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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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Thursday, 17 September 2015

MERCY AND FORGIVENESS IN ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY (from Bose Monastery)



The Monastic Community of Bose

Joseph A. Komonchak
May 31, 2006 
my source: Commonweal blog
Halfway between Milan and Turin, in a little hollow below a glacial morain, with the foothills of the Italian Alps providing the distant horizon, sits the monastery of Bose, one of the most important religious foundations in Italy since the Second Vatican Council. On the day the Council closed, December 8, 1965, Enzo Bianchi, a 21-year-old layman, began to live a monastic life in an abandoned farm house. It would be only in August of 1968 that three others decided to join him at Bose. One of them was a pastor in the Swiss Reformed Church, and one of them was a woman. With them two of the chief characteristics of the monastic community of Bose were established: it would be ecumenical in membership and would include both men and women. The experiment had to survive the opposition of the local bishop, but thanks to the support of the cardinal archbishop of Turin, the community survived and grew and eventually won the formal approval of a later bishop.

Forty years later the community consists of some eighty members, with the men in a slight majority; the median age is around 40. Most of the members are from northern Italy, but several other European countries are represented, and there is one American. One member is the retired Orthodox Metropolitan of Sylivira, Emilianos Timiadis, who had served as personal representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch at the World Council of Churches; there are at least four Protestants in the community. The primary vocation is monastic and so only five of the monks are ordained priests to see to the sacramental needs of the community and of the thousands of guests who descend upon the monastery throughout the year. The community has its own monastic rule, which borrows from earlier monastic traditions but follows none of them exactly.

The day is structured around the common prayer. The monks arise at 4:30 for private prayer and then join in common morning prayer at 6:00. The rest of the morning is devoted to the various activities that monks perform (from iconography to tending the gardens; from carpentry to writing; from translating to bottling teas, condiments, olive oil, and spices). Midday prayer is at 12:30, and after an afternoon of work and study, evening prayer is chanted at 6:30. The altum silentium runs from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM.

The common prayer is sung in Italian with an adaptation of Gregorian chant sung in lovely harmonies. The texts of the Psaltery have been newly translated from the Hebrew and with an eye also to the traditional christological interpretation of the Psalms. The antiphons are always drawn from the Scriptures, and they constantly invoke the redemption effected in Christ, with particular, continuous insistence on Christs resurrection. The Sunday liturgy especially focuses on the resurrection. At a Saturday vigil, one of the monks leads a public lectio divina of the next days scriptural passages; Sunday morning prayer is called a celebration of the resurrection, at which, following an Orthodox tradition, one of the Gospel resurrection narratives is read. The spirituality cultivated at Bose is wholly centered upon the Word of God in the Scriptures, illumined also by the meditations of the Fathers and of the great spiritual masters.


The community has its own publishing house, Qiqayon (the Hebrew name of the shrub that grew up to shelter Jonah from the heat), which has published many texts of theology and of the various schools of Christian and Jewish spirituality. The monastery has hosted scholarly symposia on ecumenical, inter-religious, spiritual and theological subjects. Monks offer regular courses in biblical Hebrew and Greek. Enzo Bianchi offers frequent Encounters, talks on spiritual and theological themes. The Sunday I was there he gave the second in a series of meditations and reflections on The Experience of God in the Old Testament. Over 500 people attended, and I was told another 250 had to be turned down for lack of space.

Bianchi, prior of the community but never ordained himself, has become an important figure in the Church in Italy. He is regularly called upon to give retreats for bishops and priests. He writes regular columns on contemporary affairs for newspapers: one recent one was on the code of mediocrity exemplified by a certain popular novel. He was asked to compose the liturgies of repentance that Pope John Paul II led on the first Sunday of Lent in 2000.

To accommodate the growing number of people who want to come to share the experience of prayer and spiritual commitment, the community recently opened a new guesthouse, and the monks are now constructing a better facility for those who wish to camp out at the monastery. Guests are welcomed regardless of their ability to pay, although, of course, recommendations for daily expenses are provided for those who can pay. Guests are welcome to attend and participate in the daily prayer and in the twice-weekly eucharists. Priests are available for confession, and monks for spiritual conversation. The area is very quiet, and walks are possible along rural roads and on paths through the woods, where, however, one may find oneself pausing at the sign that announces that the hunting of wild boar is permitted in these woods. A ten-minute walk brings one to the restored Romanesque church of San Secondo, built in the eleventh and twelfth century, the main church being the simplest of constructions to which was added a bell-tower that is considered one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in the region. There are various views of the church that enable one to imagine how it must have looked in the Middle Ages, quiet opportunities to reflect on the living of the faith in tiny communities like the one that built this church: the Church alive then, as now, only in and as Churches like the community of men and women of San Secundo.

