Page 1







EDITORIAL THE BEGINNING OF A NEW CHRISTIAN MAGAZINE The article you are reading is the first leader within a new project to publish a Christian magazine, a digital one, designed to inform faithful readers about the personalities and events that marked the history of the Church. Released only on the Internet to save the health of the Earth, the magazine will feature trustworthy articles, high-resolution photo­ graphs, and the definitions found in the magazine will come from reliable dictionaries. The definitions from the dictionaries will be found highlighted in blue right after the sen­ tence where the word exists. Starting from the definition of the magazine found in the dic­ tionary, it is a large thin book with a paper cover that somebody can buy every week or month, containing articles, photographs and so on, often on a particular topic, I deemed it necessary to combine the specific features of a book with the ones of a magazine, making it a reference work, at which people can look in order to get information. Thus, the magazine includes a leader, which is an important article that expresses the opinion of the editor about an item of news or an issue, featured articles and stunning photographs, typical to magazines, and the notion of volume, typical to books, but also to magazines, which is a book as a part of a series of books and a series of different issues of the same magazine, es ­ pecially 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, which will be just the calligraphy of the name of the magazine. My name is Marius Popa, an individual living in Romania, and I thought to release my magazine for helping people interested in religion be able to read articles on religious top­ ics. Thus, they can find out something reliable about religious themes in which they are in­ terested. However, readers are not allowed to print, modify, and copy the magazine or a part of it, but only use it on their computer. My magazine can be downloaded, so that readers can lend them to their friends, family and anybody they want. In the end, I wish you enjoy reading my magazine and I am looking forward to releasing its next issue. I also hope that readers will love my magazine and they will also be pleased to tell anybody else about it. If you want to contact me for further information regarding the project of my magazine, please send me a message to The first issue of my magazine features an article on three icons found at Mount Athos. The Holy Mount Athos is considered a fortress or a stronghold of Orthodoxy, being a true monastic republic. The Holy Mount Athos is geographically situated in north-eastern Greece. It is about 60 kilometres long and between 8 and 12 kilometres wide, totalising about 360 square kilometres.




COVER STORY HOLY ICONS WORKING WONDERS IN THE HOLY MOUNT ATHOS Holy icons adorn churches and Christian houses, but they also comfort souls, according to the will of God. In hard times for the Church, in trials from the outside and inside, the mir ­ acles performed through the presence of icons consolidated faith, brought the mind of people back from wandering often directing their thoughts and deeds to the good and true matter. The icons in the Holy Mount Athos are the obvious evidence of the intercession power of the Blessed Virgin, the protector of the Holy Mount and quick helper for all be ­ lievers, before God. One of the most beautiful and appreciated icons for veneration in the Holy Mount Athos is the Panagia Portaitissa (which, when translated from Greek, means ‘Keeper of the Gate’), found at the Iveron Monastery. To venerate means to have and show a lot of respect for somebody or something, especially somebody or something, such as an icon, that is considered to be holy or very important. An icon is a sacred image that represents Jesus Christ, the Mother of God or a saint. During the reign of Byzantine Emperor Theophilos (829-942), who fought against ven­ eration of icons, the holy ecclesiastical object belonged to a widow who lived in the citadel of Nicaea and who kept it in a chapel, where she prayed every day to the Heavenly Queen together with her son. Ecclesiastical objects are precious canonicals and other sacred ob­ jects, used during liturgical services. A chapel is a small building or room built near a church, in a graveyard, inside a building and so on. At that time, several soldiers were sent to towns by the command of the em­ peror to collect all the icons from the houses of believers. Hearing about the treasure of the widow, the soldiers came to her house and suggested her to conclude a bargain, namely they would leave the chapel un­ touched if they would get a sum of money. To pay them, the woman asked them to grant her a day’s grace to get the money they re­ quested. After the soldiers had left, she knelt together with her son before the painted face of the Blessed Virgin, but they had to part with Her Most Holy icon without their con­ sent in order not to be mocked by the mes­ sengers of the emperor. Then, taking the icon, they put it on water, but it worked a wonder, remaining straight and going away on sea as if it was carried by an unseen breath. The following day, the soldiers had come back, but be­ cause they did neither find the icon nor get the money for which they had been waiting, they killed the old woman unfeelingly. After some time, the monks who lived at the Iveron Monas­ 4


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER tery in the Holy Mount Athos, situated very near the shore of the Aegean Sea, saw a pillar of light that rose from the sea going up to heaven. A monk is a man who belongs to a monastic community and who pledged himself under oath to follow the three evangelic pieces of advice (votes): poverty of his own accord, purity and obedience towards the spiritual leader. They gathered together in haste and saw the wonder, namely a large-sized icon moving on water. Some monks took a boat and vainly tried to retrieve the precious ecclesiastical object because the more they got near to it, the more the icon moved away from them.

The Mother of God revealed to a hermit Because they did not succeed in retrieving it, the monks came back to the monastery, praying to the Mother of God with much piety in order the icon to be given to them. A monastery is a religious establishment that includes a church and several cells where monks live according to some rules of austere life. Piety is the state of having or showing a deep respect for somebody or something, especially for God and religion. However, nobody who lived within the monas­ tery did receive the gift. The Mother of God revealed only to a hermit, named Gabriel, who lived an ascetic life beyond the Holy Monastery of Iveron, telling him to come down to the seashore and take her painted face because she wanted to devote herself to them. A hermit, also called recluse, solitary, loner, ascetic, anchorite, anchoress, er­ emite, stylite, pillarist, pillar hermit, pil­ lar saint, solitudinarian, is a monk isol­ ated from the world, who leads a hard life. On the following day, the anchorite came down to the seashore and, signing himself with the Holy Cross, he went to­ wards it. The icon came to meet him, and, taking it in his arms and kissing it with piety, he gave the icon to the monks. When the old anchorite took the first step on the ground, a little stream, which also flows nowadays, sprang from that place. Although found at the sea level, the stream has sweet water and can heal the illnesses of the people who trust in it. The icon was welcomed by the monks with great joy, and the priests of the monastery brought it very honourably to the church, where they performed a night service dedicated to the Most Pure Mother of God, thereupon they went to their cells. A priest is a person that performs the rituals of a religious worship, interceding with divinity for his neighbours. On the following day, seeing surprisingly that the icon had disappeared from the church, the verger charged with the kindling of icon LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER lamps ran to inform the abbot of the sad piece of news. A verger is a person charged with the guard of a church, undertaking some tasks when the religious ritual is performed as well. An abbot is a person charged with the leadership of a monastery. They were looking for it anxiously and found it lying in the air at the gates of the monastery. Saying prayers, they took it and put it back in its first location, but on the following two days, the icon left the church and remained at the gates. Confused, the monks asked themselves about the mysterious leaving. After saying many prayers, the Mother of God revealed to anchorite Gabriel again, informing him of going to tell the fathers that she had come there in order to protect them and not for being defended by them, and, therefore, they had not to anger any more, leading her icon back to the church. On those terms, the abbot together with the entire community of the monastery decided to build a chapel at the gate, where the icon is also situated today. Consequently, the Holy Monastery of Iveron, as a place, is a little strange, meaning the chapel, which is situated sideways and houses the icon, plays the most important part, and not the big church of the monastery.

The Holy Virgin answered the prayers of a blind man Many people prayed before the icon, and many and great miracles were performed as a result of their prayers. It is well-known the wonder that happened to a blind man by birth, who, praying for healing him, promised to the Mother of God that the first thing he would see when his eyes would open, he would make it from silver and give it to the monastery. To pray means to speak to God, especially to give thanks or ask for help. To heal means to cure somebody who is ill or sick. The Holy Virgin answered to his prayers, and his eyes, which had not seen sunlight until that time, opened. A lemon tree found in the yard of the monastery was seen by the man who had been healed wonderfully and, since then, a silver lemon tree is guarding before the icon, in memory of the wonder and to the praise of the Holy Virgin, every year on the church festival dedicated to the Dormition of the Holy Virgin. The Blessed Virgin however revealed through the icon as a supporter of the poor as well. One day, at the entrance into the Iveron Monastery, a hungry man got near to the doorkeeper to ask him for a piece of bread, but the guard足 ian sent him away unfeelingly, telling him that he could not get anything if he had no money. Despairing, he went to Karyes, the capital of the Holy Mount Athos, but since he could not suffer from hunger and weariness, he sat down at the shade of a tree, on a stone, and burst into tears, asking the Mother of God for a piece of bread as he could not suffer from hunger any more. A woman suddenly got near to him and asked him in a caressing voice why 6


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER he was crying, whereupon he told her that he was starving and the porter of the monastery had sent him away because he had had no money for a piece of bread. Then, giving him a golden coin, the woman told him not to be anxious any more, but give the coin to the door­ keeper to get a piece of bread, and tell him that she would take the entire plenty of their com­ munity if they would go on behaving like that. Satisfied, thanking the woman for her benevol­ ence, and, going to the porter, the poor man asked him for a piece of bread again. He showed the golden coin and was asked from where he had received it. Being told about what had happened, the doorkeeper quaked. He entered the church and saw that a golden coin missed from the necklace from the Mother of God icon, and the coin was in his hand, namely the one brought by the poor man. The porter called the hungry pilgrim to the church and asked him for looking at the icon. The man recognised the face of the woman who had taken pity on him. Then, humbled, the guardian was ashamed of his bad action, and, finding out about the pitiless gesture of the porter, the abbot admonished him hardly. The solicitude of the Holy Virgin to­ wards the anxious were not mere words, but it was a matter of a wonder. Consequently, it was decided a chest to be always found at the gate of the monastery in order people to put pieces of bread for the poor every day, and the habit also continues today at the monastery.

The Iveron Monastery was plundered by Persian unbelievers During Persian attacks on Constantinople, finding out that many monasteries and valuable icons were found at the Holy Mount Athos, the unbelievers disembarked at the Iveron Monas ­ tery to plunder it. They took everything they found valuable and tried to destroy the church, tying the steeple of the worship place with thick ropes which where then bound to their ships. Hidden in the tower of the monastery out of fear and scared of the action of which pagans were thinking, the monks rose the icon of the Mother of God ‘Portaitissa’, praying with bitter tears. After plundering the monastery, led by head Amira, the Persians went on their ships and were to tear off the dome of the church, but the heavy storm that began led to the sub­ merging of all the ships, excepting the one of the Persian captain. To plunder means to steal goods from (a place or person), typic­ ally using force and in a time of war or civil disorder. A dome is a rounded vault forming the roof of a building or structure, typically with a circular base. On the following day, Amira came back to the monastery and, fall­ ing on his knees, brought back all the gold he had stolen, saying that he had known the power of the Christian God, giving the gold to the monks for consolidating the walls of the monastery and telling the monks to pray for him in order not to happen to him what had happened to his comrades. The icon is said that, LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER at the end of the world, will leave the Holy Mount Athos because the Holy Skepi of the Blessed Virgin will be taken from that place. There are two days when the icon is venerated in a partic­ ular way, namely on 15th August and on the Shrove Monday (the Monday before Ash Wednes­ day, the first day of Lent in the Western Christianity calendar that occurs 46 days before Pascha), when it is venerated in the chapel at the seashore, the place where it had been taken from the sea.

The Chiliandari Monastery houses a miraculous icon Among the other monasteries within the Holy Mount Athos that keep icons of the Holy Virgin about which it is recorded that they perform many miracles, the Serbian monastery, Chili­ andari, is counted as well. It was erected in the 12 th century by Prince Rastko, the son of Ser­ bian King Stefan Nemanja. The icon that dwells at the Holy Monastery of Chiliandari is known as ‘the Virgin with Three Hands’ and is commemorated by the Church on 28thJune and 12thJuly. It was also re­ ceived by the son of the Serbian king from the monks living at the monas­ tery dedicated to Saint Sabbas the Sanctified situated in the Holy Land, where Rastko had gone for praying. The icon turned out to be a wonderworking one since it had arrived at the Holy Mount Athos. During the reign of iconoclast Emperor Leon III the Isaurian (717-741), an educated young man named John, who lived in Damascus, Syria, was looking through his writings for defending the right belief concerning the ven­ eration of holy icons. An iconoclast is a partisan of iconoclasm, a heretic religious movement in the 8thcen­ tury that wanted to eliminate the veneration of holy icons. John was very appreciated in the citadel of Damascus and loved by the ruler of the city. Finding out that John op­ posed the imperial order that con­ sidered veneration of holy icons as a manifestation of idolatry that de­ termined the angry of God and explained all the mischances through which the empire went, Leo composed a false letter in 717, through which it was said that John had invited the Byz­ antine emperor to conquer the capital of Syria. Idolatry is the worship of idols, graven images after the likeness of man, living beings and created things, considered deities of gods, and to which people made sacrifices and which they adored. Adding his own epistle to the authorities of Damascus to the letter, the Byzantine emperor succeeded in stopping John from preaching 8


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER his ideas, and his right hand, the one which had written many works for defending the right belief, was cut. The hand of John remained hung in the square of the city to set a good example to everybody. Towards evening, tortured by pain, John asked through acquaintances for being given his cut hand back. The commandant of the citadel agreed, and taking his hand back, John prayed before the icon of the Holy Virgin begging her, because his hand had been cut unjustly, to have mercy on him and heal his right hand in order to use it for defending the right belief.

The Blessed Virgin revealed in a vision of Saint John of Damascus Praying like that for long time, with bitter tears, he fell asleep because of his tiredness, and the Blessed Virgin revealed in his vision, telling him that his hand was sound and he would be able to use it as he had promised and not to be sad any more. Awakening, John saw that his hand was then in its place, and only a red sign marked the place where it had been cut. The entire citadel found out about the action that had happened to the young man. Some people said that John was not the one whose right hand had been cut, but a servant who was sent by John to re­ place him. To prove the truth, the com­ manding officer of Damascus called John, asking him for showing his right hand. Seeing the sign that had re­ mained, they realised that a wonder had happened. The one by whose com­ mand the right hand of John had been cut, recognising his guilt, called John to himself, asking him for coming to be at his service. However, John answered him that he could not serve him any more, but he wanted to devote himself entirely to God and serve Whoever had had mercy on him. As a satisfaction for his cure, John made a hand from silver, according to his cut right hand and stuck it to the icon of the Blessed Vir­ gin, before whom he had been cured. Afterwards, taking the icon, he went to the Holy Monas ­ tery ‘Saint Sabbas the Sanctified’ situated in the Holy Land, where he turned monk and wrote many works about the Christian teaching. He was Saint John of Damascus, the great teacher of the Church of Christ in the 8 thcentury. Later, the monks living at the Holy Monastery of ‘Saint Sabbas’ gave the icon to Prince Rastko of Serbia. When the Ottomans invaded Serbia, the icon was sent to the Chiliandari Monastery. A copy of the icon was sent in 1661 to Russia, being even established a special day of veneration on 25 thJuly. The ‘Panagia Tricherousa’ icon came from Palestine to the Holy Mount Athos. It was placed in the altar of the church, but not for long time. Because the abbot of the Holy Monastery of Chiliandari died and since they did not LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER know whom they should have chosen to lead their community, the monks started misunder­ standing one another. In the meantime, the icon of the Blessed Virgin left the place where it had been placed in the beginning and was found in the lectern of the Father Superior for sev ­ eral days. The monks were confused about what happened, but an old eremite, who led a spir ­ itual life, explained them the wonder, telling them that the Mother of God had sent him to let them know not to choose an abbot any more because she wanted to be the abbot and pro­ tector of the monastery. Since then, the Holy Monastery of Chiliandari had not any abbot, but only an abbot helper that deals with the affairs of the monastery, and when the monks need something, they go and receive blessing from the icon of the Blessed Virgin.

The Romanian Skete Prodromos houses an icon not made by human hands However, not only the Greeks or Serbians have icons of the Holy Virgin before which wonders were performed, but also the Romanians keep such a precious ecclesiastical object in their church at the Romanian Skete Prodromos. After founding the monastery during the first half of the 19thcentury, hieromonk Nifon wanted to endow the skete with an icon of the Blessed Virgin, to protect the cloister, as all the monasteries of the Holy Mount Athos had. A cloister is a convent or monastery. Be­ cause not a painter did correspond to the wish of the Romanian abbot, a skilled work­ man able to realise the work was sought throughout Moldavia. In 1863, after a long search, the founder of the skete, Nifon, asked an old painter in Iași, Iordache Nicolau, to paint an icon of the Blessed Virgin, according to the canon of the Church, namely by daily reading the Akathist to the Mother of God and fasting (eating only after ceasing the work that day). A skete is a monastic style community that allows relative isolation for monks, but also allows for communal ser­ vices and the safety of shared resources and protection. Working at the icon progressed well. The workman had advanced to painting the faces, but he stopped there. All the attempts he made to paint the faces in the icon meant as many failures. Seized with despair, the painter covered the unfinished icon with a fabric and, grieved, without eating or drinking something, was absorbed in praying. On the following day in the morning, the painter entered the workshop with the intention of succeeding in fin­ ishing the work assigned to him by the fathers living at the Holy Mount Athos. However, mira ­ culously, taking the linen from the icon, he discovered the painted face of the Virgin Mary, not made by hand and brilliant. The Romanian monks living at the Holy Mount Athos were in ­ formed and, seeing the icon, all of them prayed to the Mother of God piously saying that it had been a really great gift from her. Until it arrived at the Holy Mount Athos, the icon had been a source of healing for many of those who prayed before it. Sick and helpless people came and 10


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER prayed to the icon, then were sprinkled with consecrated water, thereupon they went home healed. Hearing about the icon, even Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza ordered the icon to be stopped in the country because the wonder of painting the face of the Virgin Mary had been worked there. However, the icon arrived at the Holy Mount Athos, at the Romanian Skete Pro ­ dromos, and was called ‘Acheiropoietos’ (‘Not made by hand’).




FEATURED ARTICLE ICONOCLASM Iconoclasm or the fight against holy icons was a moment of great ordeal in the history of the Church. The ability of two women made an end of a crisis that lasted more than one century. Leo III the Isaurian, the first emperor that fought against holy icons during the Middle Ages, declared that he was an emperor and a priest and began the war against holy icons. When iconoclasm appeared, Islam had made itself more and more conspicuous as a political and military power for about one century. When Byzantine Emperor Leo III the Isaurian officially initiated iconoclasm as the state policy, many people reproached him with his two great sensibility at Islamic objections as to the way in which Christians used to worship God and honour icons. Despite he fell drawn to Islam, when he was crowned, the new emperor found himself in the face of the danger of a precedented Muslim invasion. Islam is the religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah. In 717, Hellespont had been already conquered, and on 15thAugust, when the Byzantines celeb­ rated the Feast of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, Constantinople started being besieged. The Dardanelles, formerly known as the Hellespont, literally ‘Sea of Helle’, is a narrow strait in north-western Turkey connecting the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. Sup­ porting land troops, a gigantic fleet of about 18,000 vessels entered Propontis, occupying the entire expanse of the gulf before Con­ stantinople. The Sea of Marmara, also known as the Sea of Marmora or the Marmara Sea, and in the context of classical antiquity as the Propontis, is the inland sea that connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea, thus separating the Asian and European parts of Turkey. The superiority on sea, however, belonged to the Byzantines thanks to the Greek fire, and the city, endowed plentifully with resources for defence, was inexpugnable from land. The Greek fire was a combustible compound emitted by a flame-throwing weapon, used to set light to enemy ships. The greatest Arab expedition failed deplorably, namely less than a quarter of 18,000 servicemen who had par­ ticipated in it went home, and only five ships of almost 2,000 came back. The most important event in the life of the Church under Emperor Leo III the Isaurian was, however, the appear ­ ance of the iconoclastic movement, whose promoter was the emperor himself. Later, histori­ ans found many social causes for the appearance of iconoclasm, but the personal qualities of the basileus also played a major part, undoubtedly, for the affirmation of the movement, 12


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER namely, first of all, his Eastern origin and that he liked the Arabs plainly, and then his stub­ bornness. Once veneration of holy icons condemned, the basileus did not want to give up any more, although he himself saw the unhappy consequences of going wrong. In 728, the em­ peror ordered icons that illustrated religious scenes in the churches of Constantinople to be covered with paint. Because he failed to bring neither Pope Gregory II nor Patriarch Gherman of Constantinople over to his side, the emperor convened a theological conference in Con­ stantinople in 730. To convene means to come or bring together for a meeting or activity. Ex­ cluding Patriarch Gherman of Constantinople, who declined to join iconoclasm, those present signed the decisions of the pretended council and, thus, iconoclasm was promulgated. To pro­ mulgate means to spread an idea or a belief to as many people as possible.

Crowds of people revolted in favour of icon veneration Under the aegis of defending holy icons, all the circles hostile to the emperor gathered to ­ gether, and the country was rambled by a wave of mutinies. A mutiny is an open rebellion against the proper authorities, especially by soldiers or sailors against their officers. During the following year, the population of Greece and Thrace revolted. When a courtier was sent for destroying an icon of Jesus Christ above a gate in the city, he was lynched by the infuriated heap of people. A courtier is a person who attends a royal court as a companion or adviser to the king or queen. To lynch means to kill (someone) for an al­ leged offence without a legal trial, espe­ cially by hanging. Ironical letters started to flow between Rome and Constantinople. Theologically, veneration of holy icons was not defended only by the Pope that answered well, although cautiously, to Em­ peror Leo, but also by Patriarch Gherman I of Constantinople, who did the same thing in his letters addressed to three important clergymen, in which he showed that vener­ ation of holy icons of Christ was different from worshipping Christ Himself. A clergy­ man is a priest or minister in the Christian church. Especially in its early period, icono­ clasm received a ready answer from a Christian Arab, namely Saint John of Dam­ ascus, who wrote three treaties against the new heresy from Damascus. A heresy is a term that shows the wrong teaching of some people or groups of people; an infraction of doc­ trine from the teaching of the Church. Under the son of Leo, the situation became worse. Con­ stantine V showed a strong attachment to iconoclasm and, in that respect, he did not forgive anybody of those who opposed him, persecuting cruelly all the people of different faiths, espe­ cially monks. Persecutions against ‘bringers of the dark’, as the basileus called the monks who LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER defended holy icons, started throughout the country. A basileus is a title born by Byzantine emperors; a person that bore that title. Persecutors turned out to be very inventive as con­ cerned causing the monks a death as cruel as possible, namely their heads were crushed over an icon, and the hands of icon painters were burnt. To save themselves from the persecutions initiated by the authorities, thousands of monks ran away from the emperor to the West, Sicily and Rome. The emperor once confused the Christian capital showing it an unprecedented rep­ resentation, namely joining hands, two by two, dozens of monks and nuns passed, in a shame­ ful procession, exposed to the injuries and derision of hysterical people on the field of the racecourse in the city. The successor of Constantine V that ascended the throne of the East Ro ­ man Empire was Leo IV. According to historical tradition, he is described as a mediocre ruler, during whose reign even the heat of the religious fight weakened a little more than before thanks to his apathy and non-interference in such affairs. Although iconoclasm remained the ground of the state policy, persecutions against iconodules, namely supporters of icon venera­ tion, discontinued. Holy icons began to come again in the life of the Byzantines and even ap ­ peared in the imperial palace. Irene, who became the empress of the entire empire after mar­ rying Leo IV, was responsible for all those changes. She was actively involved in the political life of the court. It is unlikely that the basileus approved her attitude, and when he discovered two icons in her bedroom in the summer of 780, the discontinuation arose. The ruling couple did not have the opportunity to get on well together, namely, after short time, Leo IV was taken ill and passed away on 8thSeptember 780.

