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Today is the Feast of the Synaxis (Assembly) of the Angels for Orthodox Christians. Appearing in the Old Testament initially, angels are referred to extensively in the New Testament. All Orthodox Christians believe they have a personal guardian angel, known as a spiritual guide, to guide them through life. Angels feature in Georgian iconography a great deal, and are referred to frequently throughout the Divine Liturgy.

The feast was established at the beginning of the 4th Century at the local Laodician Council, which occurred several years before the First Ecumenical Council. The Laodician Council by its 35th Canon condemned and renounced as heretical the worship of angels as creators and rulers of the world and it affirmed their proper Orthodox veneration. A feastday was established in November – the ninth month from March (with which month the year began in ancient times) – in accordance with the 9 Ranks of Angels. The eighth day of the month was decreed for the intended Synaxis of all the Heavenly Powers – in conjunction with the Day of the Dread Last-Judgement of God, which the holy fathers called the “Eighth Day”, – since after this age in which the seven days [of Creation] have elapsed will come the “Eighth Day”, – and then “shalt come the Son of Man in His Glory and all the holy Angels together with Him” (Mt. 25: 31).

The Angelic Ranks are divided into three Hierarchies: – highest, middle, and lowest. In the Highest Hierarchy are included the three Ranks: the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones. Closest of all to the MostHoly Trinity stand the six-winged Seraphim  (Flaming, and Fiery) (Is. 6: 12). They blaze with love for God and impel others to it.


 After the Seraphim there stand before the Lord the many-eyed Cherubim (Gen. 3: 24). Their name means: outpouring of wisdom, enlightenment, since through them, – radiating with the light of Divine-knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of God, there is sent down wisdom and enlightenment for true Divine-knowledge.

After the Cherubim – stand God-bearing through grace given them for their service, the Thrones  (Col. 1: 16), mysteriously and incomprehensibly upholding God. They serve the uprightness of God’s justice.

The Middle Angelic Hierarchy consists of three Ranks: Dominions, Powers, and Authorities.

Dominions (Col. 1: 16) hold dominion over the successive ranks of Angels. They instruct the earthly authorities, established from God, to wise governance. The Dominions influence rule by miracles, they quell sinful impulses, subordinate the flesh to the spirit, and provide mastery over the will to conquer temptation.

Powers  (1 Pet. 3: 22) fulfill the will of God. They work the miracles and send down the grace of wonderworking and perspicacity to saints pleasing to God. The Powers give assist to people in bearing obediences, encourage them in patience, and give them spiritual strength and fortitude.

Authorities  (1 Pet. 3: 22, Col. 1: 16) have authority to quell the power of the devil. They repel from people demonic temptations, uphold ascetics and guard them, helping people in the struggle with evil ponderings.

In the Lowest Hierarchy are included the three Ranks: Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.

Principalities (Col. 1: 16) have command over the lower angels, instructing them in the fulfilling of Divine commands. To them are entrusted to direct the universe, and protect lands, nations and peoples. Principalities instruct people to render honour to everyone, as becomes their station. They teach those in authority to fulfill their necessary obligations, not for personal glory and gain, but out of respect for God and benefit for neighbour.

Archangels (1 Thess. 4: 16) announce about the great and most holy, they reveal the mysteries of the faith, prophecy and understanding of the will of God, they intensify deep faith in people, enlightening their minds with the light of the Holy Gospel.

Angels (1 Pet. 3: 22)are closest to all to people. They proclaim the intent of God, guiding people to virtuous and holy life. They protect believers restraining them from falling, and they raise up the fallen; never do they abandon us and always they are prepared to help us, if we so desire.

All the Ranks of the Heavenly Powers have in common the name Angels – by virtue of their service. The Lord reveals His will to the highest of the Angels, and they in turn inform the others.

