Thursday, May 28, 2020

Fr. George Florovsky: "And Ascended into Heaven..."

The Holy Ascension of Christ (source)
V. Rev. George Florovsky, D.D.
“I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God, and Your God” (John 20:17). In these words the Risen Christ described to Mary Magdalene the mystery of His Resurrection. She had to carry this mysterious message to His disciples, “as they mourned and wept” (Mark 16:10). The disciples listened to these glad tidings with fear and amazement, with doubt and mistrust. It was not Thomas alone who doubted among the Eleven. On the contrary, it appears that only one of the Eleven did not doubt—Saint John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” He alone grasped the mystery of the empty tomb at once: “and he saw, and believed” (John 20:8). Even Peter left the sepulcher in amazement, “wondering at that which was come to pass” (Luke 24:12).  
The disciples did not expect the Resurrection. The women did not, either. They were quite certain that Jesus was dead and rested in the grave, and they went to the place “where He was laid,” with the spices they had prepared, “that they might come and anoint Him.” They had but one thought: “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher for us?” (Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1). And therefore, on not finding the body, Mary Magdalene was sorrowful and complained: “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him” (John 20:13). On hearing the good news from the angel, the women fled from the sepulchre in fear and trembling: “Neither said they anything to any man, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). And when they spoke no one believed them, in the same way as no one had believed Mary, who saw the Lord, or the disciples as they walked on their way into the country, (Mark 16:13), and who recognized Him in the breaking of bread. “And afterward He appeared unto the Eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them who had seen Him after He was risen” (Mark 16:10-14).  
From whence comes this “hardness of heart” and hesitation? Why were their eyes so “holden,” why were the disciples so much afraid of the news, and why did the Easter joy so slowly, and with such difficulty, enter the Apostles’ hearts? Did not they, who were with Him from the beginning, “from the baptism of John,” see all the signs of power which He performed before the face of the whole people? The lame walked, the blind saw, the dead were raised, and all infirmities were healed. Did they not behold, only a week earlier, how He raised by His word Lazarus from the dead, who had already been in the grave for four days? Why then was it so strange to them that the Master had arisen Himself? How was it that they came to forget that which the Lord used to tell them on many occasions, that after suffering and death He would arise on the third day?  
The mystery of the Apostles’ “unbelief” is partly disclosed in the narrative of the Gospel: “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel,” with disillusionment and complaint said the two disciples to their mysterious Companion on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:21). They meant: He was betrayed, condemned to death and crucified. The news of the Resurrection brought by the women only “astonished” them. They still wait for an earthly triumph, for an exernal victory. The same temptation possesses their hearts, which first prevented them from accepting “the preaching of the Cross” and made them argue every time the Saviour tried to reveal His mystery to them. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26). It was still difficult to understand this.  
He had the power to arise, why did He allow what that had happened to take place at all? Why did He take upon Himself disgrace, blasphemy and wounds? In the eyes of all Jerusalem, amidst the vast crowds assembled for the Great Feast, He was condemned and suffered a shameful death. And now He enters not into the Holy City, neither to the people which beheld His shame and death, nor to the High Priests and elders, nor to Pilate—so that He might make their crime obvious and smite their pride. Instead, He sends His disciples away to remote Galilee and appears to them there. Even much earlier the disciples wondered, “How is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22). Their wonder continues, and even on the day of His glorious Ascension the Apostles question the Lord, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They still did not comprehend the meaning of His Resurrection, they did not understand what it meant that He was “ascending” to the Father. Their eyes were opened but later, when “the promise of the Father” had been fulfilled.   In the Ascension resides the meaning and the fullness of Christ’s Resurrection.  
The Lord did not rise in order to return again to the fleshly order of life, so as to live again and commune with the disciples and the multitudes by means of preaching and miracles. Now he does not even stay with them, but only “appears” to them during the forty days, from time to time, and always in a miraculous and mysterious manner. “He was not always with them now, as He was before the Resurrection,” comments Saint John Chrysostom. “He came and again disappeared, thus leading them on to higher conceptions. He no longer permitted them to continue in their former relationship toward Him, but took effectual measures to secure these two objects: That the fact of His Resurrection should be believed, and that He Himself should be ever after apprehended to be greater than man.” There was something new and unusual in His person (cf. John 21:1-14). As Saint John Chrysostom says, “It was not an open presence, but a certain testimony of the fact that He was present.” That is why the disciples were confused and frightened. Christ arose not in the same way as those who were restored to life before Him. Theirs was a resurrection for a time, and they returned to life in the same body, which was subject to death and corruption—returned to the previous mode of life. But Christ arose for ever, unto eternity. He arose in a body of glory, immortal and incorruptible. He arose, never to die, for “He clothed the mortal in the splendor of incorruption.” His glorified Body was already exempt from the fleshly order of existence. “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:42-44). This mysterious transformation of human bodies, of which Saint Paul was speaking in the case of our Lord, had been accomplished in three days. Christ’s work on earth was accomplished. He had suffered, was dead and buried, and now rose to a higher mode of existence. By His Resurrection He abolished and destroyed death, abolished the law of corruption, “and raised with Himself the whole race of Adam.” Christ has risen, and now “no dead are left in the grave” (cf. The Easter Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom). And now He ascends to the Father, yet He does not “go away,” but abides with the faithful for ever (cf. The Kontakion of Ascension). For He raises the very earth with Him to heaven, and even higher than any heaven. God’s power, in the phrase of Saint John Chrysostom, “manifests itself not only in the Resurrection, but in something much stronger.” For “He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).  
