Monday, April 29, 2013

Selected Quotes of the Fathers on the Parable of the Ten Virgins

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (source)
Selected Quotes of the Fathers on the Parable of the Ten Virgins
The five wise virgins, watchful and alert, had taken oil in the vessels of their heart. That oil, not part of their own nature, means the grace of the Spirit. They were enabled to enter with the Bridegroom into the heavenly bridal chamber. The other five virgins, however, were content with their own nature. They neither watched nor busied themselves to receive the oil of gladness [Ps. 44:6] in their vessels, while they were yet in the flesh. Instead, they sank into sleep through carelessness, slackness, idleness, and ignorance, or even fancied righteousness. Hence, they were shut out of the bridal chamber of the Kingdom, unable to give satisfaction to the heavenly Bridegroom. Held fast by their tie to the world, and by some earthly affection, they did not give their whole love or passionate devotion to the heavenly Bridegroom; thus they were not provided with oil. Souls that seek the sanctification of the Spirit, which is outside of nature, fasten all their affection upon the Lord. It is in the Lord that they walk, pray, and employ their thoughts, turning away from all else. For this cause, they are priviledged to receive the oil of heavenly grace. This enables them to succeed in coming through without falling, giving perfect satisfaction to the spiritual Bridegroom. Those souls, however, content with what belongs to their own nature, creep upon the earth in their thoughts. Not only do they employ their thoughts upon earth, but their minds have their whole existence upon earth. In their own estimation, they appear to belong to the Bridegroom, and to be adorned with the ordinances of the flesh. Nonetheless, they have not been born of the Spirit; and they have not received the oil of gladness.
-Saint Macarios the Great (Fifty Spiritual Homilies, Homily IV)

This parable admonishes us to remain diligent in almsgiving. It counsels us to help our neighbor by every means available to us, since it is impossible to be saved in any other way....For nothing is more sullied than virginity without mercy ... What was the profit of virginity, when they saw not the Bridegroom? Even when they knocked at the door, they did not obtain; instead, they heard the fearful saying, "Depart, I know you not". When he said this, nothing else but hell is left, and that intolerable punishment....This parable was spoken with respect to mercy in almsgiving ... It is also that we might learn how close Christ is joined unto virgins that strip themselves of their possessions; for this indeed is virginity.
-Saint John Chrysostom (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Homily LXXVII)

As it is written: "The day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2). Then the virgins shall awake, because both good and wicked are roused from the sleep of death. They shall trim their lamps, that is, they shall count the number of their good works for which they hope to receive the reward of eternal happiness. However, the lamps of the foolish virgins shall fail. This is because their works, seen so clearly by men, shall wane and vanish at the coming of the Judge. From God, they shall receive no recompense, for men gave them the praise they esteemed so highly. The blessed will rejoice in their recompense, when they enjoy that vision of Him in Whose presence the elements tremble. They will then go in with Him to the marriage. As they rejoice in the nuptials of the Bridegroom, they themselves will be the bride; for in the bridal chamber of the eternal Kingdom, they are united forever to their God. Thenceforth, that vision can never be snatched from them. The door of the Kingdom will close forever upon those left outside, who then will weep. However, that same door is now open to all penitents. There will be repentance then, but it will be fruitless. When the Bridegroom comes, those that wasted time that might have be used for repentance shall not find pardon. Thus St. Paul warns us: "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). The Prophet Isaiah says: "Seek ye the Lord, and when ye find Him, call upon Him" (Is. 55:6).
-Saint Gregory the Great (Parables of the Gospel, "The Ten Virgins")

Some say that the shortage of oil of the foolish virgins signifies their shortage of good works in their lives. Such understanding is not exactly correct. How can they be short of good works if they, though foolish, are still called virgins? Chastity is a supreme virtue, the state of being equal to angels, and could itself serve as a substitute for all other virtues. I humbly think that they were actually short of the grace of God's All-Holy Spirit. These virgins did good, and out of their spiritual foolishness supposed that doing good was exactly the point of Christianity. They did good works and by this obeyed God, but they did not care in the least beforehand whether they had received or reached the grace of God's Spirit. This very gaining of the Holy Spirit is that oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They were called foolish because they forgot about the necessary fruit of virtue, the grace of the Holy Spirit, without which no one is saved and no one can be saved, for: ‘it is by the Holy Spirit that any soul is vitalized and exalted in chastity, and any soul is lit by the Trinitarian unity in holy mysteries’. The Holy Spirit moves into our souls, and this installation of the All-Mighty into our souls, and co-existence of His Trinitarian Unity with our spirit is given only through the gaining by all means, the Holy Spirit, which prepares in our soul and body the throne for God’s creative co-existence with our spirit in strict accordance with the word of God: ‘I will dwell among them and will be their God, and they will be my people’. This is the oil in the lamps of wise virgins, oil that burnt bright and long, so that the virgins with the burning lamps could wait until the Bridegroom who came at midnight, and enter with Him into the house of joy. But the foolish virgins, seeing that their lamps were going out, went to the marketplace to buy oil but would not come back in time, for the doors were already shut. The marketplace is our life; the door of the house of marriage (that was shut and did not lead to the Bridegroom) is our human death; wise and foolish virgins are Christian souls; the oil is not works but the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God which is received through these works, and which converts things perishable into things imperishable, transforms spiritual death into spiritual life, darkness into light, the manger of our being, with passions tied like cattle and beasts, into the Divine Temple, into the glorious palace of never-ending rejoicing in Christ Jesus.
-St. Seraphim of Sarov (Conversation with Nicholas Motovilov) (source)

