Archive for the ‘Orthodox Christian’ Category

Lord, have mercy: The most misunderstood prayer in the Christian West
By Amelia Bacic-Tulevski


A really excellent commentary by an Orthodox woman with deep understanding of Orthodox history, theology, and spirituality. Check out her other posts and her books while you are on her website.

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“If the Humility of Christ becomes the way of our life, any place may, and will, become a place of Resurrection.” ~ Gerontissa Gavriela

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{I may have entered this in the past, but this is now, and I’m entering it – again.}


A Child’s Lent Remembered:  Clean Monday

An excerpt from Ivan Shmelyov’s “Anno Domini”, a wistful recollection of Life in his pious, old-fashioned, well-to-do home in pre-Revolutionary Moscow. Translated from the Russian by Maria Belaeff and published in “Orthodox America”, v5, #7,  February 1985. Posted with permission of the editors.

Found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20110830083030/http://www.roca.org/OA/47/47g.htm


Clean Monday

I waken from harsh light in my room: a bare kind of light, cold dismal.  Yes, it’s Great Lent today.  The pink curtains, with their hunters and their ducks, have already been taken down while I slept, and that’s why it’s so bare and dismal in the room.  It’s Clean Monday today for us, and everything in our house is being scrubbed.

Greyish weather, the thaw.  The dripping beyond the window is like weeping. Our old carpenter – Gorkin, “the panel man” – said yesterday that when Lady Shrovetide leaves, she’ll weep.  And so she is – drip…drip…drip… There she goes!

I look at the paper flowers reduced to shreds, at the gold-glazed “Shrovetide” sweetcake – a toy, brought back from the baths yesterday; gone are the little bears, gone are the little hills – vanished, the joy. And a joyous something begins to fuss in my heart; now everything is new, different. Now it’ll be “the soul beginning” – Gorkin told me all about it yesterday.  “It’s time to ready the soul.” To prepare for Communion, to keep the fast, to make ready for the Bright Day.

“Send One-eye in to see me!” I hear Father’s angry shouting.

Father has not gone out on business; it’s a special day today, very strict.  Father rarely shouts.  Something important has happened.  But after all, he forgave the man for drinking; he cancelled all his sins; yesterday was the day of Forgiveness.  And Vasil-Vasillich forgave us all too, that’s exactly what he said in the dining room, kneeling: “I forgive you all!”  So why is father shouting then?

The door opens, Gorkin comes in with a gleaming copper basin. Oh, yes, to smoke out Lady Shrovetide! There’s a hot brick in the basin, and mint, and they pour vinegar over them.  My old nurse, Domnushka, follows Gorkin around and does the pouring; it hisses in the basin and a tart steam rises – a sacred steam.  I can smell it even now, across the distance of the years.  Sacred… that’s what Gorkin calls it. He goes to all the corners and gently swirls the basin.  And then he swirls it over me.

“Get up dearie, don’t pamper yourself,” he speaks lovingly to me, sliding the basin under the skirt of the bed.  “Where’s she hid herself in your room, fat old Lady Shrovetide… We’ll drive her out!  Lent has arrived… We’ll be going to the Lenten market, the choir from St. Basil’s will be singing  ‘My soul, my soul arise;’ you won’t be able to tear yourself away.”

That unforgettable, that sacred smell. The smell of Great Lent.  And Gorkin himself, completely special – as if he were kind of sacred too.  Way before light, he had already gone to the bath, steamed himself thoroughly, put on everything clean.  Clean Monday today!  Only the kazakin is old; today only the most workaday clothes may be worn, that’s “the law.”

And it’s a sin to laugh, and you have to rub a bit of oil on your head, like Gorkin.  He’ll be eating without oil now, but you have to oil the head, it’s the law, “for the prayer’s sake.”  There’s a glow about him, from his little grey beard, all silver really, from the neatly combed head.  I know for a fact that he’s a saint.  They’re like that, God’s people, that please Him.  And his face is pink, like a cherubim’s, from the cleanness.  I know that he’s dried himself bits of black bread with salt, and all Lent long he’ll take them with his tea, “instead of sugar.”

But why is Daddy angry… with Vasil-Vasillich, like that?

“Oh, sinfulness…” says Gorkin with a sigh.  “It’s hard to break habits, and now everything is strict, Lent.  And, well, they get angry.  But you hold fast now, think about your soul.  It’s the season, all the same as if the latter days were come… that’s the law!  You just recite, “O Lord and Master of my life…” and be cheerful.”

And I begin silently reciting the recently memorized Lenten prayer.

The rooms are quiet and deserted, full of that sacred smell. In the front room, before the reddish icon of the Crucifixion, a very old one, from our sainted great-grandmother who was an Old Believer; a “lenten” lampada of clear glass has been lit, and now it will burn unextinguished until Pascha.  When Father lights it – on Saturdays he lights all the lampadas himself – he always sings softly, in a pleasant-sad way: “Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master,” and I would sing softly after him, that wonderful refrain:

“And Thy ho-ly.. Re-sur-re-e-ec-tion, we glo-ri-fy!”

A joy-to-tears beats inside my soul, shining from these words. And I behold it, behind the long file of lenten days – the Holy Resurrection, in lights.  A joyful little prayer!  It casts a kindly beam of light upon these sad days of Lent.

I begin to imagine that now the old life is coming to an end, and it’s time to prepare for that other life, which will be… where?  Somewhere, in the heavens.  You have to cleanse the soul of all sinfulness, and that’s why everything around you is different. And something special is at our side, invisible and fearful. Gorkin told me that now, “it’s like when the soul is parting from the body.” THEY keep watch, to snatch away the soul, and all the while the soul trembles and wails: “Woe is me, I am cursed!”  They read about it in church now, at the Standings.

“Because they can sense that their end is coming near, that Christ will rise!  And that’s why we’re a-given Lent for, to keep close to church, to live to see the Bright Day.  And not to reflect, you understand.  About earthly things, do not reflect! And they’ll be ringing everywhere: ‘Think back!… Think back!…” He made the words boom inside him nicely.

Throughout the house the window vents are open, and you can hear the mournful cry and summons of the bells, ringing before the services: think-back.. think-back.  That’s the piteous bell, crying for the soul.  It’s called the Lenten peal.

They’ve taken the shutters down from the widows, and it’ll be that way, poor-looking, clear until Pascha.  In the drawing-room there are grey slip-covers on the furniture; the lamps are bundled up into cocoons, and even the one painting, “The Beauty at the Feast,” is draped over with a sheet.  That was the suggestion of His Eminence.  Shook his head sadly and said: “A sinful and tempting picture!”  But Father likes it a lot – such class!  Also draped is the engraving which Father for some reason calls “the sweetcake one”, it shows a little old man dancing, and an old woman hitting him with a broom.  That one His Eminence liked a great deal, even laughed.

All the housefolk are very serious, in workday clothes with patches, and I was told also to put on the jacket with the worn-through elbows.  The rugs have been taken out; it’s such a lark now to skate across the parquet.  Only it’s scary to try – Great Lent: skate hard and you’ll break a leg.  Not a crumb left over from Shrovetide, mustn’t be so much as a trace of it in the air.  Even the sturgeon in aspic was passed down to the kitchen yesterday. Only the very plainest dishes are left in the sideboard, the ones with the dun spots and the cracks… for Great Lent.

