If you happen to be in Belarus's capital Minsk and you're a Christian you would definitely will be interested to see the spiritual side of Belarus. I was in Minsk with my wife for a month and had the chance to go for a pilgrimage in st. Elisaberth's Orthodox Christian Convent.
In Belarus about 80% of population of population are Orthodox Christians with about 7% Catholics, some 4% protestants and 9% atheists. I'm Orthodox Christian myself so mostly I kept interest in exoeriencing Orthodox religion life there. The religious life in Belarus so deeply impressed me so I decided to even document it here.
I was in a couple of Orthodox Churches during the Great Lent first week attending afternoon (Great) Repentence services canon of St. Andrew of Crete. And was amazed how many people are religious in this God fearful country. All Churches where I was during the Great Canon or Holy Liturgy was so full of people that you cannot even enter the Church if you're late for the service. People attending were also very concentrated on the service and most of the people came to services bringing most of which holding a book with the Great Repentance Canon following the service and concentrated in praying and doing ground prostrations. One thing to note is Belarusian Orthodox Church is a sub-division of Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), Belarusian doesn't have their own patriarch but are under the patriarchy of Russian and all Moscow patriarch – Kiril I.
Few weeks ago for Sunday of All Orthodoxy (Triumph of All orthodoxy) for Holy Liturgy service me and Svetlana with a close friend of her Tatyiana went to St. Elisabeth's Monastery. Monastery is named in honour of St. Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova – which is the last Russian Grand Princess of the Romanov family later executed with her husband and kids by Communists Bolsheviks, canonized by ROC in the 1990s.
The monastery as almost all Churches in Belarus is so full of people you cannot move (it seems in Russian Orthodox Church – there is an amazing spiritual awakening at the moment). I wanted to confess and even though I was in the Church building before beginning of the holy liturgy and there were two priests to confess the queue of people to confess was so long that confession lasted until the end of the Holy Liturgy. In order to able to confess I've waited on the "confession queue" for about 2 hours and a half. Even though Holy Liturgy completed confession continued and those who confessed after the Church service end was also offered the Holy Sacraments. Another stunning thing for me was the amount of young and obviously intelligent people who was in the Church – just to compare here in Bulgaria, seeing young people in most Churches and monasteries is a rare thing ..
Saint Elisabeth's Monastery is the only monastery situated in (very near 19 km away) fromMINSK on Vigotskogo 6 str. We reached the monastery by taking bus from regular Minsktrans (state's bus company) city bus nr. 26, other bus and trolley riding there are – bus 18 and trolley 33, 38, 55. Monastery was established in 1990 after dissolvement of USSR and is situatuated on a place where previously there was no church or a monastery. The SisterHood in monastery is enormous by size and consists nowadays of 7 Churches!!!
The main Church of the Monastery has saint relics from all around the known Orthodox Walls, to venerate all the saint relics you will need at least 20 minutes!! The Holy Relics of the monastery are so much that they remind me very much of Monasteries I've seen on Holy Mounth Athos. The spiritual father of the monastery is father Andreya Lemoshonka.
From ruromrs the sisterhood in monastery consists of about 120 sisters (and even maybe more), some of them are Nuns and others are the so called "Sisters of Mercy" (something like the "White Sisters" moveing in the Roman Catholic Church) – woman who deliberately decided to help the monastery often walking the streets shops and metro stations collecting charity for poor, sick and people in need. Sisters of mercy are something exception and seeing a lady dressed in white robes on the street or metro with a prayer book at hand is something rare to see in today's crazy materialistic world. Some of this kind sisters of mercy are novice nuns in the monastery and others are just worldly woman with family whom the monastery employes on a small renumeration.
The cloister is a unique place next to the majestic Church buildings, the monastery has a coffeteria where you can have a coffee / snacks or even a dinner after service, there is a Church shops full of icon and all kind of orthodox spiritual literature,a Christian games for kids (Orthodox Lotto, kids collapsible Churches from cardboards) as well as a food store with fasting and non-fasting food and even a shop for Christian clothing "Православная Одежда".
Orthodox Clothes Shop near St. Elizabeth's monastery Minsk
A Honey Store – St. Elizabeth Monastery Belarus
Orthodox Foodstore near St. Elizabeth Monastery Misnk
In one of the Churches there is a 3 floor tiny shop first floor sell icons, books and faith related things, monastic souvenirs and on the second floor there is a herbal pharmacy with healing herbs for almost all kind of physical and nervological disorders etc. Part of monastic life is the evening and morning service which occur everyday in the monastery. The spiritual father of a monastery Andreya Lemoshonka who is a married priest is also leading frequent lectures on faith and is often helping people coming to him for a spiritual advice, a problem or question related to faith. The Nuns are fasting each Monday, Wednesday and Friday – fasting also in Mondays even though this fasting day was only observed in ancient Church and in many Orthodox monasteries, Monday fastings (In veneration of Angels) is no longer observed – i.e. sisterhood life is very strict. Near the monastery is situated a Mental Hospital and one of the duties of nuns is to often visit the mentally sick there. The sisterhood helps orphanage homes and is bringing for Holy sacraments often a lot of sick children.
Part of monastery service is sheltering the homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts offering them encouragement and work in the small monastic farm. The monastery has also workshops where people with disability work in making gloves, icons, decorations, souvenirs embroided by hand. Near the monastery there is a wooden shop where one can order all kind of custom crafted wooden wardrobes, chairs or anything wooden you like for your home.
What I saw there make my heart joyful. It seems Minsk Monastery achieved something which is rarely seen in Orthodox world a symbiosis between Faith, charity and a monetary funding model that works. The monastery very much reminded me to an Orthodox movie Forpost and to the Godly initiate inBulgaria by father Ioan of Novi Khan who by his efforts, Gods help and the charity of hundreds of bulgarian takes care for about 150 homeless orphans in a monastery.
'Forpost' (Outpost) – What the Church Can Accomplish.
As a closure word I want say Thanks and Glory be to the Holy Trinity The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit! for blessing me to the pilgrimage journet to St. Elizabeth's monastery!
On first of September every year the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church to which I belong is celebrating the beginning of a new Church Calendar feast year.
It is a common practice here in Bulgaria (as we are one of the 14 Eastern Orthodox Churches worldwide) it is a tradition to serve holy liturgies across the country and prayers are lifted to heaven for the well being of the Bulgarian nation and the world.
In the past the beginning of the new year was called also the beginning of the indiction. In the VI-th century at the time of Emperor Justinian The Great in Byzantine Empire was introduce the Cyclical Calendar based calculation of days (based on indictions ) – this is delivered from latin word indictio (meaning announcement). Indictions were celebrated originally on a cyclical periods of 15 years when the а financial review of the properties (possessions) of citizens that were taxated.
In the Latin Empire the word indictio has been used to mark the exact amount of taxes owed each year and in this is how with the beginning of the new indiction was beginning the new financial year of the empire according to some historians the origin of indictions system has been originating from Egypt.
The official byzantine calculation of indictions begun at the time of Saint Emperor Constantine on 1st of September year 312 A.D. Historically it is interesting fact both in the Western and in the Eastern Latin empire March was another time marking a New Year …
On 1st of September in the Church it is accepted to read the Bible chapter where Jesus Christ red in the synagogue the prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 61:1-2) for the occurance of the favorable year of God. The Byzantines see in that reading a reference of the Lord for a celebration of a New Year.
It is interesting fact that in Byzantium this Bible reading was red in the Church by the Patriarch in Hagia Sophia Church Cathedral or another Church where it was common for him to serve Holy Liturgy on that date.
In Russia even though the Baptismal and Christianization of the nation until 15th century the Church New year begun on 1st of March. This is evident from all medieval manuscripts including The most famous and among most ancient Russian manuscript written by the eminent Nestor so called Primary Manuscript (Primary Chronicle) also called Tale of Begone Years.
