Friday, October 31, 2014

The Relics of St. Irene


How the Relics of St. Irene Came to St. Basil’s

 
by David E. Cassens

The story of how the sacred relics of the fourth century Orthodox Great Martyr, St. Irene, (read here the Life of St. Irene) came to St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church in St. Louis, Missouri, is as interesting as it is a blessing.  During the summer of 1997 the Archpriest, Very Reverend Martin Swanson, of St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church in St. Louis, Missouri, which is a parish in the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), was being visited by his long time friend and spiritual advisor, Father Joachim Parr.1

During his visit to St. Louis, Fr. Joachim informed Fr. Martin that he wanted to visit the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  Fr. Martin was curious about this request, owing to the fact that the Sisters of St. Joseph are a Roman Catholic Order, and asked, “Why would you want to do that?”2  Fr. Joachim replied that he wanted to visit the Sisters because they have our relics.  He explained that as a young man he had relatives who were Roman Catholic that lived in St. Louis and his family had visited the Motherhouse and chapel with them.  There he saw hundreds of holy relics.  Fr. Joachim said he remembered that many of the relics were from the east and many were Eastern Orthodox.  In particular, he recalled, that the Sisters had the relics of fourth century saints, including those of the Great Martyr Irene.  St. Irene was born in the city of Magedon, Persia during the fourth century, circa 310 A.D.3 She was the daughter of the pagan king Licinius, and her parents originally named her Penelope.  She was converted to Christianity by here aged tutor Apellianus and baptized by Timothy, a disciple of St. Paul.  Her Christian name Irene means peace, and she was one of the twelve Virgin Martyrs who appeared to the eighteenth century Russian ascetic St. Seraphim of Sarov and the Diveyevo nun Eupraxia on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1831.  Fr. Joachim wanted to return to the Sisters of Carondelet and “see if they would return some of the Orthodox relics, particularly those of St. Irene, to our Church.”4

The relics of the Great Martyr Irene were brought to Constantinople in the fourth century and the second largest Church in the Byzantine capital was built in her honor.   Some of the relics of St. Irene may have been stolen by the Latin Crusaders during the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade of 1204.  The Latin sack of Constantinople changed the “sacred physiognomy” of the city as its holy places were destroyed and desecrated, only to be partially restored when the Byzantines took back the city in 1261.5 “The Crusaders who arrived by sea caught sight of the churches and great public buildings, most prominent of which were Hagia Sophia, the Great Church dedicated to the Divine Wisdom, the churches of the Divine Peace, Hagia Irene, and of the Holy Resurrection.”6 After the conquest of Constantinople by the Latin Crusaders a flood of plundered sacred relics poured into Western Europe.  There is also evidence that some relics of St. Irene were given to the west before the sack of the Byzantine capital.  When the armies of the First Crusade passed through Constantinople in 1097 the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I (1081 – 1118) made them swear “on the cross of the Lord and the Crown of Thorns, and many other holy objects,” not to keep for themselves Byzantine cities or castles they may re-conquer from the Muslims.7 Henry I of England had sent an embassy to Constantinople in 1118 to acquire relics.  Among the relics given to his representatives were, “the oil of St. Demetrius, the relics of St. Nestor and St. Irene of Salonika.”8 The spectacular wealth of holy relics in the Byzantine capital had been well known in the Latin West for centuries.9

The relics of St. Irene could possibly have been evacuated from Constantinople before the city’s fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.  There are several references from different Russian pilgrims who visited Constantinople in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which mention the body of St. Irene being located at the Convent of the Virgin, also know as the Lips Monastery, named for Constantine Lips a royal dignitary in the court of Emperor Leo VI.  There is also an account that the relics of St. Irene were located in the Kyra Martha (Lady Martha) convent.”10 However, owing to the fact that these two convents were located immediately next to one another the pilgrim may have confused them.11 However, this Irene is no doubt Irene, the first wife of Andronicus III, Byzantine Emperor from 1328 to 1341, and not that of the Great Martyr.12 In addition to St. Basil’s Orthodox Church, relics of the Great Martyr Irene can be found in the Monastery of Bronta on the Island of Samos and in the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on the Island of Patmos in Greece.13

