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WikiLeaks: Orthodox Church pervades all aspects of Russian society

From this RIA Novosti article published on December 11, 2010:

The Russian Orthodox Church is making a strong effort to assert its influence over Russian society and politics, documents released by the WikiLeaks website reveal.

A classified cable sent by U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle to Washington contains comments on his meeting with Archbishop Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Relations in January 2010.

“In a January 28 conversation with the [U.S.] Ambassador, Archbishop Hilarion freely admitted that the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has been extending its reach further into all areas of society,” the document posted by the Russian Reporter magazine says.

Hilarion explained the ROC’s desire to promote current government policies, including the so-called “managed democracy.”

“Hilarion essentially equated authoritarianism with stability, noting that Russians have always liked having a strong and powerful figure at the top,” the document says.

“Calling the ROC “a significant actor” in the life of the country, Hilarion said that Patriarch Kirill is “not only symbolic,” but can also influence major currents in Russia, including its political development.”

The influence of the Orthodox Church has been on the rise since the collapse of the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the Russian Constitution separates the church from the state.

The ROC also appears to be “first among equals” in the context of the new program to teach religion in schools in 19 regions of the country.

Russian Reporter is a partner of the WikiLeaks website in Russia.

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On Marriage and Family Life: Invaluable Notes by New Martyr Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

“Our love for each other may be sincere and deep on sunny days, but it is never as strong as on days of suffering and sorrow, when all the previously hidden richness of the soul is revealed.”

-Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

I first came across this extraordinary article some months ago by way of its republished link here on Pravmir (Orthodoxy and the World), a superb website maintained in English by the Russian Orthodox Church. I cannot describe the utter amazement and spiritual joy which moved within me as I read the Empress’ reflections and observations on matters of crucial importance to any Christian: marriage and family life. I can only wonder in awe at what a wonderful, godly and extraordinary marriage Sts. Nicholas and Alexandra so clearly lived, and pray that I may someday be such a loving husband as the Emperor was for his wife, and blessed with so wonderful a wife as was the Empress for her husband.

 

This is the official engagement portrait of the young Nicholas and Alix, who, once chrismated into the Orthodox Church, took the name Alexandra. Her family and friends continued to call her "Alix" or "Alicky", and her husband reserved for her the pet name "Sunny".

This is the official engagement portrait of the young Nicholas and Alix, who, once chrismated into the Orthodox Church, took the name Alexandra. Her family and friends continued to call her “Alix” or “Alicky”, and her husband reserved for her the pet name “Sunny”.

One of the official portraits of the young couple. Their marriage is one of history's greatest love stories.

One of the official portraits of the young couple. Their marriage is one of history’s greatest love stories.

To me, more than any other saints or historical figures, the Royal New Martyrs embody the Christian mariage idéal, one born of love, patience and deep affection, and grounded in numerous expressions of kindness and trust, abiding friendship, the spiritual rock of pious faith, and constant, mutual self-sacrifice for the other, in whom each saw reflected the image of God. As the Empress writes, with the couple trusting in God’s providence to guide them in all things, 

“. . . patience and love overcome everything, and two lives unite into one – a nobler, stronger, fuller, richer one, and this life will continue in peace and tranquility. . . In this manner two lives will unite into a single life, and in such a marriage each other’s thoughts, desires, feelings, joy, sorrow, pleasure, and pain will be shared.”

Nicholas II and Alexandra 2

The Empress’ profoundly Orthodox Christian spiritual formation and education breathes through each sentence like a quiet, steady spirit, her Orthodox soul acting in harmony with her intellectual expression of mind. Given the Empress’ obvious talent as a gifted writer and poet, even aside from the profound contents of her writing, every sentence she writes is eminently quotable, worth jotting into a journal or notebook and pondering with your spouse or hopeful spouse.

