Sunday, August 2, 2009
On January 18, 2004, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople recognized Mother Maria Skobtsova as a saint along with her son Yuri, the priest who worked closely with her, Fr. Dimitri Klépinin, and her close friend and collaborator Ilya Fondaminsky. All four died in German concentration camps.
An excellent resource of material along with their illustrious lives can be read here.
Nicopolis ad Istrum
Nicopolis ad Istrum was founded by Emperor Trajan around 101–106 AD, at the junction of the Yantra River with the Danube, in memory of his victory over the Dacians. The town reached its apogee during the reigns of Trajan, Hadrian (117 - 138 AD), the Antonines (138 - 180 AD) and the Severan dynasty (193 – 235 AD). In 447, the town was destroyed by Attila's Huns.
Nicopolis ad Istrum can be said to have been the birthplace of Germanic literary tradition. In the 4th century, the Gothic bishop, missionary and translator Ulfilas (Wulfila) obtained permission from Emperor Constantius II to immigrate with his flock of converts to Moesia and settle near Nicopolis ad Istrum in 347-8. There, he invented the Gothic alphabet and translated the Bible from Greek to Gothic.
Ulfilas converted many among the Goths, preaching an Arian Christianity, which, when they reached the western Mediterranean, set them apart from their overwhelmingly Orthodox neighbors and subjects. Many believe that it was the ongoing Arianism of Gothic Christianity that eventually led to the addition of the Filioque to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed at the Council of Toledo, Spain in 589, in a creedal attempt to bolster the divinity of the Son of God.
2. Bulgaria Archaeologists Discover 13th Century Monastery, French Jewelry
In the yard of the St Peter and St. Paul Church in the medieval Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo, Ovcharov and his team found part of a wall and medieval coins within it that are dated from 1210 to 1240.
Ovcharov believes that this was part of the Monastery of the Bulgarian Patriarch in the 13th century. This was the time of the Bulgarian Tsars Kaloyan (1197-1207), Boril (1207-1218), and Ivan Asen II (1218-1241).
The monastery is believed to have been the center of the Tarnovo Patriarchate at the time of the Union of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church in the Vatican that latest from 1204, when Pope Innocent III declared Kaloyan "Emperors of Wallachians and Bulgarians" ("Rex Wallahorum et Bulgarorum"), until 1246.
The monastery was reconstructed after Veliko Tarnovo's conquest by the Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1393, later hosted the Tarnovo Bishop. Its remains were fully destroyed in 1913 by an earthquake.
In the 14th century as the Byzantine Empire weakened Tarnovo claimed to be the Third Rome based on its preeminent cultural influence in the Balkans and the Slavic Orthodox world.
3. Bulgaria: an Archaeology and Treasure Hunting Paradise. Or Hell
To put it briefly, many people - including most Bulgarians - do not realize that all of Bulgaria's territory is literally dotted with archaeological objects from all time periods. Any single rock you pick up from the ground in Bulgaria often would turn out to have a several-thousand-year history of human interaction!
That includes a whole variety of ancient and medieval civilizations - Prehistory, Neolith, Ancient Thrace (which, by the way, is an amazing but widely unknown civilization), Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the two Bulgarian Empires, the Latin Empire of the Crusaders, the Ottoman Empire...
The Vinland Map
4. Vinland Map of America No Forgery, Expert Says
The 15th century Vinland Map, the first known map to show part of America before explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the continent, is almost certainly genuine, a Danish expert said Friday.
Controversy has swirled around the map since it came to light in the 1950s, many scholars suspecting it was a hoax meant to prove that Vikings were the first Europeans to land in North America -- a claim confirmed by a 1960 archaeological find....
The Vinland Map is not a "Viking map" and does not alter the historical understanding of who first sailed to North America. But if it is genuine, it shows that the New World was known not only to Norsemen but also to other Europeans at least half a century before Columbus's voyage.
5. Finding King Herod's Tomb
After a 35-year search, an Israeli archaeologist is certain he has solved the mystery of the biblical figure’s final resting place. Long an object of scholarly as well as popular fascination, Herodium, also called Herodion, was first positively identified in 1838 by the American scholar Edward Robinson, who had a knack for locating biblical landmarks. But where precisely was the king entombed? At the summit of Herodium? At the base? Inside the mountain itself? Josephus didn't say. By the late 1800s, Herod's tomb had become one of biblical archaeology's most sought-after prizes. And for more than a century archaeologists scoured the site. Finally, in 2007, Ehud Netzer of Hebrew University announced that after 35 years of archaeological work he had found Herod's resting place.
6. Unique Aramaic Inscription From First Century Found in Jerusalem and 2,000-year-old ritual cup found in Old City of Jerusalem
A team of archaeologists has found a unique Aramaic inscription on a stone cup commonly used for ritual purity during the first century, in a dig on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. The text isn’t eroded but researchers have been unable to decipher it; the inscription is deliberately cryptic. They do know it contains the Hebrew word for God, YHWH or Yahweh.
7. Pope Confirms Visit to Shroud of Turin; New Evidence on Shroud Emerges
A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has revealed that on the shroud are traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters. A Vatican researcher, Barbara Frale, told Vatican Radio July 26 that her own studies suggest the letters on the shroud were written more than 1,800 years ago.
Aerial map of Altinum
8. The Ancient Roman City of Altinum Rises from Venice Lagoon and Ancient Roman City Rises Again and The Map of Altinum, Ancestor of Venice
Aerial photographs taken during a drought two years ago have enabled Italian researchers to produce the most detailed map ever of the ancient Roman city of Altinum, considered by some historians to be the ancestor of modern-day Venice. Archaeologists have known for decades that Altinum, a Roman trading center that thrived between the 1st and 5th centuries C.E., lay below these farm fields. Raised 2to 3 meters above the surrounding marshy lagoon by centuries of human habitation, the city was approximately the size of Pompeii. Its history could stretch back to the Bronze Age, and it dominated the region for at least 600 years before it became a part of the Roman Empire.
9. Holy Grail Could be in Kilwinning
Kilwinning could rival Rosslyn Chapel as a major tourist attraction in the wake of claims it is the final resting place of the Holy Grail.
The Irvine Herald can reveal an historic archaeological dig is to take place in the town’s Abbey grounds.
The project is to be carried out by Irvine Bay Regeneration after actor turned historian, Jamie Morton, a recognised expert on Freemasonry, revealed the artefact used by Christ at The Last Supper could have been hidden in the town by the Knights Templar.
10. Attack on Ancient Babylon: Photos
Babylon's Ancient Wonder, Lying in Ruins
History Not Served By U.S. Presence
By Nada Bakri
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
HILLA, Iraq -- Maytham Hamzah cast his eyes toward the remains of King Nebuchadnezzar's guest palace in Babylon, one of the world's first great cities. He smiled, bitterly.
"They destroyed the whole country," Hamzah, the head of the Babylon museum, said of U.S. forces in Iraq. "So what are a few old bricks and mud walls in comparison?"
U.S. forces did not exactly destroy the 4,000-year-old city, home of one of the world's original seven wonders, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Even before the troops arrived, there was not much left: a mound of broken mud-brick buildings and archaeological fragments in a fertile plain between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.
But they did turn it into Camp Alpha, a military base, shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Their 18-month stay there caused "major damage" and represented a "grave encroachment on this internationally known archeological site," a report released this month in Paris by the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, says.
