A C O R P U S D E S I G N E D F O R T H E FA I T H F U L

LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY
The article you are reading belongs to the second edition of my magazine and still provides you with information on religious topics of general interest. It will be yet released only on the Internet for saving the health of the planet and still feature incorruptible articles, high-resolution photographs, and the definitions found in the magazine will come from reliable dictionaries and will concern only words or expressions that are hardly understood by the common man. The concept of my magazine is the same as the one from its previous edition, except that an electronic book that someone can read on a computer screen or on a special small computer that he can hold in his hands, and that is not printed on paper. Thus, the magazine includes an editorial, which is a piece of writing in a magazine that gives the editor's opinion about something, rather than reporting facts, featured articles and stunning photographs, typical to magazines, and the notion of volume, typical to books, but also magazines, which is a book as a part of a series of books and a series of different issues of the same magazine, especially all the issues for one year. Every issue of the magazine will also feature a cover story, which is the main story in a magazine going with the picture shown on the front cover. The magazine will also have a logo that will be just the calligraphy of the name of the magazine. Someone looking for religious topics will be still able to read featured articles and, thus, be also able to find out something reliable on themes in which they are interested. I must warn you again of being not allowed to print, modify, but only use it on your computer. The files contained in my magazine are downloadable , so you can lend them to your friends who are not connected to the Internet, family and anybody you want, but observe the rules. In the end, I wish you enjor reading my magazine and I am looking forward for releasing the next issue. I also hope that my magazine will attract a very wide readership. The second issue of my magazine will house a cover story on Great Lent, which, in the Christian Church, is the period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Pascha, during which some Christians give up some type of food or activity that they enjoy in memory of the Passion. The topic of Great Lent was chosen as a result of the release period of the second edition of my magazine. PS: If you want to contact me for anything as regards my magazine project, please feel free to contact me at lightofchristianity@gmail.com and at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000120260185 on Facebook.

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The Holy Lent
Great Lent is the period that comes before the Feast of Pascha and lasts forty days and begins on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee (the tenth one before Pascha) and concludes with Great Sunday. Called according to the book where the liturgical services performed at that time are described in detail, the Triodion period is distinguished through the deep spiritual and repentant specific character of the liturgical content, all of them preparing Christians for the Passions of the Saviour Christ, but especially for His Resurrection. It is also a time for repentance pre-eminently and coming back to God, which reminds Christians firstly of the forty days spent by the Saviour in the desert of Caranthania, immediately after His Baptism. It is the period in which catechumens spent the last forty days of their proper preparation for receiving Baptism on Pascha. Catechumens are adult people prepared for receiving Baptism in early Christianity. The forty-day period of Great Lent relies on a tradition in the Old Testament, documented several times. According to the Eastern tradition, fasting always had a deeply spiritual character, aiming especially at what the Holy Fathers would call “metanoia”, namely the deep inner change of man. Therefore, fasting, in general, but especially Great Lent, requests a special skill. The genuine spirit of Great Lent is however found at the time of the repentance established by the Church for all its sons, whatever their spiritual level, for a forty-day period. A fast is one of the church orders through whose agency the Church guides the life of its believers to the ways of real experience, virtues and honouring God. Christianity conferred on fasting a special meaning in religious life, especially in monastic life, making an action of virtue and worship, a mean of progress in spiritual life, fight against passions and desires of it. However, fasting itself is the most obvious sign of the respect and sacrifice towards God. According to the Christian conception, fasting is the effort made pre-eminently by Christians for mending their life, through restoring the supremacy of their soul over their body. Their effort relies on an unchangeable fight, which consists in strengthening their will and sound good sense, disciplining their instincts, restraining their soul, aiming at fulfilling the inner balance in which the spirit, namely the superior and noble part of the human being, must prevail. The term “Triodion” firstly designates the period during the ecclesiastical year when Christians make themselves ready spiritually for entering the Holy Lent and the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. On the other hand, the term is used to call the liturgical book used at that time, namely “the Triodion”. The origin of the term can be deduced from the fact that during the Matins canons, only three hymns are sung at that time, in contrast with the other periods of the ecclesiastical year, when nine hymns are sung. The other hymns are replaced with six biblical hymns. Precise rules related to the duration and forms of practising the fast in early Christianity are not mentioned. The first Christians did probably fast according to the Jewish tradition, although the Christian Church did not any fast of the Old Law. It seems to explain masterly the influence had by the Jewish ritual on the Christian one. As concerns the Christian fast, its origin, structure and spiritual meaning, it is entirely the creation of the Christian genius, being cultivated and improved in the monastic tradition, and then accepted by the entire Church. After ChristiLight of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 3

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ans practised fasting as an act of personal piety, which relied on the religious freedom and zeal of every Christian, in the beginning, in time, the Church authority formulated rules and guidances, more or less precise, thus establishing the time, duration and kind of fasting. Those rules would appear after the 4th century, simultaneously with the regulation of the discipline of catechumens and repentance, but especially with improving the Church organisation. Great Lent, namely the fast before the Resurrection of the Lord, is the most difficult and long one among the four fasts of the Orthodox Church. It is also one of the most intense liturgical times of the Eastern Church, as well as of other Christian Churches. It is generally called by the people “Great Lent”, and the name “Forty Days remembrance” (“Tessarakoste” in Greek and “Quadragesima” in Latin), which was met for the first time in the 5 th canon of the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea in 325, would be perfectly justified for the six weeks that represented the Holy Lent in olden times, but it was considered ended on Lazarus' Friday (the Friday before Palm Sunday), while Lazarus' Saturday and Palm Sunday were considered different feasts. At the end of the 4th century, the Holy Lent, which began on Sundays (one day) and lasted five whole weeks, ended on Holy Thursday (other four days). The rule is also met today in the Ambrosian Rite. The forty days firstly symbolise the forty days spend by the Saviour in the desert of Caranthania, immediately after His Baptism, namely before He began preaching. The practice of “Forty Days remembrance” was adopted by the Christian Church as far back as before the 4th century, and it really represented the preparation time of catechumens for their Baptism. Since the 4th century, however, the catechumenal character of “Forty Days remembrance” was increasingly replaced with the penitential one in order then the Church to take “the garment of repentance” under the influence of monasticism. The Holy Fathers and church writers consider the Holy Lent as an institution of apostolic origin. In the first three centuries, the duration and kind of fasting were not uniform everywhere. The end of the 3rd century represents the moment when the Holy Lent would be divided into two different periods, with two different names, namely “the Lent of Forty Days remembrance”, which lasted until Palm Sunday, having a changeable duration, and “Great Lent”, which lasted one week, namely between Palm Sunday and Great and Holy Pascha. The Eastern Church would definitively adopt the old practice of Antiochian origin of the six-week fast only after standardising the day of Pascha, decided at the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea in 325. According to the Orthodox rule, the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise is the last meal before the beginning of Great Lent and Christians fast until Holy Saturday inclusive. In the Eastern tradition, fasting always had a deep spiritual character, aiming especially at what the Holy Fathers would name “metanoia”, namely the deep inner change of man. Such an understand of fasting, especially of the Holy Lent, is masterly represented by beautiful and impressive Byzantine iconography. Unfortunately, today, very few people who still makes sensitive the deep meaning of fasting in general, and especially Great Lent, reducing it to just some rules more or less essential. The tragedy of misunderstanding the Holy Lent is caused by ignoring the Triodion because doing not know the Triodion deprives Christians of a true understanding of the Lent, its purposes and meanings, reducing it to a so-called legal obligation and a set of dietary rules. The true discovery and concern of the Lent is almost lost today and there is other way of rediscovering it only by carefully listening to the hymns of the Triodion. The first four weeks of the Triodion period prepare Christians both spiritually and bodily for entering the Holy Lent. Beginning with the first Sunday of the Triodion, called the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the hymns specific to the period are sung at Matins. After the second Sunday of the Triodion, called the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, another day specific to the period is the Winter Saturday of remembrance of the souls on the Saturday preceding 4 The Holy Lent

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Judgement Sunday. Since then, Christians should not eat meat anymore and therefore it is also called Meatfare Sunday. In the fourth week, the one called Cheesefare Week Christians get started into the Holy Lent atmosphere in order they to no longer eat meat on Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise. The liturgical services of the Holy Lent preserved their catechetical and baptismal character until today, being not only ordinary vestiges of the past at all, but the clear source from which Orthodoxy borrows for diluting its thirst and need for perfection, always present. Every year, Great Lent and Pascha are again the means by which Christians rediscover and restore their initial state to which they were raised through their own death and resurrection within the Holy Baptism. The Holy Lent can be likewise understood as the time for salvation, as a time for repentance and return to Christ, but the spiritual dimension of the Holy Lent is the mood to carefully and continuously obey the Word of God since It enlightens Christians and guides them to firstly recognise their sins. Reconciliation with the neighbour, actually the fundamental idea of genuine repentance with external values, really represents the return to the self, but especially welcoming the neighbour. While reconciliating with the neighbour represents the basic idea of genuine repentance, forgiveness is the key that opens the path of Great Lent, something that the Church asks Christians for fulfilling it on the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise, in the evening, during the Vespers called the service of forgiveness. Christians enter the Holy Lent and pass through the stage of Great Lent, reconciliated with their neighbour and God, always thinking of the conscience of their paltriness and not wronging their neighbours to recover their genuine ascension to the Resurrection. The genuine spirit of the Holy Lent is, therefore, found at the time of repentance established by the Church for its sons, whatever their spiritual level, for forty days. Great Lent, the oldest fast of Christianity, occupies the most time of the Triodion period. The liturgical services at that time are full of special hymns, biblical readings, destined to prepare Christians and advise them to do penance and spiritual chastity. It is also the only period in the ecclesiastical year when all the Holy Liturgies, namely the ones of Saint John Chrysostom, Basil the Great and Gregory the Dialogist, are Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 5

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officiated.

In the vision of the Church, the Holy Lent always represented the spiritual journey whose destination is Pascha, “the feast of feasts”. The journey is deeply justified by that, between the Holy Lent and Pascha, there is an indissoluble relation, which can be discovered by someone by carefully understanding both of them. Because of the weakness of the human nature and because people cannot live steadfastly, they scatter and forget too quickly that the Resurrection of Christ, which is a unique event, is actually the only thing through which life makes sense and makes life beautiful. Therefore, through its solid and genuine liturgical traditions, through its liturgical services and well-determined liturgical times, the Orthodox Church wants to help Christians discover and sincerely wish the new and true life, which they easily scatter and not notice it, namely Christ. The book called “the Triodion” contains hymns and liturgical orders, composed by famous hymnographers over centuries of Christianity. In the 6th-7th centuries, Saint Romanos the Melodist and his disciples composed the first hymns, for the liturgical services of the main feasts officiated at that time, inspired from biblical readings. Until that time, the specific of the Triodin had consisted, besides reading some Psalms, in singing a hymn at the Sunday liturgical service and at the service of Hours, every day. Based on that foundation, Saint Romanos the Melodist composed the first hymns of the Triodion. In the outlook of the Orthodox Church, the first man, Adam, would lose the habit of fasting as far 6 The Holy Lent

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back as Paradise. Therefore, the Holy Fathers, as some prophets of the divine signs, would fix the rule of fasting, especially the one of Great Lent, which begins just since the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise. In other words, the purpose of fasting in general, but especially the one of the Holy Lent, requests a special skill, being the time in and through which the Church shows its sons the image of repentance, but also the means of fulfilling it, since the path of the sin and paltriness is not easy to change at all. It needs, from time to time, days or periods of fasting in which the spiritual fight with passions of the body and soul to be strengthened and intensified through a conscious and more harsh restrain of the body in order it to become an efficient way for fulfilling spiritual aspirations and ascend to God, the source and perfect incarnation of the Good. The purpose of fasting is also the one of releasing man from the majestic possession of meat and the spirit from the tyranny of the body and its passions, the tragical result of the sin and the original fall of man. Man will discover that “man shall not live by bread alone” only by making a continuous effort and will understand that he will mend the superiority of the spirit only like that. The superiority of the spirit involves, through its intimate structure, a continuous and unceasing effort. Time is important because Christians need it to eradicate and heal the generalised sickness, which people started to consider it as their default condition. The skill of fasting was continuously cultivated and improved in the monastic tradition, being then accepted by the entire Church. It is the experimentation by man of the words of Christ, Who says that the diabolical powers that enslaved man can be defeated only by prayer and fasting. It comes from the example of Christ Himself, Who fasted forty days, then met Satan in person. Providentially, that clash would change the inclination of man “only by bread alone” and would mark his release. In the Christian Church of the first centuries, the Feast of Pascha was anticipated by one or two days of fasting. Those two days of fasting seem to have been founded not so much with a view to the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, as especially for receiving the Holy Baptism by catechumens, in the night of Pascha. The practice of fasting was therefore reserved to catechumens, then extended to the ceremonial of Baptism and, finally, to the whole Church. That incipient form of fasting did have a penitential character by no means, but rather an ascetic-illuminating one. In the period of the early Church, the Sunday before Pascha was also called “Passion Sunday” in Rome, and on Passion Wednesday and Passion Friday, the Holy Liturgy was not officiated. The extension of fasting to the whole week that went before the Feast of Pascha was initially a liturgical practice specific only to the Alexandrian Church. Likewise, during the three weeks preceding the Feast of Pascha, it was customary in the early Church pericopes in the Gospel according to John to be read, since it was rich in passages related both to the approach of the Feast of Pascha and to the activity of the Saviour Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. The continuous preparation would be justified by the penitential practice in the beginning because penitent people submitted to a period of intense preparation of forty days. The term of “Forty Days remembrance” undoubtedly comes from that practice. They passed through that stage of fasting according to the rules of the Old Testament, namely by putting on clothes made from sacks and covering their head with ashes, as a sign of deep penance and as a spiritual exercise. In the life of the Church, during the first three centuries, there was not a preparation period for the Feast of Pascha, since the Christian community experienced the Christian creed so intensely, countless times even until the limit of martyrdom, that a need for a period necessary for renewing the promises from the Baptism was not felt. In the 4 th century, however, the only week of fasting was the one that went before Pascha. The official orders that established the discipline of fasting would be standardised and definitively fixed everywhere only in the age that went before the Great Schism (the 8th - 9th centuries), what led to the materialisation of the Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 7

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rule of fasts and fasting. The one that would record details related to the discipline of fasting in the early Church would be church historian Socrates (380-450). In the 6th century, Palestine became the centre of iconographic creation. The so-called poetical canon appeared at that time, which was specific to daily liturgical services. The hymnographers of the Palestinian period concentrated especially on composing the hymns in Holy Week. Hymnographers such as Sophronius of Jerusalem, Andrew of Crete, Saint John of Damascus, Saint Cosmas of Maiuma composed the hymns that are also sung today in Passion Week. Their followers, in the 7th century, composed new hymns for the other period of Great Lent, simultaneously paving the way for the pedagogical, didactic form of the liturgical hymn in the Triodion. In the 9th century, after the uneasy period in the life of the Church, caused by iconoclasm,, the hymns of the Triodion were improved at the Stoudios Monastery, under the guidance of Saint Theodore the Studite. It is said that besides the canons and verses composed for Saturdays, Sundays and festivals, he is the author of a complete series of three-ode canons (from which the term “Triodion” comes), kathismas and verses for all ordinary days of Great Lent. A Kathisma, literally, “seat”, is a division of the Psalter, used by Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics who follow the Byzantine Rite. There, Saint Theodore the Studite, shows, on one hand, his rich monastic teaching in a deeply faithful way towards the best tradition, and on the other hand, he gives himself up to dotting the periods of Great Lent and the stages leading to Passion Week rhythmically. The work of Saint Theodore the Studite was continued in the next centuries by other two hymnographers. The last stage of the present-day structure of the Triodion was materialised in the 11th - 12th centuries, when the then hymnographers concerned themselves especially with filling the gaps and adapting the hymns to musical requirements. Called “metaphrastical”, the period was mainly authored by Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, Saint Simeon the Translator, and others. At that time, it was needed, once the cycle of liturgical hymns ended, specific to the Triodion period, they to be systematised and recorded in one worship book. The first collection gathered only the hymns of Passion Week. Immediately after that, the collection was added the hymns of the other days in the Triodion period. Thus, the first synthesised form of the Triodion appeared, which later also included the hymns of the Resurrection, specific to the Pentecostarion. The Triodion was divided into “the Wailing Triodion” (the present-day Triodion) and the Festal Triodion (the present-day Pentecostarion). It was mainly possible because the hymns of the Resurrection were composed by the same hymnographers as the ones of the Triodion. It is not certainly known when the hymns of the two periods were separated, but it is definitely sure that, in the 15th century, there was a final form 8 The Holy Lent

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of the present-day Triodion. In 1522, in Venice, Italy, the first original Greek “Triodion”, used as a model until today, without many changes, was printed. The explanation is given by the treasure inherited from the centuries when the Church took care of showing its teaching and establishing its liturgical order, which was also dynamically maintained in the liturgical and dogmatical tradition. The number 40, which appears in the Old Testament several times, might have played a major part in determining and fixing the duration of the Holy Lent. The main event involving the number 40 would be the forty days of the Flood, the forty days spent by Moses on Mount Sinai, the forty days when the spies of the Jews pried into the land of Canaan, where they would enter, the forty days through which Elias the Prophet passed to get to Mount Horeb, forty days God put forth to the people of Nineveh, to repent it. In the New Testament, there are certain key-passages where the number of forty days is mentioned, namely the forty days spent by the Saviour in the desert of Caranthania, the forty days passed from the Resurrection to the Ascension, a time when the Saviour taught the Holy Apostles the last teachings. A last clue as important as the other ones is the forty years spent by the people of Israel in the wilderness. The symbolism of that period is a strong one and it certainly represents the time when God tests the faithfulness of the sons of Israel, for the renaissance of a new generation loyal to Him. Right from the start, the Church ordered liturgical services, which, officiated in certain moments of a day, make sacrifice and praise God. Vespers, the evening service, was and still is one of the most beautiful church worships that are officiated every day. The liturgical service opens the liturgical rule on every day and includes many divine signs. The term “Vespers” comes both from Greek and Latin, meaning “evening”, in this case “evening service”. Vespers is a liturgical service officiated in the evening. It opens the daily divine service, being the first one of the seven Church Worships. In olden times, Vespers was officiated after sunset. The church evening prayer was formulated and practised as a service when it is getting dark and it consequently had to be fulfilled when lights were switched on. Today, it is officiated at four o'clock in the afternoon or five o'clock in the afternoon in the winter. Vespers is also officiated today after sunset, but only during the All-night vigil, when Vespers is united with other Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 9

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liturgical services. The tradition, observed especially at monasteries, but also parishes, on dedication days, reminds Christians of the times when Christianity appeared, when a worship was especially officiated in the evening or at night, in secret, to beware of the Roman authorities, who were pagan. Another reason for which liturgical services are officiated in the evening or at night is the note of solemnity and the atmosphere of mystery that specially predispose the religious soul to prayer. There are certain cases when the service of Vespers is officiated in the morning, namely when Vespers is united with the Holy Liturgy. It is especially done during the Holy Lent, when the Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is officiated on common days. Vespers can be likewise united with the Holy Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great on four days during the ecclesiastical year, namely on Christmas Eve and Theophany Eve, as well as on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday. When the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary is on one of the days from Monday to Friday, the Vespers of that liturgical day is united with the Holy Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, and on Pentecost Sunday, the Vespers of the next day is officiated immediately after the Holy Liturgy. The service of Vespers is mainly intended to make a thanksgiving sacrifice to God for the previous day. At the same time, because it is the service that opens the liturgical order of a certain day, Christians ask the help of God through its agency. From the viewpoint of the liturgical order, there are three kinds of Vespers, namely Vespers of feasts or Great Vespers, Small Vespers and the one of common days. Great Vespers is officiated in the evening before Sundays, royal feasts and on dedication days. It is the most known and the most frequently used order. In some feasts, the rule of the evening Christian agapae is done during Vespers. Small Vespers has a shorter rule, is an abbreviation of Great Vespers and is found in Liturgy Book only at feast days with a vigil service. It is also officiated when a church is dedicated, on dedication days, and monasteries officiate it at all feast days with a vigil service and before the evening meal. The Vespers of common days is officiated only at monasteries, with a rule similar to the one of Great Vespers. Besides the well-known orders of Vespers, there are also some liturgical services of Vespers, which have a certain character. Thus, the Vespers officiated on Holy Friday is known by all the Christians because the Holy Ephitaphyon is taken out from the Holy Altar and placed in the middle of the church during it. It is also known the Vespers officiated on Holy Monday, also called “the second Resurrection”, which is officiated on Great and Holy Pascha, about twelve o'clock. Another special rule of Vespers is officiated on Pentecost-Trinity Sunday, immediately after the Holy Liturgy. During it, the seven prayers, all of them related to the Descent of the Holy Spirit, are read. One of the most beautiful prayers read by the priest while officiating the liturgical service is “the Preparatory Prayer”. It is uttered by the priest during the Little Entrance, when he got to the middle of the church. The prayer includes all the requests addressed by Christians to God during the evening liturgical service and shows the mysterious meaning of Vespers. The Church kept the Jewish tradition for computing time, and a liturgical day is considered the interval of time between two consecutive evenings. The worship of a 10 The Holy Lent

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liturgical day includes seven liturgical services, called church worships, among which the first one is Vespers. It opens the series of liturgical services of a day. An evening is an important moment of a day, a moment when it is proper Christians to thank God for everything happened that day, begging Him, at the same time, to deliver them from the fear of the night and everything is executed in the dark. Christians can thank God for everything in the church, praising God at the same time and hallowing that moment of day through their presence there. Christians are more and more interested in Vespers especially in the last years, when those who attend the liturgical services are on the increase. It is true that unlike those who attend the Holy Liturgy, their number is much lower or unlike those who come to other liturgical services that are officiated, such as Holy Unction or Akathists, their number is again very low. Holy Unction is the holy work officiated in the name of the Holy Trinity by the Church Servers, through which the unseen grace of healing or comforting the sufferings of the body, strengthening of the soul and forgiveness of sins is shared to the sick. An akathist is a hymn dedicated to a saint, holy event, or one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. However, it is not important the comparison because one cannot talk about competition among liturgical services within the Orthodox Ritual. All liturgical services are useful, all of them were ordered by the Church for Christians, all of them call them to gather together before God, but man unfortunately looks for something that can ensure him an instant usefulness. He may feel more attracted by the liturgical service of an akathist than by Vespers, but it does not mean that one is more important than another. Christians must understand and accept them openly alike. The little number of Christians who attend Vespers is firstly caused by doing not know its importance within church worships and preferring other liturgical services, which are closer to what Christians expect from God. It is also caused by the hour when it is officiated, towards the evening, when many Christians are tired after their daily activities or, in the case of grown-ups, can go harder to church. However, it is not an argument justified enough to attend Vespers, especially on Saturday in the evening, which comes after a free day. It is hoped that, in time, God will bring more and more believers to Vespers and more and more Christians will understand that a Sunday started with the Vespers on Saturday in the evening is more beautiful than one without Vespers. The end of a day, when the sun sets over everything that happened, is an important moment in the life of every Christian, especially that the darkness of the night, which reminds them of the end of their life, is going to seize him. There is a moment when Christians must remember God and, if they do that in church, is much better. At the same time, Vespers, through its prayers and hymns, help Christians not only pray to God, but also learn something. There is not any text, uttered or sung, that plays a catechetical or educational part. Nothing that happens in church is actually by chance, but everything has a purpose. It is important Christians to strive after understanding what happens, being successful in getting over the situation in which they attend the liturgical service and managing to attend it. To do that, mystagogical catecheses, namely the ones of explaining the ritual, are very important, which are observed by the Church Servers and are some of the priorities of the pastoral activity of today. Beginning with the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the Church records the entrance of Christians into the period preceding the Holy Pascha. Called according to the book where the liturgical services are officiated at that time and rendered in detail, the Triodion period is distinguished through the deeply spiritual and penitential character of the liturgical content, all of them preparing Christians for the Passions of the Saviour Jesus Christ, but especially for His Resurrection. The Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts or the one of Saint Gregory the Dialogist is the third liturgy of the Orthodox Church and is officiated on the Wednesdays and Fridays during the Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 11