Veneration of holy icons was restored with the help of Empress Theodora The son of Leo, Constantine VI, was a minor so that his mother Irene became a regent. A regent is a person appointed to administer a state because the monarch is a minor or is absent or incapacit­ ated. In 784, after calming Arabic incursions by giving money to the intruders and through a series of wars fought with the Bulgarians, the empress began preparing the ground for restoring veneration of holy icons. The first move was made by choosing Tarasios, a former imperial secretary, for acting as the Patriarch of Constantinople. Icon­ odules already played a leading part on a par with the aristocracy of the capital, and the first confer­ ence of the Seventh Holy Ecumenical Council was opened on 24th September 787 in Nicaea. An ecu­ menical council had been a meeting of bishops of the entire Christian Church before the Great Schism in 1054. When the great meeting was closed, the Church breathed easily again. After several decades of persecution, the Church found, although temporarily, its faith and unity. On 11thJune 843, Leo V the Armenian ascended the throne of the imperial capital of Constantinople. He turned out to be an energetic and able man, but also a secretive iconoclast, what, together, contributed to the quick restoration of the 14


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER heretic teaching. In 814, he entrusted John, a less known clergyman at that time, with the task of presenting the matter of icon veneration to a new examination, namely a theological one. Afterwards, John would confirm that icon veneration was prohibited. Because the scandal seemed impending, the people who venerated icons took fight. Saint Theodore the Studite, the abbot of the Studion Monastery in Constantinople, put the basileus to a harsh criticism, namely that God had made some people apostles in the Church, others prophets, others teach ­ ers, and did not mention emperors anywhere, and emperors were obliged to submit and ob­ serve the commands of apostles and teachers, and to issue laws to the Church and to confirm its decisions was not the business of an emperor. In answer to his criticism, the basileus is said to have uttered that the courageous monk should have deserved to die, but he would have not been offered such a favour at that time.

A new emperor came to the throne In March 815, a local council took place in Constantinople. A council is an ecclesiastical as­ sembly. Iconodule Patriarch Nicephoros was removed from his office, being replaced by Theodotos Melissenos Kassiteros. On the night of 25thDecember 820, however, the partisans of Michael Traulos got through the palace and, taking canonicals of psalm readers from the lectern, attacked the basileus wanting in defence even dur­ ing the Christmas service, murdering him and installing Michael as emperor. Ca­ nonicals are special clothes worn by bish­ ops, priests and deacons when they offi­ ciate liturgical services or in solemn cir­ cumstances. A lectern is a stand for hold­ ing a book, notes, and so on, when people are found in church, giving a talk and so forth. He forbade discussions on venera­ tion of holy icons. Michael II passed away in 829, being succeeded by his son Theo­ philos to the throne, crowned as emperor in October 829. Theophilos was an edu­ cated man and an admirer of the Arabic culture and did not open up the prospect of officially returning to veneration of holy icons at all. Icons, which were gradu­ ally replaced in some churches and even in the imperial palace by the order of Empress Theodora during the reign of Emperor Michael II, were again thrown away and replaced with pictures repres­ enting animals and birds. After the death of Theophilos, Empress Theodora, remained regent of minor Michael III and worried about her husband had died under the curse of the iconod­ ules, decided to convene a council to re-establish veneration of holy icons. In that respect, she LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER ordered all iconodules, including Saint Theodore the Studite, to be recalled from exile, and Methodios, a peaceful and reconcilable man, was appointed as patriarch. He confessed, at the request of the empress and before all those present at the council that anathematised icono­ clasts, Emperor Theophilos had not been a diehard iconoclast and, secretly, believed according to the Orthodox faith. Later, it was noticed that the name of Emperor Theophilos was not found among excommunicated people. To excommunicate means to officially exclude (someone) from participation in the sacraments and services of the Christian Church. The holy council held in Constantinople on 11thMarch 843 condemned all the previous iconoclastic councils and reconfirmed the decisions of the Holy Seventh Ecumenical Council. The bishops that did not observed the decisions were removed and succeeded by those who had suffered from living in exile during the iconoclastic persecution. The restoration of holy icons in the im ­ pressive Church of the Holy Wisdom was celebrated gorgeously on 11 thMarch 843 during the Holy Liturgy. Because the council was held on the eve of the first Sunday of Lent, and the res ­ toration of the veneration of holy icons was considered a new victory of Orthodoxy over heres­ ies, it was established that the Sunday of victory, called the Sunday of Orthodoxy, to be celeb ­ rated every year for eternal remembrance of the Orthodox faith and identity.

The Studion Monastery was founded by a consul in 453 In the bride contest organised by Euphrosyne, the mother of Theophilos, two young girls who distinguished themselves through intelligence and beauty participated as well. The basileus liked Cassia much and got near to her with an apple, but she is said to have broken his heart with her manner of speaking. The emperor is said to have told her that death had come into the world through woman, thereupon she is said to have told him that the salvation of hu­ mankind had come through woman, however, as well. It is said that the emperor was frightened by the wisdom of the woman and, on that ac­ count, he chose Theodora of Paphlagonia, an an­ cient country of Asia Minor. Later, Cassia entered a convent and became famous as a gif­ ted poet, some of the liturgical texts composed by her being sung during Passion Week. The Studion Monastery in Constantinople was foun­ ded in 463 by consul Studios and had a tradition according to which one third of the monks prayed and the other two thirds worked and rested respectively. The monastery had a very beautiful church, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, which was partially destroyed during the Forth Crusade, which took place on 13thApril 1204, rebuilt in 1290, and as a result of the fall of Constantinople under the Ottoman Empire, it had become a mosque, performing its function until the earthquake occurred in 1894. A mosque is a temple where Muslims (believers whose religion is Islam) go and pray. Theophilos was an exceptional emperor. He liked, for example, to disguise himself in humble 16


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER clothes and, under that appearance, to wander through the capital, eavesdropping on the dis 足 cussions of the citizens. He fervently wished his people to know his spirit of justice and there足 fore nothing could save guilty people from the judgement of the basileus. It is small wonder that the Orthodox tradition appreciated the emperor much and there is even a version of his life asserting that, when dying, Theophilos did penance and recognised the use of holy icons in the Church.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE NEW ECCLESIASTICAL YEAR The first day of September marks the beginning of the new ecclesiastical year within the Orthodox Church. According to the Jewish tradition, people consider that God started to create the world at that time, and then, at that point, the Saviour Jesus Christ entered the synagogue, where He decided to begin His activity of preaching the Gospel. A last mean­ ing related to the term derives from that the Romans performed the calculation of the Ro­ man fiscal year (also called ‘indiction’) from the first day of September. Socially, in olden times, but also today, a year had other reference points. There were the two feasts, the spring one of the Great Holy Martyr George and the autumn one of Saint Demetrios. Those religious festivals, which were superposed onto the seasons when agricultural works began and ended, took into account the human activity connected with land farm ­ ing. The Holy Fathers regulated evangelical pericopes on the rich to be read in autumn for making them sensitive because winter drew on and the poor led a hard life. The first day of September, when the faithful celebrate the new ecclesiastical year, is connec ­ ted with the history of salvation. The work of salvation from the Creation to the end of the world reduces itself to the time of an ecclesiastical year. The Orthodox Church marks these events through the festivals celebrated at the beginning and the end of the year. Thus, an ecclesiastical year ends in August, when Christians celebrate the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, on 15thAugust, and the Beheading of the Venerable Head of the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John, the greatest prophet until the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, on 29thAugust. A prophet is a person who foretells what will happen in the future; a messenger or an anointed person of God, who speaks for Him or writes about His will and plan un­ der the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The two festivals tell the faithful about the Kingdom of Heaven, being a matter of two deaths. Saint John, as a prophet of repent­ ance, advised the faithful to repent be­ cause the Kingdom of Heaven had come near. Repentance means the regret the committed sins; a regret about a mistake. Preaching atonement, a condition for en­ tering into the Kingdom of Heaven, just showed people the coming of the Kingdom of God, the end of the world and the beginning of eschatology, which include the second com­ ing of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgement, the immortality of the soul, concepts of heaven and hell and the economy of the Kingdom of God. 18


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Both the beginning and the end of the ecclesiastical year are protected by the Mother of God The end of the ecclesiastical year, like its beginning, is under the protection of the Holy Virgin Mary, through the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God because it is only the passing from temporary life to eternal life. With the Dormition of the Mother of God, actually, the eccle­ siastical year ends and, symbolically, this age as well. The Feast of the Beheading of the Vener ­ able Head of the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John, the last and greatest prophet, who prepared the ground for welcoming the Messiah, is also connected with afterlife, eschato­ logy. Analysing the theological meanings of the ecclesiastical year, it is said that every new year is a year of grace. Time is organ­ ised by God for salvation. It is also hallowed through the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ and organised in order the faithful to enjoy a happy everlasting life. To hallow means to make holy; to consecrate. Many Holy Fathers emphasised that the time through which humankind goes from the Ascension of the Lord until that time is the time when the faithful wait for the Second Coming of the Sa­ viour, is the time when believers pre­ pare for their great meeting with God. They also acknowledge it in their Creed within its last article, ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come’. The Kingdom of God is in the midst of the faithful, and, through what they do during their earthly lifetime, they prepare their entrance into the Kingdom of God. The Church, through its prayers, through the Holy Sacraments performed to hallow the faithful and make them gain the love of God even more, wants to invite them in the atmo­ sphere of the heavenly kingdom. The Holy Sacraments represent the seen part of the religion and are ceremonies, which consist of prayers and symbols, for calling the Holy Spirit for con­ secrating certain objects or persons. The Seven Holy Sacraments are: Baptism, Chrismation, Holy Confession, Holy Eucharist, Holy Priesthood, Matrimony, and Holy Unction. The begin­ ning of the ecclesiastical year also has as the first important festival a feast dedicated to the Mother of God, namely the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, the one through Whom the salvation of humankind was put into execution, she bearing Christ, the Redeemer of the sins of the faith ­ ful. All the immovable imperial festivals are actually closely related to the history of salvation, namely the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, the Nativity of the Lord and the Saviour Jesus Christ and so on. The Theotokos is the Greek title of Mary, the mother of the Saviour Jesus Christ. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER In September, the first month of autumn, peasants thank God for everything they got from Him In another context, related to the agrarian cycle, September is the first month of autumn, when crops are harvested from the field and people thank God for everything they got from Him. The old agricultural year ends and a new one begins, people preparing the ground for autumn seeding. Therefore, any end is a beginning, as the end of earthly life leads to the last stage, namely the everlasting life. Consequently, the days on which saints suffer martyrical death or pass on to the ever­ lasting life are commemor­ ated because those moments mark their spiritual birth, for afterlife. Their examples are meant to confirm the truth that, through death, the faith­ ful do not enter into non-be­ ing, but they go to heaven or hell. Socially, in olden times, but also today, a year had other reference points. There were two feasts, the spring one of the Great Holy Martyr George, and the autumn one of Saint Demetrios. These re­ ligious festivals, which were superposed onto the seasons when agricultural works began and ended, took into account the human activity connected with land farming. A religious festival is a ban­ quet; a day when a religious event or saint is commemor­ ated, on which a liturgical ser­ vice is officiated. The Holy Fathers regulated evangelical pericopes on the rich to be read in au­ tumn for making them sensitive because winter drew on and the poor led a hard life. A peri­ cope is a passage from the Bible that includes a story or a parable and that is read during a liturgical service. The Church made a point of regulating that the evangelical pericope on the Parable of the Sower to be read in autumn, namely around 16 thOctober. The parable referred to God, namely the Sower, who sews the Word, and the seed that falls on the soil symbolises the man that receives the Word, but which is taken by Satan, the seed fallen on rocky soil rep­ resents the man that quickly receives the Word, but who gives up after some time, the seed that falls among thorns signifies the man that hears the Word but renounce it, having a lot of worries, and the seed that falls on the good soil denotes the man that receives the Word, keeps it and bears fruit. 20


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER The first day of September marks the new ecclesiastical year and the beginning of the indiction On 1st September, the new ecclesiastical year and the beginning of the indiction are celebrated. The Orthodox Church celebrates the indiction, getting into the habit of the ancients, because the Romans used to mark the beginning of the year from the indiction, and an indiction meant order and appearance for the Romans. Derived from the Latin word ‘indictio’, the word ‘indic­ tion’ is a period of 15 years, whose first year is also called ‘first indiction’ and so on, until the fifteenth one, accord­ ing to their order. After the evolution of the fif­ teen years ends, a new period begins again, where the first year is also called ‘first indic­ tion’ until the 15th year, thereupon a new period begins once more. Undoubtedly, the name ‘indiction’ comes from the extraordinary tributes meant for pay­ ing the soldiers (such tributes were called in­ dictions). The practical rule to find which year of the indiction after Christ, is as follows: add 3 to that year, and then divide the total to 15 and, if the division gives an even number, then the indiction year is 15, but if the result is a number, then that number is the year of the indiction. There are three kinds of indic­ tions, namely the Con­ stantinopolitan one, st th which begins on 1 September, the Constantinian one, beginning from 24 September, and the papal indiction, which began on 1 st January. The Church celebrates the beginning of the indic­ tion for the following reasons: firstly, because, according to the old tradition, God is said to have started the Creation of the world on this day; secondly, because September is considered the beginning of the new ecclesiastical year and, therefore, thanking to God for the fruit during the year, the Church prays to Him in order the new year to bear fruit as well; thirdly, because the Saviour Jesus Christ is said to have entered the Jewish synagogue on this day. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER The ecclesiastical year is different from the liturgical one There is a difference between the ecclesiastical year and the liturgical one within the Orthodox Church ritual. If the ecclesiastical year begins on 1 st September, the liturgical one starts on Great and Holy Pascha. The Gospels and the Sundays during the ecclesiastical year are counted since Great and Holy Pascha. The ecclesiastical year includes 52 weeks, unlike the liturgical one, which counts weeks ac­ cording to the Feast of Great and Holy Pascha or the Feast of Pentecost. During the liturgical year, certain Sundays are re­ peated and, implicitly, the Gos­ pels that are uttered at that time are also repeated, according to rules established by the Church economy. The ecclesiastical year includes three periods that re­ flect the triple activity of the Sa­ viour Jesus Christ on earth, spe­ cifically the teaching, episcopal and imperial one. The Oc­ toechos period, which is the longest one during the ecclesi­ astical year (its length of time varying from 40 to 46 weeks), corresponds to the teaching activity of the Lord; it can be first seen in the evangelical peri­ copes that are established to be read on the Sundays during this period; many of them are the Parables of the Saviour or the Sermon on the Mount. The Oc­ toechos is said to commemorate and celebrate the events that had happened before the com­ ing of the Saviour until on the eve of His Passion, in other words it renews the prophetic, teaching activity within which He gave the divine teaching of His Gospel to the faithful. The second period is the Triodion one, which refers to the episcopal activity of the Lord, focusing on the sufferings and the redeeming sacrifice of the Saviour. It lasts from the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee to Great and Holy Pascha, totalising ten weeks, including Great Lent, a time for preparation through prayers, repentance and fasting for the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. The last period during the cycle of the ecclesiast­ ical year, the Pentecostarion one, represents the time from the Resurrection of the Lord to Pentecost (the Descent of the Holy Spirit) and celebrates the Saviour Jesus Christ as a Glorified Emperor, Who defeated death and sin. 22


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER The new ecclesiastical year has its own troparion and kontakion The new ecclesiastical year has, as any common feast, its own troparion and kontakion. A tro­ parion is a church hymn sung in honour of a saint. A kontakion is an Orthodox Church hymn composed of a poetic isolated stanza, found in Minaea, Octoechos and Triodion, and sung after the sixth hymn of liturgical canons, also at the liturgy after the troparion of the Little Entrance, as well as the service of small praise hymns. The Church thanks to God for everything He offered to the faithful during the previous year and asks Him to bless the new year. God is the Creator of time and the world, Who blesses the crown of the year of His kind­ ness. Every year, any time is the gift of God for the faithful. According to the end of the troparion, both the end of the year and its beginning are protected by the Mother of God. The kontakion also provides information on the dogmatic and liturgical teaching of the Church. Moreover, on 1st September, following the Jewish tradition according to which the creation of the world is celebrated when a new year begins, the Church commem­ orates Jesus of Navi, the one who suc­ ceeded Moses to lead the Jewish people and who guided the Jewish people to Canaan. Everything that is told by the Holy Scripture, the historical events in the Old Testament are mysteriously re­ lated to the New Testament, anticipating realities in the Christian Church. Jesus of Navi was advised by prophet Moses to guide the Jewish people to the Promised Land. The Holy Bible gives a concise and symbolic account on the history of the entire humankind, who undergoes many severe trials, as the Jews once crossed the wilderness to come to the Promised Land, or to Heaven, within the Christian religion. The Jews con­ sidered Canaan a new beginning, the fulfilment of a promise, a new life, in freedom, com ­ pletely opposite to the life of Egypt, where they were persecuted by pagans.

In olden times, there were two kinds of calendars used in Israel During the Old Testament period, there were two kinds of calendars used within Israeli king­ doms. The oldest one came from Canaan, was based on the cycle of agricultural works and began in autumn. Some biblical texts even use the Canaanite name of months. Holy days were still movable at that time, depending directly on agricultural works. It lasted until the period of the texts written in the Book of Deuteronomy (during the second half of the 7 thcentury BC), which did not date great festivals exactly as well. Towards 600, under the Babylonian influ ­ ence, the Babylonian calendar was adopted, and it began the new year in spring. In Babylon, LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER the celebration of the new year was a very important one, the king being enthroned again dur足 ing a ceremony that reminded the people of the creation of the world. The change is noticed in a sacerdotal source, written in about 550, probably in exile. The source seems to provide the last version of the Pentateuch as well. The Pentateuch is a component part of the Bible, which includes the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In sacerdotal texts, holy days were defined much clearer. At that time, Passover fell during the first month of the year. Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemor足 ates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. The old agricultural festival of the Unleavened Bread, united with Passover, which was of pas足 toral origin, ever since the Book of Deuteronomy had been written, is, in sacerdotal texts, fixed even in the middle of the month, working as a counterweight to the other important festival, in autumn, the harvest, called the Feast of Tabernacles, and related to the journey of the Israelis through the wilderness after they had left Egypt. Both the Feast of the Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles are fixed on the day of 15 th of a certain month, therefore in the middle of it. Both feasts last for seven days. However, each feast would be given one more day before the seven ones in spring, and one more day in autumn after the seven days. Therefore, in the ritual calendar from the sacerdotal source, Passover and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread lasted from the fourteenth day of the first month to the twenty-first day of the same month, and the Feast of Tabernacles lasted from the fifteenth day of the seventh month to the twentysecond day of the same month. The Babylonian names, specifically Nisan, Tishri, and so on, were also adopted at that time, but they were also used simultaneously with the old way of reckoning the months. The Christian Church preserved the old calendar that began in autumn, also taking into consideration Hebrew traditions according to which the creation of the world is said to have happened in autumn. However, the Hebrew calendar was one that took into ac足 count the phases of the moon, while the Roman one was solar. Tishri, the seventh month within the Babylonian calendar, which was however the first one within the old calendar, was in September-October, and therefore, the Church changed September into the first month of the ecclesiastical year.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin is the first feast of the ecclesiastical year, which begins on 1st September. During the first month, believers celebrate, through the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, their recall and recreation into grace, the changing of the temporary things of the Law into the enduring ones, replacing the letter with the Spirit and the shadow with reality.

It is said that, excepting Jesus Christ, only two persons in the history of the New Testament have their biography traced before their birth, namely the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. The predictions concerning their life and mission had been made long time before their ap­ pearance in the history of the humankind salvation. In the Old Testament, most prophecies are, directly or indirectly, prophecies that also talk about the Virgin Mary. The first Messianic prophecy in the Old Vow (also called the Old Testament), which refers to the first time when Salvation was made public, stating both about ‘the offspring of the woman’, namely the Son of Man, and the woman whose offspring, specifically Jesus Christ, will vanquish the Evil One, is mentioned in the first book of the Bible, that is Genesis. Another symbol talking about the per­ son of the Virgin Mary is ‘the stairway of Jacob’, also met in the Book of Genesis. Jacob had a dream in which he had seen a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012 25

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER and the angels of God had been ascending and descending on it. There are two meanings of the dream, namely, on one hand, the descending of God on earth to humankind, specifically the Nativity of Jesus Christ is carried out through the agency of the Virgin Mary, and on the other hand, the faithful know the destiny of humanity through the Blessed Virgin, the one of bearing God in their soul through faith and in their body through the Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ Itself, which the Lord bore on earth after His Resurrection and which He offers as a present to all the believers who believe in Him and do His will, for the re­ mission of sins and eternal life. The first of the great prophets, namely Isaiah, in his own book from the Bible, talked about a branch that would bear fruit from the roots of Jesse. In the Old Testament, Jesse (also spelled Isai) was the father of King David and the son of Ohed and the grandson of Boaz and Ruth, and David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. According to the Holy Fathers, the branch symbolises the person of the Holy Virgin. She acts as the inter ­ mediary through Whom the Grand Shepherd, namely Jesus Christ, leads His speechless flock to heaven and on Whom the human nature rests and renounces its weak old age, going gently to heaven.

