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Mottos: “In Christianity truth is not a philosophical concept nor is it a theory, a teaching, or a system, but rather, it is the living theanthropic hypostasis—the historical Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Before Christ men could only conjecture about the Truth since they did not possess it. With Christ as the incarnate divine Logos the eternally complete divine Truth enters into the world. For this reason the Gospel says: “Truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).”

“The first truth of Orthodoxy is that man does not exist for the sake of man, but for the sake of God or, more fully, for the sake of the God-man. Therefore, we stay with the God-man in the name of man. In Him alone is an understanding of man’s being possible; in Him alone is a justification for man’s existence possible. All the mysteries of heaven and earth are attained in this truth, all the values of all the worlds that man can contemplate, all the joys of all the perfections that man can attain.”

(St Justin Popovich of Celije  in “Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ)

Live images with St Justin

(On its afternoon session of April 29 of this year, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church unanimously adopted recommendations of the competent diocesan bishops and entered into dyptichs of the saints of the Orthodox Church names of the blessed repose of archimandrite Justin Popovic, geront of the monastery Celije near Valjevo (1894-1979), from now  Venerable Justin of Celije, and Simeon Popovic , prior of the monastery Dajbabe near Podgorica (1854-1941), from now Venerable Simeon of Dajbabe.

Liturgical memory of Venerable Justin will be celebrated on June 1, according to the Julian calendar (June 14, according to the Gregorian calendar), a memory of Venerable Simeon will be celebrated on March 19 according to the Julian calendar (April 1, after the Gregorian calendar).

The formal celebration of the newly canonized saints will be performed at the Holy Hierarchal Liturgy on the following Sunday, May 2, at the St Sava Cathedral in Vrachar, commencing at 9am).

Source:  http://www.eparhija-prizren.com/en

 

 

The Three Principal Falls

by St. Justin Popovich of Celije    

 

    In the history of the human race there have been three principal falls: that of Adam, that of Judas, and that of the pope. The principal characteristic of falling into sin is always the same: wanting to be good for one’s own sake; wanting to be perfect for one’s own sake; wanting to be God for one’s own sake. In this manner, however, man unconsciously equates himself to the devil, because the devil also wanted to become God for his own sake, to put himself in the place of God. And in this self-elevation he instantly became devil, completely separated from God, and always in opposition to Him. Therefore, the essence of sin, of every sin (svegreha), consists of this arrogant self-aggrandizement. This is the very essence of the devil himself, of Satan. It is nothing other than one’s wanting to remain within one’s own being, wanting nothing within one’s self other than oneself. The entire devil is found here: in the desire to exclude God, in the desire to always be by himself, to always belong only to himself, to be entirely within himself and always for himself, to be forever hermetically sealed in opposition to God and everything that belongs to God.

    And what is this? It is egotism and self-love embraced in all eternity, that is to say: it is hell. For that is essentially what the humanist is – entirely within himself, by himself, for himself, always spitefully closed in opposition to God. Here lies every humanism, every hominism. The culmination of such satanically oriented humanism is the desire to become good for the sake of evil, to become God for the sake of the devil. It proceeds from the promise of the devil to our forefathers in Paradise—that with his help, “they would become as gods” (Gen. 3: 5). Man was created with theanthropic potential by God who loves mankind, so that he might voluntarily direct himself, through God, toward becoming God-man, based on the divinity of his nature. Man, however, with his free will sought sinlessness through sin, sought God through the devil. And assuredly, following this road he would have become identical with the devil had not God interceded in His immeasurable love of mankind and in His great mercy. By becoming man, that is to say God-man, he redirected man toward the God-man. He introduced him to the Church which is his body, to the reward (podvig) of theosis through the holy mysteries and the blessed virtues. And in this manner he gave man the strength to become “a perfect man, in the measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13), to achieve, that is, the Divine destiny, to voluntarily become God-man by grace.

    The fall of the pope is a consequence of the desire to substitute man for the God-man…In the kingdom of humanism the place of the God-man had been usurped by the Vicarius Christi, and the God-man has thus been exiled to Heaven. This surely results in a peculiar deincarnation of Christ the God-man, does it not?

    Through the dogma of infallibility the pope usurped for himself, that is for man, the entire jurisdiction and all the prerogatives which belong only to the Lord God-man. He effectively proclaimed himself as the Church, the papal church, and he has become in her the be-all and end-all, the self-proclaimed ruler of everything. In this way the dogma of the infallibility of the pope has been elevated to the central dogma (svedogma) of the papacy. And the pope cannot deny this in any way as long as he remains pope of a humanistic papacy.

 From “Reflections on the Infallibiity of European Man” in Orthodox Faith and Life in Christ, Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1994, Asterios Gerostergios, ed.

 

Other links: 

   Ven. Fr. Justin of Cheliye:

INTRODUCTION TO THE LIVES OF THE SAINTS

CONDEMNED TO IMMORTALITY: A MEDITATION ON THE RESURRECTION

– THE ATTRIBUTES OF THE CHURCH

THE INWARD MISSION OF OUR CHURCH: BRINGING ABOUT ORTHODOXY

PERFECT GOD AND PERFECT MAN

 – THE FOUNDATION OF THE TRUTH OF ORTHODOXY

HOW TO READ THE BIBLE AND WHY

THE MYSTERY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

 

According to a recent article from the New York Times: the Vatican‘s chief astronomer says there is no conflict between believing in God and in the possibility of extraterrestrial “brothers” perhaps more evolved than humans.

“In my opinion this possibility exists,” said the Reverend José Gabriel Funes, head of the Vatican Observatory and a scientific adviser to Pope Benedict XVI, referring to life on other planets.

“How can we exclude that life has developed elsewhere,” he said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, published in its Tuesday-Wednesday edition. The large number of galaxies with their own planets makes this possible, he noted… More at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/world/europe/14iht-vat.4.12885393.html?_r=2

 

CHRISTIAN’ INTEREST IN UFOS

by Blessed Hieromonk Seraphim Rose

    A second example of a new phenomenon, which at first sight one doesn’t know what to make of, is the now very common phenomenon of UFOs, flying saucers.
    There is a particular Protestant evangelist, the above-mentioned Carl McIntire, who is extremely strict and righteous and very Bible-believing.  He has a radio program, the Twentieth-Century Reformation, and a newspaper.  He is absolutely upright—you have to separate from all people who are in apostasy—and his ideas are very nice.  He’s anti-communist.  He calls Billy Graham an apostate, together with everyone who deviates from the strict line of what he thinks is right.  From this point of view he’s very strict, and yet you see the strangest things in his philosophy.  For example, he’s building himself the Temple of Jerusalem, in Florida.  He has a model of the Temple, and he wants to build it so as to make it compete with Disneyworld.  People will come and pay to see the great Temple which is soon going to be built for Christ to come to earth.  This is supposed to provide a good opportunity to witness Christianity.
    He goes in for the flying saucers, also.  In every issue of his newspaper there’s a little column called “UFO Column,” and there they talk, to one’s great astonishment, about all the wonderful, positive things which these flying saucers are doing.  The give conferences and make movies about them.
    Just recently there have been several Protestant books about UFOs, showing quite clearly that they’re demons.  The person who writes the column in this newspaper got upset about this, and said that some people say that these beings are demons, but we can prove they aren’t.  He says that maybe a couple of them are demons, but most of them aren’t.  He cites a recent case in which some family in the Midwest saw a flying saucer.  The flying saucer came down, landed, and the family saw inside little men—they’re usually four and half feet tall or so—and they sang “Hallelujah.”  They stopped and looked and then they flew away; I guess they didn’t talk to them any more.  And that set the family to thinking; they began to think “Hallelujah”; they began to think about Christianity; they looked in their Bibles, and they finally ended up going to a Fundamentalist church and being converted to Christianity.  Therefore, he says, these beings must be some kind of people who are helping God’s plan to make the world Christian because they said “Hallelujah.”
    Of course, if you read Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov, you will know about all the deceptions which the demons perpetrate: the demons “pray” for you, the demons make miracles, they produce the most wonderful phenomena, they bring people to church, they do anything you want, as long as they keep you in this deception.  And when the time comes, they will suddenly pull their tricks on you.  So these people, who have been converted to some kind of Christianity by these so-called outer-space beings, are waiting for the next time they will come; and the next time their message may have to do with Christ coming to earth again soon, or something of the sort.  It’s obvious that this is all the work of demons.  That is, where it’s real.  Sometimes it’s just imagination, but when it’s real this kind of thing obviously comes form demons.
    This is very elementary.  If you read any text of the early Fathers, any of the early Lives of Saints or the Lausiac History, you find many cases where beings suddenly appear.  Nowadays they appear in spaceships because that’s how the demons have adapted themselves to the people of the times; but if you understand how spiritual deception works and what kind of wiles the devil has, then you have no problems in understanding what’s going on with these flying saucers.  And yet this person who writes the UFO column is an absolutely strict Fundamentalist Christian.  He is looking, actually for new revelations to come from beings from outer space.

 

The Spirit of the Last Times

A “Pentecost without Christ”

THE HOLY SCRIPTURES and Orthodox Fathers clearly tell us that the character of the last times will not at all be one of a great spiritual “revival,” of an “outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” but rather one of almost universal apostasy, of spiritual deception so subtle that the very elect, if that were possible, will be deceived, of the virtual disappearance of Christianity from the face of the earth. “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) It is precisely in the last times that Satan is to be loosed (Apoc. 20:3) in order to produce the final and greatest outpouring of evil upon the earth.

The “charismatic revival,” the product of a world without sacraments, without grace, a world thirsting for spiritual “signs” without being able to discern the spirits that give the signs, is itself a “sign” of these apostate times. The ecumenical movement itself remains always a movement of “good intentions” and feeble humanitarian “good deeds”; but when it is joined by a movement with “power,” indeed “with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9), then who will be able to stop it? The “charismatic revival” comes to the rescue of a floundering ecumenism, and pushes it on to its goal. And this goal, as we have seen, is not merely “Christian” in nature – the “refounding of the Church of Christ,” to use the blasphemous utterance of Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople – that is only the first step to a larger goal which lies entirely outside of Christianity: the establishment of the “spiritual unity” of all religions, of all mankind.

However, the followers of the “charismatic revival” believe their experience is “Christian”; they will have nothing to do with occultism and Eastern religions; and they doubtless reject outright the whole comparison in the preceding pages of the “charismatic revival” with spiritism. Now it is quite true that religiously the “charismatic revival” is on a higher level than spiritism, which is a product of quite gross credulity and superstition; that its techniques are more refined and its phenomena more plentiful and more easily obtained; and that its whole ideology gives the appearance of being “Christian” – not Orthodox, but something that is not far from Protestant fundamentalism with an added “ecumenical” coloring.

Those who bring Christian ideas to the experience assume that the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” is a Christian experience. But if it can be given to those who merely seek a cheap, easy status experience – then there is no necessary connection whatever between this experience and Christ. The very possibility of an experience of a “Pentecost without Christ” means that the experience in itself is not Christian at all; “Christians,” often sincere and well-meaning, are reading into the experience a Christian content which in itself it does not have.

Do we not have here the common denominator of “spiritual experience” which is needed for a new world religion? Is this not perhaps the key to the “spiritual unity” of mankind which the ecumenical movement has sought in vain? 

The “New Christianity”

 

 

THERE MAY BE THOSE who will doubt that the “charismatic revival” is a form of mediumism; that is only a secondary question of the means or technique by which the “spirit” of the “charismatic revival” is communicated. But that this “spirit” has nothing to do with Orthodox Christianity is abundantly clear. And in fact this “spirit” follows almost to the letter the “prophecies” of Nicholas Berdyaev concerning a “New Christianity.” It completely leaves behind the “monastic ascetic spirit of historical Orthodoxy,” which most effectively exposes its falsity. It is not satisfied with the “conservative Christianity which directs the spiritual forces of man only towards contrition and salvation,” but rather, apparently believing like Berdyaev that such a Christianity is still “incomplete,” adds a second level of “spiritual” phenomena, not one of which is specifically Christian in character (although one is free to interpret them as “Christian”), which are open to people of every denomination with or without repentance, and which are completely unrelated to salvation. It looks to “a new era in Christianity, a new and deep spirituality, which means a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit” – in complete contradiction of Orthodox tradition and prophecy.

This is truly a “New Christianity” – but the specifically “new” ingredient in this “Christianity” is nothing original or “advanced,” but merely a modern form of the devil’s age – old religion of shamanistic paganism. The Orthodox “charismatic” periodical The Logos recommends Nicholas Berdyaev as a “prophet” precisely because he was “the greatest theologian of spiritual creativeness” (Logos, March, 1972, p. 8). And indeed, it is precisely the shamans of every primitive tribe who know how to get in contact with and utilize the primordial “creative” powers of the universe – those “spirits of earth and sky and sea” which the Church of Christ recognizes as demons, and in serving which it is indeed possible to attain to a “creative” ecstasy and joy (the “Nietzschean enthusiasm and ecstasy” to which Berdyaev felt so close) which are unknown to the weary and half-hearted “Christians” who fall for the “charismatic” deception. But there is no Christ here. God has forbidden contact with this “creative,” occult realm into which “Christians” have stumbled through ignorance and self-deception. The “charismatic revival” will have no need to enter a “dialogue with non-Christian religions,” because, under the name of “Christianity,” it is already embracing non-Christian religion and is itself becoming the new religion which Berdyaev foresaw, strangely combining “Christianity” and paganism.

The strange “Christian” spirit of the “charismatic revival” is clearly identified in the Holy Scriptures and the Orthodox patristic tradition. According to these sources, world history will culminate in an almost superhuman “Christian” figure, the false messiah or antichrist. He will be “Christian” in the sense that his whole function and his very being will center on Christ, Whom he will imitate in every respect possible, and he will be not merely the greatest enemy of Christ, but in order to deceive Christians will appear to be Christ, come to earth for a second time and ruling from the restored Temple in Jerusalem.

Let no one deceive you by any means, for that day shall not come except there come a falling away (apostasy) first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God… even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all lying wonders, and with all deceivableness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:3-4, 9-12).

The Orthodox teaching concerning antichrist is a large subject in itself and cannot be presented here. But if, as the followers of the “charismatic revival” believe, the last days are indeed at hand, it is of crucial importance for the Orthodox Christian to be informed of this teaching concerning one who, as the Saviour Himself has told us, together with the “false prophets” of that time, shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect (Matt. 24:24). And the “elect” are certainly not those multitudes of people who are coming to accept the gross and most unscriptural delusion that “the world is on the threshold of a great spiritual awakening,” but rather the “little flock” to which alone our Saviour has promised: It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12:32). Even the true “elect” will be sorely tempted by the “great signs and wonders” of antichrist; but most “Christians” will accept him without any question, for his “New Christianity” is precisely what they seek.

 

“Little Children, It is the Last Hour” (1 John 2:18)

 

Outside of genuine Orthodoxy the darkness… grows. Judging from the latest “religious” news, the “charismatic revival” may well be only the faint beginning of a whole “age of miracles.” Many Protestants who have discerned the fraud of the “charismatic revival” now accept as “the real thing” the spectacular “revival” in Indonesia where, we are told, there are really occurring “the self same things that one finds reported in the Acts of the Apostles.” In the space of three years 200,000 pagans have been converted to Protestantism under constantly miraculous conditions: No one does anything except in absolute obedience to “voices” and “angels” who are constantly appearing, usually quoting Scripture by number and verse; water is turned into wine every time the Protestant communion service comes around; detached hands appear from nowhere to distribute miraculous food to the hungry; a whole band of demons is seen to abandon a pagan village because a “more powerful” one (“Jesus”) has come to take their place; “Christians” have a “countdown” for an unrepentant sinner, and when they come to “zero” he dies; children are taught new Protestant hymns by voices that come from nowhere (and repeat the song twenty times so the children will remember); “God’s tape-recorder” records the song of a children¹s choir and plays it back in the air for the astonished children; fire comes down from the sky to consume Catholic religious images (“the Lord” in Indonesia is very anti-Catholic); 30,000 have been healed; “Christ” appears in the sky and “falls” on people in order to heal them; people are miraculously transported from place to place and walk on water; lights accompany evangelists and guide them at night, and clouds follow them and give them shelter during the day: the dead are raised [19].

Interestingly, in some parts of the Indonesian “revival” the element of “speaking in tongues” is almost totally absent and is even forbidden (although it is present in many places), and the element of mediumism seems sometimes to be replaced by a direct intervention of fallen spirits. It may well be that this new “revival,” more powerful than Pentecostalism, is a more developed stage of the same “spiritual” phenomenon (just as Pentecostalism itself is more advanced than spiritism) and heralds the imminence of the dreadful day when, as the “voices” and “angels” in Indonesia also proclaim, “the Lord” is to come – for we know that antichrist will prove to the world that he is “Christ” by just such “miracles.”

In an age of almost universal darkness and deception, when for most “Christians” Christ has become precisely what Orthodox teaching means by antichrist, the Orthodox Church of Christ alone possesses and communicates the grace of God. This is a priceless treasure the very existence of which is not so much as suspected even by the “Christian” world. The “Christian” world, indeed, joins hands with the forces of darkness in order to seduce the faithful of the Church of Christ, blindly trusting that the “name of Jesus” will save them even in their apostasy and blasphemy, mindless of the fearful warning of the Lord: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:22-23).

St. Paul continues his warning about the coming of antichrist with this command: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). “There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so say I now again: If any preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8-9).

The Orthodox answer to every new “revival,” and even to the final terrible “revival” of antichrist, is this Gospel of Christ, which the Orthodox Church alone has preserved unchanged in an unbroken line from Christ and His Apostles, and the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Orthodox Church alone communicates, and only to her faithful children, who have received in Chrismation, and kept, the true seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

The Religion of the Future

IT IS DEEPLY INDICATIVE of the spiritual state of contemporary mankind that the “charismatic” and “meditation” experiences are taking root among “Christians.” An Eastern religious influence is undeniably at work in such “Christians,” but it is only as a result of something much more fundamental: the loss of the very feeling and savor of Christianity, due to which something so alien to Christianity as Eastern “meditation” can take hold of “Christian” souls.

The life of self-centeredness and self-satisfaction lived by most of today’s “Christians” is so all-pervading that it effectively seals them off from any understanding at all of spiritual life; and when such people do undertake “spiritual life,” it is only as another form of self-satisfaction. This can be seen quite clearly in the totally false religious ideal both of the “charismatic” movement and the various forms of “Christian meditation”: all of them promise (and give very quickly) an experience of “contentment” and “peace.” But this is not the Christian ideal at all, which if anything may be summed up as a fierce battle and struggle. The “contentment” and “peace” described in these contemporary “spiritual” movements are quite manifestly the product of spiritual deception, of spiritual self-satisfaction – which is the absolute death of the God-oriented spiritual life. All these forms of “Christian meditation” operate solely on the psychic level and have nothing whatever in common with Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality is formed in the arduous struggle to acquire the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, which fully begins only with the dissolution of this temporal world, and the true Christian struggler never finds repose even in the foretastes of eternal blessedness which might be vouchsafed to him in this life; but the Eastern religions, to which the Kingdom of Heaven has not been revealed, strive only to acquire psychic states which begin and end in this life.

In our age of apostasy preceding the manifestation of antichrist, the devil has been loosed for a time (Apoc. 20:7) to work the false miracles which he could not work during the “thousand years” of Grace in the Church of Christ (Apoc. 20:3), and to gather in his hellish harvest of those souls who “received not the love of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10). We can tell that the time of antichrist is truly near by the very fact that this satanic harvest is now being reaped not merely among the pagan peoples, who have not heard of Christ, but even more among “Christians” who have lost the savor of Christianity. It is of the very nature of antichrist to present the kingdom of the devil as if it were of Christ. The present-day “charismatic” movement and “Christian meditation,” and the “new religious consciousness” of which they are part, are forerunners of the religion of the future, the religion of the last humanity, the religion of antichrist, and their chief “spiritual” function is to make available to Christians the demonic initiation hitherto restricted to the pagan world. Let it be that these “religious experiments” are still often of a tentative and groping nature, that there is in them at least as much psychic self-deception as there is a genuinely demonic initiation rite; doubtless not everyone who has successfully “meditated” or thinks he has received the “Baptism of the Spirit” has actually received initiation into the kingdom of satan. But this is the aim of these “experiments,” and doubtless the techniques of initiation will become ever more efficient as mankind becomes prepared for them by the attitudes or passivity and openness to new “religious experiences” which are inculcated by these movements.

What has brought humanity – and indeed “Christendom” – to this desperate state? Certainly it is not any overt worship of the devil, which is limited always to a few people; rather, it is something much more subtle, and something fearful for a conscious Orthodox Christian to reflect on: it is the loss of the grace of God, which follows on the loss of the savor of Christianity.

Roman Catholics and Protestants today have not fully tasted of God’s grace, and so it is not surprising that they should be unable to discern its demonic counterfeit. But alas! The success of counterfeit spirituality even among Orthodox Christians today reveals how much they also have lost the savor of Christianity and so can no longer distinguish between true Christianity and pseudo-Christianity. For too long have Orthodox Christians taken for granted the precious treasure of their Faith and neglected to put into use the pure gold of its teachings. How many Orthodox Christians even know of the existence of the basic texts of Orthodox spiritual life, which teach precisely how to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit spirituality, texts which give the life and teaching of holy men and women who attained an abundant measure of God’s grace in this life? How many have made their own the teaching of the Lausiac History, the Ladder of St. John, the Homilies of St. Macarius, the Lives of the God-bearing Fathers of the desert, Unseen Warfare, St. John of Kronstadt’s My Life in Christ?

In the Life of the great Father of the Egyptian desert, St. Paisius the Great (June 19), we may see a shocking example of how easy it is to lose the grace of God. Once a disciple of his was walking to a city in Egypt to sell his handiwork. On the way he met a Jew who, seeing his simplicity, began to deceive him, saying: “O beloved, why do you believe in a simple, crucified Man, when He was not at all the awaited Messiah? Another is to come, but not He.” The disciple, being weak in mind and simple in heart, began to listen to these words and allowed himself to say: “Perhaps what you say is correct.” When he returned to the desert, St. Paisius turned away from him and would not speak a single word to him. Finally, after the disciple¹s long entreaty, the Saint said to him: “Who are you? I do not know you. This disciple of mine was a Christian and had upon him the grace of Baptism, but you are not such a one; if you are actually my disciple, then the grace of Baptism has left you and the image of a Christian has been removed.” The disciple with tears related his conversation with the Jew, to which the Saint replied: “O wretched one! What could be worse and more foul than such words, by which you renounced Christ and His divine Baptism? Now go and weep over yourself as you wish, for you have no place with me; your name is written with those who have renounced Christ, and together with them you will receive judgment and torments.” On hearing this judgment the disciple was filled with repentance, and at his entreaty the Saint shut himself up and prayed to the Lord to forgive his disciple this sin. The Lord heard the Saint¹s prayer and granted him to behold a sign of His forgiveness of the disciple. The Saint then warned the disciple: “O child, give glory and thanksgiving to Christ God together with me, for the unclean, blasphemous spirit has departed from you, and in his place the Holy Spirit has descended upon you, restoring to you the grace of Baptism. And so, guard yourself now, lest out of sloth and carelessness the nets of the enemy should fall upon you again and, having sinned, you should inherit the fire of gehenna.”

Significantly, it is among “ecumenical Christians” that the “charismatic” and “meditation” movements have taken root. The characteristic belief of the heresy of ecumenism is this: that the Orthodox Church is not the one true Church of Christ; that the grace of God is present also in other “Christian” denominations, and even in non-Christian religions; that the narrow path of salvation according to the teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church is only “one path among many” to salvation; and that the details of one’s belief in Christ are of little importance, as is one’s membership in any particular church. Not all the Orthodox participants in the ecumenical movement believe this entirely (although Protestants and Roman Catholics most certainly do); but by their very participation in this movement, including invariably common prayer with those who believe wrongly about Christ and His Church, they tell the heretics who behold them: “Perhaps what you say is correct,” even as the wretched disciple of St. Paisius did. No more than this is required for an Orthodox Christian to lose the grace of God; and what labor it will cost for him to gain it back!

How much, then, must Orthodox Christians walk in the fear of God, trembling lest they lose His grace, which by no means is given to everyone, but only to those who hold the true Faith, lead a life of Christian struggle, and treasure the grace of God which leads them heavenward. And how much more cautiously must Orthodox Christians walk today above all, when they are surrounded by a counterfeit Christianity that gives its own experiences of “grace” and the “Holy Spirit” and can abundantly quote the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers to “prove” it! Surely the last times are near, when there will come spiritual deception so persuasive as to “deceive, if it were possible, even the very elect” (Matt. 24:24).

Orthodox Christians! Hold fast to the grace which you have; never let it become a matter of habit; never measure it by merely human standards or expect it to be logical or comprehensible to those who understand nothing higher than what is human or who think to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit in some other way than that which the one Church of Christ has handed down to us. True Orthodoxy by its very nature must seem totally out of place in these demonic times, a dwindling minority of the despised and “foolish,” in the midst of a religious “revival” inspired by another kind of spirit. But let us take comfort from the certain words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Fathers good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Let all true Orthodox Christians strengthen themselves for the battle ahead, never forgetting that in Christ the victory is already ours. He has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18), and that for the sake of the elect He will cut short the days of the last great tribulation (Matt. 24:22). And in truth, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Even in the midst of the cruelest temptations, we are commanded to be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Let us live, even as true Christians of all times have lived, in expectation of the end of all things and the coming of our dear Saviour; for “He that giveth testimony of these things saith: Surely I come quickly. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Apoc. 22:20).

______________________________________________

Excerpts from “Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future”  by blessed Father Seraphim Rose @ St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California, 2004.

 

The Healing of the Paralytic and the Loneliness of Contemporary Man

 

By Fr. George Calciu

   What is more srtiking in today’s Gospel (John 5:1-15), is the loneliness of the sick man.  

  Have you heard? “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” (Jn. 5: 7). 

  The most tragic state of man is loneliness, he’s total isolation. According to Saint Cyprian of Carthage: “Everyone falls alone, but we are been saved in the community”, in the community of the church. To be alone means to fall, to get lost. Being along implies thinking only of oneself, (or perhaps not even so) because you’re overwhelmed by the suffering in which you lie. You are overpowered by the futility of life. If your life is lonely and bereft of God, it becomes useless and lost -a life whose meaning has vanished from the moment you became isolated.  

  This paralytic did not even have a relative, or a friend to put him in the pool when the water was troubled, so that he  could be healed. 

  How many times do we find ourselves in this situation? How many times do we feel alone or sick or disable, or bereft of anyone to help us to be healed or relieved from our suffering? Or perhaps, in our loneliness and pain we cannot find someone to share [our sufering], because as a German proverb says: a pain shared is halved, but an unrequited pain is doubled. So it happened with this (paralytic) man.

  But our merciful Lord asked him: “Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:6).  Such a question addressed to the sick, may seem unnecessary. Of course he wants to be healed.

  However, our Savior’s was alluding to something else. This man was sick for his sins, and when he was asked: “Wilt thou be made whole?” our Savior was in fact asking him: “Do you want to repent of your sins?”  The proof of this is revealed to us later, when Jesus met him in the temple and said: Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come onto thee ” (Jn. 5:14).

  What is even more striking to us and to others, is that the moment Jesus healed the paralytic man, those around him instead of rejoicing seeing him healed, the scribes and the Pharisees became angry and said: It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry thy bed.”(john 5:10) They did not say: “We are greatful that you are healed! Go and give thanks to God”. Rather, they were only interested in the formality of the law, which stated that on Saturdays, one should not work. They sacrificed man in order to obey this Law.

  And they have asked him: “Who is the Man that healed you?” But he didn’t know “who it was” (cf. John 5:12-13). But when Jesus met him in the temple, he went away and told the Jews that: “It was Jesus Who had made him whole” (see Jn 5:15).

  He’s intent was not to denounce Jesus to the Jews,  rather his sincere will to say to anyone: “This Man helped me! He healed me! He stood by me in misery! “

  We all feel the need to proclaim it when someone had helped us. We feel the need to reveal a miracle. Not for praise, but to escape the loneliness, the sickness and the pain! I feel the need to proclaim who brought me to the Faith, who absolved me from my sins and the wickedness of my heart: a priest, a believer, a friend … I feel the need to say: “He helped me!” So it was with this paralytic.

  My beloved faithful, our contemporary society and most authorities, not only the communists – are increasingly isolating us, in order that we may become lonelier, less bound to each other and less communicative, in order that they may lead us to their intended destination. They are trying to isolate us, because communities are much harder to lead than isolated individuals.

  The communists have done it through violence. The West doesn’t use violence but another method: proclaiming that you are  “unique”, that you have “many rights”, you are an “independent man”, that you need to be alone, not confined to your parents, not obedient to them or to anyone as a child, because you are a “free man”.

  This misunderstood freedom is a revolt against God, it is nihilism.

  Thus, we have reached the state that we see today, with all the crimes that haunt the world…where  14 year-old children shoot their teachers, their friends, and their parents.

  We broke the human ties with those we live near. That spiritual relationship between my brother and me, between my parents and me, between parents and children, between friends has vanished. And in this disintegration of the personality, which leads towards a demonized world, we are growing increasingly isolated.

  Let us remain united in faith and love with one another, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us stay united in the community of the Church, because the Church of Christ is the only beneficial social group. Other groups lead to self-destruction. They attempt to destroy humankind, to make man an instrument of business, a mare cog in this complicated mechanism of human society.

Excerpt from the book: “Father George Calciu’ Living words: To serve Christ means suffering”. 2009 @ Bonifaciu Press. Translation by EC.



 

George, this truly great and glorious Martyr of Christ, was born of a father from Cappadocia and a mother from Palestine. Being a military tribune, or chiliarch (that is, a commander of a thousand troops), he was illustrious in battle and highly honoured for his courage. When he learned that the Emperor Diocletian was preparing a persecution of the Christians, Saint George presented himself publicly before the Emperor and denounced him. When threats and promises could not move him from his steadfast confession, he was put to unheard-of tortures, which he endured with great bravery, overcoming them by his faith and love towards Christ. By the wondrous signs that took place in his contest, he guided many to the knowledge of the truth, including Queen Alexandra, wife of Diocletian, and was finally beheaded in 296 in Nicomedia.

His sacred remains were taken by his servant from Nicomedia to Palestine, to a town called Lydda, the homeland of his mother, and then were finally transferred to the church which was raised up in his name. (The translation of the Saint’s holy relics to the church in Lydda is commemorated on November 3; Saint Alexandra the Queen, on April 21.)

The Church of the Holy Great Martyr  George from Lodd, Lydda

The Church dedicated to the Great Martyr George is located in Lodd, Lydda. Lodd is one of the major cities in Palestine. Following the tradition of the ancient churches – built on the graves of the martyrs, the Church of St George was built in the place where the saint was buried after been martyred.

Lydda is an ancient city mentioned in both the Old as well as the New Testaments;  In the Ist Chronicle: 8, 12, and in the Acts of the Apostles: ” As Peter traveled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. “(Acts 9, 32-35). According to the Holy Scripture, Lydda was built by a member of the tribe of Benjamin, Shemed. This place was deserted starting with the captivity of Babylon, but it was reestablished immediately after the Jews returned from exile. 

In the Hellenistic period, this place was situated outside the borders of Judea, but in the period of the Maccabees, it was returned to the Israeli.

Biserica Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - Lida, Lodd

By the Byzantine era, the town was already largely Christianized. This is one of the legendary places where the Holy Great Martyr St. George was born which is why, for a time, the city was called Georgiopolis. The Tomb of the Holy Martyr was built in the very place, where it exists today. Conquered by the Muslims in the year 636, the city of Lydda will become part of the region of Philistines.  Later, in 1099, the Crusaders will occupy the city.

Biserica Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - Lida, Lodd

Biserica Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - Lida, Lodd

For the English king Richard the Lionheart, the city held a precious value, considering this was the place of birth of the protector of England – Holy Great Martyr George. For a time the Crusaders made this city the seat of the Roman rite. According to the Jewish pilgrim Benjamin of Tudela, in the city of Lydda, in the year 1170,  only a Jewish dyer was left among the Crusaders inhabitants.

Biserica Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - Lida, Lodd

Biserica Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - Lida, Lodd

St. George is famous not only in his hometown but throughout the whole Christian world as one of the most beloved saints. After saint’ martyrdom, Christians have taken his body and brought it to the Holy Land in his native village. The Church St. George (el-Khader) of Lydda, is one of the most sacred places of worship in the region and it was dedicated to the Christian Martyrs of the fourth century. 

         

The present church from Lodd was built in 1870, and it was attached by a common wall to the mosque  of Chodr El. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has received approval from Turkish authorities, to rebuild a church on the site of a former Christian basilica. The last ruins present here belonged to an ancient Christian church from the XV century; the new basilica  – a Greek Orthodox Monastery built over those ruins, was dedicated to  the Holy Martyr George as well as to the  Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel.

 Biserica Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - Lida, Lodd

In order to approve the building of the new Orthodox Monastery, Turkish authorities have requested that the remaining space to be given up for the mosque. Therefore, the current Church St. George occupies only the north-eastern corner of the old Christian basilica.        

Above the church door’ entrance a nice icon depicts the great Martyr George slaying the dragon.

Biserica Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - Lida, Lodd

Biserica Sfantul Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - Lida, Lodd

The underground chapel of this newly built  Orthodox Monastery preserves the tomb of St. George and part of his relics.

Mormantul Sfantului Mare Mucenic Gheorghe

Mormantul Sfantului Mare Mucenic Gheorghe

The church also preserves the “chains” that bound St. George before going for his martyrdom.

Lanturile Sfantului Mare Mucenic Gheorghe

 The stone sarcophagus of St George, found in the underground chapel, was restored in 1871, during the time of Patriarch Cyril.

Moastele Sfantului Mare Mucenic Gheorghe - aflate in biserica din Lodd

Small parts from the precious relics of St George are also present in many other churches throughout the world, one country adopted St. George as its patron Saint and it was named after the saint’ name: Georgia.   

Holy Great Martyr George pray to God for us!

Trials, Temptations and Tribulations: Finding Help in the Psalms

   None of us can go through life without experiencing various trials, temptations and tribulations. St Anthony of the Desert said: “Expect temptations to your last breath. Without temptations no-one can be saved” We all know quite well through our own life experiences what these are and what they feel like – be it sickness, death, grief, separation, anxiety, stress, bad thoughts, etc. Even though each person’s difficulties may look somewhat similar, each will likely handle them differently.

   What can you do as we go through the trials, temptations and tribulations of life? We might hear from well-meaning people suggestions like, “hang in there, tomorrow will be better. Don’t give up, keep your chin up. I feel for you, been there and done that. Life sure has its ups and downs!” However, as Christians we understand that because of Christ’s sufferings on the Cross, we know that we are not alone while enduring our sufferings. We must pray and ask our Lord to help us.

Hear, o Lord, and be gracious to me!

O Lord, be Thou my helper! (PS. 30:10)

   When difficult times weigh heavy on our minds, hearts, and bodies, one place where we can find help is in the psalms of the Bible. Reading a whole psalm or part of one can bring some comfort and solace. Repeating a few verses of a psalm throughout the day can help keep our minds and our hearts united to God. It can be helpful to read the Psalms and memorize a few verses when we are calm and peaceful so they are readily available to us in times of distress.

    A good example of helpful verses is found in Psalm 143, one of Six Psalms read each morning at the beginning of the Matins service and also repeated at the evening Compline service.

Teach me the way I should go.

for to Thee I lift up my soul,

Deliver me, O Lord from my enemies!

I have fled to Thee for refuge!

Teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God!

Let Thy good spirit lead into me on a level path!

For Thy name’s sake; O Lord preserve my life!

In Thy righteousness bring me out of trouble!

(Ps. 143: 8-12)

   We learn that the Lord hears our prayers and we, the faithful, must be patient and trust in God’s mercy as we pass through the storms.

Trust in Him at all times, O people;

pour out your heart before Him;

God is a refuge for us (Ps. 62:8).

  

(Elder Arsenius speaks on the Meaning of Suffering)

Sometimes we do not fully understand why the trial has come upon us or why at first it seems so overwhelming. As we pray and cry out to our Lord with tears, we might see that something inside of us needs to change. Perhaps we have done wrong and need to ask God for others for forgiveness. Often we need to understand that we might need to change the way we respond to others who night have hurt us intentionally or unintentionally. Many times our emotions rage within us so strongly that we can not see the situation clearly and we need some spiritual counsel.

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;

fret not yourself, it tends only to evil (Ps. 37:7-8).

   In additions to reading the psalms, praying, fasting, confessing our sins, attending Divine Liturgy, receiving Holy Communion and talking to a person we trust can help to strengthen and heal us.

O Lord my God, I cried to Thee for help,

and Thou hast healed me (Ps. 30:20).

   In a letter to Marcellinus, St. Athanasius writes some words of encouragement as to how reading the psalms can help us: “Let each one, therefore, who recites the psalms have a sure hope that through them God will speedily give ear to those who are in need. For if a man be in trouble when he says them, great comfort will be find in them; if he be tempted or persecuted, he will find himself abler to stand the test and will experience the protection of the Lord, Who always defends those who say these words. By them to a man will overthrow the devil and put the fiends to flight (St. Athanasius on the Incarnation, SVS Press, 1996, p 117).”

Deliver me from my persecutors;

for they are too strong for me! (Ps. 142:6)

   As we go through our different stages of life, let us not be discouraged when the trials, temptations and tribulations come. They will come, they will leave and they will return. May we always remember that God loves us and that He is with us. It is with patience and thanksgiving and trusting in His strength and power that we can endure all things.

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His

steadfast love (mercy) endures for ever (Ps. 136:1)

   When depression wars against us or some unaccountable sorrow wearies our soul, we should read Psalm 102 (“O Lord, hear my prayer, let my cry come unto Thee…”), the 37th (“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, nor envy them that work iniquity…”), then Psalm 27 (“The Lord is my light…”), and Psalm 91 (“He that dwelleth in the help of the Most High…”).

   If we read these tree times a day in the name of the Holy Trinity and with humility and zeal, giving ourselves over to the all-good Providence of God, “then He shall bring forth they righteousness as the light and thy judgment as the noonday. Submit thyself unto the Lord and supplicate Him” (Ps. 36:6-7).

   It is useful also to read Psalm 39: “With patience I waited patiently for the Lord, and He was attentive unto me”. (S. Chetverikov, Elder Ambrose of Optina, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1997, p.256).

(Taken from the ‘Life Transfigured” a Journal of Orthodox Nuns, Vol.42, #1, Orthodox Monastery of Transfiguration, Ellwood City, PA).

 

Where to Turn in the Psalms… 

       Prophet David 

When you are tempted to compromise: Psalm 1:1-7

When you are unjustly criticized: Psalm 3:1-4

When you are lacking in joy: Psalm 5:11,12

When you are being tested: Psalm 10:5-7

When you need encouragement : Psalm 17:6-8

If you doubt the Scriptures: Psalm 19:7-11

When you are lonely: Psalm 23:1-6

When you mourn: Psalm 30:10-12

When you need God’s forgiveness: Psalm 32:1-5

When you are tempted to miss church: Psalm 34:1-10

When you are worried: Psalm 37:1-8

When you are sad:  Psalm 43:35  

Before you go to confession: Psalm 51:1-19

When you are depressed: Psalm 57:6-11

When you need God’s protection: Psalm 61:1-8

When you need strength: Psalm 62:5-8

When enemies come against you: Psalm 70:1-5

When there is a shortage of money: Psalm 72:12-19

When you are deeply troubled: Psalm 77:1-15

When you feel insignificant: Psalm 84:5-12

When you wonder about life’s meaning: Psalm 90:10-17

In times of anxiety: Psalm 94:16-19

If you are tempted to disobey God: Psalm 95:6-11 

When you need God’s mercy: Psalm 103:1-14

When you are discouraged: Psalm 109:21-31

When you have opportunity to serve God: Psalm 112:1-10

When a loved one dies: Psalm 116:1-19 

When you need God’s guidance: Psalm 119:9-16 

Before leaving on a journey: Psalm 121:1-18

When you contemplate marriage: Psalm 127:1-5

To find a litany of prayer: Psalm 136:1-26

If God seems far away: Psalm 139:1-18

Before retiring for the: Psalm 141:1-10

If you want to complain to God: Psalm 142:1-7

When you want to give praise to God: Psalm 150:1-6

 

(taken from The Orthodox Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1997, p. XXXI, available from Conciliar Press)

 

The Myrrhbearing women and the Christian women of today

by Elder Sofian (Boaghiu)

 

  As you know, the third Sunday after Easter is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing women, or the Sunday of the faithful women, keepers of Christian family. You should be joyful that you partake of this special honor from our Resurrected Lord. And through our most pure Mother Theotokos and the Holy Myrrh-bearing women, you have a Sunday a year when you are especially honored. May the Lord multiply in you the grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit and may the gift of Christian love abide truly in you, in order that you may become maintainers of Christian’  warmth and harmony in your family. For many families today are met with disaster… as you know better than me, so I will not speak about it.

  And those of you (faithful women) who come to church and pray to the Lord – here and in your home – if you pray attentively with love, humility and perseverance,  you’ll receive help from God and be comforted in your troubles.

  As we preach today on the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing women, let not forget that all of you – Orthodox Christian women and your daughters  –  are called to be the Holy Myrrhbearing women of the Orthodox Church today and forever.

  The young girls and daughters can bring as mirth to our Lord Jesus Christ, their clean life – virginity, their prayers and obedience to thier parents. All (college) students and young women who come to church regularly, can also bring to Christ our Saviour their mirth of good fragrance: the zeal for good deeds, mercy and charity towards those in suffering and obedience to their spiritual father.

Elder Sofian Boaghiu of Antim Monastery (now with the Lord) was sentenced by the communists (in 1958) to 15 years of hard labor in the concentration camps for keeping the true Orthodox Christian faith and refusing to become atheist!

  The Christian mothers will offer our Master their most precious mirth, which is the birth, raising and education of children in the fear of God.  But also the older mothers, the grandmothers and widows that are always present in the holy churches of God, may bring their ointment of tears and prayers as they piously keep the Orthodox faith and legacy passed on by our ancestors.

  Behold, all daughters of the Orthodox Church, today you are the offspring of the Holy Myrrhbearing women – when you hold in your heart the good fragrance of faith, prayer and Christian love. If you’ll only run with devotion to church along with your children, as the Holy Myrrhbearing women once ran to the Holy Tomb of our Saviour.

  On the Holy Myrrhbearing women I can also tell you that there were times in the life of our Saviour Jesus Christ when they were more courageous than the Apostles. Such, when our Lord was taken-up by the Jews in the Garden of Gethsemane, when all the Apostles – with the exception of St. John the Evangelist – left Him, and Peter betrayed Him by swearing three times that he does not know Him. But the women followed Him both to the council (of Pilate) and on the road to Calvary. They accompanied Him when He fell under the heaviness of the Cross, and Veronica with her veil wiped his tears, and her veil became the first icon bearing the image of Christ.

  These holy women witnessed His beating, His nailing and His crucifixion (among the two thieves), they have heard the last words of our Saviour and wept bitterly when He gave His last breath saying „It is done!”

  Even after the crucifixion of Jesus, when the Apostles were hidden for fear of the Jews, these women in that very early morning  approached the Holy Sepulchre (Tomb) to anoint our Lord’s body as it was customary in the Hebrew tradition. And just when they reached the tomb seeking our Lord’s body, they found it opened and empty and an angel of the Lord announced them that „Christ had risen from the dead”, showing them the empty shroud.

  Mary of Magdalene, this brave women from whom Jesus exorcised seven demons, had become the greatest witnesses of Christ’ Resurrection; she remained weeping at the grave while other women had left.  She was still seeking for our Lord’s body, but the tomb was empty. Then she met someone at the grave and thought to be the gardener. So she asked: “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (John 20, 15).

  And „the gardener” Christ Himself, called her by name: Mary! His emphasis and tone of voice, made Mary recognize HIM. Although Jesus Christ was the same in flesh and blood, as He revealed Himself later to the Apostles, there was something changed in Him. It was undoubtedly His divine appearance, His transfigured flesh. And He was only recognized by those with a pure heart, that had their eyes enlightened.

  When Mary recognized Him, she sought to approach Him. But Jesus said: „Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20, 17).

  Not long after this event, our Saviour appeared to His disciples in Galilee on Mount Eleon. There, Jesus was to meet His Apostles gathered in one house.

  So we see how these holy women were in company of the Risen Christ – Who appeared from time to time, in order to get them accustomed with his resurrected body, because it was a great miracle, since no one had seen a resurrected body before. (…)

  During these forty days, He entrusted the Apostles and the Myrrhbearing women by appearing to them and to many others.

  Christ’ Resurrection is a guarantee of our resurrection and, as Jesus Christ rose from the dead, as St. Paul says, we will also rise  (…)  and we’ll be standing before the judgment seat of Christ  with all our good or evil deeds, and  we’ll be spending eternity accounting the way we lived our lives in this world.


(Excerpt from “Elder Sofian’ spiritual conversations” translation by EC).

 

On Holy Tradition

(Taken from “The Truth of Our Faith”: A Discourse from Holy Scripture on the Teachings of True Christianity)

 

By Elder Cleopa of Romania

Inquirer: What is the Holy Tradition that the Orthodox consider to be the second source of Holy Revelation and coequal with Holy Scripture?

Elder Cleopa: Holy Tradition is the teaching of the Church, God-given with a living voice, from which a portion was later written down. As with Holy Scripture, so, too, Holy Tradition contains Holy Revelation, and is, therefore, fundamental for our salvation. Holy Tradition is the life of the Church in the Holy Spirit and, consonant with the enduring life of the Church, is thus a wellspring of Holy Revelation, such that, consequently, it possesses the same authority as Holy Scripture.

From the time of Adam until that of Abraham, according to the old chronologies, 3,678 years passed, and if we add 430 years when the Israelites remained in Egypt, we have 4,108 years. Throughout this period of time Holy Scripture neither existed nor was the Sabbath considered as a feast among the people. During this period of many thousands of years the faithful and chosen people were guided to the path of salvation only by Holy Tradition, namely, from the teachings about God which they received from a living voice. Only for the duration of 1400 years – from the time of Moses until the advent of Christ – were they guided by the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament.

Just as before the books of the Old Testament were written the people were guided in the knowledge of God and on the path of salvation only by Holy Tradition (Tradition with a living voice, orally), so too were they precisely before the writing of the books of the New Testament. The Holy Tradition was the guide by which the first Christians were directed to the path of salvation. The first to impart the teachings of the New Testament with a living voice to the ears of the people was our Saviour Jesus Christ Himself, who for three and a half years continually taught the people, distributing His Gospel without, however, writing anything. Inasmuch as He was carrying out obedience to His Father, He didn’t send His Apostles to write but to preach the Gospel to the whole world, saying to them: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Mat. 28:19-20). From the day of its establishment (33 AD) until the year 44 AD, when the the Holy Apostle Matthew wrote the first Gospel [1], the Church was governed without the Scriptures of the New Testament, but only with the Holy Tradition of which only a part was later recorded. Although there were many other writers for whom it was claimed that they were inspired and faithful scribes of the Apostles, the Church is She who did or did not recognise them, for She is unerring. The Church lived the truth of the Gospel even before anything was committed to writing, having lived with the Holy Tradition from the outset.

