Dr. Christopher Veniamin Guest Instructor at SVS

“Prayer in Saint Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex” – Monday, November 17, from 1:00 to 3:30 PM, at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Yonkers, NY

Dr. Christopher Veniamin, Professor of Patristics at St. Tikhon’s Seminary and author of The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Scripture and Tradition, has been graciously invited by Dr. Peter Bouteneff, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, to teach a class on “Prayer in Saint Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony of Essex,” on Monday, November 17, from 1:00 to 3:30 PM.

Professor Christopher Veniamin is a spiritual child of Elder Sophrony of Essex, holds his first degree in Theology from the University of Thessalonica (Greece), and obtained his doctorate from Oxford University, under the supervision of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. He is the editor and translator of Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (2009 and 2014), for which he also wrote over 100 pages of notes and scholia, and the author of The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation: “Theosis” in Scripture and Tradition (2013).

Dr. Veniamin’s doctoral dissertation at Oxford, “The Transfiguration of Christ in Greek Patristic Literature: From Irenaeus of Lyons to Gregory Palamas” (1991), was a diachronic study of the meaning of the Taborian theophany in Patristic literature, spanning some thirteen centuries, and is currently being reworked in preparation for publication in 2015.

Professor Veniamin is also the President of Mount Thabor Publishing, which was established in 2005, and has edited and published books by Archimandrite Zacharias, Professor Constantine Scouteris, and Klaus Kenneth.

 

Entering the Orthodox Church: The Catechism and Baptism of Adults

Entering the Orthodox Church is an extremely valuable resource for those preparing to join the Orthodox Church. To order, click on image.

Entering the Orthodox Church is an extremely valuable resource for those preparing to join the Orthodox Church. To order, click on image.

From its first beginnings the Church carefully prepared anyone wanting to become a member. Catechism was a journey towards purification, so that once purified, the person would be baptised and become a temple of the All-Holy Spirit. In our own day too, certain indispensable conditions must be fulfilled in order for Catechism to take place in a correct and Orthodox manner. In the author’s view, the fundamental prerequisite for proper Catechism is the existence of an experienced Catechist capable of adjusting the message on each occasion according to the requirements and interests of the Catechumen. The association of Catechism with worship and ascetic practice is also absolutely necessary, because otherwise it will be merely cerebral and theoretical.

It is highly desirable for Catechumens to be associated with a Church community, either a parish or a monastery, where they will meet the truth that the Orthodox Church is a spiritual therapeutic community within which the illnesses of man’s soul are cured.
The reader can study a general framework of catechetical homilies drawn up by the author, which demonstrates how contemporary Catechism can be applied to those wishing to be baptised. An exposition of the Creed (the Symbol of Faith) is provided. There are lists of questions and answers which refer to the basic central points of Orthodox faith and life, the aim being to consolidate the knowledge imparted to the Catechumens so that the Catechism can be as correct and complete as possible.

Writing about the rite of the sacrament of Baptism, the author stresses that linking Baptism with the Divine Liturgy will contribute to a revival in liturgical life. The Holy Spirit, Who acts and works with the water of the baptismal font, regenerates the whole human being. Through Holy Baptism, which is seen as an introductory sacrament, we receive the light of divine grace and enter the Body of Christ, the Church.

The final section of the book underlines some basic points about guidance after Baptism, and stresses that the Catechism of those already baptised is much more difficult than the Catechism of Catechumens before Baptism. Through his own personal effort and by divine grace, as the believer attains to a personal knowledge of God, he becomes a true member of the Church. The aim of Baptism is to lead people to communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, which is the centre of all the Sacraments, and the whole of Church and spiritual life.

Nowadays we see that many people are asking to be baptised and become members of the Church. They are disillusioned with other religions and theories, including atheism, and come to the Orthodox Church. As we read Entering the Orthodox Church (the Greek original of which is the sixth book in the series “Theoria and Praxis” published by the Apostolic Ministry of the Church of Greece), we realise that it makes a significant contribution to the pastoral care of those entering the Orthodox Church.

In addition it is a useful aid for those already baptised, in other words, for every faithful member of the Church. The task of Catechism should be undertaken responsibly and seriously, not in a secular or indiscriminate manner, because it is a blessed ministry.

The Enrichment in our Pacific Northwest Tour – Part 3

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

Holy Annunciation Church, Milwaukie OR (Fr. Matthew Tate)

The Enrichment in our Pacific Northwest Tour – Part 2b

(From left to right) Fr. Stephen Soot, Christopher, Mat. Mona Soot, & Klaus

(From left to right) Fr. Stephen Soot, Christopher, Mat. Mona Soot, & Klaus

Pam Williamson - St. Ann Orthodox Church, Corvallis Oregon

Pam Williamson – St. Ann Orthodox Church, Corvallis Oregon

(From left to right) Paul Williamson Christopher, Pam Williamson, & Klaus

(From left to right) Paul Williamson Christopher, Pam Williamson, & Klaus

Mat. Mona Soot & Klaus - St. Ann Orthodox Church, Corvallis Oregon

Mat. Mona Soot & Klaus – St. Ann Orthodox Church, Corvallis Oregon

The Enrichment in our Pacific Northwest Tour – Part 2

St. Anne Orthodox Church, Corvallis OR (Fr. Stephen Soot) - Vigil for the Feast of the Dormition

St. Anne Orthodox Church, Corvallis OR (Fr. Stephen Soot) – Vigil for the Feast of the Dormition

St. Anne Orthodox Church, Corvallis OR (Fr. Stephen Soot) - Vigil for the Feast of the Dormition

St. Anne Orthodox Church, Corvallis OR (Fr. Stephen Soot) – Vigil for the Feast of the Dormition

St. Anne Orthodox Church, Corvallis OR (Fr. Stephen Soot) - Vigil for the Feast of the Dormition

St. Anne Orthodox Church, Corvallis OR (Fr. Stephen Soot) – Vigil for the Feast of the Dormition

St. Anne Orthodox Church, Corvallis OR (Fr. Stephen Soot) - Vigil for the Feast of the Dormition

St. Anne Orthodox Church, Corvallis OR (Fr. Stephen Soot) – Vigil for the Feast of the Dormition

Already a Classic! – The Hidden Man of the Heart (2nd Edition)

0980020751-HidMan

Fr. Zacharias‘ own favorite, The Hidden Man of the Heart is already considered a classic!

The Hidden Man of the Heart, Archimandrite Zacharias‘ profoundest work to date, is back in print!

This second edition is also equipped with two indexes, an Index of Scriptural References and an Index of Names and Subjects.

The Hidden Man of the Heart consists of a series of presentations on the place of the heart in the spiritual life of the Christian, with special reference to the Hesychast tradition of the Orthodox Church, including two of the most influential figures in contemporary Christianity: Saint Silouan the Athonite (1866–1938) and Elder Sophrony of Essex (1896–1993).

Delivered in Wichita, Kansas at the 2007 Clergy Brotherhood Retreat of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, each lecture is published here in full together with its corresponding Questions & Answers.

For the Table of Contents, Sample Pages, and further details, please click here.

About the Author

The author is a disciple of Elder Sophrony and a member of the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, England. Also published by MOUNT THABOR PUBLISHING are his The Enlargement of the Heart (2nd edition, 2012) and Remember Thy First Love (2010),

Review

“Father Zacharias has inherited the rare and precious spiritual gift of ‘speaking a word’, an authentic word inspired by these contemporary spiritual giants [sc. St. Silouan the Athonite and Elder Sophrony].” The Right Reverend Basil Essey, Bishop of Wichita, Anthiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

“The writings of Archimandrite Zacharias evince that inspiration which is born of the undistorted vision of Christ in glory.” Dr. Christopher Veniamin D.Phil. (Oxon.), Professor of Patristics, Saint Tikhon’s Seminary, USA

EMPIRICAL DOGMATICS VOL. 2: Holy Trinity, Creation, Fall, Incarnation, Church, Life After Death

Empirical Dogmatics Vol 2

According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides

Volume 2 completes the Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, based on the spoken teaching of Fr. John Romanides. It addresses central dogmatic issues in the light of the experience of the Apostles and saints. Fr. John’s approach is unique, lively, and unconventional. Because of his American background, his wide-ranging academic research and his participation in ecumenical dialogues, he sees Orthodox dogma in its wider context. But his words are also illuminated by the mystery of his own experience, which he does not completely succeed in concealing.

The Church’s teaching on the Holy Trinity distinguishes between the dogma of the Holy Trinity, which it is possible to understand, and the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which defies human comprehension. The revelation of the Holy Trinity begins in the Old Testament: “It is Christ Who appears to the Prophets…Christ…is the Angel of the Lord, the Lord of Glory, Yahweh, the Lord Sabaoth, the Angel of Great Counsel …”

Fr. John reviews the scriptural and patristic teaching on the Creation of the World from non-being. Discussing the Demons of Darkness, he states uncompromisingly: “Being a theologian means first and foremost that someone is an expert in the wiles of the devil.” God’s personal direction of world is a matter of experience: “When someone is in the state of illumination he…sees the uncreated energy of God within creation.”

Commenting on the Creation of Man, Fr. John declares that we all possess a noetic faculty (nous) “which is supposed to be in man’s heart, but it is not in the heart when it is not functioning correctly”. The illuminated nous returns to the heart and prays: “When man prays with his rational faculty, that is human prayer…When, however, his nous prays within the heart, then the Spirit is praying.”

The Fall of Man does not mean “inheriting the guilt of Adam and Eve. The ancestral sin was not an affront to God, but a sickness of man.” Fr. John argues against St Augustine’s view that death is “a punishment from God” and sets out the evidence that it is an illness.

The Incarnation of the Son and Word of God is not just a historical event but “a spiritual event that is confirmed by empirical knowledge”. Analysing the Transfiguration of Christ, Fr. John comments: “We also know these things from the experience of glorification, not simply from reading Holy Scripture.” Christians must personally experience the Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. “God is not reconciled with man, but man with God through the mystery of the Cross, and through this reconciliation man is transformed from an enemy of God into His friend, and participates in the Resurrection of Christ.”

The Mystery of Pentecost shows that the experience of Pentecost is repeated through the centuries. Fr. John stresses the empirical element of St Paul’s teaching: “For someone to be a temple of the Holy Spirit is an experience. If one reads the Apostle Paul carefully, he is not using empty words every time he describes the Holy Spirit…Who prays in man’s heart…This is the reality.” He also asks: “Without becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit, how can anyone become a theologian?”

Fr. John says characteristically: “What is the purpose of Orthodoxy? It is clear from the calendar of feasts. We have Easter and we have Pentecost. Baptism in water takes place at Easter. Baptism in the Holy Spirit takes place at Pentecost… And what is the outcome? The Sunday of All Saints. In other words, that all Orthodox Christians may be numbered among the saints.”

The Spiritual Perfecting of Christians analyses the stages of purification, illumination and glorification-theosis. Purification is not just a matter of avoiding sin: “Purification of the heart means that thoughts leave the heart…so that the heart is left…with one thought, prayer alone. This…is called prayer of the heart or single-thought prayer.” Those who reach illumination experience this: “Noetic prayer is a gift from God and is proof that somebody has become a temple of the Holy Spirit.” And someone who is glorified “no longer knows God in prophecies and knowledge and prayers, but knows Him directly.

Fr. John takes a historical and spiritual approach to the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Church, stating: “The Mystery of Chrismation was intended for those who had already become members of the Body of Christ, because it was assumed that the Holy Spirit had already come to them and was praying in their heart.” Heresies and Councils are seen in a therapeutic perspective: “There is no therapeutic treatment in heresy…it is dangerous for people. The Fathers saw heresy as a form of charlatanism…”

Considering Life after Death, Fr. John stresses that Paradise and Hell exist from the human point of view, not from God’s perspective. “Someone who is suitably prepared sees God as glory, and someone else, who is unprepared, who does not have repentance and does not have divine vision, also sees God, but sees Him as ‘a consuming fire’. This is the fire of Hell.”

Metropolitan Hierotheos arranges all this material clearly and systematically, and links it with his own interpretative and critical comments. The resulting account of Empirical Dogmatics is comprehensive and compelling, with many surprises. This book will appeal not only to theologians but to anyone interested in what Orthodox Christians believe and why.

EMPIRICAL DOGMATICS VOL. 1: Dogma, Ethics, Revelation

Empirical Dogmatics

According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides

Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos is a valuable contribution to contemporary theological literature. It is a work in two volumes, based mainly on the spoken teaching of Fr. John Romanides. This book is an encounter between two important theologians of our time. Father John Romanides’ vivid and unconventional words, presented by Metropolitan Hierotheos, come as a liberating intervention in theological thought. Fr. John’s precise and specific teaching is not essentially innovative, but takes patristic theology and re-formulates it for our own era.

The first volume of Empirical Dogmatics is divided into four chapters: Dogma and Ethics, The Experience of Revelation, The Bearers of Revelation and The Living Monuments of Revelation.

This is a different kind of dogmatics because it is based on experience. “Dogma is not to be believed. Dogma is to be experienced.” Dogma is not human speculation. It has nothing to do with philosophy or metaphysics. It does not lead to any form of moralism. Fr. John often draws parallels between theology and the positive sciences, particularly medicine and astronomy. The method proposed for approaching dogma, and theology in general, is experiment, experience, observation and recording, as well as verification of the degree of success in achieving the aim by means of results. The aim is man’s glorification, which is reached by way of purification and illumination. Holy relics are tangible evidence for the authenticity of this experience, which transforms the whole human being, body and soul. It is empirical realities of this kind that attract non-Orthodox Christians today.

Dogma is the record of the revelatory experience of the saints who see God. It is the rational formulation of the mystery that they experienced. Dogma also acts as a means of therapeutic treatment for those who are spiritually sick and as a guide and signpost showing the way to glorification. There is a close connection between dogma and ethics, which Orthodox theology identifies with ascetic practice. The ascetic method consists of striving for purification, and leads to illumination. In this way the separation of the rational faculty from the noetic faculty is achieved, the darkened nous is illuminated and unceasing noetic prayer begins. Man is then in a position to experience dogma and to reach glorification. The empirical basis of dogma is the foundation of the spiritual life, understood in the context of the life of the Church.

The experience of revelation, of glorification, is the experience of Pentecost. Theology is an expression of the vision of God, but is not identical with it, because in the state of divine vision theology is transcended. The Christian is led to this experience through obedience to an experienced spiritual father. Spiritual fatherhood and its therapeutic dimension is the factor that links the bearers of the revelation: the glorified down through the ages and the God-seers of the Old and New Testaments. The difference between them is that the glorified Prophets of the Old Testament experience the revelation of the unincarnate Word, whereas the glorified Apostles, Fathers and saints of the New Testament experience the incarnate Word. Divine inspiration is another characteristic that they share, so they are unerring theologians. The infallibility of the Ecumenical Councils, which set out dogmas when the appearance of heretics makes this necessary, is due to the divine inspiration and freedom from error of the glorified Fathers who participated in them.

The theological teaching of Fr. John clarifies misunderstandings and resolves points of uncertainty. For instance, he clarifies the distinction between the revelation itself and the ‘living monuments of the revelation’: Holy Scripture and Tradition. The source of the faith is revelation, the experience of uncreated, ineffable words. The purpose of created words and concepts in Holy Scripture and Tradition is to cure man through purification, illumination and glorification.

This therapeutic method is the heart of the Orthodox Tradition and Empirical Dogmatics is a therapeutic intervention for those who are tired of the barren wanderings of Western theology.

 

The Seer: The Life of the Prophet Samuel and its Relevance Today, by Mtp Hierotheos Vlachos

The Prophet Samuel personifies universal history. His life and work are interpreted through the Old and New Testaments, and through the experiences of the Prophets, Apostles and Fathers of the Church. This book can benefit parents and children, spiritual fathers and those under their guidance, secular leaders and many others. The biography of a Prophet who lived thirty-two centuries before our time is significant for the people of today: clergy and laity, monks and married people, rulers and those they rule, and everyone who is troubled by being subject to suffering, corruption and death.

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The Seer describes the life and work of the Prophet Samuel, called ‘the Seer’ and ‘the man of God’ by his contemporaries, who lived in the period of the Old Testament and is a saint of our Church.

The author examines the fascinating life of the Prophet and uses events from it to illustrate the relationships between parents and children, spiritual fathers and their disciples, and rulers and those they rule in a theological perspective.

Early chapters focus on Hannah and her prayer, and discuss prayer in the heart. The Prophet was a son born by God’s good pleasure and sanctified from his mother’s womb. The miraculous nature of his birth demonstrates that the conception of a human being is the action of God’s grace, and that children are God’s gifts. There are practical comments about bringing up children in the Church, prompted by the account of Samuel as a child in the Temple. Later in the book there is a specific chapter about Samuel’s sons and the reasons why children from devout families sometimes rebel and take the wrong path, as they did.

The Prophet Samuel received revelations from God and possessed the spiritual gifts of clear sight and seeing into the future. There is a detailed discussion of what exactly these charismas are and for what purpose they are bestowed by God.

The Holy Spirit was at work in the Old Testament, and there is a compelling account of how Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit when anointed by Samuel, although he later lost this gift completely. The chapters on Saul’s sins, which seem superficially not to be serious, but were in fact so grave that they caused God to ‘change His mind’ about him, are thought-provoking. As a spiritual father, the author is able to understand Samuel’s profound grief over Saul’s fall and to describe it.

The book draws to a close with the anointing of David as king and Samuel’s death. The final pages look at the Prophet Samuel and the Church and include extracts from the service sung in his honour.
The author summarises Samuel’s four great virtues as his purity, his obedience to God’s will, his lack of resentment, and his love for the people, which also found expression through his grief at their mistakes. Samuel never grieved God at any point.