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!

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Christ, Church, Husband, And Wife

Image result for orthodox wedding

“For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore just as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:23)

Some brides-to-be resent this epistle read at every Orthodox Church wedding. They think it’s sexist—not politically correct in this era of liberation of women. But that objection is misdirected. This advice of St. Paul is not about subordination of woman to man, nor is it about control. This is about love. The holy apostle is not putting wives down; he’s raising the vision of husbands to a spiritual awareness of responsibility.

It’s a daring equation, comparing the husband with Christ. Can a Christian who wears a cross at his neck and hangs a cross in his bedroom not comprehend the great, sacrificial love that Jesus Christ has demonstrated for His Church? There is not an atom of selfishness in it. Who reading the gospels can find somewhere or some word of the loving Lord that suggests, “What’s in it for Me?” Show me a place that implies the Church doing something for Christ, rather than what Christ is doing for the Church.

St. Paul is speaking to all married men. Do you expect or even demand obedience from your wives? Look up at Christ on the cross. Will you ever do that for her? You insist that your wife love you exclusively. That’s your right as a husband and her obligation as your wife. Then you must first demonstrate your willingness to lay down your life in her behalf. If it comes to one of you making a sacrifice for the sake of the family, step out smartly and be the one who offers his life for wife and family. Yes, granted, St. Paul wrote that the husband is the head of the wife, but that’s not all he wrote on the subject. The love of Christ for the Church is your measure of your own adoration of your wife. God forbid that you ever terrorize her, intimidate her or control her by temper tantrums or any of the more subtle mind control methods rampant in our culture. You were commissioned by Christ in the sacred sacrament of marriage to love and honor her—she is ever your queen, and you must look for the crown still worn on her head, albeit invisibly.

Your love for her must be always pure and sacred. She is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and you must do nothing to defile that living temple. She is baptized in the blessed water of Jordan. It takes nothing from the romance or the love act to treat your wife as a being precious in the sight of the Lord. Any expression of love that degrades, humiliates or plain uses the partner is unworthy of your marriage. Any violation of your marital obligations to one another, adultery or lewdness, will invite the serpent of evil into your bed, cause you deceit and hypocrisy, and reduce you to shame and self-rejection.

True love will be constantly in search of ways to please your spouse, not yourself. Real affection is given through a glance, a touch, a card or flower. This woman is not your cook, your washerwoman or maid. She is far more than the one who cares for your children. If that’s all she is to you, you are unworthy of calling yourself her husband.

If as you heard at the wedding, you “leave father and mother and cleave to your wife,” she has become your very body. You are one flesh and blood with her. You can no more separate yourself from her that you would hack off your right arm. Despite our wicked society, you don’t change partners; you live with the one that God gave you.

Most of all, your love is a reflection of the love of Christ for your spiritual family and the Church of which you all are a part. Your home is an extension of your parish, a chapel where love is the binding ingredient between your family members and with the loving Lord and yourself.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Abbess Makrina of Portaria and Her Teachings

This beautiful article (and the photos that accompany it) is on our holy mother among the saints, Abbess Makrina of Portaria. As many of my readers know, I love blessed Makrina very much and so I wanted to share this lovely article.

 Chosen of God from her mother’s womb The blessed eldress experienced many sorrows—her parents’ untimely death, mortal illnesses, hunger, the horrors of war, and hard physical labor.

She was chosen of God from her mother’s womb. When Maria was only seven years old, during prayers with other children she heard an inner voice calling her to the angelic life of monasticism. At that same moment, the girl experienced a divine presence in her heart and began to weep with copious tears. She left her friends, ran home, and fell weeping before the holy icons.

On the same evening, after her father had returned home, Maria told him that she would like to become a nun. When her father asked whether she knew what it meant to become a nun, his little daughter didn’t answer. Then he understood that this was a call from God. He smiled at Maria, and strengthening her holy desire said, “Be a good nun, my child!”

