Today we celebrate the Synaxis of all Saints of Alaska. 😀
"Today Alaska rejoices and America celebrates, for the new world has been sanctified by martyrdom. Kodiak echoes with songs of thanksgiving, Iliamna and Kenai observe the festival of faith. The Apostle and martyr Juvenaly is glorified, and Peter the Aleut is exalted by his voluntary sacrifice, in their devotion and love for the Lord they willingly endured persecution and death for the Truth, now in the Kingdom of Heaven they intercede for our souls!"
"Today Valaam joins Alaska in celebrating this joyous feast, as her spiritual son Juvenaly embraces the new martyr Peter with love. Together they suffered for the Lord in America and united the old world with the new by their voluntary sacrifice. Now forever they stand before the King of glory and intercede for our souls." ... See MoreSee Less
Today we celebrate the Prophet Jonah!
"The memory of your Prophet Jonah, we celebrate today, O Lord. By his prayers we entreat you: O Christ God, save our souls!" ... See MoreSee Less
Today we celebrate the feast of St Ninian, enlightener of Scotland.
Saint Ninian was born in Cumberland in Britain around the year 360, about a half century after the Emperor Constantius Chlorus died in the British city of York, and his son Constantine, who was with him when he died, was proclaimed Emperor.
Ninian was born of Christian parents of noble lineage, at a time when paganism was still strong in his native land. As a young man he went to Rome, where he spent many years in study and ascetical struggles. At Rome, Saint Ninian was consecrated some time after the death of Pope Damasus in 384, and was sent back to his native island about the end of the fourth century.
On his return journey, it is likely that he passed through Tours and met Saint Martin; what is certain is that many churches and cells associated with Saint Ninian, including his own cathedral in Whithorn, were named in honour of Saint Martin. When Saint Ninian returned to Cumberland, he established monasteries that fostered both the life of prayer and missionary labours.
By his preaching, his godly life, and his miracles, he ministered to his own countrymen, the Britons, and also converted many of the pagan Picts, who inhabited the northern regions (in today's Scotland). He reposed in peace at his see of Whithorn in Galloway in 432.
Apolytikion of Ninian of Scotland
As the equal of the Lord's Apostles, thou didst bring the grace of good tidings to the lands of the Scots, O wise Ninian. Thou art a lamp to our feet, who enlightenest our souls to walk in the path of God's commands. Hence, we honour thee and cry unto thee with fervent faith: Entreat Christ God to grant great mercy unto us.
Kontakion of Ninian of Scotland
To thee, our father, guide, and teacher in the Christian Faith, do we now offer fitting hymns of praise and gratitude, and, O godly boast of Cumberland, we extol thee. But since thou hast grace and boldness at the throne of God, do thou shelter and protect all who acclaim thy name, for we cry to thee: Rejoice, O Father Ninian.
(Source: GOARCH, Icon: Aidan Hart) ... See MoreSee Less
Today we celebrate The Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.
Troparion — Tone 1
O Lord, save Your people, and bless Your inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries. And by virtue of Your Cross, preserve Your habitation.
Kontakion — Tone 4
As You were voluntarily raised upon the cross for our sake, grant mercy to those who are called by Your Name, O Christ God; make all Orthodox Christians glad by Your power, granting them victories over their adversaries, by bestowing on them the Invincible trophy, Your weapon of Peace.
Wishing you all a happy feast and a great start to your week! 🙂 ... See MoreSee Less
Orthodox Community of the Archangel Gabriel, Glasgow published a note.
2 weeks ago
The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord(Source: OCA)
The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.
Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under the Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.
In 313 he had issued the Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict of Milan extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, having gained victory over his enemies in three wars with God’s assistance, had seen in the heavens the Sign of the Cross, and written beneath: “By this you shall conquer.”
Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Saint Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to Saint Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and the statues in Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful.
Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body (March 6).
In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Saviour was crucified, Patriarch Macarius alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found.
Christians came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching Saint Macarius to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the people, saying “Lord have mercy,” reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326.
During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross another miracle took place: a grievously sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Cyriacus and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem. During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr’s death for Christ (see October 28).
The holy empress Helen journeyed to the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Saviour, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem the birthplace of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Saviour prayed before His sufferings and where the Mother of God was buried after her death.
Saint Helen took part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails with her to Constantinople. The holy emperor Constantine gave orders to build at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious church in honour of the Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the Life-Giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten years. Saint Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple, she died in the year 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following day, September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross was established.
Another event connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day: its return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and captured both the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).
The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years and only under the emperor Heraclius (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the Lord returned to the Christians.
With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Heraclius in imperial crown and royal purple carried the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection. With the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to proceed farther. The holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an angel of the Lord was blocking his way. The emperor was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world from sin had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Heraclius donned plain garb, and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of Christ into the church.
In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, Saint Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: “The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast”. ... See MoreSee Less
Orthodox Community of the Archangel Gabriel, Glasgow published a note.
3 weeks ago
The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary(Source: OCA)
The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born at a time when people had reached such a degree of moral decay that it seemed altogether impossible to restore them. People often said that God must come into the world to restore faith and not permit the ruin of mankind.
The Son of God chose to take on human nature for the salvation of mankind, and chose as His Mother the All-Pure Virgin Mary, who alone was worthy to give birth to the Source of purity and holiness.
The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was born on this radiant day, having been chosen before the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. She is revealed as the Mother of the Savior of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Most Holy Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since Saint Anna was barren.
Having reached old age, Joachim and Anna did not lose hope in God’s mercy. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to overcome the barrenness of Anna even in her old age, as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Saints Joachim and Anna vowed to dedicate the child which the Lord might give them, to the service of God in the Temple.
Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Saints Joachim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joachim brought his sacrifice to offer to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, considering him to be unworthy since he was childless.
Saint Joachim in deep grief went into the wilderness, and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for a child. Saint Anna wept bitterly when she learned what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple. Never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed to ask God’s mercy on her family.
The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious couple had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling: to be the parents of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Archangel Gabriel brought Joachim and Anna the joyous message that their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World.
The Most Holy Virgin Mary surpassed in purity and virtue not only all mankind, but also the angels. She was manifest as the living Temple of God, so the Church sings in its festal hymns: “the East Gate... bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls” (2nd Stikhera on “Lord, I Have Cried”, Tone 6).
The Nativity of the Theotokos marks the change of the times when the great and comforting promises of God for the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil are about to be fulfilled. This event has brought to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and everlasting life. The Theotokos is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we have recourse with filial devotion. ... See MoreSee Less
Dear all! The Virtual Kiltwalk is taking place this weekend! There is still time to make a donation if you're able. Your support means a lot to us.
We have received such positive feedback on the Virtual pilgrimage designed by Nina, that we have created a gallery with all her beautiful art. 😀 To read more about these incredible saints and to make a donation, please follow the link below.
edinburghkiltwalk2020.everydayhero.com/uk/nina ... See MoreSee Less
Today we celebrate a very inspirational and influential Orthodox woman, St Kassiani. May her example inspire us all!Today we celebrate St Kassiani the Hymnographer.
She was a poet who lived in the 800s, writing both liturgical verse and non-liturgical poetry. At least 23 of her compositions are included in the Orthodox liturgical books. She is notable for being only one of two Byzantine women in the Middle Ages who wrote in her own name. She also is one of the most celebrated hymnographers, and was included in lists of the 'greats' since before the fall of Constantinople.
She was a strong and outspoken woman who wasn't afraid to express herself. One of her poems reads:
I hate the fool who acts like a philosopher
I hate the rich man who groans that he is poor
I hate the person who is forever changing his ways
I hate the judge who is a respecter of persons
I hate silence when it is time to speak
When she was young, she was chosen to participate in a 'bride show' in which women were paraded in front of the Emperor so that he may choose his bride. The young Theophilos was especially attracted to Kassiani and approached her, saying "Through a woman came forth baser things," as an innuendo, referring to Eve. Kassiani rebuffed the young emperor, replying "And through a woman came forth better things," referring to Mary.
Kassiani went on to found a convent and to become an abbess. Monasticism was a common social institution for independent, unmarried women in those days.
Throughout her life, Kassiani refused to be silenced when it was time to speak. Emperor Theophilos was an iconoclast, and St. Kassiani again rebuffed him by defending the faith and the veneration of icons. For this he had her scourged and persecuted. ... See MoreSee Less
"You ascended to the heights of the virtues, Prophet Moses; therefore, you were deemed worthy to see the glory of God. Having received the grace-filled tablets of the Law, and bearing the grace of the writing within yourself, you were the honourable praise of prophets, and a great mystery of piety."
Holy Prophet, Moses, pray for us!Today we celebrate St Moses the Prophet, according to tradition was born a Jew in Egypt at a time when the Jewish population was enslaved to the Egyptians. Moses was abandoned by his mother only to be adopted by the Egyptian royal family. Eventually Moses was called by God to be a leader to the Jewish people, interceding for them before Pharaoh, demanding their liberation, “Let my people go!” What followed is one of the earliest recorded campaigns of mass unarmed resistance in history. Trusting not in force of arms, but in the Lord, the Jewish people prayed, and God delivered them. They won their freedom, but it was not given easily. They marched out of Egypt in search of a promised land, but Pharaoh and his army followed, only to be once again routed by the work of God.
Moses then became the great lawgiver and one of the earliest monotheists, carrying down the commandments from the Lord’s mountain: Do not worship other gods. Do not lie. Do not kill. These words, and the example of liberation on which they are borne have forever changed society. ... See MoreSee Less
Happy New Church Year, everybody!
"O Creator and Master of time and the ages, Triune and Merciful God of all: grant blessings for the course of this year, and in Thy boundless mercy save those who worship Thee and cry out in fear: “O Saviour, grant blessings to all mankind!” ... See MoreSee Less
Today we commemorate the beheading of St John the Baptist.
"The memory of the righteous is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord’s testimony is sufficient for you, O Forerunner. You were shown in truth to be the most honourable of the prophets, for you were deemed worthy to baptize in the streams of the Jordan Him whom they foretold. Therefore, having suffered for the truth with joy, you proclaimed to those in hell God who appeared in the flesh, who takes away the sin of the world, and grants us great mercy." ... See MoreSee Less
Today we celebrate St Moses the Ethiopian. May he intercede for us all!
"You abandoned the Egypt of the passions, O Father, ascending the mount of the virtues with fervent faith, taking the Cross of Christ upon your shoulders; and being glorified in godly works, you proved to be a model for monastics, O summit of the fathers. Pray unceasingly with them that our souls may find mercy!" ... See MoreSee Less
Orthodox Community of the Archangel Gabriel, Glasgow published a note.
1 month ago
St Moses the Ethiopian(Source: OCA)
Saint Moses lived in Egypt during the fourth century. In his youth he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined a band of robbers.
Because of his bad character and great physical strength, they chose him as their leader. Moses and his band of brigands were feared because of their many evil exploits, including murders and robberies. People trembled at the mere mention of his name.
Moses the brigand spent several years leading a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert monasteries. Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance, but the former robber would neither be driven away nor silenced. He continued to implore that they accept him.
Saint Moses was completely obedient to the hegoumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while Saint Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent his time in prayer and the strictest fasting.
Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of Saint Moses. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked the Elders what to do with them. The Elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about Saint Moses’ repentance, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent monks.
Saint Moses was not quickly freed from the passions. He went often to the hegoumen, Abba Isidore, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the Elder taught him never to eat too much food, to remain partly hungry while observing the strictest restraint. But the passions did not cease to trouble Saint Moses in his dreams.
Then Abba Isidore taught him the all-night vigil. The monk stood the whole night at prayer, so he would not fall asleep. As a result of his prolonged struggles, Saint Moses fell into despondency, and when he began to have thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, Abba Isidore instead strengthened the resolve of his disciple.
In a vision he showed him many demons in the west, prepared for battle, and in the east a still greater quantity of holy angels, also ready for fighting. Abba Isidore explained to Saint Moses that the power of the angels would prevail over the power of the demons, and in the long struggle with the passions it was necessary for him to become completely cleansed of his former sins.
Saint Moses drove himself to additional labors. Making the rounds of the wilderness cells at night, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the Elders, who lived far from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. Once, kneeling over the well, Saint Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, laying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the monk for his victory over them. In the morning the brethren carried him to his cell, and he lay there crippled for a whole year. After he recovered, the monk with firm resolve confessed to the hegoumen, that he would continue with his ascetic struggles. But the Lord Himself put limits to this toil which lasted for many years: Abba Isidore blessed his disciple and told him that the passions had already left him. The Elder commanded him to receive the Holy Mysteries, and to go to his own cell in peace. From that time, Saint Moses received from the Lord power over demons.
Accounts about his exploits spread among the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. When he heard of this, Saint Moses decided to hide from any visitors, and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met servants of the governor, who asked him how to get to the cell of the desert-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: “Go no farther to see this false and unworthy monk.” The servants returned to the monastery where the governor was waiting, and they told him the words of the Elder they had chanced to meet. The brethren, hearing a description of the Elder’s appearance, told them that they had encountered Saint Moses himself.
After many years of monastic exploits, Saint Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop clothed him in white vestments and said, “Now Abba Moses is entirely white!” The saint replied, “Only outwardly, for God knows that I am still dark within.”
Through humility, the saint believed himself unworthy of the office of deacon. Once, the bishop decided to test him and he bade the clergy to drive him out of the altar, reviling him as an unworthy Ethiopian. In all humility, the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained Saint Moses to the priesthood. Saint Moses labored for fifteen years in this rank, and gathered 75 disciples around himself.
When the saint reached the age of 75, he warned his monks that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all those who remained there. The saint blessed his monks to leave, in order to avoid violent death. His disciples begged the saint to leave with them, but he replied: “For many years now, I have awaited the time when the words spoken by my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled: ‘All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword’” (Matt. 26: 52). After this, seven of the brethren remained with Saint Moses, and one of them hid nearby during the attack of the robbers. The robbers killed Saint Moses and the six monks who remained with him. Their death occurred about the year 400. ... See MoreSee Less
Happy Feast of the Dormition! May our Lady intercede for us!
"Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb." ... See MoreSee Less
Happy Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord! May we all give room to Jesus to transform our lives.
"You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, revealing Your glory to Your disciples as far as they could bear it. Let Your everlasting Light also shine upon us sinners, through the prayers of the Theotokos. O Giver of Light, glory to You!" ... See MoreSee Less
PERSONAL TRANSFIGURATION IN HOLINESSHomily: Fr Philip LeMasters, Icon: Katherine Sanders
There is a lot going on the life of the Church this time of year. Even as we continue to celebrate our Lord’s Transfiguration, we prepare by fasting to observe the Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos during the coming week. In order to enter into the good news proclaimed through these feasts, the eyes of our souls must be cleansed so that we will be able to behold and participate in the brilliant divine glory of our Lord. We must become radiant with God’s gracious divine energies as we follow the Theotokos in uniting ourselves more fully to the Lord in holiness. She was the first to receive Christ when she said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” in response to the message of the Archangel that God had chosen her to become the virgin mother of His Son. As we celebrate at her Dormition or “falling asleep,” she was also the first to follow Him as a whole, embodied person into the Kingdom of Heaven, for her tomb was found empty three days after her death.
The Theotokos provides the best model of what it means for a human being to be transfigured by personal participation in the grace of God. She freely chose to accept the Saviour into her life in a unique way as His mother, and she knew the pain and joy of offering herself fully to the One Who conquered death by His own death and glorious resurrection. She counted for nothing in the eyes of the kingdoms of this world, but gained the unique dignity of the Mother of God, His Living Temple, when she contained Him in her womb. The Theotokos then made the rest of her life an ongoing offering to the Lord. How fitting, then, that her own death became an icon of the promise of eternal life for those united to Christ in holiness.
Unfortunately, the world has too much religion that does not lead people to transfiguration in holiness. If we think that Christianity provides simply theological ideas, moral precepts, or directions about how to conduct religious services, then we will fail to behold and participate in the glory of our Lord. For all of those aspects of religion, as laudable as they may be, can be affirmed and practiced in ways that do not make us “partakers of the divine nature” by grace. Christ revealed His divine glory to Peter, James, and John on Mount Tabor so that they would know He is truly God and the fulfilment of the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament. The voice of the Father proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased. Hear Him.” (Matt. 17:5)
Unlike a prophet or teacher of law, the Saviour did not come to provide instructions that would make us a bit more pious or moral. The One Who revealed His divine glory in brilliant, blinding light came to make us shine in holiness like an iron left in the fire. He came to transform us so that we may participate personally in His gracious divine energies in fulfilment of our basic human calling to become like God in holiness. The Saviour called His disciples to “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) He cited the Psalms: “You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.” (Psalm 82:6; Jn. 10:34) While we remain human persons by nature, Christ enables us to become like Him by grace. That is why theosis is an eternal process, for God’s holiness is truly infinite.
The point of our faith is not, then, simply to gain forgiveness for ourselves or anything else that we might want. Like the wicked servant in today’s gospel reading, we will shut ourselves off from participating in the gracious mercy of the Lord if we think that forgiveness is something we may receive without being transformed personally. That fellow begged for more time to pay his unbelievably large debt, and his master responded with shocking mercy, for he forgave the debt completely. But instead of sharing the mercy that he had received, the servant then refused even to show patience with a fellow slave who owed him much less. He then had the second fellow put into prison until he could pay. When word of his actions reached the master, he had the first servant put in jail until he could repay the entirety of the massive amount he owed. Christ concludes the parable with these challenging words, “So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
The Lord said that because refusing to forgive others is a clear sign of our refusal to become like God in holiness. If we ask forgiveness for ourselves without extending it to others, we show that we are not interested in sharing in the life of our Lord by grace. We demonstrate that we are not offering ourselves for transfiguration in holiness. Instead, we become idolaters who worship a god in our own image who we think will give us what we want and make no demands that do not suit us. Such corrupt views of religion will bring only greater darkness to our souls and enslave us further to passions such as hatred, judgement, and the refusal to forgive. They make it impossible for us to be transfigured in holiness.
This temptation is especially dangerous because it is often appealing to convince ourselves that religion and the rest of life are entirely separate realms. We like to think that we meet our obligation to God by doing explicitly religious things at church or keeping a rule of prayer, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines. Of course, we should offer ourselves to God in these ways. They are vital means of opening ourselves to greater participation in the life of our Lord. We will err grievously, however, if we hypocritically seek the mercy of the Saviour while refusing to embody His mercy toward others whom we encounter in everyday life. It is simply impossible to unite ourselves to the One Who said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” from the Cross if we refuse to show mercy toward those who have offended us. If we try to do that, we will be in the false position of those who want one thing from God while giving the complete opposite to our neighbours.
The illumination and healing of our souls is an eternal process, for our goal is very high: to become like God in holiness. We should not despair when memories of the wrongs of others come to mind, when we have harsh feelings toward those who have wounded us, or when we cannot imagine how we could be reconciled with others with whom we have a broken relationship. These are signs that we live in a world of corruption and need further healing for our souls. Our choice is either to open our hearts to Christ for greater participation in His mercy or to harden them by embracing hatred and judgment. The process of our transfiguration must begin by opening the darkened places in our hearts to His brilliant light as best we presently can. We do that when we pray for God to bless our enemies and to forgive our sins by their prayers. We do that when we mindfully refuse to dwell on the wrongs of others or to speak ill of them. We do that when we go out of our way to help them. As we struggle to show them the same mercy that we ask of Christ, we will grow in humble awareness of our own brokenness and dependence upon His grace for our healing.
This is the path that we must all follow if we are to become transfigured in holiness through personal participation in the life of our Saviour. In her Dormition, the Theotokos shows us that such a life leads to the eternal joy of the Kingdom of God. In order for us to follow her holy example, we must begin with the humble forgiveness of those who know that they are never in a position to condemn others. Instead, we must become living icons of the brilliant mercy that we have received. That is how we may become truly human in God’s image and likeness by participating personally in the Saviour’s healing of our corrupt humanity. ... See MoreSee Less
Becoming an Orthodox ChristianThe life of the Orthodox Church perpetuates and fulfils the ministry of Jesus Christ. The close association between Christ and His Church is reflected in the images from the Scriptures which declare that Christ is the Head and the Church is His Body, and that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is His bride. These images express the reality that the Church does not exist independently from Christ.
