09 February 2014
20 January 2014
02 September 2013
On one side of the minnu is a cross made with 12 small beads(muthu) signifying the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (3) and the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, the nine visible attributes of a true Christian --- love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (9).
A married Christian woman should always wear her minnu. Keep in mind the minnu is not an ornament it is part of her life.
16 April 2013
(also called the Eight-pointed Cross)
The symbolism of the "complete" Cross (much of which is contained in the Old Rite Russian prosphora seal and on metal and wood icons) is quite complex. Since the OId Rite tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church is much richer than the New Rite Church in its use of symbolism to teach the faithf... faithful, this article should be of benefit to those unfamiliar with this tradition.
The slanted bottom bar is the foot-brace. In prayers for the Ninth Hour, the Church likens the Cross to a type of balance of righteousness:
"Between two thieves Thy Cross did prove to be a balance of righteousness: wherefore one of them was dragged down to Hades by the weight of his blasphemy [the balance points downward], whereas the other was lightened of his transgressions unto the comprehension of theology [the balance points upward]. O Christ God, glory to Thee."
The city of Jerusalem is depicted in the background, for Christ was crucified outside the city walls. By the foot of the Cross are the letters: "Г Г" standing for'Mount Golgotha' (in Slavonic: Гора Голгофы); this is the hill outside the city gates upon which Christ was crucified. Below the feet of Christ are four Slavonic letters with abbreviation marks: "М.Л.Р.Б.", meaning: "The place of the skull, where Adam was" (in Slavonic: Место лобное рай бысть). Hidden in a cave under the earth is 'the skull of Adam' (for by pious tradition it is said that Christ was crucified at precisely the same place where Adam was buried), identified with the letters: "Г Christ is victorious" (i.e., over death and sin). Note that in the proper Orthodox tradition the Saviour does not wear a crown of thorns (as in the Western tradition), nor is He portrayed alive on the Cross, nor in any aspect of suffering, but in a state of humble and peaceful repose, with inclined head. Also note that His feet are nailed with two nails.]
The middle bar is that on which the Lord's hands were nailed. On either top corner we see the depiction of the sun (left; in Slavonic: солнца) and the moon (right; in Slavonic: луна), for "The sun hid its light, and the moon turned to blood." (Joel 2:31) The inscription: "Son of God" (Slavonic: Сынъ Божіи) is placed on both sides of Christ's head, and below His arms we read the inscription: "We bow down before Thy Cross, O Master, and we worship Thy holy Resurrection" (in Slavonic: Кресту Твоему покломняемся Владыко, и святое воскресение Твое славимъ). The halo of Christ is inscribed with the Greek letters 'w ov', meaning: 'The Being' or 'He Who is', to remind us that Christ is the same God Who identified Himself with those words to Moses in the Old Law.
Behind the body of Christ, on either side, are a lance (which pierced Him) and a sponge (which was soaked with gall or vinegar and offered Him to drink) on a pole made of reed or cane. The lance (on the left:) is marked "К" in Slavonic; standing for "копие", while the The top bar of the Cross is the title-board which Pilate ordered to be hung in mockery over Christ's head. On this board was inscribed: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" in Hebrew, Greek and Latin (abbreviated to the Greek initials 'INBI', or the Latin initials 'INRI' in the Western tradition). This has been replaced with the Christian inscription: "King of Glory"(Slavonic: Царь славы), placed below the knees of the angels. [Note that while the use of the inscription 'І.Н.Ц.І.' does not usually appear in the Russian tradition, examples of its occurrence are occasionally found on newer Russian Crosses.] On the title-board is inscribed the initials 'IC XC', being the first and last letters of Christ's name in Greek (Greek: Iisous Khristos; Old Rite Slavonic: Ісоусъ Христосъ; New Rite Slavonic: Іисусъ Христосъ). In addition, just above Christ's arms we see the inscription: 'NIKA', which in Greek means: "He conquers" or "He is victorious." [Frequently, especially on the Greek and New Rite Russian prosphora seal, we see these last two inscriptions together with the simple two-barred Cross: 'IC XC NI KA', meaning: "Jesus ul, this article should be of benefit to those unfamiliar with this tradition.
Through the Cross came our Salvation. We are constantly reminded that Christ died for us when we see the Image of the Cross (depicting the crucified Lord), and we are reminded that He rose from the dead when we behold the Image of Christ "Not made by hands"(Slavonic: Нерукутвореному образъ) on the towel (depicting the Lord risen frem the dead).
Worshipping the crucified Lord are two flying angels, with the inscription between them:"Angels of the Lord" (in Slavonic: Ангели Господни). In some depictions of the Cross the Angels are bearing an image of the Holy Trinity, but traditions vary in allowing this; usually the Angels are simply holding towels, indicating their position as messengers who serve the Lord and who wait on Him.
|Khachkar 11th Century AD, Artsakh, Armenia|
Since 2010, khachkars, their symbolism and craftsmanship are inscribed in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage
About 40,000 khachkars survive today. The following three khachkars are believed to be the finest examples of the art form:
1- One in Geghard, carved in 1213, probably by master Timot and master Mkhitar
2- The Holy Redeemer khachkar in Haghpat, carved in 1273 by master Vahram
3- A khachkar in Goshavank, carved in 1291 by master Poghos. is a carved, memorial stele bearing a cross, and often with additional motifs such as rosettes, interlaces, and botanical motifs Khachkars are characteristic of Medieval Christian Armenian art.