Over all the Nine Ranks, the Lord put the Holy Leader (“Archistrategos”) Michael  (his name in translation from the Hebrew means – “who is like unto God”) – a faithful servitor of God, wherein he hurled down from Heaven the arrogantly proud day‑star Lucifer together with the other fallen spirits. To the remaining Angelic powers he cried out: “Let us attend! Let us stand aright before our Creator and not ponder that which is displeasing unto God!” According to Church tradition, in the church service to the Archistrategos Michael concerning him, he participated in many other Old Testament events. During the time of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt he went before them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Through him the power of the Lord was made manifest, annihilating the Egyptians and Pharaoh who were in pursuit of the Israelites. The Archangel Michael defended Israel in all its misfortunes.

He appeared to Jesus Son of Navin (Joshua) and revealed the will of the Lord at the taking of Jericho (Nav. / Josh. 5: 13-16). The power of the great Archistrategos of God was manifest in the annihilation of the 185 thousand soldiers of the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib (4 [2] Kings 19: 35); also in the smiting of the impious leader Antiochos Illiodoros; and in the protecting from fire of the Three Holy Youths – Ananias, Azarias and Misail, thrown into the fiery furnace for their refusal to worship an idol (Dan. 3: 22‑25).

 Through the will of God, the Archistrategos Michael transported the Prophet Avvakum (Habbakuk) from Judea to Babylon, so as to give food to Daniel, locked up in a lions’ den (Kondak of Akathist, 8).

The Archangel Michael prevented the devil from displaying the body of the holy Prophet Moses to the Jews for idolisation (Jude 1: 9).

From Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are likewise known the Archangels: Gabriel – strength (power) of God, herald and servitor of Divine almightiness (Dan. 8: 16, Lk. 1: 26); Raphael – the healing of God, the curer of human infirmities (Tobit 3: 16, 12: 15); Uriel – the fire or light of God, enlightener (3 Ezdras 5: 20); Selaphiel – the prayer of God, impelling to prayer (3 Ezdras 5: 16); Jehudiel – the glorifying of God, encouraging exertion for the glory of the Lord and interceding about the reward of efforts; Barachiel – distributor of the blessing of God for good deeds, entreating the mercy of God for people; Jeremiel – the raising up to God (3 Ezdras 4:36).

On icons the Archangels are depicted in accord with the trait of their service:

Michael – tramples the devil underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree branch, and in his right hand – a spear with a white banner (or sometimes a fiery sword), on which is outlined a scarlet cross.
Gabriel – with a branch from paradise, presented by him to the MostHoly Virgin, or with a shining lantern in his right hand and with a mirror made of jasper – in his left.
Raphael – holds a vessel with healing medications in his left hand, and with his right hand leads Tobias, carrying the fish [for healing – Tobit 5-8].
Uriel – in raised right hand hold a bare sword at the level of his chest, and in his lowered left hand – “a fiery flame”.
Selaphiel – in a prayerful posture, gazing downwards, hands folded to the chest.
Jehudiel – in his right hand holds a golden crown, in his left – a whip of three red (or black) branches.
Barachiel – on his garb are a multitude of rose blossoms.
Jeremiel – holds in his hand balance-scales.

“Orthodox Liturgical Calendar of The St. John of Kronstadt Press”

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Georgia’s large Armenian Minority adhere to what is known as the Oriental Orthodox faith through their Armenian Apostolic Church, in common with the Copts, Ethiopians, Eritreans and Jacobites. Their bishops reject the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon‘s ruling on the nature of Christ (451) , accepted by all Eastern Orthodox Christians. As a result, the Church of Georgia and the Church of Armenia are not in communion with each other, although they do engage in dialogue frequently. The following article from “Notes on Arab Orthodoxy” details an early 20th century conversion of a Jacobite (Syriac) bishop to Eastern Orthodoxy, and provides a neat summary of theological differences between the churches.

