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


Lord I have cried Vespers Transfiguration

Lord I have cried from Festal Vespers for the Feast of the Transfiguration

DEP PSALTIC ARTS GROUP -Vespers for the Transfiguration


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John-Peter Presson

Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 9:00 AM

100F day in Portland was the eve of Transfiguration, and thus found isokrat Mark and myself, even in AC with the candles and incense going, it was still pretty muggy.

The Lord I have cried from last night's Festal Great Vespers, melodies composed in about 3 days- with tired voices and cooked brains.

A blessed feast to all.

John Peter Presson
Protopsaltis of the Diocese of Etna and Portland
Director of Liturgical Music -Holy Nativity of the Theotokos Cathedral -Portland, OR
Musicorum et cantorum magna est distantia, isti dicunt, illi sciunt quae componit musica. - Guido of Arrezzo


• Family conference at Mountainview with photo album August 15, 2016

• Nuns of Shamordino new Orthodox Wiki page

• Family Conference Mountain View August 5–7 photos

Ukaz restores former order to ROCA dioceses

human English

> President of the Hierarchal Synod of the ROCA
> Ukase
> In connection with Archbishop Andronik’s statement concerning his recognition of and his submission to the Ukases of the Hierarchal Synod and Council of the ROCA, I withdraw the Ukase of the Hierarchical  Synod concerning his retirement and  order the restoration of his status in the Canadian and Syracuse Dioceses, as it was before the meeting of the last Hierarchal Synod on 19-29 July, 2016. At general parish meetings, the parishes in Astoria and Valley Cottage will choose to which diocese they will belong, and these decisions will be supported and confirmed by the Synod.
> 3/16 August 2016
> + Metropolitan Agafangel 
> +Archbishop George (I agree with the decision of the Metropolitan only for the sake of the peace and unity of the ROCA) 

Internet Sobor
ROCA: Step to overcome divisions

Abp. Chrysostomos Death Announcement in Orthodox Word 1968

Orthodox Word magazine July-August 1968 (#21) p. 156

Death of Archbishop Chrysostomos

Archbishop Chrysostomos, who until May, 1967, was Archbishop of Athens and Primate of the Church of Greece, died on Pentecost Sunday, May 27 (June 9), 1968.  One of the last strongholds of uncompromising Orthodoxy in the Church of Greece, he devoted his life to the defense of Holy Orthodoxy and the service of the Greek people, revealing himself especially in his last years, when Primate, as a vigorous opponent of modernism and apostasy in the Church.

Born Themistocles S. Hadjistavrou, the son of an oil merchant, in 1880 in Aydin (Asia Minor), he graduated with honors from the Orthodox Theological Seminary of Halke.  After ordination he volunteered for service in Eastern Macedonia, then under Turkish rule, and whole there he helped organize Greek fighting bands.  He was sentenced to four years in prison by the Turks, but he escaped to Lausanne, Switzerland, where he studied for 18 months.

At the age of 30 he was consecrated bishop, and three years later he was given his first see, Philadelphia (now Alasehir, Turkey).  His continued patriotic activities angered the turks, and in 1914 he was condemned to death on a charge of maintaining secret contacts with Circassian rebels.  Intervention from abroad led to a commutation of the sentence to a year of house arrest.

In 1922, when the greek army was defeated by the Turks in Asia Minor, Archbp. Chrysostomos (then Metropolitan of Ephesus) was captured by Turkish irregulars, but he escaped with the aid of the captain of a British cruiser.  Two years later he served briefly as Metropolitan in Veria-Naousa, and later he took over the newly0created Diocese of Kavalla, the main port of East Macedonia, where he served for 38 years.

In 1962, at the age of 82, he was elected Primate of the Church of Greece, and for five years he occupied a leading role in the Orthodox fight against the unionizing and apostate policies of Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.  When he first heard of the meeting of the Patriarch with the Pope in Jerusalem in January, 1964 (which involved joint prayer and other uncanonical acts), he immediately protested and called for vigils and services to be held throughout the city of Athens as a protest, himself presiding at the vigil at Petraki Monastery in Athens.

He appealed to the Holy Mountain and received in reply a Proclamation signed by numerous Abbots and monks in support of his strong stand on behalf of Orthodoxy (printed in Against False Union).

He protested again the patriarch's "lifting" of the Anathema against the Latin church in December 1965, stating officially that "the act of the lifting of the excommunication of the part of the Ecumenical Patriarch has no validity for the Ecumenical Orthodox Church.  The excommunication of the Roman church as heretical is a pan-Orthodox act, having been confirmed according to the canons of the Orthodox Church by all the Orthodox Churches..."

When he received a Greek translation of the eloquent letter of protest of Metr. Philaret (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) against the lifting of the Anathema, he was so pleased that he jumped up from his desk and went out into the halls shouting with joy for all at the Archdiocese to come and see it.

