Friday, June 29, 2012

Excerpt from the homily on Sts. Peter and Paul, by St. John Chrysostom

Sts. Peter and Paul, the glorious chiefs of the Apostles - Commemorated June 29 (souce)
Excerpt from St. John Chrysostom's homily: "On the chiefs of the apostles Peter and Paul, and on their most-glorious martyrdom" (amateur translation)
I behold heaven and earth in contest today, for this present feast of the memory of the apostles, with the heavenly powers preciously praising their pained voice of teaching, through which was made known to the world the mystery, as Paul cries out: “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10)”, while men on earth rush to rightly praise and show honor to the chiefs, through whom they have entered into salvation. For how was Peter great? How was Paul equal? Through their works and words they conquered all creation in the heavens and upon earth. For though the clay of their bodies was covered with wounds, they were found greater than the angels. What, therefore, shall I say towards those teachers of the creation above and below? I will not find a proper word to honor those who honored our people, who passed through the whole earth and sea, and uprooted the roots of sins, and sowed the seeds of piety in the hearts of disobedient men.
Peter, the teacher of the apostles; Paul, who is known to the world, and who partakes with the powers above. Peter, the bridle of the ungrateful Judeans; Paul, the entreaty for the nations. And I see the surpassing wisdom of the Master, for Peter was chosen from among fishermen, while Paul from the maker of tents, and He did this for our benefit. For he drowned the glory of the Judeans. Because of this, to the fisherman, the Lord said: “Go to the shore, and cast out your hook, and the first fish you find, open its mouth, and you will find a coin.” By sea, I take it to mean the lawless judgment of the Judeans. By hook, the crafted word of preaching. By fish, He symbolizes the law. Regarding the opening of its mouth, He speaks of its explanation. To find a coin in it, He means to spiritually examine it. While Paul was used as a tent-maker for the nations, that they who were naked, through the law and grace, might be clothed with the red covering that was dyed in the water and blood of the Master. Therefore, the Master cries to him: “Go forth, therefore, for I send you to the far away nations.” O blessed dyad, in which the souls of the whole world have believed! Peter, the beginning of orthodoxy, the great revealer of the Church, the needed counselor of Christians, the treasure of the powers from above, the apostle honored by the Master. Paul, the great preacher of the truth, the boast of the world, the man in heaven, and angel upon the earth, the glory of the Church, the eagle that soars in the heights, the lyre of the Spirit, the swallow and cicada (τέττιξ), the Master’s organ, the speedy servant of Christ. Paul and Peter, the yoked oxen of the Church, who passed through the world well in things, taking up the cross instead of a yoke, instead of a driver the Savior, instead of a furrow laid down the Scriptures, instead of the plow the grace of the Holy Spirit. Paul and Peter, who daily gladden the Church, the Master’s treasuries, the inns of the world, the receptacles of the Spirit, those who explain the Holy Trinity, those who relate the economy of the divine word. Peter, my spiritual love; Paul, the vessel of election, and my staff. Peter, the temple of God; Paul, the mouth of Christ, the lyre of the Spirit, a man of three cubits and who reaches the heavens; who is outlined in place, and outlines the Master of all for the world; who proceeded from Jerusalem and around as far as Illyricum fulfilling the Gospel of Christ; the long-distance runner, the eagle who reaches heaven; he who fulfills divine grace, he who witnessed for the Lord, bearing His name before the whole world; the three-floored building leading to heaven, and entering paradise, and reaching the Master, and incomprehensible throne that ascends, and he who hears unspeakable mysteries, which cannot be spoken of by man.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

St. Sampson the Innkeeper and Unmercenary

St. Sampson the Innkeeper - Commemorated on June 27 (
Saint Sampson the Hospitable was the son of rich and illustrious Roman parents. In his youth he received an excellent education, he studied the medical arts, and doctored the sick without charge. After the death of his parents St Sampson generously distributed alms and set his slaves free, preparing himself to go into the wilderness.

With this intent in mind he soon journeyed from Rome to the East. But the Lord directed him onto a different path, that of service to neighbor, and so St Sampson came to Constantinople. Settling into a small house, the saint began to take in homeless wanderers, the poor and the sick, and he attended to them. The Lord blessed the efforts of St Sampson and endowed him with the power of wonderworking. He healed the sick not only through being a skilled physician, but also as a bearer of the grace of God. [St. Sampson is numbered with the Holy Unmercenary Saints.] News of St Sampson spread abroad. The patriarch heard of his great virtue and ordained him to the holy priesthood.

It was revealed to the grievously ill Emperor Justinian (527-565), that he could receive healing only through St Sampson. In praying, the saint put his hand on the afflicted area, and Justinian was healed. In gratitude the emperor wanted to reward his healer with silver and gold, but the saint refused and instead asked Justinian to build a home for the poor and the sick. The emperor readily fulfilled his request.

St Sampson devoted the rest of his life to serving his neighbor. He survived into old age and after a short illness he departed peacefully to the Lord. The saint was buried at the church of the holy Martyr Mocius, and many healings were effected at his grave. His hospice remained open, and the saint did not cease to care for the suffering. He appeared twice to a negligent worker of the hospice and upbraided him for his laziness. At the request of an admirer of St Sampson the hospice was transformed into a church, and beside it a new edifice was built for the homeless. During the time of a powerful fire at Constantinople the flames did not touch the hospice of St Sampson. Through his intercession a heavy rain quenched the fire.
See also:
St. Sampson the Innkeeper and Unmercenary (
Troparion - Tone 8
Through your patience, your unceasing prayer, your love for the poor and the help you gave to them, you became worthy of your reward, O holy Sampson. Intercede with Christ God that He may save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 8
We honor your relics, for you are an excellent physician and powerful intercessor; as we gather to praise you with psalms and hymns, divinely-wise and venerable Sampson, we glorify Christ, who granted you the grace of healing.

