"Do you think God has given you much solely for your own benefit? No, but so that your abundance might supply the lack of others."
Saint John Chrysostom
Visitors to the new Church will be awed by the religious depictions featured on the dome above the Altar, and throughout the establishment. Sisters from the famed 10th century Byzantine Monastery of Panachrantou, which is located on the Greek island of Atros in the Aegean Sea, came to Halifax to help Fr. Saikali assemble and integrate new iconography into the Church. That included murals featuring the Theotokos (Mary) and a young Jesus, in addition to the Holy Ascension. The latter displays Angels surrounding Jesus’ ascension to Heaven, and his Disciples and the Theotokos are likewise shown witnessing the miracle. Saints, Prophets, and Archangels are also displayed throughout the Church, and it is Fr. Saikali's hope that their deeds and presence are a source of incessant inspiration for Parishioners and visitors alike.
Holy Icons are prominent in Orthodox Churches. The term 'icon' stems from the Greek word eikona: an image. It is believed that the first icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary were painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. The Orthodox Church uses images and forms drawn from the material world to make the Divine accessible to human understanding and contemplation. The Icon is not simple art, but there is a correspondence between the Icon and Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture is made incontestably clear by the Icon, and the Icon professes the same truth as the Gospels. Ultimately, icons remind the faithful of the invisible presence of the whole company of Heaven.
The Prophet Zechariah lived in the 6th century BC, and his prophecies began just sixteen years after the return of the Israelites from their Babylonian captivity. The Prophet Zechariah preached repentance and the restoration of worship of God to the children of Israel. Through him God spoke to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. The Lord also revealed to the Prophet much about the Passion of Christ, which would occur over six hundred years later.
The Prophet Gedeon lived approximately 1200 years before Christ. The name Gedeon in Hebrew means “Mighty Warrior.”, and he was called upon by an Angel of God to defend Israel. Gedeon asks the Angel to provide proof of God's providence, namely by first making a fleece wet overnight without the ground dewing, and the following night by making the fleece dry and the ground wet. When the request was completed, Gedeon led a small army to defend Israel. With God’s help, trumpets sounding, and calling out “The sword of the Lord and Gedeon,” the enemy fled.
The Prophet Daniel lived around 500 BC, and was born of the tribe of Judah. He was young when the Jewish people were carried off in captivity to Babylon, but was already renown for his judicious insight. The Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, made him a prince in his court because he alone made a true interpretation of the King’s dreams. He also interpreted the meaning of the writing on the wall at King Belshazzar’s death.
Daniel suffered for his faith in a monotheistic Jewish God, including being cast into a den of lions, from which God delivered him. His friends, the Three Holy Youths, were also cast into a fiery furnace because they refused to worship an idol of King Nebuchadnezzar, but were protected by God. The Holy Prophet Daniel died peacefully in old age after a life of service to a God Whom alone he worshiped and glorified.
The Prophet Jacob was the younger of the fraternal twins of Isaac and Rebecca, and his older brother was Esau. Jacob instead of Esau received the last a great blessing from his father Isaac (Gen 27:1-41), and saw in a dream a ladder which stretched from earth to Heaven and spoke with God as he received His blessing (Gen 28:10-17). Jacob worked to gain Rachel for his wife through fourteen years of hard labor for Laban, her father (Gen 29:16-30), and was the father of twelve sons who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jacob’s name in Hebrew means “heel,” which refers to the fact that he held onto the heel of Esau even from the womb when he was born second to Rebecca. Jacob later reconciled with his brother Esau. He also wrestled with God to receive his blessing, and then received from Him a new name, Israel, which means “persevere with God.” Jacob lived to an old age, seeing his beloved son Joseph become ruler of Egypt under the Pharaoh. He died in Egypt and was buried in Canaan.
The Prophet King David was the son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. He was chosen by God to replace King Saul, who had been chosen by God and anointed by the Prophet Samuel to be the king of Israel, when the Israelites demanded a king like other nations. King David was a direct ancestor of Christ, and lived from approximately 1040 to 970 BC, and was the father of King Solomon.
Saint David was known for his courage in defending God and His People, and also for his sensitivity as a poet and musician. When still a young shepherd, the future king brought food to his older brothers who were with King Saul encamped against the Philistine army at the Valley of Elah. When the giant Goliath challenged Israel to send out a single warrior to defend the honor of the God against their pagan idols, David asked to go, and defeated Goliath with just three smooth stones from his sling. David played the harp, and also wrote many of the Psalms of the Bible, known for their beauty and prophetic wisdom.
King Solomon was the son of King David, and who had reunited the kingdoms of Israel and Judah under his rule (1040-970 BC). King Solomon ruled for forty peaceful years and he had prayed to God to rule Israel wisely. Indeed, even Queen Sheba of Ethiopia came to hear King Solomon’s wise words. King Solomon desired to build a permanent house for the Lord, Whose worship had been held in tents, or tabernacles, since the time of Moses. He built the First Temple in Jerusalem.
The Prophet Moses lived 1500 years before Christ. The son of Amram and Jochebel, he was saved when the daughter of the Pharaoh found him in a rush basket floating down the Nile river. She adopted him, and he was educated in Egypt’s noblest way. As an adult, he chose to leave Egypt after discovering that he was one of the sons of Israel who were slaves for 400 years, and after fighting with an Egyptian man who was beating an Israelite.
Fleeing into Midian, he encountered a miraculous Burning Bush where God first spoke to him. He married and had children, but returned to Egypt at God’s command. After many plagues which he warned the Pharaoh would visit Egypt, he led the Israelites out into the wilderness and free from slavery. Moses likewise received the famed commandments from God.
The Prophet Ezekiel was a priest who lived at the time of the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon in the 6th century BC. He served as a prophet for years and had numerous visions, including that of dry bones being brought back to life (Ezekiel 37:1-28), which is seen as a prophecy of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead.
The great flood is a Biblical event described in the book of Genesis. That event was cataclysmic, and all perished except for several individuals and animals who survived thanks to the Ark Noah constructed. Thereafter, as remarked in Genesis 9:8-16, "Then God said to Noah: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, ... "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
The Prophet Habbakuk lived around 600 BC. He prophesized that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Chaldea, would conquer Jerusalem, destroy the Temple, and take the Israelites into captivity. Habbakuk fled to the Ishmaelites until Nebuchadnezzar left and then returned to live as a farmer in Judah. The name Habbakuk comes from the Hebrew habak which means to embrace.
Once when Habbakuk left with food to take to the reapers in his fields at the time of the harvest, an angel appeared to him. The angel brought to the Prophet Daniel, who was hungry and enclosed in a lion’s den in Babylon, over 1300 miles away. Daniel praised God and ate what was provided, while the angel took Habbakuk back to Judah. Habbakuk prophesied about the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon, and also of the birth of Christ, Who would come to save the world and fulfill the Law and Prophets.
Saint Theophan (1815-1894 AC) was the son of a priest and born in Russia. Because of his talents he was made a teacher and administrator in the Kiev-Sophia Theological School, and in 1859 he became the Bishop of Tambov. After six years of service as a bishop, he asked to retire to the Vysha Hermitage, where he spent the next 29 years in seclusion. His extensive writing of books and letters affected the lives of thousands.
The great feast of Theophany means “a showing forth of God,” for when the Lord came to the Jordan to be baptized by Saint John the Baptist, God the Father spoke, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove, and the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity bowed His Head and went into the waters to sanctify all of Creation. This was a revelation of the Holy Trinity. Aptly, the life of Saint Theophan is also a showing forth of God.
Saint Ignatius was the child whom Christ set before his disciples and said, “Whoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:4). That little child later became a disciple of Saint John the Theologian, who made him the Bishop of Antioch. It was to Saint Ignatius that the angels showed the method of antiphonal singing, which is still used in the Church today.
In 106 AD, the Emperor Trajan heard of his fame and summoned him, offering to make him a senator if he would cede to the Roman gods. Saint Ignatius refused. The Emperor had him brought in chains to be devoured by beasts. On the way Saint Ignatius was continually saying the Name of God. When his captors asked him what he was doing he said, “I cannot cease calling upon the name of my God, which I bear in my heart.”
Saint Nicholas was in his own lifetime a great wonder-worker of miracles. He was born in Patara, later entering into the Monastery of New Zion founded by his uncle Nicholas, who was also the bishop of Patara. He wanted to live a life of solitude and silence, but heard a Heavenly voice calling him, “Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people if you desire a crown from Me.” He was subsequently chosen by revelation to be the Bishop of Myra in Lycia of Asia Minor, now in modern day Turkey.
Generous with his goods and life, fearless before earthly powers in matters of righteousness, zealous for the faith, and truthful, Saint Nicholas was a lover of justice, and defended innocent men condemned to death. He appeared even while alive in dreams and in person to those who called on him in need. He is the patron of travelers, those at sea, and students. Saint Nicholas died after a short illness in 343 AD.
Saint James was the son of Joseph (who was betrothed to the Ever-Virgin Mary) and his first wife, Salome. He was truly righteous, and fasted and prayed for long hours. He was chosen as the first Bishop of Jerusalem after Pentecost. He wrote the Epistle bearing his name, and also wrote the first Christian liturgy, also named after him. Christ loved Saint James and appeared to him after His Resurrection. Saint James died a martyr when he advocated a belief in Christ before all people.
Saint Gregory Dialogus was born in Rome around 540 AC. His grandfather was Pope Felix, and his mother Sylvia (November 4) and aunts Tarsilla and Emiliana were also numbered among the saints by the Roman Church. He received an excellent education and attained high government positions. Leading a God-pleasing life, he yearned for monasticism with all his soul. After the death of his father, Saint Gregory used his inheritance to establish six monasteries. In Rome he founded a monastery dedicated to the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called. Later, on a commission of Pope Pelagius II, Saint Gregory lived for a while in Constantinople. There he wrote his Commentary on the Book of Job.
After the death of Pope Pelagius, Saint Gregory was chosen to the Roman See. For seven months he would not consent to accept this service, considering himself unworthy. He finally accepted consecration only after the persistent entreaties of the clergy and flock. Wisely leading the Church, Saint Gregory worked tirelessly in propagating the Word of God. Saint Gregory compiled the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Latin language. Affirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, this liturgical service was accepted by all the Orthodox Church. Saint Gregory has left behind numerous written works. After the appearance of his book, Dialogues Concerning the Life and Miracles of the Italian Fathers, the saint was called “Dialogus.” His book Pastoral Rule is also well-known. In that work, Saint Gregory describes the model of the true pastor. His letters dealing with moral guidance have likewise survived.
Saint Gregory headed the Church for years, ministering to all the needs of his flock. He was characterized by an extraordinary love towards the poor, for which he was granted a vision of the Lord Himself. Pope Saint Gregory the Great, as he is known, died in the year 604, and his relics rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Peter in the Vatican.
Saint John Chrysostom was born in Antioch in 347 AC and was well educated. After much study of the Greek philosophers, he rejected their view by embracing in baptism the fullness of the Christian Faith. Saint John became a monk after his parents died and he lived a strict ascetic life. Both he and Flavian, the Patriarch of Antioch, received an angelic vision to call Saint John to the priesthood. When his Heavenly words went out to the Faithful, all sensed the blessedness within them, and thus he was referred to as Chrysostom, which means “Golden mouth.” Later he was chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople, which he served for six years before being exiled at the behest of his oponents. Reinstated for a short time, he was then sent to Armenia, being driven without rest until he died of exhaustion in 409 AC.
Saint Basil was born in Cappadocia about 330 AC, the eldest son in a most pious family, many of whom later became saints, including his mother, Saint Emmelia, his brothers, Saint Naucratius, Saint Gregory of Nyssa and Saint Peter of Sebaste, and his sister, Saint Macrina the Younger. He was bright and went to Athens to study when he was young, studying with Gregory, later the Holy Bishop of Nazianzus, and with Julian, later the Emperor of Rome and Apostate from the Faith. Saint Basil was steeped in philosophy and learning, yet humble and meek. He was baptized as an adult in the River Jordan when visiting Israel and Palestine.
Saint Basil spent time with monks in Egypt, and years later formed a monastic community, and wrote basic life tenets for his monks. He was chosen as Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, served with honor for ten years, and wrote a Divine Liturgy. He was a great champion of theology of the Holy Spirit being an integral part of the Holy Trinity. Saint Basil died full of virtue and good works, going to his Lord at the age of 50 in 379 AD.
Saint Gregory was born in 329 AC in Arianzus, near Nazianzus in Cappadocia, and is also called “Nazianzen.” His father Gregory was a pagan, but later converted and became a Bishop and a Saint. His mother, Saint Nonna, patiently brought her son up in the Christian faith, and nurtured him by her example and teaching. Saint Gregory went to Athens to study pagan classical knowledge and was the schoolmate of Saint Basil the Great.
Saint Gregory studied advanced rhetoric and philosophy, and became a famed theologian. He was a great orator, teacher, writer, and a critic of Arianism. When he returned home, his father made him a priest, but Gregory fled to join Saint Basil in pursuing ascetic monasticism. Saint Basil sent him back and he helped his father. Saint Gregory was consecrated the Bishop of Sasima by Saint Basil, and later was asked to become the Patriarch of Constantinople, but stepped down shortly afterwards to quell a dispute. He retired to Nazianzus, leaving many works behind when he left for the Eternal Kingdom in 389 AC.
Saint Spyridon was a simple farmer on the Island of Cyprus where he married and had children. After his wife’s death, he dedicated himself to Christ and His Holy Church. Even after he became the Bishop of Tremithos, he continued to till the soil and tend his flocks, giving most of the produce to the poor. Simple, but wise, he showed wonders even before the assembled bishops of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 325 AC.
During his earthly life, Saint Spyridon works the greatest miracles–healing the sick of soul and body. All over the world, the humble Spyridon, the Wonder-worker, answers prayer whether small or great, meaningful or menial.
Saint Nectarios was born in 1846 in Selevria of Thrace in Greece, into a poor family. When he was 14 he went to Constantinople to work. While there, he worked for a tobacco merchant who treated him poorly, so Saint Nectarios turned to prayer for consolation. In his innocence, he even wrote a letter to God asking for help. While still young, he visited the Holy Land, calming a storm-tossed sea on his journey and saving many by prayer. In his twenties, he became a monk at Nea Moni at Chios, and later went to Egypt, where he would become the Metropolitan of Pentapolis.
After heading a school in Athens, he desired a more reclusive life, and went to the Island of Aegina, where he helped found a convent for women monastics. He died in a poor hospital in Athens.
Saint Meletius, Archbishop of Antioch, was Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia (357 AC), and afterwards he was summoned to Antioch by the emperor Constantius, and was appointed to that See. Saint Meletius was a critic of Arianism, and was thrice deposed from his cathedra as a result. Constantius had become surrounded by the Arians and had accepted their position. In all this Saint Meletius was distinguished by an extraordinary gentleness, and he constantly led his flock by the example of his own virtue and kindly disposition, supposing that the seeds of the true teaching sprout more readily on such soil. Saint Meletius ordained the future Saint Basil the Great as deacon. Saint Meletius also baptized and encouraged another of the greatest luminaries of Orthodoxy, Saint John Chrysostom, who later eulogized his former archpastor.
After Constantius, the throne was occupied by Julian the Apostate, and the Saint again was expelled. Returning under the emperor Jovian in the year 363, Saint Meletius wrote his theological treatise, “Exposition of the Faith,” which facilitated the conversion of many Arians to Orthodoxy. In the year 381, under the emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395), the Second Ecumenical Council was convened. In the year 380 the Saint had set off on his way to the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople, and came to preside over it. Before the start of the Council, Saint Meletius raised his hand displaying three fingers, and then withdrawing two fingers and leaving one extended he blessed the people, proclaiming: “We understand three hypostases, and we speak about a single nature.” With this declaration, a fire surrounded the Saint like lightning. During the Council Saint Meletius passed away. Saint Gregory of Nyssa honored the memory of the deceased with a eulogy. Saint Meletius left important treatises concerning the Holy Trinity. The relics of Saint Meletius were transferred from Constantinople to Antioch.
Saint Roman was born of Jewish parents in the latter part of the 5th century, in Emesa, Syria. He converted to Christianity as a child. When he came of age, he moved to Beirut and served in the Church of the Resurrection as a deacon. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Anastasius (491-518 AC), Saint Roman went to Constantinople and served in the church as a deacon and a singer. Patriarch Euthymius loved Saint Roman because of his virtues, and encouraged him to sing with the more accomplished singers, who often ridiculed him. When he was assigned to lead the singing on the evening of the Nativity of Christ, he desperately prayed for help, and in a dream the Virgin appeared to him. The next day, blessed by Christ and the Virgin, he beautifully sang the hymn, or kontakion, that has come down to us, “Today the Virgin.” Saint Roman became famous and wrote thousands of hymns.
Saint Stephen was the first martyr of Christendom and would not deny Christ's existence. Stephen was one of the seven deacons of the original Church of Christ in Jerusalem. It was the function of the deacons to assist, much as they do today, in such matters as communion but with the additional responsibility of spreading the new faith, and at the same time being aware of the danger that came with being Christian in those early days. Before entering the service of Christ, the young Stephen had studied under the renowned rabbinical tutor Gamaliel, who had been the mentor of the great Saint Paul. He was a qualified religious scholar who once sought to discredit the Saviour, until he came to know Jesus Christ and to embrace him as Paul did in that dramatic confrontation on the road to Damascus.
