On 19th of January each year, many of the Orthodox Churches who still follow the Old Church Calendar celebrate one of the 12 most important feasts in Church life.
On this date Russian Orthodox Church Serbs, Ukrainians, Molodovan and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are celebrating.
In Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Greek and Romanian, Croatia and other Eastern Orthodox who follow new calendar, The Day of Jordan (The day in which Jesus was baptized in Jordan) is celebrated on 6-th of January on the same date when Russian, Serbs, Ukrains and other Orthodox Churches using old calendar celebrate Nativity of Christ.
The feast of Baptism of Christ is one of the most ancient feasts in Church history.
Here is the Church troparion as sung on (Jordanov den – as we say in Bulgaria – St. John's Day).
Epiphany Troparion / Тропарь Крещения (Troparion The Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ in Russian)
Тропарь Крещения Господня (Troparion Kreshtenie Gospodne as sung in city of Luhovic Russia
Tropar Bogojavljenja – The Lord's Baptism in Serbian Orthodox Church
The Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ hymn in Arabic
It is interesting fact to know that in Roman Catholic Church and most western countries the feast of Epiphany is known as the feast of Three Magi Kings (The Three Wise man who came to bring expensive gifts to venerate the birth of King of Kings the Lord Jesus Christ). Many of the traditions accepted in Western Countries for Epiphany are very similar to traditions practiced by countries where there is widespread Roman Catholicism influence. I've red about the feast as practiced in various countries in Western Europe and it appears many of the traditions are similar as paradigm to German and Dutch SinterKlaas (Saint Nicolas) feast. It is interesting fact that some of the traditions like the releasing of the Cross in Rivers by the Orthodox Priest and cross take out by the bravest man in Bulgaria is also practiced in Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and probably some Orthodox Christian regions of countries belonging to ex-YugoSlavia.
I learned a very curious fact. We have two Christian saints St. Thekla and St. Isidore of Seville which are protectors of Computing and people involved with computational sciences programming and IT related jobs.
The two saints both lived before the Great Church Schism thus the saints are celebrated and venerated nowadays in Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches all around the Christian world.
The Holy living of Saint Thecla – The ProtoMartyr (The first Christian woman martyr)
The reason why Saint Thecla is considered a protector of all people who heavily work with computers and possibly hackers is her name, Tecla means "Key" (a keyboard one) in Spanish.
Besides that everyone knows Keys (Passwords) and codes – a sort of keys as well as keys in programming arrays are widely used in Informatics and are essential part of computer basic Software.
Saint Thecla's living is mostly interesting, below is a short story of her earthly live as recognized in Orthodox Christian tradition;
Saint Thecla is considered a direct pupil of Saint Apostle Paul as she turned to be preacher of Christianity after speaking saint Apostle Paul. She lived in 30 A.D. until 1-st century after Christ. St. Thecla was virgin and decided not to mary even though she had fiancee in moment where she heard the Gospel of Christ.
She was miraculously saved from being burned at a stake by the onset of a storm, and traveled with Paul to Pisiduan Antioch. There a nobleman named Alexander desired Thecla and attempted to take her by force. Thecla fought him off, assaulting him in the process, and was put on trial for assaulting a nobleman. She was sentenced to be eaten by wild beasts (a common punishment for Christians in 1st century). Again saved by a series of miracles when the female beasts protected her against her male aggressors.
She sought out St. Paul and his companions, including St. Barnabas, who were hiding in a cave near the city. She spread the gospel of Christ with them in Antioch, and throughout her life performed many miraculous feats and suffered many tortures to give glory to God. Having retired to a desolate region of Isaurian Seleucia with the blessing of St. Paul, Thekla continued to preach God's word and heal st. Paul's spiritual children.
She lived to venerable old age of 90. Even in this old age envious pagan sorcerors come with the intention to defile the holy virgin. . A large rock split open when St. Thekla called on Christ the Savior to help her, and the rock covered her, and she offered up her soul to the Lord.
St. Thecla is highly venerated by Nuns an interesting fact is during tonsure of nuns in the Orthodox Church, her prayerful intercession for the tonsured nun is invoked.
The Kontaktion and Troparion as sung in the Church on her day feast in Orthodox Church – September 24 is;
Hymns Troparion (Tone 4)  You were enlightened by the words of Paul, O Bride of God, Thekla, And your faith was confirmed by Peter, O Chosen One of God. You became the first sufferer and martyr among women, By entering into the flames as into a place of gladness. For when you accepted the Cross of Christ, The demonic powers were frightened away. O all-praised One, intercede before Christ God that our souls may be saved. Kontakion (Tone 8) O glorious Thekla, virginity was your splendor, The crown of martyrdom your adornment and the faith you trust! You turned a burning fire into refreshing dew, And with your prayers appeased pagan fury, O First Woman Martyr!
Saint Tecla is very important woman saint, there is a whole monastery dedicated to her – Saint Tecla Monastery in Ma'loula
Saint Isidore of Seville – St Isidore Archbishop of Seville – An important Christian Saint writer from 6th century
St Isidore lived (circa 560-636), he served as Archbishop of Seville. Apart from his great holiness in modern terms, he can be defined as "information freak" and even in modern terms Nerd Even in his living he was recognized as miracle worker. St. Seville just like me and most IT people had a hobby of knowing as much as possible, he collected texts and write books on scientific or quasi-scientific facts and theories on subjects from Scripture, Church order, materials, and jurisprudence and medicine to achritecture, agriculture, botany, food, drink furniture,war, navigation ! etc. etc.
His books are among the first attempts to create universal catalog of available information in the World. His writtings are a sort of ancient Wikipedia. Even to this age his books provide us with many information and instruction on Church dogmatics and life as understood from a Christian view.
Saint Isidore's most notable work is Etymologiae – which is among the first encyclopedias worldwide – a huge compilation of 448 chapters in 20 volumes.
