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.


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

The Prayer of St Ephrem Explained

posts-icon-st-ephraim-prostrationBy Fr. Seraphim Holland of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in McKinney, TX

The “Prayer of St Ephrem” is ubiquitous during Great Lent, and is used in all weekday services, and in prayers at home.

This prayer is much like the “Our Father,” in the following way. When the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He told them to “pray in this way”, and then recited the “Our Father”, thus giving us a model for how to pray and a prayer which perfectly fulfilled these principles. So should we treat the prayer of St Ephrem. Its content is truly sublime, and teaches us the (more…)

St. Gregory of Palamas: Discourse on the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple

Icon of the Entry of the Theotokos into the TempleIf a tree is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit (cf. Mt. 7:17; Lk. 6:44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself, She who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above? Therefore, the coeternal and identical Image of goodness, Preeternal, transcending all being, He Who is the preexisting and good Word of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image, that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven. For this purpose, He had to (more…)

Scriptural References to the Theotokos as the Ark of the Covenant

The Orthodox Church has always taught that the Ark of the Covenant was a type of the Theotokos in her Tradition and hymnography, and it is also Theotokos and Elizabethnotable to see this typology of the Theotokos and the Ark in Scripture. The Gospel of Luke tells us about the Theotokos visiting her cousin Elizabeth and the complementary accounts in II Kingdoms and I Chronicles relay the event of David taking the Ark of the Covenant to Judah.

  • First we find that both King David and the Theotokos (with the Ark) “arose” and “went up” to Judah to the house of a Levite.


Clergy Etiquette

posts-pic-priest-blessing-personThe following is a guide for properly addressing Orthodox clergy. Most of the titles do not exactly correspond to the terms used in Greek, Russian, or the other native languages of the national Orthodox Churches, but they have been widely accepted as standard English usages.

Greeting Clergy in Person

When we address Deacons or Priests, we should (more…)

Heaven and Earth in The Icon

Jonathan Pageau discusses cosmology in icons in the third article in his series at Orthodox Arts Journal.

Heaven and Earth in The Icon

by Jonathan Pageau

posts-icon-fiery-ascension-elijahOne of the main purposes of the icon, in its imitation of our Lord himself, is to participate in connecting Heaven and Earth. By making visible in earthly terms — in people, events and things — a glimpse of heavenly truth, they lead us towards the transfiguration of the world. This transfiguration is beyond words of course, but like all mystical truth, we can nonetheless skirt around it, point to the edges of this vision in order to help us participate in it more fully.

This possibility of uniting Heaven and Earth is anchored in the Christological definitions of the Church, in the duality of . . .

. . . Continue Reading

Forming Young Souls

This article expposts-pic-orthodox-child-lighting-candlelains the importance of good literature, art, music, and movies on the formation of a young child’s soul and has many wonderful suggestions throughout. Taken from Not of this World: The Life and Teaching of Fr. Seraphim Rose by Monk Damascene Christensen (ch. 97, p. 894-909).


No source of instruction can be overlooked in the preparation for the great battle of lift, and there is a certain advantage to be derived from the right use of the heathen writers. The illustrious Moses is described as training his intellect in the science of the Egyptians, and so arriving at the contemplation of Him Who is. So in later days Daniel at Babylon was wise in the Chaldean philosophy, and ultimately (more…)

Forming the Soul – Spirit, Soul and Body

posts-pic-dostoyevskyFrom “Orthodox America” by Hieromonk Seraphim

The soul that comes to Orthodoxy today often finds itself in a disadvantaged or even crippled state. Often one hears from converts after some years of seemingly unfruitful struggles that “I didn’t know what I was getting into when I became Orthodox.” Some sense this when they are first exposed to the Orthodox Faith, and this can cause them to postpone their encounter with Orthodoxy or even run away from it entirely. A similar thing often happens to those baptized in childhood when they reach mature years and must choose whether or not to commit themselves to (more…)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem on Jonah and the Resurrection

“[L]et us consider whether is harder, for a man after having been buried to rise again from the earth, or for a man in the belly of a whale, having come into the great heat of a living creature, to escape corruption. For what man knows not, that the heat of the belly is so great, that even bones which have been swallowed moulder away? How then did Jonas, who was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, escape corruption? And, seeing that the nature of all men is such that we cannot live without breathing, as we do, in air, how did he live without a breath of this air for three days? But the Jews make answer and say, The power of God descended with Jonas when he was tossed about in hell. Does then the Lord grant life to His own servant, by sending His power with him, and can He not grant it to Himself as well? If that is credible, this is credible also; if this is incredible, that also is incredible. For to me both are alike worthy of credence. I believe that Jonas was preserved, for all things are possible with God [Matthew 19:26]; I believe that Christ also was raised from the dead; for I have many testimonies of this, both from the Divine Scriptures, and from the operative power even at this day of Him who arose—who descended into hell alone, but ascended thence with a great company; for He went down to death, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose [Matthew 27:52] through Him.”

+ St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 14.18