Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Come, let us with holiness celebrate..."

Jesus Christ as an infant (source)
Come, let us with holiness celebrate the festival of the glorious name day of the Master, Christ; for in a manner fitting God he is called Jesus today; with this let us also magnify the memory of the Hierarch.
The nativity of Christ is all radiant and bright, and traces out today the mystery of the renewal of the age to come; because by the regulation of the Law the Saviour is circumcised, not as God, but as a mortal and the fulfilment of the Law.
Fulfilling the Law the Maker of the Law is today willingly circumcised in the flesh, bringing about the circumcision of the winter of sin, and granting grace to cry: Blessed are you the God of our Fathers.
-Troparia from the Canon of the Feast
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Homily V on the Nativity of Christ, by St. Ephraim the Syrian

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The Nativity of Christ (source)

Homily V on the Nativity of Christ, by St. Ephraim the Syrian
At the birth of the Son, there was a great shouting in Bethlehem; for the Angels came down, and gave praise there. Their voices were a great thunder: at that voice of praise the silent ones came, and gave praise to the Son.
Blessed be that Babe in whom Eve and Adam were restored to youth! The shepherds also came laden with the best gifts of their flock: sweet milk, clean flesh, befitting praise! They put a difference, and gave Joseph the flesh, Mary the milk, and the Son the praise! They brought and presented a suckling lamb to the Paschal Lamb, a first-born to the First-born, a sacrifice to the Sacrifice, a lamb of time to the Lamb of Truth. Fair sight [to see] the lamb offered to The Lamb!
The lamb bleated as it was offered before the First-born. It praised the Lamb, that had come to set free the flocks and the oxen from sacrifices: yea that Paschal Lamb, Who handed down and brought in the Passover of the Son.
The shepherds came near and worshipped Him with their staves. They saluted Him with peace, prophesying the while, "Peace, O Prince of the Shepherds." The rod of Moses praised Thy Rod, O Shepherd of all; for Thee Moses praises, although his lambs have become wolves, and his flocks as it were dragons, and his sheep ranged beasts. In the fearful wilderness his flocks became furious, and attacked him.
Thee then the Shepherds praise, because Thou hast reconciled the wolves and the lambs within the fold; O Babe, that art older than Noah and younger than Noah, that reconciled all within the ark amid the billows!
David Thy father for a lamb's sake slaughtered a lion. Thou, O Son of David, hast killed the unseen wolf that murdered Adam, the simple lamb who fed and bleated in Paradise.
At that voice of praise, brides were moved to hallow themselves, and virgins to be chaste, and even young girls became grave: they advanced and came in multitudes, and worshipped the Son.
Aged women of the city of David came to the daughter of David; they gave thanks and said, "Blessed be our country, whose streets are lightened with the rays of Jesse! Today is the throne of David established by Thee, O Son of David."
The old men cried, "Blessed be that Son Who restored Adam to youth, Who was vexed to see that he was old and worn out, and that the serpent who had killed him, had changed his skin and had gotten himself away. Blessed be the Babe in Whom Adam and Eve were restored to youth."
The chaste women said, O Blessed Fruit, bless the fruit of our wombs; to Thee may they be given as first-born. They waxed fervent and prophesied concerning their children, who, when they were killed for Him, were cut off, as it were first-fruits.
The barren also fondled Him, and carried Him; they rejoiced and said, Blessed Fruit born without marriage, bless the wombs of us that are married; have mercy on our barrenness, Thou wonderful Child of Virginity!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Homily on the Sunday before Christmas, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes

The Nativity of Christ (source)
Homily on the Sunday before Christmas, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes
“...and you will call His name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:21)
My beloved, how fast time flies! In a short time we will again celebrate the great feast of Christmas. Because of this, this Sunday is called the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ.
Our holy Church ordained to read as the Gospel today, the beginning, the first chapter of the first Gospel, that according to Matthew, It is a catalog of the forefathers of Christ. But, did Christ have forefathers? As the beginningless God, He did not, He has the heavenly Father. But, as He appeared upon the earth as a perfect man, except sin, He put on flesh from the pure blood of the Most-holy Theotokos. And He was born in a supernatural manner. He has no earthly father, only a mother. His mother is our Panagia. Her parents are Joachim and Anna, and the parents of Joachim and Anna are others, and so on. Thus is marked the great chain of the forefathers.
The first link of the chain of the forefathers of Christ is a great historical personality, Abraham. To Abraham, as we hear in the Epistle, was granted a great proposition, that from his descendants, from the root of Jesse, would be born the Redeemer.
According to this catalog, from Abraham until David is 14 generations, from David to the captivity of Babylon is 14 generations, and from the return from Babylon until the birth of Christ again is 14 generations (Matthew 1:17). [We hear] about fifty names, which do not make an impression on us. They are Hebrew names and seem tiresome, to hear “he gave birth to him”, “who gave birth to him”, to descend the ladder of the forefathers to reach the Virgin Mary, from whom Christ was born.
But these names, which we now hear with indifference, in their era, created a great impression. From them some were generals, other governors, other prophets, others patriarchs, others kings, others wealthy, others wise, like Solomon, David, etc. Now, they don't make an impression. What does this teach us? Like these names were forgotten, thus those who today make an impression and are famous and advertised, after 50-100 years, who will remember them? Somewhere in some page of history, with a small letter, it will be written that they passed from the earth. All of the fireworks and lights will be extinguished. The result? “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). Wealth and positions are zero, everything is zero. Only one thing remains, for someone to do the will of God. But while the names of Israeli and universal history and modern life are drowned in the abyss of time, one name always remains contemporary, to the spite of the demons. Which? That which was granted to the Divine Infant. The Angel, according to the command of the Lord, told Joseph, the protector of the Panagia: “And you will call His name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:21) What does the name Jesus mean? It is not Greek, it is Hebrew, and translated it means “Savior”. The Child that will be born, in other words, is the Savior. I entreat you to pay attention to this, “the name above every name.” (Phil. 2:9) Why is Christ called “Savior”? We must give an explanation.
Here on earth where we live, to where man was cast from Paradise, in every place, man is scourged by a variety of misfortunes, which are the consequences of the sinful life. Hunger, thirst, lacking clothing and shelter, sicknesses...all of these are dangers, evils which man tries to mitigate. But there are others as well. There are natural disasters, like earthquakes, droughts, floods, fires, invasions, incurable sicknesses like cancer, and ultimately death. All of these are terrible evils.
But still I haven't told you anything. There is something even more serious—may God enlighten us to understand it. The number one evil, which forms the root of all evil, all of our wretchedness—and unfortunately which we do not give proper meaning to—according to the tongue of the Holy Scriptures, is sin. From there come all other evils, their cause is sin. We shudder when we hear of cancer, but sin however does not make us shudder. We play with her, like children who play with Christmas presents. We don't perceive anything, and because of this mankind is scourged. Whether adultery and fornication and lasciviousness, whether greed and gluttony, whether jealousy and envy, whether anger and rage and indignation, whether malice and hatred and vengeance and fear, sin, this is the source of all misery. If we could, with one miracle, uproot it, then the earth would become Paradise. Who will save us? And even if we remain silent, the rocks themselves will cry out: only One saves! Opening the history book, one can count many people whom the people, for the small service that they offered, were called “saviors”. But these are small saviors. There is only one Savior: Christ.
If someone does something good for you, you remember him, and consider him your benefactor. For example, to the doctor who healed you, you show gratitude. Above all of those benefactors however, is Christ, for He saves us from the worst evil: sin. He saves with His Church.
He is the true Savior. Do we sense this? Only he who senses his sinfulness and says like the Publican: “God, have mercy on me, the sinner” (Luke 18:13), or like the Prodigal Son: “I have sinned against heaven and before you” (Luke 15:18), or like the Thief: “Remember me, O Lord, when You come unto Your Kingdom” (Luke 23:42), he understands that Christ is the Savior.
And it is not enough of course to just say it, that He is the Savior of men in general. We must sense that He is our personal Savior. God will make you worthy to sense this, if you bow your head in repentance, and tell your sins to your spiritual father, if you go to confession. Then, you will sense that a mountain has been lifted away from you, and you will sense deep gratitude to Christ.
This is what the Thief on the Cross sensed, this is what the Apostles, the Martyrs, all the Saints sensed, like, for example, St. Ignatios the God-bearer, Bishop of Antioch [whom we celebrate today]. When they led him to Rome in order to throw him to the beasts, he wrote about Christ: “My eros has been crucified”, in other words, Christ is the eros of my heart. There are few loves that move our carnal generation, only sex. I am not condemning it, God implanted it [within man], but not in order to quench every other eros. Our generation, the generation of Sodom and Gomorrah, does not recognize any other loves. It is right what a philosopher said, that our era is without love. If you don't love Christ, you have not understood anything, and in vain you came to earth. Beautiful loves are the eros of science, the eros of the fatherland, but above all is the eros of Christ.
In older years, the name of Christ was the sweetest thing. A little child or grandmother would fall to their knees and make the sign of the Cross, and the first word that they learned to say was the word “Christ”. I saw such examples. Now, unfortunately, divine eros not only has been quenched, but some times, has been turned into utterly satanic hate.
When I was a preacher in Grevena, and traveled through the high mountains, there where I was walking, I straightaway heard a blasphemy. The first time I heard such a blasphemy. My, my! I said, what is going on here? Are there demons dwelling out here? I approached, therefore, and what did I see? Behind a tree was sitting a father, who had a little boy at his knees, and was teaching him to blaspheme Christ! My God, still, the stars have not become pots to fall upon our heads? Where is the love for Christ? However, let someone curse and dishonor Christ, His name will remain unto the ages. Like the black clouds cannot extinguish the sun, thus blasphemies cannot extinguish the name of Christ. He will remain unto the ages of ages, to the spite of the demons.
I pray that in our land, that not even one blasphemy would be heard, but that small and great, man and woman, all together will say: “Blessed is God, and glorified is His name”, Whom, O children of the Greeks, praise and exalt supremely, unto all the ages. Amen.
+Bishop Avgoustinos
(delivered in the Church of Sts. Constantine and Helen, Amyntaiou, 12/20/1987, 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!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

St. John Climacus: "There is a time for everything under heaven..."

Jesus Christ, the Pantocrator ("Ruler over all") (source)
“If there is a time for everything under heaven, as Ecclesiastes says, and by the word ‘everything’ must be understood what concerns our holy life, then if you please, let us look into it and let us seek to do at each time what is proper for that occasion. For it is certain that, for those who enter the lists, there is a time for dispassion and a time for passion (I say this for the combatants who are serving their apprenticeship); there is a time for tears, and a time for hardness of heart; there is a time for obedience, and there is a time to command; there is a time to fast, and a time to partake; there is a time for battle with our enemy the body, and a time when the fire is dead; a time of storm in the soul, and a time of calm in the mind; a time for heartfelt sorrow, and a time for spiritual joy; a time for teaching, and a time for listening; a time of pollutions, perhaps on account of conceit, and a time for cleansing by humility; a time for struggle, and a time for safe relaxation; a time for stillness, and a time for undistracted distraction; a time for unceasing prayer, and a time for sincere service. So let us not be deceived by proud zeal, and seek prematurely what will come in its own good time; that is, we should not seek in winter what comes in summer, or at seed time what comes at harvest; because there is a time to sow labours, and a time to reap the unspeakable gifts of grace. Otherwise, we shall not receive even in season what is proper to that season”
-St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent (Step 26, Section 87)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

"The river of your charismas waters every heart..."

St. Spyridon the Wonderworker, Bishop of Trimethous (source)
The river of your charismas waters every heart, O Venerable [Spyridon], and grants to all deliverance richly, calling all to glorify Him Who glorified you, and all to honor your wonderworking.

Formerly, the dead girl, as one alive, spoke to you who questioned her, O Father. O sublime wonder! O paradoxical mystery! O, the grace that you were granted! For you were adorned with an Angelic life, O you who are worthy to be praised.
-Troparia from the Canon to St. Spyridon, Second Tone
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Homily on St. Nicholas by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra of Lycia (source)
Homily on St. Nicholas by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010) (amateur translation)
And again, my beloved, the great feast of St. Nicholas has dawned. What shall we say? Should we honor his virtues?
Should we praise his abstinence? As his Apolytikion says, he was the “teacher of abstinence”. For not only when he was older, but also when he was a child in the arms of his mother, he fasted from milk and did not nurse [on Wednesdays and Fridays].
Should we praise his meekness, for his Apolytikion says that he was the “Icon of meekness”? Amidst insults and slanders and schemes of his enemies, he responded with great meekness. He teaches us, that we ourselves, no matter how many times we are insulted and slandered in this world, we must remain meek. There is no greater power than meekness, through which the demons of hell are conquered.
Or should we speak of his almsgiving, his great almsgiving? He would go at night to the homes of the poor, and to distribute gold coins, and he saved from filth and corruption.
Or should we speak of his faith, the great and unshakable faith which the Saint had? When the Church was endangered by the heresy of Arius, he hastened to the city of Nicea, and there, together with other Holy Fathers, worked towards the triumph of Orthodoxy. Of course, St. Nicholas did not have the gift of speaking like Athanasios the Great, or the debate skills of many of the other Fathers, he was unlettered. But what did this matter? When he heard Arius blaspheme Christ, this meek and humble one arose, and, as his life says, he struck the leader of heresy for his blasphemy. And this is a lesson for us, that when God is being offended, we must rise up. We, instead, whenever we ourselves are offended, whenever we are wronged, slandered, and condemned, then we are filled with wrath, and we become beasts and endanger the world. But, when Christ is being condemned and blasphemed, then we show indifference. The Saint showed the opposite. To the assaults against him, he responded with meekness, but when Christ was being wronged, he responded with strength, and for this reason he struck Arius. We have within us a lot of ego, not the name of Christ, like he did.
St. Nicholas, in other words, is the synopsis of all of the virtues, the expression of the Beatitudes of Christ, because in his person was implemented all of the Beatitudes of the Lord (Matthew 5:1-12).
But I, my beloved, wish to add to the image of the Saint two words that show that St. Nicholas was not only the merciful, and the meek, and the faithful servant dedicated to the Lord, but was furthermore the protector of the poor and those wronged, the protector of people who were condemned by the mighty ones of their day. I will mention one or two examples, then I will close.
The first is that, in his metropolis one morning, women ran with wild hair, wailing and crying out. They fell at the feet of St. Nicholas and said: “Save us!” They entreated the Saint to save them, because their husbands were taken. They were seized, put in bonds and taken to prison. They were condemned to death, and in a few hours they would execute these men. And their wives were in a terrible state. The Saint, as soon as he heard their terrible news, hastened to the prison. But at that hour the prison was empty, because they had taken them bound, and let them out into the fields to execute them. The Saint understood the danger. And that elder ran like a child, and reached the place of the execution. And as soon as he got there, he took the sword from the hands of the executioner, with which he was to slaughter those innocent men. And not this alone, but he greatly censured the tyrant of that city and threatened him, that he would give him up to Constantine the Great. And the tyrant came to his senses, was humbled and repented.
St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (source)
This was one situation when he saved men. And there is another. In the era of St. Constantine, three soldiers, brave and glorious soldiers, who conquered the barbarians in various wars and battles, and who were the boast of the Byzantine Empire, these three soldiers were slandered and condemned by evil and malicious men. They were seized and thrown in prison, and condemned to death within a few hours. They had no refuge other than the protection of St. Nicholas, And the life of the Saint, which we believe, says that that night, they entreated the Saint to protect them. And then the miracle occurred. What miracle? In his sleep, the Emperor saw a vision. He saw St. Nicholas strike him, and tell him: “What charge do you go to perform? Why do you wish to dip your hands in the blood of the innocent? These three soldiers, who are ready to be executed, these three are innocent men, and you must free them. Do not perform that which you are thinking to do.” In reality, when the Emperor awoke, he immediately called the general, and gave commands to free those three soldiers who had been condemned. They, full of joy and exaltation, hastened to express their thanks to the Saint who freed them.
Ba, you will say! Those are old things, and ancient stories. All of those were “In those days...”
No, my beloved! Not “in those days”. And today and tomorrow and the day after, and forever until the stars cease to shine, and the rivers to run, and the trees to fill with leaves, until the sun and the moon no longer shine, the miracles of God continue to exist. These are not mythological things.
I will relate to you one final one. What occurred? In Kozani in 1944, in those years, the terrible years of slavery for our nation. Then, evil and corrupt men seized 300 men and threw them in prison. And there was wailing and morning. Women, men and children wailing, because their execution was for sure. And that morning in Kozani, the city of St. Nicholas, which has the church of St. Nicholas, dawned a very sad day of St. Nicholas. And the bells of St. Nicholas rung sadly, as if it were Holy Friday. I was then, as God continues to make me worthy to be, a preacher in Kozani. And I ascended the amvon full of tears. And I said: “Today, St. Nicholas does not celebrate. Fall on your knees, fall on your knees both small and great, and entreat the Saint to work his miracle...” And he worked the miracle. That evening, he freed them!
St. Nicholas saving those unjustly condemned to death (source)
Of course. Our religion is not a lie, it is alive, wholly alive. And yesterday and today and tomorrow, forever there will be miracles. And if you go to the blessed islands of our fatherland, there you will see old sailors with white hair, who passed through oceans and seas, and sailed through the Atlantic ocean, and behold the joy in their eyes. At the hour when they met huge waves and sharks and fearsome beasts, when they were ready to be cast upside down and to be torn to pieces upon the rocks, at that terrible hour of death, when they beheld their death before them—I am not lying, but telling you the truth—they entreated the Saint. And the Saint worked his wonder. And they found themselves on the dry land without understanding how!
Therefore, it is a fact that the Saint was meek, and merciful, and faithful, and dedicated to God, it is a fact that he was a man of God. But it is also a fact that St. Nicholas is the protector of those who are wronged and weak.
This is the Saint whom we hymn today. And all of us, with one heart and with one soul, united in the faith of Christ, in our Orthodox faith, let us entreat God, through the intercessions of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, to have mercy and save all of us. Amen.
+Bishop Avgoustinos
(homily by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes, given in the Holy Church of St. Nicholas in the city of Florina on 12/6/78, source)
St. Nicholas saving those unjustly condemned (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