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Holy Lent. Although the bloodless sacrifice is not offered and the gifts of bread and wine are not blessed, it wears the name of Liturgy because the priest partakes Christians of the Holy Sacraments during it. The Holy Liturgy or the Holy Sacraments of Eucharist is the centre of the Orthodox Ritual, the target towards all the other liturgical services, weekly or daily, tend, the peak towards which any Sacrament of the Church and any human endeavour in the world tends. During the Holy Liturgy, the gifts of bread and wine, brought and offered by believers to God, are made, through the work of the Holy Spirit, into the Body and Blood of the Saviour Jesus Christ, and then, by receiving the Resurrected Body and Blood of Christ, Who ascended into Heaven and Sits at the right hand of the Father, the faithful attend the kingdom of God. Knowing the festive and happy character of the Holy Liturgy, as far back as the first centuries of Christianity, the Fathers of the Church decided the Holy Liturgy not to be officiated beyond Saturdays and Sundays during the Holy Lent because Great Lent is pre-eminently a time for ascetic life, moderation and repentance, which does not correspond to the joy of the Holy Liturgy. However, because many believers wished for also receiving the Eucharist during a week, keeping a part of the Gifts sanctified during the Liturgy of the previous Saturday, became a habit with churches. Partaking the faithful of the Holy Sacraments took place in the evening, after Vespers, when those who had fasted could eat. Thus, the liturgical service known today as the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, a combination of Vespers with the Liturgy, originated. Although the Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts can be officiated every day during Great Lent (excepting Saturdays and Sundays, aliturgical days – on Mondays and Tuesdays of the first week and on Friday in Passion Week, when no Holy Liturgy is officiated), it is used today to be officiated only on Wednesdays and Fridays, on the Great Canon Thursday (in the 5th week), and on some important church feasts. In the beginning, the Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts was officiated in the evening, when Vespers was usually officiated. Thus, believers fasted that day, and the Holy Liturgy was a vigil or night service, namely it began in the evening and ended late, during the night. Today, in most of the churches, the Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is however officiated in the morning, making Vespers be moved later. The liturgical service begins with Great Vespers, although the doxology in the beginning belongs to a Holy Liturgy. A doxology is a short hymn of praises to God in various Christian worship services, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. A canticle is a hymn (strictly excluding the Psalms) taken from the Bible. After the evening Psalm, the 18th kathisma of the Psalter, divided into three parts, is read. A Kathisma, literally “seat”, is a division of the Psalter, used by Eastern Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics who follow the Byzantine Rite. The word may also describe a hymn sung at Matins, a seat used in monastic churches, or a type of monastic establishment. The priest begins the liturgical procession with the Holy Gospel and the hymn “Gladsome Light” is sung. Afterwards, the priest proceeds to the proper service of the Holy Liturgy by reading two fragments of Genesis and Proverbs. A special ritual accompanies reading those fragments from the Old Testament, namely the priest takes a candle and censer and blesses all the Christians before the Holy Doors with them. A censer is a container 12 The Holy Lent

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for holding and burning incense (a substance that produces a pleasant smell), used especially during religious ceremonies. Then, the priest incenses the Holy Table and Altar, during which five verses of Psalm 140, beginning with the second one, are read. The Holy Altar is a holy table in a church or temple. A very solemn moment takes place when the priest proceeds with the Great Entry with the Holy Gifts. During the other Holy Liturgies, that solemn moment means the procession with the entry with the Holy Gifts from the Proscomidiar, through the middle of the church, and offering them to God as a sacrifice on the Holy Table. During the Holy Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, the priest proceeds with Body and Blood of Christ Himself. As the Holy Gifts are carried solemnly through the Holy Doors, the assemble faithful conclude a Cherubic Hymn. The priest proceeds with the entry with the Holy Gifts in very deep silence. After “the Lord's Prayer”, the faithful receive the Eucharist, while a hymn is sung at the lectern. A lectern is a stand for holding a book, notes and so on when people are reading in church, giving a talk and so forth. The last prayer of the Holy Liturgy shows its relationship to the ascetic effort during Great Lent. By tradition, the author of the Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is considered Saint Gregory the Dialogist, the bishop of Rome, although its text is much older. Born around 540 into a Christian senatorial family, Gregory enjoyed a good education, becoming a praefect of Rome in 570. After short time, however, he left his dignity and entered a monastery. He shared one half of his fortune to the poor, and spent the other half for founding seven monasteries. He was ordained priest by Pope Pelagius II, who sent him as his ambassador depending on the imperial court between 579 and 585. In Constantinople, he contributed to systematising the written Holy Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts. Back to Rome, he became Pope of the city in 589. The new bishop inherited a difficult situation, namely plague, famine, natural calamities and the seizure of Rome by the Lombards. Saint Gregory fought against all those hardships, namely concluded peace with the Lombards, got food for hungry and oppressed people, reformed monastic and church life and warred with heresies. A heresy is a belief or an opinion that is against the principles of a particular religion and the fact of holding such beliefs. He left a rich work. He reformed liturgical music, establishing the rules that led to the crystallisation of Gregorian music, specific to the Roman Catholic Church. He passed on to the everlasting life on 12 th March, 604, , when he is also celebrated by the Orthodox Church. He is buried in Saint Peter's Basilica of Rome. The reason for which the customary Liturgy is not officiated on the ordinary days of Great Lent is the incompatibility between the festive and happy character of the Holy Liturgy and the temperance involved by the harshness of fasting. If the Holy Eucharist is the fulfilment of the pains of Christians, the target towards which they tend, the fundamental joy of their Christian life, it is also necessarily the origin and beginning of their spiritual troubles, the divine gift that help them know, want and strive after a perfect communion in the fine day of the Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 13

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Kingdom of God. Because the Kingdom of God, although it came, although it comes to the Church, will be fulfilled at the end of time, when God will fill the whole creation with His Spirit. Christians know that and attend in and taste it before it is done, and they are now participants in the Kingdom of God that has to come. They see and taste its glory and blessing before it is done, but they are still on earth and their entire earthly existence is, however, a long and often painful journey to the Day of the Lord. During their journey, they need help and support, strength and comfort because the swayer of this world did not give up fight yet, and during their fight, their main help is just the Body and Blood of Christ, “the essential food” that keep them alive spiritually, and despite all the temptations and dangers, make them follow Christ. The Orthodox Church calendar informs Christians of the Cross, and celebrate it every year on the 3rd Sunday of the Holy Lent. It is the Cross on which the Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified and the cross the Church has it fresh in its memory as a divine sacrifice altar and blessed sign through which the world is hallowed. In the middle of the way that leads to the Resurrection, the faithful receive more power and are encouraged to face the effort of fasting. However, the Cross is a part of the voice of the Christian faith, intimately implanted into the souls of Christians right from the start. The words of the Holy Gospel, the icons and the cross are the household of any Christian. The Seventh Ecumenical Council officially decided that they worth the same degree of honour because they are actually ways of the presence of God, namely through word, image, and the most living proof of love, specifically the sacrifice. For Christians, even the ordinary shape of two perpendicular lines is the most obvious icon of the sacrifice of the Saviour and the sign of the victory. During the persecution period, until Emperor Constantine the Great, there are generally no symbolisations of the Cross on monuments or graves in catacombs. Catacombs are a series of underground tunnels used for burying dead people, especially in ancient times. More often than not, the Cross appeared under disguised shapes such as an anchor or a trident. A trident is a weapon used in the past that looks like a long fork with three points. It also appears as the Greek letter x-shaped monogram, the so-called Cross of Saint Andrew. Even the freedom granted through the Edict of Milan, issued in 313, did not mean an immediate provision for Christians to show the Cross as a symbol of their faith. One of the most clear representations of the Cross is found on the sarcophagus of Sextus Claudius Petronius Probus at Rome in 390. A sarcophagus is a stone coffin (that is a box in which a dead person is buried), especially one that is decorated, used in ancient times. Occasionally, a sign of simple Cross (the one with all arms of equal length), engraved on tombstones in catacombs of Jerusalem, Malta or Rome, can be also seen. The sign of the Cross came into general use only at the beginning of the 5 th century. The few archaeological evidences do not lead, however, to the conclusion that the first Christians neglected the sign of the Cross. After Emperor Constantine the Great abolished crucifixion as a form of public punishment, the artistic representation of the Crucifixion did not stand for showing the disgraceful punish anymore, but it became the visible form of the redeeming action of the God in Whom the emperor 14 The Holy Lent

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also believed. Right from the start, the faith of Christians was one of the victory of Christ over evil. The rise from the dead was the absolute form of His victory, but the representation of the death of Christ on the Cross appeared later than the one of the Cross as a symbol. In the oldest scenes of the Crucifixion that were kept, Jesus is represented alive on the Cross, being rendered with His eyes open for dogmatic reasons. The Church showed that Christ is true God and true man, although He remained one indivisible person. If He would have been represented dead or buried, people would have wondered what had happened to His divinity. Therefore, it seems that since the 4th century to the 7th century, artists avoided representing Christ dead on the Cross. He is represented with stretched hands, lifted head and open eyes, in a very living attitude. Thus, the dogmatic truth that Christ was crucified as true man, because He is lying on the Cross is represented, but His open eyes show Him to Christians as the One eternal, the everlasting Logos, the One without beginning, and without an end, the One who exists for ever. Christ was painted dead on the Cross only since the 8 th century, showing more clearly that the Son of God really died as man. As real as the death is, so is true the real Resurrection. Orthodox iconography help and teach Christians to always look divine things through the light of the faith. Thus, the scene of the Crucifixion is painted on a golden background, Christ wears a holy halo of light on the Cross, and an inscription showing “THE EMPEROR OF GLORY” is written above Him. Even only the Cross, painted over the altar or as a liturgical item, of blessing during liturgical services, has the wonderful rays of the Resurrection engraved within it. The Christian faith is based on the true that Christ was crucified and buried and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and that Christians worship His Cross and praise and glorify His holy Resurrection. The same thing is done by any icon painter when painting the holy halo of the Saviour with the Cross. The Cross thus becomes the unseparated sign through which the face of Christ is rendered, because His holy halo always wears the Cross. The light of the grace, symbolised through the holy halo, has the Cross implanted within it. For Orthodox believers, the traditional and normative scene of the Crucifixion is the one in which Christ wears a holy halo. The Cross thus becomes the embryo of the Resurrection, in which the rays of the divine light already rose. Christ lies on the Cross as if He lied on the throne of glory. He is not an unhappy condemned person, but “the Emperor of glory”, Who willingly chose to be sacrificed on the Cross. It is possible that the transmutation of the Cross as an object of insult into a blessed sign of the victory only like that. In the Western Church, especially since the Renaissance, painting the death of the Lord is done laying much stress on realism, which, more often than not, becomes black thrill, the agony of man in the nothingness of death. Focusing on the teaching about the Resurrection of the Lord, the guarantee of everybody, the Church does not see the end of the existence of man in death. Therefore, the ones that passed away and departed from this life are not forgotten, but they are commemorated at every Holy Liturgy, and especially on Saturdays, special liturgical services are officiated, through which God is pleased to bestow everlasting happiness on them. According to the Church teaching, man does not disappear at the same time as the moment of his death, does not pass on into eternity, as some neighbours of Christians express themselves. Although the body remains lifeless, is buried and decays, the soul proceeds on its existence in the everlasting world. Moreover, at the moment established by God, the body will Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 15

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rise from the dead, will re-unite with the soul, and man will live for ever, either through a continuous progress towards God or by keeping continuously estranged from Him. The relationship between the soul and the body is very close because they make up the human nature only when they are together. It is said that immediately after it separates from the body through death, the soul keeps the features of the body within it like a stamp, so that it will recognise and rebuild its body at the Resurrection. Believing in the Resurrection and confessing the close relationship between the soul and the body, the Holy Fathers decided the Church to commemorate those departed from this life, to pray for them, mediating for their rest and the forgiveness of their sins. It is the proof of the love that does not forget those departed from this life and that is stronger than death, passing beyond the grave obstacle. At every Divine Liturgy, at the proskomedeia table, the departed are remembered while the holy bread particles (miridas) are taken from the prosphora, and placed on the diskos, near Holy Lamb. Remembrances of the deceased are not offered, only at the Holy Liturgy of Pre-Sanctified Gifts, because there is no proskomedeia officiated, because the Holy Gifts were brought and consecrated at the previously officiated Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great.

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The liturgical services for the remembrance of those departed from this life are called “requiem service”, a term coming from Greek and meaning “mediation”, namely the influence for the situation of the deceased before God. Requiem services are officiated at various intervals after the funeral, each term having its own justification, namely at three days, in remembrance of the Resurrection of the Lord, the beginning and the basis of the Resurrection of everyone, at nine days, in remembrance of the ninth hour when Christ before dying promised the thief the paradise, which Christians wish to be inherited by all the departed people, at 40 days, in remembrance of the Ascension of Christ into heaven, at the three months, six months and nine months, in honour and glory of the Holy Trinity, at one year, from the example of the early Christians who believed the day death as the day of birth in the eternal life, and each year up to seven years, as number seven is considered sacred. These explanations are based on the relationship of Christians to God. There are, however, also other complementary explanations, based on the analogy of the phases through which the decay of the human body passes until it is completely decayed. Three days after his death, the face of man begins to desfigure itself; after nine days, the body of the deceased person begins to rot, excepting his heart; after forty days, his heart decomposes as well. At the requiem, people bring to church: requiem cake, special breads (wafers) and wine. They also distribute foods and clothes, for those remembered. Therefore the prayers for the dead are accompanied by acts of mercy, which unites those who offer the charity with those in whose memory they are offered, but also with those who receive the offerings. For the Church, every Saturday is dedicated to remembering those departed from this life as it is the day on which God rested after creating the entire world and man, is the day on which Christ remained with His body in the grave, and He descended His body to hell, to release all those just people deceased since the beginning from there. The death of Christ restored the seventh day, turning it into one of recreation, victory and destroying those who made a victory of death from the world. Therefore, the Holy Father also considered Saturday suitable for officiating the requiem service, because it comes before Sunday, the day of Resurrection – the first day of the new creation or the eighth day of the world to come. In the course of the ecclesiastical year, there are two Saturdays on which all those deceased are remembered in hope of the Resurrection and everlasting life. On those two Saturdays, Christians pray to God not only for their known near relations, but also for those who, deceased under unfavourable circumstances or who are not known by anybody, might have not enjoyed the funeral service and the proper remembrances. The first one is the Saturday before Pentecost-Trinity Sunday, called “the Summer Saturday of remembrance of the souls”. At that time, the Church officiates the remembrance of all souls and pray in order they to also enjoy the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Whose descent is celebrated the day after. The second Saturday is the one before Meatfare Sunday, during the period that comes before the Holy Lent, being called “the Winter Saturday of remembrance of the souls”. According to the Triodion, all souls are remembered at that time because the second coming of Christ and Judgement Sunday is celebrated the day after. There are also, however, days on which requiem services for the deceased are not officiated at all as they mark important moments in the history of the salvation of Christians. Either they are days of joy or sorrow, they request a special attention from Christians or remembering those deceased from their relations, which is inevitably accompanied by sorrow, can divert the attention of Christians from the event they are called to perceive, understand and feel. Thus, days or times of joy when requiem services are not officiated are Sundays because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, and, consequently, a day of joy, and not a day of sorrow; the period between the Nativity and Theophany of the Lord and the whole Renewal Week, when Christians go through the two great events in the life of the Church, namely the Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 17

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Nativity and the Resurrection of the Lord. In fact, Christians do not fast during the two periods. Days of sorrow, on which the entire Church, going beyond the individual sorrow, must attend, are the meatfare period until the first Saturday of Great Lent and the one on Lazarus' Saturday (the day before Palm Sunday), until Great and Holy Pascha, when Christians must direct their attention to the events during the life of the Saviour happened in Passion Week. Requiem services are not officiated on the ordinary days of Great Lent (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) because only the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts that has not Proskomedeia is officiated on those days. The Proskomedeia is the Office of Oblation celebrated by the priest prior to the Divine Liturgy during which the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist. Pious Mary of Egypt is one of the most popular holy women of the Orthodox Church. Written by Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem, her biography attracts and captivates someone both by its remarkable style and especially by the height of the image of the repentance it describes. Fixed on the fifth Sunday of Great Lent, the remembrance of Saint Mary of Egypt advises believers to imitate her life, get rid of passions through ascetic fights, making certain that renewing their life and coming back to God are possible for everybody, however fallen he could be at one moment. Saint Mary of Egypt lived in the first centuries of Christianity. It is known neither the year when she had been born nor the year in which she passed on to the everlasting life. Researchers estimate that she travelled on earth about in the 5th - 6th centuries, taking into account that he who discovered her in the wilderness and made her life public – monk Zosimas – lived between the 5th and 6th centuries. The one who would become “the jewel of hermits” was born in Egypt. Her parents were very likely Christians. Nevertheless, as the story of her life goes, she received Baptism during her childhood. When twelve years old, she left her parents and went to the citadel of Alexandria. There, she began living a profligate life, living the life of a prostitute, although she refused to be paid for her manner of living. Embracing the passion of licentiousness, wanting to attract the attention of as much men as possible on her, she lived in poverty at the same time, like a beggar woman. To earn her living, she often spun tow. She spent seventeen years like that. In the summer of the year when she reached the age of 29 years old, she left Alexandria for Jerusalem. On the pretext of attending the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, she joined a group of young people of Egypt and Libya, 18 The Holy Lent

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who travelled on sea to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. Her so-called pilgrimage had another character than the one of the one of the group she had joined., namely she considered that such a journey could help better her manner of living. Paying the price of the journey with her own body, she indeed seduced many young men on the way to Jerusalem. When the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross began, Mary disappeared from curiosity in the crowd that made for the church. Arrived at the porch and wishing for seeing the Holy Cross, she tried to get into the church together with the other believers. She could get in only to the threshold. There, she felt how an unseen power stopped her however much she strained herself to get into the church. It might have been for the first time during her lifetime when her wish did not come true. In the beginning, she believed that it was caused by the crowd and tried one more time, but while other people got in without making any effort, she was stopped again. After she strove several times, she grew very tired and sat down outside, near the church, to take a rest. Staying there, she realised that she had been preventing from getting into the church and seeing the Holy Cross because of her sinful life. Then, she began crying with bitter tears. Seeing the icon of the Mother of God above the place where she was staying, she prayed to the Holy Virgin to allow her to be also able to see the Holy Cross, promising that she would change her sinful manner of living entirely since then and would go wherever the Mother of God would guide her for doing penance. Making certain within the depths of her soul that her prayer had been answered, she made for the entrance of the church. That time, however, not only she was not stopped by anyone anymore, but also she felt how her access to the church was alleviated. After worshipping the Holy Cross, she came back to the icon of the Mother of God, asking Her for discovering the place where she had to go to repent it. At that time, she heard a voice from a distance that told her she would find a good place if she would cross River Jordan. Leaving that place, someone gave her three coins as a gift. She bought three pieces of bread using those coins. Then, she made for River Jordan. At the Saint John the Baptist Church near River Jordan, she received the Holy Sacraments. She then went to the River Jordan shore, ate a half from a piece of bread, drank water from the river and slept that night on the ground. The following day, she crossed River Jordan and, praying to the Mother of God to be always her guide, she went forward the desert beyond River Jordan. There, she lived a very harsh ascetic life. After the pieces of bread she had brought ran low, she fed on roots and different plants she found in the unfruitful desert. In time, her clothes also broke, being useful to her neither as against the cold in night time, nor the heat in day time anymore, but besides the natural conditions of the desert, during the first seventeen years, she fought the greatest battles against her passions. To get rid of torments, Pious Mary of Egypt asked the Mother of God for help every time, begging her for strengthening her for fighting her battle against her passions. She laid down crying until she felt how a sweet light banished the thoughts that confused her. After seventeen years of fire and hard battle, the help and protection of God made her feel neither the harshness of the life of the desert nor the torment of her passions anymore. Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 19

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Thus, thirty years passed for her without seeing neither any living being, human being nor wild beast. After those thirty years, Saint Mary of Egypt met monk Zosimas. He was the first person she saw, after the forty-seven years since she had crossed River Jordan. Zosimas was a monk. Until he met Mary, he had lived a quiet life, namely he had entered on of the monasteries of Palestine from an early age. He turned out to be covetous in any action undertaken by him – as concerned his ascetic endeavour and studying the words of the Bible – that he became well-known relating to divine matters. Many monks from the neighbouring monasteries came to him for seeking his advice. Moreover, God favoured him many times with divine visions. Reaching the age of 53 years old, a thought began to confused him, namely he wondered if other monk could surpass him as concerned his spiritual endeavour and from whom he could learn something he did not know. The answer did not delay to come from God, and to know the truth of the words he had been told, he was then advised to left his monastery for another one, situated near River Jordan. He immediately went to the monastery he had been recommended. There, he discovered monks living a pure spiritual life from whom he learnt many things for his spiritual progress. Wishing for fighting a battle more against his passions and make progress to the way of virtues, the monks of that monastery kept an old rule, namely on the first Sunday of Great Lent, they received the Holy Sacraments during the Holy Liturgy and ate little food, then asked the blessing of their abbot, left the monastery and, after crossing River Jordan, they parted company and went into the desert. There, every monk laboured according to his strength for the entire Lent and came back to his monastery on Palm Sunday. Zosimas also obeyed their rule. He took little food with him, crossed River Jordan and, going over the wilderness, fulfilled his canon of prayer. He slept stretching on the ground a little at night, where night overtook him. He started on his way again early in the morning, always deciding in favour of rugged places for walking. He hoped to meet an anchorite from whom he could learn something. An anchorite is a religious person who lived alone and avoided other people. After twenty days of going through the wilderness, about noon, stopping to say his usual prayers, he noticed a shadow like a human body some distance from him. The apparition was naked, tanned by the heat of the sun, and the hair of her head was white and touched only her shoulders. Making certain that the apparition was not a diabolical trick, but that a human being stood before him, he began to run after that person, but the latter, realising that Zosimas came to her, began to run trying to move away from him. Zosimas finally got to a place that seemed to be a drained brook and began to ask that person for talking to him. Then, the pursued person told him “Father Zosimas, forgive me, but I cannot show myself to your face because I am a woman and I am undressed.” The monk quaked hearing that she had called his name and that she had known that he was a priest. He thought that, because she had not met him ever before, only the grace of God could dis20 The Holy Lent

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cover those things. Then, he gave the woman one of his clothes. After exchanging a few words, understanding that she had lived a high spiritual life, he asked her for telling him about her life. She hardly answered the favour of the monk. Finishing to tell him the story of her life, she asked Zosimas for doing not leave the monastery on the first Sunday of Great Lent the following year, and for taking the Holy Sacraments on Holy Thursday and going to the shore of River Jordan, to partake her of the Holy Sacraments. That year, Zosimas also looked forward to the coming of the Great Lent period. On Holy Thursday, he took a chalice containing the Body and Blood of the Lord and went to River Jordan, dying with impatience for meeting the holy woman. When she came, she made the sign of the Cross over the river and crossed it as if she walked on land. Having partaken of the Holy Sacraments, she raised her hands to heaven and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming “Now let your servant depart in peace, O Lord, according to your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” She then asked Zosimas for fulfilling her one more wish, namely to come again the following year to the place where they had met for the first time to see her. She crossed River Jordan again as if she walked on land and disappeared in the wilderness. After that year passed as well, Zosimas left the monastery together with the other monks again on the first Sunday of Great Lent and made for the place where he had met the holy woman for the first time. He found her there, but she had died. Then, he grew sad because he had not even asked her name. While he thought about it, he saw a message “Bury, Father Zosimas, the body of humble Mary here” written on the ground, near her body. He also understood from that message that she had died even during the night when she had partaken of the Holy Sacraments. Because the soil was barren and he had no tools to dig the grave, he asked a lion, which had come near the body of Mary, for digging the hole. With the help of the lion, he fulfilled the wish of Pious Mary of Egypt, giving the dust to the dust. Back to the monastery, he told all the monks the life of Saint Mary of Egypt, and over years, because it was going round by word of mouth, Patriarch Sophronius of Jerusalem wrote it down. Saint Mary of Egypt is celebrated on 1st April and on the fifth Sunday of Great Lent. Her life is also read on the Wednesday in the fifth week of Great Lent within the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete, to show the repentance suggested by the canon. Saint Sophronius was born in the citadel of Damascus in 550. Endowed by God with the gift of poetics, he made brilliant studies and became a professor of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the skill of using language in speech or writing in a special way that influences or entertains people. On the occasion of a pilgrimage to the Holy Places, he remained at the “Saint Theodosius” Monastery, situated near Bethlehem. There, he met and formed a friendship with monk John Moschus, known for the writing he left for presentday Christians, namely “Leimon” or “Spiritual Meadow”. Together with his friend, Sophronius visited different monastic centres of Asia Minor, Egypt, and Rome. In 633, he travelled to Alexandria and Constantinople to convince the patriarchs of the two Churches not to accept the Monothelite Heresy, which Emperor Heraclius tried to enjoin. He became the Patriarch of Jerusalem one year later. To defend the Orthodox teaching about the two wills of Jesus, Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 21

