Friday, 16 December 2016

Become fools for Christ

"It would be  great lie to tell searching souls 'Go to church, because there you will find peace'.

The opposite is true.

The church tells those who are at peace and asleep: 'Go to church, because there you will feel real anguish for your sins, for your perdition, for the world's sins and perdition.

There you will feel an unappeasable hunger for Christ's truth.

There, instead of becoming lukewarm, you will be set on fire; instead of pacified, you will become alarmed; instead of learning wisdom of this world you will become fools for Christ.'"

Saint Maria of Paris

(1891 - 1945)

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Saint Nicholas the Wonder-Worker - Legends and folklore.....



Legends and folklore.....


One legend tells how during a terrible famine, a malicious butcher lured three little children into his house, where he killed them, placing their remains in a barrel to cure, planning to sell them off as ham. Saint Nicholas, visiting the region to care for the hungry, not only saw through the butcher's horrific crime but also resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers. 

Another version of this story, possibly formed around the eleventh century, claims that the butcher's victims were instead three clerks who wished to stay the night. The man murdered them, and was advised by his wife to dispose of them by turning them into meat pies. The Saint saw through this and brought the men back to life.

In his most famous exploit, a poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment, would have to become prostitutes. Hearing of the girls' plight, Nicholas decided to help them, but being too modest to help the family in public (or to save them the humiliation of accepting charity), he went to the house under the cover of night and threw three purses (one for each daughter) filled with gold coins through the window opening into the house.

One version has him throwing one purse for three consecutive nights. Another has him throwing the purses over a period of three years, each time the night before one of the daughters comes of age. Invariably, the third time the father lies in wait, trying to discover the identity of their benefactor. In one version the father confronts the saint, only to have Saint Nicholas say it is not him he should thank, but God alone. In another version, Nicholas learns of the poor man's plan and drops the third bag down the chimney instead; a variant holds that the daughter had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into the stocking.

According to another legend, during a great famine that Myra experienced in 311–312, a ship was in the port at anchor, which was loaded with wheat for the Emperor in Constantinople. Nicholas invited the sailors to unload a part of the wheat to help in time of need. The sailors at first disliked the request, because the wheat had to be weighed accurately and delivered to the Emperor. Only when Nicholas promised them that they would not suffer any loss for their consideration, the sailors agreed. When they arrived later in the capital, they made a surprising find: the weight of the load had not changed, although the wheat removed in Myra was enough for two full years and could even be used for sowing. 

The legends with the most likely historical basis are the stories of Nicholas helping three girls and stories of Nicholas helping sailors. Others, especially the legend of the three murdered children, are much later additions to Nicholas lore, historian Dr. Adam English concludes in a new biography of Nicholas for Baylor University Press based on a four-year study of current historical research into Nicholas of Myra.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple


Feast day 

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, also called The Presentation, is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on November 21. Among those Orthodox Christians who use the "Old" (Julian) calendar as their Church calendar, the date of this feast corresponds to December 4 in the secular calendar.

The Nativity fasting rules are relaxed for today where Fish, Oil and wine are allowed.


Per Tradition, the Theotokos was taken – presented – by her parents Joachim and Anna into the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as a young girl, where she lived and served as a Temple virgin until her betrothal to St. Joseph. One of the earliest sources of this tradition is the non-canonical Protoevangelion of James, also called the Infancy Gospel of James.

Mary was solemnly received by the temple community which was headed by the priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. She was led to the holy place to become herself the "holy of holies" of God, the living sanctuary and temple of the Divine child who was to be born in her. The Church also sees this feast as a feast which marks the end of the physical temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God.

In the church hymns for this day the Most Holy Virgin "is piously praised", as "the most pure virgin", "more honourable and more glorious than the hosts on high", "the preaching of the prophets, the glory of the apostles, and the praise of the martyrs, and the renewal of all those born on earth", "the bridal chamber of God the Word", "the dwelling place of the King of All", "the Mother of God", "our glory and salvation".

Appealing on this present "joyful day" to "the assembly of the faithful" to this praise of the Most Holy Virgin, the Holy Church together with those present "on this all honourable feast" the example the Saints Joachim and Anna teaches us to fulfil pious vows.

And the deeply instructive example of the upbringing of the Most Holy Virgin explains to us our duties to our children that we must as early as possible and to take them to the temple of God more often, to accustom them to the full complement of prayers at home, teaching them in the law of the Lord, particularly in their growth to properly use their time to develop in them love for their neighbour and diligence to inspire obedience in them to the church rules, and to waken and strengthen in them the spirit of piety and the fear of God.

The establishment of this feast of The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple is not known with complete accuracy. Saint Gregory of Nyssa (IV Century) first mentioned In the IX century, St. Gregory of Nicomedia composed the stichera, which we now sing on this feast.


Apolytikion (Fourth Tone)
Today is the prelude of God's pleasure and the proclamation of man's salvation. The Virgin is clearly made manifest in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all. Let us also cry out to her with mighty voice, "Hail, fulfilment of the Creator's dispensation."

Kontakion (Fourth Tone)
Today, the most pure temple of the Saviour, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.

In Her manner, she showed that She was not so much presented into the Temple, but that She Herself entered into the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love. She considered it desirable and fitting that she should enter into the Temple and dwell in the Holy of Holies.
Therefore, the High Priest, seeing that this child, more than anyone else, had divine grace within Her, wished to set Her within the Holy of Holies. He convinced everyone present to welcome this, since God had advanced it and approved it. 
Through His angel, God assisted the Virgin and sent Her mystical food, with which She was strengthened in nature, while in body She was brought to maturity and was made purer and more exalted than the angels, having the Heavenly spirits as servants.
She was led into the Holy of Holies not just once, but was accepted by God to dwell there with Him during Her youth, so that through Her, the Heavenly Abodes might be opened and given for an eternal habitation to those who believe in Her miraculous birth giving.

— St. Gregory Palamas, Excerpt from the Discourse on the Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Holy of Holies


Source

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Nativity Fast

November 15 ( or November 28 for those following the Julian calendar) is the beginning of the Nativity Fast. The Nativity Fast is one of the four Canonical Fasting Seasons in the Church year. This is a joyous fast in anticipation of the Nativity of Christ.

We fast before the Great Feast of the Nativity to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Our Lord’s birth. As in the case of Great Lent, the Nativity Fast is one of preparation, during which we focus on the coming of the Saviour by fasting, prayer, and alms-giving.

By fasting, we “shift our focus” from ourselves to others, spending less time worrying about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, and so on to use our time in increased prayer and caring for the poor. We learn through fasting that we can gain control over things which we sometimes allow to control us—and for many people, food is a controlling factor.

While fasting from food, however, we are also challenged to fast from sin, from gossip, from jealousy, from anger, and from those other things which, while well within our control, we all too often allow to control us.
During the Nativity Fast, we are also called upon to refrain from meat, dairy, fish, wine, and olive oil. At the same time, we are challenged, within this framework, too fast to the best of our ability, and to do so consistently.

If we must modify the extent to which we fast within this framework, it is of course possible, but in every instance our fasting should be consistent and regular, for Christ does not see fasting as an option, but as a “must.”

In Matthew Christ says, “WHEN you fast, do not be like the hypocrites,” Christ does not say “IF you fast” or “IF YOU CHOOSE to fast.”

Forefeast

The liturgical Forefeast of the Nativity begins on December 20, and concludes with the Paramony on December 24. During this time hymns of the Nativity are chanted every day. In the Russian usage, the hangings in the church are changed to the festive colour (usually white) at the beginning of the Forefeast.

Sunday of the Forefathers

Two Sundays before Nativity, the Church calls to remembrance the ancestors of the church, both before the giving of the Law of Moses and after. The Menaion contains a full set of hymns for this day which are chanted in conjunction with the regular Sunday hymns from the Octoechos. These hymns commemorate various biblical persons, as well as the prophet Daniel and the Three Young Men. There are also a special Epistle (Colossians 3:4-11) and Gospel (Luke 14:16-24) readings appointed for the Divine Liturgy on this day.

Sunday of the Holy Fathers

The Sunday before Nativity is even broader in its scope of commemoration than the previous Sunday, in that it commemorates all the righteous men and women who pleased God from the creation of the world up to Saint Joseph. The Menaion provides an even fuller service for this day than the previous Sunday. At the Vespers portion of the All-Night Vigil, Three Old Testament "parables" (paroemia) are read: Genesis 14:14-20, Deuteronomy 1:8-17 and Deuteronomy 10:14-21. The Epistle which is read at the Divine Liturgy is a selection from Hebrews 11:9-40; the Gospel is the Genealogy of Christ from the Gospel of Matthew (1:1-25)

Paramony

Christmas Eve is traditionally called Paramony (Greek: παραμονή, Slavonic: navechérie). Paramony is observed as a strict fast day, on which those faithful who are physically able to, refrain from food until the first star is observed in the evening or after the Vesperal Divine Liturgy, when a meal with wine and oil may be taken. On this day, the Royal Hours are celebrated in the morning. Some of the hymns are like those of Theophany (Epiphany) and Great and Holy Friday, thus tying the symbolism of Christ's Nativity to his death on the Cross. The Royal Hours are followed by the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St. Basil which combines Vespers with the Divine Liturgy.

