Friday, February 29, 2008

From the Menaion - 29 February


On 29 February, we commemorate our venerable father Cassian the Roman.

To his glory, Cassian passed from earth to Heaven like a smoking censer fragrant with cassia. Once in every four years, we keep the memorial of this great-hearted monk on the twenty-ninth.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

From the Menaion - 28 February


On 28 February, we commemorate our venerable father Basil the Confessor, companion in asceticism to holy Procopios.

Basil carried Christ in his soul. But he renders up that soul, releasing the shadow for the sake of the true Good. On the twenty-eighth, the earth offers his body a refuge, but his spirit exults in joy in Heaven.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

From the Menaion - 27 February


On 27 February, we commemorate our venerable father Procopios the Decapolitan, a Confessor of the Faith.

O inhabitant of the Ten Cities of the Decapolis, no city on earth was able to please you as much as the Heavenly City for which you longed. Remaining constant in adversity, O Procopios, you finished your race on the twenty-seventh, and now you rejoice.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

From the Menaion - 26 February


On 26 February, we commemorate our venerable father Porphyrios, bishop of Gaza.

Who would dare to pass over Porphyrios in silence? Especially since he passed over from earth to Heaven! On the twenty-sixth, the earth buried his remains, but time can never bury his fame.

On the same day, we commemorate the holy martyr Photina the Samaritan, to whom Christ had spoken by the well.

They cast into a well that Samaritan woman who had found at the well the fountain of living waters in Christ.

By their holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Monday, February 25, 2008

From the Menaion - 25 February


On 25 February, we commemorate our father among the saints Tarasios, Archbishop of Constantinople.

Saved from the storm as an able sailor, he found a serene harbor far from the world. Having brought about the triumph of Orthodoxy, Tarasios enters into rest on the twenty-fifth.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Synaxarion of the Third Sunday of Lent

Kontakion in Tone Seven

The Angel's fiery sword will no longer guard the gate of Paradise, for the Cross of the Lord has put it out wondrously. The power of Death has been broken, the victory of Hades wiped out, and You, my Savior, have stood up and called out to all those bound in Hell: "Come now; enter again into Paradise!"


Pilate set up three crosses on Golgotha, two for the thieves and one for the Lord of life. Seeing this, Hades asked its servants: "Who has driven this spear into my heart? A wooden lance has pierced me, and I am torn apart. What pain has penetrated my womb and my heart! What sorrow stabs my spirit! I am forced to give up Adam and his children, those whom I had received from the forbidden Tree; for the new Tree leads them to enter again into Paradise.


On this day, the third Sunday of the Fast, we celebrate the feast of the veneration of the precious and life-giving Cross.

Let the whole creation bow down in woship before You, O Word, as it venerates Your life-giving Cross.

Wherefore, through its power, O Christ our God, protect us against the snares of the evil one, make us worthy to pass safely through the struggle of the Fast. May we adore Your divine Passion and Your life-giving Resurrection. Have mercy on us, for You alone are good and the Lover of Mankind. Amen.

From the Menaion - 24 February


On 24 February, we commemorate the first and second findings of the venerable head of the holy Prophet and Forerunner, John the Baptist.

“Bear worthy fruits of repentance!” exhorts the Forerunner once again, after the finding of his head. He who once baptized the multitudes in the waters now plunges them into the river of miracles. O Forerunner, you once fell under the headsman’s sword: on the twenty-fourth, you reveal your blessed head.

By the prayers of Your Forerunner, O Christ our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Third Sunday of Lent

The readings and hymns for the Third Sunday of Lent may be found here.

From the Menaion - 23 February


On 23 February, we commemorate the holy hieromartyr Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

Because the fire of love bore so much fruit, Polycarp was offered to the Lord in a fiery holocaust. On 23 February, the holy martyr came into the harbor of Heaven, to which his fire had led him.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hope for the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

From Today's Zaman comes this interesting story for which we can pray and hope a joyful ending.

Government warm to patriarch’s ‘ecumenical' title

Despite the absence of signs of preparation for a plan to recognize the ecumenical status of the İstanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate at the bureaucratic level, senior members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) haven't ruled out the possibility of amending the country's long-established policy on the controversial issue.

This new stance of the government was first displayed last Wednesday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Speaking at a joint press conference following his meeting with visiting Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Erdoğan said the government was working on a solution that would allow the Patriarchate to reopen a Greek Orthodox seminary in Turkey and emphasized that the government has been doing its best to make things easier for the Patriarchate.

"As a matter of fact, the ecumenical issue is an internal issue of the Orthodox Christian world. Turkey's positive attitude [toward the Patriarchate] has been revealed in the elections [of patriarchs] and is obvious," Erdoğan said without elaborating and in an apparent reference to the fact that patriarchs have been elected freely by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Two days later, more elaborated remarks on the issue came from Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, who is also the country's chief EU negotiator. In response to a question, Babacan initially referred the correspondent to Erdoğan's remarks, describing the issue as "an internal issue" for the Orthodox world.