"O Father Nicholas, you are the myrrh container of the All-holy Spirit..."

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra of Lycia (source)
O Father Nicholas, you are the myrrh container of the All-holy Spirit, for you pour forth joyous fragrance like the springtime, the divine aromas of Christ, for you were an imitator of the Apostles, and you travel throughout the world, through the words of your wonders. Therefore, for those far off and those at hand, you appear in dreams, and you redeem those sentenced to an unjust death, and paradoxically you save from dangers many of those who call upon you. Therefore, we who have fallen into the hands of enemies, deliver, through your intercessions, those who ever praise you.
-Idiomelon of the Litia in the Forth Tone.
St. Nicholas the Wonderworker (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

"You gathered together an ascetical gymnasium on the earth..."

St. Savas the Sanctified (Source)
You gathered together an ascetical gymnasium on the earth, O Venerable Savas, and all the assaults of the passions you drove away through the stream of your tears. Your life that was led by God was known by all to be a divine and sacred ladder lifting up to the heavens, for within it, you showed forth the fruits of piety, and through them, heal the afflictions of passions, for those who cry out to you in faith: Rejoice, the golden shining star of the East, and the lamplighter and shepherd of Monastics. Rejoice, O ever-memorable one, the beautiful nursling of the desert, and the unassailable support of the Church. Rejoice, the great guide for the lost. Rejoice, our boast, and the radiant rejoicing of the whole world.
-Idiomelon of the Litia in the Second Tone
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"The Martyr Barbara, who was called by God..."

St. Barbara the Great Martyr (source)
The Martyr Barbara, who was called by God, said as she suffered in the stadium: "Though the current tortures are terrible, O judge, I would not trade the things of heaven for those of the earth. Therefore, cut, tear apart the flesh, and deliver me over to fire, while I rejoice to depart for Christ, my Bridegroom." Through her intercessions, Savior, send down upon us Your mercies, and save those who celebrate her struggle with faith.
-Idiomelon of the Praises, in the Second Tone, by Byzantios.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

The Farewell Letter of St. Porphyrios

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (source)
The Farewell Letter of Saint Porphyrios

While at the Holy Skete of Kavsokalyvia on Mt. Athos,   St. Porphyrios had given orders for his grave to be dug.
Through a spiritual child of his, he dictated a farewell letter of advice and forgiveness to all his spiritual children.

Here is the letter as it was sent to us from the Holy Convent of the Transfiguration of the Savior.
It is dated June 17, 1991. It was found amongst the monk's garments that were laid out for his burial on the day of his departure.
It again indicates his profound humbleness.
   My dear spiritual Children,

Now that I am still in charge of my faculties, I want to give you some advice.

Ever since I was a child, I was always in sin. When my mother sent me to watch the animals on the mountain, (my father
had gone to America to work on the Panama Canal for us his children, because we were poor), there, where I shepherded
the animals, I slowly read, word by word, the life of St. John the Hut-dweller and I loved St. John very much.
I said a lot of prayers, like the young child that I was, twelve or fifteen years old, I don't remember too well. I wanted
to follow his example. So, with a lot of difficulty, I secretly left my parents and came to Kavsokalyvia on the Holy Mountain.
I became obedient to two elders, the true brothers, Panteleimon and loannikios.

They happened to be very devout and full of virtue, I loved them very much and because of that, with their blessing,
I gave them absolute obedience. That helped me a lot. I also felt great love for God and got along very well.
However, because of my sins, God allowed me to become ill, and my elders told me to go to my parents in my village
of St. John, Evia. Although I had sinned a lot from when I was a small child, when I returned to the world I continued
to commit sins which, today are very many. The world, however, thought highly of me, and everyone shouts that I'm a saint.

I however, feel that I am the most sinful person in the world. Of course, whatever I remembered I confessed, and I know God
has forgiven me. But now I have the feeling that my spiritual sins are very many and I ask all those who have known me
to pray for me, because, for as long as I lived, I humbly prayed for you, too. Now that I'm leaving for heaven, I have the
feeling that God will say to me, "What are you doing here?" I have only one thing to say to him, "I am not worthy of here, Lord,
but whatever your love wills, it'll do for me." From then on, I don't know what will happen. I however, wish for God's love to act

I always pray that my spiritual children will love God, Who is everything, so that He will make us worthy to enter His earthly
uncreated Church. We must begin from here. I always made the effort to pray, to read the hymns of the Church, the Holy Scriptures
and the Lives of the Saints. May you do the same. I tried, by the grace of God, to approach God and may you also do the same.

I beg all of you to forgive me for whatever I did to upset you.

Hieromonk Porphyrios
Kavsokalyvia, June 4/17 1991
St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!