|St. Matrona of Thessaloniki (Feast Day - March 27)|
Sunday, March 27, 2011
THIRD SUNDAY of LENT
On this day, the Third Sunday of the Great Fast, we celebrate the Veneration of the Precious and Life-giving Cross.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Saturday, March 26, 2011
In the services for this Sunday the Holy Church glorifies the Holy Cross and the fruits of the death of the Savior on the Cross. She will carry out the Holy Cross into the middle of the temple for veneration, and is why the Sunday is called the Veneration of the Cross. In the hymns for this day the holy Church, inviting us to honor the holy cross, tenderly appeals: "Now the angelic hosts gather in reverence and bear aloft the honored Wood, and calling together all the faithful for the veneration. Come therefore and illumined by the fast, let us fall down before it with joy and fear". "Cleansed by abstinence let us draw near, and with fervent praise let us venerate the all-holy Wood on which Christ was crucified, when He saved the world in His compassion". "Come, faithful, and let us venerate the life-giving tree, on which Christ, the King of Glory voluntarily stretched out his hands. He raised us up to the ancient blessedness, whom the enemy despoiled of old through pleasure, making us exiles far from God. Come, faithful, and let us venerate the tree whereby we have been counted worthy to crush the heads of our invisible enemies. Come, all kindred of the nations, let us honor in hymns the Cross of the Lord". Glorifying the most Holy Cross, the Holy Church sings: "Rejoice, life-bearing Cross, the beautiful Paradise of the Church, the Tree of incorruption that brings us the enjoyment of eternal glory", "The indestructible foundation, and the victory of kings and the praise of priests". "Rejoice, life-bearing Cross, piety of invincible victory, door to paradise, foundation of the faithful, protection of the church: through you the curse is utterly destroyed, the power of death is swallowed up, and we are raised from earth to heaven: invincible weapon, adversary of demons, glory of martyrs, true ornament of holy monks, haven of salvation". "Rejoice, O Cross, complete salvation of fallen Adam! Glorying in you, our faithful kings by your might laid low the people of Ishmael. We Christians kiss you now with awe, and glorifying God who was nailed on you, we cry aloud: O Lord, Who was crucified on the Cross, have mercy on us, for Thou art good and loves mankind."
The purpose of instituting the Holy Cross in the service on the third Sunday will be revealed as a beautiful comparison by the Holy Church to the tree of life in paradise, the tree which sweetened the bitter waters of Marah, the tree with the canopy of leaves under whose shade tired travelers seeking the eternal promised land may find coolness and rest. Thus, the Holy Church offers the Holy Cross for spiritual reinforcement to those going through the ascetic effort of the fast, just as food, drink and rest serve as bodily reinforcement. This spiritual reinforcement is given as the representation of the love of God to man for whom the Son of God turned Himself over to death on the Cross. It is especially necessary in the middle of our effort because now our ascetic efforts already have lost much of the freshness of its power and however yet cannot hopefully enliven itself for the near and successful ending of our ascetical effort. Having concentrated all that is the most severe and sorrowful in the worship services of the previous weeks, especially during the first, that may both frighten the sinner and apparently touch the hardest of human hearts, now in the middle of the large and difficult arena of the Holy Forty Day Fast the Holy Church offers the Holy Cross for great comfort and encouragement as needed for raising the flagging strength of those fasting. Wherefore nothing can console, encourage, and inspire the fatigued, or perhaps even the Christian weakened in spirit so much as the presentation of the eternal divine love of the Savior who turned Himself over to the struggle on the Cross for the sake of our salvation.
For such a purpose the Holy Church offers the Cross on the third Sunday of Great Lent from of old. Many hymns of praise for this Sunday were composed by Joseph and Theodore of the Studite Monastery. Everything in the worship service of this day: the most Holy Cross solemnly carried from the altar to the middle of the temple, the singing of the stichera for venerating the Cross, the Epistle recounting the suffering of the Savior on the Cross as the means of our reconcilement with God, the Gospel reminding the Christian about everyone’s duty to bear their cross in life, following the Crucified One on the Cross, - everything that promotes the deep stamp of the Cross of Christ on the heart of the believer, as a sign of our salvation, as our mighty, God-given power, saving us on earth and opening to us the entrance to the high place of our fatherland, as the highest and more powerful reinforcement of believers among the ascetics of the Holy Forty Day Fast. If the Lord suffered on a Cross for our sake then we also should practice asceticism unceasingly in fasting, prayer and other efforts of piety for His sake, discharging from ourselves and destroying in ourselves all that interferes with these efforts. With the aim of our greater enthusiasm for patience in efforts of piety, the Holy Church on the present day comfortably reminds us beforehand about coming nearer "to the light of the peaceful joy of Pascha", hymning in the troparia of the canon the holy cross and the suffering of the Savior on it, together with His joyful resurrection and inviting the faithful "with pure mouths" to sing "the song of joyfulness" (Irmos of Holy Pascha).
According to the Church hymns: "In the middle of the Fast, the all honorable Tree calls in worship" all those who "worthily follow through their passion the passion of Christ", who in the first half of the Holy Forty Day Fast have fervently practiced asceticism in fasting and prayers, in repentance and cleansing from all impurities, in acts of love and good works. For those, the Holy Cross of Christ really serves with the most comfort and strongest encouragement for the continuation of their Lenten efforts, "easing their lenten time".
But how and for what will they approach the life-giving Cross of Christ in the course of the holy days of "the soul-pleasing Forty Day Fast" when they lead the usual sinful, vain, sensual life which, perhaps, even after Holy Confession and Holy Communion remain the same as before, with the same passions and with the same insensitivity and hardness of heart? How will they kiss the Holy Cross when during the holy days of the fast they strayed to the way of vice and yet have not taken the way to true repentance, the real struggle against their passions? How will they touch the pierced side of Christ, who in their heart and during the days the Lenten tenderness did not cease to be the source only of "evil desire, theft, usury, insult, cunning, temptation, shunning, abuse, arrogance, and foolishness"? How will those touch the Holy Tree, when their impure mouth opened only for idle talk and malicious gossip, for condemnation and slander, for grumbling and indignation? How will they look on the stretched body of Christ hanging on the Cross, who with cowardice yielded to any need of the flesh, satisfied all whims, and were afraid to give up for themselves even the excessively fashionable food and clothes? Will they even worship the Crucified One on the Cross? But then will their acts of worship be distinct from those genuflections, with which the warriors of Pilate fearlessly greeted the condemned Jesus on the cross? Will they even kiss the wounds of Christ? But would these kisses be better than the kiss of Judas?
So the negligence of people and the very saving suffering of Christ can turn into condemnation, and the word of comfort cross changes to a word of bitter accusations! So from the one cup of the eternal covenant, the Christian, faithful to his name, vigilant about his salvation, or renewed by true repentance, sings of life eternal; but those uncaring about salvation, insensitive to the voice of the grace of God sings eternal condemnation! But the Holy Church offers the life-giving Cross of Christ also to the careless in hope that the beneficial power of the Cross will also touch their heart and will urge them away from the deep sleep of the sinner. "They will respect my son" said the owner of the vineyard, sending his only son to the tenants who were grumbling against him (Mt. 21:7). "They will respect the wounds of the Son of God", as if thus the Holy Church speaks about her prodigal and disobedient children, offering them the sight of the life-giving Cross of Christ. She hopes that the sight of the Divine Sufferer will remind the sinners, that as they were baptized into the death of Christ, they promised to serve the Lord instead of the world and the devil, to please God instead of their flesh, to obey the will of God instead of their lusts and passions.
The Holy Church hopes that souls will be found though guilty, but not fallen into the depths of evil, not going towards the edge of hardness, by which a look at the instrument of the suffering of the Son of God will shakes the conscience, will prick the heart, will make the saving change of thoughts and feelings so that they will return from the temple as many returned from Golgotha, "beating their breasts" (Lk. 23:48), and in their life from now on will go by the way of faith, repentance and Christian piety. (See details in "Full Collection of the Sermons of Demetrius, Archbishop of Chersonese", vol. 4, pages 324-326). They, as Ambrose of Milan teaches, should "grieve and cry, however not pushing to despair, because the One who has enlightened the eyes of the man blind from birth (Jn. 9), can make them both zealous and firm in His service if only they want to return with a pure heart. Therefore, let them recognize they are in their blindness and let them run to the Physician who can enlighten them."
