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Holy Relics: Miraculous Powers Of Icons

Orthodox Christianity provides the faithful with many sacred objects of worship, especially icons – artistic depiction of holy figures. It is commonly believed these holy relics possess spiritual powers to perform miracles and protect individuals and even whole country from possible danger.

What is holy icon?

An icon (from Greek “image”) is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, where the most common subjects include Christ, Mary, saints and angels. In Orthodox Christianity the icons provide inspiration and connect the worshipper with the spiritual world, sometimes they are called “windows into heaven.”

These objects are important for believers because they depict patron saints, people who are chosen as special protectors or guardians over all areas of life. Traditionally people see them as symbols of how to live a better life. Most of Orthodox Christians understand that they are merely expressing honour and respect for the people and events depicted, and not for the icons themselves.

Since the time of Byzantine Empire the icons had become a major part of worship and devotion among the Orthodox Christianity followers. The walls of churches were covered inside from floor to roof with icons, scenes from the Bible, allegorical groups. Icons were taken on journeys as a protection, they marched at the head of armies, they hung in a place of honour in almost every house etc.

More reverence has been always paid to icons believed to have miraculous origins.

‘Our Lady of Vladimir’

Holy Relics: Miraculous Powers Of Icons

Our Lady of Vladimir

Our Lady of Vladimir is one of the most venerated Orthodox icons. Regarded as the holy protectress of Russia, the icon is displayed in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Patriarch Luke Chrysoberges of Constantinople sent the newly-painted icon as a gift to Grand Duke Yury Dolgoruky of Kiev about 1131. The beautiful image was coveted by Yury’s son Andrei the Pious who brought it to his favourite city Vladimir in 1155. When the horses that transported the icon stopped near Vladimir and refused to go further, this was interpreted as a sign that the Blessed Virgin wants to stay in Vladimir. To house the icon, the great Assumption cathedral was built there, followed by other churches dedicated to the Virgin throughout northwestern Russia.

In 1395, during Tamerlane’s invasion, the image was taken from Vladimir to the new capital, Moscow. The spot where people and the ruling prince met the icon is commemorated with the Sretensky monastery. Vasili I of Moscow spent a night crying over the icon, and Tamerlane‘s armies retreated the same day. The Muscovites refused to return it back to Vladimir and placed it in the Assumption cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. The image was also credited with saving Moscow from Tatar hordes in 1451 and 1480.

One of the most exquisite icons ever painted, Our Lady of Vladimir is imbued with universal feelings of motherly love and anxiety for her child. By the 16th century the Vladimirskaya (as the Russians call it) was a thing of legend. It was even rumoured that the icon was painted by St Luke on the Lord’s table of the Last Supper. The venerated image was used in coronations of tsars, elections of patriarchs, and other important ceremonies of state.

But its most important service was yet to come. In December 1941, as the Germans approached Moscow, Stalin order that the icon be taken from a museum and placed in an airplane and that it be carried around the besieged capital. Several days later the German army started to retreat.

‘Our Lady of Kazan’

Holy Relics: Miraculous Powers Of Icons

Our Lady of Kazan

This miraculous icon of the Mother of God appeared after the fire in Kazan in the 16th century in a rather mysterious way. Theotokos appeared to a nine-year-old girl Matrona in a dream and told her to find her icon on the ashes. This dream was repeated again and again, until the girl decided to go with her mother in search of the icon. And indeed, the icon was found there.

This image of the Mother of God is the most revered and beloved, and considered the ‘Great Intercessor of Russia.’ The icon more than once helped the Russian people in the most difficult times. Its appearance symbolizes victory over the Time of Troubles. Russians thank it for the disposal of Moscow from the invasion of the Poles. Before the Battle of Poltava, Peter the Great with his army prayed to the image of the Kazan Mother of God. The icon was the main patron of the Romanov dynasty. During the Great Patriotic War, this icon was the spiritual driver of the Russian people.

Beginning with Baptism, all the most significant events in life of a Russian Orthodox take place with this icon. It gives a blessing for marriage, helps in work and in everyday problems. Feast days of ‘Our Lady of Kazan’ are 21 July and 4 November.

