Monday, November 30, 2009
The holy and right-believing king Vakhtang I ascended the throne of Kartli at the age of fifteen. At that time Kartli was continually being invaded by the Persians from the south and by the Ossetians from the north. The situation was no better in western Georgia: the Byzantines had captured all the lands from Egrisi to Tsikhegoji.
After his coronation, the young King Vakhtang summoned his court and addressed his dedicated servants with great wisdom. He said that the sorrowful circumstances in which the nation had found itself were a manifestation of God’s anger at the sins of the king and the people. He called upon everyone to struggle in unity and selflessness on behalf of the Faith and motherland.
King Vakhtang led a victorious campaign against the Ossetians, freed the captive princess (his older sister), and signed several treaties with the Caucasian mountain tribes to secure their cooperation in the struggle against foreign conquerors. Then he carried out another campaign in western Georgia, freed that region from the Byzantines, reinforced the authority of KingGubaz, and returned in triumph to Kartli.
King Vakhtang was remarkable in faith, wisdom, grace, virtue, and appearance (he towered above all others at a stately seven feet ten inches). He spent many nights in prayer and distributed alms to the poor, in this way dedicating his life to God. King Vakhtang could fight tirelessly in battle. Vested in armor and fully armed, he could carry a war-horse on his shoulders and climb from Mtskheta to the Armazi Fortress in the mountains outside the city. On foot he could outrun a deer. The holy king was judicious in politics, displayed great composure, and preserved a sense of calm even when critical decisions needed to be made.
On the brow of Vakhtang’s military helmet was depicted a wolf, and on the back, a lion. Catching a glimpse of the helmet with the wolf and lion, the Persians would cry out to one another: “Dar’ az gurgsar!” (“Beware of the wolf ’s head!”) This was the source of King Vakhtang’s appellation “Gorgasali.”
During King Vakhtang’s reign the Georgian Church was first recognized as autocephalous. When the holy king banished the pagan fire-worshippers from Georgia, he also sent a certain Bishop Michael—who was inclined to the Monophysite heresy, which had been planted in Georgia by the Persians—to Constantinople to be tried by the patriarch. The bishop had disgracefully cursed the king and his army for rising up against the Monophysites. In fact, he was so infuriated that when King Vakhtang approached him to receive his blessing, he kicked him in the mouth and broke several of his teeth.
The patriarch of Constantinople subsequently defrocked Bishop Michael and sent him to a monastery to repent.
More importantly perhaps, the patriarch and the Byzantine emperor then sent to the patriarch of Antioch several clergymen whom King Vakhtang had chosen for consecration. In Antioch the patriarch consecrated twelve of these clergymen as bishops and enthroned a certain Petre as the first Catholicos of Georgia.
Vakhtang fulfilled the will of Holy King Mirian by founding the Georgian Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem. In addition, he replaced a wooden church that had been built in Mtskheta at the time of St. Nino with a church made of stone. During his reign several new dioceses were founded. King Vakhtang built a cathedral in Nikozi (Inner Kartli) and established a new diocese there, to which he translated the holy relics of the Protomartyr Razhden.
King Vakhtang built fortresses at Tukhari, Artanuji, and Akhiza; founded monasteries in Klarjeti at Artanuji, Mere, Shindobi, and Akhiza; and established many other strongholds, churches, and monasteries as well. He built a new royal residence in Ujarma and laid the foundations of the new Georgian capital, Tbilisi. His political creed consisted of three parts: an equal union of the Georgian Church with the Byzantine Church, national independence, and the unity of the Church and nation.
In the year 502 the sixty-year-old King Vakhtang was obliged to defend his country for the last time. In a battle with the Persians he was fatally wounded when a poisoned arrow pierced him under the arm. Before he died, King Vakhtang summoned the clergy, his family and his court and urged them to be strong in the Faith and to seek death for Christ’s sake in order to gain eternal glory.
All of Georgia mourned the passing of the king. His body was moved from the royal residence in Ujarma to Mtskheta, to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which he had himself built. There he was buried with great honor.
Some fifteen centuries later, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, an addition was built onto the Sioni Patriarchal Cathedral in Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s name, and a cathedral in his honor was founded in the city of Rustavi.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Holy Martyr Philoumenus suffered for Christ in the year 274, during the persecution against Christians by the emperor Aurelian (270-275). St Philoumenus was a bread merchant in Ancyra. Envious persons reported to the governor Felix that Philoumenus was a Christian, and so he came before a judge.
St Philoumenus did not renounce Christ. For this they hammered nails into his hands, feet and head, and they forced him to walk. The holy martyr bravely endured the torments and he died from loss of blood, giving up his soul to God.
Troparion - Tone 4
Your holy martyrs Paramon and Philumenus and those with them, O Lord,
through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God.
For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries,
and shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through their intercessions, save our souls!
Kontakion - Tone 4
Urged on by the commandments of God,
with patience, you cleansed your souls from all defilement.
You reached perfection as spiritual athletes;
you renounced sacrifice to idols.
Imitating Christ, you were slain with a spear,
most blessed Paramon and Philumenus.
Always fervently intercede with Christ on behalf of the world.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Blooming in the Desert – Episode 7-Unity and Diversity from St. Paul’s International Food Festival 2009
Listen to the podcast
Blooming in the Desert Home Page
A lot of hard work went into this year's International Food Festival. But this is the case every year.
Steve, Andrew and I, the hosts of Blooming in the Desert, thought it would be a worthwhile show this time around right from within the Festival itself.
We set up our little booth and basically worked with our theme, "Unity and Diversity" as a backdrop for the show's theme. We begin the show discussing amongst ourselves the sheer miracle of mingling with people of so many diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds in a setting which lends itself to a needed cooperation between peoples who otherwise would never have had reason to be united under any cause, voluntarily.
Now to many Americans in other Christian communities, or even communities that are not Christian or religious, this may not seem unusual because in our larger cities the "melting pot" understanding of things seems to be normative and expected. But if we examine the reason for this it is quickly discovered that this outward "unity" we have as Americans is not one brought about by a common heritage or understanding of what it means to be an American, but rather it can almost be said to be an economic arrangement whereby we cooperate to promote and preserve opportunities and a lifestyle centered around making money.
What is unique in Orthodoxy is that in the Church, as mentioned in the podcast show, ethnicities are not dissolved but rather are preserved within the Church and retain their distinctness. Something of that which is good and comes about with age retains its value not only in a sentimental fashion but in a manner where the value is of such an essence that it actually has the power and the capability of rendering intact another world within which one may experience the timeless.
Its almost as if we may say that in the Church is captured and preserved a mode of being completely other than the current of the world direction which rushes away from tradition and permanency towards anything which is new and holds promise for those enamored with newness, tired of all the old ways.
Now we don't actually go in this direction in this particular show but here I share some of my own thoughts having listened to it.
READ THE PREVIOUS POST ON BLOOMING IN THE DESERT:
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov, in the world John, was the son of Stephen (brother of St Sergius of Radonezh), who occupied an important post under Prince Andrew of Radonezh. Left a widower, Stephen became a monk, and together with his twelve-year-old son, he went to the monastery to St Sergius, who foreseeing the ascetic life of the child John, tonsured him with the name Theodore on the Feast of St Theodore the Hair-Shirt Wearer (April 20).
After Theodore attained an appropriate age, he was given a blessing to be ordined to the priesthood. With the blessing of St Sergius, St Theodore built a church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and founded a monastery on the banks of the River Moskva, at the place called Simonovo. Soon the monastery began to attract a throng of people. St Theodore built a cell five versts from the Moscow Kremlin, and pursued new ascetical labors, and here disciples gathered around him. St Sergius, visiting this place, blessed the founding of a monastery, and Metropolitan Alexis blessed the construction of a church in the name of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos at Novoe Simonovo, which also had its foundations laid in 1379. The old Simonov monastery remained the burial place of monks.
Because of his virtuous life and strict asceticism, St Theodore became known in Moscow. The Metropolitan St Alexis elevated him to the rank of igumen, and Great Prince Demetrius of the Don chose him as his father confessor. St Theodore journeyed to Constantinople several times on church matters for the Russian Metropolitan. On his first journey in 1384, Patriarch Nilus made him an archimandrite. The Simonov monastery was put directly under the Patriarch, thus became stavropegial. In 1387, he was consecrated archbishop and occupied the See of Rostov.
Being the igumen, and then the archimandrite of the Simonov monastery, and despite being occupied with churchly matters, St Theodore stalwartly guided those in the monastic life and counted many great and famous ascetics among his disciples. Saints Cyril (June 9) and Therapon (May 27), the future founders of two famous White Lake monasteries, were tonsured at the Simonov monastery. St Theodore occupied himself with iconography, and he adorned with icons of his own painting both the Simonov monastery, and many Moscow churches.
At Rostov, Archbishop Theodore founded the Nativity of the Virgin monastery.
The blessed death of the saint occurred on November 28, 1394. His relics are in the Rostov Dormition cathedral.
St Theodore is also commemorated on May 23.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Elder Philotheos Zervakos Ecumenism Orthodoxy and Heresy
Rise up Chrysostomes, Gregories, Germanuses, Tarasiuses, Nikifori, Fotii and the rest, the old and recent Holy Patriarchs of Constantinople, who sacrificed yourselves for your flocks, to see who is on your throne. You, like the good shepherds have sacrificed your souls for your own sheep, while the present ones sacrifice their sheep for themselves and they open the door and invite the wolves to come in and destroy the flock.
When has a Patriarch fallen in such a slide, that he voluntarily struggles to deliver his flock to the wolves to be torn apart? The cause is pride, the root and cause of all sins, all the evil, all heresies, calamities and sorrows and even greater than the calamities and unhappiness, the deprivation of God's grace.
The wolf shepherds, false teachers, false prophets and false christs, were expelled from Christ's flock and as unrepentant , they were placed under everlasting anathemas by the Holy Fathers, the imitators of the Chief Shepherd Christ and His followers, the good, true and divine shepherds, the preservers of the decent and holy seven Ecumenical Synods.
The Orthodox Church is not used to innovations like the Westerners and the Protestants, who after their separation and without ceasing have taken up to perform innovations or reforms, to such a disrespectful and insane degree to innovate all the mysteries and holy tradition and deleting many....
There are two reasons that make the present day Arch-hierarchs to innovate and reform the Church, first pride, which makes most of the hierarchs, save some, to believe they are wiser that the Holy Fathers, and secondly gluttony and love of self. By most of them becoming, lovers of the flesh, they were abandoned by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
If the Patriarch, does not accept but rejects the suggestions of the Government of the Holy Synod, Arch-hierarchs, priests and lay followers, and insists on the union (of the Churches), then he should be renounced. For in case they do not oppose but retreat and say that they will follow the Patriarch, then there would be a far reaching destruction. Then I would have nothing else to say but woe to the Orthodox Church of Greece. Woe and to the Greek nation. For it shall be immeasurably worse than the subjugation to the Muslim and the false prophet Mohammed.
If the Pope wishes the union, let him recognize and confess all his deceits, heresies and innovations made by various Popes from the beginning and over a period of time, having separated themselves from the Orthodox Church, he will be received only if he repents, cries bitterly and humbles himself.
If they do not reject pride, both Patriarch and Pope, and do not humble themselves, imitating our Lord, not only would they not succeed but instead they will increase the separation and they will create many scandals, disturbances, confusions and great damage to and loss of their flocks. If they would imitate the Lord and humble themselves the union will succeed, they will benefit themselves and their flocks and the name of the Father in Heaven will be glorified through them like through the Apostles, for the "Lord opposes the proud and raises the humble".
Papism is the forerunner of the anti-christ.
Orthodoxy was firmed up by the Holy Apostles and the enacting Fathers through the seven Ecumenical Synods, while illumined by the Holy Spirit.
Papism is the forerunner of the antichrist, for the Pope having been captured by arrogance and conceit, and wishing to have the highest authority of the Church and State, he tore the Church of Christ.
The Pope worshipers have fallen in many false beliefs and heresies modifying the mysteries of the Orthodox Church. Instead of the baptism they are sprinkling, instead of the mystery of communion they have Jewish unleavened bread. They got rid of the fasts and even the holy oil, nor can they perform blessings by sprinkling with holy water because they are excommunicated and thus their blessing does not hold.
I would not refrain to mention something I witnessed myself when I went to the Holy Mountain for pilgrimage. When the Emperor Constantine Michael and Patriarch Vekkos who were Pope worshipers went to the Holy Mountain during the period 1170-1200,they were pressing the monks to receive the Papism and to co-celebrate with the papists. Those that had accepted and co-celebrated, their bodies remained incorrupt but give off a foul odour. Those that refused to co-celebrate and were killed by the papists, their relics give off a pleasant odour. I wish through the grace of the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind, to give you strength and reject the dream of deceit and languish and return to the bosom of the Church.
"If the present Hierarchs do not accept the decisions, the Canons and the traditions given by the divine Apostles and Holy Fathers of the Church but ignore them, who would then respect their own? "
The Church and State and their leaders of the present evil days, sleep the heaviest sleep of negligence and laziness, and if they do not wake up, as well as the clergy and the people to repentance in the service of God's commandments, of the virtues and good works, they will have to answer during the great judgment and will be punished.
Hold fast to your faith.
Hold onto your faith firmly and remain immovable on the traditions of the Divine Fathers, for we have arrived at the age that even the strong in faith are lost. Toil by studying and learning, for everything good is achieved with hard work and suffering. We shall not feel the labourl of virtue when we consider the clouds of martyrs and saints and in the future we shall be glorified.
How happy and blessed we shall be, if through a little toil we shall be judged worthy to camp in the lovely camps of Paradise and inherit the goods of the Heavenly Kingdom of God. Amen.
The apostle Paul, the mouth of Christ, commands: "Do not communicate in the works of sterile darkness that you may not become controlled. In cases where our Orthodox Faith is ignored or slandered, it is permissible to check it and have just anger, most justifiable, but silence is not permissible. But the checking must be done with discernment and prudence not with disturbance and anger, but with divine anger. God does not give up His Church and to those who fight her He will humble them and they will be smashed like a ceramic roof, but those who hold their Orthodox faith and confession till death, shall be blessed.