By this holy armor of the Cross Christ the Lord has terminated the omniconsuming bowels of Hades and blocked the many snares in the mouth of the devil. Having seen the Cross, death trembled and released everyone whom she possessed with the first creature. Armed with the Cross, the God-bearing apostles subdued all the power of the enemy and caught all peoples in their dragnets, and gathered them for the worship of the One Crucified. Clothed in the Cross as in armor, the martyrs of Christ trampled all the plans of torturers and preached with plainness the Divine Cross-bearer. Having taken up the Cross for the sake of Christ, those who renounced everything in the world settled in deserts and on mountains, in caves and became the fasters of the earth.
But what language is worthy to praise the Cross, this invincible wall of the Orthodox, this victorious armor of the Heavenly King?! By the cross the Almighty One bestowed unspeakable blessings on humanity!"
"Therefore on the forehead, and on the eyes, and on the mouth, and on the breasts let us place the life-giving Cross. Let us arm them with the invincible armor of Christians, with this hope of the faithful, with this gentle light. Let us open paradise with this armor, with this support of the Orthodox faith, with this saving praise of the Church. Neither in one hour, nor in one instant, let us not forget the Cross, nor let us begin to do anything without it. But let us sleep, let us arise, let us work, let us eat, let us drink, let us go on our way, let us sail on the seas, let us go across the river, let us adorn all our members with the life-giving Cross. And let us not be frightened 'by the terror of the night, nor by the arrow that flies by day, nor by anything roaming in darkness, nor by any calamity, nor any noonday demon' (Ps. 90:5, 6). If, O Christian, you will always take up the Cross of Christ on yourself as a help, then 'evil shall not come towards you, nor any scourge come near your habitation': for the opposition power seeing it trembles and leaves."
"The Cross of the Lord is unpleasant and sorrowful to the ear, but it consists of joy and gladness. It is the originator not so much of suffering as much as of passionlessness. For Jews the Cross is temptation, for pagans it is madness, but for us believers it reminds us of our salvation. When in church one reads about the Cross and one is reminded of the sufferings on the Cross, the faithful are indignant at the Cross and let out a plaintive wail and murmur not at the Cross but at the crucifiers and unbelievers. For the Cross is the salvation of the Church, the Cross is the praise of those who hope on it. The Cross has released us from the evil that possessed us and is the beginning of the blessings received by us. The Cross is the reconcilement of His enemies with God, the promise of sinners to Christ. For by the Cross we were freed from enmity and through the Cross we have become amiable to God. The Cross delivered us from the authority of the devil, the Cross saved us from death and destruction. The Cross changed human nature to the angelic, having released it from all that is corruptible, and have found lives worthy of immortality."
"How great is the power of the Cross! How great is the change made by it in the human race! How from the deep darkness it has led us to the boundless light, from death it has restored us to eternal life, from corruption it has transferred us to incorruption. What good is not accomplished for us by means of the Cross? Through the Cross we learned piety and learned the properties of the Divine essence. Through the Cross we learn the truth about God, through the Cross we who were far from Him are united to Christ, and we become worthy of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Through the Cross we learn the power of love and we are taught to die for others. Through the Cross we are scorned and all what we do is not temporal, we search the blessings of the future and we accept the invisible as if seen. The Cross is preached, and the faith in God is confessed, His truth is spread throughout the universe. The Cross is preached, and the faith in the resurrection, the life and the kingdom of heaven is made without a doubt. What is more precious than the Cross and what is more saving for the soul? The Cross is the triumph over demons, the armor against sin and the sword with which the Lord has struck the snake. The Cross is the will of the Father, the glory of the Only-begotten, the joy of the Holy Spirit, the ornament of angels, the protection of the Church, the praise of St. Paul, the protection of the Saints, the lamp of all the world."
"See, however desired and deservedly amiable the Cross is made today, it was the most terrible and shameful sign of the cruelest execution in antiquity! And the Cross makes the best ornament on the imperial crown, the most precious in all the world. The image of the Cross is now found on you, both masters and servants, both wives and husbands, both maidens and married, both slaves and free. All place the sign of the Cross on the noblest part of their body, daily carrying this sign on their forehead, as on a depicted pillar. It shines on a sacred meal, on the clothes of the priest and together with the Lord's body at the mystical supper. You see it lifted everywhere: on houses, in market-places, in the deserts, on the paths, on mountains and hills, on the sea, on ships, on islands, on boxes, on clothes, on armor, in the halls, on golden and silver vessels, in pictures, on the bodies of sick animals, on the bodies of the demon-possessed, in war, in the world, in the afternoon, at night, in festal assemblies and in the cells of the ascetics. Already no one is ashamed and does not blush at the thought that the Cross is a sign of a shameful death. To the contrary, all of us honor this as an adornment for ourselves, which has surpassed crowns and diadems and precious stones. Let us not run, let us not be frightened, but let us kiss and honor it as an invaluable treasure."
March 25, 2011
Catholic News Service
The Pontifical Oriental Institute has the best general collection in the world on Eastern Christianity.
It boasts some 184,000 volumes, including rare and precious imprints and manuscripts, documenting centuries of Eastern Christian culture in a multitude of languages.
But the library's oldest and most valuable collections are in a serious state of degradation, including an extremely rare 1581 edition of the Ostrog Bible -- the first complete Bible printed in Slavic.
"For the Slavic churches, this is the Gutenberg" Bible, said U.S. Jesuit Father Robert Taft, former prefect of the library and former vice rector of the institute.
Rome's temperatures swing wildly from bone-chilling cold in the winter to hot, high humidity in the summer. Then add that to the ordinary wear and tear on volumes that are hundreds of years old.
What's left are works whose covers and bindings are disintegrating, metal clasps that are broken, and pages that are fragile, molding, water-damaged or riddled with the boreholes of bookworms.
"Everybody knows that that the only way to preserve material like this is to have a standard uniform temperature with humidity control and climate control throughout the entire year," he said.
"Thank God for Scotch tape," he said sarcastically as he pulled a manuscript of Byzantine liturgical music from a steel gray fireproof case. Brittle bits of yellowed adhesive tape flaked off the worn binding and large green rubber bands held together other volumes that were completely lacking spines.
"This is a sin against the patrimony of the human race," said the priest.
The institute and library are funded, like all pontifical institutes, by the Vatican. However, the portion they receive is only enough to increase their holdings and keep the place running. Major expenses for modern equipment, renovation, and preservation are just not in the books, he said.
The institute's rector, U.S. Jesuit Father James McCann, said he is looking for outside funding for its preservation efforts.
Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., hopes to provide a grant to the library that would pay for a high-tech digitizing machine plus a year's stipend for one person to do the scanning, he said.
Digitizing the collections would help preserve many of the works, especially the most fragile, since scholars could work off the scanned pages, Father Taft said.
The library would also be able to put the content online so scholars could avoid the trouble and expense of traveling to Rome, he added. Having digital copies would mean works would be "preserved permanently in case of stealing or loss or destruction," he said.
While digitizing the collections will save on further wear and tear, funding must still be found for repairing the degraded volumes, which Father Taft said "costs a fortune."
"You just don't send it out to your corner bindery; these have to be handled by experts who work in a lab."
Father McCann said he also wants to look for potential donors outside the church, such as "people who love books or specialists who recognize the value of these materials." One student told the rector he should start an Adopt-a-Book campaign.
A climate-controlled system for the library and its collections could cost a quarter of a million dollars, said Father McCann. Not only would it protect the books from heat and humidity, he said, the library would be able to stay open year round instead of having to shutter its doors from mid-July to mid-September because of the stifling temperature.
The institute, which is a graduate school specializing in the study of the Christian East, was founded in 1917 by Pope Benedict XV to demonstrate Catholic Church's concern for its Eastern heritage and for the communities continuing to live according to the Eastern traditions.
When Pope Benedict XVI met with staff and students from the institute in 2007, he told them that "drawing from the patrimony of wisdom of the Christian East enriches us all."
The pope praised the world-renowned library as being a powerful instrument "for eliminating eventual prejudices that could harm cordial and harmonious coexistence among Christians."
On one rainy afternoon in March, the reading room was filled with students from India and Arab, Scandinavian, and European countries. Many students were poring over old volumes while typing away on 21st-century laptops.
Because the institute attracts religious and lay students and experts from many Christian traditions, it plays a key role in the future of ecumenism, Father McCann said.
Fifty of the 360 students enrolled this year are from the Orthodox Churches, he said, including the Coptic, Ethiopian, Greek and Russian traditions.
The Orthodox students finish their studies at the institute with "a positive view of the Catholic Church," he said, and this is important for fostering Christian unity since many of them will be bishops someday. One of the institute's most famous Orthodox alumni is Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
More than 9,000 scholars a year peruse the metal stacks. It's a gold mine for people interested in Eastern Christian culture, especially during the Czarist Empire in Russia when religious life and studies were flourishing, said Father Taft.
Soviet scholars used to flock to the institute's collections during the communist era, he said, even though the same texts existed in their own country. Soviet policies restricted people's access to the collections, he said.
Ironically, "access to the archives has become more restricted" again in Russia, which means many scholars are again choosing Rome over Russia for doing their research, said Father McCann.
Unfortunately for scholars, some precious collections are increasingly being put under lock and key or plates of museum glass for reasons of preservation, the two priests said.
The oriental institute, however, "is not an archival library or a museum library. Our things aren't here to be oohed and aahed over; they're here to be put into somebody's hands and used," said Father Taft.
On the Leavetaking of the Feast of the Annunciation, the Church commemorates the Archangel Gabriel, who announced the great mystery of the Incarnation of Christ to the Virgin Mary. There is no period of Afterfeast due to Great Lent.
Mindful of the manifold appearances of the holy Archangel Gabriel and of his zealous fulfilling of God's will, and confessing his intercession for Christians before the Lord, the Orthodox Church calls upon its children to pray to the great Archangel with faith and love.
The Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel is also celebrated on July 13. All the angels are commemorated on November 8.
The day of commemorating in honor the Archangel Gabriel is the day of his Synaxis, because Christians gather together on the other day of Annunciation to glorify the heavenly messenger of the great mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God. St. Gabriel is one of the seven spirits, "who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One" (Tobit 12:15) [Dan.9:21]. The name Gabriel means "might of God". Gabriel in the service of the salvation of mankind is especially revealed as the herald and minister of the omnipotence of God. So, wasn't he revealed as the might of God in the wonderful conception of the Forerunner from aged parents? Gabriel announced this conception. Wasn't he the one to predict the seedless conception of the Very Son of God? - Gabriel had the honor of the annunciation about this. Wasn't this the same Archangel, according to the opinion of divinely wise men, sent to support the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane and to announce to the Mother of God Her all-honorable dormition? Therefore the Church calls him "the servant of wonders". But in the service for wonders, he is also that special servant of the Mysteries of God. The Holy Church sometimes represents him with a paradisiacal branch in his hand which he presented to the Mother of God, but sometimes with a lantern in his right hand, inside of which burns a candle, and with the balance of justice made from jasper in his left.
He represents the balance of justice, since Gabriel is the herald of the destinies of God about the salvation of the human race. He represents it by a candle in a lantern since the destinies of God are hidden until the time of their fulfillment, and, after their fulfillment are comprehended only by those, who steadily gaze in the mirror of justice of the word of God and their conscience. Thus if anyone, who is named Gabriel and is proper in the "faith of God" (Mk. 2:23), then, according to the Savior, nothing is impossible for him.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Commanders of the Heavenly Host, we the unworthy beseech you, that through your entreaties you will fortify us, guarding us in the shelter of the wings of your ethereal glory, even as we fervently bow before you crying: "Deliver us from all danger, as Commanders of the Powers on high! "
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Supreme Commander of God and minister of the Divine glory, guide of men and leader of the bodiless hosts: Ask for what is to our profit and for great mercy, since thou art Supreme Commander of the bodiless hosts.
Saint Malchus was the only son of a farmer, and lived near Antioch, Syria. Upon attaining the age of maturity, his parents had arranged a marriage for him, but Malchus secretly left home and received monastic tonsure in one of the monasteries, where he fulfilled various obediences for many years.
Upon learning of the death of his father, he wished to visit his mother. The abbot of the monastery would not bless him to go, but Malchus disobeyed him. He joined a group of pilgrims, and set out for his native district.
Along the way, Saracens attacked them, and enslaved them. Malchus's master compelled him to marry one of his slaves. With the consent of his wife, St Malchus kept his vow of chastity, and eventually converted her to Christianity.
One day, St Malchus and his wife ran away. The master pursued them, but they hid in a cave, which proved to be the den of a lioness. The lioness did not harm the fugitives, but killed one of the pursuers who tried to enter the cave and capture them.
St Malchus sent his wife to a women's monastery as she requested, while he returned to his own monastery. By then the abbot was no longer alive, and St Malchus never left the monastery again. For the edification of monks he often recounted his trials, which were the result of his disobedience. St Malchus labored in asceticism in the monastery until the end of his life in the fourth century.
Inspired by Coco Chanel’s love for the Byzantine empire, Karl Lagerfeld has reinterpreted the Roman silhouettes and presented tunics and togas with a contemporary twist.
March 26, 2011
With jewel tones, regal gold embellishments and dripping gemstones, Chanel’s Pre-Fall 2011 Métiers d’Art collection is all about splendour. Inspired by Coco Chanel’s love for the Byzantine empire, Karl Lagerfeld has reinterpreted the Roman silhouettes and presented tunics and togas with a contemporary twist.
What are luxury brands for if not a recoding of heritage for modern times? Since 2002, through Metiers d’Art, Lagerfeld has dedicated an annual collection to French artisans—embroiderers, shoemakers and goldsmiths—to keep their craft alive. This time, tweeds have been interwoven with gold, velvet, cashmere, chiffon, lace and tulle to create a dazzling collection.
The belts and jewellery from this collection, adorned with glass beads and enamelling, are also reminiscent of Indian royal grandeur. The biggest international fashion houses have openly spoken about India’s tradition of craftsmanship—sometimes to acknowledge outsourcing their embroidery to India, or finding inspiration in the country, and usually to talk about the immense potential of the Indian market. “It’s a huge country and an old country with deep appreciation of beautiful things,” Patrizio di Marco, CEO of Gucci, told us on his visit to India in November.
Chanel’s Paris-Byzance collection will be available at Chanel boutiques in May.
Friday, March 25, 2011
New creation was shown by the Creator in showing Himself unto us whom He created, sprouting up from an unseeded womb, while preserving it just as it was, inviolate, so that beholding the miracle we might extol her, exclaiming:
Rejoice, O flower of incorruptness.
Rejoice, O crown of laurel for continence.
Rejoice, for in you resurrection is typified.
Rejoice, for angelical life you exemplified.
Rejoice, fertile tree with luscious fruit, by which believers are sustained.
Rejoice, foliaged tree beneath which are many sheltered in its shade.
Rejoice, for you were pregnant with the Guide for the errant.
Rejoice, for of the Freer of captives you are the parent.
Rejoice, who plead till the just Judge surrenders.
Rejoice, forgiveness for many offenders.
Rejoice, the vesture of those stripped of confidence.
Rejoice, the tender love that conquers every longing.
Rejoice, O unwedded Bride.
On seeing the strange childbirth, let’s be estranged from the mundane, transporting our mind unto heaven. For this purpose the supernal God as a humble human being appeared down on earth, intending to attract unto the summit those who cry out to Him, Alleluia.
Present below completely and above nowise absent was the uncircumscribable Logos. For it was no migration through space, but divine condescension that had taken place, and childbirth from a God-possessed Virgin who hears this that follows:
Rejoice, the uncontainable God’s container.
Rejoice, the magnificent mystery’s doorway.
Rejoice, for unbelievers a doubtful story.
Rejoice, for the believers the doubtless glory.
Rejoice, all-holy vehicle of Him who rides the Cherubim.
Rejoice, exquisite domicile20 of Him who mounts the Seraphim.
Rejoice, who integrate in yourself a contradiction.
Rejoice, who incorporate both virginity and parturition.21
Rejoice, through whom the trespass was nullified.
Rejoice, through whom was Paradise opened wide.
Rejoice, the opener to Christ’s kingdom.
