Dear Readers: A long time supporter of the Mystagogy Resource Center has informed me that they would like to donate $3000 to help me continue the work of this ministry, but they will only do it as a matching donation, which means that this generous donation will only be made after you help me raise a total of $3000. If you can help make this happen, it will be greatly appreciated and it would be greatly helpful to me, as I have not done a fundraiser this year. If you enjoy the work done here and want to see more of it, please make whatever contribution you can through the DONATE link below. Thank you!
(Total So Far - Day 11: $2740)

May 31, 2011

The 700 Club Features the Fall of Constantinople

See the video at this link: The Fall of Constantinople - Gordon Robertson - The 700 Club

Transcript is here.

See also:

The Fall of Constantinople ... Did You Know?

Six Hours in Istanbul

Fr. Gervasios Raptopoulos: Apostle To the Imprisoned

Archimandrite Gervasios Raptopoulos has ministered to those marginalized in prison since 1978, not only throughout all of Greece but also in many places throughout the world.

You can read more about him and his ministry at his website here.

You can donate here.

The Grave of Elder Arsenie Boca

Elder Arsenie Boca (September 29, 1910 — November 28, 1989) was a Romanian hieromonk, known today for his profoundly spiritual life, the books and church icons that bear his name, but also for the way he honorably endured and survived imprisonment and persecution from communist Romania’s security service.

Though he is not yet canonized, Elder Arsenie's grave is visited by tens of thousands of pilgrims every year, where many miracles occur. One miracle which everyone can see is that the flowers over his grave never die or whither, neither in the hot summer or frigid winter.

The Mystery of Baptism Photographed

A Serbian student by the name of Peter Restovic from Belgrade was an atheist and unbaptized until the age of 19. He found faith and was baptized in Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos in 1980. A friend of his attended the baptism and took a photograph during the ceremony. They were later amazed and moved to find what looked like a white dove above the head of Peter.

We Are All Patients In A Hospital

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

At the time of the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.], the quarreling clerics wrote accusations one against the other and presented them to the emperor. Emperor Constantine received all of these accusations and not opening them, burned them over a flaming candle. To the amazement of those around him, the emperor said: "If I would see with my own eyes a bishop, a priest or a monk in a sinful act, I would cover him with my cloak, so that no one would ever see his sin." Thus, this great Christian emperor embarrassed the scandalmongers and sealed their mouths.

Our Faith prohibits us to be spies of the sins of others and stresses that we be merciless judges of our own sins. The sick person in the hospital is concerned with his own particular malady so that he has neither the will nor the time to question others who are ill or to mock their illness. Are we not all in this world as patients in a hospital? Does not our own common sense underline that we look at our own illness and not at another's illness? Let no one think that they will be cured of their illness in the other world. This world is merely a hospital and a place for healing and, in that world, there is no hospital; there is only a mansion or only a prison.

Lust and the Search For Meaning

Not just sexual lust, but every kind of lust — whether they are lusts for people, positions, possessions, or pleasures — have some things in common. In David Needham’s Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are? there is an explanation that lust is driven, at least in part, by a search for meaning. Sometimes when we are frustrated in finding meaning in the eternal, we get stuck find meaning in the fleeting. This is often how sinful habits are initiated. He writes:

Usually we become gripped with an obsession to sin when some other more respectable or righteous fulfillment in life is being frustrated. Perhaps some relationship which should have been realized, some accomplishment which slipped through our fingers, some disappointment in our ability to fulfill a task or to use our heads. Nothing opens the door to sin faster than failure. (Unless, perhaps, it is success.) Since it is simply too unthinkable to be alive without some degree of satisfaction that will bring some sense into life, I automatically reach out for whatever object or experience is readily obtainable. That is why physical or sensory type lusts are so especially quick to arise. My vacuum of meaninglessness can be filled so immediately! There are times when stuffing my mouth satisfies. And for those moments life is making sense. Shallow sense, but then… any sense is better than an aching vacuum.

Sometimes it takes a little more time. If the lust is sex, it may take a little while to find that person, that book or magazine, that “something” which will awaken that fantasy of meaning. I must consider my reputation of course, and my financial resources… it may require some careful planning and delay, but that’s okay. For you see, from the very moment I set my mind on lust I am moving! My mind is alive—planning, anticipating.

And something else remarkable. Even if I cannot lay my hands on whatever object or experience lust demands, I can quite easily slide into fantasy. And for those few seductive moments, I can forget the real world. I can push aside the haunting frustration, the emptiness, the broken plans and dreams. I can even forget my lifeless, lackluster Christianity.

Then, of course, if my fantasies can be followed by actual experience, I have doubly lusted, doubly lived. Little wonder lusts are so consuming in view of such rewards! Temporary? Oh yes. And inevitably followed once again by the gnawing emptiness of that “meaning” vacuum.

1 Timothy 6:11-12: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called….”

The 12 Mandates of "The Shepherd of Hermas"

A very instructive book from the second century is called "The Shepherd", in which a man by the name of Hermas from Rome received revelations from an angel of God. Hermas was a wealthy man but because of his sins and the sins of his sons, he fell into extreme poverty. Once while in prayer, a man appeared to him in white raiment with a staff in his hand and told him that he is an angel of repentance who was sent to be with him until the end of his life. The angel gave him the following twelve mandates:

1. Believe in God;

2. To live in simplicity and innocence; do not speak evil and give alms to all who beg;

3. Love truth and avoid falsehood;

4. Preserve chastity in your thoughts;

5. Learn patience and generosity;

6. To know that with every man, there is a good and an evil spirit;

7. To fear God and not to fear the devil;

8. To do every good and to refrain from every evil deed;

9. To pray to God from the depth of the soul with faith that our prayer will be fulfilled;

10. To guard against melancholy as the sister of doubt and anger;

11. To question true and false prophecies;

12. To guard against every evil desire.

Read "The Shepherd of Hermas" here.

May 30, 2011

Neopatristic, Post-Patristic and Contextual "Theology"

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

As one studies the texts of the Holy Bible and the Fathers, one realizes that the basis of Orthodox theology is God's revelation - as given to the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers - throughout the ages.

Characteristic of this is the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Having spoken in many aspects and many ways in the past to the fathers and the prophets, in these last days God spoke to us through the Son" (Hebrews 1:1).

Thus, it is the Saints who are the divinely-inspired theologians, who formulate their experience in terms, in order to safeguard it from heresy and distortion. Therefore, the terms-dogmas are an important element of our tradition and no one can tamper with them without losing their path towards salvation.

An important phrase of the Hesychast Synod of the fourteenth century - as expressed in the Synodikon of Orthodoxy - is that our course is "according to the divinely-inspired theologies of the saints, and the pious conscience of the Church".

The Saints do not express their own theology; they only formulate according to their own particular gifts the revelation that they personally experienced in the Holy Spirit. Not only can there not be an Orthodox theology outside of this perspective; in fact, the very foundation of salvation would be seriously imperiled.

When interpreting what the Apostle Paul had said about his being swept up into Paradise where he "heard ineffable words, which are not befitting a man to utter" (2 Cor. 12:1-4), Saint Symeon the New Theologian said that those words were the illuminations of God's uncreated glory, and that they were referred to as "ineffable" because they could not be expressed perfectly by those receiving the experience of that revelation, as it is something beyond the measure of human nature and power.

Fr. John Romanides, when speaking about this subject, says that a revelation is given to Saints with ineffable words, and the Saints express it, as far as they are able, with created words, meanings and images, in order to teach other people so that they might walk the path of their salvation.

It becomes obvious that God's revelation is conveyed with the terms of each era, by the bearers of that Revelation - the true theologians - according to the definition provided by Saint Gregory the Theologian, that: "It is not for everyone to philosophize about God,... it is not for everyone, because it is for those who have been tested and who have lived in theoria, and before this have at least purified both soul and body or are undergoing purification...."

These theologians - the deified - are acquainted with God through experience; they recognize and respect all the preceding "God-seers" and they accept the terms that they had used.

Consequently, those who can - if necessary - make certain external changes are the true empirical theologians, who have the same tradition as the preceding Fathers. The rest of us owe obedience to those "initiated through experience" and are to be guided by them.

In the "Hagiorite Tome", which is the work of Saint Gregory Palamas, there is mention that the dogmas are familiar to "those who have become initiated by experience", who have forsaken money, the fame that people seek and the bad pleasures of the body, all for the sake of the evangelical life. They have confirmed this forsaking with their submission to those who have progressed to the measure of Christ, and, after having lived in sacred hesychasm with prayer, have become united with God in a mystical union with Him, and have thus become "initiated in things beyond the mind".

