Ominous tattoos, bizarre body piercing, and transsexual mutilations are only the beginning, argues Orthodox bioethicist Wesley J. Smith. “Transhumanists” are true believers who envision a point in time—known in movement parlance as “the Singularity” — when the crescendo of technological advances becomes unstoppable, culminating in attaining the age-old dream of material immortality via uploading minds into AI computers, merged with robotic technologies, to create blended beings with the intellectual and physical powers of the cyborgs depicted in “Blade Runner.”
“How have we arrived,” asks Stanford University historian Victor David Hanson, “at the brink of a veritable civil war?” And a recent “Washington Post” headline reads: “In America, talk turns to something not spoken of for 150 years: Civil War.” Surely the political and cultural polarization of America has now reached levels comparable to that most terrible national conflict of the nineteenth century.
In this article from FOMA, Russia’s most influential Orthodox magazine and translated specially for “Another City”, 17th century Russian patriarch and martyr St Hermogenes offers an example of a right believing attitude and self-sacrifice for the faith in Russia’s “Time of Troubles.” He also offers us a prayer for repentance, enlightenment, and instruction, and an end to “division and discord” that is equally applicable to our own tumultuous times.
Did you know that ten to 15 years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to 20 times that of comparable peers?
Much of the confusion (and sometimes propaganda) surrounding the question of the malleability of sexual (gender) self-identity, occurs because proponents are not educated in the biological sciences, writes Ryan T. Anderson in the essay reprinted below.
Ryan says, “Modern science shows that our sexual organization begins with our DNA and development in the womb, and that sex differences manifest themselves in many bodily systems and organs, all the way down to the molecular level. In other words, our physical organization for one of two functions in reproduction shapes us organically, from the beginning of life, at every level of our being.”
As as Princeton philosopher Robert P. George puts it, “Changing sexes is a metaphysical impossibility because it is a biological impossibility.”
We tried to get his old shoes and coat ta’ throw ’em in the trash. Carol said not even the rummage sale at Front and Girard would take his worn-down shoes and screen-thin overcoat. He stuffed ’em in his paper shopping-bag suitcase he carted all his bishop stuff around in and said he knew somebody who needed ’em.
He never varied from living the life of a monk. Him and his pistachio shell, somehow staying faithful to the apostolic calling, and steeped in the ancient ways, he knew how to overcome the temptations that stood in his way. No episcopal palaces or stately homes on this earth. He had other conceptions of life.
During the twentieth century, the self-understanding of Greek identity, especially in relation to Western Christendom, became focused on finding a cultural continuity between Ancient Greece, Byzantium, and the modern Greek nation. Nicolas Prevelakis argues that this issue was successfully resolved through an interweaving of history and theology in the writings of Fr John Romanides and philosopher Christos Yannaras.
In the course of his exposition, the author provides and fine introduction to the work of these two theologians, who both deserve to be better known in Western Orthodox circles. Alongside the question of Greek identity, readers will find that Romanides and Yannaras also offer excellent explanations of the religious differences between Eastern and Western Christianity in general.
The practice of yoga is becoming normalized in our society as a religiously-neutral, “holistic” exercise program that will promote mental and physical health.
But this article, written by an Orthodox author who had once pursued yogic practices extensively in India, shows how yoga is inseparable not only from Hindu and Buddhist doctrines, but from dark and demonic energies as well. Indeed, he draws our attention to stern warnings in Hindu and Buddhist yoga manuals themselves, cautioning that these practices can lead to a deterioration of both mind and body.
“To think of yoga as a mere physical movement is tantamount to saying that baptism is merely an underwater exercise,” he explains.
Sometimes the simple and heartfelt introductions to people and places different than our own reveals to us the important things that that press of events in our own lives keeps hidden from our view.
In this insightful short video Dr. John Farina, Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University, opens to us the rich spirituality of Orthodox Romania through the simple but profoundly authentic lives of ordinary people.
Farina speaks of Hesychasm, the practice of acquiring inner stillness primarily through the practice of the Jesus Prayer. “Be still and know that I am God” the psalmist instructs us and the hesycast tradition takes this instruction to heart and the Jesus Prayer is the way by which the believer can accomplish it.
He shows us men and women who reveal a depth of character and wisdom that was forged in the crucible of a difficult life but also one of profound meaning and beauty. Their lives were shaped by an active and vibrant community of faith around them, including parishes and monasteries some of which we see in the video.
In his his splendid biography of Fr Seraphim Rose, Fr Damascene Christensen tells the story of a young monastic aspirant seeking the esoteric spirituality of Orthodox Christianity on Mt Athos. But once he finally arrives at his destination, the Abbot hands him a copy of Dickens’ novel, “David Copperfield” to read.
When the young man protests in dismay that this is not the deep Orthodox wisdom he was seeking, but heterodox Western sentimentality, the Abbot smiles and replies: “unless you first develop normal, human, Christian feelings and learn to view life as little Davey did—with simplicity, kindness, warmth, and forgiveness—then all the Orthodox ‘spirituality’ and Patristic writings will not only be of no help to you—they will turn you into a ‘spiritual’ monster and destroy your soul.”
In this essay, the Sisters of St Xenia Skete, spiritual daughters of Fr Seraphim, make a strong case that we must not scorn our native Western culture, but like the early Church Fathers, incorporate the best of secular wisdom into our Orthodox worldview.
As Christ has taught us, nothing is more important for us than learning how to love (Matt. 22: 36-40). But how can we truly love others until we have learned to love Christ Himself who has loved us first, before any other, and far more greatly than any other? St Theophan shows us how St John, the Beloved Disciple, can help us learn to love Christ our God, with all our heart and soul and mind:
How did St. John the Theologian attain such lofty love for the Lord and become a model of love for all of us? I think that he did this in the same way that people begin to love one another. They see the beauty and goodness of a person and become attracted to them with all their heart. In like manner St. John saw the beauty of the Lord and was attracted to Him. Here follows the path of ascent in love for the Lord. Let us enter upon it, and in the end we will acquire it.
In a recent collection of writings on “Identity and Identification,” the editors state (without irony) that “we are insecure about the nature and significance of our biological, socio-political, national, professional, religious and sexual identities; but we are also more generally unsure about which category of distinction is most important.” Indeed, much of our political debate today centers upon issues concerning “identity,” so much so that many political affiliations are now labeled as “identity politics.”
It is, then, easy to forget that not so long ago, educated people would have found this obsession with “identity” to be quite unintelligible, if not altogether deranged. What happened, to bring us to this state of affairs? Mary Eberstadt provides a compelling answer to this question.
Beginning in the nineteenth century, a remarkable succession of illumined elders residing in Optina Pustyn Monastery helped bring about a spiritual renewal in Russia. Figures from Dostoevsky and Soloviev to Khomiakov and Kireyevsky to Gogol, Tchaikovsky, Turgenev, and even Tolstoy sought their advice.
This collection of sayings from the Optina Elders, focuses upon the path to salvation, and gives a taste of their wisdom and their deep understanding of the human soul. Not surprisingly, the theme of humility is often central. For example: “ when doing good deeds, if we begin to think highly of ourselves, then the power to do good is taken away from us and we are allowed to be overcome by the passions so that our thought may be humbled.”
If our salvation requires repentance, and if we desire salvation, why do we find it so difficult to repent? St Basil the Hesychast, spiritual father of St Paisius Velichkovsky, explains that the difficulty lies not simply in our commission of sins, for there is no man without sin (John14:4-5), but in our chronic justification of these sins, and hence our blaming others for them—just as Eve blamed the serpent, and Adam blamed Eve. As long as we cling to self-justification, there can be no true repentance, nor can the breeze of healing grace enter our souls.
This is not a passing challenge, something we can move beyond. We must constantly struggle against our urge to justify ourselves, which St Basil compares to rowing upstream, against the current, which is always ready to carry us away from our destination. This is symbolized through his charming allegory of a journey upstream on the Dnieper River to the Holy City of Kiev. Finally, as his narrative makes clear, we must have spiritual companions if our continued struggle against self justification, and thus our salvific pilgrimage, is to be successful.
Common misconceptions about common words can lead to common errors writes Hieromonk Gabriel, but when those errors force a reading of scripture not in accord with the meaning of the Apostle they will end up driving people away from the Church. We see this in our day with words like “mercy,” “compassion,” “tolerance” and others that are thrown about to justify almost any idea or behavior.
Why is this happening? Why do some Christians employ the words of scripture but interpret them with meanings drawn from the dominant culture? Hieromonk Gabriel writes it is because we remove ourselves from holiness, we don’t study the lives of the Saints to become practiced in the ways of holiness ourselves. The illness within the modern church is our unbelief.
The Church Fathers maintain consistently that there is no repentance after death. This claim bears upon both the great question of how we shall fare after our departure from this life, as well as the more immediate question of how we ought to live now. But if the soul retains consciousness after our earthly repose, precisely what is it that makes postmortem repentance impossible?
Noted patristics scholar, and Another City Associate Editor David Bradshaw lucidly addresses this momentous question, drawing faithfully upon both scripture and patristic writings, and in the process casting light upon the true nature of repentance itself, as well as the condition of those who adamantly refuse the Love of God.
In a world where it is becoming increasingly unwise to entrust the education of our children to teachers who promote trendy, “relevant” curricula, the question arises “What, then, should we teach them?” British philosopher and public intellectual St Roger Scruton argues eloquently that the supposedly “irrelevant” traditional curriculum of great books, ancient languages, and classical music turns out to be in fact the most practical schooling of all, for it has proven its value in cultivating character and preparing students for challenges that are “new and unforeseeable,” and which “relevant” curricula bound up with current preoccupations cannot envisage.
Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov speaks on the spiritual meaning of the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, on our ascent following after Christ, about the event of the feast and about why namely Moses and Elijah appeared to the Savior, and about how to prepare ourselves for the feast and how to pass the day.
Occasions of joy sometimes elicit occasions of sorrow. This is so because the world is fallen, shorn from the full beauty and majesty of God. The world however, is not without hope because of the promise of the restoration of all things through the work of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Righteous. The fallen world can be made new.
There are two ways to experience He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
One is the asceticism of the monastic who forsakes all for the Kingdom. The other is the asceticism of the married, the widowed, and the single person who live in the day to day world and actively seek the Kingdom by embracing the Eucharistic heartbeat of creation and so find their being in in the life and the suffering of the other.
The author of this essay, Andrei Manovtsev, is one of the foremost scholars of the lives of the Tsar Nicholas II and his family. He has contributed greatly to the current research on what are for now being called the “Ekaterinburg remains”—bone fragments unearthed near Ekaterinburg that are believed by some to belong to the Royal Family.