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.
I'm in Holland and here the closest place to Arnhem where Orthodox Holy Liturgy is served is in Nijmegen. I go every Sunday on Church taking the train from Arnhem to Nijmegen – the whole trip takes 15 to 20 minutes .One Sunday, I go to Russian Orthodox Church, and one Sunday to Serbian Orthodox Church. As a rule of thumb for us Orthodox, if we attend Orthodox Church different from your nation wide (autocephalous) Orthodox Church, the person who takes part in prayer and Eucharist communion with the respective Church should celebrate the Church feasts according to the respective Orthodox Church calendar (in my case Russian and Serbian Orthodox Church) calendar. Both Russian and Serbian Church are following the so called Old Church Calendar, where in my national Church the Bulgarian Orthodox Church just like Greeks, we follow the "New feasts Church Calendar". The difference between the two calendars is 13 days in some of the feasts, meaning Orthodox Churches which still observe the Old Church Calendar have some of the feasts like Nativity 13 days later.
Thus this, year I celebrate Nativity (Ð Ð¾Ð¶Ð´ÐµÑÑ‚Ð²Ð¾ Ð¥Ñ€Ð¸ÑÑ‚Ð¾Ð²Ð¾ – as we say in Bulgarian following the Old Church Calendar today on 6-th against 7-th January Eve.
In Nijmegen, there will be no midnight (Ð¿Ð¾Ð»ÑƒÐ½Ð¾Ñ‰Ð½Ð¸Ñ†Ð°) Holy Liturgy, but instead on Sunday Morning, there was a Holy Liturgy in which we celebrated the feast of Nativity of the Lord Lord Jesus Christ and at the end of Church service we greeted each other with the joyful salute Christ is born – Truly he is Born!
It was a joyful service leaded by the hieromonk priest father Dushan, who is in charge of Nijmegen's, Amsterdam and Breda Westen Europe Serbian eparchy .
The Serbian Church here in Holland are blessed to have for veneration holy relics of saints:
st. Zosima (Tumane)
saint Nektarios of Aegina
venerable Dena (ikoki)
saint Tsar Urosh
saint Paraskeva (the Bulgarian / of the Balkans)
saint Nikolaj Srbskij (Velimirovich)
Serbs are very good people and everytime I go to Serbian Church, I'm warmly accepted as true brother in Christ, this time it was no different.
It was a triple feast for me as I both celebrated the birth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, received the Holy Sacraments and venerated the Holy relics of this Great Saints.
In Serbian Church have, the same pious tradition like in our Bulgarian Orthodox to great each other with the Nativity (Rojdenski) Church Greeting – Ð¥Ñ€Ð¸ÑÑ‚Ð¾Ñ ÑÐµ Ð Ð¾Ð´Ð¸ – Ð’Ð¾Ð¸ÑÑ‚Ð¸Ð½Ñƒ ÑÐµ Ð Ð¾Ð´Ð¸ / Christ is born – Truly he is Born!
In Serbian Christmas is called Bozec / Badni Dan (Yule-log tree day), very similar to the Bulgarian Ð‘ÑŠÐ´Ð½Ð° Ð’ÐµÑ‡ÐµÑ€ / Badna Vecher (Yule-log tree night).
As I'm a bit keen on learning Serbian, I've found a video in youtube re-telling the story around the miracles surrounding the birth of the King of Kings the Lord Jesus Christ:
Ð’ÐµÑ€ÑÐºÐ¸ ÐºÐ°Ð»ÐµÐ½Ð´Ð°Ñ€ – Ð‘Ð¾Ð¶Ð¸Ñ› / Religious calendar – Christmas- The story of Christ birth as told in Serbian Language
Here is the Serbian Church Troparion for the day Rojdestvo tvoe:
In Serbia Christmas is known as Bozic, often written in latin as Serbs tend to write nowadays mainly in Latin, Cyrillic however is still in wide use mainly in Serbian Church. Mentioning cyrillic I should say, Serbian is in maybe 60 / 70% similar or same in words as Bulgarian language as we are brother nations, and plus the Holy Liturgy service is in Church Slavonic so I understood about 80 to 90% of all the service with no problem. Also speaking with Serbians is very easy, if I speak a simplified version of Bulgarian and they speak simple Serbian – our languages are almost identical. A Situation with Serbian and Bulgarian is very much like here Holland with German language.
There were few things in the Church, which was new for me. A native Serbian Church tradition is they bring haystacks in the Church as a remembrance for Christ being born among the hay in the manger.
Also one other local tradition which is not in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and not in Russian Orthodox Church is bringing the yule-log tree trunk in the Church. In Bulgaria we also put Christmas, new year tree but not the cut trunk of it.
