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Synergy Symposium: Evil in Our World Today
By Pearl Homiak

"The roots of 9/11 are spiritual. People were forced into a confrontation with good and evil" on September 11, 2001, "but where evil [is] present, God, too is present," asserted Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, Professor of Theology at Holy Cross School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts.

"God doesn't permit evil; he commands it. There is no one who is not God's servant, even Osama bin Laden," stated Very Rev. Thomas Hopko, newly retired Dean of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York.

Dr. Chryssavgis and Fr. Hopko were the invited speakers for the Eighth Annual Symposium sponsored by Orthodox Christian SYNERGY. This group includes Chicago-area clergy and laity and "strives to promote awareness of Orthodox Christianity to the public at large." The half-day, well-attended Symposium was held on Saturday, October 19, 2002, at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cicero, Illinois. Several parishioners from St. Luke were present.

The topic of the Symposium, which included a delicious lunch and an Orthodox bookstore, was "Evil in Our World Today." According to Fr. Hopko, this topic is "the most difficult one to deal with in all of life."

Within his talk Dr. Chryssavgis stated that three of our sacraments deal with evil: Baptism, Confession, and Communion. At Baptism the devil is rejected and spit on. In Confession, our out-of-control passions are faced and dealt with, which can then lead to better human relationships. (Dr. C: People "are remarkably dependent on one another." We "can't know our passions alone." That "is demonic").

In Communion "everything is gathered in the chalice," Dr. Chryssavgis indicated. "When the deacon places broken crumbs into [the Cup], all of our imperfections and flirtations with evil go into [it]." We partake of the Life of Christ through His Body and Blood, "for the healing of soul and body" [ed.], because "Christ's life is stronger than anything." Even the buckets of dirt that went from hand to hand at the World Trade Center cleanup were "like a chalice being passed along for good, for cleansing, not for death."

Fr. Hopko contrasted God and His creation as they relate to evil. "God is the Creator," and "everything God creates is good." In fact, God Himself "is good in a way beyond human imagining." All things "beyond [God] are creatures, from which evil comes. Evil is a lack of good…and has no substantial existence." It is also "the misuse and abuse of good," Fr. Hopko pointed out, "the constant destruction and perversion of what is good." Furthermore, as Dr. Chryssavgis later related, "Evil is against life and is all that opposes life." In fact, "the word 'evil' is 'live' spelled backwards."

"God knew His creatures would be evil," Fr. Hopko continued. "However, because of God's great love, He created them anyway. Evil originates "when creatures think they have choices." They "refuse to give glory and thanks to God" because they prefer to "worship the creature rather than the Creator." (This was "the sin of Adam," who chose "to live life without God").

Ultimately, Fr. Hopko deduced, "the only choice is: Thy will be done. The more we [live] in Christ, the less choice we have, [but] the freer we become. Jesus has no choice at all, [yet] He is totally free and knows the truth."

"God [Christ] entered the world as it is with all of its evil and destruction," Dr. Chryssavgis confirmed, but "evil, the devil, and death are cursed because they can't love." Thankfully, "good (love) conquers evil, and suffering through evil leads to new life."

Will evil last forever? "Yes," the Scriptures say. However, evil can have a purpose. "All acts of tragedy are meant to get people's attention for repentance," Fr. Hopko affirmed. "God does not will evil or death," but He does use them, if necessary. "Wickedness and evil are the only things God has in this era of evil."

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