Κυριακή 29 Αυγούστου 2021

Herod’s best friend!

 The Beheading of the holy glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John (29 August)

ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ: Ο καλύτερος φίλος του Ηρώδη
O Nekros - Translation A.N.

We have become accustomed to imagining Saint John the Baptist as an angry
and boisterous prophet, permanently dissatisfied and grumpy, who used to rant loudly at people in a harsh manner, urging them to repent for their sins so that they won’t be annihilated by the wrath of God and burn in hell. And that may well be the case… Of course the expression “wrath of God” is an image that symbolizes man’s enmity towards God, and “hell” is man’s view of the Divine Light as a consuming fire, because of human egotism. But, the truth is that Saint John – as well as all the Prophets and Saints in every era – who, inspired by Divine Grace, possessed abundant love for mankind, and it was precisely that kind of love (and not any harsh “sense of justice” or any supposed “offence to God” and such irrelevant notions) that prompted them to persuade people to repent.
Repentance is what will help people to be saved, and mankind’s salvation is the true concern of the Prophets and the Saints; in other words, it is God’s true concern that inspires them.

In Herod’s case, we can see that the Baptist was by no means his actual enemy; on the contrary, he was Herod’s best friend (or rather, his ONLY friend!), given that Herod, a very vicious individual, most probably had no other, true friends… 

Icon from here

Everyone knows how the Baptist exercised austere criticism on Herod, given that he had stolen his brother’s wife, Herodias, and had made her his official concubine, or possibly wife. A very annoyed Herod threw John into prison as punishment for his criticisms, but, Herodias with her familiar shrewdness, instructed her daughter Salome (who charmed Herod and all his “distinguished” guests during his birthday party with her obviously sexual enticing dance) to demand the head of the Baptist on a platter. This demand was “honoured” by the king (as foolishly promised by him in public), and the Baptist’s severed head was handed to the teenage Salome, who then handed it over to her cunning mother (may God forgive them all…).
We need to point out here that the specific Herod here was Herod II (Herod Antypas), son of the old Herod, who had commanded the slaughter of the thousands of infants (in the hope of exterminating the threat of the then newly-born, prophesied King); this was Herod the Tetrarch, the so-called “Great” Herod.

But why did the Saint exercise such austere criticism on Herod? Was it to cause him political damage? Or to provide a reason for rebels to overthrow him? For social or political reasons specifically? Well, we have no reason to believe that the Saint had any such motives. Being familiar with the tradition of the Saints, we are able to perceive something else: John the Baptist’s criticism of Herod was intended to save him! And with him, his consort, Herodias, whose inspiration it was to kill the Prophet. And how was John striving to save them? Well, with his vociferous critique, John strived to curb the long-term sin of adultery that Herod had been committing. As such, John proved to be the best (if not the only) friend of the royal couple, because he was the only one who dared to publicly declare them as sinners and urge them to resort to salvific repentance.

Icon from here

But, there is something else that is indicative of the Saint’s love and concern for Herod. In Mark’s Gospel (ch.6, verses 19-20), we read the following, which pertains to the time that the Saint was imprisoned:

“19 Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man and he protected him. And by listening to him, he did many things, and he listened to him gladly.”

(Here is one more case where the word “feared” has the meaning of “respected” – as in the familiar Gospel quote of “…and the woman shall fear the man…”)
The fact that John conceded to talk to Herod from inside his prison, and even counselled him on certain matters - obviously for him to be proper and just – is proof that the Saint held no grudge against Herod, nor did he hate him, but on the contrary, loved and cared about him! This stance provides a very important example of how a Saint becomes a rebel against a corrupt authority: he censures it with boldness, but not with hatred. He hates corruption, the abuse of power and sinning, but continues to lovingly care about the persons, even when they are corrupt and sinful, and strives for their salvation (provided of course that they also desire it). He does not change this stance, and even gives up his own life for them.


