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Holy Week in the Orthodox Christian world moves towards its culmination

Seraphim Hanisch




Sometimes you may notice upon wishing someone a happy Easter that they say, “Thank you, but our Easter (Pascha) is not yet…”

With so much worldly attention focused on the enormous Roman Catholic Church and its celebrations of the Good Friday to Easter Sunday, it is easy to pass over the incredible tradition of the Week of the Lord’s Passion, Crucifixion, defeat of Death and Hades, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as it is celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is the oldest and second largest Christian communion in the world. Oldest? Yep. It predates the Roman Catholic Church by 1,000 years. Second largest? Yes again. There are approximately 250 million adherents all around the world, with the largest population currently resident in the Russian Federation. Also known as the “Greek Orthodox Church”, “Russian Orthodox Church” and 13 other such titles, these groups represent fifteen canonically recognized national jurisdictions of one Church. Each national jurisdiction is independent of the others, yet all remain in communion with one another in an unbroken commonality of faith. In other words, one may attend an Orthodox Church in Russia, but be just as much at home in Greece, or Albania, Romania, or even the United States, for although the language used in Church services changes, the expression of faith and worship is the same. This is a unity that does not exist in any other Christian confession in the world.

The Orthodox celebration of services usually amounts to sensory overload for the newcomer, especially someone who is steeped in Western Christian tradition. The first thing that one often notices is a feeling that one has stepped into a very ancient world, and everything about it is just different than the world outside the walls of the church edifice.

We wish to focus just a little bit on the present season. This week has been the Holy Week for Orthodox Christians in most places in the world, and it comes after an already long period of fasting – some 47 days on the day that Holy Week begins, Palm Sunday. The character of the services takes us into the events of the last week of Christ’s earthly life before His Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Far from being a “re-enactment” or “remembrance” of events that happened 2,000 years ago, the Orthodox Christian tradition employs a technique understood best by the Greek people who were the early Christians. The Greeks understood the idea of eternity and the eternal now better than anyone else did, and it is certainly by no accident that this and other elements of Greek culture and thought were utilized by the will of God to create the experience one has in Orthodox Christian worship.

For, rather than looking at the past events through a window, or through the screen of one’s television set, Orthodox worship takes us there, into these moments of the life of Christ, and we are mystically present with Him and his disciples. This may seem like a very bold statement, but it is the common experience for us as Orthodox Christians to go through what might inadequately be called a catharsis, but with us is actually a real experience of these events.

For example, the services of the three Matins (Orthros, or morning services) for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, take us to when Jesus found a fig tree without fruit, and cursed it, causing it to wither away instantly. Later, upon entering the Temple, the chief priests question his authority to teach, to heal, to break the Sabbath by doing things against the Jewish law, and Jesus confounds them with his answer, backing them against the wall of their refusal to believe Him. As the services progress (and in the Orthodox Christian tradition, we pray nine times per day liturgically), event after event unfolds, with Christ’s teachings and experiences intermingled with references to the Old Testament and prophecies and signs made and fulfilled.

To the Western person used to an orderly interpretation of time as Chronos, sequential time, this is dizzying, for the Church seems to be at all points in time at once.

And this is exactly right. She (our pronoun for the Church) is, (and this kind of time is called kairos, the time of God) for She recognizes that all events in the history of the created universe center on the event of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And as the services unfold, we see and feel, and hear, as well as taste and smell, all of reality converging upon this moment. All times are now for God, and we experience some of this ourselves as we go through the Holy Week services.

One great theme of Palm Sunday is the “wordly” victory that is but the barest hint of the true victory. Palm Sunday’s events were greeted by the multitudes, greeting Jesus so joyfully that they wanted to make him King right there and then. And indeed, Jesus looks over the Temple and the city as though he is the new earthly king of Israel, utterly in charge. But the joy that so many people felt at the prospect of a new king to kick out the Romans changed in just five days, to where many of that same crowd were demanding that this Man be crucified. And even worse, the Jewish authorites – the Pharisees and Scribes, who were consumed by envy and hard-heartedness, (think stubbornness) not only refused to accept Christ, but in that courtyard before Pontius Pilate, they actually commit a travesty, for when Pilate asks them ‘shall I crucify your king?”, these angry men scream back, “we have no king but Caesar!”

On this day, Holy and Great Friday, the Church shows us this convergence of all of history in the morning service:

Today He is suspended on a Tree who suspended the earth upon the waters.

A crown of thorns was placed on the head of the King of angels.

He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.

He who freed Adam in the Jordan is struck upon the face.

The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.

The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a spear.

We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.

Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.

Everything that we think is so important about our life comes to a halt over this statement. Politics, nationalism, opinions, all the fighting that people do with one another over whatever issue in life; all of this is shown in these above phrases to be with no real meaning. It all happens, but that is because it is easy to hide from this Great Fact that is mystically playing out before the eye of our souls today.

Christ hangs on the Cross, by his deliberate choice, not as a victim, but in order to carry out the ultimate defeat of Death and the Devil, and granting us eternal life.

I have to admit that as a journalist, if we all remembered this everyday, our trade would probably be put out of business.

And that would be no bad thing, now, would it?

A blessed Holy and Great Friday to everyone. Christ is doing everything for us today.

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.



Via Zerohedge

On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran



Via RT

If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch



The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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