Palestinian Christians celebrate Palm Sunday at the Saint Porphyrius Church in Gaza

Saint John the Baptist Church - Jordan River, Jordan

The church is located on the site believed by some to be where Jesus was baptised by Saint John.

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him” (Matthew 3:13)

“St. Maximos the Confessor says that a person’s deliverance from pain and pleasure is the sign that he has passed the stage of purification; the sign that he has passed or is at the stage of illumination is his deliverance from ignorance and forgetfulness of God; and the sign that he has reached theosis is his liberation from fantasy and all images which the world of the senses brings to him.”

That passage alone is enough to chew on for a year.

The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition,
Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierotheos.

Church of Saint Porphyrius - Gaza, Palestine

Named after the 5th century bishop of Gaza, Saint Porphyrius, it is the oldest active church in Gaza. The original church dated back to 425 CE however the current building dates back to 1150 CE.

Saint Porphyrius’s tomb is situated in the northeastern corner of the church. His feast day is celebrated on February 26 by both Christians & Muslims.

sweetpollyolliver  asked:

Hey Van do you mind or like to talk about your faith on your blog? Because I was wondering how you perceived the bible - whether it's 100% word of God or many human interpretations of God's message and therefore flawed...? I was partly inspired to ask this because of your post on semiotics and religion and my recent discovery that there many books not included in the current copy of the bible including one, some people think, written by Mary Magdalene which I found super exciting.

Hey lovely :) I love these sorts of questions, so I don’t mind at all!!! I’m such a huge nerd when it comes to theology and love it when other people are curious, regardless of what perspective they’re coming from. I just wish more people cared haha. I find that not many really want to hear how I feel about this and discuss :)

I’ll start off by saying that my beliefs are heavily influenced by the fact I’m eastern orthodox, and that other denominations have looser views towards the Bible. 

I think that the Bible itself is God breathed and God inspired, and that it is ultimately the Truth. I don’t think that because humans were the tool used, it is flawed.

I actually think it’s incredibly dangerous for people to interpret the Bible at their own will, and not God’s Will. This is becoming increasingly trendy, mainly due to the spread of Protestantism. There are so many ways to interpret and understand the Bible, that it’s literally led to thousands of heresies, variant doctrines, schisms, and splits within Christianity. It is basically the source of disunity in the Church. 

A lot of people think that the Bible should be the basis of their faith, not realising that Scripture is supposed to be used in accordance to the Traditions of the Church. When Christianity was first formed, the Bible did not exist in one volume. The Bible existed as separate scrolls or collections. The only books that all Jews agreed on as Scripture was the Torah, and that’s just the first five books. So, the Bible as we know it, didn’t even exist for the early Church. They relied on the Apostolistic Traditions set up by Jesus himself and his disciples. (These are the Traditions the Eastern Orthodox Church still practice, in accordance to reading out the Gospel and various books eg. psalms and letters during our Liturgy). This is, of course, why St. Paul writes:

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

One Bible verse in particular that stresses this is 2 Peter 1:20-

First of all you must understand that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Pet 1:20).

It isn’t a matter of “one’s own interpretation” because Scripture has been “moved by the Holy Spirit.” So, the Bible isn’t supposed to stand alone. One of the best ways I’ve seen it described is like this -

“There is no question that the Bible is authority, so if I gave the impression that the Bible is not authority in the Church, that’s certainly not true. It is authority, but it’s not over the Church, it’s not under the Church, it’s part of the Church. It does stand as part of the Tradition, part of apostolic Tradition. It’s just the written form of apostolic Tradition. To that extent, it’s not exclusive authority.”
—Dr. Jeannie Constantinou

I basically believe that the Bible itself is God-inspired. I don’t think there’s any flaw in it. I do recognise that people (being imperfect) will interpret passages differently and incorrectly when left without guidance. But that’s why we’re not left without guidance; we have been given the Living Traditions and Canons as a basis of our understanding, as a framework. And, as true, baptised believers, we also have the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. 

As for your question about Mary Magdalene. Man, awesome question. I have a huge girl crush on Mary Magdalene. I mean, an ex-prositutue who had seven demons inside her yet was  transformed by grace into a woman equal to the apostles? She’s literally a badass. Not to mention the esteem she is given being first to meet Christ after his resurrection, and to be the one to give the good news! She’s seriously one of my faves.

Now, with the whole thing about her writing a gospel, we’re touching upon Canons. This is something we covered in Bible Study not long ago, but it’s complex, so I hope I do okay explaining. 

The Canonical Gospels are those that have been accepted into the Bible - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The first three have a striking similarity, and are even worded the same. It is only John that is written in a slightly different style. These Gospels are considered to be divinely inspired. 

In addition to the four canonical gospels, there have been several other gospels that were not accepted into the canon. These works were later compositions than the canonical gospels, and due to questions about the veracity of the documents, they were not considered ‘divinely inspired’ or even historically sound, and thus not included. These books have come to be known as “apocrypha”. This term suggests that the books were considered useful by the church, but not divinely inspired. The Gospel of Mary falls under this. 

I’m not really phased by it though; I honestly believe that God has given us access to as much information as we need when it comes to Scripture. I don’t think an additional account of Jesus’ life would do anything other than reiterate what Matthew, Mark and Luke do. Also, if you read how crazy ‘coincidental’ it was that the Bible even came together, and that these scrolls were found, and that koine Greek was even common back then for the NT to be written, you’d trust that a divine force was in play to make it happen. I doubt that God ran out of steam and forgot to add an integral piece of information. We have what we need. I don’t think an additional gospel would convince those people who’ve set their heart against Christianity to reconsider. 

I hope this wasn’t boring. And I know it’s probably really not what you expected to read, but I’m praying you (and any one else who reads it) lets down their guard to embrace it with an open mind and open heart :) It’s a topic I never get bored researching, so hopefully you’re inspired to read up a little and consolidate your own views :) Thanks for being super cool and asking :) :) I’ll just send a million smilies your way :) :) :) 

Promise of Rebirth and Regeneration

“[T]he Old European sacred images and symbols were never totally uprooted; these persistent features in human history were too deeply implanted in the psyche. They could have disappeared only with the total extermination of the female population."—Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, 318.

August 15 is known to Greek Christians as the date of the Koimisi, "Falling Asleep” or Dormition of the Panagia, She Who Is All Holy. December 25 is a minor holiday in the Orthodox tradition, while Easter and August 15 are major festivals. The mysteries of Easter and August 15 concern the relation of life and death. In Orthodox theology, both Easter and August 15 teach that death is overcome: Jesus dies and is resurrected; Mary falls asleep and is assumed into heaven. These mysteries contain the promise that death is not the final end of human life. Yet this may not be the meaning of the rituals for many of those who participate in them.

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