After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY


Antichrist: Islam's Awaited Messiah

Book review by ROCOR member "Pravoslavnik" 
– taken from ECafe forums

Antichrist: Islam's Awaited Messiah
Pravoslavnik » Mon 14 January 2008

I recently read a very interesting book entitled Antichrist: Islam's Awaited Messiah (see link below).  It is a comparative study of traditional Christian and Islamic eschatology, and the concept of the Antichrist in both religions.  The pseudonymous author is a (heterodox) Christian with considerable knowledge of Islam.  His central thesis is that the Antichrist will be possibly be received as the Islamic "Mahdi," the twelfth Imam, or Messiah, and that the Christian "False Prophet" will appear, in turn, as the Moslem Jesus, "Isa," a servant of the Antichrist who will likely deceive many people, including Christians. 

• "The Godless Moslems have always said, "There is one God and Mohammed is His prophet."  In truth, there is one Satan, and Mohammed was his servant.  The Koran was dictated to Mohammed by demons, and the entire bloodthirsty Moslem religion was created by Satan chiefly to destroy the Orthodox Church."

• "Islam was Satan's greatest creation.  Bolshevism was his second.  These two demonic plagues-- Islam and Bolshevism-- destroyed the two great Orthodox Christian empires in world history; Byzantium and Holy Russia.  And both forms of contagion are still destroying the Church-- Islam (external) and Bolshevism/the Moscow Patriarchate (internal)."
– Pravoslavnik 13 June 2010

"Pravoslavnik" upholds Orthodoxy against ECafe internet goon "Catherine5" who defends Muslims.  Dialogue archived here:

St. John S&SF did support GOC

St. John (Maximovitch) and His Support for the Greek Old Calendarists

by Anastasios Hudson on June 19th, 2015
A few weeks ago, I received this email from a friend:
Do you have any information on St. John Maximovitch’s defense of the actions of [Archbishop] Serafim and [Archbishop] Leonty’s actions vis-a-vis the Old Calendarists?
Metropolitan Petros Book Cover
Metropolitan Petros of Astoria
My reply hearkens back to my 2005 “Journey Into the Heart of ROCOR” as part of my thesis on the life of Metropolitan Petros of Astoria (now available in print and eBook format). I was given a blessing by Metropolitan Laurus (Škurla) of ROCOR to enter the ROCOR archives in Manhattan and copy pages pertinent to my thesis. I was to be accompanied by a monk from Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, who was studying with me at St. Vladimir’s Seminary. I suppose he could be called my “handler,” but he was a friend, and he was sympathetic to my Old Calendarist sensitivities, even though he went along with the ROCOR-MP Union at that time.
ROCOR Synod Headquarters
ROCOR Synod Headquarters
In the ROCOR archives, there were eight boxes of material on the Greek Old Calendarists. However, while we were there in the archives, my classmate opened up the filing cabinet with the minutes from various ROCOR Synod meetings, and began to entice me with various tidbits of information which are not publicly available. He migrated to the folders that were from the 1950s, and began to translate on-the-fly some sections from 1956 or 1958 (my memory fails me here) where St. John (Maximovitch), a bishop of the ROCOR Synod, pleaded for the Synod to consecrate bishops for the Greek Old Calendarists (the so-called “Florinite” faction), which was without episcopal oversight from the time of the death of its last bishop, the blessed Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Florina (+1955). I stated that I would like to copy the pages in question, at which point my friend developed a smirk of sorts, and replied, “wouldn’t you.” Needless to say, it was “out of the scope” of my thesis (somehow), and I was not allowed to copy that information!
Archbishop Leonty (Filippovich) of ROCOR
Archbishop Leonty (Filippovich) of ROCOR
Ultimately, the appeals of St. John fell on deaf ears during that meeting, as during the tenure of Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky), there was a desire not to “rock the boat” in regards to relations with the New Calendarists, even though concelebration and eventually intercommunion did start to phase out. Some years later, Archbishops Seraphim and Leonty would end up ordaining Archimandrite Petros to the episcopacy on their own initiative, an ordination which was eventually accepted by the ROCOR Synod under Metropolitan Anastassy’s successor, St. Philaret (Voznesensky).
St. John (Maximovich) with Bishop Petros (Astyfides)
St. John (Maximovitch) with Bishop Petros (Astyfides)
I bring this up because on various Internet lists over the years, those who supported the ROCOR submission to the Moscow Patriarchate like to make the claim that St. John did not support the Greek Old Calendarists. This is completely false. St. John was an active supporter of the Greek Old Calendarists, and personally visited then-Bishop Petros at the Cathedral of St. Markella in the 1960s—before the ROCOR Synod officially recognized the actions of Archbishops Seraphim and Leonty.
While I was not permitted to photocopy this important piece of history, I wish to affirm that it exists and that I personally saw it while inside the official archive of the ROCOR, so that those who wish to deny it or downplay it will have testimony of the truth of the matter.
St. John (Maximovitch) and other ROCOR bishops visiting Bp. Petros in the 1960s.
St. John (Maximovitch) and other ROCOR bishops visiting Bp. Petros in the 1960s.
St. John (Maximovitch) and other ROCOR bishops visiting Bp. Petros in the 1960s.
St. John (Maximovitch) and other ROCOR bishops visiting Bp. Petros in the 1960s.


Smoke covers Oregon valley

from Joanna's notepad

Smoke is blowing into Portland from wildfires 200 miles away.  Sunday morning 7:00 a.m., 100 miles south of Portland, a huge sun came up a deep almost-red orange.  The red color is not shown in the photo, because the brightness was filtered out by automatic features in my camera.  There was a heavy apocalyptic sense in the whole valley – the priest even mentioned it in his sermon.

