Today is the Apodosis, or leavetaking, of the greatest of Christian feasts, Pascha, the Bright Resurrection of Christ. We have gathered together some questions readers have asked about Pascha, and answers to them by Archimandrite Job (Gumerov), an ecclesiastical scholar and longtime monk of Sretensky Monastery.
Father Job, an experienced confessor of the Moscow Sretensky Monastery, speaks about the factors preventing some faithful from recognizing Nicholas II as a saint, the relationship between the Tsar’s abdication and the Russian people’s renunciation of the Church, how mass unbelief impedes the comprehension of the podvig [spiritual exploit] of the new martyrs, and the proper understanding of the people’s repentance for the sins of their ancestors.
Is the holy water blessed on Theophany still Theophany water all week? Is there any difference between the water blessed on the Eve of the Theophany and the water blessed on the day of the Theophany? When should we get the water to take home? Was St. John the Baptist baptized? Does it matter whether a wooden cross or some metal cross was used to sanctify the waters?
Why don’t we observe the Wednesday and Friday fast during the week of the Publican and the Pharisee? Christ tells the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in the temple. The Pharisee says that he does this and that, including that he fasts two days out of the week. Tell me, please, what days of the week were these, and why were they fast days? Who are the Pharisees?
The difference between the Old Testament religion of the Law and Islam is not only that the latter emerged more than two thousand years after God gave on Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments and other precepts that governed life for the chosen people. The most important difference is that the Law of Moses has a Divine source. The founder of Islam, however, did not have a Divine revelation.
The Messiah came, but Jewish leaders, Pharisees, and Sadducees condemned him to death. But why were the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes offended? Why did the Pharisees and scribes, who were witnesses to the magnificent miracles performed by Jesus and knew the Scriptures better than anyone else, stubbornly refuse to recognize Christ? Finally, one more question: why did they hate Him, despite the fact that he delivered many people from terrible disease and suffering?
During the prophetic period, biblical monotheism receives the ultimate clear, theological justification. The Lord speaks through the Prophet Isaiah: " I am the Lord, and there is none else" God is not only the only Creator of heaven and earth, but also the Lord, "he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein".
As the hymn progresses, various individuals and groups encounter Christ and His Mother. Each has his own need; each his own desire or expectation, and each finds his or her own particular spiritual need satisfied and fulfilled in Our Lord and in the Mother of God. So too, each generation of Orthodox, and each particular person who has prayed the Akathist, has found in this hymn an inspired means of expressing gratitude and praise to the Mother of God for what she has accomplished for their salvation.
Is it a good idea to try to explain the Revelations of St. John the Theologian? Any explanation of the Holy Scriptures requires spiritual maturity and special theological preparation. Otherwise it is easy to stray from the truth and do harm to one’s spiritual life. This especially applies to the Book of Revelations. It this book is much that is hidden and mysterious. Therefore it is necessary first of all to use the works of the holy fathers and authoritative Orthodox exegists.
The first week after Pascha is called Renewal week, or the week of Antipascha (the Greek prefix, anti, means “in place of”)—that is, the renewal of Pascha. On this Sunday, the Lord repeated and renewed for all eleven of the Apostles His appearance on the first day after the Resurrection.
The meeting of God and man, which first took place in the Jerusalem Temple, must become a personal event for every individual. The path of salvation must begin for each person by a meeting with Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Until this meeting takes place, one remains sitting in darkness … and the shadow of death (cf. Mt. 4:16).
Priest Georgiy Kochetkov is the leader of a heretical movement within the Russian Orthodox Church. His activities have lead to a considerable disturbance among the Orthodox, and his community is in conflict with the rest of the Orthodox community in Russia. Even more alarming is that it he is not content to confine his activity to Russia, but is attempting to spread it in other countries among people new to the Church, who do not know better. Biblical scholar and hieromonk of Sretensky Monastery Fr. Job (Gumerov) explains why Fr. Georgiy Kochetkov’s teachings are heretical in the extreme.
Holy Scripture calls any violation of Divine law a sin (see. 1 Jn. 3:4). The Lord and Creator bestowed particular emotional and physical qualities upon man and woman so that they would complete each other and thus make a unity. The Holy Bible witnesses that marriage, as a constant, lifetime union between a man and a woman, was instituted by God at the very onset of human existence.
The custom of adorning the church with tree branches, flowers, and grass goes back to ancient times. The Old Testament Pentecost was the feast of the first harvest (Ex. 23:16). People brought the first fruits of their harvest and flowers into the court of the Temple. In New Testament times, the trees and other plants in the church symbolize the renewal of people through the power of the Holy Spirit which has descended.
The idea of reincarnation completely contradicts biblical teaching. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Heb. 9:27–28). The emphasis in this citation is on the words that in both the Old and New Testaments are at the theological core of the teaching on human life and death: to die but once.
The Saturdays of commemorations of the dead are called ancestral Saturdays (the first universal commemoration on Meat Fare Saturday, the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of Great Lent, Trinity Saturday, and St. Demetrius Saturday). Why do these take place specifically on Saturdays? What are the historical roots of this tradition? They were not all instituted at the same time.
Fr Job, we sometimes publish your answers to “Questions to a Priest” posted on pravoslavie.ru. You manage to find simple and persuasive answers to difficult and ticklish questions which are within the grasp of people who don’t delve very deeply into religious matters. How are you able to find just the right words, what literature do you refer to, what experiences do you draw from?
How could the Magi come from the east to a star that they saw in the east? Righteous Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner, is called in the Bible a relative of Mary, and also cited as a daughter of Aaron. Does this mean that Jesus did not come from the tribe of Judah? Are the magi Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar canonized saints? When in history did the use of “BC”—before Christ, and “AD”—Anno Domini come about? Can we pray for the reposed during the Christmas and Theophany period?
The final conviction in the West about the willful and mistaken opinion that St. Mary Magdalene had been a harlot was made possible by a popular book by an Italian Dominican monk, Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine (Giacomo da Varazze), the Golden Legend (Legenda Aurea), which is thought to have been written in 1260. This collection of legends and lives of saints became the source of themes for art and literature.
Man's corruptness consists in the mixture of goodness and evil in him; the fallen spirits' corruptness consists in their total evil, and complete absence of goodness. The fallen spirits' abilities are far superior to those of fallen men, whose intentions are restrained by the very weight and corpulence of their bodies. Demons freely and quickly flow through the universe, and freely do things that are quite impossible for man to do.
For Biblical man, raised on the Divinely-revealed holy books, the thought that weather could exist independently from God would have made no sense. In chapter 14 of the book of the Prophet Jeremiah is found the Lord’s word to the prophet about drought. The Prophet says to the Lord, Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things (Jer. 14:22).
The great Prophet Elias was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot (4 Kings 2:1–18). According to the Old Testament Prophecy, he will return to the earth before the coming of the Messiah Christ: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD (Mal. 4:5).