Winter 2014 Newsletter - Orthodox Renewal Center of St. Symeon

the
Orthodox Evangelist
“Do the work of an evangelist” - 2 Tim 4:5
www.stsymeon.org
Winter 2014
Vol. 48 No. 4
Have We Orthodox Kept the Holy
Spirit in a Little Bottle? Part IV
By the Rev. Archimandrite Eusebius Stephanou, Th.D
Miramar Beach, Florida
There has been a stirring among many
of our Greek Orthodox Churches, not only
over widespread decrease in Church attendance, but over critical budgetary concerns.
This appears to be a disturbance primarily
the lay people are inciting. Without intending any personal offence or disrespect, I
must bluntly affirm that the only area where
we find quiet, security and assurance is the
payroll of our priests, bishops and metropolitans. Add to this their substantial gratuities, and other retirement benefits. Some
of them in advance prepare their retirement
villas in Greece. They can rely on their
pensions for covering living expenses.
I do not propose to fall into the sin
of speaking with self-righteousness and
assessing judgmentally. However, the
fact that I have served my Church without
a salary for several decades might give me
the moral right to point out the above. Then
what about my personal sacrifices in refusing enticing opportunities for promotion in
the ranks of the clergy. Only to mention the
late Archbishop Iakovos’ plan to ordain me
as the first U.S. -born bishop. His confidential letter remains in my files for anyone to
verify this. I have been dying a daily death
in the cause of Orthodox awakening for the
past fifty years.
I have written exhaustively through
the years in all my books and articles the
spiritual principles that relate to the financial and Church attendance anxieties mentioned above. It is not my intention here
to rewrite my books. Please go back and
refresh your memory, dear reader, if your
concern is genuine. All my warnings of
earlier years are now proving themselves
authentic in the face of our current Church
crises. The root of any situation in the
Church should be traced back to whether or not we are maximizing the potential of the Church pulpit. Is it touching
and transforming the hearts and character
of our Church people?
Is the one standing at the pulpit ultimately shaping the priorities and determining the absolute values in the hearts and
lives of the members of the congregation? I
am more than convinced that what makes
the difference in this regard is for the priest
(or authorized lay preacher) to share his
personal testimony, whenever he ministers the word of God or to refer to it in
the course of his message. Whatever I,
as the priest preach, should always embody
what obedience to the commandments of
Christ has done for me. How much it has
changed me and led me into a more intimate relationship with my personal Savior
and divine Master. To put it in simple lingo
he needs to use this approach: “Try it. It
works. It worked for me and it will work for
you.” Then the priest shares his life-changing experience, event and circumstances.
He essentially contrasts the B.C. of his
life with his Post-Christ life.
The only way this can be achieved is
by putting aside all professional pride, and
that is not easy. The priest has to prove
to his congregation that he is human
and led a past life that was not perfect.
He needs the Holy Spirit Baptism to enable
him to do supernaturally what is impossible
to do “in the flesh.” He committed many
mistakes and indiscretions (to put it mildly)
before he attended seminary, before his
ordination and even after ordination. I still
remember the confessions I used to hear
from students as seminary professor and
sub-dean.
I have been impressed by Pentecostal
preachers in this regard who flood the public media in the U.S. Some of them confess
publicly their sins of addiction, pornography, illicit sexual practices and how Jesus
touched their lives and delivered them in
His redeeming blood when they repented.
Some surrendered their lives to the ministry of evangelism. You can hear them over
the public media calling out to their listeners. “You, too, might be addicted like I was
to _________ but Jesus will not only make
you, too, a “new creature”, but even call
you to ministry. “He calls the weak things
of this world to confound the mighty.”
To those ministering in the Orthodox
Churches in America, this could be brushed
off, as lacking in clerical dignity and totally unrealistic. To those in Orthodox
Churches, for example, in Greece and
in Greek-speaking Churches outside of
Greece, I know they would laugh it off
as a big joke. Hypothetically, the very
thought of trying such a style of preaching could jeopardize their good reputation
and professional prestige. After all, this is
what remains uppermost in their hearts and
lives.
So, I am under no illusion that they
would get excited about sharing their personal testimony with their congregations
and listeners. First of all, they most likely
have no personal testimony of God’s lifechanging intervention in their own lives.
It is, therefore, normal for them to preach
impressive, empty religious rhetoric to the
ones listening to them. After all, protecting
and enhancing the ego of the speaker is
what ultimately counts!
This is normal in the landscape of today’s Great Harlot Church. It is simply the
fulfillment of the prophetic and apocalyptic
word of God for the close of the age. It
is a current reality I live each day of my
life. How about you, dear reader? Is this
personal experience or merely theological
speculation for you?
When I began to insert my personal testimony into my sermons, it was the result of
the Holy Spirit Baptism I received in 1972. I
was consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit.
I was not influenced by some preacher who
impressed me. The motivation was purely
spontaneous. That supernatural life-changing experience spontaneously propelled
me to follow that pattern. “I have believed.
Therefore, have I spoken” (Psalm 1: 10). I
could not restrain myself from speaking
about those experiences that proved
to be moments of divine interventions.
I remember confessing my human limitations and weaknesses in much detail.
I did nothing except follow the apostolic example: St. Paul admits to the Corinthians that they view his bodily presence
as weak and his speech contemptible. “I
would rather glory in my infirmities, that
the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Of
myself, I will not glory, but in my infirmities
(2 Corinthians 12: 1f). “I came to you not
with excellency of speech or of wisdom…
But God hath chosen the foolish things of
the world… and the weak things and base
things and despised” (1 Corinthians 2: 1f).
You can consult my biography The Voice
of a Priest Crying in the Wilderness. It
tells it all!
(Psalm 107:2) “Let the redeemed of the
Lord say so, whom He hath redeemed from
the hand of the enemy.”
Renewal Stirring In the Church
I am fully aware that renewal
stirrings in the Church (known often
as enthusiastic movements) came
to the surface as identifiable organized groups. One of those was
initiated by Montanus. His activity
known as Montanism spread its
influence generally from 170 to 300
A.D., though we Orthodox disagree
with their theology and many of their
practices.
Many prominent Church writers,
like Tertullian, identified with
Montanism, but later disconnected
with it. Others known as Novatians
and Cathars in Asia Minor preserved
in an effort to recover the simplicity,
purity and spontaneity of the
apostolic Church.
Irene, Empress of Byzantium
who
convened
the
Seventh
Ecumenical Council in the eighth
century was known to have drowned
several thousands of Cathars by
placing them in a vessel and sinking
it to the bottom of the Aegean
Sea. The Pope of Rome, Leo III,
congratulated her for cleaning the
Church of that heretical blight! She
was canonized by the institutional
Church and thereafter recognized as
a saint and champion of Orthodoxy.
She is listed as a saint on the
Orthodox Church Calendar of feast
days.
The emperors in Constantinople
unleashed their despotic caprice over
the religious areas of the Byzantine
dominion. The same holds true in the
west with the popes in Rome. The
Church was the institution exploited
by New Rome to further its political
absolutism.
Emperor Justinian, to take one
example, very skillfully justified his
direct interventions with impressive
theological reasoning. The emperors
introduced
permanent
church
practices and traditions that, to this
day, we reverently refer to as “holy
tradition.• Bishops were always
in the palace area conveniently
confirming the “holiness of imperial
edicts directed at the Church. Space
does not allow me to enter into
further details in this regard.
St. Pachomius, a prominent
Abbot, was saved from a side exit by
a few faithful monks from the venom
of a local Council of Lykopolis,
Egypt. The ruling Church did not
look with favor on those individuals
involved in spiritual revival activities.
Such a mind set continues to doom
the Church to a deadness we are
warned about in Revelation 3:1f.
Monasticism could be viewed
as the first acceptable expression
of organized spiritual rejuvenation
in the Orthodox Church. Certain
desert luminaries in Egypt such as
St. Pachomius, which I just referred
to, is a significant figure, as well
as St. Anthony and his disciple
St. Macarius, who contributed in
making Monasticism acceptable
and legitimate in the eyes of the
institutional Church. The Life of
Anthony, written by St. Athanasius,
Patriarch of Alexandria around
360, served as a notable factor in
this regard. St. Basil later, just to
mention another Church Father is
conspicuous in extoling the divine
destiny of Monasticism.
However, the time came when
Monasticism itself needed to
become spiritually rejuvenated, just
as much as the Church out of which it
originated and aimed to rejuvenate.
Satan targeted Monasticism with
such intensity and made incredible
strides in tragically converting this
once holy institution into a den of
iniquity, moral decay and corruption
that defies description. Even in our
own day exposes have come to
light on the homosexual blight
that has stricken one time centers
of virtue and personal sanctity.
This sin of Sodom and Gomorrah
was prevalent in our monasteries,
just as it was in the Roman Church.
The public media has provided
sufficient and shocking evidence. It
is no secret that such a blight has
infected the lower and higher ranks
of the clergy under the Papacy,
despite efforts to cover this evil that
haunts the Roman Church with the
recent canonization of two popes.
God’s favorite hill is not Mount
Athos, as we have believed until
recently,but rather Mount Zion.
If you have not read the shocking
expose, published in Athens, Greece
by Father Maximos Hegumen in
2006, then you are dwelling under a
tragic illusion. He had to flee for his
life from the moment his book the
Fall and End of Mount Athos saw the
light of publication. In the manuscript
of St. Neilus which Father Maximos
discovered in a cave, it is testified that
even the Blessed Theotokos publicly
declared that she has withdrawn her
acknowledged traditional covering
over Mount Athos as the timehonored Protectress of what was
once the Church,s stronghold of
godly purity and sanctity.
In accordance with the account
of the manuscript, Mount Athos has
now turned into an infamous pit of
organized homosexual communal
living. The gay lifestyle has become
institutionalized. This shocking
expose, as mentioned above, was
discovered on a hidden manuscript
buried in a cave in a remote area of
Mount Athos known as Agia Petra.
It was made available in its original
longhand script by St. Neilus the
Athonite and Myrrh-bearer, and
published for the first time, not to
be confused with St. Neilus of 430
A.D. who flourished much earlier in
the area of the monastery of Mount
Sinai.
St Neilus was a disciple of St.
John Chrysostom who at great length
mentioned him in the monastic life
of virtue and holiness. In 410 he
escaped a martyr’s death at the time
of the invasion of the Saracens who
massacred hundreds of Christian
believers, including a large number
of monks in cold blood on Mount
Sinai. He was able to join his one
son, Theodulos, who was spared
certain death in Elusa of Palestine.
A Reflection of 2014 and a Vision for 2015
By Joseph Abbate / President, Board of Directors, Destin, Florida
As 2014 comes to a close
and 2015 begins, I would like
to thank all of you who have
continued to support this ministry. January marks the 47th
anniversary for this ministry of
Orthodox evangelism and renewal. It could not have been
possible without you!
2014 has truly been a year
of transition. With the lingering health condition of Fr. Eusebius, he has been unable
to continue the fast pace at
which he was accustomed to
working. He has often shared
with me with tears at how saddened he is that he has been
unable to write many of you as
he used to. It has been a big
change for me personally not
to see him at his desk which
was just on the other side of
the office from my desk. I visit
with him every day. Another
change is that the Board of
Directors had elected me from
Vice President to President
of the Board and John Kaniaris as Vice President of the
Board.
I would like to share with you
the vision that the Board of Directors had discussed at our
Annual Meeting regarding the
future of St. Symeon’s Ministry. Our vision for the ministry
is to continue and enhance it
to reach even more people.
Since St. Symeon’s is a ministry of evangelism, we will
THE ORTHODOX EVANGELIST
Vol. 48 Winter 2014
A Newsletter for the promotion of Orthodox Renewal,
Published by the Orthodox Brotherhood of St Symeon
the New Theologian, Inc. Founder-Editor: The Very
Rev. Archimandrite Fr. Eusebius Stephanou, Th.D. Office:
329 N. Holiday Road, Miramar Beach, Florida 32550.
Phone: (850) 837-1771. St. Symeon Ministry:
329 N. Holiday Road, Miramar Beach, Florida 32550
Phone: (850) 654-2771. Email: [email protected]
Web site: www.stsymeon.org. Articles may be reproduced
only with permission. This Newsletter is sent regularly
to all those who make a contribution in support of the
St. Symeon’s Renewal Ministry. Past issues available upon
request.
once again have Renewal
Conferences. We thought it
best to hold the Conferences
in different states so it would
be easier for more people to
attend. We also have promising opportunities with our
books and literature to be accessed on the internet. Thousands visit our website every
month, many of them from
Asia and Europe.
Just as “A prophet’s voice
must never cease out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33), it would
not be fitting for a prophetic
voice to cease to be heard in
the Orthodox Church. It was
always Fr. Eusebius’ desire to
see evangelism spread in the
Orthodox Church. He wished
that when one would turn on
the radio or television that an
Orthodox preacher would be
on in the same sense as a
Billy Graham. This is because
this darkened world needs to
hear the truth and experience
the manifested power of the
Holy Spirit.
