Thursday, October 3, 2013
Nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
There is a “texture of life” that cannot be reduced. It has a richness that rational descriptions cannot capture. Though we battle with powerful forces that draw us towards the destructiveness of sin – there is written deep within us a hunger for wholeness and the capacity for God. In the words of St. John, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
This texture also belongs to the Kingdom of God, though in even greater measure. Christ Himself brought the Kingdom into our midst. Wherever He went the signs of the Kingdom followed: the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the dead were received back to life, and the poor had good news preached to them. How do you measure the gift of sight to a blind man, or the joy of a family who receives back into its midst one whom they thought dead?
The Orthodox Tradition, which is often described by many as “mystical,” is not “mystical” in any sense of “esoteric” or “strange.” Such adjectives for the faith are simply a reaching for words to describe a reality that is richer than any merely rational scheme or metaphysical explanation. It is the largeness of a Kingdom that cannot be described or circumscribed, and yet is found in the very heart of the believer. What words do we use to describe something which dwarfs the universe and yet dwells within us?
It is the texture of depth – or to use St. Paul’s expression: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). This is not merely a statement that nothing has the power to separate us from God, but that nothing has such height or depth as the love of God. It is a rich mixture of images – from the measurement of space, to the angels of heaven, to the elements of time – nothing reaches to the end of the love of God – the very stuff of His Kingdom.
It is for such reasons that I always find myself repelled by efforts to reduce doctrine to simplified formulas. Doctrine – the teaching of the faith should not reduce our understanding but enlarge it – to the very point of silence – and beyond. It is why it is so frustrating to try and explain icons. No one has an argument with the presence of words in the Church – the icons do the same things words do – only with color and in the language of silence. I can enter the Church, remain in silence and yet see (and hear!) something other than the incessant chatter of my own mind. The icons speak with the texture of the Kingdom – opening windows and doors that transcend every height and depth, things present and things to come.
Becoming aware of this texture requires the careful attention of an Orthodox life. Our lives are often filled with tensions and judgments with jealousy and greed – all of which serve to deaden our hearts and make us blind to the true character of the Kingdom in our midst. The Kingdom is reduced to slogan – a cypher for a set of opinions. Patience, inner stillness, love and forgiveness are the disciplines that make it possible for us to perceive the texture of the Kingdom. It allows its depth to be formed in our hearts.
The stillness of an icon should be approached with a stillness in our heart. The rhythm of the liturgy should be allowed to become the rhythm of our souls. The words of Scripture should not sail over our heads but echo within us. The texture of all these things is the same texture as that being formed within us by the work of God’s Spirit. It will become the texture of our true existence.
Christ comes only at the end of the world to begin the eternal kingdom of heaven (Fr. Seraphim Rose)
So, to repeat the first point: we watch the signs of the times in order to recognize Christ when He comes, because there have been many false Christs, many more false Christs will come, and at the very end of the world there will finally come one who is called Antichrist. The Antichrist will unite all those who are deceived into thinking he is Christ, and this will include all those whose interpretation of Christianity has gone off. Often you can look at some people who confess Christianity, and it seems that many of their ideas are correct—they go according to the Bible. Then you look here and there, and you see that here’s a mistake, there’s a mistake.
Just recently Fr. Dimitry Dudko, in the little newspaper he puts out, said there came t him someone who claimed to be Christian. As he began to talk to him, he began to feel that this person wasn’t Orthodox, and he said, “What confession are you?” “Oh, that’s not important. We’re all Christians. The only important thing is that we be Christians.” He said, “Well, no, no, we have to be more precise than than that. For example, if you’re a Baptist and I’m an Orthodox, I believe that we have the Lord’s Body and Blood, and you don’t.” We must be precise because there are many differences. It’s good to have the attitude: I have respect for you, and I won’t interfere with your faith, but nonetheless there’s a true way of believing and there are ways which go away from the truth. I must be according to the truth.
