Wednesday, March 9, 2011
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
All of them were soldiers in the Roman army and steadfastly believed in the Lord Jesus. When the persecution of Christians began during the reign of Licinius, they were brought to trial before the commander. When he threatened to strip them of their honor as soldiers, one of them, St. Candidus, responded, "Not only the honor of being a soldier, but take away our bodies, for nothing is more dear or honorable to us than Christ our God." After that, the commander ordered his servants to stone the holy martyrs. While the servants were hurling stones at the Christians, the stones turned and fell back on the servants, severely striking them. One of the stones struck the commander's face and knocked out his teeth. The torturers, angry as wild beasts, bound all of the holy martyrs and tossed them into the lake and stationed a guard around it so as to prevent any of them from escaping. There was a terrible frost and the lake froze around the bodies of the martyrs. So that their pain and suffering would be worsened, and in order to persuade one of them to deny Christ and acknowledge the idols of Rome, the torturers heated a bath by the side of the lake in sight of the frozen martyrs. Indeed, one of them was persuaded. He came out of the water and entered the bath. And behold, an extraordinary light appeared from heaven which warmed the water in the lake and the bodies of the martyrs. With that light, thirty-nine wreaths descended from heaven over their heads. Upon seeing this, a guard on the shore removed all his clothes, confessed the Name of the Lord Jesus and entered the lake so that he could become worthy of the fortieth wreath in place of the betrayer. Indeed, the last wreath descended upon him. The next day the entire town was astonished when they saw that the martyrs were still alive. Then, the wicked judges ordered that the lower part of their legs be broken and their bodies thrown into the water so Christians could not recover them. On the third day the martyrs appeared to Peter, the local bishop, and summoned him to gather their relics and remove them from the water The bishop with his clergy went out into the dark of night and beheld the relics of the martyrs shining brightly in the water. Every bone which was separated from their bodies floated to the top and glowed like a candle. Bishop Peter gathered and honorably buried them. The souls of these martyrs, who suffered for all of us, went to the Lord Jesus, resurrected with glory. They suffered honorably and were crowned with unfading glory in the year 320 A.D.
St. Theodore the Studite: Sermon for the Feast of the Forty Holy Martyrs
Discovery of the Relics of the Forty Holy Martyrs
Xeropotamou Monastery and the Forty Holy Martyrs
HYMN OF PRAISE: THE HOLY FORTY MARTYRS
Martyrs in the lake shackled by frost,
Strongly adhering to Holy Faith, by hope illumined,
To the dear God, cried out: "You, Who astonished the world
By Your awesome sacrifice and resurrection, O You, enliven us!
The firmament of heaven and everything created, glorify You,
Behold, the abyss, fire, hail, snow, ice and heat glorify You!
You helped the great Moses, your servant,
And Joshua Son of Nun, and after that Elisha,
That nature, calm the waters and it, to divide,
Now, help your faithful as you have until now,
Do not allow the frost to be stronger than man,
That we, Forty Martyrs, not become the subject of scorn;
Oh, You can, if You want, for You rule over all,
You, when You want, can change ice into heat and heat into ice;
Because of Your Name, the frost consumes us as an angry beast --
Oh, help us that the Name of the Almighty may be praised!"
Martyrs in the lake, shackled by frost,
From heaven, by God's light, were warmed,
Gloriously they fell and remained Forty Martyrs
To the fear, horror and shame of the darkened unbelievers.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Be entreated, O Lord, by the sufferings endured for You by the Saints, and we pray You, heal all our pain.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
O Forty Champions of the Lord, you abandoned the armies of the world and attached yourselves to the Master in heaven. Having gone through fire and water, O Blessed Ones, you worthily won glory from heaven and a multitude of crowns.
March 6, 2011
Walking the path of the Orthodox Christian Church we encounter fasting on certain days of the year.
The greatest period of fasting is Holy and Great Lent, which along with the observance of religious traditions we also follow that of fasting, as defined by the Orthodox Church; the abstention of foods of animal origin.
The fasting, however, of Holy and Great Lent is not considered enough. It must be combined with spiritual fasting, more prayer and study of the Holy Bible.
Particularly interesting is the following interview with Metropolitan George of Paphos on fasting, the first command given to the first-created by God.
Your Holiness, from Clean Monday to Holy Pascha, the Orthodox Church asks its flock to maintain its religious traditions and fast. Why is this period of Great Lent so important?
We are on the verge of Great Lent, the holiest period of the Church, which prepares us for Pascha. It is called Great Lent to differentiate it from Holy Week. With forty days, it begins on Clean Monday until the Friday of Lazarus.
On the Friday of Lazarus Great Lent has its culmination, and there is inserted the weekend of the Resurrection of Lazarus and Palm Sunday, and then Holy Week begins.
It is a period of intense prayer, fasting and the attempt to acquire virtue, so that we may be able to be found worthy to venerate the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.
Why does "Sarakosti" [lit. "Forty Day" Fast], as it is called, have forty days, beginning on Clean Monday to the Friday before the Saturday of Lazarus?
As for why there was chosen to be forty days in Great Lent, there are two reasons. First, there are biblical prototypes. Moses fasted forty days to receive the tablets of the Law, Elijah also fasted forty days in order to prevent rain from falling and then again to bring rain to the earth; and so forty days is biblical.
And Christ after His baptism fasted forty days. There is, however, another reason. The Jews were forced to give a tithe, that is 1/10 of their property that they acquired throughout the year for the poor, widows, and orphans. We who are the New Israel of grace, give something much more important, we give 1/10 of our lives. Of the 365 days of the year, 40 days of this period is a dedication to God.
A Misunderstood Institution
What is the fasting of Pascha for the Orthodox religion?
Fasting is a tool that helps us to acquire virtue. Fasting is a misunderstood institution by those who fast and those who do not fast. Those who do not fast do not foresee any benefit from fasting, which is why they abolished it. As for how much it was abolished, we can see during Cheesefare Week [i.e. Carnival].
How many people abstain from meat? Or even on Clean Monday, which for our Church has the same weight as Good Friday, since it is the first day that humanity lives far from Paradise.
It is a day of mourning. On Clean Monday, then, people go out into the fields. Not eating anything at all but olives. Many people cook meat however.
This shows how far people have abolished fasting. They see no sense in any fasting. And if you talk about fasting, you receive an ironic smile.
But those who fast have also misunderstood fasting and think that God is pleased with our refraining for short or long periods of some food items.
Within them there is a wrong perception that is non-christian, that some types of food create spiritual uncleaness. When this belief tried to enter Christianity, the Apostles called it the teachings of demons, because there is no creature of God that causes uncleaness.
That which stains humans, Christ said in another case, is not what we eat; that which stains humans is our words, which come from the mind and heart. Therefore, fasting is not associated with this meaning.
It Is Not An End In Itself
What is the meaning of fasting and how useful is it?
There are many reasons fasting was imposed on the Church. The first is for ascetcism. Fasting is a gymnasium, and is not an end in itself.
It is to empower ourselves. Fasting is exercise, because for fifty days our sense of taste in our bodies pushes us and asks for different foods, but we say no.
In this way we learn to oppose the Evil One. If we succeed in fasting and do not succeed in the real battle with the Evil One, there is no success.
Those who are experienced in spiritual struggles, say that there are great benefits in fasting. That is the purpose of fasting, it is an asceticism, evidenced by several provisions that govern it.
First of all the authentically sick should not fast because they are destroying their bodies. Fasting kills passions and not the body. One who is ill, will kill himself with fasting. One cannot undertake spiritual struggles who will kill himself.
The Real Meaning of Fasting
There are some related foods some of which are allowed and some forbidden, such as the olive and olive oil. What meaning does this have because the oil is not derived from animal fat?
We eat olives, but do not eat oil for some days. This is not because there is something wrong with oil, but because this allows a thousand and two foods. You can make all the beans with oil, potatoes, and a thousand and two other dishes, while the olives can be eaten only as olives.
And when the Church endorses asceticism, it forbids oil to limit types of foods?
It is also during fasting that we eat fish roe (tarama), but do not eat fish. It is because of the intensity of asceticism allowed by the Church. Also, because this is the point in fasting, asceticism, it is not allowed in the period of fasting to make many kinds of meatless dishes to delight us as food. There should not be much taste either. Just enough food that keeps you alive. This is the meaning of fasting.
The second reason is that fasting shows our reliance on God and our repentance. If we look in the Old Testament, when the prophets had been preaching repentance, the people understood it as fasting. In Nineveh Jonah was sent, preached repentance, and the people immediately declared a fast. And the king furthermore issued a proclamation, not only for humans but also for animals. This is because fasting is a way of repentance and reliance. When we are free we do whatever we want. When we have the Lord, we obey the commandments. Obeying, therefore, the Church and avoiding certain foods, we show that we are not individualists. We rely on and acknowledge one God.
It is therefore an indication of repentance. This is why the fasts are always installed before major events of our religion. Before Pascha, before Christmas, so we can prepare ourselves in our reliance and our repentance, to celebrate these events.
