The holy New Martyr Avakum (Habakkuk) was born in Bosnia in 1794, and was named Lepoje by his parents. Lepoje's father died when he was still a young boy, so his mother took him to the Mostanica Monastery, where his uncle was the spiritual Father. He grew up in the monastery, and later became a monk with the name Avakum. When he was eighteen, he was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Joseph (Sakabenta).
In 1809, the monks took part in an unsuccessful revolt against the Janissaries stationed in Belgrade known as the Rebellion of Jancic (Janciceva Buna), and had to flee for their lives. They settled in the Annunciation Monastery in Trnava near Cacak, where the abbot was St Paisius.
After the collapse of Karageorge's revolt in 1813, the Turks began a reign of terror against the Serbs. Disease also swept the area because of the many bodies left unburied. The people attempted another revolt under Hadj-Prodan Gligorijevic, and the monks of Trnava became involved in it. The rebellion took place on the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14), but it was crushed by the Turks. Many people were captured, and some were executed on the spot as a warning to others.
Some of the prisoners were sent to Suleiman Pasha in Belgrade, among whom were Sts Paisius and Avakum. The holy deacon Avakum sang "God is with us" (from Compline) in the prison cell of a tower appropriately named ‘Nebojsha’ (‘Fear Not’), while St Paisius prayed. The Turks offered to free anyone who would convert to Islam. Some of the prisoners agreed to this, but the majority refused to deny Christ, and so they were put to death.
St Paisius was taken from prison and forced to carry a two-meter stake to the place of execution at Stambol Gate. He was impaled, and the stake was set into the ground. The holy martyr exclaimed, "Glory to God" (Slava Bogu) as he hung in agony from the stake. Then the vizier clapped his hands to signal his soldiers to draw their swords and begin killing some of the other prisoners. Forty-eight people were killed, and their bodies were raised up on posts. After suffering for some time, St Paisius surrendered his soul to God, thereby obtaining the crown of martyrdom on December 17, 1814.
The Turks tried to pressure Avakum to save himself by embracing their religion, but he refused even to consider it. His former spiritual Father, Gennadius, accepted the offer of the Turks and urged Avakum to follow his example. The courageous deacon declared that he was a warrior of Christ, and preferred to die rather than deny Christ.
St Avakum was sentenced to be impaled on a stake, which he was forced to carry to the place of execution. His own mother urged him to embrace Islam, then to seek forgiveness later because he had been forced into it. The saint thanked her for giving him life, but not for her advice, saying: “Dearest mother, thank you for the milk that nourished me, but no thanks to you for this advice. A Serb belongs to Christ, and he awaits death with joy!”
At the place of execution, the Turks asked him one more time to consider his youth and not to die before his time. Avakum laughed and asked, "Don't even Turks eventually die?"
They replied, "Of course they do."
"Well then," he said, "the sooner I die, the fewer sins I will have."
Because of his courage and steadfastness in his faith, the Turks decided not to impale him. They killed him quickly by stabbing him in the heart with a sword on January 27, 1815.
St Avakum the deacon is commemorated on December 17 with St Paisius.
CROSS DEDICATED TO HOLY DEACON AVAKUM PLACED IN FREEDOM SQUARE IN BELGRADE
On the feast of the Holy Deacon Avakum, on December 30, 2004, a wooden cross appeared on Freedom Square in Belgrade across from the National Theatre bearing the inscription: “In this place the Holy New Martyr Deacon Avakum perished in 1814”. The cross was placed at the former location of Stambol Kapija*.
In 1814 the Turkish occupiers of Serbia offered the young deacon Avakum the option of renouncing the Orthodox Christian faith and converting to Islam rather than being impaled on the stake. Deacon Avakum hesitated not. He bore the stake on his own shoulders as Our Lord bore His cross to Golgotha, and he sang: “The Serb belongs to Christ and rejoices in his own death.”
Curiously, the “perpetrators” of the placement of the cross remain anonymous.
* Stambol Kapija or the Istanbul Gate was built by the Austrians at the beginning of the 18th century and got its name from the fact that the road to Istanbul led through it. The Turks used it as the location for execution of the dispossessed Christian rayah, their Serbian peasant subjects, by impaling them on the stake.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As true soldiers of Christ, you shone forth with meekness and humility and for Christ you suffered courageously, O Holy Martyrs Paisius and Avakum, but your deaths proclaim to all that it is better to die for Christ and for one's country than without Christ to gain the whole world.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
In this world you lived like angels and by your lives fulfilled the Gospel. You laid down your souls for faith and country, in death you showed yourselves to be stronger than your tormentors, therefore we celebrate your memory, O holy venerable martyrs Paisius and Avakum.
Friday, December 17, 2010
The holy New Martyr Avakum (Habakkuk) was born in Bosnia in 1794, and was named Lepoje by his parents. Lepoje's father died when he was still a young boy, so his mother took him to the Mostanica Monastery, where his uncle was the spiritual Father. He grew up in the monastery, and later became a monk with the name Avakum. When he was eighteen, he was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Joseph (Sakabenta).
In this, the first in an occasional series of Extra reports from our foreign correspondents, Harriet Sherwood visits the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It’s shared by three denominations and attracts two million visitors each year. The building is about to undergo the first major renovation in its 1,700-year history, which is being led by the Palestinian Authority.
December 15, 2010
The rain, when it came to the Holy Land last week after a drought stretching back to the spring, was greeted with relief by almost everyone.
But in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built over the grotto where Jesus is widely believed to have been born, it was a graphic reminder – if one was needed – of the parlous condition of the iconic structure and the scale of a mammoth restoration project ahead.
Amid the murmurings of priests and the jostling of pilgrims, you could hear the dripping of rainwater on to the ancient flagstones of one of Christianity’s holiest sites. Small puddles reflected light from the silver and ruby-red glass lamps hanging from the roof beams; streaks of rainwater were visible on the walls, some perilously close to precious murals and mosaics.
Beyond a small door to the side of the central nave and through an arched and shuttered stone cloister, Theofilaktos, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchal representative in Bethlehem and the most senior figure in the Church of the Nativity, sat behind a large, empty desk, considering the task of repairing the iconic structure.
Experts who had inspected the rotting timbers had said it was a miracle the roof had not collapsed, he said. Despite the urgency of the repairs, work could not begin until the results of tests on timber samples were delivered in the spring.
The church, founded in the 4th century, was added to a list of the world’s most endangered historical sites two years ago by the World Monuments Fund. “Many of the roof timbers are rotting and have not been replaced since the 19th century,” it said. “The rainwater that seeps into the building not only accelerates the rotting of the wood and damages the structural integrity of the building, but also damages the 12th century wall mosaics and paintings.”
It recommended a comprehensive renovation programme, but warned it needed co-ordination between the church’s joint custodians. “Such a collaboration has not occurred in nearly a thousand years.”
The church is shared by three denominations: the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholics represented by the Franciscans and the Armenian Orthodox. It is not a harmonious arrangement; there is a long history of bitter disputes over the church’s administration, ranging from territorial claims to petty squabbles over sweeping-up privileges. Punches have been thrown between warring priests.
Two years ago, the Palestinian Authority (PA) approached the guardians to seek an agreement on the church’s restoration. “They came back to us to say they could not reach agreement because of divisions between them,” said Ziad Bandak, who now heads the PA’s restoration committee. Instead, he added, they “blessed an interference from the PA” to take on the project.
A lengthy process of bidding for the work was initiated, which resulted in a consortium of seven companies – five Italian, one Canadian and one Palestinian – being commissioned. Preliminary investigative work began in September.
“There have been cosmetic renovations several times but this is the first comprehensive restoration project since the building of the church 1,700 years ago,” said Bandak.
The work would cost “tens of millions of dollars” and take many years, he said. Christian countries were being approached for donations. “It is an honour for the PA to administer this,” he said. “The church is part of our history and culture, and we have a big respect for Christianity.”
Up to two million pilgrims and tourists are expected to visit the church this year, peaking on Christmas Eve when choirs from around the world will sing carols in Manger Square in front of the ancient stone edifice.
Back in the central nave last week, the rain stopped and shafts of sunlight from high windows pierced the dusty gloom. Groups of tourists in plastic capes followed guides towards the steep and narrow staircase leading to the tiny grotto. Few looked upwards towards the leaking roof.
By Saint Jerome
"Seventy weeks are shortened upon thy people and upon thy holy city, that transgression may be finished, and sin may have an end, and iniquity may be abolished, and everlasting justice may be brought to bear, and that the vision and prophecy may be fulfilled that the Holy One of the saints may be anointed. Know therefore and take note that from the going forth of the word to build up Jerusalem again, unto Christ the prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, and the street shall be built again, and the walls, in distressing times. And after sixty-two weeks Christ shall be slain, and (the people that shall deny Him) shall not be His. And a people, with their leader that shall come, shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. And the end thereof shall be devastation, and after the end of the war there shall be the appointed desolation. And he shall confirm the covenant with many in one week; and in the middle of the week both victim and sacrifice shall fail. And there shall be in the Temple the abomination of desolation, and the desolation shall continue even unto the consummation and the end." - Daniel 9:24-27
Because the prophet had said, "Thou didst lead forth Thy people, and Thy name was pronounced upon Thy city and upon Thy people," Gabriel therefore, as the mouthpiece of God, says by implication: "By no means are they God's people, but only thy people; nor is Jerusalem the holy city of God, but it is only a holy city unto thee, as thou sayest." This is similar to what we read in Exodus also, when God says to Moses, "Descend, for thy people have committed sin" (Ex. 32:7). That is to say, they are not My people, for they have forsaken Me. And so, because thou dost supplicate for Jerusalem and prayest for the people of the Jews, hearken unto that which shall befall thy people in seventy weeks of years, and those things which will happen to thy city.
I realize that this question has been argued over in various ways by men of greatest learning, and that each of them has expressed his views according to the capacity of his own genius. And so, because it is unsafe to pass judgment upon the opinions of the great teachers of the Church and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each, and leave it to the reader's judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed. In the fifth volume of his Tempora ["Chronology"], Africanus has this to say concerning the seventy weeks (and I quote him verbatim): "The chapter which we read in Daniel concerning the seventy weeks contains many remarkable details, which require too lengthy a discussion at this point; and so we must discuss only what pertains to our present task, namely that which concerns chronology. There is no doubt but what it constitutes a prediction of Christ's advent, for He appeared to the world at the end of seventy weeks. After Him the crimes were consummated and sin reached its end and iniquity was destroyed. An eternal righteousness also was proclaimed which overcame the mere righteousness of the law; and the vision and the prophecy were fulfilled, inasmuch as the Law and the Prophets endured until the time of John the Baptist (Luke 16), and then the Saint of saints was anointed. And all these things were the objects of hope, prior to Christ's incarnation, rather than the objects of actual possession. Now the angel himself specified seventy weeks of years, that is to say, four hundred and ninety years from the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and that Jerusalem be rebuilt. The specified interval began in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, King of the Persians; for it was his cupbearer, Nehemiah (Neh. 1), who, as we read in the book of Ezra [the Vulgate reckons Nehemiah as II Esdras], petitioned the king and obtained his request that Jerusalem be rebuilt. And this was the word, or decree, which granted permission for the construction of the city and its encompassment with walls; for up until that time it had lain open to the incursions of the surrounding nations. But if one points to the command of King Cyrus, who granted to all who desired it permission to return to Jerusalem, the fact of the matter is that the high priest Jesus [Jeshua] and Zerubbabel, and later on the priest Ezra, together with the others who had been willing to set forth from Babylon with them, only made an abortive attempt to construct the Temple and the city with its walls, but were prevented by the surrounding nations from completing the task, on the pretext that the king had not so ordered. And thus the work remained incomplete until Nehemiah's time and the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes. Hence the captivity lasted for seventy years prior to the Persian rule. [This last sentence is bracketed by the editor.] At this period in the Persian Empire a hundred and fifteen years had elapsed since its inception, but it was the one hundred and eighty-fifth year from the captivity of Jerusalem when Artaxerxes first gave orders for the walls of Jerusalem to be built. [Actually only 141 years, the interval between 587 B.C. and 446 B.C.] Nehemiah was in charge of this undertaking, and the street was built and the surrounding walls were erected. Now if you compute seventy weeks of years from that date, you can come out to the time of Christ. But if we wish to take any other date as the starting point for these weeks, then the dates will show a discrepancy and we shall encounter many difficulties. For if the seventy weeks are computed from the time of Cyrus and his decree of indulgence which effectuated the release of the Jewish captives, then we shall encounter a deficit of a hundred years and more short of the stated number of seventy weeks [only seventy-eight years, by more recent computation, for Cyrus's decree was given in 538 B.C.]. If we reckon from the day when the angel spoke 97 to Daniel, the deficit would be much greater [actually not more than a few months or a year]. An even greater number of years is added, if you wish to put the beginning of the weeks at the commencement of the captivity. For the kingdom of the Persians endured for two hundred and thirty years until the rise of the Macedonian kingdom; then the Macedonians themselves reigned for three hundred years. From that date until the sixteenth (i.e., the fifteenth) year of Tiberius Caesar, when Christ suffered death, is an interval of sixty [sic!] years [reckoning from the death of Cleopatra, the last of the Macedonian Ptolemies]. All of these years added together come to the number of five hundred and ninety, with the result that a hundred years remain to be accounted for. On the other hand, the interval from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes to the time of Christ completes the figure of seventy weeks, if we reckon according to the lunar computation of the Hebrews, who did not number their months according to the movement of the sun, but rather according to the moon. For the interval from the one hundred fiftieth year of the Persian Empire, when Artaxerxes, as king thereof, attained the twentieth year of his reign (and this was the fourth year of the eighty-third Olympiad), up until the two hundred and second Olympiad (for it was the second year of that Olympiad which was the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar) comes out to be the grand total of four hundred seventy-five years. This would result in four hundred ninety Hebrew years, reckoning according to the lunar months as we have suggested. For according to their computation, these years can be made up of months of twenty-nine (variant: twenty-eight) and a half days each. This means that the sun, during a period of four hundred ninety years, completes its revolution in three hundred sixty-five days and a quarter, and this amounts to twelve lunar months for each individual year, with eleven and a fourth days left over to spare. Consequently the Greeks and Jews over a period of eight years insert three intercalary months (embolimoi). For if you will multiply eleven and a quarter days by eight, you will come out to ninety days, which equal three months. Now if you divide the eight-year periods into four hundred seventy-five years, your quotient will be fifty-nine plus three months. These fifty-nine plus eight-year periods produce enough intercalary months to make up fifteen years, more or less; and if you will add these fifteen years to the four hundred seventy-five years, you will come out to seventy weeks of years, that is, a total of four hundred and ninety years."