In the same way we can see that many people who ae not Orthodox have many good things about them, and then they go off in some respect. In the end it’s up to God to judge, not to us. But we can see what will happen if all these little ways people go off now are projected into the last times, if people still believe that way when the last times come. These mistakes cause people, when they see Antichrist, to think that he is Christ. There are very many sects now which believe that Christ is coming to rule for a thousand years form the Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, when the Jews start building the Temple, these sects will only rejoice because, to them, this is the sign of Christ’s coming. On the contrary, we know that this isn’t he sign of the Antichrist coming, because Christ will no more come ot the Temple. The Temple has been destroyed. Christ comes only at the end of the world to begin the eternal kingdom of heaven. The only one who will come to the Temple is Antichrist.
So, this is why the correct Orthodox Christian understanding and preparation based upon this understanding are absolutely necessary. The closer we get to the very last times, the more indispensable this understanding and preparation are.
Fr. Seraphim Rose
The first thing we must have if we are going to have the true interpretation of the signs of the times is something we can call basic Orthodox knowledge. That is, knowledge of the Holy Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments (and not just according to the way it seems, but according to the way the Church has interpreted it); knowledge of the writings of Holy Fathers; knowledge of Church history; and awareness of the different kind of heresies and errors which have attacked the Church’s true understanding of dogma and especially of the last times. If we do not have a grounding in sources such as these, we will find ourselves confused and unprepared. That is precisely what our Lord tells us: to be ready, to be prepared. Unless we have this basic knowledge, we will not be prepared and we will misinterpret the signs of the times.
A few years ago a book was printed in English which has become a fantastic bestseller for a religious book. It has sold over ten million copies in America. It’s called The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, a Protestant Evangelical in Texas. In a rather superficial style he gives his interpretation of the signs of the times. He believes it’s the last times we are living in now. He believes that everywhere around us there are being fulfilled these signs which our Lord talked about. If you read this book, you find that sometimes he gets something more or less correct according to our Orthodox understanding, sometimes he is totally off, and sometimes he is partly wrong, partly right. It’s as though he’s just guessing, because he reads the Scripture according to his own understanding. He has no basic Orthodox Christian knowledge, no background in the true knowledge of the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. Therefore, if you read this book seriously, you will find that you become very confused. You don’t know what to believe any more. He talks, for example, about a millennium which is supposed to come before the end of the world. He talks about the rapture, when Christians are supposedly gathered up into the heavens before the end of the world, and then watch how the people suffer down below. He talks about the building of the Temple in Jerusalem as though this is a good thing, as thought this is preparing for Christ’s coming.
If you read such books as this (there are many other books like it; this one happens to be a bestseller because the author caught the imagination of people just at one particular time), and if you take them all as truth, you will find that instead of recognizing Christ—which is the whole reason for our understanding about the signs of the times—you will be accepting Antichrist.
Take, for example, the very question of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is true, according to Orthodox prophecies, that the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. If you look at people like Hal Lindsey, or even the Fundamentalist Carl McIntire, they are also talking about the building of the Temple, but they’re talking about it as though we are building it in order for Christ to come back and reign over the world for a thousand years. What they are talking about is the coming of Antichrist. The millennium, according to the Protestant interpretation, as being a special thousand-year reign at the end of the world, is actually the reign of Antichrist. In fact, there have already been people who have arisen and proclaimed their thousand-year kingdom which is going to last until the end of the world. The last one was Adolf Hitler. This is based upon the same kind of chiliastic idea: that is, interpreting the millennium in a worldly sense. The actual thousand years of the Apocalypse is the life in the Church which is now, that is, the life of Grace; and anyone who lives it sees that, compared to the people outside, it is indeed heaven on earth. But this is not the end. This is our preparation for the true kingdom of God which has no end.
