Friday, August 30, 2019

Matins of the Ecclesiastical New Year: Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness . . .

O Word of the Father from before the ages, Who, being in the form of God, broughtest creation into being out of nothing;
 Thou Who hast put the times and seasons in Thine own power: 
Bless the crown of the year with Thy goodness; give peace unto Thy churches, victory unto Thy faithful hierarchs, fruitfulness unto the earth, and Great Mercy unto us.

Matins of the Ecclesiastical New Year, Tone 3

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Science leads to belief in GOD

“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”
Albert Einstein 
as quoted in The Wall Street Journal, December 24, 1997, in the article: “Science Resurrects God.”

“If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God.”
 Lord William Kelvin
Mathematical physicist best known for his contributions in the development of the second law of thermodynamics.
“In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”
 Sir Isaac Newton
Mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and author regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time.
“Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations.... To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.”
Max Planck 
German theoretical physicist who founded the quantum theory (Nobel Prize in Physics 1918).
“For myself, faith begins with a realization that a supreme intelligence brought the universe into being and created man. It is not difficult for me to have this faith, for it is incontrovertible that where there is a plan there is intelligence. An orderly, unfolding universe testifies to the truth of the most majestic statement ever uttered: ‘In the beginning, God.’”
Arthur Compton 
Physicist who discovered the “Compton Effect” (Nobel Prize in Physics 1927).
“Those who say that the study of science makes a man an atheist must be rather silly.”
Max Born
Physicist and mathematician (Nobel Prize in Physics 1954).
“God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.”
Paul Dirac
Theoretical physicist (Nobel Prize in Physics 1933).

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Demonic Possession , Magic, Spiritualism explained ....


“If a prophet rises among you....”

The Lord said if a prophet (i.e., charlatan) performs signs and wonders, don’t get excited about it (like little children). Don’t get carried away like a leaf on the wind. Don’t believe in other gods. Stay true to the Lord.

The Lord is testing you to see if you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

So it’s possible that mediums and so on can, as a concession by God and with the power of the Evil One, work “wonders.” Here are some of them:

“Communication” with the Dead

“There are some people who are so heartbroken by the loss of a loved one that they go to a medium (i.e., the devil), in order to hear the voice of the departed person, to talk to them, to find some kind of relief. Do they really hear the voice of the dead? Victor H. Ernest, the former medium, gave a blunt answer. The voice they heard isn’t that of their loved one but of a devil. And the poor unfortunate people are left with the illusion that they’re in contact with the soul of the person who passed away!


There are two kinds of telepathy.

A) Reading other people’s thoughts: According to Victor H. Ernest, this happens when a person’s intelligence is working hand in glove with an evil spirit, or when the whole person is actually under the control of an evil spirit. Doreen Irvine, a former prostitute and stripper who was actually crowned Queen of the Witches of Europe, had no difficulty, as a Satanist, in reading other people’s thoughts.

B) Seeing something that’s happening far away in a dream or in a trance: Two people at the séance attended by Victor H. Ernest were able to read the headlines of morning newspapers while they were still being run off at the printer’s, hours before they were delivered to the town. Some, who are even more “advanced”, can see into your house as if with a camera and can find hidden objects, etc.

“Miracles” with Fire

In Kalamata, some years ago, an occultist did the following in front of the audience: He drew lines on his hand with a lighted cigarette without feeling any pain at all.

Something similar happens every year in the village of Agia Eleni in Northern Greece on the day of the feast of Sts Constantine and Helen. A group of people holding icons of the saints dance in their bare feet on burning charcoal without getting burnt.

Victor H. Ernest comments that this is not an illusion. He says that fire-walkers really do walk on burning coals or sometimes on molten lava. Behind firewalking, he maintains, is the total surrender of the practitioner to the forces of darkness.

“Soap Bubbles”

A while ago, in the main street of the town of Patras, in Greece, a magician, with the aid of evil spirits, was doing tricks. Through a variety of invocations, chairs and tables were lifted into the air as if made of paper. A crowd of people rushed to see this devilish spectacle. But by God’s providence a certain priest of the city, Fr A. K., was passing by and he made the sign of the Cross over these flying chairs and tables. They fell to the ground and remained there no matter what the occultist tried to do to move them. The power of the Cross had deadened that of the evil spirits.


No matter how impressive are the “wonders” performed by the agents of Satan (mediums, magicians, etc.), they can’t stand up to the power of the presence of the Cross. They disperse. They burst just as if they were soap bubbles. As indeed they are.

The Devil: Demonic Possession

The best proof of the existence of the devil is a person who is possessed. To anyone who doesn’t believe in the existence of the devil, we would say, “Come and see. Come and see the devil alive within a possessed person.”


Possessed people (when the fit is upon them) become unrecognizable: the face becomes distorted, the head twists, the mouth gapes. The tongue is thrust out and the victim howls. It is truly a horrible sight.

In this state, a possessed person is capable of revealing all your “achievements” (i.e., sins). It is not just general and vague, either, but specific and in detail. Without knowing you, they can tell you for example, your name, where you were and what you were doing the previous evening, and who you were with. (It’s worth noting that if you’ve confessed to a priest, the possessed are unable to do this).


- How do they manage to know your secrets?

- Why is it that sins confessed aren’t able to be seen?


During their fit, however, they show other symptoms.

- At the Divine Liturgy they feel as if they’re burning (although when they see fire they don’t).

- Before the Precious Cross, they feel as if they’re being cut to ribbons (although when they see a butcher’s knife they don’t).

- When a priest makes the sign of the Cross over them with the “spear” used in the Divine Liturgy by the priest to cut the Communion Bread, they feel as if their flesh is being pierced. One priest did this and the possessed person howled: “Why are you sticking that spear into my flesh. Why are you pulling at the spear and tearing my flesh?” (Yet the same person was able to bear the touch of a sharp knife without howling).

- When they look upon holy relics, they feel as if they themselves are on fire.


- Why should the possessed fear the Divine Liturgy yet not fear, for example, heart surgery?

- Why do they fear the Precious Cross, which, after all, is only two bits of wood, yet don’t fear a sharp butcher’s knife?

- Why is it that they feel they’re being cut open when the sign of the Cross is made over them?

- Why do they fear the relics of saints such as St Gerasimos, a poverty-stricken little monk who was full of love, yet don’t fear the remains of bloodthirsty Lenin, who slaughtered millions of his fellow-citizens?


All the above show us that there’s something about the possessed person that is very badly disturbed by the Precious Cross, the Divine Liturgy, and the relics of our saints. And this “something” is the same thing that can reveal your secret sins, unless you’ve confessed them.

For us Christians, this “something” is the devil. What about unbelievers? Do they just put it down to parapsychology and be done with it?

There are of course, those scientists who declare that all of this will one day be explained by the goddess of “science”. They’re sure of this. Yet this may not be the case, since it’s still in the future, so why are they so sure? What sort of logic is that? But never mind. If in the future science demonstrates that this something really is the devil, will they then believe it?

The Devil’s Bloodthirstiness

The possessed show just how bloodthirsty the devil is and how cruelly he tortures people. Here are a few instances:

The father whose son was possessed said to Christ: “Every time the devil bothers him, it throws him down, foam comes from his mouth and he gnashes his teeth and becomes catatonic" (Mark 9:18). Some know-it-alls explain this by saying the boy was epileptic. But so was Julius Caesar, who lived before Christ. People in the ancient world were familiar with the difference between epilepsy and possession. They weren’t as “backward” as we like to think.

Another possessed man never stayed at home, but went wandering around the deserts and graveyards. Summer and winter he walked around stark naked (Luke 8:27-39).

Another threw himself into the fire to be burnt and yet another into the water to drown (Matthew 17:16). The two possessed men of the Gaderenes were “exceedingly fierce”. They were so wild and aggressive that no one could approach them They were the bane of people’s lives (Matthew 8:28).