The monastic community of Bose has its own Web site with information about the community and a few photos.

Perhaps others can comment on their experience at Bose. In any case, if you ever wish to include time for personal spiritual reflection on a trip to Europe, give some thought to going to Bose.
Enzo Bianchi and Bishop Epiphanios

23rd CONFERENCE ON ORTHODOX SPIRITUALITY
ON MERCY AND FORGIVENESS
9th - 12th September, 2015

XXIII International Ecumenical Conference on Orthodox Spirituality
Bose, 9-12 September 2015
Mercy and forgiveness
in collaboration with the Orthodox Churches




The 23 International Ecumenical Conference of Orthodox Spirituality (Bose, 9-12 September 2015) will be dedicated to the theme “Mercy and Forgiveness”, as chosen by the Scientific Committee of the Ecumenical Conferences, which met in Bose on 4-5 October.
The experience of evil, of the suffering that human beings inflict on one another seems to mark the human adventure from the very beginning. Yet God reveals himself as the God of mercy and compassion (Ex 34,5); mercy is the face of God that Jesus reveals to men.
By interrogating Scripture, the fathers and the monastic tradition (Dorotheus of Gaza, John Climacus, Isaac of Nineveh, the saints of the orthodox churches), the conference wishes to reflect on Christian forgiveness. This is a road that passes through the knowledge of one's own sins and the acceptance of offered forgiveness. Some testimonies of mercy, disciples of Christ meek and humble of heart, will speak to us of the power and the prophetic force of forgiveness.
Sharing perspectives, listening to the Word of God and the great tradition of the Orthodox Churches, the conference hopes to affront the questions that are asked of Christian hope. How can God's pardon be announced today? How can wounded memory be healed? Where can the joy of forgiveness between Churches and between men be found? What are today the places of Christian forgiveness (spouses that separate, rebuilding trust after conflicts, re-composition of relations between persons and in communities)?
Christ's cross is the judgment that “does truth” on good and evil and opens the time and space of God's mercy and his forgiveness. This is the forgiveness that Christians are called upon to receive and to transmit to their fellow brothers and sisters.
Will be present the official representatives of all the Orthodox Churches, of the Roman Catholic Church, of the Church of England, Biblical scholars, patrologists, theologians, monks of the East and of the West, philosophers, and writers from all around the world.
The conference is open to all; the definitive program will be published on this site shortly.

SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE:


Enzo Bianchi (Bose), Lino Breda (Bose), Sabino Chialà (Bose), Lisa Cremaschi (Bose), Hervé Legrand (Parigi), Adalberto Mainardi (Bose), Antonio Rigo (Venezia), Luigi d'Ayala Valva (Bose), Michel Van Parys (Chevetogne)

MESSAGE FROM KARECHIN II, CATHOLIKOS OF ALL ARMENIANS





From the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the Spiritual Center of All Armenians, we bring our Pontifical blessings to all participants of the 23rd International Ecumenical Conference, themed this year as “Mercy and Forgiveness”.

It is admirable that in this gathering you will revalue the exhortations and teachings on mercy and forgiveness of the significant authors and theologians of the Church; and presenting your own thoughts, also discuss issues on the actuality of harmony and cooperation between the churches.

The core of the salvation, offered us by our Lord, is the limitless love. The Savior ordered us to love and forgive, and gave us an example of absolution in the Lord’s Prayer, as the Lord’s forgiveness of us. The Apostle teaches us saying, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). The realization of these commandments is the guarantee of peace and harmony in the life of humanity. But the suffering and sorrow plaguing the safe progression of mankind in different countries, and unceasing conflicts especially in Syria, the Middle East, and Ukraine; is witness to the absence of mercy, forgiveness, and tolerance. The discord and conflict in families and communities are caused by ignoring the love and forgiveness inherited from our Lord Jesus Christ. All actions driven and conditioned by material wealth, political and economical interests, disrupt the importance of spirituality, and the enduring awareness and perception of virtue, as commanded by the Lord. Facing these issues, it is a challenge to keep the passion of faith bright in the World, to spread the life-giving light of the gospel commandments, so that the words of St. Gregory of Narek turn into reality - sighs retreat from human’s life, darkness flees, sins melt away, demons flee, corruption is cleansed, sadness withdraws, chains undone, evil is destroyed, infirmities are cured and Lord’s omnipotent hand rules redeemer of all. (cf. Book of Lamentations, 41A)

