Παρασκευή, 15 Ιανουαρίου 2010

Politics of Sanctity

Politics of Sanctity

 


 Seminar Organizer: Amanda Minervini

Most countries in the world have a patron saint: Gabriele D’Annunzio, the controversial writer who is known to have been close to Fascism, defined Saint Francis of Assisi as “the most Italian of all saints, the most saintly of all Italians.” The even more controversial pope Pius XII appropriated this formula when he proclaimed the Assisian saint “patron of Italy” on June 18th 1939, that is to say, in a particularly fraught moment of European history.
Of the rich Roman Catholic repertoire, which historical and political circumstances influenced the choice, to mention only a few, of Joan of Arc, Wenceslaus, Boniface, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Luján or Joseph, as patron saints of, respectively, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, Argentina, China? What is and what was the significance of establishing, for each country, a special and specific advocate to god? The aim of this panel is to discuss the construction of sanctity in the wider contexts of nation formation, of legacies of the past, as a tool to propose social reform, as a way to implicitly negotiate other political tensions. In defining the spirit of a nation necessary to the construction of a patron, which characteristics were emphasized, which were left out and which were “imported,” hybridized? On which terms were those discourses conducted? Were they mainly proposed through papal speeches or can we retrace their influence in other cultural texts (popular magazines, TV, music, literature, cinema…)? Are those figures still powerful and do they still appeal to a specific population? For which reasons, in which forms and to which parts of the population which is object of analysis? In which ways did the various popes refer back to patrons in different contexts than those of their proclamation? Which interpretative paths open up to the literary critic, the political theorist, the historian, the anthropologist, the practicing Catholic, when they confront the discourse pronounced by Pope Benedict XVI on September 28, 2009 in Prague, in which he referred to Saint Wenceslaus in order to advocate the formation of a political class made of “credible believers”?
Papers from a variety of disciplinary perspectives and dealing with theoretical aspects of the interaction between sanctity and politics (management of violence, institution of rituals, status, self-preservation, etc.) or papers bringing forth an in depth analysis of specific instances are welcome.

Source: http://www.acla.org/acla2010/?p=725








Photo via i.esmas.com
Politics is also a path to sanctity, says Cardinal Rivera


The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, called on politicians this week to seek holiness in their service to others and to create “conditions of equal opportunity among all citizens” for their development, in the spirit of St. Thomas Moore, reports Catholic News Agency.





“Political activity should be carried out with a spirit of service. It is a true vocation that dignifies those who exercise it, in particular in government, in the establishing of laws and in public administration in its diverse spheres,” the cardinal said, commemorating the feast of St. Thomas Moore, the patron of Catholic politicians and lawmakers.
Cardinal Rivera stressed that politicians should not only be concerned about giving each person his due, but also about “creating conditions of equal opportunity among all citizens" so that "those who run the risk of being relegated to or occupying the lowest spots in society, with no chance of personal recovery” are supported.
He criticized those who put their personal interests above the common good, which causes “the unbearable scandal of the opulent societies of today’s world, in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.”
The cardinal also urged Christian politicians to embrace and live out the principles of the Church’s social doctrine, “which is not an ideology and much less a political program, but rather offers the fundamental basis for understanding man and society in light of the universal ethical law, present in the heart of every man and illuminated by Gospel principles.”
“It’s not a question of going in circles with the problems but of confronting them with the testimony of a coherent faith,” Cardinal Rivera said. “In a secular society we must be respectful of believers and non-believers, but we must never be ashamed into silence about our principles and convictions,” he stated.

