Posts on Orthodox subjects such as spirituality, practices, saints, services, and history


Lazarakia (Lazarus Bread)

Baking Lazarakia to eat on Lazarus Saturday is a tradition practiced in Greece and Cyprus. It is said to have originated in Cyprus, and it is significant that St. Lazarus was their first bishop. The bread is a mildly sweet Lenten bread made with sweet-smelling spices that looks like Lazarus bound up in grave clothes.

Recipe

Serves 12posts-pic-lazarakia

7-8 cups flour
2 cups warm water
3/4 tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. aniseed or anise extract
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. olive oil (plus more for brushing)
Whole cloves for eyes or whole almonds for face

 

Dissolve the yeast in warm water along with the honey. Allow to stand for about 5 minutes, until it becomes frothy. Add sugar and olive oil and mix until dissolved. In a separate bowl use a fork to mix 7 cups of flour with the remaining dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and stir in the yeast mixture.

Knead the dough (I use a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook for this process.) for about 10 minutes or until the dough is elastic. (Add extra flour until you get a dough that is neither too dry nor too sticky to handle. If you’ve used too much flour and the dough becomes too dry, you can add in water by the tablespoonful until you reach the correct consistency.) Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour. Punch down and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

There are several ways to form the Lazarakia. You want your breads to look like little men wrapped in burial shrouds.

One way (pictured below) is to divide your dough into 13 pieces, with one piece larger than the rest. Divide the larger piece into 12 cords, and then cut each cord into half. At this point, you should have 12 pieces of dough, and 24 cords. Roll each of the 12 pieces into an oblong shape. Place an almond at the top as a face. Then take two of the smaller cords and, starting just below the “face”, braid the dough together.

Another way to do this is to use gingerbread men cookie cutters, and wrap the arms around the rest of the dough to create the burial shroud. Use 2 cloves for eyes.

Or you can do it free-form, creating the shape of a man with a knife, and wrapping the arms around to make the shroud.

When you’re happy with the form of the dough men, place the breads on an oiled sheet and cover them. Allow them to rise for 30 minutes to an hour. Brush with olive oil and then bake in a pre-heated oven of 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes (or until golden).

The Life of St. Mary of Egypt

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Icon of the Life of St. Mary of Egypt

“It is good to hide the secret of a king, but it is glorious to reveal and preach the works of God” (Tobit 12:7)

So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness. Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul. And I (says St. Sophronius), in writing the life of St. Mary of Egypt, am afraid to hide the works of God by silence. Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth (Mat. 25:18-25), I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me. And let no one think (continues St. Sophronius) that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel — may I never lie about holy things! If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record, do not believe it, may the Lord have mercy on them because, reflecting on the weakness of human nature, they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by holy people. But now we must begin to tell (more…)

Lark Buns (Zhavoronki) Recipe for the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste

Picture of a Lark Bun for the Feast of the Forty Martyrs of SebasteThese lark buns are traditionally baked in Russia each year to celebrate the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. There are forty buns to celebrate each of the forty martyrs. The larks are the first bird to arrive in Russia each spring, and the feast day of the Forty Martyrs falls during Lent, so the buns also celebrate the arrival of spring. You can read about the martyrdom of these 40 soldiers here and here.

Recipe

Serves 40

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks margarine
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • orange zest, to taste
  • raisins, for eyes

Mix the warm water, yeast, sugar, and enough of the flour so that you have a batter about as thick as sour cream. Let the batter sit until it has risen slightly and is bubbly.

Add the rest of the flour, the margarine and the orange zest (if using). Knead well (about ten minutes). Place in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled in size.

Using a knife or pastry cutter, divide the dough into 40 pieces. Roll each piece into a long hot dog shape. Tie each piece into a knot. Make one end into the shape of a head for the bird by pinching a beak. The other end will be the tail feathers … with a knife create that look. Put a raisin on each bird for the eye.

Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes at 325 degrees.

