Saturday, April 28, 2012

"That which we are doing is higher than chanting"

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (
Note: The purpose of this anecdote is to encourage both monastics and laymen to pursue noetic prayer. Though some might feel that this demeans psalmody/chanting and the liturgical worship of the Orthodox Church, this is not so. The Fathers throughout history have been both hymnographers and chanters, and feel that this is the most appropriate form of common worship that is pleasing to God, and that there is a time and place for every form of true worship. However, the Fathers have always acknowledged that true prayer of the heart surpassess all, as St. John of the Ladder writes: "Men, whose mind has truly learned to pray, indeed converse with the Lord face to face, as those who have the ear of the king (that is his most close and trusted servants.)”
"That which we are doing is higher than chanting" (amateur translation)
An ascetic on the Holy Mountain once sent his disciple to sell his handiwork in Karyes. There, the disciple heard the most beautiful chanting, in the Church of the Protaton.

One day, he asked his Elder: “Elder, I have a thought. We here in the desert are not doing anything. You should see how they hymn God there: psalmody, choirs, and other things. Here we only pray with the prayer rope: “Lord Jesus Christ...”

Another day, the Elder came to him and said: “Let's go, my child, to see what those fathers are doing. Let's experience their typikon ourselves.”

And when they were there in church, the Elder bent down and whispered into his disciple's ear: “Truly, my child, here they are glorifying God.”

But before he could finish, a strong earthquake hit; everything was shaking.

Then, immediately, the chanters left their music books and the “terirems”, and pulled out their prayer ropes, crying out: “LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON US!!!”

The disciple turned to his Elder and said: “Elder, let's go to our work, to our hesychia, to our kalyve. That which we are doing is higher than chanting.”

Thus he was truly convinced that the best prayer is the prayer with the prayer rope.
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Excerpt from the Paraklesis to St. Anastasia Pharmakolytria

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Anastasia the Great Martyr and Pharmakolytria ("Deliverer-from-Potions") (
Note: To the sorrow of the whole Church of Christ, on April 23, 2012, the Holy and Wonderworking Skull and Right Foot of St. Anastasia, the Great Martyr and Pharmakolytria ("Deliverer-from-Potions") (along with other Holy Relics), were stolen from the Patriarchal Monastery that bears her name outside of Thessaloniki. 
The Holy Relics have been treasured and protected by the Monastery for 1100 years, until their theft (or as the Metropolitan discusses in the video linked to below, "abducted", as through the Holy Spirit, they are as a living individual). For a video of the Monastery and the Holy Relics, while the Metropolitan of Milteus discusses this tragedy (in Greek), see:
Below I include the megalynaria from the Paraklesis to St. Anastasia (amateur translations from the full Greek text), that we might be mindful of this tragedy, pray for forgiveness of our many sins from the Resurrected Lord, and entreat Him for the return of the Holy and Grace-filled Relics of His great servant and martyr.
Excerpt from the Paraklesis to St. Anastasia Pharmakolytria (amateur translation)
The adornment of Virgin-martyrs, and the inexhaustible treasury of healings, the bride of the Lord, the treasury of graces, O chaste Anastasia, we hymn you.

Hail, O spirit-filled meadow of virginity, which brings forth the joyous flowers of martyrdom, whose fragrance ever fills our minds with rejoicing, O chaste Anastasia.

Hail, you who struggled manfully on behalf of the love of Him Who died upon the Cross, therefore taking up His calling, ever preserve us.

Hail, O lamp of wonders, which shines with the rays of compassion, and drives away the darkness of passions, O glorious Anastasia, the help of the faithful.

Hail, O divine provider, who freely grants your total protection to those who ask, O chaste Anastasia: deliver us from every danger.

Raise up my soul, O Martyr from the abyss of sins in which I have terribly slipped, and lead me who praises you on the roads of repentance, O Martyr Anastasia.

Come, O faithful, let us praise Anastasia, the beautiful and wondrous bride of Christ, and martyr of the Lord, who is wondrous with the beauty of purity.

The Deliver-from-potions of the faithful, who is arrayed in the golden raiment of virginity and martyrdom; let us all praise Anastasia with hymns.

Come, O brethren, let us praise our common father, and the hierarch of Christ, the great Theonas, and the protector of this Monastery, the truly wondrous one and God-bearer.

Your sacred skull, the faithful venerate with fervor, in your Monastery the bears your name, and we richly receive all healings, O chaste Anastasia; we therefore hymn you.

A priceless treasure and spring of healings, your Monastery treasures, O Anastasia, through your right foot, through which you drive away sicknessess, for those who praise you.

You are the hymn of every rank of monastics, with the abbot who hymns you piously, O noble Anastasia, and we praise you with fervor, the guardian and protector of your chaste place.