Source: http://www.christiantelegraph.com/issue6084.html

Sanctity and Literature

Call for Papers
Sanctity and Literature
A symposium to be held at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany,
12-13 November 2010
Keynote Speaker: Dr Anke Bernau (University of Manchester)
Sanctity is a construct in which text and context each have their roles to play.
It owes its existence and survival to it being accepted by believers. Hagiography
is the prime example of this mutual relationship. As one of the most
prominent genres of the Middle Ages, saints’ lives present themselves as fascinating
texts firmly grounded in people’s everyday lives: they are a means of
edification and entertainment, bearers of popular devotion and religion, vehicles
of their time and culture as well as important testaments to the interface
between Latin and vernacular literature. The different roles texts play in establishing
and preserving sanctity is the topic of this conference.
We welcome interdisciplinary proposals for papers which explore the dynamic
relationship between sanctity and literature, from both scholars and graduate
students (working on the concept of sanctity and/or saints’ lives) from late
Antiquity through Medieval and Renaissance periods. Papers might address,
in particular, the languages of hagiography, questions of gender, genre and
reception, transmission history, theological issues, stylistics and literary art.
Proposals which should not exceed 300 words should be emailed to Eva von
Contzen (Eva.Contzen@rub.de) by 31 December 2009.
Contact details:
Eva von Contzen
Department of English
Universitätsstraße 150
44780 Bochum, Germany
E-mail: Eva.Contzen@rub.de
Phone: +49-234-32-25732
Page taken from the Missale Manuscripta Bruges 1475-1476.
Printed with permission of the Foundation Musick's Monument http://musicksmonument.nl/

The Saints of the Orthodox Church

The Saints of the Orthodox Church




George Bebis, Ph.D.
Holy Cross School of Theology

GOD AND HOLINESS

It must be stated at the beginning that the only true "saint" or holy one ( Hagios ) is God Himself. The Bible states "For I am the Lord your God; you shall name yourselves holy and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy. . . " (Levit. 11: 44; 19: 2 and 20: 7). Man becomes holy and "sainted" by participation in the holiness of God.

Holiness or sainthood is a gift ( charisma ) given by God to man, through the Holy Spirit. Man's effort to become a participant in the life of divine holiness is indispensable, but sanctification itself is the work of the Holy Trinity, especially through the sanctifying power of Jesus Christ, who was incarnate, suffered crucifixion, and rose from the dead, in order to lead us to the life of holiness, through the communion with the Holy Spirit. In the Second Letter to the Thessalonians St. Paul suggests: "But we are bound to thank God always for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because from the beginning of time God chose you to find salvation in the Spirit that consecrates you, ( en agiasmo Pneumatos ) and in the truth that you believe. It was for this that He called you through the Gospel we brought, so that you might possess for your own the splendor of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2: 13–14).

CATEGORIES OF SAINTS

Through the work of the Holy Trinity all Christians could be called saints; especially in the early Church as long as they were baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, they received the Seal of the Spirit in chrismation and frequently participated in the Eucharist. In the same spirit St. Paul, when writing to the Churches he had visited, calls all the faithful "saints." Writing to the Ephesians, he addresses "the saints who live in Ephesus" (1: 1); writing to the Corinthians he uses the same expressions (2 Cor. 1: 11). St. Basil, commenting on this point, writes that Paul refers to all those who are united with God, who is the Being, the Life and the Truth (Against Eunomius, II, 19). Furthermore, St. Paul writes to the Colossians that God has reconciled men by Christ's death, "so that He may present you before Himself holy, without blemish and innocent in His sight" (1: 22).

In our society, however, who can be addressed as a saint? Who are those men and women and children who may be called saints by the Church today? Many Orthodox theologians classify the saints in six categories:



1. The Apostles , who were the first ones to spread the message of the Incarnation of the Word of God and of salvation through Christ.

2. The Prophets , because they predicted and prophesied the coming of the Messiah.

3. The Martyrs , for sacrificing their lives and fearlessly confessing Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.

4. The Fathers and Hierarchs of the Church , who excelled in explaining and in defending, by word and deed, the Christian faith.

5. The Monastics , who lived in the desert and dedicated themselves to spiritual exercise ( askesis ), reaching, as far as possible, perfection in Christ.

6. The Just , those who lived in the world, leading exemplary lives as clergy or laity with their families, becoming examples for imitation in society.



Each and every one among all these saints has his or her own calling and characteristics: they all fought the "good fight for the faith" (1 Tim. 6: 12 and 2 Tim. 4: 7). All of them applied in their lives the scriptural virtues of "justice, piety, fidelity, love, fortitude, and gentleness" (1 Tim. 6: 11).

