Feasts and Holidays

19th of August. Transfiguration

posted Aug 18, 2018, 9:17 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Aug 18, 2018, 9:24 AM ]


19th of August (6th of August old style).


Transfiguration


The transfiguration of Christ is one of the central events recorded in the gospels. Immediately after the Lord was recognized by his apostles as “the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Living God,” he told them that “he must go up to Jerusalem and suffer many things ... and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16). The announcement of Christ’s approaching passion and death was met with indignation by the disciples. And then, after rebuking them, the Lord took Peter, James, and John “up to a high mountain”—by traditionMount Tabor—and was “transfigured before them.”

... and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as snow and behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead” (Mt 17:1-92, see also Mk 9:1-9; Lk 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18).

The Jewish Festival of Booths was a feast of the dwelling of God with men, and the transfiguration of Christ reveals how this dwelling takes place in and through the Messiah, the Son of God in human flesh. There is little doubt that Christ’s transfiguration took place at the time of the Festival of Booths, and that the celebration of the event in the Christian Church became the New Testamental fulfillment of the Old Testamental feast in a way similar to the feasts of Passover and Pentecost

In the Transfiguration, the apostles see the glory of the Kingdom of God present in majesty in the person of ChriSt They see that in him, indeed, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” that “in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 1:19, 2:9). They see this before the crucifixion so that in the resurrection they might know who it is who has suffered for them, and what it is that this one, who is God, has prepared for those who love him. This is what the Church celebrates in the feast of the Transfiguration.

Thou wast transfigured on the mount. O Christ God, revealing Thy glory to Thy disciples as they could bear it. Let Thine everlasting light shine upon us sinners. Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Giver of Light, glory to Thee (Troparion).

On the mountain wast Thou transfigured, O Christ God, and Thy disciples beheld Thy glory as far as they could see it; so that when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary, and would proclaim to the world that Thou art truly the Radiance of the Father (Kontakion).

Besides the fundamental meaning which the event of the Transfiguration has in the context of the life and mission of Christ, and in addition to the theme of the glory of God which is revealed in all of its divine splendor in the face of the Saviour, the presence of Moses and Elijah is also of great significance for the understanding and celebration of the feast. Many of the hymns refer to these two leading figures of the Old Covenant as do the three scripture readings of Vespers which tell of the manifestation of the glory of God to these holy men of old (Ex 24:12-18; 33:11-34:8; 1 Kings 19:3-16).


Moses and Elijah, according to the liturgical verses, are not only the greatest figures of the Old Testament who now come to worship the Son of God in glory, they also are not merely two of the holy men to whom God has revealed himself in the prefigurative theophanies of the Old Covenant of Israel. These two figures actually stand for the Old Testament itself: Moses for the Lawand Elijah for the Prophets. And Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (Mt 5:17).

They also stand for the living and dead, for Moses died and his burial place is known, while Elijah was taken alive into heaven in order to appear again to announce the time of God’s salvation in Christ the Messiah. Thus, in appearing with Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah show that the Messiah Saviour is here, and that he is the Son of God to whom the Father himself bears witness, the Lord of all creation, of the Old and New Testaments, of the living and the dead. The Transfiguration of Christ in itself is the fulfillment of all of the theophanies and manifestations of God, a fulfillment made perfect and complete in the person of Christ. The Transfiguration of Christ reveals to us our ultimate destiny as Christians, the ultimate destiny of all men and all creation to be transformed and glorified by the majestic splendor of God himself.

There is little doubt that the feast of the Transfiguration of Christ belonged first to the preÃ"Easter season of the Church. It was perhaps celebrated on one of the Sundays of Lent, for besides certain historical evidence and the fact that today Saint Gregory Palamas, the great teacher of the Transfiguration of Christ, is commemorated during Lent, the event itself is one which is definitely connected with the approaching death and resurrection of the Saviour.

... for when they would behold Thee crucified, they would understand that Thy suffering was voluntary (Kontakion).

The feast of the Transfiguration is presently celebrated on the sixth of August, probably for some historical reason. The summer celebration of the feast, however, has lent itself very well to the theme of transfiguration. The blessing of grapes, as well as other fruits and vegetables on this day is the most beautiful and adequate sign of the final transfiguration of all things in Christ. It signifies the ultimate flowering and fruitfulness of all creation in the paradise of God’s unending Kingdom of Life where all will he transformed by the glory of the Lord.


SOURCE: Orthodox Church in America

15 February. The Meeting of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.

posted Feb 13, 2018, 10:36 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Feb 13, 2018, 10:38 AM ]


15 February (2nd February old style).


The Meeting of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ




Apolytikion (First Tone)

Hail Virgin Theotokos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness. And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in Your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.

Kontakion (First Tone)

Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved us O Christ our God, give peace to your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whom you love, as only the loving one.


    On February 2nd the Church celebrates the great feast of The Meeting of our Lord in the Temple. The Gospel lesson for that day relates how the mother of Jesus brought Him to the temple, as was the custom and requirement under the God-given Law of Moses, of Israel (Exodus 13:2, 12; Leviticus 12:2-8). When the righteous Simeon, who received Christ in his arms at the temple, saw the child he knew immediately that this was the Redeemer promised by all of Israel’s prophecies, for the elder was inspired by the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:26-27). Being inspired he himself uttered prophetic words which form the hymn sung or chanted at the end of every Vespers service: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of Thy people, a light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32).

    This particular feast is part of the great celebration that began forty days prior, with the Nativity of Christ (December 25). Eight days later (January 1) we remembered the Circumcision of Christ and then His Baptism (January 6). The commemoration of these events in our Lord’s earth life basically form one feast, the feast of the Incarnation of God the Word.

    God literally entered the world, into time and history. He was physically present in the midst of His people, His creatures whom He loves. Our Lord took on human nature in order to reconcile unto Himself, man who had strayed far from the Source of his life.

    In taking on the "form of a servant" God, at the same time, in the Person of Christ, fulfilled every requirement of the Law that He Himself had given to His people through Moses. He demonstrated, thereby, that everything that had happened in Israel’s history could not be described merely as a succession of unrelated events. Rather this was a history with a definite goal: the salvation of mankind. He identified Himself as the Director of that history and fulfilled its expectation.

    When the righteous Simeon took the child into His arms and declared that this indeed was Salvation Incarnate, the "Light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of Israel," a new era began; the era of God’s presence among His children.

    To this day, all of the Church’s celebrations, no matter what the event commemorated may be, whether in the life of Christ, of the Theotokos, or of the saints, all are celebrations of Christ and the establishment on earth of the Kingdom of His presence. He initiated this Kingdom and promised its ultimate realization. And now, just as the Old Israel had awaited the beginning of God’s Kingdom, the New Israel (the Church) awaits the Second and Glorious Coming of Christ and the fullness of His Kingdom, revealed.

    Although all of our celebrations are intimately rooted in the knowledge that we have been called for complete communion with Christ and to live in function of His Kingdom to which we already belong, we still live in a world that has for the most part rejected what Christ gave it, that is, authentic life "in abundance," life with real purpose and meaning. We Christians, in spite of having accepted what God’s intervention in human affairs gave us, slip repeatedly and fall into the great temptation to convert the things of this world into gods. We are constantly attracted by ways of seeking happiness and fulfillment that exclude God. This, of course, always proves to be vain and futile.

    So our lives vacillate, back and forth, between the assurance of salvation and indifference, between moments of real joy because we know that God is with us, and moments of boredom because we cannot give ourselves totally over to Him.

    Every Christian celebration reaches its climax in the Divine Liturgy for the feast. In this sacred work, when God’s people assemble in His name, we actually become participants in the Heavenly Kingdom to come. We are as literally present with Christ in His future Kingdom as the Apostles were with Him at the Last Supper. So the Kingdom is initiated among us and we enjoy it before our time, by anticipation. This is what every Eucharist is; this is what our feasts and celebrations are all about, and that is why the Eucharist is the very center of all of them.

    I will emphasize again, however, that although what we have said is true, we continually orient our lives towards everyday pursuits, often living as though we had never experienced this divine reality. That is why repentance and penitential seasons are in order. That is why in approximately one month we will enter the Great Fast or Lent during which time we are exhorted to repent of our sins.

    It is a particularly fortunate coincidence that in 1999 the feast of the Meeting of our Lord, a feast of His Kingdom, coincides almost to the day with the start of the Lenten Triodion and the announcement of the beginning of the Great Fast. On the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee (January 31) we are reminded of one of the basic reasons for our need of repentance: our self-righteousness, our pride, our feeling of superiority and mistreatment and intolerance of our neighbor.

    Basically what is important for us Christians is that we have really "seen the True Light, received the Heavenly Spirit, found the true faith" in this experience of the Kingdom of God. The question we must all ask ourselves sincerely, however, is "what are we like when we return into this world after this Heavenly experience?"

    To Christ Who willed to be held in the arms of the righteous Simeon for our salvation be glory, honor and worship, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Orthodox Research Institute

Archbishop Dmitri

2/15/2014

27 January. SAINT NINO, EQUAL-TO-THE-APOSTLES AND ENLIGHTENER OF GEORGIA

posted Jan 26, 2018, 11:34 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Jan 26, 2018, 11:35 PM ]

SAINT NINO, EQUAL-TO-THE-APOSTLES AND ENLIGHTENER OF GEORGIA (†335 AD)

Memory 14 (27) January






The virgin Nino of Cappadocia was a relative of Great-martyr George and the only daughter of a widely respected and honorable couple. Her father was a Roman army chief by the name of Zabulon, and her mother, Sosana, was the sister of Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem. When Nino reached the age of twelve, her parents sold all their possessions and moved to Jerusalem. Soon after, Nino’s father was tonsured a monk. He bid farewell to his family and went to labor in the wilderness of the Jordan.

After Sosana had been separated from her husband, Patriarch Juvenal ordained her a deaconess. She left her daughter Nino in the care of an old woman, Sara Niaphor, who raised her in the Christian Faith and related to her the stories of Christ’s life and His suffering on earth.

It was from Sara that Nino learned how Christ’s Robe had arrived in Georgia, a country of pagans.

Soon Nino began to pray fervently to the Theotokos, asking for her blessing to travel to Georgia and be made worthy to venerate the Sacred Robe that she had woven for her beloved Son. The Most Holy Virgin heard her prayers and appeared to Nino in a dream, saying, “Go to the country that was assigned to me by lot and preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will send down His grace upon you and I will be your protector.”

But the blessed Nino was overwhelmed at the thought of such a great responsibility and answered, “Howcan I, a fragile woman, perform such a momentous task, and howcan I believe that this vision is real?”

In response, the Most Holy Theotokos presented her with a cross of grapevines and proclaimed, “Receive this cross as a shield against visible and invisible enemies!”

When she awoke, Nino was holding the cross in her hands. She dampened it with tears of rejoicing and tied it securely with strands of her own hair[1].

Nino related the vision to her uncle, Patriarch Juvenal, and revealed to him her desire to preach the Gospel in Georgia. Juvenal led her in front of the Royal Doors, laid his hands on her, and prayed, “O Lord, God of Eternity, I beseech Thee on behalf of my orphaned niece: Grant that, according to Thy will, she may go to preach and proclaim Thy Holy Resurrection. O Christ God, be Thou to her a guide, a refuge, and a spiritual father. And as Thou didst enlighten the Apostles and all those who feared Thy name, do Thou also enlighten her with the wisdom to proclaim Thy glad tidings.”

When Nino arrived in Rome, she met and baptized the princess Rhipsimia and her nurse, Gaiana. At that time the Roman emperor was Diocletian, a ruler infamous for persecuting Christians. Diocletian (284–305) fell in love with Rhipsimia and resolved to marry her, but St. Nino, Rhipsimia, Gaiana, and fifty other virgins escaped to Armenia.

The furious Diocletian ordered his soldiers to follow them and sent a messenger to Tiridates, the Armenian king (286–344), to put him on guard.

King Tiridates located the women and, following Diocletian’s example, was charmed by Rhipsimia’s beauty and resolved to marry her.

But St. Rhipsimia would not consent to wed him, and in his rage the king had her tortured to death with Gaiana and the fifty other virgins.

St. Nino, however, was being prepared for a different, greater task, and she succeeded in escaping King Tiridates’ persecutions by hiding among some rose bushes.

When she finally arrived in Georgia, St. Nino was greeted by a group of Mtskhetan shepherds near Lake Paravani, and she received a blessing from God to preach to the pagans of this region.

With the help of her acquaintances St. Nino soon reached the city ofUrbnisi. She remained there a month, then traveled to Mtskheta with a group of Georgians who were making a pilgrimage to venerate the pagan idol Armazi. There she watched with great sadness as the Georgian people trembled before the idols. She was exceedingly sorrowful and prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, send down Thy mercy upon this nation …that all nations may glorify Thee alone, the One True God, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ.”

Suddenly a violent wind began to blow and hail fell from the sky, shattering the pagan statues. The terrified worshipers fled, scattering across the city.

St. Nino made her home beneath a bramble bush in the garden of the king, with the family of the royal gardener. The gardener and his wife were childless, but through St. Nino’s prayers God granted them a child. The couple rejoiced exceedingly, declared Christ to be the True God, and became disciples of St. Nino. Wherever St. Nino went, those who heard her preach converted to the Christian Faith in great numbers.

St. Nino even healed the terminally ill Queen Nana after she declared Christ to be the True God.

King Mirian, a pagan, was not at all pleased with the great impression St. Nino’s preaching had made on the Georgian nation. One day while he was out hunting, he resolved to kill all those who followed Christ. According to his wicked scheme, even his wife, Queen Nana, would face death for failing to renounce the Christian Faith.

But in the midst of the hunt, it suddenly became very dark. All alone, King Mirian became greatly afraid and prayed in vain for the help of the pagan gods. When his prayers went unanswered, he finally lost hope and, miraculously, he turned to Christ: “God of Nino, illumine this night for me and guide my footsteps, and I will declare Thy Holy Name. I will erect a cross and venerate it and I will construct for Thee a temple. I vow to be obedient to Nino and to the Faith of the Roman people!”

Suddenly the night was transfigured, the sun shone radiantly, and KingMirian gave great thanks to the Creator. When he returned to the city, he immediately informed St. Nino of his decision.

As a result of the unceasing labors of Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino, Georgia was established as a nation solidly rooted in the Christian Faith.

St. Nino reposed in the village of Bodbe in eastern Georgia and, according to her will, she was buried in the place where she took her last breath. King Mirian later erected a church in honor of St. George over her grave.

Like a good shepherd, thou didst baptize the lost sheep and lead the Georgian people to the One True God. O Holy Saint Nino, intercede with Christ our God on behalf of thy children!

Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze


7th of January. The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ

posted Jan 6, 2018, 1:36 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Jan 6, 2018, 1:37 PM ]


7th of January

 

The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ




The celebration of the feast of the Nativity of Christ in the Orthodox Church is patterned after the celebration of the feast of the Lord’s Resurrection. A fast of forty days precedes the feast, with special preparatory days announcing the approaching birth of the Saviour. Thus, on Saint Andrew’s Day (November 30) and Saint Nicholas Day (December 6) songs are sung to announce the coming birthday of the Lord:

Adorn yourself, O Cavern. Make ready, O Manger. O Shepherds and wisemen, bring your gifts and bear witness. For the Virgin is coming bearing Christ in her womb(Vesperal Hymn of Saint Nicholas Day).

On the eve of Christmas, the Royal Hours are read and the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil is served with Vespers. At these services the Old Testament prophecies of Christ’s birth are chanted, emphasizing the prophecy of Micah which foretells Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Saviour, and the prophecies of Isaiah about the appearance and character of the Messiah:

The Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel, which translated is, God with us (Is 7.14–15).

God is with us, understand all ye nations, and submit yourselves, for God is with us (Is 8.9).

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end (Is 9.6–7).

The Vigil of Christmas begins with Great Compline, highlighted once again by the solemn chanting of God is with us and the words of the prophecy of Isaiah. At Compline there is also the singing of the Troparion and Kontakion of the feast along with the special hymns glorifying the Saviour’s birth. There are also the special long litanies of intercession and the solemn blessing of the five loaves of bread together with the wheat and the wine of which the faithful partake and the oil with which they are anointed. This part of the festal vigil, which is done on all great feasts, is called the litya (in Greek, the artoklasia or the breaking of the bread).

At the beginning of the Christmas Matins, which together with Compline form the Christmas Vigil, the six matinal psalms begin as usual with the words: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among men” (Lk 2.14).

At the Christmas services these words of the angelic song are normally sung with great solemnity rather than being chanted as at the daily service. The Christmas Matins proceed as usual. The gospel reading from Matthew (1.18–25) tells of the birth of Christ, and all of the hymns and verses glorify His appearance on earth:

Christ is born, glorify Him. Christ is from heaven, go to meet Him. Christ is on earth, be ye lifted up. Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing out with gladness, all ye people. For He is glorified(First Ode of the Christmas Canon).

The Christmas Liturgy begins with psalms of glorification and praise. The troparion and kontakion mark the entrance with the Book of the Gospels. The baptismal line from Galatians 3.27 once again replaces the Thrice-Holy. The Epistle reading is from Galatians:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So through God, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir (Gal 4.4–7).

The Gospel reading is the familiar Christmas story from Matthew (2.1–12), and the liturgy continues in the normal fashion. A specific two-day celebration follows, dedicated to Mary the Theotokos and Saint Stephen, the First Martyr. The period of Christmas rejoicing extends to Epiphany during which time the Christmas songs are sung and fasting and kneeling in prayer are not called for by the Church.

The feast of Christmas is formally entitled the Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. At Christmas we celebrate the birth as a man of the Son of God, the one who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit is truly God from all eternity. Thus, we sing in the Church.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One! Angels, with shepherds, glorify Him! The wise men journey with the star! Since for our sake the Eternal God is born as a little child(Kontakion).

The feast of Christmas was not a separate Church feast for the first four centuries of Christian history. It was celebrated with Epiphany in the one great feast of God’s appearance on earth in the form of the human Messiah of Israel. The Nativity began to be celebrated as such on the twenty-fifth of December in order to offset the pagan festival of the Invincible Sun which occurred on that day. It was established by the Church quite consciously as an attempt to defeat the false religion of the heathens. Thus, we discover the troparion of the feast making a polemic against the worship of the sun and the stars and calling for the adoration of Christ, the True Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4.2), who is Himself worshiped by all of the elements of nature.

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone to the world the light of wisdom! For by it, those who worshiped the stars were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness and to know Thee, the Orient from on high [Lk 1.78, translated as Dawn or Day spring]. O Lord, glory to Thee! (Troparion).

Thus, the feast of Christmas is the celebration of the world’s salvation through the Son of God who became man for our sake that, through him, we might ourselves become divine, sons of God the Father by the indwelling of his Holy Spirit in us.

Published by oca.org 

THE DORMITION OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY THEOTOKOS AND EVER VIRGIN MARY

posted Aug 25, 2017, 8:18 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Aug 25, 2017, 8:19 PM ]

28 August


THE DORMITION OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY THEOTOKOS AND EVER VIRGIN MARY


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    After the Lord’s Ascension, the Mother of God remained under the care of the Apostle John the Theologian, and when he was absent, she lived in the house of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. For all the Apostles and all the faithful, she was a consolation and edification. Talking with them, the Mother of God told them of the wondrous events of the Annunciation, the conception without seed, and her birth of Christ without corruption, His childhood and earthly life. Like the Apostles, she instructed and strengthened others in the Christian Faith by her very presence, words, and prayers. The Apostles’ reverence for the Most Holy Virgin was extraordinary. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit on the remarkable day of Pentecost, they remained in Jerusalem for about ten years, serving for the salvation of the Jews and wishing to see and hear her divine words as often as possible. Many of the newly-enlightened in the faith even came from distant lands to Jerusalem in order to see and hear the Most Pure Theotokos.
During the persecutions brought by Herod against the young Christian Church (Acts. 12:1–3), the Most Holy Virgin Mary, together with the Apostle John the Theologian, departed in the year 42 for Ephesus, where the lot fell to the Apostle John to preach the Gospel. She was also in Cyprus at the home of St. Lazarus the Four Days Dead, who was acting Bishop there, and on the Holy Mountain of Athos, concerning which, according to St. Stephen the Hagiorite, the Mother of God said prophetically, “This place shall be the portion given me by my Son and God. I will be the Protectress of this place, and an Intercessor for it before God.”

    The reverence of the ancient Christians for the Mother of God was so great that they preserved everything about her life that they could note from her words and deeds, and even left us a description of her appearance.

    According to tradition based upon the words of the Holy Hieromartyr Dionysius the Aeropagite (†December 20, 107), St. Ambrose of Milan wrote in his work On Virginity about the Mother of God, “She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbours? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy? Being wont only to go to such gatherings of men as mercy would not blush at, nor modesty pass by. There was nothing gloomy in her eyes, nothing forward in her words, nothing unseemly in her acts, there was not a silly movement, nor unrestrained step, nor was her voice petulant, that the very appearance of her outward being might be the image of her soul, the representation of what is approved."

    According to a tradition preserved by the historian Nicephorus Callistos (fourteenth century), the Mother of God “was of medium height, or as some say, slightly taller than medium height; her hair was golden-like; her eyes quick, and olive colored; her eyebrows were arched and not too black, her nose elongated, her lips blossom-like, and filled with sweet speech; her face was neither round nor sharp, but slightly elongated; her fingers and toes long… She preserved good decency in her conversation with others, not laughing, never upset, and especially never angry; she was absolutely artless, simple; she never thought of herself in the least, and was far from comfort seeking, distinguishing herself by her total humility. As for the clothing she wore, she was content with their natural color, which her sacred head covering still shows. To say it briefly, she manifested especial grace in her every deed.”[1]

    The circumstances surrounding the Dormition of the Mother of God are well known in the Orthodox Church from the time of the Apostles. St. Dionysius the Aeropagite wrote in the first century about her Dormition. In the second century, the story of the Most Holy Virgin’s bodily translation into heaven is found in the works of Meliton, Bishop of Sardica. In the fourth century, St. Epiphanius of Cyprus refers to the tradition of the Dormition of the Mother of God. In the fifth century, St. Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem said to the holy right-believing Greek Queen Pulcheria, “Although there is nothing written in Holy Scripture about the circumstances surrounding her (the Theotokos’s) death, we nevertheless know about them from ancient and most reliable tradition.” This tradition was collected and set forth in detail in the ecclesiastical history of Nicephorus Callistos from the fourth century.

    Her days and nights were spent in prayer. Often the Most Holy Theotokos came to the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord, censed it around, and bent her knee in prayer. More than once did the enemies of the Savior attempt to prevent her from visiting this holy place, and asked the high priests to set a guard over the Lord’s Sepulcher. But the Holy Virgin, seen by no one, continued to pray before it. On one of these visitations to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and told her that she would soon be moving on from this life to the heavenly life, eternal and blessed. The Angel gave her a palm branch as a token of this promise. The Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with this heavenly tidings, along with three virgins who served her (Sepphora, Evigea, and Zoila). Then she called for the righteous Joseph of Arimathea and the disciples of the Lord, to whom she announced her nearing Dormition. The Most Holy Virgin also prayed that the Lord would send her the Apostle John, and the Holy Spirit took him up from Ephesus, placing him next to where the Mother of God lay. After praying, the Most Holy Virgin burned incense, and St. John heard a voice from Heaven that concluded her prayer with the word, “Amen”. The Mother of God said that this voice indicated that the Apostles and Holy Bodiless Powers would soon arrive. Countless Apostles flew in, says St. John Damascene, like clouds and eagles, in order to serve the Mother of God. Seeing each other, the Apostles rejoiced, but asked each other in their perplexity why the Lord had thus gathered them into one place. St. John the Theologian greeted them with tears of joy, saying that the time has come for the Mother of God to depart to the Lord. Going in to the Mother of God, they saw her seated magnificently on her couch, filled with spiritual joy. The Apostles greeted her, and then told her about their miraculous transport from the places of their ministry. The Most Holy Virgin glorified God that He had heard her prayer and fulfilled the desire of her heart, and began to discuss her coming end. During this discussion, the Apostle Paul appeared with his disciples: Dionysius the Aeropagite, the wondrous Hierotheus, the divine Timothy, and others of the seventy Apostles. The Holy Spirit had gathered them all together, so that they would be vouchsafed the blessing of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and arrange her burial in all magnificence. She called each one to herself by name, blessed them, and praised their faith and labors in preaching Christ’s Gospels. She wished for each of them eternal blessedness, and prayed with them for the peace and well-being of the whole world.

    The third hour came, when the Dormition of the Mother of God should occur. Many candles were burning. The holy Apostles with hymns surrounded the magnificently adorned bier on which the Most Holy Virgin Theotokos rested. She prayed in expectation of her departure and the arrival of her beloved Son and Lord. Suddenly, there was a flash of unspeakable Light of Divine glory, before which the light of the burning candles paled. Those who saw it were in fear. The ceiling of the room as if disappeared in rays of incomprehensible Light, and the King of Glory Himself, Christ, descended, surrounded by a multitude of Angels, Archangels, and other Heavenly Powers, with the righteous souls of the forefathers and prophets, who had once foretold the coming of a Most Pure Virgin. Seeing her Son, the Mother of God exclaimed “My soul hath magnified the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior, for He hath looked upon the lowliness of His handmaiden”; and, rising from her couch to meet her Lord, she bowed to Him. The Lord called her to the habitations of Eternal Life. Without the least bodily suffering, as if in a pleasant dream, the Most Holy Virgin gave her soul into the hands of her Son and God.

    Then began joyous angelic singing. Accompanying the pure soul of the Bride of God with reverent fear as the Queen of Heaven, the Angels cried out, “Rejoice, O blessed one, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women! The Queen and Handmaiden of God has come; receive her ye gates, and fittingly raise the Ever Virgin Mother of the Light; through her has the race of men been saved. We cannot look upon her, nor are we able to render unto her the honor that is meet.[2] The heavenly gates were uplifted to meet the soul of the Most Holy Mother of God, and the Cherubim and Seraphim glorified her with rejoicing. The grace-filled face of the Mother of God shone with the divine glory of virginity, and a fragrance poured from her body.

    Wondrous was the life of the Most Pure Virgin, wondrous also was her falling asleep, as the Holy Church chants: “The God of the universe hath shown on thee, O Queen, wonders surpassing the laws of nature. In giving birth, He hast preserved thy virginity, and in the grave, he preserved thy body incorrupt.”[3] Venerating thy most pure body with fear and reverence, the Apostles received from it sanctification and were filled with grace and spiritual joy. To the greater glorification of the Most Holy Theotokos, the omnipotent power of God healed the sick who touched her bier with faith and love. Having wept over their separation from the Mother of God on earth, the Apostles set about burying her most pure body. The holy Apostles Peter, Paul, and James, with others of the twelve Apostles, carried on their shoulders the bier that held the body of the Most Pure Virgin. St. John the Theologian walked at the fore carrying the heavenly, radiant palm branch, and the other saints and a multitude of the faithful walked alongside the bier with candles and lamps, singing sacred hymns. This solemn procession began at Mt. Zion and went through all of Jerusalem to Gethsemane.

    At the first movement, a wide and luminous circle of cloud appeared suddenly over the most pure body of the Mother of God like a wreath, and a host of angels joined together with the host of Apostles. The singing of the heavenly powers could be heard glorifying the Mother of God, and this singing was repeated by earthly voices. This circle of heavenly chanters and luminosity moved along in the air, accompanying the procession to the very place of burial. The unbelieving people of Jerusalem, stunned by the extraordinary magnificence of the burial procession and enraged at the honor rendered to the Mother of Jesus, sent word about it to the high priests and scribes. Enflamed with envy and vengefulness for everything that reminded them of Christ, they sent their servants to disperse the procession, and to burn the body of the Mother of God. The angry crowd and soldiers headed wrathfully toward the Christians, but the cloud-like wreath that followed in the air above the procession lowered down to the earth and as if guarded them like a wall. Their pursuers heard steps and singing, but could not see any of those processing. Many of them were struck with blindness. The Jewish priest Aphthoniah, out of his envy and hatred for the Mother of Jesus of Nazareth, wanted to overturn the bier on which lay the body of the Most Pure Virgin, but an Angel of God invisibly severed his hands that touched the bier. Seeing such a miracle, Aphthoniah repented and confessed with faith the greatness of the Mother of God. He received healing and joined the host of those accompanying her body, becoming a zealous follower of Christ. When the procession had reached Gethsemane, the final kissing (veneration) of her most pure body began. Only in the evening could the holy Apostles place her in the grave and close the entrance to the cave with a large stone. They did not leave the place of burial for three days, praying and singing psalms continually. By the wise providence of God, the Apostle Thomas was not fated to be present at the burial of the Mother of the Lord. Arriving on the third day in Gethsemane, he fell down before the burial cave with bitter tears and loudly expressed his regret that he had not been worthy to receive a final blessing from the Mother of God, or to bid her farewell. The Apostles out of heartfelt pity for him decided to open the cave and give him the consolation of reverencing the holy remains of the Ever Virgin. But when they opened the grave, they found there only her winding sheets, and were thus convinced that the body of the Most Holy Virgin had been miraculously taken up into heaven.

    On the evening of that same day, when the Apostles had gathered in the house to strengthen themselves with food, the Mother of God herself appeared to them and said, “Rejoice! I am with you always.” This so gladdened the Apostles and all who were with them that they raised a portion of the bread that was always presented at table in remembrance of the Savior (“the Lord’s Portion”) and exclaimed, “Most Holy Theotokos, come to our aid”. (This was the origin of the rite of the Panagia—a tradition of raising a portion of bread in honor of the Mother of God, which is still observed in monasteries.)

    The cincture of the Mother of God and her sacred garments, preserved with reverence and divided over the face of the world, have and still do work miracles. Her many icons pour forth everywhere streams of healing and wonders, and her sacred body, taken up into Heaven, witnesses to our future abiding there with it. It was not left to the chance transitions of a transitory world, but was incomparably more exalted by a most glorious ascension into the heavens.

    The feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated with particular solemnity in Gethsemane, at the place of her burial. Nowhere else does the heart so grieve at its separation from the Mother of God, and nowhere else does it so exalt, convinced of her intercession for the world.

    The holy city of Jerusalem is parted from the Mount of Olives by the valley of Kedron, or Josaphat. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the garden of Gethsemane, the olive trees of which continue to bear fruit to this day.

    The holy forefather of God Joachim reposed as an eighty-year-old elder a few years after the Entrance of the Most Holy Virgin into the temple. The widowed St. Anna moved from Nazareth to Jerusalem and lived near the temple. In Jerusalem she acquired two properties: the first by the gates of Gethsemane, and the second in the valley of Josaphat. In the second home she built a tomb for her reposed family members, where she was herself later buried alongside Joachim. There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Savior often prayed with His disciples.

    The most pure body of the Mother of God was buried in her family grave. From the time of her burial, Christians reverently honored the tomb of the Mother of God and built a temple on the site. In that church was kept the precious winding sheets that had wrapped her most pure and fragrant body.

    The holy Patriarch of Jerusalem Juvenal (420–458) attested before the emperor Marcian (450–458) the truth of the tradition of the miraculous ascent of the Mother of God to Heaven, and sent his spouse, St. Pulcheria († 453, commemorated September 10), the winding sheets of the Mother of God, which he took from her tomb. St. Pulcheria placed these winding sheets in the Church of Blachernae.

    There survives testimony that at the end of the seventh century there existed, over the underground church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos [in Jerusalem], an upper church with a high bell tower from which could be seen the dome of the Church of the Lord’s Resurrection. There are no traces left of this church. In the ninth century, a monastery was built near the underground church of Gethsemane, where over thirty monks lived.

    The church was subjected to great damage in 1009 from the persecutor of sacred sites, Kakim. Significant changes, traces of which remain to this day, where made by the crusaders in 1130. In the eleventh to twelfth centuries, a piece of the cut stone on which the Savior prayed during the night of His betrayal disappeared. This piece of stone had been located in the Gethsemane basilica until the sixth century.

    However, despite the destruction and change, the general original cross-shaped plan of the church was preserved. At the entrance of the church, to the sides of the iron doors stand four marble columns. In order to enter the church, one must descend a stairwell of forty-eight stairs. On the twenty-third step, on the right side, is a side-church dedicated to Sts. Joachim and Anna with their tombs, and on the other side, to the left is the chapel of Righteous Joseph the Betrothed with his tomb. The right side-church belongs to the Orthodox Church, and the left one belongs to the Armenian Gregorian Church (since 1814).

    The Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God measures 37 yards long and 7 feet wide. Earlier in the church there were windows as well as a door. The entire church was adorned by a multitude of lampadas and gifts. There are two small entrances into the sepulcher of the Mother of God, cut into the rock in the tradition of ancient Jewish tombs, and very similar to the Lord’s Sepulcher. Behind the tomb is the altar of a church in which Divine Liturgy is celebrated daily in Greek.

    The Olive trees on the eastern and northern sides of the church were taken from the Orthodox in the seventh to eighth centuries by the Turks. Catholics acquired the olive trees on the eastern and southern sides in 1803, and the Armenians acquired those on the western side in 1812.

    In Lesser Gethsemane, on August 12/28 at two in the morning, the abbot of the Gethsemane Church celebrates Divine Liturgy. At the end of the Liturgy at four in the morning, the abbot serves a short moleben in full vestments before the bright epitaphion (symbolic winding sheet), takes it upon his arms, and solemnly bears it to the church in Gethsemane, where is the sacred tomb of the Mother of God. All members of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem with the leader of the Mission at the head participate annually in the translation of the holy epitaphion, which is called the “Litany.”

    The rite of the burial of the Mother of God in Gethsemane begins on the morning of August 14/30. A multitude of people with the bishops and clergy leading set out from the Jerusalem Patriarchate (near the Church of the Resurrection of Christ) along the Via Dolorosa. The burial procession winds through the narrow streets of the Holy City to Gethsemane. The first rows of the procession carry the icon of the Dormition of the Most Pure Theotokos. Pilgrims meet the icon along the way, kiss the image of the Most Pure One, and lift their children up to it. After the clergy walk the monks and nuns of the Holy City: Greeks, Romanians, Arabs, and Russians. The procession, which lasts about two hours, ends with a Paraclesis in the Gethsemane Church. Before the altar behind the tomb of the Mother of God a rise is set up with fragrant flowers and myrtle and covered with precious cloths, and upon which rests the epitaphion of the Most Holy Theotokos.

    “O marvelous wonder! The Source of Life is laid in a tomb, and the ladder to Heaven is in a tomb…” –here, at the grave of the Most Pure One herself, these words resound with their original meaning, and sorrow dissolves into joy: “Thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee, grant peace unto the world by thy great mercy!”

    The many pilgrims, venerating the icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God, pass under it according the ancient tradition.

    On the day of the leave-taking of the feast (August 23/September 5) the solemn procession is again made. On the return path, the holy epitaphion of the Most Pure Theotokos is carried by the clergy with the abbot of Gethsemane at the head.

“On the rite of the Litany and feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God in the Holy Land”, Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1979, No. 3.


The Universal Elevation of the Precious and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord

posted Sep 29, 2016, 8:56 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Aug 25, 2017, 8:03 PM ]

27 September

The Universal Elevation of the Precious and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord



The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.

Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under the Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.

In 313 he had issued the Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict of toleration extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Holy Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, having gained victory over his enemies in three wars with God’s assistance, had seen in the heavens the Sign of the Cross, and written beneath: “By this you shall conquer.”

Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, St Constantine sent his mother, the pious Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to St Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and the statues in Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful.

Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan temple and, after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body (March 6).

In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch Macarius alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found.

Christians came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching St Macarius to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the people, saying “Lord have mercy,” reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326.

During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross another miracle took place: a grievously sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Cyriacus and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of Jerusalem.

During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr’s death for Christ (see October 28). The holy empress Helen journeyed to the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Savior, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem the birthplace of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings and where the Mother of God was buried after her death.

St Helen took part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails with her to Constantinople. The holy emperor Constantine gave orders to build at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, also including under its roof the Life-Giving Tomb of the Lord and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten years. St Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple, she died in the year 327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following day, September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross was established.

Another event connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day: its return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and captured both the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).

The Cross remained in Persia for fourteen years and only under the emperor Heraclius (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the Lord returned to the Christians.

With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Heraclius in imperial crown and royal purple carried the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection. With the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to proceed farther. The holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an angel of the Lord was blocking his way. The emperor was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world from sin had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Heraclius donned plain garb, and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of Christ into the church.

In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, St Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: “The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast”.


Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ

posted Sep 29, 2016, 8:47 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Sep 29, 2016, 8:48 AM ]

Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ




On this day, the Thursday of the sixth week of Pascha, we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

After His Resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days, appearing to His Disciples in various places. He ate, drank and conversed with them, verifying and assuring His Resurrection. On the fortieth day after Pascha, Jesus appeared to His Disciples in Jerusalem. He gave them His last commandment, to go forth and preach in His Name to all the nations. At the same time, He told them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait until they were clothed with the power from on high by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. Having said this, Jesus led His Disciples to the Mount of Olives. Then He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And as He was speaking to them with words of fatherly blessing, Jesus departed from them and ascended into Heaven, being received by a shining cloud, indicating His divine majesty. He gradually disappeared from the sight of the Disciples as they gazed at Him. And as they stood thus, two angels in brilliant white robes appeared to them in the form of men and said to them: Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, Who is taken from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven. In these words is fulfilled and defined the doctrine concerning the Son of God and His Word, in the Confession of Faith. After our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled all His great dispensation for us, He ascended in glory into Heaven, and sat on the right hand of God the Father. His Disciples returned from Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, rejoicing in the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. O Christ our God, Who didst ascend in glory, have mercy on us. Amen.

Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)

posted Apr 23, 2016, 9:43 AM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Apr 23, 2016, 9:44 AM ]


Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)





Troparion of the Feast (Tone 1)

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Thy Passion, Thou didst confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to Thee: O Vanquisher of Death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!

Another Troparion (Tone 4)

When we were buried with Thee in Baptism, O Christ God, we were made worthy of eternal life by Thy Resurrection! Now we praise Thee and sing: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!

Kontakion of the Feast (Tone 6)

Sitting on Thy throne in heaven, carried on a foal on earth, O Christ God! Accept the praise of angels and the songs of children, who sing: Blessed is He that comes to recall Adam!


On the Sunday before Pascha, the Holy Church celebrates the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead (John 12:1). While tarrying there, in the house of Lazarus, many of those who had accompanied Him on the way from Jericho managed to reach Jerusalem and spread the tidings that Christ the Savior was coming there for the Feast of the Passover, and had stopped for a while in Bethany. Hearing this news, Christ's enemies, the scribes and Pharisees came to Bethany, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, Whom He had raised from the dead (John 12:9).

The number of people believing in Christ the Savior was growing from day to day, and even some of the Jews who had up until then been hostile towards Him, seeing the miracle He had wrought, believed in Him. This made the scribes and Pharisees even more angry, and they resolved to kill not only Our Lord Jesus Christ, but the righteous Lazarus as well.

Jesus Christ did not want to increase the spite of His foes, the scribes and Pharisees, and for this reason He often avoided direct and open confrontation with them. But the time had come to take all the wrath and spite of these people upon Himself. So that His enemies would have no justification for their unbelief and would not be able to say afterwards that He had hidden His glory and His predestined Messianic mission from them. Our Lord made a ceremonial entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling all that the Prophets had foretold of Him. After spending a day in Bethany, Jesus Christ set out for the Holy City.

