This year on 6th of May – saint George's day Church feast and army celebration in Bulgaria I had the blessing to be in a small village with 868 citizens – Jiglarci (Jeglarci). Jeglarci is situated about 40 km from Dobrich. Father Georgi from Jiglarci is a well known priest in Dobrich region. He is spiritual father of many priests, monks and nuns here in Bulgaria. This is the 3rd time I'm visiting Jiglarci one time I was on Great and Holy Friday – the day on which the Lord Jesus Christwas crucified and one time I was a few months ago with some brothers and sisters from Holy Trinity Church in Dobrich. This time I had the blessing to go fr. Georgi with my wife Svetlana with Russian family from moscow Mihail and Mariana, and Denica (a sister from Church in Dobrich).
The Church saint George in Jeglarci village
Each time I visit father Georgi I have the blessing to see and hear a living proof of God's existence. Father's Georgi from Jeglarci is famous all around Bulgaria for being one of the spiritual elders of Bulgaria. He is now 91 years old but even though his age continues his service for God (serves Holy Liturgy every day during great Lent!), continue to preach and accept dozens of people almost daily looking for spiritual advice, spiritual help, confession, or questions on how to deal with life hardship situations. Father Georgi is known in the world under the secular name Georgi Stoyanov Peev his life is full of miracles, interesting events and wondrous facts. In communism times of atheism and Orthodox Christian faith persecutions, father Georgi was one of the many priests who underwent tortures and persecutions for his faith in Christ. Because of his firm faith of zealous priest, the Lord endowed the fr. with great spiritual gifts. In short I will mention some facts about fr. Georgi From Jeglarci life as the father is an example of a living saint, very much like another Bulgarian Church Elder (Dijado) Dobri from Baylovo.
Father Georgi has been nurtured with Christian virtues since his childhood – his aunt (sister of his father) was a nun. By his own words, "Since a child, the joy of my life was in faith". Since his youth years his faith was strong and because of that God has helped him in numerous times. Fr. Georgi had 6 children 3 sons and 3 daughters. All of his sons choose the way of priesthood and are now priests in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. His nephew fr. Stoyan is also a priest in Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Dobrich. The father become priest while being 43 years old, by studying in seminary after feeing the call of God and need for firm believers and mass disbelieve in atheistic communist times. In seminary father Georgi studied together with his son. To be able to support himself and his family financially, he worked all kind of hard labour (sand mining near his village). His all life was labor and prayer in all his free time during studing he learned the church services, readhing the living of saints and holy bible.
Thanks to the house whom he turned into a small chapel almost 20 people become priests later in Bulgarian Orthodox Church. In his priesthood fr. Georgi was among the minority which opposed the ungodly communistic regime, he rejected to comply with communist desires to close the Church in Jeglarci and as a responce to their closure opened as a Church his own house. He was questioned and asked for reports being increminated from local Communist authorities, threatened with death and called in police stations many times because of his refusal to stop his service in Church and preaching the Gospel.
Here is a story of fr. Georgi's youth:
"Our Lord as a Good Father, not only listens our prayers but also reads in the hearts. In 1953 my brother Atanas was a soldier. We received a letter, that soldiers will be dismissed in January next year, this was a very long time. It was st. Dimiter's feast and I wanted my brother to be home for Christmas. At night I prayed the Lord, simple and by all my heart: "Lord for you nothing is hard or impossible. I beg you – in one way or another make it possible, that my brother Atanas to come home earlier.
I had a strong faith in God. My faith in God was so strong that I was feeling like being able to fly. In 3 days later only, when I saw my brother Atanas on the front door, my legs started shaking and I sat down, started crying and in my thoughts started giving thanks to the Lord, "Lord, Lord I'm a big sinner and what you've done for me the sinner … In a short while, my brother told me how in a human way everything ordered in a way that he was able to come home, 3 days after my prayer. When I received the letter on St. Dimiter's day I've prayed, the prayer was heard and God moved. The human mind is a spiritual substance connected with God. God orders things and we in a human way receive them. On the next day after st. Dimiter's feast the coy was gathered and the commander said, "Atanas Stoyanov Peichev, make 5 steps forward and start Marching!". Together with another man commander sent them in hospital, where a doctor had to inspect their health. The two soldiers took their luggate, foreseeing that they might be kept in hospital. The health check prooved they're healthy. There were 4 months until service completion but in hospital the doctor told them – "Come on go home. Your service is over". – Do you see how in a human way the things ordered. Disbelievers would say it was a coincidence but believers knows the Lord hears our prayers, when they're prayed by our whole being and with pure heart."
