Below Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas can be heard chanting the longer version of the Troparion of Kassiani, for which he was famous, on 16 April 1957 in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Below Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas can be heard chanting the longer version of the Troparion of Kassiani, for which he was famous, on 16 April 1957 in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George.
Στο παρακάτω βίντεο, θα ακούσουμε τον ύμνο «Η Απεγνωσμένη», απαγγέλλει η Κατερίνα Λέχου και ψάλλει η Σοφία Μάνου:
Η απεγνωσμένη δια τον βίον, και επεγνωσμένη δια τον τρόπον, τα μύρα βαστάζουσα, προσήλθε σοι βοώσα· Μη με την πόρνην απορρίψης, ο τεχθείς εκ Παρθένου· μη μου τα δάκρυα παρίδης, η χαρά των Αγγέλων· αλλά δέξαι με μετανοούσαν, την ουκ απώσω αμαρτάνουσαν Κύριε, δια το μέγα σου έλεος.
A certain lady approached him and asked him: "Elder, will we be saved?" And the Elder responded to her: "If you ask me, I will give you my opinion. I tell you that we will all be saved, as long as we make some effort. If I, who am the most sinful man in the world, say these things to you, then God, Who is ENTIRELY LOVE, will He not want such a thing? What do you say?"
When we would say, "Good Paradise, Elder!", he would say to us: "You give me the greatest blessing, but this will not happen by our works, because we are very sinful, but by the compassion of God."
Another time when I told him, "Good Paradise!", he said to me: "Pray that I may enter, and after, do not worry, all will be easy for you."
The Elder always had candy on his table, and once I said to him: "Elder, can I have a candy?" He responded: "One? Not one, but take three."
The last time he received Holy Communion, which he received from a priest of the Taxiarchi Church in Thessaloniki, Fr. Panagioti, "the entire Holy Communion issued myrrh" according to the priest's statement. Something similar to this was related to me by an Athonite hieromonk who asked that I not reveal his name. He told me that when he visited the Elder at Chariseio Nursing Home, "the entire chamber issued myrrh" where he lived. And as he approached him closer, to be certain if this was indeed happening, he noted that indeed "a very strong fragrance issued from the mouth of Elder Mitrophanes".
At the end of his life, a thought tormented him very much, whether or not he received the Great Schema, because due to his old age he began to forget. A relevant confirmation that he did was given by the Grigoriou Hieromonk Fr. Photios Kapsanis who gave him the Great Schema in the Metochion of the Monastery in Stavroupolis.
In the Church of Saint Nektarios, which is outside of the Chariseio Nursing Home, where he would attend church regularly, Fr. Mitrophanes would see "Saint Nektarios praying with the priest in the altar during the Divine Liturgy". He would also see "holy figures" in the Sacred Monastery of Eleftherotrias in Panorama Thessaloniki. He also saw Saint Nektarios at the funeral service of the Hieromonk Fr. Panteleimon, who served as secretary for the Holy Community of Mount Athos: "During the funeral service, Saint Nektarios took the lead."
When someone gave him their name, to commemorate them, "yes" he would say to him. "Why don't you keep the name, Elder, so you won't forget it", they would say. He responded: "Don't worry, because in my prayer I say 'and You saw Lord their name'. God knows your name."
He would frequently give the impression that he "quarreled with God". No, no, even though it appeared he quarreled with God, he wasn't, because the same person questioning was the same person answering. "My God, You have made a mistake. Does God ever make a mistake?" he answered. "Why did You keep me as a guardian of Your Tomb for 58 whole years and I quarrel with everyone? So you can correct yourself," he would respond, "because you Mitrophane are the most sinful person in the world, a zero!" Fr. Mitrophanes would respond again: "If I am, my God, a zero for my God, what else do I need? Is there any better thing than a zero from my God?" At other times he would say: "Here I am eating, drinking and sleeping, and You are paying my God." He was referring of course to His Holiness Metropolitan Panteleimon II of Thessaloniki, who payed for his care following his stroke at the Holy Sepulchre and was brought from Jerusalem to Chariseio Nursing Home in Thessaloniki.
That which made a great impression on me was that he never tired, because from sunrise to sunset, he would unceasingly receive people and be comforted.
And when, usually on major holidays, like Christmas or Pascha, his niece, Miss Popi, would take him to her house during these Holy Days, he would pretend that the climate was bothering him and for this reason he wanted to return again to Chariseio Nursing Home. This was not the truth however. The truth was that the Elder wanted to leave, because in Chariseio Nursing Home he would see many people who gave him solace, and he in turn, so as to not leave them hopeless, would bring them closer to God. If he said to you the same thing ten times, he said it with such Grace, that not only would it not tire you, but it made you "hang from his lips".
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
April 9, 2012
Thousands of Orthodox Christian worshippers from across Macedonia are lining up to visit a church where a cleric says frescoes of saints have begun to appear brighter in color without any obvious explanation.
Father Zoran of Saint Dimitrija Church in Skopje, the capital, said Monday that the murals, long obscured by the residue of candle smoke, began to appear clearer over the weekend, with red and gold colors becoming more noticeable.
That has prompted worshippers to flock to the church ahead of Orthodox Easter next Sunday.
About two-thirds of Macedonia's 2.1 million people have been baptized Orthodox Christian.
April 6, 2012
The Washington Times
On Easter in the small mountain village of Selta in central Albania, the Orthodox Christian villagers will don their Sunday best.
They will pick a goat to slaughter, bake traditional Easter bread and make the ultrathin sugar-soaked Baklava pastry for their traditional feast, never complete without glasses of homemade brandy.
As locals welcome Easter, they say they can’t help remembering the country’s “dark” communist past where religion was banned and even an Easter egg could land you in jail.
“It was a depressing time,” said Anastas Karaj, 60, a shepherd from the village.
“Everything religious was banned, and you could only celebrate secretly at home. If you were caught, you could end up in prison or labor camp. And if government informants found pieces of painted eggshells on your compost heap, they could take you away.”
In 1967, dictator Enver Hoxha proudly proclaimed “Europe’s first atheist country.” During his 41-year Stalinist regime, more than 1,600 churches and monasteries were destroyed. Priests were kidnapped and sometimes murdered.
After he died in 1985, there was a slow revival of religion that included the construction of churches and mosques, said Armanda Kodra-Hysa, an ethnographer at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology at the Albanian Academy of Sciences in Tirana.
“In the early 1990s, there was a true missionary wave of Baptists, Mormons, Evangelicals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists,” she said.
“Religion was generally booming, even among the established religions [of Islam and the Orthodox and Catholic churches]. There was almost a competition over which religion was able to mobilize the majority of believers.”
Still, in Albania, which is officially 70 percent Muslim and 30 percent Christian, religion has a growing significance only to a point, analysts say.
“A lot of people in Albania claim a religious affiliation or origin, but this often has limited role in the everyday life of the majority,” said Dimitris Dalakoglou, an anthropologist at Britain’s University of Sussex who specializes in the Albania.
Ms. Kodra-Hysa added that practicing believers are still a minority.
“It was especially the young who felt magically drawn to religion from atheism,” she said.
The Orthodox Church of Albania has no money for the small village churches, leaving the upkeep to volunteers.
Residents of Selta recently put a roof on the village's tiny church, which lacked one for two decades. The church has no electricity, but villagers glue candles into cracks in the walls to provide light.
The church is lovingly used. During Easter services, women clad in white headscarves sing hymns during services, even if many don’t know the words.
Mr. Karaj said Easter is a time to celebrate and his close friend Arif Hoxhollari from the neighboring Muslim village will come over to dine, to drink and sing.
