Read the story here.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
by St. Dimitri of Rostov
The relics of Saint Mamas were buried by the faithful at the place where he had been martyred. It is clear from the testimony of Saint Basil the Great that numerous miracles took place there, for in his homily to the people on the day of the commemoration of the holy martyr Mamas, the saint wrote:
"Keep the holy martyr in remembrance, you who have beheld him in a vision; you who have gathered in this place, having him as your helper; you who have called on his name, and have been granted success in your undertakings; you who were once in error and have been guided by him into life; you who have been healed of your infirmities; you whose children, though dead, have been returned to life; you whose lives have been prolonged. Let all of us who have assembled here send up praise to the martyr" (Homily 26).
It is clear from these words of Saint Basil that many healings and miracles worked at the grave of the holy martyr Mamas.
Nor should silence be kept concerning the following miracle [recorded by Nikephoros and George Kedrinos]. When Julian the Apostate was still a youth, desiring to make a show of piety (although he was already a wolf in sheep's clothing), he began to build, at great expense, a wondrous church over the grave of the holy martyr Mamas. This he did not out of piety but hypocritically and out of vanity. And, consequently, a great marvel was seen, for that which was built by day fell down at night. The pillars that had been erected fell into heaps of rubble, and the stones from the wall could not be made to fit back correctly. Others became so hard that they could not be hewn, and still others crumbled into dust. Each morning the mortar and bricks were found blown down from their places as if scattered by the wind. All these signs occurred as a reproof of Julian's impiety and as an indication of the persecution of the Church of God which was to come at his hands.
Such was the miracle performed over the grave of the Saint, for he did not wish a church to be built and dedicated to him by one who was soon to raise up persecution against piety. By the prayers, O Lord, of Thy holy martyr Mamas, work for us a sign unto good and deliver us from them that persecute us. Amen.
Reading from the Synaxarion:
Saint Mamas was from Gangra of Paphlagonia. He was born in prison, where his parents were suffering for Christ's sake and ended their lives. He was named Mamas because, after he had long remained without speaking, he addressed his foster mother Ammia as "mama". When they threw St Mamas to the wild beasts, these creatures would not touch him. Finally, one of the pagan priests struck him with a trident. Mortally wounded, St Mamas went out beyond the city limits. There, in a small stone cave, he gave up his spirit to God. He contested for Christ about the year 275.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr Mamas, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
With the staff bestowed on thee by God, O holy Great Martyr, shepherd us thy people now in green and life-giving pastures; swiftly crush with godly power unseen and wild beasts underneath the feet of them that praise thee with longing; for in dangers we all have thee, O Mamas, as our fervent protector and help.
Saint John IV the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople (582-595), is famed in the Orthodox Church as the compiler of a penitential nomokanon (i.e. rule for penances), which has come down to us in several distinct versions, but their foundation is one and the same. These are instructions for priests on how to hear the confession of secret sins, whether sins already committed, or merely sins of intent.
Ancient church rules address the manner and duration of public penances, established for obvious and evident sinners. But it was necessary to adapt these rules for the secret confession of undetected things. St John the Faster issued his penitential nomokanon (or "Canonaria"), so that the confession of secret sins, unknown to the world, already testifies to the good disposition of the sinner and his conscience in being reconciled to God, and so the saint reduced the penances of the ancient Fathers by half or more.
On the other hand, he set more exactly the character of the penances: severe fasting, daily performance of a set number of prostrations to the ground, the distribution of alms, etc. The length of penance is determined by the priest. The main purpose of the nomocanon compiled by the holy Patriarch consists in assigning penances, not simply according to the seriousness of the sins, but according to the degree of repentance and the spiritual state of the person who confesses.
Among the Greeks, and later in the Russian Church, the rules of St John the Faster are honored on a level "with other saintly rules," and the nomocanons of his book are accounted "applicable for all the Orthodox Church." St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (July 14) included him in the Manual for Confession (Exomologitarion), first published in 1794, and in the Rudder (Pedalion), published in 1800.
The first Slavonic translation was done quite possibly by the holy Equal of the Apostles Methodius, at the same time as he produced the Nomocanon in 50 Titles of the holy Patriarch John Scholastikos, whose successor on the Constantinople cathedra-seat was St John the Faster. This ancient translation was preserved in Rus in the "Ustiug Rudder" of the thirteenth century, published in 1902.
From the sixteenth century in the Russian Church the nomocanon of St John the Faster was circulated in another redaction, compiled by the monks and clergy of Mount Athos. In this form it was repeatedly published at the Kiev Caves Lavra (in 1620, 1624, 1629).
In Moscow, the Penitential Nomokanon was published in the form of a supplement to the Trebnik ("Book of Needs): under Patriarch Joasaph in 1639, under Patriarch Joseph in 1651, and under Patriarch Nikon in 1658. The last edition since that time is that printed in the Great Book of Needs. A scholarly edition of the nomocanon with parallel Greek and Slavonic texts and with detailed historical and canonical commentary was published by A. S. Pavlov (Moscow, 1897).
By Michelle A. Vu
September 2, 2010
The sometimes hateful rhetoric being used by opponents of the proposed mosque near ground zero can result in violence against Christians living in Muslim-dominated countries, warned a ministry leader who works with persecuted Christians.
“I think it’s important to remember, as Americans are often unable to do, that there are millions of Christians in the Middle East,” said Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA, on Wednesday.
Moeller, who noted that there are some 10 million Christians in Egypt and six million in Pakistan, said the “more vile and hateful” protests against the proposed project can inflame Muslim extremists. Since extremists in the Middle East cannot take their anger out on Americans, they take revenge on local Christians, which they associate with America, he said.
Several years ago, the Danish cartoons that poked fun at the Muslim prophet Mohammed caused massive rioting in the Middle East, Moeller recalled. During the uproar, angry Muslims beat up local Christians and torched churches.
“We talk often about our rights as Americans to protest. It is true,” Moeller said. “But we also have responsibilities, not only to our societies but to those vulnerable communities that are at risk because of our actions.”
