Monday, March 29, 2010

Kathisma from the Matins of Holy Monday

Kathisma from the Matins of Holy Monday
Tone 8. The Wisdom and Word.
The present day is resplendent with the first fruits of the Lord’s sufferings. Come then, lovers of feasts, let us meet it with songs; for the Creator is coming to accept Cross, afflictions and scourges, as he is judged by Pilate; therefore too, struck on the face by a slave, he endures all that he may save humankind. And so let us cry aloud to him: Lover of humankind, Christ our God, grant forgiveness of offences to those who with faith worship your most pure sufferings.

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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Excerpt from St. Andrew of Crete's Homily on Palm Sunday

Excerpt from St. Andrew of Crete's Homily on Palm Sunday
"Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will toward his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation. He who came down from heaven to raise us from the depths of sin, to raise us with himself, we are told in Scripture, above every sovereignty, authority and power, and every other name that can be named, now comes of his own free will to make his journey to Jerusalem. He comes without pomp or ostentation. As the psalmist says: He will not dispute or raise his voice to make it heard in the streets. He will be meek and humble, and he will make his entry in simplicity.

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.

In his humility Christ entered the dark regions of our fallen world and he is glad that he became so humble for our sake, glad that he came and lived among us and shared in our nature in order to raise us up again to himself. And even though we are told that he has now ascended above the highest heavens - the proof, surely, of his power and godhead - his love for man will never rest until he has raised our earthbound nature from glory to glory, and made it one with his own in heaven.

So let us spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel."
(Caution, taken from a Catholic website:

Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem (14th Century icon from St. Catherine's Monastery of Mount Sinai:

Hymns from the Stichera of the Great Vespers for Palm Sunday. Tone 6
Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together, and taking up the Cross we all say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!’

Same Tone.
He who has heaven as his throne and earth his footstool, the Word and co-eternal Son of God the Father, having come to Bethany, showed his humility today on the colt of a dumb animal. Therefore the children of the Hebrews, holding branches in their hands, sang his praise and cried, ‘Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes, the King of Israel’.

Same Tone.
Let us too, all the new Israel, the Church from the nations, come today and let us cry out, ‘Rejoice greatly, daughter of Sion. Proclaim it, daughter of Jerusalem. For see, your King is coming to you, meek and bringing salvation, and mounted on the colt of an ass, offspring of a beast of burden. Celebrate with the Children. Holding branches in your hands shout his praise, ‘Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes, the King of Israel’.

Apolytikion. Tone 4
Buried with you through Baptism, Christ our God, we have been granted immortal life by your Resurrection, and we sing your praises, crying: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Kontakion. Tone 4
Mounted on the throne in heaven, Christ God, and on the foal on earth, you accepted the praise of the Angels and the hymn of the children who cried to you: Blessed are you who come to call back Adam.

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

Greek Traditions for the Saturday of St. Lazarus

Icon of Christ raising St. Lazarus from the dead (

For hymns and readings from the Saturday of St. Lazarus, see:

For St. John Chrysostom's Commentary on the raising of St. Lazarus, from the Gospel of St. John, see:,, and

For more on the tradition of St. Lazarus and Cyprus, see:

Though this is a departure from the normal content of this blog, I feel the need to reiterate my respect for many of the traditions from the various Orthodox countries. In the hearts of many simple Orthodox villagers, the light of Christ shines through, and leaves an imprint on every aspect of daily life. They pass through Great Lent in fasting, prayer and repentance to approach the Passion of Christ, and they celebrate spiritually and physically in His triumph over death: most especially on Great and Holy Pascha, but also on the Saturday when Christ raises his beloved friend St. Lazarus, the Four-days-dead, from the tomb, along with Palm Sunday.

In Cyprus (where St. Lazarus was a Bishop and where is second tomb is) and Greece, the celebration of the Saturday of St. Lazarus (following the Divine Liturgy) takes the form of chanting and singing of religious hymns and folk songs and the baking of the traditional "Lazarakia" breads in honor of St. Lazarus, among many others things.

"In the old days the children would go door to door to sing special songs for the Lazarus resurrection. This tradition also comes from the gospel saying:

"While Jesus was entering into Jerusalem the Jewish children were singing 'Osannah blessed is the one who come in the name of the Lord. Osannah to the Son of God'."

"In old times the following custom existed in Larnaca [Cyprus]: on St. Lazarus day, which is on Saturday, on the eve of Palm Sunday, various children, holding branches of palters and headed by a boy representing Lazarus, been decorated with red poppies and yellow wild daisies bearing in Cyprus the name of "Lazarus", went round the houses of the parish, where the priests, on one hand, chanted hymns about the raising of the Saint, and the children, on the other hand, sang the "son of Lazarus" (popular song in various versions). On the same day, in the year of the church, in the presence of all the parishioners, took place a representation of the raising of Lazarus. Both the priests and the children participated in the ceremony."

