Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Holy Relics of St. Demetrios pouring forth myrrh (2020)

The Holy Relics of St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrhstreamer, being moved to the center of his church for the "Holy Week" services in his honor, but pouring forth much myrrh inside and in front of its glass case (source)

The blog author remarks:

"Now that we are in need, the Saint is beside us."

A Fr. Euthemios, whose robes are being drenched from the myrrh coming from the Holy Relics of St. Demetrios as he is helping to carry them (source)

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

St. Artemios the Great Martyr of Antioch

St. Artemios the Great Martyr (source)

Holy Great Martyr Artemius of Antioch was a prominent military leader during the reigns of the emperor Constantine the Great (May 21), and his son and successor Constantius (337-361). Artemius received many awards for distinguished service and courage. He was appointed viceroy of Egypt. In this official position he did much for the spreading and strengthening Christianity in Egypt. 

Saint Artemius was sent by the emperor Constantius to bring the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew from Patras, and the relics of the holy Apostle Luke from Thebes of Boeotia, to Constantinople. The holy relics were placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles beneath the table of oblation. The emperor rewarded him by making him ruler of Egypt.

The emperor Constantius was succeeded on the throne by Julian the Apostate (361-363). Julian in his desire to restore paganism was extremely antagonistic towards Christians, sending hundreds to their death. At Antioch he ordered the torture of two bishops unwilling to forsake the Christian Faith.

St. Artemios the Great Martyr (source)

During this time, Saint Artemius arrived in Antioch and publicly denounced Julian for his impiety. The enraged Julian subjected the saint to terrible tortures and threw the Great Martyr Artemius into prison. While Artemius was praying, Christ, surrounded by angels, appeared to him and said, “Take courage, Artemius! I am with you and will preserve you from every hurt which is inflicted upon you, and I already have prepared your crown of glory. Since you have confessed Me before the people on earth, so shall I confess you before My Heavenly Father. Therefore, take courage and rejoice, you shall be with Me in My Kingdom.” Hearing this, Artemius rejoiced and offered up glory and thanksgiving to Him. 

On the following day, Julian demanded that Saint Artemius honor the pagan gods. Meeting with steadfast refusal, the emperor resorted to further tortures. The saint endured all without a single moan. The saint told Julian that he would be justly recompensed for his persecution of Christians. Julian became furious and resorted to even more savage tortures, but they did not break the will of the saint. Finally the Great Martyr Artemius was beheaded. 

St. Artemios the Great Martyr (source)

His relics were buried by Christians. After the death of Saint Artemius, his prophecy about Julian the Apostate’s impending death came true. 

Julian left Antioch for a war with the Persians. Near the Persian city of Ctesiphon, Julian came upon an elderly Persian, who agreed to betray his countrymen and guide Julian’s army. The old man deceived Julian and led his army into the Karmanite wilderness, where there was neither food nor water. Tired from hunger and thirst, Julian’s army battled against fresh Persian forces. 

Divine retribution caught up with Julian the Apostate. During the battle he was mortally wounded by an unseen hand and an unseen weapon. Julian groaned deeply said, “You have conquered, Galilean!” After the death of the apostate emperor, the relics of the Great Martyr Artemius were transferred with honor from Antioch to Constantinople. 

Saint Artemius is invoked by those suffering from hernias.


St. Artemios the Great Martyr, fresco by Manuel Panselinos in the Protaton, Mount Athos (source)

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

Monday, October 12, 2020

St. Paisios on Prayer and Lighting Candles

Lighting candles (source)

St. Paisios the Athonite on Prayer and Lighting Candles

Elder, when we light a candle, do we say that it is for some purpose?

-You are lighting it, but where do you send it? Aren't you sending it somewhere?

With a candle, we are seeking something from God. When you light it, you should say: "For those who are suffering in body and soul", "for those who have the greatest need", and among them is also the living and the reposed.

Do you know how much rest the departed sense when we light a candle for them? Thus, one has spiritual communication with the living and with the reposed.

The candle, in a few words, is an antenna*** that brings us into communication with God, with the sick, with the departed, etc.

***Note: St. Paisios is cleverly showing the resemblance of the words "κεράκι" and "κεραία" ("Candle" and "antenna") in Greek.

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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

St. Amphilochios of Patmos on the Catastrophe of Asia Minor, the Turks and the Churches of the Apocalypse

The Vision of St John the Theologian of the Revelation on Patmos (source)
 Metropolitan Amphilothios (Tsouchos, formerly of New Zealand, and currently Bishop of Ganou and Chora of Eastern Thrace), a spiritual son of St. Amphilochios Makris, related in October 2014 some astonishing prophecies of St. Amphilochios, which we are seeing being fulfilled in our times:

"Do you know why the Greek Christians [were forced to leave] Asia Minor? God allowed them to leave, so that they might not be found there on that day when there will be the great evil."

He was greatly troubled when he faced the mountains of Asia Minor, and knew that the Seven Lampstands of [the Churches] of Revelation were put out: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyateira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, and the only Lampstand left lit was that of the Revelation (on Patmos).

He said: "May God make you worthy to take this LIGHT from the burning Lampstand of the Revelation (on Patmos), and to bring it to light the extiniquished Lampstands of the Evangelist John in Asia Minor."

