ΑΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ ΠΡΙΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ, ΔΕ ΘΑ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ ΟΤΑΝ ΠΕΘΑΝΕΙΣ

(ΠΑΡΟΙΜΙΑ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΩΝ ΜΟΝΑΧΩΝ)

Πέμπτη, 31 Ιανουαρίου 2013

The Orthodox New-Martyr of Mexico: Paul de Ballester-Convallier


Ο επίσκοπος Παύλος ντε Μπαγεστέρ-Κονβαλλιέρ, που μεταστράφηκε στην Ορθοδοξία από τον Καθολικισμό το 1954, πυροβολήθηκε βγαίνοντας από την εκκλησία, στην πόλη του Μεξικού, στις 22 Ιανουαρίου 1984. Η ψυχή του ταξίδεψε για τους ουρανούς στις 31 του ίδιου μήνα.
Για να φανεί η αγνότητα της καρδιάς του, αναφέρω πως κάποτε επισκέφτηκε την Κρήτη και πήγε να λειτουργήσει σ' ένα χωριό του νομού Ηρακλείου. Εκεί παραξενεύτηκε που είδε λίγους ανθρώπους στην εκκλησία και είπε στους ιερείς: "Μήπως αυτοί που λείπουν είναι άρρωστοι; Ας πάμε να δούμε μήπως υπάρχει κάποιο πρόβλημα". Δε μπορούσε να διανοηθεί ότι υπάρχουν ορθόδοξοι χριστιανοί που δεν εκκλησιάζονται κάθε Κυριακή χωρίς σοβαρό πρόβλημα.
Λεπτομέρειες γι' αυτόν στα ελληνικά εδώ (και όλο το αυτοβιογραφικό βιβλίο του). Το κείμενό του, που δημοσιεύεται παρακάτω, ελληνικά εδώ. 

From here
 
Bishop Paul de Ballester-Convallier (1927-1984) was a convert to the Orthodox Church who became the Bishop of Nazianzus in Mexico, and was martyred in 1984.
Bishop Paul was a native of Catalonia, Barcelona, and previously a Franciscan monk. Upon turning to Orthodoxy he studied in seminaries at Athens and Halki. He was ordained in Athens as a Deacon in 1953 and as a Priest in 1954. His ministry as a priest was first in Constantinople (1954-1959) and then in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (1959-1984). In 1970 he was consecrated titular Bishop of Nazianzus (in New York) with its seat in Mexico.
His work there as a churchman, university professor and voluminous author was brilliant and conspicuous, but unfortunately it was sealed with his premature death. He was murdered after the end of the Divine Liturgy in the city of Mexico in 1984. His funeral was attended by Archbishop Iakovos (Coucouzis) who praised the exceptional work of this vibrant Bishop.
News of his murder was reported on the first page of the newspaper Kathemerini, on Saturday, February 4, 1984:
THE GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP PAUL WAS MURDERED IN MEXICO
As it became known from the city of Mexico, before yesterday the Bishop of Nazianzus, Paul De Ballester of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America, died. He was murdered by a 70 year old Mexican, a previous military man who was suffering from psychiatric illness. The funeral was attended by Archbishop Iakovos who was aware of the work of the active bishop. It should be pointed out that Bishop Paul was of Spanish origin, was received into Orthodoxy as an adult and excelled as a shepherd and author. The Mexican authorities do not exclude the possibility that his murderer was driven to his act through some sort of fanaticism.
Bishop Paul of Nazianzus not only proved worthy of his calling, but also became a neomartyr of Orthodoxy. In a recent visit to Mexico of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Archontonis) in 2006, the order was given to Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico and Central America to transfer the relics of the late Bishop Paul of Nazianzus to the Metropolis and be laid to rest at the monument of the Bishop that lies in the front court of the Cathedral Church of Saint Sophia, which was erected by this ever-memorable hierarch. The year 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of his death.

Why I Abandoned Papism
Paul de Ballester-Convallier
From Mystagogy
 
1. How It All Began
 
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My conversion to Orthodoxy began one day while I was re-ordering the Library catalogues of the monastery I belonged to. This monastery belonged to the Franciscan order, founded in my country of Spain. While I was classifying different old articles concerning the Holy Inquisition, I happened to come across an article that was truly impressive, dating back to 1647. This article described a decision of the Holy Inquisition that anathematized as a heretic any Christian who dared believe, accept or preach to others that he supported the apostolic validity of the Apostle Paul.

It was about this horrible finding that my mind could not comprehend. I immediately thought to calm my soul that perhaps it was due to a typographical error or due to some forgery, which was not so uncommon in the Western Church of that time when the articles were written. However, my disturbance and my surprise became greater after researching and confirming that the decision of the Holy Inquisition that was referred to in the article was authentic. In fact already during two earlier occasions, namely in 1327 and 1331, the Popes John XXII and Clemens VI had condemned and anathematized any one who dared deny that the Apostle Paul during his entire apostolic life was totally subordinate to the ecclesiastical monarchical authority of the first Pope and king of the Church, namely the Apostle Peter. And a lot later Pope Pius X in 1907 and Benedict XV in 1920, had repeated the same anathemas and the same condemnations.

I had therefore to dismiss any possibility of it being due to an inadvertent misquoting or forgery. So I was thus confronted with a serious problem of conscience.

Personally it was impossible for me to accept that the Apostle Paul was disposed of under whatever Papal command. The independence of his apostolic work among nations, against that which characterized the apostolic work of Peter among the circumcised, for me was the unshakable event that shouted from the Holy Bible.

The thing was totally clear to me who he was, as the exegetical works of the Fathers on this issue do not leave the slightest doubt. "Paul", writes St. Chrysostom, "declares his equality with the rest of the apostles and should be compared not only with all the others but with the first one of them, to prove that each one had the same authority". Truly, together all the Fathers agree that "all the rest of the apostles were the same like Peter, namely they were endowed with the same honour and authority". It was impossible for any of them to exercise higher authority over the rest, for the apostolic title that each had was the "highest authority, the peak of authorities". They were all shepherds, while the flock was one. And the flock was shepherded by the apostles in conformity by all.

The matter was therefore crystal clear. Despite this, the Latin teaching was against the situation. This way for the first time in my life I experienced a frightful dilemma. What could I say? On one side was the Bible and Holy Tradition and on the other side the teaching of the Church? According to Latin theology it is essential for our salvation to believe that the Church is a pure monarchy, whose monarch is the Pope. This way the synod of the Vatican, voting together all the earlier convictions, declared officially that "if any one says ... that Peter (who is assumed to be the first Pope) was not ordained by Christ as the leader of the Apostles and visible Head of all the Church ... is under anathema".

2. I Am Addressing My Confessor

Within this psychological disturbance I addressed my confessor and naively described the situation. He was one of the most famous priests of the monastery. He heard me with sadness, aware that it involved a very difficult problem. Having thought for a few minutes while looking in vain for an acceptable resolution, he finally told me the following that I confess I did not expect.

"The Bible and the Fathers have harmed you, my child. Set it and them aside and confine yourself to following the infallible teachings of the Church and do not let yourself become victim of such thoughts. Never allow creatures of God whoever they may be to scandalize your faith in God and the Church."

This answer he gave very explicitly and caused my confusion to grow. I always held that especially the word of God is the only thing that one cannot set aside.

Without allowing me any time to respond, my confessor added: "In exchange, I shall give you a list of prominent authors in whose works your faith will relax and be supported". And asking me if I had something else "more interesting" to ask, he terminated our conversation.

A few days later, my confessor departed from the monastery for a preaching tour of churches of the monastic order. He left me the list of authors, recommending that I read them. And he asked me to inform him of my progress in this reading by writing him.

Even though his words did not convince me in the least, I collected these books and started to read them as objectively and attentively as possible.

The majority of the books were theological texts and manuals of papal decisions as well as of Ecumenical Synods. I threw myself to the study with genuine interest, having only the Bible as my guide, "Thy law is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my paths" (Ps. 118:105).

As I progressed in my study of those books, I would understand more and more that I was unaware of the nature of my Church. Having been proselytized in Christianity and baptized as soon as I completed my encyclical studies, I continued with philosophical studies and then as I speak to you I was just at the beginning of the theological studies. It consisted of a science totally new to me. Until then Christianity and the Latin Church was for me an amalgam, something absolutely indivisible. In my monastic life I was only concerned with their exterior view and I was given no reason to examine in depth the bases and reasons of the organic structure of my Church.

3. The Preposterous Teaching About the Pope

Exactly then, within the bouquet of articles that wisely my spiritual leader had put together, the true nature of this monarchical system, known as the Latin Church, started to unravel. I suppose a summary of her characteristics would not be superfluous.