The first Hagia Irene was built by Constantine about 324 on the foundations of an earlier Christinan Church and served as the capital’s cathedral church until the dedication of Hagia Sophia in 360.14 Some writers have stated that Hagia Irene (Eirene) was not named for any person, but for ‘Peace’ in the abstract, as in the case of the Temple of Peace in Rome, however this is only conjecture and is not based on solid evidence.15 It is here that Constantine made his one public appearance at liturgy, shortly before his death at the Pascha Vigil in 337.16 In addition, the Second Ecumenical Council of 381, which proclaimed the consubstantiality of the Holy Trinity, was held in Hagia Irene.17 It was enlarged by his son the Emperor Constans and rebuilt after the fire of 415 by the emperor Theodosius II, but again a fire burned the Church in 532 and it was reconstructed and enlarged by Justinian.  An earthquake destroyed the dome in 559, after which it was rebuilt on a smaller scale, but the whole church was reinforced from the outside.  It was restored again in the mid-14th century.18 After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks, Hagia Irene initially became a storage area for weaponry, but was never used as a mosque, being converted into a museum in 1935.19

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a Roman Catholic congregation of religious women founded in the mid 1600s at LePuy en Velay, France, by the Jesuit priest, Jean-Pierre Médaille.20In 1836, a request came from Bishop Rosati in St. Louis, Missouri, for Sisters to minister the deaf.  Eight women were chosen to travel across the ocean and make the first foundation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the United States. They arrived in Carondelet, Missouri, a small town outside St. Louis.21 In addition to providing education for the deaf, the Sister’s had a charism of providing relics for altar stones in Roman Catholic Churches.  The Sisters began to acquire holy relics as early as 1861, with the arrival of the body of St. Aurelia, which came from the private chapel of Pope Pius IX.  A larger collection of relics arrived from Rome in 1878 through the efforts of the Order’s Mother Superior, Agatha Guthrie who was devoted to the lives of the Church’s martyrs.  Many of these relics came from the catacomb in Rome of St. Pretaxtatus by permission of Pope Pius VII.22

After Vatican II (1962 to 1965), the Roman Catholic Church ceased to emphasize the widespread veneration of relics, and in most cases stopped placing relics in church altar stones.23 The Eastern Orthodox Church has always venerated relics and continues to believe that grace is something that comes from God and enters not only the soul of man, but the body as well. By giving veneration to the holy relics and praying before them, Orthodox Christians do not address the relics, but the Saint.  The veneration is passed over to the person, something similar to the veneration of the holy icons.24 The Orthodox Church shows honor to holy relics by solemnly uncovering and translating them, by building churches over them, by establishing feasts in memory of their uncovering and translation, in adorning their tombs and encouraging pilgrimages to them, and most importantly, in the constant rule of the Church to place holy relics in altars at their dedication, as well as to place them in the holy antimension which is indispensable for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy.”25

Fathers Martin and Joachim visited the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph in April 1997.  Father Martin stated that when they entered the chapel he was amazed at the large number of relics the Sisters did have!  Among the relics were several of major Saints.  Besides the skull of Great Martyr St. Irene, there was the skull of St. Victor, and the full body of the fourth century child martyr, St. Bernice.  St. Bernice had been martyred by Emperor Nero.  They greeted and introduced themselves to a nun who was the receptionist at the chapel, and explained that they would like to speak with the Sister Superior.  Later an elderly, nun who was praying in the chapel, noticed that Fr. Joachim was wearing his chotki (Eastern Orthodox prayer rope—similar in appearance to a Roman Catholic rosary) and asked what it was.  Fr. Joachim removed his chotki and wrapped it around the nun’s wrist, saying “it was his prayer rope and that we use it to say the Jesus prayer e.g. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  I am now giving it to you and I want you to pray that we receive the Orthodox relics held by your Order.”26 The elderly nun was a little surprised at this, but agreed to do so.

Fathers Martin and Joachim were informed that the Sister Superior, who was Sister Donna Gunn, did not live at the monastery, but had an apartment in the city.  However, they were given her telephone number and advised to call and leave a message on her answering machine.  Fr. Joachim called Sister’s Donna’s apartment and left a message asking that she call him at the home of Fr. Martin.  He explained that “I’m an Orthodox priest and I’m here to receive as a gift from you some of your relics.  Please call me back on Sunday evening at about 7 p.m.”27 When Fr. Martin’s wife, Matushka Katherine, heard about the message that Fr. Joachim had left for Sister Donna, she was somewhat amused stating, “oh sure, she is going to call you back?”28

That Sunday evening, around 7:10 p.m. the telephone rang at Fr. Martin’s home.  Matushka Katherine said to Fr. Joachim, you answer it for it is probably Sister Donna calling you!  Fr. Joachim did answer the phone, and said; “Hello, Sister Donna, this is Fr. Joachim from New York and we would like to have some of your relics, and yes I will do as you request.”29 After Fr. Joachim hung up the phone he looked at Matushka Katherine and said, ‘ye of little faith,’ that was Sister Donna and she asked that I provide a letter from our bishop that the relics we are requesting will be put to ecclesiastical/liturgical use and properly venerated.   Upon his return to New York City, Fr. Joachim forwarded to Sister Donna a letter from Bishop (Hilarion) of New York, now Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, stating that the relics would be put to proper liturgical use.

Approximately three months after Frs. Martin and Joachim visited the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Fr. Joachim again returned to St. Louis.  He and Matushka Katherine made an appointment to visit the Sisters and receive the relics.  During their visit they obtained several hundred relics.  They brought them in a station wagon to Fr. Martin’s home and inventoried the relics with documents of authenticity that had been provided by the Sisters of Carondelet.  A large number of the relics were dated after the year 1054, when the Roman and Orthodox Church divided in the Great Schism.30 Since the relics that were dated after 1054 would not be venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church, they were packaged separately and Father Joachim donated them to a Roman Catholic Order on the east coast.  The Orthodox relics were taken to New York City and given to Bishop Hilarion and many were placed in antimension.31

The relic of the skull of Great Martyr Irene, however, was not included in this transfer of relics from the Sisters of St. Joseph.  This was very disappointing as Fr. Joachim expressed a strong interest in obtaining the relic of St. Irene, since she was highly venerated in Russia, Greece and the Orthodox nations of Southeastern Europe.  He decided to return to New York City when it appeared that the relic of St. Irene would not be returned to the Orthodox Church in the near future.  It was several weeks since Fr. Joachim returned to New York, when Fr. Martin decided he would write a letter and appeal to Sister Donna to again consider gifting the relic of St. Irene to the Orthodox Church.  In his letter, Fr. Martin explained that the relic was originally the property of the Orthodox Church, that it had most likely been stolen from the Church Hagia Irene in Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade of 1204, and that it would be a wonderful gesture if the relic was restored to the Orthodox Church.32 When Father Martin began to address the letter, he noticed that it was May 18 (May 5 on the Julian calendar), the feast day of St. Irene according to the western calendar.33 Fr. Martin thought that this indicated a positive outcome in the endeavor to obtain the relic of St. Irene.

Approximately three months later, Fr. Martin received a telephone call from a Sister Paulette of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  She informed Fr. Martin that she was now the Mother Superior of the Order and that Sister Donna, had completed her work in the St. Louis Province, and had been transferred to another city.  She had received his letter and was willing to consider gifting the relic to the Orthodox Church!  However, she informed Fr. Martin that, “I can’t just give the relic away.  It is part of our Order’s patrimony.”34 Sister Paulette informed Fr. Martin that the Sisters of St. Joseph were having their annual convocation in September and she would ask permission of their governing board to gift the relic to the Orthodox Church.

