Sunday, January 31, 2010

St. Tryphon the Great Martyr and Unmercenary

St. Tryphon the Great Martyr and Unmercenary - Commemorated on February 1st, and with the Synaxis of the Holy Unmercenaries (

Life of the Saint
"Tryphon was born of poor parents in the village of Lampsacus in Phrygia. In his childhood he tended geese. Also from his childhood he was able to cure illnesses that afflicted people and livestock and was able to expel evil spirits.

[He once saved the inhabitants of his native city from starvation. St Tryphon, by the power of his prayer, turned back a plague of locusts that were devouring the grain and devastating the fields. (]
St. Tryphon the Great Martyr and Unmercenary (source)
The Roman Empire at that time was ruled by Emperor Gordian whose daughter Gordiana went insane and this caused her father great sorrow. All the physicians were unable to help Gordiana. The evil spirit spoke through Gordiana and said that no one can cast him out except Tryphon. After many who were named Tryphon in the empire were summoned, by Divine Providence, young Tryphon was also summoned. He was brought to Rome and he healed the emperor's daughter. The emperor lavished upon him many gifts all of which Tryphon, upon his return, distributed to the poor. In his village this holy youngster continued to tend geese and to pray to God. When Decius, the Christ-persecutor, was crowned emperor, Saint Tryphon was tortured and cruelly tormented for Christ. He endured all tortures with great joy saying: "Oh! If only I could be made worthy to die by fire and pain for the Name of the Lord and God, Jesus Christ!"

[He was subjected to harsh tortures: they beat him with clubs, raked his body with iron hooks, they scorched his flesh with fire, and led him through the city, after iron nails were hammered into his feet. St Tryphon bravely endured all the torments without complaint.(]

All sufferings did him no harm and finally the tormentors sentenced him to be beheaded. Before his death Tryphon prayed to God and gave up his soul to his Creator in the year 250 A.D."

The Martyrdom of St. Tryphon the Great Martyr and Unmercenary (

The Prayer of Saint Tryphon before his death
"O Lord, God of gods and King of kings, the most holy of all holies, I thank You that You made me worthy to complete my mortification without faltering. And now, I pray to You that the hand of the invisible demon does not touch me; that the demon not drag me into the abyss of destruction. Rather, let Your holy angels lead me into Your beautiful dwelling place and make me an heir of Your desired kingdom. Receive my soul and harken to the prayer of all those who would offer sacrifices to You in my remembrance. Gaze upon them from Your holy dwelling place and grant them abundant and incorruptible gifts. For You are the only good and merciful Gift-giver unto the ages of ages. Amen." Since Tryphon suffered in Nicaea and since many miracles occurred over his lifeless body, the citizens of Nicaea wanted to bury Tryphon in their cemetery. But, the saint appeared in a vision and expressed his desire that he be translated to his village of Lampsacus where he once tended geese and to be buried there."

The Veneration of St. Tryphon in Nicaea
"[Nicaea] was the scene of the martyrdom of St. Tryphon, a victim of the persecutions of Decius (249-251). The saint was actually buried in his home village in Phrygia, but his presence was manifested in his church in Nicaea every February 1st. On that day, at the morning service, while hymns were being sung in the saint's honor, a vast crowd witnessed the miracle: dried lily bulbs put in the martyr's lamp suddenly bloomed out of season amid the frosts of winter. A thirteenth-century emperor, Theodore II Laskaris, described the miracle, the accompanying festival, and the great crowds of people who came to receive the blessings of the saint and experience his power to drive away demons and cure ills. Tryphon was the patron saint of the empire in exile, and his image and lily appeared on its coins. His miracle was the great attraction of its capital, Nicaea."

For more on the Veneration of St. Tryphon throughout the Roman Empire, see:

St. Tryphon the Great Martyr (

St. Tryphon in Russia
"In Russia, St Tryphon is regarded as the patron saint of birds. There is a story that when Tsar Ivan the Terrible was out hunting, his falconer carelessly allowed the Tsar's favorite falcon to fly away. The Tsar ordered the falconer Tryphon Patrikeiev to find the bird within three days, or else he would be put to death. Tryphon searched all through the forest, but without luck.

On the third day, exhausted by long searching, he returned to Moscow to the place called Marinaya Grove. Overcome with weariness, he lay down to rest, fervently praying to his patron saint, the Martyr Tryphon, for help.

In a dream he saw a youth on a white horse, holding the Tsar's falcon on his hand. The youth said, "Take the lost bird, go to the Tsar and do not grieve." When he awakened, the falconer actually spotted the falcon on a pine tree. He took it to the Tsar and told him about the miraculous help he received from the holy Martyr Tryphon. Grateful to St Tryphon for saving his life, Tryphon Patrikeiev built a chapel on the spot where the saint appeared. Later on, he also built a church dedicated to the holy Martyr Tryphon in Moscow.

The holy martyr is greatly venerated in the Russian Orthodox Church as the heavenly protector of Moscow. Many Russian icons depict the saint holding a falcon on his arm."

St. Tryphon in the Greek tradition is a protector of farmers, fields, gardens and vineyards, and helps deliver from various pests. For more see:,

St. Tryphon is considered one of the Holy Unmercenary Healers. For more on the Synaxis of the Holy Unmercenaries, see:

May St. Tryphon intercede for us and help us!

St. Tryphon the Great Martyr (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

Troparion of St Tryphon Tone 3
In the Holy Spirit thou didst pour forth abundant grace on the Church like an unfailing fountain; thou dost refresh our souls with the delight of thy gifts. O glorious Tryphon, entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.
Kontakion - Tone 8
By the power of the Trinity you destroyed polytheism to the ends of the earth, and you were honored by Christ, all-glorious Tryphon; having conquered tyrants through Christ the Savior, you received your crown of martyrdom and the gift of divine healing, for you are invincible.
St. Tryphon with scenes from his life (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

St. Arsenios of Paros the Righteous (+1877)

"Saint Arsenius was born on January 31, 1800 in Ioannina, Epirus of pious Orthodox parents. In holy Baptism he was given the name Athanasius. His parents died when he was quite young. He was only nine years old when he made his way to Kydoniai, Asia Minor, where he was received by Hieromonk Gregory Saraphis and enrolled in his school. His humility and piety endeared him to Fr Gregory and also to the other teachers. The boy remained at the school for five years, surpassing the other students in learning and in virtue.

One day the renowned Spiritual Father Daniel of Zagora, Thessaly came to the school to hear confessions. Athanasius became Daniel's disciple, remaining with him until the latter's death.

Not long after this, Fr Daniel decided to go to the Holy Mountain for quiet and spiritual struggles. Athanasius begged his Elder not to leave him, but to take him with him. He expressed the desire to travel to Mt. Athos, the Garden of the All-Holy Virgin, and to become a monk.

Fr Daniel instructed Athanasius in the monastic life, which is called "the art of arts, and the science of sciences." The holy Elder was a perfect teacher who was accomplished in the spiritual life, and Athanasius was an attentive student. After a time Fr Daniel tonsured his pupil, and told him he had to learn three important lessions. First, he must cut off his own will. Secondly, he must acquire humility. Finally, he must learn obedience. "If you cut off your will, if you become humble, and if you practice perfect obedience, you will also make progress in the other virtues, and God will glorify you." [For a longer account of Elder Daniel's advice to St. Arsenios, see below***]

After a further period of testing, Fr Daniel tonsured Athanasius into the Great Schema and gave him the name Arsenius. The saint remained on Mt. Athos with his Elder for six years. Then they had to leave the Holy Mountain because of the agitation against the so-called "Kollyvades," who called for a strict adherence to Holy Tradition. The name comes from the kollyva (boiled wheat) used in the memorial service. Part of the controversy involved the debate on whether it was proper to serve memorial services for the dead on Sunday. The Kollyvades believed that these services were inappropriate for the Day of Resurrection, but should be served on Saturday. The Kollyvades advocated frequent Communion, rather than the practice of receiving the Holy Mysteries only a few times during the year. When Fr Daniel and St Arsenius left Athos, it was probably due to the animosity of those who opposed the Kollyvades.

[For more on the Kollyvades Fathers, see:]

Early in 1821, before the Greek War of Independence, they went to the Monastery of Pendeli near Athens. Their stay was a brief one, for Fr Daniel forsaw the destruction of the monastery by the Turks.

The two made their way to the Cyclades Islands in the southern Aegean Sea. First they stopped at Paros, perhaps because some of the Kollyvades had settled there. Eventually, they decided to live on the island of Pholegandros. Since there were no teachers for the children, the inhabitants entreated Fr Daniel to allow St Arsenius to instruct their children. The Elder agreed, and had Arsenius ordained as a deacon. Then he was appointed to the teaching post by the government.

The saint remained there as a teacher from 1829-1840. He taught the required subjects in school, but he also helped his students to form a good character, and to live as pious Christians.

In 1840 St Arsenius entered the Monastery of St George on the island of Paros. Elder Daniel had passed away in 1837. Before his repose, he asked his disciple to take his remains to Mt. Athos after two years. St Arsenius left Plolegandros in obedience to Fr Daniel's request, planning to stop on Paros then continue to the Holy Mountain. On Paros the abbot of St George's Monastery, Fr Elias Georgiadis, told St Arsenius that it was God's will for him to remain on Paros. This was providential, because Mt. Athos was undergoing great difficulty after the Greek War of Independence. 3,000 Turkish soldiers occupied Athos, resulting in the departure of 5,000 of the 6,000 monks.

St Arsenius joined the community at St George's Monastery on the northern end of Paros. There he found spiritual strivers of true wisdom and excellent conduct, who were worthy models for him to follow.

When he was ordained to the holy priesthood at the age of forty-seven, St Arsenius intensified his spiritual efforts. Every day he studied the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, and became adept at the unceasing prayer of the heart. He also began to show forth the gift of tears. In this, he resembled his patron St Arsenius the Great (May 8), who continuously wept tears of contrition.

Gradually, the inhabitants of Paros came to recognize him as an outstanding Father Confessor and spiritual guide. Whenever he stood before the holy altar, he felt that he was standing before God. He served with great compunction, and his face often became radiant like the face of an angel.

As his virtues became known to people, they flocked to him from near and far. He received all with paternal affection, treating each one with the proper spiritual medicine which would restore their souls to health.

A certain girl from Syros came to the Convent of the Transfiguration to visit her sister, who was a nun. The nun had previously been informed that her sister had fallen into a serious sin. When she learned that the girl was outside the doors of the convent, the nun screamed at her, "Go far away from here. Since you are defiled, you will defile the convent and the nuns." Instead of feeling pity for her sister, and trying to lead her to repentance, the nun and some of the other nuns struck the poor girl and told her to go away.

The wretched girl cried, "I have made a mistake. Forgive me!"

The nun shrieked, "Go away, or I will kill you to wash away the shame you have brought to our family."

"Have you no pity, my sister, don't you share my pain?"

"No," the nun shouted, "you are not my sister, you are a foul harlot."

"Where shall I go?" she sobbed.

"Go and drown yourself," was the heartless reply.

The poor girl fled from the convent, bleeding and wounded, intending to kill herself. At that very moment, St Arsenius was on his way to visit the convent. Seeing the girl in such a state, he asked her what was wrong. She explained that she had been led astray by corrupt men and women. Realizing her sin, she went to the convent to ask her sister for help.

"See what they have done to me, Elder. What do you advise me to do? Shall I drown myself, or leap off a cliff?"

"I do not advise you to do either, my child. If you wish, I shall take you with me and heal the wounds of your soul and body," he said gently.

"Where will you take me?" the miserable girl asked.

"To the convent, my child."

"I beg you not to take me there, Elder. My sister and the other nuns said they would kill me if I came back."

The saint replied, "Do not be afraid. They will not kill you, because I shall entrust you to Christ, and no one will be able to harm you."

"Very well," she said, "If you entrust me to Christ I will not be afraid of them, for Christ is more powerful than they."

St Arsenius led her to the convent, consoling her and encouraging her to repentance and confession. After hearing her confession, he made her a nun. Then he called all the nuns into the church and severely rebuked those who wounded the girl. He reminded them of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and of how Christ had come to save sinners. He often associated with sinners, showing them great love and mercy.

"You, however, have done the opposite. Though you knew that her soul had been wounded by the devil, you did not feel sorry for her. You did not embrace her and try to save her from further sin, but you attacked her and beat her. Then you urged her to kill herself. Now I, your Spiritual Father, tell you that you are not nuns, you are not Christians, you are not even human beings. You are devoid of compassion, affection, and sympathy. You are murderesses! Therefore, I forbid you to receive Holy Communion for three years, unless you recognize your sin. Repent and confess, weep and ask forgiveness from God and from me, your Spiritual Father, and from the other nuns who did not participate in your sinful behavior."

The nuns began to weep bitterly and they repented. Thus, he lessened their penance and forgave them. He gave the girl's sister the penance of not receiving Holy Communion for a whole year. Because the other nuns had shared in this sin, he would not permit them to receive Communion for six months.

St Arsenius foresaw his death a month before it occurred. At the Liturgy for the Feast of St Basil, he announced that he would soon depart from them. With great effort, he was able to serve for the Feast of the Theophany. After the service, he told some nuns that this had been his last Liturgy.

News of the saint's illness and approaching death spread quickly to all the villages of Paros. People wept because they were about to lose their Spiritual Father, and they hastened to bid him farewell and to receive his blessing.

On the eve of his repose, he called the nuns of the convent to come to him. He told them that the next day he would leave this temporary life and enter into eternal life.

On January 31, 1877 St Arsenius received Holy Communion for the last time and fell asleep in the Lord. For three days, people came to kiss his body, then they followed the funeral procession to the burial site which he himself had selected.

St Arsenius of Paros was glorified by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1967. He is also commemorated on August 18 (the uncovering of his relics)."

***Elder Daniel's advice to his young disciple, St. Arsenios
“Listen my child, and pay attention to my words,” said Elder Daniel. “If you want to become a true and perfect monk, to master the monastic way of life, which is the true philosophy, the art of arts and the science of sciences, and leads man safely to the Kingdom of Heaven, it is necessary from the very outset to learn three lessons. If you pay the proper attention to these and apply yourself and learn them, you will subsequently learn with ease all the other lessons that are necessary for the mastery of the science which you have decided to follow. Or rather, in these three lessons are contained (on them depend) the whole Law, and the virtues, and all the other lessons. These three lessons are the following: The first is called cuttting out of one’s will; the second, humility; the third, obedience. It is easy for one to learn these intellectually; but to learn them in this way is of no benefit. What benefits one is putting them into practice. It is easy for one to read about them in the writings of the Apostles, and of the Fathers and Teachers of our Holy Church, and thus learn about them. But while it is easy to read and learn about them, it is difficult to put them into practice. Many men, especially educated persons, scholars, teachers, bishops, priests have read about them, are reading about them and have learned about them, and many of them have also taught them and are teaching them to others. However, as they did not practice them, they did not derive any benefit at all. Rather, they brought harm upon themselves and upon other, for ‘he who knew his master’s will and did not act according to it shall receive a severe beating, while he who did not know shall receive a light beating.’ Hence our Lord Jesus Christ enjoined on His holy Apostles, and through them on us and on all men of all generations, first to do and then to teach. ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.’ You note that the Lord did not say: ‘that they may see or hear your good words,’ but ‘your good works.’ Similarly, he says: ‘Whosoever shall do and teach, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ He does not say: ‘Whosoever shall teach’ only, but who wil also and in the first place ‘do.’"
(taken from: Modern Orthodox Saints Vol. 6: St. Arsenios of Paros, by Constantine Cavarnos;

Quotes of St. Arsenios
"Practice self-observation. And if you want to benefit yourself and your fellow men, look at your own faults and not those of others. The Lord tells us: "Judge not, that ye be not judged," condemn not that ye be not condemned. And the Apostle Paul says: "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?"

"If you want Christ to bless you and what you have, when you meet some poor individual, who is hungry and asks you for food, give him. Also, when you know that some poor man, or a widow, or an orphan are hungry, do not wait for them to ask you for food, but give them. Give with pleasure, and be not afraid that your will become indigent. Have faith that Christ invisibly blesses your few possessions, and you shall never starve, nor will you be in want till the end of your life."

May St. Arsenios intercede for us and help us!

St. Arsenios the Righteous of Paros (

Απολυτίκιον Ἦχος α'

Τῆς Ἠπείρου τήν δόξαν καί τῆς Πάρου τό καύχημα, τῆς Μονῆς τοῦ Δάσους προστάτην σέ τιμῶμεν, Αρσένιε. Ώς ἄγγελος γάρ ὤφθης ἐπὶ γῆς ἀσκήσει οὐρανίων ἀρετῶν, διά τοῦτο ἐδοξάσθης παρά Θεοῦ θαυμάτων πάτερ χάρισει. Δόξα τῷ σέ δοξάσαντι Χριστῷ, Δόξα τῷ σέ θαυμαστώσαντι, Δόξα τῷ δωρησαμένω σε ἡμῖν, πρέσβυν ἀκοίμητον.

Apolytikion of St. Arsenios of Paros in the First Tone (amateur translation)
The glory of Epiros and the boast of Paros, the protector of Dasous Monastery, we honor you O Arsenios. You were seen as an angel on earth and [through] ascesis [received] heavenly virtues, because of this you were glorified by God granting us miracles, O Father. Glory to Christ Who glorified you, Glory to Him Who showed you wondrous, Glory to Him Who granted to us an unsleeping intercessor.

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

St. Theodore Hatzi the New Martyr of Mytilene

St. Theodore Hatzi the New Martyr, martyred on January 30th 1784 in Mytilene (

The Saint was from Mytilene, was married, and had children. One day he got angry at some event, and he denied Christ and became a muslim.

When he sensed what he had done, he repented, left his home and went to the Holy Mountain. There he remained for a period of time, confessed, did his canon, and was annointed with the Holy Chrism and received the Spotless Mysteries. Straightaway with the prayer of his spiritual father he returned to his home. He went to the judge and asked him:

“If someone is wronged or cheated, can he take back what is his?”

“Of course he can.” replied the judge.

And the Saint replied: “I had my faith, which is good and pure as gold, my nous was darkened by the devil, I was deceived and left it and took yours to be better. Now I have come to myself and I see that my faith is the good gold and that yours is brass."

“You crazy man, what are you doing? Are you out of your mind?”

“No” the Saint replied, “I'm in my right mind and I know what I'm doing."

Then the judge ordered them to lock him in prison and later brought him back in front of him a second and third time, trying to return him to islam in various ways.

Seeing that he however remained steadfast and immovable with Christ, he ordered him to be sent to the aga of the area. The aga tried himself to get him to return with many ways, flatteries and promises, but he was unable. The Saint remained steadfast and responded with the same words:

“I laughed, I saw my faith, the good gold and took yours, the copper. Now I have come to my senses and I confess that I am a Christian. My name is Theodore.”

Then the executioners seized him, they beat him hard, they hit him with a knife on his thigh and they hanged him from the stairs of Saragiou. They lifted him back up and led him to the place of execution without him showing any opposition. Instead he had a joyous face and spoke with his executioners, as if his imminent death was not death for him but another joy.

“Have you understood?” they asked him, “We are going to hang you.”

And he responded with joy: “And where is the rope?”

The executions immediately gave him the rope. He took it, kissed it, and put it around his neck. “Now take me wherever you wish.”

The crier went out front and cried: “Whoever denies his faith will suffer these.”

They lead him to Parmak Kapi, where, having prayed, he asked forgiveness from those Christians standing by, and ascended a rock by himself to the executioners, who hanged him.

The holy relic of the martyr was thrown in the sea. However, the sea after a few days gave him up. Thus the Christians sought permission and buried him in the Holy Church of St. John Mothona.

The Relics of St. Theodore Hatzi the New Martyr, Church of Zoothochou Pigi, Vareia, Mytilene (

The Church of St. John is in the area of Vareia. In the year 1967 during the excavation of the new church the bones of the Saint were found.

St. Theodore Hatzi is celebrated on January 30th (the day of his martyrdom) and on September 4th (the finding of his relics). The relics of the Saint today can be found at the pilgrimage Holy Church of Zoothochou Pigi Vareias, Lesvos.

360 Panorama of the interior of the Church of Zoothochou Pigi available here: More info: May St. Theodore intercede for us all and help us!

St. Theodore Hatzi the New Martyr (

ΑΠΟΛΥΤΙΚΙΟ ΤΟΥ ΑΓΙΟΥ - Ήχος δ΄ Ταχύ προκατάλαβε
'Εκ Λέσβου έβλάστησας και εν αυτή ανδρικώς αθλήσας, Θεόδωρε, υπέρ Χριστού του Θεού, αξίως δεδόξασαι. Όθεv τα λείψανά σου, νεομάρτυς, ευρόντες, χάριν εκ τούτων θείαν κομιζόμεθα πίστει, δοξάζοντες τον Κύριον τον σε στεφανώσαντα.

Apolytikion of St. Theodore Hatzi the New Martyr in the Fourth Tone (amateur translation)
From Lesvos you sprouted and struggled manly in it, O Theodore for Christ God, and worthily were glorified. Therefore finding your holy relics, O Neomartyr, we the faithful receive grace from them and glorify Christ Who crowned you.

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Feast of the Three Hierarchs: Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom

The Feast of the Three Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers: Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom - Commemorated on January 30th (

"During the reign of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus (1081-1118), a controversy arose in Constantinople among men learned in the Faith and zealous for virtue about the three holy Hierarchs and Fathers of the Church, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom. Some argued for Saint Basil above the other two because he was able, as none other, to explain the mysteries of the Faith, and rose to angelic rank by his virtues. Organizer of monastic life, leader of the entire Church in the struggle with heresy, austere and demanding shepherd as to Christian morals, in him there was nothing base or of the earth. Hence, said they, he was superior to Saint Chrysostom who was by nature more easily inclined to absolve sinners.

The partisans of Saint Chrysostom retorted that the illustrious Archbishop of Constantinople had been no less zealous than Saint Basil in combatting vices, in bringing sinners to repentance and in raising up the whole people to the perfection of the Gospel. The golden-mouthed shepherd of matchless eloquence has watered the Church with a stream of homilies in which he interprets the divine word and shows its application in daily life with more accomplished mastery than the two other holy [Teachers].

According to a third group, Saint Gregory the Theologian was to be preferred to the others by reason of the majesty, purity and profundity of his language. Possessing a sovereign mastery of all the wisdom and eloquence of ancient Greece, he had attained, they said, to such a pitch in the contemplation of God that no one had been able to express the dogma of the Holy Trinity as perfecdy as he.

With each faction setting up one of the Fathers against the other two in this way, the whole Christian people were soon caught up in the dispute, which, far from promoting devotion to the Saints in the City, resulted in nothing but ill-feeling and endless argument. Then one night the three holy Hierarchs appeared in a dream to Saint John Mauropus, the Metropolitan of Euchaita (5 Oct.), separately at first, then together and, speaking with a single voice, they said: ‘As you see, the three of us are with God and no discord or rivalry divides us. Each of us, according to the circumstances and according to the inspiration that he received from the Holy Spirit, wrote and taught what befits the salvation of mankind. There is not among us a first, a second or a third, and if you invoke one of us the other two are immediately present with him. Therefore, tell those who are quarrelling not to create divisions in the Church because of us, for when we were on earth we spared no effort to re-establish unity and concord in the world. You can conjoin our three commemorations in one feast and compose a service for it, inserting the hymns dedicated to each of us according to the skill and knowledge that God has given you. Then transmit it to the Christians with the command to celebrate it each year. If they honour us thus as being with and in God, we give them our word that we will intercede for their salvation in our common prayer.’ At these words, the Saints were taken up into heaven in a boundless light while conversing with one another by name.

Saint John immediately assembled the people and informed them of this revelation. As he was respected by all for his virtue and admired for his powerful eloquence, the three parties made peace and every one urged him to lose no time in composing the service of the joint feast. With fine discernment, he selected the 30th of January as appropriate to the celebration, for it would set the seal to the month in which each of the three Hierarchs already had a separate commemoration.

The three Hierarchs—an earthly trinity as they are called in some of the wonderful troparia of their service—have taught us, in their writings and equally by their lives, to worship and to glorify the Holy Trinity, the One God in three Persons. These three luminaries of the Church have shed the light of the true Faith all over the world, scorning dangers and persecutions, and they have left us, their descendants, this sacred inheritance by which we too can attain to utmost blessedness and everlasting life in the presence of God and of all the Saints.

With the feast of the three Hierarchs at the end of January—the month in which we keep the memory of so many glorious bishops, confessors and ascetics—the Church in a way recapitulates the memory of all the Saints who have witnessed to the Orthodox faith by their writings and by their lives. In this feast we honour the whole ministry of teaching of the holy Church, namely, the illumination of the hearts and minds of the faithful through the word of truth. So the feast of the three Hierarchs is, in fact, the commemoration of all the Fathers of the Church, those models of evangelic perfection which the Holy Spirit has raised up from age to age and from place to place to be new Prophets and new Apostles, guides of souls heavenward, comforters of the people and fiery pillars of prayer, supporting the Church and confirming her in the truth."

(Source: The Synaxarion, The lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Volume three, Holy convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia, 2001;

The Holy Three Hierarchs: Sts. Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom and Basil the Great (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The three greatest beacons of the Three-sunned Godhead, who lighted the whole inhabited world with the beams of their divine doctrines, the rivers of wisdom flowing with honey, who watered all creation with streams of the knowledge of God, Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian with famous John whose tongue spoke golden words, let all we lovers of their words now assembled honour them in hymns. For they ever intercede with the Trinity on our behalf.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
You have taken, Lord, the sacred, the God-inspired heralds, the high peak of your Teachers, for the enjoyment of your good things and for repose; for you accepted above every offering their toils and their death, you who alone glorify your Saints.

Who is sufficient to open his lips and to move his tongue concerning them that breathed with fire in the power of the Word and the Spirit? Howbeit, I shall make bold to speak of such a thing; for the three of them have surpassed all human nature by their great graces, which were many; and in discipline and divine vision, they have outdone them that were illustrious in both. Therefore, Thou hast deemed them worthy of the greatest gifts, since they are thy faithful servants, O Thou Who along dost glorify Thy Saints.

Hymns of the Praises in the Second Tone
With what crowns of praise shall we crown those teachers, separated in body, united in spirit; leaders of the God-mantled ones, servants of the Trinity and equal to it in number; stars illuminating the universe, and pillars of the Church, who being victorious, have been crowned with crowns of glory by Christ our King and God who possesseth the Great Mercy?

With what beautiful songs shall we clothe those God-mantled ones, who are heavenly initiates, preachers of Orthodoxy, and heads of those who discourse in theology? Basil the great revealer of divine things, Gregory the divine Theologian, and the venerable, golden-tongued John, have been worthily glorified by God the Trinity, Possessor of the Great Mercy.

With what lofty hymns shall we praise those High Priests, equal to the Apostles in grace, ranking with them in honor and gifts, abolishers of infidelity, saviors and guides by word and deed, shepherds resembling Christ in faith, earthly angels, celestial humans, who were honored by Christ, the Lord of glory and Possessor of the Great Mercy?

With what crowns of praise shall we crown the golden-worded John, with Basil and Gregory, those Spirit-revering vessels and steadfast contenders for the faith, pillars of the Church, confirmation of believers, and comforters to all sinners, springs overflowing with water, from which as we drink, our souls are refreshed, seeking forgiveness of iniquities and the Great Mercy?

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

St. Ephraim the Syrian on Love, Psalmody and Prayer

St. Ephraim the Syrian on Love, Psalmody and Prayer

These three short discourses belong together and also to two others on Repentance and on The Coming Judgement. The style of the third is in places reminiscent of that of the Ladder of St John of Sinai and in the first there is what looks very like a quotation from the Theotokion that follows the Eothinon at Lauds on Sundays in the Byzantine office.

Rightly did the Lord say, ‘My burden is light’. For what sort of weight is it, what sort of toil is it to forgive one’s brother his offences, which are light and of no importance, and to be pardoned for one’s own, and immediately justified? He did not say, ‘Bring me money, or calves, or goats, or fasting, or vigils’, so that you could say, ‘I have none, I cannot’, but he ordered you to bring what is light and easy and immediate, saying, ‘Pardon your brother his offences, and I will pardon yours. You pardon small faults, a few halfpennies, or three pennies, while I give you the ten thousand talents. You only pardon without giving anything, I nevertheless both grant you pardon and give you healing and the Kingdom. And I accept your gift, when you are reconciled to the one who is your enemy, when you have enmity against no one, when the sun does not go down on your anger. When you have peace and love for all, then your prayer is acceptable, and your offering well-pleasing, and your house blessed and you blesséd. But if you are not reconciled with your brother, how can you seek pardon from me? You trample on my words, and do you demand pardon? I, your Master, demand, and you pay no attention, and do you, a slave, dare to offer me prayer, or sacrifice, or first fruits, while you have enmity against someone? Just as you turn your face from your brother, so I too turn my eyes from your gift and your prayer.’

Again I entreat you, brethren, since God is love, he is not well-pleased by things that take place without love. How would God accept prayer, or gifts, or first fruits, or offering from a murderer, unless they first repented in accordance with God’s word? But you will no doubt say to me, ‘I am not a murderer.’ And I will prove to you that you are, or rather John the Theologian will convict you, when he says, ‘Every one who hates their brother is a homicide.’