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

St. David of Thessaloniki the Dendrite

St. David of Thessaloniki the Dendrite - Commemorated June 26 (
"With David of old art thou now united, O new David; for thou didst kill the carnal passions like Goliath. On the twenty-sixth, David passed through the gates of life."

The earliest written chronicle of the life of Saint David comes from his contemporary, Saint John Moschos, in his Leimonarion or Spiritual Meadow. Saint John together with his disciple and companion Sophronios the Sophist travelled to Egypt in order to record the great deeds and wise sayings of the Desert Fathers from the monastic authorities of the desert of the late 6th or early 7th century. He records how he met Abba Palladios in Alexandria and tells us the following:
We went to the same Abba Palladios with this request: "Of your charity, tell us, father, where you came from, and how it came about that you embraced the monastic life". He was from Thessalonika, he said, and then he told us this: "In my home country, about three stadia beyond the city wall, there was a recluse, a native of Mesopotamia whose name was David. He was a man of outstanding virtue, merciful and continent. He spent about twenty years in his place of confinement. Now at this time, because of the barbarians, the walls of the city were patrolled at night by soldiers. One night those who were on guard-duty at that stretch of the city-walls nearest to where the elder's place of confinement was located, saw fire pouring from the windows of the recluse's cell. The soldiers thought the barbarians must have set the elder's cell on fire; but when they went out in the morning, to their amazement, they found the elder unharmed and his cell unburned. Again the following night they saw fire, the same way as before, in the elder's cell - and this went on for a long time. The occurrence became known to all the city and throughout the countryside. Many people would come and keep vigil at the wall all night long in order to see the fire, which continued to appear until the elder died. As this phenomenon did not merely appear once or twice but was often seen, I said to myself: 'If God so glorifies his servants in this world, how much more so in the world to come when He shines upon their face like the sun?' This, my children, is why I embraced the monastic life."

Abba Palladios goes on to speak of another monk from Mesopotamia known as Adolas the Recluse. Saint John writes:
The elder also told us this: that after Abba David, there came to Thessalonika another monk, also from Mesopotamia, whose name was Adolas. He confined himself in a hollow plane tree in another part of the city. He made a little window in the tree through which he could talk with people who came to see him. When the barbarians came and laid waste all the countryside, they happened to pass by that place. One of the barbarians noticed the elder looking down at them. He drew his sword and raised his arm to strike the elder, but he remained there rooted to the spot with his hand stuck up in the air. When the rest of the barbarians saw this, they were amazed and, falling down before him, they besought the elder [to restore their comrad]. The elder offered a prayer and healed him and thus he dismissed them in peace.
From what we can tell from all the historical sources, including his biography written by an anonymous author of Thessaloniki between 715-720, Saint David was probably born in Mesopotamia around the year 450 AD and died in Thessaloniki sometime between 535 and 541. We don't know why either David or Adolas traveled from Mesopotamia to Thessaloniki, but both the Synaxarion of Constantinople and the Menologion of Emperor Basil II assure us that he did come from somewhere in the "east".

In Thessaloniki David became a monk at the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius, otherwise known as Koukouliaton (Κουκουλιατῶν) Monastery, at a young age between the years 465-470. It was known as Koukouliaton because the monks wore cloaks for which it was known and which is depicted in the icons of the Saint. In fact in January of 1944 a marble slab was found in the Jewish cemetery that depicted an icon of Saint David dating back to the 10th century in which he is wearing a cloak with the hood hanging off his shoulders.

We are told that the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius was next to the walls of the city at the gate known as Aproiton. We are further informed that there was another monastery next to this one known as Aproiton Monastery, though it is possible it could have been another name for the same monastery. The word "Aproiton" probably indicates the austere rule of the monasteries since it implies that the monks were not allowed to leave their monastery. This gate was probably located along the northern wall of the city to the west of the Acropolis which the Turks called during Ottoman times Eski Delik. It is believed that outside this gate along the wall was the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius where Saint David lived a monastic life. Others say the monastery was northeast of the Acropolis in an area known as the Garden of the Sheep, but this seems implausible since the Aproiton is too far west for this to be considered. However we still are not sure where the gate known as Aproiton was actually located for sure. To complicate matters further in locating the actual place of this monastery, one biography tells us that the monastery could be seen from the beach. If this is true, then the monastery would most likely have to be within the city walls to the west of the Acropolis along the northern wall.
St. David of Thessaloniki, depicted with St. Symeon the Stylite (
At the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius Saint David lived a life of prayer, fasting, vigils, humility, meditation of the sacred Scripture and the cultivation of all the virtues. When the abbot of the monastery passed away, the monks of the monastery found David alone worthy to replace him due to his spiritual gifts. However David refused this honor, and instead decided to live his ascetic ordeals by climbing up an almond tree to the right of the church (the katholikon of the monastery) and living up there for three years. One source tells us that this tree was in between two churches within the monastery. For three years this Saint endured the most extreme trials like the Stylite Saints (some say he endured more because the tree offered him no rest due to its constant swaying in the high winds), enduring the bitter cold of the winter and the burning heat of the summer and fully exposed to all the elements of the weather.

It should be noted that although Saint David was the first ascetic known as a "dendrite" (one who lives in trees) in Thessaloniki followed by Adolas (for whom there is no other historical source other than John Moschos), this type of asceticism was practiced in places like Syria and Mesopotamia from which both David and Adolas came from (see the life of Saint Maro the Dendrite celebrated February 4th). Interesting studies concerning dendrites can be read here and here. The latest dendrite I know of was Saint Joseph the Hesychast who in the 1920's lived in Athens and would pray sitting in a tree in imitation of the Saints. Furthermore, an interesting comparison of trees was depicted in the Church of Chora in Constantinople in the fourteenth century in which Saint David is shown at the entrance to the funeral chapel, and is positioned equidistant between Christ Calling Zaccheus (who had climbed a tree in order to see Christ as he passed through Jericho) and Moses before the Burning Bush. In each, we witness an encounter with the divine – Old Testament, New Testament, Roman Empire.

