Russian Orthodox Church Protection of Mother of God
Russian Orthodox Church • Patriarchial Parishes in Canada

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St Dimitrii

The term martyr is often misused in modern discourse.

A martyr is not one who chooses to die; rather, it is when one involuntarily – but without hesitation – suffers torment at the hands of others because of a public declaration or confession of faith, that they genuinely receive the crown of martyrdom.

The term martyr actually comes from a Greek word meaning “witness.”

A simple scan of the Synaxarion (a book on the lives of the saints) uncovers countless Orthodox Christian martyrs, or witnesses to the faith, celebrated throughout the year.

On October 26, for example, one of the most notable of these saints, the Holy Great Martyr Demetrios the Myrrh-streamer, is honoured.

But who exactly is St. Demetrios and why is celebrating him and other saints so important?

St. Gregory Palamas writes:

For among martyrs he is as a great luminary among stars, holding forth the word of eternal life (Phil. 2:16)… From childhood he was all these things at once: a solid, immovable pillar of goodness, a breathing, moving image of every virtue; the shrine of divine and human graces, representing them all; a living book telling of glory and leading us to better things.

Born in the 3rd century in Thessalonica, Demetrios was the only son of distinguished and pious parents. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the military and because of his many virtues was appointed commander of the Roman forces in Thessaly and Proconsul for Hellas.

When the Emperor Maximian, however, began persecuting Christians, the Saint openly acknowledged his Christian Faith and courageously confessed his love for Christ. For this, he was thrown into prison but not before Demetrios distributed all of his goods to the poor through his servant Lupus.

In continuous prayer, St. Demetrios was initially saved from death, helping many non-believers embrace Christianity. Gregory Palamas describes how Demetrios “struggled with evil to the point of shedding his last drop of blood;” beheaded c. 306, Demetrios appears to this day both in dreams and openly to those who invoke his holy name.

When one is wounded by love for the Lord, similar to St. Demetrios and all martyrs throughout history, it is easy to discard worldly possessions for the unfading glory in heaven.

The celebration of saints though is more than just a simple collection of individuals, it is the unbroken link of faith, works and love (a “golden chain,” Symeon the New Theologian described it) in God.

Saints serve as a living testimony to Christ, He who has many witnesses like the prophets of old, from Moses and John the Forerunner, to the present day. If these holy people and their memory were to be forgotten, it would be akin to rejecting their sacrifice for Christianity.

Orthodox Christians revere saints, including venerating icons, because they serve as a constant reminder that like God, the Church is eternal, without beginning nor end.

As one of the greatest martyrs in all of Christendom, today we continue the more than 1,700-year-old tradition of celebrating St. Demetrios, who by the shining example of his life, gives hope to all those in afflictions and difficulties, such as those courageous Christians in Egypt, Syria, and Pakistan who under difficult – and deadly – circumstances continue to confess their faith in Christ.

The celebrations are especially festive in Thessaloniki, Greece, where the Saint’s wonderworking relics can be found; as its Protector, the Saint has protected inhabitants there from attacks and preserved them from plague and famine.

As St. Gregory (a fellow Thessalonian) wrote about the Great Martyr, may we be “deemed worthy of his intercessions to God, and of the eternal celebrations of the citizens of heaven.”

Evagelos Sotiropoulos



The Kazan Icon of the Mother of God

Kazanskaya Icon

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Beloved brothers and sisters, today we celebrate and remember with solemn prayer and praise the manifestation of the Mother of God’s mercy for the Orthodox Russian nation through her miraculous deliverance of our Fatherland in 1612 from foreign invasion.

Our ancestors, the Russian people, loved the Mother of God, had special and deep faith in her heavenly protection of the Christian race, and they always turned to her with fervent prayer in their sorrows and calamities. Although entire countries considered the Most Holy Virgin to be their Protectress and honored her, in our homeland the name of the Mother of God was always surrounded with particular veneration, immeasurably greater than in any other place, and the Mother of God has never poured such grace and mercy out upon a country as she has upon the Russian land. In almost every Russian city there is unfailingly a source of the Mother of God’s grace—her miracle-working icons, which she desired to give to people as a heavenly assurance of her love, and as a consolation to suffering humankind. Our people loved to call the Mother of God by special names that describe her heavenly protection and mercy, and the Mother of God did not put their faith to shame, but granted speedy help to everyone who asked for it, and to our Fatherland as a whole.

