Sunday, October 15, 2017

Never has there been such an age of false teachers . . ( Fr. Seraphim Rose )

“Never has there been such an age of false teachers as this pitiful twentieth century, so rich in material gadgets and so poor in mind and soul. Every conceivable opinion, even the most absurd, even those hitherto rejected by the universal consent of all civilized peoples — now has its platform and its own ‘teacher.’ A few of these teachers come with demonstration or promise of ‘spiritual power’ and false miracles, as do some occultists and ‘charismatics’; but most of the contemporary teachers offer no more than a weak concoction of undigested ideas which they receive ‘out of the air,’ as it were, or from some modern self-appointed ‘wise man’ (Or woman) who knows more than all the ancients merely by living in our ‘enlightened’ modern times. As a result, philosophy has a thousand schools, and ‘Christianity’ a thousand sects. Where is the truth to be found in all this, if indeed it is to found at all in our most misguided times?

In only one place is there to be found the fount of true teaching, coming from God Himself, not diminished over the centuries but ever fresh, being one and the same in all those who truly teach it, leading those who follow it to eternal salvation. This place is the Orthodox Church of Christ, the fount is the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, and the true teachers of the Divine doctrine that issues from this fount are the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church.”

Fr. Seraphim Rose

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bear the offense in silence... ( St. Simeon the New Theologian )

He, who grieves sorely in his heart when dishonored or offended by others, ought to know from this that he bears within himself the ancient serpent. If he will bear the offense in silence, or will answer the one offending him with deep humility, then he has thereby weakened and crushed this serpent.
 
 St. Simeon the New Theologian

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Christian must be courteous to all. . . .( St. Nektarios )


A Christian must be courteous to all. His words and deeds should breath with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which abides in his soul, so that in this way he might glorify the name of God. He who regulates all of his speech also regulates all of his actions. He who keeps watch over the words he is about say also keeps watch over the deeds he intends to do, and he never goes out of the bounds good and benevolent conduct. The graceful speech of a Christian is characterized by delicateness and politeness. This fact, born of love, produces peace and joy. On the other hand, boorishness gives birth to hatred, enmity, affliction, competitiveness, disorder and wars.
St. Nektarios of Aegina

Saturday, September 30, 2017

It is unfortunate that in our days we don't use freedom to do good and become holy; instead, we use freedom to become more secular ( St. Paisios )


It is unfortunate that in our days we don't use freedom to do good and become holy; instead, we use freedom to become more secular. In the past, people would work all week and rest on Sunday, a holy day. Now, they rest on Saturday as well. But are their lives more spiritual? Or are they more sinful? If people spent their time on spiritual work (prayer, spiritual study and so forth), things could have been different; people would live more conservative and decent lives. But we poor human beings try to rob time from the spiritual things, from Christ. People who live in the world will arrange to do all their heavy chores on Sundays. They are trying to find one Sunday for this chore, a holy day for another, and that's how they bring God's wrath on themselves. Why would the Saints then come to their assistance? Turn Sunday into a chore day? Never! Even if others offer to help us on that day, we should never accept it. Not on a Sunday.

We will not allow God to be in charge. And so, everything that we do without faith in God has nothing to do with Him; it belongs to the world. It does not have His blessing and for this reason the outcome is never good. When this happens we like to say, "It's the devil's fault." Well, not really. It's not the devil's fault but ours, for not letting God help us. When we work on holy days, we give the devil rights and then he gets involved in our affairs. The Psalm reads, Better is a little that the right eons has than the abundance of many wicked.  This is the kind of life that will receive a blessing. The rest is as worthy as shavings. But in order to live this way, we must have faith, philotimo and reverence, and put God in charge of our lives. Otherwise, we'll never get the job right whether it is on holy days or on week days and we'll end up spending our time on nonsense. And you'll see that God will never abandon you. I have never worked on a Sunday or a feast day, and God has never left my side and has always blessed my work.

I remember once, some threshing machines were brought to the village, and my father was notified that they could start on Sunday from our fields, and then move downhill to other lots. My father said to me, "What should we do? The machines are here." "There is no way I will work on Sunday," I replied. "We can do it on Monday." "But," my father objected, "if we miss this opportunity, we'll have such a hard time threshing with the horses." "That's fine with me," I said. "If I have to, I'll be threshing all the way to Christmas." So, I went to Church anyway, without giving the matter any more thought. Well, as the machines started coming toward our field, they broke down. "Forgive us, but the machines won't work. We'll take them to Yiannena and fix them, and when we come back on Monday, you will be first in line"! So instead of threshing on Sunday, they ended up threshing on Monday. I've seen this kind of thing happen so many times. 
 
St. Paisios
 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

“I Had a Hard Time Praying to the Theotokos”



Photo: http://www.savvastor.ru/

In response to my blog entry called The Tongs, someone has asked me if, as a convert to Orthodoxy, I had a hard time at the beginning praying to the Theotokos. The answer is yes.

In my whole-life confession the week before I was received into the Holy Orthodox faith, I confessed to the priest that I had a hard time praying to the Theotokos. I told him that I had no problem with the theology related to the intercession of the Saints, nor with the special place of the Mother of God in the dispensation of salvation and as an intercessor. My problem was that I just couldn’t do it. I could say the words of the prayer–O Lady, Bride of God, spotless, immaculate Virgin…–but the words had no meaning for me. I felt no connection. The wise priest told me not to worry about it, She’d make the connection.

Because I converted with a community (there were 85 of us), I was ordained a deacon on the day of my chrismation. And so I served as a deacon for about three years before she “made the connection.” For the first three years, standing in front of the icon of the Mother of God during the first part of the Divine Liturgy, I basically felt a blank inside my heart. I even had a hard time venerating the icon, finding myself always kissing the foot of Christ in Her arms, and not Her. (I’d be too ashamed to confess it now, except that it magnifies the greatness of the Love and patience of the Mother of God for those who are being saved.) I said the prayers to the Mother of God faithfully, but with no feeling. I often found myself trying to figure out what the words “meant,” as though that would help me find a connection.

Then one day a miracle happened. I was going through a particularly stressful season of financial worry. The stress was crushing me. During the Divine Liturgy one Sunday, while standing before the icon of the Mother of God, I asked Her for help. I don’t remember what I prayed, but I remember what happened. I heard a voice in my head. The exact words are lost, but the gist was this: you won’t have to worry about money again. The words were accompanied by a very peaceful feeling, almost like an untying of knots inside me. The feeling stayed with me for several days.

Within a few days, there was a change in my circumstances that delivered me from the immediate cause of my financial worries. Since that time, whenever I am tempted to worry about money, I stand before the icon of the Mother of God and remind Her (remind myself really) of the words I believe She spoke to me. And the miracle is that I don’t worry. Financial ups and downs come and go, but the miracle is that She has freed me from worry.

Praying to the Mother of God, I have come to know in some small ways the Mother of God. She is our heavenly Mother. I know Protestants will freak out about that kind of language–I certainly would have–because they have no categories for divine-human synergy. But just as God distributes his gifts through the free will of his people on earth, so He also distributes His gifts through the intercessions of the Saints who are in heaven, especially the Mother of God.

When my daughter Hannah was 16, she wanted to work at Barbara Cheatley’s, an exclusive gift shop in a little high-end shopping area in Claremont, California. My daughter prayed fervently that she would get a chance to work there. Then she spoke to Barbara, but Barbara told her that there were no openings and she expected no openings: all of her “girls” had worked for her for fifteen years or more. Hannah was crushed when she told us the news. My wife, however, was not ready yet to give up so easily. Bonnie and the Barbara had been business associates for several years and had developed a friendship. Bonnie went to her and “interceded” on Hannah’s behalf. Eventually, after much intercession that may have sounded somewhat like nagging, Barbara agreed that if Hannah could learn to wrap packages well (and the gorgeous wrapping is one of the big reasons why people keep coming back to Barbara Cheatley’s), she could work in the back room for the two months leading up to Christmas. Hannah learned to wrap packages “Barbara’s way,” and she worked two exhausting months for minimum wage at Barbara Cheatley’s.

God answered Hannah’s prayers through the intercessions of her mother (and my wife ). God often pours out his Grace to us through others, by the intercessions of others. It should be no surprise then if, when we are in trouble, we find help in the intercessions of God’s Mother. The Grace is God’s, the intercession is His Mother’s, the help is from both. God works synergistically with and through His people. 
 
http://www.pravmir.com/hard-time-praying-theotokos/

Why Ask the Saints? Jesus Is the Sole Mediator Between Us and the Father



Photo: Archpriest Dionisy, azbuka.ru



Most Protestant churches strongly reject all saintly intercession, citing passages such as 1 Timothy 2:1-5, which says that Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man, as well as Deuteronomy 18:10-11 which seems to forbid invoking departed souls. They also point to the fact that there are no examples in the Bible of living humans praying to dead humans — Jesus Christ being the lone exception, because He is alive and resurrected, and because He is both human and Divine.

Yet the Bible indeed directs us to invoke those in heaven and ask them to pray with us. In Psalms 103, we pray,


“Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will!” (Psalms 103:20-21). And in Psalms 148 we pray, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!” (Psalms 148:1-2).

Not only do those in heaven pray with us, they also pray for us. In the book of Revelation, we read:


“[An] angel came and stood at the altar [in heaven] with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God” (Rev. 8:3-4). And those in heaven who offer to God our prayers aren’t just angels, but humans as well. John sees that “the twenty-four elders [the leaders of the people of God in heaven] fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (Rev. 5:8).

The simple fact is, as this passage shows: The saints in heaven offer to God the prayers of the saints on earth.

Yes, we have Christ as the only intercessor before the Throne, but that never stopped any of our Protestant brethren from asked fellow believers from praying for them. We ask the friends of God to pray for us all the time, when we ask for the prayers of our friends and fellow believers. Asking those who’ve gone on before us is possible because they are alive in Christ, and offer their prayers to Christ just as do we. We all, both those in heaven and those still upon this earth, pray before the same “sole mediator between God and man”, Jesus Christ. It is Christ through whom we approach the Throne of the Father.

Finally, why would we not want to ask for the prayers of those who have already won their place in Paradise, and are already standing before the Throne of God, worshiping the Holy Trinity?

Part of the problem for Protestants to accept the veneration of the saints stems from their reliance on an approach to doctrine and practice as being Bible only based. Proof texts is thus the norm for most protestant debate on the interpretation of any given passage. By the same token, the unity of worship and doctrine found within the Orthodox Church is the fact we’ve based both our way of worship AND our doctrinal teachings on Holy Tradition and Scripture. Since the Bible comes out of the living oral Tradition of the Church, the scriptures can only be properly interpreted from within the life of the Church. Our unity is based on what has always been taught.

The Orthodox Church proclaims as dogma that which has been taught everywhere and at all times. The Church is catholic because that which she teaches and the way she worships is not only from Apostolic times, but was everywhere taught and practiced in Apostolic times. She is catholic (universal) because she is the same now as she was from the earliest times in her history. Her Holy Tradition is relied upon when interpreting the Bible, because it is from her Tradition from which the Bible emerged.

Another point to think about is how we (from our Protestant upbringing) interpret the concept of Christ as the ‘sole mediator between God and man.’ The Protestant idea assumes that ‘mediator’ means ‘intercessor’. But, there is a more profound meaning, not merely an intercessor but the reconciliation of God and man in the reality of the hypostatic union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ. That is, I think, the real meaning of ‘mediator’. Confer the meaning of the Latin source of the word, mediare: ‘place in the middle’, according to the Pocket OED. Doesn’t that make clear that the Protestant interpretation is missing the real point? Once we understand that, then the whole argument against the intercession of the saints has no reality. 
http://www.pravmir.com/ask-saints-jesus-sole-mediator-us-father/

Friday, September 22, 2017

Time is Money ( Elder Ephraim of Arizona )

Time is the currency with which we acquire eternity. The ancients would say,
“time is money.” Indeed, time is a currency of incalculable value. We do not need
even one dollar to purchase eternity; all we need is one minute. 
How did the thief on the cross acquire Paradise? He did so with one minute. Actually, it took him less than a minute to confess Jesus Christ, to seek His mercy, and to utter with sincere repentance, “Remember me, O Lord, in Your Kingdom.” This is why the Apostle Paul exclaims,
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil”(Eph. 5:15-16).
 
 Behold, the greatest purchase of all time! Let us rush to acquire Paradise. We have the means. It will be the best investment of our life, because
Paradise is forever.
Ioasaf, who went on to become a saint of our Orthodox Church, was the son of the King
of India. Saint Barlaam instructed him in the Christian faith and baptized him. One of the many things Righteous Barlaam taught him was the following:
“In a certain land, the citizens had the custom of
electing as their king a foreigner who would come
to visit their city. The unsuspecting visitor
would accept their offer because he was
unaware of their customs and practices. They would crown the visitor and enthrone him
king for a certain period of time, only to
dethrone him a short time later without a warning and exile him to a desolate region. Since
they never revealed to the stranger that
within six months to a year they would strip
him of his regal title and send him into exile, the visitor ruled the land assuming that  he would reign forever, until the end of his life. The thought of exile would never even cross his mind,
and, unmindful of the citizensintent to
banish him, he never  prepared for  such a calamity.
During one such trip to the city by a particular visitor, a good and virtuous citizen who saw
the foreigner approached him and told him in secret, “My fellow countrymen
who dwell in this city are planning to make you a king. You should realize, however, that after a
short period of time they will exile you. So, now when you become king and while you have
all the goods accessible to you, see to it that
you send food, provisions, and other useful items
to that deserted region, so that when they banish you to that land you will have them there waiting for you, and you will be able to live comfortably.
“Oh! Thank you very much for telling me,
replied the guest.
Indeed, by following the advice of that good citizen, this man sent an abundance of provisions to the land of exile. And so, when the time came and the citizens banished him, he went their
gladly and henceforth lived comfortably,
because he had sent many goods there beforehand.
“Similarly,” explained St. Barlaam to Ioasaph, “Man comes into this present life, and, fooled by the world, he believes that he will reign and live many years; death, however, appears unexpectedly
and sends him to eternity. 
The Church, as another good citizen, comes to advise man and points out to him, “Look, you are
not going to be here very long. You will depart for the next life which is eternal.
Make sure, now that you are here and capable, to do good works and send them there to the next life. Thus, when you die and the world ejects you from the earth, you will find these items there. God will repay you thousand times over, and you will henceforth live joyfully.”
The time of our present life is the opportunity to sow. Eternity is the time of harvest. Tell me what you sow, and I will tell you what you will reap. 
Do you sow faith, love, and tears of effort and repentance? You will reap the joy of eternal
Paradise. The Lord confirms this:
You shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life”(Mt. 19:29). St. Paul also emphasizes this in his epistle to the Corinthians: 
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”
(2Cor. 4:17).
 
http://www.stnektariosmonastery.org/

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Don’t Believe the Second Thought: A Story from the Life of St. Christopher of Palestine

 

Once Saint Christopher [6th century] went to Jerusalem to worship at the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord and at the Life-Creating Cross. At the gateway of the church he beheld a monk not moving from the spot. Two ravens flew before his face. Saint Christopher discerned that these were demons, which held the monk back from entering the church.

