Tuesday, January 28, 2014

St. Ephraim the Syrian on Humility

St. Ephraim the Syrian (source)
My beloved in the Lord, before every other thing set humility in thy mouth when thou art ready to make answer, for, forgive me, thou knowest that by humility all the power of the Enemy is brought to naught. And thou knowest the goodness of thy Master, Whom they blasphemed, and how He became humble, and obedient, even unto death. And do thou thyself, my son, set thy humility in thy mouth, and in thy heart, and in thy neck, for there is a commandment which inculcateth humility. Consider David, who boasted himself of his humility, and said, `Because I humbled myself the Lord delivered me, and He did good unto me.' [cf. Ps. 29(30): 8-12] My son, array thyself in humility, and thou shalt make the virtues of God be with thee. And if, my son, thou art in a state of humility, no passion whatsoever shall have power to draw nigh thee.
There is no measure (or, limit) to the beauty of the man who is humble. No passion whatsoever shall be able to draw nigh unto the man who is humble, and there is no measure to his beauty. The humble man is a sacrifice of God. With him that is humble the hearts of God and His angels rest. Moreover, when the angels glorify him, there is the excuse for him that hath produced in himself all virtues; but for him that hath produced humility in himself thou wilt find no excuse whatsoever needed, besides that he hath become humble.
My son, these are the virtues of humility. My son, hold thy peace, for it is written, `He who is wise at that time will hold his peace.' [Amos 5:13] Hold thy peace until thou art asked a question. When they ask thee a question speak, and use humble words, and a humble manner. Do not be wholly mournful. If it (i.e. the question) be too great for thee sit down. Speak not when others are speaking words of depreciation; compel thyself, thou shalt not forget, [and let] thy thoughts [be] 'I have not heard [them].' To all words wherin is profit give thy most earnest attention. For it is written, `If [thou art] a doer of the word and not a hearer thereof thou deceivest thyself, my son, in the Lord.' [2 Tim 3:15] I give thee commandments in thy beginning, do thou keep them in thy youth. Observe what Paul spake. He said, `Besides, from the time when thou wast a child thou didst know the Holy Scriptures, which have the power to save thee.'...
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

St. Paisios on trials

Christ being tempted in the wilderness (source)
Trials do good. Do not be afraid.

Our Christ struggled for forty days in the desert, but later he was served by Angels.

Our Christ is very loving.

Continuously, for our benefit, he allows great sorrow. For a short time we think that He has abandoned us, but because He feels sorrow, afterwards He loves us, He chokes us with His mercy, with His love.

Never fear, only love our Christ.
(amateur translation from source)
St. Paisios the Athonite (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Isaac the Syrian on Self-knowledge

St. Isaac the Syrian (sketch by Photios Kontoglou) (source)
He who senses his sins,
is greater than he who raises the dead
with his prayer.

He who groans one hour for his soul, is greater
than he who benefits the whole world.

He who is made worthy to see himself, is greater
than he who is made worthy to see angels.

To him who knows himself,
is given the knowledge of all things.
For the knowledge of ourselves is the fullness
of knowledge of all things.
(amateur translation of text from here)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Porphyrios on Prayer

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (source)
God desires that we resemble the Angels.
The Angels only glorify God.
This is their prayer, only doxology.
Doxology is a delicate matter, fleeing from the things of man...
Doxology is selfless prayer.
The angels don't pray in order to gain something, for they are selfless.
God gave to us this ability, that our prayer might be a continuous doxology, an angelic prayer.
Here is found the great secret.
When we enter into this prayer, we glorify God continuously, leaving everything to Him, as our Church prays: “and offer all our life unto Christ our God.”
These are the “greatest lessons” of our religion!
Therefore, my beloved fellow walkers and travelers through life,
let us make a small effort to resemble the Angels.
Let us glorify God for everything, and let us leave our life in His Hands,
that He might lead us to the best harbor for us, where He knows.
May we all have good strength...
(amateur translation of text from here)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Prayer for the Recovery of the Relic of St. Polycarp of Smyrna

The martyrdom of St. Polycarp of Smyrna (source)
The following is a beautiful and moving prayer recently written by Metropolitan Ierotheos Vlachos for the return of the Holy Relic of St. Polycarp, recently stolen from the Monastery of Panagia Ampelakiotissa in his Metropolis. St. Polycarp is a great Saint and Apostolic Father of the Church, and he is a special protector and healer of the people of that region. Though the world has and will continue to go through trying times of poverty, disease, etc. the solution is to place our trust in God, not in our own passionate logic, and definitely not by defiling the holy things of Christ's Church. As the Metropolitan reminds us, unless we all turn to repentance for the evil that we have done, we all stand "self-condemned". As St. Polycarp's feast is approaching, may we all pray for his illumination, and that his Right Hand might return to console his saddened people.
Hierarchical Entreaty to God for the uncovering of the stolen Precious Relic of our Father among the Saints, the Hieromartyr Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, the Protector of the Region of Navpaktias.
written by Metropolitan Ierotheos of Navpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who sanctifies those who love You and rests within them, Who sets Your servants as vessels of Your Holy Name, precious members of Your Holy Body, temples of the Holy Spirit, Who loved Your servant and healer Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, granting him the rank of the Archpriesthood and the holy work of martyrdom, Who led the Holy Relic of Your Saint to this Holy Monastery of the Panagia named Ampelakiotissa, for the sanctification of Your people, and has shown this to be a dwelling place of glory and a spring of unemptying wonders, we thank You today, for the Divine Liturgy which we have celebrated, and we glorify Your holy and greatly-hymned Name.

You are the giver of good things and the source of life. You are He Who knows the depths of our hearts. You are He Who enriches us with every spiritual wisdom. You are He Who blesses us, through the intercessions of Your Saint, and placed within this Monastery an inexhaustible treasure, and made us inheritors of the holy Relics of this Apostolic Father. Therefore we hymn You, we bless You, we glorify You, our true God, Who works great, wondrous, glorious and magnificent deeds.

We take confidence, O Master of all, Lord of Heaven and earth, and all creation seen and unseen, that You know the pain of our hearts and our sorrow at the theft that took place in this holy place, for unclean hearts and unholy hands have defiled this Holy Temple, bursting through the doors, and seizing with impudence and deadly heart the all-holy Relic of the most-holy Father, who himself was honored even by the fire [in martyrdom], along with other nations and other faiths throughout the ages. Our heart is made grave at this profane and impious act and deed, truly filled with satanic inbreathing and to please the passions, we have been greatly wounded and vexed. We question in curiosity: What  satanic mind [literally "mind of the morning star"] planned this senseless deed? What purpose was there in defiling the holy dwelling-place of Your glory, of this sanctified relic? What brash hand stole this blessed right hand in insolence and impudence? Who was angry at the love of the people?

Truly, we are aghast before this act of cruelty, mute before this unholy deed and speechless before this satanic activity. Just a few days before, this blessed place, which is sanctified by the presence of Your Holy Mother, the Panagia Ampelakiotissa, and by the grace-bearing right hand of Your holy healer, Polycarp the wondrous, was defiled by wild impulses and barbaric acts, of senseless, thoughtless, impassioned, unholy and deluded men.

Therefore, cast a glance upon this, Your troubled people, and hearken to this prayer. Behold our sorrow and the tears for the loss of the sacred and greatly-loved treasure of our Protector of this Eparchy. Our eyes look upon You, our prayers pour forth from our hearts and rise to You as a sacrifice. Do not despise our prayer and the groaning of our heart.