Saint George Church in Jeglarci – Altar and Dveri
Another of his stories is connected with fasting:
"The fasting of the body is a big power. It does clean up the body and draws us near God. The fasting gives a big power. I was hindered in many ways, disbelieving authorities in the village has done me many attempts to do me evil but the Lord has saved me. Didn't allowed them nothing bad to happen to me. He grant me powers, spirit to speak the truth and to not resign from righteousness. But I leave fasting …
Fasting and Prayer are lights leading to God. I was warned 3 times by our Lord about fasting significance. When we were living in North Dobrudja, following thing happened to me: " I was 15 years old. Near our village Karamankyoij a river rich of fish was flowing. One day my bigger brother cought a lot of fish from the white one. My father and all of us was tempted, we wanted eating and it was during the Great Lent. My father said, "Okay prepare the fish and let us eat, God will forgive us?" Notice he said that in faith! apostol Paul writes, 'who eat eats for the Lord and who doesn't eat- also doesn't eat for the Lord'". We have done so as well, we were big family 7-8 children, grandma, grandpa, my father, mother. Some eat others doesn't. I was in the group of those who ate. We ate and we went to bed. A sudden pain in stomach came … hard to explain. Nothing helps, a thought came to my mind: "Lord forgive me, I will no longer eat fish during fasting". The pain immediately disappeared I immediately got well.
But unfortunately I was weak. On the other day my brother prepared fish again and invited me.
– Genyo, come lets eat. – I suffered yesterday – I don't want. – Don't worry your pains was from something else not from the fish, come eat I beg you.
I was tempted and ate. We played until night time and all was well with me. In night, I fall asleep, but suddenly the pain come again, 3 times more painful. I thought I am dying, I was all sweating. My mother and grandma tried to heal me but nothing helped. Then I turned with a prayer to the Lord: "Please Lord forgive me this time also." And out of a sudden I hear a noise like from many waters coming like from heaven. Something went through me and took away the pain. There was a flash in front of my eyes. Do you see how merciful is the Lord!"
Among the many spiritual gifts of fr. Georgi is the gift of "foreseeing" (thoughts and deeds, and future). Many people who visited him later narrated the father told them things which helped them improve their spiritual life. During my first visit of the father I had the possibility to raise few questions on my spiritual life, his answers was a proove for myself that the fr. has truly the gift of sagacity. Father Georgi had many dreams during his life and many of his dreams were prophetic about future events to come. By his own words often God spoke to him in "dreams and visions". A very notable gift he has is the gift of humility and pure Godly love. He speaks in his stories about everyone including of many who tried to do him evil with profound love and forgiveness.
By prayers of father Georgi many miracles has happened, he openly speaks of this miracles, believing that through this the weak in faith are strengthened. The father says "Even if the whole earth is convincing me to deny what I saw and experienced with my spiritual eyes I will not forsake.
His humility is sincere, he says about himself: "I am just negligible mot and the miracle is not in human deed but in God's. God uses a lot simple people and through them creates miracle to edify "the smart", those which is of God is being remembered like it happened today. Wondrous are God's deeds!"
"The Spiritual deed is very hard. I have worked many kind of works, when you get tired you take a rest, and for the spirit there is no rest. What to say, how to behave, how to determine the spiritual in you, to be vigilant for your food and for body pureness for pureness of your thoughts and your heart … And of course the Prayer! This is a hard labour. The devil is trying to hit us exactly there, because in all those is the direct relationship with God. Your thought is careless, you remember "important" things, you get tired to be concentrated … And it is most harder to collect your mind and feelings and enter the heart with pure infinite faith that the Lord is with you and he hears you and then pray from all your heart and soul … So is this all easy?! And there is no end and there is no station. But once you live like this there is delight and you can't live no longer in another way …"
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 / Ð¢Ñ€Ð¾Ð¿Ð°Ñ€ÑŒ ÐšÑ€ÐµÑ‰ÐµÐ½Ð¸Ñ (Troparion The Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ in Russian)
Ð¢Ñ€Ð¾Ð¿Ð°Ñ€ÑŒ ÐšÑ€ÐµÑ‰ÐµÐ½Ð¸Ñ Ð“Ð¾ÑÐ¿Ð¾Ð´Ð½Ñ (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.
Just a day after the 3 days of Joy of Nativity, on 29-th of December, in Bulgarian Orthodox Church we remember the massacre of 14000 innocent infants in Bethlehem. Those unhuman act was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies in the Book of Prophet Jeremiah.
The murder of the 14000 infants by Herode's sent soldiers in his futile attempt to kill the new born king The Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was in a panical fear that the new born child might put him off from the throne. Being driven by his lust for power being unable to find the infant Jesus, he ordered to kill all the infants in Betlehem in age less than 2 year.
Herode, did not succeeded, as by God providence for salvation of mankind through his only begotten son Jesus Christ, sent Angel to warn for the coming of the soldiers. And the Holy Virgin Marry and saint Joseph (being around age 80 at that time) fled to Egypt.
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Matthew 2:13-15
Here is the text from the Holy Gospel according to Mathew describing the terrible act of the Holy innocents.
A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. Matthew 2:18 (KJV Holy Bible)
Today the sadness of the day is double as it is a date in which we co-memorate the killing of 14000 innocent children killed in the name of lust for power and greed as well as the usual Friday fasting we have in the Church in remembrance of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ on Golgotha cross.
The 14000 infants are considered the first baby Christian martyrs for the name of Christ. The rage of Herod fell also on Simeon the God-Receiver, who declared in witness in front of everyone in the Temple that the Messiah had been born. When the holy elder died, Herod would not give permission that he be properly buried.
On the orders of king Herod, the holy prophet and priest Zachariah also was killed: they murdered him in the Jerusalem Temple betwixt the Offertory and the Altar – because he would not tell the whereabouts of his son John, the future Baptist of the Lord Jesus Christ.
GodÅ› righteous punishment came forth quickly upon Herod himself: an horrid condition struck him down and he died – devoured by worms while still alive. Before his death the impious king accomplished full measure of his wicked deeds: he murdered chief-priests and scribes among the Jews, and also his brother by birth, and his sister and her husband, and also his own wife Mariam and three of his sons, and likewise 70 men of wisdom that were members of the Sanhedrin.
The 14000 infants are the ChurchÅ› major prayer intercessors for all children killed in abortions. The 14000 infant martyrs are great prayer intercessors for people who sinned with the sin of Abortion. Let the 14000 Holy infant Martyrs pray the Lord to have mercy on all us sinners and by their holy prayers to protect new born children from becoming a victim of abortion.
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.
Now it is my 4th day being in Pomorie Monastery with Kimba. The monastic life is not so boring as I thought back in the days 🙂 Yesterday I was drived to the Kamenar pub, by one of the workers here in the monastery (with the monastic car an old Ford); We went to the restaurant in Kamenar village with the blessing of the abbot has blessed that we go and enjoy ourselves for few hours there with a group of tourists staying for (1 or 2) weeks in the monastery.
The pub was quite a news for me as it was a nice looking place with a lounge and swimming pool, this seemed quite unusual for especially since it was located in a village with 200 or 300 hundred of people living 🙂 The village pub had even a billiard table, the coin price there was on the shocking 25 stotinki (0.13) euro cents! 🙂 In the pub came an orthodox priest dressed like a casual person and started singing some traditional old Bulgarian songs (typical for singing in the different regions in BG). The guy was really talented and his memory seem to be very strong, since he was able to sing by heart about 10 songs in a row !
Besides that the priest voice was very beautiful. When I later had a talk with the guy it appeared, he learned professional singing before he became an Orthodox priest some years ago. What really shocked me when the priest started singing in Italian Luciano Pavaroti, he sang it so well so you can hardly find out if it is not really the real authentic Luciano voice 🙂
This priest and the overall people in the pub had a great fun, as the place and people in were quite spirited; Actually I felt in a while like being in Emil Kosturica's movie 🙂 🙂 🙂
Being over with yesterday I will say few words on my monastic experience today …. The Church bell rang early in the morning to summit the monks for the early morning prayer followed by a Holy Liturgy served. The Holy Liturgy today served was a co-memoration of the feast of Saint Sergii of Radonezh.
Cause it is weekly day here there were not too many people in the monastic Church. The monastery monks were there,few other people and some Russian pilgrim woman. By the way I'm more and more being convinced that many of the Russian people are very pious oriented and have strong faith in God than us bulgarians. Sadly it appears (from my observations so far) Russians generally are richer in faith. It is sad that Russian Orthodox Christianity is stronger than ours in Bulgarian, especially when we take the fact historically Russians have received the Orthodox Chrisitian faith and language from us Bulgarians …
One of the key figure (brothers) monks Father Sergii is having a name day here, so due to that and because it is not a fasting day today (Thursday), the traditional monastic dinner was bigger and more rich than usual. Some youghurt mixed with cucumbers (Tarator) as we call it in Bulgaria was served with a little salad a few pieces of Banica and even little meat balls (for people eating meat). The Abbot of the monastery was not served meat as I heard from the cook lady he is completely abstaying from meat since about 10 years already; some of the monk brother didn't eat meat as well. The dinner started about 12:20 in the usual dinner room. For another day the food in the monastery was tasting super-delicious. It is rather interesting that the food here is more delicious than the food we usually eat at home; Probably the food is so delicious because large portion of the food on the table is monastic-grown and besides that a food blessing prayer is said everytime before eat time. Earlier times I've heard many others who visited and eat food in monasteries that the monastic food is tastier and more delicious than we ordinary people have on our tables, however I was sceptical until I experienced it myself, these days. Cause the food is so tasteful, I consume here usually twice more food than I usually eat at home 🙂
I recommend anyone who didn't eat a meal in a monastery (yet) to try this at least once in a lifetime ;;;
I've personally always hated super markets from the very early days I entered one. Here in Bulgaria we've been somehow partly lucky not to have supermarket due to the different philosophy of the communistic regime in which we lived until 1991. The philosophy of then governing communist back then was to distribute food in local middle size or small stores owned by the government. The food has to be approved by governmental body and heavily checked if it matches the governmental set standards. The variety of food we were offered in the stores was very little. Most of the small stores (which were owned by the government) only contained basic products like;;;
bread, youghurt, milk, meat, butter, lemonade, beer and few more,
This was done probably intentionally and was a result probably of our long years Orthodox Christian faith which (has saved us and preserved over the centuries). Orthodox Christianity has always teached for simplicity. Even though the communist party rejected the faith and even did severe persecution against the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The people on the top elite who were planning the communism had been a descent of an orthodox christian raised up living and therefore the philosophy of simplicity was inherited (even genetically) so the way the COM party behaved based on its leaders and the governing decisions about the nations belonging to communism (Russia, (Yugoslavia) – Serbia Koso , Bulgaria, Greece, Egypt etc.) were in a material expression in conjunction with the Christian tradition of simplicity (i say material because Orthodox Christian Church even visiting back then in the countries was usually prohibited and the Com. party did their best to ruin up the believe in Christ in people).
In communism the local suburb grocery stores, were the only "points" of distribution of food. Since buying and owning a car took at least few years of waiting and big money for it. Not more than 10 to 20% of families owned car and owning a car was considered to be granted mostly to people belonging to the then governing communistic elite or the Communist Party.
The public transportation was encouraged because according to communism so called "geometry" which was a main drive for how the systems in communistic countries should work it was estimated public transportation is cheaper and more environmental friendly than if a car is given to anyone, also public transportation (trains, bus-es) etc. did a good thing in the aim of the party to exersice higher control and surveilance over the population.
Because of that existence of big super-market was scarce and the culture to go and buy from a shop with your own family car was not existing.
The equivalent of nowdays mall shops (big retail stores) was usually located on the city center and the size of this shop was much smaller and the variety of products one can find there was only few. Hence the customer didn't have so much options to choose between, neither had to spend too much of time on choosing, the com party wanted the people to work more and buy less, so spending time in stores was not encouraged.
With the entrance of democracy and the moving up of large super-market food and good retails shops like Metro was among the first ones which entered the "freed" market. It was really a bizarre experience for us the ex U.S.S.R belonging people to enter such a large sized stores and to face such a big variety of choice.
Before that in communism we never saw such stores even on the TV, since the TV was governed by communistic party and only information which was useful for the establishment and protection of the regime was projected on the only available National TV channel.
Sorry to distract a bit from the major topic of this post, but I thought this is necessery to explain before continuing because it is important to understand that unintentinonally the communist gave us an advantage to have a different view on things than Western free world, a view which is in many things contrary and more correct (in terms of hard logic) than to Western Europe.
My first encounter with a super-market was only about 8 or 10 years ago and I believe many people who lived in the province of Bulgaria and other ex-communist countries did for a first time experience super-markets approximate 10y. ago. Though all looked so nice inside the shop and the shop emploees were so nice I always felt something very cold dead inside this big stores. Ptonsnlu my intuition (spirit) if you want has always pointed me out that there is something very wrong with this super markets.
With the increase of products on the market for us people who lived up to our 8 to 12 years (young age) in communism it was a great shock, since we were raised in a society based on some communist false ideology and suddenly the markets were opened and the products variety to choose between become extremely high. All previously said to be good and true in communism time was said to be anti-freedom and many people did their best to destroy as much as possible mostly everything somehow connected with previous communistic time. My homeland Bulgaria as a result of this become a very hard to live place and we were forced to adapt in fast paces and learn things on how we have to live like democrats for a very little short of time. One severe "damage" most of the growing people in Bulgaria in communism had was the hardness and inability to make choices. For many people between the age of 25 to 35 it is very hard to make choices even for small things. This was a direct consequence of a long years (45 years) of communist propaganda, and few generations who lived in a non-freedom respecting regime which conditioned and prepared a specific plan and place for every individual living in the country.