How Maria was healed from a mortal illness

From her earliest childhood, Maria always had great reverence for the Most Pure Theotokos. During the German occupation, the girl was diagnosed with pleurisy. Once she was sitting alone in a dark room, dying from hunger and praying to the Mother of God, peacefully waiting for her to take her from this life. At a certain moment the room was filled with light, and Maria saw a nun who came up to her and lovingly promised to heal her. In a moment the pain and feeling of hunger disappeared, and Maria felt as if she had just eaten a satisfying dinner. After this miraculous vision she was also healed of that serious case of pleurisy.

“I have never seen such pure thoughts in any other person.”

The blessed eldress was closely acquainted with several Greek ascetics of piety, several of whom have recently been glorified as saints by the Church. When she first met the now canonized St. Paisios the Hagiorite and made a full prostration to the ground before him, the elder responded quickly by making a full prostration before her. He would not rise until the eldress rose first. St. Paisios reposed only two months after blessed Macrina’s soul had passed to eternity.* When he heard about the blessed nun’s reposed, the saint said, “there will not be another one like her.”

The blessed elder Iakovos (Tsalikis) of Euboa said to some people who lived near Abbess Macrina’s monastery, “If I were you I would walk every day to the monastery to receive a blessing from Eldress Macrina before going to work.” St. Porphyrios of Kapsokalyvia and Elder Ieronymos of blessed memory both also spoke very highly of Gerondissa Macrina.
Elder Ephraim of Arizona and Abbess Macrina.

Elder Ephraim of Arizona wrote of blessed Macrina: “She was an extraordinarily virtuous person and was distinguished by her humility, meekness, attentiveness, and ceaseless prayer. She had a wondrous purity of mind. I have never seen such pure thoughts in any other person.”

Abbess Macrina’s monastery became a “divine nursery”.

Thanks to Abbess Macrina, the Panagia Hodigitria Monastery became a “divine nursery,” out of which grew several new monasteries in the U.S. and Canada. Today in the Greek Archdiocese of North America there are already ten convents, and all of them trace their history to St. Joseph the Hesychast.
Abbess Macrina and sisters.

Five stories of the blessed eldress Macrina.

We would like to share with you, dear readers, several stories that blessed Macrina related to her spiritual children for their edification.

The first story, about the pious widow

One day a widow heard someone knocking at her door. When she opened it she saw a young, pregnant woman whom she had never seen before. The woman said to her, weeping, “You are my mother, you are my protector, you are my salvation!” Without any hesitation the widow let the woman into her home and over the next few months secretly took care of her. Every evening when it was dark outside, she took the woman out for a walk so that she would remain strong and healthy, but in such a way that no one else would see her. Not long before the woman gave birth, with her consent the widow found a pious couple who agreed to adopt the child.

Soon afterwards, the widow’s son, who lived in America, contacted her and asked her to find him a good and pious girl to take in marriage. His mother asked him to come to Greece as soon as possible, because she had found him a wonderful girl whom he could marry. Before introducing him to the young woman, she told him all about how she had met the girl, and that she had given birth out of wedlock.

At first the son was disturbed, because he couldn’t believe his mother would choose a bride for him who had already lost her purity. But she was able to convince him that this was God’s will and that they would live happily together. So, the marriage took place in the widow’s village, and then the son returned to the United States with his young wife.

During that year of 1919, a flu pandemic broke out in Europe resulting in 20 million deaths, and the pious widow became one of those victims. Since her son could not arrive in time for his mother’s funeral, he decided to come when her body would be exhumed after three years for internment in the ossuary (according to the Greek tradition).
Eldress Macrina, Elder Ephraim, and Fr. Joseph.

When three years later they were nearing the place of burial, the air was filled with a wondrous fragrance that everyone noticed. But that was not the entire miracle: God had covered the widow’s bones with a filigree of pure gold. When her son’s wife saw this she fell to the ground on her knees, broke into tears and said to all, “This is because she protected me!” When this became known, a multitude of people came from all over Greece to venerate the pious widow, and they became the witnesses of this event. This included many bishops and priests!

How many wounded souls Gerondissa Macrina “protected” with her unconditional love! And how many more does she continue to protect with her constant intercession and prayer for us before the heavenly throne of God!