The ruins stretch over a rectangular area measuring 2,100 acres along the western banks of the Euphrates. The site consists of Nebuchadnezzar's palace, which then-President Saddam Hussein rebuilt in the 1980s; the remains of the Temple of Ninmakh; and a palace for royal guests. In addition, there is the Lion of Babylon, a 2,600-year-old sculpture, and the remains of the Ishtar Gate, the most beautiful of the eight gates that once ringed the perimeter of the town. It still bears the symbols of Babylonian gods.
According to the report, which comes after five years of investigation by a team of Iraqi and international experts, foreign troops and contractors bulldozed hilltops and then covered them with gravel to serve as parking lots for military vehicles and trailers. They drove heavy vehicles over the fragile paving of once-sacred pathways.
The report also says that forces built barriers and embankments to protect the base, pulverizing ancient pottery and bricks that were engraved with cuneiform characters. They dug trenches where they stored fuel tanks for their helicopters, which landed near an ancient theater. Among the structures that suffered the most damage, according to the report, were the Ishtar Gate and a processional thoroughfare. Experts also say troops filled their sandbags with soil from a site that was littered with archaeological fragments.
Bricks were looted as well -- both those of Babylonian vintage and newer ones that Hussein used to rebuild parts of the ruins. The latter variety was emblazoned with an ode to himself.
"The damage was so great," said Maryam Mussa, an official from the Iraqi state board of heritage and antiquities, which is in charge of the site. "It would be so difficult to repair it, and nothing can make up for it."
Spokesmen for the U.S. military in Iraq did not respond to requests for comment. But the military has previously said that looting would have been far worse had it not been for the presence of its troops. The military also said in 2005 that it had discussed setting up the base with Iraqi archaeologists in charge of the site.
The site has been closed to the public since 2003. Facing mounting criticism from archaeologists in Iraq and around the world, troops vacated it in summer 2004. It was reopened this June, despite warnings from experts that the ruins might suffer further damage unless they were first restored and given proper protection.
Many residents of Hilla, a town 60 miles south of Baghdad that sits near the ruins, said they have not been to the site because they can't bear to see the damage.
"What ruins are you talking about?" said Jawad Kathem, a 55-year-old owner of a small grocery store in the village of Jumjumah, a few miles away. "There is nothing left of it. It was all destroyed and looted."
"They are occupying forces," said Sabah Hassan, a 41-year-old resident of Hilla who owns a cafe near the ruins. "Nobody can tell them what to do."
On a recent day, wind swept across the deserted ruin as Hamzah, the museum's head, gave a tour to visitors. He recited the history of ancient Babylon with the enthusiasm of someone who had been waiting for years to share his knowledge. The gates of the museum were locked.
"From this room, King Nebuchadnezzar ruled his kingdom," he said as he waved his hand across a spacious room where Nebuchadnezzar II is believed to have sat. The king turned Babylon into one of the wonders of the ancient world. Historians say he was prouder of his construction projects than he was of his many military victories.
Several efforts to restore Babylon have been announced in the past six years, but none has made progress. Now, with security in Iraq improving, officials hope to start work on a $700,000, two-year project funded by the U.S. State Department to restore the site. The United Nations is also trying to name the place a World Heritage site, a designation that would provide support and protection.
"Of course this is not enough, but it is better than nothing," lamented Mussa, the site director. "We had hoped that work would start this year."
On her desk were papers detailing the damage, gathering dust.
of Western Theology as Expounded
by Thomas Aquinas:
Simplified Version in Dialogue Format
O. - Is God immutable?
S. – Yes
O. – Is God pure simplicity (actus purus)?
S. – Yes
O. - Is God’s pure simplicity meant to protect the immutability of God?
S. – Yes
O. - If God is pure simplicity without any complexity, then would you say there is no potentiality in God?
S. – Yes
O. – If there is no potentiality in God, then the divine essence, existence, and energy are identical?
S. – Yes
O. – If the divine essence, existence, and energy are identical, then is God only in a full state of activity (energy)?
S. – Yes
O. – Then would you agree that if God is in a fully activated state, He is so by necessity?
S. – Yes
O. – And there is no distinction between the action and power of God from his essence?
S. – No, God is pure energy.
O. – Do you distinguish the energies of God from the acts of God?
S. – No, they are both the same created works of God.
At the very core of its doctrine, Orthodox theology differs from Scholastic theology. The Greek Fathers clearly taught that God is not actus purus but possesses many energies and powers (potentialities) which are utterly united, neither separating nor confounding with one another within the incorruptible, inconceivable and utterly simple essence of the one triadic divinity. The immutability of God has no need of being protected by the actus purus. There is no need for the actus purus at all. Rather, it is protected by the incomprehensible and incommunicable essence of God.
Aquinas renders the divine energy into the divine essence as a necessity. The Orthodox Church would consider it blasphemous that God must act out of necessity, for God remains within His essence and within the three hypostaseis. God is not Being regulated by His energy but He Himself regulates His energy. God is not pure energy but the energizer.
The Church Fathers teach that God is the energizer, that energy is the uncreated activity of God, and the accomplished work (or creature) is the act of God. The West, however, fails to distinguish the energy of God from the acts (works) of God. The energy of God is best rendered as activity rather than act. The finished act indeed is created, but the activity itself is uncreated. This activity is also known as grace, and if it is uncreated then it is divine.
To infer created grace (energy) in God is a heresy which logically leads to complete atheism and/or Greek mythology. According to the Church Fathers, created energy always indicates a created nature; and uncreated energy always indicates uncreated essence.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Being clairvoyant, the Elder knew what happened, and when the boy returned, Papoulakis repeated exactly the same words Abbot Agapios had used to “press” him: “Eat Dimitris. All day long grinding grain; in the evening we eat the bread.” The boy shook with fear, because Papoulakis always admonished him to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition, as Dimitris was leaving after having delivered the letter, Dimitrios Paxinos, a resident of Lefki, gave him twelve pears for the Elder and four for himself. The boy was holding the pears in a kerchief, and before he said anything, Papoulakis opened the cloth, took twelve pears on his own, and left the four for the boy. He did this without saying a word, simultaneously correcting him for his violation of the fast.
Mr. D. Zaverdinos from Stavros related that his fellow villager, captain Lambros Raftopoulos, once went with his ship (a small sailing vessel) to Venice in order to bring back lumber for the church of Saint Barbara that was being built, but it seemed as though the ship would not return. As three months had passed, everyone was upset, believing that there had been a mishap at sea. They turned to Papoulakis to tell them what to do. Having prayed, he told them not to worry because the ship would arrive in six days together with the lumber. Indeed, on the sixth day the ship arrived with the lumber at Mavrona on Ithaki, just as the Elder had foretold.
Dimitrios Paizis (Korkos) from Rachi in Kioni related that when Papoulakis was staying there, his father, Apostolos Korkos, while hauling corn flour, passed by the Elder. The Elder told Mr. Apostolos, “Tell mistress Apostolena [meaning his wife] to bake us a rokissa [a small corn-flour pita].” When he told his wife the blessed one’s instruction, she replied, “Right. Do you think I’m going to sit here dilly-dallying to bake a rokissa for Dalianos [perhaps a novice of the Elder] to eat?” and she continued with her work. A bit later, however — O wonder! — both her clothing and the flax she was working with caught fire, and she herself was in danger of being burnt.
She then understood her mistake, repented, and baked the rokissa for the Elder. He repeated to her the exact same words she had spoken: “What, madam, have you brought; the rokissa for Dalianos to eat?” Moved with contrition, she asked forgiveness for her behavior, and Papoulakis forgave her.
Mr D. Zaverdinos from Stavros recounted the following incident regarding Nikos Moraitis (Tsakos) from Anogi. When he had shorn his sheep, he told his wife to give him a pokario (an amount shorn from one sheep) of wool to take to Papoulakis so that he could make clothing. His wife reacted negatively to this, using their poverty as an excuse, and adding, moreover, that if he should do this, it would become cause for their separation. The husband, however, gathered it secretly in his rucksack, and set off to water his sheep at the spring of Asprosykia, where he was to have met Papoulakis in order to give it to him. Indeed, there on the hill of Hermes on the outskirts of Stavros, he met the Elder instructing his flock under an almond tree. He approached the Elder, and made a bow to the ground. The Elder anticipated him and said, “Nikoli, take what is in your satchel and return it; I won’t keep it.” The shepherd insisted, but the Elder would not accept the gift. When the shepherd had left, Papoulakis told those present, who were of course curious, “I don’t want to be the cause of a couple’s separation.”
Katerina H. Paizi (Lianou) from Vathy related that in Perahori, the Kachrilas family had secretly made a votive promise to donate twelve talers to the church of Saint Barbara. On the day that they had decided to take the votive offering to the church, the husband said to his wife, “You know, I’m only going to give six of the talers, because the monks just fritter it away anyway.” Thus they set off for a certain house where the Elder was staying in order to give that which they had decided upon. Having greeted the Elder and kissed his hand, they placed the six talers that they had agreed on between themselves on the table. The Elder then calmly said to them, “It is superfluous, my children, since the monks just fritter it away anyway.” When the husband heard Papoulakis use exactly the same words he himself had used during the private discussion with his wife, he was distressed and repented. He confessed his error before everyone and presented the remaining six talers, fulfilling the original promise.
L. Patrikios from Vathy recounted the following. Once while Papoulakis was traveling about, he met in Agros a certain wealthy man from Kefallonia (Cephalonia) who was resting in the shade of a tree. The Elder sat down beside him and, after exchanging greetings, told the Kefallonian that they were building a church and did not have enough money — something that distressed him a lot. His companion then said, “Your work is pleasing to God; if I myself had money to give, I would.” The Saint replied, “You could help out, because you went to buy a horse, and you have money left over.” In fact, this prominent man had agreed to buy Noutsatos’s horse for forty-five exentaria, whereas he had been holding forty-six; thus he had money remaining. When the man heard this, he was moved to compunction and marveled at the clairvoyance of the Saint, to whom he readily gave the remaining exentari.
Leonidas Ventouras from Kioni related that D. Miliaresis had agreed with Elder Papoulakis to take him to Preveza for a fare of ten kolonata on his small ship, with a crew consisting of his father and Leonidas Ventouras himself. They set off from Kioni, passed the little island of Thileia, and came to Avlaki, between Levkas and Aitolo-karnania. Because the weather was not so favorable, they moored at Sete on the tip of Avlakas, opposite the fortress of Levkas. The ship’s owner and crew were frequently going out and procuring needed supplies using the Elder’s fare. He himself, however, did not go out at all and remained absorbed in prayer.
When the storm abated, the Saint ordered the ship to set sail, and the elderly father of the ship’s owner went out to untie the boat. But because it was taking him a long time, the Captain yelled at him angrily, “Get on board, you devil, and I’ll go out and untie it.” The old man got back on, the Captain went out and untied the ship, and they set off. They were then between Preveza and Levkas, and the weather seemed very favorable. Despite this, however, Papoulakis called out for them to go back quickly, and the ship turned around. The Saint then told them to moor at the same site where they had docked previously, because the following day they would be able to depart. He himself went down into the ship to pray. Shortly thereafter a squall rose up with terrible whirlwinds, which threatened to swamp the ship. Seeing all of this, and especially the Elder’s supernatural foresight, the shipowner was shaken and exclaimed, “We would’ve really been in trouble if we continued the journey!” “Yes,” the Elder replied, “yesterday you invited the devil to come along and he did just that. Now he’s leaving after causing that disturbance. Next time, be careful about bringing your ship into such a temptation by what you say.” Moved to contrition, the shipowner took Papoulakis’ hand and devoutly kissed it, as did the others. The following morning the Captain ordered that they set sail. The Elder himself sat at the rudder and told the others to row, because danger was once again threatening, and that they needed to arrive quickly, before the bad weather caught them. In fact, as soon as they docked at Preveza, such a great storm broke out that, in order to disembark, they needed help from dry land, where many people were waiting for Papoulakis with devotion.
Dimitrios Zaverdinos from Stavros related that his fellow villager, Efstathios Sykiotis, had once fallen from an olive tree and suffered a severe concussion. He became paralyzed in his lower extremities and unable to help himself for three full years. When Papoulakis saw him, he felt compassion for him and said to his father, “Vasilis, if you want your son to get well, buy a sixty-drachma silver oil lamp for Saint Barbara. Let the injured boy himself take it there and I will pray for him, and he will become well.” The following day, when the distressed father bought the lamp, the sick boy started to get well and began moving his hands and feet. When he took the lamp in his hands, he was able to stand on his feet. He walked to the church of Saint Barbara and handed over the lamp in front of her icon. From then on, he remained completely well and began to work normally. He got married and had children, through the prayers of Papoulakis.
To be continued…Part 9
I received some questions to ponder regarding the alleged miracle of Elder Joseph's postmortem smile reported here. Some have dismissed it as a medical mystery that should not be simply accepted as a miracle without scientific analysis, while others have objected that a piece of cloth can be traced in the photos shutting the mouth of the Elder. I will give my observations in light of these questions.
I agree we should not throw out the word "miracle" for everything we think comes from God unless there is actual confirmation or evidence for it being a supernatural event. So let us examine some simple facts to see if the word "miracle" is applicable to this unusual circumstance. Of course, I am doing this only in light of the acceptance of the Elder's sanctity and the fact that he was a man of many spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am furthermore accepting the testimony of the eye-witnesses as true.
To come to a more objective conclusion I went through a bunch of medical sources on the subject of rigamortis, postmortem movements, and even of cases of smiling dead people.
I should point out initially that this "miracle" is not entirely unique in Christian tradition, as is claimed. For eample, according to the biography of St. Symeon Stylite, he would not allow any woman to come near his pillar, not even his own mother, reportedly telling her, "If we are worthy, we shall see one another in the life to come." Martha submitted to this. Remaining in the area, she also embraced the monastic life of silence and prayer. When she died, Symeon asked that her remains be brought to him. He reverently bid farewell to his dead mother, and, according to the account, a smile appeared on her face.
There seems to be a consensus from the various sources that upon death the muscles relax and it takes no less than 2 hours for rigamortis to set it in. Rigamortis lasts any where from 24-36 hours, though it could last a few days longer and unlikely to last any less.
Furthermore, regarding postmortem movement, it appears that this cannot happen during any time while in rigamortis (usually the facial muscles are one of the first to stiffen). Sometimes right after death the body starts convulsing as it releases oxygen and muscles begin to relax which could in turn cause movement. Nothing happens during rigamortis, but when that time ends the muscles will again relax and could cause movement many days after a corpse is deceased.
As far as smiling dead people are concerned, there seems to be a consensus also that it is impossible to have a natural smile while dead no matter how happy you are when dying. Smiling requires muscles and since the muscles relax it cannot be maintained. However, if the head is a bit lifted you could die with your mouth closed and when rigamortis sets in the side muscles of the mouth could make you to appear to be smiling when they stiffen. Also, before embalming, someone could force a smile on a corpse for the funeral.
In the case of Elder Joseph, upon death we know that his muscles relaxed and his mouth opened and he died in that position. Interestingly rigamortis set in quickly while his mouth was open. We know the monks tried to close his mouth for the funeral service but could not. Also, when rigamortis sets in, you cannot tie anything around the mouth to close it either; it must be tied while the muscles are still relaxed and releasing the oxygen. Postmortem movements where rigamortis sets in are impossible also. The amazing fact in all this is that the smile occurred 45 minutes after death while in a state of rigamortis. Also, mouths, like eyes, do not close on their own once opened after death though they can do the opposite.
Also, I studied all the pictures I possess to get a better idea of what happened. Within the first 45 minutes of death it appears that the only thing around Elder Joseph's neck was the Great Schema. The smile actually happened while he was wearing only the Great Schema and nothing else around his neck. Later on at some point they placed a black monastic funeral sheet of some sort around him which in closeup shots make it appear his mouth was tied. Below are some better photographs I found that reveal this.
Is it a miracle? In light of this objective evidence, though I am no expert, I definitely would not dismiss it as not being a miracle. It is certainly unusual and not normal thus making it very appropriate. And usually anything unusual in a saintly person does have a purpose and is more likely to be a miracle rather than in any other normal circumstance.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Jul 30th, 2009
AFP reported on Thursday that the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, Bartholomew I, was hopeful Turkey would re-open a historic seminary it shut down nearly four decades ago. The Halki Orthodox
Theological Seminary, located on the island of Halki off the coast of Istanbul, was the key Patriarchical institution for educating the Greek Orthodox Community and training its future clergy for more than a century before it was closed down by the Turkish government in 1971.
The Patriarch was responding to signals last week by Turkey’s Culture Minister that Ankara is planning to re-open the Greek seminary, considered vital to the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.
The Turkish Government forcibly closed down the Seminary under a law bringing Turkish universities under the state’s control. Another law, however, made it illegal for anyone to enter the Orthodox priesthood unless they have graduated from Halki.
Since the closure of the Halki Seminary, the Patriarchate has faced insurmountable barriers in staffing the Ecumenical Patriarchate to carry out the Church’s many administrative and spiritual responsibilities. The only option left for the Patriarchate has been to bring clergymen and individuals from abroad to work at the ecumenical patriarchate, often illegally, since the Turkish government does not give them work permits.
Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no property rights in Turkey and is taxed beyond excess. Under Turkish law, the General Directorate of Welfare Foundations has the power to unilaterally confiscate minority properties.
Along with the Halki Seminary, the Turkish Government has confiscated (usually secretly) 75 % of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s properties, including homes, apartment buildings, schools, land, churches, monasteries, and even cemeteries.
On March 20, 2006 the government erased the name of the Patriarchate from the ownership deed of the Orphanage of Buyukada, replacing it with the name of a minority foundation it had seized in 1997. This move resulted in the effective confiscation of the orphanage.
The Turkish government proceeded with the confiscation despite an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights by the Patriarchate in 2005. The Orphanage, which is the largest wooden building in Europe, had been a Patriarchal institution, celebrating 550 years of continuous service under the care and guidance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, preserving the Orthodox Faith, Hellenic Ideals and Greek Education.
In the eyes of the Turkish government, the Ecumenical Patriarchate does not exist as a legal entity, and as a result, has virtually no rights. Although it was established in 451 AD, Turkish authorities refuse to recognize the Patriarchate as “Ecumenical” or International. Turkish law has relegated this 2,000 year-old church, which serves as the focal point of Orthodox Christendom, to a Turkish institution.
As a result, the Turkish government also controls the process by which the Ecumenical Patriarch is selected. Through illegal decrees, the government has imposed heavy restrictions on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarchs, requiring the Patriarch and the Hierarchs that elect him to be Turkish citizens. The very existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been put in jeopardy as a consequence of these decrees.
Turkish law requires that even priests must be Turkish citizens. This excludes eligible clergy from around the world from attending to Turkey’s Greek community, which now numbers less than 3,000—most of which are elderly and not eligible candidates.
There are currently roughly 200 Greek Orthodox Clergymen who live in Turkey and are Turkish citizens. Without the Halki Seminary, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been forced to send its future clerics outside the country for training. Unfortunately, most do not return home. These restrictions severely limit not only who can become a priest, but also who can become the Ecumenical Patriarch.
These policies are wearing away at the Christian presence in Turkey and threaten to eventually wipe out the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which stands as a 2,000 year-old spiritual beacon for more than 300,000 million orthodox Christians around the world.
Since 1923, successive Turkish Governments have subjected the Ecumenical Patriarchate to a protracted and systemic campaign of institutional and cultural repression, squeezing the country’s Greek minority and its religious institutions to the point of complete exhaustion and despair.
Despite direct stipulations in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that Turkey must legally recognize and protect its religious minorities, Christian communities in Turkey currently face unfair official restrictions regarding the ownership and operation of churches and seminaries. The Turkish Government interferes in the selection of their religious leaders. Christian education has all but vanished, while freedom of expression and association, although provided for on paper, tend to get people killed.
This political climate of religious repression has, for decades, encouraged extremists to attack the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul defacing its walls and desecrating its cemeteries.
In 1955, riots broke out in Istanbul and quickly turned into pogroms against Greeks as 73 Orthodox churches and 23 schools were vandalized, burned, or destroyed; 1,004 houses of Orthodox citizens were looted; and 4,348 stores, 110 hotels, 27 pharmacies, and 21 factories were destroyed. The Greek Orthodox population in 1955 was 100,000. In 1998, a Greek Orthodox official was murdered at his church, Saint Therapon, in Istanbul. The church was then robbed and set on fire.
Growing focus on Turkey in recent years and the country’s bid to join the European Union, has raised awareness and concern about the fate of the Patriarchate among governments, organizations and people around the world.
The European Union has long asked Turkey to re-open the seminary in order to prove its commitment to human rights as it strives to become a member of the bloc.
The Turkish Government, keen to boost its European credentials as it seeks EU membership, says it may finally take steps to prevent the destruction of one of the world’s oldest Christian churches and its Congregation.
The bitter reality is that the very existence of the Patriarchate has been threatened by the very government that is now vaguely promising to save it.
Turkish authorities have been issued such promises for decades.
This picture was recently published in the Greek newspaper Kathimerini to show that Alexander the Great, who was a Macedonian, was also a Hellene. From a 16th century perspective, therefore, ancient Macedonia was a part of Hellas (Greece) and not a seperate nation as is commonly held by todays so-called Macedonians. The mural is dated to 1568 from the Monastery of Dochiariou on Mount Athos.
The exact inscription says for the left “Βασιλεύς Ελλήνων Αλέξανδρος” (Alexander King of the Hellenes) and on the right it says “Βασιλεύς Ρωμαίων Αύγουστος” (Augustus King of the Romans).
It should be noted that the term "Hellenes" in the mural refers to ethnicity and not the fact that they were idol worshippers, since Augustus, who even though called a Roman, was also an idol worshipper. Also, this is not the Emperor Alexander who ruled from 912-913 A.D. since this Emperor would not have been called a King of the Hellenes but rather "King of the Romans". No Roman Emperor ever called himself "King of the Hellenes". Furthermore, the Roman Emperor Alexander would have been out of place here since what is clearly being depicted are ancient Kings.
For more information, see here.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
...continued from Part 6
VARIOUS MIRACLES OF SAINT JOACHIM
A woman named Roza, of the Petalas family, was married in Akarnania. Her husband suffered from atrophy of his right arm, and this evoked repugnance within his insensitive spouse who openly expressed her revulsion for the afflicted man. After some time, however, she herself became ill with a more serious sickness, myelitis, which brought about a paralysis of the lower members of her body. Unable to raise herself from bed, she was moved from Akarnania to her paternal home in Exoge in order for her mother to take care of her. For three full years she suffered terribly, beyond any hope of human help. Realizing now the seriousness of her prior inappropriate behavior toward her spouse, she detested herself, recognizing that because of her callousness she had been abandoned to this chastisement by God. Finding no other consolation, the hapless and paralyzed Roza sought refuge in the unsalaried doctor, Elder Papoulakis, who went to visit her at her home in Exoge. Feeling sympathy for the sick woman, the holy Elder blessed her secretly and told her in a compassionate way, “My child, buy an oil lamp for the church of Saint Barbara and I will pray to God, and your faith will save you.” And so it happened. Having bought the lamp as the holy father had instructed, the former paralytic recovered her ability to use her limbs and in a short time became completely well, remaining ever grateful to the blessed one.
Dionysios Paxinos from Stavros related that Papoulakis had healed a woman and her child. The mother was suffering from a severe, festering inflammation of the eyes, and the child, from eclampsia, a seizure disorder. The Elder healed them through his prayer. Having made the sign of the cross over them with his staff, he conversed with them privately and disclosed to them what they were to offer in recompense if he healed them. This conversation was held in secret, at a distant and remote place.
Another time, while Blessed Joachim was coming from Saint Elias in Kioni, he became thirsty along the way. To a girl named Theodorella who offered him water, he foretold that she would become the wife of a priest, and then he blessed her. Indeed, later this happened just as Saint Papoulakis had prophesied.
In the community of Rapezi at Parga in Epirus, Papoulakis miraculously appeared to the priest there, without knowing the area by sight, and he told him to urge all those who had made votive promises to the church of Saint Barbara not to delay in fulfilling them. The priest did remind the donors, and they gathered together their votive offerings and sent them by boat for Saint Barbara’s. Papoulakis foresaw the delivery and was waiting at Mavronas for the ship’s arrival; he was there to take delivery of the offerings, without anyone having informed him of their arrival.
Once, blessed Papoulakis wanted to go over to Preveza, and he proposed to a ship’s captain who was preparing to go there that he take him along. The captain, however, failed to notify him when he set off. After he arrived at the dock of Preveza, he was astonished to see the Elder walking on the shore, because there was no other ship, nor was there any other means to carry him across. Stunned and ashamed, the captain bowed low to him and asked forgiveness for his indifference.
One time, again in his own area, a mentally ill woman of loose morals had given birth to an illegitimate child, and in order to be rid of the infant, she put it in a roasting pan and lit the oven in order to burn it up. From where he was, Papoulakis foresaw her scheme and quickly sent an old woman to avert the evil deed. They gave the child to be raised in a suitable environment, and the sick woman was placed in a psychiatric hospital on Kerkyra (Corfu).
A young woman from Crete, one of the refugees of 1866, suffered for a long time from arthritis and from a stiffening of her right knee. Once when blessed Papoulakis saw her, he felt sorry for her; he made the sign of the cross over her with his staff, accompanied by a suitable prayer. After a short time, the sick woman was healed and was able to walk normally.
When the blessed Elder was building the church of Saint Barbara, at one point the project had financial difficulties, and he was unable to pay the workmen. Having decided to ask a certain wealthy man in Stavros named Nicholas to help with the situation, he went to visit him at his home. The first meeting was cool and reserved, even though the man nonchalantly asked the Elder how the construction was going. “Fine,” answered the Elder, “but we are in need of money; this is why I’ve come to you, to ask your help so that we can pay the workers from Anogi.” “And how much are you looking for, monk?” Nicholas asked. “I need sixty talers (a five-drachma coin),” replied the Elder. This seemed a lot to Mr. Nicholas, and he turned down his request, using the excuse that he did not have that much. “I pray you will always have everything you deserve,” said the Elder, and he left.
That night, however, the master was in turmoil because of continual terrible nightmares; in particular, he would see Papoulakis in front of him threatening him. Consequently, he was not able to sleep at all that night because of his distress and fear. In the morning, he called his attendant, Stathis Kouros, and told him, “Go quickly and find the monk. My conscience is bothering me and I suffered all night; I was wrong to refuse him.” As soon as the attendant met Papoulakis, and before he told him the reason for his coming, the Elder anticipated him, saying, “Is it true, Stathis, that the master has changed his mind?” “Yes, dear father, you terrified him during the night; he requests to see you right away.” They went together to Mr. Nicholas’s home, where he received him with respect and kissed his hand. “You ‘opened my eyes’ last night, holy monk, and I want to have your blessing. How many talers do you want?” “Sixty talers, and whatever else God inspires you to give,” the Elder replied. He readily counted out the sixty talers, and the Elder thanked the man and blessed him, after he had escorted him as far as the outer gate.
Another time, when Papoulakis was at Vathy on Ithaki, he went at a late hour and knocked at an old woman’s door. She asked who it was and what he wanted. The Elder insisted that she open up for him. When she opened the door and he went inside, he greeted her and then told her in an enigmatic way that heads of families must be attentive to their duties. She replied, “At such an hour, little Father?” “We monks don’t have hours, but hasten to wherever duty calls us. You should not leave the gunpowder close to the fire. As long as the coals are covered by their ashes they are inactive, but when the wind blows and removes the ashes, what will happen to the gunpowder?” “It will ignite, of course,” she responded. The elder repeated these words three times and left. As he was leaving, the woman was pondering what the meaning of these words might be, since she knew that Papoulakis never spoke without a reason. Then it occurred to her that in the house she had her two daughters in one room and a young stranger sleeping in another room together with her boys. The one daughter was having thoughts about sinning with the stranger. Consequently, the woman got her two daughters up from that room and kept them close to her for the rest of that night, thwarting the Devil’s plan. By the Grace of God, the blessed Elder foresaw what would have happened in the middle of the night, and rushed off to prevent the evil deed. Truly, “the wise man’s eyes are in his head” (Eccl. 2:14).
As D. Paxinos from Stavros, Ithaki, related, a poverty-stricken widow lived in his village with her children. Whenever they were in need of something, Papoulakis would provide for them by secretly tossing it through the hole in the door, without anyone having mentioned anything to him. Once, he sent one of the widow’s young children to take a letter to Abbot Agapios of the Holy Monastery of the Angelic Commanders (Taxiarchon) in Perahori. The young boy carried out the request and delivered the letter, which the devout Abbot kissed three times out of pious respect for the holy monk Papoulakis. Out of an excessive sympathy for the child because of his labor in bringing the letter, the Abbot pressed the boy to eat olive oil, even though it was Friday.
To be continued…Part 8
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Saint Irene Chrysovalantou lived in asceticism as a nun in the Monastery of Chrysovalantou in Constantinople in the ninth century. It was located on its fifth hill known then as Chrysovalantou from which the monastery took its name (though according to St. Irene's biography the offical name of this monastery was dedicated to the Archangels Michael and Gabriel). Today the fifth of the seven hills of Constantinople is occupied by the Mosque of Sultan Selim and the Church of the Theotokos Pammakaristos and is considered the best place to view Constantinople and the Golden Horn. Though the remains of the monastery have not been found, the only topographical allusion to it that we have is its close proximity to the cistern of Aspar, according to St. Irene's biography, which was on the fifth hill north of the Church of the Holy Apostles (which was on the fourth hill). This monastery operated until the 10th or 11th century.
Interestingly we are informed that following St. Irene's death she was entombed either in or near Chrysovalantou Monastery in the Church of Saint Theodore (possible location of which was here and here if outside the monastery, but this is doubtful). Innumerable miracles were attributed to the sacred relics of St. Irene. However following the Fourth Crusade and the Fall of Constantinople to the Turks, the story and relics of St. Irene seemed to be lost. A codex (no. 151) was found from the 16th century in the Sacred Monastery of Saint Dionysios on Mount Athos that once again revealed her life, and a Service to Saint Irene Chrysovalantou was written by one of our great hymnographers of modern times by the hagiorite monk Gerasimos Mikragiannanitou.
In the same monastery on Mount Athos there was found an icon of St. Irene as well. This icon was painted by a gentleman from Smyrna who lived at this monastery known as Monk Nektarios in 1919. When he returned to Smyrna he was martyred in 1920 by the Turks together with Monk Cyril Lemonia, who had the gift of prophecy and once said outside his cell, "these days many martyrs will be revealed".
In 1926 a monk from Mount Athos named Archimandrite Paisios Philiokaliotakis gave this icon of St. Irene painted by Monk Nektarios to his spiritual daughter Lemonia upon her elevation to the Great Schema. Upon her elevation to the Great Schema at the age of twenty, Lemonia had her name changed to Meletia.
Nun Meletia had a passion to establish a monastery, and thus bought many acres in an area of Attica known as Lykovrisi. This came about after her mother, who also was a monastic by the name of Taxiarchia, fell asleep on October 10, 1927. To honor her memory it was Abbess Meletias' desire to dedicate her monastery to the Holy Archangels (Taxiarchi).
When construction began on the church of the monastery, one day one of the workers named Michael Gerasimou (who lived in between the streets of Petrou Rally and Archmidous in Chalkidona Peraias) saw with his naked eyes a tall and beautiful nun approaching him. The worker did not recognize this nun and asked her: "Who are you?" She responded: "I am Irene." Upon saying this she distanced herself a bit and with her right hand indicated the spot which today occupies the church dedicated to her name. The worker related this strange appearance of this nun named Irene to the Righteous Abbess Meletia and she also wondered about this unknown nun.
Another time Saint Irene appeared to one of the nuns as she was shutting the window of the building in which they were all staying. This nun saw the same tall beautiful nun which had appeared to the worker pointing to the same spot in which she wanted her church to be built. This seemed strange at the time since the architectural plans called for the church to be built in the area already being worked on. This time however the foundation stone from the other church had been miraculously transferred to the new area desired by St. Irene.
It appears that when the foundation stone had been set with the purpose of building the church dedicated to the Archangels, at that moment the spiritual father of the Abbess Meletia expressed his desire to her to resurrect the name of the Righteuos Saint Irene of Chrysovalantou. He told her that she was a great abbess who wants to help establish this monastery as the first founded in her name after the monastery in Constantinople in which she lived her monastic life and became a saint. He wanted her grace to surround this monastery and for the church dedicated to her name to be a well spring of miracles, which would in turn spread her name far and wide throughout the world to eternity.
When Abbess Meletia heard this she was overjoyed as she recalled the manifestation of the mysterious nun Irene and the indication to establish a church foundation in another area.
Eventually this church dedicated to St. Irene Chrysovalantou was built. Desiring for the monastic grounds of this monastery to imitate to a certain extent the monastic life of St. Irene, next to her church they also built a chapel dedicated to the Great Martyr Theodore which originally in Constantinople housed her miraculous relics.
The Monastery of Saint Irene of Chrysovalantou was officially founded in 1930 and the icon of the Saint given to the abbess years earlier was placed in her church for veneration. It was not long before the faithful who came to this monastery witnessed the miraculous grace flowing from this icon. So many stories began circulating that in truth her name became known throughout the Orthodox world. Faithful came from Constantinople, Germany, America, Africa and other such places to venerate this holy icon and offer up their requests. As the fame of the monastery spread, it was built to accomodate its many pilgrims and came to resemble a traditional monastery built in the style of those in Constantinople during Roman times.
On January 29, 1977 Abbess Meletia departed in peace.
The Periodical of the Monastery
In 1960 a bi-monthly periodical began to circulate out of this monastery in Lykovrisi called Righteous Irene of Chrysovalantou (ΟΣΙΑ ΕΙΡΗΝΗ Η ΧΡΥΣΟΒΑΛΑΝΤΟΥ) and has been distributed since for the past fifty years. It was common in the monastery, and still is today, for the faithful who have been aided in one way or another by St. Irene to write a letter of thanks to her and these accounts have been compiled in books by the monastery. In 1964 some of these stories began to be published in the periodical and have been published ever since in both English and Greek. I highly recommend everyone to subscribe to this periodical which you can start receiving for whatever donation you can afford. With the letters and addresses of the faithful it often publishes pictures of children as well born to infertile couples that were blessed by St. Irene, as well as excellent articles to build the faith of Orthodox Christians.
The Miraculous Apples
Saint Irene kept the feast of St. Basil (January 1) especially holy out of great reverance because they both came from Cappadocia. One year after the feast day of St. Basil, during the fourth watch of the night, she heard a voice saying: "Welcome the sailor who brings fruit to you today. Eat it with joy and let your soul be gladdened!" This was followed by a similar voice during Matins saying: "Go to the door and bring in the sailor who is visiting you." She invited the sailor in and they greeted one another, and stayed until the end of the Liturgy. After Liturgy, Irene inquired after the sailor's journey, to which he replied:
"I am a sailor from the island of Patmos and I joined a boat coming to this City for business. As we were passing the coast of that island, we saw a very old man on the shore who called to us to wait for him. We could not because we were near the rocks, so with a good wind behind us we left. He then shouted all the more loudly ordering the boat to stop. This it did at once. Then he came to us walking on the waves and soon entered the boat. Then taking three apples from beneath his cloak, he gave them to me saying, 'When you go to the imperial City, give these to the Patriarch [Methodios] and tell him that the Almighty sends them to him from His beloved disciple, John.' After that he took another three and asked that these be presented to you, the Abbess of Chrysovalantou named Irene. To you he said, 'Eat these and all that your beautiful soul desires will be granted you because this gift comes to you from John in Paradise.' Having said this he blessed God, wished us well, and disappeared."
Irene, with tears of joy, received this gift with thanksgiving from St. John the Theologian, the Apostle, Evangelist, and beloved disciple of Christ. The sailor asked for a blessing and left the monastery.
These three holy apples from Paradise were superior to the earth's fruits: first and foremost in beauty; second, according to fragrance; third, they were markedly larger and extraordinary. To have received such a gift only indicated that none were holier in Constantinople than Patriarch Methodios and Irene.
Irene fasted for a week, thanking God for the apples. After this, she ate small pieces of the first apple daily, without any other form of sustenance, for forty days; when she ate, she smelt as if she was exuding myrrh; during this time, the remaining apples became more beautiful and aromatic. On Holy Thursday, she directed her sisterhood to receive Communion; after the Liturgy, the second apple was divided between them; when eaten, so sweet was the taste that the sisters felt as if their souls were being fed. The third apple was kept until Irene would know what to do with it and until then she would often inhale its outstanding fragrance. She partook of this marvelous apple the last week before her repose, at 103 years of age, as her only sustenance.
In the narthex of the Church of St. Irene in Lykovrisi there is a sign concerning the apples distributed at the monastery which reads: "You eat, you believe, you hope" (Τρως, πιστεύεις, ελπίζεις). This pretty much summarizes the instruction on how to obtain divine grace and receive divine intervention towards your needs.
The Monastery of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou in Lykovrisi contains what many believe to be an actual tree of life. Apples played a major role in the life of St. Irene and the monastery has planted apple trees that are blessed and mediate divine grace and healing to all those who receive it with proper faith and preparation. Remarkably these apples also do not rot when cut in slices and maintain moisture, and there is a wonderful fragrance that emit from these apples for a long time even when they dry up after many months.
Many couples who wish to have a child frequently visit or request apples to be sent to them from this monastery hoping in a miracle. Thousands over the years have received this miracle, as is evidenced by the large number of both males and females among the Orthodox who bear the name of either Chrysovalantou or Chrysovalanti. Children who are considered a gift of St. Irene through her miraculous intervention either bear this name as a first or middle name. I have given a sample of two such miracles that appeared in last months periodical of the monastery at the bottom of this page.
It is not only infertile couples which receive miraculous intervention, but also those who are suffering any kind of ailment such as various body pains, cancers, incurable illnesses and diseases, and even emotional pains. It is recommended that to be a recepient of such divine grace, that one must fast strictly for three days and pray. Couples should not enter into sexual relations for those three days either. During those three days if you have holy water, a little should be drunk each day and if you have holy oil from the monastery you should anoint the area of the body for which you are praying with the sign of the cross. If it is a child you are seeking, the mother should also request a belt/cord that is made by the nuns with prayers and blessed for the specific purpose of receiving a child as a gift. When the three days have passed you are to eat the apple. If it be God's will, believe that God will heal you of your ailment and suffering through the intercessions of his faithful and fervent intercessor St. Irene.
The Blessing of the Apples takes place every year on the feast of the Saint on July 28th. A prayer is said "in remembrance of the three apples which were given from Paradise to Saint Irene Chrysovalantou". The apples keep vigil during the service in front of the wonderworking icon of the Saint at which time the appropriate prayer of blessing is said for divine grace to permeate through the apples to bring life to infertile couples and health to all those in need.
In some parishes it is customary to bless apples on the feast of St Irene Chrysovalantou.
My Aunt Received a Vision of Saint Irene in Athens
My mother Panagiota has a very special reverence for Saint Irene Chrysovalantou. Every time she travels to Greece from Boston she always makes a special trip to St. Irene's monastery in Lykovrisi to venerate her wonderous icon. Growing up we always had the periodical being mailed to us from the monastery and our home never lacked a slice from the miraculous holy apple.
One year back in the 1970's she made one of her special pilgrimages together with my father Panagioti and my Aunt Penelope, or Popi as we all call her. Whenever my mother visited this monastery she would always make an offering in gold to the holy icon to be used for the benefit of the monastery and this year she continued that tradition. My father also was wearing a gold necklace and decided to offer this as well. When his older sister, my aunt, saw this she scolded him saying: "Panagiota already made an offering. There is no need for you to make one too and lose your expensive gold necklace." This sounded logical to my father, so he put his necklace back on and they left for Menidi (where my aunt lived) after all had venerated the holy icon.
That night everyone went to bed. As my Aunt Popi was getting ready her husband Apostoli had already fallen asleep. My aunt then got into bed and before she fell asleep, even though the room was pitch dark, she saw a nun enter her bedroom. With fear my aunt looked at her. The nun then said: "Penelope, why did you not allow Panagioti to make his offering?" The nun then turned around and disappeared as she walked away. My aunt realized at once that St. Irene had visited her and scolded her for what she had done.
The next morning when everyone awoke she urgently told my father and mother to get dressed because they had to go back to the monastery for my father to make his offering. They returned to the monastery and my father gladly made his offering.
Years later I had the chance to visit this monastery with my Aunt Popi. In front of the wonderworking icon of St. Irene she became very reverential, remembering the scolding she had received years earlier.
My Grandfather Was Healed By Saint Irene of his Lung Cancer
[The following was written by my sister Vaso Christopoulos concerning another miracle of St. Irene related to the one above, but this time involving my grandfather. -J.S.]
In 1995, my Grandfather, Vasili, who lived near us in Boston, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was 21 years old and planned a vacation to Greece for that summer. During his chemotherapy treatments my mother Panayiota, who has a special devotion to St. Irene Chrysovalantou, had given her father, my grandfather, the monthly periodicals she received in the mail from St. Irene Chrysovolantou Monastery for him to read since they were written in Greek. These periodicals were filled with miraculous stories of healings through the prayers of St. Irene. He was very moved by these and found faith and hope from reading the stories. He asked that when I visit St. Irene's Monastery to give them a donation from him and buy him an icon of St. Irene as well as a "milo" [apple].
I arrived in Greece and decided to just have a relaxing vacation by myself and visit family, allowing myself no burden of having anything planned. During my stay in Athens I visited with my Aunt Popi from Menidi [see above] and I had the beautiful opportunity (I believe) to be part of a miracle of St. Irene Chrysovolantou. It was a very hot summer afternoon. I spent the day at my aunts house relaxing because of the heat. There weren't many neighbors or family around that day. I had taken an afternoon nap as I usually did, but that afternoon was different. I woke up from my nap with an extreme urgency to go visit the monastery immediately. I didn't question myself nor did I care about the heat or how I was going to get there, but I got up with a mission to go immediately. I remember telling my Aunt Popi and cousin Demetri: "I MUST go to the monastery right now!" Without question, they agreed. My cousin Demetri had a long day at work, but simply said: "OK let's go, I will drive you!" I went with the monetary donation that my Pappou Vasili had given me, and upon his request I prayed before the icon of St. Irene for his recovery of the cancer, spoke to two nuns about my Pappou Vasili, and they assisted me in lighting a candle on his behalf and gave me the milo, an icon and their monthly periodical to bring back to him. I knew I had to call my mother and tell her the task that my Pappou asked me to fulfill was complete.
I called my mother in Boston from my Aunt Popi's house the very next morning when I woke up. I remember telling her the details of my visit to the monastery and at the end of the conversation she gasped and questioned me again to clarify if I really went the day before. I told her yes. Apparently during the time of my visit to the monastery it was also the same time that my Pappou was visiting the doctors to get the test results of his on-going cancer treatments for the lung tumor. The results came back clear of all traces of the tumor. Our family firmly believes that this was a miracle of St. Irene and I have the humble honor of being a part of it. I tear up just by the thought of this.
Two Miracles of Saint Irene Published in the Periodical of the Monastery in its Most Recent Issue
Sweet Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, we want to thank you so much for your kindness towards our family through your miracles.
When I called on you, you comforted us in our time of anguish. All our hopes were in God and you Saint Irene Chrysovalantou.
We feel so small in front of you and our feelings cannot be described on this lifeless paper. For the rest of our lives we will talk about you, healer of human pain.
The time has come for us to tell of the miracle you worked for us and the help you showed us. When we got married we wanted to have a child but nearly two and a half years went by.
I, Chrysovalantis, the husband of Joanna, wanted very much to become a father. One night as I was praying in my house and because I wanted to feel the experience of fatherhood I vowed that if I had a child I would call it by your name even though I had the same name Chrysovalantis. That is what happened.
You heard my prayers and in October 2004 my Chrysovalantis was born. That is why my son and I have the same name because I from one of your miracles came into existence. That miracle was also published in your magazine as my mother had also vowed to Saint Irene to give me her name.
Now I will let my wife Joanna continue relating the miracle.
It is true that before I married Chrysovalantis I knew nothing about you, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou and what I know today I learned from my husband. Newlywed I came for the first time with my husband Chrysovalantis and I prayed before your miraculous icon to give me a child.
I left impressed by what I had seen at the Monastery and with the hope that you would hear my prayer. Time went by and my desire for a child grew bigger but worry tormented me.
One night I dreamed of you Saint Irene. Even though you were at a distance from me you looked at me and beckoned to me with your blue eyes to come near you. I ran to reach you but bumped into a tree which had no leaves or fruit.
You told me to stand under the tree and I saw a red apple which I picked stretching my arms. At that moment I woke up. Stunned by the dream I was sure that you would help me to make reality what I so much desired. That is what happened.
After two months I was pregnant with many problems. The placenta came away and I was in danger of having a miscarriage. At one and a half months the doctors recommended strict measures and bed rest. One day I had terrible pains with hemorrhage. I phoned the doctor and told him and he replied that I had lost the baby and to go to the hospital to be cleared.
When in tears I arrived at the doctors with my husband in terrible pain holding the icon of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou and praying not only did I not lose the child but I too heard his heart beat. Not only us but the doctor too was sure of the miracle which Saint Irene Chrysovalantou had worked. He advised me to stay in bed for the rest of the pregnancy until I give birth.
During my pregnancy from time to time I heard a sweet voice saying, "Let Ioanna relax because in a short time she will give birth to Chrysovalanti."
The problems continued to become more and more dangerous. I had severe spasms in the womb and I was continuously going to the hospital for various problems as well as for my breathing problem. The doctors said it was impossible for this pregnancy to reach full term unless a miracle happens.
Seeing I was in this condition I asked for your Monastery to send me, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, the cord and holy apple which I received quickly. I wore the cord immediately around my waist and ate the holy apple with much faith.
In the sixth month of my pregnancy I had signs that I was going into labour. The doctor told me I must stay in the hospital for observation. I saw you in my sleep, sweet Saint Irene, and you were holding a baby boy in a blue sleep suit and you said, "Ioanna, do not be afraid; I will hold the child in my arms for three months. Do not worry little Chrysovalantis will be fine and healthy."
This is what happened. In spite of all the problems I was healthy and you did not allow my child to come to harm. When I reached the ninth month the doctors were all amazed how my pregnancy could reach full term. They all called me a heroine.
In October 2004 my Chrysovalanti was born. At the time I could see above my head a huge light and thousands of stars. I was sure that you supported me until the last moment and were next to my side.
I, Ioanna and my husband Chrysovalantis, thank you, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, for enabling us to hold in our arms little Chrysovalanti who is also a child of yours.
We shall always thank you for the rest of our life. Please always have us under your protection and we shall never forget your living miracle which you worked for us.
Chrysovalantis and Ioanna Hania
Sweet Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, thank you for the miracle which you worked for me.
I had been married for sixteen whole years and I had not had a baby yet. I came to the Monastery and prayed before your miraculous icon and ate your holy apple after three days of fasting. You worked your miracle at once.
Even though the doctors said there was a problem I would not accept it. I believed that you would help me, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, and you gave me twins. I told my husband to call the one by your name and we did. So I brought into this world my Chrysovalantou and Constantina, two beautiful and healthy little girls.
Saint Irene Chrysovalantou I thank you for working your miracle for me and you enabled me to become a mother. Please always protect us and be near us when we need you.
Georgia and Christos Avgerantonis
The Monastery Today
Today the monastery follows one of the strictest monastic rules in any convent in Greece and adheres to the Old Calendar. The nuns maintain a permanent fast at this monastery in imitation of St. Irene, their Abbess. It comprises a building which occupies approximately 50 acres.
It offers accomodations for both men and women in seperate wings for those who wish to stay at the monastery to participate in its worship services. These several guest rooms are available throughout the year except on the feast day of St. Irene on July 28th (according to the Old Calendar). Because of the nuns strict fast, they only offer pilgrims fruit and nuns, so if one wishes to eat at the monastery one must bring their own food and not expect to feast in the dining room as in most other monasteries.
Suitable clothing must be worn to enter the monastery. Shorts, short skirts, and sleeveless shirts, are strictly prohibited from both men and women. Men are to be dressed as men and women as women. This means that women are prohibited from wearing any kind of pants and must wear a long dress to cover their legs. In fact when I visited this monastery at the age of 16 I was wearing shorts and the nuns would not allow me to enter no matter how much my mother and family tried to persuade them. They allowed me to enter only when I wrapped my grandmothers shawl around my legs. Sometimes they provide skirts for forgetful women, so don't hesitate to try to visit if you forget to bring your skirt for this pilgrimage.
If a woman wishes to venerate any icons, lipstick must be completely removed.
The monastery is open to the faithful during the following times:
Opens at 07:00 (their time)
Closes at 17:00 (their time)
Opens at 07:00 (their time)
Closes at 18:00 (their time)
If anyone wishes to make a pilgrimage or contact this monastery to make a small donation and request a slice or two of the miraculous apple, subscribe to their periodical, send in prayer requests or a thanksgiving letter, or purchase an icon or holy water or holy oil or a belt/cord or books, the following methods of contact should be taken:
Contact details for the monastery:
St. Irene Chrysovalantou
Athens, Greece 14123
Telephone: there is no phone communication with the monastery.
Affiliation: This is an Old Calendar Monastery (G.O.C.) and is not in communion with the canonical or official Orthodox Church.
A Tour of St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Lykovrisi
Miracles, Icons and Photos of St. Irene Chrysovalantou of Lykovrisi
Saint Irene Chrysovalantou's Power Over Demons
The Hand of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria, NY
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Not a temporal kingdom on earth didst thou obtain, but Christ, thy most comely Bridegroom, vouchsafed thee heavenly crowns, and thou reignest as a queen with Him eternally; for thou didst dedicate thyself unto Him with all thy soul, O Irene, our righteous Mother, thou boast of Chrysovalantou, and mighty help of all the Orthodox.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Leaving all the world behind with its impermanent glory, thou wast wedded unto Christ, the King immortal and holy, bringing Him as precious dowry thy maiden beauty and thy trophies won through abstinence over demons. O Irene, our righteous Mother, entreat thy Bridegroom to show His mercy to us.
Apolytikion chanted in Greek to St. Irene Chrysovalantou
The gate of the Monastery on its feast day
The gate of the Monastery
The holy water in the courtyard of the Monastery
Courtyard of the Monastery
Courtyard of the Monastery
The wonderworking icon of St. Irene adorned with gifts from the faithful.
The dome of the church. The bottom most icon depicts St. John the Theologian giving the sailor the six apples from Paradise off the coast of Patmos.
The iconastasis of the Church of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou with her icon encased in silver next to the Theotokos.
Mosaics of the Monastery
Mosaic of St. Irene together with its creator Vlasios Tsotsonis.