We entreat You, O Lord our God, to open those unclean hearts and enlighten the darkened and [satanic] mind that worked this defiled and hideous act, that they might awake from the cloud of evil, and return the holy and sacred Relic to its home, in this Holy Monastery. Grant to them to come to know that this act inevitably brings to them to the pit of evil, to sickness of soul and body, and to the tartarus of Hades, to the place of desolation and torture. For it is fitting for those who work such deeds naturally and ethically, to be given to curses and anathemas, because through such a defiling deed they stand self-condemned, unless they repent bitterly, as Your Apostle Peter did upon his betrayal.

Grant to us, O Master of all, O Lord our God, the power to entreat Your healer, the Hieromartyr Polycarp the wondrous.

O Saint Polycarp, the protector of our hearts, come speedily near us, free the precious member of your body from the hands of the unrighteous, lawless, wicked and impious, and dwell newly among us, who love you with our whole heart. You, after God, are our Father and we are your children. We behold your dwelling-place empty, but adorned with our love and washed with our tears. Come, our consolation, our trainer and our benefactor.

O Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, through the intercessions of Your Most-Holy Mother, and the entreaties of the holy Hieromartyr Polycarp, soften the pains of our soul, take away our pain and fulfill our desire, that we might newly behold the right hand of Your Saint, awesome in battle and gladsome to his friends.

For Yours is the glory and the honor and the worship, together with Your Beginningless Father, and Your All-Holy and Good and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Sunday March 17th, the Holy Monastery of Ampelakiotissa.
(amateur translation from source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

St. Paisios on the Prayer Rope

St. Paisios preaching to people outside his cell on the Holy Mountain (source)
-Elder, what meaning does the prayer rope (komboschoini) have?
-The prayer rope is an inheritance, a blessing, which was left to us by the Holy Fathers. And for this alone, it has great worth. You see, when someone's grandfather leaves him a meaningless object as an inheritance, he keeps it like a talisman, how much more should we keep the prayer rope as an inheritance of the Holy Fathers!

In olden times, when there were no clocks, monks counted the time with prayer with the prayer rope, but the knots of the prayer rope were simple. Once, an ascetic was doing great struggles, many prostrations, etc. and the devil went and broke the knots of his prayer rope. The poor man then did prostrations after prostrations, because he couldn't count them, as the devil broke his prayer rope to further continue his struggle. Then, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him and taught him how to weave the knots, so that each knot might contain nine crosses. The devil afterwards, who trembles at the cross, could not break them. Thus the knots of the prayer rope have nine crosses, which symbolize the nine ranks of the Angels.

-Elder, what do the 33, 50, 100 and 300 knots mean on prayer ropes?
-Only the number 33 is symbolic, for it symbolizes the 33 years that Christ lived upon the earth. The other numbers simply help us count the prostrations that we do or how many times we say the prayer.

Some machines have a rope with a grip in its side so that if you want it to go forward, you pull the rope strongly, until it warms it up with oil. Thus, the prayer rope is the rope which we pull one, two, five, ten times to warm up with spiritual oil and to move the spiritual machine forward of unceasing prayer, which afterwards, functions on its own. However, when the heart is going forward with the prayer, we still should not remove the prayer rope, so that others might not remove it, whose hearts have not moved forward with prayer.

-Elder, when I hold my prayer rope, and say the prayer mechanically, is there a danger of vainglory [ανθρωπαρέσκειας]?
-If you use the prayer rope externally, out of vainglory, even though your hands start to peel, it does not benefit you at all. It will only bring you fatigue, and the illusion that you are supposedly pursuing noetic prayer.

-Elder, I'm not used to carrying the prayer rope.
-You should carry the prayer rope, so that you might not forget the prayer, which should work internally, within the heart. When of course you exit your cell, you should remember that the enemy is ready to fight you. Thus, imitate the good soldier, who exits the barracks always with his automatic weapon “at hand”. The prayer rope has a great power, and is the weapon of the monk, and its knots are bullets, which [when fired at the feet of the demons] make their sandals dance.
(“On Prayer”, Words VII. Amateur translation of text from here.)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Elder Eliseus (Elisha) of Simonopetra on Sacrifice in Marriage and Monasticism

Sts. Joachim and Anna the Ancestors of God, holding the All-pure Theotokos (source)

Elder Eliseus (Elisha) of Simonopetra on Sacrifice in Marriage and Monasticism
Therefore, don't think that you don't aren't praying. You pray daily, if for the sole reason that you have decided to offer yourselves to God, and to live apart, against the worldly mindset. Thus you should know that this constitutes prayer. This is prayer. Prayer is when I become a monk, to offer myself to God. This is prayer.

You pray when you offer yourself to the church and as a sacrifice towards each other within marriage. One who gets married, therefore, in his married life, is a prototype. Marriage is a return to the former state in Paradise, in other words. It is to offer yourself in the married life, for what does it do? To offer myself to someone else is to sacrifice myself for the other.

No one can distinguish the lay person from the monk, for what are they? Being a monk is a return to a former state, in other words, that of Paradise, without compromises.

We sell our freedom to God, because God is our freedom.
(amateur translation of text from here)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Prayers for Holy Confession, by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain

The Holy and Saving Mystery of Confession (source)
Prayers for Holy Confession, by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain
A prayer before Holy Confession
O Father of mercies before the ages, and God of all entreaty, I the wretched one, desiring to try my conscience regarding my offenses, fear greatly and tremble, because the condition of my life is so utterly clear, where no deed or single thought could be hidden from before Your eyes. Therefore, I ask with all my lowliness, through the mercies of Your Only-begotten Son, that you grant me the grace to come to know well, and to hate and to correct all of my sins. Give to me, O Father of lights, Your All-holy Spirit, to bring to me the remembrance of sins that I have forgotten, and to crush my heart towards contrition, and to bring repentance over these, that I might come to hate them, and to distance myself from every sin that comes. And you, O Virgin Theotokos, the Mother of mercy, and Refuge of sinners, nourish me, I entreat you, and help me at the Judgment seat of the compassion and righteousness of God, that I might come to know, and hate from my heart and to confess all of my sins. And similarly, O Holy Angel, the guardian of my soul, I entreat you to help me in this work, which is so necessary for my eternal salvation. Amen.

A prayer following Holy Confession
I thank You greatly, my Redeemer, and Most-philanthropic Physician of the human race, for with the most-precious balsam of Your life-creating Blood, You heal the wounds of my soul, and You cleans me from the leprosy of my sins. I know Your divine compassion, with which you brought me to repentance, I, the thrice-wretched sinner, while so many others are being tortured currently in the wrath of Your righteousness in Hades. Receive, therefore, I entreat You, my Lord, through the intercessions of Your Ever-virgin Mother and Theotokos Mary, and all of Your Saints, this my confession, and if anything stands missing or incomplete in any instance, complete this through Your divine compassion and love for man, and through this I entreat You that I be totally forgiven, and correct my moral life, bringing forth worthy fruits of repentance, and thus, remaining steadfast in goodness in this present life, may I be made worthy to partake of the glory of Your divine glory in Heaven. Amen.
(Amateur translation of texts from here and here)
The Parable of the Prodigal Son (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Nun Mary Magdalene (+2014)

Nun Mary Magdalene (+2014) (source)
Nun Mary Magdalene reposed in the Lord. She was a rich woman from France, who spoke with St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia without her knowing English, nor his knowing Greek!

She experienced the miracle!

She left for the desert. She lived in asceticism near the Monastery of St. Catherine, near the ascetical place on Sinai where St. John Klimakos (of the Ladder) lived in asceticism, and where she built a small chapel in his honor.

May we have her blessing! May she have a blessed Paradise.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Holy Monastery of Panagia Panachrantos, Andros

The Holy Monastery of Panagia Panachrantos, Andros (source)
This monastery appears to be literally clinging to the top of the mountain, surrounded by large rock formations, where the air, with the passage of the ages, has carved hundreds of small caves, the largest of which were used as hermitages for ancient monks.

The monastery is designed, according to the form of Byzantine monasteries, with the appearance of a fortress, and the land which it occupies is significantly large, with its buildings designed in a rectangular shape, having a much larger length than width. Because of the steep landscape, and the monastery’s long and narrow design, it gives the impression of a labirynth, since other than the narrow central road, there are only narrow alleys that lead to the rest of the cells.

When you reach her highest point, the panoramic view rewards you, giving you a true sense that you are hanging in the air.
The view from the pinnacle of the Monastery (source)
Regarding the historical beginning of the monastery, unfortunately, we do not have many details, and this gives us uncertainty as to what conditions were like then. We base the history on two documents, which are preserved to this day, and in the local tradition, where we see that the history begins as follows: Before 960 AD, two monks, who lived in asceticism on the opposing mountain, saw a light every night at the place near where the monastery today is built.

Seeing such a wonder, after a long while they decided to go investigate the phenomenon.
Fresco from the monastery showing the monks finding the wondrous icon (source)
Having looked for a while, they were made worthy by the grace of God, to find the sacred icon of the Panagia “Panachrantou” (“The Immaculate One”) below a cave, near the place where today is found the Church of the “Photodoti” ([Christ] “The Giver-of-Light”), (the name which was given most likely by the light which was revealed here).
The wondrous icon of Panagia Panachrantou (The Immaculate One), Andros (source)
After waiting a significant time there, in case another monk lived there in asceticism, and praying towards the icon, having not found anyone, they took the icon back with them to their cell at the opposing mountain. That night, the light which they saw, did not reappear, which confirmed to them that this was due to the grace of the Panagia. When the new day dawned, the icon had disappeared from the place where they placed it, and to their greater astonishment, the light appeared again on the opposing mountain.

Returning to the place where they had found the icon, they saw that it had wondrously returned there!

Having entreated with tears to the Panagia that they might take her icon, they took it, but the following night, the Panagia returned again to her same place.

This occurred several times again, until they ultimately were enlightened to move their dwelling to near the cave, where they built a small hermitage.

Their fame spread quickly, and thus other monks came there and founded the first brotherhood. Later, in 961 AD, the Emperor Nikephoros Phokas, was battling the Cretans who had apostatized, but due to the wind being against him, he decided to stop on the island of Andros.
The Roman Emperor Nikephoros Phokas (source)
Desiring to pray somewhere for the difficult task that he had undertaken, the inhabitants of the island showed to him the hermitage, which the monks mentioned above had built. Thus, Phokas visited the place, and having venerated the Panagia, promised that he would help the monks build the monastery, which he would protect from possible attacks, if ultimately he would be victorious in war.

Phokas, in the end, liberated Crete, and returned to Andros, where he left a lot of money, which the monks used to build the first buildings of the monastery, which from then on was named the Holy Monastery of Panachrantou, in honor of the Panagia. From the foundation of the Monastery until 1590, unfortunately, not a single document survives from the archives of the Monastery, but most likely it played an important role during the long period of Frankish rule on Andros (1200-1566).
Panachrantou Monastery, Andros (source)
From 1590 and on, however, when Andros passed into the hands of the Turks, the monastery went through a great period, through the efforts of the then Metropolitan of Andros and Keas, Gabriel.

During this period, the Katholikon of the Monastery was founded (1602-1608), and took the form which exists to this day. Slowly, the strength of the monastery began to grow, and it reached the point where there were around 360 enrolled monks and large tracts of land throughout the largest portion of Andros, but also metochia (dependencies) in Constantinople, Chios, Mytilene, Rhodes and Smyrna.
The Katholikon of the Monastery (source)
In order to support this property, the monks traveled greatly, which likely played a role in the gathering in the Monastery of very many artifacts, along with a multitude of Holy Relics.

The most important of the Holy Relics treasured here is [a portion of] the precious Skull of St. Panteleimon, which was transferred here from Constantinople in 1705, with the consent of the then Patriarch Kosmas III, while furthermore there are preserved portions from the relics of Sts. Aethalas, Averkios, Charalampos, Tryphon, etc.
Fr. Eudokimos, the Abbot of Panachrantou Monastery, carrying the Relic of St. Panteleimon in a recent visit to Piraeus (source)
[At the following link is a recording (in Greek) of Fr. Evdokimos, the Abbot of Panachrantou Monastery, Andros, in which he discusses various spiritual topics, as well as miracles that have occurred through St. Panteleimon. It is interesting to note that at first Fr. Evdokimos was uneasy hearing that the Skull of St. Panteleimon was on Andros, as he had previously venerated it on Mount Athos. However, the Saint appeared to him and reassuringly showed him the part of his Skull which was on Mount Athos, and the other part, including some of his teeth, which was at Panachrantou Monastery of Andros. Fr. Evdokimos sought permission to open the Saint's reliquary, and confirmed that it was the same portion that the Saint had revealed to him in a dream.]
The great progress of the Monastery reached the Ecumenical Patriarchate, where the monastery was proclaimed to be “Stavropegial” in 1683, which gave greater independence to the Monastery, and privileges.
A portion of the Holy Skull of St. Panteleimon the Great Martyr and Unmercenary, treasured by the Holy Monastery of Panagia Panachrantou, Andros (source)
Monks of the Monastery extended to many places outside of Andros, and were then poised to place an important role in the historic events which marked our fatherland.
Panachrantou Monastery, Andros (source)
Before the period of the National Independence, first the monks of Panachrantou preached the revolution on the islands and historical places, granting energy to the first revolutionary endeavors. Furthermore, the monk of Panachrantou, Metropolitan Nicholas Roussos of TZias and Thermion, blessed the weapons of the revolutionary force of Moldovlachia, under Alexandros Ypsilantes, in February 1821.

We know, based on documents, in what manner and with what funds the Monastery helped, according to its strength, the Fatherland during that difficult period. Later, when Otto was King of Greece, the Monastery numbered many monks further, and for this reason it was not shut down, according to the order of Mauer, which shut down the majority of the monasteries, totaling five monks or less, along with all the convents with less than three nuns. During that period, the exiled monk Christophoros Panagiotopoulos, later known to us as “Papoulakos”, was sent to the Monastery.

This grace-filled monk lived here the final seven and half years of his life, where he reposed on January 18th, 1861.
A photograph of the blessed Christophoros Papoulakos (+1861), honored by many as a Saint, though he has yet to be officially canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (source)
The life of the Greek Monasteries is always woven together with the history of our nations, with a tender and loving relationship, though some people today do not wish to accept this. Regarding the Monastery of Panachrantou, the following two events show the truth/

The first is with the influx of refugees from Asia Minor. The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece accepted at that time the large portions from the land holdings of the monasteries, in order to strengthen these men. From the Monastery of Panachrantos, they took all of the lands outside of Andros, along with roughly the half of that which it had on Andros.

The second event occurred during the period of the German occupation. Together with witnesses of men who are still living, the then Abbot of the Monastery appeared without fear before the German administrator, and entreated him to allow him to feed the children from the villages of Andros, which occurred. Thus, in many ways they showed their thanks to the Monastery, as the many animals which they had and the untiring offerings of the monks helped many of them not to starve.

