Author Topic: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!  (Read 8566 times)

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Offline Mister Jim Dude

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St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« on: April 21, 2013, 06:16:53 AM »
I love the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and am truly inspired by her story. My question is, is it possible that when it is told that a lion helped dig her grave that that part of the story is just a myth. I am not saying the Lord couldn't have done that but it just reads like a myth. your thoughts?
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Offline augustin717

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2013, 07:15:21 AM »
I love the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and am truly inspired by her story. My question is, is it possible that when it is told that a lion helped dig her grave that that part of the story is just a myth. I am not saying the Lord couldn't have done that but it just reads like a myth. your thoughts?
Her entire story looks like a moralizing little novel not just that detail.

Offline mike

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2013, 07:22:58 AM »
your thoughts?

Is it important in any way?
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Offline Mister Jim Dude

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2013, 08:15:13 AM »
your thoughts?

Is it important in any way?

If you can shed some light on the subject, then, yes, your thoughts are important.
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Offline IoanC

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2013, 08:17:07 AM »
Yes, that is what Orthodoxy is all about -- miracles.  ;D

Offline Mister Jim Dude

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2013, 08:17:28 AM »
I love the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and am truly inspired by her story. My question is, is it possible that when it is told that a lion helped dig her grave that that part of the story is just a myth. I am not saying the Lord couldn't have done that but it just reads like a myth. your thoughts?
Her entire story looks like a moralizing little novel not just that detail.

So can we know how much of what is recorded "actually happened" or am I letting my "inner-fundamentalist" worry itself too much about it?
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Offline Mister Jim Dude

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2013, 08:18:41 AM »
Yes, that is what Orthodoxy is all about -- miracles.  ;D

Well, I do believe in miracles  :D
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Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2013, 12:22:32 PM »
I love the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and am truly inspired by her story. My question is, is it possible that when it is told that a lion helped dig her grave that that part of the story is just a myth. I am not saying the Lord couldn't have done that but it just reads like a myth. your thoughts?
Her entire story looks like a moralizing little novel not just that detail.

So can we know how much of what is recorded "actually happened" or am I letting my "inner-fundamentalist" worry itself too much about it?

If Job and Jonah happened, then so did St. Mary of Egypt. If not, they are all just little moralizing novels. But we are people of great faith. And morals.     

Offline William

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2013, 12:28:10 PM »
I love the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and am truly inspired by her story. My question is, is it possible that when it is told that a lion helped dig her grave that that part of the story is just a myth. I am not saying the Lord couldn't have done that but it just reads like a myth. your thoughts?
Her entire story looks like a moralizing little novel not just that detail.

Yeah, I actually agree with augustin on this one. She walks across water and gets prevented from going into a church by an invisible barrier, so why does the one detail about the lion stand out so much?
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2013, 12:32:11 PM »
f Job and Jonah happened, then so did St. Mary of Egypt.

Non sequitur.
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Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2013, 12:57:09 PM »
She walks across water and gets prevented from going into a church by an invisible barrier, so why does the one detail about the lion stand out so much?

All biblical stuff:

 - invisible barrier: see the Cherubim with the flaming sword (Genesis 3:24) or the angel appearing with his sword drawn to Balaam's ass (Numbers 22:22-23).

 - walking across the Jordan: Joshua 3 and 2 Kings 2:8 and 14.

 - angels and wild beasts ministering to holy people in the wilderness: the ravens of Elijah or Mark 1:13.

Offline Mister Jim Dude

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2013, 01:01:03 PM »
Yeah, I actually agree with augustin on this one. She walks across water and gets prevented from going into a church by an invisible barrier, so why does the one detail about the lion stand out so much?


I guess I can accept the walking on water easier only because Christ did it...when it comes to a lion digging a grave, I guess it just "feels" like a fable. 

