Apologetics 2.3: Iconography Pt.2

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In the words of my priest: “If you deny the use of icons, you deny the Incarnation of Christ.” How is this so? Because Jesus Christ, in the flesh, is the perfect Icon of the Father. 

Proof:
John 12:45 – “He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me”
John 14:6-10 – “‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?’”

Hebrews 1:3 – “the brightness of His glory and the express image [eikon] of His person, upholding all things by the word of His power” 


Collisions 1:15 – “He is the image [eikon] of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

The holy father St. John of Damascus teaches the following: “If the Word of God truly took flesh, He could be depicted in images … In the old days, the incorporeal and infinite God was never depicted. Now, however, when God has been seen clothed in flesh and talking with mortals, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter; I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honoring that matter which works my salvation.”

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The following Anathemas are taken from an 1111 edition of the Synodikon by a monk of the Monastery of Oleni in Moroea. “On every innovation and action contrary to the tradition of the Church, and the teaching and pattern of the holy and celebrated Fathers, or anything that shall be done after this: Anathema!… On those who accept with their reason the incarnate economy of God the Word, but will not allow that this can be beheld through images, and therefore affect to receive our salvation in words, but deny it in reality: Anathema!

Those who apply the sayings of the divine Scripture that are directed against idols to the august icons of Christ our God and his saints: Anathema!

Those who share the opinion of those who mock and dishonor the august icons: Anathema!

Those who say that Christians treat the icons like gods: Anathema!

Those who dare to say that the Catholic Church has accepted idols, thus over-throwing the whole mystery and mocking the faith of Christians: Anathema!”

Thus, one cannot be a Christian and reject iconography, otherwise, one would have to reject the Incarnation in which is a heretical conclusion.

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Freemasonry and the Crises in the Catholic Church

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To understand why the Catholic Church is in the crises that it is in as a result of poor catechesis, bad clergy, modernized liturgies etc; we must first take into consideration that the Catholic Church has an archenemy: the Freemasons.

The Freemasons are a secret society in which has plotted against the Catholic Church since it came into existence in the 14th – 15th century. The Freemasons promote heresies such as the denial of revealed dogma, naturalism, liberation theology, rationalism, universalism etc. Pope Pius XII taught: “..the roots of modern apostasy lay in scientific atheism, dialectical materialism, rationalism, illuminism, laicism, and Freemasonry; which is the mother of them all…” (May 23, 1958 A.D.)

Countless times throughout history, the Freemasons have tried to destroy the church from outside by persecuting it with force; examples being the French Revolution and the Cristero War. (Note: The newly Masonic government of Mexico was funded by the USA to destroy the Church in the country in order to establish a secular state). Since these persecutions did not work in regards to destroying the church (with the Cristero war coming later), Pope Leo XIII received a letter titled the “Alta Vendita” by the highest ranking Masonic lodge of Italy, warning that they would attack the Church from within by bribing clerics to spread error. (Even hiring their own members to become clerics to continue spreading heresy from inside the church).

The document also mentions how they even have a plot to abuse the Papal office by pushing for a Pope that will do what they desire; spread error from the top! “That which we ought to demand, that which we should seek and expect, as the Jews expected the Messiah, is a Pope according to our wants.” (section XIX, 1st half of the 19th century — emphasis added). You can imagine the fear that was installed into poor Pope Leo XIII, which explains why he warned against freemasonry more than any other Pope: Custodi di Quella Fede & Humanum Genus being only a couple examples.

Hence, the Catholic Church has anathematized the society, and declared that Catholics in which join the society are de facto excommunicated. Canon 1917, 2335: “Those who join a Masonic sect or other societies of the same sort, which plot against the Church or against legitimate civil authority, incur ipso facto an excommunication simply reserved to the Holy See”. In the 17th century, before Freemasonry was even publicly known to the world since its first lodges were established in the 18th century in London; Our Lady of Good Success in Ecuador warned that the Freemasons would attack the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church. She is called the “Queen of Prophets” for a reason!

“As for the Sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolises the union of Christ with His Church, it will be attacked and deeply profaned. Freemasonry, which will then be in power, will enact iniquitous laws with the aim of doing away with this Sacrament, making it easy for everyone to live in sin and encouraging the procreation of illegitimate children born without the blessing of the Church.” (June 21st, 1610). Even though this is the unfortunate reality of what is going on in the Church, and in the world, we should not be afraid and loose hope. Instead, we should simply pray for the sanctification of our own souls, pray for our clerics, stay in the state of grace, stay close to the sacraments, learn our faith, and preserve Catholic orthodoxy. Remember; God is in charge. God bless.

Do not despise the poor!

A new gospel is being taught in this capitalist and materialist society we live in: “The rich are not obliged to help the poor.” As Catholics, we cannot hold such views since these contradict the Church’s teaching on the Corporal Works of Mercy. (Matt 25:34-45).