I bless you from the heart to never be timid in your struggles, even if you see the enemies of the Church becoming stronger....The one that struggles for the Orthodox faith and for our holy Church has the Almighty God for an ally, while the one that struggles for deceit has the ever cunning devil for ally, the weak master of darkness, of lies and all heresies, fallacies and wickedness. There is nothing more honourable, modest and holier when one struggles for the faith. And if while struggling he is killed by the enemies, without bending, he is the brightest victor and he will receive the trophy of the call above and the heavenly crown. So fight for the faith and struggle until death, to become worthy heir of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the present time, when the Church is attacked in many ways and means by many and diverse fighters, your effort in confronting and combating will succeed, with God's help and will save some from to- day's flood of sin.
I congratulate you for your zeal for the dissemination of the Christian truths and for the benefit of the Christians. We should know that according to the toil and willingness each one works, rewards will be given by the wage giver Christ. While there is time, let us work spiritually and sow with labour so that we may reap in peace.
Elder Philotheos Zervakos
Ecumenism, Orthodoxy and Heresy
Two miracles proving that the calendar does not save but repentance does.
"Unpublished letters on the issue of calendar" by Archim. Philotheos Zervakos.
The monks of Loggovarda do not follow calendars, they follow Christ who said "Whoever wishes to follow Me let him deny himself, carry his cross and follow Me" (Mark 8:34). He did not say he should follow the lifeless calendar and he who believes in it and is baptized will be saved. The believer in Christ and in the Bible will be saved, not by the old calendar.
Many of the fanatical and zealous old calendarists are greatly deceived believing that without the calendar man cannot be saved. All the Saints, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and the Sanctified were not saved and performed miracles based on the calendar but on faith.
The performed mysteries by the new calendarists are valid, because the calendar does not perform and sanctify them, but they are performed by the Holy Spirit that the new calendarists also invoke to sanctify them and man is saved by the true faith, of love and good works, not by calendars..... Worship which many old calendarists attribute to the old calendar has made them time worshippers, that lack true and sincere love towards God and neighbour, they lack love towards each other and even to those old calendarists, the impiety, the unfaithfulness, the bad polity, the ignoring of the Law of God, the divine commandments and holy traditions of most clerics and lay new calendarists, prolong the division, the schism, increase the passions, the hatred, the bad intentions, the sins, they harden the hearts of both, distance themselves from repentance and we approach, if we do not repent, perdition.
"If you do not repent" said the Lord, "you shall lose yourselves" (Luke 13:3).
All of us, we have become, with the exception of a few, a cunning generation, crooked and perverse; and to the perverse the Lord sends them to perverse ways. The cunning like all sinners He destroys and the Lord keeps all those that love Him. Men will not be judged nor condemned as much for the calendars as for their lack of love and good works. Let us love the Lord, let us keep His commandments and if as humans we commit a sin, let us repent that we may not be excluded from the Bridegroom Christ.
It is needful here to describe two miracles that demonstrate that the mysteries performed by the new calendarists are valid and that man does not live by the calendars but repentance saves him, through confession, faith, love, good works, God.
In the village of Parthenios there was a young man who was convinced by some old calendarists not to go to the Church, nor to go for confession or partake of the holy mysteries because he would be cursed since liturgy or the mysteries cannot be performed under the new calendar. All those who go to the Church are new calendarists, they confess, they commune but they are all cursed. The young man becoming scared distanced himself from the Church and from the holy Communion and to the unfortunate one happened what Saint Kyrill said of those who distance themselves from the Church and the holy mysteries, that they become enemies of God and friends of the devil. The compassionate God however did not leave him to perish because he was naively deceived by the old calendarists, so when he became sick and was approaching death, one day a crowd of demons entered his room and embracing him they told him, "We came to take you, you are ours". At the presence and sight of the vile demons the youth became frightened and loudly cried, "Help! Help! Send away these black ones that came to take me". Frightened the parents and the neighbours came and asked him what happened. He would however scream louder. "Throw out these black ones who came to take me away" The parents and those who run to him could not see anyone and tried to console him but he continued to tremble, to cry and to scream to throw them out.
Seeing that they could not help him at all, he tells his parents. "Bring me Father Philotheos to confess me" but because they told him he was away he told them "Bring me Father Manoli". They told him, "He is a new calendarist and you never went to the church because he was a new calendarist and you wouldn't even greet him, how then do you now seek him? "I was wrong, I was wrong; bring him that I may confess". They called him, the Father came and he confessed. When however the Priest came, the demons went outside and stood by the door. However, when the priest read the prayer of repentance, the black and uncomely demons left crying, while some beautiful youths, very good looking, embraced him and told him, "Because you confessed yourself clean, we came to help you".
The youth stopped crying and being scared, with cries of thanksgiving, with cheerful and joyful face, he invited his parents and neighbours to come and see the brightness and beauty of those young ones but being unworthy they could not see them. Three days later he told his parents, "Call Father Manoli tomorrow at 9:00am to come and commune me because the young ones who keep me company told me that they will take me with them. So it happened and he left happy and with good hope to the Jerusalem above.
At Syros there were two hieromonks who were spiritual fanatics and great zealots of the old calendar, who advised and preached the people, the Christians, not to go to the church, nor to partake of the holy mysteries. Instead of partaking of communion, they would say, it is preferable to fill a glass with wine and dipping a slice of bread in it to eat it. Also, about their babies, instead of new calendarist priests baptizing them, it would be preferable to have a swim in the sea or to fill a container with water and wash them. In fact someone much more fanatical used to say that the communion of the new calendarists, he would place on the floor and step on it, while mouthing a rude word.
They had between them such hatred, envy and maliciousness that they would do nothing else but go to the people, acquaintances and strangers alike and accuse one another, with horrible accusations and slander. There was such a great scandal in the town of Syros.
Some sensible and God fearing people begged me to intervene and pacify them. I tried to convince them as Christians and especially as hieromonks and spiritual people to repent, to discuss, to expel the malice and enmity that they may not die in enmity. But it proved impossible. One of them, after many examples and teachings from the Bible, I managed to convince him that they should forgive each other. The other one proved impossible, so I told him, "if you do not forgive him then do not perform the liturgy, for Christ says: "First make peace with your enemy and then offer your gift or sacrifice". He however told me: "I shall perform the liturgy ....". But instead of performing the liturgy few days later when I told him not to perform the liturgy, he took a knife and went to kill the nephew of the industrialist, for he believed that he stole his money. However, because the policeman locked him up for a few days and warned him not to disturb his nephew anymore otherwise he would punish him, he went, like another Judas took rope tied it to a rock and tried to drown himself. Luckily, at that moment a woman who saw him, called others who then untied him and saved him. But because of his mental state he was locked up in a mental asylum. When he was approaching death, the priest went to commune him but found him eating his waste! Thus he died uncommuned, he who was saying that he would place the communion of the new calendarists on the floor and step on it and plaster it with waste. When he was exhumed his body was incorrupt and black, it stunk foul, his mouth was open and his tongue hung outside his mouth. These were the achievements of fanatical old calendarists, who expelled love while holding tight to the old calendar not to lose it.
If I had to enumerate the deceits and heresies the old calendarists fell into after the introduction of the new ecclesiastic calendar (eortologion), time would not be enough. Short of re-baptism and re-Chrismation, some would not dare enter the churches of new calendar Christians, would not venerate the sacred icons and even while passing outside the churches would not bother to cross themselves, saying that these churches are Latinized and the icons are polluted. And when the bells chimed on the feast of a Saint, some old calendarists would say that it was a feast of Latin Saints. A certain old calendarist nun from a convent in Tinos, while passing by the open doors of the Church of Great Paraskevi and seeing the crucified Christ in the middle of the Church, turned her back to Christ. When another old calendarist nun questioned her why she was not ashamed, she answered with impudence and disrespect saying: "That Christ is not ours, He belongs to the Latin". Enough I do not wish to say any more, but just to add, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do" (nor what they say).
This I write, so that you not be deceived and that you do not believe I say these to defend the new calendar. From the beginning I was, is and shall be against the thoughtless, anti-canonical and illegal introduction of the new calendar. I struggled, struggle and shall struggle to the end for the return of the old calendar, not because I consider that the calendar is what will save me. "I struggle for the solidarity, the unity and peace of the Church" without which both nation and Church will sink.....
Guard that you love God and always be close to Him.
With Pastoral love and wholehearted blessings,
From "Unpublished letters on the issue of Calendar"
+Archim. Philotheos Zervakos
Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Paros
Publication of the Holy Monastery of Loggovarda.
Friday, November 27, 2009
The Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God "Of the Sign" is one of the most ancient icons of the Russian Church. In the thirteenth century during the Tatar invasion, when all the Russian realm was put to the extremest tribulation, the city of Kursk, ravaged by the Horde of Batu, fell into desolation.
One day in the environs of the city a hunter noticed the ancient icon, lying on a root face downwards to the ground. The hunter lifted it and saw that the image of the icon was similar to the Novgorod "Znamenie" Icon. With the appearance of this icon immediately there appeared its first miracle. Just as the hunter lifted up the holy icon from the earth, right then, at that place where the icon lay, gushed up strongly a spring of pure water. This occurred on September 8, 1259. The hunter decided not to leave the icon in the forest and settled on as a resting place an ancient small chapel, in which he put the newly-appeared image of the Theotokos. Soon inhabitants of the city of Ryl'a heard about this, and being in location not far away, they began to visit the place of the appearance for venerating the new holy image.
They transferred the icon to Ryl'a and put it in a new church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. But the icon did not long remain there. It disappeared and returned to its former place of appearance. The inhabitants of Ryl'a repeatedly took it and carried it to the city, but the icon incomprehensibly returned to its former place. Everyone then realized, that the Theotokos preferred the place of appearance of Her Icon. The special help granted by the Mother of God through this icon is bound up with important events in Russian history: with the war of liberation of the Russian nation during the Polish-Lithuanian incursion in 1612, and the 1812 Fatherland war. From the icon several copies were made, which also were glorified.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The Consecration of the Church of the Great Martyr George at Kiev: Beginning with the holy Prince Vladimir (July 15), it was the pious custom of Russian princes to build a church in honor of their patron saint. Thus, St Vladimir (in Baptism Basil) built at Kiev and Vyshgorod temples dedicated to St Basil the Great (January 1).
Prince Izyaslav I (1054-1068) (in Baptism Demetrius) built a church and monastery at Kiev in the name of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrius (October 26). Prince Yaroslav the Wise (in Baptism George) started to build a church and men's monastery in honor of his patron saint, the Holy Great Martyr George (April 23). He also built a church named for his wife's patron saint, the Holy Great Martyr Irene (May 5). The temple in honor of the Great Martyr George was consecrated by St Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev (October 21), and a yearly commemoration was established in honor of this event.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Greetings in the Lord!
As mentioned earlier, the local Churches had not confronted the change in the same manner; some had accepted it and others hadn’t. But then how did each view the other? The Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches that did *not* change the calendar or react in any way or regard as heretic or schismatic the Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches that did change*, continued to have canonical relations and sacramental communion*.
It is paranoid for an Orthodox to assert that all those Holy Synods acted incorrectly. And we are not saying this because we regard the Synods to be infallible, but because along with those decisions, we also have *the testimonies of saints of that period, who had accepted this new ecclesiastic event, after having received divine revelations*.
It is our duty as faithful Orthodox to comprehend what the true Patristic spirit is. It is indeed very dangerous and scandalous to make sudden changes – even proper ones – to whatever pertains to ecclesiastic order; however, it is far more important for ecclesiastic unity to be preserved, in every possible way. *The Holy Fathers always avoided schisms in every way they could*, often resorting to significant concessions (“oekonomia”). How much more should this be observed in the matter of the calendar, *which is NOT a dogmatic issue*?
The Church, dear brethren, has a specific structure and boundaries, which have been founded by the head of our Faith – our Lord Jesus Christ – and has been built up by the God-enlightened decisions of the Apostles and the Holy Fathers. The Sacred Canons do not expel from the Church the heretics only, but the schismatics also; in other words, all those who do not have a canonical association with the remainder of Her corpus. Thus, we can be consistent with the position of the Venerable Filotheos, provided we do not stumble over something like the Church of Greece being with the “new” calendar as opposed to the Church of Jerusalem which is with the “old” calendar, *when there is canonical sacramental communion between them*.
Should we however follow a “church” which is self-styled as “pure” or “genuine” on account of its calendar, but has no sacramental communion with *the local, canonical Orthodox Churches*, then we are not acting in accordance with the opinion of the Venerable Filotheos and the Fathers of Longovarda, which you mentioned.
In concluding this letter, we would like to inform you that fr. Filotheos himself did not agree with the change in the calendar, however, he never broke away from the body of the Church, to create any new Synod. Furthermore, he also happened to be one of the most vehemently opposed to the pan-heresy of Ecumenism, but he also fought bravely against all those who had embraced it (he even checked Patriarchs), again staying inside the bosom of the Church.
As regards the Orthodox position and stance opposite Ecumenism, we have already written a letter on the subject (_http://www.impantokratoros.gr/Ecumenism-Confronting.en.aspx_).
† Archmandrite Cyril
The first great step towards the coexistence with the heretics.
The declaration for the mutual recognition of baptism.
From the newspaper "Orthodox Print" Issue 1692, Pg 4.
Steps for the complete elimination of the differences we Orthodox have with the Christian heresies, with the final goal, the recognition of the heretics by the Orthodox and the coexistence of our Church with their "Churches" have taken place in Germany, to which Protestant (of divers denominations), Anglicans, Old Catholics, Roman Catholics (Papal), the Ethiopian Church and the Orthodox Church of Germany, have signed a document of mutual recognition of baptism.