"Actually, when we look at the issue with a long-term perspective and when we also take Turkey and İstanbul's position into consideration, perhaps it is an issue on which we should develop a new view and an issue which we should not consider taboo," Babacan said.

"Consequently, this issue will absolutely be spoken about and discussed. What matters in the long term is the position of Turkey and İstanbul in the world -- Turkey's power. What makes Turkey stronger or what makes Turkey weaker should be very carefully calculated," he added.

These remarks from Erdoğan and Babacan have already been interpreted as a divergence from Ankara's well-known stance of considering the Patriarchate a domestic issue since it is by law a Turkish institution.

While diplomats speaking with Today's Zaman refrained from interpreting these remarks, a statement by Egemen Bağış, a top foreign policy adviser to Erdoğan, strengthened assertions concerning the possibility of the government bringing in a new perspective on the issue.

"The Patriarchate is not an institution that was just founded yesterday. It is an institution that has been present in these lands throughout the centuries. There is a need for looking at the past and making an analysis of the periods during which the Patriarchate positively or negatively contributed to these lands," Bağış, now in charge of foreign policy affairs in the AK Party, told Today's Zaman.

Ankara does not recognize Patriarch Bartholomew's international role as the spiritual leader of hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians worldwide. It rejects his use of the title "ecumenical," or universal, arguing instead that the patriarch is merely the spiritual leader of İstanbul's dwindling Orthodox community.

The Fener Greek Patriarchate in İstanbul dates from the 1,100-year-old Orthodox Greek Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, today's İstanbul, in 1453. "After making such an analysis, if eventual assessment shows that Turkey's interests lay toward a certain choice, then Turkey should make this choice," Bağış said.

Last week, at the same press conference with Erdoğan, Karamanlis said having the Patriarchate based in Turkey was "an EU passport" for Turkey. Turkey's current position puts it at odds with the EU, with which it is involved in accession negotiations, as both the EU and Washington consider the status of the patriarch a matter of religious freedom.

Similar remarks came from Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who accompanied Karamanlis during the visit which ended on Friday, when she assessed the outcome of Karamanlis' visit.

"I believe that Turkey should become aware that the best ambassador for a European Turkey is İstanbul's Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate. The ecumenical patriarch is a Turkish citizen and he is a fierce supporter of Turkey's EU membership. Turkey should make sure this ecumenical Patriarchate institution is maintained. This means reopening the seminary on the island of Heybeliada, training of new generation priests and accepting religious freedom. I believe that the intention [of the Turkish government] is there. We can find a way through if there is intention," Bakoyannis was quoted as saying in remarks aired on the Web site of the BBC Turkish service on Saturday.

Turkey has also been resisting EU pressure to reopen the Halki seminary on the island of Heybeliada near İstanbul which was closed to new students in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control. The theological school once trained generations of Greek Orthodox leaders, including the current patriarch. The seminary remained open until 1985, when the last five students graduated.

An ethnic Greek but a Turkish citizen, Bartholomew says the dwindling Orthodox community could soon die out in Turkey if the seminary is not reopened.

Babacan, speaking with reporters over the weekend in Davos where he participated in a summit of the World Economic Forum, said the government has been working on reopening the seminary via ongoing studies at the Education Ministry as well as at the Higher Education Board (YÖK), the Hürriyet daily reported yesterday, noting that the minister did not elaborate further.


From the Meanion - 22 February


On 22 February, we commemorate the discovery of the remains of the holy martyrs in the district of Evgenios, at the time of the Emperor Arcadios.

The martyrs who had lain hidden under the ground, now purify the face of the earth from all evil. Their remains were rescued from eternal oblivion on the twenty-second. Their memory shall never again be forgotten.

By their holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

From the Menaion - 21 February


On 21 February, we commemorate our venerable father Timothy the Symbolite.

He who is God of the living and the dead has granted a life adorned with ineffable joy to Timothy, who was adorned by wondrous miracles. On the twenty-first, his body was placed in the tomb.

On this same day, we commemorate our father among the saints Eustathios, Patriarch of Antioch the Great.

O Eustathios, good shepherd and double-edged sword cutting down heresy, you are the subject of our hymns!

By the prayers of Your saints, O Christ our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

From the Menaion - 20 February


On 20 February, we commemorate our venerable father Leo the Wonderworker, Bishop of Catania.

Behold the body of Leo! “Who is he?” You ask. And the response comes, “He is the Bishop of Catania, a holy hierarch, who was laid in the tomb on the twentieth of February.”

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - Enough Said


(Hat tip to

From the Menaion - 19 February


On 19 February, we commemorate the holy apostles Archippos, Philemon, and Apphia.

For the love of his Master, who is the Corner-Stone, Archippos endured being stoned. Philemon was flayed by green branches for the sake of Him who led him into repose in green pastures. Apphia, that holy woman, was executed on the ground, while she lifted up the eyes of her soul to the heavens. Courageously suffering his passion on the nineteenth, Archippos was stoned to death for Christ.

