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Votive Offerings

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[[Image:Chapel of St. James IMG 0495.jpg|right|thumb|Icon of the Virgin Mary in the Chapel of St. James in the [[Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem)|Church of the Holy Sepulcher]], with various votive offerings attached.]]
'''Votive Offerings''' (Greek: τάμα ''' ''Tama'' '''(''"vow"''), pl. τάματα ''' ''Tamata'' '''(''"vows"''); <ref group="note">Synonym: Όρκος ''' - ''Orkos'' ''' (''Oath, Vow'').</ref> Latin: ''' ''[[w:Ex-voto|Ex Voto]] Suscepto,'' ''' (''"from the vow made"'')) refers to those things that are [[w:Vow|vowed]] or dedicated to [[God]], the [[Theotokos]], or a [[saint]], and are in consequence looked upon as being set apart by this act of [[consecration]], and as an expression of reverence and thanksgiving. Traditionally the [[w:Spiritual practice|spiritual practice]] of making vows that are sealed by the votive offering has been common among the faithful in the [[Orthodox Church]], particularly in the [[Greek Orthodox]] Church.
The making of vows is a pious [[w:Spiritual practice|spiritual expression]] that was a customary practice among the ancient Greeks<ref group="note">See: Dr. [[w:W. H. D. Rouse|W. H. D. Rouse]]. ''[ Greek Votive Offerings: An Essay in the History of Greek Religion].'' Cambridge: The University Press, 1902. 463pp.</ref> and Hebrews. The [[Holy Scriptures]] refer to the making of vows in several instances including: Genesis 28:20-22,<ref group="note">'''Genesis 28:20-22'''. "Then Jacob made a vow saying, "If the Lord God will be with me, and keep me in this way I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, and bring me back in safety to my father's house, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone I set as a pillar shall be God's house to me, and of all You give me I will surely give a [[tithe]] to You." "</ref> Numbers 6:1-21,<ref group="note">'''Numbers 6:1-21'''. '''Law Concerning Vows.''' "Now the Lord spoke to [[Moses]], saying, "Speak to the children of [[Israel]], and say to them, 'When either a man or woman vows an extraordinary vow to sanctify himself as one of purity to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and intoxicants, and shall not drink any wine and vinegar made from wine, and any vinegar made from intoxicants; neither shall he drink anything made from grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. All the days of his vow of purification no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he vowed to the Lord; he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days of his vow to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. He shall not defile himself even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because the vow of his God is on his head. All the days of his vow he shall be holy to the Lord. But if anyone dies very suddenly near him on the spot, the head of his vow shall be defiled; and he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the [[priest]], to the door of the tabernacle of testimony. The the priest shall make one a sin offering and the other a whole burnt offering and make atonement for him, concerning which he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that day. He shall sanctify to the Lord the days of his vow, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be null and void, because the head of his vow was defiled.<br>Now this is the law of vowing: When the days of his vow are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the doors of the tabernacle of testimony. Then he shall offer his gift to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a whole burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread of fine flour, prepared with oil, and unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offering. Then the priest shall bring these things before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his whole burnt offering; and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer his grain offering and his drink offering. Then the one vowing shall shave the head of his vow at the doors of the tabernacle of testimony; and he shall put his hair on the fire, which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. Then the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened loaf from the basket, and one unleavened cake, and put these upon the hands of the one vowing, after he has shaved the head of his vow; and the priest shall bring these things as a deposit offering before the Lord; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the deposit offering and the thigh of the choice portion. After that, the one vowing may drink wine.' This is the law of the one vowing, who vows to the Lord his gift to the Lord concerning his vow; and the force of his vow is not limited to what he could afford regarding his vow, which he vows according to the law of purity." "</ref> Deuteronomy 23:22-24,<ref group="note">'''Deuteronomy 23:22-24'''. " "If you should make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be [[sin]] to you. But if you should abstain from vowing, it is not a sin to you. That which proceeds from your lips you shall keep and do in the manner you vowed your gift to the Lord your God; that which you spoke with your mouth." "</ref> Judges 11:29-39,<ref group="note">'''Judges 11:28-39'''. '''Jephthah's Vow'''. "Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed by the lookout of Gilead; and from Mizpah of Gilead he advanced beyond the sons of Ammon. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, "If You deliver the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whoever first comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, he shall be the Lord's. I will offer him up for a whole burnt offering." So Jephthah advanced toward the sons of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hand. And he struck them from Aroer until he came to Arnon, twenty cities in number, as far as Abel Keramim, with widespread destruction everywhere. Thus the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.<br>When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold his daughter came out to meet him with drums and dances, and she was his only child. He had no other son or daughter. And when he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, "Ah, ah, my daughter! You have troubled me greatly! It is you who are my trouble! For I have opened my mouth against you to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it." So she said to him, "My father, if you have opened your mouth to the Lord, do to me as it came from your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you on your enemies, the sons of Ammon."<br>Then she said to her father, "Let my father do this one thing for me. Leave me alone for two months to wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity along with my companions." So he said, "Go." And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. And at the end of two months she returned to her father, and he carried out the vow he vowed, and she knew no man. And it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite."</ref>Ecclesiastes 5:4,<ref group="note">'''Ecclesiastes 5:4'''. "Better not to vow than to vow and not pay."</ref>Acts 18:18,<ref group="note">'''Acts 18:18'''. "So [[Apostle Paul|Paul]] remained a good while. There he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila ''were'' with him. He had ''his'' hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow."<br>:(''The vow Paul makes is likely a form of the [[w:Nazirite_vow#Nazirite_vows_in_the_Hebrew_Bible|Nazirite vow]] (Nm 6:1-21) given in thanksgiving for deliverance from danger.'')</ref> and Acts 21:23-24.<ref group="note">'''Acts 21:23-24'''. "Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave ''their'' heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but ''that'' you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law."</ref> It is for this reason why they have been preserved in Christianity.<ref name="GERMANOS">Metr. Germanos II (Holy [ Metropolis of Ilias and Oleni], Greece). ''Errors and Truth: Refutation of Various Errors and Superstitions.'' [[Apostoliki Diakonia]], 01/01/1990. 142pp. (''In Greek'')</ref>
According to Metropolitan Germanos II (Paraskevopoulos) of the Holy [ Metropolis of Ilias and Oleni] in Greece, this is a subject however which is prone to much misinterpretation by Christians, who are thus removed from the true meaning of making vows, and therefore cause more harm to themselves than good.<ref name="GERMANOS"/>
For example, several people are of the opinion that God and the Saints will grant their petition simply because they make a vow in an of itself. This is an error, because the Saints are not in need of our material goods, nor do they require a vow to be made before our prayers are heard by them. The Lord said ''"...when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him"'' ([[Apostle Matthew|Matthew]] 6:7-8). It is enough that we have a strong faith and a pure heart and live a Christian life, and that our requests should me made for our spiritual well being.<ref name="GERMANOS"/>
Furthermore, the way that certain vows are made comes across as making a bargain with God. For example, ''"Saint [[Paraskevi]], please heal me and I will bring you a gold candle"'', or ''"God please help me with my exams and I will bring you..."''. This denigrates God and lessens the personality of man at the same time, while also making manifest our lack of faith.<ref name="GERMANOS"/> In Dr. Teske's field study of the Greek-American community of Philadelphia, he observed that::"The [[Clergy|clergymen]] of the community, who personally demonstrate varying degrees of appreciation for the practice, uniformly allowed that the [[Orthodox Church]], while tolerating the persistence of the ''tama'', does not encourage it, due primarily to the possibility of it being taken for a form of bribery. Such accusations and luke-warm tolerance have had an effect both upon the practice itself and upon the attitudes of those who favor it."<ref>[ Robert T. Teske]. ''[ Votive Offerings among Greek-Philadelphians: A Ritual Perspective].'' Ayer Publishing, 1980. pp.10-11.</ref>
This is why careful attention is required if one is making vows. They should be of a spiritual nature to help with the purity of the soul and the holiness of one's life, because ''"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."'' ([[Apostle John|John 4:24]]).<ref name="GERMANOS"/>
'''In Greek'''
* [ Γερμανός Παρασκευοπούλος] (Μητροπολίτου Ηλείας). ''[ Πλάνες και η Αλήθεια: Αναίρεση Διαφόρων Πλανών και Δεισιδαιμονιών].'' [[Apostoliki Diakonia]], 01/01/1990. 142pp.
::<small>Metr. Germanos II (Holy [ Meteropolis of Ilias and Oleni]). ''Errors and Truth: Refutation of Various Errors and Superstitions.'' [[Apostoliki Diakonia]], 01/01/1990. 142pp.</small>
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