Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hypocrisy: The Illness of our Time

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

In Matins of Holy and Great Tuesday, which is chanted by custom in the evening of Holy and Great Monday, there will parade before us hypocrisy and the hypocrites, the theater and actors, and will feature the terrible "woe" which our Lord sent to the exponents of hypocrisy.

"Woe to you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces... You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin... You are like whitewashed tombs..." (Matthew 23:13-29).

What is hypocrisy? It is the pretense of friendship, the God-bearing Fathers of the Church will answer. Hatred hidden under the schema of friendship. Hatred manifested as friendship. Envy characterized as love. Hypocrisy is fictional and not real life virtue. It is the pretense of justice. It is fraud which has the form of truth, according to Maximus the Confessor.

A hypocrite is a man who from a person becomes a mask. A hypocrite is one who puts forward his ego, and idolizes his own self. A hypocrite is one who plays the actor.

Hypocrisy is when one supposedly cares and sacrifices for others while exploiting them. It is one who pretends to be unhappy, sad, persecuted and complains in order to create impressions and distract the attention of others.

A hypocrite is one who uses various disguises, masks, to reveal the frustrations of his experiences, to externalize the passions which exist in the soul.

This is why it is observed that this phenomenon is not given much importance to what the Church calls a sin, rather considering it as a natural state, and others as a catapult to punish our ruthless fellows.

For those ears that can endure the words of my revered Elder, the Metropolitan of Katerini Agathonikos, he said: "When you see these situations know that there is a problem there and even a schizophrenic situation, and you are to supplicate God for the healing of this man."

The hypocrite constantly wants to show himself off so people can talk about him, to praise him and receive honors from everyone else. This situation makes him anxious, nervous, and it gets even worse when it is perceived by people. This occurs especially in our era and in the lifestyle we choose that moves away from our tradition.

And unfortunately we all, more or less, are possessed by this passion. Clergy and laity are under the cloak of hypocrisy.

We have been altered from persons to masks and from people who had upon us the grace of God to secularized beings, as has been observed by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos.

How correct was the Elder of Chalcedon Meliton when he said on Cheesefare Sunday in the Metropolitan Church of Athens, "I criticize hypocrisy", stressing that all of us "pretend that yesterday is today and tomorrow comes without us."

Let us supplicate fervently with tears of repentance and kneeling to come to the Passion of the Savior and Redeemer the Lord Jesus Christ to rid us of the terrible passion of hypocrisy.

May He cleanse us from the passions that we may discard the masks of hypocrisy and become real people. "O Lord, deliver us from all deceit and hypocrisy" (1 Peter 2:1).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Should A Child Fast?

The question of the title concerns many parents who want to fast during these days, but do not know what to do and more so, if a young child can follow the fast. In the scientific article below you will be informed about whether a child could and should (from a medical standpoint) fast, from what age, and if there is any risk. Lastly you will read about the benefits of fasting for the organism of a child.

By Chrysanthis Lathira, pediatrician

We are in the days of Lent and many Greek families are fasting, that is, they are abstaining from meat and anything derived from animals. When asked if children can fast and if this habit can cause health problems, I say yes, children can follow the fast of their parents, especially during school age, that is, after the 5th or 6th year of their life.

Fasting is an excellent opportunity to participate in a vegetarian diet even for a few days, in which they will include among their foods legumes (a rich source of protein of high biological value), vegetables (a source of fiber which helps in the smooth functioning of the intestines), olive oil rather than animal fats, raw nuts and dried fruits, seafood (rich in proteins and minerals), and abundant fruits (a source of vitamins and antioxidants). Besides the nutritional benefits of fasting, a child can also practice restraint and put limits on what they want.

Probably some parents wonder whether their child is getting enough protein and calcium during fasting. Meat (red or white) is the most abundant protein food, but it can be replaced during the days of fasting with legumes (ex. lentils) combined with cereals (rice or quinoa), thereby increasing the absorption of iron. Protein-rich foods are nuts and grains such as oats, rye and soybean products. Calcium can be ingested with seafood, almonds, sesame seeds, tahini and halva.

After fasting comes the celebration of Easter and the kids in the spirit of the holidays consume eggs, plenty of meats and lots of sweets. The sudden change of diet from fasting to the uncontrolled consumption of Easter meals can cause gastrointestinal issues in children as well as adults. The adjustment of foods from fasting must be done with caution. Children and adults do not have to eat everything in one day they were deprived of during fasting. Particular attention should be given to children who suffer from juvenile diabetes and are overweight.