For months, average Americans, politicians and recently even President Obama have been drawn into an emotionally-charged debate about whether a $100 million Muslim community center and mosque should be built two blocks from ground zero.
Proponents of the project, called Park51, maintain it would be a symbol of America’s religious tolerance and strengthen interfaith relations. Meanwhile, opponents say the center would be an offense to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Recently, New York Gov. David Paterson waded into the controversy by offering to discuss with the developers of Park51 about moving the center elsewhere.
SoHo Properties, the developer of Park51, expressed interest in the discussion with Paterson.
In the mean time, Moeller has called on Americans to try to remain civil in the debate.
“When we let our emotions get out of hand and we let our disagreement spill over into hatred and vilification, then that is being echoed and amplified in the Muslim world,” warned Moeller. “The ultimate result is innocent people being killed, pastors being killed, and churches being burned throughout the Muslim world.”
Open Doors works to strengthen believers suffering from interrogation, arrest and other forms of oppression because of their faith in over 45 of the most persecuted countries worldwide.
A Greek Orthodox congregation has been waiting longer—and working harder—than Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to restore the church that was destroyed on September 11, 2001.
September 02, 2010
Father Mark Arey won’t put it quite this way, but he doesn’t see why Muslims are getting all the attention for their religious building near Ground Zero. Especially when the church he represents, St. Nicholas Church, was actually at Ground Zero; was obliterated when the South Tower fell on September 11, 2001; and has never gotten the green light to proceed rebuilding—despite nine years of promises by the Port Authority that were reiterated last week by New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“I dare say this, if this were a Roman Catholic church or a Baptist church or even a synagogue, we would not have had this problem. I’m not sure we haven’t been a little bit bullied because we’re tiny,” says Arey, the ecumenical officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
There are about 2 million Eastern Orthodox in the United States, practicing in a branch of Christianity that split from the Roman Catholic church in 1054. St. Nicholas Church was built in 1916 on Cedar Street, across the street from where the World Trade Center eventually stood, by Greek immigrants who worked the shipyards at New York Harbor. St. Nicholas, as Arey points out, is the patron saint of sailors in the Eastern tradition, and “the Greeks have been sailing the wine-dark seas since the days of Homer.” By 2001, just about 70 people were worshiping there on Sundays.
Read the restof this story here.
John G. West
September 2, 2010
Evolution News and Views
If someone opposed to abortion were to take hostages at an abortion clinic, you can be sure the newsmedia would tenaciously track down and publicize every anti-abortion association and comment of the criminal in question. But when a gunman inspired by Darwinism takes hostages at the offices of the Discovery Channel, reporters seem curiously uninterested in fully disclosing the criminal's own self-described motivations. Most of yesterday's media reports about hostage-taker James Lee dutifully reported Lee's eco-extremism and his pathological hatred for humanity. But they also suppressed any mention of Lee's explicit appeals to Darwin and Malthus as the intellectual foundations for his views. At least, I could find no references to Lee's Darwinian motivations in the accounts I read by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC. Lee obviously was mentally disturbed, and the vast majority of Darwinists today would not defend his violent actions, just as the vast majority of those in the pro-life community would not embrace violence against abortion clinics. But the complete absence of Lee's Darwinian motivations from many, if not most, news reports is noteworthy.
Fanatic Wanted Still More Darwin Programs
James J. Lee, Hostage-taker and Darwinist
The Kaluga Icon of the Mother of God appeared in 1748 in the village of Tinkova, near Kaluga, at the home of the landowner Basil Kondratevich Khitrov. Two servants of Khitrov were cleaning out junk from the attic of his home. One of them, Eudokia, noted for her temper, was given to rough and even indecorous language. Her companion was modest and serious.
They discovered a large package covered in a linen cloth. Undoing it, the girl saw the picture of a woman in dark garments with a book in her hands. Considering it to be the portrait of a woman monastic and wanting to bring Eudokia to her senses, she accused her of being disrespectful to the abbess.
Eudokia jeered at the scolding words of her companion, and becoming increasingly angry, she spit on the picture. Immediately, she became convulsed and fell down senseless. She also became blind and mute. Her frightened companion reported what had happened to the household.
The next night, the Queen of Heaven appeared to Eudokia's parents and told them that their daughter had behaved impertinently toward Her and She ordered them to serve a Molieben before the insulted icon, then sprinkle the invalid with holy water at the Molieben.
After the Molieben Eudokia recovered, and Khitrov took the wonderworking icon into his own home, where it granted healing to those approaching it with faith. Later, the icon was placed in the parish temple of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in the village of Kaluga. At the present time it is located in the cathedral church of Kaluga.
Through this icon the Mother of God has repeatedly manifest Her protection of the Russian land during difficult times. The celebration of the Kaluga Icon on September 2 was established in remembrance of the deliverance from a plague in 1771. A second celebration was established October 12, in memory of the preservation of Kaluga from the French invasion of 1812. In 1898, a celebration was established on July 18 in gratitude to the Mother of God for protection against cholera. The icon is also commemorated on the first Sunday of the Apostles' Fast.
Read more about this icon here.
İstanbul’s Halki Seminary Reopens For Art Exhibition
31 August 2010
The Halki Seminary on Heybeliada, one of İstanbul’s Princes’ Islands, opened its doors for the first time in 30 years on Sunday for an art exhibition at the long-unused school building.
The Halki Seminary, which was closed to new students in 1971 under a law that put religious and military training under state control, will now serve as an art space for 25 days for a group exhibition titled “Tracing İstanbul” and featuring works of art by Greek artists.
İstanbul-based Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew opened the exhibition on Sunday evening, underlining in his speech his “hope that the seminary will reopen,” adding that the Greek Orthodox community expected “the government to do so as soon as possible,” the Anatolia news agency reported. Greek Culture Minister Pavlos Yeroulanos, who was also present at the exhibition’s opening, defined the inauguration in the seminary as historic, Anatolia said.