The name ‘Mary’ brings together the almightiness, wisdom and kindness of God According to the foreknowledge and advice of God, the honourable name of Mary was secretly given to the Holy Virgin, as the Mother of the Saviour, and it had been decided she to be born earlier. The name ‘Mary’, which was destined to serve the mystery of the economic Incarnation of God the Word, brings together the almightiness, wis­ dom and kindness of God. Derived from the Hebrew word ‘Aia’, Mary is in­ terpreted as ‘the Lady’ because she rules over all the heavenly and earthly creations as the Mother of God, having perfect power. Secondly, the word ‘Mary’ is interpreted as ‘enlighten­ ment’ since the etymology has its source in the pure light and is said to be the brilliance of eternal light, as a perfection of wisdom. Thirdly, the word ‘Maria’ also means ‘sea’. Mary symbolises the kindness and grace of God, had by the Mother of God. Thus, Mary got her power from the Father, as His daughter, to perform on earth as a Mother what God performs in heaven as a Father, and got the wisdom from the Son, as His Mother, to find the way to calm down heaven with earth and God with man. She also got the kindness and grace from the Holy Spirit, as His bride, to share her spiritual gifts and graces to all the creatures, heavenly and earthly. 26


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER The parents of the Virgin Mary were of imperial origin and priestly descent Joachim, the father of the Holy Virgin, came from the house of David, and Anne, her mother, came from the one of Aaron, therefore they were of imperial origin and of priestly descent. However, because they lacked children, they were put to shame by people as, in the Hebrew society, barren families were not considered blessed by God. When barren, families of people or animals are not able to produce children or young animals. After praying continuously, the righteous couple received a little girl, who, according to the word of the angel addressed to Anne, would announce joy, the salvation of humankind being done through her. According to law, Hebrew Joachim and Anne deserved the reproach of people because the Messiah, namely Jesus Christ, had not come yet. The chosen people were dying with impatience the birth of the predicted one, and any family that did not have children yet delayed the appearance of the Sa足 viour. When Mary was born, she gifted Eternity to everybody through her conception into vir足 ginity, the duty to bring children into the world and the criticism towards the people that did not beget children were raised. Especially for men, to beget means to bring (children) into ex足 istence, by the process of reproduction.

The work of the Incarnation could not be performed only through the Holy Trin 足 ity, but also with the aid of Mary The work of the Incarnation of the Word is not only the work of the Holy Trinity, but also the fruit of the will and faith of Mary. From the human viewpoint, the superiority of Mary is required by the fact that the Son of God could choose only the best man as His mother, through Whom the purpose for which God created the human nature, namely a man capable to serve to the divine thought, specifically the one to make the Incarnation possible, to be seen. In order God to be able to save humankind, a person where justice and uprightness to be present at the highest level was needed to permit the Incarnation. God, like an angel, does not come to wicked, sinful or unbelieving people. The Holy Virgin brought together all the virtues within her, making herself atonement for sins, holiness and honesty for the faithful. The girl Mary is the clearing sacrifice of humanity before the great sacrifice of Christ on the Cross to reconcile perfectly with the Father. Therefore, it is proper that the faithful to bring the work of virtues as a present to the Mother of God for her birth. They must not have a barren soul and an unfruitful heart, but to imitate the action of the one that was born, who received Christ the Word within her.




FEATURED ARTICLE SAINT ANTHONY, THE FATHER OF THE CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM He came from Egypt, being born in 250 AD (that is ‘in the year of our Lord’) in Coma near Herakleopolis Magna, which translated from the language of the ancient Egyptians meant ‘house of the royal child’. He was descended from wealthy parents, and after their death, he shared the fortune with his younger sister, of whom he had to take care. He would leave everything behind after he would have understood the word of God in the Holy Gospel according to Matthew, addressed to a young rich man. The evangelical pericope represents everybody who, although he or she enjoys a good financial situation and is morally honest, grieves, however, after something higher than what a good financial situation and irreproachable ethics can offer to him or her. Anthony was one of the greatest ascetics of Orthodoxy, who always bore in his mind the example set by the great Old Testament faster Elijah the Prophet. Although Anthony was not a scholar in the field of earthly teaching, he was the teacher of the greatest teachers of that time, among whom Saint Athanasios, Patriarch of Alexandria, being counted as well. Saint Anthony is considered by posterity as the founder of the Orthodox monasticism. Anthony the Great is one of the firm pillars on which the Orthodox monasticism was built. Although he was not an educated man and did not attend the great schools of his time, being an ordinary man, God endowed him with the plenitude of His grace, and, therefore, God-loving anchorites looked for him in order he to be their teacher. The divine grace is the expression of the love of God towards people. He learnt the Christian faith from his parents and grandparents and, devoting himself entirely to ascetic life, he surpassed many hermits, setting a good example to the ones who followed him. The life of Saint Anthony written by his disciple, Saint Athanasios of Alexandria, describes the spiritual fight of the saint against devils in an ample speech. A devil is the evil spirit that disunites man from God and that inspire hatred and lie among people. The image that appears because of the speech leads to the conclusion that a virtue is natural within man, and asceticism fulfils the fundamental vocation of man to be a living icon (image and likeness) of God on earth. A virtue is a quality of character that always wants good; the ability to help someone else in many ways desired and commanded by God. Saint Anthony came from Egypt, being born in 250 AD (which means ‘in the year of our Lord’) in the village of Coma near Herakleopolis Magna. He was descended from a wealthy family, and after the death of his parents, he shared the fortune with his younger sister, of whom he had to take care. He shared his half of fortune with the poor, and, when he was still a teenager, he devoted his life to 28


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER serving God, spending the ascetic life he had desired very much. It is said that Saint Anthony was not very endowed intellectually, being considered by people as poor in spirit, namely fool. His greatest joy was, however, since early childhood, the communion with Christ within the Holy Liturgy. He would leave everything behind after he would have understood the word of God from the Gospel according to Matthew: ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.’ At that time, Anthony gave his estates to the poor (he owned 300 fruitful estates), and his sister was entrusted to the care of a girl school, because he began his life of hermit since then. At the beginning, Anthony struggled near his village, being taught by an old man, who was struggling in asceticism since he was young, to combine work with prayer. To avoid the troubles of people completely, he went near the Red Sea, in hope of leaving the world and its worries completely. There, he spent twenty years praying alone, and God helped him to face the temptations of the Devil. He left that place after some time, going to an abandoned citadel on the right bank of the Nile, where he spent the last years of his lifetime.

The saint set a vivid example of humbleness to his disciples and their followers The Paterikon and the Lives of the Saints provide information about the humbleness of the saint, from whom his disciples and their followers took an example. A Paterikon is a collection of texts including examples and teachings of the old monks, who became famous through the holiness of their life. God also made him able to cross the Devil, discover the way in which he tormented the monks and the faithful, trying to win them over for the kingdom of darkness. To torment means to cause someone to experience severe mental or physical suffering. The Devil began to be afraid when he saw that Anthony, a young man leading a spiritual life, went to his land in the wilderness, because everywhere Anthony was present, Christ was present as well. Many times, the Devil came near to Anthony secretly, trying to interrupt his prayer and make him give up his struggles: reminding him of riches, taking care of his sister, the friendship of many people, love for money, love for fame, the pleasure of delight, and the other rests of life; and then showing him the hardness of the good deed and the pains which it needs. A struggle is a determined effort under difficulties. The Devil also made Anthony think about the weakness of the body and the length of time, and he had many hallucinations that diverted him from the right judgement. All the trials of the Devil came up against the firm faith of the saint. Weary of his vain trials to tempt Anthony, the Devil himself talked to the saint, telling him that he had cheated many people and had made him angry many times and he had been overthrown by the saint many times as well. On hearing the words of the Devil, Anthony, thanking God and bracing himself, told him that he would not worry about him any more because God helped him and he would overthrow his enemies. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Anthony was one of the greatest ascetics of Orthodoxy Anthony was one of the greatest ascetics of Orthodoxy and always bore in his mind the good example set by the great Old Testament faster Elijah the Prophet. Like Elijah the Prophet, Anthony gradually passed through the ascetic stages of struggles, suffering from weariness easily, because he had the endeavour of the soul and did everything with a pleasant urge coming from inside of him, so that the smallest cause of his struggle was hardly accepted by the common man. He performed his overnight vigil gradually, beginning to spend whole nights without sleeping. He ate once a day, after the sunset, sometimes also after two days, and many times he shared his food after four days as well, and he ate bread and salt, and he drank only water and there was no doubt about meat and wine. To sleep, the saint used a doormat, and then, he even laid down on the ground. He considered every day as a beginning of his life as a hermit because he did not want to measure the way of the good deed in the course of time since he did not mention an earlier time, showing a greater spiritual effort and weariness, always following the teaching of the Holy Bible, but as if he began doing good deeds every day. He always struggled following the good example set by Elijah the Prophet. The only available information on Saint Anthony is provided by his disciple, Saint Athanasios, in his relations. According to his writings, Saint Anthony fell asleep into the Lord aged 105, leaving very many disciples and entire hosts of monks behind him. When the philosophers who had come to him, trying to find out, asked him questions about knowledge and books, they left shamefacedly when the saint started answering their questions, realising that they only knew some information about knowledge, while Anthony had the Knowledge itself. He was the man who reached perfection during his lifetime, was a scholar of scholars and a teacher of teachers, who, for 85 years, perfected himself and, thus, he could also perfect other people. Leading a true quiet life in communion with God, after many years and many good deeds he had performed, the saint fell asleep into the Lord in 356 AD, in the desert on the right bank of the Nile. 30


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER The influence of the saint marked the beginning of monasticism The extraordinary influence of the saint actually marked the beginning of monasticism. Among his writings, seven letters mentioned by Saint Jerome were published until today. They were published in several translations: two versions in Latin (the first one is a translation that dates from the 16th century and was made by Symphorien Champier, according to a Greek manuscript, and the second one was translated agreeably to an Arabic one, including a longer text, with the seven letters attributed to Anthony and thirteen letters assigned to his disciple, Ammonas, the successor of Anthony, to the leadership of the cenobit in Pispir), and later, the Coptic text, the original one, of some of those letters, started to be discovered as well. A cenobit is a monastery where monks lead an organised life in common. The Monastery of Saint Anthony is an Orthodox monastery of the Coptic Christians of Egypt, being at the same time one of the oldest monastic establishments from there as well. It was founded in 356, after Saint Anthony had fallen asleep into the Lord, being situated at the foot of the Al-Qalzam Mountains, near Al-Zaafarana. According to historical accounts, the monastery represented the first monastic nucleus during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate. The first monks who settled down there used to live in the caves of the neighbouring massifs, but they went on Sundays and feast days to the main church to attend the Holy Liturgy. Solitary anchorites embraced the cenobitic way of living only in the 5 th century, building the first cells of the monastery. The Holy Monastery of Saint Anthony played a major part during the history of the Coptic Church, being the house for many Christians that needed a place of shelter in hard times, finding everything necessary for leading a life of communion with God.




FEATURED ARTICLE SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, THE THEOLOGICAL GENIUS IN THE 4 TH CENTURY OF THE CHURCH A friend of Saint Basil, sensitive, delicate, with a culture of great refinement, Gregory of Nazianzus had a special liking for contemplative life during his whole lifetime, what made him always avoid the administrative concerns of the post held by him. A great theologian, with potentialities to express and explain Christian dogmas in an extraordinary manner, which had not been used before, able to deliver a flawless theological speech as regards expounding the arguments against the heretics of that time, poet and bishop of Constantinople (380-381), Gregory remains the emblematic figure of the ancient spirit completely converted to the truth of Christ, Whom he chose to serve zealously. Saint Gregory the Theologian was born in Arianzus in 325 as the son of Bishop Gregory, who performed his duties within the same locality, and Nonna. Arianzus was a village of the second district of Cappadocia, not far from Nazianzus. Nazianzus was a small town the history of which is completely unknown. Although he had been a member of a sect in the beginning, the father of the saint was converted to the true faith under the influence of his pious wife. A sect is a group of people with somewhat different religious beliefs (typically regarded as heretical) from those of a larger group to which they belong. The two brothers, Gregory and Caesarius, born before their father was ordained priest and then consecrated bishop, were sent by their parents to the famous school of Caesarea, the capital of Cappadocia. To ordain means to make (someone) a priest or minister. To consecrate means to ordain (someone) to a sacred office, typically that of bishop. There, Gregory would form a close friendship with Saint Basil the Great, which would last for their entire lives and which is noteworthy for the history of the Christian Church. Gregory left Caesarea and made for Palestine, where he learnt rhetoric with Professor Thespesius, and then he went to Alexandria in Egypt, whose patriarch was Athanasios the Great. Embarking for Athens, Gregory met with a difficult journey. During the gale that had broken out, which endangered the lives of those who were on deck, Gregory promised that, if he would escape with his life, he would receive the Christian baptism. His promise would be, however, fulfilled only after finishing his studies and 32


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER returning home to Nazianzus. In Athens, the two old friends met again and studied rhetoric together, being taught by two famous professors of that time, Himerius and Proheresius. Julian the Apostate, the one who would become emperor of Byzantium for short time, only for two years, was also the fellow student of Basil and Gregory. The studies of young Gregory in Athens lasted for ten years, so that, when he returned home in 356, passing through Constantinople, he was already 31 years old. Arriving at his native land, after a very long tour through the cities with important schools for that time, Gregory, decided to devote his life and intellectual capacities in which he excelled, thought carefully on the plan of his future.

The saint was talented for oratory and an expert in philosophy Many ways were paved for such a valuable man, who was talented for oratory and who was an expert in philosophy. Either he could be called to the bar or he could be professor of rhetoric, but he was interested in monastic, solitary life, whose purpose had to be the studying of the Holy Scripture. Naturally, he appealed to his good friend, Basil, for help, and they decided to leave people, to devote themselves entirely to God. After he had stayed in Pontus, together with his friend, Gregory was obliged by his father, who was of age at that time, to help him carry out the work of pastorating the faithful. To pastorate means to lead and guide believers. Thus, young Gregory became bishop. His sermons as regards the right teaching about the Holy Trinity remain an example until today. The following lines belong to his sermon on the Holy Trinity. ‘The creative, sprang and immutable Being, above the time, is called God who consists of the Three Praises, namely: Cause, Creator and Perfector. Everything that the Father has belongs to the Son, except the cause, and what belongs the Son also belongs to the Spirit, apart from sonship..., thus the name of the One without beginning is the Father, the One of Dawn is the Son, and of the One equal with the Son is the Holy Spirit. And the nature of all Three is one: the divinity. The union is from the father, from whom and towards whom the others submit in turn, but not so far as to be confuse, but only so far to be ruled (possessed), irrespective of time, will or power. For us they are many beings, since each is separated from those to itself and those by others. But those who have a simple nature, and whose being is the same, those are one in its entirety.’ LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER The 4th century is considered a golden age for the Christian Church, but also an age of fight against heresies Experts in patrology consider the 4 th century as a golden age for the Christian Church. Patrology is the science that deals with studying the Holy Fathers of the Church. However, it is believed to have been also an age when the Church had to fight against heresies with all its might. It had been barely entitled to behave openly, without exposing itself to persecutions, that the Church then found itself threatened by other enemies that were more dangerous and that came from inside of it. Those who kept the genuine faith had become a minor group in masses. On the eve of the Second Ecumenical Council, which fought against the Pneumatomach heresy (that denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit), Saint Gregory of Nazianzus delivered a speech about the adoration shown by genuine believers towards God and, especially, about the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, namely the Holy Spirit. Considering Christ as a first creature and not as the Son of the Father, of one essence with Him, as well as repulsing the divinity of the Holy Spirit involved the invalidity of Baptism and, in consequence, the endangering of salvation. During a rhetorical dialogue held with the Pneumatomachi, Bishop Gregory reproached them that they did not adore God as a Whole Being, but as a Partial Being, misjudging the divinity of God. Bishop Gregory found the churches in the capital of the Byzantine Empire in extremely bad condition. Arianism had seized all the churches and cloisters, and the Orthodox were very few in number. Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius, a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity (‘God the Father’, ‘God the Son’ and ‘God the Holy Spirit’) and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father.

Bishop Gregory started his mission in a chapel Bishop Gregory started his mission in the chapel named Anastasia (which, translated, means ‘the Resurrection’), the only church where the Orthodox Christians of Byzantium gathered together at that time, delivering a sermon about the things that pleased God, saying that He appreciated the correct teaching and the soul perfected in the dogmas of the truth. A dogma is a truth of faith included in the Holy Scripture and in the Holy Tradition; a doctrine of faith formulated by a holy council, in which the Church recognises the whole content and the Orthodox development of the apostolic teaching, transmitted either through the written tradition or the verbal one. The saint taught everybody like a parent teaches his children that, 34


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER for God, nothing is as great as the correct teaching and the soul perfected in the dogmas of the truth, and if nothing is worthy of the Creator, the only thing that deserves God is piety, the treasure that is common to everybody and is appreciated alike by Him, so that the poor is also able, if kind, to outdo the rich, because that piety depends on will, not on riches. However, a personality like the one of Saint Gregory could not be but envied as well. The Egyptian bishops who came to Constantinople looked unfavourably on both the love and admiration shown by the believers in the capital towards Gregory and the position of the president of the Second Ecumenical Council that was due to him legitimately. Accused of having become archbishop of Constantinople illegally, being considered that he had not been allowed to leave the episcopal seat of Sasima, Saint Gregory decided to give up his much-coveted position, to bring peace in the Church. Defending himself against the accusations made against him, that he had enjoyed the honour of the Byzantine Empire, benefiting by clerical robes of fame, special dinners, being placed at the head of all processions, the friend of Basil the Great reminded the bishops eager for glory that, on the contrary, the period when he pastorated Constantinople was one of persecution against Orthodox Christians, being tormented by the rulers, even by the emperor, and driven away from churches and houses. Finally, the President of the Second Ecumenical Council asked an injustice to be done, namely another man had to be appointed to please most people, and he had to be allowed to go to wilderness to please God through his plain living. He also said that he had got tired of being accused by people for his virtues.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE HOLY CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST A Christian church is always recognised according to the cross that is painted, carved, forged and placed on it. The Cross remained like this from time immemorial. It is said that, during the times of persecution, pagans used to recognise the Christian churches according to their cross. It is believed that, for the Christmas of 303, several hundreds of Christians passed away burnt alive in their own church in Nicomedia because somebody had recognised the sign of the holy cross on the gates of the Church and denounced all those present there. The Cross pre-eminently became the sign according to which Christians can be recognised. As concerns the way in which the Lord had passed away, the Holy Gospels talk about crucifixion, being about a crucifixion on a cross. From ancient times, the cross could not mean many things, but many shapes. The oldest ‘shape’ of cross seems to have been the one known under the name of the gammadion cross, or ‘crux gammata’, and Orientalists and students of prehistoric archaeology know it according to its Sanskrit name ‘the swastika’. Certainly, the ancient world did not ascribe to it the same malefic meaning as the swastika meets with it today, in the modern world. It was a symbol of the Sun and designated its apparent course on the dome of heaven. Other people saw the sign as a mystical representation of the lightning of the god of storm and even the symbol of the pantheon of the ancient Arian civilisation. Another symbol assigned to the cross is ‘the crux ansata’ or ‘the handled cross’, used in ancient Egypt. Many times, it appears in the hands of goddess Sekhmet or on the forehead of god Osiris. Right from the start, it appeared in hieroglyphic writing as a sign for the idea of life and living creature. From times immemorial, even Coptic Christians, namely Egyptian Christians, attracted by the shape or symbolism, adopted the sign as a liturgical symbol of the cross of the Lord. 36


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER In the beginning, in Rome, the cross was used as an instrument of punishment In Rome, when the Republic was set up, the cross started to be used as an instrument of punishment particularly for the slaves found guilty and for serious murders. Cicero mentioned it in his work two times, calling it punishment for slaves or, explicitly, the most severe and the most dreadful punishment for slaves. Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He also wrote that it was strictly forbidden that manner of punishment to be applied to Roman citizens. Suetonius wrote that the severe punishment was however used in the case of the lower classes of the Roman citizens, when they proved to be guilty of rebellion or piracy, robbery or false evidence. Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, commonly known as Suetonius, was a Roman historian belonging to the equestrian order in the early Imperial era. According to the Roman authors from ancient times, the punishment of crucifixion came after the whipping of the convict, and after the preliminary punishment, he was constrained to bear his cross to the place of execution, while he was put to injuries and the derision of the crowd. Once arrived at the place of torture, the cross was raised at the same time as the convict, after he had been undressed and fastened to the piece of wood with four nails. In order the torture to last more time, some murderers were fastened with ropes. At the end of the torture, a small plate was placed above the head of the convict, bearing on it the name of the convict and the guilt for which he had deserved such a punishment. Slaves were crucified in a graveyard situated in the eastern part of the city, and some government officials were concerned with their crucifixion. Because the torture could last more time, it was confirmed that, sometimes, the shin bones of the convicts were crushed. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Initially, the cross consisted in simple vertical piece of wood In the beginning, the cross consisted in a simple vertical piece of wood sharpened at one end. Seneca called it ‘crux acuta’ or ‘crux simplex’. Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. Later, a horizontal pole was added to the upright one, being useful either to fasten the accused person with ropes and let him die from hunger or fasten him with very thick nails. Slaves could be simply fastened to trees with nails as well. The ‘crux

decussata’ or decussated cross, so called from its resemblance to the Roman ‘decussis’ or symbol for the numeral 10, looks like the shape of the Greek letter ‘chi’ (X). It is also known as St. Andrew’s Cross, because it is believed that the Apostle suffered martyrdom on such a cross. The punishment on the cross had been used by the Romans until the 4 th century AD. During the first part of his reign, Constantine the Great abolished the torture in memory and honour of the Passion of Jesus Christ. Lately, depictions of the Crucifixion appeared, showing that the Cross was missing completely, and the Lord was crucified on a simple piece of wood, a vertical pole without the horizontal one with which Orthodox Christians familiarised themselves and that forms the image of the cross. However, the Evangelists would have not talked about a cross at all in the ancient world if it had been about a piece of wood. The Gospels talk about the cross, namely ‘stauros’, and not about ‘xilon’, specifically wood. Thus, the image of the Crucifixion of the Lord on a simple upright pole is not correct. The practice of crucifixion on a T-shaped cross was only found in the West at that time. The Cross on which Jesus Christ was 38


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER crucified is the one known as ‘crux immissa’ or ‘Latin cross’, what means that the upright body was enlarged a little more over the horizontal one. According to Saint John Chrysostom, it was thus a cross taller than the one of the two malefactors, the so-called offense committed by Him being considered more serious. Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. The Fathers of the Church from the first centuries described it as built that way. The same idea is also found in the Gospel according to Matthew (27:37), where it is said that the guilt written by Pontius Pilate (the small plate on which the cause of His conviction was shown in three languages) was placed above the head of Jesus, what would have been possible only if the cross had been shaped like the letter T. It was affirmed that the Cross of the Saviour had five ends, namely two lengthways, two widthways and the fifth one in the middle, and this piece of information was confirmed. It is thought that Jesus was crucified on a cross that had the fifth end, on which the crucified person was seated. Quoting a prophecy, Saint Justin the Martyr compared the cross with a horn of rhinoceros. Saint Justin the Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin, was an early Christian apologist. The small seat did not allow the whole weight of the body to break the hands fastened with spikes and helped the crucified person to lean upon something. This detail is very seldom found in the depictions of the Crucifixion. Some people even believe that, because the authorities wanted Jesus to pass away before sunset, the artifice was not used.

The Church historical destiny was always accompanied by he Cross The Cross always accompanied the historic destiny of the Church as well. Thus, in the small town of Herculaneum, an altar, on which the sign of the cross was painted on a background of white lime, was discovered. The presence of other Christian symbols in the same room led to the conclusion, which is actually very contested, that it is said to be one of the oldest depictions of the cross that remained until today. It is known that the volcano of Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and covered the entire plain at its foot, but also many towns, among which the most important ones were Pompeii and Herculaneum, with ash and lava. The destructive layer of ash had, however, a positive effect as well. The buildings covered with ash remained almost intact for the people of today. Among the vestiges that were discovered, there was also the unique relic, which was probably seen and venerated by the first Christians who knew the Holy Apostles and listened to their sermon on the redeeming Passion. A sermon is a speech delivered by a priest in church, during which a biblical text is explained and commented. Another important discovery is the one of a grave dating from the nd 2 century AD, on which two crosses are found engraved at the end of the epitaph. An epitaph is a phrase or form of words written in memory of a person who has died, especially as an LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER inscription on a tombstone. The grave was found in the old region of Palmyra and, according to experts, dated from 134 AD. In the same region, a grave bearing an inscription was found. The short inscription had a cross engraved both at its beginning and at its end. Archaeologists believed that it dated from 150 AD. Many of the inscriptions from the Roman catacombs date from the 2nd century as well. A catacomb is an underground cemetery consisting of a subterranean gallery with recesses for tombs, as constructed by the ancient Romans. It is generally known that, sometimes, during persecutions, Christians took refuge in the catacombs, where most Romans actually buried their dead persons. Christian graves are different from the non-Christian ones through that they bear, more or less explicitly, the sign of the cross. In a grave that dated from the 2 nd century, many names were found near the sign of the cross, without mentioning something else. Those names were also found near different titles: senator, bishop, priest, deacon, lector, doctor, baker, blacksmith. Occasionally, there were also found graves without epitaphs, and although they probably seemed strange, they secretly referred to a sign that gave an identity that really mattered to the Church. The sign of the cross replaced family names. All the people who were baptised then belonged to the great family of God, and the cross proved it.

Not all the graves were without epitaphs However, not all the graves were without epitaphs. Thus, in a catacomb dating from the 2nd century, an inscription was found, and, according to what it read, it was obviously about the epitaph of a Christian. Expressions like ‘servant of God’ and ‘the holy illumination’ proved very clearly the belonging of the dead person to Christianity. A sign of the cross was found gently inserted between the second and the third name. In those times, persecutions against Christians followed one another, and a bigger cross would have revealed the one fallen asleep into the Lord, but especially his family. Then, the title ‘Highness’ was only given to the ones of senatorial rank, what showed that Christianity had also reached the higher classes of the Roman society at that time. In another catacomb, the text of another moving inscription was found. The monogram of Jesus Christ, namely the intersection of the letters ‘H’ and ‘R’, close to the reference to ‘ICHTHYS’ (‘fish’), a classic Christian symbol, proved the belonging of the buried person to Christianity. The letter ‘T’ from the names of the buried people was also taller than the other 40


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER letters and bore the shape of the cross. On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, in 270 and 296 AD, King Totorses of Crimea stamped coins on which the sign of the cross was engraved. The recent archaeological discoveries of Palestine provided new proofs about the fact that the sign of the cross was used as a Christian symbol on the ossuaries, namely the coffins containing the mortal remains of even the members of the first Christian community of Jerusalem.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE MOTHER OF GOD, THE MOST VENERATED WOMAN Every genuine Christian probably prayed to the Mother of God and thought about her at least once in times of need. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most respected persons of Islam. Even the first Protestants venerated the Mother of God. Martin Luther said that ‘Mary is the greatest of all women, and we will be never able to glorify her enough.’ After the Saviour Jesus Christ, there is no saint to enjoy a greater veneration than Mary, the Mother of God. According to the information provided by the Holy Gospels, a complete biography of the Virgin Mary cannot be written. Chronologically, the Holy Scripture mentioned Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, last time in the Acts of the Apostles, when the Holy Apostle Matthias was appointed to replace Judas the Iscariot. Since then, the Holy Virgin was not mentioned any more by the Bible. One of the moments when the Mother of God was not mentioned in the Holy Gospels was also the one of her Dormition, an event celebrated by both the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church on 15 th August. However, the Holy Tradition provides an account of the moment when the Dormition of ‘the most blessed woman’, which was probably inspired, at least to a certain extent, by the Apocryphal Gospels as well. When Jesus Christ condescended to take His Mother to Him, to heaven, He had sent an angel three days before to inform her about her going to Heavens. When the Holy Archangel Gabriel came to her, informing her that the time had come for her to go to Heavens in order to enjoy the everlasting life, the Mother of God rejoiced with great joy and, eager for being taken to her Son, quickly climbed the Mount of Olives to pray, because she was accustomed to often climb there to pray. Then, something wonderful was happening. When the Mother of God climbed there, all the trees on the mountain bowed themselves and honoured the Mistress as she deserved, as if they were some living servants. After she had prayed, she returned home and, immediately, her house quaked completely, and she, lighting many candles and thanking God and calling her relatives and neighbours, prepared her entire house, bed, and everything necessary for her burial. Then, she told those present about what the angel had told her with reference to her going to Heavens, and to assure them of those words, she also showed them the gift she had received, namely a palm branch. When the women whom she had called heard 42 LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER her words, they cried with lamentation and bitter tears and sobbed their heart out. After they had stopped crying with lamentation, they prayed not to remain without her, and the Most Pure Mother of God promised them that, going to Heavens, she would comfort and protect everybody. Thus, she comforted their great sadness with consoling words. Afterwards, she pointed to her two attires to be taken by each of the two poor widows, who were her friends and acquaintances and took their food from her.

When she went to Heavens, sick people were cured easily and immediately While she was speaking to those present and teaching them, a thunder was heard unexpectedly, and many clouds appeared, bringing all the disciples of Christ from everywhere in the world to the house of Mary. Among those present, the wise bishops of God, Dionysios the Areopagite, Hierotheos and Timothy, counted as well. Dionysios the Areopagite was a judge of the Areopagus who, as related in the Acts of the Apostles, (Acts 17:34), was converted to Christianity by the preaching of the Apostle Paul during the Areopagus sermon. After they had been told about the reason for which they had come there, together they told her that her presence among them had comforted them by then, but they would hardly bear that they would have to part company from her, and although they cried with bitter tears because she had to go to Heavens with the consent of her Son, they were also glad for that wonderful occurrence. After they had told her those words while they were crying with bitter tears, she told them not to lament for her joy, but take care of her body, as she would imagine it on her bed. After they had stopped talking, the Holy Apostle Paul, the chosen vessel, also came there, and, falling at the feet of Mary, venerated her, and, opening his mouth, he started to glorify her with many words. To glorify means to praise and worship a holy person. After the Most Pure Mother of God had asked the pardon of her relatives and friends, she lay down on her deathbed and imagined her immaculate body as she wanted; then, she prayed to strengthen everybody and for her peaceful burial service and filled them with her blessing as well. Thus, she fell asleep into the Lord, and all the sick people were cured easily and immediately. Then, the Holy Apostles started to sing a hymn when her soul left the body; some raised the bed, others went forward holding torches and singing hymns, attending her immaculate body to the graveyard. Then, the angels were also heard singing and the air was echoed with the voices of the choirs of angels. Because of it, the rulers LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER of the Israelites, calling some people, persuaded them to overturn the bed on which the immaculate body was placed. However, the justice of God struck the malefactors and punished them by depriving them of sight. One of them, who had started violently and madly to take hold of the holy bed, was also deprived of both hands, which remained hung from the bed, cut by the impartial judgement of God. Believing with all his heart and soul, he was cured and got well again. Believing and touching the holy bed, the ones who had gone blind were healed in the same way as well.

When opened, the grave only had the shroud, but not her body After they had arrived at the village of Gethsemane, the Holy Apostles placed the body of the Most Pure Mother of God in the grave and stayed by it for three days, hearing voices of angels continuously. Gethsemane was a village within which there was a garden where Jesus used to often retire to pray. Then, according to the divine order, one of the Holy Apostles, Thomas, was absent and missed the glorified burial, but arriving three days later, he was very grieved since he had not been able to see the immaculate body like the other Holy Apostles, they opened the grave thoughtfully for him in order he to worship the body of the Virgin Mary as well. When he saw the grave, he was amazed that he found the grave without the immaculate body, but only with the shroud, which had been left to comfort the Holy Apostles and believers, and as a true evidence that the Mother of God had gone to Heavens. A shroud is a piece of cloth in which the body of a dead person is wrapped before it is buried. Her grave cut in stone is seen without her immaculate body and is honoured worshipfully even today, to glorify and venerate the Blessed Virgin. The Dormition of the Theotokos is considered, within the annual calendar, a crucial moment, being accompanied with some popular traditions as well. The feast marks the end of the two-week fasting period, paving the way for weddings, fairs and autumn markets. On the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, the last officinal plants are harvested and the beak of birds is fastened, in order not to ravage grapes. On the day before the feast, 14th August, people gather by their houses, to tell stories about the kindness and miracles of the Mother of God. In some parts of Moldavia, the feast celebrated on 15th August dedicated to the Mother of God is considered “for the dead”, being remembered all the ancestors fallen asleep into the Lord that had born the name of the Holy Virgin. Consequently, on the feast day, women take the most beautiful flowers in their garden, together with “a requiem cake of grapes”, plums and honeycombs to church, which they share to those who went to Heavens and had born the name of the Holy Virgin. A requiem cake is prepared of boiled wheat mixed with sugar or honey and pounded nuts, which is shared at 44


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER funerals or memorial services after the priest officiates the liturgical service. The Virgin Mary always enjoyed a special veneration from believers. The Veneration of the Mother of God saw, however, a special progress after the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), on whose occasion the Virgin Mary was called “Mother of God”, namely the one through whose agency the Son of God was incarnated, thus confirming the ever faith of Christians. In fact, the syntagm “Mother of God” had been also used by other fathers and writers of the Church, long time before the Ecumenical Council held in 431, being considered of apostolic tradition.

The term “Mother of God” was first attested in a writing of 230 The term was attested for the first time in a writing of Origen in 230. Origen was the most important theologian and biblical scholar of the early Greek Church. Besides him, Saint Athanasios the Great (in 330), Saint Gregory the Theologian (370) and Saint John Chrysostom (400) also used the syntagm ‘Mother of God’ regarding Mary, the mother of Jesus. A special matter, as concerns the Veneration of the Mother of God, is the one that, besides the Orthodox, Roman Catholic Churches and the NonChalcedonian Rites, who honour her particularly, even the promoters of the Protestant Reform emphasised the veneration the Virgin Mary deserves, maintaining at the same time, in the spirit of the genuine Christian tradition, her ever virginity. For instance, Martin Luther said that ‘the Virgin Mary is the greatest of all women, and we will be never able to glorify her enough’, that ‘the Veneration of the Mother of God is deeply implanted into Christian souls’ and every Christian should do everything in order ‘the Virgin Mary to be known and honoured by everybody’. Martin Luther was a German theologian and religious reformer and the catalyst of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. John Calvin said ‘It cannot be contested that God, choosing Mary to be the mother of His Son, honoured her particularly’, and Huldrych (or Ulrich) Zwingli believed that the more people loved Jesus Christ, the more they honoured Mary. John Calvin, French Jean Calvin, or Cauvin was a theologian and ecclesiastical statesman. Huldrych (or Ulrich) Zwingli was a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland. Thus, it can be noticed that the teaching about the Veneration of the Mother of God was not repulsed by the first Protestants, but on the contrary. Although few people may have expected it, the Virgin Mary enjoys a special veneration in the Islamic religion as well. The Mother of God is the only woman to whom the Koran gives the greatest attention, being considered the most holy, pious and virtuous woman. Moreover, the title of Chapter 19 in the Koran bears the name of the Holy Virgin, telling her life, given that only other 8 chapters of the 114 ones of the Islamic holy book bear names of persons. Following the Koran, the Muslims consider that Mary gave birth to Jesus only in accordance with the wishes of Allah, being a virgin and LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER remaining a virgin for the rest of her life. In the Hebrew language, the name ‘Mary’ means ‘Lady’, ‘Mistress’, ‘the Chosen one’, and some researchers, considering that her name comes from the Egyptian language, translate ‘Marye’ as ‘the dearly beloved one’.

The first name in the Bible related to the one of the Theotokos is Miriam The first person mentioned in the Holy Scripture who bore the name of the Blessed Virgin is Miriam (today Miryam), the sister of Prophet Moses. During the 1 st century AD, the name ‘Mary’ seems to have been well known, the pages of the New Testament enumerating, besides the Mother of God, several persons who bore that name: Mary the sister of Martha, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Mary the mother of Mark and the Mary to which the Holy Apostle Paul gave his kind regards in his Epistle to the Romans. Thanks to the veneration the mother of Jesus enjoyed among Christianised peoples, Mary became a well-known name, being, perhaps, the name born by most women.




FEATURED ARTICLE GOD IS SHOWING HIS FACE ON THE MOUNTAIN The Transfiguration on Mount Tabor was one of the few wonders worked by Jesus Christ on Himself. On that occasion, three of His disciples caught only a glimpse of the light of the divine nature of the Saviour. For the Transfiguration, grapes are blessed, medicinal plants are harvested and the quality of the corn harvest for the following year is estimated. Every year, on 6th August, very many pilgrims climb Mount Ceahlău to celebrate the dedication day of the monastery situated there. The Transfiguration of the Saviour had happened several months before His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Thus, during the third year of His preaching, Jesus Christ told his disciples frequently that He had to be crucified, informing them about the Resurrection that would come after His Passion as well. Much more sensitive to the prediction of the Passion than to the words about what would come afterwards, the Holy Apostles became increasingly sad, beginning to doubt that Jesus may have not been the Messiah they had expected. When Jesus asked His disciples ‘Whom do men say that I am, the Son of Man?’, they replied ‘Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ The moment of the Transfiguration or the moment when Jesus showed His three disciples – Peter, James and John – the light of His divinity ‘as much as it was possible’ was, from the viewpoint of some commentators, a method to strengthen the belief of the disciples, in order they not to leave their Teacher before the Cross.

According to the Holy Gospels, when the miracle was performed, Jesus Christ was not alone, but, besides His disciples, Moses and Elijah were present as well. In spite of the accusations brought by the scholars of that time because He did not observe the law issued by God to the LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER people chosen through Moses, the Saviour had said that He did not break the law, but He fulfilled it. He had also explained them many times those places in the Old Testament that talked about Himself as about the long-awaited Messiah, announced by God to the chosen people, through prophets. The presence of Moses and Elijah in the context of the Transfiguration has a special significance, being, actually, one of the incontestable evidence of the messianity of the Saviour. The overwhelming light that surrounded Jesus Christ, the voice that was heard in the cloud - ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him’ as well as the presence of the two prophets of the Old Testament attested that the Saviour came and Christ was the one acknowledged by the Father. According to the Jewish folk tradition of 2000 years ago, people also believed that Moses – not only Elijah – had been taken by God with the body to heaven, because the place of his grave had been never found. Therefore, somehow, both the Saviour and Moses and Elijah were some vanquishers of death. However, the cases of the two prophets only prefigured the Resurrection and the everlasting life brought by Christ, the Son of God. The Transfiguration is the newest royal feast. The feast was initially one of a strictly local nature and marked the annual anniversary of the dedication of the church built in the 4 th century by Empress Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, on Mount Tabor, the place where the miracle had been performed. Some researchers maintain that the feast replaced an old pagan feast, dedicated to Diana, the goddess of hunting. The celebration of the Transfiguration began to be mentioned in documents during the first half of the 5 th century, since Patriarch Proclus of Constantinople, Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria and Pope Leo the Great used to deliver festive speeches on that occasion. It seems that the feast had been generalised throughout the East until the 8 th century, when Saints John of Damascus and Cosmas of Maiuma composed hymns for the liturgical service of the day. Although it was occasionally observed in the West as early as the 7th century, the Feast of the Transfiguration spread only during the 15 th century, as a result of the decision of Pope Callixtus III.

The Feast of the Transfiguration was fixed in August because it marks the change of nature Although, chronologically, the miracle had been performed short time before the Passion and the Resurrection, the Feast of the Transfiguration is observed between the Resurrection and the Nativity of the Lord because, when annual festivals were established, the Church also took into account the season when it was fixed. It is not for nothing that the Nativity of the Lord is observed in winter, when days are shorter, but because Christ is ‘the Light of the world’. The rebirth of nature that occurs every spring coincides with the Feast of the Resurrection as well. According to the same manner, the Feast of the Transfiguration was fixed on a day of August because, from experience, it was noticed that, since then, nature ‘changes its order’, gets a new look. The Feast of the Transfiguration is observed every year during the Lent of the Dormition of the Theotokos. The Lent of the Dormition of the Theotokos has a fixed length of time, being always observed between 1st and 15th August, and was set by the Church in remembrance of the remarkable virtues of the Theotokos. At the beginning, neither the length of time nor the kind of fasting were the same everywhere. Thus, until a local council of Constantinople established its standardisation in Orthodoxy during the 12 th century, its length of time had varied between one and thirty days. The Lent of the Dormition of the Theotokos can be observed easier than the Holy Lent, but harder than the Nativity Lent. The only day during the Lent of the Dormition of the Theotokos when Orthodox Christians are allowed to eat fish is on 48


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER 6th August, when they observe the Feast of the Transfiguration, and if the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is on a Wednesday or a Friday, Orthodox Christians are not allowed to eat meat, but they are again allowed to eat only fish.

The Ceahlău Monastery was dedicated in 1993 and built in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence The Ceahlău Monastery, dedicated to Saint Stephen the Great and the Transfiguration, was raised by the Metropolis of Moldavia and Bukovina in cooperation with the Ministry of National Defence. Despite the unfavourable circumstances, caused by the altitude of more than 1,500 metres at which the monastery is situated, the liturgical life was going on ceaselessly since it had been dedicated in 1993 by His Holiness Daniel, Archbishop of Iași and Metropolitan of Moldavia and Bukovina. For more than half a year, the monk on Mount Ceahlău live completely isolated, and the winter months are spent by them in huts dug in the ground. In 2005, however, the construction of a house called ‘Panagia’ was started, being designed to include both the cells of the monks and rooms for the pilgrims who would visit the monastery in the summer. On 6th August 2007, House Panagia was dedicated by His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Every year, on 6 th August, very many pilgrims come to celebrate the dedication day of the monastery.

The Transfiguration represents the limit between summer and autumn According to the folk tradition, the Transfiguration represents the limit between summer and autumn. In some areas within Romania, people used to say that the travel of storks, swallows and other migratory birds began when the feast was observed. Since then, the leaves of the trees in forests change their colour, grass do not grow any more, and snakes and other creatures make themselves ready for hibernation. After the Transfiguration, waters grow cold and it is not advisable people to bathe in rivers any more. On the occasion of the Feast of the Transfiguration, believers bring to church the fruits that begin to be almost ripe, especially grapes, to be blessed. In some regions of Moldavia, the berries of grapes brought to church to be blessed are called ‘requiem cake of grapes’. According to the custom of tasting grapes and other fruits, the month of August was called ‘the gustatory month’. For the Transfiguration, people used to harvest medicinal plants and fruits: hedge hyssop, lovage, garlic, chamomile flowers, hazelnuts, twigs loaded with plums and so on, but also they estimated the quality of the corn harvest for the following year, all maize stalks having to have corncobs at that time. Like during any feast, the remembrance of the departed is also practised, and the alms given on that day (which consist in grapes, stum and honeycombs) are called the Transfiguration of remembrance of the souls.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE OLDEST ICONS IN THE WORLD An icon changes into image what the Holy Gospels show through words. The Christian art represented by the icon came into existence 2000 years ago, when the new faith started to spread throughout the world, and catacombs prove it. The Seventh Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea in 787 defended the veneration of icons against the Iconoclastic heresy (the fight against holy icons). The oldest icons, which resisted until today, date from the 6 th and 7th centuries, many of them being found in the treasure of the Monastery of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai. The monastery houses one of the most important collections of icons. Some of them are appreciated as true masterpieces by the lovers of art from all over the world. The icons were painted between the 6 th and 19th centuries, each age enriching the vast collection of the monastery with special works. The encaustic technique, the technique of painting the first icons, uses wax and vegetable pigments, mixed at high temperature. A pigment is a substance used for colouring or painting, especially a dry powder, which when mixed with oil, water, or another medium constitutes a paint or ink. The Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai houses many icons painted using the encaustic technique. The technique had been used until the 7th century AD, when it was replaced by tempera painting. Tempera is a method of painting with pigments dispersed in an emulsion miscible with water, typically egg yolk. The method was used in Europe for fine painting, mainly on wood panels, from the 12th or early 13th century until the 15th one, when it began to give way to oils. One of the most known icons in the world, which represents ‘Christ Pantocrator’, is found in the treasure of the monastery. Restorers proved that the icon was initially painted in the 6th and 7th centuries through the encaustic technique. It is presumed that tempera painting was added to the initial icon in the 13th century. The icons that belong to the collection of the monastery, which were painted in the second half of the first millennium AD, come from the workshops of the monasteries in Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Cappadocia. They are special, mainly because the period of time in which they were painted coincided with the one of the Arab occupation, which prevented the contacts between the eastern regions and the Greek Christian centres. Thus, the icons dating from that period of time are rather the result of a folk art, whose features are less refined, using a primitive realism, in the spirit of the local tradition of the Coptic Church and the Syrian Church. However, the creation of that age was one of the most important sources of the Christian art in the following centuries. 50 LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER One of the most known icons depicting the Transfiguration is found at the Monastery of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai The icons painted between 1080 and 1200 AD are noticeable through a good balance of the composition, the expressive force of faces, the harmony of colours and the great frequency of the “Transfiguration” theme. One of the most known icons on the theme is found on the iconostasis of the church of the Monastery of Saint Catherine and dates back to the 12th century. The known icon of the ladder to Heavens, the one depicted according to “the Ladder”, the known work of Saint John Climacus, also dates back to the same period of time. In the 13th century, a new tendency appeared in the art of the icon, namely the one to restore plastic elements and to return to a natural proportion as concerns the representation of groups as well. Thus, the 13th century prepared the Renaissance of the palaeologic age. It was marked by a variety of styles taken from southern Italy, Constantinople or Cyprus. The art that dates back to that time gave rise to the Post-Byzantine art and allowed the influences of the Western Renaissance. The Holy Archangel Gabriel, an icon of Crete dating back to the 16th century, is representative of that time. Beside it, with clear elements of the Renaissance influence, the Spanish representation of Saint Catherine, dating from the 15 th century, must be noticed.

