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Listening to music—and we are talking about secular music, i.e., the music that you often hear on the radio and the TV, for I suppose spiritual music is out of question, right?—is an adiaphora, which means that it is neutral, it is neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture. It doesn’t help but neither does it harm one’s soul. Rephrasing a quotation from the epistles of Holy Apostle Paul, there is nothing to gain and nothing to lose when listening to music.

Needless to say, there’s music that does obvious harm to our spiritual condition. Thus, if a song’s lyrics are aggressive or contain calls for violence or sinful acts, you can’t expect anything positive out of it. Ancient philosophers used to say that a person is determined by what he or she eats. Nowadays, another saying is no less justified: an individual is determined by what he or she listens to and watches.

In other words, our psychological portraits can be deduced from our listening and viewing preferences. If we like music that approves of or encourages sin in one way or another, it means that we have some issues with our spiritual health.

By Andrei Muzolf, a professor
at Kiev Theological Academy

Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds


Source: https://pravlife.org/ru/content/kakuyu-muzyku-nelzya-slushat-pravoslavnym

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We often call Christmas the “season of giving”. If you are like me, most of that giving is in material things. Toys for little ones, maybe nice clothes for older ones… maybe something really expensive for those precious ones. And of course, there is always the receiving of these fine gifts from others who have entered into the “season of giving”. Most everyone really likes being on the receiving end of a gift.

Now this article is not about to condemn such activities. In fact, I think it is really nice that we have a chance to give gifts to those we love and care about. And, it’s really nice to be on the receiving end too! At the same time, it is called the “season of giving” for a much different reason. Perhaps this story will help shed a little light.

Wealth More Precious than Jewels (Author unknown)

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and wanted it, so the woman gave it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler left rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

A few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. “I’ve been thinking,” he said. “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone.”

Even though this traveler had gotten hold of a precious stone that was worth a fortune, he realized that he was missing out on something even more valuable. The Giver of the gift had something of much greater worth than that stone. The traveler came back desiring that greater treasure.

We can be a lot like that traveler as we go through life. We may suddenly find ourselves in a bad situation. It could be serious, as in a health problem or divorce or death of a loved one. It could be less serious, as in feeling depressed or stressed out or in need of some material thing. Next thing we know, we find ourselves asking God for help. I imagine every one of us can recount a time when God intervened to bring us that gift we asked for.

Many of us have gone on our merry way after receiving His gift of help, forgetting that just maybe there was something far greater behind that gift. Is it possible that the One, who could give us that gift of help we needed, might actually have something more valuable to give us? Indeed, the real message of Christmas is not just that we have a God who is able to heal our broken health, or to bring comfort in the midst of great grief, or to bring peace of mind when our world is stressed out beyond belief. The message of Christmas is far deeper and greater for those who would bring their gift of life back to God and seek the more precious gift.

For those who would like to look further into that gift of Christmas, here’s some great reading from the Giver of Life Himself:


God’s richest blessings to each of you this Christmas season!

By Fr. Stephen Powley


Source: https://upwordglance.com/2016/12/14/could-you-give-back-your-best-gift/

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It happened to me in Germany, in the city of Cologne. I must admit that I can’t recall the name of the main character so let’s call him George. I visited a parish of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Most of its parishioners were Orthodox Turks. We had a pleasant conversation. There was a young man sitting beside me. He couldn’t help closing his eyes as if he was falling asleep. I asked the other parishioners if he needed any help. I thought that he wasn’t feeling well. That’s what they told me.

George had been a Muslim born to a Muslim family. He had honored the traditions of his faith since his childhood. He was conscripted into the Turkish Army when he was 20. Soon, his whole life changed. Accidentally, he found a Gospel in a distant corner of his barrack. It is unknown how it got there. George didn’t tell anyone about it. He read the whole book in a week. That week was enough for George to invite Christ into his heart. Officers found the Gospel and suggested that George “throw that hogwash out of his head” and continue his military service. However, George was adamant in professing his newfound faith. They threw him into a military prison and tried to root out his faith by blandishment and torture. It didn’t yield any result. They damaged George’s kidneys and injured his head until he became practically deaf and started having severe headaches, which caused his falling asleep in any place and at any time (and I saw it myself). They kept him incarcerated for many months and then kicked him out of jail after they made an irreparable damage to his health. Turkish Orthodox Christians from Germany heard his story and took him to Germany in order to save him. He was baptised and became an Orthodox Christian. When I heard his story, I had a conversation with George. I’ll never forget his words, “There is nothing keeping me here on earth. I’m looking forward to meeting my Father!”

