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For THEOLOGY OF THE 12 GREAT FEASTS:
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HOLY SPIRIT ORTHODOX MISSION
SCHEDULE OF DIVINE SERVICES AND OTHER ACTIVITIES
AT THE MONASTERY
2 April, Presanctified Liturgy-- 7:00 p.m.
4 April, Presanctified Liturgy-- 7:00 p.m.
5 April, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
6 April, Matins- 9:00 a.m.
St Mary of Egypt, Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
Great Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
7 April, Matins- 9:00 a.m.
Annunciation Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m
9 April, Presanctified Liturgy-- 7:00 p.m.
11 April, Presanctified Liturgy-- 7:00 p.m.
12 April, Great Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
13 April, Matins- 9:00 a.m.
Palm Sunday Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
Bridegroom Service 7:00 p.m.
14 April, Bridegroom Service 7:00 p.m.
15 April, Bridegroom Service 7:00 p.m.
16 April, Anointing Service 7:00 p.m.
17 April, Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
Twelve Gospels 7:00 p.m.
18 April, Lamentations 7:00 p.m.
19 April, Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
PASCHAL SERVICE 11:45 P.M.
20 April, Paschal Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
26 April, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
27 April, Hours 9:30 a.m.
Slavonic Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
3 May, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
4 May, Matins- 9:00 a.m.
Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
10 May, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
11 May, Matins- 9:00 a.m. Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
17 May, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
18 May, Matins- 9:00 a.m.
Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
24 May, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
25 May, Hours 9:30 a.m.
Slavonic Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
28 May, Great Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
29 May, Matins-- 9:00 a.m.
Ascension Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
31 May, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
1 June, Matins-- 9:00 a.m.
Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
7 June, Memorial and Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
8 June, Matins-- 9:00 a.m.
Pentecost Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
14 June, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
15 June, Matins-- 9:00 a.m.
Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
21 June, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
22 June, Matins-- 9:00 a.m.
Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
28 June, Vespers--- 5:00 p.m.
29 June, Hours 9:30 a.m.
Slavonic Liturgy-- 10:00 a.m.
Vespers 5:00 p.m.
23 March, Matins 9:00 a.m.
Sunday of the Cross Liturgy
26 March, Presanctified Liturgy 7:00 p.m.
28 March, Presanctified Liturgy 7:00 p.m.
29 March, Vespers 5:00 p.m.
30 March, Hours 9:30 a.m.
St John of the Ladder, Slavonic Liturgy
POINT OF FAITH: ELEMENTS OF THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN FAITH.
(Copies of each Point of Faith subjects are available in booklet form for $1.00)
It must be remembered that keeping the fasts is not
a matter of "being good," and failing to fast a matter of "sinning."
The matter is far greater and deeper than this. We do not enter the
Heavenly Kingdom, the "Bridal Chamber," by being clad in "good works"
or having become sinless or having more good points than bad. We enter
the Heavenly Kingdom in no other way than by having acquired the Holy
Spirit and become clad in divine grace. Fasting is a special keystone
in our struggle to acquire the Holy Spirit and to become robed in the
"wedding garment" of divine grace.
Keeping the prescribed fasts is, first and foremost,
a struggle to develop self discipline and self control. It is a quest
for freedom, for no one can force us to fast. We must do so willingly,
and the self discipline and self control that we develop through
keeping the fast means that we are not controlled by other forces,
primarily our passions. Self discipline and self control serves us well
in every endeavour and activity in life.
To understand the fasts and to keep them is,
therefore, fundamental to our salvation itself. To fail to keep the
fasts in a true Orthodox fashion is to undermine our salvation and turn
ourselves away from the Heavenly Kingdom. To teach others to be
lightminded about the fasts or even to ignore them, is simply
wickedness and a service to the Evil-One. This is especially true in
our present century when our youth are being taught to have a low
regard for self-discipline and self-control. When parents refuse to set
an example of such self-control and make cheap, unconvincing excuses
for refusing to teach their children to fast, those parents are
betraying their own children to the destructive spirit of our society,
and to the hands of Satan. This booklet is intended to offer the
Scriptural meaning and basis of the Orthodox Christian fast. We urge
you to obtain the longer work on this subject and study it together
with your family.
We find the teaching of fasting set forth at every
state in the history of the Church on earth, and the various reasons
for fasting are also set forth. The very first example is perhaps the
most vivid: the fast imposed on Adam and Eve was clearly both a
physical and a spiritual fast. The fruit which was forbidden to them
was both material, spiritual and symbolic. Indeed, it was a very great
revelation. Our first ancestors were intemperate in disobedience to
God's command. And they gained a knowledge of good and evil by doing
evil (Gen.Ch.3). So too, all of us, when we refuse to fulfil the
physical/ spiritual fasts which God has commanded through His Holy
Church, increase in our knowledge of the passions by having yielded to
How necessary is the Orthodox fast? If Adam and Eve
could not remain in paradise without it, how shall we return to
paradise without it?
Adam and Eve fell into captivity and slavery to the
passions through incontinence, and the Israelites were prepared to
return to slavery and utter destruction in Egypt for the sake of the
stomach. In Exodus, we read how the Hebrews grumbled against God
because of their hunger and desired to return to slavery in Egypt for
the sake of the "stew pots" of Egypt, from which they had received
their daily slaves' rations (Ex.16:2-3).
This was not merely a matter of turning back into a
physical captivity for the sake of a pitiful allotment of food. The
Israelites were willing also to sacrifice faith in God and the promise
of salvation. They were willing to renounce the baptism in the Red Sea
and reject the redemption of God for the sake of their stomachs and the
cares of the flesh.
The story of the Egyptian captivity and the
liberation through Moses is a prototype of all human history, just as
Moses is a type of Christ. We too are led from the captivity of sin and
the bondage of death through the waters of baptism, and into the
wilderness and isolation from this world. We carry on, suffering,
struggling, falling and rising again because we have the sure hope of
the promise of God's Kingdom. And yet, we too are called by our
stomachs, by our passions, back into that former bondage. Like Esau,
many of us sell the inheritance of our rebirth for the sake of the
In these two mentioned instances, the necessity and
value of the fasts are profoundly demonstrated, and we see the first
two aspects of the fast: obedience to God, in return for which Adam and
Eve would have remained in paradise, in a condition of freedom from
bondage to Satan, and liberation from bondage by the passions so that
we may be free for spiritual ascent, and regain paradise.