These are the true theologians of the Church, who possess the potential to formulate theology. Apart from them, there are also those who become joined to the aforementioned, "through modesty and faith and caring towards them".

There is no other way to theologize in the Orthodox Church, because outside of this theology, there only exists speculation, the chanting of slogans and secularism. Saint Gregory the Theologian, when observing "the tongue-wagging and the current wise men and the self-ordained theologians" who are satisfied only with the desire to be wise, says: "I desire the highest philosophy and seek the ultimate standard - according to Jeremiah - and wish to be only on my own." Indeed, we are nowadays overcome with sorrow, because our era is filled with "self-ordained theologians" who teach Clerics and laity and create confusion among the people.

These introductory words are deemed necessary for a better understanding of what follows.

1. "Palamite" and "Neo-Palamite" Theology

The fourteenth century was extremely important for the Church, because for the very first time Orthodox theology confronted the West's scholastic theology in the persons of Saint Gregory Palamas and Barlaam respectively.

In this dialogue, it became evident that Saint Gregory Palamas was the bearer and the expresser of the entire theology of the Church, from the first era of Christianity up until his time, given that he expressed the teaching of the Apostles, the Apostolic Fathers, the major Fathers of the fourth century, of Saint Maximus the Confessor, Saint John of Damascus, Saint Symeon the New Theologian, etc. During this entire period, the theology of the Church was uniform, changing only in its external formulation in certain points for the sake of various needs. That is why Saint Gregory was also characterized as a traditional as well as a progressive theologian.

Thus, the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas cannot be regarded as "Palamite" theology per se, but as the theology of the Orthodox Church as expressed by him. The same is observed with the teachings of all the Saints.

Usually, the views of heretics would take on the name of the person involved - for example "Arianism", "Nestorianism", "Paulicanism", etc. It is therefore regarded as unseemly to name the teaching of Saint Basil the Great as "Basilian", of Saint Gregory as "Gregorian", or of Saint John Chrysostom as "Chrysostomian" etc. As such, it is equally inappropriate to name the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas as "Palamite" theology.

However, at a certain point in time, the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas was in fact characterized by some as "Palamite". It is my impression that in most cases the term had a derisive nuance, intended to demote his teaching and make it seem like a strange one and different from the theology of the Church. There had even been theologians who in the past had actually written disparagingly about the overall hesychastic tradition expressed by Saint Gregory Palamas.

Eventually, the term "neopalamite" theology also appeared in an attempt to re-formulate and re-interpret the theology of this major Father of the Church for contemporary requirements. And this has created intense concern, because I believe that this is an endeavour to alter the teaching by Saint Gregory Palamas.

For example, a teaching of the Church on the relationship and the difference between Essence and Energy as expressed by Saint Gregory Palamas may be analyzed, but, at the same time, the hesychast tradition is rejected as pietistic, though it is in fact the path for a personal partaking of the uncreated energy of God.

And the question posed here is: How can a scientist discuss a theory, when he rejects a practice that confirms it? That is just unscientific. This is why, according to "synodal opinion", those who do not accept the hesychast tradition as expressed by Saint Gregory Palamas and the "monks who are in agreement" are excommunicated.

I have been aware of this mentality for many years now, on account of my preoccupation with the opus and the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas. That is why, when wishing to analyze his teaching and record my conclusions after many years, I did so on the basis of the lives of the sanctified Hagiorite Fathers, who continue to live that same hesychast tradition and experience that Saint Gregory Palamas had been acquainted with and had experienced himself on the Holy Mountain.

Thus, the work that I composed has the title "Saint Gregory Palamas As A Hagiorite". This aroused the displeasure of certain circles who insisted on interpreting the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas in a contemplative, scholastic and philosophical manner. One cannot however examine hesychast teaching independently of the space where it was experienced, and continues to be alive in to this day.

Consequently, the terms "palamite" and "neopalamite" theology belong outside of Orthodox Tradition and are a danger to the foundations of Orthodox theology.

2. Neopatristic and Postpatristic "Theology"

The previous example shows how contemporary theologians behave and react towards the Tradition of our Church. I have been in discussions with an Orthodox professor of biblical theology who teaches at a University abroad, but has been immensely influenced by Protestant ideas and who maintains that, since Christ is the Sun of Righteousness, the Fathers are the clouds that hide the Sun, in which case, we must remove the clouds in order to be illuminated directly by Christ. This point of view is anti-Orthodox.

I therefore believe it was from within this kind of perspective that the terms "neopatristic" and "postpatristic" theology were coined. At first, the term "neopatristic" timidly appeared on the scene, supposedly for the reason that Patristic texts shouldn't merely be repeated, but rather that the "spirit" of those texts has to be traced and be conveyed into present-day circumstances - in other words, to examine how the Fathers would have addressed contemporary issues.

Despite the well-meaning intentions of some, this is a perilous move because in reality, the entirety of Patristic theology is undermined when impassioned individuals attempt to transfer the "spirit" of the Fathers into their own era. An authentic transfer presupposes people who possess the same empirical knowledge - or at least are in contact with it.

Then followed the term "postpatristic" theology, inasmuch as it was considered that we no longer need the Fathers who had lived in other times, encountered other problems, confronted other ontological and cosmological questions, had "a totally different worldview" and, consequently, who are unable to help us out in our own era.

I believe that the neopatristic and postpatristic theologies are reminiscent of a viewpoint according to which Patristic theology was of value to its own era, and that later Western scholastic theology became superior to Patristic theology, while the theology of contemporary theologians surpasses both Patristic theology and scholastic theology.

Views such as these constitute landmines in the foundations of Orthodox theology, because they are characterized by the heretical view of a progressive revelation of the Truth through the ages, and that the Church deepens in Revelation over time, as opposed to the Orthodox teaching which clearly stresses that "all truth" was once-revealed on the day of Pentecost.

Thus, there is no deepening into the Truth over time, nor is there any progressive revelation of the Truth; only that the Church formulates that same, "once-revealed" Truth according to the problems of the time.

The appearance of so-called neopatristic and postpatristic theology is attributed to certain theologians who had worked in the Western sphere, with Paris as the centre. They had embarked in dialogues with Western thought and had tried to give answers to the problems that they had encountered.

We owe much to those theologians, for example Vladimir Lossky, who had written theological works using the Fathers of the Church, and in fact the ones known as Neptic Fathers. Among those theologians however, there are some who had expressed neopatristic, postpatristic and contextual theology. We shall make a brief mention of some of those ideas.

They mention an ecumenism which "should abandon verbal arguments in order to be founded upon an experimental reality of salvation: by re-submerging those systems and ideas (which in the long run are nothing more than traces within the spherical experience of the Church) into the best that Her experience possesses".

Fanaticism is linked to "confessional identity", which "constitutes, if not its seed, then at least the ground in which it is cultivated", and that is why there is word of reconstructing a house "with open doors, the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom", in which everyone will have a place. And whosoever does not wish to toil for the construction of such a house should be removed, while the "key" to that house is the best thing that one could possess, and that which unites us.

Also being traced are common, "contextual" points between Christianity and Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. From within this perspective, "a new cultural mutation" must be attempted, and also (as stressed), "we Christians need to work hard on the prospect of this convergence. This is far more interesting, compared to arguing amongst ourselves."

"Postpatristic" and "contextual" ideas such as these are transferred into Greece in "middleman" style and are intended to either contradict the Fathers (who are regarded as "museums" of the past), or to misinterpret Patristic passages in order to incorporate them in the new mentality.

The purpose and the perspective of postpatristic and contextual theology is evident in just how dangerous it is for the Orthodox Church, leading Her into a syncretism - not only in the way of life but also in the expression of the faith. This in reality gives rise to doubt about the demarcation of the faith as done by the holy Fathers; in other words, it dismantles the entire theology of the Ecumenical Councils. This is a serious problem which needs to be tackled ecclesiastically.

3. The Terms of the Ecumenical Councils and the Living Organisms

We all need to accept the basic position that the Church is a living reality; that She is the Body of Christ and the community of theosis and, subsequently, that the Church gives birth to Fathers and not the Fathers who give birth to the Church. This means that every era is a patristic era, and that in every era there appear Fathers of the Church who are "living organisms".

However, these "living organisms" are not at all different to the preceding Fathers. Characteristically, when Saint John of Damascus - who lived in the 8th century - spoke of the Theotokos and repeated the words of Saint Gregory the Theologian: "If one does not confess the holy Virgin as the Theotokos (God-bearer), he is without deification", he commented: "These are not my own words, but they also are my words; for I have received this inheritance from the theologically endowed theologian Father Gregory."

In other words, Saint John of Damascus does not regard these words to be his, given that he had received them from Saint Gregory the Theologian who lived four centuries before him, but at the same time he also regards them as his own words, because they were an inheritance - a "most theological inheritance" - which he received "from a theological father" and verified. Those who desire to be theologians acknowledge the true theologians, accept their teaching, render them their own fathers, and they inherit - through spiritual birth - their words as well as their godly lifestyle.

It is in this manner that spiritual life is passed on from the past, during every era. Just as biological life is transferred from generation to generation from living - not dead - parents, thus likewise is the spiritual life within grace, the true theology, transferred by living - not dead - spiritual organisms. When referring to the illumination of the angelic hosts on high "according to rank" by God - that is, "from the first legion to the second and then onto the next one and so on" - Saint Symeon the New Theologian says that the same applies to the Saints also: "Thus, those who are attached to the preceding saints who, from generation to generation had become saints by observing God's commandments, similarly become illuminated." One becomes attached to the preceding Saints by observing God's commandments and becoming illuminated like they did. In this manner an uninterrupted chain is formed and every link is attached to the others with faith, with works and with love.

With this patristic teaching, the following words of the Apostle Paul are interpreted: "For even if you have ten thousand teachers in Christ, you do not have many fathers; in Christ Jesus, through the Gospel, I have begotten you" (1 Cor.4:15). There is a difference between teachers-in-Christ and fathers-in-Christ. Spiritual Fathers beget spiritual children through the Gospel, that is, through observance of Christ's commandments, whereas educators simply teach.

Those living in the same tradition enforce the evangelical commandments in their lives; they struggle against their passions in order to attain the partaking of God; they also achieve communion with the other Saints who lived before them and who likewise belong to the same tradition. A characteristic quote by the Fathers who endorsed the "Hagiorite Tome" is the following: "These things we have been taught by the Scriptures; these things we have received from our Fathers; these things we have learnt with our small experience."

In the Biblical-Patristic tradition there is a difference between Prophets (God-seers or Theologians) and Speculators, analogous to the difference that exists between prophecy and speculation. The Prophet Elijah cries out: "Behold, the Lord God Sabaoth takes away from Judea and from Jerusalem the powerful man and the powerful woman ... and the prophet and the speculator" (Isaiah 3:1-2).

On interpreting this passage, Saint John the Chrysostom makes the distinction between speculator and prophet: "Here, it seems to me that he (Isaiah) calls 'speculator' the one who, because of much prudence, as well as out of an experience of things, ponders about the things to come," whereas prophecy is the inspiration of the Prophets by the Holy Spirit: "For speculation is another thing, and prophecy another; the latter utters things in the divine Spirit, contributing nothing of his own, while the former, taking causes from things already that have happened, and activating his own prudence, foresees many things of the future, as much as befits a prudent person to foresee." And he concludes: "But there is much in between the one and the other, as much as is the difference between human prudence and divine grace." And in order to justify that distinction, he indicates the difference between King Solomon and the Prophet Elisha.

Christ had declared to His contemporaries: "Did you not read what was told to you by God, Who said 'I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:31-32). For us Orthodox, God is not an abstract notion, nor is He an ideology; He is the one Who abides in living organisms - the Saints - according to the words of the liturgical prayer: "God, the Holy One, Who abides in the saints...", and according to the hymn, "the God of our Fathers" (not of post-fathers); the God of living organisms who exist in every era.

According to Fr. Georges Florovsky, the Church is apostolic because it is Patristic. He writes: "The Church is indeed 'apostolic', but it is also 'patristic'. Essentially, She is the 'Church of the holy Fathers'. It is impossible to separate the two characterizations. It is because the Church is 'patristic' that She is truly also 'apostolic'."

He also points out that in our time, after so many studies, "we are ready to admit the eternal prestige of the 'Fathers', as well as the fact that the Church is not 'a museum of dead deposits, nor is She a research company". The deposits are living ones - "depositum juvenescens" according to Saint Irenaeus. Faith is not an heirloom of the past, but rather 'the sword of the Spirit'". He furthermore confesses that the interpretation of the Holy Bible is done by the theology that is expressed by the Saints of every era. "The Scriptures are in need of interpretation. They are revealed in theology. And it is only possible through the bearer of the living experience of the Church."

Thus, in order for us to be Orthodox and possess the certainty of our salvation, there is no need for any neopatristic, postpatristic and contextual theology. We need two things: First, to remain steadfast - as it is our duty - to the terminology of the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils because that terminology constitutes a significant part of the Orthodox Tradition - the true and authentic consensus patrum - but also to remain firm in the revealed truth that was given to the Fathers. Second, to seek "living organisms" who live within the "spirit of the Gospel" and the Ecumenical Councils - in other words, those who observe the Orthodox prerequisites of the dogmas, in order to guide us correctly in the observance of the dogma.

Unfortunately, those who speak of neopatristic, postpatristic and contextual theology have a problem with both of these prerequisites - that is, with the terms of the Ecumenical Councils and with the "living organisms" of ecclesiastical life.

This is the reason they are vexed by the theology that Fr. John Romanides expressed. It was because of this important teacher that the genuine Orthodox theology of the Ecumenical Councils with contemporary hesychastic tradition were linked; in other words, he linked theology with experience - the professorial chair with the hesychast retreat.

If theology is not expressed empirically it becomes speculation and it tires people, and if experience is not supported on the theology of the Ecumenical Councils it is merely a personal piety, which can possess "contextual" elements found in the other eastern traditions. Fr. John Romanides appears as a nuisance to the speculators, the philosophizing theologians, who are possessed by "speculative analogy" - as Saint Gregory Palamas called it.

Furthermore, this is the reason that - in my opinion - certain contemporary, significant Hagiorite personages (such as the Elders Porphyrios, Paisios, Joseph the Hesychast, Sophrony Zacharov, etc.) are doubted by some; the life and the teaching of such "living organisms" of ecclesiastical living are a nuisance to contemporary syncretistic theology.

In one of my speeches presented in the past for the purpose of documenting the theoretical teaching of the Church, I made use of texts by Fr. Porphyrios - a sanctified Hieromonk of our own time. I felt remarkably surprised when Orthodox theologians and Clergymen who were present had disagreed with my reference to words by Fr. Porphyrios, because according to their views, the Orthodox faith was being "ideologized".

My surprise was immense, because even in science, reference to people who produce an artistic or philosophical work is a token of its veracity, but according to certain contemporary theologians, a reference to people who live the true Orthodox theology is regarded as ideologizing! I have transcribed this entire discussion; if it is ever published the "deliberations of many hearts" will be revealed.

In conclusion, I believe that modern theology - which disengages itself from the Fathers and is expressed with sonorous terms, supposedly out of love for contemporary man - is dangerous for the Church and Her theology. It is truly a speculative method of theology - a populism that is practiced by "self-ordained theologians" on account of their incorrect interpretation of the term "royal priesthood".

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Read also: Is There A "Postpatristic" Theology?

What is Liturgical Theology?

By Professor Paul Meyendorff

The Orthodox Church is regarded as the body of Christ. It is an organic, living entity made alive by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the individual members that make up the Church. Since the Church is the body of Christ, and corporate liturgical worship is central to the life of this body, then it is possible to answer the question of "What is liturgical theology?" in biological terms. It is the goal of this author to uniquely define liturgical theology as the anatomy (structure) and physiology (function) of church worship and its role in a life in Christ.

In biological sciences, anatomy is the study of structure and the relationships of structures to each other. One can investigate an individual structure (jaw bone) or one can study several structures together (skull) to determine how they relate to each other. Similarly, it is possible to think of liturgical theology as the anatomy of worship. The student of liturgical theology is able to study the structure(s) of worship and determine their importance in the life of the Church.

