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St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain


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#21 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 07:43 AM

I was just thinking about ballet. Is that a wrong activity to do or view? If it is, a lot of Russians are in trouble. My wife has been a keen spectator of ballet since, as a small child, her mother took her to the Bolshoi Theatre every month.



#22 Jean-Serge

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 11:25 AM

Well, just a comment. Saint Nikodemos and Laodicea is about dancing in wedding parties. I don't know of generic patristic comments about dance in general. Someone with more knowledge will tell, I guess.

 

For Andreas' s question, a Georgian priest, years ago, told me that Saint Ignatius Briantchaninov wrote against ballet. I don't know where since it was not the main topic of the conversation, in fact. Personally, I watch DVD of ballet but I can understand of course some obvious objections that people might raise:

 

- fitting clothes for men showing the shapes of legs and more (to me, such fitting clothes are ridiculous); some ladies are generally interested in a particular part of male anatomy in the back, revealed by such fitting clothes

 

- for ladies, I would rather see them dance with long skirts not revealing their legs and sometimes underwear almost every time they jump (Georgian ballet is far more decent). For my late grandmother from an African culture, showing that much while dancing would be "being naked".

 

Maybe some Russian speakers can find this text by Saint Ignatius... 



#23 Alice

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 02:03 PM

I was just thinking about ballet. Is that a wrong activity to do or view? If it is, a lot of Russians are in trouble. My wife has been a keen spectator of ballet since, as a small child, her mother took her to the Bolshoi Theatre every month.

Ballet is so beautiful! I studied it as a child and loved the discipline it taught me. 

 

I am not a man, but I could never imagine one viewing it in a lustful way opposed to viewing the body of the ballerina (male or female) in an admiring way--as their bodies are part of the dance itself!

 

On the other hand, some of today's dance forms are about as sinful as they get. They are practically simulations of sexual acts. Just about any music video uses this type of dance. It truly is shameful, but not surprising in western societies where all sense of propriety, decency, and modesty have been lost in the popular culture of modern entertainment. 

 

Just recently a certain actress brought up Greek Orthodox posed "tastefully" nude on the cover of a magazine, to "get over the shame of her body"--touting it in articles as a positive thing. I felt so sad for her father and mother ( they are Greek born and she loves so much that she has them live with her in California for nine months a year), and also thought to myself, did she ever think of how she would feel if her childhood priest sees it, or if a saint, or our Lord were around in the flesh, and they saw it. Hollywood has totally brainwashed her. 

 

Yesterday I was shocked to see a young woman with her husband and child at church. She was around 8 months pregnant, and she was wearing shorts and a t-shirt midriff, which covered only half of her pregnant stomach! I have seen this despicable style of showing off one's pregnant stomach on Hollywood types, but was surprised to see such an inappropriate thing at Sunday morning liturgy. Of course, what is important is that she was there, and I don't blame her as much as I blame a society that has become a society of sloppy people who do not know how to dress appropriately.

 

Of course, we all wear bathing suits at the beach and pool, so perhaps we are all just as wrong too in showing so much of our bodies. 

 

We live in such a confused world. May our Lord forgive us all.


Edited by Alice, 05 May 2014 - 02:07 PM.


#24 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 02:12 PM

Some Olympic sports may be open to objection: gymnastics, skating, beach volley ball. But then sex appeal is found in almost every aspect of life. Are some classical music performers promoted and popular because they are good looking? Does it help a person get that job ahead of others if she is nice looking? From my experience of the legal profession, a woman's being attractive has never been a disadvantage! But I digress.



#25 Jean-Serge

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 02:37 PM

Making a research in Russian with ballet and sin and using Google translator, I could see the question was discussed very much in Russian fora, with conflicting opinions. Here, a priest in Riga says it is not acceptable because:

 

- performance happen Saturday night while we are supposed to prepare for Sunday liturgy

- it lacks chastity due to almost naked body

- he hints at a homely by Saint John of Kronstadt in which he seems to condemn theatratical shows

- he mentions canon 51 of 6th ecumenical council (in Trullo) that I would need to dig into

 

http://www.pravoslav...wid=1683&id=177

 

"Of course, we all wear bathing suits at the beach and pool"

 

Well, in fact no. I know some orthodox people who refuse it for reasons of chastity and not enticing the passions among the people from the opposite sex. They simply do not go to the beach, or when there is nobody (I guess), or can sometimes enjoy private swimming pools. In my parish, this priest I talked about said it was a definitive  "no" to bath in a mixed environment (the exception would be a family context), an assertion that not everybody in the parish accepted, even among the most religious one, whereas a not so religious person thought the assertion made sense due to modesty reasons.  I guess it is also one of the interpretation of a Canon 30 of Laodicea preventing men and women to bath together. I do not know if these baths were the public baths like sauna where people were naked or swimming pools. 

