Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I am a scientist and party member. All the way up to 1967 I was an atheist. During the Second World War I was wounded near Pskov. Before I was wounded I saw in my sleep an old man, who warned me of what was going to happen. He even showed me where I would be shot. Everything turned out to be exactly as he had predicted. I was wounded by three bullets...
Like so many others, I had heard of the holy Dimitri of Salonika's revelations. He and three other elderly men often reveal themselves to sleeping people, even if they are Jews or atheists. I was recently on a business trip to Siberia. The same phenomena, the same type of dreams, occur there as well. Usually two or three elderly men appear. They also reveal themselves to members of folk minorities who have never heard of Christ, and whose parents were heathens. The revelatory dreams are very distinct, and predict that momentous changes will take place over the entire world and that great numbers of people will become believers...
On the evening of August 14th, the ringing of bells was heard in many places, though there were no churches within a radius of several miles, much less church bells. My wife and son also heard the tolling. The sounds reverberated through the area for more than an hour. The distinct ringing of one large bell and other small ones could be heard. Thus the old expression, "We hear bells ringing, but see none," became a reality. Nobody had the slightest idea as to how this all happened, least of all the authorities. But the incident made a strong impression on both members and non-members of the party.
The thirteenth century great Church figure and philosopher St. Christodoulos was from the village of Sakara in the Imereti region of Georgia. He possessed an exceptional knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and spoke several languages fluently. To support his prodigious understanding of the Christian Faith, Christodoulos became thoroughly acquainted with other creeds as well. To this purpose, he even memorized the Koran.
Once the Persian king Iamame arranged a debate on theological issues between the Muslims and the Christians, and he invited the elder Christodoulos to take part in this event. At first the king himself debated with the elder and suffered an upset. Then a certain pagan astrologer was brought to replace him, and when it became clear that he too was no match for the elder-philosopher, he summoned a renowned scholar to outwit him. In the debates with this scholar, Christodoulos freely cited both the Holy Scriptures and the Koran, and with his brilliant logic and rhetoric he triumphed over his rival. His challengers were disgraced.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
It is not a rare occasion, especially in our time, that parents become the culprits for the spiritual death of their children. Whenever a child has an aspiration for the spiritual life, asceticism, or monasticism and the parent curtails this aspiration instead of encouraging it, such a parent becomes the murderer of his child. And, such children, as a punishment to their parents, often turn to the opposite side and become perverted.
A boy named Luke, the nephew of St. John of Rila, hearing about his uncle and drawn by the desire for the spiritual life, visited his uncle in the mountain. John received Luke with love and began to instruct and to strengthen him in the mortification of asceticism. However, one day Luke's father appeared at the cave of John and furiously began to scold the saint for keeping his son in that wilderness. John's words and counsels were of no avail. The father dragged the son home by force. However, on the way home a serpent bit the boy and Luke died. The cruel father saw in this the punishment of God and repented but it was all too late. He returned to John mourning and condemning himself. But the saint only said to him to bury the child and to return from wherever he came.
Relics Stored In Saint Sophia In Kiev Don't Belong To Prince Yaroslav the Wise
August 17, 2010
Traditionally it is known that the relics of the Grand Prince of Rus Yaroslav the Wise are stored in a special sarcophagus in Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. After tomography, anthropological and other studies showed that the relics of the sarcophagus are the remains of a woman.
On the basis of modern methods scholars determined that the remains have anthropological characteristics of the Scandinavian type. And there is a hypothesis that it can be the remains of Yaroslav’s wife Ingegerd (daughter of the king of Sweden).
The scholars need to examine the DNA. Polish and Russian laboratories agreed to do proper research, but there is no permission from the Ministry of the Culture of Ukraine to take relics out of the country.
The place where are the holy relics of Yaroslav the Wise is not known. They disappeared between the years 1940 and 2009. There is a hypothesis that in 1943 the relics were brought abroad and now kept in the Ukrainian diaspora (in a Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA under the Patriarchate of Constantinople).
The Abbot of Vatopaidi Monastery, Archimandrite Ephraim, spoke on the radio programme “Η Γκίζα κάπου αλλού” (Giza somewhere else) of ΣΚΑΪ (Sky) 100,3 FM on Saturday 14th August 2010, on the eve of the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Elder Ephraim was celebrating the feast at the Vatopedi Metohi of Porto Lagos.
Here is the full text of the interview:
Giza: Geronta you are in Porto Lagos to celebrate the feast of the Dormition and I was wondering why women could not attend?
Elder Ephraim: Excuse me. This is the monastery’s metohi and women can visit as well.
Giza: Up to there, but what about further up?
Elder Ephraim: The Holy Mount Athos as you know is inaccessible to women and this is the tradition spanning hundreds of years. The reason why it is inaccessible is not because the monks hate or scorn or wish to degrade women. But it is because The Holy Mount Athos is a man’s Parthenon.
Giza: Anyway, where you are now all of us can meet.
Elder Ephraim: Absolutely.
Giza: And it is a blessed place.
Elder Ephraim: Yes, of course. It is a place where our Panagia's grace dominates. There is a chapel devoted to her and another one devoted to Saint Nicholas.
Giza: Are there a lot of people up there now?
Elder Ephraim: Quite a lot. We have three spiritual fathers who are continuously taking confessions from people who are getting ready to take Holy Communion during the feast.
Giza: Geronda (Elder), how is confession helping people?
Elder Ephraim: Confession is a very helpful means because through this Mystery a person starts to condemn himself, blame himself and hold himself responsible. Not only does he hold himself responsible in a non verbal way in front of the icon, as they say, in front of Christ, but also in front of the priest who is also another human being. He comes to confess his sins. However, this meeting is not just a meeting which has man in its epicenter, but it is a meeting with Christ, because it is a Mystery of the Church. A person will then definitely feel the forgiveness for his sins, through the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is a very important issue.
Giza: Geronta, what is the message which the feast of the Dormition offers to modern man? We are living through very difficult times down here…
Elder Ephraim: We are living through difficult times but I think this feast of the Most Holy Panagia is one which offers a spiritual message, a message of purity and cleanliness and devotion to the Lord. Our Panagia was the first after The One, who devoted herself entirely to God. She stayed in the Holy of Holies since she was three years old. She is the person who experienced the grace of the Holy Spirit more than anyone else in the world. This alone bestows such a huge honor to our Panagia. That’s the reason we are calling her «Most Blessed», «Most Honored», «Most Gracious» and this is the model which we must present to the world. She is the one most honored by everybody, especially the monks, and also in the Holy Mountain.
Sometimes, you know, people say that no women are allowed in the Holy Mountain and that monks do away with women. On the contrary, they honor our Panagia more than anywhere else in the world. They offer her this comprehensive tribute and all this devotion because she is the one who loved Christ completely.
Giza: She becomes a great sanctuary for man even these days, doesn’t she?
Elder Ephraim: Absolutely. The Most Holy Panagia is a great sanctuary for all of us. People flock here with such pain, with so much suffering, with illnesses and toil and troubles and three hundred meters away we see them kneel and come to venerate her icon, to fulfill the promise they have made for their troubles. Then we see them again when they leave. They have been comforted and consoled and have such sweetness in their faces.
Giza: This is funny, Geronda. Faith is not diminished with the passing of time but it is as if it becomes stronger sometimes. How can this be? Is there an explanation?
Elder Ephraim: Faith is a strong spiritual weapon which is given to man because he is created in the image and likeness of God. Sometimes faith can be ridiculed and scorned by some, but it is a strong weapon not used by many, but which remains hidden inside them until the time of trouble comes, when one is really tested. Then he takes out this bag full of treasure, this great power called “faith” and uses it. And faith bears fruit.
Giza: Since no one has ever taught us about this spiritual work, how do we find such resilience and at the time of trouble we call out to our Panagia?
Elder Ephraim: We may have never been systematically taught, but do not forget that we live in Greece, where the environment and the tradition have always been helping man to turn to the Church in times of trouble. I think the person to whom man looks up to for help in times of trouble is our Panagia.