In later years, the Monastery began to decline in man power, with the result being that only a few years ago, there only remained one monk. Despite all of this, the Grace of God, appeared to have other plans for the Monastery, and thus, instead of falling into decline, it was totally renovated by a monk, together of course with the help of many people of Andros, who did all the work in order to not loose the traditional icon of the monastery. This monk was Archimandrite Eudokimos Frangoulakes, who is the Abbot of the Monastery today. Today there are five monks enrolled at the monastery, who continue their hospitality, and their work of offering of the Monastery, including Fr. Aetios and Fr. Philaretos.

The Monastery can be visited throughout the year from sunrise to sunset, and one might be allowed to stay at the monastery for a few days.
The Bishop with the Fathers of the Monastery, and a multitude of the faithful celebrate the great feast of St. Panteleimon, where his Holy Relics are treasured (source)
The largest feasts of the Monastery are those of St. Panteleimon (July 27), when a great multitude from all over Greece come to celebrate together, along with August 15th, the feast of Panagia Panachrantou.

The other days, the services are celebrated very early, according to the monastic typikon, by the light of candles, in a compunctionate environment.

The Monastery is very large for its number of monks, and thus the visitor feels that this is a deserted place. It is, however, most sure that within the mountains of documents (of which there are many), the ancient Holy Vessels (which today stand “eaten” due to their great use in the Monastery’s museum), the ornate polyeleoi, and the silver vigil lamps, the lofts emptied of monks, and the ancient chapels which fill the Monastery, you will hear the souls of all those who consumed themselves upon this rock, in order to, with their offering, and more importantly with their prayers, to appease God, to have compassion on men, and especially sinners.
(amateur translation of text from here)
For an amazing account of the recent revelation of many Myrrhstreaming Skulls of Holy Fathers of the Monastery, see here.
For another spiritual treasure of the island of Andros, see the following article on the Monastery of St. Nicholas.
Panachrantou Monastery, Andros (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

St. Porphyrios heals an AIDS patient spiritually

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (source)
St. Porphyrios heals an AIDS patient spiritually
At one time, I took a sick person to him who was diagnosed with AIDS. Some of my friends who knew that I was friendly with the Elder asked me to help this sick person who was extremely depressed. The AIDS victim was in really bad shape and he wanted to commit suicide. When I heard that he wanted to commit suicide, I sent him to another priest who was also a doctor. His name is Fr. Stamatis. The sick person went to this priest but the priest advised him to go and see Elder Porphyrios.
I took him to the Elder. He was a person who did not appear to look like a Christian. He had a very worldly look about him. I left him in the cell with the Elder. The Elder kept him there for a long time. When he finished, he came out of the cell crying but he was very serene with a prayer rope in his hand that the Elder had given him. He was crying but not in a way that made him appear helpless. His eyes were filled with light. The Elder called me into his cell. “Come in here so that I can speak to you. What was that soul that you brought to me? What a marvelous soul that was!”
The person from that encounter repented and he truly lives in a spirit of penance. I have seen him many times since then as a doctor. I see that he has been reborn. He visits monasteries. He goes to confession. He receives Holy Communion and he thanks Christ for AIDS because this has become for him the reason for his true salvation. 
From the book: “Miraculous Occurences and Counsels of Elder Porphyrios, source.

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

Monday, January 13, 2014

A vision of the martyrdom of St. Ephraim of Nea Makri

The Martyrdom of St. Ephraim of Nea Makri (source)
A vision of the martyrdom of St. Ephraim of Nea Makri

A very vibrant description of the martyrdom of St. Ephraim is given to us by Mr. Panagiotis Spyropoulos, Kandrinou 76, Athens, from within a special vision which he saw and is recorded in the 3rd volume of publications of the Holy Monastery:

“I saw that I was dressed as an altar boy in the Monastery, and was helping the Saint in the Church. Straightaway, I saw that wild men with turbans on their heads, entered, holding clubs, sticks and swords. And from my fear I trembled, and I hid, gazing with agony on what was occurring...

All of them, screaming loudly, seized the Saint, and having tied him to the tree, began to beat him, and to pierce him with their swords, and his blood ran onto the ground...

They martyred him unspeakably, cutting his body into little pieces, while the Saint in return, looked to heaven with his eyes and prayed. Furthermore, next to him was a small puppy who was barking, and tried to free him, while the tyrants chased him...
St. Ephraim of Nea Makri, before the Mulberry Tree on which he was martyred (source)
From my fear and my agony,” Mr. Spyropoulos continued, “as I was watching this life-like retelling of the martyrdom of St. Ephraim, I awoke, but when I fell asleep a short time later, the dream continued...

I did not see the tyrants anymore, but only the Saint, bound on the tree (which exists to this day), drenched with his blood, gnarled everywhere, but he was not living anymore, he had died...

And I, having hid behind a fountain, was praying to God to give me strength, for I was afraid to come out, not knowing what to do.

And straightaway I saw that some violent men entered to hang the Saint, and to bring him to a pit further down, to place him in it. I saw further that the little puppy had a piece of flesh in his mouth that he placed in the pit, and he threw it in, screaming in pain. It was the exact same puppy that, in another vision, the Saint mentioned was “the only creature which stood beside me at that moment, licking my wounds...”
(amateur translation of the text from here)
The burial of St. Ephraim, with the little dog accompanying him (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

St. Raphael heals another man's pain

Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene (source)
St. Raphael heals another man's pain

St. Raphael is well-known for his miracles and the strength of the love that he shows to his faithful ones! Here is another one of his miracles which occurred for one of our fellow men who was in need:

“One Sunday, Mr. Georgios K. came to the Holy Monastery of St. Raphael Ano Souli in Marathon, together with his family.

He venerated in the Holy Church of St. Raphael, and at the place where he appeared, he prayed, and asked for some holy oil from the vigil lamp of St Raphael. And having discussed some theological topics with the fathers of the Holy Monastery, he left. Over the next days, therefore, the Saint, brought about everything which he sought in his prayer, while he placed the holy oil on his back, where he had chronic pain and distress. The pains passed at the same instant. Full of joy therefore, and being especially moved, he came the next Sunday together with his family to thank St. Raphael. (Another miracle follows...)

They reached the Monastery at 3PM. They said among themselves (as they confessed later to the fathers of the Monastery), that if they had found the gate of the Monastery locked, they would not have rung the bell, so that they might not bother the fathers during their hour of rest.

And though the fathers always lock the gate of the Holy Monastery at noon (and though there is always one of the fathers there when open), they found the gate open!!! And thus they entered to venerate. They were uncovered by the fathers when they entered the church of St. Raphael. This, in reality, was a miracle of St. Raphael, because the fathers always took great care to not leave the gate open, because shepherd pass by continuously with their herds of goats, which enter the courtyard of the Monastery, and wreak havoc on the trees and flowers.

St. Raphael, who desired to let these pious friends of his in, who had come to thank him, showed once again his practical love and providence. From then on, Mr. Georgios K. and his family are bound to the Monastery of St. Raphael, and consider St. Raphael as their protector and foundation, and the fathers of his Holy Monastery as their friends and fellow men, which they are.

They visit St. Raphael continuously, to show him honor and to receive his blessing and to show their thankfulness, which in such an obvious way was revealed as greatly received from St. Raphael.

And also, the wondrous signs of St. Raphael continued in the work of Mr. Georgios K., for from the time that he venerated St. Raphael for the second time, and though there was a financial crisis everywhere, he received continuous orders, one after the other, and he began to close major commercial agreements for large quantities of goods. His progress was so instantaneous and substantial that he remained ecstatic and amazed, and he would continuously mutter: “God is wondrous among His Saints...” He sent him, and His other friends, to St. Raphael, who had a problem with their work, with the hope that He would help them also, and that is what occurred.”
(Amateur translation of text from: source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

St. Gabriel the Confessor on the Divine Liturgy

The Divine Liturgy on the Holy Mountain (source)
St. Gabriel the Confessor and Fool-for-Christ said:
"If you only knew how great a blessing comes from the Divine Liturgy, then you would collect even the dust from the floor of the church to wash your faces with it..."
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

St. Paisios: "A Christian must not be fanatic..."

