Saint Paisios of Mount Athos (+1994), the false evolution & the temptation of atheism when he was 11 years old & the appearance of Jesus Christ to him

http://easternorthodoxchurch.blogspot.com

EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH

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Saint Paisios of Mount Athos (+1994),

the false evolution & the temptation of atheism when he was 11 years old

& the appearance of Jesus Christ to him

From the age of eleven [says Saint Paisios], I would read the lives of the Saints, I would fast and keep vigil. My older brother would take the books and hide them, but that didn’t stop me. I would just go into the forest and keep reading there.

Later, when I was fifteen, a friend of my brother named Costas told my brother, “I’ll make him willingly give up all this nonesense.” He came and explained to me Darwin’s theory of evolution. I was shaken by this, and I said, “I’ll go and pray, and, if Christ is God, He’ll appear to me so that I’ll believe. I’ll see a shadow, hear a voice—He will show me a sign.” That’s all I could come up with at the time.

So, I went and began to pray and make prostrations for hours; but nothing happened. Eventually I stopped in a state of exhaustion. Then something Costas had said came to mind: “I accept that Christ is an important man,” he had told me, “righteous and virtuous, Who was hated out of envy for His virtue and condemned by His countrymen.” I thought to myself, “since that’s how Christ was, even if He was only a man, He deserves my love, obedience, and self-sacrifice. I don’t want paradise; I don’t want anything. It is worth making every sacrifice for the sake of His holiness and kindness.”

God was waiting to see how I would deal with this temptation. After this, Christ Himself appeared to me in a great light. He was visible from the waist up. He looked at me with tremendous love and said, “I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in Me, even if he dies, he shall live” (Jn. 11:25). He was holding the Gospel in His left hand, open to the page where the same words were written.

With this event, the uncertainties that had troubled my soul were overcome, and in divine grace I came to know Christ as true God and Savior of the world. I was convinced of the truth of the God-man, not by men or books, but by the very Lord Himself, who revealed Himself to me even at this young age. Firmly established in faith, I thought to myself, “Come back now, Costas, if you want, and we’ll have a talk.”

Source:

Books of St Paisios

Video: Bishop Anthony Bloom’s conversion from atheism to the Orthodox Christian Faith

http://greatbritainofmyheart.wordpress.com

GREAT BRITAIN OF MY HEART

Bishop Anthony Bloom’s conversion

from atheism to the Orthodox Christian Faith

Fr. George Paulidis Bishop of Nicea, Piraeus, in Greece (+1990) & the phone of a woman who wanted to kill herself

Fr. George Paulidis Bishop of Nicea, Piraeus, in Greece (+1990)

& the phone of a woman who wanted to kill herself

Fr. George Paulidis Bishop of Nicea, Piraeus, in Greece (+1990):

«One winter night, his phone ring around midnight. Just picked up the phone, a female voice spoke:

“I do not know whom I speak , but before committing suicide , I wanted to listen for the last time a human voice…”.

Divine providence ring the phone of Fr. George. Was there any discussion, without disclosing his status, Fr. George (it was then Bishop of Nicea, Piraeus) except that he speaks with a cleric. He never learned what happened next, but I’m sure that the Grace of God will not let a human soul disappear like that night».

Source, Greek book:

Fr. John Costoff

From Atheism to Christ

Publications: St. John Damascene, Athens 2011

http://www.truthtarget.gr

TRUTH TARGET

Russia, 1965: Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker & Archbishop of Myra (+343) appears on an atheist on the bus

http://saintsofmyheart.wordpress.com

SAINTS OF MY HEART

Russia, 1965: Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker 

& Archbishop of Myra (+343) appears on an atheist on the bus

In February, 1965, a bus full of people was going towards a city. Next to the driver there was sitting an old man with a white beard, tall, and full of vigor.He wore a heavy coat with a fur collar, and a fur cap with flaps. The bus was going slowly because of the snow which was falling outside. At one turn, the chains of the back wheels came off. The bus skidded and almost collided with another full bus. All these things happened very quickly. The driver lost control of the bus, and everyone’s heart jumped. Finally the two busses halted at a distance of barely three-quarters of an inch apart, without any mishap.

Then the old man made the sign of the Cross and cried out: ”Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee! Blessed be thy name, O All-holy mother of God, who has saved us . . .” In a few moments the other bus left. The driver and his assistant went out to put on the chains.

Smiling, one young man opened a conversation with the old man. “Forgive me elder,” he said, “but I could not hold back from laughing when I heard you call upon the non-existent Heavenly Powers and saw you make your Cross. Habit, of course, is second nature. I see that you wear the distinguishing mark of a scientist. But in our times, in the year 1965, it is an incongruity.”

The conversation attracted the attention of all. The old man, without becoming troubled, said, ”Gladly, My young comrade, shall I answer you. And if you want I shall make a self-criticism . . . Wherefore, do you know what I think? All of us are somewhat hypocrites. All of us pretend that we are atheists, dedicated members of the Party, with profound knowledge of Marxism and many other things. And yet there comes a moment every once in a while when the real man expresses himself. Behold, just as it happened even now! This mishap was sufficient to demonstrate it. Since you sit in that place, you of course did not see what happened behind you. I, however, who sit sideways, saw at least another eight or ten making their Cross. It is something within us which we will never be able to uproot, because it would be like uprooting our very bowels. Thus, every day all of us fall into ‘errors-—that is, we remember that there exists a certain great, unknown, and good Power Whom we pretend to ignore . . .”

“I assure you that this personally never happens with me,” said the young man.

The old man chuckled and said, “You will permit me to prove you false, beloved comrade, because just previously you said, ‘These things in our times, in the year 1965, are an incongruity.’ What was the reason for you to remember that one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five years have passed from the time when the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, was born!”

”This,” said the young man after having been taken aback a little, “is an evil remnant of an evil past, which must definitely be wiped out. The way you are speaking, you are going to convince us that even miracles take place!”
The old man was silent some moments, and afterwards said, “Yes my beloved one, there are even miracles of God which you yourself will believe, just as all that are here will also believe. When, however, you see them, you will be obliged to keep silent because, if you speak, there is danger that they will close you in some psychiatric clinic.”

The bus had come into the main artery. The heavy snow stopped and thus the driver was able to increase the speed. At one moment, all—as many as were looking at and listening to the old man—saw his place empty! Two or three that were close to his seat made the sign of the Cross, saying, “Holy, holy is God the Almighty.” One of them turned toward the back of the bus and shouted, “Do you understand now who saved us from the collision? He himself, the old man with the white beard, was the Protector of our People . . . Saint Nicholas!” “I do not know what we are going to do comrades,” said one other in the meantime, “but wherever I may be, I am going to tell of this miracle of Saint Nicholas! And let them lock me in a psychiatric ward if they can. I have you all as witnesses; and especially you, comrade . . .” The young communist covered his face with his hands for a long time.

After about two hours, the bus stopped and all got down to drink hot tea. The young communist approached several of his fellow]passengers, full of emotion. He asked for their addresses. He also gave them his. All the other others did the same among themselves. “Do you know what I purpose, comrades?” said one young woman, “Let us not lose contact with one another. This which we saw today and heard with our ears is a great thing. Very great. What can it forbode? Certainly something good, because the little old grandfather was the Protector of our People.”

The above miracle was written by an eyewitness. “I cannot write more,” he says, “because I am overcome with emotion and am weeping. I also was on the bus.”