The Mystery of the Forerunner

Glory 2 God for all things
There is a unanimous witness in the Christian gospels concerning the place of St. John the Baptist. In the Orthodox world he is generally referred to as the Forerunner. All of the gospels agree that he plays a key role in the coming of the Messiah. It is a role that is largely ignored by most of the Christian world.
The gospels make reference to two Scriptures when they mention St. John. The first is from Malachi 3:
Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
The second is from Isaiah 40:
 The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Both Scriptures make reference to the fact of the Forerunner. Before the coming of the Christ, God will send a messenger to prepare the way. John is the messenger. It is here that most Christians leave St. John. He is a voice and a messenger – as such he simply becomes part of the furniture in the drama of Christ’s coming.
But why is there a messenger? How does John prepare the way? What is the mystery of the Forerunner?
For me, the question is important. Nothing in the story of our salvation is merely incidental. John does not appear because of the prophecy – the prophecy is spoken because John is coming. The Christian gospel, when rightly understood, has a “seamless” quality. It fits together. What is the seamless role of the Forerunner?
The first aspect of his role in Christ’s coming is its simple historical fact. Though the gospel gives John a minor role within the drama, historically his place was very important. John was clearly more important than Christ at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. John had the general approval of the nation of Israel. Even King Herod who arrested John and ordered his death is said to have “feared” him:
knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly (Mark 6:20).
It is to Herod’s shame that he lacked the character to protect John from the wicked demands of Herodias and Salome. Herod’s greatest fear of Christ was that Jesus was somehow John the Baptist come back from the dead (Matt. 14:2).
In Luke’s gospel, Christ is linked with John even before their birth. They are cousins. John, filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb, leaps with joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. His role as Forerunner has already begun.
It is John himself who offers an insight into the mystery of his role. In the fourth gospel, St. John describes himself as the Friend of the Bridegroom.
‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled (Jn. 3:28-29).
In the other three gospels, Christ speaks of his disciples as “friends of the bridegroom,” and makes a contrast between their joyful lack of fasting and the strict fasting of the Baptist’s followers. But the gospel of John raises the image of the Friend of the Bridegroom to a mystical level.
The Forerunner’s theological action in the gospels is to preside at the mystical Pascha, the union of heaven and earth: Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan. The full force of this event is lost on many Christians. At best, it is seen as an action in which Christ is revealed as Messiah. It’s place in Orthodox liturgical life is in the company of Christmas and Pascha. The three feasts have a common shape and common iconography. Christmas and Theophany (Christ’s Baptism) are revealed as “little Paschas.”
The Baptism of Christ is the death and resurrection of Christ, in a mystical form. It is the meaning given to Christian Baptism. In Orthodox liturgical language, Christ’s enters the waters of the Jordan and “crushes the heads of the dragons who lurked there.” The image of the dragons, drawn from Psalm 74 (73), reveal the waters of Jordan to be a foreshadowing of Hades. Christ’s death is an entrance into Hades and the crushing of the devil and his minions. It is the union of Christ with those who had been held in bondage, and, through that union, their resurrection from the dead. This is the mystical marriage, the union of God with His creation.
The identification of the Forerunner as the Friend of the Bridegroom also points to the Baptism as a mystical marriage. It is the role of the Bridegroom’s friend to witness the marriage. It is also necessary for someone to perform the Baptism itself. John hesitates before such a role and protests that he is unworthy. But Christ, the true Bridegroom, counters, “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15).
The imagery of Christ as Bridegroom has many echoes within the Old Testament. God as the husband of Israel is the primary image within Hosea; the Song of Songs is incomprehensible without it; Psalm 45 (44) is a rich commentary on the topic. In Orthodoxy, the Bridegroom is a beloved title for Christ. It is a primary theme in the Holy Week as the Church moves towards the spiritual climax of Pascha. Everything begins to be described in wedding imagery.
Come from the vision, O ye women, bearers of glad tidings, and say to Sion: receive from us the glad tidings of the Resurrection of Christ; adorn thyself, exult, and rejoice, O Jerusalem, for thou hast seen Christ the King come forth from the tomb like a bridegroom in procession.
The Church sees beyond the Jordan to an even greater role for the Forerunner. John, beheaded by Herod, enters into Hades and continues there his mission of preparation for Christ. There, in Hades, the man whom Christ describes as “the greatest born among women,” carries on his work of self-emptying. John says of Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Just as Christ’s self-emptying carries him into the emptiness of death that he might fill it with Himself, so John enters first into the same emptiness, that he might proclaim the coming Fullness.
He is the Friend of the Bridegroom. How could he not have been present to witness such a victory by his Friend?

August 29 is the feast of the Beheading of St. John. Glory to God!

(*) Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, serving as Rector of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.