Africanus has expressed his views in these very words which we have copied out. Let us pass on to Eusebius Pamphili [the famous church historian, who assumed the cognomen Pamphili in honor of his beloved mentor, Bishop Pamphilus], who in the eighth book of his Evangelike Apodeixis ventures some such conjecture as this: "It does not seem to me that the seventy weeks have been divided up without purpose, in that seven is mentioned first, and then sixty-two, and then a last week is added, which in turn is itself divided into two parts. For it is written: 'Thou shalt know and understand that from the issuing of the word (command) that the petition be granted and Jerusalem be built until Christ the Prince there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.' And after the rest which he relates in the intervening section, he states at the end: 'He shall confirm a testimony (covenant) with many during one week.' It is clear that the angel did not detail these things in his reply to no purpose or apart from the inspiration of God. This observation seems to require some cautious and careful reasoning, so that the reader may pay diligent attention and inquire into the cause for this division (variant: vision). But if we must express our own opinion, in conformity with the rest of the interpretation which concerns this present context, in the angel's statement: 'From the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and that Jerusalem be built, until the time of Christ the Prince,' we are only to think of other princes who had charge of the Jewish people subsequent to this prophecy and subsequent to the return from Babylon. That is to say, we are to think of the arkhiereis [high priests] and pontiffs to whom the Scripture attaches the title of christs, by reason of the fact that they have been anointed. The first of these was Jesus [Jeshua] the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and then the rest who had that office up until the time of the advent of our Lord and Savior. And it is these who are intended by the prophet's prediction when it states: 'From the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and Jerusalem be built even unto Christ the Prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks.' That is to say, the purpose is that seven weeks be counted off, and then afterward sixty-two weeks, which come to a total of four hundred and eighty-three years after the time of Cyrus. And lest we appear to be putting forth a mere conjecture too rashly and without testing the truth of our statements, let us reckon up those who bore office as christs over the people from the time of Jeshua, the son of Jehozadak, until the advent of the Lord; that is to say, those who were anointed for the high priesthood. First, then, as we have already stated, subsequent to Daniel's prophecy, which occurred in the reign of Cyrus, and subsequent to the return of the people from Babylon, Jeshua the son of Jehozadak was the high priest, and together with Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, they laid the foundations of the temple. And because the undertaking was hindered by the Samaritans and the other surrounding nations, seven weeks of years elapsed (that is to say, forty-nine years), during which the work on the temple remained unfinished. These weeks are separated by the prophecy from the remaining sixty-two weeks. And lastly, the Jews also followed this view when they said to the Lord in the Gospel-narrative: 'This temple was built over a period of forty-six years, and shalt thou raise it up in three days' (John 2:20). For this was the number of years which elapsed between the first year of Cyrus, who granted to those Jews who so desired the permission to return to their fatherland, and the sixth year of King Darius, in whose reign the entire work upon the temple was finished. [Actually the two dates involved are 538 B.C. and 516 B.C., an interval of only twenty-two years.] Furthermore Josephus added on three more years, during which the periboloi (precincts) and certain other construction left undone were brought to completion; and when these are added to the forty-six years, they come out to forty-nine years, or seven weeks of years. And the remaining sixty-two weeks are computed from the seventh year of Darius. At that time Jeshua the son of Jehozadak, and Zerubbabel (who had already reached his majority) were in charge of the people, and it was in their time that Haggai and Zechariah prophesied. After them came Ezra and Nehemiah from Babylon and constructed the walls of the city during the high priesthood of Joiakim, son of Jeshua, who had the surname of Jehozadak. After him Eliashib succeeded to the priesthood, then Joiada and Johanan after him. Following him there was Jaddua, in whose lifetime Alexander, the king of the Macedonians, founded Alexandria, as Josephus relates in his books of the Antiquities, and actually came to Jerusalem and offered blood-sacrifices in the Temple. Now Alexander died in the one hundred and thirteenth Olympiad, in the two hundred thirty-sixth year of the Persian Empire, which in turn had begun in the first year of the fifty-fifth Olympiad. That was the date when Cyrus, King of the Persians, conquered the Babylonians and Chaldeans. After the death of the priest Jaddua, who had been in charge of the temple in Alexander's reign, Onias received the high priesthood. It was at this period that Seleucus, after the conquest of Babylon, placed upon his own head the crown of all Syria and Asia, in the twelfth year after Alexander's death. Up to that time the years which had elapsed since the rule of Cyrus, when computed together, were two hundred and forty-eight. From that date the Scripture of the Maccabees computes the kingdom of the Greeks. Following Onias, the high priest Eleazar became head of the Jews. That was the period when the Seventy translators are said to have translated the Holy Scriptures into Greek at Alexandria. After him came Onias II, who was followed by Simon, who ruled over the people when Jesus the son of Sirach wrote the book which bears the Greek title of Panaretos ("A Completely Virtuous Man"), and which is by most people falsely attributed to Solomon. Another Onias followed him in the high priesthood, and that was the period when Antiochus was trying to force the Jews to sacrifice to the gods of the Gentiles. After the death of Onias, Judas Maccabaeus cleansed the Temple and smashed to bits the statues of the idols. His brother Jonathan followed him, and after Jonathan their brother Simon governed the people. By his death the two hundred and seventy-seventh year of the Syrian kingdom had elapsed, and the First Book of Maccabees contains a record of events up to that time. And so the total number of years from the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, until the end of the First Book of Maccabees and the death of the high priest Simon is four hundred twenty-five. After him John [Hyrcanus] occupied the high priesthood for twenty-nine years, and upon his death Aristobulus became head of the people for a year and was the first man after the return from Babylon to associate with the dignity of high priesthood the authority of kingship. His successor was Alexander, who likewise was high priest and king, and who governed the people for twenty-seven years. Up to this point, the number of years from the first year of Cyrus and the return of the captives who desired to come back to Judaea is to be computed at four hundred and eighty-three. This total is made up of the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks, or sixty-nine weeks altogether. And during this whole period high priests ruled over the Jewish people, and I now believe that they are those referred to as christ-princes. And when the last of them, Alexander, had died, the Jewish nation was rent in this direction and that into various factions, and was harrassed by internal seditions in its leaderless condition; and that too to such an extent that Alexandra, who was also called Salina, and who was the wife of the same Alexander, seized power and kept the high priesthood for her son, Hyrcanus. But she passed on the royal power to her other son, Aristobulus, and he exercised it for ten years. But when the brothers fought with each other in civil war and the Jewish nation was drawn into various factions, then Gnaeus Pompey, the general of the Roman army, came upon the scene. Having captured Jerusalem, he penetrated even to the shrine in the temple which was called the Holy of holies. He sent Aristobulus back to Rome in chains, keeping him for his triumphal procession, and then he gave the high priesthood to his brother, Hyrcanus. Then for the first time the Jewish nation became tributary to the Romans. Succeeding him, Herod, the son of Antipater, received the royal authority over the Jews by senatorial decree, after Hyrcanus had been killed; and so he was the first foreigner to become governor of the Jews. Moreover when his parents had died, he handed over the high priesthood to his children, even though they were non-Jews, utterly contrary to the law of Moses. Nor did he entrust the office to them for long, except upon their granting him favors and bribes, for he despised the commands of God's law."
The same Eusebius offered another explanation also, and if we wanted to translate it into Latin, we should greatly expand the size of this book. And so the sense of his interpretation is this, that the number of years from the sixth year of Darius, who 102 reigned after Cyrus and his son, Cambyses, ---- and this was the date when the work on the temple was completed ---- until the time of Herod and Caesar Augustus is reckoned to be seven weeks plus sixty-two weeks, which make a total of four hundred eighty-three years. That was the date when the christ, that is to say, Hyrcanus, being the last high priest of the Maccabaean line, was murdered by Herod, and the succession of high priests came to an end, so far as the law of God was concerned. It was then also that a Roman army under the leadership of a Roman general devastated both the city and the sanctuary itself. Or else it was Herod himself who committed the devastation, after he had through the Romans appropriated to himself a governmental authority to which he had no right. And as for the angel's statement, "For he shall establish a compact with many for one week (variant: "a compact for many weeks"), and in the midst of the week the sacrifice and offering shall cease," it is to be understood in this way, that Christ was born while Herod was reigning in Judaea and Augustus in Rome, and He preached the Gospel for three years and six months, according to John the Evangelist. And he established the worship of the true God with many people, undoubtedly meaning the Apostles and believers generally. And then, after our Lord's passion, the sacrifice and offering ceased in the middle of the week. For whatever took place in the Temple after that date was not a valid sacrifice to God but a mere worship of the devil, while they all cried out together, "His blood be upon us and upon our children" (Matt. 27:25); and again, "We have no king but Caesar." Any reader who is interested may look up this passage in the Chronicle of this same Eusebius, for I translated it into Latin many years ago. But as for his statement that the number of years to be reckoned from the completion of the temple to the tenth year of the Emperor Augustus, that is, when Hyrcanus was slain and Herod obtained Judaea, amounts to a total of seven plus sixty-two weeks, or four hundred eighty-three years, we may check it in the following fashion. The building of the temple was finished in the seventy-sixth [here and in the other place read: "sixty-seventh" - Migne] Olympiad, which was the sixth year of Darius. In the third year of the one hundred and eighty-sixth Olympiad, that is, the tenth year of Augustus, Herod seized the rule over the Jews. This makes the interval four hundred and eighty-three years, reckoning up by the individual Olympiads and computing them at four years each. This same Eusebius reports another view as well, which I do not entirely reject, that most authorities extend the one [last] week of years to the sum of seventy years, reckoning each year as a ten-year period [reading the corrupt upputatio as supputatio]. They also claim that thirty-five years intervened between the passion of the Lord and the reign of Nero, and that it was at this latter date when the weapons of Rome were first lifted up against the Jews, this being the half-way point of the week of seventy years. After that, indeed, from the time of Vespasian and Titus (and it was right after their accession to power that Jerusalem and the temple were burned) up to the reign of Trajan another thirty-five years elapsed. And this, they assert, was the week of which the angel said to Daniel: "And he shall establish a compact with many for one week." For the Gospel was preached by the Apostles all over the world, since they survived even unto that late date. According to the tradition of the church historians, John the Evangelist lived up to the time of Trajan. Yet I am at a loss to know how we can understand the earlier seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks to involve seven years each, and just this last one to involve ten years for each unit of the seven, or seventy years in all.