There are many books of basic Orthodox knowledge now available. Those who are seriously concerned about studying the signs of the times should first be very well versed in some of these books, and they should be reading them, seriously studying them, and having them as daily food. The best books to read are not someone’s interpretation of Revelation (the Book of Apocalypse), because right now there’s not really any Orthodox interpretation of this in English.2
The best books are the basic spiritual textbooks. First of all there are basic texts of Orthodox dogmas, the various catechisms. One of the best is the eighth-century work of St. John Damascene, On the Orthodox Faith, which goes through the whole of the catechism. An even earlier one is St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures, that is, lectures prepared for people about to be baptized, which goes through the whole Creed and tells what the Church believes. There are many similar books of catechism, both in ancient times and in more modern times. More recently we have the catechisms in Russian of Metropolitan Platon and Metropolitan Philaret, which are a little shorter and simpler.
Then there is a different kind of book: commentaries on Holy Scriptures. There are not too many of these in English,3 but we do have some of the commentaries of St. John Chrysostom. This area is a little bit weak in English, because there are many good books in Russian which are not in English yet, including more recent books of commentaries on the Scriptures, even on the Apocalypse. Archbishop Averky’s books are very good, but they’re just being put into English now. God willing, before too long, they will be out.4
Then, besides these two kinds of books—basic catechism and commentaries on Scripture—there are all the books on Orthodox spiritual life. These include the Lausiac History (which tells about how the monks lived in Egypt, and how they fought spiritually), the Dialogues of St. Gregory of Rome, the Lives of Saints, The Ladder of St. John, the Homilies of St. Macarius the Great, the books of St. John Cassian, the Philokalia, Unseen Warfare and St. John of Kronstadt’s My Life in Christ. These books deal with basic Orthodox spiritual life, spiritual struggle, how to discern the wiles of the demons, how not to fall into deception. All of them give a basic foundation by which to understand the signs of the times.
Then there are the works of more recent writers who are in the same patristic spirit as the ancient Holy Fathers. The main examples are the two great writers of 19th-century Russia, Bishop Theophan the Recluse and Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov,5 whose works are now coming out gradually in English. Bishop Ignatius’ book The Arena and various articles by Bishop Theophan are in English.6 These two writers are very important because they transmit the patristic teaching down to our times. They have already explained many questions which arise concerning how to understand the Holy Fathers. For example, the new Orthodox Word has a whole text of Bishop Ignatius on the toll-houses which the soul meets after death. Sometimes, in reading the Holy Fathers, one has questions on such subjects and doesn’t quite know how to understand what the ancient Fathers say, and these more recent Father explain these texts.
There are the histories of the Church, which tell of God’s revelation to men and how God acts with regard to men. It is very instructive to read the stories of the Old Testament, because exactly the same things repeat themselves in the New Testament. Then one should read, along with he New Testament, the histories of the New Testament Church. For example, there’s a pocketbook of Eusebius’ History of the Church, which traces the history of the Church down through the first three centuries, written from an Orthodox Christian point of view.7 It’s very important to see what early Church writers saw was important in the history of the Church: the martyrs, the apostles, and so forth.
So all these different kinds of writings help to prepare us with basic Christian knowledge, that is, catechisms, commentaries on Scripture, books on spiritual life, more recent patristic books in this same spirit, and histories of the Church. Before we do too much reading about what specifically the signs of the times mean, we should have a basic background in all of these categories of books. All of them prepare one to understand something about the signs of the times. Once one has begun to prepare oneself like this, it is not merely a matter of adding knowledge up in one’s head and being able to repeat by heart certain phrases, to have exactly the right interpretation of a Bible verse, or anything of the sort.
Fr. Seraphim Rose
του τομέα αιρέσεων και παραθρησκείας Ι.Μ. Καστοριάς
Βουντού ονομάζεται μια μορφή αφροαμερικανικής μαγικής λατρείας
Η λέξη “Vodoun” (γνωστή και ως: Vu, Vodun, Vudu, Vodou)
Η κυριολεκτική σημασία είναι “αντλώ νερό” και χρησιμοποιείται για να υποδείξει την πλήρη διαδικασία του κύκλου της γέννησης, ζωής, θανάτου και αναγέννησης.
