Friday, November 21, 2014

The Reality of Demons in the Life of Elder Iakovos Tsalikis

Fr. Iakovos Tsalikis was born in Livisi, Asia Minor on November 5, 1920. He was one of nine children that his mother Theodora gave birth to. His father Stavros was taken captive by the Turks in the catastrophe of Asia Minor when the Greeks lost the war. The father was later released and joined his family in Greece. Because of the difficult times in which the Elder’s family lived only three of the nine children lived beyond infancy. Young Iakovos lived through the upheaval of the Orthodox Christian population of Asia Minor in 1922. Initially the family settled in the village of Saint George in Amfissa where the living conditions were appalling. In fact the conditions there were close to starvation. In 1925 the family moved to Farakla in Northern Evia, Greece. The Elder Iakovos was educated in the village Church School of Saint Paraskevi. Young Iakovos expressed from a young age an inclination for monastic life. He was known as the monk in the village because of his monastic practices of fasting and prayer. While still a young boy he had a visitation from Saint Paraskevi who revealed to him in detail the religious life that he would follow in his life. His fervor for the Church from a young boy was so profound that he learned by heart the whole text of the Divine Liturgy at age seven. He became seriously ill at the age of fifteen but survived. The Second World War broke out five years later. His health was impaired again during the war and he lost his mother in 1942. During the German occupation of Greece he and many of his fellow villagers were taken prisoner by the Germans. They were taken to the village Strofilia. He and his fellow Greeks suffered terribly during the German occupation of Greece and later with the civil war that broke out with the communists. He was drafted into the Greek army in 1947 and was discharged in 1949. In 1949 his father passed on to eternal life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (3 of 6) - The Snares of the Demons

3. The Snares of the Demons

The guiles which are used by the demons to tempts man are innumerable22 and the assaults come from all sides in a most harrowing fashion.23 Chrysostom says the demons "sweat" and "take pains" to tempt us;24 Abba Isaiah and Barsanuphios agree that they never rest from assaulting us.25 John in similar terms refers to the devil as having "ten thousand heads" (μυριοκέφαλος)26 and exclaims: "'I was amazed at the diversity of evil,'27 and 'My hair and my flesh quivered,' said Eliphaz (Job 4:15), when describing the malice of the demon."28

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (2 of 6) - The Demonology of the Ascetic Fathers

...continued from part one.

1. The Demonology of the Ascetic Fathers

Whatever the predominance of demons in John, other ascetic sources, for instance the Life of Saint Anthony, reflect an even greater preoccupation with them. John approaches Evagrios who regards "demon" (δαίμων) and "thought" (λογισμός) as almost interchangeable, where however the former overrides the latter. Klimakos tends to follow the Palestinian tradition: like Barsanuphios, he is concerned not with apparitions but with the inward ascetic struggle. The demons are present, but they do not stand out. His attention is drawn to the almost frightening inner scale and power of demonic activity and its vertiginous possibilities. He elaborates an intricate and subtle strategy to defend and immunize the attacked human person. The demons are not mere fragments enlisted to act as scapegoats, to impersonate warring elements with a psyche divided against itself. Nor are they, as some would have us believe,19 purely psychological, that is, mere subjective states in a phantasmagorian tale. They are represented as real forces, but functionally rather than in terms of some monsters in classical or popular mythology. Western mystical thought, for example the medieval association of demons with the seven deadly sins, and even more modern psychology - the super-ego, ego and id spring to mind - tend to incorporate and, in a sense, de-mythologize demons into parts of the structure of the human person. The demons, if any, are understood to be unregulated drives of man that force him to act according to his deep-seated desires or, theologically speaking, as part of a state of guilt, inherited by man from Adam.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (1 of 6) - The Evil Spirits

By John Chryssavgis

1. The Evil Spirits

The importance of the demonological theme in John's spirituality can be gauged from the account of his anthropology. At times, demons seem to dominate the stage, although he never succumbed to any obsession with demonology of the kind which characterized second and third century Gnosticism and which was responsible for the erection of a vast and complex system of demonic hierarchies. Still, John reflects an intense experience of demonic influence, which brings about splits and conflicts within man and impels him to struggle against its divisive claims. To split, to divert, to shift, to disrupt is its essential procedure; but the struggle is basically within man. Indeed, in the East it is accepted that demons approach us in the form corresponding to our own inward state. Satan says to Saint Anthony: "It is not I who trouble them [the monks], it is they who trouble themselves."1 Thus demonology does in some measure signify, though it is not reducible to, psychology. Nonetheless, John's demonological language is at times highly objectified, pointing, as will be seen, to real agents rather than imaginary shadows.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Nature and Origin of Evil According to the Eastern Christian Church

