The Gift of Tears
A Path to Conversion and Enlightenment

by Matt Kappadakunnel

crying woman

In my last article in Public Orthodoxy, I shared a reflection on the Jesus Prayer

An important facet of the prayer—one that I often overlook or speed past—is acknowledging in humility and truth before God that I am a sinner.

We are often afraid to acknowledge our fallen areas and our need for growth. When we are not mindful of the portion of the Jesus Prayer that precedes the word sinner—mercy—our guilt from past wrongs can lead us to shame. We believe that not only did we commit bad actions, but that we are our bad actions and therefore are bad.

The Holy Spirit, however, has a very different trajectory when it comes to sin. 

The Spirit reminded me of two occasions in elementary school when I was harmful to a fellow schoolmate. I experienced tremendous regret for those actions, but the Spirit prevented me from going down the path of discouragement. Instead, I began spontaneously to shed tears for these past wrongs, tears that did not promote sadness but healing, renewal, and gratitude.

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Caste as a Protected Category and Indian Christianity

by Sonja Thomas | български | ქართული | ελληνικά | Română | Русский | Српски

St. Thomas mosaic, Syro-Malabar Church, Kerala, India. Photo by author.

It is time for Eastern rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians in the United States to join hands and fight against casteism. Members of the community must support initiatives to make caste a protected category at schools, colleges, and universities as well as in the workplace. Likewise members of the community must unmask the false message that to stand up against casteism is Hinduphobic. Standing up to casteism is a human rights issue, plain and simple—one that cuts across all religions including Christianity.

Contrary to popular belief, caste is not solely tied to the Hindu religion but functions across religions. In fact, casteism, defined as “adherence to a caste system,” has been perpetrated by dominant-caste Christians for centuries and is embedded in Eastern Rite Catholic and Orthodox Indian Christian traditions and practices.

Casteism is a form of decent-based discrimination. Descent based simply means that an individual is born into a certain group, and therefore it matters profoundly who one’s parents and ancestors are. For Americans unfamiliar with caste, it can be helpful to think in terms of racism as a parallel construct.

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Celebrating Archangel Light

by V.K. McCarty

Commanders of the heavenly hosts,
we who are unworthy beseech you,
by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings of your immaterial glory,
and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you:
Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commanders of the powers on high!
(Troparion for the Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers, Tone 4)

As the angels are gathering for the great Feast of the Synaxis of the Archangels, those of us wary of believing in angels at all may question their very nature. Yet we are standing as close to a mighty explanation as Psalm 104:4, and to Psalm 103:20-21 for the powerful efficacy of their ministry revealed. God who “makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flaming fire,” as the Psalmist says, is both terrifying and gorgeous to behold. That the angels of God “excel in strength, do his commandments, hearken to the voice of his word…and do his pleasure,” identifies them as front-facing essential workers in the economy of Salvation and in our lives among the faithful.

“Take a close look at a branding iron,” Basil the Great teaches us, “and the nature of angels’ holiness will become plainer: Remember that fire is required to heat it; yet, we would not claim that the branding iron and the fire are the same substance. The angels are a similar case; they are essentially aerial spirits, composed of immaterial fire, as it is written, ‘He makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flaming fire’ (Ps 104:4). Angels exist in space, and when they are seen by those who are worthy, they assume an appropriate physical form” (On the Holy Spirit, PG38.138A). For us then, in our deepest prayer and praise, we are able to see the divine illumination of angelic appearances in the same manner as viewing, perhaps, a rainbow, which can truly appear visually and radiantly upon occasion, and can powerfully signify God’s promise in Scripture, but has no physical body.

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Islam, Europe, and Democracy
Seeking Answers in an Ongoing Discussion

by Angeliki Ziaka | български | Română | Русский | Српски

A version of this essay was published in Greek at Polymeros kai Polytropos, the blog of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies. A Georgian translation of the Greek text is also available.

When approaching the discourse on “Islam, Europe, and Democracy,” and laying aside apparent understandings and admissions, we are faced with certain observations and questions. A first approach of “Islam, Europe, and Democracy” bears with it a certain consensus. That is, that Islam, as a religious system, with more or less apparent theocratic elements—depending on the countries it dominates and where it is applied, as well as due to its “essentialist” religious and political trajectory in time and sociopolitical process—does not carry with it European values and the imperatives of the West, such as democracy and, consequently, the spirit of Enlightenment. Such values are considered shaped by the European spirit—due to both Christianity and secularism—and produced by the struggles of the French Revolution against religious authority and the tyranny of monarchy. A variety of historical, spiritual, philosophical, and political journeys have yielded a unique heritage for the individual, society, and humanity as well, thereby safeguarding human rights and protecting the individual from the terms and imperatives of a religiously and politically pre-modern communal life. Democracy guarantees that a state functions with elected representatives and that all citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of their sex, color, religious beliefs, and political opinions. Different languages, religions, and cultures are therefore to be respected as equal within the framework of a statutory secular law.

This point gives birth to a multiplicity of questions. Such questions concern not only the national and religious histories of the European states and their different financial status, but also their political past or present.

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