First of all, to the Roman Catholics, the Christian Church "is nothing more than an absolute monarchy" whose monarch is the Pope who functions in all her facets as such. On this Papal monarchy "all the power and stability of the Church is found" which otherwise "would not have been possible". Christianity is supported completely by Papism. And still some more, "Papism is the most significant agent of Christianity", that is "it is its zenith and its essence".

The monarchic authority of the Pope as the supreme leader and the visible head of the Church, the cornerstone, Universal Infallible Teacher of the Faith, Representative (Vicar) of God on earth, shepherd of shepherds and Supreme Hierarch, is totally dynamic and dominant and embraces all the teachings and legal rights that the Church has. "Divine right" is extended on all and individually on each baptized man across the whole world. This dictatorial authority can be exercised at any time, over anything and on any Christian across the world, whether lay or clergy, and in any church of any denomination and language it may be, in consideration of the Pope being the supreme bishop of every ecclesiastical diocese in the world.

People who refuse to recognize all this authority and do not submit blindly are schismatic, heretic, impious and sacrilegious and their souls are already destined to eternal damnation, for it is essential for our salvation that we believe in the institution of Papism and submit to it and its representatives. This way the Pope incarnates that imaginary Leader, prophesied by Cicero, who writes that all must recognize him to be holy.

Always in the Latin teaching, "accepting that the Pope has the right to intervene and judge all spiritual issues of each and every Christian separately, that much more does he have the right to do the same in their worldly affairs. He cannot be limited to judging only through spiritual penalties, denying the eternal salvation to those who do not submit to him, but also he has the right to exercise authority over the faithful. For the Church has two knives, symbols of her spiritual and worldly power. The first of these is in the hands of the clergy, the other in the hands of Kings and soldiers, though they too are under the will and service of the clergy".

The Pope, maintaining that he is the representative of Him whose "kingdom is not of this world", of Him who forbade the Apostles to imitate the kings of the world who "conquer the nations", nominates himself as a worldly king, thus continuing the imperialism of Rome. At different periods he in fact had become lord over great expanses, he declared bloody wars against other Christian kings to acquire other land expanses, or even to satisfy his thirst for more wealth and power. He owned a great number of slaves. He played a central role and many times a decisive role in political history. The duty of the Christian lords is to retreat in the face "of the divinely appointed king" surrendering to him their kingdom and their politico-ecclesiastical throne "that was created to ennoble and anchor all the other thrones of the world". Today the worldly capital of the Pope is confined to Vatican City. It consists of an autonomous nation with diplomatic representations in the governments of both hemispheres, with an army, weapons, police, jails, currency, etc.

And as a crown and peak of the almightiness of the Pope, he has one more faithful privilege that even the most ignoble idolaters could not even imagine - the infallible divine right, according to the dogmatic rule of the Vatican Synod that took place on 1870. Since then on "humanity ought to address to him whatever it addresses to the Lord: 'you have words of eternal life'". From now on there is no need of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church "into all truth". There is no more need of the Holy Bible nor of Sacred Tradition, for now there is a god on earth based on the infallible. The Pope is the only canon of truth who can even express things contrary to the judgment of all the Church, declare new dogmas which the faithful ought to accept if they do not wish to be cut off from their salvation. "It depends only on his will and intention to deem whatever he wishes, as sacred and holy within the Church" and the decreetal letters must be deemed, believed and obeyed "as canonical epistles". Since he is an infallible Pope, he must receive blind obedience. Cardinal Bellarmine, who was declared a Saint by the Latin Church, says this simply: "If the Pope some day imposed sins and forbade virtues, the Church is obliged to believe that these sins are good and these virtues are bad".

4. The Answer of My Confessor

Having read all those books, I felt myself as a stranger within my Church, whose organizational composition has no relation to the Church that the Lord built and organized by the Apostles and their disciples and as intended by the Holy Fathers. Under this belief I wrote my first letter to my superior: "I read your books. I shall not contravene the divine warrants so that I may follow the human teachings that have no basis at all in the Holy Bible. Such teachings are a string of foolishness by Papism. From the provisions of the Holy Bible we can understand the nature of the Church and not through human decisions and theories. The truth of faith does not spring but from the Holy Bible and from the Tradition of the whole Church".

The reply came fast: "You have not followed my advice," complained my elder, "and thus exposed your soul to the dangerous impact of the Holy Bible, which, like fire burns and blackens when it does not shine. In such situations like yours, the Popes have pronounced that it 'is a scandalous error for one to believe that all the Christians could read the Holy Bible', and the theologians assure us that the Holy Bible 'is a dark cloud'. 'For one to believe in the enlightenment and clarity of the Bible is a heterodox dogma,' claim our infallible leaders. As far as the Tradition, I do not consider it necessary to remind you that we should primarily follow the Pope on matters of Faith. The Pope is worth, in this case, thousands of Augustinians, Jeromses, Gregories, Chrysostoms...".

This letter accomplished to strengthen my opinion rather than demolish it. It was impossible for me to place the Holy Bible below the Pope. By attacking the Holy Bible, my Church was losing every worthy belief ahead of me, and was becoming one with the heretics who "being elected by the Bible turn against it". This was the last contact I had with my elder.

5. The Pope is Everything and the Church is Nothing

However I did not stop there. I had already started to "skid due to the skid" of my Church. I had taken a road that I was not allowed to stop until I found a positive solution. The drama of those days was that I had estranged myself from Papism, but I did not accost any other ecclesiastical reality. Orthodoxy and Protestantism then were for me vague ideas and I had not reached the time and opportunity to ascertain that they could offer something to soothe my agony. Despite all this I continued to love my Church that made me a Christian and I bore her symbol. I still needed more profound thinking to reach slowly, with trouble and grief, to the conclusion that the Church I loved was not part of the Papal system.

Truly, against the monocracy of the Pope, the authority of the Church and of the episcopal body is not intrinsically subordinate. Because according to Latin theology "the authority of the Church exists only when it is characterized and harmonized by the Pope. In all other cases it is nullified". This way it is the same thing whether the Pope is with the Church or the Pope is without the Church, in other words, the Pope is everything and the Church is nothing. Very correctly did Bishop Maren write, "It would have been more accurate if the Roman Catholics when they recite the 'I Believe' would say 'And in one Pope' instead of 'And in one ... Church'".

The importance and function of the bishops in the Latin Church are no more than that of representatives of the Papal authority to which the bishops submit like the lay faithful. This regime they try to uphold under the 22nd chapter of St. John's Gospel, which according to the Latin interpretation, "the Lord entrusts the Apostle Peter, the first Pope, the shepherding of His lambs and of His sheep", namely, He bestows on him the job of the Chief Shepherd with exclusive rights on all the faithful, who are the lambs and all the others, Apostles and Bishops, namely, the sheep.

However, the bishops in the Latin Church are not even successors to the Apostles, for as it dogmatizes: "The apostolic authority was lacking with the Apostles and was not passed down to their successors, the bishops. Only the Papal authority of Peter, namely the Popes." The bishops then, having not inherited any apostolic authority, have no other authority but the one given to them, not directly from God but by the Supreme Pontiff of Rome.

And the Ecumenical Synods also have no other value than the one given to them by the Bishop of Rome, "for they cannot be anything else except conferences of Christianity that are called under the authenticity and authority of the Pope". It would suffice the Pope to exit the hall of the Synod saying, "I am not in there anymore", to stop from that moment on the Ecumenical Synod from having any validity. If it is not authorized and validated by the Pope, who could impose this authority on the faithful?

6. The Frightful Answer of a Jesuit

I almost gave up on my studies during that period, taking advantage of the hours that my Order allowed me to retire to my cell, to think of nothing else but my big problem. For whole months I would study the structure and organization of the early Church, straight from the apostolic and patristic sources. However, all this work could not be done totally in secrecy. It looked obvious that my exterior life was greatly affected by this great concern which had overwhelmed all my interest and sapped all my strength. I never lost an opportunity to inquire from outside the monastery whatever could contribute towards shedding light to my problem. This way I started to discuss the topic with known ecclesiastical acquaintances in relation to the trust I had in their frankness and their heart. This way I would receive continuously the impressions and opinions on the topic which were for me always interesting and significant.

I found most of these clerics more fanatical than I expected. Even though they were deeply aware of the absurdity of the teaching on the Pope, being stuck to the idea that "the required submission to the Pope demands a blind consent of our views", and in the other maxim by the founder of Jesuits: "That we may possess the truth and not fall in fallacy, we owe it to always depend on the basic and immovable axiom that what we see as white in reality it is black, if that is what the hierarchy of the Church tells us". With this fantastic bias a priest of the Order of Jesus entrusted me with the following thought:

"What you tell me I acknowledge that they are most logical and very clear and true. However, for us Jesuits, apart from the usual three vows, we give a fourth one during the day of our tonsure. This fourth vow is more important than the vow of purity, obedience and poverty. It is the vow that we must totally submit to the Pope. This way, I prefer to go to hell with the Pope than to Paradise with all your truths."

