Notice, as you read the excerpt from the Life of St. Theodora below, the five stages that lead to the sin of St. Theodora and which are the same five stages we all go through when we sin against the Lord:
1. Assault - When a thought/temptation knocks on the door of our mind; at this point there is no sin.
2. Interaction - This is the stage when we open our mind to the thought; at this point things become dangerous.
3. Consent - At this point you consent to do what the thought is urging you to do; the decision is made and it has taken root, becoming extremely difficult to escape.
4. Captivity - When you finally give in to your consent, you have been defeated; you are now the captive of your thought and have lost your true freedom over yourself.
5. Passion - Being a captive of your thought you are now spiritually sick; this sickness will become worse and worse throughout your life unless you repent and purify your mind of the germ which you allowed to enter your heart.
Below is the tale of St. Theodora, as written by St. Dimitri of Rostov:
"The eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun, beholding all the ways of men, and considering the most secret parts. He knew all things before they were ever created" (Eccles. 23).
There once lived in the city of Alexandria a noblewoman named Theodora who did not know this truth. She hearkened rather unto the enemy, who whispered to her, saying, "The sin committed secretly, which the sun does not see, is likewise unknown to God." When she learned later that nothing can be concealed from God, great was her repentance!
Abiding with her husband in honorable wedlock, she was tempted in the following way. A wealthy man, young and childish of mind, moved by the devil, was wounded with lust for her, and he tried by every means to lead her into adultery. He sent her costly presents and promised her yet greater gifts, seeking to seduce her by his words. Unable to achieve his wish with these devices, he employed a certain sorceress to bewitch the chaste Theodora, hoping thus to ensnare her in his evil designs. Having Satan as her helper, the sorceress found a convenient time to speak to Theodora concerning the youth.
However, Theodora replied, "Oh, that I could be delivered from that man, who has vexed me for so long! If I hearken unto him, the very sun will be the witness of my sin before God!"
The temptress responded, "Then when the sun sets and the darkness of night falls, do what the youth desires in some secret place, and no one, not even God, shall know of your deed, for the deep darkness of night hides all."
"Oh, how good it would be," said Theodora, "were it true that God did not know the sin which is committed in the night!"
The seductress answered, "It is true; God sees only those sins upon which the sun shines. As for those committed in the dark, how can He see them?"
With such words the temptress ensnared Theodora, who was a young woman, guileless and inexperienced. In this the sorceress was assisted much by the temptations of the demons, whose power is strong, whereas ours is feeble. Theodora consented to the counsel of the evil one, and in the depth of night she committed the sin of adultery. However, with the rising of the sun, the light of the ready mercy of God shone in her heart, for she acknowledged her sin and repented of it, striking herself on the face, reviling herself, and tearing her hair in shame. Thus, the mercy of God, Who desires not the death of a sinner, roused her to repentance and amendment because of her former chastity. Indeed, God sometimes permits man to fall so that, amending himself and rising up, he may labor more earnestly and display more zeal for God, Who has forgiven his sin.
Weeping and grieving over the sin she had committed, Theodora consoled herself somewhat and said, "God does not know of my sin. Nevertheless, it shames me and causes me anguish." Seeking to lighten her sorrow, she went to a convent to visit the abbess, with whom she was acquainted. The abbess, seeing her sorrowful face, questioned her, saying, "What is wrong, my daughter? Have you offended your husband?"
Theodora answered, "No, my lady. I do not know why my heart is so heavy."
The abbess, moved by the Spirit of God and wishing to comfort Theodora, began to speak in an edifying manner and to read to her from the writings of the Fathers. As she was reading a certain homily, she came to this citation from the Gospel: "For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore, whatsoever you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which you have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed from the housetops" (Matt. 10; Lk. 12).
When Theodora heard these words from the Gospel, she beat herself on the breast and said, "Woe is me, the wretched one! Now I have perished! I have been deceived, thinking that God did not know my sin!" and she struck herself, crying and weeping.
The abbess then discerned the nature of her fall, and she began to ask her exactly what she had done. Because of her weeping, Theodora could scarcely speak, but she succeeded in telling the abbess all in detail, and she fell at her feet, crying, "Forgive me, for I am perishing, and tell me what I should do! Is it possible for me to be saved, or am I lost for all eternity? Can I hope for God's mercy, or must I only despair?"
The abbess said to her, "In hearkening to the enemy you have not done well, my daughter. You were mistaken, thinking that you could hide from God, Who searches the hearts and reins, Who knows the thoughts of men from afar, Whose eye sees even that which has not yet been done. No night, no dark place, is able to conceal the sinner from His all-seeing eye. You have angered God and not kept faith with your husband, my daughter. You have defiled your body and done harm to your soul. Why did you not tell me this when you were being tempted? Then I could have helped you and taught you how to guard yourself from the snares of the enemy. But since the deed is already done, fall down in repentance before God's mercy, pray that He will forgive you, and correct yourself. Do not despair, my daughter, for although you have committed a great sin, God's mercy is yet greater. There is no sin which defeats His love for mankind. Now arise and you will be saved."
The abbess reproved and instructed Theodora, and she guided her onto the path of repentance. She comforted her by speaking of God's compassion, of His unutterable goodness, of His quickness to accept those who repent, and His readiness to forgive those who have transgressed. She reminded Theodora of the sinful woman in the Gospel who washed Christ's feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head, thereby receiving forgiveness of her sins from God.
Theodora gave heed to her good instructress, and having stored these things in her heart, she said, "I trust in my God that I shall never commit such sins again, and I shall do whatever I am able to make amends for the sin itself."
Her heart somewhat comforted, Theodora returned to her home. But she was ashamed to look her husband in the face, for her conscience upbraided her, and she considered by what means she might incline God to mercy. Although she wished to enter a convent, she knew that her husband would forbid this, so to hide herself from her husband and from all her acquaintances, she devised the following plan.
When her husband left home on some task, she, in the dark of night, cut her hair and dressed herself in men's clothing. Committing herself to God, she hid herself, and quietly forsaking her home, she fled like a bird taking flight from a trapper's net. Arriving at a desert monastery named Oktokedeka, located eighteen miles from the city, she knocked at the door, and when the doorkeeper came, she said, "Be so kind, Father, as to ask the abbot to receive me, a sinner, into the monastery, for I wish to repent of my evil deeds. I have come to wash the feet of holy men such as you, and to serve you day and night in whatever manner you direct."
The rest of the story of St. Theodora covers eighteen more pages in the Life written by St. Dimitri, but he goes on to give details about how St. Theodora overcame her captivity and entered into true freedom in Christ, suffering much yet attaining greater glory in Christ.
St. Nikoalai Velimirovich summarizes her life in his Prologue with the following words:
Theodora was from Alexandria and the wife of a young man. Persuaded by a fortune-teller, she committed adultery with another man and immediately felt the bitter pangs of conscience. She cut her hair, dressed in men's clothing and entered the Monastery of Octodecatos, under the male name of Theodore. Her labor, fasting, vigilance, humbleness and tearful repentance amazed the entire brotherhood. When a promiscuous young woman slandered her, saying that Theodore had made her pregnant, Theodora did not want to justify herself, but considered this slander as a punishment from God for her earlier sin. Banished from the monastery, she spent seven years living in the forest and wilderness and, in addition, caring for the child of that promiscuous girl. She overcame all diabolical temptations: she refused to worship Satan, refused to accept food from the hands of a soldier, and refused to heed the pleas of her husband to return to him - for all of this was only a diabolical illusion, and as soon as Theodora made the sign of the Cross everything vanished as smoke. After seven years, the abbot received her back into the monastery, where she lived for two more years, and reposed in the Lord. Only then did the monks learn that she was a woman; an angel appeared to the abbot and explained everything to him. Her husband came to the burial, and then remained in the cell of his former wife until his repose. St. Theodora possessed much grace from God: she tamed wild beasts, healed infirmities, and brought forth water from a dry well. Thus, God glorified a true penitent, who with heroic patience repented nine years for just one sin. She reposed in the year 490.
St. Nikolai goes on to offer the following reflection about how St. Theodora went to live in a convent following her sin without telling her husband. It should be noted that the Holy Fathers in a later Canon ruled that husbands or wives are no longer permitted to do such a thing without mutual consent, yet St. Nikolai offers the following advice if the desire comes up in at least one spouse:
One must not hinder anyone on the path of perfect devotion and service to God. Many saintly women who wanted to flee from marriage and devote themselves to God were pursued and hindered in this by their husbands. These women were usually victorious in the end, remaining steadfast in their intention, and often awakened the consciences of their husbands by their example, and directed them on the path of salvation. St. Theodora, dressed in men's clothing, had to carefully hide from her husband, and she retreated to a men's monastery. However, there were prudent husbands who approved their wives' intentions, permitting their withdrawal from the world to devote their lives completely to God. King Frederick was betrothed to a Czech maiden, Agnes. But she never agreed to enter into marriage, and broke her betrothal, fleeing to a monastery. Then the prudent king said: "Had she left me for a mortal man, I would have sought revenge; but I must not find myself insulted that she chose the Heavenly King in place of me."
Lastly I would like to offer a hymn also written by St. Nikolai in honor of the Venerable Theodora of Alexandria:
Wretched Theodora was tangled in sin;
Glorious Theodora was forgiven her sin.
One sin she ransomed with a hundred virtues
And the eternal mercy of the Son of God.
She thrust from herself into diabolical suggestions,
And meekly endured the slanders of men.
Her mind immersed in her Lord,
Her thoughts were freed from earthly dust.
To the end, she submitted to God's will,
And thus was worthy of God's Paradise.
St. Theodora, citizen of Paradise,
Now help us, O God-pleaser!
That we sinners also be delivered from sin
And live with you as inhabitants of Paradise.
You were given power, before and after death,
To destroy all the snares of the enemy.
Because of your love, God gave you power,
And even the demons fear your power.
Now you worship Christ with all the saints,
And protect us from bitter attacks.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Theodora, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
With fasting didst thou consume thy body utterly; with vigilant prayer didst thou entreat thy Fashioner, that thou shouldst receive the complete forgiveness of the sin thou hadst wrought; which receiving in truth, thou didst mark out the path of repentance for us all.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Notice, as you read the excerpt from the Life of St. Theodora below, the five stages that lead to the sin of St. Theodora and which are the same five stages we all go through when we sin against the Lord:
James N. Watkins
September 10, 2010
The Christian Post
The Dove World Outreach Center, a non-denominational church in Gainesville, Florida, announced in July that it would host a Qur'an burning event on its church property in observance of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks "to warn Americans about the dangers of Islam."
While the church's pastor, Terry Jones, may not burn Qur'ans after all, Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps is promising to do so if Jones is a "sissy" and doesn't.
Also, another character is promising to burn Qur'ans on the Wyoming Capitol steps. (The crazy meter is spiking!)
So, I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today's category:
Top Ten Reasons "Burn a Qur'an Day" is Anti-Biblical
10. It goes against the Bible's teaching to "let your conversation always be full of grace." (Colossians 4:6)
9. It goes against the Bible's teaching to "love your neighbor." (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39)
8. It goes against the Bible's teaching to "love your enemies." (Matthew 5:43)
7. It goes against the Bible's teaching to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 22:39, Luke 6:31)
6. It goes against the Bible's teaching of "overcoming evil with good." ((Romans 12:21)
5. It goes against the Bible's teaching of "vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Romans 12:19)
4. It goes against the Bible's teaching to be "full of truth and grace." (John 1:14)
3. It goes against the Bible's teaching to "live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)
2. It goes against the Bible's teaching to "be wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove" (Matthew 10:16)
1. It goes against the Bible's teaching that "whoever spreads slander is a fool" (Proverbs 10:18)
Read also: Taking Christianity Back From Creepy "Christian" Churches
The Venerable Martyr Theodora of Vasta is most well-known for the amazing chapel which stands in her honor in Vasta of Arkadia with 17 trees growing miraculously on its roof and a river flowing beneath it. However, there is another chapel dedicated to this same St. Theodora in Argos in the region of Makrovouni Leukakion which is about 3 km away from the city of Nauplion. This chapel was built on the exact spot where four years ago the owner of that particular field named Sotiris Tzinieris saw St. Theodora in a vision multiple times. In her honor he built this chapel with his own hands. Fr. Dionysios Tampakis celebrated the Great Vespers on September 10, 2010 for its feast on September 11th.
September 10, 2010
In a move hailed as ‘historic,’ the Holy Synod yesterday approved the text of a new charter rendering the Church of Cyprus truly autocephalous.
The new charter will be endorsed by the body Monday at the Archbishopric, during a ceremony to be attended by the President, political leaders and VIPs.
An autocephalous church is one that enjoys total canonical and administrative independence and elects its own prelates and bishops. The Cypriot Orthodox Church was granted autocephaly by the Council of Ephesus of 431 and is ruled by the Archbishop of Cyprus, who is not subject to any higher ecclesiastical authority, although his church remains in full communion with the other Eastern Orthodox churches.
Under the new charter, the Holy Synod will comprise of 17 members (16 metropolitans and the Archbishop), a number sufficient to allow it to regulate all internal matters, without the need to call a ‘Greater Synod’ involving the participation of bishops from affiliated Orthodox churches.
It is also empowered to put on trial, and pronounce sentence on, bishops and even the Prelate. Bishops will have the right to appeal such decisions with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul.
In addition, by a three-quarters majority vote the Synod will have the right to remove the Archbishop or a metropolitan on the grounds of incapacity due to ill health.
In 2006 it took a Greater Synod decision to call for elections to replace the then ailing Prelate, Archbishop Chrysostomos, who for years had been incapacitated from Alzheimer’s disease.
The new charter provides for a new method of electing bishops and the Archbishop. A list of qualified candidates will be drawn up and the public will be asked to vote. The top three candidates will then make it to a short-list, and the winner will be chosen via secret ballot by the Holy Synod.
By St. Dimitri of Rostov
Our holy monastic father Euphrosynos was born of simple parents although he surpassed even those of noble lineage in good works. For there are many who are devoid of good works, despite their noble birth, and so are cast down into Hades while the simple in their humility are lifted up to paradise by God as was the godly Euphrosynos. Because of his virtuous life he was translated to paradise, as we will see, and was shown to be an inhabitant there.
Euphrosynos lived in a monastery where he served the brethren, laboring in the kitchen and serving them with great humility and submissiveness as though they were not men but God Himself. He labored in obedience day and night, but he never left off praying and fasting. His patience was inexpressible. He bore much abuse and disparagement and suffered frequent vexations. Scorched by the material fire of the cookstove, he was warmed by the spiritual fire of the love of God, and his heart burned with longing for the Lord. While passing his days preparing food for the brethren, he at the same time prepared a table for himself in the kingdom of God by his virtuous life, where he would eat his fill with those of whom it is said, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. He served the Lord secretly so that he might be rewarded by Him openly, even as it came to pass.
