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St. Ephraim (Ephrem) the Syrian gave us the prayer said more than any other in Great Lent:

O Lord and Master of my life
Take from me the spirit of sloth faintheartedness, lust of power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of Chastity, Patience, Humility and Love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King,
Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother
For Holy art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

What do we know about him? Here is one biography of him found on the website of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church:

The Monk Ephrem the Syrian
Commemorated on January 28 / February 10

The Monk Ephrem the Syrian, a teacher of repentance, was born at the beginning of the IV Century (his precise year of birth is unknown) in the city of Ninevah (Mesopotamia) into the family of impoverished toilers of the soil. His parents raised their son in piety. But from the time of his childhood he was known for his quick temper and irascible character, and in his youth he often had fights, he acted thoughtlessly, and even doubted of God’s Providence, until he finally recovered his senses from the Lord’s doing, guiding him on the path of repentance and salvation. One time he was unjustly accused of the theft of a sheep and was thrown into prison. And there in a dream he heard a voice, calling him to repentance and rectifying his life. After this, he was acquitted of the charges and set free.

Within Ephrem there took place a deep repentance. The youth withdrew outside the city and became an hermit. This form of Christian asceticism had been introduced at Ninevah by a disciple of the Monk Anthony the Great, – the Egyptian Wilderness-Dweller Eugenios (Eugene).

Among the hermits especially prominent was the noted ascetic, a preacher of Christianity and denouncer of the Arians, the bishop of the Ninevah Church, Saint James (Comm. 13 January). The Monk Ephrem became one of his disciples. Under the graced guidance of the holy hierarch, the Monk Ephrem attained to Christian meekness, humility, submission to the Will of God, and the strength without murmur to undergo various temptations. Saint James knew the high qualities of his student and he used them for the good of the Ninevah Church – he entrusted him to read sermons, to instruct children in the school, and he took Ephrem along with him to the First OEcumenical Council at Nicea (in the year 325). The Monk Ephrem was in obedience to Saint James for 14 years, until the bishop’s death.

After the capture of Ninevah by the Persians in the year 363, the Monk Ephrem abandoned the wilderness and settled in a monastery near the city of Edessa. Here he saw many a great ascetic, passing their lives in prayer and psalmody. Their caves were solitary shelters, and they fed themselves off a certain plant. He became especially close with the ascetic Julian (Comm. 18 October), who was one with him in a spirit of repentance. The Monk Ephrem combined with his ascetic works an incessant study of the Word of God, gathering within it for his soul both solace and wisdom. The Lord gave him a gift of teaching, and people began to come to him, wanting to hear his guidances, which produced a particular effect upon the soul, since he began with self-accusation. The monk both verbally and in writing instructed everyone in repentance, faith and piety, and he denounced the Arian heresy, which during those times was disrupting Christian society. And pagans likewise, listening to the preaching of the monk, were converted to Christianity.

He also toiled no little at the interpretation of Holy Scripture – with an explication of the Pentateuch (i.e. “Five Books”) of Moses. He wrote many a prayer and church-song, thereby enriching the Church’s Divine-services. Famed prayers of Saint Ephrem are to the Most Holy Trinity, to the Son of God, and to the Most Holy Mother of God. He wrote for his Church songs for the Twelve Great Feastdays of the Lord (the Nativity of Christ, the Baptism, the Resurrection), and funereal song. Saint Emphrem’s Prayer of Repentance, “O Lord and Master of my life…”, is said during Great Lent, and it summons Christians to spiritual renewal. The Church since times ancient valued highly the works of the Monk Ephrem: his works were read in certain churches, at gatherings of the faithful, after the Holy Scripture. And now at present in accord with the Church Ustav (Rule), certain of his instructions are prescribed to be read on the days of Lent. Amidst the prophets, Saint David is pre-eminently the psalmodist; amidst the holy fathers of the Church the Monk Ephrem the Syrian – is pre-eminently a man of prayer. His spiritual experience made him a guide to monks and an help to the pastors of Edessa. The Monk Ephrem wrote in Syrian, but his works were very early translated into the Greek and Armenian languages, and from the Greek – into the Latin and Slavonic languages.

In numerous of the works of the Monk Ephrem are encountered glimpses of the life of the Syrian ascetics, the centre of which involved prayer and with it thereupon the toiling for the common good of the brethren, in the obediences. The outlook of the meaning of life among all the Syrian ascetics was the same. The end purpose of their efforts was considered by the monks to be communality with God and the diffusion of Divine grace within the soul of the ascetic; the present life for them was a time of tears, fasting and toil.

