THE CHRISTMAS VISIT (1959)
Made in Russia, translated and dubbed in English.
The vintage animated story features a Russian boy named Koyla from Moscow. The boy tries to take his 'holiday' tree to his father, who's serving in Antarctica, since there are no trees there. Santa Claus loans the boy his magic jet to get there, and other speaking creatures help him on his way later. The cartoon was made during the rise of the cold war.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
A few weeks ago, a senior Greek Orthodox clergyman in Israel attended a meeting at a government office in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul quarter. When he returned to his car, an elderly man wearing a skullcap came and knocked on the window.
December 23, 2010
A few weeks ago, a senior Greek Orthodox clergyman in Israel attended a meeting at a government office in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul quarter. When he returned to his car, an elderly man wearing a skullcap came and knocked on the window. When the clergyman let the window down, the passerby spat in his face.
The clergyman prefered not to lodge a complaint with the police and told an acquaintance that he was used to being spat at by Jews. Many Jerusalem clergy have been subjected to abuse of this kind. For the most part, they ignore it but sometimes they cannot.
On Sunday, a fracas developed when a yeshiva student spat at the cross being carried by the Armenian Archbishop during a procession near the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. The archbishop's 17th-century cross was broken during the brawl and he slapped the yeshiva student.
Both were questioned by police and the yeshiva student will be brought to trial. The Jerusalem District Court has meanwhile banned the student from approaching the Old City for 75 days.
But the Armenians are far from satisfied by the police action and say this sort of thing has been going on for years. Archbishop Nourhan Manougian says he expects the education minister to say something.
"When there is an attack against Jews anywhere in the world, the Israeli government is incensed, so why when our religion and pride are hurt, don't they take harsher measures?" he asks.
According to Daniel Rossing, former adviser to the Religious Affairs Ministry on Christian affairs and director of a Jerusalem center for Christian-Jewish dialogue, there has been an increase in the number of such incidents recently, "as part of a general atmosphere of lack of tolerance in the country."
Rossing says there are certain common characeristics from the point of view of time and location to the incidents. He points to the fact that there are more incidents in areas where Jews and Christians mingle, such as the Jewish and Armenian quarters of the Old City and the Jaffa Gate.
There are an increased number at certain times of year, such as during the Purim holiday."I know Christians who lock themselves indoors during the entire Purim holiday," he says.
Former adviser to the mayor on Christian affairs, Shmuel Evyatar, describes the situation as "a huge disgrace." He says most of the instigators are yeshiva students studying in the Old City who view the Christian religion with disdain.
"I'm sure the phenomenon would end as soon as rabbis and well-known educators denounce it. In practice, rabbis of yeshivas ignore or even encourage it," he says.
Evyatar says he himself was spat at while walking with a Serbian bishop in the Jewish quarter, near his home. "A group of yeshiva students spat at us and their teacher just stood by and watched."
Jerusalem municipal officials said they are aware of the problem but it has to be dealt with by the police. Shmuel Ben-Ruby, the police spokesman, said they had only two complaints from Christians in the past two years. He said that, in both cases, the culprits were caught and punished.
He said the police deploy an inordinately high number of patrols and special technology in the Old City and its surroundings in an attempt to keep order.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
This glorious heroine of the Christian Faith was born in Rome into a wealthy senatorial family of a pagan father and a Christian mother. From her early youth, she clung in love to the Lord Jesus, guided in the teaching of Christ by a devout teacher, Chrysogonus.
Anastasia was forced by her father to enter into marriage with a pagan landowner, Publius. Excusing herself on the basis of a female illness, she in no way wished to enter into physical relations with him. For this, her husband tortured her harshly by confinement and starvation. He inflicted even more tortures upon her when he learned of her secret visits to the prisons of the Christian martyrs: bringing them provisions, ministering to them, bathing their wounds and loosening their bonds. But by God's providence she was freed from her wicked husband. Publius was sent to Persia by the emperor, and while sailing on the sea he was drowned. St. Anastasia then began to minister freely to the tortured Christian martyrs and to comfort the poor, giving them alms from her great inheritance.
At one time the Emperor Diocletian was in the town of Aquileia and ordered that Chrysogonus, the confessor of Christ, be brought to him. St. Anastasia accompanied him on the way. Holy Chrysogonus was beheaded by order of the emperor, and then three sisters - Agape, Chionia and Irene - also suffered (April 16): the first two were cast into fire and the third was shot through with arrows. St. Anastasia took their bodies, wrapped them in white linen, anointed them with many aromatic spices, and honorably buried them.
Following this, Anastasia went to Macedonia, where she helped the sufferers for Christ. There she became well known as a Christian, for which she was seized and brought before various judges for interrogation and torture. Desiring to die for her beloved Christ, Anastasia constantly longed for Him in her heart. A certain chief of the pagan priests, Ulpianus, lustfully tried to touch St. Anastasia's body, but he was suddenly blinded and breathed his last.
Condemned to death by starvation, St. Anastasia lingered in prison for thirty days without food, nourishing herself only on tears and prayer. Then she was placed in a boat with several other Christians to be drowned, but God delivered her even from this death. She was finally tied by the feet and hands to four wheels over a fire, and she gave up her holy soul to God. She suffered and took up her habitation in the Kingdom of Christ in the year 304 [or 290].
A Reflection From Her Life
The merciful God often sends comfort to those pleasing to Him on earth from the other world through his saints. St. Theodota suffered for Christ before St. Anastasia. Anastasia was then cast into a confined and dark prison to die of hunger, according to the judgment of the torturers. During the thirty days of her imprisonment, St. Theodota appeared to Anastasia every night from the other world and strengthened her in her suffering.
Anastasia spoke of many things with St. Theodota and asked numerous questions. One night she asked her how she was able to come to her after her death. Theodota replied that the souls of the martyrs are given special grace from God, so that after departing this world they may return to speak to whomever they desire for the imparting of instruction and comfort.
When thirty days had passed, the torturer brought St. Anastasia out of prison and was amazed to see her still alive. He then condemned her, along with several others, to be drowned in the sea. The Christians were put into a small boat by the soldiers, who set sail in another. When the Christians were brought out into the deep, the soldiers upset the boat, so that the water would enter and drown the condemned. Then a miraculous vision took place: St. Theodota appeared on the water and guided the boat to shore. Thus, all who were condemned to death were saved with Anastasia. Seeing this miracle of God, one hundred and twenty pagans immediately believed in Christ and were baptized.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Great Martyr Anastasia, the Deliverer from Bonds
The holy maiden Anastasia serves God;
She shines before God by faith, hope and deeds.
The maiden leaves husband, honor and riches,
And gladly serves the captives, glorifying God.
She looses the bonds, and washes the wounds of the martyrs;
She looses their bonds, giving gifts and not fetters.
She seeks payment neither from men nor from the earth.
Christ God eases her soul and heart.
Her pains have passed, and Anastasia remains in glory;
She now rejoices with the angels in heaven.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Your lamb Anastasia, calls out to you, O Jesus, in a loud voice: "I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering. In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You. Accept me as a pure sacrifice,for I have offered myself in love." Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.
Apolytikion in the Fifth Tone
As a martyr you emulated the deeds of the martyrs, to whom you ministered, and, striving valiantly, you overcame the enemy. You are an abundant and overflowing source of grace for all who come to you, O godly-minded Anastasia!
Kontakion in the Second Tone
When they that are found in trials and adversities flee unto thy church O Anastasia, they receive the august and wondrous gifts of divine grace which doth abide in thee; for at all times, O Saint of God, thou pourest forth streams of healings for the world.
The Georgian Patriarchate announced the transfer of control over the Abkhaz Diocese to the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
"The Holy Synod has examined a very important issue and made a historical decision: that on the basis of historical documents and the current situation, control over the Tskhum-Abkhaz Diocese be handed over to Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of All Georgia," the Patriarchate said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The territory controlled by the diocese covers Abkhazia and part of the Georgian region of Samegrelo.
Meanwhile, Abkhaz cleric Vissarion Aplia said on December 9 that recognition by the Georgian Patriarchate of the independence of the "Abkhaz Church" must be a pre-condition for their dialog.
The lack of such recognition today is "the main obstacle to visits to Abkhazia by Georgian clergymen," he said.
Decision by Holy Synod
Ιερά Σύνοδος της Γεωργιανής Εκκλησίας άλλαξε τον τίτλο του Πατριάρχη Ηλία
Metropolitan Seraphim has been instrumental as of late in spreading conspiracy theories and unfounded fears among Greeks. This year alone he has appealled to the Greek government for the dissolution of Freemasonry in Greece based on the accusation that they worship Satan, opposed the new Greek Citizen's Card because it is a forerunner to the Mark of the Antichrist, and supported the Artemian schism in Serbia. Below is his latest spread of misinformation, obviously infuenced by the discredited Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.
Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus says Hitler was just a Zionist instrument to convince the Jews to leave Europe to Israel and 'establish the new Empire', JTA reports.
December 22, 2010
A leading priest in Greece said that the world Jewry was to blame for the country's financial problems, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Wednesday.
While being interviewed on a morning show of Greece's largest television station, Mega TV, the Metropolite of Piraeus Seraphim said that international Zionism tries to destroy family values by promoting one-parent families and same-sex marriages, and said there is a Zionist conspiracy to enslave Greece and Christian Orthodoxy.
The Metropolite also said that Hitler was just a tool used by Zionists in order to ensure the establishment of Israel.
When the Greek host asked him, "Why do you disagree with Hitler's politics? If they are doing all this, wasn't he right in burning them?," the Metropolite answered, "Adolf Hitler was an instrument of world Zionism and was financed from the renowned Rothschild family with the sole purpose of convincing the Jews to leave the shores of Europe and go to Israel to establish the new Empire."
He went on to say that Jews such as "Rockefeller, Rotchschild and Soros control the international banking system that controls globalization."
The JTA quoted the president of the Athens Jewish community, Benjamin Albala, as saying: "Watching and listening to the program, I felt disgust hearing the Metropolite of Piraeus expressing himself like that against world Zionism, and shamelessly saying that Hitler with the help of Jewish bankers did what he did."
See also: A Greek Bishop’s Anti-Semitic Tirade
December 21, 2010
The Ecumenical Patriarch defends the choice of dialogue with Catholics, Jews and Muslims, despite criticisms from some sectors of Orthodox traditionalists.
On the eve of the holiday season, Bartholomew I delivered a major address before an highly qualified audience from the Orthodox world, defending the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s choice for inter-faith dialogue. "We will insist on dialogue, despite the criticism that we suffer," he said. "There is, unfortunately, a certain religious fundamentalism, a tragic phenomenon, which can be found among Orthodox and Catholics, among Muslims and Jews. These are people who think they alone have the right to exist on earth, almost as if they alone have the right to rule on this our planet according to the Old Testament. And they say there is no room for anyone else, and are therefore opposed to any dialogue. "
The Patriarch continued: "We are subject to criticism and attack because we maintain relations with the Pope (because we are strong supporters of the ecumenical dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics), with Islam and the Jewish world. But we will continue to move forward on our journey, according to the path laid by our predecessors, well aware of our actions, regardless of the criticisms of which we are object. These fringes, characterized by extreme positions, are everywhere. It is therefore natural that we suffer their criticisms, according to their ideological dictates, all of us who try to widen our horizons and have a theological view of things. Because we want the peaceful coexistence of all, based on the principles of charity and friendship. "
Bartholomew I added: "This is the credo of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and I want to remember that in 1920 the regent of the patriarchal see, along with the synod, had addressed to Catholics and Protestants an encyclical, called 'The community of churches', along the lines of the newly created 'society of nations'. That encyclical is considered today by the World Council of Churches as the 'Charter' of the ecumenical movement of our time. This is a well known fact to insiders, and it is good that it should be made as widely known to as many people as possible”.
Then Bartholomew I went on to highlight: "With regard to interreligious dialogue, it is our belief and our creed. Because we need to know each other better, to work together while respecting the religious beliefs of others, their cultural identity, without oppression. This is the only way to live in peace. For this reason, the Patriarchate, in addition to having a dialogue with other Churches and Christian denominations, has established over the past 25 years a dialogue with Islam and Judaism. We have had several successful meetings. With the Muslims and Jews, our brothers, we do not discuss purely theological issues as it would be difficult. But we talk about social issues, social issues that effect all people, all humanity, all over the world. "
Ecology has been one of the favorite themes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate since 1989. The Patriarch said: "Everything that we try to do, we do because we believe it is our duty, because the Church should be actively present in the contemporary world and be sensitive to people's problems, raise awareness and encourage them to love and protect nature like their own homes". He added: "The environment, nature, is God's creation and do not belong only to us who live today in 2010. They belong to all future generations. "
Bishop Dositheos, spokesman for the Patriarchate, commented on the Patriarch’s homily for AsiaNews, "a certain confusion prevails in some sectors of the Orthodox Christian world between the two terms, tradition and traditionalism. Tradition, to which those minorities often refer, is the ongoing search to interpret and understand the truth, while traditionalism which essentially belong to these minorities, is an intellectual sterility which often is identified with nationalism in the Orthodox world”.
At the Church of Panagia of Agia Napa at the Metropolis of Constantia and Ammochostou in Cyprus on December 20th, an ancient Divine Liturgy was celebrated. December 20th is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Antioch. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated according to the rubric of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions, which was in use by the Antiochian Church of the early Christian period.
After readings from the Old Testament and New Testament and the prayers and dismissals of the Catechumens, this Divine Liturgy immediately goes to the consecration of the Holy Gifts.
More can be read about this Divine Liturgy here, and more can be read about the Divine Liturgy celebrated in Cyprus on December 20th here which also shows many photos.
With Christmas trees lighting up around the world, the festive season is upon us. While many are getting into it, others view Christmas as a purely commercial event. So what exactly is Christmas spirit? Lori Harfenist asks people in New York what the season means to them.
This holiday surpasses all others celebrated by Serbs, with respect to the diversity of applied folk customs and rituals. These may vary from region to region, some of them having modern versions adapted to the contemporary way of living. The ideal environment to carry them out fully is the traditional multi-generation country household. In the morning of Christmas Eve an oak tree is felled, and a log cut from it is in the evening ceremoniously put on the domestic fire. A bundle of straw is taken into the house and spread over the floor. The dinner on this day is festive, copious and diverse in foods, although it is prepared in accordance with the rules of fasting. Groups of young people go from house to house of their village or neighborhood, congratulating the holiday, singing, and making performances; this continues through the next three days.