With an Emperor decree of King Peter the I-st(The Great) the new year in Russia is transferred to 1st of January.
Saint Simeon the Stylites
Our Bulgarian Orthodox Church by tradition according to the main Church service instructions book – the Typikon marks on the first day of the new year as a very important "tiny Lord feast" and has tradition to celebrate the memory of saint Simeon the Stylites who spend mostly all his life praying on a Stylite and was a notable ascet of the Orthodox Church.
Saint Panteleimon is famous in west Roman-Catholic Christian tradition to be one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers a patron of doctors and herbalists especially famous during the middle ages 14-19 century summoned by people as a shield against various diseases and asked for help for untreatable sicknesses.
Besides the famous monastery Patleina region is a natural reserve 40,62 hectars in North-East Bulgaria, after 893 just few years after the Christianization of Bulgaria in 865 by King Boris the region is famous for being a host of a world famous ancient Presval Literary School near the region are found the oldest known cyriic datable inscriptions. Just to name a few of the famous Preslav Literary School authors that is Saint Naum of Preslav, Bishop Constantine of Preslav (Author of Alphabet Prayer), Historics and various other ancient Bulgarian spiritual literature, John the Exarch, Tchernorizets Hrabar etc.
Notable to see near Patleina monastery are Orthodox Christian icon craftman workshops.
Ceramic Icon Workshops near Patleina region (picture source Wikipedia)
Just 6 km away from Patleina is situated another Great Historical Landmark, the first Bulgarian capital Great Preslav (Veliki Preslav).
9th century Monastery Patleina Church wall remains – picture source Pravoslavieto.com
Patlejna (Also known as Saint King Boris Monastery) IX century entrance Church wall remains
Patleina IX century monastery Church alter view
Veliki Preslav the famous Ceramic Icon found during archeological excavations in Patleina Monastery (2 km away from Veliki Preslav) The icon style reminds of Byzantine art of 10 century, the icon image looks very much alike saint Theodor Stratilates though it not 100% proven whose image does the icon depicts – It is interesting fact that Patleinas craftman workshops are believed to be the biggest ceramic workshops on Balkans in 10th century consisting of a separate ceramic plates – picture source Wikipedia
Besides its ancient monastery and archeological excavations Patleina region is famous for being a reserve keeping one rare type of tree Carob Tree (or Ceratonia siliqua).
Just about 300 meters away from the ancient monastery Patleina there is functioning monastery that was recently restored bought back by Bulgarian Orthodox Church from the Government, the monastery building started in the 1930s (in which Bulgaria was in a serious spiritual and economical boom, however the building completed right before the completion of the Second World War before 9.09.1944 the date at which the Third Bulgarian Kingdom finished its existence and the communist came to power.
Saint Panteleimon Monastery Patleina region – (notice the unusual architecture, the whole monastery is one big rounded monastic wall
Saint Panteleimon Monastery near Veliki Preslav (picture source pravoslavieto.org)
The monastery saint Panteleimon was planned as in impressive building as in the 30's there was a hope for a restoration of Patleina as a spiritual center that will elevate itself to the importance it once had in the 9th century for the raise of Bulgarian Empire, the building is 4 floor and has the shocking number of 120 rooms. The fresh air and nature all surrounding it makes it a great place for rest for people who are overwhelmed by their daily stressful life and as far as I understood there is possibility for renting some of the rooms for a couple of days for pilgrims or even tourists.
Currently the whole enormous monastery is inhabited by only one monk Hieromonk Father Constantne who is also appointed as an Abbot of the Monastery and is in process of doing his best for restoration of the monastery and building a monastic brotherhood.
Hieromonk Konstantin (the only abbot and monk of saint Panteleimon monastery near Shumen)
As it is visible from the picture (the boxes under the icon of the Virgin Mary) the monastery has holy relics of Saint Panteleimon and relics of few other saints. What is interesting about father Konstantin is he used to be working in the Bulgarian Atomic Central (AEC Kozlodoi) scientific work before he converted to become a fervent Christian.
After father Konstantin understood God is a reality he decided to dedicate his life to Christ and he used to be a (novice – neophyte) in the Holy Mouth Athos monk republic in the Bulgarian Monastery saint George for 8 years!!!
It seems in this years father Konstantin realized he would be more helpful to become a monk in Bulgaria instead of Holy Mount Athos as here in Bulgaria, there is a lack of monks at the moment Bulgaria has according to what I heard a maximum of about 200 (monks and nuns) which is critically low.
Holy Liturgy Church service is being served regularly in the small monastic Church which is more looking like a Chapel and is on the first floor situated in the monastery building.
Father Constantine is famous for his hospitally just like most of the Holy Athos monks and right after the Sunday Service it is a tradition to feed all his guests, as a guests we were richly fed and we shared his lunch table just like Agape (the dinners of love of ancient Christian times).
Very near to Patleina Monastery there are other great landmarks for those interested in archeology as Veliki Preslav (Great Preslav) the first Bulgarian Capital and Ancient Center of Orthodoxy who had a major influence on Russian Cyrillic and Orthodoxy and from where most likely many Christian icons and books were transferred later to Russia to help them raise their spirituality after Baptizmal of Russia is situated just few km away.
Entrance Walls fortress Great Preslav (picture source Izvora)
Fortress Walls Great Preslav – The First Bulgarian Capital (ruins from the IX-Xth century) – picture source Wikipedia
In the historical Veliki Preslav the most notable archeological remain is the so called Golden Church
Great Preslav the famous Golden Church – the Church was partially restored to show the visitor how approximately it might have looked like in the X-XII century (The church was found during archeological excavations in 1927-1928 by Krystio Miatev and Jordan Gospodinov – according to written sources from 907 by Tudor Doksov, the Church coincides with the Church built by Simeon I the Great who proclaimed himself an Emperor of Bulgaria
Preslav the Golden Church (also famous as the Round Church) – picture source fonstola.ru
Cross on a Stone The Round Church – photograped by Angel Pavlov
Patleina and Great Preslav region view
Another Memorial Church worthy to visit in the region is situated on another fortress nearby to Great Preslav. The Memorial Church has the size of a Cathedral and is one of the biggest Cathedral Churches in Bulgaria.
Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius Memorial Church (In veneration of the creators of Glagolic Alphabet, later Bulgarian Cyrillic Alphabet)
St. St. Cyril and Methodius Church was planned as a memoriam of Saint Methodius (1000 years since his passing to Christ) planned to be build earlier in 1890s but delayed and later built in memorium of the Christianization of Bulgaria and 1000 years passed since the glorious Rule of King Simeon I, the Church building works completed thanks to Metropolitan Simeon in 1926 (the building works were delayed from 1897 'till 1918) A.D..
Very near the Church, one can see the ruins of another old Monastery dating again from the IX – X century, the construction is of a massive craved stone and was a masterpiece in the X century.
As an ex monastery the place can be considered holy as well and some people says it along with Veliki Preslov are a Gracious Energy filled places that can positively impact the human spirit.
Archeological Museum Great Preslav – picture source 100 Bulgarian National Landmarks
The museum has a very unique collection of artefacts and the entrance costs of 5 EUR is bearable, note that it's closed on Sundays. The museum has an overall of 35 000 objects but unfortunately only 1700 artefacts are shown for the visitor, it is notable for holding one of the largest collection middle age Byzantine insignias, The Preslav Golden Treasure, bronze silver and ceramic artefacts.
