Gjergji Evangjeli

 

Executive Editor

 

 

Tue

25

Apr

2017

On Weed, Dryer Sheets, and "Eerie Chants"

 

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

In the early hours of April 16, Mr. Jeff Maples visited St. Nektarios Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina for what he would later call a “Holy Saturday service.” Around the same time, I was attending the same service at my own parish, but our observations could not have been more different. In his post about it, Mr. Maples takes issue with any and everything about the Paschal Vigil he attended, starting with the length of the service. He complains that despite having started at 11:30 p.m., there was no sign of slowing down at 2 a.m. In addition, Mr. Maples complains that the smell of incense brought him back to his college dorm days filled with (him or others) "smoking weed and blowing the smoke through toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer sheets." Neither was the music up to his taste, as he observes that almost everything consisted of "eerie Byzantine chant."

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Wed

29

Mar

2017

AHCA Pulled from Voting in House of Representatives

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

Following campaign promises to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Donald Trump—in conjunction with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan—introduced the American Health Care Act (AHCA) or Trumpcare on March 6. The bill was originally announced as the first of three pieces of legislation which would complete the transition from the ACA and effectively repeal it.

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Wed

29

Mar

2017

Euthanasia Debate

This Catholicism 101 special feature is part one of a debate between the editorial staff of The Torch.

To see the rebuttals from each side, please click here.

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Wed

29

Mar

2017

Not a Thing to be Grasped

 

 

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

The Feast of the Annunciation always compels me to give some thought to Our Lord's Incarnation. It is such a strange thing. In fact, if it does not jump off the page to you, if you are not utterly confounded by the idea, I would humbly say that you do not understand it as well as you could. In the Republic[1] , Socrates rejects the possibility that any of the Greek gods would ever accept to be embodied, because that would entail going from a more perfect mode of existence to a less perfect one. The understanding of the body is different between the Platonic and the Biblical worldview, but Plato’s claim is true of the Christian God a fortiori[2] . The Greek gods are far from perfect, not only for reasons that Socrates rejects, but also due to their conception as such. They are multiple, finite, created, and limited. The Christian God, on the other hand, is the Creator. He is one, infinite and infinitely perfect, and omnipotent. Why would such a God accept to do such a thing as to take on a form infinitely lower than Himself?

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Wed

22

Feb

2017

On Lent and Ascesis

 

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

With Lent approaching fast, it is perhaps particularly important to give some thought to the topic of fasting and—more importantly—ascesis. The Church from Her earliest days—as is evident from the Didache—has prescribed particular days and times when one is expected to fast. Why is it that we fast, what is the point of it and what is its benefit?

 

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Wed

22

Feb

2017

The Fate of Fr. Rodrigues and the Mission to Japan [Spoilers]

 

 

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

Almost all of my friends who watched Silence before me left the movie with some big questions regarding the ending, so when I first watched it, I had already formed the opinion that I needed to pay close attention to what went on, especially toward the end of the movie. Those who have seen the movie know that the ending, is deeply unsettling, because it seems that ultimately, after watching so many instances of heroic faith, the solution proposed is to feign apostacy and hope for the best.

 

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Tue

06

Dec

2016

Why Do We Care So Much About Black Friday?

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

For many, the idea of Black Friday brings a feeling of excitement. Sales, savings, door busters, and discounts excite millions across the country. However, for a growing number of Americans, the thought of Black Friday brings with it thoughts of disgust.  Long lines, stores opening on Thanksgiving, and businesses taking advantage of consumers are just some of the complaints that people have about Black Friday. Despite the debate, retailers continue to make billions of dollars in one day, and customers continue to flock to their stores. 

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Tue

06

Dec

2016

“Are You the One Who Is to Come, or Should We Look for Another?”

 

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

I find the Gospel reading for Gaudete Sunday to be particularly fascinating. If you follow along in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is proclaimed to be the Son of God by John the Baptist in Matthew 3 and—after fasting for forty days—begins His public ministry by preaching and performing miracles. By Matthew 11, Jesus is reported to have performed dozens of miracles and—doubtless—there was much talk about the new traveling and healing teacher in Israel. On the other hand, things were not exactly looking up for John. While Jesus tended to the crowds, John languished in prison.

 

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Tue

15

Nov

2016

Christ’s Tomb Uncovered for the First Time in Centuries

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

The limestone bed that, according to tradition, Christ’s body lay on in his tomb was uncovered for about 60 hours starting on October 26. Known as the Holy Rock, the burial bed was last exposed in 1810 when the Greek Orthodox Church repaired the shrine after a fire damaged the previous Crusader-built structure. This structure, also called the Edicule, encases the walls of the cave like church-within-a-church to protect the burial bed. 

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Tue

15

Nov

2016

Evidence for the Resurrection?

 

 

 

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

Back in September, Bishop Robert Barron released an article on Word on Fire about the lack of apologetics in the Church today and called for more people to tackle the issues which are driving some out of the Church. Answering that call is of tremendous importance to the Church—especially among the young—so I endeavor to add my small voice to this call for action. 

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Tue

25

Oct

2016

Poland Vetoes New Abortion Bill

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

On October 6, Poland’s lower chamber of Parliament voted down a bill that would have implemented a near-total ban on abortions. The proposed bill, defeated by a margin of 352-58, would have forbidden all abortion procedures except in instances when the health of the mother would be threatened.

 

The pro-life group Stop Abortion and the legal organization Ordo Iuris brought the legislation before the parliament. The proposed bill garnered 450,000 signatures, surpassing the requirement of 250,000 needed for the parliament to consider the law.

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Tue

25

Oct

2016

A Short Reflection on Jonah

 by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

The Book of Jonah is one of my favorite books in the Bible. For one, it’s short, to the point, and quite funny. It also contains one of the most concise expressions of God’s love for us coupled with His understandable frustration over the fact that we just don’t get it. After Jonah has declared to God his anger at the fact that the plant He sprang up to give him shade rotted overnight, God responds, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (Jon. 4: 10-11).

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Thu

29

Sep

2016

Cornerstone: On Fasting and Prayer

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

Ascesis and its derivative—asceticism—come from the Greek verb askeō, which means to exercise. Whether the term originated with Christianity is debatable, but certainly the Middle Platonists and the Stoics had specific ascetic practices associated with their respective philosophical schools and according to Pierre Hadot in Philosophy as A Way of Life ascetic practices were part and parcel of every ancient school of philosophy.

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Tue

27

Sep

2016

“Love Until It Hurts”

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

On September 4, the Catholic Church canonized Mother Teresa of Calcutta to—one assumes—the shock of very few. Mother Teresa’s radical selflessness has been a source of inspiration to so many that the question regarding her canonization was never ‘if,’ only ‘when.’ Among the many things about her which deserve praise, one of the most fascinating aspects of Mother Teresa’s life was how much she gave with so little reward. That is, not merely in the material plane. Coupled with her lack of material means and possessions was the spiritual darkness in which she dwelt for most of her life. She suffered not only in body, but also in spirit. It is this double suffering that might lead one to exclaim, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1). Through this all-encompassing suffering and in answer to it, she came up with a simple motto: “love until it hurts.”

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Tue

27

Sep

2016

Saint of the Issue: St. Teresa of Kolkata

by Stephanie Madzey & Gjergji Evangjeli

 

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier,” was what St. Teresa of Kolkata told the world to do and also lived by herself. She devoted her entire life to helping and serving the poor. This desire and passion began when she was a child and was instilled in her by her mother.

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Tue

26

Apr

2016

A Brief Point on God’s Not Dead

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

When I found out that a second installation of God’s Not Dead was due to be released, I was less than enthusiastic. The plot for the new movie revolves around a teacher, who was asked a question in class about Jesus and incorporated Scripture into her answer. This lands her in a trial which considers whether she acted against the law in presenting a religious text as evidence. At some point, the legal proceedings turn into a debate about the reliability of Scripture, however, as the prosecutor seems to argue that Jesus never existed, a position to which even the most skeptical scriptural scholars do not seem to cling fast. That is not to say that there are no people out there who believe in such nonsense, but merely that most serious scholars on both sides of the issue of the Divinity of Jesus would be quick to disavow them.

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Tue

26

Apr

2016

On Marriage and Martyrdom

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

With the release of Amoris Laetatia earlier this month, the topic of marriage has likely been on a lot of people’s minds. Rather than try to comment on it, which should be left to the learned theologian, I think it appropriate for me to share briefly an aspect of the Eastern rite of Matrimony which will hopefully shine a light on this crucial topic. I do not know whether the Western rite was reformed at some point to drop this element or whether it was never used in the West, but the main element of the Eastern rite is not the exchange of rings, but rather the crowning of the husband and wife. In fact, Matrimony is referred to in the Orthodox Church as The Service of the Crowning. The bride and groom are each crowned and, after a series of blessings, the crowns are exchanged between them three times. Both these actions bear serious significance to the Orthodox understanding of what marriage entails.

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Tue

26

Apr

2016

New Eucharistic Miracle Confirmed in Poland

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

A bleeding Host, which showed signs of a Eucharistic miracle, was approved for veneration in Poland on April 17. Bishop Zbigniew Kiernikowski of Legnica made the announcement and asked the vicar of St. Jack’s Church, where the host originated, to prepare a suitable place to display the relic. He also requested a new registry be made to record any other miracles associated with the relic.

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Tue

29

Mar

2016

Christians Attacked in Yemen and Pakistan

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

The month of March has been particularly bloody for Christians living in the Middle East and Asia. On March 4, the Missionaries of Charity home for the elderly in Aden, Yemen was attacked by an extremist group. According to the eyewitness testimony of Sister M. Sally, the only nun to survive the attack, various lay workers pleaded with the attackers to not hurt the sisters, but their pleas were ignored.

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Tue

29

Mar

2016

“Lord of the Powers”

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

As the Eastern Church is now fully enveloped in Lent and the Western Church just celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, I think a meditation on the event of the Savior’s Passion and Resurrection is duly in order. During my youth—and even today—I think that the music of the Church is a great tool for catechesis. This is especially true for the Byzantine rite, where services are often longer and hymns are set for particular services. One of the greatest assets of this model is that there are a great number of hymns and psalms that a person regularly attending all of the services hears over and over and over again. Granted, this might seem a bit boring, but I think the point in hearing these songs so often is that they carry a very important message that those hearing them won’t be able to help but learn. During Great Lent, the usual service of Vespers is replaced with the Great Compline, which is—as far as I know—only sung during Lent. In it are some of the most beautiful hymns in the Eastern Church. I would highly recommend anyone to attend a Great Compline, or at least to listen to it on YouTube, but as the recording that I found comes in at 1:38:45, and as perhaps not all people have that much time to devote to a service that will undoubtedly sound very strange to them, I will attempt to pull out some points to contemplate.

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Tue

23

Feb

2016

“It is Time for the Lord to Act”

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

In conversation with a Protestant friend, the topic of the difference in worship between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations came up. While for most of the latter worship consists mostly of preaching and singing, I believe the function of the Divine Liturgy and the Roman Catholic Mass is rather different. I will be focusing on the Divine Liturgy specifically, but I think a similar analysis of the Novus Ordo and Tridentine Masses in the Western Church will yield much of the same conclusions. In addition, the Divide Liturgy—which is both used by Eastern Catholics and part of the common tradition of the Eastern and Western Churches—provides a grounding for the subsequent Masses that are currently used in the West.

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Tue

23

Feb

2016

Pope Francis Sends Out Missionaries of Mercy

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

On February 10, Pope Francis sent out 1,142 priests to serve as Missionaries of Mercy throughout Catholic parishes. The priests—who were selected from a pool of volunteers and episcopal recommendations—were given authority to forgive sins that usually need to be brought up to the Vatican during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Such sins include the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, an attempt at the life of the pope, ordaining a bishop without proper clearing from the Vatican, and breaking of the seal of confession.

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Tue

23

Feb

2016

On Fiction: A Brief Note on “Flatline”

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Tue

26

Jan

2016

Archbishop of Brussels Seeks Euthanasia Opt-Out for Catholic Hospitals in Belgium

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

After controversial legislation legalizing euthanasia for minors was ratified in 2014, Belgium has been one of the most progressive countries in regard to right-to-die legislation. Now, it seems that the issue has come to a head between Belgium and the Catholic Church, which offered the most substantial bulwark both when euthanasia was legalized in 2002 and during the aforementioned law.

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Tue

26

Jan

2016

“Strive to Enter In”

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

 

January 17 is the anniversary of my grandmother Marieta’s death. To me, she was a true role model and a great example of faith. Though she suffered much, she complained little. After seeing her family lose everything when the communists took over in Albania in 1945, having both her knees broken, watching her husband die slowly as the communist regime forbade pharmacies to sell him insulin, and finally being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, she always found refuge in God and—even in the most painful moments—she bore every difficulty with courage, grace, and, above all, great faith. Since Korça’s Cathedral was across the street from our house, she hardly ever missed a service, even when she was not feeling well. In truth, not a day goes by that I do not miss her and her wise advice. I would dearly love to see her again. I believe that I will see her on the Last Day, but under what circumstances will that meeting come? Has she made it to Heaven? Will I?

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