Your famed Monastery, has become a radiant repository of saints: Theophano the Great, the queen and ruler, and Theonas the righteous and arch-shepherd.

All those who hasten to you on to you, on your famed Mountain and Monastery, grant to them, O chaste Anastasia, the Grace of healings, and unfailing deliverance.
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Excerpt from the Homily on St. George the Trophy-bearer by St. Andrew of Crete

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer (
Excerpt from the Homily on St. George the Trophy-bearer by St. Andrew of Crete (amateur translation)
Always, and with each of the Holy Martyrs, the feasts are radiant and proper. But more radiant and proper, however, is today's feast that is celebrated, of George the glorious great martyr, for this festival not only bears the character of the imitation of the passion of the Lord, and adorns with the athletic struggle of the Martyr, and shines with the beauty and grace of spring, but beyond this, it bears the character of the radiance of the two great feasts of the Master: of the Resurrection, I mean, and the Ascension, and is found as a radiant moon between two suns, whose rays shine from both sides, and thus receiving the same rays, shines imitating Christ for the whole world, for though the Master's feast of the saving passion, and the light-bearing and all-festal Resurrection of Jesus Christ the true God, and Son of God, the creator of all the martyrs, Who suffered for us and was martyred under Pontius Pilate, according to the Apostle, and with His very passion and death, granted to us victory over the passions and death. I speak of the Resurrection of the Lord, which accordingly gives rise to one portion of this feast of the martyr, which before it dawns upon the church of Christ as a great sun. We proceed straightaway to this fellow dawn of this feast of George, which shines also with that of the radiant and most graceful season of spring. And with the glorious Ascension of the Lord to the heavens, through which our very nature was granted to be seated with the Father, thus follows harmoniously the other latter portion of this feast of the Martyr.
And let not one think that it is by chance that the memory of George is between these two great feasts of the Master. No, but I say that this was accomplished according to divine providence, and through the revelation of the divine closeness (οικειότητα) of things, in other words, to reveal to us George, who was martyred for Christ, and the extreme love which this George had towards Him Whom he was martyred for, and how George not only become one with the passion of Christ through his martyrdom, but also shared the same season and days during which the Lord suffered. For, as the passion and the Resurrection of the Lord exceeds all the other feasts of the Master, thus, through the feast of spring, in a similar manner the feast of the martyr George exceeds the other feasts of martyrs throughout the year. For this feast is only celebrated after the holy Resurrection, and is celebrated during the time of most-radiant spring. And because those from the one side and the other are so joy-bestowing from the festival of the martyr, it is worthy also to present the beauty and radiance to one another. The festival is beautiful, the message is saving, and the works and actions are godly...
St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer (
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Vision of Saint George the Great Martyr In Glory

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer (
A Vision of Saint George the Great Martyr In Glory, by Theodotus, Bishop of Ancyra in Galatia (d. 430)
It came to pass in the time of the God-loving Emperor Theodosius of glorious memory that on the first day of his reign he saw a marvellous thing, he saw Saint George come from heaven with great glory and the archangel [Michael] with him, and he seated the God-loving Emperor Theodosius upon the throne of the Romans, and his faith within him was strong in Saint George all the time [of his rule].

And when he had reigned twenty years he built a large church to the name of Saint George, and he gathered together all the bishops to the consecration of the church of Saint George, and he sent for all the bishops and even for my feeble self, a weak old man. And when we had consecrated the holy church in the name of God and of Saint George, the precentor (?) sang the psalms in their proper order, and the emperor and his nobles and the whole city were with us.

And after the emperor and the whole multitude had sat down, he commanded the martyrdom of Saint George to be read, for that day was the twenty-third of Pharmouthi [April], and we listened breathlessly. But when the reader came to that place where God testified to Saint George, saying, "There is none like unto thee among all the martyrs, neither shall there be any like unto thee forever," the subject puzzled me, and I said, "Since so many generals and eparchs and governors of this world have forsaken all the glory of this world, and their rank, and wealth, and have died for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ under the impious and lawless Emperor Diocletian, how can this holy martyr be more exalted than they all?" When we had celebrated the Holy Communion and the evening had come, we lighted a lamp for the emperor, and lay down to sleep, and neither the emperor nor any of the others did eat, but he slept with us in the holy church.

Now it was the evening of the Lord's Day, for the consecration of the church took place on the Sabbath day. And when the night had come and we had, as was meet, performed the office for the night, and had said, "Amen", we sat down to speak of the mightiness of God, and the emperor came with us. And one of our fathers, a bishop, was taken up to heaven in a vision, and he saw most exalted mysteries of which it is not lawful for an earthly being to utter.

St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer (
He said: "I saw that I was standing before the throne of the Father, and I saw thousands of thousands, and myriads of myriads praising the Holy Trinity, and coming in bands, and they worshipped God, and glorified Him and blessed Him, and made their requests, and afterwards they stood in rows, and no earthly creature could describe the glory and the great honour which they had received from the Trinity. And I saw one coming forth from within the veil like unto a king wearing a diadem of gold with seven crowns upon it, and he was riding upon a white horse, and he was many times brighter than the sun, and was equipped with sword and armour and the apparel of a king; in short his kingly dignity was immeasurable. And when he came forth a mighty multitude followed him on this side and on that, and I saw all the saints bowing down before him, and when I looked I was speechless, and I wished to know who he was. And I looked on my right hand and I saw a monk standing having wings like an angel of God, and he wore a kingly crown and raiment the like of which there is not among the kingdoms of the world, and he had a golden staff in his right hand, and his face was full of joy, and great glory surrounded him. And I besought him, saying, 'My father, I beseech thee to show me who thou art that art in such honour as this.' And he embraced me and said to me, 'I am Paul of Tamma, and well hast thou come, O shepherd of our true King, our Lord Jesus Christ;' and when he had said these things to me I rejoiced that I had found freedom of speech before him. And I said to him, 'O master, my holy father, inasmuch as thou hast deemed me worthy of thy holy salutation, I bessech thee to tell me who is this great king that has just come, to whom all this multitude has bowed the knee?' Then the blessed man broke into a spiritual smile and he said to me, 'Knowest thou not who this is?' And I said to him, 'O father, how should I know who this is since I have never seen him before?' He answered and said to me, 'I have been sent to thee to make thee certain of the things which thou didst ponder over in thy heart yesterday in the church concerning Saint George, the beloved of God, the chosen martyr exalted above all the saints according to the words of our Saviour. The works of every soul which comes forth from the body, whether of righteous men or whether of sinners, are manifested forth on the spiritual tablet and the soul is in its presence always, and its deeds are written upon it. When it pleased my Lord Jesus Christ to take me, His servant, to my rest and to visit me, I came forth from the world, and He esteemed me worthy of His goodness, and He brought me into His city, and I saw this being whom thou hast seen. And he had on this royal diadem with seven crowns above it, and I looked upon it and read the writing which was upon it, which said, I am George of Melitene, from Diospolis, who died three times for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I saw all the saints bowing their knees before him.

St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer being crowned (source)
Now I had endured many sufferings for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and died four times, and I said within myself, Behold, I am equal to him in honour, and I refrained from bending the knee to him. And straightway, in a moment, He who knows the hearts of all men sent the Archangel Michael to me who said, O excellent Paul, why hast thou not taken part in the spiritual salutation according to the command of the Almighty?, and I told him what was in my heart. Then he took me immediately to the holy Apa Noub the Confessor, who had been both a monk and a martyr, and he showed him the command of God. The holy confessor said to me, O Paul my holy father, go and perform the command of God, and say not, I have suffered like the mighty George, for thou, of thine own free will, [didst suffer] greatly; but that just man did for God's sake suffer by axes, by double edged hatchets, by saws, by nails, by fire, by two edged swords, and by the mouths of wild beasts. And I say unto thee, O my beloved one, that when the attendant cometh and sayeth unto thee, 'The Lord calleth for thee, come,' is not thy going better than seventy years of a monk's life in his cell?' When I heard these things I changed my mind through the words of the archangel and the holy man and I said, 'Forgive me'; and they rejoiced with me, and I went to the holy martyr of Christ and straightway made obeisance before him. [And the holy man said], 'O faithful shepherd of Christ, console thyself, for there is no one like unto thyself among the martyrs who are crowned [except] Saint George himself.' And while the holy man (Paul of Tamma) was talking with me, Saint George the soldier of Christ came up to me with his face beaming with rays of light, and he saluted me and filled me with joy and gladness, and said to me, 'When thou goest to thy city Ancyra, build thou a temple to me in it, that I may come and dwell with thee, for it will be one hundred and five months before thou shalt come to me in this holy city.' When he had said these things to me I rose up straightway from my vision.'"
A fresco from the 15th century monastery of the Precious Cross, Patrauti, Romania: The March of the Saints towards the Precious Cross. The Holy Archangel Michael points towards the Cross, and is followed by St. Constantine the Great. The Martyred Soldier Saints, led by St. George the Trophybearer and St. Demetrios the Myrrhstreamer, all march towards the Precious Cross. All bear armor, weapons and horses, not just as indications of their occupations, but as depictions of their spiritual armor and weapons, as they "fought the good fight", and will continue serve in Christ's Army unto eternity. (
When the emperor and the twelve bishops saw the radiant face of that bishop they knew that he had seen a revelation, and they entreated him to tell them what he had seen. And he, as his mind came to him, told them all the vision he had seen, and they marvelled greatly, and glorified God and the holy martyr Saint George. And the emperor answered and said, "On the day when God seated me, unworthy though I be, upon the Roman throne, I saw with my sinful eyes, Saint George with glorious visage come from heaven holding a sceptre of gold in his right hand, and the Archangel Michael was with him. And I saw a diadem of gold and seven crowns upon his head, and he shone a thousand times brighter than the sun, and he came to me filled with joy, and took hold of me, and seated me upon the imperial throne, and a number of the nobles of the army saw him face to face. And I saw him again in his holy church and he showed me things that would do good to my soul." Now when I (Theodotus) heard these things, I blessed my Lord Jesus and his holy martyrs. After these things that bishop went to his city and built a beautiful church in the name of God and Saint George, and consecrated it with his own hands before he came out of the body. Now that bishop was one of the three hundred and eighteen bishops that were gathered together in Nicea; and he filled the office of bishop for seventy-five years, and he died in God when he was one hundred and eighteen years old.