Even from a non-Orthodox or even a secular perspective, numerous observations in this wonderful collection of the Empress’ thoughts read like more refined and thoughtful versions of the bits of advice for husbands and wives which many Christian pastors and non-Christian self-help gurus offer today. Here are just four brief examples: 

“Another secret of bliss in married life is attention to each other. The husband and wife should constantly show signs of the most tender attention and love for each other. Happiness in life is made up of individual moments, of small pleasures – a kiss, a smile, a kind glance, a heartfelt compliment, and countless small but kind thoughts and sincere feelings. Love also needs its daily bread.”

“The main requisite in a family is unselfish love. Each spouse should forget his own ego and dedicate himself to the other person. Each one should blame himself and not the other person when something goes wrong. One needs to possess restraint and patience, since impatience can spoil everything. A harsh word can delay the merging of the spouses’ souls for months. There should be a desire on both sides to make the marriage a happy one and to overcome everything that stands in the way of such a goal. The strongest love has the greatest need of daily fortification. Most unforgivable of all is precisely rudeness in one’s own home, towards those whom we love.”

 

 “You should fear the least sign of incipient disobedience or alienation. Instead of acting in a restrained manner, the husband or the wife says an ill-advised or careless word, and suddenly a small crack appears between these two hearts that up to now have been one whole, and this crack widens and widens until the spouses find themselves torn apart forever. Did you say something thoughtless? Ask forgiveness immediately. Did a misunderstanding arise between you? It does not matter whose fault it was, but do not allow it to stand between you even for an hour.”

 

“Refrain from quarreling. Do not go to sleep with a feeling of anger in your heart. There should be no place for pride in family life. You should never coddle your feeling of injured pride in scrupulously trying to determine precisely who has to ask forgiveness. Those who love truly never engage in such casuistry, but are always ready to give in and apologize.”

Here, Empress Alexandra (far left) sits with her husband (standing next to her) and her grandmother Queen Victoria (1819-1901, r. 1837-1901) on one of the Imperial couple's many visits to England. To Queen Victoria's left, standing beside her is her son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII (r. 1901-1910).

Here, Empress Alexandra (far left) sits with her husband (standing next to her) and her grandmother Queen Victoria (1819-1901, r. 1837-1901). To Queen Victoria’s left, standing beside her is her son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII (r. 1901-1910). I am not sure which of the Grand Duchesses is the infant here, but plausibly it could be Olga, the eldest, as there are no other babies present.


As I read each line, I became more and more aware that I was reading not only the incredibly astute, compassionate, and self-aware observations of a very well-educated and sophisticated Empress, but also, the prayerful revelations of a living Saint. How can one read words such as these, and not know, not discern as clear as the sun rises in the morning sky and sets in the evening, that this Empress as a profoundly holy woman whose life – along with that of her husband – radiated with an inner nobility and long-suffering kindness borne by the grace of God?

This sketch shows the moment at their joint coronation in which Nicholas II, already crowned with Catherine II's Great Imperial Crown, moves forward to place the smaller consort's crown on his wife's head. Moments before this scene, the Emperor would have briefly lifted off the crown which he had just placed on his head, and touched it to his wife's forehead, symbolically joining her to his exercise of the monarchical power entrusted to him by God.

This sketch shows the moment at their joint coronation in which Nicholas II, already crowned with Catherine II’s Great Imperial Crown, moves forward to place the smaller consort’s crown on his wife’s head. Moments before this scene, the Emperor would have briefly lifted off the crown which he had just placed on his head, and touched it to his wife’s forehead, symbolically joining her to his exercise of the monarchical power entrusted to him by God.

Here are several more beautiful observations which the Empress has left for all generations to read. 

The Empress writes here on the subject of a husband’s constant fidelity. May all men strive to follow such wise counsel, which comes from a wife whose husband adored her to the very depth of his being:

“When the beauty of the face fades, the shining of the eyes dims, and with age come wrinkles, or when illnesses, sorrows, and cares leave their traces and scars, the love of a faithful husband should remain just as deep and sincere as before. There are no measurements on earth that are capable of measuring the depth of Christ’s love for His Church, and not a single mortal can love with the same depth of feeling, but nevertheless each husband must do it to the extent that such love can be recreated on earth. No sacrifice will appear too great to him for the sake of his beloved.”