Scripture teaches: 

1 John 3:17 – “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Proverbs 14:31 – “He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker: but he that honors him has mercy on the poor.”

Proverbs 28:27 – “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”
Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

(Note: To refuse helping the poor willingly can lead to damnation: See – Luke 16:22-24, Matt 25:41-46).

Church Fathers: 

St. Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”

St. John Chrysostom – “The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally.”

The Didache – “Share everything with your brother. Do not say, “It is private property.” If you share what is everlasting, you should be that much more willing to share things which do not last.”

Pope Pius X – “I was born poor, I lived in poverty, I wish to die poor.”

Is the priest ‘turning his back’ on the people?

There is a common myth that has spread throughout the Latin Church, and unfortunately in Latinized Eastern Catholic Churches, that claims that the reason why the priest used to pray “facing away from the people” was so that the congregation would not feel worthy to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice. Therefore, Vatican 2 came to change that in order to fulfill its request to have “active participation.”

While we will not cover the details of what “active participation” truly meant in its proper context, we will give details in regards to why the Church originally prays facing Eastward.

It is Biblical: All throughout scripture, it is suggested that we pray towards the East. Examples from the Old Testament include Ezekiel 43:4 in where he saw the glory of God coming from the East:

“And the glory of the Lord came into the house, by the way of the gate looking eastward:”

In ancient Jewish worship of the New Testament, it was commanded that the ancient liturgy which prefigured the eternal Divine Liturgy of the New Testament face East:

“And if the prince should prepare as a thanksgiving a whole-burnt-peace-offering to the Lord, and should open for himself the gate looking eastward, and offer his whole-burnt-offering, and his peace-offerings, as he does on the sabbath-day; then shall he go out, and shall shut the doors after he has gone out.” (Eze 46:12).

Therefore, the Church is continuing in the practices of it’s Jewish heritage. Not only that, it is also facing East to face Christ Himself.

“For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27)

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” (Mat 2:1-2)

“…Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) Note: Christ Ascended on the Mount of Olives, and when He returns, He will be on a cloud coming from the East. (Luke 21:27).

You may be asking: “But didn’t Jesus face the apostles during the Last Supper, the very first Divine Liturgy?” In response, the ancient Jewish tables all had dinner on the same exact side to provide access for the servers, therefore Jesus sat on the same side as the Apostles.

St. John Damascus further explains in Book IV, Chapter 12 why we pray towards the East:

“It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East. But seeing that we are composed of a visible and an invisible nature, that is to say, of a nature partly of spirit and partly of sense, we render also a twofold worship to the Creator; just as we sing both with our spirit and our bodily lips, and are baptized with both water and Spirit, and are united with the Lord in a twofold manner, being sharers in the Mysteries and in the grace of the Spirit.

Since, therefore, God is spiritual light, and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship. For everything good must be assigned to Him from Whom every good thing arises. Indeed the divine David also says, Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord: to Him that rideth upon the Heavens of heavens towards the East. Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed: and when he had transgressed His command He expelled him and made him to dwell over against the delights of Paradise, which clearly is the West.

So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland.

Moreover the tent of Moses had its veil and mercy seat towards the East.

Also the tribe of Judah as the most precious pitched their camp on the East.

Also in the celebrated temple of Solomon, the Gate of the Lord was placed eastward.

Moreover Christ, when He hung on the Cross, had His face turned towards the West, and so we worship, striving after Him.

And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven; as the Lord Himself said, As the lightning cometh out of the East and shineth even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be.

So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten.”

‘The Liturgical Year according to The Byzantine Tradition’ by Byzantine Seminary Press

“The liturgical year is a system of yearly church celebrations by which the faithful repeatedly relive the salutary mysteries of their salvation. In the liturgical year Our Lord Jesus Christ continues to live with us, to teach us, and to lead us to our heavenly destination.

The liturgical year, like a beautifully painted iconostasis (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, N. 14), again and again places before our eyes Christ’s sublime work of redemption in order to keep us intimately united in our Divine Redeemer. It inspires us and gradually forms a living Christ in us “until we become perfect man” (Eph. 4:13). It is indeed “a year of grace”, a year of God’s favor.

1.

The Church follows the computation of time according to the civil calendar year. However, in the Byzantine rite, the liturgical year begins on September 1st, while the Western Churches begin their liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent.

The Byzantine Church inaugurated the first of September as the beginning of the liturgical year in honor of the victory of Emperor Constantine the Great (d. 337 A.D.), over his adversary, Emperor Maxentinus, in 312 A.D. Prior to Constantine, Christianity was constantly exposed to persecution. But with Constantine’s victory, as attested by St. Ambrose (d. 397 A.D.), the Church began a new life.