On the same day, we commemorate our venerable mother Philothea of Athens.

I believe that Philothea is well worthy of Athens, for she conquered it by the armor of the Cross.

By their holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Monday, February 18, 2008

From the Menaion - 18 February


On 18 February, we commemorate our father among the saints Leo, Pope of Rome.

Leo peacefully commended his soul to the Lord, then the hosts of demons roared with fear. On the eighteenth, he passed on to a better place.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Synaxarion of the Second Sunday of Lent

Kontakion of the Holy Relics in Tone Eight

Through penance and mortification, the holy martyrs of Christ have overcome the disorder of their burning passions. During their lifetime, they had received the grace of healing the sick; after their death, they have the power of performing miracles. It is a great marvel indeed that healing should come forth from mere bones. Glory to the Creator, to God alone!

Kontakion of Gregory in Tone Eight

Holy and divine instrument of wisdom, joyful trumpet of theology, with one accord we sing your praises, O Gregory inspired by God! But since you stand now in mind and spirit before the Original Mind, guide our minds to Him, O father, that we may cry out to you: "Hail, O preacher of grace!"


You appeared on earth as an angelic messenger, proclaiming to mortal men the mysteries of God. Endowed with a human mind and flesh, yet speaking with the voice of the bodiless powers, you have filled us with amazement, O saint inspired by God, and made us cry aloud to you: "Hail, for through you the darkness is dispelled! Hail, for through you the light has returned! Hail, messenger of the uncreated Divinity! Hail, reprover of the created folly! Hail, height impossible to climb that tells us of God's nature! Hail, depth hard to scan, which speaks of His energy! Hail, for you have rightly proclaimed His glory! Hail, torch that shows us the Sun! Hail, cup filled with nectar! Hail, for through you the truth has shone forth! Hail, for through you falsehood has been plunged into darkness. Hail, preacher of grace!"


On this second Sunday of the Great Fast, we commemorate our holy father Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica.

Truly, the great preacher of the wondrous and brilliant Light has been led by the Fount of Light into unsetting Light.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us.

From the Menaion - 17 February


On 17 February, we commemorate the holy great-martyr Theodore the Recruit.

Shortly after being recruited, the soldier Theodore was immediately burned for the sake of the One whom he worshiped. On the seventeenth, he became a sweet-smelling holocaust.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Second Sunday of Lent

For the hymns and readings for the Second Sunday of Lent, go here.

Overcoming the Abortuary Volunteers

About three or four times a year, I am asked to lead prayers at the local abortuary. We stand on one side of the ditch by the road and offer prayers, and on the other side, the volunteers stare at us as though at any minute we might storm the grounds and pull the expectant mothers away kicking and screaming. Usually, I offer a few words to the pro-lifers between rosaries, hymns and Byzantine Prayers of Mercy for the souls of the children killed inside (with which I always conclude our prayers).

Over time, I have come to really look forward to these occasions for the "little" miracles that occur. For example, there used to be an off-duty policeman who wandered back and forth. On several occasions I spoke with him and he eventually decided that this was a moonlighting job he did not need. But more importantly, I have witnessed women who changed their minds, persuaded by the prayers, or perhaps a moment of clarity about what they had come to have happen. These times are joyous and also fascinating as the clinic volunteers, so ostensibly devoted to the woman’s right to choose, looked positively miserable that the mother would carry her child to term.

Last year, we had an interesting season at the abortuary as we joined in a forty-day vigil to end abortion. I say it was interesting because when I came for my turn leading the prayers I was frankly amazed at how the vigil had affected the pro-death volunteers. Apparently, having gotten used to our third Saturday practice, the fact that prayers were being said twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for a whole forty day period quite unnerved them. They attempted to drown out our prayers with loud Rock music - which led to repeated visit by the local constabulary who wagged the finger and told them to turn it down. (As a note, we do not use megaphones or amplifiers; just voices in prayer, never strident or overly loud.)

We did have one officer attempt to tell us that we were not allowed to speak to the women on their way in if they parked across the street. After a brief discussion about freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, the officer decided that he'd allow this conduct as long as the women going in did not protest. No problem. He was a nice guy; he just didn’t bank on someone schooled in the ways of protest a la the 1960’s and beyond. (“Know your rights; respect the law you’re working to change; and know you’re right!”)

The next time I came, the powers that abort had set up an orange plastic mesh fence - fairly tatty-looking, actually. The volunteers attempted to show what they must have considered a more “professional” manner. They worked in pairs and showed almost military precision. On that occasion, I started out speaking about the right of the woman to make decisions for her own body. Of course, this got the attention of the volunteers, who on that day had a small group of women from the local college out to join the fun. They listened attentively as I noted agreement that no one had a right to tell a woman what to do with her body. When I then noted that what is conceived in the womb, the fetus, is not her body but another human being whose rights are being denied they seemed stunned at the thought.