The Lord and Saviour, who was known, loved, and followed by the first disciples in Galilee nearly two thousand years ago, is the same Lord and Saviour who is known, loved, and followed through His Church. As Christ revealed the Holy Trinity, His Church continues to reveal the Holy Trinity and to praise God in her worship. As Christ reconciled humanity to the Father, His Church continues to be the medium of reconciliation by word and action throughout the world. As Christ manifested the vocation of authentic human life, His Church continues to be the realm through which the image and likeness of God in each of us is brought to perfection.
The Orthodox Christian becomes united with Christ at Baptism and is nurtured by Christ at every Eucharist. We believe that the Holy Spirit acts in and through the Church to make Christ our Lord and to bring His work to fulfilment.
Orthodoxy has avoided any temptation to reduce its vision of the Church. The biblical descriptions of the Church as the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit indicate that she truly must be recognised as much more than one institution among many, or a social service agency, or as an ethnic or fraternal organisation. Certainly the Church does have her institutional aspects, and she is always subject to the sins and limitations of her human members. Yet, Orthodoxy believes that in addition to her obvious human side, the Church also has a Divine dimension. The Greek word for Church, ecclesia, implies a community called and gathered by God for a special purpose. This means that the Church can be described as the unique meeting place between God and His people.
The Orthodox Faith cannot be appreciated fully, or appropriated personally, by the individual who is outside the Orthodox Church. Viewed from this vantage point, Orthodoxy can falsely appear as one world-view among many, as a cultural appendage, or merely as a ceremonial church. It is only from within the Church that one has the necessary perspective of experiencing Orthodoxy as the revelation of Divine Life.
Becoming An Orthodox Christian
The Orthodox Church has a universal appeal and vocation. She does not restrict membership to people of any particular culture, race, class, or section of the world. Indeed, Orthodoxy values the diversity of cultures, peoples, and languages which are part of her life. She also affirms a unity of faith and love in Christ which transcends all artificial barriers. Membership in the Orthodox Church is open to all persons.
The Orthodox Church is no longer considered to be an immigrant Church. She has been recognised as one of the five major faiths in the world. The membership of the Orthodox Church in this country includes persons from a wide variety of ethnic and cultural family backgrounds. Among these Orthodox, there are a large number of persons who were raised in other religious traditions and who have chosen to become members of the Orthodox Church.
This reality was clearly recognised by His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, former archbishop of North and South America, when he told the Twentieth Biennial Clergy/Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese that:
"Orthodoxy is not exclusively the religion of the Hellenes, but the religion of all those who, as a result of mixed marriages, or contract or study of Orthodoxy, have come to know and relate to it; and, therefore, Orthodoxy has already found its place and mission in the Western Hemisphere."
If you are seriously interested in becoming a member of the Orthodox Church, you should meet with your local Orthodox priest and become acquainted with his parish. He will be happy to offer you advice and guidance, as well as to introduce you to members of the parish. This is truly an exciting period in the development of Orthodox parishes in the West. While some are associated with a particular cultural heritage, many are coming to fully recognise the responsibility of Orthodoxy to the wider society. When you embrace the Orthodox Church, you also join a particular local parish. It is meant to be a spiritual family. Therefore, you should thoughtfully examine the concerns and priorities of the parish. Try to discover whether you will feel comfortable, whether the parish can provide you with the opportunity to grow closer to God and to be of responsible service to others.
In many parishes, the priest offers classes or individual conferences on the Orthodox Faith for those who wish to become members of the Orthodox Church. The length and scope of these instructions will be determined by your previous knowledge of the Christian Faith, as well as by your particular needs and concerns.
After the period of instruction, there is a Service of Reception into the Church. If you are converting from a non-Christian religion, you will make a profession of Faith and be baptised and chrismated. If you are being received from a Church which has a similarity of beliefs with Orthodoxy and you have been properly baptised and confirmed, you will participate in a brief Service of Anointing (Chrismation) which signifies reconciliation with the Orthodox Church. The reception of Holy Communion is always seen as the consummation of union with the Church.
Commitment To Christ
The ultimate commitment of the Orthodox Christian is a commitment to Christ our Lord, Who is known in and through the Church. This is expressed by the litanies of the Church which call upon us to "commit ourselves, one another, and our whole life unto Christ our God." And, prior to receiving Holy Communion, we pray: "O Master Who loves mankind, unto you we commit our whole life and our hope."
Each of us is unique and blessed by the Holy Spirit with different gifts and vocations in life; therefore, our personal commitments to Christ will be expressed differently. Yet, Orthodoxy firmly believes that this commitment will always be built upon a worship of God and a loving concern for others. As worship is central to the Church as a whole, worship, personal prayer, and especially participation in the Holy Eucharist are central to the life of the individual Orthodox Christian. Through these actions, we grow closer to God and we are blessed with the fruits of the Spirit, which enable us to be of loving and responsible service to others in Christ's Name. Orthodoxy avoids any tendency which seeks to separate love of God from love of neighbour. The two are inseparable. This conviction is expressed during the Divine Liturgy in the dialogue between the priest and the people which says, "Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess...The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; The Trinity, consubstantial and undivided."
Although Orthodoxy highly extols the value of worship, this does not imply that it in any way minimises the importance of a life lived according to the Gospel. Therefore, as the Liturgy reminds us, only those with faith and love may draw near to receive Holy Communion. Our participation in the Body and Blood of the Lord also provides each with the opportunity to be Christ-bearers in the world in which we live. ... See MoreSee Less
Today we celebrate the feast of St Panteleimon. May he intercede for us!
"You emulated the Merciful One, and received from Him the grace of healing, passion-bearer and healer Panteleimon; by your prayers, heal our spiritual diseases and continually drive away the temptations of the enemy from those who cry out in faith “Save us, O Lord.” ... See MoreSee Less
Greatmartyr and Healer Panteleimon(Source: OCA)
The Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon was born in the city of Nicomedia into the family of the illustrious pagan Eustorgius, and he was named Pantoleon. His mother Saint Euboula (March 30) was a Christian. She wanted to raise her son in the Christian Faith, but she died when the future martyr was just a young child. His father sent Pantoleon to a pagan school, after which the young man studied medicine at Nicomedia under the renowned physician Euphrosynus. Pantoleon came to the attention of the emperor Maximian (284-305), who wished to appoint him as royal physician when he finished his schooling.
The hieromartyrs Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates, survivors of the massacre of 20,000 Christians in 303 (December 28), were living secretly in Nicomedia at that time. Saint Hermolaus saw Pantoleon time and again when he came to the house where they were hiding. Once, the priest invited the youth to the house and spoke about the Christian Faith. After this Pantoleon visited Saint Hermolaus every day.
One day the saint found a dead child on the street. He had been bitten by a great snake, which was still beside the child’s body. Pantoleon began to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ to revive the dead child and to destroy the venomous reptile. He firmly resolved that if his prayer were fulfilled, he would become a follower of Christ and receive Baptism. The child rose up alive, and the snake died before Pantoleon’s eyes.
After this miracle, Pantoleon was baptized by Saint Hermolaus with the name Panteleimon (meaning “all-merciful”). Speaking with Eustorgius, Saint Panteleimon prepared him to accept Christianity. When the father saw how his son healed a blind man by invoking Jesus Christ, he then believed in Christ and was baptized by Saint Hermolaus together with the man whose sight was restored.
After the death of his father, Saint Panteleimon dedicated his life to the suffering, the sick, the unfortunate and the needy. He treated all those who turned to him without charge, healing them in the name of Jesus Christ. He visited those held captive in prison. These were usually Christians, and he healed them of their wounds. In a short time, reports of the charitable physician spread throughout the city. Forsaking the other doctors, the inhabitants began to turn only to Saint Panteleimon.
The envious doctors told the emperor that Saint Panteleimon was healing Christian prisoners. Maximian urged the saint to refute the charge by offering sacrifice to idols. Saint Panteleimon confessed himself a Christian, and suggested that a sick person, for whom the doctors held out no hope, should be brought before the emperor. Then the doctors could invoke their gods, and Panteleimon would pray to his God to heal the man. A man paralyzed for many years was brought in, and pagan priests who knew the art of medicine invoked their gods without success. Then, before the very eyes of the emperor, the saint healed the paralytic by calling on the name of Jesus Christ. The ferocious Maximian executed the healed man, and gave Saint Panteleimon over to fierce torture.
The Lord appeared to the saint and strengthened him before his sufferings. They suspended the Great Martyr Panteleimon from a tree and scraped him with iron hooks, burned him with fire and then stretched him on the rack, threw him into a cauldron of boiling tar, and cast him into the sea with a stone around his neck. Throughout these tortures the martyr remained unhurt, and denounced the emperor.
At this time the priests Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates were brought before the court of the pagans. All three confessed their faith in the Savior and were beheaded (July 26).
By order of the emperor they brought the Great Martyr Panteleimon to the circus to be devoured by wild beasts. The animals, however, came up to him and licked his feet. The spectators began to shout, “Great is the God of the Christians!” The enraged Maximian ordered the soldiers to stab with the sword anyone who glorified Christ, and to cut off the head of the Great Martyr Panteleimon.
They led the saint to the place of execution and tied him to an olive tree. While the martyr prayed, one of the soldiers struck him with a sword, but the sword became soft like wax and inflicted no wound. The saint completed his prayer, and a Voice was heard from Heaven, calling the passion-bearer by his new name and summoning him to the heavenly Kingdom.
Hearing the Voice, the soldiers fell down on their knees before the holy martyr and begged forgiveness. They refused to continue with the execution, but Saint Panteleimon told them to fulfill the emperor’s command, because otherwise they would have no share with him in the future life. The soldiers tearfully took their leave of the saint with a kiss.
When the saint was beheaded, the olive tree to which the saint was tied became covered with fruit. Many who were present at the execution believed in Christ. The saint’s body was thrown into a fire, but remained unharmed, and was buried by Christians. Saint Panteleimon’s servants Laurence, Bassos and Probus witnessed his execution and heard the Voice from Heaven. They recorded the life, the sufferings and death of the saint.
Portions of the holy relics of the Great Martyr Panteleimon were distributed throughout all the Christian world. His venerable head is now located at the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mt. Athos.
The veneration of the holy martyr in the Russian Orthodox Church was already known in the twelfth century. Prince Izyaslav (in Baptism, Panteleimon), the son of Saint Mstislav the Great, had an image of Saint Panteleimon on his helmet. Through the intercession of the saint he remained alive during a battle in the year 1151. On the Feast of the Great Martyr Panteleimon, Russian forces won two naval victories over the Swedes (in 1714 near Hanhauze and in 1720 near Grenham).
Saint Panteleimon is venerated in the Orthodox Church as a mighty saint, and the protector of soldiers. This aspect of his veneration is derived from his first name Pantoleon, which means “a lion in everything”. His second name, Panteleimon, given him at Baptism, which means “all-merciful”, is manifest in the veneration of the martyr as a healer. The connection between these two aspects of the saint is readily apparent in that soldiers, receiving wounds more frequently than others, are more in need of a physician-healer. Christians waging spiritual warfare also have recourse to this saint, asking him to heal their spiritual wounds.
The holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon is invoked in the Mystery of Anointing the Sick, at the Blessing of Water, and in the Prayers for the Sick. ... See MoreSee Less
The History of The Orthodox ChurchThe Church has her origin with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, not with a human teacher, or group, nor a code of conduct or religious philosophy. Orthodoxy believes that the Church has her origin in the Apostolic Community called into being by Jesus Christ, and enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
The Feast of Pentecost, which is celebrated fifty days after Easter, commemorates the "outpouring'' of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and marks the beginning of the mission of the Church to the world.
The Orthodox Church believes that she has maintained a direct and unbroken continuity of love, faith, and order with the Church of Christ born in the Pentecost experience.
The Time of Persecution
The earliest Church, which is described in the Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles, did not confine itself to the land of Judea. She took very seriously the command of Our Lord to go into the whole world and preach the Gospel.
The words of Christ and the event of His saving Death and Resurrection were destined not only for the people of the first century and the Mediterranean world of which they were a part, but also for persons in all places and in every age. Within only a few years after the Resurrection, colonies of Christians sprung in the major cities of the Roman Empire.
While the early Church received many converts from Judaism and the pagan religions, the world in which the Gospel was proclaimed was, in the words of St. Paul, "heartless and ruthless." With only a few intervals of peace, the Church was persecuted throughout the Empire for nearly three hundred years. The faith and love expressed by the Christians were viewed as a threat to the religion and political policies of the Empire. Thousands upon thousands of Christians were martyred.
The Time of Growth
The beginning of the fourth century marked a new stage in the development of the Church. After centuries of vicious persecution at the direction of the Roman Emperors, an Emperor of Rome became a Christian. This was Constantine the Great, who in the year 313 granted Christians freedom of worship. The Edict was a recognition that the Church not only had survived the persecutions but also had become a significant force in the Empire.
From that time onward, the Church and the Empire began a very close and mutually beneficial relationship. Not only did the Church receive imperial support, but also the evils which had characterised the old Roman Empire were greatly reduced in Christian Byzantium. The Church was truly a leaven of the society of which it was a part.
The fourth through the tenth centuries were a significant period for the Church's internal development. The authorative content of the New Testament was determined. The Services of Worship received a formal framework. The Teachings of Christianity were developed by great pastors and theologians who are known as the "Fathers" of the Church. It was also a period of missionary activity. Among the most important was the evangelisation of the Slavs by Saints Cyril and Methodius. However, the period was not without struggle.
The Byzantine Empire was constantly on guard against the neighbouring Persians and Muslims. The Church itself was frequently afflicted with many grave schisms and heresies. For example, serious schisms took place in the years 431 and 451. Among the greatest heresies was Arianism, which taught that Christ was not truly God. This heresy plagued the Church and brought havoc to the Empire for nearly a century.
The fundamental doctrines of the Church were proclaimed and defended by the Seven Ecumenical Councils. These Synods, which are known by the names of the cities in which they were convened, included Bishops from throughout the world, who came to affirm the authentic teachings on the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity. The Councils did not create new doctrines, but in a particular place and time, they proclaimed what the Church always believed and taught.
The counciliar and collegial expression of Church life and authority which was manifest at the Ecumenical Councils and other synods of the early Church continue to be an important aspect of Orthodox Christianity.
The Ecumenical Councils also sanctioned the organisation of the Church about the five great ecclesiastical centres of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The Archbishops of these cities came to be known as Patriarchs. They presided over the synod of bishops in a particular area. Since the early Church was not monolithic, each center had its own theological style, customs, and liturgical traditions. Yet, all shared in the unity of the faith. However, a primacy of honour was accorded the Bishop of Rome, from early times.
The Second Ecumenical Council (381) gave Constantinople a position of honour by stating, "The Bishop of Constantinople shall have the prerogative of honour after the Bishops of Rome, because Constantinople is New Rome."
The Great Schism
The Great Schism is the title given to separation between the Western Church (the Roman Catholic) and the Eastern Church, (the Orthodox), which took place in the eleventh century. Relations between the two great traditions of the East and the West had often been strained since the fourth century. Yet, unity and harmony was maintained in spite of differences in theological expression, liturgical practices, and views of authority. By the ninth century, however, legitimate differences were intensified by political circumstances, cultural clashes, papal claims, and the introduction in the West of the Filioque phrase into the Nicene Creed.
The Filioque affirms that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Both the papal claims and the Filioque were strongly repudiated by the East.
Although it is difficult to date the exact year of the schism, in the year 1054 official charges, known as Anathemas, were exchanged. The Crusades, and especially the sack of the city of Constantinople by the western crusaders in 1204, can be considered the final element in the process of estrangement and deepening mistrust.
From that period onward, the Western Church, centred about the Pope of Rome, and the Eastern Church, centred about the Patriarch of Constantinople, went their separate ways. Although there were attempts to restore communion in the years 1274 and 1439, there was no lasting unity achieved. While political, cultural, and emotional factors have always been involved, the Orthodox Church believes that the two principal reasons for the continued schism are the papal claims of universal jurisdiction and infallibility, as well as the meaning of the Filioque.
For nearly 500 years the two traditions lived in formal isolation from each other. Only, since the early 1960's have steps been taken to restore the broken unity. Most significant has been the mutual lifting of the Anathemas of 1054 by the late Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI in 1965.
Time of Struggle
In the year 1453, the City of Constantinople fell to the invading Muslims. With its capital, the Byzantine Empire came to an end; and the vast lands of Asia Minor fell subject to non-Christians. The great ecclesiastical cities of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, which had come under the political control of Islam centuries earlier, were now joined by Constantinople.
Throughout the Ottoman Empire, Christians came to be treated as second-class citizens who paid heavy taxes and wore distinctive dress. The life of the Orthodox Church in the Balkan and Asia Minor continued, but under much duress. Thousands of Christians suffered martyrdom. Patriarchs were deposed and murdered. Churches, monasteries, and schools were closed and destroyed. Only with the liberation of Greece in 1821, did some of the brutality come to an end. However, there were a series of vicious massacres at the beginning of this century. And, even today, Christians are denied their basic human rights in parts of Asia Minor.
After the decline of Byzantium, the Church in Russia thrived for nearly 500 years. However, with the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Orthodoxy found itself confronted with the beliefs and political policies of militant atheists. Most churches were closed; and a policy was inaugurated to eliminate Christianity from Russia, a land which was steeped in Orthodoxy since the tenth century. In the years between the two World Wars, Orthodox Christians in Russia suffered much cruel and devastating persecution. Only since 1943 have there been modifications in government policy which have permitted the Church some degree of existence.
Today, in many of the lands which were once the pride and glory of Eastern Christendom, the Orthodox Church struggles amid great obstacles and persecution. It has been observed that in recent centuries there have been more martyrs than during the great persecutions of the early Church. Yet, despite injustices and indignities, the Faith survives.
Time of Renewal and Reconciliation
Throughout the past two hundred years the Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere has been developing as a valuable presence and distinctive witness. For example, in the United States, Orthodoxy has been recognised as one of the four major faiths. She has more than five million members, who are grouped into more than a dozen ecclesiastical jurisdictions. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, which is the largest, has about 500 parishes and operates church schools, parochial schools, an orphanage, a college, and a graduate theological school. Many believe that Orthodoxy in America has the potential for true renewal, creative development, and missionary activity which can contribute greatly to American life.
From the beginning of this century, the Orthodox Church has been committed to the Ecumenical Movement. This quest for Christian unity is the boldest attack on division since the early centuries of the Church. The Patriarchate of Constantinople not only inspired the movement for unity with an encyclical in 1920, but also was one of the co-founders of the World Council of Churches in 1948. The cause of Christian unity was a special concern of the late Patriarch Athenagoras. He laboured greatly to promote a renewed sense of collegiality among the various Orthodox Churches, as well as to inaugurate a true dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church.
In the year 1968, the Patriarch looked toward the future and declared: May the Lord of mercy send as soon as possible to our holy Eastern and Western Churches the grace of celebrating the Divine Eucharist anew and of communicating again together... The common chalice stands out luminously on the horizon of the Church. ... See MoreSee Less
Happy feast of St Mary Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles.
"By keeping His commandments and laws, holy Mary Magdalene, you followed Christ, Who for our sake was born of the Virgin, and in celebrating your most holy memory today, we receive forgiveness of sins by your prayers." ... See MoreSee Less
The incredible life of St Mary MagdaleneThe Holy Myrrh-Bearer Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene. On the banks of Lake Genesareth (Galilee), between the cities of Capharnum and Tiberias, was the small city of Magdala, the remains of which have survived to our day. Now only the small village of Mejhdel stands on the site.
A woman whose name has entered forever into the Gospel account was born and grew up in Magdala. The Gospel tells us nothing of Mary’s younger years, but Tradition informs us that Mary of Magdala was young and pretty, and led a sinful life. It says in the Gospels that the Lord expelled seven devils from Mary (Luke. 8:2). From the moment of her healing Mary led a new life, and became a true disciple of the Savior.
The Gospel relates that Mary followed after the Lord, when He went with the Apostles through the cities and villages of Judea and Galilee preaching about the Kingdom of God. Together with the pious women Joanna, wife of Choza (steward of Herod), Susanna and others, she served Him from her own possessions (Luke 8:1-3) and undoubtedly shared with the Apostles the evangelic tasks in common with the other women. The Evangelist Luke, evidently, has her in view together with the other women, stating that at the moment of the Procession of Christ onto Golgotha, when after the Scourging He took on Himself the heavy Cross, collapsing under its weight, the women followed after Him weeping and wailing, but He consoled them. The Gospel relates that Mary Magdalene was present on Golgotha at the moment of the Lord’s Crucifixion. While all the disciples of the Savior ran away, she remained fearlessly at the Cross together with the Mother of God and the Apostle John.
The Evangelists also list among those standing at the Cross the mother of the Apostle James, and Salome, and other women followers of the Lord from Galilee, but all mention Mary Magdalene first. Saint John, in addition to the Mother of God, names only her and Mary Cleopas. This indicates how much she stood out from all the women who gathered around the Lord.
She was faithful to Him not only in the days of His Glory, but also at the moment of His extreme humiliation and insult. As the Evangelist Matthew relates, she was present at the Burial of the Lord. Before her eyes Joseph and Nikodemos went out to the tomb with His lifeless Body. She watched as they covered over the entrance to the cave with a large stone, entombing the Source of Life.
Faithful to the Law in which she was raised, Mary together with the other women spent the following day at rest, because it was the great day of the Sabbath, coinciding with the Feast of Passover. But all the rest of the peaceful day the women gathered spices to go to the Grave of the Lord at dawn on Sunday and anoint His Body according to the custom of the Jews.
It is necessary to mention that, having agreed to go on the first day of the week to the Tomb early in the morning, the holy women had no possibility of meeting with one another on Saturday. They went separately on Friday evening to their own homes. They went out only at dawn the following day to go to the Sepulchre, not all together, but each from her own house.
The Evangelist Matthew writes that the women came to the grave at dawn, or as the Evangelist Mark expresses, extremely early before the rising of the sun. The Evangelist John, elaborating upon these, says that Mary came to the grave so early that it was still dark. Obviously, she waited impatiently for the end of night, but it was not yet daybreak. She ran to the place where the Lord’s Body lay.
Mary went to the tomb alone. Seeing the stone pushed away from the cave, she ran away in fear to tell the close Apostles of Christ, Peter and John. Hearing the strange message that the Lord was gone from the tomb, both Apostles ran to the tomb and, seeing the shroud and winding cloths, they were amazed. They went and said nothing to anyone, but Mary returned to the tomb and stood about the entrance to the tomb and wept. Here in this dark tomb so recently lay her lifeless Lord.
Wanting proof that the tomb really was empty, she went down to it and saw a strange sight. She saw two angels in white garments, one sitting at the head, the other at the foot, where the Body of Jesus had been placed. They asked her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She answered them with the words which she had said to the Apostles, “They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” At that moment, she turned around and saw the Risen Jesus standing near the grave, but she did not recognize Him.
He asked Mary, “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom dost thou seek?” She answered thinking that she was seeing the gardener, “Sir, if thou hast taken him, tell where thou hast put Him, and I will take Him away.”
Then she recognized the Lord’s voice. This was the voice she heard in those days and years, when she followed the Lord through all the cities and places where He preached. He spoke her name, and she gave a joyful shout, “Rabbi” (Teacher).
Respect and love, fondness and deep veneration, a feeling of thankfulness and recognition at His Splendor as great Teacher, all came together in this single outcry. She was able to say nothing more and she threw herself down at the feet of her Teacher to wash them with tears of joy. But the Lord said to her: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and tell them: ‘I ascend to My Father, and your Father; to My God and to your God.’”
She came to herself and again ran to the Apostles, to do the will of Him sending her to preach. Again she ran into the house, where the Apostles still remained in dismay, and proclaimed to them the joyous message, “I have seen the Lord!” This was the first preaching in the world about the Resurrection.
The Apostles proclaimed the Glad Tidings to the world, but she proclaimed it to the Apostles themselves.
Holy Scripture does not tell us about the life of Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection of Christ, but it is impossible to doubt, that if in the terrifying minutes of Christ’s Crucifixion she was at the foot of His Cross with His All-Pure Mother and Saint John, she must have stayed with them during the happier time after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Thus in the Acts of the Apostles Saint Luke writes that all the Apostles with one mind stayed in prayer and supplication, with certain women and Mary the Mother of Jesus and His brethren.
Holy Tradition testifies that when the Apostles departed from Jerusalem to preach to all the ends of the earth, then Mary Magdalene also went with them. A daring woman, whose heart was full of reminiscence of the Resurrection, she went beyond her native borders and went to preach in pagan Rome. Everywhere she proclaimed to people about Christ and His teaching. When many did not believe that Christ is risen, she repeated to them what she had said to the Apostles on the radiant morning of the Resurrection: “I have seen the Lord!” With this message she went all over Italy.
Tradition relates that in Italy Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias (14-37 A.D.) and proclaimed to him Christ’s Resurrection. According to Tradition, she brought him a red egg as a symbol of the Resurrection, a symbol of new life with the words: “Christ is Risen!” Then she told the emperor that in his Province of Judea the unjustly condemned Jesus the Galilean, a holy man, a miracleworker, powerful before God and all mankind, had been executed at the instigation of the Jewish High Priests, and the sentence confirmed by the procurator appointed by Tiberias, Pontius Pilate.
Mary repeated the words of the Apostles, that we are redeemed from the vanity of life not with perishable silver or gold, but rather by the precious Blood of Christ.
Thanks to Mary Magdalene the custom to give each other paschal eggs on the day of the Radiant Resurrection of Christ spread among Christians over all the world. In one ancient Greek manuscript, written on parchment, kept in the monastery library of Saint Athanasius near Thessalonica, is a prayer read on the day of Holy Pascha for the blessing of eggs and cheese. In it is indicated that the igumen in passing out the blessed eggs says to the brethren: “Thus have we received from the holy Fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy Apostles, therefore the holy Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering.”
Mary Magdalene continued her preaching in Italy and in the city of Rome itself. Evidently, the Apostle Paul has her in mind in his Epistle to the Romans (16: 6), where together with other ascetics of evangelic preaching he mentions Mary (Mariam), who as he expresses “has bestowed much labor on us.” Evidently, she extensively served the Church in its means of subsistence and its difficulties, being exposed to dangers, and sharing with the Apostles the labors of preaching.
According to Church Tradition, she remained in Rome until the arrival of the Apostle Paul, and for two more years following his departure from Rome after the first court judgment upon him. From Rome, Saint Mary Magdalene, already bent with age, moved to Ephesus where the holy Apostle John unceasingly labored. There the saint finished her earthly life and was buried.
Her holy relics were transferred in the ninth century to Constantinople, and placed in the monastery Church of Saint Lazarus. In the era of the Crusader campaigns they were transferred to Italy and placed at Rome under the altar of the Lateran Cathedral. Part of the relics of Mary Magdalene are said to be in Provage, France near Marseilles, where over them at the foot of a steep mountain a splendid church is built in her honor.
The Orthodox Church honors the holy memory of Saint Mary Magdalene, the woman called by the Lord Himself from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.
Formerly immersed in sin and having received healing, she sincerely and irrevocably began a new life and never wavered from that path. Mary loved the Lord Who called her to a new life. She was faithful to Him not only when He was surrounded by enthusiastic crowds and winning recognition as a miracle-worker, but also when all the disciples deserted Him in fear and He, humiliated and crucified, hung in torment upon the Cross. This is why the Lord, knowing her faithfulness, appeared to her first, and esteemed her worthy to be first to proclaim His Resurrection.
(Source: OCA) ... See MoreSee Less
The incredible example of St Maria SkobtsovaElizaveta Pilenko, the future Mother Maria, was born in 1891 in Riga, Latvia, then part of the Russian Empire, and grew up in the south of Russia on the shore of the Black Sea. Her father was mayor of the town of Anapa, while on her mother's side, she was descended from the last governor of the Bastille, the Parisian prison destroyed during the French Revolution.
Her parents were devout Orthodox Christians whose faith helped shape their daughter's values, sensitivities and goals. As a child she once emptied her piggy bank in order to contribute to the painting of an icon that would be part of a new church in Anapa. At seven she asked her mother if she was old enough to become a nun, while a year later she sought permission to become a pilgrim who spends her life walking from shrine to shrine.
At the age of 14, her father died, an event that seemed to her meaningless and unjust and led her to embrace atheism. "If there is no justice," she said, "there is no God." She decided God's nonexistence was well known to adults but kept secret from children. For her, childhood was over. When her widowed mother moved the family to Saint Petersburg in 1906, she found herself in the country's political and cultural center — also a hotbed of radical ideas and groups — and became part of radical literary circles that gathered around such symbolist poets as Alexander Blok, whom she first met at age 15. Like many of her contemporaries, she was drawn to the left, but was often disappointed at the radicals she encountered. Though regarding themselves as revolutionaries, they seemed to do nothing but talk. "My spirit longed to engage in heroic feats, even to perish, to combat the injustice of the world," she recalled. Yet no one she knew was actually laying down his or her life for others. Should her friends hear of someone dying for the Revolution, she noted, "they will value it, approve or not approve, show understanding on a very high level, and discuss the night away till the sun rises and it's time for fried eggs. But they will not understand at all that to die for the Revolution means to feel a rope around one's neck."
In 1910, she married Dimitri Kuzmin-Karaviev, a Bolshevik and part of a community of poets, artists and writers, but she later commented that it was a marriage born "more of pity than of love." In addition to politics and poetry, she and her friends also talked theology, but just as their political ideas had no connection at all to the lives of ordinary people, their theology floated far above the actual Church. There was much they might have learned, she reflected later in life, from "any old beggar woman hard at her Sunday prostrations in church." For many intellectuals, the Church was an idea or a set of abstract values, not a community in which one actually lives.
Though still regarding herself an atheist, gradually her earlier attraction to Christ revived and deepened, not yet Christ as God incarnate but Christ as heroic man. In time, she found herself drawn toward the religious faith she had abandoned after her father's death. She prayed and read the Gospel and the lives of saints and concluded that the real need of the people was not for revolutionary theories but for Christ. She wanted "to proclaim the simple word of God," she told Blok in a letter written in 1916. Desiring to study theology, she applied for admission to Saint Petersburg's Theological Academy of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, in those days an entirely male school whose students were preparing for ordination. As surprising as her wanting to study there was the rector's decision that she could be admitted.
By 1913, her marriage collapsed. Later that year, her first child, Gaiana, was born. Just as World War I was beginning, she returned with her daughter to southern Russia, where her religious life grew more intense. For a time she secretly wore lead weights sewn into a hidden belt as a way of reminding herself both "that Christ exists" and also to be more aware that minute-by-minute many people were suffering and dying in the war. She realized, however, that the primary Christian asceticism was not self-mortification, but caring response to the needs of other people.
In October 1917, she was present in Saint Petersburg when Russia's Provisional Government was overthrown by the Bolsheviks. Taking part in the All-Russian Soviet Congress, she heard Lenin's lieutenant, Leon Trotsky, dismiss people from her party with the words, "Your role is played out. Go where you belong, into history's garbage can!" She grew to see how hideously different actual revolution was from the dreams of revolution that had once filled the imagination of so many Russians! In February 1918, she was elected deputy mayor of Anapa. Eventually, she was arrested, jailed, and put on trial for collaboration with the enemy. In court, she rose and spoke in her own defence: "My loyalty was not to any imagined government as such, but to those whose need of justice was greatest, the people. Red or White, my position is the same — I will act for justice and for the relief of suffering. I will try to love my neighbor." It was thanks to Daniel Skobtsov, a former schoolmaster who was now her judge, that she avoided execution. After the trial, she sought him out to thank him. Eventually they married.
As the course of the civil war was turning in favor of the Bolsheviks, the Skobtsovs fled to Georgia, where she gave birth to a son, Yura, in 1920. A year later, having relocated to Yugoslavia, she gave birth to Anastasia, Their long journey ended with their arrival in Paris in 1923, where to supplement their income she made dolls and painted silk scarves, often working ten or twelve hours a day.
A friend introduced her to the Russian Student Christian Movement, an Orthodox association founded in 1923. She began attending lectures and other activities and felt herself coming back to life spiritually and intellectually. In 1926, she grieved the death of her daughter Anastasia. She emerged from her mourning determined to seek a "new road before me and a new meaning in life, to be a mother for all, for all who need maternal care, assistance, or protection." She devoted herself to social work and theological writing. In 1927 two volumes, Harvest of the Spirit, were published, in which she retold the lives of many saints.
In 1930, she was appointed traveling secretary of the Russian Student Christian Movement, work which put her into daily contact with impoverished Russian refugees throughout France and neighboring countries. She often lectured, but she was quick to listen to others as they related some terrible grief that had burdened them for years. She took literally Christ's words, that He was always present in the least person. "Man ought to treat the body of his fellow human being with more care than he treats his own," she wrote. "Christian love teaches us to give our fellows material as well as spiritual gifts. We should give them our last shirt and our last piece of bread. Personal alms-giving and the most wide-ranging social work are both equally justified and needed."
In time, she began to envision a new type on community, "half monastic and half fraternal," that would connect spiritual life with service to those in need, in the process showing "that a free Church can perform miracles." Father Sergei Bulgakov, her confessor, was a source of support and encouragement, as was her bishop, Metropolitan Evlogy [Georgievsky], who was responsible from 1921 to 1946 for the many thousands of Russian expatriates scattered across Europe. Recognizing her devotion to social work, and knowing of her waning marriage, he suggested to her the possibility of becoming a nun. In time, Daniel came to accept the idea after meeting with Metropolitan Evlogy. In the spring of 1932, in the chapel at Paris' Saint Sergius Theological Institute, she was professed as a nun with the name Maria. She made her monastic profession, Metropolitan Evlogy recognized, "in order to give herself unreservedly to social service." Mother Maria called it simply "monasticism in the world." Intent "to share the life of paupers and tramps," she began to look for a house of hospitality and found it at 9 villa de Saxe in Paris, which she leased with financial assistance from Metropolitan Evlogy. She began receiving guests, mainly young Russian women without jobs, giving up her own room to house them while herself sleeping on a narrow iron bedstead in the basement. A room upstairs became a chapel — she painted the iconostasis icons — while the dining room doubled as a hall for lectures and dialogues.
In need of larger facilities, a new location was found two years later in an area of Paris where many impoverished Russian refugees had settled. While at the former address she could feed only 25, here she could feed a hundred. Here her guests could regain their breath "until the time comes to stand on their two feet again." Her credo was: "Each person is the very icon of God incarnate in the world." With this recognition came the need "to accept this awesome revelation of God unconditionally, to venerate the image of God" in her brothers and sisters. As her ministry evolved, she rented other buildings, one for families in need, and another for single men. A rural property became a sanatorium. By 1937, she housed several dozen women, serving up to 120 dinners every day. Every morning, she would beg for food or buy cheaply whatever was not donated.
Despite a seemingly endless array of challenges, Mother Maria was sustained chiefly by those she served — themselves beaten down, people in despair, cripples, alcoholics, the sick, survivors of many tragedies. But not all responded to trust with trust. Theft was not uncommon. On one occasion a guest stole 25 francs. Everyone guessed who the culprit was, a drug addict, but Mother Maria refused to accuse her. Instead she announced at the dinner table that the money had not been stolen, only misplaced, and she had found it. "You see how dangerous it is to make accusations," she commented. At once the girl who stole the money burst into tears.
Mother Maria and her collaborators would not simply open the door when those in need knocked, but would actively seek out the homeless. One place to find them was an all-night café at Les Halles where those with nowhere else to go could sit for the price of a glass of wine. Children also were cared for, and a part-time school was opened at several locations. Turning her attention toward Russian refugees who had been classified insane, Mother Maria began a series of visits to mental hospitals. In each hospital five to ten percent of the Russian patients turned out to be sane and, thanks to her intervention, were released. Language barriers and cultural misunderstandings had kept them in the asylum. In time, she and her associates helped establish clinics for TB sufferers and a variety of other ministries. Another landmark was the foundation in September 1935 of a group named "Orthodox Action" — a name proposed by her friend, philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev. Cofounders included Father Sergei Bulgakov, historian George Fedotov, the scholar Constantine Mochulsky, the publisher Ilya Fondaminsky, and her long-time coworker Fedor Pianov, with Metropolitan Evgoly serving as honorary president. With financial support from supporters across Europe and the United States, a wider range of projects and centers were made possible: hostels, rest homes, schools, camps, hospital work, help to the unemployed, assistance to the elderly, publication of books and pamphlets, etc. In all of these growing ministries, Mother Maria's driving concern was that it should never lose its personal or communal character.
In October 1939, Father Dimitri Klepinin, then 35 years old, began to assist Mother Maria as she began the last phase of her life — a series of responses to World War II and Germany's occupation of France. While Mother Maria could have fled Paris when the Germans were advancing, or even sought refuge in America, she would not budge. "If the Germans take Paris, I shall stay here with my old women. Where else could I send them?" She had no illusions about the Nazi threat, which to her represented a "new paganism" bringing in its wake disasters, upheavals, persecutions and wars. With defeat came greater poverty and hunger, and the local authorities in Paris declared her house an official food distribution point, where volunteers sold at cost price whatever food Mother Maria had bought in that morning.
Russian refugees were among the particular targets of the occupiers. In June 1941, a thousand were arrested, including several close friends and collaborators of Mother Maria and Father Dimitri, who launched an aid project for prisoners and their dependents. Early in 1942, their registration now underway, Jews began to knock at Mother Maria's door, asking Father Dimitri if he would issue baptismal certificates to them. The answer was always yes. The names of those "baptized" were also duly recorded in his parish register in case there was any cross-checking by the police or Gestapo, as indeed did happen. Father Dimitri was convinced that in such a situation Christ would do the same. When the Nazis issued special identity cards for those of Russian origin living in France, with Jews being specially identified, Mother Maria and Father Dimitri refused to comply, though they were warned that those who failed to register would be regarded as citizens of the USSR — enemy aliens — and be punished accordingly.
With the subsequent mass arrest of Jews — 12,884, of whom 6,900 (two-thirds of them children) were brought to the Velodrome d'Hiver sports stadium and held for five days before being sent to Auschwitz — Mother Maria entered the stadium and for three days offered comfort to the children and their parents, distributing what food she could bring in. She even managed to rescue a number of children by enlisting the aid of garbage collectors and smuggling them out in trash bins. Meanwhile, her house house was bursting with people, many of them Jews. "It is amazing," Mother Maria remarked, "that the Germans haven't pounced on us yet." Father Dimitri, Mother Maria and their coworkers set up routes of escape to the unoccupied south. It was complex and dangerous work. Forged documents had to be obtained. A local resistance group helped secure provisions for those Mother Maria's community was struggling to feed.
On February 8, 1943, while Mother Maria was traveling, Nazi security police entered the house and found a letter in her son Yura's pocket in which Father Dimitri was asked to provide a Jew with a false baptismal document. Yura, now actively a part of his mother's work, was taken to the office of Orthodox Action, soon after followed by his distraught grandmother, Sophia Pilenko. The interrogator ordered her to bring Father Dimitri. Once the priest was there, said the interrogator, they would let Yura go. His grandmother Sophia was allowed to embrace Yura and give him a blessing. It was last time she saw him in this world.
The following morning, after celebrating the Divine Liturgy, Father Dimitri set off for the Gestapo office, where he was interrogated for four hours, making no attempt to hide his beliefs. The next day, February 10, Mother Maria was arrested and her quarters were searched. Several others were called for questioning and then held by the Gestapo. She was confined with 34 other woman at the Gestapo headquarters in Paris. Her son Yura, Father Dimitri and their coworker of many years, Feodor Pianov, were held in the same building. Pianov later recalled witnessing Father Dimitri being prod and beaten by an SS officer while Yura stood by, weeping. Father Dimitri "began to console him, saying the Christ withstood greater mockery than this."
In April, the prisoners were transferred to Compiegne, where Mother Maria was blessed with a final meeting with Yura, who said his mother "was in a remarkable state of mind and told me ... that I must trust in her ability to bear things and in general not to worry about her. Every day [Father Dimitri and I] remember her at the proskomidia ... We celebrate the Eucharist and receive Communion each day." Hours after their meeting,Mother Maria was transported to Germany.
On December 16, Yura and Father Dimitri were deported to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, followed several weeks later by Pianov. In January 1944, Father Dimitri and Yura were sent to another camp, Dora. Within ten days of arrival, Yura contracted furunculosis. On February 6, "dispatched for treatment" — a euphemism for "sentenced to death." Four days later Father Dimitri, lying on a dirt floor, died of pneumonia. His body was disposed of in the Buchenwald crematorium.
Meanwhile, Mother Maria — now "Prisoner 19,263" — was sent in a sealed cattle truck to the Ravensbruck camp in Germany, where she endured for two years, an achievement in part explained by her long experience of ascetic life. She was assigned to Block 27 and befriended the many Russian prisoners who were with her. Unable to correspond with friends, little testimony in her own words has come down to us, but prisoners who survived the war remembered her. One of them, Solange Perichon, recalls: "She was never downcast, never. She never complained.... She was full of good cheer, really good cheer. We had roll calls which lasted a great deal of time. We were woken at three in the morning and we had to stand out in the open in the middle of winter until the barracks [population] was counted. She took all this calmly and she would say, 'Well that's that. Yet another day completed. And tomorrow it will be the same all over again.' ... She allowed nothing of secondary importance to impede her contact with people."
Anticipating that her own exit point from the camp might be via the crematoria, Mother Maria asked a fellow prisoner whom she hoped would survive to memorize a message to be given at last to Father Sergei Bulgakov, Metropolitan Evlogy and her mother: "My state at present is such that I completely accept suffering in the knowledge that this is how things ought to be for me, and if I am to die, I see this as a blessing from on high." Her work in the camp varied. There was a period when she was part of a team of women dragging a heavy iron roller about the camp's pathways for 12 hours a day. In another period she worked in a knitwear workshop. Her legs began to give way. As her health declined, friends no longer allowed her to give away portions of her own food, as she had done in the past to help keep others alive.
With the Red Army approaching from the East, the concentration camp administrators further reduced food rations while greatly increasing the population of each block from 800 to 2,500. In serious decline, Mother Maria accepted a pink card freely issued to any prisoner who wished to be excused from labor because of age or ill health. In January 1945, those who had received such cards were transferred to what was called the Jugendlager — the "youth camp" — where the authorities said each person would have her own bed and abundant food. Mother Maria's transfer was on January 31. Here the food ration was further reduced and the hours spent standing for roll calls increased. Though it was mid-winter, blankets, coats and jackets were confiscated, and then even shoes and stockings. The death rate was at least fifty per day. Next all medical supplies were withdrawn. Those who still persisted in surviving now faced death by shootings and gas, the latter made possible by the construction of a gas chamber in March 1945, in which 150 were executed every day. Amazingly, Mother Maria survived five weeks in the "youth camp" before she was returned to the main camp on March 3. Though emaciated and infested with lice, with her eyes festering, she began to think she might actually live to return to Paris, or even go back to Russia.
Such was not to be the case. On March 30, 1945 — Great, Holy and Good Friday that year — Mother Maria was selected for the gas chambers, in which she perished the following day, on Great and Holy Saturday. Accounts are at odds about what happened. According to one, she was one of the many selected for death that day. According to another, she took the place of another prisoner, a Jew, who had been chosen. Although perishing in the gas chamber, she did not perish in the Church's memory. Survivors of the war who had known her would again and again draw attention to the ideas, insights and activities of the unusual nun who had spent so many years coming to the aid of people in desperate straights. Soon after the end of World War II, essays and books about her began to appear in France and Russia. A Russian film, "Mother Maria," was made in 1982. There have been two biographies in English and, little by little, the translation and publication in English of her most notable essays.
On January 18, 2004, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized Mother Maria Skobtsova as a saint, along with her son Yuri; the priest who worked closely with her, Fr. Dimitri Klépinin; and her close friend and collaborator Ilya Fondaminsky. Their glorification took place in Paris' Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky ... See MoreSee Less
TheosisThe Orthodox Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the Greek language, the word for Gospel is Evangelion which means literally "the good news."
The good news of Orthodox Christianity is a proclamation of God's unbounded and sacrificial love for mankind, as well as the revelation of the true destiny of the human person. Reflecting on the joyous message of the Gospel, Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote in the fourth century: The good news is that man is no longer an outcast nor expelled from God's Kingdom; but that he is again a son, again God's subject.
Orthodoxy believes that the supreme treasure which God wishes to share with us is His own life. Our faith begins with the affirmation that God has acted in history to permit us to participate in His love and His goodness, to be citizens of His Kingdom. This conviction is expressed so beautifully in the prayer of the Liturgy which says: "You have not ceased to do all things until You brought us to heaven and granted us the Kingdom to come."
The initiation of love of God the Father is perfectly expressed and embodied in the Person and Ministry of Jesus Christ. The whole purpose of the Incarnation of the Son of God was to restore humanity to fellowship with God.
The great teachers and Fathers and Mothers of the Orthodox Church constantly reaffirmed this conviction by proclaiming that God had become what we are in order that we could become what He is.
Christ is exalted as our Light and our Life. In His Person there is a unity of humanity and divinity which each of us is called to share. In His way of life. there is the model of authentic human life which we are invited to follow. In His victorious Resurrection, there is liberation for us from all powers which can keep us from the Kingdom. Through Christ, then, God the Father has repossessed us and has called us to be His sons and daughters.
The fundamental vocation and goal of each and every person is to share in the life of God. We have been created by God to live in fellowship with Him. The descent of God in the Person of Jesus Christ has made possible the human ascent to the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy believes that each Christian is involved in a movement toward God which is known as theosis or deification.
Theosis describes the spiritual pilgrimage in which each person becomes ever more perfect, ever more holy, ever more united with God. It is not a static relationship, nor does it take place only after death. On the contrary, theosis is a movement of love toward God which begins for each Christian with the rites of Baptism and which continues throughout this life, as well as the life which is to come. Salvation means liberation from sin, death, and evil.
Redemption means our repossession by God. In Orthodoxy, both salvation and redemption are within the context of theosis. This rich vision of Christian life was expressed well by Saint Peter when he wrote in the early pages of his second Epistle that we are called "to become partakers of the Divine nature." It was also affirmed by Saint Basil the Great when he described man as the creature who has received the order to become a god.
These are certainly bold affirmations which must be properly understood. The Orthodox Church understands theosis as a union with the energies of God and not with the essence of God which always remains hidden and unknown. However, the experience of the Church testifies that this is a true union with God. It is also one which is not pantheistic, because in this union the divine and the human retain their unique characteristics. In this sense, Orthodoxy believes that human life reaches its fulfillment only when it becomes divine.
The Holy Spirit
The ever-deepening union of each Christian with God is not a magical or automatic process. While Christ has destroyed the powers of sin, death, and evil once and for all, this victory must be appropriated by each person in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
Each person is called to join with the lifegiving and liberating Spirit in realising the fulness of human life in communion with the Father. The Holy Spirit is the agent of deification whose task it is to incorporate us into the life of the Holy Trinity. However, the Spirit always recognises our human freedom and invites our active cooperation in perfecting the "image and likeness of God" with which each of us is created.
Our participation in the life of the Holy Trinity, which we know as theosis, takes place within the Church. For the Orthodox, the Church is the meeting place between God and His people. The Holy Spirit and the Church are organically linked. In the second century, Saint Irenaeus reminded us of this by saying: "Where the Church is there is the Spirit, and where the Spirit is there is the Church."
The Holy Spirit moves through the life of the Church to reveal our common humanity in Christ and to unite us with the Father. We acquire the Holy Spirit through our celebration of the Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion, through our participation in the Sacraments, through our discipline of daily prayer, and through the practice of fasting, all of which result in a Christ-like life.
The Holy Spirit, Who is honoured as the Lord and Giver of life, is manifest in the life of the Church in order to bring our lives to perfection, and to make us responsible and loving human beings. The fruit of Worship is the gifts of the Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul identified these as: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control." Certainly, these are the virtues of a Christ-like life. They testify to the fact that the love of God and the love of neighbour are inseparable.
The Individual and the Church
The reality of theosis not only bears witness to the love of God who wishes to share Him self with us but also expresses a very positive view of the human person.
Orthodoxy believes that each person has an intrinsic value and importance in virtue of his or her unique relationship to God. The human person is never seen as being totally depraved. The "image of God" which can be distorted by sin, can never be eradicated. Through the life of the Church, there is always the opportunity for fulfilment. When the Sacraments are administered, they are always offered to the individual by name. This action not only reminds us of the dignity of each person but also emphasises the responsibility each person has for his or her relationship to God.
While Orthodoxy recognises the value of the person, it does not believe that we are meant to be isolated or self-sufficient. Each person is called to be an important member of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that one cannot be a Christian without being a part of the Church. The process of theosis takes place with the context of a believing community.
To be united with God within the midst of the Church does not mean that our unique personalities are destroyed. We are not engulfed by an impersonal force or power. As with all love which is true and valuable, God's love for each of us respects our personhood. His love is not one which destroys. God's love is one which reveals, elevates, and perfects our true selves. By entering into the life of God, we become the persons we are meant to be. ... See MoreSee Less
Happy feast of the Archangel Gabriel!
"You look upon God’s glory in heaven, and bring grace from on high to earth, wise Gabriel, leader of angels, minister of God’s glory, and divine defender of the world! Save and preserve those who cry to you: “Be our defence, so that no one can be against us!” ... See MoreSee Less
Scripture and TraditionThe Orthodox Church throughout the ages has maintained a continuity of faith and love with the apostolic community which was founded by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy believes that she has preserved and taught the historic Christian Faith, free from error and distortion, from the time of the Apostles.
She also believes that there is nothing in the body of her teachings which is contrary to truth or which inhibits real union with God. The air of antiquity and timelessness which often characterizes Eastern Christianity is an expression of her desire to remain loyal to the authentic Christian Faith.
Orthodoxy believes that the Christian Faith and the Church are inseparable. It is impossible to know Christ, to share in the life of the Holy Trinity, or to be considered a Christian, apart from the Church. It is in the Church that the Christian Faith is proclaimed and maintained. It is through the Church that an individual is nurtured in the Faith.
God is the source of faith in the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy believes that God has revealed Himself to us, most especially in the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom we know as the Son of God. This Revelation of God, His love, and His purpose, is constantly made manifest and contemporary in the life of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Orthodox Faith does not begin with mankind's religious speculations, nor with the so-called "proofs" for the existence of God, nor with a human quest for the Divine. The origin of the Orthodox Christian Faith is the Self-disclosure of God. Each day, the Church's Morning Prayer affirms and reminds us of this by declaring, "God is the Lord and He has revealed Himself to us.” While the inner Being of God always remains unknown and unapproachable, God has manifested Himself to us; and the Church has experienced Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which is central to the Orthodox Faith, is not a result of pious speculation, but of the overwhelming experience of God. The doctrine affirms that there is only One God, in whom there are three distinct Persons. In other words, when we encounter the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, we are truly experiencing contact with God.
While the Holy Trinity is a mystery which can never be fully comprehended, Orthodoxy believes that we can truly participate in the Trinity through the life of the Church, especially through our celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments, as well as the non-sacramental services.
Incarnation of Jesus Christ
Together with the belief in the Holy Trinity, the doctrine of the Incarnation occupies a central position in the teaching of the Orthodox Church. According to Orthodox Faith, Jesus is much more than a pious man or a profound teacher of morality. He is the "Son of God who became the Son of Man.” The doctrine of the Incarnation is an expression of the Church's experience of Christ. In Him, divinity is united with humanity without the destruction of either reality. Jesus Christ is truly God who shares in the same reality as the Father and the Spirit. Moreover, He is truly man who shares with us all that is human. The Church believes that, as the unique God-man, Jesus Christ has restored humanity to fellowship with God.
By manifesting the Holy Trinity, by teaching the meaning of authentic human life, and by conquering the powers of sin and death through His Resurrection, Christ is the supreme expression of the love of God the Father, for His people, made present in every age and in every place by the Holy Spirit through the life of the Church. The great Fathers of the Church summarized the ministry of Christ in the bold affirmation, "God became what we are so that we may become what He is.”
The Holy Scriptures are highly regarded by the Orthodox Church. Their importance is expressed in the fact that a portion of the Bible is read at every service of Worship. The Orthodox Church, which sees itself as the guardian and interpreter of the Scriptures, believes that the books of the Bible are a valuable witness to God's revelation.
The Old Testament is a collection of forty-nine books of various literary styles which expresses God's revelation to the ancient Israelites. The Orthodox Church regards the Old Testament as a preparation for the coming of Christ and believes that it should be read in light of His revelation.
The New Testament is centered upon the person and work of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early Church.
The four Gospels are an account of Christ's life and teaching, centering upon His Death and Resurrection.
The twenty-one epistles and the Acts of the Apostles are devoted to the Christian life and the development of the early Church. The Book of Revelation is a very symbolic text which looks to the return of Christ.
The New Testament, especially the Gospels, is very important to Orthodoxy because here is found a written witness to the perfect revelation of God in the Incarnation of the Son of God, in the person of Jesus Christ.
While the Bible is treasured as a valuable written record of God's revelation, it does not contain wholly that revelation. The Bible is viewed as only one expression of God's revelation in the ongoing life of His people. Scripture is part of the treasure of Faith which is known as Tradition.
Tradition means that which is "handed on" from one generation to another. In addition to the witness of Faith in the Scripture, the Orthodox Christian Faith is celebrated in the Eucharist; taught by the Fathers; glorified by the Saints; expressed in prayers, hymns, and icons; defended by the seven Ecumenical Councils; embodied in the Nicene Creed; manifested in social concern; and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is lived in every local Orthodox parish.
The life of the Holy Trinity is manifested in every aspect of the Church's life. Finally, the Church, as a whole, is the guardian of the authentic Christian Faith which bears witness to that Revelation.
Councils and Creed
As Orthodoxy has avoided any tendency to restrict the vision of God's revelation to only one avenue of its life, the Church has also avoided the systematic or extensive definition of its Faith.
Orthodoxy affirms that the Christian Faith expresses and points to the gracious and mysterious relationship between God and humanity. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, not to institute a new philosophy or code of conduct, but primarily to bestow upon us "new life" in the Holy Trinity. This reality, which is manifest in the Church, cannot be wholly captured in language, formulas, or definitions.
The content of the Faith is not opposed to reason, but is often beyond the bounds of reason, as are many of the important realities of life. Orthodoxy recognises the supreme majesty of God, as well as the limitations of the human mind. The Church is content to accept the element of mystery in its approach to God.
Only when the fundamental truths of the Faith are seriously threatened by false teachings does the Church act to define dogmatically an article of faith. For this reason, the decisions of the seven Ecumenical Councils of the ancient undivided Church are highly respected. The Councils were synods to which bishops from throughout the Christian world gathered to determine the true faith. The Ecumenical Councils did not create new doctrines but proclaimed, in a particular place and a particular time, what the Church has always believed and taught.
The Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the Councils of Nicaea in 325 and of Constantinople in 381, has been recognised since then as the authoritative expression of the fundamental beliefs of the Orthodox Church.
The Creed is often referred to as the "Symbol of Faith." This description indicates that the Creed is not an analytical statement, but that it points to a reality greater than itself and to which it bears witness. For generations, the Creed has been the criterion of authentic Faith and the basis of Christian education. The Creed is recited at the time of Baptism and during every Divine Liturgy.
"I believe in One God, Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in One Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made.
For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became Man.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and He suffered and was buried.
On the third day He rose according to the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.
In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
I expect the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the age to come.
Amen." ... See MoreSee Less
Would you like to see all of Katherines work in one complete collection? Meet saints you know and saints you haven’t all together. She is creating icons based on these which Patreons can watch and online lessons coming soon. ... See MoreSee Less
The Holy SacramentsOne of the best-known prayers of the Orthodox Church speaks of the spirit of God being "present in all places and filling all things." This profound affirmation is basic to Orthodoxy's understanding of God and His relationship to the world. We believe that God is truly near to us. Although He cannot be seen, God is not detached from His creation. Through the persons of The Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit, God is present and active in our lives and in the creation about us. All our life and the creation of which we are an important part, points, to and reveals God.
There are special experiences in our corporate life as Orthodox Christians when the perception of God's presence and actions is heightened and celebrated. We call these events of the Church Sacraments. Traditionally, the Sacraments have been known as Mysteries in the Orthodox Church. This description emphasizes that in these special events of the Church, God discloses Himself through the prayers and actions of His people.
Not only do the Sacraments disclose and reveal God to us, but also they serve to make us receptive to God. All the Sacraments affect our personal relationship to God and to one another. The Holy Spirit works through the Sacraments. He leads us to Christ who unites us with the Father. By participating in the Sacraments, we grow closer to God and to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This process of deification, or theosis, as it is known by Orthodoxy, takes place not in isolation from others, but within the context of a believing community. Although the Sacraments are addressed to each of us by name, they are experiences which involve the entire Church.
The Sacraments of the Orthodox Church are composed of prayers, hymns, scripture lessons, gestures and processions. Many parts of the services date back to the time of the Apostles. The Orthodox Church has avoided reducing the Sacraments to a particular formula or action. Often, a whole series of sacred acts make up a Sacrament. Most of the Sacraments use a portion of the material of creation as an outward and visible sign of God's revelation. Water, oil, bread and wine are but a few of the many elements which the Orthodox Church employs in her Worship. The frequent use of the material of creation reminds us that matter is good and can become a medium of the Spirit. Most importantly, it affirms the central truth of the Orthodox Christian faith: that God became flesh in Jesus Christ and entered into the midst of creation thereby redirecting the cosmos toward its vocation to glorify its Creator.
The Holy Eucharist, which is known as the Divine Liturgy, is the central and most important worship experience of the Orthodox Church. Often referred to as the "Sacrament of Sacraments", it is the Church's celebration of the Death and Resurrection of Christ offered every Sunday and Holy day. All the other Sacraments of the Church lead toward and flow from the Eucharist, which is at the centre of the life of the Church.
The Sacrament of Baptism incorporates us into the Church, the Body of Christ, and is our introduction to the life of the Holy Trinity. Water is a natural symbol of cleansing and newness of life. Through the three-fold immersion in the waters of Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity, one dies to the old ways of sin and is born to a new life in Christ. Baptism is one's public identification with Christ Death and victorious Resurrection. Following the custom of the early Church, Orthodoxy encourages the baptism of infants. The Church believes that the Sacrament is bearing witness to the action of God who chooses a child to be an important member of His people. From the day of their baptism, children are expected to mature in the life of the Spirit, through their family and the Church. The Baptism of adults is practiced when there was no previous baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity.
The Sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation) immediately follows baptism and is never delayed until a later age. As the ministry of Christ was enlivened by the Spirit, and the preaching of the Apostles strengthened by the Spirit, so is the life of each Orthodox Christian sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Chrismation, which is often referred to as one's personal Pentecost, is the Sacrament which imparts the Spirit in a special way.
In the Sacrament of Chrismation, the priest anoints the various parts of the body of the newly-baptised with Holy Oil saying: "The seal of the gifts of the Holy Spirit." The Holy Oil, which is blessed by the bishop, is a sign of consecration and strength. The Sacrament emphasizes the truths that not only is each person a valuable member of the Church, but also each one is blessed by the Spirit with certain gifts and talents. The anointing also reminds us that our bodies are valuable and are involved in the process of salvation.
The Sacraments of initiation always are concluded with the distribution of Holy Communion to the newly-baptised. Ideally, this takes place within the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. This practice reveals that Orthodoxy views children from their infancy as important members of the Church. There is never time when the young are not part of God's people.
As members of the Church, we have responsibilities to one another and, of course, to God. When we sin, our relationship to God and to others is distorted. Sin is ultimately alienation from God, from our fellow human beings, and from our own true self which is created in God's image and likeness.
Confession is the Sacrament through which our sins are forgiven, and our relationship to God and to others is restored and strengthened. Through the Sacrament, Christ our Lord continues to heal those broken in spirit and restore the Father's love to those who are lost. According to Orthodox teaching, the penitent confess to God and is forgiven by God. The priest is the sacramental witness who represents both Christ and His people. The priest is viewed not as a judge, but as a physician and guide. It is an ancient Orthodox practice for every Christian to have a spiritual father to whom one turns for spiritual advice and counsel. Confession can take place on any number of occasions. The frequency is left to the discretion of the individual. In the event of serious sin, however, confession is a necessary preparation for Holy Communion.
God is active in our lives. It is He who joins a man and a woman in a relationship of mutual love. The Sacrament of Marriage bears witness to His action. Through this Sacrament, a man and a woman are publicly joined as husband and wife. They enter into a new relationship with each other, God, and the Church. Since Marriage is not viewed as a legal contract, there are no vows in the Sacrament. According to Orthodox teachings, Marriage is not simply a social institution, it is an eternal vocation of the kingdom. A husband and a wife are called by the holy Spirit not only to live together but also to share their Christian life together so that each, with the aid of the other, may grow closer to God and become the persons they are meant to be. In the Orthodox Marriage Service, after the couple have been betrothed and exchanged rings, they are crowned with "crowns of glory and honour" signifying the establishment of a new family under God. Near the conclusion of the Service, the husband and wife drink from a common cup which is reminiscent of the wedding of Cana and which symbolised the sharing of the burdens and joys of their new life together.
The Holy Spirit preserved the continuity of the Church through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Through ordination, men who have been chosen from within the Church are set apart by the Church for special service to the Church. Each is called by God through His people to stand amid the community, as pastor and teacher, and as the representative of the parish before the Altar. Each is also a living icon of Christ among His people. According to Orthodox teaching, the process of ordination begins with the local congregation; but the bishop alone, who acts in the name of the universal Church, can complete the action. He does so with the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the imposition of his hands on the person being ordained.
Following the custom of the Apostolic Church, there are three major orders each of which requires a special ordination. These are Bishop, who is viewed as a successor of the Apostles, Priest and Deacon, who act in the name of the Bishop. Each order is distinguished by its pastoral responsibilities. Only a Bishop may ordain. Often, other titles and offices are associated with the three orders. The Orthodox Church permits men to marry before they are ordained. Since the sixth century, Bishops have been chosen from the celibate clergy.
Anointing of the Sick (Holy Unction)
When one is ill and in pain, this can very often be a time of life when one feels alone and isolated. The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, or Holy Unction as it is also known, remind us that when we are in pain, either physical, emotional, or spiritual, Christ is present with us through the ministry of his Church. He is among us to offer strength to meet the challenges of life, and even the approach of death.
As with Chrismation, oil is also used in this Sacrament as a sign of God's presence, strength, and forgiveness. After the reading of seven epistle lessons, seven gospel lessons and the offering of seven prayers, which are all devoted to healing, the priest anoints the body with the Holy Oil. Orthodoxy does not view this Sacrament as available only to those who are near death. It is offered to all who are sick in body, mind, or spirit. The Church celebrates the Sacrament for all its members during Holy week on Holy Wednesday.
Other Sacraments and Blessings
The Orthodox Church has never formally determined a particular number of Sacraments. In addition to the Eucharist she accepts the above six Mysteries as major Sacraments because they involve the entire community and most importantly are closely related to the Eucharist. There are many other Blessings and Special Services which complete the major Sacraments, and which reflect the Church's presence throughout the lives of her people. ... See MoreSee Less
Special services and blessingsAt the centre of the life of the Church is the Holy Eucharist, which is the principal celebration of our faith and the means through which we participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity. The major Sacraments are closely related to the Eucharist and they bear witness to the continuing presence of Christ in the lives of His people.
Besides the Eucharist and the major Sacraments, the Orthodox Church has a number of Special Services and Blessings which are associated with the needs, events, and tasks of human life. In celebrating these various Services and Blessings, the Church is constantly bearing witness to the presence and action of God in our lives. Our God is one who loves us, cares for us, and is near to us. The liturgical Services and Blessings also serve to remind us that all of life is important, and that the many events and gifts of life can be directed toward God and receive their fulfilment in Him.
The Special Services are often referred to as Non-sacramental Services in the sense that they are events of community worship which are not usually counted among the major Sacraments. However, they clearly have a sacramental quality in the sense that they reveal the presence of the Holy Trinity. Many of these Services, such as the Funeral, the Blessing of Water, and the Entrance into Monastic Life, just to name a few, are very significant to the life of the Church. The various Blessings are brief ceremonies which are occasional and do not necessarily involve directly the entire parish community.
The Church blesses individuals, events such as trips, and objects such as icons, churches, flowers, fields, animals, and food. In so doing, the Church is not only expressing our thanks giving, but also affirming that no gift, event, or human responsibility is secular or detached from God. For the Orthodox Christian, all good things have God as their origin and goal. Nothing is outside of God's love and concern.
The death of a Christian not only affects the family, but also the entire Church, for we are all part of the Body of Christ. The Orthodox Funeral Service, which expresses this fact, is not to be seen primarily as an opportunity to extol, in a sentimental way, the virtues of an individual. Rather, the various prayers and hymns emphasize the harsh reality of death, as well as the victorious Resurrection of Christ through which the power of death is conquered. The Funeral Service comforts those who mourn; it is also the means through which the Church prays for one of its members who has died in the faith of Christ. Orthodoxy views the end of physical existence only as the termination of one stage of life. God's love is stronger than death, and the Resurrection of Christ bears witness to this power.
The Orthodox Funeral consists of three Services. First, there is a Vigil Service after death, which is usually conducted at the time of the wake. This service is called the Trisagion Service. The Church prays to Christ "to give rest with the Saints to the soul of Your servant where there is neither pain, grief, nor sighing but life everlasting." While the Church prays for the soul of the deceased, great respect is paid to the body.
Orthodoxy believes the body of the Christian is sacred since it was the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
The body will share also in the final restoration of all creation. The Funeral Service is continued at the Church, where the body is brought on the day of burial. After the Funeral Service, the congregation offers its Farewell to the deceased. The Trisagion Service is repeated at the graveside.
Death alters but does not destroy the bond of love and faith which exists among all the members of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that through our prayers, those "who have fallen asleep in the faith and the hope of the Resurrection" continue to have opportunity to grow closer to God. Therefore, the Church prays constantly for her members who have died in Christ. We place our trust in the love of God and the power of mutual love and forgiveness. We pray that God will forgive the sins of the faithful departed, and that He will receive them into the company of Saints in the heavenly Kingdom.
The Orthodox Church remembers the departed in the prayers of every Divine Liturgy. Besides this, there is a Memorial Service in which the Church also remembers the dead. According to tradition, the Memorial Service is offered on the third, ninth, and fortieth day after a death, as well as on the yearly anniversary of the death. In addition to these times, the Memorial Service is always offered for all the faithful departed on four "Saturdays of the souls." These are: the two Saturdays preceding Great Lent; the first Saturday of Great Lent; and, the Saturday before Pentecost.
When the Memorial Service is offered, it is customary for the family of the deceased to bring a dish of boiled wheat to the Church. The boiled wheat is placed on a table in the centre of the nave during the Service. The wheat, known as kollyva, is a symbol of the Resurrection. When speaking of the Resurrection, our Lord said: "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
The Great Blessing of Water
Epiphany, one of the oldest and most important Feast days of the Orthodox Church, commemorates the manifestation of the Holy Trinity which took place at the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River. Recognising rich meaning in this event, Orthodoxy believes that when Christ was baptised, it not only marked the beginning of its public ministry and revealed the Trinity, but also signified that the entire creation is destined to share in the glory of redemption in Christ. While Christ entered into the Jordan to be baptised, two things were happening: He was identifying Himself with the people He had come to save; and, He was identifying Himself with the whole of Creation which was represented by water. Through His baptism, the Lord revealed the value of the created world and He redirected it toward its Creator. Creation is good and it belongs to God.
The Great Blessing of Water is held on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany and on the day itself, following the Divine Liturgy. The Blessing not only remembers the event of Our Lord's baptism and the revelation of the Holy Trinity but also expresses Orthodoxy's belief that creation is sanctified through Christ. The Blessing affirms that humanity and the created world, of which we are a part, were created to be filled with the sanctifying presence of God. After the solemn blessing, the Holy Water is distributed to the faithful and is used to bless homes during the Epiphany season. When the faithful drink the "Epiphany Water," we are reminded of our own baptism. When the Church blesses an individual, or object, or event with the water, we are affirming that those baptised, their surroundings, and their responsibilities are sanctified through Christ and brought into the Kingdom of the Father through the Spirit.
In addition to the Great Blessing of Water, there is a Lesser Blessing of Water service which can take place at anytime. Usually, it is celebrated when a home is blessed, on the first day of the month, the beginning of the school year, and beginning of new responsibilities.
The Blessing of Bread; Artoklasia
The Blessing of Five Loaves of Bread is a brief service of thanksgiving through which we express our gratitude for all the blessings of life. Oil, wine, wheat, and the loaves of bread which are used in the service, are viewed as the most basic elements necessary for life. The Blessing reminds us of the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish by which Christ fed the multitude. This Blessing is usually offered during Vespers or after the Divine Liturgy on Feast days and other special occasions. After the Service, the bread is cut and distributed to the congregation.
The Orthodox Church worships God alone. Yet, she does offer veneration to individuals who have been important human instruments of God in the history of salvation. Among those so venerated is Mary, the Mother of God the Theotokos. The Orthodox Church greatly honours Mary because she was chosen to give birth to the Son of God. As one of the hymns declares:
"By singing praise to your maternity, we exalt you as a spiritual temple, Theotokos. For the One Who dwelt within your womb, the Lord who holds all things in his hands, sanctified you, glorified you, and taught all to sing to you ... “
The most beautiful and poetic service of the Orthodox Church in honour of Mary, the Theotokos, is the Akathist Hymn. The word akathist means without sitting. The congregation stands throughout the Service out of respect for Mary and her unique role in our salvation in Christ.
The Service of Supplication: Paraklesis
The Service of Supplication, which is also known as Paraklesis, is one offered especially at times of sickness, temptation, or discouragement. The various prayers ask the Lord for guidance, personal strength, and healing. Many of the hymns and prayers are directed toward Mary, the Theotokos, and they ask for her assistance. Orthodoxy affirms that each of us, with Mary, the Saints, and the faithful departed is united in a bond of faith and love in Christ. Therefore, just as in this life we can turn to each other for prayer, the Church believes that we can also turn to Mary - the human being closest to God - and ask her to pray to God for us. This belief is expressed in the hymn which says:
"O never failing protectress of Christians and their ever-present intercessor before the Creator; despise not the petitions or sinners who have recourse to you, by your goodness extend your help to us to call upon you with confidence. O Theotokos, intercede for us, you who have always protected those who honour you.”
There are two forms of the Service of Supplication: the Greater and the Lesser. It is Lesser Service of Supplication which is briefer and the one most frequently offered. Both forms of the Service are offered during first fourteen days of August which precedes the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos celebrated on August 15th. ... See MoreSee Less
There Is Hope for Us All: Homily for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in the Orthodox ChurchBy: Fr Philip LeMasters
None of us can tell the story of our lives without pointing to particular persons we have known and who have shaped us. In our families and friendships, people are not interchangeable, for we are all unique in our relationships with one another and with God. We play particular roles that are coloured by our character, personal history, and distinctive blend of strengths and weaknesses. That is also how it is in the life of the Church. Particular people matter.
Today we celebrate two of the most glorious Saints of the Christian faith. They are both pillars of the Church, apostles, and martyrs whose unique personalities and experiences have made decisive and permanent contributions to the Body of Christ. Saint Peter was the head disciple whose confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” is the rock on which Christ, our true foundation, has built His Church. The gospels describe Peter’s presence at so many crucial moments in the ministry of the Lord, including at His arrest when Peter, who had so clearly confessed Him earlier and vowed never to abandon Him, denied Him three times. Of course, the risen Christ restored Peter by asking him three times if he loved Him and giving him the command to feed His sheep as a shepherd of the flock of Christians. And in the book of Acts, we see Peter boldly proclaiming the good news, performing miracles, and playing a key role in welcoming Gentiles into the Church. After serving as the first bishop of Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians, then he went to serve in Rome. Peter was crucified there upside down for his faith in Jesus Christ, for by Peter’s own request he was unworthy to die in the same way as His Saviour.
That St. Paul plays a glorious role in the formation of the faith is obvious to anyone who knows the New Testament, for he wrote so much of it. He travelled for decades founding and supporting churches, especially among Gentiles. Paul himself was Jewish and had been a strict Pharisee who had persecuted Christians. But on the road to Damascus, the risen Lord appeared to Him in a blinding light and called him to repentance and the shocking ministry of bringing Gentiles into the Body of Christ through faith, not circumcision and obedience to the Old Testament law. Perhaps more than anyone else, Paul made clear that the Christian faith is not a sect of Judaism primarily for people of a particular ethnic and religious heritage, but instead good news for all people, regardless of their ancestry.
As today’s epistle passage reminds us, Paul’s ministry was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. He was beaten, imprisoned, humiliated, and ultimately martyred in Rome for his faith in Jesus Christ. He knew both the heights of spiritual ecstasy and the chronic challenge of a “thorn in the flesh” that God did not remove, despite his three-fold request. Whatever that thorn may have been, Paul learned through his sufferings the sufficiency of God’s strength for him. God’s “strength is made perfect in (Paul’s) weakness.“ As the apostle said of himself, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When we study the lives of these two great saints, we do not see people who made no mistakes or who were rich, famous, or without problems. These were real human beings who fell short, repented, grew over time in their understanding, and faced such opposition that both suffered capital punishment at the hands of the pagan Romans. They gained absolutely no worldly advantages by their faithful ministry, but their selfless service strengthened the Church in ways too numerous to count. We are here today as Orthodox Christians because of what God did through them and so many other lesser known apostles, martyrs, and evangelists across the ages.
In order to celebrate worthily the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul, we must go beyond praising them with our words. We must participate personally in the holiness so evident in them. In other words, we must become like them in a way appropriate to our particular calling and location. For just as God used a fisherman and a Pharisee with given sets of strengths and weaknesses to His glory, He intends to do likewise with each of us. The first century is long gone, but there is plenty of time left in the twenty-first century for us to hear and respond to the same risen Lord who called Peter to feed His sheep and Paul to become a missionary to the Gentiles. Like the Ephesians to whom Paul wrote, we too have become “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone…” (Eph. 2:19-20)
Each generation is like a new story added to the building or a new branch growing on a tree. Even as we find our personal history in the previous generations of our families, we take our spiritual life from the living history of what the Holy Spirit has done through each generation in the life of the Church. We are called to make present in our day the same faithfulness that we see in those who have gone before us, but we do so as unique, unrepeatable persons called to grow in the divine likeness and to find the fullness of our identity through union with the Lord like an iron left in the fire. Just as a fisherman and a Pharisee became radiant with the divine energies through their repentance and steadfast dedication to Christ, the same can be true of us.
We may think, however, that we are simply too sinful to achieve such spiritual heights. We know that we fall short and may be ashamed even to think of becoming like these great saints. Remember for just a moment, however, that Peter denied Christ three times at His arrest and Paul persecuted Christians to the point of death. If they can repent, follow Jesus Christ faithfully, and have such exalted roles in the life of the Church, who are we to excuse ourselves from whatever God wants of us in our families, our parish, our work, or whatever it might be? In all likelihood, we will live and serve in obscurity and face obstacles much smaller than the brutal persecution these great saints endured.
As well, we may be tempted to think that they were so much stronger than we are. Remember that St. Paul found God’s strength precisely in his weakness, in his infirmities and pains that opened his life to the gracious power of God. St. Peter must have felt weak when the Lord said “Get behind me, Satan” to him when he tried to explain to Christ that He would not be rejected and killed. And could there be any greater moment of weakness than when the disciple who boasted that he would never abandon the Saviour did so at his arrest by denying Him three times?
Our moments of weakness are probably less dramatic, but they are no less real. We find it hard to do the basics of the Christian life: forgive our enemies; pray each day and fast regularly; attend the Divine Liturgy and other services of the Church whenever possible; take Confession on a regular basis and especially when we have a guilty conscience about a grave sin; give generously to the poor; visit the sick and lonely; and guard our hearts and minds from the moral decay that permeates our culture.
When we are aware of our weaknesses, we are in the perfect place to follow in the way of the fisherman and the Pharisee who in humble repentance found a strength that makes up what is lacking, heals infirmities, and even conquers sin and death. Let us not use a false sense of humility to excuse ourselves from true discipleship as we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Instead, we must follow their example as the unique people we are, with all our strengths, failings, and peculiarities, for from the very beginning of the faith, that is the only way that anyone has become a saint. ... See MoreSee Less
Worship in the Orthodox ChurchO Come, let us Worship and bow down before our King and God.
O Come, let us worship and bow down before Christ, our King and God.
O Come, let us worship and bow down to Christ Himself, our King and God.
This invitation marks the beginning of each day for the Orthodox Church. It comes from the office of Vespers, and it expresses the attitude which is at the heart of Orthodoxy. The Worship of God - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, - is fundamental to the life and spirit of the Orthodox Church.
Since Worship is so important to Orthodoxy, the best introduction to the Orthodox Church is for the non-Orthodox to attend the Divine Liturgy or the celebration of one of the major Sacraments. At first, the visitor may be overwhelmed by the music and the ceremonies, but it is in Worship that the distinctive flavour, rich traditions, and living faith of Orthodoxy are truly experienced.
Dimensions Of Worship
Worship is an experience which involves the entire Church. When each of us comes together for Worship, we do so as members of a Church which transcends the boundaries of society, of time and of space.
Although we gather at a particular moment and at a particular place, our actions reach beyond the parish, into the very Kingdom of God. We worship in the company of both the living and the departed faithful.
There are two dimensions to Orthodox Worship which are reflected throughout the many Services of the Church. First, Worship is a manifestation of God’s presence and action in the midst of His people. It is God who gathers His scattered people together, and it is He who reveals Himself as we enter into His presence. The Worship of the Orthodox Church very vividly expresses the truth that God dwells among His people and that we are created to share in His life.
Second, Worship is our corporate response of thanksgiving to the presence of God and a remembrance of His saving actions - especially the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Orthodox Worship is centred upon God. He has acted in history, and He continues to act through the Holy Spirit. We are mindful of His actions and we respond to His love with praise and thanksgiving. In so doing we come closer to God.
Expressions Of Worship
Worship in the Orthodox Church is expressed in four principal ways:
The Eucharist, which is the most important worship experience of Orthodoxy. Eucharist means thanksgiving and is known in the Orthodox Church as the Divine Liturgy.
The Sacraments, which affirm God’s presence and action in the important events of our Christian lives. All the major Sacraments are closely related to the Eucharist. These are: Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the sick.
Special Services and Blessings, which also affirm God’s presence and action in all the events, needs and tasks of our life.
The Daily Offices, which are the services of public prayer which occur throughout the day. The most important are Matins, which is the morning prayer of the Church, and Vespers, which is the evening prayer of the Church.
Although Orthodox Services can very often be elaborate, solemn, and lengthy, they express a deep and pervasive sense of joy. This mood is an expression of our belief in the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of humanity, which are dominant themes of Orthodox Worship. In order to enhance this feeling and to encourage full participation, Services are always sung or chanted.
Worship is not simply expressed in words. In addition to prayers, hymns, and scripture readings, there are a number of ceremonies, gestures, and processions. The Church makes rich use of non-verbal symbols to express God’s presence and our relationship to Him. Orthodox Worship involves the whole person; one’s intellect, feelings, and senses.
Services in the Orthodox Church follow a prescribed order. There is a framework and design to our Worship. This is valuable in order to preserve its corporate dimension and maintain a continuity with the past. The content of the Services is also set. There are unchanging elements; and there are parts which change according to the Feast, season, or particular circumstance.
The regulating of the Services by the whole Church emphasises the fact that Worship is an expression of the entire Church, and not the composition of a particular priest and congregation.
An important secondary purpose of Worship is the teaching of the Faith. There is a very close relationship between the Worship and the teachings of the Church. Faith is expressed in Worship, and Worship serves to strengthen and communicate Faith. As a consequence, the prayers, hymns, and liturgical gestures of Orthodoxy are important mediums of teaching. The regulating of the Services also serves to preserve the true Faith and to guard it against error.