Contrary to many critics of Christian faith claiming that the Holy Fathers or the Church teach the earth is square shaped and one can reach the end of the world in St. Isidore's work, it is clearly explained that the earth has a circle like form.
Saint Isidore was contemporary to Saint Maxim the Confessor and one of the last ancient Christian Philopsophers, and last of the Great Western Church Holy fathers
According to some sources, saint Isidore is said to be the most learned man of his age. His works played key role on development of Middle-ages educational life. It is curious fact that in year 2000, the Vatican proclaimed Saint Isidore as patron saint of the Internet.
In Orthodox Church, we're not the authority of the Vatican Pope, so for us Orthodox Saint Isidore is not patron saint of Internet, however his contribution for increase of worldly knowledge as we know it today is un-questinable. His Holy relics are currently held in Roman Catholic Cathedral in Murcia (Spain), so any Orthodox Christian who is in deep involvement IT who travels to their or happen to live their might drop by to venerate the saint.
St. Isidore's episcopate was during a time of disintegration and transition as the ancient institutions and knowledge of the Roman Empire were disappearing. During these times, he set himself to the task of joining into a homogeneous nation the many peoples who made up the Gothic kingdom. To accomplish this task he used all the resources of religion and education available to him. He presided over the Second Council of Seville in November 619, leading to the setting forth of the nature of Christ in the Acts of the council, as he pushed for the eradication of Arianism.
A list of all his works, most of which are unfortunately present on the Internet only in Latin are:
Historia de regibus Gothorum, Vandalorum et Suevorum (a history of the Gothic, Vandal and Suebi kings)
Chronica Majora (a universal history)
De differentiis verborum, which amounts to brief theological treatise on the doctrine of the Trinity, the nature of Christ, of Paradise, angels, and men.
On the Nature of Things (a book of astronomy and natural history dedicated to the Visigothic king Sisebut)
Questions on the Old Testament.
a mystical treatise on the allegorical meanings of numbers
a number of brief letters
Sententiae libri tres Codex Sang. 228; 9th century
Last Sunday ( The day of the Resurrection – Voskresenie ) – as called in the largest Orthodox Christian country Russia), I've attended a Roman Catholic Holy Mass.
The reason for me to attend a Holy Mass in the Roman Catholic Church Saint Martinus Kerk in Arnhem, the Netherlands, was my desire to have a better understanding on Catholicism.
I should add I'm firmly Orthodox Christian and I know pretty well the evils Roman Catholic initiated Crusades have done I have no intention to be in any prayer or Eucharistic Union with Roman Catholics ever. Besides that I went to the Holy Mass service with the blessing of my priest, as I've asked him if he will bless me to go and be their with only educational aim.
The reason I don't want to pray or commune with them is pretty simple Roman Catholic Crusaders with their aggressive attempts tried to convert Bulgarian nations to Roman Catholicism on a multiple times.
Just to mention few of the other historical reasons which make me look with scepticism to Roman Catholics is the fact that on Holy Mount Athos where we Bulgarian Orthodox have our strong spiritual fortress the monastery of Zographus under the patronage of Saint George the Glorybringer , Roman Catholic crusaders killed 26 of our monks with no evident reason coming and burning all of them, while they were all together in a prayer to the Lord. Nowadays the 26 Martyrs for Christ are saints in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church – as the 26 saints from Zographus (Zograf). Along with the 26 Zographus martyrs was also the monastery abbot who in advance is known to have been notified by the Holy Theotokos (Virgin Mary) about the coming of the Crusaders (Cross scoffers – as they were called by our country priest fr. Veliko in Dobrich once).
It is known fact by every Orthodox Christian who seriously considers his faith and research in it about the erroneous nature of Roman Catholicism. We the Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics are no longer in Eucharist Union since the great schism. It is true the consequences around the West and East Church were very complex and partially two-fold, as it happened in times where the Country Government (Empire Government) was more or less bounded with the Church. However even though that it is a fact we Orthodox stayed keeping the decisions of the Holy Fathers taken priorly on the Ecumenical Church Councils in this number keeping the Necene Creed of Faith intact, where Roman Catholics changed it. It is also a fact in the Roman Catholic Church a supremacy of one person over the whole Christiandom was claimed a doctrine now recognized by early Church. The problems with Roman Catholics after the Schism and their division from the Christ truth has progressed severely as one can see in some events like the Witch Huntings / The Inquisition, The Crusaders marches, the doctrine of the infallability of the Pope and many many other doctrines which are ridiculous and out of truth and away from the teachings of the early Church Holy Fathers.
Just to name a few of the huge mistakes of Roman Catholics in their understanding of faith;
The layman in Roman Catholic Church is administered in communion only the Flesh of Christ (The Bread which mystically gets transformed to Christ's Body), where only priests receive holy communion of both the Blood and the Flesh of Christ – Even the simplest reading of the Holy Gospel shows clearly this is a big mistake; We read in Holy Gospel Christ instructing us his pupils to eat his flesh and drink his blood which are being shed for our sins. Christ further says in the Gospels, whoever did not drink his blood and eat his flesh he is no one with our saviour Christ (The Messiah).
A multiple times of Holy Liturgy is served on the same alter, again breaking Church dogmatical truths decided in assembly during the few early Church Ecumenical Councils.
The wrong understanding of supremacy of saint Apostle Paul and interpreting erroneously parts of the Holy Gospels and chapters from Holy Bible's New Testament. Roman Catholics says the saying that the keys to the kingdoms of heaven will be given to saint Paul means saint Paul is the person who allows people enter heaven and he is given spiritual authority and the Grace of the the Lord Jesus Christ to spread his salvational grace to the rest of layman (the newly baptized members of the Church)
The erroneous understanding that the Priest within the Roman Catholic Church is a mediator between God and man. In orthodox Church the priest is considered an unworthy servant just like he multiple times says both during Holy Liturgies (like Holy Mass Church services) and even during people's confession.