He asked the brother: “Why do you stand at the gate and not enter?” The brother answered: “Pardon me, Father, but within me struggle two thoughts. One says: go and venerate the Venerable Cross. The other says: don’t go in, make some excuse, and come to venerate the Cross another time.” Then Saint Christopher took the brother by the hand and led him into the church. The ravens immediately disappeared, and the brother venerated the Cross and the Holy Sepulchre. Saint Christopher told this story to someone who was distracted by his duties and neglected his prayers.
 
https://lessonsfromamonastery.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Three Simple Things




I like the sayings of the Desert Fathers (and Mothers), sometimes they are complex and sometimes they are simple. The one from today is simple.


“These three things God requires of all the baptized: right faith in the heart, truth on the tongue, temperance in the body.” — Abba Gregory the Theologian

I like the simplicity of the saying because it is easily understood. At the same time, it does have depth to it. However, I am not about depth today, but some simple commentary. I like the way that Abba Gregory boils down what is needed to live a life of simple Christian faith. All too often, I find myself caught up in theology, philosophy, and political science. I am not saying that is wrong. They are important, and Christians need to engage in those fields. In fact, one other of the Fathers commends learning.


Abba Epiphanius the Wise said, “The acquisition of Christian books is necessary for those who can use them. For the mere sight of these books renders us less likely to sin, and incites us to believe more firmly in righteousness.”

It is an amazing view of books and their place. To me, it is also an amazing view of the place of Christian scholarship from one who had left the world in order to devote himself to the monastic life. [At the time he wrote, there was nothing like the modern Christian cheap romantic tales available in every Christian bookstore.] The idea that acquiring Christian books is a good thing and that just simply seeing them helps those inclined to scholarship to remember to not sin. And, he has a very good point, for sometime when I look at a book I have read, I remember to think about God.



But, it is about Abba Gregory’s saying that I am writing. And, his saying is written for each of us and is striking in its simplicity. The saying is written only for those who have been baptized. That is, it is not written for those who do not know Jesus, but for those who have come to know him. And, he says that if you have come to know him, only three things are really necessary. There is a need for a right faith, orthodoxy, but notice that it is to be held in the heart and not in the brain. This is not faith merely as intellectual content, but faith as trust. That is it is definitely not trust as over against intellectual belief, but that mixture of the two that keeps you in Christ. It must be right faith, but it also must be held in the heart.

Truth on the tongue speaks to our right relationships with each other. Relationships based on lies do not work. Thus, we need to speak truth, in love, to each other. Abba Gregory is not talking about truth about each other. Rather, he is talking about speaking to each other in truthful ways. And, of course, speaking to God in prayer in truthful ways. Finally, temperance in the body is obvious. It is amazing how a whole set of “household rules” can be summarized in the simple statement about temperance in our behavior. Many, if not most, of what are called the cardinal sins in the West are sins of excess, of one type or another. Temperance works against gluttony, lust, accedie, etc. It is the stance to not overdo it toward any extreme.

So, simple advice from a simple monk. Good stuff. 
http://www.pravmir.com/three-simple-things/

A strange demonic trap



In chapter 45 of the wonderful book, Spiritual Meadow, Ioannis Moskhos writes:

‘One of the elders told us the following:

Abba Theodoros Iliotis used to talk about a great ascetic who lived as a recluse on the Mount of Olives and was constantly being attacked by the demon of lust. One day, after a particularly severe attack, the ascetic began to lose heart and he said to the demon: “How long are you going to continue with this? Just go away. We’ve grown old together”.



Then the devil appeared to the monk, in full view, and said: “Swear that you’ll not tell anybody else what I’m about to say to you and I won’t fight you again”.

The elder swore: “By Him Who resides in the heavens, I won’t tell anyone”. Then the demon said to him: “Don’t venerate this icon and I won’t bother you”. The icon depicted Our Lady holding Christ in her arms. The recluse said to the demon: “Let me think”.

The next day (according to Abba Theodoros Iliotis, who told us this and was at that time living in the lavra of Faran) the man sent for Abba Theodoros and told him everything.

“Well, abba, you were certainly tricked into swearing. But you’ve done well to reveal it. Because it would be better for you to enter every brothel you see in this land than to refuse the venerate Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother”.

He supported and fortified the elder with more words and then returned to his own place. The demon appeared again to the recluse and said to him: “What is this, wicked elder*? Didn’t you swear to me that you wouldn’t tell anyone? Yet you revealed everything to that man who came to you. I’m telling you, wicked elder, that on the Day of Judgment you’ll be condemned for perjury”.

The recluse replied: “I know that I swore and that I broke my oath. But I didn’t commit perjury against my Lord and Creator. I won’t listen to you. Because you’ll receive unavoidable punishment, since you were the instigator of the bad advice and the perjury”’.

* A play on words. The Hellenistic Greek word kaloyeros (literally ‘good [=’venerable’] elder’, hence ‘monk’) is replaced here by kakoyeros (‘bad elder’).

Metropolitan Meletios (Kalamaras) of Nikopolis and Preveza has this to say about the story:

‘What are we to conclude from this:
It’s a great mistake to try and solve our spiritual problems on our own. Because even holy people struggle at times.
The worst sin is for us to devalue our faith in Christ and to think that certain human problems are so important that we cheapen our faith because of them
Icons aren’t photographs or frames. They have to do with the faith.

The author of ‘The Spiritual Meadow’, Saint Ioannis Moskhos (John Moschus) whose feast is celebrated on 11/24 March, was born in Damascus in 545, in other words when it was still part of the empire of New Rome (‘Byzantium’). He became a monk and then travelled extensively with his friend and pupil Sofronios, later Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was also canonized and shares his feast day with Ioannis.

Apart from the edifying stories it contains, the text is also interesting from other points of view.

In the first place, Saint Ioannis- unusually for the time- is meticulous in his attribution of his sources. Even in the example above, although the recluse is not named, the author is careful to record that the narrative is directly linked to Abba Theodoros himself. In other collections of the period, the stories usually begin simply ‘One of the elders told us…’.

By the same token, Saint Ioannis’ work provides valuable background detail regarding the places he visited and the various practices of the ascetics he met.

The work is also excellent source of information about ordinary sixth century Greek. The language in the Meadow stands roughly in the same relationship to that of the Fathers as the Gospels do to the Epistles, and for much the same reasons. As the Gospels do, Saint Ioannis is relating a series of narratives; the Epistles and the works of the Fathers are largely aimed at explaining these narratives and putting them into a theological context. So his language is informal, engaging and refreshing. 
http://pemptousia.com/2017/09/a-strange-demonic-trap/

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Homosexual Person in Light of the Orthodox Faith



My heart goes out to homosexual men and women who face a life of rejection and loneliness. I do not believe the majority of them chose to be homosexual. A person would have to be insane to chose a sexual proclivity that fosters hatred and rejection, and in many cases, being ostracized by their friends and family. Many believe there are genetic and environmental influences that cause homosexuality, but this is not provable scientifically. I believe same-sex attraction is the result of the fall, just as is all sin. And, just as all sin requires repentance and the acquisition of a contrite heart, so must the person who is actively involved in same-sex intimacy, repent, and turn to a life of chastity, with the aid of the Church’s sacramental life.

During my years as a priestmonk I have counseled many young men and women who were struggling with same-sex attraction, and trying to live chaste lives as Orthodox Christians. I have come to believe that without the support of the Church, and the Christian community, the struggle these people face will be devastating, and will often end in alienation and defeat.

Many years ago I attended a conference in which one of the speakers presented a hate filled lecture on the subject of homosexuality. Among the people attending the conference was the son of this priest. The young man had been receiving counseling from me, trying as he was to find hope for his future. He was lonely and fearful, afraid he would one day succumb to the strong sexual desires that were rising up within him, as he struggled with one of the strongest of human urges. The young man loved his faith and loved his father, but was filled with self-loathing and afraid his family would one day disown him, should they find out about his sexual proclivity.

Sitting on the platform I had a clear view of the young man, and could see the pain in his face upon hearing his fathers words. Sad to say, this young man did not remain in the Church, and eventually gave in to defeat and despair. Had his father known of his son’s struggles, I have no doubt he’d have given his son the loving assurance that he would always be his son and would never be rejected by his family. I am convinced this young man, had he stayed in the Church, would have received the support and love that was necessary to live a chaste life.

The answer to ALL passions of the flesh can be found within the Church. Just as Her founder, the Church is the fountain of compassion and mercy. It is not Christ’s Church that fails people, but sometimes the very therapists (clergy) who can get caught up in the letter of the law rather than being grounded in the mercy and compassion and love that is the foundation of the Church. Christ is the head of His Church, and we need to mirror His image when dealing with the fallen nature of ALL people. Sin, whatever form it takes, is equal in the eyes of God. We must look only at our own sins and be quick to overlook the sins of our neighbors. As priests of the Most High God, we are called to be agents of His mercy and love, ever offering encouragement to those whom God has placed in our pastoral care. That some must learn to live their lives in chastity, requires the support of loving and understanding clergy, and strong Christian communities.

Finally, I would like to say that the need for intimacy is often the driving force behind sexual promiscuity in all its forms. We all need intimacy, but to confuse this need with sex is the main reason why so many people succumb to sexual sin. The need for intimacy can be fulfilled in deep friendships, but must ultimately find true fulfillment in an intimate relationship with God.

We must submit to the Gospel of Christ, and the long tradition of the Orthodox Church as a hospital for the soul. We are ALL in need of healing, and we all need God’s love, and if we are to bask in the mercy of God, we need to be merciful to others. That Christians are being persecuted and discriminated against in this age of Islamic extremism, and leftist suppression, in no way excuses us Christians from acting in the same merciless way of the unbelievers. We must walk in the Light of Christ, and, with God’s help, serve as agents of His mercy and love, letting the transformational power of His grace change us, and through our acquired love, all those around us. Saint Seraphim of Sarov told us that if we acquire inner peace, a thousand around us will be saved. 
With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon
 
http://www.pravmir.com/homosexual-person-light-orthodox-faith/ 
https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/2017/09/same-sex-attraction/

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

For a Rainy Day: the Story of One Ascetic



I labored much but never saved money; whatever was left I distributed to the needy. But one day the thought came to me, “What if I get old and fall sick? Who will help me then, and take me in? How will I live?” That is what I thought, and began putting away money for “a rainy day”, at first a little bit from my work, and then more and more, so that I stopped helping others altogether as I had done before. With time I had saved up not a little for “a rainy day”.

And what happened? Just as I thought, so it happened. My “rainy day” arrived. A terrible wound appeared on my leg and I couldn’t work. I had to lie in bed and seek help from the doctors. But no matter how much I treated my illness, to the point where all my saved up money ended, it didn’t help. Finally the doctors said to me, “We will have to amputate the leg, otherwise you’ll die.” There was nothing to do about it, and I decided to lose my leg, if only to stay alive. Meanwhile at night I was sunk in thought. I remembered my former working life, when I had no sorrows and only joy that I could help the needy with my labors, and as if forgot to think about myself. I began asking God for help, repenting that I had become miserly, hoping in money to deliver me from every calamity. Then in a dream an angel of God appeared to me and said, “Where is your money you saved up for “a rainy day”? I began weeping. “I have sinned,” I said. “O Lord, forgive me, I won’t do it any more!” Then the angel touched my sick leg, and suddenly all sickness left me. From that time on I considered it a sin to save up money for “a rainy day.” What do I need money for when the Lord Himself takes care of me?

—St. Theophan the Recluse

The miser has learned one word, “I don’t have anything; I won’t give you anything, because I myself am poor.” Truly you are poor and wanting of every virtue; you are poor in love, poor in love for mankind, poor in faith in God, poor in eternal hope.

—St. Basil the Great

Don’t be afraid of impoverishment

Don’t be afraid of impoverishment in anything, for before this you had nothing—now you have; and if you don’t have, you will have. For the One Who created everything has not become impoverished, and never will. Believe this firmly.

Don’t chase after plenty, but be thankful for little. For everyone chases after plenty, everyone looks for abundance, everyone takes care for much, but you can’t take anything with you once you’ve left everything, not even the least. It is better to be thankful for little than to unreasonably chase after plenty… For everything that you gain here will be left on earth; having left everything behind, you will settle into your grave with your soul bared.

—St. Dimitry of Rostov

Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.

Proverbs, 23:4–5

From: Spiritual Trapeza. Soul-profiting Reading for Everday.

Friday, September 1, 2017

On Pastoral Guidance Before and After Marriage ( Metropolitan Ephrem of Tripoli )



The Christian family is a little church. The marriage bond is a holy bond, not merely a sexual relationship. Hence the importance of educating the family, both parents and children, and raising them spiritually and educationally.

Marital preparation before the marriage has become an urgent matter, as has follow-up after the marriage and keeping up with couples in their daily life under the pressure of the challenges imposed upon us by our time.

Thus there is a need for committed and spiritually and culturally mature pastors who are capable of giving proper guidance.

Among the pressing factors of our time:

1) Social media, which has made it much easier for people to get to know each other, though this is not always with proper intent. For this reason, social media has caused many marital conflicts which have sometimes led to divorce. Additionally, this media has opened the way for long-distance marriage, which is something unacceptable.

2) The economic crisis, consumerism, the woman’s having to work.

