Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Seventh Beatitude- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God ( Law of God )

Peacemakers are people living with everyone in peace and harmony and fostering peace among people. When other people are at enmity among themselves they try to reconcile them, or at least pray to God for their reconciliation.

Peacemakers remember the words of the Saviour, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you (John 14:27). It be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men, said the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:18).

To the peacemakers the Lord promises that they will be called sons of God. They will be the closest to God, heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ. The peacemakers by their spiritual feat resemble the Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, Who came to earth to reconcile sinful people with Divine judgment and establish peace among people in place of the animosity reigning among them. Therefore to the peacemakers is promised the epithet, "sons of God," and inexpressible blessedness.

Akathist to the Mother of God

Having secretly received the command, the Archangel hastened into Joseph’s abode and spoke to the Holy Virgin. He Who bowed the Heavens with His descending, is wholly contained, yet unchanged in You. And seeing Him taking the likeness of a servant in your womb, I stand in amazement and cry unto you:

Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride [3 times].
Kontakion 1
Unto you, O Theotokos, invincible Champion, your City [or "we your people"], in thanksgiving ascribes the victory for the deliverance from sufferings. And having your might unassailable, free us from all dangers, so that we may cry unto you:
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Eikos 1
The Archangel was sent from Heaven to cry ‘Rejoice!’ to the Theotokos. And beholding You, O Lord, taking bodily form, he stood in awe, and with his bodiless voice he cried aloud to her such things as these:
Rejoice, you through whom joy shall shine forth. Rejoice, you through whom the curse will vanish.

Rejoice, the Restoration of fallen Adam. Rejoice, the Redemption of the tears of Eve.
Rejoice, O Height beyond human logic. Rejoice, O depth invisible even to the eyes of Angels.
Rejoice, for you are the King’s throne. Rejoice, you bear Him, Who bears the universe.
Rejoice, O Star revealing the Sun. Rejoice, O Womb of divine Incarnation.
Rejoice, you through whom creation is renewed. Rejoice, you through whom the Creator is born a Babe.

Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 2
Beholding herself in purity, the holy one courageously said to Gabriel: Your strange voice seems almost unbelievable to my soul; for how do you speak of birth-giving without seed? And she cried aloud:

Eikos 2
Seeking to know the incomprehensible knowledge, the Virgin cried to him who ministered to her: How may a Son be born from a virginal womb? Tell me! To her he answered in fear, yet crying thus:
Rejoice, O seer of the ineffable Will. Rejoice, O surety of those praying in silence.
Rejoice, you the Preface of Christ’s miracles. Rejoice, you the Pinnacle of His commandments.
Rejoice, O heavenly Ladder, by which God descended. Rejoice, O Bridge leading those from earth to Heaven.
Rejoice, O Miracle, much marveled of Angels. Rejoice, O trauma, much dirged of demons.
Rejoice, you who ineffably gave birth to the Light. Rejoice, you who revealed the mystery to none.
Rejoice, O knowledge superseding the wise. Rejoice, You who enlighten the minds of the faithful.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride
Kontakion 3
The power of the Most High then overshadowed the Virgin, that she might conceive; and her fruitful womb He made a fertile meadow for all those desiring to reap salvation, as they chant:

Eikos 3
Carrying God in her womb, the Virgin hastened to Elizabeth, whose unborn babe forthwith recognizing Mary’s salutation rejoiced, and with leaps as it were with songs, he cried out to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O branch of the unwithering Vine. Rejoice, O Land yielding the untainted Fruit.
Rejoice, O Husbandry of the merciful Husbandman. Rejoice, O birthgiver to the Planter of our life.
Rejoice, O Field bearing abundant compassion. Rejoice, O Table laden with an abundance of mercies.
Rejoice, for you make the meadow produce contentment. Rejoice, for you prepare a haven for souls.
Rejoice, acceptable Incense of intercession. Rejoice, Oblation for all the world.
Rejoice, Favour of God to mortals. Rejoice, Access of mortals to God.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 4
Having doubtful thoughts, the righteous Joseph was troubled; for he suspected a secret union as he beheld you unwed, O blameless one; but when he learned of your conception through the Holy Spirit, he cried:

Eikos 4
On hearing the Angels praising the incarnate presence of Christ, the shepherds hastened as to a Shepherd, and beholding Him as a spotless Lamb pastured in Mary’s womb, her they hymned and said:
Rejoice, Mother of the Lamb and Shepherd. Rejoice, Fold of the rational sheep.
Rejoice, O Defense against invisible foes. Rejoice, Opener of the gates of Paradise.
Rejoice, for the things of Heaven rejoice with the earth. Rejoice, the things of earth join chorus with the Heavens.
Rejoice, never-silent Voice of the Apostles. Rejoice, never-conquered Courage of the Martyrs.
Rejoice, firm Support of the Faith. Rejoice, shining Token of grace.
Rejoice, you through whom Hades was laid bare. Rejoice, you through whom we are clothed with glory.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 5
Beholding the Godward-pointing Star, the Magi followed its radiance; and holding it as a lantern, they sought through it the mighty King. And having approached the Unreachable, they rejoiced and cried to Him:

Eikos 5
The sons of the Chaldees saw in the hands of the Virgin Him Who by His hand fashioned man; and sensing Him as Lord, even though He had taken the form of a servant, they hastened with gifts to do homage, and they cried out to her who is blessed:
Rejoice, Mother of the never-setting Star. Rejoice, Dawn of the mystic Day.
Rejoice, you who have quenched the fiery furnace of error. Rejoice, you who enlighten the initiates of the Trinity.
Rejoice, you who have removed the inhuman tyrant from power. Rejoice, you who have shown Christ, the man-befriending Lord.
Rejoice, you who have redeemed us from the pagan religion. Rejoice, you who have rescued us from the works of mire.
Rejoice, you who ceased the worship of fire. Rejoice, you who saves us from the flames of passions.
Rejoice, Guide of the faithful to chastity. Rejoice, O Delight of all generations.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 6
Having become God-bearing heralds, the Magi returned to Babylon. Fulfilling Your prophecy, and having preached You as the Christ to all, they left Herod as a trifler, who knew not how to chant:

Eikos 6
Having shed the light of truth in Egypt, You expelled the darkness of falsehood; and unable to bear Your strength, O Saviour, her idols fell; and they that were set free from them cried to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, Uplifting of men. Rejoice, Downfall of demons.
Rejoice, you who trampled upon the delusion of error. Rejoice, you who censured the deceit of the idols.
Rejoice, Sea which drowned the symbolic Pharaoh. Rejoice, Rock which refreshed those thirsting for life.
Rejoice, Pillar of fire, guiding those in darkness. Rejoice, Protection of the world, more spacious than a cloud.
Rejoice, Nourishment, successor to manna. Rejoice, Minister of holy joy.
Rejoice, Land of promise. Rejoice, you from whom flows milk and honey.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 7
When Symeon was prepared to leave from this age of deception, You were presented to him as a newborn Babe, but he recognized You as perfect God. Wherefore, he marveled at Your ineffable wisdom, chanting:

