Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Saint Patapios of Thebes and His Monastery in Loutraki

Saint Patapios of Thebes (Feast Day - December 8; Bright Tuesday)

By John Sanidopoulos

Saint Patapios was born in 380 in the Egyptian city of Thebes. His father was a governor of the region and a descendant of a well known Egyptian family. He and his wife were devout Christians and instructed Patapios in Holy Scripture. As Patapios reached a mature age, well-known tutors were brought from Alexandria to instruct him in science, mathematics, philosophy and rhetoric. Through this education, he became acutely aware of how transient this world is and was attracted to an ascetic way of life. He was particularly inspired by Clement, Origen and Athanasius. His father also took him to the renowned catechetical school in Alexandria where Patapios came under the influence of a blind teacher named Didymus. Didymus inspired him even further to desire the ascetic path he had chosen. When he finished his studies, he returned to Thebes to find out that his father had passed away. Desiring to live a life like the ascetics, he decided to leave for the Egyptian desert where he became well known for his ascetic deeds.

In the desert his struggles against the passions and to attain all the virtues led to his illumination, which drew numerous monks and people to seek his guidance. The more people came, the more he tried to conceal himself. Since light cannot be concealed in darkness, however, wherever he went he was discovered. No longer able to find peace in the desert he set off for Constantinople in 428. During his voyage, he met his disciple Sechnuti, who was an Egyptian rower. During this voyage, their ship passed near Corinth where they stayed for seven years in cave.

By 435, after seven years in Corinth, Patapios left his skete in the Geranian mountains to resume his journey to Constantinople taking with him the monk Sechnuti. In Constantinople, they secretly went to the Monastery of Blachernae, where he obtained a cell in the city wall. Patapios kept his identity a secret and resumed a life of strict fasting, vigil and prayer under the guise of a simple monk.

Here he performed many miracles of healing. A child, blind from birth, was led by God's providence to Staint Patapios. He besought the Saint to pray to God that he be given his sight and be able to look upon God's creation - thus allowing him to praise God all the more. Patapios having compassion on the suffering child, prayed to God, and the child's sight was restored. This miracle revealed God's chosen one throughout the entire city, and people rushed to him for healing, comfort and instruction.

Patapios healed an eminent man of dropsy by tracing the sign of the Cross over him and anointing him with oil. By making the sign of the Cross in the air with his hand, he freed a youth from an unclean spirit that had cruelly tormented him. The evil spirit, with a loud shriek, came out from God's creature like smoke. He made the sign of the Cross over a woman who had a sore on her breast all filled with worms, and made her healthy. Many other miracles did Saint Patapios perform, all through prayer in the name of Christ and by the sign of the Cross.

After a life adorned with virtue and miracles, he died at the great age of eighty-three in 463 and was buried by his disciples in the Church of Saint John the Forerunner in Constantinople.

One thousand years after the repose of the Saint, when the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, his relics where removed and taken to the little cave in Corinth (as he had requested during his lifetime). The Saint's body was hidden behind a western wall in the cave facing the iconostasis and chapel they built. The memory of the Saint's whereabouts soon disappeared.

In 1904 a local priest, Father Constantine Sosanis, was serving the chapel in this cave. He was an unnaturally tall priest who regularly served this small chapel and because of his height commissioned some changes to the chapel. The night before the works to the western wall were to commence, Fr. Constantine had a dream in which a monk warned him to "take care when you break the wall because I am on the other side. I am Saint Patapios of Egypt." He was found the next day under tiles holding a large wooden cross on his chest, a parchment scroll with his name, Roman coins, and large leaves covering his relics as fresh as they had been picked that very moment. A sweet odor also exuded from his relics.

The holy relic is now in a special wooden structure at the back of the cave. Inside the cave there are also Roman wall paintings from the 13th century, with three prominent figures of St. Patapios, St. Ipomoni and St. Nikon. The monastery church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and contains at its center the Mother of God for veneration. The church also holds the relic skull of St. Ipomoni (Empress Helen Dragash) and part of the hip bone of St. Nikon.

In 1952 a Greek priest, Father Nektarios Kyriakos, built the all-female monastery on this site. The local people initially resisted this idea since the location of the monastery is very difficult to reach even to this day. After the founding of the monastery, Sister Patapia was nominated as Abbess, with Father Nektarios Kyriakos as its spiritual leader. Today, there are some forty nuns living in the cells of the foundation and the current Abbess is Mother Isidora.

Since Saint Patapios' relics have been discovered, many people have been visited by the Saint in visions and dreams asking them to visit "his house in Loutraki." He is especially known for healing cancer, and miracles occur throughout the world, including as far off as Australia and America.

Miracle - The Conversion of a Catholic

It was Pascha of 1986 on Mount Athos when Elder Martinianos of St. Panteleimon Skete in Kapsala, of the Holy Monastery Pantocratoros, related the following miracle of St. Patapios.

The Elder had a relative in West Germany named George. While in Germany, George married a German woman who was Catholic and had not been baptized Orthodox. They had married Orthodox, their two children received Orthodox baptism, but the wife continued to remain Catholic despite worshipping in Orthodox churches.

They returned to Greece to New Smyrna, their local parish being St. Sosti. In 1985 they decided to spend the summer in Loutraki of Corinth. One day they went up to the Monastery of Saint Patapios and venerated his holy relics. The husband entered first and venerated first. The wife was right behind him and, though Catholic, she also was going to venerate the relics, when suddenly she fainted and fell to the floor.

The husband immediately took her into his arms and with the help of other pilgrims brought her outside for some fresh air. Having recovered, they asked her why she fainted.

She answered, astonished:

"What, you didn't see, you didn't hear? The Saint pushed me and said: 'How can you, a heretic, approach me?'"

At that moment she asked that she be baptized Orthodox. After a few catechetical lessons at her parish, she was baptized Orthodox.

Today she continues to make her pilgrimage to the Holy Monastery of Saint Patapios, with great faith and reverence. And since her baptism, she has said that she feels like an entirely different person. In one telephone conversation, spoken of in the book by Monk Nikodemos Bilali who compiled the life and services of the Saint, she says:

"When I pray, I feel like God is mine, my Father, though before I felt nothing. Now I light my candle at the Iconostasi, I prepare prosphora, I Commune, I read lives of Saints, and my soul feels God near me. How can I explain this to you? It is something very different from before, a certainty that I am near God. And I ascribe this to Saint Patapios, whom I thank."

Visions of Saint Patapios

1. Saint Patapios had appeared in a vision to Fr. Nektarios, the founder of the Holy Monastery of Saint Patapios, while a student in Corinth. He began the architectural design of the Monastery in 1947.

During this time Metropolitan Prokopios of Corinth got sick and went to the hospital. Fr. Nektarios visited him on January 23, 1951 to pray over him. Once the Metropolitan saw him, he became very moved and said:

"Saint Patapios told me in my sleep that he wants his Monastery to happen! We cannot do otherwise!"

Then he gave the following commands:

a. For the chancellor of the Metropolis, Metropolitan Gabriel Kalokairinos, to get the keys to the cave which the priests of Loutraki had and give them to Fr. Nektarios.

b. For no priest to serve there without permission from the Metropolis.

c. For the Monastery to be recognized quickly after he proposed this to the Holy Synod.

d. To help financially to make sure this happens and for nuns to occupy the Monastery by August 1952.

Metropolitan Prokopios is considered the great founder of the Monastery. He fell asleep in the Lord on December 3, 1964 and is forever commemorated there with a plaque at the entrance. Upon his death he donated his entire vast library of books as well as other possessions from the Metropolis. May his memory be eternal!

2. The Monastery one day ran out of oil. Saint Patapios appeared to a gentleman in Koropi, Attica. He asked him for a barrel of oil. "Where do you want me to bring it old man?" The elder gave him the address to the Monastery and disappeared. The gentleman filled a barrel of oil and brought it to Loutraki. As difficult as it is to walk up to the Monastery, he did this carrying the barrel and brought it to the door.