THE CONCEPT OF THEOSIS

The ultimate goal of the saint is to imitate God and live the life of deification ( theosis ). St. Maximos the Confessor (seventh century) writes that the saints are men who have reached theosis; they have avoided unnatural development of the soul, that is, sin, and tried to live the natural way of life (i.e., living according to created nature), turning and looking always towards God, thus achieving total unity with God through the Holy Spirit ( On Theology , 7.73).

It may be stated here that the Saints are first of all "friends" of God. Secondly, through their genuine piety and absolute obedience to God, they pleased Him and have therefore been "sanctified" both in soul and body, and subsequently glorified in this world. Third, they have been accepted in God's bosom after their passing from the world into eternal life. Fourth, many of them have been given special "grace" or "favor" to perform miracles either before their departure from this world or after. Fifth, they have been granted the special gift to pray and intercede for those still living in this world and fighting the "good fight" for the glory of God and their own perfection in Christ. This intercession springs from the fact that they also are part of the "Communion of Saints". They share prayers and good works with Christians on earth and there is a constant interaction and unity between the glorified saints in Heaven and Christians who still live in the world.

THE INTERCESSION OF THE SAINTS


St. George
Mosaic Icon of St. George
The fact that Christians ask the prayers of saints and their intercession is prefigured in the New Testament. St. Paul asks the Christian Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians and Romans to pray for him (Ephes. 6: 19, Thesal. 5: 25; Colos. 4: 3, and Rom. 15: 30-31). In every Liturgy, we ask God the Father to accept, on our behalf, "the prayers and the intercession" of all the Saints who now live in heaven. The Fathers of the Church also accept as a matter of course the prayers and the intercession of all the saints.



In one of his letters, St. Basil explicitly writes that he accepts the intercession of the apostles, prophets and martyrs, and he seeks their prayers to God (Letter 360). Then, speaking about the Forty Martyrs, who suffered martyrdom for Christ, he emphasizes that "they are common friends of the human race, strong ambassadors and collaborators in fervent prayers" (Chapter 8). St. Gregory of Nyssa asks St. Theodore the Martyr "to fervently pray to our Common King, our God, for the country and the people" ( Encomium to Martyr Theodore ). The same language is used by St. Gregory the Theologian in his encomium to St. Cyprian . St. John Chrysostom says that we should seek the intercession and the fervent prayers of the saints, because they have special "boldness" ( parresia ), before God. (Gen. 44: 2 and Encomium to Julian, Iuventinus and Maximinus , 3).

THE VENERATION OF THE SAINTS

In the Orthodox Church the worship ( latreia ) given to God is completely different from the honor ( time ) of love ( agape ) and respect, or even veneration ( proskynesis ), "paid to all those endowed with some dignity" (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. III , 40). The Orthodox honor the saints to express their love and gratitude to God, who has "perfected" the saints. As St. Symeon the New Theologian writes, "God is the teacher of the Prophets, the co-traveller with the Apostles, the power of the Martyrs, the inspiration of the Fathers and Teachers, the perfection of all Saints. . . ." ( Catechesis , I).
Catacomb
Fresco from the catacomb on the Vie Latina, Rome

Throughout early Christianity, Christians customarily met in the places where the martyrs had died, to build churches in their honor, venerate their relics and memory, and present their example for imitation by others. Interesting information on this subject derives from the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp (ch. 17-18), according to which the early Christians reverently collected the remains of the saints and honored them "more than precious stones." They also met on the day of their death to commemorate "their new birthday, the day they entered into their new life, in Heaven." To this day the Orthodox have maintained the liturgical custom of meeting on the day of the saint's death, of building churches honoring their names, and of paying special respect to their relics and icons. The Seventh Ecumenical Council (787 A.D.), in summarizing this practice of the Church, declares that "we adore and respect God our Lord; and those who have been genuine servants of our common Lord we honor and venerate because they have the power to make us friends with God the King of all."

