Thursday, September 29, 2011

St. John Koukouzelis, the Righteous Chanter of Great Lavra

St. John Koukouzelis - Commemorated October 1 (http://christopherklitou.com/icon_1_oct_john_koukouzelis.htm)

John Kukuzelis was born in Dyrrachium, the birthplace of the Great Justinian, in Macedonia, probably during the twelfth century. His father died while he was still a child, and his devout mother placed him in school to learn to read and write and to chant. It so happened that he was noticed during a search for talented students and accepted into the school of the imperial court in Constantinople. Here he attracted the attention of the Emperor Comnenos and his court because of his exceptionally fine voice, comely appearance and native talent. Soon he surpassed all his school mates and eventually became the principal chanter for the court.

It was during his school years that he received the nick-name Kukuzelis. Because he was of Bulgarian birth, when he entered the imperial school he did not know the Greek language very well. Once his class-mates asked him what he had eaten for lunch. He replied, "Beans and greens," using the Greek word for broad beans, "kukia", and the Slavic word for greens, "zelie"; hence the name coined first in jest by his school mates, Kukuzelis.

The young John was constantly being showered with flattery and all kinds of favors because of his very moving chanting and his modesty. But in the midst of all this, his heart was burdened with a sense of secret sorrow which he himself could not explain, and this was coupled with an indifferent attitude towards the pleasures of life. John was languishing among all the charms of the court, among all the bright and promising hopes for the future, and he languished all the more, because he had no bosom friend to whom he could reveal his sorrow, who could sympathize with him and alleviate his sorrowful yearning.

St. John Koukouzelis, depicted in the traditional chanter's garments of Constantinople (http://kukuzel.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/joan-kukuzel-johanneskapelle11.jpg)

His sufferings were multiplied when he learned that the Emperor had decided to marry him into a wealthy family. The very thought that because of the temporal delights of life he could lose the joy of the Kingdom of God so distressed the young John that he made up his mind that surely he must run away from the capital and hide himself in some remote desert hermitage. God beheld the purity of his intentions and came to his aid in realizing them.

When the chaste young John thus grew weary of the life at court and was thinking of a way to escape, the abbot of the Grand Lavra on Mount Athos arrived in Constantinople on monastery business. It so happened that John saw this elder and his young heart trembled with joy. In his childish and innocent way he admired the reverent appearance of his visitor from the Holy Mountain. He made his acquaintance, revealed his thoughts and intentions to him and asked for his instructions. When the elder not only approved but even blessed them, John followed almost in his footsteps when he left the capital to return to Athos.

Exchanging the fine silken garments of the court for a hair shirt and a pilgrim's staff, John soon appeared at the gates of the Grand Lavra. When the gatekeeper inquired where he was from and what he wanted, John replied that he was a simple shepherd and that he wanted to become a monk.
"You are too young yet," the gatekeeper remarked.

"It is good to take on the yoke of the Lord in one's youth," John meekly replied and began to beg to be presented to the abbot. The gatekeeper took him to the abbot, who was happy to accept him, because he was in need at that time of a shepherd to look after the goats.

After a short period of trial, John was tonsured and assigned the duty of looking after the monastery's flocks on the mountain pastures. This duty, which was completely new for him, overjoyed the devout young chanter· He went off with his flock into the depths of the Athonite wilderness, where his favorite occupation was meditation and prayer.

In the meantime the Emperor learned that his favorite chanter had run away. He was deeply hurt and sent special agents off to search everywhere for the young chanter. But being hidden by God, John remained totally unknown in spite of the fact that the Emperor's agents came to Mount Athos and were even in the Grand Lavra of St. Athanasius. No one could imagine that the poor shepherd in worn and tattered rags was a favorite of the imperial court.

Quietly and peacefully John passed his days and years in the desert; he could not get his fill of joy from his new circumstances. Once, when he was in a state of compunctionate and deep thought, he sat with his peacefully grazing flock. His thoughts went hack over all his past life and his heart trembled with the sense of a living gratitude to God and His all-hymned Mother for Their providence concerning him.

After looking about to make certain there was no one else in that wilderness that could hear him, John began to chant. Just as before, the divine words of the hymns and his angelic voice resounded in graceful melodies, but now they echoed through the wild desert heights of Athos. John was deeply moved and he chanted with all his skill and to his heart's content.

However, there was a certain hermit, who lived secretly inside a cave in a nearby diff. Suddenly this desert-dweller heard the most beautiful chanting ringing through that secluded wilderness. Quietly he came out of his cave and started to investigate where the chanting was coming from. Finally he discovered that the sweet sounds of the angelic chanting, which moved him to tears and brought his compunctionate soul into a state of special grace, was coming from a shepherd looking after a flock of goats. The desert-dweller was even more astonished when he noticed that the goats were not grazing under the melodious sounds of their shepherd's voice; these dumb beasts with bated breath encircled their shepherd and stood immovably staring before him, as if they were hypnotized or charmed by his angelic, rather than human, voice.

When he saw all this, the desert dweller made his way to the lavra and told the abbot about the marvelous shepherd and his extraordinary chanting, John was summoned from his secluded wilderness. "I adjure you by God,". said the abbot severely, !."Tell me the truth. Are you the court chanter John Kukuzelis who is being sought out by the Emperor?"

Falling at the abbot's feet, John begged his forgiveness, uttering through tears, "I am an unworthy sinner and I beg you with all my heart: let me remain with those same duties you assigned to me at the beginning. Let me look after the goats, so the Emperor will not find out about me."

The abbot could scarcely recognize in this pale and emaciated shepherd with his down-cast gaze the imperial favorite whom he had spoken with in Constantinople, a youth in his prime with a vibrant and captivating appearance. The abbot heeded his tearful request and left him to tend the goats as before.
  

However, the abbot was afraid the Emperor might hear some rumor about the discovery of this goat-herd chanter. So he set out for Constantinople and personally appeared before the Emperor.

"Have mercy, O sovereign, on your slave!" the elder cried out, kissing the feet of his monarch. "In the name of God, Who seeks the salvation of each and every one of us, I beg you, listen with fatherly condescension to my petition and grant it, so that God will fulfill all your desires in His good pleasure!"

Moved by the sincere and subject humility of the elder, the Emperor lifted him up and kindly asked, "Father, what is it that you want from me?"

"Forgive me, my sovereign, if I am bold before your Majesty! My request is insignificant for you to grant it. It is easy for you and there is nothing that can stop you except your own word. Moreover by granting it you will provide consolation and joy for the very angels and a great boon for my lavra."

"What is it that you want?" the Emperor gently replied. "Tell me and I will grant you everything."

"Your kingdom is sacred," the abbot reverently remarked. "It cannot be changed."

"Exactly, exactly, my father," the Emperor said, touched by the simplicity of the old monk. "What is it that you want?"

"I beg and beseech your Majesty to grant me one of your subjects who is seeking his eternal salvation and is praying for your Majesty. Nothing else," said the abbot, and fell silent.

"At your pleasure," the Emperor smiled with relief. "And what is his name?"

"First you must assure me in writing that you will release him to me," said the abbot, and then added timidly, "He is already in our lavra and has been tonsured to the angelic schema."

The Emperor commanded that the necessary documents be drawn up and affixed his signature. "His name is John Kukuzelis."

"Kukuzelis!" the Emperor exclaimed, and tears rolled from his eyes and fell on his royal breast. Then the abbot related everything in detail about John. The Emperor listened attentively and finally cried out with emotion, "I miss my favorite chanter! I miss my dear John! But if he has already been tonsured, there is nothing I can do. The salvation of his soul is what is most important. Let him pray for my salvation and for my kingdom."

The elder blessed the Lord and his merciful sovereign and joyfully returned to his lavra. Thus John was given his freedom to continue hymning the King of the heavens unimpeded.

Soon he received the blessing from the monastery to build himself a cell dedicated to the Archangels. Here he spent six days of the week in solitude. On Sundays and other feast days he came to the monastery's main church, where he took his place on the right choir and chanted with compunction along with the other chanters.

Once he chanted with particular inspiration on the Saturday of the Akathist Hymn. After the vigil he sat in one of the stalls on the choir opposite the icon of the Theotokos before which the akathist hymn had just been'' chanted. Because he was tired he fell into a light sleep.

Suddenly he heard a meek voice say, "Rejoice, John!" He looked, and there in a glow of heavenly light the Theotokos was standing before him. "Chant unto me and never stop chanting," she continued. "For this I will never abandon you."

The miraculous icon of Panagia Koukouzelissa, treasured by the Monastery of Megiste Lavra, and before which St. John chanted, and the Theotokos appeared to him (http://analogion.com/Pan_Koukouzelissa_Gr_Lavra.jpg)

At these words the Theotokos placed in John's hand a gold coin and then disappeared. John woke up and saw that there actually was a gold coin in his right hand. Tears of sincere gratitude flowed from the eyes of the chanter. He wept and blessed the unspeakable mercy and blessing he had received from the Queen of Heaven. The gold coin was placed on the icon of the Theotokos before which John had chanted and been granted this heavenly vision. Amazing miracles were worked by this icon which to this day is kept in a chapel just inside the main gates of the Grand Lavra.

[Note: Another tradition states that St. John actually was chanting a composition of his to the Theotokos when she appeared to him. This hymn ("Anothen oi Prophytai") is still chanted to this day during Orthros at the vesting of the Bishop:
"Of old, the prophets aforetime proclaimed thee, the Jar of Manna, the Rod of Aaron, the Tablet, the Lampstand, the Ark, the Table, the Mountain Unhewn, the Golden Censer, the Gate Impassible, and the Throne of the King. Thee did the Prophets proclaim of old." (http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/Orthros/Finale%202003%20-%20%5B3995_Anothen%5D.pdf)]

From that time John carried out his duties in the choir even more fervently than before, and he was never absent from the right choir. However, because of his ascetic feats in his cell as well as from standing at the long services in church, his legs swelled up and were covered with infected sores full of maggots. But John did not suffer long. Once again, just as before, the Theotokos appeared to him in a light sleep and quietly told him, "From now on, be healthy?' The sores vanished and the grateful John spent the remainder of his days in astounding labors of the ascetic life, in fastings and vigils. He was especially gifted with deep humility.

[He also worked hard on the discipline of church singing, gaining the title of both master teacher and regent (overseer).  He arranged and compiled melodies for church stichera verses, troparia and kontakia. He edited texts of hymns and wrote his own troparia. Some of his compositions are also in the following manuscripts: "A Book, by the Will of God Encompassing All the Order of Progression of Church Services, Compiled by Master Teacher John Koukouzelis," "Progression of Services, Compiled by Master Teacher John Koukouzelis,""From the Beginning of Great Vespers through to the Completion of the Divine Liturgy," and "The Science of Song and Singing Signs with all the Legitimate Hand-Placement and with all the Arrangements of Song." (http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsLife.asp?FSID=102832)

Also note that many of St. John's original compositions and melodies exist to this day. For example, see: "Praise the Lord - Long Version, First Mode, by St. John Koukouzelis: http://stanthonysmonastery.org/music/download.php?file=Chrys/Finale%202003%20-%20%5B1110_One%20is%20Holy.pdf"]

St. John was spiritually enlightened to such a degree that he was found worthy to learn the hour and day of his death. He bid a tender farewell to all the brethren who came to him and after asking to be buried in the church of the Archangels, which he had built himself, with a blessed smile on his prayerful lips, he passed away to the Lord on the first day of October.

Now he dwells in the heavens together with the choirs of the angels and with lips no longer earthly and corruptible he is never silent in glorifying the Ever-glorified, unto Whom from us also be honor and glory and thanksgiving unto the ages of ages. Amen.
A. Sources: Athonite Patericon (in Russian) and the Great Synaxarion (in Greek) (http://www.roca.org/OA/104/104g.htm)

A chanting site with information about St. John Koukouzelis: http://analogion.com/Koukouzelis.html.
  
  
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone (amateur translations)
Being zealous for righteousness in the prime of your life, you hastened to the Holy Mountain, and struggled perfectly. Therefore your Monastery is enriched by each of the hymns granted by you, as a precious gift. Therefore, O John, intercede with the Lord.
  
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Let us praise the chosen one of the Lord, and let us fervently honor his virtues, for he lived a life of asceticism, keeping all the commandments of the Lord, steadfastly desiring perfect virtue, to whom we cry out: Hail, O divine teacher.
   
Oikos
You called an angel from your youth, as having the voice of the Angels, and along with your divinely-granted voice, you founded virtue, O Righteous one, through much asceticism, and therefore were made worthy to hear:
Hail, you who had a gifted voice,
Hail, you who had the appearance of a fisherman.
[i.e. simplicity, humility]
Hail, holy dweller of a palace,
Hail, teacher of the chanters of Athos.
Hail, for you despised the garments of rulers,
Hail, for you prepared monastic virtues.
Hail, for you were shone the boast of maestros,
Hail, for you properly hastened towards the Mountain.
Hail, star enlightening Athos,
Hail, father of all things desired.
Hail, through whom music is renewed,
Hail, through whom new works were created.
Hail, O divine teacher.
  
Synaxarion
On the first of this month (October), our Righteous Father John the chanter, who was called Koukouzelis, who struggled in humility in the Holy Monastery of Great Lavra on Athos, and reposed in peace.
  
Verses
Now unto the Mother of God does thou chant on high,
Together with the immaterial hosts, O blessed John.\
  
For the full service of St. John Koukouzelis in Greek, see: http://voutsinasilias.blogspot.com/2010/10/1_04.html.
  
St. John Koukouzelis (Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Preface to the Commentary of the Gospel of St. John, by St. John Chrysostom

St. John the Apostle, Evangelist, and Theologian (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s0929/s0929024.jpg)

Preface to the Commentary of the Gospel of St. John, by St. John Chrysostom
[1.] They that are spectators of the heathen games, when they have learned that a distinguished athlete and winner of crowns is come from any quarter, run all together to view his wrestling, and all his skill and strength; and you may see the whole theater of many ten thousands, all there straining their eyes both of body and mind, that nothing of what is done may escape them. So again these same persons, if any admirable musician come amongst them, leave all that they had in hand, which often is necessary and pressing business, and mount the steps, and sit listening very attentively to the words and the accompaniments, and criticising the agreement of the two. This is what the many do.

Again; those who are skilled in rhetoric do just the same with respect to the sophists, for they too have their theaters, and their audience, and clappings of hands, and noise, and closest criticism of what is said.

And if in the case of rhetoricians, musicians, and athletes, people sit in the one case to look on, in the other to see at once and to listen with such earnest attention; what zeal, what earnestness ought ye in reason to display, when it is no musician or debater who now comes forward to a trial of skill, but when a man is speaking from heaven, and utters a voice plainer than thunder? for he has pervaded the whole earth with the sound; and occupied and filled it, not by the loudness of the cry, but by moving his tongue with the grace of God.

And what is wonderful, this sound, great as it is, is neither a harsh nor an unpleasant one, but sweeter and more delightful than all harmony of music, and with more skill to soothe; and besides all this, most holy, and most awful, and full of mysteries so great, and bringing with it goods so great, that if men were exactly and with ready mind to receive and keep them, they could no longer be mere men nor remain upon the earth, but would take their stand above all the things of this life, and having adapted themselves to the condition of angels, would dwell on earth just as if it were heaven.

[2.] For the son of thunder, the beloved of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the keys of heaven, who drank the cup of Christ, and was baptized with His baptism, who lay upon his Master’s bosom with much confidence, this man comes forward to us now; not as an actor of a play, not hiding his head with a mask, (for he hath another sort of words to speak,) nor mounting a platform, nor striking the stage with his foot, nor dressed out with apparel of gold, but he enters wearing a robe of inconceivable beauty. For he will appear before us having “put on Christ” ( Rom. xiii. 14; Gal. iii. 27 ), having his beautiful “feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” ( Eph. vi. 15 ); wearing a girdle not about his waist, but about his loins, not made of scarlet leather nor daubed outside with gold, but woven and composed of truth itself. Now will he appear before us, not acting a part, (for with him there is nothing counterfeit, nor fiction, nor fable,) but with unmasked head he proclaims to us the truth unmasked; not making the audience believe him other than he is by carriage, by look, by voice, needing for the delivery of his message no instruments of music, as harp, lyre, or any other the like, for he effects all with his tongue, uttering a voice which is sweeter and more profitable than that of any harper or any music. All heaven is his stage; his theater, the habitable world; his audience, all angels; and of men as many as are angels already, or desire to become so, for none but these can hear that harmony aright, and show it forth by their works; all the rest, like little children who hear, but what they hear understand not, from their anxiety about sweetmeats and childish playthings; so they too, being in mirth and luxury, and living only for wealth and power and sensuality, hear sometimes what is said, it is true, but show forth nothing great or noble in their actions through fastening themselves for good to the clay of the brickmaking. By this Apostle stand the powers from above, marveling at the beauty of his soul, and his understanding, and the bloom of that virtue by which he drew unto him Christ Himself, and obtained the grace of the Spirit. For he hath made ready his soul, as some well-fashioned and jeweled lyre with strings of gold, and yielded it for the utterance of something great and sublime to the Spirit.

[3.] Seeing then it is no longer the fisherman the son of Zebedee, but He who knoweth “the deep things of God” ( 1 Cor. ii. 10 ), the Holy Spirit I mean, that striketh this lyre, let us hearken accordingly. For he will say nothing to us as a man, but what he saith, he will say from the depths of the Spirit, from those secret things which before they came to pass the very Angels knew not; since they too have learned by the voice of John with us, and by us, the things which we know. And this hath another Apostle declared, saying, “To the intent that unto the principalities and powers might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” ( Eph. iii. 10.) If then principalities, and powers, and Cherubim, and Seraphim, learned these things by the Church, it is very clear that they were exceedingly earnest in listening to this teaching; and even in this we have been not a little honored, that the Angels learned things which before they knew not with us; I do not at present speak of their learning by us also. Let us then show much silence and orderly behavior; not to-day only, nor during the day on which we are hearers, but during all our life, since it is at all times good to hear Him. For if we long to know what is going on in the palace, what, for instance, the king has said, what he has done, what counsel he is taking concerning his subjects, though in truth these things are for the most part nothing to us; much more is it desirable to hear what God hath said, especially when all concerns us. And all this will this man tell us exactly, as being a friend of the King Himself, or rather, as having Him speaking within himself, and from Him hearing all things which He heareth from the Father. “I have called you friends,” He saith, “for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you.” ( John xv. 15.)

St. John the Theologian and the Revelation (source)
  
[4.] As then we should all run together if we saw one from above bend down “on a sudden” from the height of heaven, promising to describe exactly all things there, even so let us be disposed now. It is from thence that this Man speaketh to us; He is not of this world, as Christ Himself declareth, “Ye are not of the world” ( John xv. 19 ), and He hath speaking within him the Comforter, the Omnipresent, who knoweth the things of God as exactly as the soul of man knoweth what belongs to herself, the Spirit of holiness, the righteous Spirit, the guiding Spirit, which leads men by the hand to heaven, which gives them other eyes, fitting them to see things to come as though present, and giving them even in the flesh to look into things heavenly. To Him then let us yield ourselves during all our life in much tranquillity. Let none dull, none sleepy, none sordid, enter here and tarry; but let us remove ourselves to heaven, for there He speaketh these things to those who are citizens there. And if we tarry on earth, we shall gain nothing great from thence. For the words of John are nothing to those who do not desire to be freed from this swinish life, just as the things of this world to him are nothing. The thunder amazes our souls, having sound without significance; but this man’s voice troubles none of the faithful, yea, rather releases them from trouble and confusion; it amazes the devils only, and those who are their slaves. Therefore that we may know how it amazes them, let us preserve deep silence, both external and mental, but especially the latter; for what advantage is it that the mouth be hushed, if the soul is disturbed and full of tossing? I look for that calm which is of the mind, of the soul, since it is the hearing of the soul which I require. Let then no desire of riches trouble us, no lust of glory, no tyranny of anger, nor the crowd of other passions besides these; for it is not possible for the ear, except it be cleansed, to perceive as it ought the sublimity of the things spoken; nor rightly to understand the awful and unutterable nature of these mysteries, and all other virtue which is in these divine oracles. If a man cannot learn well a melody on pipe or harp, unless he in every way strain his attention; how shall one, who sits as a listener to sounds mystical, be able to hear with a careless soul?

[5.] Wherefore Christ Himself exhorted, saying, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” ( Matt. vii. 6.) He called these words “pearls,” though in truth they be much more precious than they, because we have no substance more precious than that. For this reason too He is wont often to compare their sweetness to honey, not that so much only is the measure of their sweetness, but because amongst us there is nothing sweeter. Now, to show that they very exceedingly surpass the nature of precious stones, and the sweetness of any honey, hear the prophet speaking concerning them, and declaring this superiority; “More to be desired are they,” he saith “than gold and much precious stone; sweeter are they also than honey and the honeycomb.” ( Ps. xix. 10.) But to those (only) who are in health; wherefore he has added, “For thy servant keepeth them.” And again in another place calling them sweet he has added, “to my throat.” For he saith, “How sweet are thy words unto my throat.” ( Ps. cxix. 103.) And again he insisteth on the superiority, saying, “Above honey and the honeycomb to my mouth.” For he was in very sound health. And let not us either come nigh to these while we are sick, but when we have healed our soul, so receive the food that is offered us.