One of the most impressive icons found within the monastery is the large mosaic of the Transfiguration One of the most impressive icons found in the big church of the monastery, decorating the apse of the altar, is the large mosaic of “the Transfiguration”, a favourite theme of the iconographer monks on Mount Sinai – Sinai being the place where Prophets Moses and Elijah are said to have met God. An apse is a large semicircular or polygonal recess in a church, arched or with a domed roof and typically at the eastern end of the church. The beauty, age, variety of painting techniques and the good state of preservation made the icons a representative treasure of the entire Christianity. Everything that is specific to Orthodox icons is represented among the icons at the Monastery of Saint Catherine. Because the oldest and some of the most beautiful icons in the world are housed there, the monastery on Mount Sinai is today one of the most important places of pilgrimage as well. By tradition, Jesus Christ is LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012 51

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER said to have sent the image of His face to King Abgar of Edessa. Because he was ill, the king called the Saviour, through a letter, to heal him. The Saviour washed His face, asked for a cloth, wiped Himself with it, and His face was imprinted on it. He gave the cloth to the messenger of the king and told him that the king would be healed after he would receive one of His disciples to listen to his teaching. “The cloth of Abgar” was mentioned in the first Christian centuries as “the true image” of the Saviour. By tradition, the happy event during the lifetime of King Abgar of Edessa is compared to the one during the lifetime of Saint Veronica, who, seeing Jesus Christ when He climbed Golgotha, gave Him her cloth to wipe His face, and the face of the Saviour was also imprinted on it. According to tradition, the Holy Evangelist Luke, who was a doctor and a painter, depicted the face of the Virgin Mary on wood as well. Paintings of biblical inspiration dating from the first Christian centuries were also found in the catacombs of Rome.

The Orthodox Monastery of Saint Catherine is situated at the foot of Mount Sinai The Orthodox Monastery of Saint Catherine is situated at the foot of Mount Sinai (Mount Horeb in the Old Testament), the place where Prophet Moses is said to have received the two Tables of Testimony. Today, Mount Sinai is also known and venerated by Muslims, who call it “Jabal Musa”, meaning “the Mount of Moses”. Thus, the area surrounding Mount Sinai is sacred for three great religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The Monastery of Saint Catherine is one of the most visited places of pilgrimage within the entire Christianity, being an important monastic centre as early as the 4 th century AD. Among the most valuable ecclesiastical objects found at the Monastery of Saint Catherine, there is also a rich library that houses many old manuscripts (among which the Codex Sinaiticus, one of the oldest translations of the Bible into the Greek language, is also counted) and icons dating from the first centuries of Christianity. The geographical isolation of the area, weather conditions and the great care of the monks contributed to the preservation of the liturgical items, collected over many centuries of history.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD According to the chronological order of the life of the Saviour, the first fixed royal feast is the Nativity, also called Christmas by the people, observed on 25 th December, the annual feast of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ with the body. It seems to be the first feast specific to the Christian world, among those dedicated to the Saviour, although it is not as old as the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha or Pentecost, whose origin is closely related to the corresponding Jewish feasts. According to the ancient Christian mindset, inherited from the old world, the stress was laid on the day of death and resurrection of the adored deities, and not on the day of their birth. Therefore, the Veneration of the Saviour within the early Church was focused about His death and resurrection almost entirely. Moreover, Christian calendars do not keep the days of the birth of its martyrs and saints in memory of posterity, but the days on which they fell asleep into the Lord. Consequently, the Nativity of the Lord is generally considered as a feast whose origin is newer than Holy Pascha. Its old age can be retrospectively followed in documents until about the 3 rd century, when – according to a tradition recorded by Byzantine historian Nicephoros Callistos – during the persecution of Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, a great crowd of Christians died burnt alive in a church of Nicomedia, where they had gathered to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. Diocletian was a Roman emperor (284–305 AD), who restored efficient government to the empire after the near anarchy of the 3rd century. Maximian was a Roman emperor with Diocletian from 286 to 305 AD. Although celebrated within the entire Christian world, the Christians from the West were however different from the ones from the East in the beginning, as concerns the day on which the feast was celebrated. Thus, in the West, at least since about the 3 rd century, the Nativity of the Lord was celebrated, like today, on 25 th December, according to an old tradition, thereupon the census of Augustus Ceasar, during which the Holy Evangelist Luke recorded that the Nativity of the Lord occurred, took place on 25 th December 754 AUC. Augustus, also called Augustus LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012 53

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Caesar or (until 27 BCE) Octavian, was the first Roman emperor, following the republic, which had been finally destroyed by the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, his great-uncle and adoptive father. Saint Luke, (flourished 1st century AD) is, according to the Christian tradition, the author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, a companion of the Apostle Paul, and the most literary of the New Testament writers. Ab urbe condita (related with Anno Urbis Conditae: AUC or a.u.c. or a.u.) is Latin for ‘from the founding of the City (Rome)’, traditionally set in 753 BC. According to Saint John Chrysostom, the tradition was very old in Rome, and the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord is said to have been celebrated on 25 th December by its inhabitants right from the start. Later, Blessed Jerome also said about the same thing during a speech delivered by him in Jerusalem on 25 th December, observing the conviction that Christ was born on that day was old and universal. Blessed Jerome was one of the most cultivated one among the Holy Fathers of the Western Church and is mentioned as the translator of the Holy Scripture into the Latin language. In addition, according to Blessed Augustine, the consensus of the Church fixed the day of the Nativity of the Lord on the eighth day of the January calends (on 25th December). Augustine of Hippo (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430), also known as Augustine, Saint Augustine, Saint Austin, Saint Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or Saint Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius (present-day Annaba, Algeria). Calends were the first day of the month in the ancient Roman calendar. However, it is certain that in the East, until about the second half of the 4 th century, the Nativity of the Lord was celebrated on the same day as the Theophany of the Lord, namely on 6 th January, and that double feast was generally called the Manifestation of the Lord. The Theophany of the Lord is also called the Baptism of the Lord. The Eastern practice relied on the tradition that the Saviour is said to have received baptism on the same day as He had been born, according to the account of the Holy Gospel, which recorded that, when He came to River Jordan to receive baptism, the Saviour was about 30 years old. In fact, however, both in the East and in the West, the Nativity of the Lord was celebrated on the same day right from the start, being closely related to the one of the winter solstice, with the only difference that the Eastern Church fixed it, according to the Egyptian calculation, on 6 th January, while the Western Church, headed by Rome, recalculated it, fixing it according to the correct day on which the solstice fell at that time, namely on 25th December. It is considered that the feast of the Nativity of the Lord was separated from the one of the Theophany of the Lord for the first time in around 375 within the Church of Antioch, being celebrated on 25 th December, and then in Constantinople in 379, when Saint Gregory of Nazianzus delivered his famous solemn sermon on that occasion, which would be later used as a source of inspiration for hymnographer Cosmas of Maiuma to compose the canon of the Nativity of the Lord (‘Christ is born, glorify him! Christ is from heaven, go and meet him! Christ is on earth, be exalted! O All the earth, sing unto the Lord!’). Several years later, the Church of Antioch also introduced the day of 25 th December to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord, as it was proved during the Homily on the Nativity of the Lord, delivered by Saint John Chrysostom in Antioch in 386 and mentioned before. In the Apostolic Constitutions, written towards the end of the 4 th century, the Nativity of the Lord is counted as the first one among feasts, believers being recommended to celebrate it on 25 th December, and somewhere else, it is mentioned as a feast different from the one of the Theophany of the Lord. In time, namely during the first half of the 5 th century, the day of 25th December was also introduced to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord within the Church of Alexandria, then within the one of Jerusalem, thus spreading within the Eastern Christendom. Only the Armenians still celebrate the Nativity of the Lord on 6 th January (at the same time as the Theophany of the Lord), like in olden times. 54


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER The birthday of god Mithra was replaced with the birthday of Jesus When the day of 25th December was fixed for celebrating the Nativity of the Lord, it was also probably taken into account that most ancient peoples had some solar feasts that occurred around the winter solstice, namely 22 nd December, and that were combined with wild and dance parties and which had to be replaced by the Christian Christmas. The Church wanted to oppose a Christian feast especially to the worship of Mithra, the god of the Sun, a worship of Eastern origin, that seriously vied with Christianity during the 3rd century, mostly within the Roman army, and whose main feast happened around the winter solstice (on 22nd and 23rd December), being considered as a birthday of the Sun god, victorious in the struggle against cold and darkness, and the birthday of the undefeated Sun, because since then, days began to become longer, and nights started to become shorter. The general opinion of Western liturgists and historians is that the birthday of god Mithra (a feast introduced in Rome by Emperor Aurelian in 274) was thus replaced by the birthday of the Saviour, Who had been called by prophets ‘the Sun of Righteousness’ and ‘the Orient from on high’ and Who had been called by old Simeon ‘the light to lighten the Gentiles’, and then He called Himself ‘the Light of the world’.

The winter Roman festivals were also related to natural phenomena It is however possible that the true chronological relationship between the two feasts to be inverted, namely the Christian feast of the Nativity of Christ will have existed first on 25 th December, and the introduction of the pagan feast of god Mithra by Emperor Aurelian in 274 is said to have represented a lame attempt to replace the Christian feast, which was older. The winter festivals of the Romans, like Saturnalia (held in honour of Roman god Saturn) and Juvenalia (dedicated to the young or children), which happened about the same time, were also related to natural phenomena. Lots of old customs were related to the feasts of the Romans, the ancestors of the Romanians, and kept by the Romanian people until today, but which were related to the Nativity of the Lord and borrowed a Christian meaning and character, like Christmas carols, which were also added in time to other traditions of genuine Christian origin and conception, which turn the feast of Christmas into one of the most precious and most popular ones of the Romanian Orthodoxy. A symbolic consideration, LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER related to the cycle of the solar year, may have also made a valuable contribution to fixing the day of 25th December for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord. Because Saint John the Baptist had said ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’, the feast of the Nativity of the Forerunner John the Baptist was fixed on 24 th June (when the summer solstice occurs and days begin to become shorter), and the feast of the Nativity of the Lord was fixed on 25 th December, namely after the winter solstice, when days begin to become longer.

Fixing the feast involved many changes that were applied to the calendar Once fixed on 25th December, the feast of the Nativity of the Lord involved revising and moving or fixing the days of an entire series of other feasts, which had been generally newer, which depend on it chronologically, namely the Circumcision of the Lord, the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the Annunciation of the Theotokos and the Nativity of the Forerunner John the Baptist. Simultaneously, as concerns the great feast, the commemorations of some saints that had played major parts in the Old Testament and the New Testament appeared in the Eastern calendar, being arranged before and after the day of the Nativity of the Lord (as for example the two Sundays before the feast and the one after the feast), whose old age is attested as early as the 4th century. Thus, the feast of the Nativity of the Lord became the second cardinal point within the ecclesiastical year, after the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha. As the day of the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha guides the entire cycle of movable feasts, the Nativity of the Lord establishes an important cycle of fixed feasts, sprinkled within the entire cycle of the ecclesiastical year. As concerns the way in which it was celebrated and because it was considered as one of the greatest Christian feasts, the day of the Nativity of the Lord was celebrated with great solemnity. On the previous day, believers used to fast, according to a tradition that dated from the 4 th century, the liturgical service was officiated and catechumens used to receive baptism, like during the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha and Pentecost, and the Service of Royal Hours were celebrated. The service takes its name from the fact that emperors also used to attend it in Byzantium, and rulers together with their entire court participated in it in Romania. Moreover, on the day before the feast, the Church servers (priests and psalm readers), passed, like today, by the houses of the believers with the icon of the Nativity of the Lord to announce them the great feast on the following day. In time, the Nativity Lent was also founded, as a way of spiritual preparation for meeting the feast. The feast day itself was a day of rest, and even slaves were 56


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER exempted from their usual forced labour on that day. Performances (also including the theatrical ones, the ones from palaestras and circuses) were forbidden through civil laws. A palaestra was a wrestling school or gymnasium in ancient Greece and Rome. Genuflexion, both on the day of the Nativity and all the time until the day before the Theophany, was also forbidden, and that rule is, by virtue of tradition, is observed by Orthodox liturgical books until today. To genuflect means lower the body briefly by bending one knee to the ground , typically in worship or as a sign of respect.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE PATH OF HOLINESS, FROM HISTORY TO CALENDAR Holiness or the Christian perfection is a wish of every believer. Over the history of the Orthodox Church, there were many people who had enjoyed the gift of holiness through the right belief that they had professed and led through a pure and holy life within the Church, and then, after they fell asleep into the Lord, through the discovery of their holy relics and through the wonders that they worked. These elements and criteria led to the start of a canonical and statutory procedure of the Church for proclaiming a saint and incorporating his name in the church calendar. According to the Orthodox Christian tradition, canonisation is performed by the Church, but on the initiative of believers. The solemn proclamation of canonisation is confirmed and issued by the Holy Synod. Canonisation means incorporating or including somebody in the canon or list of saints as a form of recognition of the holiness of a person by the Church authority. It was said that canonisation does not follow the example of the ancient pagan practice through which heroes were considered gods, but, through it, God rewards those who led a holy life, setting examples to Christians and becoming interceders with God for believers, as some people who lived like anybody else in the world. Recognising the holiness of somebody who lived together with his neighbours presupposes a deep humbleness and spiritual wealth. However, once the divine gift of holiness is recognised, believers begin to honour, to worship and ask the holy person for help. It is the first and most important step within the entire procedure of canonisation of a saint. Sometimes, overzealous believers may honour particularly some of their neighbours that lead a spiritual life, but who did not receive the gift of holiness from God. Consequently, certain essential conditions are followed to attest the holiness of the life of somebody. The first of them is the obvious right belief of the person, preserved to his death and expressed through the glorification of God, shown through his ability to suffer martyrical death, to suffer different torments, to devote his life to the highest religious experience, to work wonders, during his lifetime or after his death, and to defend the right belief devotedly. These conditions are confirmed by the dispersion of the agreeable odour of holiness after death and its 58 LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER confirmation through the spontaneous worship. To verify the holiness of the people whose bodies are not decayed and who did not lead a spiritual life, the Church established that when undecayed mortal remains are discovered, the church servers should also officiate 40 Holy Liturgies, in order God to discover His work through it. When these conditions are not satisfied, it cannot be about holy relics.

The Holy Synod takes decisions Thus, according to the provisions of the Statute for the organisation and work of the Romanian Orthodox Church and in accordance with a methodology approved by the Holy Synod as early as 2005, with a view to proclaim the canonisation of a saint, there is a preceding activity. Each eparchy within the Romanian Orthodox Church sets up a liturgical board, which is occupied with the inspection of the deeds of the persons recognised that they led a spiritual life. The board of the eparchy within which the saint lived or where his holy relics were found works out a well documented study where all the arguments are gathered in favour of the proclamation of the canonisation. The eparchy prepares the liturgical texts, namely the service of Vespers, Matins, the Akathist and the icon of the saint, and submits them to a debate during a meeting within the Metropolitan Synod to which it belongs. All the liturgical texts together with the submitted study are then printed by the eparchy and spread to all the members of the Holy Synod, in order, when the issue will be debated by the Holy Synod, all the members to be aware of the motivations that determined the proposal. After the Metropolitan Synod expressed its opinion, corrected and improved the liturgical texts and made recommendations on the icon, all of them come to the Synodical Board for the canonisation of Romanian saints, which is composed of liturgist bishops, bishops with certain experience in the field of correcting liturgical books and depicting saints in iconography. The members of the Synodical Board examine them and formulate a series of proposals that are then submitted to the Holy Synod through the Educational and Liturgical Theological Board. Receiving all these documents, the Holy Synod examine and go deeply into them and, after making sure that all the submitted arguments are satisfactory, proclaim, decide on the canonisation of a saint and the incorporation of his name LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER in the calendar of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the church synaxarion. The decision of the Holy Synod is said to be brought to public notice through a synodical tomos written by the Synodical Board for the canonisation of Romanian saints and signed by all the members of the Holy Synod after the adoption of the synodical decision.

The ceremony of proclaiming a saint Then follow the preparations on a local scale. In the event that the relics of the saint are discovered, they are carefully taken from the grave where they rested until that time, placed in a shrine and, before the day of proclamation, the last requiem service takes place in memory of the one who has to be proclaimed saint, after the Holy Liturgy is officiated. Certainly, on the day before the proclamation, liturgical services are officiated in honour of the saint, his akathist hymn is sung, and even on the day of proclamation, after the Holy Liturgy is officiated, the synodical tomos is read and his icon is elevated before believers, to the tune of the troparion and kontakion of the saint. According to the tradition of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the proclamation of the canonisation of a saint takes place, as a general rule, at certain solemn moments during the life of the Church. Then follow the stages succeeding the canonisation, namely the official publication of the synodical document of canonisation, the communication of the document to all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, the publication of the life and liturgical service of the saint for believers, the official incorporation of the feast of the saint in the calendar of the church and the inclusion of his divine service in liturgical books and the circulation of the icon of the saint to believers. From the devotion of believers, many churches, but not only, are dedicated to the new saint. Consequently, on one hand, all efforts must be made for the proclamation of all those who distinguished themselves through a steadfast experience and faith, and on the other hand, saints must be honoured as they deserve through prayers and by following their example of faith. 60


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Canonisation of saints in Romania The first canonisation service of a saint within the Romanian Orthodox Church took place on 16th August 1517, when Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople and Metropolitan of Wallachia, was passed on among the saints. At that time, another saint, namely Voivode Neagoe Basarab, ruled over Wallachia. Romanian saints were also proclaimed by other Orthodox Churches, such as Saint Teofana Basarab, Saint John from Wallachia, Venerable Antipa of Calapodești and so on. When the Romanian Orthodox Church was granted autocephaly, in 1885, as a result of repeated requests, the Holy Synod asked eparchies to draw up the necessary documentation with a view to the canonisation of national saints. The great step was taken only on 28th February 1950, when, under the chairmanship of Patriarch Justinian Marina, the works started on the subject of the official canonisation of some national saints. They came to an end during the solemn meeting on 10th October 1955, when the names of eight new Romanian saints were incorporated in the Christian calendar, and the veneration of seven other saints, of other origin, but whose relics are found in Romania, was generalised. Thus, Saint th Joseph the New of the Partoş Monastery (commemorated on 15 September), Venerable Visarion the Confessor, Venerable Confessor Sofronie of Cioara and the Holy Martyr Oprea of Săliştea (commemorated on 21st October), Saint Calinic of Cernica (commemorated on 11 th April), Holy Confessors Elijah Iorest and Sava Brancovici (commemorated on 24 th April) are counted among Romanian saints, and Venerable Parascheva of Iaşi (commemorated on 14 th October), Saint Philoftheia of Curtea de Argeş (commemorated on 7 th December), Saint Gregory of Decapolis (commemorated on 20 th November), Venerable Nicodim of Tismana (commemorated on 26th December), Saint John from Wallachia (commemorated on 12 th May) and Venerable Dimitrie the New of Basarabi (commemorated on 27 th October) are numbered among the saints whose veneration was generalised. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER June 1992 Another stage regarding the canonisation within the Romanian Orthodox Church took place in June 1992, when the Romanian Orthodox calendar grew richer by fourteen new saints, being also accompanied by the generalisation of the veneration of the seven saints canonised in 1955 and other twenty-four native saints, who had lived or who had been martyred in Romania. Thus, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, during its work meeting on 20th July 1992, proclaimed solemnly and passed on among the saints, by incorporating their names in the Romanian Orthodox calendar, the venerable people and the fathers venerated on a local scale, as follows: Venerable John the New of the Prislop Monastery (commemorated on 13th September), Venerable Anthony of Iezeru-Vâlcea (commemorated on 23rd November), Venerable Daniel the Hermit of Voronetz (fallen asleep into the Lord on 18th December 1482 and commemorated on 18th December), Venerable Gherman of Dobrogea (commemorated on 29th February), Venerable John the Hozevite and the Romanian (fallen asleep into the Lord on 5th August 1960 and commemorated on 5th August), Venerable Theodora of Sihla (commemorated on 7 th August), Priest Confessors John of Galeş and Moses Măcinic of Sibiel (commemorated on 21st October), Hierarch Martyr Anthymos of Iviron (commemorated on 27th September), Hierarch Joseph the Confessor of Maramureș (commemorated on 24 th April), Hierarch Ghelasie of the Râmeț Monastery (commemorated on 30 th June), Hierarch Leontie of Rădăuți (fallen asleep into the Lord on 1st July 1430 and commemorated on 1st July), OrthodoxFaithful Voivode Stephen the Great and Holy (fallen asleep into the Lord on 2 nd July 1504 and commemorated on 2nd July) and Martyrs Constantin Brâncoveanu & his sons: Constantin, Stephen, Radu, Matthew and the Counsellor Ianache (fallen asleep into the Lord on 15 th August 1714 and commemorated on 16 th August). The Holy Synod is said to have decided, through its members, that they should be venerated as saints within the entire Romanian Orthodox Church, their names should be incorporated in the church calendar on the days that were established for that purpose, by drawing up synaxaria and liturgical services for them, and by painting their face in icons. It was also decided that the entire Romanian Orthodox Church should have generalised the veneration of the saints of Romanian origin that had lived, preached and suffered martyrdom for the right belief in the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic space and the saints of other origins that had preached and been martyred within the 62


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Romanian territory, as well as should have incorporated their names in the calendars of all eparchies on the days for which they had been fixed. The saints of other origins who preached and were martyred within the Romanian territory are Holy Martyrs Claudiu, Castor, Sempronian, and Nicostrat (commemorated on 9 th November), Venerable Paisios Velicikovski of the Neamţ Monastery (commemorated on 15 th November), Holy Martyr Dasios (commemorated on 20th November), Holy Martyr Hermes (commemorated on 31 st December), Venerable Antipa of Calapodeşti (commemorated on 10 th January), Holy Martyrs Hermylos and Stratonicos (commemorated on 13 th January), Saint Bretanion (commemorated on 25 th January), Venerable John Cassian the Roman (commemorated on 29 th February in leap years, and whose liturgical service is officiated during the Pre-Vespers Service on 28 th February in the other years), Holy Martyrs Montanus the Priest and his wife Maxima (commemorated on 26th March), Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Sirmium (commemorated on 6 th April), Holy Martyr Sava of Buzău (commemorated on 12th April), Saint Theotim of Tomis (commemorated on 20 th April), Holy Martyrs Pasicrat and Valentin (commemorated on 24 th April), Holy Martyr Julius the Veteran (commemorated on 27th May), Holy Martyrs of Niculițel: Zoticos, Atalos, Camasis and Phillip (commemorated on 4 th June), Holy Martyrs Nicander and Marcian (commemorated on 8th June), Holy Martyr Hesychios (commemorated on 15 th June), Holy Martyr Nicetas of Remesiana (commemorated on 24th June), Holy Martyr John the New of Suceava (commemorated on 2nd June), Holy Martyrs Epictet and Astion (commemorated on 8 th July), Holy Martyr Emilian of Durostor (commemorated on 18 th July), Saint Niphon of Constantinople (commemorated on 11 th August), Holy Martyrs Donat the Deacon, Romulus the Priest, Silvanus the Deacon and Venust (commemorated on 21 st August), and Holy Martyr Lupus (commemorated on 23rd August).

