Sunday, September 25, 2016

Commemoration of the Great Earthquake of 447 and the Snatching Up of the Child in the Air

Commemoration of the Great Earthquake and the Snatching Up of the Child in the Air (Feast Day - September 25)

Verses

Lifted on high a boy proclaims below,
The song thrice-holy that the Angels sing.

During the reign of Emperor Theodosius II the Younger (408-450), the all-good God allowed by the judgement He knows, to give full assurance to mankind, first, of the common resurrection of all in the last days,* and second, how we ought to sing praises correctly to God. For this reason He allowed a terrible earthquake, and out of fear of this earthquake all the people of Constantinople, together with the emperor and the most holy Patriarch Proclus, as well as all the clergy, were found together outside in the field and they did litanies. And since at that time there began the heresy of the Theopaschites at the instigation of the devil, who added to the Trisagion Hymn the words, "Who was crucified for us":** for this reason suddenly a child was snatched up before them into the air.*** While everyone beheld this strange thing, with fear and terror they cried out for a long time, "Lord have mercy," and then once again the child was brought down by a cloud, and in a loud voice he revealed to all that the choir of Angels ascribe the Trisagion Hymn to God without the additional "Who was crucified for us," instead saying, "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us." And the child, immediately after saying these things, delivered his soul into the hands of God, and the earthquake immediately ceased.****

Notes:

* It should be noted that this earthquake went on for a period of four months, and was seen as a warning that we should always be ready for the Great Day of Judgment when all the dead shall rise and give an account for their deeds.

** When Peter the Fuller, who rejected the Fourth Ecumenical Synod of 451, was Patriarch of Antioch (471–488), he added to the Trisagion Hymn the words "Who was crucified for us," which he imposed as a test upon all in his patriarchate, anathematizing those who declined to accept it. This modification addresses the hymn to Christ, instead of the Holy Trinity as it is in Isaiah 6:3, and it emphasizes the Theopaschite teaching that the divine nature of Christ also suffered at the crucifixion, which is a heresy. Therefore the hymn read: "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, Who was crucified for us, have mercy on us." It was officially condemned at the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Synods. Thus, the miracle recounted here in 447, which predates the controversy, must have been seen as a warning to not have the addition made.

*** The place where the child was snatched up became known as Psomatheia after this miracle, which means "divine lifting." It took place at the third hour of the day, namely 9:00 AM.

**** Following this miracle, Emperess Pulcheria and Emperor Theodosius the Younger issued an edict for this hymn to be chanted in all the churches. Also, the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod in 451 chanted the Trisagion Hymn following the proclamation of the True Faith, and since then it has become a common and beloved prayer for all the Orthodox Christian faithful.

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