Monday, October 31, 2016

Sexual Relationship is a Sacrament

Sex, sexuality, relationships have always been ideas and themes which interested people in every time, culture, religion, society. Christianity can be quite open about it, but at times we do see that it is very conservative in explaining sex, in understanding it or in accepting it for its members, especially when this is done outside of marriage. However, the fact that Christ performed his first miracle at a wedding, even the fact that he was present at one signifies that God accepts marriage and considers sexual relationship as a sacrament. Philip Sherrard expands on this in his book Christianity and Eros, where he writes:

‘The idea of the sexual relationship as a sacrament is of course affirmed by the Christian Church. It is the corner-stone of the Christian conception of marriage. It is understood that Christ’s presence at the marriage in Cana and the fact that it was there that he performed his first miracle implies that God not only approves of marriage but also gives it his special blessing. If it is asked why such a dignity has been conferred on marriage the answer generally given is that there are two main reasons to account for it. The first is that it unites man and woman and that this union has a sacred significance. Here the traditional authority is St Paul. In the Epistle to the Ephesians (5.31-2), it is indicated that in marriage man and woman become one flesh and that this great mystery corresponds to the relationship between Christ and the Church. Marriage – the union of man and woman – symbolises the union of Christ and the Church and so is sacred. The second main reason for regarding marriage as sacred is that it is the established institution for the procreation of children. God said to our forefathers: ‘Be fruitful and multiply’; and this is taken to mean that he wanted Adam and Eve to have children and must therefore regard the procreation of children by husband and wife as a holy procedure under all circumstances. It follows that marriage, through which man and woman become husband and wife, must also be holy, provided that the Church gives it her blessing.’ (pp.3-4).

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Niagara Falls

One of the most impressive attractions in North America is of course Niagara Falls, which is located on the borders between the United States of America and Canada. There are actually two waterfalls here, the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the latter being the biggest one.

Niagara Falls were formed at the end of the Ice Age. Large torrents of water were released from the melting ice, draining into what is now the Niagara River. Therefore, Niagara Falls are about 12,000 years old.

The name Niagara derived from the Iroquois Indian word ‘Onguiaahra’ meaning ‘the strait.’ Some people have endeavoured to go over the Falls, which resulted in their death or their immortality, by achieving this daring attempt. The first person to over the Falls in a barrel and survive was a 63 year old female schoolteacher. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Celebrating the Saints

Upon entering an Orthodox Church building one is able to identify the great veneration the Orthodox have to Christ, the Mother of God and the countless Saints, which adorn the whole interior of the Church. The Orthodox, therefore, tend to also celebrate their memory greatly. On the feast day of the Saint, whoever has the saint’s name celebrates. This celebration (the nameday) is more important than the birthday of a person, showing great veneration to the certain Saint, God and the Church. St John of Damascus, who wrote three treatises in defence of icons, explains, in regards to the significance of the Saints:

‘If you raise temples to the saints of God, then put up trophies to them as well. Of old a temple was not erected in the name of human beings, nor was the death of just ones celebrated, but they were buried, and anyone who touched a corpse was reckoned unclean, even Moses himself. Now the memorials of the saints are celebrated. The corpse of Jacob was buried, but that of Stephen is celebrated . . . it is impossible not to celebrate the memorials of the saints, for the choir of the holy apostles and the god-bearing fathers enjoins that these should take place. For from the time when God the Word became flesh, and was made like us in every respect save sin, and was united without confusion with what is ours, and unchangingly deified the flesh through the unconfused co-inherence of his divinity and his flesh one with another, we have been truly sanctified. And from the time when the Son of God and God, being free from suffering in his divinity, suffered in what he had assumed and paid our debt by pouring out a worthy and admirable ransom (for the Son’s blood was appealing to the Father and worthy of respect), we have truly been set free. And from the time when he descended into Hades and preached forgiveness to the souls, who had been bound as captives there for all eternity, like sight to the blind, and, having bound the strong one by his excess of power, rose again and gave incorruption to the flesh that he had assumed from us, we have been made truly incorruptible. From the time we were born of water and the Spirit, we have truly been adopted as sons and become heirs of God. Henceforth Paul calls the faithful holy. Henceforth we do not mourn for the saints, but we celebrate their death. Henceforth, “we are not under the law, but under grace,” “having been justified through faith,” and knowing the only true God – “for the law is not laid down for the just” – we are no longer enslaved by the elements of the law as children, but being restored to perfect manhood we are nourished with solid food, no longer prone to idolatry. For the law is good, like a lamp shining in a squalid place, but only until the day dawns. For already the morning star has risen in our hearts and the living water of the knowledge of God has covered the seas of the nations and all have come to know the Lord. “The old things have passed away, and behold everything is new.” The divine apostle therefore said to Peter, the supreme chief of the apostles, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” and to the Galatians he wrote, “I testify to everyone who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law.”’ (Treatise I, 21).

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

St. Cedd, Founder of Lastingham, Bishop and Apostle of the East Saxons

St Cedd, Founder of Lastingham, Bishop and Apostle of the East Saxons was born in Northumbria, England and died October 26, 664. Cedd was raised together with his brother Saint Chad. He became a monk at Lindisfarne and in 653 was sent with three other priests to evangelize the Middle Angles when their King Peada was baptized by Saint Finan of Lindisfarne in 653, at the court of his father-in-law, Oswy of Northumbria.
After working in that field for a time he was called to harvest a new one in East Anglia (Essex), when King Sigebert was converted and baptized by Finan. He and another priest travelled throughout the midlands to evaluate the situation. Then Cedd returned to Lindisfarne to confer with Finan, who consecrated him bishop of the East Saxons in 654. Cedd returned to Essex and spent the rest of his life with the Saxons--building churches, founding monasteries (at Bradwell-on-the-Sea (Ythancaestir, Othona), Tilbury, and Lastingham), and ordaining priests and deacons to continue the work of evangelisation.

Lastingham, originally called Laestingaeu, was built in 658 on a tract of inaccessible land in Yorkshire donated by King Ethelwald of Deira. Here Cedd spent 40 days in prayer and fasting to consecrate the place to God according to the custom of Lindisfarne, derived from Saint Columba. All three of the monasteries he built were destroyed by the Danes and never restored.
He attended the Synod of Whitby in 664, where he accepted the Roman observances, and died of the plague at Lastingham, Yorkshire. At the news of his death, 30 of his brethren among the East Saxons came to Lastingham to consecrate their lives where their holy father in faith had died. But they, too, were all killed by the same plague, except one unbaptized boy, who lived to become a priest and zealous missionary (Delaney, Walsh).[1]

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Does Evil Exist?

Many, during various eras, have asked this interesting question. A number of theologians have endeavoured to answer this ancient question, which has troubled mankind since the beginning of time, where in every religion and understanding of our existence, we separate the world into good and evil. However, does evil exist? And if it does, how does it exist? Why has God allowed it to exist and prevail (in some instances)? These are popular questions. Vladimir Lossky, in his book The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, explains:

‘Evil entered into the world through the will. It is not a nature (φύσις), but a condition (έξις). ‘The nature of good is stronger than the habit of evil,’ says Diadochus of Photike, for ‘good exists, while evil does not exist, or rather it exists only at the moment in which it is practiced.’ According to St Gregory of Nyssa, sin is a disease of the will which is deceived, and takes a mere shadow of the good for the good itself. For this reason, the very desire to taste of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil was itself a sin, for, according to St Gregory, knowledge presupposes a certain disposition towards the object one wishes to know, and evil, being in itself non-existent, ought not to be known. Evil becomes a reality only by means of the will, in which alone it subsists. It is the will which gives evil a certain being. That man, who was by nature disposed towards the knowledge and love of God, could in his will incline towards a non-existent good, an illusory goal, can only be explained by some external influence, by the persuasion of some alien will to which the human will consented. Before entering the earthly world through Adam’s will, evil had already had its beginnings in the spiritual world. It was the will of the angelic spirits, eternally fixed in their enmity to God, which first gave birth to evil. And evil is nothing other than an attraction of the will towards nothing, a negation of being, of creation, and above all of God, a furious hatred of grace against which the rebellious will puts up an implacable resistance. Even though they have become spirits of darkness, the fallen angels remain creatures of God, and their rejection of the will of God represents a despairing intercourse with the nothingness which they will never find. Their eternal descent towards non-being will have no end. St Seraphim of Sarov, a great Russian mystic of the last century, says of them: ‘They are hideous; their conscious rejection of divine grace has transformed them into angels of darkness, and unimaginable horrors. Being angelic creatures, they possess enormous strength. The least among them could destroy creation from within, by turning human freedom towards evil.’ The same saint, referring to an ascetic writing attributed to St Antony, distinguishes three different wills at work in man. First, there is the will of God, perfect and saving; secondly, the will of man, not necessarily pernicious, but certainly not in itself a saving will, and, thirdly, the demonic will, seeking our perdition.’(pp.128-129).  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Lecture: Syriac Christianity in the land of the Tangut

Tuesday 25th October at 18.00 in G3 (Main Building SOAS) a lecture will be given by Dr. Li Tang (University of Salzburg) on Syriac Christianity in the Tangut region of north-west China and Inner Mongolia between the T'ang and Yuan dynasties (8th-14th centuries). With the demise of Syriac Christianity following its expulsion by the T'ang in the ninth century, questions are raised as to 'what happened to the Christians'. Textual and archaeological material from the Tangut region throw important light onto this question - which modern Chinese scholars and politicians have shown interest.
Dr. Li Tang is currently Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall Cambridge and at Faculty of Divinity, University Cambridge.  Her major publications include:
East Syriac Christianity in Mongol-Yuan China (12th – 14th Centuries). Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011.
A Study of the History of Nestorian Christianity in China and Its Literature in Chinese together with a New English Translation of the Dunhuang Nestorian Documents. Frankfurt/M: Peter Lang, 2002 & 2nd ed. 2004.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mr. Men and Little Miss – Royal Mail First Day Cover

The newest Royal Mail First Day Cover is dedicated to Mr. Men and Little Miss. Where did it all begin? One day, when Adam Hargreaves was about eight years old, he asked his father Roger, “What does a tickle look like?”

The unusual question his son had posed provoked an amused response initially but, being a creative man with a natural talent for drawing. Roger had a think and went on to visualise a tickle in the shape of a small orange man with incredibly long arms. Inspired by his creation, he drafted a short story all about him, developed some accompanying illustrations and mocked up his words and pictures into a little book, Mr. Tickle, which he sent to all the large UK publishers. While awaiting a reply, Roger kept busy working on several other little books, featuring characters such as Mr. Greedy and Mr. Nosey. Though rejected by the UK’s major publishers, Mr. Tickle would eventually find a home with Thurman Publishing Ltd and in August 1971 the first six Roger Hargreaves books – Mr. Tickle, Mr. Greedy, Mr. Happy, Mr. Nosey, Mr. Sneeze and Mr. Bump -  were published. They became so successful that after three years more than a million copies had been sold.
A decade after the first ‘Mr. Men’ books were published, Roger began writing the ‘Little Miss’ stories. In 1981, he introduced 13 new personalities to his readers, including Little Miss Bossy.
Sadly, in 1988 Roger Hargreaves died suddenly at the age of 53. Adam, who had inherited his father’s artistic talent, took over the family business and set about learning how to draw the Mr. Men and Little Misses. Although it took him quite a long time to feel that he was getting the characters right, in 2001 he illustrated and wrote the story of Mr. Cheeky, which was later followed by six titles in 2004, including Mr. Cool and Little Miss Bad.

The Mr. Men and Little Miss stories have been absorbing and entertaining children across the globe for 45 years and in 2016 these colourful, eclectic characters are as popular as ever. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Virgin Mother of God, hail Mary, full of grace

Virgin Mother of God, hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women; and blessed is the fruit of your womb; for you gave birth to the Saviour of our souls.

Friday, October 21, 2016

‘In the Eye of the Storm’ – Conference in Memory of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

The ‘Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Foundation’ is organising a Conference in memory of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh on November 19 2016 @ St Sava’s Church Hall (89 Lancaster Road, London, W11). The speakers for this event will be Fr Ivan Moody (Lisbon), Costas Carras (Athens), Anna Conomos (London) and Fr Demetrios Bathrellos (Athens).

To see the programme and download the application form please see:
Booking is essential:
Tel: 01896 347457             07939 343734

Thursday, October 20, 2016

St Gerasimos’ Cave

St Gerasimos, the patron Saint of Kefalonia used to live in this cave, depicted below, before establishing a monastery, where his relics are currently located. St Gerasimos was born into the Notaras aristocratic family of Trikala Korinthias in 1506 AD. His parents were Dimitrios and Kallie Notara. His grandfather, Lucas, was the last Prime Ministerof Byzantium and a relative of Constantinos Palaeologus, the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire.

On completion of his excellent education, he toured all the sacred places in Greece. He went to Constantinople on a pilgrimage. He then moved on to Mount Athos, the Garden of the Virgin Mary, where he was ordained a monk. He later moved to the Holy Land, where he served for 12 years and was ordained to the priesthood. He wished to seek peace, therefore he left, moving on to Crete and then to Zakynthos.
St Gerasimos eventually ended up in Kefalonia in 1555, where he spent five years in a cave in Lassi (depicted in the pictures here), an area on the outskirts of Argostoli (the capital of Kefalonia). In 150 he established a convent, naming it New Jerusalem. The St had a famous motto, which he preached all his life: ‘Children, live in peace and do not be arrogant.’

The Saint passed away on August 15th 1579. However, he is commemorated on August 16th, due to the celebration of the Dormition of the Mother of God on the 15th August. His relics were uncovered on October 20th 1581 that is why he is also celebrated on this day. Therefore St Gerasimos is celebrated twice within a year.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A.E.C.A. Reception for Orthodox Clergy, 2016

The Anglican and Eastern Churches Association held its annual reception for Orthodox clergy on Monday 10th October at Faith House Westminster. This was a special occasion, being the last A.E.C.A. event for the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, who is also the Anglican President of the Association, before his retirement in February 2017. The event began with Fr William Taylor (Chairman of the A.E.C.A.) welcoming everyone and speaking about the Bishop of London. Later, the bishop spoke about the A.E.C.A and his role within the Association, thanking all for their important work in promoting relations between the churches. In order to show their appreciation for his Presidency, the Association gave the Bishop of London a gift, an icon of St Seraphim of Sarov, who he respects and venerates greatly, which was given to him by the Orthodox President of the A.E.C.A, H.E. Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateira and Great Britain. Bishop Richard gave a great explanation of how the relics of St Seraphim of Sarov were saved from the Museum of Atheism in Russia. At the end of this great event, the Association announced the new Anglican President, who is going to be the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark. The next Reception for Orthodox Clergy will take place in October 2017. More pictures will be published soon on the A.E.C.A.'s site.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Patriarch of Serbia’s Homily @ St Paul’s Cathedral

Last week His Holiness Irinej, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci, Patriarch of Serbia visited England, together with a delegation from the Serbian Orthodox Church. They all visited Lambeth Palace, the Serbia Orthodox Churches of St Sava (London) and the Holy Prince Lazar Church (Birmingham). However, the high light of the visit was the Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate the centenary of Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic’s address in St Paul’s Cathedral on 28th June 1916. This was a significant event, since St Nikolaj was the first non-Anglican to preach from the pulpit in St Paul’s Cathedral. During this event many bishops from the Orthodox and Anglican world were present, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. During this event, the Patriarch of Serbia honoured the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, with the Order of St Sava for his assistance, interest and love he has shown towards Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church. Additionally, His Holiness gave an icon of St Nikolaj to the Dean of St Paul's to be placed within the Cathedral and to be venerated and honoured by the Christians visiting this amazing Church. Following is the homily given by His Holiness Irinej, Patriarch of Serbia:

‘Most Reverend and Right Honourable Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Right Reverend Lord Bishops, reverend fathers and venerable servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, your excellencies, highly esteemed and very dear brothers and sisters, Friends! In the name of trice Holy God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, let me offer our traditional greeting: Christ is in our midst!
One hundred years ago from this sacred place a young Serbian hieromonk, taken by awe, stated that this cathedral’s magnificence, surely, must be the pride of England and of all Christendom. “I have seen that it has been built from granite and marble”, he remarked, “that the waves of the hundreds of seas and oceans rinsed them to the shore […] that this temple is accounted for the one of the architectural wonders of the world for a reason”. Those were the words of Nikolaj Velimirović, later bishop of Ohrid and Žiča, recently sainted by the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Speaking in most difficult times, his nation butchered and exiled, the Serb added that he comes from a country were “All the light went from the ground to the sky and the sky is the only place where the light is coming from”. Moreover, these words were uttered on 28 June 1916, on St. Vitus’ Day. On that day the Serbian nation celebrates the memory of the Battle of Kosovo (28 June 1389). In this epic battle Duke Lazar and his people, having taken Holy Communion at the Church of Samodreža, laid their lives in defense of freedom, land and of Christ’s Church. Writing in c. 1393 patriarch Danilo III states that having assembled his army to tell them of the Turkish invasion, the Holy Martyr Duke described the ultimate award (1Cor. 2:9) which awaits those who keep faith: “We have lived a long time for the world; in the end we seek to accept the martyr’s struggle and to live forever in heaven. Let us earn the name of Christian soldiers, martyrs for godliness…”
This is who we were, this is who we are, and this is who we shall be. Namely, a people who give witness to Christ, if need be at pains of the Cross (Phil. 2:8). We trust that this is who you are, as Christians of the great British people. That is, a people who keep faith in their Christ, the Son of God, given for the life of the world (Jn. 6:51).

It is this that prompted the saint-to-be, Nikolaj, to state the following as well, 100 years ago at St Paul’s: “However, my friends, I am coming from a little country in the Balkans, and there is a temple that is bigger, holier, and more beautiful and precious than this one. That temple is located in the Serbian town of Niš and its name is the Skull Tower. That temple is built from the skulls that belong to my people. They have been standing there for five centuries, like a stout dam […], on the Eastern European gate”. Velimirović understood that the Skull Tower (welded of mortar and bone) is a symbol of Serbian faithfulness to Christ, and a sign of service to Europe’s Christian identity. “In other words”, as St. Nikolai concluded, “… while Europe was becoming Europe we know Today, we were its fence, the impenetrable wall, and the wild thorns around the gentle rose”.
This gentle rose, as England is proverbially referred to as well, remains dear to us. For, we too are part of Europe’s mission, beauty and meaning.
Accordingly, we keep unfading memory of hosts of Christians from these Great Isles who have helped us enrich and protect our nation on its historical path, which rises to lead us into our final destiny, the Kingdom of our Lord. In World War I the nurses of Scotland came to Serbia’s aid, risking their lives; the professors and Anglican clerics of Oxford, Cuddston and Dorchester saved a whole generation of Serbian boys, offering shelter and education to Serbia’s spiritual future. This is why Serbian officers dedicated the following script to Lady Katherine M. Harley of the Scottish Women’s Hospital, killed in action in Bitolj (Manastir) in 1917: “On your tomb instead of flowers our gratitude shall blossom”.
In World War II again our nations forged fellowship in blood and witness to “golden freedom and honorable Cross”. In April 1941 the church of the Holy Ascension in Belgrade was struck by Luftwaffe bombs, killing several hundred faithful. Six months earlier Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London was struck by the same dark wing, the High Altar was destroyed. Several hundred thousand Serbs perished through unimaginable suffering in the Konzentrationslager of Jasenovac, simply for being of different faith and national provenance. Hundreds of thousands of British sons and daughters were strewn like poppies over this blooded earth, fighting the same evil. “Better grave than slave!” Serbs exclaimed in Belgrade’s streets in 1941, as they affirmed solidarity with the great allies.
Still, it is not only defense against evil and destruction that has brought us together, historically. Affirmation of the common Good in times of peace has done the same. Timothy J. Byford, wonderful educator of several generations of Serbian children in the 70s and 80s, a keeper of Belgrade’s nightingales, and our beloved citizen for over 50 years; or, more recently, the Bishop of Warwick, John, a Velimirović adept, who came to our aid during the epic floods inundating Serbia in May 2014, working with others to alleviate the misfortunes of the 30,000 displaced: Such are the persons who come to mind as our distinguished British friends, notwithstanding many others who weave the coat of many colours of mutual respect and solidarity (Gen. 37:3).

Presently we need to face the future together, again. We are called in the name of what we believe is best: namely, the promotion of truth, charity and sanctifying life kept in the Church of Christ by the Spirit. However, the world has changed dramatically. It is a world which, despite spectacular progress in many fields, remains tied to sin, a world fallen (Rom. 8:20-22). The acerbic words of St. Justin Popović (who read letters at Oxford under guidance of Fr. Walter H. Frere, commencing in 1916) illustrate one of our paradoxes: “Оur age is one of atomic technology entangled in jungle ethicology”. In a word, we still struggle to implement spiritual discernment and proper ethical orientation in fields of science, technology and political power, which tend to create self-sufficient worlds of their own.
This is why the Serbian Orthodox Church, according to its modest abilities, and in the name of the Triune God, wishes to extend solidarity to the Church of England and Anglican Communion globally, so as to share what we think are the essential ways of moving forward in Christ. Firstly, we shall continue to elevate ascetic humbleness in and of Christ against all manner of excess devoid of grace: hence, in selfless giving we shall find our reward. Secondly, we shall continue to pray for the whole world in Truth: hence, in Christ’s image, words and deeds we shall seek answers to hard questions and face, boldly, the manifold challenges that come our way in what is growingly a “post-Christian” if not “anti-Christian” culture. Thirdly, we shall offer self-sacrificial service to all, regardless of race, social rank, ethnicity or gender: hence, by guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall continue to serve our world, bettering education, providing food and shelter for the hungry and homeless, protecting the marginalized, and nurturing the all-important work of reconciliation.
This path is illuminated by our guiding luminaries, past and present. These are men and women “with a lamp”. Notably, our scientists: England’s Francis Crick and Serbia’s Nikola Tesla, the “inventor of the electrical age”, a priest’s son; our poets and visionaries: John Donne and Petar Petrović Njegoš; our humanitarians: Florence Nightingale and Vladan Djordjević: but preeminently, these are our saints: Augustine and Anselmo of Canterbury or Simon and Sava of Athos and Serbia. For, they are spiritual parents of our Christian identity, and of our future in the Kingdom of God, which is at hand (Μk. 1:15).
It is in the name of this common heritage—wrought in prayer, blood and light—that I plead we remain steadfast in our faith, hope and love for Christ in whom the whole world is called to repentance, transformation, unification and salvation (Col 1:16-20). It is by the same token that I, entrusted by God to keep the Holy Patriarchal See of the Serbian Orthodox Church, also plead we tend to our brother’s and sister’s wounds: to those of our neighbor as much as those of the stranger (Lk 10:33-35). For, by “carrying each other’s burdens […] we will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). And our greatest wound, I should say, remains located in our spiritual heartland Kosovo and Metohija (which some refer to as the “Kent of Serbia”). Let us, therefore, pray that Christians in Kosovo (as elsewhere) conduct their Liturgies freely, without fear.
This is especially needed, say, in the church of Our Lady of Ljeviš (1306–1309). This church keeps a fresco depicting Plato and is located in the town of Prizren in Kosovo. Despite being on UNESCO’s list of jewels in the crown of world cultural heritage, this church was torched in the anti-Serb pogrom. The famous Ljeviš fresco of the Holy Mother of God, scorched by fire and darkened by smoke’s soot in 2004, nevertheless, still beholds our souls whilst holding infant Jesus in her all-holy arms. The same call for protective remembrance may be issued with regard to martyr monk Chariton of Crna Reka. He was abducted by armed men on 15 June 1999, 13 days before St. Vitus’ Day. Heeding his Bishop’s blessing, he went his way to buy bread for the brothers surrounded in the diocesan residence. He never returned. Chariton’s body was found later, beheaded. His martyred head was never retrieved. Still, we believe it has found rest, embedded spiritually in the Tower of Skulls, of which Bishop Nikolaj spoke a century ago.

Even so, we believe that there is a place in the hollow of God’s hand for both nations living in Kosovo and Metohija. For both Serbs, a people now mostly exiled from their homeland, and for Albanians. As you know well, I represent a nation small in breadth and length, not great in worldly power. Nonetheless, those who are best in our kind try to be great in emulating our saints and Christ. And it was St. Nikolaj Velimirović who stated memorably that Orthodoxy is to be found “beyond East and West”. For being free, loving and discerning in our Lord Jesus Christ means to traverse local borders and seek universal meaning, charity and justice. At the same time, it means to share the wealth thus acquired: or, to remain committed locally in particular challenges, as they come to reflect our general goals and hopes. Therefore, to strive for reconciliation—across hurt, divide and mistrust—is the superlative way to move forward: working for unity with our brothers and sisters of the same Christian faith, as well as working for peace and understanding with people of other religious, ethnical or socio-political denomination, under the condition of good will. In this we request your help, your wisdom and your understanding.
Therefore, I kindly ask all of you to accept this humble address as a token of good will in Christ our Lord. It is a symbol of undivided respect towards your great nation, culture and spiritual heritage. Alongside, it is a reflection on the historical paths we have traversed together, in mutual enrichment, regardless of spells of occasional estrangement.
As we seek to strengthen bonds of friendship in fellowship, taking responsibility for a good future shared by all, I extend our special admiration to His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin. His acute sense of diligent responsiveness to burning issues, his awareness of the complexities of modern existence, his love of prayer and practical theology: the elegant efficiency and calm wisdom with which he holds together such an intricate Body as is the Anglican Communion globally—the care for his Church and for people across the globe, his commitment to Anglican-Orthodox dialogue included, are an inspiration to all. Lastly, please accept our heartfelt gratitude for offering to us this historic opportunity to magnify God’s providence and mercy in this locus sanctus, just as your predecessor Lord Archbishop Randall Davidson did with loving regard to Nikolaj Velimirović, one hundred years ago.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, by the prayers of His most pure Mother and of our holy and God-bearing fathers and of all the Saints, have mercy on us!’

Monday, October 17, 2016

Statue of Christ

Icons are widely spread, accepted and venerated by the Orthodox faithful. Church Fathers promote the idea of icons and their use within our practice, being part of our prayer. St John of Damascus is one of the most prominent Church Fathers who expressed his belief on icons and their existence within our ecclesiastical life. However, in his third treatise he gives a story where a statue of Jesus Christ is made, in honour of Christ for a miracle He performed. This is not to say that we support statues in an Orthodox Church, as St John states in other parts of his argument. But, it does show that this also existed, at least in this instance. This story here reminds us of the one we find in Luke’s Gospel (8:43-48) of the woman who was healed by Jesus. The story is as follows:

‘From the Chronicle of John Malalas, of Antioch, concerning the woman with the haemorrhage, and the statue that she made for the Saviour Christ:

From then on John the Baptist became well-known to everyone and Herod, the toparch of the kingdom of Trachonitis, beheaded him in the city of Sebaste eight days before the Kalends of June in the consulship of Flaccus and Rufus. Therefore in his grief King Herod, the son of Philip, came from Judaea, and a certain wealthy woman, living in the city of Paneas, called Bernice, approached him, wishing to set up a statue to Jesus, for she had been healed by him. As she did not dare to do this without imperial permission, she addressed a petition to King Herod, asking to set up a golden statue to the Saviour Christ in that city. The petition ran as follows: “To the august toparch Herod, lawgiver to Jews and Hellenes, king of Trachonitis, a petition and request from Bernice, a dignitary of the city of Paneas. Justice and benevolence and all the other virtues crown your highness’s sacred head. Thus, since I know this, I have come with every good hope that I shall obtain my requests. My words as they progress will reveal to you what foundation there is for this present preamble. From my childhood I have been smitten with the affliction of an internal haemorrhage; I spent all my livelihood and wealth on doctors but found no cure. When I heard of the cures that Christ performs with his miracles, He who raises the dead, restores the blind to sight, drives demons out of mortals and heals with a word all those wasting away from disease, I too ran to him as to God. I noticed the crowd surrounding him and I was afraid to tell him of my incurable disease in case he should recoil from the pollution of my affliction and be angry with me and the violence of the disease should strike me even more. I reasoned to myself that, if I were able to touch the fringe of his garment, I would certainly be healed. I touched him, and the flow of blood was stopped and immediately I was healed. He, however, as though he knew in advance my heart’s purpose, cried out, ‘Who touched me? For power has gone out of me.’ I went white with terror and lamented, thinking that the disease would return to me with great force, and I fell before him covering the ground with tears. I told him of my boldness. Out of his goodness he took pity on me and confirmed my cure, saying, ‘Be of courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you. Go your way in peace.’ So your august highness, grant your suppliant this worthy petition.” When King Herod heard the contents of this petition, he was amazed by the miracle and, fearing the mystery of the cure, said, “This cure, woman, which was worked on you, is worthy of a greater statue. Go then and set up whatever kind of statue you wish to him, honouring by the offering him who healed you.” Immediately, Bernice, who had formerly suffered from a haemorrhage, set up in the middle of her city of Paneas a bronze statue of beaten bronze, mixing it with gold and silver, to the Lord God. This statue remains in the city of Paneas to the present day, having been moved not many years ago from the place where it stood in the middle of the city to a holy place, a house off prayer. This document was found in the city of Paneas in the house of a man called Bassus, a Jew who had become a Christian. Included in it were the lived of all those who had ruled over the land of Judaea.’ (St John of Damascus, On the Divine Images, Treatise III, 68).   

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Saint Gall, Irish Apostle to Switzerland

SAINT GALL - Gallus (or Gall) was born in the year 550, just eight years before Saint Comgall founded his famous monastery at Bangor. Little is known of the boyhood of Gall except that it is generally thought that he showed great piety and interest in the Christian faith. As a young man he went to study under Comgall of Bangor. And here it should be noted that the monastery at Bangor had become renowned throughout Europe as a great centre of Christian learning. Because of the great learning at Bangor, Ireland became known as "the land of Saints and Scholars". Missionaries went out from Bangor Abbey to all parts of Ireland, the British Isles, and the Continent.
Studying in Bangor at the same time as Gall was Columbanus, to whose honour the parish church in Ballyholme on the other side of Bangor is dedicated. We might say that Columbanus had become a sort of right hand man of Saint Comgall, and that he felt a great call to missionary adventure. And so he laid before the Abbott Comgall his request to be set free for this work.

Comgall was loath to part with one who had become so great a help and comfort to him; but realising that he had no right to consider only his own convenience, he gave his consent, and Columbanus together with twelve companions, the most noted of whom was probably Gall, set out about the year 589, bidding a life-long farewell to home and friends in order to face unknown difficulties and dangers in the extension of God’s Kingdom on the Continent.
Columbanus, Gall and their companions settled for a while in Switzerland at Lake Constance. After a while Columbanus felt an urge to go into Italy, but Gall was taken sick of a fever, and couldn’t go with him, apart from the fact that he was more anxious for a life of solitude.
Recovering from his illness, Gall fixed upon a quiet place on the River Steinach for his life of solitude. Having begun with a three day fast there, he erected a small stone hut or cell for prayer, an oratory after the manner usual in Ireland. And so began the abbey and the town of Saint Gall. Cells were soon added for twelve monks whom Gall carefully instructed.
Saint Gall was soon known in Switzerland as a powerful preacher. He is said to have thrown down images to heathen gods, and exhorted the worshippers of these images to return to the true God. As a result of Gall’s work, practically the whole of Switzerland is thought to have embraced the Christian faith.
When the See of Constance became vacant, the clergy who assembled to elect a new Bishop were unanimously in favour of Saint Gall on account of his superior learning and sanctity. He, however, refused, pleading that the election of a stranger would be contrary to Church law, but proposed his deacon John, who was duly elected and consecrated Bishop.
Sometime later, in the year 625, on the death of Eustasius, who was abbott of Luxeuil, a monastery founded by Saint Columbanus, six members of that community, all Irishmen, were sent by the monks to request Saint Gall to undertake the government of the monastery. He definitely refused to quit his life of solitude, and undertake any office of rank which might involve him in the cares of the world. He was then an old man, and probably felt himself unable to cope with the duties of high office.

The Legend of Saint Gall

A legend about Saint Gall in his solitary life has become well known. The story tells how a bear became St. Gall’s sole friend in the closing years of his life, and that the bear used to carry logs to the saint so that he could light his fire. The bear has now become the coat of arms for the town of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and the bear carrying the logs is depicted on the wall of the great Cathedral there, as it is in the parish church at Carnalea .
Saint Gall died on 16th October in the year 645, at the age of 95, and that date – 16th October – is now honoured in Carnalea parish each year as Saint Gall’s Day.
An assiduous preacher of the Gospel, a skilful trainer of people in the work of evangelisation, and a man of remarkable holiness of his life, Saint Gall left an abiding mark on the country in which he worked. His memory has long been revered in the locality of his labours he became known and honoured as the Apostle of Switzerland.