7. "A Few Centuries Ago They Would Have Burnt You in the Fires of the Holy Inquisition"

According to the opinion of most of them, I was a heretic. Here's what a bishop wrote to me: "A few centuries ago, the ideas you have, would have been enough to bring you to the fires of the Holy Inquisition".

However, despite all this I intended to stay in the monastery and give myself to the purely spiritual life, leaving the responsibility to the hierarchy for the deceit and its correction. But could the important things of the soul be safe on a road of superficial life, where the arbitrariness of the Pope could pile up new dogmas and false teachings concerning the pious life of the Church? Moreover, since the purity of teaching was built with falsehoods about the Pope, who could reassure me that this stain would not spread into the other parts of the evangelical faith?

It is therefore not strange if the holy men within the Latin Church started to sound the alarm by saying things such as: "Who knows if the minor means of salvation that flood us do not cause us to forget our only Savior Jesus...? Today our spiritual life appears like a multi-branch and multi-leaf tree, where the souls do no more know where the trunk is that everything rests on, and where the roots are that feed it."

With such a manner we have decorated and overloaded our religiosity, so that the face of Him who is the "focus of the issue" is lost inside the "decorations". Being therefore convinced that the spiritual life within the bosom of the Papal Church will expose me to dangers, I ended up taking the decisive step. I abandoned the monastery and after a little while I declared I did not belong to the Latin Church. Some others seemed prepared until then to follow me, but at the last moment no one proved prepared to sacrifice so radically his position within the Church, with the honor and consideration they enjoyed.

This way I abandoned the Latin Church whose leader, forgetting that the Kingdom of the Son of God "is not of this world" and that "he who is called to the bishopric is not called to any high position or authority but to the deaconate of all the Church", but instead imitating him who "wishing in his pride to be like God, he lost the true glory and put on the false one" and "sat in the temple of God as god". Rightly did Bernard De Klaraval write about the Pope: "There is no more horrible poison for you, no sword more dangerous, than the thirst and passion of domination". Coming out of Papism, I followed my voice of conscience that was the voice of God. And this voice was telling me, "Leave her ... so you may not partake of her sins and that you may not receive of her wounds".

8. In the Bosom of Orthodoxy

Secondly, as my departure from Papism became more broadly known within the ecclesiastical circles and was receiving more enthusiastic response in the Spanish and French Protestant circles, so was my position becoming more precarious.

In the correspondence I received, the threatening and anonymous abusive letters were plentiful. They would accuse me that I was creating an anti-papist wave around me and I was leading by my example into "apostasy" Roman Catholic clerics "who were dogmatically sick" and who had publicly expressed a sympathetic feeling for my case.

This fact forced me to leave Barcelona, and settle in Madrid where I was put up - without my seeking - by Anglicans and through them I came in contact with the World Council of Churches.

Not even there did I manage to remain inconspicuous. After every sermon at different Anglican Churches, a steadily increasing number of listeners sought to know me and to confidently discuss with me some ecclesiological topics.

Without therefore wishing it, a steadily increasing circle of people started forming around me, with most being anti-papists. This situation was exposing me to the authorities, because in the confidential meetings I had agreed to attend some Roman Catholic clerics started to appear who were generally known "for their lacking and weakening faith regarding the primacy and infallibility of the Highest Hierarch of Rome".

The fanatical vindictiveness that some papists bore against my person I saw fully expressed and reach its zenith the day I replied publicly to a detailed ecclesiological dissertation which they had sent to me as an ultimate step to remove me from the "trap of heresy" that I had fallen in. That work of apologetic character had the expressive title: The Pope, Vicar of our Lord on Earth. And the slogan that the arguments in the book ended up with, was the following: "Due to the infallibility of the Pope, the Roman Catholics are today the only Christians who could be certain for what they believe".

In the columns of a Portuguese book review, I replied: "The reality is that due to this infallibility you are the only Christians who cannot be certain about what they will demand that you believe tomorrow". My article ended with the following sentence: "Soon, the road you walk, you will name the Lord vicar of the Pope in heaven".

Soon after I published in Buenos Aires my three volume study, I put an end to the skirmishes with the Papists. In that study I had collected all the clauses in the patristic literature of the first four centuries, which directly or indirectly refer to the "primacy clauses" (Matt 16:18-19; John 21: 15-17; Luke 22: 31-32). I proved that the teachings about the Pope were absolutely foreign and contrary to the interpretation given by the Fathers on the issue. And the interpretation of the Fathers is exactly the rule on which we understand the Holy Bible.

During that period, even though from unrelated situations, for the first time I came in contact with Orthodoxy. Before I continue to recount the events, I owe it to confess here that my ideas about Orthodoxy had suffered an important development from the beginning of my spiritual odyssey. Certain discussions I had on ecclesiological topics with a group of Orthodox Polish, who passed through my country, and the information I received from the World Council regarding the existence and life of Orthodox circles in the West, had caused me a real interest. Furthermore, I started to get different Russian and Greek books and magazines from London and Berlin, as well as some of the prized books that were provided by Archimandrite Benedict Katsenavakis in Napoli, Italy. Thus my interest in Orthodoxy would continue to grow.

Slowly, slowly in this way I started losing my inner biases against the Orthodox Church. These biases presented Orthodoxy as schismatic, without spiritual life, a drained group of small churches that do not have the characteristics of the true Church of Christ. And the schism that had cut her off, "had made the devil for their father and the pride of the Patriarch Photios for mother".

So when I started to correspond with a respected member of the Orthodox hierarchy in the West - whose name I do not believe I am permitted to publish due to my personal criterion that was based on those original informations - I was thus totally free from every bias against Orthodoxy and I could spiritually gaze objectively. I soon realized and even with a pleasant surprise that my negative stance I had against Papism was conforming completely to the ecclesiological teaching of Orthodoxy. The respectable hierarch agreed to this coincidence in his letters, but refrained from expressing himself more broadly because he was aware that I lived in a Protestant surrounding.

The Orthodox in the West are not at all susceptible to proselytism. Only when our correspondence continued enough, the Orthodox bishop showed me to read the superb book by Sergei Boulgakov titled Orthodoxy, and the not less in depth dissertation under the same title by Metropolitan Seraphim. In the mean time I had also written specifically to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

In those books I found myself. There was not even a single paragraph that did not meet completely the agreement of my conscience. So much in these works as in others that they would send to me with encouraging letters - now even from Greece. I clearly saw how Orthodox teaching is profound and purely evangelical and that the Orthodox are the only Christians who believe like the Christians of the catacombs and of the Fathers of the Church of the Golden Age. They are the only ones who can repeat with holy boasting the patristic saying, "We believe in whatever we received from the Apostles".

That period I wrote two books, one with the title The Concept of the Church According to the Western Fathers and the other with the title Your God, Our God and God. These books were to be published in South America, but I did not proceed with their release so that I may not give an easy and dangerous hold to the Protestant propaganda.

From the Orthodox side they advised me to let go of my simply negative position against Papism, in which I was dirtied, and to shape my personal "I Believe" [Faith or Creed] from which they could judge how far I was from the Anglican Church as well as the Orthodox.

It was a hard task that I summarized with the following sentences: "I believe in everything that are included in the Canonical books of the Old and New Testament, according to the interpretation of the ecclesiastical Tradition, namely the Ecumenical Synods that were truly ecumenical, and to the unanimous teaching of the Holy Fathers that are acknowledged catholically as such".

From then on I began to understand that the sympathy of the Protestants towards me was cooling down, except of the Anglicans who were governed by some meaningful support. And it is only now that the Orthodox interest, despite being late, as always, started to manifest itself and to attract me to Orthodoxy as one who was "possibly Catechumen".

The undertakings of a Polish university professor, whom I knew, cemented my conviction that Orthodoxy is supported by the meaningful truths of Christianity. I understood that every Christian of the other confessions is required to sacrifice some significant part of the Faith to arrive at complete dogmatic purity, and only an Orthodox Christian is not so required. For only he lives and remains in the substance of Christianity and the revealed and unaltered truth.

So, I did no more feel myself alone against the almighty Roman Catholicism and the coolness that the Protestants displayed against me. There were in the East and scattered around the world, 280 million Christians who belonged to the Orthodox Church and with whom I felt in communion of faith.