From this document the signatures from Planar are absent. And this is also consoling. However it is puzzling to the faithful members the participation and signature of the Orhtodox Church of Germany, with the understanding of course that what was reported is true. If it is true then we have the first steps by the Orthodox Church for her coexistence with the "Churches"and the affiliation with heresy.
What was reported.
Particularly from Magdenburgh, it was reported on April 23, the following:
"On April 29, the Evangelical Church of Germany, The German Bishopric Synod, Orthodox and Old Eastern Churches as well as the Free Churches within the German Confederation, will be signing, for the first time, a formal and clear declaration for the mutual recognition of baptism among them. The signing of the agreement will take place in the framework of an ecumenical Divine Liturgy on April 29, at 15.00 hr at the Cathedral of Magdenburgh. Present will be the leading representatives of 11 participating Churches as well as the sitting Cardinal Karl Leman, of the German Bishopric Synod, hosting will be done by the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the District Of Saxony, Bishop Alex Noak and Bishop Walter Klimber (of the Evangelical Methodist Church) will preach.
Some thirty years there were in Germany individual regional agreements between the Churches- members of the Evangelical Church of Germany and Roman Catholic Bishops, for the reciprocal recognition of baptism. However there was no such agreement until now, at the level of the Evangelical Church of Germany or of the German Bishopric Synod. On May 2002 Cardinal Walter Casper, President of the Papal Synod initiated for the promotion of the union of Christians, the involvement of the Bishopric Synods on the topic of baptism and the ecumenical significance of the mutual inter-recognition (of baptism) as well as the signing of corresponding agreements between Churches. The German Bishopric Synod accepted this initiative from Rome, and proposed the mutual inter-recognition of baptism be pursued by the whole region of the German Bishopric Synod and of the Evangelical Church of Germany. A working group to which representatives of the Union of Orthodox Churches of Germany participated, as well as the Evangelical - Methodist Church (on behalf of other free Churches), the Old Catholics (on behalf of the Anglican Church), produced a document to which the Synod of the Evangelical Church of Germany as well as the entire German Bishopric Synod was in consensus.The following Churches were in consensus with this document.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, The Anglican Workers Community, the Episcopal communities of Germany, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Germany, the Evangelical Calvinist Church of Lower Saxony, the Evangelical Brotherly Union Church of Germany, the Evangelical Methodist Church, The Catholic Diocese of the Old Catholics in Germany, the Orthodox Church of Germany, the Roman Catholic Church, the Autonomous Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The ecumenical Divine Liturgy will be performed by the above representatives of the participating Churches. The sitting Bishop Volfgang Hubber of the Evangelical Church of Germany Synod, will initiate the divine liturgy, while the sitting Cardinal Karl Leman of the German Bishopric Synod will send forth the celebratory community with a command of baptism. The sermon will be given by Bishop Walter Klimber (of the Evangelical Methodist Church). For the Workers Union of Christians Churches who did not sign the inter-recognition baptism agreement, Pastor Verner Funk (of the Mennonites) will pronounce a greeting. One reason for this caution is due to the theological appraisal of infant baptism.
The Article of the Mutual Recognition of Baptism.
The Christian Baptism.
Jesus Christ is our salvation. Through Him God overcame the apostasis of the sinner from Him (Rom. 5:10) and made us His sons and daughters. As a participation of the mystical death and resurrection of Christ, the baptism means new birth in Jesus Christ. Whoever accepts this mystery and affirms in faith the love of God, joins with Christ and at the same time with His people of all periods and places. As a symbol of the unity of all the Christians, the baptism links with Jesus Christ the foundation of this union. And despite all the differences in the perception of the Church, there exists between us a basic agreement as of the baptism. For this we recognize each performed baptism according to Christ's commandment, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, with the symbolic act of submergence into the water, or by the pouring of the water and we are pleased for every person that is baptized. This common way of inter-recognition of baptism is expressed, the in Jesus Christ founded bond of union (Eph.4:4-6). The baptism performed thus is done once and is not repeated.
We recognize the Lima document: The common baptism in Christ is "an invitation to the Churches to overcome what divides them and to manifest visibly their community (Convergent declarations of the Commission of Faith and System of Government of the Ecumenical Synod of the Churches, Baptism, Art.6) Hannover, 23 April 2007.
The newspaper "Orthodox Print" believes that the Orthodox Church of Germany as well as the Phanar, to which the Orthodox Church of Germany belongs, owe to make it public through an official announcement and to tell us if from here on the Orthodox baptism will be performed for those who come to Orthodoxy from different heresies.
I found your article titled: "The first great step for the coexistence with the heretics", very disturbing. As Orthodox Christian who lives in the country where this "agreement" has been signed by a priest, I am a bit confused as to how to react to it. It truly bothers me! What can I do? I beg you. Can you tell me what this agreement means in the context of the Church specifically, and to the Orthodox Church in general. I have found that the agreement was realized by a responsible priest in Germany, but not by the Patriarch or some higher ecclesiastical authority. One more query, the document, the so called Document of Lima has been signed and authorized by all the Churches. Please help me.
With friendly greetings,
Dear Mrs .......,
"Greetings in the Lord!"
We praise the Lord that in every corner of the earth there are pious people who do not suffer from the grievous affliction of indifference. A contagious contemporary disease that is widespread, resulting into spiritual paralysis, interrupting as a consequence the Christian struggle and ending in spiritual death.
The proper Christian should be involved in "good restlessness" as Elder Paisios characteristically would say, becoming specifically and primarily interested by whatever concerns his Orthodox Faith. However this vigilance should at no time result in the loss of inner peace and going overboard with unjustifiable stress. And we underline this because the boundaries are very fine and the dangers of losing the correct route extremely serious. What you describe in your letter are topics that cause us stress and many times anger, since they concern movements clearly anti-orthodox and anti-ecclesiastical. Without of course this meaning that we bear empathy towards somebody- whatever he may believe in- or that we oppose healthy dialogues. In contrast we accept with great love whoever has the good intention to seek the Truth.
Please note the said article is signed by a single cleric. We do not consider of special importance, if some Christian agreement was signed by one cleric, who apparently represents higher office, or some higher ecclesiastical authority etc. What is important and worthy for the Church is whether such a decision derives from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, in step with Orthodox Tradition of our Apostles and Holy Fathers.
The above position many times is unjustifiably misunderstood, suggesting a falsely understood "obedience". It should be understood that at no time we should doubt the divinely taught Ecclesiastical officiating, without of course forgetting that the leaders of the church are humans. Thus the ecclesiastical history teems with cleric examples (even of Patriarchal and Bishopric Synods) which have been liberated spiritually and finally brought out of the God-Man body of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. While, the heretical and false decisions were disposed off in the waste basket. This is the reason we preach: Do not be afraid, for the guide of the Church is the Holy Spirit. The Great Father St. Athanasius reassures us by confirming: "Upon this (the teaching and tradition of the Lord which was received by the Apostles and preserved by the Fathers) the Church is founded and whoever falls off it, could no further even be called a Christian" (letter to Serapion 1). And this applies to everyone, no matter how high hierarchal position he may hold.
