Thursday, November 18, 2010
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39), commanded the Lord. This is the shortest and clearest teaching on humility. The evil demons fear nothing so much as a humble man fulfilling the Lord's commandments.
There was a rich nobleman in Alexandria who had a young daughter into whom an evil spirit had entered, and the daughter had gone insane. Someone told the despairing father that none could heal his daughter except the monks who lived in the wilderness and came to Alexandria from time to time to sell baskets, their handiwork; but none of the monks would enter the rich nobleman's house if he told them why he was inviting them. It would be better for him to purchase baskets from the monks, then ask them to come to his house for payment. Then, when they entered the house, he could implore them to pray to God for all the members of the household, and thus obtain God's help to cure the maiden.
The father obeyed and went to the marketplace on a certain day and met one of St. Makarios's disciples as he was selling baskets. The man agreed to buy the baskets, and invited the monk to his home to pay him. When the monk entered the home, the possessed daughter leaped at the monk and vigorously struck him on one cheek with her hand. The monk silently turned the other cheek. The evil spirit cried out in anguish and departed from the girl, and she became completely calm and rational. When the monk returned to the wilderness, he told the elders what had happened and they all glorified God, that He had given so much power to those who fulfill His commandments.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
St. Romanus was a deacon of the church in Caesarea and zealously preached the Gospel in Antioch. One day, there was an idolatrous feast. The Eparch of Antioch, Asclypiades, went to enter a pagan temple to offer sacrifices, but Romanos stood in the way and said: "You sin, O Governor, when you go to the idols. The idols are not gods. Christ is the only true God." The enraged eparch subjected Romanos to tortures and had him flogged and scraped without mercy. During this, St. Romanos saw a child by the name of Barulas, and said to Asclypiades: "Even this small child has more understanding than you, old man, for he knows the true God and you do not." The eparch questioned Barulas about his faith, and he confessed Christ the Lord as the One True God, contrary to false idolatry. Asclypiades commanded that young Barulas be beheaded, and St. Romanus be strangled in prison. Thus, both of these martyrs inherited the Kingdom of Christ in the year 303.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Martyrs Romanos and Barulas
Barulas beheld the tortures of St. Romanos,
And Romanos beheld Barulas, sad and tear-stained.
Barulas had a child's innocent soul;
Barulas had a heart purer than a lily.
And the wicked eparch asked Barulas:
"Come, my child, without bribery, speak the truth:
Is Christ better, or our gods?"
"Christ is far better than your idols!"
"Had I known, O Child, I would not have asked you!
How is Christ better? Come, tell me."
"Christ is the Creator of the world,
Idols are fancies of the demon's kingdom."
The governor, now furious, beat the child.
But this was pleasant to the child, and he spoke louder:
"O people, abandon the cursed demons,
Christ alone is God; He enlightens men."
Barulas's mother stood by, and encouraged her son:
"Become worthy, O Son, of the rank of martyrdom."
As a lamb beneath the sword, Barulas bent his neck,
And glorified Christ, himself and his mother.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
O all-lauded Romanos, since the Church hath thee as a bright, majestic star, she is now guided by the light of thy great contests, and she doth praise and glorify thine all-luminous memory.
Though the miraculous icon of "Axion Estin" is today housed in the Protaton Church in Karyes of Mount Athos, the Cell in which the revelation of the Archangel Gabriel took place is a shrine of great veneration by both pilgrims and inhabitants of the Holy Mountain. The Cell is in Kapsala, not too far from Karyes. It was here that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to a monk in the 10th century and revealed the beloved hymn of "Axion Estin". Unfortunately in recent decades monks had joined the schismatic Old Calendarists years ago, eventualy leaving the Cell two years ago abandoned after over 1,000 years of continuous habitation. However Hieromonk Diodoros has taken it upon himself to inhabit the Cell recently and return it to the canonical Church and in communion with the rest of Mount Athos.
Read more below:
The Revelation of the Hymn "Axion Estin" by the Archangel Gabriel
Miracles of the Icon of "Axion Estin"
Paschal Litany on Mount Athos for Bright Week
Yesterday we commemorated 48 years since the death of Father Daniil Sandu Tudor.
Alexandru Teodorescu was born on December 22, 1896, in a family of lawyers.
After he started working as a journalist he chose the pseudonym Sandu Tudor; afterwards he became monk Agaton and then schema monk Daniil (Daniel).
He participated in WW1 and later studied Theology, Philosophy, and Arts, but without obtaining a degree. He was an airplane test pilot, teacher, poet, journalist. In 1929, after reading an article by a French female journalist who had claimed she visited Mount Athos, he decided to visit it himself and then write a tabloid article about it.
Father Roman Braga later remembers him saying how, on Mount Athos, he started making metanias (prostrations) to pass as a simple pilgrim, but something inside him mysteriously transformed step by step. Instead of a few days, he spent eight months on the Holy Mountain.
He returned to Romania and published his own newspaper. He was imprisoned in 1942 for his left sided political views and set free in 1944. After a plane accident from which he miraculously survived he sold all his possessions and decided to become a monk. He was received as a brother in Antim Monastery in Bucharest in 1945. There he started a group called "Rugul Aprins" (The Burning Bush). It was a study group which held conferences and practiced the Prayer of the Heart. Because of this he was imprisoned by the communists for three years. In 1952 he was released and he became a hieromonk and then hiero-schema monk. He retired to Rarau Skete in the Carpathians.
He was arrested again in 1958 and sentenced to 25 years of jail for "plotting against social order by publicly reading and commenting on writings of the enemy to the regime". Those writings were actually the writings of the Church Fathers.
We don't know how Father Daniil actually died. He was last seen in 1960, seriously ill in Aiud prison. His death certificate says Father Daniil died on November 17, 1962, because of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Father Roman Braga, who was also a member of Rugul Aprins, declared that "Father Daniil died in Zarca (a prison building with extreme conditions) from Aiud after four years of tortures and beatings, being one of the few inmates who wore chains for the whole duration of the sentence."
