The Orthodox Pages



1st NOVEMBER 2012










































































































Most people today like to believe that they are products of the scientific age. We flatter ourselves with the thought that we are superior to our ancestors; and indeed we are, we travel by cars, trains, airplanes, men have gone to the Moon and we have sent robots to Mars, we communicate with wireless phones, we can talk and even see who we are talking to hundreds of miles away through the discovery of satellites and internet: the same has given us access to a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips and in general we have knowledge of the natural world and the universe at large that our ancestors could never have conceived. We have come very far compared with our ancestors who very few had the opportunity to go to school and learn to read, and because of their illiteracy were bound by many superstitions. Education, reasoning and scientific advancement has done away with many superstitions and most people today will tell you that they are free from all kinds of superstitions. In fact, they will even go one further and say that they are reluctant to believe anything that cannot be proven logically or scientifically and reject what is often referred to as "myth" in religion: myths like man's creation from nothing, his fall, the promise and the coming of the Saviour, salvation and life in the world to come. Modern man has been described as man "come of age", too sophisticated and knowledgeable to accept these things as literally true. He doubts that the Supreme Being, whoever He may be, could have any interest in or plan for man and the rest of creation. He believes man is entirely on his own and has to work out his own destiny and the meaning of his existence.
Yet, in spite of modern man's exaggerated ideas about himself, one need only look around to see that he is lying to himself and that he is just as superstitious today as his ancestors were in passed centuries. There are in fact more "psychics" and "mediums", more "seers of the future," more "fortune tellers," now than at any time in recent centuries. Hundreds of cheap publications, usually available not only in newspaper and magazine stores, but even in the super-markets, carry the "predictions" of self-styled "clairvoyants," tales of the supernatural, accounts of communication with the dead and experiences with demonology.
One area in which this fact is most evident is the widespread interest in astrology. Practically all newspapers and magazines dedicate a considerable amount of space to the advice of charlatans who pretend to be experts in reading the stars. It is a million-dollar business, and hundreds of self-proclaimed astrologers, many of whom would not know one star from another, have become wealthy on the gullibility of the public.
Wherever you look there are hundreds of books and pamphlet on the subject. Large books and pocket size books dealing with what is usually termed as the science or art of astrology, some dedicated to a general description while others dedicated to each individual sign of the Zodiac. There is so much worthless literature about that proves that modern man is still bound to the same superstitious ideas as he has always been. Education has not made him free, but rather has made him more curious and possibly open-minded to the fact that his life can be guided by the planets.  
Many people take astrological predictions very seriously and plan their day's events according to some astrologer's predictions. Some even have a personal astrologer who will predict for them what days to do certain things and which days to stay indoors because something dreadful might happen.
What people don't seem to realize is that what astrologers say to their readers are just general things that could be applied to practically everyone. Once in a while coincidence coincides with prediction and people begin to think that maybe there is something in it after all.   
When I was preparing this talk, I decided to see what the stars had to say for the zodiac sign of Taurus according to various astrologers. The first I came across said: You must make every effort to conserve your resources. There may be more expenses than you had anticipated for. Learn to manage your finances so that you do not waste what you receive as a blessing from destiny. There is every indication that you may find it extremely hard to manage your expenses. I'm sure with the financial crisis around the world many people from all the zodiac signs are finding things extremely tight at the moment. According to this astrologer the things we have are a blessing from destiny and not from God.
The next horoscope said something completely the opposite: Splurge on a new outfit or fun non-essential under the Pisces Moon; you deserve it! The first said to conserve your resources and the next said to spend, spend, spend.  
Next horoscope read: There is only one world. We all live in it. We are all a part of it. It is a big place containing the billions of people on this planet, plus the countless billions of other planets and stars throughout the rest of infinite space. So, who is in charge of all this? Well now, here is a funny thing. Would the universe, even exist if you weren't in it? We can fairly decisively say it wouldn't. That tells us something about how important and influential you are. Take heart (and be inspired by) that thought today. Now I wonder who he can be referring to? Is it only to a Taurean or to every living person on the planet earth?
Not only are the predictions of a general matter, but seeing that astrologers all use the same astrological charts, they should in theory agree with each other, but as we have seen from the above samples, they have nothing in common. And yet, millions of gullible people around the world consult their horoscope daily and base their day's activities on what the stars supposedly tell them to do, deceiving themselves into believing that things turned out just the way the horoscope said.
Others read their horoscope daily but claim that its only an innocent pastime, just a bit of fun, after all what harm is there in reading horoscopes if you don't really take them seriously like some people do.
Astrology claims that our characters and personalities are defined by the time and date we are born. A typical Taurean for example is considered to be Strong, dependable, reliable, stable and conservative, patient, but also stubborn, faithful, generous, having a great capacity for affection, hard working, a lover of material gains, highly creative and thoroughly enjoys making things with his own hands. In theory then, twins born on the same day and within minutes of each other should have the same personalities, yet most of us know that most twins are in fact the opposites of each other. The question arises: Why is there such a diversity in the life of twins, in their actions, fortunes, deeds, callings, honours, and all such things pertaining to human life; is this a result of a few minutes difference of time, even though they were conceived in the same moment?" In some things they will no doubt be the same, but these are not due to the stars, but rather to family standing and circumstances. If someone is born to be a king is it because his star caused it to be so? What then of someone born into slavery born at exactly the same time, shouldn't the same star also cause him to be a king also?
There are people who take the astrological signs and their supposed characters so seriously that before dating someone they have to know what sign the person is to see if they are compatible. If the person doesn't have the right sign, he/she is passed over in spite of the fact that he/she might have all the other qualities to be the right partner.    
Many so called Christians and even Orthodox Christians see nothing wrong with astrology or that it is contradictory to the Christian faith. What they do not realize is that Astrology is an ancient religion which the Church, the Bible, the canons and writings of the fathers all condemn.
Astrology was an occult religion which came from Babylonia over 4,000 years ago and later learnt by the Greeks. The Chaldeans of the Babylonian Empire observed the influence of the sun and moon on the earth. They concluded that the planets were powerful gods who controlled the life and destiny of man, but whose decrees could be changed through supplication and liturgy. They believed that the stars depicted divine will (like a road map) and their prime purpose was to inform the king of coming events. Today's astrologers generally deny that their "art" or "science" has anything to do with religion, yet modern astrology is nothing more that a disguised ancient pagan religion.
What is certain is that today's zodiacs do not coincide with the ancient zodiacs. The Babylonian astronomical system was based on the belief that the sun revolves around the earth, not the earth revolving around the sun. The year was divided into 12 months, 6 having 30 days, and 6 twenty nine days, thus making 354 days. So once in a while, they would add a 13th month. This and the fact that the earth and planets have shifted means that the constellations today rise at different times of the year than they did centuries ago. Also modern astrologers do not take into account that calendars have changed. In 46BC Julius Caesar introduced a calendar which varied in days from the Babylonian and Judaic calendars which were based on the lunar month and in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII introduced our modern civil calendar which has a difference of 13 days with the Julian calendar.  Thus the present astrological charts are not in agreement with the characteristics of each star sign for the months they were originally assigned to. It is calculated that there is at least a 30 day difference between our modern calendar and the Babylonian calendar which means for example that modern horoscopes for a person born in April being Aries or Taurus should be for Pisces and Aquarius.
For those Christians who will not take what the Church teaches as Gospel and need to see in black and white that the Bible strictly forbids astrology let's look at the passages of scripture that deal with this matter.
The first Biblical reference does not specifically mention astrology, but it is a very strong possibility that the events were a result of people's beliefs in the heavenly planets. Chapter 11 of the Book of Genesis, describes how the people at the time began to build a tower with the intention of reaching up to heaven. The purpose of the tower could have been to yet closer to God, but in all probability it was so that they could survey the sky, seeking to discover their 'destiny' in the stars rather than trust in the will of God. Otherwise why would God have been moved to confound their language and scatter them abroad upon the face of the earth? (Genesis 11: 1-9)
When the children of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land, God commanded that no one was to imitate the ways of the nations there. He commanded them saying: "There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, (meaning astrology) or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do" (Deut. 18: 10-14)
The Prophet Isaiah, lamenting for the Babylonians said, "Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame." (Isaiah 47: 13-14)
The Prophet Jeremiah writes: "Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain …". (Jer 10:2-3)
The Prophet Daniel when called to interpret a dream of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar said, "The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days." (Dan 2:27-28)
In the New Testament St. Paul admonishes the Galatians after some who had become Christians were still holding on to their former practices: "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." (Galatians 4: 8-11)
The Church in accordance with the Bible has always condemned astrology along with other practices associated with demonic origin. The 36th canon of the Council of Laodicea of Phrygia held in 364AD states: "They who are of the priesthood, or of the clergy, shall not be magicians, enchanters, mathematicians, astrologers; nor shall they make what are called amulets, which are chains for there own souls. And those who wear such, we command to be cast out of the Church."   Here mathematicians does not mean the teachers of maths. They were people who held the belief that the celestial bodies rule the universe and that all earthly things are ruled by their influence. In fact just another branch of astrology, but with the difference that astrologers are the people who predict through the stars or rather through the demons and place their trust in them.  
The Church Fathers also speak out loudly against astrology. St Epiphanius states that a certain Aquila, a translator of the divine scriptures was expelled from the Church because he was engaged in the practice of consulting the stars for horoscopes for everyone.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote: "For it is not according to the date of your birth that you sin, nor is it by the power of chance that you commit fornication, nor, as some idly say, do the conjunctions of the stars compel you to give yourself to wantonness.  Why dost thou shrink from confessing your own evil deeds, and ascribe the blame to the innocent stars?  Give no more heed to astrologers; for of these the divine Scripture says, Let the stargazers of the heaven stand up and save thee, and what follows:  Behold, they all shall be consumed as stubble on the fire, and shall not deliver their soul from the flame. (Catachetical Lecture IV, 18)
St. Gregory the Theologian speaks of "Chaldaean astronomy and horoscopes, comparing our lives with the movements of the heavenly bodies, which cannot know even what they are themselves, or shall be. (Oration XXXIX, v)
St. John Chrysostom speaks of how the faith of the Christians of his time had been weakened by the revival of this pagan practice: "And in fact a deep night oppresses the whole world. This is what we have to dispel and dissolve. It is night not among heretics and among Greeks (pagans) only, but also in the multitude on our side, in respect of doctrines and of life. For many entirely disbelieve the resurrection; many fortify themselves with their horoscope; many adhere to superstitious observances, and to omens, and auguries, and presages. And some likewise employ amulets and charms." But to these also we will speak afterwards, when we have finished what we have to say to the Greeks. (Homilies on First Corinthians, iv, 11)
Chrysostom also sees belief in astrology as a foolish disbelief against God's omnipotence and creativity, which implies that God is subject to the power of the stars. He also points out that if we are directed by the stars then there is no such thing as good or evil, because we do what we do under the direction and influence of the stars. "This means that God's commandments, that man shall not sin or that man shall do good, comes down to nothing but foolishness.
St. John of Damascus writing on the creation of heaven, the sun, moon, the planets and stars gives a detailed account of their movements and how they affect the seasons on earth. He then continues saying: "Now the Greeks (pagans) declare that all our affairs are controlled by the rising and setting and collision of these stars, the sun and moon: for it is with these matters that astrology has to do. But we hold that we get from them signs of rain and drought, cold and heat, moisture and dryness, and of the various winds, and so forth, but no sign whatever as to our actions. For we have been created with free wills by our Creator and are masters over our own actions. Indeed, if all our actions depend on the courses of the stars, all we do is done of necessity (in other words fate): and necessity precludes either virtue or vice. But if we possess neither virtue nor vice, we do not deserve praise or punishment, and God, too, will turn out to be unjust, since He gives good things to some and afflicts others. Nay, He will no longer continue to guide or provide for His own creatures, if all things are carried and swept along in the grip of necessity. And the faculty of reason will be superfluous to us: for if we are not masters of any of our actions, deliberation is quite superfluous. Reason, indeed, is granted to us solely that we might take counsel, and hence all reason implies freedom of will. And, therefore, we hold that the stars are not the causes of the things that occur, nor of the origin of things that come to pass, nor of the destruction of those things that perish. They are rather signs of showers and changes of air. But, perhaps, some one may say that though they are not the causes of wars, yet they are signs of them. And, in truth, the quality of the air which is produced by sun, and moon, and stars, produces in various ways different temperaments, and habits, and dispositions. But the habits are amongst the things that we have in our own hands, for it is reason that rules, and directs, and changes them." (The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book II, Chap. vii)
It is not only the Church and the Fathers that speak against astrology. The Roman historians Tacitus writing in the early 2nd century and Dio Cassius in the early 3rd century tell us that even the heathen hated astrologers and that was why they were banished from Rome.
From what has been said it is clear that Christians should not practice astrology nor consult horoscopes because it puts faith in created things rather than in the Creator; it thus undermines faith in God and His redeeming plan for mankind. Believing in the stars denies our freewill and attributes all that happens to fate; it relieves man of the responsibility for his sins; it weakens and finally replaces, however subtly, the faith of the Church, which is the doctrine of Christ, with a pagan philosophy or religion.
The Church Fathers, like the Ancient Greeks, felt that there were "many wonders in the universe, but none more wonderful than man." Man is God's special creation created in his image. Psalm 8 says: "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour, and set him over the works of Thy hands. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet." Thus St. Gregory the Theologian writes: "Man was not made for the stars, but rather the stars for man; and if a star can be called the ruler of man, then man must be considered the slave of his own servants." God did not create the planets and stars with the intention that they would dominate man, but that they, like other creatures, should obey and serve him.
Christ came into the world to reveal to man the truth and to destroy the futile faith people had in the stars and planets. The Orthodox hymn for the Nativity of Christ says: "Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone upon the world with the light of knowledge: for thereby they who adored the stars through a star were taught to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee." They who adored the stars refers to the Magi who came from the East. Some say they were Kings while others High Priests. They were very educated men and were well learned in astrology which they probably used in their religious practices. As stargazers they knew the position of the stars very well and anything unusual was interpreted as a good or bad omen, for example the rising of a comet was a sign of the death of a king. But in the case of the Nativity story they observed a star which was very different from anything else they had seen before and come to the conclusion that it meant the birth of a new and divine King. The star went before them and showed them the way until they reached Jerusalem. It was indeed a strange star which moved in various directions, at times stood still and appeared and disappeared at will. The hymn says they adored the stars, but through a star were taught to worship the one true God. God used the object of their worship to bring them to the truth.
We also should listen to the truth. When we allow the stars of heaven to guide our actions and not God, who created the stars, then we are sinning. When we run to the newspapers to look up our horoscopes and our futures, and do not seek wisdom and learning from the Bible, then we are sinning. Christ said we should not worry of what the future might bring, we should not be concerned with where we will find the money for food and drink, for clothing and anything else that concerns our life. These things he said are what the pagans seek for, but we should seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all the necessities of life will be provided by God the Father. (Math. 6:25-34) We do not need to know what lies ahead of us in time if we have trust in God.
In many circles, people introduce themselves by their zodiac sign, Hi I'm a Taurean you look like a Scorpion, no, no wait a minute your a Sagittarian. Rarely do people introduce themselves and say Hi I'm a Christian. Isn't it strange that people would rather be named after stars and their constellations, than after God, the Creator and Source of Life? We are not Taureans, Aquarians, Pisceans or Capricorns, we are not sons and daughters of stars; we are not children of horoscopes: we are men and women, sons and daughters of God. We are God's children who pray "Thy will be done".
As a last thought, the stupidity of astrology is summed up by Shakespeare in his play King Lear: although I will give a modern English rendering to make it understandable:  "This is a classic example of the idiocy of the world: when we’re down and out—often because of our own excesses —we put all the blame on the sun, the moon, and the stars, as if they forced us to be bad, or the heavens compelled us to be villainous or stupid. As if we become thieves and traitors according to astrological signs or obey planetary influences to become drunks, liars, and adulterers! As if some universal power pushed us into evil deeds! What a sneaky trick it is for lustful mankind to blame our horniness on some star! My father and mother coupled when the demonic moon was descending, and I was born under the Big Dipper, so it’s inevitable that I’m rude and oversexed. Christ! I would have been what I am even if the most virginal star in the heavens had twinkled at my conception."