In the front room there are bowls of yellow pickles, little umbrellas of dill sticking out of them, and chopped cabbage, tart and thickly dusted with anise – a delight.  I grab pinches of it – how it crunches!  And I vow to myself to eat only lenten foods for the duration of the fast.  Why send my soul to perdition, since everything tastes so good anyway!  There’ll be stewed fruit, potato pancakes with prunes, “crosses” on the Week of the Cross… frozen cranberries with sugar, candied nuts…  And what about roast buckwheat kasha with onions, washed down with kvass!  And then lenten pasties with milk-mushrooms, and then buckwheat pancakes with onions on Saturdays… and the boiled wheat with marmalade on the first Saturday… and almond milk with white kissel, and the cranberry one with vanilla, and the grand kuliebiak on Annunciation…  Can it be that THERE, where everyone goes to from this life, there will be such lenten fare!

And why is everyone so dull-looking?  Why, everything is so… so different, and there is much, so much that is joyous.  Today they’ll bring the first ice and begin to line the cellars – the whole yard will be stacked with it.  We’ll go to the “Lenten Market,” where I’ve never been… I begin jumping up and down with joy, but they stop me: “It’s Lent, don’t dare!  Just wait and see, you’ll break your leg!”

Fear comes over me.  I look at the Crucifixion.  He suffers, the Son of God!  But how is it that God… How did He allow it?…

I have the sense that herein lies the great mystery itself – GOD.

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Orthodox Way of Life: Walking the Path to Theosis posted this:
10 Things Orthodox Christians Would Like You to Know

This is an excellent post.

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Reblogged from Fr. Stephen Freeman’s Blog Glory to God for All Things

Man is a musical composition, a wonderfully written hymn to powerful creative activity. – St. Gregory of Nyssa (PG 44, 441 B)

In St. Gregory’s thought,  man is not only a singer, but a song. We are not only song, but the song of God. Indeed within one theme of the fathers, all of creation is the song of God, spoken (or sung) into existence. “Let there be light,” is more than the voice of command: it is the uttering of a phrase that sets the universe as fugue. God sings. All of creation sings. The song of … [MORE]

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Eastern Orthodox icon depicting the First Coun...

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The Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils

Commemorated on the Sunday closest to July 16

In the Ninth Section of the Nicea-Constantinople Symbol-Creed of Faith – worked out by the holy fathers of the First and Second Ecumenical Councils, we confess our faith in “One, Holy, Catholico-Conciliar (“Sobornyi”) and Apostolic Church”. By virtue of the Catholico-Conciliar (“Sobornyi”) nature of the Church, the All-Churchly or Ecumenical Council is the Church’s supreme facility, and possessing the plenitude, to resolve the major questions of religious life. An Ecumenical Council is comprised of archpastors and pastors of the Church, and representatives of all the Local Churches, from every land of the “oikumene” (i.e. from all the whole inhabited world, the Ecumenical/ecumenical basis of the “Universality” (“Vselennost'”) of the Church is implied in the Greek word “kath’olon”, from whence the word “catholic”, which encompasses the evangelisation of the whole world).
[Trans. note: The Church Slavonic word “Sobornyi” – in English usually translated merely as “Catholic”, has actually a deeper and more profound meaning than commonly understood in the West, and it reflects linguistically the Greek word “katholikos” as interpreted by Holy Tradition for Saints Cyril and Methodios. The adjective form “Sobornyi” has its word-root in “Sobor” – meaning an “assembly” or “council”. The erudite might also recognise similarity with the word “Sobornost'” – a term emphasised in ecclesiology by the Russian religious-philosopher A. S. Khomyakov in the 1800’s. “Sobornost'” is translated sometimes as “Catholico-Conciliarity”, but often also as “Communality”. This latter nuance signifies the “Catholicity” of the Church, not as a formal external quality regarding the Church as worldly institution and outward authority, but rather existing as a spiritually inward and dynamic quality within each believer. It is the Gospel that defines the locus of the Church saying: “The Kingdom of God is within you”. This however does not mean the fragmenting individualism of belief often seen in Protestantism. The Church as “ekklesia” (assembly of believers) is “One” in Christ in the Apostolicity and Holiness of its faith in Christ – our own oneness is with the one authentic faith of the Holy Apostles in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, preserved as Holy Tradition throughout all the generations of believers. The “Communality” or “Communion in Christ Jesus” is not merely with our fellow believers in the Church in the present time, but with all the generations of the “faithful” that have gone before us. All the Four Marks of the Church – One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic – are inter-connected. The Catholicity of the Church extends universally not merely through spatiality, but also back through time – it is the “Church Triumphant” as well as the “Church Militant”.]
The Orthodox Church acknowledges Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils: The First Ecumenical Council (Nicea I) (Comm. 29 May, and also movably, on 7th Sunday after Pascha) was convened in the year 325 against the heresy of Arius, in the city of Nicea in Bithynia under the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great.
The Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople I) (Comm. 22 May) was convened in the year 381 against the heresy of Macedonias, by the emperor Theodosius the Great.
The Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus) (Comm. 9 September) – was convened in the year 431 against the heresy of Nestorius, in the city of Ephesus by the emperor Theodosius the Younger.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council (Chalcedon) (Comm. 16 July) – was convened in the year 451, against the Monophysite heresy, in the city of Chalcedon under the emperor Marcian.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constnatinople II) (Comm. 25 July) – “Concerning the Three Chapters”, was convened in the year 553, under the emperor Justinian the Great.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople III) (Comm. 23 January) – during the years 680-681, was against the Monothelite heresy, under the emperor Constantine Pogonatos.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) (Comm. as moveable feastday on Sunday nearest 11 October) – was convened just like the First Council, at Nicea, but in the year 787 against the Iconoclast heresy, under the emperor Constantine and his mother Irene. (Accounts about the Councils are likewise located under the days of commemoration).
The significance of a special Church veneration of the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils consists in this, that the Ecumenical Councils, and only they, are of themselves in entirety expressive of the faith, will and mind of the Ecumenical Catholic Church – of an Orthodox Plenitude, by virtue of the immutable promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and by the Apostolicity inhering in the hierarchy, – they possess the wherewithal to bring forth infallible and “of benefit to all” definitions in the areas of Christian faith and Church piety.
The dogmatic conciliar definitions – “orosoi” in Greek, are employed in the Orthodox Church as having an inalienable and constant authority, and such definitions always begin with the Apostolic formula: “It hath pleased the Holy Spirit and us” (Acts 15: 28).
The Ecumenical Councils were convened in the Church each time regarding a special need, in connection with the appearance of divergent opinions and heresies, so as to seek out the Orthodox Church teaching of faith and tradition. But the Holy Spirit has thus seen fit, that the dogmas – the truths of faith, immutable in their content and scope, constantly and consequently are revealed by the conciliar mind-set of the Church, and are given precision by the holy fathers within theological concepts and terms in exactly such measure, as is needed by the Church itself for its economy of salvation. The Church, in expounding its dogmas, is dealing with the concerns of a given historical moment, “not revealing everything in haste and thoughtlessly, nor indeed, ultimately hiding something” (Saint Gregory the Theologian).
A brief summary of the dogmatic theology of the First Six Ecumenical Councils is formulated and contained in the First Canon-rule of the Council of Trullo (also known as Quinisext), held in the year 692. The 318 Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council are spoken of in this Canon I of Trullo as having: “with one-mindedness of faith revealed and declared to us the oneness of essence in the three Hypstaseis-Persons of the God-original nature and, … instructing to be worshipped – with one worship – the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, they cast down and dispelled the false-teaching about unequal degrees of Divinity”. The 150 Holy Fathers of the Second Ecumenical Council left their mark on the theology of the Church as regards the Holy Spirit, “repudiating the teaching of Macedonias, who wanted to chop apart the Undivided Unity, such that there should not perfectly be the mystery of our hope”. The 200 God-bearing Fathers of the Third Ecumenical Council expounded the teaching about “the One Christ, the Son of God Incarnate” and they confessed that “truly the God-begetter [Theotokos, Bogoroditsa, i.e. Mother of God] without seed hath given birth to Him, whilst being the Immaculate and Ever-Virgin”. The point of faith of the 630 God-chosen Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council promulgated “One Christ, the Son of God… glorified in two natures”. The 165 God-bearing Holy Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council “collectively gave anathema and repudiated Theodore of Mopsuetia, the teacher of Nestorius, and Origen, and Didymas, and Euagrios, renovators of the Hellenic teaching about the transmigration of souls and the transmutation of bodies and the impieties raised against the resurrection of the dead”. The faith-confession of the 170 Holy Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council “explained, that we ought to confess two natural volitions, or two wills [trans. note: the one Divine, and the other human], and two natural operations (energies) in He That hath been incarnated for the sake of our salvation, our One Lord Jesus Christ, True God”.
In decisive moments of Church history, the holy Ecumenical Councils promulgated their dogmatic definitions, as trustworthy delimitations in the spiritual militancy for the purity of Orthodoxy, which will last until such time, as “all shalt come into the oneness of faith in the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4: 13). In the struggle with new heresies, the Church does not abandon its former dogmatic concepts nor replace them with some sort of new formulations. The dogmatic formulae of the Holy Ecumenical Councils need never to be superseded, they remain always contemporary to the living Tradition of the Church. Wherefore the Church proclaims:
“The faith of all in the Church of God hath been glorified by men, which were luminaries in the world, cleaving to the Word of Life, so that it be observed firmly, and that it dwell unshakably until the end of the ages, conjointly with their God-bestown writings and dogmas. We reject and we anathematise all, whom they have rejected and anathematised, as being enemies of Truth. And if anyone doth not cleave to nor admit the aforementioned pious dogmas, and doth not so think nor preach, let that one be anathema” (from Canon I of the Council of Trullo, ascribed to the Sixth Ecumenical Council).
Besides the dogmatic activity, the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils exerted great efforts towards the strengthening of churchly discipline. Local Councils promulgated their disciplinary canon-rules, as is obvious, according to the circumstances of the times and place, frequently differing among themselves in various particulars. The universal unity of the Orthodox Church required unity also in canonical practise, i.e. a conciliar deliberation and affirmation of the most important canonical norms by the fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. Thus, according to conciliar judgement, there have been accepted by the Church: 20 Canons from the First, 7 Canons from the Second, 8 Canons from the Third, and 30 Canons from the Forth, Ecumenical Councils. The Fifth and the Sixth Ecumenical Councils concerned themselves with the resolving of exclusively dogmatic questions and did not leave behind any disciplinary canon-rules. The need to establish in codified form in the Church of the customary practises over the years 451-680, and ultimately to affirm the aggregate of a canonical codex for the Orthodox Church, occasioned the convening of a special Council, the activity of which was wholly devoted to the general application of churchly rules. This was convened in the year 692. The Council “in the Imperial Palace” or “Under the Arches” (in Greek “en trullo”), came to be called the Trullo Council. They also called it the “Qunisext” [meaning the “fifth and sixth”], considering it to have completed in canonical matters the activities of the Fifth and Sixth Councils, or rather moreso – that it was simply of the Sixth Council itself, i.e. a direct continuation of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, separated by but a few years.
The Trullo Council, with its 102 Canon-rules (more than of all the Ecumenical Councils combined), had a tremendous significance in the history of the canonical theology of the Orthodox Church. It might be said, that by the fathers of this Council there was a complete compilation of the basic codex from the relevant sources for the Orthodox Church’s canons. Listing through in chronological order, and having been accepted by the Church – the Canons of the Holy Apostles, and the Canons of the Holy Ecumenical and the Local Councils and the holy fathers, the Trullo Council declared: “Let no one be permitted to alter or to annul the aforementioned canons, nor in place of these put forth, or to accept others, made of spurious inscription” (2nd Canon of Trullo Council, ascribed to the Sixth Ecumenical Council).
Church canons, sanctified by the authority of the first Six Ecumenical Councils (including the rules of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787, and likewise the Constantinople Councils of 861 and 879, which were added on later under holy Patriarch Photios), form the basis of the books of  “The Rudder” or “Kormchaya Kniga” (a law‑canon codex known as “Syntagma” or “Nomokanon” of 14 titles). In its repository of grace is expressed a canonical norm, a connection to every time-period for guidance in churchly practise for all the Local Orthodox Churches.
New historical conditions can lead to the change of this or that particular external aspect of the life of the Church, which causes for it the necessity of creative canonical activity in the conciliar reasoning of the Church, as regards the inclusion of external norms of churchly life in conformity with historical circumstances. The details of canonical regulation are not at all once fleshed out into life for the various eras of churchly organisation. But amidst every push to either forsake the literal-letter of a canon or fulfill and develope it, the Church again and again turns for reasoning and guidance to the eternal legacy of the Holy Ecumenical Councils – to the impoverishable treasury of dogmatic and canonical truths.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

Troparion of the Sunday, Tone VI —
The angelic powers were at Thy tomb; / the guards became as dead men. / Mary stood by Thy grave, / seeking Thy most pure Body. / Thou didst capture hell, / not being tempted by it. / Thou didst come to the Virgin, granting life. / O Lord, Who didst rise from the dead: glory to Thee!

Hymn to the Theotokos, Tone VI —
Thou Who didst call Thy mother blessed / came of Thine own will to the passion. / Shining on the cross, desiring to recall Adam, Thou didst say to the angels: / “Rejoice with Me, for the lost coin has been found.” / Thou Who hast ordered all things in wisdom, / O our God, glory to Thee! (1x) Blessed be the name of the Lord, henceforth and forever more.

Kontakion of the Sunday, Tone VI —
When Christ God, the Giver of Life, / raised all of the dead from the valleys of misery with His mighty hand, / He bestowed resurrection on the human race. / He is the Savior of all, the Resurrection, the Life, and the God of all.

Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the first six Ecumenical Councils, Troparion, in Tone VIII —
Most glorious art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast established our fathers upon the earth as beacons, and hast thereby guided us all to the true Faith! O greatly Compassionate One, glory be to Thee!

Kontakion, in Tone VIII, “As the first fruits…” —
The preaching of the apostles and the dog­mas of the fathers sealed the one Faith of the Church; and clad in the robe of truth woven of theology from on high, it setteth aright and glorifieth the great mystery of piety.

Holy Martyr Emilian, Troparion, in Tone IV —
In his suffering, O Lord,/ Thy martyr Emilian received an imperishable crown from Thee our God;/ for, possessed of Thy might,/ he set at nought the tormentors and crushed the feeble audacity of the demons.// By his supplications save Thou our souls.