It Proclaims the Unity of All Orthodox
What other virtues should accompany fasting to bring a person to repentance, as mentioned above?
Other virtues follow from it. Basil says, "True fasting is freedom from passions, temperance of the tongue, abstention from anger, separation from desire, the abolishment of false oaths."
Fasting, therefore, must be accompanied by other virtues to be true. If I fast from meat and judge people and do a thousand excesses, it did not correct anything.
Fasting proclaims the unity of all Orthodox around the world. We all fast for the same purpose. And during the time people did not know theology, they said: "This is not fasting, it is Turkish."
That is, they distinguished the days of fasting of us Orthodox from the non-Orthodox. This indicates, therefore, fasting is the unity of Christians. And there are many other reasons for fasting, for example, to save money on the simplest dishes to give to charity.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
Continued from part two here.
8. Fasting knows nothing of loans; the table of a faster does not reek of usury. A father’s debts do not suffocate the orphaned son of a faster like serpents that coil themselves around their victims. In other ways, too, fasting is the occasion of gladness. For, just as thirst makes a drink refreshing and prior hunger makes a meal pleasant, so also fasting heightens our enjoyment of food. For, by interposing itself and interrupting your constant self-indulgence, it will make the consumption of food appear desirable to you, like an absent friend. Hence, if you wish to make a meal appetizing, accept the transformation that comes about in you from fasting. Because of your intense addiction to lavish fare, you have dulled your enjoyment of food without realizing it, ruining pleasure through hedonism. For nothing is so desirable that it does not become contemptible through constant gratification. It is the things that rarely come our way that we enjoy with the greatest avidity. Thus, He Who created us provided that we should take abiding delight in His gifts through an alternation in our lifestyle.36 Do you not see that the sun is more resplendent after the night, that being awake is more pleasant after sleep, that health is more desirable after the experience of the opposite condition, and that the meal table is more gratifying after a fast? It is the same for the rich and those who dine sumptuously as it is for those whose diet is frugal and improvised.
9. Fear the example of the rich man, who was consigned to the fire by his lifelong luxury.37 It was not for injustice that he was condemned, but for his sumptuous lifestyle, and for this reason he was tormented in the fiery furnace of Hell. Now, in order to extinguish that fire, we need water. Fasting is beneficial not only for the life to come, but even more is it profitable for the flesh itself. For even those in the peak of condition experience reverses and changes, when nature fails and proves unable to maintain an abundance of good health. Beware of spurning water now,38 lest you subsequently find yourself longing for a drop of it, as did the rich man. No one has ever gotten drunk on water. No one has ever contracted headaches from drinking too much water. No one who drinks only water has ever needed someone else’s feet.39 No one has lost the use of his feet or hands through their being nourished with water. Bad digestion, which inevitably dogs those who indulge in dainties, causes serious bodily disorders. The complexion of a faster is venerable, not breaking out in unseemly red blotches, but adorned with the pallor of temperance.40 His gaze is calm, his gait is sedate, his countenance is thoughtful — not demeaned by unrestrained laughter —, his speech is moderate, and his heart is pure. Call to mind the Saints from all ages, “of whom the world was not worthy, [who] wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.”41 Emulate their way of life, if you seek their portion. What was it that gave Lazarus rest in the bosom of Abraham?42 Was it not fasting? The life of John the Baptist was one continuous fast.43 He did not have a bed, a table, arable land, a plough ox, wheat, a quern, or anything else that pertains to nourishment. For this reason, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.”44 Among other things, fasting, which Paul reckoned among the afflictions in which he gloried, raised him up to the third Heaven.45 To cap all that we have said, our Lord, having fortified through fasting the flesh which He assumed for our sake, submitted to the attacks of the Devil therewith, both instructing us to anoint and train ourselves with fasting for the struggles that we must undergo amid temptations and affording the adversary a handle, so to speak, through hunger.46 For on account of the height of His Divinity He would have been inaccessible to the Devil, had He not submitted to human weakness through hunger. However, before He ascended back to Heaven, He tasted food, giving assurance of the true nature of His risen body.47 Will you not give up fattening and gorging yourself? Will you allow your mind to waste away through lack of nourishment, because you take no thought for saving and life-giving teachings? Or do you not know that, just as in the case of a battle those who fight for one side cause the defeat of the other, so he who sides with the flesh prevails over the spirit, while he who aligns himself with the spirit brings his flesh into subjection? “[For] these [flesh and spirit] are contrary the one to the other.”48 Hence, if you wish to make your mind strong, tame your flesh through fasting. For this is what the Apostle says, that to the extent that our outward man perishes, our inward man is renewed;49 he also says: “[W]hen I am weak, then am I strong.”50 Will you not disdain perishable foods? Will you not conceive a desire for the table in the Kingdom of Heaven, for which fasting here on earth is assuredly a preparation? Do you not know that by immoderate satiety you fatten for yourself the worm that torments? For who amid lavish feasting and perpetual delectation has become the partaker of any spiritual gift? Moses needed a second fast in order to receive the second set of laws.51 If the animals had not fasted along with the Ninevites, the Ninevites would not have escaped the threat of destruction.52 Whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?53 Were they not those of the people who demanded to eat meat?54 As long as they were content with manna and water from the rock, they overcame the Egyptians and journeyed through the sea; there was not a feeble one among their tribes.”55 But when they recalled the fleshpots56 and returned to Egypt in their desires, they did not see the Promised Land. Do you not fear their example? Do you not shudder at their gluttony, lest it exclude you from the good things for which we hope? But not even the wise Daniel would have seen visions, had he not rendered his soul more pellucid through fasting. For certain thick vapors are emitted from rich foods, which, like a dense cloud, prevent the illumination produced by the Holy Spirit from entering the mind. But if there is any food that is proper even to Angels, it is bread, as the Prophet says: “Man ate the bread of Angels”57 — not meat, nor wine, nor those items that are zealously sought after by those enslaved to their stomachs. Fasting is a weapon against the army of demons. “[For] this kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”58 So many are the benefits of fasting, whereas satiety is the beginning of lasciviousness. For sybaritism, inebriation, and all manner of rich foods immediately give rise to every kind of brutish wantonness. Hence, men become lecherous stallions59 on account of the frenzy wrought in the soul by self-indulgence. Perversions of nature arise from drunkards when they seek the feminine in the masculine and the masculine in the feminine. Fasting teaches moderation in conjugal relations, and, by chastising intemperance even in licit sexual activity, engenders abstinence by mutual agreement, so that married couples may devote themselves to prayer.60
10. Do not, however, define the benefit that comes from fasting solely in terms of abstinence from foods. For true fasting consists in estrangement from vices. “Loose every burden of iniquity.”61 Forgive your neighbor the distress he causes you; forgive him his debts. “Fast not for quarrels and strifes.”62 You do not eat meat, but you devour your brother. You abstain from wine, but do not restrain yourself from insulting others. You wait until evening to eat, but waste your day in law courts. Woe to those who get drunk, but not from wine.63 Anger is inebriation of the soul, making it deranged, just as wine does. Grief is also a form of intoxication, one that submerges the intellect. Fear is another kind of drunkenness, when we have phobias regarding inappropriate objects; for Scripture says: “Rescue my soul from fear of the enemy.”64 And in general, every passion which causes mental derangement may justly be called drunkenness. Pray consider a man smitten with anger, how he is inebriated by this passion. He is not in control of himself, he does not know who he is, nor does he know those around him. He attacks everyone and collides with everyone just as in a night-battle; he speaks recklessly, cannot restrain himself, rails, pounds his fists, utters threats, swears, shouts, and becomes apoplectic. Avoid such inebriation as this, and do not accept the inebriation that comes from wine. Do not precede the season in which you drink only water by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Let not drunkenness initiate you into the fast. For neither through greed do you attain to righteousness, nor through wantonness to temperance, nor, in short, through vice to virtue. The door to fasting is a different one. Inebriation leads to wantonness, frugality to fasting. An athlete trains before a contest; a faster practices abstinence before a fast. Do not indulge in drunkenness before the five days as if taking revenge for the days of fasting or attempting to outwit the Lawgiver. For you toil in vain if you afflict your body, but do not receive consolation for your privation.65 The receptacle is unreliable, you are drawing water with a perforated jar.66 For wine flows through your body, coursing along its own path, but sin remains in you. A servant runs away from a master who beats him; but you cleave to wine, which beats your head every day? Bodily need is the best criterion for the use of wine. If you exceed your limits, on the following day you will have headaches, you will be listless and dizzy, and you will reek of putrid wine. Everything will seem to you to be spinning around and unstable. For drunkenness not only brings on sleep, the brother of death, but also a wakefulness that resembles dreams.