And with Christ, man’s nature ascends also.   “We who seemed unworthy of the earth, are now raised to heaven,” says Saint John Chrysostom. “We who were unworthy of earthly dominion have been raised to the Kingdom on high, have ascended higher than heaven, have came to occupy the King’s throne, and the same nature from which the angels guarded Paradise, stopped not until it ascended to the throne of the Lord.” By His Ascension the Lord not only opened to man the entrance to heaven, not only appeared before the face of God on our behalf and for our sake, but likewise “transferred man” to the high places. “He honored them He loved by putting them close to the Father.” God quickened and raised us together with Christ, as Saint Paul says, “and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephes. 2:6). Heaven received the inhabitants of the earth. “The First fruits of them that slept” sits now on high, and in Him all creation is summed up and bound together. “The earth rejoices in mystery, and the heavens are filled with joy.”  
“The terrible ascent....” Terror-stricken and trembling stand the angelic hosts, contemplating the Ascension of Christ. And trembling they ask each other, “What is this vision? One who is man in appearance ascends in His body higher than the heavens, as God.”   Thus the Office for the Feast of the Ascension depicts the mystery in a poetical language. As on the day of Christ’s Nativity the earth was astonished on beholding God in the flesh, so now the Heavens do tremble and cry out. “The Lord of Hosts, Who reigns over all, Who is Himself the head of all, Who is preeminent in all things, Who has reinstated creation in its former order—He is the King of Glory.” And the heavenly doors are opened: “Open, Oh heavenly gates, and receive God in the flesh.” It is an open allusion to Psalms 24:7-10, now prophetically interpreted. “Lift up your heads, Oh ye gates, and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty....” Saint Chrysostom says, “Now the angels have received that for which they have long waited, the archangels see that for which they have long thirsted. They have seen our nature shining on the King’s throne, glistening with glory and eternal beauty.... Therefore they descend in order to see the unusual and marvelous vision: Man appearing in heaven.”  
The Ascension is the token of Pentecost, the sign of its coming, “The Lord has ascended to heaven and will send the Comforter to the world”   For the Holy Spirit was not yet in the world, until Jesus was glorified. And the Lord Himself told the disciples, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you” (John 16:7). The gifts of the Spirit are “gifts of reconciliation,” a seal of an accomplished salvation and of the ultimate reunion of the world with God. And this was accomplished only in the Ascension. “And one saw miracles follow miracles,” says Saint John Chrysostom, “ten days prior to this our nature ascended to the King’s throne, while today the Holy Ghost has descended on to our nature.” The joy of the Ascension lies in the promise of the Spirit. “Thou didst give joy to Thy disciples by a promise of the Holy Spirit.” The victory of Christ is wrought in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.  
“On high is His body, here below with us is His Spirit. And so we have His token on high, that is His body, which He received from us, and here below we have His Spirit with us. Heaven received the Holy Body, and the earth accepted the Holy Spirit. Christ came and sent the Spirit. He ascended, and with Him our body ascended also” (Saint John Chrysostom). The revelation of the Holy Trinity was completed. Now the Spirit Comforter is poured forth on all flesh. “Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made God!” (Saint Basil, On the Holy Spirit, IX). Beginning with the Apostles, and through communion with them—by an unbroken succession—Grace is spread to all believers. Through renewal and glorification in the Ascended Christ, man’s nature became receptive of the spirit. “And unto the world He gives quickening forces through His human body,” says Bishop Theophanes. “He holds it completely in Himself and penetrates it with His strength, out of Himself; and He likewise draws the angels to Himself through the spirit of man, giving them space for action and thus making them blessed.” All this is done through the Church, which is “the Body of Christ;” that is, His “fullness” (Ephesians 1:23). “The Church is the fulfillment of Christ,” continues Bishop Theophanes, “perhaps in the same way as the tree is the fulfillment of the seed. That which is contained in the seed in a contracted form receives its development in the tree.”  
The very existence of the Church is the fruit of the Ascension. It is in the Church that man’s nature is truly ascended to the Divine heights. “And gave Him to be Head over all things” (Ephesians 1:22). Saint John Chrysostom comments: “Amazing! Look again, whither He has raised the Church. As though He were lifting it up by some engine, He has raised it up to a vast height, and set it on yonder throne; for where the Head is, there is the body also. There is no interval of separation between the Head and the body; for were there a separation, then would the one no longer be a body, nor would the other any longer be a Head.” The whole race of men is to follow Christ, even in His ultimate exaltation, “to follow in His train.” Within the Church, through an acquisition of the Spirit in the fellowship of Sacraments, the Ascension continues still, and will continue until the measure is full. “Only then shall the Head be filled up, when the body is rendered perfect, when we are knit together and united,” concludes Saint John Chrysostom.   The Ascension is a sign and token of the Second Coming. “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).The mystery of God’s Providence will be accomplished in the Return of the Risen Lord. In the fulfillment of time, Christ’s kingly power will be revealed and spread over the whole of faithful mankind. Christ bequeathes the Kingdom to the whole of the faithful. “And I appoint unto you a Kingdom as My Father has appointed unto me. That ye may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29-30). Those who followed Him faithfully will sit with Him on their thrones on the day of His coming. “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne” (Rev. 3:21). Salvation will be consummated in the Glory. “Conceive to yourself the throne, the royal throne, conceive the immensity of the privilege. This, at least if we chose, might more avail to startle us, yea, even than hell itself” (Saint John Chrysostom).  
We should tremble more at the thought of that abundant Glory which is appointed unto the redeemed, than at the thought of the eternal darkness. “Think near Whom Thy Head is seated....” Or rather, Who is the Head. In very truth, “wondrous and terrible is Thy divine ascension from the mountain, O Giver of Life.” A terrible and wondrous height is the King’s throne. In face of this height all flesh stands silent, in awe and trembling. “He has Himself descended to the lowest depths of humiliation, and raised up man to the height of exaltation.”What then should we do? “If thou art the body of Christ, bear the Cross, for He bore it” (Saint John Chrysostom).“With the power of Thy Cross, Oh Christ, establish my thoughts, so that I may sing and glorify Thy saving Ascension.” Originally published in Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 # 3, 1954.
The Ascension of Christ (source)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

