Monday, May 30, 2016

Prayer for the upcoming Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Great Feast of Pentecost (source)
It is widely known that, in a few weeks, the primates and representatives from all canonical Orthodox Churches will gather in Crete for the first synodal gathering of this scope in many years. This will be a truly unique event, and though there are many who are arguing in support or in opposition to this upcoming council, its participants, the process, and the pre-conciliar documents, it is abundantly clear that all of us must pray deeply for illumination and guidance by the Holy Spirit for our bishops, that they might "rightly teach the word of Your truth". As such, I include hymns below for Pentecost, for the Holy Fathers, and a prayer that we hopefully all can offer, entreating the Lord and His Saints for the strength and wisdom to ever follow His commandments.

Apolytikion and Kontakion for the Great Feast of Pentecost, in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast revealed the fishermen as most wise, having sent upon them the Holy Spirit, and through them Thou hast fished the universe, O Lover of mankind, glory to Thee.
When the High One descended, confusing tongues, He divided the nations. And when He distributed the fiery tongues He called all to one unity. Wherefore, in unison we glorify the most Holy Spirit. 
Apolytikion for the Holy and God-bearing Fathers, in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Most glorified art Thou, O Christ our God, Who hast established our Fathers as luminous stars upon the earth, and through them didst guide us all to the true Faith. O Most Merciful One, glory be to Thee.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, send down upon the bishops, clergy, and all those gathered in Thy name the grace of Thy Holy Spirit, for good and profitable counsel unto the benefit of all, and unto the confirmation of the Orthodox Catholic faith and piety, the good order of the Church.
Enlighten their minds with the light of His Divine understanding and truth, and make clear their lips and tongue, that they may counsel, proclaim and order all things unto the greater glory of His holy name.
May their actions be for the edification of the faithful people, the furtherance of good morals, and the uprooting and extermination of every heresy, disorder and wickedness, and do all things perfectly by the power and action and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
To Thee are due all glory, honor, and worship: to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Icon of the Holy and God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by dead, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The relationship between Sts. Paisios the Athonite and Iakovos Tsalikis

 Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Three great Saints of 20th century Greece: St. Iakovos TsalikisSt. Paisios the Athonite and St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia. All three had great love and honor for each other, and have helped many thousands throughout the world through their example, their teachings and their prayers. (source)
Witness of hieromonk Iakovos: "I was a layman, a student of the Ecclesiastical high school of Lamia, in 1986, with the name John. I was going to the Mount Athos, and I was going to visit, with the blessing of my Elder Iakovos Tsalikis, Elder Paisios, in order to be advised from him if I should become a monk or not. Elder Iakovos had great reverence for Elder Paisios, and when I went to him, he gave me something to give him as a blessing, and told me: "Tell Elder Paisios, when you reach Thessaloniki, that he should come to see us. As for me, Johnny, it is difficult for me to go see the Elder, because I must pass over mountains, valleys, the sea, and my health does not allow it, not to mention that Elder Paisios is a Saint, I am a sinner and unworthy." He then gave me 5,000 drachmas to light a candle in his chapel.

When I went to the Holy Mountain, I met the Elder right in front of his door. As soon as he saw me--then I was traveling with a hieromonk--he told me:
"Hey, good to see you, good to see you!"

We received his blessing, and he told me:
"Hey, what do you think? Will we make you a monk?"

"Elder," I told him, "I have a problem with my parents."

"Listen to what I tell you, let your parents weep for a month or two, so that you may not weep eternally, and before you loose the treasure." (He was referring to Elder Iakovos, without my telling him where I was thinking of becoming a monk.)

"Elder," I told him, "you have the blessing of Fr. Iakovos from the Venerable David [of Evia]."

"Oh, my child, these are the Saints who are struggling today and who pray with humility and love. I am not worthy to see this giant of Orthodoxy, but it is also a very far distance to meet him, and it requires struggle and much effort. But God has given us love, and we communicate between us spiritually."

"Elder, is it blessed for me to venerate in your chapel for a blessing?"

"No, it's not necessary."

"Elder, have love, for a blessing."

"No, my child, because maybe Elder Iakovos gave you 5,000 drachmas, and afterwards, what will I do with it, because I'm a monk?"

He did not let me go venerate. He gave me a prayer rope and a little cross to give to the Elder. When I returned to the Monastery, Elder Iakovos received me with joy. And I gave him the gifts from Elder Paisios and immediately he told me: "The 5,000 drachmas which Elder Paisios didn't accept, and that he didn't let you leave by venerating in the chapel, take it with you for your expenses in the school of Lamia." I was stunned.

"Elder, how do you know this?"

