How Long Were the “Days” in Creation Week? (Papa Ephraim [Andrei] Poonen)

NOTE: Papa Ephraim wrote this treatise defending Creationism and Creation Science for the edification of his family who were, at that time, debating him about evolution (his brother and father are evolutionists). The treatise reflects the fronima of Elder Ephraim’s monasteries concerning a literal interpretation of the 6 Days of Creation [a few of his monastics still struggle with accepting this concept]. A literal interpretation is the “consensus of the Fathers” and thus orthodox Christians are expected to adopt this belief, too, or they might emit a foul stench

Papa Ephraim

There are seven reasons why the “days” mentioned in the first two chapters of Genesis must be literal, 24-hour periods:

  1. The use of the Hebrew word “yōm”
  2. The ratio of preterites to finite verbs
  3. The fourth commandment
  4. Christ’s witness
  5. Scientific considerations
  6. Theological considerations
  7. The consensus of patristic interpretations

1) The word “yōm” in Hebrew (“day”) has various meanings. But whenever it is used along with an ordinal number (as it is in Genesis 1-2) it always refers to a 24-hour period. If the author of Genesis wanted to describe an action in the distant past, he could have used three other words in Hebrew that would have been appropriate: “yamim,” “qedem,” and “olam.” If the author of Genesis wanted to tell us that creation started in the past but continued into the future (meaning that creation occurred by some sort of theistic evolution) he would have used one of the following Hebrew words: “dor,” “olam le,” “tamid,” “ad” (or “ad olam”), “shanah,” or “yōm rab.” If his intent was to convey ambiguous time, he would have used “yōm” combined with “light” and “darkness,” or the word “eth.” For these reasons, scholars of Hebrew have no doubt that the days in Genesis 1-2 were 24-hour periods. More details about the usage of those Hebrew words are available here and here.

2) Steven Boyd did a statistical analysis of Hebrew verb tenses for 97 passages in the Old Testament and found that the ratio of preterites to finite verbs has a median of .52 for passages that are obviously narrative, whereas for passages that are obviously poetic the median ratio was only .04, as shown in the chart on the following passages:

Steve Boyd Figure 10-2
Figure 10-2. Side-by-side scatter plots of preterite verb usage for narrative (diamonds on the left) and poetic (squares on the right) passages. The vertical axis measures the ratio of preterite verbs to all four finite verb types. Notice the predominance of preterite verb usage for narrative texts, and less preterite usage for poetic texts.

 

The triangle at a height of .65 is the verb ratio for the Genesis account of creation. He then used the logistic regression in the chart below to calculate the probability that the Genesis account of creation is a narrative or not, and found that the probability is 99.99%!

Steve Boyd Figure 10-3
Figure 10-3. The solid curved line is called a logistic regression curve. The vertical axis measures the probability that an Old Testament passage is a narrative, based on the use of preterite verbs. The probability is zero for poetry and unity or one for narrative. The triangle on the upper right represents Genesis 1:1-2:3, which is clearly literal, narrative history.

He therefore concludes that:

  1. It is not statistically defensible to interpret Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 as poetry or metaphor,
  2. The creation account describes actual events, and
  3. The only tenable interpretation of Genesis is that God created everything in six literal days.

3) The fourth commandment (which is the third commandment according to the Roman Catholic numbering system) says:

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work… for in six days the Lord made the heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day… (Exodus 20:8-11).

If those days were just metaphorical, then the analogy here would be quite contorted and thus meaningless.

Creation of woman

4) Christ said in Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” If there were billions of years before the creation of man, He wouldn’t have said “from the beginning of creation” but “from the near end of the creation.”

5) Interpreting the “days” of Creation Week as long periods of time causes problems from a scientific point of view. For example, the trees that were created one “day” before the sun would have died if that “day” lasted for years. Furthermore, the plants that require insect pollination that were created on the third day would not have survived until the insects were created on the sixth day, if those “days” were really eons.

[NOTE: This point makes no sense from an orthodox theological standpoint. Death entered into the world through man’s disobedience, which Papa Ephraim mentions in his next argument. So, death was non-existent in creation before man’s existence. Man was created on the 6th day so death was non-existent on days 1-5 of creation. How would the trees or anything in nature die before man’s Fall? The Fathers say all of creation was much different before the Fall and wasn’t governed by the laws of nature that we see after the Fall (i.e. there was no food chain, predator/prey, things didn’t die, things generally didn’t age to death, etc.). In a homily, Geronda Ephraim stated that the Church Fathers said if man didn’t fall, God would have found another way of reproduction for humans that wouldn’t have involved a fleshly, carnal union. So, it would seem that orthodox theologians have to look at “pre-fall” existence in this universe quite differently. Of course, there is probably some subjective circular reasoning theory on how trees could potentially die before death entered into the world in contemporary Christian literature].

Architect

6) The New Testament teaches that death entered the paradisiacal world as a result of sin (Romans 5:12; 8:20-22, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). But if each “day” of Genesis was really billions of years, this means that none of the plants and animals could have died for billions of years until Adam was created and sinned. If there had been billions years’ worth of death, extinction, and bloody “survival of the fittest” before Adam’s fall, one must adopt a strained interpretation of God’s claim that the world He created was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

[NOTE: Papa Ephraim completely contradicts point 5 here. Here, he admits there would be no death until Adam’s creation and disobedience so how is it possible to argue that the trees created before the sun would’ve died if the “days” were many years. Patristic texts teach that pre-Fall existence was unlike anything post-Fall man had experienced. That era was not governed by the same  “natural laws” that govern the world today. St. Basil even states that animals and humans were created vegetarian and that animals were not eaten in the original creation. “The first legislation allowed the use of fruits”. ].

7) The Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church frequently interpret passages of the Bible figuratively. However, there are a number of passages that none of them interpret figuratively. One such passage is the Genesis account of creation.

St. Basil wrote in his commentary on Genesis, the Hexameron:

“There are those truly, who do not admit the common sense of the Scriptures, for whom water is not water, but some other nature, who see in a plant, in a fish, what their fancy wishes, who change the nature of reptiles and of wild beasts to suit their allegories, like the interpreters of dreams who explain visions in sleep to make them serve their own ends. For me grass is grass; plant, fish, wild beast, domestic animal, I take all in the literal sense. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.”… It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe, that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes; he has not said that the earth is a hundred and eighty thousand furlongs in circumference; he has not measured into what extent of air its shadow projects itself whilst the sun revolves around it, nor stated how this shadow, casting itself upon the moon, produces eclipses. He has passed over in silence, as useless, all that is unimportant for us. Shall I then prefer foolish wisdom to the oracles of the Holy Spirit? Shall I not rather exalt Him who, not wishing to fill our minds with these vanities, has regulated all the economy of Scripture in view of the edification and the making perfect of our souls? It is this which those seem to me not to have understood, who, giving themselves up to the distorted meaning of allegory, have undertaken to give a majesty of their own invention to Scripture. It is to believe themselves wiser than the Holy Spirit, and to bring forth their own ideas under a pretext of exegesis. Let us hear Scripture as it has been written.” (Hexaemeron 5:6, p. 74)

St. Ephraim the Syrian likewise says

“No one should think that the Creation of Six Days is an allegory; it is likewise impermissible to say that what seems, according to the account, to have been created in the course of six days, was created in a single instant, and likewise that certain names presented in this account either signify nothing, or signify something else. On the contrary, one must know that just as the heaven and the earth which were created in the beginning are actually the heaven and the earth and not something else understood under the names of heaven and earth, so also everything else that is spoken of as being created and brought into order after the creation of heaven and earth is not empty names, but the very essence of the created natures corresponds to the force of these names.” (Commentary on Genesis 1, p. 282)

It is significant that St. Ephraim says this, not only because he knew Hebrew well, but also because modern scholars tell us that the “Eastern Fathers” are given to allegorical interpretations. Nevertheless, it is clear from this passage of St. Ephraim (who was an “Easterner”) that even the “Eastern Fathers” are unwilling to allegorize certain passages of the Bible.

