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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Saints Constantine and Helen




Constantine's parents were the Emperor Constantius Chlorus and the Empress Helena. Chlorus had further children by another wife, but by Helena he had only the one, Constantine. Constantine fought two great battles when he came to the throne: one against Maxentius, a tyrant in Rome, and the other against Licinius not far from Byzantium. At the battle against Maxentius, when Constantine was in great anxiety and uncertainty about his chances of success, a shining cross, surrounded by stars, appeared to him in the sky in full daylight. On the cross were written the words: 'In this sign, conquer!' The wondering Emperor ordered that a great cross be put together, like the one that had appeared, and be carried before the army. By the power of the Cross, he gained a glorious victory over enemies greatly superior in number. Maxentius drowned himself in the Tiber. Immediately after this, Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan, in 313, to put an end to the persecution of Christians. Conquering Byzantium, he built a beautiful capital city on the Bosphorus, which from that time was named Constantinople.

At this time, Constantine fell ill with leprosy. The pagan priests and doctors advised him to bathe in the blood of slaughtered children, which he refused to do. Then the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and told him to seek out a bishop, Sylvester, who would heal him of the disease. The bishop instructed him in the Christian faith and baptized him, and the leprosy vanished from the Emperor's body.

When there was discord in the Church about the troublesome heretic Arius, the Emperor summoned the first Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, in 325, where the heresy was condemned and Orthodoxy confirmed.

St. Helena, the Emperor's devout mother, was very zealous for the Christian faith. She visited Jerusalem and found the Precious Cross of the Lord, and built the Church of the Resurrection over Golgotha and many other churches in the Holy Land. This holy woman went to the Lord in 327, at the age of eighty. The Emperor Constantine outlived his mother by ten years and entered into rest at the age of about sixty in 337, in the city of Nicomedia. His body was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.



Troparion Tone 8

O Lord, thy disciple Emperor Constantine, who saw in the sky the Sign of Thy Cross,/ Accepted the call that came straight from Thee, as it happened to Paul, and not from any man./ He built his capital and entrusted it to Thy care./ Preserve our country in everlasting peace, through the intercession of the Mother of God,/ for Thou art the Lover of mankind.



Kontakion Tone 3

Today Constantine and Helena his mother expose to our veneration the Cross,/ the awesome Cross of Christ,/ a sign of salvation to the Jews/ and a standard of victory:/ a great symbol of conquest and triumph.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Advice to a new bride ( Saint Gregory the Theologian )


Advice to a new bride (by Saint Gregory of Nazianzus “the Theologian” – 391 AD)

My daughter,

For your wedding, I, your spiritual father Gregory, offer you this poem as a gift. And I consider it to be the best possible advice a father could offer to his beloved daughter.

Listen to me Olymbiada : I know that you desire to be a true Christian. As such, be aware that a true Christian must not only be one but she must also appear accordingly. This is why I ask you to pay special attention towards your personal appearance. You must be simple! Gold, attached to precious stones, does not add any value to women of your stature. This is even more so with make-up. It is very improper for you to alter your face, which represents an image of God, for the sole purpose of attraction and admiration by others. Know that this constitutes vanity that is unbecoming of a young lady of your character. I therefore ask that you overcome the feminine vanity that is abundant among young ladies of our time and remain simple in your appearance. The expensive and fancy dresses must remain for those women that have no desire for the life beyond and do not know what the meaning of spiritual struggle and attainment of virtues is all about; this type of woman cannot possibly comprehend the spiritual radiance and brilliance of a life in Christ. You have aimed towards greater goals and for a higher purpose for your life. These goals demands your full and undivided attentiveness and care.

First of all, you must respect and love God and immediately after Him you must respect and love your husband in the same manner as our Lord and Savior and in accordance with the instructions of our Holy Gospel. I thus ask you, how is it possible for a woman to love her husband in this manner if she has not met, has not respected and has not loved Her Lord and Creator in this same manner?

In your marriage, fondness, affection and love must be strong and persistent for him whom God has selected to be your life partner. This man is now the eye of your life and the delight of your heart. And if you ever perceive that your husband possibly loves you more than you love him, do not take advantage of his feeling by attempting to gain the upper had in your marriage. That is plainly wrong as it is totally against the writings of the Holy Gospel!

You must respect him and love him unconditionally, as you love God. Be aware that you are a woman and you have an important and great purpose and destiny; however, your purpose and destiny is different than that of your husband who must be the head of your household. Set aside the silliness of equality among the sexes, that some of your contemporaries preach, and attempt to comprehend the obligations of marriage. In the realization of these obligations you will discover the great patience and endurance that is necessary to fulfill your family duties; it is in this manner that you will also discover the great strength that you as a woman possess.

You must surely be aware of how easily anger overtakes men. They cannot maintain and they often appear as wild lions. It is at this exact moment that a woman must remain stronger and display her superiority. You must play the role of the lion-tamer. What does a lion-tamer do when the beast starts roaring? He becomes even calmer than usual and through kindness and persistence he overcomes his wrath. He speaks to him kindly, in a soft but firm voice, he caresses it, he attends to it, he pets it and little by little calmness is restored.

You must never criticize, scold or become derogatory towards your husband for something that he has erred. Likewise, you must avoid any contempt towards any inaction or indecision by your husband, even when the outcome is not favorable or something that you greatly desire or consider proper. Be aware that demons are always around attempting to penetrate your household, and break up the couple’s harmonious spiritual cohabitation.

You must share everything, joys and sorrows alike. The Holy Sacrament of Marriage has indeed made all common to both of you. This is equally important towards the daily obligations and duties as they apply to running the household; it is the only way that a strong foundation will be built for your marriage. Let both of you provide your views and opinions; in the end, however, allow your husband to have the final say.

When you observe your husband to be sorrowful, share in his sorrow and provide him the needed relief; the support of the person closest to you in moments of sorrow and despair is of great value and relief. Immediately, however, let your facial expressions become calm, clear and collected; let peace prevail upon your demeanor and forego the temptation of any thoughts of despair. The wife is the calm harbor for the sea wave-stricken husband.

Your presence within your home is irreplaceable; you must accordingly love your home with all the cares and concern of a dedicated housekeeper. You must view it and consider it as your kingdom and you should be judicious about how often you exit its entrance. Let your husband take care of many of the outside cares and obligations while you concentrate towards those within the home.

Be extremely careful with whom you associate and the company that you keep. Be especially careful of the social gatherings that you may be participating in. Do not allow yourself to enter entertainment centers of questionable background; these represent extreme danger towards your purity and the sanctity of your marriage. These types of social interactions remove the instinct of shame, eyes cross with eyes, and once shame is not there to guard from any impropriety, the demons are able to exercise their influence and give rise to evils of unspeakable magnitude.

On the other hand, social interactions with friends of substance and of firmly grounded spiritual state must be pursued. In this manner, words of value get implanted within you and you either benefit from them or are able to confront and resolve any weaknesses that you may recognize. Concurrently, you are able to cultivate social interests and get to know people who will benefit your household’s spiritual state.

Do not be anxious to keep company or even appear in public and in the company of others for no reason. You should instead dedicate your precious time in the company of your wiser and more prudent relatives, priests, and seriously-minded people, young and old alike.

Stay away from conceited and ostentatious women whose mind is pre-occupied with external appearances and social circles, all for the purpose of vainglory and public display. This should be the same for any men that you consider respectful and spiritual but whom your husband has not allowed to enter your home, irrespective of how highly you may regard them. For is there anything more precious for you than your good husband whom you love so dearly?

Your thoughts must aim high but you must never behave as intolerable or snobbish.

I applaud women that are known by only a few men. Do not run towards worldly feasts and celebrations, even when those are for weddings or birthdays. It is around those types of gatherings that the passions of the flesh are aroused with the many dances, the drinking, the laughter and the false joys that are capable of deceiving and misleading even the pure and the wise. Always remember that purity is extremely fragile—it is like bee wax exposed to the rays of the sun. It would be prudent to limit and at times avoid the worldly feasts, even within the confines of your own home. If we were capable of controlling the desires and many appetites of the stomach we would be well served in our struggles against the many passions of our flesh; we would be in a position to conquer them instead of being subdued by them.

Keep your face calm and collected and do not alter it with extreme laughter or with grimaces of dismay, anger or disappointment towards others. Your ears should be decorated not with pearls but instead with the sounds of proper language and with locks for all the improprieties that may enter your nous through them. Thus, whether they are open or closed your sense of hearing will remain pure.

As far as your eyes, they are the ones that display the contents of your soul. Let them be the source of blush and virgin purity that pours below your eye lashes. This way, your presence and eyesight will invoke modesty, decency and the shame of innocence to all that lay their eyes upon you, perhaps even your husband! It is best and for many reasons that you keep your eyes closed or indifferent to the events around you and you should make it a habit to always maintain your sight low.

And now for your tongue. Your husband will always be your enemy for as long as your tongue is uncontrolled, even if you are to be blessed with thousands of other talents. A foolish tongue often endangers even the most innocent of people. It is preferred to maintain quiet, even in cases that you are correct. This is because you risk the expression of an unintended improper word or characterization. No matter how greatly you desire to say a lot, it is best that you limit your words and instead choose your presence to be a quiet one.

Be attentive even of the manner that you walk; it matters greatly towards a prudent presence.

And now pay close attention and be mindful of the following advice: You must never exemplify or maintain an uncontrollable desire for the flesh. Persuade your husband to respect the holy days of the Church and the fasting periods. This is because God’s laws are of much greater importance than the image of God. Be mindful that the institution of marriage was established by the Son of God to aid His creation so that a balance is maintained, as some depart this world while others arrive.

If you have benefited from this old man through some spiritual words of value I ask that you keep these words and advice guarded well within the depths of your soul. In this manner, through everything that you have benefitted and through the grace of your moral stature, you will be capable of healing your excellent husband and well known politician from the evils of vainglory and pride that constantly surround him.

This is my gift and heirloom that I offer to you. And if you desire my blessing, I pray that you become a vineyard of descendants, with many children, and many children from these children, so that our God may be glorified by more of us, for it is for Him that we are born and to Him that we should aim our earthly paths.

Your spiritual father,

+Gregory

Patriarch of Constantinople

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Ten Point Program For Orthodox Life



Translating Orthodox Christian Ideals Into Daily Life

By living the Orthodox Life you put Christ’s commandments and way of life deep into your consciousness. You learn to deal more effectively with stress. You release reserves of untapped energies. You transform anger. You heal relationships. You leave behind painful memories and live a life fully in the present. You develop unsuspected capacities for insight and understanding. You learn to love more fully than you thought possible. You discover your unique contribution to life. You walk a path towards eternal life in Paradise.


Introduction


1. Praying Daily

Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayer.

2. Worshiping and Participating in Sacraments

Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in Confession.


3. Honoring the Liturgical Cycle of the Church

Follow the seasons of the church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.

4. Using the Jesus Prayer

Repeat the Holy name whenever possible throughout the day or night.

5. Slowing Down and Ordering Your Life


Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction caused by a hurried life.

6. Being Watchful

Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment.

7. Taming the Passions

Overcome your habits, attachment to your likes and dislikes, and learn to practice the virtues.

8. Putting Others First

Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others.


9. Spiritual Fellowship

Spend time regularly with other Orthodox Christians for support and inspiration.


10. Reading the Scriptures and Holy Fathers

Be inspired by the lessons of the Holy Scriptures, the wisdom of the Holy Fathers and the lives of the Saints of the Church.

watch the video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANkOz4aDEbc

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Nameday celebration ( Saint Symeon the New Theologian )



When you celebrate your nameday, do so with the aim of obtaining mercy from God through the intercessions of your Saint. 


Saint Symeon the New Theologian

Sunday, May 6, 2018

On Amassing Wealth For Old Age While Neglecting the Wealth of Grace ( St. Nikolai Velimirovich )



In ignorance, many people labor more to avoid suffering in old age and terminal illness than to avoid the torments of hell in the life after old age and death.

Such was the case of an unmarried and avaricious man who, from year to year, and with ever greater passion, amassed for himself unnecessary wealth. When asked why he strove so much to pile up excess wealth he replied: "I am gathering it for my old age. This wealth will heal and feed me in old age and sickness."

And indeed, his foreboding came true. In old age, a grave and long-lasting illness befell him. He distributed his accumulated wealth to physicians so they would heal him, and to servants so they would care for him and feed him. His wealth was soon spent, and the illness continued. The physicians and servants abandoned him, and he fell into despair. His neighbors brought him bread until his death, and he was buried at the expense of the community. He had used his wealth for that which he had intended it.

God had even done for him according to the man's will. God had sent him the illness that he had, in a sense, desired, and for which he had prepared great wealth. Nevertheless, all his wealth was unable to alleviate his sufferings in this world - so with what would he be able to alleviate his sufferings in the other world? Nothing, if he took with him neither faith, nor hope, nor charitable deeds, nor prayers, nor repentance!