The feast days and the celebrations honoring the saints had become a common practice by the fourth century. The twentieth canon of the Council of Gangra in Asia Minor (between the years 325 and 381) anathematizes those who reject the feast days of the saints. So great was the esteem in which the Apostles, prophets, and martyrs were held in the Church, that many writings appeared describing their spiritual achievements, love and devotion to God.

Together with the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp , information on the veneration of the Saints derives from the Martyrdom of the Martyrs of Scilli, a small town in North Africa (end of the second century). The list of sources indudes St. Athanasius' Life of St. Anthony ; St. Basil's Homily honoring the "Forty Martyrs"; Gregory of Nyssa's Homily honoring St. Theodore; St. John Chrysostom also delivered a considerable number of sermons dedicated to the Martyrs of the Church.


Relics
RELICS OF VARIOUS SAINTS AND MARTYRS

The Fathers, and all early Christians in general, paid especially great respect to the relics of the martyrs. In addition to the sources already mentioned, Eusebius of Caesarea , the Church historian, says that "those who suffered for the glory of Christ always have fellowship with the living God" ( Church History , 5: 1). In the Apostolic Constitutions (5: 1) the martyrs are called "brothers of the Lord" and "vessels of the Holy Spirit." This helps to explains the special honor and respect which the Church paid to the relics of the martyrs. St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Cyril of Jerusalem , and St. John Chrysostom remind us that the relics of the martyrs "are filled with spiritual grace," that even their tombs are filled with a special "blessing." This Patristic practice still continues today, and people from all over the world visit churches that possess the relics of martyrs and saints. Also, according to the ancient tradition, the consecration of new churches takes place with the deposition of holy relics in the Holy Table of the sanctuary.

Great controversies have occured in the past over the special honor due to the icons of Christ as well as those of the saints of the Church. The Iconclastic controversies which began in Byzantium in the seventh century shook the entire church. The Fathers of the Church, however, declared quite clearly that the honor belongs to the "prototype" and not to the material image of Christ or the Saints. The Acts of the Fourth session of the Seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicaea (787 A.D.) illuminate this particular point:

"We accept ( aspazometha ) the word of the Lord and his Apostles through which we have been taught to honor ( timan ) and magnify ( megalynein ) in the first place Her who is properly and truly the Mother of God ( Theotokos ) and exalted above all the heavenly Powers; also the holy and angelic Powers; the blessed and all-lauded Apostles; and the glorious Prophets and the triumphant Martyrs who fought for Christ; holy and God fearing Doctors, and all holy men; to seek their intercession (presveies), to make us at home with the all-royal God of all, so long as we keep his commandments and strive to live virtuously. Moreover we accept ( aspazometha ) the image of the honorable and life-giving Cross, and the holy relics of the saints; and we receive the holy and venerable images; we accept them and we embrace them, according to the ancient traditions of the Holy Catholic Church of God, that is to say our holy Fathers, who also received these things and established them in all the most holy Churches of God and in every place of His dominion. These honorable and venerable images, as has been said, we honor, accept and reverently venerate ( timitikos proskynoumen ): the image of the incarnation of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, and that of our immaculate Lady, the all-holy Mother of God, from whom he pleased to take flesh and to save and deliver us from all impious idolatry; also the images of the holy and incorporeal Angels, who appeared to the just as men. Likewise we also venerate the figures and the effigies ( morphas, eikonismata ) of the divine and all-lauded Apostles, the God-speaking Prophets, and the suffering martyrs and holy men, so that through their representations ( anazografiseos ) we may be able to be led back in memory and recollections to the prototype, and participate in their holiness"

( Nicene and Post–Nicene Fathers , Vol 14, p. 541).

