Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Saint Hieromartyr Therapont of Serdika ( Sofia ) martyred year † 1555 for Christ

Thursday, May 26th, 2022

Saint Therapontius of Serdika is celebrated every year on on May 27 in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, together with St. Holy Martyrs Therapont of Sardis († 259). He is born and lived in the ancient city of Serdika (today Sofia).

He is part of the nine saints of Sofia, that are celebrated in the Church throughout the Liturgical year.

A little is known of him and just like the martyrologies of much of the ancient saints, we have only few sentences left mentioning his great martyrdom for Christ, along with other local Bulgarian saints. He has a written  celebration service in the Minelogion Church book for  27-th of May.
Minelogion for those unaware is one of the service books used in the Night and Morning services songs and containing services details about the glorified saints for each day of the year.

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Troparion of the Holy Martyr, voice 4
He became a partaker of morals and viceroy of the apostles
in the way of your contemplation, inspired by God, you have done deeds,
therefore you have faithfully taught the word of truth,
for his faith he suffered even to the point of blood,
Holy Martyr Therapont, beg the Christ God to save our souls.

 

Saint Hieromartyr Therapont of Roman Fortress Serdika ( Sofia )
The famous Bulgarian medieval historian Matei Gramatik, who was a contemporary of Saint Nicholas of Sofia (a 15h century famous Bulgarian martyr saint) and a witness to his martyrdom in 1555, who wrote his biography with great skill, writes about this holy martyr. There he describes the situation in which St. Nicholas of Sofia lived – both geographically and spiritually.
In his description of the spiritual situation, he gives brief information about the saints of Sofia, including St. Terapont of Serdica (Sofia). He writes:

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"When you listen for the inhabitants of Sofia, don't think about the current contemporary ones,
but for the heavenly ones, who were once co-inhabitants of us and now live with the angels.
So forth it is beneficial, to tell about 2 , 3 of them. The holy hieromartyr Therapontius, who
being a citizen of this place and a presbyter of the holy God's Church in Serdika (Sofia), lived filled
with lot of virtues and at the end, during the persecutions of Christians, has been detained by guards
by the lawless for his Christ confession. After a lot of martyrs and being enchained with a heavy
iron chains, he has been put out of the city and on a distance of one day walking, on
this place he was beheaded and henceforth he received a martyrs death for Christ.
They say on the place where his blood was shed, in that time a large oak tree has grown  and it is seen until today and there a lot of miraculous healings occur,
whenever one comes with faith."

Today a part of this trunk of the oak is kept as a sacred relic in the ancient Sofia's capital ancient church "St. Petka", where the memory of the holy martyr is celebrated every year on May 27.

Translated from: © Lives of the Saints Book. Synodal Publishing House, Sofia, 1991, edited by Parthenius, Bishop of Lefkada and Archimandrite Dr. Athanasius (Bonchev).


Another Bulgarian saint Paisios of Hilendar / Paisij Hilendarski (1722 – 1773) also mentions in his history book History of the Slavo-Bulgarians states: "There are three holy martyrs in the city of Sofia:
1) St. George;
2) St. Nicholas;
3) St. Terapontius.

This saint was a priest in town of Tran, where many people now go for healing. Where in the Turks has slayered the saint a an oak greaw and with his prayers a lot of healing is given on the place of this oak. Same manner Saints George and Nicholas suffered from the godless Turks during Selim's reign; and their holy relics give healing in this city of Sofia. "

Icon Images of St. Therapontius are known to exist today from the XIX century. There are icons icons in the Sofia church "St. Paraskeva ”, in Pernik, in the church of " St. Petka ” in Sofia, fresco in the church“ St. Dimitar ” in the village of Yarlovtsi, Transko, wherein used to an icon also whose location now is unknown.

In Tran and Godech respectively there were folk customs associated with the saint and therein and in the region he is revered as a healer and protector of the harvests.
There is also a cave in Trun, which is indicated as a refuge for the saint.
A chapel in his name was in the city, burned by the Turks in the 30s of the XIX century.

In Glory of St. Terapontius of Sofia during the Second World War and until 1957 was dedicated the Revival church "Holy Trinity ", today – Saint Great-martyr (Mina)  Menas, in the Slatina district of Sofia. The church was built on the remains of the monastery “Holy  Trinity", according to mouth to mouth tradition kept for ages. 

According to the legend, the saint was slaughtered here and this gives some reason to presume that St. Terapontius might have been one of the spiritual fathers who were serving in the monastery at that time.

Let by the holy prayers of Saint Terapont God gives forgives to our multitude of transgressions and grants more Peace, Love, Hope, Faith and goodness to everyone !

Christ is Risen ! Truly He is Risen ! The origin of the tradition Paschal Greeting and Coloring of Eggs on Easter Holidays in the Church

Wednesday, April 27th, 2022

 

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Christ is Risen ! Truly He is Risen !