The Beheading of the holy glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John (29 August)


The Beheading of the Venerable Head of the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John - Commemorated on August 29 (icon taken from here)
Full of Grace and Truth
"The divine Baptist, the Prophet born of a Prophet, the seal of all the Prophets and beginning of the Apostles, the mediator between the Old and New Covenants, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the God-sent Messenger of the incarnate Messiah, the forerunner of Christ's coming into the world (Esaias 40: 3; Mal. 3: 1); who by many miracles was both conceived and born; who was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb; who came forth like another Elias the Zealot, whose life in the wilderness and divine zeal for God's Law he imitated: this divine Prophet, after he had preached the baptism of repentance according to God's command; had taught men of low rank and high how they must order their lives; had admonished those whom he baptized and had filled them with the fear of God, teaching them that no one is able to escape the wrath to come if he do not works worthy of repentance; had, through such preaching, prepared their hearts to receive the evangelical teachings of the Savior; and finally, after he had pointed out to the people the very Savior, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world" (Luke 3:2-18; John 1: 29-36), after all this, John sealed with his own blood the truth of his words and was made a sacred victim for the divine Law at the hands of a transgressor.

The Beheading of the Precious Forerunner (taken from here)
This was Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, the son of Herod the Great. This man had a lawful wife, the daughter of Arethas (or Aretas), the King of Arabia (that is, Arabia Petraea, which had the famous Nabatean stone city of Petra as its capital. This is the Aretas mentioned by Saint Paul in II Cor. 11:32). Without any cause, and against every commandment of the Law, he put her away and took to himself Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, to whom Herodias had borne a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this unlawful union even when John, the preacher of repentance, the bold and austere accuser of the lawless, censured him and told him, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife" (Mark 6: 18). Thus Herod, besides his other unholy acts, added yet this, that he apprehended John and shut him in prison; and perhaps he would have killed him straightway, had he not feared the people, who had extreme reverence for John. 
Certainly, in the beginning, he himself had great reverence for this just and holy man. But finally, being pierced with the sting of a mad lust for the woman Herodias, he laid his defiled hands on the teacher of purity on the very day he was celebrating his birthday. When Salome, Herodias' daughter, had danced in order to please him and those who were supping with him, he promised her -- with an oath more foolish than any foolishness -- that he would give her anything she asked, even unto the half of his kingdom. And she, consulting with her mother, straightway asked for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Hence this transgressor of the Law, preferring his lawless oath above the precepts of the Law, fulfilled this godless promise and filled his loathsome banquet with the blood of the Prophet. So it was that that all-venerable head, revered by the Angels, was given as a prize for an abominable dance, and became the plaything of the dissolute daughter of a debauched mother. As for the body of the divine Baptist, it was taken up by his disciples and placed in a tomb (Mark 6: 21 - 29). Concerning the finding of his holy head, see February 24 and May 25. (text taken from here)
Fresco of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner, from Gracanica Monastery (here)
"According to Tradition, the mouth of the dead preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: "Herod, you should not have the wife of your brother Philip." Salome took the platter with the head of St John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod's steward Chuza, buried the head of John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod had a parcel of land. (The Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated (February 24). The holy body of John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sebastia, there where the wicked deed had been done.
Icon depicting the Sacred Head of the Precious Forerunner (here)
After the murder of St John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain time. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent Jesus Christ to him, Whom he mocked (Luke 23:7-12).
The judgment of God came upon Herod, Herodias and Salome, even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris in winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way in such a way that her body was in the water, but her head was trapped above the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now she flailed helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck.

Detail of fresco depicting Salome holding the Precious Head of the Forerunner on a platter, from the Church of the Theotokos Hodegetria, Pec (taken from here)
Her corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of St John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas, in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter, made war against Herod. The defeated Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman emperor Caius Caligua (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias first to Gaul, and then to Spain.
The Beheading of St John the Baptist, a Feast day established by the Church, is also a strict fast day because of the grief of Christians at the violent death of the saint. In some Orthodox cultures pious people will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day." (text taken from here)