St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer (
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Liberator of captives, defender of the poor, physician of the sick, and champion of kings, O trophy-bearer, Great Martyr George, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Cultivated by God, you became manifest as an honorable tiller gathering for yourself the sheaves of virtue. For you sowed with tears but reaped with gladness; in the contest you competed with your blood and came away with Christ. By your intercessions, O Holy One, all are granted forgiveness of sins.
St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Excerpt from the Homily on St. Thomas Sunday by St. John Chrysostom

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Touching of Thomas, celebrated on the Second Sunday of Pascha (Antipascha) (
Excerpt from the Homily on St. Thomas Sunday ("On the New Sunday, and on the apostle Thomas) by St. John Chrysostom (amateur translation)
I have come to be resolved of the debt that has been incurred. For though I am poor, I force myself due to your gratefulness. I promised to show the faithlessness of Thomas, and low I am at hand to give it up to you, for I am willing to be the first to pay off the first debt, that the children of those who have been gathered might not be forfeited. Work, therefore, with me to pay off this debt, and let us entreat Thomas, that his holy right hand which touched the side of the Master might be laid upon our mouths, and innervate my tongue to discourse to you, the fervent ones. I, through the intercessions of the apostle and martyr Thomas, take heart, and preach his former indecision, and his second confession, that has become our Church's armor and foundation. The Savior is coming to His own disciples through locked doors, and again proceeds as he entered, while Thomas along was missing.

This was therefore a work of divine providence, that the separation of the disciple would become a harbinger of increasing safety and surety. For if Thomas had not been absent, he would not have doubted; and if he would not have doubted, he would not have sought strangely; and if he would not have sought, he would not have felt; and if he would not have felt, he would not have been convinced of the Lord and God; and if he did not call Him Lord and God, then neither would we have been taught to hymn Him thus. For Thomas by not being present, has led us towards the truth, and later became more confirmed regarding the faith. Therefore the disciples told Thomas who came last of all: “We have seen the Lord, we have seen He Who said: 'I am the light of the word'; we have seen Him Who said: 'I am the resurrection and the life and the truth', and the words of truth we found truly shining in Him. We have seen Him Who said: 'After three days I will arise, and you will behold the resurrection', and we worshiped Him Who was resurrected. We heard Him tell us: 'Peace be unto you', and our confusion of sadness was transformed into peace and joy. We beheld His hands showing the signs of the nails, we beheld the hands that were railed against by the God-hating dogs in rage; we beheld the hands that brought about our incorruption; we also beheld the side that cried out most radiantly of all with the compassion of He Who was wounded. We beheld the side that is hymned by the angels, and is honored by the faithful, and is trembling to demons. We also received a divine breath from His divine mouth, a spiritual breath, a breath that bestows every grace. We were ordained by the Master to be masters of remission of offenses, and we became lords of the judgment of sinners, for we received the commandment form Him: 'If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.' Words like these we feasted on from the Savior, and gifts like these we received from Him. For how could we be enriched richly by the Master? And you poor man, will not remain so in the future.

What, therefore, did they say to Thomas? We have seen the Lord? Well, he told them, even if you saw Him, I certainly will not believe the rest. Having seen Him, do you preach Him? As for me, unless I behold in hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will not believe. For you did not believe until you first saw Him, and thus with me, I will not believe unless I see. Hold on, O Thomas, with this fervor, and hold on well, that you might see me and that I might confirm you in soul. Hold on, and seek Him Who says: 'Seek and ye shall find'. Do not not stand by simply as an observer, if you do not find the treasure Whom you seek. Hold on, and knock at the door of indisputable knowledge, until He opens to you, Who says: 'Knock, and the door will be opened to you.' I embrace these senseless thoughts, that cut away every senselessness; I love the manner by which you wish to learn, which dashes apart every love of strife; and I especially hear you who say many times: “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, I will not believe.”