We are currently witnessing
the world tearing apart and
the stage being set for even
larger scale turmoil of Biblical proportions. Many of our
Orthodox people, though ac-
tive in the Church, are sleeping spiritually, oblivious of the
spiritual battles taking place in
the heavenly realm. Many of
our priests don’t speak about
these things because they
don’t want to scare their congregations. We are so used to
be unchallenged in our pews
that some of our Orthodox
people find evangelism just
too Protestant.
Even in other denominations
we can often witness pastors
give rosy messages saying
“everything is going to be alright” or to make “lemonade out
of the situation.” But watching
the news lately made me think
that the time is coming soon
that this world will produce far
more than just lemons. I have
a feeling that lives will be shaken to the core, and that the
voice of warning should get
out ahead of time. Just as the
prophet Ezekiel had been sent
as a “Watchman on the wall”
we also are to be watchmen
sounding the trumpet before
it is too late.
When I attended the event of
the Feast of the Archangel Michael at the Cathedral in Atlanta on November 8th, I had heard
Bishop Alexios give a much
needed message of warning in
front of about 400 people. He
shared from his heart about
witnessing so many young
people leaving the Church.
It was his desire to see them
more active and urged the parents to be closer to them. This
is because he notices that our
schools today are promoting
children to not only be godless, but our schools system
sometimes even teaches them
to hate God. He continued
by questioning how our representatives in government can
close a message by invoking
God’s blessing after we kick
God out of our schools and
government institutions.
I
have to commend the Bishop
for standing up and saying
this.
He presented Fr. Eusebius with the “Metropolitan’s
Choice Award” for Fr. Eusebius’ “Many years of service to
the Lord Jesus Christ and to
His Orthodox Church.” The
Bishop had also shared at
the meeting that he had given
Fr. Eusebius his blessing to
speak at any church in his diocese, but the priests did not
want Fr. Eusebius to speak
to their parishes because he
was too controversial. This
is the same situation that Fr.
Eusebius had shared with us
a number of years ago.
This, of course is nothing
new to us who have been involved in this ministry, nor in
Orthodox history. I believe it
was no coincidence that the
feast of St. Nictarios was observed over the same weekend as the Metropolitan’s
Choice Awards festivities.
Remember that St. Nictarios
had been wrongly accused
and exiled to a remote island. The very same thing
happened almost 1000 years
earlier to our patron saint St.
Symeon the New Theologian.
They were not exiled by un-
believing pagans!
Sadly, this appears to play
into a bad tradition of ostracizing men of God for being
outspoken. Yet these voices
have been outspoken for the
cause of Christ. Today, especially in the Catholic and Protestant churches, we witness
sexual scandals, financial
corruption and heretical theological teachings by some
who favor knocking down
basic Christian conservative
practices. They relish being
in the headlines for all the
wrong reasons and chipping
away at the very foundations
of the faith.
However, in today’s world,
we see them brag about it
and they are promoted in their
circles and the media. Yet,
the godly voices which cry
out are ridiculed, mocked and
sometimes banished. The
tumultuous events which are
taking place in the world are
no longer in the back pages of
today’s news, but in the headlines. Even people who are
not usually religiously minded cannot avoid the fact that
they are living in a world in
which wars, disease and economic jitters in one part of the
globe, eventually effects them
who live on the other side of
the planet. People are bracing up for some large events
which may very well happen
sooner rather than later. This
is no time to slacken spiritually. We Orthodox cannot only
rest on our laurels of being the
Church of History or even having the True Faith. Renewal
does not involve a change
of doctrine, it involves a life
changing encounter with or
Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember how some of
the churches of Asia Minor
were addressed in the Book
of Revelation. Even though
they were Apostolic churches, the church of Ephesus
was accused of leaving its
first love, and the church of
Sardis having a name that it
lived, yet was dead. Let us
be like the church of Philadelphia which was pleasing to
our Lord. The Church has
been taught by the Lord always to be vigilant and examine oneself so we will not be
caught spiritually asleep. As
we approach the Christmas
season, we are reminded of
God’s mercy and Love that
He humbled Himself, took
on a body and was born as a
baby in a lowly manger. Next
time He appears He will return as the Lord of Lords and
King of Kings! Fr. Eusebius
and the Board of Directors
wish you and your families
a blessed Christmas and the
very happiest New Year!
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