Sunday, January 11, 2015

What does it mean when we say, “Our Father Who Art In Heaven”? - Part II ( Saint Gregory of Nyssa )

“Our Father who art in Heaven” reminds us of the “homeland from which we have fallen,” says Saint Gregory of Nyssa. What is this “homeland” he is referring to? He is reminding us that our true homeland is “Heaven,” the place where your “Father” lives. Do you call home “Heaven”? Once you accept this idea of “home” then think about how far we have fallen to find ourselves in this existence here on earth where death, strife and suffering abound. It is the appreciation of this gap between our life in exile here on earth compared to our true home in Heaven that is essential to have in mind to properly recite the Lord’s Prayer with sincerity.

Saint Gregory uses the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 to emphasize this point. In in this story the departure of the young son from his father’s home is like our fall from heaven. He leaves a abundant life with his father only to find himself in utter despair deprived of all his homeland freely provided for him. Saint Gregory most importantly points out that he is not brought back to his homeland, back to his original prosperity, until he acquires a consciousness of his dire misfortune. To return the son had to awaken to his desperate situation and express his regret. Before he was accepted in return the son offered this prayer, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” With this expression of regret he was welcomed back with open arms back into his homeland. The key was his confession and recognition of his fallen condition. In return the father gave him a new robe symbolizing the first robe that man lost due to his disobedience when he ate the forbidden fruit and become aware of his nakedness. He was also given a ring with a carved stone which signifies the regaining of the divine image. And, he was given shoes to symbolically protect his heel from the bite of poisonous snakes symbolizing the attacks from the devil on our weak points. We must recognize that we are living at a great distance from our true homeland. We need to express our regret that we have deviated so far from what God has naturally given us. With faith and sincere confession, we too will be welcomed back like the prodigal son. Calling on "Our Father Who Art in Heaven" is a recognition of the place of our true home in Heaven, the kinship with have with our God, and our desire to return home.

Children of God
Scripture says, “To whoever received Him, He gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). By calling God our “Father” we imply that we have committed ourselves to the way of perfection, to become a likeness in His image through goodness. Similarly He points out, if we retain evil traits such as envy, hate, slander, conceit, greed, and desire for glory, the father we call to will be one who has kinship to these traits. And who has kinship with these traits? Saint Gregory writes, “The prayer of a evil person, as long as the evil remains in him, is an invocation of the Devil.”

Saint Gregory points out that the path we are assumed to be on when we recite this prayer is one that leads us back to paradise and our attainment of a likeness with God to become “just, holy, good and the like.” This is not a physical path whose distance we can measure, but a spiritual one based on the simple act of free choice. He says, “Because no physical labor is necessary to make the choice of what is good–and free choice can be followed by success in whatever one chooses–it is possible for you to occupy heaven immediately upon putting God into your mind.” It is a life of virtue, living God’s commandments, following the direction of “Our Father Who art in Heaven.”

So, to approach God and say “Our Father Who art in Heaven” we must first examine our way of life. We need to examine it to make sure it embodies the qualities worthy of divine kinship. We need to fully recognize the nature of our true homeland and how far we have fallen. We must have a contrite heart and regret about our present condition. Only then can we call upon God as “Our Father.”

What does it mean when we say, “Our Father Who Art In Heaven”? ( Saint Gregory of Nyssa )

Commentary on the Second Discourse on the Lord’s Prayer by Saint Gregory of Nyssa

To address God as “Our Father who art in heaven” is an awesome statement. Gregory of Nyssa says about addressing God in this way, “I need to leave the whole earth behind. I must traverse all the intermediary air and come to that ethereal beauty, reaching the stars and beholding their lovely order,” This is not enough as we must “go beyond all material things that change and that are in flux.” He reminds us that all things ”exist and are dependent on the ineffable will of the Divine Wisdom.” To lift ourselves to such heights in such a prayer, we need to still our mind and attain an “unchanging and unwavering disposition of the soul.” To address God our father who is in heaven of necessity takes us beyond all that is of this world embracing Him as our creator and recognizing ourselves as His son or daughter. Gregory begins this discourse by asking us to think about how wondrous this is.

Gregory raises the question, “What quality of the soul must the speaker possess to speak of God as “Our Father!” To address God in this way we must fully appreciate and comprehend the mystery of God and His divine nature of “goodness, holiness, joy, glory, purity and eternity.” So, how is that we would even dare to to refer to God as our own father? What are the implications of our saying this?

Gregory suggests that we would not dare address God in this way unless we perceived a reflection of His attributes in ourselves. How is it possible for God who is good in His essence to be the Father to anyone engaged in evil activities? Would it not be like accusing God of being the Father of our evil tendencies? Would it not be a mockery of God? What does the word fatherhood imply? Calling God our Father implies that He is the source and cause of our existence. Gregory warns that “whoever invokes God as Father and still possesses a wicked conscience, he in fact accuses God of nothing less than being the source and cause of his own evils… If someone is possessed, as Scripture puts it, by hardness of heart and dares to utter the words of the Lord’s Prayer, he pursues falsehood.” We don’t dare infer that God is the father of our sin.

When Jesus instructed us to say this Prayer he assumed that were were already committed to live the life he taught. A vow had preceded our prayer. As Gregory puts it, “I believe He is doing nothing less than ordaining an exalted and sublime way of life.” He surely does not want us to lie and make false statements about ourselves. To call God “Father” implies the greatest potential for ourselves. It reflects our understanding that we are destined to become like God because we are His children made in His image. This we must believe to say this prayer. When we call Him “Our Father” we are obligated to show our kinship with Him through our way of life.

Clearly there is much preparation that is needed “in order that our conscience rise to the level of confidence to dare address God as ‘Father.’ If you are concerned about money, or preoccupied with deceits of life, or chase after human glory, or are enslaved by the most wicked desires, and then take this exalted prayer to your lips, what do you think the Lord would say,…?”

When we approach God to say the Lord’s Prayer we must examine our way of life and to see if we inwardly possess a quality that is worthy of divine kinship. Then we can be courageous and recite these beginning words of this Prayer. Gregory says, “For the Lord who has directed us to say ‘Father’ did not permit us to speak a lie. Therefore, whoever conducts himself worthily of God, it is he who rightly gazes toward the heavenly city. It is he who rightly names the King of heaven ‘Father’ and calls heavenly blessedness his own homeland.” To call God “Our Father” we must think of the things above where God is. It is heaven where we need to build the foundation of our home. This is where we should lay our treasures. “For where the treasure is, there is also the heart.” (Mt 6:21)

Gregory says, “Do not be spotted by evil passions: neither envy, nor conceit, not anything else that defiles the godly beauty.” If you desire such purity and are committed to gaining it above all else, then have the courage to call out to God and call Him your “Father.” Gregory says, “He will look upon you with fatherly eyes. He will cover you with a divine robe and will adorn you with a ring. He will equip you with the sandals of the gospel,” just like the father of the prodigal son. “He will restore you to the heavenly homeland in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom belong the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

St. Nephon's Visions of the Divine Liturgy

Christ and the Holy Angels in the Divine Liturgy

St. Nephon, Bishop of Constantia (4th Century), was made worthy to see many divine visions, with the illumination of the Holy Spirit, through the eyes of his soul.

Once, in a Divine Liturgy, as soon as the liturgist said: “Blessed is the Kingdom..”, the Saint saw fire descending from heaven and cover the Holy Altar, without the priest understanding anything.

Later, when the Trisagion Hymn was begun by the people, four angels descended and chanted together with them.

During the Epistle, the blessed Apostle Paul appeared to direct the reader.

During the “Alleluia” after the Epistle, the voices of the people ascended united towards heaven, like a fiery and tightly-braided rope.

And at the Gospel, every word came out like flames from the mouth of the priest, and ascended to the heavens.

A short time before the entrance of the precious Gifts, the Venerable One straightaway saw heaven open, and an unspeakable aroma surpassing the world pour forth. Angels descended from on high, chanting hymns and doxologies to the Lamb, to Christ and the Son of God!