On Christmas Day, the celebration is announced at dawn by church bells and by shooting. A big importance is given to the first visit a family receives that day. People expect that it will summon prosperity and well-being for their household in the ensuing year; this visit is often pre-arranged. Christmas breakfast is the most celebratory meal a family has during a year. A special, festive loaf of bread is baked for this occasion. The main course is roast pork which they cook whole by rotating it impaled on a wooden spit close to an open fire. It is not a part of Serbian traditions to exchange gifts during Christmas. Gift giving is, nevertheless, connected with the holiday, being traditionally done on the three consecutive Sundays that immediately precede it. Children, women, and men, respectively, are the set gift-givers on these three days. Closely related to Christmas is New Year's Day by the Julian calendar (January 14 on the Gregorian calendar), whose traditional folk name is Little Christmas.
For more deatils about Christmas in Serbia, read here.
Under the USSR, all religious activities were suspended in Russia. Yet, to witness the revival of Christmas celebrations and the rejuvenation of old customs, one can only conclude that the ban was not entirely successful. If it had been, the Russian people would have had to look to exiles to learn their old ways and this is clearly not the case.
Russian Christmas is always blessed with snow. The beauty of the snow laden Russian countryside in many places seems to have jumped from a postcard. The Russians are proud of their Orthodox customs and comfortable about the way in which they, like all Christian societies, have incorporated certain pre-Christian traditions that are associated with that time of the year.
Orthodox observers in Russia abstain from meat for 39 days before the 12 days of Christmas, eating meat only when the first star appears in the sky on Christmas Eve. The festivities begin in earnest at this time, since they also abstain from social gatherings (parties) during the 39-day period of fasting. Christmas corresponds to a period of the year known as sviatki, a time when pre-Christian Russians feared supernatural forces. They would attempt to divine their intentions or placate them with rituals, many of which have been preserved in the foods eaten at this time of the year.
The Russian Christmas season is characterized by guessing games (gadanie), games of fortune-telling, carols (kolyiadki), feasting on traditional foods and of course, the solemn, yet joyous religious services. One food that is noteworthy is kutya, a type of sweet porridge made from wheat berries, honey and poppy seeds. The origin of the recipe is lost in the mists of time. It is said to have the magical power to summon ancestors. Eaten from a common bowl, it is also a symbol of unity.
The nineteenth century was a golden age for many Russian Christmas customs, music and art. One only need recall The Nutcracker, Tolstoy's War and Peace (in which many Christmas customs are found) and The Snow Maiden to see what contributions Russian artists have made to many Christians world-wide as they celebrate this season.
The New Year
An especially gorgeous and luxurious New Year's Day was on September 1, 1698, under Peter the Great. Peter the Great named everyone a brother, gave out apples to everybody, and wished a happy New Year and a lot of happiness. A volley of 25 guns accompanied each toast of His Majesty! In 1699 Peter the Great changed the New Year's Day to January 1. His name is connected with the custom to decorate houses with branches of the evergreen trees, mostly from the coniferous trees. In the 30s of the 19th century only the Germans, living in St. Petersburg (Russia), decorated their houses with New Year Trees. Since1852, they had started putting the New Year Trees in the squares of St. Petersburg. Only by the end of the 19-century people started putting them in the houses.
In 1918, the New Year Tree was banned because it was a reminder of Christmas. And as you know, during those years Russia was ruled under the Bolsheviks (Communists). They were atheists. More and more Christmas was forced out and New Year's Day became the most important, beloved and favorite holiday for the Russians. But at first, it was prohibited to celebrate this holiday with the New Year Tree. Only in 1935 Stalin, "the best friend of children and all the peoples", gave his permission to make the New Year Tree the center of New Year's parties.
In the former Soviet Union we did not celebrate Christmas so openly as it is celebrated again now. Though sometimes somewhere people did mention this great holiday in their private talks and even celebrated it at home. Only after the so-called perestroika people started celebrating Christmas again. Do you know that we actually have two Christmases? One is celebrated based on the Gregorian calendar - December 25, and this celebration is not official. That is the date when people in pre-Revolutionary Russia celebrated Christmas. The other one is an official Christmas and celebrated by our Orthodox Church January 7. This is a holiday now and it quickly becoming one of the most popular celebrations of the year. So we celebrate New Year's Day on January 1, and later -- January 7 -- is our Christmas Day. But if you are in Russia, you will be amazed at our traditions. Some people celebrate both Christmases with the same great enthusiasm! Isn't it funny? Besides, we have the so-called Old New Year's Day! It is celebrated on January 13 and 14, but it is not an official holiday.
Still nowadays, New Year's Day is the most popular holiday and celebrated nationwide. We put up a New Year Tree (usually it is a fir-tree, or in Russian it is "yolka") decorate it just the way people do in the USA, and presents for our relatives and children are usually set under the tree. At midnight, a bottle of champagne is opened and people wish each other, "Happy New Year!" Some residents wish their neighbors and friends a Happy New Year dressed as Grandpa Frost. There are huge trees in our main city and town squares, with ice towers and snow-towns and other stuff made of ice: horses, wolves, rabbits and other animals and fairy tale characters: Grandpa Frost (sort of Santa Clause, but his history is different!) and his Granddaughter Snow Maiden.
Schools are closed for the holidays and lots of children are out in parks and squares, playing in the winter frosty weather and enjoying the ice world. There are circuses, performances at all Palaces of Culture and play houses and other theatrical presentations as well as traditional outdoor parties with troika (three-horse sleigh), rids, folk games, and dancing around New Year Trees.
Then comes January 7, our Christmas Day. Cathedrals and churches are especially enchanting and visitors are welcome. Some of them go to worship, the others - to observe. The mass starts at midnight and lasts till dawn. There are no seats in Orthodox Churches, but even non-believers are likely to stay longer than they have planned.
One of the most famous things about Christmas in Russia, to people in western Europe and the USA, is the story of Babushka. Babushka means Grand Mother in Russian. It tells the story of an old women who met the Wise men on their way to see Jesus.
However, most people in Russia have never heard of the story and I've had many emails from Russian visitors to the site who have never heard the story before! It seems that it was probably created by an American poet and writer called Edith Matilda Thomas in 1907. Here's more information about how the story of Babushka came into being on another site.
The Story of Babushka
Once in a small Russian town, there lived a women called Babushka. Babushka always had work to do sweeping, polishing, dusting and cleaning. Her house was the best kept, most tidy house in the whole village. Her garden was beautiful and her cooking was wonderful. One evening she was busy dusting and cleaning, so busy that she didn't hear all the villagers outside in the village square talking about and looking at the new star in sky.
She had heard about the new star but thought, 'All this fuss about a star! I don't even have the time to look because I'm so behind with my work. I must work all night!' So, she missed the star as it shone brightly, high overhead. She also missed the little line of twinkling lights coming down towards the village at dawn. She didn't hear the sounds of the pipes and drums. She missed the voices and whispers of the villagers wondering whether the lights were an army or a procession of some sort. She missed the sudden quiet of the villagers and even the footsteps coming up the path to her door. But the one thing that she couldn't miss was the loud knocking on her front door!
'Now what is that?' she wondered, opening the door. Babushka gaped in amazement. There were three kings at her door with one of their servants! 'My masters need a place to rest,' the servant said, 'and yours is the best house in the village.' 'You want to stay here?' asked Babushka. 'Yes, it would only be until night falls and the star appears again,' the servant replied. Babushka gulped. 'Come in, then,' she said.
The kings were very pleased when they saw all of the of the home-baked bread, pies and cakes. She dashed about, serving them, asking lots of questions. 'Have you come a long way?' 'A very long way,' sighed Caspar. 'Where are you going?' 'We're following the new star,' said Melchior. 'But where?' The kings didn't know, but they believed that it would lead the to a new-born king, a King of Earth and Heaven. 'Why don't you come with us?' asked Balthasar. 'You could bring him a gift like we do. I bring gold, and my colleagues bring spices and perfumes.' 'Oh, I'm not sure that he would welcome me,' said Babushka, 'and what could I bring for a gift? Toys! I know I could bring a toy. I've got a cupboard full of toys,' she said sadly. 'My baby son, died when he was small.' Balthasar stopped her as she went to tidy the kitchen up. 'This new king could be your king too. Come with us when the star appears tonight,' he said. 'I'll think about it,' sighed Babushka.
As the kings slept, Babushka tidied up as quietly as she could. 'What a lot of extra work there was!' she thought, 'and this new king, what a funny idea, to go off with the kings to find him.'
Babushka shook herself. There was no time for dreaming, all this washing-up and putting away had to be done. 'Anyway,' she thought, 'how long would she be away? What would she wear? What about the gift?' She sighed. 'There is so much to do. The house will have to be cleaned when they've gone. I couldn't just leave it.' Suddenly it was night-time again and the star was in the sky. 'Are you ready, Babushka?' asked Balthasar. 'I'll come tomorrow,' Babushka called, 'I must just tidy here first and find a gift.'
The kings went away sadly. Babushka ran back into her house, keen to get on with her work.
Finally, she went to the small cupboard, opened the door and gazed at all the toys. But they were very dusty. They weren't fit for a baby king. They would all need to be cleaned. She cleaned all of the toys until each one shined. Babushka looked through the window. It was morning! The star had came and gone. The kings would have found somewhere else to rest by now. She could easily catch them up, but she felt so tired. She had to sleep. The next thing she knew, she was awake and it was dark outside. She had slept all day! She quickly pulled on her cloak, packed the toys in a basket and ran down the path the kings had taken.
Everywhere she asked 'Have you seen the kings?' 'Oh yes,' everyone told her, 'we saw them. They went that way.' For day Babushka followed the trail of the kings and the villages got bigger and became towns. But Babushka never stopped. Then she came to a city. 'The palace,' she thought. 'That's where the royal baby would be born.' 'No, there is no royal baby here,' said the palace guard when she asked him. 'What about three kings?' asked Babushka. 'Oh yes, they came here, but they didn't stay long. They were soon on their journey.' 'But where to?' asked Babushka. 'Bethlehem, that was the place. I don't imagine why. It's a very poor place. That's where they went.' replied the guard. She set off towards Bethlehem. It was evening when Babushka arrived at Bethlehem and she had been travelling for a long time. She went into the local inn and asked about the kings. 'Oh yes,' said the landlord, 'the kings were here two days ago. They were very excited, but they didn't even stay the night.' 'And what about a baby?' Babushka cried. 'Yes there was.' Said the landlord. The kings asked about a baby, too.' When he saw the disappointment in Babushka's eyes, he stopped. 'If you'd like to see where the baby was,' he said quickly, 'it was across the yard there. I couldn't offer the couple anything better at the time. My inn was really full, so they had to go in the stable.'
Babushka followed him across the yard. 'Here's the stable,' he said. He left her in the stable. 'Babushka?' Someone was calling her from the doorway. He looked kindly at her. She wondered if he knew where the family had gone. She knew now that the baby king was the most important thing in the world to her. 'They have gone to Egypt, and safety,' he told Babushka. 'And the kings have returned to their countries. But one of them told me about you. I am sorry but you are too late. It was Jesus that they found, the world's Saviour.'
Babushka was very sad that she had missed Jesus and it is said that Babushka is still looking for him.
December 22, 2010
The hometown of the man who inspired the legend of Santa Claus is a long way from the snow and arctic lights of the North Pole.
The land Saint Nicholas is originally from rarely sees snowflakes -- it is a village of palm trees and orange groves on the Mediterranean Sea in what is modern-day Turkey. Nicholas, patron saint of sailors and children, lived and died there nearly 18 centuries ago.
The legend of the 4th century bishop who gave gifts to the poor has spread since the earliest days of Christianity.
Eventually, Saint Nicholas evolved from the bald and bearded man depicted in Orthodox icons -- dressed in long robes and clutching a bible -- to the more rotund and secular character of jolly old Saint Nick.
Though Santa Claus is today inextricably intertwined with Christmas, hardly any of the residents of Saint Nicholas' hometown celebrate the holiday.
Demre is an overwhelmingly Muslim town where the call to prayer periodically echoes from minarets over the sun-bleached stones of chapels and a sprawling Roman amphitheater that was constructed long before the days of Saint Nicholas.
"Nobody celebrates Christmas here. It's interesting," said Baris Yuksel, speaking in his shop amid a sea of gold-framed icons of Saint Nicholas -- a man locals know here as "Noel Baba," or Father Christmas.
Like many other residents of Demre, Yuksel grows and exports tomatoes from some of the many greenhouses that surround this small community.
But in recent years he has also made a lucrative business selling images of Demre's most famous son to the hundreds of thousands foreign tourists who visit the Church of Saint Nicholas every year.
"We are so happy with Saint Nicholas," Yuksel said. "After lots of centuries we are earning money thanks to Saint Nicholas."
Demre's gratitude is evident in the town's official logo -- which features the familiar bearded face of Santa Claus -- and a bronze statue of a slimmer Saint Nicholas holding hands with two smiling children, which overlooks the central town square.
The man behind the legend is believed to have died in Demre in 343 AD, when the city was then known as Myra and many of the inhabitants spoke ancient Greek.
"Nicholas is a real man. He lived here and he died here, and he talked about Christianity in a widespread area," said Nevzat Cevik, a Turkish archaeologist unearthing history about one of the world's earliest Christian civilizations.
Cevik said Nicholas of Myra was a Christian bishop, who is depicted in ancient engravings chopping down a tree that symbolizes the region's earlier pagan Roman religion.
"He destroyed pagan temples also," Cevik said, referring to the Temple of Artemis, which is believed to have been raised to the ground on Nicholas' order. "They destroyed the pagan buildings ... and then they used the materials of those buildings to build their churches."
As evidence, Cevik points to a 12th century Byzantine chapel his team recently discovered buried next to the house of an elderly Turkish man named Ahmet Gezer, whose bushy white beard was surprisingly Santa shaped.
Part of the floor of the chapel is constructed out of stones pillaged from the sarcophagi of earlier pagans.
After his death, Saint Nicholas was honored as a martyr. Cevik argues that his legend began to grow after it was retold by another Christian priest named Nicholas of Sion, who lived in the area more than 100 years after Saint Nicholas' death.
Cevik theorizes that Christian believers began combining the stories of the two men named Nicholas. "After the 6th century AD, there are 2 Nicholases in one figure," Cevik said. "They come together and we know only one Saint Nicholas."
In subsequent centuries, the tomb of Saint Nicholas became a place of pilgrimage for Christians traveling from around the Mediterranean Sea.
Gradually, other European cultures adopted the popular saint, and added their own twists to his image.
The Santa Claus we see today appears to have evolved out of a Scandinavian version of the saint, who was later popularized by 19th century American writers and U.S. companies like Coca Cola, which used Santa's image to promote their products.
The mayor of Demre is a big fan of this contemporary Santa Claus, which some Turks refer to as the "Coca Cola Santa."
"Indeed, he is something that the Americans invented," said Mayor Suleyman Topcu, "[but] he is nice and colorful."
Topcu said he planned to put a big red Santa statue up overlooking the new street and beach he recently named after Father Christmas.
But some of Demre's younger residents want to set the record straight on their town's most famous son.
"He didn't have magic powers or flying reindeer. That's only in the cartoons," said 10-year old Habip Erdogan. His friend, Batuhan Katilimis, also 10, said: "He was a good man who gave gifts."
No matter what version you believe in, everyone in Demre seems to agree -- it is the spirit of Saint Nicholas giving to those who are in need that is the legendary man's most enduring legacy.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The word Sybil comes (via Latin) from the ancient Greek word sibylla, meaning prophetess. The Erythraean Sybil was the prophetess of classical antiquity presiding over the Apollonian oracle at Erythrae, a town in Ionia opposite Chios, which was built by Neleus, the son of Codrus. Many Church Fathers believed that she prophesied the coming of Christ through the acrostic ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΕΙΣΤΟΣ ΘΕΟΥ ΥΙΟΣ ΣΩΤΗΡ ΣΤΑΥΡΟΣ or JESUS CHRIST GOD SON SAVIOR CROSS. The translation below of the Oration of Constantine from the 4th century is poetically formed to fit the original, but the original Greek can be read here and a more literal translation here.
By Saint Constantine the Great
My desire, however, is to derive even from foreign sources a testimony to the Divine nature of Christ. For on such testimony it is evident that even those who blaspheme his name must acknowledge that he is God, and the Son of God if indeed they will accredit the words of those whose sentiments coincided with their own.
The Erythræan Sybil, then, who herself assures us that she lived in the sixth generation after the flood, was a priestess of Apollo, who wore the sacred fillet in imitation of the God she served, who guarded also the tripod encompassed with the serpent's folds, and returned prophetic answers to those who approached her shrine; having been devoted by the folly of her parents to this service, a service productive of nothing good or noble, but only of indecent fury, such as we find recorded in the case of Daphne. On one occasion, however, having rushed into the sanctuary of her vain superstition, she became really filled with inspiration from above, and declared in prophetic verses the future purposes of God; plainly indicating the advent of Jesus by the initial letters of these verses, forming an acrostic in these words: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour, Cross.
The verses themselves are as follows:
Judgment! Earth's oozing pores shall mark the day;
Earth's heavenly king his glories shall display:
Sovereign of all, exalted on his throne,
Unnumbered multitudes their God shall own;
Shall see their Judge, with mingled joy and fear,
Crowned with his saints, in human form appear.
How vain, while desolate earth's glories lie,
Riches, and pomp, and man's idolatry!
In that dread hour, when Nature's fiery doom
Startles the slumb'ring tenants of the tomb,
Trembling all flesh shall stand; each secret wile,
Sins long forgotten, thoughts of guilt and guile,
Open beneath God's searching light shall lie:
No refuge then, but hopeless agony.
O'er heaven's expanse shall gathering shades of night
From earth, sun, stars, and moon, withdraw their light;
God's arm shall crush each mountain's towering pride;
On ocean's plain no more shall navies ride.
Dried at the source, no river's rushing sound
Shall soothe, no fountain slake the parched ground.
Around, afar, shall roll the trumpet's blast,
Voice of wrath long delayed, revealed at last.
In speechless awe, while earth's foundations groan,
On judgment's seat earth's kings their God shall own.
Uplifted then, in majesty divine,
Radiant with light, behold Salvation's Sign!
Cross of that Lord, who, once for sinners given,
Reviled by man, now owned by earth and heaven,
O'er every land extends his iron sway.
Such is the name these mystic lines display;
Saviour, eternal king, who bears our sins away.
It is evident that the virgin uttered these verses under the influence of Divine inspiration. And I cannot but esteem her blessed, whom the Saviour thus selected to unfold his gracious purpose towards us.
Many, however, who admit that the Erythræan Sybil was really a prophetess, yet refuse to credit this prediction, and imagine that some one professing our faith, and not unacquainted with the poetic art, was the composer of these verses. They hold, in short, that they are a forgery, and alleged to be the prophecies of the Sybil on the ground of their containing useful moral sentiments, tending to restrain licentiousness, and to lead man to a life of sobriety and decorum. Truth, however, in this case is evident, since the diligence of our countrymen has made a careful computation of the times; so that there is no room to suspect that this poem was composed after the advent and condemnation of Christ, or that the general report is false, that the verses were a prediction of the Sybil in an early age. For it is allowed that Cicero was acquainted with this poem, which he translated into the Latin tongue, and incorporated with his own works. This writer was put to death during the ascendancy of Antony, who in his turn was conquered by Augustus, whose reign lasted fifty-six years. Tiberius succeeded, in whose age it was that the Saviour's advent enlightened the world, the mystery of our most holy religion began to prevail, and as it were a new race of men commenced....
Source: Oration of Emperor Constantine to the Assembly of the Saints, Chs. 18 and 19.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
This glorious virgin and martyr was born in Nicomedia of pagan parents. Hearing the Gospel preached, she turned to Christ with all her heart and began to live in exact observance of the Lord's commandments.
Eleusius, a senator, was her betrothed. In order to turn him away, Juliana told him that she would marry him only if he became the eparch of that city. She suggested this to him, thinking that this young man would never attain such a high position. Nevertheless, Eleusius tried and, by flattery and bribery, attained the post of Eparch of Nicomedia. Juliana then revealed to him that she was a Christian and could not enter into marriage with him until he embraced her Faith, saying: "What does it benefit us to be united physically but divided spiritually?" Embittered by this, Eleusius denounced her to her father.
The enraged father scorned her, beat her, and then handed her over to the eparch for torture. The eparch ordered that they severely beat her, then she was cast into prison, all wounded and bloody. However, the Lord healed her in prison, and she appeared before the eparch completely well. He then threw her into a glowing furnace but the fire did not burn her. Seeing this miracle, many believed in Christ God. Five hundred men and one hundred and thirty women were converted. The eparch condemned them all to death and ordered them all to be beheaded. Thus their souls entered Paradise.
Then the wicked judge condemned holy Juliana to be beheaded. With a joyful spirit, Juliana went out to the place of execution, prayed to God on her knees, and placed her head on the block. Her head was severed and her soul went to the Kingdom of Christ's eternal light in the year 304. God's punishment quickly befell Eleusius: as he was sailing on the sea, his ship broke up and he fell into the water. He did not find death in the water, but swam to an island, where dogs tore him to pieces and devoured him.
A Reflection From Her Life
Whoever climbs to the Kingdom of Christ must encounter obstacles, and these obstacles are numerous and varied. Especially dangerous are the evils of the demons. Therefore, every man zealous for the spiritual life must be especially cautious and not accept every shining vision from the other world as a divine revelation. That even the devil is able to appear as an angel of light is shown in the life of the Holy Martyr Juliana.
When this holy virgin lay in prison, the devil appeared to her in angelic light, and he counseled her to offer sacrifice to the idols so as to end her tortures. The frightened Juliana asked: "Who are you?" The devil replied: "I am an angel of God! God is greatly concerned about you. Therefore, He sent me with the message that you should submit to the eparch, so that your body will not be destroyed by pain; the Lord is gracious and will forgive you because of the weakness of your wounded body."
The martyr was horrified at these words. Confused, she fell down in tears in prayer to God, asking Him to reveal who had spoken with her. Then a voice from heaven came to her: "Be brave, Juliana, I am with you; I give you authority and power over him who came to you, and from him alone will you discover who he is." And the devil was bound and forced to acknowledge that he was the same one who had deceived Eve in Paradise, who had told Cain to murder Abel, Herod to slaughter the children of Bethlehem, the Jews to stone Stephen, Nero to crucify Peter upside down and to behead Paul, and so forth.
Thus, this holy virgin, girded with the power of God, did not allow herself to be deluded by the evil spirit, but she defeated him by her vigilant and ardent prayers to God.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
All-blameless bride and venerable trophy-bearer, you are wedded to the Word of the immortal Father, O glorious Juliana. For having wisely disdained your mortal bridegroom, you strove beyond nature to destroy the serpent, and now you delight in the joys of your Bridegroom!
Kontakion in the First Tone
A comely virgin wast thou, O wise Juliana; and as thy soul was wounded with love for thy Maker thy body was also pierced through with comely martyric wounds, which adorned thee as the bride of Christ and His Martyr; now as thou dost dwell in the bridechambers of Heaven, thou prayest for all of us.
The Holy Martyr Themistocles lived in the city of Myra of Lycia during the reign of the persecutor of Christians, Decius (249-251). Themistocles was a shepherd. During the persecution of the governor Asklepios a certain Christian named Dioskorides went to hide in the mountains when word got out that soldiers were in pursuit of him.
In those mountains Themistocles was tending his sheep when the soldiers inquired where Dioskorides was hiding. Themistocles did not know where he was, but when he heard that he was being pursued for being a Christian he pleaded with the soldiers to leave him be since he also was a Christian and that he would replace him. When the soldiers ordered Themistocles to reveal the whereabouts of Dioskorides or else they would take him, Themistocles responded: "I just finished telling you that I shall go in his place. Whether he or I should go, it is the same, since we are both slaves of Christ and members of His body."
Themistocles was brought before the governor and openly confessed Christ. The executioners then thrashed him in his belly until his inward parts were exposed. He was then suspended on a wooden post and tortured, rejoicing to be suffering like Christ on the Cross. He was then taken down from the post and dragged over iron spikes, during which he gave up his holy soul.
The faithful took up his holy relics and interred them honorably. In the earth surrounding the saint's tomb, his shepherd's staff was planted, and it took root and grew into an almond tree, producing fruit that healed those who came to the saint with faith.
A divine office for Saint Themistocles was composed by the hymnographer Fr. Gerasimos Mikragiannanites in 1966.
Christmas is popularly known as 'Craciun' in Romania. The festival was once observed in the country with much fanfare. But after the surrender of Romania to the USSR during World War II, the country was declared a communist republic in 1947 and its citizens were forced to abandon many of their Christmas traditions. However, the festival has again begun to be observed in the country, since the country regained its independence in 1989. Following the overthrow of the communist regime with army-supported countrywide revolts and the subsequent break of Romania from the Soviet bloc, the country has slowly gone back to many of the earlier ways and traditions. Once again is the Christmas season being observed with joyous celebrations by the citizens of Romania. Young adults are now experiencing the Yuletide traditions they previously heard their parents and grandparents discuss.
Christmas in Romania falls on December 25 and is generally considered one of the most important religious holiday. A very important Christmas custom practiced in Romanian villages is 'Ignatius', the sacrifice of a pig in every house in the honor of Saint Ignatius. A pig is specially chosen for this purpose and fed to make it grow fat, often around 300 pounds. Five days before Christmas, on 20th of December, a very sharp knife is used to cut the throat of the pig. Thissacrificial ceremony is performed in the back yard of houses. Thereafter, the matriarch puts the straws in the pig's snout, covers it with burning straws and singes it. Then, the patriarch makes a sign of the cross on the pig's head and announces to the family - "Let's eat the pig!". Then, a small portion of the pig's meat is immediately fried and a feast is held. All the extended members of the family, friends and neighbors are invited to the feast and the meat is then shared with them, along with bacon and plum brandy. This feast is known as the pig's funeral feast. The 'Ignatius' ceremony is looked down as a barbaric custom in countries like U.S., but Romanians insist that it is performed to ensure that the soul of the pig receives ample gratitude for the nourishment that it provides to all in the family.
But the real celebrations begin with the decoration of the Christmas tree on "Ajunul Craciunului" (Christmas Eve). Fir trees happen to be the main Christmas trees here. Gift exchanges take place in Romania in the evening of Christmas Eve, contrary to the American way of opening gifts on Christmas morning. Romanian children believe that 'Mos Craciun' (the Romanian equivalent of Santa Claus) is the one who delivers them their presents. Unlike in the U.S., the Romanian children do not leave milk and cookies out for 'Mos Craciun'. Economic conditions are harsh in the country and the gifts vary too. While urban children receive expensive gifts and money, those in the villages have to settle with sweets, fruit, nuts, and pastries as Christmas gifts. A common and popular gift is knot-shaped bread, which, in Romania, symbolizes an abundant harvest.
The singing of carols is a very important part of Romanian Christmas festivities. Throughout the Christmas season, little Romanian children (especially those in the villages) visit every house in the locality singing carols such as Steaua ('The Star'), Trei Pastori ('The Three Shepherds') and Mos Craciun ('Santa Claus') and reciting poems and legends tied to the festival. On the first day of Christmas, many carolers walk through the streets of the towns and villages, holding a star made of cardboard and paper on which are depicted various scenes from the Bible. The leader of the group carries a large wooden star called "Steaua", which is wrapped up with metal foil and adorned with bells and coloured ribbons. An image of the Nativity is pasted on the center of the star, and the entire handcraft is attached to the end of a broom or stout pole. The singing is taken up first by young children, then the adolescents and lastly the adults, who join in often after midnight). In return for such performances, carolers recieve apples, nuts, traditional cakes ('cozonaci') and sometimes even money from each house. Romanian folklores abound with Christmas carols which lend a religious mood to the festival. Churches specially organize concerts to celebrate the occassion.
In Romanian familes, all the women cook for three days leading up to 'Craciun'. Christmas dinner in Romania is a rich, multi-course meal. On the top of the menu comes various kinds of pork sausages, along with plum brandy and home made pickles. 'Sarmale' , an indispensable item for the festive dinner, comes next. This dish consists of pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a combination of pork and beef, along with rice, pepper, thyme and other spices. Other dishes to follow are roasted pork and turkey with red wine. The wine is consumed to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The last item is 'cozonaci', a cake filled with nuts and raisins. All the members of the extended family enjoy the feast together.
An old Romanian Christmas Carol. On Christmas Eve, groups of children or men go to the other village houses and sing traditional carols named colinde. These carols have kept until our days the oldest form of the Romanian folk poetry. These songs communicate wishes of health, good harvests, handsome young men and beautiful working girls, marriages, success in various occupations the major problems of the peasant's life.
In Bulgaria there is a common belief that the whole next year is correlated with Christmas Eve; the forthcoming year will be as good as this special evening. Therefore the whole family becomes involved in performing the rituals.
For Orthodox Christians, Christmas comes after 40 days and nights of fasting. The forty-day Advent, started on November 15, finishes on this day. Folk beliefs hold it that the Mother of Jesus began her labors on St. Ignatius’ Day and gave birth to God’s son on Christmas Eve, but that she told of it only on the next day. Throughout the fasting period, Orthodox Bulgarians will avoid alcohol and animal products. Even the festive dinner on the eve of Christmas is vegetarian and includes no meat, cheese, milk, eggs or animal oils.
Bulgaria's Orthodox Church recommends 13 different foods on the Christmas-eve meal (salt, pepper and sugar are seen as separate foods). The foods are vegetable and odd in number for luck. Beans are a traditional Christmas Eve dish in Bulgaria, as families gather that evening to a meatless holiday meal.
This is the most important family event of the year. There are always walnuts on the table. Traditionally, wheat is boiled and dishes such as boiled haricot, leaves stuffed with rice or grouts, and stewed dried fruit are cooked. Wheat grains and the Ignazhden (Saint Ignatius’ Day) kolaks (ring-shaped cake) are also put on the table. After the festive mass starting at 12:00 am on December 25, all should drink a sip of wine so that the divine blessing should come upon them as fasting ends. A place at the table is left vacant for the deceased (relatives or other dear people). The table is not cleared for the night because people believe that the deceased will come to dinner. The return to meat and dairy comes on Christmas day, with, one should hope, a cleansed mind and spirit for the coming year.
At the Christmas Eve table, fortunes are told. To predict what the year is going to be, everyone cracks a walnut. If it is good and delicious, the year is going to be lucky, if the walnut is empty, you can expect a bad year. Predictions are also made for the weather in each month of the New Year, the expected crops, each family member's health, and for the coming marriages of the girls. Christmas Eve requires much time and efforts from each family member. The women-folk arise very early in the morning and are busily preparing the festive meals during the whole day. They spare no pain to be ready with everything and to be able to follow the traditions when Christmas Eve comes. It is believed that the way Christmas Eve goes is the way life during the following year will go. No work is done in the fields; everyone's efforts are home-centered. Certainly, a festival as important as Christmas Eve deserves to be celebrated in the proper manner.
At midnight on Christmas, the koledari (carollers) start their round. Only boys participate as major figures in the ritual known as Koleduvane. Its purpose is to wish health, good luck and fertility to the heads of households, to their houses, livestock, land, etc. The koledari, as those participating in the ritual are called, are divided into two age groups. Each group may consist of 10 or more koledari who divide the homes of their village or neighborhood among themselves to be sure each will be blessed. The preparations include learning of songs and dances, and decorating costumes, which include the kalpaci (fur hats) ornamented with bouquets of boxwood and wild geranium, carved wooden staffs, yamurluci (hooded cloaks) which are made to size, sandals, and new fancy leggings. The magnificent embroidery on the white shirts is especially beautiful.
The koledari songs are characteristically lively, happy and festive, and are performed antiphonally. The group divides into two subgroups, then one group begins, and the second group repeats what the first group has just sung. The songs can be divided into several themes: those which are sung on the road from one house to another, those which are sung while entering or leaving a house, those devoted to the head of the house, those for the women, those for small children, those for unmarried girls, those for soldiers, those for the livestock, those for the fertility of the fields, and so on. At the end of the performance, the head of the household gives stedro (from his heart) - so called Koledni gevreci (round buns), banitsa (a multi-layered pastry filled with bulgarian cheese (sirene), fruits, walnuts, popcorn and other traditional delicacies.
Today, Christmas is still a very special family holiday in modern Bulgaria. In the cities, the koledari tradition is not followed as strictly as in the villages. However, city dwellers should not be surprised if kids (survakarcheta) knock on the door after midnight on Christmas to sing a song, wishing happiness, love, health and wealth during the coming year.
December 26 is celebrated as the second day of Christmas in Bulgaria. It is officially a non-working day. It is a day to pay tribute to Jesus' mother Virgin Mary. Bulgarians believe that Virgin Mary will bring their prayers to Jesus, as she is His closest person.
Two Bulgarian Christmas songs. The first is called "A Young Girls is Sweeping the Courtyard". It is performed by Daniel Spassov and Milen Ivanov. The second one is called "The Mother of God is in Labour Pains". It is performed by the American choir Kitka.
A Bulgarian Christmas feast.
Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana and Bishop Vikentios of Apameia have been officially suspended as abbot and deputy abbot of the St. Irene Chrysovalantou Sacred and Patriarchal Monastery in Astoria, NY. On December 17th it was also decided by the Ecumenical Patriarchate that they are both suspended from every clerical duty pending the outcome of an investigation concerning alleged sexual and financial misconduct.
Both Metropolitan Paisios and Bishop Vikentios have been instructed by the Holy Synod to remain outside of the United States from hereon in. According to The National Herald, if either of them defies the decision or attempts to involve themselves in the affairs of the monastery or the Church in general, they will be subject to punishments foreseen by canon law.
The decision was made at a meeting of the Holy and Great Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on Thurs. Dec. 2, 2010, following a report submitted by a patriarchal delegation which had come to investigate the monastery last month.
Bishop Ilia of Philomelion was named acting abbot while a group of three monks have been sent from Mt. Athos to man the monastery. These three monks will remain at the monastery for about a month in order to offer confession to the people and help refocus the monastery. The three monks are Archimandrite Hierotheos who heads the Athonias Ecclesiastical Academy and serves as Chancelor of the Metropolis of Patras, Archimandrite David who is the elder of the Holy Cell of the Archangels in Karyes under the Monastery of Hilandari, and Hieromonk Philimonas of the Holy Monastery of Stavronikita. According to reports, the Holy Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou will likely become a brotherhood with Athonite monks.
Monday, December 20, 2010
"Thou, Who art the God of peace and the Father of compassion, didst send unto us the Angel of Thy great Counsel, granting us peace."
The Angel of the pre-eternal Counsel of the Holy Trinity comes to the earth. This is not an ordinary messenger; it is the Only-begotten Son of God Himself. He brings peace to men. "Peace be unto you," he said more than once to His disciples. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," He says to the apostles at the Mystical Supper, "not as the world giveth, give I unto you." And appearing after His Resurrection, again He says: "Peace be unto you." "For he is our peace," the Holy Apostle Paul says concerning Him: "He came to the earth to reconcile man unto God by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby. And having come, He preached peace to those afar off and to those near, because through Him we both have access unto the Father."
The wall that separated heaven and earth is destroyed; the sword that barred the way to the Tree of Life disappears. Unto man that had sinned comes his Creator, calling him into His embrace! By the mouths of the apostles, the Holy Spirit cries out: "In Christ, be ye reconciled to God." You that had sinned came not to God, but the Son of God, before Whom you sinned, came to you! He calls everyone to Himself; He gives forgiveness to everyone who merely thirsts for this. For without the desire of man himself, without at least his little effort, God's peace cannot settle in him. The Lord forces no one to come to Him, but calls everyone: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Come all ye who are heavy laden with sins, who are exhausted from your labors and who do not find rest! You shall find that inner peace, which you will find nothing on earth more desirable than. The soul will feel unearthly peace and joy.
The Magi who worshipped the Babe experienced that joy; the shepherds, finding Him lying in a manger, also felt it. But neither peace nor joy touched the heart of Herod and those who wanted to destroy the Babe. For evil desire and malice are incompatible with inner peace. And whoever does not have inner peace, also sows strife and malice about.
The Church now calls us to meet Christ Who comes from heaven. What can we do in order to meet Him like the Magi, and not like Herod? "Ye that desire life, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking guile. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." It tends to be hard to do this; we are weak when it comes to everything good. But the Son of God even came for this: in order to strengthen us. Not for naught was He born in Bethlehem, which signifies "house of bread." He feeds us with heavenly food, His flesh. "God, the Lord and Creator of all, as a babe in the flesh, is worshipped in a poor manger, crying out: 'Eat My body and through faith be made steadfast.'" These words of the divine Babe are directed to us. Let us hearken to His call! Let us follow the Magi; let us hasten with the shepherds! Our churches are now that cave of Bethlehem. Not illusory, but in reality does He, Who is now being born in His most pure flesh, rest in them. Let us worship Him; let us offer as a gift our thoughts and desires; let us confess our sins, and let us taste of His immaculate Body and Blood. Whoever did not do this earlier, let him at least accomplish it now, when the star of Bethlehem is already shining! Our minds will be enlightened and the heart will hear:
"Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will among men!"
Holy Synod of Bishops at the meeting held on 16th of December this year, addressed the Church and the general public, regarding the anti-church conduct of the former Bishop of Raška and Prizren, now monk Artemije, with the following statement:
1. As is known the Holy Assembly of Bishops at its May session this year, on the basis of a written document related to the proved canonical delicts, permanently and irrevocably dismissed Bishop Artemije from the duty of the Bishop of Raška and Prizren, which he himself accepted and agreed to live at Sisatovac monastery upon his release. Regrettably, from September and October this year, Bishop Artemije in his letters to the Holy Synod expressed his "regret" for accepting the synodal decision, claiming, contrary to common sense, that he was "a lifelong Bishop of Raška and Prizren". This was a reason for the Holy Synod to place him under censure until the next regular session of this year's Holy Assembly of Bishops in November.
Instead of asking from the Assembly the forgiveness for his delicts and violations of the canonical order of the Church, so that his censure could be lifted, Bishop Artemije in a violent manner, with a group of his followers, who had also been censured after ecclesiastical court proceedings, tried to usurp the monasteries and entire Raška and Prizren Diocese, beginning his lawless act by uncanonical and unconstitutional serving of the Liturgy in the monastery of Duboki potok, though still under a censure. In addition, using a counterfeit seal, he began to issue anti-canonical decisions in the Diocese of Raška and Prizren.
All this was happening while the Holy Assembly was in session, so the Bishops, with deep regret, were forced to deprive the former Bishop of Raška and Prizren Bishop Artemije of his episcopal rank and return him to the order of a monk. The unlawful Liturgy and participation in it, as well as other, additional reasons also contributed to the decision of the Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese of Raška and Prizren to laicize seventeen hierodeacons and hieromonks, the followers of Artemije. Instead of soberness and repentance, monk Artemije and his laicized followers continued to "serve the Liturgy" in the usurped church of Saint John the Baptist (the Diocese of Žiča), which they turned into "a monastery", thus adding iniquity to iniquity.
2. These were the reasons why the Holy Synod was obliged to inform the public that such conduct its former Bishop of Raška and Prizren not only found himself on the path of a schism but literally created his own sect, the sect of "Artemians", the first of its kind in the history of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Without losing hope and calling him to repentance, the Holy Synod responsibly brings to the attention of all the clergy and faithful people of St. Sava's Church that " the Liturgy" of former bishop Artemije and his supporters, who have all been dismissed from the clerical state, is not the Holy Liturgy, their "communion" is not the sacred Communion, their "mysteries" are not the holy mysteries of the Church of God, and that all they do serves the spiritual ruin to them and those who follow them and participate in their gatherings and worship. Claiming to serve God, they in fact under the guise of defense of Orthodoxy work on destruction of the unity of the Church of Christ, separating themselves in a sectarian way from her living and salvific Community and depriving themselves and others of eternal salvation. Therefore, all those who still follow them naively should think again whom and what they are following, separating themselves from the Church of Christ, and bringing on themselves and their children the sectarian curse.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
This holy man is called "the God-bearer" because he constantly bore the name of the Living God in his heart and on his lips. According to tradition, he was thus named because he was held in the arms of God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. On a day when the Lord was teaching His disciples humility, He took a child and placed him among them, saying: "Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:4). This child was Ignatius.
Later, Ignatius was a disciple of St. John the Theologian, together with Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. As Bishop of Antioch, Ignatius governed the Church of God as a good shepherd and was the first to introduce antiphonal chanting in the Church, in which two choirs alternate the chanting. This manner of chanting was revealed to St. Ignatius by the angels in heaven.
When Emperor Trajan was passing through Antioch on his way to do battle with the Persians, he heard of Ignatius, summoned him and counseled him to offer sacrifice to the idols. If Ignatius would do so, Trajan would bestow upon him the rank of senator. As the counsels and threats of the emperor were in vain, St. Ignatius was shackled in irons and sent to Rome in the company of ten merciless soldiers, to be thrown to the wild beasts.
Ignatius rejoiced in suffering for his Lord, only praying to God that the wild beasts would become the tomb for his body and that no one would prevent him from this death. After a long and difficult journey from Asia through Thrace, Macedonia and Epirus, Ignatius arrived in Rome, where he was thrown to the lions in the circus. The lions tore him to pieces and devoured him, leaving only several of the larger bones and his heart. This glorious lover of the Lord Christ suffered in the year 106 in Rome at the time of the Christ-hating Emperor Trajan. Ignatius has appeared many times from the other world and worked miracles, even to this day helping all who call upon him for help.
A Reflection From His Life
The holy martyrs, seized with the love of Christ, were like unquenchable flames. This love eased their sufferings and made their deaths sweet. St. Chrysostom says of St. Ignatius: "He put off his body with as much ease as one takes off his clothes."
Traveling to Rome to his death, Ignatius feared only one thing: that Christians would somehow prevent his martyrdom for Christ, by their prayers to God or in some outward manner. Therefore he continually implored them, in writing and in speech, not to do this. "Forgive me," he said. "I know what is for my benefit. I but begin to be a disciple of Christ when I desire nothing, either visible or invisible, save to attain Christ. May every diabolical torture come upon me: fire, crucifixion, wild beasts, the sword, tearing asunder, the crushing of my bones, and the dismemberment of my whole body - only that I may receive Jesus Christ. It is better for me to die for Christ than to reign to the ends of the earth…. My love is nailed to the Cross, and there is no fire of love in me for any earthly thing."
When he was brought to the circus, he turned to the people with these words: "Citizens of Rome, know that I am not being punished for any crime, neither have I been condemned to death for any transgression, but rather for the sake of my God, by Whose love I am overcome and Whom I insatiably desire. I am His wheat, and the teeth of the wild beasts will grind me to be His pure bread."
When he had been devoured by the wild beasts, by God's providence his heart remained among the bones. When the unbelievers cut open the saint's heart, they saw inside, inscribed in golden letters, the name "Jesus Christ".
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer
O Hierarch of Christ, wonderful and exemplary,
O gracious Hierarch, not an adversary of God,
Not from among the opponents of God, who killed Christ,
But from among the God-bearers, who loved Christ -
Holy Ignatius, God-bearing man,
You do we glorify; of you we are proud.
Emperor Trajan offered you titles and honors,
If only you would bow down before the idols.
You amazed the emperor, for you did not consent
To betray the Lord, not for the entire kingdom.
Instead, you went joyfully to death, O God-bearing Father;
For that we glorify you; of you we are proud.
Thrown before wild beasts, quietly you wait.
Rome seeks amusement; they toy with you!
"I am God's wheat!" you exclaimed there.
"The beasts shall grind me, to become good bread!"
And now, where is Trajan? But you are an inhabitant of heaven.
You are a hymn to the angels, and to us a teacher.
Holy Ignatius, you who bore God,
Entreat God to grant us the Bread of Life!
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Ignatius. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
The divine and brilliant day of thine illustrious contests doth proclaim to all mankind Him that was born of a Virgin; for it was for Him that thou didst thirst to delight in, and didst haste to be devoured by beasts in thy longing. Hence, O glorious Ignatius, the name God-bearer was rightly given to thee.