Posts Tagged ‘midst’

Some of the most important Symbols for Orthodox Christians in The Eastern Orthodox Church – Symbols in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Faith (Eastern Orthodox Symbolism) and Christian Symbolism in the Roman Catholic Church (Symbolism in Western Catholicism)

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Reading Time: 9minutes

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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, theArmenian 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 of God Christian Symbol
Lamb

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 and Russian Patriarch
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.

Chirchoao, Chi-Rho Sigla
"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.

Orthodox Tau Cross
"thau" or "tau": the T-shaped cross is mentioned in the Old Testament and is seen as a foreshadowing of the Cross of Christ.
Ezechiel 9:4:
"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

Greek Orthodox Cross
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
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
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.

Red Orthodox Egg
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.

Ichthus an early Christian Symbol
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.

Alpha Omega orthodox symbol
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.

IC XC Nika Orthodox Symbol
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.

Holy Eucharist Cup, Bread and Wine

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.

Orthodox Byzantine Coat of Arms
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.

Orthodox Bishop Crown
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 Cross
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.

Megaloschema a dress of a schimonk
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

Then the

  • T. K. P. G – Means "The Place of the Skull becomes Paradise"
  • The text placed in the lowest translated to English is "AdamThe 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 Bishop Dress
Orthodox Priest dress / robe
This dress is only worn by Orthodox Christian Bishops.

Bulgarian Orthodox cross with 4 lights
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.

Thomas Sunday – The day of Disbelievers

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Reading Time: 4minutes

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A week passed since we Christian celebrated Resurrection of Christ (Pascha). Each year on first Sunday after Easter in orthodox Church is celebrated the so called Thomas Sunday. So why is it called Thomas Sunday and why it is the day of disbelievers?
The root of this ancient Christian feast comes after commemoration of Christ desciple St. Thomas who disbelieved the testimony of ( 10 apostles ) and the Virgin Mary  that Jesus Christ is Risen from the Death.

The disbelieve of Thomas was logical and human cause even though Thomas was with the Apostleswith Christ for 3 years, saw all Jesus miracles and shared the Secret Supper (Last Supper), and even knew in advance (heard by Jesus on Last supper) that Jesus will betrayed mocked, hanged on the Cross and Rise from the death on the third day, he disbelieved.

Thomas Sunday (Sundy of Thomas) is "the day of Disbelievers", because all are disbelievers in moments of their life not only those who believe God but all the humanity!  Even the most faithful Christian, be it a deacon, monk or priest has difficult moments in life where God's existence or providence for one's faith is seriously questioned.
The fallen nature of man is such that the initial belief in God given to man in Eden (Paradise garden) is broken, and only in Jesus's name through the Gift of Faith given by the Holy Spirit, believe in God is restored.

Thomas very much like unto everyone of us doubted the rumors of Christ resurrection and said he would only believe in Resurrected Christ only if he sees his hands nails print and put his fingers into Christ’s wounds to test he is not seeing a Ghost but Christ is alive in a body after his death.

Here is the Gospel reading re-telling the story in short:

“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” (John 20:19)

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:24-26)

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

We Christians should be joyful for have not seen Christ in Flesh but have believed for we are blessed for his believe without seeing.

By same faith in God without seeing him even in old times the Jews were led by the Lord God in the desert have won wars by their believing without seeing God, prophets has prophecised, Simeon (The God receiver) hold The Savior (Christ) in his hands, by faith David won the battle with Goliath, by faith we understand the universe was formed at God’s command, by faith we know that the visible came out of the invisible.

o Kyrios mou kai o Theos mou (Greek) – My Lord and my God (Jn. 20:28) this declaration of faith clearly shows an unexpressable excitement of Thomas and his unexpectency to see Christ resurrected. Here it is interesting that here the son of God Jesus Christ is called by Thomas exactly how Jewish used to call God Yahweh (One and Only God) in the Old testament.

Today the evangical story is very accurate for our generation – a generation of disbelievers, even we who say we believe often doesn’t justify our believe with our deeds, we say we believe but we don’t keep God’s commandment “to love God and our neigbor like ourselves.” Often only difference between believers and disbelievers is on Sunday we believers visit Church and “play Christians”, but even but in daily life our deeds are same like unbelievers. Often many are disbelievers not because they reject God but because they never heard the Gospel or misheard it, also we disbelieve because we’re very much like st. Thomas, we often say “I will believe in God if I see him”, but even Thomas who saw God before the Crucifix and knew him disbelieved – a proof that often seing once could still leave space for doubt. The glorious event of Christ showing himself Alive to Thomas was made by Christ to establish the Church and strengthen faith of first Christians in resurrection. Nowadays there are plenty of people who question God’s existence saying that they will believe if they see but they’re not given to see the resurrected Christ because God knows that even if we see the Lord Jesus Christ resurrected we would try to rationally explain the phenomenon with holograms, modern technology or science.