Христос воскресе ! Воистину воскресе ! (Khristos voskrese! Voistinu voskrese!) – Church Slavonic Paschal Greeting

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!  Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη ! (Khristós anésti! – Alithós anésti!) – Greek Paschal Greeting

Christus Resurrexit ! Resurrexit Vere ! – Latin Paschal Greeting

The Easter Eggs are so famous today for the kids worldwide, even though the world does not put much accent on the feast of Pascha (Easter). All kind of colored eggs are to be find in stores, many christian countries both Western and Eastern all throughout the world have the tradition of coloring eggs for Easter. 
The tradition is also the same here in Orthodox Bulgaria, as we have the tradition to boil and color eggs in various colors. 
Usually the first egg is colored in Dark Red and once sanctified in the Church is put on the iconostasis (the prayer corner in the house) in front of Christ, Virgin Mary and saints icons and kept their until next year.

Miraculously this Egg usually does not start decaying or smelling as an ordinary egg will do if left out of the fridge for a month or so. This first egg in dedication and memory of Christ's resurrection is kept on the iconostasis until the next year's Pascha and then buried somewhere in a green clean place for sanctification of the land.

This is a good and well followed tradition for those strict about religion, but even those who did not strictly follow Christianity or orthodoxy do color eggs for the fun of kids and as an expression for joy of the Paschal feast. Both grown and kids then try out their forces whose egg is more powerful by knocking each other's eggs to test whose egg shell is more solid and can stand up the break. The egg that is "victorious" once people test their power that is stronger and withstand the "egg fight" is kept for another egg duel with another person.

According to old superstitious belief if you win over in an eggs fight this is interpteted as you will have a good health and well being for the upcoming period till next year's Pascha.
 

How and from wherein this Boiled Eggs coloring originated ?


The short answer is it is connected to one of Church's traditions about the poor apostle Equal Saint Mary ( Maria ) Magdalene, who have given as a gift to Roman emperor Tiberius an Egg with the All Famous Greeting dialog in the Orthodox Churches among people with person A saying:   Christ is Risen ! person B responding: Truly he is Risen! (Христос Воскресе Войстину Воскресе !)

From the time of the many appearances of the Savior Christ in flesh after his Glorious Resurrection described by the Holy Evangelists in the Gospels and the fervent sermon of St. Mary Magdalene (one of the of the so called Myrrh- Bearing Woman who were the first who have visited the tomb where Dead body of Christ was led and become witnesses of  the Resurrection). The surviving Bible's New Testament 4 Gospel books do not provide further details about the activities of St. Mary Magdalene and her life. The Church mouth-by -mouth tradition of her later life in several local Christian churches differ slightlyhowever everywhere they essentially report on the zealous co-apostolic activity of St. Mary Magdalene. And the differences between these traditions depend on which of the evangelical women these churches understand by the name of St. Mary Magdalene.

Some Western Christian churches, as well as the Church Fathers and learned theologians, unite in one or two personalities three evangelical women: the sinner who repented in the house of Simon the Pharisee, shed tears at the Savior Christ's feet, wiped them with her hair. and she anointed them with precious ointment, and Mary of Bithynia, sister of Lazarus of Bythynia ( resurrected in the fourth day after death by Chrsit and commemorated one day before Palm Sunday )' and Mary Magdalene, who was delivered from the Savior Christ by seven demons. But the Orthodox Church now, as before, recognizes those mentioned in the Gospels with different signs, three persons as different separate ones, and does not want to base historical information on arbitrary, plausible interpretations. Therefore, the tradition of the Orthodox Church states that after the Gospel appearances of the Risen Christ before His Ascension and after, St. Mary Magdalene resided with the Blessed Virgin and the Apostles and was an active helper of the first successes of spreading the Christian faith first in Jerusalem. But full of zeal, fervent faith, and zealous love for God's gospel, she then preached in other lands, proclaiming everywhere the heavenly grace, joy, and salvation of all who believed in the Savior of the world, the Risen Christ.

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While visiting Italy to preach, St. Mary Magdalene found an opportunity to appear before the then-reigning Emperor Tiberius I, and presented him, according to generally accepted Eastern custom, with an egg painted red and greated him with "Christ is risen!"

The modesty of the gift of Mary Magdalene did not surprise the emperor, because he knew the ancient custom of the East, also among the Jews, going for the first time to superiors, or on solemn occasions to acquaintances or patrons, to offer a gift of honor, with some known or special, symbolic meaning. Examples of this can be found in Jewish Old Testament history, as are the gifts presented by the rich Wise men (magis – today their relics are kept for veneration in Cathedral of Cologne Germany) to the born Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judea. Even the poor in such cases offered as a gift various fruits from their locality or eggs from birds. Thus, partly following this ancient custom and with the red color of the egg laid and with the hitherto unheard words "Christ is risen!" to arouse the curiosity of the suspicious Emperor Tiberius. The holy co-apostle Mary Magdalene, by explaining the significance of this gift, began her fervent sermon on the Resurrection truth and the teachings of the Savior Christ for salvation. With great inspiration and conviction she told the emperor about the life, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ according to his own prophecy. She gave a direct, simple-minded account of the extremely unjust, biased judgment of Jesus Christ by the embittered members of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. governor of Judea Pilate of Pontus, in condemning Jesus Christ to crucifixion. She explained how all this incurred the wrath of the Roman emperor then and how Tiberius handed them over to a court in which Pilate was deprived of power and exiled to Gaul, in the city of Vienna, where, according to legend, tormented by remorse and despair, he killed himself. According to another legend, Pilate repented, turned to Christ in prayer, as a sign of which his head was accepted by an angel after being cut off.

