The Law of God.
By Seraphim Slobodskoy.
Get the full printed version from the Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY 13361-0036 USA.
1. The Purpose of Man.
2. Supernatural Divine Revelation. Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture.
3. Short Summaries of the Ecumenical Councils.
4. The Christian Faith.
5. Christian Life.
6. The Ten Commandments of God’s Law.
7. The Nine Beatitudes.
8. Contemporary Teaching and Faith in God.The Divine Services.
1. The Concept of Serving God.
2. The Church Building and Its Arrangement.
3. The Clergy and Their Vestments.
4. The Order of Divine Services.
5. Divine Service Books.
6. Major Services and Their Rubrics.
7. The Divine Liturgy.
8. Important Actions During the Services and Reflections on their Significance.
9. Great Lent.
10. The Sundays of Lent.
11. The Feast of Pascha.
12. Concerning Monasticism and Monasteries.
13. Bells and Russian Orthodox Peals.
Christian Faith and Life.
1. The Purpose of Man.
God created us in His own likeness and image. He gave us intelligence, free will and an immortal soul, so that knowing God and becoming like Him, we would all become better, perfect ourselves, and inherit eternal blessed life with God. Therefore the existence of man on earth has deep meaning, great purpose and a high goal.
In the universe created by God, there is not, nor can there be, anything unplanned. If a man lives without faith in God, not abiding by the commandments of God, not for future eternal life, then the existence of such a man on earth becomes senseless. For people living without God, life seems incomprehensible and accidental, and such people are often worse than beasts.
For each man, in order to fulfill his purpose on earth and to receive eternal salvation, it is necessary, in the first place, to know the true God and to rightly believe in Him, that is, to have the true faith. Secondly, one must live according to this faith; that is, to love God and people and to do good works.
The Apostle Paul says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), and the Apostle James adds that faith without good works means without love, and such faith is ineffective and dead faith.
Thus, for our salvation, it is necessary to have the correct faith, and a life in keeping with that faith, the doing of good works.
True teaching about the necessity to rightly believe in God and how to live with people, is contained in the Orthodox Christian Faith, which is founded on Divine revelation. Divine revelation is the name given to all that God Himself reveals to people about Himself and about true faith in Him. God conveys His revelation to people by two means: natural revelation and supernatural revelation.
Natural revelation is called Divine revelation when God reveals Himself through normal, natural means to each person, through our visible world (nature) and through our conscience, that is, the voice of God in us. It tells us what is good and what is bad. God also reveals Himself through life, through the history of all mankind. If a nation loses faith in God, then misfortune and unhappiness overtake it. If it does not repent, then it perishes and vanishes from the earth. Let us remember the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Hebrew nation dispersed to all corners of the earth, and so on.
The entire world which surrounds us is a great book of Divine revelation, testifying to the omnipotence and wisdom of God the Creator. People who study this world are, with very rare exceptions, believers. In order to study something, it is necessary to have faith that everything fulfills a given concept and exists according to a definite plan.
"Even the most simple machine is not able to come into existence by chance. Even if we see a systematically arranged group of stones, we immediately conclude from the form of their arrangement, that a human being put them there. A chance arrangement is always without form, irregular. Long ago Cicero, an ancient scholar and orator, who lived before the birth of Christ, said that even if one threw alphabet blocks a million times, a line of poetry would not result from them. The universe which surrounds us is much more complicated than the most intricate machine, and it contains much more thought than the most profound poem" (from a discussion by Archbishop Nathaniel).
The Apostle Paul was a well-educated person for his time. He says every house is built by some man; but He that built all things is God (Heb 3:4).
The great scientist Newton, who discovered the laws of movement of the heavenly bodies, thereby disclosing a great mystery of creation, was a religious man and studied theology. Each time he pronounced the name of God, he reverently stood up and took off his hat.
The renowned Pascal, a mathematical genius and one of the creators of modern physics, was not only a believer but one of the greatest religious thinkers in Europe. Pascal said, "The contradictions which most of all might seem to separate me from religious knowledge, on the contrary, lead me to it."
Louis Pasteur, the founder of contemporary bacteriology, and a thinker more profound than others in penetrating the mystery of organic life, exclaimed, "The more I occupy myself with the study of nature, the more I stand in reverent amazement before the works of the Creator."
The famous biologist Linnaeus concluded his book about plants with these words, "Truly God exists, great, eternal, without Whom nothing is able to exist."
The astronomer Kepler confessed, "O, great is our Lord and great is His omnipotence, and His wisdom is without boundary. And you, my soul, sing praise to your Lord for all your life."
Even Darwin, the scholar who was afterwards exploited by half-learned men to refute belief in God, was a very religious man all his life. For many years he was the lay leader of his parish. He never thought that his findings contradicted belief in God. After Darwin set forth his teaching about the evolutionary development of life on earth, he was asked, "In the chain of evolution, where was the first link?"
Darwin answered, "It was riveted to the throne of the Most High."
The geologist Lyell wrote, "With every geological finding we discover enlightening demonstrations of the foresight, power and wisdom of the creative intelligence of God."
The historian Muller declared, "Only with the recognition of God and by thorough study of the New Testament did I begin to understand the meaning of history."
It is possible to cite an unlimited number of scholarly witnesses to belief in God, but we think for the present it is enough to relate one more eloquent argument. The scientist Dennert conducted a survey about belief in God with 432 naturalists. Fifty-six of them did not respond, 349 indicated belief in God, and only eighteen declared that they either did not believe, or were indifferent to faith. The result of this survey of scholars concurs with results of other similar investigations.
"Only half-knowledge brings people to godlessness. No one is able to deny the existence of God, except those for whom it is profitable to do so," says the English scholar Bacon.
The young holy Great-martyr Barbara, seeing the majesty and beauty of God’s world, came to a knowledge of the true God. Thus God reveals Himself through the visible world to each person who is intelligent and of good will.
Belief in God is the fundamental essence of a person’s soul. The soul is given to man from God. It is a spark in man and a reflection of God in man. Originating in God, having a kindred being in Him, the soul by itself, according to its own will, turns to God, seeks Him. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God (Ps. 42:2). As when eyes turn to the light and are constructed in such a way that they are able to see, thus the soul of man rushes to God, has the need of intimacy with Him, and only in God finds peace and joy. A flower stretches toward the sun, from which it receives warmth and light, without which it is not able to live and grow. As with the flower, the constant, irrepressible inclination of man to God comes from the fact that only in God is our soul able to find all that it needs for a righteous and healthy life.
Therefore, people in all times have believed in some deity and offered their prayers to it, although they often have erred by believing in God incorrectly. They never lost faith in a deity, always keeping some form of religion.
General belief in a Supreme Being was known even in the time of Aristotle, the great Greek scholar, philosopher, and naturalist, born in the year 384 B.C. Scholars confirm that all peoples who have inhabited the earth, without exception, have had their own religion, faith, prayers, temples, and offerings. "Ethnography, the science which studies the existence of all people inhabiting the earth, does not know of a people without religion," says the German geographer and traveller Ratzel.
If there exist pockets of atheistic persuasion, they are rare exceptions, unhealthy deviations from the norm. As the existence of the blind, deaf, and dumb does not disprove the fact that mankind possesses the gifts of sight, hearing, and speech; as the existence of idiots does not deny that man is a reasonable being, so the existence of atheists does not disprove the fact of the existence of religion in every society.
However, natural revelation alone is not enough, for sin obscures the intelligence, will, and conscience of a man. Proof of this is revealed in every possible pagan religion, in which truth is mixed with the falsities of human fabrications.
Therefore, the Lord supplements natural revelation with supernatural revelation. (Compiled from Frank’s book Religion and Science, and Does God Exist? by G. Shorets and others.).
2. Supernatural Divine Revelation.
Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture.
God’s revelations about Himself to certain people are most often effected by unusual means, or in a supernatural manner. God reveals Himself directly through Himself or through His angels. Such revelation is called supernatural divine revelation.
As not all people are able to receive revelation from God Himself, due to their impurity through sin and weakness of soul and body, the Lord chooses special righteous people who are able to receive this revelation.
Among the first people who declared the revelations of God were Adam, Noah, Moses, and other prophets and righteous people. They accepted everything from God and preached the beginnings of Divine revelation.
In fulfillment of Divine revelation, God Himself came to earth incarnate in the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and spread the revelation to the whole earth through His Apostles and disciples.
This Divine revelation and its dissemination among people is preserved in the true, holy Orthodox Church in two ways: by means of Holy Tradition and Holy Scripture.
The primary means of dissemination of Divine revelation is Holy Tradition. From the beginning of the world until Moses there were no holy books. Teaching about belief in God was handed down by tradition, that is, by word of mouth and example, from one to another, from ancestor to descendant. Jesus Christ Himself conveyed His Divine teaching and precepts to His disciples by word of mouth, by preaching, and by the example of His life, not by books (scriptures). By preaching and example, the Apostles first spread the faith and maintained the Christian Church.
Holy Tradition always precedes Holy Scriptures. This is obvious because books are not useful for all people, but tradition is accessible to all without exception.
Eventually, so that God’s revelation might be kept in complete faithfulness, by the inspiration of the Lord, several holy people wrote the most important aspects of tradition in books. The Holy Spirit helped them invisibly, so that everything in these written books would be correct and true. All these books, written by the Spirit of God through people sanctified by God, prophets, apostles, and others, are called Holy Scripture, or the Bible.
The word "Bible" comes from Greek and means "book." This name shows that holy books, as coming from God Himself, surpass all other books.
The books of the Holy Scripture, written by various people at different times, are divided into two parts, the books of the Old Testament, and those of the New Testament.
The books of the Old Testament were written prior to the birth of Christ. The books of the New Testament were written after the birth of Christ. All of these holy books are known by the Biblical word "testament," because the word means testimony, and the Divine teaching contained in them is the testimony of God to mankind. The word "Testament" further suggests the agreement or a covenant of God with people.
The contents of the Old Testament deal mainly with God’s promise to give mankind a Saviour and to prepare them to accept Him. This was accomplished by gradual revelation through holy commandments, prophesies, prefigurations, prayers and divine services.
The main theme of the New Testament is the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Saviour, His Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave mankind the New Testament, the new covenant.
The Old Testament books, if each one is counted separately, number thirty-eight. Sometimes several books are combined into one, and in this form, they number twenty-two books, according to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
The Old Testament books are divided into four sections, the law, history, wisdom literature, and the prophets.
I. The books of the law, which constitute the main foundation of the Old Testament, are as follows:
These five books were written by the Prophet Moses. They describe the creation of the world and man, the fall into sin, God’s promise of a Saviour of the world, and the life of people in the first times. The majority of their contents is an account of the law given by God through Moses. Jesus Christ Himself calls them the laws of Moses (cf. Luke 24:44).
II. The books of history, which primarily contain the history of the religion and life of the Hebrew people, preserving faith in the true God, are the following:
7. Judges, and as a supplement, the book of Ruth.
8. First and Second Kings, as two parts of the same book.
9. Third and Fourth Kings
10. First and Second Chronicles (additional).
11. First and Second Books of Ezra and Nehemiah
III. The books of wisdom, which are composed mainly of teachings about faith and spiritual life, are the following:
14. The Psalter, composed of 150 psalms or sacred songs, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. A majority of the psalms were written by King David. The Psalter is used for almost every Orthodox service of worship.
15. Proverbs of Solomon
16. Ecclesiastes (Church teachings).
17. Song of Solomon
IV. The books of the Prophets, which contain prophecies or predictions about the future, and their visions of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, are the following:
22. Books of the Twelve Prophets, also known as the lesser Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Zepha-niah, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
These are the canonical books of the Old Testament, meaning that they are undoubtedly true, judging by their origin and by their content. The word "canonica" comes from Greek and means "model, true, correct."
Besides the canonical books, a part of the Old Testament is composed of non-canonical books, sometimes called the Apocrypha among non-Orthodox. These are the books which the Jews lost and which are not in the contemporary Hebrew text of the Old Testament. They are found in the Greek translations of the Old Testament, made by the 70 translators of the Septuagint three centuries before the birth of Christ (271 B.C.). These books have been included in the Bible from ancient times and are considered by the Church to be sacred Scripture. The translation of the Septuagint is accorded special respect in the Orthodox Church. The Slavonic translation of the Bible was made from it.
To the non-canonical books of the Old Testament belong:
3. The Wisdom of Solomon
4. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Sirach
6. Three books of Maccabees
7. The Second and Third book of Esdras
8. The additions to the (Book of Esther,) II Chronicles (The Prayer of Manasseh) and Daniel (The Song of the Three Youths, Susanna and Bel and the Dragon).
There are twenty-seven sacred books of the New Testament, and all of them are canonical. In content, they, like the Old Testament, may be subdivided into four groups, the law, history, the epistles, and prophecy.
I. Books of the Law which serve as the foundation of the New Testament are:
1. The Gospel of Matthew
2. The Gospel of Mark
3. The Gospel of Luke
4. The Gospel of John
The word "gospel," or in Greek, evangelion, means "good news." It is the good news about the arrival in the world of the Saviour of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, promised by God. The Gospels relate the account of His life on earth, death on the Cross, resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven. They also set forth His Divine teachings and miracles. The Gospels were written by holy apostles, disciples of Jesus Christ.
II. Books of History.
5. The Acts of the Apostles, written by the Evangelist Luke, tells of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and about the spread of the Christian Church through them.
III. The Epistles.
6-12. Seven general epistles to the churches, or, letters to all Christians: one of the Apostle James, two of the Apostle Peter, three of the Apostle and Evangelist John, and one of the Apostle Jude.
13-26. Fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, the bishop of Ephesus, one to Titus, the bishop of Crete, one to Philemon, and one to the Hebrews.
IV. Books of Prophecy.
27. The Apocalypse, or Revelation to John, written by the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, contains a vision of the future destiny of the Church of Christ and of the whole world.
The sacred books of the New Testament were first written in Greek, which at that time was in common usage. Only the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews were first written in Hebrew. The Gospel of Matthew, however, was translated into Greek in the first century, most likely by the Apostle Matthew himself.
The books of both the New Testament and the Old Testament appeared by God’s revelation, were written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and are therefore called divinely inspired. Apostle Paul says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16).
The loftiness and purity of Christian teaching in these writings, prophecies, and miracles convince one of the divine origin of Holy Scripture. With special signs, the divine inspiration of sacred books is revealed in the mighty acts of the word of God toward mankind. Wherever the Apostles preached, the hearts of people submitted to the teaching of Christ. The Jews and pagans of the world armed themselves with every evil power known to man against the Christians. Christian martyrs died by the thousands, yet the word of God grew and became firmly established. There are examples in which people started to study the Bible with the hope of disproving the teachings contained therein, and in the end became sincerely reverent and deeply believing people. Each one of us, attentively reading Holy Scripture, can experience in himself the Lord’s almighty power, and be convinced that it is the revelation of God Himself.
All Divine revelation is preserved in the Holy Church. The books of Holy Scripture, and Holy Tradition — that is, that which was not originally written down in these books, but handed down by word of mouth and only afterwards written down by saints in the early centuries of Christianity (4th and 5th centuries) and consequently have profound antiquity and authenticity — all this is preserved in the Holy Church. The Church was founded by the Saviour Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, and established as the custodian of His Divine revelation. God the Holy Spirit invisibly guards Her.
The Holy Orthodox Church, after the death of the Apostles, was guided by Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. We read there the words of the prophets and Apostles as if we ourselves lived with them and listened to them.
In special cases, for the accusation of heretics or to resolve various misunderstandings, on the order of the Saviour Himself (Matt. 18:17) and by the example of the Apostles (Apostolic Council in 51 A.D., Acts 15:1-35), councils assembled. Some of these were Ecumenical, at which were gathered from the entire known world as many pastors and teachers of the Church as was possible. Other councils were local, where just pastors and teachers of a particular region assembled.
The decision of an Ecumenical Council is the highest earthly authority of the Holy Church of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, as it was stated in the decision of the first Apostolic Council, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" (Acts 15:28).
There were seven Ecumenical Councils. At the first and second councils the Orthodox Creed was formulated.
3. Short Summaries of the Ecumenical Councils.
There have been seven Ecumenical Councils in the true Orthodox Christian Church: 1. Nicea; 2. Constantinople; 3. Ephesus; 4. Chalcedon; 5. the second at Constantinople; 6. the third at Constantinople; 7. the second at Nicea.
The first Ecumenical Council.
The First Ecumenical Council was convened in 325 A.D., in the city of Nicea, under the Emperor Constantine I. This Council was called because of the false doctrine of the Alexandrian priest Arius, who rejected the Divine nature and pre-eternal birth of the second person of the Holy Trinity, namely the Divine Son of God the Father, and taught that the Son of God is only the highest creation.
318 bishops participated in this Council, among whom were St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, St. James, bishop of Nisibis, St. Spiridon of Tremithus, and St. Athanasius, who was at that time a deacon.
The Council condemned and repudiated the heresy of Arius and affirmed the immutable truth, the dogma that the Son of God is true God, born of God the Father before all ages, and is eternal, as is God the Father; He was begotten, and not made, and is of one essence with God the Father. In order that all Orthodox Christians may know exactly the true teaching of the faith, it was clearly and concisely summarized in the first of seven sections of the Creed, or Symbol of Faith.
At this Council, it was resolved to celebrate Pascha on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox, after the Jewish Passover. It also determined that priests should be married, and it established many other rules or canons.
The Second Ecumenical Council.
The Second Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 381, in the city of Constantinople, under the Emperor Theodosius I. This Council was convoked against the false teaching of the Arian bishop of Constantinople, Macedonius, who rejected the deity of the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. He taught that the Holy Spirit is not God, and called Him a creature, or a created power, and therefore subservient to God the Father and God the Son, like an angel.
There were 150 bishops present at the Council, among whom were Gregory the Theologian, who presided over the Council, Gregory of Nyssa, Meletius of Antioch, Amphilochius of Iconium and Cyril of Jerusalem.
At the Council, the Macedonian heresy was condemned and repudiated. The Council affirmed as a dogma the equality and the single essence of God the Holy Spirit with God the Father and God the Son.
The Council also supplemented the Nicene Creed, or "Symbol of Faith," with five Articles in which is set forth its teaching about the Holy Spirit, about the Church, about the Mysteries, about the resurrection of the dead, and the life in the world to come. Thus they composed the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which serves as a guide to the Church for all time.
The Third Ecumenical Council.
The Third Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 431 A.D., in the city of Ephesus, under Emperor Theodosius II. The Council was called because of the false doctrine of Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, who profanely taught that the Most-holy Virgin Mary simply gave birth to the man Christ, with whom then God united morally and dwelled in Him, as in a temple, as previously He had dwelled in Moses and other prophets. Therefore, Nestorius called the Lord Jesus Christ, God-bearing, and not God incarnate; and the Holy Virgin was called the Christ-bearer (Christotokos) and not the God-bearer (Theotokos).
The 200 bishops present at the Council condemned and repudiated the heresy of Nestorius and decreed that one should recognize that united in Jesus Christ at the time of the incarnation were two natures, divine and human, and that one should confess Jesus Christ as true God and true Man, and the Holy Virgin Mary as the God-bearer (Theotokos).
The Council also affirmed the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and strictly prohibited making any changes or additions to it.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council.
The Fourth Ecumenical Council was convened in 451 A.D., in the city of Chalcedon, under Emperor Marcian. The Council met to challenge the false doctrine of an archimandrite of a Constantinople monastery, Eu-tychius, who rejected the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. Refuting one heresy and defending the divinity of Jesus Christ, he himself fell into an extreme, and taught that in the Lord Jesus Christ human nature was completely absorbed in the Divine, and therefore it followed that one need only recognize the Divine nature. This false doctrine is called Monophysitism, and followers of it are called Monophysites.
The Council of 650 bishops condemned and repudiated the false doctrine of Eutychius and defined the true teaching of the Church, namely that our Lord Jesus Christ is perfect God, and as God He is eternally born from God. As man, He was born of the Holy Virgin and in every way is like us, except in sin. Through the incarnation, birth from the Holy Virgin, divinity and humanity are united in Him as a single Person, infused and immutable, thus reputing Eutychius; indivisible and inseparable, reputing Nestorius.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council was convened in 553 A.D., in the city of Constantinople, under the famous Emperor, Justinian I. It was called to quell a controversy between Nestorians and Eutychians. The major points of contention were the well-known works of the Antiochian school of the Syrian church, entitled "The Three Chapters." Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Ibas of Edessa, clearly expressed the Nestorian error, although at the Fourth Ecumenical Council, nothing had been mentioned of their works.
Nestorians, in argument with Eutychians (Monophysites), referred to these works, and Eutychians found in them an excuse to reject the Fourth Ecumenical Council and to slander the universal Orthodox Church, charging that it was deviating toward Nestorianism.
The Council was attended by 165 bishops, who condemned all three works and Theodore of Mopsuestia himself, as not having repented. Concerning the other two, censure was limited only to their Nestorian works. They themselves were pardoned. They renounced their false opinions and died in peace with the Church. The Council reiterated its censure of the heresies of Nestorius and Eutychius.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 680 A.D., in the city of Constantinople, under the Emperor Constantine IV, and was composed of 170 bishops.
The council was convoked against the false doctrine of heretics, Monothelites, who, although they recognized in Jesus Christ two natures, God and man, ascribed to Him only a Divine will.
After the Fifth Ecumenical Council, agitation provoked by the Monothelites continued and threatened the Greek Emperor with great danger. Emperor Heraclius, wishing reconciliation, decided to incline Orthodoxy to concession to the Monothelites, and by the power of his office, ordered recognition that in Jesus Christ is one will and two energies.
Among the defenders and advocates of the true teachings of the Church, were St. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and a monk from
Constantinople, St. Maximus the Confessor, who for his firmness in the faith had suffered having his tongue cut out and his hand chopped off.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council condemned and repudiated the heresy of Monothelitism, and formulated the recognition that in Jesus Christ are two natures, Divine and human, and in these two natures there are two wills, but that the human will in Christ is not against, but rather is submissive to His Divine will.
It is worthy of attention that at this Council excommunication was pronounced against a number of other heretics, and also against the Roman Pope Honorius, as one who acknowledged the teaching of one will. The formulation of the Council was signed by a Roman delegation, consisting of Presbyters Theodore and Gregory, and Deacon John. This clearly shows that the highest power in Christendom belongs to the Ecumenical Council, and not to the Pope of Rome.
After eleven years, the Council again opened a meeting in the imperial palace, called Cupola Hall (in Greek, Trullos), in order to resolve questions of primary importance pertaining to the Church hierarchy. In this regard, it supplemented the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, and therefore is called the Fifth-Sixth (Quintsext) Synod.
This Council established canons by which the Church must be guided, namely, 85 canons of the holy Apostles, canons of the six Ecumenical and seven local councils, and canons of thirteen Fathers of the Church. These canons afterward were supplemented by canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council and another two local councils, and comprise the so-called "Nomocanon," in English, "The Rudder," which is the foundation of Orthodox Church government.
Here several innovations of the Roman Church were condemned as not being in agreement with the spiritual decisions of the Ecumenical Church, namely, the requirement that priests and deacons be celibate, a strict fast on Saturdays of the Great Fast, and the representation of Christ in the form of a lamb, or in any way other than He appeared on the earth.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council was convened in 787 A.D., in the city of Nicea, under the Empress Irene, widow of the Emperor Leo IV, and was composed of 367 fathers.
The Council was convened against the iconoclastic heresy, which had been raging for sixty years before the Council, under the Greek Emperor Leo III, who, wishing to convert the Mohammedans to Christianity, considered it necessary to do away with the veneration of icons. This heresy continued under his son, Constantine V Copronymus, and his grandson, Leo IV.
The Council condemned and repudiated the iconoclastic heresy and determined to provide and to put in the holy churches, together with the likeness of the honored and Life-giving Cross of the Lord, holy icons, to honor and render homage to them, elevating the soul and heart to the Lord God, the Mother of God and the Saints, who are represented in these icons. After the Seventh Ecumenical Council, persecution of the holy icons arose anew under the Emperors Leo V, of Armenian origin, Michael II, and Theophilus, and for twenty-five years disturbed the Church.
Veneration of the holy icons was finally restored and affirmed by the local synod of Constantinople in 843 A.D., under the Empress Theodora.
At this council, in thanksgiving to the Lord God for having given the Church victory over the iconoclasts and all heretics, the celebration of the Triumph of Orthodoxy was established on the first Sunday of Great Lent, which is celebrated by the Orthodox Church throughout the world.
Note: The Roman Catholic Church, in addition to these seven Councils, recognizes more than 20 "ecumenical" councils. Incorrectly included in this number were councils in the Western Church, held after the separation of the Western Church. Protestants, in spite of the example of the Apostles and acknowledgment of the entire Christian Church, do not recognize a single one of the Ecumenical Councils.
4. The Christian Faith.
The Symbol of Faith or Creed.
The Creed is a concise summary of all the truths of the Christian Faith, composed and affirmed in the First and Second Ecumenical Councils. Whoever does not accept these truths is not an Orthodox Christian.
The entire Symbol of Faith is as follows:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light: true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from the Heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;
And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.
And rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.
And ascended into the Heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
And shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who pro-ceedeth from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets.
In one, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins.
I look for the resurrection of the dead.
And the life of the age to come.
The First Article of the Creed.
1. I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
To believe in God means to be steadfastly sure that God exists, that He cares for us, and to wholeheartedly accept His Divine revelation; that is, everything that He revealed about Himself, and about the salvation of people by the incarnate Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
But in order that our faith be alive and active, it is necessary to confess it. To confess faith means to openly express internal faith in God by words and good works, and that neither danger, persecution, suffering, nor even death are able to force us to renounce our faith in the true God. Only by such a firm confession will we be able to save our souls. For man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:10), says Apostle Paul.
The holy martyrs serve as examples of steadfast and courageous confession of faith. They had such faith in God and were so animated by love for the Lord Jesus Christ that for His name’s sake they renounced all earthly gain, underwent persecution and such martyric sufferings that could be contrived only by the most evil imagination of man.
The words of the Symbol of Faith, "In one God," indicate the uniqueness of the true God. God is one, and there is no other beside Him (Ex. 44:6, Ex. 20:2-3, Deut. 6:4; John 17:3; I Cor. 8:4-6). This reminder is given in order to repudiate pagan teachings about many gods.
God is the highest Being, above all that is mundane or supernatural. To know the being of God is impossible. It is higher than the knowledge not only of men, but even of the angels. From the revelation of God, from the clear testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, we are able to get an understanding of the existence and the basic nature of God. God is Spirit (John 4:24); living (Jer. 10:10; I Thess. 1:9); self-existent, that is, dependent on no one, and having received life from Himself — He is (Ex. 3:14; I John 2:13); everlasting (Ps. 90:2; Ex. 40:28); unchanging (James 1:17; Mala. 3:6; Ps. 102:27); omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-12; Acts 17:27); omniscient (I John 3:29, Heb. 4:13); omnipotent (Gen. 17:1; Luke 1:37; Ps. 32:9); all good (Matt. 19:17, Ps. 24:8); wise (Ps. 104:24; Rom. 14:26; I Tim. 1:17); righteous (Ps. 7:12; Ps. 10:7; II Rom. 6:11); self-sufficient (Acts 17:25); all blessed (I Tim. 6:15).
The assertion that God is Spirit does not contradict those places in the Holy Scriptures in which bodily members are ascribed to God. These expressions are used symbolically in the spiritual writings when they speak of the nature of God. For instance, eyes or ears indicate the omniscience of God, and so forth.
God is one, but not solitary. God is one in essence, but triple in Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Most-holy Trinity, consubstantial and indivisible. One in three Persons, each Person eternally loving the others. God is love (I John 4:16).
The inter-relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity is such that God the Father is not born from and does not proceed from the other persons. The Son of God was born from God the Father before all ages, and the Holy Spirit always proceeds from God the Father. All three Persons of the Holy Trinity in being and nature are completely equal within God Himself. As God the Father is true God, so God the Son is true God, and God the Holy Spirit is true God, but all three Persons are a single Deity — One God.
How one God exists in three Persons is a mystery, incomprehensible to our intelligence, but we believe this according to the testimony of Divine revelation. The mystery of the Holy Trinity was revealed to us by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when he sent the Apostles to preach. He said, Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). The Apostle and Evangelist John also clearly testifies both to the trinitarian Persons of God and to the single essence of the Persons. There are Three Witnesses in Heaven (about the Divinity of the Son of God); Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these Three are one (I John 5:7).
Apostle Paul, addressing the Corinthian Christians, says, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all (II Cor. 13:14).
For clarification of this great mystery we point out the world which, as a revelation of the creation of God, speaks to us of the incomprehensible mystery of the trinitarian essence of the Creator. The imprint of this mystery lies deep in the nature of every created entity. The trinitarian unity, as an underlying idea, is intrinsic to all the works of the Creator, glorifying the Trinity. For example, the speech of all persons in the world has three persons: I; you; he, she, or it. Time is expressed as past, present and future. The states of matter are liquid, solid and gas. All the various colors in the world are make up of the three primary colors, red, blue and yellow. Man conducts himself by means of thought, word and deed. Deeds, in their turn, have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even man is a trinitarian unity of body, mind and soul. The salvation of our souls is made up of three Christian virtues, faith, hope and love.
We are able to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity in part only with the heart, by love found in the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ, that is, by living in love.
We call God Almighty because He, as King of Heaven, governs all and maintains everything by His strength and power.
Furthermore, we call God Maker of heaven and earth because everything that exists, both in the visible, physical world and in the invisible, spiritual world, that is, the entire universe, was created by God in Three Persons. God the Father created with the Word, His Only-begotten Son, and with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit.
To the invisible or spiritual world belong angels — spirits — bodiless, immortal beings, endowed with reason, will and power. Also to the spiritual world belongs the soul of each person.
The word "angel" is a Greek word which means "messenger," because God sends angels to announce His will to people. Each Christian has his own Guardian Angel, who invisibly helps him in matters of salvation, and guards him from the wicked activity of the evil one. The evil one is called the Devil (slanderer), and Satan (one who is against God). The evil spirits were also created good and free. However, they became proud, fell from God, and became deceitful and evil. Since that time, they have envied everything good and lead men into sin in order to destroy them. Because of sin, all people die physically. They would die a more terrible second, spiritual death, when the soul surrenders to sin and perishes in estrangement from God, if people were not saved from this eternal destruction by the incarnate Son of God.
In the following six articles of the Symbol of Faith, beginning with the second Article and ending with the seventh, are set forth teachings about the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Second Article of the Creed.
2. (I believe) ...and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made.
In the second article of the Creed, we speak of our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, and confess that we know that He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, that He is of the Essence of God, and was so before His birth on earth.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of God. He is the only Son of God the Father, begotten of the essence of the Father, as light from light. From true God the Father is begotten true God the Son, and is begotten before all ages, before the beginning of time. So the Son is eternally with God the Father, and also the Holy Spirit, of one essence with the Father. Jesus Christ Himself said, I and My Father are one (John 10:30). The words of Jesus Christ, My Father is greater than I (John 14:28) pertain to His manhood.
If angels and saints sometimes are called sons of God, that means that they are sons of God only by grace, by the mercy of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the word "begotten," in the Symbol of Faith, are added the words "not made." These words were added to refute the false heresy of Arius, who held that the Son of God was not begotten, but made.
The words "by Whom all things were made," means by Whom, by the Son of God, all things were made. Everything existing in the visible world and the invisible, was made by and through the Son, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3).
The Son of God, with His incarnation on earth, received the name Jesus Christ. This name indicates His human nature. The name Jesus is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name, Joshua, and means Saviour. This name was twice stated by God through angels before the birth of Christ, because the eternal Son of God descended to earth and was incarnate for the salvation of men.
The name, Christ, is a Greek word and means the Anointed One. It corresponds to the Hebrew, "Messiah." In the Old Testament, anointment was used to set apart prophets, high priests, and kings who, at the assumption of their office, were anointed by oils and thus received the gifts of the Holy Spirit necessary for worthy fulfillment of their duties.
The Son of God was called the Anointed One, Christ, in accordance with His physical nature, because He had all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, prophetic knowledge, sanctity of a high priest and the power of a king.
Note: When the articles of the Creed, beginning with the second and ending with the seventh, are read separately, it is necessary to prefix each of them with "I believe." Example: "I believe in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God ..."
Discussion of the Pre-eternal Birth of the Son of God.
We live in time, and temporal things change. When the world reaches the end of its temporal existence, at the second coming of the Saviour, then it will change and become eternal. There will be "new heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; II Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1).
Living in temporal conditions, it is difficult for us to imagine eternity. However, to some degree at least, we are able to imagine it by means of science or philosophy.
Thus eternity is unchangeable. It is outside time. God, the Holy Trinity, is eternal and unchanging. Therefore, never was the Father without the Son, or without the Holy Spirit.
The holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church explain that the Father was always with the Son, Who was born from Him, for without the Son He would not be called the Father. If God the Father ever existed without having a son, and would have made Himself a father, not having been a father before, that would mean that God was subject to change, from not having begotten to having begotten. But such an idea is worse that all blasphemy, for God is eternal and unchanging. Thus the statement in the Symbol of Faith, "begotten of the Father before all ages," means before the existence of our time, eternally.
St. John of Damascus explains, "When we say that He (the Son of God) was begotten before all ages, we show that His birth is not in time, and is without beginning. For not from nothingness was the Son of God brought into being. This aureole of glory, the image of the hypostasis of the Father, living wisdom and strength, hypostatic Word, essential, perfect, and living likeness of the invisible Father, was always with the Father and in the Father, and was born of Him eternally and without beginning."
The concept of "begetting" as being completely independent from the process of being begotten exists only in the material world, with material time and limitation. The spirit is not bound or subordinate to laws of matter. Similarly, the natural material begetting is in no way applicable to the spiritual begetting. Therefore, the Ecumenical Councils, conveying the main point of the Divine begetting of the Son from the Father, affirmed the words of the Symbol of Faith, "Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father..." The Son of God, in accordance with His essential perfect union with God the Father, is always, eternally begotten, like "Light of Light," without passion, not by the law of the created, material world. We are not able to completely comprehend this while we live within the intellectual (rational) framework of the material world. Therefore, the trinitarian nature of God is called the "Mystery of the Holy Trinity."
A comparison for clarification of the mystery of the Holy Trinity is given by the Fathers of the Church. John of Damascus says, "As fire and the light proceeding from it exist together, not fire first and then the light proceeding from it, and as light being begotten from the fire always abides in it and is not at all separated from it, thus the Son is begotten of the Father, no way separated from Him."
In another comparison, we are able to see that sunbeams, which are found on earth performing their life-giving activity, are never separated or broken away from the sun. By these comparisons, the words of the Gospels become understandable: No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, Which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1:18).
St. John the Evangelist calls the Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). The designation of the second Person of the Holy Trinity as the Son of God was revealed from on high to the Apostle John (Rev. 19:11,13), though in part it was known in the Old Testament in a hidden way (Ps. 32:6; 18:15).
The Fathers of the Church explain, "As the mind giving birth to a word, begets without pain, does not divide, is not exhausted, and does not undergo some sort of bodily existence, thus the Divine begetting is passionless, inexplicable, incomprehensible, without division."
"As the word," says Archbishop Innocent, "is an exact expression of an idea, not separating itself from it and not merging with it, thus the Word was to God, a true and exact likeness of His existence, indivisible, without confusion, and always existing with Him. The Word of God was not a phenomenon or an affinity by the power of God, but is God Himself, the second Person of the Holy Trinity."
The Third Article of the Creed.
3. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from the Heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man.
The third article of the Symbol of Faith is the statement of how the Son of God descended from Heaven to earth, took upon Himself a body, human in every way but without sin, and was incarnate. He took on not only the body, but the soul of a man and became perfectly human without ceasing to be God at the same time. He became God incarnate.
The Son of God descended from Heaven and became a man (God incarnate) in order to save people from the power of the Devil, sin and eternal death. Sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4). That is, sin is an offense against the Law of God. Sin arises in people by the action of the Devil, who tempted Eve in Paradise, and through her, Adam, and persuaded them to break the commandment of God.
The fall into sin of the first people, Adam and Eve, broke down the nature of mankind. Sin in people clouded their intelligence and will. To the body it brought sickness and death. People began to suffer and to die. By their own power, people were not able to conquer sin in themselves and in their descendants, or to correct their intelligence, soul and heart, and to destroy death. This can be accomplished only by God, the Creator of all.
The merciful Lord gave a promise to people that the Saviour of the world would come to earth to deliver people from the power of the Devil and eternal death.
When the time of salvation came, the Son of God came to dwell within the pure Virgin Mary and, through the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Her, received from Her the nature of man and was born in a supernatural way "of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary."
The Most-holy Virgin Mary was a descendant of the family of King David. She was the daughter of the righteous Joachim and Anna. The
Most-holy Mary is called a Virgin because She, out of love for God, promised to never marry. She is called Ever-virgin because She always remained a virgin, before the birth of the Saviour, at the time of the birth, and after the birth.
The holy Orthodox Church calls the Virgin Mary the God-Bearer (Theotokos), and holds Her more sacred than all created beings, not only people, but angels. "More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim" we declare of Her because She is the Mother of God Himself. Thus, according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the righteous Elizabeth addressed Her, and whence is this to me, that the Mother of My Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43).
Through His prophets, the Lord God showed many signs of the coming of the Saviour into the world. For example:
The Prophet Isaiah predicted that the Saviour would be born of a Virgin (Isaiah 7:14) and with remarkable clarity foretold His suffering (Isaiah 5:7-8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 53).
The Prophet Micah prophesied that the Saviour would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:4-6).
The Prophet Malachi predicted that the Saviour would come to the newly built temple in Jerusalem, and that before Him would be sent the Forerunner, like the prophet Elias (Mal. 3:1-15).
The Prophet Zechariah predicted the triumphal entry of the Saviour into Jerusalem on a "colt, the foal of an ass" (Zech. 9:9).
King David in the twenty-first psalm described the Saviour’s suffering on the cross with such accuracy that it seems as if he had seen the crucifixion himself.
The Prophet Daniel, 490 years before Christ, prophesied the date of the appearance of the Saviour, predicted His crucifixion, and after it, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the cessation of Old Testament sacrifices (Daniel 9).
When the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to earth, many righteous people recognized Him as the Saviour of the world. The wise men of the East recognized Him by the star which shone in the East before the birth of Christ. The shepherds in Bethlehem recognized Him from the angels’ proclamation. Simeon and Anna recognized Him by a revelation from the Holy Spirit when he was brought to the Temple. John the Baptist recognized Him in the Jordan River, at the time of baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father testified, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased (Matt. 3:17). Many people recognized Him by the superiority of His teaching and especially by the miracles that He did.
For our salvation Jesus Christ accomplished His teachings, His life, His death, and His resurrection. His teachings are for our salvation when we accept them with all our heart, and behave in accordance with them, when we emulate in our own lives the life of the Saviour. As the false word of the Devil, accepted by the first people, became in people the seeds of sin and death, so the true word of Christ, sincerely accepted by Christians, becomes in them the seeds of holy and immortal life.
Discussion of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
St. Sylvester (IV century), in conversation with the Jews about the faith, said, "God, Who brings everything into being, when He created man and saw his inclination to every evil, did not despise the perishing work of His hand, but rather deigned that His Son, existing inseparably from Him (for God is everywhere), should come to us on earth. Thus He descended and was born of the Holy Virgin and became subject to the law, to redeem them that were under the law (Gal. 4:4-5).
"That He was born of a Virgin was predicted by the Prophet Isaiah with these words, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel (Is. 7:14). This name, as you know, designates the advent of God to people, and in translation from Hebrew means God with us. Thus, the Prophet, a long time before, predicted that God would be born from a virgin.
"For God, nothing is impossible; but regarding the Devil, it is necessary to conquer by that which was first conquered. Those first conquered were men, men not born by the usual order of nature, not from the seed of man, but from clay, furthermore, from soil clean and pure as the Virgin, for it had never offended God. It had not been defiled by either the blood of a murdered brother or killed animals. Therefore it was not infected with decaying bodies, nor was it defiled by any unclean or indecent acts.
"From such soil flesh was created for our ancestors, which was brought to life by the breath of God.
"But if the all-evil Devil conquered such a man, then it is necessary that the Devil be conquered by such a man. Such a man is our Lord Jesus Christ, born not by the usual laws of nature, but from the pure and holy womb of the Virgin, as Adam came from the soil uninfected by sin. As Adam was brought to life by the Spirit of God, so this One (Jesus Christ) was incarnated by the action of the Holy Spirit, Who descended upon the Most-holy Virgin. He became perfect God and perfect man, in every way except sin, having two natures, Divine and human, but one Person. In His human nature He suffered for us, but His Divinity remained without suffering."
For clarification of this explanation, St. Sylvester gives an example. "When a tree, illuminated by the rays of the sun, is cut down by a hatchet, then along with this felled tree, the rays of the sun are not also cut down. Likewise, when the human nature of Christ, united with God, endures suffering, then this suffering does not touch the Divinity."
During the course of the first century of Christianity, Jewish scribes, known as the Massoretes, preservers of tradition, removed all the manuscripts of the sacred books from all the synagogues throughout the world, and replaced them with their own transcriptions, which were rewritten with strict precision and with repeated verifications from letter to letter by the massoretic scribes themselves.
The degree of invariability and immutability of the massoretic texts is astounding. However, all this uniformity amounts to absolutely nothing. Only standardization of the texts was achieved. But those mistakes which already existed at the moment of the massoretic revision were not corrected. On the contrary, some distortions were purposely introduced by the Massoretes to obscure the clarity of the prophecies which foretold Christ the Saviour.
Of these distortions we will point out first of all the famous alteration by the Massoretes of Isaiah 7:14:Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.... Knowing that this passage was a favorite of Christians, and testifies best of all to the most-blameless birth of our Lord, the Massoretes, while carrying out their reform, inserted the word al’ma ("young woman") in place of the word vetula ("virgin") in all the Hebrew texts throughout the world. At the time, the ancient Christian apologists reasonably objected to the interpretation of the Jewish scribes, "And what kind of a sign, about which the prophet speaks here, would the birth of a son to a young woman have been, since this is shown to be an everyday occurrence?"
In a manuscript of the Prophet Isaiah written before the birth of Christ, which was discovered not too many years ago, the word "virgin" is used in Isaiah 7:14, and not "young woman."
Therefore, it is clear why the Church prefers the Septuagint and Peshitta translations for the authoritative text of the Old Testament, and principally the first, for the Septuagint text was produced under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the concerted effort of the Old Testament Church.
Septuagint: The first and most exact translation of the Holy Scriptures was the translation of all the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, done "according to the Seventy" (actually seventy-two) translators, or as they are called, interpreters, in the third century before the birth of Christ, about the year 270 B.C.
The Egyptian King Ptolemy Philadelphus, wishing to have in his library the sacred books of Hebrew law, ordered his librarian, Demetrius Phalereus, to acquire those books and to translate them into the language of the most common usage — Greek.
On the order of the King, an embassy with rich gifts for the temple was dispatched to the high priest Eleazar in Jerusalem, with the request to deliver to Alexandria all extant Hebrew sacred books and to send able people to make a translation of them.
The inspired high priest Eleazar fulfilled the request of the Egyptian King with extraordinary seriousness. In order that this great undertaking receive the participation of the entire Old Testament Church, a fast was established for all of the God-chosen nation, and prayer was intensified by all. The twelve tribes of Israel were summoned and the order given to choose six men to be translators from each tribe, in order that they could labor together to translate the Holy Scriptures into the Greek language. The chosen translators, having arrived at the city of the King of Egypt, lovingly undertook their holy labor, and with good progress finished it in a short time. Thus, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, this translation appeared, the fruit of a concerted, heroic effort of the entire Old Testament Church. This translation was in general use at the time of the earthly life of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and was used by the Apostles of Christ, the Fathers of the Church, and all the leaders of the Church.
Peshitta: In the first and second centuries there appeared a translation of the Holy Scriptures in the Syriac language known as the Peshitta, meaning simple or faithful. For the Orthodox Church, these two translations (the "Septuagint" and the "Peshitta") are the two translations in general use. But for the Roman Catholic Church, there is still another translation done by St. Jerome, known as the Vulgate. It appears undoubtedly more authoritative than the contemporary Hebrew original. (Compiled from the books [in Russian] Discussions on the Holy Scriptures, by Bishop Nathaniel, and Summary of Study of the Old Testament of the Bible, by Archbishop Vitaly, and other sources.).
It is extremely instructive that in close study the facts of the Gospel narrative, which at first glance seem questionable or hardly probable or plausible, always turn out to testify in favor of the Gospels, once again confirming the accuracy of the events reported in them.
Several decades ago, independent critics considered completely implausible the story in the Gospel of Luke in which Joseph, with the Holy Virgin betrothed to him, 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 2:4). They went in order to fulfill the command for a census, a project carried out when Cyrenius Quirinin was governor of Syria (cf. Luke 2:2). In this undertaking, according to the account of St. Luke, it was necessary to go to register not at the place of residence, but to the place of family origin. Critics considered this to be an impossible task, first because the alarm and disorder created throughout the country if everyone at the same time left his habitual place of residence in order to go to the city from which his ancestors came would be daunting. Secondly, the story contradicts the well-established facts which were recorded concerning the Roman Census. It is well known that the Romans required registration at the place of habitual residence.
At a superficial glance these objections appear to undermine the reliability of the narration of St. Luke and seem formidable. However, every objection fades in the light of the indisputably established facts. Recently a document was discovered relating to the years 103-104 A.D. and the administration of the governor of Egypt, Gaius Vibius Maximus. In this document he is directed to report the census, exactly according to the order which is stated in the Gospel of St. Luke: in view of the census, each person must go to that place where his family originated. If this is so, then the objection to the account of St. Luke, that it is in contradiction to the usual Roman procedure, fails. From the statement of Vibius Maximus we learn that the Romans accommodated themselves to the customs and manners of the subjugated country. The narration of the census procedure in St. Luke is shown to be an irreproachable and exact account. (From the preface to Four Gospels published in Truth Paris, 1943.).
Discussion of the Miracles of God.
Materialists categorically reject the possibility of miracles of God in the world. They maintain that miracles contradict the laws of nature. Miracles, they say, are incompatible with the scientific truth of strict conformity of all natural phenomenon. Is that so? We will attempt to answer.
Prof. S.L. Frank says, "The mechanical engineer Galileo teaches that all bodies, irrespective of their specific weight, fall to earth with the same speed and acceleration. Is the generally known fact that a bit of fluff falls to the ground much more slowly than an iron weight a contradiction to this law? Or that in water, wood does not fall at all? Is this law broken by the fact that an airplane does not fall, but is capable of rising higher and flies over the earth? Obviously not.
"For the law of Galileo, like all the laws of nature, contains a silent reservation: ‘subject to various other conditions,’ or ‘if all outside influences are held constant.’"
Stated abstractly, the establishment of the attraction between the earth and a body of matter by its gravitational pull is not broken in the least. Only the concrete total sum appears altered or becomes complicated from the interference of new outside variables, as yet unaccounted for in the original law. In the first case — the power of the resistance of the air or water; in the second — the power of the motor, forcing the propeller to rotate and cut into the air. In the same manner, those events which are called miraculous can also be attributed to the effect of supplementary variables, not another variable of nature, but a supernatural power.
If Christ, as it is said in the Gospels, walked on water as on dry land, then this fact no more breaks the law of gravity than the fact of the flight of an airplane over the earth, or the flotation of a body lighter than water. In the latter instances, the action of the law of gravity is not broken, but is overcome by the power of the motor, or the resistance of the water. In the first instance, the law is utterly overcome by the power of God Incarnate, Christ.
If a man recovers from fatal illness after fervent prayers to God (his own or someone else’s), then this miracle also hardly breaks medicine’s established natural course of the illness, any more than successful surgical intervention of a doctor breaks it. In the latter case, the illness ends through mechanical alteration of circumstances conditional to it, and in the former, through influence on these conditions by the supreme power of God.
"If a man," says Archpriest Gerasim Shorets, "due to his free will, has the ability to influence nature, then is it possible that God does not have this ability? He, the Creator of the laws of nature?
"It is possible to make interesting observations about people who negate miracles," he continues. "Many of them who mock Biblical miracles, and regard believers in their veracity as backward men, themselves believe in commonplace and absurd things. They believe in ill-fated meetings, in the number thirteen, in a hare running across a road, like fools.
"Many of them, who with pride point to science to demonstrate the impossibility of miracles, themselves believe in what should really be classified as miracles, but which are twenty times less worthy of faith or confidence than the Biblical miracles attested to by many respectable people, a large part of whom would joyfully lay down their lives in affirmation of the truth.
"Those who deny miracles themselves believe only in those miracles which happened, according to their explanation, millions of years ago, and which were observed by no one.
"They do not believe in the creation of the world by God, but they do believe in its arbitrary origin, or that an embryo of organic life fell to earth from an unknown planet.
"They do not believe that Christ is able to resurrect a man, that is, bring back to life a previously living organism, but they believe that in former times, organic life sprang from lifeless matter.
"They do not believe that God, Creator of fire and people, could make three children fireproof, but they believe that embryonic organisms were sustained over the course of millions of years in the midst of the scorching heat of the world’s haze and melted granite..."
No, serious scientific truth raises no objections to the miracles to which materialists refer. The objections are based only on their assumptions, hypotheses, and natural-philosophical theory, or their own materialistic faith.
Thus, while supposedly refuting the miracles of God on the basis of science, the scoffers reveal themselves as being ignorant regarding the questions of science, insufficiently educated in philosophy, or conscious opponents of belief in God.
(Compiled from a pamphlet: Religion and Science by Prof. S. Frank; and a pamphlet Did Jesus Christ Live? by Archpriest G. Shorets; and others.).
The Fourth Article of the Creed.
4. And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.
In the fourth article of the Creed, it is stated that the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for us during the reign of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor over Judea; He was crucified for our sins and for our salvation, because He Himself was without sin. At that time, He really suffered, died, and was buried.
Of course the Saviour suffered not as God, Who cannot suffer, but as man. He suffered not for His sin, of which He had none, but for the sins of the whole human race. After His death, His body was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. But from the time of the burial until His Resurrection, He descended in soul into hades and liberated all those who believed in Him, beginning with Adam and Eve.
Hades is the name of the place of estrangement from God, devoid of light or bliss. There Satan reigns. In regard to the soul the word "hades" signifies a condition of great affliction and torment.
The Lord Jesus Christ, as perfect man and Son of God, because He by one word is able to annihilate all enemies, voluntarily offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of people through crucifixion on a cross. Execution by hanging on a cross was the most infamous, cruel, and terrible form of capital punishment. It was the symbol of every human evil, and the most striking display of the power of the Devil. This terrible execution, devised by men according to the suggestion of the Devil, subjected people to hate, malice, embitterment and death. The Saviour, having endured disgraceful execution on the Cross, died, but rose from the dead. Through the Cross, life shone forth! Christ destroyed the main support of the Devil, and turned the Cross into an instrument of eternal victory over evil and death. The Lord sanctified the Cross with His pure blood and by His sacrificial heroic feat of love. The most terrible criminal, if he be repentant, is not rejected by the Saviour. From this moment, neither suffering nor death are able to deprive us of eternal bliss if we are with Christ the Saviour. On the contrary, the way of the Cross has become the path to eternal glory in the Kingdom of God.
The words in the Creed "suffered and was buried" were directed against some heretics who falsely taught that the Lord did not suffer torment on the Cross, but that His suffering only appeared to be suffering and death.
The words "under Pontius Pilate" point out the true historical event of the suffering of Christ, which occurred at this specific time. During the hours of Christ’s suffering on the Cross, there was darkness over all the earth (Luke 23:44), states the Evangelist. Early historical writings of the Roman astronomer Phlegontus, Thaddeus, and Julius Africanus note this darkness.
One of these exclaimed, "One of the gods has died!" A well-known philosopher from Athens, Dionysius the Areopagite, was at that time in the city of Heliopolis, in Egypt. Observing the sudden darkness, he said,..".either the Creator is suffering, or the world is coming to an end." Afterwards, after the preaching of the Apostle Paul, Dionysius accepted Christianity and became the first bishop of Athens.
Glory to Thy long-suffering, O Lord! Before Thy Cross we bow down, O Master, and Thy holy
Resurrection we glorify.
The Resurrection of Christ is discussed in the following, fifth article of the Creed
Discussion of the Cross of Christ.
Christ revealed the name of God. The name is Love.
From his first deep breath, man began to sense God’s everlasting love toward him. Here, too, originated the divine tragedy between God and His first-created, intelligent creature. This creature was not able to comprehend the complete perfection of the love that was offered. Man had to experience the agony of severed relations with God, and having tasted of and learned the horror of this estrangement, was then able to experience His love once again.
Adam had no fear. It is true that perfect love casts out fear. However, as attested to by the Fathers of the Church, fear always precedes love. This fear does not consist of apprehension of violence, but is born from a feeling of the loftiness of God. By fear, man measures the distance between himself and God.
Even when considering the lives of the saints, we experience fear, breathing the air of the mountain heights, in which we ourselves could not survive.
The approach of God tramples down fear by His presence and gives us bliss. However, having fear at the depth of our existence, we treat the love of God with reverence.
It was necessary for man during his life to learn what he was in comparison with his Creator. Having broken off from God and having gone away from Him, he glances back, and from afar sees and feels his omnipotent Creator.
How did Adam tear himself away from God? Everything that Adam did conformed to the love of God for him. His life was fervent love, but this was not by his own merit. Everything he did was done by the grace of his Creator, as a result of His love.
We, born in sin and not having this love, but having to acquire it, which is the goal of our life, are not able to understand the condition of Adam. Everything that we do by our own will for our own sake is sin, and only in subduing our own will, sacrificing ourselves out of love for another, do we join the Light, do we find interior orderliness according to God.
Adam was entirely of God. Everything in him was light. Only in one respect did he not reach perfection: in him was the possibility to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. In this he should have constrained his will out of obedience and love; through this he fell away from God and sank into darkness.
Without sacrifice, there is no love. All the love of Adam towards God was dependent, if one may say, only upon his rejection of the fruit. Adam did not feel the slightest compulsion, because true love does not tolerate constraint.
Having tasted the fruit, Adam at once extinguished the light in himself and was filled with darkness. There was nothing for him to love. The darkness manifested itself in him by the sensation of nakedness. He hid from the Father. He lost God, and God lost His friend. For in order to love Adam as in former times, since Adam was now refusing love, it was necessary to create him again. Man was left to himself. In the bitter experience of separation from Love, he had to know the full depth of this misery, that when the Light was again revealed to him, he would voluntarily prefer this Light to the light he had chosen, thanks to the knowledge of good and evil. Again, he would voluntarily return to the world of Love from his own world which he created over the course of a thousand-year period of isolation from the Truth, from a world of his own, created by himself, with delights, with his own buildings, with his own ideals.
Suffused with darkness and the ability to understand good and evil, man acquired the capability of killing people like himself. But developing within himself this quality, man ceased to be content with murder alone. This became nothing to him. He began to kill his brother with torment. But even this appeared to be nothing. He began to kill his brother with taunting. But even this was not enough.
Then he invented something that, while not killing, put his brother in a helpless position, so that by his own helplessness he provoked the laughter of passersby, in order that his brother might die from humiliation and terrible pangs of pain.
At this point in the development of the quality of evil, God clearly revealed to people Who He is, the Creator of everything visible and invisible. If He were a vengeful Deity, He probably would have had to destroy the whole human race because that creature so maliciously laughed at the idea of his Creator. But Love acted completely to the contrary.
Our Heavenly Father gave His Only-begotten Son, that He should hang on the evil tree of hate and extreme bitterness created by man. The Son, having been crucified and having satisfied as far as was necessary the malice of His enemies, died. After three days, the Father resurrected the Son and engraved this new event on the hearts of people.
From this point in history, notions of people in the world and their understanding underwent a full revolution. The Cross, formerly only an instrument of terrible torture and cruel execution, became the single eternal support of man. The way, truth and life begins with the Cross, without which it is impossible to be saved.
There followed a new history of man, in which it is impossible for anyone to excuse himself through ignorance or lack of understanding. God was crucified on the cross. There need be no blindness!
If the world before Christ was a savage world, and inhabitants were dwelling in the jungle of their ignorance, then after Christ the world without the Cross becomes a world of apostates and damned people to whom will be said in time: get thee hence from Me, into the fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). Those who follow Christ are openly called friends of the Lord.
I call you not servants, says the Saviour, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you. "Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever 1 command you (John 15:15,14).
God’s love to us is beyond measure, radiating from the Cross of Christ! Great and unbounded is the Cross of Christ. It is impossible to comprehend the width and length of it, the depth and the height. But as far as possible, let us at least try to understand.
"How wide is the Cross of Christ?" asks one bishop, and answers, "It is as wide as the world, just as Christ died for the whole world, as it is written: He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2).
That is how wide the Cross is.
How long is the Cross of Christ? It is long enough to last throughout all ages, as long as there remains on earth but one sinner who might be saved; until there disappear sorrow, suffering and everything that is against the Lord in God’s world.
That is how long the Cross is.
How high is the Cross of Christ? It is as high as Heaven, as the Throne of the Lord. Indeed, it is as high as the highest Heaven; for when Christ was crucified on the Cross, Heaven descended to earth, and earth ascended to Heaven.
That is how high the Cross is.
How deep is the Cross of Christ? That is a great mystery, which is not given to us to understand and about which we can only reverently conjecture. If the height of the Cross extends to Heaven, then by its depth it reaches down to hell, to the most inveterate sinner in the deepest depths into which he might fall — as Christ descended into hell and preached unto the spirits in prison (I Peter 3:19).
That, we dare to hope, is how deep the Cross of the Lord is.
The Cross of Christ is the beginning and ending of our salvation (Cf. John 3:16-17, 36).
Without the Cross we are not Christians, we are not members of the Church of Christ, we are not sons of God. For the Cross we were born, with the Cross we live, and with the Cross we die (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; 28:19. Luke 14:27; Mark 10:21; 16:6).
The Cross of Christ is a piece of armor, or a garment which we put on (Matt. 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50) at the time of our earthly toils and labors in order that by it we be distinguished from all heterodox or unbelievers (Rev. 7:3; Ezekiel 9:4).
The Cross of Christ is laudation for Christians and formidable punishment for those who loathe and shun it, for those who fall away from the Church of Christ because of it, and for the enemies of God (Gal 6:14; I Cor 1:18; Heb. 13:13; 6:6; Philip. 3:18).
The Cross of Christ is a spiritual sword by which visible and invisible enemies are vanquished.
The Cross of Christ is a divine weapon to drive away every enemy and adversary (I Cor. 1:18:Luke 1:71-74; Matt. 22:44).
Finally, the Cross of Christ will be an awful sign on the day of Tribulation and Last Judgement of God for all adversaries of the name of Christ, antichrists (Matt. 24:30).
(Compiled from Humility in Christ, P. Ivanovna; the Journal Eternal, and Lessons and Examples in Christian Faith by the V. Rev. Gregory Di-achenko.).
Discussion of Two Providential Acts of God.
In our day the rational world is increasingly indifferent to the Christian faith. Unbelief, godlessness, and atheism are becoming firmly established everywhere.
But for the edification of the faithful, to strengthen us who vacillate in the face of the convictions of atheists, we will describe two historical events which are striking even to the materialistic world.
The first of them occurred on the day of the suffering of our Saviour on the cross, and the other in our time.
I. When the Saviour suffered on the cross all nature trembled, the light of the sun was hidden, and darkness was on all the earth, as the Evangelist relates. This extraordinary event had been predicted many centuries before by the Prophet Amos: The end is come upon my people of Israel: I will not again pass by them any more (Amos 8:2). And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day (Amos 8:9)...and I will make it as the mourning of an only Son... (Amos 8:10).
The eclipse of the sun at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in spite of the singularity of the event against all the laws of nature, as, for instance, there was a full moon — the moon did not stand between the earth and the sun — is an historical fact, fully described in pagan accounts:
1. The Roman historian and astronomer Phlegontus reports that the eclipse was so severe that it was possible to see stars in the sky.
2. The eclipse is reported by the scholar Julius Africanus and the Greek historian Thaddeus.
3. A noted philosopher from Athens, Dionysius the Areopagite, who was at that time in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, observing the sudden darkness, said "Either the Creator is suffering or the world is coming to an end."
II. The second event is the miraculous appearance of the Holy Fire on Great Saturday in the Tomb of the Saviour in Jerusalem. The appearance of the Holy Fire has occurred annually for centuries, and continues to do so in our times. The exact date of the first appearance of the Holy Fire is difficult to determine. Historians of the Church refer to the writings of the Holy Fathers St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John the Damascene, who both mention its occurrence. The Crusaders spoke about the Holy Fire, and pilgrims have consistently verified its presence throughout the centuries down to the present day.
The reception of the Holy Fire belongs exclusively to the Orthodox Patriarch. Heterodox (non-Orthodox) representatives have tried to receive it, without success. The Catholics ostentatiously withdrew from participation in this triumph of grace, despite the observation of the Roman Pope Urban II at the Council of the Cross at Clermont. He witnessed the Holy Fire in the Tomb of the Saviour, and concluded with the words, "Whose heart, no matter how petrified, would not be softened by such a phenomenon?"
The following account serves to show that the appearance of the Holy Fire in the Tomb of the Saviour occurs under the strict and thorough surveillance of the civil authorities. All flames in the church are extinguished the day before, on Good Friday, under police control. The premises of the Tomb of the Saviour are thoroughly inspected by the civil authorities, and then upon leaving the Tomb is sealed by them. The Patriarch unvests and stands clad only in a cassock. He is examined from head to toe to see if there is not some sort of incendiary device on him. Only after this is the seal removed from the entrance to the Tomb of the Saviour and the Patriarch enters it to receive the Holy Fire. After some time, and after fervent prayer, the Patriarch receives the Holy Fire, lights a bundle of candles (thirty-three in all, one for each year of the earthly life of the Saviour), passes them to those present in the church, and the whole church lights up in a sea of fire. The Holy Fire, during the course of ten to fifteen minutes, does not scorch.
Peoples of many nations, Greeks, Russians, Armenians, Arabs, Englishmen, Americans, Frenchmen, Turks, Jews, and others, gather to observe this glorious event.
The appearance of the Holy Fire is the greatest visible manifestation of the Paradise of God in our sinful world, serving for the enlightenment and salvation of us sinners.
On the Holy Fire at the Tomb of the Lord.
In our time of spiritual barrenness, people’s lives are limited to earthly preoccupations; great interest and curiosity attend every novelty. Man is totally disinterested in spiritual matters, or in the manifestation of God’s benevolence to our sinful world.
Thus, very few are aware of the miraculous appearance of the Holy Fire, which has appeared over the centuries from year to year on Great Saturday in the Tomb of the Lord in Jerusalem, in the place of the burial and glorious resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
As a reminder of this extraordinary miraculous appearance we bring true evidence, revealed in the letter of a Russian pilgrim and eyewitness of the appearance of the Holy Fire two years in succession, Maria Pavlonvna Chreshchatetskaya. This letter was written to Fr. Nicholas Samoukov, a hieromonk at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, in answer to questions given her about it.
Furke, France April 30, 1958
"Esteemed and dear in the Lord Fr. Nicholas, Christ is risen!...if the Lord wills, I will go to Novo Diveyevo, and then will not delay to come to Jordanville, and personally tell you everything that interests you. Until then I will attempt to answer all your questions.
"My companion was the nun, Maria Torskaya.
"We travelled from the Mount of Olives monastery to the Holy Sepulchre by bus. The weather was beautiful. The crowds were beyond measure, in the thousands. The mood of the people was enthusiastic. Of the nationalities present there were Greeks, Russians, Armenians, Arabs, English, Americans, French, Turks, and even Hebrews, who illegally got on the Arab side. Greeks and Arabs prevailed, I think. In the church the people behaved themselves outrageously from our point of view, with shouting and leaping and in general, making a lot of noise. But from their point of view, if they do not carry on this way (it is the way they pray), then the Holy Fire will not descend.
"I have already said that the people were beyond number, not only in the church, but around the church. When the Patriarch appears before the Tomb enclosure all the people quiet down, and there is complete silence until the appearance of the Holy Fire.
"First there is a procession around the church with many banners, three times around, with the Patriarch in full vestments. Then it stops in front of the Tomb enclosure. They take all the robes and the miter from the Patriarch. He remains in only a cassock, and the Turkish authorities examine him from head to foot to see if there is any incendiary device on him. This process takes until about 1:00 P.M.
"I think that the Patriarch waited for the fire for not more than five to seven minutes.
"Last year another Russian pilgrim and I, coming from America, clearly saw (we were very lucky to have a good vantage point) a thin zigzag of light like lightning flash from above and strike downwards; and momentarily there appeared the fire in the Tomb of the Saviour, where it spread on cotton wads which were lit from the fire.
"The Patriarch lit a bundle of candles (thirty-three in the bundle) and passed them immediately through a special window-like opening made in the wall, and in a twinkling, from one to another, the fire spread throughout the enormous church, below and above. At this moment, the whole church reverberated from the wildly enthusiastic cries of the rejoicing crowds.
"For fifteen minutes or so, the Holy Fire does not scorch. I personally put all the diseased places of my body in the flame and did not feel it at all. A monk from the Mt. of Olives monastery, Fr. Savva, washed himself in it, immersed his whole face in it though he has a moustache and a beard, and not one hair caught fire, not even singed.
"In such a throng of people and with such a sea of fire, if it had been our usual fire, there would have been an inevitable conflagration. But from year to year, the same event happens, and there is never the slightest hint of fire.
"Women not only entered the altar, but even passed through the Royal Doors, but at this time the Grace was so powerful that it cleansed and protected everything.
"After receiving the Holy Fire, attendants carry the Patriarch, as he does not have the strength to walk. Evidently from the great exertion, he is left covered with beads of perspiration and totally drained of strength. Furthermore, they say that in their ecstasy, the people could tear off all his clothes. As I said before, last year I had a very good vantage point, above, next to the Tomb enclosure itself, so I was able to see things that others could not. This year, with the nun Torskaya, I entered the altar, and here I saw clearly how they carried the Patriarch straight into the vestry, since it was right next to me.
"There can be no doubt that this is unusual fire.
"Probably you have heard about the wondrous occurrence in the 1800’s when the heterodox did not wish to allow Orthodox Christians into the church or the Patriarch into the Tomb enclosure. They themselves wanted to take possession of the holy flame. They closed the church and posted guards so that no one could enter the church. The Patriarch stood with the people on the outside, praying and lamenting.
"At the moment when the heterodox awaited the fire in the Tomb of the Saviour, and while the Orthodox Christians stood outside, there was a loud bang, the stone column cracked, and from it came the blessed flame which they all caught instantly.
"A Turk, an employee of the government, shouted "All-powerful is the Christian God, and I am a Christian!" The Turks killed him.
"From that time not one of the heterodox has attempted to encroach upon the holy flame again.
"Thus the column stands, cracked and blackened from the fire, in edification to all. Everyone who passes by kisses it.
"Perhaps in my haste my writing is not completely clear, but when I come, I will personally finish telling you about it.
"With love in Christ,
"The Holy Fire of Great Saturday," from a letter by Schema-monk Nicodemus.
The Russian schemamonk, Fr. Nicodemus of Mount Athos, visiting Jerusalem in 1958, describes wonderfully in a letter the unusual triumph which he observed at the time of the reception of the holy flame.
"On Great Saturday, about 12:00 noon, I, sinful Schemamonk Nicodemus, had the good fortune to follow the Patriarch from the altar of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in the procession of the Cross, going around the Tomb enclosure three times, and thus I was able to see that which is rarely observed at the life-giving Tomb.
"After the third time around, the Patriarch (Greek Orthodox of Jerusalem) stopped before the locked and sealed door to the Tomb of the Saviour. I stood at the right side of a candlestick before the Tomb enclosure, a few steps away from the Patriarch.
"The Patriarch disrobed to his cassock. They took from him his miter, sakkos, and omophorion.
Police and state officials searched the Patriarch. Then they tore the tape from the seal off the door of the Tomb enclosure and permitted the
Patriarch to go inside the chapel. Along with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, they admitted the Armenian Patriarch. The Armenian Patriarch did not take part in the procession of the Cross, but stood with his people on the left side of the tomb enclosure.
"Several others were permitted inside the chapel. Clergymen, upon a signal from the Patriarch, extinguished the Holy Fire from the previous year on the berth of the life-bearing Tomb and picked up everything in order to prepare for the reception of the Holy Fire.
"When the Arab police, who were to carry out both the Patriarch and the Holy Fire, entered the chapel, the door was closed after them.
"As is known to everyone, the chapel has two compartments, the altar of the Angel, and the life-bearing Tomb of the Saviour itself, the grotto or cave.
"Only the Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the inner grotto of the Tomb. The others, with the police and the Armenian Patriarch, stand in the adjoining chapel of the Angel and wait silently.
"The door of the chapel is closed. Everyone is quiet, and silence reigns throughout the whole church of the Resurrection of Christ. All the devout await the Holy Fire in silence.
"It is necessary to explain about the preparation of the Tomb of the Saviour. On the evening of Great Friday, the flames in the whole church and in the chapel are extinguished under the control of the police.
"In the middle of the berth of the life-giving Tomb is placed a lamp on a pedestal, filled with oil and with a floating wick set, but unlit.
"Around the edge of the berth a ribbon is placed, and all over the berth they unpack pieces of cotton wadding. Thus prepared under the surveillance of the police, the Tomb enclosure is locked and sealed. The locked Tomb of the Saviour remains undisturbed until Great Saturday, when the Patriarch enters the cave of the Tomb of the Saviour to receive the Holy Fire.
"Then on Great Saturday, they admit the Patriarch into the cave of the life-giving Tomb, and the door is shut behind them. There is absolute silence...
"In the cave itself, it is dark. The Patriarch, alone there, silently prays to the Saviour... sometimes for ten minutes, sometimes more. At the time of my visit, fifteen minutes passed. Then suddenly in the darkness, on the berth of the life-giving Tomb, beads of bright blue began to spill about, multiplying, and turning into dark blue fire. From them, the prepared balls of cotton caught fire, then the ribbon, and the lamp. Everything became enveloped in the flame from the Holy Fire...
"The Patriarch quickly ignited his two bundles of candles. Upon entering the chapel of the Angel, he gave a light to the Armenian pilgrims through the oval window.
"During the appearance of the Holy Fire an uproar of joy and rapture like a clap of thunder resounds from the vast expanse of the church of the Resurrection of Christ.
"Then, to put out the fire on the berth of the Tomb of the Saviour (it does not burn here), they take away the burning lamp and the cotton wads with the ribbon.
"Two Arab policemen carry the Patriarch from the Tomb enclosure on their shoulders, with the support of assisting clergymen, and quickly carry him into the altar of the church of the Resurrection of Christ.
"One priest with the burning lamp goes before the Patriarch. All this is so fast that not many in the chapel are able to light their candles. Nor was I able to. Instead, I endeavored to join the throng of people following the Patriarch as he entered the altar, where I lit my bundle of candles with the Holy Fire from the hand of the Patriarch himself.
Schemamonk Nicodemus, Mt. Athos
Note: The church of the Resurrection of Christ is commonly known in English literature as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Lifebearing Tomb of the Lord.
(An excerpt from a letter from the Greek archimandrite, Fr. Kiriakos, curator of the Tomb of the Saviour in Jerusalem, about the appearance of the Holy Fire.).
"…and regarding the Holy Fire, neither I nor anyone else has the right to be with the blessed Patriarch inside the cave of the Tomb of the Saviour at this time, except the Armenian bishop and those admitted only as far as the chapel of the Angel.
"The Patriarch of Jerusalem alone enters the inner grotto, in which is found the lifegiving Tomb.
"Several centuries ago, the Armenians tried to dispute the right of the Orthodox to receive the holy fire in the grotto of the Tomb. Then the Orthodox were denied access to the church of the Resurrection of Christ, and they were forced to stand in the courtyard. After the lapse of some time, while the Patriarch and the people prayed in the court of the cathedral, the Fire erupted from a column which was near the entrance. The Armenians received nothing.
"From this time we have never again been driven away from the Lifebearing Tomb. The column, to this day, stands cracked and charred."
Archimandrite Kiriakos, curator of the Lifebearing Tomb of the Saviour, Jerusalem, October 2,1960.
The Fifth Article of the Creed.
5. And He arose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.
The fifth article of the Creed speaks about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after His death.
Since in the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament there were clear predictions about the suffering, death, burial of the Saviour, and His Resurrection, it is stated "according to the Scriptures." The words, "according to the Scriptures," pertain not only to the fifth, but also to the fourth article of the Creed.
Jesus Christ died on Great Friday about three o’clock in the afternoon and rose after midnight of the following Saturday, on the first day of the week, called from that time the Christian Sabbath, the day of the Resurrection of Christ. But in those days, a part of a day belonged to the whole day, so it is said that He was in the tomb three days.
The circumstances of Jesus Christ from the time of His death until the Resurrection are expressed in the Orthodox Christian Church by the following words," In the grave bodily, but in hades with Thy soul as God; in paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast thou Who fillest all things, O Christ the Inexpressible."
We know that in the Old and New Testaments several people rose from the dead, but there the dead were raised by someone else, and the resurrected rose in their former earthly corruptible bodies, and therefore, had to die again. Jesus Christ rose from the dead by Himself, by the power of His own Divinity; He rose and was changed in His body, which became immortal and eternal. He came forth from the tomb, not disturbing the Sanhedrin’s seal, not rolling away the stone, and invisible to the guards.
The Lord revealed His Resurrection to people first through an angel, who rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. The Resurrection was witnessed by soldiers guarding the tomb, who dispersed in fright. Then the angel announced the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Myrrhbearing women. Finally, Jesus Christ Himself, over the course of forty days, repeatedly appeared to His disciples, with many tangible demonstrations of His Resurrection. He allowed the disciples to touch His wounds from the nails and the lance, He ate before them, and spoke with them about the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
On the day of the Resurrection of Christ we sing: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tomb bestowing life."
By death, the Lord conquered death, and to all in the graves, that is, all the dead, He gave life. Now the Lord abides in this new, resurrected body forever. Also in the new body of the resurrection lives the Mother of God, Whom the Lord resurrected after Her death. All people will receive a new, changed body at the second coming of the Saviour, when there will be a general resurrection, which the eleventh article of the Creed speaks about.
Thus is fulfilled the prophecy spoken through the Prophet Hosea: I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death (Hosea 13:14). O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (I Cor. 15:55).
Discussion of the Resurrection of Christ.
The Resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in the history of the world, and therefore Christians replaced the Old Testament Sabbath with this commemoration. The feast of the Resurrection of Christ is the "one king and lord of sabbaths, the feast of feasts, and the triumph of triumphs." The triumph of the Resurrection is the meaning and foundation of our Christian faith, And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also vain (I Cor. 15:14), says the Apostle of Christ.
If there had been no Resurrection of Christ, then not only would there be no Christianity, but even the faith in God, in the power of good and truth, would have been undermined. The meaning of life would have been lost. If the dead Christ had not been resurrected, then not only would there be no salvation for anyone through Him, for to whom can death and helplessness show help, but there would have been the greatest triumph of evil in history. The days of Golgotha, and in general, the entire earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ, would have been the most wicked mockery of evil over good, of the Devil over the entire world of light and idealism. No more powerful or inevitable motive for dark despair could exist, for if this Righteous One were shown to be powerless, if such a Great Personality vanished into the abyss of nonexistence, then what are we to expect for ourselves, and what are we preparing ourselves for? There would be no righteous life for mankind. Life would be only "an empty and stupid joke" (Lermontov), or, in the apt words of the great Christian author, Dostoevsky, life would be "devilish vaudeville," mere play-acting.
But Christ is risen, and the father of lies, a murderer from the beginning — the devil (John 8:44) is rendered profane and powerless. Life is victorious, death and evil are brought to emptiness and pettiness, Christ is risen, and in full brilliance His majestic, regal Divinity begins to shine.
"It is astonishing that serious people can believe in such foolishness, and this in the twentieth century ... the age of science and experimentation... Reason does not permit belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," says the non-believer.
"The historic fact of the Resurrection of Christ, as well as all His teachings, has undergone criticism from many scholarly people and rationalists. Several of them have devoted their entire lives to proving that the Gospel narrative about the Resurrection is a fraud, a mistake, or a delusion. From the earliest times a malicious fable has appeared stating that His disciples came by night and stole Him away, while we slept (Matt. 28:13). Though they first spoke fearfully about the earthquake at the tomb, the rolling away of the stone, and the appearance of the angel as lightning, the guards, bribed by the Jewish priests, then spread the lie that Christ was stolen from the tomb. The absurdity of this fabrication is immediately apparent to anyone.
It is completely inadmissible that the guard, composed of several men, could have fallen asleep. Where was their the military discipline? It was in fact a Roman guard, and the Roman army, by its iron discipline and courage, was one of the best armies in the world. If the soldiers slept, then they would not have been able to see, and if they saw, it means they did not sleep. In that case, they would not have given the Apostles the opportunity to perform the "theft;" on the contrary, they would have arrested the thieves and would have presented the dead body together with the thieves to the authorities.
But if there had been a theft, is it possible that the executioners of Christ would have left the "thieves" at large to preach His Resurrection? By the power of their authority, they would have forced the Apostles to produce the stolen body for them, in order to expose their lies and deception, and to suppress their preaching about Christ at its inception. Yes indeed, if the disciples had stolen the body of the Saviour, then it would have been necessary to bring them into court immediately, to convict them with the evidence of guilt, and thereby prevent their teaching. But the murderers of Christ did not do it, because they did not believe the soldiers would be able to support their own slander in court.
It is not possible that the enemies of Christ failed to verify the testimony of the soldiers. They, of course, did not fail to thoroughly, albeit secretly, verify the words of the soldiers, the first witnesses of the miracle of the Resurrection. Undoubtedly, they personally, although not in the full body of the Sanhedrin, went to the tomb of Christ and saw that it was empty. After analysis, they were unable not to acknowledge that Christ really rose from the dead. But why were they so shamefully silent about it? Why did they not as a body confess their grave sin and in this way guard their people against a threatening disaster?
For these corrupt people earthly goods were closer and more dear than the blessings of Heaven. They did not trust repentance as a means to gain forgiveness. At the same time, they understood very well that their repentance for slaying the Messiah would entail for them swift, unmerciful stoning by those people whom they drew into participation in this evil deed. In fear for their lives they kept quiet. Thus they proved to be powerless in a confrontation with truth. They were forced to confine themselves to issuing a mere order to the Apostles not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). Prohibiting preaching about Jesus Christ, they avoided the question of where was the body of Jesus. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20), said the Apostles, who continued to conquer the world with their preaching about the Resurrection of Christ.
Furthermore, could the Apostles, who were peaceful, timid people, who remained at home under lock and key for fear of the Jews (John 20:19), and who were unarmed,... could they decide on such an insolent, daring, and purposeless undertaking as the theft of a body from under the nose of the guards? How would they be able to do battle with such formidable Roman guards? Besides, the details do not resemble a theft.
The idea of theft was first thought of by the Apostles themselves when they, after the announcement from Mary Magdalene, dispersed in fear and thought that the theft of the body was a new outrage of the enemy against Him. Going into the grotto of the tomb, the Apostles saw that the grave, although it was empty, did not appear to have been robbed. For if thieves had taken the body of Jesus Christ, they would have taken Him in the shroud. But the linen lay rolled up and the sudarium, a long, narrow linen napkin wound about the head, was not lying with the linen but folded together in a place by itself (John 20:7).
Therefore, this absurd Jewish fabrication was discarded long ago. In its place, skeptics advance a hypothesis of lethargic sleep and pleurisy with effusion to explain the water which flowed from the side. According to this theory, Jesus Christ fell into a deep faint and perhaps lethargy, and therefore was taken for dead. He was taken down from the cross and buried. Due to the approaching holy day of Passover they had to hurry with the burial, and in their haste, neither friends nor enemies had the chance to examine Him and ascertain that He was really dead. The action of the aromatics and the influence of the cold air of the cave brought Him back to consciousness. He got up, and although still weak, attempted to get out of the tomb. His cries and pounding frightened the guards, and they ran away. Availing himself of the flight of the guards, the gardener, or one of the disciples, rolled away the stone and liberated Him from the grave. His appearance in a white shroud gave Him the appearance of an angel, the herald of the Resurrection. Jesus Christ spent forty days in the company of the disciples, and then, from his pleurisy, really died.
The story is totally improbable and does not stand up under the slightest criticism. The Gospels say that from the pierced side of the Lord issued blood and water. From a medical point of view, this appearance showed paralysis of the heart, certain death. But even if Jesus Christ had remained alive, then due to a lack of breath from the tightly tied shroud, saturated with aromatics, that life would have ceased under the adverse conditions in the tomb. Weak and exhausted, He would hardly have been in a condition to move the stone and produce cries and pounding loud enough to terrify the guards. The Gospels speak in sufficient detail about conversations with Jesus Christ, about the joy with which He filled the hearts of His disciples, about the walk with His disciples on the long road, and so on. Does all this resemble someone just regaining consciousness from a faint or mortally ill lethargy? In fact, such a person would be a pitiful and exhausted sick man. In the opinion of specialists, He would not have been able to take two steps with perforated feet, nor take hold of anything with His hands. Even such opponents of Christ as Strauss (David Frederick Strauss, 1808-1847, German theologian and philosopher, famous for "demythologizing" the Bible) correctly noted that this half dead man would surely have been a disappointment to His followers. For Him to inspire such mighty faith that it spread throughout the world, subjugated a powerful empire to Him, awakened in all of those who saw Him the enthusiasm for martyrdom — is psychologically inconceivable and impossible. The Apostles remained persuaded of the Resurrection of Christ for their entire lives. If the Resurrection was imaginary, then sooner or later the real death of Jesus Christ would have followed, and that would have ended all the activities and accounts of the Apostles. Quite to the contrary, they began to preach with a certainty which they had never demonstrated during the earthly life of Christ.
The more common theory in our day is the apparition theory, that Christ did not actually rise from the dead, but that the disciples reported that they saw the Lord living and speaking with them. The disciples were so taken with the identity of Jesus Christ and hence become so intimately linked with the idea of His approaching Kingdom that they could not be reconciled with the fact of His death. Under the strain of anticipation they allowed themselves such massive hallucinations that they, giving way to self-deception, gave the accounts recorded in the Gospels.
It is true that in history and in present day reality hallucinations, however occur, both with individuals and with crowds, although the latter case is very rare. Hallucinations, however, are found among people who wish to see and hear something, who are mentally prepared for it. Their cerebral condition is ready to perceive that which they intensely await. But let us return to the Gospel story. In order to be deceived, to see something which did not exist, it would have been necessary to wait for the Resurrection, to believe that His Resurrection was near and would come to pass. Who among the Apostles had such faith? When Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb, they thought, Who shall roll us away the stone...? (Mark 16:3) When Mary Magdalene saw that the tomb was empty, the idea of the Resurrection did not occur to her. Even when she saw the Lord she did not recognize Him. Why? She believed that dead people do not arise. The Apostles reacted in a similar manner when the news was brought to them He is not here, but He is risen (Luke 24:6). Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not (Luke 24:11). Thomas not only did not believe when he saw, but for him it was even necessary to feel. Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands... (John 20:27). It was the most sober, most convincing verification of the fact.
Jesus appeared to the Myrrhbearing women, to Peter, Luke and Cleopas (Luke 24:18), to the ten disciples, to the eleven, even to five hundred believers, and finally, to the Apostle Paul... How could all of them be deceived? Is it possible that among this group there was not one single person with a sober, clear mind, with healthy senses and critical faculties? As professionals affirm, hallucinations are more often visual or auditory sensations. Rarely do they occur in combination with others, and extremely seldom do hallucinations occur in the realm of sensation by touch. Where all three senses are involved together in a hallucination appearing to at least the ten and then eleven men, and even to the five hundred, and where broiled fish and honeycomb are eaten by it and disappear, as is stated in the Gospel (Luke 24:42),... such a hallucination has never been known in history, and never will be.
Thus the Apostles indeed saw the Resurrected One: the Resurrection is an indubitable historical fact. Skeptics are not able to undermine the Gospel story; they only refute each other, and some of them openly acknowledge their helplessness in struggling against Christ. The German scholar DeWette (Wilhelm Martin Lebrecht DeWette, 1780-1849, German Protestant theologian and Biblical scholar), who over the course of ten years led the skeptics, on his deathbed confessed that "the event of the Resurrection, although the means by which it happened is completely obscured by impenetrable darkness, nevertheless appears to be as indisputable as the death of Caesar."
Discussing the trustworthiness of the miracles of the Resurrection and the Ascension, physicist Balfour Stewart said, "Was the well-known power of nature preserved according to the immutable laws in these cases, or was it somehow overcome by a higher force? Undoubtedly it was overcome during the Resurrection as during the Ascension. We are obliged to analyze the evidence of these great events, which is accomplished in a most credible manner. History, in narrating these events, has borne this test so well that every suggestion that this did not really happen leads to the greatest moral and spiritual confusion."
Why did not Jesus Christ appear among the Jews after the Resurrection? St. John Chrysostom explains that the appearance of the risen Lord would have been useless for the Jews, and that if there had been the slightest possibility that by it they could be converted, then without doubt the Lord would not have denied the Jews. But after He resurrected Lazarus, they were completely antagonistic. The Jews started to seek opportunities to kill not only Jesus Christ but Lazarus as well. If Christ had appeared to the Jews after the Resurrection, in one way or another they would have decided to kill God again.
Thus, Christ is risen from the dead. The most convincing evidence of the fact of the Resurrection of Christ is that mighty change which it produced in the Apostles, and through them, in the whole universe. On it rests all the culture of the last two thousand years. Could the fantasy of thirteen dreamers support it? They changed all history. Without the Resurrection of Christ we would not have Christianity or Christian culture. World history would have taken a completely different direction. Without the living power of the Christian faith, the ancient world would have decomposed and perished. It is impossible to believe that imagination alone could have produced such greatness and so much good.
By this demonstration all opposition to the miracle of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ falls away. Even the briefest critical analysis of the objections elucidates their total groundlessness. But malicious criticism does not weaken. "The Devil fights with God, and the field of battle is in the hearts of people," writes Dostoevsky.
In our time, new but lame arguments are advanced: God does not exist; Christ as a historical figure never existed, and therefore there was no Resurrection; the Gospels are pure mythology, fiction not supported by actual historical events. They are a compilation of ancient pagan myths about legendary gods. These "critics" have to realize that in the various myths, only gods such as Osiris and Dionysius died and rose again, but never God Incarnate. That lesus Christ was God Incarnate is indisputable by evidence from the Gospels. Along with the Gospels we have the testimony of pagans, opponents of Christianity. For example, Pliny the Younger, the Roman consul and governor of Bithynia and Pontica in Asia Minor, in his letter to Emperor Trajan (about 112 A.D). wrote, "They (Christians) gather and sing hymns to Christ, as God. They do not swear, do not tell lies, do not steal, do not commit adultery." Pliny did not write, "they sing to their God, to Christ," but he wrote, "to Christ, as God." Therefore he knew that Christ for the Christians was not only God, but man.
A contemporary of Pliny, Tacitus, one of the most accurate historians, reports, about 115 A.D., "Christ, during the reign of Tiberius, under Procurator Pontius Pilate, was sentenced to death."
