Saint Confessor Nikolay Sofijski (Nikolay of Sofia) Short Biography
St. Nikolay (Nicolas) of Sofia has been born in Ioannina (city now in territory of Greece). He was a pious and with his honorable craft of shoemaking going through the stormy sea of life. When he arrived in Sofia (Serdica / Sredetz), one of the main cities of the Ottoman Empire of that time, a long remain of the glorious past when even the righteous emperor Constantine The great was considering to set as a capital of the Eastern empire either Constantinople today's Istanbul in Turkey or Sofia (Fortress of Serdika).
When Nikolay came to Sofia, he was immediately recognized by the Turkish authorities and rich people of the city and to have him part of their "nobel" turkish society and enrich the city ruleship, the Turkish tried to push Nikolay to accept Islam. Once a time Turkish invited Nikolay, put a somniferous herb in his offered drink and once he fall asleep without his knowledge they have circumcised him according to Islamic tradition observance. Once awaken Nikolay realised what has been done to him and fall in a deep regret and mourned over the abuse of his body which according the Christian faith is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Once he started appearing on the streets of Sofia, Turkish immediately invited him to attend the mosque considering him already a muslim due to the circumcision ritual commited on him. He firmly rejected the offer publicly, considering himself a Christian as he never publicly resigned his Christian faith and never ever wanted to be muslim and never ever has attended another temple apart from the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church he belonged to. Facing the rejection, the powerful of the day turks cannot believe their eyes as they already thought Nikolay accepted the fact he is already a muslim, not understanding that for a Christian the temporary flesh is nothing but a temporary hut and the Spiritual and Eternal Soul and The Spirit of God which enlightens it as well as the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven is everything. The turks thouhgt over it fleshly, thinking that having a sign of circumcision already puts a person belonging to his faith, not knowing that the the first desciples of Christ, the most holy apostles as belonging to the Jewish faith had their circumcision themselves, and this circumcision never ever hindered their faith in the Resurrected Messiah Jesus Christ.
Immediately facing the rejecting the Turks, arrested him as a traitor of their faith and put him into a harsh torments.
Combined icon with the living of saint Nikolay of Sofia
Putting him on trial In the local court, the judge announced his opinion that Nikolay doesn't hold a fault, neither against Islam neither against the claimants. Nevertheless the crowd put Nikolay outside of Sofia (in a similar way the Jews resurrected Christ outside of the city of Jerusalem) in Sofia's near region called "Yuch Bunar", translated from Turkish as the ("The Tree Wells"), there they stoned to death on 17th of May year 1555 A.D., (the stoning a transgressor of the Islamic law, tradition is still followed by some countries even today, for example I heard similar cases do happen still in Saudi Arabia for sinners against islamic law).
Saint Nikolay icon in his traditional Bulgarian clothes wear (Nosia) holding his shoemaking instrument
His holy body has been moved to the graveyear called (Търница)Térnitza and has been burned – and the dust has been scattered through the four directions of the world North, East, South, West following islamic tradition and in attempt to completely irradicate the memory of the saint in the relatives and the living Christians of that time. Even though due to the request of Matey Gramatik (Mathew the Gramatik – translated as Chronicler / Annalist), a boy managed to collect little burned part remains of the relics and a pious christian, secretly made a burial prayer for his Soul (Опело – called Opelo in the Slavonic Eastern Orthodox Church) according to the Christian tradition and buried him with honor.
Soon after the martyrdom of saint Nikolay the New, the Metropolitan of Sredetz Iakov (Jacob), announced the canonization of st. Nikolay on a specially summoned for the consideration of saintship of St. Nikolay, a Local Church Metropolitan Council. Jacob received parts from holy relics (parts of the skull and the bones) of st. Nikolay, that has been secretly kept by a faithful Christians till then and placed the new received saint relics and placed them together in the ark (coffin) with the incorruptable holy relics of Saint King Stephan Milutin at that time located in Church of St. Archangel Michael, see my previous article pilgrimage to the incorruptable Holy relics of Saint Stephan Milutin in Cathedral Saint Nedelya, Sofia Bulgaria. Later parts of the holy relics has been housed in in a Wood maden Church.
The grave of saint Nikolay of Sofia is one of the few known graves of Bulgarian saints. Today, it is situated in the city center of Sofia capital city of Bulgaria in the district "Три кладенци" / "The Three Wells". Three hundred meters from there (in the tiny park like garden between the streets of "Pirotska" and "Opalchenska") lays a Beatiful Majestic Church, dedicated to the Holy Martyr st. Nikolay Sofijski. The Church of Saint Nicolas of Sofia is one of the biggest Cathedral Churches in Bulgaria (it is second by size in city of Sofia). The Temple has been rised following a project of architecture created by Anton Tornyov after the Liberation of Bulgarian following the Russian/Bulgarian-Turkish war on 3-rd of December 1900. Church saint Nikolay Sofijski has been consecrated by Metropolitan Partenij (Parthenius of Sofia was a senior Bulgarian clergyman and church figure, Metropolitan of Sofia from 1892 to 1918. Metropolitan Parthenius is an exceptional clergyman who has left a lasting mark in the history of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.).
Church of Saint Nikolay of Sofia in Sofia Bulgaria (corner of street "Opalchenska" and "Pirotska").
Church Nikolay Sofijski view to Iconostasis Church interior
Church dome paintings of St. Nikolay Sofijski
Iconostasis of the Church (notice the beatiful flower forms curved wood)
In the beginning of XXth century in 1870s on the exact place of the grave of the saint has been built a small chapel in his memoriam. It is situated in a small yard on today's Street of "Tzar Simeon / King Simeon" it is opened for pilgrim visitors everyday in the early afternoon every working day.
The Chapel entrance door
A Heavenly beauty roman like chapel
The Chapel on the grave of Saint Nikolas of Sofia, built on the place called "Terniza" (Tzar Simeon Street), where on 17-th of May, year 1555 A.D. where remains of the saint has been burned by turks – photo by Martin Mitov (C)
The Grave of Saint Nikolay of Sofia (View to Alter dedicated to the matryr saint)
The holy relics of Saint Nikolay the new are now preserved in his Church and are brought for veneration by believers and pilgrims on each 16 and 17 of May and sometimes in a Church feasts of a higher importance.
Each 17-th of May in Sofia it is a tradition for clirics (clergy) to gather together with pilgrims and layman for a Lithia with the holy relics of saint Nikolay from the Church to the chapel, and for the following two days 18, 19th of May his holy relics are publicly displayed for veneration.
Sofia's mediaval historian and clergyman deacon Matey Gramatik (upmentioned), was a comtemporary of the saint and eyewitness of his martyrdom and death, soon after wrote his Church service and Biography (Saint Living). Today the original manuscript is preserved in the the Library of the church "St. Martyr Nikolai Novi Sofiyski" in Sofia.
Let by the holy prayers of Saint Nikolay Sofijski our homeland Bulgaria is given peace prosperity in The Hope, Faith and Love and every Good and firmness in the True faith given by Christ the Holy Eastern Orthodox faith. Let by his Holy prayers God gives peace and love to everyone in the world and grant, repentance for us the lost and spiritually poor and "fatherless" children of the 21st century.
The Universal Exaltation of the precious and life-giving Cross XVII century – icon from village of Belovo Trqvna region
he Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (Elevation of the Cross)'s day is feted on 14th of September each year in accordance to the new calendar order, according to old church calendar, the Church celebrated it on 27th of September.
The day is marked by a strong fasting, for short we refer in Bulgarian to this big Church feast as (The day of the Cross / Krystov den). The Holy Orthodox Christian Church does worship the cross 4 times a year on:
Third Sunday after the start of the Great Lent
Holy Friday (Good Friday)
1st of August
14th of September – The Exaltation of the Holy life giving Cross
On this day, we the orthodox christians go to the Church and admirationally bow and kiss the Holy Cross on which our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered for our salvation.Through his cross suffering our Lord has granted to all of us the Christians an unbeatable "weapon" against evil and sin. Through cross Christ has been victorious over sin and death.
