Thursday, December 25, 2014

"How is he contained in a womb, whom nothing can contain?"

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The Nativity in the Flesh of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, detail (source)
  
How is he contained in a womb, whom nothing can contain? How held in his Mother’s arms, he who is in the Father’s bosom? This is all as he knows, as he wished and as he was well pleased. For being without flesh, willingly he was made flesh; and He Who Is, for our sake has become what he was not; without departing from his own nature he shared in our matter; wishing to fill the world on high, Christ was born in two natures.
-Kathisma from the Orthros of the Nativity of Christ
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hymn IV on the Nativity of Christ, by St. Ephraim the Syrian

The Nativity of Christ (source)
  
Hymn IV on the Nativity of Christ, by St. Ephraim the Syrian
This is the month which brings all manner of joy; it is the freedom of the bondsmen, the pride of the free, the crown of the gates, the soothing of the body, that also in its love put purple upon us as upon kings.
This is the month that brings all manner of victories; it frees the spirit; it subdues the body; it brings forth life among mortals; it caused, in its love, Godhead, to dwell in Manhood.
In this day the Lord exchanged glory for shame, as being humble; because Adam changed the truth for unrighteousness as being a rebel: the Good One had mercy on him, justified and set right them that had turned aside.
Let every man chase away his weariness, since that Majesty was not wearied with being in the womb nine months for us, and in being thirty years in Sodom among the madmen.1
Because the Good One saw that the race of man was poor and humbled, He made feasts as a treasure-house, and opened them to the slothful, that the feast might stir up the slothful one to rise and be rich.
Lo! The First-born has opened unto us His feast as a treasure-house. This one day in the whole year alone opens that treasure-house: come, let us make gain, let us grow rich from it, ere they shut it up.
Blessed be the watchful, that have taken by force2 from it the spoil of Life. It is a great disgrace, when a man sees his neighbor take and carry out treasure, and himself sits in the treasure-house slumbering, so as to come forth empty.
In this feast, let each one of us crown the gates of his heart. The Holy Spirit longs for the gates thereof, that He may enter in and dwell there, and sanctify it, and He goes round about to all the gates to see where He may enter.
In this feast, the gates are glad before the gates,3 and the Holy One rejoices in the holy temple, and the voice resounds in the mouth of children, and Christ rejoices in His own feast as a mighty man.
At the Birth of the Son the king was enrolling all men for the tribute-money, that they might be debtors to Him: the King came forth to us Who blotted out our bills,4 and wrote another bill in His own Name that He might be our debtor. The sun gave longer light, and foreshadowed the mystery by the degrees which it had gone up.5 It was twelve days since it had gone up, and to-day is the thirteenth day: a type exact of the Son's birth6 and of His Twelve.
Moses shut up a lamb in the month Nisan on the tenth day; a type this of the Son that came into the womb and shut Himself up therein on the tenth day.7 He came forth from the womb in this month in which the sun gives longer light.
The darkness was overcome, that it might proclaim that Satan was overcome; and the sun gave longer light, that it might triumph, because the First-born was victorious. Along with the darkness the dark one was overcome, and with the greater light our Light conquered!
Joseph caressed the Son as a Babe; he ministered to Him as God. He rejoiced in Him as in the Good One, and he was awe-struck at Him as the Just One, greatly bewildered.
"Who hath given me the Son of the Most High to be a Son to me? I was jealous of Thy Mother, and I thought to put her away, and I knew not that in her womb was hidden a mighty treasure, that should suddenly enrich my poor estate. David the king sprang of my race, and wore the crown: and I have come to a very low estate, who instead of a king am a carpenter. Yet a crown hath come to me, for in my bosom is the Lord of crowns!"
With rival words Mary burned, yea she lulled Him, [saying,] Who hath given me, the barren, that I should conceive and bring forth this One, that is manifold; a little One, that is great; for that He is wholly with me, and wholly everywhere?
The day that Gabriel came in unto my low estate, he made me free instead of a handmaid, of a sudden: for I was the handmaid of Thy Divine Nature, and am also the Mother of Thy human Nature, O Lord and Son!
Of a sudden the handmaid became the King's daughter in Thee, Thou Son of the King. Lo, the meanest in the house of David, by reason of Thee, Thou Son of David, lo, a daughter of earth hath attained unto Heaven by the Heavenly One!
How am I astonied that there is laid before me a Child, older than all things! His eye is gazing unceasingly upon Heaven. As for the stammering of His mouth, to my seeming it betokens, that with God its silence speaks.
Who ever saw a Child the whole of Whom beholdeth every place? His look is like one that orders all creatures that are above and that are below! His visage is like that Commander that commandeth all.
How shall I open the fountain of milk to Thee, O Fountain? Or how shall I give nourishment to Thee that nourishest all from Thy Table? How shall I bring to swaddling clothes One wrapped round with rays of glory?
My mouth knows not how I shall call Thee, O Thou Child of the Living One: for to venture to call Thee as the Child of Joseph, I tremble, since Thou art not his seed: and I am fearful of denying the name of him to whom they have betrothed me.
While Thou art the Son of One, then should I be calling Thee the Son of many. For ten thousand names would not suffice Thee, since Thou art the Son of God and also the Son of man, yea, David's Son and Mary's Lord.
Who hath made the Lord of mouths to be without a mouth? For my pure conception of Thee wicked men have slandered me. Be, O Thou Holy One, a Speaker for Thy Mother. Show a miracle that they may be persuaded, from Whom it is that I conceived Thee!
For Thy sake too I am hated, Thou Lover of all. Lo! I am persecuted who have conceived and brought forth One House of refuge for men. Adam will rejoice, for Thou art the Key of Paradise.
Lo, the sea raged against Thy mother as against Jonah. Lo, Herod, that raging wave, sought to drown the Lord of the seas. Whither I shall flee Thou shalt teach me, O Lord of Thy Mother.
With Thee I will flee, that I may gain in Thee Life in every place. The prison with Thee is no prison, for in Thee man goes up unto Heaven: the grave with Thee is no grave, for Thou art the Resurrection!8
A star of light which was not nature, shone forth suddenly; less than the sun and greater than the sun, less than it in its visible light, but greater than it in its hidden might, by reason of its mystery.
The Morning Star cast its bright beams among the darknesses, and led them as blind men, and they came and received a great light: they gave offerings and received life, and they worshipped and returned.
In the height and the depth two preachers were there to the Son: the bright star shouted above; John also preached below, two preachers, an earthly and a heavenly.
That above showed His Nature to be from the Majesty, and that below too showed his Nature to be from mankind. O great marvel, that His Godhead and His Manhood each was preached by them.
Whoso thought Him earthly, the bright star convinced him that He was heavenly; and whoso thought Him spiritual, John convinced him that He was also corporeal.
In the Holy temple Simeon carried Him, and lulled Him, [saying,] "Thou art come, O Merciful One, showing mercy on my old age, making my bones to go into the grave in peace. In Thee shall I be raised from the grave into Paradise!"
Anna embraced Him, and put her mouth to His lips, and the Spirit dwelt upon her own lips. As when Isaiah's mouth was silent, the coal9 which approached his lips opened his mouth; so Anna burned with the Spirit of His mouth, yea, she lulled Him, [saying,] "Son of the Kingdom, Son of the lowliness, that hearest and art still, that seest and art hidden, that knowest and art unknown, God, Son of Man, glory be unto Thy Name."
The barren also heard, ran, and came with their provisions: the Magi came with their treasures, the barren came with their provisions. Provisions and riches were suddenly heaped up in the house of the poor.
The barren woman cried out, as at that which she looked not for, Who hath granted me this sight of thy Babe, O Blessed One, by whom the heaven and earth are filled! Blessed be thy Fruit, which made the barren vine to bear a cluster.
Zacharias came and opened his venerable mouth and cried, "Where is the King, for whose sake I have begotten the Voice that is to preach before His face? Hail, Son of the King, to whom also our Priesthood shall be given up!"
John approached with his parents and worshipped the Son, and He shed glory upon his countenance; and he was not moved as when in the womb! Mighty miracle, that here he was worshipping, there he leaped.
Herod also, that base fox, that stalked about like a lion, as a fox crouched down, and howled, when he heard the roaring of the Lion, who came to sit in the kingdom according to the Scriptures. The fox heard that the Lion was a whelp, and as a suckling; and he sharpened His teeth, that while He was yet a child the fox might lie in wait and devour the Lion ere He had grown up, and the breath of His mouth should destroy him.
The whole creation became mouths to Him, and cried concerning Him. The Magi cried by their offerings! the barren cried with their children, the star of light cried in that air, lo! the Son of the King!
The Heavens were opened, the waters were calmed, the Dove glorified Him, the voice of the Father, louder than thunder, was instant and said, This is my beloved Son. The Angels proclaim Him, the children shout to Him with their Hosannas.
These voices above and below proclaim Him and cry aloud. The slumber of Sion was not dispersed by the voice of the thunders, but she was offended, stood up, and slew Him because He aroused her.
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Prayer of St. Paisios for the World

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the World (source)
  
Below is a beautiful prayer, written by St. Paisios the Athonite (+1994), for monastics to pray every evening on behalf of the world. This is meaningful because it underlines that the purpose of monasticism is not for monks or nuns to solely pray for themselves, but demonstrates to laypeople that their goal is to pray for and support the whole world. This also illustrates the great love that the Elder had and continues to have for all those who suffer from any trial or temptation throughout the world. He helped many multitudes of people on a daily basis through his prayer and instructions, and helps even more after his repose. Finally, as mentioned in the short introduction that I have also translated below, this could definitely be a suitable prayer for laypeople to say on a daily basis, helping us to entreat Christ on behalf of the whole world.
  
The love of Elder Paisios for the whole world is well-known. The Elder has helped a multitude of people, both before and after his repose.

From where did he receive the power to strengthen people, and to work miracles? From his fervent prayer to God.

The following prayer was given to a women's monastery which had asked him for some "typikon" for their vigils in their cells. This is from one of the last years of his life. In this can chiefly found his love for the whole world.

This can be used by each of the faithful, as it covers all cases of people who have need of prayer. Even children can understand it, and it is written in simple words, and thus can be read during the family's evening prayer.
  
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Do not abandon Your servants who live far away from the Church. May Your love work to bring everyone near You.
Remember, O Lord, Your servants who are suffering from cancer,
Your servants who are suffering from small or great afflictions,
Your servants who are suffering from bodily disabilities,
Your servants who are suffering from spiritual disabilities.
Remember our rulers, and help them to govern in a Christian manner.
Remember, O Lord, the children who come from troubled families,
Troubled families and divorced couples.
Remember, O Lord, the orphans of the whole world, all those who are pained and unjustly treated in this life, and all those who have lost their spouses.
Remember, O Lord, all those in prison, anarchists, drug addicts, murders, evil-doers, thieves, and enlighten them and help them to be corrected.
Remember all immigrants,
All those who travel by sea, land, and air, and protect them.
Remember our Church, the Fathers (Clerics) of the Church and the Faithful.
Remember, O Lord, all Monastic Brotherhoods, men and women, Elders and Eldresses, and all brotherhoods and Athonite Fathers.
Remember, O Lord, Your servants who are in time of war,
All those who flee to the mountains and to the plains,
All those who are like endangered little birds.
Remember Your servants who have left their homes and their work and are suffering.
Remember, O Lord, the poor, the homeless, and refugees.
Remember, O Lord, all nations, and have them in Your arms, protecting them with Your Holy Protection, and keeping them from every evil and from war. And our beloved Greece***, keep in Your arms day and night, and protect it with Your Protection, keeping it from every evil and from war.
Remember, O Lord, the suffering, abandoned, wronged, and tested families, and richly give them Your mercy.
Remember Your servants who are suffering from spiritual and bodily problems of all nature.
Remember all those who are in despair, and help and give peace to them.
Remember, O Lord, Your servants who have asked of our prayers.
Remember, O Lord, all those who have reposed from all ages, and grant them repose.

From the book, "God is with us, are we with Him", by Orthodox Kypseli. (Amateur translation of text from Source)
  
***I do not believe it would be impious to also include a special prayer for your country or place of origin.
  
Icon of St. Paisios the Athonite (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

The Gifts of the Magi to be brought to Rhodes and Veria this December

The Abbot of St. Paul's Monastery, Mount Athos, recently bringing the Holy Gifts of the Magi to Russia (source)
 
I post this to inform everyone of this blessing to be able to venerate a portion of the gifts which the Magi offered to Christ. This is especially pertinent for women, children, and all those who may be unable to visit Mount Athos, because it is rare that such treasures of Orthodoxy leave the Holy Mountain.

This coming December, the Precious Gifts, which were brought during the nativity of Christ and which are preserved in the Holy Monastery of St. Paul on Mount athos, will be brought to the island of Rhodes [Greece].

The request for the visit of the Precious Gifts to Rhodes was undertaken by his Eminence, Metropolitan Kyrillos, and took place in order to give the faithful the opportunity to venerate them a few days before the great feast of the nativity of the God-Man.
(source)

Also note that Precious Gifts will be present in Veria (Beroia) (Northern Greece, close to Thessaloniki) from December 16th to December 21st for veneration in the Metropolis Church.
(source)
 
A portion of the Holy Gifts which the Magi offered to Christ at His Nativity: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. They are currently treasured by the Holy Monastery of St. Paul on Mount Athos. For more information on them, see here.
   
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, December 15, 2014

St.Tikhon of Zadonsk: "For whose sake did Christ come into the world? For the sake of sinners."