As for the duration of the “days” in Genesis, St. Ephraim says:

“Although both the light and the clouds were created in the twinkling of an eye, still both the day and the night of the First Day continued for twelve hours each.”  (Commentary on Genesis 1, p. 287)

Similarly, St. Basil the Great wrote:

“There was evening and morning.” This means the space of a day and a night…”And there was evening and morning, one day.” Why did he say “one” and not “first”?…He said “one” because he was defining the measure of day and night and combining the time of a night and a day, since the twenty-four hours fill up the interval of one day.” (Hexaemeron 2:8, pp. 33-34

And St. Ambrose (who read St. Basil’s Hexaemeron) taught the same thing:

“In notable fashion has Scripture spoken of a “day,” not the “first day.” Because a second, then a third day, and finally the remaining days were to follow, a “first day” could have been mentioned, following in this way the natural order. But Scripture established a law that twenty-four hours, including both day and night, should be given the name of day only, as if one were to say the length of one day is twenty-four hours in extent.” (St. Ambrose, Hexaemeron 1:37).

It can be inferred from the following quote of St. Gregory the Theologian (who is considered to be the most “contemplative” of the Fathers) that he also believed that creation lasted only six days:

“Just as the first creation begins with Sunday (and this is evident from the fact that the seventh day after it is Saturday, because it is the day of repose from works), so also the second creation begins again with the same day [i.e. the day of Resurrection].” (St. gregory the Theologian, Homily 44, “On the New Week, Spring, and the Commemoration of the Martyr Mammas,” p. 657.)

And again, St. Gregory gives the Patristic view of the kind of world into which Adam was placed as follows:

“The Word, having taken a part of the newly created earth, with His immortal hands formed my image.” (St. Gregory the Theologian, Homily 7, “On the Soul,” p. 33)

He would not have called the earth “newly created” if each of the days in Creation Week were billions of years long.

* * * * *

It is clear beyond a doubt from a careful analysis of the words in Genesis as well as from simple logic that the “days” were literal 24-hour periods. The scientific and theological evidence also preclude interpreting the days as long periods of time. Furthermore, the Holy Fathers unanimously interpreted Genesis literally and even warned against interpreting it metaphorically. Therefore, if we interpret the days in Genesis as long periods of time, our interpretation is neither logical, nor scientifically justifiable, nor theologically sound, nor Orthodox.

In The Beginning

[NOTE: Earlier Church Fathers also wrote about the 6 Days of Creation:

The first Church Father who mentions the days of Creation is Barnabas (not Paul’s companion) who wrote a letter in AD 130. He says:

“Now what is said at the very beginning of Creation about the Sabbath, is this: In six days God created the works of his hands, and finished them on the seventh day; and he rested on that day, and sanctified it. Notice particularly, my children, the significance of ‘he finished them in six days.’ What that means is, that He is going to bring the world to an end in six thousand years, since with Him one day means a thousand years; witness His own saying, ‘Behold, a day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, my children, in six days – six thousand years, that is – there is going to be an end of everything.” (The Epistle of Barnabas 15)

Barnabas is referring here to the traditional view of both the Jewish Rabbis and the early church leaders, that the days of Creation were literal six days, but that Psalm 90:4 (and for the Christians, 2 Peter 3:8) prophetically pointed to the coming of the Messiah after 6,000 years (and for the Christians, the return of Christ).

* * * * *

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (AD 120 – 202), was discipled by Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, who had himself been taught by the Apostle John. He tells us clearly that a literal Adam and Eve were created and fell into sin on the literal first day of Creation (an idea influenced by the Rabbis). He writes:

“For it is said, ‘There was made in the evening, and there was made in the morning, one day.’ Now in this same day that they did eat, in that also did they die.” (Against Heresies, 5:23:2, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol.1, p.557)

When he refers to Adam sinning and bringing death to the human race on the sixth day, he also points out that Christ also died on the sixth day in order to redeem us from the curse of sin.

Agreeing with Barnabas, he explains that the literal six-day Creation points to six thousand years of history before Christ’s return:

“And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works. This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year.” (Ibid. 28:3).

* * * * *

Hippolytus, Bishop of Portus, near Rome (AD 170 – 236), was trained in the faith by Irenaeus, and like his mentor, he held to literal Creation days. He writes:

“And six thousand years must needs be accomplished… for ‘a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.’ Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled.” (The Extant Words and Fragments, On Daniel 2:4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, p.179)

Lactantius, a Bible scholar (AD 260 – 330) who tutored Emperor Constantine’s son, Crispus, taught the official Christian doctrine of the traditional church. He wrote:

“To me, as I meditate and consider in my mind concerning the creation of this world in which we are kept enclosed, even such is the rapidity of that creation; as is contained in the book of Moses, which he wrote about its creation, and which is called Genesis. God produced that entire mass for the adornment of His majesty in six days…. In the beginning God made the light, and divided it in the exact measure of twelve hours by day and by night….” (Lactantius, On the Creation of the World, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, p.341

As with the other church leaders at the time, he accepted the prophetic days of 2 Peter 3:8, and tells us:

“Therefore, since all the works of God were completed in six days, the world must continue in its present state through six ages, that is, six thousand years.” (The Divine Institutes 7:4).

It should be noted that Lactantius famously argued against the idea of a spherical earth, ridiculing it as a pagan notion, requiring belief in the  “antipodes” where men walk with their “feet higher than their heads.”

Creation Series

 

Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriot Starts Petition to Save St. Anthony’s Monastery from being Rezoned

Seraphim Larsen has been a spiritual child of Geronda Paisios, abbot of St. Anthony’s Monastery, almost since the beginning of the monastery’s establishment in Florence; circa 1995. Geronda Paisios baptized him into the orthodox faith during a secret ceremony. Seraphim was the chairman of the Pinal County Republican party.1 Furthermore, he is also a member of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots.2 It is no secret that Geronda Paisios has openly supported Ron Paul and other right-wing candidates when asked by his spiritual children who they should vote for. Greek edition books concerning the New World Order and Globalism that are sold in St. Anthony’s bookstore contain photocopies from English pamphlets distributed by American neo-Nazi groups.

SL

http://phoenixteaparty.ning.com/main/search/search?q=donald+trump 

According to the PRAVSLAVIE:3

A developer is proposing drastic changes to the zoning and land usage for parcels of land IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT to Saint Anthony’s Monastery. These changes would have a dramatic and significant negative impact to Saint Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery. It would also be a dramatic negative impact to all the local residents and out-of-state visitors who attend services there, to all the families who have relatives buried in the cemetery, and to everyone who currently enjoys the tranquil and graceful nature of the Monastery.

The proposed development is truly a drastic change:
• Over 200 new houses are to be developed on land north of the Monastery, including the area immediately adjacent to the Monastery Cemetery
• A new road is to be built extending from Paisano Road, then running in between the two Monastery hills, immediately at the base of the Prophet Elias Chapel, then very close to the cemetery. As this would be the only access road to the 200+ houses, traffic and noise would be greatly increased.
• The noise, traffic, housing, music, animals, etc. would bring a dramatic change to the whole community, disturbing not only the Monastery but the neighbors as well.
• The natural habitat and wildlife would be impacted by a big new development as well, disturbing several rare plant and animal species in the area.

YOUR URGENT ACTION IS REQUESTED! Public meetings are already scheduled for the coming week!! Please sign the petition immediately!

The petition simply asks the local authorities to leave the zoning of these properties unchanged. The purpose of zoning laws is to provide long-term expectations for property owners on how the land in their neighborhood is intended to be used. This allows people to plan and build in a manner appropriate to the existing neighborhood. The proposed new development represents a drastic change to current zoning usage and would have a strongly negative impact on the local community.

The petition also asks the Bureau of Land Management and the Arizona State Land Department simply to leave the usage of these properties unchanged. These agencies must approve any changes to the land usage where the developer wants to build the new road, since it passes through lands controlled by those agencies.

There is a private hearing early next week with Planning & Zoning and the local property owners (including the monastery). The monastery is hoping to bring as many signatures as possible (both paper petitions and printouts of the online petition) to that meeting.

If they don’t make a decision following that initial meeting, it’s likely they will have a public hearing sometime over the next few weeks.

Readers wishing to sign the petition can do so here: https://www.change.org/p/preserve-the-sacred-grounds-of-saint-anthony-s-monastery

map
Map showing the support from people all over the world.

Seraphim Larsen has also made a sample email for people to send:4

Send to: Pinal County Supervisors: Pete Rios <Pete.Rios@pinalcountyaz.gov>, Cheryl Chase <cheryl.chase@pinalcountyaz.gov>, Steve Miller <Steve.Miller@pinalcountyaz.gov>, Anthony Smith <Anthony.Smith@pinalcountyaz.gov>, Todd House <Todd.House@pinalcountyaz.gov>

Subject Line: Leave Zoning Unchanged near Saint Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery

Email Body:

Dear Pinal County Supervisors,

Thank you for all the great things you are doing for Pinal County!

I am writing to ask you to leave the zoning unchanged near Saint Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery at the end of Paisano Road in the Cactus Forest area immediately south of Florence.

Elmore/Brimhall LLC has submitted a rezoning application to the Pinal County Planning and Zoning Commission, asking that a large parcel immediately adjacent to the north border of the Monastery be rezoned from General Rural to a Residential classification for one-acre residential homes.

I am writing to you to express my strong opposition to this rezoning proposal. The Monastery is the spiritual home to thousands of Greek Orthodox faithful who regularly attend services and pray on the peaceful grounds of the Monastery. The Monastery is the actual residence to over fifty Greek Orthodox Monks who have devoted their lives to worship, prayer, and serving the community. The Monastery is world-renowned for its tranquil, beautiful, and holy grounds, a major tourist attraction where tens of thousands of people visit every year from Arizona and around the world. Many visitors have also expressed interest and concern about the natural habitat and wildlife, and the negative impact of significant development. Finally, the Cemetery at the Monastery is the resting place for many faithful people whose family and relatives would be greatly disturbed to have a busy new road and housing development immediately adjacent to the cemetery, with road noise, houses, animals, and music disturbing the peace of the holy grounds.

I strongly urge you to advise the Planning and Zoning Commission to deny this application for a zoning change.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

NAME and CITY, STATE

UPDATE FROM SERAPHIM LARSEN (JUNE 03, 2016)

More than 5,000 signatures!

SERAPHIM LARSEN
Seraphim Larsen

Florence, AZ

JUN 3, 2016 — We passed two significant milestones yesterday:

• We exceeded 5,000 signatures! The petition continues to build momentum!

• We had the meeting with the developer, with the Monastery and the other adjacent property owners.

The developer presented their plans and explained why they are asking for a change in zoning. They listened to the Monastery’s objections but gave no hint of conceding anything to the Monastery—they fully intend to go forward with their rezoning application. The one other neighbor who attended the meeting seemed sympathetic to the Monastery’s concerns, but their own concerns were more about how the development could impact access to their own property, which is at the far end of the development.

In other words, there weren’t any real surprises—this is the outcome we were expecting. The developer is not going to give up this project easily.

This meeting was required for the developer to complete the submission of their zoning application, which will all be turned over to the Planning and Zoning Commission in 1-2 weeks. A public hearing before the Planning & Zoning Commission will then be scheduled—we will be sure to let everyone know when that will happen and how you can speak at the hearing if you want.

It’s likely there will be more than one public hearing with Planning & Zoning, who will eventually make their recommendation to the County Board of Supervisors. The Supervisors will then address the question at another public meeting, at which they will approve or deny the rezoning application.

We will keep everyone informed every step of the way, and let you know what you can do to help. For now, please continue to email the Board of Supervisors—especially if you are local or in-state. See the link below for a sample message and all the contact information for the Board members.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/lj3j5gz0gw8w7oa/Sample%20Letter%20to%20BOS%20-%20with%20email%20addrs.docx?dl=0

Please also keep the Monastery in your prayers, and also the many people who are working to support the effort to block the rezoning.

THANK YOU!

NOTES

  1. http://sonoranalliance.com/pinal-county-republican-chairman-endorses-robert-graham-for-azgop-chairman/
  2. http://phoenixteaparty.ning.com/profile/SeraphimLarsen
  3. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/93666.htm
  4. https://www.facebook.com/groups/PreserveSaintAnthonys/

ALSO SEE:

Worshipers oppose development near Pinal monastery

Facing public outcry, landowners pull plan for subdivision near Florence monastery

An Iridologist Visits St. Anthony’s Monastery (1998)

NOTE: The following article is taken from http://stnektariosmonastery.tumblr.com/post/101995825532/there-are-many-orthodox-articles-and-books

In early 1998, a Greek iridologist from Montreal visited St. Anthony’s Monastery in Florence, Arizona. The Abbot invited him to examine the monks. So every monk went to see him. The older, more experienced fathers didn’t take the iridologist seriously as they recognized his practice for the quackery that it is. However, some of the younger novices who went, believing they were doing blind obedience by being open to the doctor, answered his questions truthfully. The doctor recorded these conversations and he now had in his possession numerous monks admitting to having done illicit chemicals and substances. Afterwards, when various monks had talked and laughed amongst themselves about the ridiculousness of this experience, one of the main questions asked to the various monks was if they had ever done cocaine before. Also, the main diagnosis and piece of advice was the monks were deficient in various things and needed to take Chlorophyll. The older fathers had a laugh about that and started enumerating all the Desert Fathers who essentially lived off bread and water: “St Anthony didn’t have chlorophyll in his diet,” etc. A few cases of chlorophyll were ordered for the fathers and sat in the storage closet, unused, for months.

The iridologist's diagnosis was that all the fathers needed to add chlorophyll to their diet.
The iridologist’s diagnosis was that all the fathers needed to add chlorophyll to their diet.

Needless to say, Geronda Ephraim was very upset when he learned that a quack doctor (iridologist) saw all the fathers without his knowledge and had tape recordings of their private medical and personal life information. A few years later, it was rumored amongst the Fathers that this man had lost his business and his wife left him. The consensus was that this was God’s punishment upon the man for saddening Geronda Ephraim.

For those not familiar with this pseudoscience:

Iridology is the study of the iris to diagnose disease. It is not part of the curriculum of any medical school and its practitioners are not usually medical doctors.It is not regulated or licensed by any governmental agency in either Canada or the United States.

download (3)

Iridology goes way beyond the claim that the eyes often provide signs of disease. Iridologists maintain that each organ has a counterpart in the eye and that you can determine the state of the organ’s health by looking at a particular section of the eye. The markings and patterns in the iris are compared to an iris chart, which maps zones of the iris and links them to parts of the body. No scientific investigation led to these charts; instead, they are the work of intuition.

For more information, see Confessions of a Former Iridologist: http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/confessions.html

0

In the early years of St. Anthony’s Monastery natural “alternative” medicines and remedies were utilized. There were some lay people who interpreted this use of natural remedies as a validation of homeopathy. There was a little bit of confusion when people were told that homeopathy, acupuncture and other “natural therapies” were demonic and not accepted by the Church. A common justification response was, “But I thought Geronda Paisios used homeopathy and recognized natural, alternative medicine.” There is a difference between natural products and homeopathic products which many people did not realize. There is a difference between nature and what natural products manipulated by occultists.

Numerous contemporary Elders have been speaking out against alternative therapies for decades.

Constitution-e1284603194691

From November 4-6, 2013, the 25th Pan-Orthodox Conference of the Delegates of Orthodox Churches and Dioceses on matters pertaining to heresies and para-religion was convened in Volos, Greece. Here are the conclusions of this symposium:

The problem of disease; heretical and occultist approaches”, following an extensive discussion on the presentations, has unanimously adopted the following Conclusions:

  1. The Conference considered the issue of disease and its therapeutic treatment, as perceived by the Orthodox Church on the one hand and by contemporary heretical, occultist and eastern religious groups on the other. In order to understand the radical differences between these two approaches to the issue, it is essential to have the necessary knowledge of anthropology, which is presupposed in each case. Orthodox anthropology, which the Orthodox outlook on the issue of disease and its therapy is based on, accepts that man is God’s creation, comprised of two harmoniously united, albeit different, elements, the body and the soul. Man is not soul alone or body alone; he is “both together”.
  2. In accordance with the teachings of the Orthodox Church, disease is related to man’s status as a created being and is an aftermath of the fall, i.e., of man’s voluntary alienation from God, Who is the source of life and incorruption. Man’s fall disrupted the harmonious coexistence of body and soul and this disruption had devastating consequences upon both.
  3. The taking on of human nature by God the Logos paved the way for the nullification of death and the salvation of man in his entirety. The incarnation of the Logos and His victory against death transformed suffering and disease into a “place” and “mode” of our salvation. Henceforth, both suffering and disease constitute means of redemption, if man makes the free choice to employ them in Christ.
  4. In various heretical, occultist and eastern religious groups we encounter different notions concerning disease and its origins, namely:
  5. a) In the heretical groups within the broader spectrum of Protestantism, disease is understood either as the work of a punitive God, i.e. punishment incurred because of a person’s sins, or strictly as the devil’s work.
  6. b) in the occultist groups of the “New Age” movement and in groups originating in Eastern religions, disease is understood as a “blockage” of the normal flow of energy (“Prana”, “Chi”, “Cosmic energy”, etc.) in the human body.
  7. The so-called “alternative therapies” are an application, in the field of healthcare, of conceptions of God, man and the world, which are characteristic of Eastern religions and of the “New Age of Aquarius”; therefore they should more properly be designated as “New Age Medicine”. According to these groups, everything is energy, everything is One (Theosophy’s claim that “All is One”) and everything is God. Based on this concept, they teach that by discovering his “divine Self” and by activating the mystic powers supposedly hidden inside him, man can heal himself. Self-healing is identified as the “release of blocked energy”.
  8. A number of “alternative therapies” under various names suggest different ways for “releasing the blockages” of that energy. Homeopathy, for example, advocates the use of potentized homeopathic medicines; Acupuncture proposes the placement of needles at proper points that, according to its practitioners, correspond to “energy channels” in the human body, while other “therapies”, like Reiki, recommend the “removal of blockages” “through the laying of hands performed by a highly spiritual person… who is actually a channel of universal energies…”. In some of these “therapies” we even observe the practice of blending Christian terms with occultist interpretations, as part of an attempt to provide a theoretical validation of the way in which the method supposedly works. Most groups employ scientific-sounding terminology, with the intent to impress and mislead the unsuspecting public. Others, like Homeopathy practitioners, claim that their “medicines” can even treat passions of the soul, like selfishness, envy, wrath, anger, etc., thus usurping the role and work of the Orthodox Church as “spiritual infirmary”.
  9. The so-called alternative therapies not only have occultist implications, but their very foundations are non-Christian and in fact lie in the realm of the occult. Most of them represent more than mere proposals for the therapeutic treatment of the body; they also promise the transition, through what they call “quantum leap”, etc., to the “New Age”, and the creation of a new type of man. The Conference has reached the conclusion that these “therapies” (Angel Therapy, Ayurveda, Bach Flower Remedies, Aura Soma, Aromatherapy, Acupuncture, Bioenergy Therapies, Esoteric Healing, Craniosacral Therapy, Crystal Therapy, Homeopathy, Reiki, Reflexology, Shiatsu, pseudo-scientific psychotherapies, et al.) are founded on a worldview “serving as their background” which is contrary to and incompatible with the Orthodox faith.
  10. Their widespread dissemination is developing into a major social issue of a medical and pharmaceutical nature with moral, social and spiritual repercussions, which occasionally endangers human lives. It also causes serious spiritual and pastoral problems. Since the State guarantees – notably through the Constitution – the legal right to health, which is put at risk by the aforementioned “therapies”, it ought to take practical steps, as well, in order to safeguard this right. These “therapies” threaten to distort the Orthodox mindset. They are potential “bridges” that could bring unsuspecting Orthodox Christians in contact with Eastern religions and Occultism.
  11. The so-called “alternative therapies” or, according to the Medical Association of Athens “Unorthodox Treatment Methods”, in which a metaphysical energy is predominant, rely on obsolete and fictitious data. They lack rigorous scientific methodology. Furthermore, they are based on unverified principles, which normally belong to the realm of fantasy. Since they do not take advantage of modern scientific advancements and methods, they have been designated, by official Greek and international medical bodies and associations, as pseudo-sciences. According to such medical bodies, any noticeable therapeutic effect –if and when it occurs– is usually observed in auto-immune, psychosomatic and neuro-vegetative disorders. It is caused by the simulated medicine (placebo) mechanism, which is activated through the power of suggestion. Classical Medicine, by contrast, is an applied science, which is constantly advancing research and making progress, thus offering substantial care to millions of ailing people.
  • The Conference also reviewed “therapies” performed within groups of the broader Protestant spectrum (Neo-Pentecostals, “Charismatics”, Christian Science, etc.), as well as within Roman Catholicism to the extent that it has adopted such “charismatic” Protestant practices. Alleged therapies in such circles include a fair amount of on-demand “healings” (instances of fraud), a type of show that not only fails to provide actual healing, but is also heavily criticized by other Protestant communities.
  1. Pseudo-therapies, whether of the Pentecostal or the “New Age” type, are considered to be either cases of clandestine fraud or phenomena caused by psychological suggestion, or bad imitations of miraculous healings in the Bible, without ruling out the possibility of demonic involvement. As such, they constitute signs of the Antichrist. What fundamentally distinguishes them from the miraculous healings effected by Saints is that they are performed for the ulterior purpose of misleading people away from Jesus Christ, the only true Physician of our souls and bodies.
  • As God’s creation, man can only be complete and find true healing by being fully united with Jesus Christ within the Orthodox Church, as stated by the Church Fathers.

http://www.oodegr.co/english/anatolikes/Conclusions_25th_conference.htm

The Conference unanimously approves the Conclusions stated above and authorizes its Chairman to sign them.

reginaorthodoxpress_2270_9292817

There are many orthodox articles and books exposing the frauds of many alternative medicines. For English readers, Michael Whelton’s False Gods: Counterfeit Spirituality in an Age of Anxiety is a good start: http://reginaorthodoxpress.com/falsegods.html

Reading Names During the Proskomide at Geronda Ephraim’s Monasteries

The liturgy of Preparation, also Prothesis or Proskomide, is the act of preparing the bread and wine for the Eucharist. The Liturgy of Preparation is done quietly before the public part of the Divine Liturgy begins and symbolizes the “hidden years” of Christ’s earthly life. This is where particles of the prosphoron are taken out for commemorating both the living and the dead. This is also the point of the Service where the names of the living and the dead are read. Every monastery has printed copies of name commemoration sheets either in the narthex by the candles or in the reception area. For an explanation of the Proskomide, see:

The office of Preparation of the Divine Liturgy and The Office of Oblation (Proskomide)

St. Anthony's Monastery Feast Day (early - mid-2000s)

Orthodox Christians give names whenever they go to the monasteries but this traffic greatly increases during the two forty-day Lenten periods of Christmas and Pascha. In the male monasteries, the fathers go into the altar to read the names during the Proskomide. When they’re finished reading all the typed name lists, they then have a blessing to read their own personal list of names. Most monks have a notebook with the names of their family, friends and those who ask them to pray for them.

Geronda Dositheos and the Fathers.
Geronda Dositheos and the Fathers.

Every monastery has their own special list of names which are read every Liturgy during the Proskomide by the priest celebrating the Liturgy. Every list starts with Geronda Ephraim’s name, all of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics who have died, all the monastic names of that monastery, and all the benefactors of the monastery. The hieromonks of the monastery may have their own names incorporated into this list as well.

The monks of St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) with Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos, Cyprus.
The monks of St. Nektarios Monastery (NY) with Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesos, Cyprus.

For the monasteries, benefactors fall into two categories:

  • The financial donors. This could be either huge donors, donors who give nice sums regularly, people who regularly donate large amounts of expensive supplies, people who organize large groups to come to the monastery (there is usually an extra fee placed on top of the cost of the seat, whether it be bus or plane, that is then given as a donation to the monastery), etc.
  • The donors of time and work. Not everyone has the means to give large sums of money to the monastery. Many of the pilgrims are working-middle class and in lieu of money will donate their time and effort to help build the monastery or to help keep it functioning.
  • Men with trade skills might help do construction, carpentry or electrical work for free. Women may help in the kitchen, or cleaning the guest houses, doing laundry, dusting furniture, etc. Depending on the seasons and monasteries, there is also help in gardening, shoveling snow, sweeping desert dust off the walkways, etc.
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

So these particular pilgrims, depending on the capacity of their aid, will end up on the permanent altar name lists that are read every Liturgy. They are classified as builders of the monastery. The only time they get removed is if they do something really bad to betray the monastery or join another religion and can no longer be commemorated.

Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

Now due to the huge influx of names that the monasteries continually receive throughout the year, problems in reading them all in time before the Proskomide finished started to arise. In larger monasteries where there are 20+ monastics, it isn’t so much a problem. In smaller monasteries, it becomes difficult. However, Geronda Ephraim devised a strategy for his monasteries to sort the names they receive into different categories to lighten the burden:

  • Under $40: These lists get read only once and then are thrown out. They are put in a pile separate from the name lists that will be typed up on the computer. The 1x folder in the altar is always the thickest.
  • $40-$100: Though this category varies slightly form monastery to monastery, this pile of name lists is put in the “few times” category. This means the name lists will be read more than once in the Proskomide, but not the full 40 liturgies.
  • Over $100: This category of name lists usually makes it into the 40 day pile. This means the names will be typed up on the computer, printed out and placed in the 40x folder in the altar. Each monastery has their own system of tracking how many times a sheet of names has been read. After the list has been read for 40 Liturgies, it is thrown out.
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

There is another category of name lists that don’t even get read: the ones that are so illegible that no one can even make out what names are written.

Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony's Monastery (AZ)
Inside the altar during Divine Liturgy at St. Anthony’s Monastery (AZ)

So, if one wants to sort of guarantee that their names will be read for the entire 40 Liturgies, they should donate at least $100 or more with their list. Or, at the very least, they should donate large amounts of their time to help the monasteries with anything they require. In this way, the Abbot or Abbess may feel compelled or obligated to enter their name list into the 40x folder. The worth of a pilgrim is measured by their dedication and filial devotion to the monastery, whether it be donation of time, money, work, effort, etc.

Geronda Joseph Mammis (MI) Great Entrance at Holy Annunciation Monastery (FL)
Geronda Joseph Mammis (MI) Great Entrance at Holy Annunciation Monastery (FL)

Time is money. Reading thousands of names also takes time and effort on the part of the monastics. Not to mention, many of the monastics are eager to read their own personal name lists of family, friends from the past, pilgrims, etc.

WidowMites

Trolls on Scott Nevins’ “Elder Ephraim” Facebook Page (September, 2014)

NOTE: On May 25, 2012, a few weeks before he committed suicide, Scott Nevins created the Elder Ephraim Facebook Community Page.  The purpose of this page, which has recently been deleted from Facebook, is stated thus: “This facebook page was created to expose Elder Ephraim…I speak for all of the monks and nuns who were buried alive by Elder Ephraim; one-thousand voices crying out, ‘justify me!’”

Profile pic for the Elder Ephraim Facebook Community Page
Profile pic for the Elder Ephraim Facebook Community Page

On September 13th, 2014, a young man named Philip Ephraim Aaron Drake  trolled the page and posted the following comment on the page’s wall:

Philip Ephraim Aaron Drake
Philip Ephraim Aaron Drake

May Jesus Christ Our Lord have mercy on Scotts soul, and healing for his family. I disagree that this was Geronda Ephraim’s, or Geronda Piasio’s fault. When someone decides to commit suicide that person is deeply depressed, and needs to find treatment, support, and love the latter of these two were not lacking in his life. This is mental illness, and sadly Scott did not seek appropriate treatment. Please look at the real enemy, and stop doing the devil’s work by sowing the seeds of enmity and division. Over the years I stayed many times at Saint Anthony’s Monastery, at one time I was thinking about becoming a monk. I have spent time with both Geronda Ephraim and Geronda Piasios and have had discussions that were truly life changing. I was never coerced into doing anything that would be destructive to me or my body. This page needs to shutdown because it is purely for evil ends, and does nothing good for peoples salvation. You are preaching the devils word, not God’s. You may say hey people need to know about this and that, ok, write SCOBA, write to the Bishops, and write the Patriarch if needed. I hope you find healing in Christ, but please stop dragging the Church and her monks through the mud.

Photo Album with captions from the Elder Ephraim Facebook Community Page

This pictures is for all the kids who associate with the monastery. Let they who have ears to hear, hear (May 25, 2012).
This pictures is for all the kids who associate with the monastery. Let they who have ears to hear, hear (May 25, 2012).
I found this great picture that perfectly describes my experience at St. Anthony's monastery. It's a monk fish. It's a picture, which represents elder ephraim's lie of being holy, and then the very evil reality that innocent people encounter after getting to know him (May 25, 2012).
I found this great picture that perfectly describes my experience at St. Anthony’s monastery. It’s a monk fish. It’s a picture, which represents elder ephraim’s lie of being holy, and then the very evil reality that innocent people encounter after getting to know him (May 25, 2012).
Anyone feel like being buried on Mt. Athos? The fly agaric mushroom can cause a deep, death-like sleep for up to three days. I'll bet this is what they use to bury the monks on Mt. Athos. That's why their bodies sag at burial (May 25, 2012).
Anyone feel like being buried on Mt. Athos? The fly agaric mushroom can cause a deep, death-like sleep for up to three days. I’ll bet this is what they use to bury the monks on Mt. Athos. That’s why their bodies sag at burial (May 25, 2012).
Prayer 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling [saying the same words over and over again] like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him [ask only once; anything more than this is pointless (vanity)] (May 25, 2012).
Prayer
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling [saying the same words over and over again] like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him [ask only once; anything more than this is pointless (vanity)] (May 25, 2012).
This is the beautiful saguaro cactus, which I was told, can not legally be knocked down, unless the cactus' position conflicts with building. Elder Ephraim had his monks knock over countless saguaro cacti for absolutely no reason at all. The man is a criminal at best (May 25, 2012).
This is the beautiful saguaro cactus, which I was told, can not legally be knocked down, unless the cactus’ position conflicts with building. Elder Ephraim had his monks knock over countless saguaro cacti for absolutely no reason at all. The man is a criminal at best (May 25, 2012).

Distilling alcohol is illegal in Arizona, but Elder Ephraim still has his monks distill alcohol! This man has no respect for the law. Don't have anything to do with him (May 25, 2012). [2 days before his suicide, Scott commented on this post: Elder Ephraim correction: it's illegal without a liscence, and they could obtain one; however, they choose not to. (9 June 2012 at 19:34)
Distilling alcohol is illegal in Arizona, but Elder Ephraim still has his monks distill alcohol! This man has no respect for the law. Don’t have anything to do with him (May 25, 2012). [2 days before his suicide, Scott commented on this post: Elder Ephraim correction: it’s illegal without a liscence, and they could obtain one; however, they choose not to. (9 June 2012 at 19:34)
The next photo is of a monk beside a pile of skulls which is the only photo with no download option [thus is not here]; it is also the cover photo for this Facebook page.

On June 25, 2012, David Constantine-Wright posted:

The ends never justify the means. If deception and wrongful practices have to be used to support something, thinking people will call into question that which is being supported.

https://www.facebook.com/ElderEphraim

A Report on Orthodox Monastic Communities in the United States (SCOBA, 2014)

It should be noted that between the end of data-collection (May 2014) and time of release of final report (October 2014), at least two new monastic communities appeared on the “Orthodox Church map” of the United States. However, because they did not participate in the survey, information about these monasteries is not included.

Geronda Ephraim & Bishop Artemis
Geronda Ephraim & Bishop Artemis

Introduction: Background of the Study and How It Was Conducted.

More than 70 Orthodox monastic communities representing various Orthodox jurisdictions operate today in the United States. There exists significant diversity among these communities in terms of their size, liturgical practices, openness to outside visitors, educational programs, ʺeconomicʺ activities, etc.

Bishop Joseph, Geronda Ephraim & Geronda Paisios.
Bishop Joseph, Geronda Ephraim & Geronda Paisios.

The study ʺOrthodox Monastic Communities in the United Statesʺ was initiated by and conducted under auspices of the Committee for Monastic Communities of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States (His Grace, Bishop George (Schaefer), Chairman). Principal researcher and author of the study report was Alexei Krindatch, research coordinator for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.

TX Synodia
The Committee for Monastic Communities of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops is tasked with cataloging, studying and comparing the different monastic communities and practices in the United States. Accordingly, the study ʺOrthodox Monastic Communities in the United Statesʺ was designed in order to take a first step towards this goal.

Archbishop Demetrios & Gerondissa Markella
Archbishop Demetrios & Gerondissa Markella

The major source of information presented in this report was a survey of US Orthodox monasteries conducted in the fall 2013 ‐ spring 2014. A two‐page questionnaire was sent to all US Orthodox monastic communities and completed by their superiors. The questionnaire used in this survey is provided in Appendix A. All 71 monastic communities existing in the United States at the time of the study participated in the study.

Bishop Joseph at St. John the Forerunner Monastery
Bishop Joseph at St. John the Forerunner Monastery

In addition to completed questionnaires many monasteries provided various additional materials such as monasteryʹs brochure, bylaw, typicon, etc. Most of these materials were scanned, saved in digital format and provided in an addendum to this report.

Consecration of the Chapel at Life-Giving Spring Monastery, CA.
Consecration of the Chapel at Life-Giving Spring Monastery, CA.

Read the full 159 page report here.

SHORT SUMMARY

1. Most of the monasteries in the USA belong to the GOA (27%), followed by the OCA (25%) and the Russian Orthodox (24%).

2. Most of the monasteries are female (37 monasteries, 52% of all monasteries), though almost evenly divided with male (34 monasteries, 48% of all monasteries).

3. 23 of the 50 states have monasteries, half of which are in just 5 states.

4. New York has the most monastic communities (13 monasteries, 18% of all monasteries), followed by California (8 monasteries, 11% of all monasteries).

5. 39 of the 71 monasteries in the US were founded after 1990. Only 4 were founded prior to World War II.

6. There are 512 monastics in all US monasteries. The average number of monastics per community is slightly above 7. 39 monasteries have less than 5 monastics. Only 8 monasteries have more than 20 monastics.

7. The largest Orthodox monastery in the US is Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona (GOA) with 49. Out of the 8 largest monasteries, 6 belong to the GOA.

8. 53% of all the monasteries use English as the primary language in worship, 16% equally English and another language, and 31% primarily another language. OCA monasteries mostly use English (83%), while GOA monasteries primarily use Greek (84%).

9. 52% of all monasteries use email. 51% have websites.

10. 37% of all monasteries receive a significant number of visitors.

 

Bishop Methodios of Boston Liturgizing on Mt. Athos (2011)
Bishop Methodios of Boston Liturgizing on Mt. Athos (2011)

St. Anthonyʹs Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Florence, AZ

See also website at http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org. In the summer of 1995, six monks arrived in the southern Arizona desert to establish St. Anthony’s Monastery, carrying with them the sacred thousand‐year heritage of the Holy Mountain, Athos. Elder Ephraim, a disciple of Elder Joseph the Hesychast, having restored and repopulated four Mt. Athos monasteries and having established several monastic communities in
Greece and North America, transferred six Athonite monks to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona to start a new monastery. Upon their arrival, the fathers began the necessary construction: building first the main church, living quarters for monks, a dining hall, and guest facilities. As the monastery expanded, more chapels were built; a vegetable garden, a small vineyard, citrus orchards, and an olive grove were soon to follow. An elaborate system of gardens, pathways, gazebos and Spanish fountains truly render the monastery and its extensive grounds an oasis in the desert.

The monastery was named after St. Anthony the Great, the renowned third‐century ascetic of Egypt, “the father of monasticism.” The main church, the catholicon, is dedicated to Saints Anthony and Nectarios the Wonder‐worker, who is especially popular amongst the Greeks. There are also chapels dedicated to Saints John the Baptist, Seraphim of Sarov, Demetrios of Thessalonica, George the Great Martyr, Nicholas the
Wonder‐worker, Panteleimon the Healer and the Prophet Elijah. The monastery follows the coenobitic rule of monastic life. The brotherhood of over 40 monks and novices holds all things in common and follows a daily schedule of prayer and work under obedience to the abbot, their spiritual father. St. Anthony’s welcomes all visitors. Orthodox men and women from around the world visiting for a few days of spiritual growth and quietude are accommodated at the monastery’s guest facilities. Day visitors can visit the chapels and walk the grounds between 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM. Upon entering the monastery, all visitors are asked to stop at the bookstore. Photographs (including videos) may be taken of the buildings, grounds and church interiors, but not of the monks or guests.

The monastery maintains ʺThe Divine Music Projectʺ ‐ the website that contains more than 6000 pages of Byzantine music in Western and Byzantine notation in the style of chanting used on the Holy Mountain. The scope of this project covers the liturgies of St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. James, and the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, as well as various doxologies, and hymns for Vespers, Orthros, the Mysteries, and the Menaion. The words of the hymns are provided in Elizabethan English, Modern English, and Greek.

Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Harvard, IL

Monastery was founded in 1998. Fr. Akakios was sent from St. Anthony Monastery (AZ) by Elder Ephraim to establish monastic community in IL. Land and buildings used by monastery were purchased from the local residents. This is a very quiet monastery with very few visitors. The small chapel at the Monastery is dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and Theologian. Besides being busy with the upkeep of the grounds, many handicrafts are made at the Monastery. Some of them, accordingly wrapped, are available as gifts for baptisms and weddings. Also, monastic clothes are custom tailored at the Monastery, as well as vestments, rhasa, and hats for Orthodox clergy. We also make pure beeswax candles. The gate is open daily between 6:00 am and 7:00 pm, and everyone is welcome to visit.

Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Spring Branch, TX

With the blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, the monastery was founded by Elder Ephraim in 1996. On July 16, 1996, three monks from the Athonite monastery of Philotheou in Greece arrived in Kendalia, Texas to found Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery. They brought with them the heritage of the late Elder Joseph the Hesychast, whose spiritual children, among them Elder Ephraim, helped reinvigorate the
spiritual life of the Holy Mountain in the second half of the 20th century. Elder Ephraim selected these three Fathers to bring the humble glory of Orthodox monasticism to the great state of Texas.

Led by the young priest monk and Abbot, Archimandrite Dositheos, the Fathers purchased and began converting the 140 acre and abandoned Muslim property into a Greek Orthodox Christian monastery. This included transitioning a former mosque into the Katholikon [main church], dedicated to the monastery’s namesakes, Archangels Michael and Gabriel and all the Angels. On the monastery feast day, November 8, 2009, the katholikon was consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah. Traditional Byzantine ecclesiastical design inspired the church’s basilica modeling, especially that of the main church at the monastery of St. Katherine on Mt. Sinai, the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, St. Dimitrios in Thessoliniki, Greece, and the famous church of the Protaton on Mount Athos. In 1999, the slowly expanding brotherhood commenced building the trapeza [dining hall]. In 2002, the fathers poured the 18,000 square foot foundation of what will become the 42,000 square foot monastic kellia [dormitories], complete with a library, infirmary, offices, archondariki [guest reception room], bookstore, and other facilities.

During the 16 years since its founding, the monastery provided hospitality to pilgrims the world over. Greeks, Antiochians, Russians, Romanians, Serbians, countless American converts and inquiriers have found a harbor for their souls. At the intersection of so many jurisdictions and with visitors from so many cities, the monastery is an exemplar of pan‐Orthodoxy. The Texas Hill Country is a desert of its own. Rugged and wind‐swept, vast and yet strangely familiar, the arid Hill Country is a good home for an Orthodox monastery. Central to the major metropolitan hubs of Austin and San Antonio and only a few hours’ drive from both Dallas and Houston, the monastery is blessed to be able to provide hospitality to pilgrims and inquirers and a place of spiritual refuge for Orthodox men.

The brotherhood has fathers from many walks of life and from different countries. The monks follow the Athonite Typikon, or rule, which directs each of the Fathers to keep both a private prayer and reading rule in the early morning hours as well as attend the services of Hours, Orthros, Divine Liturgy, Vespers and Compline daily. At present, the Fathers are devoting much of their time to the building of the monastery kellia [dormitories]. Within the grounds of the Monastery is an Orthodox cemetery where the faithful may choose to lay to rest their loved ones. Many find comfort knowing that those who have been laid to rest “in the hope of life eternal” are on the monastery grounds, in such peaceful and prayerful surroundings. You will often see one of the fathers or a pilgrim meditating nearby. The names of those on the monastery grounds are
commemorated at every Divine Liturgy. Holy Archangels Monastery maintains a commercial winery and produces wines from many varietals of grapes grown sustainably.

St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Roscoe, NY

Saint Nektarios Monastery was founded in January 1999 by the reverend Elder Ephraim with the blessing of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. The Monastery is dedicated to St. Nektarios of Aegina (†1920), who is referred to as ʺthe Saint of our century,ʺ on account of the countless miracles he performs daily for the faithful seeking his help. The Monastery’s main chapel is dedicated to Archangel Michael of Mandamado.
The Monastery celebrates three feast days every year: The translation of the holy relics of St. Nektarios on Sept. 3rd; The dormition of St. Nektarios Nov. 9th; Archangel Michael of Madamado on the second Sunday after Easter (Sunday of the Myrrhbearers). All the services at the Monastery are conducted in Greek.The Monastery bookstore has a wide selection of available religious literature and handcrafted items.

Panagia Vlahernon Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Williston, FL

The community was founded in 1998 by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta. The original monks came from St. Anthonyʹs Greek Orthodox Monastery in Arizona, as well as the Monastery of Philotheou on Mount Athos. The monastery lies on a beautiful property with rolling hills, in an area of Florida known for its Spanish moss covered live‐oak trees, horse farms, and horse‐training facilities. The property was originally a sugar plantation. The monks support themselves by making beeswax candles and maintaining a bookstore and giftshop.The monastery is dedicated to the Theotokos and is named after the famous historical church of the Panagia of Blachernae in Constantinople.  The monastery celebrates its major feast day on July 2, the feast of the Deposition of the Sacred Robe of the Theotokos at Vlahernes. In addition, twice a year monastery celebrates the feast day of St. Sava the New of Kalymnos (December 5 and 5th Sunday of Great Lent). All services are in Greek and follow the Athonite typicon.

Saint Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Washington, TX

Established in 2004 in the historic Washington on the Brazos, TX. There are three chapels on monasteryʹs grounds. The Monastery provides daily cycle of services and welcomes pilgrims every day.

St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Goldendale, WA

The Monastery of St. John the Forerunner was founded in 1995, when local doctor, Gerald Timmer, donated his 48‐acre property to the Greek Orthodox Diocese of San Francisco for the foundation of a womenʹs monastic community. Geronta Ephraim, a priest‐monk and former abbot from Holy Mount Athos, Greece, was contacted by His Eminence Anthony (then ruling bishop) to help establish the monastery in Washington.
(ʺGerontaʺ in Greek means an ʺElderʺ or ʺAbbotʺ). Already the spiritual father/elder of 11 monasteries in Greece, in 1989, he began the work of establishing monasteries in North America with the blessing of the Church officials and the appeal of the Orthodox faithful in the United States and Canada. Geronta Ephraim called three nuns from the Holy Orthodox Monastery of the Panagia Hodigitria in Volos, Greece to come to Goldendale. At first, the small monastery of St. John the Forerunner was virtually unknown. Slowly, with much prayer, perseverance, and Grace from God, the Orthodox faithful, and others wanting to know about the Orthodox Church, began to visit and help the monastery. There are now more than 20 nuns and novices at St. Johnʹs Monastery. Monastery follows the ʺcoenobiticʺ way of life meaning that sisters hold all things in common and follow a daily schedule under the direction of the Abbess.

The monastery supports itself solely by the handiwork of the sisters and donations. The nuns practice the traditional arts of the Orthodox church including: painting Byzantine icons, knotting prayer ropes, making incense, and dipping beeswax candles. They also mount icon prints and make natural soaps and lotions and bake traditional Greek foods and pastries for their bakery and gift shop (both are open to the broad public, bakery is located off the monasteryʹs grounds). Bakery features full espresso bar and serves classic Greek foods such as gyros, stuffed vine leaves, baklava, etc. as well as traditional American dishes and pastries. The sisters also provide catering service for dinners, parties, etc. The gift shop carries the sistersʹ beeswax candles, incense and natural soaps and lotions, Christian books, Byzantine music, etc..

Monastery of the Holy Theotokos the Life Giving Spring (GOA), Dunlap, CA

In 1993, the monastery began with two nuns who came from Greece. Metropolitan Antony of San Francisco built extensive monasteryʹs facilities. In 2003, 14 more nuns arrived and moved into these facilities. In 2010, the monasteryʹs Katholikon was consecrated. In 2013, the monasteryʹs cemetery chapel was consecrated. The monastery is located next to ʺSt. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Centerʺ which belongs to the GOA Metropolis of San Francisco. Visitors to monastery can stay at St. Nicholas Ranch.

Annunciation of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Reddick, FL

The Holy Monastery of the Annunciation was established in September of 1998. The nuns in it trace their spiritual heritage to the ancient monastery of the Honorable St. John the Forerunner in Serres. This historic monastery was established in the thirteenth century and is one of the most frequently visited pilgrimages in northern Greece. The nuns make high quality incense with different aromas and using the ancient recipe from Mount Athos, Greece.

St. John Chrysostom Monastery (GOA), Pleasant Prairie, WI

Two female monastics from Thassos (Greece) assisted in the establishment of the monastery of St. John Chrysostom in 1994 with the blessing of the local Metropolitan, His Eminence Iakovos of Chicago.

Holy Protection of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), White Haven, PA

Holy Protection Greek Orthodox Monastery was founded in 1993 by Elder Ephraim, former Abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, who also founded 16 other monasteries throughout the United States and Canada. The Monastery’s “Mother House” is the Archangel Michael Monastery on the island of Thasos in Greece. The site of the Monastery is on a mountain overlooking the Lehigh River Valley in the Pocono Mountains region of Pennsylvania. A white cross can be seen on the top of the Monastery’s mountain from interstate route 80. The construction of the Monastery’s present facilities began in 2001. These facilities include: the main building with the monastic cells; the main church dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter & Paul; and
two chapels dedicated to St. Nektarios and St. Paraskevi. Other buildings include: a bakery, a workshop with an icon‐painting studio, a woodworking shop, a candle making shop and a guesthouse. The Sisters maintain gardens, greenhouse and fruit orchards. The daily program begins at midnight with keeping vigil with prayer and spiritual reading, followed the first daily Church service. After a rest period and breakfast, the Sisters begin their work day until evening when they retreat to their cell for rest. The Abbess, Gerondissa Olympiada, is an iconographer from the Monastery of St. Michael in Thasos, Greece.

Panagia Prousiotissa Greek Orthodox Monatery (GOA), Troy, NC

The nuns arrived from Greece from the monastery of Archangel Michael from the island Tasos. The property is covered with trees and forests. Monastery has pond. Monastery has three buildings: 1. residence for nuns with dining hall, two work rooms; 2. chapel + guesthouse; 3. candle making facility.

Nativity of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Monastery (GOA), Spartanburg, PA

Founded in 1989, it was the first Greek Orthodox women monastery in the United States

Patriarchal Visit to St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery (November, 1997)

The following article is taken from the Orthodox Observer, December 1997, p. 18.

A BOY presents Patriarch Bartholomew with a gift in the courtyard of the monastery.
A BOY presents Patriarch Bartholomew with a gift in the courtyard of the monastery.