When those three difficult years passed, after instruction was given to him by an angel of the Lord to live in silence in a cell and he was foretold by this same angel that he would "accomplish one other act of love" before he died, Saint David came down from the almond tree and entered a cell that had been prepared by his disciples. Saint David entered his cell in the presence of Archbishop Dorotheos of Thessaloniki (c.497-c.520) along with many pious clergy and faithful who gathered to see this momentous event when the news had spread. John Moschos informs us that this cell existed outside the walls of the city "about three stadia beyond the city wall", that is, a little more than 555 meters beyond the wall no doubt very near his monastery. From the fact that Archbishop Dorotheos was present at this event, we can ascertain that Saint David entered his cell sometime within the first two decades of the sixth century.

Living as a recluse in his cell and for his unparalleled ascetic feats, this Saint was considered as an angel of God by the people. Many people came to seek his prayers and many healings of demonic possession, diseases and suffering are reported. We can assume it was during this time that the extraordinary events reported by John Moschos took place.
One such miracle that is reported bears an amazing resemblance to the account of St. John Moschos. We are told a certain youth had a demon and he came to the cell of the Righteous David crying out: "Release me, O David, thou servant of the eternal God, for fire comes forth from your cell and burns me." Upon hearing this David reached out his hand from his cell through a small window and held the youth, saying: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, commands you to go forth from His creature, O unclean spirit!" After doing the sign of the Cross over the youth, the demon was immediately released and all marvelled glorifying God who glorifies those who please Him with God-pleasing works.
Saint David's silence was interrupted sometime after 520 when Archbishop Dorotheos died. His successor, Archbishop Aristeides, together with a multitude of clergy and faithful came to the Saint's cell pleading that he travel to Constantinople so as to entreat Emperor Justinian (527-565) regarding the establishment of Justiniana Prima as the new capital of the Prefecture of Illyricum replacing Thessaloniki. Archbishop Aristeides was against this, since it would demote the status of Thessaloniki and divide Illyricum. Aristeides could not travel to Constantinople because he did not want to leave the city shepherdless with the impending threats of the barbarians.

From 318-379 Sirmium was capital of the Prefecture of Illyricum which encompassed Pannonia, Noricum, Crete, and the whole Balkan peninsula except Thrace. Since 379 Thessaloniki became the capital of the Prefecture of Illyricum. Justiniana Prima was built in 535 in Serbia at the place of Justinian's birth. Justinian's novel 11 announced the imminent transfer of the Illyrian prefecture to Justiniana Prima and the establishment of an archbishopric there making it the metropolis of Illyricum. Thus Eastern Illyricum was to be divided into two ecclesiastical regions under Justinian's law: the southern part belonged to the Archbishop of Thessaloniki and the northern was given autocephalous status under the Archbishop of Justiniana Prima. This was done in order to better protect the northern territories against the barbarians on the other side of the Danube.

David submitted to the pleadings of the Archbishop and the people of Thessaloniki in order to fulfill the prophesy of the angel that appeared to him while on the tree and out of obedience to the bishop and the love of the people of Thessaloniki. After many years of seclusion he emerged from his cell and saw the sun for the first time in many years. His appearance had changed as well. His hair had grown to his lower back and his beard fell all the way down to his feet. Together with his two disciples, Theodore and Demetrios, they left during the night for Constantinople.
When they arrived in Constantinople his fame preceeded him and he was received with much reverence by the people of Byzantium and was especially well received with much respect and reverence by Empress Theodora who had him escorted into the palace and given hospitality as if he was an angel in the flesh. Justinian was occupied with other matters when he arrived, but was awe-struck at his holy appearance when he finally saw him the next day and listened to his case before the Senate. Before David spoke however the following miracle occurred leaving everyone astonished: David took a piece of live coal with incense in his bare hands and together with his disciples censed the Emperor and the entire Senate and his hand did not burn though he was praying and blessing for about an hour. After this David pleaded the case of Archbishop Aristeides, and Justinian submitted to his wishes so that the status of Thessaloniki remained uninterrupted. Though historians mention the fact that this division of Illyricum never actually took place, they tend to leave out the fact that this was because of the great impression Saint David had on Emperor Justinian.

The Saint returned by ship from Constantinople to Thessaloniki. However, when he arrived at Thermes at a place called Emvolos (about 126 stadia from the Saint's cell), he gave up his spirit to the Lord after making his request known to his disciples that he be buried at his monastery. The ship continued on to the port of Thessaloniki, but a strong wind escorted them as if by divine providence and landed at the spot where Sts. Theodoulos and Agathopodus were martyred on the west side of the city. Upon hearing the news of his falling asleep, the Archbishop with a large crowd gathered to pay their last respects and by procession lead him up to the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurius where his relics were enshrined in a wooden coffin according to his wishes.

About 150 years after the Saint's death, in 685-690, the abbot of the monastery Demetrios opened his tomb in order to receive a portion of his relics. In doing so however, the plaque on the tomb fell and broke into many pieces. This was seen by the abbot as a sign that it was not the wishes of Saint David for his relics to be portioned. A monk under Demetrios by the name of Sergius eventually became Archbishop of Thessaloniki. He was present when as a monk they had tried opening the tomb of the Saint. Honoring this occurrence, Sergius opened the tomb which emitted a beautiful fragrance from the incorrupt relics and took care to only remove some hair from the beard and head of the Saint in order to distribute to the faithful to increase their faith and help aid in their salvation.

The tomb of the Saint remained undisturbed until the Fourth Crusade in 1204. In 1236 it was taken by Crusaders to Pavia, Italy and from there transferred to Milan in 1967. Finally on September 16, 1978 through the efforts of Metropolitan Panteleimon of Thessaloniki, the sacred relics of Saint David were triumphantly returned to Thessaloniki and housed in the Basilica of Saint Demetrios the Great Martyr. To celebrate this feast a Service was written by the renowned hymnographer Elder Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis. Eventually the relics were transferred to the katholikon of the Monastery of Saint Theodora in the middle of Thessaloniki in a chapel surrounded by icons of the Saint's life.
The Holy Relics of St. David, treasured by the Monastery of St. Theodora, Thessaloniki (
It should be pointed out here that the current Monastery of Hosios David in Thessaloniki has no association with the life of the Saint nor is it the site of the Monastery of Sts. Theodore and Mercurious. This is however the oldest monastery in Thessaloniki (only the katholikon currently exists) and in Roman times was known as the Monastery of the Prophet Ezekiel (some say Zachariah) though more popularly known as Latomou Monastery. The mosaics inside are the oldest in the city dating back to approximately the 5th-6th century, especially magnificent being the depiction of a beardless Christ flanked by the prophets Ezekiel and Hakkakuk along with a vision of Ezekiel of Christ surrounded by the symbols of the four Gospels (the angel, eagle, lion, and bull). This monastery was not named after Saint David until 1921 when it was returned to the Orthodox after serving as a mosque since 1430. Interestingly the faithful had the mosaic of the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel covered in mortar (some say the Turks simply white-washed it) all those centuries so that the Turks would not destroy it as was their custom. During the days of Iconoclasm it was covered in ox-skin to be protected. Its existence was lost to history after 1430 until discovered in 1921.

For more on the Latomou Monastery as well as the sources for the life of Saint David, see here and here (Greek only). For a translation of the life in English, see here. For the 8th century life of Saint David, see A. Vasiliev, ‘Life of David of Thessalonica’, Traditio: Studies in Ancient Medieval History, Thought and Religion 4 [1946], pp. 115-147.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The image of God, was faithfully preserved in you, O Father. For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By Your actions you taught us to look beyond the flesh for it passes, rather to be concerned about the soul which is immortal. Wherefore, O Holy David, your soul rejoices with the angels.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
An Angel on earth, and stranger to all earthly things, thou madest a tree thy dwelling like an eagle's nest, whence, O David, thou didst soar up to Heaven, where thou didst find that Tree which in Eden we lost of old. Remember us all, who keep thy memory.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

St. Paisios the Great

St. Paisios the Great - Commemorated on June 19 (
St Paisius the Great lived in Egypt. His parents, Christians, distributed generous alms to all the needy.

After the death of her husband his mother, on the suggestion of an angel, gave her young son Paisius to the clergy of the church.

The youth Paisius loved monastic life and spent his time in one of the Egyptian sketes. Renouncing his own will, he lived under the spiritual guidance of St Pambo (July 18), finishing all the tasks assigned him. The Elder said that a new monk in particular needs to preserve his sight, in order to guard his senses from temptation. Paisius, heeding the instruction, went for three years with his eyes cast downwards. The saintly ascetic read spiritual books, and he was known for his ascetic fasting and prayer. At first he did not eat any food for a week, then two weeks. Sometimes, after partaking of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, he survived without food for seventy days.

St Paisius went into the Nitrian desert in search of solitude. There he lived in a cave carved out by his own hands. The saint was granted a wondrous vision: the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to him that through his labors the Nitrian wilderness would become inhabited by ascetics. He asked the Lord where the monks would obtain the necessities of life in the desert. The Lord said that if they would fulfill all His commandments, He Himself would provide all their necessities, and would deliver them from demonic temptations and cunning.
St. Paisios the Great (Icon courtesy of used with permission)
In time, a number of monks and laymen gathered around St Paisius, and a monastery was established. The most important rule of St Paisius was that no one would do anything by his own will, but in all things would fulfill the will of his elders.

Since his tranquility was being disturbed by so many people, the saint withdrew to another cave farther away. Once, he was transported to a paradisical monastery and partook of the immaterial divine food. After his ascetic labors for salvation, the Lord granted His saint the gift of prescience and healing the souls of men.

One of his disciples, with the saint's blessing, went to sell his handicrafts in Egypt. On the way he encountered a Jew, who told the simple-minded monk that Christ the Savior is not the Messiah, and that another Messiah will come. Confused, the monk said, "Maybe what you say is true," but he did not attribute any particular significance to his words. When he returned, he saw that St Paisius would not acknowledge his arrival, and he asked the reason for his anger. The saint said, "My disciple was a Christian. You are not a Christian, for the grace of Baptism has departed from you." The monk repented with tears, and begged to have his sin forgiven. Only then did the holy Elder pray and ask the Lord to forgive the monk.

A certain monk on his own initiative left the desert and moved near a city. There he had encounters with a woman, who hated and blasphemed Christ the Savior. Under her influence, he not only left the monastery, but also scorned faith in Christ, and finally he reached a state of total disbelief.

Once, through the blessed Providence of God, Nitrian monks came by his home. Seeing them, the sinner remembered his own former life and he asked the monks to ask St Paisius to pray for him to the Lord. On hearing the request, the saint prayed fervently, and his prayer was heard. The Lord, appearing to His saint, promised to forgive the sinner. Soon the seduced monk's woman companion died, and he returned to the desert where, weeping and distressed for his sins, he began to labor at deeds of repentance.

St Paisius distinguished himself by his great humility, and performed ascetic deeds of fasting and prayer, but he concealed them from others as far as possible. When the monks asked which virtue is the highest of all, the saint replied, "Those which are done in secret, and about which no one knows."

St Paisius died in the fifth century at a great old age, and he was buried by the monks. After some time his relics were transferred by St Isidore of Pelusium (February 4) to his own monastery and placed beside the relics of his friend St Paul, with whom St Paisius was particularly close during his life.
Troparion - Tone 4
The sublime monk and incarnate angel, the bodiless man and citizen of heaven, as he celebrates with us today, grants grace to all who honor him. Let us fervently magnify him!

Kontakion - Tone 8
Let us, the faithful, sing praises to divinely–wise Paisius, the desert's adornment, equal–to–the–angels, Christ's friend and the glory of monks. Let us cry to him: Rejoice, O Father Paisius!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

St. Justin Popovich of Chelije (+1979)

Life Of Our Father Justin Archimandrite of Chelije
Who reposed in the Lord Jesus Christ 25 March 1979
Written By Reverend Father Daniel Rogich 

In the Name of the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit:
Holy love has a way of consuming some. This is what is meant by one who said "Thou hast ravished our hearts, ravished them" (Song of Songs 4:9). And it make others bright and overjoyed. In this regard it has been said "My heart hath hope in Him, and I am helped and my flesh hath flourish again" (Ps. 27:7). "For when the heart is cheerful, the face beams" (cf.Prov.15:13), and "a person flooded with the love of God reveals in his body, as if in a mirror, the splendor of his soul, a glory like of Moses when he came face to face with God" (cf. Ex. 34:29-35) - St. John Climacus.

OUR HOLY FATHER JUSTIN, Abbot of Chelije Monastery in Valjevo, western Serbia, was born to pious and God-fearing parents, Prota (Priest) Spyridon and Protinica (Presbytera) Anastasia Popovich, in Vranje, South Serbia, on the Feast of Annunciation, March 25, 1894. He was born into a priestly family, as seven previous generations of the Popoviches (Popovich in Serbian actually means "family or a son of a priest") were headed by priests. At baptism, he was given the name Blagoje, after the Feast of the Annunciation (Blagovest means Annunciation or Good News). Being raised in a pious Christian atmosphere, young Blagoje learned quite early of the virtuous life in Christ as dedicated in service to God's holy Church. As a child, he often visited with his parents the Prohor Pchinjski Monastery, dedicated to St. Prophor the Miracle worker (see Oct. 19th). He witnessed firsthand the miraculous power of the Lord manifested through St. Prohor, as his mother Anastasia was healed of a deadly disease by the Saint's intercessions when Blagoje was still a young boy.
Blagoje was an excellent student in elementary school. His greatest love was for the Bible, and the four Gospels in particular. He began serious reading of the Bible at age fourteen, and throughout the rest of his life he carried the New Testament on his person, reading faithfully three chapters a day. In 1905 after finishing the fourth grade in Vranje, following the tradition of the Popovich family, young Blagoje entered the nine-year program of secular and religious study at the Seminary and Faculty of St. Sava in Belgrade. In the early twentieth century the School of St. Sava in Belgrade was renowned throughout the Orthodox world as a holy place of extreme asceticism as well as of a high quality of scholarship. Some of the well-known professors, were the rector, Fr. Domentian; Professor Fr. Dositheus, later a bishop, and Athanasius Popovich, and the great ecclesiastical composer, Stevan Mokranjac. Yet one professor stood head and shoulders above the rest: the then Hieromonk Nikolai Velimirovich, Ph. D. (see March 18th). Fr. Nickolai the single most influential person in his life.
From the Venerable Nikolai, Blagoje learned of the virtuous ascetic life in Christ the Lord, of the doctrinal genius of the great Fathers of the Church, and of the spiritual and intellectual effort needed to probe the important philosophical and theological questions of the day. In the end, both of these two spiritual geniuses possessed a commitment to Christ the Lord, provided them with a truly Orthodox vision of life, which in turn made them the two greatest voices of the Serbian Orthodox Church in modern times. Both Nikolai and Blagoje, later Monk Justin, sought to "speak the truth in love" to a passing world.
The sought the answers to the world's most pressing problems in the teachings of the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church, and especially in the experiences found in the Lives of the Saints. The saints were for them "living Bibles" "incarnate dogmas", and the true source of Orthodox theology, experiential knowledge of God and existential pedagogical truth valid for all times.
In 1914, at age twenty, Blagoje finished the nine-year program of St. Sava's in Belgrade. At this time he had only one desire in mind: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may behold the delight of the Lord, and that I may visit His holy temple {Ps. 26:4}. With this hunger and thirst for righteousness driving him, Blagoje wanted to radically devote his life to Christ in the monastic vocation. However, due to the beginning of World War I in 1914, and the declining health of his parents, Blagoje decided to postpone his entrance into the monastic ranks.
During the early part of World War I, autumn of 1914, Blagoje served as a student nurse primarily in South Serbia-Skadar, Nish, Kosovo, etc. Unfortunately, while in this capacity, he contracted typhus during the winter of 1914 and had to spend over a month in a hospital in Nish. On January 8, 1915, he resumed his duties. It suites to say that Blagoje and the rest of the aids and nurses, as well as all of the freedom-loving Serbian Christians in South Serbia, suffered bitterly from the effects of war.
On the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, his Ksna Slava (family patron saint), 1915, Blagoje returned to Skadar in order to visit Metropolitan Demetrius, who later became the first Patriarch after the patriarchal throne was renewed in 1920. Blagoje received the monastic tonsure in the church in Skadar, taking the name Justin, after the great Christian philosopher and martyr for Christ, St. Justin the Philosopher (t. 166). This name was truly a gift and sign from Heaven, for it was as a philosopher and seeker of Christian truth that the humble Monk Justin would later receive glory from God.
Shortly after becoming a monk, Justin, along with several other students who received the Metropolitan's blessing, traveled to Petrograd, Russia, to begin a year's study in the Orthodox Seminary there. It was here the young Monk Justin first dedicated himself more fully to Orthodoxy and the monastic way. He learned of the great ascetics of Russia: Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves in Kiev, Seraphim of Sarov, Sergius of Radonezh, John of Kronstadt, and others. Justin fell in love with Russian spirituality and piety, especially that exhibited by the common folk of the countryside.
After his year's study and sojourn in Russia, Justin entered, by the prompting of his spiritual father Nikolai, the Theological School in Oxford, England. He spent seven semesters at Oxford-November 1916 to May 1919 yet he did not receive a diploma since his doctoral dissertation entitled, "The Philosophy and Religion of Dostoevsky," was not accepted. As a result, Justin returned to Belgrade after the war and became a teacher in the seminary at Karlovac, Srem. At Sremski Kalovac, Justin renewed the ancient study of the Lives of the Saints as being a proper theological focus and most important course of study. It was at this time that he received the calling and vision from God to translate into modern Serbian the entire Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, a feast which to this day is truly astounding. In September of 1919, Justin entered the Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Athens, Greece. He spent two years there to finish his doctoral course work. Just as in Russia, Monk Justin traveled through out the countryside of Greece, especially benefiting spiritually from the Greek Orthodox heritage commonly known as the Byzantine legacy. In 1920, venerable Justin was ordained deacon and began to experience another side of the Church's liturgical life: leadership of the worship services. At his liturgical and ascetical life increased, Justin matured spiritually and became known throughout all of Greece as a most pious ascetic. At this time, due to his unceasing prayer to the Most sweet Jesus, Justin was granted by the grace of the Holy Spirit the gift of umilenije coupled with tears.

In May 1921, Deacon Justin returned to Sremski Karlovac and resumed this teaching duties at the Seminary. He learned on the New Testament, Dogmatics, Patristics, and the Lives of the Saints. Prior to each lesson the Scriptures he opened with this short prayer: "O Most Sweet Lord, by the power of Thy Holy Gospel and through Thy Apostles, teach me and announce through me what I am to say."
One year later, on the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist, 1922, Venerable Justin was ordained priest by His Holiness Patriarch Dimitrije. Throughout the ordination service, Justin was in tears, crying as a newborn babe in the Lord. His humility attracted many, as his disciples grew rapidly in number. Not only students, but also many lay people came to him for confession, counsel, and spiritual healing. His most beloved disciples were those pious men and women of the Bogomo jack Pokret (Serbian Prayer Movement) originally formed and led by the newly consecrated Bishop Nikolai. The great Bishop Nikolai as the Great Apostle of the twentieth century, as the "New Chrysostom" of all times. These two were as Anthony and Athanasius, and Basil and Gregory of old- "two bodies, yet one mind" -as their love for our Lord Jesus Christ produced much spiritual fruit in the lives of many zealots. Everyone especially enjoyed singing the spiritual songs written by Bishop Nikolai. These ones, written in the vernacular language of the people, were not only quite spiritual and edifying, but also were very didactic and doctrinal in nature. And it was this "praising the Lord in the people's language" which inspired Justin to translate into modern Serbian, from the original Greek text, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. Following the scriptural and the liturgical tradition of the Church given to the Slavs by the great evangelical missionaries, Cyril and Methodius and their disciples, that is, the tradition of hearing the Word of God and praying in the mother tongue of the people {I Cor. 14:19}, both Justin and Nikolai were able by the energy of the Holy Spirit to edify, enlighten, and confirm in Orthodoxy the pious faithful in their own tongue.

Sts. Justin Popovich and Nikolai Velimirovich (source)
The zealous Fr. Justin was also close contact at this time with two great Russian Orthodox pastors: Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky, who taught at the Seminary in Sremski Karlova, the exiled Russian Bishop John Maximovitch. Holy Father John, a man of extreme asceticism, was truly a miracle-worker, and his coming later to America-where he reposed in the Lord in San Francisco-became a blessing and visitation from the Lord for those God-seekers there.
In 1923, Fr. Justin became the editor of the Orthodox journal Christian Life; and in this journal appeared his first doctoral dissertation, "The Philosophy and Religion of Dostoevsky," for which he was persecuted at Oxford. Three years later, in 1926, his second doctoral dissertation, "The Problem of Person and Knowledge in St. Macarius of Egypt," was published in Greek in Athens. Fr. Justin was now on his way to establishing himself as a modern Father of the Church. For his course on the Lives of the Saints, Justin began to translate into Serbian the Lives of the Saints from the Greek, Syriac and Slavonic sources, as well as numerous minor works of the Fathers-homilies of John Chrysostom, Macarius, and Isaac the Syrian. He also wrote an exquisite book, The Theory of Knowledge According to St. Isaac. Justin's blossoming literary genius amazed everyone.
In 1931, after a stint as Professor in the Theological Academy in Prizren, the brilliant Fr. Justin was requested by the Holy Synod in Belgrade to assist Bishop Joseph (Cvijovich) of Bitola in reorganizing the Church of the Carpatho-Russians in Czechoslovakia. This area had been besieged by those espousing Uniatism. Justin, an established defender of the faith, was a great aid to the reorganization of the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia. This experience made him realize a tremendous need of the Serbs: to have in their mother tongue an exact and complete exposition of the Orthodox faith. As a result, he began writing, after his return to Bitola in 1932, his monumental work, The Dogmas of the Orthodox Church, in three volumes. Volume one, published in late 1932, dealt with the sources and method of theology, the nature of God and the teaching on the Holy Trinity, creation, and divine providence. This volume was so well received that Dr. Justin was chosen, in 1934, as Professor of Dogmatics at the Theological Faculty of St. Sava in Belgrade. One year later, this hard-working writer completed the second volume, entitled, The God Man and His Work: Christology and Soteriology. There is so doubt that these two volumes and the third and final volume, Ecclesiology: Teaching on the Church, published later in 1970 are the most complete with his most ascetical vision of life, produced for all Christians a magnificent analysis of the ancient faith of the Church.