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he wrote an Anthology with 600 texts from the Church Fathers, a work that was, however, not kept until today. He died in 638, short time after Constantinople had been conquered by the Arabs. Short time before his death, he had succeeded in negotiating with Omar I for recognising the civil and religious liberties of Christians and the Jews for paying a tribute. Saint Sophronius wrote many liturgical, theological, hagiographic and poetic texts, as well as homilies. A homily is a speech or piece of writing giving advice on the correct way to behave and so on. However, only “The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt”, “The Life of Saint John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria” and “The Life of Saints Cyrus and John the Unmercenaries” were kept until nowadays. He is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on 11th March. After praising God and bedewed the body of Saint Mary of Egypt with tears, it was time for Zosimas to fulfil what he had been ordered. However, he wondered how he would dig the hole if he had no tools to do that. Then, sighing deeply, he raised his eyes and saw a lion standing by the body of the pious woman and licking her legs. When seeing the wild beasts, he quaked, especially that he remembered the words of Mary, who had said that she had not seen any wild beast. Therefore, he made the sign of the Cross in hope of the power of the one that was bedded under ground would protect him unharmed. The lion began to approach the old man, greeting him not only with his moves, but also through the intention it showed him. Zosimas told the lion to dig the grave because he was old and did not have the necessary tool and could not cover a long distance to bring it. Then, the lion immediately dig a hole large enough for burying the body by the order of the old man. After the old man bedewed the legs of the pious woman again and prayed much for everything, he covered her body with earth, and the lion was also present. Afterwards, they went together: the lion went to the depth of the wilderness, like a sheep, and Zosimas came back, blessing and praising Christ, the God of Christians. Lazarus' Saturday is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on the day before Palm Sunday. The two days represent the boundaries and connection between Great Lent and Passion Week, namely they are two celebration days, an anticipation of the joy of the Resurrection of Christ will bring the following week, specifically the victory over death. The information provided by the Holy Gospels about Lazarus are few. It is known that he became from Bethany, which has been traditionally identified with present-day West Bank city of al-Eizariya, meaning “Place of Lazarus”. He was the brother of Martha and Mary. The Holy Evangelist John says that “Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus”. Christians can understand from the biblical account that Lazarus occupied a special place in the heart of the Saviour Christ: he counted, like the Holy Apostle John, among His near relations, and it was certainly due to their frankness and resulted from that they opened their heart to Him. Because Bethany was situated only 3 km away from Jerusalem, Jesus often visited the three brothers He loved. The Tradition even says that Lazarus would have been the son of Pharisee Simeon, the one who prepared a supper for 22 The Holy Lent

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the Saviour in his house. On the days that came before His Passion, Christ used to retire together with His disciples in waste places. The hate of the religious leaders of the Jews became very great. The very obvious wonders performed by Jesus lately and the reprimands addressed to them had persuaded them to wish His death. Therefore, they were looking for an opportunity to catch and kill Him, but the time had not come yet, and Christ would choose when to be caught. Christ was beyond River Jordan, in Perea, in a barren land, where John had once baptised people. There, he received messengers from the two sisters Martha and Mary: they begged Him for coming to their house as soon as possible because Lazarus was seriously ill. It is not said from which illness he suffered, but it was incurable and caused death. However, Jesus did not answer their requirements immediately, but stayed for other two days in the place where He was. Then, accompanied by His disciples, He went to Bethany. He got to the village on the fourth day after the death of Lazarus. Their house was still in great mourning after him: many friends and acquaintances of them were still together with the two sisters for comforting them. Outside the village, Jesus met Martha, who slightly reproachfully, told Him that her brother would not die if He had been there. Christ answered her that “I am the resurrection and life”, namely He is the One Who gave life to everything, but also the One Who can defeat death. He would, however, prove that after few days, when He would defeat death through His death, which He accepted willingly. Then, He met the other sister, Mary, who also came hastily because she had heard that the Teacher arrived at their village. Seeing the sorrow of the two sisters and their friends, Jesus also grew sad and cried before the tomb of Lazarus. Christ, Life and the lifegiver, faced death. The One Who had created man for an everlasting life saw how he was seized with corruption and decomposition. He then asked them for taking away the stone. Martha tried to oppose Him, saying that he did already stink, namely Lazarus had decomposed. Advising her to believe in what would happen, He firstly thanked the Father for the wonder that would be performed, and then asked Lazarus for coming forth. Lazarus, who had been dead, came forth with his hands and legs bound with grave clothes, and with his face bound about with a napkin. Seeing the wonder, some of those present believed in Him, while others, reminding of the brothers of the merciless rich man, for whom he asked for the resurrected Lazarus to be sent to them to believe, considered it a good thing to go and complain against Him to the Pharisees. Then, the Synedrion assembled and decided to murder both Him and the resurrected Lazarus. After Pentecost, when persecutions against Christians started by murdering archdeacon Stephen, Lazarus ran away together with his sisters to the island of Cyprus. He was also pursued for being murdered because his existence itself was the living proof of the divinity of Christ: he had been dead, but he was then alive. When Apostles Paul and Barnabas, during their first missionary journey, stopped in Cyprus, they also met him there and consecrated him bishop of Cyprus. The Tradition says that after he had been resurrected by Christ, he lived for other 30 years, after which he died. Always remembering the image of the hell on the four days when he had been dead, Lazarus never smiled. He was buried in Larnaca, Cyprus. A small church was built over his tomb. About 890, Emperor Leo the Wise, who appreciated Saint Lazarus much and composed the verses of Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 23

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the Vespers of Lazarus' Saturday, moved the holy relics to Constantinople, the capital of the empire. For the relics, he offered money and skilled workmen who raised the Church of Saint Lazarus, which is also seen today in Larnaca. In 1204, when crusaders conquered Constantinople, they also took, besides other liturgical items, the holy relics of Lazarus to the West. Kept in Marseilles in the beginning, they were then carried to other places, so that their trace is lost today. In 1972, during the restoration works made to the Church of Saint Lazarus in Larnaca, a coffin of marble which contained a fragment of the holy relics was discovered under the altar. At the funeral service of Christians, but also when the departed are remembered, Saint Lazarus is called to intercede with Christ for Christians. It is said that Lazarus wanted to see the Mother of God again because long time had passed since he had left the Holy Land. For that purpose, he sent her a small ship. Accompanied by the Holy Evangelist John, the Mother of God went to Cyprus with that ship. A great storm started on sea, and instead of arriving at Larnaca, where Lazarus was, the ship was taken to the Holy Mount Athos. At that time, the Mount Athos peninsula was full of idols and pagan temples. An idol is a statue that is worshipped as a god. A temple is a building used for the worship of a god or gods, especially in religions other than Christianity. The Mother of God and Saint John told the inhabitants of the peninsula about the true God. A very great number of people were then converted to Christianity. Over years, the Holy Mount Athos became a land of monks, called the Garden of the Mother of God until today. The Mother of God left the Holy Mount Athos for Cyprus and met bishop Lazarus. She presented him with two little bishop's sleeves and an omophorion worked by her. The omophorion is one of the bishop's vestments and the symbol of his spiritual and ecclesiastical authority. Then, she came back to the Holy Land. The liturgical services officiated during Great Lent do not however concern the wonder of the resurrection of Lazarus as an ordinary event happened formerly, more or less external to Christians, which is only remembered on Lazarus' Saturday, but the whole sixth week of Great Lent calls Christians to witness the events happened at that time, referring those events to themselves. On the other hand, Christians are called to identify themselves with Lazarus. Thus, Christ resurrects every Christian within Lazarus and releases every Christian from death. Palm Sunday is one of the twelve royal feasts during the ecclesiastical year. Of Jerusalemic origin, mentioned in the 4th century for the first time, the Feast of the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem occupied, in short time, the entire Christian world, being celebrated with great pomp. Closely related to the wonder of the resurrection of Lazarus in Bethany, Palm Sunday prepares Christians for the joy brought by the victory of Christ over death on Great and Holy Pascha, the one of the Resurrection. The Feast of Palm Sunday reminds Christians of the moment when Christ triumphantly entered into Jerusalem, which had occurred few days before His Passion. Although not mentioned, the event of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem was certainly celebrated since the early Church. In the beginning, Palm Sunday was celebrated only by the Christian community of Jerusalem. Having a 24 The Holy Lent

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local character, being not also known by other Churches, the feast does not appear among the other enumerated in the Apostolic Constitutions, a document compiled towards the end of the 4th century. It is however mentioned by Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus, and Saint Cyril of Alexandria, who wrote homilies on the feast, as well as Spanish pilgrim Egeria, who described it in her travel notes when she went to the Holy Land. Leaving Jerusalem, the feast firstly passed through Egypt, then came to Syria and Asia Minor. In the 5th century, it was already celebrated in the capital of the empire, Constantinople, when the emperor and his court attended the solemn procession that took place on Palm Sunday. On that occasion, the great number of believers wore both palm branches and olive and lilac branches. During the procession that took place on the streets of the city, the faithful sang beautiful hymns composed by hymnographers like Andrew of Crete, Theodore the Studite and Joseph the Studite. The habit the emperor himself to attend the procession on Palm Sunday was also followed by the courts of the Romanian Lands. In the 6th - 7th centuries, the feast also diffused to the West, being mentioned by Saint Isidore of Seville. The custom of blessing the palm branches brought by believers to church was also introduced at that time, and the procession would take place in the morning. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem, He was welcomed by a great number of men, women, and children that held green palm branches in their hands and expressed their joy, crying out: “Hosanna: Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel.” From ancient times, palm branches were considered the symbol of victory. The Romans, for instance, used to welcome their competition winners or war vanquishers with palm branches. When Jesus entered into Jerusalem, palm branches had a much richer meaning, namely they showed the victory of Christ over death. They are mentioned having the same meaning in the Book of Revelation. Therefore, in iconography, martyrs are represented, many times, holding palm branches in their hands. Although in the New Testament it is said that the Saviour Christ was welcomed with palm branches, in time and depending on the climate of a certain country, other branches (olive, myrtle, lilac) were also used. In Romania, according to custom, willow branches are Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 25

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brought by believers to church for being blessed. The Feast of the Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was described for the first time by Western pilgrim woman Egeria, who, towards the end of the 4th century, visiting the Holy Land, left her travel notes to present-day Christians. Her travel notes represent a very precious document because it helps Christians evoke that age. On Holy Friday, Christians remembered the sacrifice of the Lord Christ on the cross sadly and honourably. At the same time, they know that He said everybody to take up his cross and follow Him, on the way of the faith that leads to resurrection. Over centuries, even beginning with the Holy Apostles, some saints assumed the cross as their manner of life, but also a way of passing to God. Christian calendars talk about their martyrical death. Through the sacrifice and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the cross becomes the sign of victory and supreme honour considering the deepest love the holy martyrs showed towards the Lord Christ, for Whom they did not hesitate to give their life, crucified. Saints were not fastened with nails to the cross, but their deep love for the Lord and Master of their life fixed them there, but the cross, under its known shape, was assumed by few saints. They did not actually want to pass away like that, but they did not give up when the time for their torture came. As concerns the word of the Saviour, Who advises everybody who followed Him to take up his cross, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”, some saints understood it in a very direct way, namely holy martyrs died on cross during persecutions for faith. Others took up the cross of monastic life, abstinence and hardship, living in the wilderness, suffering from many temptations and needs. Present-day Christians bear the cross of giving up their bad actions, make the effort of transcending and overcoming obstacles, which come from other people, when they want to unite with Christ. Christians may wear the cross around their neck feeling it adorn them – especially if it is made of a precious material – make the sign of the cross so easily when passing by churches, but it is much harder for them to give up their bad actions and the sins they commit. It indeed seems to be a heavy burden. To assume it clearly and bravely like the militant of Christ represents bearing His Cross. Then, the heavy cross becomes a light one, because the Lord is already the One Who helps Christians carry its burden. Before all martyrs, one of the two malefactors suffered death on cross, but for his sins. He experienced the sorrow of his crucifixion, but then he enjoyed the calling of the Lord to paradise for the humbleness he showed in the last moments of his life. Through his repentance and belief in the Lord Christ as “the emperor of glory”, he was the first who went to Heavens, through the sacrifice of the cross. The Tradition says that “the good malefactor” was called Dismas. Among those who loved the Lord Christ unto death and even the death of the cross, the Holy Apostle Peter, the leader of the Holy Apostles, who was crucified upside down in Rome on 27th 26 The Holy Lent

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June during the reign of Nero, is counted. Even the Lord announced the great Apostle about his death on the cross: “When you were young, you girded yourself, and walked whither you wish: but when you would be old, you would stretch forth your hands, and another would gird you, and carry you whither you would not wish.” The Holy Apostle however wanted to be with the Saviour until his death and answered Him “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Showing humbleness, the Holy Apostle Peter asked his tormentors for crucifying him upside down, considering he did not worth the honour of dying like the Saviour. The Holy Apostle Andrew (30th November), “the first called”, the brother of Saint Peter, also suffered the death of the cross. By tradition, he preached the faith in Christ through all the countries near the Black Sea and through Dobrudja, then came back to Thrace and went to Greece, being crucified at Patras on an X-shaped cross, then called Saint Andrew's Cross. Saint Jude Thaddeus (19th June) preached Christ within the Holy Land, then in Arabia, Syria, and Mesopotamia, being hung to a piece of wood, by the servants of the idols from the parts of Mount Ararat, and gave up his life for his Lord. Saint Simon the Zealot (10th May) is one of the twelve Apostles of the Saviour, also called “the Canaanite” or “the Zealot”. The Christian Tradition says that Simon the Zealot is not somebody else than the bridegroom at Cana in Galilee, during whose wedding Jesus performed His first wonder, namely He turned a large quantity of water into wine. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Apostle Simon did not hesitate to travel to distant lands, to enlighten the peoples with the light of the Holy Gospel. He went to Egypt, Mauritania, and even Britain, according to a tradition. Coming back to the East, Saint Simon got to Persia, where he was caught and crucified at Suanir. The Holy Martyr Nestor (28th February) lived during the reign of Emperor Decius (249251) and governor Epolius of Lycia, in Perga of Pamphylia. Because he honoured Christ, he was caught by the ruler of the city and brought to the governor, before whom, confessing his faith in Christ, he was crucified. On the cross, he thanked God and strengthened his believers and then he breathed his last. Saints Trophimus and Thallus (11th March) suffered martyrical death in Laodicea. During the reign of Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, when Asclepius was the governor of Laodicea, a great persecution started against Christians. After the holy martyrs Trophimus and Thallus were caught, they were pelted with stones for a long time, but God protected them, and they were finally unharmed. Seeing that, the ruler and those together with him and being ashamed, they let them leave without tormenting them for some time. Being however denounced again, they were brought to justice, and there, confessing bravely, before all those present, that Christ is true God, and mocking at pagan idols, they admonished the tyrants. For doing that, they were hung on a piece of wood, and after undressing them completely, they began to deeply crush their bodies. However, the saints, on one hand praying to God, and on the other hand defaming Hellenic gods, enraged the ruler. Deciding, thus, to murder them like that, he ordered they to be crucified on cross and they hence passed to God. The holy martyr Diodorus of Emesa (13th June) breathed his last into the hands of God, being crucified. Saint Eutychios (2nd September), being crucified, passed away. Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 27

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Celebrating Great and Holy Pascha is the most important thing, both for the Jews and Christians. Sacrificing the paschal lamb every year became the unforgettable memory of releasing from the bitter Egyptian bondage, but it also simultaneously showed the hope of the release through the Messiah-Christ. Prophets would use the image of the sacrifice lamb deliberately referring to the work of the future Messiah. Transposed into the Christian thinking, the paschal lamb just prefigures Christ – the Christian Passover. Christians passed from the sin to the virtue and from death to life through Christ. Founded by the divine will, Pascha (the Christian Passover) is also the evidence of the redeeming intercession of God into the world for those wearing the name of “Christians” from “Christ”. The whole Old Testament actually gives evidence about the providential intercession of God. Founding and celebrating Great and Holy Pascha, Christians did not simply copy the Jewish feast and even seize it. There are invincible scriptural evidences that Christ gave Great and Holy Pascha to Christians, that He, Who released the Jews from Egypt, also released Christians from the bondage of the Devil and the sin, which laid heavier on them than the Egyptian bondage did it on the Jews. The matchless good news brought by Jesus to the world, with the consent and by the command of the Father, was especially destined to advise of the conclusion of peace between earth and the heavens, between God and people. Christians must remember that the coming of Christ into the world almost coincided with the climax of the bondage and the prophet might have also called Him “the Servant of the Lord” for that reason. Although He called Himself the liberator of bondsmen and war prisoners, Christ did not release anybody from any earthly bondage because He was not destined to shake or destroy the socio-political world structures. Christians are however entitled to call Christ their Passover or their supreme Liberator because He released humankind from the bondage of the swayer of the world, namely Satan. To find out what they must do for Christ, if He did everything for them, Christians must have reference to the teaching and advise of some Holy Fathers that find a new interpretation and a new content for Passover. If the Jews celebrate their temporary and earthly release, also nursing, at the same time, hopes that a Messiah will come as their national liberator, Christians must celebrate their release from the sin and death and also nurse the hope that they will unite with the Crucified and Resurrected Christ, to keep their communion with Him for ever. To fulfil their mission, it requests true and consistent preparation from them. One of the three biblical feasts of the Jewish people, also called “pilgrimage feasts”, is the one of Passover. Recalling the biblical moment of sparing the firstborns of the Jews, when the exterminating angel struck dead all the male firstborns of the Egyptians, the word “Passover”, which in Hebrew is translated as “Pesah”, means “salvation”, “passing over”. The Bible indeed says that the angel sent to murder the sons of the Egyptians passed over the house of the Israelites and overlooked their sons because God wanted to spare their lives. Founded on the own initiative of God, the feast is directly related to the release of the Hebrews from the Egyptian bondage and because it was celebrated for the first time even on the evening that went before they 28 The Holy Lent

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freed themselves from the Egypt where the Jews had been bondsmen for 430 years, the feast also got a commemorative and national character. There are some opinions that assert that the way of celebrating the feast is a trace of the pastoral practices during transhumance. It is obvious that someone may speculate everything, but he must not forget that the feast also has a meaning of release from the Christian viewpoint, although not all Christians were shepherds. Right from the start, it appeared as a family feast that was celebrated under the careful supervision of the family father (because he also officiated as a priest and had to guarantee its progress according to the ritual), the feast itself had an obvious community aspect, firstly on a family-wide basis, then on a tribal-wide one, and, finally, on a national-wide one. The purpose was also uniting Jewish believers within the same faith and adoring the same God. To celebrate the feast, a lamb or a kid, perfectly healthy, between 9 o'clock and 11 o'clock and between 15 o'clock and 17 o'clock respectively, was sacrificed. Completely grilled, the animal was consumed with unleavened bread (leavened bread stood for corruption) and with bitter greengrocery. Boiling meat was not allowed. The blood of the sacrificed lamb was used to grease the door cases from houses. When the blood of a sacrificed lamb was shed, it meant the atonement for sins, bitter greengrocery symbolised the hard life spent by the Israelites during the Egyptian bondage, and unleavened bread represented the purity of life. On that occasion, the head of the family had to interpret the significance of the feast. The paschal lamb had to be consumed in great haste. Attire, the one of a Bedouin, equipped as if he made an imminent journey, namely girded with a belt, wearing shoes on his feet and a staff in his hand, was also very important for that occasion. The traveller attire, at least for the first Passover, aimed at suggesting the Jewish believer that, as a pilgrim on a long pilgrimage, he had to travel completely discharged from useless burdens. The attire of those who celebrated Passover in the Old Testament may also have a symbolical meaning for the Christian believer, who is forced to always remember his status of traveller on earth. Not even after the end of the journey and entering into the Promised Land, to own the land reserved to him, a Jew did not become the absolute owner of the land, but he was just a temporary usufructuary. An usufructuary is a person who has the use and enjoyment of something, especially Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 29

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property. Therefore, he could not even alienate it, because only God, Who allows man to use it temporarily, is the Master and the legitimate owner, and he who uses it is just a foreigner. Passover suggested the Jews that man has the divine talent for physical and spiritual freedom and, consequently, nobody is entitled to manipulate his consciousness and take an unfair advantage of his person. Consuming unleavened bread for seven days also referred to the Feast of Passover. Unleavened bread had three meanings: firstly, it symbolised bondage. According to the Book of Deuteronomy, unleavened bread was, for the Hebrews, the sign of the sadness or misery they had experienced when they had been bondsmen in Egypt. According to the account of the flight from Egypt, the unleavened prepared in great haste recalls the precipitated leaving of the Hebrews. Leavening would be also later prohibited during the feast of harvest, because it was the time of the joy of the renaissance, renewal, and definitive and complete separation from the past. Representing, therefore, the sin from the past, the Israelites were also reminded that they had been atoned with blood and that they had to leave behind the sin and the Egyptian world of corruption. Because it is a feast of release, but also one of communion with God, it had to be celebrated by the entire community. Therefore, if someone, for objective reasons, did not attend the ceremonies of the paschal sacrifice, was obliged to fulfil the same ritual the following month, on the same day. Because it was founded in Egypt to commemorate the release of the Israelites, the one who have declined to celebrate the feast was considered to no longer want to belong to the community released by God and was actually excluded by lapidation. Egyptian historical documents were created, like in most of the empires of the world, at the request of political leaders, who were exclusively interested in magnifying their politico-military merits and qualities, so that it is easy to explain why they do not venture to ever talk about any failure. The only written source from which the exodus period can be accurately concluded is the Bible. Thus, according to the biblical account, in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of the reign of Solomon over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the Lord. The years when King Solomon ruled are, according to historical information, unanimously accepted: from 971 to 931 or from 968 to 938 BCE (before the Common Era). Adding 480 years to the reign years equals 1447 or 1444 BCE. Some argue against that period, suggesting a much later period. However, according to the tablets discovered at Tell el-Amarna (a former island on the Upper Nile, which disappeared after the Asuan Dam had been constructed), some decided that the Jews might have entered Canaan about 1400 BCE. Subtract30 The Holy Lent

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ing the 40 years during which the Israelites wandered through the wilderness would mean that the exodus might have taken place about 1360 BCE, what would correspond to the reign of Pharaoh Semenkare (1362 BCE) or Tutankhamun (from 1360 to 1350). Not even the opinions according to which the exodus might have occurred during Pharaoh Ramses II, especially that his name also appears in the Book of Exodus, are not missing.