Many pieces of evidence about Jesus Christ as a historical figure are in the Hebrew Talmud. It is true that these references are written with malice and hatred, calling the Saviour "apostate," "Nazarene," etc. Very little is said in the Talmud about the miracles of the Nazarene.
Especially striking is evidence of the former persecutor of Christians, Saul, later the first among the Apostles, Paul. The authenticity of his testimony is beyond dispute. This is understood by the most furious enemies of Christianity. "The strength of Paul’s testimony," says one of our prominent authors and thinkers, "is such that even if there were none other, we would still know with greater exactitude than about many other historical figures, not only that Christ did exist, but how He lived, what He said and did, how He died, and how He rose from the dead."
The truth of the Resurrection of Christ the Saviour consists of the fact that it was the Resurrection of God Incarnate. He resurrected the human body, and by this transformed the human being into a spiritual, divine body for eternal life with God. In this lies the victory of the Saviour over death for all generations.
"The bodily Resurrection of the Saviour from the dead is an historical, true fact," says one of our well-known Orthodox missionaries, and he enumerates this in the following points:
We know that if the Resurrection of Christ were fiction, then no matter how much of a genius the author is, he would not omit the center and theme of his composition. He would, without fail, touch upon the moment of the Resurrection in his account, because man’s innate curiosity demands it.
But the Apostles did not do this. This constitutes the highest proof of the authenticity of their witness. For they were not writers, but guileless and simple men, influenced by the Holy Spirit, actual witnesses of the true event of the Resurrection of Christ and the whole Gospel story.
The Apostles themselves said, And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also in vain. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept (I Cor. 15:14,20). He is the first to partake of our future resurrection.
Only then did the Apostles and the first Christians go to death, when they had made certain of the actual Resurrection of the Saviour, of His victory over hell and death. Only in this case were they able, as the poet said, "To go to execution singing hymns and looking into the jaws of unfed beasts with unflinching gaze." Thus, the miracle of the Resurrection is accomplished in deed. Christ is risen indeed!
Compiled chiefly from an article by Archpriest Gerasim Shorets, Christ is Risen, from his brochure, Did Christ Live? Additions from a book by D.M. Merezhkovsky, Jesus the Unknown; an article by Archpriest I. Chernavin, Did Christ Rise from the Dead?; and other sources.
The Sixth Article of the Creed.
6. And ascended into the Heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father.
In the sixth article of the Creed, it is stated that Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven with His pure body, and sits at the right hand of God the Father.
The Ascension of the Lord occurred forty days after His Resurrection. The Lord Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven in body and soul, and in His Divinity He always abides with the Father.
"Sitteth at the right hand of the Father" means on the right side, in the place of honor and glory. These words mean that the human body and soul of Christ was received with the glory that Christ has by His Divinity.
By His Ascension, our Lord Jesus Christ united earth and Heaven and glorified our human nature, raising it to the throne of God. He showed us that our fatherland is in Heaven, in the Kingdom of God, which is now open to all who truly believe in Him.
To him that overcometh will 1 grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My father in His throne (Rev. 3:21).
The Seventh Article of the Creed.
7. And He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.
In the seventh article of the Creed it is stated that Jesus Christ will come to earth again to judge all people, living and dead, who will all rise at that time, and that after the terrible Last Judgment the Kingdom of Christ will begin, of which there will be no end.
The second coming of the Saviour is clearly discussed in Holy Scripture. For example, when Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven, angels appeared and said to the Apostles, "This Jesus, Who is taken up from you into Heaven, will come again to earth in the same form, in the body of a man, as you saw Him going up to Heaven."
The second coming of Christ will not be at all like the first. The first time He came in the humble form of a man to suffer for us and by this to save us from sin. He was born in a stable for cattle, lived, not having a place to lay His head, and died between criminals on the cross. In the second coming He will appear suddenly as a King, with majesty. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matt.24:27). The second coming of Christ the Saviour will be extraordinary: The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man, (a cross) in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:29-30), ...and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be gathered all nations (Matt. 25:31-46), and He will judge all people, all of us, the righteous and the sinful.
This judgment is called terrible, because the conscience of every man will be revealed before all. Not only the good and evil deeds will be disclosed, but also the manner in which each man conducted his earthly life; every spoken word, secret wish, and thought will be laid bare.
According to this judgment, the righteous will enter into eternal life, and the sinners into eternal torment — for doing evil deeds and failing to repent of them, or to make amends through good deeds and a righteous life.
For the hour is coming, says the Lord Himself, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).
The exact hour of the second coming of the Lord to earth is known to no man. It is a secret which, by the word of the Lord Himself, no one knows, not even the angels of God, only the Heavenly Father alone. Therefore, we must always be ready to appear before the judgment of God.
Although the exact time is not known to us, God’s word reveals several signs of the approach of the coming of the Lord. Before this time the Gospels will be preached to all people. The Jews will return in great numbers to Christ.
At the same time there will be more corruption, lack of faith, less love toward one’s neighbor, and increased wickedness and calamity among people. False prophets will appear. Discord and war will grow stronger among the people; famine and starvation, epidemics and earthquakes will occur in various places. Finally, when evil reaches its highest manifestation on earth, Antichrist will appear.
Antichrist, the antagonist of Christ, will appear before the end of the world, and will seek to exterminate Christian faith on the earth with all his power. But with the coming of Christ, the dominion of the Antichrist will end in terrible ruin, as will he, since he is a disciple of the Devil himself.
After all these things have come to pass the eternal Kingdom of Christ will begin.
The Eighth Article of the Creed.
8. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.
The eighth Article of the Creed speaks about the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also true God, as is the Father and the Son. This we confess, calling Him Lord.
The Holy Spirit is also called the Giver of Life because He, together with God the Father and God the Son, gives life to all, especially spiritual life. It follows that He is likewise the Creator of the world, equal to the Father and the Son. It is said about the creation of the world: And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). Jesus Christ Himself said about the blessed regeneration by the Spirit, ...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God (John 3:5).
Thus the Holy Spirit is true God, the third Person of the Triune God. To Him we must render the same worship and glory as to the Father and the Son.
The words, "Who proceedeth from the Father," define the personal hypostatic nature of the Holy Spirit, by which He is distinguished from God the Father, and from the Son, begotten of the Father. His nature is such that the Holy Spirit continually proceeds from the Father. Jesus Christ Himself spoke on this point to His disciples: But when the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, Which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me (John 15:26).
The words, "Who spake by the Prophets," means who spoke through the prophets. The prophets predicted the future and wrote Holy Scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore their books are called divinely inspired. The words, "spake by the Prophets," are stated so that no one need doubt that the Holy Scriptures were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not by the authors themselves, as ordinary books are written. They therefore contain the highest God-given truth, the Word of God, or Divine revelation.
The fact that the Holy Spirit spoke through the Apostles is not mentioned in the Symbol of Faith because at the time of its composition no one doubted it.
The Holy Spirit now conveys His gifts to true Christians through the Church of Christ, in prayer and the Holy Mysteries. In the Holy Mysteries the Holy Spirit enlightens the faithful with the light of Christ’s teaching, warms their hearts by love for God and neighbor, and purifies them of every stain of sin.
Jesus Christ called the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) and warned us, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men (Matt. 12:31).
"Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is conscious and hardened opposition to the truth, because the Spirit is truth (I John 5:6). Conscious and hardened resistance to the truth leads man away from humility and repentance, and without repentance there can be no forgiveness. That is why the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit cannot be forgiven, since one who does not acknowledge his sin does not seek to have it forgiven.
The Holy Spirit was revealed to people in visible form at the Baptism of the Lord in the form of a dove, and on the day of Pentecost when He descended to the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire. He appeared also as a cloud of light in the Old Testament and at the Transfiguration of Christ.
The Ninth Article of the Creed.
9. In one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
The ninth article of the Creed speaks about the Church of Christ, which Jesus Christ founded on earth for the sanctification of sinful people and for their reconciliation with God.
The Church is called a union of all Orthodox Christians, living and dead, for He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him (Luke 20:38), united among themselves in faith and Christian love, by its hierarchy and by its sacraments.
Each individual Orthodox Christian is a member or a part of the Church. When we say that we believe in one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Church is understood to include all people who confess one and the same Orthodox Faith. It does not only mean the building where we go to pray to God and which is also called the church of God. Jesus Christ entrusted the visible construction and government of the Church to the Apostles, and then to their successors, the bishops, and through them He invisibly rules the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is the true Head of the Church, and no other head of the Christian Church exists or ever will. Jesus Christ is Head, and the Church is the spiritual body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23).
The holy Apostle Paul says, For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit (I Cor. 12:12-13). Thus, ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (I Cor. 12:27). He (Jesus Christ) gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (the Church) (Eph. 4:11-12).
Jesus Christ said that His Church is invincible and will endure forever. I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matt. 28:20).
The truth of God, His teaching, is preserved in the one Church of Christ, ...the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). Jesus Christ said, But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26) that the Holy Spirit may abide with you forever (John 14:16).
He who obeys the Church, obeys Christ Himself, and he who does not obey, but rejects her, rejects also the Lord Himself. If one does not obey the Church, let him be to you like as a heathen man, and a publican, said the Lord Himself (Matt. 18:17).
The Church of Christ is one, because it is one spiritual body, has one head, Christ, and is inspired by one Spirit (cf. Eph. 4:4-6). It has one goal, the sanctification of people, and everywhere the same teachings of God, and the same sacraments. Therefore, the Church cannot fall into ruin or become divided. Heretics may fall from Her or become separated from Her; they then cease to be members of the Church. The Church by their action does not cease to be united. The Church obliges all of us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:5).
The existence of geographical divisions of the Orthodox Church, such as Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Russia and others, does not violate the unity of the Church of Christ at all. For they all are revealed to be members of one body, One Universal Church of Christ. They all confess the same faith, and have prayers and sacraments in common.
The Church of Christ is Holy, because it is sanctified by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, through His suffering, with His divine teachings and with the Holy Sacraments established by Him, in which the Grace of the Holy Spirit is given to the faithful. Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify it... (Eph. 5:25-26).
The sanctity of the Church is not violated by Christians when they sin because they can always cleanse themselves through the Mystery of Repentance. If someone remains unrepentant, then he visibly or invisibly withdraws from the Church.
The Church of Christ is Catholic. Catholicity is the unity of all believing Orthodox Christians, united in truth by the love of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church is bound neither by natural boundaries nor time nor by people, and it consists of all true believers everywhere. Therefore it is also called universal.
The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ is furthermore called Apostolic, because the Lord spread it and strengthened it through the holy Apostles. The word Apostolic is essential because the Church uninterruptedly and without change has preserved the Apostolic teaching and the succession of the gift of the Holy Spirit through holy ordination.
The highest visible authority in the Church belongs to the Ecumenical Council. Primacy in the Ecumenical Church is composed of the patriarchs, then of lesser prelates — metropolitans, archbishops and bishops. Local councils, if their decisions are in agreement with the spirit of Orthodoxy as revealed in the past, also have authority.
The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is furthermore called Orthodox (from the Greek, ortho, correct, straight, true, and doxa, glory, worship, in the sense also of dogma, piety, teaching), because, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, It unchanging, correctly and gloriously keeps the teachings of Jesus Christ — so that we may glorify God in a way that pleases Him.
The Tenth Article of the Creed.
10.I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins.
The tenth article of the Creed speaks about the Mystery of Baptism and about the remaining Mysteries.
Jesus Christ, sending His disciples out to preach, said, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and added, Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20). By this the Lord clearly stated that other mysteries had been established by Him.
By sacraments, or mysteries, are meant those holy acts through which the Holy Spirit mysteriously and invisibly confers Grace (the saving power of God) upon man.
The holy Orthodox Church has seven Mysteries: Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Holy Communion, Marriage, Ordination, and Holy Unction.
The Symbol of Faith mentions only Baptism because that Mystery is the door into the Church of Christ. Only those who have been baptized can avail themselves of the other sacraments.
Moreover, at the time of the composition of the Creed, there were quarrels and doubts. For example, some thought that heretics who returned to the Church should be baptized a second time. The Ecumenical Council said that Baptism could be performed only one time for any given person. Therefore it is said — "I confess one Baptism." It is understood that this one Baptism must be performed in the true Church for it to be valid. This is true of all the Mysteries.
The Mystery of Baptism.
The Mystery of Baptism is the sacred act in which the believer in Christ, through threefold bodily immersion in water, while calling upon the name of the Holy Trinity — the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit — is washed of all sin committed by him prior to Baptism and given the grace to fight against the inclination to sin which has become habitual in man since the sin of Adam and Eve. The believer is reborn by the grace of the Holy Spirit into new spiritual life and becomes a member of the Church.
The Mystery of Baptism was established by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He sanctified Baptism by His own example, being baptized by St. John the Baptist. Then, after His Resurrection, He gave the Apostles the commandment: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).
Baptism is necessary for anyone who wishes to be a member of the Church of Christ. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God," said the Lord Himself (John 3:5). To receive Baptism it is necessary to have faith and repentance.
The Orthodox Church baptizes infants on the faith of their parents and godparents. Present at the Baptism are godparents, to whom the faith of the baptized child is entrusted before the Church. When the child grows older, the godparents are obliged to teach him the faith and to endeavor to help the baptized become a true Christian. This is the sacred responsibility of the godparents, and they sin grievously if they neglect their duty. That the gifts of the Spirit are given on the faith of others, we are given proof of in the Gospels, concerning the healing of the cripple: When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee (Mark 2:5).
Sectarians contend that babies should not be baptized and criticize the Orthodox for performing the sacrament for infants. The foundation for the baptism of infants is that Baptism has replaced the Old Testament circumcision, which was done when an infant was eight days old. Christian Baptism is called circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11-12). The Apostles baptized whole families in which without doubt there were children. Babies as well as adults are participants in the sinful inclination inherited from Adam and have need to be cleansed and strengthened against it.
The Lord Himself said, Suffer (let) the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:16).
Thus, Baptism is spiritual birth, and as a person is born once, so also the Sacrament of Baptism is done once, One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph. 4:5).
The Mystery of Chrismation.
Chrismation is the Mystery which bestows the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the believer in order to strengthen him in the Christian spiritual life.
Jesus Christ spoke about the gifts of Grace of the Holy Spirit when He said, He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: For the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:38-39).
The Apostle Paul says, Now He which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest (i.e., pledge or token) of the Spirit in our hearts (II Cor. 1:21-22).
The gifts of Grace of the Holy Spirit are necessary for every believer in Christ. There are furthermore extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit which are conveyed only to certain people, such as prophets, apostles and kings.
The first Apostles accomplished the Mystery of Chrismation through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17; 19:2-6). Then at the end of the first century, the Mystery of Chrismation came to be performed by anointment with holy oil, after the example of the Old Testament Church, as the Apostles themselves were not always able to perform the Mystery through the laying on of hands.
Holy Chrism is special oil that is prepared in a prescribed manner from fragrant substances and is then consecrated.
The first chrism was sanctified by the Apostles themselves and their successors, the bishops. Only bishops may consecrate this chrism. By anointing with the chrism sanctified by the bishops, priests are able to perform the Mystery of Chrismation.
During the performance of the Mystery with the holy chrism, they anoint the following parts of the body with the sign of the Cross, the forehead, eyes, ears, mouth, chest, hands and feet, while pronouncing the words, "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
The Mystery of Confession.
Confession is the Mystery in which the believer admits his sins before God in the presence of a priest and receives through the priest forgiveness of sins as if from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles, and through them to all priests, the power to forgive sins. Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:22-23).
Even John the Baptist, preparing people to receive the Saviour, preached the Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins ... And were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins (Mark 1:4-5).
Having received this power from the Lord, the Apostles performed the Mystery of Confession: And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds (Acts 19:18).
Forgiveness of sins (absolution) by means of confession requires peace with all one’s neighbors, sincere contrition for sins committed, confession, firm determination to correct one’s life, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and hope in His mercy.
In certain cases an "epitimia" (a Greek word meaning "prohibition" or "restriction") is laid on the repenting believer, consisting of some pious act or some deprivation directed at overcoming a sinful habit.
The Mystery of Holy Communion.
Holy Communion is the Mystery in which the faithful Orthodox Christian receives, in the form of bread and wine, the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through this Mystery is united with Christ and becomes a participant in eternal life.
The Mystery of Holy Communion was established by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself at the time of the Mystical Supper, on the evening before His suffering and death. He Himself celebrated the Mystery first. "Jesus took bread, and gave thanks (to God the Father for all His mercy toward mankind), and brake it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, Take, eat; this is My body.’
"And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink ye all of it; For this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ " (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-24; I Cor. 11:23-25).
Then, after establishing the Mystery of Holy Communion, Jesus Christ commanded the disciples to perform it at all times: "This do in remembrance of Me."
In instructing the people, Jesus Christ said, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whosoever eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him (John 6:53-56).
In obedience to the commandments of Christ, the Mystery of Holy Communion is continually celebrated in the Church of Christ and will be continued until the end of the age, during the service known as the Divine Liturgy, when the bread and wine, by the power and the action of the Holy Spirit, is changed into the true body and true blood of Christ.
The bread used for Holy Communion is a single loaf, as all the believers in Christ constitute His one body, the head of which is Christ Himself. For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread, said the Apostle Paul (I Cor. 10:17).
The first Christians received Holy Communion every Sunday. The Church commands us to receive Holy Communion at least once during every fast, and as often as possible.
Preparation for receiving the Mystery of Holy Communion consists of fasting, prayer, reconciliation with all, and then, Confession, that is, cleansing of the conscience in the Mystery of Confession.
The Mystery of Holy Communion, in Greek, is called the Eucharist, which means "thanksgiving."
The Mystery of Marriage.
Marriage is the Mystery during which public vows are made before the priest and the Church by the groom and the bride to be faithful to each other. Their conjugal union is blessed as an image of the spiritual union of Christ with the Church. The Grace of God is requested and given for their mutual assistance, unanimity, and for the blessed procreation and Christian upbringing of children.
Marriage was established by God in Paradise. At the time of the creation of Adam and Eve, God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it (Gen. 1:28).
Jesus Christ sanctified Marriage by His own presence at the wedding in Cana of Galilee and confirmed it as a divine institution by saying, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female (Gen. 1:27). And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and the twain shall be one flesh (Gen. 2:24). Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt. 19:4-6).
The Apostle Paul compares the union of marriage with the union of Christ and the Church (cf. Ephes. 5:22-32).
The union of Jesus Christ with the Church is founded upon the love of Christ for the Church, and on the complete devotion of the Church to the will of Christ. Hence the husband is obliged to love his wife selflessly, and the wife is obliged to voluntarily, lovingly obey her husband.
Husbands, says the Apostle Paul, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it... he that loveth his wife loveth himself (Eph. 5:25,48). Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body (Eph. 5:22-23). Therefore each spouse, husband or wife, is obliged to preserve mutual love and respect, mutual sacrifice and fidelity. Like all Sacraments, Marriage is given to man in order to help him save his soul. If the husband and wife do not live in a Christian manner the Sacrament of Marriage will not save them. Good Christian family life is the source of personal and public good. The family is the foundation of the Church of Christ.
The Mystery of Marriage is not obligatory for all, but individuals who willingly remain unmarried are obliged to lead clean, pure and virgin lives, which, by the teaching of the Word of God, is higher than married life and is one of the greatest spiritual feats (Matt. 19:11-12; I Cor. 7:8,9,26,32,35,37,40).
The Mystery of Ordination.
Ordination is the Mystery in which a duly appointed man, through the laying on of hands by the bishop, receives the Grace of the Holy Spirit, strengthening him for divine service in the Church of Christ as bishop, presbyter (priest), or deacon. This Mystery is performed only for people selected and consecrated to become clergy. The degrees of the clergy are three: deacon, priest, and bishop.
A man ordained deacon receives Grace to assist during the performance of Mysteries. A man ordained priest receives Grace to celebrate the Mysteries. A man ordained bishop receives Grace not only to celebrate the Mysteries, but also to ordain others to celebrate the Mysteries.
The Mystery of Ordination is divinely established. The Apostle Paul testified that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
The Apostles, performing this Mystery under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, raised up deacons, presbyters, and bishops, through the laying on of hands.
The selection and ordination of the first deacons by the Apostles is described in the book of Acts: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them (Acts 6:6).
With regard to the ordination of presbyters it is written, And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on Whom they believed (Acts 14:23).
In the epistles of the Apostle Paul to the bishops Timothy and Titus it is said, Wherefore I put thee (Bishop Timothy) in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands (II Tim 1:6). For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain presbyters in every city, as I had appointed thee (Titus 1:5). Appealing to Timothy, the Apostle Paul says, Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure (I Tim 5:22). Against a presbyter receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses (I Tim 5:19).
The Mystery of Holy Unction.
Holy Unction is the Mystery for the sick in which by anointing with Holy Oil, the Grace of God is invoked for physical and spiritual healing.
From these letters we see that the Apostles reserved to the bishops the power to ordain presbyters through the laying on of hands, and to have jurisdiction over presbyters, deacons, and servers.
The Mystery of Holy Unction is still called in Russian soborovaniye, "the gathering," because several clergymen are called to perform it, although if necessary, it can be done by one priest.
The Mystery comes from the Apostles. Having received from the Lord Jesus Christ power in the time of preaching to heal all the sick and infirm, they anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them (Mark 6:13).
Especially detailed is the account of this Mystery by the Apostle James. 7s any sick among you? Let him call for the presbyters of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James 5:14-15).
The Apostles did not preach anything of their own but taught only that which was commanded them by the Lord and that which was inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul says, But I certify you brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12).
Holy Unction is not given to infants because infants cannot knowingly commit sins.
The Eleventh Article of the Creed.
11. I look for the resurrection of the dead.
The eleventh article of the Creed speaks about the general resurrection of the dead, which will come at the end of the world.
The resurrection of the dead that we look for will occur at the same time as the second and glorious coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. At that time all the bodies of the dead will be united with their souls, and they will come to life.
Faith in the resurrection of the dead was expressed as early as Abraham, at the time of the sacrifice of his son Isaac (cf. Heb. 11:17); by Job in the midst of his extreme suffering, For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God (Job 19:25-26); the Prophet Isaiah, Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah 26:19).
The Prophet Ezekiel contemplated the resurrection of the dead in a vision of a field strewn with dry bones. By the will of the Holy Spirit the bones came together, bone to bone, became covered with flesh, and the breath of the Spirit came into them (Ezekiel 37).
Jesus Christ speaks about the resurrection of the dead more than once, Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live (John 5:25). Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29). Whosoever eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:54).
In answering the questions of the unbelieving Sadducees about the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ said, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither many, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matt. 22:29-32).
The Apostle Paul says, But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (I Cor. 15:20-22).
At the moment of the general resurrection the bodies of dead people shall be changed. In essence, the bodies will be the same as we now have, but in quality they will excel our present bodies. They will be spiritual, incorruptible and immortal. Changed also will be the bodies of those people who are alive at the time of the second coming of the Saviour. The Apostle Paul says: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body ... we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (I Cor. 15:44, 51-52).
Corresponding to the change in man himself, all the visible world will change. From the corruptible it will turn into the incorruptible.
The souls of people who died before the general resurrection exist under differing conditions. The souls of the righteous will experience a foretaste of eternal blessedness, and the souls of sinners a foretaste of eternal torment. The state of the souls of the dead is determined at the particular judgment, which takes place after the death of each person. This is clearly evident from the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ about the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Luke 16:19-31). The Apostle Paul also points this out when he says, Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better (Philip. 1:23,24).
Death has great significance in the life of every man. It is the demarcation point by which the time of preparation is ended and the time of reward is begun. But as this particular judgment is not final, the souls of sinful people who died with faith in Christ and repentance are able, to receive relief from suffering beyond the grave and even be completely delivered from it by the prayers of the Church, augmented by works of charity done for them by the living, and especially by commemorating them in the bloodless sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. For this purpose the Orthodox Church established commemoration of the dead, which has been performed regularly since Apostolic times. Commemoration of the dead comprises one of the main parts of the Divine Liturgy. This is evident from the first Christian Liturgy of the Apostle James.
The Apostle John says, If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He (God) shall give him life (I John 5:16).
The Apostle Paul in his epistle to Bishop Timothy writes, I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (I Tim. 2:1-4).
The Apostle James says, Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).
If we should pray for the living, then we should also pray for the dead, because to God there are no dead. To God all are living. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him (Luke 20:38).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians, For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8).
Even in the Old Testament it was the custom to pray for the dead. Thus, for example, the Prophet Baruch prayed for the dead saying, Lord Almighty, God of Israel! Hear the prayer of the dead of Israel and of their sons who sinned before Thee... Do not bring to remembrance the unrighteousness of our fathers (Baruch 3:4-5). Judas Maccabaeus prayed and brought offerings for dead soldiers (II Mace. 12:39-45). Thus, teachings about prayer for the dead are founded upon Holy Scriptures as well as Holy Tradition.
Discussion of the General Resurrection of the Dead.
The truth of the general resurrection of the dead is clearly and definitively revealed in the Holy Scriptures. It also flows from the fundamental powers of our immortal souls, and from our understanding of an Eternal, Omnipresent and All-righteous God.
As early as the Old Testament, the righteous had faith in the general resurrection of the dead on the basis of Divine Revelation (Job 19:25-26; Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37; Daniel 12:2; Mace. 7:9 and others).
In general, all of the righteous people in the Old testament considered themselves strangers and pilgrims on this earth and sought the Heavenly Fatherland (Heb. 11:13-20).
Through the Prophet Hosea the Lord said, I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, Where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? repentance shall be hid from Mine eyes (Hosea 13:14).
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ preaches about the resurrection of the dead clearly and definitely: Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live... they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:25,29).
The Saviour affirms the teaching of the resurrection by the Mystery of Holy Communion. Whosoever eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:54).
When the Saviour speaks about the purpose of His advent on earth, He points out eternal life specifically. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:15-16).
During His stay on earth the Saviour raised the dead, and He Himself rose from the dead, becoming, according to the words of the Apostle Paul, the firstfruits of them that slept (I Cor. 15:20).
The Apostle placed the truth of the resurrection of the dead above all doubt and contended that it is intimately connected with the resurrection of Christ and with all the teaching in the Gospels. Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also in vain... If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (I Cor. 15:12-20).
Besides that, the Apostle Paul points out the natural phenomenon in nature which convinces us of the truth of the resurrection. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain; it may of chance be wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body... So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body (I Cor. 15:35-44).
The Lord Himself said, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12:24). Nature itself shows us this marvelous, authentic phenomenon. A kernel, thrown on the ground decomposes, decays, rots — and then what? Is that all that occurs? No, not at all! From it begins growth. It grows into ears with new grains, despite the fact that it appeared to be reduced to dust. Is not this marvel worthy of our attention? Is it not obvious that this witnesses to the fact that the Omniscient Creator through death lays the beginning of life, and out of ruin creates new being?
Thus, the mystery of the resurrection of the dead is always before our eyes. It is evident to us in nature, and strengthens our faith, and denounces our skepticism.
But, in spite of this, the question may occur in our soul, "How can the dead be raised, when the body of the dead turns into dust and is destroyed?" If Almighty God gave us existence once from a handful of earth, then obviously He can take the handful of earth a second time and reanimate it. If God brought forth the whole world from chaos; if He created it from nothing, then is it possible that He is unable to form our bodies anew from a handful of earth, and give us the same bodies as before, only in a renewed form?
Figuratively, the Lord already showed the Prophet the mystery of our resurrection from the dead. He was shown a vision of a field strewn with the dry bones of men. From these bones, by the word of God uttered by the Son of man, the figures of men were formed and, perhaps by the same capability as existed at the primeval creation of man, the Spirit reanimated them. By the word of the Lord, as dictated to the Prophet, first movement occurred in the bones, bone became joined to bone, each according to its place; then the bones became bound with tendons, clothed with flesh, and covered with skin. Finally, upon the second sound of the voice of God, pronounced by the Son of man, the spirit of life came forth in them. They all began to live, stood on their feet, and they constituted a great multitude of people (Ezek. 37:1-10). Will not the future resurrection of the dead follow likewise? Wonderful indeed are the works of God! Marvelous is the holy faith that we profess!
Thus, by the righteous determination of God, our frail body, like a seed, is condemned to die at first. It decays to dust, and then rises again. The place where the dead are interred is in essence a cornfield, in which our bodies are sown by the hand of death, like seeds. The earth, our mother, is a stronghold, where in the midst of decay, our immortality is kept. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body (I Cor. 15:44).
God did not condemn us to death in order to obliterate His creation, but in order to recreate it, to make it capable of future imperishable life.
It remains for us people to reverently submit to the wise judgment of God, to accept with faith Divine Revelation about our fate, and to look with Christian hope for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. (Taken from the book Lessons and Examples of Christian Faith, and other books by Archpriest Gregory Diachenko.).
The Twelfth Article of the Creed.
12. And (look for) the life of the age to come. Amen.
The twelfth article of the Creed mentions the life of the future age; that is, the eternal life which will begin after the general resurrection of the dead, the renewal of the whole world, and Christ’s judgment over all.
For righteous people, eternal life will be so joyful and blessed that in our present state we are not even able to describe it. The Apostle Paul says, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him (I Cor. 2:9).
This understanding of the blessedness of the righteous arises from visions of God in light and glory, and from union with Him. In Paradise, the souls of the righteous will be united with bodies which will be illumined with the light of God as the body of the Lord Jesus Christ was at the time of His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.
The Apostle Paul writes, It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory (I Cor. 15:43).
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:43).
The states of the righteous will be in various degrees of blessedness, corresponding to the virtue of each. The Apostle Paul said, There is one glory of the sun, and another of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:41-42).
For unbelievers and unrepentant sinners life in the future age will be one of eternal torment. The Lord says to them, Depart from Me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels ... and these shall go away into everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:41,46).
This torment of sinners will proceed from their estrangement from God, from the clear realization of their sins, from severe pangs of conscience, from having to stay among evil spirits where the eternal, unquenchable fire burns.
What is this unquenchable fire? The Word of God does not define it, but uses the term to portray the inexplicable, inexpressible torment of hell.
Thus punishment of sinners will not be because God wants them destroyed, but they themselves perish because they did not accept the love of truth for their salvation (II Thess. 2:10).
The Creed is concluded with the word "Amen," which means "truly" or "so be it." By saying this word after the Creed, we attest to the fact that all that is stated therein we acknowledge to be undoubtedly and invariably true.
5. Christian Life.
Genuine good Christian life may be led only by those who have faith in Christ and who strive to live by this faith; that is, those who by their good works fulfill the will of God. Good works are an expression of our love, and love is the foundation of all Christian life. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him (John 4:16). For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Thus God by this act revealed His love to mankind.
Love which is not accompanied by good works is not true love, but is merely lip service. That is why the Word of God says, Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 7:21). For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).
Furthermore we have received from God special means for discerning good deeds from evil. The means are the internal law of God, or conscience, and the external law of God, or the His commandments of God.
The word conscience denotes the internal, spiritual strength of a man, or the manifestation of the soul of a man. The conscience, as the internal law of God ("voice of God"), is present in every person.
The conscience is the internal voice which tells us what is good and what is evil, what is proper and what is improper, what is righteous and what is not. The voice of the conscience obligates us to do good and to shun evil. For every thing good the conscience rewards us with internal peace and calm. For everything wrong, incorrect, improper, or evil, the conscience judges and punishes so that a person acting against the conscience feels himself in moral discord, tormented by pangs of conscience.
But the conscience, as the spiritual strength of a man, requires development and improvement along with the other spiritual faculties of a man, namely, with his mind, heart, and will. The mind, heart, and will of man have become darkened from the time of Adam and Eve. From that time the voice of conscience has been shown to be weak and insufficient as a manifestation of spiritual strength. If man does not develop spiritual strength in himself, then the internal voice of conscience in man falls asleep by degrees and dies, as in a "man without conscience."
From this it is clear that the internal law of conscience alone is not enough for man. Even in Paradise God revealed His will to the first people. It follows that in order to exist in an innocent, righteous state, it is necessary for a man to have the external law from God. Even more so is it needed as a result of the fall from Grace.
In order that man would always remain in "fear of his conscience," the Lord God gave us the external law, the commandments of God.
This law was given in its simplest form in Old Testament times, when Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai. The most important Ten Commandments were written on two stone tablets. These commandments were made more profound and lofty in the Saviour’s Sermon on the Mount, in His nine points known as the Beatitudes. But the Lord also confirmed that the Old Testament Ten Commandments were to be known and fulfilled.
The Saviour said, Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets: lam not come to destroy but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17).
When a young man asked, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? — the Lord answered right away, // thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments (Matt. 19:16-17).
However, the Lord taught that these commandments, according to His interpretation, must be kept to a high degree of perfection. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ suggests that believers should not only shun transgression of the Law, but should not even think about it or desire it, thus requiring from them a more clean heart.
The Ten Commandments of the Law were arranged on two tablets because they legislate two aspects of love: love for God and love for neighbor.
Indicating these two aspects of love, the Lord Jesus Christ in answering the question, Which is the greatest commandment in the Law? said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets (Matt. 22:37-40).
To love God is our first and most important obligation, because He is our Creator, Provider, and Saviour. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Then follows the obligation to love our neighbor, which serves as an expression of our love for God. Whoever does not love his neighbor does not love God. The Apostle John the Theologian explains, If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (I John 4:20).
By loving God and neighbor we discover true love for ourself, because true love for ourself consists in fulfilling our obligations towards God and neighbor. It is expressed in care for one’s soul, in cleansing oneself of sin, in subordinating the body to the spirit, in limiting our personal necessities. We must guard our health and care for the development of our spiritual strength and capacities in order to manifest our love to God and neighbor.
By this concept, love of ourself is shown not to be a detriment to our neighbor. On the contrary, we owe love to ourselves in order to bring sacrificial love to our neighbor. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (his neighbors) (John 15:13). Love toward ourself and love toward our neighbor must be offered as a sacrifice of love to God. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks about this thus: He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross (i.e., who, from all his superfluous burdens of life, refuses the suffering and trials which the Lord sends, but instead goes the easy path of wickedness) and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me (Matt. 10:37-38).
If a man first of all loves God, then naturally he cannot fail to love father and mother and children and all his neighbors; and this love is sanctified by Divine Grace. If a man loves anyone of these without loving God, then such love may even be criminal, as, for example, when a man for the happiness of a beloved friend might deprive others of their happiness, treat them unjustly, cruelly, etc.
Thus, although all the commandments and the Law of God are contained in two commandments of love, in order to more clearly show us our obligations to God and neighbor, they are further broken down into the Ten Commandments. Our obligations to God are described in the first four commandments, and our obligations to our neighbor — in the last six commandments.
The First Commandment of the Law of God.
I. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me.
The first commandment of the Lord God asserts His existence and admonishes us to honor Him, the One true God. We must not render divine homage to anyone but Him. That is, we must study what is written by God and about Him, or theology.
Theology is the highest branch of knowledge. It is our first and most important obligation. All scholarly human knowledge loses its true meaning, its underlying idea and purpose, if it is not illumined by the light of theology. Instead of good, such knowledge leads to a life of much evil.
In order to acquire knowledge of the true God, we must:
1. Read and thoroughly study the Holy Scriptures, which convey to us true and most perfect knowledge of God.
2. Read the works of the Holy Fathers and teachers of the Church, which is necessary in order to understand the Holy Scriptures rightly and to guard oneself from incorrect interpretations and thinking.
3. Frequently attend church, because in the church services are contained lessons about God and His works.
4. Listen to the sermons of the priest and read books of religious and moral content.
5. Study the works of God — nature, as well as the story of the race of man, which reveal to us God’s marvelous plan.
This commandment imposes on us definite obligations of worship. We must:
1. Believe in God, that is, have the most sincere and firm conviction of His existence.
2. Walk before the Lord, that is, always be conscious of God and do everything as before the eyes of God (behave carefully), and always remember that God sees not only our deeds but also our thoughts.
3. Place our hope in God, love God, and obey God. Always be ready to do what He commands and not grumble when He does not do for us as we ourselves would like. In fact, only God knows when and what to give to us, and what is profitable and what is harmful to us.
The highest form of love of God is respect, or fear of God — fear to become estranged from God because of our sins.
4. Do homage to God, glorify and give thanks to the Lord God, our Creator, Provider and Saviour, remembering all His gifts and mercy to us.
5. Fearlessly confess God before all. Acknowledge that He is our God, and do not abandon the faith even though this confession might bring suffering and even death.
Sins against the first commandment are:
1. Atheism — when people completely reject the existence of God. Such people the Prophet David calls fools. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God (Ps.l3:l).
2. Polytheism — when instead of the One true God, people acknowledge many imaginary gods.
3. Unbelief — when people, while acknowledging the existence of God, do not believe in His Divine Providence and Revelation. This unbelief often comes from incorrect education and upbringing, from pride and conceit, from enthusiasm for evil examples, from careless regard for the guidance of the Church, and from a sinful life.
4. Heresy — when people imagine or invent teachings contrary to God’s truth, or stubbornly and intentionally distort the truth of God.
5. Schism — self-willed deviation from the union of Divine worship, from union with the Orthodox Church.
6. Apostasy — when people disavow the true faith, fearing such things as persecution and mockery; or from enthusiasm for false teachings.
7. Despair — when people, forgetting the endless mercy of God, do not hope to receive from God help and salvation. Horrible examples of despair occur in cases of suicide.
8. Sorcery (witchery) — when people, abandoning faith in the power of God, turn to various occult and evil powers.
9. Superstition — when people believe in some ordinary thing or occurrence, attributing supernatural powers to it.
10. Laziness in prayer and in all pious deeds.
11. Love for creatures, including people, more than for God.
12. Flattery — when people care more about pleasing other people than pleasing God.
13. Self-sufficiency — when people hope more in themselves or in other people than in the mercy and help of God.
The commandment of God does not contradict our obligation to venerate angels and saints of God and to pray to them. We honor them not as God Himself, but as faithful servants of God, who are obedient and who lead God-pleasing lives. The angels and saints of God are close to God and are able to intercede on our behalf. We must ask their help and defense in firm trust that the Lord, for their sake, quickly hears our sinful prayers. The Word of God says, Pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him (Luke 20:38).
The Second Commandment of the Law of God.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.
The second commandment of the Lord God prohibits idolatry, that is, forbids making any idols for worship, or rendering homage to likenesses of anything that we see in heaven (sun, moon, stars), or that is found on earth (plants, animals, people), or found in the waters (fish). The Lord forbids worshipping and serving these idols instead of the true God, as pagans do.
In forbidding worship of idols, one must never be confused about the Orthodox veneration of holy icons and relics. Protestants and various sectarians criticize us for "worshipping them." But in venerating holy icons we do not consider them gods or idols. They are only likenesses, representations of God, or of the angels or of the saints. The word icon comes from the Greek and means likeness. In venerating icons and praying before icons, we do not pray to the material icons (the paint, wood or metal), but to the saint who is represented thereon.
Everyone knows how much easier it is to turn one’s thoughts to the Saviour when he sees His Most-pure Image or His Cross, than when he sees only empty walls, or a bookcase.
Holy icons are given to us for venerating the memory of the acts of God and His saints and for devoted elevation of our thoughts to God and His saints. Veneration of icons warms our hearts with love for our Creator and Saviour. Holy icons are similar to the Holy Scriptures, except that they are written with faces and objects instead of letters.
Even in the Old Testament icons were used. At the same time that Moses received the commandment forbidding idols, he received from God instructions to place in the Tabernacle, the mobile Hebrew temple, holy gold icons of Cherubim on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord said to Moses, Make them in the two ends of the mercy seat... and there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat from between the two Cherubim which are upon the Ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel (Exod. 25:18,22). The Lord also ordered Moses to make likenesses of cherubim on the veil separating the Sanctuary from the Holy of Holies; and on the interior side of the veil covering, a fine cloth of ancient times, thought to have been made of linen, fine wool, cotton or silk, which covered not only the top but the sides of the Tabernacle (cf. Exod. 26:1-37).
In Solomon’s Temple there were sculptured and embroidered icons of Cherubim on all the walls and on the Temple veil (cf. I Kings 6:27-29; II Chron. 3:7-14). The Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant were consecrated (cf. II Chron. 3:10). When the Temple was ready, the glory of the Lord (in the form of a cloud) filled the temple (I Kings 8:11). The likenesses of the Cherubim were pleasing to the Lord, and the people, looking at them, prayed and worshipped.
There were no icons of the Lord God in the Tabernacle or in the Temple of Solomon, because He had not yet revealed Himself in the flesh as God incarnate. There were no likenesses of the Old Testament righteous men, because the people had not yet been redeemed and justified (Rom. 3:9,25; Matt. 11:11).
The Lord Jesus Christ sent a miraculous icon of His Face to King Abgar of Edessa. It was known as the Icon-Not-Made-By-Hands. Praying before the Icon-Not-Made-By-Hands of Christ, Abgar was healed of an incurable illness. The Evangelist Luke was a physician and an artist. He painted and left for posterity icons of the Mother of God. Several of them are found in Russia and in Greece.
Many holy icons have been glorified by miracles.
Likenesses of animals or even of the Devil do not defile a holy icon if they are necessary to depict an event necessary for visual instruction. As is known, mention of them in writing does not defile the Holy Scriptures.
Nor does veneration of holy relics contradict the second commandment. In the holy relics we honor the Grace of God, which acts through the remains of the saints.
For Christians, idolatry in the form handed down to us from pagans is impossible. However, instead of uncivilized idolatry, there exist among us much more subtle forms of idolatry, such idolatry as worship of sinful passions like greed, gluttony, pride, vanity, lust and so on.
Covetousness (greed) is the desire to acquire wealth. The Apostle Paul says that covetousness... is idolatry (Col. 3:5). For the rich man love of gain is an idol which he serves and worships more than God.
Gluttony consists of love of dainty dishes and drunkenness. The Apostle Paul says about people who put the feeling of satisfaction for food and drink as the highest thing in life, that their god is their belly (Philip. 3:19).
Pride and Vanity. The proud and vain man has an excessively high opinion of his worth, his intelligence, beauty, and wealth. The vain man considers only himself. He considers his ideas and wishes higher than the will of God. He regards the opinions and advice of other people with contempt and derision, but his own ideas he does not reject, no matter how false they may be. The greedy and vain person makes an idol of himself, both for himself and for others.
By prohibiting these lesser idols, the second commandment inspires the following virtues in their place: unacquisitiveness, generosity, self-denial, fasting, and humility.
The Third Commandment of the Law of God.
3. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
The third commandment forbids us to pronounce the name of God in vain, without due reverence. One uses the name of God in vain when one pronounces it in empty conversation, in jest and in sport.
Forbidding the use of God’s name thoughtlessly or disrespectfully, this commandment forbids the sins which come from thoughtlessness and irreverence in regard to God. Among such sins are:
Swearing — thoughtless, habitual oaths in casual conversation;
Blasphemy — audacious words against God;
Sacrilege — when people scoff or jest at sacred things;
Breaking promises given to God;
Perjury (oath breaking);
Making false oaths by the name of God.
The name of God must be pronounced with awe and reverence, in prayer, in studies about God, and in lawful vows and oaths.
Reverent, lawful vows are not forbidden by this commandment. God Himself used an oath about which the Apostle Paul reminisces in his epistle to the Hebrews: For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath (Heb. 6:16-17).
The Fourth Commandment of the Law of God.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.
The fourth commandment of the Lord God directs that six days be spent in labor and devoted to duties such as one’s vocation, but that the seventh day be devoted to the service of God, for holy work and acts pleasing to God.
Holy works and acts pleasing to God are understood to be: work for the salvation of one’s soul, prayer both in church and at home, study of the commandments of God, enlightenment of the mind and heart by wholesome learning, reading of the Holy Scriptures and other spiritually helpful books, pious conversation, helping the poor, visiting the sick and prisoners, comforting the grieving, and other good deeds.