Seeing communism as the ultimate evil and manipulation to make us dependent we didn't know that in the free democratic world the manipulation and conditioning in society was heavy too.
"The Programming" of western society through institutions, stores and order in society was a fact and in a sense the only difference between the Democratic world and communistic world was one of the worlds seemed to have a larger frame in which the individual can work and live, whether the communistic regime seem to be more restrictive. One main thing used to condition people choices and buying behavior and make them over-consume to make the democratic economy constantly growth was big super-markets. Though they were privately owned and not like in communist country, the only drive behind each shop was PROFIT, PROFIT and agian PROFIT.
Higher profits would mean higher consumptions, higher consumptions means higher production and more work places opened as well as more expenses for working individuals would mean bigger necessity to work more and earn more, because though the sallaries incomes were high in the free world. The individual necessities there were even increasing too.
Since the about 1950s 1960s the super-markets started entering the "free" democrat countries world. As a result the small shops which were prior a main food and beverage distribution source started closing, because they couldn't be a concurrence to the big "brothers" super-markets which were able to buy higher quantities of goods in lesser price and therefore sell many of the goods in much lower prices than the little grocery stores.
The result with the years was a huge shift in people buying behavior from local groce and open markets to buy everything from the big super-markets. The big store chains had to be in a fight for customers all the time, so businesses involved started customer wars and tried their best to "steal" customers from each other. In this financial wars a main thing that most super-market chains and malls did was constant optimization of efficiency of both buying and reselling to the end customer. This is a 3 step business process actually.
1;;; They buy from the commodity producer 2;;; They prepare the food for the store (packaging, cleaning up whatever) 3;;; They put it in a certain way in the store and organize the store in a way to always sell more and more
As a result a huge number of tricks were employed by each and every super-market aiming to deceive the customer to ever buy more The deception of the client in store is very tricky and smart organized so it cannot really be called a lie but its rather a tricky smartness.
Since the super-markets entered in my country too and the tiny grocery stores are mostly closing unable to compete with the large super-market 'money making machines'. Even I am sometimes forced to buy stuff from super markets. Since here in Bulgaria the culture of purchasing from super-markets is not so strong yet. In order to be able to consume the little grocery stores. Many large super-markets started investing in making the little groceries their retail shops with their brand or (sometimes a new make up brand). By doing so the little grocery stores loose their authoritarity and independance and become dependant on the big super-market on the type of products they will sell, this obviously means this strategy of the big super-market in the long run will lead the little grocery stores we still have to ruin up. This is obvious because if the small grocery stores start selling the exact same products (brands) of the big super-markets, there will be nothing left to make the little grocery unique. Neither the variety of products choice inside or pricing will be any different from super-market. This will mean the tiny grocer will be no different from the big super-markets in terms of product and prices and therefore. The clients which now are loyal to small grocery stores like me will then have not such big motivation to buy from small super-markets, since everything inside is somehow similar (not to say) the same as with big supermarket the only difference would be the lesser variety which is obviously a good reason why the customer would definitely prefer to buy from the large supermarket …
On the videos you're about to see below, they explain some of the probably thousands of tricks nowdays existing the super-market chains employs to trick us to exponentiolly consume their goods.
Old Tricks of the SuperMarket Trade
As you can see the video is presenting a reality of the tricks which was used in the 1960 and now technology and knowledge in the field has largely increased and since they there are surely many new trick 'developments' which are working for the masses of customers daily. There is even a whole science centered on buying behaviour already existent called buyology!
Here is a short introduction to buyology to give you an idea what its purpose is:
Short introduction video on buyology – The Science of buying part 1 of 2
Short introduction video on buyology – The Science of buying part 2 of 2
Seeing all this is very precious information, since being informed one can escape the bad "tricks and traps" pawn in the markets.
All the information about the communistic regime and the 'shopping system' there was mentioned priorly because I wanted to explain a bit of the difference of then and now to point you to my opinion that the Western buying model and expectation to sell more based on the tricks are probably not working very well here in the ex-communistic countries, especially with the older generations and the one like me which somehow grow a small part of their youth in communism.
