Wednesday, September 28, 2016

US tanks, ISIS can't crush Iraqi monk's faith

(World Watch Monitor) - First he was run over by a US tank, then an invading Islamic State militia forced him to abandon his monastery in northern Iraq.

Raeed, a monk from Qaraqosh – Iraq’s largest Christian town – had to flee and set up a temporary monastery in a displacement camp in Erbil. But his inspiration to help those less fortunate had been formed earlier, during the Iraq Allied invasion of 2003.

In 2001, Raeed had felt spiritually called to become a monk; he joined four others in a small monastery.

But his life was soon shaken up.

[During the occupation of Iraq by a US-led coalition] Raeed, on his way to Baghdad, was talking with a fellow monk - in a taxi shared with others. Out of nowhere came a crash and the sound of crunching metal. The taxi had collided with a US tank, which had driven over part of the car. The accident killed his friend and left Raeed in a coma.

He woke from the coma to realise he was the only survivor from the car. This challenged his faith like nothing before. He could not understand why, after choosing to commit his life to serve God, such a thing could happen.

“But what happened [in the end] deepened my faith. It brought me back to my calling. I’d promised to obey Jesus, and He said ‘Whoever follows Jesus should not look back.’”

It wasn’t the only challenge to Raeed’s faith. Tragedy struck again ten years later, when he found himself caught up in the invasion by Islamic State. He recalls the day he fled his city:

The Orthodox-Catholic "Chieti" document on primacy

The document itself is available below as image files and here as a PDF. There are some interesting lines about Roman powers over the Eastern Churches that are worth reading.

(EP) The fourteenth meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church was held from 16 to 21 September 2016 in Villa Maria, Francavilla al Mare (Chieti). The meeting was generously hosted by His Excellency Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto, a member of the Commission, with the support of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

All the Orthodox Churches, with the exception of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, were represented, namely the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Patriarchate of Moscow, the Patriarchate of Serbia, the Patriarchate of Romania, the Patriarchate of Georgia, the Church of Cyprus, the Church of Greece, the Church of Poland, the Church of Albania and the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. A corresponding number (26) of Catholic members, coming from different countries, were present.

The Commission worked under the direction of its two co-presidents, Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Archbishop Job of Telmessos, of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, assisted by the co-secretaries, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima (Ecumenical Patriarchate) and Msgr. Andrea Palmieri (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity). Since the last plenary meeting, Archbishop Job had replaced Metropolitan John Zizioulas who had retired for health reasons. The Commission expressed its profound gratitude to Metropolitan John Zizioulas for his long and dedicated leadership of the Commission as co-president.

At the opening plenary session held on Friday, 16 September, the Commission was warmly welcomed by the host, Archbishop Forte, and by the Mayor of Francavilla al Mare, Sig. Antonio Luciani.

The two co-presidents expressed their gratitude for the hospitality offered by the Archdiocese and underlined the will to continue the journey towards the unity of the Churches, in order to strengthen Christian witness in the world and to bring the healing message of the Gospel to suffering humanity.

On Saturday, 17 September, the Catholic members celebrated the Eucharist in the Cathedral of Saint Justin of Chieti, presided over by Cardinal Kurt Koch, in the presence of the Orthodox members and many local authorities and people of the area. They were later welcomed by the mayor of Chieti, Sig. Umberto di Primio, in the Municipal Theater where they attended the traditional “Miserere” of Selecchy, performed by the chorus of the “Sacro Monte dei Morti” Confraternity. Later they were hosted by the Prefect, Dott. Antonio Corona, in the Palazzo del Governo, where a dinner was offered by the Governor of Abruzzo, Hon. Luciano D’Alfonso.

On Sunday, 19 September, the Orthodox members celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Shrine of Manopello, where the precious relic of the Holy Face is preserved. The celebration was concelebrated by Archbishop Job of Telmessos, together with His Grace Bishop Ilia of Philomelion (Church of Albania) and His Eminence Archbishop George of Michalovce and Košice (Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia), in the presence of the Catholic members. Present at the Divine Liturgy were a large number of faithful from the local Orthodox parish, as well as numerous Catholic faithful. The Capuchin Friars, guardians of the Shrine, offered a lunch and gave each participant a souvenir of the visit.