O brothers, let us love the Bridegroom, Let us make ready our lamps, Shining out with brightness and true faith, So that, like the wise virgins at the Lord's coming, We may arrive with Him at the marriage, For He, the Merciful, since He is God, Offers to all as a gift The incorruptible crown!
Thou, O God, the Bridegroom of salvation, the hope of those who hymn Thee, Grant to us who pray to Thee That we find, without stain, in Thy marriage, Just like the virgins The incorruptible crown.
-St Romanos the Melodist - Vol. II, Kontakion On the Ten Virgins I

My soul, now we observe these things. There are doors; let my soul not be at the doors; Let it be ready and at hand. It leaves nothing behind, Just as Christ said. As He foretold, all things will happen Famines and pestilence, And continuous earthquakes, And tribe upon tribe will be raised up. Fearful things within and without, Full of battles. It is not possible to be saved anywhere, For everywhere there is danger. Nowhere is there a refuge; there is flight by all men. The gate has been closed, Mercy has been sealed; For we were not chosen To be within the bridal chamber, we are Crying, 'Open.'
-St Romanos the Melodist - Kontakion On the Ten Virgins II
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Kontakion on Palm Sunday by St. Romanos the Melodist

Christ entering Jerusalem before His Passion (Palm Sunday) (source)
Mounted on the throne in heaven, Christ God, and on the colt on earth,
You accepted the praise of the angels and the hymn of the children
Who cried to you, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.

Proemium 2
At first the ungrateful Jews with branches praised Christ God,
Later with staves arrested him.
But as with faith unchanging we ever honour him as Benefactor,
Let us cry to him, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.

Since you bound Hell, slew Death and raised the world,
With palms the infants praised you, O Christ, as victor,
Crying out to you to-day, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.
For no more’, they say, ‘will infants be slaughtered because of Mary’s babe,
But for all, infants and elders, you alone are crucified.
No more against us will the sword advance,
For your side will be pierced by a lance.
Therefore we rejoice and say, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.’’

Behold our King, meek and gentle, seated on the colt
Draws near with haste to suffer and to cut off the passions;
The Word upon an irrational beast wishing to deliver rational creatures;
And it was possible to see on the back of a colt the One who rides on the shoulders of the Cherubim,
Who once took up Elias in a fiery chariot,
He who is rich by nature making himself poor by design,
And weak by intention, he who empowers
All those who cry to him, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam’.

All Sion was shaken as once Egypt was. There the inanimate,
But here the animate were shaken as you came, O Saviour,
Not because you are fomenter of trouble—for you are the sower of peace—
But because you abolish, as Maker of all things, all the trickery of the foe,
Driving him from everywhere as you reign in every place.
Their idols fell down of old,
And now those who favour them are shaken
As they hear the voices of infants, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.

‘Who is this?’ they said, who deliberately did not know you. For it says they did not know
Who was the son of David who had delivered them from corruption.
They are still untying Lazarus and do they not know who raised him?
The shoulders of those who carried the widow’s son are still hurting,
And do they really not know who it was snatched him from death?
They have not yet left Jairus’s courtyard,
And do they not know who it was gave his daughter life?
They do know, but do not want to say ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.

Ungrateful, lawless, they welcomed ignorance, indeed were ignorant.
The one they were plotting to kill they did not know, the sons of falsehood!
What they say is not strange. They are repeating the past.
Moses led them out of Egypt; he was immediately denied by them.
And Christ, who saved them from death, was now unknown.
They did not know Moses, those who knew the calf.
They denied Christ, the friends of Beliar.
Then it was ‘What has happened?’ But now they said, ‘Who is this
Who comes to call back Adam?

With palms infants sing your praise, calling you Son of David rightly, Master;
For it was you who slew the Mocker, the spiritual Goliath.
David the dancing maidens extolled after his victory,
‘Saul slew them in thousands and David in ten thousands’.
That is: the Law, and after it your Grace, my Jesu.
The Law was Saul, envying and persecuting,
But David persecuted, sprouted grace,
For you are David’s Son and Lord,
Who come to call back Adam.

The sun is a chariot of light, and, resplendent as a carriage, it is enslaved to you,
And it is subject to your command as Creator and God.
And now a colt was your delight. I worship your compassion,
Since once for me you were laid in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes,
And now you are mounted on a colt, who have the heaven as your throne.
There the angels encircled the manger,
Here disciples held the colt.
‘Glory’ you heard then, and now, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.

