Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Day and the Christian


At the present time, the beginning of the new year is celebrated by us on the 1st of January. Forty-five years before the Nativity of Christ, the Romans began celebrating the new year on the 1st of January instead of on the 1st of March, as had been done by them previously, and they spent this day in disorderly, noisy games in masquerade and in mindless merriment and abominable debauchery.

According to the beliefs of the pagan Romans, the first moment of the new year had a fateful influence on the whole yearly period of time: whoever would greet and spend the first day of the new year merrily, would live merrily during the course of the whole year; therefore, each one tried to greet and spend the first day of the new year as merrily and dissipatedly as possible. On the eve of the new year, men and women gathered in private houses and in inns in order to greet the new year in society. To be drunk on this day was considered indispensable even for those who did not like to get drunk on wine. Noise, shouting, songs, dances and hand-clapping filled the streets and buildings throughout the whole night. Men dressed up as women, and women, in their turn, did not lag behind the men in the art of disguise. Some put on the heads of cows, deer, dogs and other animals; others dressed up even as demons or assumed the appearance of their pagan gods and goddesses. They walked disguised about the city, from house to house, with noise, songs and dances. Sorcerers of various kinds, soothsayers and augurs, who conjectured by all possible means about the future, never had, perhaps, so many visitors as in this night - the eve of the new year. With the approach of morning, all hurried to one another to exchange greetings, good wishes and gifts on the occasion of the new year; they spent the evening of the day in banquets and amusements.

Saint George the Wonderworker, the so-called Macheromenos

St. George the Macheromenos (Feast Day - December 31)

Saint George the Macheromenos ("the Stabbed") is a Cypriot Saint who today is unknown to most people. This Saint is mentioned by the medieval Cypriot chronicler Leontios Macheras in his Chronicle: "In Achliontas, there is Saint George the Macheromenos, who is a local and a wonderworker."

Kataliontas was a small settlement, about 1 km southeast of the village of Analiontas. The area is under the jurisdiction of the village of Analiontas. In the middle of the road leading from the village of Analiontas to the village of Lithrodontas in Nicosia, near the abandoned village of Kataliontas, there are the ruins of the ancient Church of Saint George the Macheromenos. Nearchos Clerides, a Cypriot folklore scientist, writes that during the years of Frankish rule, but also during the Byzantine period, the village of Analiontas and particularly this church were famous for the many miracles that Saint George the Macheromenos performed. The fame of this church is the miraculous icon of Saint George the Macheromenos, which for many years adorned Saint Marina, the main village church of Analiontas. Nowadays, the icon of the Saint is kept at the Archdiocese in Nicosia.

6 Sayings of the Holy Abba Gelasios

Venerable Gelasios (Feast Day - December 31)

Abba Gelasios trained as an ascetic in Egypt. He became abbot of Nilopolis in the mid-fifth century. He was a scholar and a great abbot, involved both in the ecclesiastical politics of his time and in the law-suits of his monastery. He was a firm supporter of Juvenal, and held to the formularies of Chalcedon. The second story here introduces the famous Saint Symeon the Stylite, on his pillar outside Antioch. Symeon is shown in the important role of arbitrator, to whom secular disputes as well as religious matters were brought in his role as prophet and holy man. Venerable Gelasios reposed in peace.

1. It was said of Abba Gelasios that he had a leather Bible worth eighteen pieces of silver [about $10,000]. In fact it contained the whole of the Old and New Testaments. He had put it in the church so that any of the brethren who wished, could read it. A brother who was a stranger came to see the old man and, seeing the Bible, wished to have it, and stole it as he was leaving. The old man did not run after him to take it from him, although he knew what he was doing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life (5 of 6)



e) "Ontological and Existential"

These two words, "ontological" and "existential", are often used in spoken and written words by people who know Orthodox theology. Apparently they do it in the sense that "ontology" means what is real, what exists, and not something insubstantial and imaginary. Also, "existential" implies existential problems related to the beginning and end of existence, what is life, what is death, what happens after death, what is the meaning of existence; they are the answers to the "borderline" issues of human life. In this sense I also used these two words in the past, especially in discussions with scientists and young people, pupils and students, and they made a particular impression.

However, from my studies of both patristic and western scholastic theology, existentialist theology and Russian theology, I understand that these are problematic to the Orthodox patristic tradition, and in fact those who use them negate Orthodox theology or differ from it.

Saint Theodora of Caesarea

St. Theodora of Caesarea (Feast Day - December 30)

Saint Theodora lived during the reign of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741), the son of Emperor Constantine V the Copronymos, and was the scion of a splendid and distinguished family. Her father was Theophilos, who held the rank of patrician, and her mother was Theodora, and had been barren for many years. Saddened by her inability to bear a child, she entreated God and the Most Holy Theotokos to grant her a child. God heard her prayer, and granted her the favor she sought, through the intercessions of Saint Anna, the mother of the Theotokos. Therefore she gave birth to the Venerable Theodora, who upon reaching a mature age, was brought to the Temple of Saint Anna, and became dedicated to her Monastery in the area of Rigidion, as a divine offering. And in a God-fearing and orderly manner, she was guided by the Abbess and taught sacred letters.