By Marina Luptakova
(Institute of Criminology and Social Prevention, Praha)

Sitting in a stuffy and filthy inn, Ivan Karamazov hurls into the face of his younger brother, the novice Alyosha – who according to Dostoevsky’s intentions (not fully accomplished, needful to say) should embody in himself Christian love and humility – utters words filled with ultimate pain and cruelness, which reject the world created by God:

“Yet would you believe it, in the final result I don’t accept this world of God’s, and, although I know it exists, I don’t accept it at all… I believe like a child that… in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice… for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive, but to justify all that has happened with men – yet though all that may come to pass, I don't accept it. I won't accept it.”

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Did St. Nikolai Velimirovich Write Against Halloween?

St. Nikolai Velimirovich

By John Sanidopoulos

In 2009 I wrote an introductory essay regarding my views on Halloween, titled "Orthodoxy and Halloween: Separating Fact from Fiction". Since then I have expanded on this article in many posts. This is a subject I first wrote about in the seventh grade when I was 12 years old for a class assignment, and ever since then I have collected and read everything I possibly can on the subject. When I wrote my article in 2009, by then I had researched everything I could possibly find on the subject written by Orthodox Christians. I even looked on Serbian, Russian, Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian websites. Despite all my research, I had never come across anything written by an Orthodox saint on the subject, let alone St. Nikolai Velimirovich. Yet somehow, suddenly, an essay allegedly by St. Nikolai has begun to circulate online that not only denounces Halloween and everything associated with it, but does so in a way many Orthodox websites and parishes do - by spreading false information and gross exaggerations based on very unreliable sources. As an admirer of St. Nikolai, I found this very peculiar.

The closest I ever came across Halloween being even mentioned is an often circulated story relating to St. John Maximovitch, but this story has NOTHING to do with Halloween, despite the author of the story trying to make it like it does. Rather, it is clearly a story of St. John's justified disappointment in the people of his church for not attending the vigil of the first feast of the glorification of St. John of Kronstadt (according to the Julian Calendar). Halloween is attached to this story only because the members of his church were attending a Halloween dance instead, even in the same church as where the vigil was taking place. People treat this story as if St. John would not have been disappointed if the members of his church skipped out on the vigil for any other reason. This is hardly a critique of Halloween, and until today I never even bothered wasting my time responding to this and treating it as anything to do with Halloween in particular. If St. John did have an opinion about Halloween, we do not know what it was, nor should it even matter. Halloween as it is celebrated today has its origins in America, not Russia or Shanghai or even Western Europe, and if you didn't grow up with it then it is as meaningless as any other national or cultural holiday around the world you aren't attached to. The same could be said if St. Nikolai wrote the essay on Halloween, as many allege. But did he?

As I said, while reading the supposed essay by St. Nikolai, I noticed something peculiar. It basically rehashed everything taught about the holiday by modern day pagans, fundamentalist Protestant literature, and Catholic and Orthodox conservatives and extremists, whether they are written out of ignorance or not. And most of this literature was written after St. Nikolai's time, let alone the fact that it bore a close resemblance to other Orthodox literature on the subject.

Anyone who follows my website Mystagogy ( knows that I love St. Nikolai and have posted many things by him. Being aware of the liberal movement in Serbia against St. Nikolai and his canonization, I even posted something in St. Nikolai's defense titled "Response To Slanders Against St. Nikolai Velimirovich and St. Justin Popovich". St. Nikolai is often accused of being well treated while at Dachau concentration camp, but in reality just to be in a concentration camp is hard enough. My grandfather was also a prisoner at Dachau concentration camp, but he had certain privileges, perhaps like St. Nikolai whom he may have known, because when he was taken by Germans in Greece, it was for the sake of being an experienced electrician that he was brought to Dachau, which was a rare find those days by the Nazi's among their prisoners. But this experience at the concentration camp scarred my grandfather for life and he would even steal from the kitchen to feed less privileged prisoners and also helped a few prisoners escape from Dachau. Yet I am also aware of the unfortunate fact that after St. Nikolai left Dachau, he became more conservative in his views on certain matters, some things for the better, some things not for the better. For example, concerning the latter, he was intrigued with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Sometimes I joke and ask: "What do Adolf Hitler and St. Nikolai Velimirovich have in common? They both encouraged the reading of the Protocols." I know its a Debbie downer punchline, but the "joke" is meant to accentuate the fact how evil this text is, despite many sanctified Orthodox recommending it, yet they did so and continue to do so out of ignorance, which is why I don't believe it affects anyone's holiness, unless they are presented with the truth of its forgery and they continue to deny the truth about this text. Then it only reveals an adherence to an ideology foreign to Orthodoxy. I don't believe St. Nikolai was exposed to any literature proving the forgery of this text.