About 40,000 khachkars survive today. The following three khachkars are believed to be the finest examples of the art form:
some other examples:
16 January 2013
03 January 2013
360th anniversary of Coonan Cross Oath (Koonan Kurishu Satyam).
The Roman Catholic faith started to had its foothold in Malankara with the arrival of Vasco De Gama, the famous Portuguese sailor in 1498. Initially the Portuguese Priests concentrated on the poor people living on the sea coast of Kerala and Goa and converted many to the Latin Catholic faith, some times even forcibly. But later they tried to introduce their faith among the Syrian Christians... of Kerala. For that they even adopted some unholy practices.
On June 20, 1599 the Roman Catholic Archbishop Menezes, with the help of local rulers, convened the historical Synod of Diamper (Udayamperoor) and thereafter started forcibly converting the Syrian churches as Latin, burned all the historical documents, and thereby terrified the Syrian Christians. The Malankara Church had to suffer servitude and indignities under the Roman Catholic bishops.
Finally in response to the continuous appeal of the Thomas Arkadiyakon (archdeacon), who was then giving leadership to Malankara Church; from the Patriarchate of Antioch came Mor Ignatius Ahattula in 1653. The tradition is that the Portuguese arrested him, tied him up and cast him in the Ocean. Consequently, the Syrian Christians get agitated and as a result, a large gathering of about 25,000 assembled at Mattancherry and took Oath at 'Koonan Cross' which happens to be known as the historical 'Koonam Kurisu Sathayam' in 1653 and declared that they and their future generations will ever be loyal to the throne of Antioch and also vowed to fight against the atrocities of the Roman/Latin Catholics.
The Malankara Church sent request to the Patriarch of Antioch again and in 1665 Saint Gregorios of Jerusalem was deputed to Malankara. The link between Malankara and Antioch that was broken and remained separated for about 150 years was re-established with the arrival of this holy father. Saint Gregorios ordained, Arakadiyakon as Bishop who assumed charge as MarThoma I. And once again, Malankara Church become the integral part of the Syrian Orthodox Church, adopting its rituals, rites and liturgy as before.
17 September 2012
12 January 2012
Ethiopia: Inside Ethiopia's Wonder Churches
Paul Juma - Daily Nation on the Web
12 January 2012
Deep in the rugged mountains of Ethiopia, a small village carries enormous historical and religious significance -- and wonder.
Lalibela village, 700 km north of Addis Ababa, has 11 mystical churches that bear the soul of Ethiopia's religious heritage.
On January 7, thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox Church pilgrims made a journey whose significance has outlived generations: the pilgrimage to Lalibela to mark the Ethiopian Christmas.
The same day, they celebrated the birthday of King Lalibela, who is believed to have received instructions from God to carve from rock the 11 churches.
Located in a valley in the mountains of Ethiopia's Amhara state, the small village has a mix of traditional huts and tin-roofed buildings, and it is dry and quiet.
It is surrounded by rocks and a few trees, swaying to a breeze that pours into the valley from the hills to neutralise the heat of the scorching sun.
A dusty road across the village leads to the main entrance of a cluster of six of the historic rock-hewn churches.
The main church in this cluster now has a shelter constructed over it by Unesco to protect it from adverse weather.
It is supported by pillars on the outside. According to our guide, some of the original pillars, as had been carved by the King, had fallen off but were later reconstructed.
Before we get in, our guide informs us that we will have to remove our shoes first -- it is a holy place.
It is cool inside, and dark too, but there's enough light coming from a fluorescent tube on the Eastern corner of the rocky ceiling, adjacent to the holy of holies, a curtained section where a replica of the Mosaic Ark of the Covenant is kept.
Two monks are sitting close to the entrance to the holy of holies. According to our guide, only priests are allowed into the holy of holies.
On the right side is a huge painting of Jesus on the cross, and on the left that of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.
The church is dedicated to Jesus, and is called 'Saviour of the World'.
A tunnel leads into a second rock-hewn church: the 'House of Mary'. It is smaller, but has a resident monk.
Adjacent to it is the 'House of the Cross', another church in the cluster. Here, cameras with flash cannot be used inside the church, we are told. The two churches share a rectangular hole which acts as a baptism pool.
There are more tunnels that lead to the rest of the churches on this complex.
The 'Church of St George' stands alone across the road. From a distance, its roof, which is at the ground level, looks like a huge cross placed on the ground.
This is because the church, like all other Lalibela churches, is hewn on the ground rock going downwards.
The churches have a masterful Ethiopian architecture with hints of Hebrew influence.
But it is their religious significance and history that inspire awe among thousands of Ethiopian pilgrims and tourists from all over the world.
According to Ethiopian legend, King Lalibela's brother tried to kill him by poisoning him.
However, the King only fell into a comma and came to a few days later. It is during the comma that God gave him the vision of the rock-hewn churches, according to the legend.
