||FIRST, THE NEWS:
HOW COMMUNISM CORRUPTED THE RUSSIAN SOUL
from: Catholic Herald
(11 Nov.) 100 years on, the Russian Orthodox Church still hasn't overcome brutal state atheism. The spiritual significance of the October Revolution – which actually took place in November 1917 according to our calendar – has largely been viewed by Catholics through the lens of that year’s apparitions at Fatima. Fatima, in turn, read through the life of St John Paul II, has led to a Catholic view that the challenge of 20th-century communism was a time of great persecution but also great heroism, leading to the ultimate triumph of Christian humanism.
The view from Russia itself would be rather different. Consider that, for John Paul II, the aftermath of the Great War meant the return of Poland to independence, and a rebirth of Polish freedom, subsequently to be tested. For his fellow Slav, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the end of World War I meant the end of Russian freedom. Both of course are true. In last week’s issue, Jonathan Luxmoore gave some of the highlights of the Catholic heroism in which Poles played a prominent part. However, the Fatima/John Paul lens does shift attention away from one of the principal religious dramas of our time – the October Revolution’s execution of Orthodoxy.
The persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church – the largest by far of the patriarchates in the Orthodox Church – was brutal and total. The figures are staggering. More than 100,000 Russian Orthodox priests were killed, some by crucifixion on their own churches. A Church that had over 300 bishops in 1917 was reduced to a mere handful by World War II. So fierce was the totalitarian atheism of Lenin and Stalin that the possibility of an underground “church of the catacombs” was practically foreclosed. A regime prepared to kill millions of its own for ideological purposes left no ground upon which resisters could stand, or under which they could hide. [read more...]
EUROPE MUST BE BUILT ON RESPONSIBLE FREEDOM, EU RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ENVOY SAYS
(17 Nov.) The European Union's special envoy for religious freedom has called for "responsible freedom," in the wake of the Vatican-based (Re)Thinking Europe conference, held Oct. 27 - 29 in the Vatican. In an interview with CNA, EU Special Envoy Jan Figel stressed that "Christians should contribute to a free and one reconciled and united Europe, by their active responsibility on all levels of public life."
He underscored that "responsible freedom is what we all need. Without responsibility, freedom remains immature, or even ceases to exist, becoming an easy victim of populism extremism or even suffers for various ideology." A former EU Commissioner for School and Education, Figel was appointed in May 2016 as the Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion and Belief outside the European Union. Figel is a native of Slovakia, and a well-known figure in Slovakian and European politics.
The appointment of an EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom was announced in 2016, after Pope Francis was awarded the Charlemagne Prize by EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker. The pope stressed the importance of protecting religious freedom when he received the prize. [read more...]
UKRAINIAN-AMERICAN ORTHODOX AND CATHOLICS HELD A MEMORIAL SERVICE AT THE HOLODOMOR MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON, DC
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(10 Nov.) On a Tuesday afternoon, November 7, 2017 several dozens of Ukrainian-Americans gathered in the nation’s capitol for the Memorial service (Panakhyda) at the National HOLODOMOR Memorial in Washington, DC, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA informs.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Bishop John Bura of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, assisted by the Orthodox and Catholic clergy led the Requiem service. As seminarians of both Catholic and Orthodox seminaries chanted the prayerful MEMORY ETERNAL, Archbishop Daniel censed the Monument-Memorial erected in memory of 10 million Ukrainians that starved to death during the cruel regime of Stalin’s Soviet Union in 1932-1933.
Opening the short Memorial program, Mr. Michael Sawkiv of the Ukrainian Informational Bureau (Ukrainian Congress Committee of America) welcomed numerous dignitaries and diplomatic representatives that on a rainy day still joined the group of Ukrainian-Americans at their monument to honor the memory of the lost. Ambassador of Ukraine Valeriy Chaly spoke in English and Ukrainian languages calling to memory the lives of millions of innocent people.
Former President of Lithuania Vytautas Landsbergis also joined the Ukrainian community in their commemorative events with offering sincere and strong message not only to the Ukrainian-American community about the need to remember the tragic events of 1930s but also to the modern political powers that often forget about the dignity of human life. In the early evening hours of November 7th, US Congress opened its doors to the community of Ukrainians of American background to participate in the formal Ukrainian Genocide briefing. [read more...]