The liturgical year in the Byzantine Church ends with the feast of the Beheading of St, John the Baptist (August 29), with whom the Old Testament also concludes. The New Testament, liturgically symbolized by the New Year, begins with the preaching of Our Lord, as indicated by the Evangelist; “After John’s arrest Jesus appeared in Galilee, proclaiming the good news: – The time has come and the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14-15). Hence the liturgical year is often referred to as “a year of salvation.”

The liturgical year is inaugurated by the message of the Prophet Isaiah, which Jesus applied to Himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news, to announce a year of grace (favor) from the Lord” (Lk. 4:16-19). In this way the beginning of the liturgical year symbolizes the beginning of the New Testament, inaugurated by the preaching of the gospel (good news) in the Person of Jesus Christ, Anointed One of God.

2.

From the earliest Apostolic times the Christians were convinced that they must celebrate the saving work of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by recalling the salutary mysteries of salvation on certain days of the year. The starting point was the weekly commemoration of Christ’s Resurrection on Sunday. Thus Sunday for Christians became – The Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10), supplanting the Sabbath of the Old Testament. Every week on Sunday the Christians commemorated the Resurrection of Christ by the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, referred to by the Acts as “the breaking of bread” (Acts 20:7). The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, compiled at the turn of the first century, admonished the faithful: “On the Lord’s Day, after you come together, break bread and offer the Eucharist” (14,1).

The early Church, commemorating the Resurrection of Christ every Sunday, did not neglect the yearly commemoration of the glorious event and, from the early days, celebrated the Feast of Easter with great solemnity. As a matter of fact Easter became the core of the liturgical year and was referred to as “The Feast of feasts and Solemnity of solemnities.”

3.

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In the early centuries there arose a heated controversy as the date of the celebration of Easter. The question was finally resolved at the First Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) when it was determined that Easter had to be celebrated every year on the first Sunday, following the full moon after the spring of equinox. According to this rule, the earliest date upon which Easter can be celebrated is March 22, and at the latest, April 25. But it always must be on Sunday.

Since the date of Easter changes from year to year, the Sundays, the holy seasons and the festivals that depend on Easter form the so called – Cycle of the Movable Feasts. The Movable or Easter Cycle begins four weeks before Lent with the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, and serves as a liturgical preparation for that Holy Season.

The Great Lent, in preparation for Easter, starts on the Monday after Cheese Fare Sunday (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n.13). The sixth Sunday of Lent, called Palm Sunday in commemoration of Christ’s solemn entrance into Jerusalem (Jn. 12:12-19), introduces us into the Passion or the Holy Great Week, during which we relive the sufferings and the death of our Lord, endured for our salvation. Then, on Easter Sunday, we suddenly burst into the joyous celebration of Christ’s glorious Resurrection.

On the 40th day after Easter we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, commemorating the Ascent of our Lord to Heaven. (Lk. 24:50-53). Ten days later, i.e. on the fiftieth fay after Easter, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost in commemoration of the descent of the Holy Spirit, when the Church was solemnly inaugurated. (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n.3).

Pentecost is followed by the series of 32 Sundays, indicated by successive numbers, the first of which is called All Saints Sunday. The Easter Cycle of the movable feasts ends with the 32nd Sunday after Pentecost, known as the Sunday of Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10).

4.

The second cycle which influenced the formation of the liturgical year is – the Cycle of the Immovable Feasts, at the center of which we find the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, celebrated since the turn of the fourth century, on the 25th of December (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n.5). These feasts are called – immovable because, unlike the feasts of the Easter Cycle, they fall on the same day of the month every year and their date never changes.

Eight days after Christmas, on January 1, we celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision and the naming of the Child Jesus, as indicated by Scripture (Lk. 2:21). On Febuary 2, forty days after Christ’s birth, we solemn commemorate the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, N. 12). The Feast of the Annunciation, known in the early days as the Conception of Our Lord, is observed nine months before Christ’s nativity, that is on the 25th of March.

One of the most ancient feasts of this cycle is celebrated on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ’s Divinity at His baptism, commemorated by the solemn Blessing of the Water on that day (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n.9). Then on August 6th we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Transfiguration (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n.18). Finally, on the 14th of September we commemorate the finding of the instrument of our salvation by St. Helen (d. 333 A.D.), as we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n. 8).

Thus, our Church, through the annual celebration of the Lord’s feasts, repeatedly unfolds to us the riches of Christ’s merits and salutary graces.

5.

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In celebrating the mysteries of our salvation we cannot exclude the Holy Mother of God (Theotokos), since she played an important role in the economy of our salvation. And we are happy to know that precisely the Byzantine Rite is characterized by its high esteem and veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Already at the beginning of the liturgical year, on September 8th, we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, sine Mary’s birth signaled “the beginning of our salvation” (cf. Sticheria of Litia). In connection with Mary’s birth, since the eighth century, we celebrate the Feast of the Conception of the Mother of God, recently referred to as the Immaculate Conception. (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n. 36).

At the beginning of the 10th century the Feast of the Patronage of the Mother of God was introduced which with time became a great inspiration to the Ruthenian people in their filial devotion to the Blessed Mother of God (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n. 1). Since the 8th century we also celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Mother of God in the Temple. (November 21st).

There are several minor feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but the liturgical year ends with the oldest Marian feast, the Dormition, known in the Western Church as the Assumption. It is solemnly celebrated to the present time of the 15th of August (cf. Byzantine Leaflet Series, n. 11).

6.

The Church Fathers also included the commemoration of many Martyrs and other Saints in the liturgical year. The II Vatican Council reminds us that the Martyrs and Saints, being “raised to holiness by abundant graces of God and already in possession of their eternal salvation, sing constant praises to God in heaven and offer prayers for us” (cf. Decree on the Liturgy, n. 104). By celebrating the passage of the Saints from the earth to heaven, the Church also proposes them to us as so many examples of genuine Christian living.

The veneration of the Saints has a similar purpose. This began in the first century, first the Veneration of the Martyrs and then of the Apostles. Soon other Saints were added. Between the fourth and fifth centuries the veneration of the Saints became a general practice, ceding the first place of St. John the Baptist (after the Blessed Mother and the Angels), in view of Christ’s testimony: “There is no one greater than John!” (Lk. 7:28). The Saints usually are commemorated on the anniversary of their death, since the departure of those “that died in the Lord” (Romans 14:8) was considered by the Christians as a day of birth to a new and happy life with God.

The liturgical year is indeed a year of grace and our sanctification, keeping us in close union with Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The liturgical year helps us to become more and more Christ – like, it molds Christ within us. In a word, through the liturgical year Jesus Christ continues to live among us, He continues to teach us, He continues to lead us toward our eternal salvation.”

(Byzantine Leaflet Series, No. 35 – With Ecclesiastical Approbation, August 1986 , Byzantine Seminary Press, Pittsburgh PA 15214). 

Troparion For The New Year (September 1st):

O Maker of all creation, under whose control are the seasons and the years, being Our Lord, bless the blessings of the year with abundance and, through the intercession of the Theotokos, preserve our country and the people in peace, and save us. 

Vatican II On The Liturgy:

“Holy Mother Church believes that it is her duty to celebrate the saving work of her Divine Spouse by commemorating it devoutly on certain days throughout the course of the liturgical year.” (n. 102).

The Feastdays Of Obligation:

  1. The Nativity of Our Lord (Dec 25); 2. The Epiphany (Jan 6); 3. The Ascension of Our Lord; 4. The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 29); and 5, The Dormition of the Blessed Theotokos (August 15). 

Catholic Armenia

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                                   Armenian Catholic Liturgy                                                                                .

The Armenian Rite is one of the more ancient liturgies of the Catholic Church. it has its origins from the ancient Syriac and Cappadocian Liturgical rites which are considered to be the father churches of the Armenian church.

Armenia was said to have been first evangelized by the Apostles Bartholomew and Jude Thaddeus who converted a few Armenians during the first century and established a small and persecuted Armenian church within an overwhelmingly pagan nation in Lesser Armenia which was comprised of Edessa. The apostles managed to convert king Abgar of Edessa who died a couple of years after his baptism and had his realm restored to paganism by his pagan son Ananias. Both apostles were later martyred for the faith in the vicinity of Armenia.

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The next chapter for the church in Armenia began with a son of a nobleman whose father was killed for being seen as a political enemy by the king and was taken by his caretakers to Cappadocia in the roman empire to be brought up as a devout Catholic by the priest Phirmilianos  who educated him in the Catholic faith. Legend has it that he ventured off to evangelize his homeland but was immediately imprisoned by the king for 12 years in a pit where he remained until king Tiridates went insane after suffering a major loss in a war with the roman empire. Gregory was released from his imprisonment in 297 and was brought forth to cure the king’s ailment, which he did accomplish immediately after baptizing Tiridates III. The King then made the Catholic faith the state religion and from then on Armenia became known as the first Catholic nation with Georgia and Ethiopia following suit.

 

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St. Mesrob creating Armenian alphabet. 

After the conversion of the state, Armenia became a nominally Catholic nation with the liturgical language of the church being Syriac and Greek. It would not be until 405 AD when St Mesrob, an ordained priest-monk(vardapet), created a writing system for the Armenian language when the mass was finally translated to the vernacular. Afterwards, the last vestiges of paganism were wiped out of the kingdom and the church produced many saints such as St. Sahag.