The Pochaev Mother of God

Holy Relics: Miraculous Powers Of Icons

The Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God

Pochaev mountain is in the west of Kyvian Rus, now in modern-day Ukraine, and it is there in the 14th century, that an appearance of the Mother of God with her Saviour was granted to two monks and a nearby shepherd. After the vision, a single footprint remained in the mountainside, from which a spring emerged. The previously uninhabited mountain became the site of a monastery dedicated to the miracle. Over 200 years later, the monastery was visited by the a Greek Bishop, Neophit, who left behind as a gift, an Icon of the Theotokos from Constantinople. This is the Icon which came to bear the monastery’s name: the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God.

It is believed this icon saved the town from Turkish army’ attack in 1675. After people start praying a vision of the Mother of God appeared in the sky along with an army of angels, swords unsheathed. At this appearance, the defenders were over-joyed, whilst the besieging Turks were terrified. In panic, the Turks fired arrows into the sky at the image but the arrows simply fell back to earth upon the attackers.The Turks turned to flee, and the monastery was saved. The Pochaev Icon produced many other miracles over the years, and is still known as a wonder-working image to this day.

Our Lady of Smolensk

Holy Relics: Miraculous Powers Of Icons

  Our Lady of Smolensk

Another important icon in Russian Orthodoxy is Our Lady of Smolensk. With the population of 200,000 inhabitants, Smolensk was probably the largest city in the 15th-century Lithuania. Three Smolensk regiments proved decisive during the Battle of Grunwald against the Teutonic knights. It was a severe blow when the city was recaptured by Vasili III of Russia in 1514. To commemorate this event, the tsar founded the Novodevichi convent in Moscow and dedicated it to the holy icon of Our Lady of Smolensk.

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Spirituality

How Hell Works: A Brief Guide to the Afterlife

Sooner or later, time is up for everyone. It would be ridiculous to think that after such a life we ​​will be able to somehow penetrate through the heavenly gates or deceive the archangel guarding them. It is worth accepting the inevitable: not booths and houris are waiting for us, but the gloomy landscape of hell. And in order not to get confused at the grave board, you should prepare for this in advance. Moreover, you can find a whole bunch of authoritative evidence on how to navigate in hellish terrain. The main thing is not to panic.

Where is it, the underworld? Some ancient peoples burned the deceased: this is a sure sign that the soul must ascend to its new abode in heaven. If he was buried in the ground, then she will go to the underworld.

If sent on the last journey by boat, it sails to the country across the sea, at the very edge of the Earth. The Slavs had a variety of opinions on this, but they all agreed on one thing: the souls of those people who are not kept near their former dwellings enter the afterlife, and they lead about the same existence there – they harvest, hunt …

Those who, due to a curse, or an unfulfilled promise, or something else, cannot leave their bodies, remain in our world – either settling into their former shells, then taking the form of animals, natural phenomena, or simply ghosts of failure. We can say that the afterlife of such souls is our own world, so this is not the worst option for a posthumous existence.

Egyptian hell

Everything will turn out much worse if you find yourself in the afterlife of the ancient Egyptians, where Osiris reigns. During his earthly incarnation, he was killed and dismembered by his own brother Set. This could not but affect the character of the lord of the dead.

Osiris looks repulsive: he looks like a mummy, clutching the signs of pharaoh’s power. Sitting on the throne, he presides over the court, which weighed the actions of the newly arrived souls. The god of life Horus brings them here. Hold on tightly to his hand: the hawk-headed Chorus is the son of the underground king, so it may well put in a good word for you.

Egypt

The courtroom is huge – this is the entire firmament. According to the directions of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a number of rules should be observed in it. List in detail the sins that you did not have time to commit during your lifetime. After that, you will be offered to leave a memory of yourself and help your relatives by depicting a court scene on a papyrus scroll.

If your artistic talent is at its best, you will spend the rest of eternity here, participating in the affairs of Osiris and his numerous divine relatives. The rest await a cruel execution: they are thrown to be devoured by Ammatu, a monster with the body of a hippo, paws and mane of a lion and a crocodile mouth.