Troparion of the Saint, in Tone 8

As a companion of the Great Columban
thou didst travel throughout the lands of the Franks, o father Gall,
thy ascetic life contrasting with that of the worldly prelates whom thou didst encounter.
Open to us, we pray thee, the treasures of sacrifice and struggle,
that we too may attain the joy of eternal salvation[1]

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dying Before Our Time

How long we live on this planet is not important for a Christian. This might sound anachronistic; it might even sound idiotic to many, especially today, where death is a taboo. No one wishes to talk about it. However, we need to understand life in order to understand death. This life is merely the first chapter of our existence. The main part of our story is not in our current existence but in the future life. Dying early or dying in general is not to be seen as a bad moment in our lives. It is a chance for us to reach our goal, which for a Christian is communion with God, a relationship with Him and His people. Although it is a sad moment, where we miss our loved ones, it is a reality which no one can side-line. Let us understand life and death. In the following Old Testament passage (Wisdom of Solomon 4:7-19) we understand the truth of why some people live longer and why some people die younger. Let us not forget it is not important how long we live, but what is the quality of our life and how we can achieve salvation.

7Good people may die early, but they will be at rest. 8True respect isn't gained merely by growing old— 9people are honoured because of their wisdom and goodness. 10   Enoch, a person God loved and who pleased him, was living among sinners. But God took him away 11to protect his mind and soul from the influence of evil. 12Even the most innocent person can be deceived and destroyed by sinful thoughts. 13But Enoch loved the Lord; he became mature in a few years 14and pleased the Lord. So he quickly took Enoch away to protect him from evil. 15Others failed to understand that this is how God shows kindness and mercy and protects his holy people. 16Good people may die young, but they shame those sinners who live a long time. 17Sinners fail to understand why God gives them a long life and lets the wise die young. 18When they see this happen, they simply sneer. But God will laugh at them because their dead bodies will be forever disgusting to the rest of the dead. 19God will throw them speechless to the ground, and they will be like buildings that crumble. They will suffer and rot, then be forgotten.

Friday, October 14, 2016

‘Between Monsters, observations from the civil war in Syria 1st to 7th September 2016’ - Illustrated Talk

The London branch of the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius is having its Autumn Meeting on Thursday 27th October 2016, at 7.30 pm at St James’s Church, Sussex Gardens (Paddington) W2, near Lancaster Gate tube station. At this event there will be Eucharist (at 6.30 pm) followed by light refreshments and a talk, entitled: ‘Between Monsters, observations from the civil war in Syria 1st to 7th September 2016.’ This will be an illustrated talk by Jo Simister, of Living Stones of the Holy Land Trust.

The observers were a group of seven who had been invited by the Armenian Archbishop of Damascus, the Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Aleppo, the President of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Syria and the Grand Mufti of Syria. The group went to Syria to listen, learn and meet as many people as possible; to express their commitment to impartiality and solidarity with those who are suffering regardless of faith, culture or politics; to hear from religious and political leaders and internally displaced people; and to visit different religious communities and experience their placed of worship.[1]

[1] The Fellowship of St Albans and St Sergius, London Newsletter, Michaelmas 2016, p.1. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Christ Church College Chapel, Oxford

The Cathedral is the College Chapel for the College as well as the cathedral church for the Diocese of Oxford. The beautiful building is home to a vibrant worshipping community with a rich worshipping tradition and a world famous Cathedral Choir. It hosts a wide range of diocesan events, music, art and drama. Interestingly enough, Christ Church Cathedral is the smallest Cathedral in England.

On this site stood the convent church where Oxford's patron saint, Frideswide, was buried in the 8th century. Around her shrine in the 9th and 10th centuries a group of priests lived a communal life, doing pastoral work, and in the 12th century the monastery became the Augustinian priory of St Frideswide. By the 13th century it was a major place of pilgrimage.

When Cardinal Wolsey began the building of his college here, the western end of the building was removed to make space for Tom Quad, and the remainder was used as the temporary chapel for the new college. Wolsey's plan to replace it with a larger chapel on the North side of Tom Quad would have caused its demolition but when he fell from power the building of the new chapel stopped.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Unworthy Prayer Purified

In the Holy Scriptures we constantly see people praying. This is always done in a sense of unworthiness, from man to God. For example in 2 Chronicles (6:19) we read: ‘Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You.’ Therefore, we identify our unworthiness, but yet we have to pray, we feel the need to communicate with the Creator, allowing us to be part of His Kingdom and Communion. Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh explains:

“Sometimes we think that we are unworthy of praying and that we even have no right to pray. This is a temptation. Every drop of water, from wherever it comes, pool or ocean, is purified in the process of evaporation; and so is every prayer ascending to God.
The more dejected we feel, the greater the necessity for prayer. This is surely what John of Kronstadt felt one day when he was praying, watched by a devil who was muttering, ‘You hypocrite, how dare you pray with your filthy mind, full of the thoughts I read in it.’ He answered, ‘It is just because my mind is full of thoughts I dislike and fight that I am praying to God.’”[1]

[1] Anthony of Sourozh, Creative Prayer, 2004, p.53. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

‘Mount Athos and Russia 1016 – 2016’ Conference

The Friends of Mount Athos is organising a Residential Conference entitled: ‘Mount Athos and Russia 1016-2016’ at Madingley Hall Cambridge (England). This will take place between 3 and 5 February 2017. Russians have existed on Mount Athos since 1016. This event will be commemorated in Greece and elsewhere, due to its importance.