 

But I do agree with "We live in such a confused world. May our Lord forgive us all.". This explains why some writings by saints are no longer understood. Saint Nikodemos is one of them, I guess.



#26 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 05:28 PM

Careful observation over many years leads me to believe that very few of the opposite sex on the beach constitute serious temptation.



#27 Alice

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 05:54 PM

Careful observation over many years leads me to believe that very few of the opposite sex on the beach constitute serious temptation.

 

Laughing! So true!

Jean-Serge, you are a much better Christian than I!


Edited by Alice, 05 May 2014 - 05:55 PM.


#28 Kosta

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 12:07 PM

The problem today is with Latin dance. I come from the Greek community and the obsession with Latin dance by greek women is quite shocking. Here in the states and in Greece its idolized..



#29 Ben Johnson

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 04:58 AM

This may help with the beginnings of dance:  http://en.wikipedia....istory_of_dance



#30 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 08:43 AM

Perhaps our exemplars should be priests and monastics who do not dance. We may note, though, that Tsar Martyr Nicholas, a saint of the Church, danced at balls, and enjoyed the ballet.



#31 Jean-Serge

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 09:16 AM

Well, it is better to come back to the source i.e the text of Saint Nikodemos from Christian morality. It seems that Angie has the book; maybe she can summarize his arguments... I have it but not with me now.



#32 Georgianna

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Posted 20 May 2014 - 11:43 AM

Well, it is better to come back to the source i.e the text of Saint Nikodemos from Christian morality. It seems that Angie has the book; maybe she can summarize his arguments... I have it but not with me now.

 

Χριστός ἀνέστη!


Until the time when, God willing, Angie will be able to respond, please forgive me for chiming in at this point.

 

In Christian Morality, there are two discourses which intensely focus on dance – “Discourse II:  Concerning the Fact That Christians Should in General Not Play Instruments, Dance, or Sing” and "Discourse III:  Concerning the Fact That Christians Should Not Play Instruments, Dance, or Sing at Weddings.”

 

In Discourse II, St Nikodemos the Hagiorite begins with Isaiah 5:11-14.  Dance is not isolated but placed in the following context:

 

Behold what piteous cries the Almighty utters in deploring all who play instruments, all who dance, all who sing.  Woe, He says, and alas for those who rise from sleep in the morning to run to drink raki.  Woe to those who linger in taverns until the evening, for wine and raki will inflame them.  These people drink wine to the accompaniment of harps, zithers, drums, and flutes, but have no desire to pay heed to the commandments of the Lord; nor do they wish to give any thought to the works of God.  For this reason ‘My people will be enslaved, and many of them will die from hunger and thirst; for they neither know nor fear the Lord, and Hades has opened its mouth wide to receive them.’ {p 35}

 

The translators (Hieromonk Patapios, Monk Chrysostomos and Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna) included the following explanatory footnote:

… it is important to note that in all of the passages that he cites from St. John Chrysostomos and other Church Fathers, it is not music as such that it is so harshly censured, and certainly not what would today be considered “classical” or “serious” music, but rather a more popular or vulgar kind of instrumental music that was typically played by persons of rather loose morals in socio-cultural contexts characterized by egregious improbity.  Such “vehemence against instrumental musicians is primarily explained by the association of musical instruments with sexual license, luxurious banquets, and the immorality of the theater” (The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Vol II, s.v. “Musicians”). {p 36}

 

St Nikodemus outlines the “evils” caused by musical instruments and dances – idolatry (Exodus 32), perjury and cursing (Judges 20:47; 21:18, 20-21), bloodshed and murders (Matthew 14).  He further points out:

And what other evil, my beloved, is not caused by dances, instruments, and songs?  By these are engendered adornment and beautification of the body, for those who go to the dance and sing, be they men or women, first adorn and bedeck the body with bright clothing and jewelry and then go forth.  By these are engendered the application of musk oils and other perfumes; by these are engendered disorderly and indecent sights of the eyes; by these are occasioned whorish sounds in the ears; by these are engendered shameful talk, jesting, and unseemly laughter, postures, and movements; by these are engendered carnal lusts and fornications and adulteries that arise in the heart (cf. Matthew 5:28). {p 38-39}

 

In general, the emphasis seems to focus on spiritual sobriety – not only for one’s own soul but how the actions and behaviors influence others.  By the same token, there is something incongruous with grand celebrations and festivities for “entertainment” purposes in light of the tremendous suffering in the world – Sudan, Syria, Nigeria, victims of natural disasters, just to name a very few.  This is not to say that joy is absent from the Christian life.   But St Nikodemos goes even further in raising the bar (before beginning Discourse III regarding weddings):