The confession practice in Roman Catholic mistakes, in Roman Catholic Church the person does not openly confess to the priest eyes to eyes like in our Orthodox Church, the person has to confess in a special room, where both of the sides the Layman and Clergyman does not see each other. The priest symbolizes God who hears the confession in secret. The problem with this is again the same the priest is there just a "substitute for God". Just as a frame of comparison in Orthodox Church, we always confess openly in front of the priest face to face and most importantly in front of a Christ's icon which is always put near. In orthodox Church it is Christ's icon which Symbolizes God and actually it is just a symbolism and the icon itself is not representing God. During Orthodox Confession we know God and his Holy Angels is present and listen to the confession with no any representative. One more general problem with Roman Catholic Confession is the fact that if the confessing person does not see the priest face to face, his guiltiness of having confessed in front of a person is much lessened. According to our Orthodox Christian Church it is exactly those guiltiness during confession of layman to priest face to face which often makes us experience shame and is 1 barrier during next time we're thinking or willing to do the same sin. It is much to be said here probably but as the aim of this article was completely different I will stop here with Roman Catholic errs.
Even all its problems we cannot simply reject the importance of Roman Catholic Church easily and we should say through the ages even though not possessing the Grace of Christ in fullness as our Orthodox Church has it, still a lot of the ancient understandings and beliefs (but again not all) concerning our Christian faith are present in Roman Catholics. After all Roman Catholic Church is the closest to belief and Christian liturgical practices to the Orthodox Church. However the problem with it again is that what the Roman Catholic Church offers is not complete and from perspective of the many saints in our Orthodox Church, the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church is not salvational.
Now after having all this, I will go back to the topic of my article, which was to give ,my personal Orthodox Christian perspective on Roman Catholicism. What I say may not be all truth and I'm not a representative of Orthodox Church in any way but it is my just observations based on my knowledge about our Orthodox Christian faith and my common sense, I'm just a layman in Orthodox Church, so i'm prone to sinfulness and mistakes. Thus if I'm mistaken forgive me.
I. What I've noticed in the Roman Catholic Church to be wrong from perspective teaching of the Holy Fathers and practice in our Orthodox Church
1. First thing noticable in the Roman Catholic Church was on the entrance of the Saint Martinus Church (which btw is located in Steenstraat just 2 minutes walk from the city center)
On the entrance there is a huge statue of Christ the saviour surrounded by Angels. We know well that in orthodox Church we rejected statues as they profane understanding of the depicted person and along with that are in no difference to idols. Some might argue the situation with the Holy icons is also like with statues, but in reality it is not due to the fact the icons are the icon painter best attempt to display Christ and the Holy Theotokos the saints, the martyrs and all that is in heaven. With Stone Statues instead of icons the depiction is much more profaned and even looking grotesque to the observer (profaning the person it illustrates, also it is fact that many of the worldly rulers like Napoleon and many ancient kings ordered creation of Stones, even in old testament it was a stone statue which was ordered to be venerated instead of God, also in the old testament it was the Golden calf which is again a statue which served to be an idol for people …. there probably hundreds or even thousands of reasons one can easily see, by simply reading the Holy Gospels).
Another thing about the statues is the material of statues is usually a stone or a variation of stone the stone is hard or impossible to burn and does not have heat or hardly possesses heat, also it never used to be a living matter but is indifferent. All materials in icons is just for a contrast made of organic substances.
2. The enormous size of the Cathedrals and the General Church architectures
The Cathedrals size is subject of praise and admiration. It is really a miracle that such a majestic buildings occur, I or anyone sane person canno simply skip that.
However this enormous sizes of Cathedrals makes the person feel little and insignificant for God. Where in fact we read in the Holy Gospels; I recite by memory "…. for God so much loved the Lord so he gave his only begotten son so nobody perish but all be saved through faith in the name of his only begotten son our Lord ….". The sharp architecture of domes (coupols) in the Roman Catholic Church I find rather (impudent) / bold to God, and in my view it spills lack of humility.
3. The benches in the Church, though it is great to have benches in the Church having benches for everyone doesn't seem like something too good. After all one has a week time to stay on his chair at home and usually the time spend in Church service is about 1.5 to 2 hours time. It is good to have some benches for the old people whose health does not allow them to stay right, but having a bench for all is just an extra confort which brings the heart and mind back to the earthly thoughts.
4. The Crucifix of the Lord Jesus Christ – on the crucifix in Roman Catholic Churches we see our Lord Jesus Christ crucified being in torture on the Cross.
In Orthodox Church Christ is on the Cross but already peacefully given the spirit – as the Lord Jesus said – "Lord in your hands I command my spirit". Having depicted Christ torturing might trigger in non-believers and even in believers a thoughts on the topic of sadism.
Other error noticable was on the Crucifix itself, in Roman Catholic Churches the Lord's legs are pierced by one nail. Whether we know in Orthodox Church tradition, both of the legs of our Lord Jesus Christ was pierced with 2 nails.
Actually in the few other Cathedrals where I've been and all across the Roman Catholic art I've seen I see this kind of inclanation to depict moments of the suffering and death of Christ. Nothing bad with that but I think this is too much. After all even though all the Crucifix is the center of our Christian faith, we should not forget the rest of the Holy Scriptures. It is my view by concentrating on Christ's suffering to Golgotha (Christ's trial) and our Lord's Crucifix, we tend to forget about the rest of the Holy Scriptures. For comparison in the Orthodox Church every fresco icon painted and icons reminds is in much bigger details to events from Holy Gospels and life events of the saints. The "visual information" provided in our Orthodox Church through frescos and holy icons is much more and better selected reminding us always of all the Holy Scriptures just like every Holy Liturgy is a remembrance of Christ's eathly life, crucifix for our sins, Glorious Resurrection, descendance to Hell and Ascendance to Heaven …..
5. The Priest's position towards people; heading most of the time backwards the Holy Alter and backwards the Alter Crucifix and the 12 apostles.
In the Orthodox Church during our Holy Liturgy the priest most of the time is praying and heading his face to the East (In our Churches the alter should always be headed East). In Roman Catholic Church, I've noticed a lot of alters are positioned South, West, North. During most of the Holy Mass goes the priest is staying with his back towards the Holy Alter …. in a way looks like turning back to God. As the layman pray towards his face it symbolically seems like the laymen are praying to him like he being a mediator. I know according to Roman Catholicism dogmatism this is not so, but really for me it looks like so.
6. 6 candlers burns on the Alter instead of the usual 7 or 8 in our Orthodox Churches
6 in itself is not a bad number, but I really see no reason for 3 candles to burn on one side of the Crucifix and 3 more to burn on the other side (overall numbering 6).
Even in Jewish old testament tradition the Menora is burning a 7 candles, ancient Church followed some of the old times tradition just we can see even to this day. According to Ancient even pre-Church existence faith tradition it was never 6 candles to burn on the alter.
7. The position of "icon" depicting the Last Supper.
Maybe it is just in st. Martinus Kerk in Arnhem and not all practice in all Roman Catholic Church parishes, however on those one it rather striked me. The Last Supper showing the Lord Jesus eating with the 12 Holy Apostles is positioned on parallel hight with legs. Really it looked like pure mockery with Christ and the Holy Eucharist. It is common sense that tells me this painting can only go over the head of the Priest or layman. It is exactly like this in our Orthodox Churhces. Above the head of us above the Dveri (Alter Portals) is located an icon with the Last Support…
8. The too much talking by priest and clergy during the service.
I had the impression that the overall prayers and singing in glorification of God is less than the General "talks" which seemed like a lecture by the priest right during the service. I don't speak Dutch so I could not understand all but the gestures of the priest and the overall face expression and intonation was clearly showing he is definitely not reading prayers or from the Gospel. Here is good time to say he also read from the Holy Gospels, as far as I could understand (at least it looked l ike this I don't speak Dutch so don't know for sure), here I liked that whether there was a Gospel Reading there was silence and there was no priest or deacon with the incense-burner (censer) disturbing the Holy Gospel readings. This is something good, but on the other hand in some of our Orthodox Churches (in smaller ones) though the incense incense-burner is making noises still it is hear-able for the layman, so this is not really a big issue in our Orthodox Church. Something else here that rather striked, me that along with the clergy a woman was reading or even talking things on a microphone right on the middle of the Holy Mass !
9. The side alters which even didn't have a Crucifix on it
st. Martinus Cathedral is with 3 Alters, one central and 2 side on left and right. On the left side Alter I clearly remember on the top of the Alter was (Mother Mary? holding a Cross). I've longly heard that in Roman Catholic Church there are wrong doctrines about Virgin Mary (like the doctrine that Mother Mary was sinless), but having an Alter like this in my view is wrong. On the Center of the Alter the only proper thing that seems to fit my understanding is a Crucifix. We also have an icon of Mother Mary on our Orthodox Church alters, however it is an icon positioned on the left side and not on the center of the Alter. In the Center of the Alter is always Christ on the Cross who completed our salvation and redemption on the Cross for us all.
10. The late time in which the Church service started
The Church service started about 11:10 or 11:15. I have not heard or know any Orthodox Church that starts the Holy Liturgy after 10:30. Actually if I'm not mistaken there is an ancient church rule saying the Holy Liturgy should over no later than 12:00 oclock? I heard this and did not investigated so I'm not completely certain if it is true or not? If any orthodox brothers and sisters knows drop a comment.
11. The feeling impression of incompleteness of the Holy Mass
I didn't have the temper to stay until the end of the Holy Mass. I stayed maybe about 45 minutes. It all started nice music, Organs sounded peaceful and beautiful. It felt a bit like a symphonious orchestra concert, but it was peaceful so in beginning I like it. Later when the Priest and clergy came it all changed, especially when the priest and the Lady started speaking to people on the Microphone. This was like an interruption of the prayer and the natural way it all go. This happened on a few occasions so it was a mixture of harmoneous Organ Instrument sounds with the (Church choire accompany) and the priest and lady interfering. I respect all so I don't want to offend any of the devoted Roman Catholics but I just tell how it looked like to me. So if you're a Roman Catholic insulted please Forgive me
12. Donations demand before the end of the Service and before distributing the Holy Communion
I stayed in the Church until the moment, they asked for donations. I'm not Roman Catholic and don't agree or wanted to help Roman Catholic Church, as it is not my Church and besides that it preaches incomplete Christianity. I stand up and went out of the Church. Moreover I'm a poor person, and can't afford to help them so but anyways as I said even if I could have possibility I would not give them donation but would rather give my donation to the mostly poor Orthodox Church. Later I've figured out the donation part is followed by the Eucharist Liturgy part, as I've studied a bit about Roman Catholicism as explained by a devoted Roman Catholics. The problem with asking for donation right before the Eucharist and the transfiguration of the eucharistics – holy gifts is the layman's attention is totally distracted from the main purpose of the service – the Holy Eucharist.
II. What I liked (enjoyed) in the Roman Catholic Church
1. The Choire and the Organ
I liked the quire and the organ, it felt like peaceful to listen to that, but that's all it was more human symphology than divine one. However, an instrument existence during the service sacrifices part of it is spirtiuality. The organ is not spirited (Not a living soul), and thus from purely spiritual point of view it is much better that we don't have any musical instruments in the Orthodox Church. There is a believe in the Orthodox Church, that we use only people's voices (singing) to glorify the Lord for the reason, man was the most higher creation of God and therefore it is righteous that God is glorified by using the voice of his most magnificient creation the man.
