Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The True Meaning of Christmas from Archbishop Fulton Sheen

The Roman Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen was an excellent orator on Catholic values and faith. He used to appear on his own TV show, back when Christianity wasn't shunned. This episode from his show "Life is Worth Living" describes the fullness of the meaning of Christmas, and why Jesus's incarnation is so important to mankind.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Europe, Immigration, and Merkel’s Christian Values

We probably shouldn't hold our breath on it, but it looks like the secular culture is starting to realize what they've lost, at least on some subconscious level. In multiple countries now, politicians in have been standing up for Christian culture, values, and rights. Hopefully this fever catches on bringing back some sanity to the destructive culture currently dominate in the west.
It’s not often senior European political leaders make politically-incorrect statements, but Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently made a habit of it. The subject has been the touchy question of Muslim immigration and the challenges it poses for European identity. Not only has Merkel upset the European political class (especially the Left and the Greens) by saying what everyone knows—that multiculturalism has “utterly failed”—but she also argued that the issue was not “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.”

“We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind,” Merkel claimed in a recent speech. She then stressed that Germany needs to reflect more upon “the values that guide us, about our Judeo-Christian tradition.” It was one way, Merkel maintained, of bringing “about cohesion in our society.”

On one level, Merkel is surely stating the blindingly obvious. How can Europeans ask Muslim immigrants to integrate into European society and respect European values without Europeans themselves being clear in their own minds about what values are at the core of European identity and where these values come from?

And as much as significant portions of European society would like to deny it, it’s simply a historical fact that the idea of Europe and European values such as liberty, equality before the law, and solidarity did not suddenly appear ex nihilo in the late seventeenth-century with the various Enlightenments. Central to the formation of European identity and such values was the synthesis of Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem achieved by Christianity following the Roman Empire’s collapse in the West in 476 A.D.

Indeed there’s plenty of evidence that the antecedents of most of the various freedoms and genuine achievements of the various Enlightenments are to be found in Christianity. There is increasing recognition, for example, that the idea of human rights was first given concrete expression by medieval canon lawyers.

Yet it is hardly a secret that the Judeo-Christian heritage sits very loosely on many European societies. We find this in a type of secular-fundamentalism—exemplified by Spain’s current Socialist government—that has become fashionable among sections of the European Left. But the ambiguity also manifests itself in the persistence of historical legends that diminish, distort, and denigrate Christianity’s contributions to European civilization.

A good example is the mythology of the so-called “Dark Ages” that permeates popular and elite discussion of European history. Most of the moral, political, and legal foundations of modern market economies, for instance, were established in Europe well before the sixteenth century. Likewise the scientific method was born in the Middle Ages. Medieval thinkers such as Albertus Magnus made crucial contributions to the development of the natural sciences. Yet despite these facts, many persist in claiming that market economies are essentially a post-Enlightenment phenomenon, or that Christianity is essentially “anti-science.”

But the problem is not only with secular opinion. Since the 1950s, many European Christians have gradually reduced their Christian faith to a vacuous humanitarianism worthy of the best EU-funded NGO. One difficulty with “liberal Christianity” (or whatever’s left of it) is that it isn’t especially interested in affirming any Christian values that go beyond sentimental platitudes about tolerance and equality which are routinely emptied of any specific Christian content. It’s goodbye Thomas Aquinas, hello John Rawls.

This makes it even more ironic that increasing numbers of secular European thinkers believe Europe can only reinvigorate its distinct identity and values through reengaging its Judeo-Christian heritage. This is certainly the conclusion of one of Germany’s most prominent intellectuals, Jürgen Habermas.

A self-described “methodological atheist,” Habermas has been insisting for some time that Europe no longer has the luxury of wallowing in historical denial. As Habermas wrote in his 2006 book, A Time of Transitions: “Christianity, and nothing else [is] the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of western civilization. To this day we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter.”

It follows that any serious discussion of Europe’s Christian values in the context of contemporary immigration and identity debates will require many Europeans to go beyond their often-truncated understandings of European history and Christianity. There’s something paradoxical about this being facilitated by the increasing numbers of Muslims living in Europe. But such an engagement is arguably being made even more urgent by the economic reality that Europe will need even more immigrants if its present demographic winter persists for any significant period of time.

What Chancellor Merkel herself understands by “the Christian view of mankind” was not clear from her remarks. Nor is it evident that particular Christian ideas are always compatible with some Muslim positions. Despite the interfaith babble to the contrary, there are some fundamental theological differences between Christianity and Islam, many of which have implications for subjects ranging from religious liberty to the nature of the state. Merkel, however, is undoubtedly correct to insist that any discussion of immigration in Europe should involve Europeans worrying a little less about Islam and paying far more attention to knowing the truth about their own heritage and Christianity’s place in it.

The truth doesn’t just set us free. There’s no future without it.

Dr. Samuel Gregg is Research Director at the Acton Institute. He has authored several books including On Ordered Liberty, his prize-winning The Commercial Society, and Wilhelm Röpke’s Political Economy.

Read the entire article on the Acton Institute website (new window will open).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

St. Nicholas Fights Port Authority

For Orthodox Christians a name is more than just a name

There is a culture to Orthodox Christianity that is either unnoticed or misunderstood by many in the Protestant West. This last Monday was the Feast Day of St Nicholas, a prominent Orthodox saint.

In Orthodoxy, as well as Roman Catholicism, people who die are not believed to be gone from all rational thought. In fact, if someone is 'saintly' they are likely to be in communion with God in Heaven. Therefore, it is proper and possible to ask these people, albeit without bodies, to pray for us, that God will bless us in our lives. Many people hold to a person's "Sainthood" because of the miracles that they experience in their lives after including a saint in their prayers. 

By Evagelos Sotiropoulo

When Ian Miller’ parents visit his son’s soon to be in-laws in the 2002 blockbuster movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, they’re introduced to no less than 10 Nicks.

While overlooking the exaggerated (albeit not by much) tradition of naming a child after its grandparent, there’s actually a more profound, religious reason behind Greek – indeed all Orthodox Christian – names.

At its baptism by immersion, an Orthodox baby is given the name of a saint and enrolled into the Church, both on earth and in heaven. This name is used each and every time a sacrament is administered to them. When one’s patron saint is celebrated, this represents his or her Name Day, which is more important than their birthday. (In Serbian culture, each family has a patron saint who is observed in a collective celebration known as Slava.)

This Monday, for example, the Orthodox Church celebrates St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra. (If you know a Nicholas, Nick or Nikoletta, be sure to wish them a happy Name Day.) He is one of the foremost Christian saints, known for his abundant mercy and zeal for the truth who lived during the reign of Constantine the Great. The Saint was present at the First Ecumenical Council of the 318 Fathers at Nicaea in 325 and stood strong against the heretical teaching of Arius that taught Jesus was not equal to God.

Saints, who follow the prophets and apostles, are an integral part of Church life in Orthodoxy. St. Clement of Rome says, “Cleave to the saints, for they who cleave to them shall be made holy,” while St. Ephraim the Syrian affirms that, “Blessed is he who plants in his soul good plants, that is, the virtues and the lives of saints.”

It should be noted, however, that sainthood has nothing necessarily to do with intellect – which is based in the brain – but everything to do with spirituality, which is rooted in one’s heart: while some saints have possessed superior intelligence, like Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople, others have attained the highest level of noetic perfection with little education, like Elder Paisios the Athonite.

Reverence for saints is closely connected with the veneration of holy relics and icons. When one walks into an Orthodox Church, there’s an otherworldly feel to it and a myriad of icons expressing a sense of heaven on earth. As Bishop Kallistos Ware (an Anglican convert) has written, “Icons, frescoes, and mosaics are not mere ornaments, designed to make the church ‘look nice’, but have a theological and liturgical function to fulfil.” Icons, among other things, serve as a continuous reminder for the faithful of the invisible presence of heaven at each Divine Liturgy.