Rejoice, the hope of eternal blessings.
Rejoice, O unwedded Bride.
Quite amazed by the great deed of Your incarnation was the entire nature of Angels. For the once inaccessible God they beheld accessible to all as a man, with us together sojourning while thusly hearing from everyone: Alleluia.
Richly eloquent rhetors we see speechless as fishes when they contemplate you, O Theotokos. For at a loss are they to explain how you managed childbirth and a virgin yet remain. But we, in marveling at the mystery, cry out with conviction:
Rejoice, God’s Wisdom’s repository.
Rejoice, His providence’s depository.
Rejoice, who prove the philosophers wisdomless.
Rejoice, who reprove the sophists as ridiculous.
Rejoice, for the fierce debaters becoming fools lost their taste.
Rejoice, for the creators of the myths have faded away.
Rejoice, you who rend the webs of the Athenians.
Rejoice, you who fill the nets of the Fishermen.
Rejoice, who drag out from the deep of ignorance.
Rejoice, who illumine many with cognizance.
Rejoice, the barge for those seeking salvation.
Rejoice, the harbor for life’s navigators.
Rejoice, O unwedded Bride.
Set on saving the cosmos, He who set all things in order came down to it of His own volition. And though being the Shepherd as God, for us He appeared like us, as a man; and having called His own, like by like, as God He hears, Alleluia.
March 25, 2011
On 25 March 2011, 190 years has passed since the beginning of the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire.
It is important at this time to remember both the forces within and outside of Greece that led to the famous ‘Ελευθερία ή θάνατος!’ (Freedom or death!) declaration on this significant date in Greek history. From the mid-15th century, the powerful Ottoman Empire overran early Greek (Byzantine) territories weakened by various wars, including the Fourth Crusade.
The harsh treatment of Orthodox Christians under Ottoman rule put them in a low position in society, and one that inspired frequent revolts. This increased during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when Greek shipping merchants became wealthier under spreading industrialization, leading to increased courage against the Ottoman navy and the financing of more Orthodox Christian schools teaching predominantly Greek values. Added to this, ideas about freedom originating in the French Revolution and the Enlightenment were reaching Ottoman Greece, particularly through descendants of those who had migrated to Western Europe before the invasion. This increased courage led to the 1814 formation of Φιλική Εταιρεία (Society of Friends), a secret organization with the aim to liberate Greece.
By 1821, they were ready to plan a large scale revolution in the Peloponnese, the Danubian Principalities and Constantinople. Although various separate revolts occurred from February 1821, the modern Greek nation celebrates their initial drive towards freedom on 25 March, when historians claim Germanos of Patras raised the Greek flag at the Peloponnese monastery of Aghias Lavras in the most important battlefield of the revolution, the Peloponnese.
Eventually the relentless Greek fighting for independence forced the European powers of France and Britain to pay attention. Britain and France, in particular, were prompted by public opinion, particularly of Romantic painters and other intellectuals, such as Eugene Delacroix and Lord Byron – who died while fighting on the Greek side. By 1826 they were ready to combine forces with Russia to help end the war.
The weakened state of the Ottoman Empire by the 19th century had forced them to employ Egypt to fight for them in 1825, in exchange for Greek territory. The Egyptian navy’s push towards Hydra in October 1827 was to prove the end of the long war for independence. Britain, France and Russia sent a joint fleet to meet the Egyptians before they reached the island, meeting them in Navarino. The ensuing battle lasted for a week, and ended in an Egyptian defeat. This encounter only added to the numerous gains made by Greek revolutionaries that won the war.
By 1829, Greece had defined borders and a new government, establishing the modern Greek state as we recognise it today.
By Metropolitan Amvrosios of Kalavryta
In the year 1827, the nation of Greece was in the throes of a revolution which could only have two outcomes: freedom or the death of all in an eternal and unique example of self-sacrifice. When the blood-thirsty Imbrahim Pasha of Egypt had again conquered Peloponnesos, leaving only ashes and ruins, he turned his attention to the treasures of the Great Cave [Mega Spelaion], the only part of Peloponnesos not subjugated. He marched against the Monastery, a natural fortress, which was guarded by five hundred armed revolutionaries and one hundred young monks.
Imbrahim Pasha sent the following letter:
June 21, 1827
Most noble Abbot and the priests and monks of the Great Cave.
We inform you that we arrived four days ago at the plain of Kalavryta with the effendi Imbrahim Pasha. We have many arms and are much prepared for the siege of the Monastery of Mega Spelaion. We await soon cannon balls and bombs and many sappers also, so that after one or two days we shall begin the siege of the Monastery and the places round about. Therefore, we ask you to spare your Monastery which aforetime had not been destroyed, but now might be destroyed. Indeed, many more ignorant than you have come and submitted to our effendi and saved their villages, and many people and their life and possessions. You, who are more intelligent than they, are able to consider matters even better.
I shall write you no more; you will also be informed by the letter of my friend Fotilas, who shall himself advise you.
Abbot, consider that this uprising of the Romans will come to no good, therefore, as a sensible man, consider well that you will not end well, but be conquered. Know that what we write, we write at the orders of our most high effendi; answer to us what we have written.
The Abbot and monks of Mega Spelaion responded with the following letter:
June 22, 1827
Most sublime leader of the Ottoman forces, Hail.
We have received your letter and have read it. We know that you are in the plain of Kalavryta for many days and have all the means to wage war. It is impossible for us to submit, because we have vowed on our Faith to become free or to die fighting, and as long as we exist we cannot break this sacred vow to our fatherland. However, we advise you to go wage war somewhere else. If you come here to war against us and you conquer us, the evil thing is not great, for you have only defeated clergy. But if you should be defeated by us, which is our sure hope in our impregnable position with the help of God, it will be to your shame, and the Hellenes will take heart and hound you everywhere.
Such is our advice, and you, as a wise man, do what is to your advantage. We have letters as well from the parliament and the Marshal Theodore Kolokotronis stating that if needed they will send us much aid, soldiers and supplies, and that either we will be freed quickly or die according to our sacred vow for the fatherland.
and the other priests and monks with me.
Divine power, however, animated and encouraged the six hundred defenders of the Monastery against the more than ten thousand well-armed foe. After an epic battle on June 24, 1827, the enemy troops retreated, while the unharmed defenders with all those who had sought refuge there chanted hymns and praises to the saving Champion Leader, the Mother of God, who humbled the foe and raised the trophy of victory.
Letters In Greek
Tου αειμνήστου Φωτίου Κόντογλου
Για του Χριστού την πίστιν την αγίαν,
για της πατρίδος την ελευθερίαν,
γι’ αυτά τα δύο πολεμώ,
γι’ αυτά να ζήσω επιθυμώ,
κι αν δεν τα αποκτήσω
τι μ’ ωφελεί να ζήσω;
Η ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΕΠΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΗ του 1821 έχει μια πνοή αγιασμένη, κι η ιστορία της είνε σαν συναξάρι. Η Ελλάδα μπορεί να παρασταθεί σαν τη μητέρα των Μακκαβαίων που είδε να βασανίζονται και να σφάζονται μπροστά της τα παιδιά της ένα-ένα. Από τον καιρό που χάθηκε η Κωνσταντινούπολη, η πατρίδα μας μαυροφόρεσε σαν χαροκαμένη χήρα· οι άνδρες ήτανε σαν ασκητές, οι γυναίκες σαν καλογρηές, τα τραγούδια μας γεμάτα πόνο και ελπίδα, τη λεγόμενη «χαρμολύπη», σαν χερουβικά, σαν τροπάρια.
Μια αγιωσύνη τα τύλιγε όλα. Οι καρδιές ήτανε, με όλη την παληκαριά τους, συντετριμμένες και ταπεινωμένες. Γι’ αυτό κι η θρησκεία μας ήτανε αληθινή, επειδή η πίστη του Χριστού δεν ταιριάζει σε ανθρώπους απίκραντους και καλοπερασμένους, κατά τα λόγια του Χριστού που λέγει: «εν τω κόσμω θλίψιν έξετε», και στενή και τεθλιμμένη η οδός».