Giza: Geronda, do miracles happen today?
Elder Ephraim: Of course! Look here at our metohi at the Visthonida pond. So many miracles take place. So many people have found cure, there are so many offerings, so many letters! One is in awe when one witnesses all these miracles performed by our Panagia with her icon, which is a copy of the Panagia Pantanassa icon, which is found in Vatopaidi. As you may very well know the Vatopaidi Monastery is the only one in the world which is adorned with seven miraculous icons of our Panagia and also by her Holy Girdle.
Giza: Are we never going to see these since we are women?
Elder Ephraim: You will see these when we are occasionally asked to take them out of the Holy Mountain. But especially we agree to take them out every now and then so that women can see them.
Giza: What is the liturgical program at the garden of our Panagia, where you are now?
Elder Ephraim: As you know, today is not the feast of our Panagia according to the Old Calendar we use at the Holy Mountain. But here at the metohi we celebrate the feast with the New Calendar. We have an all night vigil this evening which will last up to five hours. The fathers from the monastery arrived here so that they can chant in the way it is done in the Holy Mountain. We are expecting a lot of people. We also hold a second liturgy at a different chapel for those who have children and cannot attend the all night vigil.
Giza: Do you think that the world will change at some point for the better?
Elder Ephraim: We are only left with the hope which as Saint Paul says “it does not embarrass us”. I think that hope must never leave a man’s heart.
Giza: Is hope stronger than faith?
Elder Ephraim: Hope is derived from faith and it is a prerequisite.
Giza: What would you say to someone who does not believe in God?
Elder Ephraim: I would say to him to try to live in the way we do. I think that if he experiments in this way he will experience something. Since even one who does not believe has an immortal soul inside of him.
Giza: If one does not live a Church life does it mean that he does not possess the Lord’s grace?
Elder Ephraim: He may not live the life of the Church now, but we do not know what will happen at the end. As this great modern Saint, Father Paisios the Athonite said, we will be met with a lot of surprises during the Second Coming of Christ. We do not know how each man will end his life.
Giza: One last question, Geronda. All this furor surrounding your name, which reminds us a little of the Christian persecutions of past times, did it leave you shaken at all?
Elder Ephraim: With God’s grace, I have not been shaken, since as I have told you faith is a great force. We are devoted to our duties; we are not expecting to hear praises from people. As you know, our holy forefathers, whom we read and imitate, have always been controversial figures. First it was Christ himself. A monk does not concern himself whether he will acquire good fame; he is only interested in diligently fullfilling his absolute duty: his complete devotion to God.
Giza: Aren’t you afraid that people’s faith will be shaken?
Elder Ephraim: I do not think so. A person who is struggling spiritually will recognize the methods and the descriptions and the reasons behind this furor. I think that common sense recognizes that it is something not worth mentioning.
Giza: You are saying that the truth will be revealed to someone sometime but in a way which may not be easily comprehensible these days.
Elder Ephraim: Many times a person does not recognize the truth because of the way he lives. On our part, we pray for the whole world, the whole universe and we always maintain a loving attitude for everybody. This is our position and our mission”.
Giza: It is very important to say that your mission is this. What would you ask for those who hear you today and those who don’t?
Elder Ephraim: I humbly pray that people will recognize than man is a spiritual creature and to start caring for the salvation of his immortal soul. As Saint Basil the Great, this grand Saint, said: "we must take care of our souls which are immortal". Only once someone starts taking care of his immortal soul will he come to comprehend that our Panagia is present, the saints are present and that faith is a great force for the Orthodox people and especially for our Greece.
Giza: Geronda, I thank you with all my heart.
Elder Ephraim: I wish you well and may our Panagia be with you.
Giza: You too. Give us your blessing!
Elder Ephraim: May you have our Lord’s blessing.
Translated from Greek by: Olga Konnari–Kokkinou, Journalist
Edited by John Sanidopoulos
On Morning Joe, Norah O'Donnell says that those who oppose the Ground Zero mosque are acting "like the people who attacked America and killed 3,000 people."
Read also: How the "Ground Zero Mosque" Fear Mongering Began
What About the Ground Zero Church? Archdiocese Says Officials Abandoned Project
By Judson Berger
August 17, 2010
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America accused New York officials on Tuesday of turning their backs on the reconstruction of the only church destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, while the controversial mosque near Ground Zero moves forward.
The sidelined project is the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a tiny, four-story building destroyed in 2001 when one of the World Trade Center towers fell on top of it. Nobody from the church was hurt in the attack, but the congregation has for the past eight years been trying to rebuild its house of worship.
While the mosque project cleared red tape earlier this month, negotiations between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the church stalled last year -- and will not be revived, according to government officials. Though the particulars of the two projects are completely different and on the surface unrelated, the church and its supporters see a disconnect in the way the proposals have been handled.
An archdiocese official said Tuesday that the situation has created "consternation" for those still struggling to jump-start talks over the church.
"We have people that are saying, why isn't our church being rebuilt and why is there ... such concern for people of the mosque?" Father Alex Karloutsos, assistant to the archbishop, told FoxNews.com. He said "religious freedom" would allow a place of worship for any denomination to be built, but accused officials with the Port Authority of making no effort to help move the congregation's project along.
"Unfortunately, they have just been silent -- dead silent, actually," said Karloutsos, whose father was ordained at St. Nicholas. "They just simply forgot about the church."
The Port Authority and the church announced a deal in July 2008 under which the Port Authority would grant land and up to $20 million to help rebuild it in a new location -- in addition, the authority was willing to pay up to $40 million to construct a bomb-proof platform underneath.
Within a year, the deal fell through and talks ended. Port Authority officials told Fox News that the deal is dead.
The archdiocese and Port Authority offer sharply conflicting accounts of where things went wrong. The Port Authority has previously claimed the church was making additional demands -- like wanting the $20 million up front and wanting to review plans for the surrounding area. They say the church can still proceed on its own if it wishes.
"The church continues to have the right to rebuild at their original site, and we will pay fair market value for the underground space beneath that building," a spokesperson with the Port Authority told Fox News.
But Karloutsos called the Port Authority's claims "propaganda" and said the church has complied with all conditions. He said the government should honor agreements that date back to 2004, under former New York Gov. George Pataki.
Pataki, speaking with Fox News on Tuesday, agreed that the church should be rebuilt.
"I don't understand it," Pataki said. "Why the Port Authority now has so far put roadblocks in the way of its reconstruction is beyond me. It's not the right thing to do."
George Demos, a Republican candidate for New York's 1st Congressional District, has also drawn attention to the church negotiations. He released a written statement last week calling the Port Authority "disingenuous and disrespectful" for claiming the church project could go forward.
"For the last year, the Port Authority has refused to meet with church officials and is now reneging on its commitment to rebuild the church," Demos said.
Demos said the stalled church plans are an "outrage," considering New York City's Landmarks Preservation Committee vote in early August to deny historical status protection to the building where the mosque is set to be built, clearing the way for the project to move forward.
The church project has not attracted the kind of national attention the mosque has. President Obama injected the mosque into the national political conversation when he appeared to endorse the plans at a Ramadan dinner at the White House Friday. The White House later clarified that Obama was supporting the developers' right to build the mosque, not the project itself.
The president's comments set the stage for mounting criticism from Republicans, who widely oppose the project and now want other Democrats to declare where they stand on what for months was a largely local issue.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has supported the church as well as the mosque, defended the mosque proposal Tuesday.
"I think it will add to the diversity of the area," Bloomberg said. As for Obama's comments, he said: "He understands the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as well as anyone."
Fox News' Kathleen Foster and John Brandt contributed to this report.
August 17, 2010
A Russian tycoon has told 6,000 workers at his private dairy company that they'll be fired if they've ever had an abortion, or if those who are "living in sin" don't get married within two months.
Vasily Boiko, who officially changed his name to Boiko-Veliky, which means "Boiko the Great," has set a deadline of October 14 -- a Russian Orthodox Church holiday -- for any of his unmarried employees who live with a partner to get married, or get fired.
