Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

A day in a Nun Skete saint Ambrose of Optina in Rusakovo village near Zhyrovichi monastery – Biggest monastery in Belarus

Friday, September 20th, 2019

What is a Scete?

The skete (Scetis) as a form of cohabitant has been among the 4 types of early Christian hobatiation along with eremitic (hermet life), lavritic from laura (Greek: Λαύρα; Cyrillic: Ла́вра) is a type of consisting of a cluster of cells or caves for hermits, with a church and sometimes a refectory at the center. and coenobitic (another monastic tradition based on community life).

Origins of scete communities

A skete (from Coptic ϣⲓ(ϩ)ⲏⲧ via Greek σκήτη) is a monastic community in Eastern Christianity that allows relative isolation for monks, but also allows for communal services and the safety of shared resources and protection.

Skete communities usually consist of a number of small cells or caves that act as the living quarters with a centralized church or chapel. These communities are thought of as a bridge between strict eremitic lifestyle and communal lifestyles since it was a blend of the two. These communities were a direct response to the ascetic lifestyle that early Christians aspired to live. Skete communities were often a bridge to a stricter form of hermitage or to prepare for a martyrdom in times of persecutions.
 

Hitchiking to Zhyrovichi and Rosakovo Scetes


As I've been with my wife for a 2 weeks trip to her home country Belarus, staying in Krasnoselsk a small 7000 inhabitants town, near the bigger Valkovoysk, one of the local Church serving friends of mine Evgeni offered that we go for a pilgrimage to Zhyrovichi monastery. We took the road as a hitchhikers and on our way to Zhirovichy after changing 4 cars to reach a gas station nearby Slonim, the idea come that instead of directly going to Jirovichi to go instead and visit a Nun skete at village of Rosakovo consting of 9 nuns just about 5-6 km distance from Zhirovichy.
To reach there we were taken as hitchikers by a kind guy riding on a classical world famous Belarusian track MAZ (Minskiy Avtomobilnij Zavod literaly translated as Minsk Automobile Factory). This trip was my first trip on a MAZ truck quite an exciting adventure to be honest, as so far I never had the chance to ride on an old Soviet style truck 🙂

We reached in Rusokovo about 16:30 just to be amazed of the beauty of the beautiful Russian style Eastern Orthodox skete Church.

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The skete of Rusakovo started its existence just 14 years ago in 2005 with the blessing of Zhirovychi monastery abbot archibishop Guriy (Gurij) – archibishop Novogrudskij and Lidskijy.

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Archibishop Guriy Apalyko Novogrudskij and Slonimski
(Архиепископ Гурий Новогрудский и Слонимский (Апалько)

Skete started to build in the dying village of Rusakovo left with just few inhabitants very near some of the post-communist abandoned buildings of a Kolhoz (collective ownership) so popular in the times of communism across USSR and its satellites, which stemmed from the Jewish Kibbutz used by Jews before the official establishment and official recognition of Israel.

The idea of the Skete is to create a more ascetic place, where the many volunteer ladies who often are helping in the works of the Zhyrovichi Men (Monks) monastery and desired to become a novice nuns and nuns to be able to live and pray incessantly in their own sisterhood.

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The village of Rusakovo is situated just about 6 km from the Village of Zhyrovichi and Zhyrovici monaster which is at the moment the biggest monastery in Belarus by number of monks (currently the monastery consists of about 34 monks and few novices).
Local people of Zhirovichy and the region say because of Zhirovichy's monastery and the appearance of the Holy Theotokos Virgin Mary the Mother of God, Zhirovichy and all its regions are under her spiritual protection.
This believes by locals could be feeled for sure in the Skete of Rusakovo as my Soul their felt like being in heaven in an inexplainable peace and joy.

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The unusual bus stop of Rusakovo village Grodnenskaja Oblast, (common for villages in Belarus)

The existence of such a Skete exactly in Rusakovo village was also not a coincidence as in the past this village was famous for having a people with a very strong faith in God as well as the village was famous for many of its inhabitants serving in the Church altar as "panamari" / hipodeacons many of whom are being buried in the small graveyard near the end of the village.

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Elder Saint Ambrose of Optina Desert

 

Short History on how Rusakovo Scete was build

As a first living breath to Rusokovo Skete St. Ambrious of Optina Desert (a Russian saint from the, several nuns were transferred from the Slonim Holy Annunciation Monastery, here they settled in an old decrepit wooden house. There were cracks in the floor, the water froze, slept on folding beds, there was no money and bread, and the only income the nuns had was their own grown potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, pepper, cabbage, garlic, onion etc. …

 

The nuns started building the Skete's Church on top of old abandoned village home, sitting on elevated place.

During the Church construction works the nuns learned a lot of subtleties and wisdom of builder mastery. A lot of people relatives and close friends to the nuns and the few novices nuns joined and helped with the construction of the Church and the monastic cells building. A good hearted benefitors were found that has sacrificied in the name of Christ and donated the Church Bells, gave money and materials for the creation of Church Domes and one good hearted man even made a donation of the whole iconostasis Church wall !

View to Rusakovo Skete Main Church

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The multiplication of Breads – Icon painted with the Blessing of Saint Elder Ambrose of Optina Desert
 

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The Church built in honour of saint Ambrose of Optina looks very beautiful as a temple of the true God should look like, the coupols are gold-plated as it is in many Russian Church, the reason for that is to accent that the Holy Spirit of Almighty God is descending over this domes to the the Church alter.

Inside the Church the atmosphere could be best described with the words warm and welcoming, entering the Church building, feels like really entering home. On the Church entrance, we had the blessing to meet the serving priest which as of time of writting this article is father Georgij, inside the Church we found one of the nuns mother Tatiana which had the obedience to sell Church candles and the monastery produced herbal medicines.

The magnificence of the outlook of the Church is hard to be described in words.

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View to Church Alter Doors (Dveri) a symbol reference to the Heavens Gates -ХВ stands for Христос Воскресе / Christ is Risen

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Saint Ambrose of Optina icon with embedded holy relics Rusakovo Zhyrovichi skete Belarus notice on the back the bricks – this is a Russian Petch (Петчь) / Petchka. This was how Russians heated their homes and cooked for centuries, in the Church "The Petch" is used to heat the Church in the Cold Belarusian Winters.

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Saint Nicolas icon and the usual feast Church icon which of this day was for the Beheading of Saint John The Baptist

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Heaven like Church Garden near the Rosakovo village Belarus

Skete-Rusakovo-village Belarus

A Big bad guardian dog nearby the Church

Nuns and voluntery workers work hard in the skete a lot as just like in the ancient monasteries the skete nourishes itself mainly on their own production and the small financial help that comes from Zhirovichy Monastery when current official person in charge (a kind of Abbess) – Nun Mother Maria requests it in cases of unexpected events which can't be covered by the incomes of the monastery.

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Elder sister (nun) abbess Maria Rusakovo Scete (skit) Belarus

Talking about incomes its main income is mainly from creation and selling of mixtures of Monastery prepared ointments of Healing Herbs, Olive Oil and other Oils.

Herbal natural medicines preparation is perhaps the main unique product for ordinary layman the monastery offers.
Here sister nun Anatolia who graduated bio-faculty higher education in her worldly life, compiles herbs, makes ointments, infusions and oils. This includes herbal health recovery cream (ointment) that is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiviral ointment, ointment for diseases of the veins, joint, skin diseases, anti-alcohol and anti-toxic infusions. The list is so large that you can’t name everything, I recommend you go alone and choose whatever you need …

The monastic farm is large, besides the many season grown vegetables and fruits and the hothouses which are used to raise vegetables in harsh Belarusian winters, they have about 100+ hens used to produce eggs and even among the hens could be seen an ancient breed of hensthe Russian Pavlovian hens, which was almost destroyed in Soviet times.

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Ancient Russian Pavlovian Hen rarely to be seen in Russia and Belarus nowadays

Miraculously few of the Pavlovian hens survived. These chickens are different in that their eggs and meat have less cholesterol (but as the Sketes rule prohibits nuns and visitors to eat meet this chickens are only used as a source of eggs.

View-of-Rusakovo-flower-beauties
Another common source for feeding the Scetes are Mushrooms collection from the near Woods in which there is a strong tradition here in Belarus as mostly all people in villages and towns are riding and collecting eatable mushrooms together with healing herbs which are collected by the novice nuns, sketes voluntary workers and sometimes with a blessing by the nuns. Cats and dogs are walking all around the yards and the long village one straight street  (which nowadays is consisting of a line of village old beautiful colored and well maintained wooden houses, most of which gradually become uninhabitant already due to most of Rusakovo's population was consisting of old people who passed away and their younger offspring choose to live already in big cities as Minks, Homel, Mogilov, Grodno, Vitebsk etc.).

To prevent this beautiful abondoned houses in Rusakovo from gradual ruin due to being uninhabitant, mother Maria along with the rest of Nuns decided to gradually buy some of the houses, some of which were turned as normal living places where visitors are usually being accomodated in Summer, the Belarusian Church is also organizing there a Summer School camps and those bught and restavrated houses are used as accmodation for the teenagers.


Once we arrived the Skete, we worshipped the holy relics in the Church and we want around the yard of the monastery where we met once again father Georgij with whom we had a few minutes talk after which he offered us to stay for the Night Vigil Liturgy that was organized in the monastery in honor of the feast of Saint Alexander Nevski (a great warrior saint that is highly venerated in Russia and all across the Orthodox countries that were part of the USSR), in honour of saint Alexander Nevski is named the Second Biggest Cathedral in the Balkans and Eastern Europe in city of Sofia Bulgaria. I do venerate saint Alexander Nevski thus it was a great joy for me the opportunity to stay for that Liturgy and respectively sleep in the skete.
After we were invited to stay by fr. Georgij with the blessing of matushka nun Maria whose blessing he requested by calling her over the mobile, we were brought for a Dinner in the scetes dining room, the dinner was humble but very delicious, where mother Tatiana (the nun) that was assigned to bring us to the dining room has prayed and blessed the food with a holy water. The dinner consisted of some boiled potatoes, tomatoes, bread, cucumbers and a sweet kind of jar cakes but perhaps due to the fact it was made with a lot of love it was more delicious by the worldly food we consume daily.

After the dinner novice monk Alexander brought us to the pilgrimage house and accomodated us. I have to say this man was very kind and a good hearted man. Even seeing each other for a first time the interaction with him was so opened and easy that it felt like we knew each other all our lives.

Midnight Liturgy started in 11:30 and continued until almost 02:00 a.m.. and after the Night Liturgy we went home and slept just to wake up in the morning in 09:00 full of joy and energy (perhaps due to the prayers of the nuns, the vigil itself the clean air and most importantly because of abundant God's grace that was filling up this blessed place).


Rusakovo-one-eyed-dog

Upper picture you see one of the friendly dogs (though it apeared different on the picture) that was following us all the time in the monastery, the mind association I got this dog follows us very much resembling our Guardian Angel who is always following us and helping us in our daily deeds, the very same Holy Angel we Orthodox Christians believe to receive during baptism.

It is common here that a car flies past and an animal is thrown out of it. Just recently the next in line unwanted animal that was left in Rusakovo is  one-eyed dog. In the same way, the Marquise cat a victim of car hit was saved from sure death thanks to the nuns, who brought the animal for medication in near place animal hospitals. Marquese now have the chance to live a normal life after intensive care from the good hearted nuns.

To survive the harsh winter in Belarus the Skete inhabitants are preparing conservated jars with whatever vegetables and fruits have been locally grown during the summer as it is being done almost all across Russia, Belarus and mostly all Eastern Orthodox countries (Bulgaria, Serbia, Moldavia, Romania) etc.
The skete's private houses bought has currently a capacity to accomodate about at least 50 – 80 people, sometimes for a great Orthodox feasts as many as 27 individuals came and was accomodated in the Skete.

The usual day of the Rusakovo Scete is seen on the Door of the pilgrim accomodation room and is relatively easy perhaps because the goal of the Skete after all is to leave its visitors more time for thinking over their life and God's providence and to pray

Schedule-of-a-standard-day-in-Rusakovo-skit-skete-Belarus-1

The daily Schedule of the Scete looks like so (transslated from Above text which is in Russian):

07:00 – Wake up
07:45 – 09:00 – Night Vigil with 12 Psalms
09:00 – 09:30 – Breakfast
09:30 – 14:00 – obediences (work on things ordered)
14:00 – 14:30 – Monastic Lunch
14:45 – 17:00 – obediences
18:00 – Monastic Dinner
18:30 – 20:00 – Compline (Malko Povecherie) End of the day prayers
20:00 – 23:00 – Free Time
23:00 – Sleep hour

On Big Sunday – The day of resurrection which is the biggest feast commemorating the glorious events of Christ's Resurrection from the grave and victory over death the schedule is even lighter

08:30 – Canonical Hours
09:00 – Holy Liturgy
17:30 – Lunch
18:00 – Horologion
– 
Greek: ὠρολόγιον (Chasoslov / Часослов in church slavonic )

Alexander-novice-monk sent from Zhyrovichi monastery

Novice Monk and monastic worker Alexander sent from Zhyrovichi monastery together with brother Evgeny (a graduated Theologician who graduated Jirovichi Minsk spiritual academy 5 years course)

The pilgimage house was a standard but well and cozy old Belarusian wooden house with all the comforts you might dream for, e.g. – a bed, a blanket and even an old stove, that is used in times of cold in Winter, late autumn and cold spring times.

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The prayer corner situated East as it is in every Orthodox Chapel

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One of the room beds note the Upper right corner situated Icon this is a traditional place where Belarusians who are generally very pious people place their icons

To obtain a drinkable water each of the pilgrimage accomodation houses has its own well. As Belarus is a country rich in Lakes 11 000+ lakes it is a country generally rich in water. And most people in villages are digging about 50 to 90 meters to have their own well – a free of charge source of water.

 


Graveyard at the end of Rusakovo village (that has buried many of old village inhabitants and a lot of good christians.
One thing I've noticed in Belarus is many of the Graveyards places in this country are placed on the highest heighted place (hillock) in the region, perhaps they do this because they expect the dead to be nearer to heaven to which each of the resurrected bodies should be taken on the Resurrection day as we believe in Christian faith.

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View of Rusakovos nature and a pilgrim accomodation house

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This is how the pilgrimage accomodation houses of Rusakovo Scete looks like

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Few of the nuns of St. Ambrose of Optina Skete

Rusakovo Skete has a vkontakte group where you can contact them and if you like you can ask for a blessing to stay a couple of days if you're ready to work for free like 4-5 hours a day and feel the atmosphere of this blessed place.

On the next day after we woke up, we were brought by the novice monk Alexander again to the dinner room and they gave us a delicious fasting breakfast in 11:00. After that we thanked them and hitchiked to see another smaller skete in Sceniavichi the next village inhabitated with only 3 nuns vowed themselves to follow a harsh ascetism.

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Bus stop of Sceniavichi Skete village Belarus

Finding the Skete took us about 10-15 minutes walk from the bus stop, we had to walk like 3 minutes in direction of entering the village and then turn right and walk for some time until we reached the big fance as in below pic.

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Skete Sceniavichi fence wall

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The house type of Church of Sceniavichi skete
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Church bells

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Inside the Sceniavichi Skete Church view to Iconostasis

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Icon of All New Confessors of Eastern Orthodox Faith of Belarus

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Skete of Sceniavichi monk cell house

We were received in the Scete by a sister nun Olga a kind young nun which showed us the Church and offered us a coffe with some traditional belarusian fried dought (called draniki). Nun Olga happened to be a zograph (icon painter). The lady was mostly kind to us and even give us a gift of a small Calendar with the famous Prayer of Saint Ambrose of Optina and the last Elders of Optina below is the prayer itself:
 

The Prayer of the Last Elders of Optina

O Lord, grant that I may meet all that this coming day brings to me with spiritual tranquility. Grant that I may fully surrender myself to Thy holy Will.

At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy Will.

Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee.

Grant that I may deal straightforwardly and wisely with every member of my family, neither embarrassing nor saddening anyone.

O Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all the events that take place during it. Direct my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love. Amen.

sister Olga was so kind to show us her icon painting atelier and after further talk with her we found out some interesting details, like the fact the 3 sisters living in Sceniavichi scete has given vows to not eat any meat or any animal products while they're in the scete and since 1.5 years we found this ascetic nuns were fed only with vegetable food.

Joyfully we had from their to Zhyrovichi monastery farm where monastery property consists of cows, sheep, pigs, caprines, goats, horses, ducks, turkeys, hens which is about 2 kilometers away from Zhyrovichi.
The farm is functioning based on the monastic system of blessings over each of the workers just like any monastery functions based on obediences and I have to say it works pretty well. The horses in the farm are breeded as an attraction for the groups of young pupils that ride to visit the monastery regularly for a Summer Orthodox Christian Schol Camps.

Below are some pictures taken from the monastic collective farm – there is no question this is definitely interesting for youngsters nowdays most of whom have raised in the cities and never had a chance to ride on a horse or see most of the animals that each of our grandma and grandpa had in their own village house in the short past.

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A near view to monastic farm Zhyrovichi Dormition of Virgin Mary Monastery

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Cows pasture near farm

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Moooooo !

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Mamma pig with the piggies 🙂

Bale piles used for food and floor cover in the animal cells

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Belarusian Seeding Machine Traktor in the farm

Zhyrovichi-farm-turkeys
 

The beheading of Saint John the Baptist feats in Eastern Orthodox Church – A short history of saint John Forerunners Holy Relics

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

Beheading_of_St_John_the_Baptist_Icon_IX-century

Saint John the Baptist (The Forerunner of Christ) is all known for being the baptizer of the Lord Jesus Christ in Jordan's river in Israel.

However as nowadays most people are away from the Church and from traditions, that many generations of our ancestors used to follow, little know the details of his beheading and the meaning of why he is venerated so much by so many generations in the last 2000 years.

Thus In this small article, I'll try to shed some light on the Saint John Beheading feast known in Church Slavonic world as Oseknovenie (Осекновение) = beheading and is considered a day of sorrow for the Church for the reason the biggest Old Testamental prophet, a hermit and a man of Gigantic spiritual significance Saint John the Baptist has been beheaded unfairly for having no fault at all but this happened so his righteousness raise up even more and be clear for the generations to come.

The feast of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated on 29 of August in Eastern Orthodox Church, where old Calendar Churches celebrate the feast (13 days) later on 11 of September – I'll not get into details about calendars as this is a long discussion for a separate article.

It should be said in the Church saint John the Baptist is considered the highest saint among all“the first among martyrs in grace”, venerated next in glory to Virgin Mary.

The Martyrdom of Saint John happened in the 32 years after the Nativity (The Birth) of Christ as this is said in the Gospel of Mathew 14:1-12 and Gospel of Mark (6:14-29) in New Testament.

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Many of the small details, we know about saint John and his earthly living are not given in the Gospel however, but are instead given in the Chuch Tradition (that is kept in the main books and the Living of the Saints, as well as all the books written by the officially canonized saints over the years that used for Eastern Orthodox Church services Singing for many centuries).

From there we know the beheading of Saint John happened short time before the Crucifixion of Christ. After the death of Herode the Great, Romans divided the territory of Province of Palestine in 4 parts and on top of each placed his governor.

Herodos Antipa received by Emperor Augustus Galilea as a territory of Governance. He had a law binded marriage, who was a daughter of king Arepha. Herod left her and cohabited (unlawfully) with Herodias who was his mistress and brother's wife.

As Herodos was a governer and recpetively example for all his subordinate in his Kingdom and was living unlawfully with that woman saint John who knew him personally rebuked him multiple times publicly advising him to leave that woman and live with his lawfully marriaged one as it was written in God's law – that such people are worthy for death just like moreover this was the unwritten law followed by all kind of peoples of his time from noble to smallest and poorest.

Herodoes did not listened and wanted to get rid of saint Johns somehow but he was scared to accuse him for some kind of kingdom lawlessness as the knew saint John was a true prophet of God and feared the people who recognized him as a true prophet  as well as feared he might be put off throne for his evil deed if he finds an excuse to kill the prophet of God.

As the critics on Herodoes living with a concubine while being in marriage, eventually not finding any other way to shut Saint John's mouth, king Herodoes put saint John in Prison with the excuse Saint John was a rebel and preaching things against established authority (About this event is said in Bible Gospel of Luke 3, 19-20).

For his birthday Herodoes prepared enormous banquet in which in front of the many invited guests danced (Salome / Salomia) – the daughter of Herod II and Herodias and her dancing was so much pleasing for the already drunk Herod and in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired up to half of his kingdom.
Salome was still young woman and as it was the tradition then not knowing what would be the best to ask for, she asked her Mother and the Mother being in unlawful relations with Herod in her hatred for the rebuking prophet saint John asked, the head of Saint John the Baptist on a platter.

The-Beheading-of-Saint-John-The-Baptist-Salomnia-dance-in-front-of-Herodos-Sv.-Ioan-Krastitel

The dance of Salome with Saint John's head on a Platter Orthodox icon

Even though Herod was appaled by this strange request, he had to reluctanly agree to keep his word as he was a ruler of a great power and for that time, not keeping a word publicly given would make him though weak, a fraudulant and eventually this will be reason for a rumors for his unseriousness to circulate the kingdom, thus unwillingly he agreed sent soldier to the prison to behead Saint John and the Head of the saint was brought to the perverted Solome and the harlot mother of hers Herodias.

Due to Church tradition when the Head of the 'Biggest in Spiritual Power' of Man born after Christ, as the Gospel speaks was brought to the lecherous feast, the Head even in the platter continued to rebuke, the unwalfullness of Herod.
 

The Jewish famous Historian Flavius Josiphus in his historical book Antiques of the Jews wrote, the reason for beheading of Saint John was:

"lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his [John’s] power and inclination to raise a rebellion, (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise), [so Herod] thought it best [to put] him to death."

