Theophanes the Cretan (Θεοφάνης ο Κρης) was a leading icon painter of the Cretan school in the first half of the sixteenth century, and in particular the most important figure in Greek fresco-painting of the period. Frescoes bearing his signature survive in the Greek monasteries of Mt. Athos, especially Stavronikita Monastery and Great Lavra, and Meteora which has his earliest dated work, from 1527. In Stavronikita he depicted beautifully the entire Passion of Christ, which can be seen in part below:
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Theophanes the Cretan (Θεοφάνης ο Κρης) was a leading icon painter of the Cretan school in the first half of the sixteenth century, and in particular the most important figure in Greek fresco-painting of the period. Frescoes bearing his signature survive in the Greek monasteries of Mt. Athos, especially Stavronikita Monastery and Great Lavra, and Meteora which has his earliest dated work, from 1527. In Stavronikita he depicted beautifully the entire Passion of Christ, which can be seen in part below:
Many times when in the morning I would visit him, this would happen. Usually every Thursday I would first find him "almost dead", but when I would leave he would be like an "18 year old lad". Such grace showered his face, such a change would happen with the Elder, that he talked about the greatness of God. He ardently desired to be in constant communication with the world, to narrate the greatness of God which they granted him. He wanted this grace to transfer to his guests, and he did this one hundred percent, because no one ever left from him without changing and without being moved, after hearing his grace-filled words which came out of the blessed mouth of the Elder.
His Rule he did continuously and without fail. At 5:00 am he would arise with difficulty and with his walker he would go to the basin of water, wash his hands, dry them off good, and immediately grab his prayer rope. Several times the chambermaids would find him lying down on the ground. And despite being 97 years old, he would continuously stick to his Rule. From the day, however, when he could no longer arise from bed without help, he took a "downward spiral", and saw a defect in his Rule. But even prostrate, he would not stop with the same faith and effort to speak of the greatness of God, full of grace. He would often say: "Whoever has faith in God, love for his fellow man, and his thoughts on the memory of death and the memory of Paradise, should not fear anything." Other times, again, I would urge him to speak of a few of his experiences in the All-Sacred and All-Holy Sepulchre. And he, immediately and without delay, would begin to tell us a great narrative about all the wonders he lived, and his face would shine with the grace that showered him.
Once in a while he would ask: "Can you hear me? Can you understand me?" He was afraid that whatever he said that was beneficial and with grace could not be heard or understood, lest his effort be lost due to his not so good articulation of speech. But whatever came out of his grace-filled mouth was so understood by those thirsty in soul that he immediately moved them, and they would break out with tears of repentance and relief. Whenever I would bring to him faithful people, which was often, roughly every Saturday and Sunday, they would see in the face of the elderly Holy-Tomb-Dweller Elder Mitrophanes a change from the grace which showered him. A grace, which in turn, was transferred to all the faces of his guests. Such was the spiritual change that would happen with the pilgrims, that it became a habit for me to bring guests every Sunday so I could often live these sacred and unforgettable moments, watching analytically their faces changing by the grace of the Elder.
To the girls he would say: "Find a good Christian, not a handsome man, because only a Christian is for the home."
To a novice nun who visited him, he said: "O, you have made the best choice, to be a bride of Christ. What else do you want? This is perfection."
To another female visitor who had come from Athens to take care of him and groom him, and to give him whatever he wanted in his old age, he said: "Thank you, my daughter, for everything. You have received your reward as you would have received it, and if I was going to come to Athens with you, I could not follow you, because tens of thousands pass from here every day, who invariably have the same need, the same passion as you, to hear of the greatness of God by me a sinner. You see, they even need me here, which is why I am waiting here."
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
Εξέδυσαν με τα ιμάτιά μου και ενέδυσαν με χλαμύδα κοκκίνην.
Έθηκαν επί την κεφαλήν μου στέφανον εξ ακανθών
και επί την δεξιάν μου χείρα έδωκαν κάλαμον,
ίνα συντρίψω αυτούς ως σκεύη κεραμέως.
An Explanation of the Holy Myron
By Rev. S.T. Kezios
Holy Myrrh is the Chrism Oil used in the Orthodox Church for the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Myrrh is sanctified by the Ecumenical Patriarch with the participation of a host of Bishops and other clergy, as well as lay people. Whereas the chafing of the Holy Myrrh takes place in a building adjacent to the Patriarchal Chapel of Saint George it is stored and kept in the Sacred Repository of Holy Myrrh located in the Tower, elsewhere on the Patriarchal grounds. The Ecumenical Patriarchate distributes the Holy Myrrh to the Orthodox Churches throughout the world to be used for Confirmation, one of the Seven Sacraments. In the Orthodox Church this Sacrament of Confirmation is administered at Baptism.
Approximately every ten years the reserve of Holy Myrrh nears depletion. The Ecumenical Patriarch then informs the Holy Synod which resolves and requests for the replenishment of the Holy Myrrh during Holy Week of the forthcoming year. His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch informs the Primates of Orthodox Churches throughout the world and extends to them, and other Hierarchs, an invitation to attend and participate. A request is also made to many of them asking for a specific offering of a precious oil or element mandated for inclusion in the preparation of the Holy Myrrh.
Metropolitans of the Ecumenical Throne and lay people as well, are assigned to comprise the body of those responsible for all the appropriate preparations. In the year 2012, Metropolitan Athanasios of the Senior See of Chalcedon was appointed to preside. Metropolitan Cyril of Imvros and Tenedos, Metropolitan Dimitrios of Sevasteia, Metropolitan Theoliptos of Iconium and the Grand Archimandrite Athenagoras as secretary, were the ranking clergy appointed. The lay people appointed were Stefanos Bairamoglou, George Savits, Joseph Constantinides, Christos Hamhougias, Theodore Messinas, Aris Tsokonas, Constantine Agiannides, and Catherine Malita.
Historical Overview of the Sanctification of the Holy Myrrh in the Orthodox Church
By His Eminence Metropolitan Paul of Sweden
In the Orthodox Church, Holy Myrrh is sanctified to be used in the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Chrism (Confirmation). Thus it becomes a visible means of the bestowing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon those who are baptized.
In the early years of Christianity this bestowing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon those who were baptized was done by the “laying of the hands” of the Apostles. “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17)
However, when the churches throughout the world had multiplied, and the number of those who had been baptized increased substantially, to make a mission similar to the one to Samaria was impossible. It was then that anointing by Holy Myrrh was introduced in the Church. This totally replaced the bestowing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon those baptized by the “laying of hands”. The date on which this replacement was accomplished is not known. In any event, it is most likely that it took place during the apostolic times. “In lieu of the laying of hands, this was given by the Apostles to those baptized in Christ” (Symeon of Thessaloniki).
The use of Holy Myrrh was introduced into the Church mirroring the existing practice in the Old Testament. “Furthermore the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Also take for yourself aromatic spices, the flower of costly myrrh, five hundred shekels worth, and fragrant cinnamon, half as much, two hundred and fifty, and two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet smelling calamus, and five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. You shall make from these holy anointing oil, an ointment compounded according to the art of the perfumer. It shall be an oil of holy anointing’. (Exodus 30, 22-25)
Throughout the ages, the following terms have also been used in referring to Holy Myrrh: oil of thanksgiving, oil of anointing, chrism, chrism of thanksgiving, heavenly chrism, mystical chrism, myrrh, divine myrrh, great myrrh, holy and great myrrh. Generally today, the term “Holy Myrrh” is in common usage.
The Holy Myrrh is prepared from oil and a variety of fragrant essences. These symbolize the diverse gifts of the Holy Spirit which are received by the Christian who is being anointed. The most ancient particular references, concerning the materials for the myrrh, and for the preparation and chafing of the ingredients to be used, date from the 8th century. This is the earliest description we have, and it has been preserved to this day. In the Ecumenical Patriarchate an official register exists defining the various aromatics which are to be used and compose the Holy Myrrh; they number fifty seven. Details as to the manner of the sanctification of Holy Myrrh during the first centuries of Christianity are totally non existent.
The earliest relevant information is a reference by Hippolytos in his The Apostolic Tradition. Newer ordinances concerning the sanctification of Holy Myrrh are included in the published Great Euhologion, presently in use, and in the Euhologion of Goar. About the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century specific efforts were made at the Ecumenical Patriarchate to review the existing Order of the Service of Sanctification of Holy Myrrh in use until then. This was done with a view toward revision. Relevant Services were published during the years 1890, 1912 and 1960.
In accordance with the established rubrics for the sanctification of Holy Myrrh, and the order of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on Palm Sunday, upon the completion of the Doxology, the Patriarch blesses the Archon Perfumer and his Deans. They are responsible for the chafing of the Holy Myrrh and are attired in full length white robes. The Patriarch then places upon the Archon Perfumer a silk apron.
On Great and Holy Monday, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the Patriarch approaches the appropriately adorned “Kouvouklion” (ceremonial canopy) adjacent to the Most Venerable Patriarchal Church of Saint George the Great Martyr and Trophy Bearer. This is where the cauldrons for the chafing of the Holy Myrrh have been placed.
He then blesses the beginning of the series of sacred services for the sanctification of Holy Myrrh by celebrating the ritual for Holy Water. After this Sacred Service, he sprinkles the materials which have been prepared, the utensils to be used, and the cauldrons, with the Holy Water. Then, holding a lit candle, he ignites pieces of old holy icons mixed with kindling which have been placed under each cauldron. Continuing, the Patriarch reads certain chapters from the Holy Gospels. The reading of these passages from the New Testament is continued by the holy Hierarchs present, the Clergy of the Patriarchal Court, and other clergy. This order of readings continues all day throughout Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday.
On Great and Holy Tuesday, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the Patriarch again approaches the holy Kouvouklion wherein the Lesser Supplication to the Theotokos is chanted, as he commemorates all who either with materials, with monetary gifts, or with their labor have contributed for the preparation of Holy Myrrh.
On Great and Holy Wednesday, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the Patriarch once again approaches the holy Kouvouklion and after a brief prayer service pours rose oil, musk and the remainder of the fragrant oils into the cauldrons. By the end of the day the chafing of the Holy Myrrh and the preparation of all the relative remaining needs have been completed.
On Great and Holy Thursday, after the dismissal of the Service of Orthros, conducted in the Chapel of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the vesting of the Patriarch and the holy Hierarchs takes place. Then, they descend from the Patriarchal Manse to the Most Venerable Patriarchal Church proceeding in litany with the ringing of the bells. During this descent the Patriarch bears a small chrismatory (vial for Myrrh). The most senior of the Hierarchs bears a global vase of alabaster containing Presanctified Myrrh (that is to say, Holy Myrrh from a previous sanctification) while the second Hierarch in seniority carries one of not as yet sanctified Myrrh. The remainder of the holy Hierarchs bears small silver vessels containing Myrrh prepared for sanctification. There follow twenty four Archimandrites, in pairs, holding on either side, twelve great silver urns containing Myrrh which is to be sanctified.
Toward the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, and after the intonation “And may the mercies of our great God…” the Grand Archdeacon intones, “Let us be attentive!” The prayerful congregation then kneels while the Patriarch sanctifies the Holy Myrrh according to the Prescribed Order. Upon the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, in a procession identical in order as was that of the earlier descent from the Patriarchal Chapel to the Patriarchal Church, the Holy Myrrh is brought to the Patriarchal Repository of Holy Myrrh wherein the alabaster global vases and the other vessels containing Holy Myrrh are deposited. The dismissal of the Divine Liturgy then follows.
The sanctification of Holy Myrrh is celebrated only by bishops, never by presbyters. This tradition in the Church is steadfast and unanimous. With the passing of time however, whereas this tradition concerning the presbyters remains firm, it becomes modified for bishops. This common right of all bishops gradually devolved to the bishops of certain established Churches; to the Patriarchs, and finally only to the Ecumenical Patriarch. In other words, whereas each and every bishop has the hierarchical right to sanctify Holy Myrrh, canon law does not permit him. It appears there are three principal reasons which contributed to this curtailing of the right of bishops to sanctify Holy Myrrh. To begin with, it was given to the Primates of each ecclesiastical jurisdiction and then ultimately given to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The first of these reasons is the rarity of the elements involved and the difficulty for each bishop to procure them for the preparation of the Holy Myrrh. Second, is the constantly increasing exaltation of the First, or Primate of the broader ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Third, is the prominent place, with the passing of centuries, which the Ecumenical Patriarchate received form the Patriarchates of the East, and the maternal bond of the Church of Constantinople with the Churches whose people received the Christian faith from its missionaries.
In reality, the concentration of this right to sanctify Holy Myrrh given to the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not to be understood as a dependency or subordination of the other churches, but rather as a tangible and visible sign of the unity and the bond of the various Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches toward the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This is a necessary point, not for the exaltation of the position of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Orthodoxy, but for the existence of a perceptible indication of the unity of the totality of the local Orthodox Churches. That notwithstanding, today in the Orthodox Church the Patriarchates of Moscow, Belgrade, and Bucharest sanctify Holy Myrrh in addition to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and perhaps even some other Orthodox Churches.
As was mentioned in the beginning, Holy Myrrh is mainly and primarily used in the celebration of the Sacrament of Chrism which is immediately administered upon Baptism. It constitutes however a particular and distinct sacrament apart from Baptism. According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, the gifts and grace of the Holy Spirit are bestowed upon those baptized by the Sacrament of Chrism. They are thus strengthened in the Christian life in which they have been initiated through baptism, and are fortified in the struggles against sin and the attacks of evil, thereby increased, “…to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4, 13)
Holy Myrrh is also used for the reception of converts into the Orthodox Church and for those who have fallen away; for the dedication of Churches; the consecration of holy Altars; the consecration of holy Antimensions; and for certain other instances of ritual. In the past it was also used to anoint Orthodox Kings during their coronation.
The Celebration and Sanctification of the Holy Myrrh through History (1833-2012)
1833* by Patriarch Constantine I from Sion (1830-1834)
1856 by Patriarch Cyril VII from Amasia (1855-1860)
1865 by Patriarch Sofronios III from Amasia (1863-1866)
1879 by Patriarch Joachim III from Thessaloniki for the first time, during his first patriarchal tenure (1878-1884)
1890 by Patriarch Dionysios V from Hariton (1887-1891)
1903 by Patriarch Joachim III from Thessaloniki for the second time, during his second patriarchal tenure (1901-1912)
1912 by Patriarch Joachim III from Thessaloniki for the third time, during his second patriarchal tenure (1901-1912)
1928 by Patriarch Vasilios III from Nicaea (1925-1929)
1939 by Patriarch Benjamin from Heraclea (1936-1946)
1951 by Patriarch Athenagoras from the United States of America (1948-1972) for the first time
1960 by Patriarch Athenagoras (1948-1972) for the second time.
1973 by Patriarch Dimitrios from Imvros and Tenedos (1972-1991) for the first time.
1983 by Patriarch Dimitrios from Imvros and Tenedos (1972-1991) for the second time.
1992 by Patriarch Bartholomew from Chalcedon (1991- ) for the first time.
2002 by Patriarch Bartholomew (1991- ) for the second time.
2012 by Patriarch Bartholomew (1991- ) for the third time.
It is worthy to note that in these latter years of the history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate there is recorded the instance of the late Patriarch Joachim III who sanctified the Holy Myrrh thrice (1879, 1903, and 1912). Emmanuel Gideon dedicated his treatise, On the Holy Spirit, useful knowledge for the faithful, Constantinople 1912, "for just cause" to the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople Joachim III from Thessaloniki, “…for alone among the Patriarchs in these latter years, to have been made worthy to sanctify the Holy Myrrh, the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Our present Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was made worthy to sanctify the Holy Myrrh three times (1992, 2002, and 2012).
* The year 1833 chronicles a beginning date. From this date forward the dates for the sanctification of the Holy Myrrh in the Ecumenical Patriarchate are known and can be attested with absolute certainty.
View photos of The Beginning of the Process of Sanctification of Holy Myron »
View photos of The Sanctification of the Holy Myron (Myrrh) at the Phanar »
Experts say analysis should shed some light on the alleged miracle in St Demetrius Church in Skopje where frescoes that appear to have changed colors have drawn thousands of Orthodox believers.
Sinisa Jakov Marusic
April 9, 2012
Macedonia's National Conservation Centre says it will release the results of analysis of the frescoes next week, after Orthodox Easter.
“We have taken samples from the church walls and from the frescoes and they are currently being subjected to analysis to see what might have caused this,” one official told Balkan Insight.
He said he “does not wish to speculate ahead of time” about what might have caused the frescoes to change colour and tone.
Orthodox believers continue to flock to the church in Skopje to see what they believe was a genuine miracle. Long lines of believers have appeared since Monday after a TV report on the occurrence was aired the previous day.
The gold aureoles around the painted saints on the church walls have become brighter while the paint itself is noticeably sharper than before.
Kosta Balabanov, an art historian, says the apparent cleansing of the frescoes might be due to increased humidity, which could have caused condensation on the walls.
The slick golden surface of the aureoles was most noticeably cleansed of decades-old deposits generated by smoke from candles, he notes.
He says that the cleansing effect is less visible on the wall paintings, which may be because the deposits penetrated deeper into their surface, making them harder to clean.
“This occurrence is well known and documented,” he says. “Certain interventions from the human factor most probably helped speed this process.”
Experts from Macedonia's Directorate for Cultural Heritage Protection have also taken a look. Pasko Kuzman, head of the Directorate, made no predictions.
“I do not wish explanations offered by experts to infringe on people’s belief in a miracle,” Kuzman said.
After initially proclaiming the event a miracle, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the country’s principal religious community, is now sounding more cautious.
“Time will tell if it’s a miracle,” said Bishop Petar, a spokesperson for the Church, “but I don’t think anyone came in at night and cleaned the frescoes, especially those located high up on the ceiling.”
The church, located in the old Jewish district between Skopje’s Stone Bridge and the entrance to the Turkish Bazar, is one of the oldest existing churches in the city.
Believed to have been erected in the 16th century, the church gained its modern form in the 1890s after a thorough reconstruction.
The frescoes have been a matter of discussion between Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople at their meeting on Tuesday in Istanbul, the President’s office said.
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.