Αρχικά παρουσιάστηκε τον 18ο αιώνα στα νησιά της Καραϊβικής και κυρίως στην Αϊτή μεταξύ των μαύρων.
Σήμερα συναντά κάποιος τη λατρεία Βουντού εκτός από τα νησιά της Καραϊβικής, κυρίως στις Η.Π.Α.
Tο Βουντού αποτελεί απ’ τον Απρίλιο του 2003 επίσημη θρησκεία στην Αϊτή.
Σε τι πιστεύουν οι οπαδοί του Βουντού;
Οι οπαδοί του Βουντού πιστεύουν σε μία υπέρτατη θεότητα το Αγαθό πνεύμα, σε διάφορους αφρικανικούς θεούς που θεωρούνται κατώτερες θεότητες και σε θεοποιημένα πνεύματα προγόνων. Αυτοί οι θεοί και τα πνεύματα ονομάζονται Λόα (Loa).
Τα Λόα, απαιτούν πιστότητα και αφοσίωση από τους λάτρεις τους. Τα πιο φοβερά και πλέον δαιμονικά Λόα ονομάζονται Guede και έχουν σχέση με το θάνατο, το σεξ, τη μαύρη μαγεία.
Κάθε οικογένεια ή επιμέρους ομάδες ανθρώπων, συγκροτούν λατρευτικούς κύκλους ενός ή πολλών Λόα, με υποχρεωτική την παρουσία κάποιου ιερέα
Γνωρίσματα της λατρείας Βουντού
Ο εξαιρετικά έντονος φρενήρης και εκστατικός τελετουργικός χορός.
Η έκχυση αίματος κατά τη διάρκεια της τελετουργίας συνήθως μέσω θυσίας ζώου.
Η παρουσία ιερέως ”χάνγκαν” ή ιέρειας”μάμπο” ως ενδιάμεσου για προστασία.
Η κατάληψη κυριολεκτικώς των οπαδών -λάτρεων κατά την έκσταση από τα πνεύματα (Λόα).
Η επικοινωνία ενός πιστού με ένα πνεύμα είναι τιμή για τον πιστό, καθώς το πνεύμα μπορεί την στιγμή της έκστασης να του αποκαλύψει κάτι απ’ το μέλλον του, να δώσει μια προφητεία, έναν οιωνό, ένα σημάδι, μια συμβουλή.
Η έκδηλη παρουσία του μαγικού – δαιμονικού στοιχείου
Δεν είναι σπάνια η ταύτιση με την άσκηση μαύρης μαγείας.
Ιδίως στις Η.Π.Α. και κυρίως στη Νέα Ορλεάνη, είναι γνωστές οι κούκλες Βουντού, που στις διάφορες αποκρυφιστικές και μαγικές τελετές χρησιμοποιούνται ως υποκατάστατα και ομοιώματα των ανθρώπων, στους οποίους θέλουν να προξενήσουν πόνο, ασθένεια ή κακό.
Τον τελευταίο καιρό πολλά ηλεκτρονικά παιχνίδια έχουν παιχνίδια Βουντού όπου όταν χάνεις κάτι παθαίνεις
Επιχειρείται έτσι η εξοικείωση ακόμη και των παιδιών με αυτή τη μορφή μαγείας έτσι ώστε όταν κάποιος έρθει στην πραγματικότητα σε επαφή με παρόμοιες καταστάσεις να τις θεωρεί γνωστές και ακίνδυνες.
Η αγορά γέμισε από κουκλάκια Βουντού
Και από σχετικά «φυλαχτά».
Μπορεί κάποιος με Βουντού να μου κάνει κακό;
Συμμετέχω συνειδητά στο μυστήριο της εξομολόγησης kαι της Θείας Ευχαριστίας.
Είναι σημαντικό να φορώ πάντοτε σταυρό και να αποφεύγω να φορώ σύμβολα που δεν γνωρίζω.