Sunday, August 17, 2014

St. Theophan the Recluse on Why Orthodox Christianity should not change with the times

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior (source)
St. Theophan the Recluse on Why Orthodox Christianity should not change with the times
It reached my ears that, as it seems, you consider my sermons very strict and believe that today no one should think this way, no one should be living this way and therefore, no one should be teaching this way. “Times have changed!”
How glad I was to hear this. This means that you listen carefully to what I say, and not only do you listen, but you are also willing to abide by it. What more could we hope for, we who preach as we were ordered and as much we were ordered?
Despite all this, in no way can I agree with your opinion. I even consider it my duty to comment on it and to correct it, since – even though it perhaps goes against your desire and conviction – it comes from something sinful, as though Christianity could alter its doctrines, its canons, its sanctifying ceremonies to answer to the spirit of each age and adjust itself to the changing tastes of the sons of this century, as though it could add or subtract something.
Yet, it is not so. Christianity must remain eternally unchanging, in no way being dependent on or guided by the spirit of each age. Instead, Christianity is meant to govern and direct the spirit of the age for anyone who obeys its teachings. To convince you of this, I will put forward some thoughts for you to consider.
Some said that my teaching is strict. First of all, my teaching is not my own, nor it should be. In this sacred office nobody should, nor even can, preach his own teaching. If I or someone else ever dare to do so, you can put us outside the Church.

