The Bottomless Pool

Falling, falling. Gusts of wind whistling down the shaft, past your ears. A shooting sound, so shrill that it shakes the earlobes. Falling … fast. You cannot see the crack in the limestone wall, where groundwater seeps into joints and faults of the rock. You cannot hear the drip in the pool below, that incessant plop, plop from the porticoes above. You cannot see the spongy fungus, clinging to the greenish ledge, where at best a shaft of sunlight shimmers on the rising water levels. All that you see is black upon black: ebony layer on sable dark deepening into the shaft. Your finger dislodges a pebble. It falls. No sound. Why should it not bounce off the slick walls? Ricochet, stone to stone, then drop distantly into the water below? But no, no sounds at all. You are falling into a depth without a bottom. Reach out and scrape the sides of the shaft. Nothing! As if the shaft were opening wider, wider, into an immeasurable, inconceivable space. ‘It makes no sense!’ your lips call out into … The space cannot hear. Wring your hands, cool and slick as a salamander’s back. Open your eyes. A Light shines upward from the bottomless depth. A pure, silvery-white, such as no sun that ever shone on earth. You yearn to close your eyes. Crouch low like a cricket, as pale as a salamander in a cave, a blind bat clinging to its portico ledge above. You yearn for legs immobile, unable to send you plunging into the abyss.

A familiar dream. Consulting your handbook over a fried egg on toast, you read: ‘You will undergo a great struggle, then rise to honour and health’. But this time, it is no dream.

For thirty-eight years, this nightmare has haunted you. Falling, always falling off a familiar precipice bove the unfamiliar pool. Wet stones line the waters below, slick with greenish white fungus from the little sunlight that ever enters. Paralysed, you lie on a kind of porch with a roof overhead. You long for the water that could make limbs bend, joints untwist in the light. But should you actually enter, fall into the pool, nothing shall be the same again. Why did you dream it again last night? Saturday night used to be so simple. A pint or two in the pub. A round of darts, a pack of Walkers crisps. A whinge about that old Romanian hag in the headscarf, selling The Big Issue in front of Tesco. What is this country coming to? Used to be: fry-up on a Sunday, then the eleven o’clock sing-along. A practical talk by Canon Smythe-Sudbury about the effects of acid rain on late spring hydrangeas. Gone is my gloomy Sabbath, you muse. No organs, no pews, no plaque of Thou shalt not’s – only wailing Byzantine chant, swishing of silks, and a lot of obscure words about an ‘ineffable, inconceivable, incomprehensible’ God. What on earth possessed you to plunge into this particular pool? Give me back my little green hymnal, you moan. My four-part harmonies, wafting on soft rains. Puritan-pale faces, awaiting to-do lists of do’s and don’ts.

A Gospel as practical as the portico at the shallow end, far, far away from the depths.

For years, perhaps decades, you long to join the ancient, apostolic Church. To sense the incense wafting over, to receive the fiery coal of God’s own Body on your tongue. To kiss a tattered volume of Saint John Chrysostom and call him your kin. Guard well your limbs. Paralysed by Protestant prattle and Latin lies – for three, thirty, thirty-eight years – muscles atrophy. Eyes grow faint, in unfamiliar sunlight. Safer to stay on the porticoes by the pool. Once you plunge deep … nothing, nothing at all will ever be the same. An Anglican craft, set adrift on an Orthodox ocean, shatters on rocks that it cannot see. A blind salamander, its eyes hurt by acid rays, withdraws into the sweet, soft shadows of the cave. Paralysed legs need never strain, if they choose never to walk.

The Physician never forces you to rise. Instead, he asks: ‘Do you want to be healed?’