The reason is we have a different 'social programming' than westerners. Also the different spirituality (The orthodox Christian faith) plays another role. Also there is a difference in the type of buying behaviour. In Bulgaria there is no culture to buy once or twice per week. People have culture to buy daily, though this is starting to change slowly these days.
The topic is actually very huge and I'm sure what I'm saying is just the 'tip of the iceberg'. As I'm a firm opponent of big industries and large business I'm firmly against the buying from big stores any goods. The reason is that simply by doing so one makes the already RICH people even more RICHER. By increasing the richness of a certain small group of people daily, we as society are un-consciously somehow involuntarily letting them increase the financial control that is already there in some degree to the society. As democracy's main drive is money this means that by helping the large business-es marge and become even BIGGER, we're doing something against ourselves and our interests as society. I don't think that any ordinary citizen in the free world want to live in a fully controlled one World State (one world country), similar to the ex-communism I lived through, so I think people concerned about our freedoms should oppose the big businesses according to the society level they're in. Even if we're not in position to change things with money, we as society are in a position to change ourselves and our understanding of world, our desires and our behaviour. If we change our value system in a way, where money are not a top priority and the highest value the outcome will be positive in both spiritual terms and overall world state.
The modern day however wants us to falsely believe that we're divided, helpless and money dependent. This is a big delusion which we're constanty repeated. Just like with the super-market this big super-market company owners were able to convince us through time that super-market is better than the grocery stores, because of the less money spending advantage. Even if in the past there were possibility to spend less via supermarket nowdays spending less by using the supermarket instead of the small groce-store is a BIG LIE. Even if one spends less in super-market on certain products, the amount of related products he is cheated* to buy in store highly exceed the simply money one would spend on even higher priced products in the small groce. The outcome results from the super-market is also a big waste, as I lived in the west I've seen most of the households are buying more than they need, spending more than they need, cooking more food and more frequently than necessery and throughing large portions of food in the garbage (e.g. a huge amount of food waster).
If it was possible that people were aware they are buying all this non-sense food because of deception, they would have bought less, the super-markets would bought less and distribute less and the food (waster) remaining could be distributed to poor-er countries to help the starving kids and suffering people in Africa. Helping the suffering and starving, we would have helped each other as it is a nowdays well known that even on molecular level the whole world is connected, therefore helping our poorer brothers and sisters is actually helping ourselves ***
Saint Abraham the Bulgarian is an Orthodox Christian saint venerated across most Slavonic Christian dome. His co-memoration in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BPC) is on 1st of April.
What is unique about this saint is that he used to be born and grown in the tradition of the Muslim (Islam) faith and by the great providence of God he converted to the true faith of Christianity.
St. Abraham of (Bulgaria), was born in Volga Bulgaria in a community of Muslim Volga Bulgars (old Bulgarians). Nowdays Volga Bulgaria is located in Tararstan Russia. The saint used to be an islamic merchant and His martyrdom for Christ happened in March 6 (according to old Church Calendar) in year 1229.
He used to live in a very complex situation, when the islamic influence of Arabs in his motherland was quite severe. St. Abraham of Bulgaria used to be a rich man for his time, he was a merchant. Because of the trade he travelled a lot to the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Christian principalities. This give him an opportunity to get to know Christian faith little by little.
He was accustomed to a wordly life but still always accepted strangers and similar to the Old Testamental father of nations st. Abraham he's been very hospitable to poor people. By Gods grace he become convinced Muslim faith does not teach a true faith to the one God, being pointed by God himself towards the right salvation way, he accepted Jesus Christ as a Lord and Saviour being baptized and hence converting to the truthful Christian faith.
His Christian baptizmal was accepted from Russian traders, who lived nearby the place of Great Bulgar. Being baptized in the Christian faith Saint Abraham of Bulgaria not only confessed Christian faith across his fellow people, but he also led very harsh (ascetic like) life, wearing secretly below his clothes a heavy chains during his worldly travels. The profit he made from trade often he shared with the poor.Once he went for a trade to the city of Great (Bulgar) Bulgar. There he was arrested because there was a rumor, he cursed (islamic faith believed prophect) Mohammed and the muslim faith.
Muslims catched him and started convincing him to reject Christ, accusing him at a blasphemy. Abraham was not scared of muslim threats of expel and even putting to death. As Muslims failed to force him "by words" to convert back to Islam, they took him and put him in jail because of his denial of (their) Islamic faith.
In jail he was tortured but, they failed to convince him to deny Christ, seeing they have no way to convince him to accept Muslim faith once again, saint tormentors first cut his hands, then the legs and finally disgraced by his boldness and continues confession of Christ they beheaded him.
Soon afterwards the city of Bulgar was captured and burned down by the Mongols, many people in that time saw this is Gods punishment for the innocent shed blood of Abraham the Bulgar. The local Christians took his body and buried him in the Christian cemetery of the ancient city of (Bolgar) / Bulgar. On the place, where the saint was buried, a healing water spring emerged. The first man who received healing from this spring by Christ's grace was a muslim.
Great healing miracles happened on the saint grave. Local Christians took their relatives and bring them to the saints grave for a miracle healing and a prayer intercession of the saint. A rumour about the saints great graceous grave quickly spread and some people told about the miracle healing grave f st. Abraham to prince Georgi / (George) Vsevolodich.One year later again on 6th March 1230, the body of the saint was carried in the city of Vladimir, where the prince and his family, the Vladimirsk Bishop, the clergy and the local people received the holy relics of st. Abraham (of Bulgaria). The holy relics was kept in the local church "Dormition of Mother Mary" on 6th of March in the year of 1230.
The co-memoration of st. Abraham the Bulgarian is being observed in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, since very ancient times. Nowdays both Christians and Muslim celebrate the saints feast.
Interesgingly, nowdays St. Abraham the Bulgarian is venerated as a saint by both Orthodox Christians and by Muslims. Many Muslims from Turkey and other muslim countries come each year for the saints feast day to pray and ask for healing or prayer intercession to God.
Even to this very day people receive by Jesus's grace through saint Abraham the Bulgarian's prayers – a various incurable disease healings. The healings occur on the same holy spring where the saint was buried. Many people are also healed from incurrable diseases through the veneration of the incorruptable saint holy relics kept in the Church Dormition of Mother Mary.
One more year, we are into the great Lent and we're given the Grace to hear the Good tidings (Good News) handed down by Archangel Gabriel to our Virgin Lady (The Mother of God). We hear the GOOD NEWS that our Lord Jesus Christ is conceived immaculately and is to be born from the Holy Theotokos most pure body:
Here is a little part of the Gospel New Testamention reading from Luke for the day:
28 The angel went to her and said, Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. 34 How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin? 35 The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail. 38 I am the Lord’s servant, Mary answered. May your word to me be fulfilled. Then the angel left her.
This year, today's feast also coincides with the comemmoration of one great Church Father – Saint John (monk) Lestvichnik .
St. John Lestvichnik is honoured as one of our great ascetic saints across all Orthodox Christian dome. Actually Lestvichnik word (comes from ancient Bulgarian / ancient Slavonic) and is a title. st. John received the Lestvichnik title as his spiritual life was so high and up to God, like climbing from earth to Gods heavens.
The meaning of Lestvichnik is "of the Ladder". After his title name Lestvichnik was named also his greatest life work Lestvica, which translated to english means Ladder
Lestvica is a very popular ancient monks living rule (guidance text); "a true instruction for those following after invariably, and as such would be a ladder of affirmation, which would lead those wishing it to the Heavenly gates…"
Lestvica was written by st. John Lestvichnik, after a 40 years ascetic seclusion in (speachless solitude The monks spiritual instructions rules and advices work "The Ladder" bears the title Ladder described by st. John like so:
"I have constructed a ladder of ascent... from the earthly to the holy... in the form of the thirty years of age for the Lord's maturity, symbolically I have constructed a ladder of 30 steps, by which, having attained the Lord's age, we find ourselves with the righteous and secure from falling down". The purpose of this work, is to teach – that the reaching of salvation requires difficult self-denial and demanding ascetic deeds. "The Ladder" presupposes, first; 1. a cleansing from the impurity of sin – the eradication of vices and passions in the old man; second;
2. the restoration in man of the image of God. – Although the book was written for monks, any christian living in the world can receive from it the hope of guidance for ascent to God as well as get a support for better spiritual life. The Monks Theodore the Studite(Comm. 11 November and 26 January), Sergei of Radonezh (Comm. 25 September and 5 July), Joseph of Volokolamsk (Comm. 9 September and 18 October), and others – in their instructions relied on "The Ladder" as an important book for salvific guidance.
On 6th of January in our Bulgarian Orthodox Church just like in the most Christian realm, we celebrate the great feast of Theophany / Epiphany (Baptizm of our Saviour Jesus Christ in Jordan).
What exactly we celebrate is the Baptizm of our Saviour Jesus Christ in Jordan by st. John the Baptist (John the Forerunner as we call him in the church). This day is very important for us as Christians and this is why the holy fathers in the church has ordered this feast to be among the 12 most important feasts in our Church, the so called (Lords feasts).
