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The 1923 Old Calendar Revision (The New Rectified Julian calendar) [blog]

This text seems to be of a renewed interest in the Easter week…

Writings of Branko's Blog

It is the time of the year when there will two calendars again be considered for festivities and holidays. It maybe of interest to some of you to learn that the revised Julian calendar was proposed by a Serbian scientist Milankovic.

The new calendar was proposed for adoption by the Orthodox churches at a synod in Constantinople in May 1923. The synod, convened by Patriarch Meletius IV of Constantinople, did not have representatives from the remaining Orthodox members of the original Pentarchy (the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria) or from the largest Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, then under persecution from the Bolsheviks, but only effective representation from the Patriarch of Constantinople, Romanian and the Serbian Patriarchate.

A-Quest-for-ReformThis synod synchronized the new calendar with the Gregorian calendar by dropping thirteen days. It also adopted a leap rule that differs from that of the Gregorian calendar: years divisible by four are leap…

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After 12 centuries another Synod of the all-Orthodox Churches announced [blog]

During the meeting (Synaxis) of all Eastern-Orthodox Patriarchs 6-8 March 2014 in Fanar, Istanbul, Turkey, at the seat of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, a historical decision was reached:



“Our heart is set on the long-awaited Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church in order to witness to its unity as well as to its responsibility and care for the contemporary world. The Synaxis agreed that the preparatory work to the Synod should be intensified. A special Inter-Orthodox Committee will work from September 2014 until Holy Easter of 2015, followed by a Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference to be convened in the first half of 2015. All decisions at the Synod and in the preparatory stages are made by consensus. The Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church will be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople in 2016, unless something unexpected occurs. The Synod will be presided by the Ecumenical Patriarch. His brother Primates of the other Orthodox Autocephalous Churches will be seated at his right and at his left”.

The last Holy Synod, as the Eastern Orthodox consider, took place in Nicaea in the year 787.

The new synod was discussed among the Orthodox for the last 53 years, since the historical meeting in 1961, also in Greece. It is yet to be seen what will be the approved (by consensus) topics, but here are some that have been put on hold in the past, until the new synod:

–      Issue of the calendar (some still celebrate according to the Old Calendar);

–      Issue of the order of churches;

–      The status of the Eastern Orthodox believers in this world;

–      The relations with the Catholic Church;

–      Decline in membership;

–      Issues with Islam;

–      New technologies, bio engineering; ecology, etc.

Although not announced, one could expect that the Synod finally decide on the canon of the Old Testament, as it differs from church to church. As a reminder, here are the Eastern Orthodox churches of today:

  • Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch)
  • Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria (His Most Divine Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria, Libya, Pentapolis, Ethiopia, all the land of Egypt, and all Africa, Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds, Prelate of Prelates, Thirteenth of the Apostles, and Judge of the Oecumene)
  • Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch (Patriarch of Antioch and all the East)
  • Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, and of Syria, Arabia, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee, and Sacred Zion)
  • Orthodox Church of Russia (Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia)
  • Orthodox Church of Georgia (Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan bishop of Abkhazia and Pitsunda.)
  • Orthodox Church of Serbia (Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Patriarch of the Serbs)
  • Orthodox Church of Romania (Archbishop of Bucharest, Metropolitan of Ungro-Valachia, and Patriarch of All Romania)
  • Orthodox Church of Bulgaria (Metropolitan of Sofia and Patriarch of All Bulgaria)
  • Orthodox Church of Cyprus (Archbishop of New Justiniana and all Cyprus)
  • Orthodox Church of Greece (Archbishop of Athens and all Greece)
  • Orthodox Church of Poland (Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland)
  • Orthodox Church of Albania (Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania)

Let us hope to see a greater unity among the Eastern Orthodox Churches and believers.

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Righteous among the Nations – Pavel Chorvat recognized 44 years after his death [blog]



“Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe” (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5)

There was a day of celebration in Slovakia when five Slovaks last night (11 February 2014) received the recognition Righteous among the Nations from Israel. Two couples for their exceptional acts, and one Lutheran pastor, long gone, but not forgotten. Pavel Chorvat was recognized with commemorative citizenship in recognition of his actions saving at least three persons of Jewish background from certain death.