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Source for recipe and explanation of tradition: An Orthodox Kitchen used with slight adaptations under the Creative Commons License

The 40 Martyrs of Sebaste

posts-icon-40-martyrs-sebasteThese were all soldiers in the Roman army, but believed firmly in the Lord Jesus. When a persecution arose in the time of Licinius, they were all taken for trial before the commander, who threatened to strip them of their military status. To this one of them, St Candidus, replied: ‘Do not take only our military status, but also our bodies; nothing is dearer or of greater honour to us than Christ our God.’ Then the commander ordered his servants to stone the holy martyrs to death.

But when the servants threw the stones at the Christians, the stones turned back and fell on them themselves, causing them grievous injuries. One stone fell on the commander’s face and smashed his teeth. The torturers, in bestial fury, bound the holy martyrs and threw them into a lake, setting a (more…)

The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

posts-pic-presanctified-liturgy-entranceThe Holy Fathers considered that it was unbefitting the contrition of Great Lent to serve the full Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom or St. Basil the Great, so that these Liturgies are allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays of the Fast, as well as on the Feast of the Annunciation and Holy Thursday. In its place, on Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent, as well as on Thursday of the Fifth Week and the first three days of Passion Week, the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is celebrated. [If the patronal feast of a church or monastery falls on a weekday of Great Lent, or if one of a small handful of major feasts fall thereon, the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated on that day.] This Liturgy is called Presanctified, since the Holy Gifts were presanctified (or consecrated) on the previous Sunday. This Liturgy consists of Vespers, followed by a portion of the (more…)

Documentary on Icons

This seven part documentary gives a thorough explanation of the theology of holy icons in the Orthodox Church and the purpose of their veneration. After watching it you will understand why people died for the defense of icons in the Orthodox Church and why the Seventh Ecumenical Council is essential and significant for Orthodox Christians.

The video is produced by the Ostrog Monastery and the Academy of the Serbian Orthodox Church for Fine Arts and Conservation. Each part is about 30 minutes long, and the whole documentary is about 3.5 hours long. All seven parts should be accessible in the player below. You can also find all seven parts individually on this YouTube playlist, or you can find the whole documentary as one video here.

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Nor are the Saints Whom We Glorify Fictitious

posts-icon-jonah“Possibly a contentious unbeliever will maintain that we worshiping images in our churches are convicted of praying to lifeless idols. Far be it from us to do this. Faith makes Christians, and God, who cannot deceive, works miracles. We do not rest contented with mere colouring. With the material picture before our eyes we see the invisible God through the visible representation, and glorify Him as if present, not as a God without reality, but as a God who is the essence of being. Nor are the saints whom we glorify fictitious. They are in being, and are living with God; and their spirits being holy, the help, by the power of God, those who deserve and need their assistance.”

+ St. John of Damascus, Treatise on Images

St. John of Damascus: Is not the Body and Blood of our Lord Matter?

posts-icon-christ4Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was never depicted. Now, however, when God is seen clothed in flesh, and conversing with men, (Bar. 3.38) I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honouring that matter which works my salvation. I venerate it, though not as God. How could God be born out of lifeless things? And if God’s body is God by union (καθ υποστασιν), it is immutable.

The nature of God remains the same as before, the flesh created in time is quickened by a logical and reasoning soul. I honour all matter besides, and venerate it. Through it, filled, as it were, with a divine power and grace, my salvation has come to me. Was not the thrice happy and thrice blessed wood of the Cross matter? Was not the sacred and holy mountain of Calvary matter? What of the life-giving rock, the Holy Sepulchre, the source of our resurrection: was it not matter? Is not the most holy book of the Gospels matter? Is not the blessed table matter which gives us the Bread of Life? Are not the gold and silver matter, out of which crosses and altar-plate and chalices are made? And before all these things, is not the body and blood of our Lord matter?

Either do away with the veneration and worship due to all these things, or submit to the tradition of the Church in the worship of images, honouring God and His friends, and following in this the grace of the Holy Spirit.Do not despise matter, for it is not despicable. Nothing is that which God has made. This is the Manichean heresy. That alone is despicable which does not come from God, but is our own invention, the spontaneous choice of will to disregard the natural law,—that is to say, sin.

Excerpt from Apologia of St John of Damascus Against Those who Decry Holy Images