14 December 2010

pectoral cross

Eastern Orthodox practice
Russian Orthodox Archimandrite Palladius, wearing gold pectoral cross with jewells (1888).
Russian Orthodox Palladius, wearing gold pectoral cross with jewels (1888).

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

St. Gregory of Nareg's Vision of the Cross

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

The Miraculous Power of the Cross and Prayer - A Scientific Study

The Miraculous Power of the Cross and Prayer - A Scientific Study

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.


06 September 2010

26 June 2010

Archaeologists find oldest Orthodox Christian church

From: OrthodoxNews@yahoogroups.com


Archaeologists find oldest Orthodox Christian church

Posted on Tue Jun 10 2008

The Jordan Times reports that a group of archaeologists have unearthed the
world's oldest Orthodox Christian church in Rihab, Jordan. Rihab is in
Northern Jordan. Rihab is home to a total of 30 churches and Jesus and the
Virgin Mary are believed to have passed through the area.

The church, which was built underground, dates to somewhere between 33 and
70 AD. Rihab is located about 30 miles east of the Jordan River and a
roughly equal distance north of the Jordanian capital, Amman. The region is
home to 30 other ancient churches.

"We have uncovered what we believe to be the first church in the world,
dating from 33 AD to 70 AD,"
Abdul Qader al-Husan, the head of Jordain's Center for Archaeological
Studies said.

He said it was uncovered under Saint Georgeous Church, which itself dates
back to 230 AD, in Rihab in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.

"We have evidence to believe this church sheltered early Christians -- the
70 disciples of Jesus Christ," Husan said.

These Christians, who are described in a mosaic as "the 70 beloved by God
and Divine," are said to have fled persecution in Jerusalem and founded
churches in northern Jordan, Husan added.

He cited historical sources which suggest they both lived and practiced
Christian rituals in the underground church and only left it after
Christianity was embraced by the Roman Empire.

Archimandrite Nektarious, a representative of the Greek Orthodox Church,
described the discovery as an "important milestone for Christians all around
the world."

Researchers recovered pottery dating back to between the 3rd and 7th
centuries, which they say suggests these first Christians and their
followers lived in the area until late Roman rule.

Inside the cave a circular area of worship with stone seats separated from
living quarters were found. This circular element, called an apse, is
important says Dr Al-Hassan because there is only one other example of a
cave with a similar feature, which was also used for Christian worship. The
stone seats are believed to have been for the use of clergy.

Al-Hassan said: "We found beautiful things. I found the cemetery of this
church; we found pottery shards and lamps with the inscription 'Georgeous'".
There is also a tunnel that leads to a cistern which supplied water to the
dwellers. The excavation of the tunnel and the cistern may yield yet more
evidence about the lives of these early Christians.

"From the tunnel to the cistern is very important. We want to clean it and
make an excavation inside it. We found a very old inscription beside it and
coins also, and crosses made from iron."

Other experts say they are cautious about the claim. They want to examine
the artifacts and obtain solid dating evidence. The earliest confirmed
examples of churches date from the third century.

14 June 2010

Bikers in Belarus Process with Cross

June 2. (Wednesday). 15:39:59
In Bobruisk, before the gathering of bikers, a religious procession on
motorcycles was held

Last night Bobruisk hosted the national gathering of bikers "Motofest 2010",
organized by the local club "Night Wolves". As the site of the Diocese of
Bobruisk mentions, the program activities included motorcycle and show
rides, demonstrations of the Cossack the art of riding, concerts and
socializing by motorsports enthusiasts in the open air 2 km from the new
bridge across the Berezina River.

The event began with Procession of the Cross on motorcycles over the
distance of 27 kilometers on the ring road around Bobruisk. In the event's
organization, in addition to fans of two-wheeled vehicles, also took part
local Cossacks and representatives of youth and information departments of
the Bobruisk diocese.

It should be noted that the Moto-Procession of the Cross was organized in
accordance with ancient canons: first came the lantern, then processional
crosses and banners. Priest Dmitry Pervyj, who participated in procession,
sprinkled holy water on path and accident-prone crossroads of the city ring
road on the Berezina.

Upon completion of the Procession of the Cross motorcycle equipment and
venues were blessed. Bikers are lovers and fans of motorcycles. Unlike
conventional motorcyclists, for bikers motorcycles are part of their
lifestyle. Characteristic is also the association with like-minded people on
the basis of this way of life.

The biker movement was born in 1950 in the U.S., and penetrated into Europe
(in the USSR in the 1980's they were called "rockers"). Until recently, the
term "biker" applied exclusively to the owners of choppers and always was
associated with a remotely extended front wheel, plenty of chrome, leather,
long hair and bearded motorcyclists. However, since the late 90-ies on the
road one began to see motorcycles with high-performance engines covered in
plastic fairings - sportbikes.

The stereotypical look of a biker: bandana (headscarf) in dark colors, tied
at the back of the head pirate style) or black knit cap, black leather
jackets (leather jacket with a closure off-center) or leather motojacket
(often worn denim or leather vests with no sleeves are worn over the
motojacket) with colors (symbols) of the motorcycle club), leather pants.
Bikers often let their hair grow long, and have a mustache and beard. To
protect their eyes from the wind they wear goggles, while helmets are often

/ sobor.by/ Viktor Melnichenko / photo from the website: bobruisk.hram.by



Note the photo: the altar servers on the backs of the bikes (holding the
lantern and processional crosses) are wearing their stikharions (but no
With love in Christ,
Prot. Alexander Lebedeff

13 May 2010

The Cross is an Ascension Symbol

Happy Ascension! This a sermon given a few years ago that delves into the importance of the Ascension and the Cross in the East:


your servant,

Fr John Brian