According to old Church tradition, on the day Christian people were asking for the priest to go to their homes and do vodosvet (sprinkle their houses with a blessed holy water).Vodosvet is one of the Orthodox Church mystics, there is a specific prayers begging God for forgiveness of sins, asking for good health and blessing. The prayers are being red over a vessel containing clean water. Finally he blesses the vessel with Water with the life Giving cross 3 times (as a symbol of the Holy Trinity). Then the priest uses a the cross and a tiny piece of twig to sprinkle all the people and objects in the house.
On the holy exaltation of the holy cross feast we also celebrate also the following 3 events:
1. The miraculous appearance of the Holy Cross to emper st. Constantine 2. The finding in Jerusalem of the Holy life-giving cross in Golgotha 3. The return of the Life-giving cross from persian captivity On 14th of September, according to Church tradition saint John of John Chrysostom has give away his spirit and joined the assembly of saints of God, however because of the Exaltation great significance, the church holy fathers decided that this is celebrated on 13th of September.
The Antiphon for the Exaltation of the Cross feast is singed and translated from Slavonic its meaning goes like this:
Troparion of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross voice 1 / Тропар на светия Кръст, глас 1
Спаси, Господи, люди Твоя и благослови достояние Твое, победы на сопротивныя даруя, и Твое сохраняя Крестом Твоим жительство.
Troparion voice 1
Save Oh Lord, your people and bless possession, grant us oh Lord a victory over our enemies and save your inheritance with your Cross
Troparion voice 2
You've been lifted willingly on the cross, grant you mercies to your inheritance oh Christ our Lord,
stregthen the spirits of the pious king and to your people,
grant us victory against our enemies,
Surround us with peace and with peace give us unbeatable victory
In the Glorification part of the Holy Liturgy feast service its singed:
We magnify you, oh Christ life giver,
and your Holy cross, because you have saved us from the enemy.
What does the Church tradition says about the finding of the holy cross of Christs sufferings?
After the Church crucifixion of Christ, according to the tradition of that times, the weapon for punishment from this kinds – the cross tree was buried in the ground on the same place, where the punishment was executed. Following the tradition on Gologthas where Christ was crucified was buried the cross used for crucifixion. In later times, emperor Adrian in his attempt to destroy christianity and the place of pilgrimage of Golgotha has issued an order to built a pagan shrine on the same place. Later under the reign of Emperor st. Constantine the cross appeared in the sky in a miraculous way and again under his reign the Golgotha place which means literally translated( the place of the Skulls) was discovered.
Third Sunday after start of the Great Lent – Sunday of the Veneration of the Holy Cross
Today 03.04.2021 we the orthodox are in the blessed period of the Great Lent. It is no coincidence the Church has set this feast on exactly this date. It is set on 3rd week of the 43 days (7 Weeks) that lasts the fasting period on the Eastern Orthodox Christian church because this is a little bit less than the half of the lent period. We know by the experience of spiritual fathers that once we start the job the hardest periods are nearby in 40% once the work is done and in that times it is a desire of the person to leave and quit the job but if he perseveres suddenly when the set goal is progressing this is overcome but then again in the end of the period of the goal to complete we start desiring to quit the started job and loose all energy put together, as a plan of the evil which wants us to always loose energy (both spiritual and physical) and never gain anything. Thus the Church set the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross to give us a way to attain new energy for the cross to be able to goodly continue in the deed of the lent. By the cross and his glorious power hence the spirit of despondency is crashed down and we're strenghtened and rejoice for the great glory our God has given us.
The exaltation of the cross is also a feast of everyone celebrating his own cross. The victory over death and everything was once fulfilled by Christ on the Cross. The humanity is saved already but it is up to everyone's free will to accept this salvation or not. The path is set it is the path of the Cross of Christ, meaning acceptance (humility) of all the unpleasant life events and situations, accepting everydays unexpected changes believing that this is God's providence and cross for each one of us, accepting the pain and suffering that is part of the personal cross we hold, accepting that one day our beloved and friends will pass away from this life, accepting the fact we age and the aging guarantees sufferings of the body but the spirit is refreshed by the grace of God, accepting all and enduring everyhing for the sake of the cross …
The cross is a holder of the Universe and there is no power that will ever overwhelm it as it is said in the Church singings The Cross is the Holder (binds together) the whole universe. It is by the Cross all the evil has been conquered and life eternal has been giving. The path of the cross is the suffering, this is hard for the modern man to accept as we have been set to believe the only measure for success is prosperity, personal well being, physical health, posessing things. On the contrary the Christian says the most blessed and best thing one can have is the cross meaning personal suffering for and with Christ. By the suffering of the Cross Christ has glorified the bodily flesh he was possessing while being on earth in the body. By the Cross Christ has become the one begotten of all the sons of God. By the cross saints has conquered all evils and has sanctified, by the cross we still continue to progress in the goodness. Let with the Holy miracle making power of our Saviour's cross by the prayers of all the Saints and our Theotokos (Holy Virgin Merry) God grant to all of us christians victory of our enemies! Amen
Today on Second of May every year in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church calendar we commemorate the memory of Saint King Boris (Michael) who is a baptizer of Bulgarian nation and among the greatest saint of Bulgaria, perhaps second in saintship after St. John of Rila.
St. King Boris was the ruler of the First bulgarian Empire (852-889) the actual title as we know it from the chronicles is not king but archont which literally means ruler, but as the main chronicles who came to us are Byzantine we have to take in consideration that Byzantine Chronicles aimed to discredit the Bulgarian rulers because of feeling inferior every non-Byzantines who in Byzantine terms were considered barbarians.
He had a notable correspondence with Pope Nicolas II head of the Western Church before the Great Schism. Saint Boris I is famous with with 115 Questions (which are fully preserved). He beseech the pope to sent an apostoles of faith who will teach the new nation to faith in the same time he lead a correspondence with the Byzantine emperor and the Eastern Church.
The pope sent 2 missionaries cardinal Formiosa of Portuens and Bishop Paul of Papulon. King Boris requested for Cardinal Formiosa to become a future archibishop of Bulgaria, but the pope Nicolas II being afraid of loosing ground of a choice of future Bulgarian archibishop rejectedking Boris request it is interesting fact that the same cardinal Formiosa become the next Pope of the Roman Western Church in period (891 – 896).
Taking in consideration the papal's desire to dominate over him and the more freedoms given by the Byzantine Church along with the fact that Saint Cyril and Methodius's pupils came to him with a ready Church Slavonic Glagolic version of the Holy Bible and a new Church language (and considering the fact that the seven pupils of St. Cyril and Methodius were being chased away from Great Moravia (Saint Clement of Ohrid (Kliment Ohridski) and Naum Ohrdiski with Sava, Angelarius and Gorazd) and seeing the fallacy of the filioque addition to the Creed of Faith finally King Boris received baptism by the hands of Patriarch Photius.
He received holy baptismal in year 864, receiving the Christian name Michael (Mihail) receiving his Christian name from his godfather, Emperor Michael III.
According to Church tradition the reason to Baptize in Christian faith was his amazement of an icon of the Judgement Day he saw in one of his visits to Constantinople.
The Church tradition also says saint Boris I's sister have lived for a long time in Constantinople, where she received baptism and once returning to the Bulgaria she bring the light of faith here too.
During his holy reign he has established mass Christianization of Bulgaria, where the traditional ancient pagan traditions and belief in fake gods like Tangra were abolished completely.
St. Tsar Boris has secured the Bulgarian Church an autocephalousy, he also received the saints Cyril and Methodius, when they were banished from Great Moravia.
Our saint king has secured a refuge for st. Cyril and Methodius and provided them with assistance to develop the Slavonic alphabet and literature.