So then, this is the Holy Tradition: The source and the root of the two Testaments – the Old and the New – and thus the reason why we call it a source of Holy Revelation, since it carries the same weight as Holy Scripture.

Inq.: Yes, but it is said that Holy Scripture as God’s word is not permitted to be substituted or exchanged with Tradition, which is man’s word, as is written in the Gospel: “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? . . . ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying: ‘This people . . . in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Mat. 15:3, 6-9; Mk. 7:13). Thus, it is not necessary for us to replace or add the tradition of men to the law of God, which is contained in Holy Scripture.

Elder Cleopa: What your friends have told you is not at all true, since the law of God is not only contained in Holy Scripture. Listen to what the divine Evangelist John says: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen” (Jn. 21:25). Again the same Evangelist declares in one of his epistles: “Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full” (2 Jn. 1:12). So, you see that the holy evangelist, when he had the ability, taught his disciples more with the living voice of Tradition than by sending them epistles. While your friends keep at all costs only so much as is written, they don’t take into account that both the Saviour and the majority of His Apostles did not leave anything written, but rather taught orally, with the living voice of Tradition.

Inq.: In that case, I don’t know how Christians are to understand the statement that we must not be seduced by the false teachings of men, especially those which are religious and rely on Scripture. After all, the Apostle counsels us: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). It is our responsibility, then, to preserve ourselves from the false traditions of men.

Elder Cleopa: Dearest to Christ, you do not discern the difference between the teachings of human traditions and those that proceed from the apostolic and evangelical tradition. You brought here an excerpt from Holy Scripture that refers to the tradition of human teachings and pseudo philosophy that has no relationship whatsoever to the evangelical and apostolic Tradition of the Church of Jesus Christ. Holy Tradition is neither a tradition of men, nor a philosophy, nor some kind of trickery, but is the word of God that He delivered to us personally. The great Apostle Paul teaches and exhorts us to keep with vigour the traditions, saying; “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). On the contrary, some counsel weaker Christians to slander and abandon the apostolic and evangelical traditions, without understanding that Holy Scripture itself is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that grew out of the roots and tree of Holy Tradition.

Inq.: Why isn’t Holy Scripture sufficient for faith and salvation, without having any need whatsoever of Tradition? This appears to be the case from the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:15-16). These words are clear. Any addition to Holy Scripture is unnecessary.

Elder Cleopa: Here he is speaking only about the Scripture of the Old Testament, for the New Testament had not yet been written. Paul wrote to Timothy that a good teacher could use the Old Testament for the support of his faith in Christ and his instruction in Christianity. According to the notion that you mistakenly asserted, it follows that not one book of the New Testament – from those that were written in the period that followed these epistles of the Apostle Paul to Timothy – should be accepted. Rather, it is enough for us to recognize the Old Testament books mentioned here in the passage to which you refer.

Inq.: Some people don’t acknowledge the Tradition because they say that with the passing of time it yielded to many illegitimate elements, so that, especially today, we are no longer able to discern the true apostolic Tradition from the false.

Elder Cleopa: The Church of Christ determined the truths of the faith, according to the long course of Tradition, through the teachings and canons of the holy Oecumenical Councils, decrees and the Symbol of Faith [The Creed], and with confessions [of Faith] by holy and wonderworking hierarchs such as were made at the many local synods which have been held continuously since the days of old. At these synods the authenticity and genuineness of the holy Orthodox Faith was firmly established, primarily therein where it was attacked by the existing heresies of the time. From the totality of such synods appears the irrevocable and inalterable content of Holy Tradition. This is understood when you examine closely the essence of the following conditions:

– Do not sanction conceptions that contain inconsistencies amongst themselves or contradictions with the apostolic Tradition and Holy Scripture. (A teaching is to be considered worthy of “Tradition” when it stems from the Saviour or the Holy Apostles and is directly under the influence of the Holy Spirit.)

– The Tradition is that which has been safeguarded from the Apostolic Church and has an uninterrupted continuity until today.

– The Tradition is that which is confessed and practiced by the entire universal Orthodox Church.

– The Tradition is that which is in harmony with the greatest portion of the fathers and ecclesiastical writers.

When a tradition does not fulfil these stipulations, it cannot be considered true and holy, and consequently cannot be considered admissible or fit to be observed.

Inq.: Notwithstanding all the efforts which you say the Orthodox Church has made and makes relative to the truth of Tradition, some believe only the teachings which are contained in Holy Scripture. For the first Christians – they say – accepted only such writings as were contained in Holy Scripture, as it is written: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). From this it follows that we should keep those teachings find written in Holy Scripture.

Elder Cleopa: However, the great Apostle Paul commends the Christians of Corinth not because they kept the written teachings, but because they obeyed him and observed with diligence the oral teachings that they had received from him. Listen to what he writes; “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and even as I delivered to you, ye are holding fast the traditions” (1 Cor. 11:2). I wonder, what is better to do: for us to keep only the written teachings or to follow the great Apostle Paul who extols those who keep the unwritten tradition as well? Furthermore, we’ve established that the Holy Apostles and Evangelists believed and preach-ed abundantly from Holy Tradition, which they inherited from of old and is not written anywhere in Holy Scripture.

Inq.: Where specifically does it appear that the Holy Apostles taught other teachings aside from those which are written in Holy Scripture?

Elder Cleopa: Here are two testimonies: The Holy Apostle Jude in his catholic epistle, verse nine, among others, says: “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgement upon him, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9). Dearest to Christ, search all of Holy Scripture and see if you will find written this utterance. Still further down in the same epistle the Apostle refers to the prophecy of Enoch, saying: “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgement upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-20). Yet, the Apostle Jude is not alone in speaking from Tradition. Listen to what the illustrious Paul says in his second epistle to Timothy; “Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Tim. 3:8). And again the renowned Apostle Paul, guiding the priests of Ephesus, says: “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Now, I ask you, who insist on putting faith only in the written word, from where did the two Apostles – Jude and Paul – take the foregoing words, for you will not find them written anywhere in Holy Scripture?

Inq.: Still, I question if it is possible for Holy Tradition to be preserved until today unadulterated and genuine in all respects as in the beginning? Shouldn’t we possess more assurances from the written teachings of Holy Scripture?

Elder Cleopa: You saw above that the famed Paul commends the Christians of Corinth for keeping, with care and mindfulness, the unwritten traditions, such as they had received from his very lips. Moreover, you heard that the Apostles Paul and Jude employed in their preaching words taken directly from Holy Tradition, such as those that referred to the prophecy of Enoch, and others. Further, I also pointed out to you by what means Holy Tradition was preserved throughout the ages. Furthermore, the same Apostle Paul exhorts and directs the Christians of Thessalonica to be very attentive and vigilant to keep the Holy Tradition: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). And in another place he says: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). In other words, he is speaking of the Gospel that he handed down to them with a living voice and not only by written word.

Inq.: How was this Canon of Holy Tradition in the Church preserved over the span of thousands of years? In our age some allege that from day to day the clergy and ecclesiastical writers alter the truth of Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, which in the beginning was authentic and genuine? They say that if you have in your hand a book that was published 50 years ago and you put it next to one published recently, they would have nothing in common. It follows, then, that if the hierarchs and priests have done this with the sacred books, they would do the same with the Holy Tradition of which the Orthodox boast as having preserved unscathed from the Holy Apostles.

Elder Cleopa: That which your companions have accepted is not at all correct. The teachings of the Church of Christ are safeguarded by the Holy Spirit and cannot err (Mat. 10:17-20, John 4: 16-26, 1 Tim. 3:15). Its very founder, Jesus Christ governs it in an unseen way, until the end of the ages (Mat. 28:20). If some ecclesiastical writers, hierarchs, priests or laity translated the Bible from another language or amended some passage of which an expression does not correspond to the present-day speech of our people, this would be an adjustment and modification of expression and not a serious alteration of the substance of the Biblical text. If today a Romanian from the time of the Elder Mirtsea or Stephan the Great (1504) were resurrected and you wanted to speak with him, you would understand him with difficulty, the language having developed, no longer being exactly that which was spoken then. That’s exactly what happened regarding the books. With the passage of time the writers’ words or expressions were amended with suitable present-day language, without however, changing the meaning of the profound and sacred writings. Previously, I referred you to the foundation upon which Holy Tradition rests and by what means the preservation of its authentic original image is ensured and is conveyed through the ages. This refers to, namely, the ancient Symbol of Faith (The Creed), the apostolic canons and the dogmatic decisions of the seven [2] Oecumenical Councils. To these can also be added the following monumental and meaningful testaments – assurances of the unimpaired preservation of the Holy Tradition:

– The acts of the early Church, the witnesses of the company of the apostles, amongst whom are Saint Ignatius the God-bearer (+104 AD), a disciple of the Apostles and Saint Polycarp of Smyrna (+106 AD). These Fathers admonished the faithful of their day to safeguard themselves from the teachings of heretics and to maintain in the full only the Apostolic Tradition (Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, Bk 2:36).

– Hegessipus, Eusebius tells us5, attempted to collect the whole of the apostolic traditions and nearly managed it, gathering more than five books worth of material that Eusebius studied. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, these books were eventually lost (Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, Bk 4:8).

Saint Irenaeus (+202 AD) and Clement of Alexandria (+215 AD) inform us: “Those who explain Scripture without the help of the Church’s Tradition cut asunder the significance of truth” (Stromatis, pg 7).

Behold, further, those brilliant witnesses representing the faith of apostolic times and the period immediately following it up until the fourth century. The acts of the ancient Church are an important testimony to the value of the Holy Tradition and honour shown it from those times until today.

– Origin (+250 AD) says: “Preserve the Holy Tradition in the Church.”

– St. Epiphanios (+403 AD) writes: “It is necessary to hold to the Tradition because it is not possible for everything to be found in Holy Scripture. The Holy Apostles handed down some things via the written word, while others via the spoken.”

– Saint John Chrysostom (+407 AD) says: “Hence it is clear that the Holy Apostles did not deliver everything by epistle; rather many things they handed down via the spoken word which is also trustworthy. If there is the Tradition, then don’t ask for anything more” (4th Homily on 2 Thess. See verse 2:45)

– Saint Gregory of Nyssa (+394 AD) writes: “We have the Tradition set out for us from the Fathers like an inheritance by apostolic succession and transmitted via the saints” (Against Eunomius, Book 40).

– Saint Basil the Great (+379 AD) in his writings provides similar testimony. Here is how he expresses it: “Among the dogmas and kerygma (evangelical truths) that are safeguarded in the Church, some we have from the written teachings while others we’ve received orally from the Tradition of the Apostles by a concealed succession. The later hold the same legitimacy and force as the written texts” (On the Holy Spirit)

We must uphold with great reverence and godliness Holy Tradition since all that is needful to effect our salvation is not found within Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture instructs us to do many things; however, it does not make manifest to us the light. For example, it instructs us to be baptized, but it doesn’t explain to us the method. Likewise, it guides us to confess our sins, receive communion, be crowned (married) – but nowhere does it specify the rite of carrying-out these mysterion (sacraments). Furthermore, it instructs us to pray, but doesn’t tell us how, where and when. It tells us to make the sign of the Holy Cross in front of our chest according to the psalmist “Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us,” but it doesn’t show us how. Who teaches us in writing to worship facing east? Where in Scripture are we told the words of the epiclesis (invocation) of the Holy Spirit for the sanctification of the all-holy Mysteries? Which teaching from Holy Scripture instructs us to bless the water of Baptism and the holy Unction of Holy Chrismation? Which passage in Scripture teaches us about the threefold denunciation and the renunciations of Satan before Holy Baptism? The prayer of glorification toward the Holy Trinity – “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit” – from which passage did it come to us?

Posing these questions to the slanderer of Tradition, Saint Basil the Great says: “If we consent to abandon the unwritten traditions on the pretext that they don’t have great worth, we err in great and elevated matters, rejecting the Gospel.”

The ordering, therefore, by which the Church upholds the unwritten is: whatever is of apostolic descent and is practiced by the Fathers receives the validity of tradition and has the power of law in the Church of Christ (The Rudder, Neamts Monastery, 1844, Canons 87, 91). Accordingly therefore, it must safeguarded since its importance and benefit springs from the relationship that exists between it and Holy Scripture. It is true that both have remained within a reciprocal unity and intimate relationship – a relationship based on the fact that both comprise the holy revelation of God and for us are the fount and source of Revelation. Hence, it is not possible for there to exist an inner contradiction between the two or for us to exclude one from the other. Holy Scripture possesses its unique witness of the scriptural canon and its dogmatic character (its divine inspiration) only in and with Holy Tradition, while Holy Tradition is able to prove the authenticity of its truth only together with Holy Scripture.

Endnotes

1 There are scholars who believe that, in fact, “the writing of the three first Gospels is placed. . . around the year 70 AD.” (J. Karabidopoulos, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 104 (In Greek))

2 The Elder here is referring to the well-known seven Oecumenical Councils, however, in essence the Church also accepts an eighth (879), which confirmed the rejection of the “filioque” clause in the presence and with the support of the Church of Rome, and a ninth (1341), which rejected the humanistic-scholastic theology of Barlaam in support of the Hesychasts and St. Gregory Palamas. The truths expounded by these two councils have helped to uphold the Church against the theological distortions which have been brought to bear over the past 650 years, first in the West, and soon thereafter in the East.

On the Presuppositions of our Personal Salvation

Inquirer: Father, earlier you spoke about our “personal salvation.” Can you tell me more about this?

Elder Cleopa: Some religious confessions teach that personal salvation presupposes the action of Divine Grace alone, according to Calvin, or the grace of faith, i.e. of trust in God, according to Luther, by which the “merits” or virtues of our Lord Jesus Christ are conferred upon man. Therefore, to give a general outline, there are Protestant Christians who believe that salvation stems only from faith and that on the part of man himself there is placed no condition or requirement for his salvation.

Our Church, however, teaches that our personal salvation is neither a gift, nor a simple work, but rather a process and an undertaking that matures or develops gradually and is realized in the co-operation of two persons: God and man. On the part of God, Divine Grace (His uncreated Divine Energy) is offered to us, while for man’s part, faith and righteous deeds are necessary. Consequently, the prerequisites for our personal salvation are the following: the Divine Grace or uncreated Divine Energy of God and the faith and virtuous deeds of man.

Our objective salvation is realized only in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, whereas our personal or subjective salvation, which in the language of the New Testament is called “righteousness,” “holiness,” or “salvation” (in the narrow sense), is realized as a continuance of this objective salvation, with our personal energy or activity acting in co-operation with Divine Energy or Grace.

On the part of God, Divine Grace is absolutely necessary, for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and we are justified by His grace, redeemed in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23-24). “For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philp. 2:13). “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and not that of yourselves: it is the gift of God – not by works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath beforehand ordained, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2: 8-10).

From this it is clear that divine Grace is necessary for our personal salvation. This truth is also evident in the words of the Lord: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (Jn. 15: 5-7).

Hence, the Grace of God is for us the fluid that runs from vine to the vine branch. On the part of man, saving and actualized faith is necessary, i.e. “faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Without this contribution of man’s, salvation is not held out for any man. Conscious faith in God, without good deeds, the demons, too, possess, for they also “believe and tremble” (Jas. 2:19). Holy Scripture itself makes clear that good works are necessary for salvation. Holy Scripture is filled with passages which refer to good deeds as a necessary prerequisite of our salvation (Mat. 25:34, Jn. 5:29, Rom. 2:6-13, 2 Cor. 5:10, Jas. 2:14-26, Rev. 20:12, and others).

Inq.: I have gathered from different discussions I have had with representatives of various confessions that they are of the opinion that divine Grace operates by force and irresistibly. For them, it is not possible to speak at all of freedom, nor of a certain worthiness of man in whatever pertains to his salvation. It is said that this is apparent from the parable of the Lord: “And the Lord said unto the servant, go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Lk. 14:23). Elsewhere the Lord also said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn. 6:44). It is claimed that with this meaning in mind the Apostle Paul says the following: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). It would seem clear from all of these citations that there does not, in fact, exist freedom of will and that God alone, independent of our disposition, grants salvation.

Elder Cleopa: Holy Scripture teaches us clearly that man is created by God free and self-governing, that is, with freedom of will, as the Holy Spirit tells us: “O Lord as with a shield of Thy good pleasure hast thou crowned us” (Ps. 5:13). Elsewhere it says, “He Himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his counsel,” (Eclus. 15:14) and again, “He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thy hand unto whichever thou wilt” (Eclus. 15:16). Furthermore, in another place in Holy Scripture it is said: “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God” (Dt. 11: 26-27). And further on it is said: “See, I have set before thee this day life and death, good and evil . . . I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Dt. 30: 15, 19).

The freedom of the will of man, as well as the dependence of salvation upon his freedom, appears more clearly from the words of the Saviour Himself. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Mat. 23:37, Lk. 11:20) Whereas to the rich young man He said, “If thou wilt enter into Life, keep the commandments” (Mat. 19:17, Heb. 4:11, Rom. 2:4).

Through the mouth of His prophet Isaiah, God says the following: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword” (Isa. 1: 19-20). And again to the rich young man He says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Mat. 19:21).

In all of these passages it is positively obvious that God fashioned man with freedom of will and does not compel the will of anyone to draw nigh to salvation. For if the will of man is coerced into accepting salvation then any compensation in the future life would be meaningless. Likewise, God would cease to be the just judge the Holy Scriptures customarily refer to Him as being. If our salvation is accomplished without our personal will then that which the great Apostle Paul says would be incomprehensible to us: “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). And likewise, “Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” (1 Cor. 3:8).

Inq.: Fair enough, but I still have serious doubts. Isn’t it possible that God, from before the ages, determined the fate of each one of us? In other words, some are to be saved and some to be punished, analogous with the decisions rendered from time immemorial, out of His sovereign pre-ordination for each one of us? The following words of the Apostle Paul appear to support this opinion.

“For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Rom. 9: 11-21).

The same Apostle says elsewhere,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph. 1: 3-4).

From this it seems evident that salvation is offered according to the decision of God from before the ages. For the Apostle says likewise elsewhere: “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:13-14). Furthermore, the following is written in another passage: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7). And elsewhere it is said: “what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7). “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Hence, consequently the problem is posited as follows: No one is saved except those who were pre-elected and predestined by God from before the ages. Man in this life follows the lot proscribed for him by God without the possibility of changing or replacing it.

Elder Cleopa: Holy Scripture contains within it unanswerable passages or, as Saint Gregory of Nyssa puts it, “strong bones.” Some would like to break these bones of Scripture with their wisdom teeth as of yet still only suitable for sucking milk. However, such a thing they would never be able to manage. All who have desired to plunge into the depths of Scripture have drowned in the fathomless ocean that is the wisdom of God. Such was the portion shared by Origen, Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, Sabellius, Dioscorus, Eutyches and all the other chiefs of the ancient heresies who have been swallowed up in the unfathomable sea of Holy Scripture. The profundity and depth of Scripture was not the cause of their fall and drowning, but rather they themselves were the cause, due to their own insufficiencies, of being drowned in the depths of the mysteries of the Scriptures.

Holy Scripture is like a fountain or an endless spring, of the wisdom of God in which we must be steeped and partake in accordance with our level of wisdom and spiritual maturity. Just as we take water from the well with a bucket, empty it into our pitcher and then into our glass in order to quench our body’s thirst, so must we also do with our spiritual thirst when we are urged to drink of the deepest ocean of wisdom, the Holy Scriptures. Thus, spiritually speaking, if we draw more water from the well of Scripture than is drinkable (out of desire for the purity of our intellect (νούς) and heart), due to our pride and inquisitiveness we will be destroyed in our attempt to grasp the incomprehensible with our limited human faculties. If, for example, we were to see a child from the first grade trying to learn and to teach others that which is taught at the university, how much laughter and amusement would it provoke in us! The same and worse happens to those who desire to scrutinize and unravel the incomprehensible mysteries of the Scriptures with an intellect inexperienced and unenlightened by the Holy Spirit.

The divine Prophets and Apostles, as well as the holy Fathers of the Church, while by the purity of their lives attaining to the simplicity and innocence of infants, at the same time also, on account of their wisdom, became as “perfect spiritual men” (Eph. 4:13). Nevertheless, they were never so bold as to delve into the impenetrable mysteries of the wisdom of God. Before these elevated notions and expressions they remained as if enraptured saying, “How great are Thy works, O Lord, exceeding deep are Thy thoughts,” (Ps. 91:6) and “Great is our Lord, and great is His strength, and of His understanding there is no measure” (Ps. 146:5). Still further, in another place, it is said: “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding” (Is. 40:28). Listen also to the vessel of election, the Apostle Paul, as he says with wonderment; “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?” (Rom. 11: 33-34).

You understand, therefore, my friend, that this fathomless depth of the wisdom of God cannot be approached by any intellect among His creatures, neither those found in the heavens, nor those on earth. Much more difficult is it for those who, without purifying their intellect (νούς) and heart from the passions, and being bereft also of divine enlightenment, presume on their own to penetrate the unbounded abyss of the Scriptures.

My dearest to Christ, earlier you referred me to certain passages that appeared to you to underscore a type of absolute predestination for man, however, the truth of things is entirely otherwise.

The first passage refers to the call of man toward the grace and righteousness which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 9: 11-21). The Apostle desires with this example to illustrate that the call and righteousness of men do not depend on the “works of the law” but on the goodness of God Who calls by His Grace all men to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles (see above: Rom. 9: 22-24). Without the grace of God, men are powerless to accomplish anything with regards to their salvation. Here the Apostles is underscoring the importance of the presupposition of our objective salvation or sanctification (i.e. the salvation of the race of man collectively), without repeating again the personal presupposition: the freedom of man in co-operation with the grace of God, with faith and good works.

Furthermore, in no sense is it maintained that the foreknowledge of God exists as a basis for the predetermination of the soul or the predestination of each one of us. This is unstated yet implicit when the Apostle says that there are those whom God chastens and hardens since they had become “instruments of wrath,” God tolerating them with forbearance. God perceives everything in advance and is not dependent upon the passing of time to know that between the two sons of Isaac one would be the conveyor of His messianic promise. Thus, it is nothing to marvel at when He says: “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

If it is said that God has mercy on whomever He wishes and punishes whomsoever He wishes, then we must ask: Upon whom does God want to show mercy and upon whom does He desire to inflict punishment? If He loves him that He has predetermined for salvation, who in this life would be evil? Likewise, if He punishes those who reject Him, who in this life would be good? Or does God want certain among the good to become evil and certain among the evil to become good, without any righteous judgement or requital? Yet, in this case, where is righteousness? Where is equity or impartiality? Where is wisdom and all of the other attributes of God? Not even among men is it possible for such things to occur, and yet even when men are given over to arbitrariness it is a tragedy and setback.

As for the other passages you cited, they do not refer to some type of categorical predestination of the eternal life of the soul, but rather to the election or call of the soul to the Christ-sent grace. The call or election of the soul is not based on its worth or virtue but rather solely on the goodness of God. This invitation is not expressed and offered to a few, as is maintained by the followers of unqualified predestination, but rather to every human being, since the Apostle is speaking only in the plural and thereby showing that it is not that some are preferred and especially invited in the sense of predestination.

It is with this understanding that the Apostle Paul says: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself as a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2: 3-6). If from this text we wanted to expound an unconditional predestination for the heavenly majesty, a predestination of this sort would have to be understood according to the letter and spirit of the text, i.e. as unrestricted and unbounded. However, this would mean that salvation comes automatically to everyone, and it is well known that it does not. Furthermore, the very followers of predestination themselves maintain that the number of the predestined for salvation is restricted.

The truth is that Christ has brought salvation to everyone, something theologians have labelled general (or objective) salvation. And yet, everyone does not actualize this objective salvation, only those who seek and pursue it. While objective salvation is granted to every human being, subjective or personal salvation depends on the intent of man. Those who desire to be saved and work toward that goal receive divine Grace as their aide and guide. This Grace does not work in us violently; rather it abides with us peren- nially as a specific offering for the work of our salvation. Subsequently, it is not possible for us to speak of an unconditional predestination and its inadequate presuppositions for salvation. The truth concerning the predestination, fate and life of man can be summed up as follows.

A. Holy Scripture speaks often of a kind of predestination that carries with it the meaning of pre-knowledge. At times it is spoken of directly, being referred to variously as “foreknowledge” and “predestination,” (Acts 2:23 Rom. 8:29) “the counsel of His will,” (Eph. 1:11) “the mystery which hath been hid from the ages,” and the “book of life” (Col. 1:26, Eph. 3:9, Rev. 20:15, Lk. 10:20)

This predetermination is based on the life and works of man, which are plainly evident to our All-knowing God. Indeed, Holy Scripture speaks precisely: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover those whom he predestined, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:28-30).

We know also that at the future judgement there will be specific criteria upon which all will be judged. No one will be judged arbitrarily for that judgement will be righteous and unprejudiced. The Apostle says, “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5: 10, 1 Cor. 3:8). “But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6).

Furthermore, Holy Scripture sets forth this teaching with more clarity in other ways. It is often repeated that God does not want the death of any sinner, that He is “not willing that any should perish,” (2 Pet. 3:9, Eph. 4:6, Rom. 3:29) that all are called to salvation, and that God gave His grace to overflowing (Mat. 28:19, Rom. 10:18), precisely there where sin abounded, in order to provide all men with the possibility of salvation. All of this would be made a lie if the number of the chosen were in fact limited.

B. History certifies with all of the Church Fathers and theologians of great authority, together with the entirety of Holy Tradition and its incontestable substantiating elements, that the teaching on divine foreknowledge has always existed within the Church.

– Saint Irenaeus (+202 AD) says: “God who knows everything has made ready the proper dwelling: for to those who seek after and yearn for the unapproachable light God in His goodness grants them that light.”

Saint John Chrysostom (+407 AD) says: “God has not foreordained us for salvation only out of love, but also on account of our good deeds, because if this (salvation) were dependent only upon our good works then the coming of Christ and everything which He has effected for our salvation would be as though unnecessary.”

– Saint Hilary (+367 AD) writes similarly: “That which God foresaw, He also foreordained.”

– Blessed Jerome (+420 AD) writes: “For that which God knew would happen in the life of His Son, that He also permitted (preordained) for His Son.”

– Saint Ambrose (+397 AD) says: “God did not predetermine without seeing first that which He foreknew. Likewise, in those whom He foresaw worthiness, to those He also preordained a spiritual reward.”

Inq.: If grace is always necessary for salvation, whatever the case, and if salvation is a gift of God given with grace, do we have a part in the working out of our salvation?

Elder Cleopa: Yes, we certainly do have a part to play but grace is also necessary for our salvation, for man cannot be saved on his own. We are not like logs or stones with which God does whatever He likes.

If grace were to work on its own – indifferent to us – it would mean that we would walk to our salvation without our will. In this case if some are lost to perdition they would not be to blame, but rather grace would be responsible since it did not compel them to be saved. This teaching, as we have said previously, is not a teaching of the Christ’s Church but of the Calvinists who have themselves termed it unconditional election or predestination. According to this teaching, God decided from before the ages to save certain men and destroy others. This He does in accord with His liking, not according to the way man would work but through His grace – grace that He decided to give in order to save some. To a few Grace is given – grace that compels them to work according to His will – while to others grace is withheld. Such is the teaching of the Calvinists.

Inq.: And the teaching of the Orthodox Church is different from that?

Elder Cleopa: Previously, I showed you the Church’s teaching clearly enough and at quite some length, and yet I will add for you also the following: “God our Saviour will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Grace does not compel anyone. Men have the God-given freedom to accept it and to work with it or to reject it. Those who embrace it are saved and those who withdraw from it are lost. Guard well, my son, that which you have heard that you may be illumined by it and believe as a true Orthodox Christian.

 

“The most devastating illness of human Soul: doubting”

by Fr. George Calciu

  The Apostle Thomas represents those who are dominated by rationality and who need evidence. They are not unbelievers, but they need evidence to strengthen their faith. The moment they are given proof, their faith deepens, up to the ultimate sacrifice, as it was with the Holy Apostle Thomas.

  Why Thomas was not with the disciples? All disciples were gathered together in a house for fear of the Jews, as the Evangelist John relates in today’s Gospel. But Thomas was not with them. It is possible that Thomas was the most courageous of them and went outside to gain information and to hear what else was said about Jesus, or perhaps he went out to bring food because the other apostles didn’t have the courage to do so.

   Thus, when Jesus came, he was not with them.

  When they told him: “We saw the Lord!” Thomas answered “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”  (John 20.25).

  The day when Jesus appeared to His disciples and Thomas was not with them, the disciples doubted Him. Even when our Savior said to them “Peace be with you!“, they did not believe it was He until Jesus Showed them His hands and His side (cf. John 20, 20) saying: See my hands and my feet that it is truly Me, handle Me and see, that the spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have (Luke 24, 39). So who is the unfaithful: Thomas, who has not seen the Lord and he doubted, or the disciples who saw Him and doubted? 

  Our Savior knew of Thomas’ doubt and came especially for him. Jesus came into this world not only for believers and sinners, but also for those who live in doubt.

  To doubt is a demonic act. The demons constantly seek to inflict our soul with doubt by suggesting to us: “Well, I believe in God, I believe that Jesus Christ came into the world, died and was crucified for our salvation, but was He the Son of God? “ Or perhaps: I believe in such and such miracle, but…is it really authentic?”

  In the book of Revelation, the angel of the Lord, addressing to the Churches of Asia Minor, said to the one in Laodicea: I will spit you out of my mouth because you are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm” (cf. Rev. 3:15-16)

  God does not love the lukewarm. Perhaps, God knows that he who advocates strongly “against” Him, can be converted. St. Paul was a great persecutor of Christians, but when our Savior met him on the way (to Damascus), he returned to the Faith and became one of the greatest apostles. It is easier to convert such a man than one who is a lukewarm. The lukewarm lives in the warm water: he neither “boils” nor “freezes”, nor is he good for anything.

  Thomas was not a lukewarm man, he had faith, but he needed some evidence. Our Savior appeared to him and said: “Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing.”  (John 20, 27).

  The Evangelist John does not mention whether Thomas put his hand on our Savior’s side, but we know what Thomas said: My Lord and my God! “ (John 20:28)

  He saw Jesus and understood that the proof was right before him. There was no other evidence for him to seek when Jesus was right there in front of him shining in the light of the Resurrection, entering through the locked doors and through the walls, a bright Savior shining forth everywhere.

   Our Savior said something not for Thomas but for us: “Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed?” (John 20:29). 

  Jesus did not say: “Because thou hast touched Me, you believed!“…  instead He said “Because thou hast seen Me!”  andBlessed are those who have not seen (Me) and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

  This blessing is for us all, pious Christians. This blessing is for us who come to church to confess that Christ is the Son of God, Who suffered, was crucified, died, was buried, rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven. This is the foundation of our faith!

  The lesson that we draw from today’s Gospel is that Jesus Christ came for everyone. He didn’t only come for those who believe or for Jews, or only for sinners. He came for the lukewarm as well, if they  “warm up”.

  So He came for the doubtful. And all of us have doubts … We doubt because we asked for something and God did not grant our request! But merely one cry in a “time of need” does not show faith. It rather shows human weakness. We must have a strong, steadfast faith, one that is indisputable. And today’s Gospel is for all of us who doubt.

  When Jesus appeared to Thomas, who doubted Him, Thomas seeing our Lord, fell at His feet and said: My Lord and my God!”  Let us also fall at the feet of Jesus and cry out: My Lord and my God! “

 

(From: Father George Calciu’ Living Words: “To serve Christ means suffering Bonifaciu Press, 2009) translation by EC.


The Church of Our Most Pure Mother Theotokos from  Blachernae is located in the city of Constantinople (today Istanbul capital of Turkey). This is the most famous and important church dedicated to Virgin Mary in the capital of Byzantium, after the Cathedral of Saint Sophia. Although today only few ruins are preserved from the initial church, the church from Blachernae remained alive in the consciousness of the Christian faithful that are always under the care of our most pure Mother.

Biserica Vlaherne

The history of the Church of Blachernae, which had spread throughout the Christian world during the entire existence of the Byzantine Empire, shows us a very close connection between this church and  the city of Blachernae.

The initial ancient church was built on the site of the  Holy Spring fountain of the Virgin and later decorated by Empress Augusta Poulcheria between 450-453  and by her husband, Emperor Marcian (450-457). Because of Empress Augusta’ death, the church was left unfinished, but it was continued by her successors.

Biserica Vlaherne

The church was completed by Emperor Leo the I (457-474), which added “Hagiasma ” (the fountain of Holy Water) and “Hagion Lousma” (the holy bath for the priests). Leo the I also built the chapel “Hagia Soros”, a special relicvar designed to keep  inside “The Veil of the Mother of God” that was brought to Constantinople from Palestine, in the year 473.

Over the years, the Byzantine emperors showed their interest and devotion towards the church, making numerous donations in cash and ornaments.

Biserica Vlaherne

Procopius writes that Emperor Justinian, during the reign of his uncle, Justin the I (518-527), expanded the initial building. Procopius’s description suggests a dome was added, supported by several columns shaped in semicircle. This renovation is mentioned also in two epigrams of the Palatinian Anthology.

Biserica Vlaherne

Justin the II (565-578) added two lateral apses, thus reshaping the initial plan of the church. Several centuries later, Argyrus Romanus the III (1028-1034) decorated the apse with gold and silver.

Emperor Heraclius in one of his chronicle, mentioned that the church was served by 74 clergymen: 12 priests, 18 deacons, 6 diaconates, 8 sub-deacons, 20 reader, 4 singers and 6 goalies.

Biserica Vlaherne

One of the most important event in the history of this church took place in 626, when the city of Constantinople was besieged by Avars while the Emperor Heraclius and his troops were gone to fight the Persians in Asia Minor. The Icon of the Theotokos = Blachernitissa was taken up in procession on the battlefield by the Emperor’s son and the Patriarch Sergius (610-638). The Avars stopped the battle, and this victory is placed all to the account and protection of the Holy Virgin Mary. The entire population of the town gathered at the Church of Blachernae, spending all night in vigil and singing praises to the Mother of God.

Similar to the great Cathedral of  Saint Sophia, this church was the center of Orthodoxy in Constantinople and, every Friday an all-night vigil was observed here, in honor of the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God.

During the iconoclastic period and especially during the reign of Emperor Constantine the fifth,  the church of Blachernae called also Panagia of Blachernae had its entire iconography – that conferred the church a lot of beauty – destroyed.

Biserica Vlaherne

In a work (written in 808) about the life of St. Stephen the Young, it is recorded that the iconoclasts had replaced the icons of our Saviour, of the Virgin Mary and of the saints, with pagan representations of trees, birds and animals.

In 834, when the iconoclasts were put to shame, the “Sunday of Orthodoxy” was celebrated for the first time –  also called by the Holy Father – the Sunday of Restoration of the cult of the Holy Icons.  Thus, it’s very first celebration was held in the Church of Blachernae.

The Holy Tradition also notes that, in the year 944, the Image of Christ known as “Holy Veil”, and a letter of King Abgar, were brought from Edessa and placed with great reverence in the church chapel.

Biserica Vlaherne

Many testimonies preserved until today about the Church of Blachernae,  also mention that many Emperors of the Byzantine Empire would take with them during their campaign battles, a relic of the icon of the Mother of God. Also, many imperial seals bore the sign of this church – Blachernitissa.

Biserica Vlaherne

Staring with 1204, the church was taken up by the Latins (Romans), until the time of the Emperor John the III – Doukas Vatatzes (1222-1254) of the Empire of Nicaea, when he recovered the church, along with many other monasteries of Constantinople. In 1347, Emperor John the VI (Cantacuzinos) was crowned in the Church of Blachernae, instead of being crowned in the Cathedral of Aghia Sophia, as it was customary.

