I am a priest of almost 40 years, thank God. I have served in different places and in many different circumstances. I believe I can say, during these 4 decades of my work I gained a lot of experience.
I regret not writing down all the questions that came up during my work as a priest. Therefore, I would like to go back to some of those questions now and try to answer them.
First of all you need to check in with your parish priest as he is to take the lead role in this process. Parish jurisdiction is determined based on your current mailing address. Your parish priest should give you the directions on what steps to take.
In the Canadian Diocese, where I am serving, in order to process the divorce case you need the following:
1. Three copies of the Divorce Suit, signed by the plaintiff, containing the address of the plaintiff and the defendant;
2. Civil Court Verdict
3. Marriage Certificate;
5. Supporting document sent by the parish priest.
The Orthodox Church does nоt recognize the divorce in which both sides agree to dissolve the marriage. One side will sue the other and it will state the reasons for a divorce. At least one of the reasons for a divorce must be from the list of reasons for the divorce as written in the law act called ‘The Marriage Rules in the Serbian Orthodox Church’. Divorce Case should also mention the children born in this marriage, if there are any.
The case is then sent to the defendant and they are called upon to enter their deposition within the 14 days from the day the case was received. If the defendant sends in his/her remarks and objections the Church Court will set the court date when the parties will bring forward their cases. Based on the proceedings The Church Court will give the ruling.
If the defendant does nоt send in his/her remarks and objections, the Court will decide based on the case presented by the plaintiff.
If the address of the defendant is unknown to the Court, the defendant is represented by a legal counsel appointed by the Court.
The length of the proceedings is dependent upon quite a few different factors i.e. the availability of the Church Court, defendant’s response to the litigation etc.
I am trying to find out about church practices, hurdles, when it comes to marrying somebody belonging to a different confession and procedures to follow to be able to get married in the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Can you please help us and let us know what needs to be done so that we can be married in the church? Is there a possibility for a Catholic priest to at least attend the ceremony?
Short form: There should be no problems regarding your marriage in the Orthodox Church, since the same recognizes mixed marriages.
That being said, in order for you two to get married, YOUR priest should write an application to appropriate bishop, in your name. Attached should be a written statement, signed by you, your future husband, and two witnesses, declaring that children, bestowed upon your holy union by merciful God, will be Christened, and reared according to Orthodox beliefs.
Catholic priest, however, can not take part in the ceremony. That being said there is nothing preventing him to attend as a private guest.
Some of the Questions and answers, you can also find on my web-site, under heading “marriage.
At the end of the holy mystery of confession, when the prayers are read, the priest is bound to say the following to those confessing: Behold, my child, Christ standeth here invisibly and receiveth thy confession: wherefore, be not ashamed, neither be afraid, and conceal thou nothing from me: but tell me, doubting not, all things which thou hast done: and so shalt thou have pardon from our Lord Jesus Christ. Lo, His holy image is before us: and I am but a witness, bearing testimony before him of all things which thou dost say to me. But if thou shalt conceal anything from me, thou shalt have the greater sin. Take heed, therefore, lest, having come to the physician, thou depart unhealed.
So, dear child, you’re right. Now your sin is greater. But do not despair. You still have, I hope, enough time to repent and cleanse yourself from sins. Only, hurry up!
None of us know when the Lord will call us to answer for our every thought, word and deed. We can not be sure that we will have time to “bring forth […] fruits meet for repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) It is not enough just to repent and confess, but through repentance to purge oneself of sins.
I have been a priest for nearly 40 years. And everything that follows is from my own, personal, perspective: I am a sinful man, conscious of my sinfulness. I’m very often ashamed before those who come for confession. And when someone comes forth sincerely with his or her torments, I – fully aware of my sinfulness – feel genuine compassion and love for the confessing man or woman. I see that I am not alone in my own stumblings.
Priests are not interested in “juicy stories”, and there are too many of them after all. They are interested only in how to help the co-suffering brother and sister.
To incite you to open your soul, imagine the following: you are coming before the Judge, trembling. Books are opened and all your sins, your every thought, word and deed, all that was secret and hidden in the depths of darkness, suddenly becomes visible on the endless screen of Heavens. There’s a countless, vast mass of witnesses. And the devil laughs.
Is it not easier, now, to approach one witness rather than wait for the billions of witnesses, angels and men, to be ashamed of you before the Lord?
Her father is a Serb and mother is Muslim. She was baptized but she has not been taught in the Orthodox spirit. She does not like to talk about any matters of religion or faith… However, she did promise me that if we get married, I will have the freedom to educate and raise our children in the Orthodox faith, but without me attempting to change her ways in that regard.