The third great example of fasting is to be found in
that spiritual ascent itself. For when Moses was in the presence of the
Lord, he fasted for forty days. For more than a month, his food was
communion with the Creator, his drink was the word of God (Ex. 34:18;
34: 28; Deut.9:9; 10:10). Our Saviour fasted in the Jericho wilderness
for forty days in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil-One, but
Moses fasted on Sinai in order to be in the presence of God. We,
therefore, beloved, fast for forty days before Holy Pascha, so that we
too might overcome the temptations of the Evil-One and stand in the
presence of God. This is the third aspect of the fast: that we put
aside all earthly cares, all concern of the flesh, to the best of our
ability, that we "Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat..."
but "...seek first the kingdom of God," (Lk.12:22, 29, 31); rather,
"Cast all your burden upon the Lord, for He will sustain you"
We stand in the presence of the Lord at every divine
service (and, of course, we fast before every Liturgy) but never more
so than at Pascha when we, like Moses, having beheld the Passover,
stand on the summit of a spiritual Sinai and receive the promise of God.
The great prophet Elijah, too, when the angel called
him to go to the mount of God, fasted for forty days, not only to
purify his soul, but also from awe and wonder of God, and because he
took no thought for the flesh, but put all his hope on the Lord
(3Ki.19:8). In this wise, we also prepare ourselves for the peak of the
liturgical year with a forty day fast.
We fast also when we have fallen and been defeated
by the enemy, and wish to call upon God for special help. We do this to
purify our souls and humble ourselves in order to receive God's grace.
Thus, Joshua and his troops and all Israel fasted after their defeat at
Ai, prostrating themselves before the Ark (Josh.7:6).
Now, this is a very great matter, for the historical
acts in the life of the Old Israel, we know to be revelations about the
spiritual struggle of the Holy Church and of each Orthodox Christian in
particular. When Joshua (ch.7) called out to God, "Why have you let us
fall to the enemy?" God replied that it was because they had sinned.
And what sort of sin? Disobedience for the sake of avarice. They had
taken som of the accursed possessions of Jericho and distributed them
They had fallen, and God, accepting their prayers
and fasting says: "You have sinned and transgressed the
covenant...therefore you could not stand against the enemies. Arise,
sanctify yourselves ...there is an accursed thing in your midst...you
cannot stand before the enemies until you remove the accursed thing
from among you" (see Josh. Ch.7).
Here then, we see that we also fast when we have
fallen in sin, in order to seek out the cause of our fall and struggle
against it. We fast and pray in order to receive God's grace to "remove
the accursed thing from our midst." The "accursed thing" in the book of
Joshua was symbolized by the forbidden, pagan spoils of Jericho, but in
fact, it was the passion of avarice, which led the Hebrews into
disobedience, and thus to defeat. This occurred again at Gibeah in the
days of Phineas, when Israel obtained a victory over Benjamin by
fasting and prayer (Jd.20:26). And again, they were granted a victory
over the Philistines at Mizpah by fasting and prayer and "removing the
accursed thing from their midst" __ this time, they had turned to the
surrounding idolatry in order to conform to the contemporary world
around them (1Sam. 7:6).
So then, by means of prayer and fasting in Orthodox
fashion, we obtain our victories over the enemy of mankind. For,
fasting helps us to "remove the accursed thing [passions] from our
midst," and to humble ourselves before God, confessing that our victory
is in Him. This is a fourth aspect of the fast: that it gives us an
insight into ourselves so that we may recognize and, with God's help,
remove the passions which make us prey to the Evil-One and separate us
Esther fasted, and the faithful fasted and prayed
with her when she was about to set forth on a perilous task (4:16).
Jehosephat too, when Judah was faced with great peril by the invaders
from Amman, proclaimed a fast, and he and the whole congregation prayed
and fasted for strength and help from the Lord. We too fast and pray
regularly because the path of our life is fraught with spiritual
perils. We fast and pray also that we may hear and understand the words
the Lord spoke to Jehosephat:
"Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great
multitude: for the battle is not yours, but God's" (2Chr.20:15).
A sixth aspect of the fast lies in repentance. This
is an overriding factor which permeates every fast: fasting facilitates
true repentance, because it is such a complete struggle against the
passions we wish to repent of. For this reason, the Ninevites fasted in
the days of Jonah, (Jonah 3:4-10) and when Joel called Israel to
repentance to deliver them from disaster, God said, through him:
"Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly...gather all into the house of
the Lord your God and cry unto the Lord... therefore now says the Lord,
turn to Me with all your heart, and with fasting and weeping and
[spiritual] mourning...sound the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a
fast...sanctify the congregation...then will the Lord...answer and say
unto His people, behold I send you wheat, wine and oil... no longer
will you be a reproach among the heathen" (Joel 1:14; 2:15- 16). Most
of the fasts of the Old Testament were fasts kept for the sake of
repentance. Repentance is necessary to prepare us to stand in God's
presence, to obtain God's help in rising from our falls, to obtain
God's help in facing spiritual perils and dangers, and for every
spiritual ascent, as David says, "I humbled my soul with fasting"
There were four definite lents in the Old Testament
period of the earthly Church. The Lord made mention of them through
Saint Zachary the Prophet (8:19), saying:
"Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, `the fast of
the fourth month and the fast of the fifth, and of the seventh and the
fast of the tenth month shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness
and cheerful: therefore, love the truth and peace'."
In this our New Testament period of the history of
the Church, the New Israel, we find exactly the same ideals of fasting:
the apostles before taking a serious decision, as we see in the Acts:
"As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit spoke...."
and "when they had fasted and prayed, they consecrated them...and sent
them forth...." Again, "And when they had ordained presbyters in every
church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord"
(Acts 13:2-3; 14:23).
Moreover, when Apostle Paul advises the Corinthians
of those works in which one must "approve oneself as servants of God,"
he includes fasting (2Cor.6:5). The holy prophetess Anna, great in the
sight of the Lord, served Him "with fasting and prayer," (Lk.2: 36-37)
and God sent His angel to call Cornelius to salvation as he was
"fasting and praying" (Acts 10:30).
We have mentioned only a few examples, yet see how
many and how great are the benefits of fasting and prayer shown forth
in the divine Scripture. See how every gift of grace, every victory,
every spiritual advance and every ascent toward God is preceded and
accompanied by fasting. Let the holy prophet Saint Isaiah set forth the
matter in words inspired by the Holy Spirit.