The Archbishop's enemies caricatured him as a hard, narrow-minded fanatic; but in actual fact he preserved to the end the fiery enthusiasm and open-heartedness of his youth.  When he received a Greek translation of the eloquent letter of protest of Metr. Philaret (Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia) against the lifting of the Anathema, he was so pleased that he jumped up from his desk and went out into the halls shouting with joy for all at the Archdiocese to come and see it.  Again, in his correspondence with Cardinal Bea he set forth his position courageously and politely, yet not with that false politeness that would demand a betrayal of the Faith.  He quoted Latin documents that prove the insincerity of the Latins themselves, and proved from the Pope's encyclicals why a "dialogue" is impossible since a prerequisite for this must be the recognition of the Papal primacy.

In Greece itself, unlike some of his predecessors who persecuted them, he was sympathetic to the Old Calendarists.  From the point of view of the strictest Orthodoxy, his adherence to the New Calendar (required by the Church of Greece) and his contacts with the Moscow Patriarchate may be considered his chief failings.

One of his last official acts was to swear in the new cabinet after it seized power in April, 1967.  A few days later, as he was leading the Great Friday procession in Athens, he collapsed with a heart attack and was hospitalized.  Within a month he was uncanonically removed by the new government.  He recovered quickly from his illness and spent the last year in the seclusion of his home near Athens.

His successor, Archbishop Ieronymos, has pursued an actively ecumenical line and has already done much to undo the work and influence of Archbishop Chrysostomos.

And thus the Orthodox Church has lost one of her modern-day champions – in fact, almost the last major hierarch outside the Russian Church Abroad to speak out openly against contemporary ecumenism and apostasy.  May God grant that, in the Church of Greece as elsewhere, there may yet be others!

related posts
for copy contact joannahigginbotham@gmail.com

Vladyka Agafangel giving sermon

Video 4 minutes (Russian)
see inside of new house chapel

On the day of the Feast of the Precious Wood of the Holy Cross Metropolitan Agafangel served the first Divine Liturgy in the house church in honor of the Myrrh-Bearers (at the Synodal building in Valley Cottage, NY, USA).  Archbishop George led the choir.  After the service, there was a meeting with parishioners, to discuss the situation prevailing in our Church.  Now worship in the house church of the Synod will be held regularly.



• Snezana hits nail on head about new schism: Church is a spiritual body, not a corporation.

• Forgiveness: The Astonishing Power of Life in Christ

• Muslims terrorize Antiochian Orthodox church in Riverside California

St. Nicholas Youth Retreat report

Successful work week


We have been very busy the last two weeks with youth retreats at St Nicholas Convent. Glory to God all went well. The first week a handful of people visited the Convent and we began work on a small cemetery chapel dedicated to the Holy Myrrhbearers. With some youth from Holy Trinity parish in Astoria as well as volunteers of the GOC’s St Paul’s Fellowship of Labor  http://www.thespfl.com walls, floors and windows were installed on a small shed which will be converted into a cemetery chapel. During the next week’s youth retreat matushka Olga Mironova from St Xenia’s parish in Ottawa, Ontario led a crew of young painters and begin work on decorating the chapel. Fr Daniel Meschter was on hand that week, providing spiritual guidance for the group and celebrating Divine Liturgy at the Convent. 

Between August 7-13 the Convent sponsored a youth retreat for children from the ages of 7-12 which was held at the nearby St Andrew’s Retreat Center. A number of adults, including matushkas Sasha Dobrorvanov, Olga Mironova and Vera Boulter, helped with supervising and organizing activities for the 25 children who attended camp. The theme for the week was centered on St Panteleimon and the unmercenary saints. The children had a wonderful time taking part in the many wonderful arts & crafts activities the parents so lovingly planned as well as enjoying time at the beach and blueberry picking. Part of a day was also spent at St Nicholas Convent where the children volunteered their time and helped on projects in the garden, cleaning church vessels, and helping with the new chapel. Fr Oleg Mironov celebrated Divine Liturgy for the feast of St Panteleimon and many of the children participated in singing, reading and serving in the altar. 

We give thanks to God for allowing us such a fruitful two weeks, weeks not only practically helpful but beneficial for our souls. The Convent is deeply appreciative of the time and labor so generously given by the volunteers and adults both weeks. 

Bells of Rostov

Cristy from Romania shares this video

• The Bells of Great Rostov
   video clip from vintage Soviet documentary (10 minutes)

On the day called Sunday

“On the day called Sunday” by Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-165)

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the
memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the overseer verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.
Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the overseer in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.
And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the overseer, who provides for the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.
But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.”
–Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. LXVII in Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, Vol. 1, Ed. A. Cleveland Coxe (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 186.

Memorial Service for Metropolitan Anthony

Memory Eternal

ROCA Service for Metropolitan Anthony

Author: Metropolitan Agafangel incl. . Published in the ROCA (Views: 102)

Today, the day of the death of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), in St Michael Church in Odessa participants "ROCA Way in the modern world" prayed for the requiem, which celebrated Metropolitan Agafangel.
Eternal memory prisnopomyanaemomu Archbishop Anthony!