Flavius also states that many of the Jews believed that the military disaster that fell upon Herod as his throne fall a by the hands of Aretas his (father-in-law) was God's immediate punishment for unrighteous behaviour.
There is no exact date when behading of Saint John occured but the historians place it somewhere in year 28 or 29 A. D. (Anno Dommini).

Execution_of_John_the_Baptist_orthodox-icon


The body of saint John was buried immediately (separately from the body) as Herodias for her hatred for the prophet ordered the body to be buried separately from the head, it was buried in the small Palestinian Village (Sebaste), while Herodias took his holy head and buried it in a dung heep. 
Later Joanna (canonized later by saint known as Saint Joanna) – a wife of Herods steward, secretly went to place took the head and buried in the Mount of Olives, where it remained hidden for many centuries.

But the wrath of God is never late soon after Salome was passing a frozen river and while walking on it the ice collapsed and her body up to the head fall hanging in the water, while her head was sitting still over the water.
Just as she used to kick her feet on the ground, she was now, like dancing, making helpless movements in icy water.
 

So Salome hung until the sharp ice cut through her neck. Her head, cut off with a sharp ice, then her head was brought to Herod and Herodias, as John the Baptist's head had once been brought to them, and her body had never been found. The king of Arif of Arabia, in revenge for the dishonor of his daughter – the wife of Herod the four-owner – moved his troops against the wicked king and defeated him. The Roman emperor Guy Julius Caesar Caligula (37-41) in anger sent Herod, together with Herodias, into captivity to Gaul, and then to  . There they were consumed by the sprawling earth.


By a divine revelation the head of Saint John has been found in the 4th century (Celebrated in the Church with a special feast known as The First Finding of Saint John's the Baptist head by a governing official of Eastern Roman empire district who eventually choose to become a monk (monk Inokentij / Innocent). The head of saint John has been found by both divine revelation and the testimony of an Old Jew who confirmed the Jewish oral tradition for the burial of John the Baptist head on that exact place .
Innocent decided to build a Church and a monastic Cell in glory of Saint John the Baptist as the place was holy and sanctified by the graceous head of St. John.
Fearful that holy relics of such a high importance, might be soon stolen and sold, mocked over by unbelievers or destroyed, he immediately hide (burid) the St. John on the very same place, where he found it in the same vessel it was orginally.
Unfortunately on monk Innocent dead the Church fell into ruin was abandoned due to its desert location and eventually as it always happened in that times with old buildings, people used its construction stones for fortifying their own near village houses.

The Second Finding of the Head of Saint John the Baptist, happened some years later in 452 A.D. , during the days of Constantine the Great by two Christian monks who went for a Jerusalem for pilgrimage.who had God given revelation (Saint John himself appeared in a kind of a Vision to the two) and hsa indicated for the same hidden location where Innocent found it (laying under the Church ruins altar).
After digging on the place, the holy relic was found placed in a sack and brought with them to heir home land. On the way back they've met a potter not telling him what was inside the bag and asked him the bag to carry being lazy to do. Saint John the Baptist appeared the potter and told him to take his head and bring it away from this careless lazy monks immediately. The potter took Saint John's head home, and kept it there praying fervently to saint John the Baptist daily, soon before his death he put the head in a container and gave it to his sister.
The 1st and 2nd finding of saint Johns head is established as a feast celebrated yearly in Eastern Orthodox Church on 24 of February.

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The feast of Beheading of Saint John in the Church is always observed in the Eastern Orthodox Churches Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian, Greek, Romanian, Georgian etc. with a strict fasting as a sign for the great sorrow we Christians have for the beheading of the Greatest of Prophets and Highest in sight of God born of man.

In some cultures, the pious will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat round or red food (such as tomatoes, watermelon, red peppers etc.) on this day.

A short time after a Hieromonk Eustathius (considered by Church historians) to be part of the Arian heretical division happen to have th chance to possess the holy head and he used it frequently to attract followers to the Heretical teachings of Arius (a Lybian heretic presbyter who was condemned in 325 A.D. on the First Council of Nicea convened by Saint Emperor Constantine The Great. Being in a hardships Eustathius buried the head in a cave near Emesa (circa 810 – 820) and soon after a monastery was built on that place by God's providence.

In the year 452, St. John the Baptist appeared to Archimandrite Marcellus of this monastery and indicated where his head was hidden in a water jar buried in the earth. The relic was brought into the city of Emesa and was later transferred to Constantinople.

Saint_John_Head_Holy-relics-Caput-Sti-Joannis-Baptistae-Praecurssoris-Domini-1

The current pressumable relics of head of Saint John the Baptist kept in San Silvestro in Capite Rome

The head of John Baptist disappeared once again after it was transferred from Comana of Cappadocia during a period of Muslim raids (about 820) and was again hidden in the ground during a period of iconoclastic persecusion.
After the veneration of icons was restored in year 850, A vision was revelead by God to patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople (ruling on patriarchial throne in 847 – 857) saw a vision revealing the place where the head of saint John was hidden around y. 850. The patriarch as the order was then communicated about his vision to emperor Michael III, who sent a delegation to Comana, where the head was found. Soon after the head was transferred to city of Nyc and here on 25 of May it was placed in a church in emperor court in Constantinople. The Church feast of the Third Finding of Saint John Baptist head is established for celebration in the Eastern Orthodox Church on 25 of May.

Third-finding-of-Saint-John-the-Baptist-head-holy-relics-orthodox-icon

Currently many small particles of Saint John Head are available for generation among many Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches.

The-Face-of-saint-John-the-Baptist-in-Cathedral-of-Our_Lady-in-Amiens-Cathedral

The head  is claimed to be in San Silvestro (Saint Silvester) in Capite in Rome or in Amiens Cathedral, said to have been brought from Constantinople by Wallon de Sarton as he was returning from the Fourth Crusade.
There are also some sources claiming that the real head of John the Baptist is buried in Turkish Antioch or Southern France.

Amiens_-_Cathedrale_Notre-Dame_France

Amiens Cathedrale Notre Dame France – one of most magnificent Gothic edifice in Europe.

During the French Revolution the kept Head in Amiens has been secretly hidden by the Amiens city Mayor in his own home to protect this sacred relic from the destruction (as many holy relics saints disappeared or have been destroyed) by the rebellious enraged crowds fighting for the rights of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" being the goals of the Masonic bortherhoods and many secret societies in France in that time.

Also a reliquary at the Residenz in Munich, Germany, is labeled as containing the skull of John the Baptist by Catholics. In history some sources claim the St. John used to be owned by Knight Templars
А piece of Saint John Baptist skull is held at the Eastern Orthodox Romanian skete Prodromos on Mount Athos.

Further on according to Church tradition saint Luke the Evangelist went to the city of Sebaste bringing with him the right hand of Saint John the Forerunner which was conducting numerous of miracles.

Some of the Relics of John the Baptist are said to be in the possession of the Coptic Orthodox Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great in Scetes, Egypt.
It is said John the Baptist's arm and a piece of his skull can be found at the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.

the_Holy-head-of-saint-John-the-Baptist-relics

It is said John the Baptist's arm and a piece of his skull can be found at the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.
At the time of Mehmed the Conqueror, the skull was held in Topkapı, while after his death, his stepmother Mara Branković, a Serbian princess, brought it to Serbia. It was then kept a while at the Dionisios monastery at Mount Athos, then the skull fragment was sent to a nearby island in order to prevent the outbreak of a plague; however, the Ottoman fleet seized it and delivered it to Hasan Pasha of Algeria, who held it in his home until his death. It was then returned to Topkapı. The skull is kept on a golden plate decorated with gold bands with gems and Old Serbian inscriptions. The plate itself is stored in a 16th-century rock crystal box.

The-Face-of-saint-John-the-Baptist-in-Cathedral-of-Our_Lady-in-Amiens-Holy-Relics

The face of St. John the Baptist, in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Amiens.

St. John's arm was brought from Antioch to Constantinople at the time of Constantine VII. It was kept in the Emperor's chapel in the 12th century, then in the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos, then in the Church of Peribleptos in the first half of the 15th century. Spanish envoy Clavijo reported that he saw two different arms in two different monasteries while on a visit to Constantinople in 1404. With the Fall of Constantinople, the Ottomans seized possession of it. In 1484, Bayezid II sent it the knights of Rhodes, while they held his brother Cem captive in return. In 1585, Murad III had the arms brought from Lefkosia castle to Constantinople (henceforth known as Istanbul). The arm is kept in a gold-embellished silver reliquary. There are several inscriptions on the arm: "The beloved of God" on the forefinger, "This is the hand of the Baptist" on the wrist, and "belongs to (monk) Dolin Monahu" on the band above the elbow.

In July 2010, a small reliquary was discovered under the ruins of a 5th-century monastery on St. Ivan Island, Bulgaria. Local archaeologists opened the reliquary in August and found bone fragments of a skull, a hand and a tooth, which they believe belong to st. John the Baptist, based on their interpretation of a Greek inscription on the reliquary.The remains have been carbon-dated to the 1st century. Currently The found relics are being placed for veneration in the sea resort town  of Sozopol, Bulgaria in the Church of saint saint Cyril and Methodius.

The_Holy_Relics-of-Saint-John-The-Baptist-kept-in-Saint-Cyril-Church-Sozopol

Saint John the Baptist Holy Relics in Sozopol Bulgaria

 

Sozopol-Lithia-Lity-with-the-holy-relics-of-saint-John-the-Baptist
 A Lity (Orthodox Vespers) in front of Saint Cyril and Methodius Church in Sozopol resort Bulgaria

There is much to be said in Saint Johns beheading and many great Theology books have been written on the topic however I hope the goal of this article to give a very brief overview for the ordinary people to know our human history over the last 2000 which is highly entangled with Christian faith  succeeded to give a very brief overview on the history of the beheading of saint John the Baptist and the deep history across his holy relics veneration over the centuries.

As a closure for the Article I find worthly to share the sung troparion in the Church services glorifying of saint John the Forerunner in Old Bulgarian / Church Slavonic, Greek and English

TROPARION IN CHURCH SLAVONIC

Па́мять пра́веднаго с похвала́ми, тебе́ же довле́ет свиде́тельство Госпо́дне, Предте́че: показа́л бо ся еси́ вои́стинну и проро́ков честне́йший, я́ко и в струя́х крести́ти сподо́бился еси́ Пропове́даннаго. Те́мже за и́стину пострада́в, ра́дуяся, благовести́л еси́ и су́щим во а́де Бо́га, я́вльшагося пло́тию, взе́млющаго грех ми́ра и подаю́щаго нам ве́лию ми́лость.

TROPARION IN GREEK

Μνήμη Δικαίου μέτ' ἐγκωμίων, σοὶ δὲ ἀρκέσει ἡ μαρτυρία τοῦ Κυρίου Πρόδρομε· ἀνεδείχθης γὰρ ὄντως καὶ Προφητῶν σεβασμιώτερος, ὅτι καὶ ἐν ῥείθροις βαπτίσαι κατηξιώθης τὸν κηρυττόμενον. Ὅθεν τῆς ἀληθείας ὑπεραθλήσας, χαίρων εὐηγγελίσω καὶ τοῖς ἐν ᾍδῃ, Θεὸν φανερωθέντα ἐν σαρκί, τὸν αἴροντα τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου, καὶ παρέχοντα ἡμῖν τὸ μέγα ἔλεος.

TROPARION (TONE 4)
O Prophet and Forerunner of the coming of Christ, in spite of our eagerness to render you due honor, we fall short when singing your praise. Your glorious birth saved your mother from the shame of barrenness, returned to your father the power of speech, and proclaimed to the world the Incarnation of the Son of God.

KONTAKION (TONE 3)
The woman who had been barren becomes fertile and gives birth today to the Forerunner of Christ. He is the greatest and last of the prophets, for standing in the waters of the Jordon River, he placed his hands on Christ whom all the prophets had announced, and in so doing he became a prophet himself, a preacher and a forerunner of the Word of God.

The Non Hand made Image of God “Mandylion” – The Saviour not made by hands icon in Eastern Orthodox Church

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Non-Hand-Made-Image-of-Our_Lord-and-Saviour_Jesus-Christ-Eastern-Orthodox-icon

 

Short History of Non Hand Made Image of God

The question of how really the Lord Jesus Christ looked liked during his earthly living is a question actively intriguing billion of people that lived over the centuries from year 33 A.D. in which Jesus Christ raised from the death as the Gospel testifies. Even for non Christian reliigon in pagan world before the Incarnation of Christ and the Old Hebrew Testament this question has been of interest whether the Abrahamic religions such as Jewish faith and Islam (as emerged in the 7th century) makes it clear that Image of God should not be made. However this Monotheistic religions did not went through the revelation given in Christian faith that God is Three in Faces but one in Essence and that The Holy Trinity. Thus the Icon Image being depicted in Christianity is an Image showing us a close copy to the Image of God The Son (The second Hypostasis / Face of God)  during his Humanity Saviour Mission as he was living and seen by our living ancestors while still being in fleshly earthly Body on Earth before his crucifixion / execution on the Cross of Golgotha in 33 A.D. in Jerusalem.

Hence the veneration of the Image of the Lord Jesus Christ is not in reality a break up of any of the 10 Commandments which says "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" – (Hebrew: לֹא-תַעֲשֶׂה לְךָ פֶסֶל, וְכָל-תְּמוּנָה) as Jewish, Muslim and other people of Abrahamic religions claims but is a close copy of visualized graphical depiction, how Jesus (The Begotten Son of God before all Ages) looked like – there was no other way as Photography was not yet discovered so Jesus as a Son of God used this miracle to leave us a memory about his physical and spiritual likeness.. The Non-Hand Image of God is just an Image very much like on the Photo, you see an Image of someone but you cannot know exactly who he is he good except if you already don't know him and the photo is just a remembrance of him in the similar manner the Non-Hand Made image of God is a remembrance of God for those who believed in Him and already know him with their spirits, e.g. Christians. And a testimony memory for his physical existence in the world 2000 years ago.


The Non Hand made image (icon – word rooted from Greek εικών) also known as Acheiropoieta (Byzantine Greek: αχειροποίητα, "made without hand") is a painted copy surviving over the centuries to another Image the so called Image of Edessa known also under the term of Mandylion – a square or rectangle of cloth upon which a miraculous image of the face of Jesus had been imprinted as Jesus took a simple cloth (used for painting pictures put it on his face and miraculously imprinted  exact copy of his face.

This Imprinted Image has been very famous through the last 21 centuries and has been an object of interest to innumerous number of Christians and scholars and is known to have made multiple miracles, used as a shield for cities, have cured the incurrable sick king Abgar V-th (The King of Edessa) who attempted to find a cure for his terrible skin disease across all known and best medicians, pharmacists, herbalists, magicians etc. healers with various methods but none helped.
 

King Abgar healed by Jesus's Non Hand Made Image of God Mandylion

 

The most ancient known reference to the Non-Hand-Made story in History has been recorded by Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History.

It was retold in elaborated form by Ephrem the Syrian in the fifth-century Syriac Doctrine of Addai.
An early version of the Abgar legend exists in the Syriac Doctrine of Addai, an early Christian document from Edessa. The Epistula Abgari is a Greek recension of the letter of correspondence exchanged between Jesus Christ and Abgar V of Edessa, known as the Acts of Thaddaeus. The letters were likely composed in the early 4th century.
The legend became relatively popular in the Middle Ages (In the West), even though it was well known in the East for centuries. The letters were translated from Syriac into the Greek, Armenian, Latin, Coptic and Arabic languages.

The Letters tells us the story of King Abgar being seriously desperated heard about Jesus whose fame has been growing as a healer who can heal any disease, because of the already famous multple miracles done by him of healing people who suffered diseases from birth, for healing leppers and giving sight to blind people from birth, resurrecting death people, such as Lazarus who was dead for 4 days until Jesus Resurrected him from the Grave.

Hearing about this great things done by this new healer King Abgar due to his inability to travel long distances sent his servant portrait-painter Anananias with a letter addressed to Jesus in which he was begging him to come to Edessa and heal him from his leprosy. Ananias was told by prince Abgar that in case if Jesus is unable to come to Edessa for some reason, Ananias should paint a picture of Jesus's face and bring it back to the kings palace, firmly hoping and believing that only seing the image will immediately heal him.

The servent went to search for Jesus and found him, preaching the Good news of Salvation being fulfilled in himself and stayed, kept himself on a side and tried to paint Jesus face on a number of times as each time he started painting the face of Jesus in a very short while the face has changed so he couldn't complete it and have to start again.
After some time Jesus has called him took the cloth (napkin) and placed the cloth on his face and an image depicting has face has imprinted on the cloth.

The Image of Christ on the cloth was brought to the King and as Abgar kissed the Image on the napkin with Love and Faith and the sickness disappeared as he was completely cured, only a small part of his face was still having the trace of the disease. After this glorious Miracle King Abgar ordered that the idols on the Entry Gate of the City that were believed to protect the city from Evil should be and in their place the Non-Hand made image of Jesus Christ to be put on top of the city Entry Gate having the Image stuck onto wood, surrounded with a gold frame and ornamented with pearls. Prince Abgar also wrote above the icon on the gateway:
 

"O Christ our God, no-one who hopes in Thee will be put to shame" !

 

, to let everyone know about the Great power of the one who is depicted on the Mandilyon cloth, just as well as a protection sign for the city from all evil and invaders as he was convinced the image of Christ had the power to not only heal him but had the Power to protect his city from the numerous barbaryan raids that were so common during Ist century.

In the coming centuries The Non Hand Made Image of God have been said to have cured multiple people from all kind of diseases.

Abgar-with-image-of-Edessa10thcentury-Monastery-Saint_Ekaterina-Sinai

Abgar receiving the Non Hand Made Image of Christ cloth icon – Saint Catherin (Ekaterina) Monastery Sinai 10th century

According to the eastern Tradition, Jesus has said to the survent to convey message to the the King that this Image of Him will cure most of the disease of the king but the complete healing will be completed by Jesus's desciple Thaddaeus (who was one of the 70th Apostles). This letter was brought to King Abgar too. The Orthodox Tradition believed in the Church is that the words of Jesus fulfilled, King Abgar biggest part of body lepper buds, have been healed and only a small part on his face remaimed and this was also healed by disciple Thaddaeus who after the Crucifix and Resurrection of Christ in the 3rd day after his execution went to the King and have preached the Good news of Gospel that Christ has resurrected and asked the king to repent and shortly baptized him in the New Christian faith In the Name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Immediately after Baptism King Abgar become completely healed. More on the Story for the Image Not Made By Hands can be red here.

 

08.21_saint_ap_Thaddeus_rex_Abgar_ikona_Sinai_Sv_Ekaterina
Saint Apostle Thaddeus arriving to King Abgar V of Eddessa and healing – icon X-th Saint Catherin's Monastery Sinai

The Jesus Image of Edessa – a Syrian city in upper Mesopotamia on the Banks of Euphrates  (today city of Urfa in Turkey), painted copy has been made on number of occasions through the history before the original clothed image disappeared mysteriously in the 13th century as it was stolen by the Roman Catholic Crusaders during IV-th Crusade whose goal was the liberation of the Holy Lands (Jerusalem and the other biblical cities from the Muslim) in year 1204.  After the hungry and and mad crusaders destroed (sacked out) Constantinople they took the Mandylion have reappeared as a relic in King Louis IX of France's Sainte-Chapelle Church in Paris and has been said to have been there until its total disappearance in the French Revolution (during which many holy relics were stolen by revolutionists, many of whose are known to have been Masons as well as many relics were destroyed).

This Non-Hand Made image of Jesus Christ known in Church Slavonic under the term (Убрус / Ubrus) is considered the first icon ("image"). In the Eastern Orthodox Church (Bulgarian, Russian, Greek, Serbian, Macedonian, Moldovian, Syrian, Antiochian, Jerusalem's Churches) and the rest of Oriental Orthodox Churches (Armenian, Copts, Syriacs, Jacobites etc.) according to Church Tradition.

Christos_Acheiropoietos-Non-hand-made-image-of-Jesus-Christ-given-to-King-Abgar

Christos Acheiropoietos (Non-hand-made-image)  of Jesus Christ given to King Abgar of Edessa
(Novgorodian Russian Icon circa 1100)

 

The Eastern Orthodox Church observes a feast for this icon on August 16 (August 29 in N.S.), which commemorates its translation from Edessa to Constantinople and is being observed with a Church service Holy Liturgy.

Ancha_Icon_of_the_Savior_(Art_Museum_of_Georgia,_Tbilisi)

Ancha Icon of the Savior ანჩისხატი (Traditionally considered to have been the tile Kiramidion a tile copy of the Mandylion) – "holy tile" imprinted with the face of Jesus Christ miraculously transferred by contact with the Image of Edessa (Mandylion).

Ancha icon is dated to the 6th-7th century, it was covered with a chased silver riza and partly repainted in the following centuries. The icon derives its name from the Georgian monastery of Ancha in what is now Turkey, whence it was brought to Tbilisi in 1664.

Holy Face of Genoa

Mandylion image is also point of high interest in the Roman Catholic Church too as well as to some more conservative Protestant denominations (though perhaps most of them are rejecting that story as a pious myth.).
In Western Tradtion the Ubrus's copy there is the famous Holy Face of Genoa (which is a donation by the Byzantine Emperor John V Paleologos to Doge of Genos Leonardo Montaldo in the 14th century it was carefully studied by Colette Dufour Bozzo that the image is on cloth that is on a wooden board (the wooden board is a typical plane on which icons are being painted) and is dated also to 14th century.

Jesus_Christ_Face_Holy-face-of-Genoa-_Genes

Holy face of Genoa 14th Century with face made more visible

 

Holy Face of San Silvestro

 

Holy Face of San Silvestro (Saint Silvester) image was kept in Rome's Church San Silvestro in Capite and is now
kept in Matilda chapel Vatican Palace. Its earliest existence known is from 1517 (at that year the nuns were forbidden to exhibit it) as people often has mixed it up with the Veronica Veil (another famous Jesus cloth face imprint often called Volto Santo – holy face).