2. The meditation idea in the Roman Catholic Church
I liked those partially but same time I rejected the idea. The idea that they speak of meditation might implant in the unknowing non-Christian the idea that in the Church people go to meditate instead of praying. It gives the idea the goal of Christianity is to just be in some kind of "inactive" peacefulness. The heroism of attending the Grace of Christ is somehow missing all this 'meditation'. It is also rather easy for people to think that Buddhist meditation is like Christian meditation. The Church had an entrance on the Right Corner, which I liked. There was a fresco remake of an Orthodox icon depicting the Holy Theotokos with Christ. It was a quite place like Paraklis (small chapel), where one can spend some time alone and pray to God asking for help and forgiveness of sins. In this little room I saw a notebook, where different people have written petitions to the Holy Theotokos, for physical healing, life blessing and all kind of petitions we humans have. I really liked that a lot in some form there is a similar "non written" tradition in our Orthodox Church, as people write their petitions on small piece of papers and put them under icons or near the Alter walls or just leave them somewhere in Monasteries and Church buildings. However though I liked that after thing for it I realized this is not 100% inline with faith, for the reason God knows every person on earth's heart and his presence is virtually everywhere, we know he even knows our thoughts before we think them. So what would be the reason to place them on piece of paper, where we can pray it simply with few words – he already knows it
3. What else I liked about the Roman Catholic Church (Synthesized)
I liked in the Roman Catholic Church, a lot of the well organized brochures, Church singing notes papers, leaflets and general organization in the Church. If we talk about simply organizing, they definitely beat us Orthodox. Everything in the Church seemed well coordinated. The Church choire sing very well and obviously well coordinated too. This however is also something which might be put to trial. Such a well coordinated organization that is in the Roman Catholic seems to human. If we look in the nature, we see the coordination of things are there but not to the moment of perfection. The strive of Roman Catholics for perfection in both buildings and general organization is therefore I think not in consonance with the natural life as God created it. Also the lack of such "strict" organization in the Orthodox Church is an evidence of people's free will and unique identity.
4. The many people attending Holy Mass (people have faith)
Another thing I very much liked is the Roman Catholic Church was mostly full with people including a lot of young people under 30 years old.Maybe 1/6 of all people in the Church was from 15 to 30, 35 years. I don't know if the Sunday 1 of December 2012, when I attended the Church it was a big feast for Roman Catholics as I'm not aware of their Gregorian Church calendar, however it seems like a normal Sunday and still there were plenty of people attending, meaning people had faith.Sadly as of time of writting in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, one can very rarely see people under 40 or 50, most of people attending Church services are over 50, though sometimes young enter our Churches to light up a candle and for private prayer.
I will close this post with a video, I've searched on the Internet aiming to explain Roman Catholicism. It is not a critical but made by Roman Catholics, still the info it presents is interesting and partly what is said of symbols discussed is valid for Orthodox Christians priesthood too. After all the Roman Catholic Church though it has went away from the source is still preserving some general patterns of original true Christian faith kept and preserved in the Orthodox Church through the centuries.
With all said I pray and Hope God will turn back Roman Catholics to the True One Holy Apostolic Church – The Orthodox Church, but I realize for this happen it will be very difficult if not impossible. But wondrous are the deeds of the Lord
Roman Catholic Mass explained
The video is probably taken from a Roman Catholic Monastery and probably served under the old Roman Catholic Rite, this is the reason why the priest and the "server" (The Ipodiaconus) is all the time praying and headed to the Holy Alter. The Roman Catholic Holy Mass has nothing to do with what is on the video. Probably in Roman Catholic monasteries the Spiritual life is in a much higher state than in the regular country Churches. Notice on the video, where the Dove (bird) symbol of The Descending of the Holy Spirit is placed it is on the level of the knees of the priest, just like I saw the Last Support in the Roman Catholic Church in Arnhem, it seems this error is repeated is in many if in not all Roman Catholic Churches.
As a conclusion I should say, I'm glad the Roman Catholic Church is existent here in the West. After all Roman Catholics do pray the Lord's prayer and surely there are people among them who are trying to live a true Christian life. I've noticed many Roman Catholic Churches has an Orthodox Icon or some kind of copy of an Orthodox icon. Being out on the street and walking, it is good to see the sign of the cross on a Church building, even if this building is not orthodox. Also all Roman Catholic Churches just like us Orthodox do embed a particle of a saint inside the Church alter. With the reason the Eastern and Western Church was one in the past it is likely big number of the Roman Catholic Churches has a saint Relic particles in their alter and by this the whole building is sanctified. Also it is not rare to find a an Eastern Orthodox Church saint Holy Relics somewhere kept across Roman Catholic Churches. Though we the Orthodox Christians are prohibited to pray together and take communion in an Roman Catholic Church it is always nice to enter a Roman Catholic Church and experience few minutes of silence and see a Cross and images reminding us for Christ, Virgin mary the Martyrs, the eucharist and God's greatness.
Christmas has just passed away. As a Christian I was curious what is the reason in so many Christian countries, we decorate Pine trees and I did a quick research on the topic. In this small article, I'll present my findings.
Observing the Christmas Pine Tree tradition has been quite ancient and probably according to many sources dates back to the XIIth century.
The first written records of a Christmas tree are of an anonymous Frenchman who visited Strasbourg, Germany in 1601. His description of the decoratd pine tree says like "wafers and golden sugar-twists (Barley sugar), roses cut out of many-colored paper, apples, gold foil and sweets."
Later in the 1800s, the local German Christmas pine tree tradition was spread across America by German emmigrants.
In UK the Pine tree decorating tradition appeard in 1841, where a royalty (Prince Albert) decorated his castle (Winston Castle).
A little later after the Queen Victoria adopted the pine tree, United Kingdom citizens started to decorate pine trees for themselves, folliwng the highly regarded Queen.
Usually the pine tree has historically been decorated with gifts as well as an Bright star is put atop.
One of the Christian interpretations for the Christmas tree is that it represents the same Cross (tree) on which Christ was crucifixed. Then after Christ's resurrection because of (or through that) tree, the humanity received the Lord big spiritual blessings. These blessings are represented by the gifts decorated on the Fir tree. The pine tree itself is in Christianity a reference for the symbol of Salvation that we received came from the Holy Cross, where our saviour was crucified.
