St Andrew of Crete (660-740 AD) was a bishop, born in Damascus, who served the Church in various ways until being sent to Crete, which was his final place of office. He is counted as one of the most prolific and important hymnographers of the Orthodox Church, traditionally being known as the first hymnographer to write the type of hymn known as the canon.
In the lead up to Pascha, we are slowly but steadily initiated into the Orthodox way of life through the period of Great Lent. Throughout these six weeks preceding Holy Week we are encouraged to: fast in order to detach from our desires; give alms so that we may connect with our neighbour; and, pray more than we usually do to be filled with the grace of God.
On the 25th of March, nine months prior to the Nativity, we celebrate the Annunciation; the “announcing” of Jesus’ conception. The Greek word for this day is Evangelismos, or “the telling of the Good News”.
The primary message in both the season of Autumn and the season of Lent is change. For us living in the Southern Hemisphere, Autumn reminds us in various ways of the central 'change' in Lent.
For many people Great Lent is just a cycle in their yearly calendar where they “must” abstain from certain foods, temporarily cut out some bad habits, attend a few extra Sunday Liturgies and then Commune on Holy Thursday before going back to the same old “normal life” after Pascha. However if we wish to take Great Lent seriously, we should consider it a spiritual journey rather than a religious obligation.
Repentance is the central theme of Christianity. It is the teaching of St John the Forerunner in preparation for the coming of the Lord and it is also the starting point of our Lord’s teaching: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17).
Repentance, therefore, is in truth the beginning of the life in Christ.
This second article on warfare and Orthodoxy plans to focus on the warfare that every baptised Orthodox Christian is called to engage in, the spiritual warfare. Many great books have been written on this very subject, and this author would recommend the four volumes of the Evergetinos, Unseen Warfare by St Theophan the Recluse, and The Field and The Arena by St Ignatius Brianchaninov. These provide step by step methods by which we can start to take our spiritual lives seriously and engage in spiritual exercise. First among these books is the Ladder of Divine Ascent of St John Climacus, which is traditionally read during Great Lent. What follows is but a brief summary of the idea of spiritual warfare.
St John of Damascus was born in 675 or 676 in Damascus to a family of civil servants. His father and grandfather were notable administrators in the Muslim court at that time and it is possible that St John also occupied this role for a time. Brought up with a Hellenic education as well as one in the culture of the Muslim Caliphate, St John used both in the service of Christ. The first was used to defend the veneration of icons when he was a monk at the Mar Saba Monastery near Jerusalem, and the second used to critique and highlight the inconsistencies within Islam. He reposed in the Lord in the year 749 at the Mar Saba Monastery.
"What do I need?" A Lenten reflection on passages from the spiritual diary of St John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ
St John of Kronstadt, a saint of the 19th century, made some Lenten reflections on the things that are necessary in this life. He starts, “What do I need? I need nothing upon earth besides the indispensable. What do I need? I need the Lord, I need His grace, His kingdom within me.”
In the year 626, the Byzantine Empire was experiencing political turmoil. The emperor Phocas had recently been overthrown by a young general, Heraclius, and the empire had been invaded by both the Persians to the East and the Avars to the West.