For by your doubting, I am taught to believe; by your forked-tongue that revealed the wound on the divine body that was pierced, I harvest the fruit for myself without pain. [For you said] unless I see with my eyes the wounds in His holy hands, then the impious would question, without accepting our words. Unless I place this my finger into the marks of the nails, then they will not receive our Gospel. Unless I place this my hand into that side, the untrampling witness of the resurrection, they will not believe my words...From now on, people will be preached of the wonders of the teacher: how will they accept these without seeing with their eyes? How will the faithless come to believe, and ultimately follow Him Whom I did? Will I say to the Judeans and Greeks that the Crucified One and my Master is risen, but I did not see Him, but simply heard of Him? And who will not laugh at my voice? Who will not ignore my preaching? It is one thing to hear, and another to see. It is one thing to receive words, and another to see and touch something. Therefore doubt conquered the mind of Thomas, and after eight days again the Master appeared to His disciples who were gathered together. He left Thomas during these days to be preached to by the others, and to fill him with the thirst for the vision of Him, and his soul was greatly inflamed with the desire to see. Therefore, at the proper time, the one who was desiring perceived the One Who is desired.
Christ again appearing to His disciples, and the touching of St. Thomas (
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

St. Gabriel the Child-Martyr of Poland

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

St. Gabriel the Child-Martyr of Poland - Commemorated April 20 (
From this Saint, we perceive many important messages:
1. One's age, experience, intelligence or possessions are not prerequisites for holiness, as our Church has many examples (from the Holy Innocents to St. Kerykos the Child-martyr to Sts. Faith, Hope and Love the Virgin-Martyrs), of infants and children who have lived lives of holiness, and have suffered for Christ. And Christ glorified them as faithful servants who were faithful unto death.
2. The demons, and twisted, sadistic and sick people under their influence are not new phenomena. But despite the extreme darkness that could enable one to go so far as to kill an innocent child, the light of Christ will ultimately triumph.
3. This triumph through the Resurrection of Christ is vivdly demonstrated through the revelation of the incorrupt relics of this Saint, and their great wonderworking through the Holy Spirit. To paraphrase the Divine Chrysostom: Christ is risen, and the demons have fallen! Christ is risen, and not one dead is left in the tombs!
St. Gabriel the Child-martyr of Poland (
The holy youth Martyr Gabriel was born in 1684 in the village of Zverka, Zabludov diocese, to apious peasant couple, Peter and Anastasia Govdel. He was baptized in the Dormition church of the Zabludov monastery and received the name Gabriel in honor of the Archangel.

Besides the meekness and guilelessness normally found in children, the young Gabriel was marked by characteristics uncommon to his age. He had, for example, a reflective nature and a mature perception of the action of Divine Providence in people's lives. It is not surprising that he inclined more towards prayer and solitude than towards the amusements which occupied his peers.
In 1690 tragedy visited the GovdeI family. One day the unsuspecting mother, leaving the six-year old Gabriel alone in the house, took some food to his father who was out plowing the fields. While she was gone a local tenant came to the house. Taking advantage of the parents' absence and the child's trusting nature, he kidnapped the boy.

Gabriel was taken secretly to the town of Bialystok and given over to sadistic torture. His side was pierced and a special instrument was inserted which gradually drained his blood. After nine days of such treatment the boy died. Desiring to conceal such a vile deed, the murderer secretly took the body and threw it onto the edge of a field near some woods in the vicinity of the boy's home village.

The martyrdom of St. Gabriel, which included nine days of torture, piercing of his blessed side, and crucifixion for Christ (
The holy Feast of Pascha approached. Hungry dogs began gathering around the lifeless body, predatory birds circled overhead. Miraculously the body remained untouched. Not only did the dogs refrain from devouring it, they even guarded it against the birds.

The body of the young martyr was eventually discovered and taken to Zabludov. An investigation brought to light the particulars of the crime which was duly entered in the town records. With the participation of many local inhabitants, deeply shaken by the committed atrocity, the body of the martyr Gabriel was laid to rest near the cemetery church. There it remained for close to thirty years.

Early in the 18th century, the whole territory surrounding Bialystok was seized by an epidemic. Thousands fell victim to the disease and crowded the cemeteries. Many children from the neighborhood of Zvevka and Zabludov were buried near the grave of the child-martyr Gabriel whom many revered on account of his innocent suffering and martyric death. Many sensed an abundance of grace present at his grave,

Once, during a burial, some grave diggers inadvertently came up against Gabriel' s coffin. When it was opened witnesses were astonished to see that after the passage of so many years, the child's body was incorrupt. News of the miracle spread with lightening speed among the faithful, strengthening and increasing veneration for the holy child. His relics were reverently transferred to the village church in Zverkov and placed in a special crypt below the church.

St. Gabriel the Child-martyr of Poland (
In 1794 a fire destroyed the church but, miraculously, the relics were spared. Only a portion of one hand was partially burned and this, undoubtedly, in accordance with God's Providence for the sake of strengthening faith and piety among the Orthodox people, for when the holy relics were subsequently transferred to the Zabludov monastery, the injured hand was supernaturally restored; it was found to be newly covered with skin.

The living memory of the child-martyr, the honor accorded him, and the desire to promote his veneration inspired the building of a church on the site of his grave. On the day of Holy Pascha 1894, took place the festive consecration of the church. Sadly, only eight years later this church also burned. But on this occasion likewise there occurred a miracle. Although the church was completely destroyed, the icon of its heavenly patron, child-martyr Gabriel, was preserved unharmed.
The Holy Relics of St. Gabriel the Child-martyr of Poland (
For many years St. Gabriel's relics lay in the Zabludov monastery. External circumstances, however, forced upon the area a tense situation which was heightened by the ill will of some of its heterodox inhabitants. For the sake of security the relics were transferred to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Slutsky--which explains how St. Gabriel came to be called "Slutsky," a fact which clouds the true origin of this Zabludov saint. From Slutsky the holy relics were eventually transferred to the city of Minsk and then to Grodno where they exist at the present time.

But the believers of the Polish Orthodox Churchhave faith that in God's good time the holy relics of the child-martyr Gabriel will be returned to his homeland, to the place of his birth, where his memory is reverently preserved in prayer even to this day.
(Translated from the Life, in Russian, published together with an akathist to the Saint through the efforts of the Orthodox parish in Zabludov;

" On days 21-22 September 1992, with blessing of a Bialystok and Gdansk Archbishop Sawa and also with blessing of a Grodno and Volkowyck Bishop Valentin, the relic of Saint Gabriel was festively transferred from Grodno to St. Nicola's Cathedral in Bialystok."
St. Gabriel the Child-martyr of Poland (

Troparion of the Saint
Holy Child Gabriel, in the name of the One pierced for us, bad people had pierced your body, and for the One who blooded for us, your whole body was bleeding and ha terrible wounds, but now and in eternal glory you are enjoying with Him. Remember there about us, who here on earth are worshipping you, pray for the health of our bodies and the salvation of our souls!

Thou wast born in God-preserved Zverka, O Martyr of Christ Gabriel, where thou didst pass thy childhood. From thy father's house thou wast cunningly stolen away by evil people, and having endured cruel torments, thou didst settle in the heavenly homeland. Preserve us from all attacks and misfortune, and, we beg of thee, entreat the Lord that we too may partake of thine eternal inheritance.
St. Gabriel the Martyr of Poland (
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

St. Zacchaeus the Apostle

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!  
St. Zacchaeus the Apostle - Commemorated April 20 (
The holy Apostle Zacchaeus was a rich publican at Jericho. Since he was short of stature, he climbed a sycamore tree in order to see the Savior passing by. After the Ascension of the Lord, St Zacchaeus accompanied St Peter on his travels. Tradition says he became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, where he died in peace.

The Gospel (Luke 19:1-10) describing Zacchaeus' encounter with Christ is read on the Sunday before the TRIODION begins.
O Holy Apostle Zacchaeus, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Christian must be kind with everyone

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Christian must be kind with everyone (amateur translation)
by St. Nektarios of Pentapolis, the Wonderworker
Christians must, according to the commandment of the Lord, become holy and perfect.

Perfection and holiness are first engraved deeply in the soul of the Christian, and from there they become sealed in his thoughts, his desires, his words and his actions.

Thus, the grace of God, which exists in the soul, pours forth throughout the whole external character.

The Christian must be kind [eugenikos] with everyone. His words and actions should exude the grace of the Holy Spirit which dwells in his soul, so as to bear witness to his Christian way of life and that the name of God might be glorified.

Whoever is measured in his words, is measured also in his actions. Whoever tests the words that he is about to speak, also tests the works that he is about to perform, and thus he never oversteps the bounds of good and virtuous conduct.

The grace-filled words of the Christian are characterized by tact and kindness. These are those that give birth to love, and bring peace and joy. In contrast, idle talk gives birth to hate, enemies, trials, love of falls, brawls, riots and wars.

Therefore, let us always be kind. May an evil word never pass our lips, a word that is not seasoned with the grace of God, but may they always be grace-filled words, good words, words that bear witness to kindness according to Christ that adorn us spiritually.
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene the Newly-Revealed Martyrs of Lesvos

Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene the Newly-Revealed Martyrs of Lesvos - Commemorated on April 9 and Tuesday of Bright Week (Icon by the hand of Photi Kontouglou, from:
These saints were martyred by the Turks on Bright Tuesday (April 9, 1463) ten years after the Fall of Constantinople. For nearly 500 years, they were forgotten by the people of Lesbos, but "the righteous Judge... opened the things that were hid" (2 Macc. 12:41).

