Sunday, December 25, 2016

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

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The Nativity of Christ (source)
Homily VI on the Nativity of Christ, by St. Ephraim the Syrian
Blessed be the Messenger that was laden, and came; a great peace! The Bowels of the Father brought Him down to us; He did not bring up our debts to Him, but made a satisfaction to that Majesty with His own goods.
Praised be the Wise One, who reconciled and joined the Divine with the Human Nature. One from above and one from below, He confined the Natures as medicines, and being the Image of God, became man.
That Jealous One when He saw that Adam was dust, and that the cursed serpent had devoured him, shed soundness into that which was tasteless, and made him [as] salt, wherewith the accursed serpent should be blinded.
Blessed be the Merciful One, who saw the weapon by Paradise, that closed the way to the Tree of Life; and came and took a Body which could suffer, that with the Door, that was in His side, He might open the way into Paradise.
Blessed be that Merciful One, who lent not Himself to harshness, but without constraint conquered by wisdom; that He might give an ensample unto men, that by virtue and wisdom they might conquer discerningly.
Blessed is Thy flock, since Thou art the gate thereof, and Thou art the staff thereof. Thou art the Shepherd thereof, Thou art the Drink thereof, Thou art the salt thereof, yea, the Visitor thereof. Hail to the Only-Begotten, that bare abundantly all manner of consolations!
The husbandmen came and did obeisance before the Husbandman of Life. They prophesied to Him as they rejoiced,[saying,] "Blessed be the Husbandman, by Whom the ground of the heart is tilled, Who gathereth His wheat into the garner of Life."
The husbandmen came and gave glory to the Vineyard that sprang of the root and stem of Jesse, the Virgin Cluster of the glorious Vine. "May we be vessels for Thy new Wine that renews all things."
"In Thee may the Vineyard of my Well-beloved that yielded wild grapes1 find peace! Graft its vines from Thy stocks; let it be laden entirely from Thy blessings with a fruit which may reconcile the Lord of the Vineyard, Who threatens it."
Because of Joseph the workmen came to the Son of Joseph saying, "Blessed be Thy Nativity, Thou Head of Workmen, the impress whereof the ark bore, after which was fashioned the Tabernacle of the congregation that was for a time only!"2
"Our craft praises Thee, Who art our glory. Make Thou the yoke which is light, yea easy, for them that bear it; make the measure, in which there can be no falseness, which is full of Truth; yea, devise and make measures3 by righteousness; that he that is vile may be accused thereby, and he that is perfect, may be acquitted thereby. Weigh therewith both mercy and truth, O just One, as a judge."
"Bridegrooms with their brides rejoiced. Blessed be the Babe, whose Mother was Bride of the Holy One! Blessed the marriage feast, whereat Thou wast present, in which when wine was suddenly wanting, in Thee it abounded again!"
The children cried out, "Blessed He that hath become unto us a Brother, and Companion in the midst of the streets. Blessed be the day which by the Branches4 gives glory to the Tree of life, that made His Majesty be brought low, to our childish age!"
Women heard that a Virgin should conceive and bring forth a Son: honourable women hoped that thou wouldest rise from them; yea noble ladies that Thou mightest spring up from them! Blessed be Thy Majesty, that humbled Itself, and rose from the poor!
Yea the young girls that carried Him prophesied, saying, "Whether I be hated or fair, or of low estate, I am without spot for Thee. I have taken Thee in charge for the bed of Childbirth."
Sarah had lulled Isaac, who as a slave5 bare the Image of the King his Master on his shoulders, even the sign of His Cross; yea, on his hands were bandages and sufferings, a type of the nails.
Rachel cried to her husband, and said, Give me sons.6 Blessed be Mary, in whose womb, though she asked not, Thou didst dwell holily, O Gift, that poured itself upon them that received it.
Hannah with bitter tears asked a child;7 Sarah and Rebecca with vows and words, Elizabeth also with her prayer, after having vexed themselves for a long time, yet so obtained comfort.
Blessed be Mary, who without vows and without prayer, in her Virginity conceived and brought forth the Lord of all the sons of her companions, who have been or shall be chaste and righteous, priests and kings.
Who else lulled a son in her bosom as Mary did? who ever dared to call her son, Son of the Maker, Son of the Creator, Son of the Most High?
Who ever dared to speak to her son as in prayer? O Trust of Thy Mother as God, her Beloved and her Son as Man, in fear and love it is meet for thy Mother to stand before Thee!
The Nativity of Christ (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

St. John Chrysostom: "Let that handiwork be forever glorified..."

The Nativity of Christ (source)
"For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker."
-St. John Chrysostom, "Sermon on the Nativity"
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Conception of St. Anna: "O divine announcement!"

Sts. Joachim and Anna embracing the Most-holy Theotokos (source)
"O divine announcement! O strange telling! If I conceive in my womb, an Angel will be sent to her, Anna considers in astonishment, and with a loud voice cries out: glory to my God Who does paradoxical things!
-from the Canon for the feast of the Conception of St. Anna

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

St. Catherine: One woman who brought 352 souls to Christ!

