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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Time is Money ( Elder Ephraim of Arizona )

Time is the currency with which we acquire eternity. 
The ancients would say, “time is money.” 
Indeed, time is a currency of incalculable value. We do not need even one dollar to purchase eternity; all we need is one minute. 
How did the thief on the cross acquire Paradise? He did so with one minute. 
Actually, it took him less than a minute to confess Jesus Christ, to seek His mercy, and to utter with sincere repentance, “Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom.”
 This is why the Apostle Paul exclaims, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
 Behold, the greatest purchase of all time! 
Let us rush to acquire Paradise. 
We have the means. 
It will be the best investment of our life, because Paradise is forever.
Ioasaf, who went on to become a saint of our Orthodox Church, was the son of the King of India.  Saint Barlaam instructed him in the Christian faith and baptized him. One of the many things Righteous Barlaam taught him was the following:
“In a certain land, the citizens had the custom of electing as their king a foreigner who would come to visit their city. The unsuspecting visitor would accept their offer because he was unaware of their customs and practices. They would crown the visitor and enthrone him king for a certain period of time, only to dethrone him a short time later, without a warning, and exile him to a desolate region. 
Since they never revealed to the stranger that within six months to a year they would strip him of his regal title and send him into exile, the visitor ruled the land assuming that he would reign forever, until the end of his life. The thought of exile would never even cross his mind, and,unmindfulof the citizens’intent to banish him, he never prepared for such a calamity.
During one such trip to the city by a particular visitor, a good and virtuous citizen who saw the foreigner approached him and told him in secret, “My fellow countrymen who dwell in this city are planning to make you a king. You should realize, however, that after a short period of time they will exile you. So, now when you become king and while you have all the goods accessible to you, see to it that you send food, provisions, and other useful items to that deserted region, so that when they banish you to that land you will have them there waiting for you, and youwill be able to live comfortably.” 
“Oh! Thank you very much for telling me,” replied the guest.Indeed, by following the advice of that good citizen, this man sent an abundance of provisions to the land of exile. And so, when the time came and the citizens banished him, he went their gladly and henceforth lived comfortably, because he had sent many goods there beforehand. 
 “Similarly,” explained St. Barlaam to Ioasaph, “Man comes into this present life, and, fooled by the world, he believes that he will reign and live many years; death, however, appears unexpectedly and sends him to eternity. 
 The Church, another good citizen, comes to advise man and points out to him, “Look, you are not going to be here very long. You will depart for the next life , which is eternal. 
Make sure, now that you are here and capable, to do good works and send them there to the next life. Thus, when you die and the world ejects you from the earth, you will find these items there. God will repay you thousand times over, and you will henceforth live joyfully.”
The time of our present life is the opportunity to sow. 
Eternity is the time of harvest.
 Tell me what you sow, and I will tell you what you will reap. 
Do you sow faith, love, and tears of effort and repentance?
 You will reap the joy of eternal Paradise. 
The Lord confirms this: 
“You shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life”(Mt. 19:29). 
St. Paul also emphasizes this in his epistle to the Corinthians:
 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2Cor. 4:17).
Elder Ephraim of Arizona 
https://www.stnektariosmonastery.org/en/index.php 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

One day a week you should ‘keep holy’ ( Saint Gregory Palamas )



One day a week you should ‘keep holy’ (Ex. 20:8): that which is called the Lord’s day, because it is consecrated to the Lord, who on that day arose from the dead, disclosing and giving prior assurance of the general resurrection, when every earthly activity will come to an end. And you must not engage in any worldly activity that is not essential; and you must allow those who are under your authority and those who live with you to rest, so that together you may all glorify Him who redeemed us through His death and who arose from the dead and resurrected our human nature with Himself…

On this day you should go to the temple of God and attend the services held there and with sincere faith and a clean conscience you should receive the holy body and blood of Christ.

Saint Gregory Palamas

Friday, November 8, 2019

The soul cannot have peace unless it prays for the enemies. ( Saint Silouan the Athonite )

The soul cannot have peace unless it prays for the enemies. 
The soul taught by the grace of God to pray, to love and to be sorry for all creation, and above all to the man for whom (the Lord) fell on the cross and was in deep pain for all of us.

Saint Silouan the Athonite

Sunday, November 3, 2019

St. Theodota and the Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian...



Saint Theodota was the mother of Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian of Mesopotamia. They were all natives of Asia Minor. Her pagan husband died while her children were still quite small, but she raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, St Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.


The Holy Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian and their mother St Theodota were natives of Asia Minor (some sources say Mesopotamia). Their pagan father died while they were still quite small children. Their mother raised them in Christian piety. Through her own example, and by reading holy books to them, St Theodota preserved her children in purity of life according to the command of the Lord, and Cosmas and Damian grew up into righteous and virtuous men.

Trained and skilled as physicians, they received from the Holy Spirit the gift of healing people’s illnesses of body and soul by the power of prayer. They even treated animals. With fervent love for both God and neighbor, they never took payment for their services. They strictly observed the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, “Freely have you received, freely give.” (Mt. 10:8). The fame of Sts Cosmas and Damian spread throughout all the surrounding region, and people called them unmercenary physicians.

Once, the saints were summoned to a grievously ill woman named Palladia, whom all the doctors had refused to treat because of her seemingly hopeless condition. Through faith and through the fervent prayer of the holy brothers, the Lord healed the deadly disease and Palladia got up from her bed perfectly healthy and giving praise to God. In gratitude for being healed and wishing to give them a small gift, Palladia went quietly to Damian. She presented him with three eggs and said, “Take this small gift in the Name of the Holy Life-Creating Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Hearing the Name of the Holy Trinity, the unmercenary one did not dare to refuse.

When St Cosmas learned what had happened, became very sad, for he thought that his brother had broken their strict vow. On his deathbed he gave instructions that his brother should not be buried beside him. St Damian also died shortly afterward, and everyone wondered where St Damian’s grave should be. But through the will of God a miracle occurred. A camel, which the saints had treated for its wildness, spoke with a human voice saying that they should have no doubts about whether to place Damian beside Cosmas, because Damian did not accept the eggs from the woman as payment, but out of respect for the Name of God. The venerable relics of the holy brothers were buried together at Thereman (Mesopotamia).

Many miracles were worked after the death of the holy unmercenaries. There lived at Thereman, near the church of Cosmas and Damian, a certain man by the name of Malchus. One day he went on a journey, leaving his wife all alone for what would be a long time. He prayerfully entrusted her to the heavenly protection of the holy brothers. But the Enemy of the race of mankind took on the appearance of one of Malchus’ friends, and planned to kill the woman. A certain time went by, and this man went to her at home and said that Malchus had sent him to bring her to him. The woman believed him and went along. He led her to a solitary place intending to kill her. The woman, seeing that disaster threatened her, called upon God with deep faith.

Two fiercesome men then appeared, and the devil let go of the woman and fled, falling off a cliff. The two men led the woman home. At her own home, bowing to them deeply she asked, “ My rescuers, to whom I shall be grateful to the end of my days, what are your names?”

They replied, “We are the servants of Christ, Cosmas and Damian,” and became invisible. The woman with trembling and with joy told everyone about what had happened to her. Glorifying God, she went up to the icon of the holy brothers and tearfully offered prayers of thanksgiving for her deliverance. And from that time the holy brothers were venerated as protectors of the holiness and inviolability of Christian marriage, and as givers of harmony to conjugal life.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

In this world there are two kinds of love: one that takes and one that gives. ( Mother Maria Skobtsova )