For centuries the people of Lesbos would go on Bright Tuesday to the ruins of a monastery near Thermi, a village northwest of the capital, Mytilene. As time passed, however, no one could remember the reason for the annual pilgrimage. There was a vague recollection that once there had been a monastery on that spot, and that the monks had been killed by the Turks.

In 1959, a pious man named Angelos Rallis decided to build a chapel near the ruins of the monastery. On July 3 of that year, workmen discovered the relics of St Raphael while clearing the ground.

[After the discovery of the grave, amazing phenomena started to occur. The bones were put in a sack by a Mr Doukas Tsolakis. He was in charge of the excavations. He could not lift the sack up due to the excessive weight. Noises were heard from the bones.They were also producing a fragrant incense. One of the workers, a Mr Leonidas Sideras kicked the sack and his leg went numb. Tsolakis' hand remained motionless. He could not lift the sack.The priest was asked to do a Trisagion-a prayer for the departed. The night before he was due to conduct the service, he was wondering what name he should use. During the night Saint Raphael appeared to the Priest. He told him who he was, and that he was born on the island of Ithaka. (]

Soon, the saints began appearing to various inhabitants of Lesbos and revealed the details of their lives and martyrdom. These accounts form the basis of Photios Kontoglou's 1962 book A GREAT SIGN (in Greek).
St. Raphael the Newly-revealed Hieromartyr of Lesvos (
St Raphael was born on the island of Ithaka around 1410, and was raised by pious parents. His baptismal name was George, but he was named Raphael when he became a monk. He was ordained to the holy priesthood, and later attained the offices of Archimandrite and Chancellor. [He previously also served as parish priest in the church of St Demetrios of Loumbardiaris in Athens. (]


[Once when St. Raphael travelled to France, he met St Nicholas at Morlaix. Nicholas was from a wealthy family. He was a young student from Thessalonika studying at a French university. Nicholas was moved by the teaching of St. Raphael and they became firm friends and his disciple. (]

In 1453, St Raphael was living in Macedonia with his fellow monastic, the deacon Nicholas, a native of Thessalonica.

[For an account of how Sts. Raphael and Nicholas fled Constantinople in defence of Orthodoxy, see:]

In 1454, the Turks invaded Thrace, so the two monks fled to the island of Lesbos. They settled in the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos near Thermi, where St Raphael became the igumen.

[The monastery that they found at Thermi was a ruined Byzantine monastery, destroyed after a raid by pirates in 1235AD. Later through additional revelations, some of the Holy Relics of the martyred nuns were discovered, including St. Olympia the Abbess (]

The wondrous tomb of St. Raphael in his Monastery, as it appears today. Note that the Saints' tombs and many other treasures of the monastery, were found through divine revelation as to their exact location, 500 years after their martyrdom. This is truly vivid proof of Christ's Resurrection. (
In the spring of 1463, the Turks raided the monastery and captured the monks. They were tortured from Holy Thursday until Bright Tuesday. St Raphael was tied to a tree, and the ferocious Turks sawed through his jaw, killing him. St Nicholas was also tortured, and he died while witnessing his Elder's martyrdom. He appeared to people and indicated the spot where his relics were uncovered on June 13, 1960.

The Martyrdom of St. Raphael and St. Nicholas the New Righteous Martyrs of Lesvos (unknown source)
St Irene was the twelve-year-old daughter of the village mayor, Basil. She and her family had come to the monastery to warn the monks of the invasion. The cruel Hagarenes cut off one of her arms and threw it down in front of her parents. Then the pure virgin was placed in a large earthen cask and a fire was lit under it, suffocating her within. These torments took place before the eyes of her parents, who were also put to death. Her grave and the earthen cask were found on May 12, 1961 after Sts Raphael, Nicholas and Irene had appeared to people and told them where to look.

The Martyrdom of St. Irene the Virgin Martyr of Lesvos (unknown source)  
The cauldron in which they burned the 12-year old St. Irene alive, in front of her parents (
Others who received the crown of martyrdom on that day were Basil and Maria, the parents of St Irene; Theodore, the village teacher; and Eleni, the fifteen-year-old cousin of St Irene.

The Tomb of St. Irene the Virgin Martyr, as it appears today (
The saints appeared separately and together, telling people that they wished to be remembered. They asked that their icon be painted, that a church service be composed for them, and they indicated the place where their holy relics could be found. Based on the descriptions of those who had seen the saints, the master iconographer Photios Kontoglou painted their icon. The ever-memorable Father Gerasimos of Little St Anne Skete on Mt. Athos composed their church service.

The Burial of St. Raphael of Lesvos (unknown source)
Many miracles have taken place on Lesbos, and throughout the world. The saints hasten to help those who invoke them, healing the sick, consoling the sorrowful, granting relief from pain, and bringing many unbelievers and impious individuals back to the Church.

Some of the gifts to the monastery of St. Raphel from many of the faithful that have been saved through the Saints' prayers (
St Raphael is tall, middle-aged, and has a beard of moderate length. His hair is black with some grey in it. His face is majestic, expressive, and filled with heavenly grace. St Nicholas is short and thin, with a small blond beard. He stands before St Raphael with great respect. St Irene usually appears with a long yellow dress reaching to her feet. Her blonde hair is divided into two braids which rest on either side of her chest.
The first appearance of St. Raphael (source)
Sts Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene (and those with them) are also commemorated on Bright Tuesday. Dr. Constantine Cavarnos has given a detailed account of their life, miracles, and spiritual counsels in Volume 10 of his inspirational series MODERN ORTHODOX SAINTS (Belmont, MA, 1990).
St. Raphael the Hieromartyr depicted in prayer (
Excerpt from the teachings of St. Raphael given to various individuals through his appearances
1.Christ and We
Only where Christ dwells is there blessedness. Where Christ blesses there is heavenly repose. Where Christ turns His benveolent gaze there is inexpressible true joy. Christ, with His unceasing love for us and His great humility, loves us and invisibly reproves us and reminds us through His miracles that there is life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

2. The Path of Christ
The path of Christ is somewhat difficult, but with patience, will, and humility one makes progress... It involves tribulation and suffering, without which it is not possible for one to find the path open for the benefit of his soul.

3. Repentance and Regeneration
When a person is in a state of bondage to sin and has as an obstacle sadness and cannot concentrate, it means that he is without the regeneration of our Savior Jesus Christ and is far from Him.
But when a man "comes to himself" and feels that his soul is far from God and becomes aware of his sinfulness, and with tears of repentance entreats our Heavenly Father to forgive him and bring him back to the heavenly joy of our Christ, then the regeneration of his soul takes place.

4. Care of the soul
When a Christian exercises watchful care, he heals his soul and does not allow it to be lost....Do not let your soul go astray in matter, in the corruptible things of the world. Life has no value if we do not take care of the soul. Therefore, do not let yourselves go astray and lose your soul Read carefully the Gospels, because these were written with the Grace and the glory of God, to be read by the faithful that their life might shine.
The finding of the Holy Relic of St. Raphael, on July 3rd, 1959 (source)
On days when a Saint is celebrated, Christians ought to pray more ardently, with contrition and love, and entreat the Saint to intercede with God for the salvation of their soul. The feast day of every Saint is for Christians a serious reminder of the great sufferings which the Saints experienced for the sake of Christ's faith. They were glorified by God and with glory they received a place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let us then honor the Saints and invoke their help, in order that they might strengthen us in our prayer. And we may rest assured that our prayer will be listened to by God.

A guileless spirit is one which has no badness within it. Badness is a characteristic of the evil one, who seeks by means of wickedness to divert man from the path of virtue and from God. Consequently, great carefulness and effort are needed in order that there might reign in the soul a guileless and pure spirit.

How much care do people exercise in order to save their soul? What medicines do they use in order to protect it from the microbes of sin which threaten and attact it? And yet, the Lord has indicated the medicines: love, warm prayer, and humility. They must employ all of them, seeking at the same time the help of God, through which alone can the soul be regenerated and be freed from the microbes of sin...Sin must be banished from the soul: greed, rapacity, impatience, improper imagination.
Examine your self and strive to adorn it with love, humility, compassion and hope. Seek the regeneration of your soul, enlightened by the voice of the Gospel and helped by God. With fear and love for the Heavenly Father, proceed to sow the seeds of God's word on good soil. Cultivate the talent given by Christ for the salvation of your soul.
Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene the Newly-revealed Martyrs of Lesvos, as depicted above the entrance to their Monastery (
Apolytikion in honor of all three Saints: RAPAHEL, NICHOLAS AND IRENE in the Fourth Tone
Having contended on Lesvos for the sake for Christ God, you have sanctified the island since the discovery of your sacred relics, O blessed ones; wherefore we honor you, O God-bearing Raphael, together with Nicholas and virgin Irene, as our divine protectors and intercessors with the Lord.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Let all of us honor as our protectors and miracle-workers the holy Martyrs who manifestly contended for Christ, whose sacred relics were hidden under the earth for many years, and who have manifested themselves to us in wondrous ways: Raphael, Nicholas, and divine Irene, as well as those who contended with them in a godly-minded manner.

Let us honor with hymns the Hosiomartyrs of Christ, divine Raphael and venerable Nicholas, together with Irene, the guardians of Lesvos, for helping us.
For the full service (in Greek) to Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene celebrated on Bright Tuesday, see:  
The Holy Martyrs of Thermi, Lesvos (including Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, Irene and Olympias) and scenes from their lives and martyrdoms (
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling upon death, and to those in the tombs granting life!
Truly the Lord is risen!