Friday, May 1, 2020

Questions and Answers 143 - 148

A Saintly Example During the Coronavirus Crisis

Question 143: In Question 140 you mentioned that St. Mary of Egypt was not a good example to bring up that matches our situation with not receiving communion and going to church during quarantine. I was wondering if there is another example you could recommend?

Answer: The main reason I said St. Mary of Egypt is not a good example to bring up for this specific situation is because what she did was voluntary, while our current situation is involuntary. In contrast to Mary of Egypt, there are countless examples of saints who involuntarily were not allowed to attend church services or receive communion, sometimes for many years. I won't give you a list, but I'll give you one example. Everyone should be familiar with St. Maximos the Greek, who was not allowed to attend church services or receive Holy Communion for at least seventeen years (probably more). He was falsely accused of heresy while in Russia doing some translation work, and he was imprisoned under harsh conditions in a monastery dungeon. Imagine this pious monk from Mount Athos living under harsh conditions in a Russian monastery prison for so many years as church services were going on and not being allowed to attend! And yet, he managed to grow in holiness and is now honored as a saint of the Church, primarily because he faced his trials in a God-pleasing manner. I think an example like this is better, more relatable (in the involuntary sense) and more comforting for more people in our times than a penitent ascetic who chose such a lifestyle for herself.

The Virgin Mary a Myrrhbearer?

Question 144: Was the Virgin Mary really among the Myrrhbearing Women and the first to see the Resurrected Lord?

Answer: I believe so, only because it just makes sense. This isn't a dogmatic belief of the Church, and it certainly can be debated, but many Church Fathers over the course of many centuries strongly believed it, it is a part of our hymnography repeated many times over the course of the liturgical year, and it is inscribed in painting through iconography (the icon above is an example). In fact, I would venture to say that it is on the verge of absurdity to not believe the Mother of God was at least present during one of the resurrection appearances to the Myrrhbearers, among whom she was very likely one of, if she was not the first. Yes, the Gospels are pretty much silent or at least secretive on this issue, and for good reason, but we should remember that it is only in the Gospel of John that we are informed that the Virgin Mary was present at the crucifixion. If we only had a knowledge of the Synoptic Gospels, many would assume she was not there. The pious reasoning of the faithful has the assurance she was, if not the first, among the first to see the Risen Lord, and this has become an established tradition of the Church, on par with many events in the life of the Virgin Mary the Church celebrates and honors. I will write more on this subject at a future time.

The Best Argument for the Existence of God

Question 145: When talking to an atheist, what would you consider to be the best argument for the existence of God?

Answer: I personally like to combine two theories of two Protestant professors I had in apologetics, Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Gary Habermas, and then enhance it with an overall Patristic approach synthesized by the Rev. Dr. John Romanides, with some added touches of my own. This is something I hope to write a lot more on one day, so I won't go into much detail right now.

I will say that my approach sort of depends on the kind of atheist you talk to, whether they are more of an intellectual type or an emotional type, among others, but in general I would ask if they were familiar with the traditional philosophical and scientific proofs for the existence of God. Whether or not they are, I would tell them that ultimately there is no proof for the existence of God outside of a personal empirical experience of God, and the philosophical and scientific proofs only indicate a high degree of probability for the existence of God, at best. But instead of arguing about those and going back and forth, I like to cut to the chase and discuss the resurrection of Christ, since this is ultimately where I want to go. For example, I want to know what they think of the so-called Minimal Facts Argument developed by Dr. Habermas and sort of proceed from there.

However, I must emphasize that before you get into arguments and facts, it is important to first listen to them and find out where they are coming from, and to approach the issue not as trying to win an argument and being persuasive, but you must come to the point of being empathetic with an atheist first and have as full of an understanding of where they are coming from before you start going down the path of enlightening them. You don't want to discuss these issues with someone and put them in a defensive mode, which leads to nowhere, but you want to approach these issues with gentleness and with respect.

Coronavirus a Punishment of God?

Question 146: Is the coronavirus a punishment from God?

Answer: No one can know the mind of God. We can only speak for God if He reveals something to us directly. With that said, from a Christian perspective, which is a perspective of humility, I think it is a good thing to think of everything that befalls a community or society that brings us hardship and sorrow beyond our control as a punishment of God. This doesn't mean, of course, that God is angry with us, in an emotional way. God is not so weak as to be overcome by emotions. By "punishment of God" is meant that God allows nature, subject to corruption and destruction, to take its course, and chooses to not intervene on our behalf. We don't know exactly why God allows nature to take its course with us, but as fallen human beings in a fallen world this is our mortal and temporal destiny. It is only by God's grace that we have immortality, and this immortality could have the possibility of being blessed. And it is also by grace and providence that God sometimes intervenes, stopping nature from taking its course, especially if we approach God with a clean conscience and have great boldness before Him, then perhaps He will intervene and save us, or allow one of His servants, or rather children, such as the Saints, either earthly or heavenly, or even the Mother of God herself, to intercede on our behalf if we do not have such boldness. Humility, therefore, and repentance to acquire such a clean conscience, are necessary to bring about the Lord's intervention, or to "appease the Lord's wrath" if we want to put in human terms. We approach God for this through prayer, hence why I have translated and provided prayers for the faithful during this crisis. God might allow Himself to be persuaded in this crisis, but sometimes such things are meant to serve a purpose beyond our comprehension. Which is why we must also submit to God's will, bringing us always back to being humble and penitent. Being humble and penitent is always the answer, and giving thanks and glory to God no matter what the circumstances.

Evagrius Ponticus

Question 147: Given your deep experience with and profound exposure to the mystical tradition of Orthodox Christianity, I would be keen to know if you are perhaps familiar with the following blog: and what is your opinion about it?

Answer: I am not familiar with the site, but after a very quick look it just seems to contain the writings of Evagrius Ponticus and not much else, though I may be wrong. So if you are just asking me about Evagrius, I think this link pretty much says all that is necessary and basic.

There is much to love about Evagrius and most of the Church Fathers after him were familiar with him and found him profitable and influential in many ways, so if you are studying the so-called "mystical" tradition or hesychast tradition, he is definitely one you want to be familiar with.

A Paschal Ceremonial Custom

Question 148: Do you have anything on the “door knocking“ ceremony with the Psalm 23 dialogue with Hades? I have seen it done equally on Pascha after the outdoor Gospel before the Orthros, as well as Friday evening. It would seem to make more theological sense of the Friday evening practice, as by Sunday Christ had already released the captives from Hades, and wasn’t merely entering.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *