The Creed is a concise summary of all the truths
of the Christian Faith, composed and affirmed in the First and Second
Ecumenical Councils. Whoever does not accept these truths is not an Orthodox
The entire Symbol of Faith is as follows:
I believe in one God,
the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things visible and
And in one Lord Jesus
Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all
ages; Light of Light: true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence
with the Father; by Whom all things were made;
Who for us men, and
for our salvation, came down from the Heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy
Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;
And was crucified for
us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.
And rose again on the
third day according to the Scriptures.
And ascended into the
Heavens, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;
And shall come again,
with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no
And in the Holy
Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life; Who pro-ceedeth from the Father; Who with
the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the
In one, Holy,
Catholic, and ApostolicChurch.
I confess one Baptism
for the remission of sins.
I look for the
resurrection of the dead.
And the life of the
age to come.
The First Article of the
1. I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of Heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
To believe in God means to be steadfastly sure
that God exists, that He cares for us, and to wholeheartedly accept His Divine
revelation; that is, everything that He revealed about Himself, and about the
salvation of people by the incarnate Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
But in order that our faith be alive and active,
it is necessary to confess it. To confess faith means to openly express
internal faith in God by words and good works, and that neither danger,
persecution, suffering, nor even death are able to force us to renounce our
faith in the true God. Only by such a firm confession will we be able to save
our souls. For man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession
is made unto salvation (Rom. ), says
The holy martyrs serve as examples of steadfast
and courageous confession of faith. They had such faith in God and were so
animated by love for the Lord Jesus Christ that for His name’s sake they
renounced all earthly gain, underwent persecution and such martyric sufferings
that could be contrived only by the most evil imagination of man.
The words of the Symbol of Faith, "In one
God," indicate the uniqueness of the true God. God is one, and there is no
other beside Him (Ex. 44:6, Ex. 20:2-3, Deut. 6:4; John 17:3; I Cor. 8:4-6). This
reminder is given in order to repudiate pagan teachings about many gods.
God is the highest Being, above all that is
mundane or supernatural. To know the being of God is impossible. It is higher
than the knowledge not only of men, but even of the angels. From the revelation
of God, from the clear testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, we are able to get
an understanding of the existence and the basic nature of God. God is Spirit
(John 4:24); living (Jer. 10:10; I Thess. 1:9); self-existent, that is, dependent
on no one, and having received life from Himself — He is (Ex. 3:14; I John
2:13); everlasting (Ps. 90:2; Ex. 40:28); unchanging (James 1:17; Mala. 3:6;
Ps. 102:27); omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-12; Acts 17:27); omniscient (I John 3:29,
Heb. 4:13); omnipotent (Gen. 17:1; Luke 1:37; Ps. 32:9); all good (Matt. 19:17,
Ps. 24:8); wise (Ps. 104:24; Rom. 14:26; I Tim. 1:17); righteous (Ps. 7:12; Ps.
10:7; II Rom. 6:11); self-sufficient (Acts 17:25); all blessed (I Tim. 6:15).
The assertion that God is Spirit does not
contradict those places in the Holy Scriptures in which bodily members are
ascribed to God. These expressions are used symbolically in the spiritual
writings when they speak of the nature of God. For instance, eyes or ears
indicate the omniscience of God, and so forth.
God is one, but not solitary. God is one in
essence, but triple in Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Most-holy
Trinity, consubstantial and indivisible. One in three Persons, each Person
eternally loving the others. God is love (I John ).
The inter-relationship between the Persons of the
Holy Trinity is such that God the Father is not born from and does not proceed
from the other persons. The Son of God was born from God the Father before all
ages, and the Holy Spirit always proceeds from God the Father. All three
Persons of the Holy Trinity in being and nature are completely equal within God
Himself. As God the Father is true God, so God the Son is true God, and God the
Holy Spirit is true God, but all three Persons are a single Deity — One God.
How one God exists in three Persons is a mystery,
incomprehensible to our intelligence, but we believe this according to the
testimony of Divine revelation. The mystery of the Holy Trinity was revealed to
us by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, when he sent the Apostles to preach. He
said, Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). The Apostle and
Evangelist John also clearly testifies both to the trinitarian Persons of God
and to the single essence of the Persons. There are Three Witnesses in Heaven
(about the Divinity of the Son of God); Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit;
and these Three are one (I John 5:7).
Apostle Paul, addressing the Corinthian Christians,
says, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the father and the
communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all (II Cor. 13:14).
For clarification of this great mystery we point
out the world which, as a revelation of the creation of God, speaks to us of
the incomprehensible mystery of the trinitarian essence of the Creator. The
imprint of this mystery lies deep in the nature of every created entity. The
trinitarian unity, as an underlying idea, is intrinsic to all the works of the
Creator, glorifying the Trinity. For example, the speech of all persons in the
world has three persons: I; you; he, she, or it. Time is expressed as past,
present and future. The states of matter are liquid, solid and gas. All the
various colors in the world are make up of the three primary colors, red, blue
and yellow. Man conducts himself by means of thought, word and deed. Deeds, in
their turn, have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even man is a trinitarian
unity of body, mind and soul. The salvation of our souls is made up of three
Christian virtues, faith, hope and love.
We are able to understand the mystery of the Holy
Trinity in part only with the heart, by love found in the Holy Orthodox Church
of Christ, that is, by living in love.
We call God Almighty because He, as King of
Heaven, governs all and maintains everything by His strength and power.
Furthermore, we call God Maker of heaven and earth
because everything that exists, both in the visible, physical world and in the
invisible, spiritual world, that is, the entire universe, was created by God in
Three Persons. God the Father created with the Word, His Only-begotten Son, and
with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit.
To the invisible or spiritual world belong angels
— spirits — bodiless, immortal beings, endowed with reason, will and power.
Also to the spiritual world belongs the soul of each person.
The word "angel" is a Greek word which
means "messenger," because God sends angels to announce His will to
people. Each Christian has his own Guardian Angel, who invisibly helps him in
matters of salvation, and guards him from the wicked activity of the evil one.
The evil one is called the Devil (slanderer), and Satan (one who is against
God). The evil spirits were also created good and free. However, they became
proud, fell from God, and became deceitful and evil. Since that time, they have
envied everything good and lead men into sin in order to destroy them. Because
of sin, all people die physically. They would die a more terrible second,
spiritual death, when the soul surrenders to sin and perishes in estrangement
from God, if people were not saved from this eternal destruction by the
incarnate Son of God.
In the following six articles of the Symbol of
Faith, beginning with the second Article and ending with the seventh, are set
forth teachings about the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God,
our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Second Article of the
2. (I believe) ...and in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Son of God, the Only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages.
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with
the Father, by Whom all things were made.
In the second article of the Creed, we speak of
our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, and confess that we know that He is the
Second Person of the Holy Trinity, that He is of the Essence of God, and was so
before His birth on earth.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of
God. He is the only Son of God the Father, begotten of the essence of the Father,
as light from light. From true God the Father is begotten true God the Son, and
is begotten before all ages, before the beginning of time. So the Son is
eternally with God the Father, and also the Holy Spirit, of one essence with
the Father. Jesus Christ Himself said, I and My Father are one (John ). The words of Jesus Christ, My Father is greater than I
(John ) pertain to His manhood.
If angels and saints sometimes are called sons of
God, that means that they are sons of God only by grace, by the mercy of God,
through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the word "begotten," in the Symbol of
Faith, are added the words "not made." These words were added to
refute the false heresy of Arius, who held that the Son of God was not
begotten, but made.
The words "by Whom all things were
made," means by Whom, by the Son of God, all things were made. Everything
existing in the visible world and the invisible, was made by and through the
Son, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3).
The Son of God, with His incarnation on earth,
received the name Jesus Christ. This name indicates His human nature. The name
Jesus is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name, Joshua, and means Saviour.
This name was twice stated by God through angels before the birth of Christ,
because the eternal Son of God descended to earth and was incarnate for the
salvation of men.
The name, Christ, is a Greek word and means the
Anointed One. It corresponds to the Hebrew, "Messiah." In the Old
Testament, anointment was used to set apart prophets, high priests, and kings
who, at the assumption of their office, were anointed by oils and thus received
the gifts of the Holy Spirit necessary for worthy fulfillment of their duties.
The Son of God was called the Anointed One,
Christ, in accordance with His physical nature, because He had all the gifts of
the Holy Spirit, prophetic knowledge, sanctity of a high priest and the power
of a king.
Note: When the articles of the Creed, beginning
with the second and ending with the seventh, are read separately, it is
necessary to prefix each of them with "I believe." Example: "I
believe in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God ..."
Discussion of the Pre-eternal
Birth of the Son of God.
We live in time, and temporal things change. When
the world reaches the end of its temporal existence, at the second coming of
the Saviour, then it will change and become eternal. There will be "new
heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; II Peter ; Rev. 21:1).
Living in temporal conditions, it is difficult for
us to imagine eternity. However, to some degree at least, we are able to
imagine it by means of science or philosophy.
Thus eternity is unchangeable. It is outside time.
God, the Holy Trinity, is eternal and unchanging. Therefore, never was the
Father without the Son, or without the Holy Spirit.
The holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church
explain that the Father was always with the Son, Who was born from Him, for
without the Son He would not be called the Father. If God the Father ever existed
without having a son, and would have made Himself a father, not having been a
father before, that would mean that God was subject to change, from not having
begotten to having begotten. But such an idea is worse that all blasphemy, for
God is eternal and unchanging. Thus the statement in the Symbol of Faith,
"begotten of the Father before all ages," means before the existence
of our time, eternally.
St. John of Damascus explains, "When we say
that He (the Son of God) was begotten before all ages, we show that His birth
is not in time, and is without beginning. For not from nothingness was the Son
of God brought into being. This aureole of glory, the image of the hypostasis
of the Father, living wisdom and strength, hypostatic Word, essential, perfect,
and living likeness of the invisible Father, was always with the Father and in
the Father, and was born of Him eternally and without beginning."
The concept of "begetting" as being
completely independent from the process of being begotten exists only in the
material world, with material time and limitation. The spirit is not bound or
subordinate to laws of matter. Similarly, the natural material begetting is in
no way applicable to the spiritual begetting. Therefore, the Ecumenical
Councils, conveying the main point of the Divine begetting of the Son from the
Father, affirmed the words of the Symbol of Faith, "Light of Light, true
God of true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father..."
The Son of God, in accordance with His essential perfect union with God the
Father, is always, eternally begotten, like "Light of Light," without
passion, not by the law of the created, material world. We are not able to
completely comprehend this while we live within the intellectual (rational) framework
of the material world. Therefore, the trinitarian nature of God is called the
"Mystery of the Holy Trinity."
A comparison for clarification of the mystery of
the Holy Trinity is given by the Fathers of the Church. John of Damascus says,
"As fire and the light proceeding from it exist together, not fire first
and then the light proceeding from it, and as light being begotten from the
fire always abides in it and is not at all separated from it, thus the Son is
begotten of the Father, no way separated from Him."
In another comparison, we are able to see that
sunbeams, which are found on earth performing their life-giving activity, are
never separated or broken away from the sun. By these comparisons, the words of
the Gospels become understandable: No man hath seen God at any time; the only
begotten Son, Which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John ).
St. John the Evangelist calls the Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus
Christ, the Word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). The
designation of the second Person of the Holy Trinity as the Son of God was
revealed from on high to the Apostle John (Rev. 19:11,13), though in part it
was known in the Old Testament in a hidden way (Ps. 32:6; 18:15).
The Fathers of the Church explain, "As the
mind giving birth to a word, begets without pain, does not divide, is not
exhausted, and does not undergo some sort of bodily existence, thus the Divine
begetting is passionless, inexplicable, incomprehensible, without
"As the word," says Archbishop Innocent,
"is an exact expression of an idea, not separating itself from it and not
merging with it, thus the Word was to God, a true and exact likeness of His
existence, indivisible, without confusion, and always existing with Him. The
Word of God was not a phenomenon or an affinity by the power of God, but is God
Himself, the second Person of the Holy Trinity."
The Third Article of the
3. Who for us men, and for our salvation, came
down from the Heavens, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin
Mary, and became man.
The third article of the Symbol of Faith is the
statement of how the Son of God descended from Heaven to earth, took upon
Himself a body, human in every way but without sin, and was incarnate. He took
on not only the body, but the soul of a man and became perfectly human without
ceasing to be God at the same time. He became God incarnate.
The Son of God descended from Heaven and became a
man (God incarnate) in order to save people from the power of the Devil, sin
and eternal death. Sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4). That is,
sin is an offense against the Law of God. Sin arises in people by the action of
the Devil, who tempted Eve in Paradise, and through her, Adam, and persuaded them to break the
commandment of God.
The fall into sin of the first people, Adam and
Eve, broke down the nature of mankind. Sin in people clouded their intelligence
and will. To the body it brought sickness and death. People began to suffer and
to die. By their own power, people were not able to conquer sin in themselves
and in their descendants, or to correct their intelligence, soul and heart, and
to destroy death. This can be accomplished only by God, the Creator of all.
The merciful Lord gave a promise to people that
the Saviour of the world would come to earth to deliver people from the power
of the Devil and eternal death.