The accusation of the theological mummification of Orthodoxy had for me no value, because I had now understood that this fixed and stable perseverance of the Orthodox teaching of truth was not a spiritual solidified rock, but an everlasting flow like the current of the waterfall that seems to remain always the same yet the waters always change.

Slowly, slowly the Orthodox started to consider me as one of their own. "That we speak to this Spaniard about Orthodoxy", wrote a famous archimandrite, "is not proselytism". They and I perceived that I was already birthed in the port of Orthodoxy, that I was finally breathing freely in the bosom of the Mother Church. In this period I was finally Orthodox without realizing it, and like the disciples that walked towards Emmaus close to the Divine Teacher, I had covered a stretch close to Orthodoxy without conclusively recognizing the Truth but at the end.

When I was assured of this reality, I wrote a long dissertation on my case to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to the Archbishop of Athens through the Apostolic Diaconate of the Church of Greece. And having no more to do with Spain - where today there does not exist an Orthodox community - I left my country and went to France where I asked to become a member of the Orthodox Church, having earlier let some more time for the fruit of my change to ripen. During this period I further deepened my knowledge of Orthodoxy and strengthened my relationship with her hierarchy. When I became fully confident of myself, I took the decisive step and officially was received in the true Church of Christ as her member. I wished to realize this great event in Greece, the recognized country of Orthodoxy where I came to study theology. The blessed Archbishop of Athens received me paternally. His love and interest were beyond my expectations. I should say the same for the then chancellor of the Sacred Archdiocese and presently Bishop Dionysius of Rogon who showed me paternal love. It is needless to add that in such an atmosphere of love and warmth, the Holy Synod did not take long to decide my canonical acceptance in the bosom of the Orthodox Church. During that all-night sacred ceremony I was honored with the name of the Apostle of Nations, and following that I was received as a monk in the Holy Penteli Monastery. Soon after, I was tonsured deacon by the Holy Bishop of Rogon.

Since then I live within the love, sympathy and understanding of the Greek Church and all her members. I ask from all their prayers and their spiritual support that I may always stand worthy of the grace that was given me by the Lord.
 
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Τετάρτη, 30 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Μνήμη εὑρέσεως τῆς ἐν Τήνῳ Ἱερᾶς εἰκόνος Εὐαγγελιστρίας (30 Ἰανουαρίου)



1. Ὁ Μιχαὴλ Πολυζωΐδης

Ὁ Μιχαὴλ Πολυζωΐδης, εἶχε ἕνα ὄνειρο τὸ 1821, στὸ ὁποῖο ἡ μητέρα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐμφανίστηκε σὲ αὐτὸν μὲ λαμπερὰ ἄσπρα ἐνδύματα. Τὸν καθοδήγησε γιὰ νὰ σκάψει στὴν περιοχὴ τοῦ Ἀντωνίου Δοξαρά, ἔξω ἀπὸ τὴν πόλη, ὅπου θὰ ἔβρισκε τὴν εἰκόνα της. Εἶπε ἐπίσης σ’ αὐτὸν νὰ χτίσει μία ἐκκλησία στὴν περιοχή. Ἡ βασίλισσα τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ὑποσχέθηκε ἐπίσης νὰ τὸν βοηθήσει νὰ ὁλοκληρώσει αὐτοὺς τοὺς στόχους.
Ὅταν ξύπνησε, ἔκανε τὸν σταυρό του καὶ προσπάθησε νὰ ξανακοιμηθεῖ, θεωρώντας ὅτι τὸ ὄνειρό του ἦταν ἕνας πειρασμὸς ἀπὸ τὸ διάβολο. Πρὶν τὸν πάρει ὁ ὕπνος, ὁ Μιχαὴλ εἶδε τὴν Θεοτόκο ἄλλη μιὰ φορά, καὶ παρατήρησε ὅτι τὸ δωμάτιο πλημμύρισε ἀπὸ ἕνα εὐχάριστο δυνατὸ φῶς. Τὸ κεφάλι της περιβλήθηκε ἀπὸ τὸ θεῖο φῶς, καὶ τὸ πρόσωπό της ἔδειχνε μία γλυκύτητα. Μιλώντας στὸν Μιχαὴλ εἶπε, «γιατί εἶσε φοβισμένος; Μὴν χάνεις τὴν πίστη σου. Εἶμαι ἡ Παναγία. Σὲ θέλω γιὰ νὰ σκάψεις στὴν περιοχὴ τοῦ Ἀντωνίου Δοξαρά, ὅπου εἶναι θαμμένη ἡ εἰκόνα μου. Θὰ χτίσεις μία ἐκκλησία ἐκεῖ καὶ θὰ σὲ βοηθήσω καὶ ἐγώ». Κατόπιν ἐξαφανίστηκε.
Τὸ ἑπόμενο πρωί, ὁ Μιχαὴλ πῆγε στὸ χωριὸ καὶ εἶπε στὸν ἱερέα τί εἶχε συμβεῖ κατὰ τὴν διάρκεια τῆς νύχτας. Ὁ ἱερέας σκέφτηκε ἐπίσης ὅτι τὸ ὄνειρο ἦταν ἕνας πειρασμός, καὶ ἔτσι εἶπε στὸν Μιχαὴλ νὰ ἔρθει γιὰ νὰ ἐξομολογηθεῖ καὶ νὰ κοινωνήσει. Ὁ Μιχαήλ, ἐντούτοις, δὲν πείστηκε ὅτι τὰ ὁράματά του ἦταν μόνο ὄνειρα ἢ δαιμονικοὶ πειρασμοί. Εἶπε στοὺς συγχωριανούς του τὴν ἐμπειρία του. Μερικοὶ γέλασαν, ἀλλὰ μόνο δύο τὸν πίστεψαν.
Τὰ δυὸ ἄτομα πῆγαν μὲ τὸν Μιχαὴλ στὴν περιοχὴ ποὺ τοῦ εἶχε ὑποδείξει ἡ Παναγία, μιὰ νύχτα καὶ ἔσκαψαν σὲ μεγάλο βάθος, ἀλλὰ δὲν βρῆκαν τίποτα. Κατόπιν ἔσκαψαν παραδίπλα καὶ βρῆκαν τὰ ὑπολείμματα ἐνὸς παλαιοῦ τοίχου. Μὴν βρίσκοντας παρὰ μόνο τὰ τοῦβλα, ἔπρεπε νὰ σταματήσουν τὴν ἀναζήτησή τους τὸ πρωί. Ἔτσι οἱ Τοῦρκοι δὲν θὰ ἀνακάλυπταν τί ἔκαναν.
Ὁ Ἀντώνιος Δοξαράς, ὁ ἰδιοκτήτης τῆς περιοχῆς, βρῆκε τὰ τοῦβλα καὶ προσπάθησε νὰ τὰ χρησιμοποιήσει γιὰ νὰ χτίσει ἕναν φοῦρνο. Τὸ κονίαμα ὅμως δὲν ἔμενε στὰ τοῦβλα καὶ ἔτσι ὅποτε προσπάθησαν νὰ χτίσουν ἕνα τμῆμα τοῦ φούρνου, αὐτὸ κατέρρεε. Οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι πείστηκαν ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς τοὺς ἐμπόδιζε νὰ χρησιμοποιήσουν αὐτὰ τὰ τοῦβλα γιὰ τὸν τοῖχο τοῦ φούρνου.

2. Ἡ Ἁγία Πελαγία

Ἡ Ἁγία Πελαγία († 23 Ἰουλίου), μία καλόγρια ὀγδόντα ἐτῶν, εἶχε διάφορα ὄνειρα τὸν Ἰούνιο 1822. Σὲ ἕνα ἀπὸ αὐτὰ ἡ Θεοτόκος ἐμφανίστηκε σ’αὐτήν. Ἡ Ἁγία Πελαγία ζοῦσε στὸ γυναικεῖο μοναστήρι  τοῦ Δορμιτίου στὸ ὄρος Κεχροβούνιο, ποὺ ἀπεῖχε μία ὥρα ἀπὸ τὸ χωριό. Ζοῦσε στὸ μοναστήρι αὐτὸ ἀπὸ νεαρὴ ἡλικία, καὶ ἦταν γνωστὴ γιὰ τὴ μεγαλειώδη ἀρετὴ καὶ τὴν εὐσέβειά της.
Ἡ Θεοτόκος ἐμφανίστηκε στὸ ὄνειρό της καὶ τὴν διέταξε γιὰ νὰ πάει στὸν Σταματέλο Κανγάδη (ἕνα προεξέχον ἄτομο τοῦ χωριοῦ), καὶ νὰ τοῦ πεῖ νὰ σκάψει καὶ νὰ βρεῖ τὴν Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἰωάννου τοῦ Βαπτιστοῦ στὴν περιοχὴ τοῦ Ἀντωνίου Δοξαρά.
Τρομαγμένη ἀπὸ τὸ ὅραμα, ἡ Πελαγία ἀπέδωσε τὸ ὄνειρό της στὴ φαντασία της, καὶ ἄρχισε νὰ προσεύχεται. Φοβόταν νὰ πεῖ σὲ κάποιον γιὰ τὸ ὄνειρό της, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἑπόμενη ἑβδομάδα, ἡ Θεοτόκος  τῆς ἐμφανίστηκε πάλι, γιὰ νὰ τῆς ὑπενθυμίσει τὶς ὁδηγίες της. Καὶ πάλι, ἡ καλόγρια παρέμεινε σιωπηλὴ καὶ δὲν εἶπε σὲ κανέναν, γιὰ τὸ ὅραμά της. Ἡ Θεοτόκος ἐμφανίστηκε καὶ τρίτη φορὰ στὸ ὄνειρό της, ἀλλὰ αὐτὴ τὴ φορὰ μὲ ἕναν αὐστηρὸ τρόπο. Ἐπέπληξε τὴν Πελαγία γιὰ τὴν πίστη της, καὶ τῆς εἶπε: «Πήγαινε καὶ κάνε ὅτι σου εἶπα. Ὑπάκουσε!».
Ἡ Ἁγία Πελαγία ξύπνησε ἀπὸ τὸν φόβο καὶ τὴν ἔνταση. Καθὼς ἄνοιξε τὰ μάτια της, εἶδε τὴν ἴδια γυναίκα ποὺ εἶχε δεῖ ἐνῶ κοιμόταν.
Ἡ Ἁγία Πελαγία, κατάλαβε ἐπιτέλους, ὅτι τῆς παρουσιάσθηκε ἡ Θεοτόκος καὶ ὅτι ἔπρεπε νὰ κάνει αὐτὸ ποὺ τῆς εἶπε.

Ἀμέσως, ἐνημέρωσε τὴν ἡγουμένη γιὰ τὰ ὁράματά της, ὅπως ἐπίσης καὶ τὸν Σταματέλο Κανγάδη. Ὁ κ. Κανγάδης, ποὺ εἶχε ὑποδείξει ἡ Θεοτόκος γιὰ νὰ πραγματοποιήσει τὴν ἀνασκαφὴ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, ἐνημέρωσε τὸν ἐπίσκοπο Γαβριὴλ γιὰ ὅλα αὐτὰ τὰ γεγονότα. Ὁ ἐπίσκοπος ἤδη εἶχε ἀκούσει γιὰ τὸ ὄνειρο τοῦ Μιχαὴλ Πολυζώη καὶ εἶχε συνειδητοποιήσει ὅτι τὸ ὄνειρο τῆς καλόγριας Πελαγίας συμφωνοῦσε μὲ τὸ ὅραμά του. Ὁ Ἐπίσκοπος Γαβριὴλ ἔγραψε σὲ ὅλες τὶς ἐκκλησίες, στὴν Τῆνο, ζητώντας βοήθεια γιὰ τὴν εὕρεση τῆς ἐκκλησίας καὶ τῆς εἰκόνος.
Οἱ ἀνασκαφὲς ἄρχισαν τὸ Σεπτέμβριο 1822 κάτω ἀπὸ τὴ ἐπίβλεψη τοῦ κ. Κανγάδη. Τὰ θεμέλια τῆς ἐκκλησίας τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἰωάννου, ποὺ καταστράφηκε ἀπὸ τοὺς Ἄραβες τὸ 1200, ἀποκαλύφθηκαν. Δυστυχῶς ὅμως δὲν βρέθηκε ἡ εἰκόνα. Τὰ χρήματα ἐξαντλήθηκαν καὶ ἔτσι ἐγκαταλείφθηκε ἡ προσπάθεια.

Γιὰ ἄλλη μιὰ φορά, ἡ μητέρα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐμφανίστηκε στὴν Ἁγία Πελαγία, καὶ τῆς ζητάει νὰ συνεχιστοῦν οἱ ἀνασκαφές. Ὁ ἐπίσκοπος Γαβριὴλ ἔστειλε μία ἔκκληση γιὰ δωρεές, γιὰ νὰ χτιστεῖ μία νέα ἐκκλησία στὰ θεμέλια της παλαιᾶς τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἰωάννου τοῦ Βαπτιστοῦ. Ἡ νέα ἐκκλησία χτίστηκε, καὶ ἀφιερώθηκε στὸν Ἅγιο Ἰωάννη καὶ στὴ Ζωοδόχο Πηγή.

Στὶς 30 Ἰανουαρίου 1823 οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι ἰσοπέδωναν τὸ ἔδαφος μέσα στὴν ἐκκλησία γιὰ τὴν προετοιμασία τοποθετήσεως ἐνὸς νέου πατώματος πετρῶν. Περίπου τὸ μεσημέρι ἕνας ἀπὸ τοὺς ἐργαζομένους, ὁ Ἐμμανουὴλ Μάτσος, χτύπησε ἕνα κομμάτι τοῦ ξύλου μὲ τὴν ἀξίνα του. Ἦταν δυὸ κομμάτια ξύλου, ἀλλὰ δὲν μποροῦσε νὰ διακρίνει γιατί ἦταν σκεπασμένα μὲ χῶμα. Καθὼς σκούπισε τὸ χῶμα μὲ τὸ χέρι του, εἶδε ὅτι ἦταν μία εἰκόνα. Ἐνώνοντας τὰ δυὸ κομμάτια τοῦ ξύλου μαζί, ἐμφανίσθηκε πλήρης ἡ εἰκόνα.
Κάλεσε τοὺς ἄλλους ἐργαζομένους, γιὰ νὰ δοῦν καὶ αὐτοὶ τὴν εἰκόνα. Ὅταν τὴν καθάρισαν καλά, εἶδαν ὅτι ἐπρόκειτο γιὰ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ Εὐαγγελισμοῦ.
Τὴν ἴδια ἡμέρα, ἡ εἰκόνα δόθηκε στὸν ἐπίσκοπο Γαβριήλ, ποὺ τὸ ἀσπάσθηκε μὲ δάκρυα.

Μετὰ ἀπὸ τὴν εὕρεση τῆς εἰκόνος, οἱ κάτοικοι τῆς Τήνου, γέμισαν ἀπὸ ζῆλο γιὰ νὰ χτίσουν μία θαυμάσια ἐκκλησία πρὸς τιμὴ τῆς Θεοτόκου. Οἱ ἄνθρωποι πρόσφεραν τὰ χρήματά τους καὶ τὴν ἐργασία τους γιὰ νὰ βοηθήσουν νὰ χτιστεῖ ἡ ἐκκλησία τοῦ Εὐαγγελισμοῦ. [Προσθέτουμε από εδώ: Ανάµεσα στους πρώτους προσκυνητές συγκαταλέγονται οι ήρωες του αγώνα Κολοκοτρώνης, Μακρυγιάννης, Μιαούλης, Κανάρης και άλλοι].
Ἡ νέα ἐκκλησία ὁλοκληρώθηκε τὸ 1823, ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἐπισκόπου Γαβριήλ. Ἡ Ἁγία Πελαγία κοιμήθηκε στὶς 28 Ἀπριλίου 1834. Ἡ μνήμη τῆς τιμᾶται ἀπὸ τὴν Ἐκκλησία στὶς 23 Ἰουλίου.

Ἡ εἰκόνα τῆς Θεοτόκου στὴν Τῆνο, θεωρεῖται ἕνας ἀπὸ τοὺς πιὸ ἱεροὺς θησαυροὺς τῆς Ἑλλάδας. Τὰ ἀναρίθμητα θαύματα καὶ θεραπεῖες δὲν ἔχουν πάψει ἀπὸ τὸν χρόνο ποὺ βρέθηκε ἡ εἰκόνα.

Για το όραμα της αγίας Πελαγίας και την εύρεση της ιεράς εικόνας, δείτε περισσότερα εδώ.
Η Παναγία του Τιχβίν (ταινία κινουμένων σχεδίων)
Παναγία η Αριζονίτισσα και το Grand Canyon της Ορθοδοξίας
Εικόνες της Παναγίας
 (ενότητα)
Η Παναγία και τα τανκς των Ναζί (1943)

Ἀπολυτίκιον. Ἦχος δ’. Ταχὺ προκατάλαβε. Τὴν θείαν Εἰκόνα σου, ἐκ τῶν λαγόνων τῆς γῆς, ἡμῖν ἐφανέρωσας, δι’ ἐμφανείας τῆς σῆς, Παρθένε Πανύμνητε· ὅθεν ἡ νῆσος Τῆνος, ἐν τῇ ταύτης εὑρέσει, χαίρει χαρὰν μεγάλην, καὶ πιστῶς σοι κραυγάζει· Χαῖρε Κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ Κύριος μετὰ σοῦ.

Κοντάκιον. Ἦχος πλ. δ’. Τῇ ὑπερμάχῳ.
Τῆς παναγίας σου Εἰκόνος τὴν ἀνεύρεσιν
Εὐαγγελίστρια φαιδρῶς πανηγυρίζοντες
Τὰς ἀπείρους σου ὑμνοῦμεν εὐεργεσίας.
Ἐξ αὐτῆς γὰρ ἀναβλύζεις χάριν ἄφθονον
Καὶ παρέχεις καθ’ ἑκάστην τὰ ἰάματα
Τοῖς βοῶσί σοι, χαῖρε Νύμφη Ἀνύμφευτε.

Ἕτερον Κοντάκιον. Ἦχος δ’. Ὁ ὑψωθεὶς ἐν τῷ Σταυρῷ. Τὴν θαυμαστήν σου καὶ ἁγίαν Εἰκόνα, τὴν κεκρυμμένην ὑπὸ γῆν πολλοῖς χρόνοις, δι’ ἐμφανείας θείας σου Πανύμνητε, ἡμῖν ἐφανέρωσας, ὡς θησαύρισμα θεῖον· ἧς τὴν θείαν εὕρεσιν, ἑορτάζοντες πόθῳ, ἀναβοῶμεν πάντες εὐλαβῶς· χαῖρε Παρθένε, ἡμῶν ἡ βοήθεια.

Μεγαλυνάριον. Ἔχουσα ὡς πλοῦτον πνευματικόν, ἡ Τῆνος Παρθένε, τὴν Εἰκόνα σου τὴν σεπτήν, ταύτης ἑορτάζει, τὴν εὕρεσιν ἐν ὕμνοις, κηρύττουσα εὐσήμως, τὴν προστασίαν σου.

Τρίτη, 29 Ιανουαρίου 2013

Αφιέρωμα στους Τρεις Ιεράρχες



 

Κλικ στους τίτλους:

Επανάσταση ψυχών ("Των Τριών Ιεραρχών τη γιορτή ας γιορτάσουμε αδέρφια και πάλι...")
Oι Τρεις Ιεράρχες πρότυπά μας! ΣΥΛΛΟΓΗ ΥΛΙΚΟΥ ΓΙΑ ΤΟΥΣ ΕΚΠΑΙΔΕΥΤΙΚΟΥΣ ΜΑΣ
Οι Τρεις Ιεράρχες, η οικονομική κρίση & η κοινωνική πυραμίδα
"Συνέντευξη" από τους Τρεις Ιεράρχες


Αφιέρωμα στον άγιο Γρηγόριο το Θεολόγο
Στυλιανός Παπαδόπουλος: Γενική θεώρηση (Άγιος Γρηγόριος ο Θεολόγος) Διδασκαλίες του αγ. Γρηγορίου για σοβαρά ζητήματα πίστης και λατρείας

Ταινία-ντοκιμαντέρ: Το λιοντάρι του Χριστού & το "ισχνό ανθρωπάκι"...

Αφιέρωμα στο Μέγα Βασίλειο
Ναι! Υπάρχει άη Βασίλης
Έξι ΑΓΙΟΙ ΑΔΕΛΦΟΙ που διδάχτηκαν στην οικογένειά τους (η αγία οικογένεια του Μεγάλου Βασιλείου)
 

Ο ασυμβίβαστος: άγιος Ιωάννης ο Χρυσόστομος
Ο ιερός Χρυσόστομος (χαρακτηρισμός). Από το εξαιρετικό (και εν πολλοίς αναντικατάστατο, ακόμη και σήμερα) βιβλίο του΄καθηγητή Δημητρίου Σ. Μπαλάνου, Πατρολογία (Οι Εκκλησιαστικοί Πατέρες και Συγγραφείς των οκτώ πρώτων αιώνων), εν Αθήναις 1930.

 
Πλούταρχος & Χρυσόστομος για την ανατροφή των παιδιών

Οι Τρεις Ιεράρχες στα σχολικά εγχειρίδια ιστορίας
Ο Γρηγόριος Θεολόγος στα σχολικά εγχειρίδια
Αποσπάσματα από τα Acta Sanctorum για τους Τρεις Ιεράρχες


Οι αγίες Μητέρες των Τριών Ιεραρχών (γιορτάζουν την 1η Κυριακή του Φλεβάρη) 
 

Δευτέρα, 28 Ιανουαρίου 2013

π. Ανδρέας Κονάνος (συνέντευξη): Οι νέοι και η Εκκλησία

Αντί για εισαγωγή: Άγιος Συμεών ο Νέος Θεολόγος (ο ποιητής που κολυμπούσε στο θεϊκό Φως): 
"Στον κάθε πλησίον υπάρχει ο Χριστός" (από εδώ & εδώ)

38770-18519-paulus1b.jpg
Φωτο από εδώ
Όλοι οι πιστοί χριστιανοί οφείλουμε να σκεπτόμαστε ότι στον κάθε άλλο πιστό υπάρχει ο Χριστός και πρέπει να έχουμε τόση αγάπη προς αυτόν, ώστε να είμαστε έτοιμοι να θυσιάσουμε προς χάρη του την ψυχή μας.

Δεν έχουμε δε δικαίωμα να ονομάζουμε ή να θεωρούμε κάποιον κακό, αλλά πρέπει να τους βλέπουμε όλους σαν καλούς.

Αν δεις κάποιον να ενοχλείται από τα πάθη, μη μισήσεις τον αδελφό, μα τα πάθη που τον πολεμούν, κι αν τον δεις να τυραννιέται από κακές επιθυμίες, πιο πολύ να τον σπαχνισθείς, μη τυχόν και συ πειρασθείς, αφού είσαι τρεπτός και ευάλωτος στην ευπερίστατη αμαρτία.

Η συνέντευξη του π. Ανδρέα Κονάνου στο Ρωμαίικο Οδοιπορικό

Η εκπομπή του π. Ανδρέα Κονάνου "Αθέατα Περάσματα" μεταδίδεται από το ραδιοσταθμό της Πειραϊκής Εκκλησίας κάθε Τρίτη, 1 το μεσημέρι. Αξίζει να την ακούσετε - αναζητήστε την επίσης εδώ & εδώ, αλλά και με πολλά βιντεάκια στο ΥΤ. (Δες και: Μηνύματα αγάπης, υπομονής & ελπίδας).

Introduction to Apostle to Zaire

The Life and Legacy of Blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou

Orthodoxinfo.com
ΓΙΑ ΤΟΝ ΙΔΙΟ, ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ

In every generation there are those few exceptional souls who rise out of the conventionality of social life to become pathfinders to the catholicity and otherworldliness of Christianity. Heroic and uncompromising, they imitate Abraham and become exiles and martyrs for Christ, following Him with loving exactness and mountain-moving faith. They "hate their life in this world" in order to keep it—and that of their neighbor's—for eternity; and to successive generations they become models to imitate, witnessing, long after their departure, to the honour the Father bestows on those who serve Him.
Such a one was blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou, enlightener of Zaire. 

A Model of Mission Work in this Age of Antichrist

 