3. The cave where the relics are is very cold and damp, and in the winter is frigid. Some prayed to the Saint: "Even the poorest houses have rags to use as rugs. Your little cave here has nothing, and we along with you are freezing. Do something to find something." That night Saint Patapios appeared to a woman in Corinth and gave her directions on the rug he wanted for his house in the cave. He wanted it to be black and red and gave the exact size he wanted, then asked her to bring it to the Monastery. The woman made it, brought it, layed it down in the cave, and it matched perfectly.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The image of God, was faithfully preserved in you, O Father. For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By Your actions you taught us to look beyond the flesh for it passes, rather to be concerned about the soul which is immortal. Wherefore, O Holy Patapios, your soul rejoices with the angels.

Another Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou didst follow the divine call from thy youth, and illumine the world with the gifts of thy holy labours. Thou wast made glorious with the grace of dispassion, and dost heal various passions. O Patapios, venerable Father, pray to Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Having found thy church to be a place of spiritual healing, all the people flock with haste thereto, O Saint, and they ask thee to bestow the ready healing of their diseases and forgiveness of the sins they wrought in their lifetime; O Patapios most righteous, in every need, thou art the protector of all.

Ιερά μονή Οσίου Παταπίου Λουτρακίου 2002
230 00 Λουτράκι Greece

27440 22496

The Juridical Mentality of the West Annuls Christ’s Sacrifice

The juridical mentality of the West regarding the “Antilytron” is not in the least “innocent”.

Not only does it NOT constitute an “alternative” answer to the question of what role our Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice played, but on the contrary, IT ANNULS IT!

We have of course spoken in another article of the West’s juridical mentality as expressed in their perception of the “Antilytron”, as well as in the problems related to such a mentality. In that article, we had analyzed the hermeneutical and theological problems that such viewpoints presented. However, in the present article we would like to expand on one further point, namely, on how this juridical mentality and stance towards the Antilytron - when analysed carefully - essentially does not only NOT explain the meaning behind the Lord’s sacrifice, but on the contrary, it abolishes it altogether, as regards its significance in relation to Death.

For Western Man, to want to see the Lord’s sacrifice as a “juridical thriller”, not only misrepresents God as a tough judge and an unfair referee; it actually places that person at the opposite side of the upright (orthodox) faith.

Let us therefore suppose for the moment, that God could indeed (alternatively) be regarded as a tough judge who would “demand” the death of someone innocent in place of someone irreverent; a judge who would demand “ransoms” in order to free someone, or would judge mankind overall for the disobedience of only one. Let us suppose for the moment that sending someone innocent to the Cross in order to satisfy a (savage and primitive) thirst for blood is not a gruesomely irreverent and blasphemous act, and that it could (even in a crude manner) relate to God’s self-description of “Love”. Let us also suppose that someone could actually love such an unjust and demented judge.

If we were to accept all the above as an alternative answer to the question: “why did Christ finally die?”, then what would the repercussions be on the issue of “victory over death”, with such an admission?

According to the Christian perception of this event, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ was a blatant injustice.

Not only did it NOT “satisfy” God’s justice, but on the contrary, it offended it!

One must keep in mind that we will all die, and that none of us is devoid of responsibility in the face of death; because our sinfulness, our fallen nature, leads us to a multitude of transgressions during the course of our lives. Albeit this does NOT imply that God condemns us to death for our transgressions (in a juridical sense), it also does not give us the right to demand our exemption from the finale that is common to all living beings. Besides, what is it that we have - that the others don’t - to want to live without dying?

Every sin of ours constitutes an “incriminating document” against us; not for God, but for the devil. With every single sin of ours, we are “signing our own condemnation” to the dark world of Hades and are placing ourselves under the authority “of the one who has the power over death, namely the devil” (Hebr. 2:14). With every sin, the devil and “his dark power” acquires legal rights over us, because we ourselves place him in our lives, through disobedience. And thus, in death, he is the rightful owner of our soul. Because it is written: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

But with Christ something else happened.

Christ, throughout His life, had NEVER sinned. He did not give the devil the slightest cause, the slightest reason to hold any authority whatsoever over Him. He did not allow the devil to have the slightest legal right over Him. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself had said: “Who among you can check me for sin?” (John 8:46) And He had furthermore said: “The ruler of this world (the devil), has no rights whatsoever over me” (John 14:30).

And thus we come to the Crucifixion.

Christ was the “bait”. He had PROVOKED the devil with His life, with His stance, with His teaching. He had defeated the devil at his every step. Christ forgave sins, healed illnesses, drove out demons, exposed wrongdoings and He accumulated followers. He had become a thorn in the eye of the devil and of course the devil wanted Him “out of the way”.

Indeed, this was accomplished, with the Crucifixion. Satan had fervently desired to be rid of the One who was “ruining things” for him. And now it appeared that he had achieved it, with Christ’s crucifixion sacrifice – the event that we all know. But then, just as Christ was leaving His last breath on the Cross and the Devil was rejoicing for having one less enemy, he suddenly suffered his greatest defeat.

Up until that time, all those who had died had JUSTLY DIED and had been led to the dark kingdom of Hades. Up until that time, the devil had justly demanded to have authority over those who during their lifetime had obeyed his will instead of God’s. God did not insist on saving those who had chosen sin during their lifetime.

Christ, on the other hand, was BLAMELESS. Satan therefore had no authority over Him! The devil had no legal right to say: “He is mine, and I am rightfully placing Him under my authority in Hades”. Christ DID NOT BELONG TO HIM. Satan had therefore overstepped the authority that was given to him.

Thus, by killing the SINLESS One, Satan exposed himself. He exposed himself as a predator, and death was exposed as a LAWLESS KINGDOM. That is why Christ now rightfully demanded SATISFACTION. He was the only One who was wronged by death, and therefore now rightfully demanded the abolition of Death. That is why He now also rightfully descended upon Hades with His angelic hosts, DEMANDING JUSTICE.

Lacking every kind of excuse, the devil no longer had any legal right to resort to, because he had been exposed before all of Creation as an unjust ruler, who had illegally detained the Righteous One. Thus the angelic forces had rightfully invaded Hades and demolished its age-old status quo, emptying its halls of all those souls who sought deliverance from the Sinless one; from the only One who had descended there and who could RIGHTFULLY demand His return to the world of the living. That is why Christ, with His Crucifixion sacrifice, “laid bare all principalities and powers; He fully humiliated them, publicly” (Col. 2:15).

Following the UNJUST MURDER of the Innocent one (the ONLY INNOCENT ONE), Death now looms ILLEGAL AND ABUSIVE. It now shows itself as a contra-natural state, and a process under abolition. Death now ceased to be “the natural meeting point of sinners” and has become “the reigning dynasty of the Devil, the unjust dictator”. Death was thus subjected to the gradual process of being abolished. Firstly through the righteous ones - who no longer pass through Hades, but instead enter the Paradise of souls - and then, (during the Second Coming of Christ) through the unrighteous ones - who will also receive bodies in order to be judged fairly; certainly more fairly than being indefinitely detained by the now exposed, illegal prison of Hades.

It is for this reason that Christ allowed Himself to be crucified and to die, albeit without deserving to. It was NOT to satisfy any supposed sense of “justice” of a demented “god”, who juridically demanded the death of one righteous person for the sake of the many unrighteous. On the contrary, He allowed Himself to become the bait, in order to EXPOSE the devil and his entire kingdom as ILLEGAL AND ABUSIVE. Christ could then justifiably demand their abolition, as recompense.

Christ was human when He died, and the injustice imposed on Him was imposed on His human nature; except that this human nature IS ALSO OURS. And in Christ, we now demand our OUR RIGHTS ALSO. United in the Body of Christ - The Church - we now demand our own exemption from Hades, as a counterbalance for the transgression that was imposed on our Head: on Christ. Thus, it is Christians who are now exempt from Hades and are led into the paradise of souls - another kingdom altogether, which does not belong to the Devil. Those who are left stranded with the devil (until the day of resurrection) are only the souls THAT HAVE WILLINGLY PREFERRED THE DEVIL, by denying their Only Saviour - the Only One with the right to demand their release from Hades.

Having seen how Christ’s sacrifice “functions” against Hades and Death, let us return to the issue of the Western juridical mentality regarding the sacrifice of Christ. Observe how - apart from blaspheming against God – this mentality also leads to the annulment of Christ’s sacrifice:

If Christ’s sacrifice had indeed taken place “upon demand” by God, simply to satisfy His sense of “divine justice” as the Westerners claim, then we must surmise that:

- NO INJUSTICE ACTUALLY TOOK PLACE (with Christ’s Crucifixion).

- Death and Hades operated within their legal boundaries.

- Christ JUSTLY DIED, because it was “upon demand” by God.

- The devil justly killed Christ in place of the guilty (since His death was the divine will of God).

- Death itself is NOT exposed as an ABUSIVE status, but on the contrary, it is projected as a NECESSITY and even as a REDEMPTIVE measure.

- The devil rightfully continues to maintain the kingdom of Hades under his authority, as he has not overstepped the authority given to him; on the contrary, he was “used”, in order for God’s sense of justice to be satisfied.

- Christ was therefore ILLICITLY RESURRECTED, given that He had restored what had been justly taken away from Him “upon demand” by God (His life).

If the Western juridical view regarding the Antilytron is accepted, then:


- The devil is NOT EXPOSED

- Hades is NOT EMPTIED

- Human nature is NOT VINDICATED and...

- None of us can demand exemption from the kingdom of Hades, because both Christ and human nature WERE NOT WRONGED.

If the Western view on the Antilytron is true, then we had better search for another Saviour and another God, because this view is rife with charlatanism!


Orthodoxy and the Juridical Position: The Significance of the “Antilytron”

When Catholicism distanced itself from the Orthodox faith of the Church, its understanding of important issues pertaining to salvation was lost. Totally ignorant of how these issues can be misleading, Protestantism in its turn “inherited” the fallacious Papal positions and in fact, it quite often made them even hazier.

One such issue, which has been misconstrued to the point of blasphemy by the Westerners, is the issue of the “Antilytron” (anti = in place of, lytron = an offer for someone’s release/freedom).

In their pursuit of Thomas Aquinus’ erroneous theories, Westerners developed their own juridical system by which they explain the ‘function’ of our Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for the salvation of mankind.

Although there may be small differences between the various Western faiths, they make the following, general assertions:

“Adam sinned, therefore in his person, all of mankind after him partook of sin. Everyone consequently had to undergo death, as they too were deemed guilty of the original sin. However, no sinner was as worthy as the relatively sin-free Adam to pay for the sins of all mankind. Thus, in order to satisfy His sense of justice, God sent the sinless Jesus Christ to suffer death in the place of mankind. This was the way that He 'paid for the release' of mankind – as Adam’s equal - and whomsoever believes in His sacrifice, is released from death.”

But if we observe these assertions more carefully, we will realize that they are also irrational, and have nothing to do with the Christian faith, and especially with God’s justice and the incarnation of the Lord.

The Problems With the Juridical Position

First of all, let’s take a look at some of the initial problems that the above position creates:

a. If Adam was the one who sinned, why did God consider all of mankind guilty? Isn’t that unfair?

b. If, however, God didn’t consider all of mankind guilty, then what kind of justice was that which had to be satisfied, by demanding the death of someone who is not guilty?

c. Was Jesus Christ truly an equal to Adam, who was a mere creation?

d. What kind of judge is so unfair, as to consciously condemn someone innocent to death, in order to save someone guilty? This act would have been the pinnacle of injustice! It would have been far easier and more generous, to grant absolution to the guilty party, rather than allow someone innocent to die unjustly.

e. If the ‘offer for release’ (the Lord’s self-sacrifice) was in fact the offering demanded for the freeing of mankind from death (as in cases of abduction and the ransom demanded), then to whom was this ‘offering’ made?

f. If this ‘offering’ was made to God, then God must be identified as the ‘abductor’ who demands an offer for the release, and who would also be satisfied by one’s condemnation to death.

g. If the ‘offering’ was made to the Devil, then it must have occurred, despite the will of the just Lord. So, how did the Devil compel God to deliver His innocent Son to death, as an ‘offer for the release’ of mankind? That would mean the Devil has power over God!

The Significance of the Word “Lytron” (an offer for one’s release/freedom)

The various misinterpreters of this topic say that “Lytron” implies the compulsory payment of a certain sum of money for the release of a captive. But let’s see what the word really means, in the Holy Bible:

When these things begin, you must rise up, and lift up your heads, for your final release is imminent” (Luke 21: 28).

“…we sigh, in anticipation of the adoption, of the release of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

Given that the above words are used in reference to the Second Coming of the Lord, they cannot possibly imply a payment of any kind. It is therefore obvious, that the expression “final release” signifies a setting free, without any payment demanded.

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He visited and implemented the release of His people...” (Luke 1: 68).

In this excerpt also, it indicates that the “release” has already taken place (text is expressed in the past tense), before the time of the Lord’s sacrifice. We see therefore that nothing was actually “paid”, and that the word “lytron” is used in the sense of “releasing” or “liberating”.

Similarly, the word “lytron” when used in reference to the Lord’s sacrifice, doesn’t necessarily imply the payment of a certain amount; it bears the meaning that this sacrifice released/liberated us, WITHOUT A PAYMENT being involved, to anyone.

Was Jesus Adam’s Equal?

Heresies that do not admit the divinity of Jesus Christ are somewhat justified in making this mistake, hence, they are not able to comprehend the true meaning behind Jesus Christ’s sacrifice as analyzed below. Those however who are entirely inexcusable are the ones who – although admitting Christ’s divinity - maintain that Adam was the Lord Jesus’ equal.

Let’s take a look at a few Scriptural excerpts on this topic, where the superiority of Jesus’ sacrifice as compared to Adam’s disobedience is made very evident.

Romans 5: 15 - 20 (Greek original)

Αλλ' ουχ ως το παράπτωμα, ούτω και το χάρισμα. Ει γαρ τω τού ενός παραπτώματι οι πολλοί απέθανον, πολλώ μάλλον η χάρις του Θεού, και η δωρεά εν χάριτι τή τού ενός ανθρώπου Ιησού Χριστού, εις πολλούς επερίσσευσε.

Και ουχ ως δι ενός αμαρτήσαντος το δώρημα. Tο μεν γαρ κρίμα εξ ενός εις κατάκριμα, το δε χάρισμα εκ πολλών παραπτωμάτων εις δικαίωμα. Ει γαρ τω τού ενός παραπτώματι ο θάνατος εβασίλευσε δια τού ενός, πολλώ μάλλον οι την περίσειαν τής χάριτος, και την δωρεάν τής δικαιοσύνης λαμβάνοντες, εν ζωή βασιλεύσουσι δια τού ενός Ιησού Χριστού.

Άρα ουν, ως δι ενός παραπτώματος εις πάντας ανθρώπους εις κατάκριμα, ούτω και δι' ενός δικαιώματος εις πάντας ανθρώπους εις δικαίωσιν ζωής. Ώσπερ γαρ για τής παρακοής τού ενός ανθρώπου αμαρτωλοί κατεστάθησαν οι πολλοί, ούτω και δια τής υπακοής τού ενός, δίκαιοι καταστάθησαν οι πολλοί.

...ού δε επλεόνασεν η αμαρτία, υπερεπερίσσευσεν η χάρις...