3) The influence of customs of the diaspora and a lack of dedication to our Eastern Christian heritage and tradition.

4) Hastiness, in many cases, in the matter of the engagement.

5) The absence of marital pastoral care before and after the marriage.

6) Mixed marriage, which very often leads to inherent disagreements.

Where is the treatment for all this? We have said that we need pastors with ample appropriate training to accompany the spouses before and after marriage. There is an important proposal to establish a committee, association or network, which can itself be a committee specialized in marital preparation, whose task is to exchange experiences and emerging studies and which has a common program with other dioceses under the supervision of the Holy Synod. Its members must have training from the following fields: law, medicine, spirituality, sociology, culture, and psychology…

Beloved, marital fidelity is not easy in this “wicked and corrupt generation.” Faithfulness comes first of all from commitment to Christian principles and dedication to the practice of the Church. We must avoid bad or tempting cohabitations.

Without prayer, without a god, no marriage can have any sanctity.

Children are always the victims of divorce and their psychological health is inevitably affected. The good leaven that the spouses taste is not at the beginning of their marriage but at the end of their life, if they have guarded their faithfulness to the last breath. 
http://www.pravmir.com/pastoral-guidance-marriage/

Monday, August 28, 2017

“DO YOU WANT TO SEE AN ANGEL?” ( St. Nektarios )


November 9/22 we remember St. Nektarios of Aegina, a modern ascetic and wonderworker. His life is amazing: the Lord manifested in a visible and tangible way His care for those who please Him.



St. Nektarios (Anastasios Kefalas in the world) was born into a large, poor family in the Thracian village of Silivri, not far from Constantinople. He survived many afflictions in his life; he was faced with jealousy, hatred, and slander, in order to understand that truly everywhere and at all times “those desiring to live piously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

The saint acquired the gifts of the Holy Spirit: unceasing prayer and spiritual discernment, healing, clairvoyance, and prophecy. When he served the Divine Liturgy, in a prayerful state, his face radiated light which was visible to others.

St. Nektarios of Aegina was a man of exceptional kindness, giving away everything he had. When he had no money for giving alms he would give his clothes and shoes to those in need. Once, while serving the Liturgy in an Athenian church, some poor priest entered into the altar. His riassa was shabby and full of patches. The saint gave him his only riassa.

Every time that the saint gave away everything he had, and his wallet was emptied, he went to church and stretched out his hand before the icon of the Savior of the Mother of God and said: “You see, Christ God, I have no money… But You know…” And the Lord would send him His blessing.



During St. Nektarios’ tenure as director of the theological school in the center of Athens the janitor suddenly became seriously ill. He was very afraid of losing his job. Not yet fully recovered from his illness, the janitor went to the school to find it in perfect order. Figuring that they had already replaced him, the poor man became terribly upset. His wife, also quite upset, advised him to go to work early in the morning to try to speak with the new janitor. He arrived at the school at five in the morning and saw his “replacement,” which turned out to be the saint himself. He had swept the restroom, saying to himself: “Sweep, Nektarios—it’s the only thing you’re worthy of doing.” The saint told the patient: “Don’t worry, I’m not taking your spot—on the contrary, I’m doing this to save it for you until you’re fully recovered… But be careful: as long as I’m living in this world, no one should know about what you have seen.” St. Nektarios was engaged in physical labor, sometimes very heavy, in the monastery he founded on Aegina. He dug the beds and looked after the garden himself, carried water for irrigation, and moved huge rocks to build the cells and even made and repaired shoes.

Fr. Philothoes (Zervakos), abbot from the island of Paros, recalled:

In August 1910 I sailed to Aegina to receive the saint’s blessing. By noon I had reached the monastery. The sun was blazing mercilessly. Outside the monastery walls I saw an elderly white-bearded man, head covered by a straw hat, bottom half of his cassock pulled up and tucked behind his belt. He was shoveling dirt and rocks into a wheelbarrow and pushed it for sixty meters. Not realizing it was Vladyka Nektarios, my spiritual advisor, I took him for a worker, wearing a cassock so as not to soil his clothes, or a novice. I went up to him, greeted him, and asked: “Is Vladyka Nektarios here?” “Yes,” he answered. “He’s here. What do you want from him?” “Go tell him that a deacon, one of his spiritual children, wants to see him.” “Right away. May it be pleasing to God,” he said… In a few minutes he returned in a klobuk and a riassa with wide sleeves. Then I realized, that the man I had taken for a worker was the saint. I never would have thought that the metropolitan could do such work at an hour when everyone was taking their afternoon naps.”

Even on Aegina, in that blessed place, many trials and temptations, with which his greatly sorrowful life was filled, awaited the saint. There was a widow named Lazara living there who sold candles. She had a very beautiful and pure daughter Maria, who, nevertheless, she constantly yelled at and accused of licentiousness. The girl found shelter in the monastery, and in the person of the saint a patron and spiritual father. Then Lazara went to the court in Piraeus and falsely accused the saint of promiscuity. The very next day, the enraged judge, accompanied by two policemen, went to Aegina, and, in a rage, harshly accused the saint, flippantly insulted him and even threatened to tear out the holy elder’s beard. The saint did not answer the ridiculous accusations and insults, but only silently prayed. The nuns were crying in horror and called out: “Lord, have mercy!” The poor girl was summoned to the court and sent for a humiliating examination by a gynecologist who established her chastity. The judge became seriously ill and immediately understood that he was being punished for his actions against a holy man. He fervently repented of his behavior and asked to be taken to Aegina to beg forgiveness from the saint. St. Nektarios forgave him and prayed for him, and the judge recovered.

Near the monastery there was a well and the nuns would draw water from it for working on the restoration of the monastery. They needed a lot of water and the level declined sharply, so the owner of the well forbade the nuns to use it. St. Nektarios prayed and just as he was praying there rang out the sound of mighty water—a flood of pure, fresh water filled the well to the brim. Then the owner, filled with the fear of God and gratitude, gave the well to the monastery.



St. Nektarios with the faithful after Liturgy, Evia, 1893



Abbess Nektaria of the Chrysoleontissa Monastery, a spiritual child of St. Nektarios, told about how a group of pilgrims came to him once at the monastery. The sisters’ table was already set in the trapeza, the foot was already out on plates, and the pans were empty. Bewildered, the nuns turned to their spiritual father. The saint told them to put the food back in the pots and pans, and then blessed it. When the same food was put out on the table again there turned out to be enough for the sisters and for the monastery’s guests, with three full plates remaining.

Mother Nektaria also recalled about how the spiritual world was open to him: “One day I was walking with my spiritual father, when he suddenly asked: ‘Nektaria, would you like to see your angel?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ I answered. ‘I want to see him.’ ‘Look,’ he said, ‘your angel is in front of you.’” And she truly saw her angel, but his appearance was so brilliant that she was afraid.



The residents of Aegina witnessed numerous miracles accomplished through the prayers of St. Nektarios. Once there was a severe drought and the people and animals were threatened with famine. One night one of the peasants knocked on the gate of the monastery and asked St. Nektarios to pray for rain. The saint said: “Let’s pray to God, and may He hear the prayer of the peasant and act according to his faith.” Then he raised his hands to heaven and began to pray. An hour later a terrible storm broke out over the island, lasting all night. The threat of drought was averted.