Haiti Mission Appeal Library for St. Augustine's School

Haiti Mission Appeal

Library for St. Augustine's School
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'Fr. Gregory' frgregory@sjkp.org [haitianorthodoxmission]

Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 4:38 PM
Reply-To: haitianorthodoxmission-owner@yahoogroups.com
To: haitianorthodoxmission@yahoogroups.com

[Attachment(s) from Fr. Gregory included below] Blessings!  Thanks be to God, the well problem was resolved.  Next project... a much-needed library for the school.  What was originally intended as overnight quarters for visiting priests (like me), badly damaged by the earthquake, above the school office and pump-house, is being demolished and expanded  Nicolas has commitments from several international aid agencies for text and reference books... once there's a suitable space to house them.

The entire project (including security doors, bookcases, tables, chairs, etc.) is expected to cost about $6500.  Your help is badly needed... and a large donation might get you (or a loved one) a memorial plaque in Haiti!

Fr. Gregory+

Attachment(s) from Fr. Gregory | View attachments on the web

Haiti Mission Update

a little bit can help a lot 
from Fr. Gregory in Tennessee...

Blessings!  Safely (and apparently soundly) back from Haiti, to confront the usual mountain of work... just today I finally managed to get sifted through (most) e-mail and process accumulated orders (but not yet shipped... that's for Monday).  The trip, finagled at the last minute, was good and useful, I think.  Several hours of "face time" with Fr. Amboise (we do much better that way than by e-mail, and telephone is pretty much useless except for making appointments and arrangements), and a good visit to St. Augustine's in Jacmel for the parish feast (transferred to the Sunday following) and good conferences with several of the key people there.

A looming (long-standing!) need for St. Augustine's School... a viable "library".  Nothing on the scale of what that word implies to you... an available 20' square room, mildly earthquake damaged, which needs finishing of walls, floor & ceiling, construction of bookcases (concrete... termites eat anything else!), tables and chairs, for our upper-level students.  Several international aid agencies are standing by to donate books... but won't do it until there's a suitable space for them (understandably!).  

A little donation goes a long way.

Pope Magician • Папа фокусник

Saturday Vespers Doxasticon for the Holy Fathers

DEP PSALTIC ARTS GROUP -Saturday Vespers Doxasticon for the Holy Fathers


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John-Peter Presson

Sun, Jul 31, 2016 at 8:19 PM

The two links are from the Divine Liturgy this morning, the Schola Cantorum chanting, Father Photios as celebrant and Gospeller -the Epistoler is Subdcn Jim Kalbasky.  This first is from the Synaxis, including the Typica and Beatitudes with verses for the Mode of the week, and the Fathers from the 6th Ode of the Canon (the melody of which I pounded out at 0500 this morning).

A good week to all.

John Peter Presson
Protopsaltis of the Diocese of Etna and Portland
Director of Liturgical Music -Holy Nativity of the Theotokos Cathedral -Portland, OR
Musicorum et cantorum magna est distantia, isti dicunt, illi sciunt quae componit musica. - Guido of Arrezzo

The Root Cause of Islamic Violence

The Root Cause of Islamic Violence - OnePeterFive

     Pope Francis’ most recent comments attempting to separate Islamic religious beliefs from Islamic violence are deeply misleading. They are not just slightly or partially incorrect, but dangerously wrong.  They stand in direct contradiction to the Church and her saints’ long history of experience and understanding of the Islamic world.
     In the context of yet another airplane interview — this time returning from World Youth Day in Poland, Francis was asked to discuss the threat posed by Islamic violence — now occurring with alarming frequency throughout the world — against the backdrop of the murder of French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel at the hands of jihadis as he offered Mass. I have included the full text of the pope’s comments below in block quotes, broken into sections to allow for my commentary:

I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy… this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics!