We preach the teachings of our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of the holy Apostles, and the Holy Church, which is guided by the Holy Spirit. At the same time, we make sure to do everything possible to keep these teachings whole and inviolate in your minds and hearts. Every thought we present and every word we use, we do so very carefully, so as not to overshadow this brilliant and divine teaching in any way. Nobody can act differently.
...a single raising of your mind to God, and a single humble genuflexion to His glory and in His honor has infinitely more value than all the treasures of the world... --St Nicodemos and Theophan the Recluse (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 20)
Such a law that calls for each man’s preaching in the Church to be "God-sent," was established at the creation of the world, and should thus remain valid until the end of the world. The Prophet Moses, after the delivery of the commandments from God Himself to the people of Israel, concluded: “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you.” (Deut. 4:2)
This law of constancy is so unalterable that the Lord and Savior Himself, when He was teaching the people on the mountain, said: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Math. 5:17-18)
Then He gave the same validity to his teaching, before interpreting the commandments in the spirit of the gospel, by adding: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Math. 5:19)
This means that anyone who wrongly interprets the commandments of God and lessens their validity, will be an outcast in the future life. This is what He said at the beginning of His preaching. He assured the same thing to Saint John the Theologian, the beholder of ineffable revelations, to whom He described the final judgement of the world and the Church, indicating in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelations): “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.” (Apoc. 22:18-19)
From the time of His first appearance in the world until the Second Coming, Christ has given the Holy Apostles and their successors the following law: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Math. 28:19-20)
That means “for you to teach, not what anyone else could possibly imagine, but what I ordered, and this to the end of the world.” And He adds: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” (Math. 28:20)
The Apostles received this law and sacrificed their lives in order to keep it. And to those who wanted to keep them from preaching what it was they preached under the threat of punishment and death, they replied: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
This clear law was delivered by the apostles to their successors, was accepted by them, and has timeless effect in the Church of God. Because of this law, the Church is the pillar and the ground of truth. Can you see then what an inviolable steadfastness it has? After that, who would be so bold as to stubbornly disturb or move anything in Christian doctrine and law?
Next listen to what is said of the Prophet Ezekiel who for seven days was in the ecstasy of prayer and after seven days heard the word of the Lord: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth” (Ezek. 3:17), and he declared to the people: Here is the law for you! If you see a wicked person committing iniquity and you do not tell him: leave your iniquity and change your way, “that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” (Ezek. 3:18) Conversely, “if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezek. 3:19-21)
What a strict law! And though it sounds in the consciences of all pastors during their election and consecration, when a heavy yoke is put on them, namely the instruction of the flock of Christ that He entrusted to them, big or small, not only to guide it but also to preserve it. How could anyone be so bold, to pervert everything in the law of Christ, when this involves the destruction of both pastors and flock?
If the saving power of this teaching depended on our opinion of it and our consent to it, it would make sense for someone to imagine rebuilding Christianity according to human weaknesses or the claims of the age and adapt it according to the sinful desires of his heart. But the saving power of Christian law does not at all depend on us, but on the will of God, by the fact that God Himself established precisely the exact path of salvation. Beyond this there is no other way, nor could it exist. Therefore, anyone who teaches in any other way, is deviating from the true path and is destroying himself and you. What logic is there in that?
Notice how strict judgment was mentioned when something similar happened to the nation of Israel during the difficult years of their captivity. Some prophets out of pity for the suffering and sick talked to the people, not as the Lord had ordered, but as their heart dictated. Concerning them the Lord gave the following commands to Ezekiel: “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own minds. Prophesy against them and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls.” (Ezek. 13:17-18)This means: Woe to those who order any kind of special treatment and suggest such leniency, so no one feels the slightest displeasure, either from those on top or those at the bottom, not caring whether this is for their salvation or destruction, whether it is pleasing to God, or repulsive. Woe to them, because “thus says the Lord God...your pillows and veils,” namely your candied and comforting teaching, “upon which there you are perverting souls, I will tear from your arms and I will let their souls that you are perverting, go away...” (Ezek. 13:20-21) from this teaching of yours and I will destroy you corrupters.
This is the benefit of this special treatment and leniency, such as you want to hear from preachers! When you put all this deep in your heart, it is not right for you to want us to make any concessions in Christian doctrine, having the wrong desire to be pleased by us. On the contrary, you are obliged to persistently demand from us to remain true to doctrine, as strictly and firmly as possible.
Have you ever heard of the indulgences of the Pope of Rome? Here is what they are: special treatment and leniency, which he gives defying the law of Christ. And what is the result? From all of this, the West is corrupt in faith and in their way of life, and is now getting lost in its disbelief and in the unrestrained life with its indulgences.
The Pope changed many doctrines, spoiled all the sacraments, nullified the canons concerning the regulation of the Church and the correction of morals. Everything has begun going contrary to the will of the Lord, and has become worse and worse.
Then came along Luther, a smart man, but stubborn. He said, “The Pope changed everything as he wanted, why shouldn't I do the same?” He started to modify and re-modify everything in his own way, and in this way established the new Lutheran faith, which only slightly resembles what the Lord had commanded and the Holy Apostles delivered to us.After Luther came the philosophers. And they in turn said, “Luther has established himself a new faith, supposedly based on the Gospel, though in reality based on his own way of thinking. Why, then, don't we also compose doctrines based on our own way of thinking, completely ignoring the Gospel?” They then started rationalizing, and speculating about God, the world, and man, each in his own way. And they mixed up so many doctrines, that one gets dizzy just counting them.
Now the Westerners have the following views: Believe what you think best, live as you like, satisfy whatever captivates your soul. This is why they do not recognize any law or restriction and they do not abide by God's word. Their road is wide, all obstacles displaced. Their way is broad, all the obstacles taken out. But the broad road leads to perdition, according to what the Lord says. This is where leniency in teaching has led!Lord, save us from this broad way! But it is better to love each difficulty that the Lord has appointed for our salvation. Let us love Christian doctrines and let us compel our mind with them, pushing it not to think otherwise. Let us love Christian morals and let us compel our will in them, forcing it to lift the light yoke of the Lord humbly and patiently. Let us love all Christian rituals and services which guide us, correct us, and sanctify us. Let us compel our heart with them, encouraging it to convey its desires from the earthly and perishable, to the heavenly and imperishable.
Let us confine ourselves as though in a cage. Or better, let us drag ourselves, as if we were passing through a narrow passage. Let it be narrow, so no one can deviate neither to the right left, nor the left. Yet undoubtedly, through this narrow way we will obtain the kingdom of the heavens in return. For as you know, this kingdom is the kingdom of the Lord. The Lord laid this narrow way and said, “Follow exactly this route and you will obtain the kingdom of heaven.”Could anyone then doubt whether the traveler will get to his destination? And what mind would one have who starts wanting all kinds of annulment of the commandments, when by doing this he would immediately lose his way and be lost?
Once you have fully understood this assertion, do not worry if something in our teaching seems to be strict. The only thing you should strive for is to carefully make sure if it is from the Lord. And after you have made sure it is from the Lord, accept it with all your heart, no matter how strict or obliging it may be. And not only avoid wanting special treatment and leniency with doctrine and the ethics, but even flee from all these, as though fleeing from the fire of Gehenna. Those who cannot escape from this are those who think up such things and with them lure those who are spiritually weak to follow them. Amen.