St. Catherine the Great Martyr and All-wise (source)
St. Catherine, my beloved, is a censure to our generation. She is a censure first to [many] women, for they have their minds solely on bodily beauty and are disinterested with spiritual beauty. And she is secondly a censure to men, for they show themselves to be lower than this woman. And thirdly, she is a censure to us clerics, for we don't bring souls near Christ like she did, but more likely, we cast them away...One woman brought 352 souls to Christ! And you, Father, how many souls have you brought to Christ? Take a piece of chalk and write: we are 8,000 priests***, while the twelve apostles turned the world upside-down, and one woman, St. Catherine, brought 352 souls to Christ...Take up your chalk and count...If each of us brought near to the Church 300 people, we would have millions [of Orthodox Christians]...
-Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)
(translated and rearranged from source)
***The Metropolitan is referring to the number of clerics of his Church in Greece.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

St. Iakovos (Tsalikis) of Evia (+1991)

St. Iakovos (Tsalikis) of Evia - Reposed November 21st 1991, Commemorated November 22nd (source)
Modified from "The Elder of love, forgiveness and discernment", by Alexandros Christodoulou.
Elder Iakovos Tsalikis (5/11/1920-21/11/1991)
Our age and today’s culture has, unfortunately moved away from the vision and pursuit of sanctity. The Orthodox faith is based on the presence of the saints. Without these, our Church is on the path towards secularization. Naturally, as we know from Scripture, God alone is holy, and sanctity derives from our relationship with Him, and therefore sanctity is theocentric rather than anthropocentric. Our sanctity depends on the glory and the grace of God and our union with Him, not on our virtues.
Sanctification assumes the free will of the person being sanctified. As Saint Maximos the Confessor says, all that we bring is our intentions. Without those, God doesn’t act. And Saint John the Damascan repeats that we render honour to the saints ‘for having become freely unified with God and having Him dwell in them and by this participation having become by grace what He is by nature’. The saints didn’t seek to be glorified, but to glorify God, because sanctity means participation in and communion with the sanctity of God.
The source of sanctity in the Orthodox Church is the Divine Eucharist. By partaking of the Holy One, Jesus Christ, we become holy. The ‘holy things’, the Body and Blood of Christ, are given as communion ‘to the holy’, the members of the Church. Sanctity follows on from Holy Communion. The ascetic struggles of the saints are not an aim but a means which leads to the aim, which is Eucharistic communion, the most perfect and complete union with the Holy One. In the Lord’s prayer, the ‘Our Father’, we see that sanctification is associated with the Kingdom of God. We ask that His Kingdom come into the world so that everyone can praise Him and can partake of His sanctity and His glory, which is what we call ‘deification’.
Elder Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia (source)
The Kingdom of God and deification are an eternal extension of the Divine Liturgy within space and time, as Saint Maximos the Confessor writes. By taking part in the Divine Eucharist, the saints become gods by grace, but they’re aware that ‘they have the treasure in vessels of clay’ and they see ‘through a glass darkly’. They await and expect the time when the gate of heaven will open and they’ll see God ‘as He is’. Their struggle against the passions and the demons is continuous and they believe that everyone else will go to Paradise except them. They know their insignificance and unworthiness, they don’t believe in their moral superiority and worthiness and, with the humility which they feel, they see others as saints, especially when these people render them honours. This is due to love, which is the one thing which will remain in the Kingdom of God.
St. Iakovos of Evia (source)
An example of their love for God is their personal struggle to observe His commandments. Submission to the will of God cleanses people of their passions and prepares the place for grace to take up its dwelling. All the saints are characterized by an attitude of asceticism and self-sacrifice. According to Saint Isaac, the ascetic life is the mother of sanctification ‘from which is born the first taste of the sense of the mysteries of Christ’. Or, as Saint Maximos the Confessor puts it: ‘By their voluntary mortification, denying all evils and passions… they have made themselves pilgrims and strangers to life, fighting boldly against the rebellions of the world and the body… and have preserved the honour of their soul’.
Such a vessel of grace and dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, was Elder Iakovos Tsalikis, one of the most important and saintly personalities of our day, a great and holy Elder, a true friend of God.
He was a living incarnation of the Gospel, and his aim was sanctification. From early childhood he enjoyed praying and would go to different chapels, light the icon-lamps and pray to the saints. In one chapel in his village, he was repeatedly able to speak to Saint Paraskevi. He submitted to God’s call, which came to him when he was still a small child, denied himself and took up the Cross of Christ until his last breath.
Elder Iakovos as a child in the chapel of St. Paraskevi (source)
[As a child, Elder Iakovos was also wondrously healed by St. Charalampos, see here.]
In 1951, he went to the Monastery of Saint David the Elder, where he was received in a miraculous manner by the saint himself.
He was tonsured in November 1952. As a monk he submitted without complaint and did nothing without the blessing of the abbot. He would often walk four to five hours to meet his Elder, whose obedience was as parish-priest in the small town of Limni. The violence he did to himself was his main characteristic. He didn’t give in to himself easily. He lived through unbelievable trials and temptations. The great poverty of the monastery, his freezing cell with broken blinds and cold wind and snow coming in through the gaps, the lack of the bare essentials, even of winter clothing and shoes, made his whole body shiver and he was often ill. He bore the brunt of the spiritual, invisible and also perceptible war waged by Satan, who was defeated by Iakovos’ obedience, prayer, meekness and humility. He fought his enemies with the weapons given to us by our Holy Church: fasting, vigils and prayer.
His asceticism was astonishing. He ate like a bird, according to his biographer. He slept on the ground, for two hours in twenty-four. The whole night was devoted to prayer. Regarding his struggle, he used to say: ‘I do nothing. Whatever I do, it’s God doing it. Saint David brings me up to the mark for it’.
St. Iakovos of Evia (source)
His humility, which was legendary and inspiring, was his main characteristic. The demons which were in the possessed people who went to the monastery cursed him and said: ‘We want to destroy you, to neutralize you, to exterminate you, but we can’t because of your humility’. He always highlighted his lack of education, his inadequacies and his humbleness. It was typical of him that, when he spoke, every now and again he’d say: ‘Forgive me’. He was forever asking people’s forgiveness, which was a sign of his humble outlook. Once, when he was invited to visit the Monastery of Saint George Armas, where the abbot was the late Fr. George Kapsanis, he replied: ‘Fathers, I’m a dead dog. What will I do if I come to see you? Pollute the air?’ He always had the sense that he was a mere nothing.
St. David and St. Iakovos the protectors of their monastery in Evia (source)
And when he became abbot he always said that he wasn’t responsible for what happened in the monastery: ‘Saint David’s the abbot here’, he maintained. When he served with other priests, he went to the corner of the altar, leaving them to lead the service. When they told him: ‘This isn’t right, you’re the abbot of the monastery’, he’d reply: ‘Son, Saint David’s the abbot here’.
Although he didn’t seek office, he agreed to be ordained to the diaconate by Grigorios, the late Bishop of Halkida, on 18 December 1952. The next day he became a priest. In his address after the ordination, the bishop said: ‘And you, son, will be sanctified. Continue, with God’s power, and the Church will declare you [a saint]’. His words were prophetic. He was made abbot on 27 June, 1975, by Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Halkida, a post he held until his death.
Elder Iakovos wearing the epitrachili (stole) of St. David of Evia, along with his monastic staff (source)
As abbot he behaved towards the fathers and the visitors to the monastery with a surfeit of love and understanding and great discernment. His hospitality was proverbial. Typical of him was the discernment with which he approached people. He saw each person as an image of Christ and always had a good word to say to them. His comforting words, which went straight to the hearts of his listeners, became the starting-point of their repentance and spiritual life in the Church. The Elder had the gift, which he concealed, of insight and far-sight. He recognized the problem or the sin of each person and corrected them with discretion. Illumined by the Holy Spirit he would tell each person, in a few words, exactly what they needed. Saint Porfyrios said of the late Elder Iakovos: ‘Mark my words. He’s one of the most far-sighted people of our time, but he hides it to avoid being praised’.
In a letter to the Holy Monastery of Saint David, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Vartholomaios, wrote: ‘Concerning the late Elder, with his lambent personality, the same is true of him as that which Saint John Chrysostom wrote about Saint Meletios of Antioch: Not only when he taught or shone, but the mere sight of him was enough to bring the whole teaching of virtue into the souls of those looking at him’.
Elder Iakovos kneeling in prayer (source)
He lived for the Divine Liturgy, which he celebrated every day, with fear and trembling, dedicated and, literally, elevated. Young children and those with pure hearts saw him walking above the floor, or being served by holy angels. As he himself told a few people, he served together with Cherubim, Seraphim and the Saints. During the Preparation, he saw Angels of the Lord taking the portions of those being remembered and placing them before the throne of Christ, as prayers. When, because of health problems he felt weak, he would pray before the start of the Divine Liturgy and say: ‘Lord, as a man I can’t, but help me to celebrate’. After that, he said, he celebrated ‘as if he had wings’.
One of the characteristic aspects of his life was his relationship with the saints. He lived with them, talked to them and saw them. He had an impressive confidence towards them, particularly Saint David and Saint John the Russian, whom he literally considered his friends. ‘I whisper something in the ear of the Saint and he gets me a direct line to the Lord’. When he was about to have an operation at the hospital in Halkida, he prayed with faith: ‘Saint David, won’t you go by Prokopi and fetch Saint John, so you can come here and support me for the operation? I feel the need of your presence and support’. Ten minutes later the Saints appeared and, when he saw them, the Elder raised himself in bed and said to them: ‘Thank you for heeding my request and coming here to find me’.
One of his best known virtues was charity. Time and again he gave to everybody, depending on their needs. He could tell which of the visitors to the monastery were in financial difficulties. He’d ask to speak to them in private, give them money and ask them not to tell anyone. He never wanted his charitable acts to become known.
[For another wondrous miracle through the Elder's prayers, see the multiplication of food through the prayers of St. David here.]
Another gift he had was that, through the prayers of Saint David, he was able to expel demons. He would read the prayers of the Church, make the sign of the Cross with the precious skull of the saint over the people who were suffering and the latter were often cleansed.
Elder Iakovos Tsalikis (source)
He was a wonderful spiritual guide, and through his counsel thousands of people returned to the path of Christ. He loved his children more than himself. It was during confession that you really appreciated his sanctity. He never offended or saddened anyone. He was justly known as ‘Elder Iakovos the sweet’.
He suffered a number of painful illnesses. One of his sayings was, ‘Lucifer’s been given permission to torment my body’. And ‘God’s given His consent for my flesh, which I’ve worn for seventy-odd years, to be tormented for one reason alone: that I may be humbled’. The last of the trials of his health was a heart condition which was the result of some temptation he’d undergone.
The Cell of St. Iakovos Tsalikis, in the Monastery of St. David on the Island of Evia (source)
He always had the remembrance of death and of the coming judgement. Indeed, he foresaw his death. He asked an Athonite hierodeacon whom he had confessed on the morning of November 21, the last day of his earthly life, to remain at the monastery until the afternoon, in order to dress him. While he was confessing, he stood up and said: ‘Get up, son. The Mother of God, Saint David, Saint John the Russian and Saint Iakovos have just come into the cell’. ‘What are they here for, Elder?’ ‘To take me, son’. At that very moment, his knees gave way and he collapsed. As he’d foretold, he departed ‘like a little bird’. With a breath like that of a bird, he departed this world on the day of the Entry of the Mother of God. He made his own entry into the kingdom of God. It was 4:17 in the afternoon.
His body remained supple and warm, and the shout which escaped the lips of thousands of people: ‘Saint! You’re a saint’, bore witness to the feelings of the faithful concerning the late Elder Iakovos. Now, after his blessed demise, he intercedes for everyone at the throne of God, with special and exceptional confidence. Hundreds of the faithful can confirm that he’s been a benefactor to them.
Icon of St. Iakovos of Evia. Interestingly, this icon of the Saint carries the inscription "O Me Synchoreite", or "The 'Forgive me'". This is because one of the Saint's most characteristic phrases in discussion was "forgive me". This resembles the title of St. Nikon "Metanoeite" ("Repent ye") (source)
Apolytikion to St. Iakovos Abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. David (+1991)
(written by Charalampos Bousias)
Plagal of the First Tone.
The prototype of discernment and modesty, the wonderworking leader of the Monastery of David the venerable, who plowed and sowed love in the hardened hearts of the God-bearing people, O Father Iakovos. Do not neglect to intercede with Christ on behalf of those who call upon you in faith.
Note***: The official service of St. Iakovos has not been released yet so the commonly used apolytikion may change in the future.
St. Iakovos of Evia, icon available from Uncut Mountain Supply.
An akathist to St. Iakovos is available here.
Icon of St. Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia, canonized November 27th 2017 by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Akathist to St. Nektarios the Wonderworker

St. Nektarios Bishop of Pentapolis, the Wonderworker (+1920) (source)
Akathist to St. Nektarios of Pentapolis, the Wonderworker (+1920)

Kontakion 1 In joy of heart let us hymn with songs the newly revealed star of Orthodoxy, the newly erected bulwark of the Church; for, glorified by the activity of the Spirit, he pours forth the abundant grace of healings upon those who cry: Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Ikos 1
In the world you were shown to be a man of heavenly mind, O Nektarios, heirarch of Christ; for having passed through life in holiness, you were shown to be blameless, venerable and God-pleasing in all things. Wherefore, you hear from us such praises as these:
Rejoice, you by whom the faithful are edified;
Rejoice, you of whom the enemy is afraid!
Rejoice, emulator of the venerable fathers;
Rejoice, divine teacher of the Orthodox!
Rejoice, you for whom the Church joins chorus;
Rejoice, you in whom Aegina rejoices!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 2
Having adorned yourself with meekness of soul from your youth, O holy father, one fervent desire consumed your heart: to become a preacher of the Holy Gospel. From childhood you knew the Scriptures which are able to make man wise for salvation, teaching them to cry: Alleluia.
Ikos 2
When you left your home and traveled to Constantinople, you labored in the midst of worldly distractions. Yet you did not forsake the Faith which dwelt first in your grandmother and mother and also dwelt in thee, steadfastly dedicating yourself to prayer and to the sayings of the Fathers, which you wrote on packages and wrappings so that others might read them and receive spiritual profit. Wherefore, to one who was in the world but not of it, we the faithful cry aloud in thanksgiving:
Rejoice, most holy temple of the activity of God;
Rejoice, divinely inscribed book of new morals!
Rejoice, for you made yourself like unto the saints in perfection;
Rejoice, for you wisely spurned material things!
Rejoice, splendid victory of the Faith;
Rejoice, honored clarion of grace!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 3
As a fervent lover of the monastic life, you often visited the Monastery of the Holy Fathers, conversing there about the spiritual struggle with its holy founder, Elder Pachomios. As you aspired to the angelic habit, you were tonsured and dedicated yourself to prayer on behalf of the people as you sang: Alleluia!
Ikos 3
Wholly consumed with the love of heavenly knowledge, you received a blessing to continue your theological education to which you devoted yourself with zeal and self-denial. While living in Athens, you studied day and night, knowing no other roads but that to the school and to the Church. Wherefore, as to our instructor in heavenly theology, we your children joyfully cry:
Rejoice, great pillar of piety;
Rejoice, city of refuge for the faithful!
Rejoice, firm stronghold of Orthodoxy;
Rejoice, venerable vessel and praise of the Holy Trinity!
Rejoice, you who shone forth in these latter times like a never-setting sun;
Rejoice, you who pour forth the nectar of grace upon all believers.
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 4
Arrayed in true holiness and pure morals, Patriarch Sophronios of Alexandria saw in you great potential for service to Christ’s Holy Church. You were ordained to the sacred priesthood and elevated to the office of Bishop. O wise one, you offered your life to Christ as a pure sacrifice, ever chanting: Alleluia!
Ikos 4
In your position as Metropolitan of Pentapolis, you were deeply loved by the faithful, for clothed in the vesture of the hierarchy, you adorned your life with humility. Ever disdainful of material possessions, you opened your hand freely and distributed your alms to the poor. Like your Master, you willingly came not to be served but to serve and to give your life as a ransom for many. Conquered by your love, we who honor your holy memory cry unto you thus:
Rejoice, model of lambs and shepherds;
Rejoice, pure and honorable abode of holiness!
Rejoice, worthy converser with angels;
Rejoice, good guide of men!
Rejoice, for through you we are delivered from bodily passions;
Rejoice, for through you we are filled with spiritual delights!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 5
When the enemy of our souls saw you laboring in humility, he could not abide your holy presence among the people. Raising up slanders, inciting rumors, he sought to destroy your good name and to lead you to bitterness and anger. But you overcame all of his devices, for in all things you didst meekly chant unto God: Alleluia!
Ikos 5
Lacking even your daily bread, slandered on all sides, you prayed for your accusers, begging the Father to forgive them. Refusing to speak one word in your defense, you joyfully suffered according to the will of God, committing yourself to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. Wherefore, amazed by your long-suffering and steadfast endurance, we your children exclaim:
Rejoice, treasury of great mercy;
Rejoice, inexhaustible bread for the hungry!
Rejoice, container of great virtues;
Rejoice, model of spiritual meekness!
Rejoice, you who said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they have done;”
Rejoice, you who repaid evil with good!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 6
Having within you a strong desire for the life of stillness on the Holy Mountain, you could not abandon the people but heeded their call to remain in the world and to proclaim the words of salvation. Freely you received and freely you gave, calling all men to exclaim: Alleluia!
Ikos 6
With the words of your mouth you dropped heavenly sweetness into the hearts of those who accepted your words with faith, directing the minds of the faithful to seek those things which are above. The sacred writings of your teachings continually gladden the souls of the pious; for moved by the Holy Spirit, O Father, you wisely recorded words of grace and instruction for those who cry to you:
Rejoice, faithful servant of the Most Holy Trinity;
Rejoice, habitation adorned of the Holy Spirit.
Rejoice, light that illumines all the ends of the earth;
Rejoice, you who delivers people from the abyss of sin!
Rejoice, you who exalts truth;
Rejoice, you who dispells falsehood!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 7
Invited to assume the direction of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School, you brought peace where there once existed confusion, for you treated all as a loving father. Wherefore your students in gratitude sang to God: Alleluia!
Ikos 7
Strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, having received the words of Life, you committed these to faithful men who, because of your good instruction and spiritual example, were enabled to teach them to others. Enduring hardships as a good soldier of Christ, you did not entangle yourself in the affairs of this life but thought only how to please the Master. Therefore, as to a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth, we cry out to you in words such as these:
Rejoice, teacher of the divine commandments;
Rejoice, you who makes wise the unwise by your teachings!
Rejoice, new Paul, who has bequeathed to us the pattern of sound words;
Rejoice, new Jude, who has given us the exhortation to contend earnestly for the faith!
Rejoice, new Chrysostom, who has poured forth upon the Church the heavenly nectar of piety;
Rejoice, new Damascene, who has defended the faithful from impious doctrines!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 8
Wisely adorned with understanding and meekness, you brought together venerable virgins in godliness, leading them to Christ by your words and the works of your blameless life, teaching them to sing: Alleluia!
Ikos 8
Listening to your prayers and earnest supplications, the Lord Who does the will of those who fear him, led you to the island of Aegina where you rebuilt the monastery which had been abandoned. Who can describe your labors and toils? Exercising vigilance in all things, you showed forth a model of divine virtue. Your spiritual daughters in thanksgiving cry to you thus:
Rejoice, pure and honorable abode of holiness;
Rejoice, all-luminous lamp, beloved by all!
Rejoice, worthy converser with angels;
Rejoice, good guide of men!
Rejoice, pious rule of faith;
Rejoice, holy purification of mortals!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 9
Worldly-minded men cannot understand your patience, for despite the many cares of the monastery, you did not cease writing edifying books for Christians living in the world. Wherefore, amazed at the great wisdom which you were given, we cry to God: Alleluia!
Ikos 9
Having settled at the Monastery in Aegina, you became all spirit and led an altogether spiritual life. Venerable, meek, kindly, humble, extremely compassionate and charitable, you carried on the good fight in order to lay hold of that which for which Christ Jesus laid hold of you. In your pious ways you blamelessly followed Dionysios, the godly pastor of Aegina. Now as you partake of heavenly glory with him, receive from us these praises:
Rejoice, you who despised the world and its delusive pleasures;
Rejoice, you who received in exchange heavenly blessings!
Rejoice, you who completely subdued your flesh to your spirit;
Rejoice, you who subjected your spirit to your sweetest Lord Jesus!
Rejoice, lover of the holy Fathers;
Rejoice, instructor in the prayer of the heart!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 10
Never neglecting mental prayer but always crying from the depths of your heart, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” all bore witness that you had become completely spiritualized. Noticing in you an exceptional sweetness which radiated from your serene countenance, the faithful joyfully exclaimed: Alleluia!
Ikos 10
Knowing that the Most Holy Virgin is a bulwark for all saints and a joy to monastics, you often offered your intercessions to her with tears and commited yourself to her motherly protection. Writing beautiful hymns, you gave to the faithful the gift of your love teaching them to sing, “
Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!” Therefore, we cry to you:
Rejoice, precious chosen one of Christ;
Rejoice, unblemished fragrance of God!
Rejoice, you who showed flaming love for the Lord;
Rejoice, you who always honored His Holy Mother!
Rejoice, boast of the Orthodox Church;
Rejoice, you who work many miracles through the power of God!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 11
When the time came for you to depart to Christ to receive the Crown of righteousness laid up for thee in heaven, you endured severe pain and suffering with exemplary patience. Always thanking the Heavenly Father and blessing His all-holy name, you continually cried: Alleluia!
Ikos 11
The Lord, Who always glorifies those who glorify Him, did not allow your virtue to be hidden but desiring that those on earth know the glory He has given you in the heavens has revealed your relics as a well-spring of healings and miracles. For immediately after your repose, as your body was being prepared for burial, the Lord worked wonders through your sweater, raising up a man who had been paralyzed for many years. Therefore, together with him we also gratefully cry to you:
Rejoice, speedy helper of those in need;
Rejoice, constant stream of mercy by which we are cleansed!
Rejoice, physician of soul and body;
Rejoice, new pool of Siloam, healing the infirm!
Rejoice, sweet myrhh of compassion;
Rejoice, miracle worker of the faithful!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 12
Multitudes of the faithful from all lands continually flee to your shrine, O holy one, and from your precious relics faithfully obtain divine grace and answers for their every petition. O Father, as you know how, fulfill you also the petitions of those who now cry: Alleluia!
Ikos 12
Singing praises we glorify you, O all-praised Nektarios; for in you God Who is glorified in the Trinity is wonderfully glorified. But even if we were to offer you a multitude of psalms and hymns composed from the soul, O holy wonderworker, we should do nothing to equal the gift of your miracles, and amazed by them we cry unto you:
Rejoice, you who conquered all the snares of the Evil One;
Rejoice, you who were sanctified both in soul and body!
Rejoice, speedy helper of those in need;
Rejoice, restoration of health to the sick!
Rejoice, healer of diseases by the Grace of God;
Rejoice, helper of those that suffer cruelly!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 13 [3 times]
As a partaker in the life of heaven and a dweller with the angels, O Father Nektarios, in that you labored to please God, accept our present offering, and unceasingly intercede for your flock and for all the Orthodox who honor you, that we may be healed of all diseases of both body and soul, that together with you in the eternal Kingdom we may unceasingly cry:
Ikos 1 Repeated
In the world you were shown to be a man of heavenly mind, O Nektarios, heirarch of Christ; for having passed through life in holiness, you were shown to be blameless, venerable and God-pleasing in all things. Wherefore, you hear from us such praises as these:
Rejoice, you by whom the faithful are edified;
Rejoice, you of whom the enemy is afraid!
Rejoice, emulator of the venerable fathers;
Rejoice, divine teacher of the Orthodox!
Rejoice, you for whom the Church joins chorus;
Rejoice, you in whom Aegina rejoices!
Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
Kontakion 1 Repeated
In joy of heart let us hymn with songs the newly revealed star of Orthodoxy, the newly erected bulwark of the Church; for, glorified by the activity of the Spirit, he pours forth the abundant grace of healings upon those who cry: Rejoice, O Father Nektarios, model of patience and lover of virtue.
St. Nektarios the Wonderworker (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