Romans 5: 15 - 20 (Translation)

But, misbehaving is not the same as giving. Because, if through one’s [Adam’s] misbehavior the majority suffered death, by comparison the Grace of God and the gift in Grace of the one person, Jesus Christ, was made abundant to many.

And the gift was not as though from one who had sinned. While the judgment that befitted the one [Adam] resulted in condemnation, the gift [Christ’s sacrifice] that sprang from the misbehavior of many, resulted in vindication. For, if with the misbehavior of one [Adam], death came to reign on his account, on the contrary, those who received the surplus of Grace and the gift of justice shall reign in life, through the one: Jesus Christ.

So therefore, just as through one misbehavior [Adam’s] all people were condemned, thus through one justice [Christ’s], all people were vindicated for life. Because, just as through the disobedience of one [Adam], many became sinners, thus through the obedience of one [Christ], many became just.

Therefore, wherever sin was abundant, there Grace was excessively abundant.

What more can one say? It is clear here, that while Adam’s sin became the cause of sin for many, the Lord’s sacrifice was obviously far superior, in that it not only erased Adam’s sin, it erased all the accumulated sins of billions of sinners!

Woe may it be, if the Lord’s sacrifice had only the same worth as the imperfect Adam! Because the Lord, apart from being God, was also a perfect person. Adam on the other hand had not been created perfect, only “very good”. And the expression “very good” is a far cry from “perfect”, just as the expression “in his image” is lacking by comparison to the expression “in his likeness” (Genesis 1:31).

The Recipient of the Lytron

If the Lord’s sacrifice was the “price” paid for the release of mankind from the bonds of death, it could not have been paid to God, because the one who reigns over death is the devil, and not God:

"...so that through death, He [Christ] may abolish the one who held the power over death - that is, the devil – and release those who, through fear of death, were forever subject to bondage...” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

But then, if God had to pay something to the devil, it would mean that God didn’t have the power to impose His will “for free”. That would have made the devil a victor. However, the devil and all of his “crew” were in actual fact defeated, when Jesus died on the Cross (Colossians 2:13-15). If Satan were to receive a ‘release payment’ in order to set mankind free from the bonds of death, then Satan would have been victorious, and not Christ.

At any rate, the Holy Bible says that “God is Love”, not “justice”, so there is no chance that God would have wanted to sacrifice Love for the sake of a supposedly offended case of justice that required reciprocation. Not to mention that the death of an innocent person in the place of guilty persons would have signified injustice, and not justice.

God didn’t harbor any hatred for mankind on account of their sins! It was mankind that perceived God as a judge, on account of their own, unclean conscience: "...for, although we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son...” (Romans 5: 10).

God always loved us as a Father, and never demanded satisfaction for any supposedly “offended justice” of His. We see this, in John 4:9-10:

“In this was God’s love for us made evident: that He sent forth His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is Love: it is not because we loved God, but because He loved us and sent forth His Son for the atonement of our sins.”

The Significance of the Lord’s Sacrifice

For Christians however, the significance of the Lord’s sacrifice is already known. Christians do not equate the worthiness of the Lord with Adam; they do not equate God with an unjust and insane assassin; they do not become the devil’s advocates.

The Church teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ became a perfect human so that - being one of our kind - He would defeat all those things that defeated and brought about sickness to human nature.

In His (Christ’s) person, human nature overcame sin, the devil and death. Because whoever allows himself to be defeated by someone, becomes that person’s slave. (2 Peter 2:19).

Therefore, in order for the Lord to rise from the dead and thus defeat death, He first had to die. But now, through faith in Jesus Christ, and in communion with His Body – the Church - every person can partake of this victory!


See also: The Juridical Mentality of the West Annuls Christ’s Sacrifice

Monday, December 7, 2009

Did the Apostle Paul Invent Christianity?

By Alex McFarland

Saul of Tarsus--a passionate persecutor of the church--became Paul the believer about AD 35. The book of Acts (written by Luke) records Paul's salvation experience in chapters 9, 22, and 26. In his own writings, Paul also explains his conversion to faith (I Corinthians 9:1, 15:3-8, and Galatians 1:11-18). From about AD 48 until his death around AD 68, Paul wrote at least 13 of the New Testament's books.

The fact that Paul had originally opposed and persecuted the church proves that he could not have "invented" Christianity. Paul's use of the words "received" and "passed on"--rabbinical terms for the handing down of teachings--is significant in I Corinthians 15:3-8. In relating these facts about Jesus' death and resurrection, Paul is saying that what he presents is existing truth that he himself had received. Scholars recognize that this passage contains an early church creed (or statement of belief) that was recited by believers in the days before the New Testament had been written down. Other Scriptures that preserve the early, verbal Christian creeds include I John 4:2, Philippians 2:6, II Timothy 2:8, and Romans 1:3-4. Another notable passage is I Timothy 3:16. Not only is this a confession of belief, it may have actually been part of a hymn that was sung by early believers.

The point is this: the key teachings of the Gospel (Jesus is the sinless Son of God; He died for our sins and rose again; we receive Him as Savior through repentance and faith) pre-date Paul. Paul taught these things, expounded on these things, and was used by God to write much of the New Testament. But the core of the Gospel was being widely spread even before Paul was a believer. In the final words I Corinthians 15:8, Paul seemed to acknowledge that he was late getting to the party!

Look at Peter's sermon at Pentecost, found in Acts 2:14-40. Peter presents the core facts of the Gospel, including Jesus' Deity, death, and resurrection. Peter preaches the same truths again in Acts 3:12-18. In Acts 5:29-33, Peter addressed Jewish leaders, and again gives the key facts of the Christian message. By Acts 5:42, we read, "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ."

Two important conclusions emerge: first, the early church knew what they believed, and the teachings were effectively passed on and preserved among the people, and second, Paul could not have "invented" Christianity because he was not even a believer until about two years after Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection, and the subsequent events of Pentecost. The early church and the content of the Gospel are clearly shown to pre-date Paul.

Fr. Daniil Sysoyev's Colleague Beaten in Moscow

Colleague of Murdered Orthodox Priest Beaten in Moscow

December 6, 2009
RIA Novosti

A colleague of Russian Orthodox priest Daniil Sysoyev who was recently murdered in Moscow has been beaten.

The attack occurred on Saturday as priest Vitaly Zubkov was on his way to the St. Thomas church. "Three men attacked me. They struck me down and kicked me. At first, they beat me on the head and legs," Zubkov said.

Kirill Frolov, a friend of Sysoyev, said the attack on Zubkov was hardly accidental "taking into account that Father Vitaly was a friend of murdered missionary Father Daniil Sysoyev and that there were no attempts to rob him."

Sysoyev, 34, was shot down in his St. Thomas church in southern Moscow by a masked gunman on November 19. He was known for his active missionary work in converting Muslims and people seeking to quit religious sects into Christianity.

The priest, who was married with three children, had received numerous death threats.

Sysoyev was laid to rest at a church cemetery in the Russian capital on November 23.

Patriarch Kirill, who leads the Russian Orthodox Church, said by the coffin: "Being unable to offer any wise arguments against a priest's words in their mind and heart, and going against God's word, they cover him with libel and even raise their hand at him."

Feast of Saint Gregory (Peradze) in Warsaw

St. Grigol Peradze (Feast Day - December 6)
Anna Czerewacka

The Service of All Night Vigil started the celebration of the feast of St Gregory (Peradze) in the Warsaw chapel of his name. It was also the feast day of St Nicholas.

During the service there were guests from Georgia who were also present, who came to Warsaw to participate in the feast and to take part in the Kartvelological Conference in the name of St Gregory (Peradze), which will start on December 7, at the University of Warsaw. There was also Archbishop Andria of Samtavisi and Gori from Georgia present on the feast.

The Service was celebrated in the Polish language, which is quite unusual, as most parishes in Poland use Slavonic as their liturgical language.