The celebration of the Divine Liturgy and the Sacraments is always led by an ordained clergymen. In the local parish, this will generally be a priest who acts in the name of the bishop, and who is sometime assisted by a deacon. When the bishop is present, he presides at the Services.
The vestments of the clergy express their special calling to the ministry as well as their particular office. Since Worship in Orthodoxy is an expression of the entire Church the active participation and involvement of the congregation is required.
There are no “private” or “said” Services in the Orthodox Church and none may take place without a congregation. This strong sense of community is expressed in the prayers and exhortations which are in the plural tense.
The congregation is expected to participate actively in the Services in ways such as: singing the hymns; concluding the prayers with “Amen” responding to the petitions; making the sign of the Cross; bowing; and, especially, by receiving Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy.
Standing is the preferred posture of prayer in the Orthodox Church. The congregation kneels only at particularly solemn moments.
The Litany is an important part of Orthodox Services. A litany is a dialogue between the priest or deacon and the congregation, which consists of a number of prayer-petitions, followed by the response “Lord, have mercy” or “Grant this, O Lord”. Litanies occur frequently throughout the Services and often serve to distinguish particular sections.
Orthodox Worship has always been celebrated in the language of the people. There is no official or universal liturgical language. Often, two or more languages are used in the Services to accommodate the needs of the congregation. Throughout the world, Services are celebrated in more than twenty languages which include such diverse ones as Greek, Slavonic, Arabic, Albanian, Romanian, English, and Luganda.
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Frederica Matthews-Green: An overview of the Divine Liturgy ... See MoreSee Less
The Holy Eucharist“We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendour or beauty anywhere on earth. We cannot describe it to you, we only know that God dwells there among men and that their Service surpasses the worship of all other places.”
In the latter part of the tenth century, Vladimir the Prince of Kiev sent envoys to various Christian centres to study their form of worship. These are the words the envoys uttered when they reported their presence at the celebration of the Eucharist in the Great Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople. The profound experience expressed by the Russian envoys has been one shared by many throughout the centuries who have witnessed for the first time the beautiful and inspiring Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church.
The Holy Eucharist is the oldest experience of Christian Worship as well as the most distinctive. Eucharist comes from the Greek word which means thanksgiving. In a particular sense, the word describes the most important form of the Church’s attitude toward all of life.
The origin of the Eucharist is traced to the Last Supper at which Christ instructed His disciples to offer bread and wine in His memory. The Eucharist is the most distinctive event of Orthodox worship because in it the Church gathers to remember and celebrate the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ and, thereby, to participate in the mystery of Salvation.
In the Orthodox Church, the Eucharist is also known as the Divine Liturgy. The word liturgy means people’s work; this description serves to emphasise the corporate character of the Eucharist. When an Orthodox attends the Divine Liturgy, it is not as an isolated person who comes simply to hear a sermon.
Rather, he comes as a member of the Community of Faith who participates in the very purpose of the Church, which is the Worship of the Holy Trinity. Therefore, the Eucharist is truly the centre of the life of the Church and the principal means of spiritual development, both for the individual Christian and the Church as a whole. Not only does the Eucharist embody and express the Christian faith in a unique way, but it also enhances and deepens our faith in the Trinity. This sacrament-mystery is the experience toward which all the other activities of the Church are directed and from which they receive their direction.
The Eucharist, the principal sacrament mystery of the Orthodox Church, is not so much a text to be studied, but rather an experience of communion with the Living God in which prayer , music, gestures, the material creation, art and architecture come into full orchestration.
The Eucharist is a celebration of faith which touches not only the mind but also the emotions and the senses. Throughout the centuries, Christians have seen many dimensions in the Eucharist. The various titles which have come to describe the rite bear witness to the richness of its meaning. The Eucharist has been known as the Holy offering, the Holy Mysteries, the Mystic Supper, and the Holy Communion.
The Orthodox Church recognises the many facets of the Eucharist and wisely refuses to over-emphasize one element to the detriment of the others. In so doing, Orthodoxy has clearly avoided reducing the Eucharist to a simple memorial of the Last Supper which is only occasionally observed.
Following the teachings of both Scripture and Tradition, the Orthodox Church believes that Christ is truly present with His people in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine become for us His Body and His Blood. We affirm that these Holy Gifts are transfigured into the first fruits of the New Creation in which ultimately God will be “all in all”.
As it is celebrated today, the Divine Liturgy is a product of historical development. The fundamental core of the liturgy dates from the time of Christ and the Apostles. To this, prayers, hymns, and gestures have been added throughout the centuries. The liturgy achieved a basic framework by the ninth century.
There are three forms of the Eucharist presently in use in the Orthodox Church:
The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which is the most frequently celebrated.
The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, which is celebrated only ten times a year.
The Liturgy of St. James, which is celebrated on October 23, the feast day of the Saint.
While these saints did not compose the entire liturgy which bears their names, it is probable that they did author many of the prayers. The structure and basic elements of the three liturgies are similar, although there are differences in some hymns and prayers.
In addition to these Liturgies, there is also the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts. This is not truly a Eucharistic liturgy but rather an evening Vesper Service followed by the distribution of Holy Communion reserved from the previous Sunday. This liturgy is celebrated only on weekday mornings or evenings during Lent, and on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week, when the full Eucharist is not permitted because of its Resurrection spirit. The Eucharist expresses the deep joy which is so central to the Gospel.
The Divine Liturgy is properly celebrated only once a day. This custom serves to emphasise and maintain the unity of the local congregation. The Eucharist is always the principal Service on Sundays and Holy Days and may be celebrated on other weekdays. However, the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated by the priest privately, without a congregation. The Eucharist is usually celebrated in the morning but, with the Bishop’s blessing, may be offered in the evening.
The Actions of Divine Liturgy
The Divine Liturgy may be divided into two major parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the Faithful, which are preceded by the Service of Preparation.
Although there are many symbolic interpretations of the Divine Liturgy, the most fundamental meaning is found in the actions and prayers.
The Service of Preparation
Prior to the beginning of the Liturgy, the priest prepares himself with prayer and then precedes to vest himself. The vestments express his priestly ministry as well as his office. Next, the priest goes to the Proskomide Table which is on the left side of the Altar Table in the Sanctuary. There, he prepares the offering of bread and wine for the Liturgy. Ideally, the leavened loaves of bread, and the wine from which the offering is taken, are prepared by members of the congregation.
The elements are presented to the priest before the service, together with the names of those persons, living and dead, who are to be remembered during the Divine Liturgy. The offering symbolizes the entire Church gathered about Christ, the Lamb of God.
The Liturgy of the Catechumens
The Divine Liturgy begins with the solemn declaration: “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit now and for ever ant to the ages of ages”.
With these words we are reminded that in the Divine Liturgy the Church becomes a real manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth.
Since the first part of the Liturgy was designed originally for the Catechumens, those being schooled in the faith, had a very instructive quality. The Eucharist also has elements which are in common with other Services. We gather as Christians who share a common faith in the Holy Trinity. We sing and pray as a people united in Christ, who are not bound by time, space, or social barriers.
The Little Entrance is the central action of the first part of the Liturgy. A procession takes place in which the priest carries the Book of Gospels from the sanctuary into the nave. The procession directs our attention to the Scripture and to the presence of Christ in the Gospel. The entrance leads to the Epistle lesson and the Gospel.
The Liturgy of the Faithful
In the early Church, only those who were baptised and not in a state of sin were permitted to remain for this most solemn part of the Liturgy. With the Great Entrance marking the beginning of this part of the Liturgy, the offering of bread and wine is brought by the priest from the Preparation Table, through the nave, and to the Altar Table.
Before the offering can proceed, however, we are called upon to love one another so that we may perfectly confess our faith. In the early Church, the Kiss of Peace was exchanged at this point. After the symbolic kiss of Peace, we join together in professing our Faith through the words of the Creed.
Only now can we properly offer our gifts of bread and wine to the Father as our Lord directed us to do in His memory. This offering is one of great joy, for through it we remember the mighty actions of God through which we have received the gift of salvation, and especially the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. We invoke the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and upon our offering, asking the Father that they become for us the Body and Blood of Christ.
Through our thanking and remembering the Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Risen Christ in our midst. The priest comes from the altar with the Holy Gifts, inviting the congregation to draw near with reverence of God, with faith, and with love.
Our sharing in the Eucharist Gifts not only expresses our fellowship with one another, but also our unity with the Father in His Kingdom.
Individuals approach the Holy Gifts and receive the Eucharistic bread and wine from the common chalice. The priest distributes the Holy Gifts by means of a communion spoon. Since the Holy Communion is an expression of our Faith, reception of the Holy Gifts is open only to those who are baptised, chrismated, and practicing members of the Orthodox Church.
The Liturgy comes to an end with prayer of Thanksgiving and the Benediction. At the conclusion of the Eucharist, the congregation comes forward to receive a portion of the liturgical bread which was not used for the offering.
Gospels on the Last Supper: Matthew 26:17–29, Mark 14:12–25, Luke 22:7-23
Gospel on the Eucharist being the body and blood of Christ: John 6:22-71 ... See MoreSee Less
Happy feast of Sts Peter and Febronia, the patron saints of newly weds.
Holy Prince Peter (David in monasticism) and Holy Princess Febronia (Euphrosyne in monasticism), Wonderworkers of Murom. Prince Peter was the second son of the Murom prince Yuri Vladimirovich. He entered upon the throne of Murom in the year 1203. Several years before this Saint Peter had fallen ill with leprosy, from which no one was able to heal him. In a vision it was revealed to the prince that the daughter of a bee-keeper would be able to heal him: the pious maiden Febronia, a peasant of Laskova village in Ryazan gubernia. Saint Peter sent his emissaries to this village.
When the prince saw Saint Febronia, he fell in love with her because of her piety, wisdom and virtue, and vowed to marry her after being healed. Saint Febronia healed the prince and became his wife. The holy couple loved each other through all their ordeals. The haughty boyars did not wish to have a princess of common origin, and they urged that the prince leave her. Saint Peter refused, and so they banished the couple. They sailed off on a boat from their native city along the River Oka, and Saint Febronia continued to console Saint Peter. Soon the wrath of God fell upon the city of Murom, and the people begged the prince return together with Saint Febronia.
The holy couple was famous for their piety and charity. They died on the same day and hour, June 25, 1228, having received the monastic tonsure with the names David and Evphrosyne. The bodies of the saints were put in the same grave.
Sts Peter and Febronia showed themselves exemplary models of Christian marriage, and are considered as the patron saints of newly-weds. ... See MoreSee Less
Nativity of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John(Source: OCA)
The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The Gospel (Luke. 1: 5) relates that the righteous parents of Saint John the Baptist, the Priest Zachariah and Elizabeth (September 5), lived in the ancient city of Hebron. They reached old age without having children, since Elizabeth was barren. Once, Saint Zachariah was serving in the Temple at Jerusalem and saw the Archangel Gabriel, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. He predicted that Saint Zachariah would father a son, who would announce the Saviour, the Messiah, awaited by the Old Testament Church. Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. He had doubts that in old age it was possible to have a son, and he asked for a sign. It was given to him, and it was also a chastisement for his unbelief. Zachariah was struck speechless until the time of the fulfilment of the archangel’s words.
Saint Elizabeth came to be with child, and fearing derision at being pregnant so late in life, she kept it secret for five months. Then her relative, the Virgin Mary, came to share with her Her own joy. Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” was the first to greet the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. Saint John leaped in his mother’s womb at the visit of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Son of God incarnate within Her.
Soon Saint Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and all the relatives and acquaintances rejoiced together with her. On the eighth day, in accordance with the Law of Moses, he was circumcised and was called John. Everyone was amazed, since no one in the family had this name. When they asked Saint Zachariah about this, he motioned for a tablet and wrote on it: “His name is John.” Immediately his tongue was loosed, and Saint Zachariah glorified God. He also prophesied about the Coming into the world of the Messiah, and of his own son John, the Forerunner of the Lord (Luke. 1: 68-79).
After the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worship of the shepherds and the Magi, wicked king Herod gave orders to kill all male infants. Hearing about this, Saint Elizabeth fled into the wilderness and hid in a cave. Saint Zachariah was at Jerusalem and was doing his priestly service in the Temple. Herod sent soldiers to him to find out the abode of the infant John and his mother. Zachariah answered that their whereabouts were unknown to him, and he was killed right there in the Temple. Righteous Elizabeth continued to live in the wilderness with her son and she died there. The child John, protected by an angel, dwelt in the wilderness until the time when he came preaching repentance, and was accounted worthy to baptize the Lord. ... See MoreSee Less
Saint Alban, Protomartyr of Britain(Source: OCA) (Icon: Aidan Hart)
Saint Alban (or Albanus), the protomartyr of Britain, was a Roman citizen who lived at Verulamium (modern Saint Albans), a few miles northwest of London, during a time of persecution. Nothing is known about his family or his occupation.
The chief magistrate of the city had orders to arrest all Christian clergy. One of them, a priest named Amphibalus, fled to Alban’s home in order to hide from the soldiers who wished to kill him. Alban was impressed by the priest’s constant prayer and vigil, and so he questioned Amphibalus about his beliefs. As a result, Alban came to believe in Christ and asked to be baptized.
Eventually, Amphibalus was forced to move on, and Alban changed clothes with him so that he could get away. The soldiers heard there was a priest hiding in Alban’s house, so they came to search it. Seeing Alban dressed in the priest’s clothes, they arrested him and brought him before the judge.
The magistrate was offering sacrifice to idols when Saint Alban appeared before him. After questioning him, he discovered how Alban and the priest had switched clothes. Furious because Alban had allowed a fugitive to escape, the magistrate threatened him with death unless he returned to paganism and revealed where Amphibalus had gone. Saint Alban replied, “I am also a Christian, and I worship the true God.”
After having the saint beaten and tortured, the magistrate threatened him with execution. Saint Alban rejoiced and glorified God. The magistrate ordered the soldiers to take Saint Alban to the Holmhurst Hill to be beheaded. When they came to the river Ver, they saw that the bridge was crowded with people who had come to witness Alban’s martyrdom. Since they could not proceed because of the multitude of people, Saint Alban prayed and made the Sign of the Cross over the river. At once, the waters parted so that they were able to cross over to the other side.
The executioner was so astonished by the miracle that he threw down his sword and refused to behead the saint. He was arrested, and another man was found to behead them both. There is a tradition that Saint Alban became thirsty while climbing the hill and asked for water. A small spring gushed forth near the top of the hill, and he was able to drink from it. Pilgrims used to come and drink from Saint Alban’s well, but it is now dry.
The date of Saint Alban’s martyrdom is uncertain, but it is believed that it took place during the reign of Decius (ca. 251) or Valerian (ca. 257). The eighteenth century Turin manuscript (which may be based on a fifth century source) suggests that Saint Alban may have been executed as early as 209, when the emperor Septimus Severus and his two sons were in Britain. The name of the executioner who was converted has not been preserved. The priest Amphibalus was ultimately caught and put to death at a place called Redbourn, four miles from Verulamium.
When people began to cry out against the magistrate, he put an end to the persecution. In later years a cathedral was built on the site of the martyrdom, and the relics of Saint Alban, the priest Amphibalus, and perhaps even the executioner were enshrined within. Saint Bede (May 27) tells us that miracles frequently took place at Saint Alban’s tomb. When the Danes invaded England in 860, the relics were removed for safekeeping, then later returned.
A new chapel and shrine were built for the relics in the early fourteenth century. Two hundred years later, during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the marble shrine was destroyed. Much later, the fragments of the shrine were reassembled on its former site. What happened to the relics is uncertain, but it is probable that they were either destroyed or buried in an unmarked spot.
Although Saint Alban is sometimes depicted in military garb, there is no evidence that he was a soldier. After all, he was living in a private home when he was arrested, and not in a barracks. There is a medieval painting in the south aisle beside the Choir in the Abbey which depicts Saint Alban with red hair. A medieval seal, now in the Durham Cathedral Chapter Library, shows him with a thick beard. He is stocky, with a high, round and balding forehead, and a cloak covers his left side and right shoulder. ... See MoreSee Less
Dear all! We have now posted our first two catechetical lessons; please look on our "Notes" section. We will continue to build on this by posting something new every week. We hope you enjoy the content and that you're all keeping well! 🙏 ... See MoreSee Less
Introduction Part 1An ever-growing number of persons from various backgrounds are becoming interested in the Orthodox Church. These individuals are discovering the ancient faith and rich traditions of the Orthodox Church. They have been attracted by her mystical vision of God and His Kingdom, by the beauty of her worship, by the purity of her Christian faith, and by her continuity with the past. These are only some of the treasures of the Church, which has a history reaching back to the time of the Apostles.
VIDEO: Fr Thomas Hopko: Advice for beginners Part1
The Orthodox Church embodies and expresses the rich spiritual treasures of Eastern Christianity. It should not be forgotten that the Gospel of Christ was first preached and the first Christian communities were established in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It was in these eastern regions of the old Roman Empire that the Christian faith matured in its struggle against paganism and heresy. There, the great Fathers lived and taught. It was in the cities of the East that the fundamentals of our faith were proclaimed at the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
The spirit of Christianity which was nurtured in the East had a particular flavour. It was distinct, though not necessarily opposed, to that which developed in the Western portion of the Roman Empire and subsequent Medieval Kingdoms in the West.
While Christianity in the West developed in lands which knew the legal and moral philosophy of Ancient Rome, Eastern Christianity developed in lands which knew the Semitic and Hellenistic cultures. While the West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the sin of man, the East emphasised the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of man. While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology. Since the Early Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for more than a thousand years until the Great Schism divided the Church.
Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition, and the Orthodox are heirs to the Eastern tradition.
Christians of the Eastern Churches call themselves Orthodox. This description comes to us from the fifth century and has two meanings which are closely related. The first definition is “true teaching.”
The Orthodox Church believes that she has maintained and handed down the Christian faith, free from error and distortion, from the days of the Apostles.
The second definition, which is actually the more preferred, is “true praise.” To bless, praise, and glorify God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the fundamental purpose of the Church. All her activities, even her doctrinal formulations, are directed toward this goal.
Occasionally, the word Catholic is also used to describe the Orthodox Church. This description, dating back to the second century, is embodied in the Nicene Creed, which acknowledges One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. From the Orthodox perspective, Catholic means that the Church is universal and also that she includes persons of all races and cultures.
It also affirms that the Church has preserved the fullness of the Christian faith. It is not unusual for titles such as Greek, Russian, and Antiochian to be used in describing Orthodox Churches. These appellations refer to the cultural or national roots of a particular parish, diocese, or archdiocese.
Orthodoxy in the West
The Orthodox Church in this country owes its origin to the devotion of so many immigrants from lands such as Greece, Russia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. In the great wave of immigrations in the 19th and 20th centuries, Orthodox Christians from many lands and cultures came to the West in search of freedom and opportunity. Like the first Apostles, they carried with them a precious heritage and gift. To their new homes they brought the ancient faith of the Orthodox Church.
Many Orthodox Christians in the West proudly trace their ancestry to the lands and cultures of Europe and Asia, but the Orthodox Church in the West can no longer be seen as an immigrant Church. While the Orthodox Church contains individuals from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the majority of her membership is composed of persons who have been born in the West.
Following the practice of the Early Church, Orthodoxy treasures the various cultures of its people, but it is not bound to any particular culture or people. The Orthodox Church welcomes all!
Diversity in Unity
The Orthodox Church is an international federation of patriarchal, autocephalous, and autonomous churches. Each church is independent in her internal organisation and follows her own particular customs. However, all the churches are united in the same faith and order.
The Orthodox Church acknowledges that unity does not mean uniformity. Some churches are rich in history, such as the Church of Constantinople, while others are relatively young, such as the Church of Finland. Some are large, such as the Church of Russia, while others are small, such as the Church of Sinai.
Each Church is led by a synod of bishops. The president of the synod is known as the Patriarch, Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Catholicos. Among the various bishops, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is accorded a place of honour and is regarded as first among equals.
In the West, where Orthodoxy is relatively young, there are a number of dioceses and archdioceses which are directly linked to one of these autocephalous Churches. ... See MoreSee Less
Introduction Part 2VIDEO: Fr Thomas Hopko: Advice for beginners part 2
House of God: What’s Inside an Orthodox Church?
The visitor to an Orthodox Church is usually impressed by the unique features and the external differences between this place of worship and those of the various traditions of Western Christianity. The rich colour, distinctive iconography and beauty of the interior of an Orthodox Church generally are in sharp contrast to the simplicity which one finds in many Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.
When one enters the interior of the Orthodox church it is like stepping into a whole new world of colour and light. The art and design of the church not only create a distinctive atmosphere of worship, but they also reflect and embody many of the fundamental insights of Orthodoxy.
Beauty and Symbols
The Orthodox Church believes that God is the Creator of heaven and earth. The Creator is present through His creative energies of His handiwork. This means that the material world, being valuable and good, is an important means through which God expresses Himself.
The Orthodox Church affirms this conviction through her extensive use of material creation not only for the embellishment of her places of worship, but also in her sacramental mysteries and services. For example, when the bread and wine -the first fruits of - are offered in the Eucharist, they are also a symbolic offering of all creation to God its Creator.
Since there is no hesitation in using the gifts of creation, the interior of an Orthodox church is frequently very beautiful. Designed to create an atmosphere which is special, the building is filled with a feeling of joy and an appreciation of God’s bounty.
Orthodoxy recognises that beauty is an important dimension of human life. Through iconography and church appointments, the beauty of creation becomes a very important means of praising God. The divine gifts of the material world are shaped and fashioned by human hands into an expression of beauty which glorifies the Creator.
As the pious woman poured her most precious oil on the feet of Our Lord, Orthodoxy seeks always to offer to God what is best and most beautiful.
The interior church is most importantly, both the background and the setting for Orthodox worship. The art and architecture are designed to contribute to the total experience of worship, which involves one’s intellect, feelings, and senses.
The Eucharist and the other sacramental mysteries take place in God’s midst, and they bear witness to His presence and actions. Therefore, in the Orthodox tradition there is a very strong feeling that the church is the House of God and the place where His glory dwells. For this reason, all Orthodox churches are blessed, consecrated and set aside as sacred space.
The whole church bears witness to God’s indwelling among His people. As one old admonition says:
“Let the Christian consider well when he enters the church that he is entering another heaven. That same majesty of God which is in heaven is also in his church, and on this account the Christian must enter with reverence and awe.”
Ideally, an Orthodox church is relatively small in order to emphasize and enhance the sense of community in worship. The church is generally constructed in the form of a cross and is divided into three areas: the narthex, the nave, and the sanctuary.
The narthex is the entrance area. Centuries ago this area was the place where catechumens (unbaptised learners) and penitents remained during parts of the services. Today, the beginning of the Baptismal service and in some parishes, the Marriage service, begins in the narthex and proceeds into the nave. This procession symbolically represents a gradual movement into the Kingdom of God.
In many Orthodox parishes, the narthex is the area where the faithful make an offering, receive a candle, light it before an icon, and offer a personal prayer before joining the congregation. The nave is the large centre area of the church. Here the faithful gather for worship.
Although many Orthodox churches in this country have pews, some follow the old custom of having an open nave with no seats. The choir and the cantors frequently occupy areas on the far sides of the nave.
The sanctuary is considered the most sacred part of the church, and the area reserved for the clergy and their assistant. The sanctuary contains the Holy Altar and is separated from the nave by the Iconostasis. This division serves to remind us that God’s reign is not complete and that we often find ourselves separated from God, through sin.
However, during the Divine Liturgy, when we have access to the Holy Gifts, we are reminded that, through Christ, heaven and earth are united and that through Him, we have access to the Father. It should be noted that not all services take place within the sanctuary. Many are celebrated in the centre of the nave, in the midst of the congregation. In so doing, Orthodoxy emphasizes the fact that the worship of the Church is offered by, and for all the people.
The Altar or Holy Table is the heart and focal point of the Orthodox Church. It is here that Eucharistic gifts of bread and wine are offered to the Father as Christ commanded us to do.
The altar, which is usually square in shape, stands away from the wall and is often covered with cloths. A tabernacle, with reserved Holy Communion for the sick or dying, is set upon the Altar, together with candles. When the Divine Liturgy is not being celebrated, the Book of Gospels rests on the Altar. Behind the Altar is a large cross with the painted figure of Christ.
The Iconostasion is the panel of icons which separates the sanctuary from the nave. The origin of this very distinctive part of an Orthodox church is the ancient custom of placing icons on a low wall before the sanctuary.
In time, the icons became fixed on a standing wall, hence the term iconostasion. In contemporary practice, the Iconostasion may be very elaborate and conceal most of the sanctuary, or it may be very simple and open.
The Iconostasion has three entrances which are used during services. There is a Deacon Door on either side, and the centre entrance which is called the Royal Door. A curtain or door, usually conceals the Altar when services are not being celebrated.
On the right-hand side of the Iconostasion are always the icons of Christ and St. John the Baptist. On the left-hand side are always the icons of the Theotokos (Mother of our Lord) and the patron saint or event to which the church is dedicated. In addition to these icons, others may be added, depending upon custom and space.
An icon is a holy image which is the distinctive art form of the Orthodox Church. In actual practice the icon may be a painting of wood, on canvas, a mosaic or a fresco. Icons depict such figures as Christ, Mary the Theotokos, the saints and angels. They may also portray events from the Scriptures or the history of the Church, such as Christmas, Easter, etc.
Icons occupy a very prominent place in Orthodox worship and theology. The icon is not simply decorative, inspirational, or educational. Most importantly, it signifies the presence of the individual depicted. The icon is like a window which links heaven and earth.
When we worship we do so as part of the Church which includes the living and the departed. We never lost contact with those who are with the Lord in glory. This belief is expressed every time one venerates an icon or places a candle before it.
Many Orthodox churches have icons not only on the iconostasion but also on the walls, ceilings, and in arches. Above the sanctuary in the apse, there is very frequently a large icon of the Theotokos and the Christ Child.
The Orthodox Church believes that Mary is the human being closest to God. This very prominent icon recalls her important role in the Incarnation of the Son of God. The icon is also an image of the Church. It reminds us of our responsibility to give birth to Christ’s presence in our lives.
High above the church, in the ceiling or dome, is the icon of Christ the Almighty, the Pantocrator. The icon portrays the Triumphant Christ who reigns as Lord of heaven and earth. As one gazes downward, it appears as though the whole church and all of creation comes from Him. As one looks upward, there is the feeling that all things direct us to Christ the Lord. He is the “Alpha and the Omega”, the beginning and the end.
This is the message of Orthodoxy. ... See MoreSee Less
Martyr Nectan of Hartland(Source: OCA)
Saint Nectan was born in Wales and lived in the sixth century, but we know few details about his life. He was the oldest of the twenty-four children of Saint Brychan of Brecknock (April 6). While he was still living in Wales, God inspired him to imitate the example of Saint Anthony (January 17) and other ascetics, and to embrace the monastic life.
Seeking greater solitude, Saint Nectan and his companions left Wales, intending to settle wherever their boat happened to land. Divine providence brought them to the northern coast of Devonshire at Hartland, where they lived for several years in a dense forest. The saint’s family would visit him there on the last day of the year. Later, he relocated to a remote valley with a spring.
Once, Saint Nectan found a stray pig and returned it to its owner. In gratitude, the swineherd gave Saint Nectan two cows. The saint accepted the gift, but the cows were soon stolen by two robbers. Saint Nectan found the thieves who took the animals, and tried to preach to them about Christ. They became angry and cut off his head. Then the saint picked up his head and carried it for half a mile, laying it down near the spring by his cell. Seeing this, the man who killed Saint Nectan went out of his mind, but the other thief buried the Saint. From that time, miracles began to take place at Saint Nectan’s tomb.
In 937, on the eve of the Battle of Brunanburgh, a young man from Hartland who was in a tent near King Athelstan’s pavilion suddenly felt himself afflicted with the plague which was then destroying the English army. The young man wept and called upon God and Saint Nectan to help him. His cries were so loud that he woke the king and others around him.
Saint Nectan came to the young man just after midnight and touched the afflicted area of his body, healing him. In the morning, he was brought before the king and admitted that it was he who had disturbed Athelstan’s sleep. The king asked gently why he had been crying out during the night.
The young man explained that he felt himself stricken with the plague, and was afraid that he would die. Therefore, he entreated God and Saint Nectan to help him, and his prayer was answered.
Athelstan asked for more information about the life and martyrdom of Saint Nectan, which the young man provided. He also urged the king to turn to Saint Nectan with faith, promising that he would be victorious in battle if he did so.
The king promised to honor God and Saint Nectan, and so his faith was rewarded. Not only did he win the battle, but the plague disappeared and his soldiers recovered. The first time that King Athelstan visited Hartland in Devonshire, he donated property to the saint’s church. For the rest of his life, the king placed great confidence in the intercession of Saint Nectan.
Saint Nectan is the patron of Hartland, Devonshire. The fullest surviving Life dates from the twelfth century (See Vol. 5 of THE SAINTS OF CORNWALL by G. H. Doble for an English translation).
“O holy Father Nectan you followed the bidding of the Lord and left your father and mother for His sake to embrace the hermit’s life. Faithful follower of Christ unto death pray that He may save our souls.” ... See MoreSee Less
Dear all! We will start posting catechetical material here on our page on a weekly basis. Please look on our “Notes” and “Video” sections. The material is suitable for everybody; but will be especially helpful to people who are new to Orthodoxy and for those who wish to deepen their knowledge. We hope this will be beneficial for you all!
Please know that you are all in our prayers and that we look forward to seeing you again soon. ... See MoreSee Less
55 Maxims of the Christian LifeBelow is a series of short phrases, or maxims, that I have found to be very practical and helpful. We can often times think that the spiritual life is very complicated and and hard to live. Fr. Thomas was asked to come up with a simple and concise list of the essence of our Life in Christ as we struggle on the path towards salvation. He came up with these 55 maxims. I would encourage you to post them somewhere where you can see them often.
By: Fr. Thomas Hopko
Be always with Christ and trust God in everything
Pray as you can, not as you think you must
Have a keepable rule of prayer done by discipline
Say the Lord’s Prayer several times each day
Repeat a short prayer when your mind is not occupied
Make some prostrations when you pray
Eat good foods in moderation and fast on fasting days
Practice silence, inner and outer
Sit in silence 20 to 30 minutes each day
Do acts of mercy in secret
Go to liturgical services regularly
Go to confession and holy communion regularly
Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings
Reveal all your thoughts and feelings to a trusted person regularly
Read the scriptures regularly
Read good books, a little at a time
Cultivate communion with the saints
Be an ordinary person, one of the human race
Be polite with everyone, first of all family members
Maintain cleanliness and order in your home
Have a healthy, wholesome hobby
Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time
Be totally honest, first of all with yourself
Be faithful in little things
Do your work, then forget it
Do the most difficult and painful things first
Be simple, hidden, quiet and small
Never bring attention to yourself
Listen when people talk to you
Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are
Think and talk about things no more than necessary
Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly
Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis, figuring things out
Flee carnal, sexual things at their first appearance
Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine
Don’t seek or expect pity or praise
Don’t compare yourself with anyone
Don’t judge anyone for anything
Don’t try to convince anyone of anything
Don’t defend or justify yourself
Be defined and bound by God, not people
Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully
Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty
Do nothing for people that they can and should do for themselves
Have a daily schedule of activities, avoiding whim and caprice
Be merciful with yourself and others
Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath
Focus exclusively on God and light, and never on darkness, temptation and sin
Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy
When you fall, get up immediately and start over
Get help when you need it, without fear or shame
#OrthodoxChristianity #EasternOrthodoxChurch #OrthodoxScotland #FrThomasHopko #55MaximsoftheChristianLife ... See MoreSee Less
A Prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ for Missions
O Sweet Savior, Lord Jesus Christ our God, we give thanks to Thee for Thy marvelous works of salvation: For Thine Incarnation by which Thou didst heal mankind; For Thy precious and life-giving Cross and Thy triumphant Resurrection from the dead by which Thou didst trample down death and the devil, didst free us from the slavery to our sins, and didst grant to us and all who believe life eternal.
We thank Thee for sending forth Thine apostolic witnesses to the ends of earth, and for bringing to us the saving good news here in the distant West. Implant, O Word of Father, the Gospel of salvation deeply into our hearts and minds. Evangelize us, O Christ. Grant us to ever remember Thy magnificent and saving deeds, and to meditate upon them day and night. Enlarge our hearts, O Lord, with love for those who have not been enlightened by Thy truth, here and abroad, and use us, Thine unworthy servants, to bring the knowledge of Thee to others that they may come to a saving knowledge of the truth, and that Thy Name may be praised among all the peoples of the world.
Cause Thy word to run swiftly and to gather a great harvest in our city and country, and among all the nations of the earth. Sustain, inspire, and enlighten Thy servants, our bishops, priests, monks and nuns, and missionaries who labour with the Holy Gospel in fields ripe for harvest. Enkindle missionary zeal within us. Enable us to welcome our local community to the Orthodox faith. Inspire our parish to participate in missions, domestic and international, both short-term and long-term, and call forth from our midst priests, monastics, and missionaries who will labour for the salvation of men in the front lines of Thy Church.
Forgive us, O Merciful Lord, for the times when we are indifferent to Thy Great Commission to make disciples of all the nations, and for the times when we do not sympathize with and yearn for those outside the Church. Make our hearts generous and willing to share the treasures of our faith and the wonders of dwelling in Thy House, and receive our grateful adoration which we ascribe to Thee, together with Thine Unoriginate Father, and Thine all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen. ... See MoreSee Less
Fast, Pray, and Leave Behind Your Nets:Homily for the Apostles FastApostles Fast 2020: 15. June- 29. June
By: Fr Philip LeMasters
The services, practices, and calendars of the Orthodox Church can be hard for people in our time and place to understand. Some will use their confusion as an excuse to disregard them and suffer spiritually as a result. So it is a good to get to the heart of the matter, to speak plainly and openly about what the rhythms of the Church mean for our lives. For the mission of the Body of Christ is not to preserve a set of esoteric rituals and rules, but to bring the entire world into the great salvation worked by our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
As I hope everyone knows by now, we are currently in the Apostles Fast, one of the most ancient fasting periods in the Church that extends from the Monday after All Saints until the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29. The Sunday of All Saints comes a week after Pentecost, which reminds us that we are all enabled to share in the holiness of God by the active presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Yes, the very purpose of our lives is to acquire the Holy Spirit. But in order to do that, we have to become like our Lord’s apostles, who left behind their nets in order to become fishers of men. Sts. Peter and Paul, along with all the disciples except John the evangelist, died as martyrs, making the ultimate witness for the Savior’s victory over death. They were prepared to do so by decades of self-denial in putting God first in their lives. They left all that was comfortable and familiar to obey the command of the Lord “Come follow Me.” And if we are to develop the spiritual strength and maturity necessary to respond faithfully to His will for us, we must also die to self and gain a measure of freedom from the nets in which we are entangled, whatever they may be.
The Apostles Fast fulfills what the Lord said in response to the question about why His disciples did not fast during His earthly ministry: “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (Matt. 9:15) Christ ascended into heaven forty days after Hi s resurrection, but then sent the Holy Spirit to His followers at Pentecost. Now, after celebrating Pentecost, is when we fast in order to humble ourselves before God and to fight our passions so that we will gain the spiritual strength that we see so clearly in Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as in all the apostles. Like them, we want to hear and respond to Christ’s command to us, whatever it may be. We want to be able to turn aside from distractions, obsessions, and habits that hold us back from living the lives to which our Savior calls us.
For Orthodox Christians, fasting is not reserved only for special seasons of the year, for outside of a few celebratory exceptions, Wednesdays and Fridays are fast days on which those who are physically able abstain from meat, dairy products, fish, wine, and olive oil. We fast on Fridays in commemoration of our Lord’s crucifixion and on Wednesdays in commemoration of His betrayal. In the prayers and hymns of the Church, Wednesdays and Fridays are both associated with the cross, so it makes perfect sense that these are days on which we deny ourselves just a bit by taking up the cross of self-denial and humility in remembrance of the unbelievably profound sacrificial offering made by our Lord Himself for our salvation.
Just as we should not resist temptation only during Lent, we should not attempt to reserve fasting only for penitential periods, such as Lent, Advent (the Nativity Fast), the Dormition, or the Apostles Fast. If we do so, we may find it impossibly hard to fast then from anything at all for several days or weeks at a time. Likewise, may find it impossibly hard to reject any self-centered desire if we are used to making a god out of our taste buds, stomachs, and self-centered desires. If we want to be faithful disciples, we have to leave our nets behind every day. We have to take up our crosses all the time, often when we least expect to have to do so. So we must always be prepared. Two thousand years of experience has taught Orthodox Christians that regular fasting is a source of great strength for doing so. This is not, of course, because God is impressed by hunger or dietary changes. It is, however, because we all need to grow in humility and to turn aside from anything that weakens our ability to say “yes” to the Lord. Especially if we find fasting difficult and frustrating, we must persevere in it every fast day. It is precisely through struggles that reveal our weakness and spiritual sickness that we are able like all the repentant sinners who have become saints to open ourselves to the mercy and healing of Jesus Christ from the depths of our hearts and souls.
Too often in our culture, we think that we have done our religious duty simply by being present in a church service on Sunday. If the service lasts more than an hour, we may think that we have really impressed God. As Orthodox Christians, we know that we should attend the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and major feast days whenever possible. (Of course, it is also beneficial to pray with the Church at vespers and orthros/matins.) Doing so is the very first step of Christian faithfulness, for corporate worship constitutes the Body of Christ and enables us to enter into heavenly worship even now. But coming to services is only the beginning of our journey. God calls us to participate fully in the heavenly liturgy every day, every moment, with every thought, word, and deed, regardless of where we are. That is why we must all devote time and energy each day of our lives to prayer in a regular, disciplined way if we want to become faithful Christians. It is why even a few minutes of Bible reading, studying the life of a saint, other spiritual reading, or listening to recordings of Orthodox chant is so important for us all. We are bombarded constantly by messages from our culture, as well as by our own thoughts and the words and actions of others, that are usually not spiritually beneficial. Unless we cultivate a regular habit of prayer and of focusing on the things of God in our daily lives, we will have little of hope of hearing, let alone responding faithfully to, our Lord’s calling.
Let us all take advantage of the remaining week of the Apostles Fast to humble ourselves before the Lord as we devote ourselves to prayer and fasting in ways appropriate to our health, age, and life circumstance. Let us all leave the nets of our spiritual laziness and other excuses behind in order to cultivate just a bit of that spiritual clarity and devotion that shines so brightly in Sts. Peter and Paul and all the other apostles, saints, and martyrs who heard and obeyed the calling of our Lord. He is surely calling each and every one of us to serve Him in some way. The only the question is whether we have the ears to hear and the spiritual strength to leave behind all that keeps us from following Him. ... See MoreSee Less
Sunday of All SaintsBy: Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
The Mother of God and the Saints whose memory we keep today, those who are known to us because God has revealed them, and because they have been understood and recognised, either by their contemporaries, or years, at times - centuries later, all the Saints are the response of the earth to the love of God. And this response is given by them not only in their own name but in the name of all creation and in our names also; because each of us has the privilege to be called by one name, our Christian name, the name of one of those Saints. And the Saints whose names are ours stand before God and pray that their name should not be made unworthy in the eyes of the Lord. The Saints of God embrace the whole of Creation in their love, in their intercession, in their prayer, in their real, continuous presence. How wonderful it is that we belong to this vast family of men, of women, of children who have understood what the Lord meant when He came, and lived, taught and died for us! They responded with their own heart, they understood with all their mind, and they accepted His message with all their determination, to overcome in themselves all that have been the cause of the crucifixion; because if only one person on earth had strayed, fallen away from God, Christ would have come to save at the cost of His life. This is His own testimony to a Saint of the early centuries who had been praying that the sinners should be confounded; and He appeared to him, and said, Never pray that way! If one sinner have existed, I would have died for him...