After their convocation which was held September 1998, Sister Paulette contacted Fr. Martin and informed him that she had been given permission to gift the relics of St. Irene to the Orthodox Church, however, their canon lawyer brought up an objection, saying that it would be a violation of the Roman Catholic Church’s canon law or to be more precise, it would be a violation to alienate a major relic.  In order to properly gift the relic to the Orthodox Church, permission would have to be granted by the Vatican.  The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet is a Pontifical Order, and not directly under any local Roman Catholic bishop.  Fr. Martin was very discouraged at this news.  He imagined some commission in a dusty corner of Vatican City taking years to decide to grant permission to gift the relics of St. Irene to the Orthodox Church.  Fr. Martin even consulted a friend who happened to be a Roman Catholic canon lawyer, Fr. Kevin O’Rourke, a Dominican priest, and the Director of the Department of Health Care Ethics at Saint Louis University.

Together Fr. Martin and Fr. Kevin O’Rourke came up with two reasons that might convince the Sisters’ canon lawyer that the Vatican need not be contacted in regard to this request.  First, there had recently been a dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in Balamand, Syria, where the seat of the Patriarch of Antiochian Church is located.  At that meeting there a statement was issued which declared that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church were two lungs of the same body.  Father Kevin O’Rourke seemed to accept this statement, but Fr. Martin rejected it.  However, he was willing to cite this statement if it would help in getting the relic returned to the Orthodox Church.  Second, since the relic of St. Irene was not particularly venerated in the west, they thought that perhaps a case could be made that it was not truly a major relic from the point of view of the Roman Catholic Church.  Neither argument was accepted by the canon lawyer of the Sisters of St. Joseph, so a request for permission to gift the relics to the Orthodox Church was formerly sent to the Vatican.35

Several months passed when Fr. Martin unexpectedly received a telephone call from Sister Paulette.  To his surprise he noticed that her call once again came on May 18, the feast day of St. Irene according to the western calendar.  Sister Paulette informed Fr. Martin that she had heard from the Vatican and that they have granted her Order permission to gift the relic of St. Irene to the Orthodox Church.36 However, Sister Paulette explained that there were a few conditions that would have to be agreed to.  First, the relic is to be encased in an air tight, hermetically sealed reliquary.  Second, when the relic is removed from the altar at the Chapel of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the altar must not be damaged and the reliquary box in which St. Irene’s relics are encased, is to be replaced undamaged inside the altar.  Father Martin, who was thrilled at the news that the relics were being gifted back to Orthodoxy, quickly agreed to the terms, not wishing to jeopardize the return of the relics.

In August 1999, Fr. Martin hired a cabinet maker to build a reliquary for the relic of St. Irene, who also agreed to assist in the removal of the relic from the chapel.  Father Martin, the cabinet maker, and Church Readers Gennady Barabtarlo and Joseph McLellan, now Archimandrite Joasaph,Chief of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, went to the chapel of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.  As they began to open an access panel in the back of the altar, they suddenly realized that the altar was not made of marble after all, but was faux marble, and made of wood and plaster.  It was difficult to remove the reliquary from the access panel in the altar.  The reliquary could only be removed if it was taken out precisely in one direction.  It took sometime to get the correct angle, but when it was finally removed, Fr. Martin and the cabinet maker were shocked at the condition of the reliquary.  It was far from air tight, and was in an advanced state of deterioration.  The reliquary most likely had been placed in the altar in 1871, soon after it had been brought from Rome.  The cabinet maker informed Fr. Martin that he could not remove the relic without destroying the reliquary.

At this point, Fr. Martin was concerned that all their efforts might have been in vain.  He telephoned Sister Paulette from the Chapel office and explained to her the situation.  To his surprise, Sister Paulette said quite casually and nonchalantly, “Oh well, would you have use for the rest of them?” meaning the other relics that were encased in the reliquary along with that of St. Irene.37 Fr. Martin tried hard to control his enthusiasm, and said yes, we would venerate them and the people would find them to be a blessing.  Sister Paulette explained that she could not give the other relics away unilaterally, but would go to her office and call some of the members of governing board of the Sisters of St. Joseph to see if they would agree.  After a half hour she returned to the Chapel and informed Fr. Martin that the governing board of her Order had agreed and all thirteen relics could be given to the Orthodox Church.38 The relics were then taken immediately to St. Basil the Great Orthodox Parish where a Moleban (a service of thanksgiving) was held at 11:30 a.m. on May 27/June 9, 1999.

