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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Saturday, 25 September 2010

AN ELDER F MOUNT ATHOS SPEAKS OF MARTYRDOM

Posted: 21 Sep 2010 03:24 AM PDT

By Elder Paisios the Athonite (+1994)

In the past, people were so brave! In the Monastery of the Flavians in Asia Minor, the Turks had captured a man and slaughtered him. Then they told his wife, 'Either you deny Christ, or we will kill your children too.' And she replied, 'My husband is now with Christ, and I entrust my children to Christ and I will not renounce Christ.' What bravery! If Christ is not in us, how can there be such bravery? Today, people without Christ are building their home on rubble...

What love the holy Martyrs had for Christ, what bravery! ... [For example,] St. Gideon the Karakallenos (+1818) -- what amazing forbearance he had! To his executioners he said, 'Take my hand, take my leg, take my nose.' In short, take everything! Incredible! But for a man to reach that point, he must not love himself, he must love God. A mother runs into a fire to save her child. She doesn't feel any pain, because her love is stronger than the burning of the fire. Her love for her child masks the pain. So you can imagine how much more the love for Christ can mask the pain of martyrdom!...

For the Saint approaching martyrdom, the love for Christ is stronger than the pain; it neutralizes it. The Martyrs felt the executioner's sword to be sweeter than the bow of a violin. When the love of Christ really blossoms, then martyrdom becomes a festival; fire refreshes better than a bath, because the burning feeling is dispelled by the burning of divine love. A flaying becomes a caress...

Divine eros takes hold of the heart, takes hold of the mind, and man goes 'mad'. He does not feel the pain of anything else, because his mind is on Christ; and his heart is overflowing with joy. So many Saints went to their martyrdom and felt such joy, one would think they were going to a festival!...

If one does not start sacrificing something now, like giving up some desire or selfishness, how will he ever be able to sacrifice his life at a given time? If, even now, he thinks of the labor, and tries to avoid working a little harder than the next person, how will he ever attain the state of risking his own life to save another's? ... When there is no spirit of sacrifice, everyone looks only to save himself...

These years are like a pressure-cooker that is boiling and whistling. It takes endurance, bravery and manliness. If something should happen, be sure not to leave yourselves completely unprepared. Be prepared from now to face any potential difficulty. What did Christ say? Didn't He say, 'Be ye ready?' (Luke 12:40)...

Living in such difficult times as today, gives us one more reason to be all the more prepared. It is not only sudden death that we may encounter; there are other dangers as well. Therefore, dispel the spirit of ease and comfort for ourselves. Let the spirit of philotimo prevail. May you always have the spirit of sacrifice...

A woman, who had everything, once told me that having children is a dizzy bother. She couldn't be bothered to be a mother! When a mother thinks like that, she becomes useless; for mothers, after all, are suppose to love naturally... When a person has a sense of sacrifice, he does not complain, he is not lazy; he rejoices. That is the key: to have a spirit of sacrifice...

Oh, what joy it brings! Nowadays people don't savor this joy of sacrifice, and this is why they are tormented. They have no ideals in them; they are too bored to live. A generous heart and self-denial are what drives us. Without this force, we are tormented...

The miracle happens when someone can be compassionate and feel the other's pain. It is this very pain that moves God and brings about the miracle. For there is nothing else that moves God as much as a noble and sacrificial spirit. But now, in our time, this kind of nobility is rare, because self-love and self-restraint have entered the picture. Seldom does someone say, 'Let me give my turn, my place, to someone else, and it's alright if I am delayed.'...

The good is good, only when the one who does it sacrifices something from himself -- some sleep, some rest and so on. That is why Christ said [of the widow], 'But she, out of her need, hath cast in all the living that she had.' When I am at ease and do some good, it does not have the same value. But when I am tired and some one asks me, let's say, for directions and I do it, then it has value...

