One of the first – if not the first – steps that we should take in building an Orthodox culture in any country, is the implementation and growth of Orthodox education. If we lose this battle, we lose the future stability of our parishes. The universities in America (and in many other western nations) are geared against us and have many sophisticated arguments against the Christian worldview.
To create Orthodox schools is not only for our children to carry on and battle the world, but for the nation’s Orthodox ethos in general. Orthodox education produces both culture and community! Secular education does the same, and so it is crucial for us to enter this battle with vigilance.
The Fathers of the Church teach us that falling away from God is as simple as forgetting God. When we are no longer able to carry the momentum of God’s energy and take every thought captive to Christ, we drift. How much drifting does it take to end up in a place that is inescapable? Is it possible that we might one day wake up realizing that we are completely surrounded by a hostile environment that demands either complete submission or withdrawal? Perhaps this has already begun to happen and we Christians are in a state of contemplation, wondering and debating on how to get out of the current social conundrum.
It’s not completely clear how this all began happening — how we lost traditional community and culture within America. There are theories of how it has all culminated, everything from serious error in our historical founding to the uncontrollable flux of immigration. But within the many theories is one underlying element of how humanity has always operated as a community, which many of us will agree that we need to correct: Education
We live in the most convoluted culture of all history, with radical amounts of information being pitched to us on a daily basis. When we turn on the TV we are being educated. When we read our Facebook feed we are being educated. When we get trained by our company we are being educated. Even when we listen to the radio or Pandora, we are being educated.
It is key for an Orthodox Christian in a secular society to shape our lives so as to hear more Orthodox perspectives, and fewer secular/agnostic perspectives. This requires a disciplined and perhaps ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ way of life. We will look at this in the later part of this article.
Russia’s Educational Holocaust in the 19th Century
America, from the beginning, established her education through her Church. But as secular influences grew, schools were given up to secular organizations. When Christian education began to disappear from America, no second revolution needed to happen, simply because Revolutionary America never intended to maintain a Christian culture. Russia, on the other hand, is a different story.
During the times of the catacombs in Holy Russia, the Soviets would often pick Christians out of various families and groups to send them off to the gulags or simply execute them as an alternative. These Orthodox Christians had to make daily choices as to what they would be bold about and what they would keep quiet about. Hardship and death were at stake every day for these people.
In America today, as in 20th century Russia, we are surrounded by people who hate our Faith. We, like the Russians, are often very careful of what we say. But so far, a lot less is usually at stake. For the most part, we are not yet being imprisoned for defending the Truth, and we are not yet being executed in the streets.
But the Russian Orthodox people did not just wake up one day to an Atheist takeover. What was gradually happening back in the 19th century, was a steady infiltration in schools by secular intellectuals from the West. Many atheistic and cultic philosophies were being taught by professors in the universities, and many of the priests were beginning to buckle to these teachings. The universities, rather than the Church, became the centers for worldview and community.
Education had previously been an extension of the Church, but this was an early step towards the secular modernization of Russia. Other political and industrial factors preceded. But when the universities changed, so did the minds and hearts of the people.
Had the Church been able to retain the ministry of education, perhaps there would have been a different outcome of Russia entering WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution. How can we learn from this?
Heaven and Earth
A hallmark of the Orthodox faith is that it is holistic. Our faith, unlike any other spin-off group of the Church, embraces every aspect of life. Nature is not our enemy. In Western Christianity, nature is suspect. The material world is considered “fallen” and unredeemable in many aspects. This is why Gnosticism thrives in those groups. Orthodoxy is much different, because we understand the Incarnation of Christ to be a supernatural agent within the material world.
Because this world is so mystical, because we are surrounded by so many spiritual and physical variables within life, the Orthodox Church has created distinctions, but not so many distinctions so as to confuse ourselves. One historically important distinction is that of symphonia. This is such an important aspect of our Faith. Symphonia (symphony, in English) occurs when secular powers and ecclesiastical powers cooperate. Symphonia is the Church and the State working together. This is what the double-headed eagle represents: one eagle for the secular power and the other for the ecclesial power.
The secular power of society is not evil in and of itself. But it does gravitate toward evil (unlike the baptized soul, which gravitates toward heaven). Secularism, however, is evil.Secularism has to do with limiting or barring the Church’s influence, creating an existential environment that has historically led to disastrous societies.
When the secular society gives birth to an idea, it must be compatible with the symphonia of our Christian community. If it is not compatible, then it must simply be rejected! Thankfully, as we will see below, many secular subjects are within the bounds of the Church’s symphonia.
Orthodox Symphonia Requires Cooperation
Orthodox education, unlike secular education, revolves around a particular view of mankind: How we are created and what our purpose is in life. Without an Orthodox Christian view of mankind, intellectual subjects become stripped of their true purpose and meaning, training our minds to think in secular rather than spiritual terms. To think in secular terms is to adopt the historical and medieval philosophy of Scholasticism, which lends to a worldview of hardened logic and moral construct.
Orthodox Christians are called to think in mystical terms, because we live in a mystical world. Formulating life — to the extent of systematizing everything we do — goes completely against the energies of God. Nature is relatively unpredictable, and like the Psalmist says, God’s energy and Spirit moves like the wind. St. Paul says that God “works all things together” for the benefit of God’s people. This is a cornerstone for Orthodox theology and worldview, allowing us to explore this world without the fear, legalism, and overly complex systems that the Old Covenant people of God had to wrestle with for so many generations, eventually opposing Christianity (the Truth) when it was presented by Christ.
If we take out the mystical value of education, we will cease to think in mystical terms. Even Hollywood understand this. There are a number of problematic science fiction movies now, demonstrating how we submit ourselves to overly systematic environments where no true love and joy can exist. A prime example might be the movie The Giver, with Jeff Bridges.
St. Theophan the Recluse
Secular Paths Lead to a Final Secular Community
Every single subject in life needs to be embraced through the Orthodox Christian Faith. If it is not, each unattended subject will give birth to a new hybrid of thought, a new secular path to travel away from the faith and into what St. John the Apostle calls “the mark of the beast,” where no man can even “buy or sell” without it. The secular paths all lead to this “replacement community” — this final entrapment of the Church — where all people trapped within will have sealed their eternal destiny, estranged from God’s gift of eternal life. As a well-known Orthodox Saint has pointed out:
“It should be placed as an unfailing law that every kind of learning which is taught to a Christian should be penetrated with Christian principles and, more precisely, Orthodox ones.”
– St. Theophan the Recluse
Orthodox Symphonia with Contemporary Subjects
Math – This is an absolute necessity, even if there are some people who don’t happen to like it much. Is there such thing as secular math? Indeed there is! A secularized subject is stripped of its application, so as to become an intellectual pursuit of its own (raw data with no application), or else it is used as a catalyst for non-Orthodox worldviews. Intellectualizing any subject is a pursuit of pride and often a complete mental burnout for many people. Math can be, at a very high level, a strict intellectual pursuit for those who want to be mathematicians. But for most of us, math is an applied subject that is a tool for greater things in life. Let us build great hospitals, schools, rehab centers, and temples — with the help of mathematics — but let us not put math in a cage and send our young people in to this cage for burnout, nor cultivate within them a mind that operates merely scientifically rather than spiritually.
Technology – Technological advancements that protect nature, including mankind itself, can be encouraged. Perhaps we can steer away from the pursuit of artificial intelligence. This just an example, and there is room for debate. But that is what makes Christian education so exciting! There are discussions that needs to take place . . . often.
Engineering – Building structures that give glory to God was a common practice in both Eastern and Western Europe. Domes, arches, and iconography have influenced the world throughout the ages. There are even sectors within America that have been positively influenced.
History – How could history be properly taught aside from a Christian worldview? The first civilized society was the Orthodox (Byzantine) Empire. St. Justinian the Emperorimplemented law based on the Christian faith, and all civilized societies in the modern era owe much to this great work. For centuries, nations were led by the Church, or by an offshoot of the Church. To secularize history is downright dishonest, and is a complete misrepresentation of historical truth.
Philosophy – For instance, St. John Chrysostom was a great Christian philosopher. Chrysostom, in Greek, means “golden mouth.” Many of the Church Fathers and ascetics are greater sources of wisdom than any pagan philosopher could ever be. Many of the Fathers, including St. Paul the Apostle, challenged Pagan philosophers and converted them over to Christian philosophy. When we study ancient philosophy, whether it happens to be Christian or not, it should be studied in light of its spiritual context — how it was being influenced by the Church and how it was challenging the Church.
Medicine – St. Luke, one of our Holy Apostles, was a doctor. There were a number of doctors throughout the Byzantine Empire, and in fact, the Orthodox Church invented the hospital itself. Proper and ethical medical care within the environment of priests and deacons is absolutely necessary for an Orthodox worldview. We do not have the holy mystery of healing just so we can have an extra prayer service. We have it to actually heal people. The hospital is ours, and we should begin taking them back and building more of our own. Abortions, transgender surgeries, pharmaceutical and insurance companies dictating procedures . . . all of this must be eradicated!
Criminal Justice & Law – This is an easy one! There is no law without spiritual input. The question is: Which spiritual source shall we choose? Certainly, we can choose secular spiritualism, which amounts to radical ecumenism and moral relativism. Where is the order or peace in that? To say that all religions can mesh and cohabit peacefully is a most ignorant thing to say. They can cooperate with each other, but only if they each have the freedom to build their own communities to cooperate within.
Art – Take a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, or to Greece, and you will see the Christian meaning of art. It’s everywhere. As the Russian Orthodox author Fyodor Dostoyevskysaid, “beauty will save the world.” Iconography (Orthodox Christian art) is a sacred art which gives a proper foundation for all art. Not everything must be painted as an icon, though. In fact, it must not be! Iconography is sacred and set aside for the communication of the Gospel. But all other art should glean from it and become its own form of Christian beauty. This can extend to anything from home décor to entertainment. Also, Christian art is modest! Pornography and other forms of crudeness are simply not Christian.
Food – The Orthodox calendar includes many fasting guidelines on certain days of the year. Orthodox countries have thousands of recipes that presuppose the fasts.
Theology – Most importantly, the study of God and his people must be embraced via the Orthodox Christian Faith. Without proper theology we can know very little about how man and community, in general, operates effectively. Our theology helps us strive between creation and eternity, and understand how the two operate and create harmony with each other.
A community that treats Christ as one of many gods, is a community that is destined to fail. We have seen this throughout all history. Pluralism is a recipe for cultural collapse.
If American leadership does not want a community that recognizes Christ alone as the cornerstone, then let us build sub-communities that will. Let us abandon the false ecumenism of the secular state, so as to overcome the enemy and uphold the true Faith!
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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?
Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.
But what it is it all about?
At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.
The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.
The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.
Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.
Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.
And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.
Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture
Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”
The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.
At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.
During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.
When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”
He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”
“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.
During the commercial break, Will Smith is pulled aside and comforted by Denzel Washington and Tyler Perry, who motion for him to brush it off. Will appears to wipe tears from his eyes as he sits back down with Jada, with Denzel comforting Jada and Will’s rep by his side. pic.twitter.com/uDGVnWrSS2
— Scott Feinberg (@ScottFeinberg) March 28, 2022
The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”
On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.
House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022
House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.
Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.
The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.
Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.
This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.
MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.
It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.
“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.
“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.
“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.
“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.
He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.
Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.
Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.
The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.
“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”
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