Explaining the extraordinary actions related to the release of the Hebrews and reported in very high detail by the Book of Exodus was a topic of investigation for many researchers. It is about the great cataclysm that might have occurred on the Santorini Island (also known as Thira or Thera). A cataclysm is a sudden disaster or a violent event that causes change, such as a flood or a war. Some researchers asserted that the volcano erupted with an unequalled force about 1500 BCE, what is impossible to prove because there is no written evidence. Other opinions related the event to the year 1000 BCE. Relying much also on the researches of Jacques Cousteau, a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, film-maker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher, engineer Paul Emil Raşcu, who published a book on this topic in 2005, seems convinced that the reference year may be 1500 BCE. However, the message of the book and the step of the author to bring into accord the biblical accounts with the quite extraordinary natural phenomena that changed the configuration of the island collapsed within itself for ever, like after a very great implosion, with a prosperous civilisation that did not enLight of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 31

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joy the occasion of continuity any more, matters more than the mere conviction. The credit for conducting a thorough and conclusive analysis as concerns the preceding phases and the ones that followed the eruption of the volcano, correlating them with the ten plagues fallen upon Egypt goes to the author. Thus, according to the author, the changing of the waters into blood and the turning of the waters red might have resulted from the huge falling of bloodstone and, therefore, only surface water supplies, namely the ones that had been discovered, were affected, because it is indeed said that the Egyptians were obliged to dig their own supply wells. The invasion of frogs would be explained by abandoning the infested waters in which they could not survive any more, and the strong lightnings were the manifestations of the erupting volcano. The three-day darkness would have resulted from the clouds of the volcano that covered the sky, but the author cannot answer how only the Land of Goshen, where the greatest community of Jews was still lighted. The last plague, specifically the death of firstborns, would have resulted from the increase of the sensitivity of the lungs of the little ones, who were the first ones that suffocated by the extremely polluted and toxic atmosphere. The author is again wrong as concerns the topic. According to his opinion, firstborns might have been also the youngest and the weakest ones, but it is quite the opposite. It seems that he makes a confusion between the word 'firstborn' and 'newly-born'. Firstborns were, on the contrary, the most vigorous ones, being the eldest children. Further on, he says that greasing the door cases of the houses with the blood of the paschal lamb might have aimed at warning the Hebrews to stay at home where the atmosphere was less polluted than outdoors because if the eruption was so great that it was felt almost throughout the world, the atmosphere could not become rarefied until the following day in the morning in order a number of over one million people of all ages to come out Egypt. Deeply marked by the belief in the truthfulness of the Bible, the author emphasises that Christians must not fall into bigotry, considering that God can violate the laws He Himself issued. The credit for finding the meaning of the Holy Scripture very well towards the leadership of historical events or natural phenomena in favour or to the disadvantage of somebody also goes to the author. The pillar of dark cloud during the day that becomes a pillar of fire at night, to enlighten the path of the people, is considered by the author to be the immense pillar of volcanic ash and fire emitted into the atmosphere by the explosion blast and carried by clouds over Egypt and not only. It results from the eruption of the volcano on the Santorini Island, which was situated even on the path followed by the Hebrews. Always drawing a parallel with the description of the event by the Holy Scripture, the author also provides an explanation for the seemingly unjustified return of the fugitives led by Moses from the north, namely from the path of the Philistines, towards the south, which might have been actually avoiding to expose the travellers to inhaling ash and toxic gases. Many assertions seem logical and well justified by the author, but 32 The Holy Lent

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the idea that the Hebrews might have crossed the Nile and not the Red Sea, as the author argues, and that the translators might have mistranslated the Yam Suph as the Red Sea, maintaining that it might be about the Sea of Reeds, because reeds cannot grow in salt waters, are intolerable. The author, and maybe the ones from whom he had drawn his inspiration, forgot that, considering the poorness of the language, a word can have seven to eight meanings in the biblical Hebrew language. If the Bible says ‘the Red Sea’, somebody cannot change the text in order it to be suitable for his opinion. Another critical remark is that when rivers overflow into the sea on very vast surfaces, salt water is replaced with the sweet one or the sweet one lowers the salinity of the salt one, so that vegetation can grow, as one can notice especially in deltas. A delta is an area of land, shaped like a triangle, where a river has split into several smaller rivers before entering the sea. Another critical remark is that the crossing was done through the area of bitter lakes, which in antiquity were actually a continuation of a strip of the Red Sea, which really met an arm of the Nile and the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, the author should have also taken into account the radical change of the relief in that area, taking the Dead Sea as reference, which is far from resembling the one in antiquity. However, the book is valuable enough, because it is the first one of its kind appeared in Romania, and the unquestionable credit of the author would be the one of trying to conciliate science with religion, namely explaining scientifically a great biblical event disputed by many people and however accepted by very many people. Nevertheless, even if it is hard to understand, that event unique in the world changed the destiny and the mentality of many people for ever, so that, directly or indirectly, all Christians are beneficiaries of the exodus.

As a ritual practice, fasting is found in all great world religions. Harsher or more permissive, shorter or longer, having an expiatory character, of request or thanksgiving, fasting is found Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 33

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from Europe to the most distant corners of the Far East, showing the consciousness of sinfulness, the need for purification, and the vocation of renouncement present within man always and everywhere. As a mean of purification of passions and moral perfection, fasting is found in all great religions. As concerns Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, one can notice that although there are major differences regarding the way of fasting, the practice of renouncement and purification of the body and soul through fasting is a constant character of these religions. The Arabic word for fasting is ‘Sawn’, it calling the three types of fasting of Islam, namely Ramadan (the most important period of fasting and one of the Five Pillars of Islam), the fasting of repentance, and voluntary fasting. Essential for any Muslim is Ramadan, which is called from the month when it must be observed, the ninth one of the Islamic calendar, considered the time when the Koran was revealed to the Prophet. Ramadan, with its rules that must be observed within it, is very clearly stipulated in the holy book of the Muslims. This 30-day period of fasting is compulsory for all Muslims, men and women that have passed puberty and are mentally sound so that they can take it upon themselves consciously. During the day, a fasting Muslim is not allowed to consume any kind of foods or drinks including water. He is not also permitted to smoke, put on perfume, or have sexual relations. Besides observing the bans, the Muslim believer try to speak less, lie and give up envy and greed, not to slander, defame or hurt anybody else, but during the fast, he seeks for living in peace of mind, meditating on the depth of Islamic teachings, seeming kind, friendly and merciful to his neighbours. The unknown feature of Ramadan is that fasting – at least the one of the body – lasts since the day arises until the sun sets. At the moment when it is getting dark, things change, and all bans are suspended. After dark, the Muslims may have a light meal, but a real great fast, to which the whole family comes, is prepared in the last part of the night, near daybreak. In some Muslim countries, suspending the feast every evening is a festive occasion, where believers attend rich meals, which are arranged on streets until daybreak. During this period, public houses are open for the whole night, offering dishes and sweets specific to the Ramadan period.

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Within Hinduism, a very complex and various religious structure, there are different kinds and times of fasting found, relying on the own beliefs of a Hindu and local customs. Thus, believers practice fasting on certain days of a month, as every eleventh day, when the pious followers of god Vishnu fast, convinced that they thus please their god, are liberated from sins and purify their mind. Vishnu is the Supreme God in the Vishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Purnima, the day with full moon of the Hindu calendar, dedicated to the Great Goddess, when believers fast from sunrise to moonrise, is also a day of fasting. Then, depending on the god they honour, Hindu believers fast on the Wednesdays dedicated to them. Thus, the followers of Shiva fast on Mondays, the ones of Brihaspati fast on Thursdays, the ones of Vishnu fast on Fridays and so on. In addition to these days, there are a series of other days of fasting, observed every year, when the birth of some celebrities, namely Ganesha, Krishna and so on, or different other religious feasts, are celebrated. Likewise, great pilgrimages, which took place yearly or periodically, are accomplished by believers who abstain from certain food and worldly pleasures before or during their pilgrimage, but practising abstinence, silence, meditation, and reading sacred texts. In addition to these periods of fasting, there is the fast practised by wives for their husbands, mothers for their sons, and sisters for their brothers. The Buddhist viewpoint on food abstinence reflects the mean supported by Buddha, doing not play an essential part in the process of enlightenment. However, there is also the practice of fasting in Buddhism, both in the case of monks and the one of laymen, but which is different from one Buddhist school to another; while some believers, on behalf of the principles of non-violence, are vegetarians, others eat meat without realising that they thus violate ahimsa. Ahimsa is a term meaning to do no harm. If some laymen never fast, others recognise the value and importance of fasting, observing the fast for two, six, or more days a month. Likewise, if some monks never fast, others start observing a very rigorous fast. Thus, they begin making 3-day preparations as a preliminary, when they only eat dry bread, to prepare their stomach for the following eighteen days of fasting, a period when they eat nothing and drink only small quantities of water. If that period of fasting turned out to be benevolent for the spiritual evolution of the monk, it is repeated again, its period being lengthened to 36 and, sometimes, 72 days. It is important that a monk must always observe this very drastic and long fast under the supervision of a master or superior monk, who can stop him any time. Both in the case of Buddhist laymen and monks, it is considered that although it is not definitely necessary for enlightenment, fasting leads to the purification and disciplining the body and thoughts. A practice similar to the one of Buddhist monks is also found in another religion within the Indian framework, namely Jainism. Having a doctrine of non-violence taken to extremes, all believers of Jainism (called Jains), are vegetarians and fasting therefore means for them the abstinence from all kinds of food, not only from those of animal origin. In fact, especially as concern monks, their whole life is dedicated to punishing their body, rigorous fast being their favourite mean for Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 35

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achieving their goal. If some monks abstain from eating any kind of food for an entire day, others for two days, and others for seven or fifteen days, laymen trying to imitate them as far as possible, some monks assume a kind of vote for continuous fasting, having the same meaning as self-murder through slow starvation. Today, more than 200 Jain monks cause their death by refusing to eat any kind of food every year in India. Considered the most praiseworthy manner of dying, those who accept to die like that always enjoy the admiration of everybody and veneration of the Jain community after their death. Although it is sometimes admirable through the efforts of will and disciplining of the body it presupposes, the fasting practised within these religions appears either as a purpose itself or as a journey without an end. On the contrary, fasting, as it is found within the Church, is a spiritual journey of purification of the body and soul ending in meeting Christ through the Holy Sacrament of Eucharist. Observed on the occasion of Karwa Chauth, an annual traditional Hindu and Barelvi festival of married women celebrated in the Northern regions of India, there is kind of fasting in Hinduism that can be called ‘altruistic fast’. Originated in a legend saying that the prayer of a faithful wife is even stronger than the god of death, this rigorous fast is observed by wives in order gods to protect their husbands and offer them long life, happiness and welfare. The Karwa Chauth fast begins in the evening, after moonrise, and lasts until the following evening, during which the wife is arrayed in holiday clothes, wears the most beautiful jewellery and paints her hands and legs with henna, reddish-brown dye, a substance used to change the colour of something, especially hair and skin. After moonrise, when the fast ends, a ritual takes place during which after the prayers dedicated to the night heavenly body, the wife gets the first food and mouthful of water from her husband. Karwa Chauth is one of the ways through which the wife, suffering for her husband, shows her love and devotion for him. Likewise, the fast of the mother for her son and the one of young girls for their older brothers are also practised in Hinduism. Although it has a compulsory character for all Muslims, there are also rules that establish the situations when Ramadan is not observed. Thus, for those who deliberately neglect the fast, there is the possibility to compensate this situation, namely a two-month fast and a tax to be enough for providing sixty poor people with food, a compensation that must be fulfilled until the following Ramadan month. For those who suspended the fast for reasons beyond their control, such as women that bore children, seriously ill people or those who travel, only the period when they did not observe the fast is compensated, and old people and incurable ill people are not obliged to fast, but they must offer charity according as they can. Orthodox believers officially enter the Holy Lent since Clean Monday, seven weeks before Pascha, a period that comes before the lighted Feast of the Resurrection of the Saviour Jesus Christ. The seven weeks represent a period when all believers abstain from eating meat, specifically milk, eggs, meat, fish and their derivatives. Lent, which was founded by the Church as far back as the first Christian centuries, must not be only limited to food, because it also has a spiritual aspect, being a mean of perfection for man. The Lent before the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, also called Great Lent or Forty Days remembrance, is the most important part of the liturgical Triodion period, which lasts from the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, three weeks before the proper beginning of the fast, to the lighted Sunday of the Resurrection. The first 36 The Holy Lent

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three weeks from the ten ones of this period represent a time of preparation for the soul in order to begin the fasting period, and the rest of seven weeks represent the Holy Lent itself. This liturgical period is a special time of preparation through repentance, fasting and prayer, for the great Feast of the Resurrection of Christ. This fasting period is the longest and most restrictive one as concerns food. It lasts for seven weeks, namely 48 days, being one of the harshest ones of the four fasts of long standing, and it is therefore called Great Lent by the faithful. This fasting period, which reminds Christians of the fast observed by the Saviour before starting His Messianic activity, was regulated by the Church in the first Christian centuries in order all the catechumens that had to receive the Baptism on the day of the glorified Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord to follow a proper preparation and that period was also considered a soul preparation of believers for properly welcoming the annual Feast of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord. The manner and duration of fasting were not uniform in the first three centuries. There are evidences saying that during that early period of the Church, some believers fasted in expectation of the Resurrection only on Holy Friday, other followers even fasted for two days on the Friday and Saturday before the Resurrection, others for three days, others for an entire week, and others even fasted for more days, lasting until six weeks before the Great Feast of Pascha. In the 4th century, believers kept the fast for eight weeks in Jerusalem, and in the West, believers fasted for forty days at the same time. In the 3rd century, the Holy Lent was divided into two different periods. The Forty Days Lent, which lasted until Palm Sunday, and was a movable feast, and the second period, Great Lent, lasted for one week, more accurate since Palm Sunday to Great and Holy Pascha, being characterised by a very harsh diet. After establishing the date for celebrating Great and Holy Pascha, through the decision taken at the First Ecumenical Council, held in 381, the practice of Great Lent of seven weeks, of Antiochian origin, was definitively adopted in the Orthodox Church. Although there were also differences as concern the duration of the Holy Lent after the 4 th century before among local churches, the Orthodox Church also keeps this period and the manner of fasting today. According to the Orthodox Tradition, Great Lent begins on the Monday after the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise, also called Forgiveness Sunday, after Cheesefare Sunday, and the fast is observed until the evening of Saturday in Passion Week, namely Holy Saturday, inclusive. During this whole period of the fast, liturgical services are more sober than the ones officiated during the other liturgical periods of the ecclesiastical year. During Great Lent, on common days, the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is officiated, the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom being only officiated on Saturdays, Sundays, and the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, excepting the first five Sundays of the Holy Lent when the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is officiated. The Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is also officiated on Thursdays and Saturdays during the last week of Great Lent. Likewise, people do not get marry during this period. In the beginLight of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 37

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ning, even the laws of the Byzantine State interdicted all diversions, games and performances during the fast. During the seven weeks of fast, there are some restrictions on the number of daily meals and dishes. According to the tradition established, within the Orthodox Church, it is recommended on the first two days of fasting, on Monday and Tuesday during the first week, those who can observed a rigorous fast, or who can abstain from meat to night, when little bread can be eaten and water can be drunk. During the last week of the Holy Lent, also called Passion Week, Orthodox believers fast from Holy Monday to Holy Wednesday and on Holy Friday and Holy Saturday. During this period, believers are allowed to eat fish two times, namely on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin and on the Feast of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. At the Vespers of the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise, when the Holy Lent begins liturgically, the bishop or priest reads the prayer for forgiveness of sins, from which the name of ‘Forgiveness Sunday’ comes. The believers who attend this evening service, in order they not to begin observing the fast angry with their neighbour, they usually ask pardon and wish a useful fast to each other. At the parish churches where this Vespers is not usually officiated, it is recommended the forgiveness prayer to be read on Sunday, after the Holy Liturgy. The first week of Great Lent also comes with some new liturgical rules. At the Vespers officiated on Sunday in the evening, beginning with a prokimenon specific to this period, the colour of bright canonicals are changed and lights are turned off in church. A prokimenon is a psalm or canticle refrain sung responsorially at certain specified points of the Divine Liturgy or the Divine Office, usually to introduce a scripture reading. The covers of the holy table, iconostases screen and the other things that adorn the church are replaced with others dark-coloured and they are again changed to a bright colour on Saturday and Sunday. Monday and Tuesday are aliturgical days, days, when neither an Eucharistic Liturgy nor the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts are officiated. The Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts is however officiated on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in monasteries, and only on Wednesday and Friday, is usually officiated in parish churches. In the Church of Greece, on Monday, the first day during Great Lent, public activities are suspended. At the same time, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the Canon of Repentance or the Great Canon of Repentance, written by Saint Andrew of Crete, is read during Great Compline. On Saturday, known as the Saturday of Saint Theodore, the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is officiated, and the following day, called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great is officiated. These are two days when an Eucharistic Liturgy is officiated, days on which believers make a halt during their spiritual journey. On these two days, dispensation for oil and wine is given, as on all other Saturdays and Sundays during the fast. In the first week, believers usually confess their sins and receive the Eucharist for the beginning of their path. Fasting must be united with its liturgical services, the Great Canon of Repentance, the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts, Confession and the Eucharist, reading from the Psalter, the Holy Scripture or other holy books. Christians must take fasting seriously, fast and pray to be better and kinder, to give up or restrict watching television, at least from those programmes that are not interesting or serious, those who do not feed them intellectually or spiritually. If they fail to do that, it means that they are a little enthusiastic and their fast is not complete. They must ask God for seeing their own sins and not convicting their neighbour, because he who numbers only good things is a little more peaceful, affectionate. The Great Canon of Repentance is one of the most impressive creations of Christian hymnography, in which the theme of repentance is mirrored masterfully. Through the theme suggested by the Great Canon of Repentance, Christians are connected to the possibility of the union between humankind and God through repentance. The Great Canon is a Bible in miniature, be38 The Holy Lent

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cause it gives a summary of the whole period described by the Holy Scripture, from the sin of the ancestors of humankind, the long journey of mankind for finding heavenly happiness and ending with the redeeming work of the incarnated Son of God. The first week of Great Lent is opened by reading the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete in four parts. According to the Greek biography, Saint Andrew of Crete was born about 660 in Damascus, Syria. The Tradition says that he had been dumb until he reached the age of seven years old, and he has been presented with the gift of speech whenever he was partaken of the Holy Sacraments for the first time. After he finished his studies in Damascus, when he was about 14-15 years old, after he visited the Holy Land, Andrew would be tonsured in monasticism at the Holy Monastery of Saint Savas, situated near Jerusalem. It seems that he might have written the greatest part of his work, including his fundamental work, namely the Great Canon of Repentance, there. In Jerusalem, he would be also chosen by Patriarch Theodore as a secretary by the deputy of the patriarchal seat, then entrusting orphan children to his care. Sent to Constantinople around 585 by Patriarch Theodore to give the adhesion of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to the decisions of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, he remained in Byzantium, where he was ordained priest. Around 512, he was consecrated bishop for Gortyna, Crete. An unpleasant moment during the life of Saint Andrew of Crete is the adhesion – under the pressure of Byzantine Emperor Philippikos Bardanes – to the Monothelite heresy, when he signed the document of the Monothelite Council, held in 712. Some liturgists believe that the Great Canon of Repentance, written towards the end of his life, would be the expression of his own experience of the Fall of man and return to the true faith. He is therefore considered ‘mystagogue of repentance’, guiding those who read the verses of the canon to the way on which he himself went. The classic work of Saint Andrew of Crete is the Great Canon, a vast poem, remarkable through the depth of piety and repentance. Liturgical canons appeared at the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century, replacing liturgical hymns called kontakion to a great extent. A kontakion is a type of thematic hymn in the Orthodox Church and other Eastern Christian churches. Saint Andrew of Crete was considered ‘the father of canons’, being therefore the first author of canons and the promoter of this hymnographic species within the Greek Church. A canon is a rule of faith, a guidance in life, and an order according to the principles of the Gospel of Christ. The title of ‘great’ itself lays emphasis on its length, a vast poem of 250 stanzas, the longest canon within the rule of the Church. Read on the first days of the first week of Great Lent and completely on the Thursday of the fifth week, the Great Canon, due to the souluplifting thoughts it leaves, the themes Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 39

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necessary in the life of everybody (humbleness, repentance, stabbing the heart), as well as its depth becomes a guidance and an adviser for the life of Christian believers. The content of the Great Canon is a spiritual one, a deep dialogue of a sinner with his own consciousness, which draws his attention to the sins he committed. One can notice the alternation of two levels, namely the sinful soul that mourns over his sins because he did not follow the right path, but he followed the wide path of eternal damnation and that asks God for forgiving him because he sinned before heaven and before Him and the one of the human being that reached divinisation through repentance. The Great Canon is the hymn of the rediscovery of the human being through repentance. The entire hymn is completely penetrated by the sad search of man in the beginning, the need and importance for gaining it again. The Canon resembles a hall full of mirrors, in which Christians see their life again. The sinful faces who did not keep the divine commandments and wasted their gifts, spoiled the harmony and lost the consideration bestowed upon them are separated from the standards as regards spiritual life, acceptable to God, that must be followed by Christians. Unlike the examples given by the Old Testament to mirror the sinfulness condition of the human being, the characters mentioned in the Canon are not shown only through their sinful aspect, but also through their great effort to become friends with God again. These examples actually show Christians that repentance is not an utopia, a phantasmagoria of some people or a religion, but the only way of the human being to gain salvation. The author of these verses calls everybody to recognise the mistakes they made and the sinful condition shared by all Christians. Reading the Great Canon, Christians notice the story of the humankind, with its fall, but also with its rise, a history that begins sadly, with losing its relation with the Creator of the world. Towards the end of the Canon, Saint Andrew makes an impressive transposition of repentance. If the examples and images of the Old Testament abounded until now, the following message is presented like a miniature of the four Holy Gospels. The main message preached by the author is in accordance with the evangelic one, namely ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’. Repentance now becomes a source of joy and hope, which is completely opposed to the despair to which Christians would be tempted to drive. The drama suffered by the penitent comes to an end in the future, namely when he attends the Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection represents joy and is experienced consequently, as repentance should be also experienced. This truth is actually the theological sense of repentance within the Great Canon, a repentance that breeds and brings joy. The purpose of the repentance reflected within the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete is not an abstract discovery of sins, a way to transcend them. Created in the image of God, man must know that repentance is the correct attitude, acceptable to God, the only one that can bring back the original beauty of the human being. Through repentance, man heals his wounded soul, repairs his alienation from God. The feeling of guiltiness, which makes the soul grow sad, is not found anymore in repentance, but the deep feeling of the divine law is felt and comes down to the depth of the human being, soul and body – raising the human being again to the destined position. Repentance breeds and brings joy, because it leads to the communion with the Giver of Life.