The following is one of the many beautiful Greek folk songs that relates the story of the raising of St. Lazarus (along with my amateur translation):

Σήμερον έρχεται ο Χριστός,
ο επουράνιος Θεός,
εν τη πόλει Βιθανία.
Μάρθα κλαίει και η Μαρία
Λάζαρο τον αδερφό τους,
τον γλυκό και καρδιακό τους.
Τον μοιρολογούν και λέουν,
τον μοιρολογούν και κλαίουν
τρεις ημέρες τον θρηνούσαν
και τον εμοιρολογούσαν.
Την ημέρα την τετάρτη
κίνησε ο Χριστός για να `ρτει
και εβγήκεν η Μαρία
έξω από τη Βιθανία
και εμπρός του γόνυ κλει
και τους πόδας του φιλεί.
<<Αν εδώ ήσουν, Χριστέ μου,
δεν θ` απέθνησκε ο αδελφός μου
Πλην! Και τώρα ‘γω πιστεύω
και καλότατα ηξεύρω
ότι δύνασ’ αν θελήσεις
και νεκρούς να αναστήσεις.
Τον τάφο να μου δείξετε
και ‘γω τον ανασταίνω.
Τραπέζι να ‘τοιμάσετε
και ‘γω θε να πηγαίνω.
Και παρευθύς επήγαν
και τον τάφο του εδείξαν.
Επήγαν και του έδειξαν
τον τάφο του Λαζάρου
Τους είπε και εκύλησαν
τον λίθο, που ‘χε απάνου.
Τότε ο Χριστός δακρύζει
και τον Άδη φοβερίζει:
<<Άδη, Τάρταρε και Χάρο,
Λάζαρο θα σου τον πάρω>>.
Δεύρο έξω Λάζαρέ μου
φίλε και αγαπητέ μου.
Παρευθύς από τον Άδη
ως εξαίσιο σημάδι
Λάζαρος απελυτρώθη,
ανεστήθη και εσηκώθη,
Λάζαρος σαβανωμένος
και με το κερί ζωσμένος.
Εκεί Μάρθα και Μαρία
εκεί κι όλη Βηθανία.
Μαθητές και Αποστόλοι
τότε ευρεθήκαν όλοι
Δόξα το Θεώ φωνάζουν
και το Λάζαρο ξετάζουν
<<Πες μας, Λάζαρε, τι είδες
εις τον Άδη, όπου πήγες;>>
<<Είδα φόβους, είδα ΄τρόμους,
είδα βάσανα και πόνους.
Δώστε μου λίγο νεράκι,
να ξεπλύνω το φαρμάκι
της καρδιάς, των χειλέων
και μη με ρωτάτε πλέον>>.
Του χρόνου πάλι νιορτάσωμε
με υγεία να σας βρούμε,
στον οίκο σας χαρούμενοι
τον Λάζαρο να πούμε.
Ή τους ήχους μας χαρούμενους πάλι να τραγουδούμε.

Today Christ is coming,
The heavenly God,
In the city of Bethany
Martha and Mary are crying
Lazarus their brother,
Their sweet and beloved.
They mourned him and were speaking
They mourned him and were weeping
Three days they wept for him
And mourned him.
The fourth day
Christ moved to come
And Mary left
Outside of Bethany
And knelt before Him crying
And embraced His feet.
“If You were here, my Christ,
My brother would not have died
But! Even now I believe
And fully I know
That You can do whatever You want
And You can raise the dead."
"Show me the tomb
And I will raise him.
Prepare the table
And I will go there."
And straightaway they went
And showed Him the tomb.
They went and showed Him
The tomb of Lazarus
He told them to roll away
The stone, which was above
Then Christ sheds a tear
And Hades is afraid:
"Hades, Tartarus and Charo,
I will take Lazarus from you”.
Come out my Lazarus
My friend and beloved one.
Straightaway from Hades
As an incredible sign
Lazarus was freed,
Raised up and lifted up,
Lazarus wrapped in a shroud
And belted with waz.
There Martha and Mary
And there all of Bethany.
Disciples and Apostles
Were all found there
"Glory to God", they cried
And greeted Lazarus
“Tell us, Lazarus, what did you see
In Hades, where you went?”
“I saw fears, I saw terrors,
I saw tortures and pains.
Give me a little water,
To wash away the poison
Of my heart, of my lips
And don’t ask me any more.”
Next year may we again celebrate
And find you in health,
And joyfully in your home,
Say “the Lazarus”.
In our joyful tones again let us sing.

A CD "Σήμερον έρχετ' ο Χριστός...: Κάλαντα του Λαζάρου" has been published with many of the folk songs of St. Lazarus from Greece and Cyprus (see:

See the following link for a recipe for Lazarakia:

But among these celebrations, we must not forget the central message of the feast as pertaining to our spiritual lives, as characterized in the following hymn from the "Praises" of the Matins of the Saturday of St. Lazarus:

O Lord, even as You said to Martha: I am the Resurrection; so You fulfilled Your word in action by calling back Lazarus from Hades. Resurrect me, also, for I am dead through passions. I beseech You, compassionate One who love mankind.

May we all be made worthy to see the Holy Passion of Christ and His Glorious Resurrection!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

First Homily of St. Gregory the Wonderworker on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary

The Holy Annunciation to the Most-Holy Theotokos (14th Century Mosaic from the Katholikon of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos, from:

First Homily of St. Gregory the Wonderworker on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary
"To-Day are strains of praise sung joyfully by the choir of angels, and the light of the advent of Christ shines brightly upon the faithful. Today is the glad spring-time to us, and Christ the Sun of righteousness has beamed with clear light around us, and has illumined the minds of the faithful. To-day is Adam made anew, and moves in the choir of angels, having winged his way to heaven. To-day is the whole circle of the earth filled with joy, since the sojourn of the Holy Spirit has been realized to men. To-day the grace of God and the hope of the unseen shine through all wonders transcending imagination, and make the mystery that was kept hid from eternity plainly discernible to us. To-day are woven the chaplets of never-fading virtue. To-day, God, willing to crown the sacred heads of those whose pleasure is to hearken to Him, and who delight in His festivals, invites the lovers of unswerving faith as His called and His heirs; and the heavenly kingdom is urgent to summon those who mind celestial things to join the divine service of the incorporeal choirs. To-day is fulfilled the word of David, "Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. The fields shall be joyful, and all the trees of the wood before the Lord, because He cometh." David thus made mention of the trees; and the Lord's forerunner also spoke of them as trees "that should bring forth fruits meet for repentance," or rather for the coming of the Lord. But our Lord Jesus Christ promises perpetual gladness to all those who believe on Him. For He says, "I will see you, and ye shall rejoice; and your joy no man taketh from you." To-day is the illustrious and ineffable mystery of Christians, who have willingly set their hope like a seal upon Christ, plainly declared to us. To-day did Gabriel, who stands by God, come to the pure virgin, bearing to her the glad annunciation, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured! And she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. And the angel immediately proceeded to say, The Lord is with thee: fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever: and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? " Shall I still remain a virgin? is the honour of virginity not then lost by me? And while she was yet in perplexity as to these things, the angel placed shortly before her the summary of his whole message, and said to the pure virgin, "The Holy [Spirit] shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." For what it is, that also shall it be called by all means. Meekly, then, did grace make election of the pure Mary alone out of all generations. For she proved herself prudent truly in all things; neither has any woman been born like her in all generations. She was not like the primeval virgin Eve, who, keeping holiday alone in paradise, with thoughtless mind, unguardedly hearkened to the word of the serpent, the author of all evil, and thus became depraved in the thoughts of her mind; and through her that deceiver, discharging his poison and refusing death with it, brought it into the whole world; and in virtue of this has arisen all the trouble of the saints. But in the holy Virgin alone is the fall of that (first mother) repaired. Yet was not this holy one competent to receive the gift until she had first learned who it was that sent it, and what the gift was, and who it was that conveyed it. While the holy one pondered these things in perplexity with herself, she says to the angel, "Whence hast thou brought to us the blessing in such wise? Out of what treasure-stores is the pearl of the word despatched to us? Whence has the gift acquired its purpose toward us? From heaven art thou come, yet thou walkest upon earth! Thou dost exhibit the form of man, and (yet) thou art glorious with dazzling light." These things the holy one considered with herself, and the archangel solved the difficulty expressed in such reasonings by saying to her: "The Holy [Spirit] shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And fear not, Mary; for I am not come to overpower thee with fear, but to repel the subject of fear. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. Question not grace by the standard of nature. For grace does not endure to pass under the laws of nature. Thou knowest, O Mary, things kept hid from the patriarchs and prophets. Thou hast learned, O virgin, things which were kept concealed till now from the angels. Thou hast heard, O purest one, things of which even the choir of inspired men was never deemed worthy. Moses, and David, and Isaiah, and Daniel, and all the prophets, prophesied of Him; but the manner they knew not. Yet thou alone, O purest virgin, art now made the recipient of things of which all these were kept in ignorance, and thou dost learn the origin of them. For where the Holy Spirit is, there are all things readily ordered. Where divine grace is present, all things are found possible with God. The Holy [Spirit] shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall; overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." And if He is the Son of God, then is He also God, of one form with the Father, and co-eternal; in Him the Father possesses all manifestation; He is His image in the person, and through His reflection the (Father's) glory shines forth. And as from the ever-flowing fountain the streams proceed, so also from this ever-flowing and ever-living fountain does the light of the world proceed, the perennial and the true, namely Christ our God. For it is of this that the prophets have preached: "The streams of the river make glad the city of God." And not one city only, but all cities; for even as it makes glad one city, so does it also the whole world. Appropriately, therefore, did the angel say to Mary the holy virgin first of all, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; "inasmuch as with her was laid up the full treasure of grace. For of all generations she alone has risen as a virgin pure in body and in spirit; and she alone bears Him who bears all things on His word. Nor is it only the beauty of this holy one in body that calls forth our admiration, but also the innate virtue of her soul. Wherefore also the angels addressed her first with the salutation, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee, and no spouse of earth; "He Himself is with thee who is the Lord of sanctification, the Father of purity, the Author of incorruption, and the Bestower of liberty, the Curator of salvation, and the Steward and Provider of the true peace, who out of the virgin earth made man, and out of man's side formed Eve in addition. Even this Lord is with thee, and on the other hand also is of thee. Come, therefore, beloved brethren, and let us take up the angelic strain, and to the utmost of our ability return the due meed of praise, saying, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee!" For it is thine truly to rejoice, seeing that the grace of God, as he knows, has chosen to dwell with thee-the Lord of glory dwelling with the handmaiden; "He that is fairer than the children of men " with the fair virgin; He who sanctifies all things with the undefiled. God is with thee, and with thee also is the perfect man in whom dwells the whole fulness of the Godhead. Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the fountain of the light that lightens all who believe upon Him! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the rising of the rational Sun, and the undefiled flower of Life! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the mead of sweet savour! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the ever-blooming vine, that makes glad the souls of those who honour thee? Hail, thou that art highly favoured!-the soil that, all untilled, bears bounteous fruit: for thou hast brought forth in accordance with the law of nature indeed, as it goes with us, and by the set time of practice, and yet in a way beyond nature, or rather above nature, by reason that God the Word from above took His abode in thee, and formed the new Adam in thy holy womb, and inasmuch as the Holy [Spirit] gave the power of conception to the holy virgin; and the reality of His body was assumed from her body. And just as the pearl comes of the two natures, namely lightning and water, the occult signs of the sea; so also our Lord Jesus Christ proceeds, without fusion and without mutation, from the pure, and chaste, and undefiled, and holy Virgin Mary; perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, in all things equal to the Father, and in all things consubstantial with us, apart from sin.