Notes on Arab Orthodoxy: A non-Chalcedonian Bishop Converts to Orthodoxy in 1912

A Non-Chalcedonian Bishop Converts to Orthodoxy in 1912

The following is a translation from Asad Rustum’s History, vol. 3 pp. 357-362. It is not only interesting in terms of the description of the ceremony, but also because the conversion seems to have occurred through the Syriac bishop’s contact with Russian pilgrims. Recalling this moment of hope for Christian unity in Syria– just 100 years ago– can only bring sadness, as Christians have now been virtually eliminated in Homs. The catastrophe that brought Bishop Boutros’ Syriac community to the brink of extinction is now being completed.

Read the rest here

via Notes on Arab Orthodoxy: A non-Chalcedonian Bishop Converts to Orthodoxy in 1912.

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An excellent review of pre-Christian Greek Philosophy by Vincent Martini. As Christianity spread through the Greek-speaking world, the Evangelists had to explain the new faith in terms of the pre-existing philosophical framework, and did so very effectively

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I have referred to Saint John Chrysostom, the 4th Century Patriarch of Constantinople, many times in this blog. He is considered by Orthodox Christians worldwide to be one of the giants of Christian theology, and a brilliant communicator of complicated theological concepts in simple terms to ordinary folk. The Divine Liturgy he wrote is still performed in Georgian every Sunday almost every week of the liturgical year in this country, which is a gifted synthesis of worship, poetry and theology lesson. He is a beloved saint in this country because he was exiled here and died here, in Abkhazeti.

For various reasons, several of the Orthodox Patriarchates chose to follow the New Calendar rather than the Julian calender for calculating dates of feasts, including the Churches of Constantinople, Greece and Romania. Ordinarily, I post feast days according to the Julian Calender which the Georgian Church follows, 14 days after the New Calender. As we all know, today in Georgia is the Commemoration of the 100,000 Martyrs of Tbilisi slain under Jelaluddin (1227). Thousands are congregating on the Metekhi Bridge in Tbilisi this evening to commemorate this sad anniversary, which I have covered before here.

However, on this day in Constantinople there are great festivities celebrating the City’s greatest orator, and all Orthodox people worldwide take pleasure in witnessing the unique local customs associated with that feast. The Ceremony of the Enthronement of Saint John Chrysostom on the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople is an annual ceremony of great antiquity. One may see His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew to the left of the throne.

From a posting of Metropolitan Nektarios of the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong

The tradition of enthronement of St. John Chrysostom on the Patriarchal Throne, is upheld to this very day in the Phanar, on the feast day of the Saint (13 November) as well as on the feast day of the Translation of his Holy Relics (27 January). On these days the Ecumenical Patriarch does not ascend onto his Throne, but he officiates from the “Parathronion”, the smaller throne next to the Patriarchal Throne, both during Great Vespers and Divine Liturgy. The sacred icon of St. John Chrysostom is placed on the Patriarchal Throne, and the Great Ecclesiarch places next to the icon the pastoral staff of the saint. The priests and the deacons who are going to participate in the celebration of both Great Vespers and the Divine Liturgy on those days do not receive the blessing from the Ecumenical Patriarch as they usually do, but from the sacred icon of the saint, who remains alive in the memory of the Church of Constantinople.

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An excellent article by Father Alexis Trader on the importance of Watchfulness in the Christian Life

Ancient Christian Wisdom

For the ancient fathers, a basic prerequisite for genuine growth in the spiritual life involves a constant attitude of nepsis or watchfulness.  The word nepsis (νήψις)in antiquity literally meant to drink no wine, but by extension it also included the metaphorical sense of being sober-minded, sane, alert, and finally vigilant.  If one desires to not be under the influence of the passions, if one wishes to not be drunk with anger, with envy, or with desire, one must spiritually speaking drink no wine. The ascetic fathers are also referred to as the neptic fathers. This watchfulness is paramount because as Saint Peter warns in his epistle, “Be sober (νήψατε), be vigilant (γρηγορήσατε meaning stay awake); because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”  If you are drunk or asleep, you are obviously defenseless in the face of an attack.

In chapter eight…

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