Feeds:
Posts

Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

The Georgian version of a Christmas carol is known as an “Alilo”. This version, performed by Ansambli Basiani, originates in West Georgia’s mountainous Racha region.

Read Full Post »

As powerful now as when this eloquent Byzantine bishop first uttered this homily in the 4th Century, this distils the Christmas spirit into its purest essence. A Blessed Christmas to you all, გილოცავთ შობა!!

 

I behold a new and wondrous mystery! My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn.

The Angels sing!

The Archangels blend their voices in harmony!

The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise!

The Seraphim exalt His glory!

All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.

Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of Justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed, He had the power, He descended, He redeemed; all things move in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassibility, remaining unchanged…

And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.

Yet He has not forsaken His angels, nor left them deprived of His care, nor because of His Incarnation has he departed from the Godhead.

And behold kings have come, that they might adore the heavenly King of glory;

soldiers, that they might serve the Leader of the Hosts of Heaven;

women, that they might adore Him Who was born of a woman so that He might change the pains of child-birth into joy;

virgins, to the Son of the Virgin, beholding with joy, that He Who is the Giver of milk, Who has decreed that the fountains of the breast pour forth in ready streams, receives from a Virgin Mother the food of infancy;

infants, that they may adore Him Who became a little child, so that out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings, He might perfect praise;

children, to the Child Who raised up martyrs through the rage of Herod;

men, to Him Who became man, that He might heal the miseries of His servants;

shepherds, to the Good Shepherd Who has laid down His life for His sheep;

priests, to Him Who has become a High Priest according to the order of Melchisedech;

servants, to Him Who took upon Himself the form of a servant that He might bless our servitude with the reward of freedom;

fisherman, to Him Who from amongst fishermen chose catchers of men;

publicans, to Him Who from amongst them named a chosen Evangelist;

sinful women, to Him Who exposed His feet to the tears of the repentant; and that I may embrace them all together, all sinners have come, that they may look upon the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.

Since therefore all rejoice, I too desire to rejoice. I too wish to share the choral dance, to celebrate the festival. But I take my part, not plucking the harp, not shaking the Thyrsian staff, not with the music of the pipes, nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ. For this is all my hope, this my life, this my salvation, this my pipe, my harp. And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels, sing: Glory to God in the Highest; and with the shepherds, and on earth peace to men of good will.

Read Full Post »

Today we are drawing very close to შობა/Shoba (Christmas) and the Holy Bible readings today pay close attention to the role that the Prophets played in foretelling Christ’s birth and preparing the world for His arrival. The past two weeks have witnessed commemorations of individual Prophets both major and minor, and today we commemorate them all together.

A wonderfully detailed interpretation of this icon of the Holy Forefathers is provided here

The Epistle reading is from Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40, referring to the heroic acts of the Prophets from Abraham onwards, including their many acts of self-sacrifice. The Letter to the Hebrews is an exhortation for Christians to be resolute in the face of persecution they were suffering in the 1st Century. The unknown author mentions that, though these sacrifices by the Prophets were noble and unique, the centuries-old promise of redemption from sin has only been recently made possible by the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, allowing ordinary contemporary Christians to experience the same joy of redemption and eternal life as the Holy Prophets who preceded them.

 

32

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:

33

who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

34

quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

35

Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.

36

Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.

37

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-

38

of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

39

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,

40

God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

The Gospel reading is taken from Matthew 1;1-25, which accomplishes the difficult task of first reconciling Jesus’ human nature via his geneaological descent from Abraham through King David to Saint Joseph, with his Divine nature as the Son of God, begotten of the Holy Spirit by the Virgin Mary.

1

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

2

Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.

3

Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram.

4

Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon.

5

Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse,

6

and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.

7

Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.

8

Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah.

9

Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah.

10

Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah.

11

Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

12

And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel.

13

Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor.

14

Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud.

15

Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob.

16

And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

17

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

18

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

19

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.

20

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

21

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.

22

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

23

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.”

24

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,

25

and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Today we commemorate the Holy Apostle Matthew. Of the Twelve Apostles, Matthew’s story prior to him following Christ is certainly the most colourful.

Saint Matthew was a tax-collector for the Roman authorities in Israel, and therefore viewed as a wicked collaborator by most Jews of the time. Tax collection was typically allocated by a “tax-farming” approach; a tax farming jurisdiction would attract many bids from potential collectors, guaranteeing a certain revenue to the State, and the winning bidder could keep any revenue over and above the guaranteed remittance to the Treasury. The concept of transparent tax rates and policies was not well developed, and tax collectors would often intimidate vast sums of money out of businesses and households in their jurisdictions with teams of thugs on an arbitrary basis. Viewed not only as collaborators but as standover merchants, Jewish law at the time forbade Jews to socially associate with tax collectors, and some accounts record that to even mention the occupation was forbidden. That Christ would calmly approach such a pariah and command him to, “Come, follow me!” astounded the Jewish authorities, but as Matthew himself wrote in Aramaic later, Christ has “come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mt. 9: 13). If Christ could reshape the life of such a fallen scoundrel as Matthew to such good purpose, this gives all of us cause for great hope.