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The Nativity Lent, a pilgrimage to the Baby Jesus of Bethlehem
On 15th November, Christians enter the Nativity Lent. From 15 th November to 24th December inclusive, Christians prepare for the great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. From the viewpoint of the calendar year, it is the first fasting period of the four ones of long standing, as the liturgical year begins on 1st September. It lasts forty days and is the second one after the Holy Lent as concerns its importance. As the manner of fasting, it is easier than the Holy Lent, being similar with the summer fasting period, the one of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. At the same time, the Nativity Lent period is closely related to the many traditions of the Romanian people. The Orthodox calendar mentions 14th November as ‘the Last Meal before the beginning of the Nativity Lent’. The following forty days of fasting remind Christians of the same period spent by Moses on Mount Sinai before receiving the Ten Commandments. Like those people of the Old Testament, Christians have the duty to prepare through fasting and praying, for receiving the Saviour Christ, Who is born from the Virgin Mary. As far back as the 4th - 5th centuries, the Fathers of the Church mentioned the Nativity Lent, but having a different duration. It would be standardised in 1166, when during the Council at Constantinople, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Luke Chrysoberges, it would be established the Nativity Lent to last forty days, from 15th November to 24th December. Because this fasting period represents the Old Testament period, the regulated liturgical hymns are marked by many Messianic prophesies and words on the fulfillment of the promise of the Redeemer. The Nativity Lent prepares Christians for the great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord, an opportunity of joy for all Christians. The manner of fasting is closely related to this moment, one of the happiest ones in the history of salvation. The period of late autumn finds the larder of housewives loaded with bottled food, and the Church regulated fish, oil and wine to be allowed on every Saturday and Sunday until 20th December (the celebration of Saint Ignatius the God-Bearer), as well as when every saint has a feast day with a vigil service during this period and at the royal Feast of the Entrance of the Virgin Mary into the Temple (21 st November), irrespective of the day on which it may fall. The saints whose feast days are an opportunity of fish allowance on weekdays varies every year. From 20th to 24th December, the fast becomes harsher. The Feast of the Entrance of the Virgin Mary into the Temple historically represents one of the first successive events that led to the Nativity of the Lord. The Holy Virgin was dedicated to the Lord on a path that would make her worthy of being the Mother of God. Since the Feast of the Entrance of the Blessed Virgin, during Matins, the katavasias of the Nativity of the Lord are sung at the lectern until 30 th December inLight of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 41

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clusive. On 30th November, the Holy Apostle Andrew, the protector of Romania, is celebrated. The saint who preached the Gospel of Christ to Romania gave rise to many traditions kept in the Romanian folklore until today, a beautiful Christmas carol included. The Feast of the Holy Hierarch Nicholas, celebrated by the Church on 6th December, has a different story. In the evening before the feast, children prepare their shoes, expecting gifts from Saint Nicholas. He gives presents to obedient children and gives a twig to naughty children. Pairing Saint Nicholas with the presents gifted to the little ones is originated in the cult dedicated to the saint in Holland, as the protector of Amsterdam. In Holland, when the saint was celebrated, the shoes of children were filled with presents. This image captured most countries and worships as a feast of children. In the 20 th century, a company producing coolers probably made the most important publicity drive that ever existed, namely ‘Sinterklaas’ (the Dutch name of ‘Saint Nicholas’) became ‘Santa Claus’. For commercial reasons, Saint Nicholas was no longer introduced as a archbishop of Myra, with canonicals, mitre, and episcopal crozier, but as a merry elderly man with a white beard, dressed in a red mantle, with white fringes made of fur. In the Romanian tradition, the name of the feast also gave the name of the character that gives presents in the evening of Christmas Eve, namely Father Christmas. When the Nativity Lent begins, Christians gather together and repeat Christmas carols. The first waits (in the past, street singers of Christmas carols) of the first Christmas were angels, who according to the Holy Evangelist Luke, sang: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ on the Nativity of the Lord. The Romanian Christmas carol has both religious themes (the Holy Trinity, the Creation of the world, the Fall of man, the Mother of God, the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, the Nativity of the Lord) and secular elements (Christmas carols for the country lad, maiden, the newly-married couple, babies, widow or old people). In the Romanians, the Christmas carol is a connection between generations, seemingly kept more faithful than within any other people. Waits are messengers of God, namely they come peacefully, advise Christians to be hopeful, wish them health and happiness and announce Salvation. For their news and wishes, they are welcomed by householders very creditably. It is said that the authors of the content of Christmas car42 The Nativity Lent, a pilgrimage to the Baby Jesus of Bethlehem

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ols are unknown, and the faithful people found the most suitable content and tunes. The content comes from the theology of the Nativity of the Lord, and the tunes come from the genius of the Romanian people. On 24th December, before Christmas, the faithful fast until the Ninth Hour. Then, believers usually eat boiled wheat, mixed with nut kernel, fruits and bee honey, recalling the fast of prophet Daniel and the three young men of Babylon. On that day, in many parts of the country, believers also give alms with such boiled wheat, going about the houses of their relatives or the ones of the poor, with thin puff pastries as made of pie baked, in which nut kernel mixed with sugar or bee honey is wrapped. They are called ‘the swaddling clothes of the Saviour’. Fasting on this day recalls the fasting period during the early period of Christianity, when catechumens fasted in the evening before Christmas, having to receive the Holy Sacrament of Eucharist for the first time. The moment of the Incarnation of the Son of God was experienced intensively by the whole Universe adorned by God with wonderful energies, created, but which can receive the unseen work of the uncreated energies of the divine grace. At that time, the world wonderfully experienced a cosmic symphony. The natural world and the supernatural combined to thank God and for the peace of those living on earth. Angels sang, the shepherds worshipped, the creature offered hospitality and warmth, the Magi combined the welfare of the world with the then philosophy and prostrated themselves before the feet of the Word that Was with God right from the start and that was God Himself. The Word of God is the Son of God. The Nativity Lent is only understood in the context of the personal attendance, through sacrifice, to the joy of the Incarnation of the Lord. The Nativity Lent is evidenced as a period of preparation for the mysterious, but real, meeting with Christ, the Baby of Bethlehem. Christians read, meditate, pray, make it up with their neighbour and the whole Universe, confess and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, within a wonderful atmosphere of winter, sitting at the fireside and listening to the voices of waits by the windows. They also refresh the number of the years rich in Orthodox traditions and defeat the spirit of Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

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The Holy Hierarch Calinic of Cernica, a great praying man and a worthy country lover
On 11th April, the Church celebrates the Holy Hierarch Calinic of Cernica. In 1807, he had entered the Holy Cernica Monastery, where he was tonsured into monasticism the following year, his name being changed from Constantine into Calinic. For 43 years, he lived in the monastery near Bucharest, of which 31 years he occupied it as an abbot, from 1818 to 1850. In 1850, he was installed as bishop of Râmnic, holding the episcopal seat of the Oltenia eparchy industriously for more than sixteen years. Loosened because of his old age and illness, he retired to the Cernica Monastery, where he still lived for almost one year. On 11th April 1868, he passed to God, being buried in the porch of the monastery church, dedicated to ‘Saint George’, his foundation. A porch is a small area at the entrance to a building, such as a house or a church, that is covered by a roof and often has walls. From 1787 to 1868, more than eighty years in the life of Saint Calinic passed, a very important period in the history of Romania. During his life on earth, the spirituality and holiness harmoniously interweaved with his quality of genuine Romanian, interested in fulfiling a better life in his country, for his neighbours, despite the hard times. The life of Saint Calinic was marked by at least three major historical events, namely the Uprising of Tudor Vladimirescu in 1821, the failed Revolution of 1848 and the Union of the Romanian Principalities in 1859. None of those events were unknown, but on the contrary: the portrait of a very loving man towards his country, which was actually involved in a better life of the Romanians, is outlined. From feudalism to a modern Romania, Saint Calinic experienced many decisive events for Wallachia, namely the end of Phanariot reigns and the new enthronement of worldly rulers, uprisings of the broad masses of the people, twice (1821 and 1848), the fulfilment of the dream of unting with Moldavia, the reforms of Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza, replacing him with the foreign prince, namely Carol I. Feudalism is the social system that existed during the Middle Ages in Europe in which people were given land and protection by a noble man, and had to work and fight for him in return. As a monk, he fulfiled his obedience and was interested in the spiritual progress, specificalli the prayer. According as he was ordered to accomplish harder missions, he turned out to be a worthy leader, able to manage, in succession, the community of a great monastery, but also the one of a large eparchy, leaving behind a spiritual 44 The Holy Hierarch Calinic of Cernica, a great praying man and a country lover

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and material inheritance Romanian Christians enjoy until today. On the occasion of the solemn canonisation of Saint Calinic, which took place on 24th October 1955, it was said that the saint had been simultaneously a great man of prayer and a matchless organiser. The tragic events happened in 1821 found Saint Calinic holding the position of an abbot of the Cernica Monastery for three years. In May 1821, the Turks had prepared an ivasion of Bucharest to suppress the uprising of Tudor Vladimirescu. Running away, the refugees found a place of security at the Cernica Monastery, thanks to abbot Calinic. When they found out that the neighbouring monastery hid revolutionists, the Turks cantoned at a facility of Bucharest aimed their cannons at the foundation. In the evening of 15th May, the young abbot succeeded in quietening the fears of those sheltered there, bringing them to gather for praying. The following day, he sent a letter to the pasha at the facility, convincing him that the monastery did not hide fugitives, but it looked after needed, helpless and old people, nursed ill people and cared for women and children. The Turk commander did not only give up his plan to destroy the monastery, but he also sent guardsmen to protect it from other attacks from then on. There are no documents on the failed 1848 Revolution from which the attitude of abbot Calinic or his relations with its leaders to follow. Archimandrite Atanasie Baldovin, one of his disciples and biographers, wrote that his abbot would have expressed his premonition that the year 1848 would be the beginning of a new age. However, he would adopt the ideals of the Revolution especially in the activity that went before the Union of the Romanian Principalities. Since 1850, a new mission began for Saint Calinic, namely the episcopacy at Râmnic – Noul Severin. On the occasion of his investiture, ruler Barbu Ştirbei, during his speech, showed the ‘religious zeal’ and ‘the religious feeling’ that prompted Saint Calinic, but also the respect he enjoyed both in the laity and the clergy. On 3rd March 1857, the Unionist Committee of Bucharest was formed, what made Saint Calinic of Râmnic recommend all the churches of his eparchy to pray for the union. Thus, on 15th April 1857, the bishop signed a circular letter to archpriests and abbots through which he asked them for saying prayers in all the churches for the union of the Romanians, showing a wise patriotism. The Unionist Committee of Craiova addressed him a letter on 29th April through which he was praised and thanked for his action. As a bishop, he attended the meetings of the community Divan, and since the autumn of 1857, he was one of the members of the ad hoc Divan Assembly of Wallachia, as a deputy of the Oltenia clergy. On 2nd November 1857, he signed a memorial addressed to the ad hoc Assembly, through which he showed his feelings towards the union that appeared. On the first days of 1859, Saint Calinic was a member of the Elective Assembly of Wallachia. On 24th January 1859, he attenLight of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 45

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ded a secret meeting, upon the proposal of deputy Vasile Boerescu, after which those present undertook to vote for Colonel Cuza, the newly-elected ruler of Moldavia. The name of bishop Calinic occupied the second place, after the signature of Metropolitan Niphon of Ungro-Wallachia, the president of the meeting, on the document that recorded the secret oath. In the afternoon of that day, he attended the public meeting where the election of Cuza was done through the formal vote of the agreement of the deputies. On 25th January 1859, Saint Calinic signed the message through which the Elective Assembly of Muntenia announced Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the ruler of Moldavia, that he had been also elected the ruler of Wallachia. Many things were left by the Holy Hierarch Calinic of Cernica to present-day Orthodox belivers, namely some material, they have responsibility to keep and hand them down to posterity, and other spiritual, he himself helps believers follow them through prayer. It is said that Saint Calinic was a soul-uplifting example of work and combination of duty, virtue, kindness and patriotism. His life appeared, brightly, on the background of one of the most struggling, but also the most glorious ages in the history of Romania. The concern of Saint Calinic for using a native, Romanian, language in the correspondence and documents of public interest results from a letter dated 6th July 1853 addressed to Protosingelos Paphnutius, the manager of the succursal monastery in Bucharest of the Eparchy of Râmnic. An eparchy is a province of the Orthodox Church. Later, on 2nd November 1857, addressing the Assembly of the ad hoc Divan, he expressed his wish that the successors of the throne of the future united country to be Orthodox. Simultaneously, he requested only the Romanian language to be written within the Assembly. His step was actually an attitude to disapprove the cosmopolitan customs of nobility to insert French words into the current speech. In Râmnicu-Vâlcea, Saint Calinic founded a printing establishment in 1860, proceeding on the rich activity of his worthy precursors, among whom Hieromartyr Antim the Ivirian was also counted. In 1862, a series of menologies appeared, which contained, at the request of bishop Calinic, the Prefaces of the Menologies of two bishops that preceded him, become available almost one hundred years before. They are special because they mention the Dacians, the Getai, the Romans, Augustus, Trajan, Decebalus – the voivode of the Dacians, Radu the Black, Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân, the ban of Craiova, Matei Basarab, Constantin Brâncoveanu, the monasteries in Curtea de Argeş and Câmpulung and other deeds in the glorious past of the Romanians.

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The Holy Hierarch Calinic of Cernica, a great praying man and a country lover

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The Holy Hierarch Joseph the New from the Partoş Monastery, the protector of the Banat Metropolitan Seat
A protector of the Metropolitan Seat of the Banat and the patron saint of Romanian firemen, the Partoş Monastery, whose holy relics are venerated in the Timişoara Orthodox Cathedral, shined through his holiness as far back as his lifetime, being, as he is called ‘the jewel of hierarchs, the banisher of all passions, the rescue of believers, the wonderful praise of Timișoara and the appreciation of the Partoş Monastery’. The Holy Hierarch Joseph the New from the Partoş Monastery is celebrated every year on 15th September. The Holy Hierarch Joseph the New from the Partoş Monastery, venerated very piously every year on 15 th September, was born about 1568 in Ragusa (presentday Dubrovnik), a city in Dalmatia, on the shore of the Adriatic Sea. His father seemed to be a navigator, having a ship, conveyed goods on the Adriatic, Mediterranean and Black Seas, as well as on the Danube. There are not many pieces of information on the first years during the life of young Jacob, as he had been named before he went into a monastery. It is known that because his father had passed away young, Jacob moved with his mother, who seemed to hail from the Lemnos Island, since they did not have relatives in Ragusa anymore, to her brother, who was a dealer in Ohrid, a city situated in the south of the Danube. There, young Jacob studied until fifteen years old, being educated by his mother in good honour to God. At his tender age of fifteen years old, Jacob dedicated his life to Christ, entering the Monastery of the Mother of God situated just in the city where he lived, where he proceeded on his education and went on reading holy books. Eager for praying and a life more solitary, after five years, Jacob left the monastery of Ohrid, making for the Holy Mount Athos. There, he entered the Pantokrator Monastery, situated on a rock beaten by waves, at a height of almost thirty metres, where he lived a rough life, in fasting and praying, endeavour and obedience. During his full ascent to perfection, Jacob was tonsured into monasticism, being given the name of Joseph. He was only 21 years old when young hieroabbot Joseph, through his perfect self-denial, with his humble thinking, with poverty and wisely, bewildered all Athonite anchorites. An anchorite was a religious person who lived alone and avoided other people. Having a humble mind and having a kind heart and thanks to the harsh fasts through which he curbed his body and strengthened his soul, God gifted him with the power of the word through which he moved the hearts of everybody, being touched to tears and winging them with the divine desire. For his clean mind in the high Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 47

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holiness he had reached, God also gifted him, among the other powers he had got, with the talent of performing wonders as far back as his lifetime. The fathers of the Holy Mount Athos that suffered from different illnesses, both sicknesses of the body and sicknesses of the soul, came to father Joseph and were healed of their helplessness through his prayers. He is carried like a priceless treasure in succession in the Holy Monasteries of Hilandarion, Xirapotamos, Vatopedion and other monasteries, hermitages and cells in the Holy Mount Athos. A cell is a small room without much furniture in which a monk or nun lives. The rumour about the life, qualities and wonders of Joseph had been spreading in great haste. Thus, because a skilful adviser as concerned spiritual matters, but also a good organiser of the monastic life according to the rules of Saint Basil the Great, was required for those tasks, an abbot was sent for leading the Great Lavra of Saint Stephen of Adrianopole at the request of the Patriarch of Constantinople. There, for six years, he worked ceaselessly for reorganising and ordering the spiritual law and the rules of the community life. He was then appointed abbot for leading the great Romanian lavra Koutloumousion, an old princely foundation of Romanian rulers, beginning with Vlaicu Vodă, then rebuilt by Muntenia and Moldovja rulers, Matei Basarab and Vasile Lupu. The monastic community of the Koutloumousion Monastery was also formed of Romanians coming from other regions of the country. Reaching the patriarchal age of eighty years old, abbot Joseph retired to a still cell of the Vatopedion Monastery. At that time, however, the episcopal seat of Timişoara, becoming vacant, the Romanians wanted their former abbot of the Romanian lavra, who had already acquired the fame of saint, as a Metropolitan. On his way to the Banat, Saint Joseph had to cross the Danube on a float bridge, but the horses at the carriage were frightened and did not want to move ahead. All the attempts made by the coachman and the surrounding people of making them go forward and mount the bridge failed. Then, Saint Joseph, disturbed by the enraged cries of the people, went down and said few kind words to the horses, which became tame like some lambs and mounted the bridge by themselves where they stood motionless until they crossed the Danube. On his way to Timişoara, the saint was asked by Aga Ismail for coming not far from Varset, the largest city in the district of the Southern Banat in Vojvodina, Serbia. In Muslim countries, especially under the Ottoman Empire, an aga is a military commander or official. There, the wife of the aga, who was Christian, had laboured to be confined for three days. She had been announced in a dream that only bishop Joseph could heal her. Without fearing, Saint Joseph agreed to return from his journey and go with the aga. When he 48 The Holy Hierarch Joseph the New from the Partoş Monastery

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passed by the house of the aga, his wife immediately bore him a boy. After tens of years, the boy, baptised Christian, entered a monastery and even became the bishop of Caransebeș, being a famous defender of Orthodoxy in very hard times for the ancestral faith. Arriving in Timişoara, Saint Joseph was greeted by Iovan Capră, a silversmith who had been a one-legged person for twenty years, but who was immediately healed by the saint. On seeing the wonder, both the believers and the Turks who had come to greet him were amazed. The enthronement of Saint Joseph as a metropolitan of the Banat was carried out on the day of Saint Elijah of the year 1650, namely 2 nd July. That day is significant for that it represented the faithful attachment to their Metropolitan, especially as being the feast day of the prophet Elijah, the patron of major guilds in the city, the day was wearing a special character's celebration. It is known that the life of any hierarch, in a way, merges with the one of his eparchy. Likewise, the chronicle of the Banat Metropolitan Seat of that time can be also considered a mirror of the life of the Metropolitan of Timişoara. The new metropolitan came invested with an obvious authority in his title and the dignity of a patriarchal age of 82 years, as well as the one of the most coveted virtues, what implicitly represented a prestige of his seat. He organised the Church, founded schools for training priests, raised holy altars, inspected monasteries and parishes from the Banat, comforting and enlightening his flock. He was much loved and respected by the Turkish rulers, and many Turks, giving up their law, received the Baptism because Saint Joseph loved everybody alike, and his door was open to everybody. His kindness, mercifulness and teachings full of divine fire actually captivated everybody. Therefore, both Christians and the Muslims were highly pious towards him for his holy life and his gift of performing wonders with which God had endowed him. His advanced age made him retire to the Partoş Monastery on reaching the symbolic age of three years of episcopal pastorship, after he would have ordered everything, by changing his spiritual life and wise management of church matters. The place of his rule, as well as his whole monastic activity, were bound with his name forever, being called ‘from Partoş’ and ‘Metropolitan of Timişoara’, or the patron saint and protector of the Banat Metropolitan Seat. He was 85 years old, in the year of grace of 1653, when, surrounded by the love of everybody, he fixed himself in that very ancient dwelling place of Romanian spirituality. In the time of the saint, the Partoş Monastery was also an important church centre, with a vocational school for priests and included not only monks coming from the Banat, but also coming from Wallachia. The life of the saint lived there, for another three years, increased the importance and purposes of the settlement, the believers directing their steps towards it with the same zeal later as well. Traditions say that when he fell asleep into the Lord, the bells of the monastery began ringing by themselves, without being rung by everybody, announcing the bad news to distant Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 49

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lands. Then, the lifeless body of the great Metropolitan was placed in a tomb built in the nave of the monastery church, by the entrance door situated towards the south. A nave is the long central part of a church where most of the seats are. On the tombstone placed above, pious hands dug an inscription on which almost one century before, somebody could easily read ‘The Right Reverend Joseph the New, former Metropolitan of Timişoara’. It was the end of the summer of 1656, when the spiritual father of the Orthodox believers of the Banat passed on to the everlasting life, aged 85 years old. Saint Joseph then called ‘the New’, for distinguishing him from other older saints having the same name, did not cease to come to the assistance of believers, many of those who approached his tomb, even after his death. Among other things, the icon painted in 1782, at the request of a then archpriest and placed on the wall of the monastery church at Partoş, above the place where he had been buried, talks about the veneration of saint performed by believers from ancient times. It is known that a former mayor of Timişoara was healed of his illness coming to pray there. In gratitude for his cure, he built, in 1750, close to the old monastery church, a newer one, larger and more stable. Moreover, however, the former Metropolitan of Timişoara fall steadily in the conscience of Banat believers, being invoked in any particular circumstances of their lives. Taking into consideration the life and manner of life of pious Metropolitan Joseph and being established doubtlessly that he shined like a true chosen vessel of God through his fair faith and that he left behind the scent of holiness, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church decided on 28th February 1950 to canonise him among the saints fixing the day of 15th September of every year for venerating him properly. The same year, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church decided to include the Holy Hierarch Joseph the New from the Partoş Monastery in its calendar, during the working session held from 14th to 27th May. As results from the report drawn up on exhuming the holy relics of the saint on 6th September 1956, it was performed beginning with ten o’clock after a thanksgiving service. The tomb built above the burial vault, at the entrance into the holy monastery, which is 240 cm long, 135 cm wide and 95 cm high, was opened by the then Right Reverent protosingelos and exarch of monasteries, helped by the present hieromonks, priests and deacons. In the past, an exarch was a metropolitan deputed by the Patriarch of Constantinople to lead the church within a province or a country. The 50 The Holy Hierarch Joseph the New from the Partoş Monastery

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holy relics were then placed in ‘The Holy Three Hierarchs’ Cathedral of Timișoara, in a beautiful shrine in order believers to worship them. A shrine is a place where people come to worship because it is connected with a holy person or event. The shrine is the work of a sculptor at Archiepiscopate of Bucharest, being manufactured from wood of polisander tree, hair, yew tree, and lemon tree, being 137 cm long and 37.5 cm wide. The face of the Holy Hierarch, dead, robed in all his episcopal canonicals, wearing mitre and crozier, is sculpted in wood of lemon tree on the cover. The socle with floral and geometrical motifs in Byzantine Style is sculpted in wood of polisander tree. Scenes from the life of the saint are also sculpted in wood of lemon tree on the edges. As a result of the official letter of the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1997 addressed to the Holy Synod, asking it for designating either the Holy Martyr Cornelius the Centurion (celebrated on 13th September) or Saint Joseph the New from the Partoş Monastery (celebrated on 15th September) as a patron saint of the institution, the Holy Synod agreed the Holy Hierarch Joseph the New to be the patron saint of firemen. Such a decision took into consideration his life, wonders, spiritual qualities and started from that he saved a church in Timișoara and a part of the city from a fire that broke out when he held the appointment of Metropolitan of Timișoara (16501653) is attributed, among other things, to the saint. Connected with that intention, there are enough saints that are patron saints and protectors, namely the Virgin Mary (the patron saint of the Navy), Saint Crispin (the patron saint of pilots), Saint Barbara (the patron saint of artillery), Saint Joseph of Cupertino (the patron saint of parachutists) and so on. Today, thousands of believers coming from all over the country stop in the city on the shores of the Bega to pray and worship the relics of the Holy Hierarch Joseph the New from the Partoş Monastery. Another wonder performed by him happened on 29 th June, when the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul was celebrated. When he performed the Holy Liturgy on the dedication day of an old church of Timișoara, a great fire broke out in the western part of the city. A strong wind spread the great fire quickly towards the whole city. Many people perished in flames at that time, and everybody had been seized with horror. Seeing the havoc, Saint Joseph the New went abroad before the church taking the Holy Sacraments with him, and prostrating himself before God and asking His pity on him to save the city from the havoc. Unexpectedly, thunder clouds rose from the south, covering the sky completely, and a heavy shower of rain was poured for few hours until it extinguished the destructive fire completely. Then, going home, he shut himself up in his cell and did not go abroad anymore for three days. When he showed himself publicly again, he noticed that the sign of the cross had appeared on the back of the palm of his left hand, as if he had been burnt with red-hot iron. The sign remained on the hand of the saint until the end of his life, a sign given by God to him for reminding him of His great mercifulness.

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The native land of Saint Paisios the Great
It is said that, crossing a branch of the Nile and reaching the Shee-Hyt Desert (as it is called in the Coptic language), Wadi El Natrun (as called in the Arabic language and meaning ‘Natron Valley’), the Saviour Jesus Christ blessed the place and told His mother that she had to know that many monks, ascetics and anchorites would live in that desert and all of them would serve the Lord, like angels. In the desert situated in the north-western part of Egypt, namely Wadi El Natrun (also called in Christian literature ‘the Nitrian Desert’), one of the three areas of the famous wilderness, including Kellia, Scythia and Nitria, at the end of the 3rd century, the first forms of monastic life in the world appeared simultaneously. The Holy Fathers to which ‘the Egyptian Paterikon’ refers were also localised there. Today, Wadi El Natrun is considered a sort of residence of the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and Egypt. Nitria was founded as a monastic area by Abba Amun (who lived in the 3rd century) and lasted thanks to the fact that it was always inhabited by monks. The crowd of people in Nitria might have made Abba Amun create a second monastic area situated only 18 km away from the first one, called Kellia. It is one of the most important Christian archaeological sites in the world, where not less than 1,600 large buildings erected on a surface of 100 square kilometres, within only 300 years, were discovered. The Coptic Orthodox Church ‘Saint Paisios the Great’ lies in an extremely beautiful area, with a colossal traveller’s potential, recognised on a global scale. The area is a treasure that holds very precious ‘pearls’ for believers. In the Monastery of Saint Macarius, the relics of Saints Macarius of Egypt, Macarius of Alexandria, Macarius the Younger, as well as the tomb and a part 52 The native land of Saint Paisios the Great

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of the relics of the Holy Prophet John the Baptist, are found. In the Monastery of Saint Paisios the Great, the relics of Saint Paisios the Great are found, in the Monastery of the Syrians (‘Deir al-Surian’), one can find the tree of Saint Ephraim the Syrian and small parts of relics belonging to many saints, and at the Monastery of the Romans (‘Deir el-Baramous’), the relics of Saint Maximos, Dometios, Moses the Black of Scete and the Holy Great Martyr George can be found. Everything is covered with sand all around. In the western part of the Sahara Desert, and every pilgrim naturally feels, under such unfavourable circumstances, that the monastery is much closer to a miracle than it really is. With a good reason, the monastery can be considered a real oasis of historical and cultural vestiges of great importance, which opens a new horizon in Christian spirituality. Many people visited the monastery, as the names of some of them are also famous, and among them two travellers and a Jesuit priest, all of them being of French nationality, are also numbered. In 1839, Henry Tattam (28th December 1788 - 8th January 1868), a Church of England clergyman and Coptic scholar, assessed the manuscripts in the monastery archive, and in 1843, only 13 monks living at the monastery and ‘the place with the best water in the world’ were discovered. In 1875, however, when famous Junkers asked the authorities for allowing him to visit the monastery, he was refused because his European predecessors might have stolen many valuable documents from there. The Pious Paisios the Great, who is commemorated every year on 19th June, according to the Orthodox calendar, or Abba Pishoi, as Coptic Christians call him, was born on 15th July, according to the Orthodox calendar, about 320 AD in a little town in the Nile Delta. The little town where he was born was called Shensha or Shesna, currently in the Egyptian governorate of Al Minufiyah, his parents honouring God, educated in the faith of Christ, being very rich and smartened up with magnificent clothes, who did their best to also educate their sons to advance in divine and human things. Because his father passed away young, Paisios, together with his brothers, was placed in the care of his mother, who was very sad. At that time, an angel appeared in her dream, leaving her a divine message, namely ‘The Lord wants you to give Him one of your children, to serve Him’. Full of humbleness, but also seized with fear, the woman addressed to him, saying that he could take whoever he wanted. Then, the angel took Paisios by the hand saying ‘God chose your son Paisios to serve and glorify His holy name, glorified forever; he is acceptable to God’. Being small and very weak, his mother asked the angel for choosing another child able to perform all the tasks God would set him, but ‘he is the one chosen by God, and strength is shown in the weak’ the angel replied. When he reached the age of 20 years old, Paisios made for the Sahara Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 53

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Desert, his place of labours being the Scetes Monastery in the beginning. Together with another novice, the one who would become Saint John the Dwarf, young Paisios apprenticed Saint Pambo, commemorated in the Orthodox calendar on 18 th July. Advised by his teacher not to look at people, Paisios spent three years looking upwards, but with his head bent. It is said that, while he spent his time there, Saint Paisios might have found the original manuscript of Prophet Jeremiah. When his teacher fell asleep into the Lord, Paisios asked God for guiding him to what he would do afterwards, and the Lord sent him an angel who directed his steps to the monastery that would be named after him. Day and night, Saint Paisios concerned himself about fasting and praying, meditating on the Divine Law. Therefore, for a long time, he devoted himself to organising the monastery, with the help of the monks and ascetics that laboured there. His good name would go beyond the borders of Egypt, making many pilgrims, among whom Saint Ephraim the Syrian was also counted, arrived just from the parts of Syria there, to visit him. Together with Saint John the Dwarf, worthy to remember Paisios the Great went through the unique experience of living in a grotto dug by a human hand, somewhere in the basement of the neighbouring church, Deir alSurian. According to custom, likewise, when he lived in the grotto of the Monastery of the Syrians, Saint Paisios the Great was visited by the Saviour Jesus Christ Himself. Then, from his overflowing wealth of affection, he made a gesture that is seldom seen in the desert, namely he washed the feet of his his guest. Immediately after he dried the feet of the Lord and He went away, Paisios drank with great zeal the holy water from the wash bowl in which he had washed His feet. According to tradition, he immediately started living a superhuman life, as the prophesy of baby Jesus sounded when He passed through those places together with the Holy Family, as well. In the years 407-408, when the tribes of the Berbers invaded those places, Saint Paisios left the area, establishing himself in Mount Ansena. In Antinopolis (a city founded at an older Egyptian village by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to commemorate his deified young beloved, Antinous, on the east bank of the Nile, not far from the site in Upper Egypt, where Antinous had drowned in 130 AD), he would meet Saint Paul of Tammah. The two pillars of spirituality from the Egyptian wilderness would live together, and their good close friendship would make them inseparable, God promising that they would live together forever. Pious Paisios fell asleep into the Lord in 417. After the persecutions, the Christians of those times took the two bodies and placed them in the Monastery of Saint Pishoi. Like the Monastery of Saint Macarios the Great, the Monastery of the Romans and the Monastery of Saint John the Dwarf, the holy monastery suffered from the five attacks of the Berbers. Their ruler ordered destroying those monasteries in the time of Patriarch Andronic (616-623). When the attack of the Berbers came to an end, Patriarch Benjamin I (623-662) rebuilt those holy monasteries. In the 8th - 11th centuries, actually, most of the monasteries lying in the Nitrian Desert were rebuilt or repaired. The holy relics of the two leaders of Orthodox Christianity would be moved from Alexandria to the Nitrian Desert only in the 9 th century. The intact body of Saint Paisios is also kept today close to the relics of Saint Paul of Tammah. Saint Paisios lived in the ‘golden’ times of Christianity, from 320 to 417 AD. He lived an excellent ascetic life, similar to the one of angels. He showed love towards his neighbours and simplicity. He performed great wonders, both during his lifetime and after he fell asleep into the Lord. It is said about Saint Paisios that he was one of the few ones for whom God kept up the world during his lifetime, being called ‘the Great Father of the desert’. It is hard enough to say if Saint Paisios chose the desert for his labours or the desert chose him, but it is certainly that he gave it its own identity. 54 The native land of Saint Paisios the Great

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Andrei Rublev, the painter of the Holy Trinity
Many people consider Andrei Rublev the greatest icon painter in Russia. His work was recognised as far back as during his lifetime, and in the 16th century, the Russian Orthodox Church standardised him as concerned iconography. However, there are very few things about the life of Rublev and very few facts can be described using a reliable source of information. The reputation of Andrei Rublev exceeds by far the number of the written documents that mention him and the works of art left by him. Nevertheless, a thread of the life and works of the great Russian artist can be followed. It is thought that he was born between 1360 and 1370. Rublev entered the ‘Holy Trinity’ Lavra near Moscow, founded by Saint Sergius of Radonezh, as a monk in his youth. Because of the lack of the written documents, the specialists established the chronology of the works of Rublev on the basis of the stylistic analysis. It is thought that the first work of Rublev are the frescoes of the Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary at Gorodets, in Zvenigorod, dated about 1400 and kept until today in small fragments. Zvenigorod was the residence of Prince George, the son of great Moscovite Prince Dmitri Donskoi between 1388 and 1425. Prince George was a great admirer of Saint Sergius and, therefore, he might have asked a monk from the ‘Holy Trinity’ Lavra for painting the frescos. The monk that would paint them was Andrei Rublev. Rublev was mentioned in chronicles in 1405 for the first time, when, together with Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets, painted the frescoes for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin. The painting was destroyed, but, according to the public opinion, the same group of painters also coloured the church iconostasis, so that some icons are attributed to Rublev. The chronicler wrote the name of Rublev, placing him on the third and last place, a situation that shows that the artist must have been still young and less experienced than the others at that time. His participation in painting the frescoes from the church where the members of the reigning dinasty of Moscow proves that Rublev was numbered among the recognised artists. The name of Rublev was mentioned in 1408 for the second time. A chronicler wrote about the painting the frescoes at the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary in Vladimir. In that note, the artist appeared on the second place, after monk Daniil Cherni. As the works painted later prove it, the two painters and monks were attached to each other in their team work, but they were also very close friends. The Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, built in the 12 th century in Vladimir, was the residence of the bishop and one of the large churches in Russia. Over centuries, it was ravaged by civil wars several times. Not even the works of Daniil Cherni and Andrei Rublev were completely kept, being destroyed only two years after they had been painted, probably during the Tatar invasion. Fragments on the western walls of the church based on the scene of Doomsday, as well as two Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 55

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rows of icons from the iconostasis are still kept from the frescoes at Vladimir. In 1408, during the Tatar invasion, the Holy Trinity Lavra was destroyed, but later rebuilt completely by abbot Nikon, the disciple and successor of Saint Sergius. About the 1420s, Daniil and Rublev were invited together with their disciples to paint the frescoes in the stone church of the Holy Trinity Lavra. The mural paintings were not kept, in contrast with the iconostasis that resisted almost completely until today. Soon after the works at the Holy Trinity Lavra came to an end, Rublev went to the Andronnikov Monastery in Moscow, where he would paint his last work, namely the frescoes at the Saviour Cathedral. Documents prove that Rublev coloured not only the paintings kept in fragments of small dimensions, but he also contributed to the architecture of the holy worship place. There, Andrei Rublev fell asleep into the Lord on 29th January and was buried there as well. In 1918, some works attributed to Rublev were discovered at Zvenigorod, namely fragments of fresco in the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary and three icons belonging to the Deisis cycle, representing Christ Pantocrator, the Holy Archangel Michael and the Holy Apostle Paul in the wood shed near the church. Icons were found in a deplorable condition, specifically with their colour exfoliated, cracked wood and very dirty. The face of Christ suffered most, but even so, the redeemed fragment gives the spectator an overwhelming impression of the stillness, kindness and presence of the painted One. The icons at Zvenigorod are numbered among the most beautiful portraits of saints at that time. Laying stress upon the dynamycs of the figures, graphicalness of attitudes and gestures, Rublev introduces the rules of a new aesthetics. It is visible especially in the icon of Archangel Michael, which is the prediction of the talent of a subleme work, namely the Holy Trinity. In 1551, during the Hundred Chapter Synod held in Moscow, it was recommended the painters to colour the icon of the Holy Trinity agreeably to the old iconographical patterns, ‘as the Greek artists and Andrei Rublev painted’. The famous icon of Rublev was just the classic scene in the Byzantine iconography depticting the three angels who visited Abraham and his wife Sarah at the oak of Mamre. Rublev, however, simplified the scene of historical events to a maximum and confered an atemporal character to the whole painting. The Byzantines would not do that because they knew that the icon had to always show what it was seen, the sacred history of humankind. However, to lay stress upon the union of God within the Holy Trinity, Rublev chose ideal artistical means. The twists of the angels, the arrangement of their feet, the way in which they keep their heads bent create the closed form of a circle, whose centre is marked by a goblet with the head of the Lamb – the symbol of the Holy Eucharist. A goblet is a cup for wine, usually made of glass or metal, with a stem and base but no handle. Even the throne, the steps of the altar-table, the ‘bent’ mount and the branch of oak enter the circular dynamycs. The vision of the union that includes the whole world is so suggestive, that identifying the angels with the persons of the Holy Trinity becomes less essential, and specialists still discuss heatedly about it. According to some annotators, the Angel in the middle of the painting is likely to represent Christ, Who points to the Eucharistic goblet. The colour of vestments, which consists in a 56 Andrei Rublev, the painter of the Holy Trinity

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cherry-coloured chiton with a golden-yellow girdle and a blue himation, typical to the medieval representations of Christ, favourises the interpretation. A chiton was a form of clothing worn by men and women in Ancient Greece, from the Arabic period (c. 750 – c. 550 BC) to the Hellenistic period (323 – 30 BC). The work of Rublev is considered a great work within the Russian medieval painting. His style would be a source of inspiration for the creations of the so-called Moscovite school, he would raise to a very high level, for long time. Rublev created a synthesis, including the most improved features of the Byzantine art and the national one in a whole. He repulsed the austere and dramatic painting of Theophanes, to which he opposed a completely different manner of dealing with the light, the fluency of the outlines, forgetting contrasts and the clarity of the painter’s palette. The creation of Rublev crowned the Moscovite painters who, adopting the Byzantine heritage, would gain a special status in painting. The evidences related to his character also contributed to the development of the legend about Rublev. Chronicles described him as a very wise and experienced, as well as pious and kind man. Therefore, the Russian Orthodox Church canonised him among the saints in 1988 to recognise his artistical and moral authority. He is commemorated every year on 29th January. His works can be admired in Moscow, Kremlin, the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius in Sergyiev Posad, Saint Petersburg and Zvenigorod.

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The teacher of repentance receives the crown of martyrdom from Herod
‘The intermediary of the Law’ and ‘preacher of repentance’, ‘candlestick and angel’, Saint John the Baptist is the one through whose voice the humble nature was elevated and the pride of death submitted. The greatest one born of a woman, the symbol of martyrs and missionaries, is considered the Forerunner of Christ, the one who introduces the Lamb of God, the Redeemer of the sins of humankind, to the world, by the Church tradition. Saint John the Baptist is the greatest prophet because not any prophets, not even Saint Elias the Prophet, were said to ‘would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from the womb of his mother’. Although he did not receive the gift of working wonders, Saint John became the forerunner of true Christ, receiving the Baptism of Blood, the same Baptism that Jesus Himself and His disciples would receive. The destiny of the life of Saint John the Baptist had been foreseen within the Eternal Council of the Most Holy Trinity. Christening him John, before his birth and even before he had been conceived, is thus justified. The angel of the Annunciation said before priest Zacharias the word according to which John would be called his son and ‘he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink’. Christ the Lord made a mysterious confession about John before the crowd, namely ‘he is more than a prophet’. The prophet showed the mysterious plans of God, transmitted His word to people. Saint John was a witness that attested to the event attending it. He is more than a prophet, because his confession is one of the human conditions of the mission of Christ, ‘thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness’. It was emphasised that everything that is got only when man is entirely spiritually matured was given to John as a gift as far back as he had been born, and ‘many shall rejoice at his birth’. When he had been not born of Elizabeth yet, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the Mother of God, the New Testament records that the babe (John) leaped in her womb. Thus, it is confirmed that John appears as a prophet and friend of the Bridegroom, and he overcomes time as an Angel of the Incarnation. John was a messenger, he was the envoy that came from the wilderness and said ‘Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world’. The coming of Saint John the Baptist itself was accompanied by signs, ‘because the hand of the 58 The teacher of repentance receives the crown of martyrdom from Herod

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Lord was with him’, and John became the hand, the finger that showed and talked the world about Christ, the Light of the world. The birth of John announced the birth of Christ, because the blessing of Zacharias can be considered a Messianic hymn. In the person of Zacharias, the time of the Old Testament, which prostrates itself before the coming of the Lord and salutes the Forerunner that comes to give ‘knowledge of salvation’ unto his people, to announce ‘the visitation of the dayspring from on high’. John began to preach in the wilderness, baptised his disciples there and ‘the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness’. His entire being answered the call of the wilderness, rose throughout the unique greatness of that land impoverished and burnt by the inner flame of ascetic cleanness, namely ‘John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey’. Considering himself unworthy of unloosing the shoe’s latchet of Christ, Saint John preached the Saviour as ‘one stronger than him’ and ‘earlier than him’. Through his sermon, Jesus as the Messiah had to advance, to be known and listened, and John had to become humbler. During his entire sermon, Saint John drew attention to the authority of Christ. The whole Jerusalem had been shaken by his word that preached repentance and the near punishment of those who do not realise their sins. Identifying Saint John as ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness’ was his hard life lived in the wilderness and the strength of his spirit, signs similar to the authority of Saint Elias the Prophet. The mission recorded by the Holy Gospel on Saint John the Baptist is the one of a messenger ‘to bear witness of the Light that all men through Him might believe’. Saint John is one of the last prophets sent like the servants of the Householder of the vineyard in the parable of the wicked husbandmen, to call to repentance those who had deviated from the will and plan of God. The Baptism to which Saint John called all the Jews was the returning from the kingdom of the Evil One to the bosom of God within Christ, because the wickedness of the soul is firstly destroyed through repentance and the new man is created only later. Nobody can discover God as the Father without baptism and repentance. The prophets of the Old Testament had the mission to awaken the consciousness and return the hearts of people to the Divine Law by announcing His judgement. Saint John can be taken as a standard for all the prophets as concerns the relationship between the Law and grace, which 59 The teacher of repentance receives the crown of martyrdom from Herod

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was not given to him to experience it ‘for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’. Christ, the precious corner stone, Who brings salvation, is placed before the last prophet, because ‘the law and the prophets were until John’. Saint John is the Forerunner of the Lord not only during His earthly lifetime, but he is ‘also the forerunner of Christ for those placed in hell’, ‘preacher for those who stand in the darkness’. Such a service can be connected with considering Saint John as the Forerunner of Parousia or the Second Coming of Christ. Nevertheless, in the Deisis icon that means ‘imploration’, ‘mediation’, Christ appears flanked by the Mother of God and Saint John, who pray for those who did not have time to do penance during their earthly lifetime. Saint John made himself known as the archetype of the witness of Christ, the irradiating principle of all the forms of confession, the constellation of male vocations; therefore, the Church prayer calls him ‘prophet, apostle, angel, forerunner, baptist, priest, preacher for those who stand in hell, the example of monks and the flower of the wilderness, martyr’.

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The Holy Hierarch Spyridon, the protector of the sick
One of the most passionate defenders of the right belief during the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea was the Holy Hierarch Spyridon, bishop of Trymithous, who is commemorated by the Orthodox Church every year on 12th December. He takes a place of honour thanks to the fact that he succeeded in returning many unbelievers to God through his simplicity, cleaning the passions of many people through the gift of working wonders with which he had been honoured. He was persecuted during the reign of Roman Emperor Maximian, being arrested, then exiled. He knew the Holy Hierarch Nicholas, with whom he made very close friends, at the Council of Nicaea. He performed many miracles through which he helped those in want. Saint Spyridon was born in 270 AD in Asha, a locality of Cyprus, into an ordinary family, and the main activity during his childhood was sheep feeding. Saint Spyridon was familiar with the Sacrament of Marriage, and after his wife had passed away very young, he took the monastic cowl, spending his fortune on helping people in want. Endowed by God with the gift of working wonders, because ‘he healed all kind of illnesses, of those which could be hardly cured, and banished evil spirits only speaking the word’, Saint Spyridon became the spiritual shepherd of the believers in Trymithous. He lived during the reign of great Emperor Constantine the Great, being a firm supporter of the right belief, which he always introduced to people without twisting the facts, making the words of the Saviour strong for those standing in the darkness. The first Christians looked for the right belief with their hearts. Their search would become a rational one since learned people, philosophers, who, until discovering Christ within the Church, had searched for the truth within the different systems they studied minutely in the schools of that time, converted to Christianity. Trying to know the Creator rationally led to many heresies, among which the one of priest Aries was the most difficult one for the Christians of the early Church. A heresy is a term that shows the wrong teaching of a person or group of people, and a heretic is a person who deviated from the right teaching of the Christian Church, adopting, supporting and spreading another faith. The heretic considered God-the Son as a creature of God-the Father and not of one essence with the Father. Emperor Constantine the Great (306Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 61

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337), who although did not know theological matters, finding out the trouble caused by the heresy of Aries within the Church, established an ecumenical council to be organised, where the Church truth of faith to be set up concisely. The Ecumenical Council was held in Nicaea in 321, and Saint Spyridon, the representative of the Church of Trymithous, was also numbered among the attendants. There, he amazed many attendants with the simplicity with which he explained the Orthodox faith. Not so much literate, the saint succeeded in converting a great philosopher of that time from Arianism to Orthodoxy. To prove the union of the Holy Trinity to the philosopher, Saint Spyridon made the sign of the cross with his right hand, holding a brick in his left hand and invoking the name of the Holy Trinity. Immediately the fire rose high, the water fell down on the ground, and the clay in the brick remained in his hand. All those present were thunderstruck, and the philosopher could no longer find the language to fight against the saint, where the divine power, which made the words of the Bible, namely ‘the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power’, be confirmed, worked. After the works of the council came to an end, Saint Spyridon came back to his city. In the meantime, Irine, his daughter, who had spent her whole lifetime in virginity, serving Christ, passed away. During her lifetime, a woman had given the girl a golden treasure to keep it. Then, if the girl had passed away, the woman could not take her treasure back anymore, because only the dead girl knew where she had placed it. After they had searched the treasure and found nothing, Saint Spyridon went to the grave of his daughter and shouted at her, as Christ had once shouted at his friend Lazarus, asking her where the treasure was, and she told him the place where the treasure was hidden as if she awaked from a long sleep. Then, the saint told her again that she could sleep from then on until the God of everybody would awake her at the public resurrection. Likewise, the saint also healed Emperor Constantius, the son of Emperor Constantine, after he had seen him in his dream and, calling him from the city of Trymithous, was healed by being only touched. After a whole lifetime during which he had honourably served the church of Trymithous, Saint Spyridon was called by his Lord to go to the heavens, to the places of the righteous, to the place arranged for him according to his good deeds. He fell asleep into the Lord in 348 AD, aged 78 years old, being buried in the ‘Holy Apostles’ Church in the city of Trymithous, Cyprus. After the Saracens had invaded the island, the Cypriotes 62 The Holy Hierarch Spyridon, the protector of the sick

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opened his tomb for moving his holy relics to Constantinople. Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to people who inhabited the deserts near the Roman province of Syria and who were distinct from Arabs. Then, they discovered his uncorrupted body, surrounded by an agreeable smell of basil, as a sign of the holiness of his life. On the fall of Constantinople under the Ottomans in 1453, his holy relics were moved to Serbia, and a father in Corfu brought them to Greece. Today, the relics of Holy Hierarch Spyridon are found in a church of Corfu, a church situated at 100 metres’ distance from the Metropolitan Church, near the relics of the Holy Empress Theodora, commemorated by the Church on 11th March every year. Even today, the saint works for believers through his holy relics. He is known as ‘the traveller saint’, because his silken shoes wear and are replaced every year when he is commemorated, on 12th December. Unlike the other holy relics, the ones of the saint often disappear from their shrine, coming to those who ask them for help with faith and working many wonders. He is the protector of the sick and therefore many hospitals are named after him. There are many proofs and testimonies about the journeys made by the saint, specifically clergymen and believers often noticed that, for short time, the body of the saint was missing from its shrine, and when the saint came back, his body was warm and covered with dust. Likewise, the shoes of the saint are replaced every year, because they wear, traces of dust and grass being able to be seen. For that reason, Saint Spyridon was chosen the patron saint of shoemakers. During religious processions, Saint Spyridon is carried in his shrine on his legs. He is commemorated for more than 1600 years by believers as the one who always spends time with people. When Corfu belonged to the Venetians, they venerated him piously for the assistance they had got from him. As a proof of veneration, the Venetians had dressed the saint with canonicals sewn with thread of gold, but, the following day, they found his relics dressed in the same humble canonicals, and the clothes he had been given from them stood close to his shrine. There is a church dedicated to the Holy Hierarch Spyridon in Jerusalem. One day, the priests saw the saint in the church, looking through one of the windows. After he left, the face of the saint remained imprinted on the window pane. According to the account of Dionysius of Furna (c.1670-c.1745), an important Greek iconographer, Saint Spyridon appears as ‘an old man with a long beard and split a little into two parts, Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 63

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wearing a skull cap’. The saint is also represented in the icon of the First Ecumenical Council, together with the other present hierarchs. In the middle of the assembly, a philosopher that looks amazed at something is represented, while Saint Spyridon, stretching his hand to him, squeezes a brick from which fire, clay and water in his other hand, showing thus that the Holy Trinity is of one essence.

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The Apostle gifted by God
Saint Matthias, whose name means ‘gift of Yahweh’, had been one of the seventy disciples of the Lord Christ and then chosen to take the place of Judas Iscariot, after he had fallen from his apostleship by transgression. According to historian Nicephoros, Matthias might have preached in Judaea and then in Ethiopia, and according to another tradition, he also preached in Macedonia. The Holy Apostle Matthias descended from the nation of Judas. He learned the Scriptures and understanding the Law following the advice of Saint Symeon the God-Receiver in Jerusalem from a child. ‘Full of the divine covetousness after the Lord’, Matthias, hearing of the preaching and teaching of Christ and seeing his wonders, ‘injured himself with love towards Him and, defaming earthly things, followed Him together with the other disciples and the people he tamed on seeing the face and hearing the most sweet words of the Incarnated God, and the Lord, Who tests the hearts and the depths of believers, noticed the covetousness and honest knowledge, chose him as a disciple. Then, after the suffering of His own will, the Resurrection and the Ascension of the Lord Christ, the Holy Apostle Peter, the greatest apostle, being in the middle of the church, delivered a speech on taking the place of Judas, who gave up apostleship of his own accord’. According to the Acts of the Apostles, the Synod of the Twelve Apostles, the first chosen ones of the Lord, had to remain unchanged, and Judas Iscariot had to be replaced with another apostle, and Matthias was the chosen and numbered one among the twelve Apostles, and the selection was strengthened by sending the Holy Spirit in cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. Only the twelve Apostles, whom Saul, the persecutor of the Church of Christ, become Paul, the Apostle of the Nations, also joined after his conversion to Christianity, could found and organise churches and communities everywhere, ordaining them deacons, priests and bishops. Likewise, only they, who were full of grace and charismas, had a right and were able to give the Holy Spirit to the baptised ones. A charisma is a trait found in persons whose personalities are characterised by a personal charm and magnetism (attractiveness), along with innate and powerfully sophisticated abilities of interpersonal communication and persuasion. Therefore, priesthood comes from the Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 65

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Apostles, because the grace from Christ was transmitted through them to bishops. After receiving the Holy Spirit, the Apostles drew lots for the place where they should have gone to preach the gospel of Christ, and according to the account of historian Nicephoros, the lot fell upon Saint Matthias to go to Judaea, in order to preach Christ God there, and he made efforts in it, exploring cities and villages and announcing the salvation of the world ‘enlightening everybody and advising them towards divine knowledge and making those who had stood in vanity and unbelief vessels of the Light’. However, he did not preach Christ only in Judaea, but also among nations, because he is said to have also preached the word of God in Colchis and Ethiopia, where he suffered from many torments, being dragged, beaten, hung to torments, crushed on his ribs with pieces of iron and burnt on his back with fire, but being strengthened by Christ, he accepted torments with pleasure and stood them bravely. By another tradition, the Holy Apostle Matthias also laboured in Macedonia to announce Christ, where the Greek pagans caught him and, wishing for tempting the power of the faith preached by him, they gave him a poisonous drink that caused blindness. However, Saint Matthias drank the poison for Christ and remained unharmed, but moreover, putting his hands on those more than 250 people blinded by the poison and invoking Christ, he healed them. Because the Devil did not stand to see the wonder, he showed himself to unbelievers as a little child, ordering them to murder Matthias. Although, when they wanted to catch the apostle, he walked in the midst of them without being seen, and being searched for three days, he was not found. Then, showing himself of his own will to them, and they, tying him, threw him into the dungeon, where after showing himself to him, seized with anger, the Devil gnashed his teeth at him. Nonetheless, on the following night, the Lord stood before him in great glory, strengthened him and, untying him, opened the gates of the dungeon and released him. When the day arose, Saint Matthias appeared amidst the people again and preached Christ bravely, and when those who were callous and did not believe his words and wanted to murder him, the earth immediately opened out and swallowed them, and the ones 66 The Apostle gifted by God

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that have remained, being afraid of what could happen to them, came back to Christ and received baptism. Afterwards, the Apostle of Christ came back to Judaea again to his lot and, preaching the word of God, he brought back many of the souls of Israel to Christ the Lord, assuring them by signs and wonders, because he illuminated the blind, cleaned lepers, chased away devil from people for Christ, healed lame and deaf people and resurrected deceased people. Because of the wonders he worked among the Jews for Christ, in about 63, Saint Matthias was sentenced to lapidation by the Jewish Sanhedrim, under the leadership of archpriest Ananias, the same archpriest who had passed the sentence the Holy Apostle James to be thrown from the wing of the Temple. While the villains hit him, the Holy Apostle Matthias raised his hands towards the sky and drew his last breath, as the first martyr of the Church, namely the Holy Archdeacon Stephen, had suffered. In order the illegal judgement and murder not to be discovered by the Roman administration, who was in office at that time, the Jews cut off the head of the saint with an axe, because those who opposed the Caesar were murdered like that, so that the death of Saint Matthias to be like an observance of the Roman law and not like an illegality of the Jews. Cutting off the head with an axe explains why the Holy Apostle Matthias is considered the patron saint of butchers and joiners. Saint Matthias, labouring with the good hardship, fell asleep into the Lord, and the believers took his body and buried it honourably, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ.

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The treasure of Vatican City
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter, commonly known as Saint Peter’s Basilica, represents one of the main landmarks for any visitor of Rome. It was built above the tomb of Saint Peter, to store the vestiges of the chain with which the greatest Apostle had been tied when he had been imprisoned in Jerusalem. The vault of the basilica stores the rests of the first building, but also many tombs of some popes, cardinals and lay princes. The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter lodges the main shows of the Roman Catholic ritual.

It was just a commemorative monument in the beginning, built on the place near the Circus of Nero, where the Holy Apostle Peter had been crucified in 67 AD. To remember the greatest Apostle honourably, however, Emperor Constantine the Great (306-3337) built later, over his tomb, a basilica that would become one of the largest (it is 186 metres long, with its dome being 119 metres high) and the most beautiful worship places in the Christian world, but also a safe place for the vestiges of the chain with which Saint Peter had been tied when he had been imprisoned in Jerusalem. With a total area of over 15,000 metres, the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in Vatican City, Rome is considered the second largest sacred place of Christianity, after the Basilica of Our Lady of Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, Africa (with a total area of about 300,000 metres). Although impressive, the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter is not the seat of the bishop of Rome, the chair being represented by the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. The works would be started under the pontificate of Pope Silvester I (314-335). Many prestigious architects and artists contributed to creating the great work of art. Architect Donato Bramante (1444 -11th March 1514) initiated the first works, painter Michelangelo accomplished the project of the dome, painter Raphael changed the original plan, from a Greek cross into a Latin one, architects Carlo Maderno completed the front side and artist Bernini drew 68 The treasure of Vatican City

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the plan of the square, with its famous colonnades. A colonnade is a row of evenly spaced columns supporting a roof, an entablature, or arches. The basilica was imposing right from the start. Somebody had to climb the 35 stairs, preceded by the statues of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The inward yard was 56 metres long and 62 metres wide, and the inside of the basilica was formed of a hall which was 90 metres long and 84 metres wide, separated into five naves. A nave is the long central park of a church where most of the seats are. The central nave was 23 metres wide, separated from the side naves through four rows of 23 columns, and light penetrated through the 72 windows. The basilica would be considered as the core of the future pontifical State and, for twelve centuries, the basilica started by Emperor Constantine the Great was visited by pilgrims.

In the 15th century, the building was in ruins and, therefore, Pope Julius II (1503-1513), a great protector of humanists and artists, decided a new basilica of vast proportions to be built. A humanist is somebody who believes in humanism, a system of thought that considers that solving human problems with the help of reason is more important than religious beliefs. The construction of the present-day large building, started on 18th April 1506, came to an end in 1612, during the pontificate of Pope Paul V. The column in Saint Peter’s Square, reflecting the increased power of papacy during Baroque, tops through its size – it is 273 metres long and 226 metres wide – the squares during the Renaissance. A number of 284 columns that are 15 metres high, 88 pilasters of travertine and 140 statues of saints that are 3.10 metres high adorn the colonnade. Travertine is a white or light-coloured calcareous rock deposited from mineral springs, used in building. The obelisk, which had been situated in the axis of the Circus of Nero in the beginning, brought from Egypt – the second highest in Rome, after the one in the Lateran Square – was located in the present-day square during the papacy of Pope Sixtus V, being conveyed with the help of 75 horses. The baroque front side of the present-day basilica is Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 69

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118 metres wide and 48 metres high, having eight columns with Corinthian capitals, which are 27 metres high. It is dominated by the statues of the Saviour, Saint John the Baptist and eleven Apostles. The one of the Holy Apostle Peter is inside the building. The loggia of the blessing of popes, from where the Pope shares the festive blessing ‘urbi et orbi’ (which translated means ‘to the City and to the World’) is built in the middle of the building. A loggia is a gallery or room with one or more open sides, especially one that forms part of a house and has one side open to the garden. The nave, built from 1608 to 1612, is 72 metres long. The central nave has a view towards the largest inward area of a Christian basilica. It numbers 44 altars, 11 domes, 868 columns, 395 statues of marble, travertine or bronze, and 135 mosaic images. The bronze canopy, made by artist Bernini and erected over the tomb of Saint Peter, inaugurated in 1635, is 29 metres high and weighs 370 quintals. A canopy is a cover that is fixed or hangs above a bed, seat, etc. as a shelter or decoration. The 16 stairs that go down to the tomb of Saint Peter are guarded by 99 candles. Near the canopy, there is the bronze statue of Saint Peter, a work that dates back to the 13th century, being made by architect and sculptor Arnolfo di Cambrio. Sitting on a marble throne, the greatest Apostle holds the keys of the kingdom of heaven, a symbol of the power received from the Saviour Jesus Christ, in his left hand, and his right hand is raised as if he blessed somebody as a father. The episcopal seat of Saint Peter in the apsis is supported by the statues of four teacher saints of the Church, namely Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Athanasius and Saint John Chrysostom. The sculptural ensemble of Saint Peter, located in the first chapel on the right side and made by Michelangelo in 1500, the tombstone of Pope Urban VIII Barberini, or the tombstone of Pope Alexander VII, the pontifical throne attributed to Pope Urban Barberini are only a few of the beautiful things that can be admired in the impressive building of Christianity. Architectonically, the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter represents the triumph of Roman Baroque when the Roman Catholic Church tried to compel recognition, as high reputation, towards the rise of the power of the national countries France and Spain. Despite the changes that occurred over centuries, the cross that rises today on the dome of the present-day basilica is on the same upright axe on the tomb of Saint Peter and shows those who come to Rome that the tomb of the greatest Apostle is located there. The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter lodges the main shows of the Roman Catholic ritual and plays a solemn part on the occasion of proclaiming the new popes and the obsequies of the deceased ones.

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The Baptism of the sinless Man
At the age of 30 years old, the Saviour Jesus Christ was baptised in River Jordan by Saint John the Baptist, like the hundreds of Jews that came to wash away their sins. Jesus Christ did not come to River Jordan to do penance or redeem Himself, but showing for the first time His divinity, His place within the Holy Trinity and the mission for which He had been sent. The Baptism of the Lord (the Holy Theophany or Epiphany) is one of the twelve royal feasts during the ecclesiastical year, from which the importance of the event results as well. In the beginning, during the first Christian centuries, the feast was celebrated alongside the Nativity of the Lord, on 6th January, as a double feast called the Holy Epiphany. The two feasts were separated around the 4th century. Although the texts mentioned in the Holy Scripture do not provide many details about the life of Jesus until He had been 30 years old, when He came to River Jordan to be baptised by John, it is known that the Saviour had lived in Nazareth, in the house of His mother, together with Joseph, from whom he had learnt the trade of joinery. When He was 30 years old, the age of adulthood in the Jews, Jesus came to be recognised and to be baptised, a moment since which He began His missionary activity. The Synoptic Gospels tell the event insisting on the personality of he who performed the Baptism of the Lord, namely Saint John the Baptist. The Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in the same sequence, and sometimes the exact same wording. He was a prophet sent by God to announce the close coming of the Messiah and to spread the baptism of repentance at River Jordan. The name of ‘Forerunner’ he was given also results from his mission. However, the Jews often mistook him for the Messiah, something criticised many times by John, as the Holy Gospels tell in their accounts. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John does not insist on the moment itself, when it is known that certain wonders were performed, the Holy Trinity appeared, namely the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him. Then, a low voice from heaven said ‘This is My beloved Son’. Saint John the Evangelist insists Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 71

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on the moment when Jesus was identified as ‘the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world’. It is actually the recognition of the Messianity of Christ and the legitimisation of His earthly activity. The disciples of John the Baptist became the ones of Jesus, some of them even becoming Apostles. The Baptism of the Lord in River Jordan was an event contested by many some researchers, who advocated the hypothesis that it might have been a legend. It was shown that, although historians have little information and historical evidences about the event, it actually happened. John the Baptist himself is a real character, and the evidences of the schools that interpret the Bible from the viewpoint of history and criticism prove it. According to them, the event is believable, because it satisfies the criterion of the multiple acknowledgement in the Bible and the one of the dissemblance. Even some researchers, who contest many passages in the Gospels, consider the Baptism of the Lord as a real event. According to the first criterion, three of the four Gospels show that Jesus was baptised by John, what confirms both the officiator and the event itself. Likewise, John is mentioned in the texts as the preacher of the Messiah, as the one who baptised the Jews to receive Christ. The second criterion invoked by the researchers of the Bible to prove the truth of the event is the one of the dissemblance. Thus, because Jesus was sinless, He had not to be baptised by John. The Christians of the first centuries could not invent such a moment because they would have brought into disrepute the image of Christ. Therefore, the researchers show that the event actually happened, with deep spiritual meanings. Besides the researches of the historians and the evidences of the Holy Scripture, there are also other proofs of the historicity of the event. Thus, it is also told in many of the apocryphal writings. Likewise, there were a series of heretical beliefs, such as Adoptianism and Cerintianism, which mentioned the Baptism of the Lord, in the first Christian 72 The Baptism of the sinless Man

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centuries. Although heresies were condemned, their evidences also prove that the Baptism of the Lord had been performed as the Gospels tell. A heresy is a term that shows the wrong teaching of some persons or group of people; a doctrinaire misbehaviour from the teaching of the Church. The Synoptic Gospels show that John the Baptist said that the Messiah, He Who would come after him, would not baptise with water, but with Holy Spirit and fire. Fire was the symbol of anger in antiquity. Therefore, many translators avoided using the word in the mentioned passages. Alongside the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the researchers showed that the texts sometimes contained the word ‘anger’ close to the term ‘Holy Spirit’. Since then, the word ‘fire’ started to be also translated. Another fear of the translators of the passages concerning the Baptism of the Lord was the one as regarded the connection that would have been made between John, the Baptist with water, and Jesus, the Baptist with fire, and the duality in the Sumerian mythology. The Babylonians honoured Enki, later known as Ea, and called Oannes, a name synonymous with John, in the time of John and Jesus. Their fear was also strengthened by the fact that Oannes was considered the goddess of pure water, the forerunner of the god of the sun and fire. Certainly, the connections did not actually exist, being some entirely coincidental occurrences, but manipulated by those who contest the truthfulness of the events during the lifetime of the Saviour. John the Baptist lived and baptised in Judaea, at River Jordan, in a barren place called ‘the wilderness’ or even ‘desert’. The researchers show that the term ‘the wilderness’, used for indicating the place where John lived was actually the place where the Essenians, a Jewish religious group, lived. Some of them even asserted that John was one of the great leaders of the sect. A sect is a religious community separated from a certain official Church. Others showed that the term ‘the wilderness’ had been used for uninhabited places, where those who wished for being closer to God retired. By tradition, Jesus met John at River Jordan, and there is an old Orthodox monastery in those places.

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Saint Silouan, a man of the love of God
The spiritual route of any saint recorded or not by the history of the Church repeats the destiny of humanity, its falls and rises, its sufferings and joys. At the same time, the saint experiences the most valuable aspects of the Christian faith. Pious Silouan of Athos, who is remembered by our church today, certainly the most renown saint of the last century, has left posterity his writings, his spiritual testament, as a testament of love for God and people. The word of Saint Silouan is not searched, but it overflows from what the Holy Spirit reveals to him, showing him the way to redemption, through love and humbleness, without which all the efforts made by man fall to the ground and are frustrated. Without having an elaborated work or systematised writings, Saint Silouan had left posterity a genuine intelligible spiritual synthesis, full of the inspiration of the Spirit. Many Orthodox communities, either monastic communities, or parishes in the country or from abroad, chose Saint Silouan as their protector and kind intercessor before God. The Lord, Whom monk Silouan loved from the bottom of his heart, gave him the gift of guiding, comforting and enlightening the souls of people, however tested and might have been. Of not much education, but showing much love towards God and zeal in His knowledge, that man succeeded in leaving a hopeful message for the modern man, who is very anxious and occupied with the whirl of his time. From his writings, notes left to his disciple, one can see how the love towards God, the steadfast prayer for the enlightenment of the soul, humbleness, as a stamp of the work of man towards redemption, must be united with the matchless love towards people and the entire creation. Saint Silouan is the singer of the divine love, a love which was seen by his soul during his lifetime and which is considered more precious than 74 Saint Silouan, a man of the love of God

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any good in this world. Saint Silouan sang the loss and rediscovery of the grace and beauty of the divine face within man. Saint Silouan saw every action of God as a proof of the love He bears believers. The creation and redemption are moments when the love of God worked within the world, and while the Lord obviously showed His glory and might within the Creation, He showed deeper humbleness and mercy within the Redemption. However, the Lord worked through both of them through His love. The word of Christ on kindness and the humbleness of the heart is found within the spiritual teaching of Saint Silouan. Saint Silouan shares a thought to the modern man, who strives after making sure that life can go well in the future even without God, namely the great wealth of believers consists in that if God belongs to them, then everything belongs to them as well. God does not leave the request of man without an answer, because the Holy Spirit shows man how to live according to His will, how to get humbleness and, thus, to be able to feel that God is present in his life. Understanding the need to look for a father confessor, Saint Silouan wrote both on the grace and blessing that overflows through the father confessor, but also on the dreadful responsibility of bishops and priests for the salvation of the world.

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The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin
The Annunciation is the foundation of the salvation of Christians because, at that time, Mary, the virgin brought by her parents to the Temple from a child and then betrothed with joiner Joseph, was visited by the Holy Archangel Gabriel, who told her the extraordinary mission God had destined to her. Thus, Mary became the Mother of God, always remaining a Virgin. The moment of the Annunciation, minutely described by the Holy Evangelist Luke, contains few atmospheres – the salutation of angel, the revealing of the divine plan, the excitement of the Virgin Mary, the answer given by the Holy Archangel Gabriel, the announcement of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the acquiescence of the Blessed Virgin, all of them remarkably united by the skilled icon painter in a static image of the icon of the Annunciation. Throughout history, the icon of the Annunciation underwent many changes. If the Ever-Virginity of the Blessed Virgin and her quality of being the Mother of God had been emphasised in the beginning, since the 2nd millennium, the dialogue between the Holy Archangel Gabriel and the Mother of God was emphasised. Besides the Holy Gospel of Luke, the skilled icon painters also used the apocryphal text of the Protogospel of James as a source. Located in the church even on the holy doors of the holy altar, the icon of the Annunciation contains several essential elements, namely the three characters – the Holy Archangel Gabriel, the Holy Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit, the architecture in the background, the throne, the veil with which the canopy of the throne is covered, and the red thread from the hand of the Holy Virgin, elements having a special meaning. The Holy Archangel Gabriel is represented with his left leg in motion and his wings opened to show that announcing the news begins before his stopping. The blessing he gave to Mary is exposed in the icon through the sign he makes with his right hand. The expression of the face of the archangel is also the painted representation of the might bestowed he comes to announce, and the might on the face of the Blessed Virgin, but also the red thread held in her hands are the consequences of the consent ‘Be it unto me according to your word’. The Holy Archangel Gabriel is a messenger, he wears a staff in his left hand, not a lily, as it is misinterpreted, under a Roman Catholic influence, but a staff, because the archangel is a herald, a messenger. The gesture of withdrawal of the Virgin Mary when she heard the news, present in the 76 The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin

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icon, shows the attitude of an apparent refusal, for fear of not being cheated, as once Eve had been cheated by the serpent; it is also an action of humbleness, because, indeed, according to certain stories of her life, it is said she wanted it, but, in her humbleness, she did not dare, and her gesture of withdrawal has many meanings. Actually, the icon represents the meeting of the heaven with the earth – the Mother of God is called ‘ladder’, ‘bridge’. At that time, the meeting is held, the Secret ‘hidden forever’, which had not been even known by angels, is revealed, but Archangel Gabriel was the only one to have found out and brought it. It is a dialogue between the divine humbleness and the obedience of the new Eve. A major theme of humanity, motherhood – the woman gives birth to life, but the Mother of God gave birth to the Source of Life, through humbleness and purity, is shown in the icon. The scene is not only attended by two participants, as believers are accustomed to see, but there are actually three, because the dialogue between Archangel Gabriel and the Mother of God could take place only through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the main character of the scene, a triangle being thus created. The Holy Spirit is present in the icon through the halo of light coming from above – believers are accustomed to the ray that goes towards the Mother of God, usually where a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, is. The three rays that go towards the Mother of God are met more frequently. In the icon, the ray of divinity is glimmered through a red veil hung on the canopy of the throne behind the Holy Virgin. Sometimes, the Mother of God is either represented on the throne or standing, but the throne never disappears. It shows the Mother of God as the Empress of the heaven and the earth, but also the one of angels. The red veil is also considered the shelter of the Blessed Virgin offered by her to her Son, namely the placenta in which He found His first earthly refuge. In the last scene in the iconography of the Akathist hymn of the Blessed Virgin, when the Holy Spirit comes down on the Holy Virgin and the Incarnation of the Saviour takes place, the Holy Archangel Gabriel is missing in most cases. The Mother of God is represented on the throne with a purple robe that covers her, sometimes held by angels, symbolising the eclipsation of the Holy Spirit. The main architecture in the icon that appears in the background means either the house where she had lived and where the Annunciation had occurred or the symbol of the Temple or the Holy Tabernacle, because the Mother of God would be ‘a temple of the living God’ or would show that the meeting had not occurred in the wilderness. The clothes of the Virgin Mary are not unimportant. The red colour of her clothes is regal, and the green one is the symbol of the earth. In the Orthodox iconography, the shoes of the Virgin Mary are always red, only emperors wearing purple shoes in Byzantium.

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The Great Canon, the path to rediscover the true self
The Great Canon is one of the most impressive creations of the Christian iconography, in which the theme of repentance is mirrored wonderfully. Through the theme proposed by the Great Canon, Christians are connected to the possibility of the union between man and God through repentance. The Great Canon is a Bible in miniature, because it summarises the entire period described by the Holy Scripture, from the original sin, the long journey of the human being for finding heavenly happiness and ending with the redeeming work of the incarnated Son of God. The first week of the Holy Lent is opened by the reading of the Great Canon or the Canon of Repentance, authored by Saint Andrew of Crete, in four parts. According to the Greek biography, Saint Andrew of Crete was born around 660 in Damascus. According to the tradition, he had been dumb until he was seven years old, and he received the gift of speech whenever he partook of the Holy Sacraments. After he had been educated in Damascus, when he was about fourteen years old, after he had visited the Holy Land, Andrew would be tonsured into monasticism at the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified, situated near Jerusalem. It seems that he composed the greatest part of his work there, his fundamental work the Great Canon included. In Jerusalem, he would be also chosen, by Patriarch Theodore, as a secretary belonging to the deputy of the patriarchal seat, being entrusted with taking care of orphan children. Sent to Constantinople around 585 by Patriarch Theodore, to bring the adhesion of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem to the decisions of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, he remained in Byzantium, where he was ordained priest. Around 512, he was consecrated bishop for Gortyna, Crete. An unpleasant moment during the lifetime of Saint Andrew is the adhesion – under pressure of Byzantine Emperor Philippikos Bardanes – to the Monothelite heresy, when he signed the document of the Monothelite Council held in 712. Some liturgists believe 78 The Great Canon, the path to rediscover the true self

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that the Great Canon of Repentance, written towards the end of his life, would be the expression of his personal experience of fall and return to the true faith. Therefore, he can be considered ‘the mystagogue of faith’, guiding those who read the verses of the canon to the way through which he himself passed. The classic work of Saint Andrew is the Great Canon, a vast poem, remarkable through the profoundness of godliness and repentance. Liturgical canons appeared at the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century, replacing largely the liturgical hymn called ‘kontakion’. Saint Andrew of Crete was considered ‘the father of canons’, being therefore the first maker of canons and the promoter of the hymnographic species in the Greek Church. The title ‘the Great’ itself emphasises its length, a poem that is 250 stanzas long, the greatest canons of all the canons in the Church order. Read on the first four days during the first week of Great Lent and completely on the Thursday during the fifth week, the Great Canon, thanks to the soul-uplifting thoughts it leaves, the themes necessary during the lifetime of everybody (humbleness, repentance, heart stabbing), as well as thanks to its profoundness, becomes a guidance and an adviser for the life of any Christian. The content of the Great Canon is a spiritual one, a profound dialogue of the sinful individual with his own conscience, which draws his attention on the mistakes he made. One can notice the alternance of two plans, namely the sinful soul that mourns over his sins because he did not follow the path of righteousness, but he followed the wide way to perdition and that cries from the bottom of his heart to be forgiven because he had sinned before the heaven and before Him and the one of the human beings become deified through repentance.

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The Great Canon is the hymn of the rediscovery of the human being through repentance. The hymn is covered from one end to the other by the afflicting search of the initial beauty of man, the need and importance of regaining it. The Canon is similar to a hall full of mirrors, in which believers see their life again. The sinful souls that did not keep the divine commandments and wasted the gifts they had been given, spoiled the harmony and lost the consideration bestowed upon them are separated from the standards as regards spiritual life, acceptable to God, that must be followed by Christians. Unlike the examples given by the Old Testament to mirror the sinfulness condition of the human being, the characters mentioned in the Canon are not shown only through their sinful aspect, but also through their great efforts to become friends with God again. These examples actually show Christians that repentance is not a utopia, a phantasmagoria of some people or a religion, but the only way of the human being to gain salvation. The author of these verses calls everybody to recognise the mistakes they made and the sinful condition shared by all Christians. Reading the Great Canon, Christians notice the story of humankind, with its fall, but also with its rise, a history that begins sadly, with losing its relation with the Creator of the world. Towards the end of the Canon, Saint Andrew of Crete makes an impressive transposition of repentance. If the examples and images of the Old Testament abounded until now, the following message is presented like a miniature of the four Holy Gospels. The main message preached by the author is in accordance with the evangelic one, namely ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’. Repentance now 80 The Great Canon, the path to rediscover the true self

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becomes a source of joy and hope, which is completely opposed to the despair to which Christians are tempted to drive. The drama suffered by the penitent comes to an end in the future, namely when he attends the Resurrection of Christ. The Resurrection represents joy and is experienced consequently, as repentance should be also experienced. This truth is actually the theological sense of repentance within the Great Canon, a repentance that breeds and brings joy. The purpose of the repentance reflected within the Great Canon of Saint Andrew is not an abstract discovery of sins, but a way to transcend them. Created in the image of God, man must know that repentance is the correct attitude, acceptable to God, the only one that can bring back the original beauty of the human being. Through repentance, man heals his wounded soul, repairs his alienation from God. The feeling of guiltiness, which makes the soul grow sad, is not found anymore in repentance, but the deep feeling of the divine law is felt and comes down to the depth of the human being, soul and body – raising the human being again to the destined position. Repentance breeds and brings joy, because it leads to the communion with the Giver of Life.

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The house of prayer of the Jewish people
The temple of Jerusalem was not for the Jews only a symbol of their faith in God or the supreme place of performing the public ritual. The Jews considered, with good reason, that the Spirit of God, Who watches, answers their prayers and advises them, dwelt on the mount where King Solomon had erected the house of God for the first time. The first thought of the Jews returned home after the Jewish State had been founded again, on 14th May 1948, was to rebuild the temple. Their initiative was postponed until today, because the ceaseless conflicts with the Muslim Arabs, which did not come to an end even today.

The first temple of the chosen people, built as Yahweh Himself had shown Moses in his vision, was the tabernacle of the congregation. Although it was raised to be carried during the forty years of flight in the wilderness of Egypt, the tabernacle served as the pattern for the future temple in the holy citadel. It was erected during a longer halt, being adorned with the most beautiful things in the halting place of the Jews, namely acacia wood of Sinai, valuable fabrics, embroidered leathers and gold. Consisting of an outer courtyard and the interior itself, the place of worship had inside inside the courtyard, the altar, on which they brought the burnt offering, and the copper bath, where the priests washed themselves before entering the tent. The interior was divided into the Holy and the Holy of Holies. The Holy occupied two thirds of the tent and housed the incensement sacrificial altar, the table of shewbread and the menorah (a seven-branched candelabrum). In the Holy of Holies, separated through a curtain from the Holy, there was the holiest object of the tabernacle, namely the Ark of the Covenant. A sign of the presence of God, the tabernacle was an element of religious union for the twelve tribes of 82 The house of prayer of the Jewish people

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the Jewish people and was the place where priests especially ordered for different liturgical services officiated. After entering the Promised Land, the tabernacle of the congregation, with the ark of the covenant, was placed in Shiloh, in the central part of the Holy Land, in the borders of the family of Ephraim. The Jews gathered there at least once a year for offering sacrifices, but also for celebrating great feasts. Later, during the wars fought with the Philistines, the ark of the covenant, the tabernacle of the congregation and all its objects were stolen by the Philistines and taken to a city near Jerusalem, where they remained there during the reign of King Saul (the 11th century BCE). Punished with illnesses for stealing those sacred objects, the Philistines returned the ark to the Jews, being laid in a safe place. Afterwards, the tabernacle was moved to another place because the ritual was performed there. Thus, the symbol of the union of the Hebrew people disappeared. During the reign of King David (1000-961 BCE), the Hebrew tribes gathered, Jerusalem becoming the capital of the citadel in 1004 BCE. The ark of the covenant was brought to a new tabernacle of the congregation on Mount Sion, the event being a real feast. In addition, the prophet king took the decision to erect a temple, a House of the Heavenly God. God, however, sent him a message by Prophet Nathan that he would not be the one who would raise the temple, but his son Solomon. The mission of King David was the one of preparing the construction of the imposing temple, restoring the priestly groups of the tribe of Levi and bringing, with the help of the people, gold for paying the necessary materials.

Although he did not raise the temple during his reign as a king of the Jews, David received from God all the instructions as regards the architecture and use of the temple. He gave the information to his son, Solomon, who, enjoying peace and having the collected materials in Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 83

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hand, in the fourth year of his reign over Israel (April or May 967 BCE), began to erect it. The monument was finished after only seven years and a half, namely in 960 BCE, in the eighth month of the year. Built on the steep coasts of Mount Moriah, in the north-east of Mount Sion, the temple was much larger than the tabernacle of the congregation. Although the interior of the tabernacle was mostly kept, the temple, however, also had, besides the two large rooms, other rooms, used by the employed staff. The beauty of the architecture, gold, the brought riches, officiated liturgical services and offered sacrifices made the splendour of Jerusalem the most visited place of the Holy Land. In 587 BCE, Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar ravaged Judaea, and the temple was burnt. The Hebrews were departed to Babylon, where they remained for 50 years. In 539 BCE, Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon and released the Hebrew people. In 538 BCE, the exiles came back to their country with the vessels of the temple. Under the guidance of scholar priest Ezra and Nehemiah, the cup-bearer of Persian King Ahasuerus, the walls of Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt. Over centuries, the main figure within the people was the one of the great priest, who taught the people and urged them to wait for the Messiah. The Saviour went to the temple several times, where he taught the crowd, according to the New Testament. He chased away the dealers from there and criticised the illegality and hypocrisy of the priesthood. When He was crucified, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, seeming to prophesy what would happen in 70 AD, when the temple disappeared forever. Besides the biblical proofs, there are also other two important historical sources from which one can gather information about the Temple of Jerusalem. Borrowing the Jewish religious viewpoint, every part of the temple was interpreted as a divine symbol. Thus, the structure of the temple belonged to the discovery made by God to Moses, on Mount Sinai, where he received the two tables of testimony. The columns at the entrance into the temple symbolised the might of God and His creative strength. In the viewpoint of Solomon and the Hebrew people, the temple represented and foreshadowed the cosmos. The three constructive parts, namely the Holy of Holies, the Holy and the porch, represented the three fundamental elements of the Creation, namely the heaven, the earth and the waters. As concerned the cosmic meaning of the temple, it was said that the ark of the covenant, with its sacred elements, symbolised the nature of the universe. Describing the cosmic temple, the symbolism was elaborated, and the heaven was compared to the Holy of Holies and the objects in the temple were compared to the heavenly bodies. The ark of the covenant symbolised the heavenly bodies, the stars and the planets; the two sides of the ark were the two equinoxes, and the four golden rings with which it had been fastened at its ends were the four seasons. The two cherubs represented the two hemispheres. 84 The house of prayer of the Jewish people

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The kindness of religious people
Somebody can meet both good and bad people in the street. A car accident does not leave cold the pedestrians. Some of them involve themselves, give first aid to the victim, takes her immediately to a hospital. Others are just witnesses, sympathise with her or do nothing: they proceed on their journey as if nothing happened. The first of them, like the good Samaritan in the biblical parable, improve a prosocial behaviour, and the other ones, like the priest and the Levite, seem that they only appropriate from the Bible the teaching that says ‘Who goes on the road and mixes among those that's not of his species, is like the man who grabs the ears of his own the dog’, namely ‘he who will lie down with dogs will rise with fleas’ or ‘if you associate with evil people their habits are bound to rub off on you and you will be infected with the same evil that they have’. For hundreds of years, people studied and applied altruism, both within the religious and philosophic system and as a part of their life. However, the scientific study of altruism began quite late, the concept being introduced by Auguste Comte in 1851. Defined as an aid given to a person without aiming at gaining a material reward, as a result of the noble act performed, altruism can be learned from the interaction with the neighbour and advances within the human being, as a vital principle and manner of life, according as man moves up the social ladder. From a psychological viewpoint, it is not much known about the variables that influence the decision of a person to become a volunteer or other factors that stimulate and support so much volunteers. Psychologists were interested in finding out to what extent religious institutions and spiritually motivated volunteers play a part in determining the selfish and narcissistic behaviour. Most of the world religions support altruism as an important moral value. It is the central requirement within the teachings of Christ, especially within Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 85

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the sermon on the mount (‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy’), considered as a personal obligation within Islamism (‘the zakat’), socially revalued within Hinduism and Buddhism (the care for ‘the travelling monks’) and so on. A religion contributes to the promotion of altruism, namely it offers examples, methods and resources. The people who live more for the other ones than for themselves represent an example that should be followed. Religious literature is full of examples of remarkable people who transcended their own suffering and watch others compassionately. On the other hand, the studies using socio-experimental plans also showed that prosocial behaviour, as a source of religiousness, is limited to specific religious tendencies. Moreover, it rather reflects a selfish motivation (the concern for the self positive image) than an altruistic motivation. Religious people can be even discriminant and not sympathetic to the help of those who do not belong to their group. To find out if religious people are indeed more altruistic or aiding behaviour also showed itself in the same way in non-religious or less religious people, a series of experimental studies were conducted since 1976, and the results were astonishing, specifically religiousness is not a good forecast of aiding behaviour. Attending liturgical services is not necessarily transposed into a social consciousness or a calling for helping the others in times of need. Altruism implies self-sacrifice, and like any sacrifice, it must hurt the self to a certain degree. However, later psychological researches emphasised a series of factors that are presumed to influence aiding behaviour. Firstly, it is rumoured about the mood of the individual at that time, namely the individual in high spirits are more inclined to give help to somebody else than those low-spirited. When people feel fine, they are less concerned about themselves and more sensitive to the needs and troubles of somebody else. On the other hand, the persons that feel sad and annoyed concentrate more upon they themselves, their worries and troubles, are less concerned about about how well the others are and less inclined to give help to other people. Good, fine weather induces somebody to be in high spirits, which causes him to help his neighbours, and bad weather brings about somebody to be low-spirited and inhibits aiding behaviour. Many studies emphasised that men are more inclined to help women than women are inclined to help men. A typical scenario is a puncture, when a driver is obliged to call upon the help of 86 The kindness of religious people

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the other ones. It is noticeable that men will be the first ones that will stop (as a rule, alone) to give help to the driver in need, but if the sexual motivation of men is taken into consideration, one cannot affirm that they have an empathic ability greater than the one of women. Although it is one of the most difficult behaviour that can be defined, altruism can be detected through the tomograms of the brain, according to the new American researches. They proved the activity in the posterior superior temporal context area that could predict altruistic behaviour and the own thoughts of people as concerned how selfish or generous they were. Although understanding the function of the region of this area of the brain does not necessarily identify what caused people to act in an altruistic way, it might help researchers to understand the origins of some important prosocial behaviours. Surprisingly, the size of the locality of origin of the individual has a certain influence on this kind of behaviour, namely the individuals that spent their childhood in small cities or in the countryside are more inclined to help their neighbour than those who live in large cities. Time is another situational factor that might influence prosocial behaviour, according to a study conducted in 1973, specifically the individuals pressed by time were less willing to help than the ones that were not pressed by time. Likewise, perceiving the similarity to the neighbour in need increases the desire of a person to help her neighbour. Perceiving the similarity includes features such as the race, ethnicity, family or kind of problem. When two persons share one or more of these features, a common relationship is created, through which they relate. Their common features lead to aiding behaviour, what was proved by the studies conducted in 1997. The children under 18 months show an altruistic behaviour, suggesting that people are naturally inclined to help the others, as it was proved in German researches. Experimenters set simple tasks, and almost of the 24 children helped them by carrying out the tasks, as a rule within the first ten seconds of the experiment. They did it only because they believed the researcher needed help, but they did not do it if the researcher did something deliberately. The altruistic behaviour is not met only in people, but also with animals, especially with the animals having complex social structures. For instance, vampire bats regularly regurgitate blood, which is then given to the other members of the group which failed to eat that night. Monkeys give alarm signals to warn their group members of the presence of predators, even if Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 87

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their action would thus attract the attention of predator to themselves, at the risk of their life. When they see that the feathers of their father fell for its old age, storks stay around it and warm it.

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The iconostasis, the limit between two worlds
The iconostasis is the wall consisting of icons that separate the altar, where the Holy Communion is performed, from the central part, the nave, where the community of believers is. Because every element has spiritual meanings within the Orthodox Church, not even the iconostasis is a simple separating wall or a decorative element, but one of union between everlastingness and transitoriness. The Holy Fathers consider the iconostasis to be similar with a limit between two worlds, namely the divine one and the human one, the everlasting one and the transient one. It was also provided the following explanation: ‘The columns on the iconostasis represent the sky that separates the spiritual world from the sensitive one. It signifies the union of the heaven with the earth through love’. In olden times, the iconostasis was formed of a lower lattice, whose height only came to the breast, on which icons were placed. Later, the lattice increased in height, other small columns, untied through icons and fastened through pillar or a horizontal beam, adorned with the cross and the icon of the Crucifixion of the Saviour, being added to the columns that supported its grating. After the Seventh Ecumenical Council, held in 787, and the Council of Constantinople (held from 842 to 843), when icon worship was definitely established, many rows of icons, which are called registers, began to be added over the beam, coming to gain the shape that is seen today. An iconostasis is furnished with three doors, namely one in the centre, with two wings, and other two side doors, each of them with one wing. The ones in the centre are called holy doors because only the clergy (deacons, priests, hierarchs), who, during liturgical services, carry holy objects (the Holy Gifts, the Holy Gospel and so on) in their hands, pass through them. They are also called great or royal doors, because emperors once passed through them when they offered their gifts to the altar or received the Eucharist, but also the Emperor of the Heavens, Christ the Saviour, passes through them as the Holy Gifts, during the Great Entrance (the moment when the Cherubic Hymn is Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 89

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chanted in the church) at the Holy Liturgy. The icon of the Annunciation is painted on the royal doors so that the two characters of the scene – the Mother of God and the Holy Archangel Gabriel to appear face to face, each of them on a wing of the doors (usually the Holy Virgin is painted on the right side and the Holy Archangel Gabriel on the left one). The Mother of God is painted there because she is the one who opened the doors of the tender-heartedness of the heaven unto Christians, which are symbolised by the royal doors, as the priest is praying before starting the Holy Liturgy: ‘Open unto us the door of the tender-heartedness, O Blessed Theotokos; in that we hoped in you, may we not perish, but through you be delivered from adversities, for you are the salvation of the generation of Christians’. The faces of the four Holy Evangelists, as ones that wrote about the good news brought by the angel to Mary, are painted in inset portraits at the four corners of the Annunciation scene or below it. The side above the royal doors is covered with a fabric curtain of different colours, called iconostases screen, that is drawn sideways or raised in the moments arranged during liturgical services. The doors from the north and south are often called sideways doors or Deacons’ Doors because deacons pass through them during ektenes, entrances and other moments within the liturgical service specified in the Ritual. An ektene includes requests as a prayer said by a priest or deacon. Ektenes are requests addressed to God, especially used during the Holy Liturgy, to which the quire or psalm reader answers ‘Lord, have mercy’. The faces of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, as guardians of the heaven doors, or the faces of two deacon saints (Saint Stephen and Saint Philip or Saint Lawrence) are painted on them. Deacons are painted there both because they represent the angels in the heavens during a divine service and since deacons pass through these doors whenever they leave and enter the altar. Two of the military saints (Saint George and Saint Demetrios), as guardians of the heaven doors, can be also painted in the place of deacons. The royal icon of the Saviour (Christ as an emperor or archpriest, sitting on the throne and holding the Holy Gospel opened and blessing) and the royal icon of the Blessed Virgin (the Mother of 90 The iconostasis, the limit between two worlds

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God as an empress, sitting on the throne and holding the Baby in her arms) are painted on the spaces between the royal doors and the lateral doors, on the right side (to the south). These two icons are called royal icons firstly because they represent the main icons in the church iconography, in which the two main characters in the history of humankind – the Saviour and the Mother of God – are depicted in their heavenly glory and secondly since they surround the royal doors. These two icons are especially venerated both by the clergy and by lay people, being adorned with precious stones or being mounted in silver or gold in some churches. Close to the same register, the icon of the patron saint of the church is painted on the space on the right of the lateral doors from the south, and the icons of some saints venerated especially in the respective region, such as Saint Nicholas, Saint John the Baptist, Venerable Paraschiva of Iaşi and others, are painted on the opposite side. Four themes in the history of the Old Testament, which are symbolically related to the Sacrifice of the New Law, namely the ministration of Zacharias (the father of Saint John the Baptist), raising the copper serpent in the wilderness, as the symbol of the redeeming cross, the sacrifice of Abraham, which foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of bread and wine offered by Salem, the King of Jerusalem, to Melchizedek, which also foreshadowed the Eucharistic sacrifice, are painted on the space under the register of the royal icons. The next register of the iconostasis is represented by the icons of the twelve royal feasts. In the middle of them, in an inset portrait, the Resurrection of the Lord, as the greatest feast , the Last Supper or the Crucifixion is painted. The icon of Christ that is not painted by the human hand, namely the headkerchief of Saint Veronica or the face of the Saviour imprinted on the Brick of King Abgar of Edessa is places on the small empty space situated between the basic body of the iconostasis and the register of the festive icons, if it exists. In the middle register, the faces of the Twelve Holy Apostles, and sometimes the ones of the Seventy Disciples as well, are painted. In the centre, there is the icon of the Saviour, depicted either alone, as the Teacher or within the Deisis icon, the Holy Virgin representing the Church of the New Law there, and Saint John the Baptist symbolising the Old Testament Church. Twelve great and minor prophets of the Old Testament are painted on the next row of icons, being usually depicted standing and holding different symbols in their hands. In the middle of them, there is the icon of the Blessed Virgin holding the Baby in her hands. Above all the icons, over the iconostasis, there is the Cross on which the Redeemer is painted, and the Mother of God and Saint John, both of them with their hands folded in an attitude of veneration, prayer or mourning, are painted in two smaller icons at the feet of the cross. The exceptions or deviation from the iconographic normative programme of the iconostasis are rare, being generally caused by some zonal traditions or practical (sometimes financial) needs.

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Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem represents a personality of note of Christianity, a hierarch loved by the believers he pastorated and a popular theologian that dedicated himself to defending the Orthodox teaching. The rage he showed whenever it was about the misinterpretation of the revealed truth brought him about undeserved exiles, but which he bored forcibly and hopefully. The day of 18th March, when he is commemorated, brings Christians about recalling his life and presenting catecheses through which he made his name as as great teacher and Father of the Church. Saint Cyril was born in Jerusalem around 315. He entered monastic life from a child and dedicated himself to deeply studying the Holy Scripture. In 335, he was ordained deacon by Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem, and ten years later, Bishop Maximus ordained him priest. After short time, in 348, he was honoured to be appointed as bishop of Jerusalem, and in his new capacity, he uttered the catecheses through which he made his name. The catechisation notion refers to supporting, training, teaching someone the important truths about Christ, salvation, the Sacraments of the Church, the Holy Tradition and so on. Then followed a darker period in his life because of the conflict into which he came with Metropolitan Acacius of Caesarea. Acacius had been declared an Arian heretic by a council held at Sardica, and Saint Cyril, as a strong defender of the right belief, did not want to submit to his heresy. A heretic is a person that deviated from the right teaching of the Christian Church, adopting, supporting and spreading another belief. A heresy shows the wrong teaching of some persons or groups of persons; a doctrinarian deviation from the teaching of the Church. Owing to the relationship of Acacius with Emperor Constantius, he succeeded in sending Saint Cyril into exile, under the pretext of selling the goods of the Church he pastorated, to help the poor during a period of famine. Driven away, Cyril went to Bishop Sylvan of Antioch. In 360, Julian the Apostate ascended the throne of the empire and brought all the banished bishops from exile. Saint Cyril resumed his activity, witnessing the wonders happened during the attempt to build the Temple of Jerusalem. The evidences of that time show that a very strong earthquake demolished the new foundation of the Temple. It is also said that a fire from the heaven burnt 92 Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

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all the tools used for building it and the sign of the Holy Cross appeared on the clothes of those who worked to raise the building. After the wonders and the sermons that reproved the initiative of the emperor, Saint Cyril was exiled again. Julian ruled over the empire for short time, but his successor, Emperor Valens (who sympathised with Arianism), did not show himself more merciful towards Saint Cyril and exiled him for the third time, because of the firmness he showed whenever he blamed heresies. In 379, when Theodosius the Great ascended the throne of the empire, Cyril resumed his activity honourably, keeping his believers for other eight years, until he fell asleep into the Lord. When he held the appointment of bishop of Jerusalem, Saint Cyril delivered a series of catecheses before the people and made a profound impact on the Christian world. Uttered in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around 350, they represent important evidences of the faith and practices of those times. The catecheses of Saint Cyril are 24 in number: the Procatechesis or prologue lecture, 18 catecheses addressed to catechumens and 5 mystagogic catecheses addressed to the ones that had received Baptism recently (neophytes). A neophyte is a person who recently embraced a new religion and is not completely initiated yet. They dealt with topics such as Baptism, repentance, Christian dogmas, the Holy Trinity, the Church and explained the Creed completely. A dogma is a truth of faith included in the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition; the doctrine of faith formulated within a council, in which the Church recognises the whole content and the Orthodox development of the apostolic teaching, left either through the written tradition or the verbal one. Mystagogic catecheses explained the ritual of the Holy Baptism and the one of Chrismation, interpret the important moments during the Holy Liturgy and impressively talk about the Holy Eucharist. Saint Cyril attended the Second Ecumenical Light of Christianity – Volume 2, July 2010 93

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Council that was held in Constantinople in 381 together with Saints Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Archbishop Meletios of Antioch and other great Fathers of the Church. He played a very important part in struggling against Pnevmatomach heretics (who denied the complete divinity of the Holy Spirit) and the Apolinarist ones (who denied the existence of the rational soul within the hypostasis of the Saviour Christ), but also in formulating the Trinitarian dogma. The symbol of faith (the Creed), called the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan Creed until today, after the localities that lodged the first two ecumenical councils, was finalised. Saint Cyril explained the Symbol in his Catecheses minutely. A catechumenate meant the entire period of preparation attended by those who wanted to embrace Christianity. The discipline created by the catechumens’ institution around it is a characteristic of the life of early Christianity. In those hard times, with many wars and persecutions, Christianity represented the most viable alternative, thanks to the change and superiority with which it came on a spiritual level. Therefore, as many people say, Christianity had become a real fashion of that time, but a fashion that had to be assumed responsibly and seriously. Moreover, on account of confronting countless heresies, divisions and persecutions, not even the Church could venture to admit feeble-minded people, with doubts as to the truths of faith. Through the Catechumenate times, future Christians were prepared to welcome the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and the other liturgical rituals. The bishop admitted someone among catechumens after a minute verification of the reasons that urged the candidate on his belief, as well as his moral life. Those admitted were entrusted to the care of a clerical catechist, who initiated them into the mysteries of the faith and reveal holy truths to them. The Catechumenate times varied from two to three years, as the bishop decided, and had many stages. During the last stage, catechumens, who were called ‘illuminated (photisomeni)’ at that time, intensified the catechisation process with fasting and prayers, making ready for receiving Baptism. More often than not, the last stage coincided with Great Lent, and they received Baptism during the night of the Resurrection. Saint Cyril also uttered his Catecheses during such a night, addressing to some catechumens.

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