Someone saw a departed man in the great glory of Paradise, and asked him how he had become worthy of that glory. The man replied: "In my earthly life I was the hireling of an evil-doer who never paid me. But I endured all and served him to the end, with hope in God." Then the onlooker saw another man in even greater glory, and when he asked him, that one replied: "I was a leper, and to the very end I offered gratitude to God for that." But no one saw in the glory of Paradise the man who had amassed money for illness in old age. 
St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Friday, May 4, 2018

Lay not up Treasures on Earth, but in Heaven where Nothing is Lost ( St. John Maximovitch )


The Lord speaks to all people of all times and races, and tells them something clear and well-known. Today a person is alive, but tomorrow he dies and everything that he has is lost to him. But the soul, which moves the body, continues to live and it is either comforted and happy, or sad and burdened. Man is created thus; the body must live as the soul desires. At the moment of death the soul continues to live without the body. Everything will perish except that which the soul has gathered through love and prayer. Everything virtuous done by a man is written in the soul and will not be taken from him. While a person is alive, he finds himself paying attention to many things: clothing, health, his job, studies. There are times when he is concerned only with the thought of war or a failed harvest - of everything that is necessary for life on earth.

So, too, in spiritual life there are times of special attention to what is needful for the soul. Such is Great Lent - a time of special attention, examination, of the freeing of spiritual forces. Fasting is established by the Holy Spirit. Righteous men, striving towards God, through life experience came to know the meaning of fasting and bear witness that without fasting there can be no spiritual life. All the various attacks of the devil, all his temptations, everything concerning the diabolic world, is cast aside -becomes powerless and is shamed-when a person firmly follows the words of the Saviour Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ: " .. . This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21).

Now is a time of fasting, a suitable time for cleansing the soul. This is the most important thing, for a soul to be able to accept the grace of God, so that those treasures will be stored up in the soul, which will not be taken from it. And then the path of its life will be straight; in the soul there will be peace and joy.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."

St. John Maximovitch

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

How To Set Up An Icon Corner at Home


Quantity and quality are two different things. It would be naive to assume that the more sacred images there are in an Orthodox Christian’s home, the more pious his life. A disorganized collection of icons, reproductions, and religious wall calendars covering a significant amount of living space can often have a contrary effect on one’s spiritual life.
A poorly thought-out collection of icons can turn into something simple and meaningless, in which the prayerful purpose of the icon has no place whatsoever.
Nonetheless, it is essential to have icons in one’s home in sufficient numbers, but within reasonable limits.
In the past, whether on a farm or in the city, every Orthodox family’s home would always have a shelf with icons, or an entire home iconostasis, located in the most visible place. The place where the icons were installed was known as the front corner, the beautiful corner, the holy corner, God’s place, or the kiot.
For Orthodox Christians, an icon is not just a depiction of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, the Saints, or events from Sacred and Church History. An icon is a sacred image, i.e., it is outside the realm of ordinary reality; it is not to be confused with ordinary daily life; and it is intended only for communion with God. Thus, the primary purpose of icons is prayer. An icon is a window from our world, the earthly world, into the world above. It is God’s revelation in form and color.
In this way, an icon is not simply a family relic to be passed on from generation to generation, but a holy thing that unites all family members during communal prayer – for prayer in common can take place only if those standing before the icons have mutually forgiven one another’s offenses and achieved unity.
Today, of course, when the television set ­– which is itself a kind of a window into the motley world of human passions – has taken the place of icons in the home, the purpose of the family icon, the tradition of common prayer at home, and the consciousness of the family as the “little Church” have been lost.
Therefore, an Orthodox Christian today might ask: What icons should I have in my home? How should they be arranged? Can I use reproductions of icons? What do I do with old, dilapidated icons?
Some of these questions merit an unequivocal answer, while others do not demand any kind of strict recommendations.
Where should one place icons at home?
In a free and accessible place.
The terse nature of such an answer is prompted by the realities of life, rather than by the absence of canonical requirements.
Of course, it is preferable to place icons on the eastern wall of the room, because the “East” as a theological concept has special significance in Orthodoxy.
And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed (Genesis 2:8).
O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God (Baruch 4:36).
Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the Lord’s house, which looketh eastward (Ezekiel 11:1).
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:27).
But what should one do if there are windows or doors on the eastern side of one’s home? In that case, use the southern, northern, or western walls.
One should not combine icons with decorative objects of a secular nature, such as statuettes, various types of pictures, etc.
It is inappropriate to put icons on a bookshelf next to books having nothing in common with the Orthodox faith or that conflict with Christian teaching on love and charity.
It is absolutely impermissible to have icons next to posters or calendars depicting rock musicians, athletes, or politicians – the idols of the current age. This not only diminishes reverence for the holy images to an unacceptable degree, but also puts holy icons on par with the idols of the contemporary world.
The home icon corner can be decorated with live flowers. Traditionally, larger icons are often framed with towels. This tradition dates back to antiquity and has a theological basis. According to tradition, an image of the Savior miraculously appeared on a towel during His earthly life to help a suffering man. After washing His Face, Christ wiped His Face with a clean towel, on which an image of His Face appeared. The towel was sent to King Abgar, who was afflicted with leprosy, in the city of Edessa in Asia Minor. Upon healing, the ruler and his subjects adopted Christianity and the Image-Not-Made-By-Hands of Jesus Christ was affixed to a “permanent panel” and raised above the city gates.
In times past, August 29 (new style), the day the Church commemorates the translation of the Image Not-Made-By-Hands of our Lord Jesus Christ from Edessa to Constantinople in 944, was known among the people as the feast of the “canvas” or “linen Savior,” and in some places fabric and towels made of homespun yarn were blessed.
These richly embroidered towels were reserved for use in the icon corner. Likewise, icons were framed by towels for use during weddings and the Blessing of Waters. Thus, for example, after the service for the Blessing of Waters, when the priest sprinkled the icons with abundant Holy Water, people would wipe the icons with special towels that they would incorporate into the icon corner.
There is a tradition that, following the celebration of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), pussy willow branches that have been blessed in church are kept near the icons until the following Palm Sunday.
It is customary that on Pentecost, the Day of the Holy Trinity, homes and icons are decorated with birch branches as a symbol of the flourishing Church, bearing the grace-filled power of the Holy Spirit.


Which icons should you have at home?


It is essential to have icons of the Savior and the Mother of God. The Image of the Lord Jesus Christ, which bears witness to the Incarnation and to the salvation of mankind, and of the Theotokos – the most perfect of those who have lived on earth, who was made worthy of deification, and who is venerated as more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim – are an essential part of the Orthodox Christian home. The icon of Christ ordinarily selected for prayer at home is a waist-length depiction of Christ Pantocrator.
Those with room for a greater number of icons in the home may supplement their icon corner with depictions of various revered saints.
Russian Orthodoxy has a strong tradition of special veneration for St. Nicholas the Wonderworker; almost every Orthodox family has an icon of him. One should note that, together with the icons of the Savior and the Mother of God, the image of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker has always occupied a central place in Orthodox Christian homes. People revere St. Nicholas as a saint endowed with special grace. This stems in large part from the fact that, according to the Church’s Typikon, every Thursday, when the Church offers up prayers to the Holy Apostles, is also dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia.
Among the icons of the Holy Prophets of God, that of the Prophet Elias holds a prominent place; prominent among the icons of the Holy Apostles is that of the Sts. Peter and Paul, the chiefs among the Apostles.
Among the images of martyrs for Christian Faith, those encountered most often are icons of the Holy Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer George and the Holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon.
It is recommended to have depictions of the Holy Evangelists, of St. John the Baptist, of the Holy Archangels Gabriel and Michael, as well as icons of the Feasts, to make a home icon corner complete.
The selection of icons for one’s home is always an individual matter. The best person to help one make these choices is one’s priest – the family’s spiritual father – and it is to him, or to another clergyman, that one should turn for advice.
As for icon reproductions and color photographs, sometimes it makes more sense to have a good reproduction than a painted icon of poor quality.
An iconographer should maintain a very demanding attitude toward his work. Just as a priest does not serve the Liturgy without due preparation, the iconographer must approach his service with full awareness of his responsibility. Unfortunately, both in the past and today, one often encounters vulgar examples of images that bear no resemblance to icons. Thus, if a given depiction does not evoke a sense of piety and a sense of contact with the holy, or if it is theologically suspect and its technical execution is unprofessional, it would be best not to purchase such an item.
However, reproductions of canonical icons, mounted on a firm backing and blessed in church, can occupy a place of honor in the home iconostasis.


How and in what order should icons be arranged?



Are there strict rules in that regard?


In church, yes. As to the home prayer corner, we may limit discussion to a few principal rules.
For example, a collection of icons hung without a sense of symmetry, without a well thought-out arrangement, evokes a constant sense of dissatisfaction with the arrangement and a desire to change everything – something that often distracts from prayer.
It is likewise essential to remember the principle of hierarchy: for example, do not place an icon of a locally-venerated saint above an icon of the Holy Trinity, the Savior, the Mother of God, or the Apostles.
Just as on a classic iconostasis, the Icon of the Savior should be to the right, and the Mother of God to the left.


What should be our attitude toward holy things?


As one of the attributes of God (Isaiah 6:3), holiness is also reflected in God’s saints and in physical objects. Therefore, reverence for holy people and sacred objects and images, as well as personal striving for authentic communion with God, are manifestations of a single order.
And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy (Leviticus 20: 26).
Family icons have always been held in particular reverence. Following baptism, an infant was brought before and icon and the priest or master of the house would read prayers. Parents blessed their children with an icon to pursue studies, to go on extended journeys, or to engage in public service. As a sign of their approval of a wedding, parents likewise blessed newlyweds with icons. Moreover, a person’s departure from this life took place in the presence of icons.
It is improper to have arguments or to engage in rowdy or otherwise improper behavior before the images of the saints.
One should instill proper reverence for holy images in children from a very early age.


What should you do if an icon’s condition has rendered it unfit for use and it cannot be restored?


Under no circumstance should such an icon, even one that has not been blessed, simply be thrown away. A holy item, even if it has lost its original appearance, should always be treated with reverence.
If the condition of the icon has deteriorated with age, it should be taken to church to be burned in the church furnace. If that proves impossible, you should burn the icon yourself and bury the ashes in a place that will not be sullied or disturbed, e.g., in a cemetery or under a tree in the garden.
The faces that look at us from icons belong to eternity. Gazing upon them, raise up your prayers to them, asking for their intercessions. We, the inhabitants of the earthly world, should never forget our Savior’s eternal call towards repentance, perfection, and the deification of every human soul. 

Source: Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Thursday, April 26, 2018

All sins are repulsive before God, but the most repulsive of all is pride of the heart... ( St. Anthony the Great )

Learn to love humility, for it will cover all your sins. All sins are repulsive before God, but the most repulsive of all is pride of the heart. 
 Do not consider yourself learned and wise; otherwise, all your efforts will be destroyed, and your boat will reach the harbor empty. 
If you have great authority, do not threaten anyone with death. Know that, according to nature, you too are susceptible to death, and that every soul sheds its body as its final garment.

St. Anthony the Great

Monday, April 23, 2018

When vigilance is absent... ( St. Paisios )

When vigilance is absent, absent also are our minds from our heads (they are stolen by the devil), and we remain with our bodies alone, without our minds, like logs. Later, when we collect our minds, they are heavy-laden with trash, which the cunning devil uses as kindling wood to light the log of our flesh on fire. Then he mocks us, leaping for joy from wickedness.

In order for our minds not to wander, we must accustom them to suckling on the sweet name of Jesus inside our hearts, so as to make spiritual progress. For, when the mind is absent, it is as if the master of the house is absent, and that’s when the house becomes a wreck.

If our minds are not present at the hour of spiritual study, we receive no benefit, but simply dally about and tire ourselves in vain, since we cannot remember anything. It is like a printer who has his mind elsewhere and does not put ink in the machines, for then the printing press runs in vain, without printing anything.

Likewise, those who are mindful in spiritual study, but only so as to entertain themselves, without employing it for their spiritual progress, resemble farmers who are too bored to grab the plow and instead snatch a spot in the dense shade. There they read agricultural books continually and learn of many theories, but in practice they remain inactive and miserable.

Women also enjoy and find rest in reading and are able to be benefited more than men since they are lacking in much logic and have more faith. Unfortunately, however, few are those who are benefited and make progress. Most, when they lay hold of themselves, are in turn seized by the "funeral dirge," and continually wail and complain, conducting microscopic spiritual tests on themselves, without first cutting off their weighty passions and later the minor ones, which, by the Grace of God, gradually vanish by themselves.

Although most women have great prerequisites for the spiritual life, they make little progress. They have less logic, a trait that is not harmful but rather beneficial in regards to faith, whereas men undermine their faith with their logic. While women possess love in their nature and can dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to God, men need work in order to make their hearts beat for God. When man’s heart does not work for God, he is in no way different from a stone statue.

Hence, we all have prerequisites for the spiritual life, both men and women. We have no excuse, for it is sufficient for us to want to utilize the abilities God has given us respectively, so that we might attain Paradise near Him — so that He may rejoice and that we, His children, may rejoice with Him.

Inasmuch as the Good God treats us with love and kindness and invites us to Paradise, so must we not treat our fellow men barbarously, setting our conscience at rest with the thought that we send souls to Paradise with our cruel ways.

