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St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain


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#1 Angie

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 04:17 AM

I have read some books on St Nicodemos. 

 

They are very deep books and there are a lot of things in their that a Christian in these days perhaps are not doing things correctly.

 

He talks of no perfume, no laughing, no jesting etc.

 

Could anyone explain how they are understanding this?

 

 

 



#2 Jean-Serge

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 07:04 AM

You're clearly talking about the book Christian morality that I read too and that is a great book. I am nevertheless afraid that you may have read it quite quickly or not in details because Saint Nikodemos himself answers your question in each text on why no perfume, no laughing, no jesting...

 

Take the example of perfume : he explains it has an arousing effect on the person smelling it intentionally or not and that as Christian, we are not suppose to be help our neighbour fall, even if this was not our first intention and was done quite innocently. Then we also share the part of the sin committed by the person mentally. But this was said since the Apostolic constitutions, so nothing new here. Regarding laughing,he also explains that being sober is a christian necessity etc. So to be honest, the answers are in the book itself. If you could detail what is not clear to you, it would help.

 

Another point is that Saint Nikodemos is very rooted in church tradition. It is really striking that everything he says in this book is simply what other saints told before him, in particular Saint Basil and Saint John Chrysostom, that he quotes extensively. Saint John Chrysostom and canons centuries before the Divine Nikodemos also told dancing at wedding parties was inconvenient for christians etc. So the problem is not Saint Nikodemos but lukewarm orthodoxy of nowadays.


Edited by Jean-Serge, 12 January 2014 - 07:10 AM.


#3 Lakis Papas

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 09:26 AM

There are stages of maturity and immaturity in faith. The requirements for mature is not the same as the requirements for the immature. In the initial stages of faith our behavior is "secular", that is, our mind, our heart is not entirely Given to God. The cares of everyday life and our consciousness are influenced by secular lifestyle.
 
We say in the Liturgy: "Let us who mystically represent the Cherubim, and who sing the thrice-holy hymn to the life-creating Trinity, now lay aside all earthly cares."
 
But we must understand this withdrawal from earthly cares in combination with the biblical saying (Matthew 6:16-18):  “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."
 
The important thing is to understand that we should live our life in an way so that we please God. We should  study the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. All of our actions should be focused on the fact that Christ is our Bridegroom.


#4 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 12 January 2014 - 01:49 PM

What Lakis Papas says is correct. I would add that it can be the other way round. A convert can start out being very zealous and punctilious but let things slide later. The 'new car syndrome'.

 

There can be practical reasons for some matters. Perfume (when I was young, it was called 'scent': now it is called 'fragrance') should not be used at all, of course, but in church it is likely to be distracting in itself, and to 'clash' with incense and, possibly for some, with the fragrance from holy relics.



#5 Kosta

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 10:27 AM

Some things never change. Many customs such as those found in modern weddings were frowned upon, to wearing makeup, jewelery, etc. it was happening then too. Of course due to secularism we indeed are much more corrupt now than just a few decades ago.

If you notice in greek culture most dances are folk dances, even if you look at the 2 or 3 risqué dances such as zeimbekiko, it is danced by yourself, no partner to make contact with and even mild to most modern day dance. In byzantine society there was no such thing as the immodest latin dances, no "dirty dancing", nothing that resembles the dances you see on Dancing With The Stars. Likewise the provacative dress, tattoos, unusual colored hair dye, piercings are things that didn't even happen just 50 years ago and are crowned upon by the Church.

#6 Jean-Serge

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 11:32 AM

Well, Saint Nikodemus is from early 19th century... At this time, there were no hot dances (even if dancing has often an erotical aspect); Saint John Chrysostomus was even before... And both are anti-dance at weddings. I think  it is a necessity to read them in detail before commenting them.



#7 Kosta

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Posted 13 January 2014 - 12:38 PM

Jean exactly,

 

The greek folk dances are centuries old dating to late byzantine times. Any hot dances of the pagans died out and were replaced. We know all about the Spartan chorus dances performed in the nude by the girls to entice the boys to train harder etc.  We know of the music of pagan rituals which the church decided was inappropriate and went with acapella.

 

There are no 'hot' dances that exist from the Christian empire. There is only 2 greek dances which are quite mild that have a seductive factor , one danced traditionally by men the other by women only, there is no contact made by the opposite sex, one dances the other looks on. Even in the middle eastern countries the sole seductive form of dance is belly dancing, again no contact is made with the opposite sex and much milder than the new dance craze of teaching women how to 'pole dance'.

 

St John Chrysostom frowned on dancing and even having bridesmaids serenade the bride down the street. Things that still happen today in varying form but today its a lot worse. But the prohibition on dancing by the Fathers did work, the seductive dances of the pagans were replaced by folk dancing fully clothed in what today are considered heavy costumes going around in circles. There was no tango or bachata like dances in the byzantine era.