Μα όσα χάνει ο άνθρωπος σε καλοπέραση, τα κερδίζει «εκατονταπλασίονα» σε βάθος πνευματικό. Και το έθνος μας που στάθηκε κακότυχο και βασανισμένο, από την άλλη μεριά στάθηκε ευλογημένο, κατά τον λόγο που λέγει ο Σολομών για όσους μαρτυρούνε για την αλήθεια: «και γαρ εν όψει ανθρώπων εάν κολασθώσιν, η ελπίς αυτών αθανασίας πλήρης· και ολίγα παιδευθέντες, μεγάλα ευεργετηθήσονται». Και ποια είνε αυτή η αντάμειψη; Η αντάμειψη ήτανε πως ντυθήκανε με κάποια στολή αφθαρσίας αυτοί που ζούσανε «υστερούμενοι, θλιβόμενοι, κακουχούμενοι, εν ερημίαις πλανώμενοι και σπηλαίοις και ταις οπαίς της γης».
Για τούτο, όποιος άνθρωπος έχει καρδιά καθαρή, και νιώσει την Ελληνική Επανάσταση, σαν να τραβιέται από κάποιον μαγνήτη, ας είνε κι άλλης φυλής άνθρωπος, χωρίς να γνωρίζει καλά- καλά από πού βγαίνει αυτή η γλυκύτητα και η κατανυκτική αγάπη, μ’ όλο που ακούει σκοτωμούς, μαρτύρια και μοιρολόγια, που σε άλλη περίσταση αγριεύουνε τον άνθρωπο. Θαρρεί πως δεν γινήκανε στ’ αληθινά αυτά που ακούει, αλλά πως είνε κάποιο έμορφο παραμύθι.
Τα πιο σκληρά πράγματα χάνουνε τη σκληρότητά τους, καν φονικά, καν αγωνίες κάθε λογής, φτώχια, κρύο, πείνα, αρρώστεια, ορφάνια. Κάποιος μυστικός πλούτος τα χρυσώνει όλα, ο της αφθαρσίας ο Παράκλητος (ο Παρηγορητής), το Πνεύμα το Άγιον. Αυτή είναι που λέγω στολή Αφθαρσίας κι ελπίδα Αθανασίας.
Η Ελληνική Επανάσταση είνε σαν το χάλκινο μοσχάρι που έκανε ένας τεχνίτης για τον τύραννο Φάλαρη και που το πύρωνε με φωτιά και σφαλούσε στην κοιλιά του όσους ήθελε να βασανίσει για να ψηθούνε ζωντανοί. Μα αντί ν’ ακούγονται βογκητά και φρικτοί θρήνοι από το στόμα του βοδιού, έβγαιναν τραγούδια χαρούμενα, επειδή ο τεχνίτης είχε βάλει επιτήδεια στο λαρύγγι του βοδιού κάποιο όργανο που άλλαζε τους θρήνους σε χαρούμενη μουσική. Ο
Αθανάσιος Διάκος τραγουδούσε περασμένος στη σούβλα, κι οι γυναίκες του Ζαλόγγου χορεύανε και πέφτανε στον γκρεμνό. Κι όλοι οι Έλληνες, άνδρες, γυναίκες, μικροί, μεγάλοι, δεσποτάδες, παπάδες, λαϊκοί, ψέλνανε σαν να τραγουδούσανε και τραγουδούσανε σαν να ψέλνανε, όπως οι τρεις Παίδες της καμίνου που δοξολογούσανε τον Θεό χορεύοντας μέσα στη φωτιά σαν να δροσολογιότανε.
Απ’ όλη την αιματοβαμμένη Ελλάδα ακουγότανε «ήχος καθαρός εορταζόντων», κι οι Έλληνες τρέχανε στον θάνατο «αγαλλομένω ποδί, Πάσχα κροτούντες αιώνιον». Γι’ αυτό μαγεύθηκε ο κόσμος, χωρίς να ξέρει γιατί. Εκείνο που τους μάγευε ήτανε η Ελπίδα της Αθανασίας που βγαίνει από την Ορθοδοξία και που τα σκεπάζει όλα με την χαρούμενη πνοή της.
Η χαρά του Χριστού είνε ένα άνθος που φυτρώνει μοναχά στις καρδιές που πονούν. Για τούτο ο Δαυΐδ έλεγε: «Κύριε εν θλίψει επλάτυνάς με». Κι οι ασκηταί της Ορθοδοξίας τη λέγανε «Χαρμολύπη» ή «Χαροποιόν πένθος», αυτή τη χαρά που βγαίνει από τη συντριμμένη καρδιά. Η Ελληνική Επανάσταση ήτανε τα χαρούμενα ορμήματα του Ποταμού της Ορθοδοξίας. Γι’ αυτό τη μισήσανε και την πολεμήσανε οι «ψευδάδελφοι», εκείνοι που ιδρύσανε στ’ όνομα του Χριστού ένα σύστημα εγκόσμιας ευδαιμονίας, κάποιον «αριστοκρατικό χριστιανισμό» που τραβά τις ματαιόδοξες ψυχές, και τις ξεραίνει από τη χαρά του Χριστού, από τη «χαρμολύπη».
Οι Έλληνες του καιρού εκείνου ήτανε «πτωχοί τω πνεύματι», κατά τους έξυπνους του κόσμου. Ήτανε απλοί και φυσικοί, κι η όψη τους, τα λόγια τους, οι συνήθειές τους, τα φερσίματά τους ήτανε αληθινά, δηλαδή Ελληνικά. Η ψυχή τους ήτανε δεμένη με τη φύση και τη θρησκεία τους. Λεοντόκορμοι άνδρες που βαστούσανε από αρχαία αίματα, ζούσανε στον ανοιχτόν αγέρα όπως τους έπλασε ο Θεός, με γένεια, με μουστάκια, με μακρυά μαλλιά σαν το Χριστό, γοργοπόδαροι, λιγόφαγοι, θρήσκοι, ταπεινοί μπροστά στους γεροντότερους και στους παπάδες, με ψυχή γεμάτη κρυφά πλούτη.
Απάνω απ’ όλα ήτανε η Θρησκεία, η Πίστις των Πατέρων μας. Κι οι λειτουργοί της ήτανε οι πνευματικοί τους, οι δάσκαλοί τους, οι προστάτες τους, οι παρηγορητές τους, οι δικαστές τους, οι εξομολόγοι τους. Ο πιο αγαπημένος αρματωλός για το λαό, ο πιο αγνός πολεμιστής, ο καινούριος άγιος Γιώργης, στάθηκε ένας παπάς, ο Αθανάσιος Διάκος, που σουβλίσθηκε για την Πίστη του Χριστού.
Άλλοι τέτοιοι αγιασμένοι που αγωνισθήκανε για την Πίστη, είνε ο Πατριάρχης Γρηγόριος ο Ε’, ο Ησαΐας Σαλώνων, ο Ρωγών Ιωσήφ, ο Κυπριανός στην Κύπρο· τι λέγω; Νέφος ολόκληρο ρασοφορεμένοι, Ορθόδοξον Ιεράτευμα. Πριν να γίνει η Επανάσταση, χιλιάδες Νεομάρτυρες μαρτυρήσανε για την Πίστη, κι ύστερα ήρθανε οι αρματωλοί. Οι δεσποτάδες, οι παπάδες κι οι καλόγεροι είχανε γίνει σαν τους προφήτες που οδηγούσανε τον νέον Ισραήλ στη Γη της Επαγγελίας.
Οι αρματωλοί γινήκανε σαν ασκητές και ψέλνανε απάνω στο μετερίζι, και ξεστηθίζανε το Ψαλτήρι για παρηγοριά, με τα χαϊμαλιά στο στήθος που παριστάνανε τον Χριστό, την Παναγία, τον άη Γιώργη, τον άη Δημήτρη. Για φυλαχτό είχανε ή τίμιο ξύλο, ή άγιο λείψανο, ή ένα κομμάτι από το παλιόρασο του άγιου Κοσμά. Πολλοί αρματωλοί ήτανε ζωγραφισμένοι στα ερημοκκλήσια μαζί με τους αγίους. Η ζωγραφιά του Μεϊντάνη βρισκότανε στην εκκλησιά της Κατούνας, του Ανδρούτσου στο Μεγάλο Μετέωρο, του Διαμαντή Σπατούλη στην εκκλησιά στ’ Αλεποχώρι Μπότσαρη. Και τους σκοτωμένους τους θάβανε κοντά στην εκκλησιά.