It was very joyful, the whole Church was full of people from ex-Yugoslavia – Serbia, Bosnia & Hertzegovina and Macedonia. The biggest joy was the plenty of children and new-borns from age around 1 year to age 7 – 10 years. There were also plenty of teenagers and people in their 20 – 30s, something I've rarely seen in Bulgaria. The fact that the Church service was all attended by Emigrants and the fact serbians help each other so much while living abroad is something that makes me rejoice, the only thing I don't understand and (pray it change) is why we Bulgarians are united like this?
At the end of the Church service, there was something I liked very much too. The little kids in the Church were invited to come to the piles of hay on the ground sitting behind the icons, and told there are candies hidden in the hay 🙂 The kids started seeking through the straws finding chocolates in different forms joying. The idea of this entertainment "game" was great, as it makes children feel at home in the Church and by doing so Serbs teach their children to love the Holy Church and by this are little by little raising the next generation of devoted Serbian Orthodox Christians. I never saw in Bulgarian Orthodox Church, any activity in our Church like this, so I think maybe if our Church organizes something like this on Christmas it will be very good for both Bulgarian Orthodox parents and kids.
To make the Church joy complete, at the end of the Church service, all the layman were invited for a cup of coffee, tea and quick fasting meal. 6-th against 7-th of January is the last day of the Nativity fasting in the Church and since the fasting is over early on 7-th morning after the night vigil and morning holy liturgy all food in the little kitchen of the Byzantine Building ( Chapel ) was fasting.
People from Church has prepared a very taste food, many of which in type was very similar to the food we eat in Bulgaria during fasting and Nativity.
Other thing impressed me in Church, was the attitude of the woman, most of them were very concerned about man, and they leave nothing in the kitchen to be done by man, they served food etc. Somehow it seemed to me that Serbian ladies acted like true ladies, taking care for all the kitchen work, serving doing their best to make the man feel comfortable, something that is still evident in less developed economy nations like India, Pakistan etc. This kind of woman attitude is very hard to be seen nowadays in almost all around the world, including Bulgaria, so salutes for the good Serb woman 🙂
Just like us Bulgarians, Serbs also have Rakia as a traditional alcoholic beverage. This time they had a Serbian tea (as they call it) a mixture of hot tea and good quality rakia 🙂 – I rarely drink alcohol these days but this "Serbian tea" I liked very much. Among the food, there was the traditional wrapped rice in cabbage leaves, peppers filled with rise, own baked loaf (pitka), some very delicious meal combining something like boiled potatoes with mushrooms and some vegetables inside looking a bit like the Bulgarian Banica.
It is like a Church tradition, here in the West Orthodox Churches, to eat together after the end of Holy Liturgy. In the Holy Trinity Church in Dobrich, sometimes we do this as well but not every time like here in West. Eating together with the brothers and sisters from the Church makes the Church experience complete and is a symbolic continuation of communion after the true communion receiving the Holy Blood and Holy Flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ – the Eucharist.
In Serbian and Russia and Jerusalem as well as Orthodox Church January 6th against 7th eve is Nativity (The day in which we Orthodox Christians, celebrate The Incarnation (Birth) of Christ).
In the Orthodox Church, there are some Orthodox Churches who celebrate Nativity on 24th against 25-th December (Bulgaria, Greece, Romania etc.) and some who celebrate Nativity on 6-th against 7-th January (Russia, Jerusalem, Syria, Serbia, Ethiopia, Egypt etc.) . The reason for this is some autocephalous (nation wide) Orthodox Churches use the so called New dates Church calendar, and others are still using the Old Calendar. Nomatter that all Orthodox Churches are in eucharistic (sacramental) communion and celebrate Easter on one and same date. The feast of birth of Christ was known to be originally celebrated on 24-th against 25-th of December (but this was according to the previous dates calendar used in the world which was based on the moon phases). After whole the world accepted and use even till now the so called Gregorian Church calendar, which is said to be more mathematically precise some of the national Orthodox Churches, with the usual consent between all nation Orthodox Church Patriarchates decided to move the 24-th against 25-th December to be celebrated on 24 to 25-th eve to be more accurate with the world dates calendar used by all throughout the world. This same 24-th against 25-th of December according to the old world dates calendar which was used in most Christian countries before the Gregorian calendar become the de-facto standard for world calendar coincides with 6-th against 7-th December.
There was quite a talk going around between people who were for and against the 24-th and 25-th calendar, as in all Orthodox Churches until the 1950/60 Nativity of Christ was celebrated on 6-th against 7-th January. Now there are two camps of people in the one Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church, those for the new calendar and those against it.