Nicholas the Wonderworker in the fourth-century to modern day saints like Nectarios of Aegina (1846-1920) and Arsenios the Cappadocian (1840-1924) all serve to continue the communion of saints in Orthodoxy which is like a chain of mutual love and prayer. It’s the saint, who, through his or her glorification by God continues the Christian Truth.

Saints are the aristocracy of mankind and their intercessions to God help us all.

Evagelos Sotiropoulos is a freelance writer who lives in Toronto. He has previously written about the Orthodox Christian faith for Holy Post

Originally Posted in Holy Post.

Eating Our Young, Or Just Harvesting Them for Corporate Profit?

Friday, December 03, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (21)

In the ongoing descent of our culture into hi-tech savagery, I note the following:
Is it Real, Or Is it Senomyx? How New Flavor Technology Tinkers with Our Tastebuds
Ever wonder what flavor technology companies really do? Well you should because this time, they’ve decided to trick our tastebuds, and in turn our brains, into tasting something that isn’t necessarily there.
Sounds pretty perky, eh?  Another fun science article about those amazing wizards who make it possible for gluttonous Americans to have all the sensations of eating tasty goodness while not actually having to gain weight.  What’s their special secret?

UPDATE:  According to Lynn Stratton at Healthy Holistic Living: Fetuses.  Their “unique proprietary technologies” are “Embryonic kidney cells from aborted human fetuses.”  Stratton maintains that these are used as an ingredient, but a reader states:
This is absolutely NOT TRUE! At Children of God for Life we monitor the use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines, medical products, cosmetics and regular research. I have done the research on Senomyx and what they are doing is TESTING their food enhancers using aborted fetal cell line HEK-293 (human embryonic kidney, specimen 293)Yes - this is wrong and repulsive - not to mention unnecessary.  But the cell lines are NOT IN your food.  Mark Shea blew it on this one.
I bow to my reader’s superior knowledge.  Apparently, the giant corporations in question are merely using aborted fetuses, not actually feeding them to us.  It’s sort of like saying “The Commandant’s wife didn’t actually eat prisoners, she merely made lampshades out of their skin.”  Derive what consolation from that you will.

Me: I think that, once again, reader Barbara is vindicated.

Read the article to discover which giant corporations to boycott.

This is like something out of a science fiction movie... or The Jungle. Unbelievable that there are people that allow these things, much less actually practice them.

Church left out of 9/11 renewal

Most people haven't even hear about this. Who could care about the Christians who want to rebuild their church, when we have other pressing deadlines? Besides, did you hear about the Muslims and their mosque?

By Martha T. Moore, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Towers are rising again at the site of the World Trade Center, a place of devastation turned into a construction hub. But the cross-topped belfry of St. Nicholas Church isn't among them.

Nine years after it was destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the little Greek Orthodox church that stood across the street from the twin towers is farther away than ever from being rebuilt.

Slow progress toward a new home halted last year when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the Ground Zero site, broke off discussions with the church over where and how a new church would be built.

FAITH & REASON: Conversation about religion, spirituality & ethics

On Sunday, the eve of St. Nicholas Day, 70 families of the congregation gathered near the site to light candles and pray for a way to rebuild their spiritual home amid the office towers and memorial plaza taking shape. "It's not a political statement. This is our place, and we belong there," says Mark Arey, a priest and director of interfaith relations for the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Before the Port Authority pulled the plug in March 2009, the agency and the church had spent several years working on a plan for the church to be rebuilt a block from its original location. Each side says the other refused to come to terms. The Port Authority says the church wanted too much say in the design of a vehicle screening center underneath the new building. The church says the agency wouldn't finalize the swap of its original property for the new site.

"After nine months of negotiations in which the demands of the Orthodox Church continued to increase over and above what we originally agreed to, we had to make a practical decision," says John Kelly, a Port Authority spokesman.

To work on the vehicle screening center, the Port Authority has begun ripping up the 1,200-square-foot plot where the old church stood, though the agency has not bought the rights from the church to do so.

'Back to the table'

The stalemate is emblematic of the complexity of plans for rebuilding Ground Zero and shows the intense pressure to move forward on a project that has taken years longer than anticipated.

The Port Authority says it sent a letter last month to the church, seeking to resume discussions to set a value on the church's land.

"We really want to go back to the table with the Port Authority ... because I just don't think it's reasonable that the only house of worship destroyed on 9/11 would not be rebuilt," Arey says.

When the twin towers were standing, they dwarfed little St. Nicholas. Founded in 1916, the church's home was a whitewashed 19th-century building that had once been a tavern. It sat across the street from the south tower of the Trade Center. It had a tiny congregation and was open only on Sundays and Wednesdays, when workers from the financial district sometimes stopped to light a candle or sit in peace.

In the years after it was destroyed, a plan emerged for St. Nicholas to be rebuilt a block east of its original site in a park the Port Authority is building on top of its underground vehicle screening center, through which all traffic into the Trade Center complex will have to pass.

In a preliminary deal announced in the summer of 2008, the Port Authority said it would cover the $40 million cost of the platform on which the church would be built and contribute $20 million to the cost of the church, in exchange for the church's original lot. In March 2009, the Port Authority cut off talks. The church will have to rebuild on its original site, the agency says, when the vehicle center is finished in 2013.

The church says that's impossible, partly because the construction of the underground center is raising the church's site by 30 feet. "They're saying, 'Go back to your old space,' knowing full well that without years of planning, it's not feasible," says John Couloucoundis, president of the St. Nicholas congregation.

In August, the church got a flurry of attention during the controversy over a proposal to build an Islamic center near the Trade Center site. When New York Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, offered to help the developer find a site farther away, elected officials such as state Sen. Dean Skelos, a Republican, asked why there was no equivalent effort to help St. Nicholas.

An odyssey

The church has raised "a couple million" for a new building, though Arey says it has not launched a fundraising campaign. "It's hard to fundraise for something you don't have a design for."

While worshiping at a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Brooklyn, the members continue to pay their dues, have meetings and gather annually at Ground Zero to celebrate St. Nicholas' feast day.

The travails of St. Nicholas are — fittingly for a Greek church — an "odyssey," Couloucoundis says. "I hope, just like the original Odyssey, we end up where we're supposed to."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Austrian MP on Turkish "one-way street tolerance babble"

Let me tell you, how surprised I am to see this come out of Europe. Even more surprising is how much support it's getting from the other members of the parliamentary body.

What do you think? Is this something "long time coming" or "distressing news"?

What Happened to Christmas? A Lesson For All Godly People

Chaplain's Corner
Short essays written for the La Jolla Veteran's Hospital newsletter in La Jolla, California

It is no secret that God and religion are being marginalized, that is to say considered irrelevant in modern secular society. Many work hard to remove all reference to God in our culture and nation. Consider Christmas, although a legal holiday by Act of Congress (signed 1870, June 28, by President Ulysses S. Grant) the religious significance is being systematically eradicated. For example, the secular “language police” have made sure a Christmas Tree is now a Holiday Bush and the proper greeting is no longer “Merry Christmas!” but “Happy Holidays!”” Here in San Diego a popular community celebration, for years called “Christmas On the Prado” and held in beautiful historic Balboa Park, was renamed a couple of years ago as December Nights in order to mollify the secular language police. The list goes on and on.