The archeologists so far has determined that Veliki Preslav with all its Past Greatness and enormous territory, Churches and surrounding monasteries nearby has been planned as a rivalry Empire city to Constantinople and Preslav will definitely impress you if you're keen into archeology and history, hope you visit it soon, Enjoy! 🙂
Recently I googled a bit about something and by accident (no accidents really exist) :)I stumbled upon two interesting prophecies One of Saint Kosmas from Aitolia and theother was St. Nileâ€™s. You could check them out in youtube.Or simply follow check them here: 1. Saint Nileâ€™s prophecy Saint Kosmas prophecy Glory be to the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit! Now and forever and ever! Amen!ENDâ€”â€“
Every Orthodox Christian as well as any Christianity historian should know very well the name of st. Anthony the Great. St. Anthony is probably the father of Monastic life and the monastic tradition started by his followers is living in various Christian monasteries (predominary Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox) all around the world. The monastery was established in year 356 by direct followers of the Great saint. Saint Anthony himself was illiterate but same time achieved holiness and God knowledge which only few in whole human history did. Recently my personal thoughts on Human Progress, ProgRes = (Programmed Resources), were leading in the same path testifying myself that the the path of "Higher Education" and big knowledge we all took, though leading us to big inventions and "fleshly developments" is more and more depriving us of the path of Truth and Love for God, which in its essence is a life of simplicity and humility. Saint Anthony's desert Monastery is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in history of mankind. It is one of the innumerous God miracles that the monastery built by saint Anthony's pupils is existing until today for already ABOUT 17 centuries (1700 YEARS!!!!)! It is located deep in the Red Sea Mountains (334 km from egypt Capital Cairo) very near to the Saint Catherine's Eastern Orthodox Monastery.
Saint Anthony the Great, is among the most venerated Christian saints also for the reason he fearlessly defended true Christianity from the heresy of Arius during first Ecumenical Council in NiceaA.D. 325. Arianism used to be one of the most deadly spiritual heresies since the Birth of Christ's Church. Arians rejected the Godly nature of Christ. Many protestant Christian sects nowadays are matching teachings taught by Arians.
Below movie BBC Extreme Pilgrim – Ascetic Christianity was produced by a Protestant (Anglican) Priest Father Peter Owes. From an Eastern Orthodox Christian perspective it is interesting to see his easy digestive "pinky" view on Christian faith and general life as it is typical for most western people.
Saint Athonoy's Cave and Saint Anthony Monastery – Extreme Pilgrim – Ascetic Christianity
During watching the movie some of his sayings are quite inappropriate and very much displaying the protestant bloated view of Christianity that is ruling over England, however near the end of the movie one can see Peter's change for good (the monastery and monks prayers changed him); he talks more spiritually wise and he started changing his understanding of Christianity and life. As the Extreme Pilgrim Ascetic is a few parts documentary the other 2 parts are exploring the Wondering Mystics of the Himalayas Mountains and a Confu-Monks of Central China (Buddhism) etc.
As most of the people in the Western World, though Peter being a devoted Christian and priest in the Church of England (Anglican Church), "pater" Owes does not have obviously clear understanding on True Christian belief system. In his complete sequelmovie he is putting on the same plane Buddhism, Mysticism and Christianity lowering truthfulness of our Christian faith to the other religions! This is no strange as this tendency is quite evident in Western European Countries (mixed Roman Catholic / Protestant countries). The previous Roman Catholic Pope himself John Paul II was for unification of all world religions not in the name of Jesus Christ but in the name of a fake (anti-Christian) World Peace.
Hopefully after he experienced some authentic hermitage Christianity, Peter Owes spiritual eyes will re-open for the true Christian Church and faith tradition kept in , the One Holy Apostolic Church – the Orthodox Church. I should also mention, that though Coptic Spirituality is on such a high level, Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is sadly officially not in eucharist communion with Easter Orthodox Church due to their rejection of the Ecumenical Councils after the III-rd Ecumenical Church Council (gathering). Along with preserving a very ancient Church tradition practices in the Coptic Church, from what I've saw in further researching about Coptic Orthodox Church has a bit of inclanation in iconography towards Roman Catholicism iconography. Of course some of this Roman Catholic iconography fragments are also evident in some of 19th century iconography in Russia, but in general in rest of Eastern Orthodox world this is much less than what I see in Coptic Church.
Most of the belief system and feast days of Coptic Orthodox Christians is almost identical to the rest of the Eastern Orthodox Church, making our Churches core teaching identical, however we're not officially one Church in holy communion unionl.
From what I've saw also it is evident that Coptic Church adopted a lot of arts along with the Greek language for their liturgy, as they sing the Kyrie Eleison prayer in Greek = (Lord Have Mercy). Also something to be noted is some of early Christian traditions in Copts were unchanged, they make the sign of the cross (from left to right) – little similar to Roman Catholics, whether we the Eastern Orthodox Christians, make the sign of the cross from right to left – you might want to see at my previous article why Orthodox Christians make the sign of the Cross different from Roman Catholics.
In any means, I'm mostly thankful to God will blessing me to have a look at the Cave of Saint Anthony – where he spend most of his life and the Great monastic life they still thankfully lead in this spiritual cloister ! I also hope my little post will be of help of people searching for Authentic Christianity and interested to strengthen their faith.
Here is the Church prayers saint Anthony the Great Glorification Hymns (Troparion and Kontaktion) as we sing them in the Eastern Orthodox Church:
Troparion (Tone 8)
You are most glorious, O Christ our God!
You have established the Holy Fathers as lights on the earth!
Through them you have guided us to the true faith!
O greatly Compassionate One, glory to You!
Kontaktion (Tone 8)
The Apostles' preaching and the Fathers' doctrines have established one faith for the Church.
Adorned with the robe of truth, woven from heavenly theology,
It defines and glorifies the great mystery of Orthodoxy
Let by the Holy Prayers of Saint Anthony the Great, God have mercy on all of us Orthodox Christians.
Thousands of people came to venerate and ask for a last blessing The Bulgarian Orthodox patriarch his All Holiness Maxim. The (Holy Liturgy Service) took place inCathedral Church Saint Nedelia
Cathedral of Sveta Nedelia (Saint Nedelia) is one of the most famous landmarks in Bulgaria's capital Sofia. It is a medieval Church many times rebuild, and its primal building was done in the 10th century many times rebuild, current Church building is made in XIX century. st. Nedelia's Cathedral keeps the Holy Relics of King Stephan Milutin
The Holy King Milutin's Holy Relics are transferred in Bulgaria in the 1460s, whether the holy relics was for years kept across several monasteries in Churches throughout Bulgaria. St. Nedelia's Church building is blessed to store the Holy Saint Relics since the 18th century when the Church become Bishop's residence. It was common the Church to be called St. King Milutin because in the late 19th and 20th century because of significance of holding the Holy remains of Saint Serbian king Milutin
It is no strange that the Holy Liturgy where people can venerate the patriarch will be served exactly in this Church and again it is due to God's human incomprehensible providence.
In the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, we have celebrated saint Serbian King Stephan Milutin's veneration just 9 days ago (on 30th of October). It is obviously a providence of God and God inspired BOC Holy Synod decision to do the ( Farewell) Holy Liturgy in the Church holding the Great Saint of Serbia and All Orthodoxy Stephan Milutin Holy Relics.
The Holy Liturgy was headed by Plovdiv region Metropolitan Nikolay.
Which as of now is temporary chosen to serve as Metropolitan for Eparchy of Sofia.
Crowds of people from all around Bulgaria, came to venerate for a last time the Holy Hierarch. The police was forced to prohibit temporary entrance of people in the temple due to the high amount of people trying to enter and venerate patriarch Maxim.
Many priests from across Bulgaria come to venerate the Holy Patriarch and take participation in Patriarch's Farewell's Holy Liturgy
To venerate our wise patriarch for the Farewell Holy Liturgy came the ecomenical Constantinople Patriarch Bartholomeus
The funeral of his all holiness will be tomorrow in Troyanski Manastir Through my lifetime I did not have the opportunity to venerate the patriarch. In my mind however I'm deeply bowing in front of him and asking for his blessing. By God's providence, today in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church it is a big Church feast, Arhangelov den (Assembly of the Holy Archangels). The patriarch Zaupokoina Slujba ( Patriarch Opelo ) as we call it in Bulgaria will be served in Sofia's Cathedral Church of Saint Alexander Nevski tomorrow morning.
Lets hope by his all holiness Patriarch Maxim prayers who "introduced himself in the Lord" as we say in the Church, the state of our Bulgarian Orthodox Church will improve and more and more Bulgarian young people will find Christ and truthfulness of the One Holy Apostolic – Orthodox Christian faith.
Head of our Bulgarian Orthodox Church, his all holiness Patriach Maxim passed away to Christ early this morning 06 November 2012 around 03:30 Ð°.m.
Our beloved patriarch headed the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in truth for the immersely high 41 years! Patarirch Max was the oldest among all Orthoodox Christian patriarchs. Just 8 days earlier, we have celebrated in the Church his 98 birthday. People who know the patriarch personally, said from his youth even even to his old years he used to be "The same humble person".
Our patriarch birthname "in the world" was Marin Naydenov Minkov and Pena Bordjukova. The patriarch was born from a father Nayden Minkov Rachev. Almost none is known about how the future Bulgarian Church patriarch who headed the Church ( 1971 – 2012 ) lived in his young years, similarly little is known about his family (parents) background, all we know is his parents was very pious people.
His Holiness Patriarch Maxim was born in Oreshak a little village near the city of Lovech, Bulgaria. His education was given in his native birth place – the mountain village of Oreshak.
In year 1935 His Holiness completed Sofia's Spiritual Seminary School ( Sofiiska Duhovna Seminaria ). In 1942 his holiness completed a Theological Degree in Sofia State University – saint Clement of Ohrid ( Saint Kliment Ohridski ).
A small note to make here for those unfamiliar with Orthodoxy is in Orthodox Church it is accepted that once a person is ordained to be a Monk or Priest (part of white or black brotherhood), he is usually given a name of a Church saint.
After a while, he was for a short time he served as a Hierodeacon to Lovchanski's Metropolitan (Metropolit of Lovech) and in year 1942, his holiness was assigned as a Theology Teacher in Sofia's Spiritual seminary ( Sofiiska Duhovna Seminaria ), he served as a Christian Theology teacher for about 5 years from y. 1942 to 1947.
In 14 May 1944 from HieroDeacon he was consecrated to be Hieromonk, 3 years later in 1947, he was raised to Archimandrite and assigned as Protosingel of Dorostolsko – Chervenska Eparchy ( Dorstol's Eparchy ) by Mitrpolitan Mihail (Michael).
By decision of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church Holy Synod, Archimandrite Maxim was send to serve as a rector for Bulgarian Christian community in Moscow, his ministry in Moscow lasted almost 6 years from 1950 to 1955.
Archibishop Maxim came back to Bulgaria in 1955 and was assigned as a Head Secretary for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church Holy Synod. As a primary secretary of Bulgarian Church Holy Synod he served in year 1955 to 1960. Along with his duties are primary secretary of Holy Synod in 1957 to 1960, he was serving as a Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Synodal periodical spiritual literature print.
In 30 December 1956, he was hierotonize ( ordained ) as Bishop Branitskogo (Branitski) – this happened after proposed by his all holiness patriarch Cyril and decided on one of the regular Holy Synod of Bulgarian Orthodox Church meetings.
30 of October his holiness was assigned to serve as Metropolitan Lovchanski ( Metropolit of Lovchanski Church region ).
After the passing to Christ of our previous Bulgarian Church patriarch, his holiness patriarch Cyril (Kirilos), in the following in the Patriarchate Church (national) assembly of BOC (Bulgarian Orthodox Church) 4 -8 July 1971 in Sofia, Metropolitan Lovchanski Maxim was canonically chosen to be vicar of the BOC Holy Synod.
His entronization as new patriarch took place on 4 July 1971 in Alexander-Nevski's ( Bulgarian Holy Synod ) council. Patriarch Maxim became the 21-st ( Primate ) Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox.
According to Bulgarian Church internal law, the patriarch of Bulgaria is also a Metropolitan of Sofia.
Little after he was chosen the Patriarch of all Russia at that time Pimen, in his speech spoke of the recently chosen Bulgarian patriarch as a prominent hierarch with many virtues.
In November y. 1974 the Assembly of Sofia's Spiritual Academy awarded His All holiness Patriarch Maxim of Bulgaria for his great theological contributions Phd scientific rank( honoris causa ).
To celebrate his 60th anniversary BOC Synodal Publishing of Sofia issued a collection of his works entitled "In the field of the Lord" (Sofia publishing 1975). The book includes words, speeches and articles of Patriarch Maxim for period 1950 – 1974.
In 1974, the Council ofthe SofiaTheological AcademyawardedPatriarchMaxim forhistheological writingsa degree of Doctorof Theologyhonoris causa.60th Anniversary ofPatriarch MaximSynodalPublishingin Sofiaissued a collection ofthe worksof his work"In thefield of the Lord" (Sofia, 1975).The book includes thewords,speeches and articlesfor1950-1974Patriarch Maxim's.
Last year the newly chosen Patriarch of all Russia, Cyril met our Patriarch Maxim.
The funeral of Patriarch is to be served in Troyanski Manastir (Trojan Monastery), in the Church Dormition of the Holy Theotokos behind miracle making icon of the Virgin Mary on Friday 9th of November 2012. By God's providence and the Holy Synod of BOC decision, his body will be laid in the same monastery, where he was ordained as monk. The funeral preparations will be made by the Abbot of Troyanski Monastery Branitski / Bishop Grigorius (Grigorij).
The Bulgarian Government announced Friday to be a day of sorrow in memoriam of patriarch Maxim. Along in the whole Bulgarian country Churches Za Upokojna slubja (A service prayer for the newly introduced patriarch in the Lord ) were served yesterday and will be continuously served in the next 3 days.
Now what is left is we pray for our patriarch's soul and by patriarch Maxim's prayers the Lord Jesus Christ to bless our Bulgarian Orthodox Church with another good and wise patriarch.
As I'm trying to Regularly going to Orthodox Church, here near Arnhem Netherlands. The only place where one can go each Sunday for an Orthodox Holy Liturgy is in Nijmegen (A city 40 km away from Arnhem, The Netherlands). The Church building used there is very near to a Roman Catholic Cathedral. The Church itself is not built 100% according to Orthodox buildings Church architecture "standards", but the Holy Liturgy is served in a Byzantine Chapel. One of the many movements in Roman Catholic Church seems to be serving closer to Eastern Orthodox Christian service and they do their services in Churches which are built similar to old Byzantine Churches. The Church in Nijmegen, where one can regularly go for Holy Liturgy is one of this Byzantine Chapels. Currently the Church is used only by Orthodox Christians. As the Church alter was previously "opened" in the fashion of Roman Catholic tradition. Because we Orthodox did have a special barrier between Alter and rest of Church (where non layman people pray), a barrier was built in order to make the Church canonically compatible with our Eastern Orthodox Churches. Currently the Church building is hired from Roman Catholics and every Saturday or Sunday there is a Holy Liturgy served there. Two local Orthodox Churches Western Europe eparchies are serving Holy Liturgy there:
Russian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church
The usual services goes like this:
One Sunday the Holy Liturgy is served by Russian Orthodox Church priest (Father Sergii)
1 (Saturday or Sunday) a Holy Liturgy is served by a serbian Priest (Father Dushan).