For a Commentary of St. John Chrysostom on the Beheading of the Forerunner, see here.
For a homily by St. Justin Popovitch on this feast, see here.
Detail from an icon of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (taken from here)
  O Saint John, wonderful Baptizer,
Of the Savior, you were the glorious Forerunner,
You, with your purity, touched human souls
And, as an awesome trumpet, from the Jordan resounded
From sleep and idle vices, awakening men,
When the axe was near to the root.
To you I bow, to you I pray:
Every temptation, help me to resist.
Prophet most powerful, to you I bow,
And before you kneel and before you I weep:
From your heart, grant me the strength of a lion,
From your spirit, grant me angelic whiteness.
Grant me your strength that by practice to attain
To God be submissive and to rule over myself,
To baptize by fasting, to purify by all-night vigils,
To sweeten by prayer and heavenly vision,
And to every martyrdom, walk without fear
With your courage and with a strong faith.
O Saint John, God's chosen one,
And glorious martyr for supreme justice,
You, of whom the godless armies are afraid
To my prayers, do not turn a deaf ear,
But, strengthen me by your prayers,
That as a true candle before the Lord, I stand.
(taken from here)
Icon of St. John the Forerunner, depicted as an angel, and holding his Sacred Head. His scroll reads: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (taken from: here)
Apolytikion of St. John the Forerunner in the Second Tone
  The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since thou was granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God hath appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.

The Sacred Head of the Precious Forerunner, St. John the Baptist of Christ (here)
Kontakion - Tone 5
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner, became an act of divine dispensation, for he preached to those in hell the coming of the Savior. Let Herodias lament, for she entreated lawless murder, loving not the law of God, nor eternal life, but that which is false and temporal.
St. John the Forerunner preaching the coming of Christ to those in Hades following his death (here)
See also:
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

When you receive the love of God, you change

2nd Sunday of Luke – The Golden Rule

Holy Hesychasterion “The Nativity of Theotokos” Publications (about). Archimandrite Symeon Kragiopoulos

(Luke 6, 31-36 ) From here.

Icon from here

In today’s Gospel reading from the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord says to us: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” And He continues: “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”

We see here that the Lord is merciful and compassionate. Yes… He loves enemies, loves sinners, loves everyone, regardless of who each person is. And when you receive the love of God, you change. You become as God is. If at the end of the day certain people are not saved, it does not mean that God did not love them. Rather, they would not receive the love which God offered.

Love makes you transcend yourself. When you put yourself and your self-love at the center of your life, you can’t love your neighbour. And if you offer him something, you do it with ulterior motives so that you’ll receive something in return.

The status-quo of self-worship lives and reigns within us. Say whatever you want about needing to love your neighbour or even your enemies, or about needing to sacrifice for others. Whatever you might say, your “ego” still lives and rules within you. In fact, your actions will be self-centered and self-interested. If this fortress where the “ego” rules supreme is not torn down, along with the entire rebellion of a person against God, then he cannot truly love.

It is not for nothing that the Apostle Paul says: “Ιt is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). A man feels, a man lives, a man experiences Christ reigning within him. He does not rule himself, and his “ego” does not dominate him. This is exactly what the Lord says: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself” (Matt. 16:24).

If we are honest and truthful, if we desire to see and speak the truth, then none of us should have difficulty saying: “Even the best things I do always begin from self-interest and from a self-centeredness.”

Παρασκευή 27 Αυγούστου 2021

The Paradoxicality of the Logic of the Christian Faith

Protopresbyter Georgios Dorbarakis / Pemptousia

The logicality of the Christian faith is often so paradoxical and strange, especially for Orthodox Christians today, that we need to delve into the texts of the Fathers in order to have a feel for it and attune ourselves to it. Though it must be said, of course, that the acceptance and gradual familiarization with this reasoning leads to the ‘jolt’ of the taste of the other way of life which was brought by Our Lord Jesus Christ- to the opening of the eyes and spiritual senses so that the faithful can see and feel eternal life even in what’s considered this narrow and wretched life. So that they can see the unseen and eternal, as Saint Paul says.

To be more precise: temptations and sorrows, for example, are part of our life but we all see them as negative or avoidable, to such an extent that even the Church, by concession to our weakness, continually prays that we may not encounter them in our life. And yet, when we see them from the point of view of faith, as the saints do, they’re regarded as stepping-stones leading us to an ascent in the spiritual life, which means a more personal and vital relationship with God. They tell us: ‘Take temptations out of life and nobody’ll be saved’. Because through temptations, sorrows and tribulations we’re clearly called upon to struggle with our self, to overcome our weaknesses, to make room for God to abide within us.

Saint Isaac the Syrian is one of the ascetic fathers who introduces us into the mysteries of the logic of the faith in the most graphic terms: ‘The further you progress on the road to the Kingdom of God and you draw closer to him, take it as a sign that you’ll encounter the power of temptations. The further you go, and progress, the more the temptations increase and arise against you… Because God brings the sorrows of temptations to your soul commensurately to the amount of divine grace’. So temptations and sorrows are a sign that you’re on the right path. But he also tells us something equally important: before the temptations and tribulations befall us, God strengthens us with his grace. It’s as if he measures our strength in some way and allows whatever we can bear in order that we may ascend higher. 