“If the Son of God be within thee, then also His Kingdom is within thee. Here then is the Kingdom of God – within thee, a sinner. Go inwards into thine self, search diligently and without toil thou shalt find it. Outside of thee – is death, and the door to it – is sin. Go inwards into thine self, dwell within thine heart, for since there – is God”. Constant spiritual sobriety, the developing of good within the soul of man gives unto him the possibility to take upon himself a task like blessedness, and a self-constraint like sanctity. The requital is presupposed in the earthly life of man, it is an undertaking by degrees of its spiritual perfection. Whoso grows himself wings upon the earth, says the Monk Ephrem, is one who soars up into the heights; whoso down here purifies his mind – there glimpses the Glory of God; in what measure each one loveth God – is that measure wherein is satiated to fullness by the love of God. Man, cleansing himself and attaining the grace of the Holy Spirit while still here, down upon the earth, has a foretaste therein of the Kingdom of Heaven. To attain to life eternal, in the teachings of the Monk Ephrem, does not mean to pass over from one sphere of being into another, but means rather to discover “the Heavenly” spiritual condition of being. Eternal life is not bestown man as a one-sided working by God, but rather like a seed, it constantly grows within him through effort, toil and struggle.

The pledge within us of “theosis” (“obozhenie” or “deification”) – is the Baptism of Christ, and the primal propulsion for the Christian life – is repentance. The Monk Ephrem was a great teacher of repentance. The forgiveness of sins in the sacramental-mystery of Repentance, according to his teaching, is not an external exoneration, not a forgetting of the sins, but rather their complete undoing, their annihilation. The tears of repentance wash away and burn away the sin. And moreover – they (i.e. the tears) vivify, they transfigure sinful nature, they give the strength “to walk in the way of the commandments of the Lord”, encouraging the hope on God. In the fiery font of Repentance, wrote the Monk, “thou dost sail thyself across, O sinner, thou dost resuscitate thyself from the dead”.

The Monk Ephrem, in his humility reckoning himself the least and worst of all, at the end of his life set out to Egypt, to see the efforts of the great ascetics. He was accepted there as a welcome guest and received for himself great solace in his associating with them. On the return journey he visited at Caesarea Cappadocia with Sainted Basil the Great (Comm. 1 January), who wanted to ordain him a priest, but the monk considered himself unworthy of priesthood, and at the insistence of Saint Basil, he accepted only the dignity of deacon, in which he remained until death. Even later on, Saint Basil the Great invited the Monk Ephrem to accept the cathedra-chair of a bishop, but the saint feigned folly to avoid for himself this honour, in humility reckoning himself unworthy of it.
Upon his return to his own Edessa wilderness, the Monk Ephrem intended to spend the rest of his life in solitude. But Divine Providence again summoned him to service of neighbour. The inhabitants of Edessa were suffering from a devastating famine. By the influence of his word, the monk induced the wealthy to render aid to those that lacked. From the offerings of believers he built a poor-house for the destitute and sick. The Monk Ephrem then withdrew to a cave nigh to Edessa, where he remained to the end of his days.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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I’m cross-posting this from Filioque blog, and it was crossposted there from elsewhere. This deserves to be crossposted all over the place!!

These could be Protestant Flames or Roman Catholic Flames or, really, just Religious Flames – you’ll find people using them in college classes, political debates, religion – any venue that attracts all kinds of people, can raise the passions, and convince people that the ends (the cause) justifies any means, methods, or techniques for achieving it. They’re basically fallacies but dressed up in a religious context.

Orthodox Flames
The Definitive Guide

Orthodox Flame 1:

I humbly remind you that you’re too proud.

Orthodox Flame 2:

When we attack you, the Holy thing is to remain meek and passive.

Orthodox Flame 3:

Let’s keep the dialogue open; lets discuss how you talk too much.

Orthodox Flame 4:

Your interest in genuine Orthodoxy demonstrates that you’re not fully converted.

Orthodox Flame 5:

You’re talking out of your… er.. uh… background.

Orthodox Flame 6:

You’re not smart enough to have an opinion, but there’s a nice pew in the back for you.

Orthodox Flame 7:

If you defend yourself we can’t make you a martyr.

Orthodox Flame 8: Surveillance Flame:

Who’s your Bishop and where’s your Church?

Orthodox Flame 9:

Love means we never have to say we’re sorry.

Orthodox Flame 10: Dossier Flame 1:

We’re exposing this person in public so you can pray for him in secret. (was fundamentalist flame #1)

Orthodox Flame 11:

We’ve wounded your pride; we were aiming at your head.

Orthodox Flame 12:

Clergy are right even when they’re wrong. (was Jesuit flame #1)

Orthodox Flame 13:

How dare you say that about bickering and division! Are you asking for a fight?

Orthodox Flame 14:

No, here we only have one right – the right to be smeared.

Orthodox Flame 15: Shut up or I’m leaving.

Er…uh…I mean my delicacy is being offended by your self-righteous manipulations, so I might have to unsubscribe.

Orthodox Flame 16:

Tell us who you are. Anonymity is obviously a ploy to protect your good name.

Orthodox Flame 17: False false false.

What I say three times is true.

Orthodox Flame 18 Re: I still think… (was “What the Father’s Say”)

Orthodox Flame 19:

You’ve got too much pride. I know; I was born Orthodox (…am Greek, studied in Greece, teach Sunday School, have a degree, …..)

Orthodox Flame 20: The Flame that Never Dies:

repeat a rumor, accusation, or misrepresentation again and again until it passes as real. (was The Holy Hatchet Job)

Orthodox Flame 21: The Divine Dogpile (self explanatory)

Orthodox Flame 22: Titular Trap:

Cry abuse and mistreatment at an imprudent form of address, but call it over-reaction to defend one’s actual name.


Orthodox Flame 23: The Non-Confession Confession:

“Dirty Tricks happen.”

Orthodox Flame 24: The Enabler:

“Dirty Tricks happen. Let them.”

(also “Live and Let Flame”.)

Orthodox Flame 25: The Pious Enabler:

I mean, people are only human. Why can’t you talk about something good like divinization?

Orthodox Flame 26:

What do you expect from Orthodox Christians?
Oh…

Orthodox Flame 27:

Truth is admitting you’re wrong even when you’re not.

Orthodox Flame 28: Projection Flame:

This side issue is too important in your thinking; we’ve told you this repeatedly.

Orthodox Flame 29:

Accuse others of pretensions to scholarship; Append your academic resume.

Orthodox Flame 30: “Into the pit we’ve dug” flame:

Talk publicly about who was “caught in immoral conduct”, thereby being caught in it also.

Orthodox Flame 31: Body-Snatching Flame:

Urge one to consult his spiritual father, then tell him what the spiritual father would say.

Orthodox Flame 32: Potshot Flame (self-explanatory).

Best used with “If you understood it that way, perhaps you’re too defensive.”

(Also known as the Flickering Flame)

Orthodox Flame 33: Flame-by-association:

fundamentalist-creationist, vagantee-idea (was Inquisition Flame #1)

Orthodox Flame 34: Flame-by-alienation:

If you say that, the Protestants, scientists, ethnics, WCC, won’t like us.

Orthodox Flame 35: Flame Prevention Flame:

Some questions shouldn’t be asked.

Orthodox Flame 36: Flame Retardant Flame:

Some questions aren’t worth asking.

Orthodox Flame 37: Drowned by an Ocean Flame:

“This isn’t the Church’s concern”.

Orthodox Flame 38: The Dossier Flame 2:

Seize on a point in an opponent’s history, an make it the explanatory fact of his”background” – adversely affecting all his views. Suggest that he is not fully converted.

(Was Puritan Flame #1)

Orthodox Flame 39: Flame to End All Flames:

Invite someone to take a dispute offline, only to give them a piece of one’s mind with a note that the conversation is over.

Orthodox Flame 40: Smart Flame:

Selective quotation of an interlocutor.

Orthodox Flame 41: Mint Seed Flame:

You should be spending your time praying and studying rather than concerning yourself with… (either/or vs. both/and)
(Was “Don’t Take My Advice, I Don’t Take it Myself” Flame) {1.}

Orthodox Flame 42: Diversionary Aside:

“And I haven’t even mentioned the shameful treatment of, comments about, …etc.” {2.}

Orthodox Flame 43: The Missionary Flame:

We argue not because we care about the truth, but in order to break your pride.