An important note to make here is Russian Orthodox Church priest and hence Nijmegen Church parish belongs to Russian Orthodox Church and not Foreign Russian Orthodox Church – I make this clarification because in Arnhem there is a Russian Orthodox Church too but the Church there belongs to the "Schismatic" Russian Orthodox Church which choose not to reunite with the Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchy.
It is a a kind of Church tradition here in Netherlands after the end of Church service people gather together in the small Kitchen room located in Church and Eat together and have a chat (a post communion). This supper is something that is not well known in most "native traitional" orthodox Countries like in our Church in Bulgaria as well as in most if not all Russian and Belarusian Churches. This eating together with brothers and sister from Church is something great that I believe most if not all city Orthodox Churches must practice in some form. It a good way to share the love and joy of Christ's resurrection after Church service completes. Thus if you're in situation like me, where you're trying to be a devoted Orthodox Christian living in Arnhem Netherlands and you're looking for a way to attend Church services every week Sunday or Saturday, one of your "cheap" options is to just go regularly from Arnhem to Nijmegen (only 40 km away from Anrhem). The most cheap way is to travel by train. Two way ticket from Arnhem to Nijmegen (Retuur Ticket as called in Dutch) costs as of time of writing (8.10 EURO) which for living standard in Netherlands is not so high price. There is also transportation by bus to Nijmegen, but as long as I know bus ticket costs a bit more so probably if you're trying to travel cheap, train is better.
Each Russian and Serbian Orthodox Church has its own community and besides that there are some native Dutch (some of whom come for both Russian and Serbian Divine Liturgy. Curiously some of the Dutch even sing in the Russian Church choire 😉
It is amazing too see that here in Holland, there are native Dutch (wow! 🙂 ) who somehow by God's great providence managed to find true Christ Church – the Orthodox Church in this whole great (faith) confusion of the days.. This is really a miracle, really ! Some of Dutch people attending the Church services are very dedicated, they even can speak some Russian / Serbian or Macedonian. Within both Churches brothers and sisters one can find very interesting people from all spheres of life. As I'm involved in IT, I could meet and speak few person from Russian Orhodox Church who just like myself are involved in IT jobs. Even more curiously one of those IT persons (a Bulgarian and a Programmer) is responsible for selling candles and orthodox books and in the Russian Orthodox Church 🙂
It is rather interesting for me as Bulgarian Orthodox Christian to see how same Holy Liturgy as our Bulgarian Holy Liturgy is served in Church Slavonic by our brotherly nations Russians and Serbs.
It is interesting that the Church service is almost 100% comprehendable and contains the same prayers and order just like in our Bulgarian Orthodox Church – well this is normal since we're Orthodox, but still seeing it with your own eyes and experiencing some other nation Holy Liturgy is an experience to remember.
Each of the Russian and Serbian Church has their local tradition uniqueness too and though the Holy Liturgy and For "rememembrance of the dead" service is equal all along all Orthodox Christian local Churches there are little specifics in both Russian and Serbian Church which make the services even deeper and gives me better understanding of our Orthodox Christian faith. As Serbs are very near to Bulgaria and just like us Bulgarian Orthodox, they're serving and singing and serving in the Church in the "Byzantine style", the Serbs Church service is maybe a little bit closer to how Holy Liturgy and the Mysticisms in the Church are served by priest in the Church. Main thing that mains serbian Church more close to how currently the Holy Liturgies are served in Bulgaria is the fact that on the "Klir" (clergy) in serbian Church there is one or two person, whether in Russian for contrast there is a whole Choire of about 6 / 7 person with a choir conductor. Mentioning of the Choir Conductor and the Russian Choire I should say they sing really beautiful angelic, though the choire sings in the Russian little modernized so called "Western" singing style (as it is sung in most if not all Russian Churches nowdays). The Western singing however is not a problem and the experience one gets from choire singing is bringing the soul high to heavens! The Church choire leader in Nijmegen's Russian Church is a kind lady which is Matushka (wife of the kind and Graceful Priest Father Sergii). The Russian Church does not have "Verchernaja" (evening Service), because of Holy Liturgy, maybe because father Sergii, his wife, the deacon and ipodakons (under deacons), travel every 2 Sundays to Nijmegen to participate in the Divine Holy Liturgy. Many of the other Russian and Serbian "flock" also has to travel for a nearby cities in order to be able to present and pray together with the Church. Here in Netherlands life of the Orthodox Christians is not and easy. Though it has its pros, like for example the overall high standard and richness of Holland, being an Orthodox Christian in holland usually means a lot of time spend in traveling and a lot of vigilance. Every non-Orthodox should know well Holland is not officially Orthodox Christian, but one part of Holland is mainly predominated by Roman Catholics and other part by Protestants, meaning Orthodox Christian here are usually 1st or second generation emigrants, students or people from Orthodox countries who now temporary work to earn some better money in Holland. it is interesting that the fr. Sergii himself is local ( Dutch ), the deacon of the Russian Church is dutch and one of the Ipodeacons is also dutch. In Serbian Church I haven't seen so far a deacon, the alter helpers (ipodeacons) are however from Croatia and Serbia and fr. Dushan is born in Serbia and living in Holland since 3 years from the time of moment of writing. Just recently the Serbian Church in Holland marked its 20 years from existence and there was an evening service in Nijmegen, the 20 years of the Church was combined with the Great feast of the Birth of Saint Constantine and Helena Serbian Orthodox Church feast. St. Constantine was the first Emperor who allowed Christianity to be considered equal to rest of worldly beliefs. St. Constantine also stopped severe persecution against Christians. For the feast the head of Serbian Eparchy for Western Europe – Bishop Luka (KovaÄeviÄ‡) was present increasing the joy of the feast of present.
saint Willibrord Apostle of Friesland (Holland) and First Bishop of Utrecht- Unknown origin
Many people might not know, that Holland used to be an Orthodox Christian Country back in the day. The current state of the country is highly divided spiritually in terms of faith roughly it can be said half of Holland is Roman Catholic and Half is Protestant. Just like mixture of population and cultural mixture the country did mixed up its Christian believes too. The reasons for this are complex, but what is important is nowdays true Christians who live in the Netherlands, can be joyful to find out Holland in its primordial state of existence (i.e. Dutch land was not clearly separated from German and English), the country was evangelized by true Orthodox Christians. Just like we in Bulgaria have our highest venerated patron saints protectors and prayer intercessor of all Bulgaria Saint John of Rila and Saint (Saint Apostle equal) righteous Tzar (King) Boris, it was rather amazing for me and probably will be for many to find out that Holland has their patron saints too!
Saint (Heilige) Willibrord icon (from Husstege's icons)
Saint WilliBrord though probably well known saint among native Dutch inhabitants and devoted Roman Catholic Christians, however little (almost none) of the foreigners who came to live, study or for tourists who keep tight to their Orthodox Faith, have heard of him. Saint Willibrord's memory is still however commemorated in many Roman Catholic Churches on 7th November, as this great saint played key role for the baptism of the Frisian lands (primary nowadays constituting ofHolland lands), therefore it is obvious St. Willibrord was a man of great courage a devoted missionary a vigilant Christian saint who lived and worked for building Christ's Kingdom on earth (The Church). St. Willibrord is among the few persons through Church history so far who played important role for rooting the Christian faith in nowadays Holland. St. Willibrordimportance for Holland Christian faith could be probably only compared to the importance of Saint Cyril (Kiril / Kirilos) and Methodius (Metodii) in Great Moravia for rooting the seed of faith and future existence of Christian faith in nowadays Balkans countries (Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Romania, Moldova) as well as few centuries later for Christianization of whole Russia. As many who live a true Orthodox live know, the Western Church (Roman Catholic Chuch), which split from Eastern Church during Great Schism – consequentially through the next centuries changed things concerning faith made it even further astray from true Christ Church – The Eastern Church (Orthodox Eastern Church). After the XI-th century Roman Catholics loose the status of Apostolic Church, as it was claimed by Roman Catholics Pope's Primacy over other Patriarchs from the East; because of this reason and the ex-communication of Roman Catholic from our Eastern Orthodox Church and fact that st. Willibrord operated his mission under the authority of the Pope Sergius I, this great saint memory become less remembered in Eastern Orthodox Church and probably with time in many Eastern Churches his importance for Western Christian evangelization was distanced from the ongoing life of the Eastern Orthodox Church apart from Roman Catholics dilusion.