Thanks to St. Nektarios’ prayers, robbing and pillaging ceased on the island, and even the climate changed, becoming more favorable for agriculture.

During the war, soldiers from Aegina would go to the saint for a blessing before departing for the front. The sisters of the monastery recorded their names. The list would then be placed on the altar, and the saint prayed for them. Everyone who received the blessing of the holy elder returned from war wholly unscathed, without a single exception.

After the war, the former German commander of Athens admitted that military pilots flying out to bomb Crete, flying past the island of Aegina simply could not see the island, despite good visibility and the lack of cloud cover.

Once, when St. Nektarios was praying in contrition, an amazing peace descended upon his heart. The Most Holy Theotokos herself appeared to him accompanied by a host of angels, singing in a special melody:

O pure and virgin Lady, O spotless Theotokos

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Virgin Queen and Mother, O dewy fleece most sacred

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O height transcending heaven above, O beam of light most radiant

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O joy of chaste and virgin maids, surpassing all the angels

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O brilliant light of heaven above, most clear and most radiant

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Commanding chief of heaven above, O holiest of holies

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O ever-virgin Mary, O Mistress of creation

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Bride all-pure and spotless, O Lady all-holy

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O holy Mary, Bride and Queen, O cause of our rejoicing

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O Maiden Queen most hon'rable, O Mother most holy

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

More precious than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Surpassing principalities, dominions, thrones and powers

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, song of the cherubim, Rejoice, hymn of the angels

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, ode of the seraphim, and joy of the archangels

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, o peace; Rejoice, o joy, and haven of salvation

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

O bridal chamber of the Word, unfading, fragrant blossom

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, delight of paradise, Rejoice, life everlasting

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, o holy tree of life, and fount of immortality

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Rejoice, O unwedded Bride!

Afterwards this prayer became the famous hymn “Agni Parthene.” It can be heard at services in America and in Russia and in Greece it would be hard to find anyone who would not sing it.

The blessed repose of St. Nektarios followed on Sunday, November 8/21, on the day of the Synaxis of Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers. Having communed of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, St. Nektarios of Aegina peacefully departed to the Lord. He had just turned seventy-four.

The body of the saint remained in the hospital ward for eleven hours, and from the very first minutes exuded a sweet fragrance. A local paralytic was lying in his bed there. When they changed St. Nektarios’ clothes, they laid them on the paralytic’s bed, and he got up and walked, giving praise to God and the holy elder. Thus the Lord glorified the saint with his first miracle.

Farewell to St. Nektarios. Fresco



Many miraculous healings occurred by the prayers of St. Nektarios after his blessed repose. He died from a severe and excruciating cancer, and, after his burial he intercedes for those who have no one and no hope on earth—those hopeless cases doomed to a quick death.

In 1961 St. Nektarios of Aegina was numbered among the saints of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Instructions of St. Nektarios

On Sorrows

Any sorrow, patiently endured, becomes a step towards perfection.

Happiness is found within ourselves

How mistaken are those people who search for happiness outside of themselves: in foreign countries and travels, in riches and glory, in great possessions and enjoyments, in pleasures and excess, and in empty things, which in the end are bitterness!

To build a tower of happiness outside our own heart is like building a house on a spot that continually suffers earthquakes.

Happiness is found within ourselves, and blessed is he who has realized this.

He who has a pure heart is a beloved child of God

A good conscience is the greatest of all the blessings. It is the price of a peaceful soul and tranquil heart.

Whoever has a pure heart, who does not experience accusations from his own heart, who does good and that which is pleasing and perfect in the eyes of God, who carefully observes the commandments of God, the same has boldness to stand before God. Everything that he asks he receives from God.

He who has a pure heart is a beloved child of God. The Spirit of the Son lives in his heart, and he receives everything he asks for, finds all that he seeks, and doors are opened to him when he knocks.

Not a goal, but a means

Fasting, vigil, and prayer by themselves do not bring the desired fruit, because they are not the purpose of our life, but constitute the means for achieving our goal.

Be attentive to your minor falls

Be attentive to your minor falls. If some sin befalls you from inattentiveness, don’t despair, but pull yourself together and kneel before God Who has the power to raise you up.

Within ourselves we have deeply rooted weaknesses, passions and flaws, many of which are hereditary. All of this cannot be broken with one sharp movement, or a worrisome and difficult experience, but by patience and perseverance.

Don’t lose heart and don’t be afraid

Remember that after temptation follows spiritual joy and that the Lord watches over those who endure temptations and sufferings for the sake of His love. So, don’t lose heart and don’t be afraid.

Entrust all your cares to the Lord: He will take care of you.

Entreat God and don’t lose courage. Don’t think that because your desire is holy, you have the right to complain when your prayers go unheard. God will fulfill your desires in some way you don’t know about. So, calm down and invoke God.

Ask God for love every day

Ask God for love every day. Along with love comes all the many blessings and virtues.

Sanctification abandons the confused and angry heart

Sanctification abandons the confused and angry heart, darkened by hatred for one’s neighbor. Make peace with your brother more quickly, to not deprive yourself of the grace of God, which sanctifies our hearts.

He who is at peace with himself and at peace with his neighbor is at peace with God. Such a person is filled with holiness, because God Himself abides in him.

Don’t impose upon yourself more than you can bear
Don’t impose upon yourself more than you can bear. Remember that God does not bestow His gifts under duress, but when He Himself wants to. Everything He gives you, you receive undeservedly, according to His mercy.

Grace is sent as a gift to those who have been cleansed from the passions

Those who seek Divine gifts and insights, while being immersed in passion, dwell in stupid and proud delusion. Above all it is necessary to work upon cleansing ourselves.

Grace is sent as a gift to those who have been cleansed from the passions. And they receive it quietly and in an hour they don’t know.Through the prayers of our holy fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy upon us!

http://www.pravoslavie.ru

Friday, August 25, 2017

The longer you wait to seek forgiveness, the more you allow the evil one to spread his roots within you. ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

 
I received your letter, my child, and I saw your anxiety. But don’t be sad, my child. Don’t worry so much. Even though you have fallen again, get up again. You have been called to a heavenly road. It is not surprising for someone running to stumble. It just takes patience and repentance at every moment.

Therefore, always do a metanoia when you are wrong and don’t lose time, because the longer you wait to seek forgiveness, the more you allow the evil one to spread his roots within you. Don’t let him make roots to your detriment.

Therefore, don’t despair when you fall, but get up eagerly and do a metanoia saying, “Forgive me, my dear Christ. I am human and weak.” The Lord has not abandoned you. But since you still have a great deal of worldly pride, a great deal of vainglory, our Christ lets you make mistakes and fall, so that you perceive and come to know your weakness every day, so that you become patient with others who make mistakes, and so that you do not judge the brethren when they make mistakes, but rather put up with them.

So every time you fall, get up again and at once seek forgiveness. Don’t hide sorrow in your heart, because sorrow and despondency are the joy of the evil one. They fill one’s soul with bitterness and give birth to many evils. Whereas the frame of mind of someone who repents says, “I have sinned! Forgive me Father!” and he expels the sorrow. He says, “Am I not a weak human? So what do I expect?” Truly, my child this is how it is. So take courage.

