Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A New Year's Blessing from Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra

The Adoration of the Magi (source)
"My brethren, I wish that the new year will be full of joy and happiness. I wish you many years. Many years, that your joy may increase along with your happiness. Many years that will bring to you and to your families the good things of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of the Patriarchs, the Prophets, of the Saints. May all good things come to your village, to your city and to your homes. I know that you are a people beloved by God. Many years, therefore, that we might say, as our Megalynarion says: 'Magnify my soul, Basil, the Great one among the Hierarchs', for he gave us an experience of God that has held fast in our lives. You open the heavens, O Basil, and revealer of heavenly things, and reveal to us that God has descended from there and has come among us."
-Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra (+2019)

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

"Time is like a field..."

Icon of the Parable of Christ the Sower (source)
"Time is like a field, and as we are walking, we are sprinkling seeds. Our words, our actions, our activities are the seed that falls into the ground. If we turn around and look, with trembling we will understand our work. What was grown in our life? Whatever we have sown!"
-Metropolitan Pavlos of Siatista (+2019)

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

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom on the New Year

Icon of Christ: "I am the light of the world..." (source)
"At the beginning of the war, King George I said words that we could say at the start of every new year. In his message to the Nation, he read a quote:
'I told the man standing in the doorway to the new year: give me a light to go out with safety into the unknown, and he responded: 'Go out into the light, and place your hand in the hand of God, for it would be better for you than any other light, and more safe than a well-known road.'
"This I call on us to do, and today, let us make a decision to be faithful to our calling, and to begin the New Year with courage. Amen."
-Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Souroz

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

"The Savior, condescending to the race of mankind..."

The Circumcision of Christ (source)
The Savior, condescending to the race of mankind, accepted to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, and did not refuse the circumcision of His flesh, He Who is eight days old from His Mother, but beginningless from the Father. Let us, O faithful, cry out to Him: You are our God, have mercy on us.
-Idiomelon from the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ
The Circumcision of Christ (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Christmas Prayer by Blessed Makrina of Portaria

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The Nativity of Christ (source)
"Tonight, I pray that we see Christ being born within us, that He might become our guide until our final breath. Good vigil, may the Grace of God give us strength. Angels and Archangels and Principalities will join chorus tonight. Noetically, may we be kneeling in Bethlehem, at the Manger, at the Star, where the vigil lasts the whole night with glory. Let us embrace Him, let us caress our little Christ like Panagia. Let Him skip like an infant within our souls. Let us show Him our love and may a spiritual and bodily rebirth occur for us. I wish you many years blessed by the Lord."
-Blessed Eldress Makrina of Portaria (+1995)
Blessed Eldress Makrina of Portaria (+1995) (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Gregory Palamas: "This is the Festival of the virgin birth!"

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The Nativity of Christ (source)
"This is the Festival of the virgin birth! Our address must be exalted therefore in accordance with the greatness of the feast, and enter into the mystery, as far as this is accessible and permissible, and time allows, that something of its inner power might be revealed even to us. Please strive, brethren, to lift up your minds as well, that they may better perceive the light of divine knowledge, as though brightly illuminated by a holy star. For today I see equality of honour between heaven and earth, and a way up for all those below to things above, matching the condescension of those on high. However great the heaven of heavens may be, or the upper waters which form a roof over the celestial regions, or any heavenly place, state or order, they are no more marvellous or honourable than the cave, the manger, the water sprinkled on the infant and His swaddling clothes. For nothing done by God from the beginning of time was more beneficial to all or more divine than Christ’s nativity, which we celebrate today. The pre-eternal and uncircumscribed and almighty Word is now born according to the flesh, without home, without shelter, without dwelling, and placed as a babe in the manger, seen by men’s eyes, touched by their hands, and wrapped in layers of swaddling bands. He is not a spiritual creature coming into being after previously not existing; nor flesh which is brought to birth but will soon perish; nor flesh and mind united to form a rational creature, but God and flesh mingled unconfusedly by the divine Mind to form the existence of one theandric hypostasis, who entered the Virgin’s womb for a time. By the good pleasure of the Father an the co-operation of the Spirit, the Word who transcends being came into being in this womb and by means of it, and now He is delivered from it and born as an infant, not loosing but preserving the signs of virginity. He is born without suffering, as He was conceived without passion, for as His mother was shown to be above the pleasure of passion when she conceived, so she is above grievous pains when she gives birth. “Before the pain of travail came upon her, she escaped it” as Isaiah says (Isaiah 66.7 LXX), and she brought forth in the flesh the pre-eternal Word. Not only is His divinity inscrutable, but the manner in which He was united with the flesh is past understanding, His condescension unsurpassable, and the human nature He assumed divinely, ineffably sublime, and so far above all thought and speech, that it does not admit of any comparison with creation. Even though you see in the flesh the child born to the Maid who knew no husband, He is still beyond compare. It says, “He is fair in beauty beside the sons of men” (Psalm 45.2 LXX). It does not say “fairer” but simply “fair”, so as not to compare incomparable things: the nature of God Himself to that of mere men..."
-Excerpt from the Homily on the Nativity of Christ by St. Gregory Palamas

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!

