Monday, October 5, 2015

"You gazed on the divine mysteries of Christ, Apostle Thomas..."

The Holy Apostle Thomas (source)
You gazed on the divine mysteries of Christ, Apostle Thomas, and mystically you have been declared to be a spiritual mixing bowl, in which the souls of believers rejoice; for with the divine net of the Spirit you drew peoples from the deep of ignorance; therefore you came from Sion as a river of grace, welling up with your inspired doctrines into the whole creation. And so, imitating the passion of Christ, you were pierced in the side and entered the darkness of incorruption; implore him to have mercy on our souls.
-Doxastikon of the Praises, in the Plagal of the Second Tone
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

The Holy Belt (Zoni) of the Theotokos to Visit Chalkida, Greece

The Holy Belt (Zoni) of the Theotokos (source)
The Holy and wondrous Belt (Zoni) of the Theotokos, one of the only treasures of the Theotokos to have survived to our days, and treasured by the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos, will soon make one of its rare trips outside of the Holy Mountain. On Saturday October 24th, 2015, the Belt of the Theotokos will be taken by Elder Ephraim, Abbot of Vatopedi, to the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Vasiliko, Chalkida (the largest city on the island of Evia, and about 1 hr. north of Athens), where it will remain until Sunday October 25th. Then, it will be taken to the Church of St. Demetrios (the Metropolis Church of Chalkida), where it will remain until Wednesday October 28th, when it will depart again for the Holy Mountain. The source site notes that during this time, both churches will be open 24 hrs. to accommodate all the pilgrims, and there will be served daily Divine Liturgies, Paraklesis to the Theotokos every 2 hrs., and a vigil every evening. See the source site for more details of the pilgrimage.

This is a great and rare blessing for the people of Greece, especially for women, children, and others who cannot visit the Monastery of Vatopedi themselves. Many miracles occur through the Theotokos, especially helping couples that have difficulty having children. Please pass this on to any friends or family and take advantage of this great gift.
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"Wherever your Protection casts its shade, O All-Spotless One..."

The Holy Protection of the Theotokos (source)
Wherever your Protection casts its shade, O All-Spotless One, there the power of the devil is cast out, for every one of the faithful that calls upon you is saved. Therefore, we also hasten to your radiance that resembles lightning, and are made beautiful through the sprinkling of the Spirit, and are satiated with the grace that breathes forth fragrance, and spiritually rejoice, partaking of the shining rays of wonders. For you have become an inexhaustible spring of good things, and an ineffable gushing forth of healings. We entreat you fervently: cover us, O Greatly-Compassionate One, in the hour of Judgment, and deliver us, your humble servants, from eternal torment, for nothing is impossible through your entreaty.
-Doxastikon of the Praises for the Feast of the Holy Protection of the Theotokos, Plagal of the First Tone.
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

Monday, September 28, 2015

St. Isaac the Syrian: " Blessed is the man who knows his own weakness..."

St. Isaac the Syrian (source)
Blessed is the man who knows his own weakness, because this knowledge becomes to him the foundation, root, and beginning of all goodness. For whenever a man learns and truly perceives his own weakness, at that moment he contracts his soul on every side from the laxity that dims knowledge, and he treasures up watchfulness in himself. But no one can perceive his own infirmity if he is not allowed to be tempted a little, either by things that oppress his body, or his soul. For then, comparing his own weakness with God's help, he will straightway understand the greatness of the latter.
-St. Isaac the Syrian, "Ascetical Homilies" (Homily 8)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ's Vision of St. John the Theologian

St. John the Apostle, Evangelist and Theologian (source)
This is an excerpt from the life of St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ (see the Great Synaxaristes for the full life of the Saint in English). When he began to act like a fool after God's call, his master thought that he had become possessed, so he had him bound with chains, and placed in the holy church of St. Anastasia the Deliverer-from-Potions in Constantinople, which was known for its many miracles and healings. What is moving about this passage is the speedy help of St. John the Evangelist and Theologian, and the vivid depiction of spiritual warfare. St. John is not physically "flogging" the bodiless demons, but the demons experience this punishment when coming into contact with the great love, purity and humility of the Triune God and of His Saints. May the Lord protect and defend us all from the demons, through the prayers of His Holy Ones!
St. Andrew the Fool-for-Christ's Vision of St. John the Theologian
All of that day, bound as he was, [the Blessed Andrew] did not eat anything. That night, at midnight, as he was praying mystically to God and to the Martyr [St. Anastasia], the devil appeared to him visibly, appearing as a [dark being]. Together with him was a multitude of demons. Some were carrying pickaxes, others knives, others sticks and clubs, swords and spears, and others ropes. That dragon was the general. Because of this, many demons had come with him, in order to darken the blessed one. The [dark being], therefore, was foaming at the mouth. In this manner, the demons charged against him.
Then, the blessed Andrew lifted up his hands and cried out with tears to God: “Lord, do not cast to the beasts the soul that confesses You!"
And immediately, he added: “O St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, Beloved Theologian, help me.”
At that instant, from on high was heard the roaring of thunder*. And an Elder with large eyes appeared, whose face shown like the sun! Many were following him. He made the sign of the Cross in the air, and told those with him: “Lock the doors, so that none might escape!”
Those with him [i.e. the Angels] speedily seized all the demons. As they were all locked within the church, the demons cried to each other: “How dark is the hour that we are experiencing! John is strict and will torture us terribly.”
That precious Elder gave a command to his attendants to take the chain from the neck of the blessed Andrew. He took it, and stood outside the door and cried out: “Bring each of them to me.”
And they brought him the first one. “Lay him down,” he said.
Then, he folded the chain of the blessed one in three, and gave around 100 strikes to the demon, who cried out like a man: “Mercy, mercy, have mercy on me!”
Later they laid out and terribly flogged the second, followed by each of the demons. When the blessed Andrew heard the word “mercy”, he began to laugh. It appeared to him that the demons were bound and flogged perceptibly just like men. In reality, however, God was flogging them. And he was flogging them with such an astonishing beating, such that human nature couldn't bear it.
He who was flogging them cried out: “Go now to your father, to satan, and show him the predicament that you are in and see if it pleases him...”
When all of the [dark beings] disappeared, that precious Elder approached the servant of God, and put the chain back on his neck, telling him: “Do you see how quickly I came to help you? I greatly care about you, because God commanded me to care for your salvation. Have patience, so that you might everywhere appear to be worthy. Soon, your master will remove you from your bonds, so that you might go free where you will.”
“Tell me, O Lord,” the blessed Andrew asked, “who are you? I don't recognize you.”
“I am John,” he replied, “I reclined upon the spotless and life-giving bosom of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
As he said this, he disappeared like lightning from before his eyes. He remained ecstatic, and glorified God, because He helped him and delivered him from those evil demons that had surrounded him. He prayed, therefore, and said:
“O Lord Jesus Christ, great and unsurpassing is Your power, and greatly glorified is Your compassion, for strangely and wondrously did you have mercy on and take care of your humble servant. O exalted and almighty Lord, ever protect me on Your true way, and make me worthy, O greatly-merciful Master, O awesome and incomprehensible One, to find grace near You.”
*Note: St. John the Theologian and his brother St. James were called the "Sons of Thunder" by Christ.
(amateur translation of excerpt from the full life of the Saint in Greek, published by Parakletos Monastery, Oropos)
St. Andrew of Constantinople, the Fool-for-Christ (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, September 25, 2015

"The summit of the Apostles..."

St. John the Evangelist and Theologian (source)
The summit of the Apostles, the trumpet of theology, the spiritual general, who made the whole inhabited world subject to God, come believers, let us call him blessed, revered John, translated from earth, yet not withdrawn from earth, but living and abiding the fearful second coming of the Master. O mystic bosom friend of Christ, ask that we, who celebrate your memory with love, may meet it uncondemned.
-Idiomelon of the Litia in the Second Tone
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Now rejoice, O beautiful myrtle plant..."

Panagia Myrtidiotissa ("Of the Myrtle Tree") (source)
Now rejoice, O beautiful myrtle plant, for you were sought by the Theotokos for a Throne and palace for her all-holy Icon, and with joy, you were wondrously sanctified by the Queen, who spoke forth from your branches.
-Troparion from the Canon for the feast of Panagia Myrtidiotissa.
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!