Jesus Christ Pantocrator, Detail (by Manuel Panselinos, Protaton, Mount Athos) (source)
Elder Paisios: "A Christian must not be fanatic..."

I once asked someone: "What type of warrior do you consider yourself to be? Christ's warrior or temptation's warrior? Are you aware that the evil of temptation also has its own warriors?"

A Christian must not be fanatic; he must have love for and be sensitive towards all people. Those who inconsiderately toss out comments, even if they are true, can cause harm.

 I once met a theologian who was extremely pious, but who had the habit of speaking to the (secular) people around him in a very blunt manner; his method penetrated so deeply that it shook them very severely. He told me once: "During a gathering, I said such and such a thing to a lady." But the way that he said it, crushed her. "Look", I said to him, "you may be tossing golden crowns studded with diamonds to other people, but the way that you throw them can smash heads, not only the sensitive ones, but the sound ones also."

Let's not stone our fellow-man in a so-called "Christian manner." The person who - in the presence of others - checks someone for having sinned (or speaks in an impassioned manner about a certain person), is not moved by the Spirit of God; he is moved by another spirit.

The way of the Church is LOVE; it differs from the way of the legalists. The Church sees everything with tolerance and seeks to help each person, whatever he may have done, however sinful he may be.

I have observed a peculiar kind of logic in certain pious people. Their piety is a good thing, and their predisposition for good is also a good thing; however, a certain spiritual discernment and amplitude is required so that their piety is not accompanied by narrow-mindedness or strong-headedness. Someone who is truly in a spiritual state must possess and exemplify spiritual discernment; otherwise he will forever remain attached to the "letter of the Law", and the letter of the Law can be quite deadly.

A truly humble person never behaves like a teacher; he will listen, and, whenever his opinion is requested, he responds humbly. In other words, he replies like a student. He who believes that he is capable of correcting others is filled with egotism.

A person that begins to do something with a good intention and eventually reaches an extreme point, lacks true discernment. His actions exemplify a latent type of egotism that is hidden beneath this behavior; he is unaware of it, because he does not know himself that well, which is why he goes to extremes.

Quite often, people begin with good intentions, but look where they may find themselves! This was the case with the "icon-worshippers" and the "iconoclasts" of the past: both cases were extremes! The former had reached the point of scraping off icons of Christ and placing the scrapings into the Holy Chalice in order to "improve" Holy Communion; the latter, on the other hand, burnt and totally discarded all icons. That is why the Church was obliged to place the icons in higher places, out of reach, and, when the dispute was over, lowered them so that we can venerate them and thus confer the appropriate honor to the persons portrayed therein...
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Homily on Theophany by St. Proclus of Constantinople

The Baptism of Christ, Holy Theophany (source)
Homily on Theophany by St. Proclus of Constantinople

Christ appeared in the world, and, bringing beauty out of disarray, gave it luster and joy. He bore the world’s sins and crushed the world’s enemy. He sanctified the fountains of waters and enlightened the minds of men. Into the fabric of miracles he interwove ever greater miracles.
For on this day land and sea share between them the grace of the Savior, and the whole world is filled with joy.
Today’s feast of the Theophany manifests even more wonders than the feast of Christmas.
On the feast of the Savior’s birth, the earth rejoiced because it bore the Lord in a manger; but on today’s feast of the Epiphany it is the sea that is glad and leaps for joy; the sea is glad because it receives the blessing of holiness in the river Jordan.
At Christmas we saw a weak baby, giving proof of our weakness.
In today’s feast, we see a perfect man, hinting at the perfect Son who proceeds from the all-perfect Father.
At Christmas the King puts on the royal robe of his body; at Epiphany the very source enfolds and, as it were, clothes the river.
Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man.
Today every creature shouts in resounding song:
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Blessed is he who comes in every age, for this is not his first coming.
And who is he? Tell us more clearly, I beg you, blessed David:
The Lord is God and has shone upon us.
David is not alone in prophesying this; the apostle Paul adds his own witness, saying:
The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all men, and instructing us. Not for some men, but for all. To Jews and Greeks alike God bestows salvation through baptism, offering baptism as a common grace for all.
Come, consider this new and wonderful deluge, greater and more important than the flood of Noah’s day. Then the water of the flood destroyed the human race, but now the water of Baptism has recalled the dead to life by the power of the one who baptized.
In the days of the flood the dove with an olive branch in its beak foreshadowed the fragrance of the good odor of Christ the Lord; now the Holy Spirit, coming in the likeness of a dove reveals the Lord of mercy.
The Baptism of Christ, Holy Theophany (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My Elder Joseph the Hesychast, by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou

My Elder Joseph the Hesychast

by Elder Ephraim
This is the most complete biography of Elder Joseph the Hesychast. The book contains the very personal account of Elder Ephraim telling the life of his Elder Joseph the Hesychast, whose holiness made him one of the most influential monks on the Holy Mountain in the twentieth century. Many of these fascinating stories have never been published before, including delightful anecdotes about Elder Joseph’s brotherhood, moving accounts of his spiritual struggles, insightful spiritual counsels from his deep wisdom, and amazing miracles.
The book includes dozens of black&white and color photos
English. Hardcover. 706 pp. Size 5.75 x 8.75 in. ISBN 0-9667000-8-2. Published by St. Anthony's Monastery.
Elder Joseph (seated) with his spiritual son, Elder Ephraim (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Homily on the Holy Lights (Theophany) by St. Gregory the Theologian

The Baptism of Christ, and Holy Theophany: the Revelation of the Holy Trinity (source)
Homily on the Holy Lights (Theophany) by St. Gregory the Theologian

I. Again My Jesus, and again a mystery; not deceitful nor disorderly, nor belonging to Greek error or drunkenness (for so I call their solemnities, and so I think will every man of sound sense); but a mystery lofty and divine, and allied to the Glory above.
For the Holy Day of the Lights (Theophany), to which we have come, and which we are celebrating today, has for its origin the Baptism of my Christ, the True Light That lightens every man that comes into the world, and effects my purification, and assists that light which we received from the beginning from Him from above, but which we darkened and confused by sin.
II. Therefore listen to the Voice of God, which sounds so exceeding clearly to me, who am both disciple and master of these mysteries, as would to God it may sound to you; I Am The Light Of The World. Therefore approach ye to Him and be enlightened, and let not your faces be ashamed, being signed with the true Light. It is a season of new birth, let us be born again. It is a time of reformation, let us receive again the first Adam. Let us not remain what we are, but let us become what we once were. The Light Shines In The Darkness,(in this life and in the flesh, and is chased by the darkness, but is not overtaken by it:–I mean the adverse power leaping up in its shamelessness against the visible Adam, but encountering God and being defeated;–in order that we, putting away the darkness, may draw near to the Light, and may then become perfect Light, the children of perfect Light. See the grace of this Day; see the power of this mystery. Are you not lifted up from the earth? Are you not clearly placed on high, being exalted by our voice and meditation? and you will be placed much higher when the Word shall have prospered the course of my words.
III. Is there any such among the shadowy purifications of the Law, aiding as it did with temporary sprinklings, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean; or do the gentiles celebrate any such thing in their mysteries, every ceremony and mystery of which to me is nonsense, and a dark invention of demons, and a figment of an unhappy mind, aided by time, and hidden by fable? For what they worship as true, they veil as mythical. But if these things are true, they ought not to be called myths, but to be proved not to be shameful; and if they are false, they ought not to be objects of wonder; nor ought people so inconsiderately to hold the most contrary opinions about the same thing, as if they were playing in the market-place with boys or really ill-disposed men, not engaged in discussion with men of sense, and worshipers of the Word, though despisers of this artificial plausibility.
IV. We are not concerned in these mysteries with birth of Zeus and thefts of the Cretan Tyrant (though the Greeks may be displeased at such a title for him), nor with the name of Curetes, and the armed dances, which were to hide the wailings of a weeping god, that he might escape from his father’s hate. For indeed it would be a strange thing that he who was swallowed as a stone should be made to weep as a child.
Nor are we concerned with Phrygian mutilations and flutes and Corybantes, and all the ravings of men concerning Rhea, consecrating people to the mother of the gods, and being initiated into such ceremonies as befit the mother of such gods as these. Nor have we any carrying away of the Maiden, nor wandering of Demeter, nor her intimacy with Celei and Triptolemi and Dragons; nor her doings and sufferings … for I am ashamed to bring into daylight that ceremony of the night, and to make a sacred mystery of obscenity. Eleusis knows these things, and so do those who are eyewitnesses of what is there guarded by silence, and well worthy of it. Nor is our commemoration one of Dionysus, and the thigh that travailed with an incomplete birth, as before a head had travailed with another; nor of the hermaphrodite god, nor a chorus of the drunken and enervated host; nor of the folly of the Thebans which honors him; nor the thunderbolt of Semele which they adore.
Nor is it the harlot mysteries of Aphrodite, who, as they themselves admit, was basely born and basely honored; nor have we here Phalli and Ithyphalli, shameful both in form and action; nor Taurian massacres of strangers; nor blood of Laconian youths shed upon the altars, as they scourged themselves with the whips; and in this case alone use their courage badly, who honor a goddess, and her a virgin. For these same people both honor effeminacy, and worship boldness.
V. And where will you place the butchery of Pelops, which feasted hungry gods, that bitter and inhuman hospitality? Where the horrible and dark specters of Hecate, and the underground puerilities and sorceries of Trophonius, or the babblings of the Dodonaean Oak, or the trickeries of the Delphian tripod, or the prophetic draught of Castalia, which could prophesy anything, except their own being brought to silence?
Nor is it the sacrificial art of Magi, and their entrail forebodings, nor the Chaldaean astronomy and horoscopes, comparing our lives with the movements of the heavenly bodies, which cannot know even what they are themselves, or shall be. Nor are these Thracian orgies, from which the word Worship  is said to be derived; nor rites and mysteries of Orpheus, whom the Greeks admired so much for his wisdom that they devised for him a lyre which draws all things by its music.
Nor the tortures of Mithras which it is just that those who can endure to be initiated into such things should suffer; nor the manglings of Osiris, another calamity honoured by the Egyptians; nor the ill-fortunes of Isis and the goats more venerable than the Mendesians, and the stall of Apis, the calf that luxuriated in the folly of the Memphites, nor all those honors with which they outrage the Nile, while themselves proclaiming it in song to be the Giver of fruits and corn, and the measurer of happiness by its cubits.
VI. I pass over the honors they pay to reptiles, and their worship of vile things, each of which has its peculiar cultus and festival, and all share in a common devilishness; so that, if they were absolutely bound to be ungodly, and to fall away from honoring God, and to be led astray to idols and works of art and things made with hands, men of sense could not imprecate anything worse upon themselves than that they might worship just such things, and honor them in just such a way; that, as Paul says, they might receive in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet, in the very objects of their worship; not so much honoring them as suffering dishonor by them; abominable because of their error, and yet more abominable from the vileness of the objects of their adoration and worship; so that they should be even more without understanding than the objects of their worship; being as excessively foolish as the latter are vile.
VII. Well, let these things be the amusement of the children of the Greeks and of the demons to whom their folly is due, who turn aside the honor of God to themselves, and divide men in various ways in pursuit of shameful thoughts and fancies, ever since they drove us away from the Tree of Life, by means of the Tree of Knowledge unseasonably and improperly imparted to us, and then assailed us as now weaker than before; carrying clean away the mind, which is the ruling power in us, and opening a door to the passions.
For, being of a nature envious and man-hating, or rather having become so by their own wickedness, they could neither endure that we who were below should attain to that which is above, having themselves fallen from above upon the earth; nor that such a change in their glory and their first natures should have taken place. This is the meaning of their persecution of the creature.
For this God’s Image was outraged; and as we did not like to keep the Commandments, we were given over to the independence of our error. And as we erred we were disgraced by the objects of our worship. For there was not only this calamity, that we who were made for good works to the glory and praise of our Maker, and to imitate God as far as might be, were turned into a den of all sorts of passions, which cruelly devour and consume the inner man; but there was this further evil, that man actually made gods the advocates of his passions, so that sin might be reckoned not only irresponsible, but even divine, taking refuge in the objects of his worship as his apology.
VIII. But since to us grace has been given to flee from superstitious error and to be joined to the truth and to serve the living and true God, and to rise above creation, passing by all that is subject to time and to first motion; let us look at and reason upon God and things divine in a manner corresponding to this Grace given us. But let us begin our discussion of them from the most fitting point. And the most fitting is, as Solomon laid down for us; us; The beginning of wisdom, he says, is to get wisdom.
And what this is he tells us; the beginning of wisdom is fear. For we must not begin with contemplation and leave off with fear (for an unbridled contemplation would perhaps push us over a precipice), but we must be grounded and purified and so to say made light by fear, and thus be raised to the height. For where fear is there is keeping of commandments; and where there is keeping of commandments there is purifying of the flesh, that cloud which covers the soul and suffers it not to see the Divine Ray. And where them is purifying there is Illumination; and Illumination is the satisfying of desire to those who long for the greatest things, or the Greatest Thing, or That Which surpasses all greatness.
IX. Wherefore we must purify ourselves first, and then approach this converse with the Pure; unless we would have the same experience as Israel,who could not endure the glory of the face of Moses, and therefore asked for a veil; or else would feel and say with Manoah
“We are undone O wife, we have seen God,”
although it was God only in his fancy; or like Peter would send Jesus out of the boat, as being ourselves unworthy of such a visit; and when I say Peter, I am speaking of the man who walked upon the waves; or like Paul would be stricken in eyes, as he was before he was cleansed from the guilt of his persecution, when he conversed with Him Whom he was persecuting–or rather with a short flash of That great Light; or like the Centurion would seek for healing, but would not, through a praiseworthy fear, receive the Healer into his house. Let each one of us also speak so, as long as he is still uncleansed, and is a Centurion still, commanding many in wickedness, and serving in the army of Caesar, the World-ruler of those who are being dragged down;
“I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.”
But when he shall have looked upon Jesus, though he be little of stature like Zaccheus of old, and climb up on the top of the sycamore tree by mortifying his members which are upon the earth, and having risen above the body of humiliation, then he shall receive the Word, and it shall be said to him, This day is salvation come to this house. Then let him lay hold on the salvation, and bring forth fruit more perfectly, scattering and pouring forth rightly that which as a publican he wrongly gathered.
X. For the same Word is on the one hand terrible through its nature to those who are unworthy, and on the other through its loving kindness can be received by those who are thus prepared, who have driven out the unclean and worldly spirit from their souls, and have swept and adorned their own souls by self-examination, and have not left them idle or without employment, so as again to be occupied with greater armament by the seven spirits of wickedness … the same number as are reckoned of virtue (for that which is hardest to fight against calls for the sternest efforts) … but besides fleeing from evil, practice virtue, making Christ entirely, or at any rate to the greatest extent possible, to dwell within them, so that the power of evil cannot meet with any empty place to fill it again with himself, and make the last state of that man worse than the first, by the greater energy of his assault, and the greater strength and impregnability of the fortress.
But when, having guarded our soul with every care, and having appointed goings up in our heart, and broken up our fallow ground, and sown unto righteousness, as David and Solomon and Jeremiah bid us, let us enlighten ourselves with the light of knowledge, and then let us speak of the Wisdom of God that hath been hid in a mystery, and enlighten others. Meanwhile let us purify ourselves, and receive the elementary initiation of the Word, that we may do ourselves the utmost good, making ourselves godlike, and receiving the Word at His coming; and not only so, but holding Him fast and shewing Him to others.
The Baptism of Christ, and Holy Theophany (source)
XI. And now, having purified the theater by what has been said, let us discourse a little about the Festival, and join in celebrating this Feast with festal and pious souls. And, since the chief point of the Festival is the remembrance of God, let us call God to mind. For I think that the sound of those who keep Festival There, where is the dwelling of all the Blissful, is nothing else than this, the hymns and praises of God, sung by all who are counted worthy of that City. Let none be astonished if what I have to say contains some things that I have said before; for not only will I utter the same words, but I shall speak of the same subjects, trembling both in tongue and mind and thought when I speak of God for you too, that you may share this laudable and blessed feeling.
And when I speak of God you must be illumined at once by one flash of light and by three. Three in Individualities or Hypostases, if any prefer so to call them, or persons, for we will not quarrel about names so long as the syllables amount to the same meaning; but One in respect of the Substance–that is, the Godhead. For they are divided without division, if I may so say; and they are united in division. For the Godhead is one in three, and the three are one, in whom the Godhead is, or to speak more accurately, Who are the Godhead. Excesses and defects we will omit, neither making the Unity a confusion, nor the division a separation.
We would keep equally far from the confusion of Sabellius and from the division of Arius, which are evils diametrically opposed, yet equal in their wickedness. For what need is there heretically to fuse God together, or to cut Him up into inequality?
XII. For to us there is but One God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and One Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things; and One Holy Spirit, in Whom are all things; yet these words, of, by, in, whom, do not denote a difference of nature (for if this were the case, the three prepositions, or the order of the three names would never be altered), but they characterize the personalities of a nature which is one and unconfused. And this is proved by the fact that They are again collected into one, if you will read–not carelessly–this other passage of the same Apostle,
“Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things; to Him be glory forever, Amen.”
The Father is Father, and is Unoriginate, for He is of no one; the Son is Son, and is not unoriginate, for He is of the Father. But if you take the word Origin in a temporal sense, He too is Unoriginate, for He is the Maker of Time, and is not subject to Time. The Holy Spirit is truly Spirit, coming forth from the Father indeed, but not after the manner of the Son, for it is not by Generation but by Procession (since I must coin a word for the sake of clearness); for neither did the Father cease to be Unbegotten because of His begetting something, nor the Son to be begotten because He is of the Unbegotten (how could that be?), nor is the Spirit changed into Father or Son because He proceeds, or because He is God–though the ungodly do not believe it. For Personality is unchangeable; else how could Personality remain, if it were changeable, and could be removed from one to another?
But they who make “Unbegotten” and “Begotten” natures of equivocal gods would perhaps make Adam and Seth differ in nature, since the former was not born of flesh (for he was created), but the latter was born of Adam and Eve. There is then One God in Three, and These Three are One, as we have said.
XIII. Since then these things are so, or rather since This is so; and His Adoration ought not to be rendered only by Beings above, but there ought to be also worshipers on earth, that all things may be filled with the glory of God (forasmuch as they are filled with God Himself); therefore man was created and honored with the hand(a) and Image of God. But to despise man, when by the envy of the Devil and the bitter taste of sin he was pitiably severed from God his Maker–this was not in the Nature of God. What then was done, and what is the great Mystery that concerns us? An innovation is made upon nature, and God is made Man.
“He that rides upon the Heaven of Heavens in the East”
of His own glory and Majesty, is glorified in the West of our meanness and lowliness. And the Son of God deigns to become and to be called Son of Man; not changing what He was (for It is unchangeable); but assuming what He was not (for He is full of love to man), that the Incomprehensible might be comprehended, conversing with us through the mediation of the Flesh as through a veil; since it was not possible for that nature which is subject to birth and decay to endure His unveiled Godhead.
Therefore the Unmingled is mingled; and not only is God mingled with birth and Spirit with flesh, and the Eternal with time, and the Uncircumscribed with measure; but also Generation with Virginity, and dishonor with Him who is higher than all honor; He who is impassible with Suffering, and the Immortal with the corruptible.
For since that Deceiver thought that he was unconquerable in his malice, after he had cheated us with the hope of becoming gods, he was himself cheated by God’s assumption of our nature; so that in attacking Adam as he thought, he should really meet with God, and thus the new Adam should save the old, and the condemnation of the flesh should be abolished, death being slain by flesh.
XIV. At His birth we duly kept Festival, both I, the leader of the Feast, and you, and all that is in the world and above the world.
With the Star we ran, and with the Magi we worshiped, and with the Shepherds we were illuminated, and with the Angels we glorified Him, and with Simeon we took Him up in our arms, and with Anna the aged and chaste we made our responsive confession. And thanks be to Him who came to His own in the guise of a stranger, because He glorified the stranger.
Now, we come to another action of Christ, and another mystery. I cannot restrain my pleasure; I am rapt into God.
Almost like John I proclaim good tidings; for though I be not a Forerunner, yet am I from the desert. Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with Him. Christ is baptized, let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him. Jesus is baptized; but we must attentively consider not only this but also some other points. Who is He, and by whom is He baptized, and at what time?
He is the All-pure; and He is baptized by John; and the time is the beginning of His miracles. What are we to learn and to be taught by this? To purify ourselves first; to be lowly minded; and to preach only in maturity both of spiritual and bodily stature.
The first has a word especially for those who rush to Baptism off hand, and without due preparation, or providing for the stability of the Baptismal Grace by the disposition of their minds to good. For since Grace contains remission of the past (for it is a grace), it is on that account more worthy of reverence, that we return not to the same vomit again. The second speaks to those who rebel against the Stewards of this Mystery, if they are their superiors in rank. The third is for those who are confident in their youth, and think that any time is the right one to teach or to preside.