“Matthew was originally called Levi. He was the son of Alphaeus and was by profession a publican, or tax-collector, at Capernaum. On one occasion Jesus, coming up from the side of the lake, passed the custom-house where Matthew was seated and said to him, “Follow me.” Matthew arose and followed Christ, becoming his disciple (Matthew 9:9). He changed his name to reflect his new calling. “Matthew” means “Gift of the Lord.”

The same day on which Jesus called him he made a “great feast” (Luke 5:29), a farewell feast, to which he invited Jesus and his disciples and probably also many of his old associates. The last notice of him in the New Testament is in Acts1:13.

After the resurrection of our Lord, Matthew went and preached amongst the Jews. His Gospel was probably first written in Aramaic and later translated into Greek. Eventually Matthew went to Ethiopia to spread the gospel. There he was martyred by Fulvian, the ruler of the region, by being set on fire. After Matthew willingly gave up his soul to the Lord, his body was put in a coffin and cast into the sea. It washed up at the site of the church he had built. Fulvian, Matthew’s persecutor, immediately repented of his deed, renounced his position of worldly power, and was made a presbyter by the Bishop Platon (or Plato). Once Platon died, the apostle appeared to the priest (who had taken the name Matthew as well) and told him to assume the bishop’s throne.”

From Orthodoxwiki.org

Read Full Post »

As I have remarked many times before in these pages, the history of the Church in Georgia is rich with stories and anecdotes of foreigners from countries hostile to Georgia, who have heard Christ’s call to serve, have submitted to baptism and often ordination, and have paid the heavy price of martyrdom at the hands of their own people. The story of Saint Abo Tbilieli is a good example of this.

Georgia, particularly eastern Georgia, has a very longstanding relationship with Iran. Many Georgians were carried off into slavery in Iran over the past two millennia, and Georgia served as a battleground between the Roman and Persian worlds for many centuries. The Georgian language has a huge number of loan-words from Persian, and Persian names are commonly adopted by Georgian people. Many historical figures in Georgia, such as King Mirian and King Vakhtang Gorgasali, were of Persian descent. The history of the interaction between Georgian and Persian peoples has sometimes been co-operative and sometime hostile; Persia’s colonial occupations of Georgia were characterised by intermittent periods of toleration and persecution of the Christian faith.

This history of the conversion of the Persian military commander Omar to Christianity in 7th century Georgia, his ordination and consecration as a Bishop, and his ultimate martyrdom at the hands of the Persian Zoroastrians, is well known by Georgian Christians, and a reminder that the Church in Georgia transcends race or national origin. It ialso provides inspiration for those who may seek to reach out to the 16,000 Iranians currently living in Georgia; the country has a long history of baptising and integrating Persians, and there are few families in eastern Georgia without a Christianised Persian ancestor.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints” by Archpriest Zacharaiah Machitadze, Saint Herman of Alaska Press.

 The holy hieromartyr Neophytus of Urbnisi descended from a line of Persian fire-worshippers.

In the 7th century, by order of the Saracen emir Mumni (Mu’min), the military leader Ahmad attacked Georgia with an enormous army. After overrunning the central part of Shida (Inner) Kartli, Ahmad dispatched two of his commanders, Omar and Burul, to the capital city of Mtskheta. At the confluence of the Mtkvari and Aragvi rivers, across from the village of Tsikhedidi in the rocky Sarkineti region, the invaders discovered a group of caves and plotted to occupy them. They tried to cross the Mtkvari but were unable. 

Having suffered a setback, the enemies asked their captives what was located in those caves. They were told that this was the Shio-Mgvime Monastery, where dwelt God’s chosen, who had deprived themselves of every earthly blessing.

Surprised at this reply, the commanders decided to pass this information on to Ahmad. Then, as though it were commonplace, Ahmad sent Omar to the monastery to ask the monks to pray for him and remember him at the grave of their abbot, Saint Shio. “Pray for me, O slaves of God, and accept these gifts of aloe and incense. Offer these as a sacrifice to your abbot,” he told them.

Approaching the monastery caves, Omar sent a messenger to inform the monks that he was coming to them in peace and bearing gifts. Drawing near to the monastery gates, the commander saw an army of incorporeal hosts descending from the heavens and among them an elder, radiant with a great light. 

The meek and modest behavior of the monks left a great impression on Omar. He soon understood that the strange armies he had seen on the steps of the monastery were angels of God and that the elder was Saint Shio of Mgvime, abbot of the monastery. He related his vision to the monks and vowed to return to them, receive the sacrament of Holy Baptism, be tonsured a monk, and remain there to join in their holy labors.

Soon Omar abandoned all his possessions, his military rank, and his wealth and was baptized in the Christian Faith at the Shio-Mgvime Monastery as he had promised. Two of his slaves were baptized with him as well. Omar received the new name Neophytus (Newly Planted / From the Greek word neophytos, which in I Tim. 3:6 refers to a new convert.), and his slaves became Christodoulus (Christ’s Slave) and Christopher (Christ-bearer).