In the 12 Century BC, when he is said to have begun carving out the churches, Ethiopians would go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Having made the journey himself and having seen how difficult and dangerous the journey was, the King is said to have found motivation to create a replica of Jerusalem in Ethiopia, thus saving the pilgrims from the long journey.
And so, this tiny village has come to be Ethiopia's Jerusalem.
By using just a hammer and chisel, and with the help of angels, King Lalibela carved out the churches from pure rock, according to legend. That took him about 23 years to accomplish.
The villagers and pilgrims consider a seasonal river which splits Lalibela River Jordan, the biblical river where Jesus was baptised.
Like those who were there before them, the pilgrims will come and go. But the churches, the solid rock that they are, will certainly carry the soul of Ethiopia's religious heritage and significance into the unforeseeable future.
10 December 2011
The Ethiopians living on the roof
Saturday 10 December 2011
Sacred mysteries: An ancient African monastery is perched above the Holy
Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
I went to see the Ethiopians on the roof of the church of the Holy Sepulchre
in Jerusalem this week.
The way up is not easy for a stranger to find. Stone steps double back from
the Souk Khan el-Zeit in the Old City, where the jumble of goods for sale,
hanging from the low canopies – scarves, shoulder-bags, T-shirts,
full-length Muslim women's dresses, camel-tack, racks of postcards –
obscures the street plan.
From the steps, those who know where to look may see remnants of the first
church of the Holy Sepulchre, built by Constantine in the 330s. At the top
is a flat roof looking towards the great domes of the church.
Some green wooden doors in adjoining walls stand open, up rickety wooden
steps. At one side, a bulgy rectangular hut apparently made of whitewashed
adobe, is fitted with eaves of corrugated iron above the tiny windows.
Monks in black habits come and go, and keep an eye open for interlopers, for
even this Ethiopian church territory on the marginal exterior of the church
is subject to rival claims from Copts.
The stone surface of the roof slopes gently in this dry climate. In the
middle is a dome with windows fortified with ancient iron bars. This dome
(once the confusing maze of the interior of the church has been
mastered) turns out to be the roof the chapel of the Holy Cross discovered
by St Helena, Constantine's mother. The Ethiopians kept its feast devoutly
One of the doors on the roof leads to the Ethiopian monks' chapel. This is
separated from a passageway by a green-painted railing, leaving just room
for four pairs of benches on each side of a Persian carpet-runner before a
simple screen of dark, silver-painted wood. In the centre, a horseshoe-arch
opens to the high altar, hung with white silk, beneath an icon of the Virgin
Ethiopians speak the ancient Semitic language of Amharic. They worship in
the even more ancient dead language of Ge'ez. Their liturgy if full of
surprises. As well as Sunday, Saturday is a holy day, and in each church the
Ark of the Covenant is revered. Indeed Axum cathedral is said to house the
Ark once kept in the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Temple.
Evelyn Waugh tells of sitting next to an eminent professor at Haile
Selassie's coronation in 1930, who kept up a commentary on the ceremony:
"They are beginning the Mass now." "That was the offertory." "No, I was
wrong; it was the consecration." "No, I was wrong; I think it is the secret
Gospel." "How very curious; I don't believe it was the Mass at all."
No liturgy was in progress on the morning I visited, since the 4am worship
had long finished. At the back of the chapel, in front of a sort of shed, on
top of which lay a ladder and a green plastic bath, sat a monk in an old
armchair draped with a multi-coloured blanket. On an old brass dish he had
arranged two dollar bills crosswise, scattered artistically with some coins.
This was by way of ground bait, so that pilgrims passing through would know
where to bestow alms, which a little flock of Americans did. Their few
dollars were soon tidied away ready for the next group.
The Ethiopians are not well off. Once, they had a chapel inside the church
of the Holy Sepulchre. They lost that centuries ago during the long Ottoman
rule of Jerusalem, when political influence and payment of taxes counted for
much. It seems odd that the Copts later wrangled with them for their space,
for the Church in Ethiopia always took its chief bishop from Alexandria, the
The Ethiopians hung on. In 1923 there were only 100 in Jerusalem, all told.
They are stronger today, although the Christians are far outnumbered by the
30,000 Ethiopian Jews flown in from peril in the 1990s. But that is another
Christopher Howse's "A Pilgrim in Spain" is published by Continuum (£16.99).
23 November 2011
Thousands in line to view 'Mother of God's Belt'.
Daily American News
Posted Nov 20, 2011 @ 07:32 AM
MOSCOW — Thousands of Muscovites are lining up to worship one of the most
revered Orthodox Christian relics - The Mother of God's Belt – as it goes on
display at the Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
The Orthodox Church believes in a legend that Mary, the Mother of Jesus,
wore a belt woven from camel wool, and, after her death and Assumption, it
came into the hands of the Apostle St Thomas.
The Christian relic, which came to Russia from Greece, is believed to have
divine powers to cure infertility and disease.
In the first centuries of the Christian era, the Belt was held in
By the end of the 4th century, the relic was taken to Constantinople (now
It had been repeatedly cut into parts throughout history. And only three
One of them is kept in Georgia, the two others are in Prato, Italy, and at
Vatoped Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. The latter is believed by
Orthodox Christians to be under protection of the God`s Mother.
The Belt has never been taken from Athos before, with an exception only made
for the month-long Russian tour across 14 cities this year.
The relic will be on display for more than a week.
01 November 2011
Jerusalem dig unearths Christian icon
November 01, 2011 12:00AM
A TINY, exquisitely made box found on an excavated street in Jerusalem
is a token of Christian faith from 1400 years ago, Israeli archeologists
The box, carved from an animal bone, decorated with a cross on the lid
and measuring 2cm by 1.5cm, was probably carried by a Christian around
the end of the 6th century AD, according to Yana Tchekhanovets of the
Israel Antiquities Authority, one of the directors of the excavation
where the box was found.
When the lid is removed, the remains of two portraits are visible in
paint and gold leaf. A man and a woman, they are probably Christian
saints and possibly Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
The box was found outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City in the
remains of a Byzantine-era road. Uncovered two years ago, it was treated
by preservation experts and researched before it was unveiled at an
archeological conference last week. The box offers the first
archeological evidence that the use of icons in the Byzantine period was
not limited to church ceremonies.
Part of a similar box was found in Jordan three decades ago, but this is
the only well-preserved whole example found so far. Similar icons are
carried today by some Christians, especially from the eastern Orthodox
The relic was found in the City of David excavation, named for the
biblical monarch thought to have ruled a Jewish kingdom from the site.
The politically sensitive dig is in the Palestinian area of Silwan, just
outside the Old City walls in east Jerusalem, the section of the city
captured by Israeli forces in 1967 and still claimed by Palestinians as
03 October 2011
Spiritually Minded Cross Messages
"To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and
peace." Romans 8:6
Fr John Brian uses the timing of Meskel, the Ethiopian festival of the
cross, to talk about the spirituality of the cross.
This sermon uses and refers to scripture readings appointed by the Syrian
Malankara calendar and was give on Sunday, October 02, 2011 by Fr. John
Brian Paprock at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Chapel, Madison,
"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the
power of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7.
PODCAST OR DOWNLOAD: http://feeds.feedburner.com/frjohnbrian or
Listen on-line here:
Still Following Material Things?
Fr. George: The Harvest of Forgiveness
Fr John-Brian's Opening prayers for the conference:
A Reflection on Forgiveness by Fr John-Brian after the conference:
Bring No More Vain Offerings (Isaiah Chapter 1)
Letting Go - It All Gets Done
The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Knowing Spiritual Success
Receive the Crown of Glory (1Peter5)
On the Fruit of Transfiguration
Good Night Hospital (reflection of a night chaplain)
Opening Prayer - Forgiveness: Finding Wholeness Again
ST. GEORGE : A CHRISTIAN HERO FOR THE MODERN WORLD
A Question About Confession
An Assurance of God's Love
Top FIVE sermons with some Honorable Mentions (November 2005 through May
PODCAST OR DOWNLOAD all sermons: http://feeds.feedburner.com/frjohnbrian or
For more articles and sermons, visit http://www.frjohbrian.blogspot.com/
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission Parish
621 N. Sherman Avenue, Suite B3
Madison, Wisconsin - Sundays 9:30am
608.242.4244 ~ email@example.com
o HEALING LIFE o DEEPENING FAITH
o ENRICHING PRACTICE o REFRESHING SPIRIT
FULLY ALIVE - a Pastoral Book by Fr John Brian, includes transcribed texts
of sermons. Read the introduction and see the table of contents:
Other pastoral books: http://lulu.com/transfiguration
28 September 2011
Ethiopia: Christians Celebrate Discovery of Jesus Crucifix
Luc Van Kemenade
28 September 2011
Tens of millions of people in Ethiopia celebrated their annual Meskel
eve on Tuesday, an Orthodox Christian festival that landmarks the
discovery of the "true cross" of Jesus Christ by Saint Helena and the
end of the rainy season.
In Addis Ababa the streets are strewn with fresh, yellow-coloured,
daisies, called Meskel flowers in Ethiopia's national language
Amharic, turning the capital city into a colourful bouquet.
On every corner people dressed in white, pile wood, grasses and daisy
flowers into pyramid-like bundles, called demera to make into bonfires
Ethiopians are honouring Saint Helena's discovery of Jesus' crucifix
in Israel in the fourth century. Helena, who was the first Christian
empress of Rome, is believed to have given the right wing of the cross
as a gift to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
The flank is buried near a monastery in Wollo in Ethiopia's northern
highlands, says the church. Ethiopia has a population of over 80
million people, almost half of which are Orthodox Christians.
The heart of the celebration can be found Meskel Square in Addis
Ababa's town centre. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians dressed in
elegant robes flock to the slopes of the square to attend a mass led
by the Ethiopian patriarch Abune Pawlos.
Priests and deacons clap, sing and parade to the sound of large drums.
Crowd members, often held back by policemen, sing, pray and hold up
their eucalyptus candles, turning the stairs into a carpet of light.
In the grand finale of the celebration, the patriarch sets fire to a
giant demera at the centre of the square, symbolising the way Saint
Helena was said to have found the cross that Jesus was crucified on.
According to the legend the smoke from a fire guided her in the right
Once the fire is lit, there is no way to hold back the frenzied crowd.