For thirty-eight years, this dream has haunted you. Gently, always gently lowered into the pool when the water is troubled. Wet stones line the dark shaft that they call Beth hesdá,  house of mercy, slick with a greenish-white fungus from the little sunlight that ever enters. Paralysed, you lie on a kind of porch with a roof overhead. A stench of urine, dried faeces clings to your pallet. You long for the healing water that could unbend your limbs, untwist your joints. Forcing your elbows, you inch closer to the edge. You dip your hand in, when from nowhere, a blind man staggers in front of you. Should they not call it Beth zathá, the house of shame? ‘Let me not be put to shame, O my God’, you pray. In the pale shafts of afternoon light, you see his Image. His voice asks: ‘Do you want to be healed?‘No one’, you bark bitterly, ‘no one helps. No one cares’. Breathe in a sweetly bitter sweat, that old familiar stench of living death on the porticoes. Your paralysis is yours. Who takes it from you? But the Physician reads your heart better than you. ‘Rise’, he commands you. ‘Rise and walk’. With every agonising step, every twist of an unused muscle, you leave behind everything that you once were. You fall into a depth without a bottom.

In the light rising, you see the Son. ‘Sin no more’, he says. That is, ‘never look back’.

Beloved in Christ: you are free to stay paralysed, as long as you like. Skim the surface of the pool, from the quiet comfort of a familiar stench. No one thrusts you into the waters of Bethzatha, troubled from … below. Once you plunge deep, however, nothing is the same. Puritan-pale faces, enamored of a gloomy Sabbath, offer you a ‘practical’ gospel: do this, don’t do that. Salvation simply guaranteed. Only Christianity is not faith in do’s and don’ts. It is faith in Christ – and Christ is a depth without bottom.

It is not the five porticoes of the Law. It is the bottomless pool of Mercy.

Shout out ‘Christ is risen!’ with all your soul, you fall into the abyss. You leave behind the soft crumbly limestone walls; the half-hearted, man-made faith of the practical; the sullen, sanctimonious naysayers who protest that a corpse bound to a pallet rises on a Sabbath. You leave behind ‘religion’: that pale, pitiful mockery. Groundless and unstable, as a gust of wind. If Christ is risen, no faith is real but falling, falling – into the hands of the living God.

A fall that does not kill you … but brings you to Life.

THE BOTTOMLESS POOL (John 5.1b-15)

By Father Alexander Tefft

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In Memoriam: Sister Aggeliki Tsaousi the Unmercenary Paediatrician (1932-2015)

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+ Memory Eternal!  Καλόν Παράδεισον! + Theophany 2015

Today I have been to the Annual Greek Memorial Service for a very special person, one I consider my spiritual mother.  On the anniversary of the repose the tradition is for members of the church to pray for the reposed during Holy Liturgy, at the very centre of the temple, with  Koliva, accompany the relatives to the graveside with flowers, candles, incense, prayers and singing … and follow these prayers by a special meal with the family and friends.

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After Meeting such a Person, how can you not change? 

St. Porphyrios once told a Pediatrician: “Listen to what I have to say to you. Every time you examine a child*** you should offer a fervent prayer with love: Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your servant.”

As he said this he took a deep breath while he opened his hands. “It is in this way that you should pray for every child. God has sent a precious soul into your hands. As you place your hands on them pray fervently within yourself that the grace of God will be transfused into the soul of the child. 

“Do all this things spiritually and in secret. The others who are present won’t understand anything. You will prescribe to them medicines which science dictates but in the final analysis Christ will heal the child.” (source)

* This is exactly how Sister Aggeliki lived and ministered the needs of her younger (and older) patients. She was a true Child of God, taking care of all of us, children of God. She was a paediatrician for “paedia” (children) from newborn to 99+ years old  😊

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Sister Aggeliki Tsaousi slept in Christ last year amidst the Lights of Theophany, having lived a long life of poverty for Christ, of sacrifice and prayer, dedicated to the ministering of the poor, the sick, the needy, the addicted, the refugees, families in crises, all her brethren in Christ, no matter what their country of origin was and what their religion. She established a charitable organization “Love of Christ”, recruited other like-minded volunteer doctors and founded an ‘international’ humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization (NGO), a model Doctors Without Borders, before that term was even invented. The fact that the doors of her clinic remained open 24/7 and welcomed everybody drew upon her the criticism, even wrath  of some of Thessaloniki’s local society, who could  not understand why she bothered with gypsies, Muslims, drug addicts, Albanians or atheists. She often got into trouble for being no respecter of persons, but the Lord did not abandon this handmaiden who trusted in Him and lived a life of holiness and humility. She was a woman of integrity, great strength and faith, and pursued the path of the Cross, of sacrifice, with the Holy Unmercenary St. Panteleimon and St. Nektarios of Pentapolis by her side, making their presence most  powerfully  felt in her daily ministry with great miracles of healing.