Nomatter that as nowadays true Christ's faith the Orthodoxy is re-discovered by many who either born in today's Roman Catholics in Western Europe Lands (Holland, Germany, England, Ireland) or converted to true Christian faith Orthodoxy coming from a protestant background; with this the veneration of the saint memory by Orthodox Christians in the West also become restored.
All who has at least a basic idea about Christianity today in the Western lands, know the complexity of western Christian life and the general demise of Christian faith here. Even though this, still the Orthodox Church is slowly marching and returning its prior state in the West as many people are found, touched and led by our Saviour and Saviour of the World Jesus Christ to the One Holy Apostolic Chruch – Eastern Orthodox Church.
With all above said, as I'm currently in Holland the Netherlands and am an Orthodox Christian. Finding out information about Saint Willibrord was a true blessing for me.
The Living of Saint Willibrord – Heavenly protector of Frisia (Holland)
( Born circa 658 – Passed to Christ 7 November 739 )
a. The Preparation of st. Willbrord for his mission (658-690).
We are fortunate in having an early life of St Willibrord, written by his own relative, Alcuin of York (735-804), in 796. This was based on an even earlier Irish life which is now lost. We also have a calendar of St Willibrord with a biographical note written in his own hand and a penitential written, it seems, by the saint or at least dictated and used by him.
Willibrord was born probably on 6 November 658 in Yorkshire, near the north coast of the River Humber, which juts out into the North Sea, not far from the present town of Hull. This is directly opposite the Frisian Islands. His father was a very pious man called Wilgils. He later became a monk, founded a small monastery dedicated to the Apostle Andrew, became a hermit and was locally venerated as a saint. Willibrord was educated as a child in Ripon, at the monastery of St Wilfrid, Bishop of York. Here, aged only 15, Willibrord became a monk – an age not so uncommon in those days.
In 678 after St Wilfrid’s departure from York, Willibrord left for voluntary exile in Ireland. Here he spent twelve years in a monastery of English monks, learning the ascetic life of the Irish, who had been inspired by the monks of Egypt. These ascetic practices included living in exile and reciting the Psalter by heart, with hands raised in the form of a cross. The Irish were great missionaries and considered exile to be a ‘green martyrdom’. In other words, self-exile to other countries was a pilgrimage, which shows us that whatever our earthly homeland, we all have the same heavenly homeland, and that is our only destination. Separation from our earthly homeland is a form of asceticism, of separation from the world.
In this way Willibrord would learn to combine the practical organisational abilities he had obtained in England with the ascetic and spiritual practices of Ireland. We can consider that this whole period was an apprenticeship, a preparation for what was to come. In Ireland he was ordained priest and here in 690 he decided to go to Frisia. Why this decision to go to Frisia after twelve years in Ireland? First of all, Frisia was well known in England. The Frisians were near neighbours and there was much trade between Frisia, especially the port of Dorestad near Utrecht, and London and the other ports of eastern England, where many Frisians lived. Let us not forget that Willibrord came from eastern England, from an area that juts out into the North Sea, on the same latitude as the Frisian Islands. As we have said, the language was the same. But there were other, more personal reasons too. Willibrord’s first mentor, St Wilfrid, had briefly been in Frisia as a missionary in 678-79. In Ireland his Abbot, St Egbert, had long wanted to go there. A priest in the monastery, Witbert had spent two years in Frisia, though without success. Abbot Egbert was to find another volunteer in Willibrord.
In any case, it is clear that Willibrord must have heard much about Frisia as a neighbouring territory, where people spoke virtually the same language as English and yet did not know Christ. What could be more natural for the English than to want to bring the good news of Christ to their neighbours, who spoke the same language and lived in the land from where, less than 200 years, eight generations, before, the English themselves had set sail for Britain?
b.St. Willibrord Frisia Mission (690-714).
In the year 690, the thirty-third year of his life, Fr Willibrord set off from Ireland for Frisia via England, together with eleven disciples. These were almost certainly English monks from the same monastery in Ireland. Although several of the twelve became bishops and others were martyred, we know the name of only one other of them. This was the future St Swithbert, who would become a missionary between the Rivers Yssel and Ems and then Bishop of Kasierswerth in western Germany, not so far from St Willibrord. Fr Willibrord and his followers crossed the North Sea, landing on the coast at Oude Rijn near Katwijk. From here, he and his companions sailed to Utrecht, the Roman Traiectum, near the trading centre of Dorestad. Here he met the Frankish ruler of the area, Pippin II, and set up camp in the old Roman fortress of Vecht, set up on the ford over the river. Utrecht itself means uit – trecht, downriver from the ford. In Roman Utrecht there was already a small church which had been built by Frankish missionaries in the early seventh century.
South of the River Rhine, Frisia was occupied by the Franks. To the north there was great nationalistic enmity between the Franks and the Frisians. In the north and east of Frisia, that is, the north and east of present-day Holland, the pagan King Radbod of the Frisians detested the Franks and all that they stood for – including, unfortunately, Christianity. However, Willibrord understood that he could do nothing without the support of the secular authorities, that is, of Pippin.
In search of spiritual support, in 692, Willibrord paid his first visit to Rome, to the Syrian Pope St Sergius I. He knew that he needed the support of the Church authorities, just as he needed that of the secular authorities, indeed, to counterbalance them, if necessary. He received great encouragement from the Pope. We should not be surprised by this search for support. For example, if we wanted to start a mission in, say, India, we would seek the support of our Patriarch and also that of the Indian authorities. This is what missionaries have always done, from St Augustine in England, to Sts Cyril and Methodius in Moravia, to St Nicholas in Japan. We do not begin missions without the support and approval of the Church. We do not act alone, but together, because salvation comes to us together.
Fr Willibrord returned from Rome with relics of the saints and headed for Antwerp, on the southern edge of Frisian territory. Here he found the church of Sts Peter and Paul, which existed there already, thanks to the earlier labours of Sts Amand and Eloi. Here he affirmed the Faith, before returning northwards to evangelise Frankish Frisia, Utrecht and the villages around it. From this point on Radbod had a less negative attitude towards Willibrord. Indeed, his daughter actually married Pippin’s son in an alliance.
Saint Willibrord apostle of Frisians Bishop of Utrecht with his pupils
In November 695 Fr Willibrord was again in Rome at the request of Pippin. This time he was consecrated Archbishop by Pope Sergius. This took place two days before the feast of St Clement, the third Pope of Rome. Willibrord was given the new name of Clement by thePope. This indeed is his official name, although he is still generally known by his old name Willibrord. But Clement is still a fitting name because of St Clement’s apostolic fame, his writings and because of his links with the sea – something which should also link him with Holland. Archbishop Willibrord-Clement returned to Frisia with liturgical vessels and relics, which still survive today in churches at Emmerich and Trier. The Archbishop now settled in the Roman fortress in Utrecht, gifted to him by Pippin with 10% of his revenue. The new Archbishop of Utrecht made the town into his Metropolitan see. He rebuilt the church inside the fortress, dedicating it to St Martin. Martin remains a very common name in the Netherlands to this day. He also built in Utrecht his Cathedral dedicated to the Saviour. The choice of the dedication was and is natural to a Christ-centred mission. We are reminded that in New Rome the great Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom of God, Hagia Sophia, is also dedicated to the Saviour, the Wisdom of God. In Canterbury St Augustine had dedicated his Cathedral to Christ, Christchurch, and in the centre of Moscow today, the great symbol of the victory over Communism is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
In 698 the Archbishop was granted land by Pippin’s mother-in-law, abbess of a convent near Trier. This land was nearby, on the site of a Roman villa in Echternach, now in Luxembourg.
