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http://englishorthodoxweb1.blogspot.com - Orthodoxy
http://englishorthodoxweb2.blogspot.com - Orthodoxy
http://englishorthodoxweb3.blogspot.com - Conversions to Orthodoxy
http://englishorthodoxweb4.blogspot.com - Holy Confession
http://englishorthodoxweb5.blogspot.com - Questions
http://englishorthodoxweb6.blogspot.com - Questions
http://englishorthodoxweb7.blogspot.com - Conversions to Orthodoxy
http://englishorthodoxweb8.blogspot.com - Conversions to Orthodoxy
http://englishorthodoxweb9.blogspot.com - Conversions to Orthodoxy
http://englishorthodoxweb10.blogspot.com - Conversions to Orthodoxy
http://englishorthodoxweb13.blogspot.com - Orthodox Catechism
What is a Catechumen?
A catechumen is one preparing for entrance into the Church, usually by baptism and chrismation. The standard period for preparation of catechumens is one liturgical year, though in ancient times it often lasted two years.
One of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Orthodox Church
Holy Confession (or Repentance) is one of the holy mysteries (or sacraments) in the Orthodox Church, as well as many other Christian traditions. Through it, the penitent receives the divine forgiveness of Christ for any sins that are confessed. Confession is typically given to a Spiritual Father (usually a parish priest or monastic). Confession can be individual or general. The frequency of required confession (as well as whether or not general confession is permissible) can vary from parish to parish, and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The better is once a month or twice a month.
Confession In the Bible
"He shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong." (Num. 5:7)
"Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the guilt of their fathers. While they stood in their places, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day and spent another fourth of the day in confession and worship of the LORD their God." (Nehemiah 9:2-3)
"And read out publicly this scroll which we send you, in the house of the LORD, on the feast day and during the days of assembly: 'Justice is with the LORD, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and
prophets, and with our fathers, have sinned in the LORD'S sight and disobeyed him. We have neither heeded the voice of the LORD, our God, nor followed the precepts which the LORD set before us.'" (Baruch 1:14-18)
John the baptist
John the baptist practiced confession
"Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River." (Matthew 3:6)
"And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins." (Mark 1:5)
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16
"Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices." Acts 19:18
"Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:12)
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Preparing for Confession
Reflection on the Ten Commandments is often recommended as part of an examination of conscience.
From "Guidelines for Clergy" (Orthodox Church in America):
"The secrecy of the Mystery of Penance is considered an unquestionable rule in the entire Orthodox Church. Theologically, the need to maintain the secrecy of confession comes from the fact that the priest is only a witness before God. One could not expect a sincere and complete confession if the penitent has doubts regarding the practice of confidentiality. Betrayal of the secrecy of confession will lead to canonical punishment of the priest.
St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite exhorts the Spiritual Father to keep confessions confidential, even under strong constraining influence. The author of the Pedalion (the Rudder), states that a priest who betrays the secrecy of confession is to be deposed. The Metropolitan of Kos, Emanuel, mentions in his handbook (Exomologeteke) for confessors that the secrecy of confession is a principle without exception."
In St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite's Exomologitarion, he writes:
"Nothing else remains after confession, Spiritual Father, except to keep the sins you hear a secret, and to never reveal them, either by word, or by letter, or by a bodily gesture, or by any other sign, even if you are in danger of death, for that which the wise Sirach says applies to you: "Have you heard a word? Let it die with you" (Sir. 19:8); meaning, if you heard a secret word, let the word also die along with you, and do not tell it to either a friend of yours or an enemy of yours, for as long as you live. And further still, that which the Prophet Micah says: "Trust not in friends... beware of thy wife, so as not to commit anything to her" (Mic. 7:5).
For if you reveal them, firstly, you will be suspended or daresay deposed completely by the Ecclesiastical Canons. Secondly, you become a reason for more Christians not to confess, being afraid that you will reveal their sins, just as it happened during the time of Nektarios of Constantinople when the Christians did not want to confess on account of a Spiritual Father who revealed the sin of a woman. The divine Chrysostom both witnessed these things and suffered because of them on account of his trying to convince the people to confess. It is impossible for me to describe in words how much punishment this brings upon you, who are the cause of these things."
St. John of the Ladder writes:
"At no time do we find God revealing the sins which have been confessed to Him, lest by making these public knowledge, He should impede those who would confess and so make them incurably sick."
The Byzantine Nomocanon states, in Canon 120:
""A spiritual father, if he reveals to anyone a sin of one who had confessed receives a penance: he shall be suspended [from serving] for three years, being able to receive Communion only once a month, and must do 100 prostrations every day."
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
In John 20:15-17, we read that Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene after his death. Jesus calls Mary by name and she recognises his voice. Mary not only heard Jesus, she clearly saw and touched him as these verses indicate. Later on in the same chapter, Jesus appears to his disciples. Most significantly, Thomas who initially doubts, confirms that Jesus really was risen by feeling the physical wounds on his body. The Gospels all contain accounts of Jesus' appearances after his death.
Evidence for Jesus resurrection is also found in Acts 9, where the risen Christ appears to Paul on the Damascus road.
If God is loving, why does he send people to Hell?
God does not send anyone to Hell. By his very nature, God is holy and cannot overlook sin, yet he desires that all should come to know him through faith. However, God does not compel us to love him, for forced love is not love at all. Thus Hell is something that humans choose voluntarily, through their rejection of God.
If you believe what you like in the Gospels
"If you believe what you like in the Gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself".
—Saint Augustine of Hippo, North Africa (+430)
Fr. Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery,
Holy Mount Athos, Greece
When you see difficulties in your marriage, when you see that you’re making no progress in your spiritual life, don’t despair. But neither should you be content with whatever progress you may have already made. Lift up your heart to God. Imitate those who have given everything to God, and do what you can to be like them, even if all you can do is to desire in your heart to be like them. Leave the action to Christ. And when you advance in this way, you will truly sense what is the purpose of marriage. Otherwise, as a blind person wanders about, so too will you wander in life…
It is an adulteration of marriage for us to think that it is a road to happiness, as if it is a denial of the Cross. The joy of marriage is for husband and wife to put their shoulders to the wheel and together go forward on the uphill road of life. “You haven’t suffered? Then you haven’t loved,” says a certain poet. Only those who suffer can really love. And that’s why sadness is a necessary feature of marriage. “Marriage”, in the words of an ancient philosopher, “is a world made beautiful by hope, and strengthened by misfortune.” Just as steel is fashioned in a furnace, just so is a person proved in marriage, in the fire of difficulties…
Marriage, then, is a journey through sorrows and joys. When the sorrows seem overwhelming, then you you should remember that God is with you. He will take up your cross. It was He Who placed the crown of marriage on your head. But when when we ask God about something, He doesn’t always supply the solution right away. He leads us forward very slowly. Sometimes He takes years. We have to experience pain, otherwise life would have no meaning. But be of good cheer, for Christ is suffering with you, and the Holy Spirit, “through your groanings is pleading on your behalf” (cf. Rom. 8:26)…
Marriage is a road: it starts out from the earth and ends in heaven. It is a joining together, a bond with Christ, Who assures us that He will lead us to heaven, to be with Him always. Marriage is a bridge leading us from earth to heaven. It is as if the sacrament is saying: Above and beyond love, above and beyond your husband, your wife, above the everyday events, remember that you are destined for heaven, that you have set out on a road which will take you there without fail. The bride and the bridegroom give their hands to one another, and the priest takes hold of them both, and leads them round the table dancing and singing. Marriage is a movement, a progression, a journey which will end in heaven, in eternity.
In marriage, it seems that two people come together. However, it’s not two but three. The man marries the woman, and the woman marries the man, but two together also marry Christ. So three take part in the mystery, and three remain together in life.
in the dance around the table, the couple are led by the priest, who is a type of Christ. This means that Christ has seized us, rescued us, redeemed us, and made us His. And this is the “great mystery” of marriage (cf. Gal. 3:13).
The Orthodox Word vol. 50, no. 3 
Are there demons of devils?
Saint Sebastian Dabovich of Jackson and San Francisco, CA, USA (+1940):
“I have heard people say that there are no demons or devils. . . . . the Devil surely will not reveal himself to people who do not believe; for, should he do so, they might believe, and that would be against his own sly, diabolical policy, as he would have all in the dark, so terrible is his enmity against the Eternal Source of Light and Treasure of Goodness—God Almighty”.
ORTHODOX CHURCH QUOTES
Saint John of Kronstandt, Russia (+1908)
The candles lit before icons of saints reflect their ardent love for God for Whose sake they gave up everything that man prizes in life, including their very lives, as did the holy apostles, martyrs and others. These candles also mean that these saints are lamps burning for us and providing light for us by their own saintly living, their virtues and their ardent intercession for us before God through their constant prayers by day and night. The burning candles also stand for our ardent zeal and the sincere sacrifice we make out of reverence and gratitude to them for their solicitude on our behalf before God.
+ St. John of Kronstadt
Epistle, Gospel and Sermon
Fr. Stephan Anagnostopoulos, Greece
God speaks to us through the Sacred readings. The reading from Holy scripture tell us about Jesus’s life and how to follow His teachings. Gospel means “good news.” Both the Gospel and the Epistle readings are meant to inspire us with the good news about God’s love for all of us.
First the Epistle is read. The Epistle is a letter that was written by Saint Paul and other apostles and deemed by the Church to be Holy Scripture. At the beginning we are called to be attentive, to listen closely as we are about to hear God’s wisdom. Then there is the “prokeimenon.” This is a short verse from the Psalms that reveal God’s wonders to us. The reading symbolizes the revelation of the divine mysteries by the Prophets and anticipation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Originally it was a whole psalm chanted in antiphons.
Why is that the Epistle comes before the Gospel? We have an answer given by Saint Nicholas Cabasilas:
“What is said by the Lord Him self is the most perfect revelation, compared to that which is said by the Apostles. And since we mentioned that way is performed in the Divine Liturgy is revealed gradually, there is an upward, gradual journey that is why as we are moving from lower to higher, we first read the Epistle readings and then the Gospel readings” (Saint Nicholas Cabasilas, P.G. 150, 416C).
At the end of the Epistle reading we sing, Alleluia, which is an exclamation of joy which is sung majestically, slowly and melodically. Its actual meaning is “Glorify the Lord God!” It is the hymn of the Angels. It arouses our souls so our heart can turn towards heaven.
Before the reading of the Holy Gospel the priest will cense the Holy book read the following prayer.
“Shine in our hearts, O Master, Who lovest mankind, the pure light of Thy Divine Knowledge, and open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Thy Gospel teachings; implant in us also the fear of Thy blessed commandments, that trampling down all desires of the flesh, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing the things which are well-pleasing unto Thee; for
Thou art the illumination of our souls and bodies, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together with Thine Eternal Father, and Thine All-Holy, Good, and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, and from all Ages to all Ages. Amen”.
Before the Gospel is read the Priest will proclaim, “Wisdom, Stand upright. Let us all hear the Holy Gospel. Peace be to all”.
From the ancient times the proper way to offer respect was to stand attentively. This is the proper way of prayer as well. We stand in total silence and respect and listen to the Holy reading from the Holy Gospel in peace.
During the time when the Gospel is being read those entering into the church are to remain attentive in the Narthex and not to enter the nave of the church.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians (4:3-6) that, often, the Gospel lesson is concealed and incomprehensible because satan has blinded those who are unfaithful and unrepentant. This spiritual darkness is overcome with the Light of the truth of the Gospel. As Saint John the Theologian says,
“…light came into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light , lest his deeds should be reproved. (Jn 3:19-20)”.
Therefore the priest will ask the Lord to “shine in our hearts” with the “pure light of Thy Divine Knowledge.” It is important to read the New Testament on a daily basis. This is how our soul is illumined and our will strengthened to carry out His will. The knowledge of God leads us to salvation in union with Him.
Saint John of Damascus says,
“The Holy Bible with its meditation, elevates our mind and places it on the back of the Divine dove in order to carry us wit its sliver wings to the Son and the Word of God, Who reigns in the Kingdom of Heaven, to the Heir of the Planter of the noetic vineyard!”.
Here is a story from a monk on Mount Athos.
There were guests coming to see the Abbot of the Monastery and one of his spiritual children informed the Abbot:
” Elder, they are asking to see you.”
“Who?,” he replied.
“Three theology teachers from the world.”
“And what do they want?,” he asked.
“They want you to tell them words of wisdom.”
He replied, “Tell them, read the New Testament and the Psalter on a daily basis. They have even forgotten what color these sacred books have! The Gospel says it all. Solves it all. Has all the knowledge, all the wisdom, all the life! You go and tell them that!.”
The monk told them what the Elder had said and they left in disgrace and in deep thought.
Following the Gospel reading a sermon is given by the priest to help us understand the readings for this day (often times the sermon today is given just before the Dismissal.) When Jesus sent His disciples into the world to teach to all nations he told them, “An that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Lk 24:47). Apostle Paul preached, “repent and turn to God” (Acts 26:20). This is the preferred main message of the sermon, repent and return to God. The sermon is a continuation of the lesson from the Holy Scripture. It is to help us be illuminated by their teachings.
In the first part of the Liturgy which we are now completing, the Gospel has the first place on the Holy Table. Upon the completion of the reading of the Gospel, it is set aside and the Holy Antimension is unfolded on which the Precious Gifts will be place at the conclusion of the Great entrance.
From the book: Fr. Stephan Anagnostopoulos, Experiences During the Divine LIturgy
What is Holy Communion?
Communion – The Orthodox Church sees the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist as a sign of unity, and not a means to it. Therefore, only Orthodox Christians who have properly prepared themselves are invited to receive of Holy Communion in the Orthodox Church.
What is a Deacon?
Deacon – Third Order of the clergy, and lowest of those in Holy Orders, they assist the Bishop, and therefore, the priest when the Bishop is not present, in their pastoral, charitable, and liturgical responsibilities. The Deacon leads the people in prayer and worship, teaches and preaches the Word of God, cares for their spiritual well being of the Bishop’s flock, assists the Bishop and the priests in whatever way he can. He acts as a bridge between the Church and the world, heaven and earth.
What is Holy Eucharist?
Eucharist – Greek for ‘Thanksgiving,’ since the earliest days of the Church, the word has come to stand for the Body and Blood of Christ in the Mystery of Holy Communion, made mystically present for us. See Lev 7:15; Amos 4:5; Ps 116:17; Mal1:10 for prophecies of the Eucharist as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
What are the Holy Icons?
Holy Icons – Icons form the “family portraits” of the house of God. The icons of Christ show that the Invisible God became visible flesh for our salvation, and thereby sanctified material creation. Not ‘holy pictures’, icons are images of the life transfigured in Christ, and therefore of the transfigured person. Just as most devout Christians have images of Jesus in their homes, so, too, do Orthodox Christians, but also in our Churches. These images of Christ cannot be personally interpreted by the artist any more than one could rewrite the Bible according to personal taste, but must conform to the strict likeness of the original, the same as a Biblical translation should.
What is a Litany?
Litany – A series of prayers, led by the Deacon, or in his absence, a Bishop, to which the people and the choir respond “Lord have mercy.”
What is Divine Liturgy?
Divine Liturgy – Liturgy means “The work of the people.” The principle worship service of the Orthodox Church, celebrating the Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension, Enthronement and Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is the standard Resurrection service of the Orthodox Church around the world.
The Divine Liturgy is divided into 3 distinct parts:
-Liturgy of Preparation (proskomedia) – This is the first one-third of the liturgy, where the bread and wine offered by the people are prepared for the Eucharistic service by the celebrant, and his deacon. It represents in a small way the Old Testament, in that is a preparation of the world for the coming of Christ.
-Liturgy of the Word – Containing the Great Litany, Antiphons, and the Epistle and Gospel lesson, this ends with the Bishop proclaiming and expounding upon the teachings of Christ, prayers for the departed, and catechumens. It presents the era of the New Testament, and the hearing of the Gospel of our Lord.
-Liturgy of the Faithful – This is the Eucharistic liturgy, containing the Anaphora, the Words of Institution and Epiclesis, the Lord’s Prayer, Communion, Thanksgiving and the Dismissal. This offers us a foretaste of the Second Coming of Christ, and the eternal union of Christ with His people.
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
Joining the Church
Take a Deep Breath! It is a joyful and well worn path, with many souls who have made this journey before you, and many more will come after you. Let’s start with the basics.
Step One: Conversion to Christ
St. Paul himself tells us what this Gospel – which means ‘Good News’ – consists of:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
That is the Gospel.What is so ‘Good’ about it? This is the Good News preached to all nations. Is it really Good News? Let’s have another look at what the Gospel actually is;
That Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He arose on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and appeared to many.
Christ died for our sins. We have freedom in the Living God if we accept Him! We become inheritors of Eternal Life! What could be easier! Acceptance of the Gospel of Christ is what we call conversion. It seems elementary, but sometimes we forget what the Gospel is, and why we convert. Conversion means belief and acceptance in Jesus Christ, the God-man, as the Savior of the world. Orthodox Christians believe you must be converted every day- every day – and everyone must start with this
step if they desire to make spiritual progress and be saved.
Step Two: Repentance
There is no salvation without repentance. One must repent of our sins, both voluntary and involuntary, of word, deed, and even thought! Repentance is the gateway to forgiveness and the Kingdom of heaven. After this, one must find a local Orthodox Church. There is an ancient Christian saying; One Christian is no Christian. To become a member of the Body of Christ means connection with other believers. Without this vital connection, Christianity becomes an interesting study or personality cult. We believe that Christianity is a living faith, and therefore must be received from living persons. Your introduction to the local clergy and community will enrich you and benefit you in many ways. It will be a time of learning how the Church does Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, tithing, almsgiving, charity, interior life and evangelism. You will make new friends, acquire new disciplines and skills that will make you a better and more loving Christian.
Step Three: The Catechumenate
When one desires to become a member of the Body of Christ, a period of instruction is necessary. From the earliest days of the Church, this was called the Catechumenate, and those wishing to join were called catechumens. One must know the Gospel (see above). One must know what the Church is, and isn’t; what membership in the Church means, responsibilities and expectations for members, benefits of membership, and what discipleship means to believers in Christ Jesus. We host a New Members Class every month, among many other classes for inquirers like yourself.
Your situation is not unique. You may be making this journey of faith alone. You may be coming with your family, or with friends. You may be a clergyman, leading your flock to the Safe Haven. You may be part of a large group yearning for inclusion in the Church. Whatever your situation is, you can be assured that many of come that way before you.
Many of the stories published on Journey To Orthodoxy will show you that there are a multitude of ways leading to the Orthodox Christian faith. Your story may be published next!
The time you spend as a catechumen is time well spent. You’ll not only have the chance to learn more about the Orthodox faith, but you’ll also have the chance to immerse yourself into the Orthodox way of life. You may get impatient (many of us did!) for your entrance into the Church, but make no mistake, in no time, your catechumenate will have come to an end, and you’ll be a member of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church once and for all!
Entry Into the Church
Your entrance into the Church will culminate with the service of Baptism and/or Chrismation and receiving the Holy Eucharist.
As commanded by our Lord Himself, we receive baptism, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28: 19-20)
If you are not already baptized you will receive baptism by immersion according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Baptism washes away our sins, and makes us members of the Body of Christ. There is no other way to become a Christian, and enter the Church. Baptism is necessary for us if we are to become disciples of Christ, and every single believer in Jesus Christ must receive baptism.
With the waters of baptism, the sins of our past are washed away, and we emerge a new creation, alive in Christ Jesus.
As St. Paul says: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death…For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:3-5)
We are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit through life-giving Chrismation. (Romans 8, 1 Cor. 6)
As St. Paul says, But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has commissioned us; He has put his seal upon us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 1:21-22)
As baptism is a person’s participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, so Chrismation is a person’s participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
We live life in the Holy Spirit, Who is the Giver of Life, and since there is no such thing as a ‘half-Christian’ all those who are baptized receive the Holy Spirit in the Mystery of Chrismation. In western Christendom, Chrismation became known as Confirmation and was moved to after the first communion.
The Orthodox Church retains the ancient practice following the type of the consecration of the Old Testament High Priest.
And we become partakers of Divine Nature (1 Peter 1:4) by keeping the command of our Lord Jesus Christ who ordered us to Do this in remembrance of Me. (Matthew 26.26-28; Mark 14.22-25; Luke 22.14-19) because, as He said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” (John 6:53-56)
There is nothing to add or subtract from the words of the Lord here. It is our great joy to obey and receive His Holy Mysteries for the sanctification and salvation of our souls.
Finally, you will enter into a period of time which we call Mystagogy, which means ‘initiation into the Holy Mysteries.’ This is, above all, a life of discipleship. The life of an Orthodox Christian is a life devoted to Christ in every way. Prayer, fasting, tithing, almsgiving – love in action in every part of our lives.
Above all, your life journey has not been unfruitful, and is about to begin a new and exciting chapter. This period of time is exciting as you will be participating in the Holy Mysteries, acquiring more skill with interior life, entering more deeply into the stream and rhythm of the Church’s prayer, and reaching out to your friends, neighbors and acquaintances with a deeper experience of love and charity than ever before.
Your life as a disciple of Christ will take on a deeper connection, as you learn to be spiritually watchful, applying the words of Scripture to your spiritual life under the guidance of an experienced spiritual father and guide. You’ll learn to recognize the glimmers of temptation and reject them noetically.
The Bible will come alive in an entirely unexpected way as you sing and pray the words of Scripture at every liturgical service throughout the year!
And your experience of worship will surge into your new life as a powerful experience of heaven on earth.
The Lord really does make all things new!
Are you ready for the journey of your lifetime?
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
The Whole Person - We are both soul and body
Vashon Island, WA, USA
Unlike angels, who are entirely spiritual beings, God has made each of us as creatures dwelling in a material world. To be whole, we must worship God both in body and soul. This teaching is central to our Christian faith and is an affirmation of the sacramental nature of this material world. Because of this truth icons have played a central role in Christian history, for they proclaim Jesus Christ’s physical reality as God Incarnate.
Our Lord told his disciples that “he who has seen me, has seen the Father”. Icons depicting the Holy Virgin show the Christ Child with bare feet, reminding us that he walked the earth among us. He (the Logos) through Whom all that is was brought into existence, condescended to take on our flesh and walk among us. He joined His divinity to our humanity, that we might become gods.
The Lord Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and rose from the dead in this material world. He broke bread with disciples, ate fish with his friends, and invited His disciple Thomas to feel the wound in his side, after His holy resurrection. Most of the miracles He performed were in the nature of physical healing.
Because of the Incarnation, our use of icons bring our whole nature, body and soul, into the material world. This physical aspect of prayer is what connects us to our true self, composed of body and soul. This is where God reaches down to embrace us.
Icons are wonderful aides in our communion with God because they serve as bridges to Christ and links with the Holy Virgin and the saints. They are by no means the only means , for sitting on the top of a mountain, or walking on the seashore, eyes open, allows us to behold the beauty of God’s creation, and His love for us. The icons, like the glory of creation, are windows into eternity, and invite us who live in this material world, into an encounter with God.
Icons are necessary and essential because they protect the full and proper doctrine of the Incarnation. While God cannot be represented in His eternal nature (“…no man has seen God”, John 1:18), He can be depicted simply because He “became human and took flesh.” Of Him who took a material body, material images can be made. In so taking a material body, God proved that matter can be redeemed. He deified matter, making it spirit-bearing, and so if flesh can be a medium for the Spirit, so can wood or paint, although in a different fashion.
“I do not worship matter, but the Creator of matter, who for my sake became material and deigned to dwell in matter, who through matter effected my salvation… (Saint John of Damascus).” The seventh and last Ecumenical Council upheld the iconodules’ position in AD 787. They proclaimed: “Icons… are to be kept in churches and honored with the same relative veneration as is shown to other material symbols, such as the ‘precious and life-giving Cross’ and the Book of the Gospels. The ‘doctrine of icons’ is tied to the Orthodox teaching that all of God’s creation is to be redeemed and glorified, both spiritual and material.”
With love in Christ,
Greek Protestants ask: Why be Orthodox?
By N. M., former heretic group leader
Korea: The touching conversion story of an elderly Korean woman from Buddhism to Orthodoxy
“This grandma case was very touching. She lives in Seoul, close to her other children. One of her sons and his family who live in the village Polang-Ree converted to Orthodoxy a long time ago. He had announced this to his mother, trying to motivate her to convert to Christianity as well. But as she was an elderly woman, she couldn’t understand much of what they were telling her. Until, one day, one of her son’s daughters, who worked in some private business doing very hard work all week, moved to Seoul. Every Saturday she would say:
-Granny, I’m going to Church after work for my singing rehearsal and the Vespers.
And on Sundays, very early in the morning:
-Granny, I have to go. I’m teaching the morning group of Sunday School. Then, there’s Holy Liturgy. Then, our youth congregation. We’re going to have lunch all together. Don’t worry that I’ll be back in the afternoon.
-Don’t you get too tired my child?
-No, granny. This relieves me from all tiredness and troubles of the week. It gives me strength, joy… It revives me. Because I find Christ in Church , granny, the real God. I receive Him in my soul.
And her granddaughter shone all over. She was so much different from all other girls her age grandma knew.
“So these were my sons words I could not understand”, she was thinking…
Months went by. Every Sunday her granddaughter looked just as happy on the outside as well as in her heart each time she returned from the Church. The same thoughts were on granny’s mind.
In the end she made her decision:
-You said that you teach children about Christ. Can you teach me as well , who is He who gives you so much happiness?
The granddaughter jumped for joy! She’d been praying all this time in secret for this blessed moment to come for her beloved granny. Little by little with patience and love she started catechizing her. What helped her most was her own life’s good example.
Granny started coming to Church. Sunday after Sunday , her adaptation to this new experience was remarkable:
-I want to be baptized before I die…
This was her desire.
She even attended some special classes.
-I believe and I love Christ.
And when the preparation for her Holy Baptism started, she timidly asked:
-Can I be given my granddaughter’s name, who led me to this Paradise?
“Come and see” is addressed to the souls of the Korean people who never got to know Christ, our Saviour, in such ways of life testimony. In the tension of their life struggles, material needs or goals of their lives, beaten by insecurities, by despair, the most convincing invitation to His Kingdom is a silent testimony of a genuinely Christian life”.
What is a Bishop?
Bishop – Highest rank of clergy, possessing the fullness of Holy Orders as successor to the Apostles, and invested with Apostolic authority within his diocese (sometimes referred to as a metropolis).
What are Blessings?
Blessings – The Blessing of Christ Himself, given by Bishops and Priests to the faithful, always in the sign or form of the Cross.
What are the Cantles?
Candles – From the days of the Catacombs, Christians have accompanied their prayers with the lighting of lamps and candles, symbolizing their perpetually burning love for, and constant prayer to, our Lord Jesus Christ the “a light to enlighten the Gentiles,” (Lk 2:32) So we are called to be. (Lk 13:47)
What does Chant mean?
Chant – All prayers and readings are chanted, or sung, in Orthodox Church Divine services, according to the ancient Christian tradition and teachings of the Church which says, “He who sings, prays twice.”
What is the Cherubic Hymn?
Cherubic Hymn – The Hymn which is sung at the Great Entrance reminding all present that they are standing in the place occupied by the Heavenly hosts, and that they should set aside all worldly cares to prepare for the coming of the King of Glory, since we stand mystically in the place of those who stand perpetually in God’s presence.
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
Reasons to study the Holy Bible from Saint Justin Popovich of Serbia (+1979)
The biography of every man – everyone without exception – is found in the Bible. In it each of us can find himself portrayed and thoroughly described in detail; all those virtues and vices which you have and can have and cannot have.
You will find the paths on which your own soul and everyone else’s journey from sin to sinlessness, and the entire path from man to God and from man to Satan. You will find the means to free yourself from sin. In short, you will find the complete history of sin and sinfulness, and the complete history of righteousness and the righteous.
If you are mournful, you will find consolation in the Bible; if you are sad, you will find joy; if you are angry – tranquility; if you are lustful – continence; if you are foolish – wisdom; if you are bad – goodness; if you are a criminal – mercy and righteousness; if you hate your fellow man – love.
You will find a remedy for all your vices and weak points, and nourishment for all your virtues and accomplishments. If you are good, the Bible will teach you how to become better and best; if you are kind, it will teach you angelic tenderness; if you are intelligent, it will teach you wisdom.
If you appreciate the beauty and music of literary style, there is nothing more beautiful or more moving than what is contained in Job, Isaiah, Solomon, David, John the Theologian and the Apostle Paul. Here music – the angelic music of the eternal truth of God – is clothed in human words.
The more one reads and studies the Bible, the more he finds reasons to study it as often and as frequently as he can. According to St. John Chrysostom, it is like an aromatic root, which produces more and more aroma the more it is rubbed.
ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY AND THE WORLD
Why the Priests wear special clothes (vestments) in the Divine Liturgy?
The Holy Apostles in the first years of Church they were special clothes in the Divine Liturgy, too.
In this way, this person will begin his own search for the HISTORICAL Church. Regardless of what assertions someone may have (as to what the early Christians supposedly did or believed in their worship), there are historical records, early Christian texts and archaeological discoveries, which evidence that Christians from the very beginning worshipped God in the Orthodox manner, and not in the Protestant one. There was an acknowledgement of Synods, specialized clergy, icons, vestments, the honouring of saints and holy relics, clearly defined dogmas, Divine Liturgy, Confession, Holy Unction, Chrismation, memorial services, the Crucifix, fasting, feast-days… All these things existed, from the very beginning, with changes being made to the Rubric only in details of minor significance. Should a Protestant discover all this information within the ancient historical sources, he will come to realize that everything he had been taught by his leaders was just an arbitrary and false depiction of the first Christian Church; and he will realize that everything he detested in Orthodox worship as non-Scriptural, is precisely that which was delivered to us by the Lord Himself!!!
Historical research will most assuredly lead a well-intentioned person to Orthodox worship, away from the Protestant concoctions of the 16th century.
* * *
The Church from the first years use special clothes in the Divine Liturgy of Sunday because Holy Bible say about these. The Church accept the Old and New Testament as Jesus Christ say in New Testament in Matthew 5:17-19. The Jesus don’t abolish the Old Testament but fulfill it.
Jesus Christ says in Matthew 5:17-19:
“17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).
So, the Church for the first years until today and always keep what the Holy Bible say about the clothes of Apostles-Priests in Old Testament:
“4Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 5 Take the garments and dress Aaron with the tunic, the robe of the ephod, the ephod itself and the breastpiece. Fasten the ephod on him by its skillfully woven waistband. 6 Put the turban on his head and attach the sacred emblem to the turban” (Exodus 29:4-6).
“And also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests” (Exodus 31:10).
“From the blue, purple and scarlet yarn they made woven garments for ministering in the sanctuary. They also made sacred garments for Aaron, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Exodus 39:1).
Also, you can read this:
Greek Protestants ask: Why be Orthodox?
By N. M., former heretic group leader
What does the daily
invocation of the saints signify?
invocation of the saints signify?
Saint John of Kronstadt,
What does the daily invocation of the saints signify — of different ones each day, during the whole year, and during our whole life? It signifies that God’s saints — as our brethren, but perfect — live, and are near us, ever ready to help us, by the grace of God. We live together with them in the house of our Heavenly Father, only in different parts of it. We live in the earthly, they in the heavenly half; but we can converse with them, and they with us. God’s saints are near to the believing heart, and are ready in a moment to help those who call upon them with faith and love.”
From the Book: St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ
ORTHODOX CHURCH QUOTES
The Glorification of the Saints in the Orthodox Church
This article was written by Fr. Joseph Frawley, a member of the Orthodox Church in America’s Canonization Commission. It was originally published in the April-May 2000 issue of The Orthodox Church Newspaper.
While the glorification of saints in the Orthodox Church has been taking place for nearly 2000 years, few people today are certain about how this really happens. Does the Church “make” a saint? Are there special panels which decide who can be considered for sainthood? Are saints “elected” by a majority vote? Does a person have to perform a certain number of miracles in order to quality as a saint? The answers to these questions may be surprising to some.
We know that there are several categories of saints: prophets, evangelists, martyrs, ascetics, holy bishops and priests, and those who live a righteous life “in the world.” What they all have in common is holiness of life. Three times in the Book of Leviticus (Ch 11, 19 and 20) God tells us to be holy, because He is holy. We must consecrate ourselves, for we are His people. Saint Peter reiterates this commandment in the new testament, challenging us to obey God’s commandments and submit our will to His will (1 Pet 1:16). Everyone is challenged to manifest holiness in their lives, for we all must become saints! This is our special - and common - calling from God. It is not something reserved for the clergy, monastics, or those who are “more pious.” Everyone who has been baptized into Christ must live in such a way that Christ lives within us. “Do you not know,” Saint Paul asks, “that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).
So, the glorification of saints in the Orthodox Church is a recognition that God’s holiness is manifested in the Church through these grace-filled men and women whose lives were pleasing to God. Very early on, the Church recognized the righteous ancestors of Christ (Forefathers), those who predicted His coming (Prophets), and those who proclaimed the Gospel (Apostles and Evangelists). Then those who risked their lives and shed their blood to bear witness to Christ (Martyrs and Confessors) were also recognized by the Church as saints. There was no special canonization process, but their relics were treasured and the annual anniversaries of their martyrdoms were celebrated. Later, the ascetics, who followed Christ through self denial, were numbered among the saints. Bishops and priests who proclaimed the True Faith and fought against heresy were added to the list. Finally, those in other walks of life who manifested holiness were recognized as saints.
While the glorification of a saint may be initiated because of miracles, it is not an absolute necessity for canonization. The Roman Catholic Church requires three verified miracles in order to recognize someone as a saint; the Orthodox Church does not require this. There are some saints, including Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain (July 14) and Saint Innocent of Moscow (commemorated March 31), who have not performed any miracles, as far as we know. What is required is a virtuous life of obvious holiness. And a saint’s writings and preaching must be “fully Orthodox,” in agreement with the pure faith that we have received from Christ and the Apostles and taught by the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.
Can the Church “make” a saint? The answer is no. Only God can do that. We glorify those whom God Himself has glorified, seeing in their lives true love for God and their neighbors. The Church merely recognizes that such a person has cooperated with God’s grace to the extent that his or her holiness is beyond doubt.
Are saints “elected” by special panels or by majority vote? Again, the answer is no. Long before an official inquiry into a person’s life is made, that person is venerated by the people where he or she lived and died. His or her memory is kept alive by the people who pray for his or her soul or who ask him or her for intercession. Sometimes people will visit his or her grave or have icons painted through their love for the person. Then a request is made, usually through the diocesan bishop, for the Church to recognize that person as a saint. A committee, such as the Orthodox Church in America’s Canonization Commission, is formed to research the life of the person who is being considered for glorification and to submit a report to the Holy Synod stating its reasons why the person should or should not be recognized as a saint. Then the Holy Synod decides to number that person among the saints and have icons painted and liturgical services composed.
The formal Rite of Glorification begins with a final Memorial Service for the person about to be canonized, after which Vespers and Matins with special hymns to the saint are chanted and the saint’s icon is unveiled. The saint’s life is published and the date of his or her commemoration is established. The other Orthodox Churches are notified of the glorification so that they can place the new saint’s name on their calendars.
Through the prayers of all the saints, may we be encouraged to follow their example of virtue and holiness.
ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA
Protection of the Mother of God
The Protection of the Mother of God is one of the most beloved feast days on the Orthodox calendar among the Slavic peoples, commemorated on October 1. The feast is celebrated additionally on October 28 in the Greek tradition. It is also known as the feast of the Virgin Mary’s Cerement.
In most Slavic languages the word “cerement” has a dual meaning of “veil” and “protection.” The Russian word Pokrov (Покров), like the Greek Skepi (Σκέπη), has a complex meaning. First of all, it refers to a cloak or shroud, but it also means protection or intercession. For this reason, the name of the feast is variously translated as the Veil of Our Lady, the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos, the Protection of the Theotokos, or the Intercession of the Theotokos.
The feast day celebrates the appearance of the Mother of God at Blachernae (Vlaherna) in the tenth century. At the end of St. Andrei (Andrew of Constantinople) Yurodivyi’s life, he, with his disciple St. Epiphanius, and a group of people, saw the Mother of God, St. John the Baptist, and several other saints and angels during a vigil in the Church of Blachernae, nearby the city gates. The Blachernae Palace church was where several of her relics were kept. The relics were her robe, veil, and part of her belt that had been transferred from Palestine during the fifth century.
The Theotokos approached the center of the church, knelt down and remained in prayer for a long time. Her face was drowned in tears. Then she took her veil (cerement) off and spread it over the
people as a sign of protection. During the time, the people in the city were threatened by a barbarian invasion. After the appearance of the Mother of God, the danger was averted and the city was spared from bloodshed and suffering.
Celebration of the feast
The Protection is commemorated most fervently in Slavic churches, probably because St. Andrei was a Slav. The first celebration of the Theotokos’s cerement in the Russian Orthodox Church dates back from the 12th century and today is celebrated throughout the Orthodox Church.
The feast day commemorating the miracle is celebrated with an All-Night Vigil, with many of the same elements as occur on Great Feasts of the Theotokos. However, this feast has no afterfeast.
The Russian Primary Chronicle noted that the intercession of the Theotokos was needed for the protection of the people of Constantinople when a large fleet of the pagan Rus, led by Askole and Dir, was threatening Constantinople. The invading fleet was defeated and the event remembered. Strangely, the feast came to be considered a very important feast by the Slavic Orthodox Churches but not by the Greeks.
A twelfth century Russian chronicle describes the establishment of the intercession as a special feast day honoring the event. Within a few centuries churches began being named in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God.
Among these churches two that are world famous are: in Moscow, the Cathedral of Intercession upon a Moat (Russian: Храм Покрова “на рву,” Cathedral of the Pokrov upon a moat), which is popularly known as the St. Basil’s Cathedral and in Bogolyubovo near Vladimir, the Church of Intercession upon the Nerl River (Russian: Церковь Покрова на Нерли, Tserkov Pokrova na Nerli).
The Moscow cathedral was built in the mid 1500s by Tsar Ivan IV and the Bogolyubovo church was built in 1165 by Prince Andrew Bogoliusky. In Novgorod, the Monastery of the Intercession of Our Lady (Zverin Monastery) was also built during the twelfth century.
In recent years, the Feast of the Protection has become associated with thanksgiving for the deliverance of the Greek nation from the Italian invasion of 1940. These events are commemorated in Greece in a national holiday known as “Ochi Day” or “No Day,” referring to the response of the Greek leader Metaxas to Mussolini’s ultimatum.
In recognition of this, and because of the many miracles of the Holy Virgin which were reported by Greek soldiers during the Greco-Italian War of 1940-1941, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece elected in 1952 to transfer the Feast from October 1 to October 28.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate also provides for this usage in its parishes in Greece and in the Greek diaspora, and it is generally observed now throughout the Greek-speaking world. The observance includes the chanting of a Doxology incorporating hymns recognizing the Protection of the Theotokos over the Greek nation, as well as the kontakion “O Champion Leader.”
About the icon
Two different events that took place four hundred years apart are combined in this one icon. Both events took place in the former Church of Blachernae in Constantinople.
The icon of the feast, Protection of the Mother of God, shows the Theotokos standing above the faithful with her arms outstretched in prayer and draped with a veil. On both sides of her are angels. On the lower right of most icons of this feast, are saints Andrew and his disciple Epiphanius who saw this vision of the Mother of God, with the twelve apostles, bishops, holy women, monks and martyrs, spreading her veil in protection over the congregation. St. Epiphanius is wearing a tunic under his cloak and gestures in astonishment at the miraculous appearance, while St. Andrew, Fool-for-Christ, is dressed only in a cloak.
Below the Theotokos, in the center of the icon, stands a young man with a halo, he is clothed in a deacon’s sticharion. In his left hand, he is holding an open scroll with the text of the Kontakion for Nativity in honor of the Mother of God. This is St. Romanus the Melodist, the famous hymnographer whose feast is also celebrated on the same day, October 1. He is with his choir attended by the Emperor Leo the Wise together with the Empress and the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Sunday of Holy Pentecost
The Feast of Holy Pentecost is celebrated each year on the fiftieth day after the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha (Easter) and ten days after the Feast of the Ascension of Christ. The Feast is always celebrated on a Sunday.
The Feast commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, a feast of the Jewish tradition. It also celebrates the establishment of the Church through the preaching of the Apostles and the baptism of the thousands who on that day believed in the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Feast is also seen as the culmination of the revelation of the Holy Trinity.
The story of Pentecost is found in the book of The Acts of the Apostles. In Chapter two we are told that the Apostles of our Lord were gathered together in one place. Suddenly, a sound came from heaven like a rushing wind, filling the entire house where they were sitting. Then, tongues of fire appeared, and one sat upon each one of Apostles. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as directed by the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).
This miraculous event occurred on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, celebrated by the Jews on the fiftieth day after the Passover as the culmination of the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). The Feast of Weeks began on the third day after the Passover with the presentation of the first harvest sheaves to God, and it concluded on Pentecost with the offering of two loaves of unleavened bread, representing the first products of the harvest (Leviticus 23:17-20; Deuteronomy 16:9-10).
Since the Jewish Feast of Pentecost was a great pilgrimage feast, many people from throughout the Roman Empire were gathered in Jerusalem on this day. When the people in Jerusalem heard the sound, they came together and heard their own languages being spoken by the Apostles (Acts 2:5-6). The people were amazed, knowing that some of those speaking were Galileans, and not men who
would normally speak many different languages. They wondered what this meant, and some even thought the Apostles were drunk (Acts 2:7-13).
Peter, hearing these remarks, stood up and addressed the crowd. He preached to the people regarding the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Holy Spirit. He spoke about Jesus Christ and His death and glorious Resurrection. Great conviction fell upon the people, and they asked the Apostles, "What shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38-39).
The Bible records that on that day about three thousand were baptized. Following, the book of Acts states that the newly baptized continued daily to hear the teaching of the Apostles, as the early Christians met together for fellowship, the breaking of bread, and for prayer. Many wonderful signs and miracles were done through the Apostles, and the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
Icon of the Feast
The icon of the Feast of Pentecost is known as "The Descent of the Holy Spirit". It is an icon of bold colors of red and gold signifying that this is a great event. The movement of the icon is from the top to the bottom. At the top of the icon is a semicircle with rays coming from it. The rays are pointing toward the Apostles, and the tongues of fire are seen descending upon each one of them signifying the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The building in the background of the icon represents the upper room where the Disciples of Christ gathered after the Ascension. The Apostles are shown seated in a semicircle which shows the unity of the Church. Included in the group of the Apostles is Saint Paul, who, though not present with the others on the day of Pentecost, became an Apostle of the Church and the greatest missionary. Also included are the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, holding books of the Gospel, while the other Apostles are holding scrolls that represent the teaching authority given to them by Christ.
In the center of the icon below the Apostles, a royal figure is seen against a dark background. This is a symbolic figure, Cosmos, representing the people of the world living in darkness and sin, and involved in pagan worship. However, the figure carries in his hands a cloth containing scrolls which represent the teaching of the Apostles. The tradition of the Church holds that the Apostles carried the message of the Gospel to all parts of the world.
In the icon of Pentecost we see the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, sent down upon the Apostles who will teach the nations and baptize them in the name of the Holy Trinity. Here we see that the Church is brought together and sustained in unity through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit guides the Church in the missionary endeavor throughout the world, and that the Spirit nurtures the Body of Christ, the Church, in truth and love.
Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of Pentecost
This great Feast of the Church is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom on the Sunday that is the fiftieth day after the celebration of Pascha. The Liturgy is conducted on the day of the Feast, and is preceded the evening before by a Great Vespers service and on the morning of the Feast by the Matins service. On the day of the Feast a Vespers service is conducted that includes the kneeling prayers. These prayers mark the beginning of the practice of kneeling during the Liturgy at the time when the holy gifts of bread and wine are consecrated as the body and blood of Christ. The practice of kneeling has been suspended during the Paschal season. On the Monday following the Feast, the Divine Liturgy is conducted in commemoration of the All-holy and Life-creating and All-powerful Spirit, Who is God, and One of the Trinity, and of one honor and one essence and one glory with the Father and the Son (From the Synaxarion of the Feast).
Scripture readings for the Feast are the following: At the Saturday Vespers: Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29; Joel 2:23-32; Ezekiel 36:24-28. At the Orthros (Matins): John 20:19-23. At the Pentecost Sunday Divine Liturgy: Acts 2:1-11; John 7:37-52, 8:12. At the Divine Liturgy on the Monday of the Holy Spirit: Ephesians 5:8-19; Matthew 18:10-20.
Prayer of the Holy Spirit
Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life: come and abide in us, cleanse us from every impurity and save our souls, O Good One.
Hymns of the Feast
Apolytikion (Plagal Tone Four)
Blessed are You, O Christ our God, who made fisherman all-wise, by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them, drawing all the world into Your net. O Loving One, glory be to You.
Kontakion (Plagal Tone Four)
When the Most High came down and confounded tongues of men at Babel, He divided the nations. When He dispensed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity, and with one voice we glorify the Most Holy Spirit.
Icon of the Feast of Pentecost, used with permission from Athanasios Clark
Icon of the Feast of Pentecost, used with permission from Theologic
The Incarnate God: The Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, Catherine Aslanoff, editor and Paul Meyendorff, translator (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995).
Festival Icons for the Christian Year by John Baggley (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000), pp. 157-159.
The icon corner is a small worship space prepared in the homes of Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The Book of Acts and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul record that in the early Church, Christians used to meet in the homes of the faithful. (Acts 2:46, Acts 20:7-12, 1 Corinthians 16:19, etc.) This tradition of the "House Church" continues to this day in Eastern Christianity. The home is considered to be a microcosm of the Church. The parents (both the husband and the wife) are the "clergy" of the house church, and the children are the "laity". The wedding ceremony ("crowning") is analogous to Ordination, and the house is blessed with a rite that is based upon the Consecration of a Church. Once a year, the priest will come to bless the house with Theophany Water.
An Orthodox Christian is expected to pray constantly. According to Bishop Kallistos Ware, "In Orthodox spirituality, there is no separation between liturgy and private devotion". Thus the house, just like the Temple (church building), is considered to be a consecrated place, and the center of worship in the house is the icon corner.
An icon corner is normally oriented to face east. It is often located in a corner to eliminate worldly distractions and allow prayer to be more concentrated. Here is where the icons that the family owns should be located, normally including at least icons of Christ, the Theotokos, and the Patron Saint(s) of the family. An oil lamp normally hangs in front of the icons. The careful trimming of the lamp to keep it burning at all times is interpreted as symbolic of the attentive daily care faithful Christians should take over their souls. Relics of saints (if the family possesses any) and a Gospel Book and a blessing cross would be kept there, as well as incense, holy water, palms and pussywillow from Palm Sunday, candles from Pascha (Easter), and other sacred items, as well as a personal Commemoration Book (containing the names of family and loved ones, both living and departed, to be remembered in prayer).
Ideally, the icon corner is located so that it is visible when one first enters the house from the main entrance. Traditionally, when first entering the house, an Orthodox Christian would venerate the icons before greeting the members of the house.
A traditional Orthodox family will gather together every day for morning and evening prayers. Sometimes, at the end of the prayers, the head of the household will take the hand censer and cense the icons and all of the members of the household.
Often, in addition to the icon corner, a family will hang a small "portal icon" (usually of the Virgin and Christ Child) by the door, which is venerated by family and guests whenever going in or out of the house.
Holy Bible verses about Holy Angels and humans
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? ...
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
1 Corinthians 11:10
That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
1 Corinthians 6:3
Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.
But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried,
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
2 Kings 6:17
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ...
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place.
For they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,
1 Peter 1:12
It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.
Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord.
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’
So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. ...
About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.”
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God
The rites of Baptism and Christmation
The Rites of Baptism and Christmation (known as Confirmation in the Western) are the rites of passage and entry into the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is the Divine Economy of Faith, what brings Life to all Christians that become in Communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople, the First Among Equals. For of course, ”In the beginning God made the Heavens and the Earth. But the Earth was unsightly and unfurnished, and darkness was over the deep, and the Spirit of God moved over the waters.” (Genesis 1:1,2) These are the very first words of Scripture! The “Spirit of God,” the Holy Spirit, was in “the waters.” This is a prefigurement of baptism, of what gives us life, since God used water to make creation, but also uses it to renew creation.
He then did just that, by renewing creation through the flood. “And the flood was upon the Earth forty days and forty nights, and the water greatly abounded and bore up the ark, and it was lifted on high from off the Earth… and the ark was borne upon the water… and (water) covered all the high mountains which were under the Heavens… And there died all flesh that moved upon the Earth, of flying creatures and cattle, and of wild beasts, and of every reptile moving upon the Earth, and every man… (But) Noah was left alone and those with him in the ark… (Genesis 7:17-24) All Christians are “lifted on high from off the Earth,” towards the “Heavens” when they are baptized, since they are renewed as Creation was renewed, and become one with God. Noah’s ark is a type of the Church, and we all must be purified by water and Spirit to enter this Church, and not die like the men and women who laughed at Noah. Indeed, they died because of their wickedness and lack of faith. But Noah was faithful,and was a type of Christ.
And then, in Exodus, there is the crossing of the River Jordan and the Pillars of Cloud and Fire:
“And the Angel of God that went before the camp of the children of Israel removed and went behind, and the pillar of the cloud also removed from before them and stood behind them. And it went behind the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel, and stood; and there was darkness and blackness; and the night passed, and they came not near to one another during the whole night. And Moses stretched forth His hand over the sea, and the Lord carried back the sea… And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry land, and the water of it was a wall on the right hand and a wall on the left. And the Egyptians pursued them and went in after them… (with) Pharaoh… And it came to pass in the morning watch that the Lord looked forth on the camp of the Egyptians, and bound the axle-trees of their chariots, and caused them to go with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them… And the Lord said to Moses, ‘stretch forth thine hand over the sea, and let the water be turned back to its place, and let it cover the Egyptians…’ And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea… and the Lord shook off the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the water returned and covered the chariots and the riders… and there was not left of them even one… So the Lord delivered Israel in that day from the hand of the Egyptians… (and) the Egyptians (were) dead by the shore of the sea.” (Exodus 14:19-30)
This pillar of cloud was a type of the soothing waters of Baptism, and the pillar fire which led them by night was a type of the fire of the Holy Spirit within every follower of Christ. This cloud of
Baptism also soothes the fire of our sins. The Egyptians are a type of our sins, and we must flee from them across the Red Sea, and then across the Jordan River to make it to the Land of Promise, Cainaan, the Land of Milk and Honey, the New Jerusalem. We fight against our sins until they are “turned back,” and “dead,” and we do this with “difficulty.” It also prefigures and symbolizes the death of the old man, and the putting on of the new, as well as becoming slaves of “Christ,” instead slaves to “sin.” This is because we must “Act as free men… and… not use (our) freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” (1 Peter 2:16
And then there is Naaman the leper, who gets cleansed of his leprosy in the River Jordan:
“And the King of Syria said to Naaman, ‘Go to,’… ” He then said, “I have sent to thee my servant Naaman, and thou shalt recover him from his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the King of Israel read the letter, that he rent his garments, and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends to me to recover a man of his leprosy?’ … And it came to pass, when Elisha heard that… he sent to the King of Israel, saying, ‘Wherefore has thou rent thy garments? Let Naaman, I pray thee, come to me, and let him know that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with horse and chariot… And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and thy flesh shall return to thee, and thou shalt be clean.’ And Naaman was angry, and departed… and he turned away and went in a rage. And his servants came near and said to him, ‘Suppose the prophet had spoken a great thing to thee, wouldst though not perform it? Yet he has but said to thee, Wash, and be cleansed. ‘ So Naaman went down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of Elisha: and his flesh returned to him as the flesh of a little child, and he has cleansed.” (4 Kings 5:5-14)
Leprosy is a type of the sins of mankind, since God commonly punished people for sin in the Old Testament with leprosy. The people would go out of the camp, and come back after the prescribed amount of days, and, if healed, would be proclaimed clean by the high priest. This was a part of the Mosaic Law’s observances. When the King of Israel said that he is not “God,” he spoke rightly, since man needs to be “cleansed,” by God in baptism, and man cannot make one “alive,” or “recover” one from “leprosy.” Sin can only be cleansed by God. The priest only forgives a catechumen’s sin in the place of God during the Baptism and Chrismation. Also, we are cleansed “seven times” from our seven sins, and our “…flesh (is) returned to… the flesh of a little child.” We become as innocent as when before we sinned, and get cleansed of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s Original Sin, but it does not cleanse the guilt of Adam and Eve, since this guilt was never ours in the first place. Every man is guilty for his own sin only.
This event truly prefigured baptism in the New Testament Church. For, even in the Septuagint, the Greek word baptizein is used for the immersions that heal the Gentile Naaman from his skin infection, which is called tzaraath. His being a Gentile also prefigured the fact that Gentiles would be baptized, and then grafted into the Church with the old olive tree of the Jews. Salvation would be brought to all, and not just to the Jewish people.
And then there is Psalm 22 in the Greek Old Testament known as the Septuagint or LXX: “The Lord Shepherdeth me, and I shall not want. In a place of green pasture, there hath He made me to dwell; he hath nurtured me beside the waters of rest. He hath restored my soul; he hath led me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. For though I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou Art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they have comforted me. Thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of those that trouble me; Tho hast anointed my head with oil; and like the best wine doth Thy cup inebriate me. And thy mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord unto the length of days.” This means that Christ is our Shepherd, and we will “not want.” He makes us “dwell,” among the righteous, he “nurture(s),” us and he brings us to “waters of rest,” or baptism. Our souls and bodies are then “restored,” and we are put to “death” I through Christ. We escape the “shadow(s),” of sin and “evil,” and are “comforted” by the Holy Trinity. His “rod” and His “staff” are His crucifixion, which we have used to put away the old man, and become new men or creatures in Christ. He has “prepared a table,” and has “anointed (our) head(s) with oil,” meaning the holy Myron used for Chrismation, which heals us and purifies us. The table is the table where the sacred oil is prepared for this sacrament. We are also “inebriate(d)” by the “cup” of The Lord, which we can now partake of as a sacrament in “the House of the Lord,” or His Church, for “length of days,” or forever. We are now members of Christ’s Church.
In Isaiah, we are told that “… though your sins be as crimson, I will make them white as snow; and though they be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) This means that our sins will be cleansed, and we shall be made pure by the Holy Trinity. Christ died for us in the likeness of our human nature and flesh, but never sinned, so was as “white as wool,” but became “crimson” in His death for us through His Crucifixion, so that we could be like snow or white wool through baptism, having our previous sins forgiven us. No longer is our baptismal garment bloodied through sin, but is pure white.
In the Book of Ezekiel, we are told that God will “… take (us) from among the nations, and gather (us) out of all the lands, and will bring (us) into (our) own land:
And (He) will sprinkle clean water upon (us), and (we) shall be purged from all (our) uncleanesses, and from all (our) idols, and (He) will cleanse (us). A new heart also (He) will give (us), and a new spirit will (He) put within (us): and (He) will take away the heart of stone out of (our) flesh, and He will give (us) an heart of flesh. And (He) will put (His) Spirit within (us), and cause (us) to walk in (His) ordinances, and keep (His) judgements, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27) When God talks of us being “among the nations,” and brought into our “own land,” wit means that God will save the Gentiles as well, and not just the Jews, and that He will lead is into Heaven, the New Jerusalem.
We will be “clean” because of this “water”, and “purged” from “uncleaness.” This holy water will purge our sins, and make us new creations in God. He makes sure we are not of a “heart of stone” like Pharaoh, but with a “heart of flesh,” like Moses, who follow His “ordinances,” and keep His “judgements.” If we do all this, we shall receive the “Spirit.” This Spirit is imparted to us by Holy Baptism. And this Spirit is the Holy Spirit Himself, who “…proceeds from the Father…” (Nicene Creed)
In the New Testament, St John the Baptist (known as the Forerunner or Prodromos in Greek in the Eastern Orthodox Church) preaches a baptism of penance, but not the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or of Jesus. He prefigured Christ’s Baptism, which was at first administered by Christ’s Disciples in the times of the early Church. Many churches were built for John the Baptist in the Byzantine Emprein numbering more than 30 just in the Imperial Capital of Constantinople. In Edessa, in 457 A.D, Bishop Nona built a Cathedral named St John the Baptist’s Cathedral from red brick. He made many monasteries in Edessa, as well. “Then went out to (John) Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about the Jordan: And were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them: ‘Ye brood of vipers, who hath showed ye to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance. And think not too say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees… That doth not yield good fruit, (and will) be cut down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you in the water unto penance, but He that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire…’ Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him. But John stayed Him, saying: ‘I ought to be baptized by Thee, and comets thou to me?’ And Jesus… said to him: ‘Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfill all justice…’ And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to Him: and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him. And behold, a voice from Heaven, saying: ‘This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:5-17)
Indeed, Saint John Prodromos brought a great message to all, and prepared the people for the reign of “the Lamb who takes away the sins of the World.” John the Baptist became very famous, and many people came to believe in Christ through him. When John the Baptist says that God can “raise up children to Abraham,” from “stones,” not only is this literal, since God can do anything He pleases, but is also a metaphor for something else: that all would become children of Abraham through faith, works, and Grace. The ones who go to Heaven are not like the Pharisees and Sadducees, who are a “brood of vipers,” but innocent children as simple as a “descending… dove.” John’s Baptism was not as great as Christ’s, and he dies before the Crucifixion. Also, he is just a man, where as Christ is God Incanate. He baptizes the people “in the Holy Spirit and fire,” which cleanses us, and prepares us for God’s Kingdom. Even though Christ was truly God and Man, He was baptized as a sign to us, to give us an example, and to sanctify baptism. He did not need to receive the “Spirit of God,” since He was consubstantial with the Father and Holy Spirit since before the beginning of time. He is the “beloved Son,” of God, and He does everything the Father does. But He did submit His Created Human Nature under His Divine Nature, of the Father, for a short time, since He was tempted like us, but never sinned Himself. He was made slightly lower than the angels for a time, but was then glorified. This is His Human Nature and Will receiving the Holy Spirit, after all, and His Human Nature being glorified for the first time in His ministry. Our natures are also glorified in baptism, so we can partake of God’s holy things.
After this, Jesus later has a conversation with Nicodemus about the nature of baptism:
“Nicodemus saith unto Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?’
Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (St John 3:4-6) Nicodemus misunderstood the real nature of baptism, thinking and supposing that Christ was talking about being made young again, and being reborn from one’s mother, which is not correct. Nicodemus judges things by the “flesh,” but God judges them by the “Spirit.” Nicodemus was too carnal-minded to see and perceive this, even though he is a “ruler among the people.” This true nature of this rebirth is baptism by triple immersion, and the cleansing away of our sins like the dust from the outside World. We must be of “the Spirit,” and not of “the flesh,” since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:50) But we must not understand this as being literal flesh, since both the soul and the body are raised to Heaven. Otherwise, we will be erring like the heretical and dualist Manichees and Gnostics, who declare all matter evil, and that there is a god of darkness and evil in the Old Testament, and a god of light and good in the New Testament, which is not so! No, flesh, which is being sinful and carnally minded, and not filled with the Holy Spirit, is what is meant in this verse. We must savor the heavenly ways of God and His Church. Everything God made was good, after all! For, “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life.” (John 7:63)
Indeed, “Jesus saith… He that is washed, need etch not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all.” (John 13:10) This means that baptism is only meant to be administered once, a part from apostates and heretics who return to the Church, who need to be rebaptized to re-enter the Church again. That is why when new members from the Catholic Church, the Church of England, Lutheran, etc, are allowed into our Church with just the use of holy Myron, it is not enough, since they are heretics, and have been baptized the wrong way, and not with the triple immersion, since they favor sprinkling or affusion over thrice immersion, and do not teach rightly on other doctrines on the Church, either. This was done to please the World Council of the Churches, for reunification between all churches, which would gravely compromise our Orthodox Faith. This would be terrible for the Church and Her faithful, and would lead to nothing but disbelief and teachings of wrong doctrines. The faith must be upheld at all times, no matter what. Heretics must be baptized with a baptism of entry or re-entry into the Church. Oikonomia must only be used in extreme matters. I know that this had to be done when the Byzantine Empire was losing power to the Muslims, and the Pope and Western Europe were becoming more and more powerful to the Orthodox people’s detriment, but now we are not under the same threats, nor are we under the threats of Communism, or earliest of all, when the threat of Arianism, Macedonianism, and other heresies were rife, but now we are in a state of relative peace, and can use Akribeia (strict application of the Canons.)
Canon 7 of the First Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D is an example of Oikonomia:
“Those who embrace orthodoxy and join the number of those who are being saved from heretics, we receive in the following regular and customary manner… when they hand in statements and anathematize every heresy which is not of the same mind as the holy, catholic and apostolic church of God. They are first sealed or anointed wi holy chrism on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears. As we seal them we say ‘Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit.’ But Eunomians , who are baptized in a single immersion, Montanists, Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son and make certain other difficulties, and all other sects — since there are many here, not least those who originate in the country of the Galatians — we receive all who wish to leave them and embrace orthodoxy as we do Greeks. On the first day we make Christians of them, on the second catechumens, on the third we exorcise me by breathing three times into their faces and their ears, and thus we catechize them and make them spend time in the church and listen to the scriptures; and then we baptize them.”
But Catholics and Protestants do not use triple immersion, but sprinkling, so they should be re-baptized, since they were not properly baptized into Christ. Only the Orthodox baptism is legitimate and true.
So an example of Akribeia is St Cyprian’s Council in Carthage in 257 A.D:
“For if anyone could be baptized among heretics, certainly he could also obtain remission of sins. If he attained remission of sins, he was also sanctified.”
Does this mean that Schismatics and Heretics that are received into the Church do not become truly Orthodox without Baptism, but just anointing with oil? Of course not! It just means it is not as legitimate as Baptism, and is not complete. One feels more purified when one has been baptized properly, which is what should be done now. Pools or baptisteries should be used again, and built at the sides or inside churches as they used to be before. The catechumen was stripped, and lathered in oil, immersed three times behind a screen, and then lifted out of the font by their sponsor and/or godparent. For decency’s sack, a pair of trunks could be worn by a man, and a two piece for a woman, even though it was traditionally done naked, to show that we are like Adam and Eve before the Fall, without sin or shame, and also that we have stripped off the old man, and put on the new. A chiton can be worn too, but is usually quite clingy, and most of the body is seen through the fabric, anyway. The deacon usually helps with the procedure, and a prayer is said for the catechumen later on. The Nicene Creed is also said, as well. Babies are usually put in smaller fonts, usually without wearing clothes. This is the traditional Orthodox baptism.
Baptism and Chrismation, together with the Eucharist, are all given at the same time, since Jesus said “Let the children alone, and do not hinder the, from coming to Me; for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) This means that one should become like a child in simple faith, without arrogance or being puffed up, and should not doubt anything that God, His saints or Saints, His Church, or the Ecumenical Councils say. One should not be a skeptic, and accept God’s scriptures as Divine Word. Also, a child should be baptized from a young age, since a child brought up being taught about God in a believing home is more likely to grow up as holy and righteous, and knowing about God’s holy Word. It also means that one is less likely to become a heretic, and to be received into the Kingdom of God. Parents always take care of their children, giving them food, water, clothes, shelter, vaccinations, education, love, and everything else for one’s child’s welfare, so why not the child’s salvation, the most important thing of all. For “Jesus took them in His arms and began blessing them.” (Mark 10:16) This included “babies.” (Luke 18:15) We are told to “Believe in The Lord Jesus… And you shall be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) So our whole household requires salvation, not just the adults. The whole household must be Eastern Orthodox, and all are legible to become so, more simply speaking.
This is why Saint Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus (died 457 A.D) said “If the only meaning of baptism were remission of sins, why would we baptize newborn children who have not yet tasted of sin? But the mystery of baptism is not limited to this; it is a promise of greater and more perfect gifts. In it are the promises of future delights; it is a type of the future resurrection, a communion with the Master’s passion, a participation is His Resurrection, a mantle of salvation, a tunic of gladness, a garment of light, or rather it is light itself.” We are given “gifts” by the Holy Spirit, “future delights,” a “mantle of salvation,” to protect us from the Hell fire and lead us into Heaven, a “tunic of gladness,” a “garment of light,” indeed, “light itself.” We are protected by this light in a world of darkness, and so pare our children.
Jesus gives His last salutations to the Apostles with these words: “All power is given to me in Heaven and in Earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you always, even to the consummation of the World.” (Matthew 28:18-20) These words are given by Him to the Apostles to spread the Orthodox Christian Faith, and to baptize people within this Faith.
“After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into Heaven and He sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His words by the signs that accompanies it.” (Mark 16:20) The disciple now begin preaching the Gospel, and baptize everyone who comes to be a part of the Faith.
That’s why St Paul says in Romans 6:3-4, “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” All that is old and antiquated from sin is put to death, and we are given newness of life.
And then there are writings of the saints written after the times of the Apostles by great Orthodox Saints, when the Faith was no longer persecuted in the Roman Empire:
Saint Athanasius, in his discourse against the Arians in Book III: 33, written in 360 A.D, says, “And with reason; for as we are all from Earth and die in Adam , so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit, in the Christ we are all quickened.” We die in Adam, but are brought to life by Christ. We also take on a renewed state through baptism.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, a faithful Orthodox Christian and Bishop, in his On the Baptism of Christ written after 394 A.D, says, “For ‘the Spirit breathes where it wills, and thou headrest His voice, but canst not tell whence He cometh and wither He goeth.’ He blesses the body that is baptized, and the water that baptizes. Despise not, therefore, the Divine lather, nor think lightly of it, as a common thing, on account of the use of water. For the power that operates is mighty, and wonderful are the things that are thereby.” We must not despise our baptism, and we must keep our baptismal promises, and not dirty our baptismal garments through sin. Baptism does not give one permission to be worse, but to be saved through Christ by both Grace and works, as well as Faith, and not just by faith alone. We must believe in this simple fact in all sincerity and truth, and we then shall only be saved. We all need this “Divine lather” from the most holy font, and we all need the most Holy Trinity.
That is why John Chrysostom, faithful Orthodox Christian and Archbishop of Constantinople says, “Weep for the unbelievers; weep for those who differ in nowise from, those who depart hence without the illumination (baptism) , without the seal! They indeed deserve our wailing, they deserve our groans; they are outside the Palace, with the culprits, with the condemned: for, ‘Verily I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he shall not neater into the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Mourn for those who have died in wealth, and did not from their wealth think of any solace for their soul, who had power to wash away their sins and would not.” (Homily on Philippians, 3:24, 404 A.D.) We are indeed illuminated by the Holy Spirit through baptism, like a precious treasure used by only the King, Christ Himself. We glimmer like gold, and receive a “seal” from Christ of the faith from the Divine Seal from His holy ring. All those who refuse baptism are rascally scoundrels and culprits, and shun Christ and His baptism, as well as any chance of Divine assistance, and do not receive true “wealth” from Christ, but only material possessions from their material wealth. The only true wealth is spiritual, not material, since spiritual wealth is treasured up in Heaven, by material wealth is eaten by the Moths, and perishes. We all need the “solace” from the “power to wash away… sins,” that leads us to God’s “Palace” in Heaven, where one rests in repose from all unhappiness and illnesses, and live a life in Christ, forever and ever, and unto ages of ages
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.
The Life of the Holy Theotokos: Whom the Grave Could Not Contain
The Theotokos (God-Bearer) was born of the elderly Joachim and Anna as an answer to their prayers. After being humiliated and run out of the Temple, Joachim stood in prayer and fasting, in the same cave as once did Elijah the Prophet, begging God to give him and his barren wife a child. In their garden, Anna stood in prayer also, fervently asking God to take away her sorrow. An angel appeared to them both telling them of the great mystery that would be given to them, a daughter who would bear the Life of the World.
Joachim and Anna made a promise that they would give the child back to God, and being very pious and devout, they offered Mary up to be raised in the Temple at the age of three. The High Priest Zacharias, the husband of Anna’s niece and father of John the Baptist, welcomed the child Mary with great delight. Seeing that she would be made the new Ark, carrying within her the New Covenant, he was filled with the spirit and exclaimed, “The souls of the condemned rejoice and the patriarchs exult. Our prophets hoped in thee that they might be delivered from the hands of the devil!” Taking her into the Temple he placed her in the Holy of Holies saying, “Enter into the Holy of Holies, for thou art much purer than myself… For thou art the Temple of God, therefore, remain in the Temple.” The High Priest said that she was the “dry rod of Aaron,” the “bush which burned without being consumed,” “the fleece of Gideon”, and he called her “the Queen David spoke of” saying “At Thy right hand stood the Queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold, adorned in varied colors”(Ps. 44:8)
The young maiden grew up in the Temple, frequently visiting God in the Holy of Holies. Her parents came to visit her every year until they died of old age. When Mary reached the age of 13, she was forced to leave the temple because, according to Jewish law, a woman became unclean when they started their minstrel cycle. Seeing that Mary was deeply grieved, because she wanted to live in virginity, Zacharias found an older man, Joseph, who would only betroth her. Being betrothed was like engagement, it was before a formal wedding. Betrothal was binding in the Jewish tradition, but during the betrothal period you did not engage in sexual relations. Because of Mary’s desire to stay a virgin, history records that Joseph and Mary stayed only betrothed until Joseph’s death. This is why the Early Church always viewed Mary as being ever virgin.
Not long after living outside of the Temple, Gabriel the Angel announced to Mary what is strange to the angels and to the minds of men, that the Uncontainable God would be contained in her womb. On this day “the Son of God became the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel announces good tidings of grace. Therefore, let us also join him and cry aloud to the Theotokos: ‘Rejoice, thou who art full of grace: the Lord is with Thee!’”(Saint Ramonos). At this Mary was filled with joy and submitting to the will of God she said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”(Luke 1:38). Mary then went into the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the city of Judah. Upon seeing her, Elizabeth’s baby, the future John the Baptist, leaped in her womb and she cried out to
Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the Fruit of your womb!” Being filled with great joy, the Mother of God sung, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His handmaiden; for behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” God, in His great mercy, came down from on high and took flesh from Mary to dwell among us and save our souls. She had become the living Throne of God, for He now sat within her.
There was then a decree made, that all men should be registered. Joseph was to go the city of David because of his lineage. While they stayed there, Mary grew great with child and it was time for her to give birth. After much struggle, Joseph and Mary were settled in a manger. In those days, the hills around Bethlehem had many caves where the animals were kept by night. In one of these humble caves was the Christ born; and Mary, like a loving mother, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes. The God of all has been made flesh for us, humbling Himself to even be born in a cave of animals. She rejoiced at this marvel, beholding her son and God. This is the mystery of the universe. How could the One who created hands be held by them? How could the Provider of all take milk from a breast?
When the days of Mary’s purification were completed, according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him into the temple to present Him to the Lord and to offer up a sacrifice according to the law. There was a man that was very old at that time in Israel named Simeon. The Holy Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Simeon was filled with the Spirit and was lead into the temple. When Mary brought in the Child Jesus, Simeon picked Him up in his arms saying, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” Mary and Joseph marveled at what he said. The old man then turned to Mary and prophesied her suffering during Christ’s Passion and said “Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Mary kept these things in her heart.
When the evil Herod sought to kill the Immortal King, thinking that He was a threat to his earthly kingdom, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt, escaping the horrors of the innocent being slain in Bethlehem. In Egypt, the God of all continued to show His power as a babe in the flesh. Mary walked with him through the cities and idols crumbled before her feet. She was struck in awe as she held her God in her hands. When Herod was dead an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to return to Israel. On the way back to the Holy Land from Egypt, the family ran into a tree which a demon used to speak out of. People came from far and wide to worship this tree and get advice from it. Upon seeing Christ, the demon fled in great fear and the tree bowed before the feet of the Theotokos. This tree is still there today where many pilgrims go to praise God for His great power. Continuing on their way back home, Joseph was struck in fear when he heard that Archelaus was reining over Judea and, being warned by God in a dream, they turned to the region of Galilee. Mary raised her son and God in Galilee, and He “grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God.”(Luke 2:39).
The first great recorded miracle that Christ performed was at the request of the Theotokos. When they ran out of wine at the wedding feast in Cana, Mary said to her beloved son, “They have no wine.” Jesus replied to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with Me and you? My hour has not yet come.” Then the Theotokos told the servants to obey Him saying, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” When Jesus called Mary ‘woman’ it was a title of respect and distinction, showing love and honor toward His mother. From her childhood, Mary grew in love for her God, constantly dieing to this world and her passions to serve only Him. It is true when the Archangel preached that she was full of grace for she truly bore God incarnate for us and served Him unceasingly, setting an example for all those who choose to follow Him.
Everyday that passed Mary’s motherly love grew for her Child. She kept in her heart the words that Simeon had told her, and knew the fate her Son would have to face. When Jesus was put to trial, unlike most of the Apostles, Mary never left her son. She stood by Him and grieved bitterly. When the God of all, who stretched out the heavens, was transfixed with nails on the cross, His mother still stood very close to Him. None of us could imagine the agony that the Theotokos must have felt. Her son and God was suffering before her. Her own flesh was being mocked and beaten. While other disciples denied Him and fled, her Motherly love kept her close. Seeing her son dying, she heard Him cry out to her “Woman, behold your son” and then turning to the Disciple John He cried, “Behold your mother.” With this Christ gave His mother not only to St. John, but to all His faithful disciples. She is the mother of all Christians by her example of faithful endurance and love.
Christ’s body was given to the righteous Joseph to be buried and laid in a new tomb. Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary of Bethany, Martha of Bethany, and Mary the Theotokos were all there to anoint their God, wrap Him in a fine linen shroud and bury Him according to Jewish tradition. The stone was then rolled over the front of the tomb to seal it. Seeing the rock close off the entrance, the reality of God’s death painfully struck the heart of Mary, and Symeon’s Words were fulfilled. On the third day after Christ’s death the Theotokos lead the same group of pious women back to her son’s tomb. They came very early in the morning bringing spices and oils to anoint the body of their Savior. Coming to the tomb, they were shocked in horror, seeing that it was empty and the stone was rolled away. An angel, who was sitting the empty tomb, said “the ointment is meet for the dead, but Christ is shown to be remote from corruption. But cry ye, ‘The Lord is risen, granting the world the Great Mercy.’” Full of joy, the Mother of God ran off preaching the good news about her risen son.
Forty days after His resurrection from the dead, Christ ascended back into the Heavens. After this, Mary truly became a mother to the Apostles. She was with them to comfort and encourage them in their ministry. During this time, John, who was ordered from the Cross to take care of Mary, traveled with the Mother of God to visit all the Churches and Bishops. Once they set out to visit Saint Lazarus, who Christ raised on the fourth day, for he had been appointed Bishop of the Island of Cyprus. On this journey a storm blew them off course and they landed on the beautiful peninsula of Mount Athos. The Theotokos thought this land was so beautiful that, after she fell down in prayer, Christ appeared to her and dedicated this land to her, and many Monasteries were built there that still exist today. During this time, Saint Luke the Evangelist also painted the first Icon of her, which is still existent today. Mary also helped strengthen and encourage the early Churches in the right path. She frequently visited the Holy Sites where her son once walked, especially Golgotha, to pray and offer songs to God. The Theotokos was ever serving Christ and His Church until her repose.
The repose of the Mother of God was very sorrowful. Eleven of the Apostles, excluding Thomas, gathered from far and wide to lament and say goodbye to their Mother. They formed a procession with her pure body and carried it into Gethsemane. They all wept and sung psalms, lamenting over their Mother. While they were carrying her, a certain Jewish priest, Jephonias, saw them and was filled with great anger because he protested against the purity of Mary. He ran up to the funeral bier and attempted to push the Virgin’s pure body into the dirt. Before he could even reach the Theotokos, the Lord sent the Archangel Michael to protect His mother by cutting of the man’s hands. Jephonias screamed in horror, repented and was healed. The Apostles then laid her in a cave, wept, and sealed the tomb. Meanwhile the Apostle Thomas arrived from his missions in India and was grieved because he did not get to venerate the Mother of God for the last time. The Apostles, seeing Thomas’s great sadness, agreed to gather once again and open the tomb of Mary so that they may all venerate her together. When the Apostles opened the tomb, they discovered her body gone and became filled with distress. The Apostles feared that someone had stolen their Mother’s body. That night the Apostles agreed to gather together for a common meal. It was at this time that the Theotokos appeared to them, revealing that her son had glorified her human body in Heaven and sat her at His right hand as an intercessor and Mother for His Church. Neither the tomb, nor death could hold the Theotokos, Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.
First Printed in DTTW #14, 2007
DEATH TO THE WORLD