It is appreciated that during this conference you will also reflect on the deepening of solidarity between churches and the importance of cooperation. Our churches have been divided for centuries as a result of dissent in doctrinal teachings, and were not in harmony with one another. Nowadays ecumenical movements and inter-church, theological, Christological and ecclesiological dialogues promotes the discussion of current challenges, and increases the cooperation between churches for the sake of reinforcing a common mission of the wellbeing of mankind in accordance with Christ’s prayerful commandment. “I do not ask for these onlybut also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (John 17:20-21). Indeed, efforts towards this and such assemblies are significant impetus in the strengthening of the mission of the Church of Christ.

Dear Ones, we offer our blessings to the participants of this conference once again: and to the organizers of this conference, to devoted and pious brothers and sisters of the monastery of Bose led by the prior Enzo Bianchi, wishing them all good health and heaven sent success in service to the Lord.

            We pray that mercy and forgiveness increase the world over, that peace be spread across the countries, troubled by military situations, and that humanity creates a safe and just future according to the wishes of the Lord. We pray to Almighty God to grant you strength and drive to make your work fruitful within this conference. May God protect you all under his Almighty Right Hand.

With blessings,

+ Karekin II
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians


HERE IS A SELECTION OF ABSTRACTS.  THE FULL LIST AND MUCH MORE INFORMATION IS FOUND ON THE MONASTERY'S WEBSITE:
  http://www.monasterodibose.it/en/hospitality/conferences/orthodox-spirituality/2015-mercy

EXCELLENT PHOTOS, THANKS TO JIM FOREST, ONE OF THOSE TAKING PART, ARE AT:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/albums/72157658153256498


METROPOLITAN KALLISTOS WARE


ABSTRACT
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). The prayer given to us by Jesus, while comprehensive, is also exceedingly concise. If , them in this short yet wide-ranging prayer, nearly a quarter is devoted to the theme of forgiveness, this indicates how crucially important it is in God’s sight that we should forgive and be forgiven. In the words of the Russian Orthodox starets St Silouan of Mount Athos (1866-1938), “Where there is forgiveness…there is freedom”. If only we can bring ourselves to forgive—if we can at least want to forgive—then we shall find ourselves in what the Psalms call a “spacious place” or “a place of liberty”: “We went through fire and water, but Thou broughtest us out into a place of liberty” (Psalm 66:12). Forgiveness means release from a prison in which all the doors are locked on the inside. Only through forgiveness can we enter into what St Paul terms “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

FATHER JOHN BEHR

ABSTRACT
The God of the Scriptures is a God of mercy: this is proclaimed repeatedly by the prophets and especially in the Psalms. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.” (Ex 34:5-7).

Yet, the words from Exodus also indicate that the covenant that the Lord establishes is a terrible work – something never seen before in all the earth or in any nation.

When these events and words surrounding the exodus from Egypt are seen as a type and a prefigurement of the awe-inspiring event of the Passion, then we are drawn into an even profounder understanding of the mercy of God, revealed as Christ passes over in his own exodus through the Cross (cf. Luke 9:31). The mercy and faithful love of God is indeed not temporary or transitory, but eternal – stretching out from the beginning to the end, creation to recreation, in an all embrasive economy or pedagogy, bringing us, through suffering, death, and repentance, to share in his life and to show the same mercy towards others that God shows towards us. For the God who is known as the God of mercy, calls us to this: “Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36)

FATHER EUGEN PENTIUC


ABSTRACT
Genesis 37-50, one of the most elaborate narratives of the Bible, sets the stage for a subtle process of reconciliation where every character actively involved in the story undergoes a profound transformation. At the first sight, “Joseph and His Brothers” looks like a story of revenge, where Joseph, an angry viceroy and former pampered teenage-shepherd, seeks to pay his brothers back for their crime. However, Joseph’s harsh attitude towards his brothers had only one goal: to make sure that the perpetrators have changed or repented. In both traditions, Jewish (teshubah“return”) and Christian (metanoia “change of mind”), repentance is neither a feeling nor a declaration but rather a call to action: “Return / Change your mind!” Return to what? To oneself, one may answer. 