However, the lucky ones may find themselves in his jaws: from time to time there are “cleansings”, in which the affairs of the wards souls are again reviewed. And if relatives have not provided the appropriate amulets, you will most likely be eaten by a ruthless monster.

Greek hell

It is even easier to get into the afterlife kingdom of the Greeks: you will be carried away by the god of death Thanatos himself, who brings here all the “fresh” souls. During big battles and battles, where he, apparently, cannot cope alone, Thanatos is helped by winged Kerrs, who carry the fallen to the kingdom of the eternally gloomy Hades.

In the far west, at the edge of the world, stretches a lifeless plain, in some places overgrown with willows and poplars with black bark. Behind it, at the bottom of the abyss, the muddy quagmire of Acheron opens. It merges with the black waters of the Styx, which encircles the world of the dead nine times and separates it from the world of the living. Even the gods are wary of breaking the oaths given by the name of Styx: these waters are sacred and ruthless. They flow into Cocytus, the river of weeping that gives rise to Lethe, the river of oblivion.

Greece

You can cross the river Styx in old man Charon’s boat. For his labor, he takes a small copper coin from each. If you have no money, you just have to wait for the end of time at the entrance. Charon’s boat crosses all nine streams and drops passengers into the abode of the dead.

Here you will be greeted by a huge three-headed dog Cerberus, safe for those entering, but ferocious and merciless to those who are trying to return to the sunny world. On a vast plain, under a chilling wind, wait quietly among other shadows for your turn. The uneven road leads to the palace of Hades himself, surrounded by the fiery stream of Phlegeton. The bridge over it rests against the gate, standing on diamond columns.

Behind the gates is a huge hall made of bronze, where Hades himself and his assistants, judges Minos, Eak and Radamant, are seated. By the way, all three were once people of flesh and blood, like you and me. They were just kings and ruled their nations so well that after their death Zeus made them judges over all the dead.

With a high probability, just judges will cast you even lower, into Tartarus – the kingdom of pain and groans, located deep under the palace. Here you will have to meet three old sisters, goddesses of vengeance, Erinnias, whom Hades put to watch over sinners.

Their appearance is terrible: blue lips from which poisonous saliva drips; black cloaks like the wings of bats. With balls of snakes in their hands, they rush through the dungeon, lighting their path with torches, and make sure that everyone fully drinks the cup of their punishment. Among the other “indigenous inhabitants” of Tartarus are Lamia, the stealing child, the three-headed Hecate, the demon of nightmares, the corpse-eater Eurynom.

Here you will also meet many mythical figures. Tyrant Ixion is forever chained to a wheel of fire. The chained giant Titius, who offended the tender Leto, is pecked by two vultures. The blasphemer Tantalus is immersed up to his throat in the freshest clear water, but as soon as he, tormented by thirst, bends down, it retreats from him. The Danaids who killed their husbands are forced to endlessly fill the leaky vessel. The quirky Sisyphus, who once deceived the spirit of death Thanatos, and the intractable Hades, and Zeus himself, rolls a stone up the mountain, which breaks down every time he approaches the top.

Christian hell

The images of Christian hell are largely inspired by the ancient Greeks. It is among Christians that the geography of hell has been studied in most detail. Getting there is a little more difficult. Already in the apocryphal books – those that were not included in the Holy Scriptures or were excluded from it later – different opinions were expressed about the location of hell.

Thus, the “Book of Enoch” places the devil himself in the eastern lifeless desert, where Raphael “makes a hole” into which he lowers him, bound hand and foot, and rolls him over with a stone. However, according to the same apocrypha, the soul will go in the opposite direction, to the west, where it will “groan” in the depressions of the high mountain range.

At the end of the 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great, distinguishing between two hells – upper and lower – placed one on the ground, the second under it.

In his 1714 book on the nature of hell, the English occultist Tobias Swinden placed hell in the sun. He motivated his assumption by the then existing ideas about our light as a ball of fire and a quote from the Apocalypse (“The fourth Angel poured out his bowl on the Sun: and it was given to him to burn people with fire”).

And his contemporary and follower, William Whiston, declared all celestial comets to be hell: when they get into the hot regions of the sun, they fry souls, and when they move away, they freeze them. However, you should hardly hope to get on a comet. The most widely accepted idea is that hell is located in the center of the Earth and has at least one exit to the surface.

Most likely, this exit is located in the north, although there are other opinions. So, an old poem about the wanderings of the Irish saint Brendan tells about his journey to the far west, where he finds not only heavenly places, but also places of torment for sinners.

The sun

And in heaven, and under the earth, and on the earth itself, hell is placed in the apocryphal “Walk of the Mother of God through torment.” This book is replete with detailed descriptions of punishments. Asking God to disperse the complete darkness that envelops the suffering in the West, Mary sees a red-hot tar pour out on the unbelievers. Here, in a cloud of fire, those who “sleep like the dead at dawn on Sunday” are tormented, and those who have not stood in church during their lifetime are sitting on red-hot benches.

In the south, other sinners are immersed in the river of fire: those cursed by their parents – up to the waist, fornicators – up to the chest, and up to the throat – “those who ate human flesh,” that is, traitors who abandoned children to be devoured by beasts or betrayed their brothers before the king. But deepest of all, to the crown, are the perjurers.

The Mother of God sees here other punishments due to lovers of profit (hanging by the legs), sowers of enmity and Klchristian adepts (hanging by the ears). In the “left side of paradise”, in the raging waves of boiling tar, the Jews who crucified Christ are suffering.

John Milton, author of the poem “Paradise Lost”, is in the realm of the eternal chaos. According to his concept, Satan was overthrown even before the creation of the earth and heaven, which means that hell is outside these areas. The devil himself sits in Pandemonium, the “brilliant capital”, where he receives the most prominent demons and demons.

Pandemonium is a huge castle with halls and porticoes, built by the same architect as the palace of the Heavenly King. The angel architect, who joined the army of Satan, was expelled from heaven with him. Myriads of spirits rush along the corridors of the palace, swarming in the earth and air. There are so many of them that only satanic sorcery allows them to be accommodated.

Even more confusing is the medieval Christian theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. He distinguished three different hells, corresponding to the three levels of heaven. And since God has dominion over everything, all three hells are ruled by him through specially delegated angels.

In his opinion, Satan does not exist at all as the ruler of the kingdom of evil. The devil in Swedenborg’s understanding is a collective name for the most dangerous “evil geniuses”; Beelzebub unites spirits striving for dominion even in heaven; Satan means “not so evil” spirits. All these spirits are terrible to look at and, like corpses, are deprived of life.

The faces of some are black, in others they are fiery, and in others they are “ugly with pimples, abscesses and ulcers; many of them don’t see their faces, others have only teeth sticking out. ” Swedenborg formulated the idea that as heaven reflects one person, and hell in aggregate is only a reflection of one devil and can be represented in this form. The devil’s mouth, leading to the fetid underworld – this is the path awaiting sinners.

Heaven

Do not overly trust the opinion of some authors who argue that the entrance to hell can be locked. Christ in the “Apocalypse” says: “I have the keys of hell and death.” But Milton claims that the keys to Gehenna (apparently on behalf of Jesus) are kept by a terrible half-woman, half-snake. On the surface of the earth, the gate may look quite harmless, like a pit or a cave, or like a mouth of a volcano. According to Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, written at the beginning of the 14th century, souls can go to hell by passing through a dense and gloomy forest.

This poem is the most authoritative source about the hellish device. The structure of the underworld is described in all its complexity. The hell of the Divine Comedy is the torso of Lucifer, inside it has a funnel-shaped structure. Starting a journey through hell, Dante and his guide Virgil descend deeper and deeper, without turning anywhere, and in the end find themselves in the same place from which they entered it.

The strangeness of this hellish geometry was noticed by the famous Russian mathematician, philosopher and theologian Pavel Florensky. He proved very reasonably that Dante’s hell is based on non-Euclidean geometry. Like the entire Universe in the concepts of modern physics, hell in the poem has a finite volume, but has no boundaries, which was proved (theoretically) by the Swiss Weil.