     This answer is a complete diversion. Of course there are violent people in any religion, race, or culture. This fact is an undeniable result of our fallen nature on account of original sin. So yes, there are violent people everywhere.
But what makes Islamic violence unique are its origins and purpose. Where it comes from, to whom it is directed, and how it is justified cannot merely be ignored or dismissed. In an Islamic context, the use of violence against another is rooted in the Islamic understanding of the person. Per Islamic theology, man is a mere creation, made not in the image of God, but as a mere animal. His humanity is believed to be an extrinsic quality that is bestowed upon him with his creation, but is not a permanent part of him. Rather, it is the Islamic belief that to be a human is to be a Muslim in good standing.
     As far as non-Muslims are concerned, Islam regards them as men and women who by their own will have mutilated themselves by rejecting Islam. It is therefore permitted to kill these unbelievers on account of their non-belief. In the case of children, the teaching of Islam is that since they did not have a “choice” in their “apostasy,” they may legitimately be taken from their families and forcibly converted to Islam.
When it comes to the Muslim treatment of other Muslims, it is believed that a Muslim who either does not practice Islam or who practices a heterodox form of Islam makes himself an apostate and can be treated the same as a non-Muslim. While violence is not mandated in Islam, it is wholly permitted and no moral penalty is attached to the use of it. It is a permissible individual choice, and one Muslim cannot, in a moral sense, tell another Muslim not to use violence against a non-Muslim if he so wishes.
     The perfect model for Islamic behavior and life is none other than Muhammad himself. Christians say “What would Jesus do,” and Muslims say “What would Muhammad do.” Muhammad is even called “al-insan al-kamil,” meaning “the perfect man” because all his actions are regarded as a perfect model for human behavior. The question when evaluating the morality of Islamic action according to their own internal system of belief therefore becomes, what did Muhammad do? By all of the orthodox Islamic accounts, Muhammad was a mass-murderer, a pedophile, a necrophile, a serial rapist, a man who claimed he was possessed by demons, a highway robber, a liar, a deceiver, and a tyrant who placed his concept of divine beatitude at the service of his own acquisition of power, money, and sex in this life with the promise that these same ill-gotten pleasures would endure perpetually in the afterlife. As St. Alphonsus Liguori said, “the Mahometan paradise is fit only for beasts, for only filthy sensual pleasure is there.”
Pope Francis’ statement is simply false. In the Islamic system of belief, violence is given a divine blessing in a way that no other religion does.

If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence . . . and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent.

     Catholic violence? Which Catholic violence is that, exactly? I have never seen a Catholic blow up a bus of Muslim school children while screaming “JESUS IS LORD,” or use dull blades to behead countless Muslims in internet videos — all while praising the saints — or any number more of the gruesome things that are a daily suffering for Christians and others living in Muslim lands. To the contrary, in my many years of studying Islam, I have seen Muslims do these things regularly, and with impunity.
     To even suggest that an equivalency exists between Islamic brutality and some imaginary “Catholic violence” is a blasphemy against the true God and an insult to those persons who suffer under the very real oppression of Islamic tyranny.

It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything. There are violent persons of this religion… this is true: I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them. When fundamentalism comes to kill, it can kill with the language — the Apostle James says this, not me — and even with a knife, no?

     Again, Francis uses “fundamentalism” as a pejorative, as he has so often done before. But this is not an accurate usage of the term.
The word “fundamentalism” finds its origin in a Protestant series of books published in the early 20th century. These books set out to articulate the “fundamentals” of Protestant belief. As such, “fundamentalism” in a modern sense means a belief in the fundamentals of faith — not a bad thing in relation to a faith worth believing in.  As mentioned earlier, however, for a Muslim, “fundamentalism” means the denial of the humanity of non-Muslims and the supremacy of Islam — all of which leads to heinous violence, cultural incompatibility, and more. The fundamentals of Islam are thus not favorably disposed toward a peaceful world, or toward the co-existence of Muslims and non-Muslims.
     In a Catholic sense, “fundamentalism” could simply be another term for “orthodoxy.” Catholic “fundamentalism” is admittedly in short supply today, but is necessary. Catholic “fundamentalism” — following the fundamentals of the Faith — is a path to holiness. All of the saints, blesseds, and holy men and women of the Church were fundamentalists; they practiced the very essence of what the Catholic Faith teaches. The more “fundamentalist” a Catholic becomes, the more they grow in faith, hope, and charity.
     A Catholic fundamentalist will probably offer a daily Mass and rosary for you.
     A Muslim fundamentalist would attack and behead you.
     These two types of fundamentalism could not be more different. To treat them as the same thing is a diabolical deception.

I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence. This is not right or true. I had a long conversation with the imam, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, and I know how they think . . .

     It is ironic then, that this is the same imam who said that apostates from Islam must be executed. This is not unique or surprising, despite Francis’ ignorance of it. Such thinking is Islamic doctrine, and has been for 14 centuries.
If Pope Francis really knew about Islam, he would be aware of taqiyya, which is the doctrine that allows Muslims to lie to non-Muslims for the advancement of Islam. In severe cases, there is even the doctrine of muruna, a sub-branch of taqiyya that permits for the open violation of Islamic law in order to advance Islam among non-Muslims.
     This is one of the principal reasons why Muslims cannot be trusted. Their religion allows them to lie to others for their own gain, and it is not considered sinful.