Then there appeared a totally pure and thrice-blessed Infant!

He was held by the arms of the Angels, who brought Him and placed Him on the Holy Paten, where the Precious Gifts were found. Around Him was gathered a multitude of totally radiant youths dressed in white, who approached His divine beauty with wonder and fervor.

It was the time of the Great Entrance.

The liturgist approached to take in his hands the Holy Paten and the Holy Chalice, and raised them up above his head, lifting together with them, the Infant.

When the Holy Gifts exited, while the people chanted compunctionately, he saw the venerable angels flying over the liturgist in circles.

Two Cherubim and two Seraphim went before him, and a multitude of other Angels followed behind, chanting unspeakable hymns with rejoicing.

When the priest reached the Holy Altar and placed the Precious Gifts, the Angels covered them with their wings. The two Cherubim stood on the right of the liturgist, and the two Seraphim on his left, without [the priest] seeing them.

The divine mystagogy continued.

They said the Creed, and reached the consecration of the Precious Gifts.

The liturgist blessed them and said: “...changing them by Your Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen.” Then again, the Righteous One saw an Angel take a sword and pierce the Infant, pouring His Blood into the Holy Chalice, while His Body was cut up and placed on the Holy Paten.

Later, [the Angel] returned to his place again, and stood chastely with reverence.

When the liturgist lifted up the Holy [Lamb], crying out: “The Holy Things are for the Holy people of God”, while the people chanted: “One is holy, one is Lord...” one of the faithful approached the Saint and asked him: “Why, O Father, does the priest say: 'The Holy Things are for the Holy people of God'?”

The Saint replied: “He says this for all of us, my child, and it means: to the Holy Members of Christ, may those who are holy approach!”

“And what is holiness, O Father?” the man asked him again, who was very simple.

“If one is dissolute, let him not dare to partake of this great Mystery. If you have made an enemy of anyone, do not approach. If you have made a laughing stock of, or angered, or judged your fellow man, stay far away from Holy Communion. First test yourself, to see if you are virtuous enough to approach, and if you are not, [stay back].”

In the interim, the liturgist cried out: “With fear of God, and faith and love, draw near.”

The Saint then followed all those who communed. Some of their faces turned black as soon as they partook of the Divine Mysteries, while others shone like the sun.

The Angels stood there nearby and followed the Communion with reverence. After every faithful person communed, they placed a crown upon his head.

However, when a sinner approached, they turned their faces in aversion. Then, the spotless Mysteries appeared to disappear from the holy [spoon], so that the sinner might not take within him the Body and Blood of Christ. And the sinner left utterly black...with the disapproval of the Lord spread over his face.

When the liturgy was finished, and the priest consumed the Gifts, then, the Infant appeared whole again above in the arms of the Holy Angels!

Straightaway the roof of the church appeared to split in two. From there the Angels lifted up the Child to the heavens with hymns and doxologies, just like they had brought Him down, and an unspeakable fragrance again filled the whole area.”

Jesus Christ depicted as an Infant on the Paten, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

A spiritual resurrection by St. Ephraim of Nea Makri

St. Ephraim of Nea Makri, the Great Martyr and Wonderworker - Commemorated May 5th and January 3rd (source)
A spiritual resurrection by St. Ephraim of Nea Makri

“O honored Abbess and Holy Mother, with respect I kiss your hand, the servant of God, A.

To begin, I ask for great forgiveness from St. Ephraim, because I was slow in relating the miracle that I was made worthy of (in order for it to be included in the books of miracles), due to many problems, after roughly nine years, when the Saint visited me the sinner.

I hope unshakably that our Lord, the Most-holy Theotokos, and our Saint will forgive me. I had very many family troubles, sicknesses and deaths, which absorbed me such that I forgot to write of the miracle. But I will never forget the great benefaction of our Saint, and I will not cease thanking him and praying to him.

It was an afternoon in November 1990, when my phone rang. It was one of my friends, who told me: “A., I learned that in Nea Makri there is a Monastery, where there is a Saint named Ephraim. Do you want to go venerate?”

