Saturday, February 29, 2020

Questions and Answers 128 - 133

The Epistle of Jesus Christ

Question 128: On a recent trip to Greece I noticed many times a little pamphlet being sold alleging to be an Epistle of Jesus Christ, as it is called. I was wondering if it was Orthodox. Can you offer any information about this?

Answer: The pamphlet known as the Epistle of our Lord Jesus Christ has unfortunately been circulated throughout Greece for may decades, in fact, since at least 1896 (when it was published in its modern form). I remember back in 1991 when I was in Greece, I would see it everywhere, and when I went over people's houses, they kept it with their icons and Bibles. I read it back then, and dismissed it as an obvious hoax, but many people naively do not see it as being such an obvious hoax.

The Epistle of Jesus Christ claims to be a letter from Jesus sent down from heaven that was found on the tomb of the Virgin Mary at Gethsemane, outside of Jerusalem. This claim appears at the very beginning, and has been the cause for many in Greece to treat this text as equal to the Gospels, sometimes greater than the Gospels, especially in the villages where people are more simple minded. No one knows who wrote this text, and no one knows the year it was written. It appears in only one manuscript at Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos from the year 1420. It claims it was written by Patriarch Ioannikios of Jerusalem who lived in the 11th century (who wrote the Introduction and Conclusion).

The only thing we know about the so-called Epistle of Jesus Christ is that the unknown author was a heretic. The fact that people hold this text in such reverence is because few if any read it and they consider it sacred by reputation alone, and the fact that it usually has an icon or a sacred image on the cover. For those who have read it and reverence it, it is because of its false claims and promises and terrifying consequences.

One of the dangerous claims and promises of this text is that if you read it and believe it and pray its prayer which is given at the end then your sins will be forgiven. No need for confession and priests and sacraments, not even the sacrifice of Christ - just read this booklet and your sins are forgiven. It also claims that if your are sick or suffering from a disease, then all you need to do is read this booklet and you will be made well. And if you read it daily, then you will not suffer an untimely death. However, it also warns that if you read it and don't believe it then you will suffer eternally in hell.

False hopes, false promises and lies are at the very core of this Epistle, let alone the fact that it is heretical, dangerous and diabolical. If all we needed was this Epistle to fall from the sky and deliver us from our sins, then what point was there in the Incarnation, Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

As a final point, in Canon 62 of the Apostolic Canons it says: "If anyone reads to the public in churches, the books of impious writers bearing false inscriptions and purporting to be holy, to the injury of laity and clergy, let him be deposed." Commenting on this Canon, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite lists a number of false writings that should be rejected, one of which he describes as an epistle alleged to have fallen from the sky.

Chanting Angels of Mount Athos?

Question 129: I heard a recording on YouTube that claims to be angels chanting on Mount Athos. Do you have any information about this?

Answer: As the story goes, in around 2005 or so a young pilgrim was staying in one of the Athonite monasteries, and during the night he woke up to singing of extraordinary beauty coming from the church. Thinking that he didn't wake up on time for the service, he got up and hastily went to the church. To his surprise, the church door was locked. And looking in through the window, the boy saw a light inside, although the source of it was unclear – no candle was out.

Moreover, inside the church it was empty, and the singing seemed to spread in the luminous air. What he heard was the Cherubic Hymn being sung in such a wonderful way, that no human voice could replicate it. The pilgrim understood that he was simply obliged to preserve the sound of the wonderful singing.

He rushed back to his room, grabbed the tape recorder he brought with him, and ran back to the church, where he recorded the divine music of the invisible angelic host. The young man uploaded the recording to the internet, and it caused a real battle between those who believed in the angels singing, and skeptics who deny the very possibility of such a “concert”.

So what is the truth?

The recording is a fake. The chanter in the recording is not an angel, but a renowned chanter named Dimitrios Arlandis who died in 2006, who even though sounds angelic, is not an angel (his voice was dubbed to sound higher than it is, but when compared with the original it is exactly the same). Moreover, this video was uploaded by an Old Calendarist named John Lazakis, who goes by the pseudonym "Saint Maximus the Confessor", and who has a YouTube channel promoting Old Calendarism and calling such holy figures like Saints Paisios and Porphyrios delusional. This recording is just another false miracle Old Calendarists like to promote for one reason or another. Moreover, the above story of how the recording was obtained is not correct. The story according to John Lazakis was that a pilgrim was walking from one monastery to another on Mount Athos in 2005, when he suddenly heard angelic chanting coming from a small chapel, and he recorded it.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast Film

Question 130: I read your blog post about Jonathan Jackson and his role as Elder Joseph. I have seen the trailers on YouTube as well and that the film was suppose to come out sometime in February. My question is if you happen to know where and when it will be playing?

Answer: The film was shown at a conference in Athens dedicated to the Holy Elder Joseph the Hesychast. As for its wider release, I have no information yet, but when I do I will pass it along.

Clarification on Recent Canonizations

Question 131: Could you please let me know which of the recent fathers of blessed memory (Elder Joseph the Hesychast, Elder Daniel and Ephraim of Katounakia, Elder Sophrony of Essex and Elder Hieronymos of Simonopetra) have been officially canonized? I didn't know for sure whether Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew meant that they will be canonized or have been officially canonized.

Answer: The announcement was already made that they will be canonized. The only one I know of that has gone through the official process is Elder Sophrony of Essex, now Saint Sophrony. Elder Hieronymos is already being honored as a Saint at Simonopetra Monastery. When I receive further information and clarification, I will pass it along.

Eschatological Doomsday Cults

Question 132: I am fascinated by some of the eschatological cults you have posted on. What are the worst kind of eschatological cults in your opinion and which eschatological cult today do you think fits that category?

Answer: The worst eschatological cults are those with a doomsday mentality that end in the suicide or murder of its members. Usually we find out about them after the suicides or murders take place, unfortunately, so I don't know of any around right now, outside of political and terrorist groups. In my opinion, without wanting to be too political and just based on how they present themselves, right now the Democratic Party (not all of them but a good portion of them, especially in leadership and in media) in the United States comes very close to resembling a doomsday eschatological cult, if it is not one already. Just listening to or reading left wing mainstream media sources will quickly reveal this on any given day. It seems like everything causes them misery, thinking the end of the world is nigh, unless they are in total control of everything, thus making themselves out to be saviors of the world, while demonizing ("canceling") everyone that disagrees with them. This is why they are sometimes referred to as the Democrat Doomsday Cult.

Getting Relics for Churches

Question 133: It pains me that our church does not have any relics from the Saints that it is named after. Also our diocese does a poor job (in my estimation) of bringing in holy relics and/or wonderworking icons for the benefit of it parishioners. Actually there has never been an official welcoming (not sure if this is the proper term) of this sort of any kind. I was wondering how does one (either clergy or lay person) go about asking and/or receiving the blessing to get relics for their church for a visit?

Answer: To do this you will need to get permission from a priest in your area or better yet a local Bishop and request if they can submit an invitation. Better yet, it would be good if you can gather the signatures and funds necessary to get this done, as such a thing can be fairly expensive when you consider travel arrangements and housing, among other things. Also, often times, if the relic of a Saint a church is named after exists somewhere in the world, a priest or bishop can request for a small portion for that church. I know even laypeople who have made such requests and acquired a large treasure of relics in their homes. In fact, some have been given to me from them.

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