Secularism claims to be indifferent to religion. It claims to be inclusive of all. What is missed is that Secularism itself has the essential marks of religion. What are the critical ingredients of any religion? “These are: narratives, symbols, and traditions concerning the meaning of the universe and its existence, of human life, and of societal values and how they should be carried out.” Religion has a public aspect and the Secularist Religion has spared no effort in its desire to establish itself as the public national and world religion. Furthermore, it makes no apology for imposing its values on all. It is “politically correct.”

Secular values are disguised by politically correct jargon. If Godly people were more aware of the secular value agenda, they might see the need to embrace and celebrate traditional religious beliefs in our society instead of eradicating them. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the laws of secularism were explicitly laid out in 1998 by Robert Greene in a book entitled The 48 Laws of Power. Among the most egregious secularist principles are: learn to use your enemies; conceal your intentions; court attention at all costs; get others to work, but take the credit; use selective honesty; appeal to self-interest; crush your enemy; keep others in suspended terror; discover each man's thumbscrew; create compelling spectacles (the aura of power).

What is so nefarious about this establishment of secularism is that its values are diametrically the opposite of the values embraced by the traditional religions. How different are the value systems of most world religions, so well summarized in the Sikh proverb: "If you can't see God in all, you can't see God at all." (Sri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan). In the Eastern Church, we go beyond saying "Merry Christmas!" We exchange the Christmas greeting "Christ is Born!" with the response, "Glorify Him!" We have a sense of the birth of the "Prince of Peace;" "Emmanuel," not the 'prince of darkness or power.' Along with Isaiah the Prophet we proclaim: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. . . . For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." And his peace shall have no end, for God is with us!" (Is 9: 2,6-7).

During colonial times in Plymouth Colony it would not have been "politically incorrect" to celebrate Christmas. Neither should it be "politically incorrect" to celebrate the beautiful feasts of the other religions that make up our free and great nation.

Fr. George Morelli
V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, ( and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion. Fr. George is Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.

Originally Posted on Orthodoxy Today.

Smart Parenting XIX. Preparing for the Extinction Explosion

Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God (Luke 18: 16).

In previous essays (Morelli, 2008c) on marriage and parenting I pointed out the importance of parents perceiving the spiritual and the psychological implications of their vocation. A male and female, blessed by God in Holy Matrimony, are called up to be "[united] in one mind and one flesh, and grant them fair children for education in Thy faith . . . ." This has to be in the context that the married couple are individuals themselves, as are their children, made in God's image and called to grow in Divine illumination and become like Him.

Neglecting our intelligence: Sin

The Church Fathers told us that intelligence is one characteristic of God's image in us. (Morelli, 2006b, 2008b) Thus, by the very fact that we are made with intelligence, it behooves us to use the findings of scientific researchers which have been shown to be effective in behavioral control. It is morally necessary to use the scientific techniques which have been found to be beneficial in helping raise Godly, morally and socially responsible children. Not to do so, in fact, would be neglecting an important gift given to us by God. It would be "missing the mark:" Not to use the results of efficacious scientific behavioral research would be an illness and infirmity, that is to say, it would be sinful parenting.

One aspect of disciplining children which remains a problem for many Orthodox Christian parents is the use of effective punishment techniques. In actual fact, correct use of punishment actions can be a very effective form of behavior control. The operative term here is "correct use" of punishment. It must be psychologically, emotionally and spiritually 'correct.' The Punishment tool

Psychologically correct means that punishment is but one of a myriad of tools of discipline in a total program of behavioral intervention. Punishment is to be applied after a behavior is evaluated as inappropriate (Morelli, 2005a, 2006a, 2008b). This paper is going to focus on preparing the parent who uses negative punishment, also called extinction, for one of its major effects, the extinction explosion. This effect, if a parent does not expect it and is not helped to deal with it, can sabotage the correct use of negative punishment in behavioral control and, in fact, can make an inappropriate behavior even stronger. However, before considering the extinction explosion an overview of negative punishment (extinction) in the context of the total behavioral intervention program is useful.

Behavioral Intervention overview

Behavior is shaped by its consequences. There are four consequences which influence behavior. i
Consequences which increase behavior:
  • Positive Reinforcement: after a behavior occurs (whether or not the behavior is good or bad) a pleasant event occurs. The behavior increases.
  • Negative Reinforcement: after a behavior occurs (whether or not the behavior is good or bad) an unpleasant event is taken away. The behavior increases.
Consequences which decrease behavior:
  • Positive Punishment: after a behavior occurs (whether or not the behavior is good or bad) an unpleasant event occurs. The behavior decreases.
  • Negative Punishment (extinction): after a behavior occurs (whether or not the behavior is good or bad) a pleasant event is taken away. The behavior decreases.
Parents who are following Christ and His Church should want to increase good or appropriate behavior, but at times (hopefully inadvertently) good behavior is punished. For example, a child who is showing a proficient school project to their parent (an appropriate behavior) is told how awfully (even if objectively true) they are dressed. This 'put down' is found to be very unpleasant by the child and thus in the long run decreases his doing good schoolwork. [Hint: Better Parental procedure: praise the child for the school project; address his or her dress at a later, more appropriate time].

Important psychological caveats

Use behavioral pinpointing, that is to say, be concrete-specific. Never give general-abstract instructions or comment in general-abstract terms. Never tell a child to "be good" or "do better," rather say: "sit in your chair for the next 15 minutes," or "check the spelling of the words in this line," etc.

Spell out the behavioral contract ahead of time. Tell the child what specific behaviors are expected, or are not to be done, and what the consequences will be. If the child does a 'new' inappropriate behavior or fails to do an appropriate behavior they have previously performed, do not 'shoot from the hip' and say something like: "Ok! No TV this evening!” Rather, tell the child the consequence for the next time the 'infraction' occurs and be sure to follow up. Punishment temporarily decreases or suppresses behavior. Right after applying punishment is the opportunity to catch the child doing something good and reward the child for doing it. This is especially effective if it is a good behavior which would substitute for the inappropriate behavior the child was performing.

Be consistent. Do not give a consequence which will occur and then not follow-up and apply it. Furthermore, for teaching new behaviors or modifying the behavior of children who display inappropriate behavior, there must be no exceptions. The consistency of rewards and punishments must be 100%
Pleasant or unpleasant consequences must be defined from the child's point of view not that of the parent (or teacher). In fact, what a parent may think is pleasant or unpleasant may be quite different from the child's idea. For example, a child may do a good job fixing a broken fence. His/her parent may say "Great! you did such a good job, I'll give you a really challenging job now; you can repair the broken window frame in the living room." The parent may think they are rewarding the child; the child may feel they are being punished by this difficult 'extra' chore. They may feel it is better not to do a good job ever. Why try hard, since more will be loaded on?

Punishments should only be introduced by parents who are in total emotional control. (Morelli, 2005b, 2006c). Not only do anger, anxiety and/or depression prevent parents from effective behavioral management of their children, but children cognitively focus on the inappropriate out-of-control parental emotion and how awful it is to be yelled at, and do not attend to their own good and/or bad behavior and its consequences.

Critical spiritual caveat

Also needing to be overcome are fundamentalist and literal misperceptions of the teachings of Christ and His Church, specifically individualistic interpretations of scripture passages. In the Orthodox Church, scripture comes from tradition and can only be interpreted in union and in conformity with the Holy Spirit-inspired Church. (Morelli, 2009, 2010). If scripture is to be followed literally, without the Holy Spirit inspired Body of Christ, the Orthodox Catholic Church, it is without the Holy Spirit. Christians trace their founding to Jesus Christ, by His sending (descent) of the Holy Spirit on His apostles and disciples at Pentecost. According to St. Paul we know that the teachings of Jesus were understood by Christians by their being sanctified by this same Holy Spirit. St. Paul did much to spread the teachings of Jesus throughout the Roman world and writing to the Corinthians concerning the teachings which Jesus passed in tradition to His Church he says: "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (1 Corinthians 11:2).