Today was most interesting as it was so telling about how things stand. When I arrived our people were at their usual positions. The volunteers, however, had brought children’s musical instruments! Toy accordions, little hand bells, jingle bells, even a little triangle bell. As I began my opening talk, the accordion and other instruments began a cacophonous racket. I also noticed that they now also carried signs, one of which warned patrons of the abortuary not to open the window and take a pamphlet from a protestor.

Needless to say, we carried on, although I must admit the lullaby was slightly distracting. While we prayed and sang, several police cars came by – why, I don’t know, but it added to the almost circus-like atmosphere. The accordion “player” attempted a few slogans that seemed trite and borne out of frustration at our presence. At one point he broke into the worst “rendition” of “This Land is Your Land” imaginable. It almost drifted into “Winter Wonderland” – no, I’m not kidding. The fact that children were being killed, literally ripped apart, inside probably didn’t occur to him.

On reflection, several things came to mind about the clinic's volunteers/ "deathscorts".

Firstly, the volunteers seem to fear that they are losing the battle. The use of children’s toy musical instruments would be silly if it were not such a pathetic display.

Secondly, while they no doubt view themselves as proponents of equal rights for women they are decidedly anti-democratic. The use of the musical instruments indicates that they do not want the prayers to be heard, and the signs warning patrons against reading our ‘subversive’ materials also reflect this.

Thirdly, assuming that the volunteers were the ones who called the police, it would seem likely that they desire some sort of confrontation to develop, perhaps in the hope of getting one or more of the pro-life protestors arrested or else raising our “fear level”. In the case of these volunteers, the possibility for violence is not so farfetched. One of the larger middle-aged men, who is almost always present, has been known to grab placards and rip them up.

Fourthly, rather than intimidate us, the volunteers have actually invigorated us. After being subjected to “This Land is Your Land” we all broke into “We Shall Overcome”.

And in this regard, I consider “We Shall Overcome” entirely appropriate. As protestors fought for equal rights for black in the 1960’s, our cause is of the same cloth. It is innocent children who are being denied equal protection, who are being treated as slaves, property to be disposed of, who are deserving of our assistance in their cause.

May our Lord convict us all to end this barbaric practice soon

From the Menaion - 16 February


On 16 February, we commemorate the holy martyrs Pamphilos, Valens, Paul, Seleucos, Porphyros, Theodulos, Julian, Elias, Jeremiah, Samuel, Isaiah and Daniel.

Cherishing You above all things, O Word, Pamphilos voluntarily surrendered his head and died as the first in line. Like Paul, Seleucos and Valens joyfully suffered their decapitation. Burning with love for Christ in their souls, two proven witnesses are cast into the fire. The servants of error crucified on a tree Theodulos, the servant of the True God who had been sent to the cross. By their beheading, five athletes joined the glory of martyrdom to their names taken from the prophets. By a sword, on the sixteenth, the unforgettable Pamphilos drew his last breath.

By the prayers of Your saints, O Christ our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2008

From the Menaion - 15 February


On 15 February, we commemorate the holy apostle Onesimos, the disciple of the holy Paul

In martyrdom, as an athlete, Onesimos stretched out on the ground his legs, which had been so prompt to run the race of holy Paul; and they shattered them with stones. On the fifteenth, he won the laurel wreath and victory hymn.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

From the Menaion - 14 February


On 14 February, we commemorate our venerable father Auxentios, who lived on Mount Skopa.

The mount was for Auxentios what Carmel had been for the prophet Elijah. Imitating his career in all but the final ascent, he left this life for Heaven on the fourteenth.

On this same day, we commemorate our venerable father Maron.

O Maron, your flesh which was withered by nature was transplanted into Eden as it became a blossoming flower.

By their holy praeyrs, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

From the Menaion - 13 February


On 13 February, we commemorate our venerable father Martinian.

Martinian, you blew out the flame of the passions and did not give in to the woman's charms. Thus, after death, you escaped the unending flame. On the thirteenth, his soul was freed from the pull of the flesh.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

From the Menaion - 12 February


On 12 February, we commemorate our father among the saints Meletios, Archbishop of Antioch the Great.

To imitate Christ in His last words, Meletios lifted up his arms and said this prayer, "Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!" On the twelfth, he was buried in the earth like a grain of wheat.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Monday, February 11, 2008

From the Menaion - 11 February


On 11 February, we commemorate the holy hieromartyr Blaise, Archbishop of Sebastea.

Holy Blase, the martyr slaughter by the sword, visits the sick and heals those who suffer physical ailments in their throats. The iron cut your throat on the eleventh, O Blaise, and you died.

On the same day, we commemorate the two holy infants and the seven holy women, companions in martyrdom with holy Blaise, who perished under the sword.

With courage those two infants showed in their martyrdom! They both hastened to see who would arrive first. The seven women believed in Christ. O sword, you split them asunder, but their courage was not diminished.

On the same day, we commemorate the empress Theodora, who strengthened Orthodoxy by restoring the veneration of the icons.

Theodora, the pious empress has a right to the crown which is offered to her by Christ the King!