Source:

From Contemporary Miracles in Russia by Archimandrite Haralampos Basilopoulos, 1966

Chủ nghĩa vô thần là gì? ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* Vietnamese

http://atheistsmetorthodoxy.wordpress.com

ATHEISTS MET ORTHODOXY

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Chủ nghĩa vô thần là gì?

Chủ nghĩa vô thần là quan điểm cho rằng Đức Chúa Trời không tồn tại. Chủ nghĩa vô thần không phải là một sự phát triển mới. Thi Thiên 14: 1, được viết bởi vua Đa-vít khoảng 1.000 năm trước Công nguyên, đề cập đến chủ nghĩa vô thần: “Kẻ ngu dại nói trong lòng của mình, không có Đức Chúa Trời.” Số liệu thống kê gần đây cho thấy một số lượng ngày càng tăng của người tự xưng là người vô thần, lên đến 10 phần trăm dân số trên toàn thế giới. Vì vậy, tại sao ngày càng có nhiều người trở thành vô thần? Có phải chủ nghĩa vô thần thực sự hợp vai trò những người vô thần công bố nó như thế không?

Tại sao chủ nghĩa vô thần thậm chí còn tồn tại? Tại sao Đức Chúa Trời không mặc khải chính mình Ngài cho con người thật đơn giản, chứng minh rằng Ngài tồn tại? Chắc chắn, nếu Đức Chúa Trời chỉ xuất hiện, những suy nghĩ thôi, mọi người sẽ tin vào Ngài! Vấn đề ở đây là sự mong muốn của Đức Chúa Trời không phải chỉ thuyết phục mọi người rằng Ngài tồn tại. Đó là mong muốn của Đức Chúa Trời cho mọi người tin vào Ngài bởi đức tin (2 Phi-e-rơ 3: 9) và chấp nhận bằng đức tin ơn cứu rỗi của Ngài (Giăng 3:16). Đức Chúa Trời đã chứng minh rõ ràng sự tồn tại của Ngài rất nhiều lần trong Cựu Ước (Sáng thế ký đoạn 6-9; Xuất 14: 21-22; 1 Các Vua 18: 19-31). Có phải mọi người đều tin rằng Đức Chúa Trời hiện hữu? Vâng. Có phải họ thay đổi từ đường lối tội lỗi sang việc vâng lời Chúa? Không, nếu một người không sẵn lòng chấp nhận sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa Trời bằng đức tin, tiếp theo người ấy chắc chắn không sẵn sàng chấp nhận Chúa Giê Su Christ là Đấng cứu chuộc bởi đức tin (Ê-phê-sô 2: 8-9). Mong muốn của Đức Chúa Trời là để mọi người trở thành Cơ Đốc nhân, không chỉ là người hữu thần (những người tin rằng Đức Chúa Trời thực hữu).

Kinh Thánh nói với chúng ta rằng sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa Trời phải được chấp nhận bởi đức tin. Hê-bơ-rơ 11: 6 tuyên bố, “Và không có đức tin thì không thể nào ở cho đẹp lòng Đức Chúa Trời, bởi vì bất cứ ai đến với Đức Chúa Trời phải tin rằng có Đức Chúa Trời và Ngài thường hay thưởng cho kẻ tìm kiếm Ngài.” Kinh Thánh nhắc nhở chúng ta rằng chúng ta là người được phước khi chúng ta tin và tin cậy vào Đức Chúa Trời bằng đức tin: “Sau đó, Chúa Giê Su nói với người,” bởi vì ngươi đã thấy ta, nên ngươi tin; phước thay là những người không thấy mà đã tin” (Giăng 20:29).

Sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa Trời phải được chấp nhận bởi đức tin, nhưng điều này không có nghĩa là niềm tin vào Đức Chúa Trời là bất hợp lý. Có nhiều lập luận hợp lý về sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa Trời. Kinh Thánh dạy rằng sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa Trời được nhìn thấy rõ ràng trong vũ trụ (Thi Thiên 19: 1-4), trong tự nhiên (Rô-ma 1: 18-22), và trong tấm lòng của chúng ta (Truyền đạo 3:11). Với tất cả mà nói, sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa Trời không thể chứng minh; nó phải được chấp nhận bởi đức tin.

Đồng thời, để tin vào chủ nghĩa vô thần phải lấy nhiều đức tin. Để thực hiện lời nói tuyệt đối “Đức Chúa Trời không tồn tại” thì phải công bố một sự hiểu biết hoàn toàn những gì cần biết, về tất cả mọi thứ hiện có và ở khắp mọi nơi trong vũ trụ và phải được làm chứng nhìn thấy mọi thứ. Tất nhiên, không có người vô thần nào làm được những lời công bố này. Tuy nhiên, đó là những gì họ đang tuyên bố khi họ nói rằng Đức Chúa Trời hoàn toàn không thực hữu. Người vô thần không thể chứng minh rằng Đức Chúa Trời không có, ví dụ, sự sống ở trung tâm của mặt trời, hoặc dưới những đám mây của sao Mộc, hoặc trong một số Tinh vân xa. Vì những nơi này vượt quá khả năng quan sát của chúng ta, nó không thể được chứng minh rằng Đức Chúa Trời không tồn tại. Để thành một người vô thần phải lấy nhiều đức tin như nó làm cho một người hữu thần.

Chủ nghĩa vô thần không có chứng minh, và sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa phải được chấp nhận bởi đức tin. Hiển nhiên, các Cơ Đốc nhân tin tưởng mạnh mẽ rằng Đức Chúa Trời hiện hữu, và thừa nhận rằng sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa Trời là một vấn đề của đức tin. Đồng thời, chúng tôi bác bỏ ý tưởng cho rằng niềm tin vào Đức Chúa Trời là không hợp lý. Chúng tôi tin rằng sự tồn tại của Đức Chúa Trời có thể được nhìn thấy rõ ràng, cảm nhận sâu sắc, và cần thiết chứng minh có tính triết học và khoa học. ” Các từng trời rao truyền sự vinh hiển của Đức Chúa Trời, Bầu trời giãi tỏ công việc tay Ngài làm. Ngày nầy giảng cho ngày kia, Đêm nầy tỏ sự tri thức cho đêm nọ. Chẳng có tiếng, chẳng có lời nói; Cũng không ai nghe tiếng của chúng nó. Dây đo chúng nó bủa khắp trái đất, Và lời nói chúng nó truyền đến cực địa.”(Thi Thiên 19: 1-4).

CQA – Christian Questions & Answers

Jozef Van den Berg, actor, the Netherlands: From atheism to Orthodoxy (+Video)

http://orthodox-heart-sites.blogspot.com

ORTHODOX HEART SITES

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Jozef Van den Berg, actor, the Netherlands:

From atheism to Orthodoxy

Jozef Van den Berg (Beers, 22 August 1949) is a Dutch puppeteer, playwright and actor, who nowadays lives as a hermit.

http://vimeo.com/39403424

http://vimeo.com/9668812

Biography of Joseph Van den Berg

Youth

From the age of seven, he lived most of his youth at Cuijk, where his father bought an old rectory and tended an accountancy bureau. His father was a primary school teacher, first at Beers and then Rijkevoort, and a member of the resistance during the War. The family he belonged to consisted of eleven children. On January 30th, 1962, at the age of twelve, his father died and afterwards also his best friend Fritz. Already as a child, Van den Berg wanted to become a priest. For Christmas his mother gave him a set to play a little priest. At the age of 10, he played his first theater role as a Pharisee in a Passion Play of the Welpen at the patronage building at Cuijk. At the age of 13 he got a girlfriend, because of which the priesthood disappeared into the background. During his secondary school at the Internaat Bisschoppelijk College [Boarding School Diocesan College] in Roermond he was very active in school theater. For example, he played Sisyphus in the play Sisyphus And Death, and later on, inspired by Henk van Ulsen, with a lot of success Diary Of A Madman by Gogol.

