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Reverend Ioann Barbus Reverend Ioann Barbus

DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS!

We are glad to welcome you to the official website of the Transfiguration of our Lord Russian Orthodox Church, located in the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland, USA. The church belongs to the original Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and has as its goal the preservation of the spiritual traditions and the treasure of church services of ancient Russian Orthodoxy.

We invite you to acquaint yourself with our church and our parish, to see our small but wondrous iconostasis, to hear our modest choir. When visiting our online Orthodox library, you will be able to acquire deeper knowledge of the Orthodox faith through the spiritually-enlightening materials that are contained therein. These materials are printed in our church bulletins, which are issued monthly in both Russian and English. You are also very welcome to visit our church in person.

  View our current schedule of services.
With love in Christ,
Reverend Ioann Barbus and the church council.

WOMEN DURING THE DAYS OF CHRIST’S SUFFERING AND RESURRECTION

 

This courage was exhibited by Saint Procla to an even greater degree afterwards, when her dream was fulfilled in reality, and she suffered for Christ among the countless hosts of martyrs, entering through the door of martyrdom into the everlasting joy of the Kingdom of God.

In our present times, when a multitude of Pontius Pilates and a multitude of cunning Judases betray the innocent and wash their hands of them, have the possibility to save people and do not save them, it is timely for us to remember Saint Procla over and over again, with her attempt, though unsuccessful on earth, but crowned in heaven, to defend the Lord Who was on His way to voluntary passion for the sake of our salvation.

The passive and masked guilt of Pilate does not leap to the eye as much as does the iniquity of Annas and Caiaphas, of Judas and the false witnesses. But in essence it is heavy, and in our times the entire onus, the entire insufferableness of it for its victims, the agony of this crime was experienced by millions of Orthodox Russian people, whom in front of our eyes new Judases betrayed to new crucifiers, with the permissiveness and indifference of new Pilates, who could and should have saved the victims, but did not, fearing repercussions for themselves.

Just as Pilate, upon hearing that Christ came from Galilee, quickly tried to pass his responsibility for this innocent blood onto Herod, and later delivered Him up to crucifixion, so have contemporary rulers passed their responsibility for the fates of people, among whom each was the image of God and co-sufferer of Christ, from one person to another, and finally delivered them to execution.

In vain were these attempts to slough off responsibility. Even if Herod had not rejected the responsibility, even if he had taken it on, even if he and not Pilate had condemned Christ – the Roman proconsul Pontius Pilate would still have entered history as the image, even though less clear and not so well-defined, of fainthearted and cowardly avoidance of duty and of the betrayal of Absolute Truth.

“And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will. And as they led Him away, there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented Him. But Jesus turning unto them said: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say: blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: fall on us; and to the hills: cover us. For if they do these things with a green tree, what shall be done with a dry?” (Luke 23:24-31).

The men cried: “Crucify, crucify Him,” the soldiers beat Him, spat on Him, humiliated Him, while the women wept and lamented over Him.

This moment is tied in with the ancient tradition, widespread in the West and thus accepted more by the Roman Catholic world than the Orthodox world, but relating to olden pre-division times, that Saint Veronica gave Christ a towel to wipe His face, bloodied by the crown of thorns, humiliated by spitting, covered with the sweat of His terrible agony. According to Western tradition Veronica was a relative of King Herod, while Eastern tradition holds that she was the woman whose flow of blood was stopped after she touched Christ. She may very well have been both. From the Gospel we know that the bleeding woman was very rich: for eighteen years she was treated in vain by many different doctors, until a single touch of Christ’s robe healed her.

If Western tradition is correct, we once again see the striking contrast in the attitude towards Christ on the part of the shallow and insignificant King Herod and his relative Veronica. Out of boredom and sheer idleness the king wished to see Christ, because he had heard a great deal about Him and hoped to see some kind of miracle from Him, but being afterwards disappointed in this regard, “Herod with his soldiers, having humiliated Him and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate” (Luke 23:11). Thus Herod also basely added new thorns to Christ’s thorny crown.

But Veronica goes out into the dusty road to Jerusalem in the heat of midday, mingles with the crowd of the women of Jerusalem, weeps together with them, hears Christ’s ominous words, and serves Him as best she can by giving Him a towel on which He imprints the image of His face.

In many respects Christ’s words have now come to pass in our terrible times for our ill-fated generation: millions of people were ready to cry out to the mountains: fall down upon us, and to the hills: cover us, “for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:17).

From the heavens – in which for all the thousands of years of his existence man was accustomed to see such a beautiful world of stars attesting to the infinite wisdom of God, from which the singing of angels was once heard, toward which man was used to lift his gaze in prayer – from these heavens we have seen a fiery rain of burning phosphorus and weapons of human malevolence and destruction rush down upon us. In such moments did we not pray to the mountains and the hills to cover us? But we may expect even worse things in the future. Let us note that this horror has not been initiated or implemented by women. The only thing left for them was to weep, to weep with bitter tears of suffering for their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons, and to fall together with them as defenseless victims of the modern insane world. The earth has been completely saturated not only with blood, but also with tears, tears more corrosive than blood… And if there has been more blood shed by men, there have been countless more tears shed by women.

We stand at the Cross… All have run away, even the more daring ones… The best of the best, the select among the select, those who from out of all mankind the Lord had chosen to be His companions, His friends, His disciples, whose feet He had washed, to whom He had said: “Ye are My friends. Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, but I have called you friend, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:14-15) – they, too, ran away, while the most active, fiery, and decisive one among them, the one who always represented the disciples, who spoke and acted on their behalf – he renounced Christ and swore that he “did not know this Man” (Matt. 26:72).

But did everyone, did all of mankind renounce Him and run away at that terrible moment?

No: “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother, and His Mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:25). And Apostle Matthew adds: “And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him” (27:55).

There was one apostle, apparently the youngest and most beloved of Christ’s disciples – John, but he did not represent here the synaxis of the apostles, as he had done together with Peter and James on the mountain of the Transfiguration, in the chamber where the daughter of Jairus was resurrected, or in the garden of Gethsemane. Here he separated himself from the frightened and fleeing fellow-disciples, but having separated himself, and moved by boundless love for the Saviour, which brought him to the cross, he now came to represent not only the apostles, but all of mankind when he heard from Christ’s lips the words: “Here is thy Mother,” and thus became the adopted son of the Most-holy and Most-blessed Virgin Mary, together with himself affiliating to Her all the believers in Her Son.