Apostle to Zaire: The Life & Legacy of Blessed Father Cosmas of Grigoriou
Photo from here
From as early as eighteen years of age he received from God the call to work in His mission field. Possessed of a dynamic personality that "was inspired by a burning love for Christ, he did not want to live a conventional Christian life nor to be limited to some usual ecclesiastical career and service. He longed to offer himself entirely to God and his fellow man." He sought not honors, for "his chief concern was with the salvation of men and the upbuilding of Orthodoxy in Zaire." The beloved Cosmas was, in the words of the former Metropolitan Avgoustinos of Florina, "the trailblazer of a beautiful journey for our race." He made Christ's departing directive to "teach all nations" his point of departure from a life of compromise and port of entry for Orthodoxy in the sub-Saharan and the hearts of countless souls. Unlike the missionaries of heterodox confessions, he laid stress on both the first and second part of the Great Commission: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." His success, or rather faithfulness, in carrying out the first half of the Great Commission, was a direct result of his faithfulness and resolute determination to observe the second half, that is, to be exact in teaching them "to observe all things" that Christ has commanded us.
It could not be otherwise, for the African is neither as the contemporary European, worn out by centuries of dizzying ideologies and spent on a myriad of humanistic philosophies, nor as the typical American, quick to compromise and moderate things in order to achieve outward success. His noble, humble soul still inclines toward the other world and his simple, intuitive mind still has a healthy disposition for the noetic realm. A few months before his departure from this life, Father Cosmas visited the monastery of his repentance and spoke to the pilgrims there of this African nobility and their desire for authentic, ascetic Orthodoxy. Bishop Athanasios Yievtich, a close disciple of the great contemporary Church Father, Archimandrite Justin Popovich, was present and relates what Fr. Cosmas had to say:
"They are people with a sensitivity and awareness of the inner world. Europeans usually underestimate them, but they are very mistaken. The soul of the African inclines toward mysticism and for this reason Orthodoxy has something to say to them and something to offer, but only authentic Orthodoxy— monastic, hagiorite Orthodoxy. For among the brethren of Africa, witchcraft and magic holds great sway, a real demonocracy. In Africa, I saw how true the Gospel of Christ is! Everything that He said about the possession of men by the demons, I saw first hand. However, the Living and True God is more powerful than Satan and all his servants. Let it be understood, however, that true missionary-apostolic work cannot be carried out in Africa if one does not decide to leave his bones there."
And so in teaching the native Africans the entire Gospel of Christ and revealing to them the undistorted Image of the God-man and His Church, it was only to be expected that his self-offering would likewise be complete and unqualified. In his "unique, genuine and very useful" study on mission work, entitled Thoughts about Missionary Work from Experience, he lays out the cornerstone principle for all who would follow his example:
"The missionary's beginning is significant, however it is not the sum of the matter . . . The outset might be blessed or might become blessed at the end. What's important is that the giving be true and total, without holding back, with a disposition to self-sacrifice and self-denial, and with the aim of leaving our bones among the natives . . ."
Long before one leaves his bones on the mission field, however, he must have discarded his pride and vainglory first, if he wants the final offering to be fruitful. Thus, for Fr. Cosmas the true missionary, in order to attain the blessed end, must leave no room for jealousy or vainglory, but rather must understand all to be shared: "common the struggle, common the pain, and common the glory of the Church." He must "offer an open heart, love and communicate with others, concern himself with his own problems without adding more, being attentive to what others are doing, without turning to the devil and causing division." And carrying out his duty in humility, "the true missionary does not seek recognition for his work, neither from the natives nor from those abroad, for the testimony of his sound conscience and the witness of his spiritual father and co-workers is sufficient for him." 

An Ascetic First

 

Father Cosmas left no room to doubt that he followed his principles, his words were based on experience and his beginning and end were blessed. And all of this is based on the fact that he "was first of all an ascetic and afterwards a missionary," as Archimandrite Ioanikios has written elsewhere in this book. He knew from experience what asceticism, spiritual warfare, fasting, vigil and prayer mean for the Church. "We thank the Lord," writes his Abbot George, "for, even if he was a man like us, he nevertheless disdained the earthly, the fleshly comforts, the human pleasures, all for the love of Christ, and chose a road that was harsh, combative, extremely tiring and humanly punishing. He did all of this for the love of God, his brothers and fellow men."
Elder George further certifies all this with a story from Father Cosmas' early days at the monastery: "I once passed by Fr. Cosmas' little cell and saw his bed: wooden boards and on top of the boards, a little thin sheet. He didn't even have a blanket. Having seen that, and other things, I thought that the brother had the grace of God and ought to become a monk."
His asceticism, however, was not reserved to sleeping on wooden boards or even to fasting, vigil and prayer. Father Cosmas was above all unrelenting in his work of building up the Church in Zaire. Father Michael Christodoulidis of Cyprus writes of his visit to the Kolwezi mission and Father Cosmas' asceticism in work:
"That which distinguished him most was his industry and diligence in work, his method and organization of labor, his intelligence, speed and facility in confronting difficulties, his ingenuity, and his unshakeable faith, spirit of love and sacrifice . . . Untiring in work, he would labor long hours in every kind of task. We didn't know what midday was and what lunch means. The table of the Mission center is set from noon until late in the evening. Work 'from the morning watch until night' on roads that are non-existent, with vehicles and machines that were always breaking down, with bloody sacrifices, 'in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in wounds . . . in labors, in vigils' (2 Cor. 6: 4-5)."
The above description not only finds repeated confirmation in a number of similar testimonies, but from the words of Father Cosmas himself, who at the same time points us to another aspect of his giving of priority to asceticism. He writes the following:
"It is well known that we all work here on a twenty four hour basis, under poor conditions, with the consequence being bodily strain and spiritual slackening. Consequently, toward the realization of spiritual and bodily replenishment, the existence of two monasteries, one men's and one women's, at some distance from the mission base, is deemed most appropriate . . . The monastery would work strictly as a monastery or, with the blessing of the local Metropolitan, as a metochian of Mount Athos, without any entangling with the mission."
It was because Father Cosmas believed that a local Church could not stand without monasticism that he gave priority to the founding of a monastery and towards the end of his life he finally saw the realization of his plans with the establishment of the holy women's Monastery of St. Nektarios

 

 

Exactness in Orthodoxy

 

Shortly after Fr. Cosmas' repose, upon seeing the spiritual labor he had accomplished, his successor Father Meletios said: "Father Cosmas' work in Africa is quite extensive. I found the whole Athonite typikon in place in Zaire. The Christians with prayer ropes in their hands. In church they chant all together lead by the choir of boys. No one communes without first having confessed. They keep strictly the fasts of Wednesday and Friday. They celebrate daily the Divine Services of Matins, Vespers and Small Compline. And on Sundays the congregation exceeds four hundred."
Many have commented: "How is it that the Africans, being only recently baptized, can maintain such an intensity and exactness in their Orthodoxy, while many of us in parishes in Greece, America and elsewhere are much more lax?" The answer, I believe, lies partly in that Father Cosmas, their father, guide, and example was himself strict and precise in his living and imparting of Orthodoxy. He was a monk in the long tradition of Athonite monasticism, and he hailed from the city of Ss. Cyril and Methodios, Thessaloniki, known for its rich ecclesiastical tradition. He kept with exactness, as well as discernment, the canons and standards of the Church, not out of some kind of reactionary conservatism or unfeeling zeal, but out of humility and because they provide what is best for man's soul, derived as they are from the experience and wisdom of the Saints and Fathers of the Church.
One such issue in which he consciously chose the blessing of God's Saints over the transient benefits of our ecumenical age was baptism. "When baptizing," he says, "I implement the Athonite order of things. We've done 250 baptisms, and not only with idol worshippers, but also with Catholics who become Orthodox, we baptize them in deep rivers. My actions will have consequences when news reaches the Patriarchate of Alexandria, which holds that the Protestants are only in need of chrism. Until then, however, we will only do baptisms so as to have St. Nicodemos' blessing."
Father Cosmas, as is clear further down, was not one to fly in the face of ecclesiastical authority. His decision to baptize those coming from heterodox confessions was done purely out of love for their souls and their eternal salvation, as well as love for God and His Saints, not suffering his conscience to disobey their sacred teachings. He acted not only out of respect for the Saints of ages past, but out of obedience and humility before the wise counsels of living saints: "I remember the words of Father Paisios, who told me that most of the time the baptism that the heretics perform only passes over their skin." Having this in mind, his love for the catechumens dictated that he provide them with the complete and saving initiation into the eternal life of the Church. This had consequences, of course, but not only for his relationship with the Patriarchate. Primarily it had consequences for the establishment of a spiritually healthy, powerful and faithful Orthodox Church, before which the Orthodox world now stands in admiration.
Similarly, Father Cosmas' success in establishing a strong, stable and healthy Orthodox way of life among the natives is also due to his refusal to adopt non-Orthodox methods and style. Father Cosmas writes: "It is wrong to have recourse to the means and methods of the heterodox. Let us leave to Orthodoxy her own color, in faith, in teaching, and in her arts. Let it not fade in the mission field." This should be applied not only to clear-cut mission fields, of course, but also to Orthodoxy in the Diaspora, as today many Orthodox often assimilate aspects of foreign cultures indiscriminately. For, if Father Cosmas' words hold true, then we must not expect the kind of results we see in Kolwezi in our part of the world if we are busy appropriating "the means and methods" of the heterodox. One may have to work very hard to avoid this compromise, yet we have Father Cosmas and the Church in Zaire as testimony that the struggler will have his reward.
Father Cosmas did not stop at simply avoiding the influence of heterodox culture within Zaire. He extended this principle to protect those young souls he sent abroad to study and be formed in the Orthodox way. He writes: "It is almost assured that the young native is destroyed when sent to study in Europe, returning as a theologian only in terms of his diploma, not his heart . . . In Kolwezi, we send the pious young man to the monastery of our repentance . . . where he learns the Greek language, theological matters, dogmatics, ethics, worship, the typikon, iconography, and Byzantine music both in practice and theory. He studies Orthodoxy in the "university of the desert," keeping company with sanctified elders and spiritually-gifted fathers and learning from them the 'according to likeness.' Purified and forming Christ within him, the young candidate becomes a good co-worker and our ideal successor."
Father Cosmas' care for the young native soul sent to study abroad arose out of his deep pastoral sensitivity and not out of any alleged ecclesiastical chauvinism. It was this sensitivity and a blessed single-mindedness and constant focus on bringing his disciples to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, and not any misguided idealism, that made it hard for him to countenance disregard of the canons. With respect to the canons governing ordination, this was particularly difficult because suitable candidates were few and the observance of the canons demanded much faith and patience. But, Father Cosmas, together with his Bishop, observed the canons, for they knew that there was a spiritual law at work and a punishment that the violators of the canons cannot escape. He writes: "The canons of the Church, of course, must be observed with respect to ordinations. Otherwise, the canons will avenge themselves and we will pay for our concessions (1 Tim. 3: 2-13)." And elsewhere he writes: "In areas where excessive tolerance is shown, the situation continually deteriorates and I am very concerned that at one point it will become incurable." 

Icon of African Saints from the Brotherhood of St. Moses The Black (biographies here)

Basic Presupposition: Working under the Authority of the Local Bishop

 

Father Cosmas set out from the beginning to carry out a work that was ecclesiastical, without reference to his person but rather centered on Christ and His Church. Thus, he came to Africa not as an individual performing a personal work, but as a monk of a specific monastery sent to enlist in the service of the Church under the local Bishop. He would often say, "If my work is my own, it will disintegrate as soon as I leave. If, however, it rests on an ecclesiastical base, the Church will assume it and it will continue."
Father Cosmas wanted everything to be in harmony with the canonical order of the Church. He advanced to the planning and realization of each work he undertook only after securing the blessing of his Bishop. He would not tire of emphasizing, "I offer my services with my Metropolitan, His Eminence Timothy Kontomerko."
Even when pressed by his own (according to the flesh) father's fear that financial support would dry up due to certain problems that had arisen, Father Cosmas remained unwavering in his faithfulness to the ecclesiology of the Church:
"I set out from my monastery with the blessings of my Geronda and the other fathers and the explicit command of Father Paisios, who is also my spiritual guide, to work together with the heads of the Church for the good of the Mission. The Church exists wherever there is a Bishop and faithful flock. Without the Bishop the faithful do not constitute the Church, but a Protestant heresy. Consequently, the line that I follow, working together with the local Bishop, is the most advisable, and yet even if I wanted to do something different, you know that I don't have such a blessing from my monastery."
In cases where the Bishop is a source of problems, Father Cosmas counseled against creating open rifts with him, as they would "harm rather than help." He saw that taking "recourse to a worldly model of contemporary form . . . toward the finding of justice, produces no results." In such cases, where solutions cannot be found, "then it is preferable that we prudently withdrawal with our co-workers, handing over the work to a new contingent, so as not to scandalize innocent souls (Mat. 18:7)."
In response to the opinion of some that one should not support missionary work in an area where the Bishop is not "beyond reproach," Father Cosmas was not sympathetic. "This position is shown to be baseless and utopian, for humanly judging the situation we consider a purification of ecclesiastical leadership as practically impossible and thus we tread from bad to worse, and this in the very age of the Antichrist. All the same, what should be done? Should we stop the evangelization of the nations? Of course not. On the contrary, we will devote ourselves even more to the work of missions and, with the grace of God and our own stability and love, the mission will continue and advance, and the "blameworthy" bishop along with it. The most important point of all, however, is this: we mustn't trust in our own spirituality, sincerity and holiness, if we, in fact, have something of these. 'Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall' (1 Cor. 10:12)." 

 

 

A Visionary who took One Step at a Time

 

As a result of conversations with illumined Fathers on Mount Athos and indications he received from his own conscience while in the mission field, Father Cosmas knew to be patient, that the work was just beginning and that he would not see its full flowering in this life. "Continue on," Fr. Paisios of the Holy Mountain told him, "however, the struggle will be a long one, for the people there will be slow in coming to accept Christianity."
With this in mind, then, and being a true Orthodox missionary, Father Cosmas was not anxious or persuaded to adopt short-range solutions. Unlike the missionaries of heterodox groups, Father Cosmas made a point of avoiding a predetermined programmatic approach. You won't find references to five-year programs or slick slogans in the writings of Father Cosmas. He believed that missionary work "is a linkage of one's own temperament, knowledge, possibilities and local conditions. It is not necessary to follow certain molds . . . The missionary is free and when he is open to the grace of God, the Holy Spirit will speak riches in his heart and indicate to him what to do, gradually and in correspondence to the development of the work. Let us leave room for prayer to act without rushing the situation with narrow logic, absolute measures or the assessments of critics at each stage."
Father Cosmas was a visionary who took one step at a time. He understood early on that he must see things in terms of generations not years. Thus it was that he laid great stress on the upbringing and training of the young men and women under his care, for the future leadership of the Church. It was for this reason that, in addition to the founding of a monastery, he undertook the establishment of boarding houses at the Mission Center, where young men and women came to stay, study, pray, learn and grow into mature Orthodox Christians. Today, twenty-two years later, the children that first took up residence at the Mission center have become the clerical, monastic and lay leaders of the Church in Zaire, just as Father Cosmas foresaw. 

A Fruit-bearing Tree for Generations to Come

 

Father Cosmas was an exemplification of the Gospel saying of the Lord: "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12: 24). His life was a series of "precious deaths" to the "old man" which made his bodily death "fruit-bearing." These fruits are now offered not just to those who knew him while he lived, but also to all those who have since and will in the future come to know Christ and follow Him into the mission field through Father Cosmas' example. "The seed has fallen into the earth," writes Abbot George. "It dies, for if it does not die, it will not sprout forth a beautiful tree, with the sweetest of fruits, under which many souls will find rest."
Already Abbot George's words have found bountiful fulfillment, not just in Kolwezi, but also throughout the Orthodox world. The greatness of Father Cosmas' work and example lies, as he himself has said, in that it has not died with him but continues, on an even greater scale. And not only the work he began in Kolwezi, but also the work of Orthodox mission worldwide. Today, this namesake of Holy Cosmas Aitolos, that regenerator of the race of Hellenes, stands as torchbearer for missionaries to the races of men the world over, in Africa, Latin America and Asia. They cite him as their inspiration and the archetype for their own work.
In Madagascar, in the span of six short years, the Orthodox Church has been established through the grace of God and under the leadership of the missionary-Bishop Nektarios. Since 1994 over 12,000 souls have been baptized, 62 parishes founded and 26 churches built. His Grace Bishop Nektarios had the blessed Father Cosmas as his model. He looked to his example when starting out, in the erecting of church temples, the providing of philanthropy, in prisons, hospitals, with the feeding of the hungry and, in general, in the whole work of the mission.
On the other side of the world, in Taiwan, there is another "disciple" of Father Cosmas, the Hieromonk Jonah. He too looks up to heaven at the flaming example of Father Cosmas for inspiration and guidance in his newly founded mission. He has only just begun (2001), and the obstacles and challenges facing him are enormous, yet, as with Father Cosmas, his "disposition to self-sacrifice and self-denial," and "aim of leaving his bones among the natives" has already made it possible for God to act mightily.
Who will be the next to follow in Blessed Father Cosmas' footsteps? The Lord alone, Who knows every soul before its coming into the world, speaks and reveals which monk or layman should enter next into His vineyard for the reaping of the harvest. When it came time for Father Cosmas to depart this life, the Lord revealed to him his successor in Kolwezi. His abbot George tells us that, "shortly before his final departure [from Mount Athos] for Africa and his death, he visited Father Meletios in his cell and told him that he would continue his work." And, indeed, a few months later, days after Father Cosmas departed this life, Abbot George called Father Meletios in to suggest that he succeed Father Cosmas, without, however, knowing anything of what Father Cosmas had predicted.
So, the work of the Church will by no means cease, for He "who desires that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth" is constantly raising up workers for His Vineyard. It is sufficient only that we imitate such blessed ones as Father Cosmas and "hate our life in this world" and "die to it," so as to "keep it for eternity." Then, perhaps, we too may be counted worthy of treading that path which guides one on the beautiful journey of our Christian race, which Father Cosmas blazed so resolutely. 

—Peter Alban Heers
 

Feast of Saint Cosmas Aitolos, Equal to the Apostles
August 24, 2001

Apostle to Zaire is published by Uncut Mountain Press and available from St. Anthony's Monastery Bookstore.

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