People storm into the square to dance around the bonfire and then
reach into the ash to draw small crosses on their foreheads.
23 September 2011
Two ancient churches discovered in Failaka Island of Kuwait
The Department of Antiquities and Museums in the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters discovered two churches on the island of Failaka reports Al Watan daily. The first consists of three large rooms and three entrances and a tomb of a monk with a cross on it, and the second consists of one room, daily reported.
Al Watan reported, quoting the Director of the department Shihab Abdulhamid Shihab, that a study is being conducted on the churches and other monuments that have been discovered on the island which backdate to the early Islamic era. Additionally, an Islamic village established on the island which includes a mosque, two Mihrab were also found besides and a large Islamic castle called Al-Zour Castle. He pointed out that there are monuments dating back to more than 2200 years BC.
Shihab said that the inhabitants of the Kuwaiti coast before Islam were Christian fishermen, who moved to the islands near Kuwait, including the island of Failaka after the spread of Islam. He added that there are also other ancient civilizations on the island including the Macedonian civilization led by Alexander the Great, who called the Island Icarus.
16 September 2011
and I feast upon it. With its roots am I rooted and with its branches I
stretch out my arms. It's sap cleanses me and its breeze, like a fragrant
wind, makes me fruitful. Beneath its shadow I have set up my tent and,
escaping the terrible heat, I find there a haven of coolness. It is with its
flowers that I myself blossom and with its fruit that I take my greatest
delight. Yes, those fruits were kept for me from the beginning and I enjoy
them without end... When I tremble before God, this tree gives me shelter;
when I waver, it is my stay. It is the price of my battles and the prize of
my victories; it is my narrow way, steep path, Jacob's ladder where angels
ascend and descend and at whose top the Lord is supported indeed (Mt 7,14;
This tree of heavenly dimensions has been raised up from earth to sky; it is
an immortal plant, set between heaven and earth. Upholding all things,
bearing the universe, support of the inhabited world, it embraces the cosmos
and gathers together the diverse elements of human nature. For itself, it is
assembled of the invisible planks of the Spirit that it may not waver in its
conformity to the divine. Touching the heights of heaven with its top,
grounding the earth with its feet, and encircling with its great arms the
innumerable spaces of the atmosphere, it is wholly in all and around all...
It would have been of no account that the universe was blotted out, melted
with terror before the Passion, if our great Jesus had not infused the
divine Spirit in it when he said: "Father, into your hands I commend my
Spirit" (Lk 23,46)... Everything was shattered, yet when the divine Spirit
rose again the universe was re-animated, brought back to life and recovered
the firmness of its stability. God filled everything, everywhere, and the
crucifixion penetrated all things.
-- A Greek homily of the 4th century
On the holy Paschal mystery, 51, 63 ; PG 59, 743, SC 27 (inspired by a lost
sermon of Hippolytus)
14 July 2011
In Syriac Christianity, however, the theology of symbols continued [sic] to play a leading role in the Church's life at whose center stands the cross. In the cross all elements of theology are present. One can justly say that Syriac theology is truly a theology of the cross.
The cross is also a living reality to be reflected in our daily life. This is possible because we live in a liturgical time which makes the fruits of the cross present here and now. This presence, however, can be felt in two different ways. There is a positive one, through which we benefit from the blessings of the cross, as a protector, a builder of the Church, a teacher, and a sign of peace. There is also a negative way in which we experience the narrow path which leads us to the cross which causes the fall of its enemies.
It is the eschatological dimension that makes the cross all the more important. We will fully know and experience the cross in Paradise, where all symbols will find their fulfillment. The cross will open to us the way to the Father by opening the doors of Paradise, and will guard us in our journey towards eternal life. It will lead us to the kingdom of heaven, because it is the sign of that kingdom, and of the King who is going to come for the second time. Only then, will the cross have fulfilled its mission by bringing us to the fullness of our salvation which we have acheived and lived in our earthly life. The cross thus becomes, as Ephrem says, everything in our life:
The cross is our weapon and will,
it is our life and light.
The cross reconciles and renews everybody,
it consecrates and sanctifies everyone.
The cross has become a breakthrough, by which
the two sides which were angry, are reconciled.
(Hymni Dispersi XX,2)
Symbols of the Cross in the Writings of the Early Syriac Fathers
by Cyril Aphrem Karim (Archbishop of the Diocese of the Eastern United States, Syriac Orthodox Church)
2004, published by Gorgias Press http://www.gorgiaspress.com/
28 May 2011
revelations and the energies of the person of God who in Himself, in His
essence, cannot be described, but whose energies are already at work in all
creation and will be fully revealed in the transfigured world of the age to
come. Until the last day, God is at work in this world, leading it towards
resurrection, above all by means of the cross.
The Victory of the Cross
12 April 2011
In his spiritual message, the Primate reflected on the parable of the Unjust Judge and stressed the importance of constant prayer through which we strengthen our relationship with God...
Following the service, the clergy led the Primate in a procession to the southeast wall of the St. Leon Armenian Cathedral where the Primate, with the participation of the Choir, dedicated and consecrated the crosses carved on the wall. In his message to the faithful, the Primate reflected on the power and the importance of the Holy Cross in the life of an Armenian Christian. He extended his blessings to the donors who were treated to a reception at the Hampar Reception Room. The Primate's signed Certificates of Blessing and Commendation were gifted to the donors during the reception.