Synaxarion of Saint Anysia of Thessaloniki



On the thirtieth of this month [December], we commemorate the Holy Venerable Martyr Anysia of Thessaloniki.

Verses

Mortally stabbed on the right side,
The side Adam conceived Anysia.
On the thirtieth the side of Anysia was stabbed with a sword.

Anysia lived during the reign of Emperor Maximian (286-305), and was the daughter of pious and very wealthy parents from Thessaloniki. With the death of her parents, the Saint lived alone in quietude, and she pleased God by practicing and laboring towards fulfilling the divine commandments.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Christmas of a Lonely Woman (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

You complain about loneliness in the middle of a big city. So many people around you seethe like an anthill, and you still feel like you are in the desert. On major holidays the situation is unbearable. Everywhere joy is overflowing, while you are being pushed towards sadness. The festive days of Christmas and Easter seem like empty containers that you fill with tears. When these holy feasts are far behind or ahead of you, you are calmer. But when they approach and come, grief and desolation conquer your soul.

What can I do for you? I will tell you the story of Joanna's Christmas, because perhaps it will benefit you. I will leave it to her to narrate it, just as she told it to me.

The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life (4 of 6)



b) "The Human Person"

Many studies have been made in our day about the "human person", and the features are even identified, which are self-knowledge, otherness and ecstasy/eros.

The idea that man is a person began with the Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky, who clearly wrote: "For my part, I must admit that until now I have not found what one might call an elaborated doctrine of the human person in patristic theology, alongside its very precise teaching on divine persons and hypostases." But he continues: "Thus I shall not put forward an historian’s examination of Christian doctrines, but simply some theological reflections on the questions which must be answered by the notion of the human person in the context of Christian dogma."

Synaxarion of the Holy Infants Massacred by Herod


On the twenty-ninth of this month [December], we commemorate the Holy Infants killed by Herod, numbering fourteen thousand.

Verses

By a sword the mother's babes were killed untimely,
By the enemy of the Babe who fashioned the babes.
On the twenty-ninth the slaughtered infants called for pappa.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Heretical Icon of the "Holy Family"


By John Sanidopoulos

The main reason Orthodox Iconography is more about imitation than innovation is to prevent heretical concepts from entering the Church, since heresy can just as much be depicted in icons as written in books and proclaimed from the pulpit. One such innovation in Orthodox Iconography that began in America is the depiction of the "Holy Family", showing Christ either in the arms of both St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary, or in the arms of St. Joseph alone. While such depictions may seem innocent, they in fact display a lack of attention to essential matters of Orthodox doctrine.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyr Domna


On this day [December 28th] Saint Domna, who was decapitated with a sword, and perfected in fire.

Verses

Six like-minded virgins are joined together,
The falsely-foolish Domna is beheaded.

The Holy Martyr Domna lived during the reign of Maximian (284-305), and while living in Nicomedia, she was a priestess [consecrated virgin] in the palace temple, which had twelve idols to the gods, and it was called the Dodekatheon. Having come upon the Acts of the Holy Apostles and the Epistles of Saint Paul, her soul became enlightened, and having learned of the true faith, she believed in Christ. Wherefore she was baptized by Bishop Cyril of Nicomedia, together with the eunuch Indes. From then on, whatever money the blessed one received in the palace, she distributed to the poor. When the chief eunuch recognized that she was a Christian, and she was destined for punishment, she pretended that she was out of her mind and insane. Thus she was sent to the Bishop of the Christians, to be healed of her insanity. Whence the Saint found herself to be among the Christians, so she entered a hermitage for Virgins, and lived there in quietude.

Synaxarion of the 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia


On the twenty-eighth of this month [December], we commemorate the Holy Twenty Thousand Martyrs, who were burned to death in Nicomedia.

Verses

As offerings to you Savior they rise up,
The twenty thousand in the temple who reposed within.
On the twenty-eighth twenty thousand men were killed by burning.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Synaxarion for Joseph the Betrothed, James the Brother of God and David the Prophet


On the Sunday after the Birth of Christ, we commemorate the Holy and Righteous Joseph the Betrothed, James the Brother of God, and David the Prophet and King.

Verses

To Joseph.
I honor Joseph the betrothed of the Virgin,
As her sole elected guardian.

To James.
You were not only a carpenter's child, but the brother of the Lord,
Who built all things by His word, blessed one.

To David.
Who will I declare, as a witness before the Lord,
David being found of His own heart?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Jesus Christ as an Immigrant


By Prof. John Karavidopoulos

The birth of Christ is described by the Evangelist Matthew in a way that indicates the fate of the Messiah of the world: As soon as He is born He migrates, following a divine command, to Egypt. He is an immigrant Who changed countries to escape danger, just as in the Old Testament Abraham, Jacob and his children did, who migrated to Egypt by divine command. The newborn Christ, as soon as He enters the world, knows persecution and hostility on the part of the rulers. The main representative of this hostility is King Herod, whose brutality is known by the historians of his time. One could say that the birth of Christ is a prelude to the death of Christ. His entire journey through life in this world is a cross of love and sacrifice; a cross on which He will ultimately defeat the demonic power of evil in order for the light of the resurrection to shine.

Synaxarion for the Synaxis of the Theotokos and Her Flight Into Egypt With Christ


On the twenty-sixth of this month [December], is the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Verses

Blamelessly giving birth without knowing a man in the marriage-bed,
As a blameless gift we welcome the words.
Dance and sing on the twenty-sixth for the most-pure birth-giving.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Synaxarion for the Nativity of Christ, the Veneration of the Magi and the Shepherds Who Beheld the Lord


On the twenty-fifth of this month [December], we commemorate the Nativity according to the flesh of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Verses

God the one born, and the Mother a Virgin,
What greater new thing had creation seen?
Mary the Virgin bore God on the twenty fifth.

When the philanthropic God beheld the race of men, how they were tormented by the devil, He felt compassion. Therefore He sent His Angel Gabriel, and through him sent a message to the Theotokos with the "Rejoice, you who are full of grace, the Lord is with you." And she said the "Behold, the servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word." Upon this the Son and Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was immediately conceived in her immaculate and virginal womb. When the nine months of her conception was near its end, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, for a census to take place throughout the inhabited world that was under his authority. For this census to take place, the governor Cyrenius was sent to Jerusalem. At this time Joseph the protector of the Theotokos together with the Theotokos herself went to Bethlehem, in order to be registered there. And because the Virgin was about to give birth, they could not find a dwelling place to stay in, due to the multitude of people that gathered there, and they were not on time to find a house to settle in Bethlehem. For this reason they entered a poor cave. There she incorruptibly gave birth to our Lord Jesus Christ, and being an Infant He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, He Who created the world. And He was placed in a manger of irrational animals, for He came to liberate us from our irrationality.

How Will We Celebrate Christmas Today?


By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

With awe and wonder we stand once again before the unexplainable mystery of the presence of Jesus Christ on earth. It took place in the fullness of time, in the words of the Apostle Paul: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons."1 There is no greater miracle in history, nor more striking event: God came to earth and became man, the cave became heaven, and the "manger held the uncontainable one." It is the only thing that is truly paradoxical "and new that takes place in this world we live, beneath the sun," theologizes Saint John of Damascus.2

Thursday, December 24, 2015

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!


Christ Is Born!

Glorify Him!

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MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

What Does "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men" Mean?


By John Sanidopoulos

At Christmastime we often hear or see the phrase "peace on earth, good will toward men" either in Christmas songs, television programs, billboards, or prominently displayed in some sort of Christmas decoration. We even hear it in church, because the phrase is based on the Gospel of Luke 2:14, which is often rendered: "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." This is the Angelic Hymn that was sung by a multitude of Angels on the night Christ was born, after appearing to poor shepherds that were watching their flocks in the fields of Bethlehem. Often this hymn is thought to be a benediction of peace either in some external or internal manner, so that either there will no longer be any wars or conflicts on earth, or that we have a sense of inner tranquility and calmness. Furthermore, it is thought to encourage kindness or good will between each other, in order for this peace to be achieved. This is the most popular understanding of the phrase.

However, this popular understanding is in fact a significant misunderstanding, being more sentimental than theological. And the misunderstanding is first of all based on the fact that Luke 2:14 is often mistranslated from the original Greek. In the original Greek, Luke 2:14 is translated as: "Glory to God in the Highest, and on the earth peace among whom He is pleased." When we thus read what the text actually says, we see that the focus of the word "peace" is on the words "among whom He is pleased", after glorifying God. How should this change our understanding of the Angelic Hymn in Luke 2:14?

The Incarnation as the Foundation of our Spiritual Life (Elder Sophrony)


By Elder Sophrony of Essex

- Christian life is founded on the fact of the incarnation of God. In our flesh, created by Him, He made manifest His pre-eternal perfection, thereby enabling us to judge the extent to which we either fail to reach His stature or approach His supreme Being. If we resemble Him in the inner workings of our heart, in the manner of our thinking, in our reactions to all that happens to us on the earthly plane, we shall ispo facto become like unto Him in His Divinity, too. The Gospels furnish a clear enough picture of Him, while the Epistles describe the experience of life in Him. His commandments are the uncreated Light in which He particularly reveals Himself to us "as He is" (1 Jn. 3:2). "I am the light of the world: whosoever follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (1 Jn. 8:12).

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life (3 of 6)



3. The Impact of the Theological Crisis on Daily Ecclesiastical Life

What was said previously needed to be said desperately to detect the impact of the theological crisis in the life of the Orthodox Church. I will now stress in particular how an altered terminology and theology alters the entire climate of ecclesiastical life.

When one examines the theological movements circulating in Theological Schools, they will find that the theological generation that preceded ours was brought up on the views of scholastic and protestant theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, Wellhausen and Harnack. Our generation was nurtured on the theories of Barth, Brunner, Bultmann and Tillich, as well as German Idealism. The next generation after ours grew up on the views of Russian theology and existential theology, such as the theology of Evdokimov, Lossky, Meyendorff and the philosophy of Berdyaev, Heidegger and the existential philosophers.