Unnatural Strength

If a criminal is arrested by the police and is handcuffed, then no matter how strong he is, he can’t break his bonds. His hands are tied, as it were. This isn’t true of people possessed. If they’re handcuffed, for example, even if they’re paralyzed, they’re capable of breaking open handcuffs. St Luke tells us in the Gospel that the Gadarene man who was possessed “was kept bound in chains and fetters, and he broke the bonds.” He was completely immobolized, but despite that he broke the chains!

It wasn’t the man who broke the chains, but the devil who was in the man. This demonstrates quite clearly that the devil has superhuman strength. So, he can work signs and wonders. If he wanted, he could:

- Bring up a hurricane to destroy houses and uproot trees.

- Whip up a storm that would sink all the shipping in the area.

- Drown men and beasts.

- Make an earthquake that would level towns and cities.

But he refrains from this. Why?

Wouldn’t he like to turn everything upside down? Certainly he would, if he could. He’s prevented from doing so by God. If God didn’t keep the mania of the demons in check, we’d see them playing with the world like a ball.

How Does He Fight Us?

The misanthropic devil doesn’t fight us with weapons that can be seen and which make a noise (stones, clubs, etc.), but with silent, invisible ones. ONE of these is THOUGHTS. He puts (bad) thoughts into our minds in order for us to put them into practice. If the bad thoughts don’t take root, then he’ll fight us with supposedly good ones, in order to trap us. Given this, you should be concerned and should ask yourself:

- Is what you have in mind perhaps seed sown by the devil? Is it perhaps misleading you towards seemingly good thoughts?

- Is, perhaps, your philosophy of life and death (which you think is correct), really a set of thoughts from the devil?

- Are even your thoughts on spiritual matters, as an Orthodox Christian, perhaps really thoughts of the devil? Perhaps.

One thing you can be sure of: the devil hasn’t made an exception of YOU.

From the book Confronting the Devil, Magic & the Occult, Orthodox Book Centre, Athens 2003

Archimandrite Vasilios Bakoyiannis

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Objections to Confession...

So frequently we here all the excuses about why people do not participate in Confession when this is one of the most loving and powerful sacraments of the Church. Archimandrite Seraphim Alekslev examines some of these excuses in his beautiful book The Forgotten Medicine.

"HOW GREAT must be our wickedness! We do not turn to Confession not only because we forget about it, but we do not practice it even when we know about it. What can be more imprudent than this?

Confession is so important to us sinners that we must boldly say: there is no salvation for us without Confession. Abba Isaiah expresses the same thought: "If there were no repentance, nobody would be saved. just as Baptism cleanses us from original sin and from all sins committed prior to Baptism, so repentance, involving a confession of our sins, cleanses us from all lawlessness committed after Baptism."

We do not confess because we have objections to Confession. What are our objections usually?

Here are the main ones:

1) One says: "I am so sinful! Can God forgive my sins?
I do not believe this! That is why there is no use for me to go to Confession."
But if a man repents sincerely, any sin can be forgiven him. "The power of repentance is based on the power of God. The Doctor is all-powerful, and the Medicine given by Him is all-powerful" (Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov).

St. John Chrysostom, pondering on the miraculous results of sincere repentance, says: "Repentance is a medicine which destroys sin. It is a heavenly gift, a marvelous force which through the grace of God conquers the might and strictness of the laws. It accepts all and transforms all…

Do not tell me: "I have sinned much, how can I save myself?" You cannot, but your God can, and He can do it so that all your sins will be destroyed….

Sin is to God's love for man what the spark is to the sea, not even that, but something much smaller! The sea, however big it may be, has an end, but God's love for man is limitless.

2) Another says: "Why should I go to Confession? I have no special sins.
Let those who have murdered, stolen, raped, or committed some other sin go to Confession."
This objection to Confession is the complete opposite of the first one... Here, there is a lack of any realization of wickedness….

Let those who say, "I have no special sins," answer whether they have Christ in their hearts. He likes to inhabit pure hearts. But are their hearts pure? Hardly! They imagine that they are pure, but imagination is not reality. lf we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). And where there is a lie, there Christ is not.