The Fir is decorated with lights to represent the joy and the lights of Christmas (that burns in our hearts), the star atop the tree is a reminder of the Star that rised in the East during the night of Christ's birth as we read in the gospels.
Decorating Pine trees is commonly observed mostly in Roman Catholic Church and often followed by some protestant denominations and less used in Orthodox Church (though this is changing nowdays).
In Eastern Europe, the Christmas tree appeared quite late and the whole concept was unknown in the Orthodox Christian countries, just until the end of the 19th century.
With the recent severe globalization the pine tree was silenty adopted in almost all parts of the world, including even communist countries and even sometimes in muslim ones.
Unfortunately, the relation between the Fir tree and our Christian faith is little known today and with the years to come it will be less and less associated with Christianity.
Here are few interesting legends which I found explaining, some of the possible roots of the Christmas tree decoration:
1. Legend of the Pine Tree Saving the Holy Family
When the Holy family was pursued by Herod's soldiers, many plants offered to provide them with shelter.
One such plant was the Pine tree. With Mary too weary to travel any longer, the family stopped at the edge of a forest to rest.
A gnarled old Pine which had grown hollow with the years invited them to rest within its trunk.
Then, it closed its branches down upon them, keeping the family safe until the soldiers had passed.
Upon leaving, the Christ Child blessed the Pine and the imprint of his tiny hand was left forever in the tree's fruit… the Pine cone.
If a cone is cut lengthwise, the hand may still be seen.
2. Pine tree and Easter Legend
There is a legend that pine trees "know" when it's Easter.
The pine trees start their new growth in the weeks before Easter.
If you look at the tops of the pine trees two weeks before Easter you'll see the yellow shoots.
As the days get closer to Easter Sunday, the tallest shoot will branch off and form a cross.
By the time Easter Sunday comes around, you will see that most of the pine trees will have small yellow crosses on all of the tallest shoots.
This really happens we live where there are lots of pines,
and each year this actually happens, it is amazing to watch,
and the process of the new growth appears as crosses on the ends
of each branch.
I've not personally observed that, but according to people who live in pine tree forest areas this is a fact.
3. Legend about M. Luther and the Pine tree
Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant religion, was taking a stroll through the woods late one night.
The sky was clear and many stars were shining through the branches of the trees,
giving the impression of twinkling lights.
Luther was so captivated and inspired by the beautiful brilliance of the sight
that he cut down a small evergreen and brought it home.
He recreated the stars by placing candles upon the tree's branches to imitate
their radiance and presented it to his children.
This story explains why, the pine tree become so wide spread initially in the "western world", as it gives some connection between the Pine tree and Protestant Christianity.
4. The Children Legend of the Fir Tree (Kids Story)
On the night of the Christ Child's birth, all living creatures, both flora and fauna, traveled to Bethlehem bearing gifts.
The Olive tree, for example, brought its fruit and the Palm tree its dates.
But the little Fir tree had no gift and was so tired that it was unable to resist when the larger trees pushed it into the background and hid it from view.
But then, a nearby Angel took pity and commanded a cluster of stars to descend and rest upon its delicate boughs.
When the Baby Jesus beheld this lovely lighted tree, he smiled and blessed it,
declaring henceforth that Fir trees should always be filled with lights at
Christmastime to please little children.
When Christianity first came to Northern Europe, three personages representing
virtues were dispatched from Heaven to place lights on the original Christmas tree.
These personages were Faith, Hope and Charity.
Their search was long, since they were required to find a tree as high as hope, as great as love and as sweet as charity.
In addition, the tree had to bear the sign of the cross on every bough.
Their search finally ended in the forests of the North where they found the Fir.
Lit by the radiance of the stars, it became the first Christmas tree.
The triangular design of the Fir has also been usedto describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
Eventually, converts began to revere the Fir as God's Tree…as they had once revered the Oak.
By the Twelfth Century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmastime
in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity.
5. The Paradise Tree Legend
A very old and delightful European custom centers around decorating a Fir tree with apples and small white wafers which represents the Holy Eucharist.
These wafers were later replaced by small pieces of pastry cut into the shapes of stars, angels, hearts, flowers and bells.
Eventually additional pastries were introduced bearing the shapes of men, birds, roosters and other animals.
During the middle Ages, around the Eleventh century, religious theater was born.
One of the most popular plays …
The German mystery play concerned Adam and Eve and their fall and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, represented by a Fir tree hung with apples.
This tree was symbolic of both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Discernment of Good and Evil, which stood in the center of Paradise.
The play ended with the prophecy of a coming Saviour. For this reason, it was often enacted during Advent.
The one piece of scenery, the "Paradeisbaum" or "Paradise Tree" become a popular object and was often set up in churches.
Eventually it also found its way in private homes and became symbol of the Saviour.
Since the tree was representative not only to Paradise and the fall of man, but also the premise of salvation.
It was hung not merely with apples, but with bread of wafers (Holy Eucharist) and often sweet to represent the sweetness of redemption.
In some areas of Bavaria, fir branches and little trees decorated with lights, apples and tinsel are still called "Paradeis".
According to some other Christian legends, it was a Fir tree that grew as the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
When Eve plucked its fruit, the foliage and flowers shrank to nothing but needles.
Only on the night of Nativity would the Fir tree bloom again a moment marked perhaps by the Christmas tree we Christians use.
Of course these are just legends and as with every legend there is plenty of romantism included.
Nevertheless I consider most legends similar to proverbs contain deep truth and contain truthful facts. Moreover knowing the legends of our forefathers connect us to who and what we are and from antropological point of view is precious knowledge, we should try to sustain and spread to our children.
Christ has born! Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday to all my readers!
The meaning of Merry Christmas comes from Christ Mass , the word has changed to (Christmas) through the years.
The origins of the word comes from the western world and especially has a tight relatin with Latin language and the Roman Catholic Church.
In Eastern Orthodox Churches, we say Chestit Rojdestvo Hristovo , which translated to English is Happy Christ's Birth by this tring to put more accent on the real significance of the feast, which is Christ's birth.
It's a pity nowdays many people forgot the real meaning of Merry Christmas but just celebrate without really realizing the deep spiritual meaning this two beautiful words contain.
Our Bulgarian Orthodox Church will mark the Christ's birth with a Holy Liturgy early in Sunday's morning tomorrow 25th of December.
With these bright feast I wish to all my blog readers; A lot of Best of Health, Good Fortune, Loving Kindness, Hope, Faith, Love and Personal and Professional Success!
May God bring in our hearts the Angels joy which saluted our Saviour Jesus Christ's birth 2011 years ago.
Yesterday, while browsing randomly I came across an interesting Roman Catholic webpage.
The website is created by Catholics with the idea to better explain the Catholic religion and Symbolism.
Though as an Orthodox Christian, my interest towards Roman Catholicism is only scientific, it's really interesting to see the common symbolism surrounding Roman Catholicism and compare with the Orthodox Christian symbolism. Many of the Roman Catholic Symbols are equal symbol with the one we nowadays used in the orthodox church.
I presume this common symbolism between Orthodox and Roman Catholic church,has stayed the same from the time before Roman Catholics split from the Only Holy Apostolic Church to become the Church of the West Roman Empire, that's how the naming Roman Catholic came forward.
To find out more about Roman Catholic symbolism please see the following links I've mirrored the information from Fisheater's website which is btw is a great website targeting Roman Catholic layman. Everything on the website is explained in a simple everyday language without too much terminology which makes it a great resource for Roman Catholic Christians and people like me who who like to take a look in Roman Catholicism.
It's really a strange and intriguing fact let's call it a "co-incidence" that the inverted cross (upside-down) cross,also called "Peter's cross" on which saint Peter was crucified is also a symbol of Papacy .
It's a popular fact that nowadays Satanist use a similar inverted cross to the one said to be symbol of papacy for their "Black Masses" (Satanic Masses). Maybe some Roman Catholic priest or Cardinal has to explain, how comes that the Roman Catholics ended with such a significant symbol used nowdays in anti-christian satanic religion to be also a symbol of their beloved Pope??
I will skip forward to the heart of this article, which is to explain the Christian Symbolism which is important for us the Eastern Orthodox Christians. Many of the symbols might have in common, also with other Christian early Churches like the Coptic Oriental Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Churches and other Chruches which somehow are closer to the One Holy and Apostolic Church – the Orthodox Church but officially are not in communion with us the Orthodox Christians.
Here I'll share only the most notable Christian Symbolism which is also used in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Many of this symbolism was always bothering me while in Churches or Monasteries and was always pushing me to more and more questions without answers, thus I finally did some research on this symbols in get a better understanding on my Orthodox Christian faith.
Since I don't have a Theologian education and many of us the ordinary layman's in the church doesn't have such education I hope this orthodox Christian symbolism shared here and it's meanings will be of interest and will help you fortify your good faith in God and our Orthodox Christian faith.
Lamb: symbol of Christ as the Paschal Lamb and also a symbol for Christians (as Christ is our Shepherd and Peter was told to feed His sheep).
This symbol is also presented in Bulgaria on the little yellow book they sell in our Bulgarian Orthodox Churches.
This tiny book contains the Divine Liturgy compiled by God's inspiration by st. John Chrysostom
If you're coming from an Catholic Background and you hold interest for Orthodox Christianity, as historically East Orthodox Christianity Symbol of Faith as well as basic doctrines were kept untouched, you might consider reading online here The Divine Liturgy by St. John Chrysostom
It's really important to say that the Divine Liturgy by St. John Chrysostom is the "backbone" of the church life, since it's the main and most served Liturgy in the eastern Orthodox Churches around the world.
Dove: symbol of the The Holy Spirit and used especially in representations of our Lord's Baptism and the Pentecost. It is also used to recall Noe's dove, a harbinger of hope.
"Chi-Rho" or "sigla": the letters "X" and "P," representing the first letters of the title "Christos," were eventually put together to form this symbol for Christ ("Chi" is pronounced "Kie"). It is this form of the Cross that the Emperor of Byzantia Constantine saw in his vision along with the Greek words, TOUTO NIKA, and which mean "in this sign thou shalt conquer.
"thau" or "tau": the T-shaped cross is mentioned in the Old Testament and is seen as a foreshadowing of the Cross of Christ.
"And the Lord said to him: Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem: and mark Thau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and
mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof."
I've noticed that the tau_cross is often worn by Orthodox Monks as "a badge" on their clothes somewhere in the right of their chest
The Greek Orthodox Cross This symbol is one of the earliest Christian symbols which emerged right after Christ's resurrection.
The Greek Cross has all fours members the same shape and form (crux quadrata) and usually suggests the Christian church rather than a symbol of Christ's suffering.
Jerusalem Cross: also called the "Crusaders' Cross," it is made up of 5 Greek Crosses which are said to symbolize a) the 5 Wounds of Christ; and/or b) the 4 Gospels and the 4 corners of the earth (the 4 smaller crosses) and Christ Himself (the large Cross). This Cross was a common symbol used during the wars against Islamic aggression. (see less stylized version at right)
Baptismal Cross: consisting of the Greek Cross with the Greek letter "X", the first initial of the title "Christ," this Cross is a symbol of regeneration, hence, its association with Baptism. Usually the Orthodox priest dress is decorated with a sign like this.
The Scarlet red Egg:
Church tradition has it that St. Mary Magdalen went to Rome and met with the Emperor Tiberius to tell him about the Resurrection of Jesus. She held out an egg to him as a symbol of this, and he scoffed, saying that a man could no more rise from the dead than that egg that she held could turn scarlet. The egg turned deep red in her hands, and this is the origin of Easter eggs, and the reason why Mary Magdalen is often portrayed holding a scarlet egg.
