Friday, March 29, 2019

"What shall we offer to You, O Christ? For You gave us Your Precious Cross..."

The Exaltation of the Precious Cross of Christ (source)
What shall we offer to You, O Christ? For You gave us Your Precious Cross to venerate, on which Your All-holy Blood was spilled, and on which Your Flesh was affixed with nails, which we now embrace, giving thanks to You.
With hymns, let all of the trees of the forest skip for joy for their fellow tree, beholding the Cross being embraced today, on which Christ lifted up His head, as was foretold by the divine David.
You were put to death on the tree that I might find life. O Christ-bearing Cross, my protector unassailable, and mighty strength against the demons, O Cross which we venerate today, we cry out: Sanctify me with your glory.
-from the Matins Canon for the Feast of the Veneration of the Holy Cross
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Porphyrios and the Monastery of Ntaou (Dao) Penteli

The Holy Martyred Fathers of the Monastery of the Pantocrator, Ntaou (Dao) Penteli, martyred on Great and Holy Pascha, and commemorated on Bright Tuesday (or St. Thomas Sunday in other traditions) (source)
On March 9th 1963, as relates the current Abbess Styliani, we came to the Monastery according to the directive of Archbishop of Athens Chrysostom. On March 14th, St. Porphyrios came to our Monastery for the first time. Then he was staying at St. Nicholas in Kallisia, which was once a Metochion (Dependency) of our Monastery. He would come regularly with his spiritual children and many times served liturgy at our Monastery. He related to us that, when he left Mount Athos, after he was ordained a priest, he prayed to God to show him a holy place where men lived the ascetical life and had spiritual experiences. He went throughout many parts of Greece and in the end he came to Pantocrator Monastery. As he said, however, he went to the then Abbot of Penteli Archimandrite Athanasios Kontogianni, and asked him to give him that place, but he cast him away harshly. And because of this he came to St. Nicholas Kallisia nearby in order to come here to pray. From then he "saw" in his sleep and awake, as he related to us, what had occurred here.

He related to us that the venerable Martyrs of our Monastery were not sanctified only with their blood, but that they had holy lives. They were friends with God, they were like the great Monastic Saints Pachomios, Anthony, Ephraim and Isaac the Syrians, Basil the Great and Chrysostom. They did not leave even one minute without communicating with God. He characteristically said:
"Hear what I'm telling you, that in Orthodoxy, there is no holier place. Oh, that you had the eyes to see what occurred here. Wherever we are walking is a Holy Altar (he said looking around), for there is martyrical blood and Holy Relics. They had many ascetical places that reached Marathon. Many destructions occurred from the wrath of the devil. You will see however what will occur later. It will become a great pilgrimage. They will come from the ends of the earth for a miracle."
The Holy Monastery of Ntaou Penteli as it appears today (source)
The Elder told us that, when he bought the land in Milesi, he wanted the land around the Monastery to be bought by spiritual people, so that the sisters wouldn't later have problems.

We loved him and routinely went to see him and get his blessing. Many times we made a trip. The sisters would go in a car to the field across from Papouli's Monastery for a blessing.

One day, the Elder related that he wanted to buy another piece of land, where they are now. In one of our visits to that place, a man approached us to sell the land because he needed the money. In reality, some people helped us to acquire it.

I didn't say anything to Papouli [St. Porphyrios] however. One day when we went to the property we went to the Elder to get his blessing. The sisters received his blessing and then he told me:
"Close the door. Where did you come from?"
"From further down. (I pointed the road)
"From there you came?" the Elder asked.
"From further down" I said afraid.
"Is it large?" he asked and he extended his hands to show the size.
"Two parcels, Elder" I confessed.
"Oh you, I wanted that. It was the ancient Monastery, a most ascetical and holy place. The place in the ancient years was called "Kliza Frouga". How did you get it?"
"God, Elder."
"I wanted Ntaou Penteli, the Monastery of the Pantocrator, and you took it from me! "Kliza Frouga" I wanted and you took this from me. What are we going to do with you***?"
(From the book "The Venerable Porphyrios, published by "Enomeni Romiosini". Source)
***St. Porphyrios is saying this in a loving and joking manner and he continued to guide and support and pray for the Monastery the rest of his life, and continues to do so now from Paradise.
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!

Friday, March 22, 2019

St. Gregory Palamas: "Taste and know that the Lord is bountiful..."

Jesus Christ the Son of God the Savior (source)
Prayer changes from entreaty to thanksgiving, and meditation on the divine truths of faith fills the heart with a sense of jubilation and unimpeachable hope. This hope is a foretaste of future blessings, of which the soul even now receives direct experience, and so it comes to know in part the surpassing richness of God’s bounty, in accordance with the Psalmist’s words, ‘Taste and know that the Lord is bountiful’ (Ps. 34:8). For He is the jubilation of the righteous, the joy of the upright, the gladness of the humble, and the solace of those who grieve because of Him.”
–St. Gregory Palamas, The Philokalia Vol. 4
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Elder Ephraim of Arizona on Love and Truth

"Go to psychiatric hospitals and see how much the people’s souls suffer.
And we, the so-called ‘healthy’ ones, are called to never forget these people!
These people should not be left out of our prayer and care! Let us ask God to send them patience, relief, healing.
We must carry our brethren’s suffering!
If we don’t do that then we don’t have love!
If we forget them then we are outside the love of God!
God tries them in order to bring them into His Kingdom, and He asks us for our support. If they are locked up there, it does not mean we have to abandon them too! Because we can also be there tomorrow!
Let’s think how many people are in the agony of death! Their life is judged and they are examined by their conscience! And they say, ‘What is going to happen now?’
This pain, this agony should become ours!
And then, God, Who searches the reins and the hearts, will remember this love, will seal it and will return it to you!
He will answer, not only in the afterlife, but also in this life, there will be a time when we will also reach a hardship… and He will help us, He will enlighten other people to pray for us, as we did.
We reap what we sow!
Sow wheat, and you will reap wheat!
Sow tares, and you will reap thorns!
The earth gives the farmer back according to the seeds he sows!
Even more, God, the living God, who searches the hearts and the reins, who knows the hidden things of people, He will repay with justice."
"Therefore, having the eyes of our soul open, let us see the Truth!
This is the truth! Let us not be deceived!
When we hold the truth, we are not afraid!
Pilate asked Christ, “Who are you?” [see John 18-19] and many more, like: “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”.
And Christ answered to him: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above”.
“For this cause came I… that I should bear witness unto the truth”. Pilate asked Him, “What is truth?”
And then, Pilate left! Why?
Because he was not worthy to hear Who is the Truth.
One need to be worthy in order to know the Truth.
And He says “The truth will make you free”, from lies and deceit.
When the eyes of the soul will be opened, one will see the truth!
And what is the truth? It is what we say: that we must love our neighbor in a correct way! Not out of force, not with microbes, parasites, or self-interest!
Today, however, mankind needs a Christian and Orthodox truth and love.
We do not love as we should! If we loved correctly, it would have been seen from our deeds!
Our deeds show what our life is like and what our thoughts are about.
That is why, in our hidden work – any Christian must have a hidden spiritual work – we should not miss the essential element called: uninterested and sincere love for our brethren! Not only for the living, but also for the departed!
And the pain of the sick and desperate, and the pain of the one condemned to the judgment of God should become our pain also!
And when it will become our pain, God will heal us!
If you cover for someone, God will cover you! Allow injustice for yourself, but never do injustice! Defeat evil with good!
This is the evangelical law!"
-Transcribed and translated excerpts from two talks by Elder Ephraim of Arizona
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Seraphim of Vyritsa on the sin and repentance of the youth

St. Seraphim of Vyritsa (source)
[St. Seraphim of Vyritsa] loved the youth very much. Then the young people didn't go to church almost at all and the Elder rejoiced very much when they would visit him. Father Seraphim used to say that the role of the youth will be very great in the future revival of the ecclesiasti­cal life. He also used to say that there will come a time when corruption and lewdness among the youth will reach the utmost point. There will hardly be any virgin youth left. They will see their lack of punishment and will think that everything is allowable for them to satis­fy their desires. God will call them, however, and they will realize that it will not be possible for them to con­tinue such a life. Then in various ways they will be led tο God. In many people there will be a tendency to­wards the ascetic life. They who formerly were sinners and alcoholics will fill the churches and they will feel great thirst for the spiritual life. Many will become monastics. The monasteries will open and the churches will be full of believers. The young will go οn ρilgrimages tο the holy lands. That time will be beautiful. That today they are sinning greatly, will lead them tο a deeper repentance. Just like the candle before it goes out, it shines strongly and throws sparks; with its light, it enlightens the surrounding darkness; thus, it will be the Church's life in the last age. And that time is near.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Photios Kontoglou on Panagia as the Humble Queen

The Most-holy Theotokos and Christ surrounded with Angels depicted in the wonderworking icon of Panagia Pantanassa (Queen of All) treasured by Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos (source)
"Panagia is the spiritual adornment of Orthodoxy. For us Greeks [and for all peoples], she is the pained mother, the consolation, the protector, who stands beside us in every circumstance.

"In every part of Greece are built countless churches and monasteries, palaces to this humble Queen, and a multitude of chapels in the mountains, the fields, the islands, that are fragrant from her virginal and spiritual fragrance.

"Within each of these is found her ancient and honored icon with her dark hair and golden face, which receives all of the tears of our tortured faithful, because we have no one else to help us except Panagia: 'we who sin have no one else, who intercedes for us before God, praying endlessly, in ills and all dangers, for us who are laiden with our many sins and mistakes' (Paraklesis to the Theotokos).
"The beauty of the Panagia is not a bodily beauty, but spiritual, because where there is pain there is also found holiness, there alone is spiritual beauty. Bodily beauty brings bodily excitement, but spiritual beauty bring contrition, respect and pure love. This is the beauty which our Panagia has.
"And this beauty is depicted in her [Byzantine] icons which pious men fashion, who fast and chant and are found with contrite heart and spiritual purity.
"In the face of Panagia are depicted this mystical beauty which attracts like a magnet pious souls and brings them silence and consolation."
-Photios Kontoglou (+1965)
Forgive me, and may the Lord forgive us all and grant us a blessed Lent!
Most-holy Theotokos, save us!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

"O Champions of Christ, you make the all-sacred fast even more joyous..."

The Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (source)
O Choir of flames four-times-ten, army wholly chosen by God, you make Lent shine furthermore because of your sacred struggles, sanctifying and enlightening our souls.
The forty-numbered Choir of Martyrs, who would not hymn? For they entered into the waters of the lake bravely, being clenched by the cold, and offered up an ode to the Lord: "Do not let waters drown us in your anger, O Lord, do not let your waters drown us in your anger, O Lover of mankind, but lighten the burden and the bitter wind, for You dyed our feet in Your very own blood, and you have led us, O God, into your eternal mansions, that we might have rest in the bosom of the Patriarch Abraham."
You watered the faithful with the chalice of truth, filled with your own blood, and with the fire of tortures, and the drowning of water. O Four Decades of the Lord, you chanted to the Savior, though separate in bodies, but united in spirit, and you offered yourselves to Christ, while the Mother and bride of God offered her Christ-loving child, who was carried on her shoulders, saying: Come, O Champion, and struggle together with the rest.
O Champions of Christ, you make the all-sacred fast even more joyous through your glorious struggles, for you were Forty in number, and you sanctify the Forty-day Lent, imitating the saving passion through your struggle on behalf of Christ. Therefore, as ones having boldness, intercede that in peace we might meet the Third-day Resurrection of our God and the Savior of our souls.
-Idiomela and Doxastikon from the Matins for the Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste
The Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Elder Aimilianos: Fasting and Prayer as a Longing for God

Jesus Christ, detail (source)
"Longing for God is expressed with fasting, with an empty stomach... Fasting has a unique meaning by expressing the longing for God... The same occurs for prayer. If prayer to myself had meaning, then my prayer life would be a human endeavor, a tendency and revival, it wouldn't be God. My prayer has meaning because it exactly expresses my longing: 'Come and abide in us...', the: 'Where are you, my God?'

"With fasting, vigil, and prayer, chaos and malaise are shown to be our rags before God, as the poor man shows his rags to his fellow man in order for him to have pity on him to help him, or like the blind man cried out to Christ to give him light. Thus, we show our poverty and he ask that He open our eyes in order to understand that we are sinners, that we might repent and so He can forgive us...

"The approach therefore is an uncreated energy, a true projection of His being. Because of this, my life as well is a true communion with the true God. While God acts, I commune with Him. While God is unapproachable, I partake of Him...

"Only the: 'Where are you, my God?', can make visible the invisible presence of God...We give Him our consent, our being, and He directs everything, He kneads us..."
-Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!