Kontakion, Tone III, “Of the divine Faith…” —
Aflame with zeal divine, thou wast not afraid of the ministering fire,/ but, fearlessly ascending of thine own will,/ thou wast consumed by the kindled fire,/ and didst offer thyself to the Master as a sacrifice.// O glorious martyr Emilian, entreat Christ God, that He grant us great mercy.

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The Orthodox Christians of Japan ask for prayers The Orthodox Christians of Japan ask for prayersRight after the explosion at the nuclear power plant, a correspondent from the website, Pravoslavie i Mir contacted Priest Nicholai Katsiuban, rector of the metochion of the Russian Orthodox Church in Japan.

A Letter from the Orthodox Christians of Japan
From the Director of External Church Relations.

“Christ is …in our midst!

…This terrible earthquake hit the whole East Japan diocese and devastated the whole city of Sendai, where the episcopal throne of the diocese exists, and almost all the regional orthodox communities which exist along the Pacific coast.

Orthodox Cathedral at Sendai, Japan

By order of His Eminence Daniel, the Metropolitan Council has been trying to get information from the beginning of the incident but does not have enough exact information about the East Japan diocese, because the telephone and internet lines are not working properly. They are mostly destroyed and other lines are restricted by the national authorities for the emergency priority.
However, by now we confirmed that at least the clergy of Sendai orthodox church including Bishop Seraphim is safe. According to Bishop Seraphim, most of the church buildings in Tohoku parish along the Pacific coast are severely damaged.
There are 24 churches in Tohoku parish. These churches are ministered by 5 priests. Out of these 5, one priest is missing. We have no exact information about the safety of the parishioners.
Fortunately, the Holy Resurrection Cathedral of Tokyo and the building of the Metropolitan Council are totally saved by God’s grace.
His Eminence Daniel is praying fervently Christ our Savior have mercy upon Japanese orthodox faithful and Japanese nation, because the nuclear power plant in Tohoku parish is found in critical situation.
Please remember us Japanese orthodox christians in your fervent prayers.
We will provide further information as soon as the whole situation of the earthquake damage turns out clear.

With love in Christ

Fr Demitrios Tanaka
Director of External Church Relations
Metropolitan Council
Holy Autonomous Orthodox Church in Japan

= = = =

Lord, have mercy!!


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In response to comments on various posts, I want to give a few links for those who are interested:






At the following link, you will need to click on the “Textbooks” button. A new page will load with a list of excellent textbooks for theological study. All are available on line:


I hope you find these useful!

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Russia Buries Murdered Priest, As Attention Focuses On Fragile Religious Ties

(RFE/RL) — Thousands of mourners gathered at a suburban Moscow church today for funeral services for a Russian Orthodox priest shot dead by a masked gunman last week.

Investigators said Daniil Sysoyev had received death threats for converting Muslims and criticizing Islam. His death is drawing attention to tense relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and other faiths in a country with Europe’s largest Muslim population.

The Russian Orthodox Church leader, Patriarch Kirill, who took part in today’s services, praised Sysoyev for having done much to “defend the word of God.”


His Matushka wrote a letter which is posted on Abbot Tryphon’s blog HERE.

Lord have mercy!

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Most of us do at least some looking back (retrospecting) around the end of the year. What went wrong, what went right, what do we want to change in the new year, and will we really carry through with those changes?

We mostly don’t do that unless there were some real BIG disasters. Generally, the Ol’ Curmudgeon and I make our analyses and resolutions at the time of the disaster.

Today we received in the mail a Christmas present from some very, very dear friends. It is a CD, and we opened it to be sure that’s what it was because they were asking if we had received it.

It is a beautifully packaged CD of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir doing Orthodox chants of the 17th and 18th centuries. Had to put it on. Shouldn’t have done that, or, perhaps it is a good thing we did. The first band was “Let my Prayer Arise” (in Old Church Slavonic). On about the second Refrain, I burst into tears. First, I cried out to God to forgive me. Then I rushed (well, “cripped my way”) downstairs to throw myself in the Ol’ Curmudgeon’s arms and beg his forgiveness! We are still in the Lenten period before the Nativity, and I was, and am, filled with remorse for all the things left undone, and all the wrong things done – both externally and internally.

We all are lax and don’t discipline ourselves sufficiently both in our spiritual lives and in our secular lives. In fact, we artificially divide our spiritual and secular lives as if they were two different things. But they are not. They are both our LIFE. Not both PARTS of our life, but both ARE our life. They should be intricately intermeshed so that they are indistinguishable. Yet, even we, the Orthodox, who, of all, should know better, separate our lives into the spiritual and secular.

God should be at the center of our lives, and all that we do should glorify Him. I was overwhelmed by my sin – by missing that mark for which I am aiming. I was overwhelmed by how far I miss the mark – every minute of every day. As an example, I read medical records and decipher whether someone “missed the mark” in caring for the patient. It is frequently my judgment that determines if a case is to be brought against the providers. Yet, all too frequently, I don’t pray about it before, during and after I read the records and write my report. It is these kinds of sins that overwhelmed me. Not making God the center of my life, not “integrating” my life into God.

So, like an Orthodox Christian, I shall get up once more, start anew, and try to “get it right” this time. Despite my trying, however, most likely I will fail because of my own shortcomings. But we are not called upon to do the impossible, simply to keep trying to do that which is “right” – which leads us closer to God.

May God have mercy upon us all.

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The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths Ananias, Azarias and Misael

Commemorated on December 17/30

The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths Ananias, Azarias and Misael: In the years following 600 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians, the Temple built by Solomon was destroyed, and many of the Israelite people were led away into the Babylonian Captivity. Among the captives were also the illustrious youths Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Misael. The emperor of Babylon, Nebuchadnessar, gave orders to instruct them in the Chaldean wisdom, and to dress them in finery at his court. But they, in cleaving to the commandments of their faith, refused the extravagance and led a strict manner of life; they indeed sustained themselves on only vegetables and water. The Lord granted them wisdom, and to Saint Daniel – the gift of perspicacity and the interpretation of dreams.

The Holy Prophet Daniel

The Holy Prophet Daniel

The holy Prophet Daniel, having preserved sacred faith in the One God and trusting on His almighty help, in his wisdom surpassed all the Chaldean astrologers and sorcerers, and was made a confidant to the emperor Nebuchadnessar. One time Nebuchadnessar had a strange dream, which terrified him, but upon awakening he forgot the details of the vision. The Babylonian wise-men seemed powerless to learn what the emperor had dreamt. Thereupon the holy Prophet Daniel gave glory before all to the power of the True God, revealing not only the content of the dream, but also its prophetic significance. After this Daniel was elevated by the emperor to be a lord of the realm of Babylonia.

Three Holy Youths Ananias, Azarias and Misael

Three Holy Youths Ananias, Azarias and Misael

During these times the emperor Nebuchadnessar gave orders to erect in his likeness – an huge statue, to which it was decreed to accord the honours befitting a god. For their refusal to do this, the three holy lads – Ananias, Azarias and Misael – were thrust into a burning fiery furnace. The flames shot out over the furnace 49 cubits, felling the Chaldeans standing about, but the holy lads walked amidst the flames, offering up prayer and psalmody to the Lord (Dan. 3: 26-90). The Angel of the Lord in appearing made cool the flames, and the lads remained unharmed. The emperor, upon seeing this, commanded them to come out, and was converted to the True God.