St. Gabriel the New Confessor (+1995): "The glory of Christ remains for ever..."

St. Gabriel the New Confessor of Georgia - Commemorated on November 2nd (source)
"Seas dry up, mountains collapse, but the glory of Christ remains for ever."

"In the End Days a man will be saved by love, humbleness and kindness. Kindness will open the gates of Heaven; humbleness will lead into the Heaven; a man, whose heart is filled with love, will see the God."

"This is my last will and testament: raise your prayers for everyone; your prayers will move the mountains. Love each other."

-St. Gabriel the New Confessor of Georgia (+1995)
(Taken from the following source site, with the life, selected sayings, icons, and many miracles of this great new Georgian Saint)
Apolytikion of St. Gabriel the New Confessor in the Plagal of the First Tone
Having been adorned with a godly life, as a God-inspired Archimandrite, let us praise Gabriel with all reverence, as a light-house of clairvoyance and a healer of the sick, whose grave richly pours forth rivers [of healings], as we cry out to him: O Father, from above bless all those who honor you.
St. Gabriel the New Confessor of Georgia (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Holy Zoni (Belt) of the Theotokos to visit Patras, Greece

The Holy Zoni (Belt) of the Theotokos to visit Patras, Greece (source)
The Holy and wondrous Belt (Zoni) of the Theotokos, one of the only treasures of the Theotokos to have survived to our days, and treasured by the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos, will soon make one of its rare trips outside of the Holy Mountain. On Friday November 4th, 2016, the Belt of the Theotokos will be taken to the Church of St. Andrew in Patras, Greece. This is part of the weeks of celebration in honor of St. Andrew First-Called Apostle in the city of Patras, where he was martyred and where his holy relics are treasured to this day. The Belt of the Theotokos will remain until November 9th, 2016.

This is a great and rare blessing for the people of Greece, especially for women, children, and others who cannot visit the Monastery of Vatopedi themselves. Many miracles occur through the Theotokos, especially helping couples that have difficulty having children. Please pass this on to any friends or family and take advantage of this great gift.
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

"Having the myrrh of Christ within your soul, O Demetrios..."