The traditional mageritsa (lamb) soup in the late evening of the Resurrection of Christ helps to prepare the digestive system to feast the next day. On Easter day at the holiday table there should be present a prevalent amount of fresh vegetables to accompany the lamb. For young children it would be better to consume the lean part of the lamb (the leg). The meat of the lamb can be enriched with an abundant amount of oregano which is rich in antioxidants and protects from dangerous nitrosamines which produce in meat. Also, do not forget the lemon which helps in the absorption of iron. It is good for children not to consume animal offal but fresh salads and measured quantities of roasted meat. Easter eggs should be limited to just one a day since their overconsumption increases blood lipids. A child can safely consume three to five eggs a week. Measure is needed regarding the sweets that fill most homes, with the traditional tsoureki having a special honor in the days of Easter.

Let us not forget that most sweets contain hundreds of calories and cause weight gain, because they are rich in sugar and fat. Consuming chocolate eggs of course are a temptation especially for young children, which can cause weight gain and food allergy.

In summary, the transition from fasting to festive diet should be done in moderation and with small quantities. Otherwise it will cause digestive discomfort such as vomiting and diarrhea, as well as food allergies, weight gain and the onset of metabolic disorders such as increased blood sugar and high cholesterol levels, hyperlipidemia. The eating habits of parents are a role model for children teaching their children the extent and quality of a diet so they may be healthy adults.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Monday, April 29, 2013

Holy Monday - Freedom That Alters

By Protopresbyter Themistoklis Mourtzanos

"Let us now add our lamentation to him that laments, and let us pour out our tears with those of Jacob bewailing Joseph his glorious and wise son. For Joseph, though enslaved in body, preserved his soul in freedom and became lord over all Egypt. For God prepares for His servants an imperishable crown." (Oikos of Holy Monday Matins)

Holy and Great Monday is for the Church an occasion to remember the All-comely Joseph. His story is known from the Old Testament. His brothers sell him as a slave, he is brought to Egypt, the wife of his master Potiphar attacks him erotically, he resists her, he is thrown into prison, he interprets the dream of Pharaoh about the thick and thin cows, and then essentially he becomes the Prime Minister of Egypt, saving his father Jacob, his brothers and all the people of Israel.

In the oikos of the Synaxarion for today we read the following strange phrase about Joseph: "Joseph, though enslaved in body, preserved his soul in freedom." Joseph was outwardly a slave, but his soul and thoughts remained free. This phrase is very important.

Humans tend to equate freedom with the absence of any external coercion. Today, we live freely, because we do not have someone oppressing us, which is why we fought the Struggle, and that's why our society is democratic. Whenever our democratic freedoms and individual rights of any kind are threatened, there is a general mobilization. The same goes when the freedom of this country is threatened, as well as the democratic polity.

However, there is another form of freedom, which does not receive the attention we need. It is the freedom of the soul. This is not only freedom of thought and speech, but rather the freedom of the heart from passions and sins. Today it is almost an axiomatic truth the perception that personal morality should not be subordinated to any obligations, that the religiosity of man is a right he can exercise or not, and that man needs to enjoy all things every moment of his life, without barriers and limitations.

But this is a fallacy, "worse than the first". Because this enslaves man's needs and desires, leaving him a prisoner of his needs, making it impossible to think of his inner life and ultimately makes him a slave of sin and wickedness. The person who does not strive for inner freedom subjugates himself to his interests, faces life only with economistic and technocratic logic, and is not willing to sacrifice anything, which eventually reverses the characterizations of the Synaxarion: he becomes "free in body, preserving his soul in slavery".

The Church, by viewing the example of the All-comely Joseph, shows us its ethos, which is nothing more than trying to obtain inner freedom. Man, inspired by the ascetic perspective, devoid of desires, the ego, leaving aside his interest, preferring to love and offer, works harmoniously balanced in the relationship of body and soul, and ultimately is the truly free man.

In the era of domination of the media, where freedom of thought and criticism remains a major issue, everyone has a lot to learn about the course to the freedom that is suggested during Holy Week. It is enough to just ask for freedom, to find the truth in Christ, and not despise this truly existential path by living under the slavery of passions and the illusion of power and pleasure. Joseph won the internal war and eventually was glorified, proving that the unconquered soul is worth much sacrifice. Because only then, as the Synaxarion also says, God gives "an imperishable crown".

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

"The Passion of the Christ": An Orthodox Perspective

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

On occasion films are created that display the Cross and Passion of Christ as their content, in order to move Christians in regards to these great events. We see this also in our days with the new movie about the Passion of Christ titled The Passion of the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson.

The Orthodox Church does not give much importance to such screenings for serious theological reasons. We will identify primarily three reasons.

The first reason is that the Passion and the Cross of Christ are integrally tied together with the Resurrection of Christ. When the Passion and the Cross are disconnected from the Resurrection of Christ, then they do not express the crucified-resurrection experience of the Church.

