Q. Can you tell me what the two-headed snake cane the Greek Bishop is walking with represents? What does it mean?
A. The item to which you referred is properly called a bishop's Pastoral Staff or Crosier (in Greek, paterissa), and is a symbol of the bishop's authority and jurisdiction. It is actually not topped with a double-headed snake, but rather two snakes intertwined. This symbolism comes from the bronze serpent that God commanded Moses to construct in the Old Testament:
8And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 9And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Numbers 21:8-9).
The snakes represent the enemies of the Church, and the Cross symbolizes the authority that Christ has given to the bishop to guard his flock. As such, it is a powerful reminder of his role as the chief guardian of the faith in the local Church.
In the early 20th century, the idea of promoting the union of Churches (Orthodox and heterodox) began to gain ground among circles in the Eastern Orthodox Church by establishing a "Communion of Churches" modeled on the League of Nations.
The Patriarchal Encyclical of 1920 foresaw a series of steps toward the “union of the Churches,” of which the first was the change of the calendar for the simultaneous celebration of feast days by all the “Churches.” The content of the encyclical was kept secret from the faithful and only after a few years became known. Read more...
Jonesboro is a town located near the Eastern border of Arkansas, with a population of approximately 60,000. From a human standpoint, it’s not the most likely candidate for a traditional Orthodox mission, but for an Orthodox Christian who orders his priorities around Christ and His Church, it makes perfect sense. Read more...
Q. There seems to be a lot of variation in how people observe fasting, but my confessor told me to fast from oil on Wednesday and Friday. Oil is a pretty vague category, though, and I was wondering if I could get a more explicit description of what kinds of food and drink are excluded on strict fast days. Read more...