By their holy prayers, O Christ, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Synaxarion - Sunday of Orthodoxy


The mystery of our salvation was once announced by the divinely-inspired prophets. They foretold this illumination for us who have arrived at the last days. By it, we receive knowledge of God, the one God and Lord, glorified in Three Persons; and we werve Him alone, having one Faith and one Baptism, we have put on Christ. Wherefore, we confess our salvation in word and in deed, and we restore our likeness to God.


On this same day, the First Sunday of Lent, we commemorate the restoration of the holy icons, which came about in the reign of Michael, Emperor of Constantinople, and his mother Theodora, of eternal memory, and under the pontificate of the holy Patriarch and confessor Methodios.

The icons had once been banished; I exult as I see their veneration restored.

At the prayers of You holy Confessors, O Christ, immutable Icon of the Father, take pity on us. Amen.

From the Menaion - 10 February


On 10 February, we commemorate the holy hieromartyr Charalampos.

By the sword, you merited the splendor and joy of the martyrs which shines like a lamp. On 10 February, you were beheaded for love of Christ, O holy martyr Charalampos!

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

First Sunday of Lent

For the Hymns and Readings of the First Sunday of Lent, go here.

For the text of the Synodikon, go here.

From the Triodion - Saturday of the First Week of Lent

Troparion of Theodore in Tone Two

Faith can accomplish great things: because of its power, through it the Holy Great Martyr Theodore rejoiced in the midst of the flames as if he had been in refreshing water. Burned by the flames, he was offered to the Holy Trinity as delightful bread. Through his intercessions, O Christ God, save our souls.

Kontakion of Theodore in Tone Eight

Your faith in Christ was like a breastplate on our heart. Through it, you overcame the enemies' power; wherefore, you are crowned in eternity with a heavenly diadem.


O You who are seated on a throne of light, with faith and thankfulness we sing Your praise. For You have granted us a "Gift of God", Theodore, courageous in his martyrdom, thrice-blessed in his life, the champion of the truth. With firm devotion, he held fast to Christ and proved to be a mighty victor over the deceitful Enemy, wherefore he was crowned in eternity with a heavenly diadem.


On the same day, the Saturday of the first week of the Great Fast, we celebrate the splendid miracle which ws performed by the glorious among the martyrs, Theodore the Recruit, through the boiled wheat.

By boiled wheat, Theodore has fed the city, frustrating the deception of the food polluted by impiety.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

From the Menaion - 9 February


On 9 February, we commemroate the holy martyr Nicephoros.

He who bore the name of victory from infancy, became a true trophy-bearing victor in the eyes of God, but not in the sight of the executioner. On the ninth, Nicephoros bared his neck to the sword.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Religious Discourse in the Political Domain

An Argument Without Appeal to Religion

(This is an expanded version of an editorial I recently submitted to the local newspaper.)

A recent letter to the editor in the local paper took issue with political issues being aired in and by religious institutions. The writer essentially argued that it is improper. He asserted that were he to attend a church service and something he deemed political be put forward he would walk out.

But the writer did not address the question itself of whether religion does or ought to have voice in the political life of a society. True, the author of the letter and, no doubt, a large number of others would argue that it is improper, or even immoral, for a religious organization to support, endorse, or oppose particular candidates or parties. The fear is that allowing religious authority to influence a political race could lead to a despotic theocracy in which one candidate, party or position would receive divine approbation and all others divine recrimination. This fear is so pervasive in American society that charitable tax exemptions can be withdrawn if the IRS determines that a religious institution has endorsed or condemned a particular party or candidate.

I would certainly agree that it is highly improper for a religious leader to endorse or oppose particular candidates. Even when such opinions are expressed as personal opinions there remains potential for a perception of an institutional endorsement. What's more, taking such specific public positions risks linking the religious institution to one or the other party or candidate, and thus potentially alienating members of its own flock who might support the other side.

However, it is irrational to suppose that religious institutions and religious leaders should be silent regarding all things political. Indeed, it is impossible. While it would be immoral (if not illegal) for a religious institution to endorse particular candidates or parties, it would be hypocritical for a religion to proclaim certain values and then remain silent in the face of political issues that directly relate to those values. This is decidedly different from supporting or opposing candidates and political parties. To argue otherwise is ipso facto to deny to religion the right to a voice in the public sphere and the right to integrity in what it proclaims.

Every religion, and thus every religious institution, deals with matters of faith and dogma, of belief and practice. 'Practice' necessarily entails matters of ethics and morality. This is because all religions encompass a way of life and as such influence how practitioners interact with others and the way questions of ethical import are framed and resolved. Differing faiths may hold differing views, but it is axiomatic that any faith will influence its adherents in accord with the principles that faith proclaims.

The coherence between what a religion preaches and what it demands in practice constitutes its internal integrity. The charge of hypocrisy is rightly laid at adherents of a religion when their practice and behavior betrays an incongruity with what the religion believes and proclaims. When a religion itself is discovered to be fully incongruent in its practice versus its belief people rightly deem it a cult and a scam.