When the time of salvation came, the Son of God
came to dwell within the pure Virgin Mary and, through the descent of the Holy
Spirit upon Her, received from Her the nature of man and was born in a
supernatural way "of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary."
The Most-holy Virgin Mary was a descendant of the
family of King David. She was the daughter of the righteous Joachim and Anna.
Most-holy Mary is called a Virgin because She, out
of love for God, promised to never marry. She is called Ever-virgin because She
always remained a virgin, before the birth of the Saviour, at the time of the
birth, and after the birth.
The holy Orthodox Church calls the Virgin Mary the
God-Bearer (Theotokos), and holds Her more sacred than all created beings, not
only people, but angels. "More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond
compare more glorious than the Seraphim" we declare of Her because She is
the Mother of God Himself. Thus, according to the inspiration of the Holy
Spirit, the righteous Elizabeth addressed Her, and whence is this to me, that the Mother
of My Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43).
Through His prophets, the Lord God showed many
signs of the coming of the Saviour into the world. For example:
The Prophet Isaiah predicted that the Saviour
would be born of a Virgin (Isaiah ) and with
remarkable clarity foretold His suffering (Isaiah 5:7-8; 9; 10; 11; 12; 53).
The Prophet Micah prophesied that the Saviour
would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:4-6).
The Prophet Malachi predicted that the Saviour
would come to the newly built temple in Jerusalem, and that before Him would be sent the Forerunner, like
the prophet Elias (Mal. 3:1-15).
The Prophet Zechariah predicted the triumphal
entry of the Saviour into Jerusalem on a "colt, the foal of an ass" (Zech. 9:9).
King David in the twenty-first psalm described the
Saviour’s suffering on the cross with such accuracy that it seems as if he had
seen the crucifixion himself.
The Prophet Daniel, 490 years before Christ,
prophesied the date of the appearance of the Saviour, predicted His
crucifixion, and after it, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the
cessation of Old Testament sacrifices (Daniel 9).
When the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to earth,
many righteous people recognized Him as the Saviour of the world. The wise men
of the East recognized Him by the star which shone in the East before the birth
of Christ. The shepherds in Bethlehem
recognized Him from the angels’ proclamation. Simeon and Anna recognized Him by
a revelation from the Holy Spirit when he was brought to the Temple. John the Baptist recognized Him in the Jordan River, at
the time of baptism, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a
dove, and the voice of the Father testified, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I
am well pleased (Matt. 3:17). Many people recognized Him by the superiority of
His teaching and especially by the miracles that He did.
For our salvation Jesus Christ accomplished His
teachings, His life, His death, and His resurrection. His teachings are for our
salvation when we accept them with all our heart, and behave in accordance with
them, when we emulate in our own lives the life of the Saviour. As the false
word of the Devil, accepted by the first people, became in people the seeds of
sin and death, so the true word of Christ, sincerely accepted by Christians,
becomes in them the seeds of holy and immortal life.
Discussion of the Incarnation
of the Son of God.
St. Sylvester (IV century), in conversation with
the Jews about the faith, said, "God, Who brings everything into being,
when He created man and saw his inclination to every evil, did not despise the
perishing work of His hand, but rather deigned that His Son, existing
inseparably from Him (for God is everywhere), should come to us on earth. Thus
He descended and was born of the Holy Virgin and became subject to the law, to
redeem them that were under the law (Gal. 4:4-5).
"That He was born of a Virgin was predicted
by the Prophet Isaiah with these words, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and
bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel (Is. ). This name, as you know, designates the advent of God to
people, and in translation from Hebrew means God with us. Thus, the Prophet, a
long time before, predicted that God would be born from a virgin.
"For God, nothing is impossible; but
regarding the Devil, it is necessary to conquer by that which was first
conquered. Those first conquered were men, men not born by the usual order of
nature, not from the seed of man, but from clay, furthermore, from soil clean
and pure as the Virgin, for it had never offended God. It had not been defiled
by either the blood of a murdered brother or killed animals. Therefore it was
not infected with decaying bodies, nor was it defiled by any unclean or
"From such soil flesh was created for our
ancestors, which was brought to life by the breath of God.
"But if the all-evil Devil conquered such a
man, then it is necessary that the Devil be conquered by such a man. Such a man
is our Lord Jesus Christ, born not by the usual laws of nature, but from the
pure and holy womb of the Virgin, as Adam came from the soil uninfected by sin.
As Adam was brought to life by the Spirit of God, so this One (Jesus Christ)
was incarnated by the action of the Holy Spirit, Who descended upon the
Most-holy Virgin. He became perfect God and perfect man, in every way except
sin, having two natures, Divine and human, but one Person. In His human nature
He suffered for us, but His Divinity remained without suffering."
For clarification of this explanation, St.
Sylvester gives an example. "When a tree, illuminated by the rays of the
sun, is cut down by a hatchet, then along with this felled tree, the rays of
the sun are not also cut down. Likewise, when the human nature of Christ,
united with God, endures suffering, then this suffering does not touch the
During the course of the first century of Christianity,
Jewish scribes, known as the Massoretes, preservers of tradition, removed all
the manuscripts of the sacred books from all the synagogues throughout the
world, and replaced them with their own transcriptions, which were rewritten
with strict precision and with repeated verifications from letter to letter by
the massoretic scribes themselves.
The degree of invariability and immutability of
the massoretic texts is astounding. However, all this uniformity amounts to
absolutely nothing. Only standardization of the texts was achieved. But those
mistakes which already existed at the moment of the massoretic revision were
not corrected. On the contrary, some distortions were purposely introduced by
the Massoretes to obscure the clarity of the prophecies which foretold Christ
Of these distortions we will point out first of
all the famous alteration by the Massoretes of Isaiah 7:14:Behold, a virgin
shall conceive and bear a son.... Knowing that this passage was a favorite of
Christians, and testifies best of all to the most-blameless birth of our Lord,
the Massoretes, while carrying out their reform, inserted the word al’ma
("young woman") in place of the word vetula ("virgin") in
all the Hebrew texts throughout the world. At the time, the ancient Christian
apologists reasonably objected to the interpretation of the Jewish scribes,
"And what kind of a sign, about which the prophet speaks here, would the
birth of a son to a young woman have been, since this is shown to be an
In a manuscript of the Prophet Isaiah written
before the birth of Christ, which was discovered not too many years ago, the
word "virgin" is used in Isaiah 7:14, and not "young
Therefore, it is clear why the Church prefers the
Septuagint and Peshitta translations for the authoritative text of the Old
Testament, and principally the first, for the Septuagint text was produced
under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the concerted effort of the OldTestamentChurch.
Septuagint: The first and most exact translation
of the Holy Scriptures was the translation of all the books of the Old
Testament from Hebrew into Greek, done "according to the Seventy"
(actually seventy-two) translators, or as they are called, interpreters, in the
third century before the birth of Christ, about the year 270 B.C.
The Egyptian King Ptolemy Philadelphus, wishing to
have in his library the sacred books of Hebrew law, ordered his librarian,
Demetrius Phalereus, to acquire those books and to translate them into the
language of the most common usage — Greek.
On the order of the King, an embassy with rich
gifts for the temple was dispatched to the high priest Eleazar in Jerusalem,
with the request to deliver to Alexandria all extant Hebrew sacred books and to
send able people to make a translation of them.
The inspired high priest Eleazar fulfilled the
request of the Egyptian King with extraordinary seriousness. In order that this
great undertaking receive the participation of the entire Old Testament Church,
a fast was established for all of the God-chosen nation, and prayer was
intensified by all. The twelve tribes of Israel were summoned and the order
given to choose six men to be translators from each tribe, in order that they
could labor together to translate the Holy Scriptures into the Greek language.
The chosen translators, having arrived at the city of the King of Egypt,
lovingly undertook their holy labor, and with good progress finished it in a
short time. Thus, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, this translation appeared,
the fruit of a concerted, heroic effort of the entire Old Testament Church.
This translation was in general use at the time of the earthly life of our
Lord, Jesus Christ, and was used by the Apostles of Christ, the Fathers of the
Church, and all the leaders of the Church.
Peshitta: In the first and second centuries there
appeared a translation of the Holy Scriptures in the Syriac language known as
the Peshitta, meaning simple or faithful. For the Orthodox Church, these two
translations (the "Septuagint" and the "Peshitta") are the
two translations in general use. But for the Roman Catholic Church, there is
still another translation done by St. Jerome, known as the Vulgate. It appears undoubtedly more
authoritative than the contemporary Hebrew original. (Compiled from the books
[in Russian] Discussions on the Holy Scriptures, by Bishop Nathaniel, and
Summary of Study of the Old Testament of the Bible, by Archbishop Vitaly, and
It is extremely instructive that in close study
the facts of the Gospel narrative, which at first glance seem questionable or
hardly probable or plausible, always turn out to testify in favor of the
Gospels, once again confirming the accuracy of the events reported in them.
Several decades ago, independent critics considered
completely implausible the story in the Gospel of Luke in which Joseph, with
the Holy Virgin betrothed to him, went up from Galilee, out of the city of
Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem;
because he was of the house and lineage of David: (Luke 2:4). They went in
order to fulfill the command for a census, a project carried out when Cyrenius
Quirinin was governor of Syria (cf. Luke 2:2). In this undertaking, according
to the account of St. Luke, it was necessary to go to register not at the place
of residence, but to the place of family origin. Critics considered this to be
an impossible task, first because the alarm and disorder created throughout the
country if everyone at the same time left his habitual place of residence in
order to go to the city from which his ancestors came would be daunting.
Secondly, the story contradicts the well-established facts which were recorded
concerning the Roman Census. It is well known that the Romans required
registration at the place of habitual residence.
At a superficial glance these objections appear to
undermine the reliability of the narration of St. Luke and seem formidable.
However, every objection fades in the light of the indisputably established
facts. Recently a document was discovered relating to the years 103-104 A.D.
and the administration of the governor of Egypt, Gaius Vibius Maximus. In this document he is directed to
report the census, exactly according to the order which is stated in the Gospel
of St. Luke: in view of the census, each person must go to that place where his
family originated. If this is so, then the objection to the account of St.
Luke, that it is in contradiction to the usual Roman procedure, fails. From the
statement of Vibius Maximus we learn that the Romans accommodated themselves to
the customs and manners of the subjugated country. The narration of the census
procedure in St. Luke is shown to be an irreproachable and exact account. (From
the preface to Four Gospels published in Truth Paris, 1943.).
Discussion of the Miracles of
Materialists categorically reject the possibility
of miracles of God in the world. They maintain that miracles contradict the
laws of nature. Miracles, they say, are incompatible with the scientific truth
of strict conformity of all natural phenomenon. Is that so? We will attempt to
Prof. S.L. Frank says, "The mechanical
engineer Galileo teaches that all bodies, irrespective of their specific
weight, fall to earth with the same speed and acceleration. Is the generally
known fact that a bit of fluff falls to the ground much more slowly than an
iron weight a contradiction to this law? Or that in water, wood does not fall
at all? Is this law broken by the fact that an airplane does not fall, but is
capable of rising higher and flies over the earth? Obviously not.
"For the law of Galileo, like all the laws of
nature, contains a silent reservation: ‘subject to various other conditions,’
or ‘if all outside influences are held constant.’"
Stated abstractly, the establishment of the
attraction between the earth and a body of matter by its gravitational pull is
not broken in the least. Only the concrete total sum appears altered or becomes
complicated from the interference of new outside variables, as yet unaccounted
for in the original law. In the first case — the power of the resistance of the
air or water; in the second — the power of the motor, forcing the propeller to
rotate and cut into the air. In the same manner, those events which are called
miraculous can also be attributed to the effect of supplementary variables, not
another variable of nature, but a supernatural power.
If Christ, as it is said in the Gospels, walked on
water as on dry land, then this fact no more breaks the law of gravity than the
fact of the flight of an airplane over the earth, or the flotation of a body
lighter than water. In the latter instances, the action of the law of gravity
is not broken, but is overcome by the power of the motor, or the resistance of
the water. In the first instance, the law is utterly overcome by the power of
God Incarnate, Christ.
If a man recovers from fatal illness after fervent
prayers to God (his own or someone else’s), then this miracle also hardly
breaks medicine’s established natural course of the illness, any more than
successful surgical intervention of a doctor breaks it. In the latter case, the
illness ends through mechanical alteration of circumstances conditional to it,
and in the former, through influence on these conditions by the supreme power
"If a man," says Archpriest Gerasim
Shorets, "due to his free will, has the ability to influence nature, then
is it possible that God does not have this ability? He, the Creator of the laws
"It is possible to make interesting
observations about people who negate miracles," he continues. "Many
of them who mock Biblical miracles, and regard believers in their veracity as
backward men, themselves believe in commonplace and absurd things. They believe
in ill-fated meetings, in the number thirteen, in a hare running across a road,
"Many of them, who with pride point to
science to demonstrate the impossibility of miracles, themselves believe in
what should really be classified as miracles, but which are twenty times less
worthy of faith or confidence than the Biblical miracles attested to by many
respectable people, a large part of whom would joyfully lay down their lives in
affirmation of the truth.
"Those who deny miracles themselves believe
only in those miracles which happened, according to their explanation, millions
of years ago, and which were observed by no one.
"They do not believe in the creation of the
world by God, but they do believe in its arbitrary origin, or that an embryo of
organic life fell to earth from an unknown planet.
"They do not believe that Christ is able to
resurrect a man, that is, bring back to life a previously living organism, but
they believe that in former times, organic life sprang from lifeless matter.
"They do not believe that God, Creator of
fire and people, could make three children fireproof, but they believe that
embryonic organisms were sustained over the course of millions of years in the
midst of the scorching heat of the world’s haze and melted granite..."
No, serious scientific truth raises no objections
to the miracles to which materialists refer. The objections are based only on
their assumptions, hypotheses, and natural-philosophical theory, or their own
Thus, while supposedly refuting the miracles of
God on the basis of science, the scoffers reveal themselves as being ignorant
regarding the questions of science, insufficiently educated in philosophy, or
conscious opponents of belief in God.
(Compiled from a pamphlet: Religion and Science by
Prof. S. Frank; and a pamphlet Did Jesus Christ Live? by Archpriest G. Shorets;
The Fourth Article of the
4. And was crucified for us under Pontius
Pilate, and suffered, and was buried.
In the fourth article of the Creed, it is stated
that the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for us during the reign
of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor over Judea; He was
crucified for our sins and for our salvation, because He Himself was without
sin. At that time, He really suffered, died, and was buried.
Of course the Saviour suffered not as God, Who
cannot suffer, but as man. He suffered not for His sin, of which He had none,
but for the sins of the whole human race. After His death, His body was buried
in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. But from the time of the burial until His
Resurrection, He descended in soul into hades and liberated all those who
believed in Him, beginning with Adam and Eve.
Hades is the name of the place of estrangement
from God, devoid of light or bliss. There Satan reigns. In regard to the soul
the word "hades" signifies a condition of great affliction and
The Lord Jesus Christ, as perfect man and Son of
God, because He by one word is able to annihilate all enemies, voluntarily
offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of people through crucifixion on a
cross. Execution by hanging on a cross was the most infamous, cruel, and
terrible form of capital punishment. It was the symbol of every human evil, and
the most striking display of the power of the Devil. This terrible execution,
devised by men according to the suggestion of the Devil, subjected people to
hate, malice, embitterment and death. The Saviour, having endured disgraceful
execution on the Cross, died, but rose from the dead. Through the Cross, life
shone forth! Christ destroyed the main support of the Devil, and turned the
Cross into an instrument of eternal victory over evil and death. The Lord
sanctified the Cross with His pure blood and by His sacrificial heroic feat of
love. The most terrible criminal, if he be repentant, is not rejected by the
Saviour. From this moment, neither suffering nor death are able to deprive us
of eternal bliss if we are with Christ the Saviour. On the contrary, the way of
the Cross has become the path to eternal glory in the Kingdom of God.
The words in the Creed "suffered and was
buried" were directed against some heretics who falsely taught that the
Lord did not suffer torment on the Cross, but that His suffering only appeared
to be suffering and death.
The words "under Pontius Pilate" point
out the true historical event of the suffering of Christ, which occurred at
this specific time. During the hours of Christ’s suffering on the Cross, there
was darkness over all the earth (Luke 23:44), states the Evangelist. Early
historical writings of the Roman astronomer Phlegontus, Thaddeus, and Julius
Africanus note this darkness.
One of these exclaimed, "One of the gods has
died!" A well-known philosopher from Athens, Dionysius the Areopagite, was
at that time in the city of Heliopolis, in Egypt. Observing the sudden
darkness, he said,..".either the Creator is suffering, or the world is
coming to an end." Afterwards, after the preaching of the Apostle Paul,
Dionysius accepted Christianity and became the first bishop of Athens.
Glory to Thy long-suffering, O Lord! Before Thy
Cross we bow down, O Master, and Thy holy
Resurrection we glorify.
The Resurrection of Christ is discussed in the
following, fifth article of the Creed
Discussion of the Cross of
Christ revealed the name of God. The name is Love.
From his first deep breath, man began to sense
God’s everlasting love toward him. Here, too, originated the divine tragedy
between God and His first-created, intelligent creature. This creature was not
able to comprehend the complete perfection of the love that was offered. Man
had to experience the agony of severed relations with God, and having tasted of
and learned the horror of this estrangement, was then able to experience His
love once again.
Adam had no fear. It is true that perfect love
casts out fear. However, as attested to by the Fathers of the Church, fear
always precedes love. This fear does not consist of apprehension of violence,
but is born from a feeling of the loftiness of God. By fear, man measures the
distance between himself and God.
Even when considering the lives of the saints, we
experience fear, breathing the air of the mountain heights, in which we
ourselves could not survive.
The approach of God tramples down fear by His
presence and gives us bliss. However, having fear at the depth of our
existence, we treat the love of God with reverence.
It was necessary for man during his life to learn
what he was in comparison with his Creator. Having broken off from God and
having gone away from Him, he glances back, and from afar sees and feels his
How did Adam tear himself away from God?
Everything that Adam did conformed to the love of God for him. His life was
fervent love, but this was not by his own merit. Everything he did was done by
the grace of his Creator, as a result of His love.
We, born in sin and not having this love, but
having to acquire it, which is the goal of our life, are not able to understand
the condition of Adam. Everything that we do by our own will for our own sake
is sin, and only in subduing our own will, sacrificing ourselves out of love
for another, do we join the Light, do we find interior orderliness according to
Adam was entirely of God. Everything in him was
light. Only in one respect did he not reach perfection: in him was the
possibility to eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. In this he should
have constrained his will out of obedience and love; through this he fell away
from God and sank into darkness.
Without sacrifice, there is no love. All the love
of Adam towards God was dependent, if one may say, only upon his rejection of
the fruit. Adam did not feel the slightest compulsion, because true love does
not tolerate constraint.
Having tasted the fruit, Adam at once extinguished
the light in himself and was filled with darkness. There was nothing for him to
love. The darkness manifested itself in him by the sensation of nakedness. He
hid from the Father. He lost God, and God lost His friend. For in order to love
Adam as in former times, since Adam was now refusing love, it was necessary to
create him again. Man was left to himself. In the bitter experience of
separation from Love, he had to know the full depth of this misery, that when
the Light was again revealed to him, he would voluntarily prefer this Light to
the light he had chosen, thanks to the knowledge of good and evil. Again, he
would voluntarily return to the world of Love from his own world which he
created over the course of a thousand-year period of isolation from the Truth,
from a world of his own, created by himself, with delights, with his own
buildings, with his own ideals.
Suffused with darkness and the ability to
understand good and evil, man acquired the capability of killing people like
himself. But developing within himself this quality, man ceased to be content with
murder alone. This became nothing to him. He began to kill his brother with
torment. But even this appeared to be nothing. He began to kill his brother
with taunting. But even this was not enough.
Then he invented something that, while not
killing, put his brother in a helpless position, so that by his own
helplessness he provoked the laughter of passersby, in order that his brother
might die from humiliation and terrible pangs of pain.
At this point in the development of the quality of
evil, God clearly revealed to people Who He is, the Creator of everything
visible and invisible. If He were a vengeful Deity, He probably would have had
to destroy the whole human race because that creature so maliciously laughed at
the idea of his Creator. But Love acted completely to the contrary.
Our Heavenly Father gave His Only-begotten Son,
that He should hang on the evil tree of hate and extreme bitterness created by
man. The Son, having been crucified and having satisfied as far as was
necessary the malice of His enemies, died. After three days, the Father
resurrected the Son and engraved this new event on the hearts of people.
From this point in history, notions of people in
the world and their understanding underwent a full revolution. The Cross,
formerly only an instrument of terrible torture and cruel execution, became the
single eternal support of man. The way, truth and life begins with the Cross,
without which it is impossible to be saved.
There followed a new history of man, in which it
is impossible for anyone to excuse himself through ignorance or lack of
understanding. God was crucified on the cross. There need be no blindness!
If the world before Christ was a savage world, and
inhabitants were dwelling in the jungle of their ignorance, then after Christ
the world without the Cross becomes a world of apostates and damned people to
whom will be said in time: get thee hence from Me, into the fire which has been
prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). Those who follow Christ
are openly called friends of the Lord.
I call you not servants, says the Saviour, for the
servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all
things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you. "Ye are
My friends, if ye do whatsoever 1 command you (John 15:15,14).
God’s love to us is beyond measure, radiating from
the Cross of Christ! Great and unbounded is the Cross of Christ. It is
impossible to comprehend the width and length of it, the depth and the height.
But as far as possible, let us at least try to understand.
"How wide is the Cross of Christ?" asks
one bishop, and answers, "It is as wide as the world, just as Christ died
for the whole world, as it is written: He is the propitiation for our sins: and
not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2).
That is how wide the Cross is.
How long is the Cross of Christ? It is long enough
to last throughout all ages, as long as there remains on earth but one sinner
who might be saved; until there disappear sorrow, suffering and everything that
is against the Lord in God’s world.
That is how long the Cross is.
How high is the Cross of Christ? It is as high as
Heaven, as the Throne of the Lord. Indeed, it is as high as the highest Heaven;
for when Christ was crucified on the Cross, Heaven descended to earth, and
earth ascended to Heaven.
That is how high the Cross is.
How deep is the Cross of Christ? That is a great
mystery, which is not given to us to understand and about which we can only
reverently conjecture. If the height of the Cross extends to Heaven, then by
its depth it reaches down to hell, to the most inveterate sinner in the deepest
depths into which he might fall — as Christ descended into hell and preached
unto the spirits in prison (I Peter 3:19).
That, we dare to hope, is how deep the Cross of
the Lord is.
The Cross of Christ is the beginning and ending of
our salvation (Cf. John 3:16-17, 36).
Without the Cross we are not Christians, we are
not members of the Church of Christ, we are not sons of God. For the Cross we
were born, with the Cross we live, and with the Cross we die (Matt. 10:38;
16:24; 28:19. Luke 14:27; Mark 10:21; 16:6).
The Cross of Christ is a piece of armor, or a
garment which we put on (Matt. 20:22-23; Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50) at the time
of our earthly toils and labors in order that by it we be distinguished from
all heterodox or unbelievers (Rev. 7:3; Ezekiel 9:4).
The Cross of Christ is laudation for Christians
and formidable punishment for those who loathe and shun it, for those who fall
away from the Church of Christ because of it, and for the enemies of God (Gal
6:14; I Cor 1:18; Heb. 13:13; 6:6; Philip. 3:18).
The Cross of Christ is a spiritual sword by which
visible and invisible enemies are vanquished.
The Cross of Christ is a divine weapon to drive
away every enemy and adversary (I Cor. 1:18:Luke 1:71-74; Matt. 22:44).
Finally, the Cross of Christ will be an awful sign
on the day of Tribulation and Last Judgement of God for all adversaries of the
name of Christ, antichrists (Matt. 24:30).
(Compiled from Humility in Christ, P. Ivanovna;
the Journal Eternal, and Lessons and Examples in Christian Faith by the V. Rev.
Discussion of Two
Providential Acts of God.
In our day the rational world is increasingly
indifferent to the Christian faith. Unbelief, godlessness, and atheism are
becoming firmly established everywhere.
But for the edification of the faithful, to
strengthen us who vacillate in the face of the convictions of atheists, we will
describe two historical events which are striking even to the materialistic
The first of them occurred on the day of the
suffering of our Saviour on the cross, and the other in our time.
I. When the Saviour suffered on the cross all
nature trembled, the light of the sun was hidden, and darkness was on all the
earth, as the Evangelist relates. This extraordinary event had been predicted
many centuries before by the Prophet Amos: The end is come upon my people of Israel: I will not again pass by them any more (Amos 8:2). And it
shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun
to go down at , and I will darken the earth in the clear day (Amos
8:9)...and I will make it as the mourning of an only Son... (Amos 8:10).
The eclipse of the sun at the time of the
crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in spite of the singularity of the event against
all the laws of nature, as, for instance, there was a full moon — the moon did
not stand between the earth and the sun — is an historical fact, fully
described in pagan accounts:
1. The Roman historian and astronomer Phlegontus
reports that the eclipse was so severe that it was possible to see stars in the
2. The eclipse is reported by the scholar Julius
Africanus and the Greek historian Thaddeus.
3. A noted philosopher from Athens, Dionysius the Areopagite, who was at that time in the
Egyptian city of Heliopolis, observing the sudden darkness, said "Either the
Creator is suffering or the world is coming to an end."
II. The second event is the miraculous appearance of
the Holy Fire on Great Saturday in the Tomb of the Saviour in Jerusalem. The appearance of the Holy Fire has occurred annually for
centuries, and continues to do so in our times. The exact date of the first
appearance of the Holy Fire is difficult to determine. Historians of the Church
refer to the writings of the Holy Fathers St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. John the Damascene, who both mention its occurrence. The
Crusaders spoke about the Holy Fire, and pilgrims have consistently verified
its presence throughout the centuries down to the present day.
The reception of the Holy Fire belongs exclusively
to the Orthodox Patriarch. Heterodox (non-Orthodox) representatives have tried
to receive it, without success. The Catholics ostentatiously withdrew from
participation in this triumph of grace, despite the observation of the Roman
Pope Urban II at the Council of the Cross at Clermont. He witnessed the Holy
Fire in the Tomb of the Saviour, and concluded with the words, "Whose
heart, no matter how petrified, would not be softened by such a
The following account serves to show that the
appearance of the Holy Fire in the Tomb of the Saviour occurs under the strict
and thorough surveillance of the civil authorities. All flames in the church
are extinguished the day before, on Good Friday, under police control. The
premises of the Tomb of the Saviour are thoroughly inspected by the civil
authorities, and then upon leaving the Tomb is sealed by them. The Patriarch
unvests and stands clad only in a cassock. He is examined from head to toe to
see if there is not some sort of incendiary device on him. Only after this is
the seal removed from the entrance to the Tomb of the Saviour and the Patriarch
enters it to receive the Holy Fire. After some time, and after fervent prayer,
the Patriarch receives the Holy Fire, lights a bundle of candles (thirty-three
in all, one for each year of the earthly life of the Saviour), passes them to
those present in the church, and the whole church lights up in a sea of fire.
The Holy Fire, during the course of ten to fifteen minutes, does not scorch.
Peoples of many nations, Greeks, Russians,
Armenians, Arabs, Englishmen, Americans, Frenchmen, Turks, Jews, and others,
gather to observe this glorious event.
The appearance of the Holy Fire is the greatest
visible manifestation of the Paradise of God in our sinful world, serving for
the enlightenment and salvation of us sinners.
On the Holy Fire at the Tomb
of the Lord.
In our time of spiritual barrenness, people’s
lives are limited to earthly preoccupations; great interest and curiosity
attend every novelty. Man is totally disinterested in spiritual matters, or in
the manifestation of God’s benevolence to our sinful world.
Thus, very few are aware of the miraculous
appearance of the Holy Fire, which has appeared over the centuries from year to
year on Great Saturday in the Tomb of the Lord in Jerusalem, in the place of
the burial and glorious resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
As a reminder of this extraordinary miraculous
appearance we bring true evidence, revealed in the letter of a Russian pilgrim
and eyewitness of the appearance of the Holy Fire two years in succession,
Maria Pavlonvna Chreshchatetskaya. This letter was written to Fr. Nicholas
Samoukov, a hieromonk at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, in
answer to questions given her about it.
Furke, France April 30, 1958
"Esteemed and dear in the Lord Fr. Nicholas,
Christ is risen!...if the Lord wills, I will go to Novo Diveyevo, and then will
not delay to come to Jordanville, and personally tell you everything that
interests you. Until then I will attempt to answer all your questions.
"My companion was the nun, Maria Torskaya.
"We travelled from the Mount of Olives
monastery to the Holy Sepulchre by bus. The weather was beautiful. The crowds
were beyond measure, in the thousands. The mood of the people was enthusiastic.
Of the nationalities present there were Greeks, Russians, Armenians, Arabs,
English, Americans, French, Turks, and even Hebrews, who illegally got on the
Arab side. Greeks and Arabs prevailed, I think. In the church the people
behaved themselves outrageously from our point of view, with shouting and
leaping and in general, making a lot of noise. But from their point of view, if
they do not carry on this way (it is the way they pray), then the Holy Fire
will not descend.
"I have already said that the people were
beyond number, not only in the church, but around the church. When the
Patriarch appears before the Tomb enclosure all the people quiet down, and
there is complete silence until the appearance of the Holy Fire.
"First there is a procession around the
church with many banners, three times around, with the Patriarch in full
vestments. Then it stops in front of the Tomb enclosure. They take all the robes
and the miter from the Patriarch. He remains in only a cassock, and the Turkish
authorities examine him from head to foot to see if there is any incendiary
device on him. This process takes until about 1:00 P.M.
"I think that the Patriarch waited for the
fire for not more than five to seven minutes.
"Last year another Russian pilgrim and I,
coming from America, clearly saw (we were very lucky to have a good vantage
point) a thin zigzag of light like lightning flash from above and strike
downwards; and momentarily there appeared the fire in the Tomb of the Saviour,
where it spread on cotton wads which were lit from the fire.
"The Patriarch lit a bundle of candles
(thirty-three in the bundle) and passed them immediately through a special
window-like opening made in the wall, and in a twinkling, from one to another,
the fire spread throughout the enormous church, below and above. At this
moment, the whole church reverberated from the wildly enthusiastic cries of the
"For fifteen minutes or so, the Holy Fire
does not scorch. I personally put all the diseased places of my body in the
flame and did not feel it at all. A monk from the Mt. of Olives monastery, Fr. Savva, washed himself in it, immersed his
whole face in it though he has a moustache and a beard, and not one hair caught
fire, not even singed.
"In such a throng of people and with such a
sea of fire, if it had been our usual fire, there would have been an inevitable
conflagration. But from year to year, the same event happens, and there is
never the slightest hint of fire.
"Women not only entered the altar, but even
passed through the Royal Doors, but at this time the Grace was so powerful that
it cleansed and protected everything.
"After receiving the Holy Fire, attendants
carry the Patriarch, as he does not have the strength to walk. Evidently from
the great exertion, he is left covered with beads of perspiration and totally
drained of strength. Furthermore, they say that in their ecstasy, the people
could tear off all his clothes. As I said before, last year I had a very good
vantage point, above, next to the Tomb enclosure itself, so I was able to see
things that others could not. This year, with the nun Torskaya, I entered the
altar, and here I saw clearly how they carried the Patriarch straight into the
vestry, since it was right next to me.
"There can be no doubt that this is unusual
"Probably you have heard about the wondrous
occurrence in the 1800’s when the heterodox did not wish to allow Orthodox
Christians into the church or the Patriarch into the Tomb enclosure. They
themselves wanted to take possession of the holy flame. They closed the church
and posted guards so that no one could enter the church. The Patriarch stood
with the people on the outside, praying and lamenting.
"At the moment when the heterodox awaited the
fire in the Tomb of the Saviour, and while the Orthodox Christians stood
outside, there was a loud bang, the stone column cracked, and from it came the
blessed flame which they all caught instantly.
"A Turk, an employee of the government,
shouted "All-powerful is the Christian God, and I am a Christian!"
The Turks killed him.
"From that time not one of the heterodox has
attempted to encroach upon the holy flame again.
"Thus the column stands, cracked and blackened
from the fire, in edification to all. Everyone who passes by kisses it.
"Perhaps in my haste my writing is not
completely clear, but when I come, I will personally finish telling you about
"With love in Christ,
"The Holy Fire of Great
Saturday," from a letter by Schema-monk Nicodemus.
The Russian schemamonk, Fr. Nicodemus of Mount
Athos, visiting Jerusalem in 1958, describes wonderfully in a letter the
unusual triumph which he observed at the time of the reception of the holy
"On Great Saturday, about 12:00 noon, I,
sinful Schemamonk Nicodemus, had the good fortune to follow the Patriarch from
the altar of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in the procession of the
Cross, going around the Tomb enclosure three times, and thus I was able to see
that which is rarely observed at the life-giving Tomb.
"After the third time around, the Patriarch
(Greek Orthodox of Jerusalem) stopped before the locked and sealed door to the
Tomb of the Saviour. I stood at the right side of a candlestick before the Tomb
enclosure, a few steps away from the Patriarch.
"The Patriarch disrobed to his cassock. They
took from him his miter, sakkos, and omophorion.
Police and state officials searched the Patriarch.
Then they tore the tape from the seal off the door of the Tomb enclosure and
Patriarch to go inside the chapel. Along with the
Greek Orthodox Patriarch, they admitted the Armenian Patriarch. The Armenian
Patriarch did not take part in the procession of the Cross, but stood with his
people on the left side of the tomb enclosure.
"Several others were permitted inside the
chapel. Clergymen, upon a signal from the Patriarch, extinguished the Holy Fire
from the previous year on the berth of the life-bearing Tomb and picked up
everything in order to prepare for the reception of the Holy Fire.
"When the Arab police, who were to carry out
both the Patriarch and the Holy Fire, entered the chapel, the door was closed
"As is known to everyone, the chapel has two
compartments, the altar of the Angel, and the life-bearing Tomb of the Saviour
itself, the grotto or cave.
"Only the Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the
inner grotto of the Tomb. The others, with the police and the Armenian
Patriarch, stand in the adjoining chapel of the Angel and wait silently.
"The door of the chapel is closed. Everyone
is quiet, and silence reigns throughout the whole church of the Resurrection of
Christ. All the devout await the Holy Fire in silence.
"It is necessary to explain about the preparation
of the Tomb of the Saviour. On the evening of Great Friday, the flames in the
whole church and in the chapel are extinguished under the control of the
"In the middle of the berth of the
life-giving Tomb is placed a lamp on a pedestal, filled with oil and with a
floating wick set, but unlit.
"Around the edge of the berth a ribbon is
placed, and all over the berth they unpack pieces of cotton wadding. Thus
prepared under the surveillance of the police, the Tomb enclosure is locked and
sealed. The locked Tomb of the Saviour remains undisturbed until Great
Saturday, when the Patriarch enters the cave of the Tomb of the Saviour to
receive the Holy Fire.
"Then on Great Saturday, they admit the
Patriarch into the cave of the life-giving Tomb, and the door is shut behind
them. There is absolute silence...
"In the cave itself, it is dark. The
Patriarch, alone there, silently prays to the Saviour... sometimes for ten
minutes, sometimes more. At the time of my visit, fifteen minutes passed. Then
suddenly in the darkness, on the berth of the life-giving Tomb, beads of bright
blue began to spill about, multiplying, and turning into dark blue fire. From
them, the prepared balls of cotton caught fire, then the ribbon, and the lamp.
Everything became enveloped in the flame from the Holy Fire...
"The Patriarch quickly ignited his two
bundles of candles. Upon entering the chapel of the Angel, he gave a light to
the Armenian pilgrims through the oval window.
"During the appearance of the Holy Fire an
uproar of joy and rapture like a clap of thunder resounds from the vast expanse
of the church of the Resurrection of Christ.
"Then, to put out the fire on the berth of
the Tomb of the Saviour (it does not burn here), they take away the burning
lamp and the cotton wads with the ribbon.
"Two Arab policemen carry the Patriarch from
the Tomb enclosure on their shoulders, with the support of assisting clergymen,
and quickly carry him into the altar of the church of the Resurrection of
"One priest with the burning lamp goes before
the Patriarch. All this is so fast that not many in the chapel are able to
light their candles. Nor was I able to. Instead, I endeavored to join the
throng of people following the Patriarch as he entered the altar, where I lit
my bundle of candles with the Holy Fire from the hand of the Patriarch himself.
Schemamonk Nicodemus, Mt. Athos
church of the Resurrection of Christ is commonly known in English literature as
the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Lifebearing Tomb of the
(An excerpt from a letter from the Greek
archimandrite, Fr. Kiriakos, curator of the Tomb of the Saviour in Jerusalem, about the appearance of the Holy Fire.).
"…and regarding the Holy Fire, neither I nor
anyone else has the right to be with the blessed Patriarch inside the cave of
the Tomb of the Saviour at this time, except the Armenian bishop and those
admitted only as far as the chapel of the Angel.
"The Patriarch of Jerusalem alone enters the
inner grotto, in which is found the lifegiving Tomb.
"Several centuries ago, the Armenians tried
to dispute the right of the Orthodox to receive the holy fire in the grotto of
the Tomb. Then the Orthodox were denied access to the church of the
Resurrection of Christ, and they were forced to stand in the courtyard. After
the lapse of some time, while the Patriarch and the people prayed in the court
of the cathedral, the Fire erupted from a column which was near the entrance.
The Armenians received nothing.
"From this time we have never again been
driven away from the Lifebearing Tomb. The column, to this day, stands cracked
Archimandrite Kiriakos, curator of the Lifebearing
Tomb of the Saviour, Jerusalem, October 2,1960.
The Fifth Article of the
5. And He arose again on the third day
according to the Scriptures.
The fifth article of the Creed speaks about the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after His death.
Since in the writings of the prophets of the Old
Testament there were clear predictions about the suffering, death, burial of
the Saviour, and His Resurrection, it is stated "according to the
Scriptures." The words, "according to the Scriptures," pertain
not only to the fifth, but also to the fourth article of the Creed.
Jesus Christ died on Great Friday about three
o’clock in the afternoon and rose after midnight of the following Saturday, on
the first day of the week, called from that time the Christian Sabbath, the day
of the Resurrection of Christ. But in those days, a part of a day belonged to
the whole day, so it is said that He was in the tomb three days.
The circumstances of Jesus Christ from the time of
His death until the Resurrection are expressed in the Orthodox Christian Church
by the following words," In the grave bodily, but in hades with Thy soul
as God; in paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the
Spirit wast thou Who fillest all things, O Christ the Inexpressible."
We know that in the Old and New Testaments several
people rose from the dead, but there the dead were raised by someone else, and
the resurrected rose in their former earthly corruptible bodies, and therefore,
had to die again. Jesus Christ rose from the dead by Himself, by the power of
His own Divinity; He rose and was changed in His body, which became immortal
and eternal. He came forth from the tomb, not disturbing the Sanhedrin’s seal,
not rolling away the stone, and invisible to the guards.
The Lord revealed His Resurrection to people first
through an angel, who rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. The
Resurrection was witnessed by soldiers guarding the tomb, who dispersed in
fright. Then the angel announced the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to the
Myrrhbearing women. Finally, Jesus Christ Himself, over the course of forty
days, repeatedly appeared to His disciples, with many tangible demonstrations
of His Resurrection. He allowed the disciples to touch His wounds from the
nails and the lance, He ate before them, and spoke with them about the
mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
On the day of the Resurrection of Christ we sing:
"Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on
those in the tomb bestowing life."
By death, the Lord conquered death, and to all in
the graves, that is, all the dead, He gave life. Now the Lord abides in this
new, resurrected body forever. Also in the new body of the resurrection lives
the Mother of God, Whom the Lord resurrected after Her death. All people will
receive a new, changed body at the second coming of the Saviour, when there
will be a general resurrection, which the eleventh article of the Creed speaks
Thus is fulfilled the prophecy spoken through the
Prophet Hosea: I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem
them from death (Hosea 13:14). O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is
thy victory? (I Cor. 15:55).
Discussion of the
Resurrection of Christ.
The Resurrection of Christ is the greatest event
in the history of the world, and therefore Christians replaced the Old
Testament Sabbath with this commemoration. The feast of the Resurrection of
Christ is the "one king and lord of sabbaths, the feast of feasts, and the
triumph of triumphs." The triumph of the Resurrection is the meaning and
foundation of our Christian faith, And if Christ be not risen, then is our
preaching in vain, and your faith is also vain (I Cor. 15:14), says the Apostle
If there had been no Resurrection of Christ, then
not only would there be no Christianity, but even the faith in God, in the
power of good and truth, would have been undermined. The meaning of life would
have been lost. If the dead Christ had not been resurrected, then not only
would there be no salvation for anyone through Him, for to whom can death and
helplessness show help, but there would have been the greatest triumph of evil
in history. The days of Golgotha, and in general, the entire earthly life of
the Lord Jesus Christ, would have been the most wicked mockery of evil over
good, of the Devil over the entire world of light and idealism. No more
powerful or inevitable motive for dark despair could exist, for if this
Righteous One were shown to be powerless, if such a Great Personality vanished
into the abyss of nonexistence, then what are we to expect for ourselves, and
what are we preparing ourselves for? There would be no righteous life for
mankind. Life would be only "an empty and stupid joke" (Lermontov),
or, in the apt words of the great Christian author, Dostoevsky, life would be
"devilish vaudeville," mere play-acting.
But Christ is risen, and the father of lies, a
murderer from the beginning — the devil (John 8:44) is rendered profane and
powerless. Life is victorious, death and evil are brought to emptiness and
pettiness, Christ is risen, and in full brilliance His majestic, regal Divinity
begins to shine.
"It is astonishing that serious people can
believe in such foolishness, and this in the twentieth century ... the age of
science and experimentation... Reason does not permit belief in the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ," says the non-believer.
"The historic fact of the Resurrection of
Christ, as well as all His teachings, has undergone criticism from many
scholarly people and rationalists. Several of them have devoted their entire
lives to proving that the Gospel narrative about the Resurrection is a fraud, a
mistake, or a delusion. From the earliest times a malicious fable has appeared
stating that His disciples came by night and stole Him away, while we slept
(Matt. 28:13). Though they first spoke fearfully about the earthquake at the
tomb, the rolling away of the stone, and the appearance of the angel as
lightning, the guards, bribed by the Jewish priests, then spread the lie that
Christ was stolen from the tomb. The absurdity of this fabrication is
immediately apparent to anyone.
It is completely inadmissible that the guard,
composed of several men, could have fallen asleep. Where was their the military
discipline? It was in fact a Roman guard, and the Roman army, by its iron
discipline and courage, was one of the best armies in the world. If the
soldiers slept, then they would not have been able to see, and if they saw, it
means they did not sleep. In that case, they would not have given the Apostles
the opportunity to perform the "theft;" on the contrary, they would
have arrested the thieves and would have presented the dead body together with
the thieves to the authorities.
But if there had been a theft, is it possible that
the executioners of Christ would have left the "thieves" at large to
preach His Resurrection? By the power of their authority, they would have
forced the Apostles to produce the stolen body for them, in order to expose
their lies and deception, and to suppress their preaching about Christ at its
inception. Yes indeed, if the disciples had stolen the body of the Saviour,
then it would have been necessary to bring them into court immediately, to
convict them with the evidence of guilt, and thereby prevent their teaching.
But the murderers of Christ did not do it, because they did not believe the
soldiers would be able to support their own slander in court.
It is not possible that the enemies of Christ
failed to verify the testimony of the soldiers. They, of course, did not fail
to thoroughly, albeit secretly, verify the words of the soldiers, the first
witnesses of the miracle of the Resurrection. Undoubtedly, they personally,
although not in the full body of the Sanhedrin, went to the tomb of Christ and
saw that it was empty. After analysis, they were unable not to acknowledge that
Christ really rose from the dead. But why were they so shamefully silent about
it? Why did they not as a body confess their grave sin and in this way guard
their people against a threatening disaster?
For these corrupt people earthly goods were closer
and more dear than the blessings of Heaven. They did not trust repentance as a
means to gain forgiveness. At the same time, they understood very well that
their repentance for slaying the Messiah would entail for them swift,
unmerciful stoning by those people whom they drew into participation in this
evil deed. In fear for their lives they kept quiet. Thus they proved to be
powerless in a confrontation with truth. They were forced to confine themselves
to issuing a mere order to the Apostles not to speak at all or teach in the
name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). Prohibiting preaching about Jesus Christ, they
avoided the question of where was the body of Jesus. For we cannot but speak
the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20), said the Apostles, who
continued to conquer the world with their preaching about the Resurrection of
Furthermore, could the Apostles, who were
peaceful, timid people, who remained at home under lock and key for fear of the
Jews (John 20:19), and who were unarmed,... could they decide on such an
insolent, daring, and purposeless undertaking as the theft of a body from under
the nose of the guards? How would they be able to do battle with such
formidable Roman guards? Besides, the details do not resemble a theft.
The idea of theft was first thought of by the
Apostles themselves when they, after the announcement from Mary Magdalene,
dispersed in fear and thought that the theft of the body was a new outrage of
the enemy against Him. Going into the grotto of the tomb, the Apostles saw that
the grave, although it was empty, did not appear to have been robbed. For if
thieves had taken the body of Jesus Christ, they would have taken Him in the
shroud. But the linen lay rolled up and the sudarium, a long, narrow linen
napkin wound about the head, was not lying with the linen but folded together
in a place by itself (John 20:7).
Therefore, this absurd Jewish fabrication was
discarded long ago. In its place, skeptics advance a hypothesis of lethargic
sleep and pleurisy with effusion to explain the water which flowed from the
side. According to this theory, Jesus Christ fell into a deep faint and perhaps
lethargy, and therefore was taken for dead. He was taken down from the cross
and buried. Due to the approaching holy day of Passover they had to hurry with
the burial, and in their haste, neither friends nor enemies had the chance to examine
Him and ascertain that He was really dead. The action of the aromatics and the
influence of the cold air of the cave brought Him back to consciousness. He got
up, and although still weak, attempted to get out of the tomb. His cries and
pounding frightened the guards, and they ran away. Availing himself of the
flight of the guards, the gardener, or one of the disciples, rolled away the
stone and liberated Him from the grave. His appearance in a white shroud gave
Him the appearance of an angel, the herald of the Resurrection. Jesus Christ
spent forty days in the company of the disciples, and then, from his pleurisy,
The story is totally improbable and does not stand
up under the slightest criticism. The Gospels say that from the pierced side of
the Lord issued blood and water. From a medical point of view, this appearance
showed paralysis of the heart, certain death. But even if Jesus Christ had
remained alive, then due to a lack of breath from the tightly tied shroud,
saturated with aromatics, that life would have ceased under the adverse
conditions in the tomb. Weak and exhausted, He would hardly have been in a
condition to move the stone and produce cries and pounding loud enough to
terrify the guards. The Gospels speak in sufficient detail about conversations
with Jesus Christ, about the joy with which He filled the hearts of His
disciples, about the walk with His disciples on the long road, and so on. Does
all this resemble someone just regaining consciousness from a faint or mortally
ill lethargy? In fact, such a person would be a pitiful and exhausted sick man.
In the opinion of specialists, He would not have been able to take two steps
with perforated feet, nor take hold of anything with His hands. Even such
opponents of Christ as Strauss (David Frederick Strauss, 1808-1847, German
theologian and philosopher, famous for "demythologizing" the Bible)
correctly noted that this half dead man would surely have been a disappointment
to His followers. For Him to inspire such mighty faith that it spread
throughout the world, subjugated a powerful empire to Him, awakened in all of
those who saw Him the enthusiasm for martyrdom — is psychologically
inconceivable and impossible. The Apostles remained persuaded of the
Resurrection of Christ for their entire lives. If the Resurrection was
imaginary, then sooner or later the real death of Jesus Christ would have
followed, and that would have ended all the activities and accounts of the
Apostles. Quite to the contrary, they began to preach with a certainty which
they had never demonstrated during the earthly life of Christ.
The more common theory in our day is the
apparition theory, that Christ did not actually rise from the dead, but that
the disciples reported that they saw the Lord living and speaking with them.
The disciples were so taken with the identity of Jesus Christ and hence become
so intimately linked with the idea of His approaching Kingdom that they could
not be reconciled with the fact of His death. Under the strain of anticipation
they allowed themselves such massive hallucinations that they, giving way to
self-deception, gave the accounts recorded in the Gospels.
It is true that in history and in present day
reality hallucinations, however occur, both with individuals and with crowds,
although the latter case is very rare. Hallucinations, however, are found among
people who wish to see and hear something, who are mentally prepared for it.
Their cerebral condition is ready to perceive that which they intensely await.
But let us return to the Gospel story. In order to be deceived, to see
something which did not exist, it would have been necessary to wait for the
Resurrection, to believe that His Resurrection was near and would come to pass.
Who among the Apostles had such faith? When Mary Magdalene and the other women
went to the tomb, they thought, Who shall roll us away the stone...? (Mark
16:3) When Mary Magdalene saw that the tomb was empty, the idea of the
Resurrection did not occur to her. Even when she saw the Lord she did not
recognize Him. Why? She believed that dead people do not arise. The Apostles
reacted in a similar manner when the news was brought to them He is not here,
but He is risen (Luke 24:6). Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they
believed them not (Luke 24:11). Thomas not only did not believe when he saw,
but for him it was even necessary to feel. Reach hither thy finger, and behold
My hands... (John 20:27). It was the most sober, most convincing verification
of the fact.
Jesus appeared to the Myrrhbearing women, to
Peter, Luke and Cleopas (Luke 24:18), to the ten disciples, to the eleven, even
to five hundred believers, and finally, to the Apostle Paul... How could all of
them be deceived? Is it possible that among this group there was not one single
person with a sober, clear mind, with healthy senses and critical faculties? As
professionals affirm, hallucinations are more often visual or auditory
sensations. Rarely do they occur in combination with others, and extremely
seldom do hallucinations occur in the realm of sensation by touch. Where all
three senses are involved together in a hallucination appearing to at least the
ten and then eleven men, and even to the five hundred, and where broiled fish
and honeycomb are eaten by it and disappear, as is stated in the Gospel (Luke
24:42),... such a hallucination has never been known in history, and never will
Thus the Apostles indeed saw the Resurrected One:
the Resurrection is an indubitable historical fact. Skeptics are not able to
undermine the Gospel story; they only refute each other, and some of them
openly acknowledge their helplessness in struggling against Christ. The German
scholar DeWette (Wilhelm Martin Lebrecht DeWette, 1780-1849, German Protestant
theologian and Biblical scholar), who over the course of ten years led the
skeptics, on his deathbed confessed that "the event of the Resurrection,
although the means by which it happened is completely obscured by impenetrable
darkness, nevertheless appears to be as indisputable as the death of Caesar."
Discussing the trustworthiness of the miracles of
the Resurrection and the Ascension, physicist Balfour Stewart said, "Was
the well-known power of nature preserved according to the immutable laws in
these cases, or was it somehow overcome by a higher force? Undoubtedly it was
overcome during the Resurrection as during the Ascension. We are obliged to
analyze the evidence of these great events, which is accomplished in a most
credible manner. History, in narrating these events, has borne this test so
well that every suggestion that this did not really happen leads to the
greatest moral and spiritual confusion."
Why did not Jesus Christ appear among the Jews
after the Resurrection? St. John Chrysostom explains that the appearance of the
risen Lord would have been useless for the Jews, and that if there had been the
slightest possibility that by it they could be converted, then without doubt
the Lord would not have denied the Jews. But after He resurrected Lazarus, they
were completely antagonistic. The Jews started to seek opportunities to kill
not only Jesus Christ but Lazarus as well. If Christ had appeared to the Jews
after the Resurrection, in one way or another they would have decided to kill
Thus, Christ is risen from the dead. The most
convincing evidence of the fact of the Resurrection of Christ is that mighty
change which it produced in the Apostles, and through them, in the whole
universe. On it rests all the culture of the last two thousand years. Could the
fantasy of thirteen dreamers support it? They changed all history. Without the
Resurrection of Christ we would not have Christianity or Christian culture.
World history would have taken a completely different direction. Without the
living power of the Christian faith, the ancient world would have decomposed
and perished. It is impossible to believe that imagination alone could have
produced such greatness and so much good.
By this demonstration all opposition to the
miracle of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ falls away. Even the
briefest critical analysis of the objections elucidates their total
groundlessness. But malicious criticism does not weaken. "The Devil fights
with God, and the field of battle is in the hearts of people," writes
In our time, new but lame arguments are advanced:
God does not exist; Christ as a historical figure never existed, and therefore
there was no Resurrection; the Gospels are pure mythology, fiction not
supported by actual historical events. They are a compilation of ancient pagan
myths about legendary gods. These "critics" have to realize that in
the various myths, only gods such as Osiris and Dionysius died and rose again,
but never God Incarnate. That lesus Christ was God Incarnate is indisputable by
evidence from the Gospels. Along with the Gospels we have the testimony of
pagans, opponents of Christianity. For example, Pliny the Younger, the Roman
consul and governor of Bithynia and Pontica in Asia Minor, in his letter to
Emperor Trajan (about 112 A.D). wrote, "They (Christians) gather and sing
hymns to Christ, as God. They do not swear, do not tell lies, do not steal, do
not commit adultery." Pliny did not write, "they sing to their God,
to Christ," but he wrote, "to Christ, as God." Therefore he knew
that Christ for the Christians was not only God, but man.
A contemporary of Pliny, Tacitus, one of the most
accurate historians, reports, about 115 A.D., "Christ, during the reign of
Tiberius, under Procurator Pontius Pilate, was sentenced to death."
Many pieces of evidence about Jesus Christ as a
historical figure are in the Hebrew Talmud. It is true that these references
are written with malice and hatred, calling the Saviour "apostate,"
"Nazarene," etc. Very little is said in the Talmud about the miracles
of the Nazarene.
Especially striking is evidence of the former
persecutor of Christians, Saul, later the first among the Apostles, Paul. The
authenticity of his testimony is beyond dispute. This is understood by the most
furious enemies of Christianity. "The strength of Paul’s testimony,"
says one of our prominent authors and thinkers, "is such that even if
there were none other, we would still know with greater exactitude than about
many other historical figures, not only that Christ did exist, but how He
lived, what He said and did, how He died, and how He rose from the dead."
The truth of the Resurrection of Christ the
Saviour consists of the fact that it was the Resurrection of God Incarnate. He
resurrected the human body, and by this transformed the human being into a
spiritual, divine body for eternal life with God. In this lies the victory of
the Saviour over death for all generations.
"The bodily Resurrection of the Saviour from
the dead is an historical, true fact," says one of our well-known Orthodox
missionaries, and he enumerates this in the following points:
Christ predicted His
Resurrection (Mt. 16:21; 20:19; Mark 9:9).
After the Resurrection
He testified about the event (Luke 24:46).
He appeared in visible
On the morning of the
Resurrection to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9).
To the women going
away from the tomb (Matt. 28:9).
To Peter near Jerusalem
(Luke 24:34; I Cor 15:5).
To two disciples on
the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13).
On the evening of the
Resurrection, to the Apostles, except Thomas (John ).
A week later in the
evening to all the Apostles (John ).
After several days at
the Sea of Tiberias
to seven disciples (John 21:1-3).
Not long after, on the
mountain near Galilee, to eleven Apostles (Matt.
To five hundred of the
faithful (I Cor. 15:6).
To his brother
"according to the flesh," James, and all the Apostles (I Cor.
At the time of the
Ascension on the Mount of Olives, to all the Apostles (Luke 24:50). To
the Apostle Paul (I Cor. 9:1; 15:8).
To the first
archdeacon, Stephen (Acts 7:55).
Until the Ascension,
over the course of forty days, explaining the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
He ate and drank with
the disciples (Luke 24:42).
He showed His hands and
feet with the wounds, which He received from being nailed to the cross
He gave admonitions
(Matt. 28:18; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:17; John 21:15; 20:21; Acts 1:7).
He travelled with the
Apostles (Luke 21:15).
The Myrrhbearing women
and the eleven disciples worshipped Him (Matt. 28:9,17).
Angels proclaimed the
Resurrection of Christ (Matt. 28:6; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6).
The event was reported
by Roman soldiers keeping watch at the tomb (Matt. 28:11).
The Apostles identified
themselves as witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:32; 10:39),
and they relied on this actual historical fact for the foundation of all
their preaching (Acts 2:22; 3:26; 4:10; 10:39). At the same time, it is
especially significant that the Apostles do not give an account of the
precise moment of the Resurrection of Christ. They only say that...which we
have heard, which we have seen with our eyes...and our hands have
handled... declare we unto you... (I John 1:1-3). The exact moment of the
Resurrection of Christ no one was able to witness. Even the soldiers,
keeping watch at the tomb, did not observe the exact moment of the
Resurrection. The risen Christ was invisible to them. In fact, the
Apostles were not able to witness it, as they had hid and locked
themselves in their houses for fear of the Jews (John 2:19). That is why
not one of the four Gospels contains a description of the exact moment of
the Resurrection, although there are detailed accounts of all events
preceding the Resurrection and detailed accounts after the Resurrection.
We know that if the Resurrection of Christ were
fiction, then no matter how much of a genius the author is, he would not omit
the center and theme of his composition. He would, without fail, touch upon the
moment of the Resurrection in his account, because man’s innate curiosity
But the Apostles did not do this. This constitutes
the highest proof of the authenticity of their witness. For they were not
writers, but guileless and simple men, influenced by the Holy Spirit, actual
witnesses of the true event of the Resurrection of Christ and the whole Gospel
The Apostles themselves said, And if Christ be not
risen, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also in vain. But now
is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept
(I Cor. 15:14,20). He is the first to partake of our future resurrection.
Only then did the Apostles and the first
Christians go to death, when they had made certain of the actual Resurrection
of the Saviour, of His victory over hell and death. Only in this case were they
able, as the poet said, "To go to execution singing hymns and looking into
the jaws of unfed beasts with unflinching gaze." Thus, the miracle of the
Resurrection is accomplished in deed. Christ is risen indeed!
Compiled chiefly from an article by Archpriest
Gerasim Shorets, Christ is Risen, from his brochure, Did Christ Live? Additions
from a book by D.M. Merezhkovsky, Jesus the Unknown; an article by Archpriest
I. Chernavin, Did Christ Rise from the Dead?; and other sources.
The Sixth Article of the
6. And ascended into the Heavens, and sitteth
at the right hand of the Father.
In the sixth article of the Creed, it is stated
that Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven with His pure body, and sits at the
right hand of God the Father.
The Ascension of the Lord occurred forty days
after His Resurrection. The Lord Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven in body and
soul, and in His Divinity He always abides with the Father.
"Sitteth at the right hand of the
Father" means on the right side, in the place of honor and glory. These
words mean that the human body and soul of Christ was received with the glory
that Christ has by His Divinity.
By His Ascension, our Lord Jesus Christ united
earth and Heaven and glorified our human nature, raising it to the throne of
God. He showed us that our fatherland is in Heaven, in the Kingdom of God,
which is now open to all who truly believe in Him.
To him that overcometh will 1 grant to sit with Me
in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My father in His
throne (Rev. 3:21).
The Seventh Article of the
7. And He shall come again, with glory, to
judge both the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.
In the seventh article of the Creed it is stated
that Jesus Christ will come to earth again to judge all people, living and
dead, who will all rise at that time, and that after the terrible Last Judgment
the Kingdom of Christ will begin, of which there will be no end.
The second coming of the Saviour is clearly
discussed in Holy Scripture. For example, when Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven,
angels appeared and said to the Apostles, "This Jesus, Who is taken up
from you into Heaven, will come again to earth in the same form, in the body of
a man, as you saw Him going up to Heaven."
The second coming of Christ will not be at all
like the first. The first time He came in the humble form of a man to suffer
for us and by this to save us from sin. He was born in a stable for cattle,
lived, not having a place to lay His head, and died between criminals on the
cross. In the second coming He will appear suddenly as a King, with majesty.
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so
shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matt.24:27). The second coming of
Christ the Saviour will be extraordinary: The sun shall be darkened, and the
moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the
powers of the heavens shall be shaken; and then shall appear the sign of the
Son of man, (a cross) in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth
mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with
power and great glory (Matt. 24:29-30), ...and all the holy angels with Him,
then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be
gathered all nations (Matt. 25:31-46), and He will judge all people, all of us,
the righteous and the sinful.
This judgment is called terrible, because the
conscience of every man will be revealed before all. Not only the good and evil
deeds will be disclosed, but also the manner in which each man conducted his
earthly life; every spoken word, secret wish, and thought will be laid bare.
According to this judgment, the righteous will
enter into eternal life, and the sinners into eternal torment — for doing evil
deeds and failing to repent of them, or to make amends through good deeds and a
For the hour is coming, says the Lord Himself, in
which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth;
they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have
done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).
The exact hour of the second coming of the Lord to
earth is known to no man. It is a secret which, by the word of the Lord
Himself, no one knows, not even the angels of God, only the Heavenly Father
alone. Therefore, we must always be ready to appear before the judgment of God.
Although the exact time is not known to us, God’s
word reveals several signs of the approach of the coming of the Lord. Before
this time the Gospels will be preached to all people. The Jews will return in
great numbers to Christ.
At the same time there will be more corruption,
lack of faith, less love toward one’s neighbor, and increased wickedness and
calamity among people. False prophets will appear. Discord and war will grow
stronger among the people; famine and starvation, epidemics and earthquakes
will occur in various places. Finally, when evil reaches its highest
manifestation on earth, Antichrist will appear.
Antichrist, the antagonist of Christ, will appear
before the end of the world, and will seek to exterminate Christian faith on
the earth with all his power. But with the coming of Christ, the dominion of
the Antichrist will end in terrible ruin, as will he, since he is a disciple of
the Devil himself.
After all these things have come to pass the
eternal Kingdom of Christ will begin.
The Eighth Article of the
8. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver
of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son
together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.
The eighth Article of the Creed speaks about the
third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also true
God, as is the Father and the Son. This we confess, calling Him Lord.
The Holy Spirit is also called the Giver of Life
because He, together with God the Father and God the Son, gives life to all,
especially spiritual life. It follows that He is likewise the Creator of the
world, equal to the Father and the Son. It is said about the creation of the
world: And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2).
Jesus Christ Himself said about the blessed regeneration by the Spirit,
...Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
Kingdom of God (John 3:5).
Thus the Holy Spirit is true God, the third Person
of the Triune God. To Him we must render the same worship and glory as to the
Father and the Son.
The words, "Who proceedeth from the
Father," define the personal hypostatic nature of the Holy Spirit, by
which He is distinguished from God the Father, and from the Son, begotten of
the Father. His nature is such that the Holy Spirit continually proceeds from
the Father. Jesus Christ Himself spoke on this point to His disciples: But when
the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the
Spirit of truth, Which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me (John
The words, "Who spake by the Prophets,"
means who spoke through the prophets. The prophets predicted the future and
wrote Holy Scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore
their books are called divinely inspired. The words, "spake by the
Prophets," are stated so that no one need doubt that the Holy Scriptures
were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not by the authors
themselves, as ordinary books are written. They therefore contain the highest
God-given truth, the Word of God, or Divine revelation.
The fact that the Holy Spirit spoke through the
Apostles is not mentioned in the Symbol of Faith because at the time of its
composition no one doubted it.
The Holy Spirit now conveys His gifts to true
Christians through the Church of Christ, in prayer and the Holy Mysteries. In the Holy Mysteries
the Holy Spirit enlightens the faithful with the light of Christ’s teaching,
warms their hearts by love for God and neighbor, and purifies them of every
stain of sin.
Jesus Christ called the Holy Spirit, Spirit of
Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) and warned us, All manner of sin and blasphemy
shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not
be forgiven unto men (Matt. 12:31).
"Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is
conscious and hardened opposition to the truth, because the Spirit is truth (I
John 5:6). Conscious and hardened resistance to the truth leads man away from
humility and repentance, and without repentance there can be no forgiveness.
That is why the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit cannot be forgiven, since
one who does not acknowledge his sin does not seek to have it forgiven.
The Holy Spirit was revealed to people in visible
form at the Baptism of the Lord in the form of a dove, and on the day of
Pentecost when He descended to the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire. He
appeared also as a cloud of light in the Old Testament and at the
Transfiguration of Christ.
The Ninth Article of the
9. In one Holy, Catholic and ApostolicChurch.
The ninth article of the Creed speaks about the Church
of Christ, which Jesus Christ founded on earth for the
sanctification of sinful people and for their reconciliation with God.
The Church is called a union of all Orthodox
Christians, living and dead, for He is not a God of the dead, but of the
living: for all live unto Him (Luke 20:38), united among themselves in faith
and Christian love, by its hierarchy and by its sacraments.
Each individual Orthodox Christian is a member or
a part of the Church. When we say that we believe in one Holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic Church, the Church is understood to include all people who confess
one and the same Orthodox Faith. It does not only mean the building where we go
to pray to God and which is also called the church of God. Jesus Christ
entrusted the visible construction and government of the Church to the
Apostles, and then to their successors, the bishops, and through them He
invisibly rules the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ alone is the true Head of the
Church, and no other head of the Christian Church exists or ever will. Jesus
Christ is Head, and the Church is the spiritual body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23;
The holy Apostle Paul says, For as the body is
one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many,
are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one
body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been
all made to drink into one Spirit (I Cor. 12:12-13). Thus, ye are the body of
Christ, and members in particular (I Cor. 12:27). He (Jesus Christ) gave some,
apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and
teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for
the edifying of the body of Christ (the Church) (Eph. 4:11-12).
Jesus Christ said that His Church is invincible
and will endure forever. I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). I am with you always, even unto the end
of the world. Amen (Matt. 28:20).
The truth of God, His teaching, is preserved in
the one Church of Christ, ...the Church of the living God, the pillar and
ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). Jesus Christ said, But the Comforter, which
is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you
all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said
unto you (John 14:26) that the Holy Spirit may abide with you forever (John
He who obeys the Church, obeys Christ Himself, and
he who does not obey, but rejects her, rejects also the Lord Himself. If one
does not obey the Church, let him be to you like as a heathen man, and a
publican, said the Lord Himself (Matt. 18:17).
The Church of Christ is one, because it is one
spiritual body, has one head, Christ, and is inspired by one Spirit (cf. Eph.
4:4-6). It has one goal, the sanctification of people, and everywhere the same
teachings of God, and the same sacraments. Therefore, the Church cannot fall
into ruin or become divided. Heretics may fall from Her or become separated
from Her; they then cease to be members of the Church. The Church by their
action does not cease to be united. The Church obliges all of us to keep the
unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:5).
The existence of geographical divisions of the
Orthodox Church, such as Jerusalem, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Russia
and others, does not violate the unity of the Church of Christ at all. For they
all are revealed to be members of one body, One Universal Church of Christ.
They all confess the same faith, and have prayers and sacraments in common.
The Church of Christ is Holy, because it is
sanctified by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, through His suffering, with His
divine teachings and with the Holy Sacraments established by Him, in which the
Grace of the Holy Spirit is given to the faithful. Christ also loved the
Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify it... (Eph. 5:25-26).
The sanctity of the Church is not violated by
Christians when they sin because they can always cleanse themselves through the
Mystery of Repentance. If someone remains unrepentant, then he visibly or
invisibly withdraws from the Church.
of Christ is Catholic. Catholicity is the unity of all believing
Orthodox Christians, united in truth by the love of Christ and the grace of the
Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church is bound neither by natural boundaries nor
time nor by people, and it consists of all true believers everywhere. Therefore
it is also called universal.
The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of
Christ is furthermore called Apostolic, because the Lord spread it and
strengthened it through the holy Apostles. The word Apostolic is essential
because the Church uninterruptedly and without change has preserved the
Apostolic teaching and the succession of the gift of the Holy Spirit through
The highest visible authority in the Church
belongs to the Ecumenical Council. Primacy in the Ecumenical Church is composed
of the patriarchs, then of lesser prelates — metropolitans, archbishops and
bishops. Local councils, if their decisions are in agreement with the spirit of
Orthodoxy as revealed in the past, also have authority.
The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is
furthermore called Orthodox (from the Greek, ortho, correct, straight, true,
and doxa, glory, worship, in the sense also of dogma, piety, teaching),
because, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, It unchanging, correctly and
gloriously keeps the teachings of Jesus Christ — so that we may glorify God in
a way that pleases Him.
The Tenth Article of the
10.I confess one Baptism for the remission of
The tenth article of the Creed speaks about the
Mystery of Baptism and about the remaining Mysteries.
Jesus Christ, sending His disciples out to preach,
said, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and added, Teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20). By this
the Lord clearly stated that other mysteries had been established by Him.
By sacraments, or mysteries, are meant those holy
acts through which the Holy Spirit mysteriously and invisibly confers Grace
(the saving power of God) upon man.
The holy Orthodox Church has seven Mysteries:
Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, Holy Communion, Marriage, Ordination, and
The Symbol of Faith mentions only Baptism because
that Mystery is the door into the Church of Christ. Only those who have been
baptized can avail themselves of the other sacraments.
Moreover, at the time of the composition of the
Creed, there were quarrels and doubts. For example, some thought that heretics
who returned to the Church should be baptized a second time. The Ecumenical
Council said that Baptism could be performed only one time for any given
person. Therefore it is said — "I confess one Baptism." It is
understood that this one Baptism must be performed in the true Church for it to
be valid. This is true of all the Mysteries.
The Mystery of Baptism.
The Mystery of Baptism is the sacred act in which
the believer in Christ, through threefold bodily immersion in water, while
calling upon the name of the Holy Trinity — the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit — is washed of all sin committed by him prior to Baptism and given the
grace to fight against the inclination to sin which has become habitual in man
since the sin of Adam and Eve. The believer is reborn by the grace of the Holy
Spirit into new spiritual life and becomes a member of the Church.
The Mystery of Baptism was established by our Lord
Jesus Christ Himself. He sanctified Baptism by His own example, being baptized
by St. John the Baptist. Then, after His Resurrection, He gave the
Apostles the commandment: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt.
Baptism is necessary for anyone who wishes to be a
member of the Church of Christ. "Except a man be born of water and of the
Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God," said the Lord Himself
(John 3:5). To receive Baptism it is necessary to have faith and repentance.
The Orthodox Church baptizes infants on the faith
of their parents and godparents. Present at the Baptism are godparents, to whom
the faith of the baptized child is entrusted before the Church. When the child
grows older, the godparents are obliged to teach him the faith and to endeavor
to help the baptized become a true Christian. This is the sacred responsibility
of the godparents, and they sin grievously if they neglect their duty. That the
gifts of the Spirit are given on the faith of others, we are given proof of in
the Gospels, concerning the healing of the cripple: When Jesus saw their faith,
he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee (Mark 2:5).
Sectarians contend that babies should not be baptized
and criticize the Orthodox for performing the sacrament for infants. The
foundation for the baptism of infants is that Baptism has replaced the Old
Testament circumcision, which was done when an infant was eight days old.
Christian Baptism is called circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11-12). The
Apostles baptized whole families in which without doubt there were children.
Babies as well as adults are participants in the sinful inclination inherited
from Adam and have need to be cleansed and strengthened against it.
The Lord Himself said, Suffer (let) the little
children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of
God (Luke 18:16).
Thus, Baptism is spiritual birth, and as a person
is born once, so also the Sacrament of Baptism is done once, One Lord, one
faith, one baptism (Eph. 4:5).
The Mystery of Chrismation.
Chrismation is the Mystery which bestows the gifts
of the Holy Spirit on the believer in order to strengthen him in the Christian
Jesus Christ spoke about the gifts of Grace of the
Holy Spirit when He said, He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said,
out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the
Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: For the Holy Spirit was
not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:38-39).
The Apostle Paul says, Now He which establisheth
us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us is God; Who hath also sealed us,
and given the earnest (i.e., pledge or token) of the Spirit in our hearts (II
The gifts of Grace of the Holy Spirit are
necessary for every believer in Christ. There are furthermore extraordinary
gifts of the Holy Spirit which are conveyed only to certain people, such as
prophets, apostles and kings.
The first Apostles accomplished the Mystery of
Chrismation through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17; 19:2-6). Then at the
end of the first century, the Mystery of Chrismation came to be performed by
anointment with holy oil, after the example of the Old Testament Church, as the
Apostles themselves were not always able to perform the Mystery through the
laying on of hands.
Holy Chrism is special oil that is prepared in a
prescribed manner from fragrant substances and is then consecrated.
The first chrism was sanctified by the Apostles
themselves and their successors, the bishops. Only bishops may consecrate this
chrism. By anointing with the chrism sanctified by the bishops, priests are
able to perform the Mystery of Chrismation.
During the performance of the Mystery with the
holy chrism, they anoint the following parts of the body with the sign of the
Cross, the forehead, eyes, ears, mouth, chest, hands and feet, while
pronouncing the words, "The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
The Mystery of Confession.
Confession is the Mystery in which the believer
admits his sins before God in the presence of a priest and receives through the
priest forgiveness of sins as if from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus Christ gave to the Apostles, and through
them to all priests, the power to forgive sins. Receive ye the Holy Spirit:
whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye
retain, they are retained (John 20:22-23).
Even John the Baptist, preparing people to receive
the Saviour, preached the Baptism of repentance for the remission of sins ...
And were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins
Having received this power from the Lord, the
Apostles performed the Mystery of Confession: And many that believed came, and
confessed, and showed their deeds (Acts ).
Forgiveness of sins (absolution) by means of
confession requires peace with all one’s neighbors, sincere contrition for sins
committed, confession, firm determination to correct one’s life, faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ and hope in His mercy.
In certain cases an "epitimia" (a Greek
word meaning "prohibition" or "restriction") is laid on the
repenting believer, consisting of some pious act or some deprivation directed
at overcoming a sinful habit.
The Mystery of Holy
Holy Communion is the Mystery in which the
faithful Orthodox Christian receives, in the form of bread and wine, the Body
and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and through this Mystery is united with
Christ and becomes a participant in eternal life.
The Mystery of Holy Communion was established by
our Lord Jesus Christ Himself at the time of the Mystical Supper, on the
evening before His suffering and death. He Himself celebrated the Mystery
first. "Jesus took bread, and gave thanks (to God the Father for all His
mercy toward mankind), and brake it, and gave it to His disciples, saying,
Take, eat; this is My body.’
"And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and
gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink ye all of it; For this is My blood of the New
Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ " (Matt.
26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-24; I Cor. 11:23-25).
Then, after establishing the Mystery of Holy
Communion, Jesus Christ commanded the disciples to perform it at all times:
"This do in remembrance of Me."
In instructing the people, Jesus Christ said,
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life
in you. Whosoever eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and
I will raise him up at the last day. For My Flesh is meat indeed, and My blood
is drink indeed. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me,
and I in him (John 6:53-56).
In obedience to the commandments of Christ, the
Mystery of Holy Communion is continually celebrated in the Church of Christ and
will be continued until the end of the age, during the service known as the
Divine Liturgy, when the bread and wine, by the power and the action of the
Holy Spirit, is changed into the true body and true blood of Christ.
The bread used for Holy Communion is a single
loaf, as all the believers in Christ constitute His one body, the head of which
is Christ Himself. For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are
all partakers of that one bread, said the Apostle Paul (I Cor. 10:17).
The first Christians received Holy Communion every
Sunday. The Church commands us to receive Holy Communion at least once during
every fast, and as often as possible.
Preparation for receiving the Mystery of Holy
Communion consists of fasting, prayer, reconciliation with all, and then,
Confession, that is, cleansing of the conscience in the Mystery of Confession.
The Mystery of Holy Communion, in Greek, is called
the Eucharist, which means "thanksgiving."
The Mystery of Marriage.
Marriage is the Mystery during which public vows
are made before the priest and the Church by the groom and the bride to be
faithful to each other. Their conjugal union is blessed as an image of the
spiritual union of Christ with the Church. The Grace of God is requested and
given for their mutual assistance, unanimity, and for the blessed procreation
and Christian upbringing of children.
Marriage was established by God in Paradise. At
the time of the creation of Adam and Eve, God blessed them, and God said unto
them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it (Gen. 1:28).
Jesus Christ sanctified Marriage by His own
presence at the wedding in Cana of Galilee and confirmed it as a divine
institution by saying, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the
beginning made them male and female (Gen. 1:27). And said, For this cause shall
a man leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife: and the twain shall
be one flesh (Gen. 2:24). Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What
therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt. 19:4-6).
The Apostle Paul compares the union of marriage
with the union of Christ and the Church (cf. Ephes. -32).
The union of Jesus Christ with the Church is
founded upon the love of Christ for the Church, and on the complete devotion of
the Church to the will of Christ. Hence the husband is obliged to love his wife
selflessly, and the wife is obliged to voluntarily, lovingly obey her husband.
Husbands, says the Apostle Paul, love your wives,
even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it... he that loveth
his wife loveth himself (Eph. 5:25,48). Wives, submit yourselves unto your own
husbands, as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife, even as
Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body (Eph.
5:22-23). Therefore each spouse, husband or wife, is obliged to preserve mutual
love and respect, mutual sacrifice and fidelity. Like all Sacraments, Marriage
is given to man in order to help him save his soul. If the husband and wife do
not live in a Christian manner the Sacrament of Marriage will not save them.
Good Christian family life is the source of personal and public good. The
family is the foundation of the Church of Christ.
