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“Son of the Church”
“Son of the Church”, an edition from the latter half of the 19th century
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Ключевые слова: Christian Life 

An early 17th century brief instruction to Orthodox neophytes, printed frequently from the middle 18th century (translated with omissions):

 

 

Book Titled,

Son of the Church.

An account of the most necessary customs; for the teaching of the Orthodox Christian faith; useful to neophytes;

chap. 1 being a testimonial to a Church’s son [adherent], regarding how believers in Christ are born.

To John Doe, the first servant, the new among the children son of the Church, wherein all through the font of the holy baptism are reborn, in the very one wherein you had desired to be christened with the holy baptism, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit;

2. Of how the Orthodox faith initiates into the baptism voluntarily.

Mind you, that neither through torture, nor by some threat, had anyone forced you onto this act; rather had you, voluntarily, seeing our Orthodox faith in Christ, the God, unspoiled and pure, desired to be baptized, and to become uniform[1] with us Orthodox Christians;   

3. Of the time for baptism.

And this happened upon you, not in infancy, but in the fullness of age, and not through the course of many years, but little time past your arrival hither;

4. Of rejecting Satan.

Consequently, it is necessary and needful for you to ever remember, of how, arms sprawled, you had denied Satan, and all his host, and all his deeds;

5. Of rejecting heresies.

Then you had forsworn the heresies and the heretics who had perverted the Orthodox faith: the damned Phormos [a 9th century Pope], Peter the nasalizer [an 8th century Pope], Martin Luther and their many followers, as well as their lore and their dealings - you had rejected them all;[2]

6. Manifestation of evil deeds.

Recall now and forget not what are the deeds of Satan, the very ones you had renounced: pride, haughtiness, perfidy, guile, troth-breaking, heresy, sorcery, lying, envy, lewdness, fornication, theft, felony, sundry hatred and impurity, and the rest;

7. Of forgetting prior heresies.

You are not to recall the forsaken evil heretics, whom you had renounced at holy baptism, nor to heed their lore subsequent that disavowal, nor to recollect your thoughts to them, but are to ever scorn their heresy, for it to enter oblivion.

8. Be your prior life recalled to mind - of how you lived in Poland, and herein, with you pans [seigniors] - and the creed of those heretics (Phormos, Peter and Martin), bear in mind that they are enemies of God and killers of men - such is the renouncement of heretics and their heresies;

9. Of the pledge to Christ at baptism.

It is crucial and essential to remember, how, arms spanned, gazing eastward, you had vowed to Christ: to love Him, to perform His deeds and His commandments, and to ever observe His decrees - the very ones the Lord God Jesus Christ, Himself, spoke to us in the Gospel - and to mind how He ordered His holy disciples and apostles to teach, and how he established these observances by the seven councils of the holy fathers. 

10. Commendation to the christened.

Mind you, that you had accomplished a good deed:
verily reborn you had been,
cleansed your body you had,
purified your soul you had;
leaving those who had engendered you,
you had perceived the One who created you;
having fled the darkness,
receiving the light you had approached God.

11. Of nearing God.

Mind plainly and grasp clearly,[3] how you had neared God. As you had been baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and had now avowed yourself to Christ with the holy christening, you are now a thrall of God and an avower of Christ, so do not distance yourself from His deeds, as per your promise and your actions, and God will approach you, and you will be God’s;

12. Wherewith to maintain a good reputation and inherit bliss.

If you wish to be God’s, ever have God in your heart, and work truth in every place. Do not fight, steal or lie. He humble and loving to every man. And in the house of your lord [host] be obedient in all and loyal, kind, not guileful and not slothful onto good deeds. Thereby you will obtain all grace, and will inherit all bliss; 

13. Of wisdom.

If you wish to seek wisdom, to keep good sense and to enhance your character - study books, and tend to the reading of divine writ, and the lore of His saints, whom you shall thereby witness,[4] for the soul of man is nobler than the whole world, because the treasure of the whole world is finite and fleeting, whereas the soul is immortal;

14. Regarding the soul.

If you realize, that your soul is immortal, then you will comprehend the True Orthodox Faith, in the which the patriarchs rejoiced, the apostles gratified, all the faithful delighted, the luminaries adorned, and the martyrs were crowned;

15. Of the true faith.

Of Her is the current discourse, and to tell you, that such is that Orthodox Faith, wherein the people biding on earth with the heavenly angels through love unite, talking to them while praising and lauding God, and, subsequent the departure of their soul to God, perform great wonders, as bestowing sight on the blind, healing the lame and the feeble, making hale the possessed, leeching the various ailments and maladies.  