The Saints are people who responded to love by love, people who realised that if someone can die for them, their only response of gratitude is to become such that he should not have died in vain. To take up our cross means exactly this: to turn away from all those things which are Christ's death and crucifixion, from all those things which surrounded Christ with hatred and lack of understanding. We are all free to do this, more than those who lived in His time because they could be mistaken in Him in those days; but in our days, after two thousand years, when we can read the Gospels, and see emerging from the story the stature, the Person of Christ, when we have got millions of witnesses that tell us that He truly gave His life for us, and that the only response we can give is to give our lives for one another in His name - how can't we respond?
Let us therefore, on this day make a new resolve: to listen in the way in which they listened, with all their heart, all their mind, all their will, all their self to see what happened, to hear what He said, to respond by gratitude and by determination. And then, if we offer this little to God - our gratitude and our good will - the strength, the power for us also to grow into the stature which God has willed, dreamt for us, - the power will be of God; as He had said, My strength deploys itself in weakness, My grace sufficeth... And Paul, who knew that, added, in another passage, All things are possible unto us in the power of Christ Who sustains us... There is no doubt: we can, if we only will allow God to save, to carry us from earth to heaven.
Let us make a new start, so that the Saints whose names we wear should rejoice in us, so that the Mother of God Who gave Her Son unto death that we may respond, that we may understand, that we may be saved should rejoice, and that Christ should see that it is not in vain that He lived, taught, and died. Let us be His glory, a light; it may be a small light, just like a small candle, it may be a bright light as one of the great Saints - but let us be a light that lights the world and makes it less dark! Let us be joy so that others may learn to rejoice in the Lord. Amen! ... See MoreSee Less
Saint Columba of Iona, Enlightener of Scotland(Source: OCA)
Saint Columba (or Colum Cille, "the dove of the Church") was of noble birth, a member of the powerful Ui Néill clan, which traced its descent to Niall of the Nine Hostages, who died around the year 450. His parents were Fedelmid mac Ferguso and Eithne. Although it is difficult to determine the date of Saint Columba's birth with any degree of certainty, it is believed that he was born in County Donegal on December 7, 521.
His parents may have been pagans, and named their son Crimthann. He was brought up by a foster-father, according to the custom of that time, a priest named Cruithnechan. We do not know what happened in Saint Columba's life from the time he completed his studies until his departure from Ireland in 563. He may have been baptized with the name Colum, which later became Columba (dove). Some sources state that after being ordained as a priest, Saint Columba preached in Ireland, and established monasteries at Derry and Durrow. It is said that he also founded one hundred churches.
Adomnan says (I: 7) that the Saint left Ireland two years after the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne (561), supposedly for causing the deaths of so many men. Adomnan does not explain why the Saint blamed himself. However, in a different Life of Saint Columba it is stated that there was a dispute between Saints Columba and Finnian of Moville (September 10), concerning the ownership of a copy of Saint Jerome’s Latin Vulgate version of the Bible (some sources say it was a Psalter). The dispute involved the ownership of the copy. Saint Finnian claimed that the copy was his, since he owned the original manuscript. Saint Columba maintained that the copy was his, since he had copied the original. The High King Diarmait mac Cerbaill, who was a pagan, decided in favor of Finnian. He said, "To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy."
The Saint is said to have been so angry that he stirred up his relatives of the Uí Néill clan to make war against the High King. The Battle of Cúl Dreimhne led to the loss of many Christian lives. In his remorse, Saint Columba decided that he must gain as many souls for Christ as had been slain on the battlefield.
Adomnan also mentions the Synod of Teltown in County Meath (III:3) which met in 562, one year after the battle, and one year before Saint Columba left Ireland. He declares that "Saint Columba was excommunicated for some trivial and quite excusable offenses by a Synod which, as eventually became known, had acted wrongly. The Saint himself came to the assembly that had been convoked against him."
When Saint Brendan of Birr (November 29) saw Saint Columba approaching at a distance, after the Synod had excommunicated him in absentia, he ran out to meet him, kissing him with reverence. When the members of the Synod saw this they criticized him, saying, "Why did you get up to kiss a man who has been excommunicated?” Saint Brendan replied, “If you had seen what the Lord has deigned to reveal to me today, concerning this chosen one whom you refuse to honour, you would never have excommunicated him. For God does not excommunicate in accordance with your erroneous judgement, but instead, He glorifies him more and more."
Then they became incensed and said that they should like to know just how God had glorified Saint Columba, whom they had excommunicated, as they asserted, with good reason. Saint Brendan replied, "I saw a very bright column of light going before the man of God, whom you despise, and holy angels as his companions traveling over the plain." After hearing this, the Synod dropped the charges and honoured Saint Columba with much reverence.
In 563, Saint Columba left Ireland, saying that he wished to be a pilgrim for Christ. Taking twelve companions with him, the Saint settled on the island of Iona, off the southwestern coast of Mull. He prayed that God would permit him to live there for thirty years more, and then call him to the heavenly Kingdom. It is not known whether the island was inhabited when they arrived, but there is archaeological evidence of prehistoric occupation.
After building cells and a chapel, the monks began a period of missionary activity, proclaiming the Gospel, making converts, and founding churches. They sailed to other islands, and even went inland in their labours to bring people to Christ. As a result, Iona became an important centre of Christianity for northern England and Scotland. By 574, Abbot Columba had at least one dependency on the island of Hinba. There were others on the various islands, all under the authority of Iona. Saint Columba also maintained ties with his churches in Ireland and people in other places.
There is an account of Saint Columba anointing Aedan mac Gabrain in 574 to succeed King Conall as the King of Dalriada, just as King Saul and King David had been anointed by Samuel. Some regard this as the first time in European history that Christian ritual was used to consecrate a King. There is much debate on the significance of this event, although Saint Columba did have a special relationship with the ruling dynasty of Dalriada.
Adomnan has not written a Saint's Life according to the traditional pattern. Rather than presenting a continuous narrative from birth to death, he describes Saint Columba's prophetic revelations in Book I; his miracles of power in Book II; and his visions of angels in Book III.
In Book III:22, Adomnan relates how Saint Columba beheld the angels who had come to receive his soul in the thirtieth year after his arrival on Iona. Suddenly he raised his eyes to Heaven, and he was filled with great joy and gladness. Then, a moment later, his joy had turned to sorrow. Two monks stood outside his hut when this occurred, and they asked him about it. He told them to go in peace, and not to ask him to tell them the cause of his gladness, nor of his sorrow. They fell to the ground with profuse tears and begged him to reveal what he had been told.
Seeing their distress, the holy Elder said, "Because I love you, I do not wish to grieve you. First, you must promise not to betray to anyone, as long as I am alive, the mystery that you seek to know."
After they had given their word, Saint Columba said that day was exactly thirty years since he had begun to live "in pilgrimage in Britain." He had asked God to call him to Heaven at the end of thirty years. That is why he seemed so glad. He had seen the angels who had been sent to separate his soul from his body, but now they seemed to be delayed. They were waiting on a rock across the Sound from Iona. It was as if they wished to accomplish their task, but they were not permitted to come any closer. Soon they would return to Heaven. Even though he desired to go with them, the prayers of many churches had caused this change in plans. "Even though I do not wish it, I must remain in this flesh four years longer. This sorrowful delay is the cause of my great distress today."
Then the holy Abbot predicted that at the end of four years, he would die suddenly, and without pain, when the angels would come for him again, and he would depart to the Lord. That is precisely what happened.
In April of 597, on the radiant Feast of Christ's Resurrection, Saint Columba was longing to depart from this life in order to be with Him. God would have granted his wish right then, but he did not want to turn the paschal joy of his disciples into sorrow, and so his death was delayed for the sake of the monks.
In May, as the brethren were working on the western side of Iona, Saint Columba was taken there in a cart, for he was then an old man of seventy-five. He began to speak to them of his approaching death, so that they would be prepared. When he told them how his death had been merely postponed in April, they became very sorrowful. The Saint tried to console them as much as he could. Then he looked toward the east and blessed the island, and those who dwelt there. A few days later, during the Sunday liturgy, Saint Columba looked up and his face became suffused with joy and exultation. Only he could see the angel hovering over them inside the church. Then the angel passed right through the roof of the church, leaving no trace of his passing.
When the monks noticed the Elder looking upward they asked him why he seemed so happy. He told them that an angel had been sent to recover a loan, and had been watching and blessing them during the service.
None of the monks understood what sort of loan the angel had been sent to recover, but Saint Columba was referring to his soul, which the angel would take sometime between the following Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
At the end of the week, on Saturday, Saint Columba and his servant Diarmait went to bless the nearest barn. The venerable Elder said that he was glad to know that the monks would have enough bread to last for a year, in case he had to "go away somewhere." Diarmait was saddened by his words and said, "Father, this year you have made us sad too often by speaking frequently about your passing."
Saint Columba said that he would speak more plainly about his departure if Diarmait promised not to tell anyone until after he had reposed. When Diarmait had given his word, the Saint explained that the Sabbath is a day of rest, and on this Saturday he would go the way of his fathers. "I shall go to the Lord when He calls me, in the middle of this night. The Lord Himself has revealed this to me."
At these words, Diarmait began to weep. Then they started back to the monastery, but Saint Columba had to stop and rest when they reached the halfway point. Later, a cross was set up on that spot and set in a millstone. Then a white horse, which used to carry pails of milk to the monastery, came and placed its head on the Saint's bosom. Tears fell from its eyes, and the horse mourned like a person. Diarmait would have driven the horse away, but the Elder stopped him saying, "Leave him alone! Let him who loves us pour out the tears of bitterest mourning here at my breast. Behold, though you have a man's rational soul, you would not know of my departure if I hadn't told you just now. According to His will, the Creator has revealed to this brute and unreasoning animal that his master is going away." Then he blessed the horse as it turned away.
When he returned to the monastery, Saint Columba went to his hut to copy some Psalms. He copied as far as Psalm 33/34:10: "The rich have become poor and hungry; but those who seek the Lord diligently shall not want any good thing." Then he said, "Here at the end of the page I must stop. Let Baithene write what follows."
When he finished writing, Saint Columba went to church for Vespers, and then he returned to his lodging and rested on his bed. Instead of a bed of straw, he always slept upon bare rock, with a stone for his pillow. Then he gave his last instructions to Diarmait, commanding the brethren to love one another, and to follow the example of the Holy Fathers. He continued, "God, Who strengthens the good, will help you, and I, dwelling with Him, shall intercede for you."
When the bell rang for the Midnight Office, Saint Columba hastened to the church before the others, and then he knelt before the altar in prayer. Diarmait, following at a distance, saw the church filled with angelic light around the Saint. As he reached the door, the light vanished, although some of the brethren had seen it as well. Diarmait entered the church and called out in a tearful voice, "Father, where are you?"
The lamps carried by the brethren had not yet been brought into the church. Feeling his way in the dark, Diarmait found the Elder lying before the altar. Raising him a little, he sat by his side and cradled his head on his bosom. The other monks related that before Saint Cuthbert's soul had left his body, he opened his eyes and looked about with joy and gladness upon his face, for he saw angels coming to meet him. Diarmait held up the Saint's right hand to bless the monks. The venerable Father, as much as he could, also moved his hand to bless the brethren, though he was unable to speak. Then at once his soul departed.
Two men had separate visions of the Saint's soul being carried to Heaven by angels. Lugaid mac Tailchain, "a just man and a sage," told a man named Fergnae of his vision. Although Lugaid had never been to Iona, he saw it, in the Spirit, bathed in a bright light. He beheld the radiance of countless angels who had been sent to carry the Saint's soul to Heaven, accompanied by the sweetest songs of the angelic hosts.
Another soldier of Christ, Ernene moccu Fir Roide had a vision at the same hour. When he was an old man, he related it to Adomnan, who was then a young man. Ernene and some other men were fishing in the River Finn, when suddenly, the entire sky lit up. Looking toward the east, they saw a fiery pillar rising upwards and lighting the area like the summer sun at Noon. When the pillar passed out of sight, the darkness returned once more.
After Saint Columba's blessed repose, the Matins hymns were chanted, and his body was carried from the church to his lodging. For three days and nights, the funeral rites were performed in a manner befitting one of his honour and rank. His holy relics were wrapped in linen and placed in the grave with due reverence, from which he shall rise in bright, and everlasting light.
The following miracle is mentioned in Book I:1. In the year 634, at Heavenfield in Northumbria, on the eve of a battle, Saint Columba appeared to Saint Oswald (August 5), revealing his name to the King. He promised to help Saint Oswald, ordering him to march on his enemy Cadwallon that night. He said that the enemy would be put to flight, and that Cadwallon would be delivered into King Oswald's hands. Abbot Failbe, Adomnan's predecessor, told him of this vision, swearing that he had the story from the lips of Saint Oswald himself. ... See MoreSee Less
ST SYMEON THE NEW THEOLOGIAN'S INVOCATION PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Come, true light.
Come. life eternal.
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond all words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without end.
Come, light that knows no evening.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, the raising of the fallen.
Come, the resurrection of the dead.
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly you create, refashion and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible, whom none may touch and handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved, yet at every instant you are wholly in movement; you draw near to us who lie in hell, yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your Name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips; yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, eternal joy.
Come, unfading garland.
Come, purple vesture of our great God and King.
Come, belt of crystal set with precious stones.
Come, sandal that none dares to touch.
Come, royal robe and right hand of true sovereignty.
Come, for my wretched soul has ever longed and ever longs for you.
Come, Alone to the alone, for as you see I am alone: you have separated me from all things and made me to be alone upon the earth.
Come, for you are yourself the desire that is within me, and you have caused me to long after you, the wholly inaccessible.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.
I give you thanks, for you have become one spilt with me, in a union without confusion. Unchanging and unaltered, God over all, you have yet become all in all to me: food inexplicable, freely bestowed, ever nourishing my soul; a fountain springing up within my heart, a garment of light consuming the demons, purification that washes me clean through the immortal and holy tears that are granted at your coming to all whom you visit.
I give you thanks, for to me you are a light that knows no evening, a sun that never sets. You cannot remain hidden, for you fill all things with your glory. You never hide yourself from anyone, but we are always hiding from you, not wishing to come near you. For where could you hide yourself, since you have no place in which to take your rest? Or why should you hide, since you turn away from no one and are afraid of none?
Pitch your tent within me, gracious Master; take up your dwelling in me now and remain in your servant unceasingly, inseparably, to the end. At my departure from this life and afterwards, may I be found in you and reign with you, who are God over all.
Stay with me, Master, do not leave me alone. My enemies, who seek always to devour my soul, when they find you dwelling in me, will be put to flight; they will have no power at all against me, when they see. you, who are more powerful than all, lodging in the house of my humble soul.
You did not forget me, Master, when I was in the world and sunk in ignorance, but you chose me and separated me from the world and set me in the presence of your glory. Keep me constant and unshaken in the interior dwelling-place that you have made within me, Though dead, I live when I gaze upon you; possessing you, though poor, I am for ever rich, more wealthy than any ruler. Eating and drinking you, clothing myself in you from day to day, I shall be filled with blessings and delight beyond all telling. For you are every blessing and all splendour end joy, and to you is due glory, to the Holy, Consubstantial and Life-giving Trinity, worshipped and confessed by all the faithful and adored in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages.
#HappyPentecost #orthodoxchurch #stsymeonthenewtheologian #prayertotheholyspirit ... See MoreSee Less
Homily for PentecostBy: Archbishop Dmitri (Royster)
"And there appeared to them cloven tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:3-4)
Following His Ascension, when the Saviour fulfilled His promise and sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter appeared to Christ’s followers as tongues of fire. As a result of the Spirit’s operation the disciples spoke in languages foreign to them and were guided as to what to say.
It is extremely significant that on the day of Pentecost the manifestation of the Holy Spirit should take the form of tongues, and that the first results of the disciples’ baptism of the Holy Spirit should be the ability to speak in languages other than their own.
First, it affirms the universal character of Christ’s mission, one which was wrought for all nations, resulting in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the Divine Services sing of Pentecost in terms of being a reversal of that which took place at the Tower of Babel (Genesis, chapter 11). "Of old the tongues were confounded because of the audacity in the building of the tower, but now the tongues are made wise because of the glory of Divine knowledge. There God condemned the impious because of their offence, and here Christ hath enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit. At that time the confusion of tongues was wrought for punishment, but now the concord of tongues hath been inaugurated for the salvation of our souls." ("Glory … now and ever," verse for the Aposticha at Pentecost Vigil) "Once, when He descended and confounded the tongues, the Most High divided the nations; and when He divided the tongues of fire, He called all men into unity; and with one accord we glorify the All-holy Spirit." (Kontakion for the Feast)
At Babel a false unity established out of pride led to a scattering of all men, confusion among the citizens of the earth. Diverse "tongues," in this case, became indicative of divisions, man’s inability to understand God, his fellow man and environment. On Pentecost, however, the many "tongues" of the Divine Spirit became a sign and source for unity, a profound unity established through love for Christ that can only be granted by God Himself.
Of great significance as well is the fact that the fruits of the disciples’ labours on Pentecost was the addition to the Church of about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41) Here we begin to understand what our Lord meant when He told His chosen ones that they would henceforth be fishers of men. Hearing about such a large number of individuals brought into the Church by Peter and the eleven, we recall that during Christ’s earthly ministry it was only when the disciples obeyed His will that they caught such an enormous catch of fish that their "net brake." (Luke 5:4) "Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast shown forth the fishermen as supremely wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them didst draw the world into Thy net. O Befriender of man, glory be to Thee." (Troparion for the Feast).
What happened on that fiftieth day after our Lord’s resurrection was the filling of the disciples with the Holy Spirit, their transformation into the Church. Pentecost is the day of the Church’s founding. From this point in time the disciples were empowered to do what our Lord told them: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." (John 20:21)
The record of what the disciples did from the day of their "empowerment" is clearly a matter of history. We know that even in St. Paul’s time the Gospel had gone as far as Spain in the West and we are told as far as India in the East. By the beginning of the fourth century the Emperor Constantine not only stopped the persecution of Christians but gave the Church an official status. Christians to some measure, by this time, occupied every city and town. And there were still those who were willing, if necessary, to give their lives for Christ. From that time as well, the Church never lost its conviction that Jesus had given it the strict mandate to "catch" the entire world, to bring all men into His net. The disciples — and those who came after them — were convinced that their message, committed to them by Christ, was vital, a matter of life or death. This is why they were able to convince so many, because they themselves were convinced.
Speaking of our contemporary situation, it can be said that somewhere along the line, many Church members have lost this sense of urgency with regard to the Faith. Orthodox Christianity has become, for not a few of its adherents, simply the national religion of certain people, part of their culture, their ethos. The very thought of Orthodoxy being of vital importance because the world’s salvation depends on it, is utterly alien to numerous individuals.
But, thanks to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, many in the Church have come to understand the profound implications of Christ’s words to His disciples on a particular occasion, when they could do nothing for a man who needed healing: "Bring him to me."
The Church in our own time is regaining its deep commitment to this command relative to the entire world: "Bring him to me." We must bring those in need of healing — and who is not in need of the healing that Christ brings? — to our Lord, the only true Physician of souls and bodies.
Let us take time then and analyse to what extent we have been able to comply with Jesus’ command. If the truth be told, given the number of Orthodox in this country and the resources now available, we have not lived up to our potential in terms of making new disciples. At least one reason for any apparent failures lies in our own lack of conviction. We must ask ourselves, therefore, are we convinced, each of us individually, that our Orthodox Christian Faith is the most precious thing that we possess, that it is absolutely essential for those with whom we come in contact to know about it? By and large, according to how we live day to day, many of us would have to answer "no" to the above questions. And yet for the Body of Christ to grow the answer must be "yes." We cannot impart to others what we ourselves do not have. Christianity is so maximalistic in terms of what is expected of man — we speak of being crucified with Christ and losing our lives for His sake and the Gospel’s – that for anyone to believe the claims of its adherents, the Faith must be seen lived out by those who preach it. Thus, relative to the Feast of Pentecost, our own mission begins with an appreciation for what has already been given: "the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit." At our Chrismation, which is our personal Pentecost, the same Spirit was bestowed for our enlightenment and transformation, so as to empower us to be "invincible warriors" and witnesses for the Faith as were Christ’s disciples 2000 years ago ... See MoreSee Less