Orthodox Flame 44: Missionary Flame 2:

People of your attitude are what’s keeping converts away. Best used on converts.

Orthodox Flame 45: Missionary Reverse Ad Hominem:

You’re right, but assenting to your point makes it seem like I’m endorsing you.

(also known as Blacklisting Flame)

Orthodox Flame 46: Flame Substitute:

“Studies have shown…”, “Experts agree…”, “I think most of us would agree…”.

(also known as the Ecumenical Flame) {3}.

Orthodox Flame 47: Flamecalling:

“Only a fundamentalist would say…” “Only a person who has not spent enough time praying could believe…” “Only a convert…” “Only a newbie…” variation on “Only an ignorant person would think…”

Orthodox Flame 48: Cooking the Books:

That can’t be true, inspired, etc. because that would mean (affecting one’s pet issue – pacifism, feminism, etc.). Anyway, not everything written by all the Fathers is true….etc.

Orthodox Flame 49: Jurisdictional Cook Book:

Anyway, he’s from X jurisdiction. He *would* say that.

Orthodox Flame 50: Freezing the Books:

Those who use proof texts should know better…

(Also known as “We don’t need no stinking proof” Flame)

Orthodox Flame 51: Cook them All, Let God Sort Them Out:

I wish all of you would stop fighting. Sure, ___ called you and yours some nasty names, but your attempts to respond are just aggravating the situation.

Orthodox Flame 52: Geek Anathema:

You must be a newbie (new participant). Go lurk.

(Was “Typical Welcome Flame #1″)

Orthodox Flame 53: Flaming No Names:

“Some of the (so & so’s) on the List…” (militants, fundamentalists, lackeys, etc.)

(also known as the Corporate Smear)

Orthodox Flame 54: Looking Under a Rock Flame: eg.

“…the vagantes who have come out of hiding…”

Orthodox Flame 55: Size Does Matter Flame:

Your posts are too long to be understood. Best used with full quotation of the aforemention message and an =20 after each line.

Orthodox Flame 56: Ortho-Fragging:

Send private messages sympathizing with the vicious beating someone is taking on the List, but offer no defense before his assailants.

Orthodox Flame 57: Warm Fuzzy Flame:

Argue a point to the rational teeth, then when proven wrong, answer “what good is reason without love?”

Orthodox Flame 58: Vanishing Flame:

Argue a point to the rational teeth, then when proven wrong, suddenly cultivate silence.

Orthodox Flame 59: Literal Flame:

When an interlocutor says “I could be wrong” or “I am a sinful man”, or “I often make mistakes”, miss the point of Orthodox humility and respond “Thou thyself hast said it”. Best while maintaining that literalism is a fundamentalist vulgarity.

Orthodox Flame 60: Rubbing one stick together:

Go on about the deplorable sin of giving offense but forget the sin of taking it.

Orthodox Flame 61: Burning With Love:

Tell someone he’s been “warned” numerous times of his error, referring to the posts where he is called a “fraud”, “cult-member”, etc, and that his unwillingness to meekly ascede to those criticisms is a sign of his stubborn resistance those who love him.

Orthodox Flame 62: Psychological Mugging:

“So and so believes, feels, thinks, can’t get past, is trapped in, out of touch with, wants us to, is caught up in, blinded by, obviously suffering from…” (us?).

(Was Streetcorner Therapy Flame #1)

Orthodox Flame 63: Do Not Disturb flame:

What we need on this message server is fewer Messages. How about we all stop talking.

Orthodox Flame 64: Ventriloquism Flame:

Of course so & so would say…

Best when answered by “I can’t believe he said that!”

Orthodox Flame 65: Blame Flame:

Examine yourself. Maybe all these flames are coming your way for a reason.

(Was Central Park Jogger Flame #1)

Orthodox Flame 66: Vitamin-Fortified Flame:

Maybe these flames are happening for your benefit.

Orthodox Flame 67: Kevlar Flame:

Don’t take these flames so seriously.

Orthodox Flame 68: Flame of Flames:

Our Lord didn’t cry out when we flamed Him.

Orthodox Flame 69: Jurisdictional Flame:

My flame doesn’t recognize your flame.

Orthodox Flame 70: Vagantee Flame:

That’s not a real flame!

Orthodox Flame 71: Huh? Flame:

My flame is in communion with your flame, but they can’t concelebrate.

Orthodox Flame 72: Calendar Flame:

My flame won’t come until a week after your flame.

Orthodox Flame 73: Modern Translation Flame:

This is not a flame. It’s a luminescent metaphor for primordial conflict.

Orthodox Flame 74: The Ecumenist Flame:

It’s only a flame if that’s all right with you. We’re open to sticking our hand in the flame at some point, if it’s cool for you.

Orthodox Flame 75: The Genuine Original True and Unadulterated Flame:

“There’s only one flame left and its ours.”

The original 76-85 (they seem to have been mis-numbered at some point)

Orthodox Flame #76:

“I wouldn’t join any jurisdiction that would have me as a member.” (Omophor-Hopping Flame)

Orthodox Flame #77:

Your own mother doesn’t recognize you.

(Disregarded Deposition Flame)

Orthodox Flame #78:

I don’t recognize my own mother. (See Vacancy Flame)

Orthodox Flame #79: Lung Theory Flame

So I have TWO mothers?

Orthodox Flame #80: Probably True Flame

You’re obviously closed for Renovation (ism).

Orthodox Flame #81: Sputtering Flame

Yeah, well you’re autocephalous!

Orthodox Flame #82: Vagante Convert Flame

Yeah, well you were received by Schismation.

Orthodox Flame #83: Guantanamo Flare

Wasn’t your bishop the one censing a sidewalk on CNN?
(Vagante Flame 2)

Orthodox Flame #84: Consecrated Flame

(Vagantee Flame 3) Your bishop was consecrated in a pool hall.
Answer: And Our Lord was born in a stable.

Orthodox Flame #85: Motherland Flame

You’re under arrest. You nuns clear out of here!

Flames 86-95 (again, they seem to have been renumbered)

Orthodox Flame 86: Sergian Flame

Say, what’s your codename?

Orthodox Flame 87: Inter-Sergian Flame

Yeah, well your codename is “pest”.

Orthodox Flame 88: Matushka Flame

The Mat. doesn’t stand for Matador. Take your bull elsewhere.

Orthodox Flame 89: Crucible Flame

911? There are men with torches at the door!
Oh, it’s only a late night defrocking.

Orthodox Flame 90: Spelling Flame, Acronymic Flame:

Ekkumenism, Antiochian Archdisease, EpisCOCUmenism, Semetary, Anglimensions, Spyierarch, faxcommunication, Dukakiscopalian, ORCA, OKRA, ROCORP, SCOBOTS.

Orthodox Flame 91: GOA way! Flame

Orthodox Flame 92: Flame in Denial Flame

I wasn’t just flamed, I was GOARCHed!

Orthodox Flame 93: Casuistry Shuffle Flame:

Let us hierarchs worry about the Church; you worry about your salvation.
Answer: I thought the Church was my salvation.

Orthodox Flame 94: Licked by Flames

Sign on Vatican Door during Papal Visit to Moscow: “Gone Fishing”

Orthodox Flame 95: Dancing with the Devil Flame

Sign on door of Moscow Patriarchate during Papal Visit: “Live Bait”

The original end-notes:

1. When Christ chided the pharisees for tithing mint seeds but neglecting the weightier matters of the law, he did not say they should no have tithed their mint seeds — he said they should have “done the former without neglecting the later”. — Why Ad Hominem Arguments are Fallacious – John Whiteford, 12 Dec 97.

2. If you wish to discuss that, then please do — but do it in the context of discussing that, rather than as a diversionary aside within the context of another discussion. – Why Ad Hominem Arguments are Fallacious – John Whiteford, 12 Dec 97.

3. see Dr. Thomas Mether on Proof Surrogate, Why Ad Hominem Arguments are Fallacious, 12 Dec 97.

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In Orthodoxy, we often tease one another – especially new converts – about the names of Saints. Nothing irreverent is intended by it, just a bit of humor. The new convert is threatened with being given an obscure and unpronounceable saint as his patron. In some parishes it is an ongoing joke at Trapeza – “Let’s see, Jack, how about Mercurios? or Eustratios? or Anempodistos, or how about Barsanuphius? Pattie, you might want Nymphodora, or Callisthene?” Suggestions go on and on until the poor convert is beside himself (or herself).

And such a pair we celebrated today: Martyrs Onesiphorus and Porphyrius of Ephesus! In our modern American world, we can’t relate to these names. They sound foreign and comical to us. But wait! Wait until you hear what these two people did!!

Onesiphorus was a disciple of St. Paul, and is mentioned in the Epistle to Timothy. Porphyrius was his servant. They were sent to the Iberian peninsula (Spain) as missionaries. This was under the persecutions of Diocletian. They were discovered and were tortured by being beaten and burned, but they didn’t deny Christ. They were dragged over stones by wild horses, but did not deny Christ. They died during the torture by the horses. Believers gathered the remains of the Saints and reverently buried them.

Troparion – Tone 4
Thy holy martyrs, Onesiphorus and Porphyrius, O Lord, / through their sufferings / have received incorruptible crowns from Thee, our God. / For having Thy strength, they laid low their adversaries, / and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. // Through their intercessions, save Thou our souls!

Kontakion – Tone 2
The pair of glorious martyrs, Onesiphorus and Porphyrius, / endured their suffering with strength, / dashing down to the earth the arrogance of the enemy, / and shining with the grace of the uncreated Trinity; // together with the angels, they unceasingly pray for us all.

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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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. . . 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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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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Blogging about this Feast slipped right by me, so I’m a bit late posting about it. Forgive me!

The following is from the Theologic.com website:

The Dormition of the Theotokos

Celebrated on August 15 (August 28)

The Feast of the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos commemorates the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ’s mother. To help us in our preparation of the feast, it is preceded by a two week fast. As with the Nativity of the Virgin (September 8/21) and the feast of her Entrance to the Temple (November 21/December 4), the Feast of the Dormition also comes from the Tradition of the Church.

There we learn that Mary died as all people die because she had a mortal human nature affected by the corruption of this world. The Church proclaims that Mary needed to be saved by Christ just as all of us are saved from trials, sufferings, and death of this world. Having truly died, she was raised by her Son as the “Mother of Life” and already participates in the eternal life of paradise which is prepared and promised to all who “hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:27-28) Finally, we celebrate the fact that what happens to Mary happens to all who imitate her holy life of humility, obedience and love.

It is important to remember that there are no relics of the Theotokos. Their existence has never been mentioned throughout history. At one time in Constantinople there was a center of pilgrimage where the belt and veil of the Virgin were venerated.
Adapted from The Orthodox Church, Volume II: Worship, by Fr. Thomas Hopko.

From the Tradition of the Church

Following the day of Pentecost, the Theotokos remained in the city of Jerusalem, comforting the infant Christian community. She was living in the house of the beloved Apostle John, later the Evangelist. At the time of her death (tradition states she was in her early fifties) many of the Apostles were scattered throughout the world preaching the Gospel. All but Thomas were miraculously brought to the Virgin aloft on clouds.

As they stood around her bedside, she commended her spirit to the Lord and Jesus descended from Heaven, taking up her soul in His arms. The Apostles sang the funeral hymns in her honor and carried her body to a tomb in Cedron near Gethsemane. When a Jewish man tried to interrupt their solemn procession, an angel of the Lord came and punished him by cutting off his hands, which were later healed.

The Apostle Thomas arrived on the third day and wished to see the Virgin for the last time. They discovered an empty tomb. Church tradition relates that the Theotokos was resurrected bodily and taken to heaven, the same reward that awaits all the righteous on the Last Day.

About the Icon

The Theotokos is depicted upon the funeral bier.

Christ, standing behind the Theotokos, is her Son, Who has come to receive His Mother’s soul into heaven; He holds in His left arm an infant in white, symbolizing the soul of the Theotokos reborn in her glory in heaven; Christ also is robed in white and appears in an aureole (elongated halo) depicting the Light of His Divinity.

The Apostles are depicted on either side of the bier stand the Apostles; the group on the left is led by St. Peter who stands at the head of the bier; the group on the right is led by St. Paul who stands at the foot of the bier.

Below the bier is a figure of Antonius the Jew, who tried to disrupt the procession, was punished, but later repented of his sins and embraced Christianity through Baptism.
Taken from The Icon Book, by Boojamra, Essey, McLuckie & Matusiak.

Troparion
(Tone 1)

In giving birth, you preserved your virginity!
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos!
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers you deliver our souls from death!

Kontakion
(Tone 2)

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!

In this Icon, from the website of the Moscow Patriachate, Christ is robed in red, the color of celebration, and is surrounded by a red aureole. On this page:  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/287033.html you will find several Icons of the Dormition painted in various styles over the ages.

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