THE FEAST DAYS OF THE SAINT
Panagia

ICON OF THE THEOTOKOS



The early Christians used to meet on the name-day of a saint, which in practice usually was the day of his death. These gatherings took place either around the tomb of the saint or in the church, which kept and preserved his holy relics, or in churches with great historical and theological significance. Such a gathering, called a feast-day or festival ( Panegyris ), commemorates the memory of the saint. The faithful participate in these feasts to listen to an encomiastic speech praising the deeds or the martyrdom of the venerated saint, and in general to derive spiritual profit. An interesting description is that of the panegris of St. Thekla of Seleucia in Asia Minor (mid-fifth century), and of St. Demetrios in Thessalonica, Greece (twelfth century). The Church Fathers and the canons of the Church accepted this type of gathering, which still takes place, but they strongly warn against the "commercialization of such festivals" (Speros Vryonis, Jr., "The Panegyris of the Byzantine Saint," The Byzantine Saint , 1981).

The Orthodox Church gives a special place to the honor and veneration of the Virgin Mary the Mother of God, the Angels, and St. John the Baptist. Concerning the Virgin Mary, as Mother of God, suffice it to say that the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus (431 A.D.) officially adopted the term Theotokos in her honor. There is a period of fasting (the first 14 days of August) and numerous feasts and hymns dedicated to her. Her image is traditionally painted above the Sanctuary and called "more spacious than the heavens" ( Platytera ). The Virgin Mary, being the mother of God, earnestly intercedes for us, for she gave her flesh to Christ in all humility and obedience, so that the Word of God could become man.

Archangel Michael
ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
The Orthodox believe the angels to be incorporeal beings, created by God before the actual creation. They are immortal, not by nature but by the grace of God, and are called "second lights," the first light being God Himself. Their nature was originally changeable, but after the Incarnation of Christ, the angels were considered as saved ( sesosmenoi ) and, therefore, unaltered. The Fathers believed that every believer has his own "guardian angel"; the angels pray for us, sing, and unceasingly glorify the Holy Trinity. They also serve as examples that people should follow.

St. John the Baptist, whose icon is found on the Iconostasis of all Orthodox churches, was the prophet who baptized Christ and prepared His coming on earth; yet he suffered martyrdom for his holiness and obedience to the will of God. The Church has five feasts in honor of St. John the Baptist.




CANONIZATION OF SAINTS

The Orthodox Church does not follow any official procedure for the "recognition" of saints. Initially the Church accepted as saints those who had suffered martyrdom for Christ. The saints are saints thanks to the grace of God, and they do not need official ecclesiastical recognition. The Christian people, reading their lives and witnessing their performance of miracles, accept and honor them as saints. St. John Chrysostom, persecuted and exiled by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, was accepted as a saint of the Church by popular acclaim. St. Basil the Great was accepted immediately after his death as a saint of the Church by the people. Recently, in order to avoid abuses, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has issued special encyclical letters ( tomoi ) in which the Holy Synod "recognizes" or accepts the popular feelings about a saint. Such an example in our days is St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain (1955).

Since the early Christian period there have been preserved many moving descriptions of the lives and martyrdoms and the miracles of the saints. They were (and still are) called synaxaria (from the Greek word Synaxis , meaning a meeting in the church for liturgical purposes, where the lives of the Saints were read). St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain composed synaxaria of the saints during the eighteenth century; and, most recently, Fr. George Poulos and Dr. Constantine Cavarnos have written lives of the saints in English.



SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING

H. Delahaye, The Legends of the Saints , Trans. by D. Attwatter, Fordham University Press, New York, 1962.

S. Hackel, ed., The Byzantine Saint , University of Birmingham 14th Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies. A special number of Sobornost and Eastern Churches Review . 1981, No. 3.

