Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What Should A Christian Call The End Of This Life?

"I do not think the the end of this present life is rightly called death.  More accurately, it is deliverance from death, separation from corruption, liberation from slavery, cessation of turbulence, destruction of wars, dispelling of darkness, rest from suffering, calming of turmoil, eclipsing of shame, escape from passions and, to sum it up, the termination of all evils. The saints who have achieved these things through voluntary mortification live as strangers and pilgrims in this life (Heb.11:13), fighting bravely against the world and the body and the assaults stemming from them. And, having stifled the deceit which both of these engender because of the close connection existing between the senses and sensible objects, they keep the dignity of their soul unenslaved."

The Philokalia Vol 2 pg 278

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If It Isn't Truth, It's A House Of Cards!


The Sadducees had an objection to the resurrection, which seemed to them irresolvable; but the Lord resolved it so clearly in several words that everyone understood and acknowledged the Sadducees as conquered by the truth of His word (Luke 20:27–40). What then were [called] Sadducees are now unbelievers of all sorts. They have heaped up for themselves a multitude of fantasised suppositions, set them forth as irrefutable truths, and magnify themselves with them, supposing that there is nothing to say against them. In reality they are so empty, that there is no point in speaking against them. All of their philosophizing is a house of cards: blow on it and it will scatter. There is no need to refute them in each part; it is enough to relate to them as to dreams. When speaking against dreams, people do set not about proving any incongruity in composition or in the parts of a dream; they simply say, “It is a dream”—and that says it all. Such precisely is the theory of the formation of the world from cloudy spots, with its props—the theory of spontaneous origination, of the Darwinian origin of genus and species, with his latest fantasy about the origin of man. It is all like the delirium of a sleeping man. Reading them, you walk in the midst of shadows. And scientists? What can you do with them? Their motto is: do not listen if you do not want to, but do not hinder us from telling lies.

St, Theophan the Recluse

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Picture of Evil


Once upon a time, there was a king. This king wished that his people know what evil was, so that his people could learn to recognize and flee from it. He issued a summons, that, in a year, all of his artists should come to him with one picture, to show what was evil. The best picture would be displayed to the people.

In a year, they all appeared at the king's palace. There were very few artists in the kingdom, but those who were there were very skillful, and worked as they had never worked before. Each brought a picture beneath a shroud.
The king turned to the first artist who had come. "Jesse, unveil your picture, and tell us its interpretation."
Jesse lifted the cloth. Against a background of blackened skulls was a dark green serpent, the color of venom and poison, with eyes that glowed red. "Your Majesty, it was the Serpent whose treacherous venom deceived man to eat of the forbidden fruit. The eye is the lamp of the body, and the Serpent's eye burns with the fires of Hell. You see that beyond the Serpent are skulls. Evil ensnares unto death and outer darkness."
The court murmured its approval. The picture was striking, and spoke its lesson well. The king, also, approved. "Well done, Jesse. If another picture is chosen, it will not be because you have done poorly. Now, Gallio, please show us your work."
Gallio unveiled his painting. In it was a man, his face red and veins bulging from hate. In his hand, he held a curved dagger. He was slowly advancing towards a woman, cowering in fear. "Your Majesty, man is created in the image of God, and human life is sacred. Thus the way we are to love God is often by loving our neighbor. There are few blasphemies more unholy than murder. You have asked me for a picture to show what evil is, that your subjects may flee from it. This is evil to flee from."
The court again murmured its approval, and the king began to shift slightly. It was not, as some supposed, because of the repellent nature of the pictures, but because he had secretly hoped that there would be only one good picture. Now, it was evident that the decision would not be so simple. "Gallio, you have also done well. And Simon, your picture?"
Simon unveiled his picture, and people later swore that they could smell a stench. There, in the picture, was the most hideous and misshapen beast they had ever seen. Its proportions were distorted, and its colors were ghastly. The left eye was green, and taller than it was wide. The right eye was even larger than the left, red, bloodshot, and flowing with blood; where there should have been a pupil, a claw grotesquely protruded. It was covered with claws, teeth, fur, scales, blood, slime, tentacles, and bits of rotted flesh; several members of the court excused themselves. "However it may be disguised, evil is that which is sick, distorted, and ugly."
There was a long silence. Finally, the king spoke again. "I see that there are three powerful pictures of evil, any one of which is easily a masterpiece and well fit to show to the people. Barak, I know that you have been given artistic genius, and that perhaps your picture will help me with this difficult decision. Unveil your picture."
Barak unveiled his picture, and an awestruck hush fell over the court. There, unveiled, was the most beautiful picture they had ever seen.
The picture was in the great vault of a room in a celestial palace. It was carved of diamond, emerald, ruby, jasper, amethyst, sardonyx, and chrysolite. Through the walls of gem, the stars shone brightly. But all of this was nothing, compared to the creature in the room.
He carried with him power and majesty. He looked something like a man, but bore glory beyond intense. His face shone like the sun blazing in full force, his eyes flashed like lightning, and his hair like radiant flame. He wore a robe that looked as if it had been woven from solid light. In his left hand was a luminous book, written in letters of gold, and in his right hand was a sharp, double edged sword, sheathed in fire and lightning.
The king was stunned. It took him a long time to find words, and then he shouted with all of his might.
"You fool! I ask you for a picture of evil, and you bring me this! It is true that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, and that, like unthinking beasts, they do not hesitate to slander the glorious ones. What do you have to say for yourself and for this picture? I shall have an explanation now, or I shall have your head!"
Barak looked up, a tear trickling down his cheek. "Your Majesty, do you not understand? It is a picture of Satan."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

HoHum - Two Thousand Years Of Miracles

What is relevant about the yearly commemoration of the following events in the history of the Orthodox Church?

THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST

THE TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST

 THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

What yearly miraculous events are associated with these locations?

JORDAN RIVER

MOUNT TABOR

 HOLY SEPULCHER

CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING FOR ANSWERS




Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Antichrist Will Be Jewish And That's Not All...

The Antichrist who will be a Jew is initially going to win the hearts of virtually all of humankind, (possibly even some of the elect). Matt 24:24 

but Jesus assures us, "I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against Her" Matt 16:18

But two churches have evolved during the past two thousand years, the Church that Christ has built and is building (the true Church) and the church that the devil has built and is building, (the false church).

The gates of Hell will indeed prevail against the thousands of counterfeit religious organizations that falsely claim to be of the universal church or serving the one true god and these groups basically fall under the four general categories of Protestants, Romans, Jews and Muslims.  

