By Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)
Within this developed pattern of Great Lent, what precisely do the rules of fasting demand? Neither in ancient nor in modern times has there ever been exact uniformity, but most Orthodox authorities agree on the following rules:
We shall now say something about the present feast [of Holy Theophany, the Baptism of Christ]. Many celebrate the feastdays and know their designations, but the cause for which they were established they know not. Thus concerning this, everyone knows that the present feast is called Theophany; but what this is, and whether it be one thing or another, they know not. And this is shameful—every year to celebrate the feastday and not know its meaning.
First of all therefore, it is necessary to say that there is not one Theophany, but two: the one actual, which already has occurred, and the second in the future, which will happen with glory at the end of the world. About this one and about the other you will hear today from Paul, who in conversing with Titus, speaks thus about the present: “The grace of God hath revealed itself, having saved all mankind, decreeing, that we reject iniquity and worldly desires, and dwell in the present age in prudence and in righteousness and piety.” And about the future: “Awaiting the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). And a prophet speaks thus about this latter: “The sun shalt turn to darkness, and the moon to blood at first, then shalt come the great and illuminating Day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31).
The Feast of the Entrance into the Temple of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on November 21 each year. The Feast commemorates when as a young child, the Virgin Mary entered the Temple in Jerusalem.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus shows us a foolish misuse of material goods. It raises slightly the curtain covering certain mysteries about man's portion beyond the grave. We encounter this parable in the Gospel according to Luke:
"There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that those who wish to pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, whon would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rise from the dead" (Luke 16:19-31).
From what we have said so far, it has become obvious that:
A. Dogmas acquire their prestige from the constancy that they display towards the initial form of existential relationship between God and the world, which is not only revealed as a noetic “knowledge”, but is realized as a communion between God, the world and mankind in Christ; also in the experience of the first Disciples and apostolic communities, and as recorded in the New Testament.
What is the Church, and how does it act in the formulation of dogmas?
We shall speak more of the Church in the respective chapter, but as far as the dogmas are concerned, we can make note of the following:
“Church” means the communion and the community through which -and within which- the new existential relations between God, mankind and the world (as manifested and realized in the person of Christ) are revealed and realized. In other words, in the Church, the entire world, with the new Adam (Christ) at its head, acknowledges God as “Father” and is thus “saved” from alienation and deterioration. The cognizance and the revelation of God is thus an empirical reality within the body of the Church, which has the form of a paternal-filial association wherein the entire world is embodied, thus constituting the “body of Christ”. Consequently, the Church – as the body of Christ – is, in this sense, the only proper and complete existential form of cognizance of God, through the lattice of relations that are realized within the community.