Monday, February 26, 2018

Akathist to St. Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia

St. Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia (+1991)
Note: The following is an amateur translation from the Greek text, offered for the many who love the Saint and who benefit from his speedy help. Also note that the meter of this translation is not set to match the original music.

Akathist to our Venerable Father Iakovos, who lately shown forth in Evia,
translated from the Greek text written by Dr. Charalampos Bousias

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone. O Champion General.
In Evia you lived practically, and were adorned with the pure roses of virtues, giving fragrance to your fellow refugees in these latter days, O Father, you who equalled the feats of the sacred David [of Evia] and the most sympathetic deliverer of those who suffer, therefore we cry out: Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

You were shown forth to be a light-bearing angel to us in our days, O Iakovos, lover of God (3), for you ceaselessly directed your nous towards God, having also trampled upon the enemy through asceticism, therefore we cry out to you:
Rejoice, O pillar of chastity,
Rejoice, O lamp of spotlessness.
Rejoice, dwelling-place of the Three-Sun Godhead,
Rejoice, offspring of Livisiou of Makri.
Rejoice, newly-illumined light of God-bearing ascetics,
Rejoice, abyss of humility and canon of mindfulness.
Rejoice, you who granted heavenly gifts to those who came to you,
Rejoice, you who watered them with mystical rain.
Rejoice, icon of the wisdom of the Creator,
Rejoice harbor of love of the age to come.
Rejoice, radiant ray of sympathy,
Rejoice, standard of prayer and fasting.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

You followed the steps of the former desert ascetics in these days, O Father, and showed forth the Monastery of St. David to be a strong valve of the steadfast, O Iakovos, who ceaselessly cry out to God at your struggles, Alleluia.

O holy one, you were an offspring of Livisiou, and from your childhood days you traveled paths as a refugee, tasting bitterness, and were deprived of bread for your food, while the faithful you made fully fed, who therefore cry out to you these things:
Rejoice, bread of the hungry,
Rejoice, lighthouse of those storm-tossed.
Rejoice, you who granted the water of salvation to all,
Rejoice, you who trampled upon the enemy who hates good.
Rejoice, fruitful tree distributing fruits,
Rejoice, most radiant star of divine sympathy.
Rejoice, for your made full the hearts of those hungry,
Rejoice, for you cast out every tribulation for those close to you.
Rejoice, you who grant joy to the faithful,
Rejoice, corruption, casting away the demon.
Rejoice, image of the life in Christ,
Rejoice, standard of the modest life.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

Having received divine power, you escaped the traps of childhood, and kept the robe of your soul chaste and white, ever casting out evil words far from you, O venerable Iakovos, and we cry out with fervor: Alleluia.

You hastened to the Monastery of the Venerable David as a deer to the springs of waters, and you were filled with true asceticism as a gift from God, O venerable one, watering with the streams of joy those who cry out to you in faith:
Rejoice, the well of steadfastness,
Rejoice, the nectar of gladness.
Rejoice, example of the monastic way,
Rejoice spiritual pillar of beauty.
Rejoice, most fragrant myrrh of the truly pure life,
Rejoice, star shining with the rays of grace to the faithful people.
Rejoice, for you quench the fires of the flesh,
Rejoice, for you pour forth gifts of healing.
Rejoice, ever-flowing river of wonders,
Rejoice, fierce striker of the demons.
Rejoice, through whom evil is conquered,
Rejoice, through whom every mortal is strengthened.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

Having a burning faith, you gave yourself to a multitude of struggles, and softened your flesh as wax, O ascetic, that your nous might be winged towards our Lord and God, O all wondrous Iakovos, to Whom you chanted in a spotless tongue: Alleluia.

The godly-minded David heard your fervent prayer, O divine Iakovos, and not only made you to serve in his monastery, O Father, but made you the sacred Abbot, O Iakovos, to whom we cry out:
Rejoice, the might of young chastity,
Rejoice, the boast of divine fasting.
Rejoice, you who were zealous for the deeds of the Fathers,
Rejoice, you who trampled upon the roaring of the enemy.
Rejoice, earthly angel, communicant with the Venerable,
Rejoice, heavenly man, guide on the monastic way.
Rejoice, for you lately lived ascetically on Evia,
Rejoice for you rightly were granted the crown of glory.
Rejoice, paintbrush of the graces of the Spirit,
Rejoice, newly-radiant lamp of purity.
Rejoice, deposer of shameful passions,
Rejoice, imitator of God-bearing men.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

Wishing to imitate the ways of the divine David, you approached him man-to-man every evening, O wise one, and throughout the whole night, O Father Iakovos, you chanted to the Creator, and mystically chanted, crying out: Alleluia.

St. Iakovos Tsalikis of Evia

Dawned from amidst the dark clouds of winter, O Iakovos, a light-bearing star truly lit your path towards the sacred cave of the venerable David, which through prayer became your palace, therefore we cry out these things:
Rekoice, equal in honor to the Angels,
Rejoice, equal in deeds to the Venerable.
Rejoice, radiant workshop of prayer,
Rejoice, treasury of the divine life.
Rejoice, for you enlightened Greece with your rays,
Rejoice, for you watered them with your pious teachings.
Rejoice, the radiant guide towards poverty.
Rejoice, the God-loving practitioner of righteousness.
Rejoice, never-ending river of tears,
Rejoice, unconquerable flailing of the demons.
Rejoice, the new pride of the faithful,
Rejoice, the radiant vessel of grace.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

You became an inhabitant of perfect love towards your neighbor, ceaselessly praying on behalf of those near you, and for those who are terribly suffering, O Father. Speedily hasten to the aid of those who approach you in faith, and cry out loudly: Alleluia.