After a fire (in 1070)  had destroyed the church, it was rebuilt by the Emperors Romanus IV Diogenes (1067-1071) and Michael VII Doukas (1071-1078).

However, in 1348, the Genoese pirates invasion had caused even more damage to the church

Biserica Vlaherne

Biserica Vlaherne

After the conquering and the Fall of Constantinople, the beautiful church of Blachernae was totally destroyed and only the Holy Spring of the Virgin was left. This place remained in the possession of the Turks until 1867, when it was given to the Greeks, who built a little church – Hagiasma in the place of the ancient church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate undertook great efforts to reconstruct the initial church and make it look as we know it today. In this little church, the four scenes painted by Eirenarchos  Covas in 1964 on the wall above the fountain, remember us the great battles the Church of Blachernae undergone throughout history.

Biserica Vlaherne

The icon of the Virgin Mary: “The Intercessor “

The disappearance of the old Icon of Our Lady painted on wood and covered with gold and silver, is believed that it took place during the  iconoclastic period. According to the tradition, the icon was found later hidden behind a wall, in the year 1030, when Emperor Romanus the III: Argyrus renovated the church.

 Biserica Vlaherne     Biserica Vlaherne

This icon stands in close connection with the miracle of the Mother of God committed when often taken out in procession, as shown in the writings of Anna Komnene.

In the year 911, Constantinople was surrounded by enemies and the people gathered in the Church of Blachernae asking our blessed Mother for help. The church was decorated for its usual Friday night vigil. Saint Andrew the “Fool for Christ” was there, along with his disciple, Epiphany.

Around 4.00 AM that morning, St. Andrew and Epiphanus saw a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  who passed through the doors of the church, accompanied by St. John the Baptist, Saint John the Theologian, and many angelic hosts.

The Holy Virgin  stopped in the middle of the church under the central chandelier, knelt and began to pray with tears to Her Son. Then she entered  the Holy Shrine and prayed again. Then she uncovered her head and placed her precious veil over the whole Church of Blachernae, while she was  raising up high (into Heaven). This event is honored by the Orthodox church on October 1.

Through the prayers of our most pure Mother Theotokos, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us. Amen!

 

Reading from the Synaxarion (July 2nd):

  During the reign of Leo the Great (457-474) two patricians and brethren on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land lodged with an old widow, a Christian of Jewish descent. Seeing the many miracles wrought at a small shrine in her house, they pressed her until she revealed to them that she had raiment of the most holy Theotokos kept in a small coffer. Our Lady had had two virgins in her lifetime who attended upon her; before her holy dormition, she gave each of them one of her divine garments as a blessing. This old widow was of the family of one of those two virgins, and it had come through the generations into her hands.
With the permission of God, that this holy relic might be had for the profit of many, the two men took the garment by stealth and brought it to Blachernae near Constantinople, and building a church in honor of the Apostles Peter and Mark, they secretly enshrined the garment therein. But here again, because of the multitude of miracles that were worked, it became known to the Emperor Leo, and a magnificent church was built, as some say, by that same Leo, but according to others, by his predecessors Marcian and Pulcheria, and enlarged by Leo when the holy raiment was found. The Emperor Justin the Younger completed the church, which the Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes raised up immediately again after it had burned in 1070. It burned again in 1434, and from that time it remained a small house of prayer together with the renowned holy spring.
After the seventh century, the name Blachernae was given to other churches and monasteries by their pious founders out of reverence for this famous church in Constantinople. In this church John Catacuzene was crowned in 1345; also, the Council against Acindynus, the follower of Barlaam, was convoked here (see the Second Sunday of the Great Fast).

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the Church of the Resurrection

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Biserica Invierii

The church of the Holy Sepulchre is also called by the Orthodox Christians, the Church of the Resurrection, because not death but resurrection is the foundation of Christian victory. The Holy Sepulcher Church is a settlement that the Crusaders had built in the eleventh century in place of the ancient churche built by Empress and Saint Helena in the fourth century in Jerusalem. The church bares the most precious vestiges for Christians: Mount Calvary and the Tomb of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Here, it is also found the cave where the Holy Cross – that our Lord was crucified on –  was discovered by Empress Helena (the mother of St Constantine the Great).

The church of the Holy Sepulcher was built on the spot where Jesus Christ was crucified and buried in a tomb carved in stone as the Holy Scripture testifies. It is also called the church of the Resurrection for here our Lord has Risen. ..

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Biserica Invierii

Holy Sepulchre Church – brief history

Immediately after the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior, the places of Golgotha and of the Holy Sepulchre (the Holy Tomb) were not only revered as sacred by the Apostles but also by all Christians. After defeating the last Jewish revolt, the Roman Emperor Adrian, who did neither tolerated the Jews nor the Christians, commended that all Christian and Jewish buildings be desecrated and turned  into pagan edifices. In the place of Golgotha, a pagan temple was built insead.

In the early fourth century, the pagan temple was destroyed and in its place a vast complex of buildings was built in memory of the last moments of Jesus earthly life.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Biserica Invierii

After the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (in 325), the Emperor Constantine the Great commanded Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem to destroy the pagan temple dedicated to pagan godess Venus and Jupiter, and to build the most beautiful basilica in the world using marble and other fine materials.

The architects that designed this basilica were Zenobiu and Eustatiu.  In 335, assembled in the local Synod of Tyre, the bishops consecrated the new basilica, which will bear the name of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Starting with the fourth and until the seventh century, the Holy Sepulchre church knows its time of glory becoming a place of pilgrimage for many Christians. However, its dark period begins with the seventh century.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Biserica Invierii

In the year 614, during the Persian invasion of Jerusalem, the Holy Sepulchre church was burned and the Holy Cross of our Saviour stolen. The Emperor Heraclius recovered it, and the patriarch of Jerusalem has rebuilt its damaged parts. But the dark age continued as many other invaders repeatedly brought not only damage to the churchbut also to Christians, many faithful been killed by the most dreadful tortures.

The Arab conquest in 632 ended the Byzantine influence in this region. However the Caliph Omar had instituted tolerance and the church was preserved. Later, in the ninth century Caliph Hakim had ordered the destruction of the church from its foundation. In a chronicle of John the Antioch, it is mentioned how the entire church was destroyed, except for those parts that were more difficult to move, such as of Anastasis rotunda, which exist up to today.

In the early eleventh century the Christian complex existant here is completely destroyed by the order of an egyptian caliph, but the Byzantine emperors had rebuilt it shortly thereafter. In those days of the Christian Crusades, other chapels and churches united under the same roof  had been added to the initial building. The Crusaders started to renovate the church and added a bell. These renovations are completed during the reign of Queen Melisende in the year 1149. This building was the inspiration for many Christian churches in Europe.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Piatra Ungerii, iar la etaj Golgota

The Holy Sepulchre is shared by the Orthodox, Coptic and Catholic churches. It is an edifice of red granite having a large number of candlesticks.

To avoid religions discussions, a functioning status was carried out to define the rights of each Christian denomination in the Holy Land. The Orthodox have the area in front of the tomb of our Lord, that is surrounded by walls and constitutes the place of their worship. Here the Orthodox Patriarch officiates the liturgy on Holy and  Great Saturday when  the miracle of the Holy Fire occurs.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - coloana din care a iesit Sfanta Lumina

The white marble columns (see photo above) of the left entrance are cracked at the bottom. The Holy tradition tells us that one year, the Orthodox Christians not having money to pay the taxes imposed by the Turks in order to enter the Holy Sepulchre, remained outside of the church. Then, miraculously, the Divine (Holy) Fire that came each year on Holy and Great Saturday at the tomb of our Lord during Orthodox Liturgy, hit the outside columns instead where Orthodox Christians were waiting, and the miracle took place outside of the church. These visible signs remained until today as a testimony of this great miracle of Orthodox Christianity.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Piatra Ungerii si multime de candele

The Holy Sepulcher church preserves more than few precious places of worship; one of which is the stone called „the Holy Unction”  – a slab of red stone that protects the place where Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had placed our Lord’s body after taking it down from the cross – as the Evangelist Matthew relates (cf. Mt. 28, 57-60). A mosaic in front of it portrays this frightening event.

Around this marble, covered with ointment and rose petals, the Orthodox faithful chant the vespers of lamentation for our Lord’s burial on Great and Holy Friday.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Capela Rastignirii

 A chapel with  two altars is found near this place, to the east side of the church. The chapel is built on the rock of Mount Calvary, the place where Jesus Christ was crucified. On the right side of the first altar,  a cross marks the spot where Jesus was stripped of his clothes and nailed to the cross. In the middle of the main altar, called the “Holy Golgotha” was the place of the crucifixion of our Lord. Nearby there is an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose heart was pierced like a sword seeing her beloved Son crucified among thieves (cf. Lamentations for Great and Holy Friday).

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - mozaicul de pe Golgota

Nearby, another chapel was built in the place where – according to the tradition – our Saviour appeared the Holy Virgin Mary after His resurrection. This chapel is thought to be built over the place in the pretorium when the Roman soldiers beat and abused Jesus. Here the tradition tells us that the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the time and the Holy Empress Helena had touched a dead man by the precious and life-giving Cross of our Lord, and the dead  rose to life.

The following chapel is the chapel of the “Crown of thorns” found close to the crucifixion site. Here is where our Lord was crowned with thorns by the Roman soldiers. The remains of the pillar – believed to be part of the column where Jesus sat while crowned with thorns in the pretorium – is paced in a marble surrounded by glass. On  the Holy and Great Friday before Easter, many believers place their ears on this holy piece of marble, and can hear sounds of Jesus suffering, when His hands and feet was beat with hammer and nailed to the cross.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Golgota, locul Rastignirii

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Golgota, locul Rastignirii

During the time of Constantine the Great, the Holy Empress Helena (his mother) came to Jerusalem and been informed  by locals where to dig up,  had found three crosses.  The Holy tradition tells us that no one knew which of the three crosses was the one our Lord was crucified on, so they took all three crosses and went to the Holy Sepulchre. A convoy carrying a dead person was passing by.  The Patriarch and Empress Helena ordered that the dead may be touched with all three crosses they found. When the dead was touched by the cross on which Jesus was crucified, he rose from death.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Biserica Invierii

The Holy Tomb of our Lord is found on the west side of the Holy Sepulcher, in the middle of the church, in a circular place sustained by tall arches.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Mormantul Mantuitorului

The Angel Chapel is the first room of the Holy Tomb.

  Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Mormantul Domnului, Camera Ingerului

On entering the Holy Tomb, an icon of the resurrection of our Lord carries the inscription: “Seeing the resurrection of Christ, worship HIM all you people!  All faithful to worship you the life giving tomb  –  as you buried Christ God and in you He was resurrected “…” Those of you who deny the resurrection of the bodies, by entering the tomb of Christ, know that He died and rose again, to entrust us of our resurrection at The End.”

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Mormantul Domnului, lespedea mormantului

Near the Holy Tomb,  another church was built – called the Church of the Resurrection. This church is located in the center of the entire complex and belongs exclusively to the Orthodox Church. This is the cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre. Here the Orthodox faithful officiate daily Liturgy with the participation of a great assembly of priests and bishops.

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Biserica Invierii, privita din naos, spre Altar

Under the same rotunda of the Holy Sepulchre  other Christian shrines are also found.

The altar of “Sharing of Thy garments”  is found near the “Golgotha. In this place the Roman soldiers threw dices for Jesus’ clothes:  (cf. John 19, 23-24)

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Mormantul Domnului

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Slujba de Inviere in Mormantul Domnului

Biserica Sfantului Mormant - Mormantul Domnului

Biserica Sfantului Mormant- procesiune

 The Church of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the holiest place on earth. The greatest wonders of Christianity occurred here and they continue today. This Holy Place deepens the faith of  many Christians and converts others that perhaps came  here as simple tourists and returned home  no longer ordinary men but authentic Christians.

Please also see a 3D view at: http://www.360tr.com/kudus/kiyamet_eng/index.html

 

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