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Where does one’ weakliness begin?

In the imagination of the haughty mind!



 Thus the mind thinks that it is better not to guide itself after the commandments of God, but by its own wisdom or better said by its passions. But sin leads man right to its consequences, just as you wound draw yourself knowingly into a bar fence.

A weak mind is also revealed in those who do not wish to come to the confession and repentance of their sins; how then, can they expect healing from their illness… The doctors can help, but the mind can only be healed by God.

If man would suit his actions after the commandments of God, which are also the commandments of nature, and will not confuse evil for good, then man would prevent all nuisance and trouble, but on the contrary, he crushes his head in them and then he walks away mournfully.

My brother, let yourself be guided by the godly counsel, because a naughty mind will one day crush… and may not be anyone to help tie it.



(Father Arsenie Boca, Living Words)


July 14th, blessed memory

Excerpt taken from the “Unseen Warfare”



On the many desires and tendencies existing in man and

on their struggle with one another


  Know, that in this unseen warfare, two wills existing in us fight against one another: one belongs to the intelligent part of our soul and is therefore called the intelligent will, which is the higher; the other belongs to the sensory part and is therefore called the sensory will, which is the lower. The latter is more frequently called the dumb, carnal, passionate will. The higher will is always desiring nothing but good, the lower—nothing but evil. Each equally happens by itself, so that neither is a good desire in itself reckoned as good, nor an evil desire as evil. The reckoning depends upon the inclination of our own free will. Therefore, when our will inclines towards a good desire, it is reckoned in our favour; but when we incline towards an evil desire, it is reckoned against us.

  These desires follow one upon another: when a good desire comes, an evil desire immediately opposes it; and when an evil desire comes, a good desire at once rises against it.. Our will is free to follow the one and the other, and whatever desire our will inclines towards, it becomes victorious on this particular occasion. It is in this that all our unseen spiritual warfare consists. Its aim should be never to let our free will incline towards the desire of the lower, carnal and passionate will, but always to follow only the intelligent, higher will. For it is the will of God, to follow which is the basic law of our being: ‘ Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man “ says the Preacher (Ecclesiastes xii. 13). Each of these desires draws our will towards itself and wishes to subjugate it. Stifle the lower desire and incline towards the higher—and victory is yours; but disregard the higher and choose the lower, and you will find yourself vanquished.St. Paulwrites of this: “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members’ (Rom. vii. 21-53). And he gives to all the rule: ‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust. of the flesh’ (Gal. v. 16). And this cannot be accomplished without struggling with the flesh.

  A particularly great effort and laborious toil must be experienced to start with by those who, before deciding to change their worldly and carnal life to a righteous one and to give themselves up to the practices of love and sincere service of God, had enmeshed themselves in evil habits through frequent satisfaction of the desires of their carnal and passionate will. Although the demands of their intelligent will, which they wish to follow, stand on one side of their free will and arc made active by God, yet on the other side there stand the desires of the carnal and passionate will, towards which they still feel a certain sympathy. Opposing the former, these desires pull it towards their side with the same force as a beast of burden is pulled by its halter; and only the grace of God gives them strength to remain firm in the decision they have taken. .Long-drawn resistance and not yielding them victory saps, the strength of carnal desires; yet this does not end the struggle.

  So let no one dream of acquiring a true Christian disposition and Christian virtue, and of working for God as he should, if he does not want to compel himself to renounce and overcome all the passionate impulses of the will of the flesh, whether great or small, which he was formerly accustomed to satisfy, willingly and fondly. The chief reason why so few people attain to full Christian perfection is exactly their reluctance, through self-pity, to force themselves to deny themselves absolutely everything. But if, having overcome great passionate tendencies, they do not wish, thereafter, to compel themselves to overcome small ones, which seem unimportant, then, since these small tendencies are the outcome and expression of the great, by indulging in them they inevitably feed the latter, and so make them continue to live and act in the heart, in spite of the fact that they no longer manifest themselves on a large scale. And so the heart remains passionate and impure, and, above all, in no whit freed from self-indulgence and self-pity, which always make any practice to please God of doubtful value.

  For example, there are men who refrain from appropriating other people’s possessions, but are excessively attached to their own, and who, on the one hand, lay too much trust in what they have, and on the other, arc slow to bestow alms. Others do not seek honours by evil means, yet do not count them as nothing, and often even welcome them, if those honours can be made to appear to come against their will. Others again keep long fasts according to the statutes, yet do not refrain from satisfying their desire to eat their fill, and to eat well, which deprives the fast of all value. Others lead a chaste life, yet continue their connections and acquaintanceship with people they like, and enjoy it, not wishing to understand that, through this, they build a great obstacle to perfection in spiritual life and union with God.

  I shall add to this the fact that some people disregard the natural defects of their character, which, although not dependent on selfwill, nevertheless make a man guilty if, seeing how much they interfere with spiritual life, he does not trouble not only to destroy them completely, but even to try and keep them within harmless bounds, although this could be achieved with the help of God’s grace, due attention to oneself and zeal. Such defects are for example: aloofness, hot temper, and excessive sensibility, with the consequent thoughtless hastiness in words, movements and actions, harshness and querulousness, obstinacy and argumentativeness, and so on. All these natural imperfections and faults should be corrected, in some by reducing excess, in others by adding what is lacking, and by translating both one and another into corresponding good qualities. For no natural feature, no matter how savage and stubborn it is, can stand up against the will if, armed with the grace of God, it resists it with all attention and diligence.

  And so it happens that some perform good deeds, but these deeds remain imperfect, lame, mixed with the lusts, which reign in the world (John ii. 16). And so such people make no progress on tile path to salvation, but turn round and round on one spot, and often even turn back and fall again into their former sins. This shows that even from the first their love for true life in Christ was not wholehearted, that they were not sufficiently filled with the feeling of gratitude to God, Who had delivered them from the power of the devil, and not perfect in their decision to work only for Him and to please Him. As a result such people remain forever untrained in good, are blind and fail to see the danger in which they stand, thinking that their position is secure and that no harm threatens them. Owing to all this, my beloved brother in Christ, I beseech you to love the hard toil and heavy burdens which inevitably accompany our unseen warfare, if you do not wish always to be overcome. The wise Sirach counsels the same: ’Hate not laborious work’ (Ecclesiasticus vii. 15). For this is the very foundation of the whole of inner warfare. The more you love this hard toil, or this pitiless driving of yourself, the more quick and complete will be your victory over yourself and over that in yourself, which resists the higher good. And through this you will be filled with every virtue and good disposition, and God’s peace will come to dwell in you.



On how to fight against the dumb sensory will, and on the training necessary for the will to acquire experience in virtues


  Every time your free will is acted upon and pulled on the one hand by the dumb sensory will and on the other by the will of God, voiced through conscience, each of them seeking to conquer it, you must, if you are sincerely to strive for good, use suitable methods on your part to assist God’s will in gaining victory. For this purpose, then:

(a) As soon as you feel impulses of the lower, sensory and passionate will, you must immediately use every effort to resist them and not allow your own will to incline towards them, however slightly. Crush them, cut them off, drive them away from yourself by an intense effort of will

(b) To achieve this more successfully and with a better result, hasten to kindle in yourself a wholehearted aversion to such impulses, as to your enemies, who seek to steal and destroy your soul— be angered with them.

(c) At the same time do not forget to appeal to our Lord Jesus Christ, our Helper in all endeavour, asking for His assistance and protection, and for the strengthening of your better will; for without Him we can succeed in nothing.

(d) If these three inner actions are sincerely practised in your soul, they will never fail to give you victory over evil impulses. But this would mean only driving the enemies away.   

  If you wish to strike at their very heart, then, if it is feasible, at once do something opposed to the suggestion of the passionate impulse and, if possible, resolve to do so always. This latter practice will finally free you completely from the renewal of the attacks you experience. I shall illustrate this by an example. Supposing someone has offended you in something whether great or small, and has aroused in you a movement of displeasure and irritation, accompanied by a suggestion of retaliation. Pay attention to yourself and hasten to realise that these movements are bent on enticing you towards evil.

  Therefore take up the attitude of a warrior on the defensive:

(a) Stop these movements, do not let them penetrate any deeper and on no account allow your will to take their part as though they were right. This will mean resisting them.

(b) But they still remain in sight, ready for a renewed attack. So rouse aversion against them, as against your enemies, and be angry with them for self protection, until you are able to say sincerely: ‘ I hate and abhor lying” (Ps. cxix. 169), or: ‘I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies” (Ps. cxxxix. 22). This will be a great blow for them, and they will retreat, but not vanish. Then:

(c) Call to the Lord: “Make haste, 0 God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, 0 Lord” (Ps. lxx. 1). And do not cease calling thus, until not a trace of the hostile movements remains and peace is restored in your soul.

(d) Having thus regained peace, do to your offender something which would show your kind and conciliatory disposition towards him, such as a friendly word, some timely favour, and so on. This would mean following the advice of David: ‘Depart from evil, and do good” (Ps. xxxiv. 14).

  Such .actions lead straight to acquiring the habit of the virtue opposed to the passionate movements which had troubled you; and this habit strikes them to the heart and kills them. Try to forestall, or accompany, or conclude these actions with an inner resolve, which would make such passionate impulses for ever impossible in the future. For instance, in the foregoing example, consider yourself worthy, of every insult and bring yourself to welcome every kind. of insult and calumny: welcome them and be ready to receive and accept them with joy as the most salutary remedies. In other cases, try to incite and establish in yourself other corresponding feelings and dispositions. This would mean driving the passion out of your heart and replacing it by the virtue opposed to it, which is the aim of the unseen warfare. I will give you a general indication, suitable for all occasions, in accordance with the guidance of the holy fathers. Our soul has three parts or powers—the thinking, the desiring and the excitable. Owing to their corruption, these three powers give birth to three corresponding kinds of wrong thoughts and movements. The thinking power gives birth to thoughts of ingratitude to God and complaints, forgetfulness of God, ignorance of divine things, ill-judgment and all kinds of blasphemous thoughts. The desiring power gives birth to pleasure-loving thoughts, thoughts of vainglory, love of money and all their numerous ramifications, belonging to the domain of self-indulgence. The excitable power gives birth to thoughts of anger, hatred, envy, revenge, gloating, ill-will, and generally to all evil thoughts. You should overcome all such thoughts and impulses by the methods indicated above, trying on every occasion to arouse and establish in your heart good feelings and dispositions opposed to them: in place of unbelief – undoubting faith in God; in place of complaints—a sincere gratitude to God for everything; in place of forgetfulness of God—a constant deep remembrance of the ever-present and all-powerful God; in place of ignorance—a clear contemplation or mental examination of all the soul-saving Christian truths; in place of ill-judgment – faculties trained to discriminate between good and evil; in place of all blasphemous thoughts—praise and glorification of God. In the same way, in place of love of pleasure – every kind of abstinence, fasting and self-mortification; in place of vainglory – humility and desire of obscurity; in place of love of money—contentment with little and love of poverty. Again, in place of anger—meekness; in place of hatred—love; in place of envy—rejoicing with others; in place of revenge—forgiveness and a peaceful disposition; in place of gloating—compassion; in place of ill-will—well wishing. In short, with St. Maximus, I shall condense all this in the following propositions: adorn your thinking power with a constant attention to God in prayer and knowledge of divine truths; the desiring power—with total self-denial and renunciation of all self -indulgence; the excitable power—with love. If you do this, then, I assure you, the light of your mind will never be dimmed and wrong thoughts will never find place in you. If you arc active in setting up such good thoughts and dispositions in yourself morning, evening and at all other hours of the day, invisible foes will never come near you. For then you will be like a general, who constantly reviews his troops and disposes them in battle order; and enemies know that to attack such a general is impracticable.

  Pay most attention to the last point, namely, to actions opposed to those dictated by passionate thoughts and to setting up feelings and dispositions contrary to passions. Only by this means can you uproot passions in yourself and achieve a safer position. For so long as the roots of passions remain in you, they will always bring forth their offspring and thus cloud over the face of virtues, and at times completely cover and banish them. In such cases we are in danger of falling once more into our former sins and destroying all the fruits of our labours.

  Therefore know that this last means should be practised nut merely once, but often, many times, constantly, until you smash, disorganise and destroy the passionate habit against which you tight. Since this habit has acquired power over your heart through frequent repetition of certain actions, which satisfy the passion dwelling in the heart, opposing it in the heart is not enough to weaken and destroy this power; you must use actions which are contrary to your former ones, actions opposed to the passion, smashing and destroying it. Their frequent use will banish the passionate habit, kill the passion which stimulates it and plant in the heart the virtue opposed to it and a habit of corresponding actions.    

  Moreover—and I shall not waste many words on this, , since it is self-evident – to acquire good habits it is necessary to perform a greater number of right deeds, than the number of evil deeds required to establish bad habits; for bad habits take root more easily, since they are aided and abetted by the sin living in us, that is, by self-indulgence. Therefore, however hard, however difficult it may seem to you, to perform such actions, opposed to your passions, because your will for good is still weak, and because of the resistance of your passionate self-indulgent will, you must never abandon them, but must compel yourself in every way to practise them always. However imperfect they may be at first, they will still support your steadfastness and courage in battle, and pave the way to victory.

  I shall add another thing: stand wakeful and, collecting your attention within yourself, fight with courage. And fight not only the great and strong, but also the small and weak stirrings of’ your passions. For the small open the way to the great, especially when they have become a .habit. Experience has many tunes confirmed the fact that when a man pays little attention and care to repulsing small passionate desires from the heart, after he has overcome the great, he is subjected to sudden and unexpected attacks of the enemy, so impetuous that he is unable to hold his ground in battle and his downfall is more grievous than those of old.

  Moreover I remind you of the fact that you should cut off and kill every passionate attachment to things which, although permissible, are not indispensable, as soon as you notice that they weaken the intensity of your will for good, distract attention away from yourself and disorganise the good order you have established in your life. Such are, for instance, taking walks, evening parties, conversations, new acquaintances, meals, sleep and other such things. You will gain much profit from this, by thus training yourself to self-mastery in all other things as well; you will become stronger and more expert in struggling against temptations and will avoid a great many snares of the devil, who knows how to spread his nets on these inoffensive paths, and, I assure you, your actions will win God’s favour.

  So, beloved, if you follow my advice and undertake such holy tasks with alertness, be assured that in a short time you will achieve success and will become spiritual in truth and actual deed, instead of deceitfully and only in name. But know that to oppose yourself and to compel your self is here an immutable law, which excludes all pleasing of yourself even in the spiritual order of life. If you introduce into it, or choose exclusively deeds which please you, even if they belong to the spiritual order of things, you will ruin your work. You will labour, but in place of real fruit, you will get a sterile flower, and you will not be firmly established in anything spiritual. You will seem to have something spiritual, but in actual fact it will not be so. For all truly spiritual things are produced by the grace of the Holy Spirit; and this grace descends only on those, who have crucified themselves in sufferings and voluntary privations, without any self-pity, and have thus become united with our Lord and Saviour, crucified for their sakes.


What to do when the higher, intelligent will seems to be entirely overcome by the lower will and by the enemies


  If you feel sometimes such a strong upsurging of sin that resistance to it will seem impossible and the very zeal to oppose it will appear exhausted, take care, brother, not to give up the struggle, but rouse yourself and stand firm. It is a subterfuge of the enemy, who, with the thought that resistance is hopeless, strives to undermine your firm stand and by making you lay down all your arms to force you to surrender to him. Make your mind see this subterfuge of the enemy more clearly and do not give ground. For so long as your will does not incline towards this passionate urge you are still among the victors, the fighters and slayers of the enemy, even if your sympathy is already ranged on the side of the passion. Nothing and nobody can force your will or steal victory from your hands and overthrow you against your will, no matter how obdurate and bitter the war waged in you by the enemies of your salvation. God endowed our free will with such power, that even if all a man’s faculties, the whole world and all the demons rose up in arms against him and attacked him, they could not compel it. It is always left free to desire what they offer or demand, if it so wishes, or not to desire it, if it does not wish. On the other hand, for this very reason his will bears the responsibility for everything and is subject to judgment. Remember this well: no matter how weak and exhausted you may feel, you cannot find excuses for inclining towards a passionate suggestion. Your conscience will tell you the same. So the stronger the attacks the stronger the resistance you must prepare, and never abandon this resolve, repeating on all such occasions the words of command of one of our war leaders: “”Watch ye, stand fast, quit you like men, be strong” (I Cor. xvi. 13).

  Thus keeping your will inflexible against the uprising of sin and ranged on the side of the demands of the higher will, bring into action your spiritual weapons, one after another. The chief among them is prayer. Make it your inspiration, saying: ‘ The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident’ (Ps. xxvii. 1, 3). ‘I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name forever” (Ps. xliv. 6, 8). ‘

  Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary.Gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us’ (Isaiah viii. 12-14, 9, 10).

Thus inspired, do what a warrior in physical warfare does sometimes when he is hard pressed by the enemy; he steps back a little, to find a better point of vantage and see more clearly how best to speed his arrow at the heart of the foe. So you too, collect your thoughts within, and, re-establishing the consciousness and feeling of your nothingness and of your impotence to achieve by yourself what this moment demands, appeal to God to Whom all is possible, calling for His help against the attack of passion with warmth of trust and tears, saying: ‘Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy mercies’ sake’ (Ps. xliv. 26). ‘Fight’ (my Jesus) ‘against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. . . . Let them be confounded and put to

Unseen Warfare shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back V and brought to confusion that devise my hurt’ (Ps. xxxv. 1, 2, 4). ‘Holy Virgin, do not let me yield to the enemies and be vanquished by them. 0 my guardian Angel, cover me with your wings against enemy arrows, and with your sword strike them down and cut them off from me.’

  Persevere in these appeals and help will soon come. At the same time, keep acute attention on yourself. The foe knows the power of such appeals to God and hastens to forestall them, or spoil them by inciting senseless complaints against God for having allowed such enemy attacks and such danger of downfall to assail you. In this way the enemy strives to prevent or stop your appeals to God and make you unworthy of God’s help. As soon as you notice such an ungodly impulse, hasten to re-establish the true and sincere conviction that ‘ God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed’ (James i. 13, 14). Then, examine carefully your preceding deeds, feelings and thoughts, and you will find that it is they that gave birth to the inner storm, which put you in this dangerous position. The enemy defamed God, and covered up your own shortcomings. By faith you must justify God in yourself and, by reasoning, cast off the flattering veil, with which the enemy has covered you. You must shed the load of inattention and self-indulgence, repent and confess your inner sin to God and return to the appeals we have indicated, which will bring back God’s help, since He is ever ready to come to your assistance, especially on such occasions.

  After this, when the inner storm has died down, the struggle should proceed in accordance with the general rules of unseen warfare, which have been mentioned in part already.  […]


On control of the tongue


  The greatest necessity of all is to control and curb our tongue. The mover of the tongue is the heart: what fills the heart is poured out through the tongue. And conversely, when feeling is poured out of the heart by the tongue, it becomes strengthened and firmly rooted in the heart. Therefore the tongue is one of the chief factors in building up our inner disposition.

  Good feelings are silent. The feelings which seek expression in words are mostly egotistical, since they seek to express what flatters our self-love and can show us, as we imagine, in the best light. Loquacity mostly comes from a certain vainglory, which makes us think that we know a great deal and imagine our opinion on the subject of conversation to be the most satisfactory of all. So we experience an irresistible urge to speak out and in a stream of words, with many repetitions, to impress the same opinion in the hearts of others, thus foisting ourselves upon them as unbidden teachers and sometimes even dreaming of making pupils of men, who understand the subject much better than the teacher. ‘ This refers, however, to cases when the subjects of conversation are more or less worthy of attention. But in most cases loquacity is a synonym of empty talk, and then there are no words to express the many evils, which arise from this ugly habit. In general, loquacity opens the doors of the soul, and the devout warmth of the heart at once escapes. Empty talk does the same, but even more so. Loquacity distracts one’s attention out of oneself, leaving the heart unprotected. Then the usual passionate interests and desires begin to steal into it, at .times with such success that at the end of such empty talk the heart has not only consented, but has decided to commit passionate deeds. Empty talk is the door to criticism and slander, the spreader of false rumours and , opinions, the sower of discord and strife. It stifles the taste for . mental work and practically always serves as a cover for the absence of sound knowledge. When wordy talk is over, and the fog of self-complacency lifts, it always leaves behind a sense of frustration and indolence. Is it not proof of the fact that, even involuntarily, the soul feels itself robbed’?

  Wishing to show how difficult it is for a loquacious man to refrain from saying something harmful, sinful and wrong, the Apostle James said that keeping the tongue within its rightful bounds is the property only of the perfect: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body’ (James iii. 2). As soon as the tongue begins to speak for its own pleasure, it runs on in speech like an unbridled horse, and blurts out not only the good and seemly, but also the bad and harmful.

  This is why the Apostle calls it ‘an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James iii. 8). Long before him Solomon too said: ‘In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin’ (Prov. x. 19). In general, let us say, like Ecclesiastes, that a loquacious man shows his folly, for as a rule only ‘a fool . . . is full of words’ , (Ecclesiastes x. 14).

  Do not prolong your conversation with a man, who is not listening to you with a good heart, lest you weary him and make your-self abhorrent, as is written: ‘He that useth many words shall be abhorred” (Ecclesiasticus xx. 8). Beware of speaking in a severe or superior manner; for both are highly disagreeable and make people suspect you of great vanity and a high opinion of your self. Never speak about yourself, about your affairs or your relatives, except when it is necessary, and even then be brief and say as little as possible. When you see that others speak too much of themselves, force yourself not to imitate them, even if their words appear humble and self-reproachful. As regards your neighbour and his affairs, do not refuse to discuss them, but always be as brief as you can, even when you have to speak of such things for his good.

  While conversing, remember and try to follow the precept of St. Thalassius who says: ‘Of the five attitudes in conversation with others, use three with discrimination and without fear; use the fourth infrequently and refrain from using the fifth altogether”

(Philokalia, the first century, 69). One writer understands the first three as follows: ‘yes”, ‘no”, ‘ of course” or ‘this is clearly so”; by the fourth, he understands doubtful things and by the fifth, things totally unknown. In other words, about things you know for certain to be true or false, or self-evident, speak with conviction, saying that they are true, or false, or evident. About doubtful things better say nothing, but when necessary, say that they are doubtful and reserve your judgment. Of what you know nothing, say nothing. Someone else says: we have five forms’ Or modes of speech: the vocative, when we invoke someone; the interrogative, when we ask a question; the desiring or soliciting form, when we express a desire or request; the defining, when we express a decisive opinion on something; the commanding, when masterfully and authoritatively we express a command. Of these five, use the first three freely; the fourth, as rarely as possible; the fifth, not at all.

  Speak of God with all homage, especially of His love and goodness; at the same time be fearful lest you commit a sin by speaking wrongly, confusing the simple hearts of the listeners. Therefore, listen rather to others on this subject, collecting their words in the inner treasure-house of your heart.

  When the conversation is of other things, let only the sound of the voice enter into your ear, but not the thought into your mind, which must remain unwaveringly directed towards God. Even when it is necessary to listen to the speaker, in order to understand what he speaks of and to give a suitable answer, do not forget, in the midst of listening and speaking, to raise the eye of your mind on high where your God is, thinking of His greatness and remembering that He never loses sight of you and looks at you either with approval or disapproval, according to what is in the thoughts of your heart, in your words, movements and actions. When you have to speak, before expressing what has entered your heart and letting it pass to your tongue, examine it carefully; and you will find many things that are better not let past your lips. Know moreover that many things, which it seems to you good to express, are much better left buried in the tomb of silence.     Sometimes you will yourself realise this, immediately the conversation is over.

Silence is a great power in our unseen warfare and a sure hope ‘of gaining victory. Silence is much beloved of him, who docs not rely on himself but trusts in God alone. It is the guardian of holy prayer and a miraculous helper in the practice of virtues; it is also a sign of spiritual wisdom. .St. Isaac says: ‘ Guarding your tongue not only makes your mind rise to God, but also gives great hidden power to perform visible actions, done by the body. If silence is practised with knowledge, it also brings enlightenment in hidden doing” (ch. 31 in Russian edition). In another place he praises it thus: ‘ If you pile up on one side of the scales all the works demanded by ascetic life, and on the other side—silence, you will find that the latter outweighs the former. Many good counsels have been given us, but if a man embraces silence, to follow them will become superfluous” (ch. 41). In yet another place he calls silence ‘the mystery of the life to come; whereas words are the instruments of this world” (ch. 42). St. Barsanuphius places it above preaching the word of God, saying: ‘•’If you are just on the very point of preaching, know that silence is more worthy of wonder and glory.” Thus, although one man ‘holdeth his tongue because he hath not to answer”, another ‘keepeth silence, knowing his time” (Ecclesiaaticus xx. 6), yet another for some other reasons, ‘for the sake of human glory, or out of zeal for this virtue of silence, or because he secretly communes with God in his heart and does not want the attention of his mind to be distracted from if (St. Isaac, ch. 76). It can be said in general that a man, who keepeth silence, is found wise and of good sense (Ecclesiasticus xx. 5).

  I shall indicate to you the most direct and simple method to acquire the habit of silence: undertake this practice, and the practice itself will teach you how to do it, and help you. To keep up your zeal in this work, reflect as often as you can on the pernicious results of indiscriminate babbling and on the salutary results of wise silence. When you come to taste the good fruit, of silence, you will no longer need lessons about it.  […]



Our severe judgment of others comes from a high opinion of ourselves and the instigation of the devil. How to overcome this tendency


  Self-love and high opinion of ourselves give birth in us to yet another evil which does us grievous harm; namely, severe judgment and condemnation of our neighbours, when we regard them as nothing, despise them and, if an occasion offers) humiliate them.

  This evil habit or vice, being born of pride, feeds and grows on pride; and in turn feeds pride and makes it grow. For every time we pass judgment our pride takes a step forward, through the accompanying effect of self-importance and self-gratification.

Since we value and think of ourselves so highly, we naturally look at others from on high, judge and despise them, for we seem to ourselves far removed from such faults as we think others possess. And here, seeing our evil disposition, our ever-wicked enemy stands by watchfully and, opening our eyes, teaches us to keep a sharp watch for what others say and do. From these observations he makes us draw conclusions as to their thoughts and feelings; and, on these suppositions, form an opinion of them, generally not good, exaggerating this supposed defect into a deep-rooted feature. These judges do not see and realise that the very origin of their judgment, the suspicion of wrong in others, is impressed on the mind by the action of the enemy, and then fanned by him into a conviction that they are actually such, although it is not so at all.

  So, brother, since the enemy watches you constantly, waiting for an opportunity to sow evil in you, be doubly watchful over yourself, lest you fall into the nets spread for you. As soon as he shows you some fault in your neighbour, hasten to repel this thought, lest it take root in you and grow. Cast it out, so that no trace is left in you, and replace it by the thought of the good qualities you know your neighbour to possess, or of those people generally should have. If you still feel the impulse to pass judgment, add to this the truth, that you are given no authority for this and that the moment you assume this authority you thereby make yourself worthy of judgment and condemnation, not before powerless men, but before God, the all-powerful Judge of all.

  This reversal of thoughts is the strongest means, not only for repelling accidental critical thoughts, but also for completely freeing yourself of this vice. The second method, equally very strong, is never to let go from your mind the memory of your own wickedness, your unclean and evil passions and actions, and correspondingly to hold on to the constant realisation of your own unworthiness. You will certainly find in yourself no small number of such passions and passionate actions. If you have not given up and shrugged your shoulders, saying: ‘Come what may”, you cannot help caring about finding a cure for these ills, which are killing you. But if you act sincerely in this, you should have no time free to concern yourself in the affairs of others and to pass sentence on them. For then, if you let yourself do this, the sayings will keep ringing in your ears: “Physician, heal thyself” (Luke iv. 23). “First cast out the beam out of thine own eye” (Matt. vii. 5).

  Moreover, when you judge severely some wrong action of your neighbour, you must know that a small root of the same wickedness is also in your own heart, which, by its passionate nature, teaches you to make suppositions about others and to judge them. “An evil man out of the evil treasure” (of the heart) “bringeth forth evil things ‘ (Matt. xii. 35).     

  But an eye, that is pure and without passion, looks too without passion on the actions of others, and not with evil. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Habakkuk i. 13). Therefore when the thought comes to condemn another man for some fault, be indignant with yourself as a perpetrator of the same actions and guilty of the same fault; and say in your heart: ‘ Unworthy as I am, how can I raise my head to see the faults of others and accuse them, when I am submerged in the same sin and my trespasses are even greater?’    By doing this you will turn against yourself the weapon, which evil thought urges you to use against another; and instead of wounding your brother you will put plasters on your own wounds.

  If the sin of your brother is not hidden but obvious to everyone, try to see its cause, not in what the wicked passion for judging suggests, but in what a brotherly feeling towards him may indicate, and say to yourself: since this brother has many hidden virtues, so, to protect them from being harmed by vainglory, God has allowed him to fall into the present sin, or to stay a short time in this unbecoming guise, so that he should appear unworthy in his own eyes and, being despised for it by others, should gather the fruits of humility and become even more pleasing to God; in this way the present instance will do him more good than harm. Even if a person’s sin is not only obvious, but very grievous and comes from a hardened and unrepentant heart, do not condemn him, but raise your eyes to the wondrous and incomprehensible judgments of God; then you will see that many people, formerly full of iniquity, later repented and reached a high degree of sanctity, and that, on the other hand, others, who were on a high level of perfection, fell into a deep abyss. Take care, lest you also suffer this calamity through judging others.

  So stand always on guard in fear and trembling, fearing more for yourself than for others. And be assured that every good word you may utter for your neighbour, and every rejoicing for his sake is the action and fruit of the Holy Spirit in you, whereas every bad word and scornful condemnation comes from your evil nature and suggestions of the devil. Therefore, when you are tempted by some wrong action of your brother, do not let your eyes sleep until you have driven this temptation from your heart and wholly made peace with your brother.



Lecture given May 2011 at Saint Tikhon Monastery

The life of Prophet Isaiah, taken from “Prolog of Ohrid”

  This great prophet was of royal lineage. Isaiah was born in Jerusalem of Amoz his father who was the brother of Amaziah, the king of Judah. By the great grace of God that was in him, Isaiah was made worthy to see the Lord Sabaoth on the throne in heaven surrounded by six-winged Seraphims who continuously sing: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts [Sabaoth]” (Isaiah 6:3). Isaiah prophesied many things to individual men as well as to the people. On one occasion, he walked naked around the streets of Jerusalem for three days prophesying the imminent fall of Jerusalem by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, reminding the king and the leaders of the people not to hope in assistance from the Egyptians or Ethiopians for they, also, will be subjugated by the same Sennacherib, but rather to trust in help from God the Most High. This prophesy, as well as other prophecies, were literally fulfilled. Isaiah’s most important prophecies are the ones concerning the Incarnation of God, the conception of the All- Holy Virgin, John the Forerunner and about many other events of the life of Christ. [“Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). “The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord and make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3).] This discerning man, because of the purity of his heart and because of his zealousness toward God, also received the gift of working miracles. Thus, when the besieged Jerusalem suffered from drought, Isaiah prayed to God and water flowed from beneath Mount Zion. This water was called Siloam which means: “sent.” Later, the Lord directed the man, blind from birth to bathe in this water in order for him to see. During the reign of King Manasses, when Isaiah thundered against the pagan customs of the king and the leaders comparing that generation with Sodom and Gomorrah, the anger of the leaders and the people rose up against this great prophet. He was captured, led out of Jerusalem and was sawed in half. Isaiah lived and prophesied about seven-hundred years before Christ.

The Holy Prophet Isaiah and some of his prophesies on the Messiah 

The Book of the Prophet Isaiah (OT)

Chapter 53

1. O Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2 We brought a report as of a child before him; he is as a root in a thirsty land: he has no form nor comeliness; and we saw him, but he had no form nor beauty.

3 But his form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men; he was a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness, for his face is turned from us: he was dishonored, and not esteemed.

4 He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction.

5But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. 

6 All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins.

7 And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.

8 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth: because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death.

9 And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he practiced no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth.

10 The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke. If ye can give an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed:

11 the Lord also is pleased to take away from the travail of his soul, to shew him light, and to form him with understanding; to justify the just one who serves many well; and he shall bear their sins.

12 Therefore he shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty; because his soul was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and was delivered because of their iniquities.

The Gospel according to St. Matthew (NT)

Chapter 27

27:1 When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death:

27:2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

27:3 Then Judas, which had betrayeth him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders,

27:4 Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that.

27:5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

27:6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.

27:7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 27:8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day.

27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value;

27:10 And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

27:11 And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.

27:12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.

27:13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?

27:14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly. 27:15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

27:16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.

27:17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?

27:18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.

27:19 When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

27:20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

27:21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas.

27:22 Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified.

27:23 And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

27:24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

27:26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.

27:28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

27:29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

27:30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

27:31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

27:32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.

27:33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,

27:34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

27:35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.

27:36 And sitting down they watched him there;

27:37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

27:38 Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

27:39 And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

27:40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

27:41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

27:42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

27:43 He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

27:44 The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

27:47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. 27:48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

27:49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

27:50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

27:51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;

27:52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

27:53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

27:54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.

27:55 And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:

27:56 Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

27:57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:

27:58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

27:59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

27:60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulcher, and departed.

27:61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulcher.

27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,

27:63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

27:64 Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

27:65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 27:66 So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

Please also see: 



   THE PROPHECIES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT on the MESSIAH – Part II                                                      

The monks of Mt.Athos, featured on “60 Minutes” on Easter Sunday

  A video depicting a rare access to monks in ancient monasteries on a remote Greek peninsula who have lived a Spartan life of prayer in a tradition virtually unchanged for a thousand years.

Please click on the link (picture bellow) to see the video

Or at link:

The Ancient Church



More on the Orthodox Chruch


See also a brief introduction to Orthodoxy based on the book “The Orthodox Church” of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (former Anglican Timothy Ware)

Part I

Part II

The last 4 parts are on Youtube…



(Part Two)

For Part One see Here

(Please do not copy without referencing the original text!)





[Psalm 109:4] The Lord hath sworn and will not repent: “Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek.“


[Hebrew 5:5] So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, ‘Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.’

[Hebrew 5:6] As he saith also in another place,Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

[Hebrew 5:10] Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.



Icon of the Entrance into Jerusalem


[Zacharias 9:9] Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to thee, just, and a Saviour; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal.


[Mark 11:7] And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.

[Mark 11:9] And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!

[Mark 11:11] And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.





[Psalm 8:2] Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou perfected praise, because of Thine enemies, to destroy the enemy and avenger.


[Mattew 21:15] And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,

[Mattew 21:16] And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, ‘Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?’





[Esaias 53:1] O Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?


 [John 12:37] But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

 [John 12:38] That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, ‘Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ 





[Psalm 40:9] Yea, even the man of my peace in whom I hoped, who ate of my bread, hath magnified the lifting of heels against me.


 [Mark 14:10] And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.

 [Mark 14:20] And he answered and said unto them, ‘It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.’

 [Mark 14:21] The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.





[Zacharias 11:12] And I will say to them, If it be good in your eyes, give me my price, or refuse it. And they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.


[Mattew 26:14] Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

[Mattew 26:15] And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.  





[Psalm 34:10] Unjust witnesses rose up against me; things I knew not they asked me.

NT. FULFILLMENT                                                                                                                     

 [Mark 14:56] For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.





[Esaias 53:7] And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth.


[Mark 15:4] And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee.  

[Mark 15:5] But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.





[Esaias 50:6] I gave my back to scourges, and my cheeks to blows; and I turned not away my face from the shame of spitting…


[Mattew 26:67] Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,  





[Psalm 34:11] They repaid me with evil things for good, and barrenness for my soul.  

[Psalm 34:18] Let not them rejoice against me that unjustly are mine enemies, they that hate me without a cause, and wink with their eyes.


[John 15:24] If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.

[John 15:25] But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’ 





[Esaias 53:5] But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed.


[Romans 5:6] For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

[Romans 5:7] For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

[Romans 5:8] But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.




[Esaias 53:12] Therefore he shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty; because his soul was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many, and was delivered because of their iniquities.


[Mark 15:27] And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.

[Mark 15:28] And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And He was numbered with the transgressors.





[Zacharias 12:10] And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and compassion: and they shall look upon me, because they have mocked me, and they shall make lamentation for him, as for a beloved friend, and they shall grieve intensely, as for a firstborn son. 

[Psalm 21:18] They have pierced my hands and my feet…


[John 20:20] And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

[John 20:25] The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.  





[Psalm 21:7] All that look upon me have laughed me to scorn; they have spoken with their lips and have wagged their heads:  

[Psalm 21:8] He hoped in the Lord; let Him deliver him, let Him save him, for He desireth him.’


[Luke 23:35] And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

[Mattew 27:39] And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,…





[Psalm 21:16] My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaved to my throat, and into the dust of death hast Thou brought me down.


[John 19:28] After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.





[Psalm 68:25] And they gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.


[Mattew 27:34]  They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.

[Mattew 27:48] And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.





[Psalm 68:9] Because for Thy sake I have borne reproach, shame hath covered my face.


[Mattew 27:44] The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.

[Romans 15:3] For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, ‘The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.’ 





[Psalm 108:3] In return for my love, they have falsely accused me; but as for me, I gave myself to prayer.


[Luke 23:34] Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…







[Psalm 21:20] They have parted my garments amongst themselves, and for my vesture have they cast lots.


[Mark 15:24] And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.

[John 19:23] Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

[John 19:24] They said therefore among themselves, ‘Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be’: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, ‘They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.’ These things therefore the soldiers did.  





[Psalm 21:1] O God, my God, attend to me; why hast Thou forsaken me?


[Mark 15:34] And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

[Mattew 27:46] And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?





[Psalm 33:19] The Lord keepeth all their bones, not one of them shall be broken.