"Come, let us rejoice in the Lord as we relate this present mystery..."

Christ is born! Glorify Him!
The Nativity of Christ (source)
Come, let us rejoice in the Lord as we relate this present mystery: the middle wall of partition has been dissolved, the flaming sword has been turned back, and the Cherubim depart from the tree of life, and I partake of the nourishment of Paradise, which I was deprived of due to disobedience. For the unchangeable icon of the Father, the character of His infinity, takes on the form of a servant, coming forth from the unwed Mother, without suffering loss. For that which He was, He has remained, being truly God, and that which He was not, He has taken on, becoming man out of love for mankind. Let us cry out to Him: O You Who were born of a Virgin, O God, have mercy on us.
-Idiomelon from the Stichera for the Nativity of Christ

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!

Friday, December 20, 2019

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son..."

The Prophet Isaiah prophesying of the Nativity of Christ from the Most-Holy Theotokos (source)
And the Lord again spoke to Achaz, saying,  Ask for thyself a sign of the Lord thy God, in the depth or in the height.  And Achaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord.  And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; is it a little thing for you to contend with men? and how do ye contend against the Lord?  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Emmanuel.  Butter and honey shall he eat, before he knows either to prefer evil or choose the good.  For before the child shall know good or evil, he refuses evil, to choose the good; and the land shall be forsaken which thou art afraid of because of the two kings.And the Lord said to me, Take to thyself a volume of a great new book, and write in it with a man's pen concerning the making a rapid plunder of spoils; for it is near at hand.  And make me witnesses of faithful men, Urias, and Zacharias the son of Barachias.  And I went in to the prophetess; and she conceived, and bore a son. And the Lord said to me, Call his name, Spoil quickly, plunder speedily.  For before the child shall know how to call his father or his mother, one shall take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria before the king of the Assyrians. and he shall take away from Juda every man who shall be able to lift up his head, and every one able to accomplish anything; and his camp shall fill the breadth of thy land, O God with us. Know, ye Gentiles, and be conquered; hearken ye, even to the extremity of the earth: be conquered, after ye strengthened yourselves; for even if ye should again strengthen yourselves, ye shall again be conquered. And whatsoever counsel ye shall take, the Lord shall bring it to nought; and whatsoever word ye shall speak, it shall not stand among you: for God is with us.
-Isaiah 7:10-16, 8:1-4, 8-10, read at Great Vespers for the Nativity of Christ
The Prophet Isaiah prophesying of the Nativity of Christ from the Most-Holy Theotokos (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Elder Symeon Kragiopoulos: How to Prepare for Christmas

The Nativity of Christ (source)
God the Father gives us His Son for a gift. What shall we offer to God? We think we do something important. We do nothing important. Everything is of God. However, God hasn’t given you sin. You, the man, commit sins. That’s the only thing we have, then: our sins. And still, that’s what God asks of us. God asks of us to give Him our sins, in order for Him to forgive them. You should repent these days and say: “My God, take all the burdens off my soul, take them away from me: my thoughts, my emotions, my experiences, my actions, everything. Take, my God, away all things sinful, in order to forgive them”. This is the way to prepare for Christmas.
-Elder Symeon Kragiopoulos (+2015)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given..."