For those of you who believe in Christ, have you ever really tested the spirits to determine whether or not they are of God? Do you really believe that Christ came in the flesh?  1 John 4:1 

If you do indeed believe in the incarnation of Christ, then you wouldn't call worshiping an image of Christ, idol worship.  Why?  Because Christ is God in the flesh and thus He can be portrayed as such and consequently worshiped not only in spirit but in flesh.  Before God became incarnate, God was indeed invisible and impossible to portray, but Christ became for us, both God and man. To deny the concept of worshiping an icon of Christ is to deny that Christ indeed came in the flesh and although you may have good intentions, taking this stand against icons may very well put you on a slippery slope that will land you in the embrace of the devil. 

One strategy of the enemy is to do whatever is necessary to weaken the opponent  before going in for the kill.  It is only the fullness of riches present within the Orthodox Church that will properly strengthen a believer to be able to stand firm against the powerful forces of the Antichrist.  Satan knows this and thus will exert tremendous energies to keep the masses in delusions, distractions and deceptions until he can enter the city walls to take captive his prisoners.

And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. Matthew 19:29

Fasting And Endtime Preparations - Yet One Of The Multitude Of Blessings Of The Orthodox Faith.


From the prophecies of the Righteous Dimitri Tarabicz
The fullness (darkness) of times are upon us and only the fullness (light) available to us within the walls of Orthodoxy will be sufficient to gird us up for what is coming. There is only one true Church, the Orthodox Church; all other so-called churches are false and filled with men, women and children inundated with delusions, distractions and deceptions. These false churches are all overseen by one powerful warden, a spiritual beast who portrays himself as an Angel of Light. As the end of the age quickly approaches and the spirit of the Antichrist prepares the world for his rule,  we must be girded and ready to stand firm in a manner that can only be accomplished by enjoying  the holy mysteries which are available to us only within the confines of the Holy, Apostolic, Catholic, Orthodox Church.  

Your Television Is Seducing You...Eventually All Digital Technologies Will Seduce And Betray




CONCERNING ANTICHRIST’S PERSON IN THE HOLY PLACE

“Blessed and thrice-blessed is the man who will not desire to do so and, hence, will not see the God-abominated person of antichrist. Whosoever will see him and hear his blasphemous words promising all earthly blessings, the same will be seduced and will go forth to worship him. And they will perish, along with him, as far as eternal life is concerned; they will burn in eternal fire!” We asked the venerable one, “How shall this be?” And he answered us with tears, [saying]:”The abomination of desolation will stand in the holy place and will show-forth the foul seducers of the world who, working false miracles, will deceive all such men as have fallen away from God. And, after them, antichrist will appear! The entire world will see him at one and the same time.” To the question “Where in the holy place -- in church?” venerable Lavrentii said; “Not in church, but in the home! Before times, a table used to stand in the corner wherein the holy icons were. Then, however, that space will be occupied by seductive instruments for the deception of men. Many who have departed away from the Truth will say, ‘we need to watch and hear the news.’ And it is in the news that antichrist will appear; and they will accept him.”




Saturday, September 24, 2011

St. Paphnutius the Confessor, bishop in the Egyptian Thebaid (4th c.).


Commemorated on September 11
"A bishop of the Egyptian Thebaid, he suffered greatly for the Orthodox faith: heretics put out one of his eyes and broke his left leg. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council, refuting the Arian heresy with great power. The Emperor Constantine valued him greatly and often kissed him on the missing eye, lost for the truth of Orthodoxy. At the council, he stood in opposition to the western representatives, who proposed that secular priests be completely forbidden to marry. He was chaste throughout the whole of his life."


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

THE INTERCESSION OF THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD


The Meeting of the Icon of the Vladimir Mother of God.


The news reached Moscow that moving from the south to the city was Tamerlane's army—the army of an invincible and cruel conqueror. He was literally invincible—throughout his long life, he never suffered a single defeat. Tamerlane had conquered Persia, Iraq, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Mesopotamia, Georgia, India, and Syria. By the end of his life in 1405, his territory stretched east to west from the Black sea to the banks of the Ganges, and north to south from the Aral Sea to the Arabian Sea.

In the summer of 1395, an event occurred which left a deep mark in the spiritual and historical life of the Russian people, and which became an eternal example of faith and hope in the Providence of God, and in the intercession of the Most Pure Mother of God.
In 1395, this terrible conqueror of nearly all of Asia Minor and the Caucasus was advancing upon Russia, had reached the borders of Riazan, razed the town of Yelets, and turned towards Moscow, nearing the upper Don River. Grand Prince Vasily Dimitrievich courageously went out with his Muscovite army to Kolomna to meet the enemy, but everyone knew that their forces were not equal.
At that great and decisive moment in history, not only was the continued existence of Moscow under question, but also of the entire Russia nation. Metropolitan Cyprian of Kiev and All Russia, the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, understood this better than anyone did. After blessing Prince Vasily to go to war, he called all the Muscovites to repentance, fervent prayer, and fasting. Then, by divine inspiration, he sent ambassadors—priests and boyars to Vladimir for the greatest sacred shrine of Russia—the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God.
The icon was carried to Moscow in a grandiose procession that lasted ten days. During the entire way, the icon was surrounded by a huge crowd of people, who knelt before it with continual cries of "Mother of God, save the Russian land!" The people of Moscow with the Metropolitan at the head, the entire family of the Grand Prince, clergy and boyars met the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos on Kuchkova field.
Today that road upon which the procession came from Vladimir is called Sretensky, (from the Slavonic word meaning "meeting"), and the gates that were erected later on the site of Kuchkova field were called the Sretensky Gates.
All of Russia prayed during those days before the icon of the Mother of God to be saved from inevitable destruction.
And a miracle happened.
Tamerlane reached the town of Yelets, and for a reason unknown to historians did not go further to Moscow, although a nearly unprotected city lay before him—easy loot and military glory. This happened on August 26, 1395.
The Chronicles, however, explain this strange move thus: in the same hour that the inhabitants of Moscow met the icon and prayed before it, Tamerlane was dozing in his tent. Suddenly in a dream, a Majestic Lady appeared surrounded by a radiant light, who threateningly told him to leave the threshold of Muscovy. Awakening in terror, Tamerlane called his advisors and inquired what this vision meant. They answered him that the Majestic Lady is the Mother of God, the great intercessor for Christians. That is why, according to the Chronicles, the frightened Tamerlane turned toward the south the next day.
On the place of the meeting of the Vladimir Mother of God, Metropolitan Cyprian founded the Sretensky Monastery, and on August 26 (September 8 according to the civil calendar), this event is still celebrated as the day that Moscow and Russia were saved from Tamerlane.
This dramatic event is well known to the Orthodox, but the rest of the story is less known, although the outcome was also the result of the people's prayers, and amazingly influenced the whole course of Russian history. Turning from Moscow to the south, Tamerlane began his grandiose crushing of the Golden Horde. All the cities of the steppe, at enmity with Russia at the time, were looted and destroyed over the course of the year. Khan Tokhtamysh in 1382 had burned Moscow out of revenge for his defeat at Kulikovo, and run off to Lithuania. After their total defeat the Golden Horde in fact cease to exist as a steppe civilization and united nation. For Russia, these events were of colossal significance.
Translated by OrthoChristian.com


Saturday, August 27, 2011

THE DORMITION OF OUR MOST HOLY LADY THEOTOKOS AND EVER VIRGIN MARY




After the Lord’s Ascension, the Mother of God remained under the care of the Apostle John the Theologian, and when he was absent, she lived in the house of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. For all the Apostles and all the faithful, she was a consolation and edification. Talking with them, the Mother of God told them of the wondrous events of the Annunciation, the conception without seed, and her birth of Christ without corruption, His childhood and earthly life. Like the Apostles, she instructed and strengthened others in the Christian Faith by her very presence, words, and prayers. The Apostles’ reverence for the Most Holy Virgin was extraordinary. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit on the remarkable day of Pentecost, they remained in Jerusalem for about ten years, serving for the salvation of the Jews and wishing to see and hear her divine words as often as possible. Many of the newly-enlightened in the faith even came from distant lands to Jerusalem in order to see and hear the Most Pure Theotokos.
During the persecutions brought by Herod against the young Christian Church (Acts. 12:1–3), the Most Holy Virgin Mary, together with the Apostle John the Theologian, departed in the year 42 for Ephesus, where the lot fell to the Apostle John to preach the Gospel. She was also in Cyprus at the home of St. Lazarus the Four Days Dead, who was acting Bishop there, and on the Holy Mountain of Athos, concerning which, according to St. Stephen the Hagiorite, the Mother of God said prophetically, “This place shall be the portion given me by my Son and God. I will be the Protectress of this place, and an Intercessor for it before God.”


The reverence of the ancient Christians for the Mother of God was so great that they preserved everything about her life that they could note from her words and deeds, and even left us a description of her appearance.
According to tradition based upon the words of the Holy Hieromartyr Dionysius the Aeropagite (†December 20, 107), St. Ambrose of Milan wrote in his work On Virginity about the Mother of God, “She was a virgin not only in body but also in mind, who stained the sincerity of its disposition by no guile, who was humble in heart, grave in speech, prudent in mind, sparing of words, studious in reading, resting her hope not on uncertain riches, but on the prayer of the poor, intent on work, modest in discourse; wont to seek not man but God as the judge of her thoughts, to injure no one, to have goodwill towards all, to rise up before her elders, not to envy her equals, to avoid boastfulness, to follow reason, to love virtue. When did she pain her parents even by a look? When did she disagree with her neighbours? When did she despise the lowly? When did she avoid the needy? Being wont only to go to such gatherings of men as mercy would not blush at, nor modesty pass by. There was nothing gloomy in her eyes, nothing forward in her words, nothing unseemly in her acts, there was not a silly movement, nor unrestrained step, nor was her voice petulant, that the very appearance of her outward being might be the image of her soul, the representation of what is approved." Click on link to read the rest.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Sobriety and Prayer



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Pray without ceasing—and pray without anger or thinking. Know that every thought that distances the mind from God, no matter how good it might seem in and of itself, is from the devil, who constantly sows high-sounding and irrational dreams only in order to distract the mind from God, from His commandments and His good works. The attention must not attach itself to any such thing, but rather it should firmly tear itself away and cleanse the heart in every way from evil suggestions. The devil tries very hard to distance the mind from God and enmesh it in worldly delights. But the soul should try in every way to struggle and not comingle with unclean thoughts; and in order to do this it should not fix its gaze upon that which the ancient and ever cunning seducer paints inside the head; that is, the images of things, faces and deeds into which the evil devil transforms himself. The poor person who has been drawn into this stands in one place, thinking that he is somewhere else; he sees, it seems to him, various faces, talks to them and carries on affairs with them, meanwhile this is none other than diabolical prelest.
Thus, having contained yourself within, bind the mind and cut off all unrelated thoughts with the name of Jesus Christ, who took away the sins of the world. Wherever you body stands, let your mind stand there also, so that there might be nothing between God and your heart that, like some cloud or curtain, might darken the heart and hide the face of God from it. If the mind should be sometimes distracted, it must not linger with those thoughts, so that its comingling with them would not be counted as deeds before God in the Day of Judgment, when God will judge the secret thoughts of men and every human thought will be confessed before Him. This podvig is bound up with many tempations both interior and exterior, but be brave. Blessed is the man who endures temptations, for having been tested, he will receive the incorruptible crown and become the temple of the great King—Christ, Who having built an abode within him, will settle into him and move him.... Having such a promise, let everything go and attend unceasingly to the Lord God; ask nothing more from Him that mercy, and that will be sufficient for you. In asking for mercy, ask for it with humility and contrition of heart, from morning till evening, and if possible, call out to Him all night also:
Lord Jesus Christ and Word of the Living God, through the prayer of the Theotokos have mercy on me.
Force yourself, and I repeat: force yourself, for this work requires great force. It is a narrow and sorrowful path that leads to the door of life, and only those who force themselves will enter in. (The Kingdon of God suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force) (Mt. 11:12). Do not distance yourself from God in your mind, and may your heart preserve the remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ. The same sweet name repeat and repeat until it makes its resting place in your heart, and Christ will become magnified you.
Watch, and never abandon the rule of this holy prayer, for I have heard from the holy fathers who said: she who abandons this rule is no nun. Whether a nun be eating, drinking, walking or serving, she should ceaselessly call out: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.
Through the remembrance of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ the heart warms itself for the battle against the enemy; through the remembrance of the Lord the laboring soul seeks out everything, the evil and the good: it routes out the evil and implants the good. This remembrance triumphs over all the power of the devil in the heart and catches him, overcomes him and sunders him in half. Tirelessly call on the name of Jesus Christ, and having descended into the depths of the heart, it will burn up all the roots of sin and enliven the soul. Ceaselessly call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, and your heart will swallow the Lord, and the Lord will swallow the heart, and the two will be one. By the way, this is not the work of one day or even two, but sometimes of many years and a long period of time. Much labor and time is required before the enemy is expunged and Christ comes to dwell.
St. Theophan the Recluse
On the Jesus Prayer
The prayer which the holy fathers call the Jesus Prayer, is pronounced thus:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. The holy fathers teach us this prayer in many different ways. Saint John of the Ladder says: "Labor to enclose your mind in the words of the Jesus Prayer—pray aloud and attentively with the mind—the heart cannot help but participate in attentive prayer. Thus, whoever prays in this way will pray with his lips, his mind and his heart. Progressing in prayer, he will acquire prayer of the mind and heart, and thus attract Divine grace to himself." This method of St. John of the Ladder is the simplest, most understandable and best.
St. Nilus of Sora, one of our Russian ascetics, instructs us to be silent in thought—not to think during prayer, not of anything bad, nor even of anything good. Instead of any thought, he says to gaze ceaselessly into the depths of the heart and say: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner! According to the teaching of St. Nilus of Sora, one may pray standing, sitting, or lying down, not constraining the body so that the spirit can work freely, only regulating the breath, breathing quietly and frequently.
St. Seraphim of Sarov instructs the beginner to do the Jesus prayer without ceasing. While praying, he says, attend to yourself, that is, collect your mind and unite it with the soul. At first, for a day or two or more, say the prayer with the mind only, separately, attending to every word particularly. When the Lord will warm your heart with the warmth of His grace and unite you in one spirit, then this prayer will flow within you ceaselessly, and will be with you always, delighting you and nourishing you. And at first, you should say the prayer with your voice, that is with the lips, the tongue and speech—aloud to yourself alone. When the lips, the tongue and the feeling of prayer are satiated with pronouncing it aloud, then voiced prayer is ceased, and the prayer is prounounced in a whisper.

If It's Not Your Time, It's Not Your Time! Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear


The Martyrs Anicetas and Photios
Commemorated on August 12
      The Martyrs Anicetas and Photios (his nephew) were natives of Nicomedia. Anicetas, a military official, denounced the emperor Diocletian (284-305) for having set up in the city square an implement of execution for frightening Christians. The enraged emperor ordered Saint Anicetas to be tortured, and later condemned him to be devoured by wild beasts. But the lions they set loose became gentle and fondled up to him. Suddenly there began a strong earthquake, resulting in the collapse of the pagan temple of Hercules, and many pagans perished beneathe the crumbled city walls. The executioner took up a sword to cut off the saint's head, but he himself fell down insensible. They tried to break Saint Anicetas on the wheel and burn him with fire, but the wheel stopped and the fire went out. They threw the martyr into a furnace with boiling tin, but the tin got cold. Thus the Lord preserved His servant for the edification of many. The martyr's nephew, Saint Photios, saluted the sufferer and turn to the emperor, remarking: "O idol-worshipper, thine gods – be nothing!" The sword, held over the new confessor, instead struck the executioner himself. Then the martyrs were thrown into prison. After three days Diocletian began to urge them: "Worship our gods, and I shalt give ye glory and riches". The martyrs answered: "Perish thou with thine honour and riches!" Then they tied them by the legs to wild horses, but the saints, dragged along the ground, remained unharmed. They did not suffer either in the heated up bath-house, which tumbled apart. Finally Diocletian ordered a great furnace to be fired up, and many Christians, inspired by the deeds of Saints Anicetas and Photios, went in themselves with the words: "We are Christians!" They all died with prayer on their lips. The bodies of Saints Anicetas and Photios were not harmed by the fire, and even their hair remained whole. seeing this, many of the pagans came to believe in Christ. This event happened in the year 305.


Monday, August 22, 2011

A Sacred Place - The Solovki Monastery



This monastery is located on an island in the White Sea just 165km from the Artic Circle in the far north of Russia and was founded in 1429 by two hermits. After the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet authorities closed down the monastery and incorporated many of the buildings into Solovki, one of the earliest forced-labor camps of the GULAG during the 1920s and 1930s. The camp was mainly used for cutting trees, and when the trees were gone, the camp was closed.  It is again a monastery. No weapon formed against the Lord shall prevail...

Friday, August 19, 2011

What Are We Doing Here?

   "The Lord said of the future life that people there do not marry and are not given in marriage—that is, our everyday earthly relationships will have no place there. It would follow that none of the norms of earthly life will either. Neither science, nor art, nor governments, nor anything else will exist. What will there be? God will be all in all. And since God is spirit, He unites with the spirit and acts on what is spiritual, all life there will be a continuous flow of spiritual movements. There can be only one conclusion drawn from this: since our goal is the future life, and what is here is only a preparation for it, then to spend all the time of one’s life only on what is appropriate in this life alone and has no relevance to the future life means to go against our purpose, and to prepare ourselves for a bitter, most bitter lot. We are not absolutely required to drop everything; but while working as much as is necessary for this life, we must direct our main concern toward preparation for the future life, trying wherever possible to turn even earthly menial labour into a means for achieving this goal."  St. Theophan the Recluse of Russia

Thursday, August 11, 2011

WRITTEN FOR NUNS BUT BENEFICIAL FOR ALL

The following text is from Counsels and Instructions of a Spiritual Father To The Nuns of The Moscow Joy of All Who Sorrow Monastery, From the Guidance Of The Great Ascetics and Teachers of Monastic Life,compiled by the spiritual father of the Moscow Joy of All Who Sorrow Convent, Hieromonk Joseph (Moscow 1913). The book was written at the request of the nuns, who asked him for ongoing guidance in the monastic life. As is written in the preface, it is "addressed to the inhabitants of women's monasteries, to all who wish to step upon the path of monastic life, as well as to pious laywomen, who will find here a multitude of soul-saving counsels, and draw from it great profit for their souls." Fr. Joseph slightly changed the texts he cited in order to apply them to nuns, but these instructions are aimed at all spiritual strugglers, regardless of gender.
St. Elizabeth - A Convert From The Protestant Faith
Monastic Life
What is expected of those who desire to dedicate themselves to monastic labors:
1. First of all, to pray greatly and fervently to God and to ask His help in this matter.
2. To test yourself: are you firmly resolved to endure anything grievous [all difficulties] until your very death?
3. To ask God with all your soul that He would show you the monastery, the place of your ascetic struggle, and the mother abbess—your instructress and guide in the monastic life.
4. To ask and learn, to gather the necessary information from other people.
5. Having found what you are seeking, to commit yourself in perfect obedience to your superior, for this virtue—sincere obedience—is the main, most necessary and good fruit-bearing virtue in the life of a nun.
In this way, by making requests in prayer, and not by self-willed wandering in trackless lands, a nun may achieve success in the interior life and escape the deceptions, attacks and snares everywhere laid by the invisible enemies of our salvation.
Archbishop Juvenaly
Monastic Life
The Fundamental Rule of Monastic Life
The entire ranks of Godly-wise fathers and holy ascetics assures us by their counsels that whosoever desires to undoubtedly save herself in monasticism and to pass through the field of this struggle with profit for her soul, it is necessary, especially at the beginning, to have obedience; that is, to submit her will to the superior, who is experienced in the spiritual life—to do everything and to strive to think in agreement with her counsels and instructions, and also with the instructions of her spiritual father, but at the same time to diligently study the Holy Scriptures and works of the holy ascetical fathers.
This is the beginning of a correct monastic life. But this whole life, encompassing at times many years and even decades, should consist of an uninterrupted succession of spiritual labors—external ones performed by the body, and internal ones, by the powers of the soul. It is not sufficient for a nun to have only physical prayers, that is, prostrations, long psalmody and so on in this vein; interior work is also necessary—attention to oneself, guarding of the heart.
Archbishop Juvenaly
Monastic Life
Physical Labors of a Nun: Fasting Vigil and Physical Prayer
Fasting
1. Fasting and temperance are absolutely necessary for a struggler.
2. Fasting is not a virtue in and of itself, but rather only an instrument of virtue, that is a means and aid toward the acquisition of the virtues of purity and chastity.
3. A fast should be kept in mind and soul; the second, as guarding yourself from all that is unpleasing to God, is necessary for everyone at all times, while physical fasting should be conducted with great care and at the advice of those more experienced. This fast should not be beyond measure, but moderate and in accordance with a person's physical strength, so that the ascetic labor may be brought to its completion.
A young, sturdy and strong woman should wear herself out with appropriate fasting, according to the advice of her eldress or spiritual father, for otherwise it is difficult and even impossible to preserve physical purity. An older person who is sickly and altogether weak in body should, avoiding any excess, moderately strengthen her powers, and exchange the severity in fasting that is inaccessible to her due to bodily weakness for abstinence from all evil deeds, words and thoughts. The true podvig of a nun actually consists in this. The inability to fast severely because of one's physical weakness does not prevent one from achieving spiritual progress.
In our sad times, zeal for labors of fasting is apparently waning, and an inclination towards slackness is noticeable in the majority; but perhaps such zealots of labor and podvig may be found who might ask: "How is it that many of the saints, perhaps almost all of them, undertook great labors of fasting—for long periods of time eating nothing at all, and receiving great gifts from God: clairvoyance, healing and various miracles? Why shouldn't we emulate them with whatever strength we can find, and fast often and severely?"
The Holy Hierarch Basil the Great said: "One must exercise oneself in abstinence, which serves as an indispensable guardian of chastity and a sovereign over the mind, not allowing it to lunge here and there. But we think to determine abstinence not only as abstinence from foods, but first of all as abstinence from the roaming of the eyes. For what advantage is there if while abstaining from food, you devour with your eyes the lust of fornication, or eagerly listen with your ears to vain and devilish talk? There is no profit in abstaining from food without abstaining also from boasting, high-mindedness, vainglory and other passions."
Elder Basil of Moldavia writes: "Authentically it is not by fasting alone, but by fasting with humility that people are victorious over the invisible enemies of our salvation."
Vigil
St. John Climacus writes of vigilance: "The vigilant eye cleanses the mind, but long sleeping hardens the soul.
Vigilance is the quenching of fleshly fires, the deliverance from dreams, the filling of the eyes with tears, the softening of the heart, the preservation from thoughts, the best furnace for burning the food consumed, the subjection of evil spirits, the binding of the tongue, and the expulsion of daydreaming.
Excessive sleep is the cause of forgetfulness; while vigilance purifies the memory." (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Homily 20.)
Vigilance, or physically keeping vigil, according to the words of the holy fathers, is essential to the nun. It cleanses the mind, refreshes and strengthens the memory and comprises the inevitable conditions for preserving chastity and conquering the passion of sloth.
But vigilance, like fasting, should also not be beyond measure, but in moderation and according to a person's physical strength.
Half the night, six or five hours a day—that is the amount of sleep designated by the holy fathers for a healthy person, as a general rule for moderate podvig and preserving one's strength and health. They also allow a short rest in the afternoon of about one hour.
It is necessary for a woman in a monastery who is laboring for the salvation of her soul to pray at night or attend the nightly praise of God—that is, Matins, for this is the best time for prayer. The rest and sleep needed by the body should be designated so that she receives before and after Matins about six hours per day, and if she be in strength, a little less. But undoubtedly in this, just as along every step in monastic life, except for one's own labor and zeal, the counsel of experienced eldresses or a spiritual father is needed.

Physical Prayer
Man is composed of soul and body, and therefore when he prays he should pray not only with his spirit, but with his body. Bodily prayer, or the bodily labor of prayer, should express itself in patient standing during church services and during prayers in the cell with prostrations. Bodily prayer is inseparable from spiritual prayer, and therefore its order is determined by the rules described below for spiritual prayer in various instances.
Archbishop Juvenaly
Monastic Life
Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Summary of the Ecumenical Councils




1st Council - 325 - Convened in Niacea against Arian heresy,  which stated that Christ wasn't divine but created.  The Nicene Creed was adopted stating in part: "light of light, true God of God, begotten not made of one essence with Father...".

2nd Council - 381 - Convened in Ephesus against Macedonian heresy which stated the Holy Spirit was created by the Son and subordinate to the Father and Son. The Nicene Creed stated: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father; Who with Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified...".

3rd Council - 431- Convened at Ephesus against the heresy of Nestorius, which stated that Christ two distinct natures and that God's Mother wasn't the Mother of God or Theotokos or (God-bearer) but Mother of Christ (Christ-bearer).  Nestorians tried to rationalize the incarnation of the Divine Logos.

4th Council - 451 - Convened at Chalcedon against the Monophysite heresy which stated that Christ had only one nature.

5th Council - 553 - Convened at Constantinople to reinterpret the Chalcedonian decrees, to explain more constructively the two natures of Christ and to anathematize parts of Origen's teachings.

Chalcedonian decrees addressed the Monophysites who stated that "Christ was in two natures, unconfusedly, unchangeably" and also at the followers of Nestorius who proclaimed "One and the same Son...indivisibly, inseparably". 
But Chalcedon was more than a defeat for Alexandrian theology: it was a defeat for Alexandrian claims to rule supreme in the east. Canon XXIII of Chalcedon confirmed Canon III of Constantinople, assigning to New Rome the place next in honour after Old Rome.  The council also freed Jerusalem from the jurisdiction of Caesarea and gave it the fifth place among the great sees. The system later known among Orthodox as the Pentarchy was now complete, whereby five great sees in the Church were held in particular honour, and a settled order of precedence was established among them: in order of rank, Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem. A11 five claimed Apostolic foundation. The first four were the most important cities in the Roman Empire; the fifth was added because it was the place where Christ had suffered on the Cross and risen from the dead. The bishop in each of these cities received the title Patriarch. The five Patriarchates between them divided into spheres of jurisdiction the whole of the known world, apart from Cyprus, which was granted independence by the Council of Ephesus and has remained self-governing ever since.

