  
The Holy Monastery of Sagmata (amateur translation)
The Holy Monastery of the Transfiguration – Sagmata is among the oldest monasteries, built at the height of 747 meters on the peak of the Sagmatiou mountain. It is a half hour from the city of Thebes, and 8 kilometers from the “Ethnike Odo” between Athens and Lamia (about 80 kilometers from Athens).
The founding of the Holy Monastery
According to Pausania, the mountain in ancient years was named “Mount Ypatios”, and at the peak was a magnificent ancient Greek temple and statue to the Ypatou Dios. During the Byzantine period, specifically the 12th century, the Holy Monastery was built by St. Clement, and was supported by the Emperor Alexios Comenos, who granted a chrysobull of 1106, which granted special rights to the Monastery, along with rich gifts. During that period, the name of the mountain was changed from “Ypation”, to “Sagmation”, most likely because the mountain resembles a hood or a saddle, or because in olden times, the monks' handiwork was the crafting of saddles.
The Katholikon of Sagmata Monastery, dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ (here)
The Katholikon
In the center of Holy Monastery stands the Katholikon, which is dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Savior, and which was built in the 12th century. It is in a cruciform style, topped with a dome, divided into four parts (the Holy Altar, the main church, the inner narthex or Liti, and the outer narthex) in addition to the bell tower, which was built in the 15th to the 16th century.
The most noteworthy portion of the church is mosaic floor. It is beautiful, from the samples that remain, crafted with multicolored stones, depicting wonderful scenes from the animal and plant kingdoms, along with geometric shapes...

The incredible view from the chapel of St. Clement at Sagmata Monastery (here)
The other buildings
Around the Katholikon are built the cells, the dining hall, and the rest of the support spaces. Towards the south side is the dining hall of the Monastery, the “photanamma”, and towards the western side the first cell, all constructions of the 12th century. The rest of the buildings (cells, the archondariki, etc.) date from the Turkish occupation.
The tomb of St. Clement in the Chapel dedicated to him, Sagmata Monastery (here)
The chapels
At a distance of 150 meters south of the Monastery is the scenic chapel of St. Nicholas, that dates most likely to the 16th century. To the west is the newly-built chapel of St. Clement, along with his tomb. From this location, the view of the fields and bays is majestic. From here begins a small footpath which leads to the steep cave where St. Clement lived in asceticism. Around the Monastery are the ruins of old chapels, while at a distance of about 1 kilometer, next to the road, is the chapel of the Holy Forty Martyrs, which was built during the Turkish occupation.
The path leading towards the ascetical cave of St. Clement of Sagmata (here)
The chapel of St. Luke the Surgeon
In recent years, the contemporary Russian Saint Luke the Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea (1877-1961), became well known in Greece. Within the Holy Monastery is a chapel dedicated to St. Luke. His memory is celebrated on June 11th...

The Chapel of St. Luke the Surgeon in Sagmata Monastery, where they treasure a portion of the Saint's wonderworking Relics, the Saint's miter, and numerous personal items of the Saint (here)
The Saints of the Holy Monastery
St. Meletos (1035-1105) – The founder of his famous Holy Monastery in Kithairona. He was the Elder of St. Clement. Many sources hold that he spent some time at Sagmata. His memory is celebrated September 1st.
St. Clement (1050-1140) – The founder of the Holy Monastery of Sagmata. His family was from Athens, and at a young age he came to the Holy Monastery of Osios Meletios, where he was tonsured a monk by St. Meletios, and remained near him for 30 years. In the beginning of the 12th century, he came to Sagmata and lived as a hermit “alone except for God” in a came at the top of a steep rock. During his life he built the Monastery. His memory is celebrated on January 26th and May 1st.
St. Germanos (1480-1540) – He served as abbot of the Holy Monastery during the bitter years of slavery [to the Turks]. He was the spiritual father of St. Seraphim. His memory is celebrated on January 26th.

St. Seraphim (1520-1602) – His family was from the town of Zeli. In his youth he came to Sagmata, and lived there as a monk for 10 years. For greater asceticism, he fled to the area of Domvou Elikonos, and built his famous Holy Monastery. His memory is celebrated on May 6th.
Fr. Nektarios Antonopoulos (the Abbot of Sagmata Monastery - today Metropolitan of Argolis), who routinely takes the Holy Relics to churches outside the Monastery, and gives many talks on the life and miracles of St. Luke of Simferopol (here)
The Holy Monastery in later years
The Monastery knew days of wondrous spiritual greatness, and was a spiritual lighthouse for the region for centuries. Unfortunately, the national endeavors of later years did not leave the Monastery unaffected. The occupation by barbarians halted the processes of the Holy Monastery, along with other monasteries. Then, the Monastery was sacked and stripped of its Holy treasures, which continued later by contemporary thieves. The buildings suffered the corruption of time, and the lack of men allowed considerable damage. The formerly multitudinous Holy Monastery remained with a few ages monks, who, without the necessary resources and difficult conditions tried to salvage what was possible. From the 1970's, at the concern of the Metropolitans Nikodemos and Ieronymos, and after, began major restoration activities. The reconstruction had progressed to the point that the abandoned Holy Monastery had changed appearance. Since 1977, the Monastery has been inhabited by a small-numbered brotherhood, and functions as a male monastery.
The Monastery is open to pilgrims daily from 7:30AM-1PM, and from 4PM until sunset.
The Holy Monastery celebrates:
August 6th (The Transfiguration of Christ)
January 26th and May 1st (St. Clement)
September 14th (The Precious Cross)
See the following link for a short video about Sagmata Monastery (in Greek): here. The following is a longer video in Greek, depicting the Abbot discussing the history of the monastery and showing some of the sacred places within: here.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!