Icon of Christ "The Angel of Great Counsel" (source)
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
-Isaiah 9:6-7, read at Great Vespers for the Nativity of Christ
Christ "The Angel of Great Counsel" (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Fr. Andreas Konanos: "When things don't go your way"

This is a great talk from the noted speaker, Fr. Andreas Konanos (in Greek, with English subtitles) on the topic of "When things don't go your way". Fr. Andreas' humor, wisdom, and joyful anecdotes and advice are very helpful, as he discusses how to face difficulties in life, illnesses, afflictions, temptations and how to achieve peace and endurance amidst trials (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Akathist to St. Sophrony of Essex

St. Sophrony of Essex (source)
Akathist to St. Sophrony of Essex
Translated from the original Greek text, written by an anonymous Athonite Monk, "To the newly-revealed Venerable Elder Sophrony, descended from Russia, who lived in asceticism on Athos, and shown in all things as a spiritual guide in Europe as well, and in Great Britain, showed the ways of godly knowledge in the Holy Spirit, and founded there the Holy Monastery of the Precious Forerunner and Baptist John."
Sts. Sophrony of Essex and Silouan the Athonite, from the Monastery of St. John in Essex (source)
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You were fortified by the Spirit from childhood, O Sophrony, and were zealous for the ways of Christ. You fled the delusion of Asia, and were made beautiful among the sacred monks of Athos, and the light of your philosophy, divine words and books has shown forth from the East to the West.
You were shown to all to be a light-bearing guide, O Sophrony, beloved of Christ, (3) and now in the Heavens, you dwell with all the Saints entreating Christ. Do not cease to seek salvation for all who cry out:
Rejoice, you who shown forth in the last years,
Rejoice, you who lived a perfect life.
Rejoice, you who left the land of Russia, O Sophrony,
Rejoice, speaker to Orthodox flocks.
Rejoice, you who beheld the Uncreated Light greatly from childhood,
Rejoice, you who experienced the abyss of darkness and terrible alienation.
Rejoice, you who fled New Age religion as a sparrow,
Rejoice, vessel teaching to all Orthodox teachings.
Rejoice, you who are governed by the Light of Christ,
Rejoice, you who drive far away the darkness of Satan.
Rejoice, O Blessed Sophrony.
Having fled Orthodoxy and seeking salvation, you then returned to Christ in truth, and wholly offered your soul to the way of repentance and struggles everywhere, having left Russia and France, you hastened speedily to Athos, crying out: Alleluia.
Desiring divine knowledge philosophically, you sought [Truth] in drawing and art, but you later found the divine Giver of Wisdom [Christ] in the monastic life, as you rejoiced in the cenobium as a holy witness of His. Therefore, we cry out to you:
Rejoice, you who hastened to the flock of Christ,
Rejoice, you who fled vain deeds.
Rejoice, you who were zealous for the mindset of obedience,
Rejoice, you who joined the city of Christ.
Rejoice, for you went to the Monastery of St. Panteleimon on Athos,
Rejoice, for you followed the path of this Saint and Martyr.
Rejoice, for you looked upon St. Silouan as your Elder,
Rejoice, for you who beheld monasticism as rising above the passions.
Rejoice, you who had tears of mourning,
Rejoice, you who were set aflame with prayers and nepsis.
Rejoice, you who were not swayed by the bitterness of the demons,
Rejoice, you who were proved a soldier of Christ.
Rejoice, O Sophrony, bearer of pain.
To you was given the greatly-multiplied Grace of Monasticism, and later the Priesthood, O Sophrony, and you became a father, and guide and shepherd of monks on Athos, offering the remission of offenses through the power of Christ, to Whom you cried out: Alleluia.
Monks readily hastened to gather guidance from you on Athos, O Sophrony, while you desired a deserted place, which you found on the cliffs of Athos, where you dwelt in asceticism, bearing tears, and therefore we say to you:
Rejoice, friend of the wise and of the Saints,
Rejoice, utter enemy of the demons.
Rejoice, minister of the people bearing the name of Christ,
Rejoice, utterly perfect physician of monastics.
Rejoice, you who lived philosophically with nepsis and ceaseless prayers,
Rejoice, you whose nous was enriched with Christ and sacred theology.
Rejoice, you who bore afflictions and pains,
Rejoice, you who endured many illnesses and evils for Christ.
Rejoice, for you were meek and filled with grace,
Rejoice, you who struck the ungraceful demons.
Rejoice, you who lived amidst wars,
Rejoice, you who consumed all the twisted ways of the demons.
Rejoice, O mighty Sophrony.
With the zeal of the Divine Spirit, and with grateful obedience of your Monastery, O Sophrony, you left for the land of France, serving the flock of Christ as a spirit-bearer, and you wisely saved souls, singing to the Holy Spirit: Alleluia.
St. Sophrony of Essex (source)
You traveled to Britain, O Sophrony, preparing a house for the Orthodox by founding the Monastery of St. John the Baptist, giving to drink of strange [good] wine to those of another place and amidst other faiths, and therefore we say to you:
Rejoice, you who lived the Orthodox faith,
Rejoice, you who were shown perfect in deeds.
Rejoice, you who lived as an Equal-to-the-Apostles in Britain,
Rejoice, you who sowed the Light of the Divine Spirit.
Rejoice, you who mystically filled the mountain with monastics,
Rejoice, example for traveling among those of other faiths.
Rejoice, you who abided in the traditions of the Church,
Rejoice, you who fled heresies of other faiths.
Rejoice, spring of water of the Spirit,
Rejoice, unsleeping flame and lamp.
Rejoice, you whose words and deeds shown before all,
Rejoice, you who joined together deeds and words.
Rejoice, O philosopher Sophrony.
With your theological tongue, you expressed the theology of Apostles of the Savior of old, and bearing the Divine Spirit like them, you steadfastly led the nations to Christ, preaching repentance, as they cried out with you to Christ: Alleluia.

I honor how Christ bestows equal grace upon the humble mourners of these last days as those of the first, and He lifts us up above all dangerous offenses, O Sophrony, as you said to all, and we say again to you:
Rejoice, imitator of Christ in all things,
Rejoice, you who lived the faith of the Saints.
Rejoice, you who received the Spirit of theologians,
Rejoice, you who lived holy humility.
Rejoice, divine liturgist bearing purity of soul,
Rejoice, struggler cutting off a multitude of temptations.
Rejoice, discerning ascetic and slayer of the passions,
Rejoice, you who wisely governed the nature of the body.
Rejoice, you who kept the light yoke of Christ,
Rejoice, enemy mocking the demons.
Rejoice, you who kept your nous in the tortures of Hades,
Rejoice, you who were lifted up through prayer and hope.
Rejoice, O most-steadfast Sophrony.
You obtained a nous of the Venerable Saints, a nous of Christ, as the Apostle Paul, moved by the Spirit, bore pains in his life in the Christ, and through the grace of the Resurrection of Christ, you thusly taught all your children to ever do this, chanting together: Alleluia.
You distinguished the worldly sadness of death from the joy-making sorrow of pure mourning, clearly showing the causes of both, the former from love of self, a bitter and atheistic death, while the second, one instead of hope and joy. Therefore, we cry out to you:
Rejoice, O comforting Sophrony,
Rejoice, disciple and rhetor of Christ.
Rejoice, scribe of Christ through the Divine Spirit,
Rejoice, author of wise books for the nations.
Rejoice, you who mystically passed on the life of St. Silouan,
Rejoice, for you showed the way of strict asceticism in secret.
Rejoice, you who passed on the way of the Venerable Athonite Fathers,
Rejoice, you who widened the array of all the Saints.
Rejoice, lifter up from the abyss of offenses,
Rejoice, speedy deliverer of souls.
Rejoice, you who granted freedom to souls,
Rejoice, you who showed the compassion of Christ.
Rejoice, O Sophrony, taught by God.
Beholding the rage of the legion of demons at the repentance of your former child, as a good Briton and a faithful servant of Athos, as a priest but afflicted in spirit, you approached St. Silouan for the wounded one, seeking salvation, crying out: Alleluia.
St. Sophrony of Essex (source)
Showing forth victory of the Spirit, you counselled your prodigal son to return to Christ, and even though he was far from you, and crying out in many ways, you wrote to him extensively of the Orthodox Faith to cast out delusion, as one bearing Christ. Therefore, we cry out to you:
Rejoice, book of repentance,
Rejoice, school of salvation.
Rejoice, you who cast off the coverings of delusion,
Rejoice, you who proclaim divine purity.
Rejoice, enlightener of the young Britain living amidst darkness,
Rejoice, light for the people living in the darkness of the world.
Rejoice, you who were adorned with hesychasm and asceticism,
Rejoice, you who lived hesychastically in the community of the nations.
Rejoice, lifter up from the abyss of heresies,
Rejoice, deliverer for those fallen into schism.
Rejoice, who in secret were mystically lifted up,
Rejoice, you who shine forth with divine Light.
Rejoice, O ever-memorable Sophrony.
The whole world has come to know your God-inspired books, which are easily read, but filled with words of wisdom of the ancient Scriptures, along with struggles of the ancient Saints, which we have come to know, as you put deeds together with words, as we chant together: Alleluia.
You appeared before everyone in the world, O blessed one, being gladsome with the Uncreated Light, and you interacted with others spiritually as true members of Christ, revealing the Church, from which you are honored, as you hear:
Rejoice, worker of noetic prayer,
Rejoice, mystic of Christ and the Saints.
Rejoice, deposer of atheistic civilization,
Rejoice, you who stand before the Saints with perfect deeds.
Rejoice, you who bestowed godly and continual vigilance,
Rejoice, you who kept an appearance of humility and joy of Christ.
Rejoice, you who mightily cast away laziness,
Rejoice, you who drove out all depression.
Rejoice, our perfect teacher,
Rejoice, defender of the poor and afflicted.
Rejoice, speedy helper towards salvation,
Rejoice, fellow traveler on the light path [of Christ].
Rejoice, O most-famed Sophrony.
You cast out fear, and vainglorious and false shame in the face of your mighty humility, and those who were lost in the labyrinth of delusion, having heard your wise sermons taught by God, were led to hymn Christ, singing: Alleluia.
You were zealous for the words of the illiterate Apostles, Prophets, and Venerable Saints, O Sophrony, whose former struggles you entered into, as the Savior said, being continually inspired by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we say to you:
Rejoice, you who traveled the narrow path,
Rejoice, you who led to the spacious way of Christ.
Rejoice, you who bore witness with the Martyrs,
Rejoice, you who mystically endured as a Saint.
Rejoice, you who were zealous for the life of the Venerable Savas,
Rejoice, you who kept the strength of Pachomios in many ways.
Rejoice, you who traveled the middle path of Euthymios,
Rejoice, you who were obedient like the most-radiant Theodosios.
Rejoice, follower of the Venerable Saints of Athos,
Rejoice, you who joined the lights of Sinai.
Rejoice, light-bearer for Monastics,
Rejoice, pilot for storm-tossed Ascetics.
Rejoice, O most-venerable Sophrony.
You filled the choirs of Monastics and Laity with seed, as they desired to imitate your life that imitates Christ, and all generations have reaped the harvest of Christ, as the pious Orthodox everywhere hasten to chant along with you: Alleluia.
St. Sophrony of Essex, holding an icon of his beloved spiritual father, St. Silouan the Athonite (source)
You ever hasten to multiply steadfastness in soul a hundred-fold, as one of the God-bearing Fathers of the Savior, and an offspring of the Russian Land of St. Sergios, as the founder of Monasteries in the West which have multiplied, as we say to you:
Rejoice, cycle of Monastics,
Rejoice, intercessor for those repenting.
Rejoice, follower of Ascetics of Britain,
Rejoice, fellow traveler with Orthodox Europe.
Rejoice, you who joined the hundred monasteries of the Venerable Columba,
Rejoice, for you possessed many virtues like the Venerable Cuthbert.
Rejoice, fellow mystic with St. Neot of Cornwall,
Rejoice, sharer of the virtues of St. Aidan.
Rejoice, follower of the Venerable Nectan,
Rejoice, equal in way of the Wise Bede.
Rejoice, sharer of the all-joyous Ninian,
Rejoice, you who also joined St. Daniel of Wales.
Rejoice, O most-reverent Sophrony.

You did not fall from divine heights, as one bearing the Grace of humility, as you lived with unfailing love, and you lived as a guide and shepherd, driving away all enemies and demons from us, through the help of the Spirit, O Sophrony, as we hasten to chant together to Christ: Alleluia.
Shining with the light of Christ before all, you proceeded to the ranks of all the Saints, with whom your soul has come to dwell, O chaste Sophrony, shining with the Spirit. As you are filled with Him, intercede for those who praise you with these things:
Rejoice, discerning forms of Light,
Rejoice, shower of perfect illumination.
Rejoice, you who dispersed shadows of falsehood,
Rejoice, you who showed the ways of life.
Rejoice, you who continually covered from the darkness of delusion,
Rejoice, you who opened for many the light-bearing way of Christ.
Rejoice, you who burned up the delusion of East Asia,
Rejoice, you who sanctified the lands of Western Europe.
Rejoice, you who honored St. Athanasios the Athonite,
Rejoice, you who kept nepsis like St. Peter [the Athonite].
Rejoice, fellow mystic with St. Martin of Tours,
Rejoice, pointer towards the famed St. Benedict.
Rejoice, O teacher Sophrony.
Rejoicing in the Heavens above, you have not abandoned us, O Sophrony, but you pray that we, the poor and afflicted ones who hymn you, might be saved, have become proclaimers of your God-pleasing life, and read your books, bearing the Divine Scriptures, chanting: Alleluia.
Into a world frozen by mania against Christ, you have been granted to us as warmth, O Sophrony, as you help us, along with the Saints who everywhere, in all things and always, have taught the ways and words of the One Church, teaching us to say:
Rejoice, founder of the Monastery of the Baptist,
Rejoice, intercessor for our souls,
Rejoice, golden-winged eagle of the Spirit,
Rejoice, you who appear as a lion of Divine Grace.
Rejoice, ox plowing the souls of many Christians,
Rejoice, divine Shepherd, delivering us from evils.
Rejoice, friend of the milk-bearing Saints of the West,
Rejoice, divine nourisher of the Venerable Saints of Britain.
Rejoice, perfect son of St. Silouan,
Rejoice, our Father and all-perfect one.
Rejoice, proclaimer and shower of the light of Christ,
Rejoice, deliverer from darkness and sadness.
Rejoice, God-inspired Sophrony.

