Monday, August 3, 2015

Ahmed,the muslim who encountered the power of Jesus Christ in the Orthodox church


Ahmed was born in the seventeenth century to a Muslim family in Constantinople. By profession he was a copyist in the Great Archives. In accordance with Ottoman law, since he did not have a wife, he had a slave instead, a Russian woman. There was also another captive from Russia that lived together with her. She was an old woman. Both of these women were very pious.

On the feast days of the Orthodox Church, the old woman would go to Church. Taking the blessed bread or antidoron* from the priest, she would bring it home to give to the young woman to eat. The old woman would also bring her Holy Water to drink. Whenever this occurred and Ahmed was close to her, he would smell a beautiful and indescribable fragrance coming out of her mouth. He would ask her what she was eating that made her mouth smell so fragrant. Not realizing what was happening, the slave woman would say that she was not eating anything special. However, Ahmed persisted in asking her about this phenomenon that was happing. Eventually she told him that she was eating the bread which had been blessed by the priests which the old woman brought her whenever she returned from Church.

On hearing this, Ahmed was filled with longing to see the Orthodox Church and how Orthodox faithful received the blessed bread. Therefore he summoned an Orthodox priest and told him to prepare a secret place for him so that he could go when the Patriarch was serving the Divine Liturgy. When the appointed day arrived and dressed as an Orthodox Christian, he went to the Patriarchate and attended the Divine Liturgy. While he was in Church, he saw the Patriarch shining with Light and lifted up off of the floor as he came out of the altar and through the holy doors to bless the people. As he blessed, rays of Light came from his finger tips, but though the rays fell on the heads of all the Orthodox faithful, they did not fall on Ahmed’s head. This happened two or three times and each time Ahmed saw the same thing. Thus, Ahmed came to believe in the Orthodox Faith. Without hesitation he then sent for an Orthodox priest to baptized in the faith. Ahmed kept his conversion to the Orthodox faith secret for some time, concealing his baptismal name which is why it is unknown to us today.

However, one day Ahmed and certain noblemen were eating together. Afterwards they sat talking and smoking, as is the custom amongst Muslims. In the course of the conversation they began to discuss what they thought was the greatest thing in the world. Each gave his opinion. The first guest said that the greatest thing in the world was for a man was to have wisdom. The second guest maintained that women were the greatest thing in the world. And then the third guest said that the greatest thing in the world, and by far the most delightful, was good food—for was this not the food of the righteous in paradise?

Then it was Ahmed’s turn to give his opinion on the matter. Filled with holy zeal, Admed cried out that the greatest thing in the entire world was the Orthodox Faith of the Christian people. And then confessing himself to be a Christian, he boldly censured the falseness and deception of the Muslim faith. At first, on hearing this, the Muslims were aghast. Then, filled with unspeakable rage, they fell on Ahmed and dragged him off to the Muslim judge to be judged by sharia law so that he could be sentenced to death. He was beheaded, receiving the crown of martyrdom on the orders of the ruler on May 3, 1682.

*Antidoron or bread offering for the Divine Liturgy is the bread that is used at the Eucharistic service. What is not consecrated in the Liturgy is cut up into small squares and is distributed to the faithful at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. The word antidoron literally means in place of the Gifts. In other words, all the faithful who attend the Divine Liturgy receive something that has been blessed at the service whether they receive Holy Communion or not. The Gifts is in reference to the Body and Blood of Christ, Holy Communion, so those who do not receive Holy Communion on that particular day still receive something that has been blessed at the service.

Why do we fast for the 15 days of the Dormition of the Theotokos

It would be a gross understatement to say that much has been written about the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. Yet very little has been written about the fast that precedes it.

Every Orthodox Christian is aware and generally knows the reason behind the fasts for Pascha and Christmas. But while they may know of the Dormition Fast, few follow it, and more than a few question why it is there, neither knowing its purpose. First, given the pervasive misunderstanding of the purpose of fasting itself, a refresher on its purpose is always a good idea.

There is a perception that we should fast when we want something, as though the act of fasting somehow appeases God, and seeing us “suffer” gets Him to grant our request. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is not our fasting that pleases God, it is the fruits of our fast (provided we fast in the proper mind set, and do not merely diet) that please Him. We fast, not to get what we want, but to prepare ourselves to receive what God wants to give us. The purpose of fasting is to bring us more in line with another Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and away from their sister Martha, who in the famous passage was “anxious and troubled about many things.” Fasting is intended to bring us to the realization of “the one thing needful.” It is to help us put God first and our own desires second, if not last. As such it serves to prepare us to be instruments of God’s will, as with Moses in his flight from Egypt and on Mt. Sinai, as well as our Lord’s fast in the wilderness. Fasting turns us away from ourselves and toward God. In essence it helps us become like the Theotokos, an obedient servant of God, who heard His word and kept it better than anyone else has or could.