11. Do you know Whom you are going to receive?67 He Who gave us this promise: “I and my Father will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.”68 Why do you forestall Him by inebriation and prevent the Master from entering you? Why do you encourage the enemy to occupy your ramparts? Inebriation does not receive the Lord; inebriation drives away the Holy Spirit. For smoke drives bees away, while drunkenness drives away spiritual gifts. Fasting is the adornment of a city, the stability of the marketplace, peace in the home, and security of possessions. Do you want to see its dignity? Pray compare this evening with tomorrow evening, and you will see a city transformed from tumult and commotion into profound tranquillity. Would that today might resemble tomorrow in dignity, and that tomorrow might yield nothing to today in gladness. May the Lord Who has brought us to this period of the year grant us, as contenders, to display steadfast and vigorous perseverance in these preliminary contests and to attain to the Day of the Lord, whereon crowns are bestowed, so that we might now commemorate the saving Passion of Christ, and in the age to come enjoy the reward for our deeds in life at the just Judgment of Christ Himself, for unto Him be glory unto the ages. Amen.
36 That is, through the alternation of fasting and non-fasting seasons.
37 St. Luke 16:19-31.
38 That is, during Lent.
39 That is, to carry him home when drunk.
40 Cf. Long Rules, XVII.2, Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXI, col. 964C.
41 Hebrews 11:38, 37.
42 St. Luke 16:23.
43 St. Matthew 3:4.
44 St. Matthew 11:11.
45 II Corinthians 11:27; 12:2.
46 St. Matthew 4:2.
47 St. Luke 24:43.
48 Galatians 5:17.
49 II Corinthians 4:16.
50 II Corinthians 12:10.
51 Exodus 34:28.
52 Jonah 3:4-10.
53 Hebrews 3:17; cf. Numbers 14:29.
54 Numbers 11:33.
55 Psalm 104:37, Septuaginta.
56 Exodus 16:3.
57 Psalm 77:25, Septuaginta.
58 St. Mark 9:29.
59 Jeremiah 5:8.
60 I Corinthians 7:5.
61 Isaiah 58:6.
62 Isaiah 58:4.
64 Psalm 63:2, Septuaginta.
65 That is, by excessive drinking before the Fast or on weekends during the Fast, one impairs his ability to live a more spiritual life by giving himself the spiritual consolation of the prayers appointed for Great Lent.
66 The latter phrase is taken directly from Xenophon (Oikonomicos, VII.40) and cited elsewhere by St. Basil, e.g. in “Homily XXI, ‘That We Should Not Be Attached to Earthly Things,’” §3, Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXI, col. 545C.
67 That is, in Holy Communion. The verb ὑποδέχεσθαι is very commonly used by the Greek Fathers to denote the reception of Communion; cf. St. John of Damascus, Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, IV.13, Patrologia Græca, Vol. XCIV, col. 1149A.
68 Cf. St. John 14:23.
Source: Orthodox Tradition, Volume XXIII, Number 3 (2006), pp. 6-16.
By William Hall
In the Byzantine Church, besides the Liturgies of St. John Chrysostom and of St. Basil the Great, we have a third liturgical formulary, known as the Holy Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. As the very name suggests, the Eucharistic Gifts given in the communion at this service are pre-sanctified, consecrated beforehand. Strictly speaking, this is only a service of a solemn Holy Communion. The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated during Lent on those days when the ordinary Liturgy is not celebrated. Its origins historically are covered with some haze. Nevertheless, its use reaches back to the venerable antiquity of Christian worship.
All the Liturgies, before having been put in writing, were in use for a long period of time and were handed down by oral tradition. It was only much later that some particular formularies were recorded and thus were preserved for posterity. For this reason it is very hard, if not impossible, to establish an exact date and place of their origin, or to discover all the factors that influenced the evolution of these liturgical formularies.
The same should be said about the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, which, in all probability, came into existence at the beginning of the sixth century in Antioch, Syria. There the other Byzantine Liturgies also originated. At some point during the sixth century the Presanctified Liturgy was transferred from Antioch to Constantinople, where it underwent further liturgical evolution and received its definite shape. The first certain information about the celebration of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the capital of the East comes to us in an anonymous work, Paschalion, written in 616. There we read:
"In the fourth year of Emperor Heraclius (614), under Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople (610-638), commencing with the first week of Lent, the people, following the Psalm ‘Let my prayer ascend to You' [see below] and the celebrant's invocation ‘Through the gift of Christ,' while the Presanctified Gifts were being carried to the altar, immediately started to sing ‘Now the Powers of heaven' [see below]. This hymn is sung not only during Lent, but every time the Presanctified Gifts are celebrated." (cf. P.G. 92,989)
From this first reliable source concerning the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts we can conclude: 1) that at the beginning of the seventh century (about 614) this Liturgy was well developed and celebrated in Constantinople; 2) that starting with Lent of 614, a new, most inspiring hymn "Now the Powers of heaven" was introduced; and 3) that at that time the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts was celebrated not only during Lent, but also on some other occasions. It was limited to the Great Lent by the Council of Trullo (692), which stated:
"Let the sacred Liturgy of the Presanctified (Gifts) be performed on all days of the Holy Forty Days' Fast, except Saturday and the Lord's day, and the holy day of Annunciation" (Canon 52).
More recent legislation limited its celebration to the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent, and to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. (cf. A. Mikita, Cerk. Typykon, 1901, p. 174) But even on those days the celebration of the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is permitted (Ibid.; Ordo Celebrationis, Rome 1944, n.216).
The oldest text of the Presanctified Liturgy as celebrated in the Byzantine Rite today can be found in the often mentioned Codex Barberini, from the eighth century. Its author is not mentioned. Only later manuscripts from the 11th-12th centuries ascribe its authorship to various Fathers, like St. Basil (d. 379), St. Epiphanius (d. 403), St. Gregory the Great - the Dialogus (d. 604), St. Germanus (d. 732), or even some of the Apostles. But all these testimonies lack a historical basis or spring from apocryphal sources. As such, therefore, they all are today rejected by the liturgists, who unanimously agree that the original author of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts remains unknown.
The oldest description of the Presanctified Liturgy belongs to St. Theodore Studite (d. 826), who wrote a short essay entitled "Explanation of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified." (cf. P.G. 99, 1687-1680) The ritual as described by St. Theodore in his work is very similar to the one used at the present time.
The Carpathian particular usage of the celebration of the Presanctified Gifts is given to us by Canon Alexander Mikita, in his Cerkovnyj Typykon, printed in Uzhorod, 1901 (p. 200-207), while its commentary is presented to us by Father Eugene Fencik, in his Liturhika (Budapest 1878, p. 197-208), and by Prof. Nicholas Russnak, in his Hungarian work A Keleti Egyhaz Misei (Budapest 1915, p. 114-120).
The ordinary Divine Liturgy was considered by the Fathers a joyous celebration, which usually was followed by the love feast (agape) as mentioned by St. Paul (I Cor. 11:20-22). A Syrian commentator and contemporary of St. John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia (d. 426), in his recently (1933) discovered Catecheses writes: "To participate in the Mysteries (Communion) is to commemorate the death of the Lord, which procures for us the resurrection and the joy of immortality." (cf. Catech. 15, 7).
Since Lent was a time of mourning and repentance, the celebration of the Divine Liturgy during the Lenten period was limited to Saturdays and Sundays, as legislated already by the Synod of Laodicea (about 365): "In Lent it is not lawful to offer the Bread (Holy Eucharist), except on the Sabbath and the Lord's Day alone" (Canon 49). Hence the custom arose that on the other Lenten days the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts was celebrated to give to the people an opportunity to receive Holy Communion daily.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is composed of three clearly distinguishable parts, namely: 1) Vespers, 2) Liturgy of the Catechumens, and 3) Holy Communion of the faithful.
During Lent, according to ancient tradition, a complete abstinence from food, a true fast, was observed by the faithful until 3:00 P.M. from Monday through Friday (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, No. 13). But before taking their evening meal the faithful used to assemble in their churches for Evening Prayers which, eventually, developed into the liturgical services of Vespers. These then form the first part of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, concluding with the entrance and singing of the vespertine hymn, "O Joyful Light".
The second part, the Liturgy of the Catechumens, is a reminder of the public instructions given to the candidates for Baptism, called Catechumens. These instructions were given during Lent by the bishop in church every day, and were combined with special prayers, exorcisms and blessings. They also were often attended by the faithful. Thus, the second part of the Presanctified was formed, consisting of scriptural readings, solemn blessing with incense and candles, and intonation of "The light of Christ enlightens every man who comes into the world" (Jn. 1:9), as well as the Ekteny of the Catechumens with its prayer (unfortunately now-a-days omitted). All these elements are so many remnants of the venerable institution of the ancient Catechumenate.
The third part of the office consists of a solemn communion with the Holy Eucharist consecrated at the regular Divine Liturgy ahead of time. It begins with the Ekteny of Supplication and follows the patterns of the Divine Liturgy, except for the Anaphora with the consecration. After the prayers for the faithful there follows the Great Entrance with the Presanctified Gifts, while the hymn "Now the Powers of heaven" is being sung. Then the Ekteny of Impetration and the recitation of the "Our Father" prepare the faithful for Holy Communion. The prayers of thanksgiving and the prayer behind the ambo with a dismissal properly concludes the services.
