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.

Question 211: Can you explain why the Sunday Gospel readings differ between the Greek and Slavic Churches before Christmas? Does it have to do with the difference in calendars, Old and New?

Answer: This is a complicated issue that is difficult to explain in a short space, but it is brought up to me every year, so it is something I would like to address in a bit more lengthy fashion in the future. Till then, I will try and summarize without getting too complex. The issue doesn't really have much to do with the calendar differences, but is rather an issue that goes back centuries with the use of the lectionary by the Greeks and the Slavs. Because the ecclesiastical year begins in September, and salvation history also begins in September with the feast of the Conception of John the Baptist, the Gospel of Matthew ceases to be read by the Greeks and they transition to the Gospel of Luke two Sunday's after the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross on September 14th. Scholars have called this transition the "Lukan Jump". The reason for the switch is because the Conception of John the Baptist is only mentioned by Luke. The Slavs, however, at some point decided to drop this Lukan Jump, and finished the cycle of the Gospel of Matthew before transitioning to the Gospel of Luke, which means that sometimes we can have similar Gospel readings and other times we can have different Gospel readings on Sundays from late-September till the Triodion period and Great Lent, when we both switch to the Gospel of Mark. Today, some Slavic Churches are going back to implementing the Lukan Jump, but not all do.

Question 212: What is akriveia and what is oikonomia?

Answer: These are terms that are applied only by Bishops and Spiritual Fathers. Akriveia is how you apply the commandments of Christ and canons of the Church to yourself, namely with strictness and precision, while oikonomia is how you apply the commandments of Christ and canons of the Church to others, namely with leniency and compassion. Sometimes these terms are applied the other way around, but that misses the point. The ultimate goal is to provide the right treatment that will lead to healing and salvation.

Question 213: I am an inquirer into Orthodoxy who is struggling with ....

Answer: This is a question I get a lot. Many inquirers read my content, and they tell me how they struggle with various issues or Orthodox authors they read. My response is always the same. Inquirers into Orthodoxy should not be reading anything unless guided by someone. When you inquire into something, you should be speaking directly with people who are involved in that particular thing you are inquiring about. If I was inquiring into Buddhism, for example, I wouldn't be reading about it, but I would go directly to practicing Buddhists and ask them questions, then follow their direction as far as what to do next and what to read. Or if I was inflicted with a disease, I wouldn't go to the library or search the internet about it, but first I would inquire into it with a trained physician in the field and follow their guidance. As long as someone takes matters into their own hands, they will struggle and be confused and likely follow the wrong path which will take a long time to undo. So if you are an inquirer into Orthodoxy, don't buy your own books or read Orthodox websites or listen to Orthodox podcasts or watch Orthodox videos online. Talk to people face to face involved in Orthodoxy you can trust and follow their guidance, preferably a knowledgeable Orthodox priest who can lead you to the right places if it is needed.

Question 214: Do you believe objects can be haunted or inhabited by demons?

Answer: Though its rare, I do believe objects can have some sort of demonic attachment to them, but not necessarily be inhabited by demons, though it is difficult to define what exactly is going on. When this subject is usually brought up, people think of the wrong thing, like a demon inhabiting a book on the occult or a demon inhabiting a Ouija board. This I don't believe to be true, and is more based on the fear people have of those subjects and objects in general than having any real demonic energy. However, there are dolls and toys that could have a demonic attachment, or a weapon, a garment, a piece furniture, a room or even a building. There are many examples of objects having what I would call a demonic attachment, though some have interpreted it as a human spirit having an attachment to the object. It is difficult to tell what is really going on with these objects and what is attached to them, and we shouldn't jump to generalized conclusions without really knowing what is going on, but there are certainly undeniable cases where there is something supernatural or paranormal going on. Typically when an Orthodox Christian encounters these objects, it is recommended that a priest either read an exorcism prayer and sprinkle the object with holy water, or do a house blessing in general.

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