The second reason is that the Cross and Resurrection of Christ are historical events that took place at some point in historical time, but it is ultimately a mysterious and lived experience within the heart of man, which is transformed with repentance, Orthodox asceticism, and the sacramental and liturgical life. Therefore, it is not an aesthetic issue, but ascetical, mystical and devotional.

The third reason is that the Church, by reminding us each year of the Passion, the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ, doesn't urge us towards an emotional feeling, a vision or to hear these events, but towards a personal co-crucifixion and co-resurrection with Christ. That is, it is not intended to emotionally charge us or to bring remembrance, but to transform our passions and to psychosomatically transform us.

It is precisely for these reasons that the Church invites us to experience the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ in worship, but most certainly within the context of Orthodox asceticism. With worship, asceticism and the sacraments, especially the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist, everyone can experience mystically and spiritually, as well as psychosomatically, the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

Of course we live in an era of emotions and sensations, which is why people prefer to see Christ through films and not experience Christ with the conditions recommended by the Orthodox Church. They would rather experience Christ in the flesh and not in the spirit. But such aesthetic approaches to the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, besides diverting us from the mystery of the crucifixion-resurrection, it simultaneously leads us to heretical deviations, because the presentation of the human element of Christ in films leads straight to Nestorianism.

We must realize the great importance of Orthodox asceticism, ecclesiastical worship, and the sacramental life. Every human approach to Christ increases existential frustration.

Source: Paremvasi, "Τα πάθη του Χριστού", March 2004. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Robert Powell and His Portrayal of Jesus

By John Sanidopoulos

One of the most pivotal points in my complete conversion to Christianity happened in 1990 during Holy Week. This happened to be a year in which both Eastern and Western Christians celebrated Easter together. Being only 14 years old at the time, this was rare and the first in my memory, and it finally offered me the opportunity to celebrate Holy Week and Easter with the majority of American people and my culture.

It was during this time that I first saw Franco Zeffirellis' 6-hour miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977) on television. It absolutely captivated me. I would watch it before and after going to church with my family over the three days it aired, and though by this time I was somewhat familiar with biblical eschatological prophecies, it was through this miniseries that I began to study the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Whenever a prophecy was mentioned, I would write it down and enthusiastically search through my Bible to find the references (this was before the days of the internet). What also stood out to me in this film was the rare reverential and dignified tone to the film and the absolutely superb acting of Robert Powell, the actor who played Jesus.

It is not a perfect film, but it has the most gems of any movie about Jesus, and I have previously posted my favorite of many great scenes where Jesus recounts the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is said that Robert Powell trained himself to never blink when filming his scenes as Jesus for added affect, yet this is the only scene in which he can be observed to blink, since it is the longest continual shot of him in the entire film. One of my favorite acting scenes of all time is Gregory Peck's closing courtroom statement in To Kill A Mockingbird, which he performed completely in the first take. Robert Powell's performance in this scene is right up there for me as well.

My favorite recent interview with Robert Powell was in 2011, in which he mentions being in Cyprus for Orthodox Easter relatively recently and was bombarded by the Greeks who admired him for his role as Jesus. Here is the video clip:

Seeing how important this film is to me on my own personal Christian journey, I wanted to offer here some things Robert Powell, my favorite of all the Jesus' on film, has shared about playing Jesus and how this role played an impact on his own life.

Here is Robert Powell, in his own words, in an article by James Barclay in the May 1977 issue of Movie Stars magazine. Robert Powell reflects on his portrayal of Jesus in this interview that was conducted on the set as the movie was being filmed.

"Before I began this film, I had no particular interest in religion and absolutely no opinion of Christ. Now I do believe in Christ and His divinity, though I do not necessarily go to church. Prior to being cast in the part, my knowledge of Christ was limited to Sunday school teachings and religious stories, all on a rather immature level. I knew this would never be enough for me as an actor to work with in developing a character. So I read the Bible through thoroughly, which I’d never done before, taking it apart and analyzing it. I also consulted works of reference and commentaries on the Bible because I wanted to obtain other people’s ideas as well. An actor has to be objective when interpreting a part. Nonetheless, after playing Christ for all these months, it would be difficult not to really believe in him….

Several scenes have particularly moved me, such as the filming of the Sermon on the Mount. Franco shot it just as the sun hit the groves of cypress and olive trees and came across the fields. But generally, it was fairly dark and the hundreds of extras descending in groups, illuminated by the fires they made to keep themselves warm, made a stunning sight. Halfway through the scene, I was so affected by its beauty that I began to cry. Franco decided to keep that in the movie, just as it was.

My interpretation of Christ doesn’t bear a relationship to any other actor’s handling of the part in previous movies about Him. I hadn’t seen any of these other films, like The Greatest Story Ever Told and King of Kings, and thought it better, actually, that I hadn’t.