We will not speak here of Her, the Mother of God and the Mother of all Christians, because even the best representatives of the female gender cannot be mentioned in the same breath as Her most-holy name. We will simply note that through Her the female nature that up to that time had been so despised and humiliated in the ancient pagan world was now elevated to the highest possible level. She, our Most-blessed Intercessor, stands at the right side of God’s throne in untiring prayer for the world.

And here on earth, in the holy city of Jerusalem, at the sacred and awesome mount of Golgotha, a site fenced off with a silver grate causes every Christian heart to tremble: according to tradition this is the site where the Mother of God stood during the Saviour’s agonies on the cross, gazing upon them and sharing them with Her maternal heart in fulfillment of Simeon’s prophetic words: “Yea, a sword shall pierce through Thy own soul also” (Luke 2:35).

The Lord is generous and all-merciful. He rewards those who serve Him with “a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38).

Those who had remained faithful to Him – the myrrh-bearing women – He rewarded a thousandfold: for the sorrow of Golgotha He granted them the joy of the Resurrection.

“And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves: who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher? And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away; for it was very great. And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a youth sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them: be not affrighted. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified; He is risen, He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you” (Mark 16:1-7). “And they departed quickly from the sepulcher, and with fear and great joy they did run to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying: Rejoice! And they came and held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him. Then said Jesus unto them: be not afraid; go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there they shall see Me” (Matt. 28:8-10). “It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles” (Luke 24:10).

They were the first to whom Christ announced His resurrection. They became apostles for the apostles, messengers of the greatest, the most joyous, the most glorious tidings that ever were or will be in the universe, from the moment of its creation and to its very end.

Afterwards the myrrh-bearing women carried this joy throughout the entire world, from one end of it to the other, and Saint Mary Magdalene came to the Roman Emperor Tiberius with a colored egg – the symbol of hidden, unseen life that is yet to appear, the symbol of resurrection – and announced to him the joy of the resurrection with words that since that time have continued to resound throughout the entire Christian world: “Christ is risen!”

And in all the following centuries of the two-thousand-year-old history of Christianity, women have never ceded the heights they have come to occupy, have never betrayed Christ, and have usually demonstrated greater resolve and greater steadfastness in faith than men.

“What women these Christians have!” – exclaimed the ancient pagan philosopher Livanius at the dawn of Christian history. The greatest luminaries of the Church, its fathers and enlighteners, learned faith in God from their mothers, as St. Basil the Great wrote: “I have acquired my understanding of God from my blessed mother and my grandmother Macrina. It grew within me, for with the maturing of reason I did not change it for any other, but perfected the principles I had received” (Vol. 3, p. 294).

In recent times, when pernicious betrayal of God became widespread among the higher strata of our society, it was primarily the women who tried to contain the orgy of repudiation and who protected the sparks of faith at their family hearths.

How to explain the fact that women show greater faithfulness to Christ than men?

Is it because Christianity emancipated women by declaring that “in Christ there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28) at a time when the ancient world did not acknowledge the woman as a person?

But did the holy women Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna, or Mary Cleophas think or worry about this?

Of course not. The emancipation which Christianity brought to women was the reward which the Lord always gives to those who serve Him and seek Him, according to His word: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His truth, and all of this shall be added unto you.”

Women’s advantage over men in Christianity is explained by the fact that “God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.” It is accomplished through those who more clearly, more fully and, consequently, with greater humility acknowledge their spiritual paucity, their insignificance before God, their total dependence on God’s will, on God’s beneficial and almighty providence, and thus have greater trust in this guiding providence. All these qualities are encountered more frequently in women than in men, because the latter are often possessed by the remnants of ancient pagan pride, vanity, self-assurance, belief in their own superiority.

In these holy paschal days, venerating the spiritual endeavor of the holy myrrh-bearing women and rejoicing in their glad tidings to the world, may we all – men and women equally – ask God to grant us their faith and their great, holy, and triumphant joy.

Archbishop Nathaniel (Lvov)

 

HOMILY FOR THE SUNDAY OF ALL RUSSIAN SAINTS

 

The day of commemoration of all Russian saints reveals to us the spiritual skies under which the Russian land was being formed and proceeded to exist historically.

The very existence of the Russian people is tied in with the inception of its spiritual life, with its assimilation of the foundations of a Christian outlook: it is senseless to seek on earth the meaning and purpose of life which ends in death. One must aspire to a divine, grace-filled, eternal life, and then this temporal life will also fall into place. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and its truth, and all this shall be added unto you.” Faith and the Orthodox Church united separate tribes into one people. The basic characteristic of the Russian people was the belief in the Kingdom of God, the search for it, the search for truth. For the sake of God’s Kingdom, for the sake of its attainment, for the sake of prayer, Russian ascetics rejected worldly vanity and went off into deep forests and uninhabited islands. They were only seeking the Kingdom of God, not to build or create anything, they were only escaping from people, but people followed them for the sake of the Kingdom of God that was to be found in those forests and on those islands, around those righteous men, and thus sprang up Russia’s famous monasteries and hermitages.

The search for truth has always been the major thread in the life of the Russian people, and it is not by chance that the first written code of law was called “Russian Truth.” Yet it was not only those who escaped from the world who aspired after heaven and the Kingdom of God, but all religious Russian people understood the meaning of life in those terms. All those who were building Russia up as a nation, though living in the world and fulfilling their responsibilities, always considered faithfulness to the Heavenly Kingdom and Divine Truth to be the major aspect of life.

In Russia there were princes, warriors, landowners – people of all ranks and professions, but their basic understanding, aspiration and purpose in life was the acquisition of the Kingdom of God, participation in it. Conversion to the Christian faith transformed also the Russian princes. Power is always the expression of consciousness and will. Power is always guided by some philosophy or other, some understanding of the meaning of life and one’s activity or other. Prior to holy Prince Vladimir, the Russian princes were leaders of warring tribes and were engaged in war for the sake of the spoils and the glory. Having become Christian, they became individual leaders of one people. Conversion to Christianity brought with it a realization and feeling of unity. Truth was in the brotherhood of princes, while internecine war became falsehood. Holy Prince Vladimir gave the Russian people a new understanding of life and a new life force. Calamities, misfortunes, defeats are powerless before the main force of life, powerless before a spiritual life. The Kingdom of God, its spiritual comfort, and participation in it remain untouched. A raging storm passes, and man continues to live. Thus martyrs smiled during the cruelest tortures because of the joyous sensation of God’s grace within them.

This is the source of Russia’s life force. The history of the rise of Moscow vividly confirms this idea. Moscow was ruled by pious princes who had acquired an Orthodox understanding of truth, and for this reason the holy hierarch Peter told the Muscovite prince that Moscow would be elevated if the prince built within it a House of the Holy Virgin. In other words, if you are faithful to Orthodoxy to the very end, and will first seek the Kingdom of God and its truth, then all of this – all earthly, temporal, national things, – shall be added unto you. Such was the design of Moscow, and for a long time it remained faithful to the testament of hierarch Peter, and the nightly roll call on the walls of the Kremlin was conducted with the words: “O Holy Theotokos, save us!”

This does not mean that the life and the people were holy. Not at all! People are always sinful, but it is important and a saving grace to possess an understanding of good and evil, to aspire to the truth, because resurrection is then possible.

Sinful Moscow, the capital of sinful Russia, fell hard many times in its historic life, but arose anew because its awareness of truth never died. In the Time of Troubles Russia fell so low that all her enemies were sure she was fatally wounded. Russia had no tsar, no government, no military force. Moscow was ruled by foreigners. People became faint-hearted and weak, and waited to be saved by foreigners. Destruction seemed inevitable, and Russia would have definitely been destroyed if all awareness of truth had been lost. But Russia was saved by the hierarch Hermogenes, who spiritually and morally revived the Russian people in faith and confession, and once again the people stepped unto the path of seeking the Kingdom of God and its truth – the truth of temporal national life being subordinate to spiritual rule. Nowhere else in history can one come across such a deep fall of a nation and such a quick resurrection of it a mere year later. Such is the history of Russia, such is its path.

After Peter the Great the life of society stepped off the Russian path. Although it did not wander off completely, nevertheless it lost the clarity of awareness of truth, the clarity of belief in the truth of the Gospel. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and its truth.” The cruel suffering of the Russian people is the consequence of Russia’s betrayal of itself, its path, its calling. But that cruel suffering, the desire for life even under the power of virulent enemies of God tell us that the people have not entirely lost their awareness of truth. Russia will arise just as it arose before. It will arise when the fire of faith starts burning; Russia will arise when it sees and comes to love its Orthodox saints and confessors.

Today, on the day of all Russian saints, the Church points them out to us, and the Orthodox faithful look at them with spiritual rapture, look at the multitude of them in the Heavenly Kingdom! And how many remain still unglorified, an infinite number of them! Russia will arise when it lifts up its gaze and sees that all the Russian saints are alive in the Heavenly Realm, that they are filled with the spirit of eternal life, and that we should be with them too, and should spiritually touch upon and come to participate in their eternal life. In this lies the salvation of Russia and the entire world.

 

Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco

 

 

CHRIST ON TRIAL BEFORE PILATE

 

(Continuation)

 

The burial and the guard at the tomb

 

In order to show contempt for the bodies of the crucified, according to Roman law they were not buried; however, if someone wished to bury a crucified man, he had to ask permission for this from the governor himself. At the time when the crucified Jesus Christ gave up His spirit, and the earth trembled, causing dread among the people, a certain respectable-looking elder came to Pilate’s house. The ruler’s house was silent and hushed, as the morose governor sat deep in thought. The elder bowed before him with tears in his eyes: my name is Joseph, – he said respectfully, – and I am a member of the Sanhedrin. I pray thee, sir, to allow me to take the body of Jesus and bury it. – Has He died? – He has already died. Pilate was surprised that He had died so quickly, and summoned the centurion who guarded the crosses. When the latter came, Pilate asked about Jesus: how long ago did He die? And receiving his answer, he ordered the body to be given to Joseph.

It was already evening; the earthquake had ceased, and darkness had left the face of the earth; the sun once again showed its rays on the western horizon. Then two notable members of the Sanhedrin came to the hill of Golgotha: one of them – Joseph of Arimathea, an honest and just man, who did not take part in the council and actions of Christ’s killers; and the other one with him – Nicodemus, the one who had come to Jesus in the night, and in the council, when Jesus was being condemned in absentia, he said: Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth (John 7:51)? Both of them were Jesus’ secret disciples, awaited the imminent coming of Christ’s kingdom, and were certain that the great Miracle-worker was none other than the King of Israel. The only shortcoming of their faith was that they, fearing to be expelled from the Sanhedrin, kept their regard for the Master hidden from others. Now, however, scorning any shame in showing themselves adherents of the Crucified One, they decided to give due respect to His mortal remains before all people. Those who came with them brought all that was required by Jewish custom for a magnificent burial.

As prominent and, moreover, exceedingly wealthy individuals, Joseph and Nicodemus brought many fragrant substances for Christ’s burial; with such an effort they wished to recompense Him for the ignominy He had suffered at the hands of the Sanhedrin. The burial cloths were of the finest and most expensive material, and Nicodemus brought with him approximately one hundred pounds of a fragrant mixture composed of myrrh and aloe. And thus these noble and respected persons were the first of all people to honor the Crucified Lord. As soon as they arrived, the nails were removed from His hands and feet, and His body, taken down by Joseph, once again found itself in a loving and friendly embrace. Now only the lament of Jesus’ humble adherents was heard around the lifeless body, only their weeping was seen.

However, the evening’s coming to an end did not allow them to tarry with the burial, and the body, washed with pure water, was wrapped in a shroud (a wide and long cloth) that had been abundantly anointed with fragrant oils, as was the custom in Jewish burials. The head and the face of the deceased were always wrapped up in a special narrow cloth, and the body, thus encased, was laced up. In this manner the body of Christ was carried to the sepulcher.

The Jews did not bury their dead as we do – they did not lay them down in pits, but placed them in caves hewn out of stony hills. The entrance into such sepulchers was not made too wide and was closed off with a large stone. Such a sepulcher had been prepared by Joseph for himself in his garden, one end of which abutted upon Golgotha itself. Within 50 steps of the place where the crosses stood, the resting place for Christ’s body was now ready. Here it was brought and placed in this new sepulcher on a prepared stone bed (like a ledge). The women who had stood at the cross now sat in the garden opposite the sepulcher; they watched everything silently, without moving. Finally a large stone was laid against the entrance to the cave, in order to protect the body from animals and grave robbers; and everyone hastened to depart from the sepulcher, for the Sabbath had already come, and a terribly mournful, terribly heavy night for all who loved the Lord.

Although the Lord now lay lifeless and inanimate, His enemies still could not calm down. Despite the great feast of Passover, they gathered together on the evening of the day following the crucifixion of Christ and asked Pilate: “Sir, – they said to him, – we remember that the deceiver said while He was still alive: after three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say unto the people: He is risen from the dead; so the last error shall be worse than the first.” Pilate, however, in view of their recent humiliation of his authority, was in no way disposed to listen to them, and said therefore: “You have your watch (temple guards); go and guard the sepulcher as you wish.” And they went, and for greater certainty they sealed the stone to the entrance of the sepulcher, and they set a watch, sternly ordering them to vigilantly guard the One Who, in their opinion, could disturb the peace of all Judea. Thus the spite of Christ’s enemies did all that was possible to attest to the truth of His resurrection.

 

THE RESURRECTION

 

When the Son of God gave up His spirit on the cross, then with His spirit He descended into hell and preached salvation to all the righteous ones who were there and awaiting His coming. For until the sacrifice for all sins was made on the cross, the souls of all the patriarchs and the prophets remained in the darkness, continuously awaiting salvation from God. And finally the ray of Divine light shone in Hades, and to those who were sitting in the darkness and the shadow of death there appeared the One Who, even while hanging on the cross and resting in the tomb, was yet at the same time on the heavenly throne with the Father and the Holy Spirit. When the souls of the languishing righteous ones saw their Deliverer, they greeted Him from all sides with joyous exclamations. And then the Lord first relieved of his misery the poor soul of the forefather; the righteous ones saw this and rejoiced. Then He severed the bonds of all who had cried out to the Lord in their sorrow and took them with Him out of eternal darkness. One can imagine with what joy they cried out then: death! where is thy sting? hell! where is thy victory? Now Christ’s Church sings to Him all over the world: Though Thou didst descend into the tomb, O Immortal One, yet didst Thou destroy the power of Hades, and didst arise as victor, O Christ God.

Was it possible for the vanquisher of Hades not to also be the vanquisher of death? The Son of God said while He was still on earth: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice; and shall come forth, they that had done good, unto the resurrection of life (John 5:29). When the Lord came out of the sepulcher, then, as the Gospel tells us, the graves opened up and many bodies of deceased saints arose. And the Church sings: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling upon death with death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life.

But already the Saturday passed in which the Lord rested from all His efforts, and the third day of His death arrived. For the people of this world, Christ’s work seemed to be over with; and for the sons of light nothing seemed to lie ahead as well. Everyone thought that for the Crucified One to come back to life was more impossible than for the river Jordan to turn back its flow. But the One Who had created everything out of nothing could easily bring with Him into eternal life all those who believed in Him. Such is the power of God, and such are the wondrous deeds of our Lord! The Evangelist Matthew reminds us that just as upon Christ’s death the earth trembled, so did a great trembling of the earth occur after His resurrection. He arose and left the sepulcher unseen by any mortal, and without disturbing the seals on the tomb. He kept them intact and informed the world of His resurrection through an angel, who was visible to the guards as he came down from heaven, approached the sepulcher, rolled back the stone from the entrance, and sat down on it. His countenance was bright as lightning, and his raiment was white as snow. Seeing him, the guards on watch trembled and became as dead men.

At almost the same time, early in the morning, while it was still too dark to be seen by Christ’s enemies, Mary Magdalene, and another Mary, the mother of Jacob, and Salome, and several other women went to the sepulcher; they went with the fragrances they had prepared, in order to further anoint the Lord’s body. They did not know that the sepulcher had been sealed the previous evening, and that a watch had been set on it, so they were only concerned with one thing, discussing it among themselves: who will remove the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us? For the stone was great indeed. It was already light when they came up to the sepulcher; and they saw that the stone was already rolled back from the tomb. They entered and did not find the body of Jesus Christ, and so their hearts became constricted with bewilderment and sorrow. Magdalene, as the leader of the group, immediately left all of them at the sepulcher and ran off to Christ’s disciples. She came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them: the Lord has been removed from the sepulcher, and we do not know where He was taken. Hearing such unexpected news, Peter and John immediately got up and hurried over to the Lord’s sepulcher.

Meanwhile, the women standing at the tomb and sorrowing over their loss, suddenly saw a youth in white garments, sitting on the right side of the entrance to the tomb, and they became afraid. But he said to them: “Do not fear; you are seeking the crucified Jesus – He is not here; He has arisen, as He had told you earlier. Approach and look once more at the place where the Lord lay.” And when they bent over and tried to see whether the Arisen One was perhaps within the sepulcher, they noticed another youth, in the same kind of shining garments, and became even more afraid. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? – said the other one. – He is not here; He is risen. Remember how He spoke to you, when He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of man was to be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified, and rise again on the third day.” And they remembered His words, and believing now the angel’s tidings of His resurrection, they were overjoyed. “Go, – continued the angel who sat at the entrance to the tomb, – and tell His disciples and Peter that He has risen from the dead, and that He will meet you all in Galilee; there you shall see Him, just as He had told you. Now I have told you all you need to know.” And coming out of the tomb, they ran with fear and great joy to tell the disciples.

Peter and John did not walk, but rather ran towards the sepulcher; but the latter, being much younger than the former, arrived at the tomb first; however, he did not enter it himself, but leaning forward, saw only the burial sheets lying there. Then Peter arrived, and they both entered the sepulcher. The shroud and the cloth which had been wound around Jesus Christ’s head were lying separately; the cloth was folded; all of this showed that the body could not have been taken away. Otherwise, why bare it? why leave a costly shroud behind? And in the heart of the beloved disciple there emerged the certainty that his Master had come alive. But Peter became thoughtful and left the sepulcher, wondering within himself about all that was happening. And so these disciples went back to their own place.