Puppetry

At the end of the 60’s, after obtaining his high school degree, he passed his entrance examination and started at the theater school in Arnhem, which he quit after the second year. He went to live with Ruth in Arnhem and later on moved to Groningen. He applied for social assistance and started playing puppet shows. He borrowed a horse and cart and wandered around puppetering. In this period he became member of the Gurdjieff movement. After a show in Groningen he got acquainted to his wife Hansje, whom he married on September 11th, 1973. They had four children: Lotte [nowadays a well-known playwriter, theater actor and director herself], Maartje, Jasmijn and Jesse Van den Berg. In Groningen he lived on a farm and rented a basement at Zwanestraat where on Wednesday afternoon he played for children, and on Friday evening for adults. He started his professional career as a puppeteer in a puppet show and there he brought numerous characters to life. Eventually he removed the curtain and by doing so became the man with the puppets, visible for the audience. His improvisations were replaced by a play with a title. With a fire department truck, he played with a wandering puppet theater. Living in a mobile home, he brought his plays to the people.

In 1980 he received the Hans Snoekprijs for Appeloog [Apple Eye], left Groningen and moved to Herwijnen in the Betuwe region. There he wrote Moeke en de Dwaas [(little) Mother and the Fool] for the Holland Festival. In 1980 and 1981 he played Moeke en de Dwaas, which was his great breakthrough. After this he played in Paris, the US and Japan. In this show he played a monk. His puppets were his family, consisting of – among others – Luke the monk, as if he had foresight, the materialistic and opportunistic Portemonnee [Wallet], the old, wise, strict Mrs. Witch, the ever rationalizing Mr. King, the melancholic Grootoog [Great Eye], the romantic neurotic Frederik the Bird, Pete the Caterpillar and Mannetje Pluim [(little) Man Feather]. In 1981 he received the CJP-Podiumprijs [Cultural Youth Passport’s Scene Price]. A number of his shows were broadcast by the VPRO TV company. In 1983 the De Dwaas Foundation was established in cooperation with the Ministery of Social Affairs. The foundaition was established by Van den Berg’s technical assistant Gerrit de Beuze, who did his Civilian Public Service in order for him to be employed by this foundation.

In 1988 and 1989, Joseph Van den Berg played his last show Genoeg Gewacht [Enough Waiting], which was a reaction to Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett. He wrote this play for his brother Aloys, who was seriously ill. He played this piece 80 times [constantly rewriting it] in the Netherlands and at a festival in New York. It was his ultimate quest and a testimony to his conversion. He drew his inspiration from the Stabat Mater by Vivaldi, sung by Aafje Heynis. Aloys Van den Berg, his brother, came to watch Genoeg Gewacht in a wheelchair. In 1988 his brother died of a brain tumor.

Turnaround

On September 12th, 1989 was the Belgian première of Genoeg Gewacht at Antwerp [Belgium is a predominantly Dutch-speaking country]. That afternoon, Van den Berg had an encounter with God, as he described it later on. Sitting in his dressing room, he wrote a letter he wanted to use that night for the first time in his play. God asked him this question by his own pen: “Why don’t you ever see that I cannot come because I’m already here.” On September 12, 1989 he still played the premiere which later turned out to be his very last show. Van den Berg was – according to his own words – being called by God, and had to answer that.

Before the evening show on September 14th, 1989 at De Singel Arts Center in Antwerp, he took his Bible and asked God what to do. He opened the Bible at the following words: “Go away from their midst and separate yourself” (II Cor. 6:17).

Before the beginning of the play he said to his audience:

“I will try to explain it to you. I hope that you have one thing for me and that is respect for my decision. I will never play again. I have approached a reality which cannot be played anymore. I have searched for a tremendously long time; have been everywhere. Eventually I came to the conclusion, and this conclusion, I have to admit, is that the seeker seeks but he is found. That’s why tonight is the last time I’m on stage. You don’t believe me, but that’s the deceitful side of theater. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, for this man, for Christ only, have I searched for this peace I wanted. And I know that it is so, and I quit this profession. For me, it’s over. I seek reality. I can’t say things that are not true for me anymore. I wish you a good day. I go. May you all go well. The money you paid can be given back at the box office.”

A deadly silence followed, and the theater audience reacted emotionally. Thus, on September 1989 at 7:55 pm, the theater career of Joseph Van den Berg came to an end.

In 1990 Van den Berg began a quest which would lead him to Maldon (Essex), Athens and the Holy Mountain of Athos, to further find out how he had to continue his road with God. His children and wife had difficulties understanding his conversion.

An important event preceeded his conversion: a woman he knew from the Gurdjieff movement died in a serious traffic accident, and she had pointed out that she wanted to be buried in the Orthodox way. This happened on August 17th at Eindhoven. There, he heard the Trisagion for the first time in Dutch. That’s where he began to see that Gurdjieff wasn’t right. At the end of September 1989 he went to the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint John the Baptist at Meldon, Essex, England, where he talked with Elder Archimandrite Sophrony. At the beginning of January 1990 he had a very important meeting in Athens with the Greek Elder Porphyrios. This last one confirmed the experience God had given him in Antwerp, and he told him that he has to now to become an Actor of Christ. He was sent by Father Porphyrios to the Holy Mountain of Athos, where he had a meeting with Father Paisios.

After returning to the Netherlands, and loyal to the word of Father Porphyrios, he began to work on a new family show titled The World Turned Upside Down, where he wanted to convey his new faith. But it seemed that everything was going wrong, and he got in more and more spiritual trouble. He couldn’t sleep anymore and became over-tired. In the middle of this crisis, on June 18, 1990, he asked a priest in order to be accepted into the Orthodox Church. Meanwhile, 40,000 tickets had been sold for his new show. Notwithstanding this, nothing whatsoever came out of his hands. In August, overstressed, he was treated for five weeks at the Psychiatric Centre Nijmegen at the Heilige Land Stichting [Holy Land Foundation]. There was to be no new show. Because of this, peace slowly returned to him and thus he began to write a new piece called The Meeting, in which he wanted to share with his audience what happened to him in Antwerp.

In April 1991 he went to Athens again, to Father Porphyrios, to ask his blessing to play his piece The Meeting. However, he didn’t manage to speak to him, due to his old age and disease. After this, he went to the Holy Mountain of Athos for three weeks, to work on his theater play in the Monastery of Grigoriou.

Having returned to the Netherlands, things evolved in a different way than expected, among other things, because of a subsidy by the Ministery of Culture. At the request of the board of the Foundation De Dwaas, of which Van den Berg had become an employee, he formulated a new mission statement for this Foundation. On May 21st, 1991 he announced this new goal at a board meeting: “The support and promotion of all theatrical activity, in the broadest sense of the word, which expresses the spirit of Christ.” The board and the Ministery of Culture couldn’t reconcile themselves with this and the subsidy was revoked. But once he established it, he didn’t let go of this goal. Thus, unexpectedly, the whole project came to an end. Gradually, Van den Berg began to realize that he would never play The Meeting either. The authorities assumed that he was confused again, and he was declared incapacitated.