[John 19:33] But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:

[John 19:36] For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.





[Esaias 53:9] And I will give the wicked for his burial, and the rich for his death; for he practised no iniquity, nor craft with his mouth.


[Mattew 27:57] When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple:

[Mattew 27:58] He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.

[Matei 27:59] Şi Iosif, luând trupul, l-a înfăşurat în giulgiu curat de in,

[Mattew 27:59] And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,

[Mattew 27:60] And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.





[Psalm 15:10] For Thou wilt not abandon my soul in hades, nor wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.

[Psalm 48:14] Like sheep they are laid in hades, death shall be their shepherd.

{Psalm 48:16] Yet God shall redeem my soul out of the hand of hades, when he receiveth me.


[Mark 16:6] And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

[Mark 16:7] But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

[Acts 2:31] He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

[1 Corinthians 15:4] And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…





[Psalm 109:1] The Lord said unto my Lord: “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies the footstool of Thy feet.”


[Mark 16:19] So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.

[Mark 14:62] And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

[Colossians 3:1] If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

[Ephesians 1:20] Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

[Hebrew 1:3] Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

[Hebrew 8:1] Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

[Hebrew 10:12] But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

[Hebrew 12:2] Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

[Acts 7:55] But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

[Acts 7:56] And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God!


Study done by Archipriest/Hieromonk Michael (Mikhail) Stanciu

(Translated by EC)


(Old Testament verses taken from Septuagint translated from Greek by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton
originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851);

(The Psalter according to the Seventy);

(New Testament verses taken from King James Version, originally published by Oxford Press, Oxford, 1769.





(Part One)


For Part II see Here


Study done by Archipriest/Hieromonk Michael (Mikhail) Stanciu


(Please do not copy without referencing the original text!)



The 1st Prophecy: A WOMAN’ “SEED” TO CRUSH the Head of the SERPENT


[Genesis 3:15] And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed, he shall watch against thy head, and thou shalt watch against his heel.

[Galatians 4:4] But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law…
[Hebrew 2:14]
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

[Hebrew 2:15]
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  

[Colossians 1:13] Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son…

[Revelation 20:10] And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.




[Genesis 12:3] And I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those that curse thee, and in thee shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed.
[Genesis 12:18]
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast hearkened to my voice.
[Genesis 26:4]
And I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven; and I will give to thy seed all this land, and all the nations of the earth shall be blest in thy seed,…


[Matthew 1:1] The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham… 

[Hebrew 2:16] For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.  




[Genesis 17:19 p.m.] And God said to Abraam, Yea, behold, Sarrha thy wife shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish my covenant with him, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to him and to his seed after him.

[Luke 3:34] Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor,




[Numbers 24:17]
I will point to him, but not now; I bless him, but he draws not near: a star shall rise out of Jacob, a man shall spring out of Israel; and shall crush the princes of Moab, and shall spoil all the sons of Seth.
[Numbers 24:19]
And one shall arise out of Jacob, and destroy out of the city him that escapes.  

[Matthew 1:2] Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;  





[Genesis 49:10]. A ruler shall not fail from Juda, nor a prince from his loins, until there come the things stored up for him; and he is the expectation of nations.

[Luke 3:33] Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, … 



06. Successor of the throne of David



[Esaias 9:6,7] For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him. 7 His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end: it shall be upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to support it with judgement and with righteousness, from henceforth and forever. The seal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.



[Luke 1:32] He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. 



07. NUS and Eternal



[Daniel 9:25] And thou shalt know and understand, that from the going forth of the command for the answer and for the building of Jerusalem until Christ the prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks; and then the time shall return, and the street shall be built, and the wall, and the times shall be exhausted.  

[Psalms 44:9] Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Wherefore God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness more than Thy fellows.  

[Psalms 44:10] Myrrh and stacte and cassia exhale from Thy garments;

[Psalms 101:25] Take me not away at the half of my days; in generations and generations are Thy years.

[Psalms 101:27]They shall perish, but Thou abidest; and all like a garment shall grow old, And as a vesture shalt Thou fold them, and they shall be changed;

[Psalms 101:28] But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail.



[Luke 1:33] And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

[Hebrew 1:9] Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

[Hebrew 1:12] And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. 





Nativity of the Lord


[Michaeas 5:1] And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, art few in number to be reckoned among the thousands of Juda; yet out of thee shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler of Israel; and his goings forth were from the beginning, even from eternity.


[Luke 2:4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
[Luke 2:5]
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
[Luke 2:7]
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  





[Daniel 9:25] And thou shalt know and understand, that from the going forth of the command for the answer and for the building of Jerusalem until Christ the prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks; and then the time shall return, and the street shall be built, and the wall, and the times shall be exhausted.

[Luke 2:1] And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
[Luke 2:2]
And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.







[Esaias 7:14] Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel.



[Luke 1:26] And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,  

[Luke 1: 27] To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  

[Luke 1:30] And the angel said unto her, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.”  

[Luke 1:31] And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.






[Jeremias 31:15] Moab is ruined, even his city, and his choice young men have gone down to slaughter.



[Matthew 2:16] Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.  

[Matthew 2:17] Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

[Matthew 2:18] In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”






[Osee 11:1] Early in the morning were they cast off, the king of Israel has been cast off: for Israel is a Child, and I loved him, and out of Egypt have I called Him.



[Matthew 2:13] And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

[Matthew 2:14] When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt

[Matthew 2:15] And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”






[Esaias 40:3] The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.

[Esaias 40:4] Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and all the crooked ways shall become straight, and the rough places plains.

[Esaias 40:5] And the glory of the Lord shall appear, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God: for the Lord has spoken it.



[Luke 3:3] And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

[Luke 3:4] As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight

[Luke 3:5] Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

[Luke 3:6] And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”






[Malachias 3:1] Behold, I send forth my messenger, and he shall survey the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come into his temple, even the angel of the covenant, whom ye take pleasure in: behold, he is coming, saith the Lord Almighty.




[Luke7:24] And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

[Luke7:25] But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings courts.

[Luke7:26] But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.

[Luke7:27] This is he, of whom it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee”.






[Malachias 3:23] And, behold, I will send to you Elias the Thesbite, before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes…



[Matthew 11:13] For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.

[Matthew 11:14] And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.






[Esaias 9: 5) For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Messenger of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him.

[Psalm 2:7] …the Lord said, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee.



[Matthew 3:17] And lo a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.“






[Esaias 9: 1] Drink this first. Act quickly, O land of Zabulon, land of Nephthalim, and the rest inhabiting the sea-coast, and the land beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.

[Esaias 9:2] O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: ye that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you.



[Matthew 4:12] Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;

[Matthew 4:13] And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:

[Matthew 4:14] That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying:

[Matthew 4:15] The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;

[Matthew 4:16] The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”






[Psalm 68:11] For the zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproach Thee are fallen on me.



[John 2:14] And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

[John 2:15] And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;  

[John 2:16] And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

[John 2:17] And his disciples remembered that it was written, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”





[Psalm 77:2] I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter dark sayings which have been from the beginning…

[Esaias 6:9] And he said, “Go, and say to this people,Ye shall hear indeed, but ye shall not understand; and ye shall see indeed, but ye shall not perceive”.

[Esaias 6:10] For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.



[Matthew 13:13] Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

[Matthew 13:14] And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, “By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive”.

[Matthew 13:15] For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

[Matthew 13:34] All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:

[Matthew 13:35] That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”






[Esaias 61:1] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken in heart, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind;

[Esaias 61:2] to declare the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of recompence; to comfort all that mourn;

[Esaias 61:3] that there should be given to them that mourn in Sion glory instead of ashes, the oil of joy to the mourners, the garment of glory for the spirit of heaviness: and they shall be called generations of righteousness, the planting of the Lord for glory.