I also want to post the following story:
Father Augustin from Aiud Monastery gives us an important testimony about the holiness of the one who could be called the Righteous Daniil the Confessor:
"One winter, Father Daniil was put in a cell called The White or The Fridge, as it was also called, at a temperature of -30º Celsius (-22 ºF). It was a windowless cell, with feces and urine everywhere, because there they put those that were meant to die - practically they were sentenced to death because of the cold. They had few clothes and they where kept there with very, very little food before entering the cell, as well as after they where in that cell.
"And the elder was put there together with a medic, a very good friend of his. After they were both put in the cell by three guards, Father Daniil immediately jumped on his belly, with his arms spread in the sign of the Cross, with his face in all those dirty things, and told the doctor: 'Sit on me!' The doctor sat with his back on the back of the Elder in the same position of the Holy Cross. Then the Elder told him: 'Doctor, don't say anything more than: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.'
"And the doctor later said that when Father Daniil started praying, a blinding light entered the cell and from that moment he lost the notion of time.
"After a while, a few guards entered the cell, picked them up and then they found out they survived in there for 8 days without water, without food, without sleep or anything to wear, at -30° Celsius.
"When the torturers entered the cell and touched Father Daniil, he was hotter than when they had brought him to the cell, and everything around him had melted."
(Fragment from Rafael Udrişte's documentary, TVR, October 11, 2008).
Source: This was translated and abridged from: Razbointrucuvant and Razbointrucuvant by Marius Nitu.
Read also: 3 New Confessors of the Romanian Orthodox Church
November 14, 2010
The Huffington Post
"He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul." -Psalm 22:3
Among a good many advantages our predecessors in the early Church could claim was a more nearly adequate vocabulary. For instance, they were in possession of a number of words that indicated a number of amazing truths. Nous, kardiá, népsis and théosis were among those words that helped to keep the young Body focused on the task at hand, the task of healing our shared array of rifts -- rifts within ourselves, between ourselves and others, and, most keenly, between a Holy God and a race of creatures that had broken off communion.
Three of those words -- nous, népsis and théosis -- have been all but lost to our contemporary conversation, and the deep significance of another, kardiá, which is to say "heart," has been sorely diminished. With these onetime commonplace words enhancing their spiritual conversations, our predecessors were better able to give their attentions to the profound complexity and the vertiginous promise of the human person, another treasure neglected over the centuries.
The import of nous has been obscured thanks to a history of not-so-good choices translating that very good Greek word into other languages that didn't have direct equivalents. What we have received are, at best, half measures, and none of them sufficiently delivers to us the mystery of ourselves.
In most cases, translations have replaced the mysterious noun with something that addresses maybe half of a complicated story, and leaves us, on occasion, misdirected in what we make of things.
For instance, when Saint Peter employs his accustomed, muscular language to encourage us -- "Gird up the loins of your minds" -- nous is the word that is shortchanged, having been replaced with mind. When we read in Saint Paul's epistle to the Romans, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God," the word mind is again what we are given in lieu of the more suggestive nous.
In the above passage from Saint Paul, a good deal of significance appears to be placed upon right thinking -- specifically, the renewing of our minds -- as if by thinking better thoughts, by fine-tuning our theologies or by undergoing a bit of brain-scrubbing we might find ourselves duly equipped to "prove what is [the] good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Virtually every time we come across the word mind (or, in some cases, intellect or reason) in an English translation of the New Testament, nous is the word being rendered. One might say that it is the word being surrendered.
The greatest danger is that what should be an actively performed faith, a lived faith, becomes little more than an idea. When it is most healthy, ours is not a simply propositional faith, but a faith embodied and performed. Having lost this understanding, much of Western Christendom and much of an unduly influenced Eastern Church, has squandered the single most essential aspect of the Christian life: that we are ill, that what we need most is to be healed -- our nous purified, illumined and restored to actual communion with the God who is.
Until we shed the scholastic view that all we need are better ideas, until we apprehend that our deep illness must be cured and our smudged nous recovered, we remain susceptible to smug, deluded, recurrent failure and, perhaps, actual separation from the Body of Christ.
Another New Testament word that could benefit from a rigorous appraisal is kardiá, offered to us simply as heart. Early Christians, taking their lead from Jewish and other Semitic traditions, understood this word as indicating more than the pump in our chests, or as a figure of speech for our emotions, feelings and affections. They understood kardiá as the very center of the complex human person, and as the scene of our potential repair.
As our long tradition has figured the matter, the human person is herself/himself something of a trinity. Various writers in that tradition are likely to name our tri-parts variously, but most agree that thanks to the dire severing of our persons from the Triune Persons of our Life-giving God, we have become splintered, or something of a crippled tripod, a triangle that doesn't ring true.
We may be body, soul and spirit true enough, but, for most of us, our wholeness and unity remain either troubled or downright fractured.
We are compelled toward balance, but we are bent.
We hope to be even, but we are at odds with ourselves, at odds with our constituent bits, and as a result we have become somewhat less than the sum of our parts.
"Gather yourself together in your heart," writes Saint Theophan the Recluse, "and there practice secret meditation. ... The very seed of spiritual growth," the saint insists, "lies in this inner turning to God. ... Or, still more briefly, collect yourself and make secret prayer in your heart." On another occasion, Saint Theophan writes, "The Savior commanded us to enter into our closet and there to pray to God the Father in secret. This closet, as interpreted by St. Dimitri of Rostov, means the heart. Consequently, to obey our Lord's commandment, we must pray secretly to God with the mind in the heart."
The Mind in the Heart
The more we read in the fathers and mothers across the early centuries of the Church, the more profoundly we come to recognize this formula, this admonition that we might find our prayer lives made fruitful by our descending with our "minds" into our "hearts." This figure, then -- of the lucid nous descended into the ready kardiá, of the mind pressed into the heart -- articulates both the mode and locus of our potential re-collection, our much desired healing. At the very least, it identifies the scene where this reconstitution of our wholeness might begin: the center of the human body, which is nonetheless the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Split as we are, we think with our minds and we feel with our bodies.
Imagine, however, a habit of prayer that serves to marry both faculties together.
Imagine a covert organ at the core of our beings that, duly apprehended, duly cleansed and duly inspirited, is able to re-connect those severed capacities within ourselves, so that our internal struggle between the appetites of the body and the varied solipsisms of the mind resolves, finds peace in likely collaboration.