Shining in Evia as a newly-illumined moon, you enlightened with the rays of your simple words the rational flock dwelling in the dark and moonless night of ignorance, O all-precious one, therefore we who have been radiantly illumined cry out these things:
Rejoice, the healing of the sick,
Rejoice, the support of the storm-tossed.
Rejoice, most-radiant light of poverty,
Rejoice, most-bright lamp of fasting.
Rejoice, for you gladdened the choir of the faithful,
Rejoice, for you saddened the enemy who hates the good.
Rejoice, the newly-built foundation of the Church,
Rejoice, the one in extreme piety.
Rejoice, sweet nourishment of my soul,
Rejoice, present boast of my heart.
Rejoice, appearance of the heavenly light,
Rejoice, river of many kinds of wonders.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

The island of Evia magnifies your painful struggles with much endurance, O Iakovos, and everyone perceives you to be the protector of those who are sick, and takes boast in you, O Elder and leader of the Monastery of St. David, and in response to your sacred intercessions, cries out: Alleluia.

You purified your nous with vigil, fasting, and utter humility, and were lifted up to the heights of virtues of all kinds that are difficult to gaze upon, O spotless priest Iakovos, and you move your refugees to cry out ceaselessly:
Rejoice the chisel of dispassion,
Rejoice, the foundation of chastity.
Rejoice, the partaker of unspeakable grace,
Rejoice, the beloved of Christ the Master.
Rejoice, for you neglected earthly and passing things,
Rejoice, for you desired the wondrous things of heaven.
Rejoice, all-radiant lamp enlightening those in darkness,
Rejoice, unassailable pillar making firm the storm-tossed.
Rejoice, foundation of meekness,
Rejoice, ruler of humility.
Rejoice, you who beheld the beauty of God,
Rejoice, you who ever behold His radiance.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

Truly a strange hearing! How you trampled upon scorpions, O wise one, and through your prayer were unmoved by the assalts of the enemy, O Elder and Father, and remained glorifying the King of all with spotless lips, chanting: Alleluia.

You were shown to be wholly sanctified in our days, O all-blessed Iakovos, for you renounced every vile and dark pain and with prayer shown as the sun with goodness. Therefore, we cry out to you these things:
Rejoice, divine preacher of simplicity,
Rejoice, trumpet of modesty to all.
Rejoice, heavy-laden vine of piety,
Rejoice, the great teacher of the spiritual life.
Rejoice, undiminished type of the ancient ascetics,
Rejoice, very precious boast of monastics in asceticism.
Rejoice, for you endured deprivations upon the earth,
Rejoice, for you trampled upon the conceit of the enemy.
Rejoice, canon of righteous asceticism,
Rejoice, icon of love and watchfulness.
Rejoice, famed leader of your monastery,
Rejoice, radiant lamp of virginity.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

You were shown to be a newly-founded tower of chastity and perfect love, O Iakovos, and therefore we have come to know you to be a divine and joyous myrrh-container of discernment, O precious one, and we cry out to you mystical hymns: Alleluia.

You watered the all-sacred monastery of the venerable David with rivers of your sweat, and in it bore as fruit steadfast monastics who desire to see the Lord, O Iakovos, and who now cry out these things:
Rejoice, fragrance of asceticism,
Rejoice, lyre of the faith.
Rejoice, swallow of the godly mindset,
Rejoice, lamp of eternal resolve.
Rejoice, golden crown of heavenly virtues,
Rejoice, golden cloud richly granting healings.
Rejoice, most-precious shield of goodness,
Rejoice, shelter from the delusion of the crooked-mouthed enemy.
Rejoice, perfect fragrance of asceticism,
Rejoice, you who turn away shameful delusion.
Rejoice, sower of fruit of much prayer,
Rejoice, planter of God-pleasing plants.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

The ranks of the Orthodox gathered from all ends of creation to bury your joyous and wondrous body, and the people seeing you blessed you, O venerable and blessed Iakovos, and were moved to faith, crying out: Alleluia.

St. Iakovos of Evia, "O Me Sychoreire", or "The 'Forgive me'"
You are a sheltering wall for the people of Evia in truth, and a most-fervent protector of those who approach you, and your intercessions to God which you offer daily, O ascetic. Therefore, we hasten that we might be protected through your grace, crying out to you in reverence:Rejoice, vessel pouring forth healings,
Rejoice, attacker of the error of the enemy.
Rejoice, divine bouquet of asceticism,
Rejoice, newly-built foundation of watchfulness.
Rejoice, new support of the faith of Christ,
Rejoice, pillar of purity and the monastic way.
Rejoice, for you sanctified the forests of Evia,
Rejoice, for you beautified the choirs of your monastery.
Rejoice, the divine adornment of the faithful,
Rejoice, our defender in dangers.
Rejoice, deliverer of your refugees,
Rejoice, the consolation of all the faithful.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

You did not give rest to your eyelids, or repose to your divine head, O Father, until your spirit proceeded to the hand of God, O new beloved one among ascetics, and you gave up your spirit, joining the chorus that sweetly hymns the Creator: Alleluia.