Can you imagine what joy is experienced by the one who sacrifices himself? One cannot even express the joy he feels. Sublime joy emanates from sacrifice. Only when we sacrifice ourselves can we be related to Christ, for Christ is sacrifice. Man can live in Paradise from here and now, or he can live in Hell. Whoever does good is overjoyed, for he is rewarded with divine consolation. Whoever does evil, suffers.
Posted: 20 Sep 2010 12:45 PM PDT

In the Soviet Union it was ideologically important for the government to suppress and disprove accounts of miracles that contradicted Marxist atheism. To this effect the government issued a decree on March 1, 1919 regarding ‘the complete liquidation of the cult of corpses and mummies’, which ordered the public exposure of saints’ relics in order to show them to be frauds (to counter the belief that the saints’ bodies were miraculously preserved). In 1918 there were even calls to outlaw the sacrament of the Eucharist on account of its miraculous transformation as believed by Orthodox and Catholic Christians.

One of the most famous of these miracles occurred in the village of Kalinovka near Vinnitsa in the Ukraine. On 7 July 1923 a detachment of mounted police had come to the village in order to close the local church, but they were met by hostile crowds. The idea was for the police to get the people to sign a "unanimous petition" to close the church, but all they met were women screaming: "Close the synagogues first, if you don't need them. We want to keep our churches..." Workers from the factories came to protest as well as many peasants, eventually leading the commissar to disperse his soldiers.

The crowds being too big for the police to force their way through, they eventually retreated. Not far from the church, however, there was a traditional wooden Crucifix standing at a crossroads, and the policemen in frustration fired at the crucifix on which hung an image of Christ crucified made of thick sheet metal and painted in oil. One of the bullets hit the crucifix in Christ’s side and suddenly blood gushed out of the hole reportedly. One of the policemen lost control of himself and fell off his horse, while the others took off. The crowd went on its knees and prayed in front of the bleeding crucifix.

The news spread and thousands of people came to see it. By evening 30,000 people came to pray. The special commandos called "Tson troops" came along with them. What then happened can hardly be described in words. The horses belonging to the commandos bolted and galloped away despite the horsemen's attempt to stop them. A Jewish factory worker, his wife and their two children asked to be baptized into the Orthodox Church, and this was done before the assembled masses.

The blood reportedly kept gushing out for several days. Soon after more police came with orders to hack down the crucifix but each time they returned in failure under the claim that some force was preventing them from approaching it. The local communist press tried to explain the phenomena by claiming that there had been an accumulation of water in the wooden cross behind the metallic figure, and that once the bullet hit the metal, the water which had turned red from the metal’s rust, must have seeped through. The crowds brought crosses with them that they set up beside it, prayed before it and dipped cloths in the miraculous blood. Four days and nights they sung hymns as well as burned candles. Priests were absent in fear. Many atheists reportedly converted after seeing this. A Jewish doctor took samples for a blood analysis, and in his own words he said: "I'm going to tell you the truth. It is human blood!"

At the very first opportunity the Soviets destroyed the bleeding Crucifix and all adjacent crosses. It was later claimed that a commission of experts had reported that the fluid coming out of the bullet hole was not blood. The newspaper Evestia wrote that "soldiers were shooting in fun, and without any particular target, when a stray bullet happened to hit a rusty 'sheet-metal Christ'. Moisture ran out of the 'wound' together with rust." The people who had gathered there that day were later depicted as drunkards, fools and scum, and it was claimed that the kissing of the Crucifix had resulted in an outbreak of syphilis as well as mass robberies.*

The workers and peasants became courageous after this miracle and took out all their hidden icons. They hung them in their homes and defied the threats of the communists. Every year since then the people gather in the thousands (in 2008 11,000 people attended) on July 7th for a procession with the Holy Cross.

* Dimitry V. Pospielovsky. A History of Soviet Atheism in Theory, and Practice, and the Believer, vol 2: Soviet Anti-Religious Campaigns and Persecutions, St Martin's Press, New York (1988) pg 22-23.
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