The_San_Silvestro-image-imprint-of-Jesus-non-hand-made-Mandylion_visage

 

Veronica Veil

 

The Western Roman Catholic tradition recounts that Saint Veronica from Jerusalem encountered Jesus along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Calvary. When she paused to wipe the blood and sweat (Latin sudor) off his face with her veil, his image was imprinted on the cloth. The Veronica Veil tradition however is legendary and not accepted in Eastern Orthodox Churches as this tradition is quite new first to occur somewhere in the middle ages, like in the 16th century and was not known at all in Christiandome prior to that.

The act of Saint Veronica wiping the face of Jesus with her veil is celebrated in the sixth Station of the Cross in many Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran rites, Methodist and Western Orthodox churches.

 

Image of the Saviour Other traditional Orthodox Copy icons

It is notable to mention few very famous Russian iconography interpretation, many of the interpretations are taken by the Russian Iconography from the sample Novgorodian Russian Icon which of itself has been an exact copy, the Russian and Greek monks have made of the Origianl Non Hand Made Cloth image that has been on top of Byzantine Eastern Empire Capital Constantinople's city hanging on the entry Gate.

Saviour-Wet-Beard-Spas_Mokraya_Brada_ikona-Russian-icon


Спас Мокрая Брада (Spas Mokraja Brada – The Saviour Wet Beard) Russian Orthodox Icon 16th Century

Even today, many of the Eastern Orthodox Church are having a copy interpretation of the icon hanging on top of the Dveri (The Inner part Alter Church Doors) – see below picture for reference:

Ubrus-Mandylion-Non-Hand-Made-icon-Hanging-upper-to-Church-Alter-Walls-Dveri-Eastern-Orthodox-Church-Vlaherna-Tsarigrad-Istanbul-ex-Konstantinopol

Non-Hand Made Image copy of the Saviour Jesus Christ hanging on top of Church Alter Walls (Dveri) on top of the priest head

Image-of-the-Saviour-traditional-Orthodox-Iconography-Simon_Ushakov_Nerukotvorniy

 

The Mandylion by Simeon Ushakov – year 1658.

As well as the bit newer but very beautiful Russian Iconograph interpretation  of  Image of Saviour from Harkov.

Harkovskij-Spas-Saviour-Orthodox-icon-18th-century-Harkov

Harkovskij Spas icon Harkov Saviour from 18th century Russian Orthodox Icon

Happy New Church Year ! – The Eastern Orthodox Church Year celebrated every 1st of September and some history on the Indiction

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

Eastern_Orthodox-Church-new-year-indiction

Happy New Year, Happy New Church Year !  🙂

On first of September every year the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church to which I belong is celebrating the beginning of a new Church Calendar feast year.

It is a common practice here in Bulgaria (as we are one of the 14 Eastern Orthodox Churches worldwide) it is a tradition to serve holy liturgies across the country and prayers are lifted to heaven for the well being of the Bulgarian nation and the world.

In the past the beginning of the new year was called also the beginning of the indiction.
In the VI-th century at the time of Emperor Justinian The Great in Byzantine Empire was introduce the Cyclical Calendar based calculation of days (based on indictions ) – this is delivered from latin word indictio (meaning announcement).
Indictions
were celebrated originally on a cyclical periods of 15 years when the а financial review of the properties (possessions) of citizens  that were taxated.

In the Latin Empire the word indictio has been used to mark the exact amount of taxes owed each year and in this is how with the beginning of the new indiction was beginning the new financial year of the empire according to some historians the origin of indictions system has been originating from Egypt.

The official byzantine calculation of indictions begun at the time of Saint Emperor Constantine on 1st of September year 312 A.D.
Historically it is interesting fact both in the Western and in the Eastern Latin empire March was another time marking a New Year …

On 1st of September in the Church it is accepted to read the Bible chapter where Jesus Christ red in the synagogue the prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 61:1-2) for the occurance of the favorable year of God. The Byzantines see in that reading a reference of the Lord for a celebration of a New Year. 

In the Menologion of Basyl II from the 10th century it is said "From that time, he has granted to us the Christians this feast".

Primary_Chronicle_Povesti_Vremeninnih_let-baptizmal-of-Olga

It is interesting fact that in Byzantium this Bible reading was red in the Church by the Patriarch in Hagia Sophia Church Cathedral or another Church where it was common for him to serve Holy Liturgy on that date.

In Russia even though the Baptismal and Christianization of the nation until 15th century the Church New year begun on 1st of March. This is evident from all medieval manuscripts including The most famous and among most ancient Russian manuscript written by the eminent Nestor so called Primary Manuscript (Primary Chronicle) also called Tale of Begone Years.
 

With an Emperor decree of King Peter the I-st (The Great) the new year in Russia is transferred to 1st of January.

Saint_Simeon_Stylites-Stulpnik

Saint Simeon the Stylites

Our Bulgarian Orthodox Church by tradition according to the main Church service instructions book – the Typikon marks on the first day of the new year as a very important "tiny Lord feast" and has tradition to celebrate the memory of saint Simeon the Stylites who spend mostly all his life praying on a Stylite and was a notable ascet of the Orthodox Church.

 

Saint King Boris feast and a Holy Liturgy in the Great Basilica of Pliska – 2nd of May 2018

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Pliska-Great-Basilica-air-view-biggest-medieval-church-Europe

Pliska is the first capital of Bulgaira and an ancient city that traces its roots back to the Baptizmal of Bulgaria by Saint King Boris (The Baptizer of Bulgarian lands and Slavonic People) the feast is of a great importance for Bulgaria to be pressent on the map of Europe over the last XV centuries since Bulgaria's establishment in 681 A.D. 

 

Pliska which is an enormous architectural complex dated from IX / X century hsa played a pivotal role for the Baptizmal process of Bulgarian nation as it was King Boris's palace at that time and the Christianization of Bulgarians and Slavonic (natioons) people started exactly in the newly built so called Great Basilica of Pliska  which was an archibishop seat and a central Monastery and Palace Church of Bulgaria, the building was completed approximately in 875 A.D. and was the biggest Cathedral church in Europe for about 1000 years onwards with the gigantic area of 2,920 square meters (31, 400 ft).

Old_Basilica_in_Pliska-walls-reconstruction

20 century reconsturction of the Church walls based on descriptions from history annals 

The Basillica was build on top of ruins of older Bulgar pagan temple and has martyrium (a place dedicated to a martyr who has been martyred there) as many of the ancient Churches had. It is believed that the martyrium may be Saint (Boyan) Enravota – the first Bulgarian saint (circa 833). The basillica has a form of a Cross shaped mausuleum.

 

Old_Basilica_in_Pliska-left-part-of-the-alter

Reconstruction of walls left part of the Altar


The archibishop residence was north and south of the basillica on the northern yard there was a residential building with a bath which included hypocaust (an ancient water warming system). Building south of the cathedral was used as school and scriptorium. Nearby the basillica are situated necropolis (most likely monk graves).

Old_Basilica_in_Pliska_Sarcophagus-near-altar

Pliska Sarcophagus near the Great Basillica Church altar

As with every basilica of that time there is a special allocated place of the Church for nobles. Yard northside was used as a kitchen and a dining room and accomodated other monsatic buildings.


The Old Basilica reconstruciton original model should have looked something similar to below picture which is found in the Museum (which holds a little part of the artefacts found) situated about 1.5 kilometer from the Basilica.

Old_Basilica_in_Pliska_Reconstruction-model

A presumable reconstruction model of the Old Basilica

On 2nd of May KIng Boris Feast in 2015 for a first time since many centuries in memoriam of 1150 years since Christianization of Bulgaria in the Great Basilica was served an Eastern Orthodox Christian (an open air) Holy Liturgy headed by the Bulgarian Patriarch Neofit with many Metropolitans guests from other Eastern Orthodox national Churches where the ex-president Rosen Plevneliev and the Living ancestor King Simeon the III-rd was present.

1150-years-baptismal-of-bulgaria-feast-patriarch-Neofit-Pliska-Great-Basilica

Patriarch Neofit Patriarch and head of Bulgarian Orthodox Church blessing in Great Basilica y. – 2018

The event in 2015 was continued with the idea to become an yearly event on the feast of Saint King Boris each 2nd of May yesterday in 2018 by the Metropolitan of Varna and Veliko Preslav his eminence Metropoltian Ioan (John).

metropolitan-holy-liturgy-Preslav-2018

Orthodox Christian Believers in the Great Basilica Preslav 2018 (People gathered being transported by free of charge buses organized by the Eparchy from Dobrich, Varna, Shumen, Targovishte 

holy-liturgy-2018-Preslav-1-fr-Peter-reading-Apostle

Fr. Peter reading The Apostle readings

his-eminence-Metropolitan-of-Varna-and-Veliki-Preslav_Ioan

Metropolitan Ioan (John) of Varna and Veliki Preslav Blessing in Holy Liturgy 2018

Holy-Sacraments-in_Great-Basilica-2018-metropolitan-Ioan-and-his-deacon

The Holy Altar with the Holy Sacraments in Pliska Basilica in 2018 (Metropolitan Ioan and his deacon)

The Church service was a big gathering for the region (if we take the fact that the current town Pliska has about 900 citizens and is in practice a village), the overall present people were perhaps about 200 to 250. More than 1/3 of the priests (38 priests) from the whole Eparchy served the service together with the Bishop. The weather before the service was rainy but just after the service and onwards, it came sunny again just like it was saint King Boris with all the Christian saints rejoiced to see so many Christians gather together just like the times when Christianity started to spread from this same place over the lands of Bulgaria country and later during the golden age throughout the territories of Bulgarian Empire and all the Slavonic borderlines such as nowadays Romania, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia. 

The whole set of pictures from saint King Boris feast in Pliska can be seen on the official  website of Varna and Veliko Preslav eparchy here

Ancient Orthodox Christian Monastery Patleina and Great Preslav the First Bulgarian Kingdom Capital city near Shumen

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Great-Preslav-the-capital-of-the-golden-age

Recently I had the great oportunity to Visit another two great History Landmarks of my homeland Bulgaria the monastery Patleina (Saint Pantaleon (known in Slavonic tradition as Panteleimon) – in memoriam of the great healer Christian Saint) where according to Orthodox Church tradition and archeologists is the historical monastery where Saint (Tzar) King Boris the Baptizer of Bulgaria has concluded his early life as humble monk praying for the heavenly blessing and prosperity of his young Christinized Country Bulgaria.

Saint Panteleimon is famous in west Roman-Catholic Christian tradition to be one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers a patron of doctors and herbalists especially famous during the middle ages 14-19 century summoned by people as a shield against various diseases and asked for help for untreatable sicknesses.