During the night of the 1st to the 2nd of June, he realized that he was left alone, and on June 2nd, 1991 he attended the Divine Liturgy at the [small Orthodox] Monastery of the Holy Prophet Elias at St. Hubert. That’s where he left what was left of his money on the collection plate. “Lord, from now on, You have to take care of me. I totally surrender.” There, Archimandrite Pachom read from the Gospel of that Sunday of All Saints: “He that loves father or mother more then me, is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more then me, is not worthy of me. And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me. He that finds his life, shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake, shall find it” (Matthew 10:37-39). Two hours later, after the Liturgy, he went straight to the Orthodox Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos near Asten, where he stayed for 19 days, and where he left his Mercedes Combi, because it didn’t want to start again. On June 21st, 1991 he put a final end to his theater career at his first try-out, never to be played again, of the show The Meeting in the Streekschouwburg at Cuijk. On June 24th, 1991 he left his home by bicycle, but his tire ran a flat near Waardenburg, so he passed the night at Juke Hudig’s, an artist at Neerijnen. On June 25, 1991, having repaired his bike, he left Juke Hudig, and cycled into the province of Noord-Brabant, to the south. He wanted to drive into the Brabantine land and the entire world. But soon enough he understood intimately that this was not God’s will, and returned to Neerijnen after one night in Eindhoven. On June 30th he collected two or so theater attributes he used in his performances from his house. After this, he returned to Juke Hudig.

Hermit

His only question was: “How does God want me to shape my calling?” Then, he intimately saw that he had to collect his puppetry box. On July 9th, 1991 he collected the box at his house at Herwijnen, and walked it 15km further to Neerijnen. Having arrived at Neerijnen with his theatre box on wheels, with a Russian cross attached to it, he understood ever more clearly that he had to stay there. During the month of July he stayed for three days on a farm at Neerijnen. On August 1st, 1991 he moved to the bicycle shed of the Neerijnen Town Hall, where he started his public calling. After fifty days, he retreated from publicity and lived nine months in seclusion at the home of an inhabitant of Neerijnen. In June 1992 Joseph returned to the bicycle shed and stayed there, even during the winter. In December 1992, he built a small chapel around his box. On November 1st, 1993, Van den Berg had to leave the bicycle shed on orders of the Neerijnen town council. Two pupils of Neerijnen Elementary School offered the mayor a petition on behalf of the townspeople who thought that he should be able to live on at the shed, but this was of no avail. The [National Public TV-Company’s] Youth News followed the youngsters’ action and was also present on Monday morning November 1st.

On Monday afternoon Joseph decided to collect his belongings, and left the bicycle shed. Co-townsman Harm Hazelhoff had previously offered him room in his garden, under the quince tree, but inwardly Van den Berg didn’t understand yet that he had to accept that invitation. On Monday evening he returned with his belongings to the bicycle shed. During the night of the 1st to 2nd of November, God showed him that he had to be humble and leave the bicycle shed after all. On Tuesday he put his suitcase and other belongings under the quince tree in Hazelhoff’s garden. That same afternoon, someone passed by and told him that De Pleisterplaats [Pull-Up] was his best show. There were four poles close to the quince tree, and Joseph understood from this that he had to build the “Pull-Up” under the quince tree. With this “messenger”, he built a small chapel of 2 by 1.5 meters, which still stands today. He still lives there, and receives people every day. He lives from whatever people bring him. He has no connection to any utility whatsoever. Since a couple of years, there is a toilet in the castle garden, which Joseph and his guests can use, and since a few years he has a mobile phone for emergencies.

In the media

Joseph Van den Berg gets a lot of attention from the media because of his extraordinary way of life. The attention of the media never wanes, even after his theater career. Since the start of his calling, the Dutch national newspapers, magazines, TV companies, radio and weblogs publish at least one article about him every year. In 1993 he was interviewed by Rik Felderhof for the NCRV TV program De Stoel, and by Fred Wittenberg for the KRO radio program Radio Ararat. In 1995 he got interviewed for the NCRV program Rondom Tien. In 2001 he was visited again for De Stoel. In 2003 Arjan Visser arranged a radio interview with him for Spiegels (RVU). In 2005 he was visited by Martin Simek for the Christmas night broadcast of Šimek’s Nachts (RVU) and in 2006 there was a radio interview by Friedl’ Lesage in Het beste moet nog komen for Radio 1 (Flanders, Belgium). Omroep Gelderland dedicated a number of programs to him. In 2007, Auke Hamers recorded the short movie Ik Speel niet meer [I don’t play anymore], about his life and religious convictions. In 2010, the TV show Man Bijt Hond made a short portrait of Joseph Van den Berg.

Note 1: During an interview with the Belgian “top” newspaper De Standaard (www.standaard.be), Jozef Van den Berg told an interesting story. A man wanted to have a date with a woman he hadn’t met or seen yet. The woman agreed on condition that the man would buy her flowers every week. This seemed strange, demanding and even somewhat arrogant to the man, but eventually he agreed. However, when they met, the man was so overwhelmed by her beauty, intelligence and character that he told her he would buy her flowers every day. To Jozef Van den Berg, the same is true for God.

Note 2: Jozef’s daughter Lotte Van den Berg, for the past couple of years a famous director and playwright herself, wrote her first major theater play “Winterverblijf” (Winter Home/Residence) about her struggle with her fathers conversion. The show played in all the great theaters in the Netherlands and Belgium.

This is how it was introduced: “She found her inspiration on a journey through Siberia and Mongolia, where it is too cold to heat the church during the winter, and the celebration of Liturgy forcibly has to be moved to the kitchen or the barn. According to Van den Berg herself: ‘The show will treat people who hope to believe. It is about people who shape their non-understanding, say a prayer or sing a song. Maybe every act is a prayer and an attempt to attach yourself to the world around you.'”

Video: Klaus Kenneth, Deutschland Zwei Millionen Kilometer auf der Suche – Von Hippies, Atheismus, Buddhismus, Hinduismus und Protestantismus zur Orthodoxie ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* German

http://conversionstoorthodoxy.wordpress.com

CONVERSIONS TO ORTHODOXY

Klaus Kenneth, Deutschland

Zwei Millionen Kilometer auf der Suche

╰⊰¸¸.•¨* 

Von Hippies, Atheismus, Buddhismus, Hinduismus

und Protestantismus zur Orthodoxie

Zwölf Jahre zog der schweizer Publizist Klaus Kenneth auf der Suche nach der Spiritualität, Frieden und Liebe durch Europa, Asien und Südamerika. Der Weg war gefährlich und voll Enttäuschungen, Hass, Drogen und Tod. Leer und enttäuscht von Philosophien, Lehren und Religionen kehrte Kenneth zurück, und fand die Wahrheit in der orthodoxen Kirche. Seinen langen Weg hin zur einen Kirche schrieb er in seinem Lebensbericht, “Zwei Millionen Kilometer auf der Suche” nieder.

