Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sf. Polycarp of Smyrna

St. Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna is regarded together with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, as one of the apostolic Fathers. The sole surviving work attributed to his authorship is his letter to the Philippians, recorded also by Irenaeus of Lyons. The name Polycarp means „the one who bears much fruit”.

He suffered the martyrical death for Christ on February 23 in the year 155, 159, 166 or even 180, during the persecution of the emperor Antoninus Pius (138—161), or according to Jerome, during Marcus Aurelius (168-180), by being burnt in the arena of the capital city of Asia, being burned in the capital city of the province Asia, at the instigation of the bloodthirsty people. His martyrical acta, preserved in a letter, presents an exceptional historical interest because it is the first act of martyrdom that has been preserved in Greek, in its original form, after which it has been created the genre of the christian martyrical acts.

His life until the martyrdom

Until the moment of his martyrdom, there are some metions about his life as Christian in Smyrna. The Synaxarion of Ohrid indicates that Polycarp was born and lived in Smyrna, in the first christan century. As an orphan, he was raised by a faithful widow, called Calista. She named him after his father Pankratios, but God revealed her in a prayer to call him Polycarp, because he will help the people by filling back the emptied barns and he will do charity to the poor. When the saint reached the age of 20 years, he heard the Apostle John preaching the Gospel and followed him. When St. John was banished to Patmos island, he ordained St. Bucolus as bishop of Smyrna, and Polycarp helped him. Later, after the death of St. Bucolus, Polycarp was elected in his place, about in 106, as shown in the Epistle to Ephesians of St. Ignatius of Antioch (XXI, 1), ho was in his way to Rome, where he suffered martyrdom in 107. St. Ignatius even wrote a pastoral letter to Polycarp, in which he says: "These times require you to find God, as the pilots need wind and the sailors are looking for a port in the storm."

St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (202), born in Smyrna at 115, knew Polycarp from his childhood. In his Letter to Florinus (186), he mentions that St. Polycarp knew Saint John the Evangelist and other persons who had seen Christ: I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse-his going out, too, and his coming in-his general mode of life and personal appearance, together with the discourses which he delivered to the people; also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance. Whatsoever things he had heard from them respecting the Lord, both with regard to His miracles and His teaching, Polycarp having thus received [information] from the eye-witnesses of the Word of life, would recount them all in harmony with the Scriptures…” (St Irenaeus, Letter to Florinus, kept in the Hist. Ecclesiastica of Eusebius, V, 20).

Irenaeus mentions Polycarp also in his Adversus Haereses III.3.4: „But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true.”

In 154, or 155, St. Polycarp visited Rome and met Pope Anicetus (154-166) in order to fiind a sollution about the celebration date of the Easter. The christians in Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Cilicia and Asia Minor, and Polycarp himself, followed the tradition of John the Evangelist, celebrating "The Easter of the Cross" - "Pascha staurosimon" on 14 Nisan (April), with the Jews, for which they were appointed as "quartodecimans". The christians in Rome, Alexandria and western provinces of the Roman Empire celebrated the Easter according to the current calculations, calling it "The Easter of the Resurrection" - "Pascha anastasimon". That makes us to understand that there were theological differences regarding the meaning of the holidays.The understanding could not be achieved, but the two leaders of the Church parted in peace, as Eusebius of Caesarea in his Hist. Ecclesiastica 23,24,4-6 has shown.

Jerome provides in his De viris illustribus 17 an extra information about his trip to Rome: „He, on account of certain questions concerning the day of the Passover, went to Rome in the time of the emperor Antoninus Pins while Anicetus ruled the church in that city. There he led back to the faith many of the believers who had been deceived through the persuasion of Marcion and Valentinus, and when Marcion met him by chance and said "Do you know us" he replied, "I know the firstborn of the devil." Afterwards during the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus in the fourth persecution after Nero, in the presence of the proconsul holding court at Smyrna and all the people crying out against him in the Amphitheater, he was burned. He wrote a very valuable Epistle to the Philippians which is read to the present day in the meetings in Asia”.

The mention of Jerome attests three more things, important to know: first, Polycarp met in Rome some important leaders of the gnostic groups, second, he wrote an epistle to the Philippians, which was red in the Church probably in the same manner as the Apostles Epistles today. This means that the biblical canon was larger than today, including the epistles of the Apostolic Fathers. Third, Polycarp may have not died as traditionally said, in 155, but later, during the reign of Macus Antonius (161-180) and Commodus (180-192). There is known that these two rulers were co-emperors between 177 and 180, so that St. Polycarp might have died in this period.

The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp

Shortly after his arrival in Rome, St. Polycarp suffered the martyrdom, being burned onthe stake in the circus in Smyrna, on the big Saturday (this name is unclear in its meaning) on 23 February, traditionally in 155, but maybe later, when the asiarch Philipus (governor of Asia) organized some celebrations. The martyrdom of St. Polycarp is described into a letter sent by the Church of Smyrna to the community of Philomaelium, a city of Phrygia, and to other communities of the "Universal Church", and it was written by Irenaeus (maybe Irenaeus of Lyons), a disciple of the saint, being after copied more several times.

The letter describes in its 3rd chapter, that the sentenced to death were eleven Philadelphians, among which are mentioned as examples Germanicus, who was killed by an animal in the arena, and the Phrygian Quintus, who abjured the faith before the proconsul. The death of Germanicus stormed those present in the arena, who cried: „the wicked should perish: let Polycarp be sought!” The saint was at that time the city and did not want to hide, but eventually was persuaded to refuge in a cottage not far away from the city. Here he had a vision, three days before the martyrdom, knowing that he was supposed to die burnt alive (chapter V).

Being discovered, he was taken by the head of police, named Herod, and brought to the stadium, where he was tempted to deny Christ. On the road, an unseen voice from heaven, reassured him, saying „Be strong and of dare, Polycarp”. The crowd in the stadium asked him to curse Christ, but the saint answered: „eighty-six years I served Him and he didn’t harmed me. How can I curse my King Who saved me?” (chapter IX, 3). After a discussion with the proconsul, he was finally condemned to be burned alive, because the games with the beasts were over (chapter XII). In the preparation of the execution, the soldiers wanted to beat him in nails, but he required to be only bound.

Before being burned, the Saint made a prayer, which is one of the first prayers of the Church: „O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received our knowledge concerning thee, the God of angels and powers, and of the whole creation, and of all the race of the just who lived before thee, I thank thee that thou hast deemed me worthy of this day and hour, that I should have my portion in the number of the martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, unto the resurrection of eternal life, both of the soul and body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. Among these may I be received before thee this day as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, even as thou hast prepared and made manifest beforehand, and hast fulfilled, thou who art the unerring and true God. On this account, and concerning all things, I praise thee, I bless thee, I glorify thee, together with the eternal and heavenly Jesus Christ thy beloved Son, with whom to thee and the Holy Spirit be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (XIV).

After the prayer, he was surrounded by fires, but he didn’t burned. For this, a lancer he stuck him with a dagger in the chest and the blood stopped the fire. Some pagans asked not to give the body of Polycarp to the Christians, because they „will abandon the crucified and begin to worship this man” (XVII, 2). The authors of the epistle emphasize the difference in meaning between the worship of Christ and the veneration of saints, saying, „not knowing that we shall never be able to abandon Christ, who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those who are saved, the blameless on behalf of sinners, nor to worship any one else. Him we adore as the Son of God; but the martyrs, as the disciples and imitators of the Lord, we love according to their deserts, on account of their incomparable love for their King and Teacher, with whom may it be our lot to be partners and fellow-disciples” (XVII,2).

Finally, the saint's body was cremated, and the Christians have gathered the remains of bones: „having afterwards taken up his bones, more valuable than precious stones, laid them where it was suitable. There, so far as is allowed us, when we are gathered together in exultation and joy, the Lord will enable us to celebrate the birthday of the martyrs, both for the memory of those who have contended, and for the exercise and preparation of those to come”(XVIII, 1-2).

In the epilogue of the epistle, there is mentioned that „the blessed Polycarp was martyred on the second day of the month Xanthicus, seven days before the calendae of March, on the great Sabbath, at the eighth hour”.

The Legenda Aurea mentions that the Martyrdom was in 162. The date of February 23, 155 is mentioned in Synaxarium Ecclesiae Constantinopolitaniae, Martyrologium Hieronymianum, Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca şi Latina, which contradicts the mentions of Jerome in his De viris illustribus, already mentioned.

The martyrdom of Polycarp is very important for the actual apologetics, stating the difference between the adoration of Christ and the veneration of the saints, thing that was strongly attacked by the protestant groups in the modern times. Also the Catholic and Orthodox teaching about the veneration of the holy relics finds its support here.

The Feast Day of Saint Polycarp is in the West on January 26, and in the East is on February 23.

The Relics of the Saint

The wonderworking relic of the saint was brought from Smyrna a few decades after the Fall of Constantinople in 1479 by the monks Arsenios and Samuel, being kept until today in the monastery of Panagia Ambelakiotissa, in Nafpaktos, now in Geece. The relic before that time had been in the possession of a certain widow as part of her inheritance. It was only after much labor and expense that the monks were able to acquire this valuable relic, consisting in the elbow down to the fingers, with the hand in a position of blessing.

There are also some legends about the fact that the Templars posessed the Relic of the Head of the saint, which was taken by them in France, when they left Jerusalem. This mention is made in their trial, made in 1560.

Some small relics are to be fiind in different churches in the whole world, such in the church of Radu Voda monastery from Bucharest, in the church of the Zografou monastery at the Mount Athos, but also in the in the St. Anthony Chapel from Pittsburgh, USA.

The Hermeneia of the byzantine painting, written by Dionisius of Furna (15th century) states that St. Polycarp should be represented in the icons as an old bishop, with a rond beard, split in two parts.

The Hymn (Troparion) of the Saint:

„By sharing in the ways of the Apostles, you became a successor to their throne. Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation, O inspired one of God; by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith, even to the shedding of your blood. Hieromartyr Polycarp, entreat Christ God to save our souls!”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Părintele Stăniloae - zicere tulburătoare

"Totdeauna în relaţia dintre părinte şi copil, în relaţia dintre generaţia înaintaşă şi cea următoare, se joacă tot destinul neamului. Această relaţie trebuie să poarte de aceea accentul unei nesfârşite seriozităţi. Aici se asigură sau se primejduieşte existenţa neamului, după cum se produce sau nu legarea noii generaţii de tradiţia ce vine din negură de veacuri"  

( Pr.Prof.Dr.Dumitru Stăniloae, Creştinism şi tradiţie în viaţa naţională, în Luceafărul, nr.2, 1941, p.43)

Saturday, February 11, 2012



"De acum într-adevăr e cu noi. El e din stirpea celor ce nu se duc: intrat în veşnicie, se-ntoarce cu ea-n Potir; preoţie lucrătoare şi dincolo de veac". (Bartolomeu Valeriu Anania, Arhiepiscopul Clujului, Apa cea vie a Ortodoxiei, Ed. Renaşterea, Cluj Napoca, 2002, p.33) ACEST TEXT DE PIOASĂ RECUNOȘTINȚĂ REPREZINTĂ UN EXTRAS DIN DEDICAȚIA ULTIMEI TEZE DE DOCTORAT COORDONATĂ DE PĂRINTELE PROFESOR DR. ILIE MOLDOVAN: Conștiința că rugăciunea nu poate fi suplinită de nici o investigație intelectuală (Mircea Vulcănescu, Bunul Dumnezeu cotidian. Studii despre religie, Ed.Humanitas, București, 2004, p.61), oricât de mult s-ar afirma aceasta din urmă, amprentează întreaga lucrare. „Dacă eşti teolog (dacă te ocupi cu contemplarea lui Dumnezeu), roagă-te cu adevărat; şi, dacă te rogi cu adevărat, eşti teolog(Evagrie Ponticul, Cuvânt despre rugăciune împărţit în 153 de capete, în Filocalia, vol. 1, trad. Pr. Prof. Dr. Dumitru Stăniloae, Ed. Harisma, Bucureşti, 1992, p. 99). Este un deficit real al autorului lucrării de față, o lipsă care nu a putut fi rezolvată, din nefericire, până acum și care poate pune în pericol desfășurarea în bune condiții a subiectului teologic ce trebuie dezbătut. Tocmai de aceea, noviciatul meu în teologia adevărată s-a sprijinit, ca un prunc tocmai învățat a păși, de puterea minții rugătoare și pururi răbdătoare a Părintelui Profesor Ilie Moldovan, neostenitul secerător al holdelor duhovnicești. De-abia în prezența Sfinției Sale am putut desluși o parte din taina luminoasă a reunificării pan-cosmice în Hristos - Dumnezeiasca Euharistie. Preot mai înainte de orice (Aceeași concepție a primatului sacerdoțiului față de rangurile academice și în general față de orice activitate și funcție omenească, administrativă sau de onoare, o întâlnim și la Părintele Stăniloae, care, urcat deja pe înălțimile copleșitoare ale înțelepciunii, dovedea cea mai adâncă smerenie, cu adevărat filocalică, atunci când își făcea cunoscut gândul că ar fi fost mai de folos Bisericii dacă ar fi rămas preot de parohie decât să îmbrace roba academică: ”Fiți tot timpul cu gândul la Hristos și căutați să-I slujiți Lui, câștigându-i pe oameni pentru credința în El și pentru mântuirea lor, prin toate faptele voastre. Așa veți putea câștiga fericita viață veșnică pentru voi și pentru cei față de care aveți o mare răspundere. Aceasta este concluzia la care am ajuns la vârsta mea, aproape de sfârșit. Eu am căutat să slujesc pe Hristos prin osteneala scrisului. Căutând să atrag la credința în El pe cei ispitiți de scrisul străin de credință, atât de răspândit în timpul pe când tiparul a făcut cu putință înmulțirea lui, mai ales în ultimele două-trei sute de ani și mai ales la noi, în era comunistă. Dar mă gândesc uneori că mai mult folos aș fi putut aduce dacă aș fi fost preot de parohie pentru a trece în practică ceea ce am scris”. Pr. Prof. Dr. Dumitru Stăniloae, Cuvântul rostit în ziua de 22 iunie 1992 în Aula Magna a Facultății de Drept, cu prilejul decernării titlului de Doctor Honoris Causa al Universității București, apud Ignatie Monahul, Cuvinte spre zidire. Din spiritualitatea filocalică a Părintelui Stăniloae, Ed.Sfânta Mănăstire Frăsinei, 1995, pp.119-120), Sfinția Sa mi-a întins duhovnicescul braț ori de câte ori m-am poticnit pe parcursul demersului de cercetare, orientând cu blândețea dar și cu fermitatea-i cunoscută neputincioasele mele încercări spre lupta cea bună.
Patriarhala vârstă i-a sporit puterile adăugând peste ele duh înmiresmat de Paște. Este ceva în persoana și cuvântul Sfinției Sale care într-un mod anume reușește să te ducă la cunoașterea artei de a transcende timpul și să-ți arate tinerețea fără bătrânețe și viața fără de moarte. Trecutul, prezentul și viitorul devin una pentru cel ce primește rugăciunea și călăuzirea Părintelui Profesor pe drumul sensului liturgic al vieții și al dimensiunii sacerdotale cu care am fost înzestrați iar contradicția dintre timp și veșnicie dispare odată cu înțelegerea faptului că fără Trupul și Sângele Domnului viața omului și a universului însuși se dezintegrează. ”Timpul liturgic e timpul actualizării. Nu este numai unul al memoriei; e o intrare în însuși prezentul evenimentului, în însăși realitatea comuniunii care este viața veșnică. Când Hristos vine în Liturghie, vine cu tot ceea ce a făcut El. Poartă în El tot ceea ce a făcut pentru noi. Devine cu Crucea Sa, cu Învierea Sa, contemporanul nostru. Și vine cu tot ceea ce ne va dărui în veșnicie. Dar nu desființează temporalitatea noastră. O umple și ne ajută să trăim în ea veșnicia” (Pr. Prof. Dr. Dumitru Stăniloae, Marc-Antoine Costa de Beauregard, Mică Dogmatică vorbită – dialoguri la Cernica, Ed.Deisis, Sibiu, 2007, trad. Maria-Cornelia Ică Jr., p.184). Cei trei ani de învățătură petrecuți sub ocrotirea Sfinției Sale mi-au adâncit în suflet mărgăritarele Scripturii dar mai ales ideea evidențiată de Sfinții Părinți: „A vorbi despre Dumnezeu este lucru mare, dar este un lucru şi mai mare a te curăţi pentru Dumnezeu” (Sf.Grigorie Teologul citat de Vladimir Lossky, Teologia mistică a Bisericii de Răsărit, Ed. Anastasia, 1992, trad.Pr.Vasile Răducă, p. 67). Tălmăcire vie și plină de har a cuvântului Domnului: ”Dar vine ceasul şi acum este, când adevăraţii închinători se vor închina Tatălui în duh şi în adevăr, că şi Tatăl astfel de închinători îşi doreşte” (In.4, 23), propovăduirea Părintelui Profesor Ilie Moldovan a revărsat din belșug lumină și proaspătă însuflețire peste textele pe care i le înfățișam de fiecare dată cu oarecare emoție. Îndemnurile și corecturile pe care lucrarea le-a primit de-a lungul timpului s-au dovedit de cel mai mare folos în așa fel încât deșertul cel sterp de odinioară s-a umplut de florile bine mirositoare ale cugetului rugător ce mie îmi lipsește. Marcat de aceste sentimente față de Părintele meu Profesor, pot să încerc, parafrazându-l pe Correggio (După câteva ore petrecute în fața tabloului Sfintei Cecilia, al lui Rafael, Correggio a rostit cu admirație: ”Și eu sunt pictor!”), să declar cu smerenie admirativă: ”Și eu sunt preot!” 
(Le multumesc celor care au dovedit eleganța de a cita sursa fotografiei și a textului publicat de mine în data de 9 februarie 2012)

Pr. Ic. Dr. Mircea Cristian Pricop

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Astăzi, 9 februarie 2012, a trecut la Domnul ilustrul teolog si parinte al neamului romanesc, Preotul Prof.Dr.Ilie Moldovan. Fiind ultimul său doctorand, dar mai ales pentru că de acest mare preot și profesor mă leagă o profundă recunoștință,
redau textul unui editorial publicat de mine în ”Dreapta Credință”, nr.1, 2011.


Aceasta este antiteza pe care o oferă Părintele Profesor Ilie Moldovan (conducător de doctorat la Secţia Teologie Morală de la Universitatea din Sibiu și Doctor Honoris Causa al Universităților din Alba Iulia și Baia Mare) față de obsesia materialistă, imoralitatea, delăsarea și dezorientarea generalizată a unui neam ce purta odinioară cu cinste numele de creștin.
Intenţionat lent în exprimare, simplu în gesturi, dar de o inconfundabilă prospeţime a ideilor, acest om"din vecinătatea" lui Blaga, dar mai ales "din familia" unui Stăniloae, cu care a fost prieten, sau a unui Arsenie Boca, al cărui fiu duhovnicesc a fost, Părintele Profesor dă duh din duhul său ucenicilor din întreaga ţară, ascunzând în spatele zâmbetului o cercetare atentă a interlocutorului, o privire neîncovoiată, copiată poate de la vulturii de deasupra Făgăraşilor. Nu credeam ca un astfel de om să existe decât în imaginaţie, ba încă într- una uşor exaltată. Blândeţea generică a acestui nobil creştin mă transpune în lumea pe care eu nu am de unde să o ştiu dar care există real în el. Când vorbeşte doctoranzilor despre credință, neam, patrie, se încălzeşte ceva în auditori, acel ceva care depăşeşte orice filetism, orice patriotism ieftin, sau exaltare denaturată.
"Domnilor (niciodată nu ne tutuia), neamul este realitatea vieţii veşnice. În Creştinism, naţiunea dobândeşte noi dimensiuni; Ortodoxia surclasează cu mult orientarea organicistă a naziştilor, care au identificat naţiunea cu rasa, sau naţionalismul fals al comuniştilor. În Creştinism, naţiunea este înţeleasă ca natură rezidită în Hristos. Hristos, prin Înviere, a schimbat condiţiile ontologice ale lumii. Astfel, pentru creştini, neamul este comoara cea mai de preţ care poartă în sine două începuturi: crearea omului şi naşterea din nou prin Botez. Neamul este o realitate a vieţii veşnice, iar el se fundamentează pe trei forţe: îngerii, sfinţii neamului şi drepţii...Drepţii sunt strămoşii noştri, toţi care s-au mântuit. De aceea, ce-i leagă pe fiii unui neam nu e instinctul şi adaptarea la mediu,ci spiritul...(privind în jos, oarecum mâhnit). Neamul poate fi pierdut pe pământ dar nu şi în cer. Ca să descriem starea actuală a neamului nostru ar trebui să-l citez pe Shakespeare:"E atât de întunecat cerul încât numai o furtună l-ar mai putea limpezi." Această furtună despre care vă vorbesc, nu poate fi altceva decât asumarea la modul maxim a trăirii creştine. Furtuna este spărtura conştiinţei. Trăirea creştină autentică, gravitează în jurul Miracolului Euharistic. Îndumnezeirea omului prin Euharistie (Împărtăşanie) este arma supremă în lupta pentru regenerarea neamului. Am fost întrebat: Ce este mai corect, să ne împărtăşim des sau rar?Eu am răspuns: Nici des, nici rar, ci continuu! Bineînţeles, dacă omul este pregătit prin Spovedanie şi canon de primirea continuă a Sfintei Euharistii. Noi suntem chemaţi să ne împărtăşim, adică să ne îndumnezeim MEREU, dar CU PREGĂTIRE. Voi, ca preoţi şi viitori preoţi, la asta trebuie să-i aduceţi, cu timpul, pe credincioşi: La Euharistia continuă. Numai aşa vă veţi împlini datoria. Altfel nu se poate,domnilor! V-am spus-o, ca să nu vă înşelaţi singuri. ŞTIŢI UNDE E DUMNEZEU? (Părintele zâmbea. La această întrebare, ne uitam miraţi, neştiind dacă să încercăm vreo definiţie din şcoală sau să tăcem. Am ales varianta a doua.) DUMNEZEU E ÎN CER....ȘI CERUL E ÎN NOI."
Pr.Ic.Dr. Mircea Cristian Pricop

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sts. Symeon and Anna the prophets from the Temple

The Eastern praxis in the Liturgical year has some particularities, about celebrating the saints. In the case of some big feasts, the very first day after the celebrating is dedicated to the persons implied in the event itself. As an example, the second day after Christmas is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the ones who came in the stable from Bethlehem. The name of this secondary feast, on the 26th of December is The Group (Sobor) of the God’s Mother. Only the next day, 27th, is dedicated to St. Stephen. The other case I mention here is the one after the Feast of the Theophany, when the next day is dedicated to the Sobor (group) of St. John the Baptist.

In the same manner, the Saints Symeon and Anna, the Prophets, are celebrated in in the day after the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple, which practically closes the Christmas-periods in the Calendar.

The history of St. Symeon and St. Anna, the old prophets from the temple is in the Christian thought a mixture between Scripture and tradition. According to the Holy Gospel of Luke, the earthly Parents of Our Lord went to the Temple, about 40 days after the birth, in order to accomplish a traditional Jewish ritual, consisting in “re-buying” the first male offspring through a sacrifice, consisting in a holocaust of a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.

Outer of the Bible itself, the historian Joseph Flavius is the main author who also describes the activity at the temple in Jerusalem, speaking about the auxiliary personal near the temple, including the prophets and prophetesses, the virgins etc., who supposed to help the priests and the levites not to the prescribed rituals, but with the administrative things. Of course, the prophets have totally another mission, which cannot be clearly designed.

In the moment that the Holy Parents came to the temple in order to make the ritual sacrifice, St. Symeon was nearby. The Gospel says that he was a just and devout man waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him (Luke 2,25). God promised him that he would not die until the promised Messiah, Christ the Lord, came into the world.

Saint Symeon

The mention of Luke let the tradition to make some special remarks about this saint. The eastern stories, following the Letter of Aristeas (about 130 B.C.), mention that St. Symeon was one of the 72 scholars, who were supposed to complete the first translation of the Scripture from old Hebrew to ancient Greek. The Hebrew community in Alexandria, from which belongs also Philo, built after the Babylonian exile their own temple on the Elephantine Island, in Egypt, and tried to establish its own cult. There was a problem: almost all the Jews here knew only Greek, so that they couldn’t understand the Torah. From this reason, with the participation of the Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.), who wanted to include the Law of the Jews into his big Library of Alexandria, they tried to translate the text of the Torah into Greek. The legend mentions that there were invited scholars from Jerusalem, and from now on the story doesn’t follow Aristeas anymore. The number of 72 was modified into 70, in order to coincide with the 70 holy men who helped Moses by the implementing of the Law (Num. 11,24 sq.). With this it has been strongly underlined the theory of the verbal inspiration of the Bible, a still very spread idea in the Eastern Church.

St. Symeon is supposed to be one of the 70/72 scholars to translate the text. According to the Prologue from Ochrid (containing the lives of the saints, written in the Middle Ages) St. Symeon had to translate the book of Jesaias and it seems that he has been stocked at the text from 7,14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son”. Being thinking that “virgin” was inaccurate, he wanted to correct the text to read “a young woman”. At that moment an angel appeared to him and held back his hand saying, “you shall see these words fulfilled. You shall not die until you behold Christ the Lord born of a pure and spotless Virgin”. From this day, St Simeon lived in expectation of the Promised Messiah. One day, he received a revelation from the Holy Spirit to come to the Temple, and from here on the tradition meets again the Scripture (Luke 2,27). It was on the very day when the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph had come to the Temple in order to perform the ritual prescribed by the Jewish Law.

If we follow the legend, there’s clear that Symeon was, in the day he met Jesus, more than 300 years old (according to the legend, about 360), a quite unbelievable age. But if we put that together with the describing of the lives of the first ancestors off the humanity, Adam lived 930 years, Seth 912, Jared 962, Matusalem 969, Lamech, the father of Noah, 953 - venerable ages. Many churchfathers understand that literally, so I don’t know I should doubt, only because in our century it would be laughable. I would rather incline to believe the text of the Bible.

After seeing the Holy Child, Symeon took him into his arms and said a prayer to the Lord, which is read in all the Vesperal services of the Byzantine rite: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2,29-32). This prayer, read into the context described, it passes very well. The time for waiting would have been very long and difficult to him. Even a text from the Psalms says that the age of a man is 70 or 80, but what is more than that, is only sorrow and pain (Psalm 90, 10).That Symeon lived long beyond the normal life expectancy is mentioned by George Kedrinos in his Synopsis and by Euthymios Zygabenos in the Commentary on Luke 2, who means that the Elder Symeon was at least two hundred and seventy years old when he received the Christ Child in his arms.

But there’s not all about him. Symeon is the first one to prophesize to the Holy Mary her “way” of feeling the pain. A marianic Golgotha means to prophesize to a mother the passion of her son. The mother’s pain reporting to the crucifixion is “sword through the heart” (Luke 2,23-24), which appears mostly in the western iconography. (add image).

Saint Symeon has been connected with different other legends, according to whom he was a rabbi, the son of Hillel and the father of Gamaliel mentioned in Acts 5,34, but that contrasts with the simple reference of Luke to Simeon as “a man in Jerusalem”. The apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus (17,1-3) mentions about two sons of Simeon, Charinus, and Leucius, who were resurrected, when Our Lord descended into the Hell (according to Mat. 27,52). The eastern tradition states that Symeon would have been a priest, that’s why he was at the temple. The Churchfathers who mention that are Athanasius the Great, in About the same nature of the Father and of the Son, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in Homily at the Presentation of the Lord, and St. Epiphanius of Salamis, in Teaching about the Parents of the Old Law. Also saint Joseph the Hymnographer, the composer of the Canon for the celebration of St. Symeon, identifies him as a ministering priest: “O blessed priest, thou didst offer up the sacrifices of the law, the lamb, for ineffable mercy, showing forth beforehand the blood of the Savior; and receiving Him incarnate, O Symeon, thou wast shown to be more glorious than Moses and all the prophets”.

Saint Anna

The Evangelist Luke speaks in the further 3 verses of his story about the Presentation about a mysterious prophetess named Anna, who also prophesized the Messiah. “And there was Anna, a prophetess, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, she was much advanced in days, having lived with an husband seven years from her virginity, and she is a widow of about eighty-four years, who did depart not from the temple, with fasts and supplications serving, night and day, and she, at that hour, having come in, was confessing, likewise, to the Lord, and was speaking concerning him, to all those looking for redemption in Jerusalem”. (Luke 2,36-38)

A Jesuit scholar from the 17th century, Cornelius Lapide pointed out that the name of Phanuel means “the face of God”, while Anna means “Grace”, an interesting combination of names, which symbolically may be connected with a text from Genesis 32,30: “For grace proceeds from the face and from the mouth of God, and is breathed into the faithful”. Also the place where Jacob saw God face to face, was called by him Peniel or “Phanuel”. The mystery about Anna is bigger, because she came from the tribe of Asher, one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel.

Luke describes that Anna was very old, and many Bibles and older commentaries state that she was 84 years old. Anyway, the passage from Luke’s Gospel is ambiguous: it could mean that she was 84 years old, or that she had been a widow for 84 years. Some scholars, abd between them also Ambrosius of Milan, consider the latter to be the more likely option. On this option, she could not have married younger than about age 14, and so she would have been at least 14 + 7 + 84 = 105 years old. The intention of St. Luke is probably to state that she practically was like a virgin, so that the purity of the prophecy seems to be connected with the carnal purity, which is also seen in the eastern Christianity and specially in the monasticism as a “must be”.

Saint Anna, who’s name means symbolically “Grace”, is the Western tradition the protector saint of the widows, virgins and ascete women. The Catholic Church celebrates her on September 1, but in the Eastern Church she is celebrated together with St. Symeon, on February 3.

The Relics of Saint Symeon the God-Receiver

There are two different traditions about the “trip” of the relics of St. Symeon the Prophet. In the West there is the tradition that Charles the Great might have obtained, after an incredible journey in Constantinople, the arm of the saint which had carried the Christ. This relic might have been deposited at Aachen, and from there it was moved to Saint Denis, near Paris, by Charles the Bald. Some other places who are hosting traditionally parts of the Relics are Perigueux, Palermo, and Brussels.

Another tradition, which may not necessary contradict the first, states that the body of Saint Simeon was moved from Syria to Constantinople sometimes between 565 and 578, during the reign of Justin II, who settled them in the Church of Saint James the Brother of the Lord, which was raised by Emperor Justin, near Hagia Sophia, in the sixth century. His grave was seen by the Russian pilgrim St Anthony, the future Archbishop of Novgorod (October 8) in 1200. Maybe from here a part of them were offered to Charles the Great, but there are no mentions in the Byzantine documents. The Relics of the Saint remained here until the Crusaders captured Constantinople in 1203 with the help of the Venetian fleet. The crusaders took the Relics of St. Symeon only in 1203 and let them in Zara (now, Zadar, in Croatia) on the Dalmatian Coast, controlled by the Venetians, in the Church of the Virgin, the pilgrim’s hospice at that time, apparently because of a big storm on the sea, who prevented a further sailing to Venice.

There is a church called San Simeone Grande in Venice, dedicated to the saint, where there is a beautiful monument (cenotaph), in which is kept an old shrine from Zadar, dated in 1317. On it there is mentioned that “here was the body of Symeon for 114 years” (hic stetit corpus Beati Symeonis annis centum et XIIII), but now this monument is empty.

On 17 October 2010, at the insistence of the Abbot Theodoret of the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, the Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar offered a part of these relics to the Church of the Katamon Monastery of St. Simeon, being received by the Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem. In this monastery there was an old grave, traditionally the very grave of St. Symeon

About the relics of St. Anna I couldn’t find any information. So how much her life is a mystery, as much also her earthly remains are unknown.

Troparion (Hymn) of the Saints

In the Temple thou didst embrace as an infant God the Word Who became flesh. O glorious Elder Symeon, who didst hold God in thine arms. And also as a prophetess the august Anna ascribed praise to Him. We acclaim you as divine servants of Christ!