Eikos 7
New was the Creation which the Creator showed to us His creatures when He sprang forth from the seedless womb; and He preserved it incorrupt, even as it was, that we, seeing this Miracle, may praise her and say:
Rejoice, Flower of incorruption. Rejoice, Crown of self-restraint.
Rejoice, O shining Token of Resurrection. Rejoice, you whom reflects the life of the Angels.
Rejoice, Tree of delectable Fruit that nourishes the faithful. Rejoice, well-shaded Tree under which many find shelter.
Rejoice you who bears the Guide of those astray. Rejoice, you who gives birth to the Redeemer of captives.
Rejoice, Intercession before the righteous Judge. Rejoice, Forgiveness for many transgressors.
Rejoice, Robe of confidence for those bare of courage. Rejoice, Tenderness conquering all desire.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 8
Seeing a strange childbirth, let us estrange ourselves from the world by transporting our minds to Heaven; to this end the Most High God appeared on earth a lowly man, that He might draw to the heights those who cry out to Him:

Eikos 8
The Infinite Word was wholly present with those on earth, yet never absent from those in Heaven; for this was a divine condescension and not a mere change of place; and His birth was from a Virgin chosen of God, who heard such words as these:
Rejoice, Land of the Uncontained God. Rejoice, Gate of the sacred mystery.
Rejoice, doubted Rumor of the faithless. Rejoice, undoubted Pride of the faithful.
Rejoice, all-holy Chariot of Him Who is above the Cherubim. Rejoice, most excellent Dwelling-place of Him Who is above the Seraphim.
Rejoice, you who conducts the opposites of unity. Rejoice, you who has woven maidenhood into motherhood.
Rejoice, you through whom transgression is annulled. Rejoice, you through whom Paradise is open.
Rejoice, Key of the Kingdom of Christ. Rejoice, Hope of eternal blessings.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride
Kontakion 9
All angel-kind was amazed by the great deed of Your Incarnation; for they saw the inaccessible God as Man accessible to all, dwelling among us and hearing from all:

Eikos 9
Orators most eloquent do we behold mute as fish before you, O Theotokos; for they are at loss to explain how you could remain a virgin and yet give birth. But as for us, marveling at this mystery, we cry with faith:
Rejoice, Vessel of the Wisdom of God. Rejoice, Treasury of His providence.
Rejoice, you who prove the philosophers fools. Rejoice, you who prove the logicians illogical.
Rejoice, for the subtle debaters are confounded. Rejoice, for the inventors of myths are faded away.
Rejoice, you who break the webs of the Athenians. Rejoice, you who fill the nets of the Fishermen.
Rejoice, you who draw us from the depths of ignorance. Rejoice, you who enlighten many with knowledge.
Rejoice, Raft for those who desire to be saved. Rejoice, Haven for those who fare on the sea of life.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 10
Wishing to save the world, to this end did the Ruler of all come of His own will; and though as God He is the Shepherd, for us He appeared as a Man like us; for by this likeness He called those of like kind, yet as God He hears:

Eikos 10
You are a fortress protecting all virgins, O Theotokos and Virgin; for the Master of heaven and earth prepared you, O Immaculate One, and dwelt in your womb, and taught all to cry out to you:
Rejoice, Pillar of virginity. Rejoice, Gate of salvation.
Rejoice, Leader of spiritual restoration. Rejoice, Bestower of divine goodness.
Rejoice, for you regenerated those conceived in shame. Rejoice, for you gave guidance to the thoughtless.
Rejoice, you who abolished the corrupter of hearts. Rejoice, you who gave birth to the Sower of chastity.
Rejoice, bridal Chamber of a seedless marriage. Rejoice, you who joined the faithful to the Lord.
Rejoice, fair Nursing-mother of virgins. Rejoice, bridal Escort of holy souls.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 11
Defeated is every hymn that strives to pay homage to the multitude of Your many compassions; for even should we offer You, O holy King, odes of praise numberless as the sands, we should still have done nothing worthy of what You have given to us who cry to You:

Eikos 11
As a brilliant beacon-light shining to those in darkness do we behold the holy Virgin; for she kindles the celestial Light and leads all to divine knowledge; she illuminates our minds with radiance and is honoured by these our cries:
Rejoice, Ray of the spiritual Sun. Rejoice, Beam of the innermost Splendour.
Rejoice, Lightning, enlightening our souls. Rejoice, Thunder, striking down the enemy.
Rejoice, for you caused the many-starred Light to dawn. Rejoice, for you caused the ever-flowing River to gush forth.
Rejoice, you who depict the image of the Font. Rejoice, you who wash away the stain of sin.
Rejoice, Laver purifying conscience. Rejoice, Wine-bowl over-filled with joy.
Rejoice, sweet-scented Fragrance of Christ. Rejoice, Life of mystic festival.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride
Kontakion 12
Wishing to bestow His grace, He that forgives the ancient debts of all mankind came of His own will to dwell among those who departed from His favour; and tearing up writ of indebtedness, He hears from all:

Eikos 12
Whilst praising your Offspring, we all praise you, O Theotokos, as a living temple; for the Lord, Who holds all things in His hand, dwelt in your womb, and He sanctified and glorified you, and taught all to cry to you:
Rejoice, Tabernacle of God the Word. Rejoice, Holy one, holier than the Holies.
Rejoice, Ark made golden by the Spirit. Rejoice, inexhaustible Treasury of Life.
Rejoice, precious Diadem of godly kings. Rejoice, venerable Boast of faithful priests.
Rejoice, unshakeable Tower of the Church. Rejoice, impregnable fortress of the Kingdom.
Rejoice, you through whom trophies are raised up. Rejoice, you whom enemies are cast down.
Rejoice, Healing of my flesh. Rejoice, Salvation of my soul.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.
Kontakion 13 [3 times]
O all-hymned Mother, worthy of all praise, who brought forth the Word, the Holiest of all Saints, as you receive this our offering, rescue us all from every calamity, and deliver from future torment those who cry with one voice:

Eikos 1 Repeated
The Archangel was sent from Heaven to cry: Rejoice! to the Theotokos. And beholding You, O Lord, taking bodily form, he stood in awe, and with his bodiless voice he cried aloud to her such things as these:
Rejoice, you through whom joy shall shine. Rejoice, you the Redemption of the tears of Eve.
Rejoice, Height hard to climb for human thought. Rejoice, Depth hard to explore even for the eyes of Angels.
Rejoice, for you are the Throne of the King. Rejoice, for you sustained the Sustainer of all.
Rejoice, Star that causes the Sun to appear. Rejoice, Womb of the divine Incarnation.
Rejoice, you through whom creation is renewed. Rejoice, you whom the Creator is born a Babe.
Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride
Kontakion 1 Repeated
Unto you, O Theotokos, invincible Champion, your City, in thanksgiving ascribes the victory for the deliverance from sufferings. And having your might unassailable, free us from all dangers, so that we may cry unto you:Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Little Before Death ( Memoirs of a Greek Taxi Driver )

Shortly before the year 2000, my mother came over to my house and said, “Son, a few blocks away there is a distressed family with two elementary school girls. They need to live with their grandmother because they are going through a terrible ordeal. Their father, who is about your age, is a drug addict. I know his mother. Please drop by to see what you can do, because his wife and his mother told me that he is in his last days.”

“And what do you think I can do, mom? I can hardly keep up with my own dirty messes, and now all of a sudden you think I can help others?”

“Come on, my boy, you need to go; please, don’t upset me.”