Stephen seems to have confined his missionary work and preaching to the city of Jerusalem, the city in which he had prepared himself under the Pharisee Gamaliel for quite another career. Well versed in the Scriptures, he used the Old Testament to full advantage in promoting the Messiah, citing passages of the ancient prophets of God that a Saviour would be born, and that the Saviour was among them even now in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It was with considerable anger that the men who had studied with him under Gamaliel now viewed a defector from their ranks, being particularly piqued when Stephen challenged them. Eventually, a mob turned on Stephen and worked itself into such a feverous pitch that he was stoned to death. The early Christians buried Stephen in a small chapel in Jerusalem, which was dedicated to his memory and was known as the chapel of Saint Stephen the Protomartyr (First Martyr).
Late in the 13th century, at Our Lady Monastery in Hamatoura, Saint JaKob began his ascetic life. Later, when the monastery was destroyed, he reestablished monasticism along the perimeter of the ruined monastery. In time, he rebuilt the monastery, giving renewed vigor to monastic life in the area. His spiritual briskness and vivacity made him popular. He stubbornly refused to convert away from Christianity, and was dragged from Saint Georges Monastery, situated atop Mount Hamatoura, to Tripoli (the capital of Northern Lebanon). For almost a year, he endured tremendous tortures. Nevertheless, he did not renounce his faith. Finally, Saint Jakob was beheaded. Not long after his death, seeing his sufferings and steadfast faith, our Lord bestowed on him everlasting crowns and graces and today he shines as a martyr as he was a beacon during his earthly life.
Saint Jakob's story was originally lost to history, but he is mentioned in a recently discovered in a manuscript preserved at the Balamand Monastery. The Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos - Kousba, Hamatoura, in Lebanon, commemorated him, for the first time in recent memory, on October 13th 2002, in an all-night prayer vigil (agrypnia). A number of priests, deacons, and believers participated in that memorable day, as the attendees chanted Saint Jakob's troparion and Akolouthia, prepared and edited by the monastery's monks. Today, believers and pilgrims are reporting his apparitions, miraculous healings and other Grace-filled deeds.
We commemorate the Holy Hieromartyr Yousef ibn Jirjis Mousa ibn Mouhana al-Haddad and his Companions. A married man, Saint Joseph of Damascus, as he is popularly known, was at first a weaver and then was ordained to the holy priesthood at the age of 24 in 1817, and assigned Great Economos of the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos (al-Mariamiyeh) in the heart of the Old City of Damascus.
On July 9th 1860, a massacre and religious purging began in the mountains of Lebanon, and spread to Damascus. Some Damascenes (including Michael Hawaweeny and his young wife Mariam who was bearing in her womb a son who would be the future Saint Raphael of Brooklyn) fled Damascus for the port city of Beirut. The majority, however, took refuge in al-Mariamiyeh. Many had previously fled to Damascus from their mountain villages, while others came to the Cathedral from the Christian Quarter of Damascus and the villages that surrounded the city. Saint Joseph took up his communion kit containing the Reserved Sacrament, left his home and began to make his way to the Cathedral. As he went, he stopped to confess and commune the aged and infirm who could not flee their homes, encouraging them with stories from the Lives of the Great Martyrs. On Tuesday morning July 10th, the Cathedral was surrounded, pillaged and burned by a fanatical crowd. Only a few, including Saint Joseph, survived. As he roamed the narrow streets searching for survivors who needed confessed and communed, Saint Joseph was surrounded by the enemies of Christ. Seeing that his end was near, Saint Joseph took out his communion kit and consumed what remained of the Body and Blood of Christ. Recognizing him as the "leader of the Christians," the persecutors attacked him. Saint Joseph and his Companions were glorified by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of the Great City-of-God Antioch and all the East in 1993.
The Holy Archangel Michael is amongst the most celebrated of the Angels and bodiless power. He is called the Archistrategos, or chief commander, of all the bodiless powers. According to Holy Scripture and Tradition, he has interceded for humanity multiple times and continues to serve as the Defender of the Faith. Saint Michael is often invoked for protection from invasion by oponents and civil war, and for the defeat of adversaries on the field of battle. He is celebrated primarily on November 8, the Synaxis of Michael and all the Bodiless Powers of Heaven; September 6 also marks the miracle of the Archangel at Colossae.
The Holy Archangel Gabriel is a leader who is associated with numerous happenings in Holy Scripture, particularly his revelation to the Theotokos that she would bear Christ. Thus his primary role has been called one of announcing the salvation of mankind. The Church celebrates the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel on March 26, the day following the Feast of the Annunciation, and again on July 13. He is also commemorated together with all the Archangels on their Synaxis date, November 8.