The Lord’s reward to His servant was made manifest in the following manner. A certain priest who lived in the same monastery prayed fervently to the Lord that He reveal to him the things which are prepared for them that love Him. One night he had a vision. It seemed to him that he was standing in a garden, and as he considered the unutterable beauty of this garden, he saw Euphrosynos, the monastery’s cook, walking by. The priest approached him and asked, "Brother Euphrosynos, what is this place? Can this be paradise?"
"It is paradise, Father," answered Euphrosynos.
Again the priest inquired, "How is that you are here?"
Euphrosynos the cook replied, "This is the dwelling place of God’s elect, and by God’s great goodness I have made my abode here as well."
The priest asked, "Do you have authority over all these beautiful things?"
Euphrosynos replied, "As far as I am able, I distribute to others the things you see here."
The priest inquired, "Can you give me some portion of these things?"
"By the grace of my God, take what you desire," Euphrosynos said.
The priest then pointed to some apples and asked for them. Euphrosynos took three apples, placed them in a kerchief, and gave them to the priest, saying, "Take what you have requested and delight therein."
At that moment, the semantron was struck for Matins, and the priest awoke and came to himself. He thought that he had been dreaming, but when he stretched out his hand to pick up his handkerchief, he found in it the three apples that he had received from Euphrosynos in the vision. They gave off an ineffable fragrance. Amazed, he arose from his couch, placed the apples on the bed, and went to church where he found Euphrosynos standing together with the brethren at the morning service. Approaching Euphrosynos, the priest implored him to reveal where he had been that night.
Euphrosynos replied, "Forgive me, Father; I have been in that place where we saw one another."
The priest said, "You must reveal God’s greatness, so that the truth is not concealed!"
But the wise Euphrosynos humbly answered, "You, Father, implored the Lord to reveal to you the reward given to His chosen. The Lord was pleased to make this known to your godliness through me, wretched and unworthy as I am, and thus, we found ourselves together in paradise."
The priest inquired, "What did you give me, Father, in paradise when I spoke with you?"
"I gave you the three fragrant apples which you have placed on your bed in your cell," answered Euphrosynos. "But forgive me, Father, for I am a worm and not a man."
When Matins had finished, the priest summoned the brethren and showed them the three apples from paradise, and he told them exactly what had occurred. All smelled the ineffable fragrance emitted by those apples and discerned their spiritual sweetness, and they marvelled at what they were told by the priest. They hurried to the kitchen to reverence the servant of God, but they could not find him. When Euphrosynos left the church, he hid from the glory of men, and no one knew where he had gone. It is pointless to inquire into his whereabouts, for if he had access to paradise, where could he not have hidden himself?
The brethren divided the apples among themselves and distributed pieces of them as a blessing to many, especially to those who were in need of healing. Whoever ate of these apples was healed of his infirmities, and thus, all received great benefit from the holy and venerable Euphrosynos. The account of the vision was written down not only on scrolls but also in the hearts of those who were told of it, and all who heard thereof strove to increase their labors and please God.
By the prayers of the venerable Euphrosynos, may the Lord deem us also worthy to dwell in paradise. Amen.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You lived in great humility, in labors of asceticism and in purity of soul, O righteous Euphrosynos. By a mystical vision you demonstrated the Heavenly joy which you had found. Therefore make us worthy to be partakers of your intercessions.
Source: The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Volume 1: September
Friday, September 10, 2010
One day the Elder was liturgizing in the Church of Saint Marina. As was usual, he stayed after the Divine Liturgy in the Holy Altar. The rest of the priests went to their offices to drink some coffee. There they began to discuss almsgiving, on whether or not it should be given without discrimination to everyone who asks or only after putting the matter into consideration. The discussion turned into an argument. One priest upheld the opinion of the Divine Chrysostom how alms should sweat from one's hand until it is given, and the other priest upheld the opposite view of Saint Basil. In the end, both priests decided to wait for Papa Fotis to give his argument. After a little time Papa Foti came and one of the priests tried to ask him about the matter. Papa Foti then stopped him immediately, before he said a word, saying: "Be quiet, I am going to drink coffee now." He drank his coffee, got up, and began talking about almsgiving and specifically about the matter the two priests disagreed over. His advice was to give alms without over-analyzing if there is or isn't a need from our fellow man.
He would say to me that in the olden days the memorable Metropolitan Iakovos II of Mytlini was liturgizing and a scorpian fell in the Holy Cup. Everyone became frightened. The Bishop removed the scorpian from the Holy Cup and was about to give it to his deacon in order to throw it in the melting pot. Astonished, Papa Foti said: "Bring him here". Taking the half-dead/half-living scorpian he ate it. "Since it was baptized in the Blood of Christ", he said. The Metropolitan told him: "I am amazed, Elder, at your faith".
The Elder would say: "The ethos and pure life of a priest is the salt of our life. If the priest, deacon or bishop do not have a pure life, then they are for the garbage".
From ΠΑΠΑ ΦΩΤΗΣ Ο ΔΙΑ "ΧΡΙΣΤΟΝ ΣΑΛΟΣ" by Π. ΑΘΑΝΑΣΙΟΥ ΓΙΟΥΣΜΑ
The rest of the debate can be seen at the following links: Video 2, Video 3, Video 4, Video 5, Video 6, Video 7, Video 8, Video 9, Video 10, Video 11.
"What is God like? The Concept of God in Islam and in Christianity"
A Debate between Dr. William Craig and Dr. Jamal Badawi, February 27, 1997 at the University of Illinois.
Dr. William Lane Craig:
Ph.D. Philosophy, University of Birmingham, England
D. Theol. Theology, Universität München, Germany
Dr. Jamal Badawi:
Ph.D. Economics, Indiana University, United States
THE DEBATE: THE CONCEPT OF GOD IN ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY
OPENING STATEMENTS: 20 minutes
Part 1-3: Dr. Craig's Opening Remarks
Part 4-6: Dr. Badawi's Opening Remarks
REBUTTALS: 12 minutes
Part 7: Dr. Craig Responds
Part 8: Dr. Craig concludes/Dr. Badawi begins Response
Part 9: Dr. Badawi Concludes Response
CLOSING REMARKS: 5 minutes
Part 10: Dr. Craig's Closing Comments
Part 11: Dr. Badawi's Closing Comments
10 September 2010
Is the media responsible for having turned an obscure Florida pastor with a flock of no more than 50 people into an international figure by publicising his threat to burn the Qur'an?
Up to a point, Lord Copper. To blame the media for the message is easy enough. It was certainly the view of many callers from across the globe to a BBC World Service phone-in yesterday evening.
But once we see how the story emerged, bit by bit, it becomes less tenable - and much sillier – to accuse "the media" of giving Terry Jones a public stage for his absurd stunt.
Jones, who runs a church called the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville (population 115,000; home of the University of Florida), originally announced his plan for "International Burn a Koran Day" back in July.
In trying to trace the story's exact origins, I came across several references on the web in late July.
Read the rest of the story here.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Examples of courage and patience displayed by martyred Christian women - thousands upon thousands of them - have shone with radiant glory on all the pages of the history of the Christian Church. However, as amazing as these examples of voluntary martyrs are, the examples of ascetics, known and unknown, are not a bit less amazing, for asceticism is nothing less than prolonged martyrdom.