It was to become the largest and favourite monastery founded by Archbishop Willibrord and is famous for the Echternach Gospels. This was the place where he lived the monastic life of Ireland. After his repose and burial there, it became the centre of his veneration and pilgrimage and a centre for manuscript production. It was during this period in the early eighth century that the Archbishop met the pagan Frisian King Radbod, who now showed him indifference rather than hostility. The Archbishop also travelled beyond the Elbe to southern Denmark to try and convert the people there. He returned with thirty young Danes, whom he instructed and baptised. On his return from there he was driven by a storm to the island of Heligoland, where there lived pagan Frisians. He baptised three of these, but one of his monks was martyred there by angry pagans. King Radbod threatened Archbishop Willibrord, but he was fearless in his answers to the King, denouncing his idols as devils. The King respected him for his courage.
The Archbishop evangelised around his Metropolitan centre in Utrecht, building churches and monasteries, with money from Pippin. He ordained deacons and priests, among them many native Frisians, and consecrated bishops. He also travelled to Susteren, where he built a monastery, to Zeeland and to the island of Walcheren. There he destroyed a pagan idol, for which deed he was struck on the head and nearly killed. From Echternach he also served the nuns in Trier, where they still have a portable altar of the Archbishop. We can see an Irish element in the Archbishop’s unceasing travels.
c. Crisis and Restoration (714-739).
Having assassinated his son-in-law, that is, Pippin’s son, in April 714, the pagan Frisian King Radbod welcomed the death of Pippin in December 714. At once, in 715, Radbod turned against the Franks, destroying churches and monasteries, killing priests and driving out Archbishop Willibrord and his monks. They took refuge in Echternach and patiently waited for the tide to turn. Four years later, in 719 the Archbishop was able to return to Frisia. The new Frankish King, Charles Martel, had put down the Frisian revolt. Radbod had died and the Archbishop baptised King Charles’ son, who was to become Pippin III, called ‘the Short’. Back in Utrecht Archbishop Willibrord set about rebuilding, with Charles’ help. His success grew in preaching and then baptising. Now came the period of restoration and also expansion. Notably, he travelled to the east of Frisia outside Frankish Frisia, where he had never been before. St Willibrord truly became the Archbishop of the Frisians, leaving only limited pockets of paganism in the far north, what is now Friesland. He was also helped for three years by another English missionary, Boniface, who later achieved fame as a saint and as the Enlightener of many peoples who live on the territory of modern Germany. Although the Archbishop was now in his sixties, in many ways this was his most fruitful period. But as he grew older, his strength began to fail him and he delegated more and more to others.
All Frisia west of the Zuyder Zee had been converted to Christ. There were only pockets of paganism left towards Dokkum. St Willibrord started to withdraw to his favourite monastery at Echternach and it was here on 7 November 739, aged 81, that he reposed in peace. Miracles had been recorded in his lifetime and these continued after his repose. He was soon venerated as a saint. The writer of St Willibrord’s life, his relative Alcuin, gave this physical description of him in his prime: ‘He was of medium height, with a dignified appearance, handsome face, he was cheerful in spirit, wise in counsel, pleasing in speech, serious in character and energetic in everything he undertook’. Alcuin also calls him ‘the holiest of fathers and the wisest of teachers’.
There is no doubt that St Willibrord depended on the support of the Frankish Kings to evangelise the Frisians. Neither is there any doubt that he made use of the spiritual support offered to him by the Pope. As Patriarch of the West, it was only natural that Willibrord should have that blessing and support. But it is also clear that without the efforts of St Willibrord himself, the story of the evangelisation of Frisia, modern Holland, would have been very different. The fact that he was not one of the Frisian national enemies, a Frank, but that he was an outsider, an Englishman, undoubtedly helped him greatly. Without St Willibrord surely the evangelisation of Holland would have been much more difficult and would have come much later.
Lessons we modern day Orthodox Christians can learn from st. Willibrord
Apart from the above, I think that there are four more lessons that we can learn from the three parts of St Willibrord’s life and mission:
Firstly, we can see that for over thirty years Willibrord had been preparing, mainly unconsciously, for his mission. Here we have a sense of destiny. In his mission to the Frisians, St Willibrord fulfilled the mission that God had put in his soul. In this we achieve nothing if we are not thoroughly prepared. This is our first lesson. And we can see its practical application, inasmuch as before baptising the Frisians, Willibrord always preached to them, instructing them. He prepared the ground, sowing before harvesting.
Secondly, we can see in St Willibrord the Incarnational principle of the practical and the spiritual. And in fact these are the two sides of the same coin. In him we can see the English and the Irish, the Roman organiser and the Egyptian monk. For example, he established an operational headquarters in Roman Utrecht. But he also operated out of a spiritual base, in his beloved monastery of Echternach. St Willibrord shows us that although we are very much in the world, we are still not of it. And all those who deny this principle of balance, taking only one side and not the other, as the Franks later did, come to grief and misfortune.
Thirdly, we can see through the life of the saint that God protects his workers. Time and again St Willibrord was under threat in dangerous circumstances. He worked under Frankish patronage among the Franks’ national enemies. He worked to destroy the old pagan religion and replace it with the new Christian Faith. Each time that threats came, he did not suffer, but his enemies did. He was fearless because he had faith. And what do we have to fear? The worst thing that can happen to us is death and that, for Christians, means paradise.
Fourthly, and finally, we see the patience of the saint. He thought in the long term, in terms of generations. Following the pagan reaction in 714-715, it seemed as though 25 years of work had been in vain. All was lost. However, the saint returned and began again. God was to give him another 25 years and more helpers to continue. Ultimately, we can say that he who loses is he who does not persevere but gives up. St Willibrord did not give up and therefore he won the battle. This is the great lesson to us.
To this day, in the streets of Echternach, every year on the Tuesday of Pentecost, the third day of the Feast, clergy and crowds of pilgrims perform the dance of St Willibrord. ‘Heiliger Willibrord, bete fuer uns’, they cry. Until the Second World War, they performed the original form of the dance, three steps forward and two steps back. Nobody knows the origin of this dance. But I could suggest a spiritual interpretation for it. It means that though we go forwards in life, we also, through our human weakness and sin, go back, but never as far back as we go forwards. This dance is then a sort of rule for our spiritual life. Let us not be discouraged when we go backwards, because we have actually already advanced even more.
As long as we do not give up, the victory is still ours. Two steps back, but three steps forward.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips 22 April 2010 Wijk aan Zee Netherlands
There is plenty more to be said about St. Willimbrord. According to some Roman Catholic sources for st. Willibrord's living the saint had been blessed with the gift of sagacity Here is a text I found on catholic-saints.info's website:
The Story and History of Saint Willibrord
The story and history of Saint Willibrord. Willibrord was born in Northumberland in 657, and when twenty years old went to Ireland, to study under St. Egbert; twelve years later, he felt drawn to convert the great pagan tribes who were hanging as a cloud over the north of Europe. He went to Rome for the blessing of the Pope, and with eleven companions reached Utrecht. The pagans would not accept the religion of their enemies, the Franks; and St. Willibrord could only labor in the track of Pepin Heristal, converting the tribes whom Pepin subjugated. At Pepin's urgent request, he again went to Rome, and was consecrated Archbishop of Utrecht. He was stately and comely in person, frank and joyous, wise in counsel, pleasant in speech, in every work of God strenuous and unwearied. Multitudes were converted, and the Saint built churches and appointed priests all over the land. He wrought many miracles, and bad the gift of prophecy. He labored unceasingly as bishop for more than fifty years, beloved alike of God and of man, and died full of days and good works.