In the Old Testament, the Sabbath (which in Hebrew means rest, peace) is celebrated on the seventh day of the week, Saturday, in remembrance of God’s creation of the world (on the seventh day God rested from acts of creation). In the New Testament, at the time of the Apostles, it began to be celebrated on the first day of the week, Sunday, in remembrance of the resurrection of Christ.
In the category of the seventh day it is necessary to include not only the day of the Resurrection, but also other feast days and fasts established by the Church. In the Old Testament the Sabbath also included other feasts: Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, etc.
The most important Christian feast day is called "The Feast of Feasts" and "The Triumph of Triumphs," the Bright Resurrection of Christ, called Holy Pascha (Easter), which occurs on the first Sunday after the spring full moon, after the Jewish Passover, in the period between the 22nd of March (April 4th new style) and the 25th of April (May 8th, new style).
Then follow the twelve great feasts established to honor our Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother, the Holy Virgin Mary:
Of the remaining feast days, some of the most important are:
The Circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ, January 1 (14, n.s.).
The Protection of the Mother of God, October 1 (14, n.s.).
The Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, October 22 (November 4, n.s.).
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24 (July 7, n.s.).
The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, August 29 (September 11, n.s.).
The feast of the Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, June 29 (July 12, n.s.).
The Apostle John the Theologian, May 8 (May 21 n.s). and September 26 (October 9, n.s.).
The feasts of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, May 9 (May 22, n.s). and December 6 (19, n.s.).
Fasts established by the Church are:
1. The Great Fast, before Pascha.
The Fast lasts for seven weeks: six weeks are the fast itself and the seventh week is Holy Week — in remembrance of the suffering of Christ the Saviour.
2. Nativity Fast, before the feast day of Nativity, the birth of Christ.
It begins on the 14th of November (27, n.s.), the day after commemorating the Apostle Philip and is therefore sometimes called the fast of St. Philip. The fast lasts for forty days.
3. Dormition Fast, before the feast day of the Dormition of the Mother of God.
It lasts for two weeks, from the 1st of August (August 14, n.s). until August 14 (27, n.s.).
4. The Apostles’ or Peter’s Fast, before the feast day of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
It begins one week after Trinity Sunday (Pentecost) and continues until the 29th of June (July 12, n.s.). Its length is determined by whether Pascha is early or late. The longest it can be is six weeks, and the shortest is a week and one day.
One day fasts:
1. Nativity Eve — the day before the Birth of Christ, 24th of December (January 6, n.s.). An especially strict fast during the Nativity Fast. Customarily, one does not eat until the appearance of the first star, and then only strict lenten food, no meat, fish or dairy products.
2. The Eve of the Theophany — the day before the Baptism of the Lord, the 6th of January (January 19, n.s.).
3. The day of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, 29th of August (September 11, n.s.).
4. The day of the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord, in commemoration of the finding of the Cross of the Lord, 14th of September (September 27, n.s.).
5. Wednesdays and Fridays of every week. Wednesday — in remembrance of the betrayal of the Saviour by Judas. Friday — in remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.
There is no fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays in the following weeks: in Bright Week, the week of Pascha; in the interval between Christmas and Theophany; in the week of the Holy Trinity (from Pentecost until the beginning of Peter’s fast), in the week of the Publican and the Pharisee (before the Great Fast); and in Cheese-fare week immediately preceding the Great Fast, when dairy products, but not meat, are allowed.
At the time of the fasts it is especially necessary to resolve to cleanse oneself of all bad habits and passions such as anger, envy, lust and enmity. One must refrain from a dissipating, carefree life, from games, from shows and spectacles, from dancing. One must not read books which give rise to impure thoughts and desires in the soul. One must not eat meat or dairy products, since according to the experience of the Saints these foods strengthen our passions and make it more difficult to pray, but only permitted fasting foods such as vegetables, and when permitted, fish, and only making use of these foods in moderation. During a fast of many days one should have confession and receive Holy Communion.
Those who break the fourth commandment are those who are lazy on the first six days, doing no work, as well as those who work on a holy day.
No less guilty are those who may cease worldly pursuits and work, but who spend the time in amusements and games, who indulge in pleasure and drunkenness, not thinking about serving God. Especially sinful is indulging in distractions the evening before a feast day, when we should be at the Vigil, and in the morning, after the Liturgy. For Orthodox Christians a feast day begins in the evening when the All-night Vigil is served. To devote this time to dancing, movies, or other diversions instead of prayer, is to make a mockery of the feast day.
The Fifth Commandment of the Law of God.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother that it may be well with thee and that thy days may be long on the earth.
The fifth commandment of the Lord God orders us to honor our parents and for this promises a happy and long life. To honor parents means to love them, to be respectful toward them, to refrain from offending them by either word or act, to obey them, to help them in labor, to care for them when they are in need, especially when they are sick and old, and also to pray for them to God both during this life and when they die. Disrespect toward a parent is a great sin. In the Old Testament, anyone who slandered his father or his mother was punished by death (Mark 7:10; Exod. 21:17).
We must also give equal honor to those persons who have authority over us as parents to us. Among such people are pastors and spiritual fathers, laboring for our salvation, instructing us in the faith and praying for us; government officials, who work for our domestic tranquility and defend us against oppression and plundering; teachers and benefactors, who try to teach us and provide everything that is good and useful to us; and in general, our elders, having much experience in life and who therefore can give us good advice. It is a sin not to respect our elders, especially those in old age. It is a sin to regard their experience with distrust, indifference, and sometimes to refer to their remarks and instruction with derision, to consider them "backward" people, and to consider that their view is outmoded, has served its time. Even in the Old Testament the Lord said through Moses, Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God (Lev. 19:32).
But if it happens that parents or superiors require of one something that goes against our faith and the Law of God, then one must say to them, as the Apostles said to the leaders of the Jews: Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye (Acts 4:19). Then one must suffer for the faith and the Law of God no matter what happens.
The Sixth Commandment of the Law of God.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
The sixth commandment of the Lord God forbids murder, taking the lives of other people, or taking one’s own life (suicide).
Life is the greatest gift of God. Therefore, to deprive oneself or someone else of life is a most terrible, grave, and enormous sin. Suicide is the most terrible of all sins committed against the sixth commandment, because in suicide, besides the sin of killing, there is also the grave sin of despair, grumbling against God, and insolent uprising against the
Providence of God. Furthermore, suicide precludes the possibility of repentance.
A person is guilty of murder even if he kills another person accidentally, without thinking. Such a murder is a grievous sin, because in this case the murderer is guilty due to his carelessness.
A person is guilty of murder even when he does not commit the murder himself, but promotes the murder or allows someone else to do it. For example:
Other sins against the sixth commandment are: wishing that someone were dead, not rendering help to the indigent and sick, not living with other people in peace and concord, but on the contrary, maintaining hatred, envy, and malice towards others, instigating quarrels, brawls, and distress among others. Sin against the sixth commandment is doing anything which injures the weak, children in particular. The Gospel of Christ says, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer (I John 3:15).
Besides physical killing, there is yet a more terrible and accountable murder: spiritual killing. Among the sins of spiritual murder is seduction. That is, when one leads astray or seduces his neighbor into unbelief or into a life of vice, and by this renders the soul of his neighbor liable to spiritual death.
The Saviour said, But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea... woe to that man by whom the offense comethl (Matt. 18:6-7).
In order to avoid sin against the sixth commandment, Christians must help the poor, serve the sick, comfort the sorrowful, lighten the conditions of the unfortunate, with everyone be kind and loving, reconcile themselves with anyone who has grown angry, forgive offenses, do good to enemies, and refrain from harmful examples, either by word or deed, especially before children.
It is impossible to equate criminal murder with the killing that occurs in battle. War is a great social evil, but at the same time war is an enormous catastrophe permitted by the Lord for a lesson and correction of people, just as He permits epidemics, starvation, fires, and other misfortunes. Therefore, killing in a war is not viewed by the Church as a particular sin of man. Furthermore, every soldier should be ready, according to the commandment of Christ, to "lay down his life for his friends," for the defense of his faith and his homeland.
Among the military there are many saints glorified by miracles.
However, even in war it is possible to be guilty of murder, when, for example, a soldier kills someone who has surrendered, or when a soldier allows brutality, etc.
Capital punishment of a criminal applies also to social ills and is a great evil. But it is allowed in exceptional cases when according to justice, it appears that it alone can stop a multitude of murders and crimes. But in terms of justice, the administrators carrying out the execution answer before God. Capital punishment of hardened criminals is often the only means by which they will be brought to repentance. Note that without the will of God, not a hair would fall from anyone’s head.
The Seventh Commandment of the Law of God.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
The seventh commandment forbids adultery, that is, unfaithfulness to one’s spouse and all unlawful lust.
God forbids a husband and a wife to break the bonds of mutual faith and love. Of the unmarried, God requires pure thoughts and desires, to be chaste in word and deed, in thought and desire.
In order to do this it is necessary to avoid everything that could give rise to unclean feelings in the heart: obscenity, immodest and shameless songs and dances, suggestive plays, movies, and pictures, immoral books, drunkenness, etc.
God’s word commands us to maintain our bodies in purity, because our body is a member of the body of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. Fornicators, and all who indulge in lustful acts or imagination sin against their own bodies, they weaken the health of their body, inflict illness upon it and impair its spiritual capability, especially imagination and memory.
The Eighth Commandment of the Law of God.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
There are many forms of stealing:
Forbidding every form of taking property of a neighbor, this commandment instructs us to be unmercenary, honest, industrious, merciful and truthful. In order to avoid sin against this commandment, one must love one’s neighbor as much as oneself, and not do anything to him that he would not like to have done to himself.
The highest virtue inspired by the eighth commandment is complete poverty, renunciation of all property. But God does not obligate everyone to this virtue. He proposes it only to those who wish to attain high moral perfection. If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven (Matt. 19:21).
Many spiritual heroes have followed the advice of this Gospel passage: St. Anthony the Great, St. Paul of Thebes, St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, and many others.
The Ninth Commandment of the Law of God.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
The ninth commandment of the Lord God forbids us to speak falsehoods about our neighbor, and in general forbids all lies. For example:
Repugnant to Christians are even those little white lies which are not intended to cause harm to a neighbor. Lying is not becoming to the calling of a Christian and not in harmony with love and consideration for one’s neighbor. The Apostle Paul says, Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another (Eph. 4:25).
It is never appropriate to blame or judge others, if we have not been specifically required to do so because of the responsibility of our position or duty. Judge not that ye be not judged, says the Saviour.
It is necessary to keep in mind that judging, reproach, and mockery will not reform a neighbor; only love, tolerance, and good harmony will. It is also necessary to always bear in mind that each of us has many weaknesses and faults.
One must always keep a restraint on his tongue. One must speak only the truth and curb oneself from disparaging remarks and idle chatter. Speech is a gift of God. Jesus Christ said, But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (Matt. 12:36-37).
The Tenth Commandment of the Law of God.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his land, nor his manservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.
The tenth commandment of the Lord God forbids not only doing something bad to someone near us, but also forbids even bad desires and thoughts in connection with them.
The sin against this commandment is called envy. A person who is envious, who entertains the idea of wanting something that belongs to someone else, can pass from the desire to the evil deed.
But beyond this, envy in itself can defile the soul, rendering it impure before God, as it is stated in the Word of God, The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 15:26, Wis. of Sol. 2:25).
One of the main tasks of true Christianity is to cleanse one’s soul of all impurity, in accordance with the admonition of the Apostle, Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Cor. 7:1).
In order to avoid sin against the tenth commandment, it is necessary to maintain a pure heart, free of any earthly attachment, free of all wicked thoughts and desires, and to be satisfied with that which one has, to thank God for it, never to desire anything that is anyone else’s, but to rejoice for others in what they have.
7. The Nine Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes, or the commandments of blessedness, given us by the Saviour, do not in anyway annul the commandments of the Law. On the contrary, these commandments complement each other.
The Ten Commandments of the Law are restricted to prohibiting those acts which would be sinful. The Beatitudes explain to us how we may attain Christian perfection or grace.
The Ten Commandments were given in Old Testament times to restrain wild, primitive people from evil. The Beatitudes are given to Christians to show them what disposition to have in order to draw closer and closer to God, to acquire holiness, and together with that, blessedness, which is the highest degree of happiness.
Holiness, arising from proximity to God, is the loftiest blessedness, the greatest happiness that anyone could possibly desire.
The Old Testament Law is a strict code of righteousness, but the New Testament law of Christ is the law of Divine love and grace, the only means by which people are given the strength to live in full observance of the Law of God and to approach perfection.
Jesus Christ, calling us to the eternal Kingdom of God, shows us the way to it through fulfillment of His commandments. For their fulfillment He, the King of Heaven and earth, promises eternal blessedness in the future eternal life.
Our Saviour teaches:
In each of these teachings of the Lord, one should observe the commandments on the one hand and promises of reward on the other.
For the fulfillment of the commandments of the Beatitudes it is necessary to have contact with God through prayer, both internal and external. One must struggle against sinful inclinations through fasting, abstinence, and so on.
The First Beatitude.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed — joyful in the highest degree and pleasing to God; poor in spirit — humble, those who are conscious of their imperfections and unworthiness before God, and never think that they are better or more holy than others.
Spiritual lowliness is the conviction that our entire life and all our spiritual and physical blessings, such as life, health, strength, spiritual capability, knowledge, riches, and every good thing of life, all this is the gift of our Creator God. Without help from Heaven, it is impossible to acquire either material well-being or spiritual riches. All this is the gift of God.
Spiritual lowliness is called humility. Humility is the foundation of all Christian virtue, because it is the opposite of pride, and pride introduced all evil into the world. Due to pride the first among the angles became the Devil; the first people sinned, their descendants quarrelled and went to war among themselves from pride. The first sin was pride (Ecclus. 10:15).
Without humility it is impossible to return to God. Nor are any of the other Christian virtues possible. Humility permits us to know ourselves, to correctly assess our worth and deficiencies. It acts beneficially in the fulfillment of our obligations to our neighbor, arouses arid strengthens in us faith in God, hope and love for Him. It attracts the mercy of God to us and also disposes people to us.
The Word of God says, A sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise (Ps. 50:17). Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly (Prov. 3:34). Learn of me, instructs the Saviour, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matt. 11:29).
Physical misery or privation can result in the acquisition of much spiritual humility if this privation or need is accepted with good will, without a murmur. But physical privation does not always result in spiritual humility, it can lead to bitterness.
Even the wealthy can be spiritually humble if they understand that visible, material wealth is decadent and transitory, fleeting, and that it is no substitute for spiritual riches. They must understand the word of the Lord, For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matt. 16:26).
But Christian humility must be strictly distinguished from self-seeking self-abasement, such as fawning and flattery, which discredit human dignity.
It is necessary to strictly reject so-called "noble self-love" or "defense against affronts to one’s honor," which reflect prejudices, pernicious superstitions which were inherited from Roman paganism hostile to Christianity. The true Christian must decisively renounce these superstitions which resulted in the anti-Christian and shameful custom of the duel and revenge.
In reward for meekness of spirit, humility, the Lord Jesus Christ promises the Kingdom of Heaven, a life of eternal blessedness. Participation in the Kingdom of God for the humble begins here and now — by means of faith and hope in God; but the ultimate reward in all of its fullness will be seen in the future life.
The Second Beatitude.
2. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
The weeping about which the second beatitude speaks is first of all true tribulation of heart, and repentant tears for our sins, over our guilt before the merciful God (for example, the tears of the Apostle Peter after his renunciation).
For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death, said the Apostle Paul (II Cor. 7:10).
Tribulation and tears coming from misfortunes which befall us can be spiritually beneficial. For example, the death of one of our close ones can result in beneficial tears, if the sorrow is permeated by faith and hope, patience and devotion to the will of God. Jesus Christ Himself wept over the death of Lazarus.
Even more so can tears and tribulation lead to blessedness when they are shed over the suffering of our unfortunate neighbor, if these sincere tears are accompanied by Christian deeds of love and mercy.
Worldly grief is grief without hope in God. It proceeds not from acknowledgment of one’s sins before God, but rather from disappointment in ambition, aspiration to power, desire for gain. Such sadness, characterized by despondency and despair, leads to spiritual death, which can also result in physical death, by suicide or simply weakness due to lack of will to live. An example of such grief is that of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ the Saviour.
As a reward for mourning the Lord promises that they that mourn will be comforted. They will receive forgiveness of sins, and through this, internal peace. The mourners will receive eternal joy, eternal blessedness.
The Third Beatitude.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness is peaceful, fully developed Christian love, free from all malice. It is manifested in the spirit of a man who never becomes angry, and never permits himself to grumble against God or people.
Meek people do not become irritated and they do not vex or aggravate other people. Christian meekness expresses itself mainly in patient endurance of insults inflicted by others and is the opposite of anger, malice, self-exaltation and vengeance.
A meek person always regrets the hardness of heart of the offending party. He desires his correction, prays to God for forgiveness of his deeds, remembering the precept of the Apostle: // it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Romans 12:18-19).
The best example of meekness given to us is that of our Lord Jesus Christ praying on the cross for His enemies. He taught us to not take vengeance on our enemies but to do good to them. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matt. 11:29). Meekness tames even the hardest hearts. We can be convinced of this by observing the lives of people, and we find confirmation of it throughout the history of Christian persecutions.
A Christian may become angry only with himself, at his own fall into sin, and at the tempter — the Devil.
The Lord promises the meek that they will inherit the earth. This promise indicates that meek people in the present life will be preserved on earth by the power of God, in spite of all the intrigues of men and the most cruel persecution. But in the future life, they will be heirs of the heavenly homeland, the new earth (II Peter 3:13) with its eternal blessings.
The Fourth Beatitude.
4. Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are those people who deeply acknowledge their sinfulness, their guilt before God, and have a burning desire for righteousness. They try to serve God by a righteous life according to the commandments of Christ, which requires from Christians the most holy righteousness in all their relations with their neighbors.
The expression "hunger and thirst" indicates that our yearning for righteousness must be very strong, as strong as our desire to appease our appetite and thirst. King David beautifully expressed such yearning, As the hart panteth after the fountains of water, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsted for God, the mighty the living (Ps. 4:1-2).
God promised that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. By this is meant spiritual satisfaction, comprised of internal spiritual peace, a calm conscience, justification, and forgiveness. Such satisfaction in the present, earthly life occurs only in part. The Lord reveals the mysteries of His kingdom to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, more than to others. Their hearts in this world are delighted with knowledge revealed in the divine truths of the Gospel, in Orthodox teachings.
Full satiety, full satisfaction of the holy yearnings of the human soul, and from this highest joy and blessedness, will be granted them in the future, blessed life with God. As the psalmist King David says, I shall be filled when Thy glory is made manifest to me (Ps. 16:16).
The Fifth Beatitude.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
The merciful are those who have compassion on others, who with all their hearts pity those who have fallen into misfortune or unhappiness, and who try to help them with good works.
Works of mercy are both physical and spiritual.
Bodily works of mercy:
Spiritual works of mercy:
To the merciful, God promises in return that they will receive mercy. In the future judgment of Christ they will be shown the special mercy for the righteous. They will be delivered from eternal punishment for their sins to the degree to which they showed mercy to others on earth (See Matt: 25:31-46).
The Sixth Beatitude.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
The pure in heart are those people who not only do not sin openly, but’who do not conceal unclean thoughts, desires and feelings in their hearts. The hearts of such people are free from attachment and infatuation with physical, earthly things. In general they are free from sinful passions caused by self-centeredness, egotism and pride. People with pure hearts unceasingly think about God.
In order to acquire a pure heart, it is necessary to observe the fasts proclaimed by the Church, and to guard oneself against gluttony, drunkenness, depraved spectacles and amusements, improper teachings and indecent books.
Purity of heart is far superior to simple sincerity. Sincerity requires only that a person be candid and single hearted in relation to his neighbor. But purity of heart requires complete suppression of depraved thoughts and constant remembrance of God and His holy commandments.
To the pure in heart God promises that they will see God. Here on earth they will see Him through Grace, mysteriously, with the spiritual eyes of their hearts. They can see God in His revelations, images and likenesses. In the future, eternal life, they will see God as He is (I John 3:2). Furthermore, since contemplation of God is a source of the highest blessing, the promise to see God is a promise of the highest degree of blessedness.
The Seventh Beatitude.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Peacemakers are people living with everyone in peace and harmony and fostering peace among people. When other people are at enmity among themselves they try to reconcile them, or at least pray to God for their reconciliation.
Peacemakers remember the words of the Saviour, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you (John 14:27). It be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men, said the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:18).
To the peacemakers the Lord promises that they will be called sons of God. They will be the closest to God, heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ. The peacemakers by their spiritual feat resemble the Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who came to earth to reconcile sinful people with Divine judgment and establish peace among people in place of the animosity reigning among them. Therefore to the peacemakers is promised the epithet, "sons of God," and inexpressible blessedness.
The Eighth Beatitude.
8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
For righteousness’ sake, is meant to live righteously according to the commandments of God, and resolutely fulfilling Christian obligations. Persecuted — for their righteous and pious life, they suffer oppression, persecution, privation and adversity at the hands of the unrighteous enemies of truth and goodness, but nothing can cause them to waver from the truth.
Persecution is inevitable for Christians living according to the Gospel’s righteousness, because evil people detest righteousness, as truth exposes their evil deeds, and always persecute people who stand up for the truth. The Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, was Himself crucified by haters of God’s truth. For all His followers He predicted: // they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20). All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, says the Apostle Paul (II Tim. 3:12).
In order to endure persecution patiently for righteousness’ sake, a person must have love for the truth, be steadfast and firm in virtuous living, have courage and patience, and faith and hope in the help and protection of God.
To those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for their struggles in confessing the truth, the Lord promises the Kingdom of Heaven, spiritual triumph, joy and blessedness in the heavenly dwellings of the future eternal life (see Luke 22:28-30).
The Ninth Beatitude.
9. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in Heaven.
In the last, the ninth commandment, our Lord Jesus Christ calls especially blessed those who for the sake of Christ and for the true Orthodox faith in Him, patiently bear disgrace, persecution, malice, defamation, mockery, privation and even death. Such a spiritual feat is known as martyrdom. There is no higher spiritual feat than martyrdom.
The courage of Christian martyrs must be distinguished from fanaticism, which is irrational zeal not according to reason. Christian courage must also be distinguished from the lack of feeling brought on by despair or pretended indifference, with which some criminals because of their incorrigible hardness and pride, serve out their sentences and go to execution.
Christian courage is based on the highest of Christian virtues, on faith in God, on hope in God, on love for God and neighbor, on complete obedience and unshaken faith in the Lord God.
The highest form of martyrdom was suffered by Jesus Christ Himself, and in like manner, the Apostles and an innumerable multitude of Christians, who with joy went to martyrdom for the name of Christ.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, and 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. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be weaned and faint in your minds (Heb. 12:1-3).
For the spiritual feat of martyrdom, the Lord promises a reward in Heaven. But here on earth the Lord glorifies many martyrs for their firm confession of faith with incorruptible bodies and miracles.
If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf (I Pet. 4:14-16).
Numberless Christians martyrs rejoiced during unspeakable torture, accounts of which are preserved in factual accounts of lives of the Saints. Note: In Roman courts, special scribes were obligated to write protocols (official records) of judicial procedures and legal decisions. Such protocols of interrogations, made in Roman courts during the legal process of Christian martyrs, after the period of persecutions were carefully preserved by the Church. The protocols came to be trustworthy accounts of the feats of martyrdom of the Christians.
Discussion on the Meaning of Evil.
The concept of evil in the world imposes a grave burden of doubt in the hearts of many faithful people. It seems inconceivable that God would permit evil. In fact, God in His Omnipotence could easily eliminate evil. How could a merciful God allow the evil deed of a single offender doom thousands, sometimes millions, or even half of humanity to poverty, grief or disaster? What then is the meaning of evil? With God nothing is without reason. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to recall what evil is.
By the term evil we do not mean suffering, need and deprivation, but sin and moral guilt. God does not desire evil. Almighty God cannot approve of evil. More than that, God forbids evil. God punishes evil. Evil or sin is in contradiction to the will of God.
Sin began, as we know, when the highest angel, created by God, insolently rejected obedience to the blessed will of God and became the Devil. Evil is caused by the Devil. He inspires or influences the occurrence of sin in man.
It is not the body which is the source of sin as many believe. The body becomes an instrument of sin or of good not of itself but through the will of a person. True faith in Christ elucidates the following two causes of sin in the world:
1. The first cause lies in the free will of man. Our free will is the mark of our likeness to God. This gift of God elevates mankind to the highest of all earthly creatures. By freely choosing good and rejecting evil man exalts God, glorifies Him and perfects himself.
In the book of the Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus 15:14), it says, He (God) in the beginning made man and left him in the hand of his own free will.
By this God gives to people of good will the possibility to attain Heaven, and to people of evil will, the other wo^ld. However it happens, the result is only by means of a person’s free will.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem says, "If nature were fused together and it were not possible to do good by free will, then for whom would God prepare the inexplicable crown? Sheep are gentle, but they will never be crowned for their gentleness, because their gentleness comes not from their own free will but their very nature."
Saint Basil the Great says, "Why is not sinlessness incorporated into our nature, so that it would be impossible to sin, even if we wanted to? You do not recognize good and faithful servants when you keep them restricted, but only when you see that they voluntarily fulfill their responsibilities before you. Virtue comes on the condition of free will, not of necessity; and free will depends on the condition that we be free. Therefore, whoever reproaches the Creator for not creating us sinless prefers the irrational, immovable nature, not having any yearnings, to the nature gifted with judgment and independence." In other words, he prefers robots to intelligent creatures.
Thus, the internal cause for the origin of evil, or sin, consists of the free will of man.
2. The second basis for the existence of evil consists in the fact that God directs evil to good. But God does not tolerate evil for the sake of good. For God, it is not necessary to pay such a high price.
God does not wish for evil under any circumstances. But when evil penetrated into the world through the fault of sinful people, then God, in His plan for the world, compelled even evil to serve good. For example, the sons of Jacob sold his brother Joseph into slavery. They committed an evil deed, but God turned the evil into good. Joseph rose in Egypt and acquired the capacity to save from starvation the family from which the Messiah would come. When Joseph saw his brothers several years later, he said to them, "You intended evil against me, but God turned it into good!"
In the days of the Apostles, the Jews persecuted Christians in Palestine. The Christians had to flee from Judea, the land sanctified by the life and blood of the Saviour. But everywhere they went they sowed the words of the Gospel. The sins of the persecutors were directed into spreading Christianity.
The pagan emperors of Rome persecuted the young Christian Church. Tens of thousands of martyrs shed their blood for Christ. The blood of the martyrs became seeds for millions of new Christians. The fury of the persecutors, their sins of hatred and murder were directed by God in this instance into the building up of the Church. They thought and accomplished evil. God turned all of their deeds to the good. The entire history of mankind, right up to the events of our day, testifies to the truth of these words. The greatest downfall of man concurred with the greatest religious triumph, the turning of men to God.
We need only have patience and wait, one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Peter 3:8).
But this intertwining of evil into the plan for the management of the world did not appear to be some sort of belated addition for the correction of creation. The intertwining of evil was provided for in the act of the eternal will of God, in which was determined the creation of the world. For God is the eternal today! His foresight extends to eternity. It functions always and without interruption. (Extracted from a brochure by L. Lusin, "Who is Right?" with additions.).
Our lives must always be guided by the knowledge we acquire of the true faith and Christian piety. In order to make use of our piety and knowledge of the faith, it is necessary for each Christian to have the virtue of discernment, Christian good sense. In addressing the Christians, the Apostle Peter said, Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge (II Peter 1:5). For whatever is done without discerning knowledge may turn out to be unwise. Even good can bring harm instead of benefit.
The teachings of the Orthodox Church which we have learned concerning faith and Christian life must be manifest in deeds, and not hypocritically, but sincerely fulfilling everything we know from this teaching. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them (John 13:17).
If we become aware that we sin, that we do not fulfill the teaching as we must, then we must force ourselves quickly to the most sincere repentance. We must firmly resolve to shun the sin henceforth, making reparation for it by opposing it with good works.
When it seems to us that we are doing well in fulfilling one commandment or another, we must never become complacent or proud of this. With the deepest humility and thanksgiving we must acknowledge that we have hardly fulfilled our obligation. As Christ the Saviour said, When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do (Luke 17:10).
8. Contemporary Teaching and Faith in God.
Science acknowledged long ago that the domain of analysis is almost in no way comparable to the domain of the unsearchable. More than that, the more that science discovers by scientific analysis, the broader are the fields that have yet to be investigated. "Every new discovery expands the realm of the unknown by arithmetic proportions" (A.C. Morrison). Science will never complete its work as long as the world stands.
Spokesmen of scientific analysis acknowledge that their knowledge of the world must be complemented by another source. That source is religion.
A great scientist of our time, Max Planck, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1918, says , "Religion and science are not mutually exclusive as was believed earlier and has been feared by many of our contemporaries; on the contrary, they are in complete accord and complement each other."
Prof. M.M. Novikov, Rector of the University of Moscow, who was awarded a gold doctoral diploma in 1965 from the University of Heidelberg, and who in 1957 was an active member of the New York Academy of Science, in his article "The Path of a Naturalist to Religion," writes, "One of the most striking facts in the history of science is that physics, the rigorous base of natural science, became the way of the ideal. It led to the conclusion that physical appearance is determined by divine, spiritual strength. This view was also expressed by three prominent scholars.
"The theory of relativity of Albert Einstein is well known in general social circles. But not every one is aware that it led the scientist to the formulation of ‘Cosmic religion.’ This religion, as does every other religion, acknowledges the existence of the supreme Spirit, the creator of earthly harmony.
"The quantum theory of Max Planck had great significance for the development of natural science. On an occasion that interests us, this author writes, The only primary data for the natural scientist is gathered by sensual perception and conclusions are drawn from its measurement/ From here, guided by the method of inductive reasoning, he attempts to come as close as possible to God and His natural order as the highest but forever unattainable goal. It follows that if both religion and natural science require faith in God for their validity, then for the first (religion) God stands at the beginning, and for the second (science), at the conclusion of all intellectual activity. For religion, God supplies the foundation; for science, He is the crown of any elaboration on world-outlook. Man depends on natural science for knowledge, but on religion, for civilized behavior. But the basis of our knowledge is nothing more than our sensual perception of the solid, primary particle.
"The assumption of the existence of some regular world order is prerequisite to formulation of fruitful scientific hypotheses. But formulating scientific hypotheses is not a suitable method for directing our behavior. For, with the display of our will, we are not able to wait for the time when all our knowledge is found perfect, and we acquire omniscience. In fact, life frequently requires us to make quick decisions."
Later Planck shows that if we attribute to God goodness and love in addition to omnipotence and omniscience, then proximity to Him supplies the seeking man with consolation in the sensation of happiness in high measure. "Against this presentation, from the point of view of natural science, it is impossible to advance the slightest objection."
A great sensation was caused by the work of August Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winner in 1932. He formulated the principle of indeterminacy (the uncertainty principle), which states that it is impossible to determine the existence of elementary particles except within certain limits — elementary particles being the smallest undecomposable units of matter. Furthermore, it is impossible to know simultaneously the exact position of the particle and the velocity of its movement. We maintain that electrons exist, but we are unable to distinguish them, one from another. Thus our previous understanding of matter becomes superfluous. The world, according to Heisenberg, consists of something, the essence of which is unknown. That "something" appears in the form of a particle, then in the form of a wave. If one seeks a name, then that "something" must be designated by the word energy, and that in quotation marks. Thus, so-called laws of natural science are not precisely regular, but are static in character (i.e., the activity of energy defying calculation).
To this consideration it is appropriate to add that the understanding of an indeterminate "something" is also applicable to vital phenomena. But in this case it takes a completely different character. Mathematical equations which describe elementary physical processes are not applicable to life processes. Life is composed of an autonomous, self-acting field, as Drish affirmed.
The noted professor I. A. Ilyin says, "In the present state of knowledge it is eminently well understood that the ‘scientific’ picture of the world is changing all the time. Everything is becoming more complicated, deepening, absorbed in detail, and never appearing as part of a full, clear whole... In the present state of knowledge it is known that science will never be in a condition to explain its last prerequisite or to define its fundamental understanding. For example, a scientist will never be able to establish exactly what an ‘atom’ is, or an ‘electron/ a ‘vitamin/ ‘energy’ or ‘psychological function.’ He knows that all his ‘definitions/ ‘explanations’ and ‘theories’ are only vague attempts to approximate the vivid mysteries of the material and spiritual world. Concerning the productivity of science there can be no dispute; all contemporary technology and medicine testify to it. But as to what seems to be the theoretical truth of these demonstrations, there science swims on a problematic, conjectural sea of mystery."
One of the most noted American scholars, president of the New York Academy of Science, A. Cressy Morrison, argues for the existence of God in his brilliant "Seven Reasons Why I Believe in God."
"We are still only in the dawn of scientific knowledge," says Morrison. "The closer we come to daybreak, the more brightly shines our morning, the more clearly the creation of the omniscient Creator is illumined before us. Now in the spirit of scientific humility, in the spirit of faith based on knowledge, we are all the more confirmed in our conviction of the existence of God.
"I personally number seven circumstances which determine my belief in God. They are:
"First: Absolutely distinct mathematical laws demonstrate the universality of the creation by a Supreme Intelligence.
"Suppose you take ten pennies and mark them from one to ten. Put them in a bag and give them a good shake. Now try to draw them out in sequence from one to ten putting each coin back in your sack after each draw. Your chance of drawing number one is one in ten. Your chance of drawing one and two in succession would be one in one hundred. Your chance of drawing one, two and three in succession would be one in a thousand. Your chance of drawing from number one to number ten in succession would reach the unbelievable figure of one chance in ten billion.
"By these same mathematical arguments they say that for origin and development of life on earth, such an incredible number of interrelated and interdependent events would have been required that without intelligent direction, simply by chance, there is no way it could possibly have arisen. The velocity of the rotation of the earth is a thousand miles an hour. If the earth rotated with the speed of one hundred miles an hour, then our days and nights would be ten times as long as now. The hot sun of summer would then burn up our vegetation each long day, and every sprout would freeze in such a night.
"The sun has a surface temperature of 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and our earth is just far enough away so that this ‘eternal fire’ warms us just enough and not too much. If the temperature on earth had changed so-much as fifty degrees on the average for a single year, all vegetation would be dead and man with it, roasted or frozen.
"The earth is tilted at an angle of twenty-three degrees. This gives us our seasons of the year. If it had not been tilted, the water vapor from the ocean would move north and south, piling up continents of ice. If the moon, instead of being at its present distance, were removed from us only by 50,000 miles, our high tides and low tides would be so enormous that twice a day all the lowlands of all the continents would be submerged by a rush of water so enormous that even the mountains would soon be eroded away. Had the crust of the earth been ten feet thicker, there would be no oxygen and all life would be doomed to destruction. If the oceans were comparatively deeper, the carbon dioxide would absorb all the oxygen, and all life would again perish. If the atmosphere enveloping our earthly sphere were a little thinner, some of the meteors which are now burned in the outer atmosphere by the millions every day would strike all parts of the earth, and would set fire to every burnable object.
"These and innumerable other examples attest to the fact that for life to arise spontaneously on earth there is not one chance in a whole multitude of millions.
"Second: The wealth of source material from which life draws strength for fulfillment of its mission, in itself testifies to the presence of a self-sufficient and omnipotent Intelligence.
"What life is, no man has yet fathomed. It has no weight or dimensions. Life has force. A germinating kernel can demolish a rock. Life conquers water, dry land and air, possesses their elements, cramming them together, dissolving them, transforming their combinations.
"Life is a sculptor and shapes all living things, an artist that designs the leaf of every tree, that colors the flowers. Life is a musician and has taught each bird to sing its love songs, the insects to call each other in the music of their multitudinous sounds. Life is a chemist that gives taste to our fruits and perfume to the rose. Life’s chemistry changes water and carbonic acid into wood and sugar but in doing so, releases oxygen that animals may have the breath of life.
"Here before us is a drop of protoplasm, an almost invisible drop, transparent, jellylike, capable of motion, drawing energy from the sun. This single cell, this transparent, mist-like droplet, holds within itself the germ of all life, and has the power to distribute this life to every living thing, great and small. The powers of this droplet of protoplasm are greater than the powers of our existence, greater than all the animals or people, for all life came from it and without it no living thing would have been or could be. It is not nature that created life. Rocks split by fire and fresh water seas would not have been sufficient to meet the requirements for the origin of life.
"Who puts life into the speck of protoplasm?
"Third: The intelligence of animals is indisputable evidence of the wisdom of the Creator, who instilled instincts in His creatures, without which they would be completely helpless.
"The young salmon spends years at sea, then it returns to its native river and travels up the side of the river into which flows the tributary in which it was born. What brings them back with such precision? If a salmon going up a river is transferred to another tributary, it will at once realize it is not in the right tributary and will fight its way down to the mainstream and then turn up against the current to finish his destiny.
"Another great mystery is hidden in the behavior of the eel. These amazing creatures migrate at maturity from all ponds and rivers everywhere — those from Europe across thousands of miles of ocean — and go to the ocean depths south of Bermuda. There they breed and die. The little ones, with no apparent means of knowing anything to prevent their being lost in the ocean depths, go the way of their fathers, to the same streams, ponds and seas from which they first began their journey to the Bermuda islands. No American eel has ever been caught in European waters, and no European eel has ever been caught in American waters. Nature has also delayed the maturity of the European eel by a year or more to make up for its much greater journey. What is the source of this sense of direction and will power?
"A wasp, having overcome a grasshopper, stings it in exactly the right place. From this blow the grasshopper ‘dies.’ It loses consciousness but continues to live, as a form of preserved meat. After this, the wasp lays her eggs exactly in the right place that when they hatch, her children can eat without killing the insect on which they feed. Dead meat would be poison for them. Having completed her work, the wasp mother flies away and dies. She never sees her young. Is it not beyond doubt that the wasp must have done all this right the first time and every time, for otherwise there would be no wasps. This mysterious knowledge cannot be explained by the fact that wasps teach one another. It is deposited in their flesh and blood.
"Fourth: Man functions with more than animal instinct. He has reason. There has never been an animal which has had the capacity to count to ten. It is not able to comprehend the meaning of ten numerals. Instinct is like a single note on a flute, beautiful but limited; whereas the human brain contains all the notes of all the instruments in the orchestra. It is worth mentioning one point: thanks to our intelligence, we are able to understand what we are, we have self-awareness, and this capability is provided only by the spark of Universal Intelligence implanted in us.
"Fifth: The miracle of genes — the existence of which was unknown to Darwin — testifies to the fact that for all life there was manifested care.
"The genes are so infinitesimal that if all of them which are responsible for all human beings on earth today could be collected and put in one place, they would all be able to fit in a thimble. And the thimble still would not be full! These ultramicroscopic genes are the absolute keys to all human, animal and vegetable characteristics. A thimble is a small place in which to put all the individual characteristics of four billion human beings. However, the facts are beyond question. If this is so, does it follow that the gene contains in itself the key to the psychology of each separate being, containing all of this in such a tiny space?
"Here is the beginning of evolution! It begins at the cell, the entity which holds and carries the genes. The fact that a few million atoms contained in ultramicroscopic genes can be the absolute key governing life on earth, is evidence proving the manifest care for all life that someone provided for them beforehand, and that this providence proceeds from a Creative Intelligence. No other hypothesis in this case is able to help solve this riddle of existence.
"Sixth: How strange is the system of checks and balances in nature. We are compelled to acknowledge that only the most perfect intelligence is able to envisage all the correlations arising from such a complicated system of checks and balances.
"Many years ago in Australia, several species of cactus were planted for use as a hedge. The cactus had no insect enemies in Australia and soon began a prodigious growth. People began to seek the means to fight against it. The march of the cactus persisted until it had covered an area as great as England, crowded the inhabitants out of towns and villages and destroyed their farms, making cultivation impossible. No device the people discovered could stop its spread. The entomologists scoured the world and finally found an insect which lived exclusively on cactus, would eat nothing else, would breed freely, and which had no enemies in Australia. As soon as this insect conquered the cactus, the cactus pest retreated, and with it all but a protective residue of the insects, enough to hold the cactus in check forever.
The checks and balances have been provided, and have been persistently effective. Why indeed did not the insects which multiplied so incredibly quickly overcome all life? Because the insects have no lungs like man possesses, but breathe through tubes. When insects grow large, the tubes cannot grow in ratio to the increasing size of the body of the insect. Because of the mechanism of their structure and their method of breathing, there could never be an insect of great size. If this physical check had not been provided, man could not exist. Imagine a bumblebee as big as a lion.
"Seventh: The fact that man is capable of grasping the idea of the existence of God, is in itself sufficient evidence.
The conception of God arises from that mysterious capability of mankind which we call imagination. Only because of this power and only by means of its help, man, and no other living creature on earth, is able to find confirmation through abstract things. The expanse of knowledge which is opened by this capacity is perfectly immense. Indeed, thanks to precisely the imagination of man, the possibility of spiritual reality arises. Man is able to define, with obvious purpose, the great truth that Heaven exists everywhere and in everything, the truth that God lives everywhere and in all, and that He lives in our hearts.
"Thus, from science as well as from imagination, we find confirmation of the words of the psalmist, The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork (Ps. 19:1)."
The famous surgeon and professor in the universities of Cologne, Bonn and Berlin, August Bier (1861-1949) says, "If it ever happened that science and religion fell into disagreement, harmony would be restored through discovery of more precise basic data."
We will conclude our discussion by coming back to the words of the scholar, A.C. Morrison, "Man recognizes the necessity of moral principles; in them exists the feeling of debt, and from this, faith in God is born. The richness of religious experience finds the soul of man and lifts him, step by step, until he feels the Divine presence. The instinctive cry of man, ‘My God,’ is natural, and the crudest prayer lifts one closer to his Creator.
"Respect, sacrifice, strength of character, moral foundations, ingenuity are not born from negativism or atheism, the amazing self-deception which replaces God with man. Without faith, culture disappears, order becomes disorder, and evil prevails.
"Let us then hold fast to our belief in the Creator, in Divine love and in the brotherhood of man, lifting ourselves closer to Him by doing His will as we know it and firmly believing we are, as His creation, worthy of His care."
To the words of A. Cressy Morrison we add the words of the psychiatrist and Orthodox theologian I. M. Andreev, "True knowledge is incompatible with pride. Humility is a necessary condition for the capacity of grasping the Truth. Only humble scholars, as well as humble religious thinkers, bearing in mind the words of the Saviour, Without me ye can do nothing, and I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 15:5; John 14:6), are able to travel the right path, by the right method, toward the comprehension of the Truth. For God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6)."
The Divine Services.
1. The Concept of Serving God.
The worship of God or the pleasing of God through good thoughts, words, and deeds, i.e., the fulfillment of God’s will, is called, in general, divine service.
Divine service began on the earth with the very creation of the first human beings in Paradise. The divine services of the first human beings in Paradise consisted of freely glorifying God, His wisdom, goodness, omnipotence, and the other divine perfections which are manifest in the creation of the world and in His providence concerning it.
After their fall into sin mankind had an even greater obligation to pray to God, beseeching Him for salvation. In addition to prayer to the Lord as divine service, mankind established the practice of sacrificial offerings. Sacrifice expresses the thought that all which we possess is not ours but is God’s. The combination of prayer with sacrificial offerings serves to remind humanity that God receives its prayers because of the sacrifice which was later offered for all mankind by the Saviour of the world, the Son of God come to earth.
Originally divine services occurred freely in open places. There were neither holy temples nor ordained priests. People offered sacrifices to God wherever they desired and prayed with words of prayer suggested to them by their own feelings and attitudes.