Sainte Marie Skobtsova de Paris (+1945) – 31 mars ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* French

http://franceofmyheart.wordpress.com

FRANCE OF MY HEART

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Sainte Marie Skobtsova de Paris (+1945)

31 mars

Mère Marie Skobtsov ou sainte Marie de Paris, née Élisabeth Iourievna Pilenko le 8 (21) décembre 1891 à Riga, dans le gouvernement de Livonie qui faisait alors partie de l’Empire de Russie et morte le 31 mars 1945 à Ravensbrück, est une poétesse, mémorialiste et membre de la résistance française, devenue religieuse orthodoxe. Elle a été canonisée comme martyre de la Foi par l’Église orthodoxe (Patriarcat de Constantinople) le 16 janvier 2004.

En Russie

Mère Marie était la fille d’un magistrat de l’Empire russe, Youri Dmitriévitch Pilenko, qui exerçait à Riga, sa mère était issue de la famille aristocratique des Dmitriev-Mamonov. La famille déménagea à Anapa, ville balnéaire des bords de la mer Noire, en juin 1895, à la retraite du père de famille. Celui-ci avait hérité dans le village de Djemet, à six verstes de la ville, d’un domaine viticole. Youri Pilenko fut nommé directeur du jardin botanique Nikitsky en Crimée, au printemps 1905 et la famille déménagea à nouveau, mais toujours près de la mer. La jeune Élisabeth fit ses études au lycée de filles de Yalta, mais la famille Pilenko dut à nouveau partir l’année suivante, lorsque le père fut nommé comme fonctionnaire au département des affaires agricoles à Saint-Pétersbourg. Deux mois après, le 17 juillet 1906, il mourut brutalement.

La jeune fille qui avait quinze ans se tourna vers la littérature et les arts. Elle s’intéressait à la poésie et croisa même Alexandre Blok plus tard au cours d’une soirée littéraire, mais elle n’éprouva pas de sympathie à son égard. Élisabeth termina ses études secondaires en 1909, avec médaille d’argent, et passa les grandes vacances dans le domaine familial près d’Anapa. Quelques mois plus tard, en février, elle épousait un juriste féru de littérature, Dimitri Kouzmine-Karavaïev. C’est à cette époque, qu’elle se plongea dans la littérature religieuse et s’efforça, parallèlement à la déception de son mariage, d’approfondir sa Foi. En même temps, elle écrivait des poèmes aux accents acméistes et en fit publier plusieurs recueils, dont Les Tessons scythes, Ruth ou Iourali…La Russie connaissait alors son Siècle d’argent et les discussions philosophiques et littéraires s’accompagnaient aussi de prises de parti dans le domaine politique, dans ces années postérieures à la première révolution de 1905. La jeune femme n’y était pas étrangère. Elle regrettait le conservatisme du pouvoir qui trouvait l’idée d’une Constitution prématurée. Elle s’inscrivit même au parti SR, porte-drapeau de l’intelligentsia de gauche de l’époque.

Son mariage avec Dimitri Kouzmine-Karavaïev1 se dissout après 1913, de cette union naît une fille, Gaïna. La jeune femme s’installe alors dans le sud de la Russie.

Ses convictions politiques se doublèrent vite de préoccupations sociales, dans un pays où l’industrialisation rapide et plus tardive provoquait des tensions sociales que la Grande guerre ne fit qu’agraver. La Russie impériale se battait du côté de ses alliés français et anglais, mais la révolution de février 1917 allait précipiter l’Empire et faire advenir en octobre le parti bolchévique. La jeune femme avait vu avec soulagement l’abdication de Nicolas II, mais s’inquièta de la tournure des événements, lorsque la révolution se transforma en guerre civile. Elle prit parti du côté des Blancs, alors qu’elle avait été élue maire-adjoint d’Anapa du temps du gouvernement bolchévique. Lorsque les Blancs prennent la région, elle passe en jugement, mais finalement acquittée et même nommée par eux maire de la ville en février 1918. La région changea de mains brièvement, mais resta jusqu’au début de 1920 aux mains de l’Armée blanche qui luttait contre le pouvoir bolchévique. Elle s’était séparée de son premier époux pour épouser Daniel Skobtsov qui avait été juge à son procès et décida fin 1919 de s’enfuir en Géorgie où naquit son fils Georges, puis de prendre l’un des derniers bateaux de la mer Noire qui évacuait les soldats de l’Armée blanche et quelques alliés en direction de Constantinople, où ensuite avec sa mère, ses deux enfants et son mari, elle rejoignit la Serbie (où naquit son troisième enfant, sa fille Anastasia) qui avait été alliée de la France, et enfin s’installa à Paris en 1923.

En France

Comme des dizaines de milliers de réfugiés russes, elle allait alors partager la condition des émigrés Blancs de Paris, autrefois membres de l’élite sociale pour la majorité d’entre eux et désormais obligés de survivre à l’exil. On pouvait croire qu’il serait bref, mais plus les années passaient, plus l’on se rendait compte que la nouvelle Union soviétique, créant un type d’homme nouveau, s’installait pour longtemps. Lorsque son dernier fils fut adolescent, Élisabeth qui fréquentait les nouvelles églises modestes de la communauté russe de banlieue et celle plus ancienne de la rue Daru, prit un directeur spirituel. La mort de sa petite fille Anastasia en 1926 avait été une grande souffrance. En 1932, elle prononça ses vœux et devint religieuse sous le nom de Marie, en l’honneur de Marie l’Égyptienne, la repentante du désert. Toutes ces années d’épreuves l’avaient véritablement convertie. Elle fréquenta des monastères orthodoxes russes en Lettonie et en Lituanie, nouveaux pays qui abritaient de petites communautés de ses compatriotes. Elle fut choisie comme secrétaire du Mouvement de la Jeunesse Chrétienne Étudiante Russe, particulièrement actif avant-guerre, lorsque les anciens comprirent qu’il fallait transmettre aux plus jeunes les valeurs de la patrie perdue, et témoigner de la solidarité. Elle devint rapidement secrétaire centrale et s’occupait d’actions sociales et missionnaires. Grâce à des fonds qu’elle parvint à réunir, elle ouvrit au 9 rue de Saxe un foyer pour jeunes femmes isolées qui déménagea en 1935 au 77 rue de Lourmel. On fit bientôt construire une petite église qui rayonna dans le XVe arrondissement et au-delà et l’on donna des cours de religion et de chant psalmodique et à partir de l’hiver 1936-1937 des cours d’action missionnaire. Tout ceci était organisé par divers mouvements de l’émigration orthodoxe, dont l’un des pères spirituels était le fameux Père Pavel Golychev (1914-1979).

Mère Marie sillonnait le XVe arrondissement, où beaucoup d’émigrés défavorisés avaient trouvé refuge, ainsi que les quartiers de Boulogne-Billancourt et de la banlieue ouest où des Russes travaillaient comme ouvriers d’usine, cherchant à soulager spirituellement et financièrement leur situation, et celle de leur famille. Lorsque Paris fut occupé par l’armée allemande, en juin 1940, Mère Marie comprit tout de suite les principes de ce régime, et ses dangers non seulement pour la capitale qui l’avait accueillie elle-même, Slave devenue parisienne, mais aussi pour son ancienne patrie. C’est en chrétienne qu’elle entra en résistance, en se servant de ses multiples allées et venues pour des actions de renseignement et de dénonciations des mesures prises par l’occupant, tout en continuant sa mission d’évangélisatrice. Elle sauva ainsi des Juifs de la déportation2. En juillet 1942, elle sauve 3 ou 4 enfants juifs du Vélodrome d’hiver à Paris3. Son fils Georges (Youra), âgé de dix-huit ans, et le Père Dimitri Klépinine furent arrêtés par la Gestapo en février 19434. Peu après, ce fut à son tour de l’être. Elle s’était préparée spirituellement. Elle fut déportée à Ravensbrück, comme tant d’autres femmes.