Inevitably, what at the micro level is the province of ethics is at the macro level a matter of politics. The principles that guide my interactions with others inform my views on decisions that relate to the larger community in which I live and the state and country of which I am a citizen. Thus if my faith informs me that a particular practice is sinful or harmful to an individual, I will also deem it harmful to the community. If a particular position holds true for my interaction with individuals I will likely also consider it valuable for the larger society. It is the natural outcome of my adherence to the way of life that is part and parcel of the religion to which I subscribe.

The movement from a believed ethical principle to the formulation of a political imperative is not in and of itself a bad thing. As ethical positions are tested against the grindstone of the larger community more extreme positions are smoothed and softened to meet the demands of applicability to the larger group. This is particularly so in a democratic republic like our own, which values religious freedom.

It is undeniable that many of the freedoms and rights Americans value and enjoy either have their origin in religious belief or are at least historically endorsed and strengthened by religious belief. Consider: religious voices were at the heart of the argument to end slavery, end suppression of equal rights on the basis of color, and fight for women’s suffrage. The argument against the death penalty is largely influenced by principles regarding the equality and dignity of human life, which also drives the pro-life movement. Ideals of concern and care for the less affluent and the needy in our society have their origin in religious principles of charity, an idea actually originating in religious teachings.

Thus, it is irrational and inconsistent to demand the silencing of the religious witness in our society. Political discourse depends on the evaluation of societal beliefs and principles, which for many people are themselves necessarily informed and guided by religious principles. The values of a society may be said to originate in and be sustained by the religious beliefs of its citizens. These religious beliefs lead citizens to promote values that enter the larger political discourse and contribute to political decisions promoting the welfare of all citizens. Again, as noted above, when religious values enter the political dialogue extreme positions are moderated and viable consensuses emerge.

That not all share the same religious convictions, or that some have no religious convictions at all, does not invalidate the value of religious input in political discourse. Indeed, it strengthens it. Politics, often defined as the art of compromise, seeks to find the common ground and the inclusion of religious principles aids in that quest. If we hold to freedom of speech, the voice of religion must be accepted as a valid contributor to the political dialogue of the nation.

Yet, some desire to silence religion from having any part in political dialogue. In recent years, religious institutions, from small communities to larger organizations, have been threatened for proclaiming positions which impact the political debate. As noted above, the threat of withdrawing a religious institution’s tax exempt status is often a powerful governmental tool, and those who wish to silence religion are increasingly apt to file complaints with the IRS in the hopes of accomplishing their goals.

This is both particularly nefarious and silly. Nefarious: because the threat that speaking out could lead to civil or criminal sanctions flies in the face of a basic democratic principle (freedom of speech). Silly: because it is illogical to think that if a religious leader actually did publically support this or that position and by extension this or that politician or party, a) the whole group of adherents would blindly vote accordingly; and b) that in the absence of such an endorsement the rank and file would be completely unaware of the institution’s particular position on the question. In other words, this assumes that religion is Svengali-like in swaying believers into zombie-like manipulation. It betrays a prejudice against religion and itself risks the rise of a despotism grounded on the charge of an opponent’s alleged or presumed despotism.

As a minister of a religion that predates this society by nearly two millennia, I cannot in good conscience remain silent. I must and will continue teaching the truths that have brought salvation and consolation to literally generations upon generations of humble believers. How I vote and for whom is no one’s business – except for God and me. But, I must proclaim my Church’s teachings on morality and ethical issues with clarity and fidelity to the Church Fathers who shed blood to pass on that Faith. From Jerusalem to Rome to Washington, DC, this Faith has produced good citizens, enriched society and contributed to the greater common good.

Firmly believing in the principles of the American Republic, I would be hypocritical if I did not proclaim the Faith I hold.

And, after all, in a world of drugs and degradation, violence and scandal, barbarity and irrational hatred, is there not room for a belief in Divine sacrificial love?

From the Menaion - 8 February


On 8 February, we commemorate the holy and illustrious great-martyr Theodore, General of the Armies.

Having reached the rank of general, Theodore now reviews the ranks of the divine armies in Heaven. Sacrificing glory and its illusion for the sake of Christ, he bent his neck to the sword on the eighth in his great love for God.

On the same day, we commemorate the holy prophet Zechariah.

The angels were seen as steeds by your eyes, O Zechariah, and through them you mounted up to Heaven.

By the prayers of Your saints, O Christ our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

From the Menaion - 7 February


On 7 February, we commemorate our venerable father Parthenios, Bishop of Lampsacos.

Parthenios leaves his dust and fame to Lampsacos; and to our hearts, he leaves a great light. On 7 Febraury, that watchman awaiting the spiritual awakening of all fell asleep.

On the same day, we commemorate our venerable father Luke of Hellas.

Luke fills all Hellas with his miracles: for death could not diminish that wondrous power.

By the prayers of Your saints, O Christ our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

From the Menaion - 6 February


On 6 February, we commemorate our father among the Saints, Photios the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople.