Many who are sincere, well-meaning religious individuals, but who are seriously misguided and not in conformity to the Church, believe that corporal punishment is mandated by Holy Scripture, and that, if they be parents, they would be negligent in not employing corporal punishment in their families. The typical verse quoted in justifying corporal punishment is supposedly from the book of Proverbs: "Spare the rod and spoil the child." This is actually a misquote from the scriptural passage: "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him" (Pv 13: 24). There is another passage from the book of Proverbs which is also quoted in support of corporal punishment: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. If you beat him with the rod you will save his life from Sheol" (Pv 23:13-14).

Consider the wisdom of our holy Church Spiritual Father St. Isaac of Syria. Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev (2000) summarizes St. Isaac's discernment: ". . . the Old Testament understanding of God as a chastiser of sinners . . .does not correspond with the revelation we have received through Christ in the New Testament . . .one should not interpret literally those Old Testament texts. . . .they are being used in a figurative sense. . . ." Thus it is the 'spirit' of the Old Testament message we have to discern in light of the mind of Christ and His Church. The spirit of the "rod" is not its use in corporal beating, but in effective behavior management informed by the science of the day. (Morelli, 2006d).

The Extinction Explosion


The extinction explosion is a result of using negative punishment. As defined above: Negative Punishment (extinction) is the removal, taking away, that is to say subtracting, a pleasant event following a bad (or inadvertently a good) behavior. The result is that the behavior decreases.

The behavior decreases if the removal (of the pleasant event) is consistently applied over whatever time period it takes for the behavior to significantly diminish or disappear completely. However, in practical use of this punishment technique a temporary surge, burst or explosion of inappropriate behavior occurs when the pleasant event is removed.ii This can be so unsettling to a parent that unless they are prepared for this 'explosion' they are likely to give up on the procedure. The child is also learning that they can persist in the behavior and the parent will eventually 'give-in.' Effectually this makes the child's behavior even stronger.

For example, suppose a child is constantly yelling out, a bad behavior, and interrupting his/her parent. Each time the parent would answer the child's query (a pleasant event for the child). If the parent were to be keeping a record of the number of such interruptions and then instituted a negative punishment (extinction) procedure involving not paying any attention at all to the child's interruption, they would note a dramatic increase or burst of the child's bad behavior interruptions. If unprepared for this 'extinction explosion' a parent may well give in and respond again to the child’s inappropriate behavior. The child will continue interrupting. The bad behavior will not only persist, but will more likely be harder to extinguish in the future. Extinction bursts will be more intense and pronounced. On the other hand ,if the parent expects the extinction explosion and is prepared to "wait it out," the bad behavior, as is shown in the graph below, will eventually diminish.

Case study

Extinction explosions can last from several minutes to several hours. One of the most severe clinical cases I had involved a 6 year old male child who due to previous ineffective extinction attempts (one parent was in the field of education and had minimal and inadequate training in use of the procedure) had temper tantrum outbursts which lasted 6-7 hours. His inappropriate behavior included yelling, screaming, throwing objects through glass windows, turning over kitchen and dining table set with dinnerware and food, etc.

Before I had the parents employ an 'effective extinction procedure,' I had to thoroughly train the parents and some extended family members. This training involved a didactic phase explaining all aspects of negative punishment (extinction) and probable consequences (extinction explosion), role playing, an assessment of the home, rearranging furniture and safety-proofing objects. It also involved stripping bare one room in the house which would serve as a "time-out" room (cf. Morelli, 2008a)

Upon the first outburst of a temper tantrum the child would be escorted (or carried) to the time-out room. The door to the room would be held shut by a family member. All family members were instructed not to answer the child at all or open the door until the child was quiet for 5 minutes. Upon opening the door the adult would, in a pleasant tone of voice, praise the child for how 'quiet they are now.' The program was explained to the child. I made myself available for telephone consultation during this week. Family members would take turns holding on to the door handle. The child's first temper tantrum lasted 6 hours. Over the next few days he continued to have temper tantrums, but the time-out period significantly diminished. Within two weeks there were no reports of outbursts. The parents came in for support counseling for consistency in continuing the procedure for several more weeks. A follow-up several months later indicated no more behavioral outbursts.

Body, Mind, Spirit


Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Agelogiou, 1998) reminds earthly physicians: "You must have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.”
It must be considered that in the Orthodox tradition the body and the mind, that is to say psychological procedures, do not exist separately from their synergia with the spirit. As St. James tells us:
Is there any one among you suffering? Let him pray . . . .Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (Jas 4:13 - 15).
St. John Chrysostom presented us with the idea that the entire Church of Christ is a hospital, thereby expressing in clearer theological terms the relationship between the healing of body and soul practiced by the early healers. (Morelli, 2006d). A prayer by St. John Chrysostom which is included in "The Book of Needs" concisely states the goal of our earthly life:
O Lord Jesus Christ . . . .We beseech You, look mercifully upon him (or her), and in your great love grant him (or her) relief from his (or her) pain . . .that restored to the vigor of health, he (or she) may . . . serve you faithfully and gratefully all his (or her) life, and become heir of Your Kingdom, For You are the Physician of our souls and bodies, O Christ . . . ."

Ageloglou, Priestmonk Christodoulos. (1998). Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain. Mt. Athos, Greece: Holy Mountain.
Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion (2000) The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.
Morelli, G. (2005a, September 17). Smart Parenting Part 1.
Morelli, G. (2005b, October 14). The Beast of Anger.
Morelli, G. (2006a, February 04). Smart Parenting Part II.
Morelli, G. (2006b, March 6). Asceticism and Psychology in the Modern World.
Morelli, G. (2006c, March 25). Smart Parenting III: Developing Emotional Control.
Morelli, G. (2006d, December 21. The Ethos of Orthodox Christian Healing.
Morelli, G. (2008, May 28) Smart Parenting XII: The Time Out Tool.
Morelli, G. (2008a, June 10). Smart Parenting XIII:Tools for Smart Punishing.
Morelli, G. (2008b, July, 08). Good Marriage XIII: The Theology of Marriage and Sexuality.
Morelli, G. (2009, September 26). Secularism and the Mind of Christ and the Church: Some Psycho-Spiritual Reflections.
Morelli, G (in press). The Ethos of Orthodox Catechesis: The mind of the Orthodox Church.

Fr. George Morelli
V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, ( and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion. Fr. George is Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.

Originally posted on Orthodoxy Today

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Who Needs Marriage? Children Do

As reported in Time Magazine's November 18th cover story, according to a new Pew Research Center nationwide survey, a growing number of Americans believe that "marriage, whatever its social, spiritual, or symbolic appeal, is in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be."

The claim raises the question, "not necessary for whom?"

The Future of Children's Fragile Families study, referenced in Time's feature, Who Needs Marriage?, suggests that for some, and particularly for children, marriage is more necessary than ever.

And despite the more general findings that Americans believe that marriage is unnecessary for a host of issues, when it comes to raising kids, more than three-quarters say it's best done married.

As The Future of Children: Fragile Families journal explains, fragile families - defined as couples who are unmarried when their children are born - face greater risks than more traditional families, which can have negative consequences on child wellbeing. Simply put, stable, two parent homes have greater monetary and emotional resources to support their children's development. And in the United States, marriage has the greatest chance of achieving relationship stability which leads to stability for children.

So where do we go from here?

The Future of Children Fragile Families journal shows that, contrary to popular belief, most unwed parents have close and loving relationships at the time of their child's birth. However, at five years after birth only 35 percent of unwed parents are still together. These first moments in a child's life present a unique opportunity to work with couples to strengthen unwed parents' relationship and parenting skills.

At the Brookings Institution Fragile Families launch on October 27, 2010, a young man summarized the impact of such program participation on his views about children and marriage.

"When we went to this class, and I listened to the statistics about the married couples and the unmarried couples and how much it would benefit my child for us to be married, I took advantage of that. I want my child to be raised to be a man, and I love my girlfriend. It was a no-brainer, but it really took learning about my child's future to help me put it together."

While a growing number of Americans may view marriage as a dying institution, its benefits for children are clear. As our nation's poverty rate continues to climb, preventing and strengthening fragile families will become increasingly important.

For more information on fragile families and our policy recommendations to support them, please go to The Future of Children's full volume on Fragile Families.

This article was reprinted from Princeton Blog on the The Future of Children

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wikileaks: Russian Orthodox Church’s Kirill on ecumenism

(FaithWorld) - Some interesting comments on Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, back in April 2008 when he was still Metropolitan Kirill, in a cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow published by Wikileaks:

¶8. (C) Kirill seemed to be in good health was preoccupied as always with the, in his view, excessive emphasis on the individual in the West, and stressed the need to harmonize traditional human rights concerns with “morality and ethics.” Economic progress had been a two-edged sword for Russia, Kirill thought. With prosperity, Russians had “lost something” and Kirill, who is Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, pointed to less prosperous Smolensk as “better preserved” than Moscow or St. Petersburg.

¶9. (C) Kirill spoke highly of a UN-sponsored effort to bridge the gap between East and West by seeking an alliance of civilizations. Kirill was attempting to interest the UN in his efforts to sponsor ecumenical dialogue especially, he said, in the Middle East. As he has in past conversations, Kirill contrasted Roman Catholic Pope Benedict favourably with his predecessor John Paul II, and again held out the prospect of significant improvement in Russian Orthodox – Roman Catholic relations. Also on the ecumenical front, Kirill reported to the Ambassador efforts, via the Russian Orthodox Church of America and the National Council of Churches, to reach out to Protestant denominations in the U.S.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why Christmas is not pagan.

Calculating Christmas

William J. Tighe on the Story Behind December 25

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

A Mistake

The idea that the date was taken from the pagans goes back to two scholars from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Paul Ernst Jablonski, a German Protestant, wished to show that the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25th was one of the many “paganizations” of Christianity that the Church of the fourth century embraced, as one of many “degenerations” that transformed pure apostolic Christianity into Catholicism. Dom Jean Hardouin, a Benedictine monk, tried to show that the Catholic Church adopted pagan festivals for Christian purposes without paganizing the gospel.

In the Julian calendar, created in 45 B.C. under Julius Caesar, the winter solstice fell on December 25th, and it therefore seemed obvious to Jablonski and Hardouin that the day must have had a pagan significance before it had a Christian one. But in fact, the date had no religious significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian’s time, nor did the cult of the sun play a prominent role in Rome before him.

There were two temples of the sun in Rome, one of which (maintained by the clan into which Aurelian was born or adopted) celebrated its dedication festival on August 9th, the other of which celebrated its dedication festival on August 28th. But both of these cults fell into neglect in the second century, when eastern cults of the sun, such as Mithraism, began to win a following in Rome. And in any case, none of these cults, old or new, had festivals associated with solstices or equinoxes.

As things actually happened, Aurelian, who ruled from 270 until his assassination in 275, was hostile to Christianity and appears to have promoted the establishment of the festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” as a device to unify the various pagan cults of the Roman Empire around a commemoration of the annual “rebirth” of the sun. He led an empire that appeared to be collapsing in the face of internal unrest, rebellions in the provinces, economic decay, and repeated attacks from German tribes to the north and the Persian Empire to the east.

In creating the new feast, he intended the beginning of the lengthening of the daylight, and the arresting of the lengthening of darkness, on December 25th to be a symbol of the hoped-for “rebirth,” or perpetual rejuvenation, of the Roman Empire, resulting from the maintenance of the worship of the gods whose tutelage (the Romans thought) had brought Rome to greatness and world-rule. If it co-opted the Christian celebration, so much the better.

A By-Product

It is true that the first evidence of Christians celebrating December 25th as the date of the Lord’s nativity comes from Rome some years after Aurelian, in A.D. 336, but there is evidence from both the Greek East and the Latin West that Christians attempted to figure out the date of Christ’s birth long before they began to celebrate it liturgically, even in the second and third centuries. The evidence indicates, in fact, that the attribution of the date of December 25th was a by-product of attempts to determine when to celebrate his death and resurrection.

How did this happen? There is a seeming contradiction between the date of the Lord’s death as given in the synoptic Gospels and in John’s Gospel. The synoptics would appear to place it on Passover Day (after the Lord had celebrated the Passover Meal on the preceding evening), and John on the Eve of Passover, just when the Passover lambs were being slaughtered in the Jerusalem Temple for the feast that was to ensue after sunset on that day.

Solving this problem involves answering the question of whether the Lord’s Last Supper was a Passover Meal, or a meal celebrated a day earlier, which we cannot enter into here. Suffice it to say that the early Church followed John rather than the synoptics, and thus believed that Christ’s death would have taken place on 14 Nisan, according to the Jewish lunar calendar. (Modern scholars agree, by the way, that the death of Christ could have taken place only in A.D. 30 or 33, as those two are the only years of that time when the eve of Passover could have fallen on a Friday, the possibilities being either 7 April 30 or 3 April 33.)

However, as the early Church was forcibly separated from Judaism, it entered into a world with different calendars, and had to devise its own time to celebrate the Lord’s Passion, not least so as to be independent of the rabbinic calculations of the date of Passover. Also, since the Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar consisting of twelve months of thirty days each, every few years a thirteenth month had to be added by a decree of the Sanhedrin to keep the calendar in synchronization with the equinoxes and solstices, as well as to prevent the seasons from “straying” into inappropriate months.

Apart from the difficulty Christians would have had in following—or perhaps even being accurately informed about—the dating of Passover in any given year, to follow a lunar calendar of their own devising would have set them at odds with both Jews and pagans, and very likely embroiled them in endless disputes among themselves. (The second century saw severe disputes about whether Pascha had always to fall on a Sunday or on whatever weekday followed two days after 14 Artemision/Nisan, but to have followed a lunar calendar would have made such problems much worse.)

These difficulties played out in different ways among the Greek Christians in the eastern part of the empire and the Latin Christians in the western part of it. Greek Christians seem to have wanted to find a date equivalent to 14 Nisan in their own solar calendar, and since Nisan was the month in which the spring equinox occurred, they chose the 14th day of Artemision, the month in which the spring equinox invariably fell in their own calendar. Around A.D. 300, the Greek calendar was superseded by the Roman calendar, and since the dates of the beginnings and endings of the months in these two systems did not coincide, 14 Artemision became April 6th.

In contrast, second-century Latin Christians in Rome and North Africa appear to have desired to establish the historical date on which the Lord Jesus died. By the time of Tertullian they had concluded that he died on Friday, 25 March 29. (As an aside, I will note that this is impossible: 25 March 29 was not a Friday, and Passover Eve in A.D. 29 did not fall on a Friday and was not on March 25th, or in March at all.)

Integral Age

So in the East we have April 6th, in the West, March 25th. At this point, we have to introduce a belief that seems to have been widespread in Judaism at the time of Christ, but which, as it is nowhere taught in the Bible, has completely fallen from the awareness of Christians. The idea is that of the “integral age” of the great Jewish prophets: the idea that the prophets of Israel died on the same dates as their birth or conception.

