Monday, December 29, 2014

The Magi and Astrology

Since the Magi believed that there was a mystical influence of the stars upon earthlings, they would constantly study the heavens, seeking extraordinary signs which might herald the "Expected One", as it was prophesied by the soothsayer Balaam and the Prophet Daniel in the 70 Weeks Prophecy he made while in Babylon. As Blessed Theophylact, Patriarch of Bulgaria, aptly states: "Because the Magi were astrologists, the Lord brought them in an ordinary manner, as Peter, being a fisherman, came away from the multitude of the fish."1 The well known Dismissal hymn for Christmas also speaks of them, saying, "For they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship You, the Sun of righteousness, and to know You, the Dayspring on high."2

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Magi and Magicians

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

And again we are made worthy by God to be festive and celebrate the great Despotic Feast of Christmas, or the birth of Christ, which celebrates the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who assumed human nature, became the God-man and was born among men to free us from the dominion of sin, the devil and death.

We again see all of creation glorify the newborn Christ, as we chant triumphantly in the Kontakion of Saint Romanos the Melodist: "Angels with the Shepherds glorify Him, Magi with the Star journey to Him." The center of all creation is Christ, who is glorified by it, and He illuminates all and everything.

Among those who were made worthy to worship the newborn Christ and whom we remember every Christmas are the Magi of the east who saw the Star, understood that a great event took place, and they followed it to reach Bethlehem to place their gifts before Christ - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Indeed, the Fathers saw symbolism in these gifts, since gold is a royal color, frankincense signifies divinity, and myrrh signifies death, and so the Magi honor Christ as King, God and as One who suffers and rises.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Date of Christmas Does NOT Have Pagan Origins

The Star indicates the exact spot, according to tradition, where Christ was born in Bethlehem.
Did Christians "christianize" the pagan feast of Sol Invictus (Birth of the Unconquered Sun) and make it Christmas on December 25th?

The short answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT, and it is refreshing to see at least a few articles on the internet disproving this long held myth perpetuated by Atheists, Pagans and Protestants.

Below are a few of my favorite articles which undoubtedly demonstrate that the Christian celebration of Christmas on December 25 came before the pagan festival of Sol Invictus rather than the other way around:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why is Saint Anastasia Known as the "Deliverer From Potions" (Pharmakolitria)?

By John Sanidopoulos

The Great Martyr Anastasia of Sirmium was martyred sometime between 290 and 304, but after her relics were transferred to Constantinople in the fifth century, during the reign of Emperor Leo I, and to Rome in the sixth century, her popularity quickly rose throughout the Christian world. In Constantinople, they were installed in the fourth century Anastasis Church in the Portico of Domninus, near Constantine's forum. In old Rome, they were installed in the fourth century titular basilica of Saint Anastasia, built perhaps by Constantine's sister, Anastasia, to honor either the Resurrection of Christ or the original Roman martyr of the same name. In 824 Theodore Krithinos, oikonomos of the Great Church, travelled to Rome on an embassy to the Pope, and while there discovered an anonymous long Passion narrative of St. Anastasia written in Latin. After translating it to Greek, he brought it to Constantinople, which helped spark a revival in devotion to the Saint. Because of these events, churches throughout the Roman Empire were dedicated to her, and in each were iconographic portrayals of her holding a medicine bottle. Why?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

St. Dionysius the Areopagite on the Relationship Between Demons and Evil

By St. Dionysius the Areopagite

But, neither are the demons evil by nature; for, if they are evil by nature, neither are they from the Good, nor amongst things existing; nor, in fact, did they change from good, being by nature, and always, evil. Then, are they evil to themselves or to others? If to themselves, they also destroy themselves; but if to others, how destroying, or what destroying?----Essence, or power, or energy? If indeed Essence, in the first place, it is not contrary to nature; for they do not destroy things indestructible by nature, but things receptive of destruction. Then, neither is this an evil for every one, and in every case; but, not even any existing thing is destroyed, in so far as it is essence and nature, but by the defect of nature's order, the principle of harmony and proportion lacks the power to remain as it was. But the lack of strength is not complete, for the complete lack of power takes away even the disease and the subject; and such a disease will be even a destruction of itself; so that, such a thing is not an evil, but a defective good, for that which has no part of the Good will not be amongst things which exist. And with regard to the destruction of power and energy the principle is the same. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