Whoever behaves in a barbaric way, ostensibly to benefit souls spiritually, is worse than Diocletian, for Diocletian was an idolater and not a Christian.

Christ does not commend killing people with cruel behavior and sending souls to Paradise, but He wants us to help our fellow men so that we might all go to Paradise together. Those who endure martyrdom from Christians receive a greater reward than the Martyrs, if they suffer with joy and do not judge those who torture them, but are grateful to them for the recompense of their sins, or, if they were not blameworthy in their life, for the reward and crown they will receive from Christ.
St. Paisios

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Perfect love for God... ( St.Seraphim of Sarov )

He who has acquired perfect love for God goes through this life as if he did not exist. For he considers himself a stranger to all that is visible, and awaits with patience that which is unseen. He is completely transformed into love for God and has abandoned all worldly attachments.

He who truly loves God considers himself a wanderer and newcomer on earth, for in him is a striving towards God in soul and mind, which contemplates Him alone.

As for care of the soul, a person in his body is like a lighted candle. The candle must burn out, and a person must die. But as our soul is immortal, so our cares should be directed more toward the soul than the body: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mt. 16:26)" for which, as is known, nothing in the world can serve as ransom? If the soul alone is worth more than all the world and the worldly kingdom, then the Kingdom of Heaven is incomparably more precious. We consider the soul as most precious for the reason stated by Macarius the Great, that God did not desire to bond and unite His spiritual essence with any visible creation except man, whom He loves more than any of His creations.

St.Seraphim of Sarov

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Cross Preserves the Universe ( St. John Maximovitch )

In the Prophet Ezekiel (9:6), it is said that when the Angel of the Lord was sent to punish and destroy the sinning people, it was told him not to strike those on whom the "mark" had been made. In the original text this mark is called "tau," the Hebrew letter corresponding to the letter "T," which is how in ancient times the cross was made, which then was an instrument of punishment.

So, even then, it was foretold the power of the Cross, which preserves those who venerate it. Likewise, by many other events in the Old Testament the power of the Cross was indicated. Moses, who held his arms raised in the form of a cross during the battle, gave victory to the Israelites over the Amalekites. He also, dividing the Red Sea by a blow of his rod and by a transverse blow uniting the waters again, saved Israel from Pharaoh, who drowned in the water, while Israel crossed over on the dry bottom (Exodus, ch. 14, 17).

Through the laying on of his hands in the form of a cross on his grandsons, Jacob gave a blessing to his descendents, foretelling at the same time their future until the coming of the "expectation of the nations" (Genesis, ch. 48).

By the Cross, the Son of God, having become man and accomplished our salvation. He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the Cross (Phil. 2:8). Having stretched out His hands upon the Cross, the Savior with them as it were embraced the world, and by His blood shed on it, like a king with red ink, He signed the forgiveness of the human race.

The Cross of the Lord was the instrument by which He saved the world after the fall into sin. Through the Cross, He descended with His soul into hell, to raise up from it the souls who were awaiting Him. By the Cross Christ opened the doors of paradise which had been closed after our first ancestors had been banished from it. The Cross was sanctified by the Body of Christ which was nailed to it when He gave Himself over to torments and death for the salvation of the world. Then it was filled with life-giving power. By the Cross on Golgotha the prince of this world was cast out (John 12:31) and an end was put to his authority. The weapon by which he was crushed became the sign of Christ's victory.

The demonic hosts tremble when they see the Cross, because the kingdom of hell was destroyed by the Cross. They do not dare to draw near to anyone who is guarded by the Cross.

The whole human race, by the death of Christ on the Cross, received deliverance from the authority of the devil, and everyone who makes use of this saving weapon is inaccessible to the demons.

When legions of demons appeared to St. Anthony the Great and other desert-dwellers, they guarded themselves with the sign of the Cross, and the demons vanished.

When there appeared to St. Symeon the Stylite, who was standing on his pillar, what seemed to be a chariot to carry him to heaven, the Saint, before mounting it, crossed himself and it disappeared. The enemy, who had hoped to cast down the ascetic from the height of his pillar, was put to shame.

One cannot enumerate all the various incidents of the manifestation of the power of the Cross. Invisibly and unceasingly, Divine grace that gushes from it saves the world.

The sign of the Cross is made at all the Mysteries and prayers of the Church. With the making of the sign of the Cross over the bread and wine, they become the Body and Blood of Christ. With the immersion of the Cross the waters are sanctified. The sign of the Cross looses us from sins. "When we are guarded by the Cross, we oppose the enemy, without fearing his nets and barking." Just as the flaming sword in the hands of the Cherubim barred the entrance into paradise of old, so the Cross now acts invisibly in the world, guarding it from perdition.

The Cross is the unconquerable weapon of pious kings in the battle with enemies. Through the apparition of the Cross in the sky, the dominion of Emperor Constantine was confirmed and an end was put to the persecution against the Church. The apparition of the Cross in the sky in Jerusalem in the days of Constantius the Arian proclaimed the victory of Orthodoxy. By the power of the Cross of the Lord, Christian kings will continue to reign until Antichrist, barring his path to power and restraining lawlessness (St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on II Thes. 2:6-7).

The "sign of the Son of Man" (Matt. 24:30), that is, the Cross, will appear in the sky in order to proclaim the end of the present world and the coming of the eternal Kingdom of the Son of God. Then all the tribes of the earth shall weep, because they loved the present age and its lusts, but all who have endured persecution for righteousness and called on the name of the Lord shall rejoice and be glad. The Cross then will save all who conquered temptations, from eternal perdition by the Cross, who crucified their flesh with its passions and lusts, and took up their cross and followed afar Christ.

However, those who hated the Cross of the Lord and did not engrave the Cross in their soul will perish forever. For "the Cross is the preserver of the whole universe, the Cross is the beauty of the Church, the Cross is the might of kings, the Cross is the confirmation of the faithful, the Cross is the glory of angels and the scourge of demons" (Octoechos: Exapostilarion, Monday Matins).

Shanghai Exaltation of the Cross, 1947

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

How mistaken are those people who seek happiness outside of themselves... ( St. Nektarios of Aegina )

How mistaken are those people who seek happiness outside of themselves, in foreign lands and journeys, in riches and glory, in great possessions and pleasures, in diversions and vain things, which have a bitter end! In the same thing to construct the tower of happiness outside of ourselves as it is to build a house in a place that is consistently shaken by earthquakes. 
Happiness is found within ourselves, and blessed is the man who has understood this. Happiness is a pure heart, for such a heart becomes the throne of God. Thus says Christ of those who have pure hearts: "I will visit them, and will walk in them, and I will be a God to them, and they will be my people." (II Cor. 6:16) What can be lacking to them? Nothing, nothing at all! For they have the greatest good in their hearts: God Himself! 

St. Nektarios of Aegina

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The path of virtue is a path of effort and toil: ( Saint Nektarios of Egina )

The path of virtue is a path of effort and toil: 
"Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it;" whereas the gate of vice is wide and the way spacious, but lead to perdition.


Saint Nektarios of Egina

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

“Man is half love, half struggle” ( Elder Justin Pârvu )



The newly departed servant of Christ,

Elder Justin (Pârvu) of Romania and his Words of Wisdom


Motto: “If we would be willing to descend into our selves to correct a bit this avalanche of wrongdoings, then our prayer will be heard, the world would be more at peace and our life would suit more the Lord’ liking.

We have become increasingly hostile towards each other by our own selfishness, we see no one but our selves… and when we reach this state of no longer caring for those near us, we encounter the greatest fall”.


Man’s freedom is at the measure of his genuine love


Freedom becomes precious only when it is lost. Or at least, this is how we think. All his life man seeks to be free, but does not appreciate the gift of his freedom until it is too late. Freedom is in our body but also in our heart. Freedom is in action but also in the mind and the intellect. Man is free by how genuinely he loves and is attached to the values of the faith.

We are free when we accept God’s plan for our life, and when we strive to achieve it. Being free does not mean lethargy and bliss, but the fulfillment of your human condition.

Freedom does not mean to do what I always wish, as many times by doing what I like I do the will of the devil. Freedom is at the measure of man discernment, and his capacity to choose between good and evil. Man must realize that only in Truth he can live freely and with so much confusion in this world, he should avoid deception. It was what Communists did not understand, that only on the Cross the human soul gains true freedom, that all their methods of torture and psychological pressure to re-educate us, have made more saints than slaves, have sanctified our land by the martyrs blood.

Freedom is hard to understand when one has not lived in those times [of persecution], and our Christians today barely reflect of this past.


The thirst for God and the love for all people

The thirst for God directs us towards the love of our neighbor and vice versa. So great is the power of love that one who reaches a genuine love for all people denying oneself, receives the gift of healing.

This is the true “follower” of Christ! Such man loves with the love of Christ all those fallen, thus partakes in Christ’ mission on earth and save himself.

Man is half love, half struggle

(Excerpt from an interview given by the Elder Justin in 2007)

Q: – Father Justin, from your experience of “burying yourself in man suffering”, what do you think, does man need: to be understood or to be loved?

Elder Justin: – Man needs to be loved. But to love him, you must first understand him. If you see him fallen down, then you must give him your hand. The love of neighbor is one’ measure of the love for God. If you cannot love the one near you, if you do not help him, you cannot say you love God.

The love of neighbor is the first step towards salvation, on this step one must labor until he reaches the greatest love for God.






Q: – During the communist regime, we have been [spiritually] poised by the slogan “new man”. Do you think we ended up with this “new man”?

Elder Justin: – You mean, in a materialistic sense? Maybe how the communists had imagine a man freed from the “bondage” of faith and of the Holy Spirit…! But a new man purified and renewed… not so.

But I want to speak more of the new man reborn in Christ, a man that’s quite rare in our present times. The renewal of man and of the world can happen only through the Resurrection of Christ, in its profound meaning. This is the new man, whom every mother preparing to bring babies into the world, must dream of modeling.

Q: – Einstein once said that “the progress made by man, compared with the development of his character, is enough to terrify …”

Elder Justin: - Yes… for a soul that’s at peace with itself can fit the whole world within; while in the soul that’s bitter, soured and distressed, nothing can enter…

Q: – How do you think man should be?

Elder Justin: - Man is – or should be! – Half love and half sacrifice, struggling to keep love undefiled.

Q: – A great thinker of the last century, Carl Gustav Jung said: “For a young man is almost a sin or at least a risk to be too much preoccupied with himself, while for the elder man, it is a duty and a necessity to commit to a more serious self study.” How do you see this?

Elder Justin: - At the end of this search man must find God. God made man in His own image, and God dwells in everyone. Young or old, man must clean up the inside of his being, for no one knows when the end comes…

Q: – Someone said that “in an empty mind, the devil finds shelter”…

Elder Justin: - He is speaking of the man who has the basket always full, for he cares for the wheat needed to be milled. And this wheat is our constant cry to God: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, save us.” If the enemy finds our mind wandering in useless things, he will enter and find shelter directing it at his pleasure (…)

Q: – Is there a question that man is rendered to never find the answer in this life?

Elder Justin: - It depends on what someone wants to know. Man has all the answers within himself. About his birth, his life and the meaning of his salvation. But if he wants to find answers to meaningless questions, then he will be constantly miserable. If he seeks answers to questions related to his faith, his purpose in life, he will find happiness.






Q:- Is doubting a sin for the Christian?

Elder Justin: - Yes, but there are “permitted” doubts. A doubt that you’re still alive after a fervent prayer, when your whole being had burned in prayer… This kind of doubt is allowed.

Q: – Father, what is humility?

Elder Justin: - Humility is a fair self-assessment of our human dimensions in relation to the [universe] infinite. Humility accompanied by patience move mounts, that’s how powerful can become for any Christian…

Q: – What is Golgotha [Calvary] for today’ Christian?

Elder Justin: – Man’ unbelief makes every day into a Golgotha.

Q: – Man today is more skeptical than fifty years ago? What can you say to encourage him to go forward, to cope with the trials of life?

Elder Justin: – Our modern man puts too much heart into trifles and details, is assaulted by a lot of false things and does not know how to choose. If you choose wisely, things will become easy and the life beautiful. If you choose wrongly, you are struggling. If you doubt that you have chosen well, your heart is also troubled. Our contemporary man has become too materialistic, a subject to the new tyrant: money. Everywhere we look, we hear that money is everything, the master of this world. He, who makes money his master, makes himself a servant to the devil.

Today, many dramas arouse not from differences in ideas, but from the battle with money, with all that is material. Man bought by it losses his faith and his values and becomes a mare currency.

Q: – How do you define the word happiness? … What advice would you give to Christians who come to you and say they are unhappy?

Elder Justin – Happiness is when you meet with the love of Christ humbly in prayer.

People understand happiness differently. Some who want much may not get it, and feel unhappy. While others may desire less, receive it and are content….





Q: – So happiness is at the measure of man…

Elder Justin: – Happiness is the faith that dwells in us. We have seen people that have many riches, great social positions and they’re still unhappy, because they lock faith!