Under the following emperor Balthasar, Saint Daniel interpreted a mysterious inscription (“Mene, Takel, Phares”), which had appeared on the wall of the palace during the time of a banquet (Dan. 5: 1-31), which foretold the downfall of the Babylonian realm. Under the Persian emperor Darius, Saint Daniel was slandered by his enemies, and was thrown into a den with hungry lions, but they did not touch him, and he remained unharmed. The emperor Darius then in rejoicing over Daniel gave orders throughout all his realm to worship the God of Daniel, “since that He is the Living and Ever-Existing God, and His Kingdom is unbounded, and His sovereignty is without end” (Dan. 6: 1-29).

The holy Prophet Daniel sorrowed deeply for his people, who then were undergoing righteous chastisement for a multitude of sins and offenses, for transgressing the laws of God, – resulting in the grievous Babylonian Captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem: “My God, incline Thine ear and hearken, open Thine eyes and look upon our desolation and upon the city, in which is spoken Thine Name; wherefore do we make our supplication before Thee, trusting in hope not upon our own righteousness, but upon Thy great mercy” (Dan. 9: 18). By his righteous life and prayer for the redeeming of the iniquity of his people, there was revealed to the holy prophet the destiny of the nation of Israel and the fate of all the world.

During the interpretation of the dream of the emperor Nebuchadnessar, the Prophet Daniel declared about the kingdoms replacing one another and about the great final kingdom – the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (Dan. 2: 44). The prophetic vision about the seventy of weeks (Dan. 9: 24-27) tells the world about the signs of the First and the Second Comings of the Lord Jesus Christ and is connected with those events (Dan. 12: 1-12). Saint Daniel interceded for his people before the successor to Darius, the emperor Cyrus, who esteemed him highly, and who decreed freedom for the Israelite people. Daniel himself and his fellows Ananias, Azarias and Misael, all survived into old age, but died in captivity. According to the testimony of Sainted Cyril of Alexandria (Comm. 9 June), Saints Ananias, Azarias and Misael were beheaded on orders of the Persian emperor Chambyses.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos

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So very, very sad – must Serbia ever suffer?

Tone 4
Thy righteous acts have revealed thee to thy flock
As a model of frith, a reflection of humility
And a teacher of abstinence, O Father Bishop Nikolai;
Therefore, through humility thou hast obtained exaltation and through poverty, riches;
Pray to Christ God to save our souls.

Tone 8
Loving thy homeland thou didst sojourn as a patriot to secure aid for God’s suffering children,
And as a new Chrysostom thou didst preach to those in darkness
The rediscovery of the Foundational Rock, Christ the Lord,
In the Eternal Homeland of God’s Kingdom.
Thy pastoral love for all, O Confessor Nikolai, was purified in captivity by the godless,
Demonstrating thy commitment to the truth and thy people;
Therefore, O venerable Bishop, thou hast attained the crown of eternal life.

O Holy St. Nikolai, Pray for Suffering Serbia!

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We Orthodox Christians live slightly different lives from the rest of the “herd” in the US. Yes, we go to work, our children go to school, we go to Church, like many others. Unlike the others, however, Orthodox Christians consult a special Church Calendar daily to see which Saints are commemorated and whether it is a fasting day. If it is a fasting day, we check to see which kind – strict fast, wine and oil, or fish, wine and oil. Strict fast mean no meat, no dairy, no fish, no wine and no oil. Vegetables, grains, and legumes are permitted. This is a vegan kind of diet. Shellfish are permitted, also, but many people don’t bother, as shellfish are expensive. There are approximately 150 strict fast days each year. Hey! That’s almost 1/2 of the year!! The wine and oil days add wine and olive oil to the mix. There are approximately 25 wine and oil days each year. Finally, there are the fish, wine and oil days – often just called “fish days.” Fish is added to the mix on those days.

The 6 weeks prior to the Nativity of our Lord is a fasting season in preparation for the feast. If there is a big feast, there is a fast preceding it. There are 4 major fasts a year. The St. Philip’s Fast for the 6 weeks preceding Nativity, Great Lent for the 6 weeks plus 1 week prior to Pascha (Easter), the Apostles Fast for a variable number of days / weeks prior to the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Dormition Fast is the 2 weeks prior to the feast of the Dormition (falling asleep in the Lord) of the Theotokos (Birth-giver of God; Mother of god).

When all the fasting days are added up, the total is approximately 186 days of the year. A few days more than 1/2 of the year!

Our lives follow a rhythm of fasting and feasting. And, believe me, it is easier to fast than to feast!

To further complicate matters, Orthodox follow a variety of calendars. There are the traditional, Old Calendar followers. I am among them. We follow the old Julian Calendar which is 13 days “off” from the civil calendar. Visualize a standard calendar, and then superimpose another calendar over it that begins 13 days after the standard calendar. That’s the calendar we live by. So, the Nativity Fast begins on November 15th, but November 15th on the Julian Calendar falls on November 28th of the civil calendar. December 25th on the Julian Calendar falls on January 7th of the civil calendar.

Those who follow the “new calendar,” which is an adaptation of the civil calendar, follow the same feasts and fasts and rhythms as those who follow the “old calendar” but the fixed feasts are on different dates on the civil and Julian calendars.

Pascha is the exception. It is a movable feast, and the Sunday it falls on depends on when the first full moon following the Spring Equinox (defined as March 21, Julian) and following Passover occurs. This can be anywhere between March 22, Julian (March 11, civil) and April 25 (April 12, civil). Both the old and new calendars celebrate Pascha on the same Sunday – which is usually between 1 and 5 weeks later than non-Orthodox (Heterodox) Christians. Every 4 – 8 years, the Sundays will coincide. For more information than you ever wanted to know about the “dating” of Pascha, see the Calculation of the Ecclesiastical Calendar website.

As the date of the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul is fixed (on a specific date on the calendar), and no fasting season may begin during the Paschalion (the weeks between Pascha and Pentecost), the fast will begin on the day after Pentecost Sunday and end on June 30 (Sts Peter and Paul). So, if Pascha is early, there is a longer fast, and if Pascha is late, there is a shorter fast. It can be as long as 6 weeks, or as short as 7 days. For those on the civil calendar, the may not be a Sts Peter and Paul fast at all when Pascha is late!

Yes, there is some conflict between the “old calendarists” and the “new calendarists.” But most of the conflict is confined to snide remarks and bursts of activity on one of the many Orthodox listservs. Each side believes it is “right,” and “never the twain shall meet!”

Today is the feast of one of the Wonderworking Icons of the Mother of God: The Shuisk-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God.

The Shuisk-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God was written in the years 1654-1655 in the Resurrection parish of the city of Shui, where at the time raged an unrelenting pestilence. Hoping on the mercy of God and the intercession of the Mother of God, the parishioners of the Resurrection [Voskresensk] church commissioned a certain pious monk to write the image of the Smolensk Mother of God, – from of old being a rescuer of the Russian people from enemies and misfortune. The whole week while the image was being written was spent by the parishioners in prayer and fasting. When the icon was finished, the priest and the people took it to the church and set it in a specially built place. From that time the pestilence began to ease, at first in the locale of the Voskresensk parish, and then also in all the city.