What is the position of the Church on these matters? I would like to emulate as much it is possible a truly Christian life in my marriage, striving to sin as little as possible, since my life up till now has been quite a sinful one.
Second question: Is it a great sin to have an intimate relationship with a girl before marriage, as I have difficulties finding the right approach or have understanding from the other half in that regard (nowadays that is very difficult); and I don’t think I am strong enough myself to withstand such temptations? So, is such a grave sin forgivable, considering that I intend to marry her?
You have put me on great pains with your questions. I’m assuming that my answer will not be taken with gravity – since you see your girlfriend, as you say, in the near future as your spouse, and you intend to marry her – but I will still tell you, according to my conscience, what I think. God forbid that I may even think of spoiling someone’s happiness. I, as our people do, see that as a grave sin. I could simply tell you that there are no formal obstacles to your planned wedding; your future bride is baptized – all the best to the two of you!
However, I am struggling with your struggles and with some of your contradictions. You say that you two “get along very well.” I do not know what that refers to exactly, if it is not “getting along well” in bed. Getting along in bed – marital bed that is – is a very important thing. (Please read my “Orthodox understanding of sexuality” on my website.) While getting along in the bed is indeed important, it is not paramount. Your bride-to-be dislikes any mention of religion or faith. I wonder: What will your future days, your future feast-days and traditional celebration of saints’ days look like if your wife will not want you to mention Christmas, Pascha, Krsna Slava?
For now, she leaves you in charge of your future children’s education. I am a priest, and a believer. My life, from very early on, I spent in the Church and with the Church. The Church is “under my skin”, in every drop of my blood. My wife comes from a believing, patriarchal, Serbian home. Thus, a believer too. And yet I’ve spent less time bringing up our children than she had. Mothers nurse their children with mother’s milk and with everything else of Heaven and Earth. Your future children will be what their mother makes them out to be.
My dear friend, I have been married for over 40 years, so I can claim to know a thing or two about these matters. Even if you enter into marriage with completely matching and harmonized views, often great challenges come along. And those occur when there are no major discrepancies! I do not know what to say about the chances of success for a marriage when you are going into it with such incompatible views on essential questions of life, both earthly and heavenly. Best regards.
P.S. As for your second question, your conscience – as this issue troubles you – answered it already.
Dear Alex ,
If by “life circumstances” you are referring to fate, predestination – that we have done something not because we wanted to but because our living circumstances forced us to do it – I should remind you right away that the Orthodox Church does not accept such teachings.
The Lord endowed the crown of his creation, man, with free will. This gift of God to man distinguishes and raises man above the whole of God’s creation.
As much as free will is a gift, it is even more so a challenge. By free will man ascends to God or descends into ruin. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. There is always a choice, though it may seem to us that there was no choice.
On the tenth anniversary of the death of my grandfather who, by the way, was a communist, I was in a car accident, which was on the feast day of St. Nicholas of Myra. I survived the accident without a single injury. Again, ten years after the dreadful event, on the feast day of the Three Holy Hierarchs, I had a surgery that prevented the formation of a malignant tumor.
Recently, my father told me that after my birth my mother had a, so called, miscarriage, which I do not quite believe was the case. I also heard another version of the story, which was that due to a severe inflammation, to save herself my mother had to have an abortion. If that is true, could it be that I suffered so much due to that sin? But on the other hand, if a genuinely spontaneous miscarriage did happened, is it still a sin for a woman.
You asked the question of inherited sin, though, to me, the events that happened to you and around you seem to be rather a warning to you by the Grace of God.
The question of inherited sin is very complex. Indeed it says in the Bible that the Lord our God, a jealous God, recompenses “the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20:5) of those who hate Him. The Lord returns “iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them” (Jeremiah 32: 18). “Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities,” (Lamentations 5:7) laments the prophet Jeremiah.
King Hezekiah, as he re-established the right worship in Jerusalem after the apostate predecessors, sums up the fate of their kin in a bitter truth. “For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord … Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and he hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing… And our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. “(2 Chronicles 29:6-9)
Is this justice? It is. Because, if we inherit from our ancestors wealth and land, why would we not inherit also whatever else that goes with it? “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)
All of this should not lead us to the deceptive thought and state in which the contemporaries of prophet Jeremiah ended up, thinking of themselves as, supposedly, immaculate and just, and as such suffering the sins of their ancestors. That is why the prophet cries out that there will be times when you will (have to) stop with the notion that “the fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge. “(Jeremiah 31:29-30) The Lord got fed up with the empty excuses of Israel and this is confirmed by the warning of His prophet Ezekiel: “The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying, what mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.”(Ezekiel 18, 1-3), but, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. “(Ezekiel 18:20)
Thus, everyone will pay their own account. We primarily suffer because of our own, personal, sins. “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)
And your case, that on the anniversary of your grandfather’s death you were spared of major, personal miseries reminds me of the event described in the 9th chapter of John’s Gospel. The Apostles of the Lord met a young man blind from birth. “Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” – Asked the Apostles of Christ. “Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:2-3)
Whether this is the case or not, be thankful to the Lord and pray to God for your ancestors.