St. Daniel the Stylite and the Demon Haunted Church

St. Daniel the Stylite (Feast Day - December 11) 
Once he [Daniel] heard some men conversing in the Syrian dialect and saying that there was a church in that place inhabited by demons who often sank ships and had injured, and still were injuring, many of the passers-by, and that it was impossible for anyone to walk along that road in the evening or even at noonday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (6 of 6) - Positive View of Demons

...continued from part five.

6. Positive View of Demons

Without temptation the monk could never reach perfection, and so he should thank the Lord for the trials he undergoes.93 Abba Anthony said, "Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven;" and even stronger: "Without temptations no one can be saved."94 The temptations thereby acquire a eucharistic quality, that is to say, they are an occasion for thanksgiving. Origen already stated: "Let us give thanks for the goods revealed to us through temptations."95 And, much later, Symeon the New Theologian wrote: "Learn to love temptations as if they are to be the cause of all good for you."96 The demons have no power by themselves; they do what they do because God allows them to do it. In this sense,97 they are to be seen as instruments used by God for man's salvation. Ultimately, they are a cause of our crowns, and the more there are of them, the more abundant are the crowns.98 Without sorrow, there can be no salvation. Thus the monks in the Prison, in mood of well-nigh self-torture, even pray for temptations and affliction: "And some prayed to become possessed by devils; others begged the Lord that they might fall into epilepsy; some wished to lose their eyes and present a pitiful spectacle; other, to become paralyzed."99 Everything, to the most cruel snare of the devil, transforms into a part of God's design: "Wonderful sight - a demon curing a demon. But perhaps this the work not of demons but of divine providence."100

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (5 of 6) - Indirect Warfare

5. Indirect Warfare

Speaking of man's struggle against the demons, Barsanuphios says: "Do not argue with them, for this is what they want and they will never stop."83 John's advice is likewise to fight the demons indirectly, disregarding them and doing the exact opposite of what they intimate.84 This is achieved by feeding one's mind with good thoughts each time the demons sow their evil ones.85 This does not contrast with Evagrius' exhortation "to stand there firmly" and not "to flee and to shun such conflicts."86 John refers to the manner of outflanking the demons while actually facing the battle: it could be suicidal to attempt to fight them directly,87 or even to attempt "to overthrow them with retaliations and pleadings."88 The attitude towards them should be one of "mindfulness of evil": "Having remembrance of wrongs and spitefulness against the demons."89 One must lead one's energy elsewhere, in the direction of doing good, but at the same time being firmly conscious of the facing enemy. All these propositions: that one should not be involved with the demons but rather mind one's own business,90 that one should fight them positively yet indirectly,91 and that one should not underestimate the demons,92 are emphasized in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder (4 of 6) - The Struggle Against Demons

4. The Struggle Against Demons

No sin is attributed to the mere fact of being attacked by the demons and indeed we are called "blessed" if we endure their attacks. What is wrong is to give cause to them for tempting us, either though "carelessness" or pride.59 Just as there are many ways in which the demons wage war against man, so there are many ways of defending oneself and fighting them, using at times their own tactics: "By divine inspiration he contrived to conquer the guile of the spirits by a pious ruse."60 The aim is not merely to wrestle with them, not merely to engage in combat, but to take the initiative in driving them away, to open fire and declare war on them.61 The Shepherd of Hermas makes this clear: "The devil is able to wrestle with us but not to overcome us in the wrestle."62 Symeon the New Theologian's explanation is particularly pointed:

It is one thing to resist and fight one's enemies and another thing to completely defeat and subdue them, putting them to death; for the first belongs to athletes and those brave in asceticism but the second belongs rather to the dispassionate and perfect.63