Besides the famous monastery Patleina region is a natural reserve 40,62 hectars in North-East Bulgaria, after 893 just few years after the Christianization of Bulgaria in 865 by King Boris the region is famous for being a host of a world famous ancient Presval Literary School near the region are found the oldest known cyriic datable inscriptionsJust to name a few of the famous Preslav Literary School authors that is Saint Naum of Preslav, Bishop Constantine of Preslav (Author of Alphabet Prayer), Historics and various other ancient Bulgarian spiritual literature, John the Exarch, Tchernorizets Hrabar etc.

Notable to see near Patleina monastery are Orthodox Christian icon craftman workshops.

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Ceramic Icon Workshops near Patleina region (picture source Wikipedia)

Patleina-monastery-signature
 

Just 6 km away from Patleina is situated another Great Historical Landmark, the first Bulgarian capital Great Preslav (Veliki Preslav).
 

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9th century Monastery Patleina Church wall remains – picture source Pravoslavieto.com

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Patlejna (Also known as Saint King Boris Monastery) IX century entrance Church wall remains
 

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Patleina IX century monastery Church alter view
 

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Veliki Preslav the famous Ceramic Icon found during archeological excavations in Patleina Monastery (2 km away from Veliki Preslav)
The icon style reminds of Byzantine art of 10 century, the icon image looks very much alike saint Theodor Stratilates though it not 100% proven whose image does the icon depicts – It is interesting fact that Patleinas craftman workshops are believed to be the biggest ceramic workshops on Balkans in 10th century consisting of a separate ceramic plates – picture source Wikipedia

Besides its  ancient monastery and archeological excavations Patleina region is famous for being a reserve keeping one rare type of tree Carob Tree (or Ceratonia siliqua).

Just about 300 meters away from the ancient monastery Patleina there is functioning monastery that was recently restored bought back by Bulgarian Orthodox Church from the Government, the monastery building started in the 1930s (in which Bulgaria was in a serious spiritual and economical boom, however the building completed right before the completion of the Second World War before 9.09.1944 the date at which the Third Bulgarian Kingdom finished its existence and the communist came to power.

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Saint Panteleimon Monastery Patleina region – (notice the unusual architecture, the whole monastery is one big rounded monastic wall

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Saint Panteleimon Monastery near Veliki Preslav (picture source pravoslavieto.org)

The monastery saint Panteleimon was planned as in impressive building as in the 30's there was a hope for a restoration of Patleina as a spiritual center that will elevate itself to the importance it once had in the 9th century for the raise of Bulgarian Empire, the building is 4 floor and has the shocking number of 120 rooms. 
The fresh air and nature all surrounding it makes it a great place for rest for people who are overwhelmed by their daily stressful life and as far as I understood there is possibility for renting some of the rooms for a couple of days for pilgrims or even tourists.

Currently the whole enormous monastery is inhabited by only one monk Hieromonk Father Constantne who is also appointed as an Abbot of the Monastery and is in process of doing his best for restoration of the monastery and building a monastic brotherhood.

Hieromonk_Konstantin-Patleina-monastery-near-Shumen

Hieromonk Konstantin (the only abbot and monk of saint Panteleimon monastery near Shumen)

As it is visible from the picture (the boxes under the icon of the Virgin Mary) the monastery has holy relics of Saint Panteleimon and relics of few other saints. What is interesting about father Konstantin is he used to be working in the Bulgarian Atomic Central (AEC Kozlodoi) scientific work before he converted to become a fervent Christian. 

After father Konstantin understood God is a reality he decided to dedicate his life to Christ and he used to be a (novice – neophyte) in the Holy Mouth Athos monk republic in the Bulgarian Monastery saint George for 8 years!!!

It seems in this years father Konstantin realized he would be more helpful to become a monk in Bulgaria instead of Holy Mount Athos as here in Bulgaria, there is a lack of monks at the moment Bulgaria has according to what I heard a maximum of about 200 (monks and nuns) which is critically low.

Holy Liturgy Church service is being served regularly in the small monastic Church which is more looking like a Chapel and is on the first floor situated in the monastery building.

Father Constantine is famous for his hospitally just like most of the Holy Athos monks and right after the Sunday Service it is a tradition to feed all his guests, as a guests we were richly fed and we shared his lunch table just like Agape (the dinners of love of ancient Christian times).

To find out more about Saint Panteleimon Monastery check out the monastery official site here.

Very near to Patleina Monastery there are other great landmarks for those interested in archeology as Veliki Preslav (Great Preslav) the first Bulgarian Capital and Ancient Center of Orthodoxy who had a major influence on Russian Cyrillic and Orthodoxy and from where most likely many Christian icons and books were transferred later to Russia to help them raise their spirituality after Baptizmal of Russia is situated just few km away.

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Entrance Walls fortress Great Preslav (picture source Izvora)

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Fortress Walls Great Preslav – The First Bulgarian Capital (ruins from the IX-Xth century) – picture source Wikipedia

In the historical Veliki Preslav the most notable archeological remain is the so called Golden Church

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Great Preslav the famous Golden Church – the Church was partially restored to show the visitor how approximately it might have looked like in the X-XII century (The church was found during archeological excavations in 1927-1928 by Krystio Miatev and Jordan Gospodinov – according to  written sources from 907 by Tudor Doksov, the Church coincides with the Church built by Simeon I the Great who proclaimed himself an Emperor of Bulgaria 

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Preslav the Golden Church (also famous as the Round Church) – picture source fonstola.ru

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Cross on a Stone The Round Church – photograped by Angel Pavlov


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Patleina and Great Preslav region view

Another Memorial Church worthy to visit in the region is situated on another fortress nearby to Great Preslav. The Memorial Church has the size of a Cathedral and is one of the biggest Cathedral Churches in Bulgaria.
 

Saint-Cyril-and-Methodius-Cathedral-Memorial-Church-Veliki-Preslav

Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius Memorial Church (In veneration of the creators of Glagolic Alphabet, later Bulgarian Cyrillic Alphabet)

St. St. Cyril and Methodius Church was planned as a memoriam of Saint Methodius (1000 years since his passing to Christ) planned to be build earlier in 1890s but delayed and later built in memorium of the Christianization of Bulgaria and 1000 years passed since the glorious Rule of King Simeon I, the Church building works completed thanks to Metropolitan Simeon in 1926 (the building works were delayed from 1897 'till 1918) A.D..

Very near the Church, one can see the ruins of another old Monastery dating again from the IX – X century, the construction is of a massive craved stone and was a masterpiece in the X century.

As an ex monastery the place can be considered holy as well and some people says it along with Veliki Preslov are a Gracious Energy filled places that can positively impact the human spirit.

Very near is situated also an Archeological Museum containing some of the artefacts found in Patleina, Veliki Preslav and the surrounding monasteries  – the museum is in the list of 100 Bulgarian National Museums and Landmarks.

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Archeological Museum Great Preslav – picture source 100 Bulgarian National Landmarks

The museum has a very unique collection of artefacts and the entrance costs of 5 EUR is bearable, note that it's closed on Sundays.
The museum has an overall of 35 000 objects but unfortunately only 1700 artefacts are shown for the visitor, it is notable for holding one of the largest collection middle age Byzantine insignias, The Preslav Golden Treasure, bronze silver and ceramic artefacts.

The archeologists so far has determined that Veliki Preslav with all its Past Greatness and enormous territory, Churches and surrounding monasteries nearby has been planned as a rivalry Empire city to Constantinople and Preslav will definitely impress you if you're keen into archeology and history, hope you visit it soon, Enjoy! 🙂

 

A great way to relax visit to Sliven Cathedral, Planetarium ( Observatory ) and an Ancient History museum in Yambol, Bulgaria

Monday, January 29th, 2018

planetarium

It is very odd that nowadays most of people, don't know even their own countries but visit many other countries and significant places, without even knowing the hidden gems (the great places you can relax in) in their own country. I'm not exception to this rule and I've never made a trip visit through whole Bulgaria even though I live here most of the time for the last 34 years of my life. Just before Christmas, I was in Pomorie Monastery for a 4 days spiritual and physical rest and it happened that one of the Monks Father Sergij with his novice monk Damian had to travel to a village near Yambol for an unexpected funeral of the Godfather of Damian.

Since they were about to travel to Jambol (Yambol) and there was 2 places in the car, they agreed to take me and my wife for a short few hours trip to Yambol. And that's how I got the great chance to visit Yambol, Bulgaria for a first time in life. I didn't know what to expect as I've never been in Yambol but only have been near by in Bakadjika's Monastery and the nearly organized Motorcycle Show Rocker feast just one time.

1. A first stop Sliven Cathedral Saint Demetrius Sliven

We jumped into the Car and father Sergij drove us to Yambol with a few minutes stop in Sliven, because father Sergij had something to do in the Metropolitan Building (Bishop Residence) in Sliven (just for info Yambol is a spiritual district of Sliven and the city is governed by Sliven's Metropolitan Joanikije), meanwhile we used the time while hiero-deacan Sergij was on his visit with the metropolitan to eat some food and have a 10 minutes walk around and a few minutes to pray in the Cathedral Sliven's Church Saint Demetrius of Sliven

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Cathedral Church saint Demetrius of Thesaloniki holds icon of saint Demetrius of Sliven

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Holy Icons of Saint Demetrius of Sliven the New Martyr (A Bulgarian Christian Martyr of the Turkish / Ottoman Slavery)

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The Church Interior a Holy Liturgy Snapshot with his eminence metropolitan Joanikij

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The Holy Relics of Saint Demetrius of Sliven new martyr

Here in Sliven, it is interesting facts that earlier there was quite an attempt from Roman-Catholicism missionaries to take over the Christian Orthodox people but by God's grace and efforts of the Holy Synod and the bishops who were governing the city, catholicism never spread widely even though catholics did they best to attract people by means of money, free education and other various mathods which franciscans and other catholic missionaries use.

Sliven historically has always been a city of revolutionaries and played a key role during the Bulgarian-Turkish Liberation war, the city has given a multitude of national heroes, it also an important war preparation center both during The Ottoman Bulgarian slavery as well as onwards during the years of communism 1944-1989, even nowdays there is a military forces in the city, near the city are a lot atomic shelters left from communism carved as caves in the mountains. Other interesting thing about Yambol is that near it are located the so called Blue Stones, which are rich of uraninite and therefore near it the region is higher in radiation.

2. Visit to the Planetarium (Observatory) in a Mathematics High School and a History museum in Yambol

Onwards we jumped in the car and travelled to (Yambol) Jambol – an old thracian city which lies on both banks of Tundzha river which lies in the historical region of Thrace. Near Jambol there is a historical ancient thracian city Kabyle.

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Ancient Thracian City near Yambol – Kabile

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Yambol Park Ormana (picture source Wikipedia)

It is interesting Yambol Peak on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Yambol.

To be honest my first impressions from Yambol were much far from excitement, you see some old buildings left from communism situated on a stiff places in a short it looked like a city of ruins of an old communist experiment, but if you put away the not ideal architecture and communistic landmarks and the kind of little depressing mood (maybe partially because of the winter) and partially because of the many buildings that are to gone through repairment works or be totally destroyed, once seeing the river and the sideview of short mountains, the mood cheers up a bit and one things maybe I was over pessimistic about this place, after all there also live people like us and perhaps they had a lof things we miss in our places.