With the doors open or closed, with the reading aloud of prayers that should be said quietly, etc. Why is this not regulated across all Eparchies so that the faithful would not be concerned about these matters? I live in Krushevac, and in the Krushevac Eparchy the Holy Liturgy is served in the so-called “new” way, while in the nearby village Djunis at the monasteries of the Intercession of the Theotokos and at St.Roman’s they serve in the so-called “old” way. Thank you.
From your question it is clear that this is not only in “particular Eparchies”, but even within the same Eparchy the Holy Liturgy is celebrated in different ways.
The Holy Assembly of the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church resolved this question in may of 2007 with the following decision:
The Assembly has entrusted the Committee for the study of Liturgical questions to continue their work and eventually report their conclusions to the Holy Assembly of Bishops for the final decision, taking into consideration the practices and spiritual experiences of other Orthodox sister Churches, as well as considering the spiritual state of our people and the readiness of our clergy to implement these practices. In the meantime, until such a decision is made based on the Committee’s findings and until all Eparchies of the Serbian Orthodox Church have reached a consensus on these questions concerning the celebration of the Holy Liturgy and other services, all should adhere to the centuries old established order of services in our Church.
At this time I would not want to delve into more details, which would take much time. However, as a believer and a priest, I would appreciate very much if the passions on this issue would calm down in order to avoid, God forbid, any potential divisions in our Church. If we would bring strife into our Church, as a people we would be left without anything else.
In the hope that such calamity would not happen, I greet you heartfeltly.
The answer to your question could be summarized in a single simple phrase: it is possible. But a little bit more detailed and broader explanation could be: neither marriage nor monkhood did our Lord set as conditions for salvation, but rather the fulfillment of His divine will. And the Lord’s divine will is condensed in Christ’s answer to the testing Pharisee: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ” (Matthew 22:37-39)
The Lord expands on this when he talks to the rich young man, reminding him of God’s commandments, delivered through Moses: “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 19:18-20) This was enough for the rich young man to be saved and attain the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:17). It is the same for you, and me, and all of us. The Lord tells the young man that, if he wants to be perfect, he should sell all his belongings, give to the poor and he will have treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21). Christ’s call to the young man to leave everything behind and follow Him could be interpreted as a call for monkhood.
The good Apostle Paul has a lot of appreciation for us and the circumstances in which we live. He says: “I wish that all of you were as I am.” (1 Corinthians 7:7) In today’s terminology, the Apostle was a monk. But, “…each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Corinthians 7:7) As you know, there were both married and single men among the Twelve.
May the wise words of Holy Bishop Nikolaj be the beacon light in your life: “Marriage is a great and wondrous mystery, one of the great sacraments of God’s divine order. A pure and virtuous marriage is a sublime one. A pure and virtuous marriage, in fear of God, is a vessel of the Holy Spirit’s grace. Whoever despises marriage, despises the Holy Spirit. Whoever fouls marriage with impurity, blasphemes against the Holy Spirit. And whoever abstains from marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of God, must make himself the vessel of the holy Spirit’s grace in another way, making himself spiritually fertile, so that he would not be cut down like a fruitless fig tree.”
And whether it is possible or impossible to start a family “without sinning prior to that”, that I leave for everyone to decide and judge for themselves. May our dear and good Lord give You strength on your road to salvation.
This question is simple and complex at the same time, and it requires a thorough introduction. And the nature of this site is not for long theological deliberations.
However; I conclude that it is too difficult an issue for today, mainly dealing with those who do a lot of thinking involving very little, if any, thought to creation. If we lived more with God, and believed wholeheartedly, God would be more revealing to us and so relieve us of needless thoughts.
“Knowledge is fragile”, sung the poet.
God has revealed enough to us for our salvation, for the here and now. ”For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13, 12) This says the Apostle, who, “whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth; such an one caught up to the third heaven. How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (2 Cor. 12, 2-4) Centuries before, like wise Solomon tells us: “Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.” (Ecclesiastes 8, 17)
So, we have to accept our limitations and inability to comprehend all the secrets of God. The vastness of God’s wisdom cannot spill over into the shells of our small brain.
What, then, is left?
“And now abideth faith,” (1 Cor. 13, 13) teaches the Apostle. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11, 1) We should study, at length, the Book of Hebrew’s, Chapter 11, and see all the wonders attributed to faith. And we need our faith, for God to navigate our small boat on the vast ocean of his infinite wisdom, into quiet harbor waters.
Do we believe God, or, God forbid, we do not believe? Because we believe him then, without any reservation, with joy and relief, we accept that everything God created was good (1st Gen. 10, 12, 18, 21) and, in the end, even very good. (1st Gen. 1, 31)
Whence is evil? In man, the crown of his creation, God breathed freedom, as a means of advancement and convergence to Him, our Creator. God laid all of his creation at man’s disposal; all that was needed was to abstain from the fruit of a single tree, by his obedience to express his love for God and his affinity to Him. Man denounced his obedience to his Creator and walked the devil’s short cut to become like a god. “Why is man evil? Because of his personal liberty, “teaches St. Basil the Great. “Evil is alien to man’s God given nature, it crept from the devil into the world through man. The origin of the devil to be found in them, in their free and voluntary apostasy from God as the eternal truth, light and good. The All-mighty and all-perfect God, also made them good, holy, and light, but they did not want, through the love of God to remain in truth and good and therefore have fallen and fallen away from God, and became lying, evil and sin. “(St. Justin Celijski) The devil” has sinned, not because of a natural inclination to sin, (otherwise the cause of sin falls on Him who has created such), but created good, he is by his own free will become the devil “, says St. Cyril of Jerusalem. (Quoted St. Justin Celijski.)
The messages of the Eastern Patriarchs gave the most concise answer to this question.They say: “Because The Creator by being good, everything he has created is good and wonderful, and it can never be the author of evil. And if man or demon has any kind of evil: that is, sin, it is against the will of God, and that evil comes from either man or of the devil. Because it’s completely true and without any doubt that God can not be a perpetrator of evil.”
In Holy Scripture we are thought by Solomon: ”Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken”. (Eccl 7:21 (KJV) There is but one and only curse, which has been established and several times repeated in the Holy Bible: God’s curse, and that is the only one to be afraid of.
The Lord gave us his Commandments and his holy will. He blesses us when we lead our lives in accordance with his laws. If you are in harmony with God’s Law, do not be afraid of curses, magic, or any other of the devil’s works. The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. (Ps. 33:10 (KJV)
One blessed by Lord, cannot be cursed by anyone. “How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied? (Num 23:8 (KJV)
“O God of my praise” (Ps. 109:1 (KJV) , “Let them curse, but bless thou.” (Ps. 109:28 (KJV)
Read the Holy Scripture, and find strength in it. You will see that God returns evil onto the heads of evildoers. (Judges 9:57 (KJV) He turns curse into blessing. (Num. chpt. 22. and 23; Neh 13:2 (KJV)
Ahead of us we’ll find either God’s blessing or his curse: blessing, if we obey the law of our Lord God. Curse, if we disobey and stray from our Lord’s path. In that case he allows many misfortunes to befall us, and stubbornness in sinning he punishes us sevenfold, until we are eradicated. (Deut 11:26-28 (KJV)
Devil’s servants and his apprentices are the ones embroidered in dirty deeds, cast spells and curses, tell fortunes, and do other evils, regardless of how pious they portray themselves, and the amount of icons they decorate their lairs with, truth remains, that in their devil’s nets they catch those that are week of faith. Devils mercenaries are also the ones that obtain their services.
Lastly, for your faith and solace: “As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.” (Prov 26:2 (KJV)
Our answer to this question is simple and can be summarized as follows…
There is not a soul that has the authority to take a life, not even his own that he did not provide to another and not even to himself. It is by God’s Grace and Will that life is given, and it is by Him alone Who decides when it is to be taken.
Within the Holy Bible, we cannot locate a specific referral to suicide, but it is clearly defined and understood that throughout the commands and teachings of God; it is He alone that has the sole authority to provide or take life and no other being has this authority. Suicide is most terrible to God; capturing or willfully taking authority from the Hands of God, his own fate.
That is the unrepentant sin which the sinner has forsaken himself from obtaining God’s mercy and forgiveness. All other mistakes and sins may be repented and redeemed. For this particular sin (suicide) there would not exist the time to do so. The suicidal person shortens and disputes all mercies towards him. This is the reason why the Orthodox Church does not partake in requiem for the person whom committed suicide; understanding that the person did not wish God’s mercies upon himself.
God’s divine wisdom and words knows that man may seek termination of life, but not find it, and at moments man may yearn for death, but death flees from him (Rev. 9, 6). In the Holy Bible we learn and understand that by the incurable fate of God’s prophet whom was under hardships and turmoil was lead to yearn the ending of his life. However, God’s angel strengthened him towards all fears and turmoil (1. Tsar. 19, chapter.)
Hence, we do not find direct prohibitions in terms to suicide, but from all the teachings and commandments, we take it upon ourselves to know and understand the intended meaning of God’s gift of life and our inability to retrieve it. The words of our God are simple and clear in respect to life. We find that even through the heavy life of Job and all the hardships that may inflict upon people; God expects of us. He (God) expects all people that may face challenges and hardships, to not lose hope or faith.
For us, seedlings of Judah, of Christian faith and cultural milieu, there are no significant religious barriers existing in regards to consumption of animal meat.
I am uncertain whether it is needed to announce the difference between fasting and not fasting, for those are entirely different subjects in respect to consuming animal meat.
On the first page, heading in the Holy Bible it is stated that God created first the whales in the waters; ‘and all living creatures that move and that swarm through the waters according to their species, and all winged birds according to their species.’ (1. Moses 1, 21) And then ‘God created beasts upon earth according to their species, and livestock according to their species, and all small animals according to their species. And God seen that it was good.’ (1 Moses, 1, 25) All that God created is stated in the Holy Bible.
If all that is good which God created, is that automatically considered to be good for our consumption? A few chapters further, it is given to us the answers to this question. After the ending of the great flood, and because Noah – by the commands of God saved the animals according to their species, and Spoke to him: ‘All beasts of the earth, and all the birds of the skies, and all that moves upon the earth, and all fish of the seas’ (1. Moses, 9, 2) he places in Noah’s and Noah’s sons’ hands. ‘Whatever crawls and lives, may that be your food, all that I gave like the green grass’ (1. Moses, 9, 3), had God instructed them.
The stance and attitude of the Holy Orthodox church towards any murder, even with this one, the alleged mercy is quite clear. It is derived from God’s commandments where it is stated simply: ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ (2, Moses 20, 13).
Nobody, and not under any circumstance does a person have the authority to take that which they did not give and what they are unable to give. This is also an endorsement towards the stance of the Orthodox Church in respect to capital punishment.
Life is the most precious blessing gifted to us by God, for God himself and no other earthly powers or judges created man from the ashes of the earth, or breathed into him spirit, creating life (1. Moses 2, 7). Therefore, it is only God that can take what He has given – life, and no other has the authority to do so. It is God that decides the length of days for man (6, Moses 30, 20).
That significant authority, God did not provide to others. ‘I take and give’ God had stated, ‘I permit wounds and I heal, and there aren’t any that would be rescued of this fate from my hands’ (5, Moses 32, 39).
Prayers and blessing of the water amongst the homes of parishioners is a very old and important Orthodox tradition.”
These traditions which we follow and maintain can be rightfully envied by many. This practice of ours has even attributed to the heterodox amazement and admiration. We can consider that they would assume how wonderful it is to have the priest visit and grace the homes of parishoners, as they have never experienced this in their lifetime.
The Orthodox people bless all that relate to life itself; the homes they dwell in, the water they drink or fruits that they pick, food they consume, and all that they touch. It is truly miraculous how the Lord’s precious blessings are manifested through the blessing of water. It is well known and proven by many that the waters blessed on Epiphany never spoils. The Holy holiday of Epiphany is the true act of the Lord’s answering, and that it is in two ways. The first would be what we read in the Holy Evangelists; when the first baptism took place; the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan River, preceding the baptism; the Holy Trinity appeared in the skies directly above the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Heavenly Father placed amongst us (people) and spoke to him. Through divine manifestation of God, a dove appeared above the head of our Lord, representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
For us, in today’s contemporary world and in earlier times; we believe our Lord Answers and manifests through the substance of the blessed water. On the Holy day of Epiphany, we learn that a little of Heaven’s gate is revealed to us and shown to us how the substance of the waters once were – clean and unspoiled prior to Adam’s decline and the infections of sin and death. We learn and acknowledge that these Holy splendors – the pure waters will once again return upon the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the final judgement.