"Wherefore have we fasted? Wherefore have we
afflicted our souls...? Behold, in the day that you fast, you find
satisfaction and recompense in all your labours...behold you fast...to
make your voice heard on high...Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A
day for one to afflict his soul? ...Is not this the fast that I have
chosen? To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens and
to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to
divide your bread among the hungry, and to bring in the poor who are
outcasts? To cover the naked when you see them? Then shall your light
break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth
speedily: and your righteousness shall go before you: and the glory of
the Lord shall be your double portion" (Is.58:3-9).
Fasting is one of the great moral weapons which we
have in our struggle against the Evil-One. And yet, it is a weapon
which many would like to abolish and deprive us of. In our era, we, and
especially our youth, are enduring torments and temptations of the
Evil-One which older generations never even dreamed could exist. There
has rarely, if ever, been a time in our history when the Orthodox fast
was more vital to our spiritual and emotional survival. Love demands
that we strive with all diligence to instruct ourselves and our
children with an understanding of the fast: not a purely legalistic
knowledge of the rules of fasting (for the letter of the law killeth)
but with a true, vital understanding of the real and spiritual value of
fasting (for the spirit giveth life).
There is more than one aspect of the fast. St
Gregory the Theologian profoundly sets forth the one which I think is
the most urgent in our day. In his sermon on Holy Baptism, he says:
"Christ fasted for some time before His temptations,
we before Pascha. So far as the days of fasting are concerned it is the
same.... He armed Himself with them against temptation."
Our holy and God-bearing father Ambrose of Milan instructs us likewise, saying:
"Wherefore also the Lord Jesus Christ, wishing to
make us more strong against the temptations of the Devil, fasted when
about to contend with him, that we might know that we may in no other
way overcome the enticements of evil."
Apostle Paul often likens the Christian struggler to
an athlete __ and this is the essential meaning of the term "ascetic":
one who trains and disciplines oneself (as in athletic training) to
compete in the arena of spiritual warfare, for the crown of salvation.
We who are called upon to be spiritual athletes, to
contend with Satan, begin our struggle as our Saviour Himself
demonstrated to us: with fasting. The fast is the training ground upon
which the spiritual athlete develops the discipline and self control
which is necessary for us in order to enter into spiritual warfare.
The athlete who has trained to contest for sensual
pleasures has developed his spiritual physique, his nervous system and
mental disposition quite differently from one who has trained to
contest for the crown of salvation. In the first instance, Satan has
been the trainer, having trained us for carnality and sensuality. He
triggers certain immoral desires or passions within our hearts by means
of various suggestions, certain enticements, thoughts, direct
seductions or mental deceits, and a carnal person quite often tempts
himself. If a carnal person desires to change to the godly contest, it
is somewhat like a runner who desires to become a wrestler. It is
necessary for him to rework his muscle tone, to completely retrain his
nervous system, and so forth, for running ability serves only for the
wrestler who, through cowardice, will desire to flee from his opponent.
So also in the case of the struggle for moral perfection: the passions,
the former training, must be totally weeded out.
The struggle begins with the bodily fast in which we
abstain from food which helps feed the former passions. Using the
discipline and self-control which we develop in actually keeping the
prescribed fasts, we can then begin to turn our minds toward the
internal, spiritual struggle.
Apostle Paul sets forth this spiritual aspect of the fast when he says:
"Assuming that you really have heard Him and been
taught by Him, as all truth is in Jesus, strip yourselves of your
former nature which characterized your previous manner of life and
becomes corrupt through lusts and desires which spring from delusions;
and be constantly in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new nature
created in God's image, in true righteousness and holiness"
To understand this, we must consider the soul as a
fallow field in which we are called upon to create a garden of
salvation. This field is overgrown with tares (the passions). The sower
in the parable sowed life-giving seeds, but some fell among the tares
and, when they tried to grow up, they were choked off. Still, the sower
plants these seeds all our lifetime, and when we see that the young
sprouts are being choked off by the tares, we ought to understand that
it is necessary to weed the garden of our soul so that the next
season's planting can take root and bear fruit.
This gardening of the soul is called "interior
work." It begins with the bodily fast, which we understand, and
continues with the mutual spiritual fast, which is called "guarding the
mind." Abstinence and moderation in eating make possible a spiritual
acuity which facilitates the "guarding of the mind."
Guarding of the mind is a spiritual practice which
absolutely requires regular fasting. Sin, allowing the passions to be
aroused to the level of manifestation, most often enters the heart
through the mind as a result of external suggestions. One must strive
to be ever alert to catch temptations as soon as they enter the mind so
that they do not linger long enough to be committed in thought or deed
(cp. Mt.5: 27-28). To explain this more clearly: everyone knows, in a
general sense, what is bad and what is good. If a person is alert, he
can quickly recognize destructive thoughts entering the mind (though
not, perhaps, infallibly in every case). Concerning how to take action
to repel these thoughts, one ought to consult one's spiritual father.
The primary thing is intent. It is easily possible to entertain the
most foul thoughts, while at the same moment repeating prayers. One
must have a sincere intent to guard the mind from destructive thoughts
and influences, remembering above all that nothing can be done without
The mind is something like a door to the temple of
the Holy Spirit (for, the body, the Scripture says, is the temple of
the Holy Spirit 1Cor.6:19). The guard of the door is responsible for
discerning whether "deliveries" to the temple are for its adornment or
for its defilement: in this, the mind resembles a customs official who
carefully searches what is entering the country, rejecting what is
harmful and admitting what is beneficial. Thus, what enters the mind
ought to be searched. Yet, the guard ought not to hope on his own
strength, but rather, as a watch-dog which barks to awaken his master
when an intruder enters, so one ought always to call on the Master,
Jesus Christ, to repulse the intruding temptation.
Everyone is able to practise this sort of guarding
of the mind to one extent or another. Yet it is evident that the
ability must be constantly built up and strengthened. In the end, the
less that comes to the "door," the easier is the "door" to guard. The
more one withdraws from what is profane and distracting and enters into
an environment of edifying things, the easier is the guarding of the
mind. This withdrawal from the spiritually destructive and advancing
into the spiritually profitable is the basis of the spiritual aspect of
If the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then
what is there that can enter into it which is more edifying than that
for which it is intended? It is most beneficial, then, to enter into
the temple and, as a servant and worshipper, to clean out, to sweep, to
dust and to purify the temple with repentance, fasting, confession,
soul-searching, heeding the spiritual father, and communicating the
Holy Mysteries: and to strive most diligently in these tasks so that
there will be a fulfilment of the temple, since the Holy Spirit does
not co-habit with defilement, with the filth of pride, with the
darkness of sinful thoughts. Either the one will increase and the other
decrease, or the other will advance and the one withdraw. A "happy
medium" will not be found, and no person is more foolishly deceived
than the one who thinks that he has acquired the Holy Spirit not having
first laboured long and obediently at the cleansing and purification of
the temple. Moreover, in this matter, one does not stand still: one is
either on the way up or on the way down.