Most of the holy fathers, and patriarchs, and prophets desired to see Him, and to be eye-witnesses of Him, but did not attaint hereto. And some of them by visions beheld Him in type, and darkly; others, again, were privileged to hear the divine voice through the medium of the cloud, and were favoured with sights of holy angels; but to Mary the pure virgin alone did the archangel Gabriel manifest himself luminously, bringing her the glad address, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured!" And thus she received the word, and in the due time of the fulfilment according to the body's course she brought forth the priceless pearl. Come, then, ye too, dearly beloved, and let us chant the melody which has been taught us by the inspired harp of David, and say, "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest; Thou, and the ark of Thy sanctuary." For the holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary. "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest." Arise, O Lord, out of the bosom of the Father, in order that Thou mayest raise up the fallen race of the first-formed man. Setting these things forth, David in prophecy said to the rod that was to spring from himself, and to sprout into the flower of that beauteous fruit, "Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thine ear, and forget thine own people and thy father's house; so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty: for He is the Lord thy God, and thou shalt worship Him." Hearken, O daughter, to the things which were prophesied beforetime of thee, in order that thou mayest also behold the things themselves with the eyes of understanding. Hearken to me while I announce things beforehand to thee, and hearken to the archangel who declares expressly to thee the perfect mysteries. Come then, dearly beloved, and let us fall back on the memory of what has gone before us; and let us glorify, and celebrate, and laud, and bless that rod that has sprung so marvellously from Jesse. For Luke, in the inspired Gospel narratives, delivers a testimony not to Joseph only, but also to Mary the mother of God, and gives this account with reference to the very family and house of David: "For Joseph went up," says he, "from Galilee, unto a city of Judea which is called Bethlehem, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child, because they were of the house and family of David. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; and she broughtforth her son, the first-born of the whole creation, and wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who is covered with light as with a garment. She wrapped in swaddling-clothes Him who made every creature. She laid in a manger Him who sits above the cherubim, and is praised by myriads of angels. In the manger set apart for dumb brutes did the Word of God repose, in order that He might impart to men, who are really irrational by free choice, the perceptions of true reason. In the board from which cattle eat was laid the heavenly Bread, in order that He might provide participation in spiritual sustenance for men who live like the beasts of the earth. Nor was there even room for Him in the inn. He found no place, who by His word established heaven and earth; "for though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor," and chose extreme humiliation on behalf of the salvation of our nature, in His inherent goodness toward us. He who fulfilled the whole administration of unutterable mysteries of the economy in heaven in the bosom of the Father, and in the cave in the arms of the mother, reposed in the manger. Angelic choirs encircled Him, singing of glory in heaven and of peace upon earth. In heaven He was seated at the right hand of the Father; and in the manger He rested, as it were, upon the cherubim. Even there was in truth His cherubic throne; there was His royal seat. Holy of the holy, and alone glorious upon the earth, and holier than the holy, was that wherein Christ our God rested. To Him be glory, honour, and power. together with the Father undefiled, and the altogether holy and quickening Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of the ages. Amen.

For Homilies II, III and IV of St. Gregory the Wonderworker on the Feast of the Annunciation, see:,, and

St. Gregory the Wonderworker of Neo-caesarea - Commemorated on November 17th (

Most-Holy Theotokos, save us! Amen!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

St. Luke the New Righteous Martyr of Mytilene

St. Luke the New Righteous Martyr of Mytilene - Commemorated on March 23rd (

He was born in Adrianoupolis. At six years of age he lost his father, and his mother, unable to handle the difficulties in raising the small Luke, entrusted him to a merchant from Zagora of Peliou, who traveled with him to Russia and Constantinople. Thus Luke was able to visit far awat lands. At a young age, he fought with a Turkish boy, and because of this he was seized by the Turks and forced him to become a muslim. He fled from the house of the Turk where he was staying, and met with his adopted father, who sent him to Smyrna. There near a spiritual father he confessed his passion and with tears in his eyes, he was told to go to the Holy Mountain to flee from further dangers. In the Garden of the Panagia, he met righteous elders, such as Fr. Ananias of St. Anna and Elder Bessarion, who strengthened him in faith and love towards Christ, His desire to cleanse the weight of his sin of denying Christ, caused him to seek a way to leave the Holy Mountain [with the blessing and spiritual preparation of his spiritual father for martyrdom], which occurred when a friend of Elder Bessarion was preparing to leave Mount Athos and head to Tenedo and Mytilene. In Pamphila where the righteous Luke arrived, he came to know the priests at the church of St. Barbara, Frs. Gregory and Parthenios. After fervent supplications and meditation on the martyrdom of St. Theodore (, who had been martyred seven years before in Mytilene, St. Luke appeared before Nazer the Aga of Mytilene, and with bravery of soul sought to bear witness as a Christian. He was imprisoned and martyred by hanging on March 23rd 1802.
(amateur translation of text from:; more complete biography in Greek available here:

St. Luke the New Righteous Martyr of Mytilene (

Μνήμη τοῦ Νεομάρτυρος Ἁγίου Λουκᾶ +1802.
Ἀπολυτίκιον. Ἦχος δ΄. Ὁ ὑψωθείς ἐν τῶ Σταυρῶ.
Ἀσκητικῶς προγυμνασθείς ἐν τῶ Ἄθω, τάς νοητάς τῶν δυσμενῶν παρατάξεις, τῆ πανοπλία ὤλεσας παμμάκαρ τοῦ Σταυροῦ, αὔθις δέ πρός ἄθλησιν, ἀνδρικῶς ἀπεδύσω, κτείνας τούς τῆς πίστεως αἰσθητούς πολεμίους. Ὁσιομάρτυς ξίφει νοητῶ, διό ἐστέφθης, Λουκᾶ διττοῖς στέμμασιν.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone (amateur translation)
You were trained beforehand in asceticism on Athos, and trampled upon the arrows of the enemy, and put on the Cross as armor, O most-blessed one, heading towards the struggle, enduring manfully, and put to death those who war against the faith. O Righteous Martyr Luke, by the sword you were noetically crowned with dual garlands.
Apolytikion for a Male Martyr in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Ephraim the Syrian on Joseph as a Type of Christ

In the readings from the Book of Genesis from the Sixth Week of Great Lent, and chiefly on the Monday of Holy Week, the Church honors and remembers the life of the Righteous Joseph, the son of the Patriarch Jacob. He is distinguished by his virtue, and as being a clear prefigurement of Christ and His Passion. The first quote below is from the Synaxarion for Holy Monday as a brief overview, and the second is from St. Ephraim the Syrian's larger work on the Righteous Joseph, in which he vividly describes Joseph's foreshadowing of Jesus Christ:

"The holy Passion of our Saviour begins today, presenting Joseph the all-comely as a prefiguring of Christ. He was the eleventh son of Jacob, and his first son by Rachel; because he was so beloved of his father, his own brethren came to envy him and cast him into a pit. Later they sold him to foreigners for thirty pieces of silver, who later sold him again in Egypt. Because of his virtue, his master gave him much authority in governing his house; because he was fair of countenance, his master's wife sought to draw him into sin with her; because of his chastity, he refused her, and through her slanders was cast into prison. Finally, he was led forth again with great glory and was honoured as a king. He became lord over all Egypt and a provider of wheat for all the people. Through all this, he typifies in himself the betrayal, Passion, death, and glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ (see Gen., chapters 37, 39 41)."

Large fresco from Sopocani depicting the life of the Righteous Joseph from the Book of Genesis (Note that I can't read the inscriptions on most of the icons below, so I connote their meaning based on the appearance and the chronological arrangement) (,old-tswwrjjb/large/sop-cx4j0841.jpg)

Excerpt from St. Ephraim the Syrian's "Sermon on Joseph the Most Virtuous"
translation by Fr. Ephraim Lash (

"For just as the Lord * was sent to us
from the Father’s bosom, * to save us all,

So the youth Joseph * from Jacob’s bosom
was sent to enquire * about his own brothers.

And just as Joseph’s * harsh brothers,
as soon as they saw * him approaching,

began to devise * evil against him,
though he was bringing * them peace

from their father, * so the Jews also,
ever hard of heart, * as soon as they saw

the Saviour, said, * ‘This is the heir,
let us kill him, * and all will be ours’.

And just as Joseph’s * brothers said,
‘Let us do away with him, * and let us be set free

of his dreams’, * in the same way too
the Jews said, * ‘Come, let us kill

him and lay hold * on his inheritance’.

Joseph’s brothers, * while eating,
sold him, * slaying him in intent.

In the same way too * the abominable Jews,
while eating the Passover, * slew the Saviour.

The descent of Joseph * into Egypt signifies
the descent to earth * of our Saviour.

And as Joseph * within the marriage chamber
trampled down all * the strength of sin,

putting on the bright * prizes of victory,
against the Egyptian woman, * his mistress,

so too the Lord, * the Saviour of our souls,
by his own right hand, * descending into Hell,

destroyed there * all the power
of the dread * and near invincible tyrant.

When Joseph * had conquered sin
he was put in prison * until the hour of his crowning;

so too the Lord, * that he might take away
every sin of the world, * was placed in a grave.

Joseph in prison * spent two whole years,
passing his time * in great freedom;

while the Lord, * as powerful, remained
in the tomb for three days, * not undergoing corruption.

Joseph, on Pharao’s order, * was brought out
graciously from prison, * as a true type,

when he easily interpreted * the meaning of the dreams,
indicating the abundance of grain * that was going to be;

while our Lord [Jesus Christ] * was raised from the dead
by his own power, * despoiling Hell,

offering to the Father * our liberation,
proclaiming resurrection * and everlasting life.

Joseph took his seat * in Pharao’s chariot,
having received authority * over the whole of Egypt;

while our Saviour, * king before the ages,
ascending into heaven * on a cloud of light,

took his seat with glory * at the Father’s right hand,
above the Cherubim, * as Only-begotten Son.

When ruling * over Egypt, Joseph
having received authority * against his enemies,

his brothers * were brought willingly
before the tribunal * of the one who had died through them;

they were brought to prostrate * with fear and trembling
before the one who had been sold * by them to death;

and with fear they prostrated * before Joseph,
whom they had not wanted * to be king over them.

But Joseph, recognising * his brothers,
revealed them as murderers * by a single word;

but they, when they realised, * stood dumbfounded
in great shame, * not daring to utter,

not having anything * at all to say in their defence,
knowing exactly * their own sin

at the moment * when they sold him;
while he, who seemed * to have been destroyed by them in Hades,

was suddenly found * to be ruling over them.

So too on that * fearful day,
when the Lord comes * on the clouds of the air,

he takes his seat on the throne * of his kingdom,
and all his enemies * are brought bound

by fearsome Angels * before the judgement seat,
all those who did not want * him to rule over them.

For the lawless Jews * thought then,
that if he were crucified, * he would die as a human;

the wretches not being persuaded * that God had come,
for salvation, * to save our souls.

