Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Questions and Answers 210 - 214

Question 210: I saw this new video ( by Fr. Maggos from Annunciation Church in Rochester where he discusses the topic "Are There Ghosts in the Bible?" He emphatically says no, ghosts do not exist. What is your take on this?

Answer: I know nothing of the priest, but the video does a really horrible job treating the subject. In fact, it all comes off as very Protestant. I will treat this subject in a much more in-depth fashion hopefully in the near future, so I won't get into all the details here, but this subject is a much bigger subject than what is presented here, and only shows me that he has done extremely little to no research on the subject. First of all, ghosts are mentioned in the Bible in one way or another in more places than what he covers here, so he conveniently or ignorantly has skipped most of the best references, but only touched on the more well known passages of the Witch of Endor and the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Second, in the Orthodox Church, we have a rich tradition of 2,000 years that has addressed this subject in various ways, so to skip over that and dismiss it while making a conclusion by only concentrating on a few select Scripture passages comes off as very Protestant to me and he barely touches the surface of the issue. Lastly, I will say that even the two examples he brings up show how much ignorance he has of the subject. Regarding the Witch of Endor, there have been various interpretations of that story, and while some Church Fathers dismiss that the ghost of Samuel appeared, not all do, and he doesn't mention that. But even worse, in his interpretation of the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, he completely misquotes what Jesus said. As opposed to what Fr. Maggos teaches, Jesus never said that there is a gulf between this life and the afterlife. I know many people misread this parable to say this, but it shows their unfamiliarity with the parable when they do it. In fact, what Jesus teaches is that there is a gulf between Abraham's Bosom (Paradise) where Lazarus is and Hades where the Rich Man is, so that Lazarus cannot cross over and grant relief to the Rich Man who is asking for it. When the Rich Man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his relatives to warn them of their fate after death, Jesus denies the request not because it can't be done or because there is a gulf, but because people in Hades have lost all privileges of having their prayers answered, so instead of sending Lazarus, Abraham leaves the relatives of the Rich Man to their own fate. For these and other reasons, I find nothing good about this video, except the background spookiness, which is a plus for at least getting into the "spirit" of Halloween.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Questions and Answers 204 - 209

Question 204: Is it true that the miracle of the Holy Light (Holy Fire) in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday can only be done by an Orthodox Patriarch? The story of the Armenian Patriarch centuries ago seems to confirm it.

Answer: This belief or theory is based on a story or two, but it really is just an interpretation of those incidents. The truth is, we don't know. I think it could be dangerous and misleading to make such pronouncements based on an interpretation of events. Does the Holy Light appear because the Patriarch is Orthodox, or does it appear because the tomb of Christ has grace and it is the event of the resurrection that is confirmed, no matter who invokes God for the light. After all, the Armenian Patriarch still brought down the Holy Light, it's just that, according to the story, it occurred in a frightening and unusual way. Also, miracles happen among Catholics with the relics of true Saints that have nothing to do with confirming the belief system of those possessing them, though it may confirm their faith in the Saint who has the grace. There are many examples like this. It happens with Muslims too who put their faith in Christian Saints to help them. The same can be said with the Holy Light, that if someone merely believes in the miraculous nature of it, the miracle can occur without it necessarily affirming the belief system of the individual. The danger of saying the Holy Light comes down only for the Orthodox is if it happens one day with someone who is not Orthodox, then what will be the explanation? I prefer to say that the Holy Light has more to do with the location than the person who receives it, though it may also be true that the person does have something to do with it. Only God knows. Every other interpretation is an act of judgment, and such judgments are beyond my nature and ability due to my limited understanding of God's mind and intention.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Questions and Answers 198 - 203

Question 198: I noticed while I was recently in Greece that many monasteries and churches are difficult to reach, often requiring hikes up hills and mountains and climbing many stairs. Is there a reason for this?

Answer: "Monasteries are built on high ground, for people to climb upward," according to the words of a contemporary Elder. In other words, effort and toil are required for our own spiritual ascent as we strive to live a life pleasing to God, and for this effort we are rewarded with spiritual fruit, namely divine grace. The Christian (and even more so the monastic) way of life is not a casual stroll; it is a laborious ascent.

There are also historical and practical reasons for this. The higher and more secluded a monastery is, the more monastics can focus on their goal of living their lives completely dependent on God's will. Visitors are therefore minimized to those who truly want to go for the right purpose. Furthermore, the locations historically often offer natural safety and protection during war and pirate raids.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Questions and Answers 191 - 197

Question 191: How do I know I am reading the Bible, the Holy Fathers and the Lives of the Saints the correct Orthodox way?

Answer: If you are often wiping your eyes from the tears streaming down your face and your heart is moved with joy while reading, that is a sign you are on the right path.

Question 192: What do I say if a Muslim says to me that we both believe in the same God?

Answer: Just tell the Muslim how wonderful it is that they believe Jesus Christ is God, because Islam typically does not acknowledge the divinity of Christ.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Questions and Answers 185 - 190

Question 185: I've looked throughout your website to see if you have posted anything on the miracle of the Virgin Mary at Saydnaya Monastery in 2004 to a Muslim who was murdered and cut to pieces then miraculously restored and resurrected. As far as I know, this has never been confirmed as true, and wanted to know what you have to say about it. (If you are confused by what I'm referring to, the story can be read here:

Answer: Yes, I am familiar with this story. It received heavy rotation over a decade ago on the internet. No, I have not posted anything about it. The main reason I have not posted on it is because I wanted to see how things played out. To tell you the truth, I'm still waiting. That's not to say I don't believe the story, but I am skeptical of at least some details about it, to the point where I don't feel comfortable posting about it and even expressing my skepticism without any basis. However, I will point out two things of interest related to this story.

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