Paul, the Bishop of Monemvasia, has given to posterity an instructive example of women ascetics. While he was still a layman and a collector of the royal tax, it happened that he stayed in a certain monastery. Seeing ravens landing on the fruit trees, breaking off branches with fruit and carrying them away, Paul wondered at this, and followed them with the monks to see where they were taking the fruit.
Going thus, they came upon an impassable forest. The ravens landed at the bottom, deposited the broken fruit branches, and quickly returned. Paul and the monks investigated, and discovered a cave in which three women ascetics were living.
The oldest one related their life story to them: She was of noble birth, from Constantinople. When her husband died, another nobleman wanted to take her as his wife by force. However, she decided that after the death of her first husband she would spend the remainder of her life in chastity. Therefore she distributed her wealth to the poor and fled to this deserted place with two of her maidservants. They lived there for eleven years in fasting and prayer, seeing no one and seen by no one but God. God the Provider arranged for the birds to bring them fruit for nourishment. Then they asked the abbot to bring them Holy Communion. Three days after they had received Holy Communion, all three of these holy women reposed after eleven years of asceticism, and the monks honorably buried them.
The Holy Monastery of the Holy Infants was founded in 2000 with the blessing of Metropolitan Ieronymos of Thebes and is dedicated to the Holy Infants slaughtered by Herod soon after the birth of Christ. When Herod had heard that the Magi did not return to inform him of the location of the new-born King, and an Angel revealed to them to return to their homeland by another route, he became very angry and ordered his soldiers to slaughter every infant in Bethlehem and the surrounding villages under the age of two in order to kill the infant Christ. His plan failed however according to God's will, but the slaughter left many Infants dead, and the Church considers them martyrs who gained the Kingdom of Heaven. Tradition says that the number of Infants slaughtered were 14,000.
This Holy Monastery, the only one in the world dedicated to the Holy Infants, is found in the village of Oinoi (Οινόη) before Villia (Βίλλια) near the 11th century Monastery of Saint Meletios Kithairinos.
It celebrates its feast day on December 29, which is the feast of the Holy Infants.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
The incorrupt left foot of Saint Anna rests in the Holy Skete of Saint Anna before her holy icon. Surrounding her icon are offerings of vows (tamata) by the faithful from throughout the world for the many miracles she has performed, specifically for couples who are unable to have children. Many stories are told where 3 or 5 or 10 doctors would tell a woman that she would be unable to have children, but when they prayed to Saint Anna they would conceive leaving their physicians in amazement. To fulfill their vow, husbands will come and make their offering to Saint Anna together with a photograph of their newborn healthy and happy child.
For those who wish to appeal to the grandmother of Christ our Lord for the bearing of fruit within the barren womb, the fathers of Saint Anna Skete distribute the following pamphlet titled "Explanation on Bearing a Child" which explains the proper and ideal way to go about their petition to Saint Anna. The pamphlet says the following:
Explanation on Bearing a Child
by the Holy Skete of Saint Anna, Mount Athos
Whoever wishes to acquire a child by inheritance must first Confess sincerely with contrition for all sins from birth. Then, if you wronged anyone, as is human, the iniquity must be rectified; if you have hatred towards anyone or enemies, let there be reconciliation and love. Towards such you must feel the presence of the Almighty and All-Good God with them; you must pray unceasingly and glorify the Triune God asking for strength; you must find help from the Church and give alms according to your strength.
When one performs all of the above Christian duties, you must invite your parish priest to your home to chant a house blessing, within which ought to be sprinkled holy water from the Service chanted before the relics of Saint Anna. Then a forty day fast must begin, except Saturdays and Sundays, on which you are allowed oil and wine, and for these forty days for the couple to sleep apart and for each to perform fifty prostrations a day. Each morning throughout the days of such diet and abstinence, each should drink a little holy water and eat a piece of holy bread which we will send out, and to cross themselves with holy oil on the forehead with holy oil from the vigil lamp of Saint Anna, which we will also send out.
Please inform us of the days in which you plan to undertake the fast, so that we may daily pray in the Church of Saint Anna for forty days during the Divine Liturgy for you. Also, BE CAREFUL that as Christians you do not have any association with magic, spells, mantilikia, cards and other tricks of the devil. The devil never wants good for humanity.
When the forty days of fasting and prayer are complete you must Confess once again, to invite three priests to your home to chant a Holy Unction service, and with the permision of your Spiritual Father you must Commune of the Spotless Mysteries [Holy Communion] and after three days to come together as people do.
We hope that the Fore-Mother Saint Anna, and her sure rock and All-Spotless Daughter the Theotokos, pray fervently for you to our Savior Jesus Christ and Much-Compassionate Lord to hear all of our prayers to grant you with all humility and repentance the inheritance of a child for which you ask according to your desire and interest. Amen.
Όσοι επιθυμούν να αποκτήσουν τέκνα κληρονομίας πρέπει πρώτον να εξομολογηθούν έν ειλικρινεί μετανοία και συντριβή τα από της γεννήσεως των αμαρτήματα. Έπειτα εάν ως άνθρωποι αδίκησαν κανένα, να επανορθώσουν την αδικίαν, εάν έχουν με κάποιον μίσος ή έχθρα, να κάμουν συνδιαλλαγήν και αγάπην. Προς τούτοις πρέπει να αισθάνωνται την παρουσίαν του Παντοδυνάμου και Πανάγαθου Θεού πλησίον των ,να προσεύχονται συνεχώς και να δοξάζουν τον Τριαδικόν Θεόν και να ζητούν την ενίσχυσίν Του, να συντρέχουν είς την Εκκλησίαν και να ποιούν ελεημοσύνας το κατά δύναμιν. Όταν κάμουν πάντα τα ανωτέρω χριστιανικά χρέη, να προσκαλέσουν είς τον οίκον των τον ιερέα της ενορίας των να ψάλη αγιασμόν ,εντός του οποίου να ρίψουν και τον αγιασμόν, που είναι με το λείψανον της Αγίας Άννης τελεσμένος. Τότε πρέπει να αρχίσουν νηστείαν 40 ημερών, εκτός Σαββάτου και Κυριακής, κατά τας οποίας θα καταλύουν έλαιον και οίνον, να κοιμώνται και τας 40 αυτός ημέρας χωριστά και να κάνουν από 50 μετανοίας την ημέραν ο καθείς. Κάθε πρωί των ημερών αυτών της διαίτης και της εγκρατείας, να πίνουν έκαστος ολίγον αγιασμόν, να τρώγουν από ένα ύψωμα, που θα τους στείλωμεν και να χρίωνται σταυροειδώς είς το μέτωπον με το άγιον έλαιον από την ακοίμητον κανδήλαν της Αγίας Άννης, που επίσης θα τους στείλωμεν.
Παράκλησίς όπως γνωσθή και είς ημάς εγκαίρως η ημερομηνία ενάρξεως των ημερών της νηστείας, δια να τελούμεν είς την Εκκλησίαν της Αγίας Άννης ή το Παρεκκλήσιον καθημερινώς τας 40 αυτάς ημέρας την Θείαν Λειτουργίαν υπέρ αυτών. Επίσης ΠΡΟΣΟΧΗ όπως οι Χριστιανοί μή έχουν ποτέ καμμίαν σχέσιν με την μαγείαν, τα ξόρκια, τα μαντηλίκια, τα χαρτιά και τα λοιπά τεχνάσματα του πονηρού. Ο διάβολος ποτέ δεν θέλει το καλόν των ανθρώπων. Μετά το τέλος των 40 ημερών της νηστείας και της προσευχής να εξομολογηθούν και πάλιν, να προσκαλέσουν 3 ιερείς είς τον οίκον των να ψάλουν Ευχέλαιον ,εάν έχουν την άδειαν του Πνευματικού των να κοινωνήσουν των Αχράντων Μυστηρίων κα μετά 3 ημέρας ας συνέλθουν κατά το ανθρώπινον. Ελπίζομεν ότι η Προμήτωρ Αγία Άννα ,η πρώην στείρα και η Πανάχραντος Κόρη της, η Θεοτόκος, θα πρεσβεύουν θερμά υπέρ αυτών προς τον Σωτήρα ημών Ίησούν Χριστόν και Πολυεύσπλαγχνον Κύριον να εισακούση τας προσευχάς όλων μας και χαρίση είς τους εν ταπεινώσει και μετανοία παρακαλούντες τέκνα κληρονομίας κατά τον πόθον και το συμφέρον των. ΑΜΗΝ.
Anna was to be the mother of the Virgin Mother of God, and hence nature did not dare to anticipate the flowering of grace. Thus nature remained sterile, until grace produced its fruit. For she who was to be born had to be a first born daughter, since she would be the mother of the first-born of all creation, in whom all things are held together.
Joachim and Anna, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him.
And so rejoice, Anna, that you were sterile and have not borne children; break forth into shouts, you who have not given birth. Rejoice, Joachim, because from your daughter a child is born for us, a son is given us, whose name is Messenger of great counsel and universal salvation, mighty God. For this child is God.
Joachim and Anna, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have born, as the Lord says: By their fruits you will know them. The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during and after giving birth. She alone for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body.
Joachim and Anna, how chaste a couple! While safeguarding the chastity prescribed by the law of nature, you achieved with God’s help something which transcends nature in giving the world the Virgin Mother of God as your daughter. While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is. Girl of utter beauty and delight, daughter of Adam and mother of God, blessed the loins and blessed the womb from which you come! Blessed the arms that carried you, and blessed your parents’ lips, which you were allowed to cover with chaste kisses, ever maintaining your virginity. Rejoice in God, all the earth. Sing, exult and sing hymns. Raise your voice, raise it and do not be afraid.
Source: Homily on the Nativity of the Theotokos (PG 96:663)
A Homily Preached by V. Rev. Fr. Cherubim Apostolou, Elder of the Skete of Saint Anna, Mount Athos (Feast of St. Anna, 2005)
"She who was barren bore the Theotokos, nurturer of our life." (Kontakion on the Birth of the Theotokos)
Saint Anna, the ancestor of God, is the precious vessel chosen by the Holy Spirit. The good and blessed tree that is the standard of natural development, which our Lord Himself confirmed, saying: “Are grapes harvested from thorns, or figs from thistles?" (Matt. 7.16) Every good tree brings forth good fruit, but the bad tree brings forth bad fruit. “A sound tree cannot bear unsound fruit, nor can an unsound tree bear sound fruit” (Matt. 7.18). Saint Anna is the good tree and her lovely and most sweet fruit is our Panagia. The most beautiful fruit of human production. What the Evangelist Luke says of the parents of St. John the Forerunner pertains also to Saint Anna and her husband Joachim: “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless” (Luke 1.6). Saint Anna was virtuous in the eyes of God, and, of course, her life was pure. She walked always in accordance with the will of the Almighty, in accordance with His soul-nurturing commandments. Saint Anna, who bore the all-holy Theotokos, she who was barren and without creative power, whose womb was opened in advanced age by the Lord, to transform the disgrace of barrenness to the joy of a unique fertility, was a descendant of the tribe of David. Her parents, the priest Mathan and Anna, were pious and god-fearing and lived in Bethlehem. Mathan was a priest at the time of Cleopatra and the Persian King Soporus, before Herod Antipater, and had three daughters, Maria, Sovi, and Anna. Of these, Maria married in Bethlehem and bore the midwife Salome, Sovi also married in Bethlehem and bore Elisabeth. Anna was married in Galilee and bore the Lady Theotokos. This honor was bestowed upon her by the gift-granting Lord as a reward for her piety and her charitable works toward orphans and the poor.
But what does the name Anna mean? It means “grace.” When the Archangel Gabriel greeted the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation, he gave her the epithet “full of grace:” “Hail, you who are full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1.28). As a daughter of grace, the Virgin Mary had bestowed upon her that element which is lacking in the Old Testament: grace. The Old Testament represents the age of law. The New Testament represents the era of grace, since it is the “Gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24) and all of the faithful “are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6.15). That is why when our Panagia reacted to the words of the archangel with modesty and simplicity, the great Archangel Gabriel hastened to explain to her: “Do not fear, Mary, for you have found grace with God” (Luke 1.30).
And so this maiden, full of grace, was born of a mother whose name means “grace.” That name was not granted to Anna by accident, nor was it by chance that Anna bore the Theotokos. We know that Saint Anna was elderly and barren. She could not conceive. The field of her female nature was barren, dry and infertile. No seed could take root and grow within it. The field of the barren Anna resembles the field of the pre-Christian world. The world had grown old in sinfulness and the law of God was not observed. A solution had to come from heaven. And the solution was the rightful reward of evil works and eternal death or forbearance and grace—salvation and liberation. But there was no salvation in the ancient world. Men lived in the shadow of original sin, in the darkness of curse, the dark threat of disintegration and death. They could not enjoy grace and the joy which that grace brings generously to all of us. Saint Anna, by the grace of God, dispelled the disgrace of her barrenness, and also the disgrace of the curse upon those living before Christ. That is why the Kontakion on the feast of the birth of our Theotokos says: “Joachim and Anna were freed of the disgrace of childlessness, while Adam and Eve were freed of the corruption of death through your holy birth.”
My dear brethren, the blessing of God caused the barren Anna to bear fruit, in order to open the path for the grace of God to bear fruit and for the fragrant flower of salvation to blossom in the field of His creature made of dust, which was poisoned by sin. That connection between the fertility of the barren Saint Anna, and the pre-Christian world which was barren of grace is also made by the sacred hymnographer in a troparion of the Vesper Service: “Today barren gates are opened and a sacred virgin gate comes forth. Today grace begins to bear fruit.”
Anna and her husband Joachim lived a godly life and strictly observed the divine commandments. Yet, unfortunately, for many years the couple remained childless and accepted the shame of childlessness with patience and faith, having placed their hope in God, to whom, despite their advanced age, they continued to pray for offspring. And God heard their prayers and sent to Saint Anna an angel who announced to her the will of God, which was precisely to answer her desire for a child. She was then 58 years of age and Joachim was 69. Excited and joyful, Saint Anna shouted: “The Lord my God lives! Whether the child I bear be a girl or a boy, I will bring it as an offering to my God, to serve Him all its life.
And indeed she conceived, and when our Lady Theotokos reached the age of three, her mother brought her—like a three-year-old heifer—to the temple of God, “to be nourished by the angels,” as the sacred hymnographer tells us.
The reversal of the barrenness of Saint Anna was the fruit of prayer. It was impossible for her to conceive and give birth at such an advanced age. But “what is impossible with men is possible with God” (Luke 18.27). In our own lives, as well, many things seem impossible to us. We find ourselves in a state of powerlessness from which only prayer can remove us. Our unique armament in all difficult moments is prayer and humility before the Lord. And I say with certainty that the miracle will occur. The barren earth will bear fruit, and God will send down the rain of His grace, to soften our hearts so that the seeds of soul-saving success in Christ may take root.
Let us therefore invoke Saint Anna, who experienced the disgrace and sadness of childlessness and be certain that she will transform our worries into joy, our indolence into cheerfulness, our sadness into unending joyfulness and exultation.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
One should not give alms with pride but rather with humility, considering the one to whom the alms are given to be better than oneself. Did not the Lord Himself say: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40)?
Theophanes the Confessor possessed a mind illumined by the light of Christ, even as a child. Once, while walking along the street, he saw a naked child freezing. He quickly removed his clothes, clothed the child and thus warmed him and brought him back to life. He then returned home naked. His startled parents asked him: ``Where are your clothes?'' To this Theophanes replied: "I clothed Christ." This is why he was given the grace of Christ, and was later a great ascetic, a sufferer for the Christian Faith and a miracle-worker. After a God-pleasing life and much suffering, Theophanes reposed peacefully in the year 299.
Often, when we give alms, either in someone else's name or in our own name, we cannot avoid pride which, as soon as it appears in the heart, destroys all the good deeds performed. When we give to the beggar as to a beggar and not as to Christ, we cannot avoid pride or disdain. What value is there in performing an act of mercy, while taking pride in ourselves and disdaining the man? Virtue is not a virtue when it is mixed with sin, just as milk is not milk when it is mixed with gasoline or vinegar.
Two friends, a certain priest and the deacon Sozon, had quarreled. The priest died, and the deacon grieved that they had not been able to be reconciled. He told an experienced Elder of the sin that tormented his conscience. He gave Sozon a letter and ordered him to give it to the first person whom he would meet at midnight at the temple of Hagia Sophia, the Wisdom of God.
St Nicetas the Chartolarian appeared before him. Having read the letter, he began weeping and said, that it made him responsible for this, and that it was beyond his strength, but with the prayers of the Elder who had sent Sozon, he would strive to accomplish this. Making a prostration before the church doors, St Nicetas said: "Lord, open to us the doors of Thy mercy,"and the doors of the temple flew open by themselves. Leaving the deacon at the threshold, St Nicetas began to pray, and Sozon saw that he shone with a strange light.
Afterwards they went from the church, and the doors again closed. Approaching the church of the Blachernae Mother of God, St Nicetas again began praying and again the doors opened in front of them. In the church there shone a light, and from the altar came two rows of priests, among whom Deacon Sozon recognized his dead friend. St Nicetas quietly said: "Father, speak to your brother, and cease the enmity between you."
Immediately the priest and Deacon Sozon greeted each other. They embraced one another with love and were reconciled. The priest went back, and the doors closed by themselves. St Nicetas said to the deacon: "Brother Sozon, save your soul both for your sake, and for my benefit. To the Father who sent you, say that the purity of his holy prayers and his trust in God made possible the return of the dead."
After these words St Nicetas became invisible to Sozon. Having returned to his spiritual Father and Elder, the deacon thanked him with tears, that through his prayers, the great hidden saint of God Nicetas the Chartolarian had removed the sin from both the living and the dead.
Cults are always the subject of controversies and many, to not say most, of them are really crazy if you are to look at things from a logical point of view. Here we list 10 of the apparently craziest and controversial cults which successfully made it to major news front pages at one or more points in time!
1. The Order of the Solar Temple
Started by a Belgian leader Luc Jouret who was also a known neo-nazi, this cult was formed in 1984 under a Christian facade claiming it to be the second coming of christ. They sacrificed a child in 1994 labelling him anti christ and then a few days later committed suicide themselves. The cult has since been deemed criminal.
2. Bhagawan Shri Rajneesh’s Community
Formed in 1980′s this cult was known for raising of cult towns and the leader had hoards of Rolls Royce cars in his name. In Oregon, allegedly he poisoned people with Salmonella to alter the election results in his cult’s favor.
3. Branch Davidians
These people believed strongly in the theory of apocalypse, but after an FBI raid on their Texas church compound which left 76 people dead, the cult almost disappeared.
Started in France in the 1970′s the Raelian cult has weird beliefs like UFO’s to be a part of most of the religions and possibility of something like a mind transfer. They also believe that cloning can lead to reincarnation.
5. Villa Baviera
Formed by Paul Schneider, a former Nazi party member in 1961, this was majorly formed by a group of German immigrants in Dignidad. They were charged and found guilty of torturing and molesting children.
6. Manson Family
One of the most brutal and violent cults, was formed by Charles Manson (guitarist) who was followed by a ‘family’ of criminals from his prison time. He preached that an apocalyptic war between blacks and whites was impending and sent his followers to murder people in order to show it to blacks as how it needs to be done. But in reality, he only planned murders of people who did not support him for his musical ambitions.
7. Heaven’s Gate
Leader Marshall Applewhite propagated a belief that earth would be recycled and only way to escape and survive is to hitch a ride on the comet Hale Bopp in March of 1997. Around 40 members along with Applewhite poisoned themselves wearing bands of ‘Heaven’s Gate Away Team’.
8. Aum Shinrikyo
This anti-social cult formed in the mid-1980′s and struck the Tokyo subway with the Sarin Gas killing few and injuring thousands. They believed they would develop some supernatural powers.
9. People’s Temples
Started by Reverend Jim Jones in an effort to help the jobless and homeless people, the cult was accused of abuse within of the members. Later a mass suicide was also conducted involving more than 900 people who drank poison.
Scientology is probably one of the greatest frauds being perpetrated right now. They claim that an intergalactic warlord ‘Xenu’ brought his people to earth 75 million years ago an blew them up with H-bombs. Yes, they know him by name!
For another list of top ten cults with a bit more detail, see here.
By Karen Berkman
September 6, 2010
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The idea that traumatised people, especially the victims of child sexual abuse, deliberately repress horrific memories goes all the way back to the 19th century and the theories of Sigmund Freud himself.
But now some experts are saying the evidence points the other way.
Professor Grant Devilly, from Griffith University's Psychological Health research unit, says the memory usually works in the opposite way, with traumatised people reliving experiences they would rather forget.
"It's the opposite. They wish they couldn't think about it," he said.
In a briefing to the US Supreme Court, Professor Richard McNally from Harvard University described the theory of repressed memory as "the most pernicious bit of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry".
He maintains false memories can easily be created by inept therapists.
"The stress hormones that are released during a trauma tend to consolidate the memory, make it rather strong and sometimes even intrusive, as you see in post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.
But Professor McNally says some abuse victims do suffer when they reassess childhood experiences much later.
"Seeing the event through the eyes of adult, they realise what has happened to them and now they experience the emotional turmoil of trauma," he said.
The good news is that now, Professor McNally says most victims can be helped.
"Things have changed, happily. We now have treatments that work," he said.
Soldiers returning from war zones, victims of violent crime and sexual abuse, can now be helped by cognitive behaviour therapy, where they learn to assign terrible memories to the past, instead of them crowding their present and future.
Professor Devilly says the therapy is working.
"We're now getting, at the end of between 8 and 12 sessions, 90 to 92 percent of people no longer meet the criteria for PTSD," he said.
Now psychologists are working to fend off post traumatic stress in high-risk occupations, by teaching recruits to develop resilience.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
July 28, 2010
The Archbishop of Crete, Irenaios, represented the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the 40th Clergy-Laity Congress in Atlanta, and read a message from Patriarch Bartholomew to over 1,000 attendees.
The Archbishop asked for the opportunity to speak with the media present who were covering the proceedings of the meeting. The following interview was granted to the publisher and editor of Greek News Apostolis Zoupanioti and the owner of the National Greek Channel of America, D. Brown, who responded to the invitation of His Eminence.
In his interview, Mr. Irenaios speaks with satisfaction about the work of the Assembly, which he considers necessary for our Church in America, since it gives an opportunity to meet, understand and make decisions, speaking also with love and respect for Archbishop Demetrios.
On the issue of the Greek language, he emphasizes that "it is the language of Christ, the Apostles and early Church and a great treasure which we should not lose."
The Interview Is As Follows:
Tell us your impressions of the work of the 40th Clergy-Laity Congress in which you participated.
As you know I came as a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, who said "you must go", so I came to represent the Mother Church.
I heard occasionally about the Clergy-Laity in America and Australia, but never had the opportunity to come and take part in it.
But I wanted very much to come and see how it works, what it means, what message is given. I came with great love and interest, not only for the Clergy-Laity, but also for the Archbishop of America, for whom I feel very great compassion, love and great respect, although we have never known each other in the past. I have appreciated his kindness, humanity, discrimination and discernment. I admire him very much and am glad.
What do you have to say about the Clergy-Laity meeting, since this ecclesiastical institution is unique for Greece?
In Greece something like this is not necessary. From what I have seen however it is necessary here and in Australia. It may be needed in Europe also.
Our people are scattered in different locations and it is good to talk to each other, to meet and determine things together. If this was done in Heraklion, it would be meaningless. We do not make decisions, which we take from the laws of the Charter and our statutes. Such is our situation, our exchanges, where State and Church are together.
Here there is no State which is with the Church. For this reason I think it is necessary and useful in America. It is good for the clergy and the laity in particular for mutual understanding.
As a representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, do you think measures should be taken for greater financial support of the Patriarchate by the Archdiocese of America?
I do not know the economic relations between the Church of America and the Patriarchate. What exists between us and the Patriarchate is a voluntary contribution from all of us who want to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Patriarchate does not say "give us this much". They leave us free and we freely gather what we can and we give.
The Vice President of the Archdiocesan Council, Mr. Tzacharis, in his speech, called for the use of the English language in church, in order for those who are American-born to better understand the Liturgy. Do you, as a representative of the Patriarch, believe that the Liturgy should be in English?
Personally and without imposing on things here and the positions and problems that exist - because I have little knowledge of these things - as a Greek and as a priest, I would like only the Greek language.
At least liturgical Greek. These are a great treasure to the Greek people. The Greek language, which is the language of Christ, the Apostles and the first Church, is a great treasure which should not be lost.
On the other hand, to understand the Liturgy is not the important thing. The important thing it is to live it - and you do not live it with the mind. Whatever we do with the mind is small.
In this we as Greeks must greatly take to heart. The experiences of generations upon generations who have lived before us, we should not allow to be lost. What does it mean to understand? The mind is only one part of our existence. Shall I live with just one part of existence?
If there is a question of understanding, we are ready to form classes in language, theology, and philosophy, but let us not spoil the language.
Once in England I met a stranger on the train. He asked me if I am Greek. When I answered affirmatively, he asked me to explain the passage in the beginning of the Gospel of John, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
I told him what I understood with the English I knew. He then told me, for something that I said which was not so great: "Now I understand that no one can be a Christian without knowing Greek."
No other nation and no other language has this privilege. Will we throw this away in order 'to understand'? What does it mean to understand?
Some people jokingly say: How can Χαίρε Νύμφη Ανύμφευτε (Rejoice, Bride Unwedded) be translated? Χαίρε νύφη απάντρευτη? [In Modern Greek it comes out as 'Rejoice, Bride Not Married'] What does it mean?
As I said in a meeting I had here with a group: should we not as Greeks try to keep this treasure we have? Foreigners, I understand, don't have the words. We who have the words, should we let go of them?
However, the response is that our Diaspora in America, although it has Greek roots, is part of American society, in which we should do missionary work to bring new believers within the Church who do not have Greek roots and do not understand the language. Since the Gospel was translated for the Slavs, for the Africans, today missionary work is done in the language of the people there. What wrong is there for the same to be done in America?
In Africa which you mentioned, and in the Congo in particular, someone said the kids there want to sing in Greek, to learn and speak Greek. Foreign people, Africans, who have no relationship to our culture, who are delighted with the effort. And we will now discuss and cry that it will be difficult? We should do difficult things also.
I will tell you very simply, without philosophizing. In all the theological schools in all countries Greek is taught. Why are we first to say that there is no need, that we should not be a national church, etc.? Let other people not learn it. But us?
What gave you the biggest impression that you saw at the Clergy-Laity?
There are many things by which I was impressed. The fact that our brothers are in one place, coming together and knowing each other, talking with each other.
The clergy among themselves and with the laity and vice versa. They constitute a large family and brotherhood. For me this is the most important of all.
What can I say. How young people come in the spirit of the older and the older with the younger people, whether they be clergy or laity? In this way the light of Greece does not darken, the light of the language, the light of Orthodoxy.
I remember my first trip to America, I was invited by a friendly family in a remote community. The priest invited me to Liturgize together with him. I was particularly impressed.
This man felt discarded and isolated from the others, a bishop had never been there to serve Liturgy, and never had another priest gone there. I saw the thirst he had to see other people. What I saw here in the Clergy-Laity is so beautiful.
I also see the love and respect the Archbishop shows to all the people and the respect and love they show back. These are very beautiful things.
Why does the current Archbishop of Crete continue to be elected by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate?
When Greece was liberated from the Turks this included the Peloponnese, mainland Greece and the islands near Athens. Crete was liberated in 1913 with huge struggles of our ancestors.
After this, the Greeks of that time saw the Patriarchate had been stripped of its provinces, since the so-called "new countries" had departed. Therefore, it is good for Crete to remain with the Patriarchate, of which we are a part.
We have one freedom - semi-autonomy - we have the ability to proceed as autonomous, while our petitions are not directed to Athens, but the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is good in terms of history and Greekness. Personally I think it's very nice.
Watching you, I see you have much in common with the Blessed Archbishop Iakovos. How do you feel in someone telling you this?
The Blessed Archbishop I met on two occasions. The first was when I was in college and he came as Bishop of Melite and he talked to us. I liked the way he talked, and the way he responded and I admired him.
In 1976, the second year of my being a clergyman, I met him in Australia, where we had gone for the 50 year anniversary of the Archdiocese there. Also, as deacon he had the current Metropolitan of Boston. He Liturgized then and talked and I liked it again so much for his vitality, his presence and his relationship with the Patriarchate.
I had no other contact with him. I always loved, respected and admired him.
You will notice the many differences in appearance and clothing of our priests here in America, something not found in Greece. How do you judge this?
I will refer to the specific character of America. People do not live in a Greek community and the parishioners do not see them every day. So things are different here than in Greece. I have the conscience of Greek society, which wants the priests to look the same.
To see the priest and say, "This is our Father". To have uniformity and sameness. Unfortunately, in Greece things have ruined. I say to the priests to wear our raso (cassock) and to be traditional people. And for the people to respect us and tradition.