16. Of the saints.

Such were the ones of whom I speak - the luminaries: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Clement the Roman Pope, Peter of Alexandria, Leo of Katan’, Polycarp of Smyrna, Peter and Alexiy and Iona of Moscow, and the holy fathers - Sergiy of Radonezh, Kiril of Belozersk, Barlaam of Futin [Khutin], and many others, the number and names whereof God alone knows;

17. Of the food of the saints.

Do not wonder at this, and do not deem false, that through man’s prayer the blind receive sight, and the various ailments and distempers are ameliorated, because their livelihoods were not as those of men, for they suffer as if incorporeal. Their meal is bread and water, in rare and meager morsels. One eats every other day, another, on the third, another, once a week, another fasts two week, while yet another consumes nothing for 40 days, whereas another receives no bread, only herbs and roots;

18. Of the saints’ clothing.

Likewise, they heed not their weeds, but suffer in barefoot and naked bodies: the swelter of the sun and the frost of the winter, and every peregrination through wood and stone;

19. Of the prayer of the saints.

Likewise, their prayer is ever to God - day and night they stand as an unshakeable column, but seldom starting* (*drowsing) down to earth - such is the faith and the love of the saints to God;

20. Of the prayer of laymen.

But it is impossible for us living men to bear such toil. Consequently, the holy fathers have set for us the church canons; likewise at home, to the extent of one’s strength, they bid, set, and ordered to pray. And it is impossible for the Orthodox to persist without the canon of the church or the prayer at home, nor is it bidden; 

21-33. Of the church canon [order of prayer].

34. Of the church.

Now, consider the church itself - how to understand it* (*about it) and how to approach it* (*into it) and how to stand within it. Because here, in Russia, we hold that the holy fathers height the Church of God: “Earthly Heaven,” “Bride of Christ” and “dwelling-place of God,” because God remains here in it, and all the faithful congregate here to Him, asking Him for mercy and forgiveness of sin, and receive the same if they ask in firm faith.  

[35.] Of the same Church.

So consider this carefully, and do not deem the Church a house, for it is strewed with Christ’s blood, and hallowed by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, may nothing unclean remain therein; may no beast nor any other filth enter into it. But if ever, through neglect, or by some other occurrence, they enter, the priest would cleanse it with prayer and holy water. Thus it remains clean and holy. Listen to my words, for you are a neophyte - all this you must* (*you may not) learn, lest you hear it spoken aloud. Consequently, I wrote to you a little something regarding Christian custom, for you to be faithful and to recognize God within yourself, for a blessed thing had happened to you and not a harm.

36. Of foreign faiths.

There is the Latin faith, and the Germanic faith,[5] and the faith in which you believed, but these faiths are not right or true. They are perverted by evil men - by ignoble heretics. That’s why I wrote to you about the very Divinity, and of His Church, and of His prayer, and of fasting - so mind this yourself.

37. Of the churches of the unfaithful.

Though there are churches among the Latins, and among the Germanics, and in Poland, these are unsanctified and not whole as bid the holy fathers and godly apostles. And all their church beauty the evil heretics spoiled and made bare, and took away all the dignity. Neither do they sanctify it, nor is a cross erected atop it; and holy icons are not carried within. Thus they do not bedight it. They do not heed the books of divine writ that they collect therein, thereby they dishonor it. Simply put: it is stripped of any and all church splendor. And there is no voice to proclaim aloud the path of truth: they sing not the stycheri, the canon or the ikos…

38. Of the Christian church.

Among us, in Orthodox Christendom, there is the Holy Immaculate Apostolic Church, sanctified by godly holy-bearing men, adorned and whole as per the teachings of the holy apostles and holy fathers, and filled with all bliss. Therefore, consider yourself how to approach it, to enter it, to stand and to pray within it.

39. Of entering a church.

Now appreciate for yourself, how to adhere to all of this. When you come to church, do not hasten to enter it. Stand without, by the doors, and amplify your conscience. If something had happened to you in your sleep, or awake, due to demonic disturbance, and from fantasizing and temptation, or if, while walking, you had conceived some fornicating filth, and the uncouthness had materialized afore you, then do not enter the church, but stand outside, as Adam by the gates of Paradise, and understand, that it is the fiend who is separating you from it;

40. Of the same.

And even if you preserved yourself from filthy demonic dreaming, do not hasten to enter it. Bow thrice, glancing toward the icon of Jesus, and say at the first bow: “God be merciful to me, a sinner;” at the second: “God cleanse me and have mercy on me;” and thirdly: “Having created me, Lord, likewise have mercy on me.” Then turn to all 4 directions, to the people therein standing, bow, and say to them, “forgive me fathers and brothers,” and thus enter the church.

41. Of entering a church.

Having entered the church in fear and trepidation, bethink yourself on your sinful and unworthy entrance into the church, for you are entering the terrine sky, whereat it is for you to stand, praying to your Creator and our God; and mind that you are standing in Heaven. Do not think of anything earthly, but only sigh, praying of your sins.

42. Of standing in church.

Stand in one place, quiet and firm,[6] not shoving or crowding anyone, except when absolutely necessary. And, standing thus, perform the like three bows, as I had previously told you, with the same words: “God be merciful et cetera;”    

43. Of bows.

Except on holidays, Saturdays and Sundays, bow always to the ground, but on holidays, Saturdays and Sundays perform the bows to the waist.[7] Then say the “it befits” prayer, all to the end, with a prostration, even it be a holiday, a Saturday or a Sunday; then “glory [&c];” “and now [&c];”Lord have mercy” x2, “Lord bless;” with the three corresponding bows, as per the initial pattern;

44. Of bows to the people.

Then bow to the 4 directions, to the nearby standing people, and speak to them as before, “Forgive me fathers and brothers,” bowing to the waist and not to the ground.

45. Of authorities.

If an ecclesiastical authority happens to be somewhere, always bow to him to the ground before bowing to the people, and say: “Forgive and bless me, holy father, and pray for me, a sinner.” Speak inaudibly and not evidently;

46. Of entering church.

Entering a church, like finding the ark of Noah,
you had escaped the deluge of sin;
so stand adroitly, as in the very Heavens,
for you have joined the higher powers;

47. Of standing in church.

Stand meek and firm, settle your face toward the image of Christ, and perform a prayer to Him ceaselessly, sustaining it on your lips;

48. Of God’s [Jesus’s] prayer.

Say the following prayer to Christ: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner;”
Speak silently and not aloud to the people;

49. Of the prayer to the cross.

When you see an image of the life-giving cross of the Lord, say: “We reverence Your cross, O Lord, and laud your holy resurrection,” and bow to the cross;

50. When you see an image of the holy Theotokos, likewise, confirm your mind to her initial essence, and say to our very Lady, the Birthgiver-of-God, “Have mercy on me and save me, and pray of me to your Son and our True God, for Him to save and have mercy on me, a sinner;”

51. Of the prayer to John the Baptist…

57. Of standing in church.

Once you had already stationed yourself at your place in church, neither glance hither-thither[8] nor disturb from this your position. Remember at which place you stand and do not dislocate to another place, except in great necessity, or due to crowding, or in honoring some sort of great man. Then firmly step on your sloth; do not pitch one leg from the other; do not lean on a wall or column.

58. If you see someone acting inappropriately, do not judge him, for he is untaught. And if you amend yourself, do not become haughty, for God does not like the haughty. Do not succumb to fleshly laxity and do not submit to the vanity of this world; only listen to the singing and mind the reading, and if a word comes up, you not knowing its meaning, ask about it of the informed people after the service.

59. Of the order of bowing.

Consider, as I wrote to you earlier, what the church is, and why we are to come to it, and how we need stand therein. Now mind these my words: Bows come in three types. Of these, the first is titled, a simple bow, the second, a medium bow, that is, to the waist, and the third is the great bow, that is, to the ground. When you happen to strew prostrations, do not bang your head on the flooring[9] or on the floor, likewise at home.[10] Bend your knees and lower your head down, but do not place it on the ground. Rather, move your arms together from your heart [chest] and place them on the ground politely, and don’t stick out your elbows. When arising, or stooping, do not drag your feet or stomp. Likewise, bring your knees together to incline. Accept* [*receive] this of habituated men, learning from the learned. The waist bows and the chest bows you execute well, so I’ll not write to you regarding that;

…69. Apprehend rightly.

I am not hereby saying that the image performs this miracle-work, but does the depicted - the one shown on the image - due to the faith of the praying. So comprehend this and assimilate. 