So then, my beloved brethren, let us not prefer anything, let us not hasten to obtain anything more than love. Let no one have anything against anyone, let no one repay evil for evil. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, but let us forgive our debtors everything and let us welcome love, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Because what gain is there, my children, if someone has everything, but does not have love which saves? For just as if someone were to make a great dinner in order to invite the King and the rulers, and were to prepare everything sumptuously, so that nothing might be lacking, but had no salt, would anyone be able to eat that dinner? Certainly not. But he would have lost everything he had spent and wasted all his hard work, and brought ridicule on himself from those he had invited. So it is in the present instance. For what advantage is there in toiling against winds, without love? For without it every deed, every action is unclean. Even if someone has attained complete chastity, or fasts, or keeps vigil; whether they pray or give banquets for the poor; even if they think of offering gifts, or first fruits, or offering; whether they build churches, or do anything else, without love all those things will be reckoned as nothing by God. For the Lord is not pleased by them. Listen to the Apostle when he says, ‘If I speak with the tongues of Angels and of humans; if I have prophecy and know all mysteries, and have complete knowledge, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I gain nothing’. For one who has enmity against their brother and thinks they offer something to God, will be as though they sacrificed a dog, and their offering will be reckoned as the wages of prostitution.

Therefore never want to do anything without love, because love covers a multitude of sins. What good we despise! Of how many good things, of what joy are we deprived when we have not acquired love! Judas did not wish to acquire it and went from the midst of the choir of the Apostles, abandoning the true Light, his own Teacher, and hating his own brothers he walked in darkness. And so Peter, the prince of the Apostles, said, ‘Judas transgressed and went to his own place.’ And again, John the Theologian says, ‘One who hates their brother is in darkness, and walks about in the dark, and does not know where they is going, because darkness has blinded their eyes.’

But if you say, ‘I may not love my brother, but I love God’, he convicts you when he says, ‘If someone says, "I love God" and hates his brother, he is a liar. For someone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God, whom he has not seen?’ Therefore one who has love for his brothers and has no enmity for anyone, who fulfils the word of the Master, ‘Do not let the sun go down on your anger’, truly loves God, is a disciple of Christ who says, ‘By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’.

It is clear then that the disciples of Christ are recognized by this, by true love. One who has hatred against his brother and thinks he loves Christ is a liar and deceives himself. For the Apostle John says, ‘We have this commandment from him, that one who loves God should love his brother.’ And again the Lord says, ‘You are to love the Lord your God, and your neighbour as yourself’. And he adds, wishing to show the power of love, ‘On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’

What a remarkable wonder, that one who has unfeigned love fulfils the whole of the Law. For the fulfilment of the Law is love, as the Apostle says . O unfathomable power of love! O infinite power of love! Nothing is more precious than love, neither in heaven nor on earth. That is why the Apostle Paul, having learned that nothing is worth as much as love, wrote and despatched to the ends of the inhabited world these words, ‘Brethren, owe no one anything, except to love one another, to lay down your lives for one another’. It is love that is the fulfilment of the Law. Love is unerring salvation. It dwelt from the beginning in Abel’s heart; it was Noë’s helmsman; it worked with the Patriarchs; rescued Moses; made David the dwelling of the Holy Spirit; made its tabernacle in the Prophets; gave strength to Job. And why should I not mention the greatest of all? It brought the Son of God from heaven down to us. Through love the One without flesh became flesh, the One without time entered time for us, the Son of God became son of man. Through love all things were ordered for our salvation; death was destroyed, Hell cast down, Adam recalled and Eve set free. Through love the curse was abolished, Paradise was opened, life was revealed, the Kingdom of heaven was promised. Love caught the fishers of fish in its net and made them fishers of men; competed alongside the Martyrs and gave them strength; turned the deserts into cities; filled mountains and caves with chanting; made mortals into angels; showed men and women how to tread the narrow and difficult way. But where should I stop pursuing what cannot be grasped? Who is capable of recounting the love’s achievements? I think even the Angels cannot recount them as they deserve.

O blessed love, giver of all good things! O blessed love, who make those who long for you blessed! Blessed and truly thrice blessed the one who has acquired love from a pure heart and conscience.

When you hear about love, you are not to understand worldly and carnal love, one concerned with taverns and drinking parties, whose belly and repute is their God, whose love is defined by the table, whose love is hostile to God. There they invite friends and not enemies, there the poor are not present, there are laughter, hand clapping and tumults, there drunkenness and disgraceful behaviour. Of this the Apostle said, ‘Whoever thinks they are a friend of the world, becomes an enemy of God.’ Of this love [agapi], or rather deception [apati], not to say more, where God does not visit, God said, ‘The heathen do the same. For if you love those who love you, what grace is that to you, or what reward do you have?’

We are not speaking of such love, we do not proclaim it or pursue it, but rather that which is without pretence, without blame, unspotted, incomparable, which holds all things and whose name is given to every good thing, which the Lord showed when he said, ‘That one should lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. And the Lord himself taught this and did it, and laid down his life, not only for his friends, but also for his enemies. For ‘this was how God loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son’ for us. Through this love the Apostle Paul, who had this divine love, said, ‘Love does not work evil for one’s neighbour, does not repay evil for evil, not insult for insult, but is always patient, is kind, is not jealous, is not provoked, does not reckon up evil, does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices with justice. It supports all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Such love as this never fails.’

One who has this is blessed both in the present age and in the one to come. One who has this blessed love is not proud, not envious, never hates anyone, does not ignore a pauper, does not turn away a beggar, does not neglect an orphan, a widow, a stranger. One who has this not only loves those who love them — for the heathen do this too — but also those who afflict them. Stephen, the first martyr, because he had this divine love, prayed for those who were stoning him and said, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’

Again I say, and I will not stop saying, ‘Blessed is one who has despised all earthly and perishable things and acquired love.’ Such a person’s reward increases every day. Such a person’s reward and crown has been prepared, the Kingdom of heaven has been given them. All the Angels call them blessed; all the Powers of heaven praise them; the choirs of the Archangels receive them with joy. For them the gates of heaven will be speedily opened, and they will enter with boldness1, take their stand by the throne of God, be crowned by God’s right hand, and will reign with him for endless ages.