The two are inseparable, working the summer pastures together as shepherds.
Although Mr. Karaj is Christian and Mr. Hoxhollari is Muslim, they say their religious differences do not matter. They visit each other on religious holidays and weddings.
“Luckily, in the whole country, the relations between religions, between Muslims and Christians are fairly peaceful and people understand and respect each others’ faith,” said Mr. Karaj. “I have married my two daughters to Muslims. It doesn’t bother us.”
Mr. Hoxhollari added, “In the olden days, we only used to marry among our own kind: They didn’t get our women, and they didn’t give us theirs. Never!
“But for the last 20 years, we’ve had good relations. We slaughter our animals for our feasts. We come together and celebrate as a family. This is also a kind of liberation.”
Just before Easter, Mr. Karaj strolled through his village. In the distance, the rattling clang of the old, broken village bell rang out.
In communist times, even the bell was misused, ringing early in the morning as a collective wake-up call to summon villagers to work.
On Sunday, it will ring to bring villagers together to celebrate the rebirth of Christ.
See also: Easter in Albania Photo Gallery
April 10, 2012
On the Great Monday, florists started making an Easter egg of flowers in the Kiev Lavra of the Caves.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church reports on its website that a flower composition in the form of an Easter egg will be set up on the main Lavra square on April 10.
The egg of flowers will decorate the charitable fair Easter Basket that is fundraising for seriously ill teenagers.
7500 fresh red and yellow roses and greenery for decor is used to make the egg of 2.5 meters high. Florists and priests discussed a design of the composition and chose an "ethnic" red-yellow-green version.
The egg of roses will decorate the square for five to seven days, its authors believe.
April 9, 2012
The Büyükada Greek Orphanage of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is set to become an international environmental foundation, according to a recent article of the Turkish newspaper todayszaman.com.
A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in June 2010 stated that the Turkish government should re-register the historic Orthodox orphanage on Büyükada to the İstanbul-based Phanar Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Following the ECtHR ruling, the orphanage will probably be turned into a global environmental center, according to comments made by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I to the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
The progress of the transformation of the building has been slow but ongoing. The orphanage has been exposed to harsh weather conditions due to the reported delay.
“It has taken us so long because we have been working very seriously on this project. We have completed our analyses. The foundation will not serve as a religious institution but as a civil society organization working internationally,” said Laki Vingas, representative of non-Muslim foundations at the Prime Ministry’s Directorate General for Foundations (VGM).
The foundation’s name will be the Prinkipos Environmental Foundation, using the Greek word for “prince.” Büyükada, which means “Big Island” in Turkish, is the largest of the nine islands, comprising the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara, close to İstanbul, explains the newspaper.
After the foundation was registered with the Phanar Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in 2010, a board of directors was established comprising Patriarch Bartholomew, Vingas, two prominent businessmen and two Metropolitans of the Patriarchate.
Restoration of the building is expected to be completed in two years, and in the meantime, funding will be sought to support the foundation, which will act independently but under the auspices of the Patriarchate. The environmental foundation is expected to serve all academics working on environmental issues. Regular symposia will be held to establish dialogue between religions on the issue of the environment.
The orphanage, which is said to be Europe’s largest wooden building and, and the second largest in the world, was built in 1898 as a hotel called Prinkipo Palas by a French company. It was bought by the Patriarchate in 1902 and its management was handed over to the Büyükada (Buyuk Island) Greek Orphanage Foundation in 1903. The title deed of the orphanage has been under the control of the VGM since 1997 and was registered as a property of the Büyükada Greek Orphanage Foundation by the directorate through a court order dated 2004, reports the article of todayszaman.com.
Monday, April 9, 2012
For 58 years the blessed monk Fr. Mitrophanes (+ 1997) was guardian of the All-Holy Tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the first in a series of posts about this blessed Elder's counsels and experiences by one of his spiritual children.
Once a husband and wife from Tripoli went to the Elder. With the husband we had just returned from a pilgrimage to Mount Athos. This couple did not have children. The husband would carry oil from Tripoli to the various Monasteries of Mount Athos and pleaded for prayers so they might have a child. Returning from Mount Athos he picked up his wife whom he had left in Thessaloniki, and we went the three of us to Elder Mitrophane to get his blessing. There they told him:
"Elder, you know God, until now, has not given us children."
Then the Elder raised his voice high and said to them: "God does well - or better - God has done well by not giving you a child."
Upset, the couple asked him: "Why Elder?"
The Elder answered: "Because if God had given you children from the beginning, you would have thought that you were something, that you made the child and would not have gone from church to church and monastery to monastery. God didn't give you children so you can come to know Him first. Now that you have come to know Him, well, there is a God. So now do not lose hope."
After this the couple left very excited and happy.
Usually, as is well known, women are more God-fearing and make more sacrifices than men and they attend church more frequently than men. Naturally then, many more women would visit Elder Mitrophanes. So when they approached him, they would say that things weren't going well with their husbands, because they are easy to get angry, they are insolent and they scorn them. And the Elder responded to them:
"You women are to blame for everything."
"But how? Are we not humbled by these things the men do to us?"
"Why don't you kiss the feet of your men, to take pity on them?"
"Of course we haven't done that."
"If you do this to them, what I told you, it would be much better for you and you would be more understanding. Do it from now on and you will immediately believe it with their behavior."
Also, I went to the Elder with priests, fathers from Mount Athos, and many others to get the blessing of the Elder. Fr. Mitrophanes, whenever he saw a priest enter his Cell, would immediately ask him: "Do you have the priesthood?" And when they responded to him: "Yes, I am a priest", then he would not stop kissing his hand. And when the priest requested that he stop, the Elder would say to him: "No, leave me alone, don't bother me, these hands I want to embrace, I want to continually kiss them, because in these hands, with your prayers, the bread turns into the body of my Lord and the wine into the blood of my Lord. For this, leave me to embrace them."
Of course here I must say something, which a certain woman who attended to him, Miss Fevronia, believes. Every time he asked her to bring another spiritual father to him, according to her, the Elder wanted to choose his spiritual fathers, to see if they were alright with their spiritual obligations, if they were worthy of being spiritual fathers. In some way he wanted to test them for this, and every once in a while he would bring in another priest, who was a spiritual father, to see them "up close", as Fevronia put it.
Sometimes we would come with other believers to receive his blessing, of course without preparing to do so, that is, without bringing him anything, a certain gift, something to eat. We would arrive to the Elder and would tell him:
"Elder, we didn't bring you anything."
"What are these things you're telling me, that you didn't bring me anything? You brought me joy, you brought me satisfaction. I want you, whom God sent me, I don't want any of your things."
Once, one summer, I brought him an ice cream. "Constantine", he told me, "I don't want your ice cream, I want you." Slowly I convinced him and he took the ice cream. Smiling he said: "I will take it". When he tasted it, he said: "I'm a bit wicked. I acted as if I didn't want it, but deep down I wanted it." When he ate it, he told me: "I liked it very much. Of course, these things are also necessary, but we shouldn't give much importance to material things, as much as spiritual goods." Of these things the Elder constantly reminded us.
Again, one morning, I went with a colleague to see him, around 11:00 am. The Elder was sleeping at that time, and I told my colleague that we should wake him. Then my colleague got angry and told me: "Aren't you ashamed? The Elder is sleeping and we are going to wake him?" I gave in to my colleague's anger and we left. In the evening I went again by myself, around 5:00 pm, and told him: "Elder, we came in the morning around 11:00 am to see you with a colleague of mine and you were sleeping so we left." Then he got very angry and told me: "Why did you do that? I lost my treasure. What else do I do all day but eat, drink and sleep, and you both lost your treasure, because God would have enlightened me with something at that time to tell you." So we see that the Elder did not regret, but rejoiced to have lost his quiet constantly from sunrise to sundown. He always wanted to tell the world that he lived in the Holy Sepulchre.