Synaxarion of Saint Paul, Archbishop of Neocaesarea


Synaxarion

On this day [23rd of December] we commemorate our Holy Father Paul the Archbishop of Neocaesarea, one of the three-hundred and eighteen God-bearing Fathers of Nicaea.

Verses

This Paul like Paul bore,
The strange marks of Christ on his flesh.

Our Holy Father Paul became so notorious for his virtues, that the fame of his name came to the ears of Licinius (308-324) who ruled from Nicomedia. Wherefore he sent men to bring the Saint before him. The tyrant first tried to frighten him with threats. When he began to beat him, then he and those gathered around were amazed by his incomparable bravery and patience. Then, according to his orders, a piece of iron was placed in the heated copper, and this iron was then placed in the palm of the Saint, and on top of this piece of iron he placed his other palm. He then forcibly squeezed his hands together for such a long time, until the red-hot iron cooled down. Due to this torture the nerves of both his hands became dead and he was unable to move them. Afterwards he had him exiled to the fortress, which is found near the Euphrates River.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 25th as the Actual Date of the Birth of Christ (4 of 4)


...continued from part three.

6. The Remaining Calculations Until the Birth of Christ

Since St. John Chrysostom has shown that the Conception of the Forerunner happened immediately after the feast of Tabernacles, he then calculates the six months (cf. Lk. 1:26) until Christ was conceived with the Annunciation to the Theotokos according to how each month is named in Greek Macedonian. "After this sixth month, accordingly, Mary first conceived, whence also counting nine months, we shall arrive at this present month [December]. Therefore the first month from the conception of the Lord is April, which is Xanthikos, after which is Artemisios, Desios, Panemos, Laios, Gorpiaios, Hyperberetaios, Dios, Apellaios - and this present month, during which we celebrate the day. But in order that what is said might become even clearer to you again taking up the same things again in brief, I shall speak to your charity: Once a year the high priest alone entered into the Holy of Holies. And when did this happen? In the month of Gorpiaios. Then, in fact, Zechariah entered into the Holy of Holies; then also he received the glad tidings concerning John. Accordingly he withdrew from there, and his wife began to conceive. And after Gorpiaios, when Elizabeth was in the sixth month, which is Dustros, Mary began finally to conceive. So counting nine months from Xanthikos, we will come the present month, during which our Lord Jesus Christ was born."34

Synaxaria for Saints Anastasia the Pharmakolitria, Chrysogonos, Zoilos, Theodoti and Her Three Children



On the twenty-second of this month [December], we commemorate the Holy Great Martyr Anastasia the Pharmakolitria.

Verses

Anastasia had as medicine great faith,
With all this medicine she was bound and burned.
Anastasia was violently burned in the fire on the twenty-second.

This holy and courageous Martyr Anastasia flourished during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), and hailed from the city of Rome. Her father was a Greek pagan named Praextetatus, and her mother Faustes handed her over to a God-fearing man named Chrysogonos, and from him she learned sacred letters. Thus she learned the Christian faith from him and her mother. She was married to a man named Puplius, with whom she always refused to have intercourse due to his unbelief, insisting that she was ill, thus avoiding their union. Later she would dress in poor clothing, and with her one servant she would live among the poor women. Frequently she would treat and visit the Martyrs for Christ by visiting them in prison. There she would loosen their bonds, anoint them with oil, wipe away blood from their wounds, and offer them a suitable meal.

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 25th as the Actual Date of the Birth of Christ (3 of 4)


...continued from part two.

4. The Liturgical Relevance of the Censing of Zechariah

It appears therefore that the three elements of the narrative of Luke the Evangelist together advocate along the same direction: "The outer altar was for sacrifices and burnt offerings, while the inner one was for incense. From this it is is revealed to us why the people were outside waiting for him, for it is clear that [Zechariah] entered the Holy of Holies," according to Chrysostom.19

Having established that Zechariah entered the Holy of Holies, Chrysostom examines the Mosaic provisions of Leviticus regarding the Mosaic Tabernacle of Meeting to find what was the feast and religious relevance for Zechariah to offer the incense. The sacred text of Leviticus mentions that the High Priest rarely entered the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle of Meeting. "Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the veil in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die."20 The verses from Leviticus Chrysostom presents describe that of the feast of Atonement, although he incorrectly calls it the feast of Tabernacles.21 According to the biblical text, the feast of Atonement took place "on the tenth day of the seventh month."22 With the identification of the elements of the feast of Atonement with the narrative of Luke regarding Zechariah and the conception of John the Forerunner - which was six months before the conception of Christ - we can surmise that the feast of Tabernacles took place immediately after, at the end of September near October.

Saint Themistocles the Martyr as a Model for our Lives


By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

In the long list of the billions of Martyrs of the Orthodox Church there are many names that are totally unknown to us, as well as some lesser known ones since we have the bare minimum about them. There are also Saints who have made a big name for themselves, but we rarely hear about them, even though many people bear their names. This is due to constant repetition because usually our children are given the names of our parents, and they mainly prefer the names of those Saints who have the gift to work miracles.

Our name is bound with our existence. We carry it with us everywhere and always, and by it we are recognized and acknowledged. Saint Mary Magdalene recognized Christ, after His resurrection, when He called her by name. Earlier she thought he was a gardener.

