Below is a reflection from His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios on the refugee crisis and Greece. You can read the original here.
Daily, those of us who have access to Greek television broadcasts are horrified by the unspeakable human tragedy occurring in Greece. It is reported that over 100,000 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries – ravaged by war and internal strife – have been forced to leave their homelands in search for a better life in Europe. As many as 4,000 brethren – many children in the arms of their parents! – have died a horrific death, drowning in the cold waters of the Aegean Sea on their way to what they hoped would be a new life, a new beginning. Those who miraculously managed to survive are now trapped in Greece, forced to endure the winter months sleeping outdoors – in the mud! – because many countries in the European Union have closed their borders. Greece, dealing with its own economic disaster, is left alone to deal with this monumental humanitarian tragedy. Let us recognize Christ Himself in the person of every suffering refugee who is a stranger in a foreign land – naked, hungry, and thirsty love and care. Let us seek out ways to offer our assistance. As we continue our Lenten Journey, let us remember the words of our Savior, treasured in the 25th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew: “As you did it to one of these the least my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
Let us remember in our prayers the countless Christians crucified and beheaded because they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. Let us pray for the repose of those Bishops, Priests, and devout laymen – victims of a modern day genocide – whose blood soaks the ground where Christianity flourished for thousands of years.
Let us clasp the hand of another, and another, and another, until all humanity stands united as brothers and sisters in the household of God, praising His almighty and majestic name.
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March 18th, 2016 by Fr. Greg
Today is St. Patrick’s Day – a huge secular feast day in America, and one that has huge religious roots. It is seen as an Irish-based holiday, and indeed most all of the people I encountered today here in the heart of Massachusetts had green on (and I was on pinch patrol). On Facebook today someone posted an article entitled “YES he’s Orthodox and NO he’s not Irish!”. Well, yes on the first and, I would argue, no on the second part. St. Patrick is indeed an Orthodox saint (and a great bridge between our faith and American culture). He is, like many others, a western saint who lived before the great schism – a period of a thousand years shared by the west and east. While St. Patrick was not ethnically Irish, he made the country his home and became one of the people – like coming to American, buying into the program, and becoming American. His Eminence Metropolitan Savas has shared a great article on what food St. Patrick likely would have had at a feast. Here is a hint – it is likely not like the local pub’s St. Paddy’s day special.
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March 17th, 2016 by Fr. Greg
In my article for next month’s Sofia – our parish’s monthly ‘zine, I give a mention to animals considered unclean in the Old Testament and mention the raven, which acted as God’s servant in feeding Elijah. The word of the month in my article is on the etymology of raven. Here is an excerpt:
The raven, mentioned above in the context of animals considered unclean to eat by the Israelites, is famous in our modern society for two reasons – Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Raven and the Baltimore professional football team, the relocated Cleveland Browns nicknamed the Ravens after Poe’s connection to Baltimore. The origin of the word raven is intricately linked with that of the crow – the two birds are both taxonomically and etymologically related. Crow in ancient Greek is koroni (whence crow), and the words for handle and curved in Greek come from the same root, probably due to the shape of the bird’s beak. Koroni is related to korax, which is the word for raven. In Latin this became corvus, in Anglo-Saxon hrafn, which became raven. Another related word is the English hroc which became rook. We think of a rook as a chess piece but it is also a word for an English yardbird.