With the Lord’s baptism in the river Jordan, it is honored and believed that He, New Adam, not only cleansed himself and the human beings, but through the cleansing of the fallen man, He re-established all created matters, and all once again became good in the eyes of God (Glasnik C.S.O, Sacramento). Thus, that blessed Epiphany water, the small taste of Heaven permitted; the priests take to bless the homes and all that is within, to all their devoted parishioners. Must it require further elaboration of how vital and important it is that the priest’s visits, gracing the homes of parishioners – blesses them and their homes with prayers and Holy water.”
Yesterday, as today, and the way it should always be; it is the clergy, hierarchy – complete with the bishop.
As much as some people may be opposed to this, and even if it occurs to lack in some instances; this is the Orthodox Church’s practice since its beginnings. At first it were the apostles themselves that were engaged in these matters, but when the work involved multiplied, and fearing that it would deter them from their first and foremost obligation – revealing the words of the Lord, they released themselves from the burdens of materialistic matters.
In the works of the apostles 6, 2 -4 we read: ‘Then the twelve called upon the multitude of students and told them: It is not fitting for us to abandon the words of our Lord and partake in matters relating to the table (materialistic). Seek, brethren, amongst yourselves, seven proven people, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom that we will set upon them this service, and we shall through prayers and service remain diligent to the words of our Lord.’
The Lord Jesus Christ’s command to the apostles was to, through His blessed teachings and lessons they are to grace the people (Mt. 28, 19). There was an additional reason that they were asking and delegating their replacements, the bishops, is because; all the places where the Lord’s words took roots, they were tirelessly continuing forth to teach.
The bishops, in full capacity and burdens of responsibilities to their entrusted herd, submitted themselves to the welfare of materialistic duties amongst all the churches. Exclusively to them. It should be taken into consideration that during those times the space of episcopacy could be related to, and coincide with the space of today’s parishes, and from this; conclusions are imposed of their own. From the 38 apostles’ rules, the apostles express: ‘Bishop shall take concern of all the church’s matters and manage its welfare, while remembering that the Lord monitors him.’ These mandates were based to serve all canonical developments. Thus, in the Holy Orthodox church it did not lose its validity. Therefore, the responsibilities of the church’s assets and its welfare are upon the wisdom and conscience of the bishop. It is understood and accepted that the capacity of these obligations which the chosen bishop undertakes is under the observation of the Lord. 41. The apostle’s rules strengthen the cited, 38. rules and corroborates with the statement that if the bishops are entrusted with the precious souls of the people; all the more reason that they should be entrusted with materialistic matters.
These mandates are observed, respected and practiced by the priests and deacons in respect to the administration and its management, in compliance and accordance to the bishop’s orders. It is also important to note that when the responsibilities were becoming more immense with fixed goods and standard revenues, it was clear that the bishops were overwhelmed with the tasks of managing all the revenues on their own.
Before the Holy liturgy takes place; the priest performs initial preparations for the Holy liturgy. From five breads (prosphoras) the priest takes individual parts of the bread and from the first bread the piece taken represents ‘Agnec’ (lamb) – meaning the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Proceeding the Agnec, wine and water are poured into a chalice and which during the divine and Holy liturgy is to become and represent the blood of Christ. From the second bread (prosphora) a piece is taken in honor of and remembrance of our Most Holy and Blessed Mother of God. From the third bread (prosphora) parts are taken in honor of the nine ranks of saints. The fourth bread (prosphora) piece is in honor of the bishop that is concerned with the diocese, and for all those living that the priest prays for during preparations. While from the remaining fifth bread (prosphora) is for the dearly departed that the priest prays for during the preparations of divine and Holy liturgy. The remainder of the bread (prosphoras) is then distributed amongst the parishioners at the conclusion of the Holy liturgy.
Where is that tradition from? In earlier times, Christians lived as one family; those that believed and were faithful had one heart and one soul. Not one of these persons would mention or portray that they had individual properties, but instead would consider all the properties to be shared and equal between each other as one. None amongst those were lacking or impoverished but had land and farms and houses, and chose to sell their belongings and bring forth the income acquired to the feet of the Holy apostles. The monies were distributed according to the needs of the people (D.ap. 4, 32, 34 – 35).
By the breaking of bread on the table of love and togetherness; the Holy sacrament Eucharist, the Holy church of Christ our Lord was conceived. And, that is the bread we take and eat at the end of the Holy liturgy.
Because, dear friends…I, in that moment, recall my own mistakes and ask myself whether I am worthy to participate in the Holy sacrament of Eucharist.
And the words of St. John (Golden Mouth) calms me which it deems to be considered; ‘No one of those whom are bound to bodily lusts and delights is not worthy to near, to approximate themselves or to perform the Holy liturgy to You, Tsar of Glory. For to serve You is much too divine and great and even all Heavenly Powers.
