Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Questions and Answers 160 - 170


On Wakes Before Funerals
Question 160: Should Orthodox Christians have wakes before funerals? What is the purpose of a wake? If so, should they be in churches or funeral homes?

Answer: The term "wake" is a synonym for "vigil", referring to an all-night prayer vigil held before someone's burial. There is a tradition in the Orthodox Church where before the funeral service an all-night vigil takes place in the presence of the reposed, which is complete with a Divine Liturgy. Included in this vigil is also a long series of readings - for clergy the entire New Testament is read, while for laypeople the entire Book of Psalms is read.

There is a misconception that the origins of wakes goes back to the 19th century, before common embalming existed after the American Civil War, and that it refers to the possibility of the deceased "waking up", since being buried alive was a common fear and worry.

Today wakes are usually associated with a social gathering of friends and family of the deceased. This is contributed by the fact that wakes take place in funeral homes. It should be encouraged for Orthodox Christians to have their wakes in churches in order to be in a more prayerful atmosphere, if a church would allow it, since many churches do not allow wakes to take place in a church.

Ouija Boards
Question 161: Are Ouija boards evil and can they lead to demonic possession?

Answer: I will hopefully one day answer this in a longer article, but here I will answer in brief.

Spiritualism is a religious movement based on the belief that the spirits of the dead exist and have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in membership from the 1840s to the 1920s, especially in English-speaking countries. It especially gained popularity after the American Civil War, where loved ones sought to communicate with their fallen dead loved ones. By 1897, Spiritualism was said to have more than eight million followers in the United States and Europe, mostly drawn from the middle and upper classes.

Spiritualists believed that the dead were able to contact the living and reportedly used a talking board very similar to a modern Ouija board at their camps in Ohio in 1886 to ostensibly enable faster communication with spirits. Following its commercial introduction by businessman Elijah Bond on July 1, 1890, the Ouija board was regarded as an innocent parlor game unrelated to the occult until American spiritualist Pearl Curran popularized its use as a divining tool during World War I.

Ouija boards became associated with evil for the first time after the horror movie The Exorcist was released in 1973. In the movie the young girl Regan becomes possessed after playing with a Ouija board. Since this time it was believed that the simple parlor game known as the Ouija board had the power to invoke demonic spirits, which in turn could lead to demonic possession. There are no actual cases where this is true, even though many believe it to be true.

Various studies have been produced, recreating the effects of the Ouija board in the lab and showing that, under laboratory conditions, the subjects were moving the planchette involuntarily, with no spirit involvement. A 2012 study found that when answering yes or no questions, Ouija use was significantly more accurate than guesswork, suggesting that it might draw on the unconscious mind.

Personally, I don't consider Ouija boards evil. I myself have a personal collection of them. I have never played with one, because I do think it is a trick of the mind at play, so I have no use for it. I also don't think it is wise for Orthodox Christians to ever invoke spirits, even for fun, since this is a prohibited spiritual practice that can lead to delusion, with or without a Ouija board.

Prophecies About the Return of Constantinople
Question 162: At what point in the timeline are we, according to St. Paisios and other contemporary Holy Elders, towards Greece reacquiring Constantinople?

Answer: The tradition of the reacquisition of Constantinople is a mixture of hopes that were dashed to pieces after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and an observation of world events from between 1850 or so till around 1925. During this time both the Russians and the British came close to having a firm control of Constantinople in their battles against the Ottomans, and the Greek Phanariots also led a campaign across Asia Minor where they reacquired much of their lost territory from the Ottomans, but failed right before they were going to go and take back Constantinople. The old prophecies of 1453 were seen at this time as being near their fulfillment, but alas they were not. Today many hold on to this tradition in light of those events of the 19th and early 20th centuries, especially on Mount Athos, but I firmly believe that no such prophecy exists as a legitimate prophecy and Greeks should stop hoping for the return of Constantinople, even if circumstances do one day lead to the Greeks reacquiring it.

Uncanonized Saints from Before 1453
Question 163: Is there anyone in Church History prior to the Fall of Constantinople that is not recognized as a Saint of the Church that should be recognized? I was wondering if you can give me a few examples. I'm asking this because the Ecumenical Patriarchate tends to only canonize people from after the Fall of Constantinople, maybe with a few exceptions.

Answer: Honestly, I can literally come up with hundreds of names. It's amazing how many have been overlooked. For now, I will name three who are often thought to be canonized but in reality are not - Basil of Seleucia, Gennadios Scholarios, Constantine Palaiologos - though many do commemorate them as saints.

Relics of Mary Magdalene
Question 164: Where did Mary Magdalene die? How did we come to be in possession of her relics, as the Catholics believe they have her at Saint Maximin Basilica?

Answer: According to tradition, she reposed in Ephesus, and in the 9th century her relics were brought to Constantinople. From there they were distributed or stolen over time.

Turks vs. Bavarians
Question 165: Who do you think were worse towards the Orthodox Church, the Turks or the Bavarians?

Answer: The Bavarians in the 19th century were definitely worse to the Greek Orthodox Church than the Turks.

Natalie Wood
Question 166: I loved your article on "The Russian Orthodoxy of Natalie Wood", but what is your opinion of how she died and whether or not it was a murder?

Answer: Natalie Wood is my favorite movie actress of all time. I am much more fascinated by her life and work than the way she died, which in itself is fascinating as well. The original draft of what I wrote was actually double the amount of what I published, and it took me a lot of will power to edit it down to what I did. Here is the timeline that I find to be most accurate. Her husband Robert Wagner has confessed that he got very angry with Christopher Walken that night on their ship, and he expressed his anger by throwing a bottle of alcohol to the ground. When Natalie saw this, she walked away, and Christopher Walken went to his bedroom on the ship. Robert and Natalie then got into a long argument, which the ship captain overheard. Natalie then said she was going to bed, but when Robert followed her after cleaning up his mess with the bottle, he noticed she was not in bed nor anywhere else on the ship. This is where the mystery begins. I believe her death was an accident and not a murder, but no doubt her argument with Robert contributed to some sense of lost orientation, which I'm sure he is aware of and probably felt very guilty for. But she was also drunk that night and had taken a sleeping pill. What is pretty much established is that her death must have been very sudden, because when her body was discovered she still had a full bladder. If she was struggling in the water before she drowned, there is no way she could have died with a full bladder. There was no blood on the boat to indicate she was killed, which leads me to believe she must have passed out or something like that and fallen into the water while she was doing something with the dingy, which had been untied. It is a total mystery that will likely remain a mystery forever.

Masks and Church
Question 167: I have read various articles about the debate going on in the Orthodox world regarding whether masks should be worn in church, and whether or not we can catch the coronavirus in church? What is your opinion?

Answer: I do believe it is possible to catch the coronavirus in church. I do think there should be a certain amount of social distancing in church until the number of cases settle down. I do think masks should be worn when walking around, but I also believe they should be taken off during worship or when seated as long as there is reasonable social distancing.

Question 167: Was Symeon the God-Receiver the high priest Melchizedek from the Book Of Genesis?

Answer: Symeon appears in the story in the Gospel of Luke like Melchizedek does in Genesis, out of nowhere without much of their origin story, but I do not believe they are the same person.

The Transfiguration
Question 168: Was Moses and Elias on Tabor historic images? Basically, were they projected into the future while they were alive on earth?

Answer: An interesting theory, but I don't believe so. I believe the spirits of Moses and Elijah as they were in that present moment appeared on Tabor, and there is no reason to believe otherwise.

 Icons Painted by the Apostle Luke
Question 169: In Russia and the West there are many icons of the Mother of God that are said to have their origin in apostolic times by the Apostle Luke, though they are clearly not. Can you explain why this is so?

Answer: The icon painter and theologian Leonid A. Uspensky gives the following reasonable response:

"At the present time in the Russian Church there are about 10 icons attributed to the Evangelist Luke; in addition, there are 21 of them on Athos and in the West, of which 8 are in Rome. Of course, all these icons are attributed to the Evangelist not in the sense that they were painted by his hand; none of the icons he himself painted have survived. The authorship of the holy Evangelist Luke must be understood here in the sense that these icons are copies (or rather, copies from copies) from the icons once painted by the Evangelist. ... The Church emphasizes the continuity of grace and power inherent in all copies of these icons, as reproducing (with their characteristic symbols) the original features of the Mother of God, captured by the Evangelist Luke."

St. Matrona
Question 170: May I please ask a question about St. Matrona?  Yesterday (July 15th), we commemorated the finding of her head, but by all accounts, she died peacefully and was buried.  Is there a story behind the losing and finding of her head?  Please let me know the story!  

Answer: Many years after the repose of St Matrona, news of her miracles spread far and wide. Crowds of people would go to the church built over her grave, but the church was too small to accommodate the crowds, so they made plans to enlarge it. To do this, they needed to exhume her body, but when they opened her coffin they found that her head especially emitted a marvelous fragrance and was the source of many miracles. This is how the feast of the discovery of her head came about on July 15th.

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