Born in 1905, he became a Lutheran priest after his theological studies in Bratislava and later served in Vrbovo, Zilina, Stara Tura and since 1935 in Slatina nad Bebravou.

During the WW2 he actively helped people who desired to move out of Slovakia, or out of the protectorate of Czech and Moravska, mostly toward Hungary. Since 1942, he was also helping Jews as the persecution and deportations took place. For the three documented cases he was providing false birth certificates and connections in other parts of the country, even school enrollments, so the kids could hide with false identities.

After the war he served more than two years in prison, since 1950, as he opposed the Communist rule. After the sentence he was forbidden to be a priest and had to retire. Pavel lived simply and in 1962 moved closer to his sister in Turcianske Teplice where he died in 1970.

No one really knows just how many people Pavel helped during his life of service, whether during the war or after it, during the Communist era, and this is, I think, not so important. For several of these he was an important man so they worked hard to make his name stand on the wall among other 24,000+ names of Righteous Gentiles. What caught my attention was that he is one among 28 Lutherans in addition to 19 of Confessing Church and other 99 Protestant Evangelicals who did not think of their own lives to help others. I was proud today to learn of Pavel Chorvat, a Lutheran pastor from Slovakia who was recognized as one of the Righteous Gentiles of this unrighteous world.

Righteous among the Nations is the title that Israel is bestowing on the non-Jews who risked their lives during the WW2 to save Jews. This title cannot be suggested by non-Jews and a decision is made after a meticulous study and high standard criteria is met, including testimonies from survivors and eyewitnesses, with the evaluation of the risk to the one who helped the victims.

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Our Lamb has Conquered: Let Us Follow Him – on the Moravian Church visit today [blog]

I was in Christiansfeld today, in central Jutland, Denmark, and there visited a Moravian church. It is an interesting story as I felt I entered another century and visited a true missionary society of brethren.

The Moravians are pietistic Lutherans, free congregations whose origins lie in the Herrnhuttian pietism and the Moravians of count Zinzendorf. In 18 century the Herrnhutters, skilled craftsmen and traders, founded Moravian towns in many countries, and became a missionary church.

So they came to Denmark in 1773 and founded the town of Christansfeld with the blessings and approval of the Danish king Christian VII. They purchased a land and drafted a plan of the future town. Two streets connected with the God’s Acre, a square with a fountain in the middle connecting two streets, and in front of the church. Houses for living were built, later a boarding school for girls, parsonage next to the church. The king granted them pardon of royal taxes, no military service, no need of membership of guilds, and free religious practice. Denmark needed skilled craftsmen and soon the business were opened: the hotel, a chandler’s shop, a dye works, a cigar factory, honey – cake bakery, a printer, book-binder, milliner and a rope maker… most of them still exist today and still belong to the Moravians.

Then I visited their sanctuary. It is the largest space in Denmark without supporting columns or walls – it can take up to 1,000 visitors. Painted in white, with simple wooden pews, and chandeliers with candles. It is an amazing testimony of 240 years.

This church today has more than 340 members and half of them still live in the same town. Moravians welcome visitors and have their services open to all.

Their motto is: Our Lamb has conquered: let us follow Him.Image

PS A photo of their graveyard shows unusual small tombstones. It was their practice to bury their dead standing facing east, from where Jesus is coming again. They wanted to be ready for this occasion!

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“Evangelicalism in Recession” Again? – Or just another book that speaks of the giants, and giants alone. [blog]

As I am following Christian trends publications in English language, every year I see a volume or two on the shrinking trends and alarming signs showing that ‘our churches are dying’ and that young people are leaving the faith of their forefathers. When you combine such statistics with the recession that hit in 2008 no wonder why some people see great recession everywhere, inflation of statistics in church memberships and other alarming data.Image

From his perspective, and the book speaks about the situation in the USA, I think that the author (John Dickerson: The Great Evangelical Recession) was rather trying to alert the pastors and other leaders of the situation and to point them toward, as he calls it, the moment of decision making. But, I have some issues the way book is portraying the evangelical movement – especially as the author is taking church attendance to be an indicator of what people believe in, or how many young people lost their faith since they left a local congregation. Does this seem right? If it was not their faith, but a habit inherited from their family, they were not believers in the first instance anyway. I think Bonhoeffer spoke wisely on this issue when he was depicting what he encountered in America as Protestantism without Reformation…

So, churchgoers versus converts. Statistics for the first ones exist, but not so for the second ones. Everyone sees us going to a church, no one knows about the condition of our heart – had it been conditioned yet by Jesus’ unconditioned love, had you turned away from your old ways…

So, yes, there are giants in the land and people are leaving churches. Yet, some join churches and in the midst of it there is a mystery work going on – people are finding Jesus. These are good giants.

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Almost 62 years ago, in February 1952, an organization called International Evangelism was founded. Later it will become Trans World Radio, in Europe known as Radio Monte Carlo. Broadcasts started in 1964. Amazing history.

Most of the TWR story is recorded and is widely known – today it is a global media organization that broadcast in around 230 languages and dialects, in about 160 countries and territories. Massive. But, how it all started?

Ten days ago, I listened to Ms Ludmila Hallerova, a lady of mid-80, member of the Vinohrady Baptist church in Prague. She was visiting Bratislava, Slovakia, and shared some of her memories. This is her story:

While a young girl she attended the Bible school in Beatenberg, Switzerland. In August of 1948, Youth for Christ organized their first ever European international conference, under the title: World Conference on World Evangelization. Main speaker was Oswald Smith. The list of delegates shows that they came from 46 nations, and some of the names were later leaders of XX century evangelicalism. ImageImage

Garth Rosell’s account of this event (in his book: The Surprising Work of God) goes like his: “The burden of this conference is the final and complete evangelization of the entire world in our generation. We are not here for a vacation, we are not here to trifle with time and opportunity. The Holy Spirit has brought us together for Prayer, for Bible Study, for heart-searching, and for waiting upon God. May it please him to give us a new and greater insigt into the task of world evangelization and the means by which it can be accomplished now!”

Hallerova shared that Oswald shared from the Bible on the feeding of 5,000, and that he stated that many participants are going around and feeding those in first lines, but that no one goes to the last rows. Who will feed them, he asked? Who will multiple the bread for them, he asked? Then he rebuked the participants for being observant of the first lines only… Hallerova said that on these words Billy Graham went on his knees with tears in eyes asking for forgiveness from the Father. And so many others. The Beatenberg conference was a start up of something greater than ever in the new mission movement.

Who were the participants? Among many these names we will recognize today: Billy Graham, Bob Jones Jr. (president of Bob Jones University), Stephen Payne(President of Houghton College and of the National Association of Evangelicals), Harold Ockenga (pastor from Boston and one of the founders of Fuller Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Bob Pierce (founder of World Vision and Samaritan Purse), Bob Evans (Founder of Greater Europe Mission), Merv Rosell (evangelist and missionary statesman), Paul Freed (founder of Trans World Radio, nowadays TWR) …

All the participants left the conference convinced that they are the ones to go to the end of this world and feed the last rows of hungry people following Jesus and his disciples.

“And I remember the terrible urgency to preach the gospel that seemed to grip my father and all of his preacher friends. Like Jonathan Edwards before them, they were absolutely amazed that God had chosen them. They were thrilled to be a part of it all, of course, but they were absolutely certain that they had not caused it, and they all knew in their heart of hearts that if they dared to take even the smallest measure of credit from that which belonged solely to the sovereign Lord of the universe, “their lips would turn to clay,” as they often phrased it (p. 15, 16).” Garth Rosell: The Surprising Work of God.

How often do we feel God is calling us to feed the hungry?



Why Christmas in December?

If you ever asked yourself why we celebrate Christmas in December (and some in January), I am suggesting that you take a strong cinnamon tea with lemon or orange flavour, get an armchair and read this wise article from Andrew McGowan. It is quite inspiring and has a lot of interesting facts from the past: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christmas. Image