So much for Eusebius. But Hippolytus has expressed the following opinion concerning these same weeks: he reckons the seven weeks as prior to the return of the people from Babylon, and the sixty-two weeks as subsequent to their return and extending to the birth of Christ. But the dates do not agree at all. If indeed the duration of the Persian Empire be reckoned at two hundred and thirty years, and the Macedonian Empire at three hundred, and the period thereafter up to the birth of the Lord be thirty years, then the total from the beginning of the reign of Cyrus, King of the Persians, until the advent of the Savior will be five hundred and sixty years. Moreover Hippolytus places the final week at the end of the world and divides it into the period of Elias and the period of Antichrist, so that during the [first] three and a half years of the last week the knowledge of God is established. And as for the statement, "He shall establish a compact with many for a week" (Dan. 9:27), during the other three years under the Antichrist the sacrifice and offering shall 104 cease. But when Christ shall come and shall slay the wicked one by the breath of His mouth, desolation shall hold sway till the end.
On the other hand Apollinarius of Laodicea in his investigation of the problem breaks away from the stream of the past and directs his longing desires towards the future, very unsafely venturing an opinion concerning matters so obscure. And if by any chance those of future generations should not see these predictions of his fulfilled at the time he set, then they will be forced to seek for some other solution and to convict the teacher himself of erroneous interpretation. And so, in order to avoid the appearance of slandering a man as having made a statement he never made, he makes the following assertion - and I translate him word for word: "To the period of four hundred and ninety years the wicked deeds are to be confined as well as all the crimes which shall ensue from those deeds. After these shall come the times of blessing, and the world is to be reconciled unto God at the advent of Christ, His Son. For from the coming forth of the Word, when Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, to the forty-ninth year, that is, the end of the seven weeks, [God] waited for Israel to repent. Thereafter, indeed, from the eighth year of Claudius Caesar [i.e., 48 A.D.] onward, the Romans took up arms against the Jews. For it was in His thirtieth year, according to the Evangelist Luke, that the Lord incarnate began His preaching of the Gospel (Luke 1). According to the Evangelist John (John 2 and 11), Christ completed two years over a period of three passovers. The years of Tiberius' reign from that point onward are to be reckoned at six; then there were the four years of the reign of Gaius Caesar, surnamed Caligula, and eight more years in the reign of Claudius. This makes a total of forty-nine years, or the equivalent of seven weeks of years. But when four hundred thirty-four years shall have elapsed after that date, that is to say, the sixty-two weeks, then [i.e. in 482 A.D.] Jerusalem and the Temple shall be rebuilt during three and a half years within the final week, beginning with the advent of Elias, who according to the dictum of our Lord and Savior (Luke 1) is going to come and turn back the hearts of the fathers towards their children. And then the Antichrist shall come, and according to the Apostle [reading apostolum for apostolorum] he is going to sit in the temple of God (II Thess. 2) and be slain by the breath of our Lord and Savior after he has waged war against the saints. And thus it shall come to pass that the middle of the week shall mark the confirmation of God's covenant with the saints, and the middle of the week in turn shall mark the issuing of the decree under the authority of Antichrist that no more sacrifices be offered. For the Antichrist shall set up the abomination of desolation, that is, an idol or statue of his own god, within the Temple. Then shall ensue the final devastation and the condemnation of the Jewish people, who after their rejection of Christ's truth shall embrace the lie of the Antichrist. Moreover this same Apollinarius asserts that he conceived this idea about the proper dating from the fact that Africanus, the author of the Tempora [Chronology], whose explanation I have inserted above, affirms that the final week will occur at the end of the world. Yet, says Apollinarius, it is impossible that periods so linked together be wrenched apart, but rather the time-segments must all be joined together in conformity with Daniel's prophecy.
The learned scholar Clement, presbyter of the church at Alexandria, regards the number of years as a matter of slight consequence, asserting that the seventy weeks of years were completed by the span of time from the reign of Cyrus, King of the Persians, to the reign of the Roman emperors, Vespasian and Titus; that is to say, the interval of four hundred and ninety years, with the addition in that same figure of the two thousand three hundred days of which we made earlier mention. He attempts to reckon in these seventy weeks the ages of the Persians, Macedonians, and Caesars, even though according to the most careful computation, the number of years from the first year of Cyrus, King of the Persians and Medes, when Darius also bore rule, up to the reign of Vespasian and the destruction of the Temple amounts to six hundred and thirty.
When Origen came to deal with [reading praefuisset instead of profuisset] this chapter, he urged us to seek out what information we do not possess; and because he had no leeway for allegorical interpretation, in which one may argue without constraint, but rather was restricted to matters of historical fact, he made this brief observation in the tenth volume of the Stromata: "We must quite carefully ascertain the amount of time between the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, and the advent of Christ, and discover how many years were involved, and what events are said to have occurred during them. Then we must see whether we can fit these data in with the time of the Lord's coming."