O Father Sophrony, who lived philosophically, joining together words and reverent deeds, (3), O theologian of the Divine Light, and worker of joy-making sorrow, pray ceaselessly for nepsis for us, O perfect teacher, as you chant together with the Angels: Alleluia.

And the Kontakion again. 
St. Sophrony of Essex (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

"But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth..."

The Holy Prophet Daniel's Prophecy of the Incarnation of Christ (source)
"You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it smote the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces; then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.*** "This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure."
-Daniel 2:31-36; 44-45, read at Great Vespers for the Nativity of Christ
"***This vision clearly portrayed through the mountain the height of the Virgin's holiness and the power of the Holy Spirit which overshadowed her. Through the image of the Stone, Christ was portrayed, Who was seedlessly born of her, and Who by His coming as the Godman would shatter and destroy all the kingdoms of the world, which were portrayed through the image; and He would raise them that believe in Him into His Heavenly Kingdom, which is eternal and everlasting."
The Prophet Daniel, holding the scroll of his prophecy of the "Mountain cut out by no human hand", foreshadowing the Incarnation of Christ through the Theotokos (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Friday, December 13, 2019

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse..."

Icon of Christ held by the Theotokos, "The Root of Jesse" (source)
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.
-Isaiah 11:1-10, read at Great Vespers for the Nativity of Christ

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

Thursday, December 12, 2019

"Shining with heavenly rays, and with the power of Christ...

St. Spyridon the Wonderworker depicted helping a multitude of children (source)
Shining with heavenly rays, and with the power of Christ, you bestow healings of soul and body to those who ever celebrate your memory in faith, O wonderworking Father, blessed by God. Do not cease to pray for us.
-Prosomoion of the Praises from the Feast of St. Spyridon the Wonderworker


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

Full Video of the Funeral of Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Here is the video recording of the Funeral Service and interment of Elder Ephraim of Arizona on December 11th, 2019. Officiating were Archbishop Elpidophoros of America and Metropolitans Alexios of Atlanta and Isaiah of Denver (GOA), along with the Abbot of Philotheou Monastery, as the representative of Patriarch Bartholomew, and a multitude of Abbots, Abbesses, Monks, Nuns and spiritual children of the Elder from around the world. May his memory be eternal, and may we have his blessing! (source)
Elder Ephraim depicted offering a multitude of monasteries to Christ, through the prayers of his Elder, St. Joseph the Hesychast (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A dream of Elder Ephraim

Elder Ephraim of Arizona (source)
Bishop Athanasios of Lemesou, before his most recent trip to America, had a dream. He saw Elder Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona passing away and going towards Paradise, and being crowned with three crowns: one of Martyrdom, one of Righteousness, and one of an Apostle. When he awoke, he called an Athonite Father to tell him of this, and he told him that he had seen the exact same dream.
Metropolitan Athanasios of Lemesou, at his recent visit to Elder Ephraim in Arizona several months ago (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Reflection of Joy-making Sorrow at the Repose of Elder Ephraim of Arizona