Now, what do some people say?  “All right, on other days one should not play instruments, dance, or sing.  But when there is a feast and a celebration, when Pascha comes and the days of Bright Week? What about Meatfare?  How, at those times, are we to display our joy? …”  But listen … feasts and celebrations of Saints are held for no other purpose than for Christians to assemble thereon, to hear the exploits of the Saints being celebrated, and as far as possible, to emulate the Saints themselves, and thereby receive piety in their souls, and in their lives amendment and rectitude. …

Likewise, Pascha and Bright Week are celebrated in order that Christians might be reminded that the Son of God, by His Passion, Cross, death and Holy Resurrection, redeemed them from the hands of the Devil, delivered them from Hades, freed them from death, and granted them resurrection and the Heavenly Kingdom; and that for all of these benefactions and favors they might thus be thankful to Christ, Who suffered, was crucified, died, and rose out of love for them. {p43-45}

 

Recalling the words of the Prophet Amos, St Nikodemos warns Christians:

…so you, by your instruments, dances, songs, carousals, brawls, and fights, and the other evils that you commit on Feast Days and Pascha, compel God to cry out that He loathes and no longer desires such celebrations and that He abhors such feasts [Amos 5:21].
 
If God, on account of the sins of the Hebrews, hated and no longer wished to listen to the Divine songs that they chanted and the sacred instruments that they played in His Temple, and in spite of the fact that they chanted those songs and played those instruments to the glory, honor, and majesty of His Holy Name on Feast Days – for He says:  “Remove from me the sound of thy songs, and I will not hear the music of thine instruments” (Amos 5:23) – if, I say, He loathed those things, how much more, and incomparably more, does He loathe and abhor the diabolical instruments that you Christians play on Feasts, not to the glory of God, but to the glory, honor, and pomp of Satan? {p 47-48}

 

Then what is left?  …a sullen, sad, mopey demeanor?  I do not think so.  One of the main points emphasized is that Christian celebrations should be done with “fear of God” – which is a very delicate phrase opened to misunderstanding.  We recognize it is not “fear” like one who is abused by an evil despot but it is loving awe.  St Nikodemos suggests:

 

My Christian brothers and sisters, do you wish truly to rejoice and be glad on Feast Days, on Pascha, and in the pre-Lenten periods?  Do not play instruments; do not dance; do not sing songs.  No, rather chant some Troparion or hymn that you know, to Christ or the Panagia.  Chant "Christ is risen"; chant "The Angel cried" or "It is truly meet."  Thus does the Apostle James enjoin Christians to do, saying:  "Is any merry? let him sing psalms (James 5:13)."  That is, whoever has joy and a happy heart, let him sing a psalm, not a song.  If you act in this way, God blesses your table; if you act in this way, the Angels of God stand beside you and guard you.  If you act in this way, your eating and drinking, your observances of Feasts and pre-Lenten periods, are all done to the glory of God, as befits Christians and as the Divine Paul enjoins, saying:  "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31).


A very narrow gate.  Lord have mercy!


Edited by Georgianna, 20 May 2014 - 11:53 AM.


#33 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 20 May 2014 - 02:07 PM

That puts the bouzouki players out of work.



#34 Georgianna

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Posted 20 May 2014 - 07:50 PM

Χριστός ἀνέστη!

 

Regarding Discourse III:  “Concerning the Fact That Christians Should Not Play Instruments, Dance, or Sing at Weddings,” St Nikodemos begins based on the words of St Paul (cf. Hebrews 13:4).  St Nikodemos writes:

 

[St Paul] also taught us that Christian weddings should not be characterized by any disorderliness or impropriety, but should be dignified, orderly, and honorable, and not honorable in a general sense, but in every way. …Let marriage be honorable in all, not just at one time, but at all times:  before the couple are blessed, when they are being blessed, and after they have been blessed.  Let marriage be honorable in all, not in only one way, nor in only one place, but in all ways and places:  in food, in drink, in clothing, in Church, in the home, at the table, and everywhere. [p 59]

 

St Nikodemos cites three reasons the Church calls marriage a “Mystery”:

"(1) because of the unity in love of the souls of a man and a woman; 
 (2) because marriage is a type of the spiritual union of Christ with the Church… ;
 (3) because marriage contains Divine Grace within it, as do the other Mysteries. [p 60]"
and outlines how “instruments and dances are contrary to the properties that characterize the Mystery of marriage.”