Jesus is purified, and dost thou despise purification? … and by John, and dost thou rise up against thy herald? … and at thirty years of age, and dost thou before thy beard has grown presume to teach the aged, or believe that thou teaches them, though thou be not reverend on account of thine age, or even perhaps for thy character? But here it may be said, Daniel, and this or that other, were judges in their youth, and examples are on your tongues; for every wrongdoer is prepared to defend himself. But I reply that that which is rare is not the law of the Church.
For one swallow does not make a summer, nor one line a geometrician, nor one voyage a sailor.
XV. But John baptizes, Jesus comes to Him … perhaps to sanctify the Baptist himself, but certainly to bury the whole of the old Adam in the water; and before this and for the sake of this, to sanctify Jordan; for as He is Spirit and Flesh, so He consecrates us by Spirit and water. John will not receive Him; Jesus contends.
“I have need to be baptized of Thee”
says the Voice to the Word, the Friend to the Bridegroom; he that is above all among them that are born of women, to Him Who is the Firstborn of every creature; he that leaped in the womb, to Him Who was adored in the womb; he who was and is to be the Forerunner to Him Who was and is to be manifested.
“I have need to be baptized of Thee;”
add to this
“and for Thee;”
for he knew that he would be baptized by Martyrdom, or, like Peter, that he would be cleansed not only as to his feet. “And comest Thou to me?” This also was prophetic; for he knew that after Herod would come the madness of Pilate, and so that when he had gone before Christ would follow him. But what saith Jesus? “Suffer it to be so now,” for this is the time of His Incarnation; for He knew that yet a little while and He should baptize the Baptist. And what is the “Fan?” The Purification. And what is the “Fire?” The consuming of the chaff, and the heat of the Spirit. And what the “Axe?”
The excision of the soul which is incurable even after the dung. And what the Sword? The cutting of the Word, which separates the worse from the better, and makes a division between the faithful and the unbeliever; and stirs up the son and the daughter and the bride against the father and the mother and the mother in law, the young and fresh against the old and shadowy. And what is the Latchet of the shoe, which thou John who baptizes Jesus may not loose?  You who are of the desert, and have no food, the new Elijah, the more than Prophet, inasmuch as you saw Him of Whom you did prophesy, you Mediator of the Old and New Testaments.
What is this? Perhaps the Message of the Advent, and the Incarnation, of which not the least point may be loosed, I say not by those who are yet carnal and babes in Christ, but not even by those who are like John in spirit.
XVI. But further–Jesus goes up out of the water … for with Himself He car ties up the world … and sees the heaven opened which Adam had shut against himself and all his posterity, as the gates of Paradise by the flaming sword. And the Spirit bears witness to His Godhead, for he descends upon One that is like Him, as does the Voice from Heaven (for He to Whom the witness is borne came from thence), and like a Dove, for He honors the Body (for this also was God, through its union with God) by being seen in a bodily form; and moreover, the Dove has from distant ages been wont to proclaim the end of the Deluge.
But if you are to judge of Godhead by bulk and weight, and the Spirit seems to you a small thing because He came in the form of a Dove, O man of contemptible littleness of thought concerning the greatest of things, you must also to be consistent despise the Kingdom of Heaven, because it is compared to a grain of mustard seed; and you must exalt the adversary above the Majesty of Jesus, because he is called a great Mountain, and Leviathan and King of that which lives in the water, whereas Christ is called the Lamb, and the Pearl, and the Drop and similar names.
XVII. Now, since our Festival is of Baptism, and we must endure a little hardness with Him Who for our sake took form, and was baptized, and was crucified; let us speak about the different kinds of Baptism, that we may come out thence purified. Moses baptized but it was in water, and before that in the cloud and in the sea. This was typical as Paul saith;the Sea of the water, and the Cloud of the Spirit; the Manna, of the Bread of Life; the Drink, of the Divine Drink. John also baptized; but this was not like the baptism of the Jews, for it was not only in water, but also
“unto repentance.”
Still it was not wholly spiritual, for he does not add
“And in the Spirit.”
Jesus also baptized, but in the Spirit. This is the perfect Baptism. And how is He not God, if I may digress a little, by whom you too are made God? I know also a Fourth Baptism–that by Martyrdom and blood, which also Christ himself underwent:–and this one is far more august than all the others, inasmuch as it cannot be defiled by after-stains. Yes, and I know of a Fifth also, which is that of tears, and is much more laborious, received by him who washes his bed every night and his couch with tears; whose bruises stink through his wickedness; and who goes mourning and of a sad countenance; who imitates the repentance of Manasseh and the humiliation of the Ninevites upon which God had mercy; who utters the words of the Publican in the Temple, and is justified rather than the stiff-necked Pharisee; who like the Canaanite woman bends down and asks for mercy and crumbs, the food of a dog that is very hungry.
XVIII. I, however, for I confess myself to be a man,–that is to say, an animal shifty and of a changeable nature,–both eagerly receive this Baptism, and worship Him Who has given it me, and impart it to others; and by shewing mercy make provision for mercy. For I know that I too am compassed with infirmity, and that with what measure I mete it shall be measured to me again. But what do you say, O new Pharisee pure in title but not in intention, who discharges upon us the sentiments of Novatus, though thou shares the same infirmities? Will you not give any place to weeping? Will you shed no tear? Mayest thou not meet with a Judge like thyself? Are you not ashamed by the mercy of Jesus, Who took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses; Who came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; Who will have mercy rather than sacrifice; who forgives sins till seventy times seven.
How blessed would your exaltation be if it really were purity, not pride, making laws above the reach of men, and destroying improvement by despair. For both are alike evil, indulgence not regulated by prudence, and condemnation that will never forgive; the one because it relaxes all reins, the other because it strangles by its severity. Shew me your purity, and I will approve your boldness. But as it is, I fear that being full of sores you will render them incurable.
Will you not admit even David’s repentance, to whom his penitence preserved even the gift of prophecy? nor the great Peter himself, who fell into human weakness at the Passion of our Savior? Yet Jesus received him, and by the threefold question and confession healed the threefold denial. Or will you even refuse to admit that he was made perfect by blood (for your folly goes even as far as that)? Or the transgressor at Corinth? But Paul confirmed love towards him when he saw his amendment, and gives the reason,
“that such an one be not swallowed up by overmuch sorrow,”
being overwhelmed by the excess of the punishment. And will you refuse to grant liberty of marriage to young widows on account of the liability of their age to fall? Paul ventured to do so; but of course you can teach him; for you have been caught up to the Fourth heaven, and to another Paradise, and have heard words more unspeakable, and comprehend a larger circle in your Gospel.
XIX. But these sins were not after Baptism, you will say. Where is your proof? Either prove it–or refrain from condemning; and if there be any doubt, let charity prevail. But Novatus, you say, would not receive those who lapsed in the persecution. What do you mean by this? If they were unrepentant he was right; I too would refuse to receive those who either would not stoop at all or not sufficiently, and who would refuse to make their amendment counterbalance their sin; and when I do receive them, I will assign them their proper place;(a) but if he refused those who wore themselves away with weeping, I will not imitate him.
And why should Novatus’s want of charity be a rule for me? He never punished covetousness, which is a second idolatry; but he condemned fornication as though he himself were not flesh and body. What say you? Are we convincing you by these words? Come and stand here on our side, that is, on the side of humanity. Let us magnify the Lord together. Let none of you, even though he has much confidence in himself, dare to say, Touch me not for I am pure, and who is so pure as I?
Give us too a share in your brightness. But perhaps we are not convincing you? Then we will weep for you. Let these men then if they will, follow our way, which is Christ’s way; but if they will not, let them go their own. Perhaps in it they will be baptized with Fire, in that last Baptism which is more painful and longer, which devours wood like grass, and consumes the stubble of every evil.
XX. But let us venerate today the Baptism of Christ; and let us keep the feast well, not in pampering the belly, but rejoicing in spirit. And how shall we luxuriate?
“Wash you, make you clean.”
If you be scarlet with sin and less bloody, be made white as snow; if ye be red, and men bathed in blood, yet be ye brought to the whiteness of wool. Anyhow be purified, and you shall be clean (for God rejoices in nothing so much as in the amendment and salvation of man, on whose behalf is every discourse and every Sacrament), that you may be like lights in the world, a quickening force to all other men; that you may stand as perfect lights beside That great Light, and may learn the mystery of the illumination of Heaven, enlightened by the Trinity more purely and clearly, of Which even now you are receiving in a measure the One Ray from the One Godhead in Christ Jesus our Lord; to Whom be the glory and the might for ever and ever. Amen.
(sources 1 and 2)
The Baptism of Christ, and Holy Theophany (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!