The next day, I complied with my mother’s wish. With the blessing of my mother and my spiritual father, I prayed briefly and said, “My Panaghia, I will go, but you lead and I will follow.” When I arrived at the home, his mother welcomed me with a hug and a kiss. Then she drew me aside, and while she wept, she explained her Golgotha and the heavy cross the entire family had had to bear. As she was unfolding their very painful family drama to me, occasionally, she would use her apron to wipe her eyes. The poor woman had suffered so much all these years. She had gone to various neighborhoods and local businesses to borrow money to help her son get his drugs. What pain this mother had endured! What a Golgotha! What crises families in similar situations must be going through! I couldn't endure so much pain. I hugged her, and told her to have her hope and faith in Christ. When I went to the other room, and I saw her son lying in bed, the truth is that I wasn’t prepared for it; I was shocked. I went to give him my hand, but he couldn’t even exchange a handshake, because his fingers had become deformed. I grabbed him from the wrist and attempted to speak to him, but he would fade in and out of consciousness. With a little patience, however, we became acquainted and shared a few words.

“My brother, I am your neighbor,” I told him “I don’t know you, of course, but you don't know me either. So, since we have become acquainted now, what do you say, can we help one another?”

“It’s too late for me, Thanasi,” he told me in a whispering voice, “I am in the last stage. There is no recovery for me. The doctors can't do anything.”

“Humanly, yes, we agree, but don’t forget the power and grace of our God; what is impossible for man is possible for God” (cf. Luke 18:27).

“I believe in God, Thanasi, but I have fallen into a snake pit. I have made repeated efforts to detoxify myself for many years now but all in vain. I know that I upset my mother, my wife and especially my children. What can I do? I’m not to blame. It’s the deprivation of heroin.”

“So fine, since you believe that you are in a pit with snakes, stretch out your hand and ask the help of Christ. He is the only one who is able to take you out of this pit.”

“What must I do; and how?”

And he faded out again. I needed to wait a few minutes, for him to regain consciousness. In the meantime, I prayed and said, “My Christ, is he listening to what I’m telling him? Can he even think, understand, or remember? Please Lord, only You are able to help us, especially me.” A few moments later, he opened his eyes, and we spoke a bit more. In the end I told him, “I need to leave you now, my brother. The next time I come, if you like, I can bring a priest to read some prayers over you. I think this will do you much good.”

“Yes, Thanasi, I will wait for you. Bring the priest also. I don’t have a problem with that.”

When I came out of the room, there in the hall, I met his wife and their two charming little girls for the first time. They had red swollen eyes. As soon as they saw me they lowered their heads, probably out of shame for the condition of their father. I don’t know, but my heart went out to these little innocent girls; I shared their pain and loved them very much from the first moment. I talked for quite a while with his wife. We said many things, and the poor woman was constantly crying. I left in shambles.

Two days later, I went to his home with a priest, and he read some prayers of Saint Basil over him. I will not forget that I needed to hold him from the shoulder, so he wouldn’t fall down. At the end, we told him what his next steps were. He needed to go confess with sincere repentance, to be able to commune, to take Christ in him so that he could be strengthened.

By the grace of God, my friends, he accepted all this joyfully. Not only he, but his entire family, even his little girls came and confessed to Father , filled with joy and hope for a new beginning. When everyone was finished, Father pulled me aside and told me, “Thanasi, this man needs all the help he can get; do as much as you can for him, because he is in dire straits, he is not at all well. He needs to recover for the sake of his family. Under the circumstances, he has my blessing to receive Holy Communion whenever he is able.”

“Yes father, he’s going down fast, but please let me share a thought with you.”

“Go ahead, speak up.”

“This coming Sunday, I am thinking of going to church as a family to the monastery of Saint Nicodemos at Goumenissa. I will go with Glykeria, and the young man and his wife. Allow me also to take my friend Savvas, the paralytic, with me, so he can envelop us in prayer. On Monday, with your blessing, I'd like for all three of us to venture to the Monastery of Vatopedi, Mount Athos, for all of us to venerate the Precious Belt of our Panaghia. I will make all the necessary arrangements with the fathers.”

“Very well, but are you sure you can manage all this?”

“I cannot without God’s grace and your blessing and prayers.”

“Do accordingly, however God enlightens you. As far as I am concerned I bless you with all my heart.”

Then I proceeded to relay to the lad and his wife my ideas, to see if they would agree. They joyfully accepted my suggestions, especially his wife who responded with tears of joy, perhaps because a gleam of hope was finally on the horizon. I then turned to her husband and firmly told him, “My brother, I ask you, and I beg you. Between now and Sunday, while preparing yourself for Holy Communion at St. Nicodemos monastery and during the days of our pilgrimage to Mount Athos, don’t even think about using heroin.”

“Listen, Thanasi, I will speak to you with all sincerity, especially since I just confessed. I give you my word, here and in the presence of my wife, that I will not use heroin. I will take some kind of opiate substitute, so that I can stand on my feet. If I don’t do this, my bones will be creaking. My temple blood vessels will begin to burst; I will scream uncontrollably, because the pain is excruciating at the final stage of heroin addiction.”

“What are these substitutes?”

“They come in the form of pills[1], and they help me to stand on my feet.”

“Mr. Thanasi, don’t worry. I will be very careful, and I will not let him leave from my sight. I promise you,” his wife told me.

So, early Sunday morning, we all headed out. Savvas, my paralytic friend, was sitting in the front seat, and I asked him to pray unceasingly. The young man in the back however was sweating profusely and nonstop. The sweating continued and several times during the Divine Liturgy we had to exit the Church so he could catch his breath. I made sure always to be at his side to console him and help him as needed.

Soon enough, the voice of the priest was heard, “With the fear of God, with faith and love, draw near”; I held him by the arm and we waited for all others to commune first. Then as we slowly walked towards the chalice, I turned to the large icon of the Virgin Mary and silently asked her, “My Virgin Mary, please, help us to commune today and be with us as we travel to your perivoli[2] tomorrow." It seems that my prayer was heard.

That morning, everything went well at the monastery, thank God. The Abbot, who sensed the gravity of the situation, and learned that we would be leaving the next day for the Holy Mountain, was quite moved. Upon our departure, he walked towards the lad and prayed and said in a loud voice, “May Angels accompany you." His poor wife couldn’t control her tears all day long.

The next morning, we took a taxi, and all three of us arrived at the bus station[3]. I helped the young man onto the bus, and guided him to the open seats toward the back. I then lifted Savva the paralytic on my back, carried him onto the bus and placed him next to the young man. I reminded Savva to continue with unceasing prayer.

While on the bus and later on the ferry boat, we were able to discuss various nice things. The lad was listening to me carefully although he was sweating quite a bit due to acute withdrawal symptoms. He was constantly wiping his sweat, and he struggled to stay on his feet. In less than two hours we disembarked and continued on a minibus towards Vatopedi. The driver dropped us off a few hundred yards outside of the monastery. I looked around for some help but there was no one in sight. It was very difficult to roll the wheelchair on an uphill gravel road. I remember holding the lad with one hand, and pushing the wheelchair with the other. I will not be ashamed to tell you that my tears were running, while I was pleading to the Virgin Mary, silently saying to her, “My dear Mother, help me first, and then my brethren because I am the sickest one of all." When we entered inside the gates of monastery, it was noon, and everyone was resting. There were many stairs for us to climb. I first helped the lad up the stairs and then I lifted up the paralytic on my shoulders since there was no other solution at the moment. Finally I went back down once more to bring up the wheelchair.

When we found the Archondari[4], he received us with much love. We had notified the fathers about the purpose of our visit a few days prior. They were happy to see us because Savvas and I had visited Vatopedi before.