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Bishop Michael with Fr. Anthony before the Liturgy on Theophany.

 

 

 

 

The Maronites: who are they and what is their origin?

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(Image of the three 3 Lebanese Maronite Holy Saints: St. Rafqa, St. Charbel, St. Al Hardini. The bottom man is Lebanese Maronite Beatified and soon to be Saint, Blessed Estephan Nehme)

The Maronites are essentially Eastern Rite Catholics, whom since their origin have professed the One True Apostolic Catholic Faith of Pope St. Peter the Prince of the Apostles, have celebrated the same Sacred Mysteries and retained the same Holy Sacraments as the universal Catholic Church, the One True Church of Jesus, all the while maintaining diversity through their own distinct Code of Canon Law and Divine Liturgy. The one true thrice-fold goal of all Maronite Clergy and Laity is the Love of The Lord, the salvation of souls and loyalty to the Supreme Pontiff who gives their diversity meaning and canonical status.

The origin of the Maronites was in the fertile crescent, which is an area modernly comprised of Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, which all spoke the common language of Aramaic, receiving it’s sacredness for being one of the primary languages Our Divine Master Jesus spoke while at the last supper and with the Holy Apostles. Because of this, the Maronites chant hymns in Aramaic, learn this language thoroughly in seminaries and sing the opening prayers, the most Sacred Consecration and the Our Father of the Divine Liturgy all in Aramaic.

A certain Holy Saint by the name of St. Maroun or Maron, who was born in around 350 AD in a town near Antioch named Cyrrhus, and after having grown into a young man, left to live a hermitic and penitential life of asceticism on a hill. It was recorded that this hill was home to thousands of pagan worshipers, to which St. Maron responded with prayer and penance which saw thousands of pagans convert to the True Holy Mother Church and Her invisible head: Jesus our Beloved. St. Maron attracted many followers through His acts of extreme charity, Miraculous physical and spiritual healings, Piety and Holiness, which attracted both laity and desert monks, to the extent where the revered and Pious St. John Chrysostom while in exile wrote a letter to St. Maroun, reading: “[Dear Maroun], we are bound to you by love and interior disposition, and see you here before us as if you were actually present. For such are the eyes of love; their vision is neither interrupted by distance nor dimmed by time… we address ourselves to your honour and assure you that we hold you constantly in our minds and carry you about in our souls wherever we may be… please pray for us.”

After St. Maron faithfully departed in 410 AD, many of the faithful Laity and Clergy that were followers inspired by St. Maron’s remarkable example of Sainthood, built numerous monasteries in His name, including one of the largest monasteries by the name of “Beit Maron” or “house of Maron.” One of the primary characteristics of Beit Maron and the Holy Maronites was their fervency for defending the fullness of truth and their loyalty to the princely throne of Our Holy Father St. Peter, to the extent where they upheld every Catholic Doctrine even under the pain of death, and because of this, came about the persecutions of the Maronites in 517 AD which saw 350 Maronite monks martyred for their loyalty to the Council of Chalcedon (451) which declared Jesus as “True Man and True God.” Even to this day, on the Holy Feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, we pray during the Divine Liturgy; “O Lord, preserve your children from all error or deviation, grant us to live and die proclaiming: ‘Our Faith is the faith of Peter, the faith of Peter is our faith!’” This is arguably not only because of Our Lord’s words in the Holy Gospel deeming St. Peter as rock, but also because St. Peter fled to Antioch during the persecutions in Jerusalem and passed on the Faith to Antioch who were the first people to call the Holy Apostles Christians (Acts 11:26) and the Maronites are direct descendants of these people.

In the 7th century, the Maronites selected their first patriarch, another Holy man named St. John Maroun, who was approved by Holy Father Pope Sergius I which highlights the everlasting Maronite communion with Holy Rome, however years later another wave of persecutions hit the Maronites killing 500 and causing the Maronites from the fertile crescent and Israel to recede into the Lebanese Mountains, in which they flourished until about the 13th century. In the 13th Century during the crusades, Beit Maron was destroyed completely and Patriarch Daniel ELhadsheeti was martyred along with many of the northern villages of Lebanon being destroyed (the village of I, the author, being one of the many destroyed). In 1367, Patriarch Gabriel Hejola was burned alive at the stake, and the many persecutions that followed caused the Maronites to move temporarily to cyprus and the Patriarchate also moved to Wadi Qonnoubine.

Later in the 19th century, the ottoman empire took control and during their rule managed to completely destroy many villages, Holy Churches and martyred many Maronites, among whom were the Blessed Massabki Brothers, Francis, Abed and Raphael who were beatified by Holy Father Pope Pius XI. This then catalysed several waves of migration to the Americas and Australia, which has now made the Maronites internationally situated but nevertheless many remain in the original Lebanese mountains. Many of us, including I who am in Australia, uphold Maronite Catholic tradition to this day which is Sacred and represents the very birth of the Bride of Jesus in the middle east, by speaking the native tongue of Our Lord and remaining forever faithful to the Holy Father.