So why do we fast before Dormition? In a close-knit family, word that its matriarch is on her deathbed brings normal life to a halt. Otherwise important things (parties, TV, luxuries, personal desires) become unimportant; life comes to revolve around the dying matriarch. It is the same with the Orthodox family; word that our matriarch is on her deathbed, could not (or at least should not) have any different effect than the one just mentioned. The Church, through the Paraklesis Service, gives us the opportunity to come to that deathbed and eulogize and entreat the woman who bore God, the vessel of our salvation and our chief advocate at His divine throne. And as, in the earthly family, daily routines and the indulgence in personal wants should come to a halt. Fasting, in its full sense (abstaining from food and desires) accomplishes this. Less time in leisure or other pursuits leaves more time for prayer and reflection on she who gave us Christ, and became the first and greatest Christian. In reflecting on her and her incomparable life, we see a model Christian life, embodying Christ’s retort to the woman who stated that Mary was blessed because she bore Him: blessed rather are those who hear His word and keep it. Mary did this better than anyone. As Fr. Thomas Hopko has stated, she heard the word of God and kept it so well, that she of all women in history was chosen not only to hear His Word but give birth to it (Him). So while we fast in contemplation of her life, we are simultaneously preparing ourselves to live a life in imitation of her. That is the purpose of the Dormition Fast.

When the assumption of thine undefiled body was being prepared, the Apostles gazed on thy bed, viewing thee with trembling. Some contemplated thy body and were dazzled, but Peter cried out to thee in tears, saying, I see thee clearly, O Virgin, stretched out, O life of all, and I am astonished. O thou undefiled one, in whom the bliss of future life dwelt, beseech thy Son and God to preserve thy people unimpaired.

(Sticheron after the Gospel, Orthros)

Η Παναγία μας,η ωραιότερη, σεμνότερη, ταπεινότερη και ιερότερη γυναίκα του κόσμου

Η Παναγία, κατά τον άγιο Ιωάννη τον Δαμασκηνό, τον μεγαλύτερο δογματικό πατέρα της Εκκλησίας μας, "κατέχει τα δευτερεία της Αγίας Τριάδος".

Δηλαδή εμείς οι ορθόδοξοι χριστιανοί μετά την Αγία Τριάδα τιμάμε την Παναγία. Μεγάλη όντως τιμή. Στο πρόσωπο της Παναγίας τιμάται το γυναικείο φύλο. Ο πιστός ελληνικός λαός τιμά ιδιαίτερα κι ευλαβείται πολύ την Παναγία.

Αυτό φαίνεται και στο ότι από τις 30.000 εκκλησίες, παρεκκλήσια κι εξωκλήσια όλης της Ελλάδος οι 6.000 είναι αφιερωμένες σε εορτές της Παναγίας και οι περισσότερες στην Κοίμηση της Θεοτόκου. Μάλιστα από τα 1.000 μοναστήρια της Ελλάδος τα 300 τιμώνται σ' εορτές της Παναγίας· Γέννηση, Ευαγγελισμός, Ζωοδόχος Πηγή, Τιμία Ζώνη, Κοίμηση. Τα στοιχεία αυτά λαμβάνουμε από τα επίσημα Δίπτυχα της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος του 2008.

Στο Άγιον Όρος, τα ωραία προσωνυμούμενο "Περιβόλι της Παναγίας", από τον πολύπλαγκτο Σκοπελίτη Ξηροποταμηνό μοναχό Καισάριο Δαπόντε, ονομασία που επεκράτησε, η τιμή της Παναγίας πλησιάζει τα όρια της λατρείας. Από τις 20 μονές οι 5 τιμώνται στην Παναγία. Από τις 12 σκήτες οι 3 είναι αφιερωμένες στην Παναγία. Από τα 300 κελιά περίπου τα 50 πανηγυρίζουν σ' εορτές της Παναγίας.

Κέντρο του θεομητορικού εορτασμού τον Αύγουστο στον ιερό Άθωνα είναι ο πάνσεπτος ναός του Πρωτάτου στις Καρυές. Αφιερωμένος στην Κοίμηση της Θεοτόκου. Η πολυπρόσωπη και κατανυκτική μεγάλη εικόνα του τέμπλου παρουσιάζει κατά τη βυζαντινή παράδοση τη σύνταξη των αποστόλων και πρώτων επισκόπων γύρω από τη νεκρική κλίνη της Θεοτόκου. Ο Χριστός ψηλά μετά αγγέλων να παραλαμβάνει την ψυχή της. Η ίδια εικόνα σε μικρό μέγεθος στο προσκυνητάρι. Μεγάλη και ωραιότατη ίδια παράσταση σε τοιχογραφία από τον χρωστήρα του Θεσσαλονικέως Πανσέληνου και της συνοδείας του στα τέλη του 13ου αιώνος.

Η θαυματουργή εικόνα του Άξιον Εστί δεσπόζει και λάμπει στο προσκυνητάρι της, με την κεντητή ποδιά, τα' ασημένια καντήλια, τα άνθη, τα θυμιάματα, τα' αφιερώματα, τις λαμπάδες, τις μετάνοιες, τους μύριους ασπασμούς. 15 Αυγούστου 2008 και όλο το Άγιον Όρος αγρυπνεί εκ βαθέων ψάλλοντας: "Και σε μεσίτριαν έχω προς τον φιλάνθρωπον Θεόν μη μου ελέγξη τας πράξεις ενώπιον των αγγέλων· παρακαλώ σε Παρθένε βοήθησόν μοι εν τάχει".

Η θεοτοκοφιλία μοναχών και λαϊκών είναι δικαιολογημένη, δίκαιη, πηγαία, αυθόρμητη και ειλικρινής. Η Παναγία είναι το καλύτερο που είχε να δώσει όλη η ανθρωπότητα στη θεότητα. Είναι η ωραιότερη, σεμνότερη, ταπεινότερη και ιερότερη γυναίκα του κόσμου

Μοναχός Μωϋσής, αγιορείτης