You were shown to be a true friend of Christ, the height of things desired, Whom you desired from childhood, O Iakovos. Therefore, you have become a divine word and sacred deed, a prototype of chastity, and therefore, the ascetics cry out:
Rejoice, the adornment of the unmarried,
Rejoice, the protection of mankind.
Rejoice, lifting up towards the deeds of the venerable,
Rejoice, imprint of the wisdom of God.
Rejoice, holy communicant with the heavenly armies.
Rejoice, blessed man and director towards God.
Rejoice, divine manna that nourishes the hungry,
Rejoice, comely mouth that drives away evil.
Rejoice, unwaning light that shines like fire,
Rejoice, adornment of the faithful people.
Rejoice, you who burn up the brushwood of nature,
Rejoice, fire that quenches delusion.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

You impart grace to all from the uncreated Trinity, for you were made worthy to see things aforetime, and to guide the faithful towards eternal life, and perfect joy, O Iakovos, therefore we piously hymn you, crying out: Alleluia.

You taught to chant with contrition unto the Savior of all, O Iakovos, and all entreat your help, that we receive grace richly from on high. Therefore, the faithful hasten to cry out to you things like this:
Rejoice, container of asceticism,
Rejoice, myrrh-vessel of simplicity.
Rejoice, adornment of Northern Evia,
Rejoice, guide towards the perfect life.
Rejoice, unassailable wall of love for Christ,
Rejoice, sword that cuts apart the roaring of the evil enemy.
Rejoice, for you spoke to the Saints as to friends,
Rejoice, for you now dwell with them in the heavenly mansions.
Rejoice, fellow-dweller with the divine David,
Rejoice, new enemy of satan.
Rejoice, shield against the invisible foe,
Rejoice, sweetness in the soul of your entreater.
Rejoice, O blessed Iakovos.

O fervent defender of those who hasten to you, and river of many kinds of wonders (3), with the clouds of your intercessions, rain upon us peace, and grant us your blessing, O Iakovos, that we might chant unto you: Alleluia.

Sts. Porphyrios, Paisios and Iakovos the New Venerable Wonderworkers
And again the Kontakion.

Apolytikion of St. Iakovos Tsalikis in the Plagal of the First Tone.
The prototype of discernment and modesty, the wonderworking leader of the Monastery of David the venerable, who plowed and sowed love in the hardened hearts of the God-bearing people, O Father Iakovos. Do not neglect to intercede with Christ on behalf of those who call upon you in faith.

Sts. David and Iakovos of Evia

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

Sunday, February 25, 2018

On prayer and the nous (the intellect): ( Fr. Savas of the Holy Monastery of Philotheou, Mount Athos )

Your mind, your nous is a coffee cup, from which your heart drinks and is filled. If the cup has good stuff in it, the heart will drink of good. If the cup is not full and pours into the heart continually, the heart will thirst.

If there is room left in the cup , if it is not filled with good to drink, the enemy will come and pour poison into your cup, as much as is space for it. A little drop of poison is just a bitter taste in the heart,a whole lot of poison, like something that sours the stomach, is nearly deadly for the heart.

So why drink poison? Fill the cup to the rim, or better , keep it overflowing with the good drink that is spiritual thoughts, sobering joys of Christ's mercy, of death, of the Church, of the Panagia, of the Saints, etc. When you see poison has been added to your cup, start dripping in, pouring in, much good stuff. Open the Scriptures, the Psalms, or best of all the dripping faucet of "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me".

Then the enemy will rage helplessly, for without any room to add poison to your cup, he will not be able to reach your heart and wound it. This is the "secret" of watchfulness and continual prayer, a FULL cup of divine good. Keep the cup full of good, and keep that drink flowing into your thirsty heart, to quench its thirst and to edify it constantly.

May you overthrow the enemy, by the Name of Christ, by His grace, and by His Cross, the invincible weapon, unto the salvation of your souls, and that we may share the glory of His Dominion, now and forever!

Fr. Savas of the Holy Monastery of Philotheou, Mount Athos

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Excuses turn away God's Grace - ( St. Paisios )

