Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fr. John Romanides on Extraterrestrial Alien Life

In November 2010 it was reported that the Vatican called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church. The Director of the Vatican Observatory commented that the discovery of possible alien life would have "many philosophical and theological implications" for Catholics. In 1965 Fr. John Romanides offered a valuable resource on this topic for a series run by the Boston Globe that explored this topic from various religious perspectives. In the fifth response of this series, he gives the unique Orthodox perspective. The full text is below. 

All Planets the Same: Religion’s Response to Space Life V

Rev. John S. Romanides, Ph.D
The Boston Globe
April 8, 1965

I can foresee no way in which the teachings of the Orthodox Christian tradition could be affected by the discovery of intelligent beings on another planet. Some of my colleagues feel that even a discussion of the consequences of such a possibility is in itself a waste of time for serious theology and borders on the fringes of foolishness.

I am tempted to agree with them for several reasons.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Do Orthodox Icons Depict UFO's?

By John Sanidopoulos

Almost every special on television that speaks about the historical evidence of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO's) and alien life inevitably cites Orthodox icons as proof that certain Christians of the Byzantine/Roman Empire believed in UFO's or alien spacecraft. Of course, for everyone that knows the basic method of interpreting Orthodox icons, this is clearly not the case and is a total misrepresentation of the basic interpretation of Byzantine iconography.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why Saint George is Often Depicted Slaying a Dragon

By John Sanidopoulos

The well-known story of St. George killing the dragon is obviously a legend and not a fact of history, since dragons do not exist, unless we are speaking of the Komodo dragon, but it is unlikely the Komodo dragon would appear in the Middle East from Indonesia and pose the threat described in the tale.

The depiction in iconography of St. George as a dragonslayer is purely symbolic art, and this story is nowhere to be found in the rich hymnography of the Orthodox Church, which references the most realistic elements of the lives of the saints. For example, often in iconography we see St. John the Baptist depicted with wings, but this illustration is purely symbolic of him being an earthly angel and divine messenger. Another example is the depiction of halos around the heads of the saints, which is symbolic of their heavenly citizenship and the Divine Light of their deification and their being filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, April 13, 2015

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite on Inappropriate Ways To Celebrate Pascha

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Now, my Christian brethren, do you bear it in your soul, instead of thanking and glorifying the sweetest Jesus Christ, and God the Father your Creator, you dishonor Him and intimidate Him with the demonic acts which you do on the day of His Resurrection? He endured so much to free you from sin, and you again bring it back to life? He resurrected to raise you from evil, and you again fall? And when? On the same days on which He raised you. O great ingratitude! O unheard of hard-hearted Christians!

You who throughout Holy Great Lent and Holy Week lift up your hands and pray and do your cross, and when Pascha comes, you dare to make those hands instruments of sin, playing tambourines and lyres and other diabolical games?

You who with your tongue and lips commune of the Body and Blood of Christ and chant such spiritual and divine songs on the day of Pascha, and after with the same tongue and lips sing pornographic and diabolic songs?

Friday, April 10, 2015

"Pascha" or "Easter" or Both?

Many Orthodox Christians insist "Pascha" or any derivitive of the word Passover is the only correct name for the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, among possibly other liturgical words for the feast, but insist the word "Easter" is innapropriate because it supposedly has pagan origins. Does it truly have pagan origins that would prohibit its use? Or are there in fact justifiable reasons to allow for "Pascha" and "Easter" to both be used with a clean conscience. Since "Pascha" is without controversy, we will examine these things for the word "Easter".

Etymological relation vs. etymological descendance

The word "Easter" has some etymological baggage. Some Christians are wary of using the word because of its supposed pagan origin. The Venerable Bede (672-735) asserted that the word "Easter" derived from "Eostre", the goddess of the Saxons (De Ratione Temporum). In modern times Alexander Hislop connected Easter to the Babylonian goddess Astarte (The Two Babylons, 1858). Apparently, there was indeed a goddess by the name "Eostre" ("Ostara" in German). Hence it seems that "Easter" and "Eostre" are etymologically related. However, it is foolish to take etymological relation as evidence of a "pagan connection" between "Easter" and "Eostre". To see the foolishness of this, consider the following example: There was a Christian theologian in the third century by the name of "Lucian" of Antioch. There is also the name "Lucifer" ascribed to Satan (Isaiah 14:12). Both "Lucian" and "Lucifer" are derived from the Latin word for "light (lucis)". This means that "Lucian" and "Lucifer" are etymologically related. However, neither is an etymological descendant of the other, which means neither name is derived from the other name. Each name is a separate etymological descendant of the root word for light, "lucis". Thus it would be foolish to say, "A Christian should never call himself Lucian because the word is related to Lucifer!" Etymological relation between a negative word (i.e. Lucifer) and the impugned word (i.e. Lucian) does not mean anything. The issue is whether the impugned word is an etymological descendant of the negative word. As for "Lucian", it is not an etymological descendant of "Lucifer". Likewise, Easter is not an etymological descendant of Eostre but rather a separate etymological descendant of a common root word which in itself carries a neutral connotation.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Was Easter Borrowed From a Pagan Holiday?

The historical evidence contradicts this popular notion.

Anthony McRoy
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Christianity Today

Anyone encountering anti-Christian polemics will quickly come up against the accusation that a major festival practiced by Christians across the globe — namely, Easter — was actually borrowed or rather usurped from a pagan celebration. I often encounter this idea among Muslims who claim that later Christians compromised with paganism to dilute the original faith of Jesus.

The argument largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes from pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is the Christian Passover festival.

Of course, even if Christians did engage in contextualization — expressing their message and worship in the language or forms of the local people — that in no way implies doctrinal compromise. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to biblical norms. After all, Christians speak of "Good Friday," but they are in no way honoring the worship of the Norse/Germanic queen of the gods Freya by doing so.

But, in fact, in the case of Easter the evidence suggests otherwise: that neither the commemoration of Christ's death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism.

Friday, April 3, 2015

St. Ephraim the Syrian on the Enemy of our Salvation

Knowing, then, brethren, [the Enemy’s] weakness,
let us attend to ourselves, imitating the Fathers.

If we walk in the way that they walked in,
we shall find in it that the Lord Jesus
has become for us guide and fellow-worker.

When then Enemy sees that Christ, the true Light,
is with us, he will not dare
to look at us at all, for the light that is in us
blinds his eyes. So, as I said before,
brethren, lovers of Christ, let us be determined
to purify our hearts, so as to draw upon us
the grace of the Spirit for our assistance;
and no longer does the evil one have power against us.