Many times, again, the Elder would ask me: "Constantine, what does the word "Έντεύξεις" mean?" Then I would tell him: "The word "εντευξις", Elder, is a complex ancient Greek word which stems from the intention "εν" and the verb "τυγχάνω" and means "a meeting" "an interview" or "prayer". Further, the word "εντευξις" in our Ecclesiastical language means communication with God," which the Elder constantly had.
Once, the Elder decided, at 95 years old, to have surgery for his eyes. And I, teasing him, said: "Elder, isn't it enough what you have learned in your 95 years, all that you heard and seen? Do you still want to learn and read and other things?" "Yes", he responded, "because whatever I didn't read, when I could, I must read now." Surely he meant things for the repentance and salvation of his soul. What do we do, now that we have our sight and health? Let us learn from the example of the Elder, who until the last moments of his life, wanted to learn about the great things of God.
Another time, when we visited him and didn't bring him a gift, me and other visitors, he told us: "I want all of you, because you brought me to heaven. I want nothing else. Be aware of your body, my children, to keep them clean with regular Confession and frequent Communion."
When I asked him, at one time, "do you also pray for us, Elder?" he responded: "Yes, without ever stopping I pray for my visitors: Those who visited me from Chariseio Nursing Home protect, guard and keep, as well as me the sinner, the prodigal, the lice, who served you for 58 whole years, All-Holy Tomb of the Great King Christ."
He always put himself last in his prayers with quite humiliating epithets, which showed the true humility of the Elder.
He did the same thing when he submitted names for memorials. He would begin, first, with his enemies, then he would write those down whom he knew, then relatives, as well as friends and, lastly, he would write his own name with a number of humiliating epithets following his name.
He would often say to those who were sad or hopeless, who were not prepared: "Don't worry, because even after one sin, with devotion and heartfelt contrition, before our death, God can save us."
To every visitor, he would say the verbs "protect, guard and keep" and would make the sign of the cross over their heads. To his visitors he would often say, smiling: "Constantine, who brought you here, is the wickedest of all of you." And then, with a serious tone, he would say: "He does this because he loves God very much, which is why he carried you here." "Today", he would say, "we are, tomorrow who knows. May your mind always be on death and Paradise."
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
"Pascha - The Resurrection of Christ," is a one-hour special highlighting portions of Orthodox Christian Holy Week. Produced by Greek Orthodox Telecommunications, the television ministry of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and funded by FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, the program features the celebration of Pascha (Easter) with deeply moving and ancient services that recount the Gospel narrative leading to the Death and the joyous Resurrection of Christ, including the Burial of Christ and the Resurrection Service. The Service of Holy Friday includes a procession with the embroidered tapestry of Christ in the grave (the Epitaphios). The Resurrection Service on Saturday evening at midnight, the liturgical apex of the Orthodox Church year, is filled with awe-inspiring hymnology and rich visual symbolism. The climax of the Resurrection Service is a procession to the exterior of the Church, where, after proclaiming the Gospel of Resurrection, the faithful, led by Archbishop Demetrios of America, take up the joyous hymn Christ is Risen!
"Πάσχα (pascha)" is a polyseme, a word that could refer to more than one thing. It could refer to the Jewish Passover (celebration of the Exodus) or the Christian Easter (celebration of the Resurrection). The context determines the meaning. As used by Jews prior to Christ’s resurrection, the word always referred to the Jewish Passover. However, as used by Greek Christians after Christ’s resurrection (as was the case in Acts 12:4), the word referred to the Christian celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection (Easter).
The meaning of "Πάσχα" in modern Greek is undisputed. The primary meaning of "Πάσχα" is "Easter" and the secondary or qualified meaning is "Passover". The following equivalencies can be confirmed through Greek/English dictionaries or free online translators such as Google Translate:
■Easter = Πάσχα (Pascha)
■Passover = εβραϊκό Πάσχα (Hebrew Pascha), Πάσχα των ιουδαίων (Pascha of the Jews)
In modern Greek, "Pascha" does not automatically mean the Jewish Passover unless the term is qualified as the εβραϊκό Πάσχα (Hebrew Pascha) or the Πάσχα των ιουδαίων (Pascha of the Jews). Many other languages follow the modern Greek meaning of "Pascha":
■Latin: Pascha = Easter
■French: Pâques = Easter
■Dutch: Pasen = Easter
■Italian: Pasqua = Easter
■Spanish: Pascua = Easter
In these languages, “Pascha” could refer to either “Easter” or “Passover” depending on context or a modifier. In French, for example, Easter is “Pâques” and Passover is “Pâques de Juifs” (“Pascha of the Jews”).
There is no doubt that "Πάσχα" means "Easter" in modern Greek. The charge, however, is that "Πάσχα" did not mean "Easter" until centuries after the composition of Acts 12:4. This is not true. In the Gospel of John there is already a distinction being made between the Christian Pascha and the Jewish Pascha. Passover in modern Greek is "Πάσχα των ιουδαίων" (Passover of the Jews). We see this same phrase already in the time of John the Apostle:
■"και εγγυς ην το πασχα των ιουδαιων" (John 2:13)
■"ην δε εγγυς το πασχα των ιουδαιων" (John 11:55)
The fact that John writes, "Jews’ Pascha" indicates that there was a need to qualify the word "Pascha." Eusebius' testimony is clear that the Apostles were already celebrating the "Savior's Pascha":
"A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour's πασχα. It was therefore necessary to end their fast on that day, whatever day of the week it should happen to be. But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this time, as they observed the practice which, from apostolic tradition, has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the resurrection of our Saviour." (Church History, Book V, 23:1)
The controversy among Christians which Eusebius talks about was concerning the date of the "Savior's Pascha." Regardless of the date, however, Christians were all celebrating the "Savior's Pascha," which is the celebration of the death and resurrection of the Savior - Easter. By the time of the Apostles, "Pascha" had come to mean "Easter" to Christians. "Pascha" meant "Passover" only to the Jews or to anyone specifically referring to the Jewish celebration.
Originally, Passover and Easter fell on the same day. It was only in the aftermath of the Quartodecimanist controversy that Passover and Easter came to be celebrated on different days. In passages prior to Christ’s resurrection, the KJV translates “Pascha” as “Passover” because the disciples were still celebrating the Jewish festival. After Christ’s resurrection, however, the KJV translates “Pascha” as “Easter” because the disciples were celebrating the Christian celebration of the resurrection. The only times the KJV translates “Pascha” as “Passover” after the resurrection are in 1 Corinthians 5:7 and Hebrews 11:28. In 1 Corinthians 5:7, the word "passover" refers to the passover lamb rather than the day of the year, so it is correctly translated "passover". In Hebrews 11:28, the narrative refers retrospectively to Moses' conduct, which was before the resurrection, so the word is properly translated "passover".
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"Like a lamb led to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7).
Throughout the many centuries of time the discerning Prophet Isaiah foresaw the awesome sacrifice on Golgotha. From afar he saw the Lord Jesus Christ led to the slaughter as a lamb is led to the slaughter. A lamb permits itself to be led to the laughter as it is led to the pasture: defenseless, without fear and without malice. Thus, Our Lord Christ was led to the slaughter without defense, without fear and without malice. Neither does He say: "Men, do not do this!" Neither does He question: "Why are you doing this to Me?" Neither does He condemn anyone. Neither does He protest. Neither does He become angry. Neither does He think evilly of His judges. When blood poured out over Him from the thorny wreath, He was silent. When His face was soiled from being spat upon, He was silent. When His Cross became heavy along the way, He endured. When His pain became unbearable on the Cross, He did not complain to men but to the Father. When He breathed His last, He directed His gaze and sigh toward heaven and not toward earth. For the source of His strength is heaven and not earth. The source of His consolation is in God and not in men. His true homeland is the Heavenly Kingdom and not the earthly kingdom.