They seek peace, encounter . . . The nuncio to an African country told me that the capital where he is there is a trail of people, always full, at the Jubilee Holy Door. And some approach the confessionals — Catholics — others to the benches to pray, but the majority go forward, to pray at the altar of Our Lady… these are Muslims, who want to make the Jubilee. They are brothers, they live… When I was in Central Africa, I went to them, and even the imam came up on the Popemobile…

     Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa are very different from those in the rest of the Muslim world. African Muslims have proven themselves to be the most open to becoming Christians, and right now the biggest missionary expansion into Muslim territory is taking place in this area. So yes, it is no surprise that many Muslims are approaching the Faith, and this is certainly to the good. However, in the larger world there has been increased violence perpetrated by Muslims upon the citizens of the (post-Christian, but still identifiable with Christianity) west, because Islam sanctions this.
     I also write for Shoebat.com, the website of Walid Shoebat, self-described as a former “radicalized Muslim willing to die for the cause of Jihad” until he converted to Christianity, and now works to expose the harsh realities of Islam. Practically every day, we are reporting on some heinous act of Muslim violence in regions dominated by Muslims. For the unquestioning majority of cases, they are (a) Muslims attacking Christians because (b) they are “infidels” and (c) they are wholly unprovoked.

We can coexist well… But there are fundamentalist groups, and even I ask… there is a question… How many young people, how many young people of our Europe, whom we have left empty of ideals, who do not have work… they take drugs, alcohol, or go there to enlist in fundamentalist groups.
     Muslims do no co-exist well with others. There are periods of peace in which Christians and Muslims get along well, but they never last, because Islam is a religion which seeks, as a matter of its own ideology, complete domination over all non-Muslims. To conflate the patience of many Muslims in achieving Islamic aims with peace and harmony is a mistake. With Islam, it is only a matter of time — and of achieving a demographic majority — before the mask comes off and the true goals of Islamic dominion are asserted.
     The idea that the Islamic religion is ancillary to violence perpetrated by Muslims could not be further from the truth. It is the Muslims from good homes with a strong religious upbringing who are the most likely to become terrorists. This has been shown to be so repeatedly, because the violence of Islam is a natural fruit of its anti-human dogma, and as such, a person who has been well-formed in Islamic teaching will be more likely to become radicalized. On the other hand, a Muslim who has been poorly formed or is not particularly devout in their religious practice is far more likely to be secular, “moderate,” or apostatize completely.
     The claims that economic disadvantages, unemployment, or lack of education are the catalysts for Islamic violence have been repeatedly shown to be wrong. It is a more attentive study of the Islamic faith, or some event that moves a Muslim to a more devout practice of that faith, that most often leads to radicalization.

One can say that the so-called ISIS, but it is an Islamic State which presents itself as violent . . . because when they show us their identity cards, they show us how on the Libyan coast how they slit the Egyptians’ throats or other things… But this is a fundamentalist group which is called ISIS… but you cannot say, I do not believe, that it is true or right that Islam is terrorist.

     It would be nice to identify those “Egyptians” as “Christians,” because that is the reason why ISIS beheaded them.
     Yes, ISIS is a fundamentalist group. They are faithful Muslims doing what Muhammad did. If you don’t believe me, read the first biography of Muhammad ever written — The Life of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq. You will find little difference between Muhammad’s actions and those of ISIS. Or read the critique that the Islamic State has just published in response to Pope Francis’ attempts to frame Islam as a religion of peace. It is a complete rejection of his claims, and it quotes Islamic teaching to bolster its case.
Yes, it’s true that not all (or even most) Muslims are terrorists. However, terrorism is an inherent part of Islam. Terrorism is a means by which to compel men to join Islam.

Izoard: Your concrete initiatives to counteract terrorism, violence?
Pope Francis: Terrorism is everywhere. You think of the tribal terrorism of some African countries. It is terrorism and also . . . But I don’t know if I say it because it is a little dangerous… Terrorism grows when there are no other options, and when the center of the global economy is the god of money and not the person — men and women — this is already the first terrorism! You have cast out the wonder of creation — man and woman — and you have put money in its place. This is a basic terrorism against all of humanity! Think about it!

     I have thought about it for 18 years actually. I began my intensive study of Islam in 1998. I have spent more than half of my life in this field, so I can say I know a few things about it.
     Islamic terrorism is not about money. Or education. Or politics. Those are, at best, influencing factors. They are not the root cause.
     The root cause is Islamic theology. The same theology that denies the intrinsic nature of man and instead places eternal beatitude in pursuing the path of a 7th century Arabian madman who is regarded as the perfect model for humanity when he was one of the most inhumane men who ever lived.
     The problem is Islam and the Muslims, since it is through the Muslims that Islam’s power is able to be made manifest on the earth. 
     We can love people all we want and be good to them, but it does not mean they will be good to us. In the case of Islam, Muslims regard Christian charity and mercy as weakness, and they exploit it to advance themselves and Islam at our expense.
     Mercy, something which Pope Francis talks about a lot, is but one part of love, which is the nature of God (1 John 4:8). The other part is justice. While justice without mercy is legalism, mercy without justice is license. Both are sins.
     Jesus said to St. Faustina that “he who refuses to pass through the door of my mercy must pass through the door of my justice.”