After he abdicated in 889, his eldest son and successor tried to restore the old pagan religion but was deposed by Boris I. During the Council of Preslav which followed that event, the Byzantine clergy was replaced with Bulgarian and the Greek language was replaced with Old Bulgarian as an official language of the Church and the state.
In 889 Boris abdicated the throne and became a monk. His son and successor Vladimir attempted a pagan reaction (to return the Bulgarians to the old belief in Tanra), which brought Boris out of his monastic life in 893 out of zeal for Christ and a fatherhood for the future of Bulgarian nation.
Vladimir was defeated and blinded by a miracle of God as Boris had less soldiers than his pagan son but in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ he showed victorious.
Once defeating his unbelieving son, Boris gathered the Council of Preslav in which the Old Greek language in Church was replaced with Church Slavonic and most imporantly on the council King Boris on the Church assembly placed his third son, Simeon I of Bulgaria on the throne, threatening him with the same fate if he too apostatized.
Simeon I was reluctant to become a secular ruler as according to some of the written sources he was preparing to become a great spiritual leader a monk and perhaps a next archibishop or even patriarch in the newly established autocephalous Bulgarian Church but following the monk rule of humility he decided and accepted the throne but throughout his life he kept his great zeal for monasticism and enlightenment. His ruling become a golden age for the Church Slavonic he financed seriously and worked hardly to prepare educated monks and to translate a major works of the Holy Fathers such as Shestodnev (The Six Days of Creation), Simeonov Sbornik (Simeon's Collection) and many of the key works of saint Athanasius the Great, Saint Basyl the Great, Saint John of Damascus etc.
Boris returned to his monastery, emerging once again in c. 895 to help Simeon fight the Magyars, who had invaded Bulgaria in alliance with the Byzantines. After the passing of this crisis, Boris resumed monastic life and led a holy life until he pass out in year 907.
Here is the daily troparion assigned by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church sang at the churches today (the text is translation from Bulgarian):
St. Boris-Michael, prince of Bulgaria, Troparion
Full of the fear of God, and enlightened by holy baptism, thou becamest a habitation of the Holy Spirit,
O right-believing King Boris; and having established the Orthodox Faith in the land of Bulgaria,
and set aside the scepter of kingship,
thou madest thine abode in the wil derness,
didst flourish in ascetic struggles, and found grace before the Lord.
And now, standing before the throne of the Most High, pray thou, that He grant unto us who entreat thee salva tion for our souls.
In this dark days of humanity, we can rarely find persons who live in a holy way like the saints from the Holy Bible or the Books of the Living of the Saints
Saintship has been slowly disappearing from earth just like it's prophecised by Christ our Saviour and the Holy Apostles and in later times by many monks, Church hierarchs, patriarchs and hermits.
In Bulgaria as in most parts of the Orthodox world the Christian faith apostacy is also clearly seen. We can no longer see saint hermits like our patron saint of Bulgaria Saint John of Rila
Even in this dark days God still shows mercy to us and still present us some of his saints. The topic of this article as you have already red in the title is Elder Dobri of the Baylovo village
Elder Dobri of Baylova has been a regular person like all of us with a family and children just until 12 years ago. About 12 years ago the I would call him The Living saint has decided to let all the earthly passions and sorrows for Christ and his eternal salvation. He despised the earthly goodness and become a beggar, all the collected money he got were distributed among other poor people or donated to Churches and monasteries belonging to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
Day by day and a coin by coin, he has collected thousands of levs (the bulgaria national currency). The gathered money were given to support the live of monasteries and Churches, by this very date. This old man is the greatest donator for the Cathedral Church St. Alexsander Nevski (situated at the heart of Bulgaria's capital Sofia)
His words spoken just like the saints are full of grace and goodness. One of his famous sayings are:
Man has Always two wills in himself in every moment of his life, the will to do good and the will to do evil As all the truths his sayings are simple but represent the ultimate truth which was also said in many other forms in The Holy Bible Gospels and God's law.
The external outlook of Dqdo Dobri is also saintly, he has long beard a shining eyes and a national folklore dress. He looks like he has been out of some old Bulgarian tale.
It's very striking fact that he that this old man is the biggest donator for our Cathedral Temple, we have many millionaires and businessman in Bulgaria but nobody has decided to donate to our Church such a high sum of money.
Elder Dobri's donation for the St. Alexander Nevski's Church is in value 35700 levs (around 19000 euros). Dqdo Dobri is a beggar for Christ, this is one of the major types of saintship we read about in the living of the saints. All the collected money from people are given for God's Glory. It's amazing heroism and an example, all we the Christians should follow to fulfill Christ's law of love and inherit the internal salvation. A friend of mine who has the blessing to see Elder Dobri with her own eyes and have a small talk with him, has shared with me that even though he wears an old ragged clothes, his clothes and body emit a roses like odor!
As the fame about the same has grown these days, the Bulgarian National television has prepared a small video about the saint. I believe the video as a true blessing for us the Christians and will encourage us to persist in the good deads. Here I present you the videos you can see the living saint, I hope by his holy prayers God will show mercy to all us who watch his graceful words:
The Living Christian Saint from Baylovo Village – Bulgaria
Elder Dobri from Baylovo – Bulgaria
Inteview with Elder Dobri in his house in Baylovo (the interview is in Bulgarian)
I’m in pomorie monastery right now. Pityle pomorie’s monastery’s website can only be accessed in Russian and Bulgarian language. Pomorie Monastery is named after the greatly honoured saint George, he is highy honoured here in Bulgaria as well as in many countries in the orthodox christian world, he is also venerated in some other non-orthodox countries one of which for instance is England. Some of the monks here in the monastery used to say it’s St. George himself who invited me to the monastery for a blessing since I myself am named after the saint. Many people from Pomorie and near Burgas’s region and even from afar are gathered to commemorate St. George’s Martyrdom and celebrate the Saint George’s day . It’s the second time I’m in Pomorie’s monastery which by the way is a Male monastery. I’m really happy that such a cloisters still exists in this troubles times in sense of spirituality. The place is really peaceful and the fact that it’s georgraphically located near the sea makes it a must see destination if you’re visiting Bulgaria or travelling through the country. The history of the monastery is also very interesting. Currently the brotherhood includes 6 monks. The monastery abbot is a really kind and gentle man and the brothers are united in comparison to the observed dividement between monks walking the way of salvation in spiritual abbeys nowadays. The main reason people are coming on the feast of st. George is to beg for the prayer intercession of the Saint for us the sinners in front of God, that God has mercy and forgies our trespasses and have mercy on us. Each eart Saint George takes place here in Bulgaria on Sixth of May (06.05) and is one of the greatest christian as well as secular celebrations in Bulgaria. The 6th of Many is also an official holidays within the country and the official feast of the bulgarian army. St. George is considered one of the greatest Christian saints in the Orthodox, world and even more venerated in Bulgaria. It’s a common practice in Bulgaria as well as in Greece that spiritual abbeys or Churches are named after St. George. What makes St. George even more special for us the fact that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church possesses a whole monastery named after st. George located in Mounth Athos. You can read more about St. George (Zograf) Bulgarian Monastery located in Mount Athos here St. George’s monastery in Mount Athos is named Zograf after a miraculous icon located in the Monastery which dates back to the 14th century.