Actually in practice following Christmas on both date is not incorrect, and it should be mentioned in very ancient times of the Church, Nativity of Christ was celebrated every-day as Church services were continuing 10 to 12 hours each day!!!! Thus in ancient Church, there was not a special day for a birthday of Christ, but it was known in the Church Christ for sure Christ was born in December, many saints (if not mistaken) including st. John of Chrysostom said 24-th eve is the correct date on which the most pure Mother of God Virgin Mary gave birth to our savior and Messiah (Christ).
No-matter about the date, even as situation now is where some Churches celebrate Christmas on 24th eve and some on 6th against 7th this should not be perceived as separation of the Church, but as point of unification and increasing of possibility of people to hear about the birth of the savior of us the sinful humanity. As the good news of Nativity is preached and heard by unbelievers and believers twice the year instead of just one, making the world remember twice about the moment in which we received the news for hope of redemption and salvation from the corruption of death that ruled over us before Christ's incarnation and salvation mission on earth.
Saint Abraham the Bulgarian is an Orthodox Christian saint venerated across most Slavonic Christian dome. His co-memoration in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BPC) is on 1st of April.
What is unique about this saint is that he used to be born and grown in the tradition of the Muslim (Islam) faith and by the great providence of God he converted to the true faith of Christianity.
St. Abraham of (Bulgaria), was born in Volga Bulgaria in a community of Muslim Volga Bulgars (old Bulgarians). Nowdays Volga Bulgaria is located in Tararstan Russia. The saint used to be an islamic merchant and His martyrdom for Christ happened in March 6 (according to old Church Calendar) in year 1229.
He used to live in a very complex situation, when the islamic influence of Arabs in his motherland was quite severe. St. Abraham of Bulgaria used to be a rich man for his time, he was a merchant. Because of the trade he travelled a lot to the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Christian principalities. This give him an opportunity to get to know Christian faith little by little.
He was accustomed to a wordly life but still always accepted strangers and similar to the Old Testamental father of nations st. Abraham he's been very hospitable to poor people. By Gods grace he become convinced Muslim faith does not teach a true faith to the one God, being pointed by God himself towards the right salvation way, he accepted Jesus Christ as a Lord and Saviour being baptized and hence converting to the truthful Christian faith.
His Christian baptizmal was accepted from Russian traders, who lived nearby the place of Great Bulgar. Being baptized in the Christian faith Saint Abraham of Bulgaria not only confessed Christian faith across his fellow people, but he also led very harsh (ascetic like) life, wearing secretly below his clothes a heavy chains during his worldly travels. The profit he made from trade often he shared with the poor.Once he went for a trade to the city of Great (Bulgar) Bulgar. There he was arrested because there was a rumor, he cursed (islamic faith believed prophect) Mohammed and the muslim faith.
Muslims catched him and started convincing him to reject Christ, accusing him at a blasphemy. Abraham was not scared of muslim threats of expel and even putting to death. As Muslims failed to force him "by words" to convert back to Islam, they took him and put him in jail because of his denial of (their) Islamic faith.
In jail he was tortured but, they failed to convince him to deny Christ, seeing they have no way to convince him to accept Muslim faith once again, saint tormentors first cut his hands, then the legs and finally disgraced by his boldness and continues confession of Christ they beheaded him.
Soon afterwards the city of Bulgar was captured and burned down by the Mongols, many people in that time saw this is Gods punishment for the innocent shed blood of Abraham the Bulgar. The local Christians took his body and buried him in the Christian cemetery of the ancient city of (Bolgar) / Bulgar. On the place, where the saint was buried, a healing water spring emerged. The first man who received healing from this spring by Christ's grace was a muslim.
Great healing miracles happened on the saint grave. Local Christians took their relatives and bring them to the saints grave for a miracle healing and a prayer intercession of the saint. A rumour about the saints great graceous grave quickly spread and some people told about the miracle healing grave f st. Abraham to prince Georgi / (George) Vsevolodich.One year later again on 6th March 1230, the body of the saint was carried in the city of Vladimir, where the prince and his family, the Vladimirsk Bishop, the clergy and the local people received the holy relics of st. Abraham (of Bulgaria). The holy relics was kept in the local church "Dormition of Mother Mary" on 6th of March in the year of 1230.
The co-memoration of st. Abraham the Bulgarian is being observed in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, since very ancient times. Nowdays both Christians and Muslim celebrate the saints feast.
Interesgingly, nowdays St. Abraham the Bulgarian is venerated as a saint by both Orthodox Christians and by Muslims. Many Muslims from Turkey and other muslim countries come each year for the saints feast day to pray and ask for healing or prayer intercession to God.
Even to this very day people receive by Jesus's grace through saint Abraham the Bulgarian's prayers – a various incurable disease healings. The healings occur on the same holy spring where the saint was buried. Many people are also healed from incurrable diseases through the veneration of the incorruptable saint holy relics kept in the Church Dormition of Mother Mary.
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 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. Let witht he 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.
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