And he told me, whispering in my ear: "We, my child, communicate spiritually."
For a similar spiritual encounter in love between St. Paisios and St. Porphyrios, see here.
Sts. Iakovos, Paisios and Porphyrios the New (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by dead, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Homily on the Sunday of Pascha by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Resurrection of Christ (source)
Homily on the Sunday of Pascha by Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes (+2010)
"And the world did not know Him" (John 1:1-17)
At this holy instant, my beloved, I sense the need to offer from the heart the paschal greeting to everyone.

The Gospel which we heard is the greatest Gospel reading of the whole year. It is the beginning of the Gospel of John. The Evangelist John, who, the night of the Mystical Supper, reclined upon the breast of Christ and heard the beating of His heart, who flies to the heights of theology, and who speaks on the great mystery of the divine incarnation.

I will not discuss the whole reading, just a few words I will say regarding the verse: "And the world did not know Him" (John 1:11), that the world did not recognize Christ. What does this say?

The earth which we inhabit, my beloved, among the many great stars, is a grain of sand. And however, this little planet, has incomparable worth. It is, as an astronomer put it, the "diamond" of creation. Because only on this planet are the corresponding requirements for man to live on, man which is the brilliant handiwork of God. Here the Creator placed man. However, as the Scripture says and as the traditions of all peoples bear witness to, man fell from that height. And this fall was such that, even the great spirits of the philosophers and teachers of antiquity, despite all their efforts, could not offer significant help to correct them. Man sighed. The only way of salvation was that God descended to earth. O, the mystery! Do you believe it? You are a Christian. You don't believe it? You are not a Christian.

"God descended to earth?" someone would ask.

Yes, my beloved, it is a fact. The Sun touched the earth, and the earth was not burned. Why was it not burned? Because He did not descend visibly, but had the covering of the human flesh. He was hidden. He appeared as a humble man upon this earth. He was numbered among us. Through this He gave the evidence that He is God. He showed forth wonders and the holiness of His life. He shows it to this day to everyone through His teaching, a teaching which would force even a faithless person to say: even if there are rational beings on other planets, it is impossible that they have a faith higher than that which was taught by Jesus Christ.

Christ is the God-man. And one would expect that, when God would appear in the likeness of man, then the whole earth would receive Him and believe in Him. And what happened? Did they believe? Only a small amount, the least minority. Read the Gospel: a few shepherds in Bethlehem, some simple fishermen who were casting their nets in lake Gennesaret, a few humble women, some innocent children who put their hands on their heads, these humble and insignificant people, they believed in Him. The others, the great ones, the elite, the intelligentsia, those who pretended to be philosophers and poets, the cream of the crop of society, they, with few exceptions, did not believe in Christ. They stood against the Nazarene. They put their hands on Him, they slandered Him, they said harsh words regarding Him, they said that He had a demon, they named Him furthermore Beelzebub (the King of the Angels they named the king of the demons!), and ultimately, they crucified Him. This was the reception that the world gave Him. This is what the phrase means: "And the world did not know Him". The world of scribes, Pharisees, archpriests, great and uplifted people, this world "did not know" Jesus Christ.

Something similar Homer mentions in the Odyssey. Odysseus the King of Ithaca, left gloriously from his island. All of his people followed him to the waterfront. Later, he lost his way. After the Trojan War, he took the road to return, but was endangered on the seas. Later, after 20 years, having been shipwrecked, exhausted by the severities of this great adventure, he returned to Ithaca as a simple man. No one recognized him then. Only an aged dog recognized him and wagged its tail, as if to say: "My master, welcome back!" This is a great lesson. All of those suitors, who consumed the wealth of the small kingdom, appeared lower than a dog. Something similar occurred with Christ. The King of the world descended to earth. And who recognized Him? Bring to mind the beautiful icon of the Nativity, a little ass and an ox, these animals recognized Him, as Isaiah says: "The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (Isaiah 1:3)  For Habbakuk says as well: "between two animals he was known" (Habbakuk 3:2). The animals recognized Him. The people? "The world did not know Him". The world did not know Christ.

But, from then, they will say, twenty centuries have passed, roughly 80 generations. Yes, well, in His time they did not know Him, but now, however, now that His religion has reached the whole planet, and length of the globe, and the Christians number one billion, but did things change? How can you say, "and the world did not know Him"?

Oh, my brethren! A preliminary survey says that all those are Christians. But, if we look deeper, with the criteria of the Gospel, you will see that the Christians, not according to number or identification, are few. The multitude of the West don't count. They have adorned a bastard Christianity, which stands in stark contrast and a great chasm from the Church of Christ, of Orthodoxy. But maybe the Orthodox of the East, evil lies, are all consistent with their baptism and their requirements? The police are tiring writing on all the IDs, when will we ever see it, "Orthodox Christian". Therefore, take away those Christians according to ID and outward form, the Christians who remember their identity only on the great feasts, while they forget it the rest of the time. Tell me how many are the Christians of conscience (Stalin even said: "I fear those Christians of conscience"). How many are they? It is not the mass or the number, but the quality that has worth. How many are the true Christians? Few. One Queen of Holland, Vilelmini, did a study and wrote a book with the title: "Christ the Unknown". There it says that, after so many centuries, so many struggles and efforts of missionaries, in Europe, Christ remains unknown.

Maybe this is hyperbolic?

No. Mankind does not know Christ, because it did not love Him. A person who loves, desires to be numbered together with Him, seeks opportunities to come to know Him. If we loved Christ, we would open His Gospel and come to know His holy words. If we loved Christ, we would come continuously to Church to worship Him. If we loved Christ, above all, we would follow His holy commandments, and first of all "Love one another" (John 13:34).

But, let us leave, my brethren, the other world, and let us ask, in our little country, what is happening? "The world did not know Him". Does Greece "know Him"? Without desiring to spread melancholy, I will answer. How are we celebrating Pascha today? Is the center of our concern Christ? Or is it a gastronomic feast of Bacchus or Aphrodite? Today, in homes, from the great halls to little huts, what are they discussing? Will they discuss Christ? O! stretch out your ears. Today they will discuss everything else (political, erotic, marriages, scandals, money, markets, sports...) They do not speak about Christ. And if you hear the word "Christ", you will hear it as a blasphemy! In reality, "the world does not know Him".

But let us not be pessimistic. There is yet the "little flock" (Luke 12:32). Children, young people, women, men. They are the minority. But they are a little yeast, which has the ability to make the whole lump rise, the whole of our people. Then, the great Unknown One will become known, and our fatherland will worship the risen Christ, Whom, children, hymn and exalt supremely unto all the ages.
+Bishop Avgoustinos
(delivered in the Holy Church of St. Panteleimon, Florina, on the night of 4/18/82, translation of text from source)
The Resurrection of Christ (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by dead, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Service of the Paschal Hours

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Resurrection of Christ (source)


PRIEST: Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages

But a layman sayeth: Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us.

Amen. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life. Thrice. 

Then we chant:
Having beheld the resurrection of Christ, let us worship the holy Lord Jesus, the only Sinless One. We worship Thy cross, O Christ, and Thy holy Resurrection we hymn and glorify; for Thou art our God, and we know none other beside Thee, and we call upon Thy name. O come, all ye faithful, let us worship Christ's holy Resurrection, for behold, through the Cross joy hath come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, we hymn His Resurrection; for, having endured crucifixion, He hath destroyed death by death. Thrice.

The Hypakoe, eighth tone, once: Forestalling the dawn, the women came with Mary, and found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre, and heard from the angel: why seek ye among the dead, as though He were a mortal, Him Who liveth in everlasting light? Behold the grave-clothes. Go quickly and proclaim to the world that the Lord is risen and hath slain death. For He is the Son of God Who saveth mankind.

The Kontakion, eighth tone, once: Though Thou didst descend into the grave, O Immortal One, yet didst Thou destroy the power of hades. And didst arise as victor, O Christ God, calling to the myrrh-bearing women: Rejoice! And giving peace unto Thine apostles: Thou Who dost grant resurrection to the fallen.

The Resurrected Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene, telling her "Do not touch me." (source)
And these Troparia, eighth tone, once: In the grave bodily, but in hades with Thy soul as God: in Paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou Who fillest all things, O Christ the Inexpressible.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
How life-giving, how much more beautiful than Paradise, and truly more resplendent than any royal palace was Thy tomb shown to be, O Christ, the source of our resurrection.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
O sanctified and divine tabernacle of the Most High, rejoice! For through thee, O Theotokos, joy is given to them that cry: Blessed art thou among women, O all-spotless Lady.
Lord, have mercy. Forty times.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word, the very Theotokos, thee do we magnify.
If a Priest Serve: In the name of the Lord, Father bless. 
PRIEST: O Lord Jesus Christ our God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy most pure Mother, of our holy and God-bearing fathers, and of all the saints, have mercy on us.
If a Reader's service: O Lord bless.
Amen. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life. (thrice) Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
If a Priest Serve: Father bless. 
PRIEST: May Christ our true God, Who rose from the dead, and trampled down death by death and on those in the tombs bestowed life, through the intercessions of His most Pure Mother, and of all the saints have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and the Lover of mankind.
If a Reader's service: O Lord bless!

In this manner, the Third and Sixth Hours are chanted before Liturgy. Likewise also before Vespers, for the Ninth Hour; and once for Compline. Likewise for the Midnight Office. It is a pious tradition to substitute the Paschal Hours for morning and evening prayers during all of Bright week. In this way, we take a little rest from long prayers, but do not neglect to give joyous thanks to God, so as not to fall into despondency and gluttony, as we partake of festive foods.
The Resurrected Christ appearing to the Disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by dead, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!