Thus, the priest continues to pray that the Lord vouchsafes him, in order to put forth the Holy gifts, for in the end; it is Almighty God that yields what is accepted and what is distributed.
In the same method can all of those whom are present question their own mistakes and sins, and worthiness.
Aside from this; there are those that may attend the Holy church and this would be an excellent cause for them to think about their spiritual state.”
This indeed is a good question and observation…
I can inform you that even amongst theologians a controversy exists; whether to retain that statement in the Holy liturgy or to dismiss it altogether from the liturgy. There are some that have already taken it upon themselves to omit this statement from the Holy liturgy.
If this option were reliant on me, even a little; I am not in favour of omitting any part of the Holy liturgy or shortening it.
The point to make is this: during the times of the earliest churches; there were far more serious and fundamentally thorough preparations for the Holy sacraments of baptism. Those that were preparing for baptism were engaged in thorough religious education, as well as assurances of their intentions towards their baptism taking place.
This procedure – teachings would have lasted three years. The candidates for the baptism, catechumens – students were vouchsafed for this great blessing of God, after thorough inspections and verifications. Holy sacraments of baptism were mainly and immediately performed before, or directly on the day of the Lord’s great holidays. And, when we today; during our Holy liturgies instead of chanting ‘Holy Lord’ we chant ‘Jelici Vo Hrista’ (all those baptized in Christ) – all those whom are in Christ baptised…’
Catechumens, students and a few more categories of people (which could ideally, be a separate questions of its own) were summoned by the priest’s exclamations to leave the Holy liturgy and only the faithful to remain until the completion of the Holy liturgy. In the moment when the priest exclaims ‘doors, doors – with wisdom we are watchful’. Especially those that were assigned to confirm of those that actually did depart; the doors were then locked, and the remaining faithful were left to partake and enjoy the splendors of the Lord’s Holy liturgy.”
The most concise answer to this question we may locate in the book ‘Religious Education in our Homes – Veronauka u Kuci, Beograd 2000’.
It is stated in the book: children are baptized by the faith of the Godparent, whereas according to the sacraments of Holy Baptism; the Godfather becomes a spiritual father of the child; being spiritually re-born for God and for eternity. The Godfather; being of Christian Orthodox faith and baptized of the such is the appropriate factor and requirement. Baptism, representing and signifying it’s meaning is through re-birth by water and spirit. From that moment on begins the kinship between the Godchild and Godparent. External from blood relationship, this bond is highly spiritual and respected. As is birth the beginning of life, baptism is the beginning of a spiritual life. Mortal life requirements are necessary and mandatory, but in addition to this is the spiritual life in continuous need of spiritual nourishment. The Holy church continues to provide this much needed nourishment to its children and parishioners, alongside the Holy Sacraments that are provided.
The baptized soul may rise to the completeness of growth towards Christ our Lord according to the words of the Holy apostles. That is, in fact; the Christian’s morals and beliefs, as well as upbringing. Whereas, through baptism; Christians are endowed with a stamp gifted by the Holy Spirit, and with that in mind, the true member of the Orthodox Church recognizes that this not only entails a symbolic and display of commitment, but includes the integral and most realistic aspect; the Holy Communion.
Thus, the Godparent leads his Godchild towards spiritual growth and to the human capacity towards Christ our Lord. That is why a common analogy is referred to frequently amongst our people; God in Heaven, Kum (Godparent or Best Man) on earth! Or; God and then Kum. That is the immense importance of Kumstvo in Christianity. This reason is behind the utmost respect provided to the Kumovi by adoration and the traditional kissing of the hand.
Children, and followers of Christ our Lord; by the faith of the Kum (Godparent) it is noted that once the baptism has been completed and the anointment, it is the responsibility of the Godparent to ensure that the child receives communion. This is an important and integral part of the Christian faith and the Godparent has the authority regarding this matter. As a Godparent, the obligations towards the Godchild are as a spiritual parent, and would ultimately include all the spiritual virtues, as well as the sins. The Godparent is to ensure that the Godchild would lead a faithful and traditional Orthodox spiritual life.”
In the Holy Bible in many sections we find our Lord’s directions and instructions for wives/women to be obedient and submissive to their husband/man.
Women, be obedient to your husband like you are to the Lord” (Ef. 5, 22). We hear and learn from St. Paul the apostle when speaking to newlyweds, and the Holy sacraments of marriage; God’s laws we abide to and obey.
