The perception of beauty

The recent questions about knowing God – which I have described as something that often comes to me in the “peripheral vision” of my life – seems somehow related to the perception of beauty as well. Beauty often seems to be “greater than the sum of its parts.” We see beauty not simply by looking at a thing – but by seeing it. Many people look at icons – a rightly prepared heart is required in order to see an icon. Beauty is not an object to be manipulated – but always a gift and a wonder to be venerated. So, too, our knowledge of God. Thus the knowledge of God seems radically different than the knowledge we gain by the exercise of our rational faculty. God cannot be mastered or measured. Even though He has given us words to express Him – He cannot be contained in the words. As the Fathers of the 7th Council said, “Icons do with color what Scripture does with words.” I would suggest that it is also true that Scripture does with words what icons do with color. With that – some brief thoughts on beauty. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

St Leo the Great: Sermon on the Nativity, I

The Nativity of Christ. 8th century Byzantine icon at Saint Catherine’s Monastery (Mount Sinai).

I. All share in the joy of Christmas.

Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fulness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin. Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, «no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth.» (Job xix. 4.) Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body. And lest in ignorance of the heavenly counsel she should tremble at so strange a result, she learns from converse with the angel that what is to be wrought in her is of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she believe it loss of honour that she is soon to be the Mother of God (Lat. Dei genetrix, Gk θεοτόκος). For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her implicit faith is confirmed also by the attestation of a precursory miracle, and Elizabeth receives unexpected fertility: in order that there might be no doubt that He who had given conception to the barren, would give it even to a virgin.

II. The mystery of the Incarnation is a fitting theme for joy both to angels and to men.

Therefore the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God who «in the beginning was with God,» through whom «all things were made» and «without» whom «was nothing made,» (S. John i. 1–3) with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became man: so bending Himself to take on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty, that remaining what He was and assuming what He was not, He might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and join both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate.Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality: and for the paying off of the debt, belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other.

Rightly therefore did the birth of our Salvation impart no corruption to the Virgin’s purity, because the bearing of the Truth was the keeping of honour. Such then beloved was the nativity which became the Power of God and the Wisdom of God even Christ, whereby He might be one with us in manhood and surpass us in Godhead. For unless He were true God, He would not bring us a remedy, unless He were true Man, He would not give us an example. Therefore the exulting angel’s song when the Lord was born is this, «Glory to God in the Highest,» and their message, «peace on earth to men of good will.» (S. Luke ii. 14.) For they see that the heavenly Jerusalem is being built up out of all the nations of the world: and over that indescribable work of the Divine love how ought the humbleness of men to rejoice, when the joy of the lofty angels is so great?

III. Christians then must live worthily of Christ their Head.

Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit, Who «for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us,» has had pity on us: and «when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ,» (Eph. ii. 4, 5) that we might be in Him a new creation and a new production. Let us put off then the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh. Christian, acknowledge thy dignity, and becoming a partner in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct. Remember the Head and the Body of which thou art a member. Recollect that thou wert rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God’s light and kingdom. By the mystery of Baptism thou wert made the temple of the Holy Ghost: do not put such a denizen to flight from thee by base acts, and subject thyself once more to the devil’s thraldom: because thy purchase money is the blood of Christ, because He shall judge thee in truth Who ransomed thee in mercy, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Source: http://westernorthodoxchristian.blogspot.com/2009/01/st-leo-great-sermon-on-nativity-i.html

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (feast day 23 August)

A modern-day Byzantine Orthodox icon of St Irenaeus.

A modern-day Byzantine Orthodox icon of St Irenaeus.

Information as to his life is scarce, and in some measure inexact. He was born in Proconsular Asia, or at least in some province bordering thereon, in the first half of the second century; the exact date is controverted, between the years 115 and 125, according to some, or, according to others, between 130 and 142. It is certain that, while still very young, Irenaeus had seen and heard the holy Bishop Polycarp (d. 155) at Smyrna. During the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, Irenaeus was a priest of the Church of Lyons. The clergy of that city, many of whom were suffering imprisonment for the Faith, sent him (177 or 178) to Rome with a letter to Pope Eleutherius concerning Montanism, and on that occasion bore emphatic testimony to his merits. Returning to Gaul, Irenaeus succeeded the martyr Saint Pothinus as Bishop of Lyons. During the religious peace which followed the persecution of Marcus Aurelius, the new bishop divided his activities between the duties of a pastor and of a missionary (as to which we have but brief data, late and not very certain) and his writings, almost all of which were directed against Gnosticism, the heresy then spreading in Gaul and elsewhere. In 190 or 191 he interceded with Pope Victor to lift the sentence of excommunication laid by that pontiff upon the Christian communities of Asia Minor which persevered in the practice of the Quartodecimans in regard to the celebration of Easter. Nothing is known of the date of his death, which must have occurred at the end of the second or the beginning of the third century. In spite of some isolated and later testimony to that effect, it is not very probable that he ended his career with martyrdom. His feast is celebrated on 28 June in the Latin Church, and on 23 August in the Greek. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

EXCLUSIVE: Religious artifacts in Cyprus in ‘great peril’

Icon from Cyprus

The Washington Times
By Julia Duin

Originally published 04:45 a.m., July 21, 2009, updated 06:22 a.m., July 21, 2009

Religious artifacts on the divided island of Cyprus are in «great peril,» according to a U.S. Helsinki Commission document to be released Tuesday afternoon.

Thousands of Orthodox icons, manuscripts, frescoes and mosaics have been looted from churches, chapels and monasteries in northern Cyprus, ending up on international auction blocks, says the document, the result of a lengthy investigation by the Helsinki Commission and titled «Destruction of Cultural Property in the Northern Part of Cyprus and Violations of International LawΔιαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

The Orthodox Church

The Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria.

One of the three branches of world Christianity and the major Christian Church in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, the Orthodox Christian Church, also sometimes called the Eastern Church, or the Greek Orthodox, or Orthodox Catholic Church, claims to have preserved the original and apostolic Christian faith. Figures for its worldwide membership range from 100 to 200 million, depending on the method of accounting.

Structure and Organization Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

St. Hypatius, St. Jonah, Martyr Audas and Venerable Apollonius

St. Nicholas Velimirovich – The Prologue from Ohrid

1. THE PRIESTLY-MARTYR HYPATIUS THE BISHOP OF GANGRA

St. Hypatius with scenes from his life. Russian icon of the first half of the 15th century. Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery.

St. Hypatius with scenes from his life. Russian icon of the first half of the 15th century. Moscow, Tretyakov Gallery.

Hypatius was born in Cilicia and was the bishop of Gangra. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325. A.D.] and was renowned throughout because of his pious and saintly life and his miracle-working. The Emperor Constantius ordered that a likeness of Hypatius be made during the saint’s lifetime. The emperor kept this likeness in his palace as a weapon against all adverse powers. Once upon returning from Constantinople, Hypatius was attacked in a narrow gorge by Novatian heretics and, along with others, was hurled to the ground in mud. At that moment a woman from that group struck him in the head with a stone and, thus, the saint died. Immediately that woman went insane and took that same stone and struck herself with it. When they took her to the grave of St. Hypatius, he interceded before God on her behalf. She was healed by the great compassionate soul of Hypatius and lived the remainder of her life in repentance and prayer. St. Hypatius died and took up habitation in the eternal Kingdom of Christ the God, in the year 326 A.D. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »