Sunday, February 24, 2013

Abba Dorotheos on Pride and Humility

The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee (source)
Abba Dorotheos on Pride and Humility
There are two kinds of humility, as there are two kinds of pride. The first kind of pride is when a man reproaches his brother, condemns and reviles him as someone of no account, regarding himself as his superior. If such a man does not speedily come to his senses and try to mend his ways, he comes, little by little, to the second kind of pride, which puffs itself up in the face of God Himself and ascribes to itself its achievements and virtues, as though the man has done it all himself, with his own intelligence and knowledge, and not with the help of God. From this can be seen what constitutes the two kinds of humility. The first humility consists in considering that one’s brother has better judgment and is in all things superior to oneself — or in considering oneself below all men. The second humility consists in ascribing one’s achievements to God. This is the perfect humility of the saints.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A prayer of Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior (source)
A prayer of Elder Joseph the Hesychast (amateur translation)
O sweetest Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, send Your holy grace and dissolve from me the bonds of sin. Enlighten the darkness of my soul that I might come to understand Your incomparable mercy, and love and thank You, as is right, my sweetest Savior, Who is worthy of every love and thanksgiving.

Yes, me Good Benefactor, and greatly-compassionate Lord, do not take Your mercy from us, but have mercy on Your creation.

I know, O Lord, the weight of my offenses, but I behold Your incomparable mercy. I perceive the darkness of my senseless soul, but I believe with firm hope, awaiting Your divine illumination and the transformation of my evil and sinful and terrible passions, through the intercessions of Your sweetest Mother, our Lady Theotokos, and all the Saints. Amen.
Icon of Blessed Elder Joseph the Hesychast with scenes from his life (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A miracle of St. Theodore Tyron

St. Theodore Tyron the Great Martyr (source)
A miracle of St. Theodore Tyron (amateur translation)
"You teach soldiers to abandon pillaging..."

These words are included in the service of the Saint, and relate to the following miracle:

One soldier, who had great reverence to the Saint, was compelled to go to war. Before he left, however, he went and venerated the Saint, in the Church in which was the reliquary with the Precious Relic of St. Theodore.

After the war, and following a great and radiant victory, when he returned, he went and again venerated the Saint at his Church. He left his sword, which was adorned with gold and precious stones, in thanks.

Another soldier, however, went and venerated the Saint. He saw the beautiful and precious sword, and wanted to take it.

He thought within himself: "The Saint doesn't need it. It is better that I have it, who am a soldier. I would wield it in war with the blessing and help of the Saint."

He therefore took the sword from the reliquary, put it on, venerated, and left with joy. Exiting from the Church, however, the Saint blinded him, and he could not see to walk.

He therefore repented, and again returned the sword to the reliquary, and immediately received his sight.

Seeing again the beautiful sword, and thinking that his blindness did not come from the Saint but from chance, he took up the sword again and left. As soon as he left the Church, however, again he was blinded.

At that instant the priest of the church came and saw the blind soldier, asking him what happened. He related the details of what occurred. He entreated the priest to serve Paraklesis to the Saint to forgive him. He also gave him 100 gold coins as a donation.

The priest then took oil from the vigil lamp of the Saint, anointed his eyes, and immediately he saw again. He fled with joy, glorifying God and St. Theodore.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, February 15, 2013

St. Anthimos of Chios (+1960)

St. Anthimos of Chios (+1960) - Commemorated on February 15th (source)
Brief life of St. Anthimos
St. Anthimos, who in the world was known as Argyrios K. Vagianos, was born on July 1, 1869 to devout peasants, Konstantinos and Argyra, in Chios in the region of St. Luke Leivadion. He left elementary school early to become a shoe mender. At the age of nineteen he visited the Skete of the Holy Fathers founded by the monk Pachomios, who had been the spiritual counselor of St Nektarios. With the blessing of the elder, Anthimos returned home and built himself a small hut and dwelt in it. His only help in his spiritual contests was an icon of the Mother of God given to him by his mother later known as Panagia Voithia (the Helper), which soon began to work miracles, drawing many to his hermitage.
St. Anthimos of Chios (source)
He had returned home to relieve the suffering of his parents and help the poor of his village as well. After a time he retired to the Skete, and it was here that he became a monk and took the name Anthimos given by Elder Pachomios. He fell ill there and his abbot sent him home to his parents for the sake of his health. At home, despite the fact that he was caring for his aged parents and practicing his shoe mender's trade, he continued to live as a monk, spending nights on end in prayer and sometimes living only on bread and water for extended periods. He took his inspirtion reading about the lives of the great ascetics, and in this way he was able to conquer every assault of the devil.

Photograph of St. Anthimos of Chios (source)
Increasing numbers of visitors came to his hermitage and wonder-working icon of the Theotokos, and in 1909, at the age of forty, he received the Great Schema by the successor of Pachomios, Hieromonk Andronikos. The people of Chios wanted him to be ordained to the priesthood, but his bishop refused due to the Saint's lack of education. At the prompting of Anthimos' godfather, the Bishop of Smyrna ordained him instead in 1910. After a pilgrimage to Mt Athos in 1911, he returned to Chios, where he became chaplain to a leper hospital. Soon the hospital, which had fallen into corruption, became a spiritual center, as much like a monastery as a hospital. Saint Anthimos tended many of the sickest with his own hands, working many miracles of healing; some of his recovered patients became monks or nuns (such as Righteous Nikephoros the Blind).
Photograph of St. Anthimos of Chios (source)
With the notorious 'Exchange of Populations' of 1922-1924, refugees poured into Chios, many of them destitute nuns and girls. In response to a vision of the Mother of God, St Anthimos built a monastery in 1930, which opened with thirty nuns and grew rapidly, despite the opposition of many who said that setting up such a community was out of date. The Monastery of Panagia Voithia, as it came to be known, soon housed eighty nuns and was known througout Greece as a model of monastic life. Father Anthimos served as priest to the nuns, and continued to receive the many faithful — often sixty or seventy per day — who came to him for prayer or counsel. He carried on this ministry for more than thirty years, working many miracles of healing. When he was too old to work with his hands, he retired to his cell and prayed that he be enabled to serve his neighbor until his last breath.
The wondrous icon of Panagia Voithia "Help" (source)
On January 27, 1960 St. Anthimos celebrated his final Divine Liturgy. He reposed in peace at the age of ninety-one on February 15th, mourned and revered by the whole island of Chios. The remains of St. Anthimos are in the church inside of the monastery he founded and still work miracles along with the holy icon of Panagia Voithia. He was canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate on August 13, 1992.
The church of the Monastery of Panagia Voithia, with the Holy Relics of her founder, St. Anthimos of Chios (source)
The following account is taken from an interview with Protopresbyter Andrea Dafnou who knew St. Anthimos:
"I have been found worthy to receive the blessing of two sacred personalities, while still alive, that were canonized. One of these is St. Anthimos of Chios. When I was a child, I injured my eye. I was afraid that, if my father found out, that he would beat me. I remember it had become bruised as well. What would I do? I thought that I should go to the holy man up at Panagia Voithia Monastery. I told him my problem. He read a prayer over me, crossed me, and healed me! Receiving his blessing, I left.

St. Anthimos of Chios (source)
"The other holy personality that I had the blessing to meet was another Saint of Chios, Saint Symeon, the abbot of Psaron. From the age of 8 I would go to the Monastery and learn letters studying the Psalms of David! I remember he was a strogly built man and upkept the monastery buildings with much love. At night they would hear him go to a gorge next to the Monastery and break stones, in order to, as he would say, tame himself through work and for the devil to not battle against him. In the morning he would be prompt for Services. I was blessed, from the age of five, to be near him" (ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΗ, num. 55, Winter 2003-04).

A Miracle of St. Anthimos is related here.
Panagia Voithia and St. Anthimos of Chios (source)
- “Humble-mindedness will bring all the virtues.”
- “What do people do when their hands and faces are dirty? They turn on a tap and allow the water to clean away the stains. We should imitate them. Only, we should open two taps – our eyes, so that an abundance of tears of repentance pour out, which will wash out all the poisons of this futile world which have infected and dirtied our wretched souls”.
The Spiritual Lineage of Sts. Pachomios of Chios, Nektarios of Pentapolis, and Anthimos of Chios (source)
- "The Panagia is the only mother of all Christians. And who does not call upon her. Because the sufferings of mankind are many in this vain world, nowhere else can we all find relief, except in the Panagia. When you are sitting there quietly, a thought suddenly comes to you and brings darkness. Where will you go to be loosed from this darkness? To the Panagia. All the Saints are our helpers, but above all is the Panagia.
"She has the riches of great compassion. She has great love for mankind, especially for sinners. For this reason she never ceases to mediate to her Son, and the Son takes great joy when His mother intercededs on behalf of mankind. For this reason she brought us His mother and granted her to us that we may have her as a source of salvation."
St. Anthimos of Chios (source)
Apolytikion of St. Anthimos of Chios in the Third Tone (amateur translation)
O new boast of Orthodoxy, and newly-adorned flower of purity, you shared the name of Anthimos of Nikomedia, and shared his virtues and way of life, O new seal and adornment of the venerable, O Father Anthimos, the boast of all Chios, entreat Christ God to grant us the great mercy.
St. Anthimos of Chios and his disciple, St. Nikephoros the Leper, holding the wondrous icon of Panagia Voithia (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

St. Martinianos (Martinian) the Venerable of Caesarea

St. Martinianos (Martinian) the Venerable of Caesarea - Commemorated on February 13 (source)
Saint Martinian went to live in the wilderness at the age of eighteen, not far from the city of Caesarea in Palestine. For twenty-five years, he devoted himself to ascetic deeds and silence, and he was granted the gift of healing illnesses and casting out demons. However, the Enemy of the race of man would not stop bothering the hermit with various temptations.

Once a profligate woman made a wager with some dissolute people that she could seduce St Martinian, the fame of whose virtuous life had spread throughout all the city. She came to him one night pretending that she had lost her way in the storm, and asking for shelter. The saint let her enter, unable to turn her away in such a storm. He went into his room and locked the door. The wicked guest changed into beautiful clothes and began to tempt the ascetic.

When morning came, St Martinian came out to send the woman away. Though he was tempted by the woman's beauty, he was determined not to fall into sin. Lighting a fire, he stepped into it, saying, "You want me to burn with temptation, and want to lead me into the fires of Hell. I will not let you. Instead, I will burn for my virginity and save my soul."

The woman came to see how evil she was. She repented and asked the saint to guide her onto the way of salvation. He told her to go to Bethlehem, to St Paula (January 26). There she lived as a nun for twelve years in strict asceticism until her blessed end. The woman's name was Zoe.

St Martinian went to an uninhabited rocky island, and lived on it under the open sky for several years, nourished by the provisions brought by a certain sailor from time to time. In return the monk wove baskets for him.

Once a powerful storm wrecked a ship, and a woman named Photina floated on pieces of the wreckage to the island of St Martinian. St Martinian helped her to survive the island. "Remain here," he told her, "for here is bread and water, and in two months a boat will come."

Then he jumped into the sea and swam off. Two dolphins carried him to dry land. Thereafter, St Martinian led the life of a wanderer. Later, he came to Athens and fell ill. Sensing the approach of death, he went into church and lay upon the floor. God revealed to the Bishop of Athens who St Martinian was, and the bishop buried his body with honor. This occurred around the year 422.

St. Martinianos (source)

Troparion - Tone 8

You quenched the flames of passion, blessed Martinian, with abundant tears; you calmed the waves of the sea and checked the assaults of wild beasts, saying:"Almighty God, You are most glorious, for You have saved me from the fire and storm!"

Kontakion - Tone 2

Let us worthily praise with hymns the ever-venerable Martinian, the tried ascetic who struggled for piety, an honorable athlete by deliberate choice, and a resolute citizen and inhabitant of the desert; for he has trampled down the serpent.

St. Martinianos (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

St. Vlasios (Blaise) the Hieromartyr of Sebaste

St. Vlasios (Blaise) the Hieromartyr of Sebaste - Commemorated on February 11 (source)
The Hieromartyr Blaise (Blasius), Bishop of Sebaste, was known for his righteous and devout life. Unanimously chosen by the people, he was consecrated Bishop of Sebaste. This occurred during the reign of the Roman emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Licinius (307-324), fierce persecutors of Christians. St Blaise encouraged his flock, visited the imprisoned, and gave support to the martyrs.