The Nativity of Christ, detail (source)
  
The very incarnation of the Son of God and His coming into the world strongly encourages sinners to repentance. For whose sake did Christ come into the world? For the sake of sinners. To what end? For the sake of their salvation. O how dear to God was our salvation! He Himself came into the world, O sinners, for the sake of our salvation.
  
Listen, sinners, and understand! God Himself came into the world for the sake of our salvation, and He came in our image. O truly great is the mystery of piety! God appeared in the flesh. "Lord, what is man, that Thou art made known unto him? Or the son of man, that Thou takest account of him?" (LXX-Ps. 143:3 [KJV-Ps. 144:3]).
  
Truly wonderful is the grace of God toward man, wonderful also is this work of His. Foreseeing this the prophet cried out to Him with fear and terror, "Lord, I have heard Thy report, and I was afraid; O Lord, I considered Thy works, and I was amazed" (Abbac. 3:1-2). Sinners, let us call to mind this great work of God, which He wrought for our sake, and let us repent. Let us remember how for our sake He was born of a Virgin and became a child, and was nourished on His mother's milk. The Invisible became manifest, and He that was without beginning had a beginning, and He that was intangible became tangible and was wrapped as an infant in swaddling bands: "And the Word was made flesh" (Jn. 1:14).
  
Let us recall how while yet a child He fled from the murderers of Herod the King. Let us recall how He lived on earth and was a stranger, how He went from place to place, and labored for the sake of our salvation. Let us recall how He Who is unapproachable to the Cherubim and Seraphim kept company with sinners; How He who has Heaven as His throne and the earth as the footstool of His feet and Who abides in light unapproachable, had nowhere to lay His head; How He who was rich became poor, that by His poverty we may become rich.
  
Let us recall how He who clothes Himself with light as with a garment, put on the garment of corruption. How He Who gives food to all flesh ate earthly bread. How the Almighty became weak, and He that gives strength to all did labor.
  
Let us recall how He Who is above all honor and glory, was blasphemed, cursed, and mocked by the lips of transgressors.
  
Let us recall how He ailed, suffered, sorrowed, wept, and was filled with horror. Let us recall how He was sold and betrayed by an ungrateful disciple and was forsaken by the rest of the disciples; how He was bound and brought to trial; how He was judged by transgressors. He was reviled. He was scourged. He was clad in the robe of mockery, He was mockingly hailed as King, "Hail, King of the Jews!" (Jn. 19:3). He was crowned with a crown of thorns, beaten on the head with a reed, He heard from His lawless people, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him" (Jn. 19:15). He was led to crucifixion between two evildoers and died on the Cross.
  
All these things the Son of God did for the sake of our salvation. O sinners, in Adam we lost our salvation and all our blessedness, but Christ, the Son of God, by the good will of His Heavenly Father, has brought it all back to us. Let us, then, consider, O sinners, whether the very Blood of Christ, shed for the sake of our salvation, and all His Suffering do not cry out to us. Let us repent and so let us not be deprived of eternal salvation, for without repentance there is no salvation for anyone, but nevertheless the wretched sinner still does not understand.
  
God loves man so much that He revealed His wonderful providence for him that he should repent and so be saved, but the sinner still does not understand.
  
Christ the Son of God shows him His coming into the world for his sake, in the Gospel. He presents to him His willing self-emptying, His willing poverty, His willing and deep humility, His labors, pains, tribulations, sorrows, sufferings and death, and even a death on the Cross. And He says to him, "Man, I took all this on Myself and endured it for your sake and for your salvation. But you neglect your salvation, and take no thought that you should repent and cease from your sins, to make use of My Blood and live."
  
But the sinner, even though he hears this so plaintive and sweet voice of Christ in the Gospel, nevertheless still does not understand. Christ promises not to remember his sins and transgressions when he turns to Him, but the sinner still does not understand. Christ calls him to Himself and promises him rest, but the sinner does not understand. He remains uncorrected as he was and transgresses as he transgressed before. He commits evil deeds, as he did before; he loves darkness as he loved it before; he hates the light as he hated it before; and for this reason he does not come to the Light, but remains with the devil, the prince of darkness.
  
O poor sinner, awaken and come to your senses. If you do not, the very Blood of Christ shed for your sake will cry out against you for retribution. Listen to what the prophet of God sings to you in the person of God, "I will reprove thee, and bring thy sins before thy face" (LXX-Ps. 49:21 [KJV-Ps. 50:21]); that is, all your evil deeds, words, thoughts, intentions and undertakings will follow you into the next world and will appear at the universal Judgment of Christ, and you shall receive your just reward for them. You do not wish now to repent to your benefit, and so be saved by the grace of Christ; then you shall repent, but too late and in vain. "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (Eph. 5:14). Blessed be God above all forever.
  
Set your salvation on nothing else but on Christ Jesus alone, the Saviour of the world. If you truly believe that He suffered and died for you and is your Saviour, then love him with all your heart, obey Him and please Him, as your Saviour, and lay and confirm all your hope of salvation on Him alone. We must unfailingly do good works as Christians, but we must ask and await salvation from Christ alone.
  
from: Journey to Heaven Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004. (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, December 5, 2014

St. Nicholas helping the Poor Couple

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (source)
  
There was a couple in Constantinople who had always had a special love for Saint Nicholas. Each feast day they celebrated with special food, wine, holy bread, and candles. Now that they were old, and no longer able to work, they were very poor. The man asked his wife how they could get money to buy what was needed. She took an old carpet, saying, "Here is our last posession. Sell it and then buy all we need to show our gratitude to God and Saint Nicholas." The old man took the rug and set off to the marketplace.
Arriving at the market, a distinguised looking nobleman asked how much the rug cost. The man told him what it cost when new, saying he'd take whatever he could get for it. The nobleman gave him six gold pieces—much more than the man expected—took the rug and left. People near the man were puzzled as he seemed to be talking to himself. After purchasing the needed items, the man headed home.
Meanwhile, back at the house, a distinguished looking man approached the woman, "Take this rug. Your husband is an old friend of mine and I met him at the marketplace today." And he gave her the carpet.
When the man returned, his wife accused him of not selling the carpet, "How could you break your promise and not sell this rug?" "Who gave the rug to you?" he asked. She described the man, and he realized it was the same person who'd bought the rug. The man, realizing it must have been a miracle, exclaimed, "The Lord liveth! The man who bought the carpet from me and brought it back to our poor home, is indeed St. Nicholas, for a man saw me talking to him and asked if I saw an apparition, for the saint was invisible." He showed his wife what he'd bought—food, wine, holy bread, candles—and the left-over money.
Rejoicing, they hurried to the church of St. Nicholas to tell the Patriarch all that had happened. After hearing the story, the Patriarch gave the couple a generous life pension. They returned home for a fine St. Nicholas feast with hymn singing and prayers of thanksgiving.
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Excerpt from the Encomium to St. Barbara by St. John of Damascus

St. Barbara the Great Martyr (source)
  
Excerpt from the Encomium to St. Barbara by St. John of Damascus (amateur translation)
...But to me, you are a lamb of Christ, and dove, and bride, and every other name that is good, and grace-filled, and precious. Rejoice, for you bravely passed through the paths of struggles. Rejoice, for you worthily partake of the spoils of your struggles. Rejoice, for you were granted many rewards for your struggles. Rejoice, for you kept the passionate body and the racing thoughts in chastity. Rejoice, for you preserved your senses from a young age, and were trained with a proper mind. Rejoice, you who kept virginity before your martyrdom, preserving yourself, having been presented to Christ as spotless and undefiled. Rejoice, you who did not soil your bodily beauty by the passions, but kept it untouched and offered to the Creator. Rejoice, you who in the tower, as in a secure fortress, kept virgins supported, strong and untouched, offering up prayers to God, and ascribing the theoria of things that exist to the Creator unerringly, you were nourished alone by the good and beloved. Rejoice, you who at the waters purifying bodily stain [the bathhouse], symbolized the Trinity through the depicting of three sources of light, thus depicting the three-fold giving of mystical and saving light, depicting baptism. Rejoice, you who forthrightly and boldly confessed the consubstantial Trinity with a most theological mouth. Rejoice, you who boldly preached the One of the Holy Trinity Who took on flesh for our salvation. Rejoice, you who trampled upon the wealth and nourishment, and royal garments, and gold and pearls, and every bodily adornment and beauty, and the joys of this world, and therefore inherited instead the eternal good and unspeakable things, that surpass the vision of the eyes, and the hearing of the ears, and every sense and thought. Rejoice, you who at a young age and weak gender, bravely and manfully were strong with all of your mind. Rejoice, you who were not worried by tortures or blows, but bravely went towards every type of unique and twisted torture. Rejoice, you who in the flesh were made worthy to behold the glory of Christ, as the First-ranked of the Disciples did on the mountain [Tabor], and beheld, as did Elias and Moses, who stood by Him blessing Him. Rejoice, for you endured the pains of scourging, and the burning of iron, and being pierced with a garment of hair, and the shedding of streams of your blood, and the flames of fire, and the cutting off of your members, and being paraded naked, and the removal of your head and of your life, all on behalf of Christ, that your body might therefore receive the shining rays of undying incorruption, and the unspeakable and incomparable woven robe of glory. At your righteous endurance, men were amazed, and angels, beholding the struggle, clapped their hands, and sang hymns, while the demons, at this hymnody, were struck with a state of fear, and shame, and wailed of their eternal shame. O you the adornment and sanctity of the female gender, which having beheld the manliness of your struggles, takes courage and is benefited! In you, the fore-mother makes boast, as one of her daughters struggles straightaway with the enemy dragon, and trampled upon him, calling up and bearing the radiant trophies of victory. You were like the Theotokos, the holy of holies and fore-mother, the Virgin and Mother of God, who is first among women and only glorified, more than all men and women, and who reigns in heaven and on earth, as the Mother of Him Who rules over all things...
(source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

St. Porphyrios on the Fragrance of Prayer

Entering an Orthodox Church on Cyprus (source)
  
Once we visited the Monastery of Vella, and entered an old church with frescoes. We were amazed at them, while [St. Porphyrios] disappeared into the holy altar. I was by myself in the one aisle, and the rest in the other. In a short time I sensed a fragrance...The church was old and did not function anymore. As time passed, the fragrance got stronger. I looked around. I noticed that it was the strongest towards the holy altar. "Ah, I understand," I thought, "The Elder lit a charcoal and put on some incense."

When he exited the altar, I told him unprompted: "That charcoal you lit, Elder, it smells very beautiful."

He looked at me with a strange smile. "No," he told me, "I didn't light anything!"

Later, he told us: "When I enter the altar of a church, however, I pray. And I sense all of the prayers that had occurred there. This happened a short time ago in the altar. I prayed, and A. sensed it. Don't we say that prayer rises to God like incense?"

At St. Ierotheos I experienced the same thing. There, as soon as we exited the church with the Elder and got in the car and drove away from the church, there came a wave of fragrance. The Elder said with a smile, without anyone asking him: "This was a special blessing of the Saint."
  
(amateur translation of text from source: Άγιος Πορφύριος http://www.porphyrios.net/?p=2345)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

St. Porphyrios: "Difficult times are coming, and the world will need help from the monasteries.”

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (source)
  
“In the spring of 1985,” relates Abbess Theodosia of the Holy Monastery of Saints Theodore, Kalavryta, “I was at our monastery, and one night around 2:30AM I heard outside the window of my cell, in the monastery courtyard, that someone was digging. To confirm this, I blew out the light in my cell, and I looked out the window. I saw the flashes of a flashlight. Then I prayed to our wonderworking Saints to protect us.
  
I checked the windows and secured the doors to the courtyard of the deserted monastery, so that no one would be able to enter, and as I confirmed that the area was silent, I returned to my cell.
In the morning, we had a special liturgy. At the time that I was getting ready to go to church, around 5:55AM, the telephone rang. I thought that this was maybe some pained soul with some problem—something which occurs frequently—so I picked up the phone. To my great astonishment I heard:
“Listen, my child, this is Elder Porphyrios. Don't go outside when you hear them digging, they will attack you. Infernal people are surrounding your monastery.”
  
I asked him: “Elder, why are they digging? Did they find anything?”
  
He answered: “No, my child, it was taken by others earlier.”
  
I asked him again: “Elder, have you ever been to our monastery?”
  
He replied to me: “No, my child, but now I am there. Ask me whatever you want.”
  
Taking advantage of the opportunity, I asked him of the historical significance of the caves at our monastery. He replied: “Which caves? Because there are two caves near you. The one where the first nuns stayed?”
  
I replied: “Yes, Elder.”
  
He told me: “It would be good, my child, to do that, because the cave is holy. But will the villagers allow you? They will protest.”
  
I remained on the phone, without speaking due to my astonishment, because he spoke to me about real events. It should be noted that there are truly two caves, but we had not seen the second cave until we were in the monastery for over a year. The shepherds of the area had told us that there was a second cave.
  
That time when I remained speechless, with the phone in hand, I heard the Elder tell me: “Fish, O Abbess, fish!”
  
I asked him: “What fish, Elder?”
  
“My child.” he told me, “isn't the water in those springs perfect for fish? Put some fish in there, so that the people can eat. Difficult times are coming!”
  
In truly, when we came to the monastery, I tested the chemical status of the water that ran from two springs within the courtyard of the monastery to see if it was potable and correspondingly if it could support fish, to support the needs of the monastery and for the pilgrims that we show hospitality to. Truly, the water was clean, and corresponding to raising fish...
  
The presence of Elder Porphyrios, I sensed clearly, because in every dilemma that we would face, he was with us and gave us a solution. Once, he told me over the phone: “My child, you have a great struggle, but don't be afraid, I am praying with you every night.”
  
It should be noted that I had never met the Elder, nor had I ever seen him. I only had heard of his gift of foresight from others, but neither had I ever called him over the phone. I was astonished as to how he knew our problems and how he found our telephone number. Because of this, I called the Abbess of another monastery who knew the Elder, and I asked her: “Did you, by any chance, O Abbess, give our number to Elder Porphyrios?”
  
She replied” “Did I need to give it to him? The mind of Fr. Porphyrios is a [spiritual] television.”
Once, I and some of the sisters of our monastery were visiting another monastery. Elder Porphyrios, because it was a pertinent and important matter, called there, and asked for me, saying: “My child, the five men that want to be witnesses against the monastery's property, let them go to court. The truth must be heard, and they must know that this belongs to the monastery, because difficult times are coming, and the world will need help from the monasteries.”
  
In reality, five older individuals, who were very generous to the monastery, sought the truth regarding an injustice that had been done at the expense of the monastery. Thus, the monastery was justified.”
  
From the book: Elder Porphyrios, the Spiritual Father and Teacher.
Amateur translation of text from source.
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

St. Luke of Simferopol on the Fragrance of Christ

Icon of the Theotokos and Christ, the "Unfading Rose" (source)
  
The rose does not speak, but puts forth a strong fragrance. We too, should put forth fragrance, pour forth spiritual fragrance, the fragrance of Christ. The fragrance of our deeds should be heard from far around: good, pure, and righteous deeds, full of love. Only thus can the Kingdom of God appear within our hearts, appearing not through words, but with power. Amen.
-St. Luke of Simferopol
  
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Elder Iakovos Tsalikis on Fasting

St. John the Forerunner and Baptist of Christ, who fasted his entire life in the desert (source)
  
"Fasting is a commandment of God. Because of this, we should also fast, my children. I have not neglected fasting in my 70 years. My mother taught me fasting from childhood. I am not being a hypocrite, my children, when I fast, but I am doing that which my parents taught me and that which I keep until today, my children. Fasting has never brought sickness upon me.

Physicians and Bishops say that frugal fasting is very beneficial to man. Once, a doctor told me: "Father, don't eat for five days, nor even drink a drop of water, because we will do a test to see what is going on with your body." Therefore I fasted for five days. It had done great things to me. How much more are we benefited when we fast for our soul! Because within our body inhabits an eternal soul. Therefore, let us take care for our soul, which is truly an immortal thing.

Let us fast, my children, do not listen to those who say that fasting is nothing, and that this is something from monks. This is not from monks, my children, forgive me, God says this. The first commandment of God is fasting, and our Christ fasted.

We can say that we are fasting, and eat so much. Now, what fasting are we doing, my children? When we eat, forgive me, so much food, even if it is without oil. It is sufficient that man have his health and the desire to fast.

Once, someone came to me and said: "My priest, they told me that fasting doesn't exist." "And who told you that there was no fasting? Go tell the Priest to open the Bible and see that which discusses fasting: 'without prayer and fasting' (Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29), which our Christ says, and other things.' And the demons, and sicknesses, and all the passions are cast out with fasting. The Holy Forerunner, what did he eat in the desert? What did the Venerable David eat? With an antidoron, he passed the whole week in his cell of asceticism."
-Elder Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia
  
(amateur translation of text from source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Byzantine Christmas Carol: "The Beginningless God descended..."

The Nativity of Christ (source)
  
Greetings!

As we are beginning the Advent season, I pray that this may be a time when we might all draw closer to the Lord, Who is coming to save us.

I came across this Byzantine Christmas carol, originally from Pontos of Asia Minor, "Anarchos Theos Kataveviken" ("The Beginningless God descended..."), and I thought to share a translation of such a beautiful and theological and moving carol (sung with Byzantine chant and instruments, but not at all used liturgically). May the Lord, Who is coming to be born in the flesh for our salvation, have mercy on us all and save us!

(Greek text)
Άναρχος Θεός καταβέβηκεν και εν τη Παρθένω κατώκησεν
Βασιλεύς των όλων και Κύριος, ήλθε τον Αδάμ αναπλάσασθαί
Γηγενείς σκιρτάτε και χαίρεσθε, τάξεις των αγγέλων ευφραίνεσθε
Δέξαι Βηθλεεμ τον Δεσπότην σου, Βασιλέα πάντω και Κύριον
Εξ ανατολών Μάγοι έρχονται, δώρα προσκομίζοντες άξια
Ζητούν προσκυνήσαι τον Κύριον, τον εν τω σπηλαίω τικτόμενον
Ήνεγγεν αστήρν μάγους οδηγών, ένδον του σπηλαίου εκόμισεν
Θεός, βασιλεύς προαιώνιος, τίκτεται εκ κόρης Θεόπαιδος
Ιδών ο Ηρώδης ως έμαθεν, όλω εξεπλάγη ο δείλαιος
Κράζει και βοά προς τους ιερείς, τους δοξολογούντας τον Κύριον
Λέγετε σοφοί και διδάκαλοι άρα που γεννάται ο Κύριος;
Μέγα και φρικτόν το τεράστιον, ο εν ουρανοίς επεδήμησεν
Νύκτα Ιωσήφ ρήμα ήκουσε, άγγελος Κυρίου ελάλησεν
Ξένον και παράδοξον άκουσμα και η συγκατάβασις άρρητος
Ο μακροθυμίσας και εύσπλαχνος, πάντων υπομένει τα πταίσματα
Πάλιν ουρανοί ανεώχθησαν άγγλοι αυτού ανυμνήτωσαν
Ρήτορες ελθόντες προσέπεσον βασιλέα μέγαν και ένδοξον
Σήμερον η κτίσις αγάλλεται και πανηγύρίζει κι ευφραίνεται
Τάξεις των αγγέλων εξέστησαν επί το παράδοξον θέαμα
Ύμνους και δεήσεις ανέμελπον των πάντων δεσπότην και άνακτα
Φως εν τω σπηλαίω ανέτειλε και τοις εν τω σκότει επέλαμψε
Χαίρουσα η φύσις αγάλλεται και πανηγυρίζει κι ευφραίνεται
Ψάλλοντες Χριστόν, τον Θεόν ημών, τον εν τω σπηλαίω τικτόμενον
Ω Παρθενομήτορ και Δέσποινα, σώζε του εις Σε καταφεύγοντας.
(source)
  
(amateur translation of the above text)
The Beginningless God descended, and dwelt in the Virgin.
 
Erouem, erouem, erou erou erouem.
Hail, O Spotless One.
(repeated after each verse)
  
The King and Lord of all, came to refashion Adam.
O men of earth, dance and rejoice, and you ranks of the Angels be glad.
Receive, O Bethlehem, your Master, the King and Lord of all.
Magi are coming from the east, to offer Him worthy gifts.
They seek to worship the Lord, Who is born in the cave.
God, the King before the ages, is carried within the cave.
Behold, Herod having learned of this, was utterly astonished, the wretched man.
He cries out and screams towards the priests, who are glorifying the Lord:
“Say, O you wise ones and teachers, where is the Lord being born?”
O great and awesome wonder, for He Who is in the heavens, departs them.
At night, Joseph heard the angel of the Lord speak.
O strange and paradoxical hearing, and unspeakable condescension.
He Who is forbearing and compassionate, endures the offenses of all.
Again, the heavens are opened, and angels hymn Him.
Rhetors have come, and fell down before the great and glorious King.
Today, creation exalts and celebrates and rejoices.
The ranks of the angels are astonished at the paradoxical sight.
Hymns and entreaties they offer to the Master and Ruler of all.
A Light has dawned in the cave, enlightening those in darkness.
Nature rejoices and exalts, and celebrates and is glad.
Let us chant unto Christ our God, Who is born in the cave.
O Virgin-Mother and Lady, save those who have taken refuge in you.
 
Children depicted singing Greek folk songs door to door (source)
     
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

A recent appearance of the Theotokos on Mount Athos

The wondrous icon of Panagia Pantanassa, from the Katholikon of the Monastery of Vatopedi, Mount Athos (source)
  
Mr. K.P. had gone to the Holy Mountain, and was shown hospitality by the fathers of the Holy and Great Monastery of Vatopedi. On October 26th 2014, he asked the fathers there if he could go to confession. The fathers told him that the next day, which was Monday morning, he could go.

On October 27th, 2014, at 4AM, the Orthros service began, and he went down to the Church, and having venerated the icons, went and sat down. The church had many people in it, and at the stall where he went, he sat next to one man, but the other side was empty.

He waited patiently, but the time was passing, and the monk had not appeared who would have led him to the confessor. Around 4:20AM, he turns around, and sees next to him, in the formerly empty stall, a nun! The nun approached him and said: "Wait, everything will go well, you will confess. Don't worry, just wait a little."

He thought that most likely, the large monasteries had some nun there to help in the church. A short time passed, and the impatient man thought that he would leave to find someone to take him to confession. It was around 4:45AM when he planned to leave. He took a step, and again he saw the nun approach him, grab him by the shoulder, and lightly turn him back towards his stall. And she told him: "I told you to be patient and wait...Now the Six Psalms are finishing, and the monk will come to take you to the confessor for you to confess."

In reality, after two minutes, the monk came to lead him to the confessor. K.P. did not say anything to that monk because he was suspicious. In reality, when he reached the confessor, having spoken a bit, K.P. told him:
"It's good that you had that nun there to strengthen me to be patient and wait..."

"What nun are you talking about, blessed one? There are no nuns here. This is the Holy Mountain, women and nuns aren't allowed!"

"But, I spoke with her twice!"

The spiritual father replied: "You spoke with our Panagia, but you didn't realize it, my child!"

Then the confessor asked him to describe her. K.P. said: "She was tall, around 30-35 years of age, and very beautiful!"
  
(amateur translation of text from source)
  
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

Monday, November 10, 2014

St. Porphyrios on the Jesus Prayer

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (source)
  
"And what are you looking for regarding prayer, like a recipe to prepare food or medicine? I told you to only seek the salvation of your soul.

In other words, you should try to become an inheritor of the eternal Kingdom of the Heavens. And everything else you should leave to the judgment of God. I remind you, again, to "seek first the Kingdom of the Heavens."

Is this not enough for you? If this is not enough for you, or if you are not satisfied completely, restrict yourself to noetic prayer. For me, the "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me", says everything. And whatever else from that which you are saying. It is enough to say it with faith and determination.

And of course, at that hour, perceive that you have before you, the crucified Jesus. And listen. The hour that you saw it, turn your nous here, towards me. And I will understand your thought, and will pray with you for you. This is the best. I recommend you to do this...

Why do you separate yourself from the rest of the world? This is not at all correct. When we love ourselves, thus we must love our neighbor. I love the whole world as myself. Because of this, I see no reason to say: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us" and not "have mercy on me". Because the world and I are one and the same! Thus you say: "have mercy on me".
  
Source: Theology and Miracles of Noetic Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" (amateur translation of text from: source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Poem of St. Nektarios the Wonderworker: "O Divine Love"

St. Nektarios the Wonderworker, Bishop of Pentapolis (source)
  
A Poem of St. Nektarios the Wonderworker: "O Divine Love"
  
O Divine Love, come, I entreat you,
From all my soul and within my heart,
And a divine dwelling-place, O Christ, make me
And from every stain, O cleanse me.
 
O Divine Love, godly love
I ask You to fill my soul
With divine eros. O Divine Love,
Fervently I entreat you, to grant to me, Your servant.
 
O Divine Love, I entreat You,
To grant love to those who ask of You,
For Your love is to fulfull
Your Divine Law, O sweet Love.
 
O Divine Love, who alone fills
The whole world and preserves it,
You are the law of the heavens,
You are the law of the earthly.
 
Your Kingdom is love,
In which reigns joy and peace,
In which reigns blessedness,
The eros of the Divine and rejoicing.
  
(amateur translation of text from source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

St. George Karslides heals the Metropolitan

Metropolitan Benediktos of Philadelphia, venerating the holy tomb of St. George Karslides (source)
  
On the feast of St. George Karslides in Drama (11/4/14), was found the Metropolitan Benediktos of Philadelphia as a pious pilgrim.

His Eminence wished to thank the celebrating Saint from his heart for the miracle that he worked for him recently.

According to information from Romfea.gr, a short time ago, there appeared a serious problem with his vocal cords.

He made numerous visits to special physicians, without finding the cause of his problem or more importantly giving him healing.

When, at the suggestion of the Abbess of the Holy Monastery (of the Ascension of Christ, Sipsa), Gerontissa Porphyria, he drank some holy water from the grace-flowing relics of St. George, and after prayer, his throat was healed.

As a sign of thanksgiving for the Saint's miracle, he vowed to take a cow to his monastery, on his feast.

The fulfillment of his vow occurred on November 4th, 2014, and the pictures are incontrovertible.

It should be noted that the Metropolitan of Philadelphia was granted hospitality like Abraham by the local Metropolitan Paul of Dramas, who had been his friend for many years.
(source)
  
The Metropolitan bringing a cow to the monastery as a gift (source)
     
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Video of the Service of the Holy Myrrh of St. Demetrios the Great Martyr, 2014



This is a live video of the 2014 service of the Myrrh of St. Demetrios in the Church where his holy relics are treasured by the city of Thessaloniki. This service, which is the ninth day after his holy feast day (October 26th), serves several purposes. One, this serves as an "Apodosis" or Leave-taking of the Saint's feast, which began one week before his feast, with the so-called "Holy Week" of St. Demetrios. Second, there is an official service, calling upon the Holy Spirit to bless this myrrh, granting it the power to heal the infirmities of body and soul. And finally, it is an opportunity for the clergy and the faithful to open the reliquary of the Saint and gather the fragrant myrrh which still wondrously exudes from the Saint's Relics to this day. As the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki chants at the end of the service: "Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God Who alone works wonders!" May we have the Saint's intercessions and protection, especially for all those who suffer or are in danger throughout the world! Amen!
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Homily on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes


The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (source)

Homily on the Fifth Sunday of Luke (The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus - Luke 16: 19-31), by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes of Florina (+2010)
"Life beyond the Tomb"
Many things, my beloved, make man afraid. But that which frightens him more than anything is death. Even the word “death” alone brings trembling. Death is a great mystery!

Everyone, more or less, has the question: what happens after death? Is there anything beyond the tomb, or does life end there, and man is extinguished?
The question is an important one. If we believed that life ends in the tomb, then man would be free to do whatever he wishes: to sin, to fornicate, to commit adultery, to break the greatest rules, as long as he evades the eyes of the police and justice. If, however, there is life beyond the tomb, then man must count how he lives in this life, according to the voice of his conscience and the will of God.

To the question as to what is there after death, the answer is given us by today’s Gospel, the beautiful Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, which you just heard. What does it tell us?
There was a rich man, who had all of the good things from God. But all of these (houses, fields, everything else), he used for himself alone. He was a selfish self-seeker, and a worshipper of the flesh. He had the best clothes, wore expensive outfits, which only kings would wear, and ate the best food and drank the best wine, and spend his days in his great home. There were people playing music every night there, and sinful women danced unethical dances. Thus he spent his life, “rejoicing radiantly every day” (Luke 16:19). He did not give meaning to anything else.

At his door lay Lazarus, a poor and sick man, alone and abandoned, whom no one gave even the shelter of a roof, or medicine, or any other human help. The rich man never opened his door to show him hospitality, and he tried to survive on the crumbs that fell from the table of the rich man. He was full of wounds, and the dogs licked his wounds. Thus he lived.
But one day, the rich man, who thought that he would live as long as the mountains, heard a knock at the door. Who was it? Death! This is the dark visitor, who comes at an hour that we do not expect him, and seizes old and young, rich and poor, and leads them to the other world. He died, therefore. And his body became the food for worms and odor, and his soul went to Hades, where he sensed the reproaches of his conscience. And he would have preferred, as the Blessed Chrysostom says, to be stung by a scorpion, rather than experience the sting of the conscience. This he learned, when he was in the other world.

Where he was, the rich man sensed a far away other place, a place of light and beauty and joy: Paradise. And he sees in the heart of Paradise, in the bosom of Abraham, whom? Lazarus, the poor man, together with the righteous. Then his soul cried out and said: What did I suffer, why did I believe that there was not another world? And he entreated Abraham for two things. One, to send Lazarus to refresh him with one drop of water, for as he said, he was burning in that abyss. And the other, for Lazarus to go to the world below, to inform his five brothers, that they should remember their ends. But Abraham did not answer his entreaties. He said that there was a chasm between them: “between you and us there is a great chasm that was set” (Luke 16:26). There is no bridge to join the abyss with Paradise, and furthermore, there is no need for anyone to go to the world below, because they have the Scriptures, which bear witness to the other world.
Therefore, my brethren, there is another life. If someone would ask this today, he would find that the majority of so-called Christians do not believe these. What years we are living in! In years past, there were no radios or televisions, and people lived in huts. But within these huts they lived like angels, like holy men, like Lazaruses. Now, God has given them money. Those blessed years, each would wish each other “Good Paradise”. Today, does anyone hear anyone say to another “Good Paradise”? Now, we don’t believe. Children get such an education from schools. In one village, there was a 90 year old woman, who was in danger of dying. Her good spiritual father went to her and told her: “My good Lady, have you ever confessed?” “Never,” she replied. “Have you communed?” “A few times.” “Do you go to church?” “Not much.” “Why, because you are getting ready to go to the other world.” “Bah,” the woman said, “these are myths.” “My Lady, who told you that these are myths?” “My one grandson, who went to university in Thessaloniki, came and told me that there is nothing after death, that man is just physical, flesh and bones…”

Thus faith in the other world is uprooted. To such, the Gospel confirms that that world exists. “And who saw it?” you might say. But have you seen America? Have you seen Australia? Have you seen Canada? Someone else told you that they exist, and you believe. If someone then told you that they did not exist, you would laugh. Thus, as surely as there is an Australia, as there are stars, as this place exists, there is surely the other life, for which man was fashioned. Who confirmed this for us? Christ Himself. And if we do not believe in Christ, who should we believe, the devil?
Therefore, as it is certain—utterly certain that there is another life, what should we do?

First, we should think that the souls will continue to live on there, and that there will come the day when the Lord will stand in judgment inexorably of all, and “those who have done evil” will go to the eternal abyss, but “those who have done good”, to eternal Paradise (John 5:29). You should believe this. You don’t believe this? You are not a Christian, you are a naturalist. You only speak of physical things, and that there is only matter that exists. But man, however, is not just matter.

Second, we should prepare ourselves, we should be ready. We do not know the hour of our death. As the thief does not inform when he will come to break in, it is unknown when death will take us. And when it is time to travel, it is important to have prepared beforehand, and have your ticket in your pocket for when they ask it of you, for without a ticket, you are going nowhere. Our ticket is what? Faith in Christ, our good works, love, philanthropy, showing compassion, whatever is good and beautiful.
I will end with a story. Once, there was a king who had the mindset of the Rich Man in today’s parable. He did not believe in the other world, he partied, wasted time, participated in orgies. In that palace, there was a court jester. What does this mean? They did not have theaters and movies back then, so they had jesters for entertainment. He made the king laugh with the jokes that he said. And he was part of his personal entourage. One day, the king told him: “Take this cane, and I give it to you like a prize. If you ever find someone more senseless, more ridiculous, more wretched than you, give it to him…” He kept the cane. After some years, the king got sick, and was bedridden. He called the doctors, nothing. He took medicine, nothing. He was approaching death. Then, the jester came to him for the last time. “King, what is going on?” he asked. “I am not well. I am leaving for a great journey,” he replied. “And when will you return? he asked.  “I will never return again.” “Have you made any plans, have you prepared?” “No.” “Then, I have found the most wretched one in the world. Take the cane!”
Because of this, my beloved, let us close our ears to the faithless, and let us believe what our Church tells us: “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. Amen” (The Creed) Let us be ready, wherever we are, for death, that we might go to the other world, where are the saints and the angels, and where is Christ, the King of the Ages. Amen.
+Bishop Avgoustinos
(preached in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, Petron-Amyntaios, 10/30/1983; amateur translation of text from source)
  
Icon depicting the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

St. Nicholas Cabasilas on St. Demetrios as an Imitator of Christ

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrhstreamer, depicted with his disciples, Sts. Nestor and Loupos the Martyrs (source)
  
"Like He Who bore witness with a good confession before Pontius Pilate, [St. Demetrios] also gave a good confession. Learn that he was also given up to be bound. The Master received the wound in the side, and you, also received wounds in this place. He was seized and died on behalf of men, and on behalf of Him, and [his fellow] men, was he also killed. O you who are another Christ, having become an imitator of Christ! Therefore, the whole city receives boldness with reverence on behalf of the martyrdom of the Great Demetrios, and takes boast in him."
-St. Nicholas Cabasilas of Thessaloniki
  
(amateur translation of text from source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Homily of Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes on St. Luke the Evangelist

St. Luke the Apostle and Evangelist (source)
  
The Beloved Physician
“Embrace Luke, the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14)
Today, my beloved, is a feast and celebration. St. Luke celebrates, one of the stars which enlightens the heaven of our holy Church.
  
Who was St. Luke? It is not sufficient to hear the name and to celebrate the memory of a Saint. We must know his life, and above all, imitate his virtues. As the holy Chrysostom said: “To celebrate a Saint is to imitate the Saint.” Because of this, let us say a few words about this Saint.
 
Luke! And his name alone reveals something, it has meaning. The word “Luke”, as philologists say, comes from the Latin root (lux) which means “light”. From this are derived other words as well. For example, “Lyceum” [corresponding to high school in modern Greece], meaning the school that enlightens, and woe if this school does not enlighten but darkens. Lyceum=the school that enlightens, and Luke=enlightened, radiant. He, of course, was not enlightened from the start, for initially he was an idolater. He was born when everyone worshiped idols and made them gods. He was a Greek by lineage. His homeland was Antioch, that great center of Hellenism in the East. That was his life before Christ, until he believed.
  
His calling was to be a physician (there was at that time a great medical school in Tyre). Furthermore, according to tradition, he had the talent of drawing pictures. Studying medicine, he found himself in Thebes of Viotia, and heard the Apostle Paul, came to know him, believed in Christ, was baptized a Christian, and therefore named Luke—enlightened.
  
From then on he followed the Apostle Paul. The life of Paul, however, was not like the life of today's priests and bishops, as we partake of silence and general comfort. It was a hard life, with poverty, trials, persecutions, shipwrecks, martyrdom, the cross. How many times was he not cast out, seized, flogged, imprisoned, and stoned (by Judeans and idolaters and Roman emperors)? And ultimately he was beheaded in Rome.
 
Throughout all of these situations, Luke did not abandon Paul. He remained near him, near him through these events, near him through his afflictions, near him through all the trials, until the end of his life. Among the fellow workers of Paul, Luke takes the greatest place, of whom he writes: “Luke, the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). He names him “physician”, because he must have been useful to him many times, when the Apostle Paul was sick and had need of medical care.
  
Luke did not see Christ with his eyes, but he heard of the Lord from those who were “witnesses and servants” of the apostolic preaching (Luke 1:2), and especially from the Apostle Paul. This made a great impression on him, such that he could give a faithful representation of the Lord, and of the apostles and the life of the first Church. He believed deeply, and that which he believed, he preached. And as the Apostle Paul completed his path, Luke fled from Rome. He began to travel and to preach the Gospel of Christ. He circled throughout all of Greece, and finally, he returned to Thebes, where, according to a tradition, he became bishop, and there peacefully gave up his holy soul at the age of 80.
  
He preached with his tongue, he preached with his life and his example, he preached with his miracles. He will forever preach, however, with his God-inspired writings, and especially his Gospel. Whoever reads the Gospel according to Luke, thinks that he is watching the life of Jesus Christ like a movie. The Gospel of Luke is the sweetest Gospel. It is characterized as the Gospel of love, of forgiveness, of mercy, the Gospel of the compassion of God. One of these is the following:

In the Gospel of Luke is found the story of a sinful woman. She had worked orgies. She knew many men and was corrupted. The supposedly holy people in Israel, the Scribes and Pharisees, cut off communion with her, did not approach her, nor even told her a good morning. This woman one day went to Christ. He did not cast her out. He let her be, and she approached Him, knelt, sprinkled His feet with her tears and with her myrrh, and using her hair has a towel, wiped the spotless feet of the Lord. But because Christ accepted her actions, the others were scandalized. “Oh my, what is she doing?!” they said, “If he were a prophet, he would know who is touching him...” And then Christ said a great saying, which is impossible to measure, and which strikes me so deeply. Listen to what He says: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.” (Luke 7:47) In other words, the Scribes and Pharisees did not love Him, the “Learned” of that age did not love Him, the Romans did not love Him. This wretched woman loved Him, and she shed bitter tears of repentance. She sensed the redemption which Christ grants.
  
The Gospel of Luke is the Gospel of Joy. It begins from the Annunciation of the Theotokos, with the greeting of Gabriel: “Rejoice, O Full-of-Grace...” (Luke 1:28), and proceeds with the Nativity of Christ, and the joyous angelic message: “Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy...” (Luke 2:10), and ends again with the joy of the Apostles when they saw Christ ascending to the heavens: “And they, having worshiped Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Luke 24:52). The Gospel is joy. There is no other true joy anywhere. Joy is Christ. Whoever is tried, approaches, and believes like Luke did, he will see that his sorrow becomes joy, and his darkness, light.
  
All of us, beloved, are sick—not as much bodily as spiritually—and all of us have need of healing. Because of this, Christ founded His Church, for it to be a hospital for all men. He Himself is “The Physician of our Souls and Bodies” (Divine Liturgy), and He offers healing, medicine and therapy. His fellow workers in this healing work are the chosen men that He called, the Holy Apostles, the Holy Fathers, and the Clergy of today.
  
Luke was a physician of bodies, who placed his scientific knowledge towards the service of every sick person in pain. However, he himself had need of a physician, the Physician of the Soul. And he found the Physician. He found him in the person of the Apostle Paul, who led him to the hospital of the Church. But the Apostle Paul, before he could offer spiritual healing to Luke, he himself had needed this, which he received walking on the road to Damascus, from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who is the Physician of physicians. In other words, the Apostle Paul and the Evangelist Luke, in the Church of Christ, approached as sick men, and having been healed, with the grace of the Lord, became physicians of the others.
  
On the feast of the holy physician Luke, I now direct this  towards those who share his art.
My beloved physicians, nurses, and all those who serve the sick in any way! No one dishonors the worth of your sacrifice. Everyone knows this and confesses this. But I want to remind you that man is not only a body, he is also a soul. And when you offer healing and therapy to others' bodies, know that you also need healing of your souls. You have a soul that is immortal and beyond all worth; take care of it. You behold the reality daily that this life ends. Work towards your eternal healing. Imitate in this way your protector, St. Luke. Approach with faith the Physician of physicians, and the healer of the whole human existence.
  
I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercessions of the Evangelist Luke, may always be with you. Amen.
  
+Bishop Avgoustinos (Metropolitan Augustine Kantiotes of Florina, of blessed memory)
  
Recorded homily which took place in the Church of the Evangelist Luke in the Hospital of Florina (10/18/1985). (amateur translation of text from source)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!