Elder Paisios-Excuses Hinder Spiritual Growth

Geronda,when people say that there is 'no excuse'
in Holy Scripture,what do they mean?
-They mean that in a sense,there is no justification for any excuse.
-Geronda(Elder),when I try to justify myself with excuses,I realise later that this does not befit a nun or a monk.
-Not only are excuses not befitting of a nun or a monk,they also have nothing to do with the spiritual life.I must understand that when i try to justify myself with excuses,I'm in a wrong state of mind.I cut off my communication with God and am deprived of divine Grace, because divine Grace does not come to one who is in a wrong state.
The moment a person justifies the unjustifiable,he
is separated from God.A form of insulation intervenes between God and man.Can an electric current pass through insulation?
No.Isolation.Isolation from God and man.There is no stronger barrier to the Grace of God than excuses! It is like building a wall and separating yourself from God;by making excuses,you cut off all ties with Him.
-Geronda,you often say,"Let us at least try to attain
to the spiritual base."What is this spiritual base"?
-It is the humble acknowledgement of one's mistake,without knowingly attempting to justify himself in the least,when he is at fault and when people reprimand him.
But when one doesn't stand up for himself even when he's wrongly accused,well,then, that's when he gets an excellent grade.One who justifies himself with excuses makes no progress in the spiritual life,nor can he find any inner peace.God will not condemn us for a mistake we have made,but we must try not to justify ourselves for that mistake,and consider it to be just a natural thing.
-Geronda,if I am told that i am at fault in something,but cannot understand the nature of my fault,should i ask about it so as to be more careful next time,or should I keep silent?
-If you think that you're at fault 25 percent, when in fact you are at fault only five percent,don't you profit spiritually?Be "Generous" when weighing your faults; you don't want to short- change yourself spiritually.This is the spiritual work you must do;find and acknowledge your fault,and "catch"yourself next time.Otherwise,you are "caught" by yourself,you justify yourself but you find no peace.
-Geronda,when someone has the habit of justifying himself with excuses,but later recognizes his mistakes and deplores himself,is this of any benefit?
-At least one has gained valuable experience,and if
this experience is utilized,he can benefit from it.And if God should say,"Since he acknowledged his mistake and repented,let me give him something,"then,of course,he will receive something more from another Treasury,the Treasury of repentance. 
Source- Elder Paisios of Mount Athos,
Spiritual Counsels Vol. 3, "SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE"

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Sundays of Great Lent

The first week of Great Lent is distinguished by its special strictness and its lengthy services. On the first four days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) the canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read at Great Compline with the refrain between each verse, "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me."

On Friday of the first week, at the Liturgy after the Prayer before the Ambo, the blessing of "koliva" (a mixture of boiled wheat with honey) takes place in memory of the holy Great Martyr St. Theodore Tyro, who granted supernatural help to Christians to help them keep the fast. In 362 A.D., the Byzantine Emperor, Julian the Apostate, ordered that the blood of sacrifices offered to idols be secretly sprinkled on the provisions for the city of Constantinople. The Great Martyr St. Theodore, who was burned alive in 306 for his confession of the Christian faith, appeared in a dream to the bishop of Constantinople, Eudox-ius, and exposed the secret plot of Julian. He ordered him not to buy food for the entire week at the city market, and to instruct his flock to live on koliva.

On the first Sunday of Great Lent the "Triumph of Orthodoxy" is celebrated, which was established by the Empress Theodora in 842 A.D. in memory of the restoration of the veneration of the holy icons. At the conclusion of the Liturgy a Service of Intercession ("Moleben") is held in the center of the church before icons of the Saviour and the Theotokos, asking that the Lord confirm Orthodox Christians in the faith and bring back to the path of truth all those who have apostatized from the Church. The deacon reads the Creed solemnly and pronounces the anathemas, proclaiming that all those who have presumed to distort the true Orthodox Christian Faith are separated from the Church. He then intones "Eternal Memory" for all the reposed defenders of the Orthodox Faith, and finally, "Many Years," for all those who are living. This service is customarily done in the presence of a bishop.

On the second Sunday of Great Lent the memory of St. Gregory Palamas is celebrated. A bishop of Thessalonica who lived in the fourteenth century, he continued the battle against Western, Latin distortions of the Christian faith by teaching the importance of the deifying power of the uncreated Grace of God and preserving the true balance between immanence and transcendence with the doctrine of the relationship between the "essence" and "energies" of God. In accordance with the Orthodox Faith he taught that the ascetic endeavor of fasting and prayer, particularly the practice of the Jesus Prayer according to the teachings of the hesychastic Fathers, prepares one to receive the grace-filled light of the Lord, which is like that which shone on Mt. Tabor at the Lord’s Transfiguration. In other words, if God wills, according to one’s striving, one can partake of divine blessedness while still on this sinful earth. Thus the second Sunday of Great Lent has been set aside to commemorate this great Church Father, who made explicit the teaching which reveals the power of prayer and fasting.

On the third Sunday of Great Lent, during the All-night Vigil after the Great Doxology, the Holy Cross is brought forth from the Altar and placed in the center of the church for the veneration of the faithful. During the prostrations made before the Cross (which often contains a portion of the True Cross) the church chants, "Before Thy Cross, we bow down, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify." This hymn is also chanted at the Liturgy instead of the Trisagion. The Church has placed this event in the middle of Great Lent in order that the recollection of the suffering and death of the Lord might inspire and strengthen those fasting for the remainder of the ascetic struggle of the fast. The Holy Cross remains out for veneration throughout the week until Friday, when, after the hours and before the beginning of the Presanctfied Liturgy, it is returned to the Altar. Thus the third Sunday and fourth week of Great Lent are termed those of the "Adoration of the Holy Cross."

On the fourth Sunday of Great Lent St. John of the Ladder is commemorated, the author of the classic ascetic text, The Ladder, in which he indicates a ladder, or succession of virtues which lead us up to the Throne of God. On Thursday of the fifth week at Matins, the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete is read, along with the reading of the life of St. Mary of Egypt. The commemoration of the life of St. Mary of Egypt, who formerly had been a great sinner, is intended to serve as an example of true repentance for all and convince us of the ineffable compassion of God. On Saturday of the fifth week (Matins on Friday evening) we celebrate the "Laudation of the Theotokos," which consists of the reading of the Akathist to the Theotokos. This service was initiated in Greece in gratitude to the Theotokos for her numerous deliverances of Constantinople from its enemies. The Akathist is read here for the confirmation of the faithful in their reliance upon the heavenly Mediatress, who, delivering us from visible enemies, is even more an aid to us in our battle with invisible enemies.