I see Christ as a combination of man and God. He is a man who went against the political winds of the time. He is not an angry Christ, though he is capable of extreme indignation. Nor is he a cozy man. He never does anything by degrees and expects the same from others. His followers must give away not a few thing, but everything, before they come with Him.

The one moment when God does leave Christ is when He is nailed to the cross. It is, of course, God’s master stroke, having Christ die in the same manner as any human being. There’s nothing to it because he knows Christ will go on, that he is immortal.

Theoretically, the Crucifixion was not supposed to be a difficult scene for me. But I was slightly nervous, nevertheless, perhaps due to the fact I’d literally starved myself on a diet of cheese for 12 days before the shooting, in order to look worn.

I was bound to a horizontal bar, which I carried on my back through a section of the street. It was terribly heavy, because Franco insisted that the tremendous weight would put the right feeling of sufferance into me. It did. At the spot of the Crucifixion I was lifted, by means of ropes and trained stuntmen, to the vertical bar which formed the cross.

Unfortunately, on the first take the horizontal bar began to slip down. I could have had my back broken if someone had not caught the rope controlling the bar and pulled it back up. As it was, my arms were lacerated. We did it on a pretty cold day, too, since it had to be shot against a rainy sky. I was fortunate not to have come down with the flu….

I have been asked if I thought Christ had a sex life. My feelings are that he did not….Christ’s energies were devoted 100 percent to his mission.

Sex, I feel, is not necessary for everybody. For example, I’ve been in work situations where all one’s drives are channeled into the job, and I was only using about two percent of my potential energy as compared to Christ. Also, one might remember that Christ was not just an ordinary man.

Sometimes I’m concentrating so hard on the part that I’m oblivious to people and objects about me on the set. For example, the other afternoon I walked into a grating and cut myself. I was lucky: I could have hurt myself badly.

Not only is the role taxing, but so are the elements which we’ve been up against. We’ve had sand blown in our faces by a wind machine and incense filling our lungs on numerous occasions. Franco wants to give the picture a feeling of age, like the old Italian paintings, which is why he has done all this.

I wouldn’t have known how to manage here without Babs (my wife). She’s kept me in tow so I could concentrate on the script. Babs has supplied me with coffee when I needed it and kept an eye, with only minor success, on my cigarette consumption!

Every day I feel very privileged to be playing this part, to be sharing the experience. Living this story, it is impossible not to be affected by it. I think that I am a much humbler person already. At the beginning, I thought of this project merely in terms of a script and visual images. But having to say the words of this man, who changed the course of life and history, the character has come alive for me and his ideas have become real."

Read also this linked article from the March 25th, 1977 issue of The Catholic Herald, titled "Actor says Jesus part 'hardest I've ever done".

Here is another article which offers more insights into his role as Jesus. Among the more interesting comments is this about the impact the film had on his brother:

"My brother is an atheist and he watched it with my parents and they said as the closing credits came up, after the crucifixion, he was very quiet and muttered, 'makes you think doesn't it'. So if I can turn an atheist to thinking, I count him as my biggest achievement."

Below also is Ernest Borgnine speaking a bit on the impact Jesus of Nazareth, in which he played a Roman centurion, had on him while on the set.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What Do the Palm Branches Signify?

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

The Evangelist John writes: "The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him." The Evangelists Matthew and Mark describe the scene, saying the people had cut branches from the trees and laid them on the road on which Christ passed through. The word βαΐον (palm) is Egyptian and means the sector cut from a palm tree.

It is evident they greeted Him as a victor, for this is how the people greeted soldiers who returned victorious from war. Christ is the victor over corruption and death which plagued humans above all other problems. Christ is not a teacher, a philosopher, a social reformer, or a moralist, but He is the victor over sin, the devil and death.

Today we also hold palm branches in memory of this event, but also symbolically. We hereby seek to glorify Christ, as the victor over death. The hymns of the Church refer to this fact. In one troparion we sing: "With palms and branches let us greet" Christ who comes to suffer, to be crucified and to be resurrected. In an apolytikion of the feast we chant: "Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death." The palms are symbols of victory and triumph. In another troparion we chant: "Let us all carry branches of victory."

St. Cyril of Alexandria gives another interpretation, saying that we hold the palms of our souls which is related with the divesting of the death of the old man and the garments of skin and the discarding of disease and sickness. St. Andrew of Crete says that we must offer to Christ, instead of palms, a virtuous life (αντί των βαΐων τον ενάρετον βίον).

Therefore, the palms we bless today and hold in our hands are symbols of the victory of Christ against death, as well as a symbol of our own victory, with the power of Christ, against the passions of the old man, which is our existential death. We tried to spend Great Lent in repentance, prayer and asceticism with divine love and philanthropy. So we desire to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, as well as our own resurrection following the death of our passions. And indeed this is significant, for death is a great contemporary existential and social event, which creates intense existential, ontological and social problems.

