Friday, December 9, 2016

Idolatry and Evil

The history of idolatry is different but yet similar in every culture and peoples who adopted this religious route. However, what united all the idolaters is the fact that they remain in the dark, believing in false gods, made by man in order to fill a certain void. According to the following passage from the Old Testament Book Wisdom of Solomon (14:12-31) we see how idolatry is also evil, keeping its faithful far from God’s embrace.

Solomon continues praying:
12Our God, the idea of making an idol was itself the first step toward being unfaithful to you. 13Idols were not here in the beginning, and they won't be around forever. 14They resulted from human pride, and so you have plans for them to end quickly.
15For example, a father made an idol to look like his child who had suddenly died, and the dead child then became an object of worship by later generations, who followed mysterious and secret ceremonies. 16Over the years, such godless ceremonies became customs and then laws, as rulers commanded idols of themselves to be carved and worshiped. 17And when people lived far from their rulers, they tried to make idols that looked like their rulers, so that they could honour and flatter those rulers as if they were there with them.
18-19In fact, some people who did not know what their rulers looked like were led to worship them, because of the skill and the tireless efforts of those who made beautiful idols to please their rulers. 20Finally, many people started worshiping their earthly rulers as gods. 21As a result, idolatry became a hidden trap for those who were suffering or were under the authority of rulers, and they called these idols gods, although you alone are God.
22Not only are such people ignorant about you, but this ignorance makes them terrible enemies of each other, even while they think they are living at peace. 23They kill their children as sacrifices and conduct secret ceremonies, they follow strange customs and act like wild people, 24they are immoral and cause great pain by being unfaithful in marriage, and they are deceitful murderers. 25Violence, murder, robbery, deceit, corruption, dishonesty, riots, and lying are everywhere. 26No one knows right from wrong or shows gratitude or cares about anyone else; all of them are sexual perverts or share weird marriage unions or are otherwise completely disgusting.
27The worship of worthless idols is the cause and result of all kinds of evil. 28Their worshipers act crazy, or give false messages in the name of God, or live sinful lives. They never speak the truth, and they tell lies in court 29because they trust in these lifeless idols and don't expect to be punished. 30But they will be punished for worshiping idols instead of you, the Holy God, and for disgracing you with their deceitful lies. 31Sinners don't receive help from the idols they worship, but the penalty for their sins follows them in hot pursuit.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Love vs Lust

What is love and what is lust? How can we distinguish between the two terms? Which one have we felt in the past? These are interesting questions. Defining ideas and words are a first step in order to understand them and try and achieve the ideal, our objective in life and in our actions. Philip Sherrard in his interesting book Christianity and Eros, he explains the difference of love and lust. He begins by giving St Augustine’s definition of lust, whereby it’s ‘essentially a desire for self-satisfaction.’ (p.45). The author continues his explanation:

[Lust] is a desire to possess something, to make it serve our own purpose and become part of us. In lust, it is the self which is the centre of attraction, and the object which stimulates it is simply an object and nothing more. That is why lust dies when it is satisfied: it ends with self-gratification, and then disappears until it is rekindled again by its object. In this it is to be distinguished from love. In love, it is not the self but the object which is the centre of attraction. One can go even further and say that the object of love ceases to be an object and becomes an ‘other,’ a particularised being, and it is this ‘other’ that is the centre of attraction. And love is fulfilled (not satisfied, which it never can be) not in an act of appropriation in which nothing is given; it is fulfilled in a total act of giving. It is the activity in which the self goes out of itself in the most complete way. This is not to say that lust and love represent an absolute duality in human life. Lust is not love. But if love is centred on the self and not on what is loved it becomes lust. (pp.45-6). 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Athena Statue, Antwerp

When visiting a new place, visitors tend to explore in order to identify the culture, religion, history or this new place. It is interesting how many destinations around the world display Greek themes statues, inspired by Ancient Greek culture, religion, history, myths and legends. 

Such is the case with Antwerp, in Belgium, where one finds a statue of Goddess Athena, along the River Scheldt. Goddess Athena, being the patron of Athens, daughter of Zeus, Goddess of Wisdom, is a symbol found in many places, such as York (North England), as seen through a previous post on this blog.[1]

Monday, December 5, 2016

2017 Pocket Diary - Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain

The new pocket diary (2017) of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain is now out. This is one of two diaries that the Archdiocese publishes annually, the second being much larger, with many details for each parish in Great Britain and Ireland. Archbishop Gregorios’ Prologue, which is to be found in this pocket diary, follows:

‘With the help and grace of the Triune God, we have entered the New Year 2017. For this reason, I am extending my warm wishes and heart-felt season’s greetings to the Faithful and the Officers of this Biblical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople. I wish that the Master of time who is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End of this year, but also the joy and blissful hope of every Christian and of the whole of Humanity, grant us all with His rich earthly and heavenly gifts.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the Peace, prevailing over every mind,” grant the world and the Church concord, cooperation, reconciliation and His love, so that we all chant for and praise Him in unison as the True God and the Father of us all in eternity. Amen.
Following its long tradition, our Archdiocese is publishing the small-size and large-size Diary for the year 2017, to enlighten and offer a spiritual gift to the Orthodox Christians who comprise its Flock under Christ. We are certain that you will all support our effort and offer your financial and moral support in deed to facilitate the publication and circulation of the Diary of the Archdiocese. Special thanks are due to all those who every year contribute their efforts to the publication of the large and small Diary, whose cost keeps increasing every year. Last year, a series of important events took place in the life of our Church and Christendom in general. Indicatively, I mention that last June, divine providence permitted the Orthodox Synod to take place in Crete, after many centuries. This Orthodox Synod in a spirit of brotherly love and peace, studied the various issues of the worldwide Orthodox Churches and declared compellingly and under God’s wisdom the Orthodox faith and Tradition and asserted its spiritual presence and its willingness to contribute, along with the other Churches and state organisations, to the preservation of world peace, the struggle against terrorism, religious fanaticism and bigotry, the protection of the environment and the respect towards the Creation and the reign of God across the World.
During the last year, the Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne was deprived of the scientific and clerical services of the educated, Greek-speaking Archimandrite of the Ecumenical Throne, the late Ephrem Lash. May the Lord accept him in the tents of the righteous and receive his translational and theological contributions as his offer of spiritual myrrh to the Throne of God.

Our last year has bequeathed us the decision of the British people to leave the European Union, whose member they have been since 1973. We hope and pray that the new government in charge of which is Her Excellency Mrs Teresa May, will act in wisdom, providence and prophetic insight to that they will secure stable and fruitful relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union, because, as His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr Justin Welby has recently stated, “we may have left the European Union but we remain in Europe.” As it is well known, the Prime-minister is a religious person, a frequent church-goer and has been imbued with the Christian faith she has inherited from her late father, who was an Anglican priest. It cannot be overstressed that the concern and pursuit of the European Union is the protection of the peace, security, democracy, freedom, the priceless, existential gifts of the European civilisation and of that prophetic Organisation members of which the rest of the European states aspire to become.
We also note that this year, the Western Church and the rest of Christendom is celebrating the 500th anniversary (1517-2017) of the declaration of the religious Reformation by the German priest-monk and theologian Martin Luther. As it is known, that day constitutes a milestone in the division of Western Christianity, causing a split in the Roman Catholic Church after which Protestantism emerged as the polar opposite of the Western Roman Catholic Church. The advent of Reformation brought on great catastrophes and continuous wars in Europe. After five hundred years, Western Christianity has now been reconciled and despite its remaining various, including theological, differences, is preparing to celebrate the anniversary and recount the great contribution of Reformation to theology, the dissemination of the meaning of the Gospel and the translation of the Holy Bible in many languages and dialects that helped the missionary effort and Christianisation of the peoples in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
This holy Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne, which is active in the United Kingdom and Ireland, is continuing with the provision of services to its Flocks. And despite the difficulties of modern Society, the religious alienation of great numbers of European society and the pressures of modern life, the Orthodox Christians of the Country remain faithful to their Church. But we should mention, in a spirit of repentance and humility that the Lord’s Vineyard is in need of greater numbers of workers, Clergy and Laity, to achieve the return to the Gospel and the rejuvenation of the faith and age-old devotion of the faithful People. With continuous, unremitting prayer, frequent church-going, the Holy Communion, the divine Sermon, charity, the benefits accruing from the study of the Divine Word and the teachings of the Fathers and our undivided adherence to our Orthodox Christian tradition and worship of the Triune and worshiped true God, our Faith gets enriched, is being reborn and blossoms like the phoenix for the glory of our Saviour Jesus Christ and the salvation of our souls and reigning of the Kingdom of God in the whole World.
With these sacred thoughts and expectations, we are entering the New Year of the Lord. Full of humility and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Divine Birth in Bethlehem of Judea we celebrated this past December, we extend our greetings with our deep love and honour to all Orthodox Christians of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain and wish from the depths of our heart that peace and the infinite mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be upon us, and remain with warm wishes and blessings in the Lord and honour.’ (pp.8-11).

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Templo Mayor – Mexico City

In the historic centre of Mexico City, near the imposing Catedral Metropolitana, we find Templo Mayor. In Aztec times the Templo Mayor stood in a sacred walled compound in the centre of Tenochtitlan (present day Mexico City) before Cortes destroyed it. However, in 1978 a massive round carved stone was uncovered accidentally near Zocalo that led to a major archeological project, uncovering the ruins of the magnificent double pyramid complex.

The Great Temple, just as many constructions in the Sacred Precinct of Tenochtitlan, was expanded on numerous occasions. According to historical sources, it was rebuilt on par with the expansion of the Mexica Empire. In addition, the city suffered ongoing floods and earthquakes, and the subsoil of the island-city was constantly settling. This forced the Mexicas to raise the level of their constructions to prevent their buildings from sinking.

Seven different times, the temple was completely covered with construction fill composed of mud and stone. Each time the former structure was covered by a new building of larger dimensions and of better quality. On five additional occasions, only the main façade was expanded. During the inauguration of each new building, war captives from kingdoms conquered expressly for the event were sacrificed. Due to this construction method, the earliest stages were never seen by the Spaniards, nor by the last generations of the Mexicas.

The Great Temple was the Mexica sacred space par excellence. The most important rituals were enacted here, including those dedicated to their gods, the naming of their leaders, and the funerals of the nobility. The Mexica architects designed the Great Temple as the centre of their model of the universe, where the horizontal plane converged with the vertical plane.