[Luke 4:18] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

[Luke 4:19] To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

[Luke 4:21] And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”






[Esaias 53:3] But his form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men; he was a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness, for his face is turned from us: he was dishonoured, and not esteemed.



[John 1:11] He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

[Luke 23:18] And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas






[Deuteronomy 18:15] The Lord thy God shall raise up to thee a prophet of thy brethren, like me; him shall ye hear…

[Deuteronomy 18:18] I will raise up to them a prophet of their brethren, like thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them as I shall command him.


[John 6:14] Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

[John 7:40] Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.

[Luke 24:19] And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people…

[Acts 3:20] when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord ; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.

[Acts 3:21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

(Translated by EC, to be continued)


Testimonies on the Icon of Nativity

A study by Archimandrite Michael (Mikhail) Stanciu

(Please do not copy without referencing the original post!)

 The Nativity Icon


Our Lord’ Nativity

A Feast of Lights – the Day of Recreation of the World

      Originally celebrated with Epiphany (Theophany) on January 6, the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was established by the early Christian church (in 354) for December 25th. According to St. Gregory of Nazianzus, “the Feast of the Nativity is the re-creation of the world” and the restoration of the human nature fallen in sin.

      The Iconographic representation of the Nativity has its scriptural basis in the testimonies of the Holy Gospels of Matthew and Luke: see Mathew 1, 18-25; 2, 1-12 and Luke 2, 4-20.


Icon’ s Composition

      In the icon of the Nativity, the focus is placed on three dogmatic aspects of the Incarnation and Nativity of the Son of God:

1st –  God in descending motion (kenosis);

2nd – The Miracle of virginal birth (the creature gives birth to her Creator);

3rd-  Human Deification.

 The scenes from the iconographic image are divided into three parts:


I. The top portion of the icon the prophetic and theophanic aspect

To the Left

In the Center To the Right
◦ the angels praising God ◦ the radius (the star)

◦ the mountains (the rocks)

◦ the angel proclaiming

the Nativity to the 

shepherds on the field


II. The central part - the mysterious appearance

To the Left

In the Center To the Right
◦ the Magi bringing gifts

◦ Christ the Child

◦ the Virgin

◦ the cave (the manger)

◦ the ox and the ass

◦ the shepherds


III. The bottom portion - the human aspect

To the Left

In the Center To the Right
◦ The Right Joseph sitting/meditating on a rock ◦ the devil disguised as a shepherd (Thyrros)

◦ the midwives

Salome and

Zelemi caring

for the child




People, edifying symbols and meanings in the icon of the Nativity


I. 1. The Ray of Light – a Revelation of the Holy Trinity

             the ray                                                                                                                    

The ray descending from the single radius-circle at the top of the icon signifies The One and Unique Nature of God, the light and coming from the star is divided into three elements to describe the participation of the Three DIVINE PERSONS in the fellowship/ iconomy of our salvation.   The iconographic representation of the star suggests that this is beyond just a cosmic phenomenon, the star is being sent by God to preach to the Magi the supernatural birth of the Heavenly King and also to guide them to the place where the miracle took place.        


I. 2. The Mountain: an austere mountain suggests an inhospitable world, hostile, a world after the fall of our first parents Adam and Eve and their descendants.

      The sharp rocks, also illustrated as steps seem to be united with the sky, indicating the descent of God to man but also the ascent of man to God, both becoming possible with the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. And the whole earth rejoices.      

  “Wholly present among those below, yet in no way absent from those above, was the Word that cannot be encircled by words; for thus did God condescend, and not merely descend to a different place. He was born from a God-receiving Virgin…” (the Akathist of the Annunciation – Oikos 8)

“Today, Heaven and earth joined together, today Christ is born, today God descended on earth and man rose up to heaven.” (From the Vespers of the Nativity Feast)

    Every order of angels was amazed at your mighty work when you assumed human nature; for they saw the one who is unapproachable as God become approachable to all as man, dwelling among us and hearing from all…” (The Akathist of the Annunciation; Kontakion 9)


I. 3. The Angels are represented in their dual work: doxology and proclamation (of the good news).

      Some angels (the group from the left) are moving towards the Source of Light, unceasingly praising God.

the angels

    The angel from the right side leans towards the shepherds, proclaiming them the Nativity of the King of Israel. The angelic presence testifies the deity of the Child.


 II. 1. The Christ child is either asleep or awake, looking towards His Mother. His changing nappies are shaped like narrow strips similar to the burial shrouds, his arms are crossed over his chest in the sign of the Cross, and the crib where the child is seated resembles a shrine – the later tomb.

      All these representations foreshadow Christ’s death and descent into hell. But “The Light shines into the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1, 5) For Christ will rise from the dead as God Almighty.


II. 2. The Virgin is pictured sitting next to the child in the manger, half resting on a bed of the kind carried by the Hebrew in their travels. Its color is red, signifying a royal bed and the honor the Mother of God deserves.

      This iconographic depiction of the Mother of God affirms the truth of the supernatural Birth (of a Virgin, barring no pain) of our Savior Jesus Christ, fact that also emphasizes the deity of the Child. (1-see Fr. D. Staniloae)

the Virgin

  The three stars from the head and the shoulders of Mary, symbolize her perpetual virginity before, during and after the birth of Christ (the Ever-Virgin Mary).

  Her facial expression is one in meditation in anticipation of the suffering she will endure as a Mother of Him Who was to suffer death on the Cross for the salvation of the world. “And Mary kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2, 19)

      Our most pure Lady was the highest gift that mankind was ever able to bring to Him, the Creator.    

  “What shall we offer Thee, O Christ? for Thou hast appeared on earth as man for our sakes. Of all the creatures made by Thee, each offereth Thee thanksgiving. The Angels offer Thee the hymn; the Heavens, the star; the Magi, their gifts; the shepherds, their wonder, the earth, her cave; the wilderness, the manger; and we offer Thee a Virgin Mother, O God, Who wast before the ages, have mercy on us(Menaion for December, Stichera D, Verse #7)


II. 3. The Cave (the Manger)

  The place of birth of the Son of God was not an inn, but a place with stalls where animals are kept.

      The Gospels do not mention the cave, but the iconographic representation finds its grounds in the Tradition of the church and in its liturgical texts. The opening of the dark cave in the middle of sharp rocks symbolizes the fallen cosmos, the world overwhelmed by sin through the fall of man, the depths of darkness (the inferno/hell), which only Him, the Sun of Righteousness, scattered by His birth. The cave and the manger are an evidence of the profound humility of our Lord Jesus Christ.


II. 4. The ox and the ass are also mentioned in the Gospel, their presence along with Christ Child (inspired by the apocryphal Gospel of Matthew, chapter XIV) suggests the fulfilling of a prophecy (the prophet Isaiah): “The ox knows his master and of the donkey his Lord’s crib, but Israel does not know me, my people, knows me not. “ (Isaiah 1, 3)

      The animals presence, appears as a symbolism of the sacrificial bull and of the donkey the the King will ride when entering Jerusalem (see Psalm Sunday). In some Russian icons, a horse is depicted instead of a donkey.


the shephards

II. 5. The Shepherds are portrayed listening to the message of the angels. Often, one of them adds his (human) art of singing in the choir of angels.

      In the middle of everyday activities, they are the first to receive the wondrous news of the birth of Christ, being paradoxically, through their simplicity, closer to the heavenly world.

      The shepherds represent the first sons of Israel (God’s chosen people), who worship the Child; they symbolize the beginning of the Church among the Jews, while the magi represent the Church of the Gentiles.


II. 6. The Magi are represented either on horses riding towards the place indicated by the star, or by bringing the Child: threefold – gold, incense and myrrh – foreshadowing the myrrh bearing women, who came to our Lord’ tomb on Easter morning:

◦ Gold – for the King of all ages;

◦ Incense – as to the One who is the God of the Universe;

◦ Myrrh –  to the One who died on the cross.

“By the mirth, they pre imagine Thy mortal state, by royal gold Thy majesty and by the incense, Thy Divine nature.” (Nativity Matins, the fifth song, voice, VI)

  The Magi are portrayed as three men of different ages, proving that this revelation is given to man regardless of their physical age, but according to their spiritual level and their comprehension of the mysteries of God. The Magi represent the pagan nations that are outside the chosen people. Although they are learned men, however, they have to come a long way towards knowing the true God.

  Their presence reveals that the Church receives and sanctifies human knowledge when it leads to the truth of the faith towards the knowledge of God.  

the magi


III. 1. The Righteous Joseph is depicted in the corner (either left or right, to the bottom part of the icon) sitting away from the Blessed Virgin Mary; this iconographic detail is designed to highlight the truth that the Scriptures and the Church teach that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, and Joseph was not the father of the Heavenly Child.


  His appearance should suggest a man advanced in years (the Holy Tradition holds that he was 84 years old). He is surrounded by a halo to represent his place among the righteous of God (cf. Matthew 1, 19).

  Joseph has a meditative expression, somewhat worried, a state of turmoil caused by the virginal birth of Jesus. Joseph illustrates every man weak in  faith, whose mind can not exceed the boundaries of this reality, and the difficulty in accepting the supernatural reality of God’s mysteries.

  In the person of Joseph, the icon reveals not only his personal drama, but the drama of all mankind, comprehending the mystery not through the eyes of faith, but by the limited mind/rationality.

     A storm of doubtful thoughts roiled within the prudent Joseph, for he looked on you unwedded and he feared a stolen union, O Blameless One; but on learning that your child-bearing was of the Holy Spirit, he said: Alleluia!”(Akathist Hymn of the Annunciation; Kontakion 4)

  He appeared to be listening to a figure representing the voice of the darkened mind.

 the strange man


III. 2. the Strange old man, clad in a letter jacket, leaning before Joseph, represents the deceiver: Satan disguised as a shepherd, and harassing Joseph, the Virgin fiancé, with treacherous questions.

      The scene is inspired by the apocryphal Gospel of James which says that the wicked speaks through the Shepherd Thyrros: “As the rod [that is bent or broken= the symbol of his former powers] will not be able to give offspring, so an old man like you just can not conceive a baby and a virgin cannot bare a child “ [but the rod blossomed soon].


III. 4. The Infant bathing scene is based on passages from the apocryphal gospels of Jacob and Matthew (which speak about the presence of two women: Salome and Zelemi, called by Joseph to attend the Virgin birth).

The Infant bathing scene has sparked much controversy and discussion based on the following reasons:

- the bathing does not belong to the canonical gospels;

- the Child was totally clean and did not need washing; 

- Our Lady had a supernatural birth (with no pain), and the presence of midwives is unnecessary.

the bath of the Child Jesus

   The arguments favoring the representation of a bathing scene were:   – that the scene is not mentioned in the canonical Gospels is not a reason to exclude it (the entry into the temple of God of the Virgin Mary is also not mentioned in the New Testament, but the Church did not rejected). Our Lord Christ, through the custom of bathing, had voluntarily agreed to follow a human custom as He will later undergo the practice of circumcision and baptism (which He did not need);

   –   none of the Holy Ecumenical Councils had opposed the scene;

  – during the iconoclasts period when they called into question many iconographic scenes, the bathing scene did not pose an issue;

  –  even after iconoclasm, when the iconographic representations became a mean to express the dogma, no objections existed to the representation of this scene.

    The bathing scene suggests that the Most High God is subject to human habits and customs, this been also a true testimony to the Incarnation of the Lord, Who has become willingly “just as one of his people” (Matins of the Nativity feast, Canon of St. John of Damascus, the fourth song). The scene foreshadows that of His baptism in the Jordan River.


Western innovations in representing the Nativity



      Compared to Orthodox iconographic canonical representation, in the Western religious painting several innovations were introduced distorting historical and dogmatic truth and leading to heresy:

- The star is represented as a natural phenomenon, and does not clearly indicate the Child. (St. John Chrysostom interprets that the star guiding the wise men did not remain high –up in the sky, but came down, over the head of the Child);

- The cave is replaced by a man-made construction, the popular image of the crib, giving a more picturesque and naturalist representation;

- The donkey and the ox, and the bathing scene are often removed from the composition;

- A lots of compositional elements and insignificant details: horses, camels, dogs, lots of people etc are introduced, which detract from the real center of interest: Christ the Child.

- The Child is shown naked (in the Orthodox icons, the clothes suggest the mystery that surrounds the deity of Christ);

- Joseph is depicted standing next to the Virgin Mary, kneeling with her before the Child;

- In the physiognomic details, of the western paintings, Joseph appears as a handsome young man, of an age close to the Virgin Mary, detail that brings a lot of confusion regarding the actual relationship full of purity that existed between the old Joseph as the guardian of Mary, and the young Virgin;

- The representation the Holy Family in the western iconography “greatly distorts the truth of the Gospel” (as the Creed: the symbol of our faith confesses) that the word of God came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary and became man; 

- The scene takes on a fantasy look through the sweet atmosphere of a fairy Bethlehem bathed by the light of a sky full of stars…, insisting more on the human aspect rather than on the mystery of the Incarnation (the man-God rather than God-Man).

      In the West, the representation of the Nativity, has no edifying symbols for the soul (so consistently depicted in the Orthodox iconography), and it mostly calling upon the natural human feelings, thus remaining at the level of a superficial understanding and far from the true meaning of the Incarnation of the Son of God and His work for the salvation of the world.

      It should be noted that the process of de-sanctification of the Catholic theology after the Great Schism of 1054 had gradually led to the distortion in representating  God and the Saints. The revival of paganism, which began in the fourteenth century, had lead to the replacing of icons by so called religious paintings where the aura of holiness disappears under the camouflage of the sensuous realism of the fallen human nature. In the Western Europe, the devaluation of the sacred images was synchronous with the deformation concept about God, man and the world, the contemporary Western society been long poisoned by atheism and materialism.

      The removal of icons and of the sacraments had depleted the Catholic and the (neo) Protestant world, of a proper understanding of the words of Christ, sinking further into interpretations subjective to human passions, slanders and evil blasphemies.

       The Orthodox iconography, through the development and maintenance of certain canons (rules) in representing/revealing the holy images in accordance with the early church tradition, it maintains the true theological knowledge of the spiritual life and it avoids the promotion of artistic means of expression that emphasize emotions or other subjective and shallow interpretations.

   The Nativity Icon reveals therefore, in its content two fundamental Christian doctrines:

-  the essence of the event, as a visible testimony to the fundamental dogma of the Christian faith: the Incarnation of the Son of God; 

- the effect of this event on all creation that had acquired a new meaning - the transfiguration through the Holy Spirit, as the final aim of her existence.

      All Orthodox traditions mark the joy of Christ’s coming among us and within us by carols, hymns… and good merriment brought by God’s blessing. These are the real beauties that adorn our soul at Christmas! Amen.  


Selective Bibliography:

Father Dumitru Staniloae, Theology of the icon;

Paul Evdokimov, The Art of the icon. A theology of beauty;

Egon Sendler, The Icon, image of the invisible,

Leonid Uspensky, Vladimir Lossky, Lead by the world of icons,

Dionysius of furnaces, The origins of the Byzantine paintings,

Cavarnos Constantine, A Guide to the Byzantine iconography,

Quenot Michel, The icon challenge,

Michel Quenot, From the icon to the nuptial banquet.


(Translation by EC)



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