Saints’ Relics Found: Lost Romanov bones ‘identified’

Lost Romanov bones ‘identified’:

Russian scientists have said they may have identified the missing remains of two of Tsar Nicholas II’s children, who were executed after the revolution.

Experts said it was “highly probable” the remains found near Yekaterinburg in July were Alexei, the heir to the throne, and Maria, his elder sister.

They were missing when most of the family’s remains were found in 1991.

The tsar, his wife and five children were shot dead by a Bolshevik firing squad in Yekaterinburg on 17 July 1918.

In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonised the royal family, saying they had undergone suffering with gentleness, patience and humility.

Read the rest at the link above.

The Life of Saints–in Books!

While I have my own thoughts as to my having access to a living saint (in a way to be distinguished from all Christians being saints), nearly all of my access to the life of the saints is through books.

I have gained an ever greater appreciation since my chrismation that learning about theology is poorly done by way of theology books, though in God’s grace these serve us, too.  Rather theology is best learned by reading the accounts of the life of the saints, emulating them in humble realization of our own weaknesses and limitations, and by praying to them.

I have collected, over the internet, akathists to some of our household saints (St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, St. Herman of Alaska, and Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim Rose of Platina), but have felt the lack of services to the other of our household saints (St. Benedict, St. Genevieve, St. Nina and St. Brigid).  Thanks to St. John of Kronstadt Press I have gained some of what has been lacking.

Probably the best of the bunch was the life of St. Genevieve of Paris (Anna’s saint), which contains a fairly full account of her life, but best of all has three prayers (two set to music) at the end of the book.  I don’t know why, but finding prayers to St. Genevieve (from Orthodox sources), has been difficult.  This is a real treasure.

I also picked up the service, akathist and life and miracles of St. Nicholas (yes, that St. Nicholas).  With the Nativity fast and St. Nicholas’ day coming up, I wanted to really be able to enter into his feast day this year.

But of course, it was most satisfying to receive the booklet of the life, service and akathist AND translation of the Rule for St. Benedict.   And in celebration, I prayed small compline with the akathist to St. Benedict last night.  At the risk of making an utterly inane comment, it prays very well.

SKJP also has a life and akathist for St. Nina (Sofie’s saint), and next I need to find an Orthodox (or pre-Schism) source for prayers (or an akathist) for St. Brigid (Delaina’s saint).

It’s amazing how these services really bring about an experience (as opposed to an intellectual understanding) of the closeness of the saints.  (Icons do that, too, of course.  In fact, our icon of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco has seemed particularly, if you’ll pardon me, alive, lately.)  Last night, having prayed the akathist to St. Benedict, I really felt his living presence.

The Life of the Saints and the Obligation of History

Protestants generally do not have the proper knowledge of, much less an appreciation for, the history of Christianity. For many Protestants, Church history consists of the era of the apostles, followed by a sharp break until the Reformation. References to historical events between those two points generally attack Constantine and Erastianism, and Roman Catholic abuses, or, very rarely, show selective appreciation for the first four Ecumenical Councils, though mostly I Nicea. As a Restoration Movement Christian, my exposure to, knowledge of and appreciation for Church history was even less: the apostolic era, followed by the sectarian focus on the Stone-Campbell churches arising in the early decades of the nineteenth century.

This devaluation, intentional or no, of Church history is a gnosticization of the Faith of the Apostles. It is a diminishing of the dominical command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, to the mind—for such a truncation of history necessarily leads to an extremist and unbalanced focus on doctrine above all else—creating division within oneself as allegiances compete.

This devaluation of the history of the Church leads inevitably to the rupture between the life of the Church grounded in history and the individuals who absolutize dogma. Cut off from the life of the Church, these gnostic dogmatists, also cut themselves off from the communion of the saints, for after all, unless a saint articulates particular dogmae, of what use is the account of their life? And so it is not surprising that Protestants, and the Restoration Movement Christians of my upbringing, have no saints. Or, rather, the saints of Protestantism are flannelgraph figures, mere paedagogical devices for what we ought to know and the moral practices we are to do.