 

Yambol center area makes big difference from rest of the city, as it seems shortly being reconstructed and it looks pretty much new and shiny while compared to rest of the city.

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Yambol city center, the 4 domes buillding leftside is an ex-turkish Bathroom, the other right side dome bld. is a Mosque
(Notice how odd and unusual seems to see some Ottoman Medieval buildings mixture with the Concrete high-heel buildings) – picture source Delnik

On our way to the city center, we passed through a Armenian Apostolic  Church building Serp Agop, all surrounded by a buildings which looked in a post-war state

Apostolic-Armenian-Church-in_Yambol-saint-Agop

Armenian Apostolic Church – saint Agop Yambol
 

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Yambol city in pictures (src. Wikipedia)
 

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Yambol Panoramic view from Borovets (src. Wikipedia)

After having a walk on the city center, went to a caffeteria had a coffee with Svetlana and walked near river, we went to see the Ancient history museum, which keeps a lot of artefacts found in the Kabyle ancient Thracian village, the museum is also rich of national folklore costumes traditional for the regions, artefacts left from the Turkish-Russian liberation war an exposition of local poems, writtings, information about local customs connected with ancient Thracians and mostly a lot of artefacts before Christ.

To find the location of Yambol history museum, we had to ask some local people, as the museum is situated in a building that is not on the main centrain square but a bit aside in a cross street nearby.

After having really enjoyable time in the Museum, we went to look for the Planetarium (Observatory) which in my opinion is the greatest attraction in Yambol.
I've been to a Planetarium somewhere in Bulgaria one time as a kid and this experience has inspired me so much that later on in school the cosmos and the knowledge about the stars has always being in my heart and I learned Astronomy subject in 11 grade in school with such joy, that it was among the most interesting things I ever learned in life.

Yambol Planetarium is situated in a Yambol Mathematics High School and the Observatory is functional already for 47 years, the projection of the Stars is made via a complex device with a lot of lens manufactured by the famous Karl Zeiss East German optics and lens producer

Yambol-Planetarium-High-School-building

Picture Source ranica.eu

 

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Karl Zeiss lens Stars projection device in Yambol Observatory (Pretty Futuristic), ain't it?

The price of the Planetarium for a group is only 20 leva per group (10 EUR per group) and usually a group of 10 people each paying 2 eur is visiting through
prior reservation. But for people like me and my wife who don't have a previous reservation, you have to ask for a school pass by the school guard person an old good hearted man.
The price for 2 people was 5 EUR per person and we had the luck to visit the planetarium without any prior reservation, but I guess other visitors or foreigners can also agree
easily to have a visit to the Planetarium for the symbolic price of 10 eur per Planetary show.

The Planetarium's system of projection is pretty old but still the overall experience is really outstanding and it is impressive even for an grown kids like us. The lady that give us presentation
about the stars has a very indepth knowledge on astronomy and is a teacher of astronomy herself in the school (as far as I understood). The overall presentation of the stars in the Planetarium was about 2 hours and we learned tons of information about the constellations, the star order how to recognize them under a clear night sky etc. etc.

Planetarium rox and it is definitely a place to visit for people with kids, beside the planetarium room, there is an observatory with a relatively modern telescope, where on clear sky, one can enjoy watching the night sky.

Finally our trip to Yambol was over with our visit to Yambol Cathedral, saint Nicolas the Wonderworker.
The Church saint Nicolas the wonderworker was built after the Russian-Turkish liberation war, the church History starts in 1878, where a Small Russian Chapel was built by the Russian army on the place of the 2 Turkish houses. In 1894, the new Cathedral initiated by the Mayor of the city started and a Majestic Church was built whith today is an emblematic one for the city, the size of the Church is really impressive especially for a city where only 60 000 people live.

No doubt the Church is beautiful both outside and inside but unfortunately as many things in Bulgaria is to begone a reperation works so donations are welcome for sure.Yambol-Cathedral-church-st-Nikolai-chudotvorec-worndermaker

Saint Nicolas the Wonderworker Cathedral Yambol

Our trip to Yambol ended here, where we waited for father Sergij who took us with his car Daewoo and brought us back to Pomorie, where we had 2 more blessed days in Pomorie Monastery.
The trip to Yambol and the time spend with the fathers in Pomorie, as always was a real gift from God to me and my family, so if you have some free weekend and you wonder where to go in Bulgaria or you simply live or come to Burgas region and you want to change the routine boring daily pictures visit Pomorie, Sliven and Yambol, I'm sure you'll enjoy.

 

Saint Andrew the First called Apostle “Protocletus” by Jesus Christ celebrated on 30 June and 30 November in Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

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38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?

39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.

40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.

41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

John 1:38-41 King James Version (KJV)

Church Troparion (Tone 4)

    Andrew, first-called of the Apostles
    and brother of the foremost disciple,
    entreat the Master of all
    to grant peace to the world
    and to our souls great mercy.

Church Kontakion (Tone 2)

    Let us praise Andrew, the herald of God,
    the namesake of courage,
    the first-called of the Savior's disciples
    and the brother of Peter.
    As he once called to his brother, he now cries out to us:
    "Come, for we have found the One whom the world desires!"

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Saint Andrew the first called Bulgarian Icon

The saviour Jesus Christ choose saint Andrew (the brother of saint Peter) to be the first among apostles in the number of his 12 (desciples) apostoles. The name Andrew is translated from Greek to Brave / Manhood, there is no known Hebrew or Aramic name as that which means that most likely the name Andrew was perhaps given by him in later times when he preached among pagans.
It is believed. As the gospel tells us he immediately turned to Christ follower and desciple being honored to be the first desciple and among the first that received baptism after Jesus Christ, he was one of the desciples of saint John the baptist (as we and once he heard the "living water" words of the savior he immediately followed without reasoning.

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The Lord Jesus Christ summons saint apostle Andrew for apostelship service (VI Century Ravenna Mosaic)

Saint Andrew's birth place according to our Orthodox Christian tradition is the village of Bethsaida on the Sea of Gallee (which has actually the size of a Lake), he was called with his brother saint Peter and promised by Jesus to be made a  "fishers of men" (Greek: ἁλιεῖς ἀνθρώπων, halieis anthrōpōn).
At the beginning of Jesus public life both apostles are said to have occupied the same house in Capernaum. He is believed to be the first bishop and founder of the holy see of Byzantium (later Constantinople today's Istanbul) in A.D. 38 and have ordained the first bishop of the city Stachys. He is known to have preached also among Thracians and travelled through the Black sea shelf (today Bulgarian lands) establishing Christian communities across the shelf lands.

He also preached in today's Greece in Peloponnese, Greece, and Epirus: he converted many to the Faith and ordained bishops and priests for them.

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Saint Andrew Georgian Icon holding the Holy Theotokos Icon

On a boat he entered Georgia from Ajara, preached Christianity in Atsquri, built small church there and left miracle-working icon of Theotokos (the Holy Virgin Mary). Travelling back from Georgia, he visited today Russian lands, went through Kiev, he planted a cross on one of the high hills of Kiev, and he prophesied a city that would have many golden-domed churches, and a bright Christian future for the Rus' people.

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Saint Andrew's prophecy of Kiev depicted in Radzivill Chronicle.

St. Andrew was martyred in Peloponnese, in the city of Patras. The Proconsul Aegeates' family believed in the miracles and preaching of St. Andrew, and the enraged Proconsul tortured and crucified St. Andrew. The new converts wanted to remove him from his cross, but the saint would not allow them. Instead, he comforted them from the cross and as he prayed an extraordinary light encompassed him for about a half hour. When it left, he gave up his soul. It was the year 62 AD.

St. Andrew's relics were taken to Constantinople, his head to Rome and a hand  perhaps transferred from Kiev to Moscow when the Russian capital changed.

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The X Crossed Martyrdom of saint Andrew

Early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours describe Andrew as bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified; yet a tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called crux decussata (X-shaped cross, or "saltire"), now commonly known as a "Saint Andrew's Cross" — supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. The iconography of the martyrdom of Andrew – showing him bound to an X-shaped cross – does not appear to have been standardized until the later Middle Ages.

Saint Andrew is the patron saint of several countries and cities including: Barbados, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Ukraine, Amalfi in Italy, Esgueira in Portugal, Luqa in Malta, Parañaque in the Philippines and Patras in Greece. He was also the patron saint of Prussia and of the Order of the Golden Fleece. He is considered the founder and the first bishop of the Church of Byzantium and is consequently the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It is interesting that in Romania there is a cave in Romania the so called Saint Andrew Cave where saint Andrew lived for a while on his journey from Black Sea Shelf to Kiev after he preached the Gospel to Daco-Roman people in province Dobrudja Region nowadays (Scythia Minor), this tradition was a local believe and was not widely aknowledged until the 20th century.

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Entrance to Saint Andrew Cave in Dobrudja

According to Hippolyte of Antioch, (died c. 250 C.E.) in his On Apostles, Origen in the third book of his Commentaries on the Genesis (254 C.E.), Eusebius of Caesarea in his Church History (340 C.E.), and other sources, such as Usaard's Martyrdom written between 845–865, and Jacobus de Voragine's Golden Legend (c. 1260), Saint Andrew preached in Scythia, a possible reference to Scythia Minor, whose territory was part of Bulgaria but was integrated into Romania in the late 19th century.

Let by the prayers of saint Andrew we Christians grow in the understanding and love and be able to withstand the temptations of the hard times we live in!

 

ArchAngels day 8 of November, the day of All Angels and Archangels – Who are the ArchAngels and why we should venerate them?

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Archangel_Michael_A_Warrior-Angel-protector-of-all-Christians

Today on 8th of November, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is celebrating the day of Arch Angels (Primary Angels) who stay always near God Almigthy the Creator of this world.

Accroding to Christianity, there are seven main angels called (Arch Angels),  each of the Archangels has its own specific ission, one is a messanger of secrets that has to be revealed to man, other is a healer of infirmities.

The names of the Seven main Arch Angels in Eastern Orthodox Christian faith are:

Archangel_Michael_Holy_Orthodox-christian-icon

 

  •     Michael in the Hebrew language means "Who is like God?" or "Who is equal to God?" Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks Lucifer/Satan, and in his left hand a green palm branch. At the top of the spear there is a linen ribbon with a red cross. The Archangel Michael is especially considered to be the Guardian of the Orthodox Faith and a fighter against heresies.

     

    Holy-Archangel-Gabriel_orthodox-icon
     

 

  •     Gabriel means "God is my strength" or "Might of God." He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as follows: In his right hand, he holds a lantern with a lighted taper inside, and in his left hand, a mirror of green jasper. The mirror signifies the wisdom of God as a hidden mystery.

     

    Holy-Archangel-Raphael-orthodox-icon
     

  •     Raphael means "It is God who heals" or "God Heals" (Tobit 3:17, 12:15). Raphael is depicted leading Tobit (who is carrying a fish caught in the Tigris) with his right hand, and holding a physician's alabaster jar in his left hand.

     

    Archangel-Uriel-orthodox-icon
     

  •     Uriel means "God is my light," or "Light of God" (II Esdras 4:1, 5:20). He is depicted holding a sword against the Persians in his right hand, and a flame in his left.

     

    Archangel_Selathiel_Herodion-of-Patras_1840_Russia
     

  •     Sealtiel means "Intercessor of God." He is depicted with his face and eyes lowered, holding his hands on his bosom in prayer.
    Archangel-Jegudiel-holy-orthodox-icon

     
  •     Jegudiel means "Glorifier of God." He is depicted bearing a golden wreath in his right hand and a triple-thonged whip in his left hand.
    Archangel-Barachiel-the-archangels-the-peace-blessed-by-God
  •     Barachiel means "Blessed by God." He is depicted holding a white rose in his hand against his breast.

     

    holy-Archangel-Jerahmeel
     

  •     Jerahmeel means "God's exaltation." He is venerated as an inspirer and awakener of exalted thoughts that raise a person toward God (II Esdras 4:36). As an eighth, he is sometimes included as archangel.

 

The accent of todays feast (Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Michael and the other Budiness Powers) is Archangel Michael, so I find it worthy to say few words more about Archangel Michael.

Archangel Michael is "the keeper of the souls and a fighter against evil in the world".

That is the reason why Archangel Michael is often depicted with a firy spear at hand piercing the devil.
In the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith there is no other God servent guardian angel with so many duties.

Archangel Michael is:

1. Chiefman of the Heavenly (Bodiless) Powers

2. A fighter against the spirits of wickedness (spirits of evil)

3. A Protector of Christians from the devil

4. A Chief Leader of Christ's armies against the pagans and heresies

5. A Keeper of All Christian Souls

6. The Archangel that is present on mens deathbed and divides the soul from the body
 

Archangel_Michael_piercing-the-devil

The dividing of the soul on a men deadbed is perhaps one of the most important of Archangel Michael's missions it does stop our earthly way and collects the soul. Just before this according to our Orthodox Christian faith, each one of us Christians is given by God during Baptism with a personal guardian angel, who keeps him from perils, troubles and sorrows.

Each-Christian-has-A-Guardian_Angel

The Guardian Angel each Christian receives during baptism

But man has to be cautious, the guardian angel does cries watching at us when we live careless sinful life, he is not enforced to keep for us eternally if we wish to live a life without faith or God, then he leaves us crying for our fallen state.

The more sinful life a man leads in this life, the more clean his soul is being collected by Archangel Michael.
The food we put on table Archangels day is a feastful one, it is a tradition here in Bulgarian to eat Lamb meat the so called (Kurban) and a special breads are prepared, the so called Rangel's Bread, there are 2 types actually (Bogovica and Rangelovo bludo).
A boiled wheat is also a common meal on the table, beans and of course red wide.

The meaning of 8 of Novembers feast is to celebrate the Congregation Integrity of all Angel ranks (just like in Army we Christians believe that Angels and they all work together for the same goal the salvation of each man's soul)

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Because of Archangel Michael being so famous to divide the soul from the body of the dying, perhaps it is not a coincidence why few days before 8th of November on the previous Saturday the Church calendar marks A Memorial day for all those who died (The so called Zadushnica feast), the meaning of which is that people give out food and goods for the remembrance of the souls of their departed beloveds, praying with hope for the deceased people begging God to have mercy over their souls. Because of this unwritten connection between the men deadbed and Archangel michael often in people's tradition ArchAngel Michael is seen to be an Angel of Death and historically has been highly venerated all across the Christiandome.

It used to be an old people believe that if one smiles on his death hour this means ArchAngel Michael has granted him to heaven and as a prize has given him a Golden Apple (in spiritual sense).

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Let the Holy Archangels; Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel Selathiel, Jegudiel, Barachiel, Jarahmeel along with all angels and bodily powers pray for us so we find ways to become better people and clean up from our numerous sins by repentance.
Amen

 

Living and Martyrdom of Saint Zlata of Meglen (Muglenska) one of the greatest Bulgarian Martyrs during the Ottoman Bulgarian Slavery

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

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Saint Zlata of Meglen (Muglen) or also as we call it in Bulgaria saint Zlata Muglenska (Αγία Χρυσή) is a Great Holy Martyr Christian saint venerated mainly in Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia and Serbia (nowadays), however historically even though being from the nowadays Macedonian lands, she was Macedonian Bulgarian by blood heritage she lived in the times of deep physical and spiritual darkness that has been sheeding on the ex-Bulgarian empire lands in the XVIII century in a very poor family originating from the village of Slatino ( the Orthodox Christian eparchy of Slatino ), the Ex-Ochrid Bulgarian epipscopy.

For the time she had a extensively distinguished from other young maids with her beauty and her soul has been gifted with excessive humility, Godliness, pure heart and a truthful burning unshakeful faith in / for God.

Because of her unearthly unusual beauty, a young Turk fall in love with her and decided to kidnap her and to rape her.
One day she went to the deep woods to gather trees for the coming winter uknowing the young turk with other turk friends has prepared an ambush for her.
The turk descended over the pure virgin with the help of his other friends and they captured the God servent lady and brought her to his home offering
and promising her marriage under the turms that she convert to his faith Islam.
The turk told her she either has to merry him and convert to Islam or stay Christian and suffer Christian martyrdom because of her stiffness.

Saint Zlata of Meglen stood firm in her Christian faith and rejected the offer, but the young turk being pushed by the devil has decided that this young beauty has to become
his wife, so to help his goal to convert her to his Muslim faith he brough ladies to sing her enticing songs (as an ancient manipulation technique) to brainwash the lady to
reject her Christian faith.

The young turkish ladies which by the way belonged to someone's local person harem (seraglio), were singing and dancing, smiling at her and giving their
best to show her the beaties of Islam, they told her how nice the muslim treat their lifes and how superior is according to them Muslim faith, trying their best to convince her to reject
her faith and join their false godliness.

Saint Zlata looked at the songs and lures as a temptations from the devil recognizinig the unclean spirits works inside the young ladies and turks surrounding her and strongly stood
and was watching at them with deep disgust
, praying inside her self to the Lord Jesus Christ to help her and strenghten her to stand firm in the temptations, asking him better
for a martyrdom than false enjoyment of this temporary lieful and earthly goods which leads to the eternal hell.

The young turkish ladies seeing her firmness for Christianity and unwillingness to reject the Lord and Saviour of mankind The Lord Jesus Christ had an assembly together on how to behave and came to conclusion that the only ones that can turn her from Christ might be her own family (mother, father, sister, brothers) and adviced the young turk man that the only help here might be if the family of the young virgin Zlata influence her to change her mind to reject Christ and merry the turkish man.

The family of the woman knowing the craftliness of Turks and there unrespect for the life of the Christian saw that the only option for her daugher and sister in Christ to stay physically alive is to accept Islam, so they started convincing her to accept islam, perhaps secretly hoping she can become Mohammeddan on the surface but become Christian in her heart (something that many Bulgarian, Serbian and Greek, Albanian and (others from the so called Rum-Milet Cast people or People of the Eastern Orthodox Faith within the Ottoman Empire)  were forced to do to occasionally to save their lives).

But Zlata was unshakable in her decision and firm fireful faith for Christ and publicly reinforced her decision that she better die in suffering than to accept the ungodly eartly wicked religion of Islam.

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This unshakeful behavior of saint Zlata additionally scared off her family and they becomed crying in front of her continuing to convince her to convert to Turkish faith and reject Christ, they were scared about their own physical lives and this cry outs were not a cry outs by reason but a cry outs inspired by the devilish fears for the body, they were forgetting Christ words who says, "Don't fear those who kill / destroy the body, but better fear Whom who has power to throw out body and soul into the eternal Ghehenna (Hell)", the exact citation from Holy Bible is  like this "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Mathew 10:28.

Of course seing the closest beings of her crying in the soul of Saint Zlata become a division, common for us mortals.
The love for her parents and her sisters was pushing her to listen to her family and the love for the world was pushing her to listen to the turks but the love for God Christ and her Christian Duty were pushing her to become unshakeful 'till the end and accept martyrdom for Christ.

But in the young virgin the love for the world was less than the love for Christ and she screamed boldly but humbly at her spiritual torturers.

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– Even if you my parents my sisters, are forcing me to reject the Lord Jesus Christ, do know that you're no longer my parents, no longer my sister!
– My father remains only my Lord Jesus Christ and my mother – the Most Holy Mother of God (Holy Theotokos) Mary, and my brother and sister are now – all the martyrs for Christ!


The turks underestood now the virgin is not willing to change her faith, and decided to force her with other means (by physical tortures) to change her faith.
Consequently three months they beat her with staffs. And then when the staffing did not help them change her mind, they started cutting skin out of her body back
and show that bloody skins to her eyes to scare her off.

A rivers of blood flow of the young pure martyr. Finally they took a glowing iron stick and pricked (holed) her head from the eye to the eye.
Christ's Grace were helping the saintly Virgin Zlata to endure all this and even after all this unbearable for a normal human body torturings
she become alive.

She was left temporary in a prison by her maryrs and by God's providence right in that time she heard the Priest (spiritual elder of her parents, and pro-Igumenos (main abbot) of Holy Mount Athos the hieromonk Timothey (Timothy) visited Meglen village.

Through one of the Christians who visited her regularly in prison she send a beseech to hieromonk Timothey to fervently pray for her, so that God gives her an honorable end of her Christian Martyrdom.

And God had honored her with a final martyrdom and an eternal honour in his One Holy Eastern Orthodox Church.

The torturer turks being embittered by their failures to break off the fervent faith in Christ of the Holy Martyr, invented another final bestiality.

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They hanged Saint Zlata on a pear tree and come to her sticking her with knifes and finally they hunged her on the same tree, after which to prevent
other Christians to bury her in a Christian rite, they cut the body in parts.

In that manner of unhuman but spiritually glorious manner the Holy Great Martyr received her glorious Martyrdom for Christ
and she become an Eternal prayer for all the true Christians all around the world.

Like a clean gold, cleared by the sufferings, saint Holy Great Martyr Zlata give up her soul to God on 18 of October 1795 year filling up
the sonhms of Christian and Bulgarians saints for the Savior of the World Lord Jesus Christ.

Her martyrdom by God's providence has happened just one day before the celebration of the Greatest Bulgarian saint and Hermit saint John of Rila whose Dormition happened on 19th of October 946.

Pieces of her martyred body, were distributed among believing Christians for a blessing and many received healings from her Holy relics.

Saint Zlata is said to protect the emigrant and Bulgarians abroad and is doing miracles and helping people who stood firm in their Christian Believe 'till this very day.

Holy mother and Great Martyr Zlata Muglenska pray the merciful Lord Jesus Christ to save our sinful souls!

 

Sources used:
The Livings of the Saints – Synodal edition, Sofia 1991, under the edition of Bishop Parthenij Levkijski and Archimandrite dr. Athanasij (Bonchev), including some reasoning and additions to details by the Article Author Georgi Dimitrov Georgiev as inspired by God