FLORENCE, Ariz. . The Patriarchal plane lifted off the runway at Los Angeles International Airport under rainy skies on a late Monday morning, Nov. 10, one week before the end of His All Holiness’ pilgrimage to the United States. The chartered Boeing 727 turned eastward for the 630-mile leg to Mesa, Arizona’s third largest city, just east of Phoenix.

By Jim Golding

As the jet reached cruising altitude high above the Mojave Desert, and with most of his visit behind him, it seemed the right time to ask His All Holiness to reflect on his coast-to-coast odyssey. But it was not to be. After a brief, friendly greeting, his quick response to a request for a quick interview was to shake his head and utter two words “I’m exhausted.”

After giving more than 115 speeches at as many venues over a three-week period in more than a dozen cities from Boston to Los Angeles, and greeting countless thousands of people in so many varied settings, who wouldn’t be. And he still had much work ahead of him.

Throughout the flight Patriarch Bartholomew reviewed the speech he was to give that afternoon at the monastery with his second deacon, San Antonio native Tarasios (Peter Anton). It was 13 pages in length, all Greek.

AZ 1997 orthodox observer article

It landed at a former air force base turned-community airport. The members of the entourage and local welcoming committee members entered the nearly dozen vehicles making up the motorcade and set out on the hour-and-a-half ride across the desert.

Merely viewing the miles of flat, sandy terrain dotted with saguaro cactus (the state ‘tree’), purple sagebrush and dry, barrens on, another 10 miles remained. The motorcade turned onto a dirt road and soon became immersed in a cloud of dust for a final half-mile before coming upon what can best be described as a miracle in the desert.

“Three years ago this was nothing but desert,” remarked Chris Ganos who with his wife, Judy, had volunteered to drive their van in the motorcade. Ganos was the architect who helped plan the complex that includes a church, dormitories for the 20 resident monks and a few guests, a dining hall and book store. The buildings resemble those of monasteries in Greece and are constructed of cement blocks topped with tile roofs. The monks painted over each block, originally a shade of gray, with a specially blended red that seems to fit in with nicely with the desert hues. There also is the feeling of a hacienda of the Spanish Southwest.

The monastery has electricity and water comes from a well some 500 feet deep. Until very recently, the only communications with the outside world was by cellular phone, but, through the efforts of Fr. Efraim of Mt. Athos, who was the driving force behind the establishment of the monastery, regular phone service was installed in October.

AZ 1997 entrance

Arriving at the monastery on a very warm (temperature was in the 80s, but felt hotter), dry mid-afternoon, the Patriarchal party was greeted by the sight of more than 100 cars and buses on the unpaved parking area in front of the complex, many from as far away as Canada.

After a little more than an hour, the jet descended on final approach over the desert punctuated by scattered mountain ranges, large patches of irrigated fields and the oases of numerous housing tracts in the Phoenix suburbs’ mountains in the distance from the window of a comfortable van was enough to make one thirsty.

Arriving in the town of Florence, home of the Arizona State Prison, on State Highway 79 midway between Phoenix and Tucson.

Several hundred of the nearly 800 persons visiting that day came from Montreal, Toronto and other parts of Canada. Others came from various states including New York.

One couple, John and Joanna Pantanizopoulos of Knoxville, Tenn., came to visit their son, one of the monks.

Patriarch Bartholomew, joined by Archbishop Spyridon, and Bishop Anthony of San Francisco whose jurisdiction includes the monastery, conducted a doxology inside the small un-air-conditioned church that was filled to overflowing.

He followed the service with his 13- page speech addressed to the more than 100 monks and nuns who had made the pilgrimage from the nearly one dozen other monasteries in the United States.

[NOTE: This speech was highly critical of Elder Ephraim and the “opulence” of the monastery grounds. The Patriarch largely quoted from St. Symeon the New Theologian’s homilies on the monastic virtue of poverty and renunciation. Geronda Ephraim was very saddened by this homily as he had his monks (and nuns when they started arriving) working around the clock to prepare everything for this visit (i.e. gardening, gold gilding in the church, landscaping, last minute details inside the katholikon, etc.). So, essentially, all the effort that was made to beautify the property for this “historical visit” was dismissed as unmonastic and deviating from the monastic virtues.

The monastics felt slighted at the Patriarch’s obvious pokes at Elder Ephraim: 

St. Symeon the New Theologian is one of Elder Ephraim’s favourite saints for a variety of reasons but primarily because, “through his blind obedience, he received the gift of theology, and there is only three saints who have been named ‘theologian’ in the orthodox church…”. Some of Geronda Ephraim’s monastics have hinted that Elder Ephraim will be the “fourth theologian once he is officially canonized.”

St. Symeon also started venerating and commemorating his elder as a saint long before the Church officially canonized him as such. Elder Ephraim uses this history to validate his own veneration and commemoration of his elder, Joseph the Hesychast, as the church as not officially declared him a saint; something the monasteries feel is politically motivated because if Bartholomew canonized him, then by default, Elder Ephraim and his apostolic mission would be validated by the Patriarchate. 

So it would seem that the Patriarch took Elder Ephraim’s favourite saint and said, so to speak, “Look, don’t just cherry pick the quotes you like on absolute blind obedience and devotion to the spiritual father or that unordained monks can hear confessions, i.e. revelation of thoughts. Look at all of St. Symeon’s teachings because you’re ignoring the monastic virtue of obedience by living in such luxuriousness and pomp; you can’t have it both ways”.

This verbal chastisement from the Patriarch contained elements that were also sore spots for some of the earlier monastics in Geronda’s monasteries, especially those who revered Fr. Seraphim Rose and believed that the descriptions of St. Herman of Alaska Monastery (i.e. off the grid with no modern comforts or technology) should be the standard of contemporary monasticism in America. There has been a long-standing debate about the modernization and secularization of Mount Athos, however, America is not Greece. Geronda Ephraim’s mindset is much different, and even some modern-day Greek saints, like Geronda Porphyrios, didn’t see technological progress as an inherent evil fro orthodox Christians.

Elder Ephraim feels that in the modern age, because his monastics have given up so much more than their predecessors (i.e. modern comforts, social media, and other technology to a degree), and because they are said to be the last generation of monks before the world ends, economia with other things is okay. This is why his monastics are allowed air conditioning, ipods (only for ecclesiastical chants and orthodox sermons), spiritual movies (Остров, The Island, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, speeches by contemporary theologians or monastics, etc.), sumptuous foods and desserts, etc. Elder Ephraim’s main stance is, the last generation of monks were prophesied to be weak, useless and not gain much spiritual progress or accomplish ascetical feats but as along as everyone does absolute, blind obedience to him without murmuring or questioning or criticizing, they will be saved.

There was much analysis of the Patriarch’s visits for days to come. No one was impressed, everyone was offended. There was much criticism of the Patriarch’s hypocrisy since he is supposed to be, in essence, a monk and living a monastic lifestyle but living he is living the luxurious lifestyle he just criticized the monastery for. There was also talk about a supposed prophecy by St. Paisios the Hagiorite in which he told Bartholomew that, “He would be the one to betray Orthodoxy” and speculation on when he would unite Orthodoxy and Catholicism in a false union].

AZ 1997

Meanwhile, hundreds more men, children, a very large number of women of various ages, scarves covering their heads, some with disabilities, waited for the service and homily to end in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Patriarch. A few of the silently busy monks walked quickly between the church and dining hall, to oversee preparations for the luncheon that was to follow.

After nearly two hours, His All Holiness and the other hierarchs emerged from the church and walked the few steps leading to the dining hall.

A short while later, the Patriarch departed for the ride back to the Mesa airport for the flight to the next stop on his itinerary, Stockton, Calif., and a doxology service at St. Basil Church.

Only one more major venue remained at the end of the week. Pittsburgh. But in the interim, Patriarch Bartholomew and most of his entourage spent four days in the mountains around Lake Tahoe as guests of Alex Spanos for a much-needed rest.

St. Anthony's Feast Day, January 17, 1997.
St. Anthony’s Feast Day, January 17, 1997.