Reading for November 30, 2016 — Read the Fathers

Author: Leo the Great Reading: Letter 15 Pages: NPNF2 12:20–26

via Reading for November 30, 2016 — Read the Fathers


More about St Philip-and where he was buried

By Renzo Allegri
ROME, MAY 2, 2012 ( On May 3, the Church remembers St. Philip and St. James the Less, two apostles who formed part of the Twelve. Last summer the news broke that the Apostle Philip’s tomb was found at Hierapolis, in Phrygia.  “The value of this  finding is undoubtedly  of a very high level,” says  Professor Francesco D’Andria, director of the archaeological mission that made the discovery. D’Andria teaches archaeology at the University of Salento-Lecce and is the director of the School  of  Specialization  in  Archaeology  of  that  university.  He  has  been  working  in Hierapolis for more than 30 years, looking for St. Philip’s tomb and, since the year 2000, he has been director of this mission.

We asked Professor D’Andria to speak to us about St. Philip and the exceptional finding
that  he  and  his  team  of  researchers  carried  out.

“Historical  news  on  Saint  Philip  is scarce,” said D’Andria. “From the Gospels we know that he was a native of Bethsaida, on Lake  Gennesaret;  hence,  he  belonged  to  a  family  of  fishermen.  John  is  the  only evangelist  who  mentions  him  several  times.  In  the  first  chapter  of  his  Gospel,  he recounts that Philip entered the group of the apostles from the beginning of Jesus’ public life, called directly by the Master. In the order of calling, he is the fifth after James, John, Andrew  and  Peter.  In  the  sixth  chapter,  when  he  recounts  the  miracle  of  the multiplication of loaves, John says that, before doing this miracle, Jesus turned to Philip and asked him how all those people could be fed, and Philip answered that 200 denarii worth of bread would not be sufficient even to give a piece to each one. And in Chapter 12, John says that after Jesus’ triumphal entrance in Jerusalem, some Greeks wished to speak with the Master and went to Philip. And during the Last Supper, when Jesus spoke of the  Father (“If  you  had known  me,  you  would  have  known  my Father also”),  Philip said: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” From the Acts of the Apostles we know that Philip was present with the others at the moment of Jesus’ Ascension and on  the  day  of  Pentecost,  when  the  descent  of  the  Holy  Spirit  took  place.  Written information ceases on that day. All the rest comes from Tradition.”

ZENIT: What does Tradition say in addition?
D’Andria:  After  Jesus’  death,  the  Apostles  dispersed  through  the  world  to  spread  the
Gospel message. And, according to Tradition and ancient documents written by the Holy
Fathers, we know that Philip carried out his mission in Scizia, in Lydia, and in the last
days of his life, in Hierapolis, in Phrygia. In a letter written to Pope Victor I, Polycrates,
who toward the end of the second century was bishop of Ephesus, recalls the important
personalities of his Church, among them the Apostles Philip and John. Of Philip, he said:
“He was one of the twelve Apostles and died in Hierapolis, as did two of his daughters
who grew old in virginity … Another daughter of his … was buried in Ephesus.”
“All scholars agree in considering that Polycrates’ information is absolutely reliable. The
Letter,  which  dates  back  to  about  190  after  Christ,  100  years  after  Philip’s  death,  is  a fundamental document for relations between the Latin and the Greek Church
It  refers  to  the  dispute  about  the  date  of  the  celebration  of  Easter.  And  in  that  letter, Polycrates, who was patriarch of the Greek Church, claims the nobility of the origins of the Church in Asia, stating that just as the trophies (mortal remains) of Peter and Paul are in Rome, the tombs of the Apostles Philip and John are in Asia. Moreover, from that letter we know that Philip spent the last years of his life in Hierapolis, with two of his three  daughters,  who  undoubtedly  helped  him  in  his  work  of  evangelization.  In  his Ecclesiastical  History,  Eusebius  of  Caesarea  says  that  Papias,  who  was  bishop  of Hierapolis at the beginning of the third century, knew Philip’s daughters and from them learned  important  details  of  the  Apostle’s  life,  among  them  also  the  account  of  a tremendous miracle: the resurrection of a dead man.”
ZENIT: Is it known how and when the Apostle died?

D’Andria: Most of the ancient documents state that Philip died in Hierapolis, in the year
80 after Christ, when he was about 85. He died a martyr for his faith, crucified upside
down like St. Peter. He was buried in Hierapolis. In the ancient necropolis of that city an
inscription was found that alludes to a church dedicated to St. Philip. On an unspecified
date,  Philip’s  body  was  taken  to  Constantinople  to  remove  it  from  the  danger  of
profanation by barbarians. And in the sixth century, under Pope Pelagius I, it was taken
to Rome and buried, next to the Apostle James, in a church built specifically for them.
The  Byzantine-style  church,  which  was  called  “of  Sts.  James  and  Philip,”  was
transformed  in  1500  into  a  magnificent  Renaissance  church,  which  is  the  present  one called “Of the Holy Apostles.”

ZENIT: When did research begin on St. Philip’s tomb in Hierapolis?
D’Andria: In 1957, thanks to professor Paolo Verzone, who taught engineering at Turin’s
Polytechnic and  was very passionate about  archaeological  research.  An agreement was
stipulated  between  the  Italian  and  Turkish  Republics,  which  enabled  our  team  of
archaeologists  to  carry  out  searches  in  Hierapolis.  Professor  Verzone  was  the  first
director of that mission. He began immediately, of course, to look for the Apostle Philip’s
tomb. He concentrated the excavations on a monument that was already visible in part
and  known  as  the  church  of  St.  Philip,  and  he  discovered  an  extraordinary  octagonal
church,  a  genuine  masterpiece  of  Byzantine  architecture  of  the  fifth  century,  with
wonderful arches in travertine stone.
All this complex of constructions made with so much care and detail made one think that
it  was  a  great  church  of  pilgrimage,  a  very  important  shrine,  and  Professor  Verzone
identified it as the Martyrion, namely the martyrial church of St. Philip. And therefore he
thought that it was built on the saint’s tomb. Hence he had several excavations carried
out in the area of the main altar, but he never found anything that made one think of a
tomb. I myself thought the tomb was in the area of the church, but in 2000, when I became director of the Italian archaeological mission of Hierapolis, by concession of the Ministry of Culture of Turkey, I changed my opinion.


D’Andria: All the excavations carried out over so many years had no result. I also carried
out  research  through  geo-physical  explorations,  that  is,  special  explorations  of  the
subsoil, and not obtaining anything, I was convinced we had to look elsewhere, still in
the same area but in another direction.

ZENIT: And towards what did you direct your research?

D’Andria: My collaborators and I studied a series of satellite photos of the area carefully,
and  the  observations  of  a  group  of  brave  topographers  of  the  CNR-IBAM,  directed  by Giuseppe  Scardozzi,  and  we  understood  that  the  Martyrion,  the  octagonal  church  was the  center  of  a  large  and  well-developed  devotional  complex.  We  identified  a  great processional  street  that  took  the  pilgrims  of  the  city  to  the  octagonal  church,  the Martyrion at the top of the hill, the remains of a bridge that enabled pilgrims to go across a  valley  through  which  a  torrent  flowed;  we  say  that  at  the  foot  of  the  hill  there were stairs in travertine stone, with wide ascending steps that led to the summit.
At  the  bottom  of the  stairs  we  identified another  octagonal  building  that  could  not  be seen  from  the surface  but only on satellite photos. We excavated around that building
and realized it was a thermal complex.
This was an enlightening discovery that made us understand that the whole hill was part
of  a  course  of  pilgrimage  with  several  stages.  Continuing  our  excavations,  we  found
another flight of steps that led directly to the Martyrion, and on the Square, next to the
Martyrion, there was a fountain where pilgrims did their ablutions with water, and near
there  a  small  plain,  in  front  of  the  Martyrion,  where  there  were  vestiges  of  buildings. Professor Verzone had not dared to carry out an excavation in that area because it was an  immense  heap  of  stones.  In  2010,  we  began  to  do  some  cleaning  and  elements  of extreme importance came to light.

ZENIT: Of what sort?

D’Andria:  A  marble  architrave  of  a  ciborium  with  a  monogram  on  which  the  name
Theodosius  could  be  read.  I  thought  it  was  the  name  of  the  emperor  and  so  that
architrave  made  it  possible  to  date  the  martyrial  church  between  the  fourth  and  fifth centuries. Then, little by little we found vestiges of an apse. Excavating and cleaning the floor,  a great  church  came to  light.  Whereas the floor of the Martyrion was octagonal, this  floor  was  that  of  a  basilica,  with  three  naves.  A  stupendous  church  with  marble capitals refined decorations, crosses, friezes, plant branches, stylized palms in the niches and  a  central  pavement  with  marble  tesserae  with  colored  geometrical  motifs:  all referable  to  the  fifth  century,  namely,  the  age  of  the  other  church,  the  Martyrion. However, at the center of this wonderful construction what enthused and moved us was something disconcerting that left us breathless.

ZENIT: And it was?

D’Andria:  A  typical  Roman  tomb  that  went  back  to  the  first  century  after  Christ.  In  a certain  sense,  its  presence  could  be  justified  by  the  fact  that  in  that  area,  before
Christians  built  the  proto-Byzantine  shrine,  there  was  a  Roman  necropolis.  However,
examining its position carefully, we realized that that Roman tomb was at the center of
the church. Hence, in the fifth century the church had been built precisely around that
pagan  Roman  tomb,  to  protect  it,  because,  evidently,  that  tomb  was  extremely
important. And immediately we thought that perhaps that could be the tomb where the
body of St. Philip was placed after his death.

ZENIT: And did you find confirmations of this supposition?
D’Andria: Indeed. In the summer of 2011, we carried out extensive excavation in the area
of this church with the coordination of Piera Caggia, research archaeologist of the IBAMCNR,  and  extraordinary  elements  emerged  that  confirmed  are  suppositions  fully.  The tomb was included in a structure in which there is a platform that is reached by a marble staircase.  Pilgrims,  entering  in  the  narthex,  went  up  to  the  higher  part  of  the  tomb, where there was a place for prayer and they went down on the opposite side. And we saw that the marble surface of the steps was completely consumed by the steps of thousands upon  thousands  of  people.  Hence,  the  tomb  received  an  extraordinary  tribute  of veneration.
On the  façade  of the  tomb,  near  the  entrance,  there  are  nail  holes which  undoubtedly
served to support an applied metallic locking device. Moreover, there are grooves in the
pavement  that  make  one  think  of  an  additional  wooden  door:  all  precautions  that
indicate that in that tomb there was an inestimable treasure, namely, the apostle’s body.
And on the façade, on the walls there are numerous graffiti with crosses, which in some
way have consecrated the pagan tomb.
Excavating  next  to  the  tomb  we  found  water  baths  for  individual  immersions,  which
undoubtedly  served  for  healings.  After  venerating  the  tomb,  sick  pilgrims  were
submerged in the baths exactly as happens in Lourdes.
However, the main — I would say mathematical — confirmation which attests, without a
shadow of a doubt, that that construction is really St. Philip’s tomb comes from a small
object that is in the Museum of Richmond in the United States. An object in which there
are  images  that  up  to  now  could  not  be  fully  deciphered,  whereas  now  they  have  an
obvious significance.
ZENIT: What object is it?