The exhibition -- brought together by curator and art historian Iris Kritikou and brought to life by a collaboration between the seminary, the Greek Consulate General in İstanbul and the City of Athens Technopolis museum -- is made up of works focusing on the images, colors and symbols of İstanbul. The 101 participating artists highlight mythological, historical and everyday-life moments from the millennia-old city in the exhibition, featuring work in various styles, including painting, sculpture, photography and video. The vast majority of the works on display have been created specifically for the exhibition, Anatolia said.
Part of the exhibition will also be on display at the Greek Consulate General in İstanbul. Both sections of the exhibition will remain on public display until Sept. 23, after which they will travel to Athens for an exhibit in October.
See the opening speech of Patriarch Bartholomew here.
Pawan Kalyan to Star in Bollywood Film of Christ's Life
Production costing $30m to be filmed in Israel and Palestinian Territories with all-Indian cast of mainly children
31 August 2010
Monty Python was condemned for irreverence, Mel Gibson was castigated for violence and Martin Scorsese got into trouble over the sex scenes. But the pitfalls of portraying Jesus have not deterred Bollywood from an ambitious and expensive project to recreate the life of Christ in its own unique way.
A $30m (£20m) production involving an all-Indian cast of mainly children will begin shooting on location in the Holy Land in October and is scheduled for release next year. As yet untitled and unscripted, the film will cover Jesus's life from birth to crucifixion. Its star, alongside the amateur child actors, will be Pawan Kalyan, introduced at a press conference in Jerusalem today as a "darling to millions". The producers have spent recent days touring sites in Jerusalem and around the Sea of Galilee, and have approached the Palestinian Authority about filming in Jericho and Bethlehem. "We are enriched, enthralled and thrilled," said director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao. "We are getting the necessary inspiration." The film would include seven devotional songs, he added, but would not feature the rumbustious music and dancing characteristic of Bollywood.
The 195-minute film, which will have versions in four languages including English, is one of the highest budget films to be made by an Indian production company. Most Bollywood films are made for around $500,000. Rao said he hoped the film's central message would be heard by Israelis and Palestinians: "Wherever there is conflict, pain, war, we would like to take the message of peace and love."
Palestinian officials had been "kind, enthusiastic and co-operative", Kalyan said. "Israel was always known to us as a conflict area but after being here we realise it's like any other country. The communities are able to co-exist despite all the problems."
There would a "great audience" in the sub-continent for the film, he said. "There is great religious tolerance in India."
India's Christian community is about 24 million, or 2.3% of the population.
"Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!" (Genesis 28:12, 13).
"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man" (Genesis 32:24, 25).
"I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter will rise out of Israel. It shall crush the foreheads of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. Edom shall be dispossessed." (Numbers 24.17-19)
First icon from The Holy Hesychasterion of John the Evangelist and Theologian in Souroti, Thessaloniki. Second icon from the Holy Convent of the Annunciation in Ormylia.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
You were shown to be a citizen of the wilderness
and the pride of the Righteous, O God-bearing Nicholas.
At the outlet of the gorge stands the Chapel of St. Nicholas the Ascetic. Not too far above there are five springs 40 meters high that irrigates the entire area year around. According to local tradition, these springs are the result of a miracle of St. Nicholas, when he spread his five fingers on the rock, and immediately five springs emerged pouring water under the dry mountain and barren slope of the gorge. For this reason the people call this site "the blessing of the Lord".
We know almost nothing of the life of St. Nicholas save for what has been handed from local tradition. We are told he lived in the 17th century and died around 1670. He was a Rethymnian. Two villages claim him as their own - Phratta and Asomatos. When he was a young boy he possessed a charitable nature and would give his father's grapes and oil to the poor. Because of this, the grapes would multiply every harvest and the oil vessels would always remain full. Seeing the boy's charitable nature, his father gave his blessing to allow him to fully devote his life to Christ. It was at that time he went to live an ascetic life as a youth.
Local tradition says that for a period of his life he lived in asceticism in Messaras, Heraklion. Before his death he decided to return to the province of Saint Vasilios where he was born together with another man from Messara. This man, while hunting one day, shot St. Nicholas with an arrow by mistake, and according to the wishes of St. Nicholas, he was brought to the area where his chapel is today. It was then that St. Nicholas worked his miracle dividing the five streams, in order to assuage the thirst of his accidental killer.
Today the five springs and the countless miracles, given to both Muslims and Christians, are a testimony to the sanctity of St. Nicholas, and thousands come to his chapel on a yearly basis. It is said he is buried near this chapel, but his grave has yet to be revealed. This chapel was built in 1838 and celebrates its feast on September 1st. Some say the chapel was built by a Turk to honor the Saint after a miracle. Pious Rethymnians have built a second church to honor the Saint on top of the western part of the city, among the wild steep rocks and bushes of Akrovateres, high above the sea. His hymns were pubished in 1879 in Athens.
Apolytikion in Tone Four
Nicholas, you disregarded the delights of life and traveled on the road of asceticism in the wilderness and in gorges. Therefore you were worthy of the heavenly good, and you rejoice together in the presence of all the righteous. Through your intercessions, deliver us from dangers.
Kontakion in Tone Four
You shone in Crete as a morning star, righteous Nicholas. Illuminate in a holy fashion with your virtuous deeds those who with an unhesitating soul approach you.
You were seen as a virtuous citizen in life, having shone in asceticism more than humanly possible. You distribute, Holy Nicholas, a treasury of graces to those with a pure heart.
St. Dimitri of Rostov writes the following concerning the Monastery of Saint Symeon the Stylite in Aleppo:
"The people built a beautiful cruciform church dedicated to the saint in the place where his pillar once stood. A great monastery was also built there. Miracles did not cease to occur at the site, and there was no shortage of healings for the sick. Every year, a great star appeared above Symeon's column that would light the entire land on the day of his commemoration. Many historians bear witness concerning the appearance of this star, especially Evagrius the Scholastic, who saw it with his own eyes."
More can be read about the church here.
Our righteous Father Symeon was born about the year 390 in a certain village named Sis, in the mountain region of Cilicia and Syria. Having first been a shepherd, he entered the monastic discipline at a young age. After trying various kinds of ascetical practices, both in the monastery and then in the wilderness, he began standing on pillars of progressively greater height, and heroically persevered in this for more than forty years; the greater part of this time he spent standing upright, even when one of his feet became gangrenous, and other parts of his body gave way under the strain. He did not adopt this strange way of life out of vainglory, a charge that some of his contemporaries made against him at the first: because he was already famous for his asceticism and holiness before ascending his first pillar (in Greek, style, whence he is called "Stylite"), many pious people came to him wishing to touch his garments, either for healing or for a blessing; to escape the continual vexation they caused, he made a pillar about ten feet high, and then higher and higher, until the fourth and last was about fifty feet high. The Church historian Theodoret of Cyrrhus, an eyewitness of his exploits who wrote of him while Symeon was yet alive, called him "the great wonder of the world." God gave him the grace to persevere in such an astonishing form of asceticism that multitudes came to see him from Persia, Armenia, South Arabia, Georgia, Thrace, Spain, Italy, Gaul, and the British Isles. Theodoret says that he became so famous in Rome that the Nomadic Arabs by the thousands believed in Christ and were baptized because of him; the King of Persia sent envoys to inquire into his way of life, and the Queen asked to be sent oil that he had blessed. He also was a great defender of sound doctrine, and confirmed the Orthodoxy of the Holy Council of Chalcedon for many who had been beguiled by the teachings of the Monophysites, including the Empress Eudocia, widow of Theodosius the Younger. After a life of unheard-of achievements and struggles, he reposed in peace at the age of sixty-nine, in the year 459.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou becamest a pillar of patience and didst emulate the Forefathers, O righteous one: Job in his sufferings, Joseph in temptations, and the life of the bodiless while in the body, O Symeon, our righteous Father, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thou soughtest the heights, though parted not from things below; thy pillar became a chariot of fire for thee. Thou becamest thereby a true companion of the angelic host; and together with them, O Saint, thou ceaselessly prayest Christ God for us all.
September 1, 2010
Orthodox priests who work in countries where Orthodoxy is not a traditional religion of the majority, have to adapt to local religious traditions or invent new ones comprehensive to their newly converted parishioners.
Thus, in Antarctica people are baptized in the ocean, and on the feast of the Holy Trinity the procession with cross does not carry the traditional Russian branches of beech, but priests go through the snowstorm of the polar night, the Ukrainian paper Segodnya reported on Wednesday.
One of the Hollywood Orthodox churches occupies a former motion-picture set, Liturgy is celebrated in English once a month, but about ten new believers are baptized a week and Tom Hanks and Jennifer Aniston can be seen among the parishioners.
Metropolitan Iriney of Dnepropetrovsk and Pavlograd, who worked in Tokyo in 1971-1975, searched for the way to a Japanese heart through music: first they learned "Katyusha", then prayers, and after it many of them got interested in Orthodoxy and wanted to be baptized.
In Africa newly converted Ethiopian Christians regularly go to church, but on their feasts leave the city for the countryside, paint their bodies and dance pagan dances. Ethiopian believers do not bake Easter cakes: they are replaced by lentil flats in salty sauce. Local residents, who have not adopted Christianity, believe the local priest is a powerful magician.
Thai are shocked to see people entering the church in shoes: any sole is considered "unclear", thus representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand Archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin) serves in socks and cassock.
Iran bans conversion to other religions, thus there are no Orthodox Iranians among the parishioners of the Tegeran church, but Muslim Iranians often come in to pray to Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary also mentioned in the Quran and even light candles to them.
Recently the blessed Elder Zosimas, the disciple of the blessed Elder Simon Arvanites, fell asleep in the Lord on August 10th. An initial introduction can be read here.
Since prior to his becoming a monastic he was a builder, Fr. Zosimas helped build Saint Panteleimon Monastery in Penteli, Athens. It was here that he lived for a number of years with his elder, Fr. Simon Arvanites. Following the repose of his elder, he wrote five books on his life, teachings and miracles which nourished thousands of souls. He had left the monastery and for twenty years lived an ascetic life in a small house in Halandri, Athens. He was therefore an ascetic living in the world, often keeping all-night vigils and adhering fully to a monastic typikon.
He would commemorate hundreds of names in his prayers, typically in his evening prayers during the Supplication Service to the Theotokos. Daily pious Christians would come to his home, even bus loads, in order to receive his blessing. He would answer dozens of phone calls a day as well. Since he was a monastic he did not offer Confession, but his spiritual counsels nourished starving souls and he was responsible for bringing dozens closer to Christ and the Church. He would teach the following: "The most basic aspect of the Christian life is Confession, frequent Holy Communion, fasting, and the meditation of spiritual books." He also inherited a large Cross from Elder Simon, and with this Cross he would bless the faithful.
Whenever possible he would travel to Mount Athos. The first time he went to visit Elder Paisios, and when they saw each other for the first time, Elder Paisios told Elder Zosima: "The spiritual struggles which you have, I also have done". It should be noted that Elder Paisios visited Elder Zosimas previously, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, in Halandri and they had a conversation, though in body Elder Paisios was still on Mount Athos. This was similar to when Elder Porphyrios visited Elder Sophrony in Essex, England through the grace of Holy Spirit, despite the former still being in Athens.
Many suffering souls would come to visit Fr. Zosimas and he would help them by taking on their burden. He would say to all: "Do not be sad when people criticize you or mistreat you. Pray and light a candle for those who criticize you, and thank them, because without these things you will not be saved". How many countless times did he pray with his prayer rope for those who criticized him. Criticism was a daily occurrence for him, much like as it was with St. Nektarios whom he held in great reverence. The more he would be criticized, the more he prayed for his accusers, and he bore his cross as a true servant of God with patience, silence and humility.