On this same day, we commemorate our venerable father Bukolos, Bishop of Smyrna.

After his death, Bukolos, the great priest, remains a watchful shepherd for Smyrna, a protector for its flock. On the sixth, he set out for the original uncreated Light, leaving behind earthly illumination.

By their holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

From the Menaion - 5 February


On 5 February, we commemorate the holy martyr Agatha.

In the dark dungeon, she at least had the fortune of not seeing the face of error in full daylight. On the fifth, the beautiful Agatha died in prison, since she would not deny the one true God.

By her holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Spencer on Religion and Slavery

It should come as no suprise to anyone that I am a great fan of First Things. The journal is outstanding for its crisp analysis and challenging engagement on issues crucial in our wayard era. Today's On the Square feature will challenge the assumptions of many, and, God willing, open the eyes of many, too.

Robert Spencer examines the facts on Slavery, Christianity, and Islam. It is an article that needs to be run in every newspaper in the West, and covered by as many truth seeking blogs as possible. It's not politics, it's history and fact.
It has become a feature of today’s atheist chic to shy bricks at Christianity
for its record on slavery. This is part of a larger assault on Western history
and society, which, by accident or design, plays into the hands of those who are
today mounting on a global scale a sweeping and explicit cultural challenge to
Judeo-Christian as well as post-Christian values. The fundamentally most
misunderstood and overlooked aspect of today’s defense against the global jihad
is this challenge that Jihadists make to Western values, which are in large part
Judeo-Christian. Combine this with a historical critique that relentlessly
portrays the West as the aggressors against the rest of the world, and as
uniquely responsible for its evils, and Westerners’ will to defend something as
rotten as Western civilization begins to ebb away.

Read it all here.

From the Menaion - 4 February


On 4 February, we commemorate our venerable father Isidore of Pelusium.

Hail! Rejoice, O Pelusian who have laid aside your earthly wraps! Nothing can ever exclude you from the gift of joy in heaven! On the fourth, Isidore falls asleep in death.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

From the Menaion - 3 February


On 3 February, we commemorate the holy and just Simeon, who received the Lord, and Anna the Prophetess. Their synaxis is celebrated in the sanctuary of the holy apostle James, the brother of the Lord, which is found in the venerable temple of the All-holy Theotokos, near the most holy Great Church.

O Elder, announce to the dead, "The Word, whom I have seen made man like us, shall come to you!" O daughter of Phanuel, you did not leave the earth until you had seen the saving coming of our God. Simeon, seeing God and finding the bonds of this life to confining, took leave on the third.

By the prayers of Your Saints, O Christ our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.

Synaxarion - Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare)


Banished from the joys of Paradise, Adam sat outside and wept; and beating his hands upon his face, he said: "In Your compassion, have mercy on me who have fallen!" When Adam saw the angel drive him out and shut the door of the divine garden, he groaned aloud and said: "In Your compassion, have mercy on me who have fallen!" O Paradise, share in the sorrow of your master who is brought to poverty, and with the sound of your leaves, pray to the Creator that He may not keep your gate closed forever. O Merciful One, have mercy on me who have fallen! O Paradise, perfect, all-holy, and blessed, planted for Adam's sake and shut because of Eve, pray to God for the fallen! O Merciful One, have mercy on me who have fallen!


On this day, we commemorate the expulsion of Adam, our first father, from the Paradise of delights.

Together with Adam and Eve, bitterly fallen, let the whole human race weep over the loss of Paradise.

Through Your ineffable compassion, O Christ our God, make us worthy of the delights of Paradise; and in Your love for mankind, take pity on us. Amen.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Hymns and Readings - Sunday of Forgiveness

3 February 2008
Cheesefare Sunday
Synaxis of Simeon the Just and Anna the Prophetess

Tone Three - Eothinon Three

(Theme hymns of the day and concluding seasonal hymn)


Let all in Heaven rejoice and all on earth be glad. For the Lord has exerted power with His arm: By death He has trampled upon death and has become the first-born from the dead. He has delivered us from the bosom of Hades and has granted to the world great mercy.


O You who guide men towards wisdom and give them intelligence and understanding, Instructor of the ignorant and Helper of the poor: strengthen and enlighten my heart, O Lord; give me word, O Word of the Father, for behold I will not refrain my lips from crying out to You: O Merciful One, have mercy on me who have fallen.


(Responsory from the Psalter)

Sing praise to our God, sing praise!
Sing praise to our King, sing praise!

All you peoples, clap your hands!
Shout to God with cries of gladness.


BRETHREN: Our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.


In You, O Lord, I have hoped: let me never be put to shame.
In Your Just ice, save me and deliver me.

Be for me a protecting God, a sheltering house to save me.


The Lord said: If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

(also call the “Megalynarion” — Hymn to the Virgin)

It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos, who are ever blessed and all blameless and the Mother of our God; more honored than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim: You who without stain did bear God the Word, you are truly Theotokos: we magnify you.


Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens,
praise him in the heights! Alleluia.