Q” – There is a story in the Egyptian Paterikon: it happened that a wise elder once sat at the table with several brothers; as they were eating, the elder saw in the spirit how some ate honey, others bread, and some others dung. And the elder marveled and prayed to God, saying, “Lord, reveal to me this secret, how is that the same food is on the table before all, but they seem to eat different food.” And a voice came, saying, “They who eat honey are those who with fear, trembling and spiritual joy sit at the table and pray unceasingly so their prayers go up to God as incense. Those that eat bread give thanks to God for the food, and they who eat dung, are those who complain: “this is good, this is rotten”….

Elder Justin: – Yes, gratitude for what one has received is after all, a measure of man’ faith.


We need to pray with our hearts



• We must honored with much gratitude the sacrificial love of our martyrs.

• It is very important to know how to pray. And often, we monks in monasteries do not pray, but we just seem to be praying. It’s not enough to go to church and to sit there like you did your duty or obligation. We must insist on inner prayer. In vain we say many prayers with our mouth or our mind, if we do not sail deeply, if we do not live what we pray.

• In our times, even the laity need to deepen the Jesus prayer, as it will become our only salvation – prayer into the heart; the heart is the root of all passions and there we must labor. In the past we were able to go by in a more easy – superficial way, but for the times awaiting us, this will not be enough. If we will not have the prayer rotted in our hearts, we will not resist the psychological persecution awaiting us, because soon they will come with [hidden] methods to re-educate our minds. (the elder had the gift of prophesy/ clairvoyance, tr. note).

• Today I find that indifference [acedia] is the hardest sin. Our hearts no longer move in prayer, we have no tears of repentance. There will come a time when only those who feel the grace of the Spirit will be able to distinguish good from evil, for on its own, the human mind cannot discern. There will be times of great confusion and only the Holy Spirit can save us.

So, pray my beloved, pray so you may not enter into [temptation] deception! For only through prayer we can receive God’s grace. If we do not pray and continue in laziness and carelessness, then it is possible to lose the instinct of repentance. God forbid that we may not lose conscious!


(Translated by EC)

Monday, April 2, 2018

A Prayer written by Elder Joseph the Hesychast


O Master, our sweetest Lord Jesus Christ,
send forth Your grace and free me from the bonds
of sin. Enlighten the darkness of my soul, so that
I may apprehend Your infinite mercy, and so that
I may love and thank You worthily, my sweetest
Savior, Who is worthy of all love and thanks.
Yes, my good Benefactor and most merciful
Lord; do not withdraw Your mercy from me, but
have compassion upon Your creature.

I realize, o Lord, the weight of my
transgressions, but I am also aware of Your
inexhaustible mercy. I behold the darkness of my
insensitive soul, but I have good hope and await
for Your divine illumination and the deliverance
from my evil deeds and destructive passions,
through the intercession of Your sweetest Mother,
our Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary,
and of all the Saints. Amen.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast
http://www.stnektariosmonastery.org/en/index.php

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Have you noticed how some people are always grumbling? ( St. Paisios )


Have you noticed how some people are always grumbling? I have a good friend who always begins his story about his latest trip by telling me endlessly about all the problems he had with the airlines. Now, I have traveled a lot and have not normally had any particular difficulties other than an occasional delay or a lost bag, but generally I am thankful that the flight gets me from point A to point B in a very short time without much to be concerned about. But why is it that this person always has such dire troubles when he travels? My only conclusion is that he is simply a grumbler. It's the way he looks at the world and therefore experiences it an a negative way.

This attitude can be very dangerous for our spiritual well being. Negative thoughts can fill our minds and corrupt our view of the goodness that is all around us. We are not able to see and experience God's grace for us.

Elder Paisos tells a story about this issue.

I knew two farmers in Epirus. One of them was a family man who had a couple of small fields and who entrusted everything to God. He worked, as much as he could, without anxiety. He would say, "I'll do as much as I can manage." Occasionally, some of the hay bales would spoil in the rain because he didn't gather them in time, while other bales were scattered by the wind; and yet for all things he would say, "Glory to you, O God!" and everything went well for him. The other farmer had many fields, cows, and so on, but no children. If you asked him, "how are you doing?"; he would invariably respond, "Forget about it; don't even ask!" He never said, "Glory to You, O God"; he was always grumbling. And so that you will see -- sometimes a cow of his would die; sometimes one thing would happen to him, sometimes something else. He had everything, but he made no progress. So what is the spiritual message here? If we are bound up with negative thoughts all the time we will never recognize God's blessings. We become separated from God. As Elder Paisios puts it, "How are we to taste God's blessings, if He gives us, for example, bananas and we're thinking of whatever better things some ship-owner might be eating?" Those who accept what God's gives them with thanks, develop a spiritual sensitivity and are able to know and experience God's love for them. Those who continually grumble miss His energies that are always their to comfort and guide them. They live blind to God bound up by their own negative thoughts.

As the Elder puts its, "We don't understand that happiness is in eternity and not in vanity."

Reference: Elder Paisios of Mount Athos Spiritual Counsels IV: Family LIfe, p 158

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Will the Lord forgive those women who have had multiple abortions but have sincerely repented? . .( Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica )



Q. Will the Lord forgive those women who have had multiple abortions but have sincerely repented? What can they do to redeem their sin?

A. A woman who destroys the fruit of her womb commits a great sin. She is destroying life itself, for God alone is the Giver of life and He makes possible the conception of a human being in the womb. He gives life and a woman destroys it. Great repentance is necessary, from the depths of her soul. She must change and never commit this sin again. Otherwise, she will be condemned as a murderess. No creature on earth kills its young–only man, the rational being. This is a great sin, and if a woman does not repent from the depth of her soul, she will be condemned as a murderess. Will she pass through the toll-houses? There is no sin that cannot be forgiven but the sin of unrepentance. True and sincere repentance is required for such a sin, and it must never be repeated again.

 Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Friday, March 23, 2018

Are Passions Natural?



What is a passion? 
They are impulses that move us to action by overcoming our will. Because of this we say they enslave us. They are powerful because they are also desires which cannot be satisfied. They act as a force that goes against what we know to be the proper action and lead us to actions which are counter to the commandments of Christ. There is no single list of these passions, but the following is a common list used in early Christian literature: gluttony, unchastity, avarice, anger, dejection, listlessness, self-esteem and pride.


Their ultimate cause is the forgetting of God. Healing begins with faith.


Not all passions are bad. There are both natural and unnatural passions. Our natural passions are our appetite for food, enjoyment of food, fear and sadness. These are necessary for our the preservation of our nature. They are important animal aspect of our being given to by God. But we are more than animals as we are spiritual. Because of this we have an aspiration for the infinite. Often these natural passions which are intended for earthly preservation are transformed into unnatural passions. They are frequently transformed into a mistaken quest for the infinite in things of this material world. The soul loses control and the passions take over. Out task is to control them so they can be limited to their proper purpose. Then they can channeled to seek divine things.