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March 16th, 2016 by Fr. Greg
This evening I had the pleasure of speaking at First Church Marlborough (who are celebrating their 350th (!) anniversary) on the topic of the theology of food. I spent about half the talk going over uses of food in the Bible – a topic for another post – and then spoke about fasting practices in the Orthodox Church. Today is, for us, the second day of Lent while our Western friends will have Holy Week next week – it is one of those years. In going over food (and drink) in the Bible, I came across a point I had long forgotten. In Exodus 32, the Israelites have fashioned an idol to worship – the Golden Calf. Moses, in his anger over this, has the idol pulverized and makes the Israelites drink water mixed with the powder. While I have not seen this anywhere, I figure this must be the origin of Goldschläger, a Swiss schnapps that has tiny flakes of gold in it. The name of the liqueur – “gold-beaters” – refers to those who pound gold into thin leafs. There is an urban myth that the gold cuts your digestive apparatuses and the alcohol goes straight into the blood stream. I remember, though, a story from 20-odd years ago of someone who drank it regularly and ended up with a problem of too much gold in his bloodstream – internet searches have proved fruitless on this one. In any case, if you have a friend drinking Goldschläger, you have an opportunity to talk about Biblical events.
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March 15th, 2016 by Fr. Greg
Today is Clean Monday – the beginning of Lent! One of the cool features of Orthodox Lent is that the weekday daily readings change from a Gospel selection and a reading from the NT letters or Acts to readings from the three parts of the Old Testament – the Torah, the prophets, and the wisdom literature. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, you need to check out the Daily Readings app from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese – find it here. I have very few apps on my phone – the usual social media ones, some Indian music apps, a few scripture ones so I can read the Bible in the different languages, and this one. It has the saints of the day, with bios, the readings, prayers for the appropriate time of the day, and more. You can read the readings in three languages – English, Greek, or Arabic. Don’t get the free app – pay the 99 cents for the regular version. This one allows you to look up name days, find out when Easter is any year into eternity, and many more things. Take the time to get this app – it is worth it. And, for Lent, read the daily readings – it won’t take long at all.
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March 14th, 2016 by Fr. Greg
Do you have a dash cam – a dashboard camera? I would argue that you should. They record video and audio footage of the road in front of you when you are driving and also anything else – such as conversations with a police office who pulls you over. Many people have them in case of an accident or perhaps a bad encounter with an officer. I had a bad encounter upon being pulled over in NY for talking on my phone while driving (Mass. is one of the last states that allows you to do it without a hand-held device). I am used to Worcester and Marlborough police – very professional and courteous – and felt rather threatened during the encounter. When I returned home I happened upon a deal for this dash cam and bought it (and then was disappointed to see I had to buy a separate memory card, but whatever). Now I use it every time I drive. Apparently in Russia everyone has them because there is so much crime (go to YouTube if you don’t believe me about how ubiquitous they are there). The wiki article mentions that in some countries they are illegal.
The other day I blessed a house of a friend who is a police officer. I had to ask him – what do he and other public safety officers think about dash cams? He thinks they are great and they benefit both the driver and the police by recording whatever happens. I have to admit I had a small amount of disquietude about having one – I am very pro-police and I didn’t want it to look like I had it for that reason. His answer reassured me.
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March 7th, 2016 by Fr. Greg
Happy leap day – February 29! Here in New England it was a rare “warm” – 55-60 degrees in many places – February day. Two thoughts about leap day/leap year:
-I was born in late February – I just celebrated my birthday – and ever since I can remember, when people find out my birthdate they most always say something like “you were almost a leap year baby!”. The problem with this is I was born in an odd, not even, year – it could not have been a leap year. Of course, if it had been a leap year, I would have indeed been a leap year baby whatever date I was born. I would have been a leap day baby if the day was right.
-How does the Orthodox Church calendar handle the leap day? The main saint who is celebrated is St. John Cassian – more about him here. Interestingly, when it is not a leap year his feast moves to February 28. This has never made sense to me – if you are born on Feb. 29 you would, I imagine, celebrate your birthday during non-leap years on March 1, which is one exact year after Feb. 29. The wiki site has the other saints commemorated on this day, but there is nothing about how or if readings shift. During the course of the calendar year, the entire New Testament, except for Revelation, is read. Some days will have the same readings – very often martyrs have the same passage read, for example. I would think the readings today are repeated from another day.
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February 29th, 2016 by Fr. Greg