In this world there are two kinds of love: one that takes and one that gives. This is common to all types of love -- not only love for man. One can love a friend, one's family, children, scholarship, art, the motherland, one's own ideas, oneself -- and even God -- from either of these two points of view. Even those forms of love which by common consent are the highest can exhibit this dual character.
Take, for example, maternal love. A mother can often forget herself, sacrifice herself for her children. Yet this does not as yet warrant recognition as Christian love for her children. One needs to ask the question: what is it that she loves in them? She may love her own reflection, her second youth, an expansion of her own "I" into other "I"s which become separated from the rest of the world as "we." She may love in them her own flesh that she sees in them, the traits of her own character, the reflections of her own tastes, the continuation of her family. Then it becomes unclear where is the fundamental difference between an egotistical love of self and a seemingly sacrificial love of one's children, between "I" and "we." All this amounts to a passionate love of one's own which blinds one's vision, forcing one to ignore the rest of the world -- what is not one's own.
Such a mother will imagine that the merit of her own child is not comparable with the merit of other children, that his mishaps and illnesses are more severe than those of others, and, finally, that at times the well-being and success of other children can be sacrificed for the sake of the well-being and success of her own. She will think that the whole world (herself included) is called to serve her child, to feed him, quench his thirst, train him, make smooth all paths before him, deflect all obstacles and all rivals. This is a kind of passion-filled maternal love. Only that maternal love is truly Christian which sees in the child a true image of God, which is inherent not only in him but in all people, but given to her in trust, as her responsibility, as something she must develop and strengthen in him in preparation for the unavoidable life of sacrifice along the Christian path, for that cross-bearing challenge which faces every Christian. Only such a mother loves her child with truly Christian love. With this kind of love she will be more aware of other children's misfortunes, she will be more attentive toward them when they are neglected. As the result of the presence of Christian love in her heart her relationship with the rest of humanity will be a relationship in Christ. This is, of course, a very poignant example.
There can be no doubt but that love for anything that exists is divided into these two types. One may passionately love one's motherland, working to make sure that it develops gloriously and victoriously, overcoming and destroying all its enemies. Or one can love it in a Christian manner, working to see that the face of Christ's truth is revealed more and more clearly within it. One can passionately love knowledge and art, seeking to express oneself, to flaunt oneself in them. Or one can love them while remaining conscious of one's service through them, of one's responsibility for the exercise of God's gifts in these spheres.
One can also love the idea of one's own life simply because it is one's own -- and enviously and jealously set it over against all other ideas. Or one can see in it too a gift granted to one by God for the service of his eternal truth during the time of one's path on earth. One can love life itself both passionately and sacrificially. One can even relate to death in two different ways. And one can direct two kinds of love toward God. One of these will look on him as the heavenly protector of "my" or "our" earthly passions and desires. Another kind of love, however, will humbly and sacrificially offer one's tiny human soul into his hands. And apart from their name -- love -- and apart from their outward appearance, these two forms of love will have nothing in common.
In the light of such Christian love, what should man's ascetic effort be? What is that true asceticism whose existence is inescapably presupposed by the very presence of spiritual life? Its criterion is self-denying love for God and for one's fellow man. But an asceticism which puts one's own soul at the center of everything, which looks for its salvation, fencing it off from the world, and within its own narrow limits comes close to spiritual self-centeredness and a fear of dissipating, of wasting one's energies, even though it be through love -- this is not Christian asceticism.
What is the criterion that can be used to define and measure the various pathways of human life? What are their prototypes, their primary symbols, their boundaries? It is the path of Godmanhood, Christ's path upon earth. The Word became flesh, God became incarnate, born in a stable in Bethlehem. This alone should be fully sufficient for us to speak of the limitless, sacrificial, self-abnegating and self-humbling love of Christ. Everything else is present in this. The Son of Man lowered the whole of himself -- the whole of his divinity, his whole divine nature and his whole divine hypostasis -- beneath the vaults of that cave in Bethlehem. There are not two Gods, nor are there two Christs: one who abides in blessedness within the bosom of the Holy Trinity and another who took on the form of a servant. The Only-begotten Son of God, the Logos, has become Man, lowering himself to the level of mankind. The path of his later life -- the preaching, the miracles, the prophesies, the healings, the enduring of hunger and thirst, right through his trial before Pilate, the way of the cross and on to Golgotha and death -- all this is the path of his humiliated humanity, and together with him the path of God's condescension to humanity.
What was Christ's love like? Did it withhold anything? Did it observe or measure its own spiritual gifts? What did it regret? Where was it ever stingy? Christ's humanity was spit upon, struck, crucified. Christ's divinity was incarnate fully and to the end in his spit-upon, battered, humiliated and crucified humanity. The Cross -- an instrument of shameful death -- has become for the world a symbol of self-denying love. And at no time nor place -- neither from Bethlehem to Golgotha, neither in sermons nor parables, nor in the miracles he performed -- did Christ ever give any occasion to think that he did not sacrifice himself wholly and entirely for the salvation of the world, that there was in him something held back, some "holy of holies" which he did not want to offer or should not have offered.
He offered his own "holy of holies," his own divinity, for the sins of the world, and this is precisely wherein lies his divine and perfect love in all its fullness.
This is the only conclusion we can come to from the whole of Christ's earthly ministry. But can it be that the power of divine love is such because God, though offering himself, still remains God, that is, does not empty himself, does not perish in this dreadful sacrificial self-emptying?
Human love cannot be completely defined in terms of the laws of divine love, because along this path a man can lay himself waste and lose sight of what is essential: the salvation of his soul.
But here one need only pay attention to what Christ taught us. He said: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross." Self-denial is of the essence, and without it no one can follow him, without it there is no Christianity. Keep nothing for yourself. Lay aside not only material wealth but spiritual wealth as well, changing everything into Christ's love, taking it up as your cross. He also spoke -- not about himself and not about his perfect love, but about the love which human imperfection can assume -- "Greater love has no man than he who lays down his soul (AV, RSV: life) for his friends" (Jn. 15:13). How miserly and greedy it is to understand the word "soul" here as "life." Christ is speaking here precisely about the soul, about surrendering one's inner world, about utter and unconditional self-sacrifice as the supreme example of the love that is obligatory for Christians. Here again there is no room for looking after one's own spiritual treasures. Here everything is given up.
Christ's disciples followed in his path. This is made quite clear in an almost paradoxical expression of the Apostle Paul: "I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren" (Rom. 9:3). And he said this, having stated: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20). For him such an estrangement from Christ is an estrangement from life not only in the transient, worldly sense of the word, but from the eternal and incorruptible life of the age to come.
These examples suffice to let us know where Christianity leads us. Here love truly does not seek its own, even if this be the salvation of one's own soul. Such love takes everything from us, deprives us of everything, almost as if it were devastating us. And where does it lead? To spiritual poverty. In the Beatitudes we are promised blessedness in return for being poor in spirit. This precept is so far removed from human understanding that some people attempt to read the word "spirit" as a later interpolation and explain these words as a call for material poverty and a rejection of earthly riches, while others almost slip into fanaticism, taking this as a call for intellectual poverty, the rejection of thought and of any kind of intellectual content. Yet how simply and clearly these words can be interpreted in the context of other evangelical texts. The person who is poor in spirit is the one who lays down his soul for his friends, offering this spirit out of love, not withholding his spiritual treasures.
Here the spiritual significance of the monastic vow of renunciation becomes evident. Of course it does not refer just to material renunciation or a basic absence of avarice. Here it is a question of spiritual renunciation.
What is the opposite of this? What vices correspond to the virtue of renunciation? There are two of them, and in real life they are frequently confused: stinginess and greed. One can be greedy but at the same time not be stingy, and even extravagant. One can also be stingy but not have a greedy desire to possess what is not one's own. Both are equally unacceptable. And if it is unacceptable in the material world, it is even less acceptable in the spiritual realm.
Renunciation teaches us not only that we should not greedily seek advantage for our soul, but that we must not be stingy with our soul, that we should squander our soul in love, that we should achieve spiritual nakedness, that spiritually we should be stripped bare. There should be nothing so sacred or valuable that we would not be ready to give it up in the name of Christ's love to those who have need of it.
Spiritual renunciation is the way of the holy fool. It is folly, foolishness in Christ. It is the opposite of the wisdom of this age. It is the blessedness of those who are poor in spirit. It is the outer limit of love, the sacrifice of one's own soul. It is separation from Christ in the name of one's brothers. It is the denial of oneself. And this is the true Christian path which is taught us by every word and every phrase of the Gospels.
Why is it that the wisdom of this world not only opposes this commandment of Christ but simply fails to understand it? Because the world has at all times lived by accommodating itself to the laws of material nature and is inclined to carry these laws over into the realm of spiritual nature. According to the laws of matter, I must accept that if I give away a piece of bread, then I became poorer by one piece of bread. If I give away a certain sum of money, then I have reduced my funds by that amount. Extending this law, the world thinks that if I give my love, I am impoverished by that amount of love, and if I give up my soul, then I am utterly ruined, for there is nothing left of me to save.
In this area, however, the laws of spiritual life are the exact opposite of the laws of the material world. According to spiritual law, every spiritual treasure given away not only returns to the giver like a whole and unbroken ruble given to a beggar, but it grows and becomes more valuable. He who gives, acquires, and he who becomes poor, becomes rich. We give away our human riches and in return we receive much greater gifts from God, while he who gives away his human soul, receives in return eternal bliss, the divine gift of possessing the Kingdom of heaven. How does he receive that gift? By absenting himself from Christ in an act of the uttermost self-renunciation and love, he offers himself to others. If this is indeed an act of Christian love, if this self-renunciation is genuine, then he meets Christ himself face to face in the one to whom he offers himself. And in communion with him he communes with Christ himself. That from which he absented himself he obtains anew, in love, and in a true communion with God. Thus the mystery of union with man becomes the mystery of union with God. What was given away returns, for the love which is poured out never diminishes the source of that love, for the source of love in our hearts is Love itself. It is Christ.
We are not speaking here about good deeds, nor about that love which measures and parcels out its various possibilities, which gives away the interest but keeps hold of the capital. Here we are speaking about a genuine draining of self, in partial imitation of Christ's self-emptying of himself when he became incarnate in mankind. In the same way we must empty ourselves completely, becoming incarnate, so to speak, in another human soul, offering to it the full strength of the divine image which is contained within ourselves.
This it is -- and only this -- which was rejected by the wisdom of this world, as being a kind of violation of its laws. It is this that made the Cross a symbol of divine love: foolishness for the Greeks and a stumbling block for the Jews, though for us it is the only path to salvation. There is not, nor can there be, any doubt but that in giving ourselves to another in love -- to the poor, the sick, the prisoner -- we will encounter in him Christ himself, face to face. He told us about this himself when he spoke of the Last Judgement: how he will call some to eternal life because they showed him love in the person of each unfortunate and miserable individual, while others he will send away from himself because their hearts were without love, because they did not help him in the person of his suffering human brethren in whom he revealed himself to them. If we harbor doubts about this on the basis of our unsuccessful everyday experience, then we ourselves are the only reason for these doubts: our loveless hearts, our stingy souls, our ineffective will, our lack of faith in Christ's help. One must really be a fool for Christ in order to travel this path to its end -- and at its end, again and again, encounter Christ. This alone is our all-consuming Christian calling.
And this, I believe, is the evangelical way of piety. It would be incorrect, however, to think that this has been revealed to us once and for all in the four Gospels and clarified in the Epistles. It is continually being revealed and is a constant presence in the world. It is also continually being accomplished in the world, and the form of its accomplishment is the Eucharist, the Church's most valuable treasure, its primary activity in the world. The Eucharist is the mystery of sacrificial love. Therein lies its whole meaning, all its symbolism, all its power. In it Christ again and again is voluntarily slain for the sins of the world. Again and again the sins of the world are raised by him upon the Cross. And he gives himself -- his Body and Blood -- for the salvation of the world. By offering himself as food for the world, by giving to the world communion in his Body and Blood, Christ not only saves the world by his sacrifice, but makes each person himself a "christ," and unites him to his own self-sacrificing love for the world. He takes flesh from the world, he deifies this human flesh, he gives it up for the salvation of the world and then unites the world again to this sacrificed flesh -- both for its salvation and for its participation in this sacrificial offering. Along with himself -- in himself -- Christ offers the world as well as a sacrifice for the expiation of our sins, as if demanding from the world this sacrifice of love as the only path toward union with him, that is, for salvation. He raises the world as well upon the Cross, making it a participant in his death and in his glory.
How profound is the resonance of these words of the Eucharist: "Thine own of thine own we offer unto thee, on behalf of all and for all." The Eucharist here is the Gospel in action. It is the eternally existing and eternally accomplished sacrifice of Christ and of Christ-like human beings for the sins of the world. Through it earthly flesh is deified and having been deified enters into communion again with earthly flesh. In this sense the Eucharist is true communion with the divine. And is it not strange that in it the path to communion with the divine is so closely bound up with our communion with each other. It assumes consent to the exclamation: "Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided."
The Eucharist needs the flesh of this world as the "matter" of the mystery. It reveals to us Christ's sacrifice as a sacrifice on behalf of mankind, that is, as his union with mankind. It makes us into "christs," repeating again and again the great mystery of God meeting man, again and again making God incarnate in human flesh. And all this is accomplished in the name of sacrificial love for mankind.
But if at the center of the Church's life there is this sacrificial, self-giving eucharistic love, then where are the Church's boundaries, where is the periphery of this center? Here it is possible to speak of the whole of Christianity as an eternal offering of the Divine Liturgy beyond church walls. What does this mean? It means that we must offer the bloodless sacrifice, the sacrifice of self-surrendering love not only in a specific place, upon the altar of a particular temple; the whole world becomes the single altar of a single temple, and for this universal Liturgy we must offer our hearts, like bread and wine, in order that they may be transubstantiated into Christ's love, that he may be born in them, that they may become "Godmanhood" hearts, and that he may give these hearts of ours as food for the world, that he may bring the whole world into communion with these hearts of ours that have been offered up, so that in this way we may be one with him, not so that we should live anew but so that Christ should live in us, becoming incarnate in our flesh, offering our flesh upon the Cross of Golgotha, resurrecting our flesh, offering it as a sacrifice of love for the sins of the world, receiving it from us as a sacrifice of love to himself. Then truly in all ways Christ will be in all.
Here we see the measurelessness of Christian love. Here is the only path toward becoming Christ, the only path which the Gospel reveals to us. What does all this mean in a worldly, concrete sense? How can this be manifested in each human encounter, so that each encounter may be a real and genuine communion with God through communion with man? It implies that each time one must give up one's soul to Christ in order that he may offer it as a sacrifice for the salvation of that particular individual. It means uniting oneself with that person in the sacrifice of Christ, in flesh of Christ. This is the only injunction we have received through Christ's preaching of the Gospel, corroborated each day in the celebration of the Eucharist. Such is the only true path a Christian can follow. In the light of this path all others grow dim and hazy. One must not, however, judge those who follow other conventional, non-sacrificial paths, paths which do not require that one offer up oneself, paths which do not reveal the whole mystery of love. Nor, on the other hand, is it permitted to be silent about them. Perhaps in the past it was possible, but not today.
Such terrible times are coming. The world is so exhausted from its scabs and its sores. It so cries out to Christianity in the secret depths of its soul. But at the same time it is so far removed from Christianity that Christianity cannot, should not even dare to show a distorted, diminished, darkened image of itself. Christianity should singe the world with the fire of Christian love. Christianity should ascend the Cross on behalf of the world. It should incarnate Christ himself in the world. Even if this Cross, eternally raised again and again on high, be foolishness for our new Greeks and a stumbling block for our new Jews, for us it will still be "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24).
We who are called to be poor in spirit, to be fools for Christ, who are called to persecution and abuse -- we know that this is the only calling given to us by the persecuted, abused, disdained and humiliated Christ. And we not only believe in the Promised Land and the blessedness to come: now, at this very moment, in the midst of this cheerless and despairing world, we already taste this blessedness whenever, with God's help and at God's command, we deny ourselves, whenever we have the strength to offer our soul for our neighbors, whenever in love we do not seek our own.

Taken From Mother Maria Skobtsova"Types of Religious Lives"

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Lay People and the Prayer of the Heart ( St. Ephraim of Katounakia )


To a layman who asked about Noetic Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me), 
St. Ephraim of Katounakia had this to say:

Set aside half an hour out of the twenty-four to say the Prayer. Whenever you are able; but the evening is best. Say it without using the prayer rope - in supplication, pleading, and with tears. 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.' Cultivate this, and you'll see what fruit it brings. From half an hour, it will become an hour. And guard this hour. Whether the phone is ringing, or you have this task you need to do now, or you're sleepy, or some blasphemy is confronting you. Nothing. Turn off the phone. Finish your tasks. Do this half hour and you'll see. You've planted a little tree, and tomorrow or the day after it will bear fruit. St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil both began like this and became luminaries for the whole world. St. Symeon the New Theologian had experiences of the Uncreated Light while still a layman. He was a layman. How many laymen appear as such exteriorly, but deep down are monastics!
St. Ephraim of Katounakia

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Christian Virtues ( Elder Cleopa )



Q. What teachings and spiritual counsels do you give to the faithful, to confirm them in the three theological virtues – in faith, in hope and in charity – which are the foundation of our salvation?

A. I AM a simple man, and unlearned, and I am not equal to the task of giving particular teachings on the three theological virtues. That I leave to theologians, who can understand them and explain them to their listeners.

Here it is necessary to deal with a theology of the many and the unlearned, who still do not know the “I believe” and the “Our Father”, nor the Trisagion. In my weak powers and understanding regarding matters beneficial for salvation, first, I recall the minds of the faithful to the fear of God, which teaches man to flee from evil (Prov 1:7, 9, 10).

We know from the Holy Fathers that wisdom has two ends. The lower end is the fear of God, and the upper end is the love of God, which is “the bond of perfection”. Beginning from the fear of God, I urge the faithful to the fear of death and of judgment. Then I recall their minds to the torments of punishment, to the glory of paradise, to compassionate mercy, to the upbringing of children in the fear and trials of the Lord, to sincerity and frequent confession and to the abandonment of sin, which is the true repentance.

As for the married, I urge them to a pure family life, counselling them to abandon the heavy sin of child-murder [i.e. abortion] and any attempts whatsoever to prevent conception. I urge them to abandon quarrelsomeness, fault-finding, anger, drunkenness and hatred, and I urge them to be reconciled before the sun has set.


Elder Cleopa

Saturday, October 12, 2019

True Christianity Is a Struggle..( Archbishop Averky )


 
Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Mk 8:34).
The Great Fast is a season of repentance; and repentance is that struggle to contend against sinful passions and lusts which is so difficult for man that the Lord, the Judge of the contest Himself, likened it to the bearing of a cross. We are vividly reminded of this at the very midpoint of the Great Fast, on the Sunday of the Adoration of the Cross. Just as the Lord bore the Cross for the sake of our salvation, so each of us must bear “his cross” in order to attain the salvation prepared for us by the Lord.

Without the cross, without struggle, there can be no salvation! This is what true Christianity teaches. The teaching on struggle, on the bearing of the cross, runs like a scarlet thread through all the Sacred Scriptures and all of the history of the Church; and the lives of those holy ones who were pleasing unto God, the spiritual athletes of Christian piety, clearly bear witness to this. The Great Fast is merely an annually repeated exercise in the bearing of one’s cross in this life, an exercise in spiritual struggle inseparably bound up with the entire life of the true Christian.

But now, in the twentieth century of the Christian era, “wise men” have appeared—“neo-Christians,” as some of them refer to themselves—who do not wish to hear of this. They preach a new sort of saccharine, sentimental, rosy-hued neo-Christian love and the unrestricted enjoyment of all the delights of this transitory earthly life. They totally ignore the innumerable passages in Holy Writ which forcefully and eloquently speak of spiritual struggles, of emulating Christ the Savior in crucifying oneself, of the many sorrows which await the Christian in this life, beginning with the words which Christ the Savior Himself addressed to His disciples at the Mystical Supper: In the world ye shall have tribulation. (Jn 16:33). And this is because, as the Lord Himself explained, true Christians are not of the world (Jn 15:19), since the whole world lieth in wickedness (I Jn 5:19). This is why Christians must not love this world and the things that are in the world (I Jn 2:15); the friendship of the world is enmity with God, and whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (Jas 4:4).

These modern “wise men” somehow fail to see that the Word of God nowhere promises Christians full spiritual satisfaction and paradisical blessedness in this earthly life. Quite the contrary; it emphasizes that life on earth will move further and further away from the Law of God; that, in respect to morality, men will fall lower and lower (II Tim 3:1-5); that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (II Tim 3:12-13); and that, finally, the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up. (II Pet 3:10). But there will appear new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (II Pet 3:13)—a wondrous New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven (Rev 21:2), which was shown to John, the beholder of mysteries, during the revelation accorded him.

All of this is not to the liking of the “neo-Christians.” They want blessedness here in this world, burdened with its multitude of sins and iniquities; and they await this blessedness with impatience. They consider one of the surest ways of attaining it to be the “ecumenical movement,” the union and unification of all peoples in one new “church” which will comprise not only Roman Catholics and Protestants, but also Jews, Moslems and pagans, each retaining his own convictions and errors. This imaginary “Christian” love, in the name of the future blessedness of men on earth, cannot but trample upon the Truth.

The destruction of this earth with everything on it, although clearly foretold by the Word of God, is considered by them to be something indescribably horrible, as though it were not consistent with the omnipotence of God and, apparently, quite undesirable. They reluctantly admit the destruction of earth (for how can one not accept something prophesied in the Word of God?), but with the condition that it will take place in the far, far distant, mist-enshrouded future, not centuries, but millions of years from now.

What is the reason for this? One might say, because they are weak of faith, or lacking entirely in faith in the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. For them everything is in this earthly life, and when it ends for them, everything does.

In a few of its points—especially in the expectation of the blessed life in this world—such a frame of mind closely resembles the widespread heresy of the first centuries of Christianity called “chiliasm.” This is the expectation of a thousand-year reign of Christ on earth; therefore the modern manifestation of this heresy may be termed “neo-chiliasm.”

One should be aware and keep in mind that chiliasm was condemned by the Second Ecumenical Council in the year 381; and therefore to believe in it now in the twentieth century, even in part, is quite unforgivable. Besides which, this contemporary “neo-chiliasm” is far worse than the ancient chiliastic heresy in that at its basis indubitably lies a disbelief in the life of the age to come and the passionate desire to attain blessedness here on earth, using all the improvements and achievements of the material progress of our times.

This false teaching wreaks terrible harm, lulling to sleep the spiritual vigilance of the faithful and suggesting to them that the end of the world is far away (if in fact there will be an end?), and therefore there is no particular need to watch and pray, to which Christ the Savior constantly called His followers (cf. Mt 26:41), since everything in the world is gradually getting better and better, spiritual progress keeping step with materialism. And the terrible phenomena which we observe at the present time are all temporary; all has happened before, and all will ultimately pass away, and an extraordinary flourishing of Christianity will replace it, in which, of course, the ecumenists will occupy the principal and honored places.

Thus, everything is fine! It is not necessary to labor over oneself, and no spiritual struggle is required; the fasts may be abolished. Everything will get better all by itself, until the Kingdom of God is finally established on earth with universal earthly satisfaction and blessedness.

Brethren! Is it not clear where the ultimate source of this alluring false teaching is found? Who suggests all these thoughts to contemporary Christians with the purpose of overthrowing all of Christianity? As an infectious plague, as fire, must we fear this “neo-chiliasm” which is so profoundly contrary to the teaching of the Word of God, the teaching of the Holy Fathers and all of the centuries-old teachings of our Holy Church, by which many, many thousands of the righteous have been saved.

Without spiritual struggle there is not, and cannot be true Christianity! Therefore, our path does not lie with all the modern movements, nor with ecumenists, nor with the new-chiliasts.

Our faith is the faith of the holy ascetics, the apostolic faith, the faith of the Fathers, the Orthodox Faith which, hath made the whole world steadfast (from the service for the Sunday of Orthodoxy). This faith and only this faith will we firmly adhere to in these evil days in which we now live. Amen.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Christians, always rejoice, for evil, death, sin, the devil and hell have been conquered by Christ. ( St. Justin Popovich )

Christians, always rejoice, for evil, death, sin, the devil and hell have been conquered by Christ. But when all of this is conquered, is there anyone in the world who can bring our joy to naught? You are the lord of this eternal rejoicing as long as you do not give in to sin. Joy burns in our hearts from His truth, love, resurrection, and from the Church and His saints. Joy burns in our hearts all because of sufferings for Him, mockings for Him, and death for Him, insofar as these sufferings write our names in heaven. 
There is no true joy on earth without the victory over death, but the victory over death does not exist without the Resurrection, and the Resurrection does not exist without Christ. The risen God-Man Christ, the founder of the Church, constantly pours out this joy into the hearts of His followers through the Holy Mysteries and good deeds. Our faith is fulfilled in this eternal joy, insofar as the joy of faith in Christ is the only true joy for human nature. 

St. Justin Popovich

Monday, September 30, 2019

The two Kinds of Laughter... ( St. John Maximovitch )


There are two kinds of laughter, light and dark. They can be easily distinguished from one another by the laughing person's eyes and smile. You can also distinguish the two within yourself by what kind of spirit accompanies the laughter. In the absence of a light joy, a subtle feeling of light-heartedness, the laughter is not light. If what you feel within your breast is coarse and dry, and you are wearing a crooked smile, then the laughter is filthy. [That type of laugh] always follows some type of joke, something that mocks the harmony of the world. Distorting harmony in the world also distorts one's soul, and that is reflected in one's twisted facial expression. 

"A serene smile," is the mirror of discovered harmony. The saints smile without laughing. Laughter, as the fullness of clean joy, is the condition of the age to come. Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh. Ascetic experience in one's enlightening and transfiguration even recommends smiling without showing one's teeth (better to have a little less joy than to have even a fleeting moment of impurity therein!)

"Joking laughter" - the laughter heard in films, theaters, at parties and soirees, casually ridiculing one's neighbor, laughing at weaknesses and human dignity for the sake of amusement and to forget sorrow, pointless laughter, and vain ridicule of others - all these are a spiritual disease. More precisely, they can be characterized as symptoms of spiritual disease.

In the world of the spirits are unclean spirits, spirits seen in the faces of those roaring with laughter… Angelic joy puts a smile on the face.

Healthy laughter can quietly dissipate the gathering clouds of evil argumentativeness, enmity, and even murder... Good laughter restores friendships and the family hearth.

Caustic, sarcastic laughter is not of God. A sarcastic smile, biting sarcasm, is a mockery of the Gospel salt of wisdom. It is mockery contained in a twisted smile.

Words of sharp witticism always cut open the soul. Sharpness is sharpness whether the knife is held by a surgeon or by a brigand; yet it can be used to diametrically opposite effect. Incision can allow in the Heavenly Light and the warmth of the Spirit, can be employed in order to excise rotting tissue and to ablate necrosis. Yet there is a sharpness that is not beneficial, one that cuts, carelessly cuts up the soul, and often kills.

Only the saints are incisive, and only the holy is incisive. Unclean spirits are a mockery of incisiveness, and many people in the world hone their ability to speak their minds with such wittiness, such [mock] incisiveness.

The boundary between clean and unclean laughter is "Homeric laughter," cackling, roaring laughter... This is the kind of laughter encountered at opulent banquets.

Who is vigilant, remaining pious in cognizance of the Mystery of his life, will be vigilant with respect to his entire life, including his laughter. Before God, he will even watch how he smiles. For him, and with the help of his invisible protectors, everything will be clean and bright.

Just like children, the saints illumined the world both with their weeping and with their smiles. Only children and those who have true love for Christ possess that purity of life that can be seen with human eyes - seen even in their facial expression.

For children as yet untainted by the spirit of corruption, everything is direct and pure. For them, death has not yet revealed itself to mock their mortality. They still possess the spring of life both as a beginning and a memory of Heaven. Thus, their vision and laughter is clean and pure, they speak without dissembling, they find it easy to weep, and to forget that they had been weeping...

"Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven…" The reason is clear.

The greatest praise for a person is "He has the laughter of a child"… incorrupt laughter, approaching Heavenly harmony.

Monday, September 23, 2019

I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful ( Saint Silouan the Athonite )

Understand two thoughts, and fear them. 
One says,  
"You are a saint," the other, 
"You won't be saved." 
Both of these thoughts are from the enemy, and there is no truth in them. 
But think this way: 
I am a great sinner, but the Lord is merciful. He loves people very much, and He will forgive my sins. 

Saint Silouan the Athonite

Thursday, September 19, 2019

How can one laugh at a clergyman? ( St. Anatoly of Optina )

How can one laugh at a clergyman? 
So what if he serves poorly? 
He still has grace. He is ordained. 
One must not, must not, laugh!

St. Anatoly of Optina

Monday, September 16, 2019

The boy stopped short: "In my heart you will find Christ"


A young boy was rushed to a hospital emergency room. After urgent examinations, the doctor said: "I will open your heart ..."



The boy stopped short: "In my heart you will find Christ"

The surgeon looked at him strangely, and as he did not believe, he nodded his head and said:
"I will open your heart to see the damages caused by your illness ..."

"Yes, but when you open my heart, you will find Christ."

The doctor took a curious look at his parents sitting quietly beside him and continued, "When I see the damage, I will close your heart and chest and decide what to do."

"Yes, but you will find Christ in my heart. The Bible says that Christ dwells there. All the hymns of the church say that Christ dwells there, in our heart. You will find him in my heart. "

The cardiac surgeon said: "I'll tell you exactly what I'll find in your heart. I will find a damaged heart muscle, a decreased blood flow and weakened blood vessels. And then I can, once I know, do you good. "

"And you will also find Christ, who is there ..."

The doctor came out of the exam room annoyed by the child.

As he had predicted, he underwent surgery ... The injuries were significant, as he had predicted, according to the image of the exam. He couldn't do anything ...

When the surgery was over, he sat down at his desk to write down notes on the operation: a broken aorta, a damaged pulmonary vein, extensive muscle degeneration. No hope of a transplant. No hope of healing. Treatment: painkillers and complete rest. Prediction (paused): death will come in time ...

He left the computer and got up ... Addressing the little Christ: "Why, " he exclaimed "why did you do this? You sent him here. You sent him with this evil. He is sentenced to die of this evil. Why; Why;"

Then in the depths of it, he heard a voice answering: "This child is not destined to live in your flock long term. This child belongs to My flock and so it will be forever. Here, in My flock, there is no pain. He will be comforted as much as you can imagine. Someday, his parents will meet him here and get to know the peace. My flock will continue to grow. "

Tears were running in the eyes of the cardiac surgeon. But his sentiments against God, full of selfishness, responded within him: "You have created this creature, You have made this heart. He is doomed to die within a few months ... why? "

The voice inside replied: "The child has to go back to my flock because he has done his job. I did not bring My child to earth to lose him, but to find another lost sheep. "

The doctor understood that this child did not come here by accident ... he came for him ... He had received a Christian education ... Memories danced in his mind. Because of his many professional accomplishments, his soul had become his last care.

He went into the child's ward, sat on his bed, facing his parents.

The boy woke up and yelled, "Did you open my heart?"

"Yes!" The doctor replied excitedly.

"And what did you find?" The young man asked.

"I found Christ," the surgeon replied, crying like the little child he was, fifty years ago ...

The child and the doctor became best friends ..
http://apantaortodoxias.blogspot.com

The Proper Understanding and Use of Antidoron



Traditional View and Practice According to Akrivia (Strictness)
 
Please help me to understand the significance of antidoron. How should one receive it and handle it? 
If one takes it home during the week for daily "communion" is this wrong? 
Is there a proper way of doing it—before a prayer, before a meal, etc.? 
When can you or should you take prosphora to Church? 
Should you also take wine and oil? 
Do you bring the names of people to be commemorated with these gifts? (G.M., IL)

This is a subject of great importance which we have several times addressed in the pages of Orthodox Tradition. When we do not commune at Liturgy, we receive antidoron (an-dee-tho-ron, with a hard "d" and a soft "d," as in "the") at the end of Liturgy (that is, blessed bread which substitutes for the Gifts; thus, antidoron, "instead of the Gifts"). Those who commune during the Liturgy receive antidoron or antidoron and wine immediately after communing and should not take it again at the end of Liturgy. 
Since it is blessed, the antidoron should be carefully handled and no particles of it should be allowed to fall on the ground. This means that children must be carefully watched while consuming antidoron and taught to treat it with pious reverence.
 It should be received from the Priest at the end of Liturgy and immediately consumed. Since antidoron is given in place of the Gifts, it is also received on an empty stomach, for which reason Orthodox Christians do not eat or drink anything from the midnight before the Divine Liturgy, whether communing or not. 

Antidoron may also be taken home for use during the week. It is a pious custom for Orthodox Christians to begin the day, after their morning prayers and before eating, by consuming a particle of antidoron and drinking agiasmos, or blessed water. 

Prosforo(n), the word for the bread which we offer at the Divine Liturgy, comes from the Greek word for an offering, prosfora. It is customarily baked in the home with prayers and taken to Church, where it is offered for the Divine Liturgy. (Incidentally, women, out of piety, should not prepare prosforon during their monthly periods.) One may also give oil and wine along with prosforon—other "offerings"—so as to provide for the oil lamps and the remaining element of the Eucharist, though this is not mandatory. This can be done for any Liturgy. It is also customary to offer the names of Orthodox Christian family members, of friends, and of relatives with the prosforon, so that the Priest may commemorate them at the Service of Preparation (Proskomide).


Most Orthodox Christians are aware that one should keep a strict and complete fast from midnight before receiving the Holy Mysteries, but one should also receive holy water and the antidoron (the blessed bread given out at the end of the Liturgy) fasting. If, as many do, you keep a supply at home, use a little each day to break your fast, when you have said your morning prayers and before eating anything else. If you are attending the Divine Liturgy, then keep a fast until the service is over (as in any case one should) and you receive your antidoron from the priest. If for some reason, you have eaten when you attend the Liturgy, then take the antidoron home as a blessing and consume it on another day, thus showing reverence for the things of God and the blessing which this bread has received.


It is a pious custom to keep some holy bread and holy water in one's icon corner—to consume, breaking the night's fast, with one's morning prayers. 

“O Lord my God, may Thy holy gift and Thy Holy Water be unto forgiveness of my sins, unto enlightenment of my mind, unto strengthening of my spiritual and bodily powers, unto health of my soul and body, unto vanquishing of my passions and weaknesses, by Thy boundless merciful kindness, through the prayers of Thy Most-pure Mother and all Thy Saints. Amen.” 

Taken from the Parish Newsletter of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St John the Baptist (May 2011).

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ημέρα Μνήμης της Γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων (14 Σεπτεμβρίου) - Greek Genocide Remembrance Day (September 14)



Γενοκτονία των Ελλήνων 1914-1923

Η Γενοκτονία των Ελλήνων αναφέρεται στη συστηματική εξόντωση των Ελλήνων της Οθωμανικής Αυτοκρατορίας πριν, κατά τη διάρκεια και μετά τον Α 'Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο (1914-1923). Διεξήχθη από δύο διαδοχικές κυβερνήσεις της Οθωμανικής Αυτοκρατορίας - δηλαδή από το Κομιτάτο Ένωσις και Πρόοδος
(ΚΕΠ) και το Τουρκικό Εθνικιστικό Κίνημα του Μουσταφά Κεμάλ Ατατούρκ. Περιλάμβανε σφαγές, εξαναγκαστικές εκτοπίσεις και πορείες θανάτου, απελάσεις, μποϊκοτάζ, βιασμό, αναγκαστικός εξισλαμισμός, στρατολόγηση σε τάγματα εργασίας, αυθαίρετες εκτελέσεις και καταστροφή πολιτιστικών, ιστορικών και θρησκευτικών μνημείων. Σύμφωνα με διάφορες πηγές, περίπου 1 εκατομμύριο Έλληνες της Οθωμανικής Αυτοκρατορίας έχασαν τη ζωή τους κατά τη διάρκεια αυτής της περιόδου.
Η πρώτη φάση της Γενοκτονίας των Ελλήνων ξεκίνησε το 1914 στην Ανατολική Θράκη, όπου ολόκληρες ελληνικές κοινότητες εκδιώχθηκαν βίαια και απελάθηκαν στο εσωτερικό της Μικράς Ασίας. Άλλα μέτρα που χρησιμοποιήθηκαν για την καταδίωξη των Ελλήνων σε αυτή την περιοχή ήταν το μποϊκοτάζ των ελληνικών επιχειρήσεων, δολοφονίες, βαρειά φορολογία, κατάσχεση περιουσίας και η πρόληψη από την εργασία στα κτήματα τους. Την άνοιξη και το καλοκαίρι του 1914 πραγματοποιήθηκε η εθνοκάθαρση των Ελλήνων της δυτικής ακτής της Μικράς Ασίας. Αυτές οι επιχειρήσεις, περιλαμβανομένων εκείνων της Ανατολικής Θράκης, σχεδιάστηκαν και εκτελέστηκαν από την ΚΕΠ χρησιμοποιώντας τακτικές και άτακτες δυνάμεις, συμπεριλαμβανομένων μελών της παραστρατιωτικής μονάδας της ΚΕΠ, της λεγόμενης Ειδικής Οργάνωσης (δηλαδή η Teşkilât-i Mahsusa).

Με την έναρξη του Μεγάλου Πολέμου, ο Ελληνικός αρσενικός πληθυσμός μεταξύ 21-45 ετών στρατολογήθηκε βίαια σε τάγματα εργασίας (τα Amele Taburlari). Οι περισσότεροι από αυτούς έχασαν τηζωή τους κάτω από άθλιες συνθήκες εφόσον αναγκάζονται να εργάζονται όλο το εικοσιτετράωρο με λίγη τροφή ή νερό. Το 1915, με τη συμβουλή του γερμανικού στρατιωτικού προσωπικού, το ΚΕΠ απέλασε τις
ελληνικές κοινότητες από τα Δαρδανέλλια και την Καλλίπολη με το πρόσχημα της στρατιωτικής
αναγκαιότητας. Αυτοί οι Έλληνες δεν είχαν το δικαίωμα να πάρουν τίποτα μαζί τους. Τα εμπορεύματα στα καταστήματά τους πωλήθηκαν αργότερα από τις οθωμανικές αρχές. Απελάθηκαν στο εσωτερικό της χώρας και σε μουσουλμανικά χωριά όπου αναγκάστηκαν να επιλέξουν μεταξύ του Ισλάμ ή του θανάτου.
 Στις περισσότερες περιπτώσεις, πριν από τις απελάσεις, οθωμανικοί χωροφύλακες (αστυνομία) και οι τσέτες (ένοπλοι συμμορίτες) κατέλαβαν χρήματα και τιμαλφή από τις κοινότητες, διαπράττουν σφαγές και καίνε εκκλησίες και σχολεία. Τον Δεκέμβριο του 1916 αρχίζει η δίωξη των Ελλήνων στην περιοχή του Πόντου.
Μέχρι το 1917, πηγές αναφέρουν ότι πάνω από 700.000 Έλληνες είχαν πέσει θύμα ενός προκατειλημμένου και καλά ενορχηστρωμένου σχεδίου αφανισμού.

Σύμφωνα με στοιχεία που συνέταξε το Οικουμενικό Πατριαρχείο, μέχρι το 1918, 774.235 Έλληνες είχαν  απελαθεί από τα σπίτια τους, πολλοί από αυτούς στο εσωτερικό της Τουρκίας και χάθηκαν τα ίχνη τους.

Μετά την ήττα της Οθωμανικής Αυτοκρατορίας στο Α' Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο, εξέχοντες ηγέτες της ΚΕΠ έλαβαν θανατικές ποινές σε οθωμανικό στρατοδικείο για το ρόλο τους στη διοργάνωση της σφαγής των Ελλήνων κατά τη διάρκεια του πολέμου. Αλλά, ο μεταπολεμικός σχηματισμός του Τουρκικού Εθνικιστικού Κινήματος υπό την ηγεσία του Μουσταφά Κεμάλ Ατατούρκ διέκοψε τη διαδικασία για να φέρει τους δράστες στη δικαιοσύνη. Οι εθνικιστές Κεμαλιστές συνέχισαν την πολιτική της ΚΕΠ να διώκουν τους
Έλληνες και κατέληξαν στην καταστροφή της κοσμοπολίτικης πόλης της Σμύρνης (σήμερα Ιζμίρ) και στην απέλαση όλων των Ελλήνων που απομένουν στην Τουρκία. Οι αρχές απαγορεύουν την έξοδο από την Τουρκία στον υγιής Ελληνικό αρσενικό πληθυσμό και, αντίθετα, στάλθηκαν στο εσωτερικό όπου οι περισσότεροι έχασαν τη ζωή τους σε στρατόπεδα εργατικής δουλείας ή σφαγιάστηκαν.
Μέχρι το 1923, διάφορες πηγές αναφέρουν ότι περίπου 1 εκατομμύριο Έλληνες έχασαν τη ζωή τους στη γενοκτονία.




The Greek Genocide of 1914-1923

The Greek Genocide (or Ottoman Greek Genocide) refers to the systematic extermination of the native Greek subjects of the Ottoman Empire before, during and after World War I (1914-1923). It was instigated by two successive governments of the Ottoman Empire; i.e. the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP)
party, and the Turkish Nationalist Movement of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It included massacres, forced deportations and death marches, summary expulsions, boycotts, rape, forced conversion to Islam, conscription into labor battalions, arbitrary executions, and destruction of Christian Orthodox cultural, historical and religious monuments. 
According to various sources, approximately 1 million Ottoman Greeks perished during this period.
The first phase of the Greek Genocide commenced in 1914 in Eastern Thrace where entire Greek
communities were forcibly and often violently expelled or deported to the interior of Asia Minor. Other measures used to persecute Greeks in this region were the boycotting of Greek businesses, killings, heavy taxation, seizure of property and prevention from working on their lands. In the Spring and Summer 1914, the ethnic cleansing of Greeks along the western shoreline of Asia Minor was carried out. These operations, including those in Eastern Thrace, were planned and executed by the CUP using regular and irregular
forces including members of the CUP's paramilitary unit, the Special Organization (Teşkilat-i Mahsusa).

With the outbreak of the Great War, all Ottoman Greek males aged between 21-45 were forcibly
conscripted into labor battalions (Amele Taburlari). Most of them perished under appalling conditions being forced to work around the clock with little food or water. In 1915, under the advice of German military personnel, the CUP deported Greek communities from the Dardanelles and Gallipolli regions under the pretext of military necessity. These Greeks were not permitted to take anything with them. Goods in their shops were later sold by Ottoman authorities. They were deported to the interior and to Muslim villages
where they were forced to choose between Islam or death. In most cases, before deportations took place Ottoman gendarmes (police) and chetes (armed irregulars) seized money and valuables from communities, committed massacres and burnt churches and schools. In December 1916, the persecution of Greeks in the Pontus region commences. By 1917, it was reported that over 700,000 Greeks had fallen victim to a
preconceived and well orchestrated plan of annihilation.
According to figures compiled by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, by 1918, 774,235 Greeks had been
deported from their homes, many of them to the interior of Turkey, never to be seen again. Following the Ottoman Empire's defeat in WW1, prominent leaders of the CUP were given death sentences in Ottoman Courts-Martial for their role in organizing the massacre of Greeks during the war. But the post-war formation of the Turkish Nationalist movement under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk interrupted
proceedings to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Kemalist Nationalists continued the CUP policy of persecuting Greeks which culminated in the burning of the cosmopolitan city of Smyrna (today Izmir) to the ground and the expulsion of all remaining Greeks from Turkey. All able-bodied Greek males were refused exit from Turkey and instead were sent to the interior where most perished in slave labor camps or were massacred.