After the vigil all the guests were invited for dinner, prepared by the parishioners of the chapel.

On the feast day the Divine Liturgy was celebrated. There were more than 60 people present, which made it almost impossible to get inside the small chapel.

At 16.45, the hour of the death of St. Gregory (Peradze), a wreath was placed at the board, remembering professors of Warsaw University who died during World War II. This board is placed in the area of the university and there is a name of St Gregory Peradze – who was the professor on this university before the war. During this celebration, the choir of the chapel of St. Gregory sang. Archbishop Andria also participated.

St. Gregory (Peradze) was born in 1899 in Tbilisi (Georgia). He finished a theological seminary in Tbilisi. Then he began studies in Berlin (Germany). In 1927 he received a PhD in Philosophy.

After two years he organized a Georgian Orthodox parish in Paris. In 1931 he became a monk and was the first parish priest in this parish. In 1933 he came to Poland to be a lecturer on the faculty in the Orthodox Theology Section of Warsaw University. He worked there till the break of the war.

On May 5, 1942 St. Gregory was arrested by the Germans, who then occupied Poland. The reasons are not well known, but possibly he helped Jews and cooperated with the Polish Resistance Movement. After half a year he was moved to the concentration camp in Auchwitz (Oswiecim). He died there on December 6, 1942. The reasons for murdering him are not well known. A witness said that he had volunteered for the death instead of other man there. He stood barefoot on the snow, he was bitten by fierce dogs, and then he was poured on with fuel and set on fire. Till today it is not known what happened with saint’s body.

St Gregory was canonized by the Georgian Orthodox Church in 1995. He is also well known and worshipped in Poland, as he spent many years, made a lot of his work, and died there.

The chapel of St. Gregory (Peradze) was established by Metropolitan Sawa (the head of the Polish Orthodox Church) in 2006. Then regular Services in the Polish language started to be celebrated regularly. Now all the major feasts are celebrated there also in Polish. From September 2009 Sunday School started to operate for 10 children. About 60 people regularly attend Sunday services, and it is the maximum which are able to get into the small chapel.

The chapel belongs to the Polish-Catholic Church and is used by permission by the Orthodox community.

Saint Gregory became a patron of the community because he is very close to young people, who are the members of this community. He lived not long ago in Warsaw and was active in similar spheres as people from the community (like the sciences, conferences, university lectures etc.). This saint also attracts many Georgian people, who live in Warsaw or come there for different goals – they are often present on the services.

Life of Hieromartyr Gregory (Peradze) of Georgia

Archimandrite Gregory (Peradze) was born August 31, 1899, in the village of Bakurtsikhe, in the Sighnaghi district of Kakheti. His father, Roman Peradze, was a priest.

In 1918 Gregory completed his studies at the theological school and seminary in Tbilisi and enrolled in the philosophy department at Tbilisi University. Three years later, in 1921, he began to teach at the university, but theGeorgian Church soon sent him to Germany to study theology. From1922 to 1925Gregory studied theology and eastern languages at the University of Berlin, and in 1925 he transferred to the philosophy department at theUniversity of Bonn, where he received a doctoral degree in philosophy for his dissertation “The Monastic Life inGeorgia from ItsOrigins to 1064.”Gregory continued to attend lectures in theology at the University of Louvain until 1927.

In 1927 Gregory moved to England to continue his career in academia, and there he became acquainted with the old patristic manuscripts that were preserved in the library collections of the British Museum and Oxford University. In July of that year Gregory was named an associate professor at the University of Bonn, and he returned there to lecture on the history of Georgian and Armenian literature. In 1931 Gregory was tonsured a monk, ordained a priest, and appointed dean of the Georgian church in Paris. A year later he was invited to Oxford to lecture on Georgian history.

A new period in St. Gregory’s life began later in 1932, when the Metropolitan of all Poland, Dionysius Waledinsky, invited him to be a professor of Patrology and the chair of Orthodox Theology at Warsaw University. He often delivered lectures at academic conferences and in academic centers throughout Europe. He sought tirelessly for ancient Georgian manuscripts and historical documents on the Georgian Church. His searches took him to Syria, Palestine, Greece, Bulgaria, Austria, Romania, Italy and England. As a result of his labors, many long-lost Georgian manuscripts surfaced again.

Humility and industriousness characterized the Hieromartyr Gregory throughout his life. In difficult moments he often repeated the words of St. John Chrysostom: “Glory be to God for all things!”

In the 1920s, as the Red Army was securing its occupation of Georgia, the nation’s treasures were carried away to France for safekeeping. Later, in the 1940s, Georgian society was unaware that, due to St. Gregory’s efforts alone, many treasures of Georgian national culture were spared confiscation by the Nazis in Paris. Risking execution at the hands of a firing squad, St. Gregory wrote in the official documentation presented to the Nazis that these items were of no particular value but were precious to the Georgians as part of their national consciousness.

Nor did most of Georgian society know that, in Paris, Archimandrite Gregory had founded a Georgian church in honor of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino and a parish journal called Jvari Vazisa, or “The Cross of Vines.”

In May of 1942 St. Gregory was arrested by the Gestapo. The priceless Georgian manuscripts he had preserved and many sacred objects that had been crafted by ancient Georgian masters and collected by St. Gregory during his travels (in hopes of returning them to Georgia) disappeared after his apartment was searched.

Archimandrite Gregory was arrested for sheltering and aiding Jews and other victims of the fascist persecutions. He was incarcerated at Pawiak Prison in Warsaw, and deported to Auschwitz at the beginning of November.

In the camp an inmate killed a German officer. The guards drove everyone out of the barracks absolutely naked, forcing them to stay in the below-freezing temperatures until someone confessed. St. Gregory decided to take the blame for the murder, thus saving innocent prisoners from freezing to death. The guards let loose the dogs on the martyr, poured gasoline over him, and lit him on fire. Then they said, “Poles, go warm yourselves around him, your intercessor.”

According to the official German documentation, Gregory Peradze died on December 6, 1942 [November 23, old style], at 4:45 in the afternoon. (According to another account, the martyr entered the gas chamber in place of a Jewish man with a large family. This was reported by a former prisoner, who, after being liberated, visited Metropolitan Dionysius and gave him St. Gregory’s cross.) In the end, like Christ Himself, Archimandrite Gregory died for having taken upon himself the sin of another.

Source for Life

Saint Ambrose On How Clergy Ought To Speak

The voice should not be languid, nor feeble, nor womanish in its tone — such a tone of voice as many are in the habit of using, under the idea of seeming important. It should preserve a certain quality, and rhythm, and a manly vigour. For all to do what is best suited to their character and sex, that is to attain to beauty of life. This is the best order for movements, this the employment fitted for every action. But as I cannot approve of a soft or weak tone of voice, or an effeminate gesture of the body, so also I cannot approve of what is boorish and rustic. Let us follow nature. The imitation of her provides us with a principle of training, and gives us a pattern of virtue....

Men of the world give many further rules about the way to speak, which I think we may pass over; as, for instance, the way jesting [joking] should be conducted. For though at times jests may be proper and pleasant, yet they are unsuited to the clerical life. For how can we adopt those things which we do not find in the holy Scriptures?

We must also take care that in relating stories we do not alter the earnest purpose of the harder rule we have set before us. "Woe unto you that laugh, for you shall weep", (Luke 6:25) says the Lord. Do we seek for something to laugh at, that laughing here we may weep hereafter? I think we ought to avoid not only broad jokes, but all kinds of jests, unless perchance it is not unfitting at the time for our conversation to be agreeable and pleasant.

In speaking of the voice, I certainly think it ought to be plain and clear. That it should be musical is a gift of nature, and is not to be won by exertion. Let it be distinct in its pronunciation and full of a manly vigour, but let it be free from a rough and rustic twang. See, too, that it does not assume a theatrical accent, but rather keeps true to the inner meaning of the words it utters.

On the Duties of the Clergy, Book 1

Saint Ambrose On the Need to Imitate the Saints

Is not he unjust who gives the reward before the end of the contest? Therefore the Lord says in the Gospel: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). He said not: Blessed are the rich, but the poor. By the divine judgment blessedness begins there whence human misery is supposed to spring. "Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled; Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted; Blessed are the merciful, for God will have mercy on them; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you for righteousness' sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for plentiful is your reward in heaven." A reward in the future and not in the present — in heaven, not on earth — has He promised shall be given. What further do you expect? What further is due? Why do you demand the crown with so much haste, before thou dost conquer? Why do you desire to shake off the dust and to rest? Why do you long to sit at the feast before the course is finished? As yet the people are looking on, the athletes are in the arena, and thou— do you already look for ease?

Perhaps you say, Why are the wicked joyous? Why do they live in luxury? Why do they not toil with me? It is because they who have not put down their names to strive for the crown are not bound to undergo the labours of the contest. They who have not gone down into the race-course do not anoint themselves with oil nor get covered with dust. For those whom glory awaits trouble is at hand. The perfumed spectators are wont to look on, not to join in the struggle, nor to endure the sun, the heat, the dust, and the showers. Let the athletes say to them: Come, strive with us. The spectators will but answer: We sit here now to decide about you, but you, if you conquer, will gain the glory of the crown and we shall not.

They, then, who have devoted themselves to pleasures, luxury, robbery, gain, or honours are spectators rather than combatants. They have the profit of labour, but not the fruits of virtue. They love their ease; by cunning and wickedness they heap up riches; but they will pay the penalty of their iniquity, though it be late. Their rest will be in hell, yours in heaven; their home in the grave, yours in paradise. Whence Job said beautifully that they watch in the tomb, (Job 21:32) for they cannot have the calm of quiet rest which he enjoys who shall rise again.

Do not, therefore, understand, or speak, or think as a child; nor as a child claim those things now which belong to a future time. The crown belongs to the perfect. Wait till that which is perfect has come, when you may know — "not through a glass as in a riddle, but face to face" (1 Corinthians 13:12) — the very form of truth made clear. Then will be made known why that person was rich who was wicked and a robber of other men's goods, why another was powerful, why a third had many children, and yet a fourth was loaded with honours.

On the Duties of the Clergy, Book 1

Archbishop Irenaios Encourages Christians To Imitate Saint Nicholas

Yesterday, for the feast of Saint Nicholas, Archbishop Irenaios of Crete was in Flushing, New York celebrating the Divine Liturgy in Americas largest Orthodox parish of St. Nicholas. He is visiting the United States until December 11.

Archbishop Irenaios is one of Orthodoxy's most active and inspiring bishops. He has founded many parishes and revitalized monastic life in areas of Crete. The Archbishop is also noted for his charitable nature as well. He himself notably lives an ascetic life, living as a simple monastic, despite his status as an archbishop. He has been archbishop since September 24, 2006.

After the Liturgy the parish priest introduced the Archbishop and noted how Elder Paisios would tell Cretans coming to him for advice to go back to Crete and seek counsel from Archbishop Irenaios saying: "You have the great spiritual teacher, Irenaio of Crete, and you come here? Go to him."

After saying a few words about the life and works of Saint Nicholas, Archbishop Irenaios encouraged all to ponder their own lives and what the purpose of life is. Here are a few things he said:

"Let us entreat Saint Nicholas to give us the opportunity to understand what is life. What is its true purpose. Let us live like him. People today are enclosed within themselves. Let us not live enclosed within ourselves, but let us distribute our life with our brothers and sisters and then our life will receive its purpose. The people who are near to us are those who have been entrusted to us by God. Let us love them. This is what Saint Nicholas did. He did not live for himself. He did not say, 'I have my life and I will live for myself', but he disregards his own life and runs to the seas, the storms, the trials, and the temptations of mankind. Saint Nicholas does not say that which many say today, 'Me, Me, Me' but 'Us'."

Source 1
, Source 2

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Spata

The Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Spata (Feast Days - December 6 and May 10)

The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas is located just 1500 meters east of Spata, but has been so much associated with the village that it is commonly thought to be in Spata. To add to the confusion, in 1957 the village of Spata, in the district of Ileia, came to be known as "Agios Nikolaos" or "Saint Nicholas". It is in one of the most beautiful locations in the area.

The History of the Monastery

Very little is known about the history of the Monastery. It has been determined that a chapel was probably established in the early 19th century on the spot where the Monastery stands today. The purpose for the building of this chapel seems to have been the discovery of the miraculous icon of Saint Nicholas. In 1875 a larger church replaced this chapel with the assistance of the priest Liaros of Aigion. It became a monastery initially as a Metochion of the Holy Monastery of the Taxiarchon in Aigion. The popularity of this sacred shrine seems to have been the result of the many miracles attributed to the icon of St. Nicholas, which eventually lead to the building up of cells for monks and rooms of hospitality for pilgrims.

The Discovery of the Miraculous Icon of Saint Nicholas

As to how the miraculous icon of Saint Nicholas was found, no one today is exactly sure. According to the oral tradition of the various villagers surrounding the Monastery, two stories emerge.

First, it is believed that a shepherd saw his goat with a wet beard in the area, however there was no drinking water in the area for this to be true. He followed his goat the next day when it wandered off and eventually came upon a spring. Above the spring was also a cave in which the icon of Saint Nicholas was found, to the shepherds amazement. Excitedly he ran to the village of Spata and informed the villagers of his find, and they followed him to the spring. They took the icon back with them to the village, but each night it would disappear only to be found once again at the spring.

Second, another tradition relates that nearby the village of Spata is a mountain named Gariza. During the summer months in the early 19th century the villagers would leave their sheep to graze there - especially those of two families: the Paulopoulos' and the Stamatopoulos' (whose ancestors still are in Spata). One quiet summer night, as the shepherds were watching the sheepfold, suddenly the sheep became frightened and scattered. Thinking that a wolf or some other predator may have scared them off, they called their dogs and began to investigate. Instead they discovered a bright light in the sky like a star go from west to east. They followed with their eyes this strange light until it reached another mountain named Ailia (or Prophet Elias). The next morning they told the other villagers about this strange phenomenon, most of whom remained skeptical of the shepherds tale. That night, when others went to investigate, they also beheld the same phenomenon. Others again beheld the same thing the next night as well. Was it a star? a meteor? a natural phenomenon? They tried to make a rational explanation, but in vain. They decided to investigate by grabbing their tools and clearing a path through the thick forest to where they approximated the light to have burned out each night. Eventually they came upon a spring and a little further on they found a small house which was falling apart that was enough for one person to live in. Inside the house they found the icon of Saint Nicholas. They reasoned that this must have been the spot where the light came. They took the icon therefore to the village so that it not remain in the forest. However, each night the icon would disappear, and they would find it every day next to the spring.

As to why the icon was found in the forest, it is up for speculation. The icon itself is very old and possibly went through the terrible time of Iconoclasm. Possibly the icon was hidden in the forest during Iconoclasm and forgotten.

The Feasts of the Monastery

The Monastery of Saint Nicholas celebrates two feast days: December 6th and May 10th. The reason it is celebrated on May 10 is because it is believed that on that day the sacred relics of Saint Nicholas reached the western shores of Peloponnisos as they were being transferred from Myra in Asia Minor to Bari in Italy (it reached Bari on May 20; the Russian and Bulgarian Church celebrate this on May 9). The Monastery also especially celebrates the feast days of the Holy Trinity the day after Pentecost, the Holy Apostles on June 29 and 30, and the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14. These latter three feasts draw less crowds, but on the two feasts of Saint Nicholas it is estimated approximately 15,000 people make their pilgrimage.

On these feasts one often sees many acts of piety. Some people come barefoot, even in the winter. Others come on their knees, bloody from the rocky ground. Most come having fasted in order to receive the Holy Mysteries. People bring offerings of oil, candles and other things as a vow to Saint Nicholas. It is not uncommon that as they approach the wonder-working icon of Saint Nicholas, tears fill their eyes and deep sighs are heard by the faithful seeking the aid of the Saint for whatever problem they have. The icon itself is near the right choir of the nave at about a little child's level, so it is necessary for most people to kneel when they venerate the icon of Saint Nicholas. It is on these feast days as well that dozens of baptisms take place.

Miracles of the Wonder-Working Icon of Saint Nicholas

Innumerable are the miracles of Saint Nicholas at this holy shrine. Hundreds of healings of all sorts are reported. There are also many reports of visions of Saint Nicholas to those who have venerated at this shrine, often as a matter to discipline these people towards repentance for a particular evil they did. This shrine has also become a well-known place to bring the demon possessed, for whom there are many reported healings. The paralyzed have walked, the blind have received their sight, life-threatening illnesses have been erased. There are also reports of Saint Nicholas saving the Monastery and surrounding villages from disaster, such as in 1961 during a great fire which threatened to burn them down but was reverted by a strong wind allowing it to change opposite direction before hitting the Monastery.

One of the more interesting and original wonders performed at this Monastery has to do with the fact that hundreds of witnesses have seen animals enter the church unguided, approach the miraculous icon of Saint Nicholas, kneel with their hind legs in front of it, and some even venerate it. This is something my own uncle, Nikos Sanidopoulos of Patras, has seen and he related this story to me. It made such an impression on him, that he took me to this Monastery to drink from the Holy Spring and venerate the Holy Icon. My uncle saw a horse enter the church unguided and venerate the icon unguided. He is not a very religious man, but whenever he spoke of this miracle he would say it with powerful reverence and conviction. Besides horses, others have also seen this with goats and calfs from reports I have read. For example, it often has been the case that poor shepherds would vow to Saint Nicholas a goat to the Monastery to receive healing. When the healing was received they would bring the goat, but the goat would go ahead and lead the way to the Monastery, into the church, and to the icon, in front of which the goat would offer its veneration.

The Orphanage

Besides the miraculous icon, the Monastery of Saint Nicholas is also widely known for its Ecclesiastical Orphanage founded in 1948. It is a beautiful orphanage in a beautiful area where the children receive a very good elementary education. It is also intertwined with the Monastery, so they receive a Christian upbringing as well. Behind the orphanage is also an old age home. Both of these ministries are fully funded by the Monastery, to which donations can be made.

The Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Spata

The spot where the wonder-working icon was discovered.

The spring with the stair leading up to the church.

The Wonder-Working Icon of Saint Nicholas

The Orphanage

Orthodox Christmas Reflection (3)

Continued from Part Two...

Mary As Prophetess

Another prophecy of Isaiah is:

"'And I went into the prophetess and she conceived and bore a son.' And the Lord said to me, 'Call His name: Spoil Quickly, Plunder Speedily. For before the child shall know His father or His mother, He shall take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria before the king of the Assyrians'" [8:3-4].

The Persian sage, monk and bishop, Aphraates (4th c.) speaks of Mary as a "prophetess", because of the Magnificat [Lk. 1:46-55] that she had uttered.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria says that "contemporaneously with the birth of Christ, the power of the devil was spoiled. The name 'Spoil Quickly, Plunder Speedily' or 'Maher-shalal-hash baz', refers to our Lord. The prophetess is the Holy Virgin; and the name given to the child suits not a man, but God; for, He says, call His name 'Spoil Quickly, Plunder Speedily'. For at His birth, the heavenly and supernatural infant, while yet in swaddling bands and on His Mother's bosom, because of His human nature, stripped forthwith Satan of his goods by His ineffable might as God; for the magi came from the East to worship Him...."

Saint Justin Martyr (135-c.165) writes that Isaiah's words, "He shall take the power of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria", meant that the power of the wicked demon that dwelt in Damascus would be crushed by Christ at His birth. This is shown to have taken place. For the magi, held in servitude (as spoils) for the commission of every wicked deed through the power of that demon, by coming and worshipping Christ, openly revolted against the power that had held them captive; and this dominion Scripture [1 Kings 11:23-25; 15:16-22; 22:31-35; 2 Kings 13:3] has shown us to reside in Damascus. Moreover, that sinful and unjust power is termed well in the term, 'Samaria'. 'Damascus' was and is a part of the land of Arabia, although it now belongs to Syro-Phoenicia.

Saint Cosmas expounds upon this in his Matins hymn:

"You have shone forth from the tribe of Judah, and You have come forth to plunder the strength of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria, turning their error into faith beautiful to God."

Saint Cosmas also incorporates other prophecies of Isaiah into his inspired hymns:

"As You are the God of peace and Father of mercies, You have sent us to Your Angel of great counsel [Is. 9:6], granting us peace. So are we guided towards the light of the knowledge of God, and watching by night we glorify You, O Lover of mankind."

The Rod of the Root of Jesse

Here again, St. Cosmas composes hymns by weaving in Old Testament prophecies, showing the Virgin as the rod and the overshadowed mountain:

"Rod of the root of Jesse [Is. 11:1], and flower that blossomed from his stem, O Christ, You have sprung from the Virgin. From the mountain overshadowed by the forest You have come [Hab. 3:3], made flesh from her that knew not wedlock, O God, Who are not formed from matter."

Saint Andrew also speaks of the Virgin as the rod and Christ as the Flower:

"Let Jesse rejoice and let David dance, for behold, the Virgin, the rod planted by God, has blossomed forth the Flower, even the everlasting Christ."

Saint Ambrose (339-397), Bishop of Milan, concurs with this image, writing:

"The root is the household of the Jews, the rod is Mary, the Flower of Mary is Christ. She is rightly called a rod, for she is of the royal lineage, of the house and family of David. Her Flower is Christ, Who destroyed the stench of worldly pollution and poured out the fragrance of eternal life. As He Himself said, 'I am a flower of the plain, a lily of the valleys'" [Songs 2:1].

Saint Irenaeus (+ c.193) also speaks of Isaiah's prophecy concerning the rod of the Flower from the root of Jesse:

"Thereby the prophet says that it is of her, who is descended from David and from Abraham, that He is born. For Jesse was a descendant of Abraham, the father of David; the descendant who conceived Christ, the Virgin, is thus become the 'rod'. Moses too worked his miracles before Pharaoh with a rod; and among others too of mankind, the rod is a sign of empire. And the 'Flower' refers to His body, for it was made to bud forth by the Spirit."

From the Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos, we chant:

"Rejoice, O mystical rod which blossomed the unfading Flower."


"Rejoice, O Bride of God; you are the mystical rod from whom the unfading Rose blossomed and budded forth."

Part Four

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Mysterious X-Ray Image of Saint Savvas of Kalymnos

Katherine Vlahou of Afandou, Rhodes was suffering from brain cancer. It came to the point where a physician was unable to heal her, so she put her hope in the Lord's power to heal. Fleeing to Kalymnos she sought the aid of Saint Savvas, having faith that Saint Savvas would heal her of her brain cancer. Having prayed before his icon and venerated his relics, she returned to Rhodes. A week passed and Katherine returned to the hospital for a check up and an x-ray. When the doctor came in to give her the results, two amazing miracles happened: the first was that all traces of the cancer were gone, and the second was what appears to be an image of Saint Savvas from the icon she had prayed in front of for her healing, and it appeared in the area where there was the cancer growth.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Various Miracles of Saint Barbara and Her Relics

The Miraculous Icon of Saint Barbara in London, England

This is a miraculous icon of Saint Barbara which currently is in Harrow, London. It belongs to a Greek family from Egypt who has had it for generations. It was handed down to them while living in Alexandria, travelled with them during a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, and when they decided to move to England they now reside in London where this icon has become well-known among the Greeks and even non-Greeks.

On the feast of the Saint (December 4), many pious faithful are welcomed into the home of this family. A priest also comes to chant a Supplication Service. At the end of the Service, the priest anoints the faithful with oil from the vigil lamp that remains lit at all times in front of the miraculous icon.

This icon worked many miracles in Alexandria and continues to do so in London. It saved a sick child that was near death in Alexandria. It made cancer in a sick woman of London disappear. It even helped to heal a woman with cancer in the United States, and gave strength to a young girl in Greece after Saint Barbara herself appeared to her. It has given strength and healing to many throughout the world who venerated her icon with faith and reverence.

The Miraculous Icon of Saint Barbara in Nauplion (or Nafplion), Greece

In the Church of Saint Spyridon, within the nave of the church, on the left proskynitarion, stands the miraculous icon of Saint Barbara. It was painted by Anthony Barou in 1897, at the expense of the faithful women of St. Spyridon parish.

In 1928 a deadly plague swept through Nauplio. At that time, when all hope seemed to be lost and no medicine existed to heal the people, the faithful fled to the icon of Saint Barbara with tears and made a procession with the miraculous icon throughout Nauplion to stop the deadly epidemic. Saint Barbara heard their prayers and the deadly plague immediately ceased. In gratitude, every year on the feast of Saint Barbara, a procession is held with this same icon to commemorate this miracle following the Great Vespers on December 3.

The Miraculous Icon of Saint Barbara in Zakynthos, Greece

The island of Zakynthos holds a special reverence for Saint Barbara due to a miracle attributed to her by the faithful. Periodically throughout the 18th century residents of the island suffered through various small pox epidemics. On March 26, 1795 the Venetians gave the faithful Orthodox permission to process with the icon of Saint Barbara of Krokou in the suburb of Kipon. Immediately followig the procession, the small pox epidemic ceased. Following this miracle, many icons of Saint Barbara were sponsored by the faithful to be placed in various churches throughout the island, since she proved to be their protector and healer.

The Miracle of Saint Barbara in Drama, Greece

According to local tradition, in 1380, when the Ottomans took Drama, they destroyed a church dedicated to Saint Barbara next to a lake (named after St. Barbara) and desired in its stead to build there a mosque. On the feast of Saint Barbara, December 4, the region where the building of the mosque was taking place flooded. It flooded to the point where construction became impossible and the building of the mosque was abandoned through the miraculous intervention of Saint Barbara on her feast day. The ruins of the mosque can still be seen under the water. The chapel that exists today to St. Barbara is built on the lake and the bell tower is built where the old church is said to have existed.

On the feast day of St. Barbara, following the procession with the icon and Great Vespers, all the little girls of the area gather with lit candles on the eastern side of the lake where the old church used to be, and pray that St. Barbara protect them and give them health. Some place the candles on a plank of wood which they allow to float on the water, others place them in small boats. Following the festivites, which sometimes go through the night, families gather in their homes and eat a warm "barbara". This is a traditional food named after St. Barbara which is like a honey cake. According to tradition, the father of St. Barbara tainted all the bread with poison to extermintate the Christians, but St. Barbara notified them of this and told them to make bread with whatever they had in their homes. This is where the tradition of the "barbara" cake comes from. The next day the girls gather again at the lake and take some of this water as Holy Water and proceed to the Divine Liturgy. St. Barbara is a special protector of girls.

For a video of the lake, see here.

The Miracle of Saint Barbara in Rethymno, Crete

Where the current church of Saint Barbara stands today stood an older church dedicated to her from Roman times. Some time during the Turkish occupation the following miracle took place.

One day, suddenly, a plague broke out in Rethymno. The Christians immediately made a procession with the icon of Saint Barbara and for them the plague completely stopped. However, the Muslims were still suffering from the plague. When the Muslims saw the Christians no longer suffering from the plague following the procession, they began to donate oil and other valuables to St. Barbara. From that day forward the plague ceased for the Muslims as well.

In 1833 a rich Turk, Ali-Tsitsekaki, who resided in Rethymno, bought the church in order to destroy it to build stores and houses. The location of the church he specifically wanted to make into a large bath house. To this the christians protested and bought back the property for 500 golden franks. After this the church was built, decorated with icons, and renewed. The dedication of the church was officially made on December 14, 1885. The icon of St. Barbara in the proskynitarion was painted in 1894 by A. Vevelaki. In 1898 the dome was painted by Bishop Hieortheos Braouakis after he fasted for two weeks.

When the famous Massacre of Crete happened, the houses and stores of Rethymno were destroyed except the Church of Saint Barbara. Often Turks, when someone in the family was sick, would go to the homes of the Greeks asking for some oil from the Church of Saint Barbara to bring healing; they would gladly give it as a witness to the truth of their faith. Miracles still happen in the Church of Saint Barbara in Rethymno.

More can be read about the veneration of St. Barbara in Rethymno here, here, and here.

The Relics of Saint Barbara

In the sixth century the relics of the Holy Great-Martyr Barbara were transferred to Constantinople. Six hundred years later in the twelfth century, they were transferred to Kiev (July 11) by Barbara, the daughter of the Roman Emperor Alexios Komnenos, who married the Russian prince Michael Iziaslavych. Initially the relics of Saint Barbara rested in St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev where they were brought in 1108 by Sviatopolk II Iziaslavych's wife and kept in a silver reliquary donated by Hetman Ivan Mazepa. Starting from the late seventeenth century the apolytikion honoring St. Barbara was sung in the Cathedral of the Monastery on each Tuesday just before the Liturgy. In 1870, about 100,000 pilgrims paid tribute to St. Barbara at St. Michael's Monastery. Before the Russian Revolution in 1917, rings manufactured and blessed at St. Michael's Monastery, known as St. Barbara's rings, were very popular among the citizens of Kiev. They usually served as protectors and, according to popular beliefs, occasionally protected against witchcraft but were also effective against serious illnesses and sudden death. These beliefs reference the facts that the Monastery was not affected by the plague epidemics in 1710 and 1770 and cholera epidemics of the nineteenth century.

In the 1930s the relics of Saint Barbara were transferred to St. Vladimir's Cathedral in the same city. This was done before the destruction of St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery by the Bolsheviks. Until World War II St. Vladimir's served as a museum of religion and atheism. After the war the cathedral was reopened and since remained continually open. It was then the main church of the Kiev Metropolitan See of the Ukrainian Exarchate. The cathedral was one of the few places in the USSR where tourists could openely visit a working Orthodox Church. It saw the revival of Orthodox religion in 1988 when the millennium celebration of the Baptism of Kiev marked a change in Soviet policy on religion. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, St Vladimir's Cathedral ownership became an issue of controversy between two denominations that both claim to represent the Ukrainian Orthodox Christianity - the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a church with an autonomous status under the Moscow Patriarchy, and the newly established Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchy, which, ultimately, won the control over the cathderal.

An Akathist to the Saint is served each Tuesday before her holy relics.

For pictures of the feast of St. Barbara in Kiev, see here.

Other portions of her relics were distributed in various places from Constantinople. See here for example.

Skull of St. Barbara in the Monastery of Mega Spelaion in Kalavryta, Greece

A Pious Practice

Many pious Orthodox Christians are in the habit of chanting the troparion of St. Barbara each day, recalling the Savior's promise to her that those who remembered her and her sufferings would be preserved from a sudden, unexpected death, and would not depart this life without benefit of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Let us honor the holy Barbara for, with the aid of the Cross as her weapon, she crushed the snares of the enemy, and was rescued from them like a bird.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
O noble Champion, following God who is reverently praised in Trinity, you abandoned the temples of idols. Struggling amid suffering, O Barbara, you were not overwhelmed by the threats of the tyrants, O brave One, even singing aloud, "I worship the Trinity, the one Godhead."

Please Visit Our Sponsors