What enters the mind is either harmful or edifying.
So the guarding of the mind depends upon intent and concept and is a
much greater task than just "sifting through parcels that arrive at the
door." It begins with the free and open confession of every temptation
to the father confessor. Together with this is the cutting off of
external enticements __ fasting from harmful spiritual food, and
replacing it with spiritually edifying food: reading the Divine
Scripture, sacred books and the Lives of the Saints, constant prayer
and participating in the divine services, for the bodily fast is the
plough with which we break the ground and these other things are the
hoes, rakes and seeders of those who wish to cultivate a garden of
salvation in the soul. Prayer is the disk and harrow, the stamina and
strength, for every success will be seen to be a direct gift from God.
Obedience is the crop insurance and the tending of the young sprouts
once they begin to grow. Obedience is the protective cultivation
against the re-invasion of the tares.
Frequent communion of the Holy Mysteries is the
ultimate weapon which burns up the tares so that the field of the soul
can receive the seed and bear fruit. Nothing is attained without
diligent struggle and whatever is attained is a gift of God's grace in
response to our volition and obedience.
One final and dramatic aspect of the Great Fast must be contemplated.
As we are about to set forth on the spiritual voyage
of Great Lent, we prepare ourselves with readings about Antichrist from
the Synaxarion for Meatfare and Cheesefare Sundays. Finally, we
celebrate the day of the commemoration of the Second Glorious Coming of
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Christ our Saviour fasted for forty days before He
encountered those "temptations" which are a revelation about
Antichrist. For, the things which Christ rejected __ demonstrative,
theatrical spiritual power, political power, and the provision of food,
all rooted in Satan's suggestion __ Antichrist will accept and fulfil.
From this fact, and from the Synaxarion readings and the Feast of the
Second Coming, we understand that fasting, and in particular, the Great
Lent, help to prepare us and every generation for the advent of
Antichrist. We know that in the day of Antichrist, when there will be a
great famine, and food will only be available to those who accept
Antichrist, his world government and world religion and his special
mark, we will either fast or follow Antichrist.
Thus, as we do not know in which generation
Antichrist will come, we must keep the fasts with all diligence, and
lovingly pass on the rules of fasting in all strictness to our
children, that they too may struggle in preparation and training
against the day of Antichrist, so that whichever generation encounters
his reign will be prepared for it, and will know how to fast for the
salvation of the soul in that last and most terrible moment of
mankind's existence on this earth.
From this we can understand that a legalistic and
ritualistic view of fasting, which breeds carelessness and neglect, is
deadly. We must understand the reasons and need for fasting, and teach
them with love and compassion. We cannot judge people who do not
actually keep the fasts, but we have no right to teach people not to
fast or to have a low regard for fasting. The strictness of a person's
fast is modified by health problems, and a person reduces his food
intake according to his strength. But we can also understand that those
who want to "soften" the fast "so more people will come to church," to
lessen it, to make unwarranted exceptions to it and otherwise undermine
it, to bless non-lenten food during fast periods and concoct legalistic
"exceptions" for such activities as summer camps, etc, do so not out of
love or concern for the souls of the faithful, but out of unbelief,
hatred and total lack of concern for the salvation of the souls of our
children. This is why St Seraphim of Sarov denies the name "Christian"
to everyone who does not keep the fasts.
The things of this world, the passions, ideals,
desires and goals of this world, all work together to enslave mankind
both individually and collectively. And enslaved we truly have become.
Satan uses avarice __ greed __ as a motivator to lead some human beings
to help enslave other human beings to his "principality of this world."
This is done by creating a great spiritual void in the life of mankind,
and then telling man that this void can be filled by material
possessions, shallow, often emotionally destructive entertainments, and
various types of foods. This is the liturgy served daily on television,
the litany chanted on the radio, the icon portrayed on the billboards.
We worship in church perhaps once a week, although we worship before
the television daily. Daily, the age of sexual maturity in our children
is lowered while their emotional capacity to cope with it is deformed
and, by highly refined means, the whole scope of our various passions
are increased, and products are devised to fulfil them. Daily, we and
our children become more and more enslaved.
How can we interrupt this process? How can we break
this chain? Our Saviour in His mercy and love has given us the fasts.
This, beloved of Christ, is what the Orthodox fast is mainly about in
our time. It is nothing less than a declaration of independence from
the world, from the principality of Satan. More than this, to fulfil
the Orthodox fast is to begin to actually live the theology of the Holy
Church, it is to begin the ascent toward knowledge of God.
The Orthodox fast is not mere, legalistic abstention
from certain foods, and it is more than a knowledgeable abstention from
foods which are well known to help increase certain passions. We fast
not merely from the foods with which the body is fed, but also from
harmful food with which the mind and emotions are fed. On the day we
begin to fast, we turn, as it were, to the world and declare: I reject
the goals, aspirations, judgments and bondage of this life of the
passions. I set the eyes of my soul heavenward; I set my desire upon
God and the Heavenly Kingdom, I set my aspirations upon that which is
greater, more desirable and ineffably more glorious than the highest
and the finest that this world has to offer.
ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
Response to Your Questions and commentary on Major News Stories
by Archbishop Lazar Haler-Puhalo
In the Annunciation Service, we say that the
angel Gabriel appeared to the Theotokos and proclaimed, “Rejoice.” We
also use the refrain “Rejoice....” in the Akathist hymns. But I have
seen some translation that read “Hail” and some versions of the
Akathist that also use “Hail” in place of “Rejoice.” Does it make any
difference, and why would one be more correct than the other?
It makes a great deal of
difference, and rendering the greeting “hail” in place of “rejoice”
shows a lack of knowledge of the Scripture and of basic theology and
revelation. The Latin translation of Scripture interpreted the word
khaire as if it was “ave,” thus “hail” in English.
The Archangel greets Mary with the word khaire
(χαiρε), literally “rejoice” for a very specific and profound reason.
This greeting refers directly to the messianic prophecies in Zephnaia
and Zachary. This is precisely what the Evangelist, indeed, the Holy
Spirit speaking through him, was inviting our attention to. (And
according to St Athanasios the Great “the apostles were also
prophets.”) This meaning of the word in the context of the prophecies
of the Hebrew Scripture is also directly reflected in the ecclesiology
of the three great Cappadocian fathers.
So where does the greeting “Rejoice, O full of
grace....” come from and to what does it refer? I believe that if one
examines the holy fathers, and understands the use of the Hebrew
prophets by the Evangelists, we will find that the Archangel’s
greeting, “Rejoice” directs us straight back to Zephanaia 3:14-15 and
Sing aloud, O daughters of Zion; shout out, O Israel.
Rejoice and exult in your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem...
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil. (Zeph.3:14-15)
Rejoice exceedingly, O daughter of Zion,
Shout out, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Lo, your King comes to you. (Zach.9:9)
In the Septuagint, the translators render the
Hebrew Gul; Gil (rejoice; be joyful) in both the Zephanaia and the
Zachary verses as χαρε. The connection is clear and immediate.
Thus, the proclamation of the Archangel, and our use
of the word “Rejoice....” in the Church hymnology is neither accidental
nor incidental. It is directly connected to the revelation about the
messiah, about the coming of Christ the Lord and King, first into the
womb of the virgin, the “daughter of Zion,” and then into the midst of
QUESTION: WAS MAN CREATED IMMORTAL BY NATURE???
have a question, please. Was man created mortal or immortal? Some of my
reading seems to suggest one thing, and some to suggest the other. Can
you shed any light on this for me?
created things are mortal, only God is immortal. Man may become
immortal by Grace. This is a matter that seems to confuse some: if
death of humans is a result of the fall, then were they naturally
immortal before the fall? The Holy Fathers answer, "No. Man is not
immortal by nature. Only God is immortal by nature. Life itself is a
gift." God's intention for many was to be immortal by Grace, and this
required unity with God, which he had in "paradise." Death (not
mortality) came about because of man's separation from God. When
Fundamentalists argue that there could not have been living things that
died before the fall of man, they completely misunderstand the
narrative. This is natural to them, because they have a completely
false notion of what redemption and salvation consist in. Death is the
wages of sin precisely because sin separates us from unity with God. In
Christ Jesus, immortality becomes possible again because Christ has
first of all reunited man with God in Himself (thus, it is critical
that we confess Christ as being fully human and fully Divine). He has
made it possible for us to become reunited with God, even though we so
often fall short of the mark (sin). We make the best effort we are
able, and Christ has made up the difference for us. This is what
"Theosis" actually means: we obtain immortality through union with God,
sharing in His immortality, and since only God can be immortal, we
become "gods by Grace."
THEOLOGY MADE SIMPLE:
seldom think of fasting as being a theological act, and perhaps this is
because we do not understand the full meaning of "theology," or of the
word "asceticism." Orthodox theology is an ascetic theology; this means
that we try to actually live what we teach.
Fasting is an ascetic act, but what does "ascetic" mean? ascesis in
Greek indicates the kind of training and preparation that athletes
undergo in order to compete. As Orthodox Christians, we are called upon
be spiritual athletes. This means that we should train and prepare to
actually live the theology of the faith. We should strive to have a
living faith in the living Christ, but we cannot do this without active
effort. Keeping the fast periods prescribed by the Church is a
significant part of training ourselves for the moral struggles before
us. What we mean by this is "putting our faith into practice in our
We are not talking about "moralism." Moralism is not true morality. In
fact moralism usually defeats our moral struggle by leading us into
being judgmental, self-righteous and condescending. We become like the
Pharisees whom Christ exposed. They performed all the outward
ceremonial correctly and they wanted people to see that they did this.
We want to train our hearts and our consciences so that whatever we do,
we "do it joyfully as unto the Lord" ( ).
Where does fasting enter into this? How does it help to train us? No
one can force you to keep the fast. You must exercise yourself in
self-discipline and self-control in order to fulfill the fasts
appointed by the Church. This means also that you exercise your will to
strengthen it. At the same time you practice humility by following the
fasting rules given by the Church. While strengthening your own will,
you control it by not following a self-willed rule of fasting.
Moreover, since the whole parish community is working at the fast
period together, this can strengthen the sense of community which is so
much a part of the Orthodox Christian ethos.
The Orthodox Christian fast periods are not simply about certain foods.
They are about much more. We must also fast from arrogance, judgement
of others, pridefulness, gossip, evil thoughts about others, etc. This
is why we continually pray the prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian
during Great Lent.
Lord and Master of my life, give me not a spirit of idleness, despondency, ambition or vain talking.
But rather a spirit of purity, humility, patience and love, bestow upon me Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and king, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my
brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages. Amen.
We can say these words easily, but it is not so easy to fulfill them;
and yet they are concepts which are at the heart of the theological
life. Exercising ourselves in self-control, self-discipline and
exercising our will in a disciplined manner through following the
fasting rules of the Church help us to have the will and self-control
to better fulfill the words of this prayer.
It is also important for us to see what kind of a
fast is truly God-pleasing. Here is what the holy prophet teaches us:
Is it sort of a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his
soul? Is it for him to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread
sackcloth and ashes under him? Would you call this a fast, and an
acceptable day to the LORD?
Rather, Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to
loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let
the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Isn’t it
you share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring the poor that
are outcast into your house and when you see the naked, that you cover
him; and that you hide not thyself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth as the morning,
and your health shall quickly spring forth: and your righteousness
shall go before you and the glory of the LORD shall be your reward.
says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the
fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the
tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful,
therefore love the truth and peace. (Zach.8:19).
Thus, while fasting is a time for true self-reflection and repentance,
it is not a morbid exercise in self denigration as some teach, but a
time of self-examination. The fasts are periods of special struggle to
acquire the true spirit of the Gospels, the true heart of our theology.
DEALING WITH THE FEELING OF INJUSTICE AND OFFENCE
QUESTION (From Thessaloniki)
Sometimes among the young people in our church, there is some friction
and some begin feeling that an injustice has been done to them. Then a
question comes to mind, "But we all go together and receive Holy
Communion, so how it is possible that we behave this way one towards
the other." Then a cold feeling comes into our heart. Can you advise us
how to struggle to avoid such situations?
ARCHBISHOP LAZAR: Part
of the reason we take offense with each other is because of our own
pride, and part of the reason is because some people are very careless
in how they deal with each other. With some young people immature
emotions can lead one to take offence easily. Of course it would be
easier for young people if the older people set a better example, but
that it not always the case.
The fact that we
belong to the same parish and that we receive Holy Communion
together—this is not going to solve the problem by itself and it is
easy to see how the situation you describe can make one feel and
coldness in approaching for Holy Communion.