I know not everything in Sacred Scripture is necessarily literally true (The Genesis creation account, for example) so I was just thinking the same could be said for St. Mary of Egypt's story.
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Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2013, 01:15:05 PM »
I guess I can accept the walking on water easier only because Christ did it...when it comes to a lion digging a grave, I guess it just "feels" like a fable. 

Well, in Greek literature the topos of the lion as man's best friend actually goes back to one of Aesop's fables. George Bernard Shaw wrote a satirical play about (the early) Christians based on it: http://www.fullbooks.com/Androcles-and-the-Lion.html.

« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 01:22:13 PM by Romaios »

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2013, 01:32:26 PM »
She walks across water and gets prevented from going into a church by an invisible barrier, so why does the one detail about the lion stand out so much?

All biblical stuff:

 - invisible barrier: see the Cherubim with the flaming sword (Genesis 3:24) or the angel appearing with his sword drawn to Balaam's ass (Numbers 22:22-23).

 - walking across the Jordan: Joshua 3 and 2 Kings 2:8 and 14.

 - angels and wild beasts ministering to holy people in the wilderness: the ravens of Elijah or Mark 1:13.

I never claimed that it was impossible but if the story of Job is true the story of St. Mary doesn't automatically have to be true as well.
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Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2013, 01:37:45 PM »
I never claimed that it was impossible but if the story of Job is true the story of St. Mary doesn't automatically have to be true as well.

Theoretically, I would agree with you - I referred to Job and Jonah because the "little moralizing novel" genre was brought up and they are part of the Canon of Scripture.

My hunch is that their historicity stands or falls together.

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #15 on: April 21, 2013, 01:40:06 PM »
"Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these"

Christianity is a strange religion demanding that we believe in some strange, improbable things. We are materialistic people encountering experiences narrated by men and women who saw the world completely differently, as suffused with spiritual power, who saw the visible realm as symbolic of spiritual truth, whereas we have the opposite tendency and want to explain everything on a fundamentally sensible basis.

Offline William

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2013, 01:47:37 PM »
She walks across water and gets prevented from going into a church by an invisible barrier, so why does the one detail about the lion stand out so much?

All biblical stuff:

 - invisible barrier: see the Cherubim with the flaming sword (Genesis 3:24) or the angel appearing with his sword drawn to Balaam's ass (Numbers 22:22-23).

 - walking across the Jordan: Joshua 3 and 2 Kings 2:8 and 14.

 - angels and wild beasts ministering to holy people in the wilderness: the ravens of Elijah or Mark 1:13.

That just supports my point, Romaios.
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Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2013, 02:01:02 PM »
We are materialistic people encountering experiences narrated by men and women who saw the world completely differently, as suffused with spiritual power, who saw the visible realm as symbolic of spiritual truth, whereas we have the opposite tendency and want to explain everything on a fundamentally sensible basis.

Faith seems to have been in short supply even back then. Our Lord repeatedly rebuked his disciples for being "of little faith". Even after his resurrection:

"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

All the rest of us are left with is this:

"I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24)
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 02:05:34 PM by Romaios »

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2013, 03:09:39 PM »
You have a problem with grave digging lions? Oh boy! Wait till you see the dragons mentioned in St. George's story and the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.
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Offline Cantor Krishnich

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2013, 03:25:40 PM »
I love the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and am truly inspired by her story. My question is, is it possible that when it is told that a lion helped dig her grave that that part of the story is just a myth. I am not saying the Lord couldn't have done that but it just reads like a myth. your thoughts?

No its not a myth. When Saint Zosima was tasked with digging her grave, God sent a lion to dig assist with digging the grave. Lions are in many Orthodox stories.

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Offline Tommelomsky

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #20 on: April 21, 2013, 03:35:42 PM »
You have a problem with grave digging lions? Oh boy! Wait till you see the dragons mentioned in St. George's story and the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

We all have our problems and burdens.
Some in faith, some in daily life and some with many elements of the orthodox teaching.

My problem? Lent is going way too fast now (14 days left). I am not complaining, just getting slower (older).
But I do belive in this and St Mary Of Egypt sure matters in my daily prayer life. Yes, she does.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 03:36:05 PM by Tommelomsky »
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #21 on: April 21, 2013, 04:04:06 PM »
Lions are in many Orthodox stories.

My favorite is the one where St. Jerome removes a thorn from the paw of a lion after which they become friends.
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #22 on: April 21, 2013, 04:15:25 PM »
There are also the lions and tigers who refuse to harm the martyrs in the amphitheatre, even turning against their keepers when goaded. It's quite a common motif.
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Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #23 on: April 21, 2013, 04:19:10 PM »
Lions are in many Orthodox stories.

My favorite is the one where St. Jerome removes a thorn from the paw of a lion after which they become friends.

That's Androcles redivivus.  

My all-time favourite is St. Gerasimos of the Jordan.


« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 04:21:31 PM by Romaios »

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #24 on: April 22, 2013, 07:28:13 AM »
My cat brings me some dead lizards, mice or birds from time to time if that counts.
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #25 on: April 22, 2013, 11:04:29 AM »
I hope I'm not a heretic, but I read many of the stories of the saints and thoughts pop into my mind questioning its historicity.  I read some of the stories in Scripture and I question the historicity.  I don't know if something has to be historically correct in order for it to be spritually beneficial.  I don't question that miracles occur, but I also know peoples predeliction to see miracles where they don't, and I'm guessing that there have been just as many of those recorded as actual miracles.
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #26 on: April 22, 2013, 11:36:42 AM »
I hope I'm not a heretic, but I read many of the stories of the saints and thoughts pop into my mind questioning its historicity.  I read some of the stories in Scripture and I question the historicity.  I don't know if something has to be historically correct in order for it to be spritually beneficial.  I don't question that miracles occur, but I also know peoples predeliction to see miracles where they don't, and I'm guessing that there have been just as many of those recorded as actual miracles.

The Vatican has demoted St. Barbara because the accounts of her life seem to lack historicity. Research has supported that St. Catherine of Alexandria is actually the philosopher Hypatia, given a Christian veneer. There's a lot of the fantastical in the accounts of saints' lives, but, in the end, we do get to know them from their fruit.
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #27 on: April 22, 2013, 12:00:43 PM »
Research has supported that St. Catherine of Alexandria is actually the philosopher Hypatia, given a Christian veneer.

Mm, no it really hasn't. That is nothing but speculation.

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #28 on: April 22, 2013, 12:02:14 PM »
Research has supported that St. Catherine of Alexandria is actually the philosopher Hypatia, given a Christian veneer.

Mm, no it really hasn't. That is nothing but speculation.

In which way does 'support' suggest more than speculation?
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #29 on: April 22, 2013, 12:02:20 PM »
Research has supported that St. Catherine of Alexandria is actually the philosopher Hypatia, given a Christian veneer.

No, no. Not at all.
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #30 on: April 22, 2013, 12:15:59 PM »
Research has supported that St. Catherine of Alexandria is actually the philosopher Hypatia, given a Christian veneer.

Mm, no it really hasn't. That is nothing but speculation.

In which way does 'support' suggest more than speculation?

It suggests there is some actual compelling evidence. The "research" done to reach this conclusion is on par with the "research" to prove that the Virgin Mary is Athena in disguise or that the eucharist is supposed to be psychedelic shrooms.

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #31 on: April 22, 2013, 12:25:25 PM »
Research has supported that St. Catherine of Alexandria is actually the philosopher Hypatia, given a Christian veneer.

Mm, no it really hasn't. That is nothing but speculation.

In which way does 'support' suggest more than speculation?

It suggests there is some actual compelling evidence. The "research" done to reach this conclusion is on par with the "research" to prove that the Virgin Mary is Athena in disguise or that the eucharist is supposed to be psychedelic shrooms.

Research is of various levels, and all sorts of views will be supported until finally proven or disproven.

(For the curious, some pointers are here and here.)
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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #32 on: April 22, 2013, 12:35:21 PM »
Research is of various levels, and all sorts of views will be supported until finally proven or disproven.

When you say, without qualification, "research supports x" you are implying that there is serious evidence in favor of x, not merely some local traditions or opinions offered from disparate sources.

Quote
(For the curious, some pointers are here

So a very, very local tradition in a town in present-day Turkey identifies her with Hypatia.

Quote
and here.)

"The story of Hypatia of Alexandria is very well told in the movie Agora. " This is a good indicator of the level of... scholarship evident in the blog. The movie, while enjoyable to an extent, shows a basic misunderstanding of Hypatia.

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #33 on: April 22, 2013, 12:45:34 PM »
Research is of various levels, and all sorts of views will be supported until finally proven or disproven.

When you say, without qualification, "research supports x" you are implying that there is serious evidence in favor of x, not merely some local traditions or opinions offered from disparate sources.

What qualification would you have preferred? 'Some research'? Since it is not a proven fact, it can't be 'all research', so it's by definition 'some'. Don't really care to nitpick how much is 'a little' or 'a lot' - I'm not a grocer.

(For the curious, some pointers are here

So a very, very local tradition in a town in present-day Turkey identifies her with Hypatia.

That very, very local tradition apparently appears in at least three scholarly papers (cited on the blog, there may be more), published way before the post-Dan Brown sensationalism took over. I don't claim they're right - only that it's an interesting point. No more and no less provable than grave-digging lions. :)
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Offline Fabio Leite

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #34 on: April 22, 2013, 12:52:23 PM »
Ancient books weren't usually written with our photographic expectations in mind. By that I mean that since the advent of the scientific age, we expect documents from the time to be almost as written descriptions of what happened exactly as a neutral camera-man were filming it all.

Most writers though, specially religious ones, would work more with symbolism and poetry than we are used to expect. And part of literacy was related to be able to understand this symbolic meanings and see the facts they referred to.

When the facts being described were miraculous themselves, and were described with intense symbolic poetry, the text becomes almost completely opaque to the average modern reader.

Using the dragon example from the other thread, "fighting dragons" could mean fighting an actual snake, fighting a political power that was seen so evil as to be an icon of the devil or the ascetic fight with demons themselves. Saint George icon simply puts the saint in the apocalyptic vision where the dragon persecutes the woman (seen at the background of the icon), to show both his spiritual struggle, his defense of the Church against the spiritual evil manifest in the political powers of the age, and to teach us that whenever we fight evil we are somehow taking part in the war of the Apocalypse.
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Offline Nikolai Sergeev

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #35 on: April 22, 2013, 02:04:45 PM »
Some orthodox people can't believe even in the Holy Fire, not to mention lions digging a grave. They say the Patriarch brings in a lighter  :D.

The life itself is a miracle. The creation is so complex and inconceivable, that dragons and lions do not seem to be a miracle at all if you give it a thought.

Also, if you have some experience of prayer, you should have noticed, that God knows your every thought, your every feeling and the slightest pain. And He knows this about all 7 billion people simultaneously (while an average person can hardly memorize a 6 digit telephone number). God is great, isn't He?

Why would you then question such trifles as lions digging a grave?
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 02:05:10 PM by Nikolai Sergeev »

Offline LizaSymonenko

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #36 on: April 22, 2013, 02:20:53 PM »

^ +1
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Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #37 on: April 22, 2013, 02:56:18 PM »
I can only speak for myself, but I don't question that those things can't happen, I just often wonder if some of the miracles that have been transmitted down through the years are not perhaps the workings of overactive imaginations or misunderstanding.  Personally, I have more confidence in God hearing my prayers than I do in the story of some dragon or lion or invisible force fields in church doorways.  Not to say it couldn't happen, but rather I don't know if it did.  Of course, the story can still certainly be used for spiritual edification and an example of holiness.  I just prefer not to be dogmatic about it's historical veracity.
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Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #38 on: April 22, 2013, 03:07:06 PM »
I gotta admit - I love the grave-digging lion! And I don't really have a problem with any of the saints' miracles or stories. It's always seemed to me that the biggest leap was belief in Almighty God, the creator, all-powerful, omniscient and all the rest, who decided to become a person just like us because He loved us so much.

Once you accept that, why quibble about the Virgin Birth, talking animals and grave-digging lions and all the rest? That's just icing on the cake.
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Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #39 on: April 22, 2013, 03:36:05 PM »
The ultimate resource on all the topoi of Byzantine hagiography:

Thomas Pratsch - Der hagiographische Topos (2005)

Here's a list of contents: http://www.degruyter.com/viewbooktoc/product/20410

Quote
This is the first systematic study of literary formulae (topoi) in Greek medieval lives of the saints. Pratsch compiles a comprehensive collection of material, including a systematic catalogue of the topoi. In his evaluation of them he provides new insights into the genesis, transmission and historical development of the genre of Greek saints’ vitae. He traces the gradual development of the vitae from various other literary forms and, working from a new perspective, lends support to the thesis that a canon of Greek lives of the saints became established from the end of the 10th century and into the 11th century. This study is a valuable reference work on Byzantine hagiographic literature.

Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #40 on: April 22, 2013, 03:53:56 PM »
Beautiful sermon on the Sunday of St. Mary of Egypt by Met. Anthony of Surozh (in English with Greek subtitles - 10 minutes).
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 04:01:16 PM by Romaios »

Offline orthonorm

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #41 on: April 22, 2013, 05:22:52 PM »
The ultimate resource on all the topoi of Byzantine hagiography:

Thomas Pratsch - Der hagiographische Topos (2005)

Here's a list of contents: http://www.degruyter.com/viewbooktoc/product/20410

Quote
This is the first systematic study of literary formulae (topoi) in Greek medieval lives of the saints. Pratsch compiles a comprehensive collection of material, including a systematic catalogue of the topoi. In his evaluation of them he provides new insights into the genesis, transmission and historical development of the genre of Greek saints’ vitae. He traces the gradual development of the vitae from various other literary forms and, working from a new perspective, lends support to the thesis that a canon of Greek lives of the saints became established from the end of the 10th century and into the 11th century. This study is a valuable reference work on Byzantine hagiographic literature.


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And have you paid the requisite $56.7 billion to do so?
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Offline Fabio Leite

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #42 on: April 22, 2013, 05:26:07 PM »
I really don't know about the Holy Light. Entering a closed room and coming out with lit candles is not difficult at all to produce as a magic trick. In fact, I'm sure most close-up magic performers could lit a candle in front of your eyes with no need of getting anywhere away from people's eyes.

The only fact that is in favor of the Holy Light, in my opinion is that if it's a trick, it's so easy the enemies of Christianity and of Orthodox in particular would have already exposed it.

Against it, we have the fact that there is a hysterical mob in and around the church and patriarchs and local authorities may rightfully feel it's not safe to just come out and say "look, this is how it's really done". some of the guys sporting weapons would feel they are lying and mass fight would start.

The miracle of the cloud that descends on the Orthodox monastery seems much more likely to me because I *think* creating a cloud or fog in open spaces that stays steady is more difficult to produce.

Overall, I am very suspicious of spectactular miracles to which the witness is the masses. But that's just me.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2013, 05:48:01 PM by Fabio Leite »
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Offline Cantor Krishnich

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #43 on: April 22, 2013, 05:58:50 PM »
There's always Saint Seraphim and the bears. But then again, Russian bears are Orthodox so they aren't violent.
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Offline Romaios

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Re: St Mary of Egypt and grave-digging lions!
« Reply #44 on: April 22, 2013, 06:02:17 PM »
Have you read everything?

No, I just read up on the lions.  

And have you paid the requisite $56.7 billion to do so?

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