On Theophany's day it is a rule in orthodox Church that the Great Blessing of Water is performed. The Blessing of the water and the preceding holy water from the priests blessing is taken by Church layman and we bring a little of this water to our homes to bless through that our homes.
In our Church belief the Holy Water from the Theophany feast is considered the most powerful in spiritual sense holy water as this water is the same water with which our sinless Saviour and lamb (Son) of God Jesus Christ was baptized in Jordan.
The reason why we call the feast Theophany is because God in his essence of Holy Trinity appeared clearly to mankind for a first time in Human history. Our Holy Trinity (3 essence God in one indistructable and insaparatable God – one God as God said for himself in the beginning of writtings) has revealed himself in front of all the people gathered along John the Baptist in Jordan waiting to be baptized in his three essences:
1. God the Father spoke from heaven manifesting and testifying about Jesus Christ being his beloved and only son and saviour of mankdin ,br />2. God the Son (Jesus Christ), has physically appeared to receive the baptizm to fulfill all righteousness and (the old testemential prophecies) and to begin his 3 years mission on earth.
3. God Holy Spirit) has descended from heaven on Jesus Christ in a publicly observable form of a dove
Theophany's feast is called by some english speaking orthodox christians Epiphany, but this is a term less used in orthodox christendom and much more spread in Roman Catholic one.
The Gospel readings in the church tell of the Lord's baptism by John in the Jordan River. The epistle reading of the Divine Liturgy tells of the consequences of the Lord's appearing which is the divine epiphany.
After the end of the st. Basil the Great Holy Liturgy served, the Great Blessing of Water is performed by one or more priests (depending on the number of present priests). The meaning of the blessing of the waters meaning is to show that mankind and all of God's creation, were created to be blessed and filled with the sanctifying of God's presence.
A very local unique bulgarian tradition on this number is that if the great blessings of water is performed by a priest near a river or a sea shore the cross be thrown in the water in order to bless the waters.
Then a number of brave man jump in and do a race swimming aiming to pull out the crucifixion of the water. It is believed that the one who could pull out the cross will get God's great blessings through the upcoming church year.
Let us pray trust and hope on God to also appear to us who seek him, and show us his Holy Trinity wholeness mercies just like he did himself to the people waiting for Baptizm from John the Baptist by the holy prayes of the Theotokos and his holy saints and all heavinly hosts. Amen
It is 27th of December, the 3rd day of Christmas and in those day in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church we co-memorate saint Stephen's Martyrdom.
Its a well known fact that by his martyrdom Saint Stephen become the first Christian martyr Stephen's name etymology comes from Greek (Stephanos) and translated means "Crown".
What we know from Orthodox Church's tradition is that Stephen was a very young in his age of Martyrdom probably in his 20s.
Stephen's glorious martyrdom has inspired and strengthened significantly the early seveerly hunted Church and has give a lot of courage and faith to many of our early Saint Martyrs. These early Church saints now incesently pray to God to have mercy on our earthly Church. Its not much known fact St. Stephen held a rank in the early Church clergy, he was a HieroDeacon. Hierodeaconism in our church is considered the maximum rank of deaconship one can have just before he is ordained for a Priest.
St. Stephen was burning for love in Christ and had a strong faith in God, turning many Jewish to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He has shown the truth way to many by teaching them, how to properly interpret the Old Testament (Ancient Jewish) writtings. He explained to many jewish, how all the old scriptures testify about the coming of the Messiah (Christ), which will save all who believe in his name from sins hell damnation. As Jewish looked for ways to shutter any kind of preaching of the Gospel and kill Christianity, they saw Stephen as a big enemy just like all Christians in those early days. Therefore they looked for ways to accuse him and execute them and end up the large numbers of jewish people converting from Jewism to Christianity The whole story of stoning (execution) of st. Stephen is described in the Holy Scriptures in the book called Acts of the Apostles
As he was about to die, Stephen looked up to heaven and said;
"Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." Then, as he was being stoned, he cried out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.".Our Beloved saints last words were, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." manifesting his saintship and deep Christ love even during his last moments of earthly living. St. Stephen is celebrated in almost all West Roman Catholic Church and in Anglicans. Churches who co-mmemorate the great saint are located in all around the world. St. Stephen is also considered a patron saint of Republika Sprska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) Stephen's name later probably become the origin name for western's so popular Steven name).
Saint Stephen's Byzantine Icon from the 11th Century
Let by the Holy Prayers of St. Stephen God have mercy on the Church and increase our faith and mercies to us sinners.
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