An Annual Liturgical Drama That Took Place in Hagia Sophia on the Sunday Before Christmas


In the 15th century St. Symeon of Thessaloniki, in his treatise "Dialogue Against Heresies", wrote:

"If [the Latins] reproach us for the furnace of the three children, they should not congratulate themselves. Because we light up not a furnace but candles and lights, and we offer incense to God according to custom; and we represent [in painting] the angel, and it is not a man that we send. Furthermore, we place three boys, pure as those children, to sing their canticle according to tradition."

What St. Symeon is describing here is a liturgical drama or play called The Three Children in the Furnace, which took place every year on the Sunday before Christmas in the Great Church of Hagia Sophia in his time, and it seems likely also in Thessaloniki and perhaps other places. He is describing it with the purpose of differentiating the Byzantine practice from the Latin practice of biblical theatrical performances in a liturgical setting. In the West they would perform this play with a real furnace, with an actual person playing an angel and descending into it, and they would compose polyphonic music specifically for this performance. St. Symeon argued that what took place in Byzantium was fully in line with tradition, and did not add innovations contrary to tradition. What is interesting however is that this drama that took place in Constantinople was not full of symbolic imagery, but it describes an actual play of which four texts with the musical notation are preserved today.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Saint Ignatius the God-bearer, A True Bishop


By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

My brethren, we celebrate today and keep festival for a great Father of the Church, Saint Ignatius the God-bearer, Bishop of Antioch. He was a disciple of the Apostles, and is described as a father of Bishops and courageous soldier of Christ.

His name in Latin means "flame",1 that is, he was ignited with a desire for Christ, so much so that his nickname was "God-bearer", which he himself did not hesitate to use without boasting. Besides, all Christians are God-bearers and Christ-bearers and also Spirit-bearers through Holy Baptism and their participation in the life of the Church. One tradition says that Saint Ignatius, when he was a child, was embraced by Christ, Who then said: "And whoever receives a little child like this in My name receives Me."2

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life (2 of 6)

Fr. George Florovsky

2. The Alteration of Theology

The issue of the alteration of theology is great and one can explore it from different angles. I would prefer to start with how we see this alteration in the second millennium of ecclesiastical life, in the relationship between lex credendi and lex orandi. In the first millennium, after many struggles, there was basically a balanced relationship between dogmatic theology and the prayers of the Euchologion.

Andrew Sopko has argued that in ancient tradition there was a close relationship between doctrine and prayer, as shown in the Proceedings of the Ecumenical Synods, Holy Scripture, the Mysteries and worship. Over the years a dichotomy was created between these two factors. This is shown clearly in that the language of worship, with its terminology, its purpose and its aim has remained steady, but from time to time the dogmatic terminology of some theologians varies. This is shown in Orthodox doctrinal manuals that have been affected by other traditions, particularly scholastic, while worship was the same. An example of this are the western influences on the theological work of Eugenios Voulgaris (George Panagopoulos).

December 25th as the Actual Date of the Birth of Christ (2 of 4)



1. The Altar of Incense

According to the information and preconditions mentioned above, Chrysostom places the altar of incense in the untrodden, innermost and most sacred part of the Temple of Herod, in the Holy of Holies, apparently based on the Epistle to the Hebrews: "He did not say the altar of sacrifice, but the altar of incense. The altar of sacrifice and burnt offerings was outside, while that of incense was inside."5 Indeed, the Epistle to the Hebrews, which would not make an error in its description since it was directed to the Jews, says: "Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant" (Heb. 9:3-4).

Synaxarion of Saints Timothy and Polyeuktos the Martyrs


Verses

To Timothy the Deacon
Timothy, the burnt one,
Where will we lay you, having obtained an all-honorable end?

Saint Timothy was imprisoned for confessing Christ, and after various cruel tortures he completed his martyrdom by being cast into flames. This took place in Mauritania of North Africa.

Saints Ares, Probus and Elias the Martyrs

Sts. Ares, Probus and Elias (Feast Day - December 19)

Verses

To Ares
Ares was truly brave before the fire,
Noetically Ares carries the weapons of faith.

To Probus and Elias
You were beheaded by the sword in your contest,
With swift zeal Probus and Martyr Elias.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life (1 of 6)


The following lecture titled "The Theological Crisis and Its Impact on Daily Ecclesiastical Life" was delivered before the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece on October 8, 2015.

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Introduction

Your Beatitude the President,
Your Eminences the Hierarchy,

I thank His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece and the members of the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece for choosing together this topic for the Meetings of our Hierarchy, and also for allowing me to present it, the least of all.

Admittedly, it is a serious issue that has two sections. The first is the "theological crisis" and the other is "its impact on daily ecclesiastical life". The issue, upon initial examination, is theoretical, but it also has practical consequences, moreover it closely associates theoria with praxis, and they cannot be divided between them.

In recent years, there has been constant talk about an economic crisis, and this has absorbed all our thoughts and activities, ignoring the fact that the crisis is deeper - it is geopolitical, cultural and at its depth theological. Max Weber has shown that the capitalist mentality came from the Protestant ethic, and places where it prevailed there developed factories, banks and the banking system. But this will not be the topic I am presenting, but I will limit it to the crisis in theology in the Church and the consequences created by this crisis.