85. Of the same.

Remember, and do not forget how to make the sign of the cross - for not to cross the clothing atop you, but your body. This is the reason why you are marking yourself with the cross - to hallow your body. Adjoin tangibly your hand to your body, for it to be felt thereon;

92. About bringing to church your own goods and not another’s.

You are to guard that whatever gift we bring to church be forthright, derived from our own toil, and not expropriated for you* (*by you), or acquired by some treachery.

93. For it to be of the first fruits and not old.

Be it foremost and not old, the better and not the last.

94. About it being from your love, without fuss and without vainglory, as God loves the quiet giver.

105. About sitting at table.

Mind you: sit not franticly at table, but start eating with thanksgiving, whatever is set before you. Furthermore, do not criticize it in any way, do not play with that which is to be eaten. Do not laugh and be mindful, lest some bit become stuck in some part of your throat and suffocate you, as this happens frequently. Likewise, at meal, do not conceive any evil deed, nor anything wicked and naughty, because with ingestion enters the evil malicious thought, and such a deed betimes is onto the demise of the body and soul;

109. Of drink.

When you begin to drink something, do not hasten to pour it into your mouth, lest that already consumed be expelled from you. Glance into the vessel, seeking out any dust or hair, for such not to tear your gut or turn it, lest the eaten noisily exit back. And when you witness the drink clean, even then do not rush to drink, but look at the icon of the Savior and cross your face, making the Jesus prayer, and say, “Bless father,” and then drink as you wish. 

117. Of entrances.

Do not enter any house in silence, but make the Jesus prayer and say, “Amen.” Then pray before the image standing there.

118. Of deeds.

When you begin to do something, or to pray, to arise or recline, to lay down, to receive something, to strain or to pour, to carve or to slice, to break or to crumble, to open or to shut, or whatever else you may do, always say at any deed, “Bless father,” and then the Jesus prayer.

119. Of drink.

When you begin to prepare [or, digest] food and drink, you fill with much sweetness. Hearing this, mind yourself and do not forget - do all with prayer.

120. Of a slave’s appellation.

Mind why you are called a slave of God, for you have called yourself, a slave;

121. Of the sovereign good.

Mind the Jesus prayer, and perfect yourself with fasting, and thereby you will merit the title of a whole Christian;

121. [sic] Of Fasts.

Mind you the fasts set by the godly apostles and the holy fathers - fast hereon. But you have anticipated the great relief of death.[11] I deem that at that hour you must have spoken in thought: “Why was I born, and, once born, why did I not die. When I grew up, why did I leave my father’s house, onto this inflicted calamity.” But God is man-loving and a doer of every good deed, for he spared you their sword, and freed you from the dungeon. He gave you food and drink to satiation. Dress for your bare body and relief from your distress He gave you. In place of a blood-spilling lord, He gave you a lord who is faithful and hates murder. And He illumed you with the holy and godly baptism - His slave you have titled yourself.[12] 

122. Of attention.

Mind you, that not from the better had you come to the worse, but from the worse to the better, not into darkness from the light, but from the darkness into the light. You had not been tainted, but had been purified. You work not for a blood-spilling liege, but for one that hates blood-spilling. Here is an incitation to reason: mind how to stand before him, how to work for him, and how to conduct your livelihood reasonably for him;

137. Mind this, my little writ, and you will acquire great sagacity; give glory to God

almighty, for ever

amen;

 

 

© Translated by Alexey A. Logvinenko, 2017


[1] The man is a soldier; one of the thousands of western militiamen in 17th century Russia, among whom this book enjoyed some popularity, in manuscript.

[2] See Kirillova Kniga for a story of how those popes apostatized (or my translation of the corresponding articles in, Translations from Popular Medieval Russian Compendia - free online, at russianprolog.com).

[3] Vnimai priyatno, i razumei vnyatno; This phrase is used again below. The second word has varied definitions: the Slavonic: “acceptably,” and the Russian: “pleasurably.”

[4] The text should probably read: and thereby you shall see, that…

[5] Lutheran

[6] rather than “meekly” (a difference of two letters);

This is one of many indications that this Ivan is a military man, like many other westerners in Russia at the time.

[7] Today, all the entrance bows are to the ground only during lent.

[8] tude i syude (not, semo i ovamo, as in Slavonic);

The language of this article is full of vernacular, much of it simplified to be coherent to the soldiery.

[9] “most”

[10] where there may be no floor

[11] I am inclined the think that this young soldier was captured in wartime, yet spared and naturalized.

[12] The new lord may be the tsar himself, but, as a Christian is conventionally styled “a slave of God,” this sentence likely refers to God and not a secular liege.

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