The blessed synodeia of Elder Joseph the Hesychast (seated), surrounded by Elders (right to left) Ephraim, Athanasios, Joseph of Vatopedi, Arsenios and Charalampos of Dionysiou (source)
A Pious Reflection of Joy-making Sorrow at the Repose of Elder Ephraim of Arizona
by Stelios Koukos
At moments like these, we feel that we should both be crying and joyous! With tears of contrition!
That the only thing proper to these spiritual individuals is contrition and being moved. And, most likely this is the only way for us to feel. But this is also the way to meet them.
That, knowing the bodily and spiritual struggles--many times surpassing nature--struggles, but also "intoxication" and eros to come to know Christ, one becomes inept and inebriated from such a great struggle and violence for the One Beloved [Christ].
And this violence and struggle and frenzied love cannot and should not be properly described, nor neglected due to the wondrous experiences that have occurred nor the blessings and graces that have been received. That their philotimo is great and awesome, and this gives birth to the Spirit.
Their love of struggles cannot be described, and the graces that they received are also incomparable and indescribable, and surpass space and time!
However, "where God wills, the laws of nature are overcome"!
Elder Ephraim as a young monk (source)
The dormition of Elder Ephraim, the memory of the Venerable Joseph the Hesychast!
The memory of their whole venerable synodeia: Fr. Arsenios, Fr. Athanasios, Fr. Theophylaktos, Fr. Joseph of Vatopedi, Papa-Charalampos of Dionysiou, and the Venerable Ephraim of Katounakia.
One further venerable prayer rope is perfected, as befitting monastics, disciples and Elders that have most importantly been worked during the course of their lives, in caves, makeshift dwelling-places, huts and kalyves of Athos.
There they wrote with an uncreated ink of their spiritual feats in deserts, dens and Athonite crags.
They shown forth as novices, disciples, monks and Elders, with a robe shining with light, and an offering of uncreated gifts!
And thus, they themselves shine throughout the world amidst the world's vanity!
It is worth experiencing where they lived!
Yes, they have been justified, and our life is unjustifiable!
Elder Ephraim as Abbot of Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos (source)
And finally, one can see, somewhat, from within their struggle to know a little, even the smallest amount, of course, of their divine grace which they were made worthy of!
And this little empathy serves as another gift and participation in a mystery!
This gives you the ability to commune and to touch their blessed and venerable giving, which they were granted as the fruit of grace!
Their ascesis, obedience, ceaseless prayer, fasting, prostrations, vigils--were corresponding with doxology! And looking forward to the Resurrection!
We are speaking of the Blessed Father Ephraim, and we are greeting his Venerable Elder Joseph, together with his synodeia. And this resembles his dormition, or to be proper, we should speak of his end as a "journey". A journey, but where?
To Paradise, and to the bosom of his Fathers. A journey of return, as young children of Adam.
"Journeying towards eternity", as St. Seraphim of Sarov says!
Because of this, the Venerable Joseph, with his fellow ascetic Fr. Arsenios lived a ravenous and ragged existence, seeking their corresponding necessities according to their measure. And did relent, even of the clothes they wore, but were arrayed with light as their garment and eternal raiment.
It was sufficient for them to cover their every human weakness and nakedness and to communicate everywhere the light of Christ! Him they were worthy of!
And that "the Light of Christ illumines all!"
And He fulfilled their every weakness, abandonment and pain with Himself eternally, in a manner which we could not bear or hide upon the earth.
Elder Ephraim of Arizona (source)
Children of Paradise, our Elders, in the caves and sands of their blessed and ascetical toil and the Divine grace of Athos! There where are our taxi cabs towards eternity and the return to their homes, did not meet the terrible "Nobody", but an Elder of the same nature as ourselves, a citizen of the radiant dwellings a Paradise. In other words, a leader partly of earth and partly in heaven!
A sure guide and teacher and intercessor, but also an unmercenary standing as an intercessor for the sick homes and dwelling-places of their homelands and country. A taxi cab of return which for them was the unending personal and communal journey.
This seems like it has just ended! But it has just begun!
And behold, suddenly we are together for the first time after 60 years and four months. Since the repose of the Venerable Joseph the Hesychast on August 15/28th, 1959.
Let us remember the impatience of the Venerable one when he appeared to his fellow ascetic Fr. Arsenios and asked him: "For how long will we live apart?"
And the simple Elder Arsenios responded: "Do you think it's in my hands?"
The synodeia is complete. A venerable synodeia, full and wholly shining.
And the beloved Johnny, Fr. Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona, the newest of the synodeia of the remaining beloved ones, having received the message of the canonization of his Venerable Elder, hastens to travel to him!
Elder Ephraim of Arizona (source)
He came to know this of course, how the heavens are rejoicing together, they are spiritually fragrant and rejoicing!