One thing I would suggest is that all of you who are
approximately the same age, in your late teens or early twenties, and
perhaps not married yet, should come together periodically and talk
about these things openly with each other. But of course you have to
talk to each other peacefully. One of the biggest difficulties that we
have is that we do not communicate with each other. This is true not
only in the parish community but even between husband and wife. The
solution to many problems is to communicate with each other in an
honest and open manner. If you sit down as a group and talk about these
problems it gives you a new closeness among yourselves, and you might
even help to heal each other from some problem. If your discussions are
peaceful and constructive, you will also develop a valuable deeper
sense of mutual trust and appreciation for one another. For example, if
one person has the kind of personality which leads them to offend or
commit injustice more often than others, they probably know within
themselves that they have a problem, but they also might not know how
to deal with it. If you discuss problems with each other you might be
able to help this person find a way to handle his or her problems.
Young people can exhibit much wisdom and intelligence. If a young
person in your general age group is a bully, for example, it is far
better for his or her peers to help resolve the issue rather than
taking the problem to adults.
We also have to
learn not to take offense with injustices. Injustice is a part of the
human condition. This is so throughout the whole world, even in the way
nations deal with each other (or perhaps, especially in the way nations
deal with each other). Injustice is something that you will always
encounter throughout your life. But it is also true that sometimes when
we see injustices in small matters, in matters that are not as
significant as we think they are, then this is a problem with our own
pride. Many times as you mature in life you see the same situations in
a different light, even though the situations are the same.
It is very easy for a teenager to feel injustice from his or her
parents when the parents are really only showing love. For example,
when you are not allowed to do things that other young people are
doing, this may seem like an injustice, but the parents deny you the
privilege to do these things because they know what kind of dangers are
involved. In this case sometimes love is being misunderstood as an
injustice. The most important thing about solving these problems among
yourselves is to communicate with each other sincerely and peacefully.
The Church is a spiritual hospital and everybody in the church has an
illness, including the priests and the bishops. We are all there to be
healed from something, and when we help each other with this healing
process this is a great thing. Part of this is praying for one another
by name, not just in a general way, and also by communicating with each
other in a peaceful way. You will never solve these problems without
communicating, without talking to each other
recommend that the young people in the parish get together
sometimes and talk about various problems. I see many times how a
teenager can show considerable wisdom, and not only wisdom but
great intelligence, in solving problems and in helping to heal one
another. When I am together with a group of young people I often learn
as much as I teach, especially when the young people are open and talk
This is the way you have to be with each
other, and it is the only way you are going to solve these kind of
We should respond in more profound ways
when greater injustices, ones that can destroy people’s lives, are
being committed. This is why so many teenagers have begun to work at
putting a stop to bullying and resisting cultural pressures to
participate in injustices. Our youth can make great contributions to
the formation of more just and equitable societies.
QUESTIONS ABOUT BAPTISM
You must be born again of water and the Spirit ( Jn.3:5)
Christ made it clear that being “reborn” or “regenerated” is
accomplished through the combination of water and the Holy Spirit;
perhaps we should say by the Holy Spirit using the water. Why do some
of the newer Christian religions question this and attempt to find a
way around the words of our Saviour? Often because of a
misunderstanding of the meaning and nature of baptism, and
misunderstandings of the meaning of divine grace. There is also a
misunderstanding of what it means to be “born again” or “regenerated.”
The false doctrine of “Original Sin” confuses the question even more.
This erroneous teaching holds that there is a kind of “genetic guilt”
that we inherit from Adam, and that baptism is for forgiveness of the
WHY WATER? WHAT DOES THIS TEACH US?
In the creation story, which is filled with profound meaning, we are
told that the Holy Spirit “hovered over the waters” (Gn.1:2). We know
that life on earth began in the sea. This is why we are made up of 50-60%
sea water and the rest is minerals. God made water to be a source of
life. Nothing can live without liquid water. The Holy Spirit descending
upon the ancient water made it life-bearing.
Holy Spirit, the “giver of life” also descends upon the baptismal
water, transforming it by grace, and this takes us back to the very
creation itself. Baptism reenacts (recapitulates) the very beginning of
The story of Noah is also a story
about the meaning of baptism. In the story, the earth itself is
baptised and given a new start, a “rebirth,” a new start of life.
BLESSING AND SANCTIFYING THE WATER
Before the baptism, we pray for the Holy Spirit to come down upon and
into the water and sanctify it, making it life-giving by grace. We also
bless the baptismal water with the cross and the sign of the cross.
In our understanding, Moses used the sign of the cross to open and
close the sea when he led Israel out of captivity. He brought his staff
down over the water, tracing out where it would be parted. Having
crossed the sea, Moses completed the sign of the cross by moving his
staff across the opening, closing the sea on the Egyptians.
Again, when Israel was perishing of thirst, they came to the bitter
waters of Marah. This water was “dead,” is was undrinkable. God
commanded Moses to take a limb with two branches, like the shape of the
cross, and bless the water with it. Moses placed this image of the
cross directly into the water and, by grace, the water was “healed,”
made life-giving and quenched the thirst of the Hebrews.
The creation of life in the sea by the descent and grace of the Holy
Spirit, the deliverance of God’s people through the sea, with the sign
of the cross, the healing of the waters of Marah are all brought
together (recapitulated) in the Orthodox Christian baptismal service.
THE IMAGE OF CHRIST
In baptism, we are born again in the image of Christ. Christ was
incarnate in the womb of the Virgin, by the descent of the Holy Spirit.
Apostle Paul calls the Church the “pure virgin bride of Christ.” The
baptismal font is the womb of the Church, the “pure virgin.” Thus in
baptism, we are reborn, regenerated, in the womb of the “pure virgin”
Church, through the descent of the Holy Sprit.
Baptism gives us a new birth into the Body of Christ. We also receive
the “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” with the chrism oil. This
unites us fully with the Body of Christ both in this world and in the
age to come.
THE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD
In The Old Covenant – the Old Testament – we see that only priests
could partake of the “things on the altar.” At our baptism, we become,
as Apostle Peter says, a “royal priesthood” (1Pet.2:9). We can now
partake of the “things on the altar,” the Communion of the Body and
Blood of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus.
THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN BAPTISM
Thus, to be “born again” refers to the action of the grace of the Holy
Spirit, in the image of the very creation of life itself and in the
image of the birth of Christ Jesus for our salvation. This is called
“recapitulation” because it brings together all those manifestation
when the Holy Spirit has worked together with water to bring forth
life, to deliver God’s people from bondage, to heal dead water and make
it life sustaining, and even the baptism of the earth in the days of
Noah, when the earth was regenerated through a form of baptism.