Elle mourut au camp le 31 mars 1945, Vendredi saint dans le calendrier julien, après avoir pris la place d’une femme juive destinée à la chambre à gaz.

Elle est canonisée (glorifiée dit-on plus souvent dans l’Église orthodoxe) en 2004 par le Patriarcat de Constantinople.

Un film sur sa vie a été tourné en 1982, avec Lioudmilla Kassatkina dans le rôle principal.

Le Conseil de Paris a décidé en 2013, à l’unanimité, de donner son nom à une future rue de Paris.

New York, USA: Journey to Orthodoxy

http://usaofmyheart.wordpress.com

USA OF MY HEART

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http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/?s=new+york

New York, USA: Journey to Orthodoxy

Klaus Kenneth: Von Atheismus, Protestantismus usw. zur Orthodoxie – Video ╰⊰¸¸.•¨* German

http://edelweissofmyheart.wordpress.com

EDELWEISS OF MY HEART

Klaus Kenneth: Von Atheismus, Protestantismus usw. zur Orthodoxie

A dialogue with Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos of Athens, Greece (+1989) & an atheist

http://atheistsmetorthodoxy.wordpress.com

ATHEISTS MET ORTHODOXY

A dialogue with Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

of Athens, Greece (+1989) & an atheist

One morning, the Father Epiphanios Theodoropoulos was in a conversation with 2-3 visitors at his home. One of them was an ideological atheist and a communist.  Suddenly, someone from outside came rushing in, and informed them that the city of Athens had been flooded with photographs of Mao Tse Tung, with the inscription “Glory to the great Mao”. It was the day that the Chinese dictator had died.

Father Epiphanios: That’s the way things are, my child.  Atheists do not exist.  Only idolaters exist, who take down Christ from His throne and in His place they enthrone their own idols.  We say: “Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”.  They say: “Glory to the great Mao”.  You pick and choose which one you prefer.

Atheist: You also choose your drug, grandpa. The only difference is, that you call it Christ, others call it Buddha, etc. etc…

Fr. Epiphanios: My child, Christ is not a drug. Christ is the Creator of the entire universe. He is the one Who governs everything wisely, from the multitudes of infinite galaxies, down to the minutest particles of the microcosm. He has given life to all of us.  He is the One Who brought you into this world and has bestowed you with so much freedom, that you can actually doubt Him, and even deny Him.

Atheist: Grandpa, its your right to believe in all of those things.  But that doesn’t mean they are true.  Do you have any proofs?

Fr. Epiphanios: You think all of this is just a fairy tale, don’t you?

Atheist: Naturally.

Fr. Epiphanios: Do you have any proof that it is a fairy tale? Can you prove that what I believe is false?

Atheist: ……………….

Fr. Epiphanios: You didn’t reply, because you don’t have any proof either.  Which means, you believe they are fairy tales.  I spoke to you of believing, when I referred to God; you, however, although rejecting my belief, essentially believe in your faithlessness, since you cannot back it up with proofs either. However, I must tell you that my belief is not something “out of the blue”; There are certain supernatural events, upon which it is founded.

Atheist: Just a minute! Since we are talking about believing, what would you say to Muslims or Buddhists for example?  Because they also talk about believing. And they too have high moral standards.  Why is your belief better than theirs?

Fr. Epiphanios: So! The criterion of the truth is supposedly judged by this question of yours?  Because the truth is most certainly one; truths cannot be many in number. The thing is, who is the possessor of the truth? That is the major question. Hence, it is not a matter of a better or worse belief! It is a matter of the only true belief!

I agree, that other beliefs also have moral teachings. Naturally, Christianity’s moral teachings are incomparably superior. But, we do not believe in Christ because of His moral teachings. Or for His prompting to “Love one another”, or for His sermons on peace and justice, freedom and equality. We believe in Christ, because His presence on earth was accompanied by supernatural events, which was a sign that He is God.

Atheist: Look, I also admit that Christ was an important philosopher and a great revolutionary, but let’s not make Him a god now……

Fr. Epiphanios: My dear child!  All the great disbelievers in history were snagged by that detail.  The fishbone that stuck in their throat, which they just couldn’t swallow, was exactly that:  That Christ is also God.

Many of them were willing to say to God: “Don’t tell anyone that You are God incarnate; Just say that You’re an ordinary human, and we shall be more than ready to deify you. Why do You want to be an incarnate God, and not a deified human?  We are willing to glorify You, to proclaim You as the greatest among men, the holiest, the most ethical, the noblest, the unsurpassable, the one and only, the unprecedented…  Isn’t that enough for You ?

Ernest Renan –he was the head of the chorus of deniers- thunders out the following, with regard to Christ: “For tens of thousands of years, the world shall be uplifted through You”, and “You are the cornerstone of mankind; if one were to wrench Your name away from this world, it would be like shattering its foundations” and “the aeons shall proclaim that amongst the sons of men, never was there born anyone that could surpass You”.  But this is where Renan and his likes stop. Their very next phrase is: “But a God, You are not!”

And those poor wretches cannot perceive that all of these things constitute an indescribable tragedy!  Their dilemma is inevitably relentless: Either Christ is an incarnate God, in which case, He is indeed, only then, the most ethical, the holiest and noblest personage of mankind, or, He is not an incarnate God, in which case, He cannot possibly be any of these. In fact, if Christ is not God, then we are talking about the most horrible, the most atrocious and the most despicable existence in the history of mankind.

Atheist: What did you just say?

Fr. Epiphanios: Exactly what you heard!  It may be a weighty statement, but it is absolutely true. And I will tell you why.

Let me ask: What did all the truly great men say about themselves, or what opinion did they have of themselves ?

The “wisest of all men”, Socrates, proclaimed that “I came to know one thing: that I know nothing”.

All the important men in the Old and New Testament, from Abraham and Moses, through to John the Baptist and the Apostle Paul, characterized themselves as “earth and ashes”, “wretches”, “monstrosities”, etc…. [1]

But, strangely enough, Jesus’ attitude is quite the opposite!  And I say strangely enough, because it would have been natural and logical for Him to have a similar attitude. In fact, being far superior and surpassing all others, He should have had an even lower and humbler opinion of Himself [2].  Ethically more perfect than any other, He should have surpassed everyone and anyone in self-reproach and humility, from the moment of the world’s Creation to the end of Time.

But, the exact opposite is observed!

First of all, He proclaims that He is sinless: “Who among you shall check Me for sin?” (John, 8:46). “The lord of this world is coming, and he can find nothing in Me.”  (John, 14: 30)

He also pronounces very high ideas of Himself: “I am the light of the world” (John, 8, 12);  “I am the path and the truth and the life”  (John, 14: 6).

But, apart from these, He also projects demands of absolute dedication to His Person.  He even penetrates the holiest of man’s relationships, and says: “Whomsoever loves their father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. and whomsoever loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew, 10: 37).  “I came to turn man away, against his father, and the daughter against her mother and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Matthew, 10: 35).  He even demands a life and a death of martyrdom from His disciples: “They shall deliver you to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you shall be dragged before leaders and kings for My sake…. And brother shall deliver his brother to death and the father his son, and the children shall revolt against their parents and shall put them to death…. And you shall be hated by everyone, for my namesake…. And he that shall endure to the end, he shall be saved…. Do not fear those who destroy the body….. Whomsoever shall deny Me before mankind, I too shall deny him…. Whomsoever has forfeited his soul for My sake, shall recover it” (Matthew, 10: 17 onward).