"We have about 6,000 employees, most of whom are Orthodox, and I expect them to be faithful and to repent," Boiko told Reuters last week. His order came in an internal memo to workers at Russkoye Moloko, which means "Russian milk" and whose products are sold in many Russian supermarkets.
Boiko told Ekho Moskvy radio that a woman who's had an abortion "can no longer be an employee of our company ... We don't want to work with killers," according to Reuters.
The ultimatum also comes amid Russia's worst drought and wildfires on record, in which suffocating heat and smog have doubled the normal summertime death rate in Moscow. More than 2,000 homes have been destroyed by fires, and a third of Russia's wheat crop has succumbed to the drought. The government has banned grain exports for the rest of the year, and promised subsidies to farmers and agriculture businesses like Boiko's.
The tycoon blames Russia's extreme weather this summer on what he called a lack of ample religious faith. "Such an extreme situation is punishment for the Russian people's sins," he told daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, according to The Daily Telegraph. "I need to take extreme measures including looking at the way my employees treat God."
But government officials say such extreme measures could violate Russia's labor laws.
About two-thirds of Russians belong at least nominally to the Russian Orthodox Church, which has seen a revival of popularity since the 1991 collapse of the secular Soviet Union.
But one of Boiko's former employees told the independent Moscow News that the tycoon hasn't always been so religious, and characterized some of his business practices as "certainly not Christian." The unnamed former worker said Boiko apparently had an epiphany while in jail for fraud allegations in 2007.
Ecumenical News International
The Russian Orthodox Church has continued to pray for relief from the heat and drought that has gripped Russia for two months, as one archbishop condemned some retailers for profiteering from the extreme weather conditions - writes Sophia Kishkovsky.
"That air conditioners sell for 50,000 roubles [US$1650] instead of 10,000, when people are dying of the heat is immoral and cruel," said Archbishop Feofan of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz, speaking at a youth camp at Pyatigorsk, in the Stavropol region. "Sell them at the old price at least. This is God's command, and compassion for one's neighbour."
The cleric acknowledged that Russia has a market economy that sets the price of goods. However, he said, "This is not always justified, especially at critical moments in life."
In an encyclical on 1 August 2010, Patriarch Kirill I of the Russian Orthodox Church had called for continuous prayers and special church-wide collections.
Monks at the Svyato-Nikolo-Tikhonovsky Monastery in the Ivanovo region urged that water be blessed in churches and used on the fires, the Interfax news agency reported.
"The blessed water, together with the help of aviation and other means … must be sprinkled over burning forests and villages," the monks appealed.
In Voronezh, a region hit by some of the worst of the forest fires that have swept across Russia, Metropolitan Sergius held a prayer service on 9 August to entreat God for rain.
Afterwards Orthodox Christians gathered to start a five-day procession around the region by car, bearing relics of St Mitrofan, a local saint.
Metropolitan Sergius said that prayers raised up during processions in July were heard and brought some relief in the form of rain, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.
Monks at one of the most important monasteries in Orthodoxy, the Kiev Monastery of the Caves in Ukraine, which has suffered from temperatures near 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), are also praying for rain, the press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate reports.
The rector of a cathedral in Dnepropetrovsk was reported by a local news Web site saying that while eliminating parts of church services to shorten them due to the heat is considered a mortal sin, the choir is singing faster to speed things up.
The Russian Orthodox Church has raised more than 6.6 million roubles (US$200 000) in a drive to raise funds for victims, http://miloserdie.ru/, the website of the Moscow Patriarchate's charity department, reported.
Smog generated by the fires enveloped Moscow for more than a week, exacerbating the impact of the heat wave that has suffocated the Russian capital with temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) since June.
Moscow received some respite on 10 August as rain came, lifting the smog, while forecasters said the air might remain clear for a few days.
The Rev Mikhail Ryazantsev told the Interfax news agency that air conditioning has been problematic at Christ the Saviour Cathedral, where he is sacristan. The cathedral, which was built under the patronage of Moscow's powerful mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has sophisticated climate control systems.
Priests at Moscow churches without air conditioning said that despite the heat and smoke the number of worshippers had not declined beyond the usual summer drop-off.
"People are not complaining," the Rev Sergei Rybko told Interfax. "When you serve, and pray, you don't especially notice this smoke and heat. It should be noted that donations have risen significantly in the days since his Holiness the Patriarch announced a collection for the victims of the fire."
August 13, 2010
Two Lebanese television networks were banned Friday from showing an Iranian-made biopic on the life of Jesus Christ, officials said after the film sparked outrage among the country's Christians.
"General Security has requested the two Lebanese television channels airing the series during the holy month of Ramadan stop the broadcasts," the official who requested anonymity told AFP.
"The Messiah" was originally released in Iran as a big screen movie in the Islamic republic in 2008.
It was subsequently adapted to television as a series that was dubbed into Arabic and began airing on Lebanon's NBN and Al-Manar television channels after the start this week of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.
NBN and Al-Manar, run respectively by Shiite speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah, immediately issued statements saying the film would no longer be screened.
Christian Maronite Archbishop Beshara al-Rai had requested the series be banned as it "denied the basis of Christianity."
Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God and died by crucifixion before resurrecting and ascending to heaven.
But Muslims say Christ, or "the prophet Issa" in Islam, ascended to heaven while still alive, a notion which is made clear in the series.
"In the Quran it talks about Jesus many, many times, and about Mary many, many times," director Nader Talebzadeh said in an interview to CNN in 2008, when the original movie was released.
"But he is never the Son of God, he is a prophet, and also he was not crucified -- someone else was crucified in his place," he added.
Talebzadeh's biopic shows Judas Iscariot being crucified instead of Jesus.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
In the Russian video above one can see briefly the Holy Cloud which descends upon Mount Tabor every year on August 19, which is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ according to the Julian Calendar followed by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This is a miracle which has been witnessed every year by countless thousands and is visible to the naked eye.
The Holy Cloud can also be seen in the photo below in which it appears as a fog.
Mount Tabor (Hebrew: Har Tavor) is a hill rising 500m above the Jezreel Valley in the region of Galilee. Due to its strategic location along the north-south road, it has been an important fortress since ancient times. Christians have identified a rock atop Mt. Tabor as the place of the Transfiguration of Christ since the 4th century AD.
The miracle occurs following the All-Night Vigil when after the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy the faithful go outside and prayerfully begin to sing hymns. This miracle occurs no matter how clear the sky may be every year and is an observable fact. And it happens at the same time every year, at approximately 4:00 AM with the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. In this case, it is very similar to the Holy Light which appears every year at the same time at the Holy Sepulchre on Easter. This Holy Cloud only descends upon the Orthodox monastery on Mount Tabor and not on the other heterodox churches on the mountain. When the Holy Cloud descends it brightens the area with a fragrant reddish-white (some say orange) color in the midst of the night. The fragrance spreads like incense, though it is distinct from incense. The faithful take in this experience and glorify God for the blessing and sanctification which the Holy Cloud brings. As the faithful continue their hymns to God, the cloud fades away. The faithful depart with great joy for being witnesses of this great annual miracle which confirms their Holy Orthodox Faith. Among those who attend are believers and unbelievers, Greeks, Russians, Bulgarians, Romanians and others.
An Account of the Annual Miracle on Mount Tabor on August 6th
Meteorologists Cannot Explain the Miraculous Cloud of Mt. Tabor
Read also the following eye-witness testimonies:
Nun Aikaterini Witnesses the Holy Cloud of Mt. Tabor
A Young Woman Sees the Holy Cloud in 2002
Thou, O Christ our God, hast delivered the written Law upon Mount Sinai, and hast appeared there riding upon the cloud, in the midst of fire and darkness and tempest. Glory to Thy power, O Lord. (First Canon of the Transfiguration, Ode 4)
The pillar of fire plainly showed to Moses Christ transfigured, and the cloud pointed clearly to the grace of the Spirit that overshadowed Mount Tabor. (Second Canon of the Transfiguration, Ode 6)
Saint Alypius, one of the first and finest of Russian iconographers, was a disciple of St Nikon (March 23), and from his youth he lived a life of asceticism at the Kiev Caves monastery. He studied the iconography of the Greek masters, and from the year 1083 beautified the Caves monastery church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
If he learned that in some church the icons had become worn, he took them with him and restored them without charge. If people happened to pay him for his work, he set aside one third to purchase supplies for painting icons, one third as alms for the poor, and the remainder for his own needs.