St. Theophan the Recluse.
December 29, 1863 - Sunday after Christ's Birth
St. Theophan the Recluse (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Elder Joseph the Hesychast on Enduring Temptations

Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom (source)
"There is nothing else that can help appease anger and all the passions as much as love for God and for every fellow man. It is with love rather than with other struggles that you can win easily. In addition, when love reigns in your nous you feel no pain while struggling. For this reason, "love never faileth" (1 Cor. 13:8), as long as you constantly steer the soul's rudder towards it. And no matter what happens, you shout your maxim: "For the sake of Thy love, Jesus, my sweet love, I will endure curses, disgraces, injustices, toils, and all afflictions that I might encounter!" And at once, while you are pondering these words, the burden of pain is lightened, and the demons' bitterness ceases.
"Let me tell you a true story. Once, because of my continual and frightful temptations, I was overcome with sadness and faintheartedness, and I presented my case to God as if I had been treated unjustly. I was complaining because He kept allowing so many temptations to befall me without curbing them even a little, that I couldn't even catch my breath. In this time of bitterness, I heard a very sweet and clear voice within me say with extreme compassion, "Will you not endure everything for My love?" As soon as I heard that voice, I broke out with many tears and repented for being overcome with faintheartedness. I shall never forget that voice, which was so sweet that the temptation and all my faintheartedness immediately disappeared.
"Will you not endure everything for my love?"
"O truly sweet Love! For Thy love, we are crucified and endure everything!"
Elder Joseph the Hesychast, "Monastic Wisdom: Eighth Letter"
An icon of the Blessed Elder Joseph the Cave-dweller and Hesychast (+ August 15th / 28th 1959). This year completes 55 years since his blessed repose. Though he has yet to be officially canonized by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, we pray that we might follow his great spiritual example, according to our strength, and that he might pray for us all to the Most-merciful Lord. (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Akathist to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ

The Holy Mandylion (source)
The following is a well-known and beautiful akathist in praise of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was originally written in Greek, attributed to various monastic writers, and probably written between the 9th to the 11th centuries. In a publication of the service in praise of the Holy Mandylion published in 1745, this akathist is prescribed to be chanted interspersed with the Orthros on the feast of the Holy Mandylion (August 16) (similar to the famous Akathist to the Theotokos, prescribed to be chanted on the Fifth Saturday of Great Lent). Though this Akathist can be chanted at any time, I think that this is a perfectly fitting feast to do so, as we worship our Lord Jesus, our true God, Who truly put on flesh to save us all.  May He have mercy on us all and save us!

The Akathist hymn to
our sweetest Lord Jesus Christ

Plagal of Fourth Tone
To You, the Champion Leader and Lord, the Vanquisher of Hades, I, Your creature and servant, offer a song of praise, for You have delivered me from eternal death. But as You have ineffable loving-kindness, deliver me from all dangers, that I may cry to You:
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
Creator of Angels and Lord of Hosts, as of old You opened the ear and tongue of him that was deaf and dumb, so now open my perplexed mind and tongue to praise You most holy Name, that I may cry to You:
Jesus, most wonderful, Astonishment of Angels.
Jesus, most powerful, Deliverance of Forefathers.
Jesus, most sweet, Exultation of Patriarchs.
Jesus, most glorious, Dominion of kings.
Jesus, most desired, Fulfillment of Prophets.
Jesus, most praised, Steadfastness of Martyrs.
Jesus, most gladsome, Comfort of monastics.
Jesus, most compassionate, Sweetness of presbyters.
Jesus, most merciful, Abstinence of fasters.
Jesus, most tender, joy of the righteous.
Jesus, most pure, Sobriety of virgins.
Jesus, pre-eternal, Salvation of sinners.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
Seeing the widow weeping bitterly, O Lord, You were moved with compassion, and raised up her son as he was being carried to burial; likewise have compassion on me, O Friend of man, and raise up my soul which has been slain by sins, as I cry aloud:
Seeking to know knowledge unknown Philip asked: Lord, show us the Father; and You answered him: Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? Therefore, O Unsearchable One, with fear I cry to You:
Jesus, God before the ages.
Jesus, King almighty.
Jesus, Master long-suffering.
Jesus, Saviour most merciful.
Jesus, my Guardian most kind.
Jesus, be gracious unto my sins.
Jesus, take away my iniquities.
Jesus, pardon my unrighteousness.
Jesus, my Hope, forsake me not.
Jesus, my Helper, reject me not.
Jesus, my Creator, forget me not.
Jesus, my Shepherd, lose me not.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
You endued with power from on high Your Apostles who tarried in Jerusalem, O Jesus. Clothe also me also, who am stripped bare of every good work, with the warmth of You Holy Spirit, and grant that with love I may chant to You:
In the abundance of Your mercy, O compassionate Jesus, You have called publicans and sinners and unbelievers. Now despise not me who am like them, but accept this hymn as precious myrrh:
Jesus, invincible Power.
Jesus, unending Mercy.
Jesus, radiant Beauty.
Jesus, unspeakable Love.
Jesus, Son of the living God.
Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Jesus, hear me who was conceived in iniquity.
Jesus, cleanse me who was born in sin.
Jesus, teach me who am foolish.
Jesus, enlighten me who am darkened.
Jesus, purify me who am defiled.
Jesus, restore me, the prodigal.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
Having a tempest of doubting thoughts within, Peter was sinking. But beholding You, O Jesus, bearing flesh and walking on the waters, he knew You to be the true God; and receiving the hand of salvation, he cried:
The Holy Mandylion (source)
When the blind man heard You, O Lord, passing by, he cried: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! And You called him and open his eyes. Therefore, by Your mercy enlighten the spiritual eyes of my heart as I cry to You and say:
Jesus, Creator of those on high.
Jesus, Redeemer of those below.
Jesus, Vanquisher of the nethermost powers.
Jesus, Adorner of every creature.
Jesus, Comforter of my soul.
Jesus, Enlightener of my mind.
Jesus, Gladness of my heart.
Jesus, Health of my body.
Jesus, my Saviour, save me.
Jesus, my Light, enlighten me.
Jesus, from all torment deliver me.
Jesus, save me who am unworthy.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
As of old You redeemed us from the curse of the law by You divinely shed blood, O Jesus, likewise rescue us from the snares that the serpent has entangled us through the passions of the flesh, through lustful incitement and perilous lethargy, as we cry to You:
Beholding in human form Him Who by His hand fashioned man, and understanding Him to be their Master, the children of the Hebrews hurried with boughs to do homage, crying: Hosanna! But we offer You a hymn of praise, saying:
Jesus, true God.
Jesus, Son of David.
Jesus, glorious King.
Jesus, innocent Lamb.
Jesus, Shepherd most marvellous.
Jesus, Protector of mine infancy.
Jesus, Guide of my youth.
Jesus, Boast of mine old age.
Jesus, my Hope at death.
Jesus, my Life after death.
Jesus, my Comfort at Your judgment.
Jesus, my Desire, let me not then be ashamed.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
Fulfilling the words and proclamations of the God-bearing Prophets, O Jesus, You appeared on earth, and You Who are uncontainable dwelled among men. Therefore, being healed by Your wounds, we learned to chant:
When the light of Your truth shone in the world, devilish delusion was driven away; for the idols, O our Saviour, have fallen, unable to endure Your power. But we who have received salvation cry to You:
Jesus, Truth dispelling falsehood.
Jesus, Light transcending every light.
Jesus, King surpassing all in strength.
Jesus, God constant in mercy.
Jesus, Bread of life, fill me who am hungry.
Jesus, Well-spring of knowledge, refresh me who am thirsty.
Jesus, Garment of gladness, clothe me who am naked.
Jesus, Haven of joy, shelter me who am unworthy.
Jesus, Giver to those who ask, grant me mourning for my sins.
Jesus, Finder of those who seek, find my soul.
Jesus, Opener to those who knock, open my hardened heart.
Jesus, Redeemer of sinners, wash away my sins.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
Desiring to unveil the mystery hidden from all ages, You were led as a sheep to the slaughter, O Jesus, and as a voiceless lamb before its shearer. But as God, You rose from the dead and ascended with glory to Heaven, and together with Yourself, raise us up who cry:
The Holy Mandylion (source)
New was the creation which the Creator revealed to us when He appeared, for without seed He took flesh of a Virgin and rose from the tomb without breaking the seal of either, and bodily entered to the Apostles whilst the doors were shut. Therefore, marvelling at this we chant:
Jesus, Word uncontainable.
Jesus, Intelligence unfathomed.
Jesus, Power incomprehensible.
Jesus, Wisdom immeasurable.
Jesus, Divinity undepictable.
Jesus, Dominion unbounded.
Jesus, Kingdom invincible.
Jesus, Sovereignty unending.
Jesus, Strength sublime.
Jesus, Authority everlasting.
Jesus, my Creator, fashion me anew.
Jesus, my Saviour, save me.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
Seeing the strange Incarnation of God, let us alienate ourselves from this vain world and raise our mind to things divine. To this end God descended to earth, that He might raise to Heaven us who cry to Him:
Wholly present with those below, yet in no way separated from those above, was the Uncircumscribed One, when of His own will He suffered for us; by His death, our death He put to death, and by His Resurrection, He granted life to us who chant to Him such words as these:
Jesus, Sweetness of my heart.
Jesus, Strength of my body.
Jesus, Light of my soul.
Jesus, Liveliness of my mind.
Jesus, Gladness of my conscience.
Jesus, Hope unexcelled.
Jesus, Remembrance everlasting.
Jesus, Praise most exalted.
Jesus, my Glory most sublime.
Jesus, my Desire, reject me not.
Jesus, my Shepherd, seek me out.
Jesus, my Saviour, save me.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
All the orders of Angels in Heaven unceasingly glorify Your most holy Name, O
Jesus, crying: Holy, Holy, Holy! But we sinners on earth, with our tongues of clay, chant:
We behold the most eloquent orators mute as fish before You, O Jesus our Saviour, for they are at a loss to explain how You are both perfect man and immutable God. But as for us, marvelling at this mystery, we cry with faith:
Jesus, God of gods.
Jesus, King of kings.
Jesus, Lord of lords.
Jesus, judge of the living and the dead.
Jesus, Hope of the despairing.
Jesus, Comfort of the mourning.
Jesus, Provision of the poor.
Jesus, condemn me not according to my deeds.
Jesus, cleanse me according to Your mercy.
Jesus, dispel my despondency.
Jesus, enlighten the thoughts of my heart.
Jesus, make me ever mindful of death.
Jesus. Son of God, have mercy on me. 
Wishing to save the world, O Dayspring of the Orient, You came to the dark Occident of our nature and humbled Yourself even to death. Therefore, Your Name is exalted above every name, and from all created beings of Heaven and earth, You heard:
The Holy Mandylion (source)
Make Your holy Angels a rampart for us, O Christ, Father of the age to come, and cleanse us from every stain, as You cleansed the ten lepers; and heal us, as Your healed the covetous soul of Zacchaeus the publican, that we may cry to You with compunction and say:
Jesus, Treasure unfailing.
Jesus, Wealth inexpendable.
Jesus, Food most substantial.
Jesus, Drink inexhaustible.
Jesus, Raiment of the poor.
Jesus, Defender of widows.
Jesus, Protector of orphans.
Jesus, Champion of those in hardships.
Jesus, Companion of those who journey.
Jesus, Pilot of voyagers.
Jesus, Calm Haven of the tempest-tossed.
Jesus, raise me who am fallen.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
A most contrite hymn do I, the unworthy one, offer You, and like the Canaanite woman, I cry to You: O Jesus, have mercy on me! For not a daughter, but a flesh have I which is violently possessed by the passions and troubled with anger. Grant healing to me, who cries aloud to You:
You, the brilliant Beacon-light shining to those in the darkness of ignorance, did Paul once persecute; but, illumined by Your light and perceiving the power of Your divinely wise voice, the fury of his soul was eased. In like manner, enlighten the eyes of my darkened soul as I cry such things as these:
Jesus, my King supremely powerful.
Jesus, my God omnipotent.
Jesus, my Lord immortal.
Jesus, my Creator most glorious.
Jesus, my Guide supreme in goodness.
Jesus, my Shepherd most compassionate.
Jesus, my Master rich in mercy.
Jesus, my Saviour, Friend of man.
Jesus, enlighten my senses, darkened by passions.
Jesus, heal my body, wounded by sins.
Jesus, cleanse my mind from vain thoughts.
Jesus, preserve my heart from evil desires.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
Grant me Your grace, O Jesus, Forgiver of every debt, and receive me who repents, as You received Peter who denied You; and call me who am downcast, as of old You called Paul who persecuted You; and hear me as I cry to You:
Whilst hymning Your Incarnation, we all praise You, and with Thomas we believe that You are our Lord and God, Who sits with the Father, and shall come to judge the living and the dead. Grant that I may then stand at Your right hand, who now cry:
Jesus, King of peace, bestow Your peace upon me.
Jesus, sweet-scented Flower, make me fragrant.
Jesus, longed for Warmth, warm me.
Jesus, eternal Temple, shelter me.
Jesus, splendid Garment, adorn me.
Jesus, Pearl of great price, enrich me.
Jesus, precious Stone, illumine me.
Jesus, Sun of Righteousness, shine on me.
Jesus, holy Light, make me radiant.
Jesus, deliver me from infirmity of soul and body.
Jesus, rescue me from the hands of the adversary.
Jesus, save me from the everlasting torments.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me. 
O most sweet and tender-loving Jesus, receive this our small supplication, as You received the widow's mite; and preserve Your inheritance from all enemies, visible and invisible, from invasion of aliens, from disease and famine, from all tribulations and mortal wounds, and deliver from future torments all who cry to You:
Again, the Kontakion
Plagal of Fourth Tone
To You, the Champion Leader and Lord, the Conqueror of Hades, I, Your creature and servant, offer a song of praise, for You have delivered me from eternal death. But as You have ineffable loving-kindness, deliver me from all dangers that can be, that I may cry to You:
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.
This beautiful 18th Century icon at the center includes the Holy Mandylion of Christ, and surrounding it, scenes depicting the stanzas of the Akathist to the Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ included above (source). Compare to similar icons depicting the stanzas of the Akathist to the Theotokos.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Doxastikon of the Dormition in All Eight Tones