Many hid themselves from the persecutors by going off to desolate and solitary places. St Blaise also hid himself away on Mount Argeos, where he lived in a cave. Wild beasts came up to him and meekly waited until the saint finished his prayer and blessed them. The saint also healed sick animals by laying his hands upon them.
St. Vlasios the Hieromartyr (source)
The refuge of the saint was discovered by servants of the governor Agrilaus, who had come to capture wild beasts to loose on the Christian martyrs. The servants reported to their master that Christians were hiding on the mountain, and he gave orders to arrest them. But those sent out found there only the Bishop of Sebaste. Glorifying God Who had summoned him to this exploit, St Blaise followed the soldiers.

Along the way the saint healed the sick and worked other miracles. Thus, a destitute widow complained to him of her misfortune. A wolf had carried off a small pig, her only possession. The bishop smiled and said to her, "Do not weep, your pig will be returned to you..." To the astonishment of everyone, the wolf came running back and returned his prey unharmed. 
St. Vlasios depicted as a protector of domestic animals (source)
Agrilaus, greeting the bishop with words of deceit, called him a companion of the gods. The saint answered the greeting, but he called the gods devils. Then they beat him and led him off to prison.

On the next day, they subjected the saint to tortures again. When they led him back to the prison, seven women followed behind and gathered up the drops of blood. They arrested them and tried to compel them to worship the idols. The women pretended to consent to this and said that first they needed to wash the idols in the waters of a lake. They took the idols and threw them in a very deep part of the lake, and after this the Christians were fiercely tortured. The saints stoically endured the torments, strengthened by the grace of God, their bodies were transformed and became white as snow. One of the women had two young sons, who implored their mother to help them attain the Kingdom of Heaven, and she entrusted them to the care of St Blaise. The seven holy women were beheaded.

St Blaise was again brought before Agrilaus, and again he unflinchingly confessed his faith in Christ. The governor ordered that the martyr be thrown into a lake. The saint, going down to the water, signed himself with the Sign of the Cross, and he walked on it as though on dry land.

Addressing the pagans standing about on shore, he challenged them to come to him while calling on the help of their gods. Sixty-eight men of the governor's retinue entered the water, and immediately drowned. The saint, however, heeding the angel who had appeared to him, returned to shore.

Agrilaus was in a rage over losing his finest servants, and he gave orders to behead St Blaise, and the two boys entrusted to him, the sons of the martyr. Before his death, the martyr prayed for the whole world, and especially for those honoring his memory. This occurred in about the year 316.

The Martyrdom of St. Vlasios (source)
The relics of the Hieromartyr Blaise were brought to the West during the time of the Crusades, and portions of the relics are preserved in many of the lands of Europe [and his memory traditionally honored there on February 3].

We pray to St Blaise for the health of domestic animals, and for protection from wild beasts. [St. Vlasios also is a wondrous healer of many diseases, especially illnesses of the throat.]

St. Vlasios the Hieromartyr (source)

Troparion - Tone 4

By sharing in the ways of the Apostles,you became you became a successor to their throne. Through the practice of virtue, you found the way to divine contemplation, O inspired one of God; by teaching the word of truth without error, you defended the Faith, even to the shedding of your blood. Hieromartyr Blaise, entreat Christ God to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 2

Godly shoot, unfading flower, most fruitful branch of Christ the Vine, God-bearing Blaise, fill with joy those who in faith honor your memory as you unceasingly intercede for us all.
Wonderworking icon of St. Vlasios, treasured by the Monastery of the same name, Ano Trikala, Korinthias, Greece (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The widow's offering

Christ blessing the Widow's Mite (source)
The widow's offering

Emperor Nicephorus (Botaniates) of Constantinople reigned from 1078 until 1081. He had decided to build a cathedral that would be almost as grand as St. Sophia. When it was ready, the patriarch of Jerusalem, the patriarch of Alexandria as well as the patriarch of Constantinople were all invited to consecrate the beautiful new church built by the emperor. Announcements had been made about the consecration for several months in advance so that everyone would have time to travel to the great city of Constantinople; remember that during that time there were no cars, planes or trains. Everyone had to travel either in carts pulled by oxen, horses or donkeys, and those from great distances had to cross the sea in boats.
When Nicephorus’ cathedral was ready to be consecrated there were three patriarchs, forty metropolitans, and thousands of priests present, since this was an imperial cathedral. Thousands of carts and wagons converged on the city as the faithful came from all around. Everyone brought something for the new cathedral: rugs, barrels of wine, oil, flour, candles, etc. Each person wanted to offer something!
At that time there was a widow named Anastasia who lived in Constantinople. For fifty years she had lived faithfully, going to church regularly and praying to God. She lived on the edge of the city, right along the road on which all the carts and wagons of people had to travel to reach the new church. But Anastasia was very poor. Her house was a dilapidated shack, she had no money, no oil, no flour, nothing that she could offer to the new church. As she saw so many oxen pulling wagons of people toward the new church, she decided to give an armful of grass to the poor animals, since she did possess a small sickle and a pitchfork.
The widow was poor in material things, but very rich in faith! During the winter months she would spin flax and wool for the people of the town, and in the summer she would take her sickle and glean in the fields after the harvesters had left, then she would wrap the wheat in a rug and beat it to make a little flour for herself. Thus, little by little, she was able to provide herself with some flour for her own meager needs. That is how poor this widow, Anastasia, was!
Poor though she was, she had a very merciful heart! What went through her mind as she saw the oxen pulling such heavy loads of goods for the celebration of the new church?
-I don’t have any money, or rugs, or oil, nothing. But I can give the animals a little grass.
Still, she was afraid because she did not own land, so where would she get the grass without doing something wrong?
She took a big sack and went into a field where there was a kind of wild grass growing, called “couch-grass” (a perennial grass that many consider a weed, Ed). She cut a lot of this grass, being careful not to damage the other crops that were growing, and put it into her sack, saying to herself,
- I will give the oxen some grass, even if it is not from my own land.
She took a walking stick and set off with the sack of grass toward the area near the church where many people had gathered. She found a pair of oxen who had finished eating the little bit of feed that had been set out for them; they were looking about for more food, still hungry, but there was none that they could reach.
Anastasia opened her sack of grass and put it in front of the oxen, saying,
- Lord, accept this bit of grass, and forgive me, for I have nothing to bring to the church consecration, and even this is not from my own land!
She wept as she said these words; then when the oxen had finished eating, she also went to the church for the consecration.
She was astounded at what she saw in the church: so many people and such rich adornments for the new temple! The church was prepared like a bride for a wedding with all the embellishments ready for the consecration that was to take place the following day. Anastasia went to an icon in the rear of the church, where women generally would stand; there the poor old woman, her face wrinkled with age, an old scarf on her head, the poorest of sandals on her feet and wearing a raggedy dress, knelt and prayed to the Lord, saying,
- Lord, forgive me, for I have not brought any kind of offering for the church! I have nothing. The emperor is a king on earth and will be great in heaven, but I am so poor and have no money, nothing to offer.
And as she prayed, her tears dropped to the ground.
Then Emperor Nicephorus, with all his entourage and servants, came into the church. His chief minister, Peter was his name, pointed to the dedication plaque—since in churches and monasteries that are historical monuments there are dedication plaques over the doors—and drew the emperor’s attention to it. The plaque was made of marble and the golden inscription read “To the glory of the all holy Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, this holy church was built and provided for by me, the Emperor Nicephorus.” The emperor fully approved of the way the inscription had been executed, since he was the one who had ordered it.
Thus, the emperor, empress and a crowd of generals and other officials went into the church to see how it was prepared for the big event of consecration the following day. Everything was in order: beautiful frescoes on the walls, icons with golden risas, fine covers for the icon stands and curtains at the royal doors, gold-embroidered vestments, chandeliers, holy vessels for the altar, Gospel book, everything was in perfect order.
While the dignitaries were inspecting everything in the church, the elderly widow Anastasia, who had given an armful of grass to the oxen, was weeping before the icons in the rear of the church. As she prayed, the angel of the Lord changed the inscription on the dedication plaque. The inscription, even more beautifully executed now read, “To the glory of the all holy Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, this holy church was built and provided for by me, the widow Anastasia.”
The people in the rear of the church saw the inscription and froze with fear. Before they had clearly read the emperor’s name on the inscription. There were people all around, no scaffolding was in the church for someone to reach the plaque and change the writing; thus, no one could explain how this change had happened. The men read the inscription and began to talk among themselves.
- What! What does that say?
- What’s there?
- Look, it says that a widow built this church!
- But just a moment ago when the emperor came in, it had his name on it.