Here I should say as an aside that then I was very far from God, not that I didn't believe, but I had so many family troubles, as I mentioned above, that my faith was shaken, it was lukewarm, I was going backwards, nothing was going right. I was indignant and burdened therefore, and I blasphemed with very evil words, like those used by lower classes of society [spiritually], who might be far from God, like I was.

I was working in Athens, and for 25 years, I did not go to Church of Sundays or take Holy Communion.

I would only go to Church on Pascha, along with everyone else, without understanding the deep sentiments of the faith.

I was very greatly influenced by the Killer of Man (the Devil), and he did with me whatever he wished...

Thus, that afternoon when my friend called me and told me to visit the Saint, I was still very lukewarm. My friend, in contrast, believed in God together with her family, and performed all of their religious duties. They were people of God...

Because, therefore, she was a very good friend who helped me psychologically and morally, I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I agreed to go, myself the sinner, when I was talking on the phone. When I understood what she wanted to tell me, I groaned within myself, saying:
“ she's going to tell me to go to the Monastery, like I would ever run to Monasteries!” (I was very far away them then).

How mistaken was my thought, however. Without my knowing that this was my first visitation to the Saint, whom I had never even heard of before.

When she told me his name, and I heard it for the first time, I asked:
“What did you say the Saint was called?”

“St. Ephraim” she told me.

“What did you say? Ephraim? That's the first time I heard the name. What is it, Turkish? Egyptian? What is it?”

She told me, “No, it's Greek...”

Ultimately, we came to his grace, and venerated with reverence, because he is a Saint, but not with deep religious sentiments as every faithful person. When we exited the Holy Monastery into the courtyard, I saw the tree on which they hung our Saint, but I did not think much of this, I was very lukewarm.

In the courtyard was a bookstore. I went in alone, while my friend was likely giving priority to the Saint. There, I was reading some of the book covers:
“Visions and wonders of the Holy Great Martyr Ephraim the Wonderworker."

At that instant, I murmured:
“Ok, now we are talking about miracles? What are they saying? What miracles occur in the 20th century? Why are you talking about miracles?”

I was utterly curious and doubtful, I had darkness in my soul, and I mocked what I read at that instant.

However, at the same time that I was mocking, I was intrigued by the book, and something within me told me: “Get it...get it...”

With great hesitation and without knowing what I was doing, I stretched out my hand and bought it, as if someone was pulling my hand and telling me: “Get it...”

Ultimately, I made the decision: “I will get it out of curiosity, to see what they write...” How would I have known that the sinner, at that instant, began to experience the salvation of my soul from our Lord, while naturally, at that instant, I did not understand all the depth, but only later I understood...

I don't wish to tire you, and I ask forgiveness, but I should write this in detail. When I ultimately bought the book, I began to read it every day during my afternoon nap, and slowly I began to read more and more.

The 2-3 chapters increased, and I soon wasn't sleeping at all at noon in order to finish the book. It began to please me, and it was something that interested me, and by the time I reached the middle of the book, I greatly began to love our Saint, and I sensed that I had known him for many years, while in reality, I had never known a Saint At that instant I sensed that noetically, I was very near the Saint.

Those hours when I was reading the book, I sensed that I knew the Saint well, and I thanked him for healing all of those sick people, as if I had sent him. I sensed this joy, and wholly thanked him.

At one point, I sensed how I had been affected by those 25 years that I had not gone to Church. I had never gone to Confession, and naturally I did not take Holy Communion, and straightaway, as I was sitting on me bed, I lifted up my eyes to heaven and said:

“My God, my Christ, thank You for healing those sick people, and forgive me as well...I, O Lord, have not walked in Your Church for 25 whole years...” (even though there were four churches in my neighborhood).

And later, I began to thank our Saint again, and said:
“My Saint Ephraim, I embrace you and kiss you, for you healed those sick people through the Lord...”

And, O the wonder, at that instant, as I put in the bookmark, I turned over the book, and kissed the icon on the cover, and thanked the Saint with indescribable joy and exaltation...