Just as Joseph * said quite openly
to his brothers, * making them fear and tremble,

‘I am Joseph, * whom you sold [into slavery],
but now I rule over you, * though you did not want it’.

So too the Lord * shows the Cross
in an image formed of light * to those who crucified him,

and they recognize * the Cross itself
and the Son of God * who was crucified by them.

Know how accurately * Joseph became
a true type * of his own Master."
Copyright to Archimandrite Ephrem © (

From the Matins of Holy Monday:

Jacob lamented the loss of Joseph, yet the noble one was seated in a chariot, honoured like a king; for as he had not been slave to the pleasures of the Egyptian woman, he was glorified in return by the one who sees the hearts of men, and bestows an incorruptible crown.

The Patriarch Joseph the All-comely (source)
The Ikos
Let us now add a lament to his lament and let us shed tears, with Jacob weeping for the revered and temperate Joseph, who though enslaved in body, guarded his soul unenslaved, and became lord of all Egypt; for God grants to his servants an incorruptible crown.

St. Ephraim the Syrian - Commemorated on January 28th (Icon courtesy of used with permission)

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

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sermon of St. Theodore the Studite for the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent

Christ Talking to Women from Jerusalem : "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves" (

CATECHESIS 68: That We Must Be Renewed For What Is Ahead Through Endurance of the Trials That Fall Upon Us, Both Visible and Invisible.
by St. Theodore the Studite
Given On the 5th Sunday of Great Lent.
"Brethren and fathers, because winter has passed and spring has arrived, we see creation flourishing again; the plants are flowering, the earth is growing green, the birds are singing and everything else is being renewed; and we take pleasure in all this and we glorify God the master craftsman who transforms and changes creation year by year, and it is reasonable to do so. "Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made" [Rom. 1:20].

It is our duty not just to stay where we are, but to advance further and to examine carefully for ourselves the logic of creation. How? Because this renewal has winter as its cause. It would not have reached its prime had it not first undergone snows and rains and winds. And so it is with the soul; unless it is first snowed on by afflictions, troubles and difficulties, it will not flower, it will not fruit; but by enduring, it bears fruit and partakes in a blessing from God, as it is written: "Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, partakes in a blessing from God" [Heb. 6:7].

Therefore, brethren, let us also endure every affliction, every trouble, every trial which assails us both visibly and invisibly. The fast we are drawing out as we hunger and thirst and are otherwise made wretched, so that we may bear fruit and partake of God's blessing; and not only that, but that we may nourish and welcome Jesus as our guest. For just as we enjoy the sight of creation, so He too enjoys the ripe beauty[1] of our souls. What are the fruits? "Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-mastery" [Gal. 5:22]. By these He is nourished, by these He is entertained. And blest the one who nourishes Him, because he will be nourished by Him with eternal good things; and blest the one who receives Him as his guest, because he will be received by Him as his guest in the kingdom of heaven! Indeed! So if someone is to receive a king as his house guest, he rejoices and is extremely glad; how much more then someone who receives the King of kings and Lord of lords as his house guest. That he is received is clear from what He himself has said: "I and my Father will come and make our abode with him" [John 14:23]. And again: "One who has My commandments and keeps them, is the one who loves Me; the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I shall love him and manifest Myself to him" [John 14:21].

Therefore, since such are the promises, let us not only bear, but let us endure with joy all things, both those that are present, those that are whispered about, and those that are expected, as we listen to the Apostle when he says: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, that is the Church" [Col. 1:24]. And again Saint James who says: "My brethren, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" [James 1:2-4]. Do you see then that in trials there is joy, and in tribulations gladness? For these are the things that are exchanged where God is concerned; and this is how the saints led their lives; this too how we, by doing violence to ourselves and yet greater violence, and by living our life in their footsteps, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.

1. The Greek has literally ‘the hour of our souls’, but the word can also connote ‘beauty‘, ‘ripeness’, ‘the bloom of youth’, ‘spring-time’. Hence, for example, the derivatives ‘beautiful’ and ‘ripe’."

St. Theodore the Studite - Commemorated on November 11th (

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Akathist Hymn to the Most-Holy Theotokos

Icon of the Most-Holy Theotokos and Christ, surrounded by scenes from the Akathist (

Translation by Fr. Ephraim Lash, icons taken from: Note: to decrease clutter in this post, I did not include inscriptions by each icon. However, each icon depicts the section of the Akathist that it is directly above (with the exception of a few which combine two icons adjacent together). Also note that the "Akathist Hymn" traditionally chanted includes the Canon to the Theotokos written by St. Joseph the Hymnographer. I didn't include this within this post, but it is available here:

Section One. The Annunciation

Ikos 1
A prince of the angels
was sent from heaven,
to say to the Mother of God, ‘Hail!’ [Three times]
And as, at his bodiless voice,
he saw you, Lord, embodied,
he was astounded and stood still,
crying out to her like this:
Hail, you through whom — joy — will shine out,
Hail, you through whom — the curse — will cease.
Hail, recalling — of fallen Adam,
Hail, redemption — of the tears of Eve.
Hail, height hard to climb —for human thoughts,
Hail, depth hard to scan — even for angels’ eyes.
Hail, for you are — a throne for the King,
Hail, for you carry — the One who carries all.
Hail, star — that makes visible the Sun,
Hail, womb — of divine incarnation.
Hail, you through whom — creation — is renewed.
Hail, you through whom — the Creator — becomes a babe.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

Kontakion 1
But the holy Virgin,
seeing herself pure,
says boldly to Gabriel,
‘The strangeness of your words
seems hard for my soul to accept.
For from a conception without seed
you foretell pregnancy, as you cry:

Ikos 2
Calling to the ministering angel,
the Virgin sought to know unknown knowledge,
‘From a pure womb how
can a son be born? Tell me.’
He spoke to her in fear, only crying out:
Hail, initiate — of an ineffable counsel,
Hail, faith — in things that demand silence.
Hail, beginning — of Christ’s wonders,
Hail, crown — of his teachings.
Hail, heavenly ladder — by which God came down,
Hail, bridge, leading — those from earth to heaven.
Hail, wonder — well-known — among the angels,
Hail, wound — much lamented — by the demons.
Hail, for ineffably — you gave birth to the Light,
Hail, for to none — you revealed the mystery.
Hail, you that surpass — the knowledge of the wise,
Hail, you that pour light on —the minds of believers.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

Kontakion 2
Divine power of the Most High
then overshadowed
for conception the one who knew not wedlock.
And he made her womb fruitful
as a fertile field for all
who wish to reap salvation
as they sing:

Ikos 3.
Enclosing God
within her womb, the Virgin
hastened to Elisabeth;
whose infant at once
recognised her greeting, and rejoicing
with leaps as though with songs,
cried out to the Mother of God:
Hail, vine — with a branch that does not wither,
Hail, orchard — of fruit that bears no taint.
Hail, for you husband — the Husbandman who loves humankind,
Hail, for you cultivate — the Cultivator of our life.
Hail, ploughland yielding — a rich harvest — of compassion,
Hail, table laden — with abundance — of mercy.
Hail, for you make the meadow of delight — flower again,
Hail, for you make ready a haven — for the soul.
Hail, acceptable incense of intercession,
Hail, propitiation for the whole world.
Hail, good pleasure — of God — towards mortals,
Hail, freedom of speech — of mortals — towards God.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

Kontakion 3.
Feeling in himself a storm of doubtful thoughts,
prudent Joseph was troubled,
seeing that you were unwedded,
and he suspected a stolen union, blameless Maiden.
But when he learnt that your conceiving was
from the Holy Spirit, he said:

Section 2. On the Nativity

Ikos 4.
God’s coming in the flesh
the Shepherds heard
the angels praising.
And hastening as to a shepherd,
they see him as a spotless lamb
being pastured in the womb of Mary.
Praising her they said:
Hail, mother of the lamb and shepherd,
Hail, fold of spiritual sheep.
Hail, defence — against unseen foes.
Hail, key that opens — the doors of Paradise.
Hail, for things in heaven — exult with earth,
Hail, for things on earth — rejoice with heaven.
Hail, never-silent — voice — of the Apostles,
Hail, never-conquered — courage — of the Champions.
Hail, firm — foundation of the Faith,
Hail, shining — revelation of Grace.
Hail, you through whom — Hell was stripped bare,
Hail, you through whom — we were clothed with glory.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

Kontakion 4
Having seen a star
leading to God, Magi
followed its radiance.
Holding to it as a beacon,
through it they searched for a mighty king.
And having attained the Unattainable
they rejoiced and cried to him:

Ikos 5
In the hands of the Virgin
children of the Chaldeans saw
the one who with his hands fashioned humankind.
And knowing him to be their Master,
though he had taken the form of a servant,
they hastened to honour him with their gifts
and to cry to the Blessed Maiden:
Hail, mother of the star that never sets,
Hail, radiance of the mystical day.
Hail, for you quenched the furnace of deception,
Hail, for you enlighten the initiates of the Trinity.
Hail, for you cast out from his rule — the inhuman tyrant,
Hail, for you revealed Christ, — the Lord who loves humankind.
Hail, deliverance— from pagan worship,
Hail, liberation — from filthy deeds.
Hail, for you ended — the worship of fire,
Hail, for you deliver from —the flame of passions.
Hail, guide of believers — to chastity,
Hail, joy of all — generations.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

Kontakion 5
Journeying back to Babylon,
for they had fulfilled the prophecy concerning you,
the Magi, become
God-bearing heralds,
proclaimed you to all as Christ,
leaving Herod like an idiot
who did not know how to sing:

Ikos 6
Kindling in Egypt
the light of truth,
you dispelled the darkness of falsehood.
For its idols, O Saviour,
not able to withstand your strength, fell down,
while those who were delivered from them
cried out to the Mother of God:
Hail, restoration of humans,
Hail, downfall of the demons.
Hail, for you trampled — on the error of deception,
Hail, for you exposed — the trickery of idols.
Hail, sea that drowned — the Pharao of the mind,
Hail, rock that gave drink — to those thirsting for life.
Hail, pillar of fire, guiding those in darkness,
Hail, protection of the world, wider than the cloud.
Hail, food that replaced the manna,
Hail, minister of holy delight.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

Kontakion 6
When Symeon was about
to depart from
this present age of deception,
you were given to him as a babe,
but you were known to him also as perfect God.
And so, struck with amazement
at your ineffable wisdom, he cried:

Section 3. The Incarnation

Ikos 7
Manifesting himself to us,
who came into being by him,
the Creator revealed a new creation,
for he budded from a womb without seed
and preserved it as it was, incorrupt,
that seeing the wonder
we might sing her praises crying:
Hail, flower of incorruption,
Hail, crown of self-mastery.
Hail, for you show a bright image of the resurrection,
Hail, for you reveal the angels’ way of life.
Hail, tree of glorious fruit — from which believers are nourished,
Hail, wood with shady leaves — under which many shelter.
Hail, for you conceived a guide for those gone astray,
Hail, for you bore a deliverer for captives.
Hail, intercessor with the just Judge,
Hail, forgiveness for many who stumble.
Hail, robe —for those stripped of freedom of speech,
Hail, love — that conquers every longing.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