In 1938, Fr. Justin, along with a number of noted intellectuals of Belgrade, founded the Serbian Philosophical Society. Holy Father Justin began at this time to probe the philosophical and world issues of his day. His penetrating mind was fully displayed in two books: The Foundations of Theology (1939) and Dostoevsky on Europe and Slavism (1940). Both of these works dealt with the nature and method of theology, and the spirit and vision of western civilization. Fr. Justin was never fearful of telling the truth concerning the fallen state of humankind and, particularly, the follies of Western Eupropean religious and secular life.
Father Justin remained in the capacity of Professor Dogmatics in Belgrade until the end of World War II. Within the perspective of the newly established communist and atheistic regime, the likes of a zealous Christian such as Father Justin, who was now beginning to convert the intellectuals to faith in Jesus Christ, had no place. He, alone with several other teachers, was ousted from the university system in Belgrade and told never to return. Thus ended the university teaching career in Belgrade of the great Rev. Dr. Justin Popovich.
For two years after his exile from Belgrade, the ascetic Justin lived in several monasteries in Serbia-Kalenich, Ovchar, Sukovo, and Ravanitsa-and on May 14, 1948, he entered Chelije Monastery near the village of Lelich, only a few miles from the major town of Valjevo, Western Serbia. Father Justin remained in Chelije Monastery until his repose in the Lord on March 25, 1979. He became Archimandrite there and was the spiritual head of the Monastery. Under his guidance, Chelije Monastery became a convent. A school of iconography, renewing the Serbo-Byzantine style, was also begun there, and a new chapel dedicated to St. John Chrysostom as well as residential quarters were constructed in 1970. Many pious people from all parts of Yugoslavia, Greece, the Balkans, and literally all parts of the world came to hear him preach and teach the correct faith and life in Christ by the energy of the Holy Spirit. Without a doubt, from the end of World War I until his reposed in the Lord, Archimandrite Justin was the pillar of Orthodoxy in his homeland.
Photograph of St. Justin Popovich in his older years (
During the time of confinement in Chelije Monastery, he accomplished an amazing literary feat: he translated and compiled from various sources twelve volumes (one per month) of the Lives of the Saints. Father Justin communed of the Holy Gifts daily, for the Eucharist, the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, was his "daily bread" and the true source of his entire life, work, teaching, and existence. His words, deed and thoughts exuded a lifestyle reminiscent of the ancient Fathers of the Church. Another Father of the Church walked this earth in the person of St. Justin.
In addition to the Lives of the Saints, the following is an incomplete list of the writings he produced in Chelije, some of which are still unpublished, plays a highly analytical and perceptive mind and heart. He actually created a new theological and philosophical language necessary to reach the heart of the modern human being. And his writings and teachings reflect a genuine and total commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, a commitment characterized by extreme asceticism, as well as by the contemplative vision of the Divine Light of God the Holy Trinity. He was "living dogma" and a "flute of the Spirit" reflecting the divine love of God the Holy Trinity. Theology was life to St. Justin.
St. Justin fell asleep in the Lord on March 25, 1979, on his birthday, the Feast of the Annunciation. He was 85 years of age. After his most honorable burial which was attended by hundreds of pious believers who came from many parts of the world, he was laid to rest facing east behind the main church of Chelije Monastery. To this day eulogies praising his virtue and love of Christ continue to be heard from all parts of the Orthodox world. Also, miracles have occurred at his grave site, such as headings, flashes of brilliant and divine light from his tomb, as well as many conversions of unbelievers who have either read his writings or have been personally visited by Almighty God through the prayers of St. Justin.
Truly St. Justin's legacy is a great one. Many disciples are now extolling his name and imitating his life by drinking from the inexhaustible riches of grace and truth which he revealed to us...
"O Holy Father Justin, thy sweetness of life refreshes our souls. Thy love for truth and desire to live with all the saints is a reminder to us of our own calling from God to pursue virtue, that we, most unenlightened and miserable sinners, may open our hearts to the knowledge of Truth Incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belongs glory, honor and worship, together with His Unoriginate Father, and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
I would like to humbly thank the servant of our Lord Dejan Janjic, who kindly shared with me this spiritually rewarding text on the "Life Of Our Father Justin Archimandrite of Chelije".


Holy Father Justin, Pray Unto God For Us!

Troparion, Tone 4
As Orthodox sweetness and divine nectar, Venerable Father* thou dost flow into the hearts of believers as a wealth:* by thy life and teachings thou didst reveal thyself to be a living book of the Spirit, most wise Justin;* therefore pray to Christ the Word* that the Word may dwell in those who honor thee.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

A brief analysis of the Jesus Prayer

A brief analysis of the Jesus Prayer, by Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra
The prayer of Mount Athos, who does not recognize it? It is comprised of one small phrase, of measured words.

"Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner."

With the loud cry "Lord", we glorify God, His glorious majesty, the King of Israel, the Creator of visible and invisible creation, Whom Seraphim and Cherubim tremble before.

With the sweet invocation and summons "Jesus", we witness that Christ is present, our Savior, and we gratefully thank Him, because He has prepared for us life eternal.

With the third word "Christ", we theologically confess that Christ is the Son of God and God. No man saved us, nor angel, but Jesus Christ, the true God.

There follows the intimate petition "have mercy", and we venerate and entreat that God would be propitious, fulfilling our salvation's demands, the desires and needs of our hearts.

That "on me", what range it has! It is not only myself, it is everyone admitted to citizenship in the state of Christ, in the holy Church; it is all those who are members of the body of the Bridegroom.

And finally, so that our prayer be full of life, we close with the word "a sinner", confessing - since we are all sinners - as all the Saints confess and became through this sound sons of light and of the day.

Through this we understand, that this prayer involves:
and Confession.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos)
Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

St. Luke of Simferopol on the moment of death

St. Luke Archbishop of Simferopol (
St. Luke of Simferopol on the moment of death
Before David became the King of Israel, he was a servant of King Saul. Since Saul knew that David would someday take his throne, he attempted to kill him. Once when his life was in danger, the Prophet David said to those who were his supporters: “I am only one step away from death.At one time I was almost dead.I hardly had a pulse and my heart almost stopped beating.But the Lord was merciful to me and I am still weak and I am able to speak to you only in a seated position.I wish to tell you something very important about this. I want to talk to you about being cognizant of death because it is very close to each one of us, as it was close to me last Saturday.Anyone of us can die suddenly at a time when it is unexpected.You should know that the lives of many people are ended abruptly.”
Remember always—engrave the name of the Lord in your hearts.Always remember this and do not ever forget it.When people prepare to go for a long walk or start a new chore, they gird themselves for the effort.And when they walk in the darkness of night they carry with them a lantern and this is very important because it must always light our way.
The same thing is true about our spiritual lives.We must gird ourselves and keep our lanterns lit.We must be untiring workers of God and we must struggle against Satan who tries at every turn to hinder us from reaching Christ. He tries to kill us with temptations.This is why the Lord Jesus gave us this command: “They encircled us while we had our lanterns burning.”
We must never forget that earthly life has been given to us so that we can prepare for eternal life. Our fate in eternal life will be judged and based on how we have lived our lives in this world.
You should be faithful to Christ.You should be faithful to the way of life He has shown you in the Book of Revelations written by John the Apostle and Evangelist.He tells us in that book: “Become faithful until death and you will be given the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:8).We must be faithful to God.We must serve God tirelessly every day, every hour and every moment of our lives.Our life is short, we cannot waste the few hours, days, and years living our lives aimlessly.We should always think about the hour of our death.
All of the holy ascetics always remembered the hour of their death.It was part of their daily prayer life.They even had human skulls in their cells to remind them of their own death.They would look at them with tears in their eyes knowing that they too would follow in their footsteps.They served God tirelessly and worked for the Lord just like St. Seraphim of Sarov did.They would remember every day the words of the 33rd psalm which is read at the vesper service: “The death of the sinners is evil.”Just like you, they also remember the following words: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 16:5).Sinners have a great fear of death and I have seen many examples of this in my life.But there is one particular incident that I witnessed forty years ago that made such a deep impression on me that I will never forget it.
At that time I was a provincial doctor and I was invited to the home of a very evil man.As I entered his house I was startled by the great deal of turmoil that I found there.People in the house were running all over the place.An old man was lying on a bed. His face was very red and as soon as he saw me enter the room he began to yell out at me saying: “Doctor, I beg you to save me.I am dying, I realize now that I will die.”
Where was this man before this moment in life?What was he thinking when he was terrorizing so many people during his life?What was he thinking when he was taking all the people’s money?Now death had arrived.It is here and it is too late now to say: “I am dying, and I realize that I will die.” He should have lived his life knowing someday that he would die so that he would not now be prepared for death.
Who is there in the world that does not fear death?Only he who follows Christ and lives by His commandments does not fear death because he knows the promises made by Jesus Christ in the Beatitudes: “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Mt 5:12).
The deaths of the saints were completely different from those of us who lack faith. St. Seraphim of Sarov died while kneeling in front of an icon of the Holy Mother to whom he always prayed.He fell asleep in the Lord on his knees for precious was his death in the eyes of the Lord.
Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us: “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtakes you.”(John 12:35).While you are alive you still have the Light of Jesus Christ. In life you still have the ability to go to Church to hear the commandments of God and to hear the words of Scriptures.You should walk in that Light because when death comes, the Light will go out for you.This is so because beyond the grave, there is no remission of sins and you will receive your reward in accordance to the good deeds that you did in life.
Therefore, walk in the Light while you have the Light so that you will not be overwhelmed by the darkness, the eternal darkness of death.St. Paul the Apostle says: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
(2 Cor. 6:2).Now that we are living is the acceptable time for our salvation.Now, we should think about our salvation and to prepare ourselves for eternal life.That is what all Christians do, all those who love Christ.
Seventy years ago a doctor lived in St. Petersburg, Russia.His name was Gaaz.He had been assigned to serve the needs of those in jail.He had a very kind heart.He had a heart full of compassion and he loved all people.In his position as a doctor to those in jail, he did everything in his power to help these unfortunate people. He saw the prisoners being sent off to far away prisons in chains.He knew that they would be forced to walk thousands of miles until they reached the jails in Siberia and his compassionate heart went out to them.In order for him to feel their pain, he also wore chains on his feet and walked for hours around the yard of his home.When he was on his death bed, this holy man and physician said to the people around him the following miraculous words, words that all of us should keep in our hearts.“You should make it a priority in your lives to do good deeds for people.It is urgent for you to do this because death awaits all of us.Do not be frivolous in your lives.You should be faithful to Christ until death and God will give you the crown of life.”
The Prophet Isaiah said something which we also should remember andimprint it upon our hearts.“Be troubled you complacent ones; strip your lives bare, and gird sackcloth on your waists.” (Isaiah 32:11).
Tremble and remember death.You should always remember the time when you will leave this life and do not ever forget it.In order for us to have this mindset, and to follow Jesus Christ, we need the help of God.Without this help we will not be able to defeat the temptations of Satan.This is why we should ask God to send us Divine Grace.
Lord, have mercy on us sinners. Lord help us.
We should entreat Jesus like the idol worshipping woman did as you heard today in the Gospel reading.She was a Canaanite woman and when she saw Christ with His disciples she began calling after Him and entreating Him with the following request: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David, my daughter is severely demon-possessed.” (Mt. 15:20).But the Lord did not pay any attention to her and He silently continued his journey.The woman continued to entreat Him but He would not answer her.Finally His disciples said to Him: “Send her away, for she cries after us.” (Mt. 15:23).And the Lord answered: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” (Mt.15:24).
The woman continued to entreat Him. What did the Lord say to her?“It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” Mt. 15:26.And in response he heard an astounding answer filled with humbleness and compassion.“True Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” (Mt. 15:27), give me a crumb from your mercy.The Lord stopped when He heard this and said to her: “O woman, great is your faith.Let it be to you as you desire and her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Mt.15:28).
Many of us live a life that is not consistent with the Christian message.Many of us are burdened with various sins.Many of us have forgotten the Word of God which says: “The sting of death is sin.” (1 Cor. 15:56).Death wounds the person who becomes a slave to sin.Then, if we areweak and if the garments of our souls are all black with sins aren’t we like the dogs?Shouldn’t we also shout unto Christ as the Canaanite woman did: “Lord, I am like a dog, have mercy on me!” “You have girded me with strength for battle and the lanterns are lit around me. Amen.”
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!