Indeed, if one examines many contemporary problems affecting young people, the middle-aged and the elderly, they will find that at their center is death. The irreversibility of death creates terror and fear. Death puts plans to a stop, breaks the society of two loving persons, motivates humans in the accumulation of material goods, and increases melancholy and existential anxiety.

What system can overcome its power? What philosophy and sociology can face it? Who can ease the pain of the man wounded by the approach of death? Only Christ can do this, for He is the triumphant victor over death. This is the deeper meaning of the feasts of Holy Week and Pascha. This is why we hold in our hands today the symbols of victory, having hope and light.

Source: Paremvasi, "Βαΐα και στεφάνια", April 2007. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

St. Luke of Crimea: On Palm Sunday

By St. Luke of Crimea

Jerusalem was filled with people who came from everywhere to celebrate the great feast of Passover. The whole city spoke of the great prophet and wonderworker from Nazareth, who just now did the greatest of His countless other miracles, raising Lazarus from the dead, who was four entire days in the tomb. They waited for Him to come to the city and were preparing for His warm welcome. He, accompanied by His disciples, did not walk as a pedestrian as usual, but, beginning from Bethpage, He mounted a female donkey and its colt, to fulfill that which was spoken by the prophet Zachariah: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zach. 9:9). The Apostles put their clothes on the donkey and colt, while the people took palm branches and spread their clothes out on the street, at the feet of the animals, crying out with great joy: "Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel" (Matt. 21:9).

The Chief Priests, Pharisees and Scribes listened with terror to these cries, which proclaimed the fall of their spiritual power over the people. Let us also turn now our eyes and see the Lord Jesus Christ in this moment. We will be surprised to see that He is not rejoicing at this festal reception. Rather He bends His head and sobbingly weeps. O our Lord! Why are You weeping now, when all the people rejoice? He alone knew Who was Omniscient. He did not weep for Himself but for His people. For they did not believe in the Messiah Christ, Who came for them. They killed the prophets He sent them, and five days after they would receive Him as King, they will ask Pilate for His crucifixion! For all this, these people will be subject to many ills.

Do you think God, who is King of the universe, claimed this dominion and aspired to become King of this small, hardened people of Israel, who did not recognize or receive their Messiah and now were preparing to deliver Him to a horrible and tortuous death by crucifixion? All the holy heavenly bodiless powers would lament at His festal entrance into Jerusalem, if they knew the horrible cross they were preparing for Him on Golgotha.

Did the Lord Jesus Christ weep only for His contemporary Jews? Certainly not! The Omniscient One also knew that which we see today. He knew that over the centuries the human race would entirely forget Him, that they would blaspheme and ridicule His holy Name. He knew this, which is why He said that the Son of Man, when He comes the second time, He probably will not find faith on earth.

We also must weep, who so often forget the cross of Christ, and especially they of whom the Apostle Paul says: "who have treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who have insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:29). And so many misfortunate brothers of ours, at a more terrible extent, exist among us!

Save them, Lord!

Save them, Lord!

Save them, Lord!


From Ἁγίου Λουκᾶ Ἀρχιεπισκόπου Κριμαίας, Λόγοι καὶ ὁμιλίες ποὺ ἐκφωνήθηκαν στὴν Συμφερούπολη κατὰ τὴν περίοδο 1955-1957. τόμος Α´Εκδ. Ορθόδοξος κυψέλη. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Happened to Lazarus After He Rose From the Dead?

By John Sanidopoulos

Lazarus was a close friend of Christ, from Bethany, about three kilometers east of Jerusalem. He lived there with his sisters Mary and Martha, and they often gave hospitality to Jesus (Luke 10:38-40; John 12:1-3).

John the Evangelist informs us (John 11) how one day Jesus was notified of the death of Lazarus. Four days later He arrived in Bethany, not only to bring comfort to Lazarus' grieving sisters, but to show the power of God and perform His greatest miracle by raising him from the dead, in anticipation of His own resurrection.

The resurrection of Lazarus brought short-lived great admiration and fame to Jesus, as evidenced by his triumphant entry to Jerusalem, but it also provoked great anger among the teachers of the Law. Now they wanted both Jesus and Lazarus dead. Lazarus escaped, but Jesus did not. But what happened to Lazarus?

According to St. Epiphanios of Cyprus (367-403), Lazarus was thirty years old when he rose from the dead, and then went on to live another 30 years following his resurrection. Another tradition says that Lazarus fled the anger of the Jews and took refuge at Kition in Cyprus around 33 A.D.

While in Cyprus Lazarus met the apostles Paul and Barnabas, as they were travelling from Salamis to Paphos, and they ordained him the first Bishop of Kition. He shepherded the Church of Kition with great care and love for eighteen years until the end of his life.

There are traditions which say he was sullen and never smiled after his resurrection, and this was due to what he saw while his soul was in Hades for four days. Some say he never once laughed, except one time when he saw a man steal a clay vessel, and he uttered the following saying: "One earth steals another".

Other Traditions About Lazarus

Another tradition connects him with Aliki in Larnaca (today's Kition). In Aliki at that time was a large vineyard. As the Saint was walking by he saw an old woman filling her basket with grapes. Tired and thirsty, the Saint asked the old woman for a few grapes. However, she looked at him with disdain and said:

"Go to hell, man. Can you not see that the vine is dried up like salt, and you are asking me for grapes?"

"If you see it dried up like salt, then let it become salt," responded Lazarus.

In this way the entire vineyard became a salt marsh.

Workers who collect salt in this area today confirm this tradition. They claim to find when they dig there roots and trunks of vines. It is said that in the middle of the salt lake today there is a well of fresh water, known as "the well of the old woman".

The Synaxarion of Constantinople, speaking of this tradition, says that the lake was claimed by two brothers, who broke ties for its possession. To end the dispute, the Saint by his prayers dried up the lake and it remained salty.

Another tradition says that the Theotokos came to Kition with John the Evangelist in order to meet Lazarus. St. John gave him clerical vestments and cuffs, and then they went to Mount Athos.

The Second Death of Lazarus

St. Lazarus ended his second earthly life at Cyprus in 63 A.D. The faithful wept and buried him with honors in a sarcophagus made of Cypriot marble, on which they wrote in Hebrew:

"Lazarus of the four days and the friend of Christ."

Above the sarcophagus there was built a beautiful church, which was renovated in 1750.

His memory is celebrated by the Church every Saturday before Palm Sunday.

The transfer of the relic of St. Lazarus from Kition to Constantinople, which took place in 890 by order of Emperor Leo VI the Wise is celebrated on October 17th. Emperor Leo wrote the idiomelon for the Vespers of St. Lazarus.

The Relic of St. Lazarus in Constantinople

The transfer of the relic of St. Lazarus is detailed for us in two panegyric homilies delivered by Bishop Arethas of Ceasarea (850-after 932). After extolling the arrival of this great treasure to Constantinople in his first homily, he describes in the second the procession formed with the presence of the Emperor when the relic arrived from Chrysoupolis to Hagia Sophia. In exchange for this transfer, Leo VI sent money and artisans to Cyprus, where he built a magnificent church to honor St. Lazarus, which is maintained until today in Larnaca. Furthermore, he built a monastery in Constantinople dedicated to St. Lazarus, in which he placed the sacred relic. To this same monastery was later transferred the relic of St. Mary Magdalene from Ephesus. It later became a custom for the Emperor of New Rome to worship at the monastery on the Saturday of Lazarus.

Not too many years ago (specifically November 23, 1972) the superintendent of the Department of Antiquities, who worked towards the restoration of the church in Larnaca, found a sarcophagus with bones beneath the pillar supporting the plate of the Holy Altar. The bones were in a wooden box, placed in the sarcophagus, which in turn had carved on it the word "friend".

This finding seems to confirm the tradition that Leo VI did not take the entire relic of St. Lazarus to Constantinople, but left a portion behind. Authentic testimony and evidence for this fact is the location where the bones were found: under the Holy Altar.

Moreover, Arethas does not mention an incorrupt relic, but "bones" and "powder". Also, a Russian source at the library of Oxford reports that a Russian monk came from Pskov Monastery in the 16th century to Larnaca, and he venerated the bones of St. Lazarus, taking a small piece for himself as well. This piece is preserved till this day in the Chapel of Saint Lazarus at Pskov Monastery. Based on this account, we can affirm that the relic of St. Lazarus was venerated in Larnaca in the 16th century. A later account is not known, so for some reason, probably for protection, the Kitians hid the relic beneath the Holy Altar until it was discovered in 1972.

Tombs in the Holy Land and the Tomb of St. Lazarus

By Athanasios Moustakis

The Evangelist John makes extensive reference to the friend of Christ Lazarus and his resurrection. Referring to the relevant biblical narrative (John 11:38-47) we will see some evidence of the morphology of the tombs in the time of Christ.

Lazarus and his sisters lived in Bethany, a village about fifteen stages (three kilometers) east of the city of Jerusalem (John 11:18). It is known for the event of the resurrection of Lazarus, which is why we will focus our attention on what took place outside the village at the place where people were entombed.

The first evidence the Evangelist John gives us of the funerary monument of St. Lazarus was that "it was cave". It had the form of a cavernous monument. A cursory search on the internet discovers that in the time of Christ there were a wide variety of monuments in the Holy Land.

Let's look at some types:

In this we see that there are three gates surrounded by mason arches and a courtyard with a stone wall on the right and left to hold the soil. In the interior of this tomb are stone sarcophagi. Such a large and well-attended memorial was the burial place of many people.

At this point we should note that the Jews did not allow exhumation, as they saw it as a desecration of the dead, but collected the bones and placed them in stone or clay ossuaries. Consequently, land tombs of large families were spacious with many places to place the dead, as distinguished in the photo above.

Another type were dug into stones with columns in the front, such as the tomb of Zacharias, seen above.

The tombs already mentioned belonged to affluent families, who were able to construct and maintain monuments of such a magnitude. Most Jews did not have this ability to construct rich tombs.

The cavernous tomb seen in the next photo is from the early Bronze Age (3000 B.C.).

It is much simpler than the others. Essentially it is a cave with a simple entrance configuration. Similar monuments are found in Palestine in the first century A.D. Based on the description of the Evangelist John, that "it was a cave", it must have resembled this. The photos below of the traditional tomb of Lazarus reveal that this is the case.

The monument in its current form has a good amount of depth, and to reach the crypt one must descend several steps.

The tomb of Lazarus is deep within the monument and has the form of a burial room. The area of the cave is configured to accept the dead body.

An interesting point is the way the tombs were closed. In some cases there were stone doors.

Another type of door was a stone carved in contour of the door of the monument on one side and wider than the other. It was applied as a cork in a bottle.

In the case of Lazarus, we assume that his tomb was like this (if it was on the outside of the tomb), or it was a plate (if it was on the roof of the burial chamber). According to St. John, Christ said: "Take away the stone" (John 11:39). A good translation would be "raise the stone", but it could also mean "distance the stone" or "remove the stone". In the first case it would probably refer to the stone on the roof of the burial chamber, which would be horizontal, or in the other case at the entrance of the tomb the burial chamber was closed.

The third way in which funerary monuments were closed does not fit the case of Lazarus' tomb, but Christ's. The monument was carved in stone and shut with a cylindrical stone, which had to be rolled to reveal the opening of the monument. The Evangelist John, in the case of Christ's tomb, uses the verb "αἴρω" or "taken away" (John 20:1). The stone was "taken away from the tomb". The other Evangelists, however, refer to a cylindrical stone that had to be rolled.

Matthew 27:60 - "rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb"

Matthew 28:2 - "rolled back the stone from the door"

Mark 15:46 - "rolled a stone against the door of the tomb"

Mark 16:3 - "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?"

Mark 16:4 - "they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large"

Luke 24:2 - "they found the stone rolled away"

From the passages above we can be certain that the entrance to the tomb of Christ was covered by a cylindrical stone.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Prayers Needed for Saint Lazarus Monastery in Bethany

Dan Koski
April 26, 2013

As we approach Lazarus Saturday before the start of Holy Week in the Orthodox Church, I would ask that this year, you would also commemorate Saint Lazarus Monastery in the modern city of Al-Azaria (Lazarus) in Bethany, East Jerusalem, which is currently undergoing yet another trial of faith and existence.

This monastery is the heart of the Cypriot Orthodox community in the Holy Land; it was established during the early 20th century by Cypriots who wished to venerate their beloved Lazarus, whose relics are, as we know, in Larnaca. There is a stone associated with the story of the raising of Lazarus that the principal church was built around, and, while somewhat run-down, is still very much an oasis of spirituality in a neighborhood of East Jerusalem that is now very much spoiled by urban development and decay. Once an idyllic neighborhood at the very end of greater Jerusalem before the road to Jericho, the city is now an ugly mess of shabby buildings, auto-repair shops, and junk heaps with abysmal levels of pollution.

In recent months the monastery has been suffering from an encroachment on its limited land by a local Muslim family that claims to have ownership of the land. Al-Azaria has become very much an area in decline since the construction of the Separation Wall between East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as the city, even though it is technically considered part of East Jerusalem, was put on the Palestinian side of the wall, and was zoned as an area where the Palestinian Authority has little control, essentially creating a no-man’s land for crime and corruption.

This development has been extremely distressing for the nuns, who live in difficult circumstances and are isolated from the pockets of Christians who live in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. As so often happens here in such circumstances, buildings are raised as a precursor to further encroachments on land, and to “prove” ownership of property, the value of which in Jerusalem is now at astronomical levels. This construction will not just impede on the monastic life of the nuns, but also encourage theft of other monastic lands in other parts of the country, The Cypriot government, the Jerusalem patriarchate and some other parties are doing what they can to appeal to the Palestinian and Jordanian officials (as King Hussein has official custodianship of all East Jerusalem Holy Places), but so far little has been done.

This Saturday, your prayers and commemoration will be most appreciated – prayers for the monastery as well as the Cypriots who see this monastery as a place where their struggles in life can be prayed for in the Holy Land, and, of course, the people who are committing this senseless act against an oasis of spiritual light in an increasingly troubled Jerusalem.


Arab Muslims Seize a Part of the Land that Belongs to St Lazarus Convent in Bethany

April 24, 2013

The Orthodox Church of Jerusalem has expressed a serious concern regarding the situation that emerged with the Convent of Sts. Lazarus, Martha and Mary in Bethany. On the piece of land belonging to the Convent, local residents—Arab Muslims—have been constructing a large building (already three stories have been built) since March 2013 in spite of protests from Orthodox Christians, reports Sedmitza.ru.

The Convent possesses all documents on this land including a site plan from the year 1912.

Attempts of the lawyer of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem Samiha Shleipi to urge the Palestinian police to stop the construction work brought no results. The mediation of the embassy of Cyprus did not help either—it intervened in the situation after threats to the nuns began to pour in (5 out of 7 sisters are Cypriots).

According to the Romfea agency, the building is being constructed at a feverish pace and work is continuing 24 hours a day to complete the building and no one has been able to stop it yet.

Serbia, Kosovo and the Church: Physician, Heal Thyself

April 26, 2013

MY FELLOW Balkan-watcher Victoria Clark (who shares my interest in Slavic and ex-Ottoman lands, but is not otherwise related) had some remarkable experiences when she was researching her book "Why Angels Fall"—a scholarly ramble through the Christian East. Some of her happiest and unhappiest moments were spent among the Orthodox Serbs. In Bosnia, she had an abrasive encounter with a certain Bishop Vasilije Kacavenda, who reacted angrily when she raised the subject of ethnic cleansing. Britain, he retorted, was a bit too multi-cultural for its own good. In Kosovo, by contrast, she was warmly received at the medieval Serbian monastery of Decani (pictured), where she liked the monks' cooking (two kinds of ratatouille, and gooey chocolate cake) and their courageous belief in co-existence between Serbs and Albanians.

Fourteen years later, some things have changed a lot, others not all. Decani still houses an energetic community of monks, but they need all their courage. The 30 or so robed monastics are now the only Serbs left on the western fringe of Kosovo. Since the summer of 1999, when NATO forced Serbian troops out of Kosovo and installed a peacekeeping force, its beautiful stone walls have been assaulted half a dozen times, with mortars or Molotov cocktails. Scores of Serbian churches have been attacked elsewhere in Kosovo so there is good reason to worry about what would befall Decani if it were left unprotected. Although the monastery's ownership of a small farm was recently confirmed by a court, local Albanian hotheads don't hide their desire to take over the land, if not the entire premises. Peacekeepers from Italy have provided vital security. "Thank God for the Italians," says Father Nektarios Serfes, an American Orthodox priest who raises money for Decani.

Meanwhile, the Serbian Orthodox Church as a whole has shown a more emollient face to the world since the election in January 2010 of a new Patriarch, Irinej. To many outsiders, his elevation signalled that the church was breaking with the hard-line nationalists who were prominent during the post-Yugoslav wars. In a token of inter-church friendship, the Patriarch sent a message of congratulations to the newly elected Pope Francis, and he says he'd welcome a papal visit to Serbia. He has fallen out badly with the erstwhile spiritual leader of the Kosovo Serbs, Artemije, and stripped him of his episcopal rank, a decision which the feisty cleric won't recognise. Artemije's political views have fluctuated (from pro-Western to the opposite) but he has always been a hard-liner in relations with other Christian confessions.

Perhaps inevitably, the leadership of the Serbian church has denounced as treacherous the EU-brokered deal struck on April 19th under which Belgrade promised some degree of co-operation with Kosovo's Albanian rulers. Given the church's role as the guardian of Serbian nationalism, it could hardly have taken a different position. In other ways, though, the stock of the hard-liners who were prominent in the 1990s is falling. On April 22nd, the church accepted on "health"grounds the resignation of Bishop Vasilije, the sharp-tongued scourge of multiculturalism, after an embarrassing video circulated on social media.

But if church leaders are to speak up convincingly in defence of threatened places like Decani (a piece of Europe's heritage that should matter to people who are neither Christian nor Serbian) they may have to go further in cleansing their own stables and looking harder at the role which ultra-nationalist clerics played in the 1990s.

Whoever decides the political future of Kosovo, it probably won't be the church. But as they prepare to celebrate Orthodox Easter on May 5th, Serbia's clerics do have a right and duty to speak out in defence of historic monuments and communities that face imminent physical threats. And the higher their own moral standing, the more chance they have of winning a hearing.

Friday, April 26, 2013

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