And now I ask you:  Has anyone ever dared to demand for himself the love of mankind, forsaking their very life? Has anyone ever dared to proclaim his absolute sinlessness?  Has anyone ever dared to utter the words: “I am the truth”? (John, 14: 6)  No-one, and nowhere!  Only a God can do that. Can you imagine your Marx uttering things like that?  They would take him for a lunatic and nobody would be willing to follow him!

Now, just consider, how many people sacrificed everything for Christ’s sake, even their very life, having believed in the veracity of His words regarding Himself!  If His proclamations about Himself were false, Jesus would have been the most despicable character in history, for having led so many people to such a huge sacrifice!  What ordinary man – no matter how great, how important, how wise he may be – would deserve such a tremendous offer and sacrifice?  Well?  No-one!  Not unless he were God!

In other words: Any ordinary man that would demand such a sacrifice from his followers would have been the most loathsome person in history.  Christ, however, both demanded it, and achieved it. Yet, despite this ‘achievement’, He was proclaimed by the very deniers of His divinity as the noblest and holiest figure in history.  So, either the deniers are being illogical when they proclaim this most loathsome figure as “holiest”, or, in order to avoid any illogicality, and to rationalize the co-existence of Christ’s demands and His holiness, they must concede to accepting that Christ continues to remain the noblest and holiest figure in mankind, but, only under the condition that He is also God!  Otherwise, as we said, He would be, not the holiest, but the most loathsome figure in history, being the cause of the greatest sacrifice of all ages, and in the name of a lie!  Thus, Christ’s divinity is proved by His very deniers, on the basis of those very characterizations of His person!

Atheist: What you just said is really very impressive, but it is nothing but speculation. Do you have any historical facts that would confirm His Divinity?

Fr. Epiphanios: I told you at the beginning, that the proofs of His Divinity are the supernatural events that took place while He was here on earth.  Christ did not rest on the proclamation of the above truths alone; He certified His statements with miracles as well.  He made blind people see and cripples walk; He satisfied the hunger of five thousand men and manifold numbers of women and children with only two fish and five loaves of bread; He commanded the elements of nature and they obeyed; He resurrected the dead, amongst which was Lazarus, four days after his death. But the most astounding of all his miracles was His own Resurrection.

The entire edifice of Christianity is supported on the event of the Resurrection.  This is not my speculation. The Apostle Paul said it: “If Christ had not risen (from the dead), our faith would be futile”. (Corinthians I, 15: 17).  If Christ is not resurrected, then everything collapses. But Christ was resurrected, which means He is the Lord of life and death, therefore God.

Atheist: Did you see all of this?  How can you believe it?

Fr. Epiphanios: No, I didn’t see any of it, but others did: the Apostles. They in turn made this known to others, and they actually “signed” their testimony with their own blood. And, as everyone acknowledges, a testimony of one’s life is the supreme form of testimony.

Why don’t you likewise bring me someone, who will tell me that Marx died and was resurrected, and that he is willing to sacrifice his life in order to testify it?  I, as an honest man, will believe him.

Atheist: I will tell you. Thousands of communists were tortured and died for their ideology.  Why don’t you embrace communism in the same way?

Fr. Epiphanios: You said it yourself.  Communists died for their ideology. They didn’t die for real events.  In an ideology, it is very easy for deception to seep through; and because it is a characteristic of the human soul to sacrifice itself for something it believes in, this explains why so many communists died for their ideology. But that doesn’t compel us to accept this ideology as something true.

It is one thing to die for ideas, and another to die for events.  The Apostles didn’t die for any ideas.  Not even for the “Love one another”, or any of the other moral teachings of Christianity. The Apostles died for their testimony of supernatural events. And when we say ‘event’, we mean that which is captured by our physical senses, and is comprehended through them.

The Apostles suffered martyrdom for “that which they heard”, “that which they saw with their own eyes”, “that which they observed and their hands touched”  (John I, 1) [3]

Just like the clever speculation by Pascal, we say that one of the three following things happened to the Apostles: either they were deceived, or, they deceived us, or, they told us the truth.

Let’s take the first case.  It is not possible for the Apostles to have been deceived, because everything that they reported, was not reported to them by others.They themselves were eye and ear witnesses of all those things. Besides, none of them were imaginative characters, nor did they have any psychological inclination that made them accept the event of the Resurrection.  Quite the contrary – they were terribly distrustful.  The Gospels are extremely revealing, in their narrations of their spiritual dispositions: they even disbelieved the reassurances that some people had actually seen Him, resurrected.

And one other thing. What were the Apostles, before Christ called them?  Were they perhaps ambitious politicians or visionaries of philosophical and social systems, who were longing to conquer mankind and thus satisfy their fantasies?  Not at all.  They were illiterate fishermen. The only thing that interested them was to catch a few fish to feed their families.  That is why, even after the Lord’s Crucifixion, and despite everything that they had heard and seen, they returned to their fishing boats and their nets. In other words, there was not a single trace of disposition in these men for the things that were to follow.  It was only after the day of the Pentecost, “when they received strength from on high”, that they became the teachers of the universe.

The second case:  Did they deceive us?  Did they lie to us?  But then, why would they deceive us?  What would they gain by lying?  Was it money? Was it status?  Was it glory?  For someone to tell a lie, he must be expecting some sort of gain.  The Apostles though, by preaching Christ – and in fact Christ crucified and resurrected – the only things that they secured for themselves were: hardships, labours, lashings, stonings, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, nakedness, attacks from robbers, beatings, incarcerations and finally, death.  And all this, for a lie?  It would be undoubtedly foolish for anyone to even consider it.

Consequently, the Apostles were neither deceived, nor did they deceive us. This leaves us with the third choice: that they told us the truth.

I should also stress something else here:  The Evangelists are the only ones who recorded true historical events. They describe the events, and only the events. They do not resort to any personal judgments.  They praise no-one, and they criticize no-one.  They make no attempt to exaggerate an event, nor eliminate or underestimate another.  They let the events speak for themselves.

Atheist: Are you excluding the possibility that in Christ’s case, it was just an incident of apparent death?  The other day, the newspapers had written about someone in India whom they buried and three days later they exhumed him and he was still alive.

Fr. Epiphanios: My poor child!  I will recall the words of the blessed Augustine again:  “O faithless ones, you are not actually mistrustful; indeed, you are the most gullible of all.  You accept the most improbable things, and the most irrational, the most contradictory, in order to deny a miracle!”

No, my child. It was not a case of apparent death with Christ. First of all, we have the testimony of the Roman centurion, who reassured Pilate that Christ’s death was a certainty.

Then, our Gospel informs us that on the same day of His Resurrection, the Lord was seen talking with two of His disciples, walking towards Emmaus, which was more than ten kilometers away from Jerusalem.

Can you imagine someone, who could go through all the tortures that Christ underwent, and three days after His “apparent death”, spring back again?  If anything, he would have to be fed chicken soup for forty days, in order to be able to open his eyes, let alone walk and talk as though nothing had happened!