After 2000 Over the last years, the Romanian Orthodox Church officially proclaimed the canonisation of Saint Peter Mogila (in 2002), Saint Theodosios of Brazi and Venerable Basil of Poiana Mărului (2003), Venerable Onuphrios of Vorona and Saint Dosoftei (2005), Saint Gregory the Teacher (2006), Saint Pachomios of Gledin and Saint Varlaam of Moldavia (2007), as well as Holy Martyrs and Confessors from Năsăud: Atanasie Todoran from Bichigiu, Vasile Dumitru from Mocod, Marin Grigore from Zagra and Vasile Oichi from Telciu (2008). During the meeting of the Holy Synod held on 6th March 2008, it was decided the canonisation of nine saints from Neamț: the Pious Saints Simeon and Amphilochios from Pângăraţi (commemorated on 7 th September), Venerable Saint Chiriac from Tazlău (commemorated on 9 th September), the Pious Saints Joseph and Chiriac from Bisericani (commemorated on 1 st October), the Pious Raphael and Parthenios from Agapia Veche (commemorated on 21 st July), the Venerable Saint Joseph from Văratic (commemorated on 16 th August), and the Venerable John from Râşca and Secu (commemorated on 30th August). Then, during the meeting held on 8 th and 9th July 2008, the Holy Synod decided the canonisation of Saint Iaquint of Vicina, the first Metropolitan of Wallachia (commemorated on 3rd July), the Pious Saint Dionysios Exiguus, the father of the Christian era and the Church Law (commemorated on 1 st September), and the Holy Voivode Neagoe Basarab, the ruler of Wallachia, a man of hesychast culture and prince of peace (commemorated on 15th September). In 2009, Venerable Ioanichios the New from Muscel, commemorated on 26th July, was passed on among the saints during the meeting held on 18 th and 19th June. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER In the beginning, canonisation was not done according to well established criteria It is said that through the acts of canonisation, an autocephalous Church declares, on one hand, its independence from the other sister Churches, and on the other hand, its solidarity with them, because the other local Orthodox Churches are also invited to attend the proclamation of saints, but also by notifying them of the new canonisations. According to the Orthodox hagiology, as well as in accordance with the Orthodox Ecclesiastical Law, canonisation means the act through which the Church recognises, declares and canonises the heroes of the right belief, fallen asleep into the Lord, among the saints, whom it venerates, on the grounds of its dogmatic teaching. Within the Church of the first centuries, canonisation witnessed a progress that was closely related to the veneration of martyrs, which saw a continuous evolution and led to the establishment of their veneration. As a rule, within the Eastern Church, the recognition of holiness and canonisation was not done according to well established criteria. As a matter of fact, the proclamation of a saint was something usual and was done whenever God wanted to glorify the chosen vessel, the fine-burning light of holiness, and make his work known to the world by revealing the relationship established between the members of the earthly Church and the ones of the triumphant Church. The acts of solemn canonisation, the special rules for the saints whose relics were discovered, but also for the ones whose relics were not known, liturgical services in honour of them, akathists etc. and rules laid down by the present procedure of canonisation, which confirms the veneration of the saints whom the pious people honoured, appeared only later.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE SHEPHERD, THE IMAGE OF THE LEADER AND THE SYMBOL OF HUMBLENESS There are two combining conceptions on shepherds in the Holy Scripture: on one hand, the shepherd represents a leader, both political (a judge, a king) and spiritual (a prophet, a teacher), and on the other hand, the shepherd stands for humbleness, which is however rewarded by God by giving His grace. The image of the shepherd and the flock appeared from ancient times, being related to the king. In the East, the sheep and the goat were tamed (during the first half of the 9 th millennium BC), thanks to their capacity to multiply in captivity, but especially thanks to their gregarious instinct. As concerns animals, gregarious species live in flocks or loosely organized communities. Man could take the place of the leader of the flock, and these animals followed him docilely, unlike other animals that are more fearful (the antelope, the stag) or more hostile, even dangerous (the buffalo). Royalty used this experience of life to show its identity.

The shepherd, the image of the leader Hammurabi, also spelled Hammurapi, was the sixth king of the first dynasty of Babylonia and reigned from 1792 to 1750 BC. He is known for the set of laws called the Code of Hammurabi, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history. Thus, according to his Code of laws, Hammurabi called himself shepherd called by Enlil, the god of the air in the Sumerian religion. He also used the image of the shepherd right in the preface of his Code of laws. The king was consequently the guarantee of the fulfilment of the law that was even issued by the Deity, being however responsible for putting it into force among his subjects. As sheep follow their master obediently, Hammurabi also wanted, calling himself shepherd, his people, the Babylonians, to obey the laws handed down by gods through him. Within the ancient societies, which used a mixed form of sheep breeding and agriculture, shepherds were not usually the owners of the flocks, but only employees of the ones who owned the animals and were especially interested in agricultural works. In the same way, not even the king was the absolute master of his subjects, but he was only an ‘employee’ of the Deity, Who was actually the owner of humankind. Appeared in such an eastern environment, Israel used the image of the shepherd for leaders, especially for the king. Yahweh, the name of God used in the Old Testament of the LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Bible, first made judges be shepherds, then chose the Tribe of Judah to shepherd the Israeli people. David would be descended from the Tribe of Judah and would be chosen by Yahweh to shepherd over His people of Israel. In fact, David had been even a shepherd before he was of service to Saul. Consequently, when they did not enjoy good kings, the Israelites scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd, and because of it, the rulers of the Israeli people, even the spiritual ones (prophets, priests), were called shepherds. One of the prophets, Amos, had been even a shepherd and gatherer of sycamore fruits before his prophetical vocation. Jeremiah and Ezekiel criticised ‘the shepherds of the people’ that turned out to be scoundrels. In the Prophet Ezekiel, false prophets became beasts of prey for sheep. Prophet Zechariah even used the symbol of a ‘mad’ shepherd, who would be, however, finally punished by God.

The Messiah, the genuine shepherd of the people of God Thus, it was prophesied the coming of a true shepherd to take care of the flock. It was taken into account the coming of a king similar to David, to bring peace. The pastorship of the king was however a relative one. The true owner remained God, to Whom the paradigm of the shepherd was applied as well. After driving away the evil shepherds, God Himself would finally pastorate the nation. It can be noticed that, on one hand, prophets announced the coming of a king, a new David, to be a worthy shepherd of the nation, and, on the other hand, it can be observed that God Himself would be the Shepherd. The prediction was fulfilled in the New Testament, Saviour Jesus Christ being the closest living relative of King David, but on the other hand, being God Himself. Christ even called Himself Shepherd, the true and good shepherd, in contrast with the false, paid, one, who profits from the flock. At the approach of His Passion, when His disciples left Him terrified, Christ showed the fulfilment of the prediction of Zechariah: ‘I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered’ [Mark 14:27], but through His Resurrection, the Saviour would gather His Church like some sheep, and there shall be finally ‘one fold and one Shepherd’ [John 10:16]. Even the Last Judgement was actually compared to the division of the sheep from the goats by the shepherd [Matthew 25:32]. Like in the Old Testament, ‘shepherd’ was also a term applied to the leaders of the Church, who were appointed by Christ. ‘He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers’ [Ephesians 4:11], but Christ remains ‘the Great Shepherd of sheep’ [Hebrews 13:20] and ‘the chief Shepherd’ [1 Peter 5:4]. 66


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Humbleness and poverty, the features of sheep breeding However, in addition to the impressive image of the shepherd about royalty, there is also one that approximates him to his modest social status. Professional shepherds were actually humble people, from the poor sections of the population, especially that they were not the owners of the flocks, but only those to whom the flocks were entrusted, as leaseholders were entrusted with lands for use. In the ancient world, especially in Egypt, shepherds were prevalently associated with poverty and mendicancy. Mendicancy is the practice of begging. It happened because, in times of famine, the shepherds of Syria and Palestine came to Egypt where they found grains or grasslands. Spiritually, shepherds represented humble people, who enjoyed, however, the knowledge of God, becoming His nation. They were spurned by the Egyptians, the example of haughty people, who would however witness the disasters that would strike them. To spurn means to reject with disdain or contempt. Allegorically, Egypt actually represented the Devil. The humble shepherds would be however the first ones who would hear the news of the Nativity of the Saviour.




FEATURED ARTICLE HOW BELIEVERS SHOULD PRAY IN CHURCH The Church is the House of God, the place where Christians meet Jesus Christ, the One Who sacrificed Himself for them without blood, and the Holy Spirit, Who offers Himself to them through His Gifts. The Church, which is pre-eminently a place of prayer, is sought by people searching for divine peace and happiness every day. They go to church for profound meditation, seek the advice of God on problems of daily occurrence, relieve their feelings under the stole of father confessors, light candles and say prayers for their dear departed, thank God for His help or open their heart to the Saviour as to an old friend. There are many reasons for which Christians cross the threshold of a church and just as many and different are the ways in which they worship in church. Everyone worships as he or she thinks right to do it. Because they do not follow a certain rule, they disturb the ones who surround them, becoming a cause of temptation in the church, and they return home less reformed than they went to church. Firstly, Christians must sign themselves with the Holy Cross not only when they pass by a church, but also when they cross its threshold. They do not have to forget that when they drive their right hand, with the three joined fingers, to the forehead, they must say ‘In the name of the Father’, to the lower middle of their chest ‘of the Son’ and to the right shoulder and then to the left shoulder saying ‘and of the Holy Spirit. Amen’. They must say this first prayer before the church. Once they entered the church, they must give up their idle beliefs and worries, retire to a place and say a prayer.

Believers must first worship God Then, believers must not direct their steps towards the shrine containing holy relics or a wonder-working icon, but they have to first worship God. Consequently, they have to turn their steps towards the iconostasis, under the candelabrum, where they sign themselves with the Holy Cross three times, thereupon they bend their body forward, until their right hand, if stretched, touches the ground. On the right side, there is a lectern smaller than the one on the 68


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER left, with the icon of the Mother of God. It holds the icon of the parish feast, the saint of the day or the Resurrection. Then, believers have to approach the lectern, leave a relative small place between them and it, and sign themselves with the Holy Cross two times, say the troparion of the saint or the feast, kiss the icon, retire a little from there and sign themselves with the Holy Cross once more. This rule must be followed for each icon. They may bend their knees and offer themselves a short leisure time for praying only when they are alone and nobody is waiting behind them. It is however advisable to spend their leisure time of praying somewhere in the church, where they do not disturb anyone, because God is present everywhere. There is the royal icon of Saviour Jesus Christ on the back side of the iconostasis. Believers have to say a prayer addressed to the Saviour before it. Then, they must make their way towards the right side, before the deacon’s door, where they say the troparion of Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, then towards the icon of the parish feast, where they should say the troparion of the saint or feast represented on it. After they have also kissed the other icons on the right side, if they are found, they should retire to the place under the big candelabrum, without passing before the holy doors, found between the icon of Saviour Jesus Christ and the one of the Mother of God. They must do it out of respect for the holy altar and because only priests and bishops, who represent Jesus Christ during the liturgical service, may pass through the holy doors.

When they worship holy relics, believers must not be overzealous Next, Orthodox believers have to leave the place under the candelabrum and go to the left side, where the iconostasis with the icon of the Mother of God is found, and say a prayer that may be also repeated before the royal icon, which is also dedicated to the Mother of God, found behind it, on the iconostasis. As mentioned, then follows the royal icon of the Virgin Mary, the deacon’s door on the left and the icon of Saint John the Baptist, Saint Nicholas, or another saint, before which the troparion of the saint must be said. Coming back to the place under the candelabrum, believers must sign themselves with the Holy Cross three times and make their way towards the two iconostases found at the entrance into the porch, with Saviour Jesus Christ on the right and the Mother of God on the left, but only in the churches where they are found. Believers must direct their steps towards holy relics, which are usually placed on the left, only afterwards, because they must first worship God and then worship them. When they worship holy relics, believers must not be overzealous, but follow the same rule mentioned before. Many other believers look forward to worshipping holy relics as well, and they start to say prayers and requests, making them feel uncomfortable and estranging them from their prayer. It is not advisable to do it, but after kissing holy relics, believers should retire to another place, and LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER thank the saint only there and ask him to intercede with God for them, because he does not help them, but his prayers lead their request closer to God.

In a church, believers must be always temperate In a church, believers must be always temperate, try to be as silent as possible, not to talk uselessly, to pray in a low voice and without gesticulations. They should also use the prayer of thought rather than the one of speech. When they pray, believers must either stay erect or kneel down. It is important even the way in which they kneel down. At the end of their prayer, believers must sign themselves with the Holy Cross three times towards the holy altar, while they say another prayer. After they have left the Church, they must feel silence and joy, being pleased that they had said their prayers by not disturbing the others.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE HERMIT THAT TAMED WILD BEASTS Patrician Theodotos and his wife Ruphina hailed from a Syrian province called Gangra. The high official of the citadel brought them to Caesarea in Cappadocia, to ruler Faustus, one of the most hot-blooded persecutors of Christians. Ruphina was pregnant and could hardly stood the torments of the torturers. God ordered a woman named Ammia to look after the baby as her own son. Because the first word that he said after he had reached the age of five years old was ‘mama’, the baby was named Mamant. He was even taken before Emperor Aurelian, who tried to make him give up his faith and sacrifice to god Serapis. He was surrounded by wild beasts all the time, like a shepherd amid his flock. By the order of the high official, Mamant was stabbed with the pole, passing away in one of the caves of those places. During the persecution of Roman Emperor Aurelian (270-275), a family of noble descent got over the rigours of that time and did not avoid professing the right belief. Patrician Theodotos and his wife Ruphina hailed from a Syrian province called Gangra. Although they enjoyed a special honour within their province, they were not shy of professing Jesus Christ amid people, drawing the attention of the authorities to themselves, what led to severe measures taken against anyone who refused to celebrate their gods. After short time, pagan high official Alexander called them before the judge, obliging them to celebrate gods. When Alexander was ready to put them to the rack, he was stopped by the inhabitants of the citadel because Theodotos was a Roman dignitary and could be punished only by the order of the emperor. A dignitary is a person considered to be important because of high rank or office. In order Theodotos and Ruphina to be put to the rack for their thoughtlessness, the high official brought them to Caesarea in Cappadocia, to ruler Faustus, one of the most hot-blooded persecutors of Christians. Talking about a person, hot-blooded is someone having strong emotions and easily becoming very excited or angry. To persecute means to treat somebody in a cruel and unfair way, especially because of their race, religion or political beliefs. The ruler sent them to prison, torturing them terribly. To torture means to hurt somebody physically or mentally in order to punish them or make them tell you something. Ruphina was pregnant and could hardly stood the torments of the torturers. A torment is an extreme suffering, especially a mental suffering; a person or thing that causes this. To torment means to make somebody suffer very much. Consequently, Theodotos prayed LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012 71

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER to God to accept their souls before they gave up the right belief because of their torments. After Theodotos had passed away, his wife bore prematurely a blessed son, a fruit of their sufferings and sacrificial love towards Christ. After the birth of their son, Ruphina fell asleep into the Lord as well.

A woman named Ammia looked after little Mamant After Theodotos and his wife Ruphina had fallen asleep into the Lord, God ordered, through His angel, a woman of Caesarea, whose name was Ammia, who was of noble birth and who professed the right belief, to ask the high official for the bodies of the two saints, who were imprisoned, to bury them honourably, and to look after the baby as her own son. To profess means to state openly that you have a particular belief, feeling etc. By the order of God, the heart of the high official calmed down, and Ammia succeeded in placing the bodies of the two martyrs honourably, burying them in her garden. The baby was looked after affectionately by the Christian woman, who loved him as her own child. He had not said any word until he was five years old. Because the first word that he said after he was five years old was ‘mama’, the baby was named Mamant. He was educated at the best schools of that time, distinguishing himself through the uncommon quickness of his wit. Emperor Aurelian, a severe persecutor of those who refused to worship idols, ascended the throne of Rome. Worship is the practice of showing respect for God or a god, by saying prayers, singing with others, etc. To worship means to show respect for God or a god, especially by saying prayers, singing, etc. wit other people in a religious building. It also means to go to a service in a religious building. Not only men, but also women and children were obliged to make sacrifices to the gods. Sacrifice is the act of offering something to a god, especially an animal that has been killed in a special way. A sacrifice is an animal, etc. that is offered in this way. To worship means to kill an animal or a person and offer it or them to a god, in order to please the god. The belief of the baby was not obvious for long time and he attracted, as his parents had formerly done, the envy of the persecutor high officials. At that time, the appointment of ruler of Caesarea in Cappadocia was held by Democritus, the one who had replaced Faustos and who was also green with envy of Christians. Young Mamant was brought before him to justify himself and to be put to the test in the idolatrous belief. Mamant was only 15 years old and had been recently left an orphan by his second mother Ammia as well. Asked if he was Christian, Mamant recognised it unhesitatingly, being ready to accept any torment for his faith, disdaining the idle belief of those who suspected him straightforwardly. 72


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER For his boldness, the saint was put to many tortures The ruler wanted to win the approval of the emperor once more to put Mamant to the rack, because he was of noble descent, according to his parents. After he had received the consent of the emperor, ruler Democritus unleashed torments upon young Mamant. He was even brought before the emperor, who tried to make him give up his faith and make sacrifices to idol Serapis. However, the young man preferred the eternal kingdom to the passing one. For his boldness, he was burnt with lit candles, beaten with stones, thrown into the sea to get drowned, but the saint extricated himself unharmed from all the torments, always helped by the angel of God, who was always by his side, encouraging him. The rulers had decided to throw the saint into the sea, but God ordered His angels to guard him, and they kidnapped him and brought him on a mount, to the wilderness situated near Caesarea in Cappadocia. There, the saint lived like a second Moses, fasting for forty days and forty nights, and spending his life in alliance with wild beasts. In those places, Mamant built a church, where he prayed and read the Holy Scripture. He was always surrounded by wild beasts, like a shepherd amid his flock. The saint made cheese from their milk and shared it with the poor. The rumour about the hermit that tamed wild beasts spread to the pagan high officials of Caesarea. Because they did not know his identity, the high officials thought him a wizard and sent several soldiers to bring him to the citadel. Arriving near the places where the saint did penance, the soldiers were welcomed by Mamant himself, who entertained them as some brethren. Mamant revealed his identity, telling them that he would come to the citadel by himself to appear before the high official. During his journey to Caesarea, Mamant was accompanied by a lion, who remained at the gates of the citadel.

The martyr was thrown to wild beasts, but they did not harm him After he had recognised Jesus Christ again before the pagan persecutors, Saint Mamant was put to the most awful tortures: beaten with iron nails, imprisoned, thrown into a lighted furnace, to wild beasts and beaten with stones. Seeing that not any punishment injured him, the persecutors decided to throw him into a hot furnace, but Mamant extricated himself unharmed after three days. Then, the saint was thrown to wild beasts, but nothing happened to him again because wild beasts recognised him as their shepherd. Many people of those present believed in the power of God that worked through His servant Mamant so visibly. At LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER that time, thanks to God, the lion that had accompanied Mamant could speak the human language and addressed those present, recognising his master. By the command of the high official, Mamant was stabbed with a pole, passing away in one of the grottos found in those places. His holy relics were carefully buried by believers where he had fallen asleep into the Lord, Syrian Christians having to build a church there later. In iconography, the saint is represented near a lion. Holy Martyr Mamant is commemorated by the Orthodox Church on 2nd September, together with his parents, Holy Martyrs Theodotos and Ruphina.




FEATURED ARTICLE SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST, THE PROTOTYPE OF ASCETIC LIFE The Synaxis of John the Holy Glorious Prophet, Baptist and Forerunner or the crowning of all the days dedicated to Saint John is the last great feast of the winter season. Every year, on 7th January, the Orthodox Church makes a sacrifice of gratitude to the Forerunner of the Lord, who preached to the Jews of that time, but also to all the people until today: ‘Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ He was the first one who used baptism as a way of purification, but his baptism was rather one through which people used to confess their sins, while the Baptism of Christ just forgives all the sins. Saint John is the one who baptised the Saviour of the world in the waters of River Jordan, at the moment when the Holy Trinity appeared before people for the first time. The Holy Prophet John was born into the family of a priest named Zacharias. The wonderful birth of Saint John had been prophesied by the Holy Archangel Gabriel in an apparition during the liturgical service officiated by the father of Saint John in the temple. His mother, Elizabeth, old and childless, because she could not have children, was a descendant of the family of Aaron. In the Hebrew Bible and the Koran, Aaron, who is often called ‘Aaron the Priest’, and once Aaron the Levite, was the older brother of Moses, and a prophet of God. Zacharias did not believe in the words of the angel and, as a punishment, he remained speechless. The birth of John had happened six months before the birth of Jesus. The Holy Evangelist Luke shows that Elizabeth and Mary, the Mother of God, were cousins. According to biblical account, later, Saint John retired to the wilderness close to River Jordan. He led a life of abandonment, he was dressed in clothes of camel hair, ate honey and locusts and prayed continuously. He set an example to the first ascetics of Christianity and to monasticism. Saint John the Baptist is the Forerunner of the Lord, the one that prepared the way and crowds of people for receiving the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The main message shared by John was ‘Repent ye: for the kingdom of LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012 75

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER heaven is at hand’. Those who renounced their sins were baptised in River Jordan. The ritual that accompanied the baptism officiated by John to the Jews was similar to the one described in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Consequently, it seems John belonged to the group of the Essenes, those who lived in the wilderness. However, in contrast with the Dead Sea Scrolls, where baptism was an individual ritual, the baptism officiated by John at River Jordan took place within groups of several people. The baptism officiated by John also has an eschatological meaning, predicting, as the prophet himself used to say, the baptism ‘with the Holy Spirit and with fire’, which the One that would come after him, the Lord Jesus Christ, would bring.

The hatred of Herodias brought his death At the moment when Jesus went to John to be baptised, the prophet on the bank of River Jordan came to the climax of his mission. He opened the hearts and minds of the Jews, to receive Christ and His word. The seeds planted by him would bear fruit: the first disciples of the Lord would be chosen from among the ones of Saint John. When he delivered his sermons, he frequently criticised King Herod Antipas because he had married Herodias, the former wife of his stepbrother Philip. As a result of his criticisms, however, he incurred imprisonment. During a party with many guests, Salome, the daughter of Herodias, danced before her stepfather. Herod yielded to the delights of the young dancer and promised her everything. On the advice of her mother, the girl asked him for the head of Saint John the Baptist. After he had been murdered, his head was brought to Salome on a tray. The body of Saint John the Baptist is said to have been taken by his supporters to the city of Samaria, where it was buried. Samaria was an ancient city of central Palestine, founded in the 9th century BC as the capital of the northern Hebrew kingdom of Israel. The ancient site is situated in the modern West Bank, north-west of Nablus.

The holy relics of Saint John the Baptist According to tradition, John was buried in Samaria. Historians Rufinus and Theodoret show that his grave was violated during the reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate, in 362, part of his relics being burnt. To violate means to damage or destroy a holy or special place. The other part of his relics was conveyed to Jerusalem, then to Alexandria, Egypt, where, on 27 th May 395, it was placed in the church that bears his name. It was said that the head of Saint John the Baptist was buried separated, in the fortress Machaerus or even in the palace of Herod of Jerusalem. Machaerus is a fortified hilltop palace located in Jordan fifteen miles (24 km) south-east of the mouth of River Jordan on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. Today, the head of the saint is found in Rome, Italy. Fragments of his relics are also found in the Coptic Church, at the monasteries between Cairo and Alexandria, in Egypt.

Mandaenism, the religion of Prophet John the Baptist Saint John the Baptist is also found in other religions. In the Mandaean monotheistic religion, found especially in the Arabic world, he is honoured as the greatest messenger of God, named Yahya in the Sidra d-Yahia (Book of John). He is considered the true Messiah. According to Ginza Rba, the prophet passed away in the hands of an angel, who appeared to him at River Jordan to be baptised. The Ginza Rba or Ginza Rabba is the largest of the many holy scriptures of the Mandaean religion, which reveres John the Baptist but rejects Jesus of Nazareth. It is 76 LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER said that John knew that he would pass away if he would baptise the angel, but he did it. After his death, the angel is said to have covered his body with mud. He is also named Yahya in Islam, where John is known as the prophet related to Prophet Jesus, as the son of Elizabeth and Zacharias.

The coat of John talks about his ascetic life, but it also has spiritual meanings Saint John the Baptist represents an example of vigil, prayer, repentance and spiritual mindfulness, awakening of the soul from the death of sin and obedience to the word of God. The Gospel according to Mark describes him as an ascetic, a hermit dressed in a coat made of camel hair, girded with a leather belt, eating locusts and wild honey. All these details are not mentioned uselessly, but they have spiritual importance and meaning. The camel could be considered both as a clean animal in the Old Testament, because it was a ruminant, symbolising thus the Jewish people, but on the other hand, it also appeared as an unclean animal, because it had cloven hooves. Since it was an animal with cloven hooves, it foreshadowed pagan nations. Therefore, because it represents both the Jews, considered a people chosen by God, and unclean pagans, who are far from the Law of God, the coat made of camel hair and worn by John talks about the repentance that is necessary both for the Jews and for pagans. At the same time, the garment worn by Saint John revealed the hard life led by him. The Forerunner of the Lord did not live in ease, but his main concern was the joy that comes to man from prayer, fast, repentance, and his complete devotion to God. Girding with a leather belt come from a dead animal means mortification, destruction of sinful passions that live within him. At the same time, in the East, where clothes were long and large, when somebody wore a belt, it meant that he was willing to work. The man who was able to perform an activity was girded with a belt. Saint John the Baptist is girded with a belt because he performs an activity of preaching, prayer, in other words he carries out a spiritual activity. His food, composed of wild honey and locusts, animals considered clean in the Book of Leviticus, which had an unpleasant taste and smell, shows that food and its good taste are not the purposes of his activity, but that Prophet John eats only to live, and he does not live to eat. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER All the details related to the clothes and food of the prophet represent spiritual meanings to understand ascetic life. Consequently, the Forerunner of the Lord is considered the example or prototype of ascetic life, and, more often than not, a crowd of fathers in the wilderness led a similar life to the one of the prophet, their most important food being the word of God and the prayer, and their clothes being represented by garbing with virtues, in the presence and in the light of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the hermits depicted in the paintings of the Church have bright clothes and faces, because they got dressed in the light of the grace of God.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE GRACIOUS MARTYR AND HEALER The Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Panteleimon, ‘the unmercenary doctor’, every year on 27th July. He was martyred during the persecution of Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD), in the citadel of Nicomedia in Asia Minor, when he was only 29 years old. He is called ‘unmercenary’ because, as a doctor, he subscribed to the Christian faith, shared his fortune to the poor, and he was not paid for the treatments which he prescribed. The popular devotion honoured him as soon as he had died martyrically, becoming, from the kingdom of God, a protector of healers and a helper of those who are healed. Saint Panteleimon was born about 275, in the citadel of Nicomedia, within the province of Bithynia, into a noble family, and he was given the name of Pantoleon, which translated from Greek means ‘in all things a lion’. His father, Eustorgius, was a pagan senator of Emperor Galerius (286-305 AD), within a Roman Empire where the Christian faith was a cause of persecution, derision and death. However, his mother, Eubula, had secretly subscribed to the Christian faith, and raised her child in the love of God. Young Panteleimon did not enjoy the love and protection of his mother for long time, because she passed away, when he was still a child. For the holy life she had led and thanks to the son whom she had born and raised, Eubula was canonised by the Church and she is honoured on 30th March. Having been left by his mother with his father, he was estranged from the Christian faith, being directed to study medicine. A disciple of the famous doctor Euphrosinos, he acquired the mysteries of healing so well, that he was called by Emperor Maximian to his palace, as his personal doctor. At that time, persecutions against Christians were in full swing, 20,000 martyrs being murdered, burnt alive, in the church of Nicomedia during the Holy Liturgy in 303. The Church commemorates them on 28 th December. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Among them, Saint Anthimos, the bishop of Nicomedia, succeeded in saving himself, together with the priest Hermolaus. Escaping from the persecution, the priest Hermolaus hid in a house. Because he passed by the house daily, on his way to the Medical School of Nicomedia, young Pantoleon was noticed by Hermolaus and called to talk. Thus, he understood that the medical science only bears fruit before Christ, Who heals and brings salvation without any payment. Time was passing, and on his way to his teacher Euphrosinos, who was able to heal the body, Pantoleon made a halt at the house of the priest Hermolaus, the one who advised him on the mysteries of God.

Wonderful cures of young Pantoleon When he returned home from the courses of Euphrosinos, Pantoleon met a dead child after he had been bitten by a slow-worm. Also called blindworm, a slow-worm is a small snake-like Eurasian legless lizard that is typically brownish or copper-coloured and which gives birth to live young. Considering that it was time to try the teachings about which Hermolaus had talked him, he asked Jesus Christ for help, and the child rose to his feet immediately, and the blindworm died. Seeing these things, he ran immediately to the priest Hermolaus and asked to receive the Holy Sacrament of Baptism. Then, he stayed with him for eight days after he had received Baptism, learning the mysteries of the faith even more. Hearing that the priest Hermolaus continued to serve Christ, the emperor ordered to be caught and martyrised through decapitation, in 305, and the Orthodox Church commemorates him on 26th July. Returned home, young Pantoleon concealed that he was a Christian, telling his father that, when he had been missing from home, he had treated an ill man at the palace. In the meantime, however, he tried to convince his father of the uselessness to worship idols. One fine day, a blind man, who had uselessly spent his entire fortune on medicine prescribed by doctors, was brought to the senator Eustorgius. Calling his son to visit the ill person, the senator learned from Pantoleon that the ill man would be healed through the power of his Master. Signing the eyes 80


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER of the blind man with the Holy Cross and praying to Christ to heal him, the man recovered his sight immediately. Thankful because he had been healed through the power of God, he asked to receive Baptism. Therefore, both he, who had been healed, and Eustorgius, the father of Pantoleon, the witness of the wonder, were baptised. Short time after he had received Baptism, Eustorgius passed away, Christianised, and his entire fortune had been left to Pantoleon. Knowing the words of the Saviour, Who advises everyone who is eager to inherit the everlasting life to sell all that he has and offer charity because his acts of mercy would be highly regarded in heaven, Pantoleon shared his entire fortune to the poor, liberated slaves from his court and dedicated himself to nursing the poor, from whom he did not ask to be paid, but he only asked them to believe in Christ, the One by Whose grace they were healed.

The belief in Christ, stronger than the letter of the pagan medicine Time passed, people found remedies for their body and soul by coming to doctor Pantoleon, becoming famous in those times. At the same time, the other doctors of Nicomedia nurtured feelings of hatred and sought the opportunity of estranging him. After short time, a tortured Christian was brought to the unmercenary doctor with a view to be cared for even by the order of the emperor. Healing his wounds, the doctors of Nicomedia denounced Pantoleon to the emperor that he had treated a Christian. Then, even the man who had been healed of blindness was brought to the court of the emperor, being asked by what means he had been cured by Pantoleon. He answered that he had been healed in the name of Christ and he received the true light, the one of the Christian faith, since then. Furious, the emperor asked the man to be beheaded, being commemorated by the Orthodox Church on the same day as Saint Panteleimon, namely on 27th July. Although he thought much of Pantoleon for his devotedness and services, persecutor emperor Maximian could not accept that his doctor was a Christian. However, he tried to save him from torments, advising him to apostatise. To apostatise means to renounce a religious or political belief or principle. Moreover, the veneration of the god of medicine, Asclepius was deep-seated in the citadel of Nicomedia. Honouring Christ, Pantoleon faced both the emperor and the god served by him. When he was judged, a paralytic was brought there. For him, all the efforts made by the doctors at the court had been doomed to LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER failure. A paralytic is a person affected by paralysis. After the incantations addressed to god Asclepius ceased uselessly, Pantoleon prayed to God, took the paralytic by the hand and healed him in the name of Christ. Incantations are special words that are spoken or sung to have a magic effect. Instead of punishing a Christian, several pagans were converted to Christianity, after they had seen the miracle performed by Pantoleon. Because neither promises nor the threats of the torments that awaited him did not determine him to give up his faith, the emperor ordered Pantoleon to be punished.

Pantoleon becomes Panteleimon The cruellest attempts to injure him, however, encountered Pantoleon, the Christian that was ‘as strong as a lion’, before idol worshippers. Arms and wild beasts calmed down before him, being guarded through the power of God from any harm. Seeing that they could not punish him at all, the emperor ordered Pantoleon to be beheaded. However, at the place of the execution, while the executioner raised the sword, the weapon melted as wax becomes soft when it is heated. Once again, the Christian did not pass away, and several soldiers followed him for his miracles. When he prayed for the last time, he heard an answer from heaven according to which his wish would be then satisfied because he had turned out to be a faithful server, the gates of heaven were then open for him, and his wreath of martyrdom was prepared. Moreover, henceforth, he would be a shelter for hopeless people, a helper for those tempted, a doctor for ill and sick people, a terror for devils and, therefore, his name would not be Pantoleon any more, but Panteleimon, which means ‘all-merciful’. Then, stretching his neck on the cutter, he accepted to become a martyr on 27 th July 303, and the soldiers gave his holy relics with piety to be buried on a private property. He was honoured as a saint since then, fragments from his holy relics being kept with great honour in different worship places, and many church or social establishments are dedicated to him.




FEATURED ARTICLE THE FEATURES OF THE DEDICATION DAY Every place of worship, either it is about a chapel or a church, has a protector in whose honour it was built. Among the saints that are honoured by the Romanian people with much piety and faithfully, being chosen as protectors of worship places, the most famous ones, from the viewpoint of the great number of worship places that are dedicated to them, are Saint Nicholas, Saint John the Baptist, Saint George, Saint Demetrios, the Holy Emperors Constantine and Helen, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel. Most worship places are also dedicated to some festivals called royal feasts, among which the most common ones are the Holy Trinity, the Ascension of the Lord, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Dormition of the Theotokos (‘the Mother of God’), and the Holy Protection of the Theotokos. Besides the protection provided for worship places, dedication days, or the ones on which patron saints are honoured, represent an event that has many important features. Firstly, it is about the historic character of the worship place where, certainly, time and the durability radius of the worship place prevail from the most known time of its foundation; secondly, it concerns the spiritual feature of the dedication day that is closely related to the patron saint or the annual festival; thirdly, it covers the present-day missionary characteristic of the worship place, namely the situation in which it presents itself with its news and achievements until today. The historic character of a worship place obliges believers to bear piety for the Christian forerunners that raised the worship place with great faith and sacrifice. It does not cross the minds of believers that they were people who honoured God and who showed their faith through creative works. Many churches have a considerable age, being somehow known the year when they were founded or when LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012 83

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER their construction was started. Sometimes, uncertain facts and unexpected founders are known. The history of a worship place must refresh the memory of believers about those who helped, on one way or another, to build a holy eucharistic altar. The historic character has a meaning of the time that marks its beginning and the main founder together with the other workers. At the same time, the painting of the worship place, if it is old, must establish a connection between believers and the painter of that time, because, in the remote past, church painters compared with some saints. Painted icons and scenes were laboured not only with natural colours, but the relation of the painter to the prayer and the service must be often evidenced. A true painter combines his work of painting with the prayer and the fast. Then, the stages of dozens and hundreds of years through which worship places passed, periods of war, straitened circumstances, represent an occasion for meditation, prayer and sacrifice. Moreover, the historic character of the worship place obliges believers to keep in good order religious items, the books and objects that were made by hand in the remote past with the best and most precious materials. All these facts represent the history of honouring and evocation of every worship place. It is a history that has a beginning, a founder, the believers of that time, painters and the artists of ecclesiastical objects, priests and all the servers of the altar and everything that meant the passing through time of those who were involved in founding of a holy worship place.

The essential point of the spiritual character The spiritual character establishes a connection between believers and everything that means the Christian life led in every worship place, based on the protection and support of the patron saint or the festival to which it was dedicated. Indeed, the spiritual character features the miracles of the religious existence. Every worship place exists with a specific spiritual atmosphere. The spiritual or religious character of a worship place is also rooted in the father confessor or the spiritual server whose memory mirrors the wonderful deeds of a saint. The spiritual character is based on the continuity of the Liturgy officiated in the course of time. Receiving the Eucharist from the same holy chalice as a union of many believers, a confession made concisely through the response of the symbol of faith composed and repeated since the first Christian centuries. The bells that sounded for the liturgical service bring the spiritual response of every church in the past. The sacrifice of many believers, their relation to everything that meant to serve God according to their ability sets a very special spiritual character. The presence of God through every liturgical service officiated in church made man be always hallowed; it made earth and matter be also spiritualised and hallowed in turn through the work of the Holy Spirit. The essential point of the spiritual character lies in the relation between the man of that time and God and 84


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER his relation of communion with his neighbours. The fact that festivals were observed with great honour, believers made themselves ready especially to attend the Holy Liturgy with bright faces and traditional costumes, and any work was closely related to the Church proves, once more, the spiritual power of the worship place and national ancestors. The continuous Holy Liturgy means the spiritualised life which believers must appreciate at its true value and update in every church. Thus, the spiritual character of a worship place is felt leading to a relation at the present time. Through the protectors of worship places, saints, God wanted to support and help the then believers because saints could set them good examples of holy life and could advise them to do many good deeds and gain many divine virtues. The ancient man maintained his relationship with the chosen man of God – a saint – and knew how to follow in the footsteps of the saint. In most cases, the believers within a worship place always feel the power of the holy protector, both in joy and in sorrow.

The unity of the past and the present with the future The third character, the present-day missionary one, of every worship place obliges believers to unite the past with the present, and then, to unite both of them with the future. Believers are glad that their ancestors made efforts and raised beautiful worship places, as if they lived in the world of God, in communion with saints, because they always kept the harmony among the archi­ tectural shape, the iconographic project and the needs of believers to serve God. Besides the fact that they can meet in worship places, believ­ ers are also obliged to preserve, re­ pair and revalue the church, which is not only a moral duty, but also one of Christian common sense. The then needs of believers were taken into consideration, and today, every religious establishment requires a school, parish house, social hall, and many other edifices that are specific to any activity that involves both priests and believers. All these out­ buildings must lead to the growth and continuity for any worship place, an interpretation of the present based on the past, but espe­ cially as regards the Christian mis­ sionary character of the future. Any­ thing that is added to a worship place must be closely related to what already exists, namely any structure and any addition that has a missionary character must establish a connection between harmony and unity. Be­ lievers show a Christian feeling whenever the worship place exists for the purpose to which it was meant. A worship place was always closely related to school and not only; therefore, many LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER churches today have schools, centres of culture and Christian life from time immemorial as well. It is the missionary character of every worship place, the continuity and the performance of the good work for present-day needs and requirements, but firstly the unity, harmony and spiritual character that lie at the bottom of the perfecting reality. When a worship place is built, it must be kept a balance between the material world and the spiritual one. The dedica足 tion day of a church emphasises the purpose and work of the continuity of the active religious experience from the past, present and future. The dedication day of every church obliges be 足 lievers to update the past with everything that represents it, to commemorate those whose names are stamped on the list of founders and workers, but also those who are not known and who made sacrifices according to their ability for the existence of the worship place. In addi 足 tion, the dedication day of a church forwards everybody the things that must exist and which believers need. A perspective on the past, present and future crowned through the eucharistic liturgical service of a dedication day, through the requiem service officiated for the departed, but also through the Te Deum service with the Christian agape that make everybody form a whole. A Te Deum is a short religious service based upon the Te Deum hymn which is held to bless an event or give thanks. An agape is a banquet which Christian have together.




FEATURED ARTICLE FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE, THE DAUGHTERS OF WISDOM On 17th September, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Martyress Sophia, to­ gether with her three daughters Pistis, Elpis and Agape. They lived in Italy and suffered martyrical death during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian (117-138). Sophia, whose name means 'wisdom' when translated from Greek, christened her daughters by the name of the three theological virtues: Pistis (which translated means 'Faith'), Elpis (which means 'Hope') and Agape (which means 'Love'). For their Christian faith, they were martyred in 137, when Pistis was twelve years old, Elpis was ten years old and Agape was nine years old. Details of the husband of Sophia and the father of the three daughters are scarce, some writings mentioning that his name was Philander, he had a job as a Roman senator of Me­ diolanum and died when he was young. Mediolanum, the ancient Milan, was an import­ ant Celtic and then Roman centre of northern Italy. Wid­ owed soon after the birth of her three daughters, Sophia raised them in the Christian wisdom and Christian moral life, putting the names worn by them into practice. She shared the fortune that she had inherited from her husband to the poor, and, to­ gether with Pistis, Elpis and Agape, she made for Rome. When the Christian name itself was synonymous with torments and capital punishment within the Roman Empire, Sophia and her daughters did not cover their faith in Christ, but they professed it openly before everybody. Hearing about the Christian family of Sophia, the prefect of the province, Antiochus, denounced them to Emperor Hadrian. They were called before the emperor to be judged, being accused of the offence of be­ ing a Christian. Brought by soldiers before the emperor, Sophia advised her young daughters not to deny Christ, even at the expense of their life. Then, they prayed together to God to strengthen them, knowing that they would be tortured and murdered for their faith. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Because she refused to offer sacrifices to Artemis, Pistis was beheaded When they came before the emperor, all those present were surprised at their decision. The emperor himself marvelled at the power of their faith, especially the one of the girls, at their very early age. Considering that their strong belief resulted only from the fact that they were together strengthened one another, the emperor decided to interrogate them separately. To in­ terrogate means to ask somebody a lot of ques­ tions over a long period of time, especially in an aggressive way. From their faces, they seemed to go to a banquet, with bright faces, emboldened hearts and cheerful eyes, far from the image of someone who goes to tortures. Calling each of them, beginning from Sophia, Emperor Hadrian ordered them to offer sacrifices to Artemis, the goddess of hunting. The four martyrs remained inflexible. Seeing their wisdom, the emperor did not want to murder them and delayed the judge­ ment by three days, in the hope that the delay would determine them to apostatise. For three days, the emperor sent them to the house of a woman named Palladia, under guard, and in the meantime, Sophia strengthened the faith of her daughters in Christ even more. On the third day, Pistis, who was twelve years old, was the first one brought before the judge. Attracted by the empty promises of the emperor, who promised her that he himself would be like a father to her, she strengthened the faith in which her mother had raised her, refusing to honour other pagan deities. Infuriated, the emperor ordered her to be beaten with staffs and her breasts to be cut, from which, for a wonder, milk started to flow instead of blood. The young maiden was put to many other tortures, but God strengthened her for her faith. Seeing it, the emperor ordered her to be beheaded, a sentence that both she and her mother and sisters accepted with pleasure, because she would be the first one of them who would become a bride of the Lord Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom. After she had been beheaded, her mother hugged her body, yet she did not lament, but she glorified the Lord, be ­ cause her love for God overcame the grief of the mother for her children. Elpis, who was ten years old, was the next one whom the soldiers brought before the emperor. Like her sister, she was advised by the emperor to worship goddess Artemis, giving her an example of the tor ­ tures to which she could be put. She replied that she followed her sister, because they had the same mother that had born and suckled them, they had adopted the Christian faith within the same baptism and had been raised in the same teachings. Professing Christ as resolutely as her sister, she was beaten, thrown into the fire, hung and plunged into a bucket with melted pitch, but God strengthened her to bear all of them. Seeing that the tortures strengthened her even more, Emperor Hadrian convicted her to be beheaded as well. Like her sister, she accep­ ted the news with pleasure, because she would join the righteous group that had professed Christ before persecutors. Embracing her mother and strengthening her younger sister, she bowed her head under the edge of the sword. 88


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Saint Sophia fell asleep into the Lord near the grave of her daughters When Agape came before the judge, the emperor failed to persuade her to give up the Chris ­ tian faith, even if he threatened her or he promised her earthly riches. The emperor tried to persuade the nine-year-old young girl to give up her belief in vain. She was stretched on the wheel and beaten with staffs, but she did not give up her faith. Then, the torturers prepared a heated oven, where she did not wait to be thrown any more, but she entered herself there, walk­ ing and blessing God in the middle of the flame. Getting out of there more strengthened, she was put to other awful tortures, accepting to perish by the sword, like her sisters. Therefore, de­ lighted, she embraced her happy mother, who was wonderfully able to see all her three daugh­ ters suffering martyrical death, for the everlasting life spent to­ gether with saints. To intensify her suffering, the emperor spared Sophia, thinking that she would spend the rest of her life complaining and weeping for her three daughters. Taking the bod­ ies of her three daughters, Pistis, Elpis and Agape, she adorned them and placed them in beauti­ ful shrines, burying them on a hill situated outside the citadel. Staying near their grave and praying for three days, she herself fell asleep into the Lord, and Christians buried her near her daughters. Therefore, she also enjoyed the martyrical wreath, although she had not suffered through her body, because she had suffered through her heart much for her faith in Christ.