When we got settled in a room, another monk came and told me, “Thanasi, the Geronta (Abbot) wants to see you." I immediately went to him, did a prostration and received his blessing. We talked for quite a while, about the condition of the lad. The Abbot was very moved, asked that we write down our names, and promised to commemorate us during forty successive liturgies[5]. He asked us to come to one of the chapels in the afternoon, to venerate the Holy Relics and the Precious Belt (of the Virgin Mary). Upon entering the church, the father told the lad to kneel so that he could place the Precious Belt on his head, and to pray over him. I sat back and savored every second of this most beautiful hour. These were truly heavenly moments. When the priest finished with the young man he asked the paralytic to bow and receive the Precious Belt on his head as well. Then the father took the Belt, and went to leave. While he was preparing to depart, I asked him, “Father, please, don’t deprive me of this blessing, because I am the sickest one in the group. My body is healthy, but my soul is paralyzed." The father turned back, looked at me with a blank stare, and asked, “What’s your name, my son?”


“Kneel, Athanasios[6], and may you have all the blessings of our Virgin Mary.”

The very Belt of the Virgin Mary was now resting on my head! What an indescribable feeling this was. I have no words even to begin to tell you what this felt like. Even if I did, you would not be able to understand it.

This was such an uplifting and truly beneficial pilgrimage. When we returned home, I went to find Father, to inform him how things went. He was very pleased and said, “Thanasi, don’t worry, the Virgin Mary will do her miracle." After this the recovering young man, stayed close to Fr. Triantafyllos[7] and continued to go to holy Confession, with his entire family.

Now, I am sure you are probably anxious to find out what happened to this young man and his family. Well, he is well, very well. The same man who could hardly even exchange a handshake, nor stand on his feet without being held, now returned to his old job of hard physical labor, and even works overtime. The smile returned to his family, especially to his charming little girls. They were no longer ashamed of their father at school. More importantly, he returned to our Christ. For this we are ever so grateful to the blessing of our Virgin Mary, to the supplications of the fathers, and to the prayer of the paralytic.

[1] The irony is that most people come to this sad position because of these prescribed painkillers. Dentists and doctors often overprescribe opium derivatives such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco), codeine, morphine, etc., for pain management. These are usually highly addictive and when these prescriptions expire, a high percentage of their victims turn to heroin which is rather inexpensive in its beginning stages but later becomes very costly and deadly as its addictive qualities totally enslave the human organism. Overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, accounting for more deaths than traffic fatalities or gun homicides and suicides. Fatal overdoses from opiate medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone have quadrupled since 1999, accounting for an estimated 16,651 deaths in 2010.

[2] According to tradition the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist were on a ship to visit Lazarus who was serving as a Bishop in Cyprus. Along the way, the weather became severe, and the swollen waves carried the boat north to the present location of the monastery of Iveron, on the Athonite peninsula. The Virgin Mary was truly enchanted by the paradisiacal beauty of this location so she asked her Son to gift it to her. This is why, to this day, the Holy Mountain is the exclusive “Garden of the Panaghia” and no other female-human or animal-is permitted to set foot on it.

[3] Mt. Athos is not accessible by land so visitors and pilgrims must travel to Ouranoupolis (150 km from Thessaloniki), the last seaport with frequent ferry boat rides to Dafne, the central access point to the one-thousand year-old monastic community with twenty major monasteries and their dependencies. At present there are approximately 2000 monks on the Holy Mountain.

[4] The monk in charge of guest accommodation.

[5] The most important of all Orthodox services, also called Holy Eucharist.

[6] Thanasi, the nickname for Athanasios (immortal), changes the meaning of this dogmatic Christian name from immortal to mortal. This is precisely why the Father used Athanasi’s baptismal name.

[7] Triantafyllo (thirty petals), is the Greek word for rose.

Constantine Zalalas

Akathist to the Great Martyr and Healer Saint Panteleimon

Kontakion 1

Chosen passion-bearer of Christ and gracious healer, who freely grantest healing to the sick, we praise thee in songs as our protector. As thou hast boldness with the Lord, free us from all harm and sickness who cry with love to thee:

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Ekos 1

We know thee, glorious Panteleimon, as an earthly angel and heavenly man. For adorned with angelic purity and martyrdom thou hast passed from earth to Heaven, where with the angels and all the saints standing before the throne of the Lord of Glory, thou prayest for all of us on earth who venerate thee with these invocations:

Rejoice, torch of piety!

Rejoice, most glorious lamp of the Church!

Rejoice, adornment of venerable martyrs!

Rejoice, support of the faithful in unflinching endurance!

Rejoice, outstanding boast of youth!

Rejoice, warrior of Christ of invincible courage!

Rejoice, thou who having grown up in the world wast not of the world!

Rejoice, angel in the flesh, surpassing mortals!

Rejoice, vessel of divine knowledge!

Rejoice, thou by whom faith has been exalted!

Rejoice, thou by whom delusion has been dethroned!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 2

Seeing thee to be a chosen vessel, the Lord loved the beauty of thy soul; for, despising all earthly glory and pleasure, thou didst long to adorn thyself with the crown of martyrdom, wounded with divine love and singing inspiringly: Alleluia!

Ekos 2

Possessing divinely inspired knowledge, O valiant warrior Panteleimon, thou didst astound the Emperor Maximian by the courage of thy soul and by the words with which thou didst fearlessly preach Christ. Wherefore, praising thy boldness we say to thee:

Rejoice, thou who didst despise Maximian’s threats!

Rejoice, thou who didst not yield to the advice of the godless!

Rejoice, propagator of true adoration!

Rejoice, uprooter of demon worship!

Rejoice, accuser of the fury of torturers!

Rejoice, overthrower of the delusion of idols!

Rejoice, thou who didst disperse the assembly of the godless!

Rejoice, thou who didst exchange corruptible for heavenly joy!

Rejoice, converser with immaterial angels!

Rejoice, fellow-chorister of longsuffering saints!

Rejoice, thou by whom Satan was put to shame!

Rejoice, thou by whom Christ is glorified!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 3

By the power of the Most High given to thee and by thy strong patience thou didst render powerless the torturer’s insolence, O valiant victor, undaunted by fire, wild beasts, and the wheel. When beheaded with the sword, thou didst receive the crown of martyrdom, wounded with divine love and singing inspiringly: Alleluia!

Ekos 3

The monastery which hath thy precious head as a great treasure, O divinely wise martyr, is filled with joy over it, and praising with love the Grace of healing given thee by God, thankfully crieth to thee:

Rejoice, all-radiant lamp of Nicomedia!

Rejoice, unsleeping guardian of the monastery that honoreth thee!

Rejoice, thou through whom godlessness grew cold!

Rejoice, thou through whom the knowledge of God hath increased!

Rejoice, bright glory of passion-bearers!

Rejoice, joyous report of the Orthodox!

Rejoice, gracious source of healings!

Rejoice, container of great gifts!

Rejoice, fragrant myrrh that doth sweeten souls!

Rejoice, for thou dost help those who call upon thee!

Rejoice, thou who didst give sight to the blind!

Rejoice, thou who didst cause the lame to walk!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 4

Possessed by a storm of polytheistic thoughts, the impious Emperor was confused on learning from the doctors who were jealous of thee that thou healest all kinds of incurable illnesses by the name of Christ. And we, glorifying with gladness our wonderful God in thee, cry to Him: Alleluia!