The relic of the Great Martyr Irene rests in the eastern part of the nave of St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church.  Above the relic is an Icon of the blessed handmaiden.   St. Irene is reverently venerated by the parishioners of St. Basil’s.  On the first Friday of each month an Akathist service is also held in her honor.  A liturgy is also celebrated each year on her feast day.  The other relics that were encased with that of St. Irene were placed within the altar of St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church.

  1. Fr. Joachim Parr is now Archimandrite at Mercy House, located at 320 East, 3rd Street in New York City, which is part of the Moscow Patriarchate. []
  2. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008. []
  3. Select Narratives of Holy Women from the Syro-Antiochene or Sinai Palimpsest: As written above the old Syriac Gospels by John the Stylite, of Beth-Mari-Qanun in A. D. 778  translator Agnes Smith Lewis (London: C. J. Clay and Sons, 1900), pp. 94 – 148; Il Menologio di Basilio II: (Cod. Vaticano Greco 1613) I Testo;II Tavole, (Torino: Frantelii Bocca, 1907); The Roman Catholic Church today does not recognize Great Martyr Irene as a historical figure, as do some Orthodox scholars, See: Michel Van Esbroeck, “The Saint as Symbol,” in. The Byzantine Saint, ed. Sergei Hackel (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1981): 138 – 239. []
  4. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008; See Dana C. Munro, “The Fourth Crusade,” Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Vol 3:1, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1901): 16 – 19. []
  5. George Majeska, “Russian Pilgrims in Constantinople,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 56 (2002): 101 []
  6. Edwin Pears, The Fall of Constantinople: Being a Story of the Fourth Crusade, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1886): 187. []
  7. Holger A. Klein, “Sacred Relics and Imperial Ceremonies at the Great Palace of Constantinople,” in Byzas 5 – Visualisierungen von Herrschaft. Frühmittelalterliche Residenzen – Gestalt und Zeremoniell, ed. Franz Alto Bauer (Istanbul: Zero Books Online.com, 2006): 94. []
  8. Denis Bethell, “The Making of a Twelfth-Century Relic Collection,” Popular Belief and Practice: Papers Read at the Ninth Summer Meeting and the Tenth Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical Society, ed. G. J. Cuming and Derek Baker, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972): 69. []
  9. Holger A. Klein, “Eastern Objects and Western Desires: Relics and Reliquaries between Byzantium and the West,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 58 (2004): 283–214; Alfred J. Andrea, Contemporary Sources for the Fourth Crusade, (Leiden: Brill, 2000): 226. []
  10. George P. Majeska, Russian Travelers to Constantinople in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, (Washington, D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1984): 152, 164, 309, 310, 311. []
  11. “Alexander the Clerk, is the only source who mentions the relics of St. Irene at Krya Martha Convent.  Since this sanctuary was close to the Convent of Lips and is so regularly spoken of together with it, it seems judicious to assume that Alexander did not see the relics of St. Irene at Kyra Martha but in the neighboring Convent of Lips where other sources testify to the presence of these relics.  Alexander does not mention visiting the Convent of Lips, a fact which makes this conjecture quite plausible.” from Majeska, Russian Travelers, p. 309. []
  12. Theodore Macridy, “The Monastery of Lips and the Burials of the Palaeologi,” 18, Dumbarton Oaks Papers (1964): 258. []
  13. Otto Meinardus, “A Study of the Relics of Saints of the Greek Orthodox Church,” Oriens Christianus, 54 (1970): 193.  This is an extensive translation and listing of the relics of Saints from the Synaxarion of the Greek Orthodox Church. []
  14. Everett Ferguson, ed. Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 2nd edition, (New York: Garland, 1990): 505: Socrates Scholasticus, The ecclesiastical history of Socrates, surnamed Scholasticus, or the Advocate : comprising a history of the church, in seven books, from the accession of Constantine, A.D. 305, to the 38th year of Theodosius II., including a period of 140 years (London: H. Bohn, 1853): 46, 398. []
  15. Walter S. George, The Church of Saint Eirene at Constantinople, (London: Oxford University Press, 1909): 1, 2, 8, 69-70; See Chapter 1, pp. 1 – 8 for a general history of Hagia St. Eirene. []