D’Andria: it is a bronze seal about 10 centimeters (four inches) in diameter, which served
to  authenticate  St.  Philip’s  bread  to  be  distributed  to  pilgrims.  Icons  have  been  found that  represent  St.  Philip  with  a  large  loaf  in  his  hand.  And,  to  be  distinguished  from ordinary bread, this bread was marked with the seal so that pilgrims would know that it was a special bread, to be kept with devotion.
There are images on the seal. There is the figure of a saint with a pilgrims’ cloak and an
inscription that says “Saint Philip.” On the border is a phrase in Greek, an ancient phrase
of praise to God: Agios o Theos, agios ischyros, agios athanatos, eleison imas (Holy God,
strong Holy One, immortal Holy One, have mercy on us). All the specialists of Byzantine
history  who  know  that  seal  have  always  said  that  it  came  from  Hierapolis.  However,
what is most extraordinary is the fact that the figure of the saint is presented between
two  buildings:  the  one  on  the  left  is  covered  by  a  cupola,  and  it  is  understood  that  it represents the octagonal Martyrion; the one on the right of the saint, has a roof like the
one of the church of three naves which we have now discovered. The two buildings are at
the top of a stairway. It seems that it was an image of the complex then existing around
St. Philip’s tomb. A photograph made in the sixth century. Moreover, in the image of the
seal there is an emblematic element: a lamp hanging at the entrance, typical signs that
served  to  indicate  a  saint’s  sepulcher.  Hence,  already  indicated  in  that  seal  is  that  the tomb was in the basilica church and not in the Martyrion.

ZENIT: You have made all these discoveries in recent times.
D’Andria: I would  say  very recent times. We did so between 2010 and 2011. Above  all
2011 was the year of the greatest emotions for us: we discovered the second church and
Philip’s tomb. We concluded a work begun 55 years ago. The news has gone around the
world. And it has attracted scholars and the curious to Hierapolis. Among others, at the
end  of  last  August,  hundreds  of  Chinese  arrived,  as  well  as  numerous  Koreans  and
journalists of several nationalities.
Last  Nov.  24,  I  had  the  honor  of  presenting  the  discovery,  at  the  Pontifical
Archaeological  Academy  of  Rome,  to  scholars  and  Vatican  representatives.  Also
Bartholomew the Patriarch of Constantinople wished to receive me to know the details of
the discovery, and on Nov. 14, feast of St. Philip in the Orthodox Church, he celebrated
Mass  precisely  on  the  tomb  found  in  Hierapolis.  And  I  was  present,  1,000  thousand
years, the chants of the Greek liturgy resounded among the ruins of the church.
In the forthcoming months, we will take up the works again and I am certain that other
important surprises await us.

The Feast of St Philip-the beginning of our preparations for Christmas.

Those of you who are on Facebook will have noticed that the number of memes about Christmas has begun to grow steadily over the past few weeks as the Season of Peace and Goodwill comes upon us.

There are lots of reasons why people celebrate Christmas, one person I worked with many years ago like to go out as often as possible during December to get as drunk as possible to “celebrate Christmas”-I was not quite sure then what it was exactly that she was, supposed to be “celebrating” and, to be frank, I am still none the wiser, years later on. Other people like to celebrate the family-Christmas is an opportunity for everyone to get together at least once over the holiday period and catch up with all the various events that have happened since the last Festive Season, or last Family Get-together, whichever happened sooner.

Of course I may just be fantasising, because for some people Christmas can be a time of sadness and loneliness and great difficulty, as indeed it was for the carpenter from Nazareth called Joseph who had to go to a town called Bethlehem, many miles away, taking with him his nine-month-pregnant wife, Mary. For those of us who celebrate Christmas with our loved ones in our centrally heated houses, feasting on plump turkey, brussels sprouts and cranberry sauce, perhaps it would do us good just to reflect for a few moments on the circumstances that occurred the night we sometimes like to call The First Christmas.

The Church as ever has a way of bringing us down to earth. The weeks immediately prior to Christmas are called Advent. In the Eastern Orthodox Church we also call it Winter Lent, or even The Fast of St Philip. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, this fast lasts for six weeks, unlike the Western Church when the Advent Fast lasts only four weeks.

But why do we call it The Fast of St Philip?


The answer is very simple. The day before the Fast starts is the Feast of St Philip. St Philip, you will recall was one of the Twelve Apostles. He does not have much to say in the Gospel accounts, but on one occasion, Philip makes a trenchant comment:

The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1 v 43-46) (OSB)


Advent is the Preparation Time for Christmas. A more accurate name for Christmas is “The Feast of the Nativity of the Second Person of the Trinity According to the Flesh.” A bit of a mouthful maybe, but it sums up everything that Christians believe about Christmas-it is a Feast-a time of celebration-because Someone special is being born. That person is the Second Person of the Trinity-the Son of God and it is His Physical Birth that we celebrate-the time that is when He takes on flesh and becomes Man.