In the afternoon, the Commission visited the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Vasto where they venerated the relic of the Holy Thorn. They visited the co-cathedral of Saint Joseph and paid homage to a revered triptych of the Virgin, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Catherine of Alexandria painted in the 14th century, of Albanian origin. On various occasions the area of Chieti-Vasto was described as a bridge between the two shores of the Adriatic, between the traditions of East and West. The Commission then visited the historic monastery of San Giovanni in Venere, a 13th century Benedictine Abbey now cared for by the Passionist fathers. These visits offered the participants an insightful experience of the profound devotion of the people of the Archdiocese and of their attachment to the Church and their Archbishop.

On the first day of the meeting, as is customary, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox members met separately to coordinate their work. The Commission then met in plenary session to examine the Amman text on the exercise of synodality and primacy in the first millennium, which had been revised by the Drafting Committee in June 2015 and further revised by the Joint Coordinating Committee in September 2015. A first reading of the text brought numerous suggested amendments and revisions, which were then elaborated by a Drafting Committee composed of three Orthodox and three Catholic members. This revised text was then submitted to the plenary, which discussed it in detail and reached agreement on the document, called “Synodality and Primacy in the First Millennium. Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church”. Disagreement with some paragraphs of the document was expressed by the delegation of the Georgian Patriarchate.

The discussion focused on the significance and interrelatedness of synodality and primacy in the history of the Church in the first millennium in the varied and changing situations in East and West. While recognizing diversity present in the Church’s experience, the Commission acknowledged the continuity of theological, canonical and liturgical principles, which constituted the bond of communion between East and West. This common understanding is the point of reference and a powerful source of inspiration for Catholics and Orthodox as they seek to restore full communion today. On this basis, both must consider how synodality, primacy and the interrelatedness between them can be conceived and exercised today and in the future.

In discussing the future of the dialogue, the Joint Commission agreed that the Coordinating Committee will meet next year in order to decide on the theme and issues to be further elaborated in the dialogue.

Throughout these days, the members of the Commission prayed often for the suffering populations of the Middle East, where many of the Churches present are rooted, as well as those in Europe and other parts of the world. The martyrdom and kidnapping of many people, including Metropolitan Pavlos of Aleppo, a member of this Commission, and of Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo, was deeply felt as a witness to the profound unity of all Christians and as an incentive to work all the more for progress on the path to full communion between the Churches.

The members of the Joint Commission greatly appreciated the generous hospitality of the host Church and the spirit of friendship and solidarity of all present. They trust that their work will contribute to hastening the day when the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, “That all might be one”, will be fulfilled. They ask all the faithful to pray for this intention.

Chieti, 21 September 2016.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

10 super helpful Bible reading tips

(Babylon Bee) - Reading the Bible can be difficult—but with these 10 super helpful tips, you will be on your way to some seriously awesome quiet times.

  1. Carefully select the Bible that looks the coolest. No one’s ever gotten anything out of a Bible-reading session poring over a lame hardcover NIV. You should spend hours agonizing over which of your leather-bound ESV or NASB Bibles will look the most scholarly, scoring you points with passersby at the coffee shop or pub.
  2. Broadcast your quiet time on every outlet available. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—heck, even Google+—can be a redeeming force as you take several dozen pictures of your quiet time to let everyone know you’re reading the Bible. A quiet time without a filtered Instagram photo as evidence doesn’t count in God’s book.
  3. Pray that God would reveal how awesome you are. As you seek to dig into the Word, cover your reading time with prayer—specifically, prayer that God will show you how special, unique, and incredible you are in light of eternity.
  4. Take it easy. Everyone needs a 5–10 year break from Scripture every now and then. So go at your own pace, even if that means not reading the Bible for a couple of decades.
  5. Figure out the context of a verse, and then disregard it completely. Nothing kills a good time in the Word like trying to figure out the historical-grammatical meaning of a passage. If you must know what’s going on in the surrounding paragraphs of your favorite verse, just make it up.
  6. Draw elaborate doodles all over the text. Your third-grade-level likeness of a dove is the perfect complement to a majestic text like Ephesians 1.
  7. Allegorize literally everything. Everything can be an allegory, if you try hard and believe in yourself. Creation? Allegory. Jonah? Definitely an allegory. Jesus? Sure, why not—the only limit to how much of a plainly literal, historical passage you can turn into an esoteric metaphor is your own imagination.
  8. Make every effort to apply the difficult texts to everyone in the world except yourself. The Word is most effective when we apply it to the lives of those around us, as long as we manage to avoid letting the text speak to and convict our own hearts. When reading a text, ask yourself: how does this practically apply to all these filthy sinners in the world around me?
  9. Keep in mind, every verse means “judge not.” Try to carefully exegete the meaning of each text you study, bearing in mind that the meaning is almost certainly “judge not.” If you don’t arrive at this exegesis, try again until you get it right.
  10. Remember who it’s all about: you. Reading the Scriptures becomes even more dynamic and exciting when you realize that every text points to one person: you. Do whatever hermeneutical back-flips are necessary to bend any and all texts to revolve around yourself. Like they say: you are on every page.

Before the ballot box, maybe the doorposts and the lintel

Whither the upcoming Episcopal Assembly meeting?

It's scheduled for October 4th to 6th in Detroit and is the seventh such meeting since the Assembly of Bishops came together. Nothing earth shattering because the Assembly of Bishops doesn't do earth shattering. H/T: OCL.

The cathedral rite of the Exaltation of the Cross

(Catalogue St. Elizabeth) - The special service at the end of the All-night vigil or the rite of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was established in Jerusalem shortly after the Finding of the Cross. In memory of that event and the restoration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Lectionary of the 5th century in Armenian language tells about the rite of the Exaltation of the Cross in front of the praying masses. In the Georgian version of the Lectionary of the 5-7th centuries there is a detailed description of this rite. It was held on September 14th (old calendar) and began at the third hour after the sunrise. The priests came into the sacristy, then vested, decorated the Cross (sometimes even three Crosses) and laid it on the altar stone. The rite included three episodes of exaltation (elevation) of the Cross. Each elevation was preceded by the prayers and chants and was accompanied by fifty “Lord, have mercy upon us” prayers. After the third elevation, the Cross was washed with aroma water, and people were allowed to venerate the Holy Cross. Then the Cross was placed into the altar stone again and the liturgy began.

By the 6th century the rite of the Exaltation was already known and performed not only in Jerusalem, but in other corners of the Christian world as well. According to the post-iconoclastic Great Church Typicon, in the Saint Sofia Church the Exaltation rite was held during the matins after the troparions to the Cross. The rite itself is described shortly: the Patriarch was standing on the ambon (a small rise with the stairs in the center of the church) while raising the Cross, at the same time people were exclaiming “Lord, have mercy upon us”. This was repeated three times. The picture of the priest raising the Cross became the traditional image of the feast’s iconography.

Monday, September 26, 2016

International Day for the Deaf: a Divine Liturgy in sign

Patriarch Kirill: "I call upon all our bishops to pay special attention to brothers and sisters who have disabilities. They are members of our Church, and we must do all we can for them so that there is nothing that makes them feel themselves less than full members of the Orthodox Christian community."

More on Orthodox-Catholic synodality & primacy commission

VATICAN CITY (Crux) - Catholics and Orthodox need to explore ways authority can be understood and exercised so that it is not an obstacle to unity, a group of top-level theologians said.

Members of the official Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church met near Chieti, Italy, Sept. 16-21 and approved a document called “Synodality and Primacy in the First Millennium: Toward a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church.”

“Primacy” refers to the authority of the lead bishop or pope, and “synodality” refers to the authority exercised collegially by the College of Bishops in the West or a synod of bishops in the Eastern churches.

While Orthodox patriarchs are recognized spiritual leaders and exercise authority over some areas of church life, they do not have the kind of jurisdiction the pope has over the Catholic Church and especially over its Latin-rite dioceses.

Monsignor Andrea Palmieri, Catholic co-secretary of the commission and an official at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told Catholic News Service Sept. 23 that the document was being translated and would be published “as soon as possible.”

Twenty-six Orthodox bishops and theologians - two each from 13 of the 14 Orthodox churches - and 26 Catholic bishops and theologians participated in the meeting. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church did not send representatives.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A new bishop enthroned for the Serbian Church in Canada

( - September 18, 2016 will go down in history at the beginning of a new chapter in the mission of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Canada.

In a packed-to-capacity church of All Serbian Saints in Mississauga, with the prayers of 8 bishops, 20 priests, and 2 protodeacons, His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch Irinej, up to that moment the Administrator of the God-preserved Diocese of Canada, enthroned the new Bishop of Canada His Grace Right Reverend Dr. Mitrofan.

Hours before the Holy Liturgy commenced believers started to flow in so that at the start of the service the church was filled to capacity.

Children in traditional folklore dress preceded all of the priests of the Canadian Diocese, tens of guests from neighbouring Serbian dioceses, as well as representatives of other Orthodox jurisdictions in Canada, as they led the ceremonial procession of hierarchs into the church.

His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch celebrate the Divine Liturgy, along with Metropolitan Sotirions (Patriarchate of Constantinople), Archbishop Irinee (Orthodox Church in America), Bishop Andriy (Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada – Patriarchate of Constantinople), Bishop Christopher (Patriarchate of Constantinople), as well as Serbian bishops Vasilije of Srem, Longin of New Gracanica, Hrizostom of Zvornik-Tuzla, and Maksim of Western America.

The Holy Liturgy was prayerful and peaceful, especially because of the melodious responses sung by St. Sava Choir (John Lukich conductor), and the diocesan choir Kir Stefan the Serb (Jasmina Vucurovic conductor). The chanters for the Liturgy were Very Reverend Frs. Ljubo Rajic, Rajko Kosic, Dragan Veleusic, theologian Milorad Delic, and Aleksandar Markovic.

Several hundred youth and believers received Holy Communion.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Another great lecture in the Chicago area

I'm going to do something I never do. If you go to this talk and are the first person to say "Byzantine, Texas sent me," you'll get a $20 gift certificate to Starbucks. If you're in the area, go to this talk!

Praying for peace

(Reuters) - The head of the Roman Catholic Church closed a three-day meeting where about 500 representatives of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and other faiths discussed how their members could better promote peace and reconciliation.

Syrian airbase gets a consecrated Orthodox chapel

Moscow, September 22 (Interfax) - St. George Chapel was consecrated with Patriarch Kirill's blessing at the Khmeimim Syrian airbase where Russian air forces are based, official website of the Russian Orthodox Church reports on Thursday. The chapel has been there a few months at least. They held services as far back as Christmas.

The Moscow Patriarchate's delegation has recently visited the group of the Russian troops in Syria. An icon with a particle of St. George relics was transferred to the chapel. Over 500 servicemen prayed at the Divine Liturgy, each of them received a small icon of St. George.

Two Divine Liturgies, 18 prayer services and a procession with cross and St. George icon around the airbase were held during the delegation visit to Syria. Eight servicemen were baptized. Five pastoral hours and twelve conversations in groups were carried out, about a thousand servicemen participated in them. There were meetings with the staff of the Black Sea Fleet warship Pytlivy and the Baltic Sea Fleet warship Yaroslav Mydry.

Patriarch Kirill: No bling on your posokhi!

Moscow, September 22, (Interfax) - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia criticized hegumens and abbesses for seeking luxury and comfort.