The Mystery of Marriage is not obligatory for all,
but individuals who willingly remain unmarried are obliged to lead clean, pure
and virgin lives, which, by the teaching of the Word of God, is higher than
married life and is one of the greatest spiritual feats (Matt. 19:11-12; I Cor.
The Mystery of Ordination.
Ordination is the Mystery in which a duly
appointed man, through the laying on of hands by the bishop, receives the Grace
of the Holy Spirit, strengthening him for divine service in the Church of
Christ as bishop, presbyter (priest), or deacon. This Mystery is performed only
for people selected and consecrated to become clergy. The degrees of the clergy
are three: deacon, priest, and bishop.
A man ordained deacon receives Grace to assist
during the performance of Mysteries. A man ordained priest receives Grace to
celebrate the Mysteries. A man ordained bishop receives Grace not only to
celebrate the Mysteries, but also to ordain others to celebrate the Mysteries.
The Mystery of Ordination is divinely established.
The Apostle Paul testified that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself gave some,
apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and
teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for
the edifying of the body of Christ.
The Apostles, performing this Mystery under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, raised up deacons, presbyters, and bishops,
through the laying on of hands.
The selection and ordination of the first deacons
by the Apostles is described in the book of Acts: Whom they set before the
apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them (Acts 6:6).
With regard to the ordination of presbyters it is
written, And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed
with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on Whom they believed (Acts
In the epistles of the Apostle Paul to the bishops
Timothy and Titus it is said, Wherefore I put thee (Bishop Timothy) in
remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting
on of my hands (II Tim 1:6). For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou
shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain presbyters in
every city, as I had appointed thee (Titus 1:5). Appealing to Timothy, the
Apostle Paul says, Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other
men’s sins: keep thyself pure (I Tim 5:22). Against a presbyter receive not an
accusation, but before two or three witnesses (I Tim 5:19).
The Mystery of Holy Unction.
Holy Unction is the Mystery for the sick in which
by anointing with Holy Oil, the Grace of God is invoked for physical and
From these letters we see that the Apostles
reserved to the bishops the power to ordain presbyters through the laying on of
hands, and to have jurisdiction over presbyters, deacons, and servers.
The Mystery of Holy Unction is still called in
Russian soborovaniye, "the gathering," because several clergymen are
called to perform it, although if necessary, it can be done by one priest.
The Mystery comes from the Apostles. Having
received from the Lord Jesus Christ power in the time of preaching to heal all
the sick and infirm, they anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed
them (Mark 6:13).
Especially detailed is the account of this Mystery
by the Apostle James. 7s any sick among you? Let him call for the presbyters of
the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of
the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise
him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James -15).
The Apostles did not preach anything of their own
but taught only that which was commanded them by the Lord and that which was
inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul says, But I certify you brethren,
that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither
received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus
Christ (Gal 1:11-12).
Holy Unction is not given to infants because
infants cannot knowingly commit sins.
The Eleventh Article of the
11. I look for the resurrection of the dead.
The eleventh article of the Creed speaks about the
general resurrection of the dead, which will come at the end of the world.
The resurrection of the dead that we look for will
occur at the same time as the second and glorious coming of our Lord Jesus
Christ. At that time all the bodies of the dead will be united with their
souls, and they will come to life.
Faith in the resurrection of the dead was
expressed as early as Abraham, at the time of the sacrifice of his son Isaac
(cf. Heb. 11:17); by Job in the midst of his extreme suffering, For I know that
my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see
God (Job 19:25-26); the Prophet Isaiah, Thy dead men shall live, together with
my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for
thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead (Isaiah
The Prophet Ezekiel contemplated the resurrection
of the dead in a vision of a field strewn with dry bones. By the will of the
Holy Spirit the bones came together, bone to bone, became covered with flesh,
and the breath of the Spirit came into them (Ezekiel 37).
Jesus Christ speaks about the resurrection of the
dead more than once, Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming and now
is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear
shall live (John 5:25). Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the
which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth;
they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have
done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29). Whosoever eateth
My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at
the last day (John 6:54).
In answering the questions of the unbelieving
Sadducees about the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ said, Ye do err, not
knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they
neither many, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in
Heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that
which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God
of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the
living (Matt. 22:29-32).
The Apostle Paul says, But now is Christ risen
from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man
came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all
die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (I Cor. 15:20-22).
At the moment of the general resurrection the
bodies of dead people shall be changed. In essence, the bodies will be the same
as we now have, but in quality they will excel our present bodies. They will be
spiritual, incorruptible and immortal. Changed also will be the bodies of those
people who are alive at the time of the second coming of the Saviour. The
Apostle Paul says: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body ...
we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the
dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (I Cor. 15:44,
Corresponding to the change in man himself, all
the visible world will change. From the corruptible it will turn into the
The souls of people who died before the general
resurrection exist under differing conditions. The souls of the righteous will
experience a foretaste of eternal blessedness, and the souls of sinners a
foretaste of eternal torment. The state of the souls of the dead is determined
at the particular judgment, which takes place after the death of each person.
This is clearly evident from the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ about the
rich man and Lazarus (cf. Luke 16:19-31). The Apostle Paul also points this out
when he says, Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far
better (Philip. 1:23,24).
Death has great significance in the life of every
man. It is the demarcation point by which the time of preparation is ended and
the time of reward is begun. But as this particular judgment is not final, the
souls of sinful people who died with faith in Christ and repentance are able,
to receive relief from suffering beyond the grave and even be completely
delivered from it by the prayers of the Church, augmented by works of charity
done for them by the living, and especially by commemorating them in the
bloodless sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ. For this purpose the
Orthodox Church established commemoration of the dead, which has been performed
regularly since Apostolic times. Commemoration of the dead comprises one of the
main parts of the Divine Liturgy. This is evident from the first Christian
Liturgy of the Apostle James.
The Apostle John says, If any man see his brother
sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He (God) shall give him
life (I John 5:16).
The Apostle Paul in his epistle to Bishop Timothy
writes, I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men, for kings, and for
all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all
godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our
Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of
the truth (I Tim. 2:1-4).
The Apostle James says, Confess your faults one to
another and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent
prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).
If we should pray for the living, then we should
also pray for the dead, because to God there are no dead. To God all are
living. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, For He is not a God of the dead,
but of the living: for all live unto Him (Luke 20:38).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians, For whether
we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord:
whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8).
Even in the Old Testament it was the custom to
pray for the dead. Thus, for example, the Prophet Baruch prayed for the dead
saying, Lord Almighty, God of Israel! Hear the prayer of the dead of Israel and of their sons who sinned before Thee... Do not bring
to remembrance the unrighteousness of our fathers (Baruch 3:4-5). Judas
Maccabaeus prayed and brought offerings for dead soldiers (II Mace. 12:39-45).
Thus, teachings about prayer for the dead are founded upon Holy Scriptures as
well as Holy Tradition.
Discussion of the General
Resurrection of the Dead.
The truth of the general resurrection of the dead
is clearly and definitively revealed in the Holy Scriptures. It also flows from
the fundamental powers of our immortal souls, and from our understanding of an
Eternal, Omnipresent and All-righteous God.
As early as the Old Testament, the righteous had
faith in the general resurrection of the dead on the basis of Divine Revelation
(Job 19:25-26; Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37; Daniel 12:2; Mace. 7:9 and others).
In general, all of the righteous people in the Old
testament considered themselves strangers and pilgrims on this earth and sought
the Heavenly Fatherland (Heb. 11:13-20).
Through the Prophet Hosea the Lord said, I will
ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O
death, Where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory? repentance shall be
hid from Mine eyes (Hosea 13:14).
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ
preaches about the resurrection of the dead clearly and definitely: Verily,
verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall
hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live... they that
have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil,
unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:25,29).
The Saviour affirms the teaching of the
resurrection by the Mystery of Holy Communion. Whosoever eateth My flesh, and
drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day
When the Saviour speaks about the purpose of His
advent on earth, He points out eternal life specifically. For God so loved the
world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:15-16).
During His stay on earth the Saviour raised the
dead, and He Himself rose from the dead, becoming, according to the words of
the Apostle Paul, the firstfruits of them that slept (I Cor. 15:20).
The Apostle placed the truth of the resurrection
of the dead above all doubt and contended that it is intimately connected with
the resurrection of Christ and with all the teaching in the Gospels. Now if
Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that
there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the
dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching
in vain, and your faith is also in vain... If in this life only we have hope in
Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the
dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept (I Cor. 15:12-20).
Besides that, the Apostle Paul points out the
natural phenomenon in nature which convinces us of the truth of the
resurrection. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what
body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it
die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but
bare grain; it may of chance be wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth
it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body... So also is
the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in
incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in
weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a
spiritual body (I Cor. 15:35-44).
The Lord Himself said, Except a corn of wheat fall
into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth
much fruit (John 12:24). Nature itself shows us this marvelous, authentic
phenomenon. A kernel, thrown on the ground decomposes, decays, rots — and then what?
Is that all that occurs? No, not at all! From it begins growth. It grows into
ears with new grains, despite the fact that it appeared to be reduced to dust.
Is not this marvel worthy of our attention? Is it not obvious that this
witnesses to the fact that the Omniscient Creator through death lays the
beginning of life, and out of ruin creates new being?
Thus, the mystery of the resurrection of the dead
is always before our eyes. It is evident to us in nature, and strengthens our
faith, and denounces our skepticism.
But, in spite of this, the question may occur in
our soul, "How can the dead be raised, when the body of the dead turns
into dust and is destroyed?" If Almighty God gave us existence once from a
handful of earth, then obviously He can take the handful of earth a second time
and reanimate it. If God brought forth the whole world from chaos; if He
created it from nothing, then is it possible that He is unable to form our
bodies anew from a handful of earth, and give us the same bodies as before,
only in a renewed form?
Figuratively, the Lord already showed the Prophet
the mystery of our resurrection from the dead. He was shown a vision of a field
strewn with the dry bones of men. From these bones, by the word of God uttered
by the Son of man, the figures of men were formed and, perhaps by the same
capability as existed at the primeval creation of man, the Spirit reanimated
them. By the word of the Lord, as dictated to the Prophet, first movement
occurred in the bones, bone became joined to bone, each according to its place;
then the bones became bound with tendons, clothed with flesh, and covered with
skin. Finally, upon the second sound of the voice of God, pronounced by the Son
of man, the spirit of life came forth in them. They all began to live, stood on
their feet, and they constituted a great multitude of people (Ezek. 37:1-10).
Will not the future resurrection of the dead follow likewise? Wonderful indeed
are the works of God! Marvelous is the holy faith that we profess!
Thus, by the righteous determination of God, our
frail body, like a seed, is condemned to die at first. It decays to dust, and
then rises again. The place where the dead are interred is in essence a
cornfield, in which our bodies are sown by the hand of death, like seeds. The
earth, our mother, is a stronghold, where in the midst of decay, our
immortality is kept. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body
(I Cor. 15:44).
God did not condemn us to death in order to
obliterate His creation, but in order to recreate it, to make it capable of
future imperishable life.
It remains for us people to reverently submit to
the wise judgment of God, to accept with faith Divine Revelation about our
fate, and to look with Christian hope for the resurrection of the dead and the
life of the age to come. (Taken from the book Lessons and Examples of Christian
Faith, and other books by Archpriest Gregory Diachenko.).
The Twelfth Article of the
12. And (look for) the life of the age to come.
The twelfth article of the Creed mentions the life
of the future age; that is, the eternal life which will begin after the general
resurrection of the dead, the renewal of the whole world, and Christ’s judgment
For righteous people, eternal life will be so
joyful and blessed that in our present state we are not even able to describe
it. The Apostle Paul says, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have
entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that
love Him (I Cor. 2:9).
This understanding of the blessedness of the
righteous arises from visions of God in light and glory, and from union with
Him. In Paradise, the souls of the righteous will be united with bodies which
will be illumined with the light of God as the body of the Lord Jesus Christ
was at the time of His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.
The Apostle Paul writes, It is sown in dishonour;
it is raised in glory (I Cor. ).
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, Then shall the
righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:43).
The states of the righteous will be in various
degrees of blessedness, corresponding to the virtue of each. The Apostle Paul
said, There is one glory of the sun, and another of the moon, and another glory
of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the
resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:41-42).
For unbelievers and unrepentant sinners life in
the future age will be one of eternal torment. The Lord says to them, Depart
from Me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels
... and these shall go away into everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:41,46).
This torment of sinners will proceed from their
estrangement from God, from the clear realization of their sins, from severe
pangs of conscience, from having to stay among evil spirits where the eternal,
unquenchable fire burns.
What is this unquenchable fire? The Word of God
does not define it, but uses the term to portray the inexplicable,
inexpressible torment of hell.
Thus punishment of sinners will not be because God
wants them destroyed, but they themselves perish because they did not accept
the love of truth for their salvation (II Thess. ).
The Creed is concluded with the word
"Amen," which means "truly" or "so be it." By
saying this word after the Creed, we attest to the fact that all that is stated
therein we acknowledge to be undoubtedly and invariably true.