[An "Image Gallery" is at Armenian Western Diocese news web site listed above.]
05 April 2011
"Christian art seldom shows Christ suffering on the cross before the Tenth Century... A cross without Christ was, however, acceptable..."
(from cutline on illustration page of photo of crucifixion detail of 5th Century door of Santa Sabina in Rome)
A New History of Early Christianity
Yale University Press - 2009
27 March 2011
Saturday, 26 March 2011 13:40
Dear Friends in Christ,
Positions of the Fingers While Making the Sign of the Cross, Licensed from
I'm writing this message the week before the Third Sunday of Lent, when we
commemorate the Holy Cross. The Holy Cross has such an important meaning to
us, that we celebrate it twice a year. Back in September's bulletin, I wrote
about the appearances of the Cross in history. Appearances of the Cross led
to such miracles as the conversion of the Emperor St. Constantine in AD 312.
Since we've so recently covered the appearances of the Cross, I would like
to take this opportunity to speak about a related subject, namely, the Sign
of the Cross.
Humans seem to have a natural desire to identify themselves as part of a
group. One of the ways that members of a group identify themselves to one
another, and cement their ties, is by the use of signs. A well-executed
performance elicits a thumbs-up, the peace sign became a symbol of a
generation opposed to war, and a certain obscene gesture can be used to
insult others. The handshake is used to greet and to seal a deal, and a
salute is used to show obedience to a superior.
Christians from the time of the Apostles have had their own unique sign as
well. This is the Sign of the Cross, which we should make many times a day.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (+ AD 386) writes:
Let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal,
made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in every thing; over the
bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in goings; before our
sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are traveling, and when
we are at rest.
In other words, making the Sign of the Cross should become second nature to
the Christian, because Christ should be Lord over all aspects of our life.
This Sign should be executed attentively, however; it should not be done out
of habit without reflecting on its action. Each of the many times that we
make the Sign, it should be done deliberately. Let us not fall into the trap
of thinking that by doing something often it will become rote; let us do it
often and with attention! Tertullian (+ AD 220) writes: "We Christians wear
out our foreheads with the Sign of the Cross."
We make the Sign of the Cross properly by taking the thumb, index finger,
and middle finger of our right hand, and joining them together. This
represents the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We then take the
ring finger and pinky finger of our right hand and close them into the palm
of our hand, representing the two natures of Jesus Christ: divine and human.
With our fingers in this formation, we move our hand to our forehead, to the
solar plexus (navel area), then to our right shoulder, then to our left
shoulder (it should be noted that Roman Catholics make the Sign from the
left to the right, but this is an innovation dating to the 13th century). We
should avoid what some call the "banjo" Sign of the Cross, where the Sign
appears to be more akin to a man strumming an instrument rapidly with no
The Sign of the Cross identifies us as Christians, and it wards off the
demons. In fact, in some lives of the saints, we see that when an "angel"
appeared to a monk, he would be naturally cautious and ask the "angel" to
make the Sign of the Cross. At this moment, in many cases, the "angel" would
reveal its true nature, that of a demon, and flee. Demons cannot make the
Sign of the Cross, because of the power of Jesus Christ that the Sign
communicates. In fact, we know that in the last times, some men will take
the Sign of the Beast, or the Devil, instead of the Sign of Christ, upon
themselves: ".that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or
the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:17). We
perhaps should not understand this mark to be literal in a physical sense,
but a figurative mark or sign that mimics in opposition the Cross of Christ
that Christians have made since the beginning of the Church. At the same
time, there is a spiritual reality that many of us cannot see because of our
sinfulness, such that the Sign we make with our hand may make a spiritual
impression that is visible to God and the Angels.
As a visible sign to other humans, making the Sign of the Cross marks us as
Christians. It is a mini- "confession of faith." We should never be ashamed
to make the Sign of the Cross in front of other people who are not
Christians (while of course keeping humility in mind). The Sign of the Cross
is seen by the patristic quotes above to be something that dates back to the
beginning of the Church, and should be performed by all Christians. Finally,
in the lives of the Saints, we see the power of the Cross. Many more
examples from the saints' lives could be elicited if there were space in
this column to include them. I encourage you all to do some research on the
Let us make the Sign of the Cross our own; let it adorn us in everything we
do. May it lead us to greater repentance, and to focus our lives even more
on Our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
23 March 2011
According to the sign's other meaning, which has become more prominent in the last twelve centuries, the gesture of the cross is also a self-blessing, a gesture that imitates and reflects the sacramental blessing of the priest.
As both interpretations suggest, it is not directed towards God - unlike the gesture of the outstretched arms. In the first case, as the mark of Christian identity, it is directed at someone else. And in the second case, as a gesture of blessing, the sign is turned toward the self. In both cases, since it is traced over the body, its conceptual start is the most graspable sense of the self, which is the body. Where the gesture of the outstretched arms formed an invocation, the inward direction of the sign of the cross creates a gesture of profession of and acceptance of the faith. Both the sign of the cross and the gesture of the outstretched arms signify prayer, but the direction, and therefore the meaning of the prayer formed by the gesture, is different in each case.