We may learn what Tertullian had to say on the subject by consulting the book which he wrote against the Jews (Contra Judaeos), and his remarks may be set forth in brief: "How, then, are we to show that Christ came within the sixty-two weeks? This calculation begins with the first year of Darius, since that was the time when the vision itself was revealed to Daniel. For he was told: 'Understand and conclude from the prophesying of the command for me to give thee this reply. ...' Hence we are to commence our computation with the first year of Darius, when Daniel beheld this vision. Let us see, then, how the years are fulfilled up to the advent of Christ. Darius reigned nineteen years; Artaxerxes forty years; the Ochus who was surnamed Cyrus twenty-four years; Argus, one year. Then Darius II, who was called Melas, twenty-one years. Alexander the Macedonian reigned twelve years. And then after Alexander (who had ruled over both the Medes and the Persians, after he had conquered them, and had established his rule in Alexandria, calling it after his own name), Soter reigned there in Alexandria for thirty-five years, and was succeeded by Philadelphus, who reigned for thirty-eight years. After him Euergetes reigned for twenty-five years, and then Philopator for seventeen years, followed by Epiphanes for twenty-four years. Furthermore the second Euergetes ruled for twenty and nine years, and Soter for thirty-eight years. Ptolemy for thirty-seven years, and Cleopatra for twenty years and five months. Furthermore Cleopatra shared the rule with Augustus for thirteen years. After Cleopatra Augustus reigned forty-three years more. For all of the years of the reign of Augustus were fifty-six in number. And let us see (variant: we see) that in the forty-first year of the reign of Augustus, who ruled after the death of Cleopatra, Christ was born. And this same Augustus lived on for fifteen years after the time when Christ was born. And so the resultant periods of years up to the day of Christ's birth and the forty-first year of Augustus, after the death of Cleopatra [actually only twenty-nine years after Cleopatra's death - the language here is confusing], come to the total figure of four hundred and thirty-seven years and five months. This means that sixty-two and a half weeks were used up, or the equivalent of four hundred and thirty-seven years and six months, by the day when Christ was born. Then eternal righteousness was revealed, and the Saint of saints was anointed, namely Christ, and the vision and prophecy were sealed, and those sins were remitted which are allowed through faith in Christ's name to all who believe in Him." But what is the meaning of the statement that the "vision and prophecy are confirmed by a seal"? It means that all the prophets made proclamation concerning [Christ] Himself, saying that He was going to come and that He would have to suffer. Hence we read shortly thereafter in this Tertullian passage, "The years were fifty-six in number; furthermore, Cleopatra continued to reign jointly under Augustus...." It was because the prophecy was fulfilled by His advent that the vision was confirmed by a seal; and it was called a prophecy because Christ Himself is the seal of all the prophets, fulfilling as He did all that the prophets had previously declared concerning Him. Of course after His advent and His passion (variant; the passion of Christ), there is no longer any vision or prophecy (variant: or prophet) which declares that Christ will come [?]. And then a little later Tertullian says, "Let us see what is the meaning of the seven and a half weeks, which in turn are divided up into a subsection of earlier weeks; by what transaction were they fulfilled? Well, after Augustus, who lived on after Christ's birth, fifteen years elapsed. He was succeeded by Tiberius Caesar, and he held sway for twenty-two years, seven months and twenty-eight days. In the fifteenth year of his reign Christ suffered, being about thirty-three when He suffered. Then there was Gaius Caesar, also named Caligula, who reigned for three years, eight months and thirteen days. [Note that Claudius' reign of 13 years is here omitted.] Nero reigned for nine years, nine months and thirteen days. Galba ruled for seven months and twenty-eight days; Otho for three months and five days; and Vitellius for eight months and twenty-eight days. Vespasian vanquished the Jews in the first year of his reign, bringing the number of years to a total of fifty-two, plus six months. For he ruled for eleven years, and so by the date of his storming Jerusalem, the Jews had completed the seventy weeks foretold by Daniel."
As for the view which the Hebrews hold concerning this passage, I shall set it forth summarily and within a brief compass, leaving the credibility of their assertions to those who asserted them. And so let me put it in the form of a paraphrase in order to bring out the sense more clearly. "O Daniel, know that from this day on which I now speak to thee (and that was the first year of the Darius who slew Belshazzar and transferred the Chaldean Empire to the Medes and Persians) unto the seventieth week of years (that is, four hundred and ninety years) the following events shall befall thy people in stages [literally: part by part]. First of all, God shall be appeased by thee in view of the earnest intercession thou hast just offered Him, and sin shall be canceled out and the transgression shall come to an end. For although the city at present lies deserted and the Temple lies destroyed to its very foundations [reading fundamenta for the non-existent frudamenta], so that the nation is plunged into mourning, yet within a fairly short time it shall be restored. And not only shall it come to pass within these seventy weeks that the city shall be rebuilt and the Temple restored, but also the Christ, who is the eternal righteousness, shall be born. And so shall the vision and the prophecy be sealed, with the result that there shall be no more any prophet to be found in Israel, and the Saint of saints shall be anointed. We read concerning Him in the Psalter: 'Because God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows' (Ps. 44:8, 45:7). And in another passage He says of Himself: 'Be ye holy, for I also am holy' (Lev. 19:2). Know therefore that from this day on which I speak to thee and make thee the promise by the word of the Lord that the nation shall return and Jerusalem shall be restored, there shall be sixty-two weeks numbered unto the time of Christ the Prince and of the perpetual desolation of the Temple; and that there shall also be seven weeks in which the two events shall take place which I have already mentioned, namely that the nation shall return and the street shall be rebuilt by Nehemiah and Ezra. And so at the end of the weeks the decree of God shall be accomplished in distressing times, when the Temple shall again be destroyed, and the city taken captive. For 109 after the sixty-two weeks the Christ shall be slain, and the nation who shall reject Him shall go out of existence" - or, as the Jews themselves put it, the kingdom of Christ which they imagined they would retain shall not even be. And why do I speak of the slaying of Christ, and of the nation's utter forfeiture of God's help, since the Roman people were going to demolish the city and sanctuary under Vespasian, the leader who was to come? Upon his death the seven weeks or forty-nine years were complete, and after the city of Aelia was established upon the ruins of Jerusalem, Aelius Hadrian vanquished the revolting Jews in their conflict with the general, Timus Rufus. It was at that time that the sacrifice and offering (ceased and) will continue to cease even unto the completion of the age, and the desolation is going to endure until the very end. We are not, say the Jews, greatly impressed by the fact that the seven weeks are mentioned first, and afterwards the sixty-two, and again a single week divided into two parts. For it is simply the idiomatic usage of the Hebrew language, as well as of antique Latin, that in quoting a figure, the small number is given first and then the larger. For example, we do not, according to good usage say in our language, "Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years"; on the contrary the Hebrews say, "Abraham lived five and seventy and one hundred years". And so the fulfilment is not to follow the literal order of the words, but it shall be accomplished in terms of the whole sum, taken together. I am also well aware that some of the Jews assert that as for the statement about the single week, "He shall establish a covenant with many for one week," the division is between the reigns of Vespasian and Hadrian. According to the history of Josephus, Vespasian and Titus concluded peace with the Jews for three years and six month. And the [other] three years and six months are accounted for in Hadrian's reign, when Jerusalem was completely destroyed and the Jewish nation was massacred in large groups at a time, with the result that they were even expelled from the borders of Judaea. This is what the Hebrews have to say on the subject, paying little attention to the fact that from the first year of Darius, King of the Persians, until the final overthrow of Jerusalem, which befell them under Hadrian, the period involved is a hundred and seventy-four Olympiads or six hundred ninety-six years, which total up to ninety-nine Hebrew weeks plus three years - that being the time when Barcochebas, the leader of the Jews, was crushed and Jerusalem was demolished to the very ground.
Source: Commentary on Daniel
“The Feast of the Birth of Christ as a man is the capital of feasts, as St. John Chrysostom says. All the other feasts of the Lord – Epiphany, the Transfiguration, the Passion, the Cross, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ – follow from the Nativity. Without the Nativity there would have been no Resurrection, but also without the Resurrection the purpose of the divine Incarnation would not have been fulfilled. All these feasts of the Lord are unified. We separate them in order to celebrate them and to look more closely into their content. In every Divine Liturgy we live through all the events of the divine Incarnation. Therefore, according to the Fathers, it is always Christmas, always Easter, always Pentecost.”
- Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos, The Feasts of the Lord.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:35).
Suffering, brethren, can weaken a man's character; however, luxury can weaken it even more. Daniel, the man of God, could not be weakened either by suffering or by luxury. In both instances he remained the same, and in both instances he was equally the messenger of the one Living God and a clairvoyant revealer of God's mysteries. He lived in royal luxury and then in a lions' den. In both instances, he remained unchanged: in royal luxury he fasted, and in the lions' den he did not hunger.
The Most-High God rewarded his faithful servant with the great gift of prophecy. The main subject of his prophecies is Christ the Lord. Christ will come and will destroy idol worship throughout the whole earth. He will fill the earth with Himself like no man clothed in the flesh has ever done. He is the One to Whom will be given dominion and glory and a Kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him (Daniel 7:14). Daniel, the great prophet of God, prophesied the time, the exact time, of the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world.
How we Christians must be ashamed before this Daniel! We see all the promises fulfilled in Christ, and yet we are lax in our faith and in our love for Christ. All was not revealed to Daniel as it is revealed to us who are baptized; nevertheless, he did not turn away from God, not once.
O Lord God of Daniel, strengthen us, give us repentance, and have mercy on us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
Abba Irenaeus said to the brethren:
"Let us fight diligently and be patient in our warfare, for we are soldiers of the Heavenly King. And as the soldiers of an earthly king wear helmets, so we have heavenly graces - the beautiful virtues. They have breast-plates of chain-mail and we have the spiritual breast-plate forged with the bronze of faith. They have a spear; we have a cross. They have a shield; we have our hope in God. They have the oblong shield; we have God. In war they shed blood whereas we surrender our wills. That is why the Heavenly King conceded that the demons should do battle with us - that we not forget His benefits.
Many men, in their slackness, do not pray at all; or, if they pray, do not pray continuously but wander in their thoughts. They will be found to be no better than those who do not pray at all. For how shall they be heard who speak to God with their lips while they are reckoned to be of the world in their hearts? When we are afflicted, then we soberly give ourselves to prayer (for we often sing with our lips but not with our attention), sending up the eye our heart as we pray to God, speaking to Him with sighs.
So now, brothers, let us imitate the soldiers of the mortal king and fight with zeal, or rather the Three Children [Dan. 13] and tread down the furnace of passions by purity. Let us quench the coals of temptation by prayer. Let us put the imaginary Nebuchadnezzar (the devil) to shame, setting forth our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and offering a religious mind as a burnt sacrifice."
From The Spiritual Meadow of John Moschas, translated by John Wortley, Mioni 9.
December 15, 2010
The Holy Monastery of Ioannis Prodromos, which is located close to Serres town, was a victim of fire. The fire was difficult to extinguish due to snow and the fog, which made access to the area difficult. The damage caused by the fire is hard to estimate at this time. The dorter and the old gallery of the Holy Monastery were burned down. The rare holy icons, the new wing of the monastery, and the cells of the nuns remained undamaged. According to the statement of the head of the fire brigade, the fire was caused by the flames of a wood stove which was burning in the dorter of the monastery. Unfortunately, experts fear that the fire will expand within the whole monastery, as its biggest portion is made of wood and stone.
The Monastery of the Holy Forerunner John the Baptist in Serres was severely damaged by a fire on Monday night. The main wing of the monastery caught fire around 5 pm. The fire started in the roof (so far it's believed to be an electrical problem) and burned for hours. It destroyed the kitchen, the nun's dining hall, another large dining hall used for guests which is a hundred or more years old and had many old icons on the walls (which they were able to save) from when the monastery was occupied by monks. The only rooms in the monastery for hospitality, a bakery, a room with some freezers and a work room and the balconies attached to this building were all destroyed. The fire then spread to the building next to it which houses all their supplies for the bookstore and the incense workshop, everything there was also destroyed. This other building also has a chapel but it was preserved. Only the cloth on the holy altar was damaged. But everything else is all gone. The nuns, thank God, were not harmed but they are struggling to get by. The estimated damage cost is 2 million euros, so any little help will be greatly appreciated.
This is the website of the monastery:
Here are some photos:
A Brief History of the Timios Prodromos Monastery
The katholicon (main church) was built in the 14th century and belongs to the single-aisled domed type with lite, narthex, exonarthex and an oblong roofed portico on the south side (Makrynariki)
On the north side are two chapels and the belfry. The rest of the buildings are organized around the katholicon: cells, abbot's quarters, school, refectory, library, hostel. The wall paintings of the katholicon were executed in 1300-1333 and were continued in several periods, by various artists.
The monastery was founded in 1275-1278 by Monk Ioannikios from Serres and a few years later it was renovated by his nephew, Ioakeim, bishop of Zichne. It soon developed to an important monastic centre with great financial prosperity, because it was favoured by the Byzantine emperors. Patriarch George Scholarios (Gennadios) died here and was buried in the katholicon.
As the spiritual centre of Hellenism in eastern Macedonia, during the Balkan wars the monastery of Timios Prodromos (Saint John the Baptist) provoked the fury of the Bulgarians, who took pains to strip it of its historic treasures. Greek historical documents and in particular the monastic library were carried off to Sofia in their entirety in 1912. The quest for these invaluable sources of Macedonian history has since occupied, as it continues to occupy, much scholarly research.
The monastery, still functioning today, acquired its final form with the addition of many buildings during the Turkish occupation.
In the years between 1972 and 1986 the roofs of several buildings were repaired. Since 1986 restoration has been carried out at the cells of the east wing and at the north wing.
This is the most important monastery of Serres (Serrhai).
Theophano was born of eminent parents, Constantine and Anna, who were kin to several emperors. Her parents were childless for a long time and prayed to the Most-holy Theotokos to give them an offspring. And God gave them this daughter, Theophano.
Imbued with the Christian spirit from her childhood, Theophano surpassed all her companions in all the Christian virtues. When she grew up, she entered into marriage with Leo, the son of Emperor Basil the Macedonian. She endured great hardships alongside her husband. Responding to slander - that Leo carried a knife in his boot and planned to kill his father at an opportune time - the gullible father, Basil, locked his son and daughter-in-law in prison. Thus, two innocent souls languished in prison for three years.
Once, during the Feast of the Prophet Elias, the emperor summoned all his noblemen to his court for a banquet. Suddenly the emperor's parrot unexpectedly spoke these words, "Alas, alas, my Lord Leo!" and repeated these words a number of times. This brought great anxiety to all of the imperial noblemen, and they all begged the emperor to release his son and daughter-in-law. The grieved emperor did so.
After his father's death, Leo became emperor and was called "the Wise". Theophano did not consider her imperial dignity as anything, but, completely devoted to God, she cared only about the salvation of her soul, fasting and praying, distributing many alms, and restoring many monasteries and churches. Neither an untrue word nor an excessive word nor, least of all, slander proceeded from her lips.
Before her death she called all her closest friends, took leave of them and gave up her soul to her God in the year 892. The Emperor Leo wanted to build a church over her grave in her name, but since the patriarch objected to this, he built a church to All Saints, saying that if Theophano became a saint, she would be glorified together with the other saints. The Feast of All Saints was then instituted to be celebrated on the Sunday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity.
Read also: The Feast of All Saints Was Inspired By An Empress
HYMN OF PRAISE: Saint Theophano the Empress
From a royal throne, it is better seen:
The vanity of the world, clever vanity,
And the imperial throne is mercilessly struck
By the tumultuous waves of this world.
Theophano clearly examines
The insane, open sea of this world,
And her heart, her troubled heart,
Is firmly anchored to the Living God.
The kings of this world-are they kings?
They are but many sentries on a quick rotation!
Death counts and carries out the change of these sentries-
Kings of the world: passing shadows!
Theophano, like the wise virgins,
The lamp of her heart lit by the spirit,
Illumined the path with a wonderful light,
Happily avoiding the pits of sin.
Now blessed in the Eternal Kingdom,
Among the stars, and shining like one,
Where there is no pain or change,
Theophano now reigns.
From the Synaxarion:
Saint Theophano, who was born in Constantinople, was of royal lineage. Instructed in letters, and adorned with many virtues, she was united in marriage to Emperor Leo the Wise (reigned 886-912). But counting the glory of the earthly kingdom as nought, she spent her nights and days in serving God with psalms and hymns and prayers, working various good deeds until she surrendered her spirit to God in peace, while still in her youth, being, according to some, about twenty years of age, according to others, twenty-seven. Her holy relics are still preserved in the patriarchal church in Constantinople as a source of healing for those that draw nigh with faith and longing. She was also the builder of the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropigeal Monastery of St. Anastasia the Protector from Potions in Chalke (883).
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Preferring heavenly things unto the earthly, thou while on earth didst live the life of the Angels, raised up on godly longing, O Theophano. Wherefore, thou hast been vouchsafed Heaven's graces and visions, standing with the Angels' hosts and the Saints' fair assemblies before the King of all, Whom thou didst love; pray Him to grant us His mercy and blessedness.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
As we celebrate today thy radiant feast-day, O divine Theophano, we cry with rev'rence unto thee: Preserve thy servants, who sing thy praise, from every manner of peril and suffering.
December 15, 2010
Ecumenical News International
The decision by Bulgarian Orthodox priests to join a trade union because they have not been paid on time has angered at least one church hierarch, who says it goes against the church's internal canon law.
According to Bulgarian-language media reports, the new union will be part of Podkrepa, one of Bulgaria's two national trade union federations.