MP priest joins ROCA

Fr. Aurelius, Many Years!

ROCA: The number of the clergy of the Odessa diocese adopted a new priest

In the Odessa Archangel Michael Church Metropolitan Agafangel received from the Moscow Patriarchate among the clergy of the diocese priest Aurelius Spanu.


• Clerk Sued for Refusing to Issue Marriage Licenses to Homosexuals (Video)

• MP formalizes ties with government

• MP pushes for control over St. Isaac’s Church tourists

• almost 2,100 Ukrainian servicemen killed

• Haiti Food Subsidy UPDATE

• Tricky tricky Milan synod (backdated post)

• Anatomy of a Great Deception 9-11  (convincing) 1 hr. 32 min.
  or email me if these have all been deleted and you can not find a copy

St. Philaret says this about the MP

Fr. Dcn. Basil Yakimov sent this out in his emailing. 

Translation of St. Philaret's of NY words (regarding the MP): 

"And here is something to which I would like to draw your attention to – something about which very many do not think about.  Father Archimandrite Constantine, whom probably many of you know, the reposed editor of the journal “Orthodox Rus’”, a profound Christian mind, considered that the most terrible among all the achievements of the communists was that the communists created their own false-church, a soviet church which they shoved onto the unfortunate people in place of the genuine Church which went underground into the catacombs.  Do not think that I am exaggerating or that Father Constantine was exaggerating!

Once, in the year 1918, a Pan-Russian Church Council was held.  At this Council, the entire Pan-Russian Church together with its first holy hierarch, Patriarch Tikhon ANATHEMATIZED, excommunicated from the Church not only the theomachists and godless ones themselves, but also ALL THOSE WHO WOULD COLLABORATE WITH THEM." 

  St. Philaret speaking (in Russian) against MP  audio  1½ minutes

Fr. Constantine Ziatsev of Jordanville labored to provide English-speakers with guidance in how the Mystery of Iniquity is working today (sergianism, ecumenism, false church).


Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
Diocese of Syracuse–St. Nicholas and Ottawa-Canada


Dear Brothers and Sisters!
 The blessing of With Archbishop Andronik, it is with great pleasure we announce the creation of our new diocesan website - http://www.rocana.org

 This website will focus on church life in the Syracuse-St. Nicholas and Ottawa-Canada Dioceses of the ROCA in North America.  We hope to present eventually all news items in both English and Russian to foster unity and provide church news from all of our parishes, no matter how big or small.  To post news and event photos from your parish, please send the information to this email address which is being protected from spambots:
info at rocana dot org

With love in Christ, 
administration of the site

Nun Tatiana takes monastic vows

ROCA: monastic vows in the church of St. Michael the Archangel (PHOTO)

The Archangel Michael Church in Odessa Metropolitan Agafangel vows in rassophore servant of God novice named Tatiana Potamia (in honor of the Martyr chudotvoritsy Potamia truncated sword in the IV century). Mother Potamia will earnestly contend in the Holy Land under the spiritual guidance of Bp. Roman.
August 20, 2015 

Seven Sleepers icon with dog not Orthodox

commemorated August 4/17 and Oct 22 /Nov 4

follow-up on previous post: 8/16/2015

This icon is not for us.

This icon comes from HTM.  It is sold in world-orthodox stores.
On 8/20/2015 I emailed HTM using their website contact page asking about the icon and the dog.  So far, (8/25/2015), I have not received a reply.

The dog is a Muslim idea.  In connection with the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, I am unable to find any mention of a dog in our Orthodox lives or Church services.  So far all sources agree that the dog was introduced by the Muslims into their deceitful version of the story.

One of the earliest written records we have is a homily by Church Father, Syrian Bishop Jacob Serugh (452-521).   In that homily is mentioned that God provided a guardian for the sleepers. 

There is a watcher which God sets over the Sleepers, who is invoked: “We beseech you, Good Shepherd, who has chosen His servants, guard your flock from this wolf who thirsts for blood [...] and [God] left a watcher to be the guardian of their limbs.”

Heterodox Research Paper, page 122

It is possible that the "guardian" (God's angel, of course) may have appeared as a "dog" to some Muslims who were passing by the cave at some point in time.   Or, maybe, from the beginning the enemy just decided to twist the holy guardian into a dog – since he can't stomach a holy angel.

Follo from an illustrated Islamic manuscript depicting the Seven Sleepers. Iran, Qazvin, 1550s.

Knowing how Satan likes to copycat the Truth, is it any surprise that Satan would want to claim for himself such an extraordinary miracle?  and then muddle the facts to cause suspicion about the accuracy of the Orthodox account? and then twist a distorted version that suits the evil worship of a false, fierce and hateful god?

Sabine-Baring Gould.  p. 575
notes that the cave of the Seven Sleepers was the original burial spot for St. Mary Magdalene

Ex-Kremlin Internet 'troll' wins suit against ex-employer

Last Updated: Monday, August 17, 2015

(AP) A Russian court on Monday awarded symbolic damages of one ruble ($0.01) to a former "Kremlin troll" who sued her ex-employer and demanded closure of what she describes as a "factory" that has been churning out Internet propaganda defending President Vladimir Putin.
In an interview in April, Lyudmila Savchuk told The Associated Press how she and hundreds of colleagues in St. Petersburg managed several social media accounts, flooding the Internet with pro-Putin commentary and doctored images that landed on Russian and Western news websites.
Savchuk's descriptions of the work coincide with those of other former trolls who have spoken publicly, although she was one of the few willing to disclose her identity. She quit after two months, deciding she couldn't stand being part of a propaganda machine. She said most of the workers were young and attracted by relatively high monthly salaries of 40,000 to 50,000 rubles ($600 to $770).
The Petrogradsky district court on Tuesday set the damages at just one ruble as the plaintiff requested, but didn't close the facility. Savchuk said she was happy with the ruling because she thought her mission had been accomplished.
"We have managed to prove that the trolls exist, which was the main goal," she said outside the courtroom.
In her lawsuit, Savchuk sought moral damages, compensation of unpaid wages and demanded the closure of the company, Internet Research, saying its employees didn't have proper Russian employment contracts.
Internet Research wasn't immediately available for comment on the ruling.

News Items from Internet Sobor

• Nuns of St. John's Convent install newly written icon in altar  PHOTOS

• Axois!  Deacon Elijah ordained for the Holy Land  PHOTOS

The machine English sounds to me like:
     On Friday, August 14, Bishop Roman, accompanied by Subdeacon Elijah, arrived in Odessa from the Holy Land.   On Saturday Vladyka Agafangel and Bishop Roman celebrated a polyeleos-rank Matins service and on Sunday the Divine Litrugy.  At the Divine Liturgy Vl. Agafangel tonsured Elijah to the deaconate.
     For the first time in Archangel Michael church in Odessa there sounded prayers and singing in Arabic.  Father Elias will assist Bishop Roman in the Holy Land.

• Patronal Feast "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Bulgaria, Bp. Photios   many beautiful PHOTOS

Seven Sleepers icon

? Where did this icon come from?  Why is there a dog shown in the icon?  I never read this Life where a dog is mentioned ...
August 4/17    and    Oct. 22/Nov. 4

Seven Sleepers of Ephesus

Abbess Alexandra: About two Church Issues

(conference report)
Today I would like to raise some questions concerning the life of the Church. It may seem strange that I say this: These are simple truisms. However, these topics are some that constantly worry us (i.e. members of the Orthodox Church, the sisters of our monastery, and myself). Therefore I cannot avoid speaking about this. The first question concerns Holy Communion.
It happens that people come to our monastery from the Kiev or Moscow Patriarchate. What do we do if they wish to partake of the Holy Mysteries? We know that in Russia, there are very few parishes of the Church Abroad. Many of our relatives and friends go to the Moscow Patriarchate, because they have nowhere else to go. They understand where the truth is, but are unable to go to any parish of the Church Abroad.
There is another type of people who go to the Moscow Patriarchate, and do not particularly think about any differences we might have with it. For them, the Church is simply a tribute to tradition. This problem is not new. Already in 1979, Metropolitan Filaret stated well about a similar situation:
“What does it mean that many of the “orthodox” are indifferent to which Church they attend? It means simply that the truth is not dear to people. That is why they do not particularly think about these things. “They serve in the same way, everything is the same - why complicate matters unnecessarily?” Or, as father archpriest John Storozhev in Harbin (the last spiritual father of the Royal Family), one of the best pastors in the diaspora, used to say with bitter irony: “The bells ring, the priests serve, they sing well - what else do we need?”. And then they add that familiar cliche: “After all, God is one!” … ” [1]
In a letter to an Abbess of one of our monasteries abroad which is visited by people of different jurisdictions, Metropolitan Filaret offers his solution:
“It seems clear to me that there can only be correct “missionary work” in the monastery when such visitors are allowed into the Church; however, admitted to the Mysteries with one condition: If they partake of the Mysteries here, they must abandon “the Mysteries” of the Churches of other jurisdictions.
Otherwise - what will happen?! It will seem to them that everything is in order in those churches, and that they do not need to change or correct anything. By allowing them to receive the Mysteries without requiring unity and consistency in this regard, we would be confirming even more that they are completely correct, and that their way is a true and correct way. ” [2]
Vladyka Filaret’s stand is the position of our Church - there is no doubt about this. However, in practice it often happens that priests act differently. Whether we like it or not, in such cases human attachments play a role. For example, relatives or friends of the priest may come from the MP, and it is difficult to deny them the Mysteries. Sometimes people who are far from the Church come, while finding themselves in a difficult situation in life. There is a desire to help, rather than push a person away. For such a person, the differences between the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the MP recede, not only to the secondary, but even the tenth level in comparison with the experiences of his broken life. Such a man has no desire to delve into religious matters. Therefore, the question of receiving Communion or not is approached on an individual basis, depending on the priest and the circumstances. Maybe some of you in the audience can share your experiences in addressing such situations.
Today, the situation is further complicated for the faithful, in that the Church is used for political purposes. Here is one example:
“On February 12th, during the truce between the government and the opposition organization “Ukrainian National Council” (chairman Igor Druz), an initiative in support of the “MVD Berkut” special forces was carried out. This division is protecting the government quarter from Grushevsky Street from the protesters at the Euromaidan. Representatives of “political orthodoxy” brought Archpriest Alexei Yefimov, rector of the Church of Saint Anthony and Theodosius of Kiev (of the Vasilkov diocese of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), in order to serve a moleben service, and commune the Special Forces soldiers with the Blessed Sacrament (of the the body and blood of Christ).” [3 ]
At present, there is a war in the Ukraine. Among the soldiers there are also priests who serve services, and, if necessary - baptise, administer communion, and bury those who have died. Again the question arises: To whom can the priest administer the Mysteries (perhaps in conditions of mortal danger)? Indeed, among those who are fighting there are members of our Church, as well as Greek Catholics, people of the Ukrainian Patriarchate, people from the Moscow Patriarchate, and people far from the Church. How do we avoid breaking the commandment of love in such a situation?
All the Holy Mysteries (and especially so, Holy Communion) - are a matter of conscience for each Orthodox person. This is when we speak of lay people who go to various churches, while not making any effort to sort out where the truth is. Yet, even among monastics there are some who, change their jurisdiction under the influence of external circumstances. They do this while knowing full well where the truth is. I do not want to condemn anybody: this is a matter of each person’s conscience..
In the Holy Land, I came across old nuns who have lived for a long time in the monasteries abroad. After these monasteries joined the Moscow Patriarchate, they came under its omophorion. They do not support this union, but for various reasons can not leave the monastery where they have lived for so long. To leave a monastery for an elderly person is not so simple. Old age and illnesses object. Also, if they attempt to move to another country for permanent residence they have difficulties obtaining the necessary documents. In such cases, elderly persons tend to lose any social benefits they might have held previously. Many do not have the heart to give up everything and live in a foreign country, leaving behind their native monastery and relatives. Therefore, many of the older nuns have made peace with the lies, they go to the service and partake of Holy Communion in the Moscow Patriarchate. As they told me, during the commemoration of Patriarch Kirill, they stop up their inner spiritual ears. They say: “We do not pray for the patriarch”. Nevertheless, we understand that receiving Holy Communion in the Moscow Patriarchate makes all the communicants united in spirit, whether they like it or not.
Some of the nuns, who have had no opportunity to leave after the union with the MP, continue to live in their monastery and attend the services, but do not commune in the Moscow Patriarchate. For Holy Communion they go to the Church Abroad, whenever the opportunity presents itself.
For a long time I thought that only the sacraments separated us from the Moscow Patriarchate. Therefore I assumed that it was permissible to pray in the churches of the MP, in the case when it is not possible to attend a service in a parish of the Church Abroad. I have been on pilgrimages to the holy places of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev. In Moscow, for example, I greatly enjoyed visiting the Donskoy, Danilov, and Novo-Spassky monasteries, as well as the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. If I visited on Sundays or feast days I would go to these monasteries for services. Of course, I did not take communion, but simply prayed. However, there was an event that showed me my error.
At that time, our monastery moved to the Ukraine, and we had already built our new church. I needed to go to Kiev, to the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra in order to buy church vessels. I asked one of our priests to accompany me. We left on a Friday and were due to return Sunday evening. We stayed with friends. On Saturday, while we were getting ready to leave, I asked the father why he did not put on a Cross. I was intending to attend the service at the Lavra. Batiushka answered that he had all the necessary books with him, and was going to pray somewhere near the caves. “I do not want to impose my views on you - it is your business. But for me, praying together in a church of the Moscow Patriarchate is impossible. This is not my personal opinion - this is the position of our church, ” the priest explained to me. I was embarrassed and ashamed of my lack of understanding. We prayed on the banks of the Dnieper. On that wonderful evening, I realised my long-held misconception. Everything fell into place. I realised that we are not able to attend the services in a church of the Moscow Patriarchate or any other jurisdiction, because we can not engage with them in common prayer, for this is a mystery in front of God.
I remember an incident that occurred with one of our priests in America. He was a priest of Jewish origin. His name was Father Elias. In his old age, he had become very frail, and his Jewish relatives put him in a Jewish nursing home. Father Elias was starting to lose his memory and sometimes did not recognize his loved ones. Before Christmas one of our priests, father Peter, who knew this father Elias, decided to visit him and commune him with the Holy Mysteries. Father Elias was very happy for father Peter’s arrival, and they spoke together very nicely. “Now, father Elias, why don’t you confess, and I will give you the Holy Mysteries,” - said father Peter. On hearing this proposal, father Elias became alarmed and answered: “I am very glad that you came to see me, but I cannot receive Holy Communion. I am a priest of the Church Abroad, and I do not know which Church you are from.” “But you know me - I am father Peter, I am also of the Church Abroad,” father Peter tried to convince his companion. “Yes, I remember you, but I do not know which church you are from. I have to consult with Vladyka Filaret,” continued father Elias. By that time, Vladyka Filaret had died, and Vladyka Vitaly was Metropolitan. Nevertheless, father Elias went to the telephone and dialed a number, and then began to speak.
Father Peter, who witnessed this wonderful conversation, told me that he had goose bumps when he saw firsthand that father Elias received instructions and answers to his questions from Vladyka Filaret. Father Elias prayed for Vladyka Filaret as living, and to him the Bishop was still alive. This elderly priest, not putting any trust in himself, took the blessing of his abba, connecting with him in spirit and in truth. And how could his soul, so full of humility not receive a blessing to receive the Holy Mysteries? “It was a miracle!” exclaimed father Peter when recalling the incident. When father Elias ended the conversation, he hung up and said cheerfully: “Metropolitan Filaret blessed. Let’s begin the Mystery (of Communion).”  This unusual case illustrates what should be the correct attitude to the sacraments of confession and communion. In all matters of contention we need to ask the Bishop’s blessing.

– – – • – – –
The second question concerns the proper concept of catholicity of the Church. I have met many worthy people among the first and second waves of Russian emigrants in America. However, in recent years there is a disturbing tendency present in our Russian Orthodox Church Abroad parishes. The parishioners think that the priest is simply a hired servant. They say: “We decide what to do - the priest is just supposed to serve”. Vladika Averky called this kind of parish “presbyterian”, because each parishioner is an “elder” [Tr. note: a presbyter] in spirit. A “presbyterian parish” holds the rights of the bishop, priest and layman equal. Accordingly, it believes that the parish can challenge the decisions of a Sobor or Synod. Unfortunately, this “presbyterian spirit” has gradually spread to all the parishes in America. During my last visit I had to avoid contact with my former close acquaintances, because it would be useless to argue. They are spreading presbyterianism to all areas of church life. All this stems from an incorrect understanding of the principle of conciliarity [Tr. note: sobornost] of the Church.
If we are Orthodox, we must abide by the decisions of the Council of Bishops and the Synod of our Church. It is not in our competence to challenge these decisions. If we do so, it means we are foolhardy enough to stand outside of the Church, outside of Orthodoxy.
Every bishop has his own character, his human qualities, and some shortcomings. It is possible for us to disagree a little with some of the bishops, perhaps even be disgruntled, but we should keep this to ourselves. We must not raise a rebellion within the Church due to personal ambitions. By doing so, we are destroying the Church, since, according to the canons, neither the laity, nor the priests steer the ship of the Church. This right is given to the bishops, who have received the grace of Christ through apostolic succession. The special cases in which it is necessary to express disagreement with the decisions of the Bishop (or Synod) are, as we know, defined by the canons.
Without the blessing of the Bishop, a priest has no right to serve. The bishop gives him an antimins, on which he can perform the service. In cases of necessity, the Bishop may confiscate the antimins. Then the priest can not serve; not to mention, to govern the Church. As much as all of us (priests, monastics and laity) would like to participate in solving church questions, we have no right to do so.
In Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, by the Apostle Paul, we read:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: So also is Christ.”
(1 Cor. 12:12).
In his sermons on this text, St. John Chrysostom writes:
For as the body and the head are one man, so he said that the Church and Christ are one. Wherefore also he placed   Christ instead of the Church, giving that name to His body. “As then,”   saith he, “our body is one thing though it be composed of many: so also   in the Church we all are one thing. For though the Church be composed   of many members, yet these many form one body.
Here I would like to offer a metaphor, and unfortunately I must resort to medical terminology. All the members of the Church are one body, and each member of the Church can be compared to an individual cell. It is obvious to anyone that a single call cannot control the organism. In the human body, in addition to the many useful cells, there is always a certain amount of unstable cells, which may form a tumour, which in turn can take over the entire body. Even if the tumor is removed, it can still happen that some of these cancer cells migrate through the lymphatic system and can cause a relapse destroying the body. Everyone knows that cancer cells need to be removed from the body for it to function normally.
Perhaps it is sinful and inappropriate to compare cancer cells with people who instigate rebellion within the Church. But in reality we unfortunately face a problem in the church when some priests assert that we have no conciliarity. In their opinion, conciliarity is disturbed by the fact that the ruling Bishop requires obedience of them. He demands that they be involved in their parishes, rather than travel about constantly from place to place as they want (to the Holy Land, Mount Athos, or other countries). They have spiritual children scattered around the world. However, in matters of spiritual guidance you need consistency, and a permanent, real-life contact with the flock, which is exactly what the ruling bishop requires of his priests. Otherwise the priests are playing at “being an elder”.
Among priests, there are also some who are engaged in politics. This is not at all a church-centred occupation. And if the bishop seeks to limit this kind of self-willed activity of priests in his diocese, they are ready to organise a rebellion in the Church. For these pastors conciliarity is the same as democracy. They would like to have a role in governing the Church. However, the canons establish that the Church is ruled by the bishops, the Synod and the Councils.
A proper understanding of catholicity of the Church is founded on the common effort of all the members of the Church (bishops, priesthood, monastics and laity) to preserve the Body of Christ in the spirit of love and harmony. Priests and lay people must communicate to the bishop (or if necessary even to the Synod) any problems or disputes, so that the Synod may make appropriate decisions. In no circumstances are the people of the church permitted to destroy the Body of Christ by divisive actions based on discontent.
On the question of conciliarity of the Church, I refer to the opinion of Metropolitan Filaret:
“Many misunderstand the concept of “catholicity”, and demand that lay people take part in the governance of the church, along with the bishops and clergy. In this regard, I would like to tell you briefly what is a true Sobor (Council).
In the book of Acts of the Apostles we read that there was a very serious discussion on whether to accept the pagans to Christianity directly. In other words, should they be baptised at once, or should they first be required to fulfill the law of Moses? When talking about this, the issue became so serious that even the apostles would not solve it themselves. They therefore came together to discuss it. In the book of Acts of the Apostles it says that “the apostles and elders came together for the consideration of this matter” (Acts 15:6). Now, naturally, you might ask: The apostles and presbyters, but what about the bishops? In fact, at the time when the Apostles served, their subordinates - bishops and priests - did not in essence differ much as to their powers and duties. However, when the apostles went to their Master in the better world, their place was taken by the bishops. That is the point at which the degree of bishops was separated from the priesthood, as being superior. But at the time of the Apostles, both the bishops and priests were subordinates, the assistants of the Apostles. We see that it is so, for example, from the place in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which reads: “For Paul …. sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.” (Acts 20:17) A little further on in the text, he says that the Apostle addressed them and said: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) So, the very same people are referred to as both “bishops” [overseers] and “elders” [presbyters] in the Book of Acts.
Gathering in Council, the Apostles also called their subordinates to the discussion of this important issue. That is how the question was discussed. When the Council ended, the decision statement began: [b]“The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren…”[/b] (Acts15:23). The brethren - that is, of course, the laity. It is clearly indicated that the discussion of the matter and decisions were made only by the Apostles and their subordinates - the members of the clergy. The lay people were probably present, but did not have a voice in this context. Possibly they took part in the statements of their views. Nevertheless, they did not have what is called a “decisive” voice. The resolution of the Council was still sent on behalf of all the brethren.
The Apostolic Council was the prototype of the Ecumenical Councils. Since there were no more Apostles, the Councils were headed by bishops. Members of the clergy were also present, and at some of the Ecumenical Councils there were even laymen. It is quite different with the Councils of Bishops, which meet not as rarely as Ecumenical Councils, and which do not make decisions on extraordinary questions, but rather gather regularly and continuously. The basic rule regarding the Council of Bishops states: The Council of Bishops should meet twice yearly, in order to discuss with each other any difficulties of questions encountered. There is not even a hint about laymen. On the contrary, the rule emphasizes that the bishops should only confer “with each other.” This is the way it always has been at Councils of Bishops.”
“Scripture says, 'Every man a liar', or in plain speech [Russian]: every man is a liar. This does not mean that we are all lying all the time - no! This means that no one person, no matter how wise, or holy if you like, or experienced, etc, can claim infallibility and rely on his own opinions. The higher the issues and questions, the more dangerous the mistakes. In matters of religion, the church, and moral teaching, no one can rely solely on himself. The Church has left us canons, laws and regulations as the basis upon which normal church life is built. No matter what ugliness in life will make its appearance, and no matter what difficulties we will have to face, we must keep this framework inviolate! This is why a bishop of the Orthodox Church proclaims his confession of faith, his episcopal promise, immediately before his consecration. It is a statement that he personally commits to being the custodian of all the conciliar rules and canons of the Holy Apostolic Church. He promises to be a guardian of them, even at threat of death.”
“The canons and rules of the Church are the spiritual foundation upon which spiritual life rests. No one can abandon this foundation without immediately running into mistakes and errors. Once St. Seraphim of Sarov said to one of the Old Believers, who came to him and tried to develop his thoughts (the Elder, as always, told him with love, but at the same time powerfully and strictly): “Leave your nonsense! The ship of Christ’s Church is sailing on the waves of the sea of life, and they cast Her about. She makes the voyage with great difficulty, yet you want to sail the ocean in the little boat of your own wise thoughts - this is madness!”. [5]
Abbess Alexandra
[1] St. Filaret Voznesensky. Letter to an Abbess. November 26 / December 9, 1979
[2] St. Filaret Voznesensky. Letter to an Abbess. November 26 / December 9, 1979
[3] Religion in Ukraine, of 02.13.2014
[4] St. John Chrysostom. Collected Works. Homily XXX on Corinthians.
[5] St. Filaret Voznesensky. Sermon “Catholicity and sobornost.”