According to God’s will, Saint Neophytus was consecrated bishop of Urbnisi, and all were amazed at his wisdom and steadfastness. He was a true father to his flock: “He strengthened the weak, healed the sick, raised the fallen, cleansed the possessed, directed the lost and sought out those who were perishing, protecting them, and forbidding them to wander off again.”

But the enemy could not tolerate the native Persian’s apostolic activity, and he convinced the fire-worshippers to kill the Christian shepherd. So the unbelievers devised an ambush and attacked Neophytus’ isolated cell, then tied him up and began to mock, curse, and revile him. They knew that Saint Neophytus longed to become like the holy protomartyr Stephen, and they plotted to stone him to death.

When his time to depart this world had arrived, Saint Neophytus turned to his persecutors with a tender voice, saying, “Sweet is death to me, O unbelievers! Sweet it is to me. I desire to sunder the link between my mortal and immortal nature.… With my own blood I will confirm the Holy Church, which is founded upon the Precious Blood of the Son and Word of God, Whom I preach. May that which was foreordained for me by the Providence of God be fulfilled, for He has called me to His light from the depths of ungodliness!”

The furious pagans stoned the saint to death. With his last breath Holy Hieromartyr Neophytus cried out, “Lord Jesus Christ receive my soul!”

 

Read Full Post »

Today commemorates a significant Georgian saint, Saint Joseph the Wonderworker, who was a famous 18th century monastic elder in Georgia’s high Caucasus region of Khevi, above which towers the peak of Georgia’s highest mountain, Mount Kazbegi.

Saint Joseph was famed for his perilous ascents to Kazbegi’s Jerusalem Cave, reputed to be the world’s highest consecrated ground. An expedition in 2000 to restore the cave’s consecrated status and perform the Divine Liturgy by Georgian mountaineers and Bishop Nicoloz of Bodbe makes for interesting viewing.  The video, with English soundtrack, can be purchased here.

From “Lives of the Georgian Saints” Saint Herman of Alaska Press

Little is known about the life of Saint Joseph of Khevi. The Church is certain only that he was a native of Khevi (in northern Georgia) and served as a priest in that village. In addition to being great warriors, the people of Khevi have throughout history been remarkably steadfast in the Christian Faith. The churches and monasteries in Khevi are extraordinary in both beauty and inaccessibility. They were deliberately built in mountainous places, as if reaching them should demand the greatest of zeal.

The most important ornament and symbol of Khevi is the ice that perpetually caps the peak of Mount Kazbegi. On the slope of this mountain stands Holy Trinity Monastery, where at one time Saint Nino’s cross was preserved (it is presently kept in Tbilisi, in the northern section of the iconostasis at Sioni Cathedral).

Located above Holy Trinity Monastery, on the ice-covered, vertical cliff of Mount Kazbegi, is a cave hermitage at 13,450 feet, known as the Bethlehem Cave. It is possible to reach this hermitage only by climbing chains let down from its height. According to the chronicle Life of Kartli, this cave has throughout history been used to store sacred objects and treasures of the Church.

The historian David Batonishvili records that Saint Joseph was especially known for his love of holy objects, for keeping the strictest of fasts, and for his outstanding virtues. He climbed to the Bethlehem Hermitage and returned with a piece of the tent of the patriarch Abraham, (Georgian tradition relates that both the tent of the Patriarch Abraham and the manger of Christ were kept in the Bethlehem Cave for many centuries.) which he presented to King Erekle. Having attained the heights of clairvoyance and miracle-working, Saint Joseph reposed peacefully in the year 1763.

Read Full Post »

As we have mentioned before, there is evidence that the Apostle Matthias was martyred in Colchis  (the ancient name for Georgia’s Black Sea regions) and buried in Gonio, near Batumi. Today is his feast day.

The elevation of Matthias from the Seventy to the Twelve Apostles is interesting, as it is one of the first written accounts of Apostolic Succession,. Saint Luke’s account of events in the Acts of the Apostles is;

“In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, ” ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ” ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.” Acts 1:15-26

The Nicene Creed, developed in 325 at the First Ecumenical Council, describes the Church as being “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic”. Given that the Twelve Apostles all reposed almost two millennia ago, for outsiders this description may seem odd. Orthodox Christians believe in Apostolic Succession; tracing a direct line of apostolic ordination, Orthodox doctrine, and full communion of Orthodox jurisdictions from the Twelve Apostles to the current Episcopacy of the Orthodox Church. All three elements are integral to apostolic succession. It is through apostolic succession that the Church is the direct spiritual successor to the original body of believers in Christ as the Son of God, composed of the Apostles. This succession manifests itself through the unbroken succession of its bishops back to the Apostles.

Ordination of a bishop requires the presence of three other bishops. It is not mandatory that the candidate already be ordained as a priest or deacon, but in most jurisdictions that is the norm.

Elections of Patriarchs vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it is generally performed by secret ballot. The repose of a Patriarch generally triggers the appointment of a caretaker Patriarch who organises elections as soon as possible. Each Patriarchate has its own statutes governing such elections, which may take into account dioceses abroad as well as consultation with the laity. National governments are often tempted to interfere with this process, which is generally quite vigorously resisted.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: