Wednesday, May 31, 2006

secularism vs. Islam

Interfax has published the speeches and papers presented in English at the international conference, "Give a Soul to Europe: The Mission and Responsibility of the Churches." I'm still reading through them, but one small part of Met. Kirill's (of Smolensk and Kaliningrad) speech stood out to me in light of a lot of reading I've been doing lately about Christianity and Islam.
Today one might say that the Muslim population is increasing dramatically in Europe. In view of this, can Europe remain Christian while not entering into conflict with Islam? The recent scandal caused by the publication of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed demonstrates that it was not Christianity that caused the collisions, but rather secularism, the secularization of society, which behaved with disdain toward spiritual values and the sacred. In this regard the positive example of Russia is remarkable, where Orthodoxy, Islam and other traditional religions peacefully coexist to the extent that respect for faith and sacred things is maintained in society. In other words, Islam is ready to coexist peacefully with Christianity. Extremism, rooted in radical sentiments within Islam, is as a rule directed not against Christianity itself but against the lack of spirituality and the secularization of Western societies. Of course, we do not attempt to justify extremism, but are simply speaking of the causes that give rise to it. Thus, the secularization of Europe not only undermines the foundations of European identity but also provokes conflict with religious groups which do not wish to subject themselves to the general tendency of secularization.
This is not to say that Islam and Orthodoxy would otherwise be best pals without secularism in the mix. But it rings true for me that secularism and secularist practices like colonialism are really what's causing most of the problems between Muslims and the West these days.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

leading toward unity

I ended up going on vacation and having only limited online access after the results of the ROCOR synod came out. I must say, I'm happy to see that everything seems to be moving toward unity. If you haven't followed the action, you can see the updates from the sobor and the following bishops' council on ROCOR's official site. The agreement on the final statements was surprising--I think to others as much as it was to me. There's a great testimonial from Bishop Evtikhii of Ishim and Siberia, who will oversee all the ROCOR parishes inside Russia. He came to the sobor planning to argue for a slower pace to the reconciliation process, but God led him through a complete change of heart. He seems to have been spiritually prepared for the task ahead, of leading the ROCOR parishes inside Russia through this process. Although I haven't seen anything explicit to this effect, I assume they will be working toward a strictly geographical distinction--that parishes within Russia will be under their respective metropolitans in the Moscow Patriarchate, while those outside Russia will be under ROCOR, as a self-governing metropolitanate. This process will probably be hardest on the Patriarchate parishes outside Russia and the ROCOR parishes inside Russia.

Still, I'm excited to see the direction things are headed. Not only does this mean healing for the Church of Russia, but God willing it will lead the way for other fractured groups to reconcile.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Western impact on Christianity in Palestine

This piece appeared originally in the National Herald, but since you have to subscribe to view their archives, I'm linking to a reproduction on another site. I saw it originally in the Sephardic Heritage Update, which is available only by e-mail. I'm not in any way endorsing simply appears to be the most convenient reproduction of the piece.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

first news on the vote

So far, the only news I've seen on the outcome of today's ROCOR vote on reconciliation with Moscow:
Delegates from the exiled Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia decided Thursday to embrace the Moscow-based church it broke away from after the Bolshevik revolution.
It still remains for the bishops to make their final decision, but from what I can tell, they've been leading in this direction anyway.

Update: The official declaration has been posted.

Update: More coverage available this morning. AP has an updated article with some detail on the proceedings. See also the article from Interfax.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

recommended readings

In an interview with, his eminence Met. Laurus (ROCOR) listed recommended spiritual readings. I thought it might be useful to compile some links to available online texts:
I have never given much though to which of the Holy Fathers were my favorites. Of the ancient fathers I would name St Athanasius the Great: his works contain a bright love for Christ, which first made a strong impression upon me as a young monk. Amid the fuss of daily life it is good to read a page or two from "On the Incarnation of the Word" by St Athanasius in order to center oneself. Also, the works of St Basil the Great, his epistles and letters, in which he expresses care for the purity of the faith and for ecclesiastical peace. And the writings of St Gregory the Theologian, and St John Chrysostom [Matt, Acts/Rom, 1/2 Cor, Gal-Phle, John/Heb, misc]. From the holy fathers of our time, I would name St Ignatius Brianchaninov, a profound teacher of repentance, humility and patience [prayer, fasting, Fathers]; and St Theophan the Recluse, teacher of prayer [prayer rule, soul, inner peace, Christian life, anathema]: we were educated on the works of these Russian fathers, and they are necessary to every monk today. Why do we need the Holy Fathers? They lived a genuine church life and confessed it. We desire to join this life. This is impossible to do for oneself, without guidance. They are our mentors. To those new to the faith I would recommend "Directions on the Spiritual Life" by Abba Dorotheus, and even those experienced in the spiritual life would do well to reread this book periodically. It is the alphabet of spiritual life. The second thing is the Lives of the Saints. Whoever reads the Lives, and prays to those saints, will be inspired then to emulate them and will receive the assistance through their prayers. It is good also to read "My Life in Christ" by St John of Kronstadt.