 

After discussing the use of the crown in the “marriage” service, St Nikodemos states:

 

So now I ask you, my Christian brothers and sisters, to tell me the truth:  Is it right for a couple that is blessed and crowned in marriage… to arrange for music, dancing, and singing at their wedding?  Are they justified, who have heard such blessings, such holy words from the Priests who blessed them, in sullying their ears once more with unclean and indecent songs?  Is it right for them, after they have stood in the Holy Church of God and sanctified their feet, to defile them again with diabolical dancing?  In a word, is it right for them, having communed that same day of the Immaculate Mysteries, not to keep pure all of their bodily senses and all of the senses and powers of the soul, for the sake of the joy, the honor, and the sanctification that they have received?  Again, is it right for them to see the immodest sights of musical performances, dancing, and other improprieties, or to do anything immodest at all? [p 70]

 

Instead, St Nikodemos exhorts Christians to follow the guidance from the Sixth Ecumenical Synod in Laodicea which “enjoins them to lunch or dine on these occasions with decorum and propriety.”

 

In addition to Old Testament references, St Nikodemos expounds upon the raising of Jairus’ daughter to explain further the reasons behind the prohibition:



Follow me, and let us go to Jerusalem.  Have you arrived?  It was here that a young girl died, and her father, who was called Jairus, came to Jesus, beseeching Him woefully to go to his house and resurrect her.  The most compassionate Jesus Christ, showing sympathy for his affliction and plight, went to the house.  However, He saw great commotion there and the flutist playing their flutes and pipes, not in order to bring joy, but to arouse grief by the dirges that they were playing; for the historian Josephus says that it was the custom at that time for the Hebrews to summon musicians to their dead in order to play dirges and thereby to move people to tears.  St John Chrysostomos says the same thing in his interpretation on the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to St Matthew [Homily XXXI].  When He saw them, the Lord did not wish to enter Jairus’ house; no.  He bade everyone to go outside.  After they had left, it was then that He entered the house and, taking the girl by the hand, immediately raised her up by the almighty power of His Divinity… [p 75]

 

At this point let each person reflect on the difference between the flute-players and musicians at today’s weddings and those of olden times.  For the latter played in order to stir up laments, sights, and tears, which are not harmful to the soul, but actually beneficial.  Today’s musicians play at weddings in order to provoke joy, laughter, dancing, and singing, which are harmful and injurious to the soul.  Those of olden times, when they played their instruments made the house in which they were playing a house of mourning and grief.  When today’s musicians play, they make the house in which they play a house of inebriation and sin. … As Solomon says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the banquet house” [ Ecclesiastes 7:2].  All of this notwithstanding, our Lord did not enter even into the house in which those musicians were playing; it was, rather, after they departed that He entered … [p 76]

 

 



#35 Angie

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 12:42 AM

Thank you Georgianna for the quotes.



#36 Niko T.

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Posted 26 May 2014 - 11:03 AM

On the Prophet David dancing before the Ark, St. John of Damascus describes how this is a foretype of spiritual rejoicing, in the first sense, at the Resurrection of Christ: "God’s forebear David, dancing, leaped before the Ark, mere shadow, but seeing the fulfilment of the types, let us, God’s holy people, inspired, rejoice, for Christ has risen as omnipotent." (Canon of Pascha).

 

St. John also draws parallels between this rejoicing over the Ark of the Covenant, and over the Theotokos, and he further writes: "Let us dance in spirit with David; today the Ark of God [the Theotokos] is at rest." (The Second Homily on the Dormition).

 

It could be argued that we still do "dance" in church, but it is not like other pompous or sensual dances. Any time there is a procession in joy in the Orthodox church, from the procession to chant "Christ is risen" on Pascha, to the procession with the holy icons or relics of the saints, to the procession of a newly-married couple led by the priest, to the procession of a newly-baptized Christian to the hymn "All those who have been baptized in Christ...", this is spiritual rejoicing, and this form of spiritual dancing can be compared to that which was foreshadowed by the Prophet David.

 

As St. John of the Ladder writes: "[there is] a time for heartfelt sorrow, and a time for spiritual joy."



#37 Jean-Serge

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Posted 06 September 2014 - 07:49 PM

An extract from the same text of Saint Nikodemos regarding dancing at wedding is this one that I like very much:

 

Now, if it were perhaps good and lawful to play instruments, dance and sing at Matrimony, which is one of the seven mysteries, one must be permitted to play these, to dance, and to sing songs also at Baptisms, Chrismations, Ordinations, and the other mysteries. But because Christians play instruments, dance and sing neither when they are baptized, nor when they are chrismated, nor when they commune, nor when they receive priesthood, nor when they confess their sins, nor when thye are anointed with oil, therefore, when they are married, likewise, they must neither play instruments, dance, nor sing songs. For, if instruments were to be played and dances and songs were to take place at weddings, then it would be necessity follow either tht Matrimony is not a mystery like the other six or thqt playing instruments, dancing, and singing would have to take place also at the other six Mysteries, since all the Mysteries are alike. Therefore, it does not behoove Christians to play instruments, dance or sing songs at weddings.

 

In Christian morality, by Saint Nikodemos (page 64-65)






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