Calling to Himself two of His disciples—in all likelihood Peter and John—Our Lord asked them to bring from a nearby village a she-ass and her colt. The disciples went and fulfilled everything: finding at the gates of the town a she-ass and her colt, they brought them to the Savior. The young colt had not been ridden or borne a yoke before (1 Sam. 6:7). The disciples then spread their clothes upon it.

Thus Jesus entered Jerusalem, not in a royal chariot drawn by horses, but on a young ass, covered, not with rich cloths, but with the well-worn robes of the disciples. In this way, as the Evangelists John and Matthew tell us, the sayings of the Prophets were fulfilled: Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass (Matt. 21:5).

The meek and humble entry of Our Lord Jesus Christ in to Jerusalem was a symbol of peace and humility, for it represented a complete contrast to the triumphal processions of kings at that time. The way in which Christ entered Jerusalem showed that His Kingdom was not of this world, but that He was sent by His Father in Heaven. Jesus was accompanied by throngs of people who had followed Him from Bethany or had met Him on the way.

Having ascended the Mount of Olives, He stopped. From this hill a beautiful view opened out over Jerusalem. The tumultuous joy of the people following the Great Miracle-Worker who had raised Lazarus from the dead, grew even greater at the sight of this beautiful and sacred city.

Not only the disciples, but all who believed in Him rejoiced with a great joy, for they believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, Who, according to the erroneous beliefs and expectations of the Jews, would sit on the throne of David, the king of glory, and be their ruler and rescue them from the Roman yoke.

At the gates of Jerusalem Jesus was met by a great multitude of people, rejoicing and waving palm branches, who, as St. Matthew tells us, bestrewed the way with them and their garments (Matt. 21:7-8). All this was an expression of particular reverence for the Messiah Whom they had come out to welcome. [We note here that in the Russian Orthodox Church, branches from the pussy willow are used instead of palm branches, obviously on account of the harsh climate.]

During the Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the whole people, who had come in their multitudes to celebrate the Passover and those who had witnessed Lazarus' resurrection and had been astounded by this great miracle, cried in joyous rapture: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! (Matt. 21:9). The humble and meek procession of the Savior through the streets of Jerusalem surpassed and eclipsed all the triumphant processions that humanity had ever known.

Seeing the joy of the multitudes around Him, however, the Savior grew sad, and since He loved His people and His city. His heart was filled with sorrow. He knew that the same people, who rejoiced now and cried Hosanna! and saw in Him their salvation, would in a few days cry out in rage: Crucify Him! Crucify Him! (John 19:6). The Savior also knew that the fair and holy city of Jerusalem which He was entering, would soon be desolated and not a stone be left one upon another. As He drew night to the city, Jesus wept over it, saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes (Luke 19:41-42).

But it was not for Himself that our Lord wept. He wept and grieved because He knew that God's chosen Jewish people were perishing in ignorance and error. The Lord grieved not only for Jerusalem and the Chosen People, but for the whole universe; His gaze reached across the centuries, and saw the sins of future generations, and it was for them that He grieved in His soul; for them He wept and prayed.

Thus, the triumphant entrance of the Savior into Jerusalem which we celebrate on Palm Sunday was accomplished. In the Lord's Entrance, we see His way to voluntary suffering and death for our salvation. And we also see the image of Christ's spiritual Kingdom - the Kingdom of Truth, Peace and Humility.


Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and ever virgin Mary

posted Apr 3, 2016, 4:10 PM by Mamao Thoma   [ updated Apr 3, 2016, 4:10 PM ]

7th of April.

Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary




The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25 each year. The Feast commemorates the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would become incarnate and enter into this world through her womb.


BIBLICAL STORY

The biblical story of the Feast of the Annunciation is found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke (1:26-39). The Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary, who was living in Nazareth, and said to her, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” Mary was perplexed and wondered what kind of greeting this was.

The angel told her not to be afraid, for she had found favor with God. He said, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary responded to the angel by asking how this could happen since she had no husband. The angel told her that the Holy Spirit and the power of God would come upon her, and that the child to be born of her would be called holy, the “Son of God.”

The angel then proceeded to tell the Virgin Mary that her cousin Elizabeth had conceived a son in her old age (John the Baptist), and affirmed that with God nothing is impossible.

In faith and obedience to the will of God, Mary replied to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be according to your word.” Upon her response, the angel departed.

It is on the Feast of the Annunciation, that Orthodox Christians commemorate both the divine initiative of God, whereby He took on flesh from the Virgin for our salvation, and the human response, whereby Mary freely accepted the vocation offered to her. He elected to become man, and He desired to do this with the willing agreement of her whom He chose as His mother. Mary could have refused, for she was not a passive instrument, but an active participant with a free and positive part to play in God’s plan for our salvation. Thus, when on this and other feasts the Orthodox Church honors the Theotokos, the Mother of God, it is not just because God chose her but also because she herself chose to follow His will.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CELEBRATION OF THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE THEOTOKOS

The Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the Feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast. Scripture readings for the Feast are the following: At Vespers: Genesis 28:10-17; Ezekiel 43:27—44:4; Proverbs 9:1-11. At the Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56. At the Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 2:11-18; Luke 1:24-38.

The Feast of the Annunciation in the Greek Orthodox Church also marks a day of national celebration for the people of Greece and those around the world of Greek descent. It was on March 25, 1821 when Greece officially declared its independence and began the revolution that would eventually give the nation its freedom after 400 years of rule by the Ottomans. In addition to the services for the Feast, festivities and parades are held and official proclamations are offered throughout the world in recognition of Greek Independence Day.

HYMNS OF THE FEAST

Apolytikion (Fourth Tone)
Today marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace. Wherefore, we also cry out with him, "Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you."

Kontakion (Plagal of the Fourth Tone)
To you, Theotokos, invincible Defender, having been delivered from peril, I, your city, dedicate the victory festival as a thank offering. In your irresistible might, keep me safe from all trials, that I may call out to you: "Hail, unwedded bride!"

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