I never saw George again. I don’t know what happened to him later. I hope that his dream will come true. When I recall his story, I ask myself, “Am I capable of such sacrifice?” I have no answer…


December 12, 2018
St. Elisabeth Convent

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How often have I searched for the "Method" to pray.  I hate to admit to you, but often.  "Just tell me the steps so I can follow them and come to know God," I have asked repeatedly.  But, after time in our foolish efforts we find out how naive this notion is.  Still I seek for the "Method."  How about you?

The quotation below from Elder Paisios strikes me as an important truth:

One afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak in private with a venerable monk in the library of the monastery’s guesthouse.  At one point, I told him, “Elder, I’d like you to teach me to pray.”  With a surprised look in his eyes, he repeated my words, “You want me to teach you to pray?”

“Yes, Elder, what should I do in order to pray?  What do I have to say?  How should I sit?”  Being influenced by Hinduism, I imagined that there must be a special method or technique, just as there was for the meditation I practiced.  He understood how little I knew, but he didn’t show it.  “It is really quite simple, and you must approach prayer with simplicity.  Just sit calmly in some corner and speak to Christ as though He were in front of you and listening to you.  And He is in front of you and listening to you.  Just speak to Him as you would one of your friends.”…

On the following day, I walked two and a half hours in order to see Father Paisios and to tell him what happened.  Smiling, he said, “Sit down, and I’ll bring you a pistol.”  He went into his cell and brought me a prayer rope with thirty-three knots, representing the years of Christ’s earthly life, and a cross. “Guess what?” he said, laughing.  “This shoots spiritual bullets.  Every time you say the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner,” it’s like shooting at the devil, so he won’t come near you.  Take it, so you’ll have it to defend yourself.


Source: http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.com/2009/10/elder-how-do-i-pray.html

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Pantokratoros Monastery stands on the north-eastern side of the Athos Peninsula. It was founded by high-ranking Byzantine officials Grand Stratopedarch Alexis and his brother Primicerius John in 1361. This monastery stores a wonder-working Gerontissa (lit. “Old Woman” or “Abbess”) icon of the Mother of God.

According to an ancient legend, the first miracle of this icon occurred during the construction of the monastery 550 yards from the contemporary site. One night, the icon and all builders’ tools disappeared and were found later on the site where the monastery stands now. It happened several times in a row until it finally became clear that it was the place that the Most Holy Queen of Heaven chose for Her monastery.

Later, the abbot of that monastery was at his deathbed. Upon receiving notification of his impending repose, he was willing to partake of the Holy Gifts and asked the priest who was celebrating the Liturgy at the moment to hurry up. However, the priest disregarded the elder’s request. The wonder-working icon, which was in the sanctuary, ordered the priest in a strict voice to do what the abbot had asked him for immediately. The priest gave communion to the dying elder, and the elder reposed in the Lord at once. It was after this miracle that the icon, which had proven itself as the patron of elders, received the name Gerontissa.

Another striking miracle happened in the 17th century. The monastery was seized by such terrible hunger that brothers started leaving it little by little. The abbot urged everyone to ask the Theotokos for help. He prayed fervently, too. The Most Holy Mother of God did not leave his prayers unanswered. One morning, the monks noticed that oil was pouring out of the pantry, where they stored empty vessels. When they entered the room, they were shocked: the oil was incessantly pouring out of a jar, which is said to have been preserved until the present day. The monks thanked their Most Holy Patroness for swift assistance and depicted a jar overflowing with oil on that icon.


Later, when the monastery was attacked by Saracens, the following miracle occurred: An attacker wanted to split the icon to kindle some fire for his pipe but was struck blind at that very moment. The barbarians threw the icon into a deep well where it lay for more than 80 years. The blind Saracen repented before his death and told his family members to go to the Holy Mountain again and show the place where the icon was to the monks. The sacred image was re-discovered and returned to the monastery cathedral with honors.

This icon made a lot of other miracles, too. Thus, thanks to prayers in front of this icon, the Theotokos showed her unique care for dying elders numerous times and healed many people from various illnesses, including cancer. Replicas of this icon appeared in many churches around Greece. It was noted for healing childless couples, helping women in labor, assisting people at work and in school. That is why this icon is highly venerated in Greece nowadays.

Gerontissa icon of the Mother of God is also located in the sanctuary of the cathedral church of Holy Dormition Pochaiv Lavra. Following the orders of Archbishop Modest of Volyn and Zhytomyr, priests and deacons ask this icon of the Mother of God for a blessing before each divine office.

There is another copy of the wonder-working icon in New Tikhvin Convent in Yekaterinburg. It was painted on Mt. Athos, in the Pantokratoros Monastery, and later decorated with an oklad in Greece.

The December 2 Feast Day of the Gerontissa Icon of the Mother of God commemorates a miracle which occurred on the night of December 1, 1948 when the Theotokos saved the Pantokratoros Monastery on Mount Athos from a fire. Because of this event, the Icon also came to be known as the “Pyrosoteira” (“Rescuer from fire”).

The Gerontissa Icon is also commemorated on April 4.

Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds


Source: https://azbyka.ru/days/ikona-gerontissa

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On the eve of the feast of holy Hieromartyr Hilarion, Archbishop of Verea, the editors of Pravoslavie.ru received a simple and artless letter, which we reproduce here in English translation. The original was published on Pravoslavie.ru in the Russian, with no essential changes.

Bless!

I, Elena Egorova, in Baptism Maria, want to tell the world and you, honorable fathers, about the miraculous help of our father Hilarion (Troitsky)—the wonderworker.

The First Miracle

In 2005 I was sent by the church to work not for money, but for the glory of God. I served in a hospice near St. Petersburg and spent the nights in a women’s skete outside of town. The skete had wood heating, but the sisters had no firewood for the winter. The fathers blessed me to find a load of firewood “for the sake of Christ”. I went to Fr. Hilarion’s grave and said, “Father, there’s no firewood, and no money. Help!”

I left the monastery gates and waved down car going my way, because I didn’t have a penny for the bus. Then a car stopped, with a woman driver. She asked me why I was hailing a car, and did I need any help. I told her that I had no money, that I needed to buy firewood, but I didn’t know where I would find the money. She gave me four thousand rubles, and even drove me to the skete.


The Second Miracle

I buried my entire family, five people, over the course of three years and was left all alone.

When I left Tiumen [Siberia] for St. Petersburg to see my spiritual father, he had fallen and broken both his legs. He was walking to church on Christmas, slipped, his legs flew in between the steps, and he fell down headfirst.

I arrived, but no one met me. Then I went to the deacon; he was old, and his wife, too. It was a burden on them to have me as a hanger-on. I had to look for a job with a place to live.

I went again to the cemetery where Fr. Hilarion’s grave was, and cried: “No money, nowhere to live, no work, and no registration.”

I prayed, and wept a while, then left the cemetery and saw a woman walking toward me who said, “What are you looking for here?”

I answered that I was looking for work with a place to live. Then she drove me to the Kirov factory and registered me in the dormitory. At least on that day she herself had come from the night shift. And the dormitory was located right outside the walls of that cemetery, where Fr. Hilarion lay at rest.

The Third Miracle

In 2011, my school friends’ baby got sick and had one foot in grave. She called me, crying into the telephone, “What should I do?” I went to the cemetery, to Fr. Hilarion, turned on the phone, called her, and said, “Pray to Fr. Hilarion, he’ll help!” I had not even turned off the phone when another doctor arrived. He looked at the little one, gave him an injection, and the boy immediately came back to life—the diagnosis had been incorrect. We then discussed it and decided to buy a candle stand and bench for St. Hilarion’s grave.


The Fourth Miracle

In 2011, while I was working in the Kirov factory, I earned as an apprentice 336 rubles a month, and a subway token cost fifteen rubles. How was I supposed to live? I went to Batiushka Hilarion and told him all about it… Then I looked, and saw a young man walking toward me, about thirty years old. I said to him, “Brother dear, pray for me, I don’t even have enough money to place a candle. I worked all month and didn’t receive any pay.” He gave me a thousand rubles. Then another passed by, and gave some more. In this way did Fr. Hilarion give me six thousand rubles on his grave, although I was asking for prayers, not money.

The Fifth Miracle

In 2011, three months after my arrival in St. Petersburg, I went to the cemetery to pray to Batiushka Hilarion and met there a sister from the church store. She introduced me to Fr. Methodius, who is now in Vyritsy, and he blessed me to work as a sitter for a grandma who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and to live with her. That is how I lived, ready for anything, for two years before the grandma’s death. Now I am a novice in Rome, Italy.

I ask you as far as possible to retain the essence of this letter, as the language is not literary—I am a cook, and not a writer… I described it all as best I could…

I always give alms, and often receive Communion. If I do not do this, then all my prayers for help just lie on the desk of the Lord God’s “secretary” for a very long time. Well, everyone asks, “Why does God give things to some but not to others? I have noticed that to those who go to confession, receive Communion, eagerly buy food for the bums, God gives, you could say, before they even ask. But the misers, those who can’t stand through the services (or sit if they haven’t the strength), might ask for years and get nothing but a big zero.

I have worked in the hospice, and in drug rehabilitation, and I have seen miracles of recovery. As a rule, they all began after confession and Communion…

A deep bow to you all, and may God save you!

Prayerfully yours, Novice Maria Egorova 


Source: http://www.orthochristian.com/76164.html#sdfootnote1sym

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But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be
little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee
shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in
Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old,
from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

There was something strange going on in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Did people realize that they happened to be alive in the greatest days of human history? Did the wind of change blow in the air? What kind of wind was it? Was it a great and strong wind that rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord (1 Kings 19:11) or a still small voice (Ibid.) that spoke to Prophet Elijah? God’s chosen people might have had less than perfect understanding of the universal significance of what was going on but they still felt that something was going to change in the godless world after the birth of John, the son of Zacharias.

Unpleasant and scary news was coming out of Rome, the capital city of all the Mediterranean. Emperor Augustus decided to perform a general census to learn how many people there were in the Empire and to be able to tax them properly. Did the Princeps, the emperor of the vast Pax Romana that spread from Gallia to Armenia and from Germany to the sands of the Sahara, know that he was merely a tool in the hands of the inscrutable Divine Providence and that the Lord would use that census to fulfil a prophecy of Prophet Micah who had lived 700 years prior to these events? Could he ever know that a carpenter from Nazareth would soon establish a New Eternal Kingdom, which is not of this world?

Virgin Mary and her betrothed husband Joseph, who was of Davidic descent, lived in the town of Nazareth in Galilee. When the Caesar’s decree on census was announced, everyone was to return to their native towns and villages to submit their names to census lists according to their tribal affiliation. Joseph belonged to the tribe of Judah and the House of David, so he had to take the pregnant Virgin Mary with him on the difficult and dangerous journey from Nazareth through Samaria, which was hostile towards the Jews, the noisy Jerusalem, and get to Bethlehem where his ancestors had lived.


That righteous man had to face so many troubles and worries! He endured so much on their road to Bethlehem! Perhaps, he compared his trip to Bethlehem to the Exodus of Jews from Egypt. The Jews escaped slave labor in Egypt and went to the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey—the land where they could finally find peace and freedom.

If we read the Holy Scripture with love and attention, we may find similarities between the great Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the journey of the Holy Family from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the hometown of the great King David. Let’s appreciate the beauty, depth, and immense breadth of the Scripture.

Israel was an Old Testament family that left the pagan Egypt and went into the Promised Land, led by Prophet Moses. The Holy Family of the New Testament, which was the seed of the new Christian nation, led by the Righteous Joseph, leaves the pagan land of Galilee (at least, that was how Prophet Isaiah had called it) and went through an unfriendly land to Bethlehem, which was a sacred place for every Jew. The ancient Israelites entered the Promised Land with the Ark of the Covenant, and the cloud of God’s glory covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning (Cf. Numbers 9:15). This time, Virgin Mary was the living Ark of the Covenant carefully guarded by Saint Joseph, and they were protected and guided by the Eternal Word of God who had previously led the Jews out of Egypt and remained in the womb of the Most Holy Ever-Virgin for nine months. The Jews entered the land, which was flowing with milk and honey, but the local tribes didn’t want to receive the alien people in their lands; likewise, Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus could not find room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7), because people who had come for the census before them occupied all rooms in the local inns. Ancient Jews and the Most Pure Virgin with the Noble Joseph had to fulfil God’s will and go through all hardships that they’d meet on their way in order to make the Divine Plan of our salvation come true.