It is for this reason that, after so long a preface, I have not yet attempted to fathom these expressions (of St. John), in order that every one having laid aside all manner of infirmity, as though he were entering into heaven itself, so may enter here pure, and freed from wrath and carefulness and anxiety of this life, of all other passions. For it is not otherwise possible for a man to gain from hence anything great, except he have first so cleansed anew his soul. And let no one say that the time to the coming communion is short, for it is possible, not only in five days, but in one moment, to change the whole course of life. Tell me what is worse than a robber and a murderer, is not this the extremest kind of wickedness? Yet such an one arrived straight at the summit of excellence, and passed into Paradise itself, not needing days, nor half a day, but one little moment. So that a man may change suddenly, and become gold instead of clay. For since what belongs to virtue and to vice is not by nature, the change is easy, as being independent of any necessity. “If ye be willing and obedient,” He saith, “ye shall eat the good of the land.” ( Isa. i. 19.) Seest thou that there needs the will only? will—not the common wishing of the multitude—but earnest will. For I know that all are wishing to fly up to heaven even now; but it is necessary to show forth the wish by works. The merchant too wishes to get rich; but he doth not allow his wish to stop with the thought of it; no, he fits out a ship, and gets together sailors, and engages a pilot, and furnishes the vessel with all other stores, and borrows money, and crosses the sea, and goes away into a strange land, and endures many dangers, and all the rest which they know who sail the sea. So too must we show our will; for we also sail a voyage, not from land to land, but from earth to heaven. Let us then so order our reason, that it be serviceable to steer our upward course, and our sailors that they be obedient to it, and let our vessel be stout, that it be not swamped amidst the reverses and despondencies of this life, nor be lifted up by the blasts of vainglory, but be a fast and easy vessel. If so we order our ship, and so our pilot and our crew, we shall sail with a fair wind, and we shall draw down to ourselves the Son of God, the true Pilot, who will not leave our bark to be engulfed, but, though ten thousand winds may blow, will rebuke the winds and the sea, and instead of raging waves, make a great calm.

[6.] Having therefore ordered yourselves, so come to our next assembly, if at least it be at all an object of desire to you to hear somewhat to your advantage, and lay up what is said in your souls. But let not one of you be the “wayside,” none the “stony ground,” none the “full of thorns.” ( Matt. xiii. 4, 5, 7.) Let us make ourselves fallow lands. For so shall we (the preachers) put in the seed with gladness, when we see the land clean, but if stony or rough, pardon us if we like not to labor in vain. For if we shall leave off sowing and begin to cut up thorns, surely to cast seed into ground unwrought were extreme folly.

It is not meet that he who has the advantage of such hearing be partaker of the table of devils. “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” ( 2 Cor. vi. 14.) Thou standest listening to John, and learning the things of the Spirit by him; and dost thou after this depart to listen to harlots speaking vile things, and acting viler, and to effeminates cuffing one another? How wilt thou be able to be fairly cleansed, if thou wallowest in such mire? Why need I reckon in detail all the indecency that is there? All there is laughter, all is shame, all disgrace, revilings and mockings, all abandonment, all destruction. See, I forewarn and charge you all. Let none of those who enjoy the blessings of this table destroy his own soul by those pernicious spectacles. All that is said and done there is a pageant of Satan. But ye who have been initiated know what manner of covenants ye made with us, or rather ye made with Christ when He guided you into His mysteries, what ye spoke to Him, what speech ye had with Him concerning Satan’s pageant; how with Satan and his angels ye renounced this also, and promised that you would not so much as cast a glance that way. There is then no slight ground for fear, lest, by becoming careless of such promises, one should render himself unworthy of these mysteries.

[7.] Seest thou not how in king’s palaces it is not those who have offended, but those who have been honorably distinguished, that are called to share especial favor, and are numbered among the king’s friends. A messenger has come to us from heaven, sent by God Himself, to speak with us on certain necessary matters, and you leave hearing His will, and the message He sends to you, and sit listening to stage-players. What thunderings, what bolts from heaven, does not this conduct deserve! For as it is not meet to partake of the table of devils, so neither is it of the listening to devils; nor to be present with filthy raiment at that glorious Table, loaded with so many good things, which God Himself hath provided. Such is its power, that it can raise us at once to heaven, if only we approach it with a sober mind. For it is not possible that he who is continually under the influence of the words of God, can remain in this present low condition, but he needs must presently take wing, and fly away to the land which is above, and light on the infinite treasures of good things; which may it be that we all attain to, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom be glory to the Father and the All-holy Spirit, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
(Note: hosted by Non-Orthodox site: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf114.iv.iii.html)

St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s0942/s0942012.jpg)
   
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Miraculous appearance of St. Paraskevi to Elder Damaskenos

  
Miraculous appearance of St. Paraskevi to Elder Damaskenos (amateur translation)
Elder Damaskenos (+2001) (Spiritual Father of the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner, Megara)writes: “We have the Saints and all the heavenly world dancing with us and celebrating with us. The Saints, with their love, capture our minds, so to speak... Every instant they communicate with us, because they are found amidst the light of God, and they are no longer burdened by material things. Therefore, they closely follow us continuously, and when we call upon them, immediately they visit us and save us from from many temptations, and the nous rejoices...”

“You see that the Saints leap to come to us, and they want us to leap towards them, that we might be friends. We should return this visitation, for they desire it unbelievably. And what if the visible world is separated from the invisible? We must embrace the love of Christ, and make the leap!”

In the spring of 1988 (March 17th), the Elder, together with three sisters of the Monastery set off by car to work on the then dirt road, which had become impassible due to the rains. At the same time they would cut grass for the Monastery's cows. A short distance before the outdoor icon-stand of St. Paraskevi, at Stampola's field that was filled with wild flowers, they saw a woman wearing a kerchief, and dressed in dark clothing, moving slowly and bending down. She looked as if she were searching for something. She suddenly lifted her head and gazed intensely on the Elder, as if she wanted to talk with him. Her wholly-radiant and white face, along with her large almond eyes made a great impression on everyone. They passed her, however, without speaking with her.

After about an hour, as they were returning, they again met this strange sight, as she moved in the same way at the same place. The sisters were curious and asked:
“Papou*, what a strange thing! What is this woman doing by herself for so long here? She doesn't look like she is gathering plants.”
[*Papou: Greek word for "Grandfather", used as a term of endearment by the nuns towards their spiritual father]

“Thus the Saints appear”, Papou replied in simplicity.

At that instant, the woman turned around and gazed at the Elder with great emphasis, however, this time the sisters asked:
“Papou, stop so we can ask her who she is.”

But he, without stopping, repeated the words: “Thus the Saints appear—suddenly!”

Then the sisters thought that may this appearance was supernatural, and lamented that they didn't stop to investigate this unusual presence.

After a few days, at the end of the Divine Liturgy of Holy Saturday, one sister saw this same strange woman in church going to get antidoron from Papou. Astonished, she thought with joy: “Now you won't escape. I'll ask you who you are.” And she tried to catch her. As soon as she got closer, however, she disappeared before her eyes. She looked for her inside and outside of the Church, but she was gone! It was certain, furthermore, that her presence was supernatural.

Later Papou confessed that the sight of her and her appearance had filled his soul with a Divine exultation and informed him that she was St. Paraskevi. Besides this, for a while, he refused to accept this event as the Saint's appearance, as he feared being deluded. Because of this he tried to convince himself that this must have been an ordinary woman gathering plants. Of course, Papou would not accept all supernatural things as Divine, untested. For a long time, therefore, he repelled the spiritual sweetness that he sensed while remembering this meeting, thus protecting himself. However as he said, his soul did not find rest in this state of denial, and in the end, he lost peace in prayer. Thus he understood his mistake to not accept this blessing of God.

Later he confirmed to us: “As I stare into the eyes of St. Paraskevi, I greatly sense a river of Grace within me. I see that it raises me to a greater fire of Divine love. If I left my nous to work out the issue of the appearance of the Saint, I would have been wounded greatly! But I maintain that: “Who am I [to be worthy of such a vision]?” For there is always the danger of delusion.”

Later a spiritual child of his from Megara revealed: “I saw in a dream a woman who said: Go tell Damaskenos: Three times I appeared to you. What else do you want?”

“And who are you?” I asked her.

“I am she whom your mother honors and fasts for since she was a small child. I Am Paraskevi!”

Biography of Fr. Damaskenos Katrakoules (+2001). Published by the Holy Monastery of St. John the Forerunner, Makrynou, Megara 2006. (http://apantaortodoxias.blogspot.com/2011/06/blog-post_9635.html)

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

Excerpt from St. John Chrysostom's Homily on the Conception of St. John the Forerunner

The Theotokos bearing Christ in her womb, greeting the Righteous Elizabeth, bearing the Precious Forerunner in her womb (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s0772/s0772008.jpg)

Excerpt from St. John Chrysostom's Homily on the Conception of St. John the Forerunner (amateur translation)
None of the Lord’s laws disobey, but are all present to serve the divine command. He made an ordinance, therefore, and it shall not pass away. For by His word all things came into being, and instantly he is able to change them by the works of his word. He once said to the dry rock, “become a spring”, and a river of water came forth. He struck the rock, and poured forth water, and it became rivers. And the rock that was once dry and not quenching, became a spring of rivers and mother of waters. For God brings forth childbearing, not barrenness. The up till then barren rock was transformed into a lake, and the up till then barren Elizabeth was commanded to bear a child, and shown forth a mother, and showed her barrenness fruitful, and the old, burdened woman as a newly-wedded girl. For she who was heading towards the grave, now rejoiced in childbirth. For she whose body had wilted, God renewed her womb. And she whom youth abandoned, is divorced from old age. She who became neighbor to death, is called mother by a child. And this “mommy” transcends time, calling to motherly care, and the child she holds in her arms, she who once needed a cane due to her age. And the cry of the first-born child rings out, and the barren womb paradoxically gives birth, that the Virgin who gives birth beyond nature might be believed. How much greater and paradoxical are these new things! For a barren one and a Virgin have unexpectedly become mothers.
(Note: hosted by a non-Orthodox site: http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_0345-0407__Iohannes_Chrysostomus__In_oraculum_Zacharia__MGR.pdf.html)

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Excerpt from St. John Chrysostom's Homily: "On St. Phocas"

St. Phocas the Hieromartyr, Bishop of Sinope - Commemorated September 22nd (http://uncutmountainsupply.com/proddetail.asp?prod=1PH15)

Excerpt from St. John Chrysostom's Homily: "On St. Phocas"
Note: This is taken from a homily of St. John delivered on the feast of the transferral of the relics of St. Phocas to Constantinople. The translation is taken from "The Cult of the Saints", which includes translations of multiple homilies of the Saint on the Holy Martyrs. Though he is referring specifically to St. Phocas (purportedly the Hieromartyr, Bishop of Sinope), he is also describing the grace of all of the Martyrs of Christ, and the sanctification we receive by honoring them.

Let no one keep away from this holy festival. Let no virgin remain at home, let no married woman stick to the house. Let's empty the city, and set course for the martyr's tomb. After all, the imperial couple, too, are joining with us in the festivities. What excuse, then, does the private person have, when the imperial couple are quitting the palace and taking a seat at the martyr's tomb? For the nature of the martyr's power is such that it catches in its net not just private persons, but those who wear diadems. This [power is] a source of shame for the Greeks, this [power is] the censure of their error, this [power is] the total annihilation of demons. This [power is] our nobility, and the Church's crown. I celebrate with martyrs and instead of at [the sight of] meadows skip at the sight of their trophy, because instead of springs [of water] they poured forth blood. Their bones were consumed and yet their memory becomes fresher with every day. My point is that just as the sun cannot in any way be extinguished, so too the martyrs' memory. For Christ himself revealed: “The heaven and the earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mt 24.35). But let's put off our praises of the martyr until the appropriate moment. For truly what's been said is enough for the benefit of those who ought to assemble and make the day of the festival renowned. For what I said yesterday, I say again today, too, namely that while no glory will attach to the martyr from the attendance of large numbers, the blessing to you from being in the martyr's presence will be substantial. For just as the person who looks towards the sun doesn't make that star more brilliant, but floods their own eyes with light; so, too, then, the person who honors a martyr doesn't make him more radiant, but draws from him the light's blessing.

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Holy Prophet Jonah

The Holy Prophet Jonah - Commemorated on September 21 (Greek) / 22 (Russian) (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s1018/s1018006.jpg)

The Holy Prophet Jonah lived in the eighth century before the birth of Christ and was a successor of the Prophet Elisha.

[It is said that he was that son of the widow of Zarephath in Sidon whom the Prophet Elias had raised from the dead. (http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/prolog.htm)]

The Book of the Prophet Jonah contains prophecies about the judgments on the Israelite nation, the sufferings of the Savior, the downfall of Jerusalem, and the end of the world. Besides the prophecies, the Book of Jonah relates how he was sent to the Ninevites to preach repentance (Jon. 3: 3-10).

Icon depicting Jonah fleeing from the Lord on the ship, being thrown overboard, being disgorged by the sea beast, and preaching repentance to the people of Ninevah. Note that the full story is read annually in the Vespers of Holy Saturday (http://anastasis.org.uk/HWSat-V.htm) (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s1018/s1018009.jpg)

Our Lord Jesus Christ, addressing the Scribes and the Pharisees who demanded a sign from Him, said that no sign would be given except for the sign of the Prophet Jonah, "As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so also shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Mt. 12: 40). From these words the Lord shows clearly the symbolic meaning of the Book of the Prophet Jonah in relation to Christ's death on the Cross, descent into Hell, and the Resurrection.

Reproaching the lack of penitence and recalcitrance of the Jews, the Lord said, "The Ninevites shall rise in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and one greater than Jonah is here" (Mt. 12: 41).
(http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102696)

Prophet Jonah being disgorged by the sea beast, prefiguring Christ's Third-Day Resurrection (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s1018/s1018007.jpg)

HYMN OF PRAISE
by St. Nikolai Velimirovitch
The Holy Prophet Jonah
Nineveh! Nineveh resounds with sin,
And God sends Jonah to heal Nineveh.
Jonah does not want to, and flees from God!
Oh, where will you go, Jonah, to hide from the Most High?
Jonah sleeps; he sleeps and the tempest rises.
God moves slowly, but He will find you in time.
Hurled into the waves, swallowed by the whale,
``From whom did I flee?'' Jonah asks himself.
``I fled from Him, from Whom one cannot hide!''
God chastises Jonah and yet delivers him,
And, by His providence, glorifies him forever.
Jonah, you do not want to speak to the Ninevites,
But through your punishment you will prophesy the immortal Christ.
You do not want to by words? Then you must, by deeds,
Prophesy Christ and the death and resurrection of the body!
Your deeds, Jonah, will not fade away,
And Christ the Lord will speak of you to men,
That, through you, the mercy of the Living God might be revealed,
By which you will be saved, as well as Nineveh.
Through you, the power of repentance shall be revealed-
The power of repentance and God's forgiveness.
You pitied the gourd, and God pitied men.
Help us to repent, O God, and save us from condemnation.

Prophet Jonah being spit up by the sea beast, and being protected by the shade of the plant.
"And God said to Jonas: Are you then so very grieved over the gourd [which withered in the sun]? And he said: I am very grieved, even to death. And the Lord said: You had pity for the gourd, for which you had suffered no evil, nor did you rear it; it came into being before night, and perished before night. And I, shall I not have pity for Nineve the great city..." (Fourth Reading of the Vespers of Holy Saturday (http://anastasis.org.uk/HWSat-V.htm)) (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s1018/s1018003.jpg)

Troparion - Tone 2
The memory of your Prophet Jonah, we celebrate today, O Lord. By his prayers we entreat you: O Christ God, save our souls!


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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

St. Niketas the Great Martyr, the Goth

St. Niketas the Great Martyr, the Goth - Commemorated on September 15 (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s1523/s1523006.jpg)

"The Holy Great Martyr Nicetas was a Goth (a Germanic tribe). He was born and lived on the banks of the Danube River, and suffered for Christ in the year 372. The Christian Faith was then already widely spread throughout the territory of the Goths. St Nicetas believed in Christ and accepted Baptism from the Gothic bishop Theophilus, a participant in the First Ecumenical Council. Pagan Goths began to oppose the spread of Christianity, which resulted in internecine strife.

After the victory of Fritigern, heading a Christian army and inflicting defeat on the pagan Athanaric, the Christian Faith began to spread increasingly among the Goths. The Arian bishop Ulfilas, the successor to Bishop Theophilus, created a Gothic alphabet and translated into the Gothic language many priestly books. St Nicetas worked intensely among his fellow Goths at spreading Christianity. By his personal example and inspired words he brought many pagans to the Christian Faith.

However, after his defeat Athanaric again contrived to gather his own forces, return to his own country and regain his former power. Since he remained a pagan, he continued to hate Christians and persecute them.


[When the Gothic prince Athenarik began to torture Christians, St. Nicetas stood before the prince and denounced him for his paganism and inhumanity. Subsequently harshly tortured, Nicetas confessed his faith in Christ even more strongly, and prayed to God with thanksgiving. His mind was unceasingly raised up to God, and on his breast under his robe he bore an icon of the Most-holy Theotokos with the Pre-eternal Christ Child standing and holding the Cross in His hands. St. Nicetas carried this icon because the Holy Theotokos had appeared to him and comforted him. (http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/prolog.htm)]

St Nicetas endured many tortures, and died after being thrown into a fire. His body remained unharmed by the fire and was illumined by a miraculous light. By night, a friend of the martyr, a Christian named Marianus, retrieved the body of St Nicetas,and buried it in Cilicia. Afterwards, it was transferred to Constantinople. Part of the relics of the Great Martyr Nicetas were later transferred to the monastery of Vysokie Dechani in Serbia. St Nicetas received an unfading crown of glory from Christ in the year 372.

We pray to St Nicetas for the preservation of children from birth defects."
(http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102615)

The Martyrdom of St. Niketas the Great Martyr (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s1523/s1523003.jpg)

HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Martyr Nicetas
by St. Nikolai Velimirovitch
He is a true patriot who, among his own people,
Erects a true altar to the Living Lord.
Athenarik the Goth ruled by force,
And offered sacrifices to lifeless idols.
But holy Nicetas, the soldier of Christ God,
Was a preacher of eternal salvation.
He cast rays of the Eternal Light throughout the night,
Dispersing the idolatrous darkness that shrouded souls.
Holy Nicetas opposed the prince,
And his brave endurance amazed his people.
By the power of the Honorable Cross, he confounded the darkness
And filled all the people with the fear of God.
His blood was the rosy hue of the new dawn,
And his spirit was raised up to the heavenly courts.
In the terrible fire, Nicetas burned,
But, not even today, has he been consumed.
With the truth of Christ the Goths were baptized,
And they glorified Nicetas, their wonderful one.
O Saint Nicetas, voice of God's trumpet,
Courageous martyr, true patriot;
From the tents of the earth you have departed,
And you stand in the royal courts with the angels.
Pray for us, for the King listens to you,
That He grant our souls mercy.


Troparion - Tone 3
You defeated error and triumphed in martyrdom, Nicetas, namesake of victory; for you conquered the ranks of the enemy and ended your contest by fire. Pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion - Tone 2
You stood firm and defeated delusion and have received your martyr's crown, Nicetas, namesake of victory; you are rejoicing with the angels, together with them you are praying unceasingly to Christ God for us all.


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


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On the Holy Cross, by St. John Chrysostom

The Elevation of the Precious Cross of Christ (http://www.belygorod.ru/img2/Ikona/Used/232Vozdvijenie_krestaXVIGTG.jpg)

On the Holy Cross, attributed to St. John Chrysostom
Let us consider of what great blessings for us Christ's Cross has become the cause. For though the Lord's Cross sounds sad and bitter, it is in reality full of joy and radiance. For the Cross is the salvation of the Church; the Cross is the boast of those who hope in it; the Cross is reconciliation of enemies to God and conversion of sinners to Christ. For through the Cross we have been delivered from enmity, and through the Cross we have been joined in friendship to God. Through the Cross we have been freed from the tyranny of the devil, and through the Cross we have been delivered from death and destruction. 'When the Cross was not proclaimed, we were held fast by death; now the, Cross is proclaimed, and we have. come to despise death, as though it did not exist, while we have come to long for everlasting life. 'When the Cross was not proclaimed, we were strangers to paradise; but when the Cross appeared, at once a thief was found worthy of paradise. From such darkness the human race has crossed over to infinite light; from death it has been called to everlasting life, from corruption it has been renewed for incorruption. For the eyes of the heart are no longer covered by the darkness that comes through ignorance, but through the Cross they are flooded with the light of knowledge. The ears of the deaf are no longer shut by unbelief, for the deaf have heard the word of the Lord, and the blind have recovered their sight to see the glory of God. These are the gifts we are given through the Cross. What blessing has not been achieved for us through the Cross?
The Cross is proclaimed, and faith in God is confessed and truth prevails in the whole inhabited world. The Cross is proclaimed, and martyrs are revealed and confession of Christ prevails. The Cross is proclaimed, and the resurrection is revealed, life is made manifest, the kingdom of heaven is assured. The Cross has become the cause of all these things, and through the Cross we have been taught to sing. What then is more precious than the Cross? What more profitable for our souls? So let us not be ashamed to name the Cross, but let us confess it with total confidence.
Christ is hung upon the Cross, and the devil has become a corpse. Christ has been stretched on the Cross, and a standard of salvation has been given to the world. Christ has been nailed to the Cross, and every soul has been released from bonds. Christ has been fixed to the Cross, and all creation has been set free from the slavery of corruption. Christ has breathed his last on the Cross, and a new marvel has been shown to the world; for the sun's light is darkened. This what a prophetic saying cries out, "And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord, that the sun will set at midday, and the light will become dark in the daytime, and I will change all your feasts into grief and all your songs into laments" [Amos 8:9]. Do you see, beloved, how great a mystery the prophetic saying holds? For here the deeds of both are intimated: I mean of the Jews, who are under the law, and of the nations, who are outside the law, who both practice iniquity. For those who feast according to the law will grieve as they celebrate their feasts, and instead of songs, they make lamentations over Jerusalem. For Jerusalem will no longer hold solemn rites, and no feast will be celebrated in it. While pagan nations will mourn, making confession for their sins, and mourning is cause of blessedness. For scripture says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" [Matthew 5:4]. They will mourn, then, over their empty feasts and lawless songs that they performed for the unclean demons. Take note then today how a pagan, repenting for the evil things he has done, laments and says with the prophet, "We have erred and strayed in our shame, and our sins have covered us, for we have been filled with our impiety. We have acknowledged the iniquities of our fathers". So then let us too lament and mourn for the evils that have been laid to our charge; let us cling to the Cross, placing all our hopes on the Cross, so that taught through the Cross, fixing our thought on heaven, being brought close to Christ our Saviour, we may be found worthy to be near God in the kingdom of heaven, in Christ our Lord himself, to whom be glory and might to the ages of ages. Amen.
Translation of text by permission of copyright © of the Very Rev. Archimandrite of the Oecumenical Throne Ephrem Lash. www.anastasis.org.uk. This appeared originally in Light of Christ, Newsletter of the Orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist and St. Anthony, London. (http://www.orthodox-christian-comment.co.uk/properofseason-exaltation_of_the_holy_cross.htm)

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

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Greek philosophers foreshadowing Christ

Jesus Christ: "This is the King of Glory", along with St. Paul the Apostle, and St. Justin the Martyr and Philosopher (https://picasaweb.google.com/118177000525429425765/IIcpoB?authkey=Gv1sRgCNLM1Jm-noCQtwE#5647155839515995266)

As outlined by numerous Fathers of the Church, Christ was the expectation of all the nations, and as such, many of the writings from disperate cultures throughout the world tell of and indicate the great Redeemer of the whole world Who was to come: Jesus Christ.

Many of the philosophers of ancient Greece seem to point towards Christ in their writings, and thus many Greeks were primed, in a certain sense, to accept the teachings of Christ's apostles. The picture above is part of a series of icons from the Great Meteora Monastery that depict St. Paul and St. Justin the Philosopher leading Greeks to Christ while citing Greek Philosophy. On either side are depicted many ancient Greek philosophers, and quotes from their writings that seem to point to Christ. (It is worth noting that they put a small fence around these icons, most likely that they might not be venerated like icons of the Saints.)

These are newly-painted icons, but they are by no means out of tradition. The "Hermenia" or Painter's Manual by Monk Dionysios of Fourna mentions the names, descriptions and quotes of such philosophers. The Monasteries of Megiste Lavra and Vatopedi on Mount Athos (as examples) also have depictions of such philosophers.

We can see vividly how God works to lead all nations to the Truth. Though their examples pale in comparison to the love, grace and sacrifice of Christ and His Saints, these philosophers help us understand the human condition, and how our longing can only be satiated by Christ.

The following Greek quotes from the depicted philosophers are from http://enaskitis.blogspot.com/2011/09/blog-post.html, along with my own amateur translations. If you have any suggestions for better translations, or can provide a documented translation or a citation from the philosophers' original writings, please share.

,

“Η Έλληνίς Σίβυλλα η φιλόσοφος” : “Ήξει ουρανόθεν βασιλεύς αιώνων ο μέλλων κρίναι πάσαν σάρκα και κόσμον άπαντα”.
The Greek Sybil, the Philosopher: "The eternal king has come from heaven, who will judge all flesh and the whole world."

For more on the Sybil of Erythrae foreshadowing Christ, see: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2010/01/sibyl-of-erythrae-and-prophetic.html.

“Ο Έλλην Σόλων ο σοφός και νομοθέτης” : “Ήν δ’ αυτός τώι αυτοπάτορι απάτωρ τρισόλβιος ός [sic: ως] τι φως τριλαμπές ο δε παθών Θεός εστι και ου θεότης πάθεν όστις φως γαρ, βροτόσωμος αυτός Θεός ήδη και ανήρ πάντως φέρων εν θνητοίς”.
The Greek Solon, the Wise and Law-giver: "Being himself the fatherless father, thrice-praised and thrice-radiant as the light, it is God who suffers and not godhead which suffers, who therefore is light, this mortal-body is God, and man always bringing among mortals.

“Ο Έλλην Πυθαγόρας ο φιλόσοφος και μαθηματικός” : “Ο Θεός εστιν νους και λόγος και πνεύμα και λόγος [bis] σαρκωθείς εκ Πατρός”.
The Greek Pythagoras, the Philosopher and Mathematician: "God is nous and word and spirit and word incarnate from the Father."

“O Έλλην Σωκράτης ο φιλόσοφος” : “Και το όνομα αυτού αυξηθήσεται και τιμηθήσεται υπό πάντων εφ’ όλην την οικουμένην”.
The Greek Socrates the Philosopher: "And his name will be increased and honored by all throughout the world."


“Ο Έλλην Απολλώνιος ο φιλόσοφος” : “Ένα Θεόν ύψιστον εν τρισίν λέγω, ός ουρανόν έρξεν άμα και χθόνα, Θεός ήν μεν αεί και εστίν και έσται ούτε αρξάμενος, ούτε παυσόμενος”.
The Greek Apollon, the Philosopher: "I speak of one God exalted in three, who created heaven and earth, God ever was and is and will be, neither changed, nor ceasing."

“Ο Έλλην Όμηρος ο ποιητής” : “Ήξει προς ημάς οψέ γης άναξ απλούς και σάρκα φανείται δίχα τινός σφάλματος”.
The Greek Homer, the Poet: "He came towards us, later on earth, simple in beginning, and appears in flesh without any error."

“Ο Έλλην Θουκυδίδης ο ιστορικός” : “Ου Θεός έτερος ουκ άγγελος ου δαίμων ου σοφία ουκ ουσία αλλ’ ή μόνος Κύριός εστι δημιουργός τού παντός τών απάντων παντέλειος Λόγος”
The Greek Thucydides, the Historian: "Not another God, nor angel, nor demon, nor wisom, nor any thing else in essence, but the Lord alone is creator of all, the all-perfect Word of all things."

“Ο Έλλην Αριστοτέλης ο φιλόσοφος” : “Οψέποτέ τις επί την πολυσχεδή ταύτην ελάσειεν επί [bis] γην δίχα σφάλματος γενήσεται σαρξ ακάματος φύσει Θεός γέννησις εξ αυτού γαρ ο αυτός ουσιούται Λόγος”.
The Greek Aristotle, the Philosopher: "Never before among the many on earth was seen one without error, he will be born flesh from the ceaseless nature of God, and from him is born the essential Word."
“Ο Έλλην Πλάτων ο φιλόσοφος” : “Εκ μητρονύμφου παναμώμου παρθένου μέλλει σπαρήναι του Θεού μόνος γόνος. Άσαρκον, σαρκικόν και γεννητόν εν γήι τέτοκεν τον ουρανού και γης ποιητήν”.
The Greek Plato, the Philosopher: "From the all-pure virgin mother-bride will be born the sole child of God. The fleshless one becomes flesh and is born on earth, he who is the creator of heaven and earth."

“Ο Έλλην Πλούταρχος, ο πατήρ της ιστορίας”: “Καταγγέλλω εν τρισίν ένα μόνον υψιμέδοντα Θεόν, ού λόγος άφθιτος εν αδαεί κόρηι έγκυμος έσεται [sic]. Ούτος γαρ ως τόξον πυρφόρον ίσος διαδραμείται και κόσμον άπαντα ζωγρήσει και τώι Πατρί προσάξει δώρον”.
The Greek Plutarch, the father of histories: "I proclaim in three one sole exalted-ruler God, the endless word within an innocent pregnant girl. For as a fire-bearing bow he spans, and gives life to all the world, and is offered as a gift to the Father."

St. Justin the Martyr and Philosopher, along with Homer the Historian (http://enaskitis.blogspot.com/2011/09/blog-post.html)

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

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene heal a recent case of acute leukemia

The Monastery of Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene the Newly-revealed, Goumenissa (https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-VFL-DDWG7NY/R88jB08fP7I/AAAAAAAAHSY/pyAK8B5QObQ/IMG_1527.jpg)

Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene heal a modern case of acute leukemia (amateur translation)
P. Zoupides (Kallithea, Alexandroupolis) writes: At Pascha in 2003, our only child Joanna (then 4 years old), got sick with a high feaver and otitis. With two doses of strong antibiotics, her body's defenses fell. On May 23rd, she woke us up crying, doubled [in pain] on her bed. After countless tests, they sent us to the Hospital, and from there to Thessaloniki or Athens, because only there could they do a myelogram. On June 2nd we entered the Hematology-Oncology center of AHEPA. Terrible was the sight of so many children there! They drew countless blood and in the end, they did a myelogram. The next day, Director-Professor Fani Athanasiadou told us that our child had dual type acute lymphoblastic leukemia, of T, but primarily B cells, a rare presentation. She would have to be admitted, start chemotherapy, which she probably wouldn't have been able to take...

We were admitted. The very first day, our child told us:
“Daddy, I saw the Papouli [term of endearment for a clergyman].”

“Which Papouli?”

“I saw Papouli Nicholas.”

“Which Nicholas?”

“St. Nicholas. He was wearing black clothes, and he told me, Daddy, that you should go to the Monastery to bring me a small icon of St. Raphael to put above my head, below the icon of Christouli [Christ], there...he is making me well.” At that point she raised her hands and pointed to the icon of Christ that was nailed to the wall above her head.

My God, what things were going through our minds! A unique experience: from sorrow to come joy, from agony, strength, from a tear, faith, and from pain, hope.

It is worth noting that these were words from a four-year-old child, who had never heard of Saints till that point. And furthermore, my mother and I had St. Nicholas [of Myra] as our sole protector.

We ran from excitement to the street and began to ask who was that Saint, and where is that Monastery nearby.

And oh, how great are the signs of God! In the room next door (no. 7) was a sick three-year-old blessed boy (like an angel) Vasilaki, whom the doctors had diagnosed with a tumor on his nose one day before, and who was beginning treatments.

His parents immediately explained that their aunt obviously knew of the monastery of St. Raphael in Griva, Goumenissa, and with great faith they told her:
“Don't let anyone bother the child until I go to the Monastery and bring back holy oil and holy water to cross him with.”

That is what happened. Their aunt went to the Monastery of Griva, entreated the Saints from her soul, and took a bottle of holy oil and holy water. When she reached the hospital, she crossed the child with holy oil and gave him holy water to drink. At the same time, she also read the supplication service to the Saints [Raphael, Nicholas and Irene].

The next morning they resumed their endless tests on the boy, and they all came back negative. The child was totally clear, there was no tumor anywhere. At the hour when the parents and aunt of the child in room 7 were rejoicing, at that instant, my mother was leaving room 6 and almost fell down, seeing them dance from their joy. They told her the miracle of the Saint to their boy, and she called me to hear with my own ears and to tell us to go to this monastery ourselves. The boy's father made a map of the path from Thessaloniki to Griva, and we said our goodbyes.

Without a second discussion, we left with my mother for the monastery. When we got there around 3:30PM, we saw a monk, to whom we explained our little girl's state. He took us to the small church where they have the relics of the Saints and began to read the Paraklesis. Until that moment, none of us could understand what exactly was going on, where and how we got there.

And soon the answer to the mystery was revealed. During the Paraklesis, we heard them commemorate Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene. I turned to stare at my mother. I lifted up my eyes and gazed upon the icon of the three Saints, and began to read their names. Then I understood that: “the Papouli Nicholas” which my daughter mentioned was the Saint from St. Raphael's group, the Saint which none of us knew, though it is clear that he knew us, and sent his intercessions. We burst into tears. We who are so unworthy, were granted to experience such a miracle. We embraced and kissed the all-sacred relics of the Saints, crying, and as our tears fell, we entreated the Saints to help our child in these difficult hours which she was going through, in which we could do nothing but simply watch.

Then the monk gave us holy oil and holy water to cross our daughter with, and urged us to have three Divine Liturgies done in Joanna's name, to go to Holy Confession, and to take Holy Communion, if we could. And of course he mentioned that it would be good, if possible, to go venerate at the place of martyrdom of the Saints on the island of Mytilene.

My child was rescued from certain death by a miracle of the Saints (an extensive description and pictures of the child were recently sent to the monastery).
(http://www.orthodoxia-ellhnismos.gr/2011/09/blog-post_8081.html#more)
 
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!