Continue reading “The Life of the Saints and the Obligation of History”

Father Seraphim: On Knowing the Truth

I think one of the reasons God put me in the path of the life of Father Seraphim, is that I, too, am a crippled and deformed Christian. I love God with my mind, my strength, even my soul, but I do not love him well with my heart. My Restoration Movement upbringing, and my lifelong training in various fora of academia, have certainly developed my mind. But it has left atrophied and stunted that central part of me that is the heart.

‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ Without truth there is no Christianity, and without knowledge of Christian truth one cannot be a Christian. And the end of this knowledge is not power, what science wishes; nor is it consolation or comfort or security or ego-bolstering, whatever the cults of the subjective desire. Its end is freedom, Christian, Divine-human freedom, the freedom of men, the sons of God.

The knowledge that brings freedom is beyond any subject-object categorization; it is knowledge in which the whole man participates, which informs the human being in his entirety. It is gained not by research or special experiences, but by living a Christian life, with the aid of the sacraments, prayer, fasting–and our encounters with other human beings. It is not a knowledge of which one can say, ‘I know (or have experienced) this or that,’ but one which is revealed in all that one does, alone or in company, and is present in all that one thinks. The Christian desires to be one with the Truth, Who is Christ Jesus; and so the Christian is what he knows. He who rejects Christ does not know Him; he who accepts Him but does not live the fully Christian life, does not know Him fully. Only the deified man knows fully–as fully as man may know; the rest of us are merely striving to be Christians, that is, knowers.

Eugene Rose, Philosophical Journal of Eugene Rose (1960-1962), 1 Jan 1961.

Just as it was with Father Seraphim, it is the life of the Church, the wholeness of Orthodox worship, the Sacraments, that have opened the pathway to the heart, and to the experience of the union with God. By Father Seraphim’s intercessions (and here), I have come to a greater (though still extremely limited) understanding of the relationship of prayer, especially the Jesus prayer, and the heart. And it is changing me.

The last great writing project I had here on this blog was my series on true philosophia. Earlier this year I began a series of reflections on St. Gregory Palamas’ Dialogue, but that series lies languishing. I am finding it ever more difficult to write of my faith from the standpoint I am most used to do: that of the intellect.

Do not mistake: I am not denying the intellect, or the service of the intellect to Christ and his Church. Heavens, where would I be without some of the reading I’ve done on Orthodoxy which is expressed in distinctly and challenging intellectual terms. My favorite Orthodox reading is still history and theology. Metropolitan Hierotheos’ The Person in the Orthodox Tradition graces my shelves (though as yet unread).

But I clearly have made a shift in the working out of my salvation with fear and trembling. It is to unite my mind and my strength, my soul, in the heart in prayer and obedience to Christ. Thankfully, I have Father Seraphim as a guide and exemplar.

Yet Another Reason to Like the Pittsburgh Steelers

The couple [Troy and Theodora Polamalu] also worships here [Pittsburgh]. Previously non-denominational Christians, they joined the Eastern Orthodox Church in January. (WHIRL Magazine)

And from Wikipedia:

[Troy] Polamalu is an Eastern Orthodox Christian, having converted through the influence of his wife Theodora, who is of Greek descent. Among his spiritual activities is a pilgrimage to Greek Orthodox sites in Greece and Turkey, taken in 2007.[2] He seldom gives interviews, but when he does, he often speaks of the role his spirituality plays in his life. Polamalu has said that he tries to separate himself from his profession as much as possible, like not watching football games at home. He says a prayer after each play and also on the sidelines.

And from Steelers Fever:

While having such a successful season and offseason [2006-2007], [Troy] Polamalu, who is an Eastern Orthodox Christian, decided to take a pilgrimage to Greek sites in Greece and Turkey. Polamalu’s wife, Theodora Polamalu, who is of Greek descent, has helped Polamalu find peace in his religion. Polamalu has said he prays after every play and while on the sidelines.