From the outset I would like to emphasize that I will, as much as I can, make this short and concise, as an introduction before the hierarchy cannot cover the whole issue, but I will say that I have finished a massive 600-page book on this issue, in which I present the related bibliography.

For now I will emphasize three key points. The first is "The Theology of the Orthodox Church", the second "The Alteration of Theology", and the third "The Impact of the Theological Crisis on Daily Ecclesiastical Life". I ask for your indulgence.


December 25th as the Actual Date of the Birth of Christ (1 of 4)


December 25th as the Actual Date of the Birth of Christ 
Based on the Interpretation of Saint John Chrysostom

This text shows, based on the first chapter of the Gospel According to Luke and the lawful worship of the Old Testament, that the Birth of the God-man indeed took place at the end of December, and was not a date set to harmonize with the feast of the sun god or winter solstice, as syncretistic religious scholars and certain Orthodox Christians accept in error.

- Introduction
- A Biblical Evaluation of the Issue
1. The Altar of Incense
2. The Distance Between Zechariah and the People
3. Zechariah Was Alone in the Temple
4. The Liturgical Relevance of the Censing of Zechariah
5. Was Zechariah a Priest or High Priest According to Luke the Evangelist?
6. The Remaining Calculations Until the Birth of Christ
- Summary of the Above Biblical Determinations
- The Testimony of the Church of Rome
- The Orthodox Acceptance of Hostile Interpretations
- Epilogue: The Role of Divine Providence

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Introduction

In recent years one hears more and more frequently the view, that because the exact date of the birth of Christ is unknown to us, the Church placed Christmas on the alleged day of the pagan celebration of the "Invincible Sun" (the "god" Sol Invictus), as a symbolic gesture, to mean that Christ is the Sun of Righteousness, and in order to replace the pagan feast by overlapping it.

Saints Zacchaeus the Deacon and Alphaeus the Reader

Sts. Zachaeus and Alphaeus the Martyrs (Feast Day - December 18);
Icon above depicts Christ as the Great High Priest

Verses

Zachaeus and Alphaeus desired God the Word,
They thus approached death pious-minded.

In the first year of Diocletian's general persecution of the Christians, Zachaeus, a deacon at Gadara beyond the Jordan, was apprehended. He was inhumanely scourged and then lacerated with iron combs. After this, he was remanded to prison, where his feet were stretched in the stocks to over four notches. This nearly rent his body asunder. Despite his sufferings, the steadfast martyr remained cheerful and praised God both night and day.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Relics of the Prophet Daniel in Constantinople


It is said the relics of the Prophet Daniel came to Constantinople in the fourth century by St. Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, after collecting Christian relics in the Holy Land. They were placed in the Church of Saint Romanos the Martyr (a third century Martyr from Antioch commemorated on Nov. 27th) near the Romanos Gate of the land walls (the modern Topkapi Gate). It is maintained that this church was established by St. Helen herself before her death, but others say it may be a late fourth century structure. Some sources call this church the Church or Monastery of Saint Daniel.

Synaxarion of the Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Children Ananias, Azarias and Misael


On the seventeenth of this month [December], we commemorate the Holy Three Children Ananias, Azarias and Misael, and Daniel the Prophet.

Verses

To Daniel
Now you see God in reality on His throne,
Being beheaded Daniel, and not in a vision as of old.

To the Three Children
The Three Children shed their blood in a foreign place,
Like the fire beforehand, now they are led to the sword.

On the seventeenth Daniel was beheaded, by which he sees the future.

The blessed Daniel the Prophet was from the royal tribe of Judah, of the family of those prominent in the royal service. He was born in Upper Beth-horon. While he was still an infant, he was brought as a slave from Judah to Babylon, and there he prophesied for seventy years. The Birth of Christ he foretold four hundred and sixty years beforehand. He was a man of such chastity, that the Jews thought he was a eunuch. And he lamented much over the slavery of his fellow Jews. It was also his desire to fast from all foods. Though his bodily appearance was lean, he was very good looking by the grace of God above.

Synaxarion of Saint Dionysios the New of Zakynthos

St. Dionysios of Zakynthos (Feast Day - December 17)

Our Holy Father Dionysios the New, who came from Zakynthos, and became Archbishop of Aegina, was perfected in peace.

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Verses

Leaving the earthly, now he dwells in the heavens,
The boast of Zakynthos, Dionysios the New.

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The earth has the body of Dionysios the New,
And his soul is carried away to Heaven.
On the seventeenth the renowned Dionysios died.