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer (source)
Having the myrrh of Christ within your soul, O Demetrios, you poured forth noetically from your members as if from your lips, a free-flowing spring of myrrh, showing you to be a sacred dwelling-place of the grace of the Spirit.

As the divine David cries in the Spirit, the joyous unity of the brethren is as myrrh*, O Glorious One, for your myrrh which is greater, O wise one, the new creation, has gathered into unity

O blessed one, the thirsty Christ picked you, the ripe grape cluster, from the divine vine, and having placed you within wine vat of Martyrdom, you were trampled upon, as he made the divine spring of your myrrh to be as new, sweet wine.
-Excerpts from the Canons of the Matins from the feast of St. Demetrios
*"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments" Psalm 133:1-2
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

St. John of Kronstadt: "God is my strength"

St. John of Kronstadt (source)
I myself am all infirmity and misery. God is my strength. To know this is to me the highest wisdom, making me blessed.
-St. John of Kronstadt, "My Life in Christ"

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

St. Luke the Surgeon on praying ceaselessly

St. Luke the Surgeon, Archbishop of Simferopol (source)
To pray ceaselessly does not mean solely to read prayers, to do prostrations and to go to church. Things aren't like that. We can pray ceaselessly always and wherever we find ourselves. The only thing that we need is for our heart to have a prayerful disposition. It should be humble and to ceaselessly mourn for its unworthiness and sinfulness. Full of fear [or awe] before the grandeur of God, Whom we insult with our sins. If our heart is thus, then we will always be in prayer, at work and at home.
-St. Luke the Surgeon

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

St. John Chrysostom: "Unspeakable is the power of the Cross..."

The Crucifixion of Christ (source)
"Unspeakable is the power of the Cross. For that being actually in the midst of horrors, He should have shown Himself above all horrors; and being in the enemy's hold should have overcome; this comes of Infinite Power. For as in the case of the Three Children, their not entering the furnace would not have been so astonishing, as that having entered in they trampled upon the fire—and in the case of Jonah, it was a greater thing by far, after he had been swallowed by the fish, to suffer no harm from the monster, than if he had not been swallowed at all—so also in regard of Christ; His not dying would not have been so inconceivable, as that having died He should loose the bands of death. Say not then, why did He not help Himself on the Cross? for He was hastening on to close conflict with death himself. (See Hooker, E. P. v. 48. 9.) He descended not from the Cross, not because He could not, but because He would not. For Him Whom the tyranny of death restrained not, how could the nails of the Cross restrain?"
-St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

St. Phanourios, the mighty Colossus of Rhodes

St. Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-revealed (source)
Ye faithful, come let us extol in song the mighty Colossus that rose up in the Isle of Rhodes, who wondrously doth stand astride the ages, alive forever in Christ as a God by grace.
-from the Canon to St. Phanourios the Great Martyr
St. Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-revealed, depicted at the famous port of Mandraki, where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Homily on Christ Walking Upon the Water, by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)