Ichtus (Ichthys) – The Fish:
Fish: the fish — ever-watchful with its unblinking eyes — was one of the most important symbols of Christ to the early Christians. In Greek, the phrase, "Jesus Christ, Son of God Savior," is "Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter." The first letters of each of these Greek words, when put together, spell "ichthys," the Greek word for "fish" (ICQUS ). This symbol can be seen in the Sacraments Chapel of the Catacombs of St. Callistus. Because of the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the fish symbolized, too, the Eucharist (see stylized fish symbol at right). Important note to make, here is that nowdays this sign's variations is not too often to be seen in Orthodox Churches. It's highly adopted by protestant Christians, seeing this sign on somebody's car or inside his home is a sure sign that probably he adhere's to Christian teachings different from orthodoxy.
The Alpha-Omega symbol
Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, became a symbol for Christ due to His being called "the First and the Last." The roots of symbolizing these attributes of God go back further, all the way to the Old Testament where, in Exodus 34:6, God is said to be "full of Goodness and Truth." The Hebrew spelling of the word "Truth" consists of the 3 letters "Aleph," "Mem," and "Thaw" — and because "Aleph" and "Thaw" are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the ancients saw mystical relevance in God's being referred to as "Truth." At any rate, the Greek Alpha and Omega as a symbol for Christ has been found in the Catacombs, Christian signet rings, post-Constantine coins, and the frescoes and mosaics of ancient churches.
The "IC XC Nika":
comes from Ancient Greek and was a widespread ancient Christian Symbol which is nowadays still present in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. IC XC Nika literally translated to english means "IC XC = Jesus Christ, NIKA = Glory to". In other words translated to modern english IC XC NIKA means Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Many Protestant Christians, nowdays falsely believe and claims this fish Christian symbol preceded the Crucifix as a symbol of veneration of Jesus and his Cross sufferings in the Church. This kind of belief is a falsely spread along many Protestant or "Evangelical" Christian denominations and Methodists. to be seen in many ancient Christian Church buildings is a Christian symbol. Today, some ancient Orthodox Churches still contain the "Christian fish" symbol. The reason why this symbol was used by early Christians is as a remembrance of the great miracle of Jesus to feed 5000 with 2 fishes and seven breads.
The Holy Eucharist vessels used by Orthodox Priests This is the cup of salvation as also called during the Divine Liturgy each time, the Wine and the Blood that the priest prepares in that Holy Cup is transformed by The Holy Spirit into a veracious flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The byzantine coat of arms
is an ancient Christian symbol used in the early Byzantine Church, nowadays it can be observed only in the Orthodox Churches.
It symbolizes the power of the Byzantian empire under the guidance of the the Holy Lord and the Gospel Truths.
The Orthodox Bishop Crown is only worn by Bishops in the Orthodox Church. This crown indicates the Bishop's Church and spiritual (rank) and dignity.
Byzantine Orthodox or Russian Orthodox Cross
Is used most often by Eastern Catholics and Russian Orthodox, this Cross is the Byzantine Cross with the footrest at a diagonal. This slant is said to represent one of a few things:
- the footrest wrenched loose from the Christ's writhing in intense physical suffering; lower side representing "down," the fate of sinners, while the elevated side represents Heaven;
- the lower side represents the bad thief (known to us as Gestas through the apocryphal "Acts of Pilate" ("Gospel of Nicodemus") while the elevated side to Christ's right represents the thief who would be with Him in Paradise (St. Dismas);
- the "X" shape of the slanted "footrest" against the post symbolizes the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified.
The Megaloschema is a dress worn by schimonks. This monk rank is actually the highest possible rank an orthodox Christian monk can achieve. The symbolism on the dress is a brief form of:
IC XC (IECOYC XPICTOC) "Jesus Christ"
IC XC NIKA ("IECOYC XPICTOC NIKA") meaning: "Jesus Christ is Victorious"
The letters below IC XC Nika has a meaning – The Light of Christ shines on all.
XX. X.X letters. – means "Christ bestows grace on Christians"
The 4 Thitha (called) signs are a symbol for: Vision of God Divine wonder
T. K. P. G – Means "The Place of the Skull becomes Paradise"
The text placed in the lowest translated to English is "Adam – The First Man" and also is a symbol for the Place of the Skull (Golgotha).
In the Orthodox Church and the Church fathers teaches us that Golgotha or the Place of the Skull is the Place where the first man (Adam) was buried, and by God's divine providence coincides with the place where our Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified.
Orthodox Priest dress / robe
This dress is only worn by Orthodox Christian Bishops.
The Cross with four lights emitating near the center of the cross This cross is actually used in more modern times as a Christian Orthodox symbol, The four lights coming out of the cross are added,
as the gospels speak that Christ is the Sun of righteousness
I've had quite a long time trying to figure out why exactly this cross is made with this 4 lights. It was a real joy when one time a priesttold me the meaning.
It's interesting fact that most of the Roman Catholic's crosses nowdays have the four lights radiating from Christ's Crucifix or the Cross symbolizing the Crucifix.
This is all I will say for symbolism for now. I hope this Christian symbolism will shed some light on the matters of Symbolism in both the Orthodox and the Catholoic eastern Church. I'll be glad if somebody out there more literate on the subject comment on my post and correct me if I'm wrong with smething.
Bio: I am a Free Software enthusiast, hobbyist and a unix geek. Presently my competences are into the field of System administration.
I am also a devoted Orthodox Christian. I have deep interests into
religion in general and in Christianity in particular.
I am a big fan of all kind of Unix like systems like: GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, DOS and other various obscure computing. I'm also interested into philosophy and business administration.
My hobbies include playing old arcade games, trips to a new places,
preferably nature filled places, Mountain, Waterfalls, Woods etc.
In my free time I also like watching movies: Mostly spiritual movies, or movies with a deeper meaning.Currently I am a student in Arnhem Business School in the stream of HRQM (Human Resources and Quality Management).
Herein my blog you'll find mostly stuff about my unix/linux adventures, personal life, thoughts on life, religion, philosophy and art.
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