 

After Meeting such a Person, how can you not change? 

 

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St. Nektarios of Pentapolis (Sister Aggeliki’s Patron Saint)

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Holy Unmercenary St. Panteleimon (Sister Aggeliki’s ‘Medical Assistant’)

I have never written before in my life an obituary, especially in a language which is not my mother tongue! but I feel deeply moved to make a humble attempt for Sister Aggeliki, since I have been blessed to be on her side for more than 2 decades.

Sister Aggeliki was truly, genuinely ecumenical. She “incarnated” John Donne’s Meditation:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 

Sister Aggeliki’s  love for God and her ‘neighbour’ was proverbial, unwavering, selfless, unconditional and boundless. She was special and she made everybody feel special and loved!  She became a legend all over Greece! A doctor who was never granted her degree, because as a University student she refused to take the oath, which was  the custom of Greek universities back in those days, since she felt it contradicted God’s law: “But I say unto you, Swear not at all …” (Matthew 5:34).

A doctor whose career collapsed before its beginning, but not her calling! A doctor who never “earned” any salary for her services, who worked as a volunteer in all major hospitals, clinics, charitable and missionary organisations, in Greece and abroad, a doctor who was eventually hired as a cleaning lady (!) but was never paid, again (!), and even her “pension” as a cleaning lady went straight to the poor, the church and various charitable organisations, as we all found out after her repose. So, how on earth did she make it? This remains still a mystery to everyone but God!

Dear Sister Aggeliki, such zeal, such a pure spirit and love for Christ! She strove so hard to remain invisible, hidden, but God’s Grace “betrayed” her … She would make it a point to frequent ‘anonymous’ chapels to hide herself from people and their praise — indeed I remember her ‘confessing’ this ‘secret’ to me — yet, everybody recognised her everywhere and sought her blessing and her prayers! She was the families’ refuge and strength, a proverbial Rock in times of distress, always present in times of need, always preferring fasts to feasts, when faced with conflicting demands in her hectic schedule.

 

Serving as the doctor of ‘Love for Christ’, assisting administratively nearby and far monasteries , supporting charitable/missionary organisations, ministering the needs of the poor who flocked around her, had Sister Aggeliki working from dawn to midnight each day. In the midst of her exhausting ministry she devoted careful time to her inner life of prayer, composed Christian poetry and wrote Christian plays, kept a diary in which she set down her thoughts, feelings, and prayers, and systematically recorded Patristic teachings on monasticism together with her broad experience in contemporary monasticism, encoding them in her voluminous work, her magnum opus (in the editing process; under publication) Rule of Love for Christ: A Set of (Spiritual) Articles of ‘Incorporation’ For a Woman’s Monastery.

So, let me eventually dare upon a few vignettes …

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Vignette1: It all started very unexpectedly, back to the days when my son was a toddler, and undergoing from one medical complication to another, being sent from one hospital to another, with doctors at their wits’ ends, experimenting on all sorts of medication on him, without being able to diagnose, let alone treat, his health problem, whatever that was. In despair, always in search for a paediatrician who could assist us in our impasse and bring our woes to an end, God took care of us and I was given her telephone number, I cannot recall by whom …

I remember our first telephone call in full detail. I was very upset and frustrated and all she did was calmly ask a couple of questions to understand what the problem was and then she paused! I thought the line was broken, but she was still there on the other side; she told me she had to pray so that she would not pile error upon error on this chain of medical misjudgments to avoid further jeopardising my son’s health. So, I waited and … waited in silence … Finally, she told me in full detail what we had to do, until she would examine our son, which she promptly did, once she was available, and then treated him for just one week, and do I need to add that she was correct 100% in her “diagnosis” and that this was the end to my son’s  health problems?

You would not want to let such a paediatrician disappear from your life, would you? The fact that you would not have to  pay anything for such treatment, or  travel all the way  to hospitals or wait long hours in queues outside surgeries, was the least for such a Godsend present. Even the fact that she never erred, even in the most difficult cases, never! , was a “minor” detail to what just a single visit to this amazing woman offered you. Really, could it be that people like her truly existed? Indeed, she was in “possession” of something which none or very few other paediatricians or doctors, or indeed anybody, could offer, and that was nothing less than a  glimpse to another world, a beautiful world full of Serenity, Love, Compassion, Light, Peace, Hope and true Healing.

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She was such a magnet and we soon got stuck to her, like practically anybody else who got to know her better. One could not help but be drawn into her strong, warm, calm, prayerful, charismatic circle of grace- and be changed! Gradually we even began to fathom the depths of her life and ministry  if that could ever be possible ! Because you have to somehow be spiritually similar  to such a person to be able to understand or describe her by any means. And we most surely were not. But we were blessed to be next door neighbours (😊), so we would regularly visit her at her home-clinic, and spend hours and days talking, praying, helping, planning … Yes, planning! Because during these intimate visits, we eventually became attracted to her vision and started ourselves volunteering to help other people

All these long days of ministry, of driving her to homes in need, of visiting terminal patients, orphans, of children summer camps and soup kitchens, of concerts and plays, of sharing the holiness of fellowship in Christ and bringing the Church to the Laity of God, to give you just a few examples, would not only not tire us, but on the contrary would help us forget or deal better with “our” problems, would most deeply refresh us. She had such a fine sense of humour and was always so cheerful! So many memories, dear Sister Aggeliki, a true Angel, Messenger of God, so many words of yours still echoing in my ears, so many pieces of invaluable spiritual advice. May you remember us in your prayers now that you are face to face to God and behold His Glory in the company of His Saints.

After Meeting such a Person [Προς-Ωπο, Prosopon (/ˈprɒsɵpɒn/[1] or /prɵˈspən/;[2] from Ancient Greekπρόσωπον, πρός ‎(próstowards) + ὤψ ‎(ṓpseye), most often translated as “person”, and as such is sometimes confused in translation with hypostasis, which is also translated as “person.”, but  pros-opon originally meant a Person whose eyes are directed Up-wards, to Heaven — Sister Aggeliki’s eyes were most certainly directed Up-wards!

Vignette2: Preparations for a feast for the children’s summer camp were under way and a volunteer got very tired, lost its temper, started shouting at Sister Aggeliki and insulting her, and eventually slammed the door in her face! As if all this exhaustion had triggered an explosion of deep-rooted rivalry, jealousy, pride and resentment! She wanted so desperately to be in charge and lead! And what did most patient Sister Aggeliki do? Did she lose her temper? She was older, exhausted after all and suffering from cancer too. No, she just took a deep breath and started praying spiritually and in secret. I was stupefied !! What was that woman thinking?! Just the age, frailty and the habit that Sister Aggeliki was wearing should be more than enough to teach her to behave herself and show more respect! I rushed downstairs to try to appease her (to no avail), as she was still shouting at the top of her voice that she was right and that Sister Aggeliki was to blame for all this!  So what did Sister Aggeliki decide to do? Magnanimous Sister Aggeliki, generous in forgiving an insult or injury, free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness. She “punished” herself just like St. Nektarios, who rather than punish two students of his, when they misbehaved, when he served as the headmaster of the Rizarion Ecclesiastical School,  he ‘punished’ himself and started fasting (ie. eating nothing!) and praying for their sake. Likewise, Sister Aggeliki repented, fasted, prayed and refrained from Holy Communion that Sunday until she confessed to her spiritual father and asked for forgiveness for a wrong she had not committed! Needless to add, she forgave that woman wholly and unconditionally that very moment and never entertaining any bad thought (logismos).  Sister Aggeliki would always, very humbly, like her patron Saint, Saint Nektarios, endure injustice  slanders and meekly face temptations

Vignette 3: She was on her deathbed, facing terminal cancer, and stifling her moans with Hymns and Martyrs’ Apolytikia. To her very last day, she examined sick children and ministered people’s needs. Just to remember her hoarse from pain voice singing a hymn a day before her end reduces me to tears. 

Vignette 4: The minute her pure soul flew to her Maker, Sister Aggeliki’s face glowed; she raised her hand with her prayer rope, and blessed everybody at her side, leaving this world with ineffable Joy!

After Meeting such a Person, how can you not change? 

–– Geronda [ie. Saint Paisios], the final diagnosis has been made. Your tumor is cancerous and it’s aggressive. 

–– Bring me a handkerchief so that I may dance to the song: “I bid farewell to you, O poor world!” I have never danced in my life, but now I will dance for joy as my death approaches. [Dialogue With Elder Paisios as He Faces Death at http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.gr/2014/10/ dialogue-with-elder-paisios-as-he-faces.html

And so, she danced her way to Heaven! Sister Aggeliki had always wanted to become a nun; she fasted and prayed like a nun; she owned nothing, gave away everything, and wore a habit all her life, but she stayed in the desert of the cities instead, because she sacrificed her “calling” in order  to take care of her blind sister, who was suffering from a very serious mental disorder and was dangerous to herself, her environment and Sister Aggeliki of course. Humbly she would confess that this cross was for the expiation of her sins! She did not want to commit het to a mental institution, because this sister was simultaneously a fool for Christ, and wanted to spend endless hours in Church and in prayer. Sister Aggeliki knew that she could not lead  such a church life in a mental hospital, where they would ‘sedate’ her with heavy medication, so she ‘waited’ by her side for 50+ years and would walk her to church whenever there was a service. Sister Aggeliki received tonsure only a few months before her death, when her sister had died. And yet, how moving it was today to hear her commemorated in Church as a “Sister”, because if there was any woman who deserved to be thus commemorated as a nun, if not on Earth, then surely in Heaven, this was most certainly her!

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Today, during the Memorial Service, it suddenly occurred to me that rather than praying for her, we ought to pray to her, and ask her blessing from “above”!

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Why these bitter words of the dying, o brethren,
which they utter as they go hence?
I am parted from my brethren.
All my friends do I abandon and go hence.
But whither I go, that understand I not,
neither what shall become of me yonder;
only God who hath summoned me knoweth.
But make commemoration of me with the song:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

But whither now go the souls?
How dwell they now together there?
This mystery have i desired to learn; but none can impart aright.
Do they call to mind their own people, as we do them?
Or have they forgotten all those who mourn them and make the song:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

We go forth on the path eternal, and as condemned,
with downcast faces, present ourselves before the only God eternal.
Where then is comeliness? Where then is wealth?
Where then is the glory of this world?
There shall none of these things aid us, but only to say oft the psalm:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

If thou hast shown mercy unto man, o man,
that same mercy shall be shown thee there;
and if on an orphan thou hast shown compassion,
the same shall there deliver thee from want.
If in this life the naked thou hast clothed,
the same shall give thee shelter there, and sing the psalm:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Youth and the beauty of the body fade at the hour of death,
and the tongue then burneth fiercely, and the parched throat is inflamed.
The beauty of the eyes is quenched then, the comeliness of the face all altered,
the shapeliness of the neck destroyed; and the other parts have become numb,
nor often say: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

With ecstasy are we inflamed if we but hear that there is light eternal yonder;
that there is Paradise, wherein every soul of Righteous Ones rejoiceth.
Let us all, also, enter into Christ, that we may cry aloud thus unto God:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

 

 

Memory Made Clear and Serene

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An Orthodox Theology of Time – V / V -Conclusion

Time as Renewal: Growth unto Goodness in Christ. The concept of the liturgical Eighth Day. If time is the change inherent in being created then can we experience our life as other than a growth unto death? Can we experience life as perhaps, a growth unto goodness in Christ in His Church?

 

Therefore, let not a person be grieved by the fact that his nature is mutable; rather, by always being changed to what is better and by being transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor 3.18), let him so be changed: by daily growth he always becomes better and is always being perfected yet never attains perfection’s goal. For perfection truly consists in never stopping our increase towards the better nor to limit perfection with any boundary (Gregory of Nyssa, On Perfection, p.379)

Decay unto death can be renewed as a growth unto life in Jesus Christ. … Our everlasting God has come down into the broken temporality of time and renewed our memory in the saving event of Jesus Christ, God as Man and Man for God.

Memory needs to be healed not destroyed. Often the greatest difficulties in our lives are the result of being plagued by evil memories, which wound and lacerate us as persons. Indeed, we pray at Great Vespers that God will protect us “from vain thoughts and from evil memories.”An image exists for this ‘weight of memory’ at the end of the Purgatorio when Dante, after confessing to Beatrice, first drinks of the river of Lethe forgetting all the evil and sin of his past life then drinking of the river of Eunöe (‘good remembrance’ or ‘good mind’) and remembering everything but from the perspective of the grace and love of God.

Forgiveness, then, is a process of progressive confession and absolution where we gradually let go of the past (are freed from its chains) by confronting the past and then giving it up in forgiveness (forgetting it without repression) so that we can regain it back from Jesus Christ through His remembrance in love. This healed or forgiven memory is paradise regained, that is, “radical innocence” as Yeats termed the state of learned childlikeness after our dreaming innocence has gone through the fire of experience.

We are given this renewal of our memory, this reality of memory shining forth with the light of the new age of the coming Kingdom of God fulfilled once for all time on the cross (‘It is finished!’/’Behold I make all things new’), in the perpetual rebirth—perpetual Pentecost—of the Church in its praise of God. In praising God, the Church is given the gift of the eternal Memory of the Spirit whereby we remember the life of Christ as our very own thus redeeming all memory under the sign of His cross. Such ‘eternal remembrance’ renews the face of the earth and makes of it, as Schmemann put it, a “liturgical paradise.”

 

“Today, a sacred Pascha is revealed to us” or “This is the day of resurrection”or yet again “On Mount Tabor, O Lord, Thou hast shown today the glory of Thy divine form unto Thy chosen disciples”.

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In Christ, as the Lord of Time, is realized the ingathering of all moments in One Moment of what we might call an ‘eternal temporality’ and which Schmemann calls temps immobile, that is, the co-inherence or co-presence of each part of time to each other in the present, in Jesus Christ.

Christ is Himself the Lord of Chronos or time proper because He is the Kyrios Kairou, Lord of the appointed time of our salvation. In Him, our broken mode of temporality, chronos, is renewed and sanctified, ascending with Him to the Father and becoming a spiritual mode of time through its marriage with creaturely eternity (aeon).

But when He returns to us in His Body and Blood in the liturgy, which is both our ascent to God and His descent to us, we see that our new mode of time, eternal temporality, is something radically new to creation, sensible and spiritual at once, as it has partaken of the very mode of God Himself as everlasting Trinity (aidiotes), God before the ages.

Therefore, the central locus of this ingathering of time is our Lord’s anamnesis or His recollection of His own saving actions in the liturgy in which His living memory becomes life everlasting by renewing all time in the new age of His Kingdom. This Kingdom of Jesus Christ is the very same life we will receive at the resurrection on the last day. It has been variously described as the ‘eighth day’ or ‘liturgy without end’ and it is granted as a gracious foretaste to us. It is a sort of liturgical in-breaking of the life to come in our crooked and wounded time.

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Harrowing of Hades, fresco in the parecclesion of the Chora Church, Istanbul, c. 1315, raising Adam and Eve is depicted as part of the Resurrection icon

It should be noted that when, in Scripture, Christ remembers His own Body and Blood broken and shed for the life of the world, it is prior to the actual sacrifice. In other words, in Christ’s remembrance, memory is not merely retrospective, in that it looks back at a life of sacrifice, but it is also simultaneously prospective in actuating prophetically the sacrifice of the cross before it happens. 

Likewise, our Lord as our Great High Priest remembers us and all time before the Father in heaven when at the Anaphora on the Lord’s Day the priest says both retrospectively and prospectively at once: “Remembering this saving commandment and all those things which have come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting down at the right hand, and the second and glorious Coming.”

Christ’s memory is eschatological, a remembering of the future life to come. Thus the Christian life is one of memory eternal where we live in the liturgical ingathering of all moments by remembering, with Christ, the saving acts that have accomplished our salvation now and to come. In the Christian life lived as anamnesis, past and future converge in one another in the present moment of our loving memory where we taste of the new age given in our midst.

Eternal memory is not the destruction of the past as past and the future as future but their clarification and illumination in encountering each other in our present consciousness of Jesus Christ who gives us eternal life. To borrow a phrase from Berdyaev, “Immortality is memory made clear and serene.”

Christ, then, as our renewed memory effecting salvation has, as Schmemann put it, “power over time” because He makes time His own as its Lord and does not destroy it but burns away, with healing fire, its wounds, making it itself through contact with Himself insofar as “Eternity is not the negation of time, but time’s absolute wholeness, gathering and restoration.”

Source: Excerpts from http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2668945.html

Music Swims Back To Us

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“Landfill Harmonic Is A Film about the Love of Music”

Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley

Before you proceed to the film review, let me tell you that to truly understand what happened in Cateura, you should watch an absolutely brilliant, fascinating classical music lesson by Benjamin Zander, a famous Ted talk on “The transformative power of classical music” at https://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion
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… “Landfill Harmonic” was a film that took me straight out of that lull. It made my soul smile, and I’m willing to bet that it will do the same to each and every one of you. Rarely does a film come by that touches you so purely. This is exactly what happened to me. “Landfill Harmonic” is a film that will inspire you, embrace your soul, and prove that magic can be found in the most unexpected places.

You can view the teaser for the film below:

I was given the privilege to see this film while attending SXSW this year, and it was amazing. I was touched by the plight of these people, and entranced at the ingenuity of them. To steal a line from “Jurassic Park”, “Life finds a way.” Humanity is a wonderful species, and “Landfill Harmonic” is one of the best examples of this.

There are too many instances where we discredit people due to race, gender, and circumstance, but given the opportunity, we all have the potential to shine. I highly suggest seeing this film when it releases. As some of you know, I have been a musician for most of my life, and “Landfill Harmonic” made me want to play. I don’t really have the words to describe this feeling, except to say that the film inspired me, and made me want to create something as beautiful as what I had just witnessed.

Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley

Here is the official SXSW synopsis of the film:

“Landfill Harmonic” follows the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, a Paraguayan musical group that plays instruments made entirely out of garbage. When their story goes viral, the orchestra is catapulted into the global spotlight. Under the guidance of idealistic music director Favio Chavez, the orchestra must navigate a strange new world of arenas and sold-out concerts. However, when a natural disaster strikes their country, Favio must find a way to keep the orchestra intact and provide a source of hope for their town. The film is a testament to the transformative power of music and the resilience of the human spirit.

The way that these kids play their instruments is delightful and their passion for music is incredible. Favio Chavez is their teacher and mentor, and I had the opportunity to shake his hand. I really could tell him nothing except thank you. I don’t even think that thank you could begin to sum up my appreciation for him and what he has done in Paraguay. The funny thing is that he seemed to understand exactly what I was saying. This is one of the wonderful things about music.

Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley

The most impressive thing about the film is how the community has banded together to help these children. The children’s music brings them hope, and allows them to see that they can all change their stars.