From the Triodion - Saturday of our God-bearing Fathers, the Ascetics

Troparion in Tone Four

O God of our Fathers who always deal with us according to Your compassion, do not remove Your Mercy from us; but through their intercession, direct our lives in peace.

Kontakion in Tone Eight

O Lord, all those who followed the ways of God, the Light of the Universe, were filled with joy, for they have preached and practiced piety and prevented evil deeds. Through their intercession, preserve in perfect peace those who praise You and glorify Your Name, that they may sing to You: "Alleluia!"


Looking at the pleasures of this life and pondering their nature and effects, and reflecting on the toil and suffing they cause, I judge the life of mortal man to be filled with misery. You alone would I call blessed, for you have chosen the better part: to suffer with Christ and to remain with Him, tha you may always sing with the Prophet David: Alleluia!


On this (same) day, we commemorate all the holy men and women who were outstanding in the ascetic life.

I will pour out these words as perpetual libations forever to the souls of the just whose memory will remain forever and ever.

Through the intercession of all the holy ascetics, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

Ikos and Kontakion - Presentation of our Lord - 2 February

Kontakion of the Feast in Tone One

O Christ our God, who through your birth have sanctified the virginal womb and have blessed the arms of Simeon, You have come today to save us! When wars prevail, keep your people in peace and strengthen our public authorities in every good deed, for You alone are the Lover of Mankind!


Let us run to the Theotokos, in order to see her Son being presented to Simeon. The bodiless Angels, seeing Him from on high, were amazed and they said, "Now we behold wondrous and most marvelous things, past understanding and beyond telling! He who once created Adam is now carried as a baby. He who cannot be contained is now contained in the arms of the Elder! He who is unlimited in His Divinity in the bosom of the Father is now limited by the flesh, for He alone is the Lover of Mankind!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Hymns and Readings for the Presentation of the Lord

2 February 2008

The Feast of the Presentation
of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ



Hail O Woman full of Grace, Virgin and Mother of God: from you has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ our God, enlightening those who stand in darkness. You too, just Elder Simeon, rejoice, for you carried in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, our Resurrection.


The Litany of Peace follows


My heart overflows with a goodly theme as I sing my ode to the King

Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Savior, save us!

My tongue is nimble as the pen of a skillful scribe.

Through the prayers...

Grace is poured out upon your lips: Thus God has blessed you forever

Through the prayers...

Glory… Now and ever… Through the prayers...

The Little Litany follows


Gird you sword upon your thigh, O Mighty One!

O Son of God, who were carried in the arms of Simeon the Just,
save us who sing to You: Alleluia!

In your splendor and majesty, ride triumphant in the cause of truth and for the sake of justice.

O Son of God, ...

Your arrows are sharp; peoples are subject to You; the king’s enemies lose heart. A tempered rod is your royal scepter.

O Son of God, ...

Glory… Now and ever…

O Only-Begotten Son and Word of God...

The Little Litany follows


Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear, forget your people and your father’s house.


Hail O Woman full of Grace, Virgin and Mother of God: from you has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ our God, enlightening those who stand in darkness. You too, just Elder Simeon, rejoice, for you carried in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, our Resurrection.

The city of Tyre is here with gifts; the rich among the people seek your favors.


I will make your name memorable through all generations


Glory … Now and ever…


The Gospel Entrance takes place during the Third Antiphon


The Lord has made known His Salvation; He has revealed His Justice before the Gentiles.

Come, let us worship, and bow down before Christ.

O Son of God, who were carried in the arms of Simeon the Just,
Save us who sing to You: Alleluia!


Hail O Woman full of Grace, Virgin and Mother of God: from you has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ our God, enlightening those who stand in darkness. You too, just Elder Simeon, rejoice, for you carried in your arms the Redeemer of our souls, our Resurrection.


O Christ our God who through your birth have sanctified the virginal womb and have now blessed the arms of Simeon, today You have come to save us. O Lord, when wars prevail, keep your people in peace and strengthen our public authorities in every good deed, for You alone are the Lover of Mankind.


My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

He has looked with favor on his lowly servant;
From this day all generations will call me Blessed.


BRETHREN: It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. Here tithes are received by mortal men; there, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levit'ical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, "Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek."


Lord, now you let your servant go in peace.

A light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.


AT THAT TIME: the time for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phan'u-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

INSTEAD OF “It is truly meet…”

O Mother of God, hope of all Christians, watch over those who have placed their hope in you. Let us, O faithful, glorify the First-born, the Eternal Word of God, born of a Virgin all-pure, for we have seen, beyond the shadow and letter of the Law, a sign of Christ in the word: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.


I will take the Cup of Salvation and call on the Name of the Lord

From the Menaion - 1 February


On February first, we commemorate the holy martyr Tryphon.

Tryphon, what was your fate? "Under the blow of a sword, I found death." When did you depart? "At the new moon." In February, Tryphon was enrolled as the first.

By his holy prayers, O our God, take pity on us and save us. Amen.