St Alypius was never famous, and he painted icons only to serve God. He was ordained a hieromonk, and was known for working miracles even in his lifetime. St Alypius healed a Kievan man suffering from leprosy and decay of the body by anointing the wounds of the sick man with the paints he used for the painting of icons. Many of his icons were glorified by miracles, and sometimes angels helped him in the holy task of painting icons.
A certain man of Kiev who had built a church, once gave two monks of the Caves a commission to have icons painted for it. The monks concealed the money and said nothing to St Alypius about it. After waiting a long time for the work to be completed, the man went to the igumen to complain about St Alypius. Only then did they discover that he had not been told of the commission. When they brought the boards provided by the customer, it turned out that beautiful icons had already been painted on them.
When the church was consumed by fire, all of the icons remained unharmed. One of these icons (the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos), known as the Vladimir-Rostov Icon (August 15), was taken by Great Prince Vladimir Monomakh (1113-1125) to a church he had built at Rostov.
Another time, when St Alypius lay deathly ill, an angel painted an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos for him. On August 17 (around the year 1114), an angel came to receive the soul of St Alypius, and he was buried in the Near Caves. The first three fingers of St Alypius's right hand were positioned together, and the last two were bent to the palm. It seems that he died while signing himself with the Sign of the Cross.
One of the icons painted by St Alypius survives from the time of Sts Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, and is now preserved in the State Tretyakov Gallery. This is the Sven Icon (May 3 and August 17).
A twentieth century icon in the church of the Pskov Caves Monastery of the Dormition depicts St Alypius holding a copy of the "Assuage My Sorrows" Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (January 25 and October 9).
The Sven Icon of the Mother of God
The Sven Caves Icon of the Mother of God was written by St. Alypius of the Caves. On the icon the Mother of God is depicted sitting upon a throne, with the Divine Infant on Her knees. St. Theodosius is on the right side of the throne, and St. Anthony of the Caves is on the left. Until 1288, the icon was in the Kiev Caves Monastery, where it was glorified by miracles. In 1288 it was transferred to the Briansk-Svensk Monastery, which is dedicated to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
At Briansk, Prince Roman of Chernigov became blind due to an unknown ailment. Hearing about the miracles worked by the icon written by St. Alypius, the prince sent a courier to the monastery requesting that the icon be sent to him. A priest journeyed with the icon along the River Desna. After the voyage, the boat landed on the right bank of the River Svena. After lodging for the night, they went to the boat to pray before the icon, but they did not find the icon where they had last left it. Looking around, they saw it on a hill on the opposite bank, resting in the branches of an oak tree. News of this reached Prince Roman, and he was led to the icon on foot.
The prince prayed fervently before the icon and vowed to build a monastery on that spot, donating all the land which could be seen from the hill. After praying, the prince regained his sight. First he saw the footpath, then nearby objects, and finally all the surroundings.
After making a shrine for the icon, the prince had a Molieben served, and laid the foundations for a wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. The tree on which the icon rested was cut down and used as wood for other icons.
The feast day of the Sven Icon of the Mother of God is also commemorated on August 17 (the day of the repose of St. Alypius the Iconographer). The August 17 celebration was established in the year 1815 in thanksgiving for the deliverance of the city of Briansk (around which the icon appeared in 1288) from invasion during the 1812 Napoleonic War.
The icon was glorified by healings of the blind and of the possessed, and has long been regarded as a protector from enemies.
St. Alypius and the Miracle of the Dormition Icon
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
The Lord does not allow His faithful servants to be shamed. It often happened that the martyrs of Christ, ridiculed and mocked before the courts, unexpectedly performed a miracle, which instilled fear in the unbelievers. Either the idols fell or thunder destroyed the temples of the heathen or an unexpected downpour of rain extinguished the fire prepared for their burning or the torturers beat themselves with stones and rods and so forth. Thus, Antipater, the torturer of St. Myron, during the suffering of this man of God suddenly went insane and killed himself.
St. Alypius, the icongrapher, was already at the end of his life when he received an order from a man to paint the icon of the Dormition of the Most-holy Theotokos. As the feast was approaching, this man came several times to see whether the icon was completed. But the icon was not even begun, not even on the eve of the Feast of the Dormition itself when the icon was supposed to have been placed in the church. When this man returned home completely saddened, at once there appeared a young man in Alypius' cell who immediately sat down and began to paint the icon. He worked very quickly and very expertly. When the icon was completed, it shone like the sun. Showing the icon to the astonished Alypius, the young man took the icon and brought it to the church for which it had been ordered. The next day, that man who had ordered the icon went to the church and, to his great surprise, saw the icon in its place. Then that man came to the monastery and, with the abbot, entered Alypius' cell. "How and who painted the icon of this man?" asked the abbot. The ailing Alypius replied: "An angel painted it, and he is now standing here to take me away." And with that, he gave up the spirit.
The ‘Original’ Church: The Greek Orthodox Church Patriarchate of Jerusalem
By Dov Preminger
Quietly navigating its way through 1,500 years of history, the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem has had an unbroken presence in the Holy Land since the first centuries of Christendom. The Church considers itself to be the Mother Church of Christianity, and has preached the same doctrine since the time of Jesus.
The Orthodox Church claims its first bishop was James, brother of Jesus, and the Church counts among its holy places both the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Today its distinctive black-robed monks honor these sites with the same liturgy and ritual as in ancient times, holding fast to their traditions through the Great Schism of 1054 AD, the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem, the Ottoman rule, and the Crusades.
More recently, the local Orthodox Church has faced challenges from the Israeli government, and dissent from its mostly Palestinian-Arab flock.
But the Church continues on, led by calm and humble Patriarch Theophilos III, who deals with modern crises the same way the Church always has. “With prayer, patience, wisdom, persistence, and firmness”.
Interestingly, one might regard the members of the first Christian church as the original Protestants, since the Roman Catholic pope’s claim to universal jurisdiction was one of the prime causes of the Great Schism, which split the Church into Catholic and Orthodox denominations.
“Doctrinal teachings in many areas are common”, said Patriarch Theophilos III of the two churches. “The big difference between Roman Catholics and [Orthodox] Christianity is the office of a Pope who claims to be the Vicar of Christ on Earth”.
Daniel Rossing, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Center for Jewish-Christian relations, noted another difference is that the Catholic Church has a “pyramidal” hierarchy under the Pope, whereas the Orthodox Church’s authority derives from regional Patriarchates. The Patriarch of Constantinople is considered first among equals; he does not have authority over the rest.
The Orthodox religion is also different from Protestantism, despite the common absence of a papal authority “A very major difference in the Orthodox Church is that it’s very liturgical”, said Rossing. “It has a lot of forms, icons, candles, processions… Protestantism tends to be more mental, with less ritual. Also, Protestants don’t have celibate monks”.
The Greek Orthodox Church, sometimes known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, has its origins in the fracturing of the Roman Empire. In the third century, Emperor Constantine declared the new capital of Rome to be the eastern city of Constantinople. Thus began a gradual distancing between the eastern and western halves of the empire.
As the Latin-speaking western half and the Greek-speaking eastern half drew apart, theological differences and power struggles within the Church culminated in the Great Schism, in which the leaders of the eastern and western regions of the Church excommunicated each other. They split into the western Latin Church – now Roman Catholics – and the eastern Greek Church now knows as the Orthodox Church.
The word Orthodox is a Greek one for “correctly believing”, referring to the Orthodox Church’s view that it holds to the original, correct form of Christianity. The Greek Orthodox actually refer to themselves as the Roum Orthodox; they were named the Greek Orthodox by “the Latins”, and the name stuck.