Ekos 4

When the people of Nicomedia heard of thy great compassion for the suffering and of thy free healing of all illnesses, all rushed to thee with faith in the healing Grace in thee, and receiving swift healing of all their diseases they glorified God and magnified thee, their most gracious healer, crying to thee:

Rejoice, thou who art anointed with the myrrh of Grace!

Rejoice, sanctified temple of God!

Rejoice, great glory of the pious!

Rejoice, firm wall of the oppressed!

Rejoice, thou who surpassest the wise in knowledge!

Rejoice, thou who enlightenest the thoughts of the faithful!

Rejoice, recipient of divine gifts and source of many of the Lord’s mercies to us!

Rejoice, speedy helper of the suffering!

Rejoice, harbor of the storm-tossed!

Rejoice, instructor for those astray!

Rejoice, thou who dost heal the sick freely!

Rejoice, thou who dost impart healing abundantly!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 5

The Lord worked a glorious miracle through thee when, through His servantHermolaus, He called thee into His marvelous light. For after thy prayer to Christ a child who had died from snakebite at once revived and stood up healed. Then recognizing the Lifegiver as the true God of all, with firm faith thou didst cry to Him:Alleluia!

Ekos 5

The blind man whom thou didst touch with prayer in the name of Christ recovered his sight O glorious martyr. Then, renouncing thy father’s polytheism, thou wastbaptized by the priest Hermolaus and didst embrace thy mother’s religion with which thou didst also enlighten thy father. Therefore we cry aloud to thee as to a glorious servant of God and wonderful healer:

Rejoice, thou who hast great devotion to God!

Rejoice, thou who art ever aflame with the fire of divine love!

Rejoice, attentive listener to the teachings of the priest Hermolaus!

Rejoice, thou who didst follow the advice of thy mother Eubule!

Rejoice, thou who didst give away everything to obtain Christ!

Rejoice, thou who didst vanquish love for the world by love for God!

Rejoice, for instead of the pleasures of the world thou didst accept for Christ cruel sufferings!

Rejoice, for thou didst become a partaker of Christ’s Passion!

Rejoice, thou who didst overcome all the passions!

Rejoice, thou who through Grace wast adorned with dispassion!

Rejoice, thou who dost fill with joy those who hasten to thee!

Rejoice, thou who dost heal all freely by the Grace of Christ!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 6

The blind man enlightened by thee in body and soul became a preacher of the truth for, like the blind man of the Gospel, he boldly preached Christ to all as the true light that enlighteneth every man. But for reproaching the impious Emperor and the pagan gods he was beheaded and rose to the unwaning light in Heaven to sing to God: Alleluia!

Ekos 6

Standing before the Emperor’s tribunal with a radiant face thou didst boldly declare in the hearing of all, thrice-blessed martyr: Mine all-healing power and glory is Christ, the true God, the Lord of all, Who raiseth the dead and healeth all infirmities. For this confession we bless thee and say:

Rejoice, thundering mouth of the deity of Christ!

Rejoice, mellifluous tongue that declareth His plan of salvation!

Rejoice, orator of sublime theology!

Rejoice, wise sower of piety!

Rejoice, sweet-sounding flute of faith!

Rejoice, glorious preacher of Orthodoxy!

Rejoice, thou who wast shown to be marvelous before thy death!

Rejoice, seer of Christ’s glory!

Rejoice, listener to those who pray to thee!

Rejoice, giver of help to those who need it!

Rejoice, obtainer of blessings for those who honor thy memory!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 7

Myrrh was poured out on thy soul, O divinely wise healer, from the Comforter Spirit, wherefore after thy death thy venerable relics, by their fragrance banish the stench of the passions and give healing to those who with faith cry to God: Alleluia!

Ekos 7

When the worshippers of idols beheld, O Saint, the paralyzed man raised and walking through thy prayer many believed in Christ; but the demon’s priests, consumed with jealousy, incited the Emperor to anger. Therefore, to thee who wastmercilessly tortured and burnt for Christ, we cry with compunction:

Rejoice, thou who didst despise earthly pleasures!

Rejoice, thou who wast above material comforts!

Rejoice, for thou didst regard as nothing all the beautiful things in this world!

Rejoice, for thou didst shake thyself free of fleeting glory!

Rejoice, thou who didst remain free from the nets of the devil!

Rejoice, thou who didst vanquish the wiles of the torturers!

Rejoice, thou who didst not spare thy life for Christ!

Rejoice, thou who wast shown to be an enemy of hostile flesh!

Rejoice, thou who didst oppress the spread of polytheism!

Rejoice, thou who by the power of God didst defeat the idols!

Rejoice, sharp arrow by which enemies are wounded!

Rejoice, mediator who defendest the faithful!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 8

The Lord appeared to thee in a wonderful way, encouraging and upholding thee in the tortures for His name. For in the person of the priest Hermolaus He cooled the boiling lead into which thou was thrown, and in the sea He untied the great stone from thy neck and brought thee unharmed to land. But thou, having been brought again before the Emperor, didst sing triumphantly to Christ our God: Alleluia!

Ekos 8

While dwelling noetically wholly in Heaven, thou leavest not those below on earth but remainest with us through the relics of thy holy skull, O great passion-bearer of Christ, receiving from the Lord enlightenment and sanctification and giving it to those who cry to thee thus:

Rejoice, thou who art filled with divine wisdom!

Rejoice, discerner of God’s providence!

Rejoice, delight of minds made wise by God!

Rejoice, gladness of souls who love God!

Rejoice, bright pearl of Christ!

Rejoice, thou who wast sanctified in soul and body!

Rejoice, dweller in the courts of the firstborn in Heaven!

Rejoice, inhabitant of the ever-blessed bridal halls!

Rejoice, beholder of the light of the Trinity!

Rejoice, fervent mediator in thy prayers to God for us!

Rejoice, thou who grantest illumination to souls!

Rejoice, thou who sendest comfort to the afflicted!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 9

All nature marveled, O Panteleimon, at the radiance of Grace and wealth of virtues in thee: thine angelic purity, thy great courage in cruel sufferings, thy strong love for Christ and great compassion for people, for whom thou doest glorious things that they may sing: Alleluia!

Ekos 9

Eloquent orators cannot worthily praise thy struggles, O glorious victor, as by the invincible power of God, though young in years thou didst conquer the ancient, primordial enemy and didst put to shame the delusion of idols. But we, filled with wonder, cry to thee:

Rejoice, joyful sight of angels!

Rejoice, reverent wonder of men!

Rejoice, thou who didst shed thy blood for Christ, and in death didst shed milk!

Rejoice, thou who didst give up thy body to a martyr’s death for His sake!

Rejoice, model of confession!

Rejoice, valiant warrior of the King of kings!

Rejoice, thou who didst conquer the ruler of darkness!

Rejoice, thou who by thy victory didst gladden Heaven and earth!

Rejoice, blessed inhabitant of the world above!

Rejoice, wise pilgrim of the world below!

Rejoice, tree adorned with the fruits of the gifts of Grace!

Rejoice, thou who carriest palms of victory!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 10

Filled with compassion, as a true imitator of the Lord, the Giver of mercy, O venerable martyr, thou wast renamed by Him Panteleimon (that is, all-merciful), for thou pourest mercy on all who resort to thee; pour it also abundantly on us who cry to God concerning thee: Alleluia!