On the fifth Sunday of Great Lent we commemorate our holy Mother Mary of Egypt. As mentioned above, the Church finds in her an image of true repentance and a source of encouragement for those engaged in spiritual endeavors, by virtue of the example of the ineffable mercy of God shown towards her a repentant sinner.

The sixth week, which directly precedes Palm Sunday, is dedicated to the preparation of those fasting for a worthy meeting with the Lord and for the commemoration of the Passion of the Lord.

On Saturday of the sixth week the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus Christ is commemorated. This day is termed "Lazarus Saturday." During Matins the "Troparia on the Blameless" are chanted: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes..." and at the Liturgy instead of "Holy God" we chant "As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Alleluia," for those catechumens who are baptized according to custom on this day.

The sixth Sunday of Great Lent is one of the twelve great feasts, in which we celebrate the solemn Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem for His voluntary Passion. This feast is also termed Palm Sunday. After the reading of the Gospel at the All-night Vigil, we do not chant "Having seen the Resurrection of Chris i," but the 50th Psalm is read immediately, and after being sanctified with prayer and holy water, bundles of palms, flowers, and (in the Russian Church) pussy willows, are distributed to the faithful, who then remain standing until the end of the service holding these bundles with lit candles as a sign of the victory of life over death.

At Vespers on Palm Sunday the dismissal begins with the words, "May Christ our true God Who for our salvation went to His voluntary Passion,...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Great Lent begins...( St. John Chrysostom )

The value of fasting consists not in abstinence only from food, but in a relinquishment of sinful practices, since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meat is he who especially disparages it.

The change in our way of life during these blessed days will help us to gain holiness.

Therefore, we should let our soul rejoice during the fast.

St. John Chrysostom

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church ( St. Justin Popovich )

The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church

Without doubt, matter is represented in the human body in a manner which is most puzzling, most mysterious, and most complex. The brain: What wondrous mysteries pass between its physical and spiritual parts! How vast is the experience of the human race. In no manner can one ever fully comprehend or grasp these mysteries. Indeed, little of this is accessible to the human senses or intellectual investigation. So it is also with the heart of man, formed as it is entirely and solely from cosmic mysteries. So formed, too, are every cell, every molecule, every atom. Everyone and all are set on their mystical path toward God, toward the God-Man. Inasmuch as it was created by God, the Logos, matter possesses this same theocentricity. Moreover, by His advent into our earthly world, by His all-embracing condescension as God and Man for the redemption of the world, the Lord Christ clearly demonstrated that not only the soul, but matter also was created by God and for God, and that He is God and Man; and for it, matter, He is all and everything in the same manner as for the soul. Being created by God, the Logos, matter is, in its innermost core, God-longing and Christ-longing.

The most obvious proof of this is the fact that God the Word has become Incarnate, has become man (St. John 1:14). By His Incarnation, matter has been magnified with Divine glory and has entered into the grace- and virtue-bestowing, ascetic aim of deification, or union with Christ. God has become flesh, has become human, so that the entire man, the entire body, might be filled with God and with His miracle-working forces and powers. In the God-Man, the Lord Christ, and His Body, all matter has been set on a path toward Christ —the path of deification, transfiguration, sanctification, resurrection, and ascent to an eternal glory surpassing that of the Cherubim. And all of this takes place and will continue to take place through the Divine and human Body of the Church, which is truly the God-Man Christ in the total fullness of His Divine and Human Person, the fullness "that fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:23). Through its Divine and human existence in the Church, the human body, as matter, as substance, is sanctified by the Holy Spirit and in this way participates in the life of the Trinity. Matter thus attains its transcendent, divine meaning and goal, its eternal blessedness and its immortal joy in the God-Man.

The holiness of the Saints—both the holiness of their souls and of their bodies—derives from their zealous grace- and virtue-bestowing lives in the Body of the Church of Christ, of the God-Man. In this sense, holiness completely envelopes the human person—the entire soul and body and all that enters into the mystical composition of the human body. The holiness of the Saints does not hold forth only in their souls, but it necessarily extends to their bodies; so it is that both the body and the soul of a saint are sanctified. Thus we, in piously venerating the Saints, also venerate the entire person, in this manner not separating the holy soul from the holy body. Our pious veneration of the Saints' relics is a natural part of our pious respect for and prayerful entreaty to the Saints. All of this constitutes one indivisible ascetic act, just as the soul and body constitute the single, indivisible person of the Saint. Clearly, during his life on the earth, the Saint, by a continuous and singular grace- and virtue-bestowing synergy of soul and body, attains to the sanctification of his person, filling both the soul and body with the grace of the Holy Spirit and so transforming them into vessels of the holy mysteries and holy virtues. It is completely natural, again, to show pious reverence both to the former and to the latter, both to soul and body, both of them holy vessels of God's grace. When the charismatic power of Christ issues forth, it makes Grace-filled all the constituent parts of the human person and the person in his entirety. By unceasing enactment of the ascetic efforts set forth in the Gospels, Saints gradually fill themselves with the Holy Spirit, so that their sacred bodies, according to the word of the holy Apostle, become temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19; 3:17), Christ dwelling by faith in their hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and by fruitful love also fulfilling the commandments of God the Father. Establishing themselves in the Holy Spirit through grace-bestowing ascetic labors, the Saints participate in the life of the Trinity, becoming sons of the Holy Trinity, temples of the Living God (II Corinthians 6:16); their whole lives thus flow from the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. By piously venerating the holy relics of the Saints, the Church reveres them as temples of the Holy Spirit, temples of the Living God, in which God dwells by Grace even after the earthly death of the Saints. And by His most wise and good Will, God creates miracles in and through these relics. Moreover, the miracles which derive from the holy relics witness also to the fact that their pious veneration by the people is pleasing to God.