"I initiated that each father superior and each mother superior has a bishop's staff (a symbol of spiritual power). But I could not even imagine that hegumens and abbesses will turn these staffs in patriarchal ones, will richly decorate them, will put a cross on them. I did not bless such staffs. You should have an ordinary hegumen staff, without decorations, without jewelry trinkets," the patriarch said on Thursday at his meeting with heads of monasteries of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow.

"When you come home, the first thing you should do is to order ordinary staffs similar to the one that was in Holy Metropolitan Peter's hands," he said.

According to the primate, fathers superior and mothers superior should think more about ascetic life, not about comfortable conditions.

"I do not think that the way of life of hegumens and abbesses of the old times who organized monasteries radically differed from lifestyle of ordinary monks and nuns. Everyone should clearly understand it. If there is no such understanding, you should better not become a mother superior or father superior," he said.

God protect us from these floods

Oh Master, Lord our God, who in ancient times, didst hear the prayer of thy zealous Prophet Elijah, and didst will to hold back the rain for a time: Oh thou Creator and merciful Lord who loves mankind, look down now upon the humble prayers of us, thine unworthy servants, and in the compassion overlook our iniquities, and, as we supplicate thee for thine own love for mankind, grant good weather unto thine inheritance, causing the sun to shine upon us who are requesting and entreating mercy from thee. Make glad the face of the earth for the sake of thy people, and of infants and cattle and all other living things, which do thou satisfy by thy good pleasure, granting them food in due season. Yea, Oh Lord our God, reject not our prayer as if in vain, neither put us to shame for our hope, but spare us according to thy mercies, and visit us with thy compassions, for our days pass in vanity, and our life grows weak with infirmities.

Destroy us not, therefore, who have attracted thy wrath and indignation toward us, on account of our transgressions, but deal with us according to thy gentleness and according to the multitude of thy mercy. For, behold, with broken soul and humble spirit we fall down before thee, and as unprofitable servants worthy of great punishment, in repentance we cry out to thee with compunction: we have sinned and transgressed; we have committed every iniquity; violating thy commandments, and because of this, all that thou bringest with true judgement. But do not give us over to corruption, famine, and utter destruction, neither let storms of water drown us. Rather, do thou remember mercy in thine anger, and, freely showing tender mercy for the sake of thy compassions, as thou art good, have mercy on thy creation and the work of thy hands, and quickly deliver us from every evil thing.

For thine it is to show mercy and to save, Oh our God, and unto thee do we send up glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Synodality & primacy during the 1st millennium and Uniatism

September 21, 2016 ( – The 14th Plenary Session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church completed its work in Chieti, Italy.

After the necessary amendments and additions, the plenary session approved a common document on Synodality and Primacy during the First Millennium: Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church.

The delegation of the Georgian Church made a statement expressing disagreement with particular paragraphs of the document. This statement was included in the communique adopted by the plenary session and will be present as a footnote in the common document to be published on behalf of the Commission in the nearest future.

The meeting considered a topic to be chosen as a follow-up of the dialogue. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church delegation, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations (DECR), put forward a proposal to devote the next stage of the dialogue to the theme of synodality and primacy in the Churches of East and West in the second millennium, stressing that in the framework of this theme the Commission should complete the discussion on Uniatism as a phenomenon which arose after the 1054 schism and which still constitutes a stumbling stone in the Orthodox-Catholic relations. I'd also like to see some discussion on the so-call "Western Rite" in the Orthodox Church. Partially because it is a phenomenon still foreign to many and partially because it is often cited as "reverse Uniatism."

Metropolitan Hilarion reminded the meeting that the Joint Commission was to discuss the issue of ecclesiological and canonical consequences of Uniatism at its plenary session in Baltimore, USA, as far back as the year 2000. It was to become a continuation of the work that began in the 1990th with the document condemning Uniatism adopted in Balamand, Lebanon, in 1993, followed by a document on the same issue drafted in Ariccia in 1998. However, the work in Baltimore was not completed because of disagreements that arose both between the Catholic and Orthodox sides of the dialogue and within each of the sides.