At the command of God, in the time of the Prophet Moses, the Tabernacle was constructed (the first Old Testament Temple to the One True God). Consecrated persons were selected, the high priest, other priests, and Levites. Specific sacrifices for various situations were instituted, and feasts were ordained such as Passover, Pentecost, the New Year and the Day of Purification.
When the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, He taught us to worship the Heavenly Father in every place. Nevertheless, He often visited the Old Testament Temple in Jerusalem as a place with the special grace-filled presence of God. He was concerned for the order of the Temple and preached in it. His holy Apostles regarded it in the same way until the time of the open persecutions, which were instigated against Christians on the part of the Jews.
In the Apostolic period, as the Acts of the Apostles describe, there were special places for the gathering of the faithful and for the accomplishment of the Mystery of Communion. These places were called churches and there divine services were celebrated by bishops, priests, and deacons, who were consecrated to this duty by the laying on of hands in the Mystery of Ordination.
The order of Christian divine service was established by the successors of the Apostles under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and following the apostolic command given to them, Let all things be done decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40). This ordained order of divine services is strictly preserved in our holy Orthodox Church of Christ.
Orthodox ecclesiastical divine service means the office or service to God composed of readings and chanting of prayers, the reading of the Word of God, and the performance of sacred ritual, accomplished according to a definite order, as headed by clergy (a bishop or priest).
Ecclesiastical divine service is distinguished from private prayer in that it is served by clergy, lawfully ordained to this service through the Mystery of Ordination, and is performed primarily in church.
Orthodox public worship has as its purpose the edification of the faithful by setting forth the true doctrines of Christ through readings and chanting, and to dispose them towards prayer and repentance. The services represent the most important events from sacred history accomplished for our salvation both before the birth of Christ and after. They inspire the faithful to give thanks to God for all the benefits received from Him, they intensify the supplications for further mercies upon us from Him, and help us to acquire peace in our souls.
The most important aspect is that through divine services the Orthodox Christian enters into a mystical union with God through the Mysteries celebrated in divine worship, especially the Mystery of Holy Communion, and thus receives from God the powers of Divine Grace with which to live a righteous life.
2. The Church Building and Its Arrangement.
In the Old Testament the Lord Himself gave mankind directions through the Prophet Moses as to how the Temple should be set up for divine worship. New Testament churches were constructed on the basis of the Old Testament Temple.
Just as the Old Testament Temple (initially a tent) was separated into three portions, the Holy of Holies, the Sanctuary and the Courts, so an Orthodox church is distinguished by three sections, the Altar (or Sanctuary), the Nave (Middle Portion) and the Narthex (Vestibule).
As the Holy of Holies signified then, so now the Altar represents the Kingdom of Heaven. No one could enter the Holy of Holies except the High Priest once a year, and only with the blood of a purification sacrifice. The Kingdom of Heaven, after the fall of man into sin, was closed to us. The High Priest was a prototype of Christ, and his action told the people that a time would come when Christ, through the shedding of His blood and suffering on the Cross and Resurrection, would open the Kingdom of Heaven to all. Therefore, when Christ died on the Cross the veil of the temple which closed off the Holy of Holies was torn in two, and from this moment Christ opened the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven to all those who with faith would come unto Him.
The Sanctuary of the Temple corresponds in our Orthodox churches to the Nave or middle part of the building. No one had the right to enter the Old Testament sanctuary except the priest, but all believing Christians may stand within our churches because the Kingdom of God is closed to none.
The Courts of the Old Testament Temple in which all the people could be found have their counterpart in an Orthodox Church in the Narthex which now, however, has no essential significance. Earlier, the catechumens who were preparing to become Christians, but were still not ready for the Mystery of Baptism, stood there. Today those who have sinned grievously or those who have apostatized from the Church are temporarily sent to stand in the narthex for correction.
An Orthodox Church is built with the altar at the eastern end, directed towards the light from whence the sun rises. The Lord Jesus Christ is for us the "Dayspring," for from Him has dawned upon us the eternal Divine Light. In the Church prayers we call Jesus Christ the "Sun of Righteousness" and "Dayspring from on high."
Every church consecrated to God bears the name of one or another sacred event or Saint, in memory of that occasion or person. Examples include churches dedicated to the Trinity, the Transfiguration, the Ascension, the Annunciation, the Protection of the Mother of God, the Archangel Michael, St. Nicholas, etc. If there are several altars in the church then each of them is dedicated to the memory of a different event or saint. All altars, save the main one, are called side altars.
A church in its external appearance is distinguished from other buildings. Most are designed in the form of the Cross to signify that it is a place sacred to Him Who was crucified for us and that the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ delivered us from the tyranny of the Devil. A church may be built in the form of an elongated ship to symbolize the image of the ark of Noah that brings us through the sea of life to the calm haven of the Kingdom of Heaven. Sometimes a church is built in the form of a circle to remind us that the Church of Christ is eternal, without beginning or end. A church can even be built in the form of an octagon, like a star, suggesting that the Church is like a guiding star which shines into this world.
A church building is usually capped by a dome which is an image of Heaven. The dome comes to a point upon which is a cross, to the glory of the head of the Church, Jesus Christ. Often a church is topped by several cupolas. Two cupolas symbolize the two natures of Jesus Christ, human and divine; three — the three Persons of the Holy Trinity; five — Jesus Christ and the four Evangelists; seven — the seven Mysteries and the seven Ecumenical Councils; nine — the nine ranks of angels; thirteen — Jesus Christ and the twelve Apostles; and sometimes there are even more cupolas.
Over the entrance of the building, or at times next to it, a bell-tower or belfry is built to hold the bells.
The patterns of ringing the bells are used to call the faithful to prayer, to the divine services, and also to mark the most important moments of the services being conducted in the church. The ringing of one bell is called an "annunciation," that is, the announcement of the good, joyous news of a divine service; the ringing of all the bells to express Christian joy on the occasion of a solemn feast is called a "festive peal." The tolling of bells on a grievous occasion is called a "knell." The sound of bells reminds us of the higher, heavenly world.
The most important part of the church is the Altar or Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is the holiest place in the entire church and is where the Altar Table or "Throne" upon which the Mystery of Holy Communion served by the priest is located. The Sanctuary is built upon a raised portion that is usually higher than the other portions of the church so that all that is done there will be audible and visible during the service. The very word "Altar" means an elevated place of sacrifice.
The Altar Table is the term for the special, sacred, usually cube-shaped table found in the center of the Sanctuary and adorned with two vestments: the lower which is of white linen, and the upper which is of a more expensive material, usually of brocade. The very Lord Himself, as King and Master of the Church, is present there mysteriously and invisibly. Only ordained clergy may touch the Altar Table or venerate it. Upon the Altar Table one finds the Antimins, the Gospel, the Cross, the Tabernacle and the Communion Set.
The Antimins is a silk cloth consecrated by a bishop upon which Jesus Christ is depicted being placed in the tomb. Into the other side a fragment of the relics of a saint must be sewn, since in the first centuries of Christianity the Divine Liturgy was always celebrated upon the graves of the martyrs. One is not allowed to celebrate the Liturgy without an Antimins. The word is from the Greek and means "instead of an altar table."
In order to protect the Antimins it is folded into another silk cloth called the Iliton. It is to remind us of the cloth which was wrapped around the head of the Saviour in the tomb. On top of the Antimins rests the sponge for collecting the particles of the Holy Gifts during the liturgy.
The Gospel is the Word of God, the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Cross is the sword of God by which the Lord conquers the Devil and death. The Tabernacle is the ark in which the Holy Gifts are kept for communing the ill. Usually it is in the form of a model of the church building. The Communion Set is a small tabernacle which contains the utensils for bringing Holy Communion to those who are ill.
Behind the Altar Table stands the Candelabrum, a stand for seven lamps, and behind it is the Altar Cross. The place behind the Altar at the very farthest eastern end of the church is called the High Place. Usually it is raised. When in his own cathedral, the bishop sits here during certain portions of the services.
To the left of the Altar Table in the northern part of the sanctuary stands another smaller table similarly vested on all sides like the Altar Table. It is here that the Gifts are prepared before the Liturgy. This table is the Table of Oblation. Upon the Table of Oblation are kept the sacred vessels and all that pertains to them. They include:
1. The holy Chalice or cup into which, before the Liturgy, wine is poured with water, which is transformed later during the Liturgy into the Blood of Christ.
2. The Diskos which is a small round plate on a stand. The bread is placed upon it for consecration at the Divine Liturgy, for transformation into the Body of Christ. The diskos symbolizes simultaneously the manger and tomb of the Saviour.
3. The Star is composed of two metal arcs fixed about the center so that they can be closed and opened into a cruciform shape. It is placed on the diskos so that the cover will not disturb the cut out portions of prosphora. The star symbolizes the star that appeared at the birth of Christ.
4. The Spear is a blade resembling a miniature spear for cutting out the Lamb and other portions from the prosphora. It symbolizes the spear which wounded Christ upon the Cross.
5. The Spoon is used to administer Holy Communion.
6. The Sponge or cloth is used to clean and wipe the vessels.
The small covers which are used to cover the chalice and the diskos are called the Coverlets, while the large covers which is used to cover both the chalice and the diskos together is called the Aer. The aer symbolizes the expanse of the heavens in which the star appeared, which led the Magi to the manger of the Saviour. It, together with the coverlets, represents the swaddling clothes in which Jesus Christ was wrapped after birth and also His burial shroud.
No one but the bishops, priest, and deacons are allowed to touch these holy things.
Also found on the Table of Oblation is the Cup or ladle which is used in the beginning of Proskomedia to pour the mixture of wine and water into the holy chalice. Before Communion, hot water is added to the contents of the chalice.
Located in the sanctuary is the censer which is used for censing during the divine services. Censing was instituted in the Old Testament Church by God Himself. We offer the incense as an offering to God and use it to sanctify objects.
Censing before the Holy Altar and the icons expresses our respect and reverence for them. When the laity praying in church are censed this expresses the desire that their prayer would be heart-felt and truly reverent and might ascend to Heaven like the smoke of incense and that the Grace of God might envelop them even as the smoke of incense envelops them in the church. While being censed, the faithful should respond with a bow.
The dikiri and trikiri, which are used by a bishop to bless the people, and the altar fans are kept in the sanctuary also.
Dikiri refers to the candlestick that holds two candles, which remind us of the two natures of Christ, the divine and the human.
Trikiri refers to the candlestick that holds three candles, which remind us of our faith in the Holy Trinity.
The altar-fans refer to the metal circles with long, wooden handles on which are represented the Seraphim. The deacons hold the fans over the Holy Gifts during the consecration, and over the Gospel book in procession. Earlier they were made of ostrich feathers and were used to keep insects away from the Holy Gifts. Today the waving of these fans is symbolic and represents the presence of the heavenly hosts during the celebration of the Liturgy.
To the side of the sanctuary area is found the Vestry. The vestments, sacred robes used during the divine services, are kept here, as well as the ecclesiastical vessels and books.
The altar is separated from the middle portion of the church building by a special kind of wall upon which are hung icons and is thus called the Iconostasis.
The iconostasis has three doors or gates. The middle and largest is found in the very center of the screen and is called the Royal Gates because through them passes the very Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, the King of Glory, Who comes in the Holy Gifts invisibly. No one is allowed to pass through the Royal Gates other than the clergy. A curtain is hung across the Royal Gates, on the inside, which is drawn and withdrawn during the course of the divine services. Icons of the Annunciation of the Theotokos and the Four Evangelists, Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are usually on the Royal Gates. An icon of the Mystical Supper is placed above the Royal Gates, since the faithful stand before them when partaking of Communion.
To the right of the Royal Gates there is always an icon of the Saviour, and on the left, one of the Mother of God.
The southern door is located to the right of the icon of the Saviour, while the northern door is to the left of the Theotokos icon. Generally, the Archangels Michael and Gabriel are depicted on these two side doors, though sometimes icons of the first deacons Sts. Philip and Stephen, or the high priest Aaron and the Prophet Moses are placed here. These side doors are also called the "deacon’s doors," since the deacons pass through them frequently.
On the far ends next to the doors are placed the icons of especially revered saints. The first icon to the right of the Saviour icon is almost always the icon of the church, that is, the representation of the feast or Saint to whom the church building is dedicated.
On the highest point above the iconostasis is placed the Cross with an image upon it of our crucified Lord, Jesus Christ.
If the iconostasis is built with more than one row of icons, then usually on the second row are placed the icons of the twelve Great Feasts; on the third row— the Apostles; on the fourth row — the Prophets; and on the top— the Cross.
Icons are also placed on the walls of the church, either in special large frames or shrines, or on analogions, high, slanted stands, for veneration.
The raised platform, upon which stand the altar and the iconostasis, extends forward for several feet into the middle portion of the church. This elevation in front of the iconostasis is called the solea.
The middle of the solea, directly in front of the Royal Gates is called the ambo or place of ascending. From the ambo the deacon intones the litanies and reads the Gospels. From here, as well, the priest delivers sermons, and the faithful partake of Holy Communion.
At the end of the solea near the side walls of the church are found the cliros, or choirs for the readers and chanters. Above the cliros are hung the banners, icons made of either cloth embroidery or metalwork fastened to long poles. They are carried in processions as ecclesiastical flags.
Usually on the side of the nave is a small table for the reposed, on which is an image of the Crucifixion, before which are placed candles. A Pannykhida (memorial service) is served at this table.
Candlestands are placed in front of the iconostasis or behind the analogions, upon which the faithful place candles during the service. A chandelier or polycandelabrum hangs from the central dome in the middle of the church. This large metal chandelier holds either a large number of candles or lights which are lit during the most festive moments of the services.
3. The Clergy and Their Vestments.
Following the example of the Old Testament Church, in which there were a high priest, priests, and Levites, the holy Apostles also instituted in the New Testament Christian Church the priesthood: bishops, priests, and deacons.
They are all called members of the clergy because by means of the Mystery of the priesthood they receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit for sacred service in the Church of Christ: enabling them to celebrate the divine services; teach the laity the Christian faith and holy life; and direct ecclesiastical affairs.
The bishops comprise the highest rank in the Church, and therefore receive the highest degree of Grace. Bishops are also called hierarchs, or leaders of the priests. They may celebrate all the Mysteries and all ecclesiastical services. Bishops have the right not only to serve the usual Liturgy, but they alone may consecrate others into the priesthood, as well as consecrate Holy Chrism and the Antimins.
In their degree of priesthood they are equal, though the senior and most deserving of the bishops are termed archbishops, while the bishops whose sees are centered in major cities are termed metropolitans, after the Greek word for a large city, "metropolis." The bishops of the ancient major cities of the Roman Empire, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, and of the capitals of some Orthodox countries such as Belgrade and Moscow, are called patriarchs.
From 1721 to 1917 the Russian Orthodox Church was governed by the Most Holy Synod. In 1917 an All-Russian Council was summoned and restored the rule of the Church to the "Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia."
A bishop sometimes is given another bishop, called a vicar bishop, to assist him in his duties.
Priests comprise the second rank of the sacred ministry under the bishop. Priests may serve, with an episcopal blessing, all the Mysteries and ecclesiastical services, with the exception of the Mystery of Ordination and the sanctification of Holy Chrism or an Antimins. The congregation of Christians subject to. the supervision of the priest is termed his parish. The more worthy and distinguished priests are granted the title of archpriest; the first among these priests is called a protopresbyter.
If a priest is also a tonsured monk he is known as a hieromonk. Hieromonks appointed to direct monasteries, or those honored independently of any appointment, are usually given the title of igumen or abbot. Those of a higher rank are called archimandrites, and bishops are chosen from this rank.
Deacons form the third and lowest rank of the sacred ministry; in Greek "deacon" means a "server." Deacons assist a bishop or priest during the serving of the Divine Liturgy or other Mysteries and services, but they may not serve alone. The participation of a deacon in the divine services is not obligatory, and therefore many churches conduct services without them.
Some deacons, particularly in cathedral churches, are deemed worthy of the title of protodeacon. Monks who have received the rank of deacon are called hierodeacons, and the senior of them is called an archdeacon.
The subdeacons are also ordained and help in the altar. They primarily take part in episcopal services. They vest the serving bishop in his sacred vestments, hold the trikiri and dikiri, and hand them to the bishop to bless those present. They also may assist in changing the altar covers.
In addition to the three orders of sacred ministry, other lower orders of service in the Church include the readers or "psaltis" (Greek), and the sacristans or "ecclesiarchs." They belong to the ranks of church servers who are not ordained to their duties through the Mystery of Ordination, but only by a short series of prayers with an episcopal blessing.
Readers have the duty to read and chant both on the cliros during divine services, and at homes when services are conducted by a priest.
The sacristan is obliged to call the faithful to the divine services with bell-ringing, to light the lamps and candles in the church, to ready and to hand the censer to the serving priest, and to assist the readers in the readings and chantings.
Those who conduct services must be dressed in special, sacred robes or vestments. These are made of brocade or some similarly suitable material and adorned with crosses or other symbolic signs.
The vestments of the diaconate are the sticharion, the orarion and the cuffs.
The sticharion is a long garment, open down the length of the sides for a deacon, but entirely unslitted for servers, in the form of a cross with an opening for one’s head and with wide sleeves. The deacon’s sticharion may also be worn by subdeacons. The right to wear a sticharion may also be granted to readers and servers. The sticharion signifies purity of soul, necessary for a person of ecclesiastical rank.
The orarion is a long, wide band of the same material as the sticharion with fringe on the ends. It is worn over the left shoulder on top of the sticharion. For simple deacons it is worn as shown, for pro-todeacons it is wound once around the body. The orarion signifies the Grace of God which the deacon received in the Mystery of Ordination.
The cuffs or manacles are of the same material as the sticharion, and are worn around the wrists and laced with cords. They remind those conducting the services that they celebrate the Mysteries or partake of the Mysteries of the Christian faith not by their own powers, but by the power and Grace of God. They also remind us of the bonds that tied the hands of the Saviour during His passion.
The vestments of a priest include the under-vestment or sticharion, the epitrachelion (stole), the belt, the cuffs, and the phelonion.
The under-vestment is just a simpler form of sticharion, differing from the sticharion in that the sleeves are narrow with laces at the wrist, and it is usually made of a fine, white material. The white color reminds the priest that he must always be of pure soul and lead a blameless life. It also recalls the tunic which the Lord Jesus Christ wore on earth and in which He accomplished our salvation.
The stole or epitrachelion is similar to the deacon’s orarion, only it is worn around the neck and comes down in front so that the two inner edges are fastened together for convenience. It signifies the double portion of grace bestowed on a priest, in comparison to that of a deacon, for the celebration of the Mysteries. The priest may not conduct any service without his epitrachelion, just as a deacon must have his orarion.
The belt is worn over the epitrachelion and under-vestment and signifies readiness to serve the Lord. It also symbolizes the divine power that strengthens the priest during the course of his serving. The belt also recalls the towel which the Saviour was given for the washing of the disciples’ feet at the Mystical Supper.
The phelonion is worn over the other garments. It is a long and wide cape without sleeves with an opening for the head at the top and cut away in front to give the hands freedom of movement. In its form it resembles the purple mantle which the Lord was given during His passion. The ribbons sewn on it recall the streams of blood which flowed over His garments. In addition to this the phelonion reminds the priests of the garment of righteousness with which they must be vested as servants of Christ. A priest wears a pectoral cross around his neck, over the phelonion.
For long and dedicated service a priest is given an award called a nabedrennik or thigh shield, which is a stiffened, rectangular cloth hung on the right hip from the shoulder by a strap fastened at two upper corners, and which signifies a spiritual sword. Other awards are the skoufia and kamilavka (head coverings), and another diamond-shaped cloth, similar to the nabedrennik, worn on the right hip, called a palitsa (in which case the former is worn on the left). It also represents the spiritual sword, the Word of God with which the celebrant must battle disbelief and irreverence.
The bishop is vested with all the vestments of a priest, the sticharion, epitrachelion, belt and cuffs, but the phelonion is replaced with the saccos and the nabedrennik with the palitsa. In addition, a bishop wears the omophorion and the miter.
The saccos is the outer vestment of a bishop which resembles a shorter deacon’s sticharion so that the sticharion and epitrachelion are visible underneath. It, like the phelonion, recalls the purple mantle of the Saviour.
The palitsa is hung by a strap from the upper corner over the right hip on top of the sakkos. For exceptional service the right to wear the palitsa is granted by the ruling bishop to worthy archpriests. For archimandrites, as well as for a bishop, the palitsa is an indispensable appurtenance to their vestments.
Around the shoulders, over the saccos, a bishop wears the omophorion. This is a long, wide fabric usually adorned with crosses. It is wrapped around the shoulders of the bishop so that one end falls in front and the other behind. Omophorion is a Greek word meaning "that which goes over the shoulders" and is exclusively an episcopal vestment. As with the priest and his epitrachelion, the bishop may not conduct any service without his omophorion. It reminds the bishop that he must be concerned for the salvation of the fallen like the good shepherd who, when he has found the lost sheep, carries it home on his shoulder.
At all times, as part of his normal attire and for services, the bishop wears a panagia around his neck in addition to a cross. The panagia, which means "all-holy" in Greek, is a small, round icon of the Saviour or the Theotokos, sometimes adorned with precious stones.
When serving, the bishop wears a miter on his head, adorned with small icons and precious stones. According to some, it signifies the crown of thorns which was placed on the head of the Saviour, and to others it represents the Gospel of Christ to which the bishop always remains subject. Archimandrites wear the miter as well, and in exceptional cases a ruling bishop can grant the right to wear one to the more worthy archpriests in place of the kamilavka.
During the divine services the bishops use a staff as a sign of ultimate pastoral authority. A staff is also granted to archimandrites and abbots as heads of monasteries.
During the service an "orlets," a circular rug with the image of an eagle flying over a city, is put under the bishop’s feet. This symbolizes that the bishop should soar from the earthly to the heavenly like an eagle, and as an eagle can see clearly over distances, so must a bishop oversee all parts of his diocese.
The street clothing of a bishop, priest or deacon includes a black cassock and a riassa. Over the riassa the bishop wears a panagia and a cross, while a priest only wears a cross.
4. The Order of Divine Services.
The order of divine services are divided into three cycles: daily, weekly, and yearly.
The Daily Cycle of Divine Services.
The daily cycle of divine services consists of those which are celebrated by the holy Orthodox Church during the course of one day. There are nine daily services: Vespers, Compline, Midnight Office, Matins, First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour, and Ninth Hour, and the Divine Liturgy.
Following the example of Moses, who in describing the creation of the world by God, began the "day" with evening, the Orthodox Church day begins with the evening service, Vespers.
Vespers is the service celebrated towards the end of the day, in which we express our gratitude to God for the day which has passed.
Compline is the service composed of the reading of a series of prayers, in which we ask the Lord God for the forgiveness of sins and that He grant us, upon retiring, repose of body and soul and preserve us from the wiles of the Devil during our sleep.
The Midnight Office is appointed to be read at midnight in remembrance of the prayer of the Saviour during the night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This service summons the faithful to be ready at all times for the day of the Dread Judgement, which will come unexpectedly like "a bridegroom in the night," as the parable of the ten virgins reminds us.
Matins is celebrated in the morning prior to the rising of the sun. In this service we give thanks to God for the night which has passed, and we ask of Him mercy for the approaching day.
The First Hour corresponds to the first three hours of our day, 6 to 9 A.M. In Old and New Testament times an "hour" meant a "watch" that lasted for three of our hours, and each service of the daily cycle corresponds to one of these three-hour divisions. This First Hour sanctifies the already breaking day with prayer.
The Third Hour covers the time from 9 A.M. to 12 P.M. and recalls the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.
The Sixth Hour corresponds to the period from 12 to 3 P.M. and reminds us of the Passion and Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Ninth Hour represents the hours from 3 to 6 P.M. and reminds us of the death on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Ninth Hour represents the hours from 3 to 6 P.M. and reminds us of the death on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Divine Liturgy is the main divine service. During the course of its celebration the entire earthly life of the Saviour is called to mind, and the Mystery of Holy Communion is celebrated as instituted by the Saviour Himself in the Mystical Supper. It must be celebrated in the morning before the midday meal.
In ancient times monastics and hermits conducted all of these services separately, at the time appointed for each. Later, to accommodate the faithful, they were combined into three groups: evening, morning and daytime.
The evening services consist of Ninth Hour, Vespers and Compline.
The morning services consist of Midnight Office, Matins and First Hour.
The daytime services are Third and Sixth Hours, and the Divine Liturgy.
On the eve of major feasts and Sundays a service is conducted in the evening, uniting Vespers, Matins and First Hour. Such a service is termed an All-night Vigil because among early Christians and in some monasteries today the service is continued through the course of the entire night.
A Schematic Outline of the Daily Cycle of Services.
1. Ninth Hour — three o’clock in the afternoon
2. Vespers — six o’clock in the afternoon
3. Compline — nine o’clock in the evening
1. Midnight Office — twelve midnight
2. Matins — three o’clock in the morning
3. First Hour — six o’clock in the morning
1. Third Hour — nine o’clock in the morning
2. Sixth Hour — twelve noon
3. Divine Liturgy
The Weekly Cycle of Divine Services.
The Weekly or Seven-day Cycle of Divine Services is the term for the order of services which extends for the duration of the seven weekdays. Each day of the week is dedicated to one or another important event or an exceptionally revered saint.
On Sunday, the Church remembers and glorifies the Resurrection of Christ.
On Monday, the first day after the Resurrection, the bodiless hosts are celebrated, the angels which were created before the human race, and which are the closest servants of God.
On Tuesday, St. John the Baptist is glorified as the greatest of the prophets and righteous of the Old Testament.
On Wednesday, the betrayal of the Lord by Judas is remembered, and in connection with this the services are centered around the Cross of the Lord. This day is a fast day.
On Thursday the Holy Apostles and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker are glorified.
On Friday the Passion and death of the Saviour on the Cross is remembered, and the services honor the Cross of the Lord. This day is kept as a fast day also.
On Saturday, the Sabbath or Day of Rest, the Mother of God is glorified (who is also glorified on every other day), along with the forefathers, prophets, apostles, martyrs, monastics, righteous and all the saints who have attained peace in the Lord. Also, all those who have reposed in the true faith and in the hope of resurrection and life eternal are remembered.
The Annual Cycle of Divine Services.
The Annual Cycle of Divine Services is the term for the order of services conducted during the course of the entire calendar year.
Each day of the year is dedicated to the memory of one or more saints and to special sacred events, either in the form of feast days or fasts.
Of all the feasts of the year the greatest is the feast of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, Pascha, the feast of feasts. Pascha occurs no earlier than the twenty-second of March (the fourth of April, new style) and no later than the twenty-fifth of April (the eighth of May, new style), on the first Sunday after the equinoxal new moon and always after the Jewish celebration of Passover.
In addition, throughout the year twelve great feasts are held in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Theotokos. Also, there are feasts in honor of the great saints and in honor of the bodiless hosts of heaven, the angels. Thus the festivals of the year are distinguished, by their content, into those of the Lord, the Theotokos, and the saints.
With regard to their date, the celebration of the feasts is divided into those which are immovable, those which occur every year on the same calendar date of the months, and those which are movable, those which occur on the same day of the week, but may fall on various dates of a month due to their relationship to the celebration of Pascha.
In the solemnity of their celebration the church services of the feasts are distinguished according to various degrees. The great feasts are always celebrated with an All-night Vigil, other lesser feasts sometimes have a Vigil, according to custom. The solemnity and joy of other days in the church year is determined by guidelines indicated in the rubrics.
The church year begins on the first of September, according to the Julian (Old Style) calendar, and the entire yearly cycle of divine services is constructed around its relationship to Pascha.
A more detailed account of the feasts and fasts is to be found in the section on "Faith and the Christian Life," under the explanation of the fourth commandment of the Law of God, and in the sacred history of the New Testament.
5. Divine Service Books.
The first place among the books used in the divine services is occupied by the Gospel, the Epistle and the Psalter. These books are taken from the Sacred Scriptures, the Bible, and therefore are termed the "divine service" books.
After these come the following books: the Clergy Service Books, the Horologion (Book of Hours), the Book of Needs, the Octoechos, the Monthly Menaion, the General Menaion, the Festal Menaion, the Lenten Triodion, the Pentecostarion, the Typicon (or Book of Rubrics), the Irmologion, and the Canonik. These books were composed in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition by the fathers and teachers of the Orthodox Church and are called the church service books.
The Gospel is the Word of God. It consists of the first four books of the New Testament written by the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospels contain an account of the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ: His teaching, miracles, passion and death on the Cross, His glorious Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven. For the services, the Gospel is specially divided into the usual chapters and verses, but also into special sections. At the end of the volume one finds a series of tables which indicate when the various sections are to be read during the church year.
The Epistle is the term which refers to the book which contains the following books of the New Testament: the Acts of the Apostles, the catholic (general) epistles and the epistles of the Apostle Paul, thus excluding only the book of Revelation. The Epistle, like the Gospel, is divided, in addition to chapters and verses, into sections with tables at the back of the book indicating when and how to read them.
The Psalter is the book of the Prophet and King David. It is so termed because the majority of the psalms in it were written by the holy Prophet David. In these psalms the holy Prophet opens his soul to God with all the grief of repentance for sins committed, and joy and glorification of the infinite perfection of God. He expresses his gratitude for all the mercies of His care and seeks help amid all the obstacles that confront him. For this reason the Psalter is used more than any other service book during the course of the services.
The Psalter is divided, for use during services, into twenty sections called "kathismas" (derived from the Greek word "to sit," as it is customary to sit while they are being read). Each of these is divided into three portions called "Glories," since "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit..." is read between each part.
In addition to the simple Psalter there is also a "service" Psalter which contains three additions: a) the Horologion, b) the troparia and kontakia taken from all the other service books, and c) the entire prayer rule which should be said by those intending to partake of the Mystery of Holy Communion.
The Clergy Service Book is for the use of priests and deacons. It contains the order of Vespers, Matins and the Liturgy, with emphasis on the parts said by those serving. At the end of the book are found the dismissals, prokeimena, megalynaria, and a menologion, or list of saints commemorated daily by the Church.
The Pontifical Service Book is distinguished by the fact that it also contains the order of consecrating an Antimins and the services for tonsuring readers, and ordaining subdeacons, deacons and priests.
The Horologion is the book which serves as the basic guide for readers and chanters on cliros. The Horologion contains the unchanging parts of all the daily services, except the Liturgy.
The Book of Needs is the book which includes the order of services for the various Mysteries with the exception of the Mysteries of Holy Communion and Ordination. Other services included are the Order of Burial of the Reposed, the Order of Blessing of Water, the Prayers for the Birth of a Child, the Naming of a Child and his "Churching," as well as blessings for other occasions.
The Octoechos, or Book of the Eight Tones, contains all the hymns in the form of verses, troparia, kontakia, canons, etc., which are divided into eight groups of melodies, or "tones." Each tone in turn contains the hymnody for an entire week, so that the complete Octoechos is repeated every eight weeks throughout most of the year. The arrangement of ecclesiastical chanting into tones was entirely the work of the famous hymnographer of the Byzantine Church, St. John of Damascus (eighth century). The text of the Octoechos is ascribed to him, although one should note that many parts of it are the work of St. Metrophanes, bishop of Smyrna, St. Joseph the Hymnographer, and others over the centuries.
The Monthly Menaion contains the prayers and hymns in honor of the saints of each day of the year and the solemn festival services for the feasts of the Lord and the Theotokos which fall on fixed calendar dates. Following the number of twelve months, it is divided into twelve volumes.
The General Menaion contains the hymnography common to an entire category of saints, for example, in honor of prophets, or apostles, or martyrs, or monastics. It is used in cases when a special service to a particular saint is not available.
The Festal Menaion contains all the services for the immovable great feasts, as extracted from the Monthly Menaion.
The Lenten Triodion contains all the special parts of the services for the course of the Great Fast prior to Pascha and the Sunday services in the weeks preceding it, beginning with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. This service book derives its name from the Greek word "triod," which means tri-hymned, and refers to the fact that for each day of the Fast the canons chanted do not comprise the usual nine odes, based on nine great hymns from the Old and New Testament, but only three.
The Pentecostarion includes the hymnography used from the feast of Holy Pascha through the Sunday of All Saints, the first Sunday after Pentecost.
The Typikon or Book of Rubrics contains a detailed account of which days and times different services ought to be conducted and in which specific order they should be read or chanted, as contained in the Service Book of the Clergy, the Horologion, the Octoechos and the other divine service books.
The Irmologion contains the initial hymns or "irrnosi" from each of the nine odes of the various canons as chanted at Matins since these are not always printed in full in the various service books.
The Ectenias (Litanies).
During the course of the divine services we often hear a series of prayerful supplications which are intoned slowly by either a deacon or the priest in the name of all those praying. After each petition the choir sings, "Lord, have mercy" or "Grant this, O Lord." These are called ectenias (litanies), which are Greek words meaning "entreaty" or "ardent supplication."
These are five of the most frequently used litanies:
1) The Great Litany or Litany of Peace which begins with the words "In peace, let us pray to the Lord." It contains many different petitions for prosperity and salvation of various groups, and after each one the choir chants "Lord, have mercy."
2) The Small Litany is a shortened form of the Great Litany. It begins with the words "Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord." It contains three petitions.
3) The Augmented Litany begins with the words "Have mercy upon us, O God, according to Thy great mercy, we pray Thee, hearken and have mercy." After each petition the choir responds with "Lord, have mercy" thrice. Therefore the litany is termed "augmented," since it is an intensified supplication.
4) The Litany of Fervent Supplication begins with the words "Let us complete our morning (or evening) prayer unto the Lord." After each of the petitions of this litany, except for the first two, the choir responds with "Grant this, O Lord."
5) The Litany for the Reposed is composed of entreaties to the Lord that He might grant rest in the Heavenly Kingdom, to the souls of the departed by forgiving them all their sins.
Each of these litanies concludes with an exclamation by the priest that glorifies the Most-holy Trinity.
6. Major Services and Their Rubrics.
The All-night Vigil.
The All-night Vigil is the divine service which is served on the evening prior to the days of specially celebrated feasts. It consists of the combination of Vespers, Matins and First Hour, during which both services are conducted with greater solemnity and with more illumination of the church than on other days.
This service is given the name "All-night," because in ancient times, it began in the later evening and it continued through the entire night until dawn.
Later, in condescension to the weakness of the faithful, this service was begun earlier, and certain contractions were made in the readings and chanting, and therefore it now does not last so long as it did. However, the former term "All-night" is preserved.
Vespers recalls and represents events of the Old Testament: the creation of the world, the fall into sin of the first human beings, their expulsion from Paradise, their repentance and prayer for salvation, the hope of mankind in accordance with the promise of God for a Saviour and finally, the fulfillment of that promise.
The Vespers of an All-night Vigil begins with the opening of the Royal Gates. The priest and deacon silently cense the Altar Table and the entire sanctuary so that clouds of incense fill the depths of the sanctuary. This silent censing represents the beginning of the creation of the world. In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was without form and void, and the Spirit of God hovered over the original material earth, breathing upon it a life-creating power, but the creating word of God had not yet begun to resound.
Then the priest stands before the Altar and intones the first exclamation to the glory of the Creator and Founder of the world, the Most-holy Trinity, "Glory to the Holy, Consubstantial, Life-creating, and Indivisible Trinity, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages."
Then he four times summons the faithful, "O come, let us worship God our King. O come let us worship and fall down before Christ, our King and our God. O come let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and our God. O come let us worship and fall down before Him." For All things were made by Him; and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3).
In response to this summons, the choir solemnly chants the 103rd Psalm, which describes the creation of the world and glorifies the wisdom of God: Bless the Lord, O my soul. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, O Lord my God, Thou hast been magnified exceedingly... In wisdom hast Thou made them all... Wondrous are Thy works, O Lord... Glory to Thee, O Lord, Who hast made them all.
During the chanting of this psalm the priest goes forth from the sanctuary and completes the censing of the entire church and the faithful therein, while a deacon precedes him bearing a lit candle in his hand.
This sacred action not only reminds those praying of the creation of the world, but primarily of the blessed life in Paradise of the first human beings, when the Lord God Himself walked among them. The open Royal Gates signify that at that time the gates of Paradise were open for all people.
Then man was deceived by the Devil and transgressed against the will of God and fell into sin. Because of their fall, mankind was deprived of blessed life in Paradise. They were driven out of Paradise and the gates were closed to them. To symbolize this expulsion, following the censing of the church and the conclusion of the chanting of the psalm, the Royal Gates are closed.
Then the deacon comes out from the sanctuary and stands before the closed Royal Gates, as Adam did before the sealed entrance into Paradise, and intones the Great Litany:
In peace let us pray to the Lord. Let us pray to the Lord when we have been reconciled with all our neighbors, so that we feel no anger or hostility towards them. For the peace from above, and for the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord. Let us pray that the Lord send down upon us "from on high" the peace of Heaven and that He save our souls.
After the Great Litany and the exclamation of the priest, certain selected verses are usually sung from the first three psalms of the Psalter:
Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, that is, he who has not lived or acted on the advice of those who are irreverent and impious. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, and the way of the ungodly shall perish. For the Lord knows the life of the righteous and the life of the impious leads to ruin. The deacon then intones the Little Litany, "Again and again, in peace let us pray to the Lord..." After this litany the choir chants the verses of certain psalms that express the longing of man for salvation and Paradise: Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hearken unto me. Hearken unto me, O Lord... Attend to the voice of my supplication, when I cry unto Thee... Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Hearken unto me, O Lord. During the chanting of these verses the deacon censes the church once more.
This entire period of the divine service, beginning with the opening of the Royal Gates, through the petitions of the Great Ectenia and the chanting of the psalms, represents the miserable state of mankind to which it was subjected by the fall of our forefathers into sin. With the fall all the deprivations, pains and sufferings we experience came into our lives. We cry out to God, "Lord, have mercy" and request peace and salvation for our souls. We feel contrition that we heeded the ungodly counsel of the Devil. We ask God for the forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from troubles, and we place all our hope in the mercy of God. The censing by the deacon at this time signifies the sacrifices of the Old Testament and our own prayers as well, which we offer to God.
Alternating with the chanting of the Old Testament verses of these psalms of "Lord, I have cried" are New testament hymns composed in honor of the saint or feast of the day.
The last verse is called the Theotokion, or Dogmatikon, since it is sung in honor of the Mother of God, and in it is set forth the dogma on the incarnation of the Son of God from the Virgin Mary. On the twelve great feasts, instead of the Theotokion a special verse is chanted in honor of the feast.
During the chanting of the Theotokion the Royal Gates are opened, and the Vespers Entry is made; a candle bearer comes through the north door of the Sanctuary, followed by the deacon with the censer and finally the priest. The priest stops on the ambo facing the Royal Gates and after blessing the entry with the sign of the Cross, and the deacon’s intoning of the words "Wisdom, let us attend!" the priest reenters the Altar together with the deacon through the Royal Gates and goes to stand next to the High Place behind the Holy Table.
At this time the choir chants a hymn to the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ: "O Gentle Light of the holy glory of the immortal, heavenly, holy blessed Father, O Jesus Christ: having come to the setting of the sun, having beheld the evening light, we praise the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: God. Meet it is for Thee at all times to be hymned with reverent voices, O Son of God, Giver of Life. Wherefore, the world doth glorify Thee."
In this hymn the Son of God is called the Gentle Light that comes from the Heavenly Father, because He came to this earth not in the fullness of divine glory but in the gentle radiance of this glory. This hymn also says that only with reverent voices, and not our sinful mouths, can He be exalted worthily and the necessary glorification be accomplished.
The entry during Vespers reminds the faithful how the Old Testament righteous, in harmony with the promise of God that was manifest in prototypes and prophecies, expected the coming of the Saviour, and how He appeared in the world for the salvation of the human race.
The censer with incense used at the entry signifies that our prayers, by the intercession of our Lord the Saviour, are offered to God like incense. It also signifies the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church.
The blessing with the sign of the Cross shows that by means of the Cross of the Lord the doors into Paradise are opened again for us.
Following the chanting of the hymn "O Gentle Light..." we sing the prokeimenon, short verses taken from the Holy Scriptures. On Saturday evening, for the Vespers for Sunday, we chant, "The Lord is King; He is clothed with majesty."
After the chanting of the prokeimenon, on the more important feasts there are readings. These are selections from the Scriptures in which there is a prophecy or a prototype which relates to the event being celebrated, or in which edifying teachings are set forth, which relate to the saint commemorated that day.
Following the prokeimenon and readings the deacon intones the Augmented Litany, "Let us all say with our whole soul and with our whole mind, let us say." The prayer, "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this evening without sin..." follows, and at the conclusion of this prayer the deacon reads the Supplicatory Litany, "Let us complete our evening prayer unto the Lord..."
On great feasts after the Augmented and Supplicatory Litanies the Litia, or Blessing of Bread and Wine, is celebrated.
"Litia" is a Greek word meaning "common prayer." The Litia, a series of verses chanted by the choir followed by an enumeration of many saints whose prayers are besought, is celebrated in the western end of the church, near the main entrance doors, or in the Narthex, if the church is so arranged. This part of the service was intended for those who were standing in the Narthex, the catechumens and penitents, so they might be able to take part in the common service on the occasions of the major festivals.
At the end of the Litia is the blessing and sanctification of five loaves of bread, wheat, wine and oil to recall the ancient custom of providing food for those assembled who had come some distance, in order to give them strength during the long divine services. The five loaves are blessed to recall the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of bread. Later, during the main part of Matins, the priest anoints the faithful with the sanctified oil, after they have venerated the festal icon.
After the Litia, or if it is not served, after the Supplicatory Litany, the Aposticha (Verses with hymns) are chanted. These are a few verses which are specially written in memory of the occasion.
Vespers ends with the reading of the prayer of St. Simeon the God-Receiver, "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, O Master, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light of revelation for the gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel." This prayer is followed by the reading of the Trisagion and the Lord’s Prayer, and the singing of the salutation of the Theotokos, "O Theotokos and Virgin, Rejoice!...," or the troparion of the feast, and finally the thrice-chanted prayer of the Psalmist: "Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and for evermore." The 33rd Psalm is then read or chanted until the verse, "But they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived o’f any good thing." Then follows the priestly blessing, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you, through His grace and love for mankind, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages."
The conclusion of Vespers with the prayer of St. Simeon and the angelic salutation of the Theotokos indicates the fulfillment of the divine promise of a Saviour.
Immediately after the conclusion of Vespers during an All-Night Vigil, Matins begins with the reading of the Six Psalms.
The second half of the All-night Vigil, Matins, is meant to remind us of the New Testament period: the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ in the world for our salvation and His glorious Resurrection.
The beginning of Matins immediately reminds us of the Nativity of Christ. It begins with the doxology or glorification of the angels who appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill among men.
This is followed by the reading of the Six Psalms, selected from those by the Prophet David (3, 37, 62, 87,102 and 142) in which the sinful condition of mankind is depicted with all its weakness and temptations. The ardent expectation of mankind for their only hope, the mercy of God, is expressed here. Those praying in church should be listening with special attentiveness and reverence to these psalms.
After the Six Psalms the deacon proclaims the Great Litany. The choir follows the Litany with the loud and joyful chant of this hymn with its verses: "God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us; Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." It is affirmed that God is Lord and has manifested Himself unto us, and He Who comes in the glory of the Lord is worthy of glorification.
The troparion or hymn that particularly honors and describes the feast or saint being celebrated follows, and then two kathismas are read, two of the twenty sections into which the Psalter is consecutively divided. The reading of the kathismas, as well as that of the Six Psalms, calls us to ponder our wretched, sinful condition and to place all our hope on the mercy and help of God. At the conclusion of each kathisma the deacon recites the Small Litany.