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). This was the first cry of St. John the Baptist when he saw the Lord. And, behold, now on Golgotha that prophecy was fulfilled. Behold, under the weight of the sins of the entire world, the Lamb of God lay slaughtered and lifeless.
O brethren, this is a costly sacrifice even for our sins. The blood of this sinless and meek Lamb was destined for all times and all generations, from the first to the last person on earth. Christ also felt the pains on the Cross for our sins even those of the present day. He also wept in the Garden of Gethsemane for our wickedness, our weakness and our sinfulness. He also destined His blood for us. Brethren let us not then despise this indescribable costly price by which we have been redeemed. Because of these sacrifices of Christ we, indeed, have some worth as people. Without these sacrifices, or if we disavow these sacrifices, our worth, by itself alone, is equal to nothing. It is equal to smoke without a flame or a cloud without light.
O Lord, unequaled in mercy, have mercy on us also!
April 9, 2012
The Head of the Synodal Department for Church Charities and Social Work Bishop Panteleimon of Smolensk and Vyazma said that attacks against the Church are getting the form of personal attacks against the Patriarch, "collecting gossips, slander."
"I believe it speaks against these people, who spread various filth, rather than against the Patriarch. Our people brought up in Soviet times entirely lost inner nobility, and became similar to Ham of the Bible," the Bishop said in his interview published by the Neskushny Sad Orthodox magazine.
He sees still another side in the campaign against the Patriarch.
"I believe that our Soviet history, when Bolsheviks seized power by force, made our people lose the correct attitude to any power - they lost respect for those who are above them. Modern people don't accept a respective attitude to any power. And I think it's Ham's sin too," Bishop Panteleimon said.
He reminded how much Patriarch Kirill did to revive church life.
"He more than others backs up the social work of the Church - if it was not his initiative, social activities of the Church won't develop so actively as they do. The things he does to revive church life have never been done before in Russia. And in response he gets threats and insults," the hierarch said.
According to him, the Patriarch has an "inhumanly tough schedule, he sleeps few hours, he always works though he is not a young man."
"He doesn't have any personal time at all - all his life is given to church work. To blow up a campaign of slander against him - is something mean that is most vividly expressed in the biblical personality of Ham," the bishop believes.
One More Time About the Watch
Watching Patriarch Kirill Discredit Himself
Sunday, April 8, 2012
By Saint Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. John (John 12:1-18):
1-3. Then Jesus six days before the Pascha came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him. Then took Mary a pound of myrrh of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the fragrance of the myrrh.
On the tenth day of the month the Jews take the sheep which will be slaughtered for the Pascha, and from that time they begin the preparations for the feast. Therefore, six days before the Pascha, which is the ninth day of the month, they make a bountiful dinner which they consider a prelude to the feast. Coming to Bethany, Jesus also dines. To emphasize the great miracle of the raising of Lazarus the Evangelist says, Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him. Having appeared from the tomb alive, he did not soon return to death, but remained among them a long time, eating, drinking, and living a normal life. By saying that Martha served, the Evangelist indicates that the dinner was in her house. Behold the faith of this woman, who did not permit servants to do the serving, but herself performed this duty. Paul says of the widow who was well reported of for good works, "if she have washed the feet of the saints." [I Tim. 5:10] Martha, then, serves all, but Mary reserves her honor for Christ alone, attending to Him not as a man but as God. She poured out the myrrh and wiped His feet with her hair, not regarding Him a mere man, as did many of the others, but Master and Lord. Maria can be understood allegorically to mean that which leads upwards to the divinity of the Father and Lord [kyrios] of all. For Maria means "mistress ruler" [kyria]. Thus the Ruler of all, the Divinity of the Father, has anointed Jesus' feet, signifying the flesh of the Lord in the last times, namely, God the Word, with the oil of the Spirit. As David says, Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness. [Ps. 44:6] And the great Peter says, Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. [Acts 2:36] And It filled the world with fragrance, just as the house was filled with the fragrance of Mary's myrrh. What meaning do we see in the hairs which wiped the feet? They represent the saints who the adorn the head of God and His supreme authority. Existing for the glory of God, they may be called His adornment and have become fellow sharers in the anointing of Christ's Flesh. Hence David says [in the Psalm quoted above], more than Thy fellows. And Paul says to the Corinthians, Now He Who establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God. [I Cor. 1:21] We know that throughout the world those who live according to Christ are called "Christs." (1) Therefore the hairs that wiped Jesus' feet represent Christians, who share in the divine anointing. Just as hair is something dead, so too those who belong to Christ are dead. They have crucified the flesh, mortified their members that are on the earth, and died to the world. [See Gal. 5:24.] Hair is the adornment and glory of the head, the saints are the glory of God, their light shines before men, and the Father is glorified by them. [See Mt. 5:16.] Even their eating and drinking is to the glory of God, Whom they glorify in their members. And for you, O reader, Jesus has also resurrected your fallen mind like another Lazarus, and you have received Him into the house of your soul, and that which is risen feasts together with Him. Therefore anoint the feet of the Lord six days before the Pascha, before the dawning of the Pascha of the age to come, while you still live in this world which was fashioned in six days. The feet of Christ are the Apostle [Book] and the Gospel, in a word, His commandments. By these Christ walks in us. To these commandments bring myrrh, namely, a disposition composed of many virtues, of which the finest is faith as warm and pungent as costly spikenard. If you do not show a fervent, zealous and virtuous bond to Christ's commandments, and wipe them with your mortified members, as with hair, taking them to yourself, you will not be able to make your house fragrant. The Lord's feet are also the least brethren, in whom Christ walks to each man's door asking for what is needed. Anoint these too with the myrrh of almsgiving. There are many who give alms, but make a show of doing so, and thereby gain nothing. For they have their reward in this world. [Mt. 6:2] Wipe the feet [of these brethren] with the hair of your head and receive the benefit in your soul, and gather the reward of almsgiving in that principal and governing part of a man. If there is a part of you that is dead and lifeless, like hair, anoint it with this good chrism. For it is written, "Blot out your sins with almsgiving." [See Dan. 4:24.]
4-8. Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, Why was not this myrrh sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and held the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she done this. For the poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always.
Being a lover of money, Judas criticizes Mary's way of showing honor. What he is saying is, "Why did you not offer Him money (so that I could steal it) instead of myrrh?" How can it be that another Evangelist says that all the disciples asked this question? [Mt. 26:8-9] We may say that all the disciples did speak these words, but the others did not share Judas' disposition. The Lord does not rebuke him although He knew that he spoke with a thieving mind. He wished to avoid shaming him, thus teaching us also to be patient and long suffering with such individuals. But in a veiled manner He does chide him for his treachery and willingness to betray Him to death out of love of money. He mentions His burial to wound Judas' unfeeling heart with a pang of conscience, in order to correct him if at all possible. His next words have the same purpose: "the poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always, because in a little while I will go away, since you are plotting My death. If I am annoying to you and the honor shown to Me grieves you, wait a short while and you will be free of Me; then you will know if it was indeed for the poor that you needed the sale of the myrrh." If Judas was in fact a lover of money and a thief, why did the Lord give him control of the purse? For the very reason that he was a thief, so that he could not use his love of money as an excuse for his betrayal. He had sufficient consolation for his weakness from handling the purse, but despite this he was not faithful. He bare, which means, carried off and stole, what was put therein, committing sacrilege by taking for himself what had been given for godly purposes. (Let plunderers of sacred things take note whose fate they share.) But the culmination of his wickedness was that he betrayed the Lord. Do you see where love of money leads? To betrayal. Well does Paul call it the root of all evil, since it lead, in this case, to betrayal of the Lord, and in every other instance does exactly the same. [I Tim. 6:10] Some say that Judas was entrusted with the ministry of the funds because it was lower than the other forms of serving. To care for the funds is a lesser ministry than teaching, as the Apostles say in the Book of Acts, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. [Acts 6:2]
9-11. Much people of the Jews therefore knew that He was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed in Jesus.