How can we be inspired by the Maronites of Holy Mother Church? the Faith of the Maronite people which is like an inextinguishable fire, reveals to us that Our Holy Lord and His Immaculate Mother Mary, the “OuhmAllah” or “Mother of God” call people of all nations and cultures to enter into a union with the Celestial Courts of Heaven and thus realise, through Humility which means to know yourself, that we are an abyss of Misery that can do nothing on our own but we find greatest fulfilment in union with the Life giving spirit of Jesus. The Martyrdom of the Maronites who remained faithful to the infallible teaching of the Living Magisterium and the Holy Father that Jesus is True Man and True God, through the hypostatic union of both His two natures, teaches us that the greatest act of Love is the baptism of Fire; to lay down one’s life for his Friends, or in other words, to give up oneself sacrificially and in toil for Holy Mother Church, all Her teachings, Her visible head the Supreme Pontiff, and of course, Our Best Friends Jesus and Mother Mary (St. John 15:13).

The forgotten Russian Orthodox converts to the Catholic Church

“For Faith is the beginning and the end is love, and God is the two of them brought into unity. After these comes whatever else makes up a Christian gentleman.” –St. Ignatius of Antioch

A close friend and brother of our blog has recently asked us if there were any converts to the Catholic Church from the Russian Orthodox Church. After taking a look at history, we have found a significant amount of converts. That being said, we can only name a few because of the high percentage of converts to the Catholic Church from the Russian Orthodox Church. Considering that one of our admins are Russian Catholic, we would like to dedicate this post to him.  Let’s take a look at the inspiring souls that have even risked being persecuted for the Church because of their conversion.

1. Vladimir Vladimirovich Abrikosov

Vladimir Abrikosov, following his wife a year later, converted to the Catholic Church in 1909 after leaving the Russian Orthodox Church. On May 29th of 1917, Vladimir Abrikosov had taken part in the council of the Russian Greek Catholic Church and was ordained a priest of the Church in the Byzantine Rite by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. 

Following his ordination, he was appointed as the rector of the local Moscow Greek Catholic parish and the head of the Dominicans within the area. In 1920 – 1922, Father Abrikosov has held a meeting in which has taken place between both Catholic and Russian Orthodox representatives within his home.

 By the grace of God and the influence of Father Vladimir, he has converted former Russian Orthodox Dmitriy Vladimirovich Kuz’min-Karavaev to the Catholic Church, causing Father Vladimir to be arrested and threatened with a sentence to death by the Russian government due to it being “counter revolutionary” on the 17th of August, 1922. 

After the punishment has been examined by the government officials, it was later terminated and Father Vladimir was instead sentenced with perpetual exile, causing him to be expelled from Russia, his native land. Even though he was expelled from the land of Russia, he has built contacts with Russian Catholic officials within Rome due to the persecution of Greek Catholics within the Soviet Union. In the name year, Father Vladimir has obtained an audience within the presence of His Holiness Pope Pius XI to discuss the situation of the Russian Catholic Church in regards to its persecution. 

Later, Father Vladimir was recognized as an official member of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and procurator of the Russian Exarchate. However, he was unfortunately slandered by a Russian officer, that being Baron Igor von der Launitz, in whom was hostile towards Roman Catholic Bishop Michel d’Herbigny.

 After Launitz’s extradition from Italy, Abrikosov continued his work to abolish the Russian Exarchate when he left Rome to establish himself in Paris. from the contacts with Russian immigrants, Abrikosov remained in solitude. He died on 22 July 1966. 

2. Igor Akulov
Ignor Akulov was born to a family of Russian orthodox peasant farmers in the year of 1897 on April 13th. He graduated from a technical high school and later became a telephone clerk at the Moscow Saint Petersburg’s Railway. During the Russian Civil War, he served the Red Army as a non combative soldier. On July 2, 1921 he was tonsured as a Russian orthodox monk with the name of Brother Epiphany. After meeting with Exarch Leonid Fyodorov, and under his influence Brother Epiphany Akulov began attending Eastern Rite Catholic Liturgies, and in the summer of 1922 was received into the Russian Catholic Church. In 1921, he was ordained as an Eastern Catholic priest by Archbishop Jan Cieplak. After August 1922 he was the Pastor of the Byzantine Catholic Church of the Descent of the Holy Ghost in Petrograd. 

After the closings of the Catholic Churches within his area, he secretly served the church in his apartment. On November 23, he was arrested along with other priests, however, not within the same area. He was accused of the Catholic counter-revolutionary organization. 19 May 1924 was sentenced to 10 years in prison, was in political prison near the Irkutsk. In 1927 released early and sent into exile. In 1933 he was freed from exile, he served in various churches in St. Petersburg. Akulov was a good preacher, preached in Russian. 

