Thursday, January 6, 2011
It is a common practice for Orthodox to bless water not only in church on Theophany, but to go to their nearest local body of water or even well and bless those waters also. The blessing is normally done twice: once on the Eve of the Feast — usually at a Baptismal font inside the church — and then again on the day of the feast, outdoors at a body of water. Following the Divine Liturgy, the clergy and people go in a Crucession (procession with the Cross) to the nearest body of water, be it a beach, harbor, quay, river, lake, swimming pool, water depot, etc. (ideally, it should be a body of "living water"). At the end of the ceremony the priest will bless the waters. In the Greek practice, he does this by casting a cross into the water. If swimming is feasible on the spot, any number of volunteers may try to recover the cross. The person who gets the cross first swims back and returns it to the priest, who then delivers a special blessing to the swimmer and their household. Certain such ceremonies have achieved particular prominence, such as the one held annually at Tarpon Springs, Florida. In Russia, where the winters are severe, a hole will be cut into the ice so that the waters may be blessed. In such conditions, the cross is not cast into the water, but is held securely by the priest and dipped three times into the water. The water that is blessed on this day is known as "Theophany Water" and is taken home by the faithful, and used with prayer as a blessing. People will not only bless themselves and their homes by sprinkling with Theophany Water, but will also drink it. The Orthodox Church teaches that Theophany Water differs from regular holy water in that with Theophany Water, the very nature of the water is changed and becomes incorrupt, a miracle attested to as early as St. John Chrysostom (Homily on Christian Baptism in P.G., XLIX, 363).
Most of these articles are in Greek, but are accompanied with pictures.
See also: Theophany 2010: The Orthodox World Celebrates
1. Theophany at the Phanar in Constantinople and the Cross throwing in the Golden Horn which was banned by the Turks for many years but restored into pratice 9 years ago. See two videos below and read here.
2. Theophany in Tarpon Springs, Florida where its 105th celebration took place and 78 young men jumped into the waters. 105 doves were released in honor of the 105 years of celebration in Tarpon Springs. See more in the videos below. Read more here and see two videos below.
3. Theophany in Khartoum, Sudan was celebrated by Metropolitan Emmanuel at the Annunciation Church.
4. Theophany in Oropos, Greece
5. Theophany in Austria (which in the 300 year history of Orthodoxy in Austria, the Cross throwing ceremony has taken place for the past 5 years in a row in the waters of the Danube in Vienna).
6. Theophany in Messolonghi, Greece where Metropolitan Kosmas of Aitolia preached the following in the Cathedral of St. Spyridon: "Today, the day of Theophany, we contemporary Christians must believe stronger in the Holy Trinity. We must bring the Holy Trinity into our lives, to bring the Holy Spirit that He may illumine us by His Grace, then all will be blessed in our lives."
7. Theophany in Kyparissia, Greece where Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Trifylia gave the winner of the cross throw in the cold waters a gift of a golden cross.
8. Theophany in Kastoria, Greece where two cross throwing ceremonies took place - one at lakeside area of "Stavros" where five children dove for the cross, and one at the Monastery of Panagia Mavriotissa which was established in 1080 AD and next to which other children dove for the cross.
9. Theophany in Langadas, Greece where there were two cross throwing ceremonies and both winners received as gifts a golden cross and a diptych icon of Christ and the Virgin Mary, while the rest of the divers received icons of Panagia of Tinos.
10. Theophany in Igoumenitsa, Greece
11. Theophany at the Patriarchate of Alexandria where Patriarch Theodoros is the only Patriarch that has been able to convince the Egyptian government to allow for the Cross throwing ceremony to take place in public for the past six years. Despite the recent attacks on New Years against the Copts by the Muslims in Egypt, the Patriarch expressed his sorrow while also emphasizing the good relationship between Greece and Egypt as well as Muslims and Christians in the region.
12. Theophany in Cyprus was celebrated in all its free area, with the cross throwing ceremonies taking place in the major harborside cities such as Lemessol, Larnaka, Paphos, and Agia Napa.
13. Theophany in Volos, Greece
14. Theophany in Tripoli, Lybia
15. Theophany in Eleftheroupolis, Greece
16. Theophany in Rhodes, Greece where at the cross throwing ceremony a professor of Aegean University retrieved the cross. See more in the video below.
17. Theophany in Piraeus, Greece was celebrated by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece in the presence of many politicians of Greece.
18. Theophany in Serres, Greece
19. Theophany in Corinth, Greece where over forty divers tried to retrieve the cross.
20. Theophany in Thessaloniki, Greece where there were over twenty divers, two of whom were girls.
21. Theophany in Timisoara, Romania had an interesting ceremony take place when the huge reservoir supplying the city of 300,000 was blessed so the holy water can be supplied by tap.
22. Theophany in Kalymnos, Greece. In the video below the Divine Liturgy at Holy Trinity Church in Vathi is shown together with the cross throwing ceremony and the procession to the sea.
23. Theophany in Florina, Greece
24. Theophany in Hong Kong
25. Theophany in Adelide, Australia
26. Theophany in Kefallonia, Greece
27. Theophany in Kalamata, Greece
28. Theophany in Bowling Green, Kentucky
29. Theophany in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania
30. Theophany in Sugar House Park, Utah
31. Theophany in Bavaria
32. Theophany in Glyfada, Greece
33. Theophany in Mantineia, Greece
34. Theophany in Ermoupoli, Greece
35. Theophany in Frankston & Rye, Australia
36. Theophany in Elia, Mykonos
37. Theophany in Geneva, Switzerland
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
When our Lord reached thirty years from His physical birth, He began His teaching and salvific work. He Himself signified this "beginning of the beginning" by His baptism in the Jordan river.
St. Cyril of Jerusalem says, "The beginning of the world - water; the beginning of the Good News - Jordan." At the time of the baptism of the Lord in water, that mystery was declared to the world: that mystery which was prophesied in the Old Testament; the mystery about which in ancient Egypt and India was only fabled; i.e., the mystery of the Divine Holy Trinity.
The Father was revealed to the sense of hearing; the Spirit was revealed to the sense of sight, and in addition to these, the Son was revealed to the sense of touch. The Father uttered His witness about the Son, the Son was baptized in the water, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove hovered above the water. When John the Baptist witnessed and said about Christ, "Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29), and when John immersed and baptized the Lord in the Jordan, the mission of Christ in the world and the path of our salvation was shown. That is to say: The Lord took upon Himself the sins of mankind and died under them [immersion] and became alive again [the coming out of the water]; and we must die as the old sinful man and become alive again as cleansed, renewed and regenerated. This is the Savior and this is the path of salvation.
The Feast of the Epiphany [Theophany in Greek] is also called the Feast of Illumination. For us, the event in the Jordan river illuminates, by manifesting to us God as Trinity, consubstantial and undivided. That is one way. And, the second: everyone of us through baptism in water is illumined by this, that we become adopted by the Father of Lights through the merits of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit.
HYMN OF PRAISE: THE HOLY TRINITY
O, Holy Lord, holy in creating,
All that You create by Your Word, by Your Spirit You consecrate.
O, Mighty Lord, mighty in suffering,
For the world You walk to Your death; for the world, You resurrect.
Immortal Lord, in voice, we praise You;
Father, Son, Holy Spirit - God, have mercy on us!
The Father, Who appeared over Jordan as a Voice,
The Spirit, Who as a White Dove hovered,
The Son, Who by the Prophet John was baptized,
Three rays of light, one light shown,
The Trinity manifested, we praise You in voice:
Father, Son, Holy Spirit - God, have mercy on us!
On the Mystery of the Divine Trinity
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth, the spirit and the water and the blood: and these three are together" (I John 5: 7-8).
When we read Holy Scripture, we should be alert to keep an eye on every word. To the rapid reader, for example, this distinction which the Evangelist draws between the Heavenly Trinity and the earthly trinity will not become apparent. Concerning the Heavenly Trinity, he says, "And these three are one;" and concerning the earthly trinity, he says, "And these three are together." There is an enormous difference between "being one" and "being together." The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are One, whereas the spirit, water and blood are only together and are not one. Even enemies could be together as one, but are not one. All the people on earth are together, but they are not one. Water and blood constitute the body and the spirit is the spirit. "For the flesh has desires against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17). However, they are not one, but they are still together. When man dies the union is broken apart and ceases to exist. Blood and water go to one side and the spirit goes to another side. Whereas the [Heavenly] Divine Trinity in the heavens not only are they together but they are also one.
There is also another trinity in the inner heaven of man which should be, not only a unity, but a oneness so that man could be blessed in this world and in the other world. That is the union of the mind, heart and will. As long as these three are only in togetherness, man will be at war with himself and with the Heavenly Trinity. However, when these three become one, so that neither one rules and that neither one is enslaved, then man becomes filled with "the peace of God that surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), man's every word, every explanation, every fear and every sorrow. Then the small heaven in man begins to resemble that great heaven of God, and the "image and likeness of God" becomes apparent in man.
O Triune God, help us to resemble, at least, those who resemble You. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
This clip is from the 1953 film "Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef" which features the diving for the cross ceremony in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
Priest: O Trinity, transcendent in essence, in goodness and in divinity, O Almighty, invisible and incomprehensible, who watch over all, O Creator of intelligent essences, of natures endowed with speech, O Goodness of utter and unapproachable brilliance, who enlighten every person who comes into the world: enlighten me also, your unworthy servant! Illuminate the eyes of my mind, that I may venture to praise your immeasurable goodness and your might; may the prayer that I offer be acceptable for the people here present. Let not my sins prevent the descent of the Holy spirit upon this place, but permit me now without condemnation to cry out to You, O all-good Lord, and to say: We glorify You, O Master and Lover of Mankind, Almighty King before eternity! We glorify You, Creator and Maker of all! We glorify You, only-begotten Son, who have no father with your Mother, and no mother with your Father.
In the preceding feast, we have seen You as a child, and in this present feast we see You as a perfect Man, O our perfect God, appearing out of Perfection: for today we have attained the time of feasting, and the ranks of saints have joined us, and the angels celebrate together with men; today the grace of the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon the waters; today there shines the Sun that never sets, and the world is sparkling with the light of the Lord; today the moon shines upon the world with the brightness of its rays; today the glittering stars adorn the universe with the radiance of their twinkling; today the clouds from heaven shed upon man a shower of justice; today the Uncreated One willingly permits the hands of his creature to be laid upon Him, today the Prophet and Forerunner comes close to the Master, and he stands in awe, a witness of the condescension of God towards us; today through the presence of the Lord the waters of the Jordan River are changed into remedies; today the whole universe is refreshed with mystical streams; today the sins of mankind are blotted out by the waters of the Jordan River; today paradise has been opened to mankind, and the Sun of righteousness has shone upon us; today the bitter water, as once with Moses and the people of Israel, is changed into sweetness by the presence of the Lord; today we are delivered from the ancient mourning, and, like a new Israel, we are saved; today we escape from darkness and, through the light of the knowledge of God, we are illumined; today the darkness of the world vanishes with the appearing of our God; today the whole creation is brightened from on high; today errors are canceled, and a way of salvation is prepared for us by the coming of the Lord; today the heavenly dwellers rejoice with those of the earth, and the dwellers of the earth with those of heaven; today the noble and eloquent assembly rejoices, the assembly of those of the true faith; today the Lord comes to be baptized, so that mankind may be lifted up; today the One who never has to bow inclines Himself before his servant so that He may set us free from bondage; today we have acquired the kingdom of heaven: for the Lord's kingdom shall have no end.
Today the land and the sea divide between them the joy of the world, and the world is filled with gladness. The waters saw You, O God, the waters saw You and shuddered; the Jordan River turns back its course as it beholds the fire of the Godhead coming down upon it and entering it in the flesh; the Jordan River turns back its course as it beholds the Holy Spirit descending in the form f a dove, and hovering above it; the Jordan River turns back its course as it beholds the Invisible made visible, the Creator existing in the flesh, and the Master in the form of a servant; the Jordan River turns back its course, and the mountains shout with glee as they behold God in the flesh. And the clouds give voice, and are filled with awe by the One who is coming, Light of light, true God of true God; for today in the Jordan River they saw the triumph of the Master; they saw Him drown in the Jordan River the death of sin, the thorn of error, and the bond of Hades, and bestow upon the world the baptism of salvation. So also am I, your unworthy and sinful servant, encompassed by fear as I proclaim your great wonders; and I cry out reverently to You, and say:
The priest then says in a louder voice:
GREAT ARE YOU, O LORD, AND MARVELOUS ARE YOUR WORKS AND NO WORD IS SUFFICIENT TO PRAISE YOUR MARVELS (3X).
For by your divine will You brought forth all things out of nothing into being; by your might you control all creation; by your providence You govern the universe, O You who made the whole world out of four elements and crowned the cycle of the year with four seasons.
The immaterial powers tremble before You; the sun praises You; the moon glorifies You; the stars bless You; the light obeys You; the tempests tremble, and the springs adore You. You have spread out the heavens like a tent-cloth; You fixed the earth upon the waters; You have walled about the sea with sand; You let the air flow about for our breathing. The angelic powers minister to You; the ranks of archangels worship You; the many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim, standing around You and flying about You, hide their faces in fear of your unapproachable glory. And You, O God, while remaining boundless, without beginning, and beyond all words deigned to come down upon earth, to assume the likeness of a servant, and to become like man. Because of your compassionate mercy, O Master, You were unable to endure and to behold the race of mankind under the tyranny of the devil. Consequently, You have come to save us. We acknowledge your grace. We proclaim your mercy, and we do not conceal your gracious acts. You have set mankind free; by your birth You have sanctified the Virgin's womb; and since your manifestation all creation praises You. For You, O our God, have appeared on earth and have dwelt among men. You sanctified the waters of the Jordan by sending down your Holy Spirit from heaven, and you have crushed the heads of the dragons who lurk there.
The Priest makes the sign of the Cross over the water three times, each time saying:
THEREFORE, O KING AND LOVER OF MANKIND, ALSO BE PRESENT NOW THROUGH THE DESCENT OF YOUR HOLY SPIRIT AND SANCTIFY THIS WATER (3X).
And give to it the grace of redemption and the blessing of the Jordan. Make it a source of incorruptibility, a gift of sanctification, a remission of sins, a remedy for sickness, a destruction of demons, inaccessible to the adverse powers, and filled with the might of your angels, so that all who drink and receive of it may be blessed in their souls and bodies, healed of their sufferings, sanctified in their homes, and may receive every befitting grace.
~ For You are our God, who, with water and the Spirit, restored our nature made old by sin.
~ You are our God, who drowned sin in the waters at the time of Noah.
~ You are our God, who in the sea, and at the hands of Moses, delivered the Hebrews from the bondage of Pharaoh.
~ You are our God who cleaved the rock in the wilderness, so that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed, and your thirsty people were satisfied.
~ You are our God who, with fire and water and at the hands of Elijah, delivered Israel from the errors of Baal.
THEREFORE, O MASTER, SANCTIFY THIS WATER BY YOUR HOLY SPIRIT (3X).
Grant sanctification, blessing, cleansing and health to all those who touch it, and to those upon whom it is poured, and to those who receive of it.
Save, O Lord, your servants, our public authorities (3X).
Keep them under your protection in peace; subdue under their feet every enemy and adversary; grant them the means of salvation and eternal life, so that your all-holy name may be glorified by the elements, by the angels, by men, by visible and invisible creatures, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and for ever and ever.
January 5, 2011
The Huffington Post
Today, January 6, Orthodox Christians celebrate another of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Christian Church -- the Theophany, or, as it is also called, the Epiphany. It is the day that Jesus is baptized in the River Jordan by the holy prophet and "forerunner" John, the day that Jesus of Nazareth, stepson of the aging carpenter Joseph, is revealed also to be the Christ, the Son of the eternal God.
That's pretty big talk, admittedly. Still, it is a vision that we are pleased to affirm, and (here's one additional mystery) it is something that by thus affirming we gradually come to behold. As with many beauties, this is apprehended only by those who are willing to see.
Early on, both the Nativity of Christ and the Theophany were celebrated on this same day, Jan. 6, but in the 4th Century the feasts were separated and the Christmas celebration was moved to December 25th, a day on which the pagans -- as Metropolitan Hierotheos has written -- "celebrated the sun god, and the Christians the Sun of Righteousness," the Light of the world.
Historically, the Forerunner John -- that famous wild man who lived on nuts and wild honey, and dressed in camel hair -- was in the habit of calling errant Jews to repentance, and a good many of them were pleased to receive his words. He also baptized them, as a performance of the new birth and new life to which they were committing themselves. While he was going about it, this same John was also in the habit of quoting Scripture, in particular the following passage from the Prophet Isaiah:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'
The four Evangelists' accounts of the event are found in Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:32-34, and each of their stories goes pretty much like this passage according to Saint Matthew:
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and You are coming to me?' But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John allowed Him.
This is when the story becomes very, very good. And, in case you had wondered, this is where our larger story also bears, for Orthodox Christians, both the revelation of Jesus as the Christ and the implication of the mystery at the center of our specifically Trinitarian Faith, alluding as it does to One God in Three Persons.
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying 'This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.'
The troparion sung during our celebration of the feast indicates how we have come to appreciate this curious phenomenon:
When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest,
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son,
While the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!
Perhaps of increased importance, as well -- and surely of some interest even to those who do not share our faith -- this is the Great Feast when our minds are most directed to the sanctification of the earth itself, and to the healing, the recovery of the stuff of our creation. This is when we celebrate what we call "The Great Blessing of the Waters."
Following further prophetic readings from Isaiah and the accounts of the Gospels, our priest plunges the holy cross into a basin of water, three times, each time entreating the Lord -- who blessed the waters of the Jordan by entering into it -- to hear our prayer:
Incline your ear and hear us, Lord, who accepted to be baptized in Jordan and to sanctify the waters, and bless us all, who signify our calling as servants by the bending of our necks. And count us worthy to be filled with your sanctification through the partaking and sprinkling of this water. And let it be for us, Lord, for healing of soul and body.
For you are the sanctification of our souls and bodies, and to you we give glory, thanksgiving and worship, with your Father who is without beginning, and your All-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.
We repeat, at this time, the troparion above, and follow that hymn with this brief, but rich kontakion.
Today You have shown forth to the world, O Lord, and the light of Your countenance has been marked on us. Knowing You, we sing Your praises. You have come and revealed Yourself, O unapproachable Light.
I am often asked what it is that distinguishes early Eastern Christianity -- that is, Orthodoxy -- from most other expressions of the Christian Faith. My sense of that distinction is simple but profound: the Orthodox Church is all about healing, it is about the recovery of that divinity -- His very countenance -- that has been marked on us. Orthodoxy teaches us that this healing begins with the soul, extends to the body, and extends to all creation. We are not about spiritual transcendence of the material world, but about re-infusing that world with His Life-giving Spirit. This recovery is what is figured -- is physically performed -- by the particular baptism we celebrate today.
A blessed Theophany to all!
This is a scene from the Greek comedy "Mantalena" released in 1960. Aliki Vougiouklaki, the famous Greek actress, gets the Cross at the Theophany ceremony, the celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ, where people dive to recover the cross. Aliki wins with a little help from the priest played masterfully by Pantelis Zervos. Walter Lassaly was the cinematographer, Giorgos Roussos wrote the story and Dinos Dimopoulos directed.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
On my last trip to Mount Athos I visited the Monastery of Simonopetra. It is a majestic monastery and the sky was fully blue. There I met a graceful novice monk from China. In truth, he surprised me by his presence. An Orthodox rason on a Chinese man? I was moved somewhat. I had never seen this before up close, only in pictures of missions. An inheritor of a great cultural tradition and for him to embrace Christianity? My friends and I got curious to ask him about this.
"Brother, how did you, a Chinese man, embrace Orthodox Christian monasticism coming from such a great cultural tradition? Were you a Buddhist?"
"Yes, of course, I was a Buddhist."
"What won you over to Christianity?"
"Yes, yes, Father, hahahahaha!", he laughed, since with every three words the Chinese seem to laugh at two. "In Buddhism, my Father, you are very very much alone. There is no God. Your entire struggle is with yourself. You are alone with yourself, with your ego. You are totally alone in this path. Great loneliness Father. But here you have an assistant, a companion and a fellow-traveler in God. You are not alone. You have someone who loves you, who cares about you. He cares even if you don't understand Him. You speak with Him. You tell Him how you feel, what you would have hoped for - there is a relationship. You are not alone in the difficult struggles of life and spiritual perfection.
I realized things in those days. A severe cold bound me to bed. No doctor could find anything wrong with me. The clinical picture was clear, at least the doctors couldn't see anything. The pain was unbearable and there was absolutely no pain killer that could stop it. I changed three different pain killers and still the pain was not alleviated.
At this time I got the news that the brother of my father, whose name I bear, had an advanced form of cancer in the vocal cords and larynx. He had a largyngectomy. It was the result of chronic alcohol consumption and smoking. Generally he lived a bad life, without any quality.
Then I felt something a former Buddhist and now a Christian monk on Mount Athos told me, that you need to have a God you can talk to; to perceive and to feel someone besides yourself Who hears you.
I don't know if it's wrong or right. I only know it is a deep need of man. This is evidenced by life itself. Even these Buddhists, who are from a non-theistic religion, created various deities. Even in dream language and worlds. But they have a need to refer to someone, to something, someone beyond and outside themselves, even if it's dreamy. Besides, reality and truth is something very relevant and will always remain so. It is an enigma, a mystery."
At this I remembered the words of Saint Gregory the Theologian, who had a sensitive and melancholic nature, when he said: "When you are not well, or not feeling so, speak. Speak even if it is to the wind."
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
January 4, 2011
On New Years Day, residents of Beebe, Ark., awoke to find some 5,000 dead blackbirds strewn across roads, lawns and rooftops. Three days later, 125 miles from Beebe, thousands of fish were found dead on riverbanks and floating along the Arkansas River. And Tuesday, the bodies of 500 redwing blackbirds, European starlings and cowbirds were found along a stretch of highway near Baton Rouge, La., after plummeting to their death.
All three mass die-offs are a mystery, but despite the proximity, they don't appear to be linked, scientists say.
So how unusual are these events?
LeAnn White, a wildlife disease specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said bird kills occur more frequently than the public realizes. The USGS database contains at least 16 cases in the last 20 years of large numbers of blackbirds dying in contained areas.
"We just think it's a rather strange coincidence," she said.
The most likely explanation for what caused the birds to plunge from the Arkansas sky is sudden trauma. Roosting birds probably panicked at the sound of holiday fireworks, flew into a frenzy and then crashed into each other at high speeds, scientists say. White said the Louisiana birds probably flew into a power line.
"Blackbirds will naturally, at this time of year, spend the night in large roosts, in thousands," said Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation. "If they are frightened, which easily could be the case with fireworks, they could panic." And birds colliding at 40 miles per hour could easily kill each other.
Plus, preliminary reports released Monday by the Livestock and Poultry Commission Veterinary Diagnostic Lab show blood clots and internal bleeding in many of the birds, indicating that trauma had occurred before the fall. "These are not just dead birds lying on the ground," Inkley said. "These are damaged, dead birds lying on the ground."
The fish kill may be even more mysterious. Frank Leone, a fisheries management biologist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission arrived at the bank of the Arkansas River after dark on Dec 29 to find nearly 2,000 freshwater drum fish washed up on a small stretch of sand and rocks. The next morning, on the main river channel, they found scores of fish floating dead in the main river channel.
"I knew then that it was a bigger kill than what we'd thought the night before," Leone said.
Scientists estimate that about 83,000 fish died along a 17-mile stretch of the Arkansas River, a kill bigger than any Leone has seen in his 10 years as a local biologist. Chris Racey, the commission's assistant chief of fisheries, also characterized the magnitude of the die-off as fairly rare.
But Inkley says that fish kills are more common than many realize and often human-caused.
Common culprits include toxic chemicals released into rivers and overfertilization, usually from farm runoff, he says. Both can cause oxygen depletion and dead zones in rivers and oceans. But such pollution would impact more than one fish, and in this case, 99 percent of the fish found dead were drum fish, with an occasional yellow bass, white bass and sauger fish affected.
Samples have been sent to the lab for analysis, and while results from the necropsies won't be complete for another three weeks, disease is considered a top contender. "Many diseases are host-specific, so it's a reasonable speculation on the part of the agencies," Inkley says.
Drum fish are bottom feeders; they feed on mollusks, mussels and aquatic insects. The average adult size ranges from 12 to 20 inches, and while most weigh in at about 33 pounds, they've been known to get much bigger. A 45-pounder was caught once in 2004.
"We're running a gamut of tests on the fish," Racey said. "I think the diagnostics we're conducting will help point us in a direction that may give us more answers as to why this occurred."
Hundreds of Bird Deaths in Louisianna
... while dozens die in Kentucky
... and up to 100 in Sweden
... Hundreds of snapper fish die on New Zealand beaches
... and 40,000 'devil' crabs wash up on Kent coast
January 3, 2011
Hail, lightning and gales came through the state's eastern region this summer thanks to scientist-puppetmasters.
As part of a secret program to control the weather in the Middle East, scientists working for the United Arab Emirates government artificially created rain where rain is generally nowhere to be found. The $11 million project, which began in July, put steel lampshade-looking ionizers in the desert to produce charged particles. The negatively charged ions rose with the hot air, attracting dust. Moisture then condensed around the dust and eventually produced a rain cloud. A bunch of rain clouds.
On the 52 days it rained in the region throughout July and August, forecasters did not predict rain once.
While fascinating, this is not the first time scientists have attempted to mess with Mother Nature. China has been tinkering with cloud seeding for years, not always successfully.
But the idea that countries in the Middle East could actually create rain in this water-poor region could go a long way to solving the area's problems with drought and is considered to be cheaper than desalination. But how controllable the weather can be is still in doubt, and the consequences of meddling with nature at this level are yet to be seen.
Romanos was from Karpenesi. He was totally illiterate. The only thing he knew was that he was a Christian.
One day he heard that some were going to venerate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and he followed them. After he venerated all of the Holy Places, he also went to the Monastery of St. Savvas. There he heard the monks reading about the Holy Martyrs, how they suffered so many tortures for Christ preferring instead to receive the future good things. The Saint asked what were these future good things, and when he learned from the fathers about the life to come and Paradise, the desire to receive the future goods through martyrdom was born in him.
Because of this he went to Jerusalem and shared his idea with the Patriarch, who dissuaded him in case he couldn’t endure the tortures and might make matters worse for the Holy Sepulchre and the Patriarchate. This blessed one however who desired martyrdom could not keep within himself the fire that was kindled in his heart.
He therefore traveled to Thessaloniki, where he appeared before the judge, confessed Christ as true God, the Creator and Savior of the world, and called Muhammad an imposter and antichrist, and his religion an error filled with myths to laugh at. The judge ordered him to be tortured. They beat him mercilessly till the Muslims broke his ribs, they flogged off strips of skin from his back, they tore at his sides with horseshoes, and did many other tortures to force him to deny his faith. Because the Saint remained firm in his belief in Christ, he was ordered to be beheaded.
There happened to be at that time in Thessaloniki the Admiral of the fleet who sought the judge to give him the martyr to put him in a boat as an oarsman, telling him that this would be worse than death for the martyr. Because of his position as a rower on board he would be tortured throughout his life mentally and physically. He liked the idea and the Admiral took him, cut his hair and beard, and put him at the paddle.
After a short time however, some Christian friends of the captain bribed him, and he set the Saint free. The Christians sent him to the Holy Mountain, to the Skete of Kavsokalyvia, where he was near St. Akakios (April 12) who served as his elder. There he struggled continuously and superhumanly, but he had no peace. He lived like a stranger in this life, and he thought neither for food nor water; his mind was on martyrdom.
As the two of them fasted, elder and novice, and as St. Akakios received a divine revelation regarding the martyrdom of Romanos, he tonsured him a monk and with the prayers of the fathers he let him leave with the goal of confession and martyrdom.
At first he went to Jerusalem in his monastic garb, where he couldn’t complete his goal, because there was a fear that the Muslims would harm the Holy Sepulchre. Therefore he traveled to Constantinople. There he caught a little dog, tied it up to his belt and walked with him to the bazaar. The Turks seeing this asked why he was walking the little dog in such an odd fashion. He responded to them: “To feed him as the Christians feed you Turks.” As soon as they heard this they grabbed him and brought him to the Vizier, where he repeated the same words. Then the Vizier ordered them to torture him until he would deny his faith.
They threw him in a dry well, in which they threw their murderers. There the blessed one remained without food for forty days. Later they took him out and tortured him mercilessly in various ways without in any way convincing him. Then the Vizier ordered him to be beheaded by sword.
As they took him to the place of execution, he greeted any Christian he saw with great joy saying that he was going to a wedding and not a slaughter, a fact that stunned many. Passing by the mosque at the hour when the hodja called for mid-day prayer from the minaret, the martyr gazed and spat on him, for which cause the executioners immediately cut out his tongue, which he extended on his own for them to cut. And again he intelligently greeted the Christians with blood running from his mouth. When he reached the place of execution they beheaded him, as he thanked God, and his beheaded body on its own fell towards the east, as if it were still alive. Angered by this sign the Turks drove away the mass of Christians. This occurred in 1694 on January 5 or 6, though some say it occurred on February 16th.
The holy relic remained three days and nights at the place of execution and the divine grace illumined it with a heavenly light, which was seen by all, Christians and Turks. In the end the relic of the martyr was bought for five hundred piasters by an English captain whose shipped was stationed in Constantinople, and he took it to England.
One Christian witness of the martyrdom of St. Romanos, who was amazed at the joy and courage of the martyr, when the Turks were shoving and beating the Christians away from the body of the martyr, payed a Turkish child five piasters to dip a napkin into the blood of the martyr and bring it back to him. The child did this, but afterwards told this to a Turk, who then sent the child back asking for five more piasters. The Christian did not want to pay this, so he was betrayed to the Vizier to be put to death. However, the Christian was nobleman and friend of the Vizier, which spared him from death. Instead he was cast into a bleak dungeon where he languished for six months. Every night he would see a ray of light emanating from the spot where Romanos was martyred, and this strengthened him and consoled him; otherwise, "I should have perished from my extreme hardships". He was released later for four thousand piasters, after which he and his brother sold all their belongings to travel to Jerusalem and Mount Sinai. They then sailed to Mount Athos where they became monks. The older brother, Agapios, ended his life at the Monastery of Docheiariou, to which he donated the napkin with the blood of the martyr. The other ended his days at the Monastery of Koutloumousiou.
᾿Απολυτίκια. Εἷς ἦχον γ´ «Μέγαν εὕρατο....»
Σθένει Χάριτος τῆς Παναγίας ῥώμην ὤνησας τὴν πανολβίαν καὶ ῥωμαλέως ἠγωνίσω, Μακάριε· ὅθεν Χριστὸν ὡς Θεὸν ὡμολόγησας καὶ μαρτυρίῳ τὴν πίστιν ἐτράνωσας, ῾Ρωμανὲ ἔνδοξε, ᾿Ασπροπύργου τὸ σέμνωμα. Σωτῆρα Θεὸν ἱκέτευε δωρήσασθαι ἡμῖν τὸ μέγα ἔλεος.
Εἰς ἦχον πλ. α´ «Τὸν συνάναρχον λόγον...»
᾿Αθλητῶν καὶ μαρτύρων νέων τὸ καύχημα, ἀσκητῶν καὶ ὁσίων Εὐρυτάνων ἀγλάϊσμα ἀνεδείχθης, ῾Ρωμανέ, τῷ μαρτυρίῳ σου ὅτι ἐδόξασας Χριστὸν ἐν κριτηρίοις ἀσεβῶν τῇ ῥώμῃ τοῦ Παρακλήτου. Καὶ νῦν ὡς μάρτυς πρεσβεύεις ὑπὲρ πιστῶν τῶν εὐφημούντων σε.
῾Ρώμην ἐνεδύσω ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῇ πανοπλίᾳ τοῦ Παντάνακτος ᾿Ιησοῦ ἐχθρῶν τὰς μεθοδείας καί τῶν ὑπεναντίων κατῄσχυνας γενναίως, ῾Ρωμανὲ ἔνδοξε.
Τὸ τοῦ ᾿Ασπροπύργου σέβας λαμπρόν, ῾Ρωμανὸν τὸν νέον καὶ ἐν μάρτυσι θαυμαστόν, τὸν πίστει καὶ ἀνδρείᾳ κακίαν ἀναιροῦντα, ἄσμασιν καὶ ὕμνοις τοῦτον τιμήσωμεν.
Ode 8 of the Canon in praise of All Saints of Athos
Let us honour in songs the glorious Romanos, pride of ascetics and sweetness of the new martyrs of Christ, whom the Skete of the Lavra of Kavsokalyvia blossomed as a rose, and whom Akakios, young in years and old in asceticism had as his own disciple.
Our holy mother Syncletike was born at Alexandria in the course of the fourth century to rich and devout parents, who came originally from Macedonia. From her youth, she had been seen as an excellent match on account of her great beauty, intelligence and virtues, and she had many suitors; but she remained deaf and blind to every worldly attraction, for she aspired only to spiritual marriage to Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom. Bringing her flesh into subjection by fasting and austerities of every kind, she constantly gathered her spirit in the depths of her heart and cried out night and day: "My Beloved is mine, and I am His" (Song of Songs 2:16).
On the death of her parents, she distributed her great fortune to the poor and then, accompanied by her blind sister, she fled far from the city. She had her hair shorn by a priest and thus consecrated herself to God for ever, becoming the foundress of the monastic life for women as Saint Antony the Great was its instituter for men. Being already embarked on the works of ascesis, she made rapid progress on the course which brings monastics to live a heavenly life here below, and she took the greatest care to keep her contests hidden from human sight lest she lose the final reward. She died daily to the world and to herself in order to live with Christ, and she rebutted with intelligence and discernment all the temptations insinuated by the demons. She raised herself constantly towards heaven by the holy virtues, and her renown spread round about her like a spiritual scent and attracted, despite herself, a growing number of fervent young women who came begging for her instruction and counsels for their salvation. At first, the Saint refused out of humility to break her silence, but she was constrained at last by charity to give way to their entreaties. With deep sighs, watered with tears, she revealed to them the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge that the Holy Spirit had set in her heart.
In the first place, Saint Syncletike reminded her disciples that charity — perfect love of God and neighbour — is the fulfilment of the divine Law in both the Old and the New Testaments (Ex. 20; Rom. 13:10), and that for those who withdraw from the world it must be the origin and aim of every action. "We shall be blessed", she said, "if we make as much effort to please God and to win heaven as people in the world do to heap up riches and corruptible goods. The delicate flower of holy charity blossoms only in a body and soul kept chaste and pure, not only from sins of the flesh and of the senses, but also from all connivance at the impure thoughts with which the Devil relentlessly assails warriors in the army of Christ. Hence they must always be on their guard, showing themselves as wise as serpents, in order to foil the devices of the enemy and, by their purity, they must be as simple as doves (Matt. 10:16). Just as clothes are washed and cleansed by treading them underfoot and turning them over and over, we should give ourselves up to poverty and to the ascetic life with the same expectation, joining vigilance, discernment, earnest prayer and holy humility to mortification of the flesh, in order that the soul, receiving the Holy Spirit, may become like a clean, white dove which rises up to God."
The Saint herself had shown how to advance in humility — the basis of charity — by her hidden life, withdrawn from the world. "As treasure is seized and squandered by thieves as soon as it is discovered," she said, "so virtue fades and vanishes in the very moment that you make it known. Praise relaxes and enfeebles the soul like fire melting wax, while insults and scorn raise the soul to the height of virtue."
She added an evocative comparison of the ascetic life with fire: "When you light a fire, at first the smoke makes your eyes sting and stream with tears, but soon after you enjoy the welcome warmth; in the same way, we have to kindle within us, through tears and sufferings, the fire of divine love, which Christ has promised to bring on the earth (Luke 12:49), in order to rejoice afterwards in the consolation of the Holy Spirit."
The luminous teachings of the Saint filled the young women who listened to her with burning zeal; no longer willing to leave her, they desired to remain at her side day and night in order to contemplate in her person a living image of evangelic perfection. After resisting their pleas for some time, she resigned herself to the will of God, and guided her growing community along the narrow way to the Kingdom of Heaven, as one pilots a boat between reefs. She exhorted her disciples to adorn themselves with spiritual raiment in awaiting Christ with the same care as a bride devotes to preparing herself for an earthly union. She taught those who lived in community to prefer obedience and the casting away of their own opinions or judgements to feats of ascesis, and she exhorted them to encourage and to correct each other by word and, above all, by example in order to keep clear of the snares of the evil one — laxity on the one hand and vainglory on the other — because this is how to advance, with moderation and discernment, on the royal road of humility.
Although her body was weakened and withered by fasting, the soul of Syncletike was illumined by Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, and she shone brilliantly in her holy teaching, in her infallible discernment, before which all the illusions and machinations of the devil took flight, and above all in her constant progress towards perfection. In her latter years, to the free will offering of ascesis she added patience in illnesses, for she was put to the test by continual fevers and lung troubles, which like a file slowly wore down her body. When she reached the age of eighty-five, the devil put her to a final test, having obtained from God the power to submit her, for three and a half years, to sufferings such as righteous Job had endured for thirty-five years. While he attacked Job and the holy Martyrs from without, he struck at the Saint with the same savagery but from within, burning her entrails by a cancer as in a slow fire, which caused her excruciating pain. She bore these trials with patience and thanksgiving and even made use of them to instruct her disciples, saying, "If illness strikes us, let us not be distressed as though physical exhaustion could prevent us from singing God’s praises; for all these things are for our good and for the purification of our desires. Fasting and ascesis are enjoined on us only because of our appetites; so if illness has blunted their edge, there is no longer need for ascetic labours. To endure illness patiently and to send up hymns of thanksgiving to God is the greatest ascesis of all."
The devil would not admit defeat, and he took away her power of speech, depriving her of the formidable weapon of her word; but, simply to see the serenity of the Saint’s countenance amid such great sufferings, replaced every other teaching and strengthened those who approached her in the love of God. He then attacked her body with gangrene, and the stench of putrefaction was so great that in order for her disciples to stay near her they had to fumigate the air with much perfume and to anoint her decaying limbs with sweet spices, as if for a corpse. But nothing could subdue this weak woman who had become, by the Grace of God, more valiant than any warrior. Scorning death and the impotent devices of the evil one, she was ministered to by the angels and was able to contemplate with joy the glory beyond all utterance of the light of Paradise. In this way, at the end of a three-month martyrdom, she departed to the Lord to receive the crown of her contests, after having predicted the day of her death and consoled her disciples in her last words to them.
Note: The wonderful biography of St Syncletike [of which we read a summary above], attributed to St Athanasius of Alexandria, is one of the basic texts of Orthodox spirituality.
Source: The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, volume three (January-February), Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia, 2001 (pages 56-59).
Sayings of Amma Syncletike
- "In the beginning there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: at first it is smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort."
- "Those who put out to sea at first sailed with a favourable wind; then the sails spread, but later the wind becomes adverse. Then the ship is tossed by the waves and is no longer controlled by the rudder. But when in a little while there is calm, and the tempest dies down, then the ship sails on again. So it is with us, when we are driven by the spirits who are against us; we hold to the cross as our sail and so we can set a safe course."
- "There is an asceticism which is determined by the enemy and his disciples practice it. So how are we to distinguish between the divine and royal asceticism and the demonic tyranny? Clearly through its quality of balance."
- "It is dangerous for anyone to teach who has not first been trained in the practical life. For if someone who owns a ruined house receives guests there, he does them harm because of the dilapidation of his dwelling. It is the same in the case of someone who has not first built an interior dwelling; he causes loss to those who come. By words one may convert them to salvation, but by evil behaviour, one injures them."
- "I think that for those living in community obedience is a greater virtue than chastity, however perfect. Chastity carries within it the danger of pride, but obedience has within it the promise of humility."
- Someone asked Amma Syncletike of blessed memory, "Is absolute poverty perfect goodness?" She replied, "It is a great good for those capable of it; even those who are not capable of it find rest for their souls in it though it causes them anxiety. As tough cloth is laundered pure white by stretched and trampled underfoot, so a tough soul is stretched by freely accepting poverty."
- "Choose the meekness of Moses and you will find your heart which is a rock changed into a spring of water."
- "Just as a treasure that is exposed loses its value, so a virtue which is known vanishes; just as wax melts when it is near fire, so the soul is destroyed by praise and loses all the results of its labour."
- "Just as one cannot build a ship unless one has some nails, so it is impossible to be saved without humility."
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Syncletike, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
O divine Syncletike, our righteous God-bearing Mother, thou didst shine forth as a lamp bright with unquenchable virtues, laying bare the dark devices of the deceiver; and thy light guided a multitude of wise virgins to the heav'nly bridal chambers; together with them, pray that we all may be saved.
January 1, 2011
Royal Russia News
History has come full circle to the town of Shushenskoye, a small town situated in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region of eastern Russia. On December 30th, a monument dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II was unveiled on the same spot where a statue of Vladimir Lenin had stood for decades. Ironically, Lenin lived in exile in Shushenskoye from 1897 to 1900.
The bronze bust of Russia's last tsar was designed by the famous Krasnoyarsk sculptor Constantin Zinich. Located in the center of town, it stands in front of the head office of the largest producer of alcohol in the Shusha district. The idea of removing the statue of Lenin and replacing it with a monument to Nicholas II was that of company CEO, Viktor Ovanov, who also financed the project.
The monument, which is situated in the center of the village, was consecrated by Archimandrite Alexis and other members of the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church.
"Some things leave a mark in our personal and spiritual lives", said the archimandrite, "Nicholas II evokes a glorious page in Russian history. He was an example of one who lived a pious life and set a good example for which we, Russians, deem fit to remember".
"It is the urge of the heart and soul of the Orthodox faithful of Russia", as he explained the meaning behind the monument. "Contemporaries, historians and descendants of various political and religious views will refer to his great personality. I am sure of one thing about Nicholas II, and we still have much to learn. He was a true Christian, a wonderful family man, and most importantly of the Emperor, the glory and the good of Russia was always dear to him. Many to this day are unaware that our country enjoyed the strongest period of economic development during the reign of Nicholas II. Therefore, it is important that as we rejoice at the current achievements of our state, that we not forget similar achievements made in 1913".
Sadly, according to local authorities, the unveiling of the monument to Nicholas Romanov was apparently met with little enthusiasm. Sadly, this is further evidence of the negative attitude many Russians still have of the last Emperor of Russia, this is in part due to the smear campaign that the Bolsheviks launched against him before his abdication, and throughout the Soviet years.
After the Revolution, the Bolsheviks destroyed statues and monuments of the Romanov's all across Russia. The new monument in Shushenskoye is the latest in a series of monuments that have been erected in cities and towns across Russia in recent years, not just to Nicholas II, but other emperors and empresses as well. It is interesting to note that while most statues and monuments to Lenin have disappeared from the Russian landscape since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, many new monuments of the former Romanov rulers are returning. Perhaps Russians are at last coming to terms with their past and re-evaluating the life and times of Nicholas II and the role of the monarchy in the context of their fascinating but turbulent history.
January 5, 2011
The Serbian Orthodox Church has asked for one of its monasteries that was turned into a nightclub to be turned back into a church.
The 16th century Monastery of Saint Paraskeva built in 1561 was handed over to the city of Hvar after WWII and last year taken on by investment company Veneranda for use as a disco.
But now the church says it wants it back.
"With regret we confirmed that a holy object was turned into a night club," the Eparchy (diocese) of Dalmatia told the Croatian daily Jutarnji List.
"Our dissatisfaction is shared with the Catholic bishop Mile Bogovic."
"We hope that the authorities will undertake all lawful measures in order to return this religious object to the Serbian Orthodox Church and its faithful," they added.
The church which is now called Veneranda Night Club is a popular nightspot for tourists.
Offical Site of Veneranda Night Club
January 5, 2011
The 20-member association takes back the property around Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca, which Greeks reportedly plan to build an entertainment center.
Muslims in on Greek Cypriot side established the "Cypriot Supreme Council of Muslims", demanding the property around the Hala Sultan Tekke, angering the Greek archbishop.
The 20-member association want to take back the property around Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca, which Greeks reportedly plan to build an entertainment center.
According to Turkey's Anadolu news agency, citing Greek Simerini newspaper, "the association's emblem carries 'flags of the Ottoman Empire, the Ottoman navy flag and a ship with Ottoman robe (kaftan).'"
The President of the Association, Imam Sakip, talked to Sigma TV and expressed uneasiness with the decicion that the Greek Cypriot administration allowed an entertainment center to be built 20 meters from Hala Sultan Tekke. He has accused the Greek Cypriot side of not showing respect for the Muslim places of worship.
Imam Sakip said, "I would like to give this message to the Republic of Cyprus (Greek part) that you need to be an example of a European country," he said. In order to show this, the Republic of Cyprus should hand over the keys of Hala Sultan Tekke and the property around it to the association," he said.
Applying for registration officially to the Greek Interior Ministry, the association will initiate the procedures necessary to request hundreds of acres of surrounding property to the Hala Sultan Tekke in Larnaca Salt Lake area.
On the other hand, the report says Greek Orthodox Church Archbishop Chrysostomos II reacted to the establishment of the "Cypriot Supreme Council of Muslims" and its demands, as well as the accusations that were directed towards him on the bad condition of Muslim places of worship.
Chrysostomos II claimed, if the members of the association visit him, he will show them "how well the Muslim churches on the Greek Cypriot side are and ready to be worshipped in at any time."
The Archbishop also said "he will show them that the Christian monuments from 12th, 13th and 14th centuries have been destroyed one after the other in the North."
Hala Sultan Tekke or the Mosque of Umm Haram is a very prominent Muslim shrine near Larnaca. Umm Haram was Prophet Muhammad's wet nurse.
January 4, 2011
The death toll from a New Year bombing outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria has risen by two to 23, the official news agency MENA said on Tuesday.
Dozens of people were wounded when a presumed suicide bomber detonated a device during a midnight service.
No clear official account has emerged of how the attack was carried out but political analysts point to a small cell, not a large militant group such as those behind an Islamist insurgency that flared more than a decade ago.
A Health Ministry official said 18 bodies had been identified but put the possible number of dead at 22, based on studies of body parts found at the scene.
Billionaire Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom Telecom, one of Egypt's biggest listed companies, has offered 1 million Egyptian pounds ($172,500) for information on those behind the January 1 attack, a state newspaper said on Tuesday.
The Dutch anti-terrorism agency NCTb has urged police to keep an eye on Coptic churches in three Dutch cities after they were included in Internet threats against Coptic churches in Europe, including France and Britain.
The bombing provoked protests and some clashes with police in Alexandria and the capital, Cairo, by young Christians calling for more protection.
Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 79 million, which is mostly Muslim. Sectarian violence is rare but disputes on issues from church building to religious conversions and divorce have grown in the past year.
Early last year, a drive-by shooting of six Christians and a Muslim policeman at a church in southern Egypt led to protests.
Egyptian officials have said there are indications "foreign elements" were behind the January 1 blast. An Iraqi group linked to al Qaeda threatened in November to attack Egyptian Christians.
Read also: Anti-Christian Drumbeat Loud Before Egypt Attack
Inside Story - Egypt's Coptic Christians - Al Jazeera
January 5, 2011
A Greek professor of linguistics at Cambridge University has been credited with identifying an endangered Greek dialect which is spoken in a remote mountainous region in northeastern Turkey and is believed to be a “linguistic gold mine” because of its close similarities to ancient Greek.
The significance of the Romeyka (Romeika) dialect was highlighted by Dr Ioanna Sitaridou, director of studies in linguistics at Queen’s College, following fieldwork in the area around Trabzon, on Turkey’s Black Sea coast. In a short film about her research, Sitaridou said the dialect was unique.
“Romeyka is a living language preserving structures only to be found in Classical Greek, which has been dead for more than 2,000 years,” she remarked. “What these people are speaking is a variety of Greek far more archaic than other forms of Greek spoken today.”
Sitaridou said religion was a major reason behind the dialect’s survival. The Romeyka speakers are devout Muslims and were therefore exempt from the large-scale population exchange between Greece and Turkey that took place in 1923, she said.
The Cambridge linguist’s research has involved trips to villages near the Black Sea (or Pontus) where Romeyka is spoken, where she has mapped the grammatical structures and variations in use. Information is gathered using audio and video recordings of the villagers telling stories.
The ultimate aim of the research is to explain how Pontic Greek evolved. “We know that Greek has been continuously spoken in Pontus since ancient times and can surmise that its geographic isolation from the rest of the Greek-speaking world is an important factor in why the language is as it is,” Sitaridou said.
But the dialect’s survival is at risk due to waves of emigration from Trabzon and the influence of the dominant Turkish-speaking majority. With as few as 5,000 speakers left in the area, Romeyka could soon be “more of a heritage language than a living vernacular,” Sitaridou said.
More can be read here.
A video with spoken Romeyka
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
After the feast of the Circumcision (Jan. 1), the Church turns its gaze from our Lord's infancy and childhood to his public ministry, which will begin with His baptism (Matthew 3:13-17). The feast of our Lord's baptism is called the Theophany, meaning "the manifestation" or "appearance of God", and is celebrated on January 6.
During the days leading up to the Nativity, we sang the pre-festive troparion: "Bethlehem, make ready; Ephrathah, prepare youself." Beginning on January 2 at Vespers (that is, starting on the evening of January 1), we look to Galilee and the River Jordan and sing the pre-festive troparion of Theophany:
Zebulun, make ready; Naphtali, prepare yourself. O River Jordan, stand and leap for joy to receive the Master coming to be baptized. O Adam, rejoice with the first mother, Eve, and do not hide yourselves as once you did in Paradise. For, seeing you naked, Christ has appeared to put on the first robe. He has appeared to renew all creation.
Both events - the birth of Christ, and His baptism in the Jordan - were manifestations or appearances of God; in other words, theophanies. Each was a crucial step in God's plan of salvation for the human race.
The Saturday before Theophany
If one of the pre-festive days (January 2-5) falls on a Saturday, then the liturgical books appoint special readings for the day's Divine Liturgy. The Epistle (1 Timothy 3:14-4:5) contains an early statement of faith in Jesus, which emphasizes the theme of manifestation or theophany:
He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit; seen by the angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.
The Gospel (Matthew 3:1-11) describes the preaching and baptismal ministry of John the Forerunner.
The Sunday before Theophany
If one of the pre-festive days falls on a Sunday, then a special prokeimenon and alleluia are sung at the Divine Liturgy, asking God's blessing and assistance. In the Epistle (2 Timothy 4:5-8), Saint Paul refers to all those "who have looked for his appearing with eager longing." The Gospel is another account of the ministry and preaching of John the Baptist, taken this time from the very beginning of the Gospel according to Saint Mark (Mark 1:1-8).
The Royal Hours of the Theophany
Since December 25, there has been no fasting; we have kept festival in honor of our Lord's birth.
However, the Church does appoint a single day of fasting before the feast of our Lord's Theophany. Normally, this is on January 5, the "Paramoni" or "Vigil" of Theophany. However, if January 5 falls on a Saturday or Sunday - days on which we do not normally fast - then the fast day is transferred to the previous Friday.
On this day, a special service called the Royal Hours is celebrated. This service consists of the daytime services of the First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour, Ninth Hour, and Typika, celebrated with special psalms and readings for the Theophany. (This service is called royal because, at one time, the Emperor himself always attended the service.) Each part of the service has an Old Testament prophecy, an Epistle reading, and a reading from the Holy Gospel.
The Vigil of the Theophany
Finally, we have come to the eve of the feast - the Paramoni or Vigil of Theophany (January 5). If it is a weekday, it is a day of strict fasting, with the Royal Hours celebrated during the day, and Vespers and the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil in the evening.
If January 5 is a Saturday or Sunday, the Divine Liturgy may be celebrated in the morning, and we sing the troparion of the Vigil:
After Elijah has been taken up, the River Jordan was parted in two by Elisha's mantle; and a dry path was opened in the waters as an image of true baptism by which we pass beyond this fleeting life. Christ appeared at the Jordan to sanctify the waters.
By tradition, a Holy Supper (meatless but festive) is held on the evening of January 5, after Vespers, just as on Christmas Eve. We have arrived at the brink of the feast of the Theophany - the baptism of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Read about the saintly leper Nikephoros at this link: The Righteous Nikephoros the Leper (1890-1964)
Read more here and here in Greek.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Angels were awestruck by your struggles and your brave asceticism Righteous Nikephoros the Leper. As another Job in his pain you endured glorifying God and He arranged for you a glorious crown of miracles. Rejoice you who lead monastics by the hand, Rejoice projector of light, Rejoice joyful fragrance issuing forth from your relics.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Shunning pain and bodily corruption. as a horse you lead towards the heavens, Righteous Nikephoros, the steadfast support of lepers. As a brilliantly lit temple of God, in sickness your body shined.
You are a living icon of virtue, and similar, Father, to Job in patience. You endured sorrows and were well-pleasing to God, therefore posthumously you were fragrant.
Απολυτίκιο. Ήχος γ΄. Θείας πίστεως.
Θείον σμάραγδον ευρέ, ψυχή μου, ανιχνεύουσα εν ασθενείαις, Νικηφόρον σεμνόν και αθόρυβον· τον υπομείναντα πάθη του σώματος και ως χαράν την οδύνην δεξάμενον. Πάτερ όσιε, εκ θείου σταυρού, ως άγγελος, ελθέ και τους εν Γη νοσούντας ίασαι.
Κοντάκιο. Ήχος β΄. Τα άνω ζητών.
Εκ πόνου φυγών και της φθοράς του σώματος, ως έφιππος νυν οδεύεις προς ουράνια, Νικηφόρε όσιε, των λεπρών ακλόνητων στήριγμα, ως γαρ ναός υπέρλαμπρος Θεού εν ασθενεία το σώμα σου έλαμψεν!
Έμψυχος εικών συ της αρετής, ομοιώθης, πάτερ, τω Ιώβ τη υπομονή, υπέμεινας θλίψεις Θεώ ευαρεστήσας, διό και μετά θάνατον ευωδίασας.