Muslim hell

It looks like a Christian hell and an underworld that awaits Muslims. Among the stories of The Thousand and One Nights, seven circles are told. The first is for the faithful who have died an unjust death, the second is for apostates, the third is for the pagans. Jinn and the descendants of Iblis himself inhabit the fourth and fifth circles, Christians and Jews – the sixth. The innermost, seventh circle is waiting for the hypocrites.

Before getting here, souls await the great Doomsday, which will come at the end of time. However, the wait does not seem long to them.

Like most other sinners, visitors to the Islamic Hell are eternally roasted on fire, and every time their skin is burned, it grows again. The Zakkum tree grows here, the fruits of which, like the heads of the devil, are the food of the punished. Do not try the local cuisine: these fruits boil in the stomach like molten copper.

Those who eat them are tormented by intolerable thirst, but the only way to quench it is to drink boiling water so foul-smelling that it “melts the insides and skin.” In short, this is a very, very hot place. In addition, Allah even enlarges the bodies of the kafirs, increasing their torment.

Honestly, none of the described hells arouses good feelings in us, especially in comparison with our small, but generally comfortable world. So where exactly to go is up to you. Of course, it is not possible to give a complete information about the structure of hell on the pages of the magazine.

However, we hope that our quick overview will help everyone who finds themselves there to quickly navigate and greet their new eternity with the words of John Milton:

“Hello, sinister world! Hello, Beyond Gehenna! “

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Spirituality

Chalk portrait of Virgin Mary appeared 13 years later, Mexican people call for miracles

A recent miraculous phenomenon on an asphalt road in Guadalupe, Mexico, the image of the Virgin Mary painted in chalk 13 years ago suddenly appeared. Local residents believe this "miraculous manifestation". (Video screenshot)

A mysterious phenomenon recently appeared on an asphalt road in Guadalupe, Mexico. A portrait of the Virgin Mary painted with chalk 13 years ago suddenly appeared. The local residents were quite surprised and believe in this “miraculous manifestation”.

This chalk-painted portrait of the Virgin is located on the asphalt pavement of an open-air parking lot next to the Guadalupe municipal government. It was an unknown person who held the “Bella Vía” (Bella Vía) in Guadalupe in 2007 Painted during the festival.

Recently, a man splashed water on the asphalt road there, and this portrait of the Virgin unexpectedly appeared again.

The staff of the city government said that the parking lot has undergone many changes and the city has also experienced extreme weather. This image should have disappeared a few years ago, but it has suddenly appeared miraculously recently.

After the incident spread in the local area, it immediately attracted a large number of people to watch, and city hall officials were also surprised. Many people believe that this is the miracle of the Virgin, and many believers come to worship and light candles and place flowers on the spot.

Félix Palomo, director of the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Guadalupe Municipal Government, also shared a photo of this mysterious chalk drawing on Twitter and wrote:

“Believe it or not, the problem is that this portrait was created 13 years ago. How could it reappear afterwards?”

At present, the portrait of the Virgin Mary has been surrounded by traffic triangles, and the ground is often splashed with water to make the portrait of the Virgin Mary appear more clearly. As for why this chalk-drawn portrait of the Virgin Maru can be kept for 13 years, no experts have yet provided any explanation.

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Spirituality

The legend that connects the Holy Grail with a Polish village – The Knights Templar and the secret tunnels

Like all great travelers, the Knights Templar of medieval times needed some places to settle, and so they built some of the most impressive castles and cathedrals.

Famous examples of these 13th-century buildings are found throughout the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Less well known are the impressive chapels and fortifications they built in western Poland, where the Knights Templar and other crusaders colonized the area and began to weave their own mythology into the idyllic rural landscape.

A trip to the region of Western Pomerania and the villages of Chwarszczany, Myślibórz and Rurka – near the border with Germany – is an adventure in a neglected destination, where historical secrets are still revealed.

And, according to at least one local legend, there could still be hidden the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus Christ drank at the Last Supper and later had his blood.

The road to Chwarszczany, a village lost among fields and forests, is not very well known, and has few permanent residents. The village itself is a collection of faded houses with less than 100 inhabitants who have chickens and grow tomatoes in the summer.

The farms and houses built in the traditional German style, testify to the geopolitical unrest that has affected the area over the centuries.