The pious veneration of holy relics, based on their miraculous nature, originated from Divine Revelation. Even in the Old Testament God deigned to celebrate with miracles the holy relics of certain of those who were well-pleasing to Him. Thus, by the touch of the holy relics of the Prophet Elisea, a dead man was resurrected. The tomb and bones of this Prophet, who had prophesied to Jeroboam the destruction of idolatrous altars, were greatly revered in Judea. The Patriarch Joseph also left a testament to the sons of Israel to preserve his bones in Egypt and, during their exodus, to carry them to the promised land (Genesis 50:25).

The New Testament raised the human body to the sublime and divine heights, endowing it with a glory which the Cherubim and Seraphim do not possess. The Good News of the New Testament concerning the body—the significance and goal of the human body—is that, together with the soul, it achieves and inherits immortal life in Divine eternity. The Lord Christ has come to deify, to make Christ-like, the entire man, that is, the soul and body, and this by the resurrection, insuring thereby victory over death and eternal life. No one ever elevated the human body as did the Lord Christ by His bodily resurrection, the ascension of His body into heaven, and its eternal session at the right hand of God the Father. In this way, the Resurrected Christ extended the promise of resurrection to the nature of the human body—"having made for all flesh a path to eternal life." Thus man now knows that the body is created for eternity through union with the God-Man and that his divine work on earth is to struggle, with the soul, for eternal life; to struggle, with all those means that convey grace and virtue, to make himself grace-filled, fulfilled by Divine grace, and created anew as the temple of the Holy Spirit, the temple of the Living God.

Bearing in mind that this New Testamental notion of the human body has been achieved and realized in the persons of the Saints, Christians show a pious veneration for the bodies of the Saints, towards holy relics, the temples of the Holy Spirit, Who by God's grace abides within them. But Holy Revelation indicates that by God's immeasurable love for man, the Holy Spirit abides through His grace not only in the bodies of the Saints, but also in their clothing. So it is that the handkerchiefs of the holy apostle Paul healed the ill and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 19:12). With his mantle the Prophet Elias struck the water, separating the waters of the Jordan, and along the dry bed of the river crossed the Jordan with his disciple Elisea (IV Kings 2:8). The prophet Elisea did the very same thing, himself, with the same mantle, after the taking-up of Elias into heaven (IV Kings 2:14). All this has its verification and source in the Divine power that rested in the garments of the Savior, which encompassed His most pure and Divine body. Moreover, by His inexpressible love for man, the Divine Lord allows the servants of His Divinity to work miracles not only through their bodies and clothing, but even with the shadow of their bodies, which is evident in an occurrence with the holy apostle Peter: his shadow healed an ill man and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 5:15-16).

The eternal good news of Holy Revelation about sacred relics and their pious veneration is proved, and is continually being proved, by Holy Tradition from Apostolic times to the present day. Innumerable are the sacred relics of the holy Chosen Ones of God throughout the Orthodox world. Their miracles are innumerable. The pious veneration of these relics by Orthodox Christians is everywhere to be found. And without doubt this is because the holy relics, through their miracles, incite the Orthodox toward their pious veneration. From the very beginning, in Apostolic times, Christians piously preserved the honored relics of the Holy Forerunner and the holy Apostles, so that these could be preserved even for us. As well, during the times of persecution the sacred remains of the bodies of the holy Martyrs were taken away by Christians and hidden in their homes. From that time until now, the sacred relics of the holy Chosen Ones of God have, by their miracles, poured forth the immortal joy of our faith into the hearts of Orthodox Christians. The proofs concerning this are countless. We shall cite only several.

The way that the holy relics of the Saints were translated and greeted is in a touching manner described by St. Chrysostomos in a eulogy on St. Ignatios: "You, inhabitants of Antioch, have sent forth a bishop and received a martyr; you sent him forth with prayers, and received him back with crowns; and not only you, but all the cities which lay between. For how do you think that they behaved when they saw his remains being brought back? What pleasure was produced! How they rejoiced! With what laudations on all sides did they beset the crowned one! For as with a noble athlete, who has wrestled down all his antagonists, and who comes forth with radiant glory from the arena, the spectators receive him, and do not suffer him to tread the earth, bringing him home on their shoulders and according him countless praises. So also every city in turn received this Saint from Rome, and bearing him upon their shoulders as far as this city, escorted the crowned one with praises, hymning the champion.... At this time the holy Martyr bestows grace to the very same cities, establishing them in piety, and from that time to this day he enriches this city."