"We have an outstanding debt first to those Crypto-Christians across, who are waiting until now for something from us, and secondly, to the Turkish people (who, as a whole, are about 50% from Greeks who became moslem). Within their veins runs Greek and Christian blood. The Monasteries of the Dodecanese should become missionaries to them.

"However, that great evil will occur, as St. Kosmas Aitolos prophesied, that a third of the Turks will fall in war, and a third of the Turks will go to "Kokkine Milia", and a third will become Christians...Therefore, then we must be ready nearby to help them more."

Another unpublished prophecy of the Saint to his spiritual children: "You should learn Turkish! Because you will be needed to catechize the Turks who will come to our faith!"



St. Amphilochios of Patmos (source)


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

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Homily on Sts. Sophia and her Daughters, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes

St. Sophia and her daughters: Sts. Faith, Hope and Love (source)
Homily on Sts. Sophia and her Daughters, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes
After the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, our Church celebrates, my beloved, the memory of Saints Sophia and her three daughters: Faith, Hope and Love.

St. Sophia was born, according to the Synaxarion, in a great city of Italy. She lived during the era of early persecutions, which, as is known, lasted for at least three centuries.

During that era, for one to be a Christian, it was costly. It cost one positions, honors, money, and even this life. Millions were sacrificed then for the love of Christ. With this heroic spirit, St. Sophia lived as well, and thus raised her daughters.

It is not possible to not rouse the evil of persecutors. They seized her, therefore, together with her daughters, and led them before the governor. He gave them the opportunity of three days in order to make a response, and possibly change their minds. But, after three days, the mother and her daughters remained unshakable in their dedication towards our Lord Jesus Christ.

The mother had fear that her daughters might deny Christ, because they were very young. The first, Faith, was twelve years old. Hope was ten. and Love was nine. Despite this, their weak flesh was strengthened by the grace of God, and they endured martyrdom with unprecedented boldness.

They locked them in prison. They beat them with whips. They pierced them with fiery arrows. They threw them in cauldrons of boiling water. However, like the Three Youths in the Furnace, thus, these three girls hymned God, as those around heard the hymn harmoniously: "Praise ye the Lord, and exalt Him beyond measure unto all the ages."

In the end, the three were beheaded by the sword of the tyrant. Their martyrdom was followed by that of their holy mother.

St. Sophia and her three daughters teach us, my beloved, that, if we wish to be faithful Christians, that Christianity will cost us. And the more faithful we are, the more it will cost us.

Many of us have become successful in this world. We find a myriad of ways to justify our seemingly proper and scandalous station. And later with think that we are Christians. Woe to us, if we do not set as a foundation the heroic mindset which defined the holy martyrs. These three little girls should censure the world. And their mother, St. Sophia, censures those mothers who are upset and tremble, thinking that through their fasting, prayer and reading, that the bodily strength of their little girls will be lessened.

The Martyrs are the greatest censure of our lukewarm, miserable and thrice-wretched Christianity.

However, St. Sophia and her three daughters teach us not only through their martyrdoms, but also through their names.

The name "Sophia", what does this teach us? "Wisdom", we hear in Church when the Priest holds the Gospel and raises it, showing it to the whole multitude of the faithful. The Gospel, in other words, is full of wisdom. There is no wiser book. Wisdom is Christ Himself, the Logos of God. Do you remember the wondrous apostolic reading which we read three days ago, on the feast of the Cross? He said: "But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (I Corinthians 1) Christ is wisdom, truth and life.

St. Sophia, therefore, through her name, brings to mind that we must seek from God the illumination of divine wisdom. The names of her three daughters bring to mind the three great theological virtues.

Faith! Awesome power, light, a star, foundation and root. Oh, if there were within our hearts this virtue! We could even bring down the stars from the heavens to the earth, and we could melt the mountains, and even the greatest hindrances would be solved. Do we have faith? If we had faith, 100% faith, the world would be different. But today, people don't even believe 1%. Take almost any Christian and ask him, and you would see that he is full of doubts, totally full of "ifs." If one has an "if", then you don't have faith. Faith is to believe 100% in reality that which our holy Church teaches us.

Hope also brings to mind that, in this world, we have a need for life-giving hope, which would warm us like the sun. The Christian who believes that God is a loving and nurturing Father, an almighty Father and all-wise, he would hope that all those things that God promised, all kinds of great and uplifted and indescribable good things, He will give to him.

And finally, Love, with her name reminds us of the fulfillment and the crown of the virtues. In this world of hatred, egotism, greed, and other evils, love today has grown cold. It is truly a terrible thing, as the sacred Chrysostom says, for us to see the sun be quenched one day. But it is even more terrible for love to be quenched. It is better for the sun to be quenched than for love to be quenched, because it is the sun for our souls. And Christ Himself prophesied, that there will come a cursed day, in which the sun of love will be quenched, and cold and frost will reign upon the earth. (Matthew 24:12)

We are speaking about love, but we don't possess love. Love is a heavenly thing, which is ineffably joined with humility, with obedience, with discipline, the great virtues. It is not something indiscriminate, like ecumenists reach, like worldly people teach. Love differs from love. There is carnal love, love of money, love of small and meaningless things. And there is furthermore love for one's father and mother, which, in the final analysis, also contains something physical. The love which Christ brings to the world, however, has the wings of an eagle, and flies to the third Heaven, and makes man a Cherubim and Seraphim.

Love, therefore, not only for relatives and friends, not just towards Christians, but love for the whole world. Love, even for those who crucify you! For we have Christ as our prototype, Who is love crucified. This love we must have as well.

My beloved, if one were to ask now which of these three virtues are the greatest, the greatest is the third, love. Its beauty is indescribable. The Apostle Paul paints all of this in his beautiful sayings on love, which we have properly heard in vain to this point. "If," he says, "I spoke in the tongues of men and Angels," even if I have done miracles, even if I distribute my earthly goods, even if I go to martyrdom and shed my blood, "and I have not love, then I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." "I am nothing." (I Corinthians 13:1-2)

These, my beloved, I have to tell you. Believe, in this age of faithlessness. Hope, in this age of hopelessness. Love, in this age of hatred. And first and foremost, keep love, which, as the Apostle Paul says, remains eternally. (ibid 13:7)

For what is Paradise? Is it rivers, crystalline springs? Is it the songs of the Angels, the Cherubim and the Seraphim, is it the Saints, the Martyrs, is it that whole and beautiful world, and indescribable good things? It is these things. But first and foremost, it is love, the love of God towards man. If I took out love from Paradise, immediately Paradise would become Hell.

That Paradise we ourselves should seek, if we sense the dawn of love, if we believe unshakably in the Lord, and if we have steadfast hope in the promises of God unto the ages.

Then, in the heights of Heaven, together with St. Sophia and her three daughters, Faith, Hope and Love, we will hymn the Triune God, saying: "Praise ye the Lord, and exalt Him beyond measure unto all the ages."
(+) Bishop Avgoustinos
Recorded from a homily that occurred in the Chapel of St. Sophia of the Orphanage of the "Agape" Brotherhood of Florina on 9/17/1970, (source)
Sts. Sophia, Faith, Hope and Love (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Homily on the Meaning of the Holy Cross, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes

The Holy Cross of Christ (source)
Homily on the Meaning of the Holy Cross, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes
My beloved, what does the Cross teach us? Take a chalk and write, like children do in school, 2+2=4. Thus, the Cross is the "equal sign", but what is it? Do you think that it is simply a piece of wood that we venerate and are saved? You are mistaken, because this is not how it is in reality.

The Cross equals forgiveness.
Because upon the Cross, Christ forgave His murderers. Are there today some here in church who are at odds with each other? Are there women who hate their mothers-in-law? Are there houses where people don't speak with each other? Are there neighbors that don't greet each other? Is there hatred? Well then, the Cross tells us today: "Forgive!" If you don't forgive, then don't approach the Cross, don't venerate it. When, within your heart, you have bitterness, you have this serpent of hatred, you can't approach the Cross. Because the Cross means forgiveness. You must forgive even your greatest enemy.

The Cross equals truth.
Even if they put a knife to your throat, and slaughter you, you should speak the truth. Not in the sense that you go to court and raise your wretched hand upon the Gospel and take a false oath. Not like this. Christ was crucified for the truth. Whoever says lies, whoever goes to court and takes false oaths, he is not worthy to venerate the Cross. The Cross, therefore, equals forgiveness, the Cross equals truth.

The Cross equals humility.
No--even though you might have a very large home, or more money or lands or animals, or if you have children studying in school or if you have a beautiful wife, or whatever else you might do--you should not boast or feel proud. You are not a Christian! Humility! Humble yourself to say: I am nothing, I am a worm, I am nothing in this world. However, when you have pride and you boast and you show off your body and your job and your money, then you are not a Christian.

The Cross equals love.
Is your neighbor hungry? Give him a piece of bread. Is he thirsty? Give him a glass of water. Is he naked? Give him a shirt to wear. Go and console him and wipe away his tears. This is Christianity. Not when you have everything and your neighbor has nothing.

The Cross equals sacrifice.
As Christ sacrificed Himself, thus we must sacrifice ourselves. This is what the Cross means. If you do these things, then you are worthy to be called Christians. But you who dip your hands in blood, you who take false oaths, you who are unjust to the orphan, you cannot approach the Cross. The Cross casts you out.

Read the life of St. Mary of Egypt. On this day, she went to Jerusalem and saw the crowd going into the church and everyone--old, young, women, men--were going to venerate. She herself tried to approach the entrance. But some power pushed her back. She tried and second and a third time, but she was unable. Why? Because she was a sinful woman, and she worked in sin in Alexandria. Only after she repented, then she was able to enter the church and she became a Christian in reality.

The Cross, my beloved, creates presuppositions. We must live corresponding to the teaching of the Cross.

And something else: You should make your Cross properly. Because unfortunately, in our faithless years that we are living through, everything has become fashionable. Fashionable hair, fashionable clothing, fashionable shoes, fashion everywhere. Unfortunately many in Church do it out of fashion. Unfortunately you see scientists, congressmen, ministers, prime ministers, and none are doing their Cross correctly. That which they are doing is not the Cross. It joking and mocking. It is playing with God. Do not play with God. How will they understand that you are a Christian? By your Cross. When you make the sign of the Cross properly, you are doing a whole prayer. Therefore, do your Cross properly.

And when should you do your Cross? When you awake in the morning, do your Cross. Are you going to work? Do your Cross. Are you going to your field? Do your Cross. Are you sowing, returning from your field, entering your home? Do your Cross. Are you sitting at your dinner table? Do your Cross. Are you going to sleep? Do your Cross.

"Though I fall, I make my Cross
And have an Angel by my side."

O woman, are you baking? Make the sign of the Cross in the dough. Wherever you go and whatever you do, make your Cross. The Cross is the "protector of the whole world."
(+) Bishop Avgoustinos
Imera, Kozani, 9/14/1965
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Elder Ephraim of Arizona: "If we had a pure heart, we would not be offended even if people insulted and derided us."

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

"Today has come the beginning of our salvation, O people..."

The Nativity of the Theotokos (source)
Today has come the beginning of our salvation, O people, for behold, she who was chosen beforehand from the ancient generations, the Mother and Virgin, and the container for God, comes forth to be born from a barren woman. O flower from the Root of Jesse, and his rod which sprouted forth. Rejoice, O Forefather Adam, and let Eve rejoice with gladness, for behold, she who was formed from the rib of Adam, the daughter and offspring, is blessed openly. For [Adam] says, "From me is born deliverance, from whom will come for me freedom from the bonds of Hades." Let David rejoice, striking the harp, and let him bless God, for behold, the Virgin comes forth from [a Mother] barren as stone, for the salvation of our souls.
-Idiomelon of the Litia in the First Tone, by Stephanos of the Holy City
Most-Holy Theotokos, save us!

"I am praying to God to place you in Paradise."

An Orthodox Monk at Prayer (source)
They asked an Abbess:
"What are you doing here, locked up in the Monastery for so many years?"

She replied: "I am praying to God to place you in Paradise."
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, September 7, 2020

Homily on the Nativity of the Theotokos by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes

The Nativity of the Theotokos (source)
Homily on the Nativity of the Theotokos by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes
There was once a pious couple, Joachim and Anna. They believed and worshiped God and fulfilled His holy commandments. However, they did not have any children. Anna was barren, barren like stone or marble. Could a rose ever take root from a piece of marble? In the same way, naturally, from her womb it was unable for a child to come forth. And she was not only barren, but she was advanced in years, an old woman. She had reached the age in which women no longer bear children.

However, that couple prayed and entreated continuously. And God hearkened to their prayer, and Anna became pregnant. On December 9th, we celebrate the conception of St. Anna, and later, after nine months, on September 8th as we celebrate today, she brought into the world a grace-filled little girl, and named her Maria. The name Maria, after the name of Jesus Christ, is the sweetest in the world, and is always upon all of our lips. Maria means the Lady, the Mistress of Heaven and earth.

This, in a few words, is the story of her nativity.

The Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos is first of all, a consolation for childless couples. There are also couples today who, despite their wishes, cannot bear children. They run to doctors and midwives, they run to clinics, travel overseas, and spend an incredible amount. They even run to wizards and witches--a great sin. However, they do not bear a child. But God can work His wonder. What wonder? Let the faithless disbelieve, we believe. I know a couple who tried for 20 years to have a child, and suddenly, the woman became pregnant. A wonder, that kept even the physicians and famous midwives speechless, how it could be possible for a barren woman to bring forth a child. Therefore, today as well this miracle continues to occur as it did in the Old and New Testaments, and today we have women who have given birth with faith in God.

But when a woman, for reasons that are known only to divine providence, does not bear a child, she must never loose hope. What does St. Kosmas say? "You don't have a child to raise? Find an orphan near you, feed him, clothe him, take care of him, and your reward will be great."

This is a consolation therefore to those who do not have children, but also it is a teaching for those who have children. This is very important and it cannot be exhausted, I will only add the following.

The child, you wrongly call your own. Of course it is yours, but chiefly, it is of God. What a great mystery! Do not look on this with disdain. For during birth the laws of nature work as God ordained. However, as from a seed God gave the power to bring forth a whole tree, thus, through the small and humble nature of a woman and a man--I do not say this disparagingly--was given the power of new creation. Man, the father and the mother, are co-creators with God. And the child that appears is a wonder.

As the earth in the beginning was "without form and void" (Genesis 1:2), thus is the child within the womb of its mother. What is it in the beginning? An embryo. But how, over the course of nine months, does a heart form, then eyes, hands, feet? And when it is time, it falls from the womb like fruit from the tree. A fruit is a miracle. A child is a miracle. It calls for our wonder. I knew a man who was faithless. I tried to convince him to believe with proofs, but he remained faithless. When he got married and his wife bore their first child, and he heard its cry, then he came to believe in God! Because of this, many times faithless people do not choose to have families or get married.

Therefore, have you given birth to a child? You have a responsibility. And like Joachim and Anna made provisions for the proper raising of the Most-Holy Theotokos--and Panagia owes much to her parents--thus parents must care for their children. As the sacred Chrysostom says: "I will call you a father not when you have born a child, but when you have raised the child as God desires." The first word that the child should learn is the word "Christ". The first movement that they should learn with their little hand should be the sign of the Cross. The first lesson they should learn should be to kneel before Christ to do their little prayer. And when you sit at the table, you should say they we do not eat until we pray. And at night, when the stars come out, they should kneel together for family prayer. And if they show forth some evil deed, some weakness, you should not be complacent. You should correct him. And if he says a bad word, you should advise him. Thus, you will teach him to believe in God.

Therefore, be careful. The child from a young age learns either good or evil. I will give you two examples and close. In one village of Grevena, I met someone who, while at that time the whole village was blaspheming, he did not blaspheme. This made an impression on me. I called him and asked: "How did you learn not to blaspheme?"
He said "When I was a small child, I heard a blasphemy. When I went home I repeated it senselessly. As soon as my grandmother heard it--it was winter then--she took a coal from the fire and burned the tip of my tongue. Look at my tongue," he said, "it is still burnt. From then on, I learned not to blaspheme."***

[***Note: Neither the Metropolitan nor I am encouraging this type of corporal punishment or torture of anyone (God forbid!). But his point is how seriously this child's grandmother took the roots of sin in the family, and how she sought to correct it in the way that she knew. May we, with gentleness and firmness and love (not out of anger), correct bad habits in those we are responsible for, when they first appear, teaching them the consequences of our actions before God.]

And hear another example. When I was traveling through Evia, in one village I heard through a wall a blasphemy. Such a blasphemy I had never heard in my life. I looked, and what did I see? Unbelievable. A father had at his knees a grace-filled child two or three years old, and was teaching him to blaspheme God...How do the stars not fall upon us?!

Therefore, parents have a great responsibility. Have you given birth to a child? You must take care to make him a child of God. Because he will either become a child of God, or a child of the devil. It is better to not bear a child, than to raise him to be a criminal. When the child is raised as God desires, as Joachim and Anna raised the Most-Holy Theotokos, then, one day, people will say: "Blessed parents, God bless the father and mother that bore such a child!" Otherwise, one would hear cursing. Therefore, it is not enough to have children, even to have many children, but, as the Church prays, that they might have many children and "Kalliteknoi" [A beautiful word meaning the bearing of beautiful and grace-filled children.]

This is a very important issue. I will not exhaust it with only a few words. Parents and children, let us entreat God that we might become mothers like St. Anna that we are celebrating today, that we might become fathers like St. Joachim, that we might become women like the Virgin Mary. Then, this earth would be transformed. If not...even though I hope in God, our nation will be saddened.

O mothers, O our holy grandmothers, with nothing but a simple barley loaf or a pita in your hands, make the sign of the Cross and break and distribute it. My child, make our Cross and say..."We ate pita and barley bread, and it tasted like butter, because it had the blessing of God." Today, we eat meat continuously, and illnesses have multiplied. We have become the biggest meat-eaters. And the result? The children from a young age die of heart disease, and run to London for surgeries.

O, our holy faith! Whatever you teach, whatever you preach, are holy. And whoever goes against the Church, against the bonds of the Church, whoever he is, small or great, will be turned to ashes. Because of this, remain close to the Church! Remain steadfast near God, and you will have the blessing of the Most-Holy Theotokos, and all the Saints. Amen.
(+) Bishop Avgoustinos
(From a sermon delivered in Kato Kleinai, Florida, on September 8th, 1986, source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

"O all-famed Soldier, light of the world and the adornment of the Church..."

St. Mamas the Great Martyr (source)
You gave up your soul to the Redeemer, and willingly hastened to Him, having been adorned with radiance and comeliness through your holy struggles and wondrous feats, O all-famed Soldier, light of the world and the adornment of the Church.

You came to dwell together with the Angels in the angelic mansions, and together with them, you harmoniously chant the sacred hymn of praise to the all-glorious Trinity, O Mamas, beholding and having been intoxicated by His glory, having been arrayed in dispassion.

As one having boldness before God, surround those who are celebrating your divine feast, O Martyr, and who honor your sacred and holy struggle, and who praise you in truth. Remember them, O all-blessed one, and deliver us from the dizziness of life, and dangers and temptations.
-Hymns from the 9th Ode of the Canon to St. Mamas the Great Martyr
St. Mamas the Great Martyr (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

"bless the crown of the year..."

Icon depicting the Old Testament foreshadowing of the Holy Trinity (source)
O Beginningless Logos and Son [of the Father], Who are one with the Holy Spirit, Who together work all things and together created all things visible and invisible, bless the crown of the year, preserving the multitudes of the Orthodox in peace, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, and all Your Saints.
-Doxastikon of Stichera for the Indiction in the Plagal of the Second Tone, by Byzantios

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

Thursday, August 27, 2020

"You lately appeared to us as a newly-shining star of the Church, O Champion Phanourios..."

St. Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-revealed, depicted at the famous Mandraki on the Island of Rhodes (where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood) (source)
You lately appeared to us as a newly-shining star of the Church, O Champion Phanourios, and through your revelation, you truly shine upon all the gifts of your hidden riches. Those who praise your all-famed memory cry out to you together: Rejoice, O soldier of Christ all-wondrous, who worked the struggle of piety as a champion. Rejoice, you who were nourished by the light of the Lord, and according to your name, you reveal the knowledge of things unknown. Rejoice, the adornment of the people Rhodes, the radiance of Martyrs, and the intercessor of all the faithful before the Lord. Entreat Him, we pray, on behalf of our souls.
-Doxastikon of the Stichera for the Feast of St. Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-revealed

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Encomium on the Lord, and on that Cloth that touched His Immaculate Body

Icon depicting the Mandylion of Christ and His Passion (source)
Note: Elsewhere, the possibility that the famed Mandylion of Edessa (the original now seemingly lost to history) is one and the same as the Shroud of Turin, has been discussed (for example, see here for a talk by an Orthodox presenter on the subject). There are many places where the history and science that supports this are discussed and disputed at length. In this post, however, I humbly aim to use the style of the Byzantine Encomium to accomplish several things. First, may we ever give thanks to our Lord and Master for all His many blessings to us, and especially for enduring His Passion for our salvation. Also, I intend this to prayerfully contemplate the Cloth (or Cloths) that touched His Immaculate Body, and both the immense theological implications of this, and the many wonders that He worked and continues to work throughout the world for those simple and humble of heart, who are seeking His face. Finally, I aim to marvel at even the possibility that the Lord, in His love for man, could have somehow left us a vivid Icon of His Passion and Resurrection, and allowed this to pass throughout the world and the centuries, healing the sick, warding off enemies and overcoming nations, and, seemingly more impossible, how He could have allowed this Cloth to even reach our days of hardened hearts and little faith, where scientists continue to be astonished at this Relic. Many are struck to the heart with contrition, humility and repentance, and some are even being brought to faith in Him through this. "Thus shall many nations wonder at him; and kings shall keep their mouths shut: for they to whom no report was brought concerning him, shall see; and they who have not heard, shall consider." (Isaiah 52:15)
Encomium on the Lord, Who suffered, slept, and arose in the flesh for our salvation,
And on that Cloth that touched His Immaculate Body
“Let the light of Your countenance be signed upon us, O Lord” (Psalm 4:6), for to us who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:79), the Lord has appeared, to bring light to those in darkness. His uncreated light shines upon all creation as the true radiance of the Father (Kontakion of the Transfiguation), though we sinners, filled with countless sins and passions and weakness, cannot bear to behold His glory.
For, if the God-seer was told by the Almighty “You shall not be able to see my face; for no man shall see my face, and live.” (Exodus 33:20), how might we dare to behold the radiance of His face, before which tremble Angels, Archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim. The Great Moses could scarcely bear to behold His back, bowing to the earth to worship Him, proclaiming: “The Lord God, pitiful and merciful, long-suffering and very compassionate, and true.” (Exodus 33-34).
And His Prophet Isaiah, gazing upon the Lord of hosts in His glorious temple, cried out: “Woe is me, for I am pricked to the heart; for being a man, and having unclean lips, I dwell in the midst of a people having unclean lips; and I have seen with mine eyes the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)
For when the Prophet Ezekiel beheld the vision of His glory, he exclaimed “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And I saw and fell upon my face.” (Ezekiel 2:1)
Truly, His glory brings fear and trembling with great awe upon Heaven and earth and the things below the earth, as Prophet Habakkuk sang in prayer: “O Lord, I have heard your report, and was afraid: I considered your works, and was amazed. “(Habakkuk 3:2) It is He “Whose glance dries up the deep, and Whose threatenings melt the mountains” (Prayer from the service of Baptism).
But, despite His endless might and glory and radiance, He, in a manner surpassing understanding, deigns to reveal Himself and to come to us in all humility, in gentleness and simplicity, “the voice of a gentle breeze”, as He appeared to the Zealot Elias (I Kings 19:12). Or as Psalmist chants: “He shall come down as rain upon a fleece; and as drops falling upon the earth.” (Psalm 72:6)
O, Your wonders, surpassing all wonders, O Lord! “Who is like to thee among the gods, O Lord? who is like to thee? glorified in holiness, marvelous in glories, doing wonders.” (Exodus 15:11) For the Son of the Father, “Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through Whom all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit, and the Virgin Mary, and became man.” (The Symbol of Faith) “This is our God, and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison of him. He hath found out all the way of knowledge, and hath given it unto Jacob his servant, and to Israel his beloved. Afterward did he shew himself upon earth, and conversed with men.” (Baruch 3:35-37).
The Lord did deign to come to us, humbling Himself, becoming conceived within the Spotless womb of the Virgin. He was born as a babe into a cave most cold and dark, He Who is the Light of the universe. He nursed milk from His creature, He Who nourishes all creation. He shows obedience, He to Whom every knee bows in heaven and earth and under the earth (Philippians 2:10). He puts off His garments, He Who clothes the Heavens with clouds. He is submerged in the waters of the Jordan, Who drowns error and disperses the hordes of the demons. He preaches, and heals both bodies and souls, that in every way, He might lead us back to the Father.
And He does not stop at this, but gives us His own Body and Blood, before His life-giving Passion. Behold! With the eyes of the soul, behold  “the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:9) Behold the Man of Sorrows, Who bends His knee in prayer to His Father, giving us a type of fervent prayer. He pours forth sweat as drops of blood, earnestly seeking to deliver the world from death. He endures the kiss of betrayal from one of His Disciples, and suffers buffetings, and scorn, and slander. The Judge of the living and the dead, the Judge most just, stands condemned as a criminal before Pilate. The Creator is bound by His creation, and bitterly flogged. His flesh is torn apart, Who wove garments of skin for the first-formed. He receives a Crown of Thorns, He Who is the King of Angels, Whose glory cannot be fathomed. He receives spitting, Who formed eyes for the blind man with His spittle, and the Purple Robe of mockery, Who adorned the vault of the Heavens, and Who holds the universe in His palm. He carries His Cross, Who carries time and space upon His shoulders, and stretches out His hands, uniting things that were once sundered.
One of the very early depictions of the Holy Mandylion of Christ, dated likely to the 12th Century (source)
“Let the light of Your countenance be signed upon us, O Lord.” Behold, behold the marks of the nails, the wounds on His precious head, the blood and water pouring from His life-giving side! Behold! The glory that surpasses all things humbles Himself, and endures everything, becoming “obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) He breathes His last, and gives up His spirit, leaving us His life-giving Body, and the Instruments of His Passion for our consolation, our boast and our healing, for “by his bruises we were healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Come, O noble Joseph and Nicodemus, gather your boldness to bury the Body of God. Bring your shroud, and your precious myrrh to bury this Stranger in a new Tomb (Homily of St. Epiphanios on Great Saturday), hewn from the rock, Who was hewn from the Virginal Mountain without the hand of man (Daniel 2:45). Cover the face that is the glorious radiance of the Father, soak up the Blood which re-creates all things. Guard with a Stone the Supernatural Stone, from Which our Fathers drank. (I Corinthians 10:4)
And after He dwelt bodily in the grave, and His Soul freed the prisoners in Hades, while dwelling in Paradise with the Thief, and never departing the Throne of the Father (Hymn of Proskomede), He Who is uncircumscribable, arose on the third day. He passes unhindered through the stone, Who traversed the portal of the Virgin (from the Praises of Sunday Matins from Plagal of the First Tone) leaving her unharmed. He sends His Archangels to roll away the stone from His life-giving Tomb, at whose appearance, the guard of soldiers became as dead men. He brings joy to His Mother and her fellow Myrrhbearers, making them the Apostles to the Apostles, to tell of the Resurrection.
Run, O beloved Disciple, and outrun Cephas, and together behold the Tomb, the sudarium that was upon His head, and the grave-clothes that covered the Immaculate Body of the Master. Behold! He is not here! And with panting, and fear and exhilaration, behold the signs of your risen Lord! The Tomb is empty, the Angel sits upon the stone, and the shroud is left behind, bearing the marks of His Passion. “Hear, O heaven, and hearken, O earth: for the Lord has spoken!” (Isaiah 1:2)
Behold the Wisdom of God has built His house, He has been slain (and is alive again), and has poured His Blood, and prepared His table, and calls His servants with a loud proclamation to a feast! “Come, eat of my bread, and drink wine which I have mingled for you.” (Proverbs 9:1-5) He does not leave us orphans (John 14:18), but leaves us another Comforter (John 14:16) to ever abide with us. He leaves us His Divine Mysteries, and leaves us His Image, and the tokens of His Passion, in remembrance of Him. (Luke 22:19)
O Lord, “You did not cease doing everything until You led us to heaven and granted us Your kingdom to come.” (Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom) You use every part of creation, visible and invisible, to lead us to Yourself. After Your face was washed and Your Precious Icon was imprinted upon the Cloth, You sent it for healing and protection through Your Apostle, Thaddeus, to the ailing King Apgar. By grasping in faith and love, he received release from his bodily infirmity. Though beforehand he sought that You might visit his kingdom in life, through his repentance and baptism, You were truly brought to Him together with Your Icon, and he was brought to Your Kingdom.
The king and the people who beheld Your image cried out to Him, as in the words of the Greatly-suffering Job, to Him Who once appeared "through the whirlwind and clouds" (Job 38:1): "I have heard the report of thee by the ear before; but now mine eye has seen thee. Wherefore I have counted myself vile, and have fainted: and I esteem myself dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6) Your presence remained hidden for many years, while persecutions raged among Judeans, pagan rulers, and apostates, but was later brought to light again to save the city of Edessa.
Suddenly, the divine imprint of Your face, (both, not fashioned by the hand of man) brought joy and consolation and inspiration to Christian peoples. They began to properly depict Your immaculate Icon, as another remembrance of You that strikes fear in the hearts of sinners, and bears hope for those repentant, and brings joy to Your faithful servants. Your face was processed and supplicated by the rich among the people (Psalm 45:12), and soon proceeded to the Queen of Cities, which was greatly enriched by Your presence. “Myrrh, and stacte, and cassia are exhaled from your garments, and out of the ivory palaces” (Psalm 45:8) The king boasted in the King of Kings, and humbly bowed to venerate the Immaculate Icon not made by the hands of man, as He once told His friends: “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Luke 10-23-24)
Though the City fell into the hands of her enemies, the glory of Your face proceeds forth unto Athens and Paris, unto Glastonbury and Torino and all the lands of the West. The humble and burdened among them take courage in You, as you spoke through Your Prophet: “Fear not; for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and will gather thee from the west. I will say to the north, Bring; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from the land afar off, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even all who are called by my name: for I have prepared him for my glory (Isaiah 43:5-6)
The astonishing photographic negative of the Shroud of Turin, depicting a moving icon of Christ's Passion (source)
Some deny You and are unable to gaze upon Your face, You before Whom tremble things above and below. But You, O Lord Almighty, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, Judge of the living and the dead, You do not cease doing all things and using every tool of creation to reach me, the sinner. You broadly cast out the seed of Your Word unto the ends of the universe, and Your wonders are read, and spoken of, and beheld in all places and in every hour. Technologies and science, though offspring of this fallen world, proclaim and cry out Your miracles, Your life, Your painful endurance of suffering unimaginable, and Your wounds that pour out not just Blood and Water, but forgiveness for mankind. And most of all, Your Resurrection is marveled at, and is praised and glorified unto the ages of ages. Your Icon remains, and becomes more astonishing day by day, for those who would wish to see. You speak to our hearts in a land of death and destruction, and You continue to stand, calling us day by day to return to the Father.
And now I turn to Your immaculate Icon, O Christ God, and the Cloth that depicts for us Your incarnation and Your Passion and Resurrection:
Rejoice, O Cloth, humble working of the hand of man, which was glorified so greatly to touch the Master Himself, He Who bowed the Heavens to embrace the earth in His love for man, and Who, with His hand, wove together all creation, both visible and invisible!
Rejoice, O Cloth, which dried the water and perspiration from Him Whose glance dries up the abyss! You encircled to embrace the Body of God that was dejected and cast off from men!
Rejoice, O Cloth, that gathered the Precious Blood and Water that flowed from the side of the Master, which He continues to pour forth for His servants daily! This is the Lamb of God "broken and distributed, but not divided; always eaten, yet never consumed, but sanctifying those who partake." (Divine Liturgy)
Rejoice, O Cloth, imprinted with the Icon of the Master without the hand of man! You became a teacher and archetype for us that our Lord should be depicted, and showing us how we are to properly paint the Image of God, Who became flesh for our salvation.
Rejoice, O Cloth, for you embraced Him Who is carried by the Cherubim and Seraphim, who cover their faces in fear before His awesome countenance!
Rejoice, O Cloth, which served as another sign of His Resurrection on the third day, both perplexing and bringing joy to the Apostles Peter and John, and later to all the servants of the Master!
Rejoice, O Cloth, which traveled as another Apostle throughout the world, proclaiming the Master's coming in the flesh, His many wonders, and His bodily Passion and Resurrection!
Rejoice, O Cloth, which brought healing to Apgar, and was at the same time, both glorious and humble like your Lord! Through you were enemies driven off and awesome and terrible wonders wrought, while you humbly endured to be hidden for many years.
Rejoice, O Cloth, which brought unending joy to the Queen of Cities! She, and all her faithful continue to depict your icon and chant in praise of the Lord, entreating for forgiveness of offenses.
Rejoice, O Cloth, which was humbly taken as a prisoner like the Redeemer, and brought throughout many lands of the West! You endured marks like the Master, being burnt and cut and put to doubt and scrutiny by men! But these have not diminished the glory of the One you depict. Not at all! But you continue to cry out and proclaim His wonders, bringing more to Him every day.
Rejoice, O Cloth, depicted in Churches throughout the world, in icons of wood and stone and cloth, in mosaics and frescoes, depicting the Christ Who put on flesh out of love for man, and Who endured His Passion, while arising on the third day!
Rejoice, O Cloth, becoming an Icon of what I must become! For the Lord calls me to become washed and pure likely fine linen, and to embrace Him, and to have Him alone marked upon me indelibly, to ever carry within me His Spotless Blood, and to keep His Icon unfaded unto the ages! For "all who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." (Galatians 3:27)
O Lord God Almighty, "Who robes Yourself with light as with a garment; spreading out the heaven as a curtain" (Psalm 104), receive this humble prayer offered to You in thanksgiving and repentance and supplication. You Who are the Light unapproachable, come and clothe us with Yourself, for You are the protection of the naked, and light for those in darkness (Kontakion of Theophany). Grant speedy consolation to Your servants, O Jesus. Come, draw near to us, draw near, You Who are everywhere (Kontakion of Pentecost), that You might fill all things with Yourself (Ephesians 4:10). Grant us mourning for our sins and weaknesses, repentance and confession, and amendment of our lives, that through Your Passion, You might bring to us victory over our Passions. Grant peace to Your Church, to civil authorities, to all Your people. Unite to Your Church those who have fallen from her and bring to her Your sheep not yet of this fold. Protect the poor, the sick, and those suffering in any way, along with those who travel and those tempted. And let the light of Your countenance ever be signed upon us, O Lord, that we might be made worthy to ever behold Your glorious face in Your Kingdom, "for You, O Christ our God, are the illumination of our souls and bodies, and to You we offer up glory, together with Your Father, Who is without beginning, and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen." (Prayer from the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)
A famous Russian Icon (this version from the 14th Century from the State Museum of Arkhangelsk): "Do not weep for me, O Mother", which often depicts the Holy Mandylion together with Christ, "Extreme Humility" (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!