You showed your strength in choosing penury, since for you to be seated on a foal
Is a form of beggary. But in glory you shake Sion.
The disciples’ garments signified penury,
But the sign of your might was the hymn of the children and the gathering of the crowd
Crying ‘Hosanna’—that is ‘Save now’—’in the highest’.
Most High, save the humbled;
Have mercy on us, as you look on our branches.
Boughs that are brandished will move your compassion, O you
Who come to call back Adam.

Adam contracted for us the debt that we owe, by eating what he ought not,
And until to-day it is demanded of us who are descended from him.
The creditor was not satisfied with seizing the debtor,
But he attacks his children too, demanding the ancestral debt,
And empties the debtor’s house entirely, sweeping everyone away.
And so let us all flee to one who is powerful.
Knowing that we are in dire poverty,
Do you yourself pay back what we owe, for you are rich,
Who come to call back Adam.

You have come to deliver all, and your prophet Zachary, who once called you
Most meek, just and who save, is your witness.
We were wearied, we were worsted, we were utterly cast out;
We thought we had the law as our redeemer, and it enslaved us;
The prophets too, and they left us on our hope.
And so with infants we bow the knee to you.
Have mercy on us who have been humbled,
Be willing, be crucified, and tear up the record of our debt, you
Who come to call back Adam.

‘Creature fashioned by my hand’, the Fashioner answered those who shouted,
‘Knowing that the law had no strength to save you, I have come myself.
It was not for the law to save you, since it did not fashion you.
Nor was it for the prophets, because they too are my fashioning just as you are.
Mine alone was the task of releasing you from this most heavy debt.
I am being sold for your sake and I shall free you.
I am being crucified for you and you are not being made to die.
I die and I teach you to cry, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.

For was it for angels that I showed affection? It was you the pauper that I befriended. I hid my glory
And I, the Rich, have willingly become poor, for I love you greatly.
I was hungry, I was thirsty, I toiled also for your sake.
I passed by mountains, cliffs and valleys, seeking you, the lost.
I was named ‘Lamb’, that attracting you by my voice I might lead you;
‘Shepherd’, and for you I am willing to lay down my life,
That I may snatch you from the hand of the wolf.
I suffer all, wishing you to cry, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.’’

But after words he showed it by deeds, for he reached the city,
And the hymn of the children enraged all his enemies.
Raising his eyes he gazed on Sion
And wove a lament over her, crying, ‘Groan aloud, Jerusalem,
Because you have found children to be fathers, teachers your sons.
In evil and wickedness you are a youngster,
For doing good you are weighed down by old age.
Better than you are those who cry to me ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.

Now I shall enter you and casting you aside reject you, not because I have hated,
But because I have understood that you have hated me and mine.
Your children have prepared a cross for me in return for what?
Because with a staff I rent the sea apart like a tunic before them?
Do they carve out a tomb because I gave them a cloud as protection?
And I rejoice, since for their sake I came,
And I long to suffer in my love for the fallen,
That those who love me may say, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.’’

So he who sees the inmost heart reproached city sluggish of heart and enters
The temple with all the infants, he the universal priest.
The Son arrived in his Father’s house.
And cast out both sellers and buyers together, saying,
‘Let nothing remain here; for we are leaving here,
I and my Father together with the Spirit.
Now we have found a court: the will of the meek,
Of those who with their voices faithfully cry to me, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.’’

All-holy Son of God, number us together with those who sing your praise,
And receive the supplication of your servants as once the children’s.
Have mercy on those you fashioned, amongst whom you dwelt in love.
Give peace to your churches, shaken by enemies,
And send down to me, O Saviour, release from my iniquities.
Grant me to speak what you will as you will
Do not let grief make my mind sluggish.
Show me to be a skilled cultivator to cry, ‘Blessed are you
Who come to call back Adam.

Copyright to Archimandrite Ephrem © (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Six days before the Passover..."

Christ raising Lazarus (source)
«Προ έξ ήμερων του πάσχα, διά των πέντε αισθήσεων, τον τετραήμερον ο τριήμερος, ταις δυσί τον έναν χαρίζεται».
«Six days before the Passover, before the five senses, the Four-days-dead, by the Third-day-risen One, to the two [sisters, Martha and Mary], He grants the one [brother, St. Lazarus]»
St. Epiphanios of Salamis
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Excerpt from the Canon of St. Lazarus by St. Andrew of Crete

Christ raising Lazarus from the dead (source)
Excerpt from the Canon of St. Lazarus by St. Andrew of Crete (to be read at the Compline for the Saturday of the Raising of Lazarus)

Ode IX. Eirmos.
He has showed strength with His arm; He has put down the mighty from their seats and exalted the humble, for He is the God of Israel; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and guided us into the way of peace.

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
Let Bethany sing with us in praise of the miracle, for there the Creator wept for Lazarus in accordance with the law of nature and the flesh; then, making Martha's tears to cease and changing Mary's grief to joy, Christ raised him from the dead.

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
To confirm men's faith in Your Resurrection, Word, You have called Lazarus from the tomb and as God You have raised him up, to show the peoples that You, who raise up the temple of Your body are both God and man in very truth.

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
Shaking the gates and iron bars, You have made Hades tremble at Your voice; Hades and death were filled with fear, Savior, seeing Lazarus their prisoner brought to life by Your word and rising from the tomb.

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
All were dismayed to see You, Savior, weeping over dead Lazarus, and in their misery they said: "Behold how He loves him." You then straight away called him, and at Your command the dead man rose, delivered from corruption.

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
The gates were shaken and the bars were shattered, and the bonds which held the dead man were loosed; when Christ spoke in power, Hades groaned bitterly and cried aloud: "Woe is me! What and from where is this voice that brings the dead to life!"

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
Rise up, obedient to the voice: your friend outside is calling you; for this is He who raised the dead of old: for when Elias and Elisha brought the dead to life, it was He that spoke and acted through them.

Glory to You, our God, glory to You.
We sing the praises of Your surpassing power, Word and Savior, for by Your word, as Creator of all things, You have raised dead Lazarus from the depths with his bones and sinews, as You before raised the widow's son from the bier.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Most Holy Trinity, God the eternal Father, coeternal Son and Word of God, Holy Spirit of God, loving Comforter; one Light of the threefold Sun, consubstantial Essence, one God and Lord, take pity on the world.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Jesus, who have made all things in wisdom, You have clothed Yourself in my whole nature, taken from the Virgin, yet You remain for ever wholly in the bosom of the Father; and as God You have sent down Your Holy Spirit on Your flock: cover us with Your shadow.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Monday, April 22, 2013

St. John Chrysostom on Repentance

Jesus Christ, Pantocrator (source)
St. John Chrysostom on Repentance (amateur translation)
All those who, through stumbling into offenses, have corrupted the temple of God, do not loose hope to the end among yourselves, but through repentance, again renew it. For like a wise man who out of negligence allowed his home to become soiled and corrupted, he properly returns to refashion it, that it might be like a house that was unspoiled from the beginning. In like manner, the inhabitant that is our soul, though it might be soiled and fallen, again is renewed through repentance. Repentance, therefore, raises up the fallen soul, which has been estranged from God, and again becomes His friend. Repentance protects the soul's essence from the darkness, and drives away death. Repentance raises again the fallen soul, lifts up the destitute, heals the broken, and gives health to the traumatized. Let us hasten towards repentance, the promise of the Kingdom, the laver of sins, the mother of salvation. Repentance, the persecution of the devil, the snare for the demons. O repentance, for which Jonah the prophet fled from the face of God, so that he would not be shown a false preacher of death at the turning back of God's fatal condemnation. For you, therefore, met the command of God against the Ninevites, and turned it back, springing forth an uncorrupted spring of life for the Ninevites. Repentance, together with tears, importunes God, and granted to Hezekiah the King life instead of death. O repentance, which hastens from earth to heaven, and surpasses the angelic powers, and approaches the divine Spirit of the Lord's throne, and makes one a communicant with God, and makes one receives gifts from God's very treasury, granting to those who possess you with boldness. O repentance, the physician of the passions, the softener of danger, and the quencher of the fire of anger, and the temperance of wrath, and possessing the unquenchable lamp of love. O repentance, which is born within the heart of man, and as payment pastures one in the heavens. The blessed David, though having fallen into the dual sins of murder and adultery, fled the just punishment. O repentance, dissolving the bonds of sins, and ensures the salvation of souls. Repentance, within a groaning heart, refers back to and entreats God. Repentance, watered with fervent tears from the eyes, makes radiant the baptismal [garment] of souls. O repentance, becoming the medicine that causes man to transform from mortality to immortality.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Homily on the Annunciation by St. Proclus Patriarch of Constantinople

The Most-holy Theotokos and Christ (source)
Homily on the Annunciation by St. Proclus Patriarch of Constantinople
Our present gathering in honor of the Most Holy Virgin inspires me, brethren, to say of Her a word of praise, of benefit also for those come unto this churchly solemnity.
It comprises a praise of women, a glorying of their gender, which (glory) is brought it by Her, She Who is at one same time both Mother, and Virgin. O desired and wondrous gathering! Celebrate, O nature, that wherein honor be rendered to Woman; rejoice, O human race, that wherein the Virgin be glorified. "For when sin did abound, grace did superabound" (Rom 5:20). The Holy Mother of God and Virgin Mary hath gathered us here, She the pure treasure of virginity, the intended paradise of Second Adam -- the locus, wherein was accomplished the co-uniting of natures, wherein was affirmed the Counsel of salvific reconciliation.
Whoever is it that ever saw, whoever heard, that within a womb the Limitless God would make habitation, Whom the Heavens cannot circumscribe, Whom the womb of a Virgin limiteth not!?
He born of woman is not only God and He is not only Man: This One born made woman, being the ancient gateway of sin, into the gateway of salvation: where evil poured forth its poison, bringing on disobedience, there the Word made for Himself a living temple, bringing in thither obedience; from whence the arch-sinner Cain sprang forth, there without seed was born Christ the Redeemer of the human race.
The Lover-of-Mankind did not disdain to be born of woman, since this bestowed His life. He was not subject to impurity, being settled within the womb, which He Himself arrayed free from all harm. If perchance this Mother did not remain a Virgin, then that born of Her might be a mere man, and the birth would be no wise miraculous; but since she after birth remained a Virgin, then how is He Who is born indeed -- not God? It is an inexplicable mystery, since in an inexplicable manner was born He Who without hindrance went through doors when they were locked. When confessing in Him the co-uniting of two natures, Thomas cried out: "My Lord, and my God!" (Jn 20:28).
The Apostle Paul says, that Christ is "to the Jews indeed scandal, and to the Gentiles yet folly" (1 Cor 1:23): they did not perceive the power of the mystery, since it was incomprehensible to the mind: "for had they understood, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Cor 2:8). If the Word had not settled within the womb, then the flesh would not have ascended with Him onto the Divine Throne; if for God it were disdainful to enter into the womb, which He created, then the Angels too would have disdained service to mankind.
That One, Who by His nature was not subject to sufferings, through His love for us subjected Himself to many a suffering. We believe, that Christ not through some gradual ascent towards the Divine nature was made God, but being God, through His mercy He was made Man. We do not say: "a man made God"; but we confess, that God was incarnated and made Man.
His Servant was chosen for Himself as Mother by That One Who, in His essence did not have mother, and Who, through Divine foresight having appeared upon the earth in the image of man, does not have here father. How one and the same is He both without father, and without mother, in accord with the words of the Apostle (Heb 7:3)? If He -- be only a man, then He cannot be without mother -- but actually He had a Mother. If He -- be God only, then He cannot be without Father -- but in fact He has the Father. And yet as God the Creator He has not mother, and as Man He has not father.
We can be persuaded in this by the very name of the Archangel, making annunciation to Mary: his name -- is Gabriel. What does this name mean? -- it means: "God and man." Since That One about Whom he announced is God and Man, then his very name points beforehand to this miracle, so that with faith be accepted the deed of the Divine dispensation.
To save people would be impossible for a mere man, since every man has need in the Saviour: "for all, -- says Saint Paul, -- have sinned, and come short the Glory of God" (Rom 3:23). Since sin subjects the sinner to the power of the devil, and the devil subjects him to death, then our condition did become extremely hapless: there was no sort of way to be delivered from death.
There were sent physicians, i.e. the prophets, but they could only the more clearly point out the malady. What did they do? When they saw, that the illness was beyond human skill, they summoned from Heaven the Physician; one of them said "Lord, bend the heavens, and come down" (Ps 143[144]:5); others cried out: "Heal me, O Lord, and I shalt be healed" (Jer 17:14); "restore Thine power, and come yet to save us" (Ps 79[80]:3). And yet others: "For if God truly be settled with man upon the earth" (3[1] Kg 8:27); "speedily send before Thine tender mercy, O Lord, for we are brought very low" (Ps 78[79]:8).
Others said: "O woe to me, my soul! For the pious art perished from the earth, and of the upright amongst men there is none" (Mich 7:2). "O God, in help attend to me, O Lord, shield me with Thine help" (Ps 69[70]:1). "If there be delay, endure it, for He that cometh shalt come, and not tarry" (Hab 2:3). "Perishing like a lost sheep: seek out Thine servant, who doth hope on Thee" (Ps 118[119]:176). "For God wilt come, our God, and wilt not keep silence" (Ps. 49[50]:3).
That One, Who by nature is Lord, did not disdain human nature, enslaved by the sinister power of the devil, the merciful God would not accede for it to be forever under the power of the devil, the Ever-Existing One came and gave in ransom His Blood; for the redemption of the race of man from death He gave up His Body, which He had accepted of the Virgin, He delivered the world from the curse of the law, annihilating death by His death. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law" -- exclaims Saint Paul (Gal 3:13).
Thus know, that our Redeemer is not simply a mere man, since all the human race was enslaved to sin. But He likewise is not God only, non-partaking of human nature. He had body, since if He had not clothed Himself in me, He then likewise should not have saved me. But, having settled within the womb of the Virgin, He clothed Himself in my fate, and within this womb He perfected a miraculous change: He bestowed the Spirit and received a body, That One only indeed (dwelling) with the Virgin and (born) of the Virgin. And so, Who is He, made manifest to us? The Prophet David doth point it out for thee in these words: "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord" (Ps 117[118]:26).
But tell us even more clearly, O prophet, Who is He? The Lord is the God of Hosts, says the prophet: "God is the Lord, and hath revealed Himself unto us" (Ps 117[118]:27). "The Word was made flesh" (Jn 1:14): there were co-united the two natures, and the union remained without mingling.
He came to save, but had also to suffer. What has the one in common with the other? A mere man cannot save; and God in only His nature cannot suffer. By what means was done the one and the other? Wherein that He, Emmanuel, being God, was made also Man; both this, that what He was, He saved by -- and this, that what He was made, He suffered as. Wherefore, when the Church beheld that the Jewish throng had crowned Him with thorns, bewailing the violence of the throng, it said: "Daughters of Zion, go forth and behold the crown, of which is crowned He of His mother" (Sng 3:11).
He wore the crown of thorns and destroyed the judgement to suffering from the thorns. He Only is That One both in the bosom of the Father and in the womb of the Virgin; He Only is That One -- in the arms of His Mother and in the wings of the winds (Ps. 103[104]:3); He, to Whom the Angels bowed down in worship, at that same time reclined at table with publicans.
Upon Him the Seraphim dared not to gaze, and at the same time Pilate pronounced sentence upon Him. He is That One and Same, Whom the servant did smite and before whom did tremble all creation.
He was nailed to the Cross and ascended to the Throne of Glory -- He was placed in the tomb and He stretched out the heavens like a skin (Ps. 103[104]:2) -- He was numbered amidst the dead and He emptied hell; here upon the earth, they cursed at Him as a transgressor -- there in Heaven, they exclaimed Him glory as the All-Holy.
What an incomprehensible mystery! I see the miracles, and I confess, that He is God; I see the sufferings, and I cannot deny, that He is Man. Emmanuel opened up the doors of nature, as man, and preserved unharmed the seal of virginity, as God: He emerged from the womb thus as He entered through the announcing; the same wondrously was He both born and conceived: without passion He entered, and without impairment He emerged, as concerning this doth say the Prophet Ezekiel: "He returned me back the way of the gates of the outer sanctuaries, looking upon the east: and these had been shut. And saith the Lord to me: son of man, these gates shalt be closed, and not open, and no one go through them: for the Lord God of Israel, He Only, shalt enter and come forth, and they wilt be shut" (Ez 44:1-2). Here it clearly indicates the Holy Virgin and Mother of God Mary.
Let cease all contention, and let the Holy Scripture enlighten our reason, so that we too receive the Heavenly Kingdom unto all eternity. Amen.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Catechesis on the Annunciation by St. Theodore the Studite

The Most-holy Theotokos and Christ (source)

On the incarnate dispensation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that we should celebrate spiritually. It was spoken on the day of the Annunciation.
Brethren and fathers, the Annunciation is here and it is the first of the Feasts of the Lord, and we should not simply celebrate as most do, but with understanding and with reverence for the mystery. What is the mystery? That the Son of God becomes son of man, using the holy Virgin as the means, dwelling in her and from her fashioning for himself a temple and becoming perfect man. Why so? That he might ransom those under the law, as it is written, and that we might receive sonship[Gal. 4,5.]; that we may no longer be slaves, but free; no longer subject to the passions, but free of passions; no longer friends of the world, but friends of God; no longer walking according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. Those who walk according to the flesh, think the things of the flesh; those who walk according to the spirit, the things of the spirit; for the thought of the flesh is death; but the thought of the spirit, life and peace. And so the thought of the flesh is hostile to God, for it is not subject to the law of God. Indeed it cannot be. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God [Rom. 8,5-8.]. In brief this is the power of the mystery, and this is why we should celebrate spiritually and behave spiritually, with holiness and justice, with love, with gentleness, with peace, with forbearance, with goodness, with the Holy Spirit [2 Cor. 6,6.], so that as far as we ourselves are concerned we do not render the dispensation of our Lord Jesus Christ empty and ineffectual. Not only that, but we should both pray and grieve for the world. Why so? Because the Son of God came to save the world, and the world rejects him. Tribes and languages reject him; the barbarian nations reject him, those who have had his holy name invoked upon them reject him, some through abandoning the faith, others through their evil lives. What should he have done and did not do? Being God he became man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, the death of the cross [Phil. 2,8.]; he gave us his body to eat and his blood to drink; he allowed us to call him Father, Brother, Head, Teacher, Bridegroom, Fellow-heir and all the other titles which there is no time to mention now. And still he is rejected, and still he bears it. For, he says, I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world [John 12,47.]. What then is there to say, brethren? That the genuine disciples are grieved by the rejections of their fellow-disciples, thus showing love both for the teacher and for the disciples. So too, genuine servants suffer in the same way from the desertions of their fellow-servants. This is why the great Apostle orders that we should offer supplications, prayers, entreaties, thanksgivings on behalf of all mankind, for kings and for all in high positions [1 Tim. 2,1-2.]; and elsewhere he says this on the subject, I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie, my conscience bears witness with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have a great grief and unceasing anguish in my heart; for I have prayed that I might be anathema to Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh [Rom. 9,1-3.]. You see the power of love? You see the height of friendship? Moses shows it too when he says to God, If you will forgive them their sin, forgive; if not, wipe me out of the book which you have written [Exodus 32,32]. So we too, as genuine and not counterfeit disciples, should not only look to what concerns ourselves, but we should grieve and pray for our brothers and for the whole world; for by so doing what is pleasing to the Lord we shall become inheritors of eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Texts and translation copyright to Archimandrite Ephrem © (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

St. Nektarios saves the Metropolitan of Kydonies

St. Nektarios the Wonderworker (source)
St. Nektarios saves the Metropolitan of Kydonies (amateur translation/summary)

From the Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Kydonies, Archimandrite Damaskenos Lionake
Early on December 28th, we reached the Navy Hospital of Athens together with fellow workers from the Metropolis, where his Eminence Metropolitan Damaskenos was sick in critical condition.
It suffices to say that he was suffering from dysfunction of his vital organs, sepsis, icterus, pancreatitis, and many other organ complications! The vital placement of a stent, which was decided ultimately by Dr. Gerasimos Stephanides, was not at all an easy one. The prolonged suffering of our Shepherd impressed on us that his health was even more fragile.
At the “Evangelismos” Hospital, Drs. Evangelos Kokkinakes and Soterios Prigoures spoke of the last moments of his Eminence. Human medicine had reached its end, and around us there was utter speechlessness...Instants of great agony and “unity of heart”...
With faith we took refuge in the help of our great God, and the intercessions of the wonderworker St. Nektarios, whose relic we had taken with us from the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.
We approached the sick Bishop and placed the grace-flowing relic on him, and read prayers and prayed “within our strength”. He did not show any sign of communication with the outside world. He only clutched the reliquary, and took deep breaths due to aspiration.
In a short time they took him to the operating room. Those near him, about twenty people, waited outside the operating room in agony.
Two hours later, having waited with agony, the door to the operating room opened. The doctor called us, and told us: “Listen. I struggled greatly. A divine hand led me, because I was lost. I had never before met such a complex situation”... Immediately we were “born with rejoicing”!
Agony had given way to relief. Our hearts were sure that St. Nektarios had helped the doctor during the surgery, and contributed to its wondrous success! It was St. Nektarios!
It was he who, for so many years, supported his Eminence, who helped him in his life and his work, who blessed him “from on high” and guided him in his difficulties, in temptations and trials, he who is “speedy to help” and the “free physician”, who “pours forth healing of all kinds”, the new boast of the inhabitans of Chanion, who had confirmed his holiness even before his canonization!
Things that are impossible for men are possible for God” (Luke 18:27), as the unlying mouth of the Lord bears witness, and “nothing is impossible for St. Nektarios”, as was preached by the blessed Demetrios Panagopoulos, the grace-bearing lay preacher and man of God. Another page had been added to the many pages of wonders of St. Nektarios.
May the name of God be glorified, through the intercessions of St. Nektarios, Whose “mercy surrounded us like a fortified city” (Psalms 30:22).
His Eminence our Metropolitan grants to us “the grace of God” in the place of his pastoral service, in the blessed city of Chanion. We judge it necessary to thank those who worked towards his healing and therapy, those medical doctors who served him with consistency and humanity, those who with hope served vigil near his pillow, those who prayed for the improvement of his health, those who supported and strengthened him in his trial, those who served the wonder of his healing in many ways!
“May the mercy of the Lord be with them all. Amen”
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Vigil Lamp of the Skete of St. Anna, Mount Athos

The icon of St. Anna and the Theotokos, the Skete of St. Anna, Mount Athos (source)
The Vigil Lamp of the Skete of St. Anna, Mount Athos (amateur translation)
As was mentioned by a priest who is related spiritually to the monks of the Skete of St. Anna, Mount Athos, during the sermon after the service of the Salutations to the Theotokos, at a monastery in the area of Akaramaga, he informed those present that for the past three days, the vigil lamp before the icon of St. Anna in her holy skete, has been moving in a miraculous way (in the shape of the Cross).

The Athonite monks, and the holy priest mentioned, are disquieted and troubled by this occurrence, and they believe that this foretells negative events.

However, irrespective of what this wondrous event means, it is sure that this is a further opportunity for us to be moved towards greater care and repentance.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Peter the Merciful

St. Peter the Merciful, whose life was first related by St. John the Merciful - Commemorated September 22 (Icon from the Skete of St. Anna, Mount Athos) (source)
When a man clearly senses God's mercy toward him, he is startled, as from a dull and senseless dream, and becomes ashamed of his long blindness to God's unceasing compassion.

In the time of Emperor Justinian (527-565), the chief imperial tax collector in Africa was a certain Peter, a very wealthy but very hard and merciless man. The beggars grumbled among themselves, that not one of them had ever received alms from Peter. Then, one of them bet that he would succeed in getting alms from Peter. He persistently begged alms of the miser until Peter, in a rage, hit him with a loaf of bread, since he had nothing else close at hand. Joyfully the beggar took the bread and fled.

Immediately after this Peter became seriously ill and had this vision: He was being interrogated by demons in the other world. There was a scale, and on one side of it, the demons heaped Peter's sins, making that side extremely heavy. On the other side - which was empty - angels stood, sorrowing that they had not even one good deed in Peter's life to help balance the scale. One of them said: "We have nothing to place on the scale except one loaf of bread, with which he struck a beggar the day before yesterday." The angels placed this one loaf of bread on the empty side of the scale, and that loaf of bread outweighed the other side of the scale, laden with all of Peter's sins.

When the vision was over Peter said to himself: "Indeed, this was not an apparition but the living truth, for I saw all my sins from my youth. And when I can be helped so much by one loaf of bread that I threw at a beggar, how much help would I receive from many deeds of almsgiving, performed from the heart and with humility?"

And from that time, Peter became the most compassionate man in his town. He distributed all of his possessions to the poor, and when he had finished distributing his possessions, he sold himself into slavery for thirty gold pieces and distributed even his own price as a slave to the poor as alms in the name of Christ. He was, thereafter, called Peter the Merciful.

He who gives to the poor, gives to Christ. This is the meaning of the Gospel teaching, and it has been confirmed in the experience of the saints.

Upon his repentance, Peter the Merciful gave alms to the poor wherever the opportunity presented itself. On one occasion Peter encountered a shipwrecked man who had barely managed to save his naked body from the wreck. The man begged him for some clothing. Peter removed his costly cloak and clothed the naked man with it. Shortly afterward, Peter saw his cloak in the shop of a merchant, who had it displayed for sale. Peter was very saddened that the shipwrecked man had sold his cloak instead of using it for himself. Peter thought: "I am not worthy; the Lord does not accept my alms."

But later, the Lord appeared to him in a dream. He appeared as a handsome man, brighter than the sun, with a cross on His head, wearing Peter's cloak. "Peter, why art thou sad?" asked the Lord. "My Lord, why would I not be sad, when I see that which I gave to the poor being sold at the market?" Then the Lord asked him: "Dost thou recognize this garment on Me?" Peter replied: "I recognize it, Lord; that is my garment with which I clothed the naked man." Then the Lord spoke to him again: "Therefore do not be sad; thou gavest it to the poor man, and I received it, and I praise thy deed."


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

St. John Klimakos (of the Ladder), the Abbot of Mount Sinai

St. John Klimakos (of the Ladder), the Abbot of Mount Sinai - Commemorated March 30 and the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (source)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

John Klimakos (Climacus) is the author of "The Ladder of Divine Ascent."

John came to Mt. Sinai as a sixteen year old youth and remained there, first as a novice under obedience, and afterwards as a recluse, and finally as abbot of Sinai until his eightieth year. He died around the year 563 A.D.

His biographer, the monk Daniel, says about him: "His body ascended the heights of Sinai, while his soul ascended the heights of heaven." He remained under obedience with his spiritual father, Martyrius, for nineteen years. Anastasius of Sinai, seeing the young John, prophesied that he would become the abbot of Sinai. After the death of his spiritual father, John withdrew into a cave [at Thola], where he lived a difficult life of asceticism for [forty] years.

St. John of the Ladder (source)
His disciple, Moses, fell asleep one day under the shade of a large stone. John, in prayer in his cell, saw that his disciple was in danger and prayed to God for him. Later on, when Moses returned, he fell on his knees and gave thanks to his spiritual father for saving him from certain death. He related how, in a dream, he heard John calling him and he jumped up and, at that moment, the stone tumbled. Had he not jumped, the stone would have crushed him.

At the insistence of the brotherhood, John agreed to become abbot and directed the salvation of the souls of men with zeal and love. From someone John heard a reproach that he talked too much. Not being angered by this, John however remained silent for an entire year and did not utter a word until the brothers implored him to speak and to continue to teach them his God-given wisdom.
St. John Klimakos (source)
On one occasion, when six-hundred pilgrims came to the Monastery of Sinai, everyone saw an agile youth in Jewish attire serving at a table and giving orders to other servants and assigning them. All at once, this young man disappeared. When everyone noticed this and began to question it, John said to them, "Do not seek him, for that was Moses the Prophet serving in my place."

During the time of his silence in the cave, John wrote many worthwhile books, of which the most glorious is "The Ladder". This book is still read by many, even today. In this book, John describes the method of elevating the soul to God, as ascending a ladder.
The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John of Sinai (source)
Before his death, John designated George, his brother in the flesh, as abbot. George grieved much because of his separation from John. Then John said to him, that, if he [John] were found worthy to be near God in the other world, he would pray to Him, that, he, [George], would be taken to heaven that same year. And, so it was. After ten months George succeeded and settled among the citizens of heaven as did his great brother, John.

"Ascend, brothers, ascend eagerly, and be resolved in your hearts to ascend and hear him who says: Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of our God, who makes our feet like hind's feet, and sets us upon high places, that we might be victors with His song."

- St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 30.36.


Iconographic depiction of The Ladder of Divine Ascent, written by St. John of the Ladder (source)
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O John, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.

Kontakion in the First Tone
As ever-blooming fruits, thou dost offer the teachings of thy God-given book, O wise John, thou most blessed, while sweet'ning the hearts of all them that heed it with vigilance; for it is a ladder from the earth unto Heaven that conferreth glory on the souls that ascend it and honour thee faithfully.
The Ladder of Divine Ascent (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!