When Philip told Nathanael about meeting the Christ, Nathanael was unsure and Philip invited him to “Come and see.” At Christmas time, when we celebrate the First Coming of Christ, we are also invited to “Come and see”. Advent is to prepare us for that first experience of meeting the Christ at His First Coming.

What to read during Advent? Well, apart from the Bible, which fills us in with all the details that are important (by the way, if you are unsure about a reading plan of the Bible during Advent, try the plan on this website: it will give you all the information you need) there is an excellent guide to the Fast by the ever memorable Fr Thomas Hopko: The Winter Pascha, Readings During the Christmas/Epiphany Season


“The Lost Scriptural Mind” by Georges Florovsky

Fr. Georges Florovsky on “The Lost Scriptural Mind”

Georges Florovsky

Father Georges Florovsky (1893–1979) was an Eastern Orthodox priest, theologian, and historian. Expelled from Russia in 1920, he became a professor at Orthodox seminaries in Paris and New York, then a professor at Harvard University and Princeton University. In this excerpt from a 1951 essay titled “The Lost Scriptural Mind,” Florovsky argues that the fathers of the Christian church are more relevant than modern theologians. You can read the full essay here.

Christian ministers are not supposed to preach their private opinions, at least from the pulpit. Ministers are commissioned and ordained in the church precisely to preach the Word of God. They are given some fixed terms of reference — namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ — and they are committed to this sole and perennial message. They are expected to propagate and to sustain “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Of course, the Word of God must be preached “efficiently.” That is, it should always be so presented as to carry conviction and command the allegiance of every new generation and every particular group. It may be restated in new categories, if the circumstances require. But, above all, the identity of the message must be preserved.

One has to be sure that one is preaching the same gospel that was delivered and that one is not introducing instead any “strange gospel” of his own. The Word of God cannot be easily adjusted or accommodated to the fleeting customs and attitudes of any particular age, including our own time. Unfortunately, we are often inclined to measure the Word of God by our own stature, instead of checking our mind by the stature of Christ. The “modern mind” also stands under the judgment of the Word of God.

Modern Man and Scripture

But it is precisely at this point that our major difficulty begins. Most of us have lost the integrity of the scriptural mind, even if some bits of biblical phraseology are retained. The modern man often complains that the truth of God is offered to him in an “archaic idiom” — i.e., in the language of the Bible — which is no more his own and cannot be used spontaneously. It has recently been suggested that we should radically “demythologize” Scripture, meaning to replace the antiquated categories of the Holy Writ by something more modern. Yet the question cannot be evaded: Is the language of Scripture really nothing else than an accidental and external wrapping out of which some “eternal idea” is to be extricated and disentangled, or is it rather a perennial vehicle of the divine message, which was once delivered for all time?

We are in danger of losing the uniqueness of the Word of God in the process of continuous “reinterpretation.” But how can we interpret at all if we have forgotten the original language? Would it not be safer to bend our thought to the mental habits of the biblical language and to relearn the idiom of the Bible? No man can receive the gospel unless he repents — “changes his mind.” For in the language of the gospel “repentance” (metanoeite) does not mean merely acknowledgment of and contrition for sins, but precisely a “change of mind” — a profound change of man’s mental and emotional attitude, an integral renewal of man’s self, which begins in his self-renunciation and is accomplished and sealed by the Spirit.

We are living now in an age of intellectual chaos and disintegration. Possibly modern man has not yet made up his mind, and the variety of opinions is beyond any hope of reconciliation. Probably the only luminous signpost we have to guide us through the mental fog of our desperate age is just the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” obsolete or archaic as the idiom of the Early Church may seem to be, judged by our fleeting standards.

Preach the Creeds!

What, then, are we going to preach? What would I preach to my contemporaries “in a time such as this?” There is no room for hesitation: I am going to preach Jesus, and him crucified and risen. I am going to preach and to commend to all whom I may be called to address the message of salvation, as it has been handed down to me by an uninterrupted tradition of the Church Universal. I would not isolate myself in my own age. In other words, I am going to preach the “doctrines of the creed.”