In the northwestern town of Vratsa, priests said that they had not been paid on time, and their statutory health and retirement insurance had not been paid, the Standart daily newspaper reported.
Metropolitan Kipriyan of Vratsa, however, said it is "absurd" for priests to join a union.
The move follows complaints about the low and late pay of priests and lay employees, a criticism echoed by Bozhidar Dimitrov, the cabinet minister in charge of Bulgarians abroad, who had said priests in villages are "living in poverty."
Church employee Hristo Latinov, named as head of the union, told Bulgaria's Darik Radio on Monday (13 december 2010) that it is "unacceptable, immoral and scandalous" that priests are classified in the same labor law category as gravediggers and people with no college education.
The same labour classification, meanwhile, assigns bishops and metropolitans the status of corporate directors.
The Standart reported on 14 December that union membership will include priests, sextons, administrative staff and employees who manufacture candles, although it is unclear how many people have or will join the union.
Bulgaria's Trud daily newspaper reported on 9 December that the church had earned about $8 million from the sale of candles, which is exempted by law from value-added tax.
The sale of candles was meant to cover the pay of priests, but in some smaller dioceses, not enough candles were sold to achieve this. The alternative was that priests were paid in kind by being given candles.
"I cannot eat candles," Trud quoted an unnamed priest as saying.
The newspaper reported that in the Danube River city of Rousse, 80 priests in the diocese were paid an average monthly maximum of around $240.
According to Romfea.gr, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece will be leading an all-night vigil in honor of the 100th anniversary of the repose of the pious author Alexandros Papadiamandis.
The vigil will take place this Saturday at the Chapel of St. Elisha (Agiou Elissaiou) in Plaka, which is where Papadiamandis served as a chanter under the priest St. Nicholas Planas.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:3).
A chosen man, a great wonderworker, a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in his miracles, a victor in Egypt, a victor in the wilderness, the leader of a people - how could he not be proud? But if he had become proud, Moses would not have been all that he was.
They become proud who think that they do their own works and not God's in this world, and who think that they work by their own power and not by God's power. But the great Moses knew that he was the doer of God's works, and that the power with which He did them was God's power and not his. That is why he did not become proud because of the awesome miracles he performed, or the great victories he obtained, or the wise laws that he gave to the people.
"The Lord is my strength and my song" (Exodus 15:2), said Moses. Of the entire assembly of the Israelites in the wilderness, no one felt his own particular weakness as much as he, the greatest one of that assembly. In every task, in every place and in every moment, he expected help only from God. "What shall I do?" he cried to God, and he ceaselessly listened for God's reply and sought God's power.
"Meek above all men on earth." For all the others considered themselves as being something, trusted themselves as being something, but he - nothing. He was completely absorbed in God, completely humbled before God. If the people needed to be fed and given drink, he turned to God; if it was necessary to do battle with his enemies, he raised his hands to heaven; if it was necessary to calm an uprising among the people, he cried to God. The meek, the all-meek Moses! And God rewarded his faithful servant with great glory and made him worthy to appear on Mount Tabor with Elias alongside the Lord Savior.
O Lord, the God of the meek, the Good Shepherd, make us also meek like Moses and the apostles. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
"And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered" (Lk. 2:6).
Concerning the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah spoke thus:
"Behold she that travailed brought forth, before the travail-pain came on, she escaped it and brought forth a male" (Is. 66:7).
Saint John of Damascus adds to this saying that:
"After the normal nine-month gestational period, Christ was born at the beginning of the tenth, in accordance with the law of gestation. It was the birth that surpassed the established order of birthgiving, as it was without pain; for, where pleasure had not preceded, pain did not follow. And just as at His conception He had kept her who conceived Him virgin, so also at His birth did He maintain her virginity intact, because He alone passed through her and kept her shut.
While the conception was by 'hearing', the birth was by the usual orifice through which children are born, even though there are some who concoct an idle tale of His being born from the side of the Mother of God. For it was not impossible for Him to pass through the gate without breaking its seals. Hence, the Ever-Virgin remained virgin even after giving birth and never had converse with a husband as long as she lived."1
Saint Ambrose in his Synodal Letter 44 writes:
"Why is it hard to believe that Mary gave birth in a way contrary to the law of natural birth and remained a virgin, when contrary to the law of nature the sea looked at Him and fled, and the waters of the Jordan returned to their source (Ps. 113:3). Is it past belief that a virgin gave birth when we read that a rock issued water (Ex. 17:6), and the waves of the sea were made solid as a wall (Ex. 14:22)? Is it past belief that a Man came from a virgin when a rock bubbled forth a flowing stream (Ex. 20:11), iron floated on water (4 Kings 6:6), a Man walked upon the waters (Mt. 14:26)? If the waters bore a Man, could not a virgin give birth to a man? What Man? Him of Whom we read: '...the Lord shall be known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day; and they shall offer sacrifices, and shall vow vows to the Lord, and pay them' (Is. 19:20).
In the Old Testament a Hebrew virgin (Miriam) led an army through the sea (Ex. 15:21); in the New testament a king's daughter (the Virgin Mary) was chosen to be the heavenly entrance to salvation."
In the Resurrection Theotokion of Saturday Vespers (Plagal of the First Mode), we chant:
"Then, the deep was trodden dry-shod by Israel, now, Christ is born seedlessly of the Virgin. The sea, after the passage of Israel, remained untrodden: the blameless one, after the birth of Emmanuel, remained undefiled."
Saint Ambrose also writes in another letter that:
"A virgin carried Him Whom this world cannot contain or support. And when He was born of Mary's womb, He yet preserved the enclosure of her modesty, and the inviolate seal of her virginity."2
Where God so wills the order of nature is overcome. Is anything too hard for Him Who called heaven, earth and the sea into being by His word alone? Nature and the elements are creations of the Creator. Their laws and properties are immediately subject to their Lord Fashioner. Adam and Eve were given dominion over the fish of the sea, the flying creatures of heaven, and over the reptiles and cattle and all the earth (Gen. 1:26); all were subject to them before the fall. Saint Gregory Palamas comments that when the Logos of God took on human nature, He bestowed on it the fullness of grace and delivered it from the bonds of corruption and death. The consequence of hypostatic union in Christ of the two natures was the deification of the human nature He assumed.3 The regeneration of man in Christ was the restoration of Adam and Eve.
The saints, having put on Christ, have often resumed the authority and dominion that our first parents had. Thus, the Prophet Habakkum instantly traversed vast expanses of land, with no effort, and brought food to Daniel in the lion's den. The Holy Apostles, too, were transported on clouds to be at the Theotokos' repose in Jerusalem, and their bodily weight proved not to hamper their flight, in defiance to gravity. Our Savior and the saints performed those things outside the created laws of physics and medicine. By a word, straightway, long and terminal illnesses vanished, limbs that were palsied became sound, those without orbs received the power of vision, and many were raised from the dead. Some of the saints could go long periods without food, water or changes of clothing as St. Paisios the Great of Egypt or St. Mary Golinduc the Persian. Others, by their mere grace0filled presence, tamed wild and ferocious animals. Thus, why should it be difficult to imagine that the Christ infant could not pass through that virginal orifice through which children are delivered without incurring damage or the slightest discomfort to His Mother, despite His newborn height and weight? Later, in life, He would pass through the midst of the mob unscathed as though bodiless and, after His Resurrection, His body would pass through solid and shut doors to meet and greet His anxious disciples (Jn. 20:19).
Concerning the mystery of the incarnation, St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote the following:
"When God became known to us in the flesh, He neither received the passions of human nature, nor did the Virgin Mary suffer pain, nor was the Holy Spirit diminished in any way, nor was the power of the Most High set aside in any manner, and all this was because all was accomplished by the Holy Spirit. thus the power of the Most High was not abased, and the child was born with no damage whatsoever to the mother's virginity."4
Saint Hesychios (c. 451), a learned priest-monk of Jerusalem, expressed the same truth, writing that:
"The Theotokos was a woman, yet she did not suffer the pangs of childbirth because the field of marriage had not experienced the plow; the virginal vineyard was not tilled."5
1. Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. 4, Ch. 14.
2. Letter 59, To the Church at Vercelli.
3. Georgios L. Mantzarides, The Deification of Man: St. Gregory Palamas and the Orthodox Tradition, p. 29.
4. "Against Eunomius, Hom. II", PG 45, 492.
5. "Sermon On the Presentation", PG 93, 1469.
Source: The Life of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos by Holy Apostles Convent, pp. 176-179.
The Church of Saint Eleutherios, also known as Mikri Mitropoli (Little Cathedral) or Panagia Gorgoepikoos (Our Lady Who Swiftly Hears), is located at Metropolis Square in Plaka, next to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens (Megali Mitropoli). This tiny beautiful 12th century church stands in the shadow of the much larger and more recent Cathedral which dates from 1842. At the time, Athens was only a small town and a church as small as this was sufficient to serve the local neighborhood.
The church was built in the 12th century by Michael Choniates (1180-1204), the bishop of Athens, over the ruins of a temple dedicated to the goddess Eleithya, patron of childbirth. The Virgin Mary took over the same role in Christian beliefs, so the church was re-dedicated to her. It was common for Christian women of the time to pray at Panagia Gorgoepikoos Church if they were expecting a child. The hope was that the Virgin Mary, who is "quick to hear", would help the soon-to-be-mother experience a quick and painless childbirth.
There is a tradition that the church was built by Empress Irene of Athens in 787. During the Ottoman period after the 15th century the church was part of the Episcopal mansion and was called "Katholikon" (main church). St. Dionysios of Zakynthos was ordained a bishop in this church. In 1841, after the foundation of the Greek State, the church was used as the National Library, housing the first collection of books donated to the Orphanage of Aegina. The church underwent repairs in 1863 and was re-dedicated to St. Eleutherios, the Saint of Freedom, after the removal of King Otto.
The Little Cathedral measures only 25 feet long by 40 feet wide. The domed cruciform church was built entirely from white Pentelic marble, which has weathered to a warm and creamy hue.
The exterior of the Panagia Gorgoepíkoös mixes Romanesque and Byzantine styles. The frieze over the main entrance, depicting the months of the year, dates from the 4th century BC. A Greek cross was added to the center in the 12th century when the church was built.
The small interior features a checkerboard floor about a foot lower than current ground level, four supporting brick pillars (which replaced the original marble ones in 1834), and an iconostasis.
December 13, 2010
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has received reports that two Orthodox deacons were murdered by people traffickers in the Sinai Desert on 11 December.
The two deacons were singled out for punishment because their captors believed they were instrumental in alerting human rights NGOs of the plight of over 250 refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia who have been imprisoned for over a month in degrading conditions by Bedouin people traffickers in the Sinai Desert. The traffickers are demanding payment of up to US$8,000 per person for their release despite charging them US$2,000 for passage to Israel.
The deacons were among 100 Eritrean refugees who had been separated from the group on 10 December. Prior to the move, the traffickers tore up the refugees’ religious materials and assaulted them severely for failing to make the ransom payments. Agenzia Habeshia also reports that others in the group were beaten, tortured and forced to drink their own urine after being denied water. There are also reports of organ harvesting and of some pregnant women being forced to undergo abortions.
The exploitation of asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa by people traffickers in the Sinai Desert is an ongoing problem. Kidnapping, organ trafficking and the trading of groups of asylum seekers between different gangs is common, and there are fears that the 100 Eritreans may have been sold on to other dealers in the area.
On 1 December CSW, Agenzia Habeshia, EveryOne Group and Human Rights Concern Eritrea issued a joint appeal calling for urgent international intervention and highlighting the degrading and inhumane conditions suffered by the refugees, who have suffered extreme methods of torture, including electric shocks, as well as being bound by chains around their ankles and denied adequate food and water. Agenzia Habeshia and the EveryOne group also filed a lawsuit in Cairo against named traffickers, and passed on details of the location of the initial detention facility.
CSW’s National Director Stuart Windsor said, “We are saddened to hear of the deaths of the two deacons. The situation for these refugees is deteriorating daily and despite assurances by the Egyptian government that they are working hard to free these people, scant progress has been made. The people traffickers have little regard for human life and have shown that they will not hesitate to kill, maim and abuse their victims. Time is running out and the international community must urge the Egyptian government to act decisively to prevent further loss of life by freeing these people and granting them unhindered access to the local offices of the UNHCR. Egypt must also become more proactive in bringing its treatment of refugees and asylums seekers in line with international norms, and ending human trafficking within its borders.”
December 15, 2010
Catholic San Francisco
St. Nicholas, from whom the character of Santa Claus comes, looms large in Alaska where multiple Catholic and Orthodox churches bear the saint’s name.
His generosity and kindness to children is legendary, and veneration of the fourth-century saint spans 1,700 years. “St. Nicholas is next to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist in devotion and veneration,” said Father James Barrand, pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra Byzantine Catholic Church in Anchorage.
Known in the West as the patron of children, St. Nicholas is seen in the East primarily as the patron of sailors, based on accounts of his calming the seas during his return from a pilgrimage in the Holy Land and his appearance to storm-tossed sailors off the coast of Lycia. These miracles were related across the world, especially by missionaries to Russia.
Deacon Charles Rohrbacher, an iconographer at the Catholic Cathedral of the Nativity in downtown Juneau, said there are many icons and images of St. Nicholas on fishing boats and other sailing vessels in Alaska and elsewhere.
According to Father Michael Oleksa, an Orthodox priest who is rector of St. Alexis Church and chancellor of the Orthodox Diocese of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska, more churches in the Orthodox tradition are named for St. Nicholas than for any other saint.
The oldest of these is St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Juneau, established in 1894. According to its pastor, Father Simeon Johnson, the church received its name after a vision experienced by Tlingit tribal elders. The son of a leader in the community had journeyed to San Francisco where he was to be baptized. While he was gone, several people had dreams of a bearded, balding, white-haired man.
When the young man returned, he brought an image of St. Nicholas. After the elders recognized it as the one from the dreams, the church received its name and more than 700 Tlingit people were baptized there.
St. Nicholas Catholic Church in North Pole, Alaska, received its name with help from the Catholic Church Extension Society, which helped build the church. The town attracts tourists, and many photograph the church and its statue of a kneeling Santa praying at the feet of the infant Jesus.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"And Joseph left his garment in her hand, and fled outdoors" (Genesis 39:12).
The innocent and chaste Joseph endured two great and difficult temptations and overcame them: the temptation of wicked envy on the part of his blood brothers, and the temptation of adulterous passion from the Egyptian temptress. Jealousy sold him as a slave, and the passion of adultery drove the innocent one to prison.
In both cases he returned good for evil: he gave food to his hungry brothers and preserved the life, throne and people of frightened Pharaoh. His brothers thought to slay him, but God saved him; the adulterous woman thought to destroy him, but God saved him.
Out of slavery and imprisonment, God crowned him with glory and unlimited authority. And him whom his evil brothers could have killed with one stroke and whom Potiphar's powerful wife could have crushed in an instant, God made the unlimited master over the lives of millions of people and the only nourisher of his starving brothers.
Such is the wondrous mercy of God toward the righteous. Thus does the Lord know how to save and glorify the innocent and the chaste. In the greatness of the destiny of Joseph, we see the greatness of God's mercy.
There is one eye that never sleeps, my brethren. Let us cling to God and not fear anyone. Let us be innocent and chaste and not fear evil, or slander, or prison, or ridicule, or misfortune. On the contrary, let us rejoice when all of this befalls us because of our innocence and chastity; let us rejoice and await with faith the revelation of God's wonders toward us. Let us, in every storm, await the thunder of God's justice - and afterward the calm.
O mysterious Lord, Who secretly but vigilantly accompanies the righteous in slavery and in prison, and manifests Thy mercy in Thine own time, help us to be innocent and chaste. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.