Before I kissed the icon of the Saint, within me passed a very beautiful smell, like cologne.

At that instant, I did not understand that this smell was called divine fragrance, because as I wrote above, I was far from the Church and did not know these things...

At that same instant, I began to have great curiosity and I asked within myself what that beautiful smell was, and I smelled the book to understand what was that beautiful smell. The clothes that I was wearing smelled, along with the air in my room. It did not leave me thus, but my whole studio smelled beautiful. And I asked, what was this?

My ignorance, my curiosity and my intrigue was solved by my friend who had called me before, who told me: “A., St. Ephraim visited you!”

On the phone I asked: “Where is the Saint? I didn't see him enter my house.”

My friend replied: “The Saint visited you through his divine fragrance, because we went to venerate him. The smell that you sensed is called divine fragrance, and this is the presence of the Saint, because the Saint wanted to visit you...”

My friend then asked me: “Did you light your vigil lamp?”, and I responded: “Paradoxically, yes.”

In reality, I don't know how, but I had lit my vigil lamp, and all that I remember was that I was kneeling and thanking God and the Saint who enlightened me, and entreating that I be forgiven, who had been so many years away from them.

O my honored Abbess, there when I was kneeling and crying, without any depression, I felt an internal change within me, and I put my head to the ground, and sought forgiveness for all my sins, for all of the years that I was very far away from God.

At that instant I asked myself, and had the thought: how could I learn all that is read within the Church, and come to know Christ better. How could I learn that which the priest and the chanters chant, and how could I learn about our Saints?

And again a divine illumination came to me! I should go purchase the Lives of the Saints, and other Christian books, in order to learn the Divine services, and everything that has to do with the Church, along with the hymns and apolytikia of the Saints. This is what happened.

During my first Holy Confession, I said this all to my Spiritual Father, and when I left for my home, I couldn't relate to you what a weight had fled from on top of me, and I walked as if I wasn't walking at all, but like a bird in the air (I became free in reality)...

From then when I was enlightened and as if re-baptized by St. Ephraim, I entered again to a religious road, and this I attribute to our Lord and to the Most-holy Theotokos, who intervened, sending our Saint Ephraim to enlighten me. Therefore, I owe a great thank-you to the Holy Great Martyr Ephraim.

From then on, I go to Church every Sunday and Great Feast, I confess and I commune.

Because of the wonder which St. Ephraim worked for me, I glorify and thank him every day, and confess his wonder to the world, and I give people his Paraklesis, his icons and his books to read. O my honored Mother and Abbess, I ask forgiveness from the Lord and our Saint for neglecting to write of the good that he did, and I ask forgiveness for tiring you...

I hope and pray that our Saint will protect your Holy Monastery, together with the sisters, and that you might pray for me, the sinner.

With love in the Lord, your humble servant,
A. D. A.
Octover 2003, Amaliada.

From a book of miracles of St. Ephraim, Volume 18, September 2011.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!


Στη Μάνδρα της Αττικής, σε έναν λόφο, βρίσκεται η γυναικεία Κοινοβιακή Ιερά Μονή της Παναγίας Γοργοεπηκόου (ή Γοργοϋπηκόου), όπου αποθησαυρίζεται η εικόνα της Υπεραγίας Θεοτόκου.

Ως γνωστόν, η ομώνυμη αρχαία ιερά εικόνα (τοιχογραφία) της Παναγίας βρίσκεται στην Ιερά Μονή Δοχειαρίου του Αγίου Όρους. Γύρω στα 1800, κάποιος μοναχός από το Άγιον Όρος ξεκίνησε να πάει στη Μικρά Ασία όπου υπήρχαν μετόχια αγιορείτικα, φέρνοντας μαζί του και αγιογραφημένες εικόνες για να τις πουλήσει. Μια από αυτές τις εικόνες, ποιος ξέρει με πόσες νηστείες και προσευχές αγιογραφημένη, ήταν της Παναγίας της Γοργοεπηκόου, αντίγραφο της αρχικής εικόνας της Μονής Δοχειαρίου.