RUSSIA WITHOUT REVOLUTION COULD HAVE ACHIEVED MORE, METROPOLITAN HILARION BELIEVES
(7 Nov.) The October revolution collapsed Russia's evolutionary development, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion believes.
"Russia could have achieved much more, if it had developed in evolutionary, not revolutionary way," the metropolitan said on the Church and the World program on Rossiya-24 (VGTRK) television channel.
Answering the question if Russia of the early 20th century could have become a progressive capitalist country, the hierarch reminded that the country was stable and had developed rapidly before World War I.
He said that Russia had an opportunity to develop evolutionally, but lost its chance. The metropolitan pointed out to the plan of the country's electrification: it is traditionally connected with Lenin's name, but in fact was worked out in the times of Nicholas II's rule. [read more...]
UKRAINE ADDS 2ND (WESTERN) CHRISTMAS TO OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS
(17 Nov.) Lo! Ukraine has officially gotten itself two Christmases. Starting from this year, Ukraine will celebrate both the Western and Orthodox Christmas after parliament on Nov. 16 voted to make Dec. 25, when Christmas is celebrated in most Western countries, an official holiday and a day off.
Until now, only Orthodox Christmas, celebrated on Jan. 7, was an official holiday. This is when most of the country celebrates Christmas, including Orthodox Christians and the parishioners of Greek Byzantine Catholic Church, popular in the Western Ukraine. These churches follow the Julian calendar as opposed to the more modern Gregorian calendar, introduced in 16th century. Over the centuries, the less accurate Julian calendar has drifted out of sync with the Gregorian calendar: it is now two weeks behind.
It is uncertain precisely how many Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, since there has never been a reliable large survey on religious belief in Ukraine. But several smaller polls, including a 2016 poll by Kyiv-based Razumkov Center, put the number at somewhere between 1-3 percent of the country’s 42-million population – the combined number of Catholics and Protestants in Ukraine. This number may grow. The head of Ukrainian Greek Byzantine Catholic Church Svyatoslav Shevchuk said on Jan. 6, 2016 that his church was considering switching to the Dec. 25 celebration. [read more...]
PATRIARCH KIRILL ASKS PUTIN TO BACK DONBASS PRISONER EXCHANGE PROPOSAL
(15 Nov.) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has supported the proposal made by Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk on a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Donbass, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to promote such an exchange.
Medvedchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Choice - People's Right public movement, on Wednesday suggested that Putin influence the leaders of the self-proclaimed DPR and the LPR to achieve prompt prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Donbass. The conversation, which took place during a visit by the president to the New Jerusalem Monastery, was aired on Rossiya-24 television (VGTRK).
The Russian patriarch took part in the meeting. "I would very much like to support that. We have discussed all these issues a lot. I know that you take people's lives close to heart. His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry [head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate] has repeatedly made requests of me, some of them were granted, and some have not yet been granted," Patriarch Kirill told the president.
"The role of the church in such conflicts has, in the first place, a humanitarian dimension because people suffer, become victims of this hard conflict, which really makes very many people suffer," he said. "For this reason, I, for my part, would like to ask to also support this idea. Maybe by working together we could all do this wonderful thing," the patriarch said. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
PROTESTANTS OPEN ALREADY THE 40TH FAMILY-TYPE CHILDREN'S HOME
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
BAPTISTS PERCEIVE REVIVAL OF SOVIET-STYLE CLAMP-DOWN
from Religiia i Prav
U.S. CONGRESS PRESENTS DRAFT RESOLUTION ON HOLODOMOR IN UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
PATRIARCH KIRILL TELLS U.S. AMBASSADOR OF IMPORTANCE OF DEVELOPING "HEART-LEVEL" CONTACTS AMONG PIOUS RUSSIANS, AMERICANS
DECR CHAIRMAN METR. HILARION MEETS WITH STUDENTS OF HIGHER DIPLOMATIC COURSE
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
from Mission Eurasia
99 YEARS AGO: PATRIARCH TIKHON'S EPISTLE TO THE SOVIET OF PEOPLE’S COMMISSARS
from Orthodox Christianity
DESPITE LAW, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT MISSES DEADLINE TO NAME RELIGIOUS FREEDOM VIOLATORS
NOW, OUR VIEWS:
We continue in this issue to feature several articles and headlines touching on the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Our first news article HOW COMMUNISM CORRUPTED THE RUSSIAN SOUL mentions the visions at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 that predicted the coming cataclysm in Russia. The Russian Orthodox saint, John of Kronstadt, before his death in 1908 also foretold the Bolshevik Revolution. Among the many Christians who had been praying many years for an end to the religious repression in the Soviet Union, I was there in Moscow when it finally came about in 1991. Suddenly, Bibles and New Testaments appeared on the street stalls. But the "corrupted Russian soul" - as this news article describes it - had little interest in spiritual things: those books soon gave way to a wave of pornographic books, magazines and newspapers, items that had also been repressed during the Soviet era.
Our next news article EUROPE MUST BE BUILT ON RESPONSIBLE FREEDOM, EU RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ENVOY SAYS brings out an important point: freedom - including freedom of religion - is of little good unless it is used responsibly. If it is turned into "freedom from relgion" or merely the freedom to observe religious rituals within the four walls of a church - as in the USSR and as promoted by secular leftists in the West - that sort of freedom is worse than uselss, it is positively harmful.
The death toll of ten million Ukrainians during the "Holodomor" - "starvation plague" in Ukrainian - is mentioned in UKRAINIAN-AMERICAN ORTHODOX AND CATHOLICS HELD A MEMORIAL SERVICE AT THE HOLODOMOR MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON, DC. About fifty million more Ukrainians, Russians and other citizens of the USSR were murdered in the Soviet Union. As the news article RUSSIA WITHOUT REVOLUTION COULD HAVE ACHIEVED MORE, METROPOLITAN HILARION BELIEVES describes, just before World War I, Russia was experiencing modernization, an economic boom, as well as a spiritual awakening. Then came the Bolshevik Revolution.
In addition to the sixty million people murdered, abortion became the preferred method of birth control: the average Soviet woman likely had three or four abortions. My wife and I ministered to a disabled former gynecologist in Moscow who eventually became a Christian. When she gave her first confession to an Orthodox priest, he was aghast at how many hundreds of unborn babies she confessed to killing. The trauma on the Russian soul is also exemplified by a retired Soviet Army sniper I met: he had turned to alcohol to wash away the memories of the hundreds of Afghans he had killed during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
This by no means exhonerates the killing of some sixty million unborn babies by abortion in the U.S. since this ghastly practice was legalized by the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, nor the millions of civilians killed during the undeclared wars by the West since WW2. When will we ever learn to use freedom responsibly?
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Many Want To Be Transformed, Few Want To Change!
How many people imagine themselves as a slim ballet dancer standing delicately on tiptoe, while in reality they are just piles of gluttonous protoplasm? The latest craze is "I identify as..." - people thinking that whatever sexual fantasy pops into their mind, that is what they really are, and you should be socially blackballed or even legally prosecuted if you don't play along with this charade.
Positive thinking won't help you leap over tall buildings in a single bound or magically change your age or sex or ethnicity. If I proclaim: "I identify as six-year-old, three-foot-tall Natasha in Russia, so you must kneel down to my level and speak to me in Russian!" - that doesn't change me from a 74-year-old, 6'2"-tall American man to anything other than a little crazy. But there is a sliver of truth in thinking positive thoughts rather than living under a black cloud of pessimism. Henry Ford once said - "There are two kinds of people: those who think they can't, and those who think they can. Both are right."
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romas 12:1-2 - "Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God." St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote - "How can the person who is conformed to this age, who is not transformed in the newness of his mind and who does not walk in the newness of this life but instead follows the life of the old man, obey Paul, who commanded you to present your body as a sacrifice living, holy and pleasing to God?"
St. Paul also wrote - "Working together, we entreat also that you do not receive the grace of God in vain, for he says, 'At an acceptable time I listened to you, in a day of salvation I helped you.' Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). In my last essay, I mentioned that God's grace is not merely a free gift. Much more, it is God's transforming energies that we must receive into our lives in order to be transformed into the likeness of Christ.