Saint George Zograf Miraculous icon owned by Zograf’s Monastery – Holy Mount Athos
The Holy Lord has completed many miracles through the icon of st. George Zograf. Many people received physical or spiritual healing, whilst others has received according to their prayers when they approached the icon as great relic to honour God.An interesting fact is that Pomorie Monastery also possesses a great relic a miraculous icon of st. George
a miraculous icon of St. George Pomorie
In the center of Pomorie Monastery is located a Holy Fountain St. George. The wholy history of the monastery is related to the Holy Fountain. According to bulgarian orthodox church tradition the Monastery was established by a Turkish bey in the 13th or 14th century. In that time the bay got an incurable sickness. He tried everything a man could try to get a relief or a cure. He went to a physician, he tried herbs, he tried going and praying to Allah in the mosque an imam praied over him to beg for Allah’s blessing and healing etc … But nothing helped. One night the bey had a dream that a holy fountain is springing out of his house yard. When he awoke from his sleep he went and digged on the same place where the holy spring has emerged. And oh miracle ! A spring emerged. He drinked from the water and got healed from his illness. In the pit where he digged he found an image of St. George which is currently embedded in one of the walls of the tower of the holy spring in Pomorie’s monastery. Afterwards the bey according to God’s revelation to establish Pomorie’s Monastery while all his family members accepted monastic life. The bey has give away all hid possesseions (land, money) etc. to the monastery just established. In the years since then the monastery has been destroyed once and rebuilt, many people has received a relief or healing while drinking from the Holy Fountain. This year God has blessed the monstery even more abundantly. The abbot and one of the monks has temporary taken some Saint remains and brough them for pilgrimage in the monastery. The saint remains are of St. John Chrysostom , St. Gregory the Theologian , st. Gregory Palamas Some of the other relics which are available for pilgrimage in Pomorie monastery until 10th of May are st. remains of Glinsk elder hermits as well as
St. martyr Dasius who was tortured and slained here in Bulgaria for his faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Today it’s the Sunday in which we the Bulgarian Orthodox Christians celebrate The Day of All the Bulgarian Saints We have plenty of saints in our Bulgarian Christian history, many known and even more unknown ones. That feast is actually one of the greatest local church commemoration of the Christian saints who gave their life for the building, growing and preventing of the orthodox bulgarian church and the orthodox christian faith througout Bulgaria’s lands. An almost complete list of the orthodox bulgarian saints can be seen here However many are not mentioned since there are no historical documents about the countless victims (martyrs) of Ottoman muslics who were beheaded or violently killed because of his refusal to accept the Islam. Here I will just mention few of the saints that are mostly venerated in the realm of the bulgarian orthodox christian faith:
1. st. Enravota (Prince Boyan) is considered the first Bulgarian Saint martyr who gave his life to show hthe truthfulness of the Christian Orthodox faith. His most notable speak is also a prophecy concerning the bulgarian orthodox church which was made before his martyrdom for Christ. The prophecy saint Enravota has made about the Christianity establishment in Bulgaria is as follows:
This faith, which I now die for, will spread and increase across the whole Bulgarian land, although you may wish to oppress it with my death. In any case, the Sign of Christ will establish itself and churches of God will be built everywhere and pure priests will serve the pure God and will deliver “sacrifice of praise and confession” to the invigorating Trinity. Idols, and priests as well, and their ungodly temples, will crumble and will turn into nothing, as if they had not existed. Besides, you alone (to Malamir), after many years, will cast away your ungodly soul without receiving anything in reward for your cruelty.
2. St. Jonh of Rila (wonderworker) was a hermit in the Rila mountain who is a patron saint of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. He is notable for his great spiritual purity achievement in his anchoretic life. Many miracles and healing has been received by people who has prayed and asked the saint to intercede in their behalf to God. He is known as the first bulgarian monk, and as an initiator of the first bulgarian orthodox christian monastery. His uncorruptable body is found for pilgrimage until this very day in the monastery he became a founder of Rila Monastery .
2. St. Brothers Cyril and Methodius Who were the saint brothers who venerated for enlightening the slavonic nations with writting letters. They’re actually the inventors of the old Bulgarian also known as Old Church Slavonic. They and their followers were the first to translate the holy bible into the newly created language – the Old Bulgarian.
3. st. Knyaz (King) Boris-Mihail (Boris-Michael) . He is known for his baptism of the Bulgarian Nation and the initiator of the creation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church as well as a brilliant statesman. After baptising most of the bulgarian intelligentia and rooting up the Orthodox Christian faith in Bulgaria, he abdicted voluntery from his throne, leaving his son (Vladimir) to rule Bulgaria and started a voluntery monastic life in poverty. When his governing son tried to reinforce back the old pagan bulgarian Tengriism belief (e.g. the belief in Tangra (Tengri) he left the monastery took back the power (defeating his son) and blinded Vladimir. Then he returned back to the monastery and spend his remaining life as a monk.
4. st. Clement of Ohrid was one of the Seven Bulgarian Apostles Born in 840, a Slav from southern Macedonia, he established a monastery at Okhrida and a bishopric at Velica not far away. He is regarded as the founder of this primatial see and the first Slav to become a bishop. His extensive apostolate took the form of education of the clergy and of the laity, to whom he preached a series of sermons in Slavonic, suitable for neophytes and explaining the principal feasts of the liturgical year. Clement died at Okhrida on 27 July 916. 5. St. Nahum ucceeded St. Clement of Ohrid as bishop. Converted in Moravia by Cyril and Methodius, he journeyed with them to Rome and helped them with their translations into the vernacular: he is venerated in Russia as well as Bulgaria. Other companions of Clement called Sava and Angelar are also venerated with him. In different times and different places they all contributed to the fulfilment of the missionary plans of Cyril and Methodius. 6. Saint Zlata of Meglen has endured a martyrdom for Christ. She refused to accept muslim faith and has firmly confessed her Orhtodox Christian faith. She was given many chances to accept muslim faith by some Turks and therefore save her life but she refused and was cast into a prison for 3 months flogging until her blood soacked the ground. Finally, they suspended her upside down and lit a fire, to suffocate her with the smoke; but God was with Zlata, and gave her strength in suffering. At last they hanged her from a tree and cut her into small pieces. Thus, this brave virgin gave her soul up to God, and went to dwell in Paradise on October 13, 1796. Pieces of her relics were taken by Christians to their homes for a blessing.
7. 26 Martyrs of the Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos at the hands of the Crusaders they have endured martyrdom for Christ, from the Roman Catholic Crusaders. Though the were warned that the enemies of Christ are coming to the Zograph Monastery they refused to leave the place and was burned alive by the unpious Crusaders. There is many others to be mentioned but I neither have the knowledge nor I’m worthy to speak about them.
Let by their Holy Prayers God have mercy on us the sinners.
This year on 6th of May – saint George's day Church feast and army celebration in Bulgaria I had the blessing to be in a small village with 868 citizens – Jiglarci (Jeglarci). Jeglarci is situated about 40 km from Dobrich. Father Georgi from Jiglarci is a well known priest in Dobrich region. He is spiritual father of many priests, monks and nuns here in Bulgaria. This is the 3rd time I'm visiting Jiglarci one time I was on Great and Holy Friday – the day on which the Lord Jesus Christwas crucified and one time I was a few months ago with some brothers and sisters from Holy Trinity Church in Dobrich. This time I had the blessing to go fr. Georgi with my wife Svetlana with Russian family from moscow Mihail and Mariana, and Denica (a sister from Church in Dobrich).
The Church saint George in Jeglarci village
Each time I visit father Georgi I have the blessing to see and hear a living proof of God's existence. Father's Georgi from Jeglarci is famous all around Bulgaria for being one of the spiritual elders of Bulgaria. He is now 91 years old but even though his age continues his service for God (serves Holy Liturgy every day during great Lent!), continue to preach and accept dozens of people almost daily looking for spiritual advice, spiritual help, confession, or questions on how to deal with life hardship situations. Father Georgi is known in the world under the secular name Georgi Stoyanov Peev his life is full of miracles, interesting events and wondrous facts. In communism times of atheism and Orthodox Christian faith persecutions, father Georgi was one of the many priests who underwent tortures and persecutions for his faith in Christ. Because of his firm faith of zealous priest, the Lord endowed the fr. with great spiritual gifts. In short I will mention some facts about fr. Georgi From Jeglarci life as the father is an example of a living saint, very much like another Bulgarian Church Elder (Dijado) Dobri from Baylovo.