Christ walking on the water (source)
Homily on Christ Walking Upon the Water (Gospel Reading of the Ninth Sunday of St. Matthew), by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)
A school, my beloved, our Church is a school. Our teacher is Christ. We are all students, small and great. And our book? The Gospel, greater than all the books of the world. What did we hear in today's Gospel? What does it say? It relates one of the countless wonders which our Lord worked, which He works, and which He will continue to work until the close of the ages. What is the wonder?
In the Holy Lands there is a lake, which exists to this day. In this lake, the Disciples of Christ were sailing one night in a small boat. In the beginning, the sea was peaceful. But later the wind began to blow stronger and stronger. Waves were lifted up, great waves. During the night, the clouds had covered the sky, not even one star was visible. The ship was in danger. All were afraid. And where was Christ? He was not in the boat like other times. He was far away on a mountain. He was not sleeping, He was keeping vigil. All night below the stars He conversed with His heavenly Father. He was praying for the whole world.
Let me make an observation. Christ kept vigil. How much does this censure us! If we said that we were serving a vigil today, how many would come? I gave the order to serve vigils in our region. In our city, how many came? About two-hundred women and men, and a few tens of children. The rest? Sleeping, or more likely watching television. And you expect prosperity?
Let me return to the topic. That night that the Disciples were in danger, Christ was missing. And as if their fear was not enough, straightaway they saw upon the wild waves something like a ghost, and they were even more terrified. In a short time however they confirmed that it was not a ghost, it was our Lord Jesus Christ, and He was walking upon the waters. “It is I”, He told them, “Do not fear.” (Matthew 14:27) Then Peter says: “If it is you, O Lord, tell me to come towards you.” And Christ told him to do so. Immediately Peter stepped upon the waves and began to walk as if on dry land, like it was a steady road. But as he approached Christ, a wave came. Peter's eye left Christ, and he looked at the wave, and was shaken. He began to sink, and was going to be drowned, and cried out loudly: “O Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30) Then, Christ extended His hand, grabbed him, and told him: “O man of little faith! Why did you doubt?”(Matthew 14:31) Afterwards, Christ also entered the boat, and as soon as he stepped foot on the hull, the wind and the waves ceased. The Disciples were finally safe. They knelt and worshiped Him, saying: “Truly, You are the Son of God!”
This wonder teaches us many things. I will only say one thing, that this life that we are living is like a sea. From the day that we are born until we die, however many years that we life, life is like a journey on the sea. And like the sea is not always peaceful, but frequently lifts up waves and sinks ships, thus is also our life. Here, a short time ago there was a storm in the Atlantic. A whole boat was sunk and many people drowned. Like the sea can create storms and endanger men, thus is our life. Life has many dangers, it has many wild waves.
What are the waves? The various misfortunes of human life. They say that the baby, as soon as it leaves its mother's womb, cries. What does this mean? This is a foretaste, that our life is weeping, a “valley of wailing” (Psalms 83:7) It enters another world, into a sea with waves, and it senses its weakness. How can we count the waves after waves?
One wave is illness. Once, I remember a bright child came to the metropolis from northern Epirus. His father was weeping, his mother was crying, because the child could not hold his head up, he could not stand up straight, he had weakness. They went to doctors, they went here and there, nothing. You have your head upright, your eyes healthy, your ears healthy, your heart healthy, everything is healthy. Do you say thank you, or do you remain indifferent? Health is a great thing. Have you lost your health? Woe, here is a wave, a great wave of trials.
And another wave comes: poverty. Do you know what it means, to come home at noon and to not have anything to eat? Have you ever been hungry? You have not. Beforehand, children would die in the streets. They had nothing to eat. They were skeletons. And not, down in Africa, they are dying like flies. They don't have bread. And when someone brings them a little food, they fight to split it. There are places where they are suffering, and if you threw them an orange—which we throw into the trash many times—a hundred children would fight like lions for an orange, and we eat them by the handful. How thankless we are! God gives us all of our good things.
The youth, who will year this, they will tell you: “We are fine...” Yes, my beloved children, to this point you are fine, because you have just entered the sea of life. You haven't had great waves, which test us adults. You have little waves. What are the little waves? For example, problems with school lessons, the struggle during test season, the danger of misfortune. The newspapers wrote that a young girl failed her exams, and committed suicide. She did not have faith, and she was left to drown by a little wave.
Young people and children, ask your grandparents, they will tell you what they went through, what wild waves hit them. And they however were not shaken, because they believed in God. You, however, are still “mommy's boys”. You have just exited into a wave. Think about what is taking place in the world. Now you have “mommy” to look after you, and you have “daddy” to feed you. If—God-forbid--your mother or father died, you would see a terrible strike, the wave of orphanhood. How many orphans there are!
Later you will grow older and get married. You young lady, do you think that getting married will save your whole situation? What if your husband is crude, will you have patience? Another calamity is the evil match, another wave. Once, a woman came to the metropolis, battered, scratched. She was bleeding from her wounds. Her husband got drunk and struck her all night, and she called the police and ran to the metropolis. I felt sorry for her. A terrible wave is the harsh tongue of a husband, cursing and the slander of evil relatives.
You say, I will get married, I will take a good man. But at one point your husband might die. Widowhood! Do you know what it means to remain without your spouse, without your protector?
Therefore, sickness is a wave, poverty is a wave, misfortune is a wave, orphanhood is a wave, an evil spouse is a wave, widowhood is a wave, and so are the various situations of life, like slander and divisions, etc. However, a wave for the whole society are the general adversities and natural disasters, floods, droughts, etc. All of these are waves.
But I haven't yet said the greatest wave. What is it? It is sin, which we do not think about. Sin comes and strikes us, to sink the little ship of our soul, to cause us to drown. This is the most terrible wave.
What is needed? Prayer. Save us, O Lord! Let us have faith in God, and from this we will take courage. And even if in this world we are left without mother or father, even if we fall into orphanhood or widowhood, even if we are tried by hunger or thirst, even if we are found in the desert with wild beasts, or in a terrible society of injustice and indifference, even if there were an earthquake or flood, even if the earth filled with scorpions and snakes, and even if the stars begin to fall, and the earth is risen up, and if the sun were quenched, let us not loose hope. “And if nothing would remain for me within this world, where would I go, where would I stand? There on high is my God, so how could I loose hope?” Let us not be false Christians. Let us entreat God to array us with unshakable faith. Then, whatever dangers will find us, we will remain unshaken upon the rock of faith. Amen.
+Bishop Avgoustinos
(Delivered in the Holy Church of St. George Protis—Florina, 8/5/90, translated from source)
Christ walking upon the waters (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

St. John Maximovitch of the intercessions of the Theotokos

The Most-holy Theotokos and Christ (source)
Having experienced all the difficulties of earthly life, the Intercessor of the Christian race sees every tear, hears every groan and entreaty directed to Her. Especially near to Her are those who labour in the battle with the passions and are zealous for a God-pleasing life. But even in worldly cares She is an irreplaceable helper. "Joy of all who sorrow, and intercessors for the offended, and feeder of the hungry, consolation of travellers, harbour of the storm-tossed, visitation of the sick, protection and intercessor for the infirm staff of old age, Thou are the Mother of God on high, O Most Pure One" (Sticheron of the Service to the Hodigitria). "The hope and intercession and refuge of Christians", "The Mother of God unceasing in prayers" (Theotokion of the Third Tone). "She day and night doth pray for us and the sceptres of kingdoms are confirmed by Her prayers" (daily Nocturne).
-St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco, "Orthodox Veneration of the Theotokos"
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!