Eastern Christendom

Venerable Dionysius the Archimandrite of St Sergius’ Monastery

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Risen Lord, God, Redeemer and the Only True Savior of the world,


First Tone
Ode One
It is the day of Resurrection, let us be radiant, O ye peoples; Pascha, the Lord's Pascha; for Christ God hath brought us from death unto life, and from earth unto Heaven as we sing the triumphal hymn.


Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with the unapproachable Light of the Resurrection, and we shall clearly hear Him say: Rejoice! as we sing the triumphal hymn. For meet it is that the Heavens should rejoice, and that the earth should be glad, and that the whole world, both visible and invisible, should keep the feast; for Christ, our everlasting Joy, hath arisen.




On May 12th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: our Father among the Saints Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus; our Father among the Saints Germanos, Archbishop of Constantinople; Saint Theodore of Cythera; Holy New Martyr John of Wallachia was perfected in martyrdom by hanging in Constantinople in the year of our Lord 1662; Holy Martyrs Nereus and Achilleus of Cyprus; our Righteous Mother Rictrude, Foundress of the Women's Monastery of Marchiennes in Flanders; Holy Hieromartyr Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia; our Righteous Father Dionysius, Archimandrite of the Holy Trinity--Saint Sergius Lavra Monastery.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Archbishops, Holy Patriarchs, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Archimandrites, Holy Hieromartyrs, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 10:1-16
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 6:56-69


Denying free will proves that there is free will. We Christians know that we have free will: that we can choose between good and evil. Want proof, asks Saint Ephraim the Syrian? The very denial of free will proves it exists. "If anyone asks what this "will" is, we must tell him the real truth about it: that it is the power of free choice. So if anyone asks, "What is this will? For it is only one thing, but part of it is good and part of it is evil"--then we shall say, "That is because it is a will." And if he asks again, we shall tell him that it is endowed with independence. And if he asks again, we shall tell him that it is free will. And if he still is not convinced, the fact that he cannot be taught shows that there is free will--because he is unwilling to be taught.

But if he is convinced when they say to him that there is no free will, it really is marvelous that by denying free will he proves that there is free will. He proves it by putting himself in that desperate state.

It is as if some eloquent person wanted to rant away and prove that people have no power of speech. What madness! He says there is no power of speech by using his power of speech!

Likewise, when free will has gone to hide itself in a discussion and show by argument that it does not exist, then it is more certainly caught and proved to exist. For if there were no free will, there would be no argument and no persuasion." (Saint Ephraim the Syrian, First Discourse to Hypatius)


By Nicolas Zernov (Source: Eastern Christendom: A Study of the Origin and Development of the Eastern Orthodox Church)

(I-IV Centuries)

The Church and Judaism

The Christian community came into being on the Feast of Pentecost, when a small group of Galileans 'were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance' (Acts 2:4). This event took place in Jerusalem, frontier city of the Roman Empire, facing the unconquered Orient. It opened a new era in the spiritual evolution of mankind. The new religion spread rapidly along the lines of communication within the Jewish Diaspora. During the lifetime of the Apostles this expression reached Spain and probably India; Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and other cities became centers of the Christian activities.

The history of the Church presents a picture of continual adaptation to an ever-changing environment. It consists of advances and retreats, victories and defeats; but in spite of all these changes it reveals such a tenacity of purpose, such a unity of faith, that the Christian Church is distinguished from all other religions.

The first problem which confronted the followers of the Messiah (the Christians) was adjustment to the Jewish community within which their religion was born. The Jews occupied a unique place in the Roman multinational State. Racially akin to other inhabitants of Syria and Arabia, they yet formed a closely knit group, fiercely resisting fusion with their neighbors. This stubborn aloofness was an outcome of their religious history, for the Jews not only professed an uncompromising monotheism, sharply opposed to the predominant polytheism of other nations, but also believed that God had entered into a personal covenant with Israel, had ordered His chosen people to obey His law, and had promised to redeem them from sin and oppression. The books of the Old Testament contain the story of a long process of education and purification, in the course of which Israel, sometimes obedient, sometimes rebellious, had brought a new race into being, capable of fulfilling the task assigned to it by Yahweh. Faith in the humanly impossible, readiness to suffer for the sake of the covenant, a heightened self-awareness and a profound realization that holiness and trust were indispensable conditions for communion with the Lord of Hosts became some of the striking characteristics of the chosen people.