Our Holy Father Dionysios came from the island of Zakynthos, the son of wealthy and noble parents, Mokios Sigouros and Paulina Valvi. Having been taught sacred letters, and by this was enlightened to recognize the vanity of this present world, then he turned away from pleasure, wealth, glory and every other enjoyment of this present life, and he withdrew from his homeland of Zakynthos, going to the sacred Monastery of Strophades, which is located opposite Zakynthos, at a distance of about forty miles. There the thrice-blessed one became a Monk, giving himself over to the spiritual struggles of the monastic state, in fasting, vigils, prayers, pursuing all the virtues, in a way that he excelled over all the Fathers of the Monastery, even the most virtuous and elderly. He especially struggled to acquire humility. Thus, although he was from an illustrious family, he considered himself the least and most unworthy of all. Wherefore due to this virtue he was elevated to the office of the Priesthood, being ordained to the order of Reader, Subdeacon, Deacon and Presbyter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

59 Icons That Exuded Myrrh From One Monastery in 2014


In the Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos and Saint Nicholas in Churkin, in the Astrakhan region, which is located on one of the small islands of the Volodarsky District, 59 icons exuded myrrh. The miracle happened last year in 2014, when the first icon - that of the Imperial Family of Tsar Nicholas II Romanov - exuded myrrh on June 22nd, specifically from the images of the Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra. On the day of the murder of the Imperial Family - July 17 - the other five martyrs of the family represented on the icon also exuded myrrh. This icon was painted seven years ago by the artist Vladimir Voronkov from Astrakhan.

Synaxarion of the Holy Empress Theophano

St. Theophano the Empress (Feast Day - December 16)

On the sixteenth of this month [December], we commemorate the renowned empress and wonderworker Theophano, who was the wife of the emperor Leo the Wise.

Verses

Coming near to the Lord, Empress Theophano,
Your virtues remained polished.

She was born and raised in Constantinople, of the royal blood of the notorious Martiniakos family, the daughter of Constantine the Illustrious, and her mother was Anna, who were from the East. Daily they grieved because they did not have a child, and for this they beseeched the Lady Theotokos, always resorting to her all-revered Temple, in the place called Vassou in Sphorakion, offering their fervent entreaties. They would say: "Unbind O Mistress, the Lady of the world, unbind the childlessness, which saddens and drains us your servants." Hence having asked with faith, they received a female child, who became the empress Theophano. When she was weaned from the milk, and turned six years old, she was educated in the sacred writings, and was adorned with all that is good and virtuous. When her parents saw that she was virtuous, they leapt for joy, hoping that they would soon receive the fruits of their beautiful child. In time, therefore, this most graceful woman, together with age progressed in greater virtues, and increased in higher good things. Emperor Basil the Macedonian sought a beautiful and virtuous maiden, and he found this in Theophano, in whom assembled all good things, and he sought to have her lawfully married to his son the emperor Leo the Wise. Therefore all of Constantinople was filled with joy and gladness for this royal and honorable wedding.

The Synaxarion and Prayer of Saint Modestos of Jerusalem

St. Modestos of Jerusalem (Feast Day - Gr. December 16; Slav. December 18)

On the sixteenth of this month [December], we commemorate of our Holy Father Modestos the Archbishop of Jerusalem.

Verses

Your are brought all-blessed Modestos to the tomb,
As the tomb brought the Lord to earth.

He was born of Orthodox parents, who were called Eusebius and Theodouli, in Sebastia in the year 298. Because his mother was barren, through the prayers of his parents a son was given to them, this great Father, after forty years of marriage. Having been born, his father was accused of being a Christian to Maximian. He was therefore put in chains and shut up in prison. When his wife Theodouli learned of this, she went to the prison with her son. Now in prison, they both beseeched God, and surrendered their souls into the hands of Holy Angels, becoming Martyrs in will and purpose.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Can Christians Who Sin Receive Holy Communion Frequently?


Saint Anastasios of Antioch responds as follows:

There are many people who, on account of their infrequent Communion, fall into sins. There are others who commune more frequently, and therefore greatly protect themselves from many evils, fearing the judgment of Holy Communion. Therefore, if we fall into some small, pardonable sins on account of our being human, either with our tongue, or our ears, or our eyes, and we fall as victims of deceit into vainglory, or sorrow, or anger, or some other like sin, let us condemn ourselves and confess to God. Then let us partake of the Holy Mysteries, believing that the reception of the divine Mysteries is unto remission of sins and purification. But if we also commit grave sins which are evil, carnal and impure, and we have rancor towards our brother, until we worthily repent of these sins, let us not boldly approach the divine Mysteries.

Saint Susanna the Deaconess and Martyr

IMG 500 (1)
St. Susanna the Venerable Martyr (Feast Day - December 15)


Commemoration of the Holy Venerable Martyr Susanna, who took on the appearance of a man and changed her name to John.

Verses

Susanna, just as the one of old so also the new,
Is slandered but does not flee the ambush.

The venerable martyr Susanna flourished during the reign of Emperor Maximian (286-305). She was a native of Palestine, the daughter of a Greek father named Artemios who was a pagan priest and a Hebrew mother named Martha. She however came to know the Christian faith, and was baptized by Bishop Silouan. Upon the repose of her parents, the blessed maiden distributed her entire inheritance among the poor and freed all her servants. Then she donned men's clothing, cut her hair and went to a men's monastery in Jerusalem, assuming the name John. On account of her many virtues, she was made an Archimandrite of this monastery.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Martyrdom of Contemporary Christians (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

The Cross and Skull of the Apostle Andrew

Below is a homily by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou, delivered on the feast of the Holy Apostle Andrew, on the 30th of November 2015, in the Cathedral of the Apostle Andrew in Patras, Greece.