Ekos 10

Finding thee a strong wall impregnable to all kinds of torture, the torturer tried to crush thy strength by the teeth of wild beast and the spikes of the torture-wheel, but all to no effect. For the power of Christ subdued the fierceness of the beasts and the frightful wheel, on which thy body was turned, immediately broke to pieces. So to thee, invincible passion-bearer, we cry:

Rejoice, precious chosen one of Christ!

Rejoice, unblemished fragrance of God!

Rejoice, firm diamond of the Church!

Rejoice, unshakable tower reaching to Heaven!

Rejoice, tamer of visible beasts!

Rejoice, crusher of invisible dragons!

Rejoice, thou who wast stained with thy blood shed for Christ, mixed with milk!

Rejoice, thou who hast received unfading crowns!

Rejoice, thou who causest joy to angels and men!

Rejoice, thou who hast been glorified by God in Heaven and on earth!

Rejoice, celestial one, who singest in choir with the martyrs!

Rejoice, thou who art satisfied with the sweet vision of Christ!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 11

A funeral song we offer to thy sacred immolation for Christ, in which milk instead of blood flowed from thee, Great Martyr, and the olive tree under which thou wastbeheaded was all covered with healing fruit. Wherefore we cry fervently to ChristWho wonderfully glorifieth those who glorify Him: Alleluia!

Ekos 11

A luminous ray wast thou, O divinely wise one, to those sitting in the darkness of polytheism, leading them to the Sun of righteousness, Christ God. Him do thou entreat that we who offer thee these glad praises may ever live in the light of His commandments:

Rejoice, bright star, shining in the noetical firmament!

Rejoice, ray of light shining for Christian people!

Rejoice, thou who wast mystically illumined by the Sun, Christ!

Rejoice, thou who in spirit roamest the earth!

Rejoice, beautiful tabernacle of the Most Holy Spirit!

Rejoice, honorable vessel that poureth out healing!

Rejoice, treasury of purity!

Rejoice, namesake of mercy!

Rejoice, heir of the Heavenly Kingdom!

Rejoice, partaker of eternal glory!

Rejoice, patron of those in distress on the sea of life!

Rejoice, unmercenary healer who helpest those who invoke thee with faith!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 12

Thou didst receive an abundance of Grace, thrice-blessed one, according to the greatness of thy love for Christ God, Who also showed thee to be a source of healing, for thou curest free of charge the sicknesses of soul and body of those who come to thee with faith and cry to God: Alleluia!

Ekos 12

Chanting of thy long-suffering labors for Christ, O glorious passion-bearer, we praise thy great patience, we bless thy martyr’s death, and we honor thy holy memory, O our defender and healer, and in praise we cry to thee:

Rejoice, sweet-sounding trumpet of piety!

Rejoice, sword which cuts down impiety!

Rejoice, thou who wast scraped on a tree for Him Who stretched out His arms on the tree of the Cross!

Rejoice, for, being burnt for Him, thou didst extinguish the furnace of delusion!

Rejoice, thou who didst wound the enemies by thy wounds!

Rejoice, thou who didst dry the streams of idolatrous blood by thy blood!

Rejoice, thou who wast thrown into boiling lead for Christ!

Rejoice, thou who wast sunk in the sea for His name!

Rejoice, thou who didst remain unharmed therein by the providence of God!

Rejoice, thou who didst pass through tortures of fire and water into the peace of Heaven!

Rejoice, thou who didst pour unfailing streams of mercy on the faithful!

Rejoice, gracious and compassionate physician who grantest healing through Grace!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 13

O, our long-suffering and wonderful Passion-bearer of Christ and HealerPanteleimon! Graciously accept from us this small offering, heal us of our many and various ailments, and through thy intercession protect us from enemies visible and invisible and pray to the Lord that we may be delivered from eternal torment, that we may continually sing in His Kingdom: Alleluia!

O, our long-suffering and wonderful Passion-bearer of Christ and HealerPanteleimon! Graciously accept from us this small offering, heal us of our many and various ailments, and through thy intercession protect us from enemies visible and invisible and pray to the Lord that we may be delivered from eternal torment, that we may continually sing in

His Kingdom: Alleluia!

O, our long-suffering and wonderful Passion-bearer of Christ and HealerPanteleimon! Graciously accept from us this small offering, heal us of our many and various ailments, and through thy intercession protect us from enemies visible and invisible and pray to the Lord that we may be delivered from eternal torment, that we may continually sing in His Kingdom: Alleluia!

And again Ekos 1 and Kontakion 1.

Ekos 1

We know thee, glorious Panteleimon, as an earthly angel and heavenly man. For adorned with angelic purity and martyrdom thou hast passed from earth to Heaven, where with the angels and all the saints standing before the throne of the Lord of Glory, thou prayest for all of us on earth who venerate thee with these invocations:

Rejoice, torch of piety!

Rejoice, most glorious lamp of the Church!

Rejoice, adornment of venerable martyrs!

Rejoice, support of the faithful in unflinching endurance!

Rejoice, outstanding boast of youth!

Rejoice, warrior of Christ of invincible courage!

Rejoice, thou who having grown up in the world wast not of the world!

Rejoice, angel in the flesh, surpassing mortals!

Rejoice, vessel of divine knowledge!

Rejoice, thou by whom faith has been exalted!

Rejoice, thou by whom delusion has been dethroned!

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Kontakion 1

Chosen passion-bearer of Christ and gracious healer, who freely grantest healing to the sick, we praise thee in songs as our protector. As thou hast boldness with the Lord, free us from all harm and sickness who cry with love to thee:

Rejoice, Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Turning Fear Into Faith !

That ugly and omnipresent thorn called worry! Since it’s a chronic, recurrent condition, it’s been called the “Worry Disease.” I think worry must be Satan’s best weapon against man. Our minds are incessantly preoccupied with our daily cares. During peace-filled, “quiet time” moments of prayer and reflection we confidently profess our faith to God and feel His peace. Yet, this is so often immediately forgotten, preempted by the next worrisome preoccupation. At time, it’s maddening! Too often our “old nature” chooses to worry rather than to trust God. Worry is a sin because we aren’t taking God at his Word.

Virtually everyone is stressed out today. We fear various problems and what they may do to us. For example, I have worked in pharmaceutical marketing and medical communications for 30+ years and have witnessed incredible changes in the healthcare landscape. I laugh out loud when I remember how in the past I used to complain about various working conditions. However, they were minimal compared to today’s constant stream of pressures. Now there are insecurities about the marketplace, the unrelenting ferocity of managed care, stressed-out clients willing to change their ad agency “on a whim,” and the constant barrage of economic and socio-political uncertainties. It seems every industry, both private and government, is beleaguered by economic crises today.
I guess crying in my beard (?) is both selfish and narrow-minded. Whether we live or have lived in affluence or in abject poverty, we will always have fears and anxieties. Let’s face it; we live in a fallen world. We have to deal with it, and there’s only one way do that: constantly pause and know that God is in control.
When I’m having dark days and am beset by challenges of all sorts, I put my distress in God’s hands and really trust, really believe. He always delivers, and the more I trust, the less my discomfort, and the better the outcome.
Besides entreating the Lord, I must also thank Him. Since the human race is innately selfish, our conversation with God is often a big, one-sided “all about me.” But when we balance our requests with heartfelt thanksgiving, i.e., when it becomes an integral part of our lives, giving thanks can only diminish our despair and contribute to inner peace and real joy. It’s so easy to avow faith and to rationalize it. But faith in action, which means practicing our faith day by day, moment by moment, is the hard part.
Let’s face it. Every day is a life challenge to varying degrees. The storms we face-personal, social, work-related, spiritual, or financial-will always be there. In order to put things into the proper perspective, there are several actions we can take: 

1. Start every day with a thanksgiving prayer. One of my favorites was written by Fr. Thomas Hopko:
We praise You, Lord Jesus for showing us how to live day by day without fear, serving obediently, always entrusting our lives into Your care. And we thank you Lord Jesus for showing us how to die, how to gain the victory, how to attain the crown of life by commending our souls into the Father’s hands. 