This notion is a key factor in understanding how some early Christians came to believe that December 25th is the date of Christ’s birth. The early Christians applied this idea to Jesus, so that March 25th and April 6th were not only the supposed dates of Christ’s death, but of his conception or birth as well. There is some fleeting evidence that at least some first- and second-century Christians thought of March 25th or April 6th as the date of Christ’s birth, but rather quickly the assignment of March 25th as the date of Christ’s conception prevailed.

It is to this day, commemorated almost universally among Christians as the Feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel brought the good tidings of a savior to the Virgin Mary, upon whose acquiescence the Eternal Word of God (“Light of Light, True God of True God, begotten of the Father before all ages”) forthwith became incarnate in her womb. What is the length of pregnancy? Nine months. Add nine months to March 25th and you get December 25th; add it to April 6th and you get January 6th. December 25th is Christmas, and January 6th is Epiphany.

Christmas (December 25th) is a feast of Western Christian origin. In Constantinople it appears to have been introduced in 379 or 380. From a sermon of St. John Chrysostom, at the time a renowned ascetic and preacher in his native Antioch, it appears that the feast was first celebrated there on 25 December 386. From these centers it spread throughout the Christian East, being adopted in Alexandria around 432 and in Jerusalem a century or more later. The Armenians, alone among ancient Christian churches, have never adopted it, and to this day celebrate Christ’s birth, manifestation to the magi, and baptism on January 6th.

Western churches, in turn, gradually adopted the January 6th Epiphany feast from the East, Rome doing so sometime between 366 and 394. But in the West, the feast was generally presented as the commemoration of the visit of the magi to the infant Christ, and as such, it was an important feast, but not one of the most important ones—a striking contrast to its position in the East, where it remains the second most important festival of the church year, second only to Pascha (Easter).

In the East, Epiphany far outstrips Christmas. The reason is that the feast celebrates Christ’s baptism in the Jordan and the occasion on which the Voice of the Father and the Descent of the Spirit both manifested for the first time to mortal men the divinity of the Incarnate Christ and the Trinity of the Persons in the One Godhead.

A Christian Feast

Thus, December 25th as the date of the Christ’s birth appears to owe nothing whatsoever to pagan influences upon the practice of the Church during or after Constantine’s time. It is wholly unlikely to have been the actual date of Christ’s birth, but it arose entirely from the efforts of early Latin Christians to determine the historical date of Christ’s death.

And the pagan feast which the Emperor Aurelian instituted on that date in the year 274 was not only an effort to use the winter solstice to make a political statement, but also almost certainly an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date already of importance to Roman Christians. The Christians, in turn, could at a later date re-appropriate the pagan “Birth of the Unconquered Sun” to refer, on the occasion of the birth of Christ, to the rising of the “Sun of Salvation” or the “Sun of Justice.”

The author refers interested readers to Thomas J. Talley’s The Origins of the Liturgical Year (The Liturgical Press). A draft of this article appeared on the listserve Virtuosity.

William J. Tighe is Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and a faculty advisor to the Catholic Campus Ministry. He is a Member of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.

Originally an article in Touchstone Magazine.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Atheism: The Boast of Our Time

By Photios Kontoglou

Atheism! The great title and boast of contemporary man. Whoever receives it (to receive it you only need to be tonsured a monk of the faithless) appears to others as wise even if he is illiterate, serious even if he is ridiculous, official even if he is insignificant, important even if he is unimportant, a scientist even if he is incompetent.

I do not refer to the person who truly wishes to believe but cannot, even if the deep rooted reason of unbelief is always pride, this viper that hides so cunningly in man that he cannot understand. Whatever it may be, the people who struggle and fight against their faithless self, they have our sympathy. For them we, who believe, beg God to help them believe as He did to the father with his sick child, by begging Christ to heal him. And He replied “If you believe, everything is possible to the believer”. And the father cried loudly and with tears replied, “I believe Lord. Help me in my little faith”.

The unbelievers we refer to here are not so. They not only never cried before to open the closed door with pain and contrition, the door of repentance, as that tormented father did, as written in the Bible, but were not even moved neither felt any bitterness from their unbelief, nor assumed any responsibility or blame. All the blame is God’s who does not appear to them to tell them, “Come, poke me, touch me, talk to me as you talk between yourselves, analyze me with your chemistry, dissect me with your anatomy blades, weigh me, measure me, satisfy your faithless feelings, and satiate your insatiable logic”.

These self appointed unbelievers, when they show off their smartness, pumped up by airs of pride and the cunning agility of their brains, are not in a position to understand how silly and narrow minded they appear to those who believe. Because to believe, they demand certain proofs that make the believer pity them for their limited view they have on spiritual matters. The believer is well aware how far the pondering of the unbeliever can get, for he too as a person has the same logic, the logic of the flesh, worldly logic. While the unbeliever is unaware of what is within the believer, and what is beyond practical knowledge, namely the mysteries that are hidden from the eyes, and because of this he believes they do not exist. With his foolishness he feels smug, and talks with disdain for those that are in a position to feel the deeper meaning of the world, while the unfortunate one is blind and deaf and believes he can hear everything. The believer has spiritual sight and spiritual hearing as well as some type of “super feeling”. The unbeliever, how could he comprehend that mystical world with the coarse means at his disposal, namely his bodily feelings? How could he touch the fine and odd messages of the world, when the poor one does not have the aerials that are needed to receive them?

The Apostle Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, in his own way, writes about what is possible for a believer to sense and what can an unbeliever sense. We preach, he says, the wisdom of God that is embedded in mystery and is hidden, the wisdom that God destined before time, for our glory and none of the rulers of this world came to know (namely, the wise men of worldly wisdom), and He uncovers it, that which according to the Scriptures no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor has ascended to the heart of any man, the things that God prepared for those that love Him. For us God revealed them through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit probes everything, even the depth of God. What man knows the essence of man but only the spirit of man that is within him? Likewise the mysteries of God no one knows but only the Spirit of God. We did not receive the spirit of the world (namely that of philosophy and worldly knowledge) but the Spirit of God to understand all the things that He gave us. And these (the gifts) are not expressed with words that human wisdom uses, but words that the Holy Spirit teaches, speaking spiritually with spiritual people. Unfortunately men of worldly knowledge (the rational) do not accept what is spoken by the Spirit of God, because they believe them to be nonsense and are thus not in a position to understand how to examine it spiritually. The spiritual man examines every person while he cannot be examined by anyone.

Unbelief has always existed. However, today with the atrocious vanity that consumes us, we display it as if it accords us great value. Whoever believes in God and revealed truth is ignored as narrow minded and foolish and is the brunt of all jokes. He is looked at as “defective” by most people, especially the people that know how to achieve in this life “success”, by making money and having a good time, giving not a cent to anyone, according to the saying, “Let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die”. For this, he who believes in God needs to be courageous and ignore worldly honors and material interests. The one that boasts that he believes in nothing, 1) The world has him in high regard and respect, even so the more non-believer he claims to be, that much more regard and respect is shown to him by the clever and serious world. Such a man frowns upon others, is of few and heavy words, is short tempered and gruff, and is seen as a “positive man”, a “strong man”. 2) Everything happens to him conveniently and is neither bothered nor is he worried for anything. He has no responsibilities or is pestered by anything. “Down here", he says, "is both hell and paradise. Life is to be enjoyed, for us clever ones. Those sleeping or drugged let them die."

Besides there is no easier thing than be an unbeliever! Just press one switch and everything comes conveniently. The devil said to Christ, “Kneel and worship me and the stones will become bread”.