As were the caves of Athos where Joseph the Hesychast lived through asceticism his blessed hesychia, he has made the Heavens like these.
In the mean time, he did not neglect to honor his children, and to open the door of Divine mercy for them and to make them extraordinary communicants of Divine experiences...
Elder Ephraim has reposed in the Lord.
And our mind goes to the reception of 19-year old Johnny by the Venerable Joseph the Hesychast on Athos. The last little lamb of his fold, who however, would later play a leading role throughout the territory of the Garden of the Most-Holy Theotokos. This, the Venerable Joseph saw, as he said: "from these little huts will come Abbots".
And his words were not idle talk, but were a work of divine illumination.
And this John from Volos, Johnny, the monk and Hieromonk, Father Ephraim would gather around him by his feet a multitude of monks, as the Elder of a cell at first, which became a larger cell, and then an Abbot--through the mouth of the Venerable One, of the Monastery of Philotheou, the lover of God.
And he did not neglect, as a new Abraham, to sacrifice of his flock--and not only optionally--and showed forth new Abbots, new Elders and Athonite monasteries! Repopulating the Monasteries of Karakallou, Konstamonitou and Xeropotamou.
And these monasteries were not captured stubbornly, but were inhabited by request in order to renew them and show forth their ancient beauty, and to make them spiritual workshops. The center of their art and way of life, and of the cenobia in general, was the ascesis of noetic prayer.
The small and single-phrased prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me."
Elder Ephraim of Arizona (source)
Thus, this small and simultaneously incomparable workshop of noetic prayer which was founded with the personal struggle and pain by the Elder, and the Venerable Joseph the Hesychast, will bear fruit! They will transform these into large gardens of the Holy Mountain and of the Orthodox Church. And these little huts became monasteries, and were transformed into cenobia from being idiorhythmic!
And this occurred with their brethren as well, with Papa-Charalampos of Dionysiou and Joseph of Vatopedi, who were requested to take on the Monasteries of Dionysiou and Vatopedi!
And what will we say of this "Johnny", Hieromonk Father Ephraim, the Elder of Abbots and Elders of Athos, but beyond this, a new Apostolic Mission seems like it was totally unforeseen (We do not know if the Venerable Joseph the Hesychast foresaw this. It is a worthy question!)
Perhaps, however, it was not some mission but more so a state and grace-filled essence? Otherwise, how could he have become a fisher of men, in other words, an Apostle, if his presence were not one Apostolic, Missionary!
Thus, when he found himself in America, he would fish for men there, not only from Orthodox peoples, but from unchurched, hungry and thirsty people--if not starving and desperate spiritually--people from other nations. That they might be one flock and one shepherd, in the larger and greatest flock with One Shepherd [Christ], "that they might be one!"
We remember, however, that his children on Athos began to feel like orphans as Elder Ephraim was gone for long stretches of time in the USA and Canada. They could not be consoled, not even when St. Paisios the Athonite praised the work of their Elder in America! And even the number alone, of 19 monasteries (17 in the USA and 2 in Canada) serves as a spiritual feat!
But also the Venerable Porphyrios allegedly expressed favor for the Blessed Elder in America, and his potential to attract Americans to the Orthodox Church.
Elder Ephraim of Arizona (source)
A peaceful, spiritual conqueror of America, and even a Christ-bearer, a new Christopher* Columbus, Elder Ephraim of Arizona. Thus he began the "annexation" of America to Orthodoxy. And yes, once again the Hellenism of the mighty Romiosine will once again conquer its conquerors! At a time when American civilization has conquered the world. Even our land [Greece]. But this vacuousness does not give rest, does not console, does not embrace...
It covers the inner emptiness of men by placing garbage below the rug, if not showing trying to show the garbage as treasure!
How beautiful is the video that I had seen before, which showed Elder Ephraim loading food to hasten to feed the poor, homeless and drenched people, to offer to them from the overflowing of his heart.
And behold, once again, the unity of Hesychasm with action. Our Elders and Hesychasts have a burning heart for all of creation, and thus find the way to benefit and multiply for their fellow men even material gifts, not just those spiritual!
And the little Johnny from Volos, the Athonite Elder, Hieromonk Father Ephraim of Arizona and all America, and the former Abbot of the Monastery of Philotheou, he appears to spread out and unfolded Orthodox spirituality in the epicenter of the modern world in the USA. And thus, the Athonite huts have "conquered" the world, offering indelibly the Light of Christ, Who shines upon all!
May we have his blessing!
*Note: The name "Christopher" is translated as "Christ-bearer".
The Body of Blessed Elder Ephraim of Arizona (source)
Please note that the Funeral for Elder Ephraim will be broadcast live at 1PM Mountain Standard Time and 3PM Eastern Standard Time from the Greek site TV4e. May the Lord grant Elder Ephraim of Blessed Paradise, and may we have his blessing!
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!