These people who came to Jesus showed good sense and judgment, as opposed to those who senselessly raged against Him. For they came, the Evangelist says, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also. Indeed, because the miracle was so astounding, many wanted to see the resurrected man, and perhaps hoped to hear something from Lazarus about the others who were with him in hades. But the Pharisees were so inhuman that they desired to kill not only Jesus, but also Lazarus, who had become the cause of salvation for many of the guileless who were lead to faith by means of the miracle worked in him. Thus the Pharisees considered the good he had experienced to be his crime. Above all they were vexed that with the great feast approaching all the people were rushing to Bethany to hear about the miracle and become eyewitnesses of the resurrected man.
12-13. On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,the King of Israel.
Jesus had first withdrawn into the desert for a while to calm the rage of those intent on His murder. Now He enters boldly into the city and appears to all. The time of His Passion is at hand, and He no longer hides, but gives Himself for the salvation of the whole world. Consider the sequence of the Passion. Saving the greatest miracle for last, He raised Lazarus from the dead. As a result many ran to Him and believed. Because many believed, there was greater envy and rage, leading to the plot and the Cross. When the multitude heard that Jesus was coming, they met Him with greater glory and honor than a mere man would deserve. They no longer considered Him merely a prophet, for which prophet had their fathers ever honored in this manner? Thus they also cried out, Hosanna: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. From these words we may infer, first, that He is God. For Hosanna means "Save now," as it is written in Greek in the 117th Psalm according to the Seventy. There the Hebrew Hosanna is rendered in Greek as O Lord, save now. (2) The power to save is God's alone, and to Him are addressed the words, "Save us, O Lord our God." From many passages one must conclude that Scripture attributes salvation to God alone. First of all, the Psalms of David which refer to Christ say that He is God. Furthermore, they say that He is true God. For it says here, He that cometh, and not, "He that is led." The latter would be the sign of a servant; the former is the sign of power and authority. The words, in the name of the Lord, show the same thing, that He is true God. They do not say that He comes in the name of a servant, but in the name of the Lord. They also reveal that He is not an adversary of God, but one who comes in the name of the Father, as the Lord Himself says, I am come in My Father's name, whereas another shall come in His own name. [Jn. 5:43] And they called Him the King of Israel, as if thinking of a physical kingdom. They were awaiting a king stronger than human nature to be raised up who would save them from the Roman power.
14-16. And Jesus, when He had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on the colt of an ass. These things understood not His disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him.
Why do the other Evangelists [speak of the Lord's instructions to find the young ass] and say, Loose him and bring him hither, while John is silent about this, saying merely, when He had found a young ass? [See Mt. 21:2; Mk. 11:2; and Lk. 19:30.] Do they perhaps disagree? Not at all. What the others said in more detail, John expresses in summary by saying, when He had found a young ass. When the disciples had untied it and brought it to Him, then He found it and sat thereon. In doing so He fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah who said, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh to thee, sitting on the colt of an ass.[See Zech. 9:9.] Because most of the kings of Jerusalem were wicked and tyrannical, the prophet said, "Fear not, O Zion. The king of whom I prophesy to you will not be like the others, but meek and humble, displaying no arrogance whatsoever." This is shown by the fact that He came seated upon an ass. He did not enter the city at the head of an army, but conveyed by a donkey. His sitting upon an ass was also a symbol of things to come. Being unclean according to the law, the ass represents the uncleanliness of the Gentile race, upon whom Jesus, the Word of God, sits, subduing like a colt this insubordinate and uninstructed people, this new race, and leading it into the true Jerusalem once it has been tamed and made obedient to Him. Has the Lord not gathered the Gentiles into heaven, once they became His people and were obedient to His preaching? As for the palms, do they not indicate perhaps that He Who raised Lazarus has become the Victor over death? For palms were awarded to those who were victorious in games and contests. Perhaps they also indicate that He Who is being praised is a heavenly Being Who has come from above. Of all trees it is the palm that appears to soar upwards to the very heavens, so to speak; it bears foliage at the top, and at the peak puts out young white shoots, but the stump and the middle section of the trunk, all the way to top, are rough and hard to climb because of the sharp spines. So it is that he who strives to acquire knowledge of the Son and Word of God will find it a hard and uphill journey because of the toil of gaining virtue. But when he has arrived at the pinnacle of knowledge, he will be met, as if by the whitest palm shoots, by the bright light of divine knowledge and the revelation of ineffable things. Marvel with me, O reader, how the Evangelist is not ashamed, but boldly displays the former ignorance of the Apostles. These things understood not His disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified. By glory he means the Lord's Ascension after the Cross and Passion. Only then, by the coming of the Holy Spirit, did they understand that these things were written of Him. That these things were written, perhaps they knew; but that they referred to Jesus, they did not know, and providentially so. They would have been scandalized by His Crucifixion if [they had understood that] Scripture Itself had proclaimed Him King, and then He had suffered these things.
17-18. The people therefore that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare witness. For this cause the people also met Him, for that they heard that He had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? Behold, the world is gone after Him.
The Evangelist is saying that the people who saw the miracle which He worked for Lazarus were witnesses and heralds of His power. This is why He was met with glory by the people who had heard, that is, believed, that He had done this miracle. If they had not believed, they would not have congregated so swiftly.
1. "Christ" [Christos] means literally "the Anointed One." For the followers of Christ, instead of the usual word "Christians" [Christianoi] Blessed Theophylact here uses the simple plural form of "Christ," Christoi, to stress the close union between Christ and the members of His mystical Body, the Church.
2. O Lord, save now; O Lord, send now prosperity. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord. God is the Lord and has appeared unto us. Ps. 117:25-26.
Below is a poem by G.K. Chesterton which he wrote regarding Christ's entry into Jerusalem from the perspective of the donkey He was riding.
By G. K. Chesterton
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
Source: The Collected Poems of G. K. Chesterton (Dodd Mead & Company, 1927)
Saturday, April 7, 2012
By Archimandrite Lazarus Georgiou,
Superior-Priest of the Church of St. Lazarus in Larnaka, Cyprus
Bethany is a Jewish word which means "the home of the Phoenicians". It has remained known in history as the homeland of Lazarus the friend of Christ. Although it is a small and insignificant Palestinian village, it has an important place in the history of Christianity. It was one of the places for which Christ had a special affection and would visit frequently. This was due to the strong bonds of friendship that Jesus Christ had with the family of Lazarus and with the leper who some believed was the father of the saint.
The invitation of Christ to the house of Martha and Maria, sisters of Lazarus, is a well-known event. While Martha "was distracted by her many tasks" Maria sat "at Jesus's feet and listened to his preaching" (Luke 10:38-42). The event for which Bethany became renowned was the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-44) through which the Lord forwarned His own resurrection. This is why the hymns sung during the Saturday of Lazarus give prime emphasis on the sacrament of the joint resurrection and then to the memory of the saint.