According to Church tradition, the sisters of Lazarus Martha and Mary went to Italy with St. Mary Magdalene; and Pilate, learning of this and fearing the denunciation of his unlawful actions by the Christians, himself sent a message to the Emperor Tiberius about Jesus Christ, in which he testified to the virtuous life of Christ, the healing of all diseases and infirmities from Him, even for the resurrection of the dead and for His other great miracles. Pilate asserted that in examining the accusations of the Jews, he found no fault in Jesus Christ; he made great efforts to deliver Him from the hands of the troubled Jews, but failed to deliver Him and betrayed Jesus to their will because of the cries of the people and the rebellious accusation of the Jews against Pilate himself …

 

... as a witness, overwhelmed with fear, he told the emperor about everything that had happened to Jesus Christ, who became an object of faith as God …

After such testimonies from the Roman governor of Judea and the worshipers of the Savior Christ, Emperor Tiberius, according to legend, himself believed in the Savior Christ, proposed to include Jesus Christ in the image of the Roman gods, and even when the Roman Senate rejected this proposal, Tiberius by royal decree threatened to punish anyone who dared to grieve believers in Jesus Christ.

In this way, with the zealous, fearless sermon on the Savior Christ, St. Mary Magdalene, along with other devout Christians, persuaded the pagan governor of Judea to testify in writing about the universal event of Christ's Resurrection before the pagan world and persuaded the then Roman emperor of the Savior Christ, thus facilitating the spread of Christianity.

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Anastasis (Resurrection) Church Fresco


And the Christians of that time, learning about the significance and strength of the impression caused by the offering of a red egg by Mary Magdalene to Emperor Tiberius with the words: "Christ is risen!" then began to imitate her in this and as a remembrance of Christ's Resurrection they began to give each other red eggs and say: "Christ is risen! … He is risen indeed! …"

Thus, this custom gradually spread everywhere and became universal for Christians around the world. In it, the egg serves as a symbol of Christ's resurrection and the resurrection of the dead, and of our expected new-birth for eternal bliss in the future life, the pledge for which is Christ's Resurrection.

Just as a bird is born from an egg and begins to live an independent life after its release from the shell, and the vast circle of life is revealed to it, so we, at the second coming of Christ to earth , rejected from ourselves together with the earthly body all that is mortal on earth.

By the power of Christ's Resurrection we will be resurrected and resurrected to another, higher, eternal, immortal life.

And the red color of the Easter egg reminds us that the redemption of mankind and our future new life have been acquired through the shedding of the cross on the pure blood of the Savior Christ.

Thus, the red egg serves to remind us of one of the most important dogmas of the Divine revealed Christian faith.

 

After the crucifixion of Jesus by the Jews in terrible miracles took place in nature, many dead righteous people rose, with His resurrection on the third day.Pilate, as a witness overwhelmed with great fear, informed the Caesar of all things that had happened to Jesus Christ.

In Eastern Orthodox Tradition Christ is Risen ! Truly he is Risen Greeting is used to joyfully great each other all around the Orthodox countries in the first 3 days of easter, and can be used instead of normal Hello greeting ! for the upcoming week The Holy Easter Weak which is a week of great joy and even by a hello greating in the Church could be used for 40 days as a normal greeting.

It is worthy to close this article with the praisal words, read on the first day of Pascha  authored by one of the most important Church fathers and
compiler of most served Liturgy service throughout the yearly service calendar:

"Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept."

Saint John Chrysostom

The names of the Twelve apostles of Christ – Feast of the Twelve Glorious and Primal Apostles in Eastern Orthodox Church (30th of June)

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

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Jesus and his Twelve Apostles, fresco with the Chi-Rho symbol ☧, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome

One day after the June 29 the Feast of The Glorious and First among Apostles Peter and Paul  on 30th of June according to so called new calendar in the Eastern Orthodox Church comes, the remembrace of Feast of the gathering of 12 Glorious apostles (Σύναξη των Αγίων Δώδεκα Αποστόλων).

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The Secret Supper (Christ and the 12 Apostles iconographer Simon Ushakov y. 1685 (Jude the Iscariot the traitor without a halo)

"The names of the 12 Holy Apostles are: Simon (called Peter), Andrew his brother, Jacob the Zabedee and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Mathew (tax collectors), James, son of Alphaeus and Levi called (Thadeus), Simon The Canonite and Jude the Iscariot who has betrayed Christ"

(Gospel of Mathew 10:2-4)

 

13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14 Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15 Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

(Luke 6:13-16)

15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,)

16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.

17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.

18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.

19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, (Acts 1:15-26)

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The Synaxis of the Twelve Apostles. Russian, 14th century, Moscow Museum.