Thomas Sunday is not only a day of Thomas disbelieve it is a day of disbelieve of all humanity. , St. Thomas should be an example even to all of us Christian disbelievers and non-believers that even if we disbelieve and doubt and strive to see God, He is powerful to come and appear Resurrected in His Glory to our souls.
Let us therefore have the Wisdom of the Holy Apostles and say together with them “Lord, Increase our faith.” Luke 17:5

Ancient Christian Coptic Oriental Orthodox icons – The reason for asymmetric body members in early Christian iconography

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Reading Time: 5minutes

While checking some information on Coptic Eastern Oriental faith, I've stumbled upon a very beautiful (and unique) ancient Orthodox Christian icon depicting Saint Menas and our saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, below is the very beautiful icon

Saint Mena (Sv. Mina) and The Lord Jesus Christ icon from 6th century

Saint Mena (Sv. Mina) and The Lord Jesus Christ icon from 6th century

As you can see the iconography is very interesting, the images differ from modern day iconography the portraits are not looking so serious but looks like "childish". This childish forms and faces on the early Christian iconography is not accidental; it expresses the childish like pure faith our Christian devoted ancestors had. This early Christian faith and spiritual life icon is obviously in conjunction with our Saviour Jesus Christ words as red in the Gospel according to Matthew:
 

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

Matthew 18:1-5

This icon as well as the early Christian icons are very different from nowdays iconography probably for reason;
the images difference, the seriousness and the lack of brightness in the faces of nowdays iconography is a clear sign of the great decay of both Orthodox Christian as well as the down-fall of spiritual life worldly.
I've seen similar childish looking image icons in some Bulgarian ancient relics museums in my child years and always thought the depictions are so kiddish because iconographers of that time did not have the painting knowledge and skills to draw better ones.
Now as I know Christianity much better than then, I understand my previous assumption for the reason of the kiddish looking images is wrong.
Saint Mena (Sv. Mina) and The Lord Jesus Christ icon from 6th century

Very interesting in the early Christian iconography are the shapes. If you take a close look to above icon, you will notice the disparity of the two body members; the hands, head and eyes are unusually big. My guess for the lack of correspondence of body members is the attempt of early iconographers to put accent on most important members of our bodies;

– The head (holding the mind and thoughts of the saints)
– The hands through which the daily food is raised and the eyes through which the world is comprehended are much bigger than in a real person portrait.
– The mouth which is almost the size of the eyes; obvious reference that for early Christian contemplating was much more precious (important) thing, than speech.
This is also in accordance with the New Testament holy scriptures which says like so concerning the tongue:
 

8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?
12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs?
Nor can salt water produce fresh.

Notice also the Halos of the two saints, the size of the halos is almost one third of the whole body of the saints. The Gospel hold by our and all humanity Saviour Jesus Christ is also enormous sized; corresponding almost the height of the arm of Christ on the icon.
The size of the Gospel stresses out the importance of the Holy Bible writtings for early Christians. Nowdays the size of Gospels or Holy Bible especially among protestant Churches "tradition" is becoming smaller and smaller following the spirit of the time proclaiming mobility …

Today the iconography Orthodox Christian "school" has severely changed and the icon images are much more complicated than in ancient times.
The complication of images and elements on Orthodox Icons is a "mirror" of the internal complicated world of us modern-time Christians. This over-complication of our internal spiritual world, does separate us from God instead of uniting us as it is well known in Holy Orthodox Christian tradition God is best known through simplicity and pureness in life thoughts and actions.

The Coptic Oriental Orthodox Church is the only Church, where there is still iconographers drawing in the style of the ancient times childish looking icons. The reason Copts preserved this ancient iconography is that they have conservated big portion of the ancient faith rejecting the decisions of all 7 Orthodox Ecumenical Church Councils. Copts still accept only ecumenical council decisions up to the III-rd ecumenical council. This is also the reason why Eastern Oriental Orthodox Christians are considered not in official communion with the rest of Eastern Orthodox Churches. I had the opportunity by God's grace to meet an Coptic Orthodox Christian (a guy called Baky); From what I've seen and experienced within the few months with Baky my conclusion is Coptic Orthodox layman faith is much stronger than the one in most of other Orthodox Christians I know. The official standpoint of our Eastern Orthodox Church concerning the copts are that they're in heresy and not really orthodox. I'm not sure if this is really true, since I have spend few months with this Coptic Christian brother this autumn and winter and from what I've seen and heard as well as researched on coptic Orthodox it seems their overall Church teaching, Holy Liturgies and everything is very much orthodox (with very little service and faith differences). Here are few beautiful Coptic Orthodox Christian icons still being drawn in the spirit of early days Christianity.

Saint Abba Anthony the Great Coptic Oriental orthodox Icon

Abba (saint) Anthony the Great the father of Orthodox Christian Monastic Life

Coptic Orthodox Oriental Icon Abba Anthony and saint Paul

Coptic Orthodox Oriental Icon of Saint Anothony the Great – "the founder" of Monastic life

Coptic Oriental Orthodox Icon Tobias old testamential Book story

Tobias Old Testamential Story coptic icon

Holy Family Flight into Egypt Coptic Orthodox Icon

Holy Family – Flight into Egypt Coptic Orthodox oriental icon

Christ the Saviour Coptic Oriental Orthodox icon

Christ the Saviour – Coptic Oriental Orthodox icon

Holy Theotokos Coptic Oriental Orthodox icon

Holy Theotokos Coptic Oriental icon

Saint Athanasius defender of pure orthodoxy Oriental Orthodox icon

Saint Athnasius coptic orth icon

The Dormition of Holy Theotokos Mother Mary Coptic Orthodox Oriental Icon

The Dormition of Virgin Mary Coptic icon