As in biology, the anatomical aspects of liturgical theology are manifested in many different ways. One aspect of liturgical theology involves the study of the basic structure and/or the rubrics (rules of structure) of worship services. One learns the shape, or anatomy, of the Divine Liturgy, the Matins services, the Vespers services, etc. Further elaboration on this aspect of liturgical theology allows one to study the structure of one worship service and compare it to others. For example, one could study Matins and Vespers to see how they are similar/different in structure and rubrics. In anatomy, the analogy would be that of studying the arm bones and the leg bones in a human to see how they are related structurally. As there is comparative anatomy, there is also comparative liturgical theology. In comparative anatomy, one might study the leg bones of human and compare them to the leg bones of a cat looking for similarities/differences in structure. In liturgical theology, one could "dissect" the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and study that in relation to the "anatomy" of the Coptic Orthodox Divine Liturgy of St. Basil likewise looking for similarities/differences in structure.

It is rather unfortunate that in many theological schools, liturgical theology has become nothing more than the study of the structure of worship. It has been reduced to an almost technical science and has lost touch with its relationship to the faith and worship of the Church. In this "stripped down" study of liturgical theology we are made aware only of the anatomy and, perhaps, of the symbolism (however weakly it is interpreted) of the worship, i.e. the Gospel reading comes after the Small Entrance and it supposedly symbolizes Christ's preachings. When this happens, though, there exists the danger of dreadful liturgical practices/reforms entering into the church and subtracting from the true worship and true faith of the Orthodox Church. This can occur because of those who think that, after all, worship is ""only structure and symbolism". This mode of thinking is corrected if one is made aware of liturgical theology as not only the anatomy of liturgical worship, but also the "physiology of liturgical worship."

In biological sciences, physiology is the science of the function and activity of living structures and organisms. One can study anatomy for years, but the true beauty of that science is only made relevant in the light of the understanding of the physiology, i.e. the function. For example, one can study the anatomy of heart on both the gross and the microscopic levels, but to truly understand the heart, one must also learn its function and activity within the body. Likewise with liturgical theology, to truly understand the beauty of the worship services, one must understand their function within the body of Christ. Therefore, liturgical theology can not function on just a symbolic or structural or "anatomical level". It must have function and it must give theological meaning to the worship.

One aspect of that function is to transform the world and make it the kingdom of God on earth. Liturgical theology makes evident the fact that the life and worship of the Church is an icon of the kingdom of heaven. Those of us who gather to worship form the Church Militant on earth. We are not separate from the kingdom of heaven, but rather, through our worship and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are worshipping with the Church Triumphant that lives and dwells with the Holy Trinity. Through liturgical worship, the Church on earth is made an integral part of the great cosmic Church. One sees here an example of form (anatomy) and function (physiology) going hand in hand.

Liturgical theology also functions to make Christ's life, death and resurrection a real event for us and a real event that we can participate in as a church, as the body of Christ. For example, baptism must not be seen as simply a complex initiation ritual into the Church, but must be seen as our participation in the death and the Resurrection of Christ wherein mankind is "born again" as a new creature. Again, this illustrates the importance of both form and function together.

Liturgical theology also allows us to understand how all of the worship relates to those who gather for the corporate worship of the Church. The word liturgical, which is used to describe our worship, is derived from the Greek "leitourgia" which means "the work of the people." Liturgical theology presents the worship and prayer life of the Church as a functional whole. Just as one can study the physiology of the heart, blood, brain and kidneys and unify them to understand the function of how the body regulates blood pressure. It is the Holy Spirit, manifesting Himself through the Church, that gives function and meaning to the liturgical worship and calls us to be participants - not observers - in the kingdom of God so that we are able to partake in a new life in Jesus Christ and to experience those salvific events while we are here on earth and while we are actively involved in the liturgical worship of the Church.

Another important aspect of liturgical theology is its ability to expound the faith and doctrines of the Church. Liturgical theology takes liturgical worship and the hymnography of the Church and uses it as a powerful means to expound upon the teachings and doctrines of the Church. This is most evident in the complex hymnography in the Orthros and Vespers services. For example, the hymnography associated with Pentecost is full of theology and teaching concerning the Holy Spirit - another example of form (the service) having function (teaching theology).

In conclusion, it is important that one fully comprehends the role of liturgical theology in the worship of the Church. Just as anatomy and physiology give understanding to the form and function of life, likewise liturgical theology gives to us the understanding of the form and function of the worship services of the Orthodox Church and enables us to fully live with Christ in the heavenly kingdom here on earth. In any living organism, without organized structure there is no function, and without structure and function there is no life. The same thing can be said about liturgy. Without structure and function there is no life to the Church and without life in the Church there is no salvation.


Fagerberg, D., What is Liturgical Theology? A study in Methodology. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1992).

Schmemann, A., Introduction to Liturgical Theology. 3rd edition. (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1986).

Schmemann, A., Liturgy and Tradition. (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1990).

Taft, R., Beyond East and West; Problems in Liturgical Understanding.(Washington, DC; Pastoral Press, 1984).


May 29, 2011

Saint Ypomoni - Empress of the Romans (+ 1450)

St. Ypomoni the Righteous (Feast Day - March 13 and May 29)

St. Ypomoni (Patience), in the world named Helen Dragaš, and later as the wife of Manuel II Palaiologos was called: "Helen, in Christ God Augusta and Empress of the Romans, Palaiologos". She was the daughter of Constantine Dragaš, one of the many leaders and inheritors of the large Serbian kingdom of Stefan Dusan. She came from a royal and blessed genealogy. Many of her ancestors were Saints (e.g. Stefan Nemanja, the Serbian king and founder of the Holy Monastery of Hilanderion on Mount Athos, and known as St. Symeon the Myrrh-gusher). Constantine Dragaš assumed the leadership of what is today the Bulgarian portion of northeast Macedonia, in the area between the rivers Axiou and Strymonos. Her birth took place immediately after the death of the Dusan years. Her upbringing, education, and her formation were greatly influenced by the Byzantine ideal, because the Serbs were greatly influenced by Byzantine culture. They thought of themselves as more identified with the culture and especially the national consciousness of the Byzantine Empire. Emotionally and essentially they were considered Byzantine/Roman, as she was later allowed to become Augusta and Empress due to her birth in the Serbian homeland. Above and beyond these, she was raised with the family tradition of the unshakeable Orthodox faith. This faith guided and illumined her, and would inspire her life which would be full of sorrows and trials. She was about 19 years old when she married Manuel II Palaiologos (1390), a few days before becoming Emperor.

The new life of Helen from the beginning showed itself to be a Golgotha. Many times she had to drink the cup of insults and debasement by her husband's side, not only from those of other religions, but from the Christians of the Western nations, in their desperate attempt to find ways to save the dying Empire. Helen demonstrated to be an outstanding person who gathered many great virtues and spiritual strength. She showed that she had a total sense of her position and circumstances, and her role and what was required, at all levels. She loved the people. She was the Great Mother whom anyone could approach. She shared in the anxieties and concerns of her fearful nation and whatever she did was accompanied by prayer, with her meek, sweet and consoling words. What was briefly written about the Empress by George Gemistos-Plethon was very characteristic and eloquent: "This Queen with much humility and perseverance appeared to address the two ways of life. Neither at the time of testing was she swayed, nor when she was granted rest, but in each case she did what was required. She joined together intelligence and bravery, more than any other woman. She was distinguished for her chastity. She had completely deep righteousness. We did not know how to do evil to anyone, either men or women. Instead we know that she did much good to many. With what other way can righteousness be shown in practice, other than to never do your own will or show evil towards anyone, but only show good to many?” She proved worthy of her philosophical and Christ-loving husband, Manuel. She proved worthy to work next to him for 35 years, in accordance with their martyrdom, in other words, everything was held in agreement and harmony, co-spirits of Christ in holiness of struggles. They managed to honor virtue with words and deeds. “By word of teaching the practical, their work became prototypes and icons of applied love."

To this blessed couple God graced eight children. From the six boys two of them ascended the Emperor’s throne, John VIII and Constantine XI; the last being the legendary Emperor. Theodore, Demetrios and Thomas became leaders of Mystra, and Andronikos of Thessaloniki. The two girls, however, passed away at a young age. The mother who had so many children and who loved them so much, nurtured them with the faith and the sweet teaching of our Orthodox Church, taking them to holy shrines and sacred Monasteries of the Kingdom, and sought prayers for them by the holy ascetics and elders. She raised them “in the law of the Lord from youth”, and never “ceased with tears of prayer and love to instill the law in each one”. With patience and persistence, with care and prayer she shaped their characters, and together gave them “life” and “good life”. In this way, she managed, among others, to end 90 years of conflict between the members of the Imperial Family, which had extinguished the Empire. Any differences of opinion or conflicts that occured (after the death of Manuel) were overcome silently with the prestige of her motherly intervention and her prayer.