From the Icon of the mother of God set up in the church were done many miracles of healing, especially of eye diseases. Celebration of the icon is done also on 28 July.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos

Shuisk-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God

Shuisk-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God

Most Holy Theotokos, pray for us!

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The PriestMartyr Zenobios, Bishop of Egeia, and his sister Zenobia suffered a martyr’s death in the year 285 in Cilicia. From childhood they were raised in the holy Christian faith by their parents, and they led pious and chaste lives. In their mature years, shunning the love of money, they distributed away their wealth, an inheritance, giving it to the poor. For his beneficence and holy life the Lord rewarded Zenobios with the gift of healing various maladies. And he was chosen bishop of a Christian community in Cilicia.

In the dignity of bishop, Saint Zenobios zealously spread the Christian faith among the pagans. When the emperor Diocletian (284-305) began a persecution against Christians, Bishop Zenobios was the first one arrested and brought to trial to the governor Licius. “I shalt speak with thee but briefly, — said Licius to the saint, — for I propose to thee: life — if thou worshipest our gods, or death — if thou dost not”. The saint answered: “This present life without Christ is death; better I prepare to endure the present torment for my Creator, and then with Him live eternally, than to renounce Him because of the present life, and then be tormented eternally in hades”.

By order of Licius, they nailed him to a cross and began the torture. The sister of the bishop, seeing the suffering of her brother, wanted then to stop it with him. She bravely confessed her own faith in Christ afront the governor, for which she also was given over to torture.

By the power of the Lord they remained alive after torture on a red-hot cot and in a boiling kettle. The saints were then beheaded. Presbyter Hermogenes secretly buried the bodies of the martyrs.

Holy Saints Zenobios and Zenobia, pray unto God for us!

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. . . when someone else says what you want to say better than you could say it, yourself. I’ve been so busy with Emmy (my new service dog) and trying to get everything else done, I have neglected this blog. I had a plaintive e-mail asking when I would get “back on track.” Well, the answer to that is . . . I just don’t know.

For the meantime, I’ll refer people to other places. Today is it Reading Rightly from Fr. Stephen Freeman’s excellent blog “Glory to God for All things.”

Fr. Stephen is warning against too much diverse reading even in Orthodox writings. The American response is an aghast, “WHY!!??” We can’t conceive that something wrong can happen if we toss ideas around too freely. But it can. Especially when the ideas we are tossing around are from the writings of the Church Fathers or other Saints, and we expose them to unbelievers.

Fr. Stephen’s article is worth reading.

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Mother of God, Prosperess of Loaves (Sporitelnitsa Khlebov) (Grower of Crops)

Mother of God, "Prosperess of Loaves" ("Sporitel'nitsa Khlebov") (Grower of Crops)

The Icon of the Mother of God, named “Prosperess of Loaves” (“Sporitel’nitsa Khlebov”), was written at the blessing of the starets-elder of the Visitation Optina wilderness monastery, the priest-schemamonk Amvrosii (Ambrosii) (23/XI/1812 – 10/X/1891). Father Amvrosii, a great Russian ascetic of the XIX Century, was ardent with a childlike faith towards the Mother of God. He in particular revered all the feastdays of the Mother of God and on these days he redoubled his prayer. With the icon, “Prosperess of Loaves”, Father Amvrosii blessed the Shamordinsk women’s monastery established in honour of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, and founded by him not far from the Optina monastery.

On this icon the Mother of God is depicted sitting upon the clouds, and Her hands are extended in blessing. Beneathe — is a compressed field, and on it amidst the grass and flowers stand and lay sheaves of rye. Starets Amvrosii himself decreed the day of celebration — 15 October, and called the image “Prosperess of Loaves”, indicating by this, that the Most Holy Mother of God — “is an Helper for people in their labours for the acquiring of their daily bread”. Before his blessed death, Father Amvrosii ordered a large quantity of photo-replicas of this icon and distributed and sent them off to his spiritual children. For the singing of an akathist before the holy image, the starets composed a particular response: “Hail, Thou Full-of-Grace, the Lord is with Thee! Grant unto us unworthy ones the dew of Thy grace and the showing forth of Thine mercy!”

The day of burial of Father Amvrosii happened on 15 October — the feastday of the icon. The first miracle from the holy icon was witnessed in 1891, when throughout Russia was a famine because of crop-failure, but in the Kaluzh district and on the fields of the Shamordinsk monastery grain was produced. In 1892, already after the death of Father Amvrosii, his attendant Ivan Feodorovich Cherepanov sent a copy from the icon to the Pyatnitsk women’s monastery in Voronezh district. In this locale there was a drought and famine threatened, but soon after a molieben served before the icon, “Prosperess of Loaves”, it rained and ended the drought.

On a more modern note, in 2008, there was drought in Texas. One devout Orthodox Christian, near Lubbock, TX, printed out and laminated a copy of this Icon from the internet. He placed it in a small shrine in his field, and prayed to the Theotokos for his crops to prosper. He was the only person in his district who had crops that were not stunted or destroyed by the drought. He was able to provide products for several of the markets in his area so that people had access to fresh vegetables of good size at a righteous price.

In these modern days, we often forget that prayers are answered; that God cares for us; that He listens to the prayers of people and especially of the Theotokos – the one who said “yes” to God and bore His only Son. “In one of the prayers at the Sixth Hour we ask the Mother of God to intercede with Jesus for us, “for the prayer of a Mother availeth much to the goodwill of the Lord.’ Indeed, yes,”(1) it does.

The Widow of Nain by Peter Sizer; Orthodox Research Institute

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St. Cosmas the Hymnographer, bishop of Maiuma (787)

Commemorated on October 14

He was from Jerusalem. An orphan, he was adopted into the family of St John of Damascus (commemorated December 4). He became Bishop of Maiuma, a city on the coast of Palestine, which was later named Constantia. Like his adoptive brother he became a noted hymnographer.

The Canon of the Cross (Sept. 14) and the Canon for Christ’s Nativity, “Christ is born, give ye glory…” are his compositions.

Canon of the Exaltation of the Cross
St.Cosmas of Maium
Irmosi (theme songs)
I. Moses, having with his rod made a long line, divided the Red Sea for Israel journeying on foot; and having again struck the same with a transverse blow, thus tracing the Cross which is the weapon invincible, he united it against the armies of Pharaoh. Wherefore we sing unto Christ our God, for He hath been glorified.
III The Rod is accepted as the symbol of a mystery; for by its budding-forth it designated the Priest; and in the Church,which of late was barren, there now hath budded forth the tree of the Cross for herpower and strengthening.
IV I have given heed to the mystery of thy dispensation, O Lord, I have understood thy works, and have glorified Thy Divinity.
V O Tree thrice blessed, whereon was crucified Christour King and our Lord! Through thee he is fallen who by a tree did beguile, having himself been beguiled by Him who was nailed upon thee in the flesh, even God, who granteth peace unto our souls.
VI. Jonah, when he stretched forth his arms in the form of a cross within the belly of the sea-monster, did clearly typify the Redeeming Suffering; and when he came forth thence after 3 days, he imaged forth by anticipation the supernatural Resurrection of Christ our God Who was crucified in the flesh, and hath illumined the world by His rising on the third day.
VII. The mad behest of the impious tyrant breathing forth threats and horrible blasphemies troubled the people; yet neither the brutal rage nor the roaring fire terrified the Three Children; but when, as they stood amid the flames, a dew-bearing breath was wafted against it, they sang: Blessed be Thou, O God of our fathers, exceedingly praised, and our God!
VIII. O Children, in number equal to the Trinity! Bless ye God the Father, the Creator; sing ye the word who came down and turned the fire into dew; and magnify ye the Spirit all-holy, who giveth life unto all men, unto all the ages.
In place of: My soul doth magnify the Lord: The refrains:
Magnify, O my soul, the all-precious Cross of the Lord.
Magnify, O my soul, the elevation of the life-giving Cross of the Lord.
IX. Thou art the mystical Paradise, O Birth-giver of God, who though untilled dodst bud forth Christ, by whom the life-bearing Tree of the Cross was planted upon earth. for which cause, now, at its Elevation, adoring it, we magnify Thee.

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Study Breaks Stereotypes of Orthodox Christians

Interesting story. Something for all of us to read and think about. I question a couple of the results, and wonder about their statistical techniques – like their sampling methodology, and how they analyzed the data. Is this a reliable and valid study? I don’t know. But it puts the Orthodox Church and Orthodox Converts “on the map” as it were.

If some of the bigger news wires pick up this story, there is no telling how many new visitors to our parishes we will see in the next few weeks.

Check out the story – it is short, and I found it both interesting and thought provoking.

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Metropolitan Philip of Moscow
January 9, July 3, and again on October 5
+December 23, 1569

When in 1480 Moscow’s Grand Prince Ivan III forced the Tatars to renounce their claim to the Russian tribute, it signaled Russia’s liberation from the Mongol yoke and confirmed Moscow’s ascendancy over the other Russian principalities. Indeed, whether by diplomacy or force, by 1517 Yaroslav, Rostov, Perm, Tver, Viatka, Novgorod, Pskov, Riazan–all had come under the aegis of Moscow. It was with some justification, therefore, that in 1547, when Grand Prince Ivan IV of Moscow reached his majority, he chose for himself the title “Tsar (Caesar) of All Russia.”

Moscow absolutism may be said to have come of age under Ivan IV, but it had been developing already for some time. With the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow inherited Byzantium’s position of preeminence in the Orthodox Christian world, and gradually adopted the Byzantine model of government–a holy alliance between Church and State-in which ultimate authority over both the secular and ecclesiastical realms reared with the political ruler. Such a concentration of power demanded the restraint of a profoundly Christian conscience-something which few rulers, Byzantine or Russian, were able to exercise with any constancy.

As one historian has justly observed, “The purest, sublimest ideal is subject to deterioration when it is realized concretely.” The Byzantine model was wide open to abuse, and in Russia’s first “tsar,” Ivan IV, this weakness was exploited to an extreme. True, his bloody excesses can largely be explained by a pathological fear of intrigue, a fear rooted in the traumatic circumstances of a childhood which witnessed the volatile treachery of boyars constantly jockeying for power during his mother’s regency (his father Basil III died in 1533 when Ivan was only three years old). But his despotic temperament–which earned him history’s epithet “the Terrible” or “the Dread’–was not simply the tragic outcome of a tormented Psychology. It was unwittingly nurtured by the virtual absolutism which the Byzantine model conferred upon the reigning sovereign. This absolutism was supported by certain Church figures. St. Joseph of Volokolamsk, a vigorous proponent of the close connection between Church and State, wrote to Ivan’s father:. “If the sovereign is like to all men as regards his human nature, he is like to God as regards his power.”

In theory, of course, St. Joseph recognized the Church as supreme; the sovereign’s highest duty was to concern himself with the good of the Church. But in thus idealizing the role of the sovereign, the Church effectively cornered itself into a position of submission; hierarchs who criticized the misdeeds of their sovereigns were all to frequently silenced with a reminder of the sovereign’s divine right, and those who nobly challenged this interpretation courted deposition, banishment, even death.

Given this historic background, we can more fully appreciate the lofty spiritual exploit of Metropolitan Philip of Moscow, whose defense of the Church’s sovereignty was rewarded by a martyr’s death.

Theodore Kolychev, the future hierarch of Moscow, was born in 1507 in a boyar family. His father occupied an important post at the court of Basil III as guardian of Ivan IV’s brother, Grand Duke Yuri. His mother was very pious, and when her husband died she became a nun and founded the St. Barsanouphy convent in Moscow. Whether influenced by his mother or repelled by the intrigues and strife which characterized court life, Theodore had no desire’ to’ follow in the ~family tradition of civil service. His genuine love for the Scriptures and Lives of Saints-which for centuries served as the core of education in Russia–Inspired his heart with a longing for monasticism, not as a profession or a way of life, but as a means towards the closest possible union with God. However, unlike many of his rank who preferred monastic tonsure, Theodore did not choose to settle comfortably in one of the wealthy monasteries in Moscow’s environs; rather, he directod his steps into the farthest reaches of Russia’s “Northern Thebaid,” to the White Sea archipelago of Solovki.

In the century since its establishment by Stis. Znsima and Sabbatius, the monastery of Solovki had become an important religious center. Nevertheless, when the young boyar arrived there in 1537, its physical estate still reflected the stark conditions of its northern latitude.

Concealing his noble birth, the thirty-year old Kolychev presented himself to the abbot, Alexis, who assigned him to various obediences designed to test the intentions of the monastic aspirant. Fortified by his desire for spiritual perfection, Theodore proved himself equal to the heavy manual labor as woodcutter and baker’s apprentice, and steadfastly endured the humiliations and bearings which fell upon him. Within a year he had proven himself and was tonsured with the name Philip.

Under the guidance of the elder Jonah, a disciple of St. Alexander of Svir, Philip continued to make rapid spiritual progress. His hard work and humility soon made him a favorite with the brethren. But seeking greater spiritual concentration., he withdrew before long into the forest where he spent several years in solitary struggle. This was interuppted when the aging Abbot Alexis fell ill and called upon Philip to replace him. At the unanimous decision of the brethren, this position became permanent upon the abbot’s repose.

During his eighteen years as superior, Philip manifested outstanding administrative talents. Using his patrimonial inheritance, he set out with tremendous energy to replace the monastery’s wooden structures–which had suffered from fire not long before—with buildings of stone and brick manufactured by a brickyard which he established. He developed the production of salt to increase the monastery’s revenues and finance the many improvements he effected. He enlarged the refectory and built large complexes of cells for the monks, who numbered about 200 at that time. By an ingenious system of canals he joined 52 small ponds on the island, forming a fresh-water lake whose waters were channeled to drive a mill. On the seashore he Setup windmills, built a wharf, a hospital and a guesthouse for pilgrims. He introduced herds of reindeer whose skins were processed by the brethren into footwear and clothing for the monks. Philip himself participated in the physical labor which thus transformed the monastery, crowning it with the construction of two great cathedrals dedicated to the Feasts of Dormition and Transfiguration.

With the many improvements in the monastery’s physical plant, Philip in no way relaxed the established spiritual standards which were the just cause for the monastery’s renown. His spiritual governance extended also over the many laymen who worked both on the island and on the monastery’s considerable holdings on the mainland. He saw to it that the rights of peasants under his jurisdiction were protected by charters, and they were granted the right of grievance –no small compensation considering the injustices which flourished under autocratic rule.