On the mutual care and devotion which a husband and wife should have for each other, especially during times of trial and difficulties, the Empress observes:

“Both the husband and the wife should give to each other the best in each of them. . . Heavy work, difficulties, cares, self-sacrifice, and even misfortune lose their acuteness, bleakness, and severity when they are softened by tender love, just as cold, bare, and rugged cliffs become beautiful when wild vines entwine them with their green garlands, and exquisite flowers fill all their cracks and crevices.”

On how to create and sustain a peaceful, loving home, which is the joint responsibility of the entire family, but especially the mother and father:

“Each home has its own trials, but peace reigns in a truly loving home and cannot be upset by any worldly tempests. The home is a place of warmth and tenderness. At home one should speak only with love. Such a house can nurture only beauty and gentleness of character. One of the misfortunes of our times is that quiet family evenings are being pushed out by business, amusements, a whirling social life.”

The Empress comments extensively on the holy work of raising children in a loving, warm home. Note especially the last two sentences, and this, more than anything else, perhaps encapsulates the Emperor and Empress’ view of themselves: their roles as Emperor and Empress of Russia were secondary in importance to that of father and mother to their beloved children:

“It is a great art to live together, loving each other tenderly. This must begin with the parents. Each home is like its creators. Refined natures produce a refined home, while a coarse person creates a coarse home.”

 

“Each wonderful thought that comes into a child’s mind afterwards strengthens and ennobles his character. Our bodies age against our will, but why should our souls not remain forever young? It is simply criminal to suppress a child’s joy and force children to be gloomy and full of self-importance. Very soon life’s problems will lie upon their shoulders. Very soon life will bring them anxieties, cares, difficulties, and the burden of responsibility. So let them remain young and carefree as long as possible. Their childhood should be filled as much as possible with joy, light, and merry games.”

 

“Parents should not be too embarrassed to play and horse around with their children. Perhaps in those moments they are closer to God than when they are engaged in what seems to them to be important work.”

I will describe what she writes no further, but I simply urge you to read these incredible words for yourself, and then, if you are so moved, as I was, to then share them with as many people as you are able. Were every Christian married couple in the world to follow the Empress’ exhortations here, I am convinced that adultery, abuse, and painful divorces would fade from among Christians. 

Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna

Most Holy Empress Alexandra, passion-bearer and New Martyr of the Church, pray to God for us!

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Article review: “Turkey’s Continuing Siege: Rememebring the Fall of Constantinople”

In this generally excellent article republished via Pravmir (first published here by The Huffington Post) on the Fall of Constantinople’s extraordinary significance in Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Western history, as well as Greek and Turkish national identity, Dr Elizabeth H. Prodromou and Dr Alexandros K. Kyrou connect the legacy of May 29, 1453 to the continuing marginalization and persecution which Christians endure in Turkey.

The Middle East’s only republic to have a predominantly Muslim population while still adhering to an officially secular Constitution, Turkey has seen a period of increasing pressure on Christians as the currently embattled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP party have sought for several years to realign Turkey, an emerging regional power, with neighboring Muslim countries. As a result, Erdoğan practices a kind of Islamist populism which selectively blends Turkish nationalism with a consciously Muslim identity and the occasional politically timed pan-Arabism quip.

Turkish PM Erdogan has recently expressed his support for the possible re-converting of Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Ayasofya, Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία), currently open to the public as a museum, into an active mosque. Besides angering Christians worldwide, this affront to Istanbul's shrinking Greek Orthodox community based in the Phanar, the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, would also mean the loss of significant revenue from tourists, especially many Christians, who visit Hagia Sophia ever year.

Turkish PM Erdogan has recently expressed his support for the possible re-converting of Hagia Sophia (Turkish: Ayasofya, Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία), currently open to the public as a museum, into an active mosque. Besides angering Christians worldwide, this affront to Istanbul’s shrinking Greek Orthodox community based in the Phanar, the headquarters of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, would also mean the loss of significant revenue from tourists, especially many Christians, who visit Hagia Sophia ever year.

