Monday, June 7, 2021

Akathist Hymn to Apostle Peter and Apostle Paul


Kontakion 1

Our Lord said of Himself: I am the Good Shepherd. To you the Chief Apostle Peter, He said: If you love Me, feed My sheep. And Peter said: Yes, Lord, You know that I love You. I am Jesus, He said to you, O Paul the Chief Apostle, and of you, our Lord said: This is My chosen instrument to carry My Name before the Gentiles. Jesus instructed those who were your fellow disciples as well as His apostles: As My Father sent Me, so have I sent you, go and make disciples of all nations. Since you have the same grace from your Master, as after our Lord the Great Pastor of all, shepherd us to salvation that we may call to you:

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Ikos 1

Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, for Christ the Son of the Living God said to you, O Apostle Peter: You are worthy of glory. How may we be worthy of your blessedness, O blessed one of God? Truly, because of our loving duty, we may come to you in faith and now we sing to you:

Rejoice, Apostle Peter, first after Christ among the apostles and foundation of the Holy Church.

Rejoice, powerful pillar of the Orthodox Faith and Its confirmation.

Rejoice, zealous lover of the teachings of Christ.

Rejoice, first-seated of the Apostolic College.

Rejoice, good gatekeeper of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rejoice, renowned physician of those who repent of their sins.

Rejoice, rejecter of worldly vanity and lover of the spiritual life.

Rejoice, renouncer of material nets and fisherman of the universe with imperishable nets.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, who enlighten like two golden luminaries.

Rejoice, twins yoked together by God, and His chariots bearing the light of knowledge.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles, seers of God, for you are lights of the world.

Rejoice, for through you, through Christ, everywhere the Faith that saves us shines forth.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 2

You believed, having accepted the miraculous call from above, O teacher of nations, when Jesus said to you: Saul, why do you persecute Me Who cannot be comprehended by doubt? But from now on, you will believe because the boldness of the adversary is overcome. You have been chosen as witness of My destiny before kings and nations and before the sons of Israel. Hereafter, you understood, Apostle Paul chosen by God, for you cried out: Alleluia.

Ikos 2

Saul heard the voice from Heaven and after that he could not see for he had persecuted the incomprehensible One, and for zeal of the Law he exchanged his sight. However, he was led to the font and received Baptism by faith, and in immersion he gained sight in both his physical and spiritual eyes. Awed by your wondrous calling, we gratefully cry out to you:

Rejoice, Apostle Paul, called by God, for you were sent to preach to all nations.

Rejoice, for you flow with sweet faith in Christ toward all men.

Rejoice, eyewitness illumined by the Divine Light from above.

Rejoice, for you were enlightened above others by grace after the shadow of the Law.

Rejoice, converser with the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on earth.

Rejoice, for you were strengthened by Him Whom you denounced with daring faithlessness.

Rejoice, enlightener of the entire world by your divinely inspired writings.

Rejoice, laborer above others, after Christ, for the salvation of mankind.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, for you are like two cherubim covering the ark of the Holy Church.

Rejoice, for you are like two seraphim standing before the Throne of the Most Holy.

Rejoice, stars who crown the Church, the Bride of Christ.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles, for you are proclaimers of the glory of God in Heaven.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 3

You were filled with wondrous fear, holy Apostle Peter, when you saw the sheet being lowered from above and in it was a parable of God’s love of mankind. All the animals, even the unclean, symbolized that it is not right to turn away those of other nations who desire to believe in Christ Jesus. Peter, having understood this mystery, cried out: Alleluia.

Ikos 3

The defiled nurture of the evil and impious generation has never entered my mouth, you said, most blessed Apostle Peter. Notwithstanding, the Divine Wisdom answered you with a voice from Heaven: What God has cleansed, you must not call common. By this was signified that the Savior did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. This which was revealed to you, we have understood and now we may sing:

Rejoice, Apostle Peter, for you mercifully reveal the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rejoice, for you regard not the exterior but the deeds of all nations.

Rejoice, for you cover with your love our many sins.

Rejoice, for you fulfill with your mercy our meager repentance.

Rejoice, quick helper of those who call to you in time of spiritual trouble.

Rejoice, honorable uplifter of the dead in spirit and body by your prayers.

Rejoice, by the Holy Spirit you strengthen the faithful who hear your words.

Rejoice, for your words are like darts which strike the faithless.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, two eyes of the Church who see divine things.

Rejoice, righteous protectors of the New Israel.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles who stand as vigilant guards on the walls of Jerusalem.

Rejoice, our instructors who are concerned for all Christian souls.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 4

You began your preaching to the Jews dwelling in Damascus, O divinely inspired Apostle Paul, calling them to believe in Christ Jesus the Son of God. You wondrously led them into belief, for you yourself came to believe in the Name of Jesus Christ whose followers you had persecuted. When others conspired to kill you, and you saw their plan and the hardness of their hearts, you handed them over to their own blindness and faithlessness. Then, by the faithful, you were lowered to safety over the wall in a basket and you cried out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 4

Apostle Paul, you preached with mighty zeal the renunciation of past services to the ancient Law and circumcision. You called all to approach the font of divine Baptism. You preached not only to the Hebrews, but also to the Gentiles of whom you became a most beloved teacher. For this cause we truly call to you:

Rejoice, Apostle Paul, preacher sent by God to proclaim repentance to sinners.

Rejoice, evangelizer of virtue and denouncer of evil.

Rejoice, merciful greeter to faith in Christ of those lost Gentiles who have found the Way.

Rejoice, true instructor of the True Way.

Rejoice, saving-vessel of those drowning in their sins.

Rejoice, pilot who guides us into the harbor of pleasing God.

Rejoice, comforter who comes quickly to the aid of those who suffer.

Rejoice, unmercenary healer of those who suffer physical and spiritual weaknesses.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, two wings of the Church given by Christ the Great Eagle.

Rejoice, two wings of the dove given by the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles, pure like doves and soaring on wings like eagles.

Rejoice, those who were assembled together when Christ was in the flesh.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 5

Holy Apostle Peter, you were a fisherman laboring by the sweat of your brow when you were called to be an apostle. You believed in Christ who nourishes wholly and who fed five thousand from five loaves of bread. Following Him in search of the imperishable food which is for eternal life, you cried to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 5

You were barred by the high priests and elders of Judea to teach in the Name of the Lord Jesus, O blessed Apostle Peter. You then armored yourself with the assurance of the Faith saying that, above all, one must submit to God rather than to men. For this you suffered imprisonment and wounds. Yet, you left rejoicing after you appeared before the Council, and for the Name of the Lord you were counted worthy to bear persecution. We now come to you rejoicing and say:

Rejoice, Apostle Peter, victor over the gathering of Jews, with the writings of the prophets concerning Christ.

Rejoice, destroyer of the spider’s web of arguments of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Rejoice, worker of many miracles by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice, for you give mobility to the crippled and sight to the blind.

Rejoice, for you raised from the bed of illness by your shadow.

Rejoice, healer of many who suffered from evil spirits.

Rejoice, fisherman who calls us to miraculous fishing.

Rejoice, for you attract unbelievers to true belief by your evangelical eloquence.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, two sources of nourishment of the Church our Mother and the Bride of Christ.

Rejoice, two vines of grapes who nourish us and make us rejoice.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles, for you are true branches of the True Vine.

Rejoice, for you are good laborers in the vineyard of Christ.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 6

Saint Paul, you were an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin according to the Law of the Pharisees — who in zeal persecuted the Church of God when you were called to be an apostle. This you did conceal, but then revealed your former zeal when you punished the unfaithful of Jesus Christ. Even as you greatly persecuted the Church of God, so now is She gloriously adorned by you, and by your wondrous writings She is firmly established and cries out to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 6

What shall separate us from the love of God — sorrow, or anguish, or persecution or any other thing? O God-loving preacher Apostle Paul, you spoke this and brought together all those who believed in Christ through your sincerity in His love. For the sake of God you suffered courageously, and with thanksgiving we lovingly call to you thus:

Rejoice, Apostle Paul, for zealous in the Law you were called Saul.

Rejoice, for as perfect lover of Christ you were named Paul.

Rejoice, for in the light of Divine Wisdom you enlightened those in the shadow of ignorance.

Rejoice, guiding-star who guides those lost in the depths of lawlessness.

Rejoice, for you betrothed the souls of the faithful to Christ, calling them to the heavenly mansions.

Rejoice, for having yourself suffered many sorrows, you encouraged others to be patient in their suffering.

Rejoice, by your hands the power of God was made manifest.

Rejoice, by your handkerchief the infirm were healed.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, two lofty pillars of the Church, asserted by the heavenly Solomon.

Rejoice, two pure lilies on the pillars of the Church who beautify the Holy Place of God.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles who are like flowers exuding perfume for all the world.

Rejoice, by your sweet-smelling fragrance you ward off evil-smelling unrighteousness.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 7


Saint Peter, you arrived in Lydda where Aeneas had been bedridden for eight years with paralysis, and all the people marveled when you raised him up to walk in the Name of Jesus Christ. By prayer you restored the dead Tabitha to life in Joppa. When you were called to Caeserea, you enlightened the centurion Cornelius — baptizing him together with those of his household, and for his sake we all now call out in one spirit: Alleluia.

Ikos 7

Simon the Magician thought that he could acquire the grace of the Holy Spirit with silver, and the blessed Apostle Peter denounced him as the inheritor of damnation along with his silver. This avaricious attitude of simony is like stealing holy things and this you strictly prohibited, and so we rightfully call to you in this manner:

Rejoice, Apostle Peter, enricher of the Church of Christ with spiritual grace.

Rejoice, forbidder of the acceptance of payment for the sacred in the Church.

Rejoice, you by whom the love of silver as the root of all evil was severed from spiritual grace.

Rejoice, you by whom evil bribery, even as idolatry, was rejected from the Holy Church.

Rejoice, teacher for the sake of Christ of the unmercenary life of non-acquisition.

Rejoice, good fulfiller of Christ’s commandment that one cannot serve God and mammon.

Rejoice, punisher with harsh death the robbery of the sacred by Ananias.

Rejoice, punisher also of Sapphira who conspired with her husband.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, two olive trees who bear mercy.

Rejoice, two candles who illuminate with wisdom.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles who are like fruitful olive trees.

Rejoice, for you are all brightly burning candles in the House of God.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 8

Holy Apostle Paul, blessed by God, you attained to the third heaven because of your physical and spiritual holiness, and God enriched you with ineffable gifts when you descended from the third heaven. You revealed wise and divinely inspired teachings to all. You amazed all people, both Jews and Gentiles, who were believers in Christ. Now, together with them and with all the faithful, we are learners of heavenly teachings and we cry out: Alleluia.

Ikos 8

You were an example of faith, O Apostle Paul, bearing many wounds from the sword and on your flesh the marks of stoning which you bore joyously for the sake of the Sweet Jesus. You heard the call of God and were delivered over to punishment for your belief in Christ Jesus — as it is right indeed to bear all sorrows with thankfulness. We therefore come to you in lowliness and cry to you:

Rejoice, Apostle Paul, for you bore joyously in your body the wounds of the Lord Jesus.

Rejoice, precious stone, strong in soul and body, who deeply suffered all sorrows.

Rejoice, worshipper of the True God, for you heeded the call to follow Christ and serve the Church.

Rejoice, incomparable witness of Christ before peoples and kings.

Rejoice, unconquerable teacher before the teachers of the Law of Israel.

Rejoice, light-giving ray which shone forth on the earth below from the third heaven above.

Rejoice, fruitful branch which springs forth from Paradise with ripe spiritual food.

Rejoice, for the benefits of your labors, like the sweetest fruit in all the earth, nourished the faithful.

Rejoice, for your teachings, like a never-waning light, illumined all the earth under the heavens.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, two fig trees planted in the midst of Paradise — the Church.

Rejoice, for you brought forth the fruit of life and good understanding.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles who are like bountiful fig trees and cedars of contemplation.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 9

You were concerned about all, O blessed Apostle Peter, including those coming into the Christian Faith — in which the heart and mind must act in harmony. Therefore, to meet their needs you presented them with virtuous Stephen as a servant together with six deacons. You and the other apostles then diligently applied yourselves by prayer and the words of teaching, instructing all believers who call in one spirit to God: Alleluia.

Ikos 9

You were inflamed with zeal for your Lord when you cut off the ear of Malchus who was unwilling to listen to the testimony of the prophets about Jesus Christ. However, you were restrained by your Master, O holy Apostle Peter, and you were grateful for His reprimand and for all the hostile actions which you suffered with patience. Remembering your zeal, we call to you in unity:

Rejoice, Apostle Peter, for you surpassed in your zeal the other disciples.

Rejoice, for you were a courageous warrior of Christ in the garden.

Rejoice, for you followed Jesus in His Passion to the house of Caiaphas.

Rejoice, for you were ready to suffer imprisonment and even death for your Lord.

Rejoice, for your bitter tears healed your weakness which had led to denial of Christ.

Rejoice, for you were called to the first rank after the Resurrection of our Lord.

Rejoice, for you have given an image of repentance for others who have likewise sinned.

Rejoice, for you counseled repeated forgiveness of the weaknesses of repentant sinners.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, two tablets of the Commandments of the Lord.

Rejoice, teachers of the love of God and of our neighbor.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles, for you preserved in totality all the Commandments of our Lord.

Rejoice, for you left all and walked in the footsteps of Christ and found Him to be all in all.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 10

Apostle Paul, called by God, you were a powerful witness who proclaimed from the writings of the prophets concerning Christ before the leaders of Judea — at the trial before Festus and before King Agrippa. Before both, you were falsely charged, as many books have also written, and in fury you were sentenced to be sent to Rome. All this you suffered in thanksgiving and you cried out together with the faithful people of God: Alleluia.

Ikos 10

Apostle Paul, you proclaimed the life-giving Trinity as you had been taught in the third heaven. O pre-ordained vessel of the wondrous divine mysteries, you evangelized nations, judges and kings –promising salvation to all who willed to believe in Jesus Christ and who accepted holy Baptism in the Name of the Trinity. For that reason, all who believe in divine hope of salvation sing to you thus:

Rejoice, Apostle Paul, most wise interpreter of the mysteries of revelation of our Lord.

Rejoice, confessor of One God in Three Persons.

Rejoice, preacher of Christ — the only foundation of the faithful.

Rejoice, establisher of that confession of all righteous believers.

Rejoice, sufferer of unjust accusations and uncommon abuse from the unbelieving Festus.

Rejoice, witness before Festus of the Word of truth and virtue.

Rejoice, vivid narrator of the heavenly vision before King Agrippa.

Rejoice, open-denouncer of King Agrippa’s evil cunning turned against the faith in Christ.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, for you are like two silver trumpets of Moses.

Rejoice, for you assembled in the battle against evil under earth and Heaven.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles who suffered wickedness as Christ’s warriors.

Rejoice, by faith you conquered the kingdoms of the earth and received the heavenly.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 11

Herod, having put to death James the son of Zebedee, contrived to seize you, Apostle Peter, blessed by God, and he threw you into prison. He placed you under heavy guard for execution, while the sincere prayer of the Church was made for you. Then the angel of the Lord, having freed you from your chains, led you through the gates which opened of themselves. You thought you were dreaming, but the angel departed and you revived and realized that indeed you had been freed by the power of God. Hence, in gratitude you cried out to Him: Alleluia.

Ikos 11

Philip asked, “O Lord, show us the Father,” and the blessed Apostle Peter saw on Mount Tabor the Lord Who was transfigured, and saw His face gloriously shining. And you, Apostle Paul, heard the voice of God the Father from Heaven say of Him, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Accordingly, to you who were worthy of such an appearance, we reverently cry out:

Rejoice, Apostle Peter, faithful witness of Christ’s Transfiguration.

Rejoice, well-known hearer of the voice of the Divine Father from Heaven.

Rejoice, for you saw the face of the Son of God which was like the light of the shining sun.

Rejoice, receiver of the over-shadowing of the Holy Spirit in a bright cloud of light.

Rejoice, you to whom was opened the most holy mystery on the holy mountain.

Rejoice, you to whom the glory of the Holy Trinity appeared.

Rejoice, for you heard that the exodus of Christ was to take place in Jerusalem.

Rejoice, for your own exodus came to its end, after Christ, on a cross in Rome.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, like the two mountains Tabor and Hebron, mounts of reason.

Rejoice, from the East and the West, the Promised Land appears in Heaven.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles who are mountains of Zion.

Rejoice, for you bring forth the sweetness of salvation for us.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 12

You are of equal standing to the cherubim and we praise you, blessed Apostle Paul, enlightened by the Divine Wisdom in the third heaven. You heard words there which cannot be told, which man may not utter, and with these you covered the world by teaching others to believe in the Crucified Christ, the Son of God, and to Him as True God we unceasingly sing: Alleluia.

Ikos 12

Chosen vessel of Christ, most wise Apostle Paul, you were filled with many revelations of the divine mysteries. In a manner well known, you bore the Name of God who appeared in the flesh, and you believed in Him as Savior, converting to Him people of many nations. You labored well in the spiritual effort, and you fulfilled your most glorious journey in the Name of the Lord in the city of Rome. Finally, you received there the crown of truth, and we sing to you thus:

Rejoice, Apostle Paul, great lover of the Name of Christ for which you suffered much.

Rejoice, for you witnessed to His Name, and of worship in His Name in Heaven and on earth and below the earth.

Rejoice, for you witnessed well of the Lord in Jerusalem.

Rejoice, for you also witnessed of Him willingly in Rome.

Rejoice, for you rebuked Emperor Nero and coveted his wife for the Christian Faith.

Rejoice, for in the same Rome where Peter was crucified head down, you bowed your own head under the sword.

Rejoice, from your severed head flowed forth pure milk.

Rejoice, with this wondrous miracle were brought many warriors who witnessed it to the Faith.

Rejoice, Paul and Peter, two streams of living water from the flowing-forth of the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice, for your words were manifested like the unity of the two rivers, Dan and Leddan, which flow into the Jordan.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles who are rivers flowing with joy to the City of the Church of God.

Rejoice, rivers of sweetness which satisfy the faithful with the Cup of Salvation.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Kontakion 13

Most glorious and praiseworthy disciples of the Lord, Chief Apostles Peter and Paul and all the apostles who reign as equals, you enlightened all the world with the Holy Faith, and with Christ you are destined to judge the entire universe. Glory and praise are due to you most properly not on earth but in Heaven, and though we are unworthy we pray that you accept the prayers we offer to you here and now. From all our troubles we ask you to save us by your worthy intercessions. Intercede before the righteous Judge Christ to be merciful to us at the Judgment Seat — that we may be saved, and thankfully praise our Savior God: Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

(Repeat Kontakion 13 three times.)

Kontakion 1 (repeated)

Our Lord said of Himself: I am the Good Shepherd. To you the Chief Apostle Peter, He said: If you love Me, feed My sheep. And Peter said: Yes, Lord, You know that I love You. I am Jesus, He said to you, O Paul the Chief Apostle, and of you, our Lord said: This is My chosen instrument to carry My Name before the Gentiles. Jesus instructed those who were your fellow disciples as well as His apostles: As My Father sent Me, so have I sent you, go and make disciples of all nations. Since you have the same grace from your Master, as after our Lord the Great Pastor of all, shepherd us to salvation that we may call to you:

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles.

Ikos 1 (repeated)

Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, for Christ the Son of the Living God said to you, O Apostle Peter: You are worthy of glory. How may we be worthy of your blessedness, O blessed one of God? Truly, because of our loving duty, we may come to you in faith and now we sing to you:

Rejoice, Apostle Peter, first after Christ among the apostles and foundation of the Holy Church.

Rejoice, powerful pillar of the Orthodox Faith and Its confirmation.

Rejoice, zealous lover of the teachings of Christ.

Rejoice, first-seated of the Apostolic College.

Rejoice, good gatekeeper of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Rejoice, renowned physician of those who repent of their sins.

Rejoice, rejecter of worldly vanity and lover of the spiritual life.

Rejoice, renouncer of material nets and fisherman of the universe with imperishable nets.

Rejoice, Peter and Paul, who enlighten like two golden luminaries.

Rejoice, twins yoked together by God, and His chariots bearing the light of knowledge.

Rejoice, all you holy apostles, seers of God, for you are lights of the world.

Rejoice, for through you, through Christ, everywhere the Faith that saves us shines forth.

Rejoice, Saints Peter and Paul together with all the holy apostles. 

Amen.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Saint Paisios on Icons



Saint Paisios of Mount Athos Answers the Questions of his Young Visitor

The Orthodox Church uses the icons in prayer. 
Is this the right thing to do?

The Lord says: “I am the Lord your God. You shall not make for yourself a carved image nor any likeness of anything. You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God”. The Orthodox Church worships icons. Is this the right thing to do?

The saint responded. A mother whose child is fighting in a war, fears for his life, day and night. She is constantly in anguish and always anxious. Suddenly, she gets a letter from her child with his photograph inside. When she sees the photograph, what does she do? She takes it into her hands and she kisses it, and afterwards she brings it up to her chest so that it always touches her heart. Well, what do you think? 
Do you think that this mother with such burning desire for her child believes that she is kissing a photograph? She, of course, thinks that she is kissing her very own child! 
The situation is the same for the faithful people who have a burning respect and passion for the All Holy Theotokos and the Saints. We don’t venerate the icons but rather we venerate the holy persons they depict. And we venerate these holy persons not because they are the faces on the icons, but because they fought and many times they died for Christ. 
God is jealous, that is the truth, though He is not jealous of us venerating His own children (the saints). He is jealous when we venerate the devil and the devil’s children. The father isn’t jealous of his own children. Do not worry, the Lord is proud and happy when He sees you respecting and loving His Mother and the Saints.

From the article “A conversation with Saint Paisios” published in the journal “Osios Gregorios” a publication of the Holy Monastery of Osios Gregorios of Mount Athos 20th edition (1995),

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Prayer Rule ( St. Theophan the Recluse )

  
A prayer rule for one who is on the path of a God-pleasing life. Memorizing the Psalms. Replacing long prayers with short ones. The prayer rope.

You ask about a prayer rule. Yes, it is good to have a prayer rule on account of our weakness so that on the one hand we do not give in to laziness, and on the other hand we restrain our enthusiasm to its proper measure. The greatest practitioners of prayer kept a prayer rule. They would always begin with established prayers, and if during the course of these a prayer started on its own, they would put aside the others and pray that prayer. If this is what the great practitioners of prayer did, all the more reason for us to do so. Without established prayers, we would not know how to pray at all. Without them, we would be left entirely without prayer.

However, one does not have to do many prayers. It is better to perform a small number of prayers properly than to hurry through a large number of prayers, because it is difficult to maintain the heat of prayerful zeal when they are performed to excess.

I would consider the morning and evening prayers as set out in the prayer books to be entirely sufficient for you. Just try each time to carry them out with full attention and corresponding feelings. To be more successful at this, spend a little of your free time at reading over all the prayers separately. Think them over and feel them, so that when you recite them at your prayer rule, you will know the holy thoughts and feelings that are contained in them. Prayer does not mean that we just recite prayers, but that we assimilate their content within ourselves, and pronounce them as if they came from our minds and hearts.

After you have considered and felt the prayers, work at memorizing them. Then you will not have to fumble about for your prayer book and light when it is time to pray; neither will you be distracted by anything you see while you are performing your prayers, but can more easily maintain thoughtful petition toward God. You will see for yourself what a great help this is. The fact that you will have your prayer book with you at all times and in all places is of great significance.

Being thus prepared, when you stand at prayer be careful to keep your mind from drifting and your feeling from coldness and indifference, exerting yourself in every way to keep your attention and to spark warmth of feeling. After you have recited each prayer, make prostrations, as many as you like, accompanied by a prayer for any necessity that you feel, or by the usual short prayer. This will lengthen your prayer time a little, but its power will be increased. You should pray a little longer on your own especially at the end of your prayers, asking forgiveness for unintentional straying of the mind, and placing yourself in God's hands for the entire day.

You must also maintain prayerful attention toward God throughout the day. For this, as we have already mentioned more than once, there is remembrance of God; and for remembrance of God, there are short prayers. It is good, very good, to memorize several psalms and recite them while you are working or between tasks, doing this instead of short prayers sometimes, with concentration. This is one of the most ancient Christian customs, mentioned by and included in the rules of St. Pachomius and St. Anthony.

After spending the day in this manner, you must pray more diligently and with more concentration in the evening. Increase your prostrations and petitions to God, and after you have placed yourself in Divine hands once again, go to bed with a short prayer on your lips and fall asleep with it or recite some psalm.

Which psalms should you memorize? Memorize the ones that strike your heart as you are reading them. Each person will find different psalms to be more effective for himself. Begin with Have mercy on me, O God (Psalm 50); then Bless the Lord, O my soul (Psalm 102); and Praise the Lord, O my Soul (Psalm 145). These latter two are the antiphon hymns in the Liturgy. There are also the psalms in the Canon for Divine Communion: The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 22); The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof (Psalm 23); I believed, wherefore I spake (Psalm 115); and the first psalm of the evening vigil, O God, be attentive unto helping me (Psalm 69). There are the psalms of the hours, and the like. Read the Psalter and select.

After you have memorized all of these, you will always be fully armed with prayer. When some disturbing thought occurs, rush to fall down before the Lord with either a short prayer or one of the psalms, especially O God, be attentive unto helping me, and the disturbing cloud will immediately disperse.

There you are; everything on the subject of a prayer rule. I will, however, mention once again that you should remember that all these are aids, and the most important thing is standing before God with the mind in the heart with devotion and heartfelt prostration to Him.

I thought of something else to tell you! You may limit the entire prayer rule just to prostrations with short prayers and prayer in your own words. Stand and make prostrations, saying Lord have mercy, or some other prayer, expressing your need or giving praise and thanks to God. You should establish either a number of prayers, or a time-limit for prayer, or do both, so that you do not become lazy.

This is necessary, because there is a certain incomprehensible peculiarity about us. When, for example, we go about some outward activity, hours pass as if they were a minute. When we stand at prayer, however, hardly have a few minutes gone by, and it seems that we have been praying for an extremely long time. This thought does not cause harm when we perform prayer according to an established rule; but when somebody prays and is just making prostrations with short prayers, it presents a great temptation. This can put a halt to prayer that has barely begun, leaving the false assurance that it has been done properly. Thus, the good practitioners of prayer came up with prayer ropes so that they would not be subject to this self-deception. Prayer ropes are suggested for use by those who desire to pray using their own prayers, not prayers from a prayer book. They are used as follows: Say Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner, and move one bead between your fingers. Repeat the prayer again and move another bead, and so on. Make a prostration during each repetition of the prayer, either a partial one from the waist or a full one to the ground, as you prefer; or, for small beads, make a prostration from the waist, and for large ones, a full one to the ground. The rule in all of this consists in having a definite number of prayer repetitions with prostrations to which are added other prayers in your own words. When deciding on the number of prostrations and prayers, establish a time limit, so that you do not deceive yourself as to haste when you perform them. If haste creeps in, you can fill up the time by making more prostrations.

How many prostrations should be done for each prayer is set down at the end of the Psalter with sequences in two categories, one for diligent people and the other for lazy or busy people. The elders now living among us in sketes or special kellia in places such as Valaam or Solovki serve the entire service according to this. If you would like to, now or some other time, you can perform your own prayer rule in this manner. Before you do this, however, get used to performing it in the manner prescribed for you. Perhaps you will not need a new rule. In any case, I am sending you a prayer rope. Try it! Note how much time you spend at morning and evening prayer, then sit down and say your short prayers with the prayer rope, and see how many times you go around the rope during the time usually required for your prayer. Let this quantity be the measure of your rule. Do this not during your usual prayer time, but at some other time, although do it with the same sort of attentiveness. The prayer rule, then, is carried out in this way, standing and making bows.

After reading this, do not think I am driving you into a monastery. I first heard about praying with a prayer rope from a lay person, not a monk. Many lay people and monastics pray in this way. It should be suitable for you, too. When you are praying with prayers that you have memorized and they do not move you, you may pray that day using the prayer rope, and do the memorized prayers another day. Thus, things will go better.

I will repeat once again that the essence of prayer is the lifting of the mind and heart to God; these little rules are an aid. We cannot get by without them because of our weakness. May the Lord bless you!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Woman who Dwelt in a Cave...


A saintly hermit told the brothers the following story:
One day, as I was sitting in the desert, I began to feel worried and sad. A thought came to me: “Get up and go for a walk in the desert”. So I walked and came to a water-course and gazing into the distance in the moonlight- night had fallen already- I saw something hirsute sitting on a rock. At first I thought it was a lion and stopped walking in that direction. But then I thought it over and realized that, even if it were a lion, I shouldn’t be afraid, but rather should take courage and believe in the grace of Christ. So I started off again, heading towards the rock. Near the rock there was a small hole. No sooner did the figure see me approaching in the distance than it sprang up and disappeared into the cave.

When I got to the rock, I found a basket with some beans and a pitcher full of water, so I realized that the figure must have been a person, rather than a lion. So I went up to the opening of the cave and shouted: “Servant of God, please, do me a favour and come out and bless me”. No answer. I insisted that whoever it was should come out and give me a blessing, but the reply came: “Forgive me, Elder, but I can’t come out”. When I asked why, I received the answer: “Forgive me, but I’m a woman and quite naked”. When I heard this, I immediately took off the cloak I was wearing, wrapped it up and threw it into the cave. “Take this clothing, put it on and come out, please”. She did so. As soon as she came out, we said the usual prayer and sat down. Then I implored her: “Do me the favour, mother Elder, of telling me how you came to this place, how you spend your time here and how you found this cave”.

Then she began to tell me her life story:

“I was a ‘canonical’, she said [that is a woman dedicated to the Church but not tonsured as a nun], ‘and had dedicated my life to the church of the Resurrection of Christ. But where I used to perform this duty, there was a monk, who had his cell near the gate. This monk started to become familiar and seemed very pleased to be in my company or to speak with me. On one occasion I overheard him weeping and confessing this sinful inclination to God. I knocked on the door, and, when he realized it was me, he didn’t open it. Instead, he continued weeping and confessing to God. When I saw this, I said to myself: ‘Here’s this man repenting his own sin, but I’m unrepentant. He’s repenting and bewailing his transgression, so how can I remain like this, without the attire of mourning within me’.

So I immediately took the decision. I went back to my cell, put on an old and worn piece of clothing, filled my basket with beans and my jar with water. I went into the church of the Resurrection and made a prayer: ‘You, Lord, Who are our great and wonderful God, you Who came to earth to save the lost and raise the fallen, You who hearken to all those who sincerely ask Your assistance, show Your compassion and mercy to me, too, sinner that I am. And if it’s your good pleasure to accept my return and the repentance of my soul, bless these beans and this water, so that they’ll suffice for all the years of my life, so that I won’t be distracted- with the excuse of seeing to the needs of the flesh and the body- from continuous worship’.

Then I went to Golgotha and made the same prayer. I embraced the holy rock and the sacred vessels and again called upon the holy name of God. Then, in total secrecy, I left and, with complete confidence, gave myself into the hands of God. I went down to Jerusalem, crossed the Jordan and took the road that led to the bank of the Dead Sea. I’d never seen the sea-level so high. So I went up into the mountains and wandered in the desert until I came to this water-course. I climbed up onto the rock and found this cave. Since then I’ve come to love this place very much. I like to think that God gave it to me so that I could truly repent. I’ve lived here for thirty years and have never set eyes on another person, apart from you today.