Father Georgi has been nurtured with Christian virtues since his childhood – his aunt (sister of his father) was a nun. By his own words, "Since a child, the joy of my life was in faith". Since his youth years his faith was strong and because of that God has helped him in numerous times. Fr. Georgi had 6 children 3 sons and 3 daughters. All of his sons choose the way of priesthood and are now priests in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. His nephew fr. Stoyan is also a priest in Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Dobrich. The father become priest while being 43 years old, by studying in seminary after feeing the call of God and need for firm believers and mass disbelieve in atheistic communist times. In seminary father Georgi studied together with his son. To be able to support himself and his family financially, he worked all kind of hard labour (sand mining near his village). His all life was labor and prayer in all his free time during studing he learned the church services, readhing the living of saints and holy bible.
Thanks to the house whom he turned into a small chapel almost 20 people become priests later in Bulgarian Orthodox Church. In his priesthood fr. Georgi was among the minority which opposed the ungodly communistic regime, he rejected to comply with communist desires to close the Church in Jeglarci and as a responce to their closure opened as a Church his own house. He was questioned and asked for reports being increminated from local Communist authorities, threatened with death and called in police stations many times because of his refusal to stop his service in Church and preaching the Gospel.
Here is a story of fr. Georgi's youth:
"Our Lord as a Good Father, not only listens our prayers but also reads in the hearts. In 1953 my brother Atanas was a soldier. We received a letter, that soldiers will be dismissed in January next year, this was a very long time. It was st. Dimiter's feast and I wanted my brother to be home for Christmas. At night I prayed the Lord, simple and by all my heart: "Lord for you nothing is hard or impossible. I beg you – in one way or another make it possible, that my brother Atanas to come home earlier.
I had a strong faith in God. My faith in God was so strong that I was feeling like being able to fly. In 3 days later only, when I saw my brother Atanas on the front door, my legs started shaking and I sat down, started crying and in my thoughts started giving thanks to the Lord, "Lord, Lord I'm a big sinner and what you've done for me the sinner … In a short while, my brother told me how in a human way everything ordered in a way that he was able to come home, 3 days after my prayer. When I received the letter on St. Dimiter's day I've prayed, the prayer was heard and God moved. The human mind is a spiritual substance connected with God. God orders things and we in a human way receive them. On the next day after st. Dimiter's feast the coy was gathered and the commander said, "Atanas Stoyanov Peichev, make 5 steps forward and start Marching!". Together with another man commander sent them in hospital, where a doctor had to inspect their health. The two soldiers took their luggate, foreseeing that they might be kept in hospital. The health check prooved they're healthy. There were 4 months until service completion but in hospital the doctor told them – "Come on go home. Your service is over". – Do you see how in a human way the things ordered. Disbelievers would say it was a coincidence but believers knows the Lord hears our prayers, when they're prayed by our whole being and with pure heart."
Saint George Church in Jeglarci – Altar and Dveri
Another of his stories is connected with fasting:
"The fasting of the body is a big power. It does clean up the body and draws us near God. The fasting gives a big power. I was hindered in many ways, disbelieving authorities in the village has done me many attempts to do me evil but the Lord has saved me. Didn't allowed them nothing bad to happen to me. He grant me powers, spirit to speak the truth and to not resign from righteousness. But I leave fasting …
Fasting and Prayer are lights leading to God. I was warned 3 times by our Lord about fasting significance. When we were living in North Dobrudja, following thing happened to me: " I was 15 years old. Near our village Karamankyoij a river rich of fish was flowing. One day my bigger brother cought a lot of fish from the white one. My father and all of us was tempted, we wanted eating and it was during the Great Lent. My father said, "Okay prepare the fish and let us eat, God will forgive us?" Notice he said that in faith! apostol Paul writes, 'who eat eats for the Lord and who doesn't eat- also doesn't eat for the Lord'". We have done so as well, we were big family 7-8 children, grandma, grandpa, my father, mother. Some eat others doesn't. I was in the group of those who ate. We ate and we went to bed. A sudden pain in stomach came … hard to explain. Nothing helps, a thought came to my mind: "Lord forgive me, I will no longer eat fish during fasting". The pain immediately disappeared I immediately got well.
But unfortunately I was weak. On the other day my brother prepared fish again and invited me.
– Genyo, come lets eat. – I suffered yesterday – I don't want. – Don't worry your pains was from something else not from the fish, come eat I beg you.
I was tempted and ate. We played until night time and all was well with me. In night, I fall asleep, but suddenly the pain come again, 3 times more painful. I thought I am dying, I was all sweating. My mother and grandma tried to heal me but nothing helped. Then I turned with a prayer to the Lord: "Please Lord forgive me this time also." And out of a sudden I hear a noise like from many waters coming like from heaven. Something went through me and took away the pain. There was a flash in front of my eyes. Do you see how merciful is the Lord!"
Among the many spiritual gifts of fr. Georgi is the gift of "foreseeing" (thoughts and deeds, and future). Many people who visited him later narrated the father told them things which helped them improve their spiritual life. During my first visit of the father I had the possibility to raise few questions on my spiritual life, his answers was a proove for myself that the fr. has truly the gift of sagacity. Father Georgi had many dreams during his life and many of his dreams were prophetic about future events to come. By his own words often God spoke to him in "dreams and visions". A very notable gift he has is the gift of humility and pure Godly love. He speaks in his stories about everyone including of many who tried to do him evil with profound love and forgiveness.
By prayers of father Georgi many miracles has happened, he openly speaks of this miracles, believing that through this the weak in faith are strengthened. The father says "Even if the whole earth is convincing me to deny what I saw and experienced with my spiritual eyes I will not forsake.
His humility is sincere, he says about himself: "I am just negligible mot and the miracle is not in human deed but in God's. God uses a lot simple people and through them creates miracle to edify "the smart", those which is of God is being remembered like it happened today. Wondrous are God's deeds!"
"The Spiritual deed is very hard. I have worked many kind of works, when you get tired you take a rest, and for the spirit there is no rest. What to say, how to behave, how to determine the spiritual in you, to be vigilant for your food and for body pureness for pureness of your thoughts and your heart … And of course the Prayer! This is a hard labour. The devil is trying to hit us exactly there, because in all those is the direct relationship with God. Your thought is careless, you remember "important" things, you get tired to be concentrated … And it is most harder to collect your mind and feelings and enter the heart with pure infinite faith that the Lord is with you and he hears you and then pray from all your heart and soul … So is this all easy?! And there is no end and there is no station. But once you live like this there is delight and you can't live no longer in another way …"
On 19th of January each year, many of the Orthodox Churches who still follow the Old Church Calendar celebrate one of the 12 most important feasts in Church life.
On this date Russian Orthodox Church Serbs, Ukrainians, Molodovan and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are celebrating.
In Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Greek and Romanian, Croatia and other Eastern Orthodox who follow new calendar, The Day of Jordan (The day in which Jesus was baptized in Jordan) is celebrated on 6-th of January on the same date when Russian, Serbs, Ukrains and other Orthodox Churches using old calendar celebrate Nativity of Christ.
The feast of Baptism of Christ is one of the most ancient feasts in Church history. Here is the Church troparion as sung on (Jordanov den – as we say in Bulgaria – St. John's Day).