If sinning is estranging from oneself, repentance is moving away from sin by returning to oneself (Is 55:7; Jer 31:18). According to Maimonides, the “true repentant” (ba‘al teshubah, lit. “master of repentance”) is that person who confronted by a similar circumstance wherein (s)he transgressed, (s)he abstains from committing the same mistake, thus proving that (s)he changed / returned to oneself. Similar circumstances to the ones wherein the brothers sold Joseph to the Ismaelites are recreated, so that the main characters of the story may be tested again. The paper examines in detail the inner transformations of the main cast (i.e., Jacob, Judah, Reuben, and Joseph), as prerequisite for forgiveness and reconciliation.

DR SEBASTIAN BROCK

ABSTRACT


The Syriac Christian tradition inherited from Judaism the concept of the balance between the two attributes of God, Justice and Mercy. For the seventh-century monastic author Isaac the Syrian, however, ‘Just as a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great weight of gold, so, on the scales, is God’s employment of his justice by comparison with his compassion’. The paper explores how, for Isaac, God’s mercy does not just outweigh his justice, but transcends it. It was on the basis of this understanding that Isaac was led to his views on universal salvation, set out in most detail at the end of the Second Collection of his writings.

FOR MORE BY SEBASTIAN BROCK ON ST ISAAC CLICK HERE

EPIPHANIOS, BISHOP &
IGUMEN OF ST MACARIOS THE GREAT
click at St Macarios Monastery

Bishop Epiphanios

ABSTRACT
Father Matta el Meskin


Matta el Meskin (1919–2006) was monk and igumen of St Macarius Monastery in the Scete desert. With special human and spiritual charism, he was a luminous figure among Egyptian Christians and father of a remarkable spiritual and monastic renewal within the Coptic Church. Mercy and pardon occupied an important place in his life and preaching. For him they represented an index of the the new man created in us by Christ. The injured party has the obligation to take up the burden of mercy by imitating God;s love, who humbled himself so that Adam the lost sheep, might return to his original glory. In the world turned upside down by Christ, in which to be first it is necessary to become last, to forgive is an act of great interior force. Love is the ultimate reality, in which humanity will live forever.

Here is a writing of Father Matta el Meskin on the Love of God:


THE BREADTH OF GOD'S LOVE FOR AND IN MANKIND
by Father Matta el Meskin

© Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great
my source: Orthodox Spirituality 


"The Father loves the Son" (Jn. 3:35,) because He is of His own nature. 

"As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you" (Jn. 15:9,) because He took on our nature. 

"As hast loved them even as Thou loved me" (Jn. 17:23.) A love springing from the Father's nature to us, as was given to Him. 

"For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me" (Jn. 16:27,) because of our fellowship in the nature of the Son. 

"That the love with which Thou hast loved Me may be in them" (Jn. 17:26.) Thus, we have fellowship through the Father and through the Son. 

His love emanates from His own nature, and not due to anything within us. Therefore, He loved us without any prerequisite or merit on our part. 

Our love for Christ through the Holy Spirit uncovers the depth of our love to God the Father and opens up the flow of the Father's love to us: "For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me and believed that I came out from God" (Jn. 16:27.) 

Our love for God was impossible because of sin and the judgment of death. Removing the barricade, Christ, the Son, opened the way for us to God the Father's love. Through the cross He broke down the barriers, which were sin and the curse of death, that separated us from God the Father. He revealed God the Father's love, which He held bound within Himself, waiting for redemption, t he forgiveness of sins and the removal of the barriers: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (Jn. 3:16.) The Father's love was then poured out upon us. 

The Father's love, which had been confined and forbidden to us, overflowed upon us freely in Christ through the cross. Previously impossible due to our unworthiness, through the opening Christ made for us through the cross, our easily ascended to God the Father. 

"And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another" (1 Jn. 3:23.) 

Faith in Christ is completed by love for one another; if we do not love one another, our faith is incomplete. Such is the Christian faith! 