The Dormition of the Theotokos (source)
The following is the Doxastikon of the Stichera from the Great Vespers for the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. This is a beautiful hymn with vivid imagery, but it is most notable for the fact that it is written with portions to be chanted in all eight tones of Byzantine music. This, to my knowledge, is the only hymn in Orthodox hymnology that is like this, and we should take note of this. I take it to mean that our Orthodox Fathers and Hymnographers, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, hope to show that, by praising the Theotokos in all eight tones, the entirety of the visible and invisible Church gathers to honor the Dormition of her who is the "Mother of Life", being translated to "Life". We praise her with every manner and every glory that we have been given, though "it is not possible to render her worthy honor". May she ever intercede for the whole world!

Glory. Both now.
For both Choirs in the 8 Tones.

Tone 1
By divine command the god-bearing Apostles were caught up from all over the world by clouds on high.
Tone 5.
Reaching your all-immaculate body, source of life, they kissed it with mighty honour.
Tone 2.
The highest Powers of heaven stood by with their own Master.
Tone 6.
Seized with dread they accompanied your inviolate body that had contained God; while they went on before in a manner not of this world and crying out, unseen, to the ranks above them: See, the Queen of all, God’s Child, has come.
Tone 3.
Lift up the gates, and in a manner not of this world receive the Mother of the everlasting light.
Tone 7.
For through her the salvation of all mortals has come. We have not the strength to gaze on her, and it is not possible to render her worthy honour.
Tone 4.
For her excellence outstrips all understanding.
Tone 8.
Therefore, immaculate Mother of God, as you live for ever with the life-bearing King, your Offspring, pray without ceasing that he guard and save from every hostile assault your new people; for we have gained your protection.
Tone 1.
As to the ages with splendour we call you blessed.

The Dormition of the Theotokos (source)
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

St. Nephon's Visions of the Divine Liturgy

Christ and the Holy Angels in the Divine Liturgy (source)
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.”
(amateur translation of text from source)
Jesus Christ depicted as an Infant on the Paten, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The snakes of the Theotokos have finally appeared

The icon of the Theotokos with the snakes, depicted over her church in Markopoulos (source)
According to the news site Agoritikovima, the snakes of the Panagia have finally appeared in the village of Arginia on August 11th, 2014.

The snakes, which are harmless and have the sign of the cross on their heads, are seen as a blessing for the people of the island. They usually appear on the eve of the Transfiguration (August 5th) and are seen among the people and in the church climbing over the icons until August 15th, when they promptly disappear until the following year.

There have been years when the snakes do not appear, and this usually has coincided with some form of natural (e.g. earthquakes) or man-made disaster (e.g. war).

For more on the snakes of the Panagia in general, see here.

May we all continue to repent and turn to the Lord while we still can! May the All-holy Theotokos protect all those in trials, sickness, dangers and temptations of all kinds, throughout the world!
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Homily of St. Luke of Simferopol on the Transfiguration of Christ

The Holy Transfiguration of Christ (source)
Homily of St. Luke of Simferopol on the Transfiguration of Christ (delivered in 1956)
The great feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord causes us to remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.” (John 14: 10-11)
Great and uncountable were the wonders of our Lord Jesus Christ: with one word alone He raised the daughter of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, the son of the widow of Nain, and also Lazarus, who was in the tomb for four whole days. With one word alone, He commanded the winds and the waves of the lake of Gennesaret and they became totally calm. With five loaves and two fish, He fed five thousand men, not counting women and children, and with four loaves, four thousand.
Let us remember how, every day, He would heal the sick, curing every form of infirmity, and driving out the evil spirits from the demon-possessed. How again He gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf with only one touch. Do these not suffice?
These all, however, were not enough for those people who envied Him, for those people of whom the great Prophet Isaiah spoke: "'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'” (Matthew 13:14-15)
To all of those people hard of hearing and with darkened eyes, however, for whom these were not enough, our Lord Jesus Christ offered the great wonder of His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. To Him Who shone with an astonishing divine light, the prophets of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, appeared, and worshipped the Creator of the Law. With fear and trembling, the apostles Peter, James and John saw this wondrous sight. And afterwards, from the cloud which covered them, they heard the voice of God: “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5)
The holy apostles preached throughout the world, that our Lord Jesus Christ is “truly, the radiance of the Father.” [Kontakion of the Transfiguration]

The whole world, when they heard this, should have knelt before our Lord Jesus Christ, and worshiped the True Son of God.
The appearance on Tabor of the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament and the worshiping of the Lord Jesus Christ at His Transfiguration, should have forever shut the abominable lips of the scribes and Pharisees, who hated the Lord Jesus, and perceived Him as the violator of the Law of Moses. But even till today, the Jews do not believe that He is the Messiah.
Not only do the Jews not believe in Him, but even many Christians [doubt Him], those who had been dazzled by the divine light of our Lord Jesus Christ. The little flock of Christ is becoming smaller yet, for which the divine light of Christ shines with the same strength with which it shone upon the apostles Peter, James and John then on Mount Tabor.
However, do not loose hope, because our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Do not fear, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
The faithlessness among the people took on alarming proportions, and the light of Christ shined from within the dark cloud of atheism. Today, more constantly than ever, we bring to mind the fearsome word of Christ: “When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
Let us not loose hope, however, because He, speaking of the signs of His Second Coming, said: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28)
Therefore, may your lives be such that at the terrible day of Judgment, we might lift up our head, and not stoop down in deep despair. Amen.
(amateur translation of Greek text from source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!