Her love towards the monasteries was special. There she felt rest, her soul would rest, and she drew strength and courage for what would follow. This she imparted to her whole family. Her husband, who ceded the throne to his first-born son John two months before his death (May 29th 1425), he enrolled in the Pantocrator Monastery in Constantinople, where he was tonsured a monk with the name Matthew. She, after the death of her husband became a nun (1425) in the Monastery of Lady Martha, with the name Ypomoni (Patience). And three from their children became monks, Theodore and Andronikos (Monk Akakios) in the Pantocrator Monastery, and Demetrios (Monk David) in Didymoteicho. Further, as long as they were in their homeland, together with her father she built the Holy Monastery of Panagia Pammakaristos in Poganovo of the city of Demetrovgrand in southeast Serbia.

In Constantinople she was associated with the Holy Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner of Petra, where the Holy Relic of St. Patapios the Righteous Wonderworker was kept, to whom St. Ypomoni showed a special reverence. The Monastery was founded by the fellow ascetic of St. Patapios in Egypt, Vara the Righteous, outside of the Roman gate before 450 AD. With St. Ypomoni’s help she founded in the Monastery a female old-age home with the name “The Hope of the Hopeless”. Her reverence towards St. Patapios was revealed by the fact that the iconographer of the cave of St. Patapios on the Geraneia Mountain of Corinth considered it essential to depict St. Ypomoni next to the body of the Saint. St. Ypomoni was a bright and illumined person, endowed with many talents, which she “traded” with wisdom and prudence and gained much, managed with virtue, asceticism and endurance to reach a hard to scale measure of virtue.

A meaningful physiognomy of her time, Gennadios Scholarios, the first Ecumenical Patriarch after the Sack of Constantinople, in his Paramythetiko Logo to King Constantine XI in the section titled: “At the dormition of his mother St. Ypomoni”, he offers the following characteristically: “This blessed Queen when she was visited by someone wise, he would leave amazed from her unique wisdom. When she met some ascetic, he would leave after the meeting, shamed by his poor virtue and ashamed by her virtue. When she met someone intelligent, he would be struck by her greater intelligence. When she would meet with a legislator, they became more careful. When she spoke with some lawyer, they believed that they had before them the Rule of Law in practice. When someone brave would meet her, they would feel defeated feeling amazed by her patience, wisdom and strength of character. When she was approached by some philanthropist, they were struck by her greater and perceivable feeling of philanthropy. When she met some friend of amusements, they would gain wisdom, and coming to know their humility before her, repented. When she met some a zealot of piety, they would gain greater zeal. Every one suffering, after meeting with her, received some relief of their pain. Every arrogant person berated his great self-love. And in general there was no one who came into contact with her and did not become better.”

God granted her to not live through the last tragic moments of the Empire. He called her close to Him on March 13th 1450, having lived 35 years as Empress and 25 years as a humble nun. Her servant John Eugenikos, the brother of St. Mark Archbishop of Ephesus, in his Paramythetiko Logo to Constantine Palaiologos "At the dormition of his Mother St. Ypomoni", wrote: "As for your eternal Lady Mother, everything as long as she lived was excellent: faith, works, generation, the way life, word and everything together was pure and worthy of divine honor, and as she lived as a partaker of divine Providence, thus she ended.” The “Holy Lady” as she is named by George Frantzes, is joined with the thought of her monastic name (Patience) with the way she confronted the good and also the many problems in her whole life. Patience in life, deed and monastic name. “In patience she possessed her soul.”"

The holy skull of St. Ypomoni is kept today at the Holy Monastery of Saint Patapios in Loutraki of Corinth.

A Recent Miracle of the Saint

Many are the appearances of St. Ypomoni in the last few years to the faithful and also to non-Christians. The following miraculous appearance involved the healing of a sick man.

St. Ypomoni appeared as a nun to a taxi driver from Athens. She stopped his taxi and sought to be driven to Loutraki. The taxi driver had skin cancer on his hands and was experiencing a great lack of faith. On the way, the nun, who wore a cowl with a red cross, asked him:

"Why are you sad?"

And he did not hesitate to confess the whole truth. After she asked him if he wanted her to make the sign of the Cross on him so that he would become well, and he agreed. In a short time however, he started to get sleepy, and he asked the nun if they could stop for a little so that they wouldn't be killed. They had arrived close to the destination, and it would be easy for her to find another taxi. He stopped on the side of the road and fell asleep. When he woke up he noticed that his hands were better, but the nun had disappeared. He asked people in the area if they saw a nun near there, but no one had seen her. He therefore returned to his taxi and realized that it had been some saint who had then disappeared. He headed right away to his doctor and related what had happened. At that instant his eyes fell on an icon which was hanging in the doctor's office, and he fell from his chair and cried:

"That was her."

The icon was of St. Ypomoni. Thus he learned who it was that healed him and softened his unbelief. The cowl with the red cross showed her origin before becoming Empress of Byzantium, and with this monastic schema her life ended. Later it became known that the day when the miracle occurred was March 13th, the day when the Saint celebrates.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
The noble Queen let us hymn, Ypomoni the Righteous, the pious dove who flew from the world's disarray towards the dwelling place of heaven, in unending love, asceticism and humility, let us cry: shatter by your prayers the shackles of the lawless, O Queen.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Bearing the name of Godly-strengthened Patience, and the most honored of the Godly-wise rulers, who shone as a star in Byzantium and blazing among the choirs of the monastics, with the rays of humility let us praise her, crying out fervently: Rejoice, O most-praised Mother.

Rejoice, archetype of patience, pillar of abstinence, unassailable in virtues, O wall and treasury of love, Ypomoni, glorify the horn of pious rulers.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Documentary: The Siege of Constantinople

History Channel - History's Turning Points: The Siege of Constantinople

Turks Celebrate the Conquest of Constantinople

According to the Turkish World Bulletin :

Turkey on Sunday marks the 558th Anniversary of Istanbul's Conquest when an old era had ended and a new era had started. The Byzantine capital Istanbul had been besieged several times before but could not be conquered, however it had been conquered by the Ottoman Army under the leadership of young Ottoman Sultan Fatih Sultan Mehmet. And Istanbul was to be the Ottoman capital until its downfall. A series of activities will be held in Istanbul to celebrate the anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul. The conquest of the city will be simulated, fire works will be displayed and a water show will be conducted.

See also:

Turks Mark 558th Anniversary of Constantinople's Conquest by Mohammad

Turkish Miniaturist Depicting Aura of Istanbul's Conquest

Just a glimpse of what the Turks are celebrating comes from the following testimony:

"Breaking down the doors with axes, the Turks entered the Church and dragged the fugitives off to slavery. Two by two, the men were tied together with cords, the women with belts, without consideration for age or station. Scenes of indescribable horror ensued. The icons of Saints were shorn of their jewels and smashed. The gold and silver Church vessels were seized, the altar cloths used for caparisons. Topped with a Janissary's cap, the crucifix was paraded in mockery. The conquerors used the altars as tables; when they themselves had finished eating on them, they turned them over to the horses for feed troughs or used them as beds on which to assault boys and girls."

- The Fall of the Byzantine Empire: A Chronicle by George Sphrantzes

Read also an eye-witness testimony of the atrocities here.

Why Constantinople Fell

Michael Koumenides
May 29, 2011

On the 29th of May we mark the 558th year since the fall of Constantinople, the Golden Apple. Still, many questions linger. Specifically, why did Mehmed II succeed in taking Constantinople when so many before him had failed? The end of the city has become a point of marked importance in Greek culture and signifies the beginning of a period of enslavement and poverty in the Greek psyche. Why did Constantinople fall?

The Siege of Constantinople was successful for several reasons. Some have their roots stemming hundreds of years, others more current and finite. Following the Fourth Crusade the Byzantine Empire had been in a weakened position. Since the recovery of the capital from Venetian rule, Constantinople was unable to regain its former importance. The Palaeologos dynasty would never bring the Byzantine Empire back to its former strength and was under constant pressure from several different groups in the Balkans and Asia Minor. The city itself was under populated and financially incapable of funding a prolonged struggle. The wealthiest districts of the city belonged to the Latin traders, whilst the Greek population was relatively poor. Relations between Constantinople and the West had been souring since the Fourth Crusade and had reached a low point prior to the siege of 1453. The Council of Florence organized to unite the Christian world, instead served to highlight distrust and misunderstanding between the Greeks and Latins. Venetian relations with the city remained strong, yet confronting the Turks without a united Christian force was undesirable. Equally, the advances and unique style of attack conducted by Mehmed demonstrated an evolution in Ottoman warfare with a combination of siege tactics utilized to pressure the defenders into capitulation. These factors combined at a crucial point in 1453 to signal the fall of Constantinople.

The account of Sylvester Syropoulos indicates the extent to which relations had soured between the Latin and Greek worlds prior to the siege. The pressure for Union between the Churches made many Greeks feel that it was being forced. Union with the Catholic Church became synonymous with aid in Byzantium’s bleak foreign affairs. This pressure aggravated many individuals within Constantinople. Syropoulos was an anti-unionist and writes an account in this light. Sylvester portrays an Emperor who was encouraging union with the Latin Church as a means of protecting The Orthodox Church. However Sylvester and the Patriarch were not of the same opinion regarding union. Anti-unionists ike himself viewed any union as the beginning of the end for Orthodoxy. They saw union of the Church as a submission to the pope. In Syropoulos’ account, the Despot of the Peloponnese requests to depart for Venice in the middle of a council formed to discuss union. the despot is clearly doing this as a form of protest. Before leaving for Venice the Despot made a speech to the council declaring that, if forced to disregard spiritual matters, the union would benefit Byzantium’s secular world. It is conceivable that historical as well as contemporary matters created a deep distrust and dislike of the Latin and Catholic world in Constantinople. Union would offer materialistic and political gains; anti-Unionists and the Despot feared the spiritual and cultural repercussions.[1]

Arguably, an equal distrust existed in the Latin world towards the Greeks. The accounts of travelers to the Byzantine Empire by Latin officials display a similar dislike and misunderstanding. Bertrandon , a Frankish spy, arrived in Constantinople dressed as a Turk and was kindly received. Once discovered to be Catholic he was held up to pay a larger sum for his passage. He concieved that the Greek hatred for the Catholic faith was almost violent and openly wrote this particular passage as a warning to Catholic travelers to the City[2]. Latin dislike and mistrust of the Greeks is evident in his account which takes place four years prior to the Council in Florence which sought to unify the Christian churches. Severe disputes with Constantinople’s traditional allies in the west left the Empire in a particularly fragile position. Furthermore, the inherent cultural differences since the schism between Christianity was magnified when in the context of a theological dispute.

The fragility of Constantinople however stemmed from the Fourth Crusade. The event had devastated the city. Economically, politically and culturally Constantinople was never capable of recovering that loss. Other travelers describe an under populated city in decay. Only the large Latin sectors of the city, established for trade purposes, flourished. The Greeks are described as populating several poor villages within the Theodosian walls, outside of the centre. Pero Tafur recounts the Emperors description of the devastation experienced by the Fourth Crusade, particularly due to the Venetians. He describes the theft of many great objects and relics shipped to Venice during their seventy-year control of the Golden Apple. Notably, the four great brass horses of St. Marks were removed from Constantinople and brought to their dominion as its crowning jewel.[3] This pillaging of the cities riches and the general state of the city after the crusade indicates that Constantinople during this siege was but a shadow of its former glory. Consistent Ottoman attacks had also brought the city to its knees. The Turkish siege thirty years prior by Murad had ended with a humiliated treaty signed by the Emperor and insuring the vassalage of the City to the Turks.[4] Most of the Emperors traditional subjects in mainland Greece and Asia minor were also mostly under Turkish or Latin control. The maneuverability of the Emperor at this point in Byzantine history was slight. All that remained of the Empire was its capital.

The cities population density was obviously and notably low. The Latin traveller Clavijo observes the vast size of the cities walls and the many hills within the city. Within the walls most is covered with farmland rather than an urban sprawling. The city had the impression of an under populated metropolis with many sectors of the city in ruin and disuse. Bertrandon also provides an accurate yet blunt description of Constantinople as made up of villages with more open then built up areas. Pero Tafur, a Spaniard ,describes the emperor’s palace within Constantinople as being in good condition where as the portions of the city surrounding it were modest and poor by comparison.[5] This in general portrays a picture of Constantinople that is in decline rather than in a position to defend itself against a well financed, armed and organized Turkish force. Additionally, the Osman Turks were experiencing an economic and political ascent that the Theodosian walls would not withstand.

However, had the Venetian senate been earlier informed, The Byzantine Empire may have survived the struggle. According to Venetian senatorial records, a fleet was mobilized to come to the aid of Constantinople but didn’t organize in time to save the besieged City. The Venetians even began informing other Christian powers of their intention to help Constantinople and demanded their assistance. The preparations in Venice lagged behind the escalating situation in Constantinople. It was only after the 17th of April that the fleet could set sail for Constantinople. Distant communication between the cities facilitated the Sutan. Furthermore, Venice’s willingness to go to war was questionable. According to senatorial records Venice dispatched ambassadors to land in Greece and negotiate with the Sultan. The emphasis of the meetings was on Venice’s peaceful intentions and the state of Venetian trade in the emerging Ottoman Empire.[6] Thus, the intentions of Venice towards Constantinople demonstrate that the republic was willing to help but was constrained by the speed to which Constantinople capitulated and the resources required to counter Mehmed’s forces.

The Ottoman story was one of a slow and consistent ascent. By 1350 Ottoman Turks formed the bulk of Asia Minors population and many Turks even remained within Byzantine territory. By 1387 the Ottomans had captured the crucial city of Thessaloniki in the Balkans and established themselves in mainland Greece. By the time of the siege of 1453, Constantinople was almost entirely encircled by the Turkish invaders. Still, this siege would demand a break from previous Ottoman attempts to take the city in order to succeed. The revolutionary changes in Ottoman warfare impemented by Mehmed II was to tip the scaled in favour of the Easterners. Mehmed’s use of artillery, mining, and naval force was devastating. Mehmed’s evolutionary tactics are apparent in Ottoman gunpowder technology. Mehmed focused on artillery more in this siege than any other Ottoman sultan and arguably believed it to be crucial to the capitulation of the City. Building one of the largest cannons in the world. Kritovoulos, a Greek historian under the service of the Sultan , describes all sorts of artillery machines of various sizes and of impressive engineering, commissioned by Mehmed.[7] Though these artillery weapons were impressive and intimidating they were not the key element in defeat of the City. The cannons bombarded the walls with questionable effectiveness. The defenders quickly devised methods to counter these bombardments. Doukas recounts that the defenders mounted their own cannons to offset the Ottomans artillery and other histories highlight the ineffectiveness of Ottoman cannons.[8] However, it is evident that Mehmed was serious and unique in his planning and preparation for this endeavor. Multiple siege tactics were simultaneous employed effectively.

Strategic mining under the Theodosian walls was a constant threat to the defenders of the City; counter mining was always in operation. Barbaro describes one Ottoman tunnel found near the Emperor’s palace in Calegaria. The mine was successfully collapsed by the efforts of the defenders, killing all but two attackers. Barbaro describes how these intruders were captured and tortured for information before being killed.[9] The successes of Ottoman mining operations are questionable. Yet they do indicate that artillery was not the sole focus of Mehmed’s tactics. Mining was as important, if not ,more important than artillery warfare. Leonard of Chios states that although the Sultan was “battering the walls with his cannons; he paid even more attentions to stealing into the city through subterranean tunnels. He ordered the Chief miners whom he had brought from Novo Brod to be sent.”[10] Tunneling was a prominent scenario of warfare in the siege of 1453 and one of the methods along with artillery used to slowly wear down the defenders both psychologically and physically.