Having said this, I would not have been very surprised if I found St. Nikolai being negative towards Halloween, so I decided to look on Serbian websites to find out if this was a Serbian text I had never noticed before. Indeed, I found the text on many Serbian websites, but it was clear that they were translations of the English text I had, and none of them gave a source. Usually they were posted on sites negative towards the secularization and Americanization of Serbia, and Halloween is one of those holidays slowly becoming more popular there. I can understand when Orthodox are negative towards Halloween in other countries, because outside of the American context it hardly fits, and in reality all it becomes is an excuse to have a costume party at a local club or something along those lines, which is hardly what Halloween is about. Yet these Orthodox websites in Eastern Europe and Russia still use false propaganda to make their point, which is unfortunate and not the right way in approaching either Halloween or any other topic.

After coming up with no source to the article in either Serbian or English, I decided to find every website in English that posted this essay. There were only a few, but in my search I discovered something interesting which is what I initially found peculiar. A Serbian Orthodox Church in Hermitage, Pennsylvania decided to post not only this essay allegedly written by St. Nikolai, but also an old essay on Halloween by Archpriest Victor Potapov from the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Washington D.C. When I wrote my original article in 2009 on Halloween, one of the main articles I was responding to was this article, and I even quote it in my article. And this is why St. Nikolai's alleged essay sounded so familiar. If you compare the two articles, they are almost verbatim identical. The main difference is that St. Nikolai's is written specifically for a Serbian American audience, while Fr. Victor's essay is written primarily for a Russian American audience. It became pretty clear at this point what happened: someone reworked the essay by Fr. Victor and Serbianized it, and they made it a forged document of St. Nikolai Velimirovich.

To prove my theory, I decided to email Fr. Victor last night about this confusion. Here is what I wrote:

Greetings Father Victor:

Yesterday I was sent an article supposedly written by St. Nikolai Velimirovich on the topic of Halloween. However, in researching its origins, I could not find a source, but I did notice that your article on Halloween is practically verbatim from the same article, yet you make no reference to St Nikolai. Personally I find it odd that you would not back up your article with the authority of a Saint, which makes me wonder as to its authenticity. So I was wondering if you could help clarify for me the following:

1. Did you borrow from St. Nikolai?

2. Did someone summarize and Serbanize your article and make it as if St Nikolai wrote it?

3. If St Nikolai did write it, do you know the source of origin?

Here is the link to St Nikolai's article:

Thank you very much for your help,

John Sanidopoulos

Early this morning Fr. Victor kindly and promptly responded to my email, saying:

Dear John,

This was written by me over twenty years ago. Mystifies me how the great saint got involved. Not even sure he wrote on Halloween. Doesn't fit his style. This particular article has also been attributed to Archbishop Kirill of San Francisco.

These things happen. I worked at the Voice of America for many years doing religious broadcasting and often carried Archbishop John Shakhovskoy's wonderful little talk on the importance of doing little good works (don't remember verbatim the title). After a while I noticed that the exact same piece in Russia was attributed to the elder John Krestiankin. Go figure how that happened.

So I leave you with that.

A blessed St. John of Kronstadt day to you.

In XC,

Fr. Victor

Need I say more on this subject. The document allegedly written by St. Nikolai Velimirovich on the topic of Halloween is a forgery.

But how did this forgery begin. Was there ill intention, or was there confusion? In my research last night I think I discovered the answer. Towards the bottom of this link from the website of the St. Luke's Serbian Orthodox Mission in Toronto, Canada there is an article titled "HALLOWEEN". You will see that though the article is not given an author, on the page with the list of articles it appears that St. Nikolai of Zhicha could be its author if you don't look carefully at the structure of the page. This is where I believe the confusion originated.

If you see this article circulating anywhere that is falsely attributed to St. Nikolai Velimirovich, please inform whoever is distributing it about this confusion, and feel free to send them a copy of this article. And remember, when you share any text, make sure its author is in fact who it is attributed to.

For more information: Halloween Resource Page