The ardent expectation of deliverance from all their afflictions which would be linked with the coming of a special divine messenger reached its height in the century which saw the birth of the Church. After a period of political independence under the Maccabees (168-63 BC) which had intensified Jewish national and religious aspirations, Palestine became incorporated in the Roman State and was increasingly exposed to enforced hellenization.

The Jews in the Diaspora were obligated to have more contacts with the surrounding population, and some mingling with Gentiles could not be entirely avoided. The Old Testament was translated into Greek in Alexandria in the second century BC. There were also some converts to Judaism who acted as intermediaries and helped the first Christians to penetrate into the gentile community.

The message of the Gospel was at first addressed exclusively to that hard pressed and yet undefeated nation, which was so acutely aware of the gulf that separated it form the rest of mankind. The response was a mixed one; some Jews were converted, but the majority refused to accept Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. The crucified Galilean clashed too sharply with the conventional figure of a national liberator associated in their minds with the coming of the Redeemer. The infant Church broke out almost at once from the confines of orthodox Judaism. The fearless witness to the Risen Christ could soon be seen mixing with the Gentile crowds ostracized by the Jews.

The Split of the Church from Israel

The crucial decision to separate from Israel was made by the Christians when they realized the universality of their religion and decided to incorporate the converts from paganism on equal terms into their society. This step was truly revolutionary for there existed in the first century the strongest possible contrast between Israel and the Hellenistic (Greek) world. The pagans were disillusioned, submitting to blind fate as the force that governed both gods and men; the universe as they saw it had many divinities but no real master, no guiding principle and no rational purpose, whilst Jews were certain of their privileged position and full of hope. Yet the Christian message was accepted by some members of both societies and it was their close collaboration which built up the strong yet flexible framework of the Church, and made its teaching sufficiently universal to escape confinement to one ethnic or cultural group.

Judaism provided Christianity with its basic assertion that the God of Israel chose this stubborn and vital race for the special purpose of the reconciliation with mankind, and that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, Who offered deliverance from the power of ignorance and sin to all those who believed in Him. Israel also supplied the Church with the Holy Scriptures, and with the rites of initiation and covenant, which in a modified from became the foundation stones of Christian worship and organization. From Judaism the infant Church learned to gather its members to regular weekly services at which the scripture were read, instruction given, and the divine presence made real by the corporate encounter, at the Eucharistic meal, with the Founder of the Church.

From the same source the Church inherited the sense of being a separate community, radically different from those who did not acknowledge the One Triune God, and instead of Him, worshipped as it affirmed man-made idols. The chosen people also showed an example of complete dedication to the sacred cause and of courage in asserting their uncompromising standpoint. The Jews taught the Church that God is Holy and that His servants must be ready to be tested by fire.

The Church and Hellenism

God is love, but the burning flamed of divine compassion consumes all that is impure. This and other fundamental convictions borrowed from the Jews gave the Church its stability and enormous power of resistance. But its ability to expand, to penetrate into new fields, to meet the variety of human needs, and to satisfy very different requirements and aspirations the Christians learned through their contacts with the Hellenistic (Greek) world. The greatest of its contributions was the Greek language. It is of the utmost importance in the history of the Church that, though its Founder spoke in Aramaic, His voice reached the wider circle of mankind in Greek, for in that tongue the books of the New Testament and many of the Patristic commentaries on them were written. No other language could have served this purpose so well, for it was able to express philosophical concepts with a vigor and subtlety unattainable elsewhere, and at the same time to convey the profoundest religious feelings with poetry and grace. The Hellenized (Greek) world also helped the Church to see the unity of mankind, and the fundamental similarity of men's intellectual and spiritual problems. From the Greek philosophers and writers the Church learned the art of logical thinking and scientific speculation. The Greek was not only a worshipping creature, like the Jew; he was also a thinker and an artist, and the Christian Church found an honored placed for these types of human activity. The Greek provided the Church with its theologians, with men who critically examined the text of the Holy Scripture, who interpreted it in the light of contemporary thoughts, and formulated its main doctrines with the help of philosophical terms. Thus the Church was fertilized by two Eastern traditions, Judaism and Hellenism, the latter of which had already combined Greek philosophy with Oriental mystic religions.

(To be continued)


With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George