The authors of this piece are outstanding experts in the field of modern Turkish and Balkan politics, Eastern European history, and the status of the Orthodox Church in the Middle East and Southeast Europe. Dr. Prodromou is an Affiliate Scholar at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University where she serves as Co-Chair of the Southeastern Europe Study Group. She is also a retired US diplomat as the former Vice Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou is Associate Professor of History at Salem State University, where he directs the Program in East European and Russian Studies and teaches on Byzantium, the Balkans, and the Ottoman Empire. 

The Venetian painter Gentile Bellini (1429-1507), official painter to the Doges of Venice, rendered this portrait of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II Fetih ("the Conqueror").

The Venetian painter Gentile Bellini (1429-1507), official painter to the Doges of Venice, rendered this portrait of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II Fetih (“the Conqueror”).

I have studied Byzantine history both on my own and through my university for many years, and I have to respectfully disagree with two parts of this otherwise excellent summary of the lasting legacy of the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and its relation to the ongoing difficulties which Christians face today in Erdogan’s Turkey. My objections are found in this paragraph here: 

“The erasure of Christians from Constantinople (located on the ancient city of Byzantion on the southernmost promontory of the European side of the Bosporus) is one of the tragedies of history. When the Ottomans began their 54-day siege of Constantinople, the city was still renowned throughout Europe for its size, wealth, and cosmopolitan sophistication. Even after the disintegrated Western Roman Empire had been resuscitated by Charlemagne as the Holy Roman Empire, the capital city of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire had a population numbering nearly one million, and was the repository of Medieval Europe’s art, ancient literature, and the birthplace of the hospital and the university. And long after the Christian Sees of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem had fallen to Arab Muslim armies moving westward through the Levant and the Holy Lands of Christianity’s origins, Constantinople stood as reminder that the epicenter of Christian theology and practice was in the eastern territories of the Roman Empire — only the See of Rome lay in western imperial lands. When the Great Schism split Christendom into the Greek Orthodox East and Roman Catholic West, Constantinople’s Christians were largely alone on the frontlines when the Ottoman Turks began their assault the city.”

1) “When the Ottomans began their 54-day siege of Constantinople, the city was still renowned throughout Europe for its size, wealth, and cosmopolitan sophistication”. (Emphasis mine).

Unless Drs. Prodromou and Kyrou use the word “size” here to refer to the sheer territorial extent of the city, which did cover a large area of the European side of the Bosporus, then it refers to the city’s population. Yet by 1453, the once-massive city had shrunk to a shell of its former metropolis-level population. By some contemporary accounts, Constantinople’s population had approached either half a million souls in the sixth century, reaching possibly as high as 800,000 in the twelfth (the city was never quite so large as Classical Old Rome with its over 1 million souls). By 1453, estimates from both Byzantine and Venetian sources put the total population of the city at figures as low as 40,000 souls. By then, Constantinople had been reduced to a veritable city-state in its actual territorial sovereignty, while still an Empire from a political theory perspective. When Mehmed II rose on horseback through the conquered Second Rome, he rode through what must have appeared to him a desolate landscape of burning settlements, small villages loosely connected by the ancient roads and viaducts which had once served as the arteries of the city in its heyday as a global metropolis.

Byzantine_Constantinople_eng

2) “When the Great Schism split Christendom into the Greek Orthodox East and Roman Catholic West, Constantinople’s Christians were largely alone on the frontlines when the Ottoman Turks began their assault the city.” 

I understand that this is a summary intended for a general readership, but I have two points with this sentence. Firstly, it is historically inaccurate to posit that “Constantinople’s Christians were largely alone when the Ottoman Turks began their assault on the city”. Out of a total defense force of  at most 6-7,000 men (according to almost all contemporary sources), a body of at least 700 Genoan and Venetian troops defended the city alongside the Byzantines, with many perishing alongside Emperor Constantine XI and some witnessing the city’s brutal three day sack.

This map in French gives an approximation of the Venetian and Genoan positions on the walls of Constantinople during their defense of the city alongside the Byzantines.

This map in French gives an approximation of the Venetian and Genoan positions on the walls of Constantinople during their defense of the city alongside the Byzantines.

Thus, the historical reality is that at least one-tenth of Constantinople’s defenders were mercenaries from the northern Italian mercantile city-states which had previously been great (and largely successful) rivals to the Byzantines, whose fortunes had reduced considerably after the Fourth Crusade ended with the sack of Constantinople in 1204. The circumstances which caused the Fourth Crusade to end as it did are extremely complex, but what historians agree on is that Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice approved the sack against Pope Innocent III’s orders since the Venetian forces had not been paid what Emperor Alexios IV had promised them for their support against his rivals Alexios III and Isaac II, Alexios IV’s own father. So, while it is accurate to say that no Western kingdoms sent any substantive aid to assist the Second Rome (France and England were largely exhausted from fighting each other in the Hundred Years’ War, while Castile and Aragon were focused on the Reconquista of the Iberian peninsula from the remaining Muslim city-states and were not yet united in personal union under Isabel I and Fernando II), it is misleading to say that “Constantinople’s Christians were largely alone” in 1453 when at least one-tenth of the city’s defenders were Catholic soldiers sworn to the capital’s defense.

The restored fourth century Theodosian Walls commissioned by St. Emperor Theodosius I (347-395, r. 379-395 as Byzantine Empire, from 392 over reunited West and East). Prior to the 1453 siege which involved the terrifying use of massive bombards (huge, cumbersome siege cannons) by Mehmed II's forces, these walls were believed to be impregnable.

The restored fourth century Theodosian Walls commissioned by St. Emperor Theodosius I (347-395, r. 379-395 as Byzantine Empire, from 392 over reunited West and East). Prior to the 1453 siege which involved the terrifying use of massive bombards (huge, cumbersome siege cannons) by Mehmed II’s forces, these walls were believed to be impregnable.

Secondly, when referring to the Great Schism of 1054, this sentence is very reductionist, in the sense that the Schism was an accident of political and ecclesiastical history which did not alter the ecclesiastical reality of intercommunion between the Churches of Old and New Rome for many years. 

In reality, historical evidence suggests that Western Christians under the sole Western patriarch, the Bishop of Rome, and those Eastern Christians living under the jurisdiction of the Byzantine Patriarch of Constantinople continued to inter-commune following 1054. The Great Schism dated to that year only occurred because the two main protagonists, Cardinal Humbert, the papal legate to Constantinople, and Byzantine Patriarch Michael Cerularius (Greek: Keroularios) mutually antagonized each other, exchanging shared insults contrary to the spirit of Christian love and fraternity in which they were supposed to meet.

Hagia Sophia at night, as it appears today. Upon his conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed II converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque to symbolize the conquest of the ancient heart of Byzantine Christianity and Islam's superseding of Orthodox Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Mehmed also took upon himself the title "Caesar of the Romans" (Ottoman Turkish: Kayser-i-Rûm), believing that the mantle of the Classical, then Christian Roman Empire which Byzantium had preserved for a millennium had fallen to him, the ruler of much of the Muslim world.  Mehmed's claim, rejected by the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Holy Roman Empire which both claimed to be the true successor to Constantine's city, rested with the concept that Constantinople was the seat of the Roman Empire, after the transfer of its capital to Constantinople in 330.

Hagia Sophia at night, as it appears today. Upon his conquest of Constantinople, Mehmed II converted Hagia Sophia into a mosque to symbolize the conquest of the ancient heart of Byzantine Christianity and Islam’s superseding of Orthodox Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean. Mehmed also took upon himself the title “Caesar of the Romans” (Ottoman Turkish: Kayser-i-Rûm), believing that the mantle of the Classical, then Christian Roman Empire which Byzantium had preserved for a millennium had fallen to him, the ruler of much of the Muslim world. Mehmed’s claim, rejected by the Grand Duchy of Moscow and the Holy Roman Empire which both claimed to be the true successor to Constantine’s city, rested with the concept that Constantinople was the seat of the Roman Empire, after the transfer of its capital to Constantinople in 330.