That was how God, willing to save every person who comes into this world, was guiding and teaching the Israeli people to be patient in spite of many sorrows that befell them so that they could finally be able to give God the greatest level of holiness that human race is capable of: that of the Most Pure Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Her humility and obedience will be greater than that of all greatest prophets. She will become a Temple that is more magnificent than the Temple of Solomon.


What does the Lord want to tell us with this passage? The Lord calls us to get on the road leading towards holiness and salvation. We must get out of Egypt and stop being the devil’s slaves; we must leave the worldly sea of Nazareth and walk to Bethlehem, to the Promised Land, overcoming all external and internal hardships by humility and faith, and take our families along. Bethlehem means “House of Bread” in Hebrew (בית לחם). It was here in this House of Bread that the Bread of Life that descends from the Heaven was to be born, according to Micah’s prophecy. The Lord says, I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. (John 6:48-51). Let us hearken to the Savior’s call and go to Bethlehem, to the Lord’s Church—that real House of Bread where all who thirst and hunger after righteousness can receive that Bread, which is always eaten but never consumed, the bread that sanctifies those who partake of it.


By John Nichiporuk,

a Bachelor of Theology,
specialized in Biblical Studies.

The Catalog Of Good Deeds, 2018
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Learning to Swim

I learned to swim at an early age. I remember, before I started taking official lessons, my father taught me the basics of swimming. He would hold me on my back and teach me to float. In time, I learned to float on my belly and do the “doggy paddle.”

At some point, probably when I entered elementary school, my parents enrolled me in the city’s swim classes. I thought it was great. Our instructors were high school lifeguards. To me, they were the coolest people I’d ever met. They taught us how to kick, how to do proper strokes with our arms, and how to breathe. All was going well...until they wanted us to dive.

At first, it wasn’t so bad. We stood on the side of the pool and learned how to point our hands above our heads, how to lean into the dive, and, then, how to jump into the water. But, it turned horrid very quickly. They wanted us to dive off the diving board!

Jumping into the Deep End

Are you kidding me? They wanted me to climb up a steep ladder, walk out onto a wobbly and narrow plank, and jump into water that is deeper than I could ever imagine! And, they wanted me to trust them to catch me if all went wrong! How could I do that? They were, after all, only high school kids.

What I lacked, however, was trust. I didn’t trust everything I’d been taught, even though, by this point, I did know how to swim. I also didn’t trust the lifeguards. I had everything I needed, except trust.

Sermon on the Plain

In many ways, Jesus’s vision of the Christian walk is like diving into the deep end. The Orthodox Church has been reading through the Gospel of Luke, and, when Jesus gives the Sermon on the Plain (a lot like St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount but this is St. Luke’s version), Jesus asks us to take a big jump.

Jesus tells us that being a Christian may mean becoming poor. It may mean going hungry. We may end up weeping. And, to top it all off, people will hate us, exclude us, and revile us. (Luke 6:20-23)

But, despite our treatment, we are to love our enemies–even do good for them! We are to allow people to hit us by turning the other cheek. We are to give away our clothing to those who beg for the shirts on our backs. And, when people upset us, we are to forgive them–over and over and over again. (Luke 6:27-31, 37-38).

Is Jesus really asking us to live this way? It sounds like he’s asking us to jump into the deep end with no life preserver.

Jesus Is Our Lifeguard

As scary as the Christian walk sounds, it is the only true way to live. (Just imagine if everyone lived this way!) And, the good news is that Jesus is there for us. He’s our lifeguard. This is the meaning of the gospel lesson we read on Sunday: the raising of the widow’s son at Nain. (Luke 7:11-17)

After the Sermon on the Plain, where Jesus asks us to jump into the deep end of Christian living, he tells us that to live this way is like building a house on a solid foundation. He then shows us the power of this way of life.

First, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant from afar. All it took was for the centurion to have trust. Then, Jesus raises the widow’s son. Entering Nain, he sees a funeral possession and he tells the widow, “Do not weep.”