While Vatopaidi Monastery on Mount Athos was being falsely accused of creating a scandal in the Church, Fr. Zosimas felt great pain over this situation and prayed about it fervently. He would say the following: "Fr. Ephraim (the present abbot of Vatopaidi) has done a great work. The 100 and more monks which he has under him is proof of his great spirituality, and the slanders and mistreatments which he endures, the Panagia upholds him in her hands." Elder Zosimas also had much love for Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol and suffered with him when he was mistreated years ago.
The life of Elder Zosimos was a life lived in the grace of Christ. Dozens can testify of his works, for his works testify of his life in Christ.
One pious Christian woman who was in correspondence with Elder Paisios was greatly saddened when he reposed. One night she saw in her sleep a sign saying "Towards Fr. Zosimas", similar to the sign which lead visitors to the Cell of Elder Paisios in Panagouda on Mount Athos. Not knowing who Fr. Zosimas was, she inquired and found him. Understanding that it was God's will, she revealed her burdens to Fr. Zosimas. It is such a testimony which reveals the greatness of Fr. Zosimas.
The Cypriot nun Maria Psili visited Fr. Zosimas and after doing a cross over the Holy Bible he gave it to her and told her to open it randomly for a spiritually beneficial message. Nun Maria, who suffered from many issues of health, opened the book and the verse she read said, "...take up your cross and follow Me...". It was exactly the medicine she needed at the time and she took great courage in bearing the cross in her life.
Fr. Zosimas also had many health issues, but he never complained and bore his sickness with courage.
At his funeral on August 11, 2010 at Saint Panteleimon Monastery in Penteli, countless people came to pay their last respects. Eternal be his memory and may we have his prayers.
For the maintenance of their armed forces, the Roman emperors decreed that their subjects in every district should be taxed every year. This same decree was reissued every fifteen years, since the Roman soldiers were obliged to serve for fifteen years. At the end of each fifteen-year period, an assessment was made of what economic changes had taken place, and a new tax was decreed, which was to be paid over the span of the fifteen years. This imperial decree, which was issued before the season of winter, was named Indictio (Indiction), that is, Definiton, or Order. This name was adopted by the emperors in Constantinople also. At other times, the latter also used the term Epinemisis, that is, Distribution (Dianome).
It is commonly held that Saint Constantine the Great introduced the Indiction decrees in A.D. 312, after he beheld the sign of the Cross in heaven and vanquished Maxentius and was proclaimed Emperor in the West. Some, however (and this seems more likely), ascribe the institution of the Indiction to Augustus Caesar, three years before the birth of Christ. Those who hold this view offer as proof the papal bull issued in A.D. 781 which is dated thus: Anno IV, Indictionis LIII - that is, the fourth year of the fifty-third Indiction. From this, we can deduce the aforementioned year (3 B.C.) by multiplying the fifty-two complete Indictions by the number of years in each (15), and adding the three years of the fifty-third Indiction.
There are three types of Indictions: 1) That which was introduced in the West, and which is called Imperial, or Caesarean, or Constantinian, and which begins on the 24th of September; 2) The so-called Papal Indiction, which begins on the 1st of January; and 3) The Constantinopolitan, which was adopted by the Patriarchs of that city after the fall of the Eastern Empire in 1453. This Indiction is indicated in their own hand on the decrees they issue, without the numeration of the fifteen years. This Indiction begins on the 1st of September and is observed with special ceremony in the Church.
Since the completion of each year takes place, as it were, with the harvest and gathering of the crops into storehouses, and we begin anew from henceforth the sowing of seed in the earth for the production of future crops, September is considered the beginning of the New Year. The Church also keeps festival this day, beseeching God for fair weather, seasonable rains, and an abundance of the fruits of the earth.
The Holy Scriptures (Lev. 23:24-5 and Num. 29:1-2) also testify that the people of Israel celebrated the feast of the Blowing of the Trumpets on this day, offering hymns of thanksgiving.
In addition to all the aforesaid, on this feast we also commemorate our Saviour's entry into the synagogue in Nazareth, where He was given the book of the Prophet Isaiah to read, and He opened it and found the place where it is written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, for which cause He hath anointed Me..." (Luke 4:16-30). [This scene is depicted in a Vatican manuscript (Vatican, Biblioteca. Cod. Gr. 1613, p.1). It is pictured above]
It should be noted that to the present day, the Church has always celebrated the beginning of the New Year on September 1. This was the custom in Constantinople until its fall in 1453 and in Russia until the reign of Peter I. September 1 is still festively celebrated as the New Year at the Patriarchate of Constantinople; among the Jews also the New Year, although reckoned according to a moveable calendar, usually falls in September. The service of the Menaion for January 1 is for our Lord's Circumcision and for the memorial of Saint Basil the Great, without any mention of its being the beginning of a new year.
St. Dimitri of Rostov exhorts the following for the Feast of the Indiction:
"Therefore, offering Him thanksgiving, let us celebrate that acceptable year of the Lord, for we have received many and ineffable good things from His hand. Let us make haste to be well-pleasing in His sight. Let us celebrate, not the Indiction enacted by the Roman emperors, but that which has been ordained for us by Christ, the heavenly King of Glory. The tribute due to Christ from us on the occasion of the Indiction is the keeping and the fulfillment of His holy commandments, for Christ our King does not ask of us iron and brass. Neither does He exact silver nor demand gold, as David has made clear, saying to Him: 'Thou art my Lord; for of my goods no need hast Thou' (Ps. 15).
That we might with an upright heart believe in Him, He requires of us not iron and brass, but the virtue of faith, grounded firmly and strongly in Orthodox piety, which is founded upon the blood shed by the holy martyrs, who were tortured for the Christian faith with weapons of iron and implements and vessels of brass, as it is said: 'His life was spent in irons' (Ps. 104)....
Instead of silver, Christ our King requires of us the virtue of undoubting trust in God, which more than silver assures a man of a prosperous life... Such is the immaterial silver which the Lord requires of us. He commands that we trust not in riches, which quickly perish, but that we trust in the living God, Whose words 'are pure words, silver that is fired' (Ps. 11)....
Instead of gold, Christ our King demands the most precious virtue, unfeigned love for God and our neighbor, always represented by the teachers of the Church as gold because of its great value. Just as gold is more precious than silver, brass, or iron, so love is more honorable than hope and faith, as it is written: 'And now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love' (1 Cor. 13)....
The Orthodox Church now celebrates the Christian indiction rather than that of the ancient heathen, 'having put off the old man with his deeds, and having put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him' (Col. 3). Thus let us celebrate the New Year as the Apostle counsels us, saying: 'We should walk in newness of life, that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter' (Rom. 6). Let us celebrate the Indiction, submitting to the ordinance of the Lord our God that was delivered through Moses, which is now read from the Book of Leviticus: 'If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them, then I will give peace in the land, and ye shall pursue your enemies and I will look upon you, and bless you, and My soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people' (Lev. 26), says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel."
Apolytikion in the Second Tone
Creator of the universe, setting times and seasons by Your sole authority, bless the cycle of the year of Your grace, O Lord, guarding our rulers and Your nation in peace, at the intercession of the Theotokos, and save us.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
You who created all things in Your infinite wisdom, and set the times by Your own authority, grant Your Christian people victories. Blessing our comings and goings throughout this year, guide our works according to Your divine will.
On this day the Orthodox also offer special prayers to God to protect the environment, which because of our sins is continuously being harmed. The following is from the Synaxarion of the service for the Protection of the Environment:
On the same day, the beginning of the Indiction, we entreat our God, who loves mankind, for the welfare of the earth on which we live and for the whole creation.
We fall before you, Master, as we cry:
O Saviour, from pollutions free the earth.
Apolytikion in Tone Four
Lord and Saviour, who as God brought all things into being by a word, establishing laws and governing them unerringly to your glory, at the prayers of the Mother of God, keep secure and unharmed all the elements which hold the earth together, and save the universe.
Kontakion in Tone Two
With your all-powerful strength you framed all things, both visible and invisible; and so keep unharmed, we implore your goodness, the environment that surrounds the earth.
At all times keep unharmed the whole creation we beg you, O Redeemer, and grant us breaths of winds and breezes moist with dew for our safety and salvation, O Lover of mankind.
The entire Service can be found here.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
According to Sacred Tradition and the history of our Church, the Most Holy Theotokos three days after she reposed she rose from the dead and ascended bodily to the heavens. During her ascension, she gave her Holy Belt to the Apostle Thomas. Thomas, along with the rest of the Holy Apostles, opened up her grave and didn't find the body of the Theotokos. In this way the Holy Belt is proof for our Church of her Resurrection and bodily ascension to the heavens, and, in a word, at her metastasis.
The Holy Belt, according to tradition, was made by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself with camel hair. Originally it was kept in Jerusalem and later in Constantinople. During the reign of Emperor Arcadius (395-408), the precious Belt of the Mother of God was brought from Zela of Cappadocia to Constantinople, and placed in the Church of the Theotokos in the section of Chalcopratia. In 458 it was transferred by the Emperor Leo VI the Wise to the Blachernae church. The Empress Zoe, wife of Leo VI the Wise, out of gratitude for a miraculous cure, embroidered the Belt with gold thread, as it is found today, but divided it in three pieces. During the 12th century under Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180) an official holiday for the Belt was established on August 31st; previously it had shared the Feast of the Vesture of the Virgin on 1 July.
In the 12th century, when, in the course of a defeat of Isaacius by the Bulgar King Asan (1185), the Holy Belt was stolen and taken to Bulgaria, and from there it later came into the hands of the Serbs. It was presented to Vatopaidi by the Serbian Prince Lazarus I (1372-1389), together with a large piece of the True Cross. Since then it has been kept in the sanctuary of the katholikon.
Under Turkish rule, the brethren of the Monastery took it on journeys to Crete, Macedonia, Thrace, Constantinople and Asia Minor, to distribute its blessing, to strengthen the morale of the enslaved Greeks and to bring freedom from infectious diseases.
Numerous are the miracles that have taken place up to today with the Holy Belt. Its value is priceless because it's associated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She has the grace and to her the miraculous power is attributed, which in many ways she transmits to the faithful.
The Holy Belt maintains unaltered the grace of the Most Holy Theotokos, because it became connected with her person and her life and because saints are Spirit-carriers during not only their life, but also after their death. The same phenomenon is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures when objects that the Prophet Elijah and the Holy Apostles wore actually performed miracles, because they had the grace of the saints. For this reason the Church attributes it honorary worship, as it does to the Holy Wood of the Cross of the Lord.
The following are a very few examples of the many miracles attributed to the Holy Belt of the Theotokos:
1. At one time, the inhabitants of Ainos called for the presence of the Holy Belt and the Vatopaidi monks accompanying it received hospitality at the house of a priest, whose wife surreptitiously removed a piece of it. When the fathers embarked to leave, although the sea was calm, the ship remained immobile. The priest’s wife, seeing this strange phenomenon, realized that she had done wrong and gave the monks the piece of the Belt, whereupon the ship was able to leave immediately. It was because of this event that the second case was made. The piece in question has been kept in this down to the present.
2. During the Greek War of Independence of 1821, the Holy Belt was taken to Crete at the request of the people of the island, who were afflicted by the plague. When, however, the monks were preparing to return to the Monastery, they were arrested by the Turks and taken off to be hanged, while the Holy Belt was redeemed by the British Consul, Domenikos Santantonio. From there the Belt was taken to Santorini, to the Consul’s new home. News of this quickly spread throughout the island. The local bishop informed the Vatopaidi Monastery and the Abbot, Dionysios, was sent, in 1831, to Santorini. The Consul asked the sum of 15,000 piastres to hand over the Belt, and the people of the island, with touching eagerness, managed to collect together the money. Thus the Holy Belt was bought back and Abbot Dionysios returned it to Vatopaidi.
What had happen with the priest’s wife of Ainos was repeated in the case of the Consul’s wife. She too, unbeknown to her husband, cut off a small piece of the Holy Belt before it was handed back to the Abbot Dionysios. Within a very short period her husband died suddenly and her mother and sister became gravely ill. In 1839, she wrote to the Monastery asking that representatives should be sent to take possession of the piece which she had removed.
3. In 1864, the Holy Belt was taken to Constantinople, since there was a cholera epidemic among the inhabitants. As soon as the ship bearing it approached the harbour, the cholera ceased and none of those already suffering from it died. This strange miracle excited the curiosity of the Sultan, who had the Girdle brought to the Palace so that he could reverence it.
4. During the time when the Holy Belt was at Constantinople, a Greek of Galata asked that it should be taken to his house, since his son was seriously ill. When, however, the Holy Belt arrived at his house, his son was already dead. The monks, however, did not give up hope. They asked to see the dead boy, and as soon as the Belt was placed on him, he was raised from the dead.
5. In 1894, the inhabitants of Madytos in Asia Minor sought that the Holy Belt should be taken there because a plague of locusts was destroying their trees and crops. When the ship carrying the Girdle came into the harbour, the sky was filled with clouds of locusts, which then began to fall into the sea, so that it was difficult for the vessel to anchor. The people of Madytos, seeing the miracle, kept up a constant chant of "Kyrie Eleison" from the shore.
6. Down to our own times, the Holy Belt has continued to work many miracles, particularly in the case of infertile women, who, when they request it, are given a piece of cord from the case holding the Belt and, if they have faith, become pregnant.
For more information on the Holy Belt on the island of Santorini, see here, here and here.
More contemporary miracles, especially to holy Elders of our times, can be read here.
For information on pieces of the Holy Belt in the Roman Catholic Church, see here.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
O Ever-Virgin Theotokos, shelter of mankind, thou hast bestowed upon thy people a mighty investure, even thine immaculate body's raiment and sash, which by thy seedless childbirth have remained incorrupt; for in thee nature and time are made new. Wherefore, we implore thee to grant peace to the world, and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thy precious sash, O Theotokos, which encompassed thy God-receiving womb, is an invincible force for thy flock, and an unfailing treasury of every good, O only Ever-virgin Mother.
Fr. Gabriel Bunge was a Benedictine monk in Switzerland who had been living the eremitical life since 1980. As a Patristics scholar, he has contributed many articles and books to numerous spiritual and monastic journals.
On August 27, 2010 Fr. Gabriel converted to Orthodoxy in the presence of Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk and Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia during an All-Night Vigil at the Church of the ”Joy of All Who Sorrow” Icon in Bolshaya Ordynka Street in Moscow.
Metropolitan Hilarion said to him, ”You have been a Catholic, but an Orthodox deep in your heart. Today, before the All-Night Vigil, you have become Orthodox, thus naturally completing a long spiritual path.”
While congratulating Fr Gabriel on this move, Metropolitan Hilarion presented him with an icon of the Mother of God called ”Joy of All the Afflicted” to which the church in which Fr Gabriel joined the Orthodox Church is dedicated.
Christians could learn a lot about life from listening to heavy metal, according to a Church of England cleric.
August 31, 2010
The Rev Rachel Mann claims that the much-maligned form of music demonstrates the “liberative theology of darkness”, allowing its tattooed and pierced fans to be more “relaxed and fun” by acknowledging the worst in human nature.
She says that by contrast, churchgoers can appear too sincere and take themselves too seriously.
The priest admits that many will be “concerned” about metal lyrics praising Satan and mocking Christianity, but insists it is just a form of “play-acting”.
Miss Mann, priest-in-charge of St Nicholas’s, Burnage, writes in this week’s Church Times: “Since Black Sabbath effectively created it in 1969 by using the dissonant sound of the medieval ‘Devil’s chord’, heavy metal has been cast as dumb, crass, and on, occasions satanic; music hardly fit for intelligent debate, led alone theological reflection.
“And yet, as both priest and metal musician and fan, it strikes me that the Church, especially at this agonized time, has a serious gospel lesson to learn from this darkest and heaviest music.”
Miss Mann says that heavy metal songs, characterized by distorted guitar sounds, “intense” beats and “muscular” vocals, are “unafraid to deal with death, violence and destruction”.
Its “predominantly male and white” fans “generally like tattoos and piercings” but are “graceful, welcoming and gentle”.
“The music’s willingness to deal with nihilistic and, on occasion, extremely unpleasant subjects seems to offer its fans a space to accept others in a way that shames many Christians.
“Metal’s refusal to repress the bleak and violent truths of human nature liberates its fans to be more relaxed and fun people”.
She goes on to claim that “metal has no fear of human darkness” and while some Christians are similarly unafraid, “many are yet to discover its potential as a place of integration”.
Miss Mann quotes lyrics by the famous thrash metal band Slayer that describe Christianity as an “abortion” and state: “I’ll take the devil any day, hail Satan.”
But she claims: “Much of metal’s fascination with Satan or evil is play-acting, driven by a desire to shock.
“Metal invites Christianity to be less afraid of wildness and the ridiculous.”
She says metal festivals such as Sonisphere, where she saw Iron Maiden play last month, are modern versions of the Feast of Fools held in England in the middle ages, where “excess and anarchy” were allowed for a day.
Miss Mann says she worries that Anglicans have made their faith “too reasonable and ordered” rather than passionate.
“I am not suggesting that as Christians we have all had a humour bypass, but we are inclined to take ourselves too seriously even when we are having fun.”
There have been Christian heavy metal bands, such as the 1980s American act Stryper and the more recent Evanescence, but few have enjoyed much critical acclaim or crossover success.
By contrast many of the biggest heavy metal artists have used anti-Christian or satanic imagery in their lyrics and album covers.
In the 1990s, followers of Norway’s “black metal” scene went further by burning dozens of churches.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Christians do not believe in kismet, fate or destiny. Even if God determines the chief lines of our life, He, according to our prayers and merits, can change them.