Each saint is celebrated on the day of their dormition or the day of their martyrdom, because this day is considered their birthday, a particular charism. Saint John Chrysostom considers martyrdom a charism, which he describes as a spirit of power, for a person receives strength from the Holy Spirit to sacrifice themselves. "When they receive the charism of martyrdom, it is said they have the spirit of power, that is, a charism." And because "that which is gifted is from the Holy Spirit, the charism is also called a gift." Martyrdom is thus a charism, a spirit of power, a gift. This is how Christian martyrdom is different from any other self-sacrifice for an ideology.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyrs Philemon, Apollonius, Arianus and his Four Bodygurds

Sts. Philemon, Apollonius, Arianus and his Bodyguards (Feast Day - December 14)
Verses

To Philemon
Philemon with his friends previously played their flutes with gladness,
Now having been beheaded, he delights with a strange gladness.

To Apollonius
Apollonius is situated as a son of the Highest,
Having been killed by the sons of perdition with a sword.

To Arianus
Wicked things are done to Arianus.
The work of the sea shows forth the senseless ones.

To the Bodyguards
The Bodyguards are strangely baptized in the sea,
Wearing sacks as garments of illumination.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Saint Lucy of Syracuse

St. Lucy (or Loucia) of Syracuse (Feast Day - December 13)

Verses

As a Virgin, Lucy received one crown,
As a Martyr by the sword, she received another.

Lucy was from Syracuse, a city on the island of Sicily, and lived in the mid-third century. When she was betrothed to a certain pagan, she accompanied her mother, Eutychia, to Catania, also in Sicily, in order to venerate the relics of Saint Agatha (Feb. 5), for she suffered from a flow of blood. Lucy supplicated the Virgin-Martyr Agatha to heal her mother's sickness, and after arduous prayer she fell asleep. In her sleep she saw Saint Agatha in a vision, who promised to restore her mother to health, but also foretold that in the future Lucy would be a martyr for Christ.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Veneration of Saint Spyridon in Cyprus

Monastery of Saint Spyridon in Tremetousia, Cyprus

Before Saint Spyridon became primarily associated with the island of Kerkyra (Corfu), he was first associated with the island of Cyprus. He was born in the Cypriot village of Assia in Mesaoria, where he was raised by devout Christian parents and earned his living as a shepherd. He himself was a humble and simple man, who lived a pious Christian life. After he married and had children, of whom we only know of a daughter named Irene, his wife died and he was ordained to the priesthood and later was elected Bishop of Trimythous (Tremetousia). Irene died soon after this as well while he was attending the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea. His pure and holy way of life allowed him to be sanctified by God's grace, by which he was given the power to work many astonishing miracles, earning him the nickname "Wonderworker". In the mid-fourth century Saint Spyridon departed to the Lord in Trimythous.

Saint Irene, Daughter of Saint Spyridon


Saint Spyridon was born in the late third century at Assia, a village in the central district of Famagusta. Spyridon married a pious woman, with whom he gave birth to children. Among these children was also Irene. His wife, however, reposed early, and therefore the Saint took the responsibility for the upbringing of their children all by himself. The life of Saint Spyridon was full of tests. The death of his daughter Irene was one of the most painful incidents in his life.

Synaxarion of Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker


On the twelfth of this month [December], we commemorate our Venerable and God-bearing Father Spyridon the Wonderworker.

Verses

Although the wonderworker Spyridon is deceased,
His wonders have still not ceased.
On the twelfth Spyridon departed this life.

This Saint flourished during the years of the reigns of the emperors Constantine the Great (306-337) and Constantius (337-361) his son. According to intelligence he was a simple man, and according to his heart he was humble. Thus from his youth he was a shepherd of sheep. Then he received a wife into lawful marriage. After the death of his spouse he became a Bishop. This Saint was given such grace to work miracles and healings, through his simplicity and purity, that due to his numerous miracles that he worked, he received the nickname Wonderworker. For in a time of drought he brought down rain through his prayers. And because this rain became too much, he prevented it from excessively falling. When the sellers of wheat contemplated making people go hungry, the Saint vanquished their plans. For through his prayers the granaries that stored the wheat fell. He changed a snake into gold, and after this gold ceased the misfortune of a poor man, the gold became a snake once again. He also calmed the current of a river. To a prostitute who dared to approach him he revealed her sins, and by this he persuaded her to repent and confess. He was present at Nicaea during the First Ecumenical Synod which gathered together in the year 325, and by the power of the Holy Spirit he silenced the heretical Arians, who took pride in their external wisdom and eloquence. He raised his daughter from the dead, in order for her to reveal where she hid a valuable vessel that belonged to a woman. He liberated Emperor Constantius from a calamity he suffered from. He raised from the dead a child of a certain woman, after which she died from her sudden joy upon receiving her resurrected son back. When the fire from the lamp extinguished due to lack of oil, he made it gush forth with oil. He healed the Deacon who had no voice, by which the Saint had previously punished him. For he was ordered to say a prayer abbreviated due to the extreme heat, but out of his pride he prolonged it.

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