Only when the grace of God comes does a person stand on his feet. Otherwise, without grace, he always changes and always falls. So be a man and don’t be afraid at all.
Do you see how that brother you wrote about endured the temptation? You, too, should do likewise. Acquire a brave spirit against the temptations that come. In any case, they will come. Forget about what your despondency and indolence tell you. Don’t be afraid of them. Just as the previous temptations passed by the grace of God, these, too, will pass once they do their job.

Temptations are medicines and healing herbs that heal our visible passions and our invisible wounds. So have patience in order to profit every day, to store up wages, rest, and joy in the heavenly kingdom. For the night of death is coming when no one will be able to work anymore. Therefore, hurry. Time is short.

You should know this too: a victorious life lasting only one day with trophies and crowns is better than a negligent life lasting many years. Because one man’s struggle, with knowledge and spiritual perception that lasts one day, has the same value as another man’s struggle, who struggles negligently without knowledge for fifty years.

Without a struggle and shedding your blood, don’t expect freedom from the passions. Our earth produces thorns and thistles after the Fall. We have been ordered to clean it, but only with much pain, bloody hands, and many sighs are the thorns and thistles uprooted. So weep, shed streams of tears, and soften the earth of your heart. Once the ground is wet, you can easily uproot the thorns.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I am at this moment in some pain, and I call on the Name of Jesus ( Fr. Seraphim Rose )



“Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? Very simply, because pleasure and happiness accustom one to satisfaction with the things given in this world, whereas pain and suffering drive one to seek a more profound happiness beyond the limitations of this world. I am at this moment in some pain, and I call on the Name of Jesus—not necessarily to relieve the pain, but that Jesus, in Whom alone we may transcend this world, may be with me during it, and His will be done in me. But in pleasure I do not call on Him; I am content then with what I have, and I think I need no more. And why is a philosophy of pleasure untenable?—because pleasure is impermanent and unreliable, and pain is inevitable. In pain and suffering Christ speaks to us, and thus God is kind to give them to us, yes, and evil too—for in all of these we glimpse something of what must lie beyond, if there really exists what our hearts most deeply desire.”


Fr. Seraphim Rose

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Elevation of the Bread in Honour of the Most Holy Mother of God ( Saint Maximos the Greek )


The Only-Begotten Son and Word of God, who became a human person for us (though He was sinless), voluntarily underwent the crucifixion, death and burial so that our human nature, which the father of evil had caused to be cast out of paradise in olden times, could be elevated. Christ rose, however, and was elevated to His initial glory, and then sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to his disciples and apostles. After the God/Man/Word ascended into heaven, the eye-witnesses and servants of the Lord were in the upper room, as Saint Luke tells us, and after they had received the Holy Spirit they were unwilling to neglect preaching the Word of God in order to wait on tables. So they appointed deacons in their place. When the preachers of salvation sat down at table, they placed on it a napkin with a loaf on it, which was the Saviour’s portion and similar to those He had eaten when He was still incarnate among them, before His passion.

When the holy apostles rose from the table, the oldest and first among them took the loaf in his hands, raised it up and proclaimed ‘Great is the name’. The other disciples of the Word responded ‘of the Holy Trinity’. Then the deacon who was serving said ‘Glory to You in the name of Christ the Saviour’. And the apostles again answered ‘Glory to You our God’. The name of the Holy Consubstantial Trinity without beginning was said once and ‘glory to You our God, glory to You’ twice, because of the two elements, divinity and humanity, the two energies and two natures, and their perfect union in the God/Man/Word.

The holy apostles performed this rite both when they were together and when they were apart, after they’d gone out to teach all the nations. At the Dormition of the Holy, Most Pure, Ever-Virgin Mary, the Sinless, Uncorrupt, Mother of the Word, the Most Honourable and Sublime of all celestial concepts, the renewal of our race, the most precious, God-receiving vessel of the whole of the Divinity, the apostles, who were at the ends of the known world, were taken up in clouds and transported to Gethsemane to offer their services at the burial of the most pure body of the Mother of God the Word. By God’s will, which sees and arranges all things, the holy and great Apostle Thomas was not with the others at the burial of the Mother of the Word, just as, when the Saviour appeared to His disciples behind closed doors after His resurrection and taught them about peace, Thomas wasn’t there and didn’t believe the other disciples and companions.

Because of this good disbelief, he taught us, through touching the most pure members of the Saviour’s body- the ribs and the hands- that we should believe that He Who suffered the Passion while still among us is indeed the perfect God. So, in this instance, too, by the ineffable and unspoken will of Him Who orders all things and governs all things well, Thomas wasn’t present at the funeral of the Mother of God. He came three days later, borne on a cloud and immediately hastened to the grave, together with the other apostles, in order to venerate the life-receiving body of the Mother of God. And so the whole of the human race was given salvation and the correct faith.


Dormition of Theotokos, by hand of Georgios Kordis, egg tempera on wood

Just as the incarnate God rose from the dead, so the holy body of His Mother was taken up into the heavenly domain. On their return from the grave, the apostles talked to Thomas, the preacher of the truth, about how he was transported on the cloud. They recalled the words of the song of the Mother of God, her miracles and her final resting in the grave. He in turn related the persecutions, the temptations and the hardships he’d suffered on his journey. He named the cities, the residents of which had come to believe through his preaching, and also told them what he saw when he was taken up in the cloud. He told them all of this. Then they went to eat and thereafter began to elevate the portion which had been placed in honour of Christ the Saviour.

When the deacon who was performing this rite took this bread in his hands, he raised it and said ‘Great is the name’ and the apostles replied ‘of the Holy Trinity’. And when he said ‘Glory to you our God glory to you’- oh, how ineffable and delightful are Your mysteries, Christ our King, through which you perform miracles! Wishing to satisfy the great desire of the Apostle Thomas to see the All Holy and Ever-Virgin Mother of God, You allowed him to see You and Your holy Mother, all the heavenly powers and all those who had fallen asleep throughout the ages ascending from earth to heaven. The apostles gazed in terror at Our Lady and her Only-Begotten Son. And instead of saying ‘Glory to You, our God, glory to You’, they exclaimed ‘Most Holy Mother of God, help us!’ And other apostles shouted ‘Through her intercessions, God, have mercy upon us and save us!’ Since then, this elevation of the ‘Panayia’, Our Most Holy Lady, has been celebrated in commemoration of the Mother of God herself.

And so we celebrate the elevation of the ‘Panagia’ when we rise from the table, for the sanctifying of our souls and bodies. Who can praise in an appropriate way her innumerable miracles, which are still being performed to this day? Were we able to concentrate the eloquence of all orators into one mouth and a single voice, we still wouldn’t be able to find a way to tell the secrets of her wonders, which she performs on land and sea: illnesses disappear, demons are put to flight, prisoners are liberated from bitter enslavement, the down-trodden are freed from the misery that oppresses them. And from what I’ve seen and heard, anyone who raises a finger, a stone, or some plant in her memory and her name receives the same deliverance from tribulations as the person who elevates the bread in honour of the Ever-Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, took the bread in His hands and said ‘Take, eat; this is my body’ and ‘do this in remembrance of me’. Christ is the head, which is why those who partake of His great mystery, if they receive it worthily, will receive His glory and become gods by grace.