Why? Because the essential thing for Christ our God- and this is where the logic of faith is best shown- isn’t whether we undergo sorrows and trials. That’s a given, because humankind fell into sin. What’s essential, the enduring desire of our Creator and Father, is for us to be with him and to maintain our living relationship with him, with his help. He wants us to be one with him. Gods within his godhead. He ‘ignores’, though without ignoring or pretending not to see, although he does see and suffers our tribulations along with us. It’s the balm we need to be cured.

Let’s listen to Saint Isaac again: ‘Temptations won’t come unless the soul first secretly receives some power over and above its own through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Proof of this is the temptation of the Lord and the temptations of the apostles, who weren’t really tempted until they received the Holy Spirit. Because those who receive good things have to undergo the temptations of those good things. Good things are accompanied by sorrows. It’s our all-wise God’s good pleasure to deal with all his works like this. And if the bestowal of grace precedes the temptations, the feeling of temptations precedes the sense of the presence of grace. This is in order to test our freedom. Because grace isn’t felt before we taste the bitterness of temptations. Grace actually precedes, but its action isn’t felt until later’.

These are secrets of our faith which, the more we know them, the more we’re moved by God’s love; the more we understand his Passion, which he submitted to for our sake; the more we accept patience as the only road to our salvation.

Πέμπτη 26 Αυγούστου 2021

The Saint of Lost Things: Saint Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-Revealed of Rhodes (August 27)

Ακοτάντος Άγγελος – Holy icon by Angelos Akotantos [died before 1457] 


The Saint of Lost Things: Saint Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-Revealed of Rhodes (August 27) 

SAINT PHANOURIOS, St Patron des choses perdues et Protecteur des prêtres (27 Août)

Ο μυστηριώδης μάρτυρας - Άγιος Φανούριος ο Μεγαλομάρτυς (& το πρόβλημα της ύπαρξής του)


Ενορία Αγίου Νικολάου – Parochie Heilige Nicolaas – Parish of Saint Nicolas | ORTHODOXE AARTSBISDOM VAN BELGIE EN EXARCHAAT VAN NEDERLAND EN LUXEMBURG

در سرزمین زندگان




در سيناكساريون برای جشن غنودن مقدس ترین تئوتوكوس ، روايتى به خصوص تکان دهنده در آنجا نوشته شده است. باكره مقدس در حدود 50 سالگی، یک پیام الهی دریافت کرد که طی سه روز ، او به آسمان ​​عزیمت می کند. سپس او بستگان و همسایگان خود را به خانه خود دعوت کرد تا این پیام را فاش سازد و با آنها خداحافظی کند. این برای آنها غافلگیرکننده بود و طبیعتاً اشک های زیادی آنجا جاری شد. مریم باکره آنها را دلداری داد و گفت که نه تنها برای آنها بلکه برای کل جهان شفاعت می کند. این امر در بركات بی شماری که شفاعت بانوی ما برای همه کسانی که رنج کشیده اند و از او کمک می خواهند ، آشکار است.

 پس از خدا ، واقعاً این مادر متبارک است که می تواند بهتر از هر کس دیگری آنانى را كه در درد و اندوه هستند تسلی دهد. این امر به ویژه در مورد کسانی که عزادار عزيمت عزیزانشان هستند صدق مى كند. بانوی ما ، که به اندازه هر مادری که فرزندش را بر صلیب مشاهده می كند ، رنج کشید ، واقعاً غم و اندوه هر مادری که از فرزند خود محروم شده است - خيلى زودتر از انتظار - و همه کسانی که از والدین ، ​​همسر ، اقوام و دوستان خود محروم شده اند ، را درک می کند.

ما می توانیم فیض ویژه ای را که خداوند به مریم باکره اعطا کرد تا رنج بر صلیب را تحمل کند ، تشخيص دهيم، بدین معنا که او می دانست که پسر او پسر خداست و هر كارى که آنها به او كردند، او بر مرگ پیروز خواهد شد.

 بنابراین ما اطمینان داریم که عزیزان ما از دست نرفته اند. روح آنها جاودانه است و پس از جدایی از بدن ، روح با آگاهی کامل از وجود خود (با تمام خاطرات دست نخورده) به زندگی و احساس قبلی خود ادامه می دهد. به دلیل تعمید مقدس ، روح تقدیس می شود و با مسیح و کلیسای مقدس او متحد می شود. تا زمانی که آنها روی زمین زندگی می کنند ، متعلق به "کلیساى مبارز" هستند. با این حال ، پس از ترک بدن در اینجا ، روی زمین ، به سوى "كليساى پیروزمند" آسمانى حرکت می کنند. در اینجا در جهان ما مبارزه می کنیم و دچار آسیب ، بیماری و غم های بیشمار می شویم. در کلیسای پیروز در آسمان ​​، کسانی که با ایمان و توبه زندگی کرده اند ، از ثمره پیروزی خود لذت می برند ، زیرا مبارزه زمینی خود را با موفقیت به پایان رسانده اند. به طور خلاصه: "اگر ما زندگی می کنیم ، ما برای خداوند زندگی می کنیم ؛ و اگر ما می میریم ، ما برای خداوند می میریم. بنابراین ، چه زنده باشیم چه بمیریم ، ما متعلق به خداوند هستیم." (رومیان 14: 8).

 برخی از افرادی که توسط اندوه مغلوب می شوند ممکن است ادعا کنند که روح عزیزانشان "آنها را پشت سر گذاشته است" و دیگر قادر به دیدن آنها نیستند. پاسخ به این با در نظر گرفتن اين مطلب داده می شود كه: همه مسیحیان تعمید يافته با مسیح متحد شده اند و از طریق مسیح با یکدیگر متحد هستند. بین "كليساى مبارز" و "كليساى پیروزمند" هیچ تقسیم بندی یا "جدایی" واقعی وجود ندارد. این امر به وضوح در ارتباط ما با قدیسین ، که بخشی از کلیسای پیروزمند هستند ، مشاهده می شود. در نیازهای مختلف خود، ما از آنها کمک و شفاعت در پیشگاه خداوند می طلبیم و از "معجزه قديس" سپاسگزاریم. اگر قديسين نمی توانند سخن ما را بشنوند ، پس چرا کلیسا اهمیت شفاعت آنها و بیش از آن ، شفاعت مادر خدا را می آموزد؟ درست همانطور که روح قديسين وقتی ما آنها را خطاب قرار می دهيم ، سخن ما را می شنوند ، عزیزان ما نیز به فيض خدا ، وقتی برای آنها دعا می کنیم شاد می شوند.

 به طور خاص ، ما با عزیزانمان در آسمان ​​در طول مراسم ليتورگى الهى متحد می شویم. در ظرف مقدس اهداى نان ، كاهن ، هنگام ارائه هدايا ، قسمت هایی را برای مریم باکره و قديسين و همچنین مومنان (زنده یا مرده) که قبلاً نام آنها به او داده شده است، جدا مى كند.


 به این ترتیب ، کل کلیسای واحد مسیح با تمام مومنان حاضر هستند ، چه روی زمین و چه در آسمان. در تقديس عشاء مقدس ربانى ، كاهن در جام مقدس بدن مقدس مسیح ، سهم هاى مریم باكره و قديسين ، و همچنین سهم هاى مومنان، چه در زمین و چه در آسمان را متحد مى كند.

 بنابراین ، همانطور که کلیسای ما به ما می آموزد ، این است که از طریق خداوند ما عیسی مسیح ، ما با عزیزانمان که در آسمان ​​هستند در ارتباط هستیم و با آنها شادی می کنیم. فراموش نکنیم که دعا یک طرفه نیست و همانطور که ما برای عزیزانمان در آسمان ​​دعا می کنیم ، آنها نیز برای ما دعا می کنند. از طریق این دعاها به خداوند است که ما پیوندهای بین خود را حفظ می کنیم.

 برادران و خواهران عزیزم ، برخورد با این جدایی از کسانی که دوستشان داریم بسیار دردناک است. به دلیل کمبود وقت ، اجازه دهید تنها با چند آموزه از پدران کلیسا در این زمینه تمام کنیم:

 - هیچ کس از جدایی روح از بدن معاف نیست. بياييد آماده باشیم. 

- وقتی عزیزان ما عزيمت می كنند ، طبیعی است که رنج ببریم ، اما احساس غم و اندوه بیش از حد مانند غیر مسیحیان ، که هیچ امیدی ندارند ، مفید نیست (اول تسالونیکیان 4: 13 را ببينيد).