Faith in Christ means love for one another: "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn. 13:35.) Of ourselves, there is no source of love for one another. With the exception of the natural, animal love of the flesh, this is difficult, and in fact, impossible. The type of love with which we are commanded to love one another by the Father and the Son comes from the bounty of the Father and Son's love, because it emanates from His Being and not from our human, animal nature. Our human nature is as the Apostle Paul says: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" (Rom. 7:18.) For that reason, He commanded us often and with persistence to love one another, because He is the owner and giver of this love. 

From the bounty of the Father and the Son's love, we love one another and those close to us. It is therefore impossible to have the capability or facility to love one another if the Father and Son's love in us is not acquired through fervent worship. We love one another at God's expense, not at our own personal expense. Our love for one another is the realistic and honest proof of our love for God. 

If such is the case, then, for those who love God, loving one another becomes extremely easy. No barrier can block it, not even death. The reason is that our love is drawn from the credit God entrusted to us, and is not related to our nature or our lives. 

There are people whom we see and know very well whose love for one another has become a joy to them, a delight, a spontaneity; to the point of appearing reckless with their money, offspring, and life. The secret is that they are "squandering" from a fund that is no theirs but from an inexhaustible Divine fund. From God's pocket, they help themselves, then distribute and squander to those who deserve it and those who do not equally. Whosoever asks, give to them; do not reject the one who asks, for whatever is asked for shall be granted. Such is their attitude. 

As they know that this is a very important commandment of God, they do not rest by day or by night in sacrificing and serving others to delight God's heart. Whenever they distribute generously, the bounty of God is renewed in their hearts. 

We have faith and believe that God loved us in Christ, whose Father gave Him over to slaughter for our sakes. When we accept it, His love becomes effective in our hearts. With this faith and sincere belief, our feelings, hearts, and minds open up to realize the great extent of His love for us, and we are daily reassured of its existence. If we accept it with sufficient honor and give it our constant care, it will become effective and overflow from the depth of our hearts without effort. On its own, it will overflow upon everyone, unhindered by our weighing or measuring it. It is a gift of God that will exist forever, because, as Habakkuk the prophet said, it is His commandment from His own mouth, and He is watchful to fulfill and renew His work throughout the years (Hab 3:2.) 

We said that God the Father's love for His only Son comes from His nature, and Christ's love for is also a love of His divine nature. Whoever therefore loves this love and sincerely feels it in spirit will feel the flame of divine love simmer in his heart, because he loives in the force of a divine nature burning within him. 

For that reason, following the Resurrection, God the Father sent the flaming Holy Spirit. Coming in a clear and visible manner, He was sent through the Son to live in renewed mankind. He inflames our hearts and spirit with the love of God the Father and Christ so that we can live in the fellowship of the Father and Jesus Christ. "I send the promise of My Father upon you" (Lk. 24:49.) As Saint John cried for in his epistle, crying out to all the faithful that this fellowship is for them. In order that our joy may be complete, they too are associates with the apostles in God. 

God loves mankind. He loves every one truly, made clear through the crucifixion of our Lord. If He loves the One, the He loves each and every one. Therefore His love for one goes inevitably to the rest. This is a right, an obligation, and it must be so, so that everyone can gather together through love. 

Our love for God cannot equal His love unless it extends to everyone. "This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you" (Jn 15:12.) With it, God thus becomes the all in all. For in Christ's words, "I in them and Thou in Me, that they may become perfectly one" (Jn. 17:23,) lie the extraordinary mystery of the nature of the divine love, the element of agreement, assembly, and unification. On this basis, Christ says at the end of this chapter, "I made known to them Thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which Thou has loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (Jn. 17:26.) 

Take heed, dear reader, Christ is in us when He pours out His love in us. Therefore when the Apostle Paul says with divine awareness, "...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph. 3:17,) he knows He will come and with Him love, the secret key that opens the path to the Father. What more could the Apostle Paul want after the Father and Son have entered our hearts? Does it not mean that love has overflowed our hearts? 

God, to ensure that His love dwells in our hearts in all its strength, immensity, and variety, sent the Holy Spirit, bearing the complete nature of God's love: "... and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19.) 

Does not that mean the fullness of God's love? 

Written on the eve of June 6, 1999



Credit and Attribution:
Father Matthew the Poor was Spiritual Father of the Monastery of St. Macarius, Wadi el-Natroun, Egypt. This article was originally published by the St. Mark Monthly Review, a journal published by the monastery.

 videos on Father Matta el Meskeen or Meskin, click HERE


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