On the Lord's Day the Christians of the first centuries and, later, the monks of the desert assembled for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, which was followed then by the "meal of love" (agape). On this occasion they received Holy Communion and also took some consecrated particles for their daily communion during the week in their homes. This custom is known in Church history as private or monastic communion, and was confirmed by a "long - continued custom" (cf. St. Basil, Epistle 93). In the same epistle St. Basil mentions that "in Egypt every person, even the laity, has the (Holy) Eucharist in his own home and receives it with his own hand every time when he wishes to communicate".
Later, because of some abuses, private communion was forbidden. To the question, "Whether the monk or nun can take Holy Communion by themselves?", St. Theodore Studite (d. 826) replies: "It is not licit even to touch the Holy Gifts by those who are not priests, except in the case of necessity." (cf. P.G. 99, 1661) Thus private communion was gradually substituted with a solemn communion in church, which subsequently developed into the Holy Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
The famous Byzantine canonist, the hieromonk Matthew Blastares, in his work Syntagma, comments: "During Lent we partake of the Presanctified Gifts towards evening in order to strengthen ourselves against the assaults of the enemy (of our salvation). Certainly spiritual food is most suitable in a spiritual combat. For this reason it was ordered that the office of the Presanctified be mystically celebrated in the evening." (cf. P.G. 145, 149) The prayer behind the ambo, recited at the end of the services, beautifully describes the spiritual fruits of the Presanctified Liturgy.
It should also be noted that according to the ancient, if not apostolic "unwritten tradition" (St. John Damascene in P.G. 95, 69), on Good Friday no Liturgy, not even that of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated in the Byzantine Church, since, according to the testimony of St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), on that day "our Lord offered Himself in sacrifice. And His sacrifice is sufficient for the salvation of all the faithful." (cf. P.L. 78, 893) The only exception made is when the feast of the Annunciation falls on Good Friday. The reason of this exception was recently given by Pope John Paul II: "If the Word of God would not become flesh in the virginal womb of Mary then the passion and the death of Christ would not have been realized." (cf. L'Osservatore Romano, March 26, 1980, p. 2)
THE EVENING PRAYER
r. Let my prayer ascend to You like incense, and the lifting up of my hands like an evening sacrifice.
v. O Lord, I have cried to You, now hear me; listen to my voice when I call to You.
v. O Lord, set a guard before by mouth, and set a seal on the door of my lips.
v. Let not my heart be inclined to evil, nor make excuse for the sins I commit.
Source: Byzantine Leaflet Series no. 21 (with Ecclesiastical Approbation), Byzantine Seminary Press
As we already have seen, the eucharistic Divine Liturgy is not celebrated in the Orthodox Church on lenten weekdays. In order for the faithful to sustain their lenten effort by participation in Holy Communion, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served. The service is an ancient one in the Orthodox Church. We officially hear about it in the canons of the seventh century, which obviously indicates its development at a much earlier date.
On all days of the holy fast of Lent, except on the Sabbath, the Lord's Day, and the holy day of the Annunciation, the Liturgy of the Presanctified is to be served (Canon 52, Quinisext, 692).
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is an evening service. It is the solemn lenten Vespers with the administration of Holy Communion added to it. There is no consecration of the eucharistic gifts at the presanctified liturgy. Holy Communion is given from the eucharistic gifts sanctified on the previous Sunday at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, unless, of course, the feast of the Annunciation should intervene; hence its name of "presanctified."
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is served on Wednesday and Friday evenings, although some churches may celebrate it only on one of these days. It comes in the evening after a day of spiritual preparation and total abstinence. The faithful who are unable to make the effort of total fasting because of weakness or work, however, normally eat a light lenten meal in the early morning.
During the psalms of Vespers, the presanctified gifts are prepared for communion. They are transferred from the altar table where they have been reserved since the Divine Liturgy, and are placed on the table of oblation. After the evening hymn, the Old Testamental scriptures of Genesis and Proverbs are read, between which the celebrant blesses the kneeling congregation with a lighted candle and the words: "The Light of Christ illumines all," indicating that all wisdom is given by Christ in the Church through the scriptures and sacraments. This blessing was originally directed primarily to the catechumens -- those preparing to be baptized on Easter -- who attended the service only to the time of the communion of the faithful.
After the readings, the evening Psalm 141 is solemnly sung once again with the offering of incense. Then, after the litanies of intercession and those at which the catechumens were dismissed in former days, the presanctified eucharistic gifts are brought to the altar in a solemn, silent procession. The song of the entrance calls the faithful to communion.
Now the heavenly powers (i.e., the angels) do minister invisibly with us. For behold the King of Glory enters. Behold the mystical sacrifice, all fulfilled, is ushered in.
Let us with faith and love draw near that we may be partakers of everlasting life. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.
After the litany and prayers, the Our Father is sung and the faithful receive Holy Communion to the chanting of the verse from Psalm 34: "O taste and see how good is the Lord. Alleluia." The post-communion hymns are sung and the faithful depart with a prayer to God who "has brought us to these all-holy days for the cleansing of carnal passions," that he will bless us "to fight the good fight, to accomplish the course of the fast, and to attain unto and to adore the holy resurrection" of Christ.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is traditionally considered to be the work of the sixth-century pope, Saint Gregory of Rome. The present service, however, is obviously the inspired liturgical creation of Christian Byzantium.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
If one wants to live the liturgical richness, the wondrous mystical greatness of Great Lent, he must try to avoid its surface. The surface is that which we all see and recognize on the Sundays of Great Lent. There is truly a distinction between these Sundays and other Sundays during the rest of the year. The special festal themes, the hymnography, the Liturgy of Basil the Great which is performed instead of the Liturgy of Chrysostom, give them a distinct color. However the Sundays of Great Lent are an oasis within itself. Essentially they are found outside of it. The real charm of Great Lent is felt within the "sea" or "barren desert", as the Fathers call Great Lent, or rather in its every day cycle, from Monday till Friday of the six weeks which it forms.
Our Church always saw the ideal form of worship in the monastic services, which is why over time the specifically old parish services were replaced with the monastic. However, especially during Great Lent it tried to move the worship of the monasteries to the churches in the world. After all, the faithful could not venture out into the desert, therefore the services of the desert moved to the cities. The Church wanted on these devout days to make its lay members taste the mystical beauty of the monastic services; to make the faithful laity into small monastics. And this was not without purpose. In the monastic system of services during the period of the Fast there is found the culmination of the entire year. Few people are able to follow them. They neither have the time available, nor the necessary disposition of soul. By contrast in the monasteries, where the worship of God is the center of monastic life and the primary interest of these dedicated people, the ecclesiastical services of the period of Great Lent become the nourishment and the only occupation of the fathers.
From Reasonable Worship. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
March 8, 2011
According to information from Romfea.gr, a chapel has been established by the believers who follow the former Bishop of Raska and Prizren Artemije. The chapel is reportedly on the first floor of a house near Vracar, without permission from the Serbian Orthodox Patriarchate.
The same report indicates that the chapel is dedicated to the new Serbian saint Father Justin (Popovich).
The chapel was done at the request of residents and the "exiled" Metropolitan Artemije will celebrate the Divine Liturgy every Sunday and all the services of Great Lent.
The first Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the former Abbot of the Monastery of Tserna Reka (Black River) Archimandrite Nicoli, and was attended by more than 30 people.
It should be noted that former Metropolitan Artemije is deposed by the Hierarchy of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Church, though he states that he is a lifelong Metropolitan of Raska and Prizren.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
March 9, 2011
Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta and Aegialia has taken on a Carnival costume-wearing priest, appealing in his blog for him to repent.
He specifically stated:
"With pain in my soul, on Wednesday night of March 2 at 11:45 pm on channel TV Super live we saw the wretchedness. Among those dancing in their costumes was a young man vested as a priest, wearing a raso and stole! We express sadness at this sign of disrespect.
Scenes of mockery of the holy priesthood occurred in the past in communist Russia. It is unacceptable for this to take place in our Orthodox Greece. This young man, who had this unfortunate inspiration, ridiculed the goodness of our Lord. May he express repentance, to avoid the punishment of God."
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
By Father Robert M. Arida
The Canon of St. Andrew is interwoven with two complementary strands. There is first the historical strand, in which St. Andrew skillfully uses the history of salvation as the foundation for his hymn of repentance. It is the loving and compassionate God, who reveals himself through his saving acts and who calls the listener to repentance. It is the triune and tripersonal God who reveals to the listener that the work of salvation continues here and now. Indeed, the Lord himself reminds those who accuse him of breaking the law for healing on the Sabbath that “My Father is working still, and I am working.” (John 5:17). This ongoing work of God forms the second strand of the canon which calls us to personal repentance and to acknowledge how we stand and respond to God’s healing activity.
These complementary strands in the Canon of St. Andrew remind us that Christians are called to be ascetics. Our baptism, our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, makes us citizens of the Kingdom and strangers to sin and corruption. St. Paul teaches us that since we are participants in the Passover of the Lord, we are not to allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies. “Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourself to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:12:14).