The blessed eldress always taught her sisters and those who came to her for spiritual advice to give glory to God for all things: for the so-called good and the so-called bad. Here is a story she related regarding this:

In one of the villages near her monastery there lived a pious couple who had a ten-year-old son. Their next-door neighbor was an old woman with an intolerable personality. She was constantly berating everyone, angrily and unfairly scolding her neighbors, and when their son would return from school she would throw sticks and stones at him.

One day the father turned to God with fervent prayer and decided to ask Him how to deal with that old woman’s bad temper. The Lord answered him, “She will live another thirty years!” And what was the man’s response to this news? He unmurmuringly said, “Glory to God!” He shared God’s answer with his wife and she likewise said, “Glory to God!” When the son came home from school and heard the news about God’s answer to his father’s prayer he also said, “Glory to God!”
Elder Ephraim and Gerondissa Macrina.

The next day, total silence reigned in the old woman’s house. She did not go outside to pour out her wrath upon her neighbors. The father went to see how she was doing and discovered that she had apparently died in her sleep. He began to pray to God in order to understand how this could happen, and the Lord said to him, “When you answered, ‘Glory to God!’ I shortened her life by ten years. When your wife gave the same reply I took away another ten years. And when your son said the same thing and also glorified Me, I took away the final ten years of her life.”

The third story, about the need for struggle with the spirit of contradiction

There is another story that Eldress Macrina often retold about the prophet Moses. When Moses was with the Israelites in the desert, they were dying of thirst. God commanded the prophet Moses to strike his staff against the rock so that a spring of water would come out. The prophet doubted: “Is it possible for water to come out of a rock?”

During her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the blessed Eldress Macrina went to find this place. She called it the “rock of contradiction”.

Moses did not show immediate obedience to the Lord—he showed it late. Afterwards the Lord said to him, “Because you gainsaid Me you will never enter Canaan, the Promised Land.”

The eldress said that we should war with the spirit of contradiction and try to always show obedience. That is why obedience is the first and foremost thing taught in a monastery.

This story was told by the eldress’s spiritual daughter Alexandra Lagou, professor of medical history at the University of Medicine of Ioannina in Greece. One of blessed Macrina’s favorite teachings was about God’s great goodness—it was often found in her talks. She often spoke a great deal about patience. I remember how she taught me with her characteristic gentleness. “Is there any end to God’s great goodness? No! So should human patience also be endless.”

I remember, after 1992, when blessed Macrina went to America to see Gerondissa Taxiarchia of blessed memory. The flight over the ocean that lasted many hours produced such a strong impression on her that later she said to me, “What a miracle that is: You fly and fly, and beneath you is nothing but ocean! God’s great goodness is endless like the ocean. So should human patience be endless, like the ocean.”
Eldress Macrina with the sisters.

Many times at the end of our talks I would incline my head on her knees so that she would bless me, and she would bless me and say, “Like an enormous ocean, like great rivers and valleys, may the Lord grant us so much patience.” At the word “patience” she would use the plural. She would also say, “The grace of patience is the strongest grace,” because patience is at the foundation of all virtues. We cannot perform a single virtue without patience.

The fifth story, about Maria’s miraculous healing

Many of blessed Macrina’s instructions point to the primary importance of prayer, especially the Jesus Prayer. The eldress often emphasized the acute need for us to have “spiritual assertiveness”, in praying the Jesus prayer and in the reading of our daily prayer rule. Here is one of her favorite stories, which she would relate when talking about prayer.

One woman named Maria had a stroke, after which she remained totally paralyzed below the waist and to some degree on her upper right side. Eldress Macrina had taught her five years before her stroke to repeat the Jesus prayer and the prayer, Most Holy Theotokos, save us” as often as possible throughout the day, and when some essential need has arisen.

So now, confined to her bed and motionless, with her prayer rope in her left hand, Maria ceaselessly, with pain and boldness, called out, “Most Holy Theotokos, help me!” and “Most Holy Theotokos, save me, a sinner!”
Eldress Macrina’s cell.

After several days of this heartfelt prayer, one time the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to her during her prayers. She was radiant, bright as the sun, and followed by a multitude of Angels and Archangels; and Maria felt that the Mother of God literally covers and protects the whole world!

The Most Holy Theotokos said with her heavenly voice, “Maria, my child, what can I do for you?” This pious woman at first asked her to give her back her ability to turn from one side to the other, because she was in great pain. But then she started begging, “In fact, most of all I want to be saved. I thirst for salvation, and that’s why I am calling out to You.” And our most kind Protectress replied, “I will give you what you ask; that is what I came for, because you called to me day and night. I want all of you to call to Me! Call out to Me constantly, and I will hear you and come to you.”

The entire room and the whole house were filled with radiance and a heavenly fragrance that came from the Mother of God. But in the words of the blessed Eldress Macrina, all of this woman’s family members were witnesses to this living miracle. The heavenly fragrance remained in the house for many days, especially in the sick woman’s room. Maria’s face shone with the grace she had received. She not only began gradually to turn from one side to the other, but in just a few days she was completely healed and rose from her bed of pain.

At the end of this story, Gerondissa Macrina concluded that the Most Holy Theotokos wants for EVERYONE to call upon Her for help. The eldress said, “What did she say? ‘I want you all to call upon Me. I want you to call me, and then I will hear you and come. I want you to call to Me, ‘Help me, Most Holy Theotokos, Most Holy Theotokos save me, Most Holy Theotokos save my child,’ and tell Me everything you want from the depths of your heart’.”

The blessed eldress showed through this story that the Most Holy Theotokos WANTS for us to turn to Her and She promises us that She will help us by her presence!

Through the prayers of blessed Gerondissa Macrina, Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Attention is the first teacher of truth and consequently absolutely necessary ( St. Nektarios of Aegina )

Attention is the first teacher of truth and consequently absolutely necessary.
  Attention rouses the soul to study itself and its longings, to learn their true character and repulse those that are unholy. 
Attention is the guardian angel of the intellect, always counseling it this : be attentive. 
Attention awakens the soul, rouses it from sleep... Attention examines every thought, every desire, every memory. Thoughts, desires, and memories are engendered by various causes, and often appear masked and with splendid garb, in order to deceive the inattentive intellect and enter into the soul and dominate it. 
Only attention can reveal their hidden form. Often their dissimulation is so perfect that the discernment of their true nature is very difficult and requires the greatest attention. One must remember the saving words of the Lord: "Be wakeful and pray that ye enter not into temptation." He who is wakeful does not enter into temptation, because he is vigilant and attentive.

St. Nektarios of Aegina

Hope in God ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

Question yourself as to whether this faith is within you, or perhaps you are led by worldly wisdom. And if you leave all things in the hands of God, behold! 
You have acquired faith and undoubtedly, without any question, you will find God to be your helper. And so, even should you be tried a myriad of times and should satan tempt you to abandon faith, prefer death a thousand times more and don’t obey worldly wisdom.
 In this way the door of the mysteries will be opened to you and you will be amazed how the chains of worldly wisdom previously bound you.
 Now you will fly with divine wings above the earth and breathe the new air of freedom, which, of course, others are deprived of. If, however, you see that within you, you are governed by worldly wisdom, and in the smallest danger you lose hope and despair, know that you have not yet acquired faith, and consequently also hope, in God. 
Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Seek truth with love... ( St. Nicholas of Serbia )

Truth is not a thought, not a word, not a relationship between things, not a law. Truth is a Person. 
It is a Being which exceeds all beings and gives life to all. If you seek truth with love and for the sake of love, she will reveal the light of His face to you in as much as you are able to bear it without being burned. 
St. Nicholas of Serbia

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Man is more than sublime when he cares for the dead. ( St. Nikolai Velimirovich )

Man is sublime when he cares for the living; man is more than sublime when he cares for the dead.

A man often cares for the living out of selfishness. But what selfishness can there be in a man’s caring for the dead? Can the dead pay him, or express their gratitude?

Some animals bury their dead; giving them to the grave, they give them over to forgetfulness. But when a living man buries a dead one, he buries a part of himself with the dead man and returns home carrying a part of the dead man in his soul. This is especially clear – terribly clear – when a kinsman buries a kinsman, and a friend a friend.

O gravediggers, in how many graves have you already been buried, and how many corpses live in you! 
St. Nikolai Velimirovich