Of the many years of my practice in priesthood, it has not once occurred that I did not notice of the women present, that some would cast upon themselves a grin or snide smile upon hearing the apostle’s words. When I did have the occasional and rare opportunity to put these apostle’s words in context and explain; especially the context regarding what is expected of the husband, and of all the sacrifices expected to be performed by him in comparison to the wife’s obedience and submissiveness to her betrothed; the words spoken and taught by the apostle in respect to her submissiveness would be taken much more seriously. ‘I want you to know that to every man the head is Christ. And to every woman the head is her husband, all up until his head is Christ; while God our Father is Christ’s head’ (1 Cor. 11,3) states St. Paul the apostle. ‘The husband is the head, during and while his head is the Christ our Lord. Women listen and obey your husband as you do to God’ quotes Father Justin the words of St. Paul the apostle – if they listen and abide to the Lord, and if the Lord is their head, truly and ideally their thoughts and goals for life, therefore; the Lord and God.’
If this is so, if we measure our actions in accordance to God and if love is the promoter of our actions, and if the husband is prepared to sacrifice for his wife as did the Lord for his people; then the concept of submissiveness by feminists and others would be obsolete and irrelevant.
If man and woman truly are devout and love each other immensely, then the entire perception of submissiveness would be extraneous. The ideology or theory of ‘sacrifice and submissiveness’ would not be cumbersome, because of the genuine love shared between them. By the words spoken of St. John (the Golden Mouth): “If you men want the women to be obedient and submissive to you, as the church is submissive to Christ, then you must take upon that worry upon yourselves towards her as Christ does for the church. Sacrificing your soul, being a thousand times cut, to be capable of endurance and suffering of all kinds of tragic events – do not refuse. Whatever type of hardships you might endure, never allow yourself to believe that it outweighs the suffering and endurance of Christ our Lord. Be able and confident that all your endurance and sacrifices are through your abundant love and profound friendship towards your wife. ‘Slaves may be bound by the fears that engross them (states St. John the Golden Mouth), but the companion of your life, mother of children and the living grapevine of all familial joy and happiness should be bound towards you not with fears and threats, but with love and goodwill.’
‘What kind of joy and satisfaction can we partake in if the companion we live with is akin to a slave and not of her own freewill?’ St. John (Golden Mouth) asks of us.
When I reflect and think about the times of women of today and the times of the awarded husband – I believe and think I would ultimately choose the time of women’s submissiveness over the times of men’s suffering upon the cross.”
We are absolutely the same before our Father. Our Father, our God is the creator of both male and female.
As our God and Father, He places no distinction towards His love towards us all. With that said, even though we are “one” before the eyes of God, we are uniquely different from each other. Equality cannot be compared to identity.
A woman may not be a priest in the Orthodox Church; because that is the way it has always been and followed. That is what our Holy tradition dictates and teaches us, and that is what the church upholds and maintains. Our Lord, our first High Priest who went through the heavens (Jews. 4, 14) and was incarnated as a male. His followers; the apostles He chose were males. There were females followers of Christ who absorbed all of the His Holy teachings within their souls. However, He accepted females as followers and friends, akin to the males, but did not choose any of them to be a part of or included in his apostles.
Christian theologians taught us that “for the Christian Orthodox faith, the ordained priest is the face/image of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that there exists something in the nature of males, the ordained priests, that enables them to be consecrated presence before God, mystically embodying a representation of a bridegroom before Church and God.
What the key question amongst the faithful Christian Orthodox people is: ordination and the ascension of the hierarchy ladder and the rank here on earth, or the salvation and shelter by our God and His heavenly kingdom? If salvation is our goal then, by far we are all deemed equal. There aren’t privileged; “there is not Judaism or Hellenism, there are no more slaves or freedom, there are no males or females”, because we are all one in Jesus Christ.
Orthodoxy is opulent towards remembrance of Holy women, beginning with the Most Holy and Most Pure, more honorable than the cherubim, incomparable and more glorious than seraphim; Mother of God, our Holy Mary, and to the saints of our times, She is the keeper and protector of our faith and Orthodox religion.
Much time has elapsed since the practice of ordaining females as priests became common around the globe. It would be advisable and beneficial to perceive how far they have gotten and what the results were. If it were to the glory of God, it wouldn’t have melted and continue to dissolve like the thinning Arctic ice; becoming lesser and thinner where these shepherdess’ continue to practice.
On numerous occasions I was approached by women and asked: “Why, for God’s sake are not we – women allowed in Hilandar monastery?” Miraculously and sadly, I cannot recall or remember these women attending their own church. If they would frequent their church with a pure and loving heart; they would not yearn as much to visit Hilandar monastery.”