A finer sense of things is occasioned by Bishop Kallistos Ware's depiction of the nous as "the intellective aptitude of the heart." In this fortunate collision of mind-talk and body-talk, we glimpse something of what the figure of the nous descended into the kardiá performs; the nous inhabited kardiá becomes the place where mind and body meet, a place where their longstanding severance might be healed, their half-measures made meet and fit, a place where the human split is potentially repaired.
The faculty occasioned by the mind's descent into the heart is also the organ by which we apprehend God's presence as more than an idea, and as more than a passing sensation. The severed mind can help us to the idea of God, and the severed body can provide us with a sensation of His touch; but the noetic center of a healed, triune person offers something more lasting and more satisfying than either: felt knowledge of His love and ceaseless communication with His constant presence. Recovering a sense of nous and a more profound sense of kardiá will better equip us for the journey ahead.
As for népsis and théosis, the recovery of these similarly illuminating terms may provide some very helpful insights into what it is we are to accomplish in this the often puzzling meantime of our lives. Népsis can be considered as watchfulness, sobriety, interior attention and it is this discipline of népsis that is understood by the fathers and mothers to be essential to our théosis -- to our becoming like Him, our becoming holy.
As I recognize in my own, none-too-exemplary experience, sin happens when I pretty much agree to it, when I acquiesce to it. Sin, which clouds the nous and hardens the heart, is committed by our -- that is, by my -- failing to be watchful, sober or sufficiently attentive to the effects of what I think or say or do. The fathers almost uniformly distinguish between an unavoidable, momentary, if not-so-expedient thought (logismós) and sin itself (amartía).
The provocation to sin develops into sin only when we fail in our watchfulness.
An inexpedient thought becomes sin when we turn toward it and certainly becomes sin when we settle in to savor it.
"My son, give heed to my word," the writer of the Hebrew Proverbs exhorts, "and incline your ear to my words,
...That your fountains may not fail you;
Guard them in your heart;
For they are life to those who find them
And healing for all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all watchfulness,
For from these words are the issues of life."
That your fountains may not fail you, guard them in your heart.
Developing this discipline of népsis, of watchfulness, teaches us increasingly to guard our hearts from every careless slip into temptation, keeps us from missing the mark and spares us from squandering whatever spiritual development we may have accomplished. With népsis we avoid our chronic sins that would have us repeatedly starting again from zero.
The mind descended into the heart, then, describes where and how we meet Him. Watchfulness indicates how we keep that meeting place uncorrupted. And théosis is the goal of our journey to Christ-like-ness, a condition that will gain for us the kingdom of heaven, here on earth. Over time, resulting from what Brother Lawrence (a 17th-Century lay brother) has characterized as "the practice of the presence of God," these meetings become a way of life, and they become the source of our freedom from happenstance, our freedom to face any occasion, any insult or any affliction with the consoling apprehension of God's being with us.
Moreover, the mind-in-the-heart -- the establishment of the noetic heart -- also creates the organ by which we finally are able to meet our brothers and sisters, the organ by which strangers are recognized as holy messengers, and the means by which we hope finally to realize that whatsoever we do (or fail to do) to the least of these, we necessarily do (or fail to do) to Christ Himself.
As Christ prayed for us, in what our common tradition recognizes as "the high priestly prayer," the prayer He prayed in the garden of Gesthemane "on the night when He was betrayed, or rather when He gave Himself up for the life of the world":
"...that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."
Which means, of course, that we are loved utterly, but just as the cup was not taken from Him, neither are we likely to skirt suffering. As Saint Paul avers, God "did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all."
Oddly enough, our own descents into suffering may turn out to be the occasions in which we -- imitating His unique and appalling descent -- come to know Him all the more intimately.
November 15, 2010
How you argue with your spouse can actually predict if you'll have a long marriage or a quickie divorce.
While newlyweds who yell or call each other names have a far higher chance of getting divorced, there is one particularly toxic way to argue that can spell an early end to a marriage: One person deals with the conflict constructively, while the other withdraws.
Here's the scenario: A couple begins to argue. The husband calmly discusses the situation, listens to his wife's point of view and tries hard to find out what she is feeling. And then the wife withdraws, stomps out of the room and won't speak to him. Not a good idea if you don't want to get divorced.
"This pattern seems to have a damaging effect on the longevity of marriage," says lead study author Kira Birditt of the University of Michigan. "Spouses who deal with conflicts constructively may view their partners' habit of withdrawing as a lack of investment in the relationship rather than an attempt to cool down."
The team used data from the Early Years of Marriage Study, which is one of the largest and longest research projects on the patterns of marital conflict. Over a 16-year period, 373 couples were interviewed four times. The interviews began in the first year of marriage, which was 1986 for all of them.
For this study, the University of Michigan researchers examined how both individual behaviors and patterns of behavior between partners affected the likelihood of divorce. They also examined whether behavior changed over time and whether there were racial or gender differences in behavior patterns and outcomes.
The shocking results: Even though 29 percent of husbands and 21 percent of wives reported having no conflicts at all during the first year of marriage in 1986, 46 percent had divorced by year 16 of the study, which was 2002. Interestingly, whether or not couples reported any conflict during the first year of marriage did not affect whether they had divorced by the last year studied.
Overall, husbands reported using more constructive behaviors and fewer destructive behaviors than wives. But over time, wives were less likely to use destructive strategies or withdraw, while husbands' use of these behaviors stayed the same through the years.
"The problems that cause wives to withdraw or use destructive behaviors early in a marriage may be resolved over time," Birditt said. "Or, relationships and the quality of relationships may be more central to women's lives than they are to men. As a result, over the course of marriage, women may be more likely to recognize that withdrawing from conflict or using destructive strategies is neither effective nor beneficial to the overall well-being and stability of their marriages."
Birditt also found that black couples were more likely to withdraw during conflicts than were white couples, although black couples were less likely to withdraw from conflict over time.
The study findings were published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Senior clerics in Greece have told the state in no uncertain terms that vigilance is required to prevent the antichrist from making a manifestation on new ID cards to be issued next year.
The authorities must ensure that the cards contain no mention of the number 666, which in Greek Orthodox tradition is associated with the antichrist, the Church of Greece said in a statement.