Saint Maximus says,

The natural passions become good in those who struggle when, wisely unfastening them from the things of the flesh, use them to gain heavenly things. For example they can change appetite into the movement of a spiritual longing for divine things; pleasure into pure joy for the cooperation of the mind with divine gifts; fear into care to evade future misfortune due to sin and sadness into corrective repentance for present evil. So the natural passions are not necessarily bad. When we are thinking of God they are kept to their necessary biological functions. Our task is not to eradicate them but to control them, keeping them within the limits necessary for the preservation of the body. They must continually be watched and controlled. This is the basis of asceticism.


Thoughts from Fr. Dimitru Staniloae:

Asceticism means, in the spirit of Eastern thought, the restraint and discipline of the biological, not a battle for its extermination. On the contrary, asceticism means the sublimation of this element of bodily affectivity, not its abolition.... Natural passions can assume a spiritual character and give an increased accent to our love for God.... Now here is the most important point. By controlling them we increase our spiritual blessings.

Fr. Dimitru says,

By putting a bridle and a limit on the pleasure of material things, a transfer of this energy of our nature takes place, in favor of the spirit; pleasure in spiritual blessings grows. ... The challenge we face is not easy. Is difficulty is increased by our tendency to react in the wrong way. Once a pleasure leaves us we feel a loss. This can be painful. Pain or dissatisfaction always follows pleasure. This pain that follows does not lead us to take action to temper the pleasure, but does the opposite. We seek even more pleasure. The cycle continues without satisfaction.


Fr. Dimitru says,

The pain which follows pleasure, instead of making him avoid pleasure, as its source,...pushes his anew into pleasure as if to get rid of it, tangling him even more in this vicious chain. Asceticism is aimed at breaking this dysfunctional cycle of pleasure and pain, liberating us from the unnatural extension of passions that have a proper role in our bodily preservation. This bodily domination through uncontrolled passions is our main block to union with God.

Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp77 - 89

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Little Dimitri with the gift of insight...( God's Grace )


 
In September of a certain year, there was a great deal of turmoil observed in the Department of Oncology of the University Hospital of Rion. Little Dimitri was asking urgently for the Hospital's priest. He was insisting on immediately receiving Holy Communion...
He was 13. He had been in that specific clinic for about one and a half years. A minor headache had led him there. The doctors had diagnosed brain cancer. His native town was Fieri of Albania; his parents unbaptized. They had lived in Patra for several years. Shortly after his admission to the Hospital, the young boy had asked to be baptized. He had heard about Christ, and wanted to become a "child" of His. He was baptized, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" - after the necessary catechesis of course. 

Everyone in the clinic was extremely fond of him. The cancer had progressed considerably, and had by now deprived him of his sight. He was entirely unable to see, anything and anyone. But he could listen, with the utmost and amazing patience. He never complained. He would say that God loved him very much. He prayed, and would ask his parents to do the same. 

All those who visited him could perceive that there was something different in that boy. He spoke constantly about God. He was always courteous and happy. His face shone. He wanted to partake of the Precious Gifts frequently. When his mother would sometimes be in another area of the clinic, he would shout out to her:
"Mother, come quickly! Papa is coming, with Christ! He is coming up the stairs! Come and get me ready!" 

And that was exactly what would happen: the priest would come, and he would find little Dimitri sitting upright in his bed, with his mouth wide open and crossing himself with reverence. Even though he never knew the exact time of the priest's arrival, he could "see" him coming, with his gift of insight - and despite the two closed doors that came between his room and the corridor that the priest was coming from. This has been verified by the pious Mrs. Maria Galiatsatou, who had volunteered to look after that boy.
"Mrs. Maria, I want to tell you something", he said to her one day. "When Papa comes together with Christ, I can see him approaching as he walks up the stairs, and next to him are two tall, beautiful people with pure white gowns, who lean towards the Holy Chalice to protect it, with their arms outstretched."
One time, when the doctor asked him: "How are you, my little Dimitri?"
He replied: "Mister Doctor, can I tell you something privately? I am just fine. But you shouldn't worry so much because your wife went away. God will be with you, because you are a good person." 

The doctor remained frozen for an instant. No-one else knew about the grievous incident that had occurred the previous day at his place: that his wife had abandoned him, to be with another man.....
"Now that is a child of God" was what those who had met him would say.
The last time that he received Holy Communion, he was unable to sit up in his bed, but he did receive Christ with joy and longing as he lay there.
"Thank you very much", he whispered and then went to sleep forever. When the priest went to the morgue the next day to read the Trisaghion Prayer over little Dimitri, he remarked:
«It's the first time in my life that I have seen a corpse like this. His face was smiling...it was aglow.... and it had the colour of amber».
His parents came to love Christ very much, and they now want to be baptized also.... 

* One of the signs that Orthodoxy acknowledges in a reposed saintly person is also the colour of the skin, which takes on a translucent amber appearance.


Taken from the book: "ASCETICS IN THE WORLD" , pp.378–380, ISBN: 978-960-89593-2-3,
Publications of the Sacred Retreat «Saint John the Forerunner», Metamorphosis, Chalkidiki

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saint Patrick, the Enlightener of Ireland



Saint Patrick, the Apostle of the Irish, was seized from his native Britain by Irish marauders when he was sixteen years old. Though the son of a deacon and a grandson of a priest, it was not until his captivity that he sought out the Lord with his whole heart. 
 
In his Confession, the testament he wrote towards the end of his life, he says, "After I came to Ireland - every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed - the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was so moved that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many at night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountain; and I would rise for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm." 
 
After six years of slavery in Ireland, he was guided by God to make his escape, and afterwards struggled in the monastic life at Auxerre in Gaul, under the guidance of the holy Bishop Germanus. Many years later he was ordained bishop and sent to Ireland once again, about the year 432, to convert the Irish to Christ. His arduous labours bore so much fruit that within seven years, three bishops were sent from Gaul to help him shepherd his flock, "my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord - so many thousands of people," he says in his Confession.
 
 His apostolic work was not accomplished without much "weariness and painfulness," long journeys through difficult country, and many perils; he says his very life was in danger twelve times. When he came to Ireland as its enlightener, it was a pagan country; when he ended his earthly life some thirty years later, about 461, the Faith of Christ was established in every corner.


Apolytikion in the Third Tone

O Holy Hierarch, equal of the Apostles, Saint Patrick, wonderworker and enlightener of Ireland: Intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.


Kontakion in the Fourth Tone

The Master revealed thee as a skillful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who honour thy memory