6th Council -  680 - Convened at Constantinople against the Monothelites, who argued that although Christ has two natures, yet since He is a single person, He has only one will. The Council replied that if He has two natures, then He must also have two wills. The Monothelites, it was felt, impaired the fullness of Christ's humanity, since human nature without a human will would be incomplete, a mere abstraction. Since Christ is true man as well as true God, He must have a human as well as a divine will.
7th Council - 787 - Convened at Nicea against the Iconoclast heresy which condemned all religious art of humans or God but deeper issues were involved: the character of Christ's human nature, the Christian attitude towards matter, the true meaning of Christian redemption.
The Iconoclasts may have been influenced from the outside by Jewish and Muslim ideas, and it is significant that three years before the first outbreak of Iconoclasm in the Byzantine Empire, the Muslim Caliph Yezid ordered the removal of all icons within his dominions. But Iconoclasm was not simply imported from outside; within Christianity itself there had always existed a 'puritan' outlook, which condemned icons because it saw in all images a latent idolatry. When the Isaurian Emperors attacked icons, they found plenty of support inside the Church.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir



Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir
Commemorated on July 15
      Few names in the annals of history can compare in significance with the name of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, the Baptiser of Rus', who stands forever at the onset of the foreordained spiritual destiny of the Russian Church and the Russian Orthodox people. Vladimir was the grandson of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga, and he was the son of Svyatoslav (+ 972). His mother, Malusha (+ 1001) – was the daughter of Malk Liubechanin, whom historians identify with Mal, prince of the Drevlyani. Having subdued an uprising of the Drevlyani and conquered their cities, Princess Olga gave orders to execute prince Mal, for his attempt to marry her after his murder of her husband Igor, and she took to herself the children of Mal, Dobrynya and Malusha. Dobrynya grew up to be a valiant brave warrior, endowed with a mind for state affairs, and he was later on an excellent help to his nephew Vladimir in matters of military and state administration.
      The "capable girl" Malusha became a Christian (together with GreatPrincess Olga at Tsar'grad), but she preserved in herself a bit of the mysterious darkness of the pagan Drevlyani forests. And thus she fell in love with the austere warrior Svyatoslav, who against the will of his mother Olga made her his wife. The enraged Olga, reckoning as unseemly the marriage of her "housekeeper" and captive servant with her son Svyatoslav, heir to the Great Kiev principality, sent Malusha away to her own native region not far off from Vybut'. And there in about the year 960 was born the boy, called with the Russian pagan name – Volodimir, meaning peaceful ruler, ruling with a special talent for peace.
      In the year 970 Svyatoslav set out on a campaign from which he was fated not to return. He had divided the Russian Land amongst his three sons. At Kiev Yaropolk was prince; at Ovrucha, the centre of the Drevlyani lands, there was Oleg; at Novgorod there was Vladimir. His first years as prince we see Vladimir as a fierce pagan. He heads a campaign, in which the whole of pagan Rus' is sympathetic to him, against Yaropolk the Christian, or in any case, according to the chronicles, "having given great freedom to the Christians", on 11 July 978 he enters into Kiev, having become the "sole ruler" of the Kiev realm, "having subdued the surrounding lands, some – by peaceful means, and the unsubmissive ones – by the sword".      Young Vladimir indulged himself in a wild sensuous life, though far from being the libertine that they sometimes portray him. He "shepherded his land with truth, valour and reason", as a good and diligent master, of necessity he extended and defended its boundaries by force of arms, and in returning from military campaign, he made for his companions and for all Kiev liberal and merry feastings.      But the Lord prepared him for another task. Where sin increases, there – in the words of the Apostle, – grace abounds. "And upon him did come visitation of the MostHigh, and the All-Merciful eye of the Good God didst gaze upon him, and shine forth the thought in his heart, of understanding the vanity of idolous delusion, and of appealing to the One God, Creator of all things both visible and invisible". The matter of the acceptance of Baptism was facilitated through external circumstances. The Byzantine empire was in upheaval under the blows of the mutinous regiments of Bardas Skliros and Bardas Phokas, each of which sought to gain the imperial throne. In these difficult circumstances the emperors – the co-regent brothers Basil the Bulgar-Slayer and Constantine, turned for help to Vladimir.      Events unfolded quickly. In August 987 Bardas Phokas proclaimed himself emperor and moved against Constantinople, and in Autumn of that same year the emissaries of emperor Basil were at Kiev. "And having exhausted his (Basil's) wealth, it compelled him to enter into an alliance with the emperor of the Russes. They were his enemies, but he besought their help, – writes one of the Arab chronicles of events in the 980's. – And the emperor of the Russes did consent to this, and did make common cause with him".      In reward for his military help, Vladimir besought the hand of the emperors' sister Anna, which for the Byzantines was an unheard of audacity. Princesses of the imperial lineage did not go off to marry "barbarian" rulers, even though they be Christian. At this same time the emperor Otto the Great was seeking the hand of this Anna for his son, and he was refused, but herein regarding Vladimir Constantinople was obliged to consent.      An agreement was concluded, according to which Vladimir had to send in aid to the emperors six thousand Varangians, to accept holy Baptism, and under these conditions he would receive the hand of the imperial daughter Anna. Thus in the strife of human events the will of God directed the entering of Rus' into the graced bosom of the OEcumenical Church. GreatPrince Vladimir accepted Baptism and dispatched the military assistance to Byzantium. With the aid of the Russians, the mutineers were destroyed and Bardas Phokas killed. But the Greeks, gladdened by their unexpected deliverance, were in no hurry to fulfill their part of the agreement.      Vexed at the Greek duplicity, Prince Vladimir "hastened to collect his forces" and he moved "against Korsun, the Greek city", the ancient Chersonessus. The "impenetrable" rampart of the Byzantine realm on the Black Sea fell, and it was one of the vitally important hubs of the economic and mercantile links of the empire. This blow was so much felt, that its echo resounded throughout all the regions of Byzantium.      Vladimir again had the upper hand. His emissaries, the voevoda-commanders Oleg and Sjbern soon arrived in Tsar'grad for the imperial daughter. Eight days passed in Anna's preparation, during which time her brothers consoled her, stressing the significance of the opportunity before her: to enable the enlightening of the Russian realm and its lands, and to make them forever friends of the Romanoi-Byzantine realm. At Taurida Saint Vladimir awaited her, and to his titles there was added a new one – Caesar (tsar', emperor). It required the haughty rulers of Constantinople to accede also in this – to bestow upon their new brother-in-law the Caesar (i.e. imperial) insignia. In certain of the Greek historians, Saint Vladimir is termed from these times as a "mighty basileios-king", he coins money in the Byzantine style and is depicted on it with the symbols of imperial might: in imperial attire, and on his head – the imperial crown, and in his right hand – the sceptre with cross.      