The Holy Fathers teach us that It Is very hard for a man to see his sins….

It turns out that those who think that they do not have any great sins are actually blind. They must pray to God to enable them to perceive their sins and to save themselves from the extremely fatal spiritual delusion that they do not have any particular sins. Even if their sins are as small as specks of dust, if they are not cleaned with constant Confession, they pile up and dirty the room of the heart so that the high heavenly Guest cannot enter there.

The small sins are often more dangerous than the greatest crimes, because the latter weigh heavily on the conscience and insist on being atoned for, confessed, settled, erased, while the small sins do not weigh too much on the soul, but they have that perilous property of making it insensitive to the grace of God and indifferent to salvation. ….

In order for man to restore his spiritual life, he needs to confess even the smallest of his sins.

3) A third man says: "All this is true. But why should I confess when I know that tomorrow I will sin again? Is there any point In such confession? I see that one should confess only if one would sin no more after that!"
This objection to Confession contains both something which is very true and something which is not. The right thing here is the desire not to sin any more after Confession. But we are feeble humans, and we cannot attain right away such a firmness which makes falling into voluntary sins impossible. If we cannot reach such steadfastness in virtue right away, should we surrender to vice? Or should we stop confessing? Which is better––to roll in the mud of the spiritual swamp, or to pick yourself up after each fall and go on with the hope that someday you may reach the solid and beautiful shore of virtue? If you do not confess, you remain in the mud. If you confess, you pick yourself up from the mud and clean yourself. "But why should I get up if tomorrow I will fall again?" you say. When you fall again, then get up again! Every day begin all over again! This is undoubtedly better than falling out of the habit of getting up….

Leave your house unswept, uncleaned, and unventilated for one year! Will it not turn into a pigsty? Now think about what the soul of a man is like when he has not cleaned it through Confession, not only for a year, but for twenty, forty, sixty, or seventy years!...

4) A fourth man says: "I am confessing before God. What need is there for me to go to the priest?"
... God has ordained the priest to administer the Holy Sacraments so that we can receive through them heavenly all-saving grace. Confession is a sacrament, too. If you confess before God, you are doing well, because you are moving your conscience, remembering your sins, and maybe even shedding tears for them. Yet you do not receive God's grace of forgiveness through all that. ...until you go to the priest to whom Jesus Christ Himself has given the power to bind and loose, no matter how much you confess before God, you do not receive forgiveness for your sins, because God Himself has condescended to say to the priest: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them (John 20:23).

Besides, Confession before a priest has an enormous instructive meaning. It humbles us. It cures our pride; it makes us blush savingly; It instills in us shame and fear and thus protects us from future sins.

"But how can the priest absolve sins?" you ask. He can, since God has ordered it so. "But is the priest himself not a sinful man?" If lie is sinful, what do you lose from that? He is sinful for himself and will answer before God for his sins. The Holy Sacraments administered by him do not cease to be active for you because of his sinfulness if you accept them with faith and humility. Does the sunray get dirty when it falls on mud? In the same way, God's grace does not lessen by being transmitted by a priest muddled with sins. He himself may be denied grace on Judgment Day because of his sinfulness, but you, accepting through him God's grace, will not deprive yourself of it if you show yourself to be worthy.

"But will the priest not give away the secret of my confessed sins?" No! No priest has the right to tell of that which he has heard during Confession. He has to take the secret of the Confession to his grave. So do not worry that the shame of your sinfulness may be announced to society.

But remember that if you avoid Confession because of zeal for your honor, you will shame yourself If you are ashamed to admit your weaknesses before one man, everyone will begin talking about them! Such is the spiritual law. People sense our weaknesses, no matter how diligently we hide them. If you confess them before one man, God, because of your humility before this single witness, will cover you with His grace before the many.

...Your confession will teach you to struggle with your passions; and if you are really fighting against them, the multitude of people will not find out about them. You, with God's help, will be healed before you have shamed yourself. But if you do not want to be healed through Confession, then you will both expose your name to abuse here and then be disgraced before the whole universe at the Last Judgment!"