The Polyeleos, a Greek word meaning "much mercy," is then celebrated. The Polyeleos is the most festive and solemn part of Matins and the All-night Vigil, expressing the glorification of the mercy of God, which has been manifested to us by the coming to earth of the Son of God and His accomplishing our salvation from the power of the Devil and death. The Polyeleos begins with the triumphant singing of the verses of praise: Praise ye the name of the Lord; O ye servants, praise the Lord. Alleluia. Blessed is the Lord out of Sion, Who dwelleth in Jerusalem. Alleluia. O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth forever. Alleluia. O give thanks unto the God of heaven; for His mercy endureth forever. Alleluia.
With the chanting of these verses all the lamps and candles in the church are lit, the Royal Gates are opened, and the priest, preceded by the deacon holding a lit candle, comes out of the altar and goes around the church censing as a sign of reverence for God and His Saints.
On Sundays, after the chanting of these verses, special Resurrection troparia, joyful hymns in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, are sung. They describe how the angels appeared to the Myrrhbearing women when they came to the tomb of Christ and told them of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. On other great feasts instead of these Resurrection troparia, the Magnification, a short verse of praise in honor of the saint or feast of that day, is sung before its icon.
After the Resurrection troparia or the Magnification, the deacon repeats the Small Litany, which is followed by the singing of the Hymns of Ascent, alternately by two choirs. There are three antiphons for each of the eight tones (the eighth tone has four); one group being used on each Sunday, depending on the tone of the week. Other feast days the first antiphon of the fourth tone is used. The deacon then says the prokeimenon and the priest reads the Gospel.
At a Sunday service the reading from the Gospel concerns the Resurrection of Christ and the appearances of Christ to His disciples, while on other feasts the Gospel reading relates to the events being celebrated or to the saint being glorified.
On Sundays, after the Gospel, the solemn hymn in honor of the risen Christ taken from the Paschal Matins service is sung, "Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus..."
The Gospel is then carried into the center of the church and the faithful proceed forward to venerate it. On other feasts the faithful venerate the festal icon, and the priest anoints them on the forehead with oil and distributes the bread blessed during the Litia.
After the hymn, "Having beheld the Resurrection...," the 50th Psalm is read as well as other hymns asking for the mercy of the Lord, the Theotokos and the Apostles. The deacon then reads the prayer for the intercession of the Saints, "Save, O God, Thy people...," and the priest exclaims, "Through the mercy and compassion...." The chanting of the Canon begins.
The canon is the name for a series of hymns which are composed according to a definite order. "Canon" is a Greek word which means "rule." A canon is divided into nine parts or odes. The first verse of each ode is called the irmos, which means "connection" or "link" and is chanted. With these irmosi all the rest of the canon is joined into one whole. The rest of the verses for each ode, called troparia, are now usually read, although they were originally chanted to the same melody as the irmos. The second ode of the canons is included only during Great Lent due to its penitential character.
The most noted composers of these canons were Sts. John of Damascus, Cosmas of Maiouma and Andrew of Crete, who wrote the penitential Great Canon used during Great Lent. The hymnography of these composers was inspired by the prayers and actions of some of the great Old Testament saints. Though in common practice they are now chanted only during Great Lent, each ode should be preceded by the Biblical ode upon which each Canon ode is based. The figures commemorated for each Biblical ode, which are found at the end of the Psalter, are the Prophet Moses (first and second odes); the Prophetess Anna, the mother of Samuel (third ode); the Prophet Habbakuk (fourth ode); the Prophet Isaiah (fifth ode); the Prophet Jonah (the sixth ode); the three Hebrew children (seventh and eighth odes); and the Priest Zacharias, the father of St. John the Forerunner (ninth ode).
Prior to the beginning of the ninth ode, the deacon proclaims: "The Theotokos and Mother of the Light, let us magnify in song," and proceeds to cense around the entire church. The choir then begins the Song of the Theotokos, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God My Saviour." Each verse of this hymn alternates with the singing of the refrain, "More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, Who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the very Theotokos, Thee do we magnify." Following this hymn to the Theotokos, the choir continues with the irmos and troparia of the ninth ode of the canon.
Concerning the general content of the canons, the irmosi remind the faithful of the Old Testament period and events from the history of our salvation and gradually lead our thoughts to the Nativity of Christ. The troparia recount New Testament events and the history of the Church, presenting a series of verses or hymns glorifying the Lord and the Mother of God, and also honoring the event being celebrated, or the saint glorified on this day.
On major feasts each ode is concluded by a katavasia, a Greek word meaning "descent," and the deacon proclaims the Small Litany after the third, sixth and ninth odes.
On Sundays, "Holy is the Lord our God" is then alternated with a few verses, and another special verse for the feast called the Exaposti-larion, or "Hymn of Lights," is chanted.
Then the Lauds or "Praises" (Psalms 148,149,150) are chanted, along with the verses for the "Praises," in which all of God’s creation is summoned to glorify Him: "Let every breath praise the Lord...." If it is a major feast special hymns in honor of the occasion are inserted between the final verses.
The Great Doxology follows the chanting of the Lauds. The Royal Gates are opened during the singing of the last hymn of the Lauds (the Sunday Theotokion) and the priest exclaims, "Glory to Thee Who has shown us the light." The doxology begins "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill among men. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory..." In early Church practice the singing of this hymn just preceded the first light of dawn.
In the Great Doxology we give thanks to God for the light of day and for the bestowal of spiritual Light — the light of Truth, Christ the Saviour, Who has enlightened mankind with His teachings. The Doxology concludes with the chanting of the Trisagion and the singing of the festal troparion. The deacon then intones the Augmented and Supplicatory litanies.
Matins for an All-night Vigil concludes with the Dismissal. The priest turns to the faithful and says, "May Christ our true God (on Sundays, "Who rose from the dead" through the intercessions of His Most-pure Mother, of the holy, glorious, and all-praised Apostles, of the holy and righteous Ancestors of God Joachim and Anna, and of all the saints, have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and the Lover of mankind."
The choir responds with a prayer that the Lord preserve the Orthodox episcopate for many years, as well as the ruling hierarch and all Orthodox Christians. The last part of the All-night Vigil, the First Hour, follows. The service of the First Hour consists of the reading of three psalms and of various prayers, in which we request that God hear our voices in the morning and that He guide our hands during the course of the day. The First Hour concludes with the victorious hymn in honor of the Theotokos, "To Thee the Champion Leader..." The priest reads the Dismissal for the First Hour, and the All-night Vigil comes to an end.
7. The Divine Liturgy.
The Liturgy is the most important divine service, for in it the most holy Mystery of Communion is celebrated, as established by our Lord Jesus Christ on Holy Thursday evening, the eve of His Passion. After He had washed the feet of His disciples, to give them an example of humility, the Lord gave praise to God the Father, took bread, blessed it and broke it, giving it to the Apostles, saying, Take, eat, this is My Body, which is broken for you. Then He took a cup with grape wine and also blessed it and gave it to them with the words, Drink of it all of you: for this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins. And when they had communed of these, the Lord gave them the commandment to always perform this Mystery, Do this in remembrance of Me (Matt. 26:26-28, Lk. 22:19; I Cor. 11:24).
The Apostles celebrated Holy Communion according to the commandment and example of Jesus Christ and taught all Christians to perform this great and saving Mystery. In the earliest times the order and form of celebrating the Liturgy was transmitted orally, and all the prayers and sacred hymns were memorized. Eventually, written explications of the apostolic Liturgy began to appear. As time passed, new prayers, hymns and sacred actions were added in various churches so that the uniformity of its performance was lost. The need arose to unify all the existing orders of the Liturgy and to reintroduce harmony in their celebration. In the fourth century, when the persecutions of the Romans against Christians ended, it was possible to re-establish good order in the Church’s inner life through Ecumenical Councils. St. Basil the Great wrote down and offered for general use one form of the Liturgy, while St. John Chrysostom composed a shorter version of St. Basil’s Liturgy. These liturgies were based on the most ancient Liturgy, ascribed to St. James the Apostle, the first bishop of Jerusalem.
St. Basil the Great, who reposed in 379 A.D, was archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia in Asia Minor. He is called "the Great" because of his great ascetic endeavors and his literary contribution to the Church of numerous prayers and ecclesiastical writings and rules.
St. John Chrysostom was an archbishop of Constantinople. He was called "Chrysostom" (in Greek, "the golden tongued") for his unique rhetorical gifts with which he proclaimed the Word of God. Though he reposed in 402 A.D. in exile, many volumes of his sermons and letters remain to edify us spiritually.
The liturgy is described by various terms. "Liturgy" itself is a Greek word meaning "common action or service" and signifies that the Mystery of Holy Communion is the reconciling sacrifice of God for the sins of the entire community of faithful, the living and the dead. Since the Mystery of Holy Communion is called "Evharistia" in Greek or "the Thanksgiving Sacrifice," the Liturgy is also called the "Eucharist." It is also termed the "Mystical Supper" or the "Lord’s Supper" since it is customarily celebrated around noon, and the Body and Blood of Christ offered in the Mystery of Holy Communion are called such in the Word of God (cf. I Cor. 10:21; 11:20). In apostolic times the Liturgy was referred to as the breaking of bread (Acts 2:46). In the Liturgy the earthly life and teachings of Jesus Christ, from His Nativity to His Ascension into Heaven, are recalled, as well as the benefits which He bestowed upon the earth for our salvation.
The order of the Liturgy is as follows. First, the elements for the Mystery are prepared, then the faithful are prepared for the Mystery, and finally the very Mystery itself is celebrated and the faithful receive Communion. The Liturgy is divided into three parts: I) the Proskomedia, II) the Liturgy of the Catechumens and III) the Liturgy of the Faithful.
"Proskomedia" is a Greek word meaning "offering." The first part of the Liturgy derives its name from the early Christian custom of the people offering the bread and wine, and all else that was needed for the Liturgy. Therefore the very bread which is used in it is termed "prosphora," another word meaning "offering." This bread or prosphora must be leavened, pure and made of wheat flour. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, for the celebration of the Mystery of Holy Communion, used leavened, not unleavened bread, as is clear from the Greek word used in the New Testament. The prosphora must be round and is formed into two parts, one above the other, as an image of the two natures of Jesus Christ, divine and human. On the flat surface of the upper part a seal of the Cross is impressed, and in the four sections are thus formed the initial Greek letters of the name of "Jesus Christ," IC XC, and the Greek word NIKA, which mean "Jesus Christ conquers."
The wine used in the Mystery must be red grape wine, as this color reminds one of the color of blood. The wine is mixed with water to remind us of the pierced side of the Saviour from which flowed blood and water on the Cross. Five prosphoras are used in the Proskomedia to recall the five loaves with which Christ miraculously fed the five thousand, an event which gave Jesus Christ the means to teach the people about spiritual nourishment, about the incorrupt, spiritual food which is bestowed in the Mystery of Holy Communion (John 6:22-58). For Communion only one prosphora is used (the Lamb), in accordance with the words of the Apostle: one loaf, and we many are one body; for all have partaken of only one loaf (I Cor. 10:17). Therefore this one prosphora must correspond in size to the number of communicants.
The Celebration of Proskomedia.
In order to prepare, according to the ecclesiastical Typikon, for the celebration of the Liturgy, the priest and deacon read the "entrance prayers" before the closed doors of the Royal Doors and then enter the Sanctuary and vest. Then going to the Altar of Oblation the priest blesses the beginning of Proskomedia, takes the first prosphora, the Lamb, and with the spear makes the sign of the Cross over it three times, saying the words, "In remembrance of our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ." These words mean that the Proskomedia is celebrated according to the commandments of Jesus Christ. The priest then cuts a cube out of the center of this prosphora with the spear and pronounces the words of the Prophet Isaiah, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a blameless lamb before his shearer is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth; in His lowliness His Judgement was taken away (Is. 53:7-8).
This cubical portion of the prosphora is called the Lamb (John 1:29) and is placed on the diskos. Then the priest cuts cruciformly the lower side of the Lamb while saying the words, "Sacrificed is the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, for the life and salvation of the world." He then pierces the right side of the Lamb with the spear, saying the words of the Evangelist, One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith there came out blood and water. And he that saw it bare witness, and his witness is true (John 19:34). In accordance with these words wine is poured into the chalice mixed with water. From the second prosphora the priest cuts out one portion in honor of the Mother of God and places it on the right side of the Lamb on the diskos. From the third prosphora, which is called "that of the nine ranks," are taken nine portions in honor of the saints, John the Baptist, the prophets, the apostles, the hierarchs, the martyrs, the monastic saints, the unmercenaries, the parents of God, Joachim and Anna, the saint who is celebrated that day, and finally the saint whose liturgy is being celebrated. These portions are placed on the left side the Lamb on the diskos in three rows of three. From the fourth prosphora portions are removed for the hierarchs, the priesthood and all the living, and are placed below the Lamb. From the fifth prosphora, portions are taken for those Orthodox Christians who have reposed, and these are placed just below those which were removed for the living. Finally, portions are removed from those prosphoras donated by the faithful as the names of the living and the dead are read simultaneously for the health and salvation and the repose of the servants of God. These are placed together with those portions taken from the fourth and fifth prosphoras. The Russian tradition is to use five separate prosphoras at the Proskomedia. Other traditions such as the Greek use one or two large ones from which the portions are taken.
At the end of the Proskomedia the priest blesses the censer and incense, and after censing the Star he places it on the diskos over the Lamb and the portions in order to preserve their arrangement. He covers the diskos and chalice with two small cruciform cloth covers, and over the two of them another larger veil called the "aer" is placed. Then he censes the Holy Gifts and prays that the Lord bless the offered gifts, remember those who have offered them and those for whom they are offered, and make the priest himself worthy for the solemn performance the Divine Mystery.
The sacred instruments used and actions performed in the Proskomedia have a symbolic meaning. The Diskos signifies the cave in Bethlehem and Golgotha; the Star, the star of Bethlehem and the Cross; the Covers and Veils, the swaddling clothes and the winding sheet at the tomb of the Saviour; the Chalice, that cup in which Jesus Christ sanctified the wine; the prepared Lamb, the judgment, passion and death of Jesus Christ; its piercing by the spear, the piercing of Christ’s body by one of the soldiers. The arrangement of all the portions in a certain order on the diskos signifies the entire Kingdom of God whose members consist of the Mother of God, the angels, all the holy men who have been pleasing to God, all the faithful Orthodox Christians, living and dead, and in the center its head, the Lord Himself, our Saviour. The censing signifies the overshadowing by the Holy Spirit, whose Grace is shared in the Mystery of Holy Communion.
The Proskomedia is performed by the priest in a quiet voice at the Table of Oblation when the sanctuary is closed. During its celebration, the Third and Sixth (and sometimes the Ninth) Hours are read according to the Horologion.
The Liturgy of the Catechumens.
The second part of the Liturgy is called the Liturgy of the Catechumens because the catechumens, those preparing to receive Holy Baptism and likewise the penitents who are temporarily excommunicated for serious sins, are allowed to participate in its celebration.
The deacon, upon receiving a blessing from the priest, goes out from the Altar to the Ambo, and loudly pronounces the words, "Bless, Master," that is, bless that the service begin and for the gathered faithful to partake in prayerful glorification of God. The priest in his first exclamation glorifies the Holy Trinity, "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages." The choir responds with "Amen" ("so be it"). The deacon intones the Great Litany in which are enumerated the various needs of Christians and our requests to the Lord, at which time the priest in the Altar privately prays that the Lord look down upon the church and those at prayer in it and fulfill their needs. The Great Litany begins by reminding us that in order to pray to the Lord one needs to be "at peace," that is, reconciled with all, having no resentment, anger, or hostility towards anyone. According to the teaching of the Saviour we may not offer God any gifts, if we have anything against our neighbor (Matt. 5:23-24). The loftiest good for which one should pray is this peace of soul and the salvation of the soul: "for the peace from above (Heaven) and the salvation of our souls." This peace is that serenity of conscience and sense of joy which we experience when we have conscientiously been to Confession and worthily partaken of Holy Communion, or that sympathetic concern for the welfare of our fellow men when we have done a good deed. The Saviour bestowed this peace on the Apostles during His farewell conversation at the Mystical Supper (John 14:27). "For the peace of the whole world," asks that there be no disputes and hostility among nations or races throughout the entire world.
"For the good estate of the holy churches of God," is a prayer that the Orthodox Churches in every country might firmly and unwaveringly, on the basis of the Word of God and the canons of the Universal Church, confess the Holy Orthodox Faith, and "for the union of all," asks that all may be drawn into one flock of Christ (cf. John 10:16).
We pray "for this holy temple," which is the principle sacred object of the parish and should be the object of special care on the part of each parishioner, so that the Lord preserve it from fire, thieves and other misfortunes; and that those who enter it ("for them that enter herein") do so with sincere faith, reverence, and the fear of God.
We pray for the patriarchs, metropolitans, archbishops and bishops because they are entrusted with the overall supervision of the purity of the Christian faith and morals; "for pious rulers," who preserve the freedom of the Orthodox Faith and the general lawful order for the peaceful life of all citizens; "For this city (or monastery)" in which we live and work, and "for every city, country and the faithful that dwell therein" we also pray in a spirit of Christian love, and for all the other cities and their environs and all the faithful who live in them.
"For seasonable weather, abundance of the fruits of the earth, and peaceful times": we pray for good weather so that the earth might yield in abundance her fruits that are necessary for the nourishment of all the inhabitants of these countries, and for peaceful times, so that there be no enmity or conflicts among these citizens that will distract them from peaceful and honorable labors; "for travelers by sea, land and air, for the sick, the suffering, the imprisoned and for their salvation" — all those persons who more than others need divine aid and our prayers.
We pray "that we be delivered from every tribulation, wrath, and necessity." Then we beseech the Lord that He defend and preserve us not according to our deeds nor our merits, which we lack, but solely according to His mercy: "Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by The grace."
In the final words of the Litany, "calling to remembrance" the Mother of God and all the saints, we entrust and surrender ourselves and each other to Christ God so that He might guide us according to His wise will. The priest concludes the Great Litany with the exclamation, "For unto Thee is due all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages," which contains, according to the example of the Lord’s Prayer, the doxology or glorification of the Lord God.
After the Great Litany, Psalms 102 ("Bless the Lord, O my soul...") and 145 ("Praise the Lord, O my soul...") are chanted, separated by the Small Litany, "Again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord." These psalms describe the blessings for the human race bestowed by God. The heart and soul of the Christian must bless the Lord, Who purifies and heals our mental and physical weaknesses and fills our desires with good things and delivers our life from corruption, and thus one must not forget all His benefits. The Lord is merciful, compassionate and longsuffering. He keeps truth unto the ages, gives Judgement to the wronged and food to the hungry, frees the imprisoned, loves the righteous, receives the orphan and widow and punishes the sinner.
These psalms are called the "Typical Psalms" and are chanted "antiphonally," with the verses alternating between two choirs. These psalms are not sung on the feasts of the Lord but are replaced by special verses from other psalms which relate to the events being celebrated. After each of these verses the refrain is chanted, "Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Saviour, save us." The verses of the second festal antiphon are dependent on the feast being celebrated. For the Nativity of Christ we chant "Save us, O Son of God, Who art born of the Virgin," "Who wast baptized in the Jordan" for the Theophany of the Lord, and "Who art risen from the dead" for Pascha. All are concluded with "save us who sing unto Thee. Alleluia."
The second antiphon is always followed by the hymn, "O Only-begotten Son and Word of God, Who art immortal, yet didst deign for our salvation to be incarnate of the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, and without change didst become man, Thou Who art one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us." This hymn sets forth the Orthodox teaching on the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the Only-begotten (one in essence) Son and Word of God, Christ God, Who being immortal, became human without ceasing to be God ("without change" — became incarnate) and accepted a human body from the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. By His crucifixion, He with His death conquered our death, "trampling down death by death," as one of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and is glorified equally with the Father and Holy Spirit.
The Small Litany and the chanting of the Gospel Beatitudes follow (Matt. 5:3-12). The Beatitudes indicate the spiritual qualities necessary for a Christian seeking the mercy of God: humility of spirit (spiritual poverty) and contrition concerning one’s sins, meekness when drawing near the righteousness of God, purity of heart, compassion for one’s neighbor, seeking peace in all situations, patience amid every temptation, and a readiness to endure dishonor, persecution, and death for Christ, trusting that as a confessor for Him, and for such ascetic struggles, one can expect a great reward in Heaven. Instead of the Gospel Beatitudes, on the great feasts of the Lord the festal troparion is sung several times with various verses.
During the chanting of the Gospel Beatitudes the Royal Gates are opened for the Small Entry. As the Beatitudes are ending the priest takes the Holy Gospel from the Altar, gives it to the deacon and comes out with the deacon, who carries the sacred Gospel through the north door onto the ambo. This entrance with the Holy Gospel by the clergy is termed the Small Entry to distinguish it from the Great Entrance which follows, and it reminds the faithful of the first appearance of Jesus Christ to the world, when He came to begin His universal preaching. After receiving a blessing from the priest, the deacon remains standing in the Royal Gates and raising the sacred Gospel aloft, he loudly proclaims, "Wisdom! Aright!" He then enters the Sanctuary and places the Gospel on the Holy Table. The exclamation, "Wisdom! Aright!" reminds the faithful that they must stand upright (in the literal meaning of the Greek word Orthi which is correctly, or straight) and be attentive, keeping their thoughts concentrated. They should look upon the Holy Gospel as upon Jesus Christ Himself Who has come to preach, and faithfully sing, "O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ; save us, O Son of God, Who didst rise from the dead (or, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, or Who art wondrous in Thy saints), who chant unto Thee: Alleluia!" The troparia and kon-takia for Sunday, or the feast, or the saint of the day are then chanted, while the priest privately prays that the Heavenly Father Who is hymned by the Cherubim, and glorified by the Seraphim, receive from us the angelic (trisagion) hymn, forgive us our sins, and sanctify and grant us the power to rightly serve Him. The conclusion of this prayer, "For Holy art Thou, our God...," is uttered aloud.
The Trisagion Hymn, "Holy God...," is then chanted, though for the Nativity of Christ, the Baptism of the Lord, Pascha and Bright Week, and the Day of the Holy Trinity, as well as on Holy Saturday and Lazarus Saturday, we chant, "As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ: Alleluia." This hymn is chanted because in the early days of the Church, the catechumens received Holy Baptism on these days. On the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord (September 14) and on the third Sunday of Great Lent (when the veneration of the Cross is celebrated) instead of the Trisagion we chant, "before Thy Cross we bow down, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify."
The Appearance of Jesus The Little Entry With the Gospel Christ in the World.
Following the Trisagion the Epistle for the day is read from either the Book of Acts or the seven catholic epistles of the Apostles or the fourteen epistles of the Apostle Paul, according to a special order. The faithful are prepared for the attentive hearing of the Epistle by the exclamations, "Let us attend," "Peace to all," "Wisdom" and the chanting of the prokeimenon, which is a special short verse which changes with the day. During the reading of the Epistle a censing is performed as a symbol of the Grace of the Holy Spirit by which the Apostles proclaimed to the entire world the teachings of Jesus Christ. One should respond both to the censing and to the exclamation of the priest, "peace to all," with a simple bow, without making any sign of the Cross. "Alleluia" is sung three times with the intoning of special verses, and the Gospel of the day is read, also according to a special set of indications. This is preceded and accompanied by the chanting of a joyous hymn, "Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee," since for the believing Christian there can be no more joyful words than those of the Gospel concerning the life, teachings, and miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Epistle and Gospel must be listened to with particular attention, with a bowed head. It is good for people to familiarize themselves with the readings beforehand. Before the readings begin one ought to cross oneself and at their conclusion make the sign of the Cross and bow.
The Gospel is followed by the Augmented Litany, when the faithful are invited to pray to the Lord God with a pure heart and all the powers of their soul. "Let us say with our whole soul and with our mind..." In two of the petitions we fervently request the Lord to hear our prayer and to have mercy on us. "O Lord, Almighty, the God of our Fathers, we pray Thee, hearken and have mercy — Have mercy on us, O God..." Then follow the fervent petitions for the patriarchs, the metropolitans, the archbishops, the bishops, the ruling hierarch and "all our brethren in Christ" (all the faithful Christians), for pious rulers, for priests, priest monks and all the serving clergy of the Church of Christ, for the blessed and ever-memorable (always worthy of memory) holy Orthodox patriarchs, and pious kings, and rightbelieving queens, and for the founders of the holy church parish, and all the Orthodox fathers and brethren who have reposed, and are buried in the vicinity and everywhere. It is necessary to pray for the dead in the spirit of Christian love which never fails, all the more since for the reposed there is no more repentance after the grave, but only requital: blessed life or eternal torment. Christian prayer for them, good deeds accomplished in their memory, and especially the offering of the bloodless Sacrifice can evoke the mercy of God, lighten the torment of sinners, and according to Tradition even free them entirely.
We pray too for mercy, that the Lord will be compassionate towards us, for life, peace, health, salvation and the forgiveness of the sins of the brethren of this holy temple (the parishioners). The last petition of the Augmented Litany refers to those who are active and do good deeds in the holy, local church (parish), those who labor for it, those who chant and the people present who await of God great and abundant mercy. Those who are active and do good deeds for the church are those faithful who provide the church with all that is necessary for the divine service (oil, incense, prosphoras, etc). and who contribute to the needs of the church and parish with their monetary and material goods for the beauty and decoration of the church, for the support of those who work for it, the readers, chanters, serving clergy, and those who help poor parishioners and provide help when other common religious and moral needs may arise.
The Augmented Litany is followed by the special Litany for the Departed, in which we pray for all the fathers and brethren who have reposed. We beseech Christ the immortal King and our God to forgive them all their sins, voluntary and involuntary, and to grant them a place of repose and serenity in the dwellings of the righteous, and, admitting that there is no man who has not sinned in his life, we ask the Righteous Judge to grant them the Heavenly Kingdom wherein all the righteous find peace.
The Litany for the Catechumens is then recited, in which we ask the Lord to have mercy on them and establish them in the truths of the Holy Faith ("reveal unto them the Gospel of righteousness") and make them worthy of Holy Baptism ("unite them to His Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church"). During this litany the priest opens the Antimins on the Altar, and the litany ends with the exclamation, "that with us they also may glorify...;" in other words, that they (the catechumens) might together with us (the faithful) glorify the all-honorable and great name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then the catechumens are requested to depart from the church building: "As many as are catechumens, depart..." Catechumens exist even today as people prepare to become Orthodox all over the world, pagans (in China, Japan, Siberia, Africa), Muslims, and Jews — as well as those coming into the Orthodox Church from the schismatic and heretical traditions of the Western denominations. They are all in need of the mercy of God, and therefore we are obliged to pray for them. These words for the catechumens to depart from the church building should also be a warning to us, even if there are no actual catechumens among us. We, the baptized, sin frequently and often without repentance are present in the church, lacking the requisite preparation and having in our hearts hostility and envy against our fellow men. Therefore, with the solemn and threatening words, "catechumens depart," we as unworthy ones should examine ourselves closely and ponder our unworthi-ness, asking forgiveness from our personal enemies, often imagined, and ask the Lord God for the forgiveness of our sins with the firm resolve to do better.
With the words, "As many as are of the faithful, again and again, in peace let us pray to the Lord," the Liturgy of the Faithful begins.
The Liturgy of the Faithful.
This third part of the Liturgy is so called because only the faithful are allowed to be present during its celebration — those already baptized. It can be divided into the following sections: 1) The transferal of the honored Gifts from the Table of Oblation to the Holy Table, 2) the preparation of the faithful for the consecration of the Gifts, 3) the consecration (transformation) of the Gifts, 4) the preparation of the faithful for Communion, 5) Communion, and 6) the thanksgiving for Communion and the Dismissal.
The Transferal of the Honored Gifts.
Following the request for the catechumens to depart from the church two short litanies are proclaimed, and the Cherubic Hymn is chanted: "Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and chant the thrice-holy hymn unto the Life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly care, that we may receive the King of all, Who cometh invisibly upborne in triumph by the ranks of angels. Alleluia."
The words of the original Greek for "upborne in triumph" mean literally, "borne aloft as on spears." This refers to an ancient practice when a nation, desiring to solemnly glorify its king or war leader, would seat him upon their shields, and raising him aloft would carry him before the army and through the city streets. As the shields were borne aloft on the spears, so it would seem that the triumphant leader was carried by their spears.
The Cherubic Hymn reminds the faithful that they have now left behind every thought for daily life, and offering themselves as a likeness of the Cherubim, are found close to God in Heaven and, together with the angels, sing the thrice-holy hymn in praise of God. Prior to the Cherubic Hymn the Royal Gates are opened and the deacon performs the censing, while the priest in private prayers requests of the Lord that He purify his soul and heart from an evil conscience and by the power of the Holy Spirit make him worthy to offer to God the Gifts which have been presented. Then the priest, with the deacon, three times quietly says the words of the Cherubic Hymn, and both proceed to the Table of Oblation for the transferal of the precious Gifts from the Table of Oblation to the Holy Table. The deacon, with the Aer on his left shoulder, carries the Diskos on his head, while the priest carries the Chalice in his hands.
Leaving the altar by the north door, while the choir chants "Let us lay aside all earthly care...," they come to a stop on the ambo, facing the people. They commemorate the patriarchs, metropolitians, archbishops, the local ruling bishop, the clergy, monastics, the founders of the church (or monastery) and the Orthodox Christians who are present. They then turn and enter the altar through the Royal Gates, place the precious gifts on the Holy Table, on the opened Antimins, and cover them with the Aer. As the choir finishes the Cherubic Hymn the Royal Gates and curtain are closed. The Great Entry symbolizes the solemn passing of Jesus Christ to His voluntary suffering and death by crucifixion. The faithful should stand during this time with bowed heads and pray that the Lord remember them and all those close to them in His Kingdom. After the priest says the words, "and all of you Orthodox Christians, may the Lord God remember in His kingdom," one must say softly, "And may the Lord God remember your priesthood in His Kingdom, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages."
The Preparation of the Faithful.
Following the Great Entry is the preparation of the faithful so that they might be worthy to be present during the consecration of the Gifts which have been prepared. This preparation begins with the Intercessory Litany, "Let us complete our prayer unto the Lord" for the "Precious Gifts set forth (offered)," so that they might be pleasing to the Lord. At the same time the priest prays privately that the Lord sanctify them with His Grace. We then pray that the Lord help us to pass the entire day in perfection, that is, holy, peaceful, and without sin, and that He send us a Guardian Angel to be a faithful guide on the path of truth and goodness, keeping our souls and bodies from every evil. We ask that He forgive and forget our accidental sins as well as our frequently repeated transgressions, that He grant us all that is good and beneficial for the soul and not those things which gratify our destructive passions, and that all people might live and work in peace and not in enmity and mutually destructive conflict; that we might spend the remainder of our lives at peace with our neighbors and with our own conscience and in contrition for the sins we have committed; that we be granted a Christian ending to our lives, that is, that we might confess and receive the Holy Mysteries of Christ before our repose. We ask for an end to our lives which is peaceful, with peace of soul and reconciliation with our fellow men. Finally, we ask that the Lord deem us worthy to give a good, fearless account at His Dread Judgement.
In order to be present worthily at the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, the following are absolutely required: peace of soul, mutual love and the true (Orthodox) Faith, which unites all believers. Therefore, after the Litany of Intercession, the priest when blessing the people, says "Peace be unto all." Those praying express the same desire in their souls with the words, "And to Thy spirit." Then he exclaims, "Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess...," and the choir chants, "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, One in essence and indivisible." This response indicates for us Who should be confessed in unanimity in order to recite the Creed in a worthy manner. Then comes the exclamation, "The doors! the doors! In wisdom, let us attend." The Symbol of Faith (the Creed) is then sung or read, in which briefly, but exactly, our faith in the Holy Trinity and the other main truths of the Orthodox Church are set forth. At this time the curtain behind the Royal Doors is opened and the celebrant lifts the Aer from the precious Gifts, and gently waves it over them in expectation of the descent of the Holy Spirit. The words "The doors! the doors!" in ancient times reminded the doorkeepers to watch carefully at the doors of the church that none of the catechumens or unbelievers enter. Today these words remind the faithful to close the doors of their souls against the assault of thoughts. The words, "In wisdom, let us attend," indicate that we should be attentive to the truths of the Orthodox faith as set forth in the Creed.
From this point on, the faithful should not leave the church until the end of the Liturgy. The Fathers condemned the transgression of this requirement, writing in the ninth Apostolic Canon, "all faithful who leave the church... and do not remain at prayer until the end, as being those who introduce disorder into the church, should be separated from the church community." After the Symbol of the Faith the priest exclaims, "Let us stand aright, let us stand with fear, let us attend, that we may offer the holy oblation in peace," directing the attention of the faithful to the fact that the time has come to offer the "holy oblation," or sacrifice. It is time to celebrate the Holy Mystery of the Eucharist, and from this moment one ought to stand with special reverence and atten-tiveness. The choir then responds, "A mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise." We offer with gratitude for the mercy of heavenly peace granted to us from above the only sacrifice we can, that of praise. The priest blesses the faithful with the words, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." His next words, "Let us lift up our hearts," summon us to a reverent presenting of ourselves before God. The choir responds with reverence in the name of those praying, "We lift them up unto the Lord," affirming that our hearts are already striving and aspiring to the Lord.
The Consecration of the Gifts.
The act of the Holy Mystery of Communion comprises the main portion of the Liturgy. It begins with the words of the priest, "Let us give thanks unto the Lord." The faithful express their gratitude to the Lord for His mercy by bowing to Him, while the choir chants, "It is meet and right to worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in essence and indivisible." Praying silently, the priest offers a eu-charistic prayer (one of thanksgiving), glorifying the infinite perfection of God, giving thanks to the Lord for the creation and redemption of mankind and for His mercy, in forms both known and unknown, and for the fact that He deems us worthy to offer Him this bloodless sacrifice, although the higher beings, the archangels, angels, Cherubim and Seraphim stand before Him "singing the triumphal hymn, shouting, crying aloud, and saying:." These last words of the priest are said aloud as the choir proceeds with the described hymn by singing the angelic hymn, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord of Sabaoth, Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory." Then the choir adds to this hymn, which is called the "Seraphic Hymn," the exclamation with which the people greeted the entry of the Lord into Jerusalem, "Hosanna (a Hebrew expression of good will: save, or help, O God!) in the highest, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest!" The words, "singing the triumphal hymn," are taken from the visions of the Prophet Ezekiel (1:4-24) and the Apostle John the Theologian (Rev. 4:6-8). In both their visions they beheld the throne of God surrounded by angels in the form of an eagle (singing), a bull (shouting), a lion (crying out) and a man (saying) who continually were exclaiming, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts."
The priest privately continues the eucharistic prayer which glorifies the benevolence and the infinite love of God, which was manifest in the coming upon the earth of the Son of God. In remembrance of the Mystical Supper, when the Lord established the holy Mystery of Communion, he pronounces aloud the words of the Saviour which He spoke upon instituting the Holy Mystery, "Take, eat; this is My Body, which is broken for you, for the remission of sins" and "Drink of it, all of you: this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins." The priest then inaudibly recalls the commandment of the Saviour to perform this Mystery, glorifies His passion, death, and resurrection, ascension, and His second coming, and then aloud says, "Thine own of Thine own, we offer unto Thee, in behalf of all and for all," for all the members of the Orthodox Church and for the mercy of God.
The choir then chants slowly, "We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, and we pray unto Thee, O our God," while the priest in private prayer asks the Lord to send down the Holy Spirit upon the people present and the Gifts being offered and that He might sanctify them. In a subdued voice he reads the troparion from the Third Hour, "O Lord, Who didst send down Thy Most Holy Spirit upon Thine apostles at the third hour, take Him not from us, O Good One, but renew Him in us who pray unto Thee." The deacon pronounces the twelfth verse from the Fiftieth Psalm, "Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Then the priest again reads the troparion from the Third Hour, and the deacon pronounces the next verse from the same psalm, "Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy holy spirit from me." The priest reads the troparion for the third time. Blessing the Lamb on the Diskos, he says, "And make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ." Blessing the wine in the Chalice, he says, "And that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ." After each blessing the deacon says, "Amen." Finally, blessing the bread and wine together the priest says, "Changing them by Thy Holy Spirit." Again the deacon says, "Amen, amen, amen." At this great and sacred moment the bread and wine are changed into the true Body and true Blood of Christ. The priest then makes a full prostration to the ground before the Holy Gifts as to the Very King and God Himself. This is the most important and solemn moment of the Liturgy.
After the sanctification of the Holy Gifts the priest in private prayer asks the Lord that, for those who partake the Holy Gifts, it might serve "unto sobriety of soul (that is, that they may be strengthened in every good deed), unto the remission of sins, unto the communion of the Holy Spirit, unto the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven, unto boldness toward Thee; not unto Judgement or condemnation." He then remembers those for whom the Sacrifice is offered, for the Holy Gifts are offered to the Lord God as a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving for all the saints. Then the priest gives special remembrance of the Most-holy Virgin Mary and says aloud, "Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed, glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary," to which the faithful respond with the laudatory hymn in honor of the Mother of God, "It is truly meet" (During Holy Pascha and all the twelve great feasts, until their giving up, instead of "It is truly meet..." a special hymn is chanted, which is the ninth irmos of the festal canon from Matins with its appropriate refrains). The priest at this time privately prays for the reposed, and in beginning the prayer for the living says aloud, "Among the first, remember, O Lord, the Orthodox episcopate...," that is, the most holy Eastern Orthodox patriarchs and the ruling hierarchy. The faithful respond, "And each and every one." The prayer for the living ends with the exclamation of the priest, "And grant unto us that with one mouth and one heart we may glorify and hymn Thy most honorable and majestic name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." After this he gives his blessing to all those present, "And may the mercy of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, be with you all."
The Blessing of the Bread and The Consecration of the Gifts Wine by the Lord at the Mystical Supper
The Preparation of the Faithful for Communion.
This section begins with the Supplicatory Litany, "Having called to remembrance all the saints, again and again, in peace let us pray to the Lord....For the precious Gifts now offered and sanctified—That our God, the Lover of mankind, Who hath received them upon His holy and most heavenly and noetic altar as an odor of spiritual fragrance, will send down upon us Divine Grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit..." Then come the usual requests of the Supplicatory Litany, which ends with the exclamation of the priest, "And vouchsafe us, O Master, with boldness and without condemnation to dare to call upon Thee, the Heavenly God, as Father, and to say." The choir chants the "Our Father...," and in some churches all those present sing this prayer together. Then follows the bestowal of peace and the bowing of one’s head during which the priest prays to the Lord that He sanctify the faithful and enable them to partake without condemnation of the Holy Mysteries. At this time the deacon, while standing on the ambo, takes the orarion from his shoulder and girds himself with it in a cruciform pattern, in order to 1) serve the priest unencumbered during Communion and 2) to express his reverence for the Holy Gifts by representing the Seraphim who, as they surround the Throne of God, cover their faces with their wings (Is. 6:2-3). During the exclamation of the deacon, "Let us attend," the curtain is closed and the priest lifts the Holy Lamb above the Diskos and loudly proclaims, "Holy things are for the holy." This means that the Holy Gifts may be given only to the "holy," that is, the faithful who have sanctified themselves with prayer, fasting and the Mystery of Repentance.
In recognition of their unworthiness, the chanters, in the name of the faithful, exclaim, "One is Holy, One is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen."
The faithful who intend to come to Holy Communion must in advance attend the Vigil service in the church and read at home "The Order of Preparation for Holy Communion."
Then follows the communion of the serving clergy in the Sanctuary. The priest divides the Holy Lamb into four parts, and communes himself and then gives the Holy Mysteries to the deacon. After the communion of the clergy, the portions intended for the communion of the laity are put into the Chalice. During the communion of the clergy various verses of the psalms termed "Communion verses" are chanted, followed by various hymns relating to the feast, or the Prayers before Communion are read. The Royal Gates are opened then in preparation of the communion of the faithful laity, and the deacon with the sacred Chalice in his hands calls out, "With the fear of God and faith draw near." The opened Royal Doors are symbolic of the open tomb of the Saviour, and the bringing forth of the Holy Gifts of the appearance of Jesus Christ after His resurrection. After bowing to the Holy Chalice as before the very risen Saviour Himself, the choir, as representatives of the faithful, chant, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us." Those of the faithful who are to commune, "with the fear of God and faith," make a preliminary bow to the Holy Chalice and then listen quietly to the prayer before Communion, "I believe, O Lord and I confess..." in which they confess their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners, their faith in the Mystery of Communion by which, in the visible form of bread and wine, they receive the true Body and Blood of Christ as a pledge of eternal life and the Mystery of Communion with Him. They beseech Him to deem them worthy of partaking without condemnation of the Sacred Mysteries for the forgiveness of sins, promising not only not to betray Christ, as did Judas, but even amid the sufferings of life to be like the wise thief, and to firmly and boldly confess their faith. After making a full prostration — if it is not a Sunday — the faithful step forward and go up to the ambo. To keep good order and out of reverence one should not leave one’s place, nor is it proper to impede or embarrass others with a desire to be first. Likewise, one should not be overly cautious and fearful, but should step forward with gratitude and serenity of faith. Each should remember that he is the first among sinners, but that the mercy of the Lord is infinite. With one’s hands crossed over one’s chest one should step forward to the Royal Gates for Communion and, without making a sign of the Cross near the Chalice, receive Communion from the spoon in the priest’s hands. After receiving, one kisses the side of the Chalice, again without making any sign of the Cross, so that the Chalice will not be accidentlv hit.
Children are encouraged to take Communion often from their earliest infancy, in the name of the faith of their parents and educators in accordance with the words of the Saviour, Suffer the little children to come unto Me and Drink of it, all of you. Children under seven or so are allowed to take Communion without confession, as they have not reached the age of responsibility or discernment.
Following Communion, the communicants step away from the Royal Gates to the small table set out specially in the center of the church, upon which are a mixture of water and wine together with some small portions of prosphora, which they drink and eat so that none of the Holy Gifts remain in the mouth but are washed down. After the communion of the laity, the priest puts all the particles taken from the offered prosphora into the Holy Chalice with a prayer that the Lord purify with His Blood the sins of all those commemorated through the prayers of the saints. He blesses the congregation with the words, "Save, O God, Thy people (those who believe in Thee) and bless Thine inheritance," (those who are Thine own, the Church of Christ). In response the choir chants, "We have seen the true Light, we have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, we worship the indivisible Trinity: for The First Appearance of the Lord The First Appearance of the Holy Gifts after the Resurrection
He hath saved us." This means that we have seen the true light since, having washed our sins in the Mystery of Baptism, we are called the sons of God by Grace, sons of the Light. We have received the Holy Spirit by means of sacred Chrismation, we confess the true Orthodox Faith and worship the indivisible Trinity, because He has saved us. The deacon takes the Diskos from the priest, who hands it to him from the Holy Table, and raising it before him bears it to the Table of Oblation, while the priest takes the Holy Chalice and blesses the faithful with the exclamation, "Always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages" and then likewise carries it to the Table of Oblation. This last elevating and presentation of the Holy Gifts to the congregation, their removal to the Table of Oblation, and the exclamation, are to remind us of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ into heaven and His promise to remain in the Church for all time unto the end of the ages (Matt. 28:20).
Thanksgiving for Communion and the Dismissal.
Bowing to the Holy Gifts for the last time, as to the very Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the faithful express their thanks to the Lord for Communion of the Holy Mysteries. The choir chants the hymn of gratitude, "Let our mouth be filled with Thy praise, O Lord, that we may hymn Thy glory, for Thou hast vouchsafed us to partake of Thy holy, divine, immortal and life-creating Mysteries. Keep us in Thy holiness, that we may meditate on Thy righteousness all the day long. Alleluia."
