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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