Who is more blessed than this? Who higher than this? Who more honoured than this? See to what height love carries those who possess it. Rightly did the Apostle say that we should owe no one anything, except to love one another. For ‘God is love, and one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in them’ to the ages. Amen.

All this and much more could be said about love. But let us return to the subject and speak of repentance and the coming judgement. For we should always meditate on these things, because the day of the Lord is coming like a thief in the night. Therefore by night and day, look to your last hour and meditate on the law of the Lord day and night. Say many things to God and few to humans. If you stretch out your hand to work, let your mouth sing psalms and your mind pray. Let psalmody be continually on your mouth, for when God is being named he puts the demons to flight and sanctifies the singer.

Psalmody is calm of soul, author of peace. Psalmody is convenor of friendship, union of the separated, reconciliation of enemies. Psalmody attracts the help of the Angels, is a weapon in night-time fears, repose of the day’s toils, safety for infants, adornment for the old, consolation for the elderly, most fitting embellishment for women. It make deserts into homes, market places sober. It is the ABC for beginners, progress for the more advanced, confirmation for the perfect, the voice of the Church. It makes festivals radiant; it creates mourning that is in accordance with God, for psalmody draws tears even from a heart of stone. Psalmody is the work of the Angels, the commonwealth of heaven, spiritual incense. Psalmody is enlightenment of souls, sanctification of bodies.

Let us, brethren, never stop making psalmody our meditation, both at home and on the road, both sleeping and waking, speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Psalmody is the joy of those who love God. It banishes idle chatter, brings laughter to an end, reminds us of the judgement, rouses the soul towards God, joins the choir of the Angels. Where there is psalmody with compunction, there God is, with the Angels. Where the songs of the opponent are, there is God’s wrath, and ‘woe!’ is the reward of laughter. Where sacred books and readings are, there are the joy of the just and the salvation of the listeners. Where there are harps and dances, there is the darkening of men and women, and a festival of the Devil.

O the wicked cunning and contrivance of the Devil! How he trips each one through craft, and deceives them and persuades them to do evil as though it were good! Today they decide to chant, tomorrow they dance with enthusiasm. Today they are Christians, tomorrow heathens. Today of good repute, tomorrow pagans. Today servants of Christ, tomorrow rebels against God. Do not be deceived. No one can be servant of two lords, as it is written. You cannot serve God and dance with the Devil.

As true servants of Christ, let us serve him, let us worship him, let us devote ourselves to him, let us stay by him until our last breath, and let us not obey the Devil, for he goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may swallow up, whom he may deceive. Resist him stoutly, as soldiers of Christ, serving him and staying by him. Do not chant today and dance tomorrow. Do not repent today for your sins and tomorrow dance for your destruction. Do not read today and play the harp tomorrow. Do not be master of yourself today and come forward tomorrow reeling and dizzy and the laughing stock of all.

Do not, brethren, let us lose like this the moment of our salvation, by playing about and being played about with. Be like a good farmer, working and taking care. My brother, do not make light of the provisions for eternal life. Do not reject fasting2, do not desert vigil, do not be despondent about sleeping on the ground, do not abandon psalmody. For these things and things like them escort you to life and joy and gladness and eternal repose. Love silence rather than wicked conversation. Conversations about worldly things separate the mind from God.

Not to sin is truly blessed; but those who sin should not despair, but grieve over the sins they have committed, so that, through grief they may again attain blessedness. It is good, then, to pray always and not to lose heart, as the Lord says, And again the Apostle says, ‘Pray without ceasing’, that is by night and by day and at every hour, and not only when coming into the church, and not bothering at other times. But whether you are working, lying down to sleep, travelling, eating, drinking, sitting at table, do not interrupt your prayer, for you do not know when he who demands your soul is coming. Don’t wait for Sunday or a feast day, or a different place, but, as the Prophet David says, ‘in every place of his dominion’.

Whether you are in church, or in your house, or in the country; whether you are guarding sheep, or constructing buildings, or present at drinking parties, do not stop praying. When you are able, bend your knees, when you cannot, make intercession in your mind, ‘at evening and at morning and at midday’. If prayer precedes your work and if, when you rise from your bed, your first movements are accompanied by prayer, sin can find no entrance to attack your soul.

Prayer is a guard of prudence, control of wrath, restraint of pride, cleansing of malice, destruction of envy, righting of impiety. Prayer is strength of bodies, prosperity of a household, good order of a city, might of a kingdom, trophy of war, assurance of peace. Prayer is a seal of virginity, fidelity in marriage, weapon of travellers, guardian of sleepers, courage of the wakeful, abundance for farmers, safety of those who sail. Prayer is an advocate for those being judged, remission for the bound, consolation for the grieving, gladness for the joyful, comfort for mourners, a feast on birthdays, a crown for the married, a shroud for the dying. Prayer is converse with God, equal honour with the Angels, progress in good things, averting of evils, righting of sinners. Prayer made the whale a house for Jonas, brought Ezechias back to life from the gates of death, turned the flame to wind of moisture for the Youths in Babylon. Through prayer Elias bound the heaven not to rain for three years and six months.

See, brethren, what strength prayer has. There is no possession more precious than prayer in the whole of human life. Never be parted from it; never abandon it. But, as our Lord said, let us pray that out toil may not be for nothing, ‘When you stand in prayer, forgive if you have anything against anyone, that your heavenly Father may forgive you your faults’.

Do you not see, brethren, that we toil for nothing when we pray, if we have enmity against someone? And again the Lord says, ‘If you offer your gift at the altar, and there you remember that someone has something against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go first and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’. Therefore, it is clear that if you do not do this first, all that you offer will be unacceptable, but if you do the Master’s bidding, then implore the Lord with boldness, saying, ‘Forgive me my debts, Master, as I have forgiven my brother, so fulfilling your commandment. I, weak though I am, have forgiven’. For the Lover of mankind will answer, ‘If you have forgiven, I too will forgive. If you have pardoned, I too will pardon your sins. For I have authority on earth to forgive sins. Forgive and you will be forgiven’.

See God’s unfathomable love for humankind. See God’s unbounded goodness. Hear instant salvation of your souls.
1 Literally ‘freedom to speak’, the privilege of the ancient Athenian democracy and later of those with privileged access to the Emperor, but in Christian theology it was Adam’s before the fall and is restored by Baptism. Cf. Ephesians 3,12; 1 John 3,21; 4,17; 5,14.
2 Literally xerophagia, or ‘dry eating’, that is uncooked food, as prescribed on many fast days and a feature of the more rigorous ascetic life.
(© Archimandrite Ephrem, taken from:

For the life of St. Ephraim, see:,

For many works of the Saint, see:
For selected prophecies of the Saint, see:

May St. Ephraim intercede for us all and help us! Amen!

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O Ephraim, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.

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

Selected prophecies of St. Ephraim the Syrian on the Last Days

Selected prophecies of St. Ephraim the Syrian on the Last Days
(words in quotes are from St. Ephraim, other words are from the author to give context)
St. Ephraim says: "At the time when the serpent [the Antichrist] shall come, there will be no calm on the earth; there will be great affliction, consternation, disorder, death and famine unto all the ends of the earth."

"He will come as one humble, meek, a hater (as he will say of himself) of unrighteousness, despising idols, giving preference to piety, good, a lover of the poor, beautiful to an extreme degree, constant, gracious to all... He will not accept bribes, speak with anger, show a gloomy countenance, but with a decorous exterior he will take to deceiving the world, until he has become king"

"When the many classes and the people see such virtues and power, suddenly all will conceive the same thought, and with great joy will proclaim him king, saying among themselves: 'Can another man so good and righteous be found?'"

"[Christ] will not leave the human race without His preaching, in order that all will be without answer at the Judgment"

[The Antichrist] will show partiality towards Christians, "promising them every sort of protection in return for their acknowledgment of his leadership." "Those not comprehending Christianity will see in him a representative and champion of the true religion and will join with him"

Those who remain faithful to Christ will incite his wrath "and then this serpent will become proud in his heart and vomit forth his bitterness"

Such will be the tribulation of that time that "all men will call blessed the dead and those already buried before this great sorrow came upon the earth".

Then the faithful remnant of Christians "will flee into the wilderness and mountains and caves--praying day and night in great humility.., that they may be delivered from the serpent,.. And this will be granted them from the holy God".

"For by permission of the Holy God, [Antichrist] will receive the power to deceive the world, because impiety will have filled the earth, and everywhere every sort of horror will be committed"

"A courageous soul will be required, that will be able to keep its life in the midst of these temptations, For if a man is proved to be even a little careless, he will easily be exposed to assault and will be captured by the signs of the evil and cunning beast"

The Last Judgment of Christ, with the Most-Holy Theotokos and the Precious Forerunner (

"When the God of all comes to judge the living and the dead..." (amateur translation)
When the God of all comes to judge the living and the dead, and those fearful books will be opened, where are written our works and words and our acts, that which we said and did in this life, in other words, the thoughts and memories, for which we will have to give an account to the Judge.

Then He will seek from each of us the confession of faith and the order of baptism, and the faith pure from every heresy and the seal unbreakable and the garment undefiled...

After the grace (of holy baptism) he who does evil works, fell away from grace, Christ has no benefit for him, if he remains in sin. For it has been written, that all will appear before the throne of Christ, for each one of us to receive what is due for what he has done with his body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

For whoever has good works and good fruits, separated from the fruitless and sinners, will shine like the sun. These are those who kept the commandments of the Lord, the merciful, the lovers-of-the-poor, the lovers-of-orphans, the hospitable, the helpers of those struggling, the visitors of the sick, those who mourn now, as the Lord said, those who are poor now because the wealth is found with the orphans, those who forgive the offenses of their brothers, those who kept the seal of the faith unbroken and undefiled from every heresy.

Those then that are found at the left are the fruitless, those who have angered the Good Shepherd, those who passed that time for repentance playing and eating, those who have squandered in prodigality, all of the time of their live in drunkenness and ruthlessness, like that rich man, who never showed mercy to the poor Lazaros, and because of this was condemned, as merciless and uncompassionate and not having the fruits of repentance, nor oil for their lamps.

For you did not show mercy, thus now you will not be shown mercy, for you did not hear My voice, thus I will not hear your cries. For you did not serve Me, neither did you feed me the hungry, nor did you give drink to me the thirsty, neither did you show hospitality to Me, neither did you clothe Me the naked, neither did you visit me sick, neither did you come to Me when I was in prison. But firstly you became workers and servants, of the devil...

Then the rulers and uncompassionate rich people will groan, and will look everywhere in sadness, and there will be no one whom they can help. Neither does wealth appear, nor will flattery be found, nor will they find mercy, for they did not show mercy, nor will they be sent on ahead, for them to find...for the judgment of the merciless is not to be showed mercy.

Let no one doubt, [and think] that these are only words of mine about the judgment. But with exactness and safety let us all believe in the Lord, for there exists the resurrection of the dead and judgment and recompense for the good and evil, according the divine Scriptures. And seeing all of these beforehand, let us concern ourselves with them, that we may tend to all that concerns our apology and our representation before the dread judgment seat, and that terrible day and fearful which all of our life will he tried.

Alas for those who are infected with blasphemous heresies. Alas for those who scoff the divine Scriptures. Alas to those who soil the holy faith with heresies, or descend to the heretics.
(amateur translation of Greek text from:

For the life of St. Ephraim, see:,

For many works of the Saint, see:

For three sermons of the Saint Love, Psalmody and Prayer, see:

May St. Ephraim intercede for us all and help us! Amen!

St. Ephraim the Syrian - Commemorated on January 28th (

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O Ephraim, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.

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