"Jesus had other desciples as well that were seventeen and other circles of desciples around each of the pupils, however they have alwasys been considered less venerable as they did not been so close to Christ and did not understand so well the mysterios of Christ's teaching and did not persevere as mcuh as the twelve and the seventeen of desciples. Those had been been distinguished among the King, those who have been the closest people to the Teacher" (Saint John Chrysostomos)

In Constantinople Saint King Constantine ( y. 274 – 337 ), has built a famous Church dedicated to the 12 Apostles. In historian documents there is data for a first time the feast is celebrated in the V-th century.

While the memory of each apostle has a separate day in the Church calendar yearly circle, they 12 apostles are sharing the same honor, because the Holy Scriptures and the Tradition glorifious their high efforts for building the Church on top of the corner stone that is Jesus Christ himsef and for their perseverance to accept martyrdom for Christ, thus to accent this they're is this special feast the Gathering of the 12 Glorious Apostles on 30th of June. As the Holy Scriptures says they're a friends of God (John 15:14), and when the Son of Man (Jesus) sits on the glory of his power, they all are to sit on 12 thrones, to judge the 12 Hebrew tribes (Mathew 19:28). 

In first centuries the Church has been feasting all the apostles together, Later she has included saint Apostle Paul, again the full list of names of the apostles are as follows:

1. Saint Apostle Peter the First Called (commemorated 29 June and 16 of January)

2. Saint apostle Andrew the First Called – as has been called by Christ together with Peter (30 November)

3.  Saint Jacob the Zebedee (30 April)

4. Saint Apostle John the Zebedee – the evangelist (26 September and 8 May)

5. Saint Apostle Philip (14 November)

6. Saint apostle Bartholomew or Nathanael (11 June and 25 August)

7. Saint apostle Thomas (6 October)

8. Saint apostle Mathew – evangelist (16 November)

9. Saint Apostle Jacob – son of Alpheus 9 October)

10. Saint Apostle Jude – fleshly brother of Christ (son of Joseph), called also Thadeus and Levi (19 June)

11. Saint Apostle Mathew (Mathias) (9 August)

12. Saint Apostle Paul  (Paul of Tarsus) (29 June)

The Church books define the feast day as the "Gathering of the Twelve", because this number of 12 apostles is initial and depics Christ essence of Completeness (as he is All in everything) Mathew (10:1-5)

 

Christ is Risen – Truly He is Risen – Happy Easter !

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

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One more year the Holy Fire has descended and we have been blessed to great Each other with the All Joyful Paschal Greeting !

Христос възкресе! Воистина възкресе! (Hristos vozkrese! Voistina vozkrese!)


Христос Воскресе – Воистину Воскресе! Христос възкресе! Воистина възкресе! (Hristos vozkrese! Voistina vozkrese!)
Христос васкрсе! Ваистину васкрсе! (Hristos vaskrse! Vaistinu vaskrse!)
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! 

Christus ist auferstanden! Er ist wahrhaftig auferstanden!Christ is Risen ! Truly He is Risen !

For complete list of Paschal Greeting as a referrence to get idea how other weird languages sound like and how it is used in the major Eastern Orthodox Churches all around the world check out my previous article Christ is Risen Eastern Orthodox Resurrection Paschal Greeting in Different Languages

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Saint Markianos and Martyrios a church reader and sub-deacon holy martyrs for Christ – The feast of Sub-deacons

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

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Saint Markianos (Saint Markian) and Martyrios are little known saints in the Western realm and there is too little of information in English about this two early martyrs who lived circa year 340. What is special about them is that besides being a strong confessors of the True Eastern Orthodox faith, they served in the Church as simple 'reader' and 'sub-deacon'. This two designations were very much respected in the early Church as sub-deacons were usually the ones who have served in the Church inseparable as a Church service helpers to the patriarchs or some high clergy as Metropolitans and Bishops. We have many saints in the Church that are from a simple warriors as Saint Georg and Saint Dimitrios the Wonderworker (The MyrhBringer) to monks, bishops, patriarchs and pretty much all kind of people from the society from the begger to the richest and most famous kings and queens. However it is rare to meet in the ( Act of the Martyrs – latin: Acta Martyrum), to find  canonized saints that were in the lowest step in Church hierarchy as a simple 'psalm' and holy writtings reader or a sub-deacon. A Sub-deacon for those who don't know is a pearon that is a like a servant helper to the priest or bishop) that has been responsible for helping with the Church service and resolution of material and administrative needs of the christian community.
Usually in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the church reader or sub-deacons were and asre still called hipodeacon or "ipodiakon" in Greek / Slavonic church language), they didn't have the right at that early ages of christianity to publicly teach on faith matters or do apologetics (defendings of faith), however this 2 saintly man Markianos and Martyrios seem to have been a burning with the power of the spirit of God in their heart and the situation they were put in when the Church was under persecution and the patriarch Paul of Constantinople I (was patriarch from 340 ~ 350 AD). Saint Paul removed from his Church headship sent to Exile in Armenia and some time after drawned. He is commemorated in the Church on 6th of November. Hence considering situation St. Markian and Martyrius had to either defend and die for the faith or be scared and run away far in the caves or distant places of the empire such as villages on the outskits far away from the center city Rome …

The Heresy of Arius has been the most modern and the new modified faith claiming Christianity gathering followers in a viral way, and due to that the Arians have been in position where most of the public authorities in the Roman empire has been on their side against the Orthodox Christians.