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On the holy Maccabees and their mother

On the holy Maccabees and their mother
Homily St. John Chrysostom

1  How bright and festive is our city and how more brilliant this day than the rest of the year, not because the sun is today sending to the earth rays that are more visible than usual, but because the holy martyrs’ light is lighting up our city well beyond any lightning flash.  For they are more brilliant than ten thousand suns and more visible than the major stars.  Because of them today the earth is more majestic than heaven.  Please don’t mention the dust, nor think about the ash, nor the bones that have been consumed by time, but open wide the eyes of faith and see God’s power that accompanies them, the that surrounds them.  The rays sent from the sun’s orbit to the earth are not of the same type as the flashes and glitters that bound forth from these bodies and blind the very eyes of the Devil.  For just as when the leaders of gangs of thieves and grave-robbers see imperial weaponry lying casually around—a chest-plate or shield or helmet, gleaming all over with gold—they immediately jump back and dare neither to approach nor to touch, suspecting great danger if they were to dare anything of the sort; so too, in fact, wherever the demons, the true leaders of gangs of thieves, see martyrs’ bodies lying around, they flee and immediately jump back.  For they don’t have regard to their interim mortal nature, but to the ineffable dignity of Christ who wore them.  After all, these weapons no angel, no archangel, no other created power has put on, except the Master of angels himself.  And just as Paul proclaimed as follows: “Do you seek proof of Christ who speaks in me?” (IICor 13.3), so they too can proclaim and say: “Do you seek proof of Christ who competed in us?”  For their bodies are precious, since they received blows for their very own Master’s sake, since they bear identifying marks because of Christ.  Indeed, just as an imperial crown decorated all over with a diverse array of gems emit different flashes of light, so too the holy martyrs’ bodies, since they are marked with wounds, like precious gems, for Christ’s sake, appear more valuable and majestic than any imperial diadem.

2  And so, although in the outside world when the presidents of games set up contests they think it extremely showy when they escort into the arena and into the contests young and vigorous athletes, such that, prior to the display in the wrestling matches, they provide a source of wonder for the spectators from the prime condition of their physique, here it isn’t like this, but entirely the opposite.  For Christ set up a contest not of the kind that they do, but one that’s terrifying and brimming with fear.  For its not the wrestling of humans versus humans, but the fighting of humans versus demons.  And so, when he set up this kind of contest for us, he didn’t escort into the wrestling matches young and vigorous athletes, but quite immature youths and with them an old man, meant, and in addition to them an elderly woman, the youths’ mother.  What on earth is this, Master?  You’re escorting a useless age group into the arena for the competitive rounds?  Who ever heard of a woman competing at such an advanced age?  “No one has heard of it. But,” he says, “I shall confirm this incredible and novel and never-heard-of situation through the events themselves.  For I'm not the kind of president of the games to entrust everything to the ability of the competitors.  Instead, I stand by and assist and extend a hand to my athletes, and the bulk of their successes occur as a result of my patronage.”

3  So, whenever you see a woman, who is shaky, elderly, who requires a walking-stick, entering a contest and destroying a tyrant’s rage, defeating incorporeal powers, conquering the Devil with ease, smashing his strength with considerable force, marvel at the president of the games’ grace, be astonished at Christ’s power.  The athletes are not vigorous in the flesh, but they are vigorous in their faith.  Their constitution is weak, but the grace that sustains them is powerful.  Their bodies are disabled by old age, but their thoughts are trained by the desire for piety.  The contest isn't perceivable.  And so don’t get to know every aspect of the athletes externally, but enter their reason to find the prime condition of their soul.  Get to know every aspect of the strength of their faith, so that you may learn that the person who boxes with demons doesn’t require a strong physical shell, or to be at the prime of their life; rather, even if they’re quite young, even if they’ve reached extreme old age, yet have a noble and healthy soul, nothing stemming from their age will cause them harm in the contests.

4  And why do I mention old and young, where, at any rate, even women stripped off for these wrestling matches, and wove brilliant crowns?  My point is that, whereas in the games in the outside world they scrutinize both age and gender and status, and entry to them is closed off to slaves and women and old men and adolescents, here the theater is opened up with complete safety to every status, every age group, and each gender, so that you might learn in full the generosity and ineffable power of the one who set up the contest, and see that apostolic remark certified in practice: “his power is perfected in weakness” (IICor 12.9). For whenever children and old people exhibit unnatural strength, the grace of God who works through them is brilliantly revealed in every respect.

5  Indeed, that you may learn that the athletes’ weakness, namely the external one, renders the crowned winners more brilliant, come on, let's dismiss the old man and the children and turn our focus to the weaker among them—the wife, the old woman, the mother of seven children.  For truly her labor pains are no small obstacle for these wrestling matches.  So, what quality of hers deserves our wonder first?  The weakness of her gender, or the maturity of her years, or the fragile state of her compassion?  For these truly are substantial obstacles for the race that requires such great endurance.  Yet I can mention an even greater one than these, through which we shall view both the woman’s courage and the Devil’s malice in full.  What is it?  Consider the foul demon’s wickedness.  He didn’t drag her into the arena first, but escorted her to the wrestling matches after her children.  What on earth for?  So that by depressing her will first through the tortures of her seven children, and softening the firmness of her resolve, and with her strength spent in advance on the punishment of her offspring through her watching what was taking place, he might then easily attack her in her weakened condition.

6  Indeed, don’t look at that fact—that they received the tortures—but consider this—that she endured the pain more severely with each and every one of them, and was slain with each and every one of them.  And all women who’ve experienced childbirth and become mothers know well what I mean.  At least, often when a mother sees a small child burning up with fever, she would choose to suffer anything to transfer the fire of the illness from that body to her own.  This is how mothers think—that the sufferings of their children are more unbearable than their own ills.  If this is true-—-as it certainly is true—the mother was punished more severely than her children in her children’s tortures, and the martyrdom was greater in the mother than in the children.  For if just hearing of the illness of a single child churns up its mother’s stomach, what wouldn’t she have suffered when she didn’t receive what was happening through hearsay but discovered by sight the sufferings of not a single child, but such a large group of children as they were being killed?  How wasn’t she driven out of her mind when she saw each of them being killed slowly by certain diverse and terrifying tortures?  How wasn't her soul ripped out of her body?  How is it that from the first sight she didn’t leap into the fire to free herself from the rest of the spectacle?  For even if she were a philosopher, she was still a mother.  Even if she were beloved of God, she was also clothed in flesh.  Even if she were zealous, she also shared a woman's nature.  Even if she seethed with the zeal of piety, she was also restrained by the bond of childbirth.  For if often we, who are men who have no duty of friendship towards the person, when we see a condemned person being led through the agora with the cord at their mouth, being dragged to the pit, are shattered by just the spectacle, and yet we have sufficient comfort that we’ll suffer nothing of-the sort, since the person has been condemned for their wickedness, what isn’t it likely that she suffered when she saw not one condemned person being led away, but seven children felled in one stroke on a single day not in a concise termination, but by various and diverse butcheries?  I mean, even if a person were made of stone, even if her stomach were made of steel, wouldn’t she have been utterly churned up, wouldn’t she have experienced something of the kind both a woman and mother were likely to feel?  Reflect on how we marvel at the patriarch Abraham, because he offered up his own son and bound him hand and foot and put him up on the altar, and then you will see well how great the woman’s courage.

7  O that utterly bitter and utterly pleasurable sight!  Utterly bitter because of the nature of what was taking place; utterly pleasurable because of the outlook of the woman watching.  For she didn’t see the blood that was flowing, but saw the crowns of righteousness being woven.  She didn’t look at the ribs that were being pierced through, but looked at the eternal dwellings under construction.  She didn't see executioners standing around, but saw encircling angels.  She forgot her birth pains, she scorned her nature, she ignored her age.  She scorned her nature, a tyrannical thing; nature, which usually controls even wild animals.  At least, many of the wild animals that are difficult to capture are caught in this way, when they take no heed of their own safety because of their feelings for their offspring and, off their guard, fall into the hunters’ hands.  Indeed there is no animal so weak that it doesn’t shield its offspring; no creature so gentle that it isn’t enraged when its children are killed.  But she dissolved the tyranny of nature that extends both through rational human beings and through irrational animals.  And not only didn’t she attack the tyrant’s head, not tear his face apart, when she saw her cubs being torn apart, but she displayed so great an excess of philosophy as to even prepare for him his inhuman meal and, while the first children were still being punished, to encourage those left to experience the same tortures.