Today there are about 40.000 native Orthodox Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Most are Palestinian Arabs, save a small Greek clergy which leads them.
SAFEGUARDING HOLY PLACES
Some 120 monks live and worship at a beautiful monastery in the Old City of Jerusalem, which acts as the headquarters of the Patriarchate. These celibate monks are mostly Greek, and make up the core of the Church’s clergy.
The monks live a life of prayer and study, and count pastoral service among their responsibilities, as well as the maintenance and veneration of the Church’s holy places.
A governing council of 18 bishops, called the Holy Synod, governs the monk’s brotherhood and the Church, and is responsible for the election of the Patriarch. In 2005 it appointed His Beatitude Theophilos III as Patriarch of Jerusalem.
“A main mission of the Patriarchate is to look after the holy places”, said Patriarch Theophilos. “We keep the holy places accessible to everyone without discrimination”.
Perhaps the holiest place under the Church’s purview is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Greek Orthodox Church owns the land on which the site is built, though its administration is divided between six Christian denominations – the Catholics, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Egyptian Coptics and Ethiopians.
Although the Greek Orthodox Church tends to get along well with other Christian denominations, the site has a history of flaring tensions.
In 1853, the Sultan at the time issued a “status quo” decree at the Sepulchre, requiring that all six denominations agree on any structural changes to the church. This jigsaw of responsibility resulted in a deadlock in which changes cannot be agreed upon, including important ones such as the construction of a fire escape to supplement the Sepulchre’s single entrance.
The symbol of the Sepulchre’s status quo quagmire is a famous ladder, which was placed against a wall during the 1800s and has remained there ever since because no faction has the authority to remove it.
Even slight structural changes have incited clerical violence. When an Egyptian monk in 2002 attempted to move his chair into the shade, it provoked a brawl with the Ethiopians, who rejected his jurisdiction over the area. However, such incidents are relatively rare, and the shared administration of the Church generally proceeds in good faith.
The Greek Orthodox Church bears the largest share of responsibility for the Holy Sepulchre, and counts several holy relics among its treasures there. Under glass can be seen what is said to be part of John the Baptist’s skull, and the hand of Mary Magdalene.
GREEK CLERGY, ARAB LAITY
Besides the Church’s devotion to maintaining the holy places, Patriarch Theophilos said its responsibility is to “take care of the various Orthodox communities all over – Israel, the Palestinian territories and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”.
However, there have been accusations that too much time is dedicated to the holy places, and that the Church’s flock is a secondary concern.
“Some say the Catholics, for example, do much more for educational, medical and charity work than the Greek Orthodox Church”, said Daniel Rossing, Executive Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Relations. “They say the [Orthodox Church] gives too much emphasis to the holy places”.
Another concern is that the Arab laity is not well-represented in the Church’s leadership, which tends to be mainly Greek.
Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee said it’s an ancient problem. “There has been historical tension between the leadership and the laity [regarding this issue]. It is the only Christian denomination in the Holy Land whose leadership is not from its rank and file. All the churches led by Arab clergy, except for this one”.
Rosen suggested that the clergy remains overwhelmingly Greek because the Church sees its mission as a continuation of original Christianity. “If you ask the leadership, or the Church anywhere in the world, they will tell you it’s an historical Church, and its significance goes far beyond the local ethnic constituency. It’s part of its historic identity and responsibility.
“But if you ask the majority of the Orthodox faithful in the area”, he continued, “they think the clergy should represent the ethnic community. This has been a source of tension for as long as anyone can remember”.
Patriarch Theophilos called these claims “totally untrue”.
“In the past there have been problems, but it doesn’t mean the Patriarchate is not looking after its flocks. We’ve taken initiatives to promote education, to build schools.
“Right now there are two members of the Holy Synod who are Arab”, he said. “It’s just a matter of time”.
A notable figure fighting for Arab rights in the Orthodox Church was Theodosios, originally named Atalla Hanna, who was appointed Archbishop in 2005. He was only the second Palestinian to hold that rank in the church’s history.
Although Theodosios declined to comment on the current relationship between the Arab laity and the Greek clergy, before his appointment as Archbishop he was an infamous figure in Greek Orthodox circles.
Theodosios gained popularity with the Arab laity for his fiery denunciations of the Israeli occupation, to the point that in 2002 he was briefly arrested by the Israeli authorities on suspicion of “incitement” and links with terrorist organizations.
The Church clergy was unhappy with Theodosios stance, seeking as always to maintain good relations with the authorities in control.
“Our position here has been always to contribute as much as we can to peace, mutual coexistence, tolerance”, said Patriarch Theophilos.
But despite its best efforts to remain neutral, the Church has sometimes been caught up in the turbulence.
The most recent crisis was about land.
The Greek Orthodox Church is the largest landowner in the Old City of Jerusalem. It owns much of the land from the Jaffa Gate down the street of the Greek Patriarchate, all the way to the Holy Sepulchre.
Besides owning the land on which many holy places and adjacent properties stand, the Church counts among its holdings the land under the Israeli Prime Minister’s residence, and under the Israeli Knesset.
The land has belonged to the Church since ancient times. Patriarch Theophilos explained that the Church “is the inheritor not only of great spiritual heritage, but also natural, fiscal heritage”.
After the Muslims occupied the Holy Land, then-Patriarch Sophronius remained the ethnic and religious leader for the Christians there. The Greek Orthodox Church inherited the churches, basilicas and adjacent lands that had belonged to the conquered Byzantines. During the course of its history, the Church acquired even more land.
When both the Israelis and the Palestinians place such a high value on Jerusalem, the Church’s extensive land ownership has sometimes put it in a delicate position.
In 2005, then-Patriarch Irenaios sparked outrage within the Church after he reportedly sold some of its land to a group of Israeli investors.
The clergy was incensed that the Patriarch would sell Church land, and the Arab laity even more so, because they left that their land had been sold to Israelis. In response, the Holy Synod stripped Patriarch Irenaios of his position, replacing him with the current Patriarch, Theophilos III.
This began a difficult two-year stretch for the Church. Besides the controversy within the Church, external problems surfaced as well.
The Israeli government refused to recognize Irenaios’s removal, citing the need for government approval for the action. By the same token, it refused to confirm Patriarch Theophilos as Irenaios’s successor. Some accusations said figures in the Israeli government blocked the Patriarchate’s recognition in order to gain valuable church properties.
As Patriarch Theophilos labored to restore the Church to its previous calm, he was challenged with a government freeze of the Patriarchate’s bank accounts, the funds of which were needed for maintaining the holy places and the Patriarchate’s school system.
The following year, the Israeli government refused to renew visas for many of the Greek clergy, which would have necessitated their exodus from Israel.
Even the Jordanian government, whose Christians fall under the Jerusalem Patriarchate’s authority, for a time refused to recognize Theophilos either.
But Theophilos weathered the storm, appealing to the Israeli Supreme Court for recognition. He won his battle in 2007, and was confirmed in his role by the governments of Israel and Jordan.
Asked how he overcame the crisis, Patriarch Theophilos said he did it “with prayer, and with patience. With wisdom, persistence, and firmness. I myself knew what it was all about. I knew that all the problems were stemming not from the government itself, but from certain key persons who had a vested interest”. Theophilos declined to name particular persons.
TO THE FUTURE
Having weathered its recent crisis, speculations arise on the challenges the Church will face in the future. Rabbi Rosen sees the shifting ethnic makeup as a driver of future change.
“One fascinating thing about the Orthodox Church is the change of attendance over the past 20 years”. He said, referring to the mass immigration from Russia and other former Soviet countries.
Under Israel’s Law of Return, any person with at least one Jewish grandparent is entitled to make aliya – to immigrate to Israel. This has resulted in many Russian immigrants who may have a Jewish grandparent, but practice as Orthodox Christians. Estimates of the number of these immigrants vary, but Patriarch Theophilos says there may be as many as 50.000, which is greater than the native Arab Orthodox population.
Patriarch Theophilos acknowledged the new constituents, but was not concerned. “On the contrary”, he said, “this is something that’s repeating itself from 70, 100 years ago. We had a great influx of pilgrims. We’re very glad for the [immigration]… people are returning from former Soviet republics, communist countries. They feel at home because the Patriarchate represents all of them”.
If history is any guide, the Orthodox Church will welcome these new immigrants and continue to chart its course as it has since the earliest days of Christianity.
Source: This article which includes the interview was published by The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition in July 2010. The author is Dov Preminger.
August 15, 2010
The Huffington Post
Christians sometimes claim to be certain about spiritual matters. This can be everyday things like, "I know this new job is right where God wants me," or more important issues like, "I know the Bible is the word of God," or, "I know Jesus is the Son of God."
But Christians do not have sure knowledge of these things. They believe them -- deeply and sincerely, and for all sorts of reasons -- but they do not know them in the same way that we know that fire will reduce a book to ashes, that there are billions of galaxies in the universe, or that gravity works. Some Christians claim this kind of knowledge, but they are wrong.
The same goes for Christians -- and any religious person -- who would say, "I know God exists." No one can know that God exists in the sense of proof or logical demonstration. Rather, people of faith believe God exists for all sorts of reasons that can't be laid out in a spreadsheet or observed through a telescope.
Atheists are in exactly the same boat.
What holds true for religious people when they talk about God holds for atheists when they talk about not-God.
Some atheists claim to have a sure and certain knowledge about spiritual things. "I know -- through reason, logic, and evidence -- that God does not exist." These atheists feel that their position is intellectually superior to a belief in God. God does not exist because what cannot be established through "reason, logic, or evidence" is not real.
This sounds rational and objective, but there is a lot of belief tucked away in this assertion. Atheists do not know God does not exist; they believe it.
To say that God's existence is detectable with certainty through reason, logic, and evidence is a belief because it makes some crucial assumptions. For one thing, it assumes that our intellectual faculties are the best, or only, ways of accessing God. This is an assumption that privileges Western ways of knowing and excludes other wholly human qualities like emotion and intuition.
It also reduces God to an object, a thing, a being among all other beings, whose existence is as open to rational inquiry as anything else. It is an old argument but a good one: any god worthy of the name is the source of all being, and therefore not one more being alongside all others subject to rational control. Any god like that isn't God at all.
People can think what they want about God. My point here is simply this: no one knows whether our intellectual faculties can determine with certainty whether there is a higher power, prime mover, or whatever you want to call god. That is a belief.
Also, all people, atheists included, believe worthwhile things for which there is no compelling evidence whatsoever. For example, many people -- scientists, philosophers -- believe in the principle of uniformity: what we observe now of the laws of nature happens everywhere in the universe, always has and always will.
I happen to believe this is true, but what I believe isn't the point here. The point is that there is no empirical evidence for this principle, nor can it be logically proven. In fact, there is no evidence for the principle at all unless we assume it to begin with.
Why do people accept the principle of uniformity? Because it can be used to construct coherent scientific explanations of the universe, and that is a good reason to accept it. But this is not too far from what religious people say about their faith. Religious beliefs can be used to construct coherent explanations for things like why there is something rather than nothing.
All of us accept as true ideas that seem to work well, that make sense of our reality. We do not know with certainty that they are true because of reason, logic, or evidence; we believe they are true because they work.
I know some real live atheists, and they do not claim to know as much as some others do. The reason that they are atheists is that "God is" is a less compelling proposition to explain their reality than "God is not."
They did not come to this sure and certain conclusion by a calm and logical assessment of the evidence (as opposed to the unreasonable and illogical faith of religious types). Rather, they came to their atheism for many different types of reasons, some of which are too subtle to quantify.
They do not claim to know that God does not exist; they believe it to be so because it makes most sense of their own lives and the world around them. This is not sure and certain knowledge; it is a belief.
Oddly, some Christian fundamentalists and some atheist fundamentalists suffer under the same delusion, that their view on ultimate reality is fully supported by reason, logic, and evidence.
Both are wrong.
For both the religious and atheists, there is mystery. Atheists are free to be atheists, but they don't know any more than anyone else.
Monday, August 16, 2010
1. A Young Atheist Woman From Australia Converts To Orthodoxy and Becomes A Nun After Seeing the Incorrupt Relics of Saint Gerasimos
The powerful effect the incorrupt relics of Saint Gerasimos the New had a particular effect on a young Australian nun, Anna, who lives at St. Stephen's Monastery on Meteora. She related the following:
I came to Greece in 1988, hoping to get work as an English teacher. I wasn't of Greek parentage, nor did I have any particular interest in classical culture or the arts, but came because Greece sounded interesting. I had not been raised with any religion nor was I looking for one, but soon after I arrived I met some people who were planning to go to Kefallonia, to St. Gerasimos, and invited me along. It seemed a good way to begin seeing the country, and I agreed. When I entered the church and stood before the saint's coffin, I was stunned by what I saw - the incorrupt relics were so obviously a miracle that I knew in myself that there must be a God, and that Orthodoxy was how you worshipped Him. I was baptized and a year later I came to the monastery.
2. The Cave of Saint Gerasimos and Unbelievers
The older church containing the relics of St. Gerasimos is built directly over his cave and pilgrims are welcome to descend the ladder and squeeze through the tiny floor-level entrance that leads into the cave. Local Christians say that only believers can wriggle through the narrow passageway. The wife of an Argostoli priest has informed that, wanting a blessing for her unborn child, she had squeezed through with no trouble when she was fully nine months pregnant, but the thin, lithe young woman whom she brought with her - an unbeliever - couldn't do so.
3. The Epidemic of Cholera in 1760
In 1760, when an epidemic of cholera struck the island, a nun named Akakia had a vision of the saint, praying in front of an icon of the Mother of God, beseeching her to halt the epidemic. The Mother of God spoke from the icon and said, "I have asked my Son, and He will grant you this." Then the saint caught hold of a roll of a cotton-like material wrapped around his staff, and began plucking off many small pieces, scattering them into the air. That night he also appeared to another woman on the island, telling her to go quickly to her father's house - that the infection would not spread to the countryside.
The stories of these visions quickly made the rounds of the villages. One local woman, however, refused to believe the accounts, and scoffed at them saying, "These are stories for children." That night the saint appeared to her in a dream and struck her with his staff, saying, "By this children's story, through the blessing of Panagia, I dispel the sickness from this island." The next morning the woman went straight to the monastery to venerate the saint's relics, telling the nuns of her dream and showing them the bruise on her side where the saint had struck her. They all gave thanks to God.
4. Healing of a Mentally Ill Woman in 1785
In 1785, a mentally ill woman named Susannah came to the monastery and lived there for many months. She never spoke to anyone and ate only if she was given food; otherwise, she went hungry.
One day, after she had been there almost a year she began shrieking loudly during Vespers. The priest came out of the altar and tried to calm her but she screamed all the more until the unnerved cleric finally slapped her, and she was forcibly carried out of church.
That night the priest had a dream that the saint's larnaca (coffin) opened by itself and that St. Gerasimos climbed out. He was holding a book in his hands and motioned the priest over. When the priest came up to him, he hit him hard over the head with the book and asked him, "Did that hurt?" The priest said, "Yes," and the saint responded, "And that hurt me tonight when you slapped that poor woman. Get up now, it's time to go to Matins, and don't ever do it again."
The priest awoke terrified, and ran to the church where he begged the saint's forgiveness. That morning, Susannah was again in church, but this time, she suddenly called out coherently, "Let the priest who hit me yesterday, come and give me something to eat." To the amazement of everyone who knew her, she had been healed.
5. Saint Gerasimos Saves Sailors At Sea From Death
In November 1807, a shipping merchant by the name of Manuel was passing the island on his way to the Peloponnese. When he was in sight of Kefallonia a huge storm blew up. The sailors did all they could to keep the ship afloat, but the intensity of the storm continued to build until they were near despair. On board was a Kefallonian sailor named Ioannis, who had a small icon of St. Gerasimos with him. Shouting to the crew, "St. Gerasimos will save us!" he threw the icon into the sea. When the icon touched the surface of the sea the waves were immediately calmed. The grateful captain ordered the crew to dock in Kefallonia, to pay homage to the saint.