Together with the empress Anna, there arrived for the Russian cathedra-seat metropolitan Michael – ordained by holy Patriarch Nicholas II Chrysobergos, and he came with his retinue and clergy, and many holy relics and other holy things. In ancient Chersonessus, where each stone brings to mind Saint Andrew the First-Called, there took place the marriage-crowning of Saint Vladimir and Blessed Anna, both reminiscent and likewise affirming the oneness of the Gospel good-news of Christ in Rus' and in Byzantium. Korsun, the "empress dowry", was returned to Byzantium. In the Spring of 988 the greatprince with his spouse set out through the Crimea, Taman' and the Azov lands, which had come into the complexion of his vast realm, on the trip of return to Kiev. Leading the greatprincely cortege with frequent moliebens and incessant priestly singing they carried crosses, icons and holy relics. It seemed, that the OEcumenical Holy Church was moving into the spacious Russian land, and renewed in the font of Baptism, Holy Rus' came forth to meet Christ and His Church.      There ensued the unforgettable and quite singular event in Russian history: the morning of the Baptism of the Kievans in the waters of the River Dneipr. On the evening beforehand, Saint Vladimir declared throughout the city: "If anyone on the morrow goeth not into the river – be they rich or poor, beggar or slave – that one be mine enemy". The sacred wish of the holy prince was fulfilled without a murmur: "all our land all at the same time did glorify Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit".      It is difficult to overestimate the deep spiritual transformation – effected by the prayers of Saint Vladimir, effected within the Russian people, in all the entirety of its life and world-outlook. In the pure Kievan waters, as in a "bath of regeneration", there was realised a mysteried transfiguration of the Russian spiritual element, the spiritual birth of the nation, called by God to yet unforeseen deeds of Christian service to mankind. – "Then did the darkness of the idols begin to lift from us, and the dawn of Orthodoxy appear, and the Sun of the Gospel didst illumine our land". In memory of this sacred event, the renewal of Rus' by water and the Spirit, there was established within the Russian Church the custom of an annual church procession "to the water" on 1 August, combined afterwards with the feastday of the Bring-Forth of the Venerable Wood of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, in common with the Greek Church, and likewise the Russian Church feastday of the All-Merciful Saviour and the MostHoly Mother of God (established by Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky in the year 1164). In this combination of feasts there is found a precise expression of the Russian theological consciousness, for which both Baptism and the Cross are inseparable.      Everywhere throughout Holy Rus', from the ancient cities to the far outposts, Saint Vladimir gave orders to tumble down the pagan sanctuaries, to flog the idols, and in their place to chop along the hilly woods for churches, in which to consecrate altars for the Bloodless Sacrifice. Churches of God grew up along the face of the earth, at high elevated places, and at the bends of the rivers, along the ancient trail "from the Variangians to the Greeks" – figuratively as road signs, and lamps of national holiness. As regards the famed church-building activity of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, the Kiev Metropolitan Saint Ilarion (author of the "Word about the Law and Grace") exclaimed: "They demolished the pagan temples, and built up churches, they destroyed the idols and produced holy icons, the demons are fled, and the Cross hath sanctified the cities". From the early centuries of Christianity it was the custom to raise up churches upon the ruins of pagan sanctuaries or upon the blood of the holy martyrs. Following this practise, Saint Vladimir built the church of Saint Basil the Great upon an hill, where a sanctuary of Perun had been located, and he situated the stone church of the Uspenie-Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God (Desyatinnaya) on the place of the martyrdom of the holy Varangian-Martyrs (Comm. 12 July). The magnificent temple intended to become the place of serving for the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus' – and hence the primal-altar of the Russian Church, was built in five years: it was richly adorned with wall-fresco painting, crosses, icons and sacred vessels, brought from Korsun. The day of the consecration of the church of the MostHoly Mother of God, 12 May (in some manuscripts 11 May), was ordered by Saint Vladimir to be inserted as an annual celebration in the Church-kalendar lists. This event was tied in with other previous happenings for the celebration of 11 May, and it provided the new Church a twofold sense of succession. Under this day in the Saints is noted the churchly "renewal of Tsar'grad" – dedicated by the holy emperor Saint Constantine as the new capital of the Roman Empire, the Constantine-city Constantinople, dedicated to the MostHoly Mother of God (330). And on this same day of 11 May, under holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga, there had been consecrated at Kiev the church of Sophia – the Wisdom of God (in the year 960). Saint Vladimir, having had the cathedral church consecrated to the MostHoly Mother of God, followed the example of Saint Constantine in dedicating the capital city of the Russian Land, Kiev, to the Queen of Heaven.      And then there was bestown on the Church a tithe or tenth; and since this church had become the centre of the All-Russian gathering of churchly tithes, they called it the Desyatinnaya (Tithe) church. The most ancient text of the deed-grant document, or churchly ustav-rule by holy Prince Vladimir spoke thusly: "For I do bestow this church of the Holy Mother of God a tenth of all mine principality, and likewise throughout all the Russian Land from all the princely jurisdiction a tithe of squirrel-pelts, and from the merchant – a tithe of the week, and from households each year – a tenth of every herd and every livelihood, to the wondrous Mother of God and the wondrous Saviour". The ustav likewise specified "church people" as being free from the jurisdictional power of the prince and his "tiuni"-officials, and placed them under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan.      The chronicle has preserved a prayer of Saint Vladimir, with which he turned to the Almighty at the consecration of the Uspensky Desyatin-Tithe church: "O Lord God, look Thou down from Heaven and behold, and visit Thine vineyard, which Thy right-hand hath planted. And make this new people, whom Thou hast converted in heart and mind – to know Thee, the True God. And look down upon this Thine church, which Thy unworthy servant hath built in the name of the Mother Who hath given birth to Thee, She the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. And whosoever doth pray in this church, let his prayer then be heard, on account of the prayers to the All-Pure Mother of God".       With the Desyatin-Tithe church and bishop Anastasii, certain historians have made a connection with the beginnings of Russian chronicle writing. At it were compiled the Vita-Life of Saint Ol'ga and the account of the Varangian-Martyrs  in their original form, and likewise the "Account, How in the Taking of Korsun, Vladimir came to be Baptised". Here also there originated the early Greek redaction of the Vitae-Lives of the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb.      The Kiev Metropolitan cathedra-seat during the time of Saint Vladimir was occupied successively by the Metropolitan Saint Michael (+ 15 June 991, Comm. 30 September), Metropolitan Theophylakt – transferred to Kiev from the see of Armenian Sebasteia (991-997), Metropolitan Leontii (997-1008), and Metropolitan John I (1008-1037). Through their efforts the first dioceses of the Russian Church were opened: at Novgorod (its first representative was Sainted Joakim the Korsunite – + 1030, compiler of the Joakimov Chronicle), Vladimir-Volyn (opened 11 May 992), Chernigov, Pereslavl', Belgorod, and Rostov. "And thus throughout all the cities and villages there were set up churches and monasteries, and the clergy did increase, and the Orthodox Faith did blossom forth and shine like the sun". To advance the faith amongst the newly enlightened people, learned people and schools were needed for their preparation. Saint Vladimir therefore with holy Metropolitan Michael "did command fathers and mothers to take their young children and send them to schools to learn reading and writing". Saint Joakim the Korsunite (+ 1030) set up such a school at Novgorod, and they did likewise in other cities. "And there were a multitude of schools of scholars, and of these were there a multitude of wisdom-loving philosophers".      