Other than these two events which took place in Bethany, there are accounts of hospitality extended to Jesus Christ and visits to the home of Simon the Leper (John 12:1-8, Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 16:6-13, John 12:9-11, Matthew 21:17).
Naturally, the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus angered the Jews and "the High Priests planned to put Lazarus to death" (John 12:9-11), as he constituted living evidence of the miracle. Therefore the banished saint fled to the island of Cyprus where he encountered the apostles Paul and Barnabas and was ordained as the first Bishop of Citium.
Ancient Citium, home to the philosopher Zeno, had the honour to propagate the teachings of the Lord through a personal friend of Christ. According to Saint Epiphanios, Bishop of Constantia of Cyprus (367-403), the righteous Lazarus lived on for another 30 years after his resurrection.
Historical accounts describe him as sullen and frowning during his lifetime which was due to all that he had witnessed during his four-day stay in the underworld. The same historical accounts report that he had only smiled once during his lifetime and that was when he saw someone stealing an earthen pot on which he commented aphoristically: "a piece of soil steals another piece of soil".
Another historical account indicates some association of the saint to the salt lake in Larnaka (the present day name of Citium). In the present location of the salt lake there used to be a vineyard. As he was passing by this spot one day the saint felt thirsty and asked for some grapes from the woman who owned the vineyard. She refused and in order to punish her he transformed the enormous vineyard into a salt lake. This account has been confirmed by the workers who collect the salt. They claim to have found roots and branches of the vineyard when digging in the salt lake. Another legend describes the existence of a well with sweet water in the middle of the salt lake, known as the well of "rgas" i.e. the well of the old lady. According to the Synaxarion (Constantinople's Biographies of Saints), the lake was contested by two brothers who fought tooth and nail against each other to acquire it. The saint "through prayer drained the lake and reduced its contents to salt".
In the text of "Patria" on Mount Athos, there are strong references associating Cyprus and Saint Lazarus with the Virgin Mary and Mount Athos. Accompanied by John the Evangelist, the Virgin Mary came to Citium where she met Saint Lazarus and offered him a pallium and a pair of maniples before continuing on her way to visit Mount Athos.
According to the Constantinople Biographies of Saints, the saint was buried in a marble tomb inscribed with the words "the fourth day Lazarus, friend of Christ". This tomb was later placed in a small church.
In addition to the information provided by Saint Epiphanios regarding the thirty years of Saint Lazarus's second lifetime, there is an even earlier account according to researchers relating to Saint Lazarus's stay in Cyprus taken from Saint John of Eu(r)oia, priest and monk of the Patriarchate of Antioch (circa 744). In his speech "On the Fourth Day Lazarus", the Saint says: "For an old man told me, who was privy to information about the blessed Lazarus through some of the saint's memoranda, that he became bishop on the island of Cyprus and wore the wreath of a martyr for the sake of Jesus Christ; he executed his duties to the full, stayed on the path of virtue and upheld his faith and is now in perpetual bliss in the company of Christ".
Around the year 744 word spread in Antioch about Saint Lazarus. The information surrounding the death of the saint, as being that of a martyr, became a point of interest.
The thirty-year presence of Saint Lazarus on the episcopal throne of Citium has also been recorded by Saint Theodore the Studite (759-826), who reports in his catechitisms: "We celebrate the anniversary of the death or rather the resurrection of the most blessed Lazarus, who, after his return from the dead, lived on for a further thirty years in accordance with the word of God, and served as a bishop".
The exhumation and translation of Saint Lazarus's remains from Citium to Constantinople commemorated by the Church on the 17th of October of each year, was completed during the year 899/900 following the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise.
The translation of the holy relics has been described in great detail in two celebratory speeches delivered by the Metropolitan of Caesarea Arethas (850 - c. 932), a disciple of Photios the Great, while standing in front of the relics and in the presence of the Emperor. In his first speech, the priest highly commended the arrival of the the holy relics at Constantinople, while in his second speech he gives a lengthy description of the procession, participated in by the Emperor, during which the relics were translated from Chrysoupolis to Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. In exchange for the translation of the relics to Constantinople, Leo VI sent money and builders to Cyprus to erect the splendid Church of the Saint, well preserved to this day in Larnaka. Moreover he built a monastery in Constantinople named after the virtuous Lazarus, which housed the saint's remains. Later on the relics of Maria Magdalene were also translated to this same monastery. During the Byzantine years it was customary for the Byzantine Emperor to pray in this monastery on the Saturday of Lazarus.
It is thought that the remains of the saint must have been translated to Constantinople in the old marble tomb. This has been deduced from the fact that the marble tomb which is found today under the altar of the homonymous church in Larnaka bears the large inscription "PHILIOY" (belonging to Philios), while the old one bore the inscription "the fourth day Lazarus, friend of Christ". On the 23rd of November 1972, some of the remains of the righteous Lazarus were found in the present shrine.
This indicates that the people of Citium could not have handed over all the relics to the Emperor. Moreover, in his orations Arethas mentions "bones" and "dust" not to an entire body.
There is also an account originating from a Russian source at Oxford Library which describes a Russian monk from the Monastery of Pskov, who in the 16th century visited the town of Larnaka, bowed before Saint Lazarus's relics and took a small piece. This piece can be found to this day in the Chapel of Saint Lazarus at the Monastery of Pskov. The accessibility of the Russian monk to the Saint's remains leads to the conclusion that the shrine with the remaining relics was visible to the pilgrims at least until the 16th century. Later on, at an unknown date, the people of Citium concealed them under the altar where they remained until their discovery around the year 1972, following a fire in the church.
One common tradition throughout Greece for the Saturday of Lazarus is the baking of Lazarakia. Lazarakia is a spice bread used to remember the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It has many sweet spices in it and is Lenten, meaning it has no dairy or eggs in it. Lazarakia comes in the shape of a man (which is supposed to be Lazarus). There is a mouth and cloves for eyes. Unlike Tsoureki, Lazarakia is not brushed with egg or butter to give it a gloss finish (to not break the fast). "If you don't make a Lazaro, you won't have your full of bread" (“Λάζαρο δεν πλάσεις, ψωμί δεν θα χορτάσεις”), is a saying among some Greeks. Lazarakia should look like the Lazarus in the icon of his resurrection, bound like a dead man with a shroud.
On the island of Kos girls who are engaged make a Lazaro the size of a small child, filled with countless goodies and embroidered almost like the coils of the wedding, to send to the groom. The "Lazaroudia" in many households are filled with ground walnuts, almonds, figs, raisins, honey, extra spices and children eat it hot.
For receipes to make Lazarakia, see here, here, here and here. For video instruction, see here.
Read also: Greek Traditions For the Saturday of Lazarus
Friday, April 6, 2012
Many Orthodox Christians insist "Pascha" or any derivitive of the word Passover is the only correct name for the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ, among possibly other liturgical words for the feast, but insist the word "Easter" is innapropriate because it supposedly has pagan origins. Does it truly have pagan origins that would prohibit its use? Or are there in fact justifiable reasons to allow for "Pascha" and "Easter" to both be used with a clean conscience. Since "Pascha" is without controversy, we will examine these things for the word "Easter".
Etymological relation vs. etymological descendance
The word "Easter" has some etymological baggage. Some Christians are wary of using the word because of its supposed pagan origin. The Venerable Bede (672-735) asserted that the word "Easter" derived from "Eostre", the goddess of the Saxons (De Ratione Temporum). In modern times Alexander Hislop connected Easter to the Babylonian goddess Astarte (The Two Babylons, 1858). Apparently, there was indeed a goddess by the name "Eostre" ("Ostara" in German). Hence it seems that "Easter" and "Eostre" are etymologically related. However, it is foolish to take etymological relation as evidence of a "pagan connection" between "Easter" and "Eostre". To see the foolishness of this, consider the following example: There was a Christian theologian in the third century by the name of "Lucian" of Antioch. There is also the name "Lucifer" ascribed to Satan (Isaiah 14:12). Both "Lucian" and "Lucifer" are derived from the Latin word for "light (lucis)". This means that "Lucian" and "Lucifer" are etymologically related. However, neither is an etymological descendant of the other, which means neither name is derived from the other name. Each name is a separate etymological descendant of the root word for light, "lucis". Thus it would be foolish to say, "A Christian should never call himself Lucian because the word is related to Lucifer!" Etymological relation between a negative word (i.e. Lucifer) and the impugned word (i.e. Lucian) does not mean anything. The issue is whether the impugned word is an etymological descendant of the negative word. As for "Lucian", it is not an etymological descendant of "Lucifer". Likewise, Easter is not an etymological descendant of Eostre but rather a separate etymological descendant of a common root word which in itself carries a neutral connotation.
"Easter" is derived from "East"
The root of "Easter" is "east" just as the root of "Ostern" ("Easter" in German) is "Ost" ("east" in German). Likewise, the root of "Eostre" (English) and "Ostara" (German) is the word for "east." Thus both "Easter" and "Eostre" are derived from the word "east". This means neither "Easter" nor "Eostre" has to be an etymological descendant of the other, but each could be a separate etymological descendant of the word "east". The etymology of "east" gives us clues as to why both pagans and Christians wished to use the word "east" for their respective purposes. The etymology of the Saxon word "east" is:
■ "O.E. east, from P.Gmc. *aus-to-, *austra- "east, toward the sunrise" (cf. Du. oost, Ger. Ost, O.N. austr "from the east"), from PIE *aus- "dawn" (cf. Skt. ushas "dawn," Gk. aurion "morning," O.Ir. usah, Lith. auszra "dawn," L. aurora "dawn," auster "south"), lit. "to shine." The east is the direction in which dawn breaks." (Online Etymological Dictionary)
"East" refers to the dawn, sunrise, morning. Hence if pagans wished to worship a goddess of sunrise, it was fitting for the pagans to name their goddess after the word "east". But Christians also had reason to use the word "east" to describe the day of their Savior's resurrection. Consider the following passages concerning Christ's resurrection:
■ "In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre." (Matthew 28:1)
■ "And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun." (Mark 16:2)
The day of Christ' resurrection was in the morning at the rising of the sun. In fact, it was not only a physical morning but also a spiritual morning because the light of salvation had come into the world. Christ began to rise as the "Sun of righteousness" at his resurrection. The following passages compare Christ with the rising of the sun:
■ "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings;" (Malachi 4:2)
■ "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." (2 Peter 1:19)
■ "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star." (Revelation 22:16)
With these details of Christ and his resurrection, there is no mystery as to why Anglo-Saxon Christians called the day of his resurrection "Easter," a word derived from "east," which means dawn, sunrise, morning. Just as the sun rises from the darkness of night, the "Sun of righteousness" rose (resurrected) from the darkness of death. Christ's resurrection was the sunrise of all sunrises - hence, Easter. This association of Christ's resurrection with the dawn is not pagan but based on biblical narrative and symbolism.
Christians reclaimed the true meaning of "Easter"
Anglo-Saxon Christians may have given the name "Easter" to the day of Christ's resurrection to identify Christ as the true God of sunrise (in the sense of being Creator of the sun as well as spiritually being the "Sun of righteousness"). Thus the word "Easter" stands as a testimony of the Anglo-Saxon Christians' rejection of the goddess in reception of the true God, Jesus Christ. It is counterproductive to suggest that Christians should abandon the word "Easter". Why should we give the pagans a monopoly over a word which signifies the dawn, one of God's most stunning works of creation? The funny thing is that many Christians who oppose the use of the word "Easter" still celebrate "Good Friday". Yet the word "Friday" is based on the name of a pagan goddess. The word "Friday" means "Day of Frige" - Frige being the name of a Norse goddess. "Good Friday" literally means "Good day of Frige (the goddess)". Some Christians say that Christ rose on "Saturday", yet "Saturday" is also derived from the pagan god Saturnus. If one would actually like to avoid a "pagan connection", he would be wiser to avoid using the words "Friday" and "Saturday" rather than the Christian word "Easter". Avoiding all of these words, of course, is an impossibility if we wish to communicate with others regarding the days of the week. We just have to admit that the English language is the language of a people who were once pagan and that there are many vestiges of pagan etymology in English. It is only by God's redemptive grace that the words of our mouths (notwithstanding the occasional pagan etymologies) are found acceptable in His sight:
"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)
Read also: Was Easter Borrowed From a Pagan Holiday?
The early Christian attitude towards government and politics was very much like that of the Old Testamanet prophets, who sought to remind the people of Israel that God is their true King Who will take care of all their essential needs. The refusal to accept this came with a price, as we read in 1 Samuel 8:
Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel ... Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” ... But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them ... Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them.”
Samuel goes on to warn the people of Israel what it will be like to have a King like the other nations, and in the day they seek the Lord's help He will will not hear them because they have placed their hopes elsewhere. Despite the warning, the people insisted on a King.
Jesus also, in the tradition of the prophets, wanted His followers to remember that God is the King who will provide for their essential needs as long as we seek to acquire His uncreated glory. He spoke in His Sermon on the Mount:
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matt. 5:6).
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the reign of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:31-33).
Continuing along these lines, the early Church, knowing that Christians were called to learn from the mistakes of God's chosen people in the past and not repeat their errors, also held to the belief that the proper Christian attitude to this world was to be in it and above it at the same time, but not of it. Justin Martyr emphasized that the kingdom the Christians are seeking is not a human one, but rather, the reign of God both in this life and in the life to come. The anonymous Letter to Diognetus portrays the Christian Church as its own political society disseminated throughout other political societies. The Church is depicted as the “soul” of society. Bishop Theophilus of Antioch, in his To Autolycus, Book 1, depicts Christians as loyal citizens of the empire who are to honor the emperor “not by worshipping him but by praying for him”. Irenaeus of Lyons describes the divine nature of earthly rule, which has been “appointed by God for the benefit of the nations”. He goes on to say that the devil lied when he said that civil power was delivered to him, for in truth, all power belongs to God, who distributes it according to His will. Three kinds of rulers exercise civil authority: (i) mild, educative rulers; (ii) tyrannical, arbitrary rulers; and (iii) harsh, but not unjust rulers. Little was said by these however about a Christians involvement in politics and government public service. Below are a few samples of the attitude some Christians had on this in the early Church:
Celsus also urges us to “take office in the government of the country, if that is required for the maintenance of the laws and the support of religion.” But we recognize in each state the existence of another national organization founded by the Word of God, and we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over Churches. Those who are ambitious of ruling we reject; but we constrain those who, through excess of modesty, are not easily induced to take a public charge in the Church of God. And those who rule over us well are under the constraining influence of the great King, whom we believe to be the Son of God, God the Word. And if those who govern in the Church, and are called rulers of the divine nation–that is, the Church–rule well, they rule in accordance with the divine commands, and never suffer themselves to be led astray by worldly policy. And it is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but that they may reserve themselves for a diviner and more necessary service in the Church of God–for the salvation of men. And this service is at once necessary and right. They take charge of all–of those that are within, that they may day by day lead better lives, and of those that are without, that they may come to abound in holy words and in deeds of piety; and that, while thus worshipping God truly, and training up as many as they can in the same way, they may be filled with the word of God and the law of God, and thus be united with the Supreme God through His Son the Word, Wisdom, Truth, and Righteousness, who unites to God all who are resolved to conform their lives in all things to the law of God.
