Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The meaning of objects held by Saints in Icons

Orthodox Iconography can be an extremely concise way of communicating the Faith. Therefore, what the Saints hold in their hands in portrait icons help in identifying them and in telling us about their lives.

— Cross: It indicates the Saint is a Holy Martyr. The reason martyrs are shown holding a cross is two-fold: firstly, martyr comes for the Greek for witness, and so these witnesses hold the preeminent symbol of Christianity: the Cross. Secondly, the Cross symbolizes the most perfect sacrifice of life for others, Christ’s own crucifixion. Therefore, any Saints who were murdered for confessing the Faith are shown with crosses, regardless of how they died.

— Scroll: It indicates holy Wisdom, and so is often shown in the hands of the Old Testament prophets, but is also commonly seen in the hands of the Apostles. Both were given wisdom from God – the prophets through visions, the Apostles through meeting and knowing Jesus Christ. Later Saints may also be shown holding scrolls if they were also known for prophecy, percipience, and imparting divine knowledge to others.

— Gospel Book: Sainted Bishops in Icons hold their main tool: the Gospel Book, from which they proclaim the Good News to the faithful during the Liturgy. Many of the Church Fathers were also Bishops, and some of their “writings” which we read today were not writings at all, but sermons preached after the reading of the Gospel, later copied down by the congregation for other churches to benefit from. Their inspired teachings were grounded in the Gospel, and so they hold these books in Icons as the instruments through which God granted them sainthood. And they hold them with great reverence indeed, indicated by the way some Icons show the Bishops covering their bare hand with their vestments or stole.

— Crosier: Another role of the Bishop is that of a pastor, or shepherd, of Christ’s flock. This is symbolized by the Crosier, which in Orthodoxy doesn’t look the same as the “shepherd’s crook” held by bishops in the West. It is of a simpler design, usually in the shape of the Greek letter Tau, which symbolizes life, resurrection, or the Cross.

— Weapons: Often there are weapons in icons, such as lances, shields and swords. In the first few centuries of the Church, two types of martyr gained particular devotion among Christians: virgin-martyrs and soldier-martyrs.These martyr-soldiers (and they usually hold crosses too, in remembrance of their sacrifice) have through their confession of faith become “soldiers for Christ”.

— Church Building: Some Saints are depicted holding a Church Building in their hands, just like Ss Peter and Paul. This reflects the hymnography of the Church, where the two Apostles are praised as “pillars of the Church.” Not only were they pillars of the Church, but church-builders too, establishing Christian communities (churches) around the Mediterranean and Holy Lands. Later, other Saints are remembered for their “church-building” and so are depicted holding small churches or monasteries, often in profile, shown offering the church to Christ. It is quite common for Sainted kings and queens to be shown holding churches in this way, as they are honoured for their role as protector and benefactor of the Church within their lands.

Eυλογία που έχουν οι ιερείς μας (Αγ.Ιωάννης Χρυσόστομος)

-Οι γονείς μας, ο πατέρας μας και η μητέρα μας, είναι ιερά πρόσωπα για μας. Έχουν από το Θεό μεγάλη χάρη και ευλογία. Μα πιο μεγάλη από αυτούς χάρη και ευλογία έχουν οι ιερείς μας.

- Η διαφορά ανάμεσα στους ιερείς και στους γονείς μας είναι πολύ μεγάλη. Είναι τόσο μεγάλη, όσο μεγάλη είναι η διαφορά ανάμεσα στην παρούσα ζωή και στην αιώνια.

– Οι γονείς, γεννούν παιδιά, για την παρούσα ζωή· οι ιερείς, για την άλλη.Οι γονείς, δεν μπορούν, ούτε να σώσουν τα παιδιά τους, ούτε να τα προφυλάξουν· ούτε από αρρώστειες· ούτε από τον θάνατο!

- Οι ιερείς, μπορούν. Και σώζουν. Ψυχές άρρωστες. Από το χείλος της απωλείας! Κάνουν και σταματάει το κατρακύλισμα: με τα λόγια τους· με τις συμβουλές τους· και με τις ευχές τους.

-Οι γονείς, αν τα παιδιά τους πρόσβαλαν κανέναν μεγάλον, δεν μπορούν να τα προστατεύσουν! – Οι ιερείς, μας βγάζουν ασπροπρόσωπους, ακόμη και αν εναντίον μας έχει οργισθή ο ίδιος ο Θεός. Γιατί ο Θεός έχει δεσμευθή να τους ακούει.

(Αγ.Ιωάννης Χρυσόστομος)

Love For God ( Saint Herman of Alaska )

Once the Elder was invited on board a frigate that had come from St. Petersburg. The captain of the frigate was a man quite learned, highly educated; he had been sent to America by Imperial command to inspect all the colonies. With the captain were some 25 officers, likewise educated men. In this company there sat a desert-dwelling monk of small stature, in an old garment, who by his wise conversation brought all his listeners to such a state that they did not know how to answer him. The captain himself related: "We were speechless fools before him!"

Father Herman gave them all one common question: "What do you, gentlemen, love above all, and what would each of you wish for his happiness?" Diverse answers followed. One desired wealth, one glory, one a beautiful wife, one a fine ship which he should command, and so on in this fashion. "Is it not true," said Father Herman at this, "that all your various desires can be reduced to one - that each of you desires that which, in his understanding, he considers best and most worthy of love?" "Yes, it is so," they all replied. "Well, then, tell me," he continued, "can there be anything better, higher above everything, more surpassing everything and in general more worthy of love, than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who created us, perfectly adorned us, gave life to all, supports all, nourishes and loves all, who Himself is love and more excellent than all men? Should not a person then love God high above all and desire and seek Him more than all else?" All began to say: "Well, yes! That is understood! That speaks for itself!"

"And do you love God?" the Elder then asked. All replied: "Of course, we love God. How can one not love God?" "And I, sinful one, for more than forty years have been striving to love God, and cannot say that I perfectly love Him," answered Father Herman; then he began to show how a person should love God. "If we love someone," he said, "we always think of him, strive to please him, day and night our heart is occupied with this subject. Is it thus that you, gentlemen, love God? Do you often turn to Him, do you always think of Him, do you always pray to Him, and fulfill His holy commandments?" It had to be acknowledged that they did not! "For our good, for our happiness," concluded the Elder, "at least let us make a promise to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this very moment we shall strive to love God above all, and fulfill His holy will!"

Behold what an intelligent, superb conversation Father Herman conducted in society; without doubt this conversation must have imprinted itself on the hearts of his listeners for their whole life!

Saint Herman of Alaska

''Νά ἀγαπήσετε τίς ἀγρυπνίες" ( Ἅγιος Πορφύριος )

«Να αγαπήσετε τις αγρυπνίες.
Οι αγρυπνίες είναι μεγάλο πράγμα.
Ανοίγει ὁ ουρανός.
Μιλάμε με τον Θεό.
Στις δικές μας αγρυπνίες εκεί πάνω, μέχρι τις δώδεκα τα μεσάνυχτα νύσταζα λιγάκι, κλείνανε τα μάτια μου.
Μετά άνοιγε ὁ νούς μου, και τη ζούσα την προσευχή, ως το πρωί. Όταν τελείωνε, είχα τόση διάθεση, ώστε, να ήταν τρόπος να ξανάρχιζε πάλι από την αρχή.

Στη Σκήτη διαβάζαμε καθαρά, με νόημα τον κανόνα.
Όταν οι αγρυπνίες γίνονταν στο Κυριακό, τον ψέλναμε».
Και συμπλήρωσε, αναπολώντας τη μοναχική του ζωή στα Καυσοκαλύβια:
«Εκείνο πού μου άρεσε απ΄όλα περισσότερο, ήταν ὁ Τριαδικός Κανόνας κάθε Κυριακή στο Μεσονυκτικό.
Όταν τον διάβαζε ὁ αδελφός, εγώ συγκέντρωνα όλη την προσοχή μου. Και αν καμιά φορά διάβαζε σιγανά ἤ γρήγορα και δεν καταλάβαινα ή δεν άκουγα, πολύ στενοχωριόμουνα.
Τότε αποτραβιόμουνα πίσω και βυθιζόμουνα στην ευχή».
«Θυμάμαι τα ωραία μου χρόνια στο Άγιον Όρος.
Οι Γέροντές μου εμένα δεν μ᾿ έβγαζαν έξω· ήμουν μικρός και δεν μ᾿ έπαιρναν σε πανηγύρεις κ.λπ.
Όταν λοιπόν έμενα μόνος μου, πήγαινα εκεί στο εκκλησάκι μας, τον Άγιο Γεώργιο, και έψαλλα όλο τέτοια κατανυκτικά τροπάρια.
Άνοιγα την Παρακλητική του Σαββάτου, πού έχει πιο πολλά κι έψαλλα.
Έλεγα, επίσης, πολύ την παράκληση της Παναγίας.
Με μεγάλη κατάνυξη κι αγάπη έψαλλα τον Κανόνα του Ιησού.
Οι Γέροντές μου δεν μ᾿ είχαν μάθει ψαλτικά.
Ακούγοντας τα έμαθα».

Από το Βιβλίο:

«Όσιος Πορφύριος ο Καυσοκαλυβίτης Η αγιότητα στον 21ο αιώνα»