"O Lord, wishing to fulfill the mystery of Your economy..."

The Ascension of Christ, depicted with the Holy Trinity, the Preparation of the Throne, and various Saints (source)
O Lord, wishing to fulfill the mystery of Your economy, You took Your Disciples up to the Mount of Olives, and behold, You departed for the firmament of Heaven, You Who had become poor for me, and You were lifted up, therefore, You did not leave us, but You sent down Your All-Holy Spirit, to enlighten our souls.
-Idiomelon of the Stichera from the Great Vespers of the Ascension

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

"You were led away like a stranger and a slave..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. John the Russian (source)
You were led away like a stranger and a slave, by the hands of the Hagarenes, O Father, and lived a strange life, O glorious one, living in a stable like another Job upon a dunghill, amidst struggles and trials, and ever shedding streams of fervent tears, which reached Him Whom you desired, O John, truly the namesake of grace.
-Prosomoion from the Aposticha


Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and upon those in the tombs He has granted life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Friday, May 22, 2020

"You have risen from the dead as You said, O Giver of life..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Christ healing the man born blind (source)
You have risen from the dead as You said, O Giver of life, and You appeared to Your holy Disciples after Your Resurrection, and worked wonders, giving sight to the blind, with whom we magnify You unto the ages.
-from the Matins Canon of the Sunday of the Blind Man


Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and upon those in the tombs He has granted life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