By 1923, various sources state that around 1 million Greeks perished in the genocide.

Bill V. Thomopoulos

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Holy Theotokos – Image of an Ideal Woman



One of the most terrible manifestations of our times is the complete distortion of the image of an ideal woman. The ideal image depicted for us by the mass media shows a sort of attractive witch, unashamedly half-naked, with loose and disheveled hair, impudent glance, business-like, energetic, fearless, unfettered by moral laws or conscience. In consequence, unfortunate young girls and women – mothers, wives, daughters, – striving to imitate this devilish image, corrupt their souls, ruin their families, hopelessly destroy their own and others’ lives.

Yet at the same time we – Orthodox Christians – always have before our eyes the image of the One Who was more beautiful and wondrous than all the people on earth and even all the celestial denizens, the cherubim and the seraphim, the One Whom the Pre-eternal Council chose to become the Mother of God. As St. Dimitry of Rostov says: “After Adam’s transgression the Word of God did not forthwith come down to earth to be incarnated and save fallen mankind,” because “there was not yet a single maiden on earth who was pure not only in body, but also in spirit.” Thus the Theotokos’s major characteristic is Her virginal purity.

Another characteristic of this greatest Handmaiden of God is Her humility. Of all the personages in the Gospel, there is no one about whom we know so little as the Holy Virgin; Her entire life is shrouded in mystery, and yet She was undoubtedly the spiritual center of the first Christian Church after Her Divine Son’s Ascension; however, under the cover of modesty, She preferred to remain in the shadows.

The third characteristic of the Holy Virgin, according to St. Dimitry of Rostov, was Her all-encompassing and boundless love for God, which is mentioned in the following spiritual song: “O Mother-Virgin, miracle of chastity! Thou art daughter of the heavenly Father, the bride of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of Christ – the Son of God.”

There was not a single one among the Holy Fathers who did not laud the Theotokos! Foretold and presaged by the Old Testament prophets, She is glorified by all the ancient and contemporary Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church.
As St. Gregory of Neocaesaria says, what amazes us in the Holy Virgin is not only Her chaste and pure physical beauty, but above all the beauty of Her soul. She was holy both in body and soul. Her garments were modest, Her gait was dignified, Her speech was brief, pouring out of a humble heart; all Her thoughts and all Her desires were turned only towards God.




The Church historian Nikiforos Kallistos adds: in conversing with others She retained Her modesty, did not laugh immoderately, did not express indignation, did not argue, never thought of Herself, and was characterized by total humbleness.
More than anything else in the world She loved Her Son, loved Him so much that She was ready to die with Him, yet with what courage and firmness She accompanied Him when He went on His path of suffering, was present at Golgotha when He was being crucified, stood at His Cross and attended His burial. “She wears the crown of martyrs, – says Leo the Philosopher, – because as She stood at the Cross, with Her soul pierced by the greatest anguish, She suffered more than all the martyrs.”




She loved and respected Her family members, but also loved and welcomed all strangers. St. Ambrose of Milan says: “She never offended anyone, never denigrated anyone, even the poorest person. Her modest belongings, consisting of two robes, She gave away before Her death to the two widows who served Her.”

Each person’s death sums up his life and brings recompense from the Lord – either reward or punishment. The most-glorious Dormition of the Mother of God revealed Her in all Her majesty and glory. Three days before Her death the Archangel Gabriel appeared before Her, announced Her repose and gave Her a shining branch from paradise – symbol of victory over death and corruption. On the third day after Her Dormition, the Mother of God appeared to the apostles in indescribable glory, surrounded by a multitude of angels, and said: “Rejoice, I am with you forever.” The apostles, filled with joy, instead of saying their usual “O Lord Jesus Christ, help us!”, exclaimed: “O Holy Mother of God, help us!”

And thus all Christians pray to the Holy Mother of God to help them. Help us then, O Most Holy Theotokos, grant our children the enlightenment to see in Thee the purest and most beautiful example of behavior, save and protect them from the vices and temptations of these evil times!



Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia,” No. 16, 2003..

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Holy Relics ( St. Justin Popovich )



The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church

Without doubt, matter is represented in the human body in a manner which is most puzzling, most mysterious, and most complex. The brain: What wondrous mysteries pass between its physical and spiritual parts! How vast is the experience of the human race. In no manner can one ever fully comprehend or grasp these mysteries. Indeed, little of this is accessible to the human senses or intellectual investigation. So it is also with the heart of man, formed as it is entirely and solely from cosmic mysteries. So formed, too, are every cell, every molecule, every atom. Everyone and all are set on their mystical path toward God, toward the God-Man. Inasmuch as it was created by God, the Logos, matter possesses this same theocentricity. Moreover, by His advent into our earthly world, by His all-embracing condescension as God and Man for the redemption of the world, the Lord Christ clearly demonstrated that not only the soul, but matter also was created by God and for God, and that He is God and Man; and for it, matter, He is all and everything in the same manner as for the soul. Being created by God, the Logos, matter is, in its innermost core, God-longing and Christ-longing.


The most obvious proof of this is the fact that God the Word has become Incarnate, has become man (St. John 1:14). By His Incarnation, matter has been magnified with Divine glory and has entered into the grace- and virtue-bestowing, ascetic aim of deification, or union with Christ. God has become flesh, has become human, so that the entire man, the entire body, might be filled with God and with His miracle-working forces and powers. In the God-Man, the Lord Christ, and His Body, all matter has been set on a path toward Christ —the path of deification, transfiguration, sanctification, resurrection, and ascent to an eternal glory surpassing that of the Cherubim. And all of this takes place and will continue to take place through the Divine and human Body of the Church, which is truly the God-Man Christ in the total fullness of His Divine and Human Person, the fullness "that fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). Through its Divine and human existence in the Church, the human body, as matter, as substance, is sanctified by the Holy Spirit and in this way participates in the life of the Trinity. Matter thus attains its transcendent, divine meaning and goal, its eternal blessedness and its immortal joy in the God-Man.


The holiness of the Saints—both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies—derives from their zealous grace- and virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man. In this sense, holiness completely envelopes the human person—the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body. The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified. Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body. Our pious veneration of the Saints' relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints. All of this constitutes one indivisible ascetic act, just as the soul and body constitute the single, indivisible person of the Saint. Clearly, during his life on the earth, the Saint, by a continuous and singular grace- and virtue-bestowing synergy of soul and body, attains to the sanctification of his person, filling both the soul and body with the grace of the Holy Spirit and so transforming them into vessels of the holy mysteries and holy virtues. It is completely natural, again, to show pious reverence both to the former and to the latter, both to soul and body, both of them holy vessels of God's grace. When the charismatic power of Christ issues forth, it makes Grace-filled all the constituent parts of the human person and the person in his entirety. By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, so that their sacred bodies, according to the word of the holy Apostle, become temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19; 3:17), Christ dwelling by faith in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and by fruitful love also fulfilling the commandments of God the Father. Establishing themselves in the Holy Spirit through grace-bestowing ascetic labors, the Saints participate in the life of the Trinity, becoming sons of the Holy Trinity, temples of the Living God (II Corinthians 6:16); their whole lives thus flow from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints. And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.


The pious veneration of holy relics, based on their miraculous nature, originated from Divine Revelation. Even in the Old Testament God deigned to celebrate with miracles the holy relics of certain of those who were well-pleasing to Him. Thus, by the touch of the holy relics of the Prophet Elisea, a dead man was resurrected. The tomb and bones of this Prophet, who had prophesied to Jeroboam the destruction of idolatrous altars, were greatly revered in Judea. The Patriarch Joseph also left a testament to the sons of Israel to preserve his bones in Egypt and, during their exodus, to carry them to the promised land (Genesis 50:25).


The New Testament raised the human body to the sublime and divine heights, endowing it with a glory which the Cherubim and Seraphim do not possess. The Good News of the New Testament concerning the body—the significance and goal of the human body—is that, together with the soul, it achieves and inherits immortal life in Divine eternity. The Lord Christ has come to deify, to make Christ-like, the entire man, that is, the soul and body, and this by the resurrection, insuring thereby victory over death and eternal life. No one ever elevated the human body as did the Lord Christ by His bodily resurrection, the ascension of His body into heaven, and its eternal session at the right hand of God the Father. In this way, the Resurrected Christ extended the promise of resurrection to the nature of the human body—"having made for all flesh a path to eternal life." Thus man now knows that the body is created for eternity through union with the God-Man and that his divine work on earth is to struggle, with the soul, for eternal life; to struggle, with all those means that convey grace and virtue, to make himself grace-filled, fulfilled by Divine grace, and created anew as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of the Living God.


Bearing in mind that this New Testamental notion of the human body has been achieved and realized in the persons of the Saints, Christians show a pious veneration for the bodies of the Saints, towards holy relics, the temples of the Holy Spirit, Who by God's grace abides within them. But Holy Revelation indicates that by God's immeasurable love for man, the Holy Spirit abides through His grace not only in the bodies of the Saints, but also in their clothing. So it is that the handkerchiefs of the holy apostle Paul healed the ill and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 19:12). With his mantle the Prophet Elias struck the water, separating the waters of the Jordan, and along the dry bed of the river crossed the Jordan with his disciple Elisea (IV Kings 2:8). The prophet Elisea did the very same thing, himself, with the same mantle, after the taking-up of Elias into heaven (IV Kings 2:14). All this has its verification and source in the Divine power that rested in the garments of the Savior, which encompassed His most pure and Divine body. Moreover, by His inexpressible love for man, the Divine Lord allows the servants of His Divinity to work miracles not only through their bodies and clothing, but even with the shadow of their bodies, which is evident in an occurrence with the holy apostle Peter: his shadow healed an ill man and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 5:15-16).


The eternal good news of Holy Revelation about sacred relics and their pious veneration is proved, and is continually being proved, by Holy Tradition from Apostolic times to the present day. Innumerable are the sacred relics of the holy Chosen Ones of God throughout the Orthodox world. Their miracles are innumerable. The pious veneration of these relics by Orthodox Christians is everywhere to be found. And without doubt this is because the holy relics, through their miracles, incite the Orthodox toward their pious veneration. From the very beginning, in Apostolic times, Christians piously preserved the honored relics of the Holy Forerunner and the holy Apostles, so that these could be preserved even for us. As well, during the times of persecution the sacred remains of the bodies of the holy Martyrs were taken away by Christians and hidden in their homes. From that time until now, the sacred relics of the holy Chosen Ones of God have, by their miracles, poured forth the immortal joy of our faith into the hearts of Orthodox Christians. The proofs concerning this are countless. We shall cite only several.


The way that the holy relics of the Saints were translated and greeted is in a touching manner described by St. Chrysostomos in a eulogy on St. Ignatios: "You, inhabitants of Antioch, have sent forth a bishop and received a martyr; you sent him forth with prayers, and received him back with crowns; and not only you, but all the cities which lay between. For how do you think that they behaved when they saw his remains being brought back? What pleasure was produced! How they rejoiced! With what laudations on all sides did they beset the crowned one! For as with a noble athlete, who has wrestled down all his antagonists, and who comes forth with radiant glory from the arena, the spectators receive him, and do not suffer him to tread the earth, bringing him home on their shoulders and according him countless praises. So also every city in turn received this Saint from Rome, and bearing him upon their shoulders as far as this city, escorted the crowned one with praises, hymning the champion.... At this time the holy Martyr bestows grace to the very same cities, establishing them in piety, and from that time to this day he enriches this city."


Speaking of the miraculous power of holy relics, Saint Ephraim the Syrian relates the following concerning the holy Martyrs: "Even after death they act as if alive, healing the sick, expelling demons, and by the power of the Lord rejecting every evil influence of the demons. This is because the miraculous grace of the Holy Spirit is always present in the holy relics."


During the finding of the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius, St. Ambrose, in speaking to his listeners, relates this with pious enthusiasm: "You know—indeed, you have yourselves seen—that many are cleansed from evil spirits, that very many also, having touched with their hands the robe of the Saints, are freed from those ailments which oppressed them. You see that the miracles of old times are renewed, when through the coming of the Lord Jesus grace was more abundantly shed forth upon the earth, and that many bodies are healed as it were by the shadow of the holy bodies. How many napkins are passed about! How many garments, laid upon the holy relics and endowed with the power of healing, are claimed! All are glad to touch even the outside thread, and whosoever touches it will be made whole."


Speaking of the miracles produced by holy relics, the blessed Augustine says: "To what do these miracles witness, but to this faith which preaches Christ risen in the flesh and ascended with the same flesh into heaven? For the martyrs themselves were martyrs, that is to say, were witnesses of this faith.... For this faith they gave their lives, and can now ask these benefits from the Lord in whose name they were slain. For this faith their extraordinary constancy was exercised, so that in these miracles great power was manifested as the result. For if the resurrection of the flesh to eternal life had not taken place in Christ, and were not to be accomplished in His people, as predicted by Christ..., why do the martyrs who were slain for this faith which proclaims the resurrection possess such power? ...These miracles attest this faith which preaches the resurrection of the flesh unto eternal life."


Saint Damascene, summarizing the life-giving teaching of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition concerning the pious veneration of holy relics, preaches in a Cherubic manner from the altar of his God-bearing and Christ-like soul: "The Saints have become according to grace that which the Lord Christ is according to nature. That is, they have become gods according to grace: pure and living habitations of God. For God says: 'I will dwell in them, walk in them, and I will be their God' (II Corinthians 6:16; Leviticus 16:12). The Holy Scriptures likewise say: 'the souls of the righteous are in God's hand, and death cannot lay hold of them' (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1). For death is rather the sleep of Saints than their death. Further: 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints' (Psalm 119:6). What, then, is more precious than to be in the hand of God? For God is life and light, and those who are in God's hand are in life and light. Further, that God dwells even in their bodies in a spiritual manner the all-divine Apostle attests: 'Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you?' (I Corinthians 3:16). And, 'the Lord is Spirit' (II Corinthians 3:17). Thus, the evangelical truth: 'If anyone destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy—for the temple of God is holy, and ye are that temple' (I Corinthians 3:17). Surely, then, we must ascribe honor to the living temples of God, the living dwelling-places of God. These, while they lived, stood with boldness before God. The Lord Christ granted us the relics of the Saints to be fountains of salvation unto us, pouring forth manifold blessings and abounding in sweetly fragrant oil. Let no one disbelieve this! For if water burst in the desert from the steep and solid rock according to God's will (Exodus 17:6), and from the jawbone of an ass to quench Samson's thirst (Judges 15:14-19), is it then unbelievable that fragrant oil should spring forth from relics of the holy Martyrs? By no means, at least to those who know the omnipotence of God and the honor which He accords to His Saints. According to the Old Testament law, everyone who touched a dead body was considered impure (Numbers 19:11). However, the Saints are not dead. For from the time when He Who is Himself Life and the Author of life was counted among the dead, we do not call those dead who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and with faith in Him. For how could a dead body work miracles? And how, through the holy relics, are demons driven off, diseases dispelled, the sick made well, the blind restored to sight, lepers cleansed, temptations and tribulations overcome; and how does every good gift come down from the Father of lights (St. James 1:17) to those who pray with sure faith?"


The universal faith of the Church concerning the pious veneration of holy relics was confirmed by the God-bearing Fathers of the Seventh Œcumenical Synod in its decrees: "Our Lord Jesus Christ granted to us the relics of Saints as a salvation-bearing source which pours forth varied benefits on the infirm. Consequently, those who presume to abandon the relics of the Martyrs: if they be hierarchs, let them be deposed; if however monastics or laymen, let them merely be excommunicated."


....That a pious veneration of the holy relics is a constituent part of the salvation rendered by the God-Man is also evidenced by the following facts: from the depths of sacred antiquity, churches were built on the graves and relics of Saints, and the holy Liturgy is performed only on antimensia, in which are placed parts of the holy relics. Moreover, the divine service books, especially the Menaion, are replete with prayers and hymns which refer to the pious veneration of holy relics....


All in all, the mystery of holy relics is at the heart of the universal mystery of the New Testament: the incarnation of God. The full mystery of the human body is explained by the incarnation, the embodiment of God in the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, then, the Gospel message concerning the body: "The body for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (I Corinthians 6:13). And through a human body also the entire creation, all of matter, received its divine significance, the universal meaning of the God-Man. By man, who is sanctified in the Church by the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, the creation and even matter are sanctified, united to Christ. There accrues to this also a joy—the myrrh-streaming property of many relics. This wonder of myrrh has been given to the holy relics in order to indicate that Christians are truly "a sweet-savour of Christ unto God" (II Corinthians 2:15), sweet-smelling to God and to heaven. The truth of the Gospel is that the sin of man is a foul odor before God and every sin pleases the devil. Through the holy mysteries and holy virtues, Christians become "a sweet-savour of Christ unto God." For this reason, then, the holy relics of the Saints pour forth myrrh.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9. Translated from the Serbian by the Reverend Gregory Telepneff.