 - خدا همه افراد را براى خيريت خودشان به نزدیکى با خود فرا مى خواند، تا در طول زندگی آنها همه چیز به نفع روح اتفاق بیفتد. ما نمی توانیم این را به طور کامل درک کنیم. 

- جدایی روح از بدن پایان نیست ، بلکه آغاز زندگی واقعی است. 

- روزی ما همه را در آسمان ​​ملاقات خواهیم کرد ، و سرانجام پس از اینکه روح ما با بدنهای فسادناپذیر متحد شد ، همه ما با هم ، تا ابد ، در شادی ملکوت خدا زندگی خواهیم کرد.


~ متروپوليتن سوتيريوس از پيسيديه

Παρασκευή 20 Αυγούστου 2021

The five holy and miracle-working Virgin Martyrs of Argyroupoli, Rethymnon, Crete

Photos from here

Translation from Greek A.N. (Greek text after the English)

The Holy Five Virgin Martyrs were five ascetics, who came from the ancient city of Lappa in Crete, where the village of Argyroupoli in the municipality of Rethymno is located today. 

They lived ascetically, according to the way of life of the men and the women ascetics of the Orthodox Church, within the area of ​​the ancient Greco-Roman cemetery, where preserved to this day are their 'cells' (five rooms carved into the rock) as well as their tomb, from which holy water springs forth from time to time. Their tomb has been covered by a tiny chapel constructed in their honor by Christians, many centuries ago.

The saints were martyred - that is, they were brutally murdered for their faith - probably by the Arab conquerors of Crete shortly after 828 AD, the year of the destruction of Lappa. Francesco Barozzi, a writer of Venetian descent born in the nearby village of Agios Konstantinos in the 16th century (the era of the Venetian rule in Crete), wrote in a book in 1577 that they were martyred "after the destruction of the city" - a reference that points to the above period. 

The church of the Holy Five Virgins is one of the most important holy sites for the Christians of Rethymnon and is mentioned by many Greek and foreign writers (Cretans and visitors to Crete), at least since 1416. There is another chapel in their honor, in the village of Myloi (mills) located in the gorge near Chromonastiri. Given that both the Mills and Argyroupoli had important watermills, the saints may have been considered patrons of mills and millers. Besides, there are many testimonies about appearances and miracles by the five saints, and a number of families over a large area of many villages around Argyroupoli have given their children the names of some of those saints.


This holy icon was created at Holy Mount Athos in 1882

Tradition has it that the saints were put to death on Holy Tuesday (the Tuesday of the Holy Week, prior to Easter Sunday), but because saints of Orthodoxy are not commemorated during the Holy Week out of respect for the greater solemnity of those days, Christians honor their memory on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday - although In Argyroupoli during recent years, their commemoration has been transferred to the Saturday following Easter Sunday. The local breeders of the area bring their sheep to be blessed by the priests, and, after the Divine Liturgy, they offer milk and cheese to the churchgoers. The Temple of the Mills continues to this day to commemorate the saints on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday.

The names of the saints as noted by Barozzi, are: Thecla, Martha, Rhodiona, Mariamna and Aneim. However, for about 150 years now, their names have been confirmed as: Thecla, Martha, Maria, Mariamna and Ennatha, upon the influence of the biography of the Holy Five Canonical Virgins from Persia, who martyred around 340 AD. and are commemorated on the 9th of June. 

Οι αγίες και θαυματουργές Πέντε Παρθενομάρτυρες της Αργυρούπολης Ρεθύμνου


Εικ. από το αγιογραφείο της Ιεράς Μονής Σωτήρος Χριστού Κουμπέ Ρεθύμνου

Οι αγίες Πέντε Παρθενομάρτυρες είναι πέντε ασκήτριες, που κατάγονταν από την αρχαία πόλη Λάππα της Κρήτης, στο χώρο της οποίας βρίσκεται σήμερα το χωριό Αργυρούπολη του δήμου Ρεθύμνου. Έζησαν ασκητικά, σύμφωνα με τον τρόπο ζωής των ασκητών και ασκητριών της Ορθόδοξης Εκκλησίας, στο χώρο του αρχαίου ελληνορωμαϊκού νεκροταφείου, στον οποίο διασώζονται μέχρι σήμερα τα «κελιά» τους (πέντε δωμάτια λαξεμένα στο βράχο) και ο τάφος τους, από τον οποίο κατά καιρούς αναβλύζει αγίασμα (ιερό ύδωρ). Ο τάφος τους έχει καλυφθεί από έναν μικρό ναό, που οικοδόμησαν προς τιμήν τους οι χριστιανοί, πολλούς αιώνες πριν από σήμερα.