"In no way should the 'citizen card' contain the number 666, either in visible or invisible manner," the Holy Synod, governing council of the Church of Greece, said after a meeting between canon scholars, legal experts, computer specialists and government officials.
"The Church is obliged to protect personal freedom and defend the integrity of the faith," the Holy Synod added.
State planners have pledged to take the observation on board, it said.
The new cards are to be finalised early next year.
The Church is officially part of the state in Greece.
Frequently criticised as backward and superstitious by liberal circles, Orthodox custodians strongly adhere to tradition surrounding the number 666, which appears in the biblical Book of Revelation, believed to have been written by the Apostle John in the first century AD.
Also known as the figure of the Beast, the number has led ultra orthodox clerics to oppose the use of bar codes on goods, as well as electronic checks carried out under the border-free Schengen Area of which Greece is a member.
A decade ago, the Church of Greece had fought tooth and nail to prevent the removal of religious affiliation from the previous batch of identity cards issued to Greeks, even organising a referendum on the issue.
At the time, religious minorities such as Catholics and Jews had successfully argued that the inclusion of faith on the cards could expose the bearer to discrimination.
Read also: The Greek "Citizen Card" and the Orthodox Response
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
"All have sinned, all come short of the glory of God, but they are justified for nothing by His grace through the ransom provided in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as the means of propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith" (Romans 3:23-24).
The Term "Propitiation"
The Greek word (hilasterion) is derived from a verb which in pagan writers and inscriptions has two meanings:
(a) "to placate" a man or a god;
(b) "to expiate" a sin, i.e. to perform an act (such as the payment of a fine or the offering of a sacrifice) by which its guilt is annulled.
The former meaning is overwhelmingly the more common. In the Septuagint, on the other hand, the meaning (a) is practically unknown where God is the object, and the meaning (b) is found in scores of passages. Thus the biblical sense of the verb is "to perform an act whereby guilt or defilement is removed." The idea underlying it is characteristic of primitive religion. The ancients felt that if a taboo was infringed, the person or thing involved became unclean, defiled or profane. The condition of defilement might be removed by the performance of the appropriate act: it might be washing with water, or sprinkling with blood, or simply the forfeiture of some valuable object to the deity concerned with the taboo. Such acts were felt to have the value, so to speak, of a disinfectant. Thus in the Old Testament a whole range of ritual actions are prescribed for disinfecting the priest, the altar, or the people from various forms of defilement, ritual or moral. Our versions in such cases use the phrase "to make propitiation"; but the more proper translation would be "to make expiation". This meaning holds good wherever the subject of the verb is a man. But, as religious thought advanced, it came to be felt that, where the defilement was moral, God alone could annul it; and so the same verb is used with God as subject in the sense "to forgive".*
In accordance with biblical usage, therefore, the substantive (hilasterion) would mean, not propitiation, but "a means by which guilt is annulled": if a man is the agent, the meaning would be "a means of expiation"; if God, "a means by which sin is forgiven". Biblical usage is determinative for Paul. The rendering "propitiation" is therefore misleading, for it suggests the placating of an angry God, and although this would be in accord with pagan usage, it is foreign to biblical usage. In the present passage it is God who puts forward the means whereby the guilt of sin is removed, by sending Christ. The sending of Christ, therefore, is the divine method of forgiveness. This brings the teaching of the present passage into exact harmony with that of v. 8-9.
* The full evidence for all this is given in my book, The Bible and the Greeks, pp. 82-95, where I have examined, I believe, every occurrence of the verb in the Septuagint.
From The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Fontana Books (1959), pp. 78-79.
November 17, 2010
We meet him at his office in Fener, Istanbul a cloudy Saturday morning. This was the first common interview for Cafebabel Greece and Cafebabel Istanbul. We are a bit anxious, we keep looking at the questions together with Ozcan and Angelina. We didnt know what to expect. We are stunned that the Ecumenical Patriarch was about to give an interview to cafebabel. Well interviewing the "Eastern Pope", the spiritual leader of more than 350 million Orthodox didnt seem very easy. All this agony passes when he welcomes us. He is smily, he offers us traditional sweets and coffee. "Its like interviewing your grandfather". He will speak about everything: from Halki and the environment to European youth, science and Chris Spyrou.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope, recently visited the United Kingdom, and much earlier the Fener. Given that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was the first to lead the dialogue between Christian Churches being one of the founding members of the World Council of Churches, do you regard a Union of the Churches feasible?
From the time of my predecessors Athenagoras and Dimitrios, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been leading the dialogue between Christian denominations. Indeed, we take the lead in what is called the “ecumenical movement.” During the Pope’s visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we signed a joint declaration and he recited the “Pater noster’’ during the Orthodox service. Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate participates in the Conference of the European Churches. We support the dialogue, although the gap of division is large, since we have been separated for ten centuries. Now we are discussing the issue of the primacy of the Pope, examining what it looked like in the first millennium of our common fate and why this has changed. Along with the filioque, this is the most difficult issue that divides us. The road toward union is long, but we are not discouraged. On the contrary, we do all that we can to bridge the gap.
In August you made the historic Liturgy at Soumela Monastery close to Trabzon, and a few weeks ago, a Liturgy was held in the Armenian Church of the Holy Cross in Lake Van in Turkey. Do you believe that such actions help mutual understanding and respect for religious freedom in the country? The next step may be reopening the Theological School of Halki (Heybeliada)?
We are very pleased with these developments, both for the Soumela Monastery (Trebizond) and for the Armenians. It reveals a change in the attitude of Turkey. What happened at Panagia Soumela proved that the place (which officially is a museum) can also once a year serve as a place of worship, as is indicated by the official permission we received. This is something beneficial for all. The Turkish state understands that we are not a threat but, on the contrary, that we love and work for the good of our country. Beyond the material benefits for the country resulting from the pilgrims, such actions are evidence that respect of religious freedom is growing in Turkey. This is a matter of principles and values in relation to basic human rights.
In terms of the Theological School of Halki, we are very optimistic. We believe that the issue will be resolved in the year 2011, with the completion of 40 years since the closing of the School. We are ready to operate immediately in order to accommodate students from Turkey and abroad, just like in the past. We will be able to train our clergy at all levels necessary for the functioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which, as you know, has dioceses in many parts of the world, such as the United States, Western and Eastern Europe, Australia, Korea, Hong Kong, Central and South America, and so on.