2. Repeat the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”) for focus. 

3. Recite short Bible verses. These can also help to assuage the anxieties of life whenever those inevitable afflictions rear their ugly heads. Meaningful verses like the following can really lift the weight of our woes:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Be still and know that I am God (Psalms 46:10).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not upon your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
There is no formula, no antibiotic, no magic elixir for eradicating worry and fear. It’s a matter of developing childlike faith, a conscious effort to trust in God. If and when He is willing, that burden will become lighter as we grow in His wisdom and grace. 

Bottom line: There can be peace in our hearts only when we turn to the One, True Source of peace, Jesus Christ. As He affirmed, “[My] peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Every day requires a reaffirmation of faith. If we seek God and His values, God will provide for us in wonderful ways we can never imagine. To know the pardon, joy, peace and power that come through Christ, we must personally receive Him by faith. And if our hearts are to change, our faith must be real.



The devil does not hunt after those who are lost; he hunts after those who are aware, those who are close to God. ( St. Paisios )

The devil does not hunt after those who are lost; he hunts after those who are aware, those who are close to God. He takes from them trust in God and begins to afflict them with self-assurance, logic, thinking, criticism. Therefore we should not trust our logical minds. Never believe your thoughts.

St. Paisios

Monday, February 22, 2016

Vainglory is a grave sin ( Part 4 ) - Bishop Nikiforos Theotokis

God spoke about this passion of vainglory clearly. Even if a person’s conscience is in deep sleep, God’s words are capable of waking it up.
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in Heaven”
(Mt. 6:1).
This is how Christ spoke concerning almsgiving. With respect to prayer and fasting, He stated that people who pray or fast in order to appear virtuous before others will receive no other reward, other than the praise of men:
“Assuredly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Mt. 1:16).
If God had only made reference to this sin with the above words, these verses would certainly have
sufficed and adequately informed every person to
remain distanced from vainglory, so that one is not deprived of the heavenly payment. However, God
issued additional frightening and dreadful decisions against them who are vainglorious. The God-inspired prophet David calls them who are
vainglorious man-pleasers because they do everything for show, only desiring to be admired by others:
“For God has scattered the bones of man-pleasers”
(Ps. 52:6).
Bones represent the strength, means, and ways that we utilize in order to receive praise from others. When we use our beauty, or wealth, or wisdom, or virtue in order to receive recognition and glory from others, then God scatters and strips these goods from us, and, subsequently, we remain
naked and humiliated:“They have been put to shame because God has destroyed them” (Ps.52:6) Do you hear what vainglory’s punishment is?
Scattering and destruction of bones; shame and destruction from God.
But why, you may ask, is there so much condemnation and punishment for such a small vain desire for glory, which doesn’t bother anyone? Why? Because the vainglorious person
wrongs himself, he wrongs his fellow man, and he even attempts to wrong God.
First, he wrongs himself because he sells an eternal kingdom and exchanges it for temporary smoke; because he toils pointlessly sowing tears,
only to reap sorrow and shame. Second, he wrongs his fellow man because he fools him, and he
cunningly snatches and steals esteem, respect, and praise from others. Third, he even attempts to wrong God Himself because he prefers the glory of men instead of the glory of God; because he
delegates the rewarding of virtue  to man, in place of God; because he transfers the time and place that God has appointed for the rewards to the present; because he seizes the glory that is due to God for virtue. God deserves to receive the glory
associated with the accomplishments of virtue,
“for it is God Who works in you both the desire
and the ability to do what is good” (Phl. 2:13). The
vainglorious manusurps this glory, desiring and seeking praise from others.
What value do the works of the vainglorious man have?
Absolutely none.
Such a person’s works resemble “whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all
uncleanness”(Mt. 23:27). They resemble fruits that
appear shiny and colorful externally but are
rotten and full of worms internally. Virtue consists of a soul and a body, just as the human being who carries out the virtue. The soul of virtue is the purpose for which man carries it out; the body of virtue is the actual good deed. Man’s soul defines his bodily actions; the incentive behind virtue determines the value of virtue.
If the soul is good, then the body’s actions are good. If the soul is evil, the body’s physical actions will be evil as well. If the intention is holy, then the virtuous work will be holy. If the ambition is evil, then the virtuous deed will also
be evil.
Examine the intent of a vainglorious person’s virtuous deeds. What does he aim to achieve
through his virtue? Nothing other than personal gain, self-profit, empty praise and vain compliments from others. Thus, his intent negates
the grace of virtue, it disperses the holiness of virtue, and transforms virtue into sin. God is a spirit (Jn. 4:24); thus, He desires us to worship Him with our soul: this constitutes a holy objective. On the contrary, when our intent is evil, God turns His face away from our sacrifice,just as He did not accept Cain’s offering.
Then He becomes displeased with us, just as he 

became displeased with Cain.
“For God has scattered the bones of man-pleasers.
They have been put to shame because God has destroyed them” (Ps. 52:6).

Bishop Nikiforos Theotokis

To some people your love will be expressed with joy and to others it will be expressed with your pain ( St. Paisios )

"To some people your love will be expressed with joy and to others it will be expressed with your pain. You will consider everyone your brother or your sister, for we are all children of Eve (of the large family of Adam, of God). Then, in your prayer you will say: ‘My God, help those first who are in greater need, whether they are alive or reposed brothers in the Lord.’ At that point, you will share your heart with the whole world and you will have nothing but immense love, which is Christ." 

(Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, Epistles, p. 50)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Why our intention to correct ourselves and lead a holy life remains without result ( Metropolitan Gregory of Novgorod )