In 1935, he was again arrested for a short time. On the 26th July, 1937 he was arrested, sentenced to death on August 25, 1937, and was later executed on August 27. He was buried at Levashovo Mass Grave in St. Petersburg.

3. Nikolai Alexandrov

Nikolai Alexandrov was born in 1884 in Moscow. He graduated from the Moscow Technical School as an engineer-technologist. From 1912 he worked in Germany as an engineer in the company of Siemens-Schuckert. While in Germany Alexandrov converted to Catholicism from Russian Orthodoxy, his religion by birth. 

Since July 1913, after his return to Moscow he worked in city government, with the 1914 charge tramway workshops, with 1917 worked as an engineer. Nikolai Abrikosov joined to the Greek Catholic community, helped the abbot came to his father, Vladimir Abrikosov. In 1918 he was arrested “in the case of the White Guard organization”, but was released on December 27. After that he became a monk taken the name Peter.

 In August 1921, on the recommendation of Vladimir Abrikosov, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Jan Cieplak,[1] and was later appointed deputy by Exarch Leonid Fyodorov in the event of his arrest. Since September 1922 after his father, Vladimir Abrikosov was sent abroad, headed the Moscow community of Greek-Catholics.

 He was arrested in Moscow in the night from 12 to 13 November 1923 for grouping business of Russian Catholics. On May 19, 1924 he was sentenced under articles 61 and 66 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR to 10 years in prison. Sent to Solovki prison camp, first on the island of Conde, in the summer of 1925 Abrikosov was transferred to the central island. 

In the spring of 1929, together with Leonid Fyodorov made Easter liturgy, which led to his transfer to the Anzer island. Soon he was sent to Belbaltlag the station Bear Mountain. In 1934 he was released but the ban stay in 6 major cities and border areas within 3 years. Settled in Dmitrov, Moscow region, Abrikosov worked as an engineer, however performed secret services in his apartment. In 1935 he was arrested in Dmitrov, and on December 29 was sentenced to 5 years in labor camps. Sent to the Solovki prison camp, Father Nikolai Abrikosov died here on 29 May 1936.

For more information on Russian orthodox converts to Catholicism: http://rumkatkilise.org/necplus.htm

Separate parts of the Byzantine Rite Liturgy


The Proskomedia (from the Greek προσκομιδή, “offering”), sometimes referred to as prothesis (from the Greek πρόϑεσις, “setting forth”) or proskomide, is the Office of Oblation celebrated by the priest prior to the Divine Liturgy during which the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist. 

The Proskomedia is a prerequisite for the Divine Liturgy. The priest conducts the Office of Oblation behind the Iconostasis at the Table of oblation or Table of Preparation (also Prothesis, or sometimes Proskomide) that is located to the left of the Altar Table. Proskomedia, when translated to English, means “preparation.”

The Prothesis (Table of Oblation) represents the cave of Bethlehem where our Lord and Savior was born. Originally, the Prothesis was located in the same room as the altar table, being simply a smaller table placed against the eastern wall to the north of the altar table. 

During the reign of the Emperor Justin II, the Prothesis came to occupy its own separate chamber to the north of the altar, in a separate apse, and joined to the altar by a door way. 

Another apse was added on the south side for the Diaconicon. From this time on many large Byzantine Parishes were built with three apses on the eastern end of the church building. However, most smaller churches continued to be built having only one apse containing the altar, the Prothesis and the Diaconicon.

The Chalice with the Diskos and Star

The bread and wine are prepared for the liturgy on the Prothesis. The chalice and a round plate on a stand called the diskos or paten that holds the bread are kept on this table. 

These vessels are normally decorated with iconographic engravings, Christian symbols, and the sign of the cross. The top of each loaf is impressed with a seal bearing the sign of the cross.

The Greeks usually use one large loaf for the Liturgy of Preparation, with a large round seal on it inscribed not only with the square seal (from which the Lamb will be taken), but also markings indicating where the portions for the Theotokos, the Ranks, the Living and Dead will be removed. 

Those churches which follow Slavic usage will typically use five small loaves, recalling the five loaves from which Christ fed the multitude (John 6:5-14). Normally all will be stamped with a small square seal, though special seals for the Theotokos are sometimes used.

Also on this table is a special liturgical knife, symbolically called the spear, that is used for cutting the eucharistic bread (prosphora) and a liturgical spoon for administering holy communion to the people. 

There are also special covers for the chalice and diskos and a cruciform piece of metal called the asterisk or star that holds the cover over the eucharistic bread on the diskos. A sponge and cloths for drying the chalice after the liturgy are also usually kept here. 