 

All these provocative 'Latin' dances we see today all require grinding, others have bizarre gyrations and none originate from traditional Orthodox nations. From how we dress to how we adorn our bodies with piercings and tattoos today, pales in comparison to the warnings the Fathers gave us on wearing perfume and make up and jewelry. So yes many customs die hard and were still in practice even then, except for tattooing. There wasn't much talk from the Fathers about the evils of tattoos because it was such a rarity, almost non existant, I have only encountered one canon aganst it. We have missed the mark by quite abit.


Edited by Kosta, 13 January 2014 - 12:43 PM.


#8 Olga

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 12:04 AM

St John Chrysostom frowned on dancing and even having bridesmaids serenade the bride down the street.

 

From the feast of the Entry into the Temple of the Mother of God:

 

Today let us, the assembled faithful, triumph in spirit, and reverently praise the child of God, who is Virgin and Mother of God, as she is offered in the temple of the Lord. She who was forechosen from all generations to be the abode of Christ, the Master and God of all. Maidens bearing lamps go before her, honouring the majestic advance of the Ever-virgin. Mothers, set aside every sorrow and follow them in gladness, singing the praises of her who became the Mother of God, the mediator of joy for the world. With the angel let us all joyfully cry: Hail to her who is full of grace, who always intercedes for our souls.
 

O maidens, begin your songs, and with lamps in hand praise the advance of the pure Mother of God, who now enters the temple of the Lord, and keep feast with us.

 

The most-holy Virgin, the temple that is to hold God, is dedicated within the temple of the Lord, and maidens bearing lamps now go before her. Her noble parents, Joachim and Anna, leap for joy and dance, for they have borne her that is to bear the Creator.



#9 Jean-Serge

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 07:47 AM

What is described is not a wedding but the entry of the Theotokos in the Temple. The praises are for sure religious and the dance looks to me quite a symbolic way to talk about happiness. Maidens play a liturgical role there. Because in a homily regarding wedding he says : "But then who will dance? you ask. Why does anyone need to dance. Pagan mysteries are the only one that involve dancing". in Homely 12 on Colossian 4:18 page 75 in "On marriage and family life" by Saint John Chrysostom



#10 Olga

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 09:05 AM

Yet David danced, and "danced mightily", before nothing less than the Ark of the Covenant, arguably the holiest object for the OT Israelites. Is this dance a symbolic act, or a pagan mystery? 

 

The word of one man, even a saint, does not constitute Church doctrine. Do we not sing the hymn Dance, Isaiah at weddings? It, and the procession of the newlyweds led by the priest is the culmination of the ceremony.



#11 Jean-Serge

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 09:39 AM

David is old covenant, in old covenant, there were also instruments in worship that were later suppressed by the church because were regarded as a condescension as the Hebrews' weakness. Another point is that the prohibition of dance at wedding parties is in the canons, not only from one father... We already discussed this. But as someone said previously, the more you have an orthodox mind, the more you understand things... and why they condemn things that would seem natural to us. 



#12 Lakis Papas

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Posted 14 January 2014 - 09:41 AM

I agree with Olga.
 
What is sinful, are acts done by selfishness, self-projection, derived from carnal-minded person.
 
From 2 Samuel 6:

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. And so it was, when those bearing the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, that he sacrificed oxen and fatted sheep. Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.. 
 
...Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”
 
So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”
 
Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

 

 
 


#13 Jean-Serge

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 05:55 AM

Yet David danced, and "danced mightily", before nothing less than the Ark of the Covenant, arguably the holiest object for the OT Israelites. Is this dance a symbolic act, or a pagan mystery? 

 

The word of one man, even a saint, does not constitute Church doctrine. Do we not sing the hymn Dance, Isaiah at weddings? It, and the procession of the newlyweds led by the priest is the culmination of the ceremony.

 

The dance od David in front of the ark was more like a part of a prophetic mystery, aprtactice that might have happened among prophets. But later, when the cult was standardized in the Temple with Solomon, we find no mention of dances. Dance and procession are two different things...



#14 Olga

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 10:11 AM

Yet, Jean-Serge, what do you make of the hymns for the Entry into the Temple I posted? Are not the girls escorting and praising the young Maiden who is to become the very Bride of God, as traditional bridesmaids do in so many cultures?

 

Furthermore, the Ark before which David danced is nothing less than the prefiguration of the Mother of God: the ark of old was a box containing the word of God (the Law as given to Moses), the Ark of fulfilment is the Mother of God, the Virgin who contained within her body the true Word of God, Jesus Christ.



#15 Jean-Serge

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 10:34 AM

Just to put things in the context. I said that Saint Nikodemos frowned dancing at wedding parties. You replied David dances and Saint Nikodemos is not the Church. My reply was that Saint Nikodemos position is canonically validated by the church (Saint Nikodemos is simply commenting canon 53 of Laodicea and Saint John Chrysosotomus also had a similar opinion about dances at weddings). So, in fact, as very often, Saint Nikodemos simply reminds the classical church teachings, many times forgotten in this lenient, that is why people think he is to harsh. But in fact, his writings quote so much other fathers that reading it, you realize he simply says what other said before him.