Read also: St. Gerasimos of Kefallonia and the Demon Possessed
Apolytikion in the First Tone
O believers, let us praise the protector of the Orthodox, the God-bearing miracle-worker lately appearing to us, the incarnate angel, divine Gerasimos. For he has rightly received from God the ever-flowing grace of performing healing. He strengthens those with diseases and he heals those with demons. And therefore he pours out healings to those who honor him.
In the year 1798, a boy named Paisios (who at the time was 9 years old), saw a vision of three men, dressed like equipped Roman soldiers, who told him to remove their remains from the earth. The boy related this vision to his grandfather, who not only disbelieved him, but scolded the boy. A year later, after his death, the men appeared once again to the boy, who then told his father, John, of the vision. Together, on the night of August 16th (for fear of the Turks), they uncovered the holy relics, which emitted an incredible fragrance. From this time the saints, through their holy relics, began to work miracles.
However, the inhabitants of Megara did not know the names of these saints, so they began fasting, and performing vigils and prayers for God to reveal their names. These relics were those of Sts. Seraphim, Dorotheos, and Iakovos. After a year, two other martyrs appeared to the boy Paisios (who became the protector of their holy relics) and related that their names were Demetrios and Vasileios, and showed him where to dig to find their relics, a few meters from the others. With the help of other faithful from Megara, they uncovered the tomb, and venerated the relics of these two saints.
After another twenty years, to the same Paisios, another saint named Sarantis appeared and told him to uncover his relics. Paisios took the priest John Moustaka to a rural area north of the city, and found the region among bushes and a large stone. At first it was impossible to dig because of two enormous snakes, but having kneeled and prayed, the snakes disappeared and a luminous glow shined around the bushes. Having gathered the relics with piety and devotion, they brought them to Megara and placed them together with the remains of the five other Martyrs. In the area where they found the sacred relics of St. Sarantis, a small country church was built later, which although situated in the bed of the river, has survived until today.
At 40 years of age, without ever having gone to school, and with the help of the holy Martyrs, Paisios became learned enough to be ordained a priest, in the year 1828. After his death in 1848, many pious residents of Megara who had been helped by the Saints so much, began to build a church to house the holy relics (which previously had been housed in a ruined house by Paisios). The cornerstone was laid in 1889, and soon the church to the Holy Martyrs of Megara was built on the site of their tombs. All year the inhabitants who go to the church to seek the help of the Martyrs.
Many miracles have been attributed to these saints, of which the following is among the many recent miracles of the saints:
In 1977, on the eve of the celebration of the holy Martyrs (15 August), the founder of the Holy Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner (Makrinou), Archimandrite Fr. Damaskinos Katrakoulis, became very sick. It was so serious that, for the first time in his life, he thought he would be unable to attend the feast of the Saints and the procession of their remains. At night, the sisters of the monastery, for their consolation, said to each other: "Let's leave the outer door [to the monastery] open for the holy Martyrs to pass by". And in their desperation they entreated the Saints very much to treat Fr. Damaskinos. But the loyal people of Megara, when they learned the reason for his not attending the festival, began to say with great simplicity and conviction: "The holy Martyrs will go with their horses and will make him well". In the monastery at about eleven at night and while the nuns had withdrawn to their cells, they heard a noise that sounded like horses galloping. At the same time, an unearthly light shone in the cells of several sisters, while St. Iakovos woke up one nun who was asleep. The nuns were full of joy and ecstasy, and realized that the holy Martyrs had visited, began to gather in the cell of the Abbess. And paradoxically, each of them claimed that they heared galloping outside of her own cell. With tears, deep and heartfelt gratitude and devotion, they began doxologies to God and thanksgiving to Holy God and to the holy Martyrs, who heard their humble prayer. Indeed from the time that Fr. Damaskinos was cured with the visit of the Holy Martyrs, to the glory of the most merciful God, he glorified again the holy Martyrs. A few years before that miracle, the same nuns in fact heard the festal bells of the Great Vespers for the Holy Martyrs in the courtyard of their own monastery. It should be noted that the Monastery of St John Makrinou is about 22 kilometers from Megara.
According to analysis by Archimandrite Dorotheos Mourtzoukos, the Holy Martyrs of Megara could have likely been martyred under the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363AD), because (1) they have always appeared like equipped Roman soldiers, (2) the name "Sarantis" is in reference to the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9th) who weren't martyred until 320 AD, and the area which included Megara was given to St. Constantine the Great in 314 AD (so it would not have been an area of persecution of Christianity, unless under the reign of the Emperor Julian).
Fr. Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis wrote the service and hymns in their honor.
Read more here.
For information on the discovery of four more Newly-Revealed Martyrs in Megara, see here.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
The protectors of Megara, Champions ten in number, with Dorotheos, Sarantis, Seraphim, and Iakovos, Demetrios, Vasileios, Adrianos, Polyeuctos and George and Platon, faithful helpers of those in dangers, deliver those who cry to you, Glory to Him who glorified you, Glory to Him you magnified you, Glory to Him you grants to us through you, healings for all.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
The Orthodox Church surpasses all other Christian groups in the richness of her Tradition. The Protestants want only to adhere to Holy Scripture. But, not even Holy Scripture can be interpreted without Tradition. The Apostle Paul himself commands: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
The tradition of Prince Abgar, without doubt, is of Apostolic Tradition even though the apostles do not mention him in their writings. The Apostle Thaddaeus, did not write anything at all and, according to Protestant thinking, did not say anything and neither did he teach the faithful. According to what then was he an apostle of Christ?
St. John Damascene mentions the tradition of Prince Abgar in his defense of the veneration of icons. How wonderful and touching is the letter of Abgar to Christ. And since he previously wrote that he heard of His miraculous power, that He cures the sick and since he implored Him to come and to heal him, Abgar further writes: "I also hear that the Jews hate You and that they are preparing some evil against You. I have a city, not large, but beautiful and bountiful in every good: come to me and live with me in my city, which is sufficient for the both of us for every need." Thus wrote a heathen prince while the princes of Jerusalem were preparing death for the Lord, the Lover of Mankind.
The Holy Monastery of the Great Martyr Saint Panteleimon the Healer is situated in the Christian quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, between the Patriarchate and David’s Gate (Jaffa Gate).
In ancient times the Church was named in honour of Saint Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, the Catechist (351 AD); however, during recent times, it was renamed in honour of Saint Panteleimon, for the assistance of the Greek Community and for the treatment given to the infirm in the Patriarchate’s hospital which was situated across from the Church and housed on the first floor of what is now the Gloria Hotel.
The memory of Saint Panteleimon was panegyrically celebrated in this ornate Chapel of the Monastery, duly prepared and recently enriched with Byzantine hagiographies owing to the efforts of the Superior Sister Charitini.
In the evening Vespers were performed and, on the day of the feast on Monday 27th of July/ 9th of August 2010, a resplendent and devout Holy Liturgy was held with His Eminence Theophanis Archbishop of Gerasa presiding, who also preached the divine word to the numerous pious believers who participated.
During the Holy Liturgy, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III along with Archbishops, members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre, arrived at the Church to venerate and blessed the believers.
Chief Secretary’s Office.
August 13, 2010
Hürriyet Daily News
The Küçükyalı Arkeopark, a large archaeological area on the Asian side of Istanbul, hosts the only surviving Byzantine monastic complex in the city, the head of the excavation team says. The 9th-century complex contains gorgeous marble floors, valuable mosaics and beautiful art objects that she hopes to see in a museum someday.
The only surviving Byzantine monastic complex from 9th-century Constantinople has been uncovered in the Küçükyalı Arkeopark, located on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, the Italian head of the excavation team said Thursday.
“People started out thinking this was a 9th-century Islamic place. When I started doing research here, it became clear that this identification had no good grounding,” said team leader Alessandra Ricci, who noted that some travelers’ accounts dating from the early 19th century mentioned the existence of a Byzantine monastery in the area.
The rich monastic complex, built between 867 and 877, encompasses the church and burial place of Patriarch Ignatios, a prominent figure in Byzantine history who is depicted in the mosaics inside Hagia Sophia.
“There is nothing from the Ottoman period here, not even a piece of pottery. Underneath the modern layers, we’re going directly to Byzantium,” Ricci said, adding that the discovery is a wonderful opportunity for her since she has a great passion for the Byzantine period and it is very rare to find wall paintings from that era in Istanbul.
“We found beautifully decorated marble floors, golden mosaics, wonderful coins and beautiful art objects that deserve to be displayed in a museum,” Ricci said.
The Byzantinist scholar said she decided to conduct the first excavations in the area in order to eliminate the ambiguity about whether the archaeological remains belonged to the Byzantine or Ottoman periods. She received permission from the General Directorate of Monuments and Museums, part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and has been working under the direction of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums since 2008.
The French author Pargoire wrote a study on monasteries on the Marmara seashore that identified the ruins in the area as part of the Satyros Monastery, an identification later supported by Ernst Mamboury, a geometry teacher at Galatasaray High School. In 1959, however, Semavi Eyice published an article in which he identified the complex as a palace built by a Byzantine emperor by the name of Theophilos, in imitation of Islamic Abbasid-period buildings in present-day Iraq, Ricci said. She explained that Eyice was mistaken in his identification as he did not conduct a survey of the area.
In addition to identifying the site as Byzantine, the excavations have retrieved organic residue from the period that are being used to examine patterns of climate change and other aspects of the history of Istanbul. “There was a lot of grain, but no olive trees or vineyards,” Ricci said, emphasizing that the team is also interested in exploring how much the ecological system and the climate have been transformed.
“Every single object taken out of the earth first goes into the washing area and then on to conservation and laboratories,” she said, noting that she plans to take the materials to the specialized laboratories of Koç University, where she works as an associate professor in the archaeology and art history departments.
A team of approximately 50 people, including archaeologists, graduate students and workmen, works under very hard and hot conditions, Ricci said, adding that the team’s just-completed season was very productive compared to 2008, when the Marmaray Tunnel Project absorbed much of the potential workforce.
Ricci said the team would carry out a conservation project in October to preserve the historical trees at the archaeological site, in collaboration with the Maltepe Municipality. “This is not just a dry archaeological site; we need to leave this place as a piece of tangible and permanent heritage,” she said.
Sightseeing tours are being prepared for both local and foreign tourists interested in Istanbul’s Byzantine heritage, Ricci said, adding that she is enthusiastic about sharing the team’s work with future visitors. “I am very grateful to this country because [Turkey] has given me the opportunity to do my research here. These kinds of dreams do not always come true,” she said, adding that she plans to continue her work excavating the complex’s church next year.
Read more here and here.
13 August 2010
Ukrainian regions that are in the pit of "deadly sins", were defined by the weekly newspaper Kontrakty. The first position was won by Odessa (142 points) for greed, followed by the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, who scored the same points -126. Thus, in the Donetsk region the "major sin" became anger, and in Luhansk - greed.
In the fourth place is Dnipropetrovsk (124 points). Here the major sins are "lust" and "extravagance”. The fifth place belongs to Sumy (123 points), which basically sinned in "despair".
To determine the most sinful region of Ukraine, the newspaper used statistics for the last year. Statistics were correlated with eight sinful passions known in Orthodoxy: gluttony (the number of overweight people), lust (the number of cases of gonorrhea and syphilis per capita), greed (number of officially registered cases of bribery), anger (number of cases of murder and intentionally causing grievous bodily harm), acedia (the percentage of happy people), despair (the number of suicides), pride (number of unique license plates on cars).
August 16, 2010
The architectural heart of ancient Serdica, the Roman Empire-era predecessor of Bulgaria's capital of Sofia, is emerging amid excavations for the construction of the city metro system.
In a couple of years, the finds will become part of an underground museum where visitors will be able to walk in the footsteps of Constantine the Great (272-337 AD), the first Roman emperor to legalise Christianity and adopt it himself.
Modern Sofia lies on several archaeological layers left by the Thracians, Romans, Byzantines, medieval Bulgarians and Ottoman Turks.
Infrastructure projects have often hit ancient city walls, public buildings and churches, which are well preserved and displayed in the downtown area.
But there still much more to dig out. The latest excavations next to the "Sveta Nedelya" square, in the very heart of the city, prove it had been inhabited and civilised for thousands of years.
The archaeologists are looking at the remains of two recently found XIV and XVI century churches and a necropolis. In one of them they came across murals, which are currently under restoration.
An Ottoman-era (XIV-XIX century) house is to be dismantled and rebuilt at a different location so that teams can explore underlying layers.
They have uncovered new stretches of Serdica's Decumanus Maximus – the traditional east-west street in Roman cities, which served predominantly administrative and defence purposes; as well as parts of the Cardo Maxima – the main north-south urban axis, which used to be home to crafts and trade.
The ancient arteries largely coincide with the modern locations of state institutions and shopping areas in Sofia.
A larger part of the Decumanus Maximus is still expected to emerge and lead to the eastern city gate, which was found years ago and is now exhibited in a subway linking the presidential and governmental headquarters.
Research shows that parts of several insulae – residential buildings where Roman lower and upper middle class lived – may be also lying beneath.
For several months now archaeologists have been working on a nobleman's mansion which they believe belonged to a local ruler.
It has a patio, arched galleries, mosaic-covered living areas and baths. Eight rooms and two VI century toilets - extremely rare from an archaeological point of view - have been found.
A 5.5 metre wide and 17 metre long section of a slate stone street leads to the mansion. Traces of arson have led researchers to believe the building was subject to a barbarian attack under Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD).
Barbarian raids made Romans fortify Serdica, evidenced by two recently found inscriptions, archaeologist Mario Ivanov said.
Sofia is among the oldest European cities. Its earliest traces of pre-historic population date back to 7,000 years ago.
The Thracians - tribes, whose civilisation flourished on the Balkans between the late Bronze Age and the VI century AD Slavic invasion – were the first recorded settlers here.
For a short spell, during the Hellenistic Period (323-146 BC), Serdica belonged to the empire of Philip II and Alexander the Great.
The Romans conquered it in the first century AD. They urbanised it by building roads, streets and plumbing.
Constantine the Great often spent summers in Serdica and even referred to it as to "my Rome."
Researchers suspect that remains of his palace might be lying under the massive Sheraton Hotel, a massive Stalinist-era ex-government building, standing s a few metres from today's excavations.
Parts of what is known as Constantine's Quarter of Serdica – the St. George Rotunda – a IV century brick Christian basilica - were found long ago and can be seen in the presidency patio with stretches of adjacent streets, plumbing and a hypocaust heating system.
Architects Slavey Galabov, Vasil Kitov and Krasen Andreev have designed a €10 million project to conserve and display the new finds and the city of Sofia hopes to source half of the funding from the EU Regional Development Programme.
The architectural design includes a 2-hectare pedestrian zone in the so-called Sofia Largo between the presidency and the government headquarters, an underground museum with a semi-transparent ceiling and a metro station under it.
A panoramic window will show-case the archaeological relics to passers-by in the pedestrian zone on the upper level. It will be covered by a glass dome of up to 65 metres. Two elevators will lead from it to the archaeological level.
A medium level will contain an exhibition site with a model of ancient Serdica, food and drink establishments, galleries, antique shops, an information centre, a stage for concerts and a street theatre
The subway train will pass 24 metres underground beneath the whole complex so that archaeologists can explore the area undisturbed and the finds be displayed at their original locations.
The project for the 80-metre long, two-platform metro station has been already altered four times to suit the ever emerging relics, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova said.
"We want to preserve as much as possible of our unique architectural heritage and let local citizens and visitors enjoy it," she said.
Despite the chronic lack of parking space, the city has scrapped an initial plan for a 680-vehicle underground parking lot to make room for the museum.
This means more than 90 percent of the archaeological riches will be exhibited in their original locations and in the way they were found.
Read more here.