And the beans in my basket and the water in my jar have never run out to this day, even though I’ve eaten and drunk as much as necessary. Of course, as time passed, my first clothes wore out and fell to pieces, but as my hair grew and got longer, I covered myself with it as if it were clothing. And so, by the grace of Christ, neither the cold nor the heat, even the furnace of the summer, do me any harm’.

She finished her story here and invited to me to eat some of the beans she had in her basket, because she’d been told “from the outside”, that I was very hungry. We ate and drank until I was full. But I saw that both the basket and the pitcher were still full, so I gave glory to God.

When it was time for me to go, I wanted to leave her my outer raso [habit], but she wouldn’t take it and said: “Bring me new clothes when you next come”.

I was filled with joy when she said this and begged her to wait for me and to welcome me again. We prayed again, I bade her farewell and left, imprinting the location on my mind so that I’d be sure to find it next time I came. I left and went to the church in the neighbouring village and told the priest what I’d seen and heard. He gathered the faithful and in a speech he made to them said: “Not far from our church, there are some saintly hermits whose clothes have fallen apart and they’re going about the desert completely naked. Anyone who’s got clothes to spare, bring them here and we’ll hand them out”.

Immediately, the Christians brought in a good many clothes. I took what I needed and, full of joy, started out again, hoping to see once more the blessed face of this spiritual mother, in the cave. I went back to the place, and tired myself out looking, but I couldn’t find the cave. When eventually I did find it, the God-bearing woman wasn’t there any more, and that upset me.

I went away, saddened. A few days later, some hermits came to visit me and two of them said: “We two were wandering around the desert on the other side of the sea when we suddenly saw, at night, sitting on a rock, a hermit with long hair. When we quickened our steps to meet up with him and take his blessing, he avoided us and went into the entrance of a nearby cave. We wanted to go in ourselves, but as we approached the doorway, a voice came from out of the depths of the cave, saying: ‘Servants of God, please don’t disturb me. On the rock next to you there’s a basket of beans and a pitcher of water. If you want, you can eat and drink’.

The voice gave us its blessing and we went to the rock as we’d been told to do. There on the rock were the basket of beans and the jar of water. We ate and drank and rested for the remainder of the night.

When we woke up in the morning we went to get the blessing of the cave-dwelling hermit, but saw that the person had already fallen asleep in the Lord. We wanted to prepare him for burial, but realized that it was a woman, covered with her own very long hair. We blessed ourselves with her holy relics and rolled a large rock across the entrance to the cave. Once we’d prayed, we started out on the road back”.

I then realized that it was the same ‘canonical’ who had lived as a hermit and had become a holy mother. So I told them what I had heard from her mouth and, all together we glorified God, to Whom, indeed, glory is due unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

A visit with St. Ephraim Katounakiotis ( Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol )

By Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol

Many years ago when I was at Katounakia [a rugged area in the southeast of the Athonite peninsula] I would often spend time with that great contemporary holy elder Father Ephraim [Katounakiotis], Papa Ephraim, as he was popularly called. I am not sure whether our century will give birth to another great elder like him, a man of continuous prayer who radiated the abundance of God's grace.

When a group of us visited him at his hermitage one day, he complained that he was tired of Katounakia and expressed a wish to go live at Monoxylites for awhile. That's an area near the borders of Mount Athos. It is a valley between two mountains filled with pine-tree forests, vineyards and olive groves. It is a very beautiful area with abundant running waters, an earthly paradise. He said, "I want to go there and rest. Here at Katounakia there is nothing except rocks and prayer, prayer and rocks, day in and day out. I am really tired. I need a change."

I was shocked when I heard him say that. I wondered how it was possible for a great saint like him to have a desire to change his environment, to go to Monoxylites? I could see young monks like ourselves having needs of this sort. But how is it possible that this great saint in whose life God is always present has such needs? It was then that I realized that even saints are human beings subject to the law of alterations.

I heard later that Joseph the Hesychast [d. 1959], the great elder of Papa Ephraim, expressed similar needs during his life. Elder Ephraim himself told us once that his elder underwent a period of deep sorrow and was subjected to many temptations. One day he asked his then disciple Ephraim, "Papa Ephraim, go and bring Pseudo Vasili here to amuse us." Pseudo Vasili was a layman who lived and worked near the Skete of Saint Anna. He was a simple man who was reputed for his outrageous lies. In his presence it was impossible not to roar with laughter. As in my case, Papa Ephraim was scandalized. "How is it possible," he reasoned, "that the elder has a need for a jester like Pseudo Vasili to amuse him? Why can't he do something else, like more prayer?" As you can see, even great saints occasionally have such needs by virtue of their being human.

By Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol

Source: Kyriacos C. Markides, Gifts of the Desert: The Forgotten Path of Christian Spirituality, pp. 116-117.