According to Roman canon law, Humbert had no authority to excommunicate the Patriarch of Constantinople unless specifically authorized by the Roman Pontiff, who never so authorized him. In fact, Leo IX, the Pope who had sent Cardinal Humbert to treat with Patriarch Michael, was dead at the moment Humbert laid the bull upon the altar of Hagia Sophia to the horror of the assembled clergy, Eastern and Western. Thus, from the perspective of the Roman canons, a papal legate to a dead Pope has no authority to issue any previously signed bull of excommunication from that pope (never mind that Leo had never drawn up a bull or authorized Humbert to do this).

Looking toward the eastern apse which rises above where the altar and silver iconostasis once stood, you can see the architecturally odd arrangement left in the wake of Mehmed's conversion of the Orthodox temple into a mosque. Mehmed had the magnificent Byzantine frescoes painted over (fortunately he did not have them destroyed) and ordered four pendants bearing the name of the first four Muslim caliphs (political and spiritual leaders of the Ummah, the Muslim community) recognized in the Sunni tradition erected to hang over the nave.

Looking toward the eastern apse which rises above where the altar and silver iconostasis once stood, you can see the architecturally odd arrangement left in the wake of Mehmed’s conversion of the Orthodox temple into a mosque. Mehmed had the magnificent Byzantine frescoes painted over (fortunately he did not have them destroyed) and ordered four pendants bearing the name of the first four Muslim caliphs (political and spiritual leaders of the Ummah, the Muslim community) recognized in the Sunni tradition erected to hang over the nave.


On Mehmed II's orders, the Christian altar was removed and in its place a mihrab erected. This niche in the wall indicates the qibla, the direction toward the Kaaba in Mecca. As you can see, this is obviously aesthetically off-center, as the building was clearly designed to face cardinally east.

On Mehmed II’s orders, the Christian altar was removed and in its place a mihrab erected. This niche in the wall indicates the qibla, the direction toward the Kaaba in Mecca. As you can see, this is obviously aesthetically off-center, as the building was clearly designed to face cardinally east.

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Urgent call for donations to assist ROCOR’s Holy Trinity monastery

Please spread the word, especially those of you studying in seminary or recently graduated!

“According to diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov, the reason the monastery’s problems have thus far remained out of the spotlight can only be seen in the modesty of the brethren: “These monks are extremely humble and because of this, they do not share their problems with the rest of the world, and instead they bear their crosses in silence,” he explained. “But the time has come for all of us to step up and help our monks.””

Here is an important link which takes you directly to the monastery’s Fund for Assistance.

Holy Trinity Seminary and Monastery, raised to the Glory of God in 1928, is in dire need of financial assistance to make critical infrastructure repairs and restoration.

Holy Trinity Seminary and Monastery, raised in Jordanville, New York to the Glory of God in 1928, is in dire need of financial assistance to make critical infrastructure repairs and restoration.

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A future President’s eyewitness account of an Orthodox baptism in Russia

This is a wonderful article from Orthodox History describing then-U.S. Minister to Russia John Quincy Adams’ reaction to an Orthodox baptism which took place in his Saint Petersburg parlour in January 1811. The timing of this event is also remarkable given its close proximity to French Emperor Napoleon I’s invasion of Russia the following year.
 
As was typical of Adams, his account of the baptism ceremony is methodical in detail. He also evidently heartily approved of ordinary Russians’ devotion to the ascetic fasts, which he believed would be medically, physically and spiritually beneficial for Americans to imitate (if not for the theological reasons which he does not seem to have understood or considered important). 
 
Adams was noticeably biased in his perception that Russians’ physical expressions of piety in church revealed what he considered to be their “superstitious” nature, but this is not surprising given his Unitarian upbringing (services completely lacking religious images, iconography, or physical bows or prostrations done in reverence to God or veneration of the holiness of the saints).

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) was one of the most distinguished public servants,diplomats and political and intellectual figures in American history. The eldest son of the second President John Adams (1735-1826, President 1797-1801) and First Lady Abigail Adams (1744-1817), Quincy Adams served as the sixth U.S. President from 1825-1829. Prior to assuming the Presidency, Adams served in the second Washington administration as U.S. Minister to the Netherlands (1794-97), a role filled by his father during the Revolutionary War, and during his father’s term as President the younger Adams served as U.S. Minister to Prussia (1797-1801). Following his father’s losing 1800 bid to Thomas Jefferson for reelection, John Quincy Adams represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate from 1803-1808. During James Madison’s presidency, Adams served as the first accredited U.S. Minister to Russia (1809-1814), reporting on Napoleon’s doomed invasion. His charming British-born wife Louisa Catherine Adams became a major diplomatic asset to the United States as a favorite of Tsar Alexander I. After his commission ended, Adams again followed in his father’s footsteps as U.S Minister to the British Court of St James (1814-17), where George III was still king (in name) as he had been since 1760. In the Monroe administration, Adams worked closely with the fifth President as his Secretary of State. Following Adams’ own defeat to Andrew Jackson for reelection in 1828, he served from 1831 until his death in the House of Representatives in February 1848 as a committed opponent of states’ claims to nullification and the expansion of slavery.

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Community or Church?

“Until recent times, Christians had become too used to power, taking it for granted that people will always come to church (did we really care if their heart was changed by it?). Now we grumble about secular society, while at the same time thinking that the only way to survive is to be as much like secular society as possible! Have we forgotten that the Church grew and flourished when it was a religio illicita? Have we forgotten the martyrs? Have we forgotten that our Church was founded upon blood?

 
As long as our focus is on “Community” and not the Eucharistic Community of Believers; as long as the Gospel and the Eucharist, which we were ordered to perform until Christ comes again, are not the focus of the Community’s life, the Church will not flourish. Better to change the lives of ten people than to draw thousands, only for them to go away unchanged. When will we become again the Church of the Gospel that converted an entire empire and changed the world forever?”

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Commemorating the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea

Today on the seventh Sunday in the Paschal season, the last Sunday before the Great Feast of Pentecost, the ‘birthday’ of Christ’s Church on earth, the Orthodox Church commemorates the ‘birthday’ of the Nicene Creed and the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council held at the city of Nicaea in the year 325.

Church tradition holds that 318 bishops traveled to Nicaea where the Emperor Constantine I convened the first ecumenical council representing the whole Church. The composite Greek term katholikos, from kata holos (κατά ὅλος), from which we get the word ‘Catholic”, does not refer to the ‘universal’ jurisdiction of the Church, but the unity of its faith and doctrine. Katholikos literally means ‘according to the whole’.

Saint Constantine convened this Council in his role as the Roman Emperor, seeking to end the divisions which the Christological heresy of Arianism was causing in the life of the Church.

An extremely complex character: Honored along with his mother St. Helena as ‘equal to the apostles’ for his role in supporting and protecting the early Church, Constantine ended the period of religious persecution which his predecessors, most notably Diocletian, had waged against Christians. As Emperor of the West, in 313 he and his brother-in-law and co-emperor Licinius (Emperor of the East) issued the Edict of Milan ending the persecutions and declaring religious tolerance throughout their domains. After defeating Licinius for control of the whole empire by 324, Constantine initially spared his life due to his sister Constantia’s pleas, but in 325 he ordered his brother-in-law’s execution. He later commanded the deaths of his empress Fausta, his eldest son Crispus, and his nephew, Constantia’s son Valerius Licinius (Licinius the Younger). Baptized on his deathbed, he likely repented of these horrific sins.

By denying the eternally divine nature of Jesus Christ and His equality with God the Father, Arius falsely taught that the Savior is not consubstantial with the Father, but is a lesser, created being. Prior to the Council he had deceived Eastern bishops into supporting his heretical view of the Savior.

Among the 318 assembled bishops were many confessors who had suffered during the Roman persecutions of the Church before Constantine issued the Edict of Milan legalizing the practice of Christianity throughout his empire. Several great luminaries of the Church, including St Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, St Spyridon, Bishop of Tremithos, Alexander, the nineteenth Patriarch of Alexandria and his deacon St Athanasius (who succeeded Alexander as Patriarch) and others venerated as holy Fathers were also present.

Saint Athanasius (c. 296-373) served as the twentieth Patriarch of Alexandria and is venerated as the “Father of Orthodoxy” due to his stirring and impassioned defense of Orthodox, Catholic Christology against Arius and other heretics in the early Church. Roman Catholics venerate him as a Doctor of the Church, and he is also considered a saint in most Protestant confessions.

Church Tradition holds that St. Nicholas of Myra, in his zeal for the Orthodox faith, slapped Arius across the face in righteous anger.

This fresco depicts St Nicholas (c. 270-343) slapping Arius during the First Council of Nicaea. Nicholas served as the bishop of Myra in modern Turkey and was one of the prominent early Fathers of the Church. Venerated as a saint by the Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans today, Orthodox and Catholic priests share the care for his miraculous and myrrh-streaming relics at his basilica in Bari, Salento. He is the patron saint of Russia, Greece, sailors, fishermen, and all who travel by sea. The saint served as the inspiration for the popular tales of Father Christmas and Santa Klaus.

Despite his persistent efforts to deceive and persuade the bishops to approve his teachings, the Council ultimately condemned Arius as a heretic, excommunicated him, and adapted an orthodox Symbol of Faith, the Nicene Creed, which explicitly repudiated Arius’ teaching that Christ was a created being who was not co-eternal with the Father.

“I believe. . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made. . .”

Church Tradition holds that the Emperor St. Constantine personally insisted on adding the term consubstantial to the Symbol of Faith, (Greek: homooúsios, Latin: consubstantialis) usually translated into English as “of one essence”.

This marble Roman bust depicts Constantine (272-337) as Emperor. Half a century before his rule, Emperor Diocletian (who viciously persecuted Christians throughout his reign) initiated a major political transformation by incorporating Eastern components of monarchical veneration of the person of the emperor into court ceremony in the belief that this would strengthen his power and prestige. The illusion of a Principate, the notion that the emperor ruled in conjunction with the wishes of the ancient Senate and that a ‘republic’ still existed, gave way to unparalleled displays of autocratic power, with the Emperor seen as the manifestation of the majesty of Rome itself. This is why Diocletian came to demand that Christians offer incense to his image: he came to believe that as emperor, he was divus, a god. To facilitate administration of his domains, Diocletian divided the empire into East and West, to be governed by two senior emperors with the title of ‘Augustus’ supported by two junior ‘Caesars’ or deputy emperors. This system, called the Dominate, was designed to facilitate administration and military movement throughout the Roman Empire in the wake of invasions. It perpetuated an unstable system of armies proclaiming their generals as emperor. Constantine spent his early reign fighting wars against several rival claimants to the Western throne (based in Rome) after his troops hailed him as Augustus in Roman Britannia in 306. He ultimately established the Greek port of Byzantion as his new capital, renaming it Nova Roma (New Rome, or Nea Roma in Greek) in 330.

 

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Term to describe relativist beliefs common to young people: Moral Therapeutic Deism

“Amazingly, teenagers are not inarticulate in general. As the researchers found, “Many teenagers know abundant details about the lives of favorite musicians and television stars or about what it takes to get into a good college, but most are not very clear on who Moses and Jesus were.” The obvious conclusion: “This suggests that a strong, visible, salient, or intentional faith is not operating in the foreground of most teenager’s lives.”

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Metropolitan Kallistos on women’s ordination, homosexual orientation and same-sex unions

Part of Ancient Faith Radio’s The Illumined Heart interview series conducted in February 2011 by host Kevin Allen with His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). His Eminence Kallistos, titular Bishop of Diokleia and author of numerous Orthodox publications, is widely regarded as the world’s leading authority on Orthodox theology and spirituality. He is the Professor Emeritus in Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford University and the University’s former Spalding Lecturer in Eastern Orthodox Studies (1966-2001).