So says the smart one: “For man to sit with four hundred brains, waste time with stupidity like the old women, with gods, with hell and paradise, with lampadas (oil lamps), with censing, with chalices, with priests and nuns! And in what age? In our age where science sends men to planets! Listen my friend can you believe how stupid is the world?"

That’s what they say about believers, the smart ones and the honorable of this world, who are applauded by many, who regard them as sensible in everything because they do not chase shadows but are strong minded and succeed in everything they try.
Yes, they succeed for a short time, for unbelief is “a wide gate and a broad road”, which unbelievers do not believe “leads to perdition” as Christ said, but “to worldly prosperity”. Belief however is “a narrow gate and a grief stricken road” which the unbelievers do not believe “leads to life” but “to worldly unhappiness and disdain”. “Many are they that enter through the wide gate” according to our Lord, and “few are those who find the narrow gate”.

All the unbelievers say that if they witness a miracle they would believe. However, belief does not happen by force, but with the involvement of the soul. For this, to all who ask for a miracle to believe it is not granted, according to our Lord’s address to the Pharisees, “This evil and adulterous generation demands for a sign to be given it”.

However, even if an unbeliever witnesses a miracle, his pride would not allow him to believe, for he fears that he may be seen as gullible and become disdained.

Sometime ago I wrote five or six brief articles on the miracles that were happening in a village on the island of Mytilene, with the title “Amazing Mysteries”. Many readers were moved a lot, especially the humble and illiterate people, “the babes of the world and the weak ones”. The clever ones however paid no attention to it and a few of them mocked me and wrote me that I write nonsense. But “God is not mocked”. From then to now the miracles have not ceased and progressively became more numerous and terrifying. People that see them, write me about them in detail and I compile them in a book that will be like a hot iron for unbelieving mouths [it concerns the book “Great Sign” that was published by “Astir” regarding the miracles of Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene]. During this age, discoveries are made of ancient churches with relics of those who appear living to simple people, in their sleep or while they are awake or in icons and other heirlooms. Everything could have been found and could have quickly and completely uncovered this terrible crater, that would have swept the unbelievers with its sacred lava, if there were greater means at the disposal of the poor ones who dig with fire like faith.

However, whatever it may be, with God’s grace “the Healer of the sick and the Replenisher of those lacking”, it will come to a good end, this blessed task, and will triumph our indestructible faith, and it will be heard to the ends of the world with a thundering voice saying: “Who is so great a god as our God? You are the God who alone works wonders”.

Source: From the magazine, “Orthodox Philotheos Martyrdom" by Orthodox Kypseli Publication.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Marks of a True Christian

What Is the Mark of the True Christian?

by St. Anastasius the Sinaite

St. Anastasius was a priest and abbot of Mt. Sinai. His zeal for true faith led him to travel through Egypt, Arabia, and Syria to combat the errors of the Acephalites and Eutychians. His writings show not only a thorough command of Holy Scripture and a wide knowledge of the writing of the Church Fathers and other Christian writers, but also classical erudition and a solid grounding in Aristotelian philosophy. Of his prolific output the most important works are Guide Against the Acephalites and Answers to Questions. It is from the latter that the present passage is translated. St. Anastasius died in great old age in 686.[1]

QUESTION: What is the mark of the true Christian?

ANSWER: Some say correct faith and pious works. Jesus, however does not define the true Christian in these terms. It is possible for one to have faith and good works, and to be conceited over these and not to be a perfect Christian. A Christian is a veritable dwelling place of Christ, held together by good works and pious beliefs. True faith, without works is dead, as are works without faith. We must, therefore, use every effort to keep ourselves clean from foul deeds so that it may not be said of us They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him (Titus 1:16), wherefore the Lord says If a man loves Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love Him, and We will come unto him and make Our home with him (John 14:23).

Do we not learn from this that the house of the soul is built through correct belief and good works, and thus God dwells within us. I will dwell in them, He says, and walk in them (II Cor. 6:16). The Apostle also points this out when he says Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates (II Cor. 13:5)? Will not the devil then know whether or not the Master of the house, Christ, is inside your mind? When he sees you angry, or shouting, or using oaths, or foul language, or blaming someone, or abusing him, or finding fault, or reproaching someone, or condemning, or hating, or treating someone unjustly, or being conceited, or boasting, or being elated, or not praying habitually and remembering death, then he knows that God, your protector and provider is not inside your soul. And so, the evil one enters like a thief, not finding the divine light in your heart, and he loots the house of your soul, and your last state becomes worse than your first.

From Deuteronomy: And now, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God (Deut. 10:12).

From David: Ye that love the Lord, see to it that ye hate evil (Ps. 96:10); The Lord preserveth all that love Him, but all the sinners shall He utterly destroy (Ps. 144:20). And: for not a God that willest iniquity art Thou. He that worketh evil shall not dwell near Thee, nor shall transgressors abide before Thine eyes (Ps. 5:2, 3).

From Isaiah: And the Lord has said, This people draw nigh to Me with their mouth, and they honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me: but in vain do they worship Me (Is. 29:12). They seek Me day by day, and desire to know My ways, as a people that had done righteousness, and had not forsaken the judgment of their God (Is. 58:2), says the Lord, and: When ye stretch forth your hands, I will turn away Mine eyes from you, for your hands are full of blood. Wash you, be clean; remove your iniquities from your souls before Mine eyes; cease from your iniquities; learn to do well; diligently seek judgment, deliver him that is suffering wrong, plead for the orphan, and obtain justice for the widow(Is. 1:15-18).

From Solomon: The ways of an ungodly man are an abomination to the Lord; but He loves those that follow after righteousness (Prov. 15:9). And: By alms and by faithful dealings sins are purged away; but by the fear of the Lord every one departs from evil (Prov. 15:27).

From Sirach: Say not, I have sinned, and what harm hath happened unto me? for the Lord is longsuffering, He will in no wise let thee go… and say not, His mercy is great; He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins: for mercy and wrath come from Him, and his indignation resteth upon sinners (Sir. 5:46). As His mercy is great, so is His correction also: He judgeth a man according to His works… for every man shall find according to his works (Sir. 16:12-14).

From the Apostolic Constitutions: “Therefore let him who is to be baptized be a stranger to wickedness, abstaining from sin, a friend of God, an enemy of the devil, an heir of God, a co-heir of Christ, renouncing Satan and his demons and his works, chaste, pure, holy, a lover of God, a son of God, praying as a son to the Father and saying thus as is the custom of the faithful: Our Father, Who art in heaven,… [2] So that he may not call God Father unworthily, and be reproached by Him, as Israel, the first born son who once heard that A son honors his father, and a servant his master: if then I am a father, where is mine honor (Mal. 1:6)? For the glory of fathers is the holiness of their children, and the honor of a master is the fear of his servants. [3]

From St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Lord’s Prayer: “He Who is good does not have the nature to become the father of an evil will, nor the Holy One of one polluted in his life; nor He Who is changeless of one constantly changing; nor He Who is Life of one dead through sin; nor He Who is pure and untainted of one disfigured by disgraceful passions; nor the bountiful one of a miser; nor He Who is found in every good, in any way of those who are involved in evil. If anyone looking at himself sees that he still needs cleansing and he recognizes his conscience as being full of defilement and evil crimes, and, before cleansing himself of these and similar evils, he insinuates himself into God’s family by calling Him Father, being unrighteous, he calls on the Righteous One, being impure he calls the Pure One Father, his words would be insult and mockery, as if he were naming God as the Father of his own vileness. For the word father indicates the cause of the one who comes to exist through him.

“Therefore a man who with a bad conscience calls God his father does nothing other than blame God as the author and cause of his own wickedness. But light has not fellowship with darkness, says the Apostle. Light rather associates itself with light, the just with the just, the incorrupt with the incorrupt. Their opposites, however, relate to their own kind. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit (Matt. 7:18).