Baptism is not a mere symbol or a testimony of a decision you have
taken in your life. It is also not about the forgiveness of some kind
of personal, genetic guilt inherited from Adam. It is an episode of
freely given grace, a true descent of the Holy Spirit. Just as the
bitter waters of Marah were healed, so the alienation from God that we
did inherit from our ancestors, is healed. The possibility of our
growth toward a deeper and deeper unity with God is made possible.
There is no reason to exclude infants from this great mystery. Indeed,
it is likely that, in their innocence, they have a faith that excels
What is the Difference Between BC and BCE, and also A.D. and CE
Christ while BCE=Before the Common Era. AD=Anno Domini, the Year of our
Lord while CE=Common Era. It had been traditional in the West to give
dates as "Before Christ," and "Anno Domini." However, with the
emergence of plualistic cultures and nations that are not Christian,
the demand for different, non-religious names for this system grew. In
almost all scholarly publications, the new designation "BCE" and "CE"
Must confession and Communion always be tied together?
is no canonical or patristic justification for tying the two together.
Some people believe that you can only have confession if you are
preparing for Holy Communion. Sadly, this attitude tends to make
confession a mechanical act, often void of any deep, heartfelt
repentance. One should have confession regularly, whether or not one is
going to receive Holy Communion. Confession is a medicine for the soul
and mind, a cleansing and healing process which must be accompanied by
contemplation and heartfelt repentance. We do not confess "as part of
preparation for Holy Communion," but to unburden our souls and spirits
and seek prayerful help in resolving of spiritual problems.
Confession is not prescribed in preparation for Holy Communion by any
canon of the Church, and I am not personally aware of any patristic
injunction making it so. Requiring confession before every Holy
Communion is a “local practice,” and one must follow what is practised
in the diocese that he or she belongs to. It does appear to presuppose
that you will be communing infrequently — perhaps no more than four
times a year. It must be seen as a custom where it is locally required.
Fasting, on the other hand, is clearly required before Holy Communion,
and this is something deeply ingrained in the conscience and Tradition
of the Church. Regular confession is also an essential part of our
Why do our churches face East and is it really important for them to?
living in the West sometimes developed the idea that churches were
built with the altar to the East in order to face Jerusalem. This is
not true. If one lived East of Constantinople, the the altar would
actually be facing away from Jerusalem. As one ancient bishop of Edessa
explained in the 500's, the church faces East because (1) Paradise was
"in the East" and the altar is a type of paradise and (2) because at
the second coming, Scripture says, Christ will appear "in the East."
The same bishop added, "We do not pray toward Jerusalem, for there
Christ was rejected and crucified, and there also, Antichrist will
VIRGIN BIRTHS AND RESURRECTIONS
Your Eminence, the Islamic Outreach Centre here is raising doubts about
the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ. They point out that,
historically, there are many myths of virgin birth and resurrection in
several pagan religions. What are we to believe?
A: Allow me
to point out, first of all, that the Quaran (Koran) fully accepts the
virgin birth of Jesus (peace be upon Him). In some species what we
would call "virgin births" are the norm. Female is the default gender
and the males in a number of species are little more that parasites or
are insignificant, and function only to add genetic diversity in
fertilising the female eggs. In theory, a virgin birth among humans
would be possible. Or course, "where God wills, the order of nature is
overturned. Aside from this, the story of a virgin-born spiritual
leader (of whatever rank and calling) is so pervasive in cultures
across all race boundaries, that there has to be some singular basis to
the concept. I am going to offer the thought that there was a
primordial prophecy of a virgin-born saviour and resurrection inscribed
almost genetically in humanity from mankind's most early history. We
have the protoevangelion in the book of Genesis, and I understand the
two trees as a prophecy about the Cross of Christ. It is for these very
reasons that I feel that taking the Genesis narrative in a literal,
fundamentalists fashion, is so destructive and so corrupting for us:
the most profound revelations and prophecy of the narrative are
destroyed by literalism and fundamentalism. It seems to me that all the
previous stories of virgin births and resurrections were leading up to
the full manifestation in Christ Jesus. Note how radically different
the message of Christ is to all that preceded. Note also that the Holy
Fathers, who accepted the Divinity, virgin incarnation and resurrection
of Christ were not ignorant peasants, but among the most erudite and
highly educated in the Roman world. I would suggest that all the
previous stories of virgin birth and resurrection were, in a manner of
speaking, etimasia ---- the preparation of the throne.
ABOUT WITNESSING THE FAITH
Last time you had a discussion with us [the teenagers at one of the
parishes], you mentioned that because of your different kind of
clothing you are distinguished from other people. People come and ask
you what you are and this often opens an opportunity for you to confess
the Orthodox faith to them. But we as lay people do not have something
that distinguishes us from other people. So we do not have an
opportunity where people come and ask us about our lives or about our
faith. What should our approach to other people be? Should we try to
talk to them by ourselves, and if we try to confess and give an oral
witness what should our first words be toward them?
LAZAR: There are seldom any situations in which you should initiate
such a conversation. Some Protestants do this, and it usually has a
negative results. It is difficult to do this without being offensive to
Often you are only making ordinary conversation with people, and it is
only when you meet someone who is interested in spiritual matters that
you are able to talk to them about the faith. I remember that we had
one boy around fourteen years old in one of our parishes who went to
school near the monastery. When it came time for lunch in the big lunch
hall at school, he always stood up and said a short prayer and made the
sign of the cross on himself. A few people would ridicule him because
of this and some people thought he was a bit strange. On the other
hand, many people also respected him because of it. Protestants would
come and try to convert him because they could see that he was pious.
They would tell him ,"You should not make the sign of the cross because
Protestants do not do that." Then he would begin to explain to them why
they should make the sign of the cross. He told one young woman who
came to him to try to convert him ,"Are you ashamed of the cross of
Jesus? If you are not ashamed of the cross why do you not make the sign
of the cross?" She was unable to answer so she went to her home and
asked her parents about it. Because of that one thing the parents began
to investigate a little bit and eventually the whole family became
Orthodox. It happens that the Holy Spirit often provides the
opportunities for us to witness by giving us an opening toward those
people who are able to hear what we have to say.