(To be continued)

Priest Gregory Dyachenko

 

CHRISTIAN TEACHING

“We shall behold Christ radiant…”

 

Every Sunday of the paschal period the Church proffers us shining examples of faith. On the first Sunday after Pascha we see the unbelieving disciple, Apostle Thomas, who expresses doubt in Christ’s actual Resurrection until he can personally confirm it through his five senses. The merciful Lord is understanding of the spiritual weakness of His disciple, and helps Thomas overcome his disbelief and his doubt. “My Lord and my God!” – Thomas cries out rapturously, with firm belief in the Resurrected Christ, after touching the Lord’s wounds and invisibly feeling His Divinity.

But at this point the Lord, in response to Thomas, says very important words, important for all of us, because they are the key to an understanding of faith and everything that it gives us. “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed,” says Christ, “but blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.”

With these words the Lord not only gives praise to those who can believe, who can overcome the limitation of their five senses, in order to penetrate, by means of faith, into the limitless expanse of the unseen world. The Lord also calls such people blessed in the sense of promising them bliss.

And what kind of bliss is it, dear brethren? It is the bliss mentioned in the beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The Lord reveals to us the great joy that we can see God even better than Apostle Thomas saw Him. Certainly, Thomas saw God and even touched Him, but this was on the limited level of the five human senses – Thomas saw God in human flesh. The faithful, on the other hand, can see God with their spiritual eyes, without any barriers or limits.

Only one condition is required for that – to have a pure heart, and we already know how purity of heart and soul is attained: through fasting, prayer, the keeping of God’s commandments, and most of all – through repentance and the partaking of the Divine Mysteries.

The importance of having a pure heart and the spiritual heights to which it can lead us is well explained in the paschal canon. “Let us purify our senses,” – the Church sings during these bright paschal days, – “and we shall behold Christ radiant with the unapproachable light of the Resurrection.” In other words, the Church tells us that if we cleanse our five senses of passions, and thus acquire a pure heart, then with our spiritual eyes we will be able to see our Lord Jesus Christ, shining with the indescribable light of His Resurrection – that extraordinary light, brighter than the sun, with which He shone in all His glory when He became transfigured on Mount Tabor.

Truly, dear brethren, let us purify our senses which are sullied by sin and passion; let us strive to acquire a pure heart; let us reject all doubt and disbelief. Then the Resurrected Christ will be revealed to us, too, brightly shining and indescribably radiant, and we, together with the Apostle Thomas, will be able to cry out joyously and rapturously: “My Lord and my God!” Amen.

Father Rostislav Sheniloff

 

THE HOLY TRINITY

The day of the Pentecost, when the Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, represents the culmination of God’s Providence in regard to mankind, the completion of the salvation of mankind from original sin, and is the apex of all the blessings that God has bestowed on His beloved creation. This day also marks the establishment of God’s Church on earth, and in this Church, until the very end of time, man can achieve salvation through the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist. And also on this day, insofar as man’s limited mind can encompass, God reveals Himself to man in the fullness of the Trinity, and for this reason the holiday is also called Trinity Day.

The dogma of the Holy Trinity is the basic dogma of Christianity. This dogma instructs us in the truth about the triunity of the Divine Being, i.e. that God is one in Essence, but triune in Persons, and that each Person has specific characteristics: the Father has no beginning, the Son is pre-eternally born from the Father, the Holy Spirit issues from the Father. We worship the Holy Trinity as One, but at the same time we glorify all three Persons. Thus, in praying to the Trinity, the Church appeals to it in the singular and not the plural form; for example: We glorify Thee (and not you), the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Though it is the most important of all Christian dogmas, the dogma of the Holy Trinity is at the same time the most difficult for the mind of man to grasp. How one God exists in three Persons – that is a mystery which our mind is unable to fathom. However, the principle of triunity – three in one – can be seen throughout the universe, which, as God’s creation, explains to us by analogy this great mystery of its Creator’s being. Triunity is the basic principle underlying all the works of divine wisdom. A prime example is our sun. The sun is a physical object which radiates light and heat. Each of these three manifestations – light, heat, substance – are perceived by us separately, and yet all three make up a single object. We can also see an analogy, for example, in the three states of matter: solid, liquid, gaseous; in the fact that the entire spectrum of colors in the world rests on three basic colors: red, blue and yellow; in glass, which we can see, through which we can see, and in which everything is reflected; in the fact that man himself is triune – composed of body, soul and spirit; and many other examples.

The Christian Church, while being conscious of the incomprehensibility of the dogma of the Trinity, sees in it a great revelation which raises the Christian faith immeasurably above any religion that simply believes in one God. The dogma of triunity indicates the fullness of internal life within God Himself, because God is love, and God’s love cannot extend only towards the world He has created, but is also turned upon the inner life of the Trinity. Thus, God is sole, but not solitary. And the love of God in Trinity pours out over the world in the most direct manner: God is above us, God is with us, God is in us and all creation. Above us is God the Father, the basis of all being, the source of all blessings, Who loves us and cares for us. With us is God the Son, Who became man out of ultimate love for us, Who sacrificed Himself for our salvation, so that through Him we could know God and become the sons of God. Within us and all creation is God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Who permeates all things and gives life to all things. And these three Divine Persons, Whose existence is pre-eternal, Who manifested Themselves subtly in the Old Testament (as, for example, to Abraham in the guise of three travelers), have revealed Themselves openly to the world with the coming of the Son of God to earth, and on Trinity Day remain with us in Their fullness, being one power, one being, one Divinity (hymn for the Pentecost).

 

Andrey Rublev’s ICON OF THE HOLY TRINITY

 

The Church has many different depictions of the Holy Trinity. But the icon which defines the very essence of Trinity Day is invariably the one which shows the Trinity in the form of three angels. The prototype for this icon was the mysterious appearance of the Holy Trinity in the form of three travelers to Abraham and Sarah under the oak of Mamre. The Church specifically chose this particular icon, because it most fully expresses the dogma of the Holy Trinity: the three angels are depicted in equal dignity, symbolizing the triunity and equality of all three Persons.

We find the deepest understanding of this dogma in the icon of the Trinity painted by the venerable Andrei Rublev for the Trinity Cathedral of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. This icon is a masterpiece of ancient Russian iconography, and it is not surprising that the Church established it as the model for depicting the Trinity.