"We celebrate your memory out of duty, O Constantine, and Equal-to-the-Apostles..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Constantine the Great (source)
We celebrate your memory out of duty, O Constantine, and Equal-to-the-Apostles, the foundation and boast of all rulers, for you were illumined by the rays of the Spirit, and thereby gladden the whole Church of Christ, and the ranks of the faithful, who have gathered from all places to the radiant city of Nicea, in which the insolence of the impious ones was quenched, and the tongues of the heretics were proven foolish, while the ranks of the Orthodox were uplifted, and the faith was revealed. Therefore, you were glorified by them as being most Orthodox, and were proclaimed the father among rulers, as the first to have received the royal robe from God. Therefore, we entreat you, that we who celebrate your memory in faith might be granted forgiveness of sins upon our souls.
-Idiomelon of the Litia in the First Tone.
Sts. Constantine and Helen the Equals-to-the-Apostles (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

"Let Heaven rejoice, and let those upon the earth dance..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Christ speaking with the Samaritan Woman (source)
Let Heaven rejoice, and let those upon the earth dance, for Christ, Who was born of the Virgin, has appeared as a man to deliver all mankind from corruption through His own death, and He has shown forth with wonders, as the Samaritan Woman seeks water to be granted to her from the Spring of healings, as the Only Immortal One.
-Kathisma from the feast of the Samaritan Woman

Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

"You pour forth the water of wisdom and of life upon the world, O Savior..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Feast of Mid-Pentecost (source)
Standing in the middle of the temple, at the godly middle of the feast, He cried out: "Let him who is thirsty, come to me and drink, for he who drinks from this divine water, from his belly will pour forth rivers of my teachings, and he who believes in Him Who sent me, the divine Begetter [Father], will be glorified together with me." Therefore, we cry out to you: Glory to You, O Christ God, Who richly pours forth the steams of Your philanthropy upon Your servants.
You pour forth the water of wisdom and of life upon the world, O Savior, calling all to drink of the waters of salvation, for Your divine law, received by men, quenches the burning coals of delusion. Therefore, he will not thirst unto the ages, but will be satiated with You, O Master and heavenly King. Therefore, we glorify Your might, O Christ God, and we entreat that the remission of offenses might be sent down richly upon Your servants.
-Kathismata from Matins of the Feast of Mid-Pentecost

Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Elder Symeon on Healing and God's Providence

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
Christ healing the Paralytic (source)
"The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is for the healing of our illnesses. If we are not healed, we don't need to be healed. This is why we were not healed. If you comprehend this lack of healing, you already healed. You know already that an illness, which lingers and does not leave, is precious.

"Whatever needs to go, God will remove. Whatever doesn't need to stay, God removes, whether it is an illness or a demonic influence. And for whatever things that continue on and hurt us, we should pray to God. We should pray multiple times, again and again we should pray, not only for deliverance from our soul's illnesses and the demonic influences, but also for deliverance from bodily illnesses, as well.

"Let us pray to God for everything again and again. Not because God needs to hear our prayers repetitiously, but because we need to demonstrate by our seeking of Him, our faith. For modern man such lessons are learned from repetition.

"If you pray again and again and you will need to do this, and God does not answer your prayer or remove your illnesses, realize this: either you have not shown as much faith as He wants and expects from you, or the illness should not go because it is necessary for you.

"If you understand your illness from God's perspective, then, when it remains, you will feel twice healed. If He heals you, you are healed once. If the illness lingers, you will feel healed twice. Both when the time comes to be healed from your illness and at the right time your soul will experience healing also. When this occurs your inner person will be healed, this is the person who suffers from illness, from the leprosy of sin.

"The same goes for all mental illness and whatever else hurts us.

"If man sees all his issues within the providence of God, he will feel such a relief, as if all his problems are solved.

"Because in God all is resolved!"
-Elder Symeon Kragiopoulos (+2015),
Excerpt from the Book: Are You in Pain? Looking deeply into the mystery of pain
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Elder Nikon the Athonite on Loneliness

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
This is a beautiful recent talk from Elder Nikon the Athonite on the topic of loneliness, and this is particularly pertinent for our days. Not only are many, even in cities and among other people, plagued with these experiences and emotions, but this likely to be increased, as many are now in isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic. As this coming Sunday is the remembrance of Christ's healing of the Paralytic, who did not have anyone to help him until our Lord raised him from his bed, may we cleave to our Lord, our Panagia and His Saints, may we befriend them that they might always be with us, and may we be friends and neighbors to those around us, showing true love and sacrifice to our God and to His living icons around us! (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

"Let us honor the memory of the Apostle, O faithful..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. John the Theologian (source)
Let us honor the memory of the Apostle, O faithful, for today it has come, shining upon everyone to the ends of the earth, for he was the true Theologian of the Lord, and in the Gospel was shown to be His true friend, and therefore, for those who honor him, he pours forth healings.
-Kathisma from the Feast of St. John the Theologian

Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

"I am Saint Efraim..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Ephraim of Nea Makri (source)
I am Saint Efraim
(Written by a Pilgrim to the Monastery on June 17, 1971)
"Venerable Mother, I will tell you about a dream I had today. I dreamt that I was in the Church and we had the prayer after Supper. When it was over, as we were leaving I turned my head back and I saw Saint Efraim in front of the Altar. With fear, I went to Him and I heard Him telling me, "I am Saint Efraim. Light the oil candles of the Holy Altar." I was very scared and I called one of the Sisters. Saint Efraim approached me and once again told me, "I am Saint Efraim and He started chanting with His sweet voice, "Restrained by many temptations..." (from the Small Paraklesis to the Theotokos). 

Sts. Ephraim of Nea Makri and Nektarios of Aegina, two great Wonderworkers of the 20th Century (source)
He signaled us to stop, He sat down and started to tell us all about His sufferings; how much those bloodthirsty wolves, those infidel Ottomen had tortured Him. And he kept talking, "They were torturing me even after I had died. You don't know how much I have suffered. They put in my head big sharp nails and nailed it to the tree. He did His cross and said, "I suffered a lot", and did his cross again.

I wanted to cry, my Saint. To cry for your terrible ordeal, but I don't have this kind of tears that can reach you. My Saint, with your intercessions, purify my tears and accept them as a supplication of love to your Saintly martyr holiness.

My Saint, we most devoutly [venerate] your sufferings.
Don't stop mediating to the Lord to have mercy on us.

Sts. Ephraim of Nea Makri and Nektarios of Aegina, the Wonderworkers (source)
It is true that the Saint's grace has gotten outside our boundaries. A young woman from Kalamata told us that she had gone to Zakynthos to a Monastery and the Mother Superior had told her, "We are expecting a Saint to pass by here." When the young woman asked who that Saint was, she was told it was Saint Efraim, in glory and grandeur. Before Saint Efraim, a Nun with a lit candle was marching in solemnity.

It was September 14, 1971 that I was planning to come to the Monastery for my offering. A few days earlier, I saw the following dream: It was noon time and I was resting when Saint Nectarios along with some other Saint that I didn't know, appeared in front of me. That other Saint was dressed in an ascetic cassock. He was tall and very thin and had a calm ascetic and serious expression. When I asked them who they were, the Saint told me, "Efraim" and started telling me something about the 14th of September, the day of the Holy Cross..., but before I could understand what He wants, I woke up. Later I learned that the Saint was born on that day and on that day His sufferings started and ended on May 5, 1426."

Excerpt from the Book Visions and Miracles of the Great Martyr and Miracle-Worker Ephraim Neophanous
Sts. Nektarios of Aegina and Ephraim of Nea Makri, two great Wonderworkers and Healers of Christ in our days (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

"When you have this love, you don't have to worry about anything, not even death..."

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Ephraim of Nea Makri (source)
"Mrs. Christina M. from Athens wrote: I was suffering with pain in my spine. One night, the pain got so bad and it reached my neck. I went to my room and crying I begged God to help me through Saint Efraim. The pain of my soul was very strong and for a moment, I felt the presence of the Saint and His sacred little hand to pet my forehead softly. I was like a 4 year old child. Crying I said, "My Saint, help." He started to comfort me, not for my physical pain, but for the pain of my soul."

"Why are you crying, my child? Stop crying and listen to me. I am Saint Efraim. The love you are looking for, my child, the real love only God has it and He gives it to those creatures who love Him and He loves them. I have come now to announce to you God's Love for you. When you have this love, you don't have to worry about anything, not even death. Because God's love can save you and protect you from any illness and misfortune and guard you soul with an impenetrable wall so that no one will be able to violate it. Watch out though that until the end of your life, you will not lose the love of God and of the search for people." He said that and He left.

I cried, "My Saint, don't go. Please stay a little longer. In this world, I have no one else, but God and you. Protect me from ingratitude. Protect me from sin. Protect me so I will be able to safeguard the love of God."

From that moment, my suffering was gone like a thread that was cut. My grievance was also gone..."
Excerpt from the book: Visions and Miracles of the Great Martyr and Miracle-Worker Ephraim Neophanous
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Tree on which St. Ephraim was Martyred

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Ephraim being put to death for Christ on a mulberry tree, at the end of his long martyrdom (source)

"It was Good Friday, April 4, 1980. The priest came for the divine service of Holy and Great Friday evening. The orthros divine service started and it was time for the Epitaphios to exit the church. At that time, it was raining heavily and we were walking from the northern small gate. There was a very long lived berry tree that I always respected, even though there were many times I was asked to cut the tree down; the most recent time being the morning of Good Friday. I was told, "You have to cut the tree down. It is impossible for the Epitaphios to go through that area." "You push it aside carefully and we'll go through," I answered.

"When the procession was near the tree, a very bright light came and guided my eyes toward the tree and at the same time, I heard a voice saying, "This is the tree on which the Saint suffered martyrdom. Don't think about anything else."

"I salute the most holy tree that held the Glorious Martyr Efraim, God's Courageous Athlete."
-Blessed Makaria, from Visions and Miracles of the Great Martyr and Miracle-Worker Ephraim Neophanous
The Tree on which St. Ephraim of New Makri was martyred, still seen in a special chapel in his monastery (source)
You proceeded steadily on the path of the virtues, and put to death the carnal mindset through the pains of self-control, O all-blessed Ephraim, making your soul and most-pure body to be a dwelling-place of the All-Holy Trinity, as full of divine light, and through the Prince of Darkness, the barbarians schemed to sway you, but you swatted them away steadfastly, having been strengthened by Christ, and as hold in the furnace, you were tried by many forms of tortures, and were put to death on a tree of life, having been made worthy of martyrical glory, and you entreat that we all be granted peace, and divine mercy.
-Idiomelon of the Litia in the Second Tone

St. Ephraim of Nea Makri, before the tree of his martyrdom (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

"Where are the seals on the grave? Where are Pilate's guard of soldiers, closely guarding?"

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Holy Myrrhbearers seeing the Angel at the empty Tomb of Christ (source)
The Myrrhbearing Women went in early morning to bring spices to the tomb of the Lord, and when they saw the stone was rolled away, their hope was shaken, and they said to one another: "Where are the seals on the grave? Where are Pilate's guard of soldiers, closely guarding?" But a shining Angel became the messenger of hidden things to the women, and he said to them: "Why do you seek the Living among the dead, Who gave life to the race of men? Christ our God has risen from the dead, as the Almighty One, granting to all of you incorruption and life, illumination, and the great mercy.
-Idiomelon of the Stichera from the feast of the Holy Myrrhbearers, by Anatolios


Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Selected hymns from the Service to St. Matrona of Moscow

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
St. Matrona of Moscow (source)
Selected hymns from the Service to St. Matrona of Moscow,
Translations of the Greek text written by Dr. Charalampos Bousias, Hymnographer of the Patriarchate of Alexandria
Prosomoia of the Stichera from Great Vespers in the Fourth Tone. As the brave one among martyrs.
Come, all you who love feasts, let us place a crown of our hymns upon the head of the sacred Matrona, the Spirit-bearer, the inspired treasury of Russia and new adornment of the Church of Christ, who was born blind according to the judgments of God, that the radiance of her wisdom might shine forth to the multitudes of people bearing the name of Christ.

Full of desire, let us now honor the godly Matrona, who was blind from her mother's womb, and from infancy tasted poverty and scorn from those her age, along with taunting and terrible abandonment, as we cry out to her: Rejoice, newly-shining star of Russia, whose virtuous life has illumined all.

O adornment from God and spiritual beauty, with humility and discernment, who beautified the multitudes of the faithful through your reverence, your surpassing life and God-given grace and chastity, O God-bearer Matrona, do not cease to entreat the Creator on behalf of those who honor you.
Sts. Xenia of St. Petersburg and Matrona of Moscow (source)
Doxastikon of the Stichera in the Plagal of the Second Tone.
The Lady Theotokos, who is the salvation of sinners, you prayed to ceaselessly, and you glorified her Son every day, O Matrona, as you lived your earthly life like an Angel. For you had the eyes of your soul turned towards the Lord, though your bodily eyes were closed from birth, and you thus were shown to be higher than the things of this earth. And you entered into the joy of your Lord, and partake of His beauty. Do not cease to intercede on behalf of us who honor your ever-memorable memory.

Idiomelon of the Litia in the First Tone.
Rejoice, today, all those who love the ranks of the Venerable Saints, honoring the newly-shining memory of Matrona, and straightaway let us cry out to her with rejoicing: O newly-planed shoot of Russia, and newly-founded support of the Church, who lived a life of asceticism in the world in these latter days, and who shown forth with great feats, ceaselessly entreat the Lord on behalf of our souls.

Doxastikon of the Aposticha in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone.
O spotless lamb of Christ the Chief Shepherd, the all-praised Matrona, let us hymn in contrition, for she dispersed the darkness of her bodily eyes through the unapproachable light of grace and illumined with the lightning of her virtue all of those bearing the ethos of Christ. And now, in the unspeakable beauty of her desired Bridegroom [Christ], she beholds with wide-open eyes in the heavenly bridal chamber, and she ceaselessly intercedes on behalf of our souls.
St. Matrona of Moscow, depicted (as is most correct iconographically) as she is in Paradise, with her eyes open (source)
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Unassailable eighth pillar of Russia, who was blind from birth, we reverently praise Matrona the ever-memorable, as a treasury of divine gifts and fervent love towards all those in danger, crying out scatter the darkness of our passions with the light of Your grace.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone. O Champion General.
O most-radiant vessel of the uncreated Light, and most-straight canon of foreknowledge, let us now hymn Matrona the Blind, offering up mellifluous encomiums as rays of light at her endurance, humility and divine grace, crying out: Rejoice, O all-praised Mother.

You appeared lately to us as a light-bearing Angel, O blind Matrona, the boast of Russia, for with humility and patience along with endurance of many pains and trials of life, you pleased the Lord, and you incite the faithful to cry out to you:
Rejoice, the flower of endurance,
Rejoice, the crown of incorruption.
Rejoice, driver away of dangerous atheism,
Rejoice, light-bearer of the graces of the Spirit.
Rejoice, lighthouse of foreknowledge and prayer of the heart,
Rejoice, lamp of humility and the godly life.
Rejoice, greatly-shining ray of the wisdom of God,
Rejoice, torch of consolation for those in trials.
Rejoice, shield of wisdom and nepsis,
Rejoice, fruit of the love of Christ.
Rejoice, blind nightingale of Russia,
Rejoice, nourishment of those far of and those close.
Rejoice, O all-praised Mother.

On this day (May 2nd), the memory of our Venerable and God-bearing Mother Matrona, the Blind and Wonderworker, who lived in our days as an ascetic in the world.
Though you were blind, you foresaw everything
Beforehand, O ascetic of Russia, Matrona.
Exaposteilarion in the Second Tone. O Women hearken.
Your blessing, was heard before the rule of the godless in Russia by the city of those who love Christ, and in those terrible days, they took refuge in your grace, O Matrona, for you became the consolation of those in pains, O sweetness of all people of Russia.

Prosomoia of the Praises in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone.
O new adornment of Russia, Matrona, who lived your life unseen upon the earth, as something that is passing, and you reached the height of dispassion and perfection in Lord Pantocrator, O you who appeared as one called by God, intercede on behalf of us who celebrate your all-spotless memory.

O true Mother illumined by God, in these latter days, you surpassed the bodily blindness of your eyes, and reached the wisdom of God and came to dwell with Him, having been made worthy to behold the Pantocrator with incorrupt eyes, in the divine mansions. Ever entreat Him on behalf of us, O chaste one, that His spotless grace and great mercy may be sent down upon us.

The God-bearing multitudes of Russia now rejoice at your divine memory, O glorious and chaste ascetic, who lately shown forth with the rays of wisdom and foreknowledge, along with the ethos of Christ and humility. Therefore, she is now roused to honor your holy memory, and glorify the Lord, Who glorified you.

Doxastikon of the Praises in the Plagal of the First Tone.
With an astonishing heart, you endured martyrdom of blindness and paralysis upon the earth, which we, blind and paralyzed, have brought upon us by our sin, O Matrona, the adornment of venerable mothers. For you received the reward of glory on high and the fruit reaped from your spotless life by the Savior of all, Whom you entreat on behalf of those who honor your ever-memorable memory.