Marcian_and_Martyrius_the_notaries_of_Constantinople-circa-355AD. 

Due to that in the church communities in near and distant lands of empire, the Arians were fiercely persecuting the Orthodox, and for a time even Emperor Saint Constantine The Great were deceived by their hypocrisy. It was terrible times for true confessors of faith. But not only Arians were persecuting Christians, as paganism were still deeply rooted in many of the lands and the Edict of Mediolan who gave equal rights to the religion in AD 313 was not strictly followed and senators of Roman regions with Paganist beliefs, were also harshly raising persucutions against their enemies the Christians who according to them are destroying the ancient culture and beautfy of paganism, not venerating the old pagan gods and against the wicked debauchery customs who were followed by pagans in 3rd / 4th century.

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Practically everyone who have admitted publicly Jesus Christ as a Creator of the World and a Son of God one hipostasys of the Holy Trinity God The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit, were captured put to prison and quickly executed, if they don't turn out from their christian beliefs.

Arians has taken a lead even more with the set on the throne of Emperor Constantius II the son of Constantine I-st, as he has also fallen in the Arianism* heresy and who has taken in the court as a close advisory Eusebius and Philip who due to their half-pagan half-arian half superstitious understanding of the world have led a fierce war against Christianity and did a lot of evils to Christ Church.

* Arianism – believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was begotten by God the Father, and is distinct from the Father (therefore subordinate to him), but the Son is also God the Son but not co-eternal with God the Father. Arian theology was first attributed to Arius (c. AD 256–336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria of Egypt.
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Until dethronment of Patriarch Paul I, St. Markianos and St. Martyrios have been a notaries of St. Paul (a typist to the patriarch and a kind of personal secretaries of the Patriarch) besides serving as Church reader and sub-deacon. They were famous for their time with their warm preaching of the Words of God – the Gospel of the Christ following the example of the apostles. Due to the raising heresies they also take an active part in writting many documents against the heretical "arians" and so called "macedonians" who teached anti-christian teachings who were newly invented and unknown to the ancient church teachings. They've had a special gift from God to be able to speak in a way to defend the faith so noone with his knowledge or high-education couldn't stand overcome them in disputes on church matters and many times they have disputed with Arian heretics exposing their fallacy (delusions) putting them to shame.

After the exile of Patriarch Paul heresy-archs arians turned their poisonous hatred against the patriarch two pupils Markianos and Martyrios. Craftly acting they acted slyly with a craftul lie and promised them a lot of gold a good place in the emperor's court, to raise them in the church hierarcy (in the part of the church which was already confessing arian heresy) and give them a lot of privileges from the king with the condition to accept, support and confess arianism.

But God's servents despised everything from this world, rejected the offered golden gifts, preferred eternal Heavenly honors than short and vain worldly and even laughed at them.

As Arians saw nothing can't convince them to their malice teaching, heretics condemned them to death, which was desired by the confessors (which remembered well the exile and the manly martyrdom of their teacher St. Patriarch Paul) and with all their being desired to be with Christ in the Eternal prepared palaces, where life will be without end in never ending bliss as promised by Christ in the Holy Scriptures. They preferred Christ more than the temporary life enjoyments.

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When brought to the place of the execution of their false made accusement and sentence for being blasphemers of Christ, two saints asked for a small time
to pray. Brough up their eyes to the heaven and prayed with the words:

" – Oh Lord, who have unseenly created our hearts, who arrange all our deeds – "He formed the hearts of them all; he understands everything they do." (Psalm 33:15), receive with peace the souls of your servents, because we're mortified for your name – "Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." (Psalm 44:22). We're joyful that you give us such a death, we depart from this life because of your name. Let us to participate in the eternal life in You, the source and giver of life."

Praying with this words, they bowed their holy heads and under sword and was killed by beheading by the unfortunate arians because of their confession of the divinity of Christ as true uncreated Son of God who existed before all ages before the creation of the world as we Christians believe to this date.

Some of the Christians took their holy relics and buried them outside the Melandissia Gate of the Constantinople. Later Saint John of Chrysostom built a church in their name over the place of their miracle-working relics. There the sick for many ages received divine healings  of different incurable diseases by the prayers of the holy martyrs of God, Praised in Trinity in all ages.

By the prayers of your Holy Martyrs St. Markianos and Martyrios Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us !

Saint Petka Paraskeva of Bulgaria of Epivates Thracia (famous as St. Petka of Tarnovo) feast day 14 October

Friday, October 16th, 2020


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The inhabitants of Thracia are of a great and royal origin and due to recent historical studies, Thracians have been one of the most developed nations for its time they're developments and achievements especially in crafts such as vessel creation even up to day are perhaps the most unique.
It is still unknown of the exact technology used to create such a elegant and precise vessels. A little is known of the Thracians society as they have reached their bloom in a high speed and the place of the later Roman Empire province Thracia has been in a place where it was destroyed to the ground and robbed at multiple times eradicating unique piece of one of the best created ever forms of art.
Territories of Thrakia has been geographically today located in Southeast Europe, now split among Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, which is bounded by the Balkan Mountains to the north, the Aegean Sea to the south, and the Black Sea to the east.

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Territy of Thracia shown on a contemporary European (Balkans Maps)

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One of the most famous piece of such art is the World Famous Thracian's Treasuary.

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The thrakians Empire and civillization has its bloom from 5th – 4th century before Christ era (B.C.). 
Saint Petka of Epivates region Thrakia was of a Bulgarian origin and lived much later in Xth – XI-th century A.D in Thracia. It is known she was of Bulgarian origin (her mother and father was of Bulgarian origin.) of the first generations who has received in 9-th century Baptism, in the times of the Baptism of Bulgaria conducted by the Apostle equal Saint King Boris I the Baptizer of Bulgaria in year 864 AD.  Thracians as an ancient and a blessed nation in craftship and arts was among the nations who received baptism on a good 'soil', as the seed of beauty and goodness has already been in their civillization.
 

The short Living of Saint Petka of Bulgaria (of Epivates)


Out of this Christian atmosphere has rised Saint Petka also known as (Parashkeva). Saint Petka name means literally translated Friday and due to being born in Thracia on today territory of Balkans she is been venerated highly not only in Bulgaria but across all Orthodox Christians nations on the Balkans – Bulgarians, Romanians, Serbs, Greeks, Macedonians. Due to that Saint Petka is also famous as "Saint Petka of The Bulkans".
Saint Petka could be therefore heard to be called often Petka of Serbs (of Belgrade), Saint Petka of Moldova (of Iași), Mother Paraskeva / ParashkevaParascheva the New, Parascheva the Young, Ancient Greek: Ὁσία Παρασκευὴ ἡ Ἐπιβατινή, Greek: Οσία Παρασκευή η Επιβατινή ή Νέα, Romanian: Cuvioasa Parascheva, Bulgarian / Serbian : Света Петка / Sveta Petka or Петка Параскева / Petka Paraskeva, Paraskeva Pyatnitsa, Parascheva of Tirnovo).

The first information about her living is found in a local educated person (writter) which as of the time were too little and writter  in Greek in short. It did not follow the Church cannons and due to that by an order of Patriarch of Constantinople Nikolas IV Musalon of Constantinople deacon Vaslik has described in a more well systemized way her living, the Greek original unfortunately is now lost. At the time of writting her biography, she has been mostly popular in the realms of Byzantine Empire Thracia.

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The Bulgarian Empire during the reign of Ivan Asen II. Atlas of Dimitar Rizov year 1917

Since the time of King Ivan Asen II a new biogprahy of saint has been written in Bulgarian which included narration of the transfer of her holy relics to Medieval Capital of Bulgaria Tarnovo. However peak and the key towards the immerse veneration to St. Petka that is evident to this very date has played the biography written by last Bulgarian Patriarch also a saint – st. Euthymius of Tarnovo. in year 1385 AD short before the fall under Turkish Slavery of Bulgaria in y. 1393.

Saint Patriarch Eutymious was the last person who in 1393 has actively parcipated in the protection of the fortified Tarnovo and see with his eyes the fall down of the city (by treachery).

When asked by the terrified people 'To whom do you leave us holy father, when the Turkish were taking him away?' He replied heart tearingly 'To the Holy Trinity The Father, The Son and The Holy Trinity our God I leave you and to the most Blessed Mother of God Theotokos now and For Eternity !!!'

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Saint Patriarch Eutymius (Evtimij) blessing the people in Medieval Bulgarian city Tarnovo for a last time before the Turkish took him away for imprisonment
Picture source Pravoslavieto.com

St Euthymius of Tarnovo work is one of the most unique bibliographies and a precious piece of medieval literature it is innovative for its time and spectacular, emotion rich creation, who become famous far before the borders of Bulgaria in the whole Slavonic world of that time, especially in todays territory of ex soviet countries Romania, Moldova, Ukraine and even far Russia.

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Saint Patriarch Eutymious of Bulgaria
Picture source Pravoslavieto.com

The veneration of Saint Petka of Bulgaria as a protector of family and a warm prayerer for all those who venerate her in this country has slowly spread in the coming centuries by pupils of St. Euthymius of Tarnovo who according to some historians whose works came to us in the form of the a bit more standardized Church Slavonic used in the Eastern Orthodox Churches as a fruit of the works of St. Euthymus.

The Living of Saint Petka Parashkeva

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Saint Petka Parashkeva Picture source Pravoslavieto.com

Tropion 4-th voice

 Desertous and silent living you loved after Christ your groom, diligently you ran to and his good yoke you took in your younghood,
with the Sign of the Cross against the thought enemies you have manly armed, with fasting feats and prayer and with tear drops the coals of passions extinguished oh highly famed Paraskevo. And now in the Heavenly halls with the wise virgins you stay in front of Christ, pray for us who venerate your holy remembrance.

Kontakion, voice 6

Let us piusly sung our reverend  mother Saint Petka, because by living the corruptable in live, received the imperishable in eternity, becoming holy intercessor for all in trouble and exhausting from the evils of life. For the reason she received from God imperishable fame, glory and grace to be a wonder worker.

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NB ! St. Petka of Epivates has not to be confused with Saint Petka (from Inokia who lived in 303 AD venerated on 28 of October) or  St Petka the Roman (feast day 26 July).

St. Petka's  has been born in city of Epivates in Byzantium (today city called Selim Pasha nearby Odrin's Aegian City) in 10-th Century from a famous and respectful family, her father Nikita has been very rich landowner.

She lived in the second part of X-th century. According to hear living by Patriarch Eutymious, her smaller brother Eutymious who become a monk has been a Metropolitan of Maditos for 40 years and in year (989 – 996) died aged 81 and is shortly after canonized as saint, his younger sister St. Paraskeva passed away after him in the new 11-th century and is aged at least 85 in the time of passing in the city of Kallikrateia. 

The living continues that near the age of 10 year old she heard in a Christian temple a voice by Jesus Christ himself in resemblance to Saint Apostle Paul and said the Evangelical New Testamental words:
"Whoever wants to walk after me, let him deny himself, to take his cross and follow me !".

The unexpected vision convinced the young Paraskeva to immediately exchange her new clothes to a beggers to leave all her belongings to the poor and live a silent living similarto begger for a time in work and prayer, though she did not leave her parents home. On a few occasions all she had worked for has been distributed to the poor.

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Greek typical depiction of Saint Petka of Epivates

When her parents died, her brother as already a monk and Bishop. St. Petka leave her house and travelled to Constanople and received a nun tonsure and as a nun she lived for 5 years near the deserted Church of the "Protection of the Virgin Mary" in the capital suburb of Heraklia. She travelled to the Holy lands visiting Jerusalem and Church of Holy Sepulchre.
Following the example of the blessed famed Saint Mary of Egypt, she lived in Jordan's desert many years till eldership.

Feeling and foreseeing her death, she travelled back through Constantinople to city of Epivates. Settle near the Church "Holy Apostles", where after 2 years of living in deep prayer and fasting labours living in solitary in holiness passed away silently to Christ in heavenly life. Compassionate Christians immediately buried her body of the nun outside of the city walls as a foreigner. A shortly after numerous miracles started happening on her grave.

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Saint Petka Parashkeva Bulgarian Icon from Klisura Monastery located nearby Sofia Bulgaria

In 1230 King Ivan Asen II the most powerful South-eastern European ruler demanded from the the Knights of the Crusaders to submit him her holy relics who are found still in Tracian city Kaliakratea ruled at that time by the Holy Latin Empire. King Ivan Asen II together with the patriach Joachim the first receives her holy relics with honor and settles her incorruptabilities into the newly creates Church in honour of herself St. Petka behind Tsarevets Fortress. Saint Petka became from that point considered as a protectress of the city, the throne and the country.
Her holy relics arrived from Kallikrateia in Tarnovo, the Capital of Second Bulgarian Empire in year 1230 AD, she has been thus called Paraskeva of Tarnovo and has been venerated as a protectress of the Tarnovo city the Bulgarian nation and the country. The attitude towards Saint Petka Tarnovska as a protectress of Bulgarian nation and contry is been clearly seen by the mention in the Bulgarian and International acts (documents) and manuscripts of that XII – XII century.

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Romanian Monks and Priests venerate the holy relics of Saint Petka of Epivates in Iashi Romania

In subsequent years, St. Petka Paraskevi’s holy relics were transferred to various churches in the region.

In 1393 due to the fall of Bulgarian capital to save them her holy relics were transferred to fortress of Bdin today city of Vidin Bulgaria, but 3 years later 1396 Vidin's fortress also fall under the ungodly yatagan of  the muslim enslaver and to protect the relics they were again transferred to Belgrade, specifically the Ružica Church. When Belgrade fell to Ottoman forces in 1521, the relics were transferred to Constantinople. In 1641, the relics were transferred to Trei Ierarhi Monastery, in Iaşi, Moldavia (nowadays, eastern part of Romania). In 1888, they were transferred to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Iaşi.

Since 1888 they are kept in Romanian city of Iaşi and are a target of pilgrims from all around Romania, Bulgaria and other Orthodox Christian countries of the Balkans. For the day her memory is remembered in the Romanian Church usually about 200 000 people mostly from Romania and others travel to Iaşi's Cathedral in the Trei Ierarhi Monastery (Three Hierarchs – saint John Crysostom, St. Basilius the Great and St. Gregory the Great) of the  for a blessing and to beg the saint for her families, personal issues, curings especially of eye diseases

A severe drought in 1946-47 affected Moldavia, adding to the misery left by the war. Metropolitan Justinian Marina permitted the first procession featuring the coffin containing the relics of Saint Paraskevi, kept at Iaşi since then. The relics wended their way through the drought-deserted villages of Iaşi, Vaslui, Roman, Bacău, Putna, Neamţ, Baia and Botoşani Counties. The offerings collected on this occasion were distributed, based on Metropolitan Justinian's decisions, to orphans, widows, invalids, school cafeterias, churches under construction, and to monasteries in order to feed the sick, and old or feeble monks.

In the historical document with Venezia as of (year 1347), King Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria swears in the name of most holy considered matters, the document says – quote "in the name of God, The Most Holy Theotokos, The Holy Cross and The Most Holy Paraskeva of Tarnovo".

 
Since Second Bulgarian Kingdom, St. Petka has been venerated as a main patroness and protector of Bulgarian nation and country, protectress of countries of Moldova, Romania and Bulgarian cities of Veliko Tarnovo, Gabrovo and Troyan.

In Bulgaria it is an old tradition to name our childs in favour of Saint Petka, my grand-grand mother God Forgive us has also been called Parashkeva in favor of Saint Petka.

Holy Mother Petka Paraskeva (Parashkevo) Pray the Lord Jesus Christ to have mercy on All us the sinners !

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Saint John the Baptist Holy Relics in Sozopol Bulgaria

 

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 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.

Saint George’s day in an Elder – Spiritual father Georgi (91 years old Priest) in Jeglarci’s Village Bulgaria

Friday, May 9th, 2014

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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 Christ was 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).

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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."

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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.

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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!"

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"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 …"

 

 

Thomas Sunday – The day of Disbelievers

Monday, April 28th, 2014

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A week passed since we Christian celebrated Resurrection of Christ (Pascha). Each year on first Sunday after Easter in orthodox Church is celebrated the so called Thomas Sunday. So why is it called Thomas Sunday and why it is the day of disbelievers?
The root of this ancient Christian feast comes after commemoration of Christ desciple St. Thomas who disbelieved the testimony of ( 10 apostles ) and the Virgin Mary  that Jesus Christ is Risen from the Death.

The disbelieve of Thomas was logical and human cause even though Thomas was with the Apostles with Christ for 3 years, saw all Jesus miracles and shared the Secret Supper (Last Supper), and even knew in advance (heard by Jesus on Last supper) that Jesus will betrayed mocked, hanged on the Cross and Rise from the death on the third day, he disbelieved.

Thomas Sunday (Sundy of Thomas) is "the day of Disbelievers", because all are disbelievers in moments of their life not only those who believe God but all the humanity!  Even the most faithful Christian, be it a deacon, monk or priest has difficult moments in life where God's existence or providence for one's faith is seriously questioned.
The fallen nature of man is such that the initial belief in God given to man in Eden (Paradise garden) is broken, and only in Jesus's name through the Gift of Faith given by the Holy Spirit, believe in God is restored.

Thomas very much like unto everyone of us doubted the rumors of Christ resurrection and said he would only believe in Resurrected Christ only if he sees his hands nails print and put his fingers into Christ’s wounds to test he is not seeing a Ghost but Christ is alive in a body after his death.

Here is the Gospel reading re-telling the story in short:

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (John 20:19)

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-26)

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

We Christians should be joyful for have not seen Christ in Flesh but have believed for we are blessed for his believe without seeing.

By same faith in God without seeing him even in old times the Jews were led by the Lord God in the desert have won wars by their believing without seeing God, prophets has prophecised, Simeon (The God receiver) hold The Savior (Christ) in his hands, by faith David won the battle with Goliath, by faith we understand the universe was formed at God’s command, by faith we know that the visible came out of the invisible.

o Kyrios mou kai o Theos mou (Greek) – My Lord and my God (Jn. 20:28) this declaration of faith clearly shows an unexpressable excitement of Thomas and his unexpectency to see Christ resurrected. Here it is interesting that here the son of God Jesus Christ is called by Thomas exactly how Jewish used to call God Yahweh (One and Only God) in the Old testament.

Today the evangical story is very accurate for our generation – a generation of disbelievers, even we who say we believe often doesn’t justify our believe with our deeds, we say we believe but we don’t keep God’s commandment “to love God and our neigbor like ourselves.” Often only difference between believers and disbelievers is on Sunday we believers visit Church and “play Christians”, but even but in daily life our deeds are same like unbelievers. Often many are disbelievers not because they reject God but because they never heard the Gospel or misheard it, also we disbelieve because we’re very much like st. Thomas, we often say “I will believe in God if I see him”, but even Thomas who saw God before the Crucifix and knew him disbelieved – a proof that often seing once could still leave space for doubt. The glorious event of Christ showing himself Alive to Thomas was made by Christ to establish the Church and strengthen faith of first Christians in resurrection. Nowadays there are plenty of people who question God’s existence saying that they will believe if they see but they’re not given to see the resurrected Christ because God knows that even if we see the Lord Jesus Christ resurrected we would try to rationally explain the phenomenon with holograms, modern technology or science.

Thomas Sunday is not only a day of Thomas disbelieve it is a day of disbelieve of all humanity. , St. Thomas should be an example even to all of us Christian disbelievers and non-believers that even if we disbelieve and doubt and strive to see God, He is powerful to come and appear Resurrected in His Glory to our souls.
Let us therefore have the Wisdom of the Holy Apostles and say together with them “Lord, Increase our faith.” Luke 17:5