Την εικόνα αγόρασε στη Σμύρνη μια οικογένεια ευσεβής, που με τα χρόνια την έδινε πολύτιμη κληρονομιά σε κάθε πρωτότοκο. Έτσι ήρθε και στα χέρια της Ιφιγένειας.

Πρώτο γνωστό θαύμα

Μία μέρα του 1907, όταν η Ιφιγένεια Αναπλιώτου ήταν βρέφος στην κούνια, όπως της διηγούντο οι γονείς της, συνέβη το έξης θαυμάσιο: Οι γονείς γευμάτιζαν στον κάτω όροφο του σπιτιού τους, όταν από τον επάνω όροφο, που ήταν η κούνια με το παιδί, ακούστηκε ένας δυνατός θόρυβος που όλοι ξαφνιάστηκαν, ιδίως η μητέρα της Ελευθερία, πού φώναξε τρομαγμένη, μήπως της απήγαγαν το παιδί, και αμέσως έτρεξαν να δουν τι συμβαίνει. Και αυτό που αντίκρυσαν ήταν κάτι το απίστευτο. Η εικόνα μόνη της είχε κατέβει από το εικονοστάσι, πού ήταν στο ίδιο δωμάτιο, και είχε σταθεί όρθια στο κιγκλίδωμα της κούνιας, ενώ το βρέφος κοιμόταν ήσυχο και αμέριμνο.

Τρόμαξαν, σάστισαν, έτρεξαν και φώναξαν τον ιερέα και έκαναν μια κατανυκτική παράκληση στην Παναγία και με δέος την έβαλαν πάλι στο εικονοστάσι. Αυτό το θαυμάσιο γεγονός το γιόρταζαν αυτή την ίδια μέρα κάθε χρόνο, στις 8 Σεπτεμβρίου (ημέρα μάλιστα της εορτής της Γέννησης της Παναγίας), κάνοντας αγρυπνία στο σπίτι τους.

Πρόσφυγες στην Ελλάδα

Όταν το 1922 έγινε η Μικρασιατική καταστροφή και ο διωγμός, η οικογένεια της Ελευθερίας κατόρθωσε να περάσει στη Μυτιλήνη. Μέσα στα ελάχιστα πράγματα που μπόρεσαν, όπως όλοι, να πάρουν μαζί τους, πρώτη ήταν η εικόνα αυτή της Παναγίας.

Στη Μυτιλήνη όπου εγκαταστάθηκαν, η μητέρα της Ιφιγένειας, Ελευθερία, κάθε 8η Σεπτεμβρίου γιόρταζε την Παναγία εις ανάμνηση του μεγάλου θαύματος της στη Σμύρνη.

Φλεγόμενη και μη καιόμενη

Μια χρονιά, 8 Σεπτεμβρίου, θα γιόρταζαν την Παναγία και όπως πάντα η Ελευθερία κατέβασε την εικόνα να την περιποιηθεί. Με πολλή ευλάβεια την καθάρισε και έτριψε το φωτοστέφανο της να γυαλίσει με αμμωνία, χωρίς να ξέρει φυσικά, ότι προκαλούσε φθορά στην εικόνα, που υπάρχει ως τώρα. Αφού την τακτοποίησε, την ακούμπησε στο τραπέζι πουύ ήταν ακριβώς κάτω από το εικονοστάσι, όπου υπήρχαν και θρησκευτικά βιβλία.

Κάποια στιγμή που βρισκόταν σε άλλο δωμάτιο, φύσηξε δυνατός αέρας από το ανοικτό παράθυρο και σήκωσε το πετσετάκι που ακουμπούσε το αναμμένο καντήλι στο εικονοστάσι. Πήρε φωτιά μια άκρη, έπεσε ένα αναμμένο κομμάτι στο τραπέζι άναψαν τα βιβλία, κάηκε το τραπέζι και στη στιγμή μεταδόθηκε η φωτιά σ' όλο το δωμάτιο. Η Ελευθερία, καίτοι κάπως βαρήκοη λόγω της ηλικίας της, άκουσε κάποιους χτύπους. Απορώντας τι να είναι, βγήκε στη πόρτα, αλλά δεν είδε κανέναν. Οι χτύποι όμως συνεχίζονταν πιο έντονα, και τότε ανέβηκε επάνω και μόλις άνοιξε την πόρτα του δωματίου, πετάχτηκαν φλόγες και καπνοί. Ζαλίστηκε, δεν μπορούσε να αναπνεύσει και με κόπο μπόρεσε να φωνάξει τους γείτονες να σβήσουν τη φωτιά. Όταν τελικά μπόρεσε να μπει στο δωμάτιο και έψαχνε με τα μάτια μέσα να διακρίνει κάτι στις φλόγες που ακόμα κρατούσαν.

Και τι ήταν αυτό που αντίκρυσε; Η εικόνα της Παναγίας, ανάμεσα στις φλόγες και στους καπνούς την κοίταζε από μακριά, χαμογελαστή, με κείνο το γλυκύτατο της μειδίαμα, ανέγγιχτη από τη φωτιά, και από τους καπνούς ώστε να λάμπει έτσι όπως την είχε γυαλίσει η ίδια. Οι φλόγες την είχαν σεβαστεί, και μήτε ίχνος καπνού την είχε αμαυρώσει.

Όλη η οικογένεια φύλαγε και αυτό το θαύμα σαν πολύτιμο μαργαριτάρι στην καρδιά τους.

Η δημιουργία της Ιεράς Μονής

Τέσσερις μοναχές ξεκίνησαν να κτίσουν ένα μοναστήρι-ησυχαστήριο. Μια μέρα (Ιανουάριο του 1965) ήρθαν στην Αθήνα και έμεναν προσωρινά στο πατρικό σπίτι μιας εξ' αυτών, πού ήταν εξοχικό, στα Μελίσσια. Εκεί, εκτελούσαν τα θρησκευτικά τους καθήκοντα και συγχρόνως έψαχναν, για έναν κατάλληλο τόπο, για να κτίσουν σιγά-σιγά το μοναστήρι τους. Τέλος, βρήκαν έναν τόπο στο Καπανδρίτι, τους άρεσε, και έδωσαν και μια προκαταβολή. Η σκέψη τους ήταν, να παραγγείλουν στο Άγιον Όρος μια Εικόνα της Παναγίας της Γοργοεπηκόου, στο όνομα της οποίας θα αφιέρωναν το μοναστήρι.

Μια μέρα, ήρθε να τις επισκεφθεί μια γυναίκα. Η Ιφιγένεια Αναπλιώτου. Αφού έμεινε αρκετά μαζί τους, σηκώθηκε να φύγει, λέγοντας:

- Πρέπει να πηγαίνω, γιατί έχω να περάσω από την εκκλησία, να πάρω μια Εικόνα μου, πού την πήγα για τους «Χαιρετισμούς». Ξέρετε, μαθεύτηκε πώς είναι πολύ θαυματουργή, και μου ζήτησαν να την πάω, να την προσκυνήσουν. Αλλά την ξύνουν οι γυναίκες, και φοβάμαι πως θα μου την αλλοιώσουν.

Μετά, τους διηγήθηκε, ότι την έφερε απ' τη Σμύρνη. Ότι ήταν εικόνισμα οικογενειακό, και από γενιά σε γενιά, ερχόταν πάντα στο πρώτο παιδί της οικογενείας, και τελευταία, ήρθε στα χέρια της....

- Σε ποια Χάρη της Παναγίας είναι η Εικόνα; Ρώτησαν εκείνες πολύ συγκινημένες.

- Είναι η Παναγία, η Γοργοεπήκοος, απάντησε η γυναίκα.

Μια αγαλλίαση και μια λαχτάρα πλημμύρισε την καρδιά των τεσσάρων αφοσιωμένων Μοναχών.