You who were deprived of the light of your eyes from birth, O Matrona, let us praise you with reverence, as a Spirit-bearing ascetic of Russia, and new pride and vessel of grace.
St. Matrona of Moscow (source)
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!

The Holy Prophet Jeremiah

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!
The Holy Prophet Jeremiah - Commemorated May 1st (source)
The Holy Prophet Jeremiah, one of the four great Old Testament prophets, was son of the priest Helkiah from the city of Anathoth near Jerusalem, and he lived 600 years before the Birth of Christ, under the Israelite king Josiah and four of his successors. He was called to prophetic service at the age of fifteen, when the Lord revealed to him that even before his birth the Lord had chosen him to be a prophet. Jeremiah refused, citing his youth and lack of skill at speaking, but the Lord promised to be always with him and to watch over him.  He touched the mouth of the chosen one and said, “Behold, I have put My words into your mouth. Behold, I have appointed you this day over nations and kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to rebuild, and to plant” (Jer. 1:9-10).

The Holy Prophet Jeremiah (source)
From that time Jeremiah prophesied for twenty-three years, denouncing the Jews for abandoning the true God and worshipping idols, predicting sorrows and devastating wars. He stood by the gates of the city, and at the entrance to the Temple, everywhere where the people gathered, and he exhorted them with imprecations and often with tears. The people, however, mocked and abused him, and they even tried to kill him. Depicting for the Jews their impending enslavement to the king of Babylon, Jeremiah first placed on his own neck a wooden, and then an iron yoke, and thus he went about among the people. Enraged at the dire predictions of the prophet, the Jewish elders threw the Prophet Jeremiah into a pit filled with horrid, slimy creatures, where he almost died. Through the intercession of the God-fearing royal official Habdemelek, the prophet was pulled out of the pit, but he did not cease his prophecies, and for this he was carted off to prison. Under the Jewish king Zedekiah his prophecy was fulfilled.   
The Holy Prophet Jeremiah (source)
Nebuchadnezzar came, slaughtered many people, carried off a remnant into captivity, and Jerusalem was pillaged and destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar released the prophet from prison and permitted him to live where he wanted. The prophet remained at the ruins of Jerusalem and bewailed his nation’s misfortune. According to Tradition, the Prophet Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant with the Tablets of the Law and hid it in one of the caves of Mount Nabath (Nebo), so that the Jews could no longer find it (2 Mac. 2). Afterwards, a new Ark of the Covenant was fashioned, but it lacked the glory of the first. Among the Jews remaining in their fatherland there soon arose internecine clashes: Hodoliah, Nebuchadnezzar’s viceroy, was murdered. The Jews, fearing the wrath of Babylon, decided to flee into Egypt. The Prophet Jeremiah disagreed with their intention, predicting that the punishment which they feared would befall them in Egypt. The Jews would not listen to the prophet, however, and taking him along by force, they went into Egypt and settled in the city of Tathnis. There the prophet lived for four years and was respected by the Egyptians, because by his prayers he killed crocodiles and other creatures infesting these parts. When Jeremiah prophesied that the King of Babylon would invade Egypt and annihilate the Jews living there, the Jews murdered him. In that very same year the saint’s prophecy was fulfilled. There is a tradition that 250 years later, Alexander the Great transported the relics of the holy Prophet Jeremiah to Alexandria.
The Holy Prophet Jeremiah (source)
The Prophet Jeremiah wrote his Book of Prophecies and also the Book of Lamentations about the desolation of Jerusalem and the Exile. The times in which he lived and prophesied are described in 4/2 Kings (Ch. 23-25) and in the Second Book of Chronicles (36:12) and in 2 Maccabbees (Ch. 2).In the Gospel of Matthew it is said that the betrayal of Judas was foretold by the Prophet Jeremiah, “And they took thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom the sons of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me” (Mt. 27:9-10). Perhaps Jeremiah 32:6-15 is meant. Even after his death, the Prophet Jeremiah was regarded as a wonderworker. Dust from his tomb was believed to cure snake-bite, and many Christians pray to him for this purpose.
The Holy Prophet Jeremiah (source)
An Encomium on the Holy Prophet Jeremiah, written by St. Sophronios of Jerusalem, is available here in the original Greek "Νόμος είναι μεταξύ των ευγενεστέρων και δικαιοτέρων ανθρώπων ..."
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!