Kontakion 7
Now that we have seen a strange birth,
let us become strangers to the world,
fixing our minds in heaven.
For this the most high God
appeared on earth as a lowly human,
wishing to draw on high
those who cry out to him:

Ikos 8
The uncircumscribed Word
was wholly present among things below
and in no way absent from those on high.
For it was God’s condescension,
and not a change of place,
and birth from a Virgin filled by God,
who hears these words:
Hail, enclosure — of God who cannot be enclosed,
Hail, door — of a hallowed mystery.
Hail, doubtful tidings — for unbelievers,
Hail, undoubted boast — for all believers.
Hail, all-holy chariot — of him who rides upon the Cherubim,
Hail, best of dwellings — of him who is above the Seraphim.
Hail, for you bring — opposites to harmony,
Hail, for you yoke — child-birth and virginity.
Hail, for through you transgression has been abolished,
Hail, for through you Paradise has been opened.
Hail, key — of Christ’s kingdom,
Hail, hope — of eternal blessings.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom.

Kontakion 8
Every angelic being
was amazed at the great
work of your incarnation.
For they saw the One who is Unapproachable as God,
as a mortal approachable by all,
living his life among us,
while hearing from us all:

Ikos 9
Eloquent orators
we see dumb as fishes
before you, Mother of God.
For they are at a loss to say how
you remain Virgin, yet are able to give birth!
But we, marvelling at the mystery,
cry out with faith:
Hail, vessel — of the wisdom — of God.
Hail, storehouse —of his —providence.
Hail, who show — lovers of wisdom — to be without wisdom.
Hail, who prove — those skilled in reasoning —to be without reason.
Hail, because subtle seekers — have been made fools.
Hail, because myth makers — have been made to wither.
Hail, who tear apart — the webs of the Athenians.
Hail, who fill full — the nets of the Fishermen.
Hail, who draw up from the depths of ignorance.
Hail, who enlighten many with knowledge.
Hail, boat for those who want to be saved.
Hail, harbour for the seafarers of life.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom!

Kontakion 9.
Wishing to save the world,
the One who orders all things
came to it of his own free will.
And as God, being shepherd,
for our sake he appeared as a man like us.
For having called like to Like,
as God he hears:

Section 4. On the Mother of God.

Ikos 10.
You are a wall for virgins,
Virgin Mother of God, and for all
who have recourse to you.
For the Maker of heaven and earth
made you ready, O most pure,
dwelling in your womb
and teaching all to call to you:
Hail, pillar — of virginity.
Hail, gate — of salvation.
Hail, source — of spiritual — refashioning.
Hail, giver — of divine — lovingkindness.
Hail, for you gave new birth — to those conceived — in shame.
Hail, for you gave counsel — to those robbed — of understanding.
Hail, who destroy — the corrupter of minds.
Hail, who gave birth — to the sower of purity.
Hail, bridal chamber of a marriage without seed.
Hail, who unite believers to the Lord.
Hail, fair nursemaid of virgins.
Hail, bridesmaid of holy souls:
Hail, Bride without bridegroom!

Kontakion 10.
Every hymn fails
that seeks to match
the multitude of your many mercies.
For even if we offer you, O holy King,
songs equal in number to the sand,
we achieve nothing worthy
of what you have given us, who cry to you:

Ikos 11
We see the holy Virgin
as a lamp that bears the light,
shining for those in darkness.
For kindling the immaterial Light
she guides all to divine knowledge,
enlightening the mind by its ray,
honoured with this cry:
Hail, beam — of the immaterial sun,
Hail, ray — of the moon that never sets.
Hail, lightning flash — that shines on souls.
Hail, thunder — that terrifies the foe.
Hail, for you make — the enlightenment with many lights — to dawn.
Hail, for you make —the river with many streams — to flow.
Hail, who prefigure the baptismal — font.
Hail, who take away the filth — of sin.
Hail, bath — that washes clean the conscience.
Hail, bowl — in which the wine of joy is mixed.
Hail, scent — of Christ’s fragrance.
Hail, life — of mystical feasting.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom!

Kontakion 11.
Wishing to give release
from ancient offences,
the Creditor of all humanity
came of himself
to those who were exiled from his grace,
and having torn up their bond
he hears from all as follows:

Ikos 12.
Your Offspring we sing
and all raise to you our hymn
as a living temple, Mother of God.
For having dwelt in your womb,
the Lord who holds all things in his hand
sanctified, glorified and taught
all to cry out to you:
Hail, tabernacle of God the Word
Hail, greater Holy of Holies.
Hail, Ark — gilded by the Spirit,
Hail, inexhaustible — treasure of life.
Hail, precious diadem of Orthodox — kings,
Hail, honoured boast of devout — priests.
Hail, unshakeable tower — of the Church,
Hail, unbreachable wall of the Kingdom.
Hail, through whom trophies are raised,
Hail, through whom enemies fall.
Hail, healing of my flesh,
Hail, salvation of my soul.
Hail, Bride without bridegroom!

Kontakion 12.
O Mother, all praised,
who gave birth to the Word,
the Holiest of all Holies, [Three times]
accepting our present offering,
deliver us all from every disaster
and rescue from the punishment to come
those who cry out together,

(All texts and translations on this page are copyright to

Archimandrite Ephrem ©;

For the history of the Akathist Hymn and the Fifth Saturday of Great Lent, see:

Most-Holy Theotokos, save us! Amen!