As for the Hindu, bring him here to be flogged with a scourge – do you know what a scourge is? It is a whip, whose lashes each have a lead chunk or a piece of broken bone or sharp nails attached to their end – bring him here, so we can flog him, then force a crown of thorns on his head, crucify him, give him bile and vinegar to drink, then pierce his side with a spear, put him in a tomb, and then, if he comes back from the dead, then we can talk.

Atheist: Even so, but all the testimonies that you have invoked belong to Christ’s Disciples.  Is there any testimony on this matter, that doesn’t come from the circle of His Disciples?  Are there any historians for example, who can certify Christ’s Resurrection?  If so, then I will also believe what you say.

Fr. Epiphanios: You poor child!  You don’t know what you’re saying now!  If there had been such historians who had witnessed Christ resurrected, they would have been compelled to believe in His Resurrection and would have recorded it as believers, in which case, you would again have rejected their testimony, just like you rejected Peter’s testimony, John’s testimony, etc.  How can it be possible, for someone to actually witness the Resurrection and yet, NOT become a Christian?  You are asking for a roasted fowl, on a waxen skewer, that also sings!  It just can’t be done !

I will remind you though – because you are asking for historians – of what I said earlier: that the only true historians are the Apostles.

Nevertheless, we do have testimony of the kind that you want; and it is by someone who didn’t belong to the circle of His Disciples: it was Paul.  Paul not only wasn’t a Disciple of Christ, he actually persecuted Christ’s Church relentlessly.

Atheist: They say that Paul suffered from sunstroke and that it was the cause of his hallucination.

Fr. Epiphanios: My child, if Paul was hallucinating, the thing that would have come to the surface, would have been his subconscious.  And in Paul’s subconscious, the Patriarchs and the Prophets would have been top ranking.  He would have hallucinated about Abraham, and Jacob and Moses, and not Jesus, whom he considered a rabble-rouser and a fraud!

Can you imagine a faithful old granny seeing Buddha or Jupiter in her dream or delirium?  She would most probably see Saint Nicholas or Saint Barbara, because she believes in them.

One more thing. With Paul, we have –as Papini notes- the following miraculous phenomena:  First of all, the abruptness of his conversion. Straight from faithlessness to faith. With no intermediate preparatory stage.  Secondly, the steadfastness of his faith. No wavering, no doubts.  And thirdly, his faith lasted for a whole lifetime.  Do you believe that all these things can occur after a case of sunstroke?  They can in no way be attributed to such a cause.  If you can explain how, then explain it.  If you can’t, then you must admit the miracle.  And you must know that for a man of his time, Paul was exceptionally well-educated. He was not your average little person, who was totally clueless.

I will also add something else.  We today, my child, are living in an exceptional era. We are living the miracle of Christ’s Church.

When Christ said of His Church that “the gates of Hades shall not overpower Her” (Matthew 16:18), His followers were very few in number. Almost two thousand years have passed, since that day. Empires vanished, philosophical systems were forgotten, world theories collapsed. But Christ’s Church remains indestructible, despite the continuous and dramatic persecutions it has undergone. Isn’t that a miracle?

And one final thing.  In Luke’s Gospel it says that when the Holy Mother visited Elizabeth (the Baptist’s mother) after the Annunciation, she was greeted with the words: “blessed are you amongst women”.  And the Holy Mother replied as follows: “My heart magnifies the Lord. Behold, from this moment on, all generations shall call me blessed” (a’ 48).

What was the Holy Mother at that time?  She was just an obscure daughter of Nazareth. How many knew her?  And yet, since that day, empresses have been forgotten, distinguished women’s names have been extinguished, the mothers and wives of great generals went into oblivion. Who remembers, or even knows, Napoleon’s mother or Alexander the Great’s mother? Almost no-one.  But, millions of lips across every length and breadth of the world, throughout the ages, venerate that humble daughter of Nazareth, the “more precious than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim”.  Are we, or aren’t we –the people of the twentieth century– living in this day and age the verification of those words of the Holy Mother?

The exact same things are observed in a “secondary” prophecy of Christ:  While He was staying at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him and poured her expensive fragrant oil over His head. Christ commented: “Amen, verily I say to you, that wherever this gospel will be preached in the world, it will also mention what this woman did, in her memory” (Matthew, 26: 13).  Now, how large was His circle of followers at the time, so that one could say that they outdid themselves in order that their Master’s prophecy be fulfilled?  Especially a prophecy such as this one, which, by today’s world standards, is of no importance to most people.

Are they or aren’t they miracles?  If you can, explain them.   But if you can’t, then admit them as such.

Atheist: I have to admit that your arguments are pretty solid. But I would like to ask you one more thing:  Don’t you think that Christ left His work unfinished?  That is, unless He deserted us.  I can’t imagine a God that would remain indifferent to mankind’s suffering.  We are down here toiling, while He, up there, remains apathetic.

Fr. Epiphanios: No, my child.  You aren’t right. Christ did not leave His work unfinished.  On the contrary, He is the one unique case in history where a person has the certainty that His mission was accomplished, and had nothing further to do or to say.

Even the greatest of philosophers, Socrates, who discussed and taught during his whole lifetime, and towards the end composed an intricate “Apology”, would have even more to say, if he had lived.

Only Christ – in the time bracket of three years – taught what He had to teach, did what He had to do, and finally said (on the Cross): “It is finished”.  Another sample of His divine perfection and authority.

As for the abandonment that you mentioned, I can understand your concern.  Without Christ, the world would be a theatre of insanity.  Without Christ, you cannot explain anything: why are there sorrows, why injustices, why failures, why sicknesses, why, why, why…. Thousands of monumental “why”s.

Try to understand!  Man cannot approach all of these “why”s with his finite logic.  It is only through Christ that everything can be explained. All these trials merely precondition us for eternity. Perhaps then, we might be honored by the Lord with a reply to some of those “why”s.

It might be worthwhile, if I read you a beautiful poem* from Constantine Kallinikos’ collection “Laurels and Myrtles”, with the title “Questions”:

I asked a desert father of seventy years,

whose silver strands were blown by the wind:

Tell me o father, why, on this earth,

do the light and the dark inseparably move ?

And why must they – like twins – together sprout:

the thorn and the rose, the tear and the smile?

Why, in the loveliest part of the woodland green

have scorpions and vipers concealed their nests?

Why must it be, that the tender bud,

before unfolding its fragrant bloom,

be struck by a worm in the heart of its stem,

And left to die, like a shrivelled rag ?

Why are the plow, the seed and the hands

a must for the wheat, to become our bread?

Why must everything useful, noble, divine

always be purchased with tears and our blood,

while selfishness ever  rampantly reigns,

and lewdness is swallowing up the world?

And why, amongst such harmony around,

must tumult and disorder find their way?

The hermit replied, with his somber voice

and right arm pointing to the sky,

that there, beyond those clouds of gold,

the Almighty weaves a tapestry divine.

But since we are wanderers of the lower plane

We see nothing but the knots and strings below,

It is no wonder, why the mind sees wrong,

when it should always be thankful and give praise:

for the day will come, when Christians all,

with souls that ride the skies with wings,

will gaze atop God’s tapestry and see

how careful and orderly everything was!

My child, Christ never abandoned us.  He is forever with us, as a helper and a supporter, until the end of time.  But you will realize this, only when you become a conscientious member of His Church and be joined by Her Sacraments.

Source:

Counsels for Life – From the Life and Teachings of Father Epiphanios

Orthodox Kypseli Publications

Thessalonica GREECE, 2005