Particularly memorable is the deliverance of our nation through the mercy of the Mother of God from Polish rule in 1612. During that sorrowful time, when the royal line of Rus’ was severed, disorder began in our land which led to complete lack of sovereignty. The Poles hastened to take advantage of this: they took Moscow into their own hands, and half of the Russian kingdom along with it. Not wanting to remain forever under the yoke of the Poles, Russian people rose up to defend their Fatherland, placing all their hope in their heavenly Intercessor, to whom they turned with fervent prayer for aide in their battle against the enemy. The army took with them the icon of the Mother of God called “Kazan,” and, with it at the fore, came closer to Moscow. A fast was announced; all the people and soldiers fasted for three days, praying fervently before the miracle-working icon of the Heavenly Queen that she grant them victory. The Most Pure Queen heard their prayers, and interceded before her merciful Son and Lord for help and triumph over the enemies of the Russian people. Appearing that night in a dream to the Greek Archbishop Arseny, who was languishing in a Polish prison, St. Sergius of Radonezh said that the Lord, at the prayers of His Mother and the Holy Hierarchs Peter, Alexiy, Jonah, and Phillip of Moscow, shall overthrow the usurpers on the very next day, and return the capital city of Russia to the hands of the Russian people.

Encouraged by this news, the soldiers, with the Kazan icon of the Mother of God, took Moscow with little effort on October 22, and freed the Fatherland from the foreign invaders. Thus, the country and the Church were delivered from their enslavement. In reverence before their heavenly helper, the grateful army and citizens of the capital city served a moleben on the very next Sunday to the Most Pure Mother of God, who had saved the Russian state. Carrying the Kazan icon in procession, they went to the very platform on Red Square. Archbishop Arseny met them at the Kremlin gates carrying another holy icon—the Vladimir Mother of God, which he had preserved through his captivity. So that the remembrance of the prayerful intercession by Most Pure Mother of God for the Fatherland would not fade over time, the annual celebration of her miracle on that day was soon unanimously instituted.

Thus we see, dear brothers and sisters, that the main cause of our country’s salvation from destruction was the firm Orthodox faith of our ancestors. When hope in human strength was no more, then all the true children of the Church and Fatherland placed a three day fast on themselves and prayed to the Mother of God before her Kazan icon. Their prayer was heard. Furthermore, from the most ancient times the Russian people were known for their simple, reverent faith and sincere, heartfelt love for the Lord Jesus Christ. In this faith and love for the Son of the Most Pure Virgin Mary lay the cause of her special mercy for us. What mother would remain indifferent to a person who displays obvious signs of love and care for her children? Reverent faith, strong love for the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, undoubtedly brings great joy in heaven to His most Pure Mother. That is why it happens that her intercession and help pours out upon all who have honored and confessed from ancient times the Lord Jesus Christ, who reverently worship Him, and lovingly submit themselves to the Church He has established on earth.

To what does this remembrance of the Mother of God’s miraculous aide to our Russian land obligate us? The more closely, mercifully and attentively the Mother of God is to us, the more careful we must be over our behavior and toward our faith. The more we are given, the more will be asked of us. What nation saw such obvious and miraculous Divine help as did the Jewish nation? It’s whole history, from beginning to end, is penetrated and filled with descriptions of miraculous, direct guidance from God. Nevertheless, this chosen people of God has known so much heavy suffering for its many departures from the true God, for the times that it betrayed the faith of its fathers! Why? Because that is what Divine justice and magnanimity requires: the Lord cannot leave unpunished even one deed that insults the dignity of His holy Law. “Let us depart,” was heard in the very holiness of the Jewish Temple, and soon the abomination of desolation came to the holy place and will remain there, as the Lord said, until the end of time—because the Jewish people did not believe in the Only-Begotten Son of God.