Crucially, unlike other Ottoman sieges, naval superiority was clearly on the side of the Ottomans. The exact number of ships is uncertain, Barbaro gages the fleet at one hundred and forty five strong, comprising of several different types. The ships anchored north of the city at the Columns.[11] The Turkish clearly overwhelmed and outnumbered the aging Byzantine ships docked in the Golden Horn. Any naval counter offensive was difficult at best. Barbaro, docked in the harbour during the siege, and other account do describe singular events where a Christian ship was able to escape or dock in the Golden horn. Yet, an effective naval counter offensive was out of the question.[12]Ottoman naval superiority cut off Constantinople completely from its trade partners in the Black seas and from the possibility of relief or aid from the Latin West. The Golden Horn had historically been sealed by a long chain comprising of metal and Wood stretching across from Constantinople to Pera on the other side. Even the chain that sealed off the Golden Horn was surmounted by Ottoman cunning and engineering. The Ottomans hoisted their ships behind Pera and into the harbor with speed and organization, Barbaro suggest nearly seventy odd ships.[13]

The final victory of the Turks does not occur due to one of the multitude of methods above, but due to the abandoning of its defensive posts. Gustiniani, a Genoese commander in charge of the land defenses, was either injured or merely abandoned his post on the Wall. Their leader in flight, the men at Gustiniani’s section of the wall defenses began to flee. This weakness in the walls was discovered by the Ottomans and is eventually overrun by the attackers. Leonard of Chios , a Greek chronicler, describes that Gustiniani is hit in the armpit by an arrow and had it not been for his forced retreat the city would not have been lost.[14] This scenario creates the impression that the defenders simply could not handle the duration and degree of Ottoman pressure.

Mehmed successfully pressured every aspect of the city through these siege methods. Not one specific aspect of the siege ensured an Ottoman victory, but with the dwindling defenders and the constant pressure from all aspect of the siege, morale and numbers were the defenders worst enemy. The accounts of Barbaro and Leonard of Chios suggest a situation in which the submission of Gustiniani led to the eventual fall of the City. Every other attack Mehmed conceived of was either repelled or endured. The psychological impact and exhaustion experiences by the defenders under the constant bombardments, infantry charges, mining operations and lack of manpower brought the ancient city to its knees. The capability of Constantinople to repulse the Ottomans in its present state of affairs was impossible. Both domestically and abroad Byzantium was constricted. Hope relied on the possibility of a swift and concise Christian crusade. However the antagonistic nature of the Greek-Latin relationship evident in Syropoulos and the Travelers accounts demonstrates the distant nature of that appeal. This reality, combined with Mehmeds serious ambitions for taking the city at a time of Ottoman ascent, rendered it virtually incapable of repelling its eventual capitulation.


[1] Syropoulos, Sylvester, and V. Laurent. Les “Memoires” du Grand Ecclesiarique de l’Eglise de Constantinople Sylvestre Syropoulos sur le concile de Florence 1438-1439. ( Roma: Pontificium Inst. Orientalium Studiorum, 1971.)

[2] Brocquiere, Bertrandon, trans. Galen R. Kline. The Voyage d’Outremer. (New York: P. Lang, 1988.)

[3] Tafur, Pero, and Malcolm Henry Ikin Letts. Travels and Adventures 1435-1439. ( New York: Harper & Bros., 1926.)

[4] Magoulias, Harry J. Decline and fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1975.)

[5] Clavijo, Ruy. Embassy to Tamerlane, 1403-1406. London: Routledge, 2006.

[6] F. Thiriet, trans, Regeste Des Deliberation du Senat de Venise Concernat la Romanie III,(Paris, Mouton & Co)182.

[7] Riggs, Charles T. History of Mehmed the Conqueror.( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954) 46.

[8] Magoulias, Harry J. Decline and fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1975.) 83.

[9] Barbaro, NicoloÌo, and J. R. Jones. Diary of the siege of Constantinople, 1453. (New York: Exposition Press, 1969.)

[10] Jones, J. R. Melville. The Siege of Constantinople 1453: Seven Contemporary Accounts. Las Palmas: Hakkert, 1972.) 17.

[11] Barbaro, NicoloÌo, and J. R. Jones. Diary of the siege of Constantinople 1453. (New York: Exposition Press, 1969.)

[12] Ibid,

[13] Ibid,

[14] Jones, J. R. Melville. The Siege of Constantinople 1453: Seven Contemporary Accounts.(Las Palmas: Hakkert, 1972).

The Icon of Christ At the Chalke Gate

The Chalke Gate (Greek: Χαλκῆ Πύλη), was the main ceremonial entrance (vestibule) to the Great Palace of Constantinople in the Byzantine period. The name, which means "the Bronze Gate", was given to it either because of the bronze portals or from the gilded bronze tiles used in its roof. The interior was lavishly decorated with marble and mosaics, and the exterior façade featured a number of statues. Most prominent was an icon of Christ which became a major iconodule symbol during the Byzantine Iconoclasm, and a chapel dedicated to the Christ Chalkites was erected in the 10th century next to the gate. The gate itself seems to have been demolished in the 13th century, but the chapel survived until the early 19th century.

Above the main entrance of the Chalke, there stood an icon of Christ, the so-called Christ Chalkites ("Christ of the Chalke"). The origins of the icon are obscure: based on its mention in the Parastaseis, it may have existed by ca. 600, but it cannot be stated with any certainty. Its prominent display on the very entrance to the imperial palace made it one of the city's major religious symbols. Consequently, its removal, in 726 or 730, by Emperor Leo III the Isaurian (r. 717–741), was both a major political statement and a spark for violent rioting in the city, and marked the beginning of the official prohibition of icons in the Empire. The icon was restored a first time by Empress Irene in ca. 787, until it was again removed by Leo V the Armenian (r. 813–820) and replaced by a simple cross. After the definitive restoration of the veneration of icons in 843, a mosaic icon by the famed iconodule monk and artist Lazaros replaced it.

The exact appearance of the icon is unclear: although the early image has been interpreted as a bust of the Christ Pantocrator type, and late Byzantine references, such as coins by John III Vatatzes (r. 1221–1254) and the Deesis mosaic in the Chora Church, use the term for depictions of a standing Christ on a pedestal.

Read more here.

Icon celebrating the "Triumph of Orthodoxy" and the restoration of icon veneration in 843. Saint Theodosia, an iconodule martyr celebrated on May 29th, is depicted first left on the lower row, carrying the icon of Christ Chalkites. When the icon was being removed by a soldier of Emperor Leo the III, she knocked down the ladder with him on it which killed him. For this she was arrested and martyred. She was soon venerated as a martyr and became known as a miracle worker.

The Monastery of Saint Theodosia In Constantinople

On January 19, 729, at the very beginning of the iconoclastic persecutions, Emperor Leo III the Isaurian ordered the removal of an image of Christ which stood over the Chalkē Gate, the main gate of the Great Palace of Constantinople. While an officer was executing the order, a group of women gathered to prevent the operation, and one of them, a nun named Theodosia, let him fall from the ladder. The man died, and Theodosia was captured and executed.

After the end of Iconoclasm, Theodosia was recognized as a martyr and saint, and her body was kept and venerated in the Church of Saint Euphemia in the Petrio, in the quarter named Dexiokratiana, after the houses owned here by one Dexiokrates. The church and adjoining monastery were erected by Emperor Basil I at the end of the ninth century. The monastery hosted his four daughters, who were all buried in the church. Saint Euphemia lay near the Monastery of Christos Evergetēs, whose foundation date is unknown. It is only known that it was restored by protosevastos John Komnenos, son of Andronikos I Komnenos and brother of co-emperor John, who died fighting in the battle of Myriokephalon in 1176. On April 12, 1204, during the Fourth Crusade, the Latin fleet gathered in front of the Monastery of the Evergetes before attacking the city. During the Latin Empire, the navy had its anchorage in front of the monastery, and the naval port was kept there by Michael VIII Palaiologos also after the restoration of the Byzantine Empire. Many sacred relics kept in the church were looted by the Crusaders and many still exist in churches throughout western Europe.

The veneration of St. Theodosia grew with time until, after the 11th century, the church was named after her. Since the original feast day of the founding of the Church of Saint Euphemia occurred on the 30th of May, and that of another Saint Theodosia of Tyre occurred on the 29th of May, finally this day became the feast day of Saint Theodosia of Constantinople, which had previously been celebrated on July 18th.

Saint Theodosia became one of the most venerated saints in Constantinople, being invoked particularly by the infirm. The fame of the Saint was increased by the recovery of a deaf-mute in 1306. The church is often mentioned by the Russian pilgrims who visited the city in the fourteenth and early fifteenth century, but sometimes it is confounded with Christ Evergetēs, which, as already said, stood near it. Twice a week a procession took place in the nearby roads. In that occasion the relics hosted in the church were carried along, followed by a great crowd of sick people praying for their recovery.

The church is mentioned for the last time on May 28, 1453. On that day, which was the eve both of the Saint's feast and also of the end of the Byzantine Empire, the Emperor Constantine XI with the Patriarch went to pray in the church, which was adorned with garlands of roses. Afterward Constantine left for the last struggle. Many people remained all the night in the church, praying for the salvation of the city. In the morning the Ottoman troops, after entering the city, reached the building, still adorned with flowers, and captured all the people gathered inside, considering them as prisoners of war. The relics were thrown away and the body of Saint Theodosia was cast to the dogs.

Some years later (in 1490), the ruined church was repaired and converted into a mosque. A minaret was erected between 1566 and 1574, under Selim II, by Hassam Pasha, a supplier of the Ottoman navy. Afterwards the mosque was often named after him. Between 1573 and 1578, during his sojourn in Istanbul, the German preacher Stephan Gerlach visited the mosque, identifying it with the church of Hagia Theodosia.

Today it is known as Gül Mosque (Turkish: Gül Camii, meaning: "The Mosque of the Rose"). The building is located in Istanbul, in the district of Fatih, in the neighborhood of Ayakapı ("Gate of the Saint"), along Vakif Mektebi Sokak. It lies at the end of the valley which divides the fourth and the fifth hills of Constantinople, and from its imposing position it overlooks the Golden Horn.


Synaxis of All Saints of Aitolia-Acarnania

On the Sixth Sunday of Pascha, which is the Sunday of the Blind Man, is celebrated all the saints associated with Aitolia-Acarnania. Among them are the following:

1. Saint Barbaros the Myrrhgusher (May 15 and June 23)
2. Saint Vlasios of Sebastia (February 11)
3. Saint Andrew the Hermit (May 15)
4. Righteous David (November 1)
5. The Holy brothers Symeon and Theodore, builders of the historic Monastery of Mega Spelaion (October 18)
6. Saint Eugenios Aitolos (August 5)
7. Saint John the New Martyr and Hagarene (September 23)
8. Saint Iakovos the New Martyr and his three disciples, Iakovos, Dionysios, and Theonas (November 1)
9. The Holy New Martyrs Lambros, Theodore and one who was anonymous
10. Hieromartyr Kosmas Aitolos (August 24)

Απολυτίκιον Ήχος γ’ (Την Ωραιότητα)
Την πολυθαύμαστον, ανευφημήσωμεν των Αιτωλών πιστοί και Ακαρνάνων γην, την εξανθήσασα Χριστού τα άνθη τα μυρίπνοα, Ιάκωβον, Ιάκωβον, Διονύσιον, Βάρβαρον, σοφόν Κοσμάν, Ανδρέαν τε, Ιωάννην, Ευγένιον, συν Λάμπρω, Θεοδώρω και άλλω, Βλάσιον, Θεωνάν και Δαυίδ τούς αρωγούς ημών.

Ecumenical Patriarch At the Tomb of the Apostle John

On Saturday 28 May 2011, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Basilika of the Saint John the Theologian in Ephesus of Asia Minor. Built by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century over the grave of the Apostle John, the church is now in ruins though the grave is still preserved in the altar area.


Synaxarion for the Sunday of the Blind Man

By Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopoulos

SUNDAY of THE Blind Man

On this day, the sixth Sunday of Pascha, we commemorate the miracle wrought by our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ upon the man who was blind from his birth.


O Bestower of light, Who art Light coming forth from Light,
Thou givest eyes to the man blind from birth, O Word.


This miracle was wrought by means of water, just like those of the Samaritan woman and the Paralytic. It happened as follows. While Christ was addressing the Jews and proving that He was equal to the Father, saying, for example, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), they took up stones to cast at Him. He withdrew from that place and found the Blind man stumbling around. He had been born this way, having only sockets for eyes. After finding him in this condition, the Savior was asked by His Disciples (who had heard Him telling the Paralytic, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more” [John 5:14], and had heard that the sins of parents are visited upon their children [Exodus 20:5]): “Teacher, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). Moreover, there prevailed a kind of Pythagorean-Platonic belief that souls preëxisted and descended into bodies after sinning in the non-material realm. Refuting all of this, Christ said: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God,” that is, My works “should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). For, this statement does not pertain to the Father, and the conjunction “that” relates to the consequence, not to the cause.

After saying this, Christ spat on the ground and made clay, wherewith He anointed the hollows of the man’s eyes; He then bade him go to the spring of Siloam and wash, in order to show that it was He Who in the beginning took dust from the earth and fashioned man. Since the eye is the principal part of the body, He fashioned that which was previously non-existent. He did not use water, but spittle, so that it might be made known that all the Grace came from the mouth of Him Who spat, and because He was going to send him to Siloam. He exhorted the man to wash, lest anyone should ascribe the healing to the earth and the clay. He sent him to Siloam, in order that he might have many witnesses of his healing; for, he would have encountered many people on his way to the spring, who would notice that his eyes had been anointed with clay. Some say that, after washing, he did not remove the clay formed by the spittle, but that the clay itself, by the application of moisture, was transformed in such a way as to fashion eyes for him.

“Siloam” is, by interpretation, “sent”; for this pool was outside the city of Jerusalem. During the reign of Hezekiah, when the enemy had laid siege to the city and had occupied Siloam, the water that came from there was held back. Before those inside the city had dug wells and reservoirs for the storage of water, if anyone was sent out at the bidding of the Prophet Isaiah, the water came forth all at once and he could draw from it; but if anyone went on his own initiative or if any of the enemy went, the water was prevented from flowing out. This is how it happened ever since that time. Therefore, in order that Christ might show that He Himself was from God, for this reason He sent the Blind man to Siloam and the restoration of his sight was the immediate consequence. Some think that Siloam is interpreted as “sent” because the Blind man was sent by Christ.

The Blind man was given eyes after washing by some ineffable power, and not even he who experienced it beheld the mystery. His neighbors and acquaintances, when they saw that he had suddenly regained his sight, were filled with doubt. At all events, he confessed that he was formerly blind. When asked how he had gained his sight, he declared that Christ had cured his ailment. When the Pharisees heard of this extraordinary miracle, they again blasphemed against the Savior for not observing the Sabbath, for the miracle wrought for the Blind man was, it seems, performed on the Sabbath. Accordingly, there was a division among the Jews: some said that Jesus was from God, on account of the miracles that had taken place, but others said that He was not from God, because He did not keep the Sabbath.

Those who had a good opinion about Him asked the Blind man: “What sayest thou of him?” He proclaimed that Jesus was a Prophet (St. John 9:17). This, among them, was something more honorable. But the others did not believe that Christ had bestowed healing upon a man who was blind. Indeed, they sent for his parents, perhaps because they did not believe his neighbors; hence, in wishing to keep the matter obscure, they made it more manifest. The testimony of his parents was entirely consonant with his, although, in order to avoid being expelled from the synagogue, they mentioned that their son was of age. The Jews said again to the Blind man, “Give God the glory” (John 9:24), on the ground that the cure came from Him, not from Christ, for “he is a sinner,” they said, in that He breaks the Sabbath. But he who was formerly blind, wishing to show that Christ was God by virtue of His deeds, said: “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not; one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, it is through Him that I see” (John 9:25).

Again they said to him: “How opened he thine eyes?” (John 9:26). Being vexed, he did not speak in detail, but proved that, if He were not of God, He could not have worked such a miracle. At first, he was insulted by them for having confessed that he was a disciple of Jesus and because he said: “No one hath opened the eyes of a man born blind; others, indeed, have given sight to the blind, but no one hath given sight to a man blind from birth.” Mocking him, they cast him far away from the synagogue. After this, Jesus found him and said to him: “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (John 9:35). When the man learnt Who it was that was speaking to him and Whom he was seeing (for, being blind, he had not known Him previously), he worshipped Him and became a disciple of His, proclaiming the benefaction done to him.

This passage might be interpreted in anagogical terms. The Blind man represents the people of the Gentiles, whom Christ found when passing by, that is, while on earth and not in Heaven. Alternatively, He came for the sake of the Hebrew people, but passed them by and went to the Gentiles. Spitting on the ground and making clay, He anointed the Blind man, that is, He taught the Gentiles first; for, like a drop of water He came down to earth and was incarnate of the Holy Virgin. He then handed them over to Divine Baptism, that is, Siloam. Subsequently, the Christian people who came from the Gentiles confessed Christ before all, were persecuted and martyred, and were later extolled and glorified by Christ.

By Thine infinite mercy, O Christ our God, the Giver of light, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
I come to You, O Christ, as the man blind from birth. With the eyes of my soul blinded, I cry out to You in repentance, "You are the resplendent Light of those in darkness."