With a firm hand Saint Vladimir held in check enemies at the frontiers, and he built cities with fortifications. He was the first in Russian history to set up a "notched boundary" – a line of defensive points against nomadic peoples. "Volodimir did begin to set up cities along the Desna, along the Vystra, along the Trubezha, along the Sula and along the Stugna. And he did settle them with the Novgorodians, the Smol'yani, the Chuds and the Vyatichi. And he did war against the Pechenegs and defeated them". But the actual means was often the peaceful Christian preaching amongst the steppe pagans. In the Nikol'sk Chronicles under the year 990 was written: "And in that same year there came to Volodimir at Kiev four princes from the Bulgars and they were illumined with Divine Baptism". In the following year " there came the Pecheneg prince Kuchug and accepted the Greek faith, and he was baptised in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and did service to Vladimir with a pure heart". Under the influence of the holy prince there were baptised also several apparent foreigners, as for example, the Norwegian "koenig" (king") Olaf Trueggvason (+ 1000) who lived several years at Kiev, and also the reknown Torval'd the Wanderer – founder of a monastery of Saint John the Precursor  along the Dneipr near Polotsk, among others. In faraway Iceland the poet-skalds called God the "Protector of the Greeks and Russians".      Amidst the Christian preaching was also the reknown feastings of Saint Vladimir: after Liturgy on Sundays and Church Great-Feasts there were put out abundant feasting tables for the Kievans, they rang the bells, choirs sang praise, the "transported infirm" sang bylini-ballads and spiritual verses. On 12 May 996, for example, on the occasion of the consecration of the Desyatin-Tithe church, the prince "made a bright feast", "distributing goods to many of the poor, and destitute and wanderers, and through the churches and the monasteries. To the sick and the needy he delivered through the streets casks and barrels of mead, and bread, and meat, and fish, and cheese, desiring that all might come and eat, glorifying God". Feasts were likewise arrayed in honour of the victories of Kievan bogatyr-warriors, and the regiments of Vladimir's retinue – of Dobrynya, Aleksandr Popovich, Rogda the Bold.      In the year 1007 Saint Vladimir transferred the relics of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Ol'ga to the Desyatin-Tithe church. And four years later, in 1011, there was also buried there his spouse and companion in many of his undertakings, the Blessed Empress Anna. After her death the prince entered into a new marriage – with the young daughter of the German Graf Kuno von Enningen, grand-daughter of the emperor Otto the Great.      The era of Saint Vladimir was a crucial initial period for the state formation of Orthodox Rus'. The unification of the Slavic lands and the formation of state boundaries under the domain of the Riurikovichi resulted from a strenuous spiritual and political struggle with neighbouring tribes and states. The Baptism of Rus' by Orthodox Byzantium was a most important step in its state self-definition. The chief enemy of Vladimir became Boleslav the Brave, whose plans included the extensive unification of the West-Slavic and East-Slavic  tribes under the aegis of Catholic Poland. This rivalry arose still back in the times, when Vladimir was still a pagan: "In the year 6489 (981). Volodimir went against the Lakhs and took their cities, Peremyshl', Cherven', and other cities, which be under Rus'". The final years of the X Century are likewise filled with the wars of Vladimir and Boleslav.      After a short lull (the first decade of the XI Century), the "great stand-off" enters into a new phase: in the year 1013 at Kiev a conspiracy against Saint Vladimir is discovered: Svyatopolk the Accursed, who is married to a daughter of Boleslav, yearns for power. The instigator of the conspiracy is the clergyman of Boleslav – the Kolobzheg Catholic bishop Reibern.      The conspiracy of Svyatopolk and Reibern was an all-out threat to the historical existence of the Russian state and the Russian Church. Saint Vladimir took decisive measures. All the three involved were arrested, and Reibern soon died in prison.      Saint Vladimir did not take revenge on those that "opposed and hated" him. Under the pretense of feigned repentance, Svyatopolk was set free.      A new misfortune erupted in the North, at Novgorod. Yaroslav, still not so very much "the Wise" – as he was later to go down in Russian history, in the year 1010 having become ruler of Novgorod, decided to defect from his father the greatprince of Kiev, and he formed his own separate army, moving on Kiev to demand the customary tribute and tithe. The unity of the Russian land, for which Saint Vladimir had struggled all his life, was threatened with ruin. In both anger and in sorrow Saint Vladimir gave orders to "secure the dams and set the bridges", and to prepare for a campaign against Novgorod. His powers were on the decline. In the preparations for his final campaign, happily not undertaken, the Baptiser of Rus' fell grievously ill and gave up his spirit to the Lord in the village of Spas-Berestov, on 15 July 1015. He had ruled the Russian realm for thirty-seven years (978-1015), and twenty-eight of these years had been spent since holy Baptism.       Preparing for a new struggle for power and hoping for Polish help in it, and to play for time, Svyatopolk attempted to conceal the death of his father. But patriotically inclined Kievan boyar-nobles, secretly by night, removed the body of the deceased sovereign from the Berestov court, where Svyatopolk's people were guarding it, and they conveyed the body to Kiev. At the Desyatin-Tithe church the coffin with the relics of Saint Vladimir was met by Kievan clergy with Metropolitan John at the head. The holy relics were placed in a marble crypt, set within the Clement chapel of the Desyatin Uspenie church alongside the marble crypt of Empress Anna...      The name and deeds of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, whom the people called the Splendid Sun, is interwoven with all the successive history of the Russian Church. "Through him we too have come to worship and to know Christ, the True Life, – testified Saint Ilarion. His deeds were continued by his sons, and grandsons and descendants – rulers of the Russian land over the course of almost six centuries: from Yaroslav the Wise with the taking of the first steps towards the independent existence of the Russian Church – down to the last of the Riurikovichi, tsar Feodor Ioannovich, under whom (in 1589) the Russian Orthodox Church became the fifth independent Patriarchate in the dyptich-lists of Orthodox Autocephalous Churches.      The feastday celebration to holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir was established under Saint Alexander Nevsky, in memory of the intercession of Saint Vladimir on 15 May 1240, for his help in gaining the reknown victory by Nevsky over Swedish crusaders.      But the first reverencing of the holy prince began in Rus' rather earlier. The Metropolitan of Kiev Saint Ilarion (+ 1053), in his "Word on Law and Grace", spoken on the day of memory of Saint Vladimir at the saint's crypt in the Desyatin-Tithe church, calls him "an apostolic sovereign", "like" Saint Constantine, and he compares his apostolic evangelisation of the Russian Land to that of the evangelisation by the holy Apostles.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.