Those who instituted the sacraments were pleased to confirm that, because of this bread which is elevated in honour of the holy name of the Mother of God, we should be delivered from every evil and should partake of her holy body. And, thanks to her protection, that we should be delivered from eternal torments and be counted worthy of the eternal blessings, through her prayers and those of all the saints throughout the ages. Amen.
 
http://pemptousia.com/2017/08/the-story-behind-the-elevation-of-the-bread-in-honour-of-the-most-holy-mother-of-god/

The Dormition of the Mother of God: a liturgical approach

The feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God is celebrated on August 15 by the Christian world and is the greatest of those established by the Church in honour of the Mother of the Lord. It may be the oldest of all. The first evidence we have for it dates from the 5th century, round about the time when the 3rd Ecumenical Synod was called in Ephesus (451), at which the dogma of the Mother of God was defined and the honour due to her was developed. It appears that it was first held in Jerusalem on 13 August and was transposed soon afterwards to the 15th of the same month. It was a general feast of the Virgin, without particular reference to her Dormition.

It was called “the day of Mary, the Mother of God”. The centre for the celebrations initially was a kathisma (seat), a church in her name, which was located outside Jerusalem, some three miles along the road leading to Bethlehem. The association of the feast with the Dormition of the Mother of God occurred at the famous church of Our Lady in Gethsemane, “Mavrikios’ house of prayer”, where her grave was. This church quickly acquired the status of the most important pilgrimage site of the Mother of God, and its renown became the reason why the feast on 15 August quickly spread throughout the Christian world, East and West, as the feast of the Dormition.



The feast was later elevated, with a preparatory fast and the extension of the feasting until 23 August or even to the end of the month and so it became not only the greatest of the feasts of the Mother of God but also one of the most important in the Church’s year. It was only natural that this should be so, because Our Lady is the best-loved and holy person after Christ, which is why she has attracted the honour and veneration of all generations of Christians. Countless churches and monasteries have been built in honour of her Dormition; in every church, behind the main entrance, wonderful wall-paintings of astonishing composition depict her funeral; her service his been embellished with choice hymns; and fine words and encomia have been expressed by the Fathers and modern Church figures on the day when we commemorate her. All generations of humankind have rivalled each other in presenting the best they have to offer, to praise and bless the Virgin Mary in word and deed.

THE FESTAL CONTENT OF THE FEAST

If we are to understand the festal content of the feast of the Dormition, and indeed, that of the other feasts of the Mother of God, the Conception, the Nativity, and the Entry, we need to look back briefly at the sources from which the information concerning her was drawn. Otherwise, it’s impossible to interpret all the things associated with this celebration: the narratives, the hymnography and the iconography. The authentic historical sources, the Gospels and the other books of the New Testament have not preserved any information about her life before the Annunciation or after the Ascension of the Lord. The intention of the authors was to narrate the life and the work of salvation of Christ, and whatever was directly linked with Him; not to satisfy the devout curiosity or the historical interests of their readers. By word of mouth, however, the tradition of the Church preserved various pieces of information having to do with the life of the Mother of God before the Conception of the Lord and after His Resurrection. Thereafter different authors, devout for the most part, took this information and embellished it throough their imagination, and, to give their works greater kudos, affixed great apostolic names to them. The Church rejected these works and called them apocryphal and falsified. In later times, many of these narratives, in their most basic forms, provided the subject matter for the formation of feasts, the construction of narratives, the poetry of hymns and the composition of icons. In any case, as we’ve said, the core of these narratives had as its base very old historical traditions concerning the person of the Mother of God.

STORY OF THE EVENT OF THE DORMITION

The event of the Dormition, in particular, is told, apart from elsewhere, in an apocryphal narrative which bears the name John, the disciple beloved of Christ. We shall present a summary of this lengthy text here. At each point, the reader will recall corresponding phrases from the hymns and synaxarion of the feast and details from the icon of the Dormition, which was composed by Byzantine artists.

After Christ’s Ascension, the Mother of God went to the life-receiving tomb every day and prayed. One Friday, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and saluted her: “Hail, you who bore Christ our God. The Lord has heard your prayer and you will leave the world and enter the true and eternal life”. The Mother of God returned home, burned incense and prayed to Christ to send her John and the other apostles, so that they could be present at her death. Her petition was heard and the first to arrive, snatched up in a cloud was John and then the others were borne by clouds and came from the ends of the earth, to which they had scattered. The Lord arrived in his radiant glory and, with thousands of angels, He received the soul of His Mother. She blessed the apostles and the world, interceded for the salvation of all and, having been given the assurance that any soul invoking her name would not be put to shame but would find mercy and comfort and defence and boldness in the present life and that of the future, she gave up her holy soul into the hands of her Son.

The apostles surrounded the body and, chanting, lifted up her bed with the body lying upon it, to be buried. A Jew by the name of Jeronias made to attack the bed, but an angel of the Lord, with a sword of fire, cut off his arms at the shoulder, and they remained attached to the bed. He repented and they were re-attached, while the apostles continued the cortege undisturbed. The body was buried in a new tomb in Gethsemane, but on the third day was transported to Paradise.

CHURCH POETRY

The poetry of the Church has embellished this simple narrative. The three stikhira (poetic hymns) in the first tone at Vespers (the first an automelos [contrafactum] and the others based upon it) praise the Mother of God and her Dormition in a wonderful manner. The substructure, however, can easily be recognized as the apocryphal narrative: Gethsemane, the words of Gabriel, the presence of the angelic powers, the transition from the grave to heaven.

The stikhira at Lauds in the 4th tone have the same theme. In the first, the whole cosmos, heavenly and earthly, rejoices, accompanying the mother of Christ and singing a funeral song for her. The other two describe the arrival of the apostles and their chanting at the graveside, as well as the presence of the angelic powers and the reception of her spotless soul by Christ.

Finally, let us take a look at the most exceptional tropario of her feast, and, indeed, of all our troparia. It is the doxastiko at Vespers. It takes its subject matter from the apocryphal narrative. The exceptional nature of the hymn lies in the fact that it is not sung in only one tone, as are all the other Church hymns, but in all eight.

Tone 1

By the royal command all the God-bearing apostles were snatched up into clouds on high

Tone Plagial 1

On reaching your immaculate and life-giving body, they embraced it fervently.

Tone 2

The highest powers of heavens attended, with their own master,

Tone Plagial 2

Seized with awe, they accompanied your inviolate body which had held God, and went on high before you, calling, unseen, to the ranks above: “Behold the Maid of God, the Queen of all, is at hand”.

Tone 3

Open wide the gates and welcome the mother of the everlasting light.

Tone Plagial 3

For through her the salvation of mortals has come; we are not strong enough to look upon her and are unable to render honours worthy of her.

Tone 4

For her excellence is beyond all conception

Tone Plagial 4

Therefore, most pure Mother of God, living forever with your Son and life-bearing King, pray without ceasing that your young people may be sheltered and saved from every adverse assault, for we have your protection.

Tone 1

And we bless you in beauty and light unto all ages.

Source: Λογική Λατρεία [Logical Worship], Apostoliki Diakonia Publications, Athens 1984.

(www.apostoliki-diakonia.gr)