St. John Chrysostom wrote - "Paul is telling his hearers that they must not relax just because God has sought them out and sent them as ambassadors. On the contrary, for that very reason, we should hasten to please him and reap our spiritual blessings."
The phrase "in vain" is sometimes translated in Russian and Ukrainian as "darom" meaning "as a gift." In other words, "not in vain" is "not merely as a gift." Christian transformation isn't something that drops on you from heaven as you just sit back imagining it while doing nothing: transformation requires our active cooperation with God. These verses begin with "Working together" - but with whom? With God! It's "Synergism," best expressed in the words of St. Paul: "So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God Who works in you both to will and to work, for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).
James, the step-brother of our Lord, wrote - "But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror; for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom, and continues, not being a hearer who forgets, but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:22-25). Those who just sit back and listen to sermons, then go home and within 30 minutes forget the Word preached to them are deluding themselves by imagining they have become better just by sitting in a pew listening to nice, warm-fuzzy words.
Even in Old Testament times this tendency existed: "As for you, son of man, the children of your people talk about you by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak to one another, everyone to his brother, saying, 'Please come and hear what the word is that comes out from the Lord.' They come to you as the people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they don’t do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they don't do them" (Ezekiel 33:30-32).
The point I'm driving at is that God's grace that in Christ is the light that enlightens everyone who comes into the world (John 1:9) has appeared, bringing salvation to all people (Titus 2:11), not just to a certain, special "elect" who do nothing, this grace must be received and acted upon. It doesn't just fall down on us from heaven and magically transform us while we sit back passively. It requires our co-working together with God, our "synergism."
We are not automatically damned because of Adam's sin, nor are we automatically "chosen" and "elected" because we were lucky enough to hold the winning number in a cosmic lottery. Each one of us is responsible for our own actions or inaction:
"When I tell the righteous that he will surely live; if he trusts in his righteousness, and commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but he will die in his iniquity that he has committed. Again, when I say to the wicked, “You will surely die;” if he turns from his sin, and does that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that which he had taken by robbery, walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity; he will surely live. He will not die. None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done that which is lawful and right. He will surely live. Yet the children of your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair;' but as for them, their way is not fair" (Ezekiel 33: 13-17).
Imagine someone saying - "God, You're not fair!" Why? "Because I didn't get my freebie!" The idea of personal responsibility and the need to change one's behavior in order to receive something good has been driven out of our society's public consciousness. We expect things to be provided for us free by the state, which derives from the notion that we are a special, chosen people. I've seen poor people demand that they be given a free turkey for Thanksgiving Day. No, it's not the Lord Who is unfair, it's we, the supposedly "elect" who are unfair and irresponsible. We can't count on living forever in a land of abundance once the majority of people expect to be given a free ride. Then the printing presses won't be able to keep on printing "fake money" because it won't be backed by a GDP that's producing much at all.
Recall that in Romans 12:1-2 I quoted - "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God"? "Holy" means sanctified, consecrated or committed totally to God. The context for transformation is holiness! In the same context of holiness, St. Paul wrote - "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, even as we instructed you; that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and may have need of nothing" (1 Thes. 4:11-12). "The Christian life is by its very nature a growth process analogous to the growth of the body; perfection in good habits ought to grow as faith grows" - so wrote St. Clement of Alexandria. Good habits take effort and practice, they don't come automatically.
In his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, St. Paul wrote - "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: 'If anyone will not work, don’t let him eat.' For we hear of some who walk among you in rebellion, who don't work at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are that way, we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread" (2 Thes. 3:10-12). It is contrary to God's Word that we give food to people who refuse to work, or even look for a job. Many want to be transformed, but few want to change!
What will it look like when we finally decide to stop blaming God - "That's just the way God made me!" - stop trying to work the system for all the freebies we can get, and decide to really change? Here's what it will look like: "But to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. But whenever one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face seeing the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:15-18).
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Please remember to pray for Christians in socialist countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. The measure of a man is not how much he has accumulated for himself, but how much he has done for others.