Remember, our Christian walk may leave us weeping. But Jesus promises that we shall laugh. We may become poor or hungry, but Jesus will give us the kingdom and fill us. Loving our enemies and forgiving others may lead to our death, but our master, the Lord Jesus Christ, has the power to raise us from the dead. He shows us this by raising the widow’s son. This is the power of God, a god who has visited his people.

Cross and Resurrection

The Christian walk is hard. It requires a lot of patience from us and a lot of compassion for others. It requires us to trust and dive into the deep end. Perhaps, we’ll drown. The martyrs, over 2,000 years, have shown that following Christ isn’t always about a happy ending...at least not in this life. But, this is the way of the cross. Jesus, who dived into the deepest water humanity has ever known, ended up crucified.

But, the good news is, Jesus is risen! Christ’s resurrection is confirmation that the Christian walk is the true way. It’s vindication that loving our neighbors, even when they hate us, is the right path to follow. It shows us that we should pick up our cross and jump off the diving board.

Take a deep breath, trust God, and jump. Jesus is there waiting to catch us.

By Fr. Dustin Lyon


Source: http://www.dustinlyon.org/?p=1763

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Question: Father Andrew, your blessing. I heard in a sermon that a faithful Christian who observes Wednesday and Friday fasts can take communion on Sunday without fasting on Saturday. What is your take on it? Sophia

Answer by Fr. Andrew Lemeshonok: I have the same opinion. This idea was first brought up by St. John of Kronstadt who said, “If one takes communion regularly, it’ll suffice him or her to fast only on Wednesdays and Fridays.” He means those people who live according to the Church calendar. That is why, if you confess and take communion regularly, you’ll be fine fasting only on Wednesdays and Fridays during non-fasting seasons. Naturally, you shouldn’t overeat on Saturdays before communion on Sunday.

If one seldom partakes of the Eucharist, he or she will naturally need more time to come round. If one takes communion several times a year or once in a couple of months, he or she will be hard-pressed to concentrate on the Sacrament. That is why he or she must prepare for the confession and put some effort into fasting because he or she has definitely accumulated too many sins and has to examine and get rid of them somehow.

December 3, 2018
St. Elisabeth Convent

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Orthodox Christians in Eastern European countries, including Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Slovakia, etc., have a unique tradition related to the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Groups of young people and children go from house to house singing special Christmas carols, called kolyadki and asking for sweets and cakes in return. Most of the carols praise the Mother of God and Child Jesus; other songs are dedicated to popular saints, such as St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. The children often carry a pole mounted star as a symbol of the Bethlehem Star, which led the wise men from the east to the manger of Jesus.

The Monastic Choir of St. Elisabeth convent decided to support this folk tradition by recording a Christmas album. The album consists of two parts – the Akathist to the Nativity of Christ and ten Christmas carols. “Silent Night” (track No. 12), probably one of the most recognizable carols in Western Christianity, became very popular among the Orthodox Christians too. Other carols are well-known in Eastern Europe and represent an inherent part of the cultural heritage in this part of the world.


The tradition of singing kolyadkas dates back to pre-Christian times, when people celebrated the winter solstice and prayed to the winter deity in the hope of collecting abundant harvest later in the year. As a result, some “rigid” Christians denounce this custom as having pagan roots. From this point of view, singing kolyadkas becomes a controversial if not a sinful act. Is that so?

Back in the 4th century AD the Church chose December 25 as the day of the Nativity of Christ, the exact date of Jesus’ birth being unknown to early Christians. The Church fathers wanted people to cease worshipping a solar deity on the day of the winter solstice and pray to the Sun of righteousness, the Lord Jesus, instead. It is just one example of how the Church adopted a pagan festival and transformed it into one of the greatest Christian feasts. The same is true of other traditions, which have been borrowed from paganism and changed according to the doctrines of the Church.


Naturally, all Church choirs should carefully select the carols they are going to perform at Christmas. Of course, it is better to avoid the songs with ambiguous or dubious texts. In my opinion, although the track #8 “Moon Was Walking in the Sky” is beautifully arranged, however, its text is rather questionable.

The album does help create a cheerful atmosphere of Christmas in my home. But, let’s hope this is not the last album of Christmas carols recorded at St. Elisabeth Convent. Apart from the Monastic Choir there is also the Festive Choir that is yet to create its own Christmas album.

By Vladimir Sypchu,
chorister from the parish of
the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple,
Minsk, Belarus

The Catalog of Good Deeds, 2018

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