How do you personally feel the historical weight to sit on the throne of St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch Photius, and Patriarch Gennadios?
It is a huge historical weight. These people were titans of faith and knowledge. Of course we personally cannot attain to their level. But you know, this throne is a cross, which each patriarch is obliged and called to bear. We are the voice of a vibrant institution that has existed in this city, Istanbul, for seventeen centuries and will remain so with the grace of God.
Turkey seems to gradually realize that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not just the local diocese of the Greeks of Constantinople, but a universal institution, and that by not restricting, but rather by supporting its activities Turkey has much to gain. Do you share this view and you have evidence that the Turkish state is changing its policy?
Look, we can summarize the position to date of the Turkish government in a single word: counter-productive.
It is counter-productive not only for us but first and foremost for the national interests of Turkey itself. However, the current developments are positive. It is understood that we do not have and never had, either now or in the future, any political aspirations or interests. At times, some not very serious arguments have been expressed, namely that we are trying to create a second Vatican in Fener. Let anyone come and show us what these attempts have been. These arguments are not serious.
The fact is that we see a change in attitude, and the new Law for Minority Foundations also underlines this direction. It does not solve all of our problems, but it certainly gives more freedom of movement to minorities. Recently, a Rum Orthodox (i.e. a Turkish citizen of Greek origin) was elected as a member in the State Commission for the Administration of all Vakif (Foundations) in Ankara, which meets every fortnight. These are unprecedented developments for us here, and we are very pleased about them. In addition, our Prime Minister Erdogan visited the Greek Orphanage in Büyükada before the ECHR announced its decision, which justified our rights to the property. This was a brave political move by the Prime Minister, full of potent symbolism.
You know, the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox church worldwide is immense, something that is beneficial for Turkey. Our efforts to build peace and promote respect among peoples of every faith is well known, and this is confirmed by the fact that every politician who comes to Turkey always visits the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We are optimistic, then, and we insist upon these rights.
What do you think about Turkish government's new rapprochements toward minorities?
This is a political issue but we cannot remain silent on this issue. It is no secret that we are really glad about these steps of the Turkish government. We support this approach. We hope that it will continue in the future. Furthermore, as we have previously stated, we believe that such negotiations will render Turkey even more democratic as a country, which is precisely the reason we are supporting Turkey’s full EU membership.
A Greek American group lead by Mr Chris Spyrou wanted to organize a religious ceremony in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, then they cancelled their program. Were you involved in attempts to convince them to cancel their plan?
We do not know this person. We do not know how he could think of organising a religious ceremony without consulting us in our capacity as the local Archbishop of the city and without securing the Turkish government’s permission. We objected and they cancelled their plan. Nobody can conduct an Orthodox Christian ceremony in Hagia Sophia without permission both from the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Turkish government. Even we are not allowed to conduct religious ceremonies in other countries without the permission of the local churches in these countries and of the local officials.
You have been called the ‘‘Green Patriarch'' because of your environmental sensitivity. Do you think religious leaders are able to affect if not the governments, at least the environmental conscience of the faithful?
It is hardly possible to influence governments. Financial interests are pushing to such an extent that it is not possible for politicians themselves to agree, and we have faced that situation in Copenhagen. But, yes, we think that we are able to cultivate among the faithful a sensitivity with regard to environmental issues.
You know, this global crisis is primarily conceptual; it concerns values. We have to understand that we are responsible for delivering our planet to the next generations. We must not continue wasting resources but instead allow future generations to benefit from the goods given to us by God.
The word “ecology” comes from the Greek “eco” and “logos,” where “eco” (oikos) means our home. In order for this to be understood, we first need to appreciate that we are not owners but managers of the world, which God has entrusted to us. Therefore, we should take care of this world in order to hand it over to the next generation. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has taken a leadership role in this effort to develop ecological awareness through its International Ecological Symposia.
It is easy to combine modern consumerist lifestyle of frugality that brings Christianity? Many argue that the two models are incompatible.
It is essential to change the present mindset and abandon a lifestyle of over-consumption and greed that inevitably lead to social injustice and inequality. The Apostle Paul teaches that greed leads us to the worship of material goods, which is idolatry, the greatest sin. The Church teaches not greed but “oligarkeia” (namely, living a simple, laconic life). The Gospel says that “whoever owns two clothes should give one of these to someone who has none.” Unfortunately, we have reached the point where we try to grab from our fellow human being even his own clothing!
What can the Orthodox faith and testimony give to the youth of Europe? Is it easy to embrace Orthodox concepts and values to a Western European with a Catholic/Protestant background?
As I said earlier, all issues are intertwined with each other – socially, economically, and ideologically. Young people feel unsafe. The Orthodox Church has to offer the original faith as it existed during the first ten centuries of our common road with the West. That is to say, the faith and the Church as the true body of Christ. Before the Great Schism of 1054, all of Europe was Orthodox. Therefore, what the Church is called to offer is the simplicity and authenticity of the christian faith. We teach authenticity, ascetic morality and spirituality. All these are missing from the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.
The West was cut off from these values, and this is precisely what justifies the nostalgia that is manifested today. In recent years, more and more liturgical books of the Orthodox Church have been translated and published in foreign countries. Apart from the theological books, one may find spiritual guides in such books as the Philokalia, which is of great interest also to non-Orthodox people. Furthermore, in the Orthodox faith, there is much attention to devotion and worship; and there is greater emphasis on the heart than on the intellect. This is why Orthodoxy may be said to comprise tradition, experience, and condensed wisdom.
Are you afraid of globalization? Many argue that with so many elements bombarded on all sides are threatening to become "aktarma" (blended).
Globalization has some very positive elements that we support. It offers understanding between peoples and creates the ground for people to cooperate and live peacefully. However, as Archbishop Christodoulos used to say, there is also the danger of becoming like “minced meat.” That is certainly not desirable.
We advocate that every people should keep a record of its culture, language, etc., that render it distinctive. These elements contribute to the individuality of a people. However, at the same time, we must be creative and not retain these elements in a “closed jar” and reduce them to a form of self-admiration.
You know, the 6th century missionaries Cyril and Methodius were commissioned as delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to preach the Gospel to the Slavs. As a result, they created the Cyrillic alphabet. This is something for which the Greek historian Paparigopoulos accused the Patriarchate, claiming that these missionaries did not convert the Slavs into Greek Orthodox. We say this because the Ecumenical Patriarchate saw these people as Slavs; we believed that we must respect them and preach to them in their own language, but not to change them. In this way, we protected both the Greek as well as the Slavic identity. So now all Slavic peoples – Russians, Bulgarians, and Serbs –are grateful to the Mother Church of Constantinople.
Finally, are science and faith incompatible or simply have other recipients and content? Recently, Stephen Hawking has caused a stir with his statements that the universe could exist without the Creator. Do you regard such statements as meaningful? What is the answer of the Church?
I do not consider faith and science as opposed but rather as parallel roads. They are complementary because they lead to the same goal of Truth. You know, Einstein once said: “Science has no God, but scientists do have a God.”
The Orthodox Church is not against science. Indeed, there is historical evidence that our bishops were among the most eminent scientists. Orthodox monasteries preserved ancient Greek manuscripts and made them known to the West. Saint Gregory Palamas studied the philosophy of Aristotle. Furthermore, our Church has a saint named Epistimi (which means “science” in Greek) and a saint Ypomoni (which means “patience”). We did not have any Galileo...
Statements like those of Stephen Hawking are respectable but not binding for anyone. But such statements are provocative and ultimately only divide people. Our approach is that all of the created universe that we see around us – the sky, the oceans, the plants – could not possibly have been generated by chance but in fact have a Creator. A few days ago, I took a stroll in the garden with friends. As I held a flower, I noticed how perfect and beautiful it was and how wisely it was crafted by thousands of smaller flowers that were a feast for the eyes to behold. This cannot have occurred at random.
This valuable documentary documents what it was like for pilgrims to Mount Athos when they visited the cell of Elder Paisios at Panagouda.
It can be seen in full here.
Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop of Neocaesarea, was born in the city of Neocaesarea (northern Asia Minor) into a pagan family. Having received a fine education, from his youth he strived for Truth, but the thinkers of antiquity were not able to quench his thirst for knowledge. Truth was revealed to him only in the Holy Gospel, and the youth became a Christian.
For the continuation of his studies St Gregory went to Alexandria, known then as a center for pagan and Christian learning. The youth, eager for knowledge, went to the Alexandrian Catechetical School, where the presbyter Origen taught. Origen was a famous teacher, possessing a great strength of mind and profound knowledge. St Gregory became a student of Origen. Afterwards, the saint wrote about his mentor: "This man received from God a sublime gift, to be an interpreter of the Word of God for people, to apprehend the Word of God, as God Himself did use it, and to explain it to people, insofar as they were able to understand it." St Gregory studied for eight years with Origen, and was baptized by him.
The ascetic life of St Gregory, his continence, purity and lack of covetousness aroused envy among his conceited and sin-loving peers, pagans that they were, and they decided to slander St Gregory. Once, when he was conversing with philosophers and teachers in the city square, a notorious harlot came up to him and demanded payment for the sin he had supposedly committed with her. At first St Gregory gently remonstrated with her, saying that she perhaps mistook him for someone else. But the profligate woman would not be quieted. He then asked a friend to give her the money. Just as the woman took the unjust payment, she immediately fell to the ground in a demonic fit, and the fraud became evident. St Gregory said a prayer over her, and the devil left her. This was the beginning of St Gregory's miracles.
Having returned to Neocaesarea, the saint fled from the worldly affairs into which influential townsmen persistently sought to push him. He went into the desert, where by fasting and prayer he attained to high spiritual accomplishment and the gifts of clairvoyance and prophecy. St Gregory loved life in the wilderness and wanted to remain in solitude until the end of his days, but the Lord willed otherwise.
The bishop of the Cappadocian city of Amasea, Thedimos, having learned of St Gregory's ascetic life, decided to have him made Bishop of Neocaesarea. But having foreseen in spirit the intent of Bishop Thedimos, the saint hid himself from the messengers of the bishop who were entrusted to find him. Then Bishop Thedimos ordained the absent saint as Bishop of Neocaesarea, beseeching the Lord that He Himself would sanctify the unusual ordination. St Gregory perceived the extraordinary event as a manifestation of the will of God and he did not dare to protest. This episode in the life of St Gregory was recorded by St Gregory of Nyssa (January 10). He relates that St Gregory of Neocaesarea received the episcopal dignity only after Bishop Thedimos of Amasea performed all the canonical rites over him.
During this time, the heresy of Sabellius and Paul of Samosata began to spread. They taught falsely concerning the Holy Trinity. St Gregory prayed fervently and diligently imploring God and His most pure Mother to reveal to him the true faith. The All-Holy Virgin Mary appeared to him, radiant like the sun, and with Her was the Apostle John the Theologian dressed in archepiscopal vestments.
By the command of the Mother of God, the Apostle John taught the saint how to correctly and properly confess the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. St Gregory wrote down everything that St John the Theologian revealed to him. The Mystery of the Symbol of the Faith, written down by St Gregory of Neocaesarea, is a great divine revelation in the history of the Church. The teaching about the Holy Trinity in Orthodox Theology is based on it. Subsequently it was used by the holy Fathers of the Church: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and Gregory of Nyssa. The Symbol of St Gregory of Neocaesarea was later examined and affirmed in the year 325 by the First Ecumenical Council, showing his enduring significance for Orthodoxy.
Having become a bishop, St Gregory set off to Neocaesarea. Along the way from Amasea he expelled devils from a pagan temple, the priest of which he converted to Christ. The convert was witness to still another miracle of the saint, at his word a large stone shifted from its place.
The preaching of the saint was direct, lively and fruitful. He taught and worked miracles in the name of Christ: he healed the sick, he helped the needy, he settled quarrels and complaints. Two brothers sharing an inheritance were not able to agree over the property of their dead father. There was a large lake over which they argued, for each of the brothers wanted the lake for himself. They both gathered their friends together, and were ready to come to blows. St Gregory persuaded them to delay their fight until the following day, and he himself prayed all night long at the shore of the lake which sparked the quarrel. When dawn broke, everyone saw that the lake had dried up or gone underground. Through the intense prayer of the saint, now there was only a stream, and its course defined the boundary line. Another time, during the construction of a church, he commanded a hill to move and make room at the place of the foundation.
When a persecution against Christians began under the emperor Decius (249-251), St Gregory led his flock to a faraway mountain. A certain pagan, knowing about the hiding place of the Christians, informed the persecutors. Soldiers surrounded the mountain. The saint went out into an open place, raised up his hands to heaven and ordered to his deacon to do the same. The soldiers searched the whole mountain, and they went several times right past those praying, but not seeing them, they gave up and went away. In the city they reported that there was nowhere to hide on the mountain: no one was there, and only two trees stood beside each other. The informer was struck with amazement, he repented of his ways and became a fervent Christian.
St Gregory returned to Neocaesarea after the end of the persecution. By his blessing church Feasts were established in honor of the martyrs who had suffered for Christ.
By his saintly life, his effective preaching, working of miracles and graced guiding of his flock, the saint steadily increased the number of converts to Christ. When St Gregory first ascended his cathedra, there were only seventeen Christians in Neocaesarea. At his death, only seventeen pagans remained in the city.
Reflection By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Let the following examples from the Life of St. Gregory show how God guards and saves the righteous from assaults. While he was still at the school of philosophy in Alexandria, St. Gregory preserved the purity of his soul and his body, as he preserved it to the end of his life. In this, he was an exception among the dissolute youth of that time. This evoked envy and hatred among his companions. In order to debase Gregory, they found a harlot to help them carry out an evil plan.
Once, when Gregory was standing in the square with eminent teachers and philosophers, the foul woman approached him and loudly demanded that Gregory pay her the remainder due for impure relations with her. Some of the people present were scandalized, while others were angry at this shameless woman and began to chase her away; but she shouted even louder, demanding money. The innocent Gregory blushed, as any decent man would before such coarse slander, but he displayed neither anger nor hatred, and asked a friend to give her the amount that she sought so she would leave. The friend heeded Gregory, and gave her the money she wanted. But at that moment God let an evil spirit enter the woman and she fell to the ground and began writhing and convulsing, gnashing her teeth, and foaming at the mouth. Seeing this, everyone was terrified. But St. Gregory, innocent as a lamb, prayed to God for her, and the woman was healed and arose. Thus, instead of humiliation, Gregory acquired even greater glory.
Another example: When a bitter persecution of Christians took place, St. Gregory counseled Christians to hide, and he and his deacon hid on a hill. But the imperial soldiers caught sight of them and pursued them. When they were almost upon them, Gregory prayed to God for help, and God rendered them invisible to their pursuers. The soldiers searched for them in vain, and finally left without them.
HYMN OF PRAISE: Saint Gregory the Wonderworker, Bishop of Neocaesarea
St. Gregory, holy and glorious,
A shining light of the Church and an Orthodox hero,
Raised himself up to God by a very narrow path:
Through suffering and tears, he attained holiness.
He saved himself, and helped many.
By his exemplary life, words and miracles,
He helped the unbelievers to belief,
And believers to be pure and true to the Faith.
The heavens were open to him,
And he clearly penetrated the secrets of men.
He received mystical teachings from heaven;
As the heart of that teaching, he taught the Holy Trinity-
The Divine Trinity, one in Essence,
And Christ, the life-giving food and drink.
Just as pure dewdrops are full of sunlight,
Pure hearts are the dwelling place of the heavens.
With God's help, holy Gregory
Overcame the moonless night of idolatry,
And baptized pagans by the thousands;
Then he departed in peace, to stand with his King!
Holy Gregory, implore God
That the Orthodox Church overcome the adversary!
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
By vigilance in prayer, and continuance in the working of wonders, thou didst acquire thine achievements as a surname; wherefore, intercede with Christ our God, O Father Gregory, to enlighten our souls, lest we sleep in sin unto death.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Since thou hadst received the power to work miracles, thou drovest from men diseases, O wise Gregory, and with fearful signs thou madest the demons tremble; hence, thou art called Wonderworker, O man of God; for thou hast received thy surname from thy works.
Saint Gennadios was the steward of Vatopaidi Monastery on Mount Athos in the fourteenth century, and was in charge of supplies. When the monastery's oil began to run low, he tried to be economical with what remained by using oil just for the needs of the church. The cook began to complain to the abbot, saying that he had no oil for preparing meals. The abbot ordered St Gennadios to place his trust in the Mother of God to supply the oil for all the monastery's needs.
One day, St Gennadios went to the storeroom and saw the tank overflowing with oil covering the floor as far as the door. This miracle was ascribed to the Most Holy Theotokos, and to Her Elaiovrytissa icon which stood nearby. Since that time, the icon has hung in the storeroom and has emitted an ineffable fragrance.
The Elaiovrytissa ("Flowing with oil") Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is commemorated on Bright Friday. On this day the icon is transferred to the Katholikon of the monastery. It also bears the name Docheiarissa ("Stewardess").
November 17, 2010
Was the kingdom of David and Solomon a glorious empire—or just a little cow town? It depends on which archaeologist you ask. A feature in the December National Geographic magazine tackles this controversial question and the controversial nature of archaeology in Israel in general.
Read a feature from National Geographic about the kingdom of David and Solomon.
In the year 914 a certain prince by the name of Michael-Gobron distinguished himself in a battle against the Arab Muslim invaders. After they had captured the fortress of Kvelistsikhe in southern Georgia, the Muslims took captive those who remained alive, and Prince Gobron was among them. Deeply impressed by the Georgian soldier’s valor, the emir Abu al-Qasim ordered his army to treat him with respect.
King Adarnerse sent Abu al-Qasim a large sum of money as a ransom for his people, and some were released. Gobron, however, was not among them. The Georgian prince recognized clearly what the future would bring, and he prepared to be martyred for Christ’s sake. The Saracens escorted Gobron and 133 Georgian soldiers to their execution.
Abu al-Qasim tempted the faithful prince by offering him earthly glory and honor in exchange for his renunciation of the Christian Faith. But St. Gobron firmly declined all of his offers. Then the furious Abu al-Qasim ordered that he be taken into the yard and shown his fallen countrymen on one side and the promised wealth on the other.
When the emir cunningly asked which one he would choose, Gobron answered, “I told you from the very start that I will not retreat from Christ my Lord!”
Then the emir devised a new, more cruel trial: “He knows not the grief of death. Lead him outside and execute every living Christian before his eyes!” he commanded.
They led the saint out in the midst of his brothers and proceeded to slaughter every one of them. The blood of the dead flew around Gobron in every direction, and the martyrs’ limp bodies collapsed at his feet, but none of these horrors could break his will.
Then they compelled him to bow his head and brandished their swords above him two times. Prince Gobron traced a cross on his brow with blood and said, “I thank Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, that Thou hast accounted me, the most contemptible and chief among sinners, worthy to lay down my life for Thy sake!”
Again they brought St. Gobron before the emir. For the last time Abu al-Qasim tried to entice him to apostatize, but the saint, dripping with blood, declared, “Do as you wish. I am a Christian and will never retreat from the name of my Christ!”
Having lost all patience, Abu al-Qasim ordered that St. Gobron’s head be chopped off and thrown in with the other mutilated bodies. Then they dug three large holes, tossed in the relics of the martyrs, refilled the holes with earth, and forbade all Christians to approach that place. At night the graves shone with a divine light visible to believers and unbelievers alike.
For laying down their lives for Christ, the valorous prince Michael-Gobron and the 133 martyrs were numbered among the saints by the Georgian Apostolic Church. The day of their commemoration was designated as November 17, the day of their martyrdom.
November 13, 2010
The relics of St. Andrew the First Called will be brought to the Dormition of the Theotokos Cathedral in Astana on November 30, in the Kazakhstan Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church.
This is a gift by Pope Benedict XVI to the Kazakhstan Metropolis Area of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Roman Catholic Church delegation is headed by Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Secretary of State. The ceremony will be attended by the current Secretary for Relations with States in the Roman Curia Dominique Mamberti, the Apostolic Nuncio to Kazakhstan Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía, Catholic bishops and Metropolitan Alexander, the Metropolia head, with the Orthodox episcopate.
According to the New Testament, St. Andrew was the first Apostle to follow Jesus Christ. History goes that he preached in many eastern countries, following through Asia Minor across the Black Sea coast, and going up the Dnieper to the hills where Kiev is located now.
The Order of St. Andrew the First Called has been the highest order of the Russian Federation from July 2, 1998.
Kazakhstan has approximately 4.2 million Orthodox Christians and less than 250,000 Roman Catholics.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
"When we pray to the Lord and say: 'Lead us not into temptation', we are not saying this so that we shall not be tried; that would be impossible. We are praying not to be overcome by temptation to the extent of doing something displeasing to God. That is what it means to not enter temptation. The holy martyrs were tried by their torments but, as they were not overcome by them, they did not enter into temptation, any more than someone who fights with a beast and is not devoured by it. When he is devoured, then he has entered into temptation. So it is with every passion, so long as one is not overcome by that passion."
From The Spiritual Meadow by St. John Moschos (No. 209).
Madaba is best known for its superb, historically significant Byzantine era mosaics. Madaba’s most famous site is the Mosaic map in the 19th century Greek Orthodox St George’s Church. Unearthed 1864, the mosaic was once a clear map with 157 captions (in Greek) of all major biblical sites from Lebanon to Egypt. The mosaic was constructed AD 560 & once contained more than 2 million pieces, only 1/3 of the whole now survives.
Where is Madaba?
Madaba, مادبا, is a capital city of Madaba Governorate of Jordan, which has a population of about 60.000. Madaba is the fifth most populous town in Jordan. It is best known for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, especially a large Byzantine-era mosaic map of Palestine and the Nile delta. Madaba is located 30 miles south-west of the capital Amman.
What is the Mosaic Map?
The Madaba Map is the oldest extant map of the Holy Land and is dated to the middle of the 6th century AD. It was discovered late in the 19th century, during an excavation and reconstruction of a mosaic floor in St George’s Church in Madaba, Jordan. The mosaic is a detailed map of Jerusalem as it appeared at the height of the Byzantine period. The map depicts some famous Old City structures such as the Damascus Gate, St. Steven’s Gate, the Golden Gate, the gate leading to Mount Zion, the Citadel (Tower of David), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Cardo Maximus.
How were the mosaics found in Madaba?
The first mosaics were discovered, purely by chance, during the building of the new permanent dwellings using squared-up stones from the old monuments. The new inhabitants of Madaba, made conscious of the importance of the mosaics by their priests, made sure that they took care of and preserved all the mosaics that came to light.
The mosaic Map of Madaba was discovered in 1896; the findings were published a year later. This discovery drew the city to the attention of scholars worldwide. It also positively influenced the inhabitants who shared the contagious passion of F. Giuseppe Manfredi to whose efforts we owe the discovery of most of the mosaics in the city. Madaba became the “City of Mosaics” in Jordan.
The northern part of the city turned out to be the area containing the greatest concentration of mosaic monuments. During the Byzantine-Umayyad period, this northern area, crossed by a colonnaded Roman road, saw the building of the Church of the Map, the Hippolytus Mansion, the Church of the Virgin Mary, the Church of Prophet Elijah with its crypt, the Church of the Holy Martyrs (Al-Khadir), the Burnt Palace and the Church of the Sunna’ family.
The Madaba Mosaic Map is an index map of the region, dating from the sixth century CE, preserved in the floor of the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George. With two million pieces of colored stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns in Palestine and the Nile Delta. The mosaic contains the earliest extant representation of Byzantine Jerusalem, labeled the “Holy City.” The map provides important details as to its 6th century landmarks, with the cardo, or central colonnaded street and the Holy Sepulchre clear visible. This map is one key in developing scholarly knowledge about the physical layout of Jerusalem after its destruction and rebuilding in AD 70.
Other mosaic masterpieces found in the church of the Virgin and the Apostles and the Archaeological Museum, depict a profusion of flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, as well as scenes from mythology and everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming. Hundred of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba.
A Virtual Trip through the Madaba Map Holy Places - a fascinating trip through the Holy Places as they had been represented on the mosaic floor of the ancient church at Madaba (Jordan).
Read also: The Discovery of the Madaba Mosaic Map: Mythology and Reality