Source: http://www.goarch.org/resources/saints

The Saints by Metropolitan George (Khodr) of Mount Lebanon

The Saints
by Metropolitan George (Khodr) of Mount Lebanon

If I may quote an old statement by Pascal, in order to clarify it, I will distinguish that humans belong to three categories: the people of the world, the intellectual people [intelligentsia], and the people of love.
      I understand that the people of the world savour their worldliness, this world's attractive belongings, and delicious goodies are tempting, and its pride is enjoyable. This world is their focal attraction and charm, but in the end, it becomes a mere distraction. This world reshapes a material face and substitutes the humane identity with mere belongings—through imbalance between what one really is and what he possesses—and forgetting, that the days may turn around, and we may loose what we possessed. Then we will simply disappear, after the disappearance of the joys we owned. The loss of belongings may seem to us an 'extinction', since our 'inward' soul was formed and shaped through the material 'outward'.
      Money, in its abundance, is the rampart of power—in which case, if it led to arrogance—will consequently, lead to the destruction of others. Destruction begins through physical and ideological cancellation. The people of the world do not need 'others' to acknowledge their existence. Their own existence is the sole consequence of their own power, in a way that—the loss of their money—will trigger their own destruction. This fear [of loosing power] explains their greediness, their tyranny, and their suicide in some cases, for he who knows that his existence springs from a different fountain [other than his power] will never kill himself.
      On the other hand, the intellectual people are no better, than those who proudly boast with their money, are. They felt [intellectual people] that the knowledge is an extensive existence—because they have put the world in their brain! Then, on a second stage, they possessed the world. They became the world. The pleasure of the book and art, through all its varieties, makes them feel they are constantly invading the unknown and realising themselves: This is why they believed they could change the world. Especially poets, dream about this change [of the world]. Who reads the poems? The educated—and the duties of the educated are a meaningless task—in my opinion. The intellectual people have the same nature of the people of the world. Yes, the intellectual people may have keenness, enthusiasm and openness — and all this may look like a footstep for a possible vision — but the vision, if not descended from above, will become a passion.
      The people of love are the highest, unchallenged, beyond any measure. They have [the people of love] not only separated themselves from the world—but also despise much of what this world has to offer—without boasting against others. The people of love yield away education, for they have attained that which is inexplicable. But this does not mean that some of those loving people are not the most educated in their surrounding, and that they may be rich and intellectual—but the money, power and education is not their depth—because they have attained another depth: an irreproachable depth.
      These are three ranks, the highest of which you will never reach through your own means. You can never ascend from money and power to erudition. The power, will never become knowledge, and the power-of-intellect will never become sanctity.
      He, who yearns for the purity of heart, does not recall his family's genealogy —all this is dead for him—he doesn't pay any importance to his belonging to a noble house, even if he truly was. These 'houses' are all clay for him. He does not see his existence in those who became his relatives, and does not boast by those who he befriends. He doesn't even count himself a part of his family — because he did not emerge from this reality — in his eyes he is but nothing.
      He, who felt himself weak, will need help. But he, who did not see himself existing, will not need any support. I am not setting up individuality against the lineage [in the tribal context], because individualism preaches that the individual is the whole and cancels the community. But he, who loves, does not see himself a separate member: he sees himself solely existing in his beloved. He only sets forth him who he loves. He comes. He is always in a state of 'coming'. And if he receives love back, he feels the grace: he, who grace descends upon, is never an 'owner'. The blessings transparently pass through him. The Grace returns back to its Donor, and the inspirer remains bare-naked. He fears his nakedness on Judgement Day. He does not understand how his God will reward him—since he never been anything: God only receives the poor.
      But him, who will stand in front of his Creator with his hands-full, what shall he receive? And him, who stood in the Divine presence and felt his great intellect, what shall he understand up there? Maybe, poverty is our last resort up to Him.
      This pretty, who will beautify her in front of the Creator? Who will bestow upon her the garment of splendour if she attained the doorstep, aware of her beauty? If all our righteousness were like the "filthy rags" as Isaiah said [Isa 64:6], what would then our beauty look like—except ugliness— in God's eyes?
      Knowing that the Baal—the god of power—has died after the manifestation of the God of Righteousness, and that Ashtarout—the goddess of beauty—died among the Bedouins of Merriam. Every power had vanished and every sensation was evaporated: all idols fell down.
      I knew that the goddess Artmiss was transformed to a wooden-stick when confronted by Apollon, and I thought that this goddess remained with a perpetual beauty. Until I learned at last, through a tableau by Tiepolo, that this same goddess of beauty did itself extinct, and that we are the victims of illusions. Illusions of our world, of pleasures, of what we've read, and of what we've inspired from the culture of today and also perhaps, of what we have inspired from all the cultures—until we may be freed—by putting-on the nakedness of Christ.
      I don't think, if you were rich and illiterate, that you need to be educated in order to escape the foolishness of this world. Education is a power but is not a salvation. I fear upon you, from the power of education, and from your boasting against the simple [poor in spirit]. I do not despise the books, and I want both the ignorant and educated to study it, because the books may be used as a tool for service. Also, I do not despise the money, because you can transform it to a mean for consolation. The power itself may be handed to the saints and may become their way of benevolence. My call to you, is to realise that money and power are mere nothing if measured against the humble and righteous knowledge; my plea to you is to realise that all the heritage of this world is mere nothing in comparison with the residing love in the hearts.
      I am not calling the beautiful to shave her hair and to extract her teeth to become ugly, as did a beautiful French girl when she felt that the great writer Leon Bloy started been attracted to her! As well, I am not calling the inhabitants of the palaces to desert their homes. For repentance is not from the beauty, but from the admiration of beauty, and repentance is not from the possession of money, but from the worship of money. And the fruits that consequently follow this repentance, are chastity, respect, benevolence, and meekness of charity.
      I said that the sanctity is a grace. This is faith. Those who were sanctified told us, that it is a decision, a great effort following a life-long awareness and perseverance.
      What is striking in our days, is that what was before the persistence: People no more believe in the Word of God; they do not believe that He is just in what He forbade us to do, and in what He called us to. They say, without being ashamed, that what the believers call a sin—is not really a sin! The 'feeble' believer—if such can be called—more and less, adores his sin. In the past he [the believer] use to fall in sin, and damn the devil for his slept… Today he commits a sin and boasts with it! He, no longer asks forgiveness — and if he had a bit of timidity not to justify his disobedience — he will then try to explain it by, what he calls, a 'need in the flesh', or his poor financial situation, or the riches of the table—in general, he speaks of an irresistible seduction. Sin died to become a psychological incident. This should explain this epidemic indifference towards sexual immorality, bribery, and fraud. The great fall is not in the sins—these [sins] always existed and will remain—but the greater plunge is in the denial of the concept of sin. What really threaten sanctity in our days, is not corruption, but the mixing [confusion] between good and evil—between black and white.
      I am certain that, what attracts me the most in Christianity is not the theology, but the sanctity. All the books of theology, which were written by the great theologians, were only written because these theologians believed that the orthodoxy of faith is an unsubstantial part of the purity of heart. Similarly, the entire heritage of worship has the sole target of supporting our journey to righteousness. I know that all the Christian effort throughout the generations, through pondering, praying, counselling, and organising—had no other reason than to deify us. The 'obsession' of Christianity is to prove to its members and to the world that God can inhabit—despite all the difficulties—a human heart and transform him to shine with splendour. All the 'charisma' of Christianity, which cannot be expressed by words or tunes, is its ability to transform some faces to Icons. The miracle is that Christianity was able—among a number of people, which I don't know its percentage—was able to extinguish the passions in the character. Was able to restore the sweetness of living, the meekness, the transparency, the self-sacrificing for the others. Was able to initiate the total abolishment of the 'I', the abolishment of the tribal loyalty, and the abolishment of the worldly glory of the rite.
      He Who came, and can come everyday and in every part of the world, can prove to you all the glories of your world to be meaningless, can reveal that all the books and arts of the world are dim if compared to the joy of the pure ones.
      I do not deny anything of the beauty of this universe, and am strongly attracted to the magnificence of the knowledge. But those who are baptised by tears and who love Jesus the Nazarene in His nakedness, and who have attained His crucifixion through their sincerity and daily meekness. In my eyes they are greater than the light of the sun is, than the tenderness of flowers, than all the sensuality of the mind, and greater than the greatest poems are.
      Those whom God, himself carved them by His finger, and planted them in this world of our misery witnesses to Him—are my proof to Him.
      Because of them, I have closed all the books.
Published January 09, 1999 in the © An-Nahar, Lebanese news paper (http://www.annahar.com.lb/htd/pdfed2.html)Translated from Arabic.

Source: http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/resources/saints/george_saints.htm