It is difficult to initiate a conversation about the faith without
appearing to be self-righteous or arrogant, but because it is also
necessary to witness for the faith we need to have classes periodically
where we teach people how to do this. Above all, we must learn to
approach discussions about the faith in an Orthodox manner, rather than
imitating the highly condescending and obnoxious Protestant manner. One
of the first steps is to gain complete control of anger, because in any
discussion, debate or argument, if you become angry then you are going
to lose the discussion or argument. The Holy Spirit brings us the
spirit of peace. In the Holy Scripture we read: "Be ye angry and sin
not," but here it is talking about an internal spiritual struggle, not
a disposition. When we are witnessing for Christ we are witnessing to a
spirit of peace, so we have to acquire a spirit of peace. If you have a
spirit of peace and an inner joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, then
people who are open to the things of the Spirit will ask you how you
arrived at the spirit of peace. Also when somebody tries to get you to
do something wrong or something negative, when you refuse to do it you
can tell people why you have refused without being angry or
self-righteous. Remember that your concept of what is wrong or negative
may differ substantially from theirs, and a condemnatory tone will not
only come across as arrogant self-righteousness, it will also turn the
listener away from considering your point of view.
We do not want any kind of self-righteousness. In order to truly
witness for Christ one has to be natural and open, and not take on an
attitude or the appearance of religiosity. In Slavic we call such an
attitude svyatosha. This applies to a person who tries to consciously
take on the appearance of "holiness." But we do not need to have a long
face, a sleepy, closed eyed countenance or a sorrowful look as an
effort to demonstrate that we believe in God or in an effort to make us
One thing that I would like to
say is that when I lecture at universities many times the students ask
questions and I explain the Orthodox perspective on the problems. The
students are very often amazed at the Orthodox answers. Sometimes they
say ,"Oh but it sounds very liberal!" by which they mean "enlightened."
In fact, the statements are simply patristic. Many people have turned
away from our Lord Jesus Christ because the teaching they have received
is heavy and dark, sometimes very dry and often filled with
superstition. Students are amazed when they hear that we are
comfortable with the principles of evolution and find it easy to
understand in a spiritual way the whole process of evolution, or how
comfortable Orthodoxy is with modern science. They are also surprised
when we explain to them the true meaning of marriage. When you know and
understand the Orthodox perspective on these things then you have a
great deal more to teach and to say to other people.
SHOULD WE BE KEEPING THE JEWISH SABBATH (SHABAT) ON SATURDAY?
On what basis do Christians celebrate Sunday and not Saturday (the
Sabbath) as was commanded by God (Ezekiel 20:8, Isaiah 58:13-14,
ANSWER: There is a misunderstanding about the
meaning of the word "sabbath" or Shabbat; shavath. The word does not
mean "seventh day" or "seventh." Sabbath means, literally "cessation."
Therefore, the "Sabbath" is "a day of cessation," not "the seventh
day." The Lord "sanctified" the Sabbath, the day of the “cessation of
His work” as a "day of cessation from work" on which His people would
rest (Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:8-11, Isaiah 58:13-14). This was in
commemoration of His creation of the universe, but God also set the day
apart for the sake of mankind. He gave a special law (Exodus 20:8)
commanding that this "day of cessation" be celebrated so that people
who were engaged with life's cares and heavy toil, could be freed from
their bondage to endless work and the slavery of caring for their daily
needs, for at least one day a week. On the Slavic Calendar,
incidentally, what is called “Sunday” on the Western Calendars, is
actually the seventh day of the week. Remember that Tuesday in the
Slavic Calendar, is named “Secondday” (vtornik), while Friday is called
“Fifthday” (pyatnitsa). Thus Saturday is the sixth day, not the
seventh. But Sabbath does not mean Seventh, in any case.
On this day of “cessarion,” the people could wholly serve their God
(see Hebrews 4:10-11), but it was also given to man as day for him to
rest from his work.
Just as important, God, out
of love, planned to "recreate" and renew the fallen world and fallen
mankind would be given a “new birth.” (Isaiah 65:17). Jesus Christ
accomplished this renewal of the world, after sufferings, through
His resurrection from the dead — which took place on a “Sunday.” By
means of His victory over the power of death and over the evil-one, He
also gave us “new day,” a “new era.” Sunday became the eight day, the
day of salvation. In memory of this, Christians celebrate the "new
day," Sunday (see Hebrews 4:6-11) as a day of the decisive victory of
life over death (Romans 8:38-39). Since the Resurrection of Jesus
Christ is the actual completion of creation (the redemption of the
creation, and indeed a "new creation") it is clear that this “new day”
became that day of cessation (shavath) which completed the new
creation. Keeping the Old Testament "day of cessation"
(Saturday) is a rejection of the work and victory of Jesus Christ, and
a return to a law which the New Testament tells us that we were
MUST WE ACCEPT THINGS IN THE
OLD TESTAMENT THAT WE KNOW ARE NOT TRUE?
Orthodox Christians are not fundamentalists and we do not fear truth. We do not have to accept anything that is known
to be untrue. What is untrue cannot be made true just by repeating it,
and what is true cannot be a heresy. We have a famous example of this
in the trial of Galileo. The Latin inquisition demanded that he lie and
say that the Earth does not move, and agree that the Sun moves around
the Earth, rather than the true fact that the Earth moves around the
Sun. However, the historical information given in the books of the
Hebrew Scripture (the "Old Testament") have been proved to be generally
true. The rulers of other nations, particularly those that fought
against Judea and Israel have been named and dated properly, and the
major battles with invading armies are accurate. Those things that must
be seen in the light of science are mostly not accurate, but represent
the best interpretations of the phenomena and facts that coulld be made
at the time..
We are interested in meaning,
in all these narratives, and are not so concerned about
"scientific accuracy." We know that the Creation Narrative is not
literally true, but we also know that it is full of important spiritual
meaning. For one thing, it clearly shows that God is the creator of all
those things which pagans worshipped as deities, and therefore, that
God is the only God, and all else is idolatrous. The process and
methods of God's creating was left for us to discover and discern, but
the meaning of life, of humanity, of the human condition, of the
oneness of God, of our need for a redeemer, or the problems caused by
our ego and self-love: all these things are made clear, and this
meaning we should take literally. The Earth really is over 4 billion
years old, and humanity has been present on Earth for hundreds of
thousands of years. In all that time, the human condition continues to
be the same as described in the narrative about the Fall of mankind,
and about our need for a redeemer, our Saviour Jesus Christ. But we are
not obliged to accept those historical and scientific "facts"
given in the Old Testament which we know not to be accurate, not to be
true statements of reality. Things that are clearly untrue cannot be
doctines of Faith; things that are true cannot be heretical.