Having exalted the Lord because He has deemed us worthy of partaking of the Divine and immortal and life-creating Mysteries, we ask Him to preserve us in the holiness which we have received through the Holy Mystery of Communion, that we may contemplate on the righteousness of God throughout the entire day. Following this, the deacon intones the Small Litany, "Aright! Having partaken of the divine, holy, most pure, immortal, heavenly, and life-creating, fearful Mysteries of Christ," and thus summons us to "worthily give thanks unto the Lord."
Having asked His help in living the whole day in holiness, peace, and sinlessness, he invites us to devote ourselves and our lives to Christ God. The priest, folding up the Antimins and placing it on the Gospel, exclaims, "For Thou art our sanctification, and unto Thee do we send up glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." And then he adds, "Let us depart in peace."
This indicates that the Liturgy has concluded and that one should leave the Church at peace with all. The choir in the name of all chants, "In the name of the Lord," that is, we go forth with the blessing of the Lord. The priest then comes out through the Royal Gates and stands facing the Altar in front of the Ambo and reads the "Prayer before the Ambo," in which he again requests that the Lord save his people and bless His inheritance, sanctify those who love the splendor of the church building, and not deprive all those who hope on His mercy, grant peace to the world, to the priests, to faithful rulers, and to all mankind. This prayer is a condensed version of all the litanies uttered throughout the Divine Liturgy.
After the conclusion of the prayer before the ambo the faithful devote themselves to the will of God with the prayer of the Psalmist "Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and forevermore." Often at this point a pastoral sermon, based on the Word of God, is given for the spiritual enlightenment and edification of the people. The priest then offers a final blessing, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you, through His grace and love for mankind, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages," and gives thanks unto God, "Glory to Thee, O Christ God, our hope, glory to Thee."
Turning to the people and signing himself with the sign of the Cross, which the people should also make, the priest utters the Dismissal, "May Christ our True God..." At the Dismissal, after the priest commemorates the prayers for us by the Mother of God, the saint of the church, the saints whose memory is celebrated on that day, the righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna (the parents of the Mother of God), and all the saints, he expresses the hope that Christ the true God, will have mercy and save us since He is good and loves mankind. He steps to the bottom of the ambo and holds the holy Cross for the faithful to venerate and distributes the antidoron, the remainders from the prosphora which are cut into small pieces. In an orderly fashion the faithful proceed forward to kiss the Cross as a witness to their faith in the Saviour, in Whose memory the Divine Liturgy was celebrated. The choir chants a short prayer for the preservation for many years of the most holy Orthodox patriarchs, the ruling bishop, the parishioners and all Orthodox Christians.
The Liturgy of St. Basil The Great.
The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great in its content and order is almost identical with the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The only differences are the following:
1) The prayers which the priest reads privately in the altar, especially that of the Eucharistic Canon, are significantly longer, and therefore the chanting for this Liturgy is of longer duration.
2) The words of the Saviour by which He instituted the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist are as follows, "He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles, saying: Take, eat; this is My Body, which is broken for you for the remission of sins." And then, "He gave it to His holy disciples and apostles, saying: Drink of it all of you: this is My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins."
3) Instead of the hymn, "It is truly meet to bless thee...," a special hymn in honor of the Mother of God is chanted, "In Thee rejoiceth, O Thou who art full of grace, all creation, the angelic assembly and the race of man..."
In addition to these, when the Liturgy of St. Basil is celebrated on Great and Holy Thursday, the Cherubic Hymn is replaced by "Of Thy mystical supper, O Son of God,..." and on Great and Holy Saturday: "Let all human flesh keep silence..."
The Liturgy of St. Basil is celebrated only ten times throughout the year, on the eve of the feasts of the Nativity of Christ and the Theophany (or on the feasts themselves if they fall on Sunday or Monday), the first of January (the day St. Basil is commemorated), on the five Sundays of Great Lent (excluding Palm Sunday), and on Great Thursday and Great Saturday of Passion Week.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
The distinguishing characteristic of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is that the Eucharistic Canon is not served during its celebration but rather the faithful are communed with "Presanctified Gifts," gifts which were consecrated earlier at another Liturgy of either St. Basil the Great or St. John Chrysostom.
The Presanctified Liturgy originated in the first centuries of Christianity. The first Christians took communion frequently, some even on weekdays. However, it was considered improper to serve a full Liturgy on days of strict fasting, as they were days of grief and contrition for sins.
Since the Liturgy is the most magnificent of all the church services, in order to give the faithful the opportunity to receive Holy Communion on fast days in the middle of the week, without destroying the character of the divine services of Great Lent, they were provided with the Gifts consecrated earlier. For this reason the service of the Presanctified Gifts was introduced into the services of Great Lent. The definitive order of this Liturgy was put into written form by St. Gregory the Dialogist, the Pope of Rome in the sixth century.
The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays of the first six weeks of Great Lent, on Thursday of the fifth week, when the Great Canon of St. Andrew is commemorated, on February 24th, the commemoration of First and Second Findings of the Head of St. John the Baptist, sometimes on March 9th, the day commemorating the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, if it falls on a fast day, and not a Saturday or Sunday; and on the first three days of Passion Week (Great Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday).
The Presanctified Liturgy is served following the Lenten Hours and consists of Vespers joined to the Liturgy of the Faithful, with the omission of its central part, the sanctification of the gifts.
One kathisma is added to each of the Lenten Hours so that the Psalter might be read twice during the week rather than the usual once.
After the kathisma the priest leaves the altar and reads the tropar-ion of each hour in front of the Royal Doors with its corresponding verses, and makes appropriate prostrations while the choir chants this troparion three times.
In the troparion of the Third Hour we ask the Lord to not take from us, due to our sins, the Holy Spirit that He sent down upon His disciples.
In the troparion of the Sixth Hour we beseech Christ, Who voluntarily endured crucifixion on the Cross for us sinners, to forgive us our sins.
In the troparion of the Ninth Hour we beseech Christ, Who died for us, to mortify the sinful movements of our flesh.
At the end of each hour we read with prostrations the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian: "O Lord and Master of my life..."
During the Sixth Hour there is a reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah.
The Ninth Hour is followed by the Typica, and the Beatitudes are read along with the prayer of the repentant thief on the Cross, "Remember us, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." Then various prayers are read, followed by the Prayer of St. Ephraim and the Dismissal.
Immediately after this, Vespers with the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts begins with the exclamation, "Blessed is the kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages."
Up to the Entry the service proceeds in the usual order. After the Entry and "O Gentle Light" the reader goes to the center of the church and reads two lessons, one from the Book of Genesis relating to the fall of Adam and his unfortunate descendants, the other from the Proverbs of Solomon which exhorts one to seek and love divine wisdom. Between these two readings the Royal Gates are opened and the priest, holding a lit candle and censer, proclaims the words, "Wisdom! Aright!," blesses the faithful with them and says, "The light of Christ enlighteneth all."
In response, the faithful, recognizing their unworthiness before Christ, the pre-eternal Light which enlightens and sanctifies mankind, make a prostration to the floor.
Following the second reading, the Royal Gates are again opened, and in the center of the church, choir members slowly chant these Psalm verses:
"Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.
"Lord, I have cried unto Thee, hearken unto me; attend to the voice of my supplication..."
During the chanting of these verses, the faithful are kneeling prostrate and the priest, standing before the Holy Table, censes.
Vespers concludes at this point with the Prayer of St. Ephraim, "O Lord and Master of my life...," and the main portion of the Presanctified Liturgy begins.
On the first three days of Passion Week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday), after this prayer the Gospel is read. On other days the Augmented Litany and the Litanies of the Catechumens and of the Faithful are intoned as in a usual Liturgy.
During the Great Entry, instead of "Let us who represent the Cherubim..." the choir chants, "Now the powers of Heaven invisibly serve with us; for behold, the King of Glory entereth. Behold, the mystical sacrifice that hath been accomplished is escorted." During this hymn the Royal Gates are opened and the Altar is censed.
With the conclusion of the first half of this hymn, with the words "is borne in triumph," the Presanctified Gifts are transferred from the Table of Oblation to the Altar Table. The priest, with the Chalice, preceded by candles and the deacon with the censer, goes out through the north door on to the solea with the Diskos over his head, and silently bears them into the Sanctuary and places them on the Antimins which has been opened earlier on the Altar. Then the choir concludes the interrupted hymn, "With faith and love let us draw nigh that we may become partakers of life everlasting. Alleluia." Since the Sacred Gifts are already consecrated (transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ) the praying faithful fall prostrate during their transferal to the main altar. The priest then prays "O Lord and Master of my life..." after which the Royal Doors are closed.
Since at this Liturgy the consecration of the Gifts does not occur, all which relates to this sacred action is omitted. Thus, after the Great Entry only the three final portions of the Liturgy of the Faithful are celebrated: a) the preparation of the faithful for Communion, b) the communion of the clergy and the laity, and c) the thanksgiving for Communion with the dismissal. All are celebrated as during a full Liturgy with only minor alterations in accordance with the significance of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.
The Prayer before the Ambo differs in this Liturgy. The priest in the name of the faithful gives thanks to God, Who has deemed them worthy to reach the days of this fast for the purification of the soul and body, and requests that He give His help in accomplishing the good struggle of the fast, preserve them unchanged in the Orthodox Faith, manifest Himself as the conqueror of sin, and grant them uncondemned to worship the holy Resurrection of Christ.
8. Important Actions During the Services and
Reflections on their Significance.
For the inner power and significance of the Mysteries see the explanation of the tenth article of the Symbol of Faith.
Baptism and Chrismation.
Before the Mystery of Baptism is celebrated one is given a name in honor of one of the saints of the Orthodox Church. In this rite the priest thrice makes the sign of the Cross over the candidate and prays to the Lord to be merciful to the person and, after joining him through Baptism to the Holy Church, to make him a partaker of eternal blessedness.
When the time arrives for Baptism the priest prays to the Lord to drive away from the person every evil and impure spirit which is concealed and rooted in his heart and to make him a member of the Church and an heir of eternal blessedness. The one being baptized renounces the Devil and gives a promise not to serve him, but rather Christ, and by reading the Creed confirms his faith in Christ, as King and God. In the case of the Baptism of an infant, the renunciation of the Devil and all his works, as well as the Symbol of Faith are said in his name by the sponsors, the godfather and/or the godmother, who thus become the guardians of the faith of the one being baptized and take upon themselves the duty to teach him the faith when he reaches maturity, and the responsibility to see to it that he lives in a Christian manner. Then the priest prays that the Lord sanctify the water in the font, drive out of it the Devil, and make it for the one being baptized a source of a new and holy life. He thrice makes the sign of the Cross in the water, first with his fingers, and then with consecrated oil with which he will likewise anoint the person being baptized, as a sign of the mercy of God towards him. Following this the priest three times immerses him in the water with the words, "The servant of God N. is baptized, in the name of the Father, Amen; And of the Son, Amen; And of the Holy Spirit, Amen." A white garment is put on the newly baptized, and he is given a cross to wear. The white garment serves as a sign of his purity of soul after Baptism and reminds him to henceforth preserve this purity, and the cross serves as a visible sign of his faith in Jesus Christ.
Immediately after this, the Mystery of Chrismation is performed. The priest anoints the one being baptized on various parts of the body with the words, "the seal (the sign) of the gift of the Holy Spirit." At that time the newly baptized is invisibly granted the gifts of the Holy Spirit, with the help of which he will grow and be strengthened in the spiritual life. The forehead is anointed with chrism for the sanctifica-tion of the mind; the eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears for the sanctifica-tion of the senses; the chest to sanctify the heart; the hands and feet for the sanctification of actions and the entire conduct. Circling around the font three times, the priest with the baptized and his sponsors symbolize the spiritual solemnity and joy of the occasion. The lit candles in their hands serve as a sign of spiritual enlightenment, and the cruciform tonsuring of the baptized symbolizes his dedication to the Lord.
Confession and Communion.
Those approaching these Mysteries after a significant lapse of time should fast for several days in addition to the normal ecclesiastical taste and attend the daily services in the church. For those who commune regularly and frequently and pray daily, additional fasting is not necessary. One should carefully recall one’s sins, consider them with contrition, and pray that the Lord have mercy on one’s soul. At a prearranged time one should come to the priest, who will serve the short service of Confession before an analogion on which are placed a Cross and Gospel, and repent before Christ Himself of one’s sins. The priest, upon noting one’s conscientious repentance, which consists of a full confession and the resolve not to repeat one’s sins, will lay the end of his epi-trachelion over the bowed head of the penitent and read the Prayer for the Remission of Sins, in which one’s sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus Christ Himself, and will bless him with the sign of the Cross. Having kissed the Cross, the penitent departs with a peaceful conscience and prays that the Lord grant him to receive Holy Communion. The evening before Communion, one should read at home the Prayers before Communion and whatever rule the priest has given. The Mystery of Holy Communion is celebrated during the Liturgy. All those who have confessed repeat quietly the Prayer before Communion with the priest, and making a bow to the ground (except on Sundays) with reverence, go to the Holy Chalice and commune the Holy Gifts, receiving in the visible form of the bread and wine the true Body and Blood of Christ. After Communion and the Liturgy conclude, in addition to the thanksgiving offered up during the Liturgy, there are special Prayers of Thanksgiving to be read. The ailing and elderly are communed by the priest at home privately after their confessions are heard.
This Mystery is accomplished in the Altar before the Holy Table during the course of a Hierarchical Liturgy. A single bishop ordains one to the diaconate or the priesthood, but the consecration of a bishop is celebrated by a group of bishops, usually three. The ordination of a deacon occurs in the Liturgy following the consecration of the Gifts, to indicate that a deacon does not receive the power to accomplish this Mystery. A priest is ordained during the "Liturgy of the Faithful," just after the Great Entry, so that he who is consecrated, as one who has received the appropriate Grace, might take part in the sanctification of the Gifts. Bishops are consecrated during the "Liturgy of the Catechumens," following the Small Entry, which indicates that a bishop is given the right to consecrate others to the various ranks of holy orders. The most important action during an ordination is the hierarchical laying on of hands, together with the calling down upon the one being ordained, of the Grace of the Holy Spirit and therefore consecration is also termed the "Laying on of Hands" (in Greek, "Hierotonia").
The one to receive Ordination is first led through the Royal Gates into the Altar by either a deacon or priest. The candidate circles the Altar Table three times, stopping each time to kiss the four corners of the Table, and making a prostration before the bishop. He then kneels at the front right hand corner of the Altar, a deacon on one knee, a priest on both knees, and the bishop covers his head with the end of his omophorion, three times making the sign of the Cross over his head, and placing his hand upon him says aloud, "By Divine Grace (N). is raised, through the laying on of hands, to the diaconate (or priesthood); let us pray therefore for him that the Grace of the Holy Spirit may come upon him." The choir responds "Kyrie eleison" (Greek for "Lord have mercy") and as the bishop bestows each of the vestments proper to his rank to the newly-ordained he exclaims, "Axios!" (Greek for "Worthy!"). This is then repeated thrice by the clergy and then the choir. Following his vesting the newly-ordained is greeted by all those of his rank as a colleague and he participates in the remainder of the service with them.
The consecration of a bishop is nearly identical, except that the prospective bishop, before the beginning of the Liturgy, stands in the center of the church and pronounces aloud a confession of the Faith and vows to act in accordance with the canons of the Church during his service. After the Little Entry, during the chanting of the Trisagion, he is led into the Altar and remains kneeling before the Altar Table. When the presiding bishop reads the prayer of consecration, all the bishops lay their right hands upon his head and over them hold the open Gospel, with the printed pages downward.
The Mystery of Holy Matrimony is celebrated in the center of the church before an analogion on which are placed a Cross and Gospel. The ceremony begins with the betrothal and is followed by the "crowning," or actual wedding. The first is performed as follows. The groom stands on the right hand side and the bride on the left. The priest blesses them three times with lit candles and then gives them tp the couple to hold as symbols of conjugal love, blessed by the Lord. After a litany asking God to grant them every good thing and mercy and that He bless their betrothal and unite them and preserve them in peace and unity of soul, the priest blesses and puts on their right hands rings, which earlier were placed on the Altar for sanctification. The groom and bride receive these rings as sacred pledges and as a sign of the indissolubility of the union into which they aspire to enter. The betrothal is followed by the wedding or crowning. Here the priest prays to the Lord to bless the marriage and to send down upon those entering into it His heavenly Grace. As a visible symbol of this Grace, he puts crowns on their heads and blesses them three times together with the words, "O Lord, our God, crown them with glory and honor." In the epistle from St. Paul which is read, the importance of the Mystery of Marriage and the mutual responsibilities of the husband and wife are discussed, while the Gospel recalls the presence of the Lord Himself at the wedding in Cana. Those united in marriage then drink wine from the same cup as a sign that from this moment they must live as one soul, sharing their joys and sorrows. They then walk behind the priest, circling the analogion three times, as a symbol of spiritual joy and solemnity.
Anointing of the Sick.
This Mystery is also called Unction and is served to aid in healing from weaknesses of soul and body. Ideally it is served by seven priests, but in cases of need it can be served by only one. Into a vessel with wheat is put a smaller vessel with oil as a sign of the mercy of God. Some wine is added to the oil in imitation of the mercy shown by the Good Samaritan to the man attacked by thieves and in memory of the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. Seven lit candles are placed in the wheat and between them seven small sticks wound around one end with cotton which are used to anoint the ailing person seven times. All those present hold lit candles. Following a prayer for the sanctification of the oil and that it might serve the ailing person through the Grace of God unto the healing of soul and body, seven sections from the Epistles and Gospels are read. After each reading the priest anoints the sick person with the sign of the Cross on the forehead, nostrils, cheeks, lips, chest and both sides of the hands while saying a prayer to the Lord that He, as Physician of soul and body might heal His ailing servant from the weaknesses of soul and body. After the seven-fold anointing the priest opens the Gospel and places it with the printed pages downward, as if it were the healing hand of the Saviour Himself, over the head of the sick person and then prays that the Lord forgive Him his sins. Then the sick person kisses the Gospel and Cross and, if possible, makes three prostrations before the priest(s) asking for his blessing and forgiveness. This concludes the Mystery of Unction.
A Moleben is the term for a short service of prayers in which the faithful, according to their individual needs and circumstances, appeal in prayer to the Lord God, the Theotokos, or the saints.
The customary Moleben resembles Matins in its form, but in practice it is significantly shortened and consists of the beginning prayers; the singing of the troparion and refrains, "Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee...," "Most holy Theotokos, save us...," "Holy Father, Nicholas, pray unto God for us..." and others; the reading of a passage from the Gospels; the Augmented and Short Litanies; and finally, a prayer to the Lord God, the Theotokos, or the saint petitioned, concerning the subject of the Moleben. Occasionally these Molebens are joined with an akathist or the Lesser Blessing of Water. An akathist is read after the Short Litany before the Gospel reading, while the blessing of waters is served after the Gospel reading.
In addition to the supplicatory Molebens there are also special Molebens which relate to a particular situation: a thanksgiving Moleben for a sign of God’s mercy; a Moleben for the cure of the sick; a Moleben on the occasion of a common trouble: drought, bad weather, flood, war, etc. There are also special Molebens to be served on New Year’s Day, before the school year, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, etc.
The Burial of the Dead.
After his death a Christian’s body is washed and clothed in clean, and if possible, new clothes and placed in a white shroud, preferably that garment in which he was baptized if he was an adult when this occurred, as a sign that the deceased, in his Baptism, gave a promise to lead a life in purity and holiness. He may be dressed in the uniform of his calling as a sign that he departs to the Lord God to give an account for the obligations of his calling in life. Across the forehead is placed a strip of paper representing a crown, imprinted with the images of Christ, the Theotokos, and St. John the Forerunner, with the inscription "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us." It is a sign that the deceased, as a Christian, fought on this earth for the righteousness of God and died in the hope that by the mercy of God, and the intercessions of the Theotokos and St. John the Forerunner, he will receive a crown in Heaven. A cross or an icon is placed in his hands as a sign of the faith of the deceased in Christ, the Theotokos, or one of the saints pleasing to God. The body is placed in a coffin, and is half covered with a church covering as a symbol that the deceased was under the protection of the Orthodox Church. If the body remains in the home then it is put before the domestic icons with the body facing the exit. Candles are placed around the coffin as a sign that the deceased has passed into the realm of light, into the better life beyond the grave. Near the coffin, the Psalter is read, along with prayers for the repose of the deceased, and Pannykhidas are served. Until burial special prayers for the departure of the soul, which are located in the back of the Psalter, are also read. The psalms are read to comfort those grieving for the deceased.
Before the burial the body is transferred to the church for the funeral, and prior to the departure for the church a short service for the repose, the Litia, is chanted and during the actual removal we sing, "Holy God..."
The coffin is placed in the center of the church, with the body facing the Altar. The funeral service consists of hymns in which the entire destiny of a man is depicted. For his transgressions he is returned to the dust from which he was taken, yet despite the multitude of sins a human being does not cease to be "the image of the glory of God," created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore the holy Church prays to its Master and Lord that by His ineffable mercy He forgive the reposed his sins and deem him worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. After the readings of the Epistle and Gospel, in which the future resurrection of the dead is described, the priest reads the Prayer of Absolution. With this prayer the deceased is released from any bonds of oaths or curses, and his sins for which he repented, and which despite repentance he might have forgotten, are absolved, and he is released unto the life beyond the grave in peace. The written text of this prayer is then placed in the hand of the reposed. The relatives and friends then give the body a last kiss as a sign of mutual forgiveness, and the body is covered with a white sheet while the priest sprinkles the body with earth in the form of a cross saying, The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein. The coffin is closed and "Memory eternal" is sung for the reposed.
Following the funeral, the body and coffin are transferred to the cemetery and lowered into the grave with the feet towards the east, so that the person is facing east, and then a short Litia is said for the reposed.
Over the grave of a Christian a cross is placed as a symbol of Christ’s victory over death and hell, like a large fruitful tree under whose shade the Christian finds rest as a traveler after a prolonged journey.
Since She has true faith in the immortality of the human soul, the future resurrection of the dead, the Dread judgement of Christ, and the final reward to be granted to each according to his deeds, the Holy Orthodox Church does not leave Her children who have reposed without prayer, especially during the first few days after death and on days of general remembrance of the dead. She prays for them on the third, ninth and fortieth day after death.
On the third day after death the Holy Church recalls the three day resurrection of Jesus Christ and prays to Him to resurrect the reposed unto a future, blessed life.
On the ninth day the Holy Church prays to the Lord that He might reckon the reposed among the choir of those pleasing to God who are, like the angels, distinguished by nine orders.
On the fortieth day a prayer is said that the Lord Jesus Christ, Who ascended into Heaven, might lift up the deceased into the heavenly dwellings.
Often the remembrance of the reposed, due to the love and faith of the relatives, is celebrated on every one of the forty days with the serving of Liturgy and a Pannykhida.
Finally, on the anniversary of the repose of the deceased, his close relatives and faithful friends pray for him as an expression of their faith that the day of a human death is not the day of annihilation, but a new rebirth unto eternal life. It is the day of the passing of the immortal human soul into different conditions of life, where there is no place for earthly pains, griefs, and woes.
Pannykhidas, or "Memorial Services," are short services which consist of prayers for the forgiveness of sins and the repose of the deceased in the Kingdom of Heaven. During the serving of a Pannykhida the relatives and friends of the deceased stand with lit candles as a sign that they also believe in the future, radiant life. Towards the end of the Pannykhida, during the reading of the Lord’s Prayer, these candles are extinguished as a sign that our lives, like burning candles, must expire, more often than not without burning through to the expected end.
A Brief Survey of the Particulars of the Divine Services.
After the creation of the world, God consecrated the seventh day for divine worship on earth (Gen. 2:3) and subsequently, through the Law granted to Moses on Sinai, this service was extended to include every day, for He commanded that daily, the morning and evening are to be consecrated by offering sacrifices to God.
Jesus Christ, when He came to earth to fulfill the will of the Heavenly Father, and the Holy Apostles, as the select disciples of the Lord, by their example and teachings, demonstrated to the faithful the utmost importance and necessity of establishing and preserving days of general divine services.
Since apostolic times the Orthodox Church in her daily divine services has united various sacred commemorations unto the glory of God from which have developed the various daily services in the course of the year.
On each day in the Holy Church’s year, in addition to the weekly cycle, the memory of one or several saints is celebrated. Definite days of the year are dedicated to either the commemoration of particular events in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Theotokos, or from the history of the Christian Church, or in honor of various saints. In addition, fasts of either a single day or several consecutive days have been ordained throughout the course of the year, and several days are set aside for the remembrance of the reposed. In accordance with these sacred days of the year special hymns and prayers have been composed and rituals established which are combined with the prayers and hymns of the weekdays. The greatest changes in the divine services occur on the days of great feasts and fasts.
The days of general remembrance of the reposed, which are termed "ancestor (soul) days," are as follows: the Saturday before Meat-fare Sunday, the Saturdays of the second, third and fourth weeks of Great Lent, the Saturday before the feast of the Holy Trinity (Pentecost) and the Tuesday after Thomas Sunday.
In addition, the Russian Orthodox Church has ordained that Orthodox soldiers killed on the field of battle be remembered on the Saturday before the feast of St. Demetrios of Thessalonica (Oct. 26) and on the day of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner (Aug. 29).
9. Great Lent.
Great Lent is the most important and most ancient of the fasts which extend over more that one day. It reminds us of the forty-day fast of the Saviour in the wilderness, and prepares us for Passion Week and for the joyous Feast of Feasts, the radiant Resurrection of Christ.
The Holy and Great Fast is a time for special prayer and repentance during which each of us should beseech the Lord for forgiveness of sins through Confession and preparation for Communion, and then worthily partake the Holy Mysteries of Christ in accordance with the commandment of Christ (John 6:53-56).
During the Old Testament period the Lord commanded the sons of Israel to give each year a tithe (one tenth) of all that they possessed, and when they did so they received blessing in all their affairs.
In like manner the Holy Fathers established for our benefit that a tenth of the year, the period of Great Lent, be consecrated to God, so that we might be blessed in all our affairs and each year purify ourselves of our sins which we have committed during the course of the year.
Great Lent then serves as the God-ordained tenth of the year, for it equals approximately thirty-six days, excluding Sundays, during which we separate ourselves for a time from the distractions of life and all its possible enjoyments, and dedicate ourselves primarily to the service of God unto the salvation of our souls.
Great Lent is preceded by three preparatory Sundays. The first preparatory Sunday of Great Lent is termed the "Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee." This Sunday’s Gospel parable of the Publican and the Pharisee is read in order to demonstrate that only prayer with heartfelt tears and humility, like those of the publican, and not with a recounting of one’s virtues like the pharisee, can call down upon us the mercy of God. Starting with this Sunday and continuing until the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, following the reading of the Gospel, during the All-night Vigil, the contrite prayer is chanted, "The doors of repentance do Thou open to me, O Giver of Life..."
The second preparatory Sunday of Great Lent is termed the "Sunday of the Prodigal Son." In the touching parable of the Prodigal Son read during Liturgy, the Holy Church teaches us to rely on the mercy of God, provided we have sincerely repented of our sins. On this Sunday and the succeeding two Sundays, during the Polyeleos at the All-night Vigil, Psalm 136 is chanted: By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and we wept when we remembered Sion... This psalm describes the suffering of the Jews during the Babylonian captivity and their longing for their fatherland. The words of this psalm teach us about our spiritual captivity, the captivity to sin, and that we should aspire towards our spiritual fatherland, the Heavenly Kingdom.
The final words of this psalm scandalize many with reference to Blessed shall be he who shall seize and dash thine infants (those of the Babylonians) against the rock! Of course, the literal meaning of these words is brutal and unacceptable for the Christian, for the Lord Himself taught us to love and bless our enemies and to worship God in spirit and truth. These words gain a pure and lofty significance with a Christian and spiritual nature, for they mean, "Blessed is he who has a firm resolve to break, on the rock of faith, the newly forming evil thoughts and desires (as it were in their infant state) before they mature into evil deeds and habits."
The third preparatory Sunday before Great Lent is called "Meat-fare Sunday," because after this Sunday, of non-fasting foods, one is allowed to eat cheese, milk, butter, and eggs, but no meat or poultry. This Sunday is also termed the "The Sunday of the Last Judgement," as the Gospel passage concerning the Dread Judgement is read, describing the final reward or punishment awaiting us, and thereby awakening the sinner to repentance. In the hymns on Cheese-fare Sunday, the fall into sin of Adam and Eve is recalled, which resulted from lack of self-control and fasting, with their salvific fruits.
The last Sunday before Great Lent is termed "Cheese-fare Sunday," because it is the last day on which one can eat cheese, butter and eggs. During the Liturgy we hear the Gospel reading (Matt. 6:14-21) concerning the forgiveness of our fellow man for his offenses against us, without which we cannot receive the forgiveness of our sins from the Heavenly Father. In accordance with this Gospel reading, Christians have the pious custom on this day of forgiving each other their sins, both known and unknown, and those who have a quarrel with someone undertake every effort to be reconciled. Therefore this Sunday is also termed "Forgiveness Sunday."
The general characteristics of the divine services during Great Lent consist of prolonged services of a less exultant character. There is less chanting, longer readings from the Psalter and additional prayers, which dispose the soul towards repentance. At every service full prostrations are done during the penitential prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, "O Lord and Master of my life..."
During the morning hours, Matins, the Hours with certain insertions, and Vespers are served. In the evening, Great Compline is served instead of Vespers. On Wednesdays and Fridays the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated. On Saturdays the Liturgy of St. John of Chrysostom is celebrated and on the first five Sundays the Liturgy the St. Basil the Great, which is also celebrated on Great Thursday and Great Saturday of Passion Week.
During Great Lent each Sunday is dedicated to the commemoration of a special event or person which calls the sinful soul to repentance and hope in the mercy of God.
10. The Sundays of Lent.
The first week of Great Lent is distinguished by its special strictness and its lengthy services. On the first four days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) the canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read at Great Compline with the refrain between each verse, "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me."
On Friday of the first week, at the Liturgy after the Prayer before the Ambo, the blessing of "koliva" (a mixture of boiled wheat with honey) takes place in memory of the holy Great Martyr St. Theodore Tyro, who granted supernatural help to Christians to help them keep the fast. In 362 A.D., the Byzantine Emperor, Julian the Apostate, ordered that the blood of sacrifices offered to idols be secretly sprinkled on the provisions for the city of Constantinople. The Great Martyr St. Theodore, who was burned alive in 306 for his confession of the Christian faith, appeared in a dream to the bishop of Constantinople, Eudox-ius, and exposed the secret plot of Julian. He ordered him not to buy food for the entire week at the city market, and to instruct his flock to live on koliva.
On the first Sunday of Great Lent the "Triumph of Orthodoxy" is celebrated, which was established by the Empress Theodora in 842 A.D. in memory of the restoration of the veneration of the holy icons. At the conclusion of the Liturgy a Service of Intercession ("Moleben") is held in the center of the church before icons of the Saviour and the Theotokos, asking that the Lord confirm Orthodox Christians in the faith and bring back to the path of truth all those who have apostatized from the Church. The deacon reads the Creed solemnly and pronounces the anathemas, proclaiming that all those who have presumed to distort the true Orthodox Christian Faith are separated from the Church. He then intones "Eternal Memory" for all the reposed defenders of the Orthodox Faith, and finally, "Many Years," for all those who are living. This service is customarily done in the presence of a bishop.
On the second Sunday of Great Lent the memory of St. Gregory Palamas is celebrated. A bishop of Thessalonica who lived in the fourteenth century, he continued the battle against Western, Latin distortions of the Christian faith by teaching the importance of the deifying power of the uncreated Grace of God and preserving the true balance between immanence and transcendence with the doctrine of the relationship between the "essence" and "energies" of God. In accordance with the Orthodox Faith he taught that the ascetic endeavor of fasting and prayer, particularly the practice of the Jesus Prayer according to the teachings of the hesychastic Fathers, prepares one to receive the grace-filled light of the Lord, which is like that which shone on Mt. Tabor at the Lord’s Transfiguration. In other words, if God wills, according to one’s striving, one can partake of divine blessedness while still on this sinful earth. Thus the second Sunday of Great Lent has been set aside to commemorate this great Church Father, who made explicit the teaching which reveals the power of prayer and fasting.
On the third Sunday of Great Lent, during the All-night Vigil after the Great Doxology, the Holy Cross is brought forth from the Altar and placed in the center of the church for the veneration of the faithful. During the prostrations made before the Cross (which often contains a portion of the True Cross) the church chants, "Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify." This hymn is also chanted at the Liturgy instead of the Trisagion. The Church has placed this event in the middle of Great Lent in order that the recollection of the suffering and death of the Lord might inspire and strengthen those fasting for the remainder of the ascetic struggle of the fast. The Holy Cross remains out for veneration throughout the week until Friday, when, after the hours and before the beginning of the Presanctfied Liturgy, it is returned to the Altar. Thus the third Sunday and fourth week of Great Lent are termed those of the "Adoration of the Holy Cross."
On the fourth Sunday of Great Lent St. John of the Ladder is commemorated, the author of the classic ascetic text, The Ladder, in which he indicates a ladder, or succession of virtues which lead us up to the Throne of God. On Thursday of the fifth week at Matins, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read, along with the reading of the life of St. Mary of Egypt. The commemoration of the life of St. Mary of Egypt, who formerly had been a great sinner, is intended to serve as an example of true repentance for all and convince us of the ineffable compassion of God. On Saturday of the fifth week (Matins on Friday evening) we celebrate the "Laudation of the Theotokos," which consists of the reading of the Akathist to the Theotokos. This service was initiated in Greece in gratitude to the Theotokos for her numerous deliverances of Constantinople from its enemies. The Akathist is read here for the confirmation of the faithful in their reliance upon the heavenly Mediatress, who, delivering us from visible enemies, is even more an aid to us in our battle with invisible enemies.
On the fifth Sunday of Great Lent we commemorate our holy Mother Mary of Egypt. As mentioned above, the Church finds in her an image of true repentance and a source of encouragement for those engaged in spiritual endeavors, by virtue of the example of the ineffable mercy of God shown towards her a repentant sinner.
The sixth week, which directly precedes Palm Sunday, is dedicated to the preparation of those fasting for a worthy meeting with the Lord and for the commemoration of the Passion of the Lord.
On Saturday of the sixth week the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus Christ is commemorated. This day is termed "Lazarus Saturday." During Matins the "Troparia on the Blameless" are chanted: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes..." and at the Liturgy instead of "Holy God" we chant "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia," for those catechumens who are baptized according to custom on this day.
The sixth Sunday of Great Lent is one of the twelve great feasts, in which we celebrate the solemn Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem for His voluntary Passion. This feast is also termed Palm Sunday. After the reading of the Gospel at the All-night Vigil, we do not chant "Having seen the Resurrection of Chris i," but the 50th Psalm is read immediately, and after being sanctified with prayer and holy water, bundles of palms, flowers, and (in the Russian Church) pussy willows, are distributed to the faithful, who then remain standing until the end of the service holding these bundles with lit candles as a sign of the victory of life over death.
At Vespers on Palm Sunday the dismissal begins with the words, "May Christ our true God Who for our salvation went to His voluntary Passion,..."
Passion Week is the term for the last week before Pascha. It has this name because it is consecrated to the commemoration of the last days of the earthly life of the Saviour, His suffering, death on the Cross, and burial. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week are dedicated to the commemoration of the last conversations of the Lord Jesus Christ with the people and His disciples.
The specifics of the services of the first three days of Passion Week are as follows: at Matins, after the Six Psalms and the "Alleluia," we chant the troparion, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh at midnight...," and after the Canon is read we chant the exapostilarion, "I behold Thy chamber, O my Saviour..." On each of these three days we serve the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts with readings from the Gospels.The Gospel is also read at Matins.
The service of Great Thursday is dedicated to the commemoration of the Mystical Supper, the washing of the feet of the disciples by Jesus Christ, the prayer of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and His betrayal by Judas.
At Matins after the Six Psalms and the "Alleluia" we chant the troparion, "When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet,..."
The Liturgy served is that of St. Basil the Great and is combined with Vespers in commemoration of the fact that the Lord established the Mystery of Communion during the evening. Instead of the Cherubic Hymn and the communion verses, "Let our mouths be filled...," we chant the hymn, "Receive me today, O Son of God, as a communicant of Thy mystical supper..."
In the Moscow Cathedral of the Dormition and in the Kiev Caves Lavra on this day after the Liturgy, and in the Greek Church during Matins of Great Wednesday, there is performed the Sanctification of Chrism, which is used for the Mystery of Chrismation, and in the consecration of churches and Antiminsia.
The services of Great Friday are dedicated to the commemoration of the sufferings on the Cross of the Saviour, His death and burial. At Matins, which is served on the evening of Great Thursday (as all Matins services of this week are held the night before the actual day), the Reading of the Twelve Gospels takes place, the Gospels being placed in the middle of the church. These are selections from the four Gospels which proclaim the Passion of the Saviour, beginning with His final conversation with the disciples at the Mystical Supper, and ending with His burial in the garden by Joseph of Arimathea and the setting of the military watch over His Tomb. During the readings, the faithful stand with lit candles, which are symbols both of the glory and magnificence which the Lord did not lose during the period of His suffering, and of the ardent love we should have for our Saviour.
On Great Friday the Royal Hours are served, but Liturgy is never served, since on this day the Lord offered Himself as a sacrifice.
Vespers is served at the ninth hour of the day (3 P.M.), which is the hour of the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. In this service His removal from the Cross and His burial are commemorated.
With the chanting of the troparion, "The Noble Joseph, having taken Thy most pure body down from the Tree...," the clergy take up the Burial Shroud (an icon) of Christ lying in the tomb (called "Plaschanitsa" in Russian, "Epitaphion" in Greek), from the Holy Table as it were, from Golgotha, and carry it from the Altar, into the center of the church, preceded by candles and incense. It is placed on a specially prepared stand that resembles a tomb, and the priests and all those present prostrate themselves before it and kiss the wounds of the Lord depicted upon it, the pierced side and the imprint of the nails in the hands and feet.
The Burial Shroud is left in the church for three days, from Friday afternoon through Saturday and until the first moments of Sunday, in commemoration of the three day entombment of Christ.
The divine services of Great Saturday are dedicated to the commemoration of the time Jesus Christ remained "in the grave bodily, but in hades with Thy soul as God; in Paradise with the thief and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou Who fillest all things O Christ, the Inexpressible," and finally, the Resurrection of the Saviour from the grave.
At Matins on Great Saturday, after the Great Doxology, the Burial Shroud is borne out of the church by the priests, accompanied by the chanting of "Holy God...," as at a normal burial service. The people all join in following it while it is carried around the church in commemoration of the descent of Christ into hell and His victory over hell and death. After it is brought back into the church, it is taken through the open Royal Gates into the Altar as a symbol that the Saviour remained inseparable from God the Father, and that with His suffering and death He again opened the gates of Paradise. During this moment the choir chants, "When the noble Joseph..."
When the Burial Shroud is again placed on the tomb in the center of the church, a litany is said and the prophecy of the Prophet Ezekiel is read, concerning the resurrection of the dead. The Epistle instructs the faithful that Jesus Christ is the true Pascha for us all, and the Gospel relates how the high priest with the permission of Pilate placed a watch over the Lord’s tomb and sealed it.
The Divine Liturgy on this day is later than any other day of the year and is combined with Vespers.
After the Vespers Entry and the chanting of "O Gentle Light..." we begin the reading of fifteen lessons from the Old Testament, which contain all the foreshadowings and prophecies of the salvation of mankind through the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
After these readings and the Epistle reading, the forefeast of the Resurrection of Christ begins. The choir begins to chant slowly "Arise, O God, judge the earth, for Thou shalt have an inheritance among all the nations..," while in the Altar and throughout the church, the black vestments are replaced with white ones. This change is a symbol of the event in which the Myrrhbearers, early in the morning "while it was still dark," saw before the tomb of Christ the angel in radiant vestments and heard from him the joyful proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ.
The deacon, now clad in bright vestments like an angel, goes out into the center of the church and before the Burial Shroud reads the Gospel which proclaims to mankind the Resurrection of Christ.
The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great then continues in its usual order. Instead of the Cherubic Hymn we chant the following, "Let all mortal flesh keep silence," and instead of "It is truly meet..." we chant, "Weep not for Me, O Mother, beholding in the tomb Thy Son..." The communion verse chanted is, "The Lord awoke as one that sleepeth and is risen, saving us."
Following the Liturgy there is a blessing of bread and wine for the nourishment of those praying. A few hours later the reading of the Acts of the Apostles begins in the Church and continues until the beginning of the Midnight Office.
An hour before midnight the Midnight Office is served during which the Canon of Great Saturday is read. At the end of this service the priests silently take the Burial Shroud from the center of the church and into the Altar through the Royal Gates and place it upon the Altar Table, where it remains until the Ascension of the Lord, in commemoration of the forty day abiding of Jesus Christ on the earth after His Resurrection from the dead.
The faithful now reverently await the hour of midnight when the radiant, Paschal joy of the greatest feast, the Resurrection of the Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ begins.
This paschal joy is a sacred rejoicing of which there is no likeness nor equal on earth. It is the endless joy and blessedness of eternal life. It is of this joy that the Lord spoke when He said, Your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you (John 16:22).
11. The Feast of Pascha.
The word Pascha means "passover" or "deliverance" in Hebrew. The Jews, in celebrating the Old Testament passover, commemorated the liberation of their forebears from Egyptian slavery. Christians, on the other hand, in celebrating the New Testament Pascha, celebrate the deliverance through Jesus Christ of the entire human race from slavery to the Devil and His granting to us life and eternal blessedness. Due to the blessings which we have received through the Resurrection of Christ, Pascha is the feast of feasts and the triumph of triumphs, and therefore its divine services are distinguished by magnificence and an exceptionally solemn rejoicing.
Long before midnight the faithful in bright and festal clothing stream into the churches and reverently await the approaching Paschal Festival. The clergy are vested in their brightest garments. Prior to the actual moment of midnight, festive bells peal out the announcement of the coming of the great moment of the light-bearing Feast of the Resurrection of Christ. The entire clergy with crosses, candles and incense come out of the Altar and together with the people, like the Myrrhbear-ers who went very early to the tomb, circle the church and chant, "Thy Resurrection, O Christ Saviour, the angels hymn in the heavens; vouchsafe also us on earth with pure hearts to glorify Thee." During this procession, from the heights of the bell tower, as if from Heaven, there pours forth the Paschal peal. All those who have come to pray walk with lit candles, thus expressing their joy of soul in the radiant feast.
The procession pauses at the closed western doors of the church, as if at the opening to the Tomb of Christ. Here the highest ranking priest, like the angel who proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ to the Myrrhbearers at the tomb, is the first to proclaim the joyous verse, "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life." This verse is thrice repeated by the clergy and the choir.
Then the presiding clergyman proclaims the verses of the ancient prophecy of the holy King David, "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered...," and all respond in answer to each verse of the psalm with, "Christ is risen from the dead...."
The doors are opened, and the congregation, as once did the Myrrhbearers and the Apostles, enters into the church, resplendent with the light of candles and lamps, and chants joyously, "Christ is risen from the dead...!"
The Resurrection Matins consist primarily of the Paschal canon of St. John of Damascus. Each ode of this canon concludes with the victorious hymn, "Christ is risen from the dead." During the chanting of the canon each of the clergy in turn, holding the cross with candles and preceded by candle-bearers, go around the entire church censing the risen!" The faithful all respond loudly, "Truly He is risen!" The repeated procession of the clergy from the Altar commemorates the appearances of the Lord to His disciples after the Resurrection.
After chanting the hymn "…let us embrace one another. Let us say Brethren, even to them that hate us; let us forgive all things on the Resurrection...," all the faithful begin to greet each other saying, "Christ is risen!," and replying, "Truly He is risen!" They seal this greeting with a kiss and exchange Paschal eggs which serve as a meaningful symbol of the resurrection from the grave, the resurrection of life from its very depths through the power of omnipotent God.
Then the homily of St. John Chrysostom is read which begins with the words, "If any be devout and God-loving, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumph..." St. John summons all to joy, "Ye rich and ye poor, with one another exult. Ye sober and ye slothful, honor the day. Ye that have kept the fast and ye that have not, be glad today...
"Let no one weep for his transgressions, for forgiveness hath dawned from the tomb. Let no one fear death, for the death of the Saviour hath set us free..."
And finally he solemnly proclaims the eternal victory of Christ over death and hell, "O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory? Christ is risen and thou art overthrown. Christ is risen and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life flourisheth. Christ is risen, and there is none dead in the tombs (for death is not a permanent end now, but only a temporary condition), for Christ being risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of them that have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto the ages of ages. Amen."
Immediately following Matins, the Hours and Liturgy are celebrated with all the doors to the Altar open. They were opened at the beginning of Matins and will not be closed throughout the entire week as a sign that Jesus Christ has opened the gates to the Heavenly Kingdom forever. At the Liturgy the first section from the Gospel of St. John the Theologian is read, which begins with the words, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..., which is a description of the divinity of our Redeemer. If the Liturgy is concele-brated by many priests, then the Gospel is read in several languages as a sign that the "proclamation" concerning the Lord "went forth" unto all the people on earth.
Before the conclusion of the Liturgy the blessing of the Paschal bread, the Artos, is performed. It is distributed to the faithful on Bright Saturday following Liturgy, as a Paschal blessing.
Immediately after the Paschal Liturgy, and sometimes between Matins and the Liturgy, the Paschal bread, cheese, eggs and meat for the Paschal meals of the faithful are blessed.
After each Liturgy of Bright Week the Cross of Christ, accompanied by the ringing of bells, is carried in triumph around the church. Indeed, all during the week bells are rung as often as possible. It all serves to express the joy of the faithful and to celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ over death and hell. To emphasize this joy the Holy Fathers instituted the rule that kneeling and prostrations are forbidden in church from the first day of Pascha until the Vespers on Pentecost.
The presiding priest celebrates Vespers on the first day of Pascha in his best vestments. After the Vespers entry with the Gospel, the Gospel passage is read which describes the appearance of Jesus Christ to the Apostles on the evening of the first day of His resurrection from the dead (John 29:19-25).
On the first Tuesday after Bright Week, in order to share the joy of the Resurrection of Christ with the reposed and in the hope of the universal resurrection, the Church holds a special remembrance of the dead. After the Liturgy a general Service of Remembrance and Intercession, or Pannykhida, is said, and following a custom of the early Church, the faithful visit the graves of their relatives on this day.
Paschal chanting is used in the church until the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, which is celebrated on the fortieth day after Pascha.
The Feast of Pentecost: The Day of the Holy Trinity.
The Feast of the Holy Trinity is termed Pentecost because the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles occurred on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of Christ. The feast of the Christian Pentecost includes two celebrations, one in honor of the All-holy Trinity and the other in honor of the All-holy Spirit, which visibly descended upon the Apostles and sealed the new eternal testament of God with mankind.
The first day of Pentecost, always a Sunday, the Church dedicates primarily to the glory of the All-holy Trinity; hence this day is popularly known as Trinity Day. The second day is dedicated to the glory of the All-holy Spirit, and therefore it is known as Spirit Day.
In celebrating the Holy Spirit the Church begins with the usual Vespers service on Trinity Day. During this service three compunction-ate prayers written by St. Basil the Great are read while the entire congregation kneels. In them we confess our sins before the Heavenly Father and, for the sake of the great sacrifice of His Son, we implore mercy. We also ask the Lord Jesus Christ to grant us the Divine Spirit, unto the enlightenment and confirmation of our souls. Finally, we pray for our deceased fathers and brethren, that the Lord might grant them repose in a place of light and refreshment.
It is customary on this feast day to adorn the church building and one’s home with tree branches and flowers and to stand in church holding flowers. This adornment of home and church with living plants is both a confession of the vivifying power of the life-creating Spirit and a dutiful consecration to Him of the first fruits of spring.
Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of the Lord.
The divine services of this day differ from others in that at the end of the Great Doxology at the All-night Vigil, as the Trisagion is being chanted, the presiding priest takes the Holy Cross, adorned with flowers, from the Altar Table and lifts it over his head. Preceded by candles, he goes out of the Altar through the north door. He stands before the Royal Gates and from there, with the exclamation, "Wisdom, let us attend!" carries the Cross to the center of the church and places it upon an analogion.
The troparion to the Cross, "Save, O Lord, Thy people...," is chanted while the priest, together with the deacon, completes a threefold censing of the Cross. Then all those serving venerate the Cross with three prostrations while the verse, "Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master, and Thy Holy Resurrection we glorify!" is chanted. The faithful then come forward, make prostrations, and kiss the Cross. During this veneration the choir chants verses explaining and honoring the Crucifixion of Christ.
At the Liturgy the Trisagion is replaced with the hymn, "Before Thy Cross...," and St. Paul’s Epistle concerning the Cross, which for those spiritually perishing is foolishness, but for those being saved is the power of God, is read. The Gospel of the day discusses the Crucifixion of Christ. Due to the commemoration of the sufferings and death of the Lord, this day is appointed to be kept as a strict fast.
This feast commemorates the finding of the Precious and Life-giving Cross of the Lord by the Equal-of-the-Apostles, Empress Helen (326 A.D.). From the seventh century this day was also considered the commemoration of the return of the Life-giving Cross from the Persians by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (629 A.D.). At both the finding and the return of the Cross, the Patriarch of Constantinople, in order to give the faithful gathered to celebrate the event an opportunity to see the hallowed object, raised the Cross aloft and turned it to all four directions, during which the congregation reverently prostrated themselves crying out, "Lord, have mercy."
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
The divine services of this feast are special in that at the end of the Liturgy grapes and fruit, which have been brought to the church by the faithful, are blessed.
This feast is selected for the blessing of fruit because in Jerusalem, from whence our typicon is derived, grapes ripen at this time and thus they are especially set out to be blessed. The church, by blessing the fruit, teaches us that all things in a holy community must be consecrated to God as His creation.
Feast of the Nativity of Christ.
The Christian Church annually celebrates the great event of the Nativity of Christ on the twenty-fifth of December (O.S.). In order to more worthily celebrate, the faithful prepare with a forty-day fast called the Nativity or Philip’s fast, lasting from the fifteenth of November until the twenty-fourth of December. The eve of the feast is kept with an especially strict fast. Special food is set out only at the end of the day, consisting mainly of boiled wheat with honey or other lenten dishes, depending on the custom.
On the eve of the feast, if it does not occur on a Saturday or Sunday, the Royal Hours are served, and around noon the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great with Vespers. On the feast day itself, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated.
The Hours which are served on the eve of the Nativity of Christ are distinguished by the fact that Old Testament readings are included as well as readings from the Epistle and Gospel. Therefore, to distinguish them from the usual services of the Hours they are termed Royal Hours. This designation also refers to the custom in the Byzantine Empire of the Emperor being present for them.
After the Liturgy a candle is placed in the center of the church behind the icon of the feast, and the clergy chant the troparion of the feast, "Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined upon the world the light of knowledge; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were taught by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee."Yhis is followed by the kontakion of the feast: "Today the Virgin giveth birth to Him Who is transcendent in essence; and the earth offer-eth a cave to Him Who is unapproachable. Angels with shepherds give glory; with a star the Magi do journey; for our sake a young Child is born, Who is pre-eternal God."
If the eve falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the Royal Hours are read on Friday. On the eve itself the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is served, followed by Vespers. The glorification of Christ occurs after Vespers. The fast, which is required by the Typicon, is waived in this instance so that after the Liturgy, before the evening, one is permitted to eat a small amount of bread.
The All-night Vigil begins with Great Compline in which the triumphant hymn of Isaiah is chanted, "God is with us, understand, O ye nations and submit yourselves, for God is with us!" The frequent repetition of "God is with us!" expresses the spiritual joy of the faithful who recognize the presence of God-Emmanuel among them. The content of the remainder of the service can be expressed by the initial irmos from the Matins Canon, "Christ is born, give ye glory; Christ from Heaven, meet ye Him; Christ is on the earth be ye exalted. Sing unto the Lord all the earth, and in gladness sing praises, O people, for He is glorified."
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
This feast is also called Theophany because on this day the Most-holy Trinity, and in particular the divinity of the Saviour, Who now solemnly begins His saving service, is manifest.
The feast of the Baptism of the Lord is celebrated in much the same manner as the feast of the Nativity of Christ. On the eve of the feast the Royal Hours, the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, and an All-night Vigil, beginning with Great Compline are served. The distinguishing feature of this feast is the blessing of water which is performed twice, and termed the Great Blessing of Water, to distinguish it from the Lesser Blessing, which may be performed at any time in the Church year.
The first blessing occurs on the eve of the feast in the church, and the second, on the day of the feast, in the open air near a river, lake or well. In ancient times the first blessing was celebrated for the baptism of catechumens and only later was joined with the commemoration of the Baptism of the Lord. The second probably originated from the ancient practice of Jerusalem Christians who, on the day of the Theo-phany, would go to the Jordan River and there commemorate the Baptism of the Saviour. Therefore, we still term the procession with the Cross on Theophany the "Procession to the Jordan."
12. Concerning Monasticism and Monasteries.
In the first period of the Christian Church almost all the faithful led pure and holy lives as the Gospel requires. We find that many of the faithful aspired to the most lofty ascetic endeavors. Some would voluntarily renounce their possessions and distribute them among the poor. Others, such as the Mother of God, St. John the Forerunner, the Apostles Paul, John, and James took vows of virginity and devoted their time to continual prayer, fasting, abstinence and labor. They did not separate themselves from the world though, and lived with the rest of mankind. Such people came to be called ascetics, or those who undertook a special discipline (in Greek, askesis) in order to "train" for the Kingdom of Heaven.
From the third century when as a consequence of the swift expansion of Christianity the strictness of life among Christians began to weaken, ascetics began to withdraw to live in deserts and mountains. There, far from the world and its temptations, they led a severe life of spiritual asceticism. These ascetics who left the world were called anchorites or hermits. Thus the foundations were laid for monasticism, far from the temptations of the world.
Monastic life is a way of life which is only for a few, select persons, who have a calling, an irrepressible inner desire for the monastic life, by which they consecrate themselves entirely to the service of God. As the Lord Himself stated, He that is able to accept it, let him accept it (Matt. 19:12).
St. Athanasius says, "There are two forms and states of life. One is the usual life for mankind, married life; the other is the angelic and apostolic life of which there is no higher, virginity or the monastic state." The Venerable Nilus of Sora says, "The monk is an angel, and his business is mercy, peace and the sacrifice of praise."
Those entering the monastic path of life must have a resolute will "to renounce the world" and to deny themselves all earthly interests so as to develop within themselves the powers of spiritual life. In all things they must fulfill the will of their spiritual guide, renounce all possessions and even give up their old name. The monk takes upon himself a voluntary martyrdom — a life of self-renunciation, far from the world, and filled with labor and deprivation.
Monasticism in and of itself is not the goal, but it is the most effective means of attaining the highest spiritual life. The aim of monasti-cism is the attainment of moral and spiritual strength in order to save the soul. The monastic life is the greatest ascetic endeavor in the spiritual service for the world. The monk upholds the world, prays for the world and spiritually nourishes it and represents it; that is, he performs the ascetic feat of prayerful intercession for the world.
The birthplace of monasticism is Egypt, and the father and founder was St. Anthony the Great. St. Anthony established eremeti-cal monasticism, a discipline in which each monk lived separately from the others in a hut or cave, giving himself over to fasting, prayer, and labor to support himself and the poor by plaiting baskets and rope. All were placed under one leader or elder, called an abba or father, for guidance.
During St. Anthony’s lifetime another form of monastic life also began to develop. The ascetics gathered into one community where each would work according to his strength and talents for the general welfare, and all were subject to one rule. Such communities were called coenobia or monasteries. The abbots of monasteries began to be called abbots or archimandrites. The founder of communal monasticism is considered to be Pachomius the Great.
From Egypt monasticism quickly spread into Asia, Palestine, Syria and finally to Europe. In Russia monasticism came almost simultaneously with the acceptance of Christianity. The founders of monasticism in Russia were Sts. Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev-Caves monastery.
Large monasteries with many hundreds of monastics came to be called lavras. Each monastery had its order of life, its rule or monastic typikon. Every monk was obliged to fulfill various tasks which, according to the typikon, were called obediences. Monastics can be either male or female, both having exactly the same rules. Women’s monasteries (convents) have existed from ancient times.
Those who desire to enter the monastic life must first undergo a trial period to test their strength before they give irrevocable vows. Those undergoing this preparatory testing are called novices. If after a long testing period they prove capable of becoming monastics, then they are partially garbed in the robes of a monastic with the initial service of profession. At this stage they are called rassophore monks having the right to wear the rasa and kamilavka, so that they might still be more confirmed upon their chosen path to become full monks or nuns.
The full monastic profession comprises two degrees, the lesser and greater form, little schema and great schema. Upon entering monasti-cism itself, the rite of the profession to the lesser schema is performed in which the monk or nun gives the initial vows and is given a new name. When the moment arrives for the tonsure, thrice the monk gives the abbot the scissors as a sign of his firm decision. When the abbot the abbot the scissors as a sign of his firm decision. When the abbot receives the scissors for the third time from the hand of the person to be tonsured, he then with thanksgiving to God cuts a piece of hair of the person, in the name of the Most-holy Trinity, consecrating him utterly to the service of God.
The person receiving the lesser schema is dressed with the para-man, a small, square cloth with a depiction of the Cross of the Lord and the instruments of His Passion, the cassock and belt, and the mantia, a long pleated cloak, without sleeves. Upon his head is placed the klobuk or kamilavka, with a long veil. Into his hands a prayer rope is entrusted (chotki, in Russian; komvoskini, in Greek), which is a black string of knots for counting prayers and prostrations. All of these garments have a symbolic significance and remind the monastic of his promises. At the conclusion of the ceremony the newly tonsured monk is given a cross and a candle, which he holds throughout the Liturgy until Communion.
The monks who take on the Great Schema give even stricter vows. Again one’s name is changed. There are also changes in the garments. Instead of the paraman the person is dressed in the analav, a special cloth like a scapular with crosses and inscriptions, and instead of the klobuk the person receives the koukoulion, a rounded helmet with a veil that covers the shoulders.
Among the Russians, it is customary to call "schemniks" only those monks who have attained the Great Schema.
If a monk is elevated to the rank of abbot, then he is granted a staff as a symbol of his authority over the brethren, a symbol of his lawful position as a director over monks. When an igumen is elevated to the rank of archimandrite, he is vested with a mantia having "tablets" or pectorals. The tablets are rectangular sections from red or green cloth which are sewn onto the front of the mantia, two at the top and two at the bottom. They symbolize the fact that the archimandrite will guide the brethren according to the commandments of God. In addition the archimandrite receives the palitsa and miter. Usually bishops are chosen from the ranks of the archimandrites.
Many monastics have been true angels in the flesh who have shone forth as lights for the Church of Christ. Despite the fact that monks have separated themselves from the world in order to attain moral perfection, they exert a great and beneficial effect upon those living in the world. In addition to helping in the spiritual needs of their neighbors, monks do not hesitate to serve the temporal needs of those around them when the opportunities arise. In obtaining their own sustenance they divide their food with others. Among the monasteries there are those hospices which take in, feed, and provide rest for travellers. Often monasteries distribute alms for other locations, those in prisons, those suffering from famine and other misfortunes. But the primary service the monks provide for society is their perpetual prayer for the Church, their country, the living, and the dead.
St. Theophan the Recluse says, "Monasticism is a sacrifice to God from society; it devotes itself to God and comprises its defense. The monasteries are especially noted for church services which are orderly, complete, and lengthy. The Church is manifest there vested in all Her beauty." Truly monasteries are inexhaustible sources of edification for the laity.
In the middle ages monasteries provided a great service by being centers of learning and science and disseminators of Christian enlightenment.
Monasteries are the best expression in a nation of the strength and power of the religious and moral spirit of a people.
In Russia, Greece, and other Orthodox countries the people loved monasteries. When a new monastery was founded, the people would begin to settle next to it, forming a village. Sometimes these villages would grow into great cities.
The love for monasteries and the holy places evoked among Orthodox people the custom of pilgrimage. In times when Orthodox countries flourished, many people, both men and women, old and young, with packs on their backs, a staff in hand, and a prayer on their lips walked patiently in all seasons of the year from one monastery to another. They often brought their troubles there and within the walls of a monastery found help, comfort and consolation. Many undertook pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Palestine and other distant places.
Our forefathers in the spirit were aware that monasteries were the seed-bed of faith and spiritual enlightenment, and were the bulwark of Orthodoxy, without which the Orthodox empires of old could not even have existed.
Orthodoxy, in the form of the Church, was the basis of Russian unity, which was a fruit of the religious unity. Orthodoxy established Russian literature, historical studies, and the religious and ethical law. Without Orthodoxy there would have been no Russian civilization.
Foolishness For The Sake of Christ.
We have yet to consider one form of the ascetic Christian life, the so-called foolishness for the sake of Christ.
The fool-for-Christ set for himself the task of battling within himself the root of all sin, pride. In order to accomplish this he took on an unusual style of life, appearing as someone bereft of his mental faculties, thus bringing upon himself the ridicule of others. In addition he exposed the evil in the world through metaphorical and symbolic words and actions. He took this ascetic endeavor upon himself in order to humble himself and to also more effectively influence others, since most people respond to the usual ordinary sermon with indifference. The spiritual feat of foolishness for Christ was especially widespread in Russia.
The Lord blessed Orthodox lands by sending unto them many ascetics, righteous men and women who instructed the people in struggle, patience, and submission to the will of God. The Russian Orthodox peoples endured their hardships with patience and hope in the mercy of God. Thus the long-suffering and humble soul of the Russian Orthodox nation was cultivated and given the strength for the most difficult, heroic labors in the name of righteousness and love of God.
13. Bells and Russian Orthodox Peals.
Bells are one of the most essential elements of an Orthodox Church. In the "Order of the Blessing of Bells" we read, "So let all that hear them ring, either during the day or at night, be inspired to the glorification of Thy saints." Church-bell ringing is used to:
In addition, in some cites in Old Russia, bells summoned the people to gatherings. Also, bells were used to guide those lost in bad weather, and announced various dangers or misfortunes such as fires or floods. In days of peril to the nation they called the people to her defense. Bells proclaimed military victories and greeted those returning from the field of battle. Thus bells played a great part in the life of the Russian people. Bells were usually hung in special belltowers constructed over the Entry to a church or beside it.
Bells did not come into use immediately after the appearance of Christianity. In the Old Testament Church, in the Temple in Jerusalem, the faithful were summoned to services not with bells, but with trumpets. In the first centuries of Christianity, when the Church was persecuted by the pagans, Christians had no opportunity to openly call the faithful to services. At that time, they were secretly summoned either by one of the deacons or special messengers, or sometimes the bishop himself at the end of a service would reveal the time and place of the next one.
Following the cessation of persecutions in the fourth century, various means came into use to summon the faithful. More specific means were found in the sixth century when the sound of boards or iron hoops, beaten with hammers, summoned the faithful. Eventually the most perfect means of calling the faithful to the services was devised, pealing bells.
The first bells, as is well known, appeared in Western Europe. There is a tradition by which the invention of bells is ascribed to St. Paulinus the Bishop of Nola (411) at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century. Several versions of this tradition exist. In one, St. Paulinus saw some field flowers in a dream, daffodils, which gave forth a pleasant sound. When he awoke the bishop ordered bells cast, which had the form of these flowers. But, evidently, St. Paulinus did not introduce bells into the practice of the Church, since neither in his works nor in the works of his contemporaries are bells mentioned. Only in the beginning of the seventh century did the Pope of Rome, Sabinian, successor to St. Gregory the Dialogist, succeed in giving bells a Christian significance. From this period, bells began gradually to be used by Christians, and in the course of the eighth and ninth centuries in Western Europe, bells properly became part of Christian liturgical practice.
In the East, in the Greek Church, bells came into use in the second half of the ninth century, when in 865, the Doge of Venice, Ursus, gave the Emperor Michael a gift of twelve large bells. These bells were hung in a tower near Hagia Sophia Cathedral. But bells did not come into general use among the Byzantines.
In Russia, bells appeared almost simultaneously with the reception of Christianity by St. Vladimir (988 A.D.). Wooden boards and metal hoops beaten with hammers were also used and still are in some monasteries. But strangely enough, Russia took bells not from Greece from whence she received Orthodoxy, but from Western Europe. The very word kolokol comes from the German word "glocke." The Slavonic word is kampan which comes from the Roman province of Campania where the first bells, made of bronze, were cast. Initially the bells were small, and each church had only two or three.
In the fifteenth century special factories for bell casting appeared, where bells of huge proportions were made. In the bell tower of Ivan the Great in Moscow, for example, are the "Everyday" bell weighing 36,626 pounds; the bell "reyute" weighing 72,000 pounds; and the largest bell, called "Dormition," which weighs around 144,000 pounds.
The largest bell in the world at present is the "Tsar Bell." It stands on a stone pedestal at the base of the bell tower of Ivan the Great. There is no equal to it in the world, not only in dimension and weight, but in the fine art of casting. The "Tsar Bell" was poured by Russian masters Ivan and Mikail Matorin, father and son, in 1733-1735. Material for the "Tsar Bell" was taken from its predecessor, a gigantic bell which had been damaged in a fire. This bell weighed 288,000 pounds and was cast by the master craftsman, Alexander Grigoriev, in 1654. To the 288,000 pounds of base metal was added more than 80,000 pounds of alloy. In all, the total weight of the Tsar Bell is 218 American tons. The diameter of the bell is 6 meters, 60 centimeters, or 21 feet, 8 inches.
This amazing product of casting was never successfully hung for it was severely damaged in a terrible and devastating fire in 1737. Still in its casting form on a wooden scaffolding, it is not known whether or not it was ever hung from this scaffolding. When the wooden scaffolding caught fire, they started to throw water on it. The red hot bell developed many large and small cracks due to the extreme change in temperature, and a large piece, weighing 11,000 kilograms (11.5 tons), fell from the bell.
After the fire, the "Tsar Bell" lay in its casting form for a whole century. In 1836, the bell was lifted out and placed on a stone pedestal, the project of the architect A. Montferrand, the builder of St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the Alexander Column in Petersburg. It stands on this pedestal now with the fallen piece of the bell leaning at the foot of the pedestal. Such is the fate of the largest bell in the world, the "Tsar Bell," which was never rung.
The largest working bell is the "Dormition" bell, located in Moscow, at the bell tower of Ivan the Great. Its pealing gave the signal to begin the festive ringing of the bells of all the Moscow churches on Pascha night. Thus, the Russian Orthodox people loved the ringing of the church bells and enriched the craft with their innovation and art.
The distinguishing quality of Russian bells is their sonority and melodiousness. This is attained by various techniques:
Russians call the clapper, the tongue. The Russian bell is distinguished from the Western European bell in that it is fixed in position, and the clapper moves and strikes the sides of the bell, which produces the sound. It is characteristic that the Russian people call the movable part of the bell the "tongue," enabling the bell to have a living voice and trumpet. Truly, with what other name, if not a talking one, can one call the bell?
On the days of great feasts the sound of the bell reminds us of the blessedness of Heaven. On the days of great saints, it reminds us of the eternal repose of the dwellers of Heaven. During the days of Holy Week, it reminds us of our reconciliation with God through Christ the Saviour. On the days of Bright Week, it proclaims the victory of life over death and the eternal, endless joy of the future life in the Kingdom of Christ.
Is it not a mouth that speaks when the bell tells us of each passing hour, and reminds us of the passage of time and of eternity when there should be time no longer (Rev. 10:6).
Announcing the glory of the name of Christ, day and night, from the heights of a church of God, the sound of bells reminds us of the words of the Lord, the Pantocrator, spoken through the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah, / have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night (Is. 62:6). It is not by chance that pagans, when they heard the sound of bells, often said, "that is the voice of the Christian God."
The sound of one church bell is something exalted and solemn, and if there are several bells in harmony with each other, then a more magnificent sonority is sounded. A moving peal of bells acts upon our inner feelings and awakens our souls from spiritual slumber. What grieved, despondent, and often irritating tones are evoked by church bells in the soul of an evil and impious apostate. The feelings of discomfort and weariness of soul are evoked by the sound of the bell in the soul of a perpetual sinner. But in the soul of the faithful, who seek peace with God the Lord, the church bell awakens a bright, joyous, and serene disposition. Thus a person can define the state of his soul by means of the sound of bells.
One can bring forth examples from life, when a man, exhausted from fighting life’s bitterness, and fallen into despair and despondency, decides to take his own life. Then he hears the church bell. Preparing to commit suicide, he trembles, becomes afraid, and involuntarily guards himself with the sign of the Cross. It recalls the Heavenly Father, and new, good feelings arise in his soul, and the one who was perishing forever returns to life. Thus, in the strokes of a church bell there is hidden a wonderful power, which penetrates deeply into the soul of mankind.
Having loved the sound of the church bell, Orthodox people associate it with all their festive and sorrowful events. Therefore, the sound of the Orthodox belltower serves not only to indicate the time of divine services, but also to express joy, grief and festivity. Various forms of bell ringing, each with their own name and meaning, developed to express this range of feelings.
The Forms of Bell Ringing and Their Names.
The manner of church bell ringing is divided into two basic forms: 1. the measured ringing of the bell to announce church services, and 2. ringing of all the bells.
Ringing to Announce Church Services.
By the "announcement of church services" is meant the measured strokes of one large bell. By this sound, the faithful are called together to the temple of God for divine services. In Russian it is known as the "Good news bell" because it announces the blessed, good news of the beginning of divine services.
The "good news peal" is accomplished thus. First there are produced three widely spaced, slow, prolonged strokes, so as to sustain the sound of the bell, followed by measured strokes. If the bell is very heavy or of great dimensions, the measured strokes are produced by the swinging of the clapper from side to side of the bell. If the bell is of medium size, then its clapper is drawn sufficiently close to the rim by a rope. The rope is attached to a wooden foot pedal, and with pressure from the bell-ringer’s feet, the sound is produced.
The "good news peal" is subdivided in turn into two types:
1) The usual or hourly peal, produced with the largest bell.
2) The lenten or occasional peal, produced on the next largest bell on weekdays of the Great Fast.
If the church has several large bells, as is usually the case in cathedrals or large monasteries, then the size of the bells corresponds to their significance: 1) the holiday bell, 2) the Sunday bell, 3) the polyeleos bell, 4) the daily bell, and 5) the fifth, or small bell. Usually in parishes there are no more that two or three large bells.
The ringing of all the bells is subdivided as follows:
1) Trezvon (Peal) — thrice-sounded, multiple bell ringing. This is the simultaneous ringing of all the bells, then a brief pause, a second ringing of all the bells, again a brief pause, and a third ringing of all the bells, i.e., a simultaneous ringing of all the bells three times, or a ringing in three refrains.
2) Dvuzvon — twice rung. This is the simultaneous ringing of all the bells twice, in two refrains.
3) Perezvon (Chain Ringing) — this is the ringing of each bell in turn, with either one or several strokes of each bell, beginning with the largest to the very smallest, and then repeating several times.
4) Perebor (Toll) — This is the slow, single peal of each bell in turn, beginning with the smallest to the largest, and after the stroke on the largest bell all the bells are immediately struck together; then this is repeated several times.
The Use of the Bells and its Meaning.
Bells For All-night Vigil.
1) Before the beginning of the All-night Vigil — the "good news peal," which concludes with the simultaneous ringing of all the bells, or the trezvon.
2) At the beginning of the reading of the Six Psalms comes the twice-rung, simultaneous peal, the dvuzvon. The dvuzvon announces the beginning of the second part of the All-night Vigil — Matins. It expresses the joy of the Resurrection of Christ, the incarnation of the Second person of the Holy Trinity, our Lord, Jesus Christ. The beginning of Matins, as we know, recalls the Birth of Christ, and begins with the doxology of the angels in their revelation to the shepherds of Bethlehem, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.
In popular usage, the twice-rung bell at the All-night Vigil is called the second-bell (the second bell peal after the beginning of the All-night Vigil).
3) At the time of the singing of the polyeleos, before the reading of the Gospel, the trezvon, the thrice performed, simultaneous ringing of all the bells, is rung, expressing joy in celebrating the event.
At the Sunday All-night Vigil, this ringing expresses the joy and festivity of the Resurrection of Christ. In some localities it is performed at the time of the chanting, "In that we have beheld the Resurrection of Christ..." Customarily in guide books, this peal is called the "bells before the Gospel."
In popular usage, the trezvon in the All-night Vigil (the bells before the Gospel) is called the "third ringing."
4) At the beginning of the Song of the Most-holy Theotokos, "My soul doth magnify the Lord...," occurs a short good news peal, composed of nine strokes of the large bell (customary in Kiev and in all of Little Russia).
5) On Great Feasts, at the conclusion of the Vigil, the trezvon occurs.
6) At Pontifical services, after every All-night Vigil, the trezvon is rung, accompanying the bishop as he leaves the church.
The Bells for the Liturgy.
Before the beginning of the reading of the Third Hour, the good news peal for the Liturgy is rung, and at the end of the Sixth Hour, before the beginning of the Liturgy, the trezvon.
If two Liturgies are served (an early one and a later one), then the good news peal for the early Liturgy is simpler and slower than the one for the later Liturgy, and it is customarily done not using the large bell.
At Pontifical divine services, the good news peal for the Liturgy begins at the indicated time. As the bishop approaches the church, the trezvon is rung. When the bishop enters the church, the trezvon ceases and the good news peal resumes and continues throughout the vesting of the bishop. At the end of the Sixth Hour, the trezvon is rung again. Then, during the Liturgy, the good news peal is rung at the beginning of the Eucharistic Canon, the most important part of the Liturgy, to announce the time of the sanctification and the transformation of the Holy Gifts.
According to T.K. Nikolsky, in the book Ustav Bogosluzhenia, it is said that the good news peal before "It is Meet ...," begins with the words, "It is meet and right to worship the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit ...," and continues until the chanting of "It is truly meet to bless Thee, the Theotokos...." It is also the instruction in the Book No-vaia Skrizhal by Archbishop Benjamin (published in S.P.B., 1908, p. 213.). In practice, the good news peal for "It is meet..." is shorter, composed of twelve strokes. In southern Russia the good news peal for "It is meet..." is performed customarily before the beginning of the Eucharistic Canon, at the time of the chanting of the Creed (12 strokes, 1 stroke for each clause of the Creed). The good news peal before "It is meet...," according to the custom of Russian churches was introduced during the time of Patriarch Joachim of Moscow (1690 A.D.), similar to the custom of the West, where they ring during the words "Take, eat..."
At the conclusion of the Liturgy on all Great Feasts the trezvon is rung. Also, after every Liturgy served by a bishop the trezvon is rung to accompany the bishop as he leaves the church.
On the feast of the Nativity, the trezvon is rung all the day of the feast, from Liturgy until Vespers. Also, on the feast of the Resurrection of Christ — Pascha.
The good news peal before Bright Matins begins before the All-night Vigil and continues until the Procession of the Cross, and the festive trezvon is rung from the beginning of the Procession of the Cross to its end and even longer.
Before the Paschal Liturgy, the good news peal and the trezvon are rung. During the Paschal Liturgy itself, at the time of the Gospel reading, the perezvon is rung, with seven strokes on each bell (the number seven expresses the fullness of the glory of God). This festive ringing of bells signals the homily on the Gospel of Christ in all languages. Upon completion of the reading of the Gospel, the perezvon concludes with the joyful, victorious trezvon.
During all of Bright Week, the trezvon occurs every day, from the end of the Liturgy until Vespers. On all Sundays from Pascha until Ascension, after the Liturgy the trezvon is rung.
On the feast day of a church, at the conclusion of the Liturgy before the beginning of the Moleben, the short good news peal and the trezvon are rung, and at the conclusion of the Moleben, the trezvon.
Whenever there is a procession around the church, the trezvon is rung.
Before the Royal Hours, the good news peal is usually rung on the large bell, and before the Great Holy Week Hours, the Lenten good news peal in rung on the small bell. As at the Royal Hours, so also at the Great Holy Week Hours before each Hour the bell is rung. Before the Third Hour the bell is struck three times, before the Sixth Hour, six times and before the Ninth Hour, nine times. Before the Typica and Great Compline, twelve times. If during the fast a feast day is celebrated, then for the Hours they do not strike separately for each Hour.
On Matins of Good Friday, when the Twelve Gospel Readings of the Lord’s Passion are read, besides the usual good news peal and trezvon at the beginning of matins, there is a good news peal before each Gospel reading: before the first Gospel reading — one stroke on the large bell, before the second gospel reading — two strokes, before the third Gospel reading — three strokes, etc.
Upon conclusion of Matins, as the faithful carry the "Holy Thursday fire" to their homes, the trezvon is rung.
Use of the Perezvon and its Meaning.
At Vespers on Great Friday, before the elevation of the Burial Shroud, at the time of the singing of the last sticheron of the aposticha, a slow perezvon, one stroke on each bell, from the largest to the the smallest, is performed. Upon the placement of the Shroud in the center of the church, the trezvon is rung.
At Matins for Great Saturday, beginning with the chanting of the "Great Doxology" and continuing through the procession with the Shroud around the church, the perezvon is rung the same for the carrying back of the Shroud, a slow perezvon, one stroke on each bell from the largest to the smallest. When they pick up the Shroud in the middle of the church and go with it to the Royal Gates, then the trezvon is rung.
The slow perezvon with one stroke on each bell, beginning with the largest, most powerful sound, and ascending by degrees to the most delicate and highest pitched tone of the small bell, symbolizes the "outpouring (in terms of humility)" of our Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation, as we sing, for example, in the fourth irmos of the Fifth Tone: "Foreseeing Thy divine self-emptying upon the Cross..."
As established by centuries of practice by the Russian Orthodox Church, in the central part of Russia such a perezvon could be performed only twice a year, on Good Friday and Great Saturday, the day of the Crucifixion of the Lord and His burial. Experienced bell-ringers usually follow this custom strictly and do not permit otherwise, so that the sorrowful sound pertaining to the Lord, our Saviour, would be reserved and distinct from the funeral bells of simple, mortal and sinful people.
At Matins on the day of the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord, during the week of the Veneration of the Cross, and on the first of August, before carrying Cross out of the Altar at the time of the chanting of the "Great Doxology," the perezvon occurs, during which they slowly strike three times (in some places, one time) on each bell from the largest to the smallest. When the Cross is carried to the middle of the church and placed on the analogion, the trezvon is rung.
Similarly to the perezvon, but faster and in quick succession, seven or three times on each bell, the bell is rung before the little blessing of water. At the time of the immersion of the Cross in the water, the trezvon is rung.
As before the blessing of water, the perezvon occurs before the ordination of a bishop. In general, the perezvon is quick, but sometimes on each bell there is a festive peal. In several places, such a perezvon is performed before the beginning of the Liturgy on the feast day of the church, or in other instances, for example, as we indicated above, during the reading of the Paschal Gospel.
The Use of the Perebor and its Meaning.
The perebor, otherwise known as the funeral bell, expresses grief over the dead. It is used, as we explained above, in the reverse order of the perezvon. That is, slowly they stroke one time on each bell from the smallest to the largest, and after that they strike all the bells simultaneously. This mournful, funeral perebor must conclude with a short trezvon, expressing the joyous Christian faith in the resurrection of the dead.
In view of the fact that in several guides on bell ringing, one is instructed not to play a trezvon at the funeral service of the dead, and as this directive does not correspond to church practice, we will take this opportunity to give some explanation.
The slow perebor ring of the bells, from the smallest to the largest, symbolizes a man’s growing up on earth, from small stature to maturity and strength, and the single, simultaneous strike on all the bells signifies that the earthly life of man is stopped by death, because of which all that is acquired by man in this life is left behind. As this is expressed in the hymns of the funeral service, "All mortal things are vanity and exist not after death. Riches endure not, neither does glory accompany on the way; for when death comes, all these things vanish utterly" (or as in another hymn, "yet one moment only, and death shall supplant them all"). Therefore, to the immortal Christ we cry, "Give rest to the one who has passed away, in the abode of those who rejoice." The second part of the hymn directly speaks of the joy of the future life with Christ. This joy is also expressed with the trezvon after the sorrowful perebor.
In the journal Pravoslavnaia Rus’ (Orthodox Russia), Archbishop Averky, according to the custom of the occasion at funerals and Pannykhidas for the deceased, gave the soundly based explanation which, without doubt pertains to the bells as well. "According to our Orthodox custom, to perform Pannykhidas and funerals, bright clothing is put on. The custom of celebrating these orders of worship in black clothing came to us from the West, and is absolutely uncharacteristic of the spirit of Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, it is widespread among us. So much so, that now it is not easy to eradicate. For true Christians, death is a passage to better life, joy and not sorrow, as is beautifully expressed in the moving third kneeling prayer read at Vespers on the day of Pentecost, "Because there is no death, O Lord, for Thy servants when we depart from the body and come to Thee, our God, but a change from things very sorrowful unto things most beneficial and most sweet, and unto repose and gladness."
The trezvon, reminiscent of the Resurrection, gracefully acts in the soul of the Christian believer, grieving over the separation from the deceased, and gives it internal consolation. To deprive the Christian of such comfort has no basis, the more so since this trezvon has fundamentally entered into the life of the Russian Orthodox people and has become an expression of their faith. In this way, as the body of the deceased is brought to the funeral in the church, there is the mournful perebor, and as it is being carried into the church, the trezvon. After the funeral, upon carrying the deceased out of the church, there again occurs the perebor, concluding also with the trezvon.
During the funerals and burials of priests, hieromonks, archimandrites and bishops, a slightly different perebor is performed. First they strike the large bell twelve times, then follows the perebor; again the twelve strokes on the large bell, and again the perebor, etc. As the body is brought into the church, the trezvon is rung; also during the reading of the prayer of absolution — the trezvon. During the removal of the body, again the perebor is indicated, and upon the placing of the body in the grave, the trezvon occurs. In other places, the bells are rung according to the usual custom for funerals.
In the Chinovnei Knige, it is said that during the removal of Patriarch Joachim, there was a good news peal, alternately on all the bells (Vrem. Mask. Obshch. 1st. i drevi. 1852, vol. 15, p.22).
Not long ago we had occasion to learn that there exists still one other form of perebor. It is one stroke on each bell, but beginning with the largest to the smallest, and then a simultaneous striking of all the bells. This was put on a record, Rostovskie Zvoni (Rostov Bells), recorded in Rostov on 1963. In practice we have not heard such ringing, and there are no directions about them. Therefore we are unable to indicate where and when this pattern is used.
There also exists the so-called "beautiful ringing" on all the bells. The "beautiful ringing" exists at cathedral gatherings, monasteries, wherever they have a large collection of bells. The "beautiful ringing" is composed of several bellringers in a company of five or more people. The beautiful ringing occurs on the great feast days, at festive and joyful events of the Church, and also for greeting the bishop of the diocese.
It is also necessary to mention the "alarm bell," which serves a social purpose. By "alarm bell" is meant the uninterrupted, frequent strokes on the large bell. The "alarm bell" is used to alert people in the case of fire, flood, mutiny, invasion by an enemy, or some other form of social calamity.
The "vetchevnie" bell was used to call all the inhabitants of ancient Novgorod and Pskov to the vetche, or popular assembly.
Victories over the enemy and regiments returning from the fields of battle were announced with the joyous, festive trezvon on all the bells.
In conclusion, we note that Russian bellringers attained high mastery of bell ringing and were famous throughout the world. Many tourists came from Europe, England and America to the feast of Pascha in Moscow, to hear the Paschal bells.
On the "Feast of Feasts" in Moscow, the bells of all its churches, numbering more than 5,000, were rung. Thus, whoever heard the Paschal bells of Moscow would never forget it. It was "a unique symphony," as writer I. Shmelov expressed it. This powerful, festive sound permeated to Heaven a victorious hymn to the Resurrection of Christ.
(The basic description of the order of bell ringing is laid down for the most part in Practice of the Russian Church in Central Russia. The description of practice was compiled and confirmed by the many events and daily practices of the Russian Orthodox people, by the very life of the Orthodox Church.).
In our own time of weak faith the dark powers of evil approach, battling against the righteousness of God. We, the faithful, must remember especially that none other than the monastics, by prayer and fasting, appear as the vanguard of the battle against the powers of evil. For the Lord Himself said, This kind (satanic spirit) goeth not out but by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:21). We must love these zealots of Christ, and we must help them by all means, begging their spiritual help.
We ourselves, knowing the great power of prayer and fasting, must pray every day and fast to the best of our abilities, in order to maintain fervor, to fortify our hearts toward good and holy resolutions, and to generate in ourselves spiritual strength, so that with God’s help we may withstand the intrigues of the Devil.
In the words of Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, "Let us not be deceived by the attractive appearance which ordinary, worldly honor possesses; let us not be enemies of the faith, behave scandalously, but let us do good deeds, and turn away from injurious overindulgence. In short, to fulfill only the most necessary ostensible obligations of a man and a member of society is to mearly whiten our sepulchers, which in the meantime, are within full of dead men’s boms (Matt. 23:27).
"How many so-called, wise men of this world suffered and tortured themselves and others by striving to follow the good life?" says the same hierarch. "And who did they make blessed? Of course, their works are not for the understanding and activity of children, because their own understanding never completely escapes their struggle with doubts; their personal deeds do not correspond to their teaching (i.e., they themselves do not practice what they preach). Here we see man’s insignificant importance. In contrast to this, there is the great simplicity of God. God does not say much. In His simple commandments are set forth the teaching of life, which for the wise are profoundly significant, and for children are easily understood. God’s simplicity enlightens the ignorant and guides the educators; it purifies the souls of men and preserves civilization; it organizes temporal life and recreates it for eternity."
In all this one must not forget that the commandments of God will be active and redeeming for us only when Christian love towards God and neighbor reigns in our hearts. The Lord Himself said, On these two commandments, love for God and neighbor, hang all the law and the prophets (Matt. 22:40), that is, genuine and true life.
For, "It is possible to know true faith with only the mind and the memory," says Archbishop Innocent, "but poor, lifeless and fruitless is this knowledge. It is possible to know the true faith only by directing it by the principle of life, but this knowledge, although much higher than the first, and a necessity for perfection, is cold and dry; instead of delight, it often produces the spirit of bondage to fear (Romans 8:15). Only the participation of a grace-filled heart makes the yoke of self-renunciation easy and the burden of the commandments light (Matt. 11:30). Only the lively sensation in the soul of the heavenly and the divine links a man to Heaven and gives him a taste of the powers of the world to come (Heb. 6:5). Only holy love produces real unity of man with God and Christ, and therefore, a living faith and living hope."
Such living faith and hope, true life, we will find if we are in the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Orthodox Church of Christ and live the life of the Church, which is a unity of love; and in which invariably, by the promise of God, dwells the Holy Spirit, sending down His Heavenly gifts in the Mysteries of the Church, to strengthen us on the path of salvation.
Having such a priceless treasure, the Orthodox Church, we with full consciousness of that great joy, join our voices to the voice of our ever-memorable St. John of Kronstadt, whose many miracles witness to the truth of his words, both during his lifetime and after his death. He writes, "O Church of God, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic! You are so great, wise, true and redeeming!... Glory to the Orthodox Church! Glory to Christ God, its Most-holy Head, the only Head of the Church of God on earth." Amen.
Holy Trinity Monastery 1993 /
Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission 2003
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)