The Prothesis is decorated in a manner similar to that of the altar table. Above the Prothesis may be found various icons, often one of Christ praying in Gethsemene: “Let this cup pass…”

The incensation of the congregation and the iconostasis. “They will teach your people to obey your Law; They will offer sacrifices on your altar.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭33:10

Little Entrance
The Little Entrance is the procession of the clergy to the altar led by the Book of the Gospels. It sometimes called the “Small” or “First” Entrance.

Procession

If the priest is serving the Divine Liturgy alone, without a bishop, the Little Entrance is made by the clergy circling the altar table and then to the middle of the church with the Gospel Book. Then he enters the altar through the royal doors of the iconostasis accompanied by the hymn of Entrance.

If the bishop is celebrating, the Gospel Book is brought out to him in the center of the church, in the midst of the people, where he has been standing from the beginning of the liturgy. This is led by the deacon (who holds the Gospel Book in the procession), and is followed by priests in order of rank.

Meaning

In the Little Entrance, the movement of the entire Church, through its Head Jesus Christ in the person of the celebrant (and in the Gospel Book the celebrant is holding), to the altar, which symbolizes the Kingdom of God, can be seen.

But dwelling on this “historical-representational symbolism” can lead to a separation of the clergy and the laity and a resulting misinterpretation of the two groups from full participants in the common action to performers and audience.

History

Originally, the Little Entrance marked the beginning of the service, but it is now preceded by various Litanies and Psalms. It was a way the bring the Gospel Book from where it was kept to the service.

Apostolos

The Apostolos is the liturgical book containing the various Apostolic Readings as are appointed by the lectionary (just like the daily readings in the Roman Missal).  

The letters from Apostles to Christians in the New Testament are often referred to as Epistles, such as 1 Corinthians and the book of Romans. Also in this book, are the Prokeimenon and Alleluia Verses for each reading. 

Another form of the book is the complete Acts and Epistles with an index of the readings, and with the proper introduction, such as “Brethren…” or “In those days…”.

Liturgical use
In the context of the Divine Liturgy or other liturgical service, the epistles refer more specifically to a particular passage from a New Testament epistle, or from the Acts of the Apostles, that is scheduled to be read on a certain day or at a certain occasion. The liturgical book itself often has the readings arranged in three parts according to the Byzantine liturgical year: the Pascha season, the weeks after Pentecost, and the season of pre-Lenten, Great Lent, and Holy Week.

Great Entrance:

The Great Entrance is one of the two processions in the liturgical life of the Church. Like the Little Entrance, the Great Entrance generally originated in times when functions now concentrated in the sanctuary, such as the proskomedia and the storage of liturgical vessels, were segregated into separate architectural elements and the procession was needed to bring these objects into the church.

Performance:

The Great Entrance occurs at a later point during the Divine Liturgy when the bread and wine to be offered are carried from the Table of oblation, located at the north side of the sanctuary (sometimes occupying its own apse), out the North Door and back through the Holy Doors to be placed on the altar. 
This entrance interrupts the Cherubic Hymn and is accompanied by a series of intercessions formulated according to the customs of the jurisdiction.

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, celebrated on Wednesdays and Fridays during Great Lent, and is a Vespers service combined with the distribution of Holy Communion that had been consecrated the previous Sunday. 

The Great Entrance is performed not with bread prepared for the offering but with bread that has already been consecrated, and in complete silence and subdued reverence.

Epiclesis
In the Epiclesis (or epiklesis), God’s Holy Spirit is called on to come down “upon us and upon these gifts” (the bread and wine), so that they may become “truly the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” . A distinction is usually made between the invocation over the people (called a ‘communion’ epiclesis) and the one over the Gifts of bread and wine (called a ‘consecratory’ epiclesis). This is the main supplication in the Eucharistic Prayer.

The Divine Liturgy: 
The Catholic Church believes, that the Holy Spirit is always “everywhere present and fills all things.” The invocation of the Holy Spirit at the Divine Liturgy is the solemn affirmation that everything in life which is positive and good is accomplished by the Spirit of God.
During the Epiclesis, the people join their hearts to the words and actions of the priest as he petitions God to make these gifts holy. The bread and wine offered in remembrance of Christ, are the gifts to be changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

The prayer:
The form of the epikleses vary from anaphora to anaphora. The consecratory epiclesis of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is as follows:
Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and bloodless worship, and we ask Thee, and pray Thee, and supplicate Thee: Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered.
And make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ. (Amen)
And that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ. (Amen)

Making the change by the Holy Spirit. (Amen, Amen, Amen )
That these gifts may be to those who partake for the purification of soul, for remission of sins, for the communion of the Holy Spirit, for the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven; for boldness towards Thee, and not for judgment or condemnation.