Epiphany Troparion / Ð¢Ñ€Ð¾Ð¿Ð°Ñ€ÑŒ ÐšÑ€ÐµÑ‰ÐµÐ½Ð¸Ñ (Troparion The Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ in Russian)
Ð¢Ñ€Ð¾Ð¿Ð°Ñ€ÑŒ ÐšÑ€ÐµÑ‰ÐµÐ½Ð¸Ñ Ð“Ð¾ÑÐ¿Ð¾Ð´Ð½Ñ (Troparion Kreshtenie Gospodne as sung in city of Luhovic Russia
Tropar Bogojavljenja – The Lord's Baptism in Serbian Orthodox Church
The Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ hymn in Arabic
It is interesting fact to know that in Roman Catholic Church and most western countries the feast of Epiphany is known as the feast of Three Magi Kings (The Three Wise man who came to bring expensive gifts to venerate the birth of King of Kings the Lord Jesus Christ). Many of the traditions accepted in Western Countries for Epiphany are very similar to traditions practiced by countries where there is widespread Roman Catholicism influence. I've red about the feast as practiced in various countries in Western Europe and it appears many of the traditions are similar as paradigm to German and Dutch SinterKlaas (Saint Nicolas) feast. It is interesting fact that some of the traditions like the releasing of the Cross in Rivers by the Orthodox Priest and cross take out by the bravest man in Bulgaria is also practiced in Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and probably some Orthodox Christian regions of countries belonging to ex-YugoSlavia.
Just a day after the 3 days of Joy of Nativity, on 29-th of December, in Bulgarian Orthodox Church we remember the massacre of 14000 innocent infants in Bethlehem. Those unhuman act was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the Book of Prophet Jeremiah.
The murder of the 14000 infants by Herode's sent soldiers in his futile attempt to kill the new born king The Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was in a panical fear that the new born child might put him off from the throne. Being driven by his lust for power being unable to find the infant Jesus, he ordered to kill all the infants in Betlehem in age less than 2 year.
Herode, did not succeeded, as by God providence for salvation of mankind through his only begotten son Jesus Christ, sent Angel to warn for the coming of the soldiers. And the Holy Virgin Marry and saint Joseph (being around age 80 at that time) fled to Egypt.
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Matthew 2:13-15
Here is the text from the Holy Gospel according to Mathew describing the terrible act of the Holy innocents.
A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. Matthew 2:18 (KJV Holy Bible)
Today the sadness of the day is double as it is a date in which we co-memorate the killing of 14000 innocent children killed in the name of lust for power and greed as well as the usual Friday fasting we have in the Church in remembrance of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ on Golgotha cross.
The 14000 infants are considered the first baby Christian martyrs for the name of Christ. The rage of Herod fell also on Simeon the God-Receiver, who declared in witness in front of everyone in the Temple that the Messiah had been born. When the holy elder died, Herod would not give permission that he be properly buried.
On the orders of king Herod, the holy prophet and priest Zachariah also was killed: they murdered him in the Jerusalem Temple betwixt the Offertory and the Altar – because he would not tell the whereabouts of his son John, the future Baptist of the Lord Jesus Christ.
GodÅ› righteous punishment came forth quickly upon Herod himself: an horrid condition struck him down and he died – devoured by worms while still alive. Before his death the impious king accomplished full measure of his wicked deeds: he murdered chief-priests and scribes among the Jews, and also his brother by birth, and his sister and her husband, and also his own wife Mariam and three of his sons, and likewise 70 men of wisdom that were members of the Sanhedrin.
The 14000 infants are the ChurchÅ› major prayer intercessors for all children killed in abortions. The 14000 infant martyrs are great prayer intercessors for people who sinned with the sin of Abortion. Let the 14000 Holy infant Martyrs pray the Lord to have mercy on all us sinners and by their holy prayers to protect new born children from becoming a victim of abortion.
Last Sunday ( The day of the Resurrection – Voskresenie ) – as called in the largest Orthodox Christian country Russia), I've attended a Roman Catholic Holy Mass.
The reason for me to attend a Holy Mass in the Roman Catholic Church Saint Martinus Kerk in Arnhem, the Netherlands, was my desire to have a better understanding on Catholicism.
I should add I'm firmly Orthodox Christian and I know pretty well the evils Roman Catholic initiated Crusades have done I have no intention to be in any prayer or Eucharistic Union with Roman Catholics ever. Besides that I went to the Holy Mass service with the blessing of my priest, as I've asked him if he will bless me to go and be their with only educational aim.
The reason I don't want to pray or commune with them is pretty simple Roman Catholic Crusaders with their aggressive attempts tried to convert Bulgarian nations to Roman Catholicism on a multiple times.
Just to mention few of the other historical reasons which make me look with scepticism to Roman Catholics is the fact that on Holy Mount Athos where we Bulgarian Orthodox have our strong spiritual fortress the monastery of Zographus under the patronage of Saint George the Glorybringer , Roman Catholic crusaders killed 26 of our monks with no evident reason coming and burning all of them, while they were all together in a prayer to the Lord. Nowadays the 26 Martyrs for Christ are saints in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church – as the 26 saints from Zographus (Zograf). Along with the 26 Zographus martyrs was also the monastery abbot who in advance is known to have been notified by the Holy Theotokos (Virgin Mary) about the coming of the Crusaders (Cross scoffers – as they were called by our country priest fr. Veliko in Dobrich once).
It is known fact by every Orthodox Christian who seriously considers his faith and research in it about the erroneous nature of Roman Catholicism. We the Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics are no longer in Eucharist Union since the great schism. It is true the consequences around the West and East Church were very complex and partially two-fold, as it happened in times where the Country Government (Empire Government) was more or less bounded with the Church. However even though that it is a fact we Orthodox stayed keeping the decisions of the Holy Fathers taken priorly on the Ecumenical Church Councils in this number keeping the Necene Creed of Faith intact, where Roman Catholics changed it. It is also a fact in the Roman Catholic Church a supremacy of one person over the whole Christiandom was claimed a doctrine now recognized by early Church. The problems with Roman Catholics after the Schism and their division from the Christ truth has progressed severely as one can see in some events like the Witch Huntings / The Inquisition, The Crusaders marches, the doctrine of the infallability of the Pope and many many other doctrines which are ridiculous and out of truth and away from the teachings of the early Church Holy Fathers.
Just to name a few of the huge mistakes of Roman Catholics in their understanding of faith;
The layman in Roman Catholic Church is administered in communion only the Flesh of Christ (The Bread which mystically gets transformed to Christ's Body), where only priests receive holy communion of both the Blood and the Flesh of Christ – Even the simplest reading of the Holy Gospel shows clearly this is a big mistake; We read in Holy Gospel Christ instructing us his pupils to eat his flesh and drink his blood which are being shed for our sins. Christ further says in the Gospels, whoever did not drink his blood and eat his flesh he is no one with our saviour Christ (The Messiah).
A multiple times of Holy Liturgy is served on the same alter, again breaking Church dogmatical truths decided in assembly during the few early Church Ecumenical Councils.
The wrong understanding of supremacy of saint Apostle Paul and interpreting erroneously parts of the Holy Gospels and chapters from Holy Bible's New Testament. Roman Catholics says the saying that the keys to the kingdoms of heaven will be given to saint Paul means saint Paul is the person who allows people enter heaven and he is given spiritual authority and the Grace of the the Lord Jesus Christ to spread his salvational grace to the rest of layman (the newly baptized members of the Church)
The erroneous understanding that the Priest within the Roman Catholic Church is a mediator between God and man. In orthodox Church the priest is considered an unworthy servant just like he multiple times says both during Holy Liturgies (like Holy Mass Church services) and even during people's confession.
The confession practice in Roman Catholic mistakes, in Roman Catholic Church the person does not openly confess to the priest eyes to eyes like in our Orthodox Church, the person has to confess in a special room, where both of the sides the Layman and Clergyman does not see each other. The priest symbolizes God who hears the confession in secret. The problem with this is again the same the priest is there just a "substitute for God". Just as a frame of comparison in Orthodox Church, we always confess openly in front of the priest face to face and most importantly in front of a Christ's icon which is always put near. In orthodox Church it is Christ's icon which Symbolizes God and actually it is just a symbolism and the icon itself is not representing God. During Orthodox Confession we know God and his Holy Angels is present and listen to the confession with no any representative. One more general problem with Roman Catholic Confession is the fact that if the confessing person does not see the priest face to face, his guiltiness of having confessed in front of a person is much lessened. According to our Orthodox Christian Church it is exactly those guiltiness during confession of layman to priest face to face which often makes us experience shame and is 1 barrier during next time we're thinking or willing to do the same sin. It is much to be said here probably but as the aim of this article was completely different I will stop here with Roman Catholic errs.
Even all its problems we cannot simply reject the importance of Roman Catholic Church easily and we should say through the ages even though not possessing the Grace of Christ in fullness as our Orthodox Church has it, still a lot of the ancient understandings and beliefs (but again not all) concerning our Christian faith are present in Roman Catholics. After all Roman Catholic Church is the closest to belief and Christian liturgical practices to the Orthodox Church. However the problem with it again is that what the Roman Catholic Church offers is not complete and from perspective of the many saints in our Orthodox Church, the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church is not salvational.
Now after having all this, I will go back to the topic of my article, which was to give ,my personal Orthodox Christian perspective on Roman Catholicism. What I say may not be all truth and I'm not a representative of Orthodox Church in any way but it is my just observations based on my knowledge about our Orthodox Christian faith and my common sense, I'm just a layman in Orthodox Church, so i'm prone to sinfulness and mistakes. Thus if I'm mistaken forgive me.
I. What I've noticed in the Roman Catholic Church to be wrong from perspective teaching of the Holy Fathers and practice in our Orthodox Church
1. First thing noticable in the Roman Catholic Church was on the entrance of the Saint Martinus Church (which btw is located in Steenstraat just 2 minutes walk from the city center)
On the entrance there is a huge statue of Christ the saviour surrounded by Angels. We know well that in orthodox Church we rejected statues as they profane understanding of the depicted person and along with that are in no difference to idols. Some might argue the situation with the Holy icons is also like with statues, but in reality it is not due to the fact the icons are the icon painter best attempt to display Christ and the Holy Theotokos the saints, the martyrs and all that is in heaven. With Stone Statues instead of icons the depiction is much more profaned and even looking grotesque to the observer (profaning the person it illustrates, also it is fact that many of the worldly rulers like Napoleon and many ancient kings ordered creation of Stones, even in old testament it was a stone statue which was ordered to be venerated instead of God, also in the old testament it was the Golden calf which is again a statue which served to be an idol for people …. there probably hundreds or even thousands of reasons one can easily see, by simply reading the Holy Gospels).
Another thing about the statues is the material of statues is usually a stone or a variation of stone the stone is hard or impossible to burn and does not have heat or hardly possesses heat, also it never used to be a living matter but is indifferent. All materials in icons is just for a contrast made of organic substances.
2. The enormous size of the Cathedrals and the General Church architectures
The Cathedrals size is subject of praise and admiration. It is really a miracle that such a majestic buildings occur, I or anyone sane person canno simply skip that. However this enormous sizes of Cathedrals makes the person feel little and insignificant for God. Where in fact we read in the Holy Gospels; I recite by memory "…. for God so much loved the Lord so he gave his only begotten son so nobody perish but all be saved through faith in the name of his only begotten son our Lord ….". The sharp architecture of domes (coupols) in the Roman Catholic Church I find rather (impudent) / bold to God, and in my view it spills lack of humility.
3. The benches in the Church, though it is great to have benches in the Church having benches for everyone doesn't seem like something too good. After all one has a week time to stay on his chair at home and usually the time spend in Church service is about 1.5 to 2 hours time. It is good to have some benches for the old people whose health does not allow them to stay right, but having a bench for all is just an extra confort which brings the heart and mind back to the earthly thoughts.
4. The Crucifix of the Lord Jesus Christ – on the crucifix in Roman Catholic Churches we see our Lord Jesus Christ crucified being in torture on the Cross.
In Orthodox Church Christ is on the Cross but already peacefully given the spirit – as the Lord Jesus said – "Lord in your hands I command my spirit". Having depicted Christ torturing might trigger in non-believers and even in believers a thoughts on the topic of sadism. Other error noticable was on the Crucifix itself, in Roman Catholic Churches the Lord's legs are pierced by one nail. Whether we know in Orthodox Church tradition, both of the legs of our Lord Jesus Christ was pierced with 2 nails. Actually in the few other Cathedrals where I've been and all across the Roman Catholic art I've seen I see this kind of inclanation to depict moments of the suffering and death of Christ. Nothing bad with that but I think this is too much. After all even though all the Crucifix is the center of our Christian faith, we should not forget the rest of the Holy Scriptures. It is my view by concentrating on Christ's suffering to Golgotha (Christ's trial) and our Lord's Crucifix, we tend to forget about the rest of the Holy Scriptures. For comparison in the Orthodox Church every fresco icon painted and icons reminds is in much bigger details to events from Holy Gospels and life events of the saints. The "visual information" provided in our Orthodox Church through frescos and holy icons is much more and better selected reminding us always of all the Holy Scriptures just like every Holy Liturgy is a remembrance of Christ's eathly life, crucifix for our sins, Glorious Resurrection, descendance to Hell and Ascendance to Heaven …..
5. The Priest's position towards people; heading most of the time backwards the Holy Alter and backwards the Alter Crucifix and the 12 apostles.
In the Orthodox Church during our Holy Liturgy the priest most of the time is praying and heading his face to the East (In our Churches the alter should always be headed East). In Roman Catholic Church, I've noticed a lot of alters are positioned South, West, North. During most of the Holy Mass goes the priest is staying with his back towards the Holy Alter …. in a way looks like turning back to God. As the layman pray towards his face it symbolically seems like the laymen are praying to him like he being a mediator. I know according to Roman Catholicism dogmatism this is not so, but really for me it looks like so.
6. 6 candlers burns on the Alter instead of the usual 7 or 8 in our Orthodox Churches
6 in itself is not a bad number, but I really see no reason for 3 candles to burn on one side of the Crucifix and 3 more to burn on the other side (overall numbering 6). Even in Jewish old testament tradition the Menora is burning a 7 candles, ancient Church followed some of the old times tradition just we can see even to this day. According to Ancient even pre-Church existence faith tradition it was never 6 candles to burn on the alter.
7. The position of "icon" depicting the Last Supper.
Maybe it is just in st. Martinus Kerk in Arnhem and not all practice in all Roman Catholic Church parishes, however on those one it rather striked me. The Last Supper showing the Lord Jesus eating with the 12 Holy Apostles is positioned on parallel hight with legs. Really it looked like pure mockery with Christ and the Holy Eucharist. It is common sense that tells me this painting can only go over the head of the Priest or layman. It is exactly like this in our Orthodox Churhces. Above the head of us above the Dveri (Alter Portals) is located an icon with the Last Support…
8. The too much talking by priest and clergy during the service.
I had the impression that the overall prayers and singing in glorification of God is less than the General "talks" which seemed like a lecture by the priest right during the service. I don't speak Dutch so I could not understand all but the gestures of the priest and the overall face expression and intonation was clearly showing he is definitely not reading prayers or from the Gospel. Here is good time to say he also read from the Holy Gospels, as far as I could understand (at least it looked l ike this I don't speak Dutch so don't know for sure), here I liked that whether there was a Gospel Reading there was silence and there was no priest or deacon with the incense-burner (censer) disturbing the Holy Gospel readings. This is something good, but on the other hand in some of our Orthodox Churches (in smaller ones) though the incense incense-burner is making noises still it is hear-able for the layman, so this is not really a big issue in our Orthodox Church. Something else here that rather striked, me that along with the clergy a woman was reading or even talking things on a microphone right on the middle of the Holy Mass !
9. The side alters which even didn't have a Crucifix on it
st. Martinus Cathedral is with 3 Alters, one central and 2 side on left and right. On the left side Alter I clearly remember on the top of the Alter was (Mother Mary? holding a Cross). I've longly heard that in Roman Catholic Church there are wrong doctrines about Virgin Mary (like the doctrine that Mother Mary was sinless), but having an Alter like this in my view is wrong. On the Center of the Alter the only proper thing that seems to fit my understanding is a Crucifix. We also have an icon of Mother Mary on our Orthodox Church alters, however it is an icon positioned on the left side and not on the center of the Alter. In the Center of the Alter is always Christ on the Cross who completed our salvation and redemption on the Cross for us all.
10. The late time in which the Church service started
The Church service started about 11:10 or 11:15. I have not heard or know any Orthodox Church that starts the Holy Liturgy after 10:30. Actually if I'm not mistaken there is an ancient church rule saying the Holy Liturgy should over no later than 12:00 oclock? I heard this and did not investigated so I'm not completely certain if it is true or not? If any orthodox brothers and sisters knows drop a comment.
11. The feeling impression of incompleteness of the Holy Mass
I didn't have the temper to stay until the end of the Holy Mass. I stayed maybe about 45 minutes. It all started nice music, Organs sounded peaceful and beautiful. It felt a bit like a symphonious orchestra concert, but it was peaceful so in beginning I like it. Later when the Priest and clergy came it all changed, especially when the priest and the Lady started speaking to people on the Microphone. This was like an interruption of the prayer and the natural way it all go. This happened on a few occasions so it was a mixture of harmoneous Organ Instrument sounds with the (Church choire accompany) and the priest and lady interfering. I respect all so I don't want to offend any of the devoted Roman Catholics but I just tell how it looked like to me. So if you're a Roman Catholic insulted please Forgive me
12. Donations demand before the end of the Service and before distributing the Holy Communion
I stayed in the Church until the moment, they asked for donations. I'm not Roman Catholic and don't agree or wanted to help Roman Catholic Church, as it is not my Church and besides that it preaches incomplete Christianity. I stand up and went out of the Church. Moreover I'm a poor person, and can't afford to help them so but anyways as I said even if I could have possibility I would not give them donation but would rather give my donation to the mostly poor Orthodox Church. Later I've figured out the donation part is followed by the Eucharist Liturgy part, as I've studied a bit about Roman Catholicism as explained by a devoted Roman Catholics. The problem with asking for donation right before the Eucharist and the transfiguration of the eucharistics – holy gifts is the layman's attention is totally distracted from the main purpose of the service – the Holy Eucharist.
II. What I liked (enjoyed) in the Roman Catholic Church
1. The Choire and the Organ
I liked the quire and the organ, it felt like peaceful to listen to that, but that's all it was more human symphology than divine one. However, an instrument existence during the service sacrifices part of it is spirtiuality. The organ is not spirited (Not a living soul), and thus from purely spiritual point of view it is much better that we don't have any musical instruments in the Orthodox Church. There is a believe in the Orthodox Church, that we use only people's voices (singing) to glorify the Lord for the reason, man was the most higher creation of God and therefore it is righteous that God is glorified by using the voice of his most magnificient creation the man.
2. The meditation idea in the Roman Catholic Church
I liked those partially but same time I rejected the idea. The idea that they speak of meditation might implant in the unknowing non-Christian the idea that in the Church people go to meditate instead of praying. It gives the idea the goal of Christianity is to just be in some kind of "inactive" peacefulness. The heroism of attending the Grace of Christ is somehow missing all this 'meditation'. It is also rather easy for people to think that Buddhist meditation is like Christian meditation. The Church had an entrance on the Right Corner, which I liked. There was a fresco remake of an Orthodox icon depicting the Holy Theotokos with Christ. It was a quite place like Paraklis (small chapel), where one can spend some time alone and pray to God asking for help and forgiveness of sins. In this little room I saw a notebook, where different people have written petitions to the Holy Theotokos, for physical healing, life blessing and all kind of petitions we humans have. I really liked that a lot in some form there is a similar "non written" tradition in our Orthodox Church, as people write their petitions on small piece of papers and put them under icons or near the Alter walls or just leave them somewhere in Monasteries and Church buildings. However though I liked that after thing for it I realized this is not 100% inline with faith, for the reason God knows every person on earth's heart and his presence is virtually everywhere, we know he even knows our thoughts before we think them. So what would be the reason to place them on piece of paper, where we can pray it simply with few words – he already knows it
3. What else I liked about the Roman Catholic Church (Synthesized)
I liked in the Roman Catholic Church, a lot of the well organized brochures, Church singing notes papers, leaflets and general organization in the Church. If we talk about simply organizing, they definitely beat us Orthodox. Everything in the Church seemed well coordinated. The Church choire sing very well and obviously well coordinated too. This however is also something which might be put to trial. Such a well coordinated organization that is in the Roman Catholic seems to human. If we look in the nature, we see the coordination of things are there but not to the moment of perfection. The strive of Roman Catholics for perfection in both buildings and general organization is therefore I think not in consonance with the natural life as God created it. Also the lack of such "strict" organization in the Orthodox Church is an evidence of people's free will and unique identity.
4. The many people attending Holy Mass (people have faith)
Another thing I very much liked is the Roman Catholic Church was mostly full with people including a lot of young people under 30 years old.Maybe 1/6 of all people in the Church was from 15 to 30, 35 years. I don't know if the Sunday 1 of December 2012, when I attended the Church it was a big feast for Roman Catholics as I'm not aware of their Gregorian Church calendar, however it seems like a normal Sunday and still there were plenty of people attending, meaning people had faith.Sadly as of time of writting in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, one can very rarely see people under 40 or 50, most of people attending Church services are over 50, though sometimes young enter our Churches to light up a candle and for private prayer.
I will close this post with a video, I've searched on the Internet aiming to explain Roman Catholicism. It is not a critical but made by Roman Catholics, still the info it presents is interesting and partly what is said of symbols discussed is valid for Orthodox Christians priesthood too. After all the Roman Catholic Church though it has went away from the source is still preserving some general patterns of original true Christian faith kept and preserved in the Orthodox Church through the centuries.
With all said I pray and Hope God will turn back Roman Catholics to the True One Holy Apostolic Church – The Orthodox Church, but I realize for this happen it will be very difficult if not impossible. But wondrous are the deeds of the Lord
Roman Catholic Mass explained
The video is probably taken from a Roman Catholic Monastery and probably served under the old Roman Catholic Rite, this is the reason why the priest and the "server" (The Ipodiaconus) is all the time praying and headed to the Holy Alter. The Roman Catholic Holy Mass has nothing to do with what is on the video. Probably in Roman Catholic monasteries the Spiritual life is in a much higher state than in the regular country Churches. Notice on the video, where the Dove (bird) symbol of The Descending of the Holy Spirit is placed it is on the level of the knees of the priest, just like I saw the Last Support in the Roman Catholic Church in Arnhem, it seems this error is repeated is in many if in not all Roman Catholic Churches.
As a conclusion I should say, I'm glad the Roman Catholic Church is existent here in the West. After all Roman Catholics do pray the Lord's prayer and surely there are people among them who are trying to live a true Christian life. I've noticed many Roman Catholic Churches has an Orthodox Icon or some kind of copy of an Orthodox icon. Being out on the street and walking, it is good to see the sign of the cross on a Church building, even if this building is not orthodox. Also all Roman Catholic Churches just like us Orthodox do embed a particle of a saint inside the Church alter. With the reason the Eastern and Western Church was one in the past it is likely big number of the Roman Catholic Churches has a saint Relic particles in their alter and by this the whole building is sanctified. Also it is not rare to find a an Eastern Orthodox Church saint Holy Relics somewhere kept across Roman Catholic Churches. Though we the Orthodox Christians are prohibited to pray together and take communion in an Roman Catholic Church it is always nice to enter a Roman Catholic Church and experience few minutes of silence and see a Cross and images reminding us for Christ, Virgin mary the Martyrs, the eucharist and God's greatness.
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