From: The Forgotten Medicine, pp 29-39

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Dormition of the Mother of God: a liturgical approach

The feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God is celebrated on August 15 by the Christian world and is the greatest of those established by the Church in honour of the Mother of the Lord. It may be the oldest of all. The first evidence we have for it dates from the 5th century, round about the time when the 3rd Ecumenical Synod was called in Ephesus (451), at which the dogma of the Mother of God was defined and the honour due to her was developed. It appears that it was first held in Jerusalem on 13 August and was transposed soon afterwards to the 15th of the same month. It was a general feast of the Virgin, without particular reference to her Dormition.

It was called “the day of Mary, the Mother of God”. The centre for the celebrations initially was a kathisma (seat), a church in her name, which was located outside Jerusalem, some three miles along the road leading to Bethlehem. The association of the feast with the Dormition of the Mother of God occurred at the famous church of Our Lady in Gethsemane, “Mavrikios’ house of prayer”, where her grave was. This church quickly acquired the status of the most important pilgrimage site of the Mother of God, and its renown became the reason why the feast on 15 August quickly spread throughout the Christian world, East and West, as the feast of the Dormition.

The feast was later elevated, with a preparatory fast and the extension of the feasting until 23 August or even to the end of the month and so it became not only the greatest of the feasts of the Mother of God but also one of the most important in the Church’s year. It was only natural that this should be so, because Our Lady is the best-loved and holy person after Christ, which is why she has attracted the honour and veneration of all generations of Christians. Countless churches and monasteries have been built in honour of her Dormition; in every church, behind the main entrance, wonderful wall-paintings of astonishing composition depict her funeral; her service his been embellished with choice hymns; and fine words and encomia have been expressed by the Fathers and modern Church figures on the day when we commemorate her. All generations of humankind have rivalled each other in presenting the best they have to offer, to praise and bless the Virgin Mary in word and deed.


If we are to understand the festal content of the feast of the Dormition, and indeed, that of the other feasts of the Mother of God, the Conception, the Nativity, and the Entry, we need to look back briefly at the sources from which the information concerning her was drawn. Otherwise, it’s impossible to interpret all the things associated with this celebration: the narratives, the hymnography and the iconography. The authentic historical sources, the Gospels and the other books of the New Testament have not preserved any information about her life before the Annunciation or after the Ascension of the Lord. The intention of the authors was to narrate the life and the work of salvation of Christ, and whatever was directly linked with Him; not to satisfy the devout curiosity or the historical interests of their readers. By word of mouth, however, the tradition of the Church preserved various pieces of information having to do with the life of the Mother of God before the Conception of the Lord and after His Resurrection. Thereafter different authors, devout for the most part, took this information and embellished it throough their imagination, and, to give their works greater kudos, affixed great apostolic names to them. The Church rejected these works and called them apocryphal and falsified. In later times, many of these narratives, in their most basic forms, provided the subject matter for the formation of feasts, the construction of narratives, the poetry of hymns and the composition of icons. In any case, as we’ve said, the core of these narratives had as its base very old historical traditions concerning the person of the Mother of God.


The event of the Dormition, in particular, is told, apart from elsewhere, in an apocryphal narrative which bears the name John, the disciple beloved of Christ. We shall present a summary of this lengthy text here. At each point, the reader will recall corresponding phrases from the hymns and synaxarion of the feast and details from the icon of the Dormition, which was composed by Byzantine artists.

After Christ’s Ascension, the Mother of God went to the life-receiving tomb every day and prayed. One Friday, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and saluted her: “Hail, you who bore Christ our God. The Lord has heard your prayer and you will leave the world and enter the true and eternal life”. The Mother of God returned home, burned incense and prayed to Christ to send her John and the other apostles, so that they could be present at her death. Her petition was heard and the first to arrive, snatched up in a cloud was John and then the others were borne by clouds and came from the ends of the earth, to which they had scattered. The Lord arrived in his radiant glory and, with thousands of angels, He received the soul of His Mother. She blessed the apostles and the world, interceded for the salvation of all and, having been given the assurance that any soul invoking her name would not be put to shame but would find mercy and comfort and defence and boldness in the present life and that of the future, she gave up her holy soul into the hands of her Son.

The apostles surrounded the body and, chanting, lifted up her bed with the body lying upon it, to be buried. A Jew by the name of Jeronias made to attack the bed, but an angel of the Lord, with a sword of fire, cut off his arms at the shoulder, and they remained attached to the bed. He repented and they were re-attached, while the apostles continued the cortege undisturbed. The body was buried in a new tomb in Gethsemane, but on the third day was transported to Paradise.


The poetry of the Church has embellished this simple narrative. The three stikhira (poetic hymns) in the first tone at Vespers (the first an automelos [contrafactum] and the others based upon it) praise the Mother of God and her Dormition in a wonderful manner. The substructure, however, can easily be recognized as the apocryphal narrative: Gethsemane, the words of Gabriel, the presence of the angelic powers, the transition from the grave to heaven.

The stikhira at Lauds in the 4th tone have the same theme. In the first, the whole cosmos, heavenly and earthly, rejoices, accompanying the mother of Christ and singing a funeral song for her. The other two describe the arrival of the apostles and their chanting at the graveside, as well as the presence of the angelic powers and the reception of her spotless soul by Christ.

Finally, let us take a look at the most exceptional tropario of her feast, and, indeed, of all our troparia. It is the doxastiko at Vespers. It takes its subject matter from the apocryphal narrative. The exceptional nature of the hymn lies in the fact that it is not sung in only one tone, as are all the other Church hymns, but in all eight.

Tone 1

By the royal command all the God-bearing apostles were snatched up into clouds on high

Tone Plagial 1

On reaching your immaculate and life-giving body, they embraced it fervently.

Tone 2

The highest powers of heavens attended, with their own master,

Tone Plagial 2

Seized with awe, they accompanied your inviolate body which had held God, and went on high before you, calling, unseen, to the ranks above: “Behold the Maid of God, the Queen of all, is at hand”.

Tone 3

Open wide the gates and welcome the mother of the everlasting light.

Tone Plagial 3

For through her the salvation of mortals has come; we are not strong enough to look upon her and are unable to render honours worthy of her.

Tone 4

For her excellence is beyond all conception

Tone Plagial 4

Therefore, most pure Mother of God, living forever with your Son and life-bearing King, pray without ceasing that your young people may be sheltered and saved from every adverse assault, for we have your protection.

Tone 1

And we bless you in beauty and light unto all ages.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Name of God ( Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra )

There is nothing left for the monk except this one thing: 
to wash the eyes of his heart with the tears of his face while repeating with the Psalmist: "Every night I flood my bed with my tears; I drench my couch with my weeping" (Ps. 6:6), and to touch the fringes of Jesus' cloak (cf. Matt. 14:36) while crying, like the blind man of the Gospel: "Lord have mercy on me, that I may receive my sight!" (Luke 18:39-41), such that the darkness may be scattered by the invocation of the Name of the Lord. 
The Name of Jesus, of One of the Holy Trinity, becomes thus the personal and inner echo of the divine voice that the disciples heard on Tabor coming from the cloud in order to bear witness to the Savior's divinity. Christ makes Himself present here through the sacrament of His Name, and dim night is transfigured into "bright cloud," into a darkness where God dwells.

In the dimness of the night, struggling against the darkness of egoism and the attacks of "the world rulers of this present darkness" (Eph. 6:12), repelling every false brilliance, that is, every thought, product of imagination, or apparition coming from the devil who knows how to "disguise himself as an angel of light" (1 Cor. 11:14), the monk clings to nothing other than the Name of Jesus alone, not in order to analyze it, but to taste the Lord's presence. Then the lack of light within his cell is transformed into that "swift cloud" upon which the Lord of glory sits (Isa. 19:1).

Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra
The Way of the Spirit: Reflections on Life in God