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

The Church is not a social club

By Father Sergius Nezhbort

The Church is not a social club, where you can go if you want, where you can listen to choirs, have a rest for your soul, console yourself and then leave it go on your way. It is a place where we meet God. And this meeting changes a person significantly.

Sometimes it happens when the person least expects it: God comes into our lives and there is nothing we can do with this. The only way is to humble and to accept His will. Not to oppose, but to understand the God’s plan of our salvation no matter how difficult this plan seems to us. (more…)

The Fast: Ten Beneficial and Ten Harmful Things

Archpriest Andrei Efanov
14 June 2012

What is important for us to bear in mind during the fast?
The fast, by definition, is a time of abstinence. Therefore, let us strive to abstain from everything that is unprofitable for our souls:

1. Television. It seems to me that television is first on the list of unprofitable things. Television shows compel viewers to squander a part of their lives “for someone else.” There was a case of a mother who refused (more…)

Homily about the Fulfillment of the Great Prophecy

posts-icon-pascha3By Nikolai Velimirovic from the Prologue of Ochrid (April 1)

“Like a lamb led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

Throughout the many centuries of time the discerning Prophet Isaiah foresaw the awesome sacrifice on Golgotha. From afar he saw the Lord Jesus Christ led to the slaughter as a lamb is led to the slaughter.
A lamb permits itself to be led to the slaughter as it is led to the pasture: defenseless, without fear and without malice. Thus, Our Lord Christ was led to the slaughter without defense, without fear and without malice.
Neither does He say: “Men, do not do this!”
Neither does He question: “Why are you (more…)

St. Gregory the Theologian: Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.

posts-icon-gregory-theologianYesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him.

Yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him.

Yesterday I was buried with Him; today I am raised up with Him.

Let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us … ourselves, the possession most precious to God and most proper.

Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.

Let us become Divine for His sake, since for us He became Man.

He assumed the worse that He might give us the better. He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich. He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom.

He came down that we might be lifted up. He was tempted that through Him we might conquer. He was dishonored that He might glorify us. He died that He might save us. He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin.

Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself a Ransom and Reconciliation for us.

We needed an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him that we might be cleansed. We rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him. We were glorified with Him because we rose again with Him.

A few drops of Blood recreate the whole of creation!

— St. Gregory the Theologian, Easter Orations

Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

posts-icon-paschaIf anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.
If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.
If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss. If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay. For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.


Antiphon XV from the Matins of Holy Friday

Today is suspended upon the Tree He who suspended the land upon the waters. (3 times)
A crown of thorns crowns Him Who is the King of the angels.
He is wrapped about with a purple of mockery Who wrapped the heavens with clouds.
He receives smiting He Who freed Adam in the Jordan.
He is transfixed with nails Who is the Son of the Virgin.
We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. (3 times)
Show us also Thy Glorious Resurrection.

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.


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


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.


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.


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.