The holy relics of the three saints were moved many times The graves of Saint Sophia and her daughters Pistis, Elpis and Agape were localised on the Via Aurelia (Aurelian Way), a Roman road in Italy constructed around the year 241 BC. The Church dedicated to the Holy Martyr Pangratios, which became a place of pilgrimage for Chris­ tians, was built over the graves. The relics of Saint Sophia were moved, for the first time, from the Via Aurelia road to the Church of Santa Giulia, situated in Brescia, northern Italy. Ansa, the wife of Desiderius, the last king of the Lombard Kingdom of northern Italy, bestowed the holy relics on the Benedictine nuns that lived at the Monastery of Santa Giulia. During the French LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Revolution, the relics of Saint Sophia and other saints were moved to the Church of Saint Agatha, situated in the same city. A document dating from 3 rd April 1799 confirmed a new movement of the holy relics from the Church of Saint Sophia to Virle Treponti. The village of Virle Treponti belongs to the municipality of Rezzato, in the province of Brescia, situated within the Lombardia region. The relics of Saints Pistis and Elpis were brought to France, in silver shrines, and they had been venerated in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, situated within the Diocese of Cahors, before the French Revolution. In 1992, at the suggestion of the Bul 足 garian Orthodox Church and the mayor of that time, the inhabitants of the country capital city adopted the Holy Martyr Sophia as their patron saint, commemorated together with her daughters on 17th September. The dedication day of the patron saint of the capital city of Bul足 garia is celebrated through liturgical services officiated in all the churches situated in the cap 足 ital city.




FEATURED ARTICLE SAINT THEKLA, THE FIRST WOMAN MARTYR OF CHRIST Saint Thekla was the first woman who suffered for her faith in the Saviour of the world. She was born during the first Christian century in the city of Iconium (present-day Konya in south-central Turkey) from pagan parents. Very beautiful, Thekla was engaged to a young man of noble descent, named Thamyris. Although she was only 18 years old, she was very wise. Listening to the speech on virginity delivered by the Holy Apostle Paul, who, in about 45, preached Christ accompanied by the Holy Apostle Barnabas in Iconium, in the house of Onesiphorus, Thekla decided to spend the rest of her life in bodily clean­ ness and serve the Gospel of the Lord. The young maiden listened to the words of the Apostle of the Nations for three days and three nights, without drinking water, eating or sleeping, her entire mind being seized only by God. However, when Theok­ leia, the mother of the maiden, learned that her beautiful daughter believed in Christ, listening to the Apostle uninterruptedly, she went angry to the meeting, trying to persuade her to come home. The young girl professed her new belief to her parents, who tried to make her give up the Christian faith in any way. Her mother talked to her, beat her, and starved her, but all her efforts were in vain. Thekla did not want to give up Christ and her decision to serve Him by any means. Getting angry, Thamyris went to the ruler of the city, asking for catching and imprisoning Paul, under an accusation of being a Christian and having persuaded Thekla to follow Christ as well. Hearing the news, Thekla, running the risk of being im­ prisoned as well, went to the prison, by stealth, during the night, where she bribed the jailers to open the door in order to reach Paul. Surprised by the strength of the girl, her courage and the tests to which she had been put to defend the true faith, he kissed the head of the girl and blessed her, calling her the bride of Christ. On the fol­ lowing morning, her mother, observing that her daughter was missing from home, started, to­ gether with Thamyris and the servants, to look for her through the entire city, and when they found her at the prison, they forced her to get out of there and informed the governor. LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Thekla was sentenced to be burnt at the stake, at the desire of her mother The Holy Apostle Paul was brought before the crowd of people who screamed about him that he was a wizard. The governor also called Thekla, asking her about the reason for which she rejected her betrothed, but, looking at her adviser, she was silent. Then, her mother shouted at the judge to burn her in the fire, because she was not her daughter, but ‘a dry branch and a cursed child’. On the other hand, Thamyris tried to per­ suade the judge to murder the Apostle. The Apostle was only found guilty about preaching Christ, and, as a punishment, he was sent away from the city. The Holy Apostle Barnabas was also sent away from the city, together with Onesi­ phorus and his sons. The two Apostles ran away to the citadels of Lycaonia, to Lystra and Derbe, and to Pisidian Antioch. In ancient geography, Ly­ caonia was a large region in the interior of Asia Minor, north of Mount Taurus. Pisidia was a re­ gion of ancient Asia Minor located north of Lycia, and bordering Caria, Lydia, Phrygia and Pam­ phylia. Antioch in Pisidia – alternatively Antiochia in Pisidia or Pisidian Antioch and in Roman Em­ pire, Latin: Antiochia Caesareia or Antiochia Caesaria – is a city in the Turkish Lakes Region, which is at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolian regions, and formerly on the border of Pisidia and Phrygia, hence also known as Antiochia in Phrygia. How­ ever, meaning to learn what had happened to Thekla, hiding in a grave, they fasted and prayed for her. Meanwhile, back in the city, failing to persuade her to come back to her betrothed, Thekla was sentenced to be burnt at the stake, at the desire of her mother. She seated herself on the heap of hay, brushwood and logs and, signing it with the Holy Cross, she made herself ready to be burnt. While the fire was burning all around her strongly, doing not any harm to her, a heavy rain with hail fell and extinguished the fire, and the chief judge and the crowd of people were struck with horror, running to their houses. Thus, secured against her first pun ­ ishment, Thekla left her family, going to look for the Holy Apostle Paul, whom she followed to Antioch.

Thekla was thrown to wild beasts, but they did not do any harm to her There, a young ruler of the city, named Alexander, fell in love with her, and because she refused to answer his requests to yield to sin, mad with passion, the licentious youth let all the inhabit­ ants of the citadel know that Thekla was Christian, asking that she should be sentenced. On the night before the punishment she had received, namely to be thrown to wild beasts, a noble and very honest woman, who would believe in Christ afterwards, named Tryphaena, took her under her protection. On the following day, the young girl was thrown to wild beasts, but they gathered together quite around her, licking her feet and doing not any harm to her. Some people from the crowd glorified the God preached by Thekla, and other people blasphemed 92


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Him, saying that the wild beasts had done not any harm to her because her clothes were be­ witched. To blaspheme means to speak about God or the holy things of a particular religion in an offensive way; to swear using the names of God or holy things. Deciding that she was a witch and had bewitched the wild beasts to do not any harm to her, the ruler of the city delayed the ‘show’ for the following day, when, according to his way of thinking, more and hungrier wild beasts would murder her. The young girl was taken to the house of Tryphaena again. The noblewoman had had a vision through which her daughter, who had passed away short time ago, told her to adopt Thekla and ask her to intercede for her salvation. On the fol­ lowing day, a large number of people had gathered together to watch a new show in which Thekla would be torn apart by the hungry wild beasts. Ordering Thekla to be undressed, be­ cause it was said that wild beasts did not eat her since her clothes were bewitched, the young maiden was thrown naked, before thousands of people, to hungry lions. However, the miracle happened again. The animals did not touch the clean body of the girl. When they saw the mir­ acle again, the people shouted that the God honoured by Thekla was great. However, becoming angry and doing not accept that it was about a divine miracle, the judge thought of another punishment: he ordered his servants to dig a large pit where he threw animals again and then threw Saint Thekla among them. Nevertheless, she got out of there unharmed again, to the surprise, but also to the horror, of the crowd.

For her faith, God bestowed the gift for healing the sick upon her However, the ruler of the city did not yield, ordering a last punishment for the bride of Christ. They brought two young little bulls, tied each of her legs to each bull, and started to spur them with heated goads, in order to make them run. The saint was protected again, because the thick ropes with which she had been tied broke, like some threads of a spider, thus remaining on the spot. Therefore, then, the torturers asked her who she was that nothing failed to murder her. She replied that she was a servant of the Living God. Therefore, being afraid of a possible divine punishment, they liberated her. She went to the house of Tryphaena again and preached the word of God, teaching many people to believe in Christ. Then, receiving the blessing from the Holy Apostle Paul, whom she wanted to follow, but who stopped her, saying that nobody went to war with a bride, Thekla went to Maaloula, a town located 70 kilometres to the west of Damascus, Syria, where she stayed retired in a cave. For her faith, God bestowed the gift for healing the sick upon her. She healed all the people who went to the cave where she lived. Many people of those who regained their health embraced the faith of Thekla as well. However, the quack doctors of Maaloula, seeing that sick people did not come to them to be healed any more, sowed discord between the locals and her. A quack is a person who dishon­ estly claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine. Seeing their hatred, Thekla prayed to God and the rock where the servant of Christ dwelled split. The mount became not only her shelter, but also her grave. The saint is believed to have been 90 years old when the miracle happened. She is the first woman who was martyred for Christ and is considered equal to the Apostles in the Church calendar.




FEATURED ARTICLE BLESSING AND CURSE Through blessing, man invokes the authority of God, and His blessing imprints His lifegiving energy on man. The one who blesses somebody else has the gift of God in his heart, while the one who likes to curse somebody else is estranged from God. Somebody who commits a sin against God does not incur His curse – in other words, He loves man so much, that when he commits a sin against Him, He curses the environment where he lives. Man incurs his direct curse when he murders his neighbour. At a monastery, the blessing means that the monk must sit down under the mantle of the father confessor, who covers the monk from all the temptations. The one who asks the blessing from the father con ­ fessor is always protected from many temptations. The curse of priests or parents does not affect the person whom it concerns when it is not fully justified. However, when it is fully justified, it can be only lifted through repentance, confession and by reading absolution prayers. The blessing and the curse are two totally different states. Both of them are in the hands of God. He blessed Adam and Eve after He had created them. However, He cursed the serpent because he had tempted them. God also cursed the ground where hu­ mankind would live after the Fall. Nevertheless, God did not curse the first people who com­ mitted a sin. Adam lost heavens, his communion with God, but he was not cursed. At the begin­ ning, God only cursed the ser­ pent, because he had been the tool of the sin. It is interesting that the curse upon man ap­ peared throughout biblical his­ tory only concerning Cain, the first murderer. Cain was actu­ ally the first man cursed by God. In the case of Adam, only the ground is cursed, but not the man. It is a difference noticed by Saint John Chrysostom, showing that only murdering the neighbour, the sin commit­ ted against the neighbour, causes the curse, but not the sin committed against God directly, like the disobedience of the ancestors, what shows the great love of God, because He forgives the sin committed against Him, but also shows the effect of the sin committed against the 94 LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012

THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER neighbour. As a matter of fact, both the blessing and the curse refer to something that has to happen. There is a major difference between the blessing of man and the blessing of God, in that man cannot secure the fulfillment of those references, but he can only invoke the author­ ity of God. To invoke means to make a request (for help) to somebody, especially a god. Never­ theless, the blessing of God has a direct effect, because His blessing imprints His life-giving en­ ergy. Unlike the blessing of the Old Testament, in the New Testament, even the principle of blessing is shown in a way that had been unknown until that time, namely the Incarnated Word Himself. In other words, the Word, the essence of blessing, becomes a human being. Un­ til that time, man had received the blessing rather in an indirect way, but in the New Testa­ ment, he received the blessing through his direct communion with Christ, what makes a major difference. God cursed in the New Testament as well. There, the curse was addressed to the fig tree because the Lord Jesus Christ had ascertained that it did not bear fruit. It must not be considered as a punishment or a bad action of the Lord, but rather an ascertainment that something that it had been destined right from the start to bear fruit did not have them. It is obviously a symbol of the judgement of man. On the Judgement Day, when the Lord will ascer­ tain that somebody is a sinner, He will not curse him. The cursed people who are sent to the eternal doom are the ones who do not bear fruit.

Nothing without blessing Nowadays, people use the word ‘blessing’ more often than not, either to make happy, namely to bless, or to denigrate, namely to curse, his neighbour. To denigrate means to criticise some­ body or something unfairly; to say somebody or something does not have any value or is not important. Through the power of the word, people can help their neighbour or injure him. Therefore, people are highly responsible for the words that they say. Only the one that blesses his neighbour has the gift of God in his heart, while the one who likes to curse his neighbour is estranged from God. The blessing means the gift of God, and the curse means a bad thing, namely to wish for their neighbour something that people do not want for them, what is not specific to the Christian teaching. The one who blesses his neighbour has something from God out of the fullness of the heart and mouth. The one who curses his neighbour, wishes him harm, is not a man of God. The blessing is not only a word, but also an act: an act of forgiveness, from the super­ ior, and an act of obedience, from the inferior. For ex­ ample, the blessing means everything within a mon­ astery. Former and present-day fathers recommend monks to do nothing without first receiving the blessing from their father confessor. The blessing and the obedience to the hierarch, the leader of a monastery, the father confessor mean life and bring the richest gifts of God. The Paterikon often talks about blessing, and the monks did not take even a step without receiving the blessing, asking the blessing even when they wanted to speak. Nothing was done without the blessing. The blessing means to go to the LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER father confessor, whose mantle covers the monk from all temptations. The one who asks for a blessing is always protected from many temptations, tests and the unseen warfare against the Devil. The unseen warfare cannot do any harm to the one who always asks for the blessing and is obedient to his leader. Therefore, the blessing is very important to monks. It is one of the as ­ pects that must be always taken into account, not only by novices, but also by those who ex ­ perienced temptations and monastic life. A novice is a person who has joined a religious group and is preparing to become a monk or a nun. The obedience of a monk comes to an end when he passes away, irrespective of his identity, if he is famous or not, and irrespective of his rank within the monastery. The absence of the blessing always involves a strong war that can defeat a believer. Many monks left their monastery of methane without receiving the blessing from their father confessor, going from one monastery to another and doing not find their peace of mind. The peace of mind comes to the monk both as a result of receiving the blessing from his father confessor, and from the ceaseless obedience that he must perform until he passes away. The blessing, obedience can be also extrapolated to the world of lay people. To extrapolate means to estimate something or form an opinion about something, using the facts that you have now and that are valid for one situation and supposing that they will be valid for the new one. As a rule, the blessing is asked for all the things and deeds during the life of a believer. However, believers must not fall out of one extreme into another, becoming scrupulous. Someone scrupulous is careful to be honest and do what is right. They must ask for the bless­ ing only for essential things, but there are also humble people indeed that ask it for everything. If someone who ask for the blessing for everything is really humble, his state of humbleness is welcome, but if it is ostentatious, it is a very dangerous behaviour. Someone who behaves ostentatiously means to impress people by showing how rich, important, etc. he is. A wise father confessor and an obedient penitent know how far obedience goes. A penitent is a person who shows that they are sorry for doing something wrong, especially a religious person who wants God to forgive them.

How to escape from a curse It is not recommended priests and monks to curse. The Fathers of the Church and the Holy Scripture advise them to bless their neighbours. The blessing was always the sign of the rela­ tionship between man and God, and the curse was always a separation between man and God. Therefore, those who curse their neighbours – whoever they are, even church servers – espe ­ cially when it is about usual things, it is considered that they commit a very serious sin, which must be avoided. As a rule, the curse does not affect the person to which it is addressed whenever it is not fully justified. The father recommends cursers to show long patience with their neighbour and not to resort to the curse immediately. A parent that loves his child indeed will always forgive him. However, the curse of a mother and a priest, when it is fully justified, can be only lifted through repentance and by sincerely forgiving the person who was wrong incurring the curse. It is said that the curse of a mother is similar to the one of a priest, be­ cause it affects the person to whom it is addressed. Therefore, it is not recommended Christi ­ ans to curse their neighbours. Believers must not curse their children because it affects them. Moreover, they must not say hard words, in an attempt, out of spite, because they affect they neighbour. In such cases, believers must confess their sins and ask priests to read prayers to absolve them from the curse. When they confess their sins, believers must also say that they cursed their neighbour. 96



FEATURED ARTICLE THE HOLY PROPHET ZACHARIAS A priest of God at the Temple of Jerusalem, a teacher of the Old Law, leading a pure life and keeping the divine commandments, the Holy Prophet Zacharias was chosen, during the eternal council of the Holy Trinity, to be the father of Saint John the Baptist and the Forerunner of the Lord. For his merit, the Church established his commemoration on 5th September every year. The Holy Prophet Zacharias was a priest in Jerusalem during the reign of Emperor Herod. He was descended from the tribe of Abia, the eighth priestly group of the Jewish people. Abia was a descendant of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, a chief of one of the twenty-four orders into which the priesthood was divided by David. The order of Abijah was one of those that did not return from the Captivity. Eleazar was a priest in the Hebrew Bible, the second High Priest, succeeding his father Aaron, and a nephew of Moses. It is important that King David, seeing that the tribe of Aaron, the only family whom Moses had appointed to officiate services at the Temple, increased so much, that the priests could not officiate services together, decided to divide it into twenty-four groups. Thus, the priestly groups were appointed to officiate ser足 vices at the Temple for one week each; the eighth week was due to the group of Abia. The tradition had been kept until the Temple of Jerusalem was demolished. Con足 sequently, descended from the family of Abia, Zacharias was a member of the eighth group, being a Great Priest of it. The books of the New Testament do not provide much particular information about the life and activity of the Holy Prophet Zacharias. The only details of great importance about him are given by the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, in the first chapter of his Gospel. The main theme of the begin 足 ning of the Gospel is the birth of Saint John the Baptist, where, certainly, information about his parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth, are also provided. The fact that the holy author begins his Gospel talking about Zacharias and Elizabeth, as parents of Saint John the Forerunner, proves that the Tradition of the Church attaches a special honour to them, as to some people who were chosen by God to belong to His redeeming stewardship. Stewardship is the act of taking LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY | VOLUME 1, 2012


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER care of or managing something, for example property, an organisation, money or valuable ob­ jects. The Gospel introduces Zacharias and Elizabeth as being members of the sacerdotal fam­ ily of Israel, both of them being righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. The happiness of their pure life was however diminished by the fact that they were incapable of giving birth to children. The Jewish people were of the opinion that the parents that did not have children were considered cursed by God, what in ­ curred the disgrace of their neighbours as well. The Evangelist tells that, in such a difficult situation, Zacharias and Elizabeth advanced in years. As mentioned before, Zacharias was a priest at the Temple of Jerusalem, appointed to officiate services during the eighth week, ac­ cording to the priestly group of which member he was. During the eighth week, the appointed priest had to incense the altar and pray together with the people gathered there. To incense means to perfume with incense or a similar fragrance. Incense is a substance that produces a pleasant smell when burnt, used particularly in religious ceremonies. The Holy Evangelist Luke tells that, during the service of Zacharias at the Temple, the Holy Archangel Gabriel ap­ peared before him, letting him know that Elizabeth would give birth to a baby, whose name would be John. The appearance of the angel and the annunciation that his son would be born and would be great in the sight of the Lord made Zacharias doubt the truth of the words that the angel had told him, as Abraham had formerly done at the Mamvri oak tree. As a punish ­ ment for his distrustfulness in the word of God, the Archangel Gabriel let him know that he would be dumb until the birth of the baby. The episode of the appearance of the angel in the Temple came to an end through the image of the Jewish people who, seeing that Zacharias could not speak, confirmed that the Great Priest had had a vision. A vision is a dream or sim­ ilar experience, especially of a religious kind. Then, the biblical account shows Zacharias on the eighth day after the birth of the baby, at the moment when the little child was circumcised and was given his name. At that point, a controversy aroused between their relatives and Elizabeth: according to tradition, the baby had to have the name of the father; Elizabeth, how ­ ever, let them know that the child would be given the name of John. Because nobody had been given the name of John even among relatives, Zacharias, since he was asked his opinion by those present, sealed the matter, writing that his name was John on a writing table. As he could speak again, Zacharias glorified God, making all those present marvel at the happenings. Then, the Holy Evangelist introduces the Hymn of Zacharias, where, glorifying God, Saint Zacharias addressed himself to the baby John, predicting about his life and activity. His words represent the ground for which Saint Zacharias was passed on among the prophets: ‘And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ [Luke 1:76-79]

The Holy Prophet Zacharias perished by the sword The Gospel according to Matthew also talks about Zacharias, when the Saviour Jesus Christ ad­ dressed Himself to the Pharisees. In the 3 rd century, church writer Origen maintained that the biblical passage talked about Zacharias as the same person as the father of Saint John the Baptist, in contradiction with other interpretors, who said that it concerned another Zacharias. His opinion is, however, advocated and completed by several apocryphal (uncanon­ ical) writings, which provide the only information about the death of the Holy Prophet 98


THE MAGAZINE OF THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER Zacharias. Thus, it is said that Saint Zacharias was murdered by the order of Emperor Herod. The emperor sent his soldiers to murder all the babies, both those who were two years old and those who were younger, hoping to also murder the Messiah, of Whose birth he had been informed by the Magi. Having heard of the wonderful birth of John and being of opinion that John himself was the Messiah, Herod ordered his soldiers to conduct a thorough search for him and murder him. In the meantime, however, Elizabeth took John and ran away, hiding her­ self in mountains, across River Jordan. Because they could not find the baby, the soldiers were sent to the Prophet Zacharias, to tell them where the hiding place was. Because they did not receive any answer from him, the Holy Prophet Zacharias perished by the sword on the spot, on the day on which he had been appointed to officiate the service at the Temple of Jerusalem. His blood flowed down ‘between the temple and the altar’, as the Holy Evangelist Matthew mentioned as well. His relics are found in Jerusalem, close to the ones of Symeon the Elder, as shown by an inscription that dates from the 4th century and that was discovered in 2003.

All families should follow the example of Saints Zacharias and Elizabeth The pureness of life, the service to God and the obedience to His will portray the Holy Prophet Zacharias and Saint Elizabeth as some model parents. Their perseverance in the prayer to bear babies and the blessed answer of God makes an example of them to other families. Their selfsacrifice and martyrical death for their child, for Christ, represent the example of every parent that is pleasing to God, and their blessed fruit, Saint John the Baptist, is the strongest proof of the holiness of their family. Thus, the words of the Holy Apostle Paul (‘if the root be holy, so are the branches’ [Romans 11:16]) are confirmed.














Light of Christianity Issue 2012  

The personal account of Marius-Constantin Popa on religious facts.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you