During the Vespers, eight Old Testament lections ("parables") which prefigure or prophesy the Incarnation of Christ are read, and special antiphons are chanted. If the Feast of the Nativity falls on a Sunday or Monday, the Royal Hours are chanted on the previous Friday, and on the Paramony the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated in the morning, with its readings and antiphons, and the fasting is lessened to some degree—a meal with wine and oil being served after the Liturgy.

The All-Night Vigil on the night of December 24 consists of Great Compline, Matins and the First Hour. One of the highlights of Great Compline is the exultant chanting of "God is with us!" interspersed between selected verses from the prophesy of Isaiah 8:9-18, foretelling the triumph of the Kingdom of God, and 9:2-7, foretelling the birth of the Messiah ("For unto us a child is born...and he shall be called...the Mighty God....").

The Orthodox do not normally serve a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve; rather, the Divine Liturgy for the Nativity of Christ is celebrated the next morning. However, in those monasteries which continue to celebrate the All-Night Vigil in its long form—where it literally lasts throughout the night—the conclusion of the Vigil at dawn on Christmas morning will often lead directly into the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. When the Vigil is separate from the Divine Liturgy, the Lenten fast continues even after the Vigil, until the end of the Liturgy the next morning.

Fasting during the afterfeast

On December 25, the Afterfeast of the Nativity of Christ begins. From that day to January 4 (the day before Theophany Eve) is a fast-free Period. The Eve of the Theophany (January 5) is another strict fast day (paramony).

source

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Mysticism keeps men sane.



As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.

The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland.

He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency.

If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.


Chesterton, G.K., 1909. Orthodoxy

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Powers of Heaven

Icon of the Archangel Michael: 17th c. by Theodoros Pulakis (1650). Greek, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece
Icon of the Archangel Michael: 17th c. by Theodoros Pulakis (1650). Greek, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece

Archangel Michael is considered to be the leader of all the angelic hosts and this day commemorates all the angels. The angels are assigned by God to oversee and guide all the powers and energies of the created world.

As well, each nation has its angelic protector (Michael is warrior protector of the People of God) and each individual Christian has a guardian angel assigned to guard, guide and pray for him. Angels are arranged in ranks as a heavenly army—with such ranks as seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and simple angels.

Monday of each week is devoted liturgically to commemorating the angels as the unseen protectors of our lives in Christ.

Holy Scripture and Tradition give us the names of the Archangels:


Gabriel: strength (power) of God, herald and servitor of Divine omnipotence (Dan 8:16, Luke 1:26). He announces the mysteries of God.

Raphael: the healing of God, the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3:16, 12:15)

Uriel: the fire or light of God, enlightener (3 Ezdras 5:20). We pray for him to enlighten those with darkened minds.

Selaphiel: the prayer of God, impelling to prayer (3 Ezdras 5:16). He prays to God for mankind.

Jehudiel: the glorifying of God, encouraging exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding for the reward of efforts.

Barachiel: distributor of the blessings of God for good deeds, entreats the mercy of God for people.

Jeremiel: the raising up to God (3 Ezdras 4:36)

On icons the Archangels are depicted in according to the character of their service:


Michael tramples the devil underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree branch, and in his right hand a spear with a white banner (or sometimes a fiery sword), on which is outlined a scarlet cross.

Gabriel with a branch from Paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper in his left.

Raphael holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying a fish for healing (Tobit 5-8).

Uriel in his raised right hand holds a naked sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand “a fiery flame.”

Selaphiel in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded on the chest.

Jehudiel holds a golden crown in his right hand, in his left, a whip of three red (or black) thongs.

Barachiel is shown with a white rose on his breast.

Jeremiel holds balance-scales in his hand.


Troparion

Commanders of the heavenly hosts,
we who are unworthy beseech you,
by your prayers encompass us beneath the wings of your immaterial glory,
and faithfully preserve us who fall down and cry to you:
"Deliver us from all harm, for you are the commanders of the powers on high!"

Kontakion 

Commanders of God's armies and ministers of the divine glory,
princes of the bodiless angels and guides of mankind,
ask for what is good for us, and for great mercy,
supreme commanders of the Bodiless Hosts.

A short description of Theosis

Divine Liturgy

Theosis is an Eastern Orthodox / Eastern Catholic teaching, here is a small description of what it is.

“I say, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;” (Psalm 82:6, RSV)

Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature.

We become united with God by grace in the Person of Christ, who is God come in the flesh. The means of becoming “like God” is through perfection in holiness, the continuous process of acquiring the Holy Spirit by grace through ascetic devotion.

“His divine power has granted us all that we need to live in godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by glory and virtue. Through these things, he has granted to us his precious and tremendous promises, so that having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust, you may become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3–4, EOB: NT)

A quote from C. S. Lewis taken from Mere Christianity:

The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to Him perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said. (Macmillan, 1952, p. 174)