The first and foremost reason why our intention to correct ourselves and lead a holy life remains without result lies in the fact that our intention is often too vague and indefinite.
A certain sinner, for example, says to himself: “It’s high time for me to stop sinning, time to mend my ways! I repent! I’ll stop sinning!” The intention is quite indefinite. And because of this, although it might be sincere, it is unreliable and may not achieve the desired correction.
He who has a sincere desire to amend himself must first of all determine exactly what it is that must be corrected. He must determine what his greatest sin is and what means he must use against it, and what dangers he must avoid so as not to fall into it again, since it has become a habit, a part of his life. All this thought and self-examination must come first and only then should a resolve be made, and that resolve should be specific as, for example: “Enough is enough! With God’s help I am no longer going to fall into such-and-such a sin; I’m going to break this bad habit; I’m no longer going to associate with those particular people who encourage me in this habit; I’m going to break off that unhealthy relationship; I’m going to use such-and-such means against this sin; I’m going to arm myself and muster all my forces against it when it begins again to tempt me.”
The same thing must also be said about the resolution to lead a righteous life. By no means is it enough to content oneself simply by stating the following resolve: “From this time forth I’m going to lead a God-pleasing life.” Such a resolution is not definite enough, and although it may have come from the heart, it is doubtful whether it will have any effect.
He who desires to abandon a life of sin and live a righteous life must first of all examine which obligations he has most difficulty in fulfilling and does not like to fulfill; what exactly hinders their fulfillment; what he must do, what means he must employ to fulfill them more readily. Having done this, he must make a specific resolve, as for example: “Now, with God’s help I will try hard to fulfill this obligation which until now I have done so poorly; I will apply myself to using such-and-such means towards its fulfillment. For example, when someone offends me I will be more patient; I won’t start using insulting and shameful language, or better yet, I won’t answer back at all; in such-and such company I’ll be more careful in what I say; at such-and-such times I’ll try to pray fervently, something I have not done up to now.., and so on.”
In general, the more definite one’s intention to change one’s sinful life and live righteously, the more it will suit the particular circumstances, the state of one’s soul, one’s relationship with others, etc., and the more hope there is of its bringing it into reality. When something is so definite one can more easily direct one’s thoughts and one’s strength to one subject and thus, of course, more easily achieve the desired goal.
Another reason why our good intentions fail, is because we do not hold firmly enough to our resolve. Scarcely two or three days pass by after our having made our resolution and we, in our normal daily routine of life amidst our worldly cares and pursuits, have already forgotten our intention, although at the time it was made with proper firmness of purpose. For this reason, if we truly wish our good intention to be realized, then each of us, every morning after our morning prayers, must immediately bring to mind and renew our resolution, saying in our hearts: “I promised God to turn away from this particular sin; I really wanted to fulfill this obligation; I must keep my promise!” Having renewed in this way our good intention, we must diligently pray to God that He would grant us the necessary strength to carry it out.
Likewise, our intention must be renewed in this way throughout the course of the day. And when evening comes, we should never go to sleep without having first examined our hearts to see how we have spent the day: did we keep our promise to God? And if it happens that we went against our resolve, against our promise, then we must immediately ask God’s forgiveness, and once again renew our resolve and carefully watch over ourselves. This is the way in which those people act who are concerned for the salvation of their souls, and in this way they attain salvation!
The third reason we fail in our intention to lead a better life, is our excessive fear of the difficulties connected with such an undertaking. A holy life is not attained without work, without sufferings and difficulties; it often takes a prolonged and fierce battle. We must withdraw from occasions to sin, of which there are so many. We must sacrifice various enjoyments which are so pleasant, abandon many worldly pursuits which make life interesting, and endure many unpleasant things which because of our self-love are often so difficult to bear.
For example, let us suppose that we resolved to withdraw from our natural inclination to become angry. In order to turn away from anger we must quietly endure a lot of what is to us almost unbearable, and to which our usual response would have been a stream of crude words; sometimes we must not justify ourselves even when we are in the right; often we must be silent when we feel the urge to speak; often we must give in to others even when the occasion does not demand it; we must often bear the offenses of others and not reveal our irritation; often force ourselves to patiently endure when we are slandered or laughed at like fools and cowards. All this we must endure if we truly desire to realize our intention to withdraw from anger.
Amidst all the difficulties of keeping oneself from anger or any other sin which manifests itself as particularly great, our soul often falls into despondency and all our strength seems to evaporate. In such cases we must immediately bring to mind various sacred truths and experiences which are able to restore our former spirit, our former strength, and give us hope of abandoning the sin from which we decided to turn away. Thus we must remember that no matter how weak a man is, with God’s help he can do and endure all things if only he truly desires and uses it; this is accomplished through the strength that is granted by God.
We must remember the millions of righteous ones, who have gone before us and their self-denial, patience and endurance which they left as an example for us and for the whole world. We must remember that, above all, God desires our correction, and because of this, knowing our weakness and our needs, He will unfailingly come to our aid if only we turn to Him with fervent prayer and make use of the means and the power which He has given to us.
We must remember that the difficulties which invariably accompany any important undertaking are intimidating only to the lazy and faint-hearted; that only the first steps along the path of correction are unpleasant and difficult; that the farther one goes along such a path the easier and less painful it becomes; that any victory which we gain over our enemy makes us much stronger and better able to endure any further onslaughts. We must more often remind ourselves of the feeling of peace and satisfaction we shall experience when in the last days and hours of our life we look back at our past, at the difficulties we have heroically overcome, at the many sufferings borne with Christian patience, at the countless temptations conquered by our love for God, at all the noble deeds which we performed in secret before God’s eyes alone, at all the favors which we showed our fellow man, at the faithfulness with which we fulfilled our obligations, often forcing ourselves to the utmost to do this.
Finally, we must more often remind ourselves that for all this we will be rewarded by so much in the life of the age to come that all the difficulties which we overcome here in this life, all the sufferings which we endure in this age for the sake of a righteous life, will appear to us much smaller; in fact, they will appear insignificant, in comparison with the heavenly rewards.
O, Almighty God! Now we count each minute of trial and suffering and we rarely consider the blessed eternity which delights the souls of Thy righteous and faithful servants. Brother! In your striving towards a God-pleasing life, when you weigh your earthly difficulties and grief, place more often on the scale this eternity! It will outweigh all your trials, all the pleasures of worldly pursuits, pleasures and enjoyments.
The fourth reason that our resolution to lead a better life often fails, lies in the fact that we want immediately to become saints. Many people, when they once feel an aversion to their sinful behavior, make a firm resolve to change their ways and place a good beginning towards this reform; but because this doesn’t happen as quickly as they would like, and whether by habit or rashness they often fall into their old sins, they lose heart and come to the conclusion that it’s impossible for them to change their ways.
Brother! Sister! People don’t become saints overnight. Our old man does not easily yield to being transformed into the new man. A big tree is not felled by a single stroke of the ax. So it is with each evil passion which’ is so firmly rooted in us. The way to perfection or to spiritual maturity is almost always unnoticeable, just as are so many things in nature.
A spiritual man passes through various stages of growth, just like the physical man. Much time is spent in childhood before reaching the fullness and strength of manhood. There is a long period of weakness, and only then does one become stronger and stronger, until finally one becomes a man. Only at this age is one capable of doing what is proper to a man. Likewise, a ripened ear of corn is at first only a seed, then a small blade of grass, then a stalk, and finally an ear of corn; but even this ear is not ripe all at once, but grows, then flowers, then it tassels and only then does it become ripe. The same is true of a righteous, life! Even the best man in the world does not suddenly become a saint. His perfection for the most part develops slowly and only little by little. Good earth which accepts into itself a good seed brings forth fruit, says the Lord, in patience. (Lk 8:15).
To fall, of course, is not good, and it were better not to; but he who falls and then quickly gets up, becomes wiser and more careful, renews his good intention, fervently prays to God for new strength to attain a righteous life. Falls are not such a hindrance for such a man on the path to perfection. At the time of his fall, when he falleth, he shall find a stay, i.e., strength (Sir 3:31) and like the Apostle Paul, strikes ahead towards the mark of the prize of the high calling, forgetting those things which are behind. (Phil 3:13).
The above, then, are some of the reasons why our good intentions to turn away from sin and lead a better life are often unfulfilled. Let us avoid these pitfalls; let us try to make our resolution as definite as possible; let us remember more often and continually to renew our decision, and let us not become faint-hearted if we do not at once reach perfection, but let us courageously surmount the difficulties we meet along the way in firm hope of God’s help.

From “The Conversations of Metropolitan Gregory of Novgorod,” translated from the monthly periodical of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery on Mt. Athos, January 1899, pp. 15-19.