8  Let mothers hear these things, let them emulate the woman’s courage, her love for her offspring.  Let them raise their children this way.  For giving birth is not the defining characteristic of a mother, for that is a matter of nature; instead, a mother's defining feature is raising her child, for that is a matter of choice.  And that you may learn that it isn’t giving birth that makes a mother, but raising them well, hear Paul crowning the widow, not because of giving birth, but because of her raising of her children.  For when he said: “Let a widow be enrolled who is no less than sixty years of age, who has been observed in good works” (ITim 5.9-10), he added the ultimate in good works.  What is it?  He said: “If she has raised children.”  He didn’t say: “If she has produced children” but “if she has raised children.”  So then, let’s reflect on what it’s likely that the woman suffered—if, that is, one should call her a woman—when she saw fingers shaking over burning coals, a head sailing off, an iron first pounding the head of another child, and skin tearing away, and the child suffering these tortures still standing and talking.  How did she open her mouth?  How did she move her tongue?  How did her soul not fly from the flesh?  Let me tell you how.  She didn’t look towards the earth, but prepared herself for all the blessings to come.  She feared just one thing: that the tyrant would spare some and stop the contest early, that he would split up the group of children, that some would remain uncrowned.  And because she was afraid of this, she all but took the last one in her hands and put him in the cauldron, using in place of her hands the comfort and advice of the words she addressed to him.  We cannot hear of other people’s ills without pain, yet she viewed her own without pain.  Let us not just simply hear these things, but let each listener project the entire tragedy onto their own children.  Let each sketch the longed for face and, outlining for themselves the darlings, paint these sufferings on them, and then they'll know well the power of what I’ve said.  Rather, not even by doing this.  For no sermon can come close to the sufferings of nature; only experience teaches them.

9  It’s timely following the crown of her seven children to address to her that saying of the prophet: “You are like a fruitful olive in God's house” (Ps 51.10).  After all, in the Olympic games, although frequently a thousand athletes enter, the crown is given to just one.  But here from seven athletes there are seven winners crowned.  What estate could you show me that’s so productive?  What womb so fruitful?  What births like these? T he mother of the sons of Zebedee became the mother of apostles, but of just two (cf. Mt 10.2).  I know of no single womb that produced seven martyrs and itself in turn added to their number, not just in the addition of a single martyr, but in that of many more.  For while her children were just seven martyrs, their mother’s body, though it was just a single body when added, filled the space of fourteen martyrs, both because she was a witness for each and every one of them, and because she fashioned them into such witnesses, and so bore for us an entire Church of martyrs.  She gave birth to seven children and gave birth to none for the earth, but all for heaven; rather, for the King of Heaven, having born them all for the life to come.

10  And so, the Devil led her to the wrestling matches last for the reason that I started to mention: so that, by first removing her strength in having her watch the tortures, she might be easily overcome when she welcomed the antagonist last.  For if people on viewing flowing blood have often felt light-headed and fainted and have required a great deal of care in order to bring back the life that’s abandoned them and the body’s spirit that’s taken flight, what wouldn’t that woman have endured on seeing so many torrents of blood flowing from the flesh of not another person, but her own children?  How much confusion wouldn’t have taken hold of her soul?  And so for this reason the Devil, as I started out saying, dragged her to the contests after her children to render her weaker.  But the opposite occurred.  For, instead, she embarked on the contests with confidence.  For what reason and why?  Because she was no longer afraid, nor did she have to worry over any of her children who had been left behind her here, that they might perhaps weaken and be deprived of their crowns.  Rather, having stored them all away in heaven as if in a theft-proof warehouse and sent them to the crowns above and the steadfast blessings, she confidently stripped off for combat with much pleasure.  And as if fitting the costliest gem to a crown, she fit her own flesh to her group of children and travelled off to her beloved Jesus, leaving behind for us substantial comfort and counsel; advice through her actions that we should brave every trouble with a healthy soul and lofty mind.  For what man, what woman, what old person, what young person who is afraid of dangers brought against them because of Christ will now attain pardon or will have a defense, when a woman, an old one at that, and a mother of so many children, and one who competed before the coming of grace when the gates of Death were still closed, when sin was not yet extinguished, nor death defeated, can be seen enduring with such great enthusiasm and courage so many tortures because of God?

11  Taking all these factors into consideration, let us, women and men, young and old, inscribe her contests and wrestling matches on our heart as if on a tablet and have her endurance stored up in our soul as a perpetual counsel for scorning troubles, so that by imitating the virtue of these saints here, we may be able to share their crowns too there, with us displaying as much endurance in the irrational passions as they exhibited philosophy in their tortures, in anger and desire for money, bodies, vainglory and all other such things.  For if we subvert the flame of these things just as they did the fire, we will be able to stand near them, and share the same boldness of speech.  May we all attain these blessings through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom be glory to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, now and always, and forever and ever. Amen.

– adapted from The Cult of the Saints: Select Homilies and Letters, Wendy Mayer, Bronwen Neil, SVS Press
There is a second Macabees homily of St. John Chrysostom included in this book, "Eleazar and the Seven Boys".  A third homily exists somehwere which is basically a defence of the cult of the Macabean martyrs that had met with opposition in the Church of Antioch because they had been Jews, not Christians.