 

Your examples are examples of liturgical ceremonies and/or liturgical dances. But a wedding party (after church wedding in church) is not a liturgical event, so I do not understand how they fit in all this discussion. But if we are to talk about liturgical dances, I am just saying they belong to the past and were quite quickly dropped, if they really ocurred that much; the only example I see is David, but later, nothing like this took place in the Temple. However, the Temple still kept the Arch. The word "Danse" can also be symbolical; for instance in the Canon of Easter, it is written in the irmos of Ode 9, "Dance of happiness, daughter of Sion" (translated from French). However, I never noticed people dancing at this point of the service at Easter.

 

I had nothing against decent and liturgical processions as they are done for example during the Holy Week. The hymns of the Entry in the Temple are typically a liturgical procession. Procession of a Holy Person to a Holy Place with holy hymns. 



#16 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 02:47 PM

It is said that the angels dance in heaven. St Basil says, to console one who has lost a child,  'Hast thou lost a child? Thou hast angels, with whom thou shalt dance about the throne of God'.



#17 Jean-Serge

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Posted 04 May 2014 - 08:44 PM

Once again, it is out of the topic since we were talking about wedding parties, not about liturgical dances in the world to come. This said, my response is intended at the initial question by Angie that was asking about how to understand Saint Nikodemos's writings; more generally and  not specifically about dance at wedding parties that are only an example of his many writings and essays.

 

 

I have read some books on St Nicodemos. 

 

They are very deep books and there are a lot of things in their that a Christian in these days perhaps are not doing things correctly.

 

He talks of no perfume, no laughing, no jesting etc.

 

Could anyone explain how they are understanding this?

 

So, basically I can say that Saint Nikodemos is heavily based on previous Fathers, canons and church history, to such extent that sometimes he quotes them in detail and then makes almost a paraphrase. He is a wonderful compilator of ancient sources, and takes much time to present his arguments and proofs. So basically, his ethos is the ethos of the church that never changed on moral topics. I would call him, a good reminder of how Christianism is demanding on moral topics. I would be happy to discuss how some other people see his writings, live them practically.

 

In my case, they have been very useful. Let give an example about not putting perfume, that looks strange at first sight. There is a whole discourse on Christian morality in this. Saint Nikodemos explains that perfume has an enticing effect on some persons. And then, he reminds many teachings of Fathers telling that the one who entice, even if it was not the initial intention, bears a part of the sin (well, it is a quick summary of 10 wonderful pages) It may seem strange but reading this, I realized that when I put an after-shave that was smelling quite good (not for the smell but for the skin, otherwise I got some problems in the skin), a lady at church made strange comments to me (saying how handsome I was, how well I was smelling)  that were quite inapproriate since she was married... Well, nothing happened but years later, reading Saint Nikodemos, I understood the thing about the perfume stuff... and pay more attention to this. Of course, not putting perfume does not mean you have to stink...



#18 Angie

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 12:34 AM

Another thing that I would like to mention is that dances in those days were much different than dances these days.  Take for example the greek dances eg the belly dances, the drunken dances etc, they are wrong. 

 

They pervert the mind of the person performing the dance and the person seeing it. 

 

In the older days it was different.


Edited by Angie, 05 May 2014 - 12:35 AM.


#19 Jean-Serge

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 05:21 AM

The council of Laodicea condemning dance at wedding parties dates back 4th century. Saint Nikodemos is 18th century. I do not know the history of dance during these 1400 years and  could not tell how people danced in the 4th century and later in th 18th in Greece. The perception people have of dances may also change with time: waltz was first condemned due to the physical connection between dancers. Tango even more, in particular in Argentina, because it was the dance and music of brothels, homosexuals, with a very clear sexual connotation. Even today, dance still have a sort of sexual connotation, a tool for seduction; there are some indication of this: discotheques are places where you go to dance but for many people to find partners; two men will never dance together, otherwise it would be seen as homosexual; or for example, in popular mind, good dancers are seen as person being good at making love.


Edited by Jean-Serge, 05 May 2014 - 05:24 AM.


#20 Kosta

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 07:18 AM

Most likely dance evolved from mating rituals.  Obviously there is a sexual element in most dances, as the above post suggests. Living in NY for example, the only dance the majority of men know and care about are 'lap dances' from strippers.

 

In ancient Greece there was a category called Appollonian dance, these were more ritualistic dances performed at the religious and communal events.  Bacchanalian dance by contrast was to stir up the sensual passions.

 

In the latter half of the Byzantine empire all dances were of the communal type, it did not involve the kind of contact that can be regarded as sensual or provocative. Its highly unlikely that most of the dances of today would have been tolerated in any capacity during the Christian Roman Empire.






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