Thus, He prolonged King Hezekiah's life for fifteen years: "Go and say to Hezekiah, thus said the Lord, the God of David Your father, I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears: behold I will add unto your days fifteen years" (Isaiah 38:5), and to the Venerable Dius (July 19) he likewise prolonged his life for fifteen years. God extended the life of St. Basil the Great, according to the prayer of the saint, for one day until he baptized the Jew, Joseph, his physician.
But, as God can, by prayer, prolong life, so He can shorten it because of sin. Emperor Anastasius adhered to the Severian heresy, so called the Acephalites (the headless ones), who spread the foolishness that the Church does not need bishops and priests but rather that everyone unto himself is a bishop and a priest and that everyone has the right, in his own way, to interpret Holy Scripture and to teach others as he understands and believes. In vain did St. John the Patriarch counsel the emperor to return to the truth of Orthodoxy, and not only did the emperor not accept the counsel but rather ill-treated the patriarch in various ways and contemplated to have him banished. One night, the emperor saw in a dream an awesome man on an exalted throne, who held a book in his hand. This man opened the book, found the name of Emperor Anastasius and said: "I have wanted to permit you to live for a while longer but, because of your heresy, behold, I am erasing fourteen years from your life." And he erased something from the book. Terrified, the emperor jumped up from his dream and related his dream to his followers. After a few days, thunder struck the emperor's place and killed Emperor Anastasius.
The Paromeos Monastery, also known as Baramos Monastery, is a Coptic Orthodox monastery located in the Nitrian Desert. It is the most northern monastery among the four current monasteries of Scetes, about 4 km north of the Monastery of Saint Pishoy. The name Paromeos is derived from the Coptic Pa-Romeos, which means that of the Romans. Ecclesiastically, the monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and carries her name. It was founded c. 335 A.D. by Saint Macarius the Great.
Beside Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Arsenius, other saints of the fourth and fifth century resided in the Paromeos Monastery, such as Saint Isidore, and Saint Moses the Ethiopian who was martyred at the raid of 407 A.D. During the first half of the fifteenth century, the historian Al-Maqrizi visited the monastery and was responsible for identifying it as that of Saint Moses the Ethiopian. At that time, he found it to have only a few monks.
Today, the monastery still preserves much of its ancient character. It has five churches. The oldest church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and contains the relics of Saint Moses the Black (photo above). It is considered the oldest church in Scetes still in existence, dating back to the sixth century. In the desert about the monastery there are also several caves that apparently continue to be inhabited by hermits.
This monastery is significant in that it was founded on a site in front (south) of the Old Baramus monastery, discovered by archaeologists in 1994, which some say was incorrectly known as "the Monastery of Moses the Black". Others believe that Deir Anba Musa al-Aswad, or the Monastery of Saint Moses the Black, under the leadership of St. Isidore the Hegumen, was the original name. The older monastery probably dates to as early as 340 AD. It should be noted that there exists some confusion in regard to the current monastery's history in relationship to the old monastery. It is very possible that both existed concurrently at some point, with the former monastery known as Deir al-Baramus, and the current monastery known as the Monastery of the Virgin of Baramus, Hence, the history we have of the modern monastery certain encompasses that of both.
Today the relics of St. Moses in the Church of the Holy Virgin continue to work many miracles, especially for those battling with their passions such as drunkenness. He is also known to heal the demon possessed and many exorcisms take place before his relics. For example, a young man possessed by demons was healed, and after the prayer service there could be seen on his shirt the name of Saint Moses together with a cross. A photo of this shirt is placed next to the relics of Saint Moses as a testimony to his miraculous power.
Read more here and here.
The Monastery of Mar Mousa al-Habashi (St. Moses the Ethiopian) is an active monastery in the Syrian mountains that dates from the 6th century. It was founded by St. Moses the Ethiopian and is known for its beautiful ancient frescoes and peaceful atmosphere. It is a monastic community of Syriac Catholic rite, situated near the town of Nabk, approximately 80 kilometers north of Damascus. The main church of the monastic compound hosts precious frescoes dating to the 11th and 12th century CE.
Mar Mousa is an active monastery, housing a few resident monks who grow their own food, keep livestock, and sell various products to locals to pay for the upkeep of the monastery. It is currently headed up by Paolo dall'Oglio, an Italian Syriac monk of the Assyrian Catholic Church.
The Monastery of Mar Mousa is designed to be isolated and can only be reached by a steep climb on a winding footpath, which is reached from a winding road that begins at the town of al-Nabek.
Visitors are welcomed by the monks and can overnight at the monastery. There is usually no charge for lodging except that you help with the work of the monastery during your stay.
According to local tradition St. Moses the Abyssinian was the son of a king of Ethiopia. He refused to accept the crown, honors, and marriage, and instead he looked towards the kingdom of God. He traveled to Egypt and then to the Holy Land. Afterward, he lived as a monk in Qara, Syria, and then as a hermit not far from there in the valley of what is today the monastery. There he was martyred by Byzantine soldiers. The story says that his family took his body, but that the thumb of his right hand was separated by a miracle, and was left as a relic, now conserved in the Syrian church of Nabk.
The Monastery of St. Moses existed from the middle of the sixth century, and belonged to the Syrian Antiochian Rite. The present monastery church was built in the Islamic year 450 (1058 AD), according to Arabic inscriptions on the walls, which begin with the words: "In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate". The frescoes go back to the 11th and 12th centuries. In the fifteenth century the monastery was partly rebuilt and enlarged, but by the first half of the nineteenth century it was completely abandoned, and slowly fell into ruins. Nevertheless, it remained in the ownership of the Syrian Catholic diocese of Homs, Hama, and Nabk. The inhabitants of Nabk continuously visited the monastery with devotion, and the local parish struggled to maintain it. In 1984, restoration work began through a common initiative of the Syrian State, the local Church, and a group of Arab and European volunteers. The restoration of the monastery building was completed in 1994 thanks to cooperation between the Italian and Syrian States. An Italian and Syrian school for restoration of frescoes has been created at Deir Mar Musa and will complete the work in the context of Syrian European cooperation. The new foundation of the monastic community started in 1991.
Read more here.