Through baptism, we are under grace, we have passed from death to life and therefore have become strangers to a world that rejects the overture of divine love. Yet who can deny the reality and temptation of sin? Yes, in baptism we have died to sin! (Rom. 6:11). But as St. Paul recognized, he did not do what he wanted, and sought after the very things he hated. The law of sin waged spiritual warfare against the law of grace. The law of sin continued in his members seeking to overcome the gift of new life.
Because St. Paul was aware of his own sin, he was able to recognize the fragmentation or disintegration of his own person. He recognized that the Paul who sinned was a caricature, a distorted image of the Paul bathed in the grace of baptism. “For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Rom. 7:19)
One can notice that the struggle described by St. Paul is the same struggle described in the Canon of St. Andrew. As the history of salvation unfolds through the troparia of the canon, we also are confronted with the distorted self, the self that has subordinated spirit to flesh because of a misguided will. Consequently, the passions, which are linked to our nature, become misdirected and twisted. Like the struggling apostle, the canon expresses the shocking self-discovery of its author, “…I am convicted by the verdict of my own conscience, which is more compelling than all else in the world.” (Ode 4).
The call to asceticism is the call to the true self which struggles to submit the flesh to the spirit. It is the ordeal which purifies the passions by allowing the gift of grace to guide and nurture the will. The call to asceticism places us on the path of transfigured life that has already been opened for us by the Lord’s great and holy Pascha.
When the passions are purified, when human nature and human will are in harmony with the divine will, the true self emerges as it develops according to the law of grace. St. Anthony of Egypt describes the wholeness or integration of the human person in this way: “What takes place according to nature is not sinful; sin always involves man’s deliberate choice. It is not a sin to eat; it is a sin to eat without gratitude, and not in an orderly and restrained manner such as will enable the body to be kept alive without inducing evil thought. It is not a sin to use one’s eyes with purity; it is a sin to look with envy, arrogance, and insatiable desire. It is a sin to listen not peacefully, but in anger; it is a sin to guide the tongue, not towards thanksgiving and prayer, but towards back biting; it is a sin to employ the hands, not for acts of compassion, but for murders and robberies. And thus every part of the body sins when by man’s own choice it performs not good but evil acts, contrary to God’s will.”
The ascetical life should be our repentant response to God’s love. Through this response, the icon of the true self will radiate with the uncreated light. Through the ascetical struggle the flesh will be transformed into the temple of the living God. This is the joyous news of the canon as it unites us to the great acts of God culminating in the Savior’s death and resurrection.
The text of the Great Canon can be viewed here.
Continued from part one here.
5. But let our discourse proceed to history in reviewing the antiquity of fasting, and how all of the Saints, receiving it as an ancestral legacy, preserved it in the way that fathers hand things on to their children; thus, this possession has come down to us by a process of successive transmission. There was no wine in Paradise, nor any slaughter of animals, nor any consumption of meat. After the flood, there was wine; after the flood came the ordinance: “Eat all things as the green herb.”13 When hope of human perfection was abandoned, then enjoyment was permitted. Noah, who knew nothing about the use of wine, is proof that men had no experience thereof. For wine had not yet found its way into human life, nor had men become accustomed to it. Therefore, when he had neither seen anyone else drinking wine nor tried it himself, he unguardedly succumbed to the harm that comes therefrom: “For Noah...planted a vineyard; and he drank of its fruit, and became drunk”;14 not because he was a drunkard, but because he did not know how much wine he could imbibe. Thus, the discovery of wine-drinking is more recent than Paradise, so ancient is the dignity of fasting. Moreover, we know that Moses ascended the mountain while fasting.15 For he would not have dared to touch the peak of the mountain while it was smoking, nor would he have made bold to enter the darkness, had he not been armed with fasting. It was through fasting that he received the commandment inscribed on the tablets by the finger of God. Above, fasting ushered in the Law; below, gluttony led to the madness of idolatry. “And the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.”16 The forty days in which the servant of God waited on God in fasting and prayer were rendered futile by a single drinking bout. For the tablets inscribed by the finger of God that Moses obtained were shattered by drunkenness, since the Prophet did not judge the drunken people worthy to receive the Law from God. In one moment of time that people, who had been taught about God through stupendous miracles, plunged headlong, through gluttony, into the idol-madness of the Egyptians. Now juxtapose both of these facts: how fasting brings one close to God, and how indulgence drives away salvation. Once you descend to indulgence, you are on the road to perdition.
6. What ruined Esau and made him a slave of his brother? Was it not a single act of eating, which caused him to sell his birthright?17 Was it not prayer combined with fasting that bestowed Samuel on his mother?18 What was it that rendered the mighty champion Samson invincible? Was it not fasting, with which he was conceived in his mother’s womb?19 Fasting gave birth to him; fasting suckled him; fasting made him grow to manhood, and an Angel enjoined this fast on his mother: “She shall not eat of anything that cometh from the vine, neither shall she drink wine or strong drink.”20 Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful; fasting makes lawgivers wise. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness. It sanctifies the Nazirite21 and perfects the Priest. For it is not possible to dare to perform sacred actions without fasting, not only in the mystical and true worship of the present era, but also in the symbolic worship offered according to the Law. Fasting made Elias a beholder of that great vision; for, having cleansed his soul by fasting for forty days, he was thus vouchsafed, in the cave in Horeb, to behold the Lord as far as it is possible for a man to do so.22 While fasting he restored to the widow her son, having been fortified against death itself through fasting.23 A voice that went forth from the mouth of one fasting shut the heavens for the transgressing people for three years and six months. For, in order to soften the untamed heart of his stiff-necked people, he chose to condemn himself to hardship together with them. Hence, he said: “As the Lord liveth, there shall not be water upon the earth, except by the word of my mouth.”24 He brought a fast upon the people through famine, so as to correct the evil caused by their dissolute life of luxury. What kind of life did Elissaios have? How did he enjoy hospitality from the Shunamite woman? How did he himself welcome the prophets? Did he not fulfill the duties of hospitality with wild greens and a little flour?25 At that time, after the gourd had been placed in the pottage, those who had tasted it would have been in peril, had not the poison been neutralized by the prayer of the faster.26 There is a physical substance called amianthus,27 which is noncombustible, and which, when placed in a flame, appears to glow like coal, but emerges purer when removed from the fire, as if it has been brightened and cleansed with water. Such were the bodies of those three Youths in Babylon, which, on account of their fasting,28 possessed the properties of amianthus. For in the fiery furnace, as if they were golden by nature, they thus proved to be invulnerable to the fire. In fact, they proved to be stronger than gold. For the fire did not smelt them, but preserved them intact. And yet, nothing could have withstood those flames, which were being fed with naphtha, pitch, and brushwood, to such an extent that they streamed forth forty-nine cubits into the air and, feeding on what surrounded them, consumed many of the Chaldæans.29 Entering that conflagration, therefore, armed with fasting, the Youths trampled it underfoot, breathing refined and dew-laden air in such a fierce fire. The fire did not dare to touch even their hair, because they had been nourished by fasting.30
7. Daniel, a man greatly beloved,31 who ate no bread and drank no water for three weeks,32 when he descended into the den, taught even lions to fast.33 The lions were not able to sink their teeth into him, as if he were made of stone, bronze, or some other harder material. Thus, fasting, as when iron is dipped in water, had toughened that man’s body and rendered it impregnable to lions; for they did not even open their mouths against the Saint. Fasting extinguished the power of fire and stopped the mouths of lions. Fasting sends up prayer to Heaven, becoming, as it were, a wing for it on its upward journey. Fasting is the enhancement of households, the mother of health, the guide of the young, the adornment of elders, the good companion of wayfarers, the steadfast comrade of married couples. A husband does not suspect a plot against his marriage when he sees his wife observing the fast. A wife does not pine with envy when she sees her husband embracing the fast. Who has ever diminished his resources during a fast? Count up today what is in your house, and after a fast count it again. You will not have run short of any household goods because of the fast. No animal laments death, nowhere is there any blood, no sentence is pronounced against animals by the inexorable stomach. The knives of cooks are checked; the table is content with foods that grow naturally. The Sabbath was given to the Jews, Scripture says, that your beast of burden and your servant might enjoy a rest.34 Let the fast be a rest from constant toils for the menials who serve you throughout the year. Give your cook a break, grant your footman a holiday; stay the hand of your cupbearer. Let your pastry cook have a vacation from time to time. Let your household at last have some respite from the never-ending commotion, smoke, the odor of fat, and people running hither and thither and ministering, as it were, to that implacable mistress, the stomach. In any case, even tax-collectors sometimes give small breaks to those who owe them money. Let the stomach give the mouth some rest, and let it make a truce with us for five days35—for otherwise it is always making demands and never desists, receiving today and forgetting tomorrow. When it is full, it philosophizes about abstinence; when it is deflated, it forgets such ideas.
13 Cf. Genesis 9:3.
14 Genesis 9:20-21.
15 Exodus 24:18.
16 Exodus 32:6.
17 Genesis 25:29-34.
18 I Kings 1:13-16, Septuaginta.
19 Judges 13:4.
20 Judges 13:14.
21 Another name for an ascetic; cf. St. Basil the Great, “Epistle 44,” §1, Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXII, col. 361C.
22 III Kings 19:8-13.
23 III Kings 17:17-24.
24 III Kings 17:1.
25 IV Kings 4:39-41.
26 Elissaios, as a Prophet, was an ascetic and therefore a practitioner of fasting.
27 Amianthus is a fine, silky type of asbestos.
28 Daniel 1:8-16.
29 Daniel 3:46-48, Septuaginta.
30 Daniel 3:50, Septuaginta.
31 Daniel 10:11.
32 Daniel 10:2-3 (where it is stated that Daniel drank no wine).
33 Daniel 6:16-22.
34 Exodus 20:10.
35 During five weekdays in Lent, the Fast is observed with greater strictness than on weekends, when wine and oil are permitted.
Read part three here.
March 7, 2011
The New York Times
Like a figure in a medieval drama, the monk Irenaeus I has been cloistered for the last three years in a third-floor apartment in the compound of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate high above a narrow, bustling alleyway of Jerusalem’s Old City, unwilling or unable to leave.
Appearing at his barred window one recent morning, clad in the traditional black garb of the Greek Orthodox priesthood, Irenaeus mouthed greetings to some visitors in the street below and waved a silver cross in a silent blessing.
Irenaeus was once the patriarch of Jerusalem, the highest authority of this ancient branch of the Orthodox Church, until he was ousted from his position in 2005. His refusal to recognize the authority of his successor, Theophilos III, seems to be the reason for his current ordeal.
Yet the warring rivals and their counsels disagree on the question of how much Irenaeus’s confinement has been forced upon him, and how much it is by his own design. Irenaeus, 71, refuses to leave the apartment because, he says, he has no guarantee that he will be allowed to return. Until this is no longer in question, he says, communicating by fax and employing the majestic plural, “in essence, they compel us to remain within our cell.”
Daniel Robbins, a Jerusalem lawyer who is representing Irenaeus in this regard and in the additional matter of some icons in Irenaeus’s apartment that Theophilos wants, said, “Nothing here is self-imposed.”
Irenaeus “will be homeless” if he leaves the compound, Mr. Robbins said. “He has no property.”
Representatives of Theophilos, however, argue that Irenaeus is a captive by choice.
“The fact that he has decided to lock himself up in the apartment is his prerogative,” said Nadir Mughrabi, an adviser to the patriarchate. “Nobody is asking him to leave.” If he were to leave the compound, Mr. Mughrabi said, “there is no decision to stop him from coming back.”
This Byzantine saga mirrors the struggles over politics and real estate that have bedeviled the Holy Land for centuries. Competing interests within the church’s realm, which includes Israel, Jordan and, now, the Palestinian Authority, have only sharpened what one local member of the community described as a hundred years of infighting and intrigue.
Irenaeus was elected in 2001 as the patriarch of Jerusalem, normally a position for life. He was removed four years later amid allegations of shady property deals. Among other things, he was accused of selling long-term leases on prime properties owned by the patriarchate inside the Old City — in territory that Israel annexed after the 1967 war, but where the Palestinians and most of the world do not recognize Israeli sovereignty — to foreign companies acting as fronts for a Jewish settlers group.
As the owner of valuable tracts of land in the region, including prized locations in central Jerusalem, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has long wielded power disproportionate to the size of its flock. Israel’s official prime minister’s residence is on Greek Orthodox land.
Defenders of Irenaeus say that he was manipulated by stronger forces on the property deals, which are being contested in the Israeli courts.
Elias Khoury, a Greek Orthodox lawyer in Jerusalem, was one of three members of a committee appointed by the Palestinian Authority to investigate the land deals. The commission concluded that Irenaeus had been misled and was the victim of a conspiracy, Mr. Khoury said.
As a result, Mr. Khoury suggested, Theophilos may have good reason to fear Irenaeus and keep him isolated. Irenaeus enjoyed 24-hour protection from the Israeli police, and with it free movement, until Israel finally recognized Theophilos’s election in the spring of 2007. The appointment has also been ratified by the governments of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, as required by law and tradition.
Since then, Irenaeus, who was born on the Greek island of Samos and first came to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem at the age of 13, has remained in near total seclusion.
Life in the patriarchate compound is run along the lines of a strict order, and a doorman guards the entrance. A gate leading from the courtyard to Irenaeus’s apartment is usually locked, and he does not have the key. Mr. Robbins, his lawyer, has been able to visit him three times in recent months, but only with a court order.
For food and medicine, Irenaeus says he relies on the good will of a local resident — a Muslim who runs a nearby grocery store, and who places supplies in a basket that Irenaeus lowers to the street at night from a rooftop terrace abutting his apartment.
Mr. Mughrabi said this, too, was “a hundred percent his own doing.” Like the dozens of other priests who reside in the compound, Mr. Mughrabi said, Irenaeus is on the list to receive food from the central kitchen, but “he has chosen to make other arrangements.”
Irenaeus described his confinement as a kind of “martyrdom” imposed by hostile forces “aiming for our psychological and bodily annihilation.” It was the result of a scheme by interest groups, he said, that was “diabolical in its conception.”
He placed sole responsibility for his situation on Theophilos, his nemesis, “to whom ecclesiastical history will ascribe the name traitor!”
For many local members of the church, the goings-on in the patriarchate, particularly the land issues, have merely confirmed long-held grievances.
“The problem is that the patriarchs come from Greece,” said Khaled Ikhleif, a Palestinian taxi driver from Bethlehem in the West Bank. “They are foreign, not Arab, and they do not understand our problems.”
Mr. Ikhleif was attending epiphany celebrations at Qasr al-Yahud, a spot on the Jordan River where Jesus was said to have been baptized. The site, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is in a border area surrounded by minefields. After a procession and a ceremony led by Theophilos, pilgrims immersed themselves in the opaque, khaki-color water, momentarily oblivious to all dissension and discord.
A History of Christianity is a six-part British television series originally broadcast on BBC Four in 2009. The series was presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of History of the Church at St Cross College Oxford, and considers the evolution of the Christian faith and its four main forms: Orthodoxy, Oriental Christianity, Western Catholicism and Protestantism.
Monday, March 7, 2011
1. “Sound the trumpet at the new moon,” says the Psalmist, “in the notable day of your feast.”2 This injunction is prophetic. The Scripture readings indicate to us more loudly than any trumpet and more distinctly than any musical instrument the Feast that precedes these days. For we have learned from Isaiah the Grace to be gained from the fasts. Isaiah rejected the Jewish way of fasting and showed us what true fasting means. “Fast not for quarrels and strifes, but loose every bond of iniquity.”3 And the Lord says: “Be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, but anoint thine head, and wash thy face.”4 Let us, therefore, exhibit the demeanor that we have been taught, not being doleful about the coming days, but maintaining a joyful attitude, as befits holy people. No one who desponds is crowned; no one who sulks sets up a trophy of victory. Do not be sullen while you are being healed. It would be absurd not to rejoice over the health of your soul, but rather to be distressed over a change of diet and to give the impression of setting more store by the pleasure of your stomach than by the care of your soul. For satiety brings delight to the stomach, whereas fasting brings profit to the soul. Be of good cheer, for the physician has given you a medicine that destroys sin. For, just as the tapeworms that breed in the intestines of children are obliterated by certain very pungent drugs, so also fasting — a remedy truly worthy of its appellation —5, when introduced into the soul, kills off the sin that lurks deep within it.
2. “Anoint thine head, and wash thy face.”6 This sentence summons you to mysteries. One who has been anointed has received unction; he who has been washed has been cleansed. Apply this injunction to your inner members. Wash your soul clean of sins. Have your head anointed with holy oil, so that you might become a partaker of Christ, and approach the fast in this spirit. Do not disfigure your face as do the hypocrites.7 The face is disfigured when one’s inner disposition is obscured by a sham external appearance, concealed by falsehood as if beneath a veil. An actor in a theatre is one who assumes someone else’s persona — if he is a slave, he often plays a master, and if he is a private citizen, he plays a king. Likewise, in this life, as if on some stage, the majority of people turn their existence into a theatre, entertaining one thing in their hearts, but displaying something else to men by their outward appearance. Therefore, do not disfigure your face. Whatever you may be, appear as such. Do not transform yourself into a sullen person, seeking the glory that comes from appearing to be abstemious. For there is no profit in trumpeting your good deeds, nor any gain in advertising your fasting. Things that are done for outward show do not yield any fruit in the age to come, but terminate in human praise. Run with gladness to the gift of the fast. Fasting is an ancient gift, which does not grow old or become outmoded, but is ever renewed and flourishes with vigor.
3. Do you think that I am resting the origin of fasting on the Law? Why, fasting is even older than the Law. If you wait a little, you will discover the truth of what I have said. Do not suppose that fasting originated with the Day of Atonement, appointed for Israel on the tenth day of the seventh month.8 No, go back through history and inquire into the ancient origins of fasting. It is not a recent invention; it is an heirloom handed down by our fathers. Everything distinguished by antiquity is venerable. Have respect for the antiquity of fasting. It is as old as humanity itself; it was prescribed in Paradise. It was the first commandment that Adam received: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ye shall not eat.”9 Through the words “ye shall not eat” the law of fasting and abstinence is laid down. If Eve had fasted from the tree, we would not now be in need of this fast. “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”10 We have been wounded through sin; we are healed through repentance, but repentance without fasting is fruitless. “Cursed is the ground.... Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth for thee.”11 You were ordered to live in sorrow, not in luxury. Make amends to God through fasting. Yet even life in Paradise is an image of fasting, not only insofar as man, sharing the life of the Angels, attained to likeness with them through being contented with little, but also insofar as those things which human ingenuity subsequently invented had not yet been devised by those living in Paradise, be it the drinking of wine, the slaughter of animals, or whatever else befuddles the human mind.
4. Since we did not fast, we fell from Paradise; let us, therefore, fast in order that we might return thither. Do you not see how Lazarus entered Paradise through fasting?12 Do not emulate the disobedience of Eve; never again accept the advice of the serpent, who suggested eating out of regard for the flesh. Do not use bodily sickness and infirmity as an excuse for not fasting. You are not offering such excuses to me, but to Him Who knows all about you. Tell me, you are unable to fast, and yet you are able eat to satiety throughout your life and oppress your body with the burden of what you eat? And yet, I know of doctors who prescribe for sick people not a variety of foods, but fasting and abstinence. How is it, then, that, while you are able to carry out doctors’ orders, you allege that you are unable to keep the fasts ordained by the Church? What is easier for the stomach? To pass the night after observing a frugal diet, or to lie in bed weighed down by an abundance of foods? Or rather, not lying down, but tossing and turning, heaving and groaning — unless you are going to say that it is easier for a helmsman to save a vessel weighed down with cargo than one that is less encumbered and lighter. The one that is laden with a multitude of goods will be submerged when any wave, no matter how low, rears up against it, whereas the one carrying a moderate quantity of freight easily rides the waves, there being nothing to prevent it from rising above the surge. Likewise, the bodies of men, when weighed down by constant surfeiting, easily become overwhelmed by illnesses, whereas, when they avail themselves of simple and easily-digested fare, they not only escape, as from the eruption of a tempest, the suffering that is to be expected from any disease, but also repel like the onslaught of a squall the sickness that is already present within them. In your view, I suppose, it is more laborious to rest than to run and to be still than to struggle — if, indeed, you assert that it is more appropriate for those who are ill to indulge in delicacies than to observe a frugal diet. For the force that governs living creatures naturally engenders moderation and frugality and adapts itself to that which is eaten; but when the body ingests sumptuous and varied foods, this force, being entirely unable to tolerate them, gives rise to a variety of diseases.
1 Translated from the Greek original in Patrologia Græca, Vol. XXXI, cols. 164A-184C.
2 Psalm 80:4, Septuaginta.
3 Isaiah 58:4, 6.
4 St. Matthew 6:16, 17.
5. “Νηστεία” literally means “not eating.” St. Basil is arguing, here, that fasting kills off sin by starving it of the aliment on which it feeds.
6 St. Matthew 6:17.
7 St. Matthew 6:16.
8 Leviticus 23:27.
9 Genesis 2:17.
10 St. Matthew 9:12.
11 Genesis 3:17-18.
12 St. Luke 16:19-31.
Read part two here.
With Clean Monday begins Great Lent in the Orthodox Church and marks the end of feasting. Clean Monday is called as such because Christians are called to cleanse themselves spiritually and bodily. It is also a day of strict fasting with no work. The holy fast has a duration of 40 days in imitation of our Lord's fast in the desert.
On Clean Monday Greeks traditionally eat lagana bread (which is an unleavened bread only eaten on this day), as well as other fasting foods, especially beans, though without oil. It is also a custom to fly a kite on this day.
Clean Monday is 48 days prior to Holy Pascha Sunday.
Clean Monday and It's Traditional Observance
"The Holy Forty Day Fast" by Sergei Bulgakov
Recipe For A Kyra Sarakosti Calendar Cookie (Greek)
A Child’s Lent Remembered: Clean Monday
The First Week of Great Lent
By Sergei Bulgakov
The first week of the Holy Forty Day Fast are "the days beginning the holy fast". The Holy Church during this week, inviting its children to begin "the all honorable abstinence", to work "for the Lord with fear", to fast "the pleasant fast pleasing to the Lord", to fast not only "in body" but also "in spirit" opens the purpose and meaning of "the all honorable fast". "The Fast has come", sings the holy Church in its hymns, "mother of chastity, accuser of sins, advocate of repentance, life of the angels and salvation of men". "For by this Moses was glorified, and he received the Law written upon tablets", "Elijah having fasted, was enclosed in heaven", "through fasting the youths were delivered from the furnace and the Prophet Daniel from the jaws of the lions"; and "taking as shield the strong armor of the Fast, let us repel every delusion of the enemy. Let us not be led astray by the lusts of passion, let us not flinch before the fire of temptation"; "let us quench the burning passions of the flesh", "Let us be pure before the Pure One, and seeking purity from all before the Only Savior of our souls"; "illumined by divine virtues, let us gaze with faith upon the radiance of the Passion of the Savior", and "let us receive from Christ God great mercy". Together with this the holy Church finds out in detail also the properties of true lent, as valid means for the cleansing of sin, as the basis of repentance, as the beginning of the return of the person to God. According to the teaching of the holy Church, "true fasting is to put away all evil, to control the tongue, to forbear from anger, to abstain from lust, slander, falsehood and perjury. If we renounce these things, then our fasting is true and acceptable". Therefore, inviting its children to true repentance and lenten ascetic efforts, the holy Church also sings: "Clothing ourselves in the shining raiment of the Fast, let us cast off the dark and hateful garment of drunkenness"; "let us love chastity, and let us flee from fornication, let us gird our loins with temperance", "let us wash our faces in the water of dispassion", "let us loose every bond of iniquity, let us terminate the knots of every contract made by violence; let us tear up all unjust agreements; let us give bread to the hungry and to our house welcome the poor who have no roof to cover them"; "let us brightly begin the all honorable abstinence; and let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God, with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, with the purity of holiness and the strength of good courage."
Περάσαν οι Αποκριές & Τώρα ν' Αγιά Σαρακοστή (Δόμνα Σαμίου)
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Aimilianos was born in Rome and committed many grave sins in his youth. When Aimilianos came to his senses [later in life], he refrained from sinning and began to tremble just thinking about the judgment of God. Aimilianos immediately entered a monastery and by fasting, vigils and obedience, he tamed and shriveled his body. He was an ideal example to his brethren in all virtuous acts of asceticism. Frequently at night, he would step out of the monastery and enter into a nearby cave to pray. Not knowing where Aimilianos was going, the abbot of the monastery secretly followed him one night. The abbot saw Aimilianos standing at prayer in reverence and in tears. All at once, a heavenly light, brighter than the sun, encompassed the entire mountain but especially the cave and Aimilianos. A voice was heard from heaven saying, "Aimilianos, your sins are forgiven you." Filled with fright, the abbot hurried back to the monastery. The next day, he revealed to the brethren what he had seen and heard the previous night. Great respect was shown to Aimilianos by the brethren. He lived long and died to the Lord.
A Reflection From the Life of St. Aimilianos
A thick rope is made from thin, fibrous strands of hemp. One thin fiber cannot hold you tied nor can it strangle you. For you will easily, as in jest, break it and free yourself from it. If you are tied by a thick rope, you can be held bound and even be strangled by it. Neither can you break it easily nor free yourself from it. As a thick rope consists of thin and weak fibers, so the passions of man consist of minor sins. Man can break off and turn away from the beginnings of minor sins. But, when sin after sin is repeated, the weave becomes all the more stronger and stronger until in the end a passion is created, which then turns man into some kind of monster as only it knows how. You cannot easily cut it off, nor distance yourself from it, nor can you divorce yourself from it. O, if only men would beware and take care of the beginnings of sins! Then, they would not have to endure much in freeing themselves from passions. "To cut off rooted passions is as difficult as cutting off the fingers," said a monk from the Holy Mountain. To free himself from sinful passions, St. Aimilianos was helped by thinking thoughts of death and, understandably, the Grace of God, without which it is extremely difficult to rid oneself of the fetters of passion. To think often of impending death, to repent and to implore Grace from Almighty God, these three save a man from the bondage of sin. St. Sisoes was asked, "At which time can passions be uprooted?" The saint replied, "As soon as one passion takes root in you, uproot it immediately."
HYMN OF PRAISE: SAINT Aimilianos
Aimilianos, a grave sinner,
And from sin, the soul aches,
For forgiveness, he prays to God:
O Most High, O Most wonderful,
From Whom the sun has light,
From Whom the angelic choir, its wakeful
Existence, joy and radiance receive!
For You only, O God, do I care,
Repentantly, I return to You,
Only to You do I offer thanks
That now, I truly comprehend life.
Tears, tears, tears, I shed,
Body and spirit now are fasting,
Vision of the world and hearing I conceal,
Forgive, O God, forgive, forgive!
For Your mercy I am a field,
Weed me and cultivate me,
Let my soul be alive,
And the flesh suffer and feel pain.
Of all men, I am the worst,
Behold, I judge myself,
Just do not judge me, O God,
I fear You, Only You!
Sunday, March 6, 2011
March 6, 2011
A festive celebration took place today in the Byzantine Monastery of Agia Moni for the discovery of the miraculously revealed icon of Christ. The festive vesperal service was officiated by the preacher of the Holy Metropolis of Argolida, Archimandrite Chrysostomos Papoulesis.
The Miraculous Icon of Jesus Christ At Agia Moni
The holy icon of our Lord Jesus Christ, lying in front of the left columns of the Church of the Life-Giving Spring (katholikon) at Agia Moni in Nafplio, was found on 6 March 1920 on a Friday at four in the afternoon, behind the sanctuary of the church, at a depth of 1.60 m in the soil, in a wondrous manner. After repeated visions and proofs by the Most-Holy Theotokos to the Greek-American lawyer Theodore Rogkopoulos, he came to Greece and arrived in Nafplio and Agia Moni accompanied continuously throughout the journey from the rail station in Athens to Nafplio and Agia Moni by a young man wearing a dress that was unknown to Rogkopoulos. The young man disappeared on their arrival at the monastery and it was generally believed to be the Archangel Gabriel, as was promised by the Panagia in his sleep.
It is 3 km from Nafplio. Founded in 1144 by Bishop Leo of Argos and Nafplio, today the monastery has 10 nuns. The katholikon of the monastery is from the year 1149, and is a prototype of Byzantine architecture, as the French Byzantinist Charles Deal says, it is "the most beautiful of the second millennium". The architectural type of the church is a cross-in-square of the four columned type with dome. On the western entrance of the church is a marble slab, bearing the following inscription of dedication to the Virgin Mary by Bishop Leo:
Έπηξε βάθρα τω ναό Σου Παρθένε,
Λέων Αργείων αλιτρός θυηπόλος,
Ώπερ παράσχοις λύτρον αμπλακημάτων
Είς αντάμειψιν, ευλογημένη Κόρη.
For more photos and a virtual tour of Agia Moni, see here.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
By Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos
SUNDAY of CHEESEFARE
On the same day, we commemorate the banishment of Adam, the First-formed man, from the Paradise of delight.
Let the world lament bitterly with our first ancestors,
for it fell together with those who fell by a sweet repast.
Our Holy Fathers appointed this commemoration before the Holy Fast, as if to show in actual fact how beneficial the medicine of fasting is to human nature, and also how great is the shame of gluttony and disobedience. Passing over all the individual sins committed in the world on account of him, as being without number, the Fathers set forth how much evil Adam, the first-formed man, suffered from not fasting even for a brief time, and how much evil he thereby brought upon our race, clearly pointing out also that the virtue of fasting was the first commandment that God gave to mankind. Not keeping this commandment, but yielding to his belly, or rather, through Eve, to the deceitful serpent, Adam not only did not become God, but also incurred death and transmitted corruption to the whole human race.
Because of the self-indulgence of the first Adam, the Lord fasted for forty days and was obedient. For this reason, the present Holy Fast was designed by the Holy Apostles, in order that we might enjoy incorruption, through fasting, by keeping the commandment which he did not keep, thereby suffering the loss of incorruption. Furthermore, as we said previously, the aim of the Saints is to encompass in brief the works wrought by God from the beginning to the end. Since Adam’s transgression and his expulsion from the Paradise of delight were the cause of all our woes, for this reason they now set this transgression before us, so that, remembering it, we might avoid it and not in any way emulate his incontinence.
Adam was fashioned by the hand of God on the sixth day, being honored with His image through the Divine breath and at once receiving the commandment, concerning which fruits he should eat and which he should not, and he spent up to six days in Paradise; then, when he transgressed this commandment, he was driven out thence. Philo the Hebrew says that Adam spent a hundred years in Paradise; others say that he was there for seven days or seven years, because the number seven is accorded special honor. But that Adam stretched out his hands and touched the fruit at the sixth hour is shown by Christ, the New Adam, Who stretched out His hands on the Cross at the sixth hour and on the sixth day, remedying Adam’s destructive action.
Adam was created in between corruption and incorruption in order that, in whichever direction he should incline by his choice, he might gain the object of his desire. Now, it was possible for God to make him sinless; but in order that he might achieve this by his own choice, God gave him a law that he could touch all of the plants except one. By this we may perhaps understand the knowledge of Divine power that derives from all created things, but in no way knowledge of God’s nature, as does Saint Gregory the Theologian, who reasons that the former are the Divine conceptions, while the latter is the vision of God. That is, God allowed Adam to meditate on all the other elements and the other qualities, to recall them to mind, and to glorify God thereby—for this is what constitutes delight—and perhaps also to meditate on his own nature, but in no way to inquire into God, Who He is by nature, where He is, and how He brought the universe into existence from non-being. But Adam, leaving all the rest aside, inquired rather into God and scrutinized precisely the Divine nature, though he was still imperfect and very simple, and an infant in such matters; he fell after Satan suggested to him, through Eve, fantasies of deification. The great and Divine Chrysostomos says that that tree had a twofold power and that Paradise was on earth; he reasons that it was both noetic and sensible, just as Adam was, midway between corruption and incorruption, at the same time preserving the meaning of Scripture and not adhering to the letter.
Some say that that tree of disobedience was a fig-tree, and that, immediately becoming aware of their nakedness, Adam and Eve used its leaves to cover themselves. For this reason, Christ cursed the fig-tree as being the cause of their transgression. For the fig bears some resemblance to sin: first, it is sweet; secondly, its leaves feel rough; and thirdly, it is viscous on account of its juice. There are others who have understood—though incorrectly—that that tree represents Adam’s intercourse with Eve. After transgressing, then, Adam clothed himself in mortal flesh and received the curse, and was cast out of Paradise, and the Cherubim were assigned to guard its gate with a fiery sword. Adam sat before Paradise and bewailed how many good things he had been deprived of because he had not fasted for a time, and the entire race that sprang from him was subject to the same misery, until He Who created us, taking pity on our nature which Satan had corrupted and being born of the Holy Virgin, by His excellent way of life showed us the true way, through virtues that are contrary to Satan, namely, fasting and humility, and, having artfully overcome the one who had deceived us, led us back to our ancient dignity.
Wishing to present all these things to us, therefore, the God-bearing Fathers, through the entire Triodion, set forth the events of the Old Testament. First of these is the creation, and Adam’s fall from Paradise, which we are now commemorating, and then they set forth the rest, through the books of Moses and the Prophets and the words of David, and then, in order, the events of the New Testament, that of Grace. First of these is the Annunciation, which took place by God’s ineffable OEconomy, and which almost always falls within the Holy Fast. They continue with Lazarus Saturday, Palm Sunday, and Holy and Great Week, when the Holy Gospels are read, and the Holy and saving Passion of Christ, which is the subject of exquisite hymns; and then, with the Resurrection and the other Feasts, until the descent of the Holy Spirit, concerning which the Book of Acts relates how the Gospel was proclaimed and how the Spirit gathered all the Saints together; for the Acts of the Apostles confirms the Resurrection through the miracles worked by the Apostles. Since we have suffered such misery on account of Adam’s failure to fast just once, his commemoration is assigned to the beginning of the Holy Fast, in order that, remembering how much evil was brought about by not fasting, we might be eager to welcome the Fast with exceeding joy and to keep it, so that we might thereby gain what Adam missed, that is, deification, by lamenting, fasting, and humbling ourselves until God visits us; for without these things, it is not easy for us to gain what we lost.
It should be known that this Holy and Great Fast constitutes a tenth of the entire year; for since, out of slothfulness, we do not choose always to fast and to refrain from evildoing, the Apostles and the Divine Fathers handed down this Fast as a time of spiritual harvest, in order that, humbling ourselves now through contrition and fasting, we may blot out whatever wicked deeds we have committed during the course of the year, and we ought to keep this Fast more strictly than the others. But we should also keep the three other Fasts, those of the Apostles, the Theotokos, and the Nativity, which the Divine Fathers have bequeathed to us. We accord greater honor to this Fast on account of the Holy Passion, and because Christ fasted for forty days and, overcoming the Tempter, was glorified, and Moses, after fasting for forty days, received the Law, as did Elias and Daniel and all of the others who found favor with God. That fasting is a good practice is shown by the contrary example of Adam. For this reason, therefore, Adam’s banishment from Paradise was placed here by the Holy Fathers.
In Thine ineffable compassion, O Christ our God, vouchsafe us the delight of Paradise, and have mercy on us, O Thou Who alone lovest mankind. Amen.
Seasonal Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
O Master, Prudence, Guide of Wisdom, Instruction to the foolish and Defender of the poor, strengthen my heart and grant it discernment. Give me words, Word of the Father, for behold, I shall not keep my lips from crying out to You, "O Merciful One, have mercy on me who has fallen."