Οι αγίες μαρτύρησαν, δηλαδή θανατώθηκαν για την πίστη τους, μάλλον από τους Άραβες κατακτητές της Κρήτης λίγο μετά το 828 μ.Χ., έτος καταστροφής της Λάππας. Ο Francesco Barozzi, συγγραφέας ενετικής καταγωγής, που γεννήθηκε στο κοντινό χωριό Άγιος Κωνσταντίνος τον 16ο αιώνα (εποχή της κυριαρχίας των Ενετών στην Κρήτη), γράφει σε βιβλίο του 1577 ότι μαρτύρησαν «μετά την καταστροφή της πόλης», αναφορά που παραπέμπει στην ανωτέρω χρονική περίοδο.

Λεπτομέρεια από την εικόνα των πέντε αγίων που βρίσκεται στους Μύλους (Ιω. Σταθάκης, 1908)

Ο ναός των αγίων Πέντε Παρθένων είναι ένα από τα σημαντικότερα ιερά μέρη των χριστιανών του Ρεθύμνου και γράφουν γι’ αυτόν αρκετοί Έλληνες και ξένοι συγγραφείς (Κρήτες και επισκέπτες στην Κρήτη) τουλάχιστον από το 1416. Υπάρχει άλλος ένας ναός προς τιμήν τους, στο χωριό Μύλοι (μέσα στο φαράγγι), κοντά στο Χρωμοναστήρι. Επειδή και οι Μύλοι και η Αργυρούπολη είχαν σημαντικούς νερόμυλους, ίσως οι αγίες εθεωρούντο προστάτιδες των μύλων και των μυλωνάδων. Εξάλλου υπάρχουν πολλές μαρτυρίες για εμφανίσεις και θαύματα των πέντε αγίων και αρκετές οικογένειες, σε μια μεγάλη περιοχή, με πολλά χωριά, γύρω από την Αργυρούπολη, έχουν δώσει στα παιδιά τους κάποια από τα ονόματά τους.

Ο υπεραιωνόβιος Πλάτανος των αγίων Πέντε Παρθένων στην Αργυρούπολη (ο δρόμος πέρασε από μέσα), φωτο από εδώ

Η παράδοση διηγείται ότι οι αγίες θανατώθηκαν τη Μεγάλη Τρίτη (την Τρίτη της Μεγάλης Εβδομάδας, δηλ. της Εβδομάδας πριν το Πάσχα), όμως, επειδή τη Μεγάλη Εβδομάδα δεν εορτάζονται άγιοι, οι χριστιανοί τιμούν τη μνήμη τους την Τρίτη μετά το Πάσχα, αν και στην Αργυρούπολη, εδώ και λίγα χρόνια, η γιορτή τους έχει μεταφερθεί στο Σάββατο μετά το Πάσχα. Εκεί οι κτηνοτρόφοι της περιοχής φέρνουν τα πρόβατά τους, τα οποία ευλογούν οι ιερείς και, μετά τη θεία λειτουργία, προσφέρουν γάλα και τυρί στο λαό. Ο ναός των Μύλων εξακολουθεί μέχρι και σήμερα να γιορτάζει την Τρίτη μετά το Πάσχα.

Τα ονόματα των αγίων, όπως τα αναφέρει ο Barozzi, είναι Θέκλα, Μάρθα, Ρωδιώνα, Μαριάμνη και Ανεείμ. Όμως εδώ και περίπου 150 χρόνια έχει καθιερωθεί να ονομάζονται Θέκλα, Μάρθα, Μαρία, Μαριάμνη και Ενναθά, λόγω επίδρασης από τη βιογραφία των Αγίων Πέντε Κανονικών Παρθένων από την Περσία, που μαρτύρησαν γύρω στο 340 μ.Χ. και εορτάζουν στις 9 Ιουνίου («κανονικών» σημαίνει ότι ήταν μοναχές, που δεν είχαν αποσυρθεί από τον κόσμο, αλλά παρέμεναν στο χωριό τους και επιδίδονταν σε έργα φιλανθρωπίας).

Φωτο από εδώ

Περισσότερα στοιχεία και φωτογραφίες βλ. σε αυτό το αναλυτικό αφιέρωμα.