In us, all ardor in the pursuit of glory and honor is dead. So we have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings. Nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than affairs of state.
Elsewhere Tertullian said:
I owe no duty to forum, campaign, or senate. I stay awake for no public function. I make no effort to occupy a platform. I am no office seeker. I have no desire to smell out political corruption. I shun the voter’s booth, the juryman’s bench. I break no laws and push no lawsuits; I will not serve as a magistrate or judge. I refuse to do military service. I desire to rule over no one – I have withdrawn from worldly politics! Now my only politics is spiritual – how that I might be anxious for nothing except to root out all worldly anxieties and care.
God might have bestowed upon his people both riches and kingdoms, as he had given previously to the Jews, whose successors and posterity we are. However, he would have Christians live under the power and government of others, lest they should become corrupted by the happiness and prosperity, slide into luxury, and eventually despise the commandments of God. For this is what our ancestors did.
Eventually Christian governments arose, as was inevitable, but the Church Fathers of later centuries always kept focus on the fact that as long as a government calls itself Christian, it must work for the greater glory of God and support the Church in its mission to reach and sanctify the world. Above all, it was to be always maintained that Christ was the King of kings and Lord of lords and that "all good things come from above". This is how the Christians of the Roman Empire came to see their role. With the rise of secular and multi-cultural societies, Christians must more and more heed the warnings of the early Church and not rely on government to fulfill the mission of the Church, but to transform the world as a united Church that is truly in the world yet not of the world.
April 5, 2012
The Council of Christian Churches in France (CECEF) has urged Christians to "gather together locally" to celebrate Easter on 15 April, as a show of unity in a year when Easter is being observed on two Sundays, a week apart. "It's disappointing that each church will be doing its own services on different dates, but we're encouraging people to hold events together," said Carol Saba, a spokesman for the Assembly of the Orthodox Bishops of France.
April 5, 2012
Many Christians give up certain foods for Lent, however ecologists have discovered these changes in human diet have a dramatic impact on the diet of wild animals. In Ethiopia, members of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church stop eating meat and dairy products during a 55-day fast before Easter. As a result, spotted hyenas too change their eating habits -- from scavenging waste from butchers and households to hunting -- new research in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Animal Ecology has found.
Spotted hyenas are supremely adaptable mammals, capable both of adapting to habitats with dense human populations and to eating whatever food is available. While they are efficient hunters, they are also opportunistic scavengers, eating everything from birds, mammals, fish and reptiles to garbage, cooked porridge and dung. And they have digestive systems to match, says Gidey Yirga from Mekelle University.
"Hyenas can eat almost any organic matter, even putrid carrion and anthrax-infected carcasses. They are capable of eating and digesting all parts of their prey except hair and hooves. Bones are digested so completely that only the inorganic components are excreted in the hyena's droppings," he explains.
Working at three sites around Mekelle in northern Ethiopia, Yirga collected all hyena droppings from each 1 hectare site on three occasions on the first and last days of the 55-day Abye Tsome (Lent) fast, and then again 55 days after the fast ended -- a total of 553 droppings.
To find out what the hyenas had been eating before, during and after Lent, he compared hairs found in the hyenas' droppings with a reference collection of hair from other animals found in the region.
The results showed that when humans stop buying, eating and discarding animal products the hyenas' eating habits change significantly: before Lent, 14.8% of hyena droppings contained donkey hairs, during Lent this increased to 33.1%, falling again to 22.2% once the fast was over.
According to Yirga: "Our study shows a remarkable change in the hyenas' diet -- we found that hyenas around Mekelle mainly scavenge waste from butchers and households but during fasting donkeys provided an alternative food source."
By providing this unique insight into the effect of changes in human diet on local hyenas, the results illustrate that hyenas are highly adaptable and opportunistic scavengers and hunters. They also have implications for those managing the conflict that can arise when large carnivores use anthropogenic food sources.
"Understanding details of the foraging behaviour of carnivores in an anthropogenic environment can help reveal specific causes of conflict, leading to better strategies for reducing availability of anthropogenic food and preventing conflict," Yirga concludes.
1. Gidey Yirga, Hans H. De Iongh, Herwig Leirs, Kindeya Gebrihiwot, Jozef Deckers, Hans Bauer. "Adaptability of large carnivores to changing anthropogenic food sources: diet change of spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) during Christian fasting period in northern Ethiopia." Journal of Animal Ecology, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2012.01977.x
April 6, 2012
As the year-long conflict polarises Syrian society, Omar Abdel-Razek from BBC Arabic finds an Orthodox Christian community worried it could face trouble from both the government and opposition.
"The university has become a battlefield between the supporters and the opposition of the regime."
That was what Lena (not her real name), a medical student at the University of Aleppo, had said in her email informing me that she will not be able to meet me at campus as agreed.
She continued: "As a Christian, both sides are suspicious of me. In fact I'm not with or against the regime."
Lena said she never cared about politics until she and her family found themselves talking about it everyday when the crisis in Syria began over a year ago.
"We followed the simple rule 'don't talk politics', and then you can do anything else," she said.
In the past, when I was going to my exams, my mother's main concern for me was to do an 'excellent' job. Now her main concern is for me not to take a taxi because of the kidnappings," Lena said.
While some Christian intellectuals have openly opposed President Bashar al-Assad and were imprisoned by his regime, it seems that the majority fear the unknown if the regime were to collapse.
They cite the situation of Christians in Iraq and recently Egypt as the basis for their fear.
The Syriac Orthodox Church was once one of the major Christian churches in the Eastern Roman Empire; Syriacs translated Greek documents into Arabic.
Call for dialogue
Their number has decreased now to 140,000 according to Father Gregorious Yohanna Ibrahim, the Metropolitan of Aleppo.
When I met him in his monastery I asked how the Christian minority is dealing with the crisis which has engulfed the country.
"Do not call us a minority, we are a unique community with deep roots in the country," he said angrily.
"The opposition and the regime committed mistakes, [they] did not return to wisdom, and blood brought more blood," he continued.
"We call for dialogue that should include everybody who represents the opposition, not just those the government calls the opposition."
I asked Father Gregorious Yohanna if some Christians side with the regime because of fear.
"Look, we have concerns, we have great concerns, we can't wish the Iraqi model for anyone and the Christians of the region also feel uneasy with what happened in Egypt recently," he said.
"Our concerns are not related to who will come to power, we are afraid that whoever will come may close their eyes and ears, or will not like to deal with us," he continued.
"We don't fear the Islamists, we fear the violent extremists who will not accept the other," he said.
When I visited, few people were out in the streets around the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the old city of Damascus. Names of the streets, buildings and bazaars in this tourist area, still carry much of its Christian past, but the church where I met Bishop Louka al-Khoury was nearly empty.
Sacrifices for homeland
Bishop Louka prides himself in belonging to the oldest Arab church.
"Can you name one single Syrian party or political movement that did not have a Greek Orthodox among its leaders?"
I noticed the nostalgic tone in his words.
"Christian Syrians were accused of siding with the regime, but this is not true," he insisted.
"Syrians belong only to their homeland not to regimes, it's that patriotism Christians have that made them the first to sacrifice for their country.
"We have some fears no doubt, because we have never witnessed violence like that which we see on the ground now.
"But we don't side with a regime; we side with our country and with anybody who serves our homeland and our interests," Bishop Louka al-Khoury said.