“If then someone who is slow of heart and seeks after lying, as Scripture says, dares to use the words of the prayer, let him know that the father he calls is not the heavenly one, but rather, the infernal one, for he is a liar and become the father of lies, within whomever they be. He is sin and the father of sin. For this reason those who are subject to passions are called children of wrath, and the apostate from Life is called the son of perdition.

“Would you like to know the properties of the evil character? They are envy, hate, slander, conceit, avarice, passionate lust, and the sickness of megalomania. These and suchlike characterize the form of the adversary. If someone whose soul is infected with such stains were to call on the Father, what sort of father would hear him? Clearly the one who has kinship with the one who calls on him, and this is not the heavenly one, but the infernal one. The one whose family features he bears will recognize the family relationship. Thus the prayer of an evil man, as long as he persists in his wickedness, becomes an invocation of the devil. When he has abandoned his wickedness and lives innocently, his voice will call on the good Father.”

The same Gregory, To the Monk Lybbius: “If someone puts on the name of Christ, but does not show a life corresponding to that name, he makes a lie of the name. For neither is it possible for the Lord not to be justice, purity and truth, and estrangement for every evil, nor is it possible for a Christian not to show that he partakes of those qualities.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechism: “It is of no benefit to us to be called Christians if we do not correspond in our deeds. For it is written: If ye were Abraham’s children ye would do the works of Abraham (John 8:39).”

St. John Chrysostom, On St. Matthew: “Whoever calls God Father, with this small word, confessed the remission of sins, the redemption from punishment, justification, sanctification, liberation, adoption as son, kinship with the Only-Begotten, and the bestowal of the Spirit. Nor is it possible for someone to call God Father, if he is not a partaker of all those good things, and has not become a son of God. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14). Thus whoever calls God Father should demonstrate appropriate behavior so as not to appear unworthy of the kinship. No man can serve two masters… God and mammon (Matt. 6:24).”

“Do not philosophize too much, for God has declared it once and for all and said that it is impossible for service of one to be compatible with service of the other. So do not say it is possible. For, when one tells you to seize (others’ property) and the other tells you to free yourself of what you have; one says to be chaste, the other to fornicate; one says to eat and drink, the other to fast and exercise self-control; the one to despise things of this world, the other to cleave to them; the one to marvel at marble walls and buildings, the other not to value these things but rather to pursue philosophy, how is it possible for these to be compatible with each other?

“He here calls mammon a master, not because of its own nature, but because of the wretchedness of those who bow and submit to it. Thus the Apostle calls the belly a god, not because of any worthiness of such a mistress, but from the wretchedness of those who serve her.”

St. Basil the Great, from The Ascetics: “If we believe the Lord when He says, Whoseover committeth sin is the servant of sin (John 8:34), and again, Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do (John 8:44), we see that he (the sinner) is not only in fellowship, but a slave (of the devil), and his father and his master he calls the one whose work he does. The Apostle also bears witness to this, saying, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness (Rom. 6:16)? Nor should faith be dead, as the body without the spirit is dead. And again: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (James 2:19). The Lord asks, why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? We, who are ruled by the Lord, must confess Him also by our actions, not having sin reigning or ruling within us, so that it may not be said of us that they loved Him with their mouth… their heart was not right with Him (Ps. 77:39).

“Let us listen to the Apostle saying, Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate,… nor drunkards, … nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10). And again, no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be ye not partakers with them (Eph. 5:5-7). If we were to be among these, we who claim to believe, who await the kingdom, we would not be partners of the King, but associates of the King’s enemies.

“If we have come to know Christ, we have come to know the Truth. If we know the Truth, we will live in truth, in our deeds. Otherwise, when He comes again, He will put our lot with the unbelievers, saying: Verily I say unto you, I know you not (Matt. 25:12). It will not help us to cry, Lord, Lord. Even the demons believe with an empty faith.

Chrysostom, On Fasting: “Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands… (Ps. 140:2). Look at your hands and examine them. And if they hold nothing stolen or defiling, say this with boldness: Let my prayer be set forth as incense. If you have stolen something or committed something forbidden, do not call, do not lift your hands until you cease your wickedness. Even if, by God’s permission, you are able to lift your hands, your prayer, being defiled, can in no way ascend to heaven, but you will hear When ye stretch forth your hands, I will turn away mine eyes from you: and though ye make many supplications, I will not hearken to you (Is. 1:15).”

Chrysostom, On St. Matthew: “Let us now learn what things defile a man. Let us learn, and shun them. Even in the Church we see among many that they try to keep such a custom, to make an effort to come in clean clothing, and to wash their hands and feet, but not even giving a thought to presenting God with a clean soul. Saying this, I do not forbid anyone to wash his hands and his mouth, but I would that he wash them as is proper. Not only with water, but, instead of water, with virtues. Defilement of the hands is theft, evil actions, attacks on one’s neighbor. (Defilement) of the mouth is blasphemy, abuse, foul language, ribaldry, mockery, insult.

“If, then, you are conscious of committing or uttering none of these things, nor being defiled by any of these defilements, come with confidence. Or have you received these defilements a myriad times? Do you rinse your hands and tongue, but carry in them deadly and noxious filth? Tell me, if you had dung and mire in your hands, would you dare to pray? Not at all. There is, however, no harm in these, in the other there is death and destruction. How is it that you show piety in the irrelevant but indifference to what is forbidden? What then, says one, should one not pray? One should, but not in a defiled state and in such filth. What then, he says, if I have been taken by it? Cleanse yourself. How and by what means? Weep, groan, give alms, confess, apologize to those offended by you, be reconciled. With these wipe clean your tongue, so as not to anger God more greatly.

“If someone were to embrace your feet with hands full of dung, you would not only not hear him, but even repel him with your foot. How do you then thus dare to approach God? The tongue of one who prays is the hand with which we embrace God’s knees. Do not therefore defile it, so that He may not say to you: Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear you. Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). By your words you will be either justified or condemned. You do not dare to pray fresh after the company of your wife, but after abusive and insulting speech and other wickedness you stretch forth your hands before being properly cleansed. How do you not tremble, tell me, calling on that terrible and awesome name? Have you not heard St. Paul say: I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hand without wrath and doubting (I Tim. 2:8).

Chrysostom, On St. John: “The Lord tells us that faith is of no benefit to us if our life remains corrupt: Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; Many will say unto Me on that day Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Thy name?… And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you (Matt. 7:21-23). What use is faith when the Lord does not acknowledge us? When we do not do God’s will, we are in the snare of the devil. And, just as the sparrow, even if it is not completely entangled, but caught only by one foot, is in the trapper’s power, so it is also with us. Even if we are not completely entangled, but only in respect to either our faith or our life, we are in the devil’s power, for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage (II Peter 2:19).”

St. John of the Ladder: “He who claims to have true faith, but commits sins, is like a face with no eyes. Conversely, he who does not have faith, but is good in his actions is like one drawing water and pouring it into a vessel with holes.”

Mark the Monk: “Some, without doing the commandments, think they have right faith. Others, doing (the commandments), expect the kingdom as their just desert. Both miss out on the kingdom.”

Maximus the Monk, from The Ascetic Chapters: “A Christian pursues wisdom in the following three things: the commandments, dogma, and faith. The commandments free the mind from the passions, dogma leads to a knowledge of the truth, and faith to contemplation of the Holy Trinity, to Whom be all glory, honor, and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages.”


1. Archbishop Filaret of Chernigov: Historical Study of the Church Fathers (in Russian), vol. 3, p. 178.

2. Apostolic Constitutions, 3:18.

3. Apostolic Constitutions, 7:24.