The special, timeless chapels built by the Knights Templar

It is here that the Knights Templar established a place of worship. Made of red bricks on a granite base, the church of Agios Stanislaos was built in 1232 on an isolated spot.

The chapel is designed according to the Temple of the Temples, an intricate code that the knights obeyed for fear of exile from the fraternity. The appearance of the building is defensive, its high walls are built to withstand attacks as well as the ravages of time.

It is still used as a place of worship, although Sunday mornings in Chwarszczany are quiet, we usually see about 30 parishioners gathered inside the chapel. There are two renovated frescoes on the walls.

The chapel in Chwarszczany

Discoveries are still being made here that shed new light on the lives and deaths of the knights and their followers. Among the finds below the sanctuary of the chapel are the bodies of some of the knights themselves and a possible secret passage.

Przemysław Kołosowski, an archaeologist working to preserve Chwarszczany’s medieval heritage, says that during excavations in 2019, researchers discovered more fortifications and a cemetery using ground-penetrating radar.

“Our GPR has identified gothic crypts with the remains of the Knights Templar beneath the chapel,” Kołosowski told CNN Travel. “According to legends and medieval documents, there was a well near the chapel. According to rumors, the well served as the entrance to a secret tunnel. “This requires further thorough archaeological research.”

The stories of the Knights Templar are a source of inspiration for movies

The Knights Templar have fascinated historians and archaeologists for years, in part because of the shady aspects of some of their practices.

Their Order was founded in Jerusalem in the 12th century to protect the pilgrims of the Holy Land. They became a powerful force throughout Europe, enjoying papal privileges, tax breaks and rich donations, while at the same time gaining legendary status.

The Knights Templar protected the Holy Grail

They are said to have become the patrons of the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred ark in which were kept the stone tablets with the Ten Commandments that God had given to Moses for the second time, and other sacred objects of the Israelis. These stories have inspired films such as Indiana Jones and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

“The Knights Templar are always involved in everything,” Italian writer Uberto Eco wrote in his book “Foucault’s Pendulum.” 

This certainly seems to be the case in 12th and 13th century Europe. In western Poland, landowners decided to prevent this entanglement by inviting knights to settle in what was then known as the Pojezierze Myśliborskie region.

Struggles for political power

About 40 miles (25 miles) north of Chwarszczany, another Romanesque building owes its existence to the medieval order. The Chapel of the Knights at Rurka is a rugged stone building dating back to 1250, built in the architectural style of the German region of Saxony.

In a secluded forest spot, the Rurka Chapel was sold to private hands in 1999 and is closed for renovation.

Going further northeast, after a 25-minute drive, travelers will reach Myślibórz, a narrow community of narrow roads surrounded by forests and four lakes.

The Knights Templar arrived in Mysliborz, Poland in the 13th century. It is an idyllic place, but the show here is stolen by the extremely preserved fortifications of the city, which today look almost as they look during the Crusades.

Myślibórz’s defense architecture provides a glimpse of what life was like in the Temple Age, when communities lived in fear of wars and struggles for political power.

Historical documents place the Knights Templar at Myślibórz from about 1238, when the land around their city was ceded to the local aristocrat, Duke Władysław Odonic.

The secrets of the swamp

The fortifications around Myślibórz were built in the 13th and 14th centuries. The city has retained its medieval town planning, with a square in the middle. Around this market there is the 18th century town hall, and houses.

Even today, the main entrances to the city are through two medieval gates, the Pyrzycka Gate and the Nowogródzka Gate, which were built in the early 13th and 14th centuries. Modern roads allow cars to enter the city through the gates. Inside the fortifications there is a cylindrical stone tower with loopholes.

The Holy Grail has inspired many books and movies

Visitors should ask about a secret underground tunnel that runs down the city, from the large church on Market Square to the Dominican convent, which, according to Karolczak, was originally the site of the Temple of the Knights Templars.

After the expulsion of the Knights Templar from Myślibórz in the late 13th century, their legendary treasure disappeared. Karolczak says that according to local tradition, the treasure was sunk by the Knights themselves, in a nearby lake.

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