- What will the emperor say when he sees this?
Those present were afraid to tell the emperor, so they called the head minister, Peter, and showed the inscription to him. Peter read the inscription and said,
- But this is a miracle! It’s all right. I will tell the emperor!
The emperor listened to Peter. What a sight it was: the emperor and empress both had shining gold crowns on their heads and were dressed in all their royal garments, surrounded by soldiers.
- Your Majesty, come into the vestibule a moment.
The emperor came and looked at the plaque in amazement.
- But, when we came into the church, it was my inscription.
- I know that it was yours, Your Majesty. Everyone knows it was yours. But look at what is written there now!
- Oh! What a sinner I am! This is a great miracle! No one could have done this except God Himself! This is a wonderful miracle. I lost the church because I made it in my own pride. Now it has been given to a widow!
The emperor then called all his chief servants and told them,—This church is not to be consecrated until we find this widow! Once she is found, we will do the consecration in her name because she is greater before God than I am.
Then he gave the order to search throughout his entire empire for the widow Anastasia.
Now, it was God’s will to reveal this mystery quickly, and He did so through another widow who was about the same age as the blessed Anastasia. This woman was in the crowd, but was not aware that Anastasia was also there. In all the commotion that was going on in the rear of the church, she asked
- What is the matter?
When someone told her that they were looking for a widow by the name of Anastasia, she said,
- I know Anastasia. She lives at the edge of town.
- What! You know her! Come here to the emperor!
The old woman told the emperor where the widow Anastasia lived, and he then immediately sent servants to find her and bring her to the church.
Servants, riders and horses quickly headed off to the edge of Constantinople to find Anastasia and bring her to the emperor. When they reached the place that the old woman had told them, they found some children playing.
- Do you children know where an old woman by the name of Anastasia lives?
One of the older children pointed and said,
- Anastasia lives over there, near the garden.
The men went to the house in the untilled garden. What did they find at the widow Anastasia’s door? No lock. No bolts. No latch. When someone has nothing, they are not afraid of thieves. The door was held shut by a string tied onto a nail. It was obvious that the old woman was not home. The few belongings that she had were in plain sight, but there was nothing worth stealing. She had gone to the church for the consecration. The servants said to the children,
- The old woman, Anastasia, is not home.
- No. Anastasia left with an armful of grass to the farm market, the children answered, not knowing that she had gone to the church.
The generals and other men all returned to give their report to the emperor.
- Your Majesty, we went and found the small house on the edge of town. There were some children playing and they said that Anastasia is here, in this crowd, somewhere.
Someone who knew Anastasia heard this and said that she was in the church,
- She is praying to the Savior!
- If she is in church, tell her not to be afraid, since she has never met me, said the emperor. Send some elderly women to her to tell her that at the consecration of the church the emperor is going to make a gift of a cow to all the old women.
Following the emperor’s order, they found the elderly Anastasia and brought her before the emperor who said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Anastasia. You have been found worthy of a great blessing from God! What offering did you bring this morning for the consecration of the church?’
- I did not bring anything, Your Majesty, because I am so poor! She did not consider the armful of grass that she’d given the oxen as any kind of offering.
- ‘Please, think, dear Anastasia. You must have brought a great gift because my church has been given to you!’
- I didn’t bring any gift because I have no money. I have nothing! All I have is a sickle and a pitchfork. During the winter I spin wool for people, and in the summer I use the sickle to glean after the harvesters. I manage to get a little wheat from what I glean. Aside from that, I have nothing.
- This is an imperial church and I spent a fortune from my own gold and silver to build it; but look at the inscription that says it was made by Anastasia! What did you give to this church?
- I didn’t give anything except for an armful of grass to a yoke of oxen.
- Don’t be afraid, Anastasia. The inscription was done by God, not you. God Himself wrote that this church is yours!
And there it was on the inscription, To the glory of the all holy Trinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, this holy church was built and provided for by me, the widow Anastasia. The men had to read it to her, since she was illiterate.
- You see, dear woman, you say that you did not bring any thing, but remember that you did bring an armful of grass!
- I did bring that, but it was not a real offering from me since I cut it from someone else’s field.
- Look, Anastasia, your armful of grass was more precious than all the treasures that I gave. See, the angel of the Lord has put the church in your name and it will remain yours forever. We will consecrate the church with all these patriarchs, with all the pomp and celebration as we planned, but the church will be Anastasia’s forever. The church will be consecrated with your name since the angel has written that both in heaven and here.
The poor widow was astounded and exclaimed,
- What a miracle!
When the blessed Anastasia from Constantinople died, the emperor buried her in the holy altar, with an inscription above her tomb, Here, in the church that God miraculously gave her, is buried the widow Anastasia.
An armful of grass, given in the name of the Lord with humility and a sorrowful heart far surpasses all the wealth of the Emperor Nicephorus. That is what God desires!
St. Ephraim the Syrian says, God does not look upon the quantity of offerings that you make, but the heart with which you bring these offerings. However small your offering may be, give it with humility and a sorrowful heart that you cannot offer more. That is true almsgiving.
 Source: “Elder Cleopa of Sihastria: In the tradition of St. Paisius Velichkovsky,” by Ioanichie Balan.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Peter of Damascus on Love

Panagia Kardiotissa ("Lady of the Heart") - 15th Century icon written by Angelos Akotantos (source)
St. Peter of Damascus on Love

To speak of love is to dare to speak of God, for, according to St John the Theologian, ‘God is love, and he who dwells in love dwells in God’ [1 Jn 4.16]. And the astonishing thing is that this chief of all the virtues is a natural virtue. Thus, in the Law, it is given pride of place: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might’ [Deut 6.5]. When I heard the words ‘with all your soul’ I was astounded, and no longer needed to hear the rest. For ‘with all your soul’ means with the intelligent, incensive and desiring powers of the soul, because it is of those three powers that the soul is composed. Thus the intellect should think at all times about divine matters, while desire should long constantly and entirely, as the Law says, for God alone and never for anything else; and the incensive power should actively oppose only what obstructs this longing, and nothing else. St John, consequently, was right in saying that God is love. If God sees that, as He commanded, these three powers of the soul aspire to Him alone, then, since He is good, He will necessarily not only love that soul, but through the inspiration of the Spirit will dwell and move within it [cf 2Cor 6.16; Lev 26.12]; and the body, though reluctant and unwilling–for it lacks intelligence–will end by submitting to the intelligence, while the flesh will no longer rise in protest against the Spirit, as St Paul puts it [cf Gal 5.17].
Just as the sun and moon, at the command of God, travel through the heavens in order to light the world, even though they are soul-less, so the body, at the behest of the soul, will perform works of light. As the sun journeys each day from east to west, thus making one day, while when it disappears night comes, so each virture that a man practices illumines the soul, and when it disappears passion and darkness come until he again acquires that virtue, and light in this way returns to him. As the sun rises in the furthest east and slowly shifts its rays until it reaches the other extreme, thus forming time, so a man slowly grows from the moment he first begins to practice the virtues until he attains the state of dispassion. And just as the moon waxes and wanes every month, so with respect to each particular virtue a man waxes and wanes daily, until this virtue becomes established in him. At times, in accordance with God’s will, he is afflicted, at times he rejoices and gives thanks to God, unworthy as he is to acquire the virtues; and sometimes he is illumined, sometimes filled with darkness, until his course is finished.
All this happens to him by God’s providence: some things are sent to keep him from self-elation, and others to keep him from despair. Just as in this present age the sun creates the solstices and the moon waxes and wanes, whereas in the age to come there will always be light for the righteous and darkness for those who, like me, alas, are sinners, so, before the attainment of perfect love and of vision in God, the soul in the present world has its solstices, and the intellect experiences darkness as well as virtue and spiritual knowledge, and this continues until, through the acquisition of that perfect love to which all our effort is directed, we are found worthy of performing the works that pertain to the world to be. For it is for love’s sake that he who is in a state of obedience obeys what is commanded; and it is for love’s sake that he who is rich and free sheds his possessions and becomes a servant, surrendering both what he has and himself to whoever wishes to possess them. He who fasts likewise does so for love’s sake, so that others may eat what he would otherwise have eaten. In short, every work rightly done is done out of love for God or for one’s neighbor. The things we have spoken of, and others like them, are done out of love for one’s neighbor, while vigils, psalmody and the like are done out of love for God. To Him be glory, honour and dominion through all the ages. Amen.
St Peter of Damaskos (eleventh or twelfth century), Discourse XV, Philokalia, Volume III. (Source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!