Λοιπόν, δεν είνε αγιασμένη η Επανάστασή μας, δεν είνε η Ορθοδοξία ματωμένη για να φυλάξη την πίστη μας; Η Ορθοδοξία έγινε ένας λόγος άδειος στα στόματα των σημερινών φραγκοδασκαλευμένων δασκάλων. Μα η αληθινή Ορθοδοξία που είνε πλούτος και ρίζα αθανασίας, είνε φυτρωμένη βαθειά στην καρδιά του ορθοδοξώτατου λαού μας, που όσο δεν ήθελε να τουρκέψει, άλλο τόσο δεν θέλει να φραγκέψει.
ΜΗΝΙΑΙΟΝ ΦΥΛΛΑΔΙΟΝ ΟΡΘΟΔΟΞΟΥ ΔΙΔΑΧΗΣ
ΕΤΟΣ Β’ ΜΑΡΤΙΟΣ 1953 ΑΡΙΘ. ΦΥΛΛΟΥ 15
 Πριν λίγες μέρες γράψανε οι εφημερίδες πως το καθολικό περιοδικό «Ecclesia», δημοσίευσε ένα άρθρο του Κλωντ Φαρρέρ που κατακρίνει την Ελληνική Επανάσταση… Μ’ όλο που αυτό το περιοδικό δημοσιεύει πολλά ορθόδοξα κείμενα και στην πρώτη όψη φαίνεται χριστιανικό, ωστόσο το δηλητήριο τόχει πάντα κρυμμένο κατεπάνω στην Ορθοδοξία.
Η Aγιασμένη Eπανάσταση
Η Ελληνική Επανάσταση είναι η πιο πνευματική επανάσταση που έγινε στο κόσμο. Είναι αγιασμένη.
Η επανάσταση γίνεται τις περισσότερες φορές από κάποιες υλικές αιτίες, που είναι η σκλαβιά, η στέρηση, η κακοπέραση, τα βασανιστήρια, η περιφρόνηση. Η λευτεριά είναι η θεότητα που λατρεύει ο επαναστάτης, και γι’ αυτή χύνει το αίμα του. Μα τη λευτεριά, πολλές φορές, σαν την αποχτήσει ο επαναστάτης, δεν τη μεταχειρίζεται για πνευματικούς σκοπούς, αλλά για να χαρεί την υλική ζωή μονάχα. Κοντά στην υλική ζωή έρχεται κ’ η πνευματική, μα τις περισσότερες φορές για πνευματική ζωή θεωρούνε οι άνθρωποι κάποιες απολαύσεις που είναι κι αυτές υλικές, κι ας φαίνονται σαν πνευματικές. Ένας επαναστάτης της γαλλικής επανάστασης, να πούμε, θεωρούσε για πνευματικά κάποια πράγματα που, στ’ αλήθεια, δεν ήτανε πνευματικά. Αυτός ήθελε ν’ αποχτήσει τη λευτεριά, για να κάνει αυτά που νόμιζε πως είναι σωστά και δίκαια για τη ζωή των ανθρώπων σε τούτο τον κόσμο μοναχά, δηλαδή για την υλική ζωή τους, μη πιστεύοντας πως υπάρχει τίποτ’ άλλο για να το επιδιώξει ο άνθρωπος. Γι’ αυτό λέγω πως, για τις περισσότερες επαναστάσεις, οι αιτίες που τις κάνανε να ξεσπάσουνε σταθήκανε υλικές, και η ελευθερία που επιδιώξανε ήτανε προορισμένη να ικανοποιήσει μονάχα υλικές ανάγκες.
Η ελληνική όμως Επανάσταση είχε μεν για αιτία και τις υλικές στερήσεις και τη κακοπάθηση του κορμιού, όπως η κάθε επανάσταση, αλλά, απάνω απ’ αυτές τις αιτίες, είχε και κάποιες που είναι καθαρά πνευματικές. Και πνευματικό, κατά τη γνώμη μου, αληθινά πνευματικό, είναι ό,τι έχει σχέση με το πνευματικό μέρος του ανθρώπου, με τη ψυχή του, δηλαδή με τη θρησκεία.
Η σκλαβιά που έσπρωξε τους Έλληνες να ξεσηκωθούνε καταπάνω στο Τούρκο δεν ήτανε μονάχα η στέρηση και η κακοπάθηση του κορμιού, αλλά, απάνω απ’ όλα, το ότι ο τύραννος ήθελε να χαλάσει τη πίστη τους, μποδίζοντάς τους από τα θρησκευτικά χρέη τους, αλλαξοπιστίζοντάς τους και σφάζοντας ή κρεμάζοντάς τους, επειδή δεν αρνιόντανε τη πίστη τους για να γίνουνε μωχαμετάνοι. Για τούτο πίστη και πατρίδα είχανε γίνει ένα και το ίδιο πράγμα, και η λευτεριά που ποθούσανε δεν ήτανε μονάχα η λευτεριά που ποθούνε όλοι οι επαναστάτες, αλλά η λευτεριά να φυλάξουνε την αγιασμένη πίστη τους, που μ’ αυτήν ελπίζανε να σώσουνε τη ψυχή τους. Γιατί, γι’ αυτούς, κοντά στο κορμί, που έχει τόσες ανάγκες και που με τόσα βάσανα γίνεται η συντήρησή του, υπήρχε και η ψυχή, που είπε ο Χριστός πως αξίζει περισσότερο από το σώμα, όσο περισσότερο αξίζει το ρούχο απ’ αυτό.
Εκείνες οι άπλες ψυχές, που ζούσανε στα βουνά και στα ρημοτόπια, ήτανε διδαγμένες από τους πατεράδες τους στη πίστη του Χριστού, και γνωρίζανε, μ’ όλο που ήτανε αγράμματες, κάποια από τα λόγια του, όπως είναι τούτα: «Τί θα ωφελήσει άραγε τον άνθρωπο, αν κερδίσει τον κόσμον όλο, και ζημιωθεί τη ψυχή του;» Ή: «Τί θα δώσει άνθρωπος για πληρωμή της ψυχής του;» «Η ψυχή είναι πιο πολύτιμη από τη τροφή, όπως το κορμί από το φόρεμα!» κ.ά.
Για τούτο, κατά τα χρόνια της σκλαβιάς, χιλιάδες παλληκάρια σφαχτήκανε και κρεμαστήκανε και παλουκωθήκανε για τη πίστη τους, αψηφώντας τη νεότητά τους, και μη δίνοντας σημασία στο κορμί τους και σε τούτη τη πρόσκαιρη ζωή. Στράτευμα ολάκερο είναι οι άγιοι νεομάρτυρες, που δε θανατωθήκανε για τα υλικά αγαθά τούτης της ζωής, αλλά για τη πολύτιμη ψυχή τους, που γνωρίζανε πως δε θα πεθάνει μαζί με το κορμί, αλλά θα ζήσει αιώνια. Ακούγανε και πιστεύανε ατράνταχτα τα λόγια του Χριστού, που είπε: «Μη φοβηθείτε εκείνον που σκοτώνει το σώμα, και που δεν μπορεί να κάνει τίποτα παραπάνω. Αλλά να φοβηθείτε εκείνον που μπορεί να θανατώσει και το σώμα και τη ψυχή».
Η ελευθερία, που γι’ αυτή θυσιάζονταν, δεν ήτανε κάποια ακαθόριστη θεότητα, αλλά ήτανε ο ίδιος ο Χριστός, που γι’ αυτόν είπε ο απόστολος Παύλος: «Όπου το Πνεύμα του Κυρίου, εκεί είναι και η ελευθερία.» Κι αλλού λέγει: «Σταθείτε στερεά στην ελευθερία που σας χάρισε ο Χριστός, σταθείτε και μην πέσετε πάλι στο ζυγό της δουλείας. Γιατί για την ελευθερία σας κάλεσε. Αλλά την ελευθερία μην την παίρνετε μονάχα σαν αφορμή για τη σάρκα σας».
Για τούτο είναι αγιασμένη η ελληνική Επανάσταση, κι αγιασμένοι οι πολεμιστές της, όπως ήτανε αγιασμένοι όσοι πολεμήσανε μαζί με τον Κωνσταντίνο Παλαιολόγο, πριν από τρακόσα εξηνταοχτώ χρόνια, κατά το πάρσιμο της Πόλης, καταπάνω στον ίδιο οχτρό της πίστης τους.
Άκουσε με τι λόγια μιλούσε εκείνος ο αγιασμένος βασιλιάς στους στρατιώτες του, σαν να ‘λεγε κανένα τροπάρι: «Ελθών ουν, αδελφοί, ο δυσσεβής αυτός αμηράς και εχθρός της αγίας ημών πίστεως, ημάς απέκλεισε, και καθ’ εκάστην το αχανές αυτού στόμα χάσκων, πως εύρη καιρόν επιτήδειον ίνα καταπίη ημάς και την πόλιν ταύτην, ην ανήγειρεν ο τρισμακάριστος και μέγας βασιλεύς Κωνσταντίνος εκείνος, και τη πανάγνω τε και υπεράγνω δεσποίνη ημών Θεοτόκω και αειπαρθένω Μαρία αφιέρωσε και εχαρίσατο, του κυρίαν είναι και βοηθόν και σκέπην τη ημετέρα πατρίδι και καταφύγιον των χριστιανών, ελπίδα και χαράν πάντων των Ελλήνων, το καύχημα πάσι τοις ούσιν υπό την του ηλίου ανατολήν». Και στο τέλος είπε: «Ελπίζω Θεώ λυτρωθείημεν ημείς της ενεστώσης αυτού δικαίας απειλής, δεύτερον δε και ο στέφανος ο αδαμάντινος εν ουρανοίς εναπόκειται ημίν, και μνήμη αιώνιος και αξία εν τω κόσμω έσεται».
Στην επανάσταση του Είκοσι ένα, όπως και στην πολιορκία της Πόλης, μαζί με τους λαϊκούς πολεμούσανε πλήθος ραφοφορεμένοι, καλόγεροι, παπάδες και δεσποτάδες, και τραβούσανε μπροστά με το σταυρό στο χέρι, κι από πίσω τους χίμιζε κλαίγοντας ο λαός, κ’ έψελνε:
Για της πατρίδος την ελευθερία, για του Χριστού την πίστη την αγία, γι’ αυτά τα δύο πολεμώ, μ’ αυτά να ζήσω επιθυμώ, κι αν δεν τα αποκτήσω, τί μ’ ωφελεί να ζήσω;
Στη Πόλη κρεμάστηκε ο πατριάρχης Γρηγόριος, ανοίγοντας πρώτος το μαρτυρολόγιο της Επανάστασης. Ο Θανάσης Διάκος πολέμησε σαν νέος Λεωνίδας, και σουβλίστηκε για τη πίστη του. Ο Παλαιών Πατρών Γερμανός, ο Ησαΐας Σαλώνων, ο Ρωγών Ιωσήφ, ο Παπαφλέσσας, ο Θύμιος Βλαχάβας, κι άλλοι πολλοί, πολεμήσανε για την αγιασμένη πατρίδα τους.
Στη Τριπολιτσά κλειστήκανε στη φυλακή κατά την Επανάσταση οι δεσποτάδες του Μοριά, κ’ οι περισσότεροι πεθάνανε με αβάσταχτα μαρτύρια. Το ίδιο και στη Πόλη, φυλακωθήκανε και κρεμαστήκανε πολλοί δεσποτάδες.
Παρακάτω βάζω λίγα λόγια από το ημερολόγιο του αντιναύαρχου Γεωργίου Σαχτούρη:
«Παρασκευή, 25 Δεκεμβρίου. Εορτή των Γενεθλίων του Κυρίου και Θεού και Σωτήρος ημών Ιησού Χριστού. Αραγμένοι εις Ντάρδιζα με ήσυχον αέρα της τραμουντάνας, πλην με χιόνια. Αυτήν την ημέρα, διά το χαρμόσυνον της εορτής, το πρωί, υψώνοντας την σημαίαν μας, ερρίχθη και μία κανονιά, καθώς και όλα τα ελληνικά εδώ αραγμένα το αυτό έπραξαν.
Κυριακή, 15 Αυγούστου. Εορτή της Θεοτόκου. Εξημερώθημεν αραγμένοι. Υψώσαμεν τας σημαίας και ερρίξαμεν και από μίαν κανονιάν διά το χαρμόσυνον της ημέρας».
Ο ναύαρχος Κουντουριώτης έκανε τη προσευχή του, σαν τους παλιούς, να τον βοηθήσει η Παναγία στη ναυμαχία της «Έλλης», κι όπου αλλού τον καλούσε το χρέος του. Το ίδιο κάνανε και κάνουνε όλοι οι Έλληνες στο πόλεμο.
Κατά την καταστροφή της Μικράς Ασίας, πρώτοι οι άνθρωποι της θρησκείας πληρώσανε με τη ζωή τους το καινούργιο χαράτσι στον οχτρό της πίστης μας. Ο μητροπολίτης της Σμύρνης Χρυσόστομος κρεμάστηκε, ο δεσπότης των Κυδωνιών Γρηγόριος θάφτηκε ζωντανός, ο Μοσχονησίων Αμβρόσιος θανατώθηκε άσπλαχνα, κι όλοι οι παπάδες κ’ οι καλόγεροι περάσανε από το σπαθί.
Οι Γερμανοί κ’ οι Ιταλοί θανατώσανε κι αυτοί τους ρασοφορεμένους των χωριών, για να μην απομείνουν παραπίσω από τους άλλους θεομάχους.
Ναι! Πίστη και πατρίδα είναι για μας ένα πράγμα. Κι όπως πολεμά το ένα, πολεμά και τ’ άλλο, κι ας μην ξεγελιέται.
Η μάννα μας η πνευματική είναι η ορθόδοξη Εκκλησία μας, που ποτίστηκε με πολύ κι αγιασμένο αίμα. Κανένας λαός δεν έχυσε και δεν χύνει ως τα σήμερα το αίμα του για τη πίστη, όσο ο δικός μας. Η ορθόδοξη πίστη είναι ο θησαυρός ο κρυμμένος κι ο πολύτιμος μαργαρίτης που λέγει ο Χριστός.
Together with Annunciation, Bulgarians also celebrate the traditional holiday Blagovets, which has its roots in the national folklore. It had several meanings developed into a complex system of omens and beliefs.
In the Bulgarian tradition Blagovets related to the arrival of the migratory birds and the spring awakening of nature.
Bulgarians believed this was the day when the cuckoo would sing for the first time in the year. Depending on what they were doing when they heard the bird sing, and depending on how it sounded, they would make different predictions about their lives and well-being in accordance with a rather complicated set of legends. One of the legends advises everyone to leave their house full and with money in their pockets in case they hear the cuckoo sing so that they would be the same way all year long. It is also believed that it is a bad omen to see a stork that is not flying, but laying or walking.
Bulgarians often call this day "Half Easter." On Blagovets, they also used to pierce young girls' ears and stain the lambs and the kids because they believed it would not hurt. On that day all poison loses its strength and people go treasure hunting. Bulgarians also clean their homes and light ritual fires. They used to gather around them and sing folklore songs. At these meetings young men and women would pick their future love as the spring was believed to be the appropriate seasons for that.
The holiday meal includes baked or boiled fish and round loafs.
The Blagovets holiday has another even more magical and secret meaning. This is the day when the woodland fairies found in the South Slavic folklore and called samodivi in Bulgaria, reappear in the rivers and lakes after they have spent the winter somewhere far away. The fairies are very secretive, and dangerous because they could kidnap anyone who encroaches upon their territory, and take them into another world. Young women and brides are not allowed to go out of the house early in the morning so that they could avoid the samodivi, whose glance can turn them ugly, make them sick or even die.
Another folklore belief about Blagovets is that this is the day when all snakes and lizards wake up and crawl out.
Males named Blagovest, Blagoy and Vangel and females named Blagovesta, Blaga and Evangelina celebrate their name day on March 25.
Read also: Blagovets - Blagostina
The Blagoveschenskaya Tower (Russian: Благовещенская башня), known in English as the Annunciation Tower, was erected in 1487-1488. At its foundation are slabs of white limestone that have survived since the time of the white stone Kremlin of the 14th century.
During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the tower was used as a prison. The name of the tower comes from the miracle-working Icon of the Annunciation, which was once kept here, and is also associated with the Church of the Annunciation added to the tower in the early 18th century and demolished in 1932. The icon appeared written on plaster on a wall of the Kremlin tower prison. In 1731 Empress Anna Ivanovna ordered the stone church be built around the icon so that the external side of the tower with the icon was inside the church. In the 17th century, the Portomoyniye Gates were built nearby so that palace laundresses could go to the Portomoiny raft on the Moscow River to rinse porty, or underclothes. These gates were bricked up in 1813.
The height of the tower is 30.7 m (32.45 m together with the weather vane that replaced the original cross in 1932).
See photos here.
March 24, 2011
After St. Porphyrius Church opened in the Ostankino TV center, ghosts, who according to numerous witnesses lived there, started leaving the complex, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reports on Thursday.
"If there were paranormal phenomena, now they are disappearing. The area where the church is situated and divine services are celebrated gets great blessing," the cleric of the local church Deacon Dimitry Danilov was quoted as saying.
The TV center outskirts have been considered corrupt from the old times. Some researchers believe that there were impassable swamps here in the 15th century and once a year suicides were buried in the swamps: their bodies were thrown in and the bog sucked them in.
According to one of the versions, the word "Ostankino" originates from Russian ostanki, or "remnants".
The building of the Ostankino tower gave new life to old myths. Psychics claim that big antenna directed to space attracts negative energy.
Some priests believe that in theory there can be ghosts in the TV center as certain programs produced here promote sin and debauchery.
Demons Flee From Ostrankino!
A blessing that was done in 2009
March 24, 2011
A star of the 16th magnitude in the Scorpio constellation has been named after St. Afanasy of Kovrov – a saint who held services even while serving time in the Vladimir jail for his religious beliefs during the Soviet era. Vladimir Orthodox Gymnasium initiated a request to name the star after the Orthodox saint, the local edition of the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reports on Thursday.
The official certificate on naming the celestial body was given to pupils by the Commander of the Space Crew, the hero of Russia Yury Lonchakov, and rector of the Transfiguration Church in Zvezdny Gorodok Hegumen Iov (Talats).
“For a long time the Church and space exploration were pitted against one another, but if one’s heart is open to God, then there are no boundaries between the ecclesiastical and worldly scientific affairs,” said Archpriest Alexei Golovchenko, director of the school.
Father Afanasy Sakharov was appointed bishop of Kovrov, vicar of the Vladimir Diocese in 1921 at the age of 34, but next year he was arrested. The next 30 years he spent in camps and exiles, and his last term in jail ran out on November 9, 1951.
THE LETTER OF BISHOP AFANASIY (SAKHAROV) TO HIS SPIRITUAL CHILDREN
March 23, 2011
The Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church should accept each other not as rivals, but first and foremost as allies, working to protect the rights of Christians, said “the Lavrov of the Church”, head of the ROC’s Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, while speaking at the International Christian Congress in Wurzburg, Germany.
This year Easter celebrations coincide for the Orthodox and Catholic faiths. Bishop Hilarion told Rossiiskaya Gazeta how the two Churches could develop an allied position without damaging their integrity, dogmas, and principles.
“Today, the Orthodox and Catholic Christians should accept each other not as rivals, but as allies working to protect the rights of Christians. We share a common field of missionary work.” said Metropolitan Hilarion, while speaking at the fourth international congress in Wurzburg, stressing that “the future of Christianity in the third millennium depends on the joint efforts of the Orthodox believers and Catholics.’’
Bishop Hilarion commented on his statement to RG as follows.
“The idea of a strategic alliance with the Catholics– is an old idea of mine. It came to me when the Catholics were electing the new Pope. Although I would like to point out that what I am suggesting is, in essence, the direct opposite of Uniatism, which is a way toward a rapprochement based on doctrinal compromises. In our point of view, the policy of Uniatism had suffered complete failure. Not only did it not bring the Orthodox Christians and Catholics closer together, it actually distanced them. And Uniatism, as is currently recognized by both Orthodox believers and Catholics, is not the path toward unity.
I, on the other hand, am asking to – without any doctrinal compromises and without attempts to artificially level our dogmatic differences, the teachings about the Church and about the superiority of the Universal Church, without the claims to resolve all of the existing problems between us – act as allies, at the same time, without being a single Church, without having a single administrative system or common liturgy, and while maintaining the differences on the points in which we differ.
This is especially important in light of the common challenges that face both Orthodox and Catholic Christians. They are first and foremost the challenges of a godless world, which is equally hostile today to Orthodox believers and Catholics, the challenge of the aggressive Islamic movement, the challenge of moral corruption, family decay, the abandonment by many people in traditionally Christian countries of the traditional family structure, liberalism in theology and morals, which is eroding the Christian community from within. We can respond to these, and a number of other challenges, together.
I would like to stress, once more, that there are well-known doctrinal differences between the Orthodox and Catholic faiths, but there are also common positions in regard to morality and social issues which, today, are not shared by many of the representatives of liberal Protestantism. Therefore, cooperation is first and foremost necessary between the Orthodox and Catholic Christians – and that is what I call a strategic alliance.
The Church is not ready to make any compromises. And I am not calling for compromise, but on the contrary, to uncompromisingly defend our positions. Within the framework of the Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, my position is often the toughest. Meanwhile, the documents that are drafted there, are the most often contested by the ROC delegations. There have been instances when we were forced to walk out of sessions as a sign of disagreement with what was happening. We always very firmly oppose attempts to erode the differences that exist between us.
We don’t need any compromises. We need cooperation and collaboration. And within the framework of the theological commission, we could discuss the differences that exist between us not in order to find a compromise, but in order to clarify our differences and the things we have in common. It could so happen that in the course of discussion we realize that in some doctrinal aspects we are actually closer than seemed to be before – and this will be a rapprochement. But just the opposite could happen: we may see the differences that we have never noticed before.
The theological dialogue should be allowed to take its course; it may or may not lead to some results. Meanwhile, cooperation that is built on a systematic basis and that is founded on the fact that we share many of the same tasks and challenges should be developed at the same time.”
March 24, 2011
Sergey Sobyanin has pledged to allot plots of land for the construction of 60 Orthodox churches in the Russian capital.
The land will be allocated within a month, the mayor told the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. To begin “this big program”, they will lay together the foundation stone at the construction site of the first church in April.
This will be the largest allocation of land plots for church purposes over the last one hundred years, head of the Patriarch’s press service Archpriest Vladimir Vigilyansky told the Kommersant daily. The 60 plots promised by the mayor are part of a program aimed at constructing 200 Orthodox churches in Moscow. The idea had been proposed earlier by Patriarch Kirill.
Moscow is still lagging behind other Russian cities in the number of Orthodox churches per person. On average, one church is intended for 10,000 people in Russia, and per 25,000 people in the Russian capital.
The Russian Orthodox Church will finance the construction of all the new churches in Moscow, using standard construction and concrete. Each church will be able to accommodate from 100 to 500 people.
Sobyanin announced his surprise decision against the background of the recent scandal over plans to construct the Council of Muftis’ mosque in Moscow’s Tekstilshchiki district. After protests of people living in the populous Southeast Moscow area short on public greenspace, the new Moscow government revoked the permission given by the municipal authorities.
Mufti Albir Krganov, the head of the Muslim Spiritual Board for Moscow and the Center of Russia, said in January that the authors of the project have only themselves to blame for its failure. They should have learned the opinion of local residents first and agreed on the right place for construction, he stressed.
Although some Muslim leaders said there could be problems with the construction of new mosques in Moscow, Krganov believes there are no “objective obstacles” against it.
The mayor’s decision is considered by some observers as a move to underline the cultural tradition of Slavic Russians and Moscow’s Orthodox roots.
Nevertheless, the Council of Muftis is not inclined to dramatize the situation. “We are glad that the Russian Orthodox Church has managed to solve such an important issue,” the council’s chairman, Mufti Ravil Gainutdin told the daily. He is convinced that the interests of Muslims will be taken into account and plots of land will be allotted for mosques as well. Such talks with the Mayor’s Office are under way, but no decisions have been taken yet.