I am fully aware that creeds are a stumbling block for many in our own generation. “The creeds are venerable symbols, like the tattered flags upon the walls of national churches; but for the present warfare of the church in Asia, in Africa, in Europe and America the creeds, when they are understood, are about as serviceable as a battle-ax or an arquebus in the hands of a modern soldier.” This was written some years ago by a prominent British scholar who is a devout minister too. Possibly he would not write them today. But there are still many who would wholeheartedly make this vigorous statement their own. Let us remember, however, that the early creeds were deliberately scriptural, and it is precisely their scriptural phraseology that makes them difficult for the modern man.

Thus we face the same problem again: What can we offer instead of Holy Scripture? I would prefer the language of the Tradition, not because of a lazy and credulous “conservatism” or a blind “obedience” to some external “authorities,” but simply because I cannot find any better phraseology. I am prepared to expose myself to the inevitable charge of being “antiquarian” and “fundamentalist.” And I would protest that such a charge is gratuitous and wrong. I do keep and hold the “doctrines of the creed,” conscientiously and wholeheartedly, because I apprehend by faith their perennial adequacy and relevance to all ages and to all situations, including “a time such as this.” And I believe it is precisely the “doctrines of the creed” that can enable a desperate generation like ours to regain Christian courage and vision.

The Tradition Lives

“The church is neither a museum of dead deposits nor a society of research.” The deposits are alive—depositum juvenescens, to use the phrase of St. Irenaeus. The creed is not a relic of the past, but rather the “sword of the Spirit.” The reconversion of the world to Christianity is what we have to preach in our day. This is the only way out of that impasse into which the world has been driven by the failure of Christians to be truly Christian. Obviously, Christian doctrine does not answer directly any practical question in the field of politics or economics. Neither does the gospel of Christ. Yet its impact on the whole course of human history has been enormous. The recognition of human dignity, mercy and justice roots in the gospel. The new world can be built only by a new man.

The Modern Crisis

The first task of the contemporary preacher is the “reconstruction of belief.” It is by no means an intellectual endeavor. Belief is just the map of the true world, and should not be mistaken for reality. Modern man has been too much concerned with his own ideas and convictions, his own attitudes and reactions. The modern crisis precipitated by humanism (an undeniable fact) has been brought about by the rediscovery of the real world, in which we do believe. The rediscovery of the church is the most decisive aspect of this new spiritual realism. Reality is no more screened from us by the wall of our own ideas. It is again accessible. It is again realized that the church is not just a company of believers, but the “Body of Christ.” This is a rediscovery of a new dimension, a rediscovery of the continuing presence of the divine Redeemer in the midst of his faithful flock. This discovery throws a new flood of light on the misery of our disintegrated existence in a world thoroughly secularized. It is already recognized by many that the true solution of all social problems lies somehow in the reconstruction of the church. “In a time such as this” one has to preach the “whole Christ,” Christ and the church—totus Christus, caput et corpus, to use the famous phrase of St. Augustine. Possibly this preaching is still unusual, but it seems to be the only way to preach the Word of God efficiently in a period of doom and despair like ours.

The Relevance of the Fathers

I have often a strange feeling. When I read the ancient classics of Christian theology, the fathers of the church, I find them more relevant to the troubles and problems of my own time than the production of modern theologians. The fathers were wrestling with existential problems, with those revelations of the eternal issues which were described and recorded in Holy Scripture. I would risk a suggestion that St. Athanasius and St. Augustine are much more up to date than many of our theological contemporaries. The reason is very simple: they were dealing with things and not with the maps, they were concerned not so much with what man can believe as with what God had done for man. We have, “in a time such as this,” to enlarge our perspective, to acknowledge the masters of old, and to attempt for our own age an existential synthesis of Christian experience.1


The Ark of the Covenant discovered!

For those of you who, like me, were enthralled by the Indiana Jones series of films, you may have wondered what really did happen to the famous “Ark of the Covenant”. Is it still lost? Has it been found? In either case, where is it likely to be? This video gives some ideas of what has happened to it.




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