- Και μεις, στην Γοργοεπήκοο θα αφιερώσουμε το μοναστήρι μας, είπαν. Δεν μας την δίνεις την Εικόνα;

Αρνήθηκε ευγενικά και κείνες δεν επέμεναν. Αυτά, έγιναν στα μέσα της Μεγάλης Τεσσαρακοστής. Προς το Πάσχα, τους στέλνει ένα μήνυμα, ότι θα τους δώσει την Εικόνα, όταν θα κτίσουν το μοναστήρι. Είπε ακόμα, πώς και κείνη πάντα ονειρευόταν να της κτίσει μία εκκλησία, αλλά δεν είχε την οικονομική δυνατότητα.

Φαντάζεστε τη χαρά όλων, και πόσες ευχαριστίες έκαναν στην Παναγία, και στη Θεία Οικονομία οι μοναχές, κατασυγκινημένες.

Από τότε, πέρασαν μερικοί μήνες. Τον Αύγουστο της ίδιας χρονιάς, το 1965, την παρακάλεσαν να τους δώσει, για λίγο, την Εικόνα, για να βγάλουν μερικές φωτογραφίες της, γιατί θα έκαναν την πρώτη τους υπαίθρια Θεία Λειτουργία, στο Καπανδρίτι. Την έδωσε ευχαρίστως και όταν πήγαν να την επιστρέψουν τους είπε: «Κρατήστε την»... Από κείνη την ευλογημένη ώρα, το Εικόνισμα της Υπεραγίας Θεοτόκου της Γοργοεπηκόου βρίσκεται στα χέρια τους και με την χάρη της και τη δύναμή της, κτίστηκε η Ιερά Μονή στη Μάνδρα Αττικής.

Το μοναστήρι ανήκει στην Ιερά Μητρόπολη Μεγάρων και πανηγυρίζει στις 8 Σεπτεμβρίου.

Τηλ.: (+30) 2105550777

Προσκυνημα - Ιερά Μονή της Παναγίας Γοργοεπηκόου

Μοναστήρι είναι και το σπίτι σου, αν θες ( Άγιος Πορφύριος )

Γιά αρκετό καιρό με βασάνιζαν λογισμοί, γιατί να μη γίνω κι εγώ μοναχός να αφιερωθώ τελείως στον Θεό, αλλά παντρεύτηκα και με τα παιδιά που έκανα δεσμεύτηκα και δεν μπορώ να κάνω τίποτα καλό για τον Θεό. Με αυτές και περισσότερες σκέψεις, πήγα μια μέρα στον Παππούλη και αφού εξομολογήθηκα τις διάφορες αμαρτίες που είχα, γιατί όλο αμαρτίες έκανα και κάνω, μου λέει, χωρίς να του πω τίποτα γι’ αυτό το θέμα:...

“Άντε φύγε τώρα και μη τα σκέπτεσαι αυτά. Ασ’ τα, δεν είναι για σένα. Μοναστήρι είναι και το σπίτι σου, αν θες. Δεν διαφέρει σε τίποτα απ’ αυτό. Αρκεί να κάνεις αυτά που σού λέω. Δεν είναι ο χώρος που κάνει το Μοναστήρι. Είναι ο τρόπος. Πήγαινε, να προσεύχεσαι και να κάνεις υπομονή σε όλα”.

* * *
Κάποιοι αδελφοί από ένα μοναστήρι στον κόσμο ρώτησαν τον Γέροντα αν μπορούσαν να προκόψουν στον κόσμο η θα ήταν καλύτερα γι’ αυτούς και πιο συμφέρον για την ψυχή τους να βρίσκονται στον Άθωνα, που είναι κατ’ εξοχήν τόπος ησυχαστικός. Εκείνος τους απάντησε:

“Αν κανείς βρίσκεται στην Ομόνοια κι έχει περιμαζωμένο τον νού του, είναι σαν να βρίσκεται στον Άθωνα. Κι αν κανείς βρίσκεται στον Άθωνα, και δεν έχει περιμαζωμένο τον νού του, είναι σαν βρίσκεται στην Ομόνοια”.

*Ανθολόγιο Συμβουλών Γέροντος Πορφυρίου, σσ. 265, 271,