The Catholic Church’s hierarchy in modern times has been merciful to Muslims to the point of licentiousness. For the honor of God and the dignity of the Faith, with regard to what Islam and Muslims have done, a strong dose of justice is necessary and long overdue. That begins with allowing ourselves to understand the truth of what we face, not covering it over with wishful thinking.

A Letter to those who criticize

Thursday August 4, 2016

A Letter to those who criticize

Taken from Letters of Bishop Ignaty Branchianinnov, Volume 7, Moscow, 1993. Letter 57, page 78.

To a hieromonk of the St Sergius Hermitage, who had denounced [the Holy Hierarch] Archimandrite Ignaty in writing, for his variable disposition to those around him, and to himself in particular.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Placing my hope on the help of God and His strength, which acts through feeble people, I have decide to answer your letter, similarly with a letter. And this is more so in order that my mind not become distracted in a personal conversation, and not exhaust itself in noisy words, but rather in the quiet solitude of my kelia maintain a peaceful state, which is the condition for seeing Truth. Now I stand before Her, and illuminated by Her light, I look at my soul and check with what I see in your accusation. What then do I see? I see wounds in my soul, I see the multitude of her illnesses, I see weaknesses, of which some are natural to it, and others a result of injuries and diseases, past and present. I turn my attention to my life so far: I see that it is a chain of sins, a chain of falls; almost at every step I was mocked and insulted by the devil due to my lack of spiritual wisdom, due to an excess of pride, my unwillingness to ask advice from my neighbour. Such is the state of my soul, now when my life’s journey has reached more than half my days. Meanwhile my body has become weak; It is pierced and cut to pieces by various ailments. They are messengers; they proclaim the approach of the separation of the soul from the body. Soon, soon I will lie down on the bed, not in order to give my overworked body temporary rest, but to shed it off myself in the ark of the coffin, in the bowels of the earth, from which I was taken, until the future general resurrection. Remember me O Lord in Thy Kingdom: for my soul is sick, and the body is imprinted with sin. In my state, it would be more seemly for me to leave everything, and without hindrance, surrender oneself to inconsolable weeping; when all is lost, at least not to lose repentance.

But to achieve this state, which I recognize as the most decent for myself, I do not use any means other than my feeble prayer, in which I ask for the fulfillment of God’s will in me. This petition for of the will of God is instilled by fear of asking for something that exceeds my strength. This fear is suggested by experience itself: because in all experiences where my strength was tested, my weakness was revealed; Wherever the demons depicted before my mind a picture of the brilliant successes, there, in fact, turned out to be damage, there arose a disaster, there a fatal abyss was covered with flowers. I realized the deceit after committing to the deception; I learned of the prelest, having already been seduced and corrupted by it. Now I am afraid to begin anything by self-will, even such things as I consider edifying. The Holy Fathers say - it is better to do combat with faeces, ie, with fornication and gluttony, than with self-opinionated logical thinking, high mindedness, pride and contempt. For these last passions are subtle, they imperceptibly creep into ones mind, take the form of sound and righteous thoughts, and cannot be detected other than by the light of grace. I stand before the Providence of God with my mind, putting aside at this moment worldly wisdom and its righteousness. God created me without me desiring or asking for it: because how could “nothing” wish for, or even more so - ask for anything? God redeemed me – who was fallen and lost; the cost of this redemption was Himself.

Meanwhile, as although He is the Redeemer, clothed in humility, He is not recognized by carnal minds, despite His obviousness. They are left to wonder at things spiritually akin to themselves, chasing after things foreign to themselves, liable to decay.
ib231.jpgTo me, the wretched one, He has granted to know Himself. When my eyes were closed, clay mixed with spittle coming out of His mouth were healing them. The Cross of Christ opens the eyes of the mind; the Cross of Christ maintains health, heals diseases of the eyes. Separate from the Cross of Christ there is no truth of Christ. Peace and truth will destroy those that are of the devil. I stand before my Lord and I see His Holy Providence, and I wonder at His long-suffering patience, how merciful He is to those sinful errors into which I fell due to my self-will and self-willed logical thinking. I commit my soul into the hands of God; that which He grants me, that I will accept. He knows my strength, because He gave it to me. If I am given one talent corresponding to my strength, I do not search for five, so as not to fail under the weight of them; so that the gift which is meant to serve for benefit, does not serve for condemnation.
I run from my sinful falls - not into reclusion, not into the desert - but to self-reproach, to confession of my sins, to repentance.
My bewilderment, my rational judgements and my will, I cast into the depths of the mercy and providence of God.

Such is the spectacle with which my soul confronts me when I look at her with my mind, in the light of the teaching of the Gospel. Now I will turn to the words of reproof found in your letter. The actual nature of the case shows, that you, looking at the externals of my behavior, have noticed far fewer flaws than actually are found in my soul. Conscious of my great debt, I must acknowledge the smaller one, which I concede to even in the case that I would not like to confess. For this it remains for me to tearfully ask your forgiveness and holy prayers for my correction. If, according to the words of Saint Isaac (the Syrian),

justification by word does not belong to Christian life and is not prescribed anywhere in the teaching of Christ.
If the Lord Himself, standing before worldly authority, while exalting the Truth of the Cross before the gaze of the universe, did not give any attention to external truth, not one word, like dust and ashes, if He met their accusations with silence, then who, looking at the depths of his heart, and seeing accurately, dare oppose his accuser? Such a person will tell the sword waving at him: strike, because you were not raised in vain. He will say to the disasters: Attack me and dispirit me, because I deserve it. He will say to the body, exhausted by disease and sent into exile: Go, for you have sinned. He will say to his brethren, pray for me the defiled one, you angels of God. He will fall to the feet of adulterers and murderers and say unto them: pray for me, for you are more righteous than me. Such is my state, when the [spiritual] eyes of my mind are open; but when they close, then my condition becomes far worse: for the wounds naturally remain the same; but to the diseases of my heart is added the blindness of my mind.

From blindness is born insensitivity, loss of love for our neighbor, and the loss of compunction and comforting mourning, the amassing wounds to wounds and diseases to diseases.
In short - whether I see or am blinded - my condition is extremely disastrous, worthy of the tears and sobs of all who know and love me. Such is my answer to everyone who criticizes, and to you. If I answer otherwise – I sin.

I would have had to be satisfied with this if I were not speaking to my spiritual son, who, while uttering accusations against me as his heart dictates, nevertheless does not claim that they are the absolute truth, but rather, he offers them to me for judgement. Therefore I feel obliged to continue my conversation, and despite the fact that I am feeble, borrowing light from the True Light - the Word of God, I feel obliged to satisfy the demands of your letter. Not so much by paying attention to the specific thoughts contained in this letter, as by uncovering, in the light of the Gospel teachings, those secret motives of the heart of which these ideas are the fruit. According to the Fathers,

those people who require a complete elimination of flaws from their close ones, hold a false notion of this matter.
We find this opinion of the Fathers also among the Apostles: one of them (John the Evangelist), says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John. 1, 8. Another says (St. Paul): “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Gal. 6, 2. What can give rise to the reproaching of our neighbour’s weakness, is shown in Scriptures in men of the highest virtue. Who is holier than the Apostles? However in the Acts we read that between the Apostles Barnabas and Paul there arose a dissension, and after the dissension - a separation. Beyond doubt we are told of this circumstance by Scripture with the aim that we, infirm as we are,

be careful and not get carried away by imaginary zeal, but carry one another’s burdens. In this way fulfilling the law of Christ! Carry my weaknesses, then; and I will try to bear yours, as I have tried to do hitherto.
Obviously it is impossible for you to say that you have no weaknesses.

My weaknesses are heavier more so for you than for me: and yours are perceptible more for me than for you.
If the weight was not burdensome, then carrying it would have no value, and there would not be any reason to give this commandment.

But the value of reciprocally bearing weaknesses is so great that Scripture has concluded that in this lies the fulfillment of the law of Christ, Who bore upon Himself the sins of the whole world.
I will say a few words about inconstancy. Inconstancy, or changeableness, according to the holy Fathers, is the constant and inevitable weakness of humans, as long as a person is found in this country of his exile, that is, on this earth. Perfect constancy is a property of the future order of things. Variableness is not only characteristic to us who are infirm, as even the greatest Saints acknowledged this in themselves. Tolerate the inconstancy in me, and I will tolerate it in you. My inconstancy is more palpable for you, and yours – for me. Let us bear our mutual weaknesses that we may know that the yoke of Christ is good: if we throw off the yoke of Christ, then which yoke shall we subordinate ourselves to? Excellently the holy Elijah Ekdik said:

“The house of the soul - is patience, for it lives in it; and its food – is humility, for it is fed by this.” Exactly so - thoughts with humility of wisdom keep the soul in patience. If this is so, then this follows: there is nothing that banishes the soul from patience, as much as prideful thoughts.
Repeatedly I have told you and many others, to whom I thought to impart soul-profiting knowledge: When I check my disposition and behaviour against the writings of the holy Fathers, I find that I would have to be found among the beginners in ancient monasticism. However in contemporary monasticism, where the knowledge of the Fathers and the way of thinking only somewhat imprinted by such knowledge, is so rare, that one who teaches his listeners the teaching of the Fathers, is a greatest rarity. It is with this condition that I govern you all and have you as my spiritual children, so as to teach all of you the Gospel way of thinking, which is the way of thinking of the Fathers.

Truly, truly, I say to you: these days, when there are no works of the spirit, and spiritual wisdom is an extreme rarity, the devil so hates this wisdom that he would like to destroy it from the face of the earth.
In this way the Gospel would remain only for our condemnation, and not edification; for we shall be judged according to the Gospel, as foretold to us by the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 42, 40).

The devil is ready to give us ten times the common sense, and multiply our practical skills a thousandfold, if he can only steal from us the knowledge of the Cross, by which we can come to stand at the right hand of God
. One who ascribes to himself intelligence and good sense, likens himself to the devil, who wanted to be acknowledged as the source of enlightenment. He actually is the source of imitated light – fleshly wisdom, which does not submit to God’s reason, bears upon itself the stamp of pride and contains in itself the precondition of all sinful falls.

“Have you seen someone who has fallen? Know, that he followed his own will”, says Abba Dorotheus.
This holy one said concerning himself; that it would be better for him to sin by external act, following the advice of his neighbor; than to act without a blessing. And I, in my small experience, whenever I fail, I have consolation from the fact that the deed has been done or started not without a blessing.

Therefore, unworthy as I am, it would be befitting to attend to one’s own shortcomings. However

in my responsibilities of Superior and spiritual father, I must tell you what I see with my sinful eyes: your warfare is caused by the passion of pride.
The feeling that one possesses practical intelligence and understanding is a justification of pride, in which the pride is hidden. When the feeling towards myself and to those surrounding me grows cold, this are the fruits of pride, because after disparaging ones neighbour there follows a drying up of love. And the disappearance of love is an indication of that demonic thoughts have been accepted, just as the growth of love for one’s neighbour is a sign of accepting the seeds of grace.
The passion of pride acts differently to the passion of fornication, or of anger. These two passions are obvious, and their justification and the cunning in their excuses is clearer to behold. Pride, on the other hand, creeps in imperceptibly. Pride is sown by abilities, splendor, and even more so by the praise of men. Although, it may seem that we do not accept praises and do not agree inwardly with those that praise us, the secret imprint of praise nevertheless remains in the mind and heart, and when we are disparaged - it is burdensome; and the more burdensome it is for us, the more saturated we are with praise. This is how it is proven that the imprint is present, and the secret implantation of pride. Woe to us! The most grace-filled gifts have been the occasion for pride in people, and the fruits of pride – is a fall! The main symptoms of pride are that one’s feeling towards people around one grows cold, and the abandonment of confession. Now we must show the cause of this vice, and give a proper account of the door by which it enters, or rather, goes out, says St John of the Ladder (Step 11:1)

Make it a rule for yourself to confess your thoughts at least twice weekly. Just as the soul conforms to the body, in the same way express your humility by the bowing of the body. Say and repeat to your thought about your brothers: “These are Christ’s sheep, these are angels of God”, and contempt for them will be destroyed, which is of pride.
Then, trusting in the mercy of God, peace and love will enter your heart, and by the action of grace it will be shown to you that you are in temptation. Your eyes will be opened and you will get to know your real delusion. This case shall enter into the treasury of your spiritual experiences, and will provide you with protection for the future, and nourishment for the brotherhood. For a man who is not tempted, is not skilled, but “in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18), says Scripture.May the Lord grant that you follow this counsel of Saint John of the Ladder:

“When once we have entered the arena of religion and obedience we must no longer judge our good manager in any way at all, even though we may perhaps see in him some slight failings, since he is only human. Otherwise, by sitting in judgment we shall get no profit from our subjection. It is absolutely indispensable for those of us who wish to retain undoubting faith in our superiors to write their good deeds indelibly in our hearts and constantly remember them, so that when the demons sow among us distrust towards them, we may be able to silence them by what is preserved in our memory. For the more faith flourishes in the heart, the more alacrity the body has in service. But he who has stumbled on distrust has already fallen…” (Step 4:6-7).
Likewise, pride often sprouts from exercising spiritual care over those close to us, as a sprout shoots up from a wheat grain. Therefore, Saint Mark the Ascetic, said: “When a man benefits another by word or deed, may the grace of God enlighten the both.” Apostle Paul says: “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake”. (2 Cor 4:5) For the person who cultivates these feelings, partiality for people will be destroyed, and the love of Christ will reign, seeing God’s image in everyone. Then, when the mind delights in this love, a person sees himself as a vessel filled with stench and filth, and marvels at how the rays of Divine teaching pass through him and heal human souls.

It is proper for me here to recall the words of Saint John of the Ladder, which are repeated also by Saint Nilus of Sora: some were mired in the mud, but cautioned others against similar acts, and for helping others, the Lord gave them salvation. (Step 26:14) Therefore, after such serious wounds,

I learned that the signs of pride in a person are humiliation or contempt of his neighbours, and negligence in confessing. In and of itself pride is not noticeable to a person, as it is a most subtle passion, which even deceived the light-bearing Angel and arranged a fall in Heaven. The other passions are dependent on pride, just as a building is connected to a foundation which is hidden under the earth.
Finally I bequeath to you to keep this letter secret until my death. In the meantime, I commend you and myself to the mercy and grace of God, which is able to, if we do not ourselves reject it, to give us salvation, although we are completely unworthy of it.  Amen.

November 25, 1842
St. Sergius Hermitage