Feast Day of Saint Willibrord
The Feast Day of Saint Willibrord is November 7. The origin of Feast Days: most saints have specially designated feast days and are associated with a specific day of the year and these are referred to as the saint's feast day. The feast days first arose from the very early Christian custom of the annual commemoration of martyrs on the dates of their deaths at the same time celebrating their birth into heaven.
Saint Willibrord Dutch saint (Huesstege orthodox icon
Saint Willibrord icon located (somewhere in the Netherlands)
St. Willibrord Apostle of Frisians
Movie about the celtic/anglosaxon monk Willibrordus who took the peregrinatio to Europe…
He was one of the first celtic monks who took the roman Form of Liturgie…but in his view of Life and Nature he was in the celtic Tradition… And this is also why he had troubles with Bonifatius the Reformer. Bonifatius wanted a unique church focused on rome and the pope. Willibrord, as many other celtic wandering monks, stayed for an individual Christianism as the celtic church did, focused on the Monasteries…
Saint (Heilige) Willebrord sitting on his Bishop throne
Echternach – St Willibrord Pilgrimage 2009 (Saint Willibrord traditional dance)
It is very interesting to see, that St. Willibrord dance looks very similar to Bulgarian folkore dancing – the so called Horo (Horo Dance)
For those Orthodox Christians who live in territory of Netherlands, but cannot be bodily on Moleben to St. Willebroard, here is Moleben from 7th November 2011
Supplicatory Canon to St. Willibrord (Utrecht), The Netherlands
As Enlightener of the Frisians, just like our Enlighteners of Bulgarian lands and Slavonic world St. St. Kiril and Methodi, saint Willibrord is also titled Apostle-Equal.
Saint Willibrord Pray the Lord Jesus Christ, our Souls be saved !
Why we practice a childrean baptizm inside the Orthodox Church?
Practicing baptizm on new born babies has been a criticism that many Protestant Churches has on us Orthodox Christians. The protestant arguments point at our Holy Orthodox Church claiming this is wrong, hence I decided to write this little article to explain to protestant as much as I can why their understanding that we should not baptize babies is wrong.
As I’m “conscious” Orthodox Christian since about 8 years, this question was making me wonder and making me distrust the Truthfullness of the Orthodox Christain faith back then.
So why we Orthodox Christian Baptize, if the children is still so young so it can’t understand the faith? Where this new born babies practice come from? and why we still hold it in the Church? It is due to one and only main reason; Nobody knows how long he will live! – (maybe the new born will die in birth (God Forbid), maybe a sudden death will strike (God Forbid)!; Plus moreover in early days of the Church, it was a common thing that new born babies die in infancy or in a very young age in less than a year time. Thus seeing this in one spirit in leaded by the Holy Spirit in earlier times the One Holy Apostolic Church / Orthodox Church holy hiearachs lead by the Holy Spirit itself, decided together that baptism is practice on new borns. Back in those days Christian people’s Faith and Hope in God was huge, so it was usual that Christians baptized their kids in order for their kid to receive a higher blessing in very young times of the kid (few months, 40 days) or in the early days of childhood. The children baptizm was practiced with one and only reason to assure salvation of the kid (if it suddenly pass away) and grant him the Grace of the Holy Spirit (received after Christian Baptism) from its baby years. The historical facts on why we baptize kids is broader so anyone deeply interested in his faith and non-Orthodox or even Orthodox Christian might like to check it.
The earliest historical evidence of infancy baptism from histroy dates back to early II-nd century. We read about it in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus about year 215 A.D.. Little chunk extracted from the text is:
“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them.” (Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition 21:15, c. 215 A.D.)
It might be shocking for Protestant Christians to find out that even their faith finding collosus (founding fathers) – Martin Luther and John Calvin believed and found baby baptism as something normal and necessery.
Of the baptism of children we hold that children ought to be baptized. For they belong to the promised redemption made through Christ, and the Church should administer it to them. (Martin Luther, The Smalcald Articles, Article V: Of Baptism, 1537)
“If, by baptism, Christ intends to attest the ablution by which he cleanses his Church, it would seem not equitable to deny this attestation to infants, who are justly deemed part of the Church, seeing they are called heirs of the heavenly kingdom.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1559)
For us Orthodox Christians is understand as a sacrament – A Mystery (unexplainable and incomprehensible by human mind and knowled). We firmly believe in Christian Baptism, the priest communicates to us the Grace of the Lord over the baptised and it doesn’t matter if it is over fully grown adult person or a a baby which can’t dogmatically understand the truths of our faith. Actually we perceive the kids Baptism as a way to enter and become part of the New Covenent given to us and established by the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ spilled on the Cross for our Sins!
We also believe the Old Testamental circumcision practiced by Jewish (even to this day) used to be one other Old Testamental Prophecy about the Water Holy Baptism nowdays practiced in the Church. By Baptising in our Holy Orthodox Church, our hearts are mystically circumcised by the Grace of the Holy Spirit which descends over us and cleanse us from sin and all evil. Making our bodies a dwelling of God.
Baptism is the first thing which opens our doors to the 7 mysticisms of the Church and marks the beginning of our Christian life in Christ. The link between Circumcision and Baptism is also mentioned by in Colossians 2:11-12 by St. Apostle Paul:
In [Christ] you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
As Protestant Christians like to quote the Bible and take as a trustful source of information and criteria about truthful Christianity, it is useful to mention following Bible Verses, which also are reference for the Early Age / Baby Baptism:
“… she [Lydia] and the members of her household were baptized…” (Acts 16:15)
“… immediately he [the jailer] and all his family were baptized.” (Acts 16:33)
“… I [the apostle Paul] also baptized the household of Stephanas…” (I Corinthians 1:16)
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children…” (Acts 2:38-39)
According to Orthodox Christian Traditioan Lydia, The Jailer and Stephanus had children and some of them had even kids in an infancy (baby) age.
It is also useful to mention what was the Lord and Saviour Jesus himself said concerning the kids, as this will make even more clearer what the Lord himself says for childrean and in my believe it answers should babys be baptised in this young unconscious age or not?
Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I hope my little article will help someone to have a very, very basic clue on why we orthodox baptize our children in a very young age
It is useful to mention that my article is not intended to shed light on specifics on Orthodox Baptism as Holy Baptism includes another mystics which is oilment – A mysticism rejected by Protestant Christians and Roman Catholics. It just aims to give a very basic and simplistic (incomplete answer), I’m not a theologist myself and I’m not a Priest so specifics on Baptism should be always consulted with a Priest or a member of the Priestly spiritual Hierarchy in our Orthodox Church. I hope this post will be also useful for seeking Christian people with AnaBaptist understanding for Baptism. For those who doesn’t know the AnaBaptists used to be a movement part of Protestant later days reformation who rejected baby baptism and began re-baptizing each other, thinking the baptism as kid was invalid. Nowdays it is a pity even in Orthodox Christian Countries as Bulgaria, plenty of people who belive in the Lord Jesus Christ reject their infancy baptism (if had so) and think of re-baptizing themselves (even often in heretical protestant or Methodist Churches) – I myself know and heard of cases like this. However lets hope and pray that all this lost sheeps will realize the mistake they did and come back to the one and Holy Apostolic Church – the Holy Orthodox Church.
But obviously my baptism thanks to God has in my later years given its fruit as I little by little started researching Orthodox faith and by God’s Holy Spirit grace in the “set time” I was blessed with the gift of faith and little by little I started understanding the Church teachings and by the Mysticism of confession and taking Jesus’s blood and Flesh in sacraments re-united with our Lord Jesus Christ.
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