According to everything mentioned, we wish to answer specifically the question about the agreement of Lima. We are not certain by whom it was signed. However we do not understand why you stop at this, since there are more recent ones which (God forbid) reach the boundaries of blaspheme. Your question that you express with justified apprehension, specifically how each one of us should react, we believe it is not possible to be replied with a detailed "prescription". It can be put though on the path of the Sacred Tradition of Holy Orthodoxy. She teaches us that without fail we owe it to be vigilant and guard our Faith unadulterated and dynamically react against anything and anybody that offends her. However every opposition should be characterized by special attention and discretion. For many were those who through exaggeration and with "not well informed" zeal they were driven to the opposite bank and dropped out of the Church. It is essential as well to study and research the teachings and life of the Saints and of the Godbearing Fathers. Even- and why not- by creating associations with clerics and laity of the Orthodox persuasion, for strengthening and support. Everything though- and we again stress- with care and discretion. Finally, we note the most important: to struggle and live according to God's commandments and not cease to pray with pain and love for everybody. Let us not forget that our hope and solution for everything is Christ, the Head of the Church. "We believe steadfastly that, as the Prophet said (Is 63:9) neither an elder, nor an Angel saved us but our Lord, (Decision of the 7th ecumenical Synod).
May God be with you! In Peace!
With blessings, Arch.Kyrill
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Today is the prelude of God's pleasure and the proclamation of man's salvation. The Virgin is clearly made manifest in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all. Let us also cry out to her with mighty voice, "Hail, fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation."
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Today, the most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The Holy Martyr Mercurius of Smolensk was a Slav by birth, probably from Moravia, the descendant of a princely line. Brought up in Orthodoxy, St Mercurius in zeal for the true Faith left his own native land for Russia, where he served in the army of the Prince of Smolensk. The saintly soldier secretly led an ascetic life. He was strict in fasting, he was chaste, spending his nights at prayer, and spiritually preparing himself to suffer for Christ. In the year 1239 a horde of Tatars [Mongols], already having laid waste to many Russian cities, appeared in the vicinity of Smolensk and set up camp 25 versts away at Dolgomost, threatening to destroy the city and its holy places.
A church warden, praying by night in the Smolensk cathedral before a wonderworking icon of the Theotokos, heard the voice of the Queen of Heaven commanding him to find the holy warrior and say to him: "Mercurius, go forth into battle, for the Sovereign Lady summons you." The soldier went himself to the cathedral and heard the voice of the All-Pure Virgin, sending him to fight the enemy and promising him heavenly assistance.
The warrior of Christ set off that very night to the Tatar camp at Dolgomost. He fought there with the leader of the Tatar army, a giant possessed of immense strength. He killed him and entered into single-combat with the enemy host. Invoking the name of the Lord and of the All-Pure Theotokos, the holy warrior destroyed many of the enemy. The Tatar warriors watched with terror as lightning-bearing men and a radiant Woman aided St Mercurius in the fight. Unable to stand against the warrior of Christ, they retreated in flight. St Mercurius was himself killed in the battle by the son of the Tatar giant he had killed.
The inhabitants of Smolensk, saved through the miraculous intervention of the Lord and the Most Holy Theotokos, reverently buried the body of the soldier-martyr in the cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. Soon after his death, St Mercurius appeared in a vision to the church warden and ordered that his armor be hung over his grave, promising the Smolensk people constant help and intervention in every sorrow and struggle. Even today the sandals of the holy Martyr Mercurius are still preserved in the Smolensk cathedral church. His Feast was established at the end of the sixteenth century, and in 1509 the inhabitants of Smolensk were already calling him their special patron.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saint Gregory, Bishop of Agrigentum, was born on the island of Sicily, in the village of Pretorium, not far from the city of Agrigentum, of the pious parents Chariton and Theodota. The infant Gregory was baptized by the bishop of Agrigentum, Pataimonus. At ten years of age the studious boy mastered writing and was able to read, and to sing church hymns. At twelve years of age St Gregory was given to the clergy, and he was put under the spiritual guidance of the archdeacon Donatus. St Gregory spent the next ten years in the Agrigentum church. Then, however, an angel of the Lord appeared to the holy youth, who had a fervent desire to visit Jerusalem, and said that God had blessed his intention.
At Jerusalem St Gregory was presented to Patriarch Macarius (563-574), who retained the pious youth for service in his own cathedral church, ordaining him deacon. The soul of St Gregory thirsted for monastic labors, and the Patriarch gave his blessing, allowing him go to a monastery on the Mount of Olives. After a year St Gregory departed this monastery for a desert Elder, who for four years taught him spiritual wisdom, humility and the principles of monastic life. The ascetic, foreseeing in St Gregory a future great luminary of the Church, gave him a blessing to forsake the solitary life.
Having left the Elder, St Gregory dwelt for a certain time at Jerusalem, and then went to Constantinople, where he was received with love by the brethren of the monastery of the holy Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus. The ascetic efforts of St Gregory were noticed by Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople (552-565), at whose insistence the saint participated in the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553). At the completion of the Council St Gregory set off for Rome, to venerate the graves of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
During this time the bishop of Agrigentum died. The elder clergy and illustrious citizens of Agrigentum journeyed to Rome with a request for the Pope to determine a successor for their late hierarch from among a list of candidates they were presenting. The Pope, however, declined their proposal through divine inspiration, and instead summoned St Gregory to serve them as bishop.
For a few years St Gregory peacefully guided the flock entrusted to him by God. He was a defender of the down-trodden, a wise preacher, and miraculous healer. As archbishop, St Gregory led the life of an ascetic monk, fervently observing monastic vows. The flock loved their hierarch and trusted in him. But there were also malicious people who had resolved to slander him.
While St Gregory was in church, these vicious people secretly led a bribed harlot into his chambers, and then in front of the crowd which accompanied the bishop to the doors of his house after services, they led her out and accused St Gregory of the deadly sin of fornication. They placed the holy bishop under guard. The people attempted to defend their bishop, but were unsuccessful. At the trial the harlot gave false testimony against St Gregory. Just as she pronounced the words of slander, she went into a fit of frenzied rage. The judges accused the saint of sorcery. St Gregory was sent for judgment to the Roman bishop together with a report about his "crimes."
The Pope, after reading the charges, did not want to see the accused, and gave orders to remand him to prison. The saint endured his humiliation humbly, dwelling in constant prayer. His prayerful effort and wonderworking gifts quickly became known through the city and the surrounding region. Pious Romans began to gather at the prison, whom the imprisoned saint taught about the righteous life, and he implored the Lord to heal the sick.
After two years, a clairvoyant Elder named Mark, who had known St Gregory since youth, came to the Pope. The Elder did not believe the charges and he persuaded the Pope to convene a Council to decide Gregory's case. At the invitation of the Pope, many clergy from the city of Agrigentum came to the Council, together with all those making accusations against the saint, including the harlot. From Constantinople three bishops and the imperial dignitary Marcian came to Rome. Along the way Marcian had fallen grievously ill. On the advice of many people who had received healing through the prayers of St Gregory, servants carried the dying man to the prison where the wonderworking saint languished. Through the prayers of St Gregory the Lord granted healing to Marcian.
At the Council the slanderers attempted to renew their accusations, and as their chief proof they presented the deranged harlot to the judge, declaring that Gregory had bewitched her. But the saint prayed over her and cast out the devil. The woman came to her senses and told the Council the whole truth. The slanderers were brought to shame and judged. Marcian even wanted to execute them, but St Gregory implored forgiveness for them.
St Gregory returned in honor to his own cathedral, and surrounded by the love of his flock, he guided the Church until his own peaceful demise.
Troparion - Tone 4
O God of our Fathers,
always act with kindness towards us;
take not Your mercy from us,
but guide our lives in peace
through the prayers of the hierarchs Gregory and Amphilóchius.
Kontakion - Tone 2
Holy thunder, spiritual trumpet,
nurse of the faithful and axe striking down heresy,
great and well-pleasing servant of the Trinity,
as you stand forever with the angels,
unceasingly pray for us all.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Holy Prince Yaropolk Izyaslavich, in Holy Baptism Peter, was the grandson of Yaroslav the Wise, and great-grandson of St Vladimir. He shared the sad fate of his father, the Kievan Great Prince Izyaslav, expelled by his brothers from Kiev.
Yaropolk journeyed on various missions for his father to the Polish king, the German emperor, and the Bishop of Rome St Gregory VII (1073-1085). Upon the death of Great Prince Svyatoslav in 1078, Prince Izyaslav was restored to his principality, and Yaropolk received Vyzhgorod. After the death of his father, he was given as his appanage the city of Vladimir-Volynsk, from which the Rostislavichi attempted to displace him.
On the way from Vladimir to Zvenigorod-Galitsk, Yaropolk was treacherously murdered by Neryadets, one of his retainers (+1086). The murderer indeed had been bribed by the Rostislavichi. The body of Yaropolk was transferred to Kiev and on December 5 was buried at the monastery of St Demetrius in the church of St Peter, which he himself had begun to build. Many Church memorials, beginning with the Chronicle of St Nestor, testify that the murdered Prince Yaropolk be venerated in the rank of saints well-pleasing to God.
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):
Saturday, November 21, 2009
According to Holy Tradition, the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple took place in the following manner. The parents of the Virgin Mary, Sts Joachim and Anna, praying for an end to their childlessness, vowed that if a child were born to them, they would dedicate it to the service of God.
When the Most Holy Virgin reached the age of three, the holy parents decided to fulfill their vow. They gathered together their relatives and acquaintances, and dressed the All-Pure Virgin in Her finest clothes. Singing sacred songs and with lighted candles in their hands, virgins escorted Her to the Temple (Ps. 44/45:14-15). There the High Priest and several priests met the handmaiden of God. In the Temple, fifteen high steps led to the sanctuary, which only the priests and High Priest could enter. (Because they recited a Psalm on each step, Psalms 119/120-133/134 are called "Psalms of Ascent.") The child Mary, so it seemed, could not make it up this stairway. But just as they placed Her on the first step, strengthened by the power of God, She quickly went up the remaining steps and ascended to the highest one. Then the High Priest, through inspiration from above, led the Most Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest entered once a year to offer a purifying sacrifice of blood. Therefore, all those present in the Temple were astonished at this most unusual occurrence.
After entrusting their child to the Heavenly Father, Joachim and Anna returned home. The All-Holy Virgin remained in the quarters for virgins near the Temple. According to the testimony of Holy Scripture (Exodus 38; 1 Kings 1: 28; Luke 2: 37), and also the historian Josephus Flavius, there were many living quarters around the Temple, in which those who were dedicated to the service of God dwelt.
The earthly life of the Most Holy Theotokos from Her infancy until She was taken up to Heaven is shrouded in deep mystery. Her life at the Jerusalem Temple was also a secret. "If anyone were to ask me," said St Jerome, "how the Most Holy Virgin spent the time of Her youth, I would answer that that is known to God Himself and the Archangel Gabriel, Her constant guardian."
But there are accounts in Church Tradition, that during the All-Pure Virgin's stay at the Temple, She grew up in a community of pious virgins, diligently read the Holy Scripture, occupied Herself with handicrafts, prayed constantly, and grew in love for God. From ancient times, the Church has celebrated the Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Indications that the Feast was observed in the first centuries of Christianity are found in the traditions of Palestinian Christians, which say that the holy Empress Helen (May 21) built a church in honor of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple.
St Gregory of Nyssa, in the fourth century, also mentions this Feast. In the eighth century Sts Germanus and Tarasius, Patriarchs of Constantinople, delivered sermons on the Feast of the Entry.
The Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple foretells God's blessing for the human race, the preaching of salvation, the promise of the coming of Christ.
DISCOURSE ON THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF OUR MOST PURE LADY THEOTOKOS INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica
If a tree is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit (Mt. 7:17; Luke 6:44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself, She who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above? Therefore, the coeternal and identical Image of goodness, Preeternal, transcending all being, He Who is the preexisting and good Word of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image, that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven. For this purpose, He had to assume a flesh that was both new and ours, that He might refashion us from out of ourselves. Now He finds a Handmaiden perfectly suited to these needs, the supplier of Her own unsullied nature, the Ever-Virgin now hymned by us, and Whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate. God predestined Her before the ages for the salvation and reclaiming of our kind. She was chosen, not just from the crowd, but from the ranks of the chosen of all ages, renowned for piety and understanding, and for their God-pleasing words and deeds.
In the beginning, there was one who rose up against us: the author of evil, the serpent, who dragged us into the abyss. Many reasons impelled him to rise up against us, and there are many ways by which he enslaved our nature: envy, rivalry, hatred, injustice, treachery, slyness, etc. In addition to all this, he also has within him the power of bringing death, which he himself engendered, being the first to fall away from true life.
The author of evil was jealous of Adam, when he saw him being led from earth to Heaven, from which he was justly cast down. Filled with envy, he pounced upon Adam with a terrible ferocity, and even wished to clothe him with the garb of death. Envy is not only the begetter of hatred, but also of murder, which this truly man-hating serpent brought about in us. For he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruin of that which was created in the image and likeness of God. Since he was not bold enough to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit. This truly terrible and malicious plotter pretended to be a friend and useful adviser by assuming the physical form of a serpent, and stealthily took their position. By his God-opposing advice, he instills in man his own death-bearing power, like a venomous poison.
If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the divine commandment, then he would have shown himself the vanquisher of his enemy, and withstood his deathly attack. But since he voluntarily gave in to sin, he was defeated and was made a sinner. Since he is the root of our race, he has produced us as death-bearing shoots. So, it was necessary for us, if he were to fight back against his defeat and to claim victory, to rid himself of the death-bearing venomous poison in his soul and body, and to absorb life, eternal and indestructible life.
It was necessary for us to have a new root for our race, a new Adam, not just one Who would be sinless and invincible, but one Who also would be able to forgive sins and set free from punishment those subject to it. And not only would He have life in Himself, but also the capacity to restore to life, so that He could grant to those who cleave to Him and are related to Him by race both life and the forgiveness of their sins, restoring to life not only those who came after Him, but also those who already had died before Him. Therefore, St Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, exclaims, "the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).
Except for God, there is no one who is without sin, or life-creating, or able to remit sin. Therefore, the new Adam must be not only Man, but also God. He is at the same time life, wisdom, truth, love, and mercy, and every other good thing, so that He might renew the old Adam and restore him to life through mercy, wisdom and righteousness. These are the opposites of the things which the author of evil used to bring about our aging and death.
As the slayer of mankind raised himself against us with envy and hatred, so the Source of life was lifted up [on the Cross] because of His immeasurable goodness and love for mankind. He intensely desired the salvation of His creature, i.e., that His creature would be restored by Himself. In contrast to this, the author of evil wanted to bring God's creature to ruin, and thereby put mankind under his own power, and tyrannically to afflict us. And just as he achieved the conquest and the fall of mankind by means of injustice and cunning, by deceit and his trickery, so has the Liberator brought about the defeat of the author of evil, and the restoration of His own creature with truth, justice and wisdom.
It was a deed of perfect justice that our nature, which was voluntarily enslaved and struck down, should again enter the struggle for victory and cast off its voluntary enslavement. Therefore, God deigned to receive our nature from us, hypostatically uniting with it in a marvelous way. But it was impossible to unite that Most High Nature, Whose purity is incomprehensible for human reason, to a sinful nature before it had been purified. Therefore, for the conception and birth of the Bestower of purity, a perfectly spotless and Most Pure Virgin was required.
Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation. He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Coeternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8), immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity, He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, "practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips" (Is. 53: 9). He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50/51: 5). Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.
God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin. She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to Her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.
Turn your attention then, to where this choice began. From the sons of Adam God chose the wondrous Seth, who showed himself a living heaven through his becoming behavior, and through the beauty of his virtues. That is why he was chosen, and from whom the Virgin would blossom as the divinely fitting chariot of God. She was needed to give birth and to summon the earth-born to heavenly sonship. For this reason also all the lineage of Seth were called "sons of God," because from this lineage a son of man would be born the Son of God. The name Seth signifies a rising or resurrection, or more specifically, it signifies the Lord, Who promises and gives immortal life to all who believe in Him.
And how precisely exact is this parallel! Seth was born of Eve, as she herself said, in place of Abel, whom Cain killed through jealousy (Gen. 4:25); and Christ, the Son of the Virgin, was born for us in place of Adam, whom the author of evil also killed through jealousy. But Seth did not resurrect Abel, since he was only a type of the resurrection. But our Lord Jesus Christ resurrected Adam, since He is the very Life and the Resurrection of the earth-born, for whose sake the descendents of Seth are granted divine adoption through hope, and are called the children of God. It was because of this hope that they were called sons of God, as is evident from the one who was first called so, the successor in the choice. This was Enos, the son of Seth, who as Moses wrote, first hoped to call on the Name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26).
In this manner, the choice of the future Mother of God, beginning with the very sons of Adam and proceeding through all the generations of time, through the Providence of God, passes to the Prophet-king David and the successors of his kingdom and lineage. When the chosen time had come, then from the house and posterity of David, Joachim and Anna are chosen by God. Though they were childless, they were by their virtuous life and good disposition the finest of all those descended from the line of David. And when in prayer they besought God to deliver them from their childlessness, and promised to dedicate their child to God from its infancy. By God Himself, the Mother of God was proclaimed and given to them as a child, so that from such virtuous parents the all-virtuous child would be raised. So in this manner, chastity joined with prayer came to fruition by producing the Mother of virginity, giving birth in the flesh to Him Who was born of God the Father before the ages.
Now, when Righteous Joachim and Anna saw that they had been granted their wish, and that the divine promise to them was realized in fact, then they on their part, as true lovers of God, hastened to fulfill their vow given to God as soon as the child had been weaned from milk. They have now led this truly sanctified child of God, now the Mother of God, this Virgin into the Temple of God. And She, being filled with Divine gifts even at such a tender age, ... She, rather than others, determined what was being done over Her. In Her manner She showed that She was not so much presented into the Temple, but that She Herself entered into the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love. She considered it desirable and fitting that she should enter into the Temple and dwell in the Holy of Holies.
Therefore, the High Priest, seeing that this child, more than anyone else, had divine grace within Her, wished to set Her within the Holy of Holies. He convinced everyone present to welcome this, since God had advanced it and approved it. Through His angel, God assisted the Virgin and sent Her mystical food, with which She was strengthened in nature, while in body She was brought to maturity and was made purer and more exalted than the angels, having the Heavenly spirits as servants. She was led into the Holy of Holies not just once, but was accepted by God to dwell there with Him during Her youth, so that through Her, the Heavenly Abodes might be opened and given for an eternal habitation to those who believe in Her miraculous birthgiving.
So it is, and this is why She, from the beginning of time, was chosen from among the chosen. She Who is manifest as the Holy of Holies, Who has a body even purer than the spirits purified by virtue, is capable of receiving ... the Hypostatic Word of the Unoriginate Father. Today the Ever-Virgin Mary, like a Treasure of God, is stored in the Holy of Holies, so that in due time, (as it later came to pass) She would serve for the enrichment of, and an ornament for, all the world. Therefore, Christ God also glorifies His Mother, both before, and also after His birth.
We who understand the salvation begun for our sake through the Most Holy Virgin, give Her thanks and praise according to our ability. And truly, if the grateful woman (of whom the Gospel tells us), after hearing the saving words of the Lord, blessed and thanked His Mother, raising her voice above the din of the crowd and saying to Christ, "Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps Thou hast sucked" (Luke 11:27), then we who have the words of eternal life written out for us, and not only the words, but also the miracles and the Passion, and the raising of our nature from death, and its ascent from earth to Heaven, and the promise of immortal life and unfailing salvation, then how shall we not unceasingly hymn and bless the Mother of the Author of our Salvation and the Giver of Life, celebrating Her conception and birth, and now Her Entry into the Holy of Holies?
Now, brethren, let us remove ourselves from earthly to celestial things. Let us change our path from the flesh to the spirit. Let us change our desire from temporal things to those that endure. Let us scorn fleshly delights, which serve as allurements for the soul and soon pass away. Let us desire spiritual gifts, which remain undiminished. Let us turn our reason and our attention from earthly concerns and raise them to the inaccessible places of Heaven, to the Holy of Holies, where the Mother of God now resides.
Therefore, in such manner our songs and prayers to Her will gain entry, and thus through her mediation, we shall be heirs of the everlasting blessings to come, through the grace and love for mankind of Him Who was born of Her for our sake, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory, honor and worship, together with His Unoriginate Father and His Coeternal and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Troparion - Tone 4
Today with the most revered of all cities
we fittingly celebrate your honored translation to heaven,
Father of Fathers, wise Proclus.
Kontakion - Tone 4
The most pure Temple of the Savior;
the precious Chamber and Virgin;
the sacred Treasure of the glory of God,
is presented today to the house of the Lord.
She brings with her the grace of the Spirit,
therefore, the angels of God praise her:
"Truly this woman is the abode of heaven."
SOURCE FOR ICON ON RIGHT:
SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2008(with 2007's link here also):