In Andrey Rublev’s icon, the persons of the Holy Trinity are shown in the order in which they are confessed in the Creed. The first angel is the first person of the Trinity – God the Father; the second, middle angel is God the Son; the third angel is God the Holy Spirit. All three angels are blessing the chalice, in which lies a sacrificed calf, prepared for eating. The sacrifice of the calf signifies the Saviour’s death on the cross, while its preparation as food symbolizes the sacrament of the Eucharist. All three angels have staffs in their hand as a symbol of their divine power.

The first angel, shown at left, is vested in a blue undergarment which depicts his divine celestial nature, and a light purple outer garment which attests to the unfathomable nature and the royal dignity of this angel. Behind him and above his head towers a house, the abode of Abraham, and a sacrificial altar in front of the house. This image of the abode has a symbolic meaning: the house signifies God’s householdry, while the fact that the house towers above the first angel shows him to be the head (or Father) of creation. The same fatherly authority is seen in his entire appearance. His head is not bowed and he is looking at the other two angels. His whole demeanor – the expression on his face, the placement of his hands, the way he is sitting – all speak of his fatherly dignity. The other two angels have their heads inclined and eyes turned toward the first angel with great attention, as though conversing with him about the salvation of mankind.

The second angel is placed in the middle of the icon. This placement is determined by the position held by the second Person within the Trinity Itself. Above his head extend the branches of an oak tree. The vestments of the second angel correspond to those in which the Saviour is usually depicted. The undergarment is a dark crimson color which symbolizes the incarnation, while the blue outer robe signifies the divinity and the celestial nature of this angel. The second angel is inclined towards the first angel, as though deep in conversation. The tree behind him serves as a reminder of the tree of life that was standing in Eden, and of the cross.

The angel on the right is the third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. His light blue undergarment and smoky-green outer garment represent heaven and earth, and signify the life-giving force of the Holy Spirit, which animates everything that exists. “By the Holy Spirit every soul lives and is elevated in purity” – sings the Church. This elevation in purity is represented in the icon by a mountain above the third angel.

Thus Andrey Rublev’s icon, while being an unsurpassed work of iconography, is first and foremost a “theology in color,” which instructs us in all that concerns the revelation of the triune God and the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.

 

(From the book “Thoughts on Iconography” by monk Gregory Krug)

 

LIVES OF THE SAINTS

On June 3rd (May 21st by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the great Saints Constantine and Helena.

On the border between the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., the Roman Emperor Diocletian divided the huge Roman Empire into two halves, in order to govern it more easily. He himself ruled the eastern half of the Empire, assisted by Caesar Galerius. As ruler of the western half he appointed Emperor Maximian, and as his assistant – Caesar Constantius Chlorus, who governed Gaul and Britain. Constantius Chlorus, though officially a pagan because of his position, in his heart, together with all his family members, worshipped the One God. In A.D. 303 Diocletian issued a decree concerning the extermination of Christianity from the Roman Empire. Although Constantius Chlorus was unable to openly disobey the elder emperor, nevertheless he continued to protect the Christians in all possible ways, especially after his wife, Queen Helena, converted to Christianity.

St. Constantine, the only son of Constantius Chlorus and Queen Helena, was born in 274, and although officially he grew up a pagan, he was reared at home in a Christian atmosphere. While being a direct witness to the terrible persecution of Christians instituted by Diocletian, at the same time Constantine saw the triumph of the Christian faith, which manifested itself in countless miracles and God’s help to the holy martyrs. Constantine was tall, handsome, and physically strong, and at the same time good-natured and modest, for which he was loved by the people and the army. This provoked envy of him on the part of other court officials, especially Caesar Galerius, who even plotted to bar Constantine from ruling his part of the Empire. Seeing this, Constantine fled to Gaul, where after the death of Constantius Chlorus in 306 the army proclaimed Constantine emperor of Gaul and Britain. Constantine was then 32 years old. After coming to power, his first act was to declare freedom for Christianity in all his provinces.

In 311 the cruel tyrant Maxentius became ruler of the western half of the Empire, and he decided to get rid of Constantine and reign alone. In 312 Constantine himself embarked upon a military campaign against the Roman emperor, in order to rid Rome of the evil tyrant. This campaign was extremely difficult, since the enemy’s army greatly outnumbered Constantine’s; moreover, Maxentius used the help of evil forces by shielding himself and his army with sorcery and magic. Constantine realized that relying on human powers was not enough, and he then remembered the one true God and began praying to Him, asking for help from above.

And the Lord sent an extraordinary omen to His chosen one. On the eve of a decisive battle, Constantine and his whole army saw in the sky the sign of a cross, made up of light and spread across the sun, with the inscription: “With this you shall vanquish” (NIKA in Greek). Constantine was perplexed, since the cross, being an instrument of shameful execution, was considered by the Romans to be a bad omen. However, the very next night Jesus Christ Himself appeared to Constantine with a cross in His hand and told him that with this sign he would vanquish his foe; and He commanded him to make a banner with the image of the holy Cross. Constantine followed the Lord’s command and defeated the enemy, becoming the ruler of the entire western half of the Empire.

With his first decree the new emperor proclaimed full religious tolerance among his subjects; at the same time, he became the protector of Christians, repealed the penalty of death by crucifixion, and enacted laws favorable to the Church of Christ.

Meanwhile, the ruler of the eastern half of the Empire, the pagan Licinius, also a cruel and perfidious tyrant, went to war against Constantine. Armed with the power of the cross, Emperor Constantine stood against Licinius and roundly defeated him, becoming the new sovereign of the entire Roman Empire. The victory over Licinius instilled in Constantine an even greater realization of God’s help, and he worked at spreading the Christian faith among his subjects, decreeing Christianity to be the state religion in the Empire.

Of great assistance to Constantine in the spreading of Christianity was his mother, Queen Helena. When Constantine decided to build churches in the Holy Land on the sacred sites of Christ’s birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, and also to find the Lord’s Cross, Queen Helena joyously undertook this task herself. In 326 she traveled to Jerusalem and worked hard to find the Lord’s Cross, which had been deliberately buried by Christ’s enemies. After discovering the true and Life-giving Cross, Queen Helena made sure that the people could venerate it. The Church commemorates this event in the great feast of the Elevation of the Cross. Part of the original Cross, together with the nails and some thorns, Queen Helena brought back to Rome for her son Constantine, while the other part remained in Jerusalem. Afterwards Constantine and Helena erected a huge and magnificent church over the sites of Christ’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. This church, which comprises the hill of Calvary and Christ’s Tomb, is the major holy site in Jerusalem even to this day. For their labors in spreading Christianity, Emperor Constantine the Great and Queen Helena have been named equal-to-the-apostles by the Church. St. Constantine died on the very day of Pentecost in A.D. 337.

 

 

On June 11th (May 29th by the old calendar) the Church celebrates the icon of the Mother of God “Surety of sinners.”

The surety of sinners! What a profound thought is contained in these words!… Men have sinned. The righteous judgment of God has deemed men worthy of punishment and perdition. But in the high heavens there is a vigilant Intercessor for them: the Mother of God battles for their salvation. She searches for means to bring man to repentance. Even when man is not yet thinking of correction, She offers surety to God that man will reform himself…

The image on the icon of the Mother of God “Surety of Sinners” is as follows: the Mother of God is depicted to the waist, with Her left hand holding the Divine Infant, Who is clasping the Theotokos’ right hands with both His hands, as is customary when concluding an agreement. In the four corners of the icon is written: “I am the Surety of Sinners before My Son; He gave Me His hands for them, to hear Me out, so that those who bring me joy forthwith, will obtain eternal joy through Me.” How much comfort, how many happy promises for the faithful are contained within these words, that Christ “has given His hands,” i.e. has faithfully promised His Mother that He will always listen to Her entreaties!

This icon appeared in Russia in one of the monasteries of the Orel diocese, and for a long time remained unknown and unattended in one of the chapels behind the monastery gates. The icon was so covered with grime and dust from the passage of time that the image could barely be discerned, while the inscription could not be deciphered at all.

In the summer of 1844, a merchant wife, Pochepina, came to the monastery together with her 2-year-old son who suffered the most terrible fits. The doctors could not give him any aid whatsoever. Pochepina asked that a moleben be served before the icon, and the boy was instantaneously and miraculously healed. Subsequently many other miracles occurred. The icon became regarded as wonderworking. It was cleaned off, at which point the famous inscription was revealed, and then the icon was triumphantly carried to church.

Soon afterwards the cities of Karachevo and Orel were struck by cholera. Both the sick and the healthy streamed to the icon “Surety of Sinners.” Despite the extreme contagiousness of the disease, no one from among the faithful died. The inhabitants of Orel carried the icon in a ceremonious procession all over the city, and the cholera disappeared.

 

BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST PEOPLE

(see beginning here)

(Continuation)

 

Abraham, Moses, and Elijah As the Preparers of the Salvation of Mankind

 

The third great spiritual figure of Old-Testament mankind is the holy prophet Elijah.

Unusual power and zealous love for God permeate the entire activity of this greatest of righteous men. In the days of the unrighteous King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, who became the symbol of everything vicious and wicked, a mighty prophet arose, burning with great zeal for the Lord. By Divine will he sealed the heavens with a single word, as a result of which not a single drop of rain fell onto the whole land of Israel for more than 3 years – as punishment for idolatry. In his zeal for God, Elijah called fire down from heaven on a sacrifice to God, so that Israel would cease “floundering,” so that the people would admit who is the true God – the wicked Baal or the righteous Lord. In an unrestrained but righteous rage against the deluders and corruptors of the people of God, with his own hand St. Elijah slew 450 prophets of Baal and Astarte.

The holy and righteous Elijah cannot be reproached for anything. His devotion to God was not less than the devotion of Abraham, his forefather. At the same time, he had no slip-ups similar to those of Abraham. He is able to communicate with God no less than Moses: the Lord appears to him, as he did to Moses, on the Mount of Horeb, and in the New Testament only these two – Moses and Elijah – from all of Old Testament mankind were called upon to see the light of Mount Tabor, the revelation of God’s essence in the Divine Transfiguration.

Perhaps one could reproach the Prophet Elijah for the fear of death, when he runs from Jezebel, pursuing him: “And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life” (3 Kings 19:3). But this fear is an absolutely natural feeling, typical of every man, and the Lord does not reproach His prophet for this fear, because Elijah does nothing wrong or in opposition to Divine will under the influence of his fear, even on a scale similar to the self-willed blows of Moses upon the rock by the waters of Meribah. Only after fully completing God’s mission does he run from the pursuing Jezebel

But Elijah also cannot become the vessel of the Divine incarnation due to the unrestrained character of his anger, his all-embracing fiery zeal for the Lord God. This rage, this zeal differ in spirit compared with the New Testament spirit, with the spirit of the One Who is meek and humble in heart. That is why, when Christ’s disciples James and John want to “command fire to come down from heaven, even as Elijah did,” Christ prohibits them, saying: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of, for the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:54-56).

The Lord speaks of this with love and delicacy to the Prophet Elijah as well, when He appears to him on Mount Horeb: “What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said: I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And He said: Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by; and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice – and there was the Lord” (3 Kings 19:9-12).

Elijah was a great and strong wind that rent the mountains, and broke into pieces the rocks before the Lord, but not a still small voice. The Lord waited for this still small voice in mankind, which was not in Elijah, for many more centuries. The Lord, carrying out the salvation of those created by Him in His image and after His likeness, and, consequently, spiritually autocratic creatures, could not come down to men without this still small voice, without their participation, for He is not in the wind or fire, but in the breath of a quiet wind.

This breath of a quiet wind appeared in mankind when “in the sixth month the Angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth… to a Virgin… and the Virgin's name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27), and when in answer to the Annunciation, which was more amazing than the one to Abraham, more crucial than the one to Moses, and infinitely much more blissful than the one to Elijah, a quiet voice sounded: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38). This was the moment when the Son of God’s descent to man could occur, and it occurred at that same moment, for the Omnipotent Lord, long-sufferingly awaiting many centuries for this moment, did not wait a jot longer, but immediately united with the human nature created by Him, torn away from Him by sin, but not forgotten by His love, recreating it in the womb of the Ever-Virgin.

Still, Abraham, Moses, and Elijah were not left without involvement in this affair.

The Holy Virgin was the descendant of Abraham in soul and body. It was in order for Her to appear that he left the flourishing culture and conveniences of his native Ur of the Chaldees. From him, Her forefather, She inherited the highest transport of sacrificial love for God, manifested by Abraham on the mount of Moria in sacrificing his son. This transport of sacrificial love is revealed by Her in an even purer and more elevated way through Her participation in the salutary sufferings of the Lord on the Mount of Golgotha.

The Virgin Mary grew and was brought up in the Law given by God through Moses on holy Mount Sinai, was brought up in the temple built by Divine will through Moses, and She corrected that inadequacy of his which had caused God’s rage by the Ever-burning Bush (Her image), for She did not express any doubts, did not oppose God at Her election, but with the humble answer “behold the handmaid of the Lord,” She effaced the inappropriate indolence of Moses’ words at his election: “Send another one, whomever Thou canst.”

With the stirring of a quiet wind, with a still small voice She rights the scorching storm of Elias’s zeal, and in this endeavor of Hers She is joined by Her relative, coming after Her, the great prophet, who appeared in the spirit and strength of Elijah, i.e. in no way inferior to Elijah in zeal for God, but who summoned to repentance even the Jewish elders whom he denounced, instead of slaying them with a knife. He (John the Baptist), this new Elijah, was not frightened by his contemporary Jezebel (i.e. Herodias), but accepted a martyr’s death from her on the border between the Old and New Testaments, in order to become the Forerunner of the Lord even in hell.

In comparing the Most-holy and Most-pure Virgin Mary with the spiritual giants of the Old Testament, we would like to touch upon a certain issue: why did the Mother of God, the holiest of holies, more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim, still have to pass through the threshold of death, to drink mankind’s bitter cup of death, while the prophet Elijah avoided death and was taken to heaven alive?

In answering this question one must remember that the Lord always fulfills the sincere, mature, and profound desires of His loyal servants. The Mother of God was not afraid of death, did not try to avoid it, because She knew that death was already vanquished by Her Son and God. More than anything else She wished to be with Him, Her beloved Son and God, in soul and body. And as we are told in the church narrative on Her dormition, She asked the Lord for one thing only: “May I not see the dismal gaze of the evil spirits, because they are foul and vile.” Chastity and modesty naturally tend to avoid any touch and even nearness of carriers of filth, impudence, and shamelessness. And the Lord fulfills this virtuous wish of His Most-holy Mother: She experiences death, but gives over Her most-holy soul into His embrace, invisible to the demons, and He resurrects Her on the third day in His own image, in order for Her to be with Him in body and soul, on the right hand of the throne of God.

The prophet Elijah did not wish for death at the hands of Jezebel not because he feared death in general: immediately after fleeing from Jezebel he himself asked God for death. But he simply could not accept the power of evil, nor the shameless prophets who were corrupting the people of God, nor Jezabel, who was ruling over Israel. And the Lord could not take this loyal servant of His down to hell, which was inevitably linked with death in the Old Testament, could not give him over into the power of enemies much more vile than the shameless and abominable prophets, than the loathsome Jezebel.

The Prophet Elijah was taken to heaven alive, but church teaching tells us that when in the last days iniquities will increase and the love of many will dry up, i.e. all manifestation of zeal for God will be exhausted among people, then two witnesses, two olives, two candles (Rev. 11:3-4) will appear that will testify to the Divine Truth among the mankind grown fainthearted, putting fresh heart into the small flock of those who stayed faithful up to the end, embarrassing and exposing the multitudinal, impudently gloating enemies of God. By Divine tolerance they – these two candles – will be killed by the Antichrist and will be resurrected on the third day. Church teaching says that these two witnesses will be the holy Enoch and Elijah, those righteous men of the Old Testament who did not taste death, precisely in order to fulfill God’s plan at the end of ages, when human powers will be exhausted.

Now, as never before, we clearly and painfully feel this terrible depletion of human moral forces. Does it mean that the hour of the coming of the prophet Elijah and righteous Enoch, as the forerunners of the Second Coming of Christ, is close – we cannot say, but we undoubtedly believe that sooner or later this will happen, and the earth will still hear the formidable voice, saying: “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand… How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him” (3 Kings 18:15-21). And many, many of the signs of modern days testify that perhaps we, our generation, will meet face to face on this earth, in our actual modern surroundings, with the formidable, fire-breathing prophet of God, who is called in the church chants “the second Forerunner of the coming of Christ, the glorious Elijah.”

(Note: According to the interpretation of the Revelation by St. Andrew, Archbishop of Caesarea, the Antichrist, coming out of the dark and infernal places of the earth, to where the devil was banished by God’s tolerance, will kill Saints Enoch and Elijah, and will leave their bodies unburied in the same ancient and ruined Jerusalem where the Lord had suffered. In this city he will establish his kingdom and royal throne like David, whose Son in flesh was Christ, our true God, in order to prove that he himself is Christ, fulfilling the prophetic word: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and will revive its fallen ones,” which the wayward Jews accept and relate to his coming.

Deluded by the false miracles of the Antichrist and having engraved him upon their hearts, the Jews and pagans will not allow the holy bodies to be buried, and will rejoice over their deliverance and freedom from the punishments which they had suffered for their own admonishment.

Lying dead for the same number of days as the number of years their prophetic activity lasted, Enoch and Elijah again, to the fear and horror of those who see it, will ascend to heaven in a fiery cloud.)

(To be continued)

Archbishop Nathaniel (Lvov)

SPIRITUAL POETRY

CHRIST IS RISEN!

 

 

Christ is risen! He, King of worlds,

The sovereign of mighty kings,

With all humility and solemn love,

His holy blood in great redemption

Has shed for our sinful world.

Christ is risen! He gave mankind

The pledge of holy all-forgiveness,

He granted mercy to the fallen,

And bade for our sacred convictions

We suffer just as He had suffered.

Christ is risen! He proclaimed

That all the people on earth are brethren,

With love He did renew the world,

Forgave His enemies from the cross,

And opened His embrace to us.

Christ is risen! Christ is risen!

May these triumphant joyous sounds,

Like angels’ singing in the heavens,

Disperse all sorrow, malice, torment!

Let us all join brotherly hands,

Let us embrace all! Christ is risen!

 

  • K. Rocher
  • Translated by Natalia Sheniloff

 

 

 



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