In 1550 Philip went to Moscow to take part in the Council which promulgated vast administrative reforms and drew up a compendium of rules (the Hundred Chapters or “Stoglav’) aimed at strengthening ecclesiastical discipline. There he gained a favorable impression of the young Tsar Ivan IV, who was not without merit as a ruler. Ten years later, however, he had to revise his opinion when he learned from the Tsar’s exiled spiritual advisor, the priest Sylvester, of the calamitous change which had overtaken the young monarch, and the fear which the populace now suffered in consequence of his excessive suspicion and the vengeance he wreaked on plotters and would-he plotters, real and imagined.

His Road to Golgotha
It was. therefore, with understandable reluctance that Philip accepted the Tsar’s invitation to become chief primate of Moscow. The position had been vacated by the resignation of Athanasius who was frustrated by the silent subordination expected of him. Philip held no illusions about any ideal symphony to be played out between himself and the Tsar as rulers of Church and State. But he was determined not to be a mere figurehead, a Kremlin adornment. Before his installation he set forth certain conditions. Among them, he requested that the Tsar dissolve the Oprichniki, his elite bodyguard whose bloody sprees transfixed the populace in a state of terror. The Tsar was enraged by Philip’s audacity in “meddling” in his domestic affairs. Nevertheless, he did concede to Philip the right of intercession, which had been abolished the previous year. And with this promise Philip was enthroned as Metropolitan of Moscow on July 25, 1566. The Tsar himself handed the hierarch the crozier of his new office, asked his prayers and wished him health and long life, Who at that moment could have guessed that the stormy clash which had heralded Philip’s enthronement presaged his martyrdom less than three years later.

“If I do not bear witness to the truth, I render myself unworthy of my office as a bishop. If I bow to men’s will, what shall I find to answer Christ on the day of the Judgment?” (Metropolitan Philip to Tsar Ivan IV)

Indeed, over the next eighteen months the cloud of fear was gone from the capital. Ivan’s interest was spent on a war with Livonia, and the streets of Moscow were filled once again with normal concerns of daily life, while the Metropolitan was at liberty to attend his new responsibilities he consecrated bishops, presided over synods, invigorated the spiritual life of his vast archbishopric, consoled victims of a plague which swept through the country that year, and continued his spiritual and material support of the island monastery he had left with such reluctance. This period of normalcy was, however, buts brief interlude in a prominently tempestuous era.

The Tsar returned from the Livonian campaign in the fall of 1567, irritated by his lack of success, only to discover evidence of a conspiracy between the boyars and Poland’s King Sigismund, In his unrestrained fury, the Tsar gave rein to the Oprichniki, and in no time these hatchet men turned the streets of Moscow into rivers of blood. Russia’s cup of suffering was overflowing, and Philip fearlessly hastened to the Tsar to exercise his right of intercession. The irate despot commanded him to hold his tongue, but the voice of truth would not be silenced. Both in private audiences and in public, the Metropolitan sought every opportunity to point out to the Tsar the error of his ways.

“Mighty Tsar,” he exclaimed, “you are invested with the highest dignity, almost a divine dignity. But the earthly sceptre is but a reflection of the heavenly one….He alone can in truth call himself sovereign who is master of himself, who is not subject to his passions and conquers by charity….In Russia charity no longer exists, even for the good and innocent. The stones under your feet will cry out if the living refrain from accusing you and judging you. It is my duty to tell you this by the will of God, even if death awaits me for doing so.”

Indeed, no one had ever dared address such a bold rebuke to “the Terrible” Tsar, and Philip knew that he had sealed his fate with his own lips. The Tsar interpreted his sympathy for the people as complicity with the boyars. Inasmuch as there was no evidence for this, other charges were brought; a trial was staged, and the courageous hierarch, accused of sorcery and other imaginary crimes, was deposed and sentenced to imprisonment in a monastery. But even as he was moved from one monastery to another, farther and farther from the capital, the people followed him with their love. This infuriated the Tsar who finally sent one of his Oprichniki to the Metropolitan on a mission of murder. The Metropolitan foresaw that his end was near and had prepared himself by receiving the Holy Mysteries. The Tsar’s envoy arrived on pretext of getting a blessing. “My friend, do what you have come to do,” replied the Metropolitan simply, “and don’t tempt me with your false requests.” The assassin suffocated his victim with a cushion. It was December 23, 1569.

Twenty-one years later the Metropolitan’s incorrupt relics were moved to Solovki, and in 1652, under the reign of the pious Tsar Alexis Michailovich, the relics were transferred to Moscow, to the Dormition cathedral in the Kremlin.

Metropolitan Philip is commemorated by the Church on January 9, July 3, and again on October 5 as one of the five great hierarchs of Moscow, as a “pillar of Orthodoxy, champion of the truth, a shepherd who laid down his life for his flock.”

St Phillip, Metropolitan of Moscow, d. 1569

St Phillip, Metropolitan of Moscow, d. 1569


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Protection of the Theotokos at Blanchernae

Protection of the Theotokos at Blanchernae

The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos

“Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, Since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.

On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ St Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. St John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.

After completing her prayer she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.” St Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, the blessed Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

The Ever-Blessed Mother of God implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them go away from my icon unheard.”

Saints Andrew and Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible. After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”

At the Blachernae church, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered. In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting St Andrew in contemplation of her.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860. Ironically, this Feast is considered important by the Slavic Churches but not by the Greeks.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor also notes the miraculous deliverance followed an all-night Vigil and the dipping of the garment of the Mother of God into the waters of the sea at the Blachernae church, but does not mention Sts Andrew and Epiphanius and their vision of the Mother of God at prayer. These latter elements, and the beginnings of the celebrating of the Feast of the Protection, seem to postdate St Nestor and the Chronicle. A further historical complication might be noted under (October 2) dating St Andrew’s death to the year 936.

The year of death might not be quite reliable, or the assertion that he survived to a ripe old age after the vision of his youth, or that his vision involved some later pagan Russian raid which met with the same fate. The suggestion that St Andrew was a Slav (or a Scythian according to other sources, such as S. V. Bulgakov) is interesting, but not necessarily accurate. The extent of Slavic expansion and repopulation into Greece is the topic of scholarly disputes.

In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the establishment of the special Feast marking this event states, “For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision… and it transpired that Your holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!”

Therefore, in the festal celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, the Russian Church sings, “With the choirs of the Angels, O Sovereign Lady, with the venerable and glorious prophets, with the First-Ranked Apostles and with the Hieromartyrs and Hierarchs, pray for us sinners, glorifying the Feast of your Protection in the Russian Land.” Moreover, it would seem that St Andrew, contemplating the miraculous vision was a Slav, was taken captive, and became the slave of the local inhabitant of Constantinople named Theognostus.

Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.

Church of the Protection of the Theotokkos on the Nerl - Russia

Church of the Protection of the Theotokkos on the Nerl - Bogolyubovo, Russia

At Novgorod in the twelfth century there was a monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (the so-called Zverin Monastery of the Intercession of Our Lady). In Moscow also under Tsar Ivan the Terrible the cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God was built at the church of the Holy Trinity (known as the church of St Basil the Blessed).

Cathedral of the Protection of the Theotokos AKA St. Basils Cathedral, Moscow Russia

Cathedral of the Protection of the Theotokos AKA St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow Russia

On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”
Adapted from the website of the Protection of the Theotokos Orthodox Church; Billings MT

Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Lord our God, Save and Protect us!

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