Speaking of the miraculous power of holy relics, Saint Ephraim the Syrian relates the following concerning the holy Martyrs: "Even after death they act as if alive, healing the sick, expelling demons, and by the power of the Lord rejecting every evil influence of the demons. This is because the miraculous grace of the Holy Spirit is always present in the holy relics."

During the finding of the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius, St. Ambrose, in speaking to his listeners, relates this with pious enthusiasm: "You know—indeed, you have yourselves seen—that many are cleansed from evil spirits, that very many also, having touched with their hands the robe of the Saints, are freed from those ailments which oppressed them. You see that the miracles of old times are renewed, when through the coming of the Lord Jesus grace was more abundantly shed forth upon the earth, and that many bodies are healed as it were by the shadow of the holy bodies. How many napkins are passed about! How many garments, laid upon the holy relics and endowed with the power of healing, are claimed! All are glad to touch even the outside thread, and whosoever touches it will be made whole."

Speaking of the miracles produced by holy relics, the blessed Augustine says: "To what do these miracles witness, but to this faith which preaches Christ risen in the flesh and ascended with the same flesh into heaven? For the martyrs themselves were martyrs, that is to say, were witnesses of this faith.... For this faith they gave their lives, and can now ask these benefits from the Lord in whose name they were slain. For this faith their extraordinary constancy was exercised, so that in these miracles great power was manifested as the result. For if the resurrection of the flesh to eternal life had not taken place in Christ, and were not to be accomplished in His people, as predicted by Christ..., why do the martyrs who were slain for this faith which proclaims the resurrection possess such power? ...These miracles attest this faith which preaches the resurrection of the flesh unto eternal life."

Saint Damascene, summarizing the life-giving teaching of Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition concerning the pious veneration of holy relics, preaches in a Cherubic manner from the altar of his God-bearing and Christ-like soul: "The Saints have become according to grace that which the Lord Christ is according to nature. That is, they have become gods according to grace: pure and living habitations of God. For God says: 'I will dwell in them, walk in them, and I will be their God' (II Corinthians 6:16; Leviticus 16:12). The Holy Scriptures likewise say: 'the souls of the righteous are in God's hand, and death cannot lay hold of them' (Wisdom of Solomon 3:1). For death is rather the sleep of Saints than their death. Further: 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints' (Psalm 119:6). What, then, is more precious than to be in the hand of God? For God is life and light, and those who are in God's hand are in life and light. Further, that God dwells even in their bodies in a spiritual manner the all-divine Apostle attests: 'Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you?' (I Corinthians 3:16). And, 'the Lord is Spirit' (II Corinthians 3:17). Thus, the evangelical truth: 'If anyone destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy—for the temple of God is holy, and ye are that temple' (I Corinthians 3:17). Surely, then, we must ascribe honor to the living temples of God, the living dwelling-places of God. These, while they lived, stood with boldness before God. The Lord Christ granted us the relics of the Saints to be fountains of salvation unto us, pouring forth manifold blessings and abounding in sweetly fragrant oil. Let no one disbelieve this! For if water burst in the desert from the steep and solid rock according to God's will (Exodus 17:6), and from the jawbone of an ass to quench Samson's thirst (Judges 15:14-19), is it then unbelievable that fragrant oil should spring forth from relics of the holy Martyrs? By no means, at least to those who know the omnipotence of God and the honor which He accords to His Saints. According to the Old Testament law, everyone who touched a dead body was considered impure (Numbers 19:11). However, the Saints are not dead. For from the time when He Who is Himself Life and the Author of life was counted among the dead, we do not call those dead who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection and with faith in Him. For how could a dead body work miracles? And how, through the holy relics, are demons driven off, diseases dispelled, the sick made well, the blind restored to sight, lepers cleansed, temptations and tribulations overcome; and how does every good gift come down from the Father of lights (St. James 1:17) to those who pray with sure faith?"

The universal faith of the Church concerning the pious veneration of holy relics was confirmed by the God-bearing Fathers of the Seventh Œcumenical Synod in its decrees: "Our Lord Jesus Christ granted to us the relics of Saints as a salvation-bearing source which pours forth varied benefits on the infirm. Consequently, those who presume to abandon the relics of the Martyrs: if they be hierarchs, let them be deposed; if however monastics or laymen, let them merely be excommunicated."

....That a pious veneration of the holy relics is a constituent part of the salvation rendered by the God-Man is also evidenced by the following facts: from the depths of sacred antiquity, churches were built on the graves and relics of Saints, and the holy Liturgy is performed only on antimensia, in which are placed parts of the holy relics. Moreover, the divine service books, especially the Menaion, are replete with prayers and hymns which refer to the pious veneration of holy relics....

All in all, the mystery of holy relics is at the heart of the universal mystery of the New Testament: the incarnation of God. The full mystery of the human body is explained by the incarnation, the embodiment of God in the God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, then, the Gospel message concerning the body: "The body for the Lord, and the Lord for the body" (I Corinthians 6:13). And through a human body also the entire creation, all of matter, received its divine significance, the universal meaning of the God-Man. By man, who is sanctified in the Church by the holy mysteries and the holy virtues, the creation and even matter are sanctified, united to Christ. There accrues to this also a joy—the myrrh-streaming property of many relics. This wonder of myrrh has been given to the holy relics in order to indicate that Christians are truly "a sweet-savour of Christ unto God" (II Corinthians 2:15), sweet-smelling to God and to heaven. The truth of the Gospel is that the sin of man is a foul odor before God and every sin pleases the devil. Through the holy mysteries and holy virtues, Christians become "a sweet-savour of Christ unto God." For this reason, then, the holy relics of the Saints pour forth myrrh.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9. Translated from the Serbian by the Reverend Gregory Telepneff.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Holy Spirit does not dwell in a man until he has been cleansed from passions of the soul and body. ( St. Paisius Velichkovsky )

One must clean the royal house from every impurity and adorn it with every beauty, then the king may enter into it. In a similar way one must first cleanse the earth of the heart and uproot the weeds of sin and the passionate deeds and soften it with sorrows and the narrow way of life, sow in it the seed of virtue, water it with lamentation and tears, and only then does the fruit of dispassion and eternal life grow. 
For the Holy Spirit does not dwell in a man until he has been cleansed from passions of the soul and body.
St. Paisius Velichkovsky

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The theory of evolution emits a foul stench.. ( Elder Joseph the Hesychast )

When Elder Joseph was still living at the skete of St. Basil, one day he went to a neighboring church to visit Fr. Gerasimos. That day there happened to be a certain layman visiting from the world.

When Elder Joseph saw the man, he approached him and said: “You have a mistake, a serious problem.”

The layman asked: “What mistake do I have?”
“I don’t know,” replied Elder Joseph. “All I know is that there is something seriously wrong with you.”
“Can we find out what it is?”
“We cannot determine this now during the day. If you’d like, come down to my hut tonight.”
“I will be there after midnight, Elder.”
Indeed, during the middle of the night the laymen went to visit him.
They started talking, and eventually Elder Joseph discovered that this person, who had obtained a college degree in theology, had written an entire book in support of Darwin’s theory of evolution of the species.

Elder Joseph advised him, “When you want to support a theory or opinion, why don’t you draw from the writings of the holy Fathers? A theory or viewpoint is confirmed when it is validated by either the Holy Scriptures or the holy and God-bearing Fathers.”
The theologian ultimately admitted that he had made a mistake to believe in this theory. He then asked Elder Joseph to tell him how he knew he was mistaken.

“Yesterday, as I approached you,” explained the Elder, “ I sensed a foul odor and smelled a bad stench coming from you, and from this I realized that there was something wrong with you.”

from the book My Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Forgiveness in the Christian Family

The bonding cement of a Christian community, whether it be a parish or the family, is the ability and the readiness of each of the members to ask forgiveness from one another. If we are not able to forgive one another how can we expect God to forgive us? In the "Our Father, ... " which Christ taught us to pray, we ask for God's forgiveness on these conditions: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors . . ." (Matt. 6:12). The most effective medicine against anger and irritability, although it is the most bitter at the first draught, is to ask forgiveness after a quarrel. It is bitter for human pride but, if it is so, hasten even more to make use of it, for it is bitter only for the proud, and if it seems so intolerable to you, then you know that you have within you yet another serious ailment, pride. Sit down and think over your own soul, and pray that the Lord might help you master yourself and ask forgiveness and reconciliation from the person you have offended, even if he is more to blame than you are.

The Christian family is the most primary of all human relationships, for on its stability depends the stability of the entire Church. Disharmony within Christian families penetrates into the larger Christian community, creating disharmony in the parish church as well. Members of the family should be quick to ask for each other's forgiveness when they have said or done wrong to them. Asking for forgiveness keeps animosity, anger and hatred from becoming rooted in members of the family, which eventually may cause the dissolution of the family and the family church. This catastrophe is not only physically harmful, but also spiritually detrimental. The seeking of forgiveness for wrong or harsh words or anger should never be put off until tomorrow, for then it has had time to root in the heart, and sets a precedent for the next time. Eventually it will become a habit not to seek forgiveness, but rather to let these passions build up to the point where one is too proud to ask it.

The heads of monastic communities ask forgiveness each day of the brotherhood and entire community in the prayers at the conclusion of Compline and Midnight Office; this indicates the importance of asking forgiveness from those with whom we live.

Seeking forgiveness from members of the family church can be patterned after the parish church's Vesper Service on Forgiveness Sunday (Cheese-fare Sunday) when all parishioners seek forgiveness from one another. At the Vesper Service, each person says to the other, "Forgive me, a sinner," and then makes a complete prostration (touching the head to the ground) before the other person, after which they exchange the apostolic kiss of peace by kissing each other on alternate cheeks three times [or by kissing each other's right hand].

In the family church the member who has been angry or has spoken un-Christian words toward another, whether or not this was justified, should ask forgiveness for his deeds, words or actions and make a complete prostration no later than bed-time the same day.

Husband and wife, the evening before receiving Holy Communion, as part of their preparation, should ask forgiveness from each other as well as from the children and anyone else residing in the house. A tradition existing in some pious Orthodox households is for the children on the evening prior to Communion to kiss the right hand of their parents when asking forgiveness.