Lifting the hands is something we do when we address God in heaven. This form of address works similarly to the way we communicate among oursleves. We speak, and our words are sent, offered toward and heard by the other person. Tracing the sign of the cross over one's body is different. We gesture the sign of the cross when we invite God to talk to us, to accept and clean our body and our entire being, so that our body becomes a temple for God to dwell in. This kind of prayer is more contemplative in nature. It starts with the self and is directed to God in heaven through an inward journey.
The Sign of the Cross: The Gesture, The Mystery, The History
Paraclete Press, 2006
12 January 2011
Orthodox Church Celebrates 358th Anniversary of Bent Cross Oath
Written By: B.J.Mathews on Jan 11th, 2011
Metropolitan of Kochi Diocese Dr. Yakob Mar Irenaeus inaugurated the meeting. Fr. Geevarghese Kochuparambil Ramban delivered the keynote address. Fr. P.I. Varghese, Fr. Sunil Jacob, and Fr. Simon Joseph spoke on the occasion.
Special Holy Qurbana and prayers were conducted earlier to mark the remembrance of those fathers, who pledged 358 years back holding on to the rope tied upon the stone cross as a symbol of their renunciation of foreign dominance in faith.
The procession with 358 lighted candles donned a new experience of history to the faithful.
Fr. Geevarghese Thomas Panickasseril welcomed the gathering. Number of faithful from all neighboring parishes participated in the event.
03 January 2011
According to Ethiopian Orthodoxy, after the ascension of Jesus, the
cross on which he was crucified began performing extraordinary
miracles. This raised the ire of the people who crucified Jesus, who
then ordered the cross to be removed and buried in the outskirts of
town. Residents living in the surrounding areas were commanded to dump
their garbage on the site, and for the next three centuries the area
turned into wasteland.
Three hundred years later, in the early fourth century, the Roman
Empire was being ruled by Constantine the Great. His mother, St.
Elleni (Helena), concerned about the plight of Christians, beseeched
her son to allow the free practice of Christendom in her son's empire.
The Emperor consented, and St. Elleni traveled from Constantinople to
Jerusalem to look for the buried Cross. Once in Jerusalem, however, no
one could tell her the exact spot where it lay. It is said that she
went into seclusion and prayed for God's guidance.
As a result of her prayer, St. Michael the Archangel appeared unto her
and gave her certain instructions. She ordered her soldiers and the
local residents to gather a pile of firewood. After a prayer, a fire
was set ablaze the wood. Clergymen doused incense on the flame and the
smoke of the incense rose up towards the sky then arched down to the
earth, pointing out the exact spot where the Holy Cross was buried.
Following this miraculous sign, digging began and commenced for six
months until the True Cross was discovered.
This has been the premise of the celebration of "Mesqel" in the
Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Since then, clergy and parishioners have
dressed in traditional, colorful clothing to sing ancient hymnals
dating back to the sixth century. A bonfire is lit up to memorialize
the finding of the True Cross.
14 December 2010
In Eastern Orthodox practice, the pectoral cross is worn by all bishops but not necessarily by all priests. In the Greek tradition, the pectoral cross is only given to specific priests for faithful service; in the Russian tradition, the silver cross is worn by all priests. Whenever the cross is put on, the wearer first uses it to made the Sign of the Cross on himself and then kisses it and puts it on.
The priest's cross depicts the crucified Christ, whether in painted form as an icon, or in relief. However, the Orthodox crucifix differs from the Western type by the fact that the soma (body of Christ) is not in full three-dimensional form, but in no more than three-quarter relief. It also bears the inscription INBI (the titulus that Pontius Pilate placed above the head of Jesus at the crucifixion) and the letters IC XC NIKA around the four arms of the cross. Orthodox pectoral crosses are almost always on chains of either silver or gold, sometimes with intricately worked links. Priest's crosses will often have an icon of Christ "Made Without Has" at the top. This is the icon before which Orthodox Christians usually confess their sins. In Russian practice, the back of a priest's cross is usually inscribed with St. Paul's words to St. Timothy: "Be an example to the believers in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. 4:12).
Orthodox pectoral crosses are awarded in several degrees (particularly in the Russian tradition):
- The Silver Cross is awarded to all priests by their bishop on the day of their ordination. This tradition began with the last Tsar, Nicholas II, who awarded a silver cross to every priest in the Russian Empire. Even after the fall of the Romanov Dynasty, the practice of awarding the Silver Cross to Russian priests at their ordination has continued to this day. This practice helps to distinguish priests from deacons or monks, all of whom wear the same type of riassa(cassock), and are otherwise indistinguishable when not vested. The Silver Cross is not enameled or decorated in any manner except for engraving or relief. Russian Orthodox priests do not wear the cross by right of their priesthood, but only by permission of their bishop. One way a bishop may punish one of his priests is to forbid him to wear the priest's cross.
- The next-ranking award is the Gold Cross. This is a simple gold cross, similar to the Silver Cross, and similarly without enameling or other decoration. The Gold Cross is worn by archpriests, abbots and abbesses as a mark of their office, and may be awarded by the bishop to other priests, both married and monastic, for distinguished service to the church.
- The highest pectoral cross, is With Decorations?that is, jeweled, and sometimes enameled?and normally has a depiction of an Eastern-style miter at the top. This type of pectoral is also referred to as a "Jeweled Cross". This type of cross is worn by bishops, archimandrites and protopresbyters as a sign of their office, and may be awarded to other priests as well. All bishops are entitled to wear the pectoral cross with decorations, although most simply wear a Panama when not vested for services.
When vesting before celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the pectoral cross is presented to the bishop who will bless the pectoral, cross himself with it, kiss the cross and put it on. Meanwhile the Protodeacon, swinging the censer says the following prayer:
He who would be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24, etc.); always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
A priest may be granted the right to wear a second pectoral cross.
A priest who has been given the pectoral cross will typically wear it at all times, whether vested or not.
In Russian practice, a nun who is not an abbess may also be granted the privilege of wearing a pectoral cross, as an honorary award (however, this award is not granted to monks who are not priests).
04 December 2010
Only in Armenian: Roberta Ervine on Gregory of Nareg
By David Luhrssen
(Milwaukee, Wis.) The cross is the universal symbol of Christianity, but as Roberta Ervine pointed out in her talk at St. John the Baptist Armenian Church of Milwaukee, the word has a particular richness in Armenian. In her March 14, 2010, presentation, “Only in Armenian: St. Gregory of Nareg’s Vision of the Cross,” the Armenian studies professor at St. Nersess Seminary began by contrasting the often negative associations of the English word cross with the richer meanings of the Armenian khach and its synonyms. In English, cross is a torture device, a cross to bear, especially if one is at cross-purposes. In Armenian, the word takes on associations with living and positive things such as Khachen Genarar (Life giving Cross) Pergoutyan Khach (Saving Cross), with trees and with staffs to support our burden.
Ervine focused on the 11th century mystic whose prayers and poems offer a vivid spiritual vision. St. Gregory of Nareg was in ill health and had reason to be resentful over the poor treatment of his father, a bishop driven into exile. And yet, as Ervine stressed, Gregory was able to love a church that was sometimes led by hateful men.
In St. Gregory’s writings, the cross took on many positive connotations. He visualized it as a knife’s edge freeing us from the bonds of oppression. He noticed that the unique configuration of the Armenian cross radiated like the rays of the sun to light our consciousness. The cross represented sacrifice in the form taken by altars in Armenian churches, where a horizontal plane meets a vertical support. For St. Gregory the cross was also like a wine press, transmuting grapes under steady pressure into wine. The wild horses that roamed near his monastery on the shore of Lake Van reminded him that their wildness could be tamed by a bridal, much as the cross can train human nature if Christ holds the reins to guide us. The cross symbolizes the key to our inner nature and the kingdom of heaven.
Illustrating her talk with visuals of Armenian religious art, Ervine summarized St. Gregory of Nareg’s views by saying that the cross for him was not an instrument of death, holding the dead body of the Son of God, but the Tree of Life, and is often represented in Armenian iconography as a living thing bearing branches and grape vines. The writings of St. Gregory, she concluded, are an invitation to see the deeper meaning of the cross in our world.
15 September 2010
Moscow, March 17, 2006 - Interfax - Scientists have proved experimentally
the miracle-working properties of the sign of the cross and prayer.
'We have ascertained that the old custom to make a sign of the cross over
food and drink before a meal has a profound mystical meaning. Standing
behind it is the practical use: the food is purified literally in an
instant. This is a great miracle, which happens literally every day,'
physicist Angelina Malakhovskaya said as cited by the Zhizn newspaper on
Malakhovskaya have studied that power of the sign of the cross with the
blessing of the Church for nearly ten years now. She has carried out a great
number of experiments, which have been repeatedly verified before their
results were made public.
She has discovered in particular the unique bactericidal properties of water
after being blessed by an Orthodox prayer and a sign of the cross. The study
also revealed a new, earlier unknown property of the word of God to
transform the structure of water, increasing considerably its optical
density in the short ultra-violet spectral region, the newspaper writes.
The scientists have verified the impact the Lord's Prayer and the Orthodox
sign of the cross make on pathogenic bacteria. Water samples from various
reservoirs - wells, rivers, lakes - were taken for the research. All the
samples had goldish taphylococcus, a colon bacillus. It turned out however,
that if the Lord's Prayer is said and a sign of the cross is made over them,
the number of harmful bacteria will decrease seven, ten, hundred and even
over thousand times.
The experiments were made in such a way as to exclude a possible impact of
mental suggestion. The prayer was said by both believer and non-believers,
but the number of pathogenic bacteria in various environments with different
sets of bacteria still decreased as compared to the reference templates.
The scientists have also proved the beneficial impact that the prayer and
the sign of the cross have on people. All the participants in the tests had
their blood pressure stabilized and blood indexes improved. Strikingly, the
indexes changed towards the healing needed: hypotensive people had their
blood pressure raised, while hypertensive people had it reduced.
It was also observed that if the sign of the cross is made off handedly,
with the three fingers put together unscrupulously or placed outside the
necessary points - the middle of the forehead, the center of the solar
plexus and the recesses in the right and left shoulders - the positive
result was much weaker or absent altogether.