According to Dr Graham Speake, Friends of Mount Athos Chairman, ‘some of the most celebrated names in the history of Russian spirituality have been Athonites. Russians have contributed generously to the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Mountain, just as Greek Athonites continue to have a significant impact on the spiritual life of the Russian Orthodox Church.’[1] Distinguished speakers from Finland, Russia, Ukraine and the UK will present papers on a number of topics on Russians and Mount Athos.  
For more information on this event please contact Graham Speake: 01295 721445,
Also you can visit the Friends of Mount Athos site:

[1] Orthodox Outlook, August/September 2016, Issue 121, p. 11.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Teotihuacan – Mexico

Around 2400 years ago, the Valley of Teotihuacan was occupied by various rural communities with a population of approximately 5,000 inhabitants within an area covering 2.5-3.7 square miles. Toward 200 B.C., part of the population from the Southern Basin of Mexico, immigrated to the north of Lake Texcoco. Thus resulted in a reorganisation of the settlements and a new population centre was formed in the Valley. In this way, the first planned urban settlement in Mesoamerica was born.
During the following phases of the development of the City, a sophisticated level of urbanisation was reached as demonstrated by an urban plan with streets and blocks, dominated by two large perpendicular roadways running through them: the Avenue of the Dead and the East-West Avenue. Likewise, the urban planning was evidence by drainage and a sewage in the residential units, buildings and public plazas, as well as by an official architectural style characterised as the slope-panel.

At its peak, the city had a population of 175,000 inhabitants. The demographic increase, the economic development and the high level of specialisation required to satisfy the needs of the population, generated great social differences, as well as an important expansion in the arts and sciences. This was a theocratic society, which controlled the Valley of Teotihuacan and the neighbouring valleys of the Basin of Mexico.
Throughout the city, different levels of construction can be appreciated, demonstrating how the city grew on top of itself during nine centuries. In this way, one can easily observe the superimposed buildings which correspond to different stages in the development of the Teotihuacan Culture, until its fall around 700-750 A.D. The collapse of this city occurred due to social and environmental factors, and to economic growth of groups in neighbouring valleys.

After the city was abandoned and until the arrival of the Spanish, various cultural groups, such as the Toltecs and the Aztecs respected it as a Sacred City. Settlements established themselves on the outskirts, reoccupying the residential zones and the spring fed agricultural areas.

In sheer size, the Pyramid of the Sun is the largest pre-Hispanic building of its time (100-650 A.D.) and one of the most significant in Meso America. Its name comes from the fact that beginning in the 16th century accounts claimed that the Sun God was worshipped at this immense monument. It is apparent that the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, are the buildings which dominated the growth and development of Teotihuacan. The religious importance of this city brought great power to it, making it a sacred city and principal destination of pilgrimages, allowing it to control the Valleys of Toluca, Puebla-Tlaxcala and Morelos. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Demythologizing the New Testament Studies. Beyond Bultmann and Crossan - Talk by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

His Eminence, the Most Reverend Dr Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk is a hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, theologian, Church historian and a composer. At present he is the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk, the chairman of the Department of External Church Relations and a permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

Under the guidance of Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia (Patriarchate of Constantinople) Metropolitan Hilarion completed his PhD at the Pembroke College in 1995. He is also the author of several volumes on dogmatic theology, patristics and Church history, numerous articles in various languages, and musical compositions for choir and orchestra.
The lecture will take place at Pembroke College from 17:00-18:00 in the Harold Lee Room and will be followed by a short drinks reception.
The event is free and open to the public. Please register at to reserve a place.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Confession according to St John Chrysostom

Confession is one of the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church. With confession our sins are forgiven, restoring our relationship not only with God but also between us, strengthening our relations. However, it is one Sacrament that many faithful question and find difficult to apply in their lives. Why should we confess? Some would claim that they don’t feel guilty about their actions. Valid points, when understood from a 21st century secular point of view. However, the Church promotes another reality, another relationship status. St John Chrysostom promotes the meaning of confession, explaining:

‘Nothing is so deadly to sin as self-accusation and self-condemnation with repentance and tears. Have you condemned your sin? Put away the burden. Who says this? God Himself who judges us. “Do you first confess your sins, that you may be justified.” Why are you ashamed, why do you blush, tell me, to admit your sins? You are not speaking to a human being, are you, who might reproach you? You are not confessing to your fellow servant, are you, who might expose you? No, rather to the Master, who protects and cherishes you, to the physician you are showing your wound. He is not unaware, is He, even if you do not confess, since He understand everything even before it is done? So why do you not confess? The sin does not become more burdensome because of your self-accusation, does it? Rather it becomes easier and lighter. For this reason He wishes you to confess, not in order to punish you, but in order to forgive you: not in order that He may learn your sin (how could that be, since He knows already?), but in order that you may learn how great a debt He forgives you. If you do not confess the greatness of the debt, you do not discover the excess of grace. “I do not force you,” He says, “to come into the middle of the theatre and place many witnesses around you; tell you sin to me alone in private, so that I may treat your wound and relieve your pain.” For this reason He has set in us a conscience more loving than a father. For a father who has rebuked his child once or twice or even three times or ten times, when he sees the child remaining uncorrected, gives up and disinherits him, and expels him from the household, and cuts him off from the family; but conscience does not. Whether it speaks once or twice, and you do not pay attention, it will speak again, and will not desist until your last breath. In the house, in the streets, at table, in the marketplace, on the road, often even in our very dreams it sets before us the images and appearances of our since.’[1]

[1] Behr, John (ed.), St John Chrysostom – On Wealth and Poverty, (New York, SVSP, 1981), pp.89-90.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Psalm 102 (103) - Bless the Lord, O my soul. . .

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.[a]
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children,
To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!