  16. Allan Doig, Liturgy and Architecture from the Early Church to the Middle Ages, (Burlington: Ashgate, 2008): 50. []
  17. Alexander Van Millingen, Byzantine Churches in Constantinople, (New York: Hesperides Press, 2008): 88; George, The Church of Saint Eirene at Constantinople, 4. []
  18. Cyril Mango “Irene, Church of Saint” The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Vol. 2.  Alexander P. Kazhdan, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1991): 1008-1009; Richard Krautheimer, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture, (Baltimore; Penguin Books, 1967): 180-181.; John Beckwith, Early Christian and Byzantine Art, (New York: Penguin Books, 1979): 104; George Majeska, “Russian Pilgrims in Constantinople,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers Vol. 56, (2002): 93 – 108. []
  19. “Hagia Eirene,” Byzantium 1200, http://www.byzantium1200.com/eirene.html (2004); A. A. Vasiliev, “The Monument of Porphyrius in the Hippodrome at Constantinople,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 4, (1948): 32. []
  20. Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet St. Louis Province, “History of the St. Louis Province,” http://www.csjsl.org/our-heritage/history-of-the-st.-louis-province.php []
  21. The city of Carondelet founded in 1832, was incorporated into the city of St. Louis in 1870. []
  22. Joan Little, ‘Motherhouse Holds Bodies of Seven Early Saints,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10 May 1998, sec. A, page 1. []
  23. Erwin Fahlbusch, Geoffrey William Bromiley, David B. Barrett, The Encyclopedia of Christianity Volume 4, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, Leiden, Netherlands, Brill, 1999), p. 567. []
  24. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008; Rev. Dr. Dumitru Macaila, The Veneration of Holy Relics http://www.helleniccomserve.com/veneration.html, (29 August 2006); See also, Dumitru St?niloae, The Experience of God (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2000); The Council of Nicaea 787 approved the use of relics and decreed that no Church should be without them.  The veneration of relics was again sanctioned by the Eastern Orthodox Council of Constantinople in 1084. []
  25. Protopresbyter George Dragas, Ecclesiasticus II: Orthodox Icons, Saints, Feasts And Prayer (Orthodox Research Institute, 2005): 100 – 101.;Rev. Dr. Dumitru Macaila, The Veneration of Holy Relics, ,http://www.helleniccomserve.com/veneration.html, (29 August 2006). []
  26. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008 []
  27. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008 []
  28. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 20 []
  29. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008 []
  30. For the historical background to the Great Schism of 1054 see: Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, 2nd ed. (London: Penguin Books, 1993): 43 – 72. []
  31. The antimension, (from the Greek: “instead of the table”; in Slavonic: antimins), is one of the most important furnishings of the altar in Eastern Orthodox Christian liturgical traditions.  It is a rectangular piece of cloth, either linen or silk, usually decorated with representations of the entombment of Christ, the four Evangelists, and scriptural passages related to the Eucharist.  A small relic of a martyr is sewn into it. The antimension is consecrated and also signed by the ruling Bishop of the respective Diocese. The Eucharist cannot be celebrated without an antimension.  Note: Archbishop Hilarion of the Eastern American and New York Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia now is Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, and the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. []
  32. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008. []
  33. The Feast of the Great Martyr Irene is liturgically celebrated on May 5/18, which is based on the Julian Calendar.  The secular calendar’s date of the feast is May 18. []
  34. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008 []
  35. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008. []
  36. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008. []
  37. Sts. Irene; Aegidius; Cabilla; Clementus; Concordia of Rome with Hyppolitus; Desiderius; Exsuperius of the Theban Legion; Fausta; Liberatus; Optatus of Saragossa; Sinforianus; Theodora of Corinth; Theophilus; Veneranda. []
  38. Fr. Martin Swanson, interview by David E. Cassens, 11 November 2008 []