Let us give thanks, my dears, to the Lord and His Mother for such great benefactions shown for the strengthening of our Fatherland, which was brought to such glory by the path of difficult trials by the right hand of God alone. Let us treasure, brothers and sisters, our holy union with the Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Pure Mother, who has chosen our land as an inheritance. The Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother are zealous with love for us. Let us remember who our Intercessor is, our help and hope, and let us not break our union with her, but rather confirm it with our faith, life, and hope.

Contemplating the fact that Orthodox Christians are the inheritance of her Son and enjoy her special protection, let us not forget that the true quality of Orthodox Christians consists in following Christ in everything as the only Law-giver, and loving Him boundlessly as our only Savior. We must firmly hold to the path that our Orthodox ancestors walked, which Jesus Christ showed to us, and on which the Holy Christ directs us. The Lord marked the path for us in the Holy Gospels, and we must hold it sacred and follow it. If we depart from this path, from this cherishing of Christ, then our Intercessor, the Heavenly Queen, will also depart from us, because she cannot be united with the enemies of her Son who trample upon His teachings, His commandments, and His cherished Blood; just as Christ, her Son, cannot be united with belief.

Let us pray today to the Heavenly Queen, that she herself might confirm us on the path of salvation, for she is ever ready to intercede for us if only we would have recourse to her intercession with warm, heartfelt prayer, with firm faith and hope. Then she will in no way abandon us with her fervency, but will ever preserve and save us from every evil. Let us raise warm prayers to her from all our hearts, and call out to her with tender feeling: Rejoice, Fervent Intercessor for the Christian race!


Archimdrite Kirill (Pavlov)



Exaltation of the Cross

Vozdvizenie Kresta Gospodnya


The Exaltation of the Cross is one of the twelve great feasts in the yearly Church cycle. It commemorates two historical events: first, the finding of the Life-giving Cross in the year 326, and second, its recovery from Persia in 628.

History of the Feast

In the first centuries of Christianity, during the years of persecution, the pagans wished to destroy all evidence of the life of Jesus Christ, and the Cross on which He was crucified disappeared. With the conversion of Emperor Constantine the Great, Christians were at liberty to worship openly and build churches. The emperor’s mother, St. Helen, longed to find the True Cross of Christ. She traveled to Jerusalem and was told by a very old Jew that the Cross was buried beneath the temple of the pagan goddess Venus, built in 119 AD by the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The temple was torn down, and digging in the earth below uncovered three wooden crosses. The small board which had hung over Christ with the inscription ‘ Jesus King of the Jews,’ had long since fallen off, and -there was no way of telling which was the True Cross and which were the crosses of the two thieves crucified on either side of Christ. A sick woman was brought and likewise a dead man who was being carried to burial. The three crosses were laid in turn one by one upon the sick woman and upon the dead man. Two of the crosses had no effect, but through contact with the third cross, the sick woman was healed of her infirmity and the dead man came to life. These miracles clearly indicated which of the three was Christ’s Cross.

Hearing of this discovery, all the faithful desired to see the Cross of the Lord and to venerate it. The Patriarch of Jerusalem, Makarios, took the Cross onto a raised platform and lifted it on high, ‘exalting’ it, for all to see. The people fell to their knees, bowing down before the Cross and crying out repeatedly: “Lord, have mercy!”

To house the relic of the True Cross, St. Helen had s church built over the Holy Sepulchre. The church was consecrated on Sept. 13, 335, an event also commemorated in the service hymns of the Feast. The finding and exaltation of the Cross was appointed to be celebrated annually on the following day.

The Life-giving Cross was kept in Jerusalem until the year 614 when the Holy City fell to the Persians who looted the Church of the Resurrection and took the True Cross back with them to Persia. Fourteen years later Emperor Heraclius concluded a peace with the Persians, and the Holy Cross was brought to the imperial capital of Constantinople. The Emperor, taking off his shoes and his imperial robes, carried the Cross into the Church of Holy Wisdom (Agia Sophia) where it was once again triumphantly exalted. It was then resolved that the Feast be celebrated by the Church in all parts of the world, for which reason it is called the Universal Exaltation.

Although it is one of the major Church Feasts, the Exaltation is always kept as a fast day, because together with the joy of the finding of the Cross, this great “weapon of peace and sign of victory,” we are also reminded of the sufferings which our Lord endured in being crucified.

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