“Landfill Harmonic” needs your help. Spread the word about this film. Be proactive and help contribute. Part of the proceeds from the film will go to the Recycled Orchestra. They take donated instruments as well. You can get all of the information that you need on the official site for the film, Landfillharmonicmovie.com.

Directed by Brad Allgood and Graham Townsley, “Landfill Orchestra” is a lesson in how precious life is, and why we should not take music and art for granted. I applaud everyone that has contributed to the making of the film, and especially Favio Chavez and the children. You keep on making brilliant music, because I get butterflies in my stomach every time I hear you play it.

Below, are some images from the film:

Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham TownsleyLandfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley Landfill Harmonic, Directors:: Brad Allgood, Graham Townsley

By “Landfill Harmonic Will Touch Your Soul” by  at http://flicksided.com/2015/03/20/landfill-harmonic-will-touch-your-soul/#respond

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Be sure not to miss their inspiring Ted talk at http://ed.ted.com/on/p2vivxdA

Healing the Wounded Soul

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The Difference between a Spiritual Father and a Psychologist

By Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos*

The spiritual Father, ought to perform his task on the basis of the Orthodox Tradition, it is clearly different from the psychologist, who works on the basis of an anthropocentric view of man and his life The psychologist wants to make people psychologically balanced. The spiritual father aims at man’s deification. The psychologist uses the views of whichever school of psychology he represents. The spiritual father uses the eternal word of God, which was revealed to the prophets, Apostles and saints.

The psychologist believes that illness is due primarily to traumatic experiences in the past, or so-called repressed experiences. The spiritual father is well aware that it is not simply a matter of memories of the past or repressed experiences stored up in the subconscious. A specific faculty of the soul is ill, the nous, which is the eye of the soul. The psychologist employs the method of questioning and listening. He tries to assist the person to become aware of his problem and helps him to mature psychologically. The spiritual father, illumined by the grace of God, locates the problem, which is the darkness of the nous or fantasies, and tries to lead the person to theoria of God by means of the Orthodox method of purification and illumination. The psychologist acts on the human level using thoughts and ideas. The spiritual father acts in a theanthropic way, on both the divine and human level. He uses the therapeutic method, but also sends Gods grace into the sick person’s heart through the Sacraments.

The psychologist thinks that everything happens on a human level, He does not acknowledge the existence of the devil and the energy of the uncreated grace of God. The spiritual father knows the difference between the grace of God, the energy of the devil, and spiritual and physical illness. The psychologist confines himself to making the ill person aware of his problem and enabling him to cope with it. The spiritual father guides the person to repentance, which means his complete transformation. He does not simply lead him to a point of rejecting certain states, but guides him towards the transformation of his passions. It is possible to find other significant differences between, a psychologist and a spiritual father, and the difference between anthropocentric and theocentric psychotherapy.

We accept the views of contemporary psychology and psychotherapy in two cases, as a concession. Firstly, in cases of people whose nervous system has been harmed for various reasons, such as physical or psychological problems. Secondly, in the cases of people who, by choice, have nothing to do with the Church and its Sacraments. I think they can be helped by modern psychology and psychotherapy, so as not to deteriorate further. Psychology can act as a pain-killer to comfort them in the dreadful despair in which they are imprisoned.

But, I repeat, man is created in the image of God and he must reach His likeness. This is, I could say, the final aim and secret entelechy of man. As long as this yearning is not satisfied and a person remains far from God, his suffering increases. Inasmuch as his basic destiny on earth, communion with God, is not fulfilled, no matter how much medicine he takes or how much psychoanalysis he undergoes, he will always be homeless and engaged in a tragic search. We want more than psychological balance; we are looking for fullness of life. We do not simply wish to develop religious feelings, but want our lives to be filled.

  • Yesterday a meeting with a young student of mine I really care about left me sleepless. Such anguish and suffering! Such a dead end! Still imprisoned in her psychiatric disorders, still refusing medication, still held captive by her vicious circle psychotherapy sessions, still trusting her therapist as God, still away from the great hospital for sick souls : the Church, still rejecting Christianity.