But because we live in a world that uniforms people, in the midst of those who wear uniforms should be the clergy as well. Personally, I insist on priests to have respect for the tradition and to be Greek clerics.
Have you had the opportunity these days to meet your fellow Cretan countrymen?
Yes I saw our fellow Cretans, who came and greeted me and told me the origin of their parents. One from Heraklion, another from Hania and Lasithi. I ask them, what part in particular, but they knew nothing.
What pleases me is that they have not yet lost their sense of who they are, have not forgotten their name and never ceased to feel that they have roots and origins, first. On the other hand, what worries me a bit and saddens me is that they are losing the picture. As if the flashlight is flickering.
One lady said to me that she lost track of her village and family and would like to come to Crete to help her to discover it. I am glad that people hold on to what they hold on to, on the other hand I am saddened they lose some things.
I pray we at least still hold on to what we have. Every one of us should hold on to what they can. Personally I believe that as long as I live, I will hold on to what I am and what I have. I don't want to lose it.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
His pious parents provided Athanasios with a good education, first in his village, and then in Thessaloniki where he studied under the famous teacher Athanasios Parios.
From Thessaloniki Athanasios went on to the Holy Mountain to the Athonite School at the Monastery of Vatopaidi where he studied under such renowned teachers as Panagiotis Palamas, Evgenios Voulgaris, and Nicholas Tzartzoulios. In other words, Athanasios received the best possible education available in the Orthodox world at the time, and he was an excellent student.
When Tzartzoulios left Mount Athos for Constantinople, Athanasios followed him there. In Constantinople Athanasios joined the staff of Patriarch Philemon of Antioch, who was then studying in the city. After a two-year stay in Constantinople, Athanasios returned to Mount Athos and later to his native village of Koliakia.
One day Athanasios, who had learned both Turkish and Arabic, was engaged in conversation with some Muslims of his village. While discussing some religious questions, Athanasios stated that the faith of the Muslims was based on the words, "God is one and Muhammad is His prophet."
An emir who was present immediately seized upon his statement and insisted that Athanasios was making a declaration of faith and was thus accepting Islam. Athanasios, of course, denied this vigorously, but to no avail.
Athanasios was brought before the mulla in Thessaloniki who questioned him. After some discussion, the mulla understood that Athanasios was not making a declaration of faith. unfortunately, though, his accusers insisted Athanasios should not be allowed to mock the Islamic faith, as they put it. Then the mulla began flattering Athanasios. He told him it was God who inspired him to make the declaration and that he should accept the Muslim religion. Otherwise, he was told, he should be made to suffer horribly. Athanasios, who knew his Christian faith well and believed deeply, flatly refused to consider even the possibility of conversion.
The mulla then ordered Athanasios jailed for a number of days. During his imprisonment no Orthodox Christian came to visit him out of fear of the Muslims. Even his own father stayed away. In addition, because of the fear of the Muslims, his father also refused to use his influence with Isuf Bey - a very important and influential Muslim official whom he knew well - to help free his son.
Brought before the mulla one final time, Athanasios was again urged to deny Jesus Christ and accept the Islamic faith. But Athanasios' Orthodox Christian faith was too strong to abandon. Consequently he was sentenced to be hanged, a sentence which was carried out.
After receiving his body, fellow Orthodox Christians buried Athanasios near the Church of Saint Paraskeve.
Thus Athanasios the student and monk from Koliakia, Thessaloniki sacrificed his life for the love of Jesus Christ outside the city of Thessaloniki, on September 8, in the year 1774, at the age of 25.
From Witnesses For Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period 1437-1860 by Nomikos Michael Vaporis, pp. 194-195.
The Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (Kiev), occupies an unique place in the Russian Orthodox Church. On the icon is depicted the Theotokos, and the Hypostatic Wisdom, the Son of God incarnate of Her.
In Wisdom or Sophia, ponders the Son of God, about Whom in the Proverbs of Solomon it says: "Wisdom has built a house for herself, and has set up seven pillars" (9:1). These words refer to Christ, the Son of God, Who in the Epistles of St Paul is called "Wisdom of God" (1 Cor.1:30), and the word "house" refers to the Most Holy Virgin Mary, of Whom the Son of God is incarnate.
The arrangement of the icon bears witness to the fulfillment of this prophecy. On the Kiev icon of Sophia is a church, and standing there is the Mother of God in a robe with a veil on her head, under an archway of seven pillars. The palms of Her hands are outstretched, and her feet are set upon a crescent moon. The Theotokos holds the Pre-eternal Christ Child, blessing with Her right hand, and holding the Infant with Her left.
On the cornice of the entrance are inscribed the words from the Book of Proverbs: "Wisdom has built a house for herself, and has set up seven pillars." Over the entrance are depicted God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. From the mouth of God the Father issues the words: "I am affirmation of Her footsteps."
Along both sides the seven Archangels are depicted with outstretched wings, holding in their hands symbols of their duties. On the right side: Michael with flaming sword; Uriel with a lightning flash hurling downwards; Raphael with alabaster vessel of myrrh. On the left side: Gabriel with a lily blossom; Selaphiel with a scale; Jerudiel with royal crown; and Barachiel with flowers on a white shawl.
Under a cloud with the crescent moon, serving as a footrest for the Mother of God, is a staircase with seven steps (depicting the Church of God on earth). Those standing on the seven steps are the Old Testament witnesses of the manifestation of Wisdom, the Forefathers and the Prophets.
On each of the seven steps are inscribed: faith, hope, love, purity, humility, grace, glory. The seven steps of the staircase are set upon the seven pillars, on which images are inscribed, and their explanation taken from the Apocalypse.
In 1655 there was a hermit who lived alone in his cell in the mountains of Skiathos, whose whole life was devoted to prayer. One night he saw a strange light deep in the woods. He was curious, so he started walking towards the light to find the cause. Suddenly, while he was walking, the light disappeared. It occurred to him that the light might possibly be caused by evil demons attempting to set a trap for him, but deep in his heart he felt that the light was a divine sign.
The light reappeared for several nights. He decided to pray and fast in the hope that God would show him the truth about the mysterious light. A few nights later, when he saw the light again and was walking towards it, instead of disappearing, the light became brighter and brighter. The hermit kept walking towards the brightening light until he reached a pine tree, where he was astonished to see high up among the branches the Icon of the Virgin Mary surrounded by this spectacular brilliant light swinging in the pine.
He tried to climb the tree to reach the Icon, but either due to age or infirmity, or because God wanted more people to see the miracle, he was unable to do so. He stayed there all night praying under the pine tree and in the morning he walked to Kastro (which means castle), the medieval city of Skiathos. He told his extraordinary story to the citizens of Kastro and a group of them immediately followed the hermit back up into the mountains to see the miracle. A young priest called John, climbed the pine tree to bring the Icon safely down. Since then, 1655, the Virgin Mary called "Iconistria" (Icon that shines like a star) or "Kounistria" (She who swings) has been and continues to be the protector of the island of Skiathos.
Many healings and other miracles have occurred. A few years later a monastery was built close to the place where the Icon was found and the Icon placed inside. During the period of King Otto, many monasteries in the new founded country of Greece were closed under an anti-monastic command of the new government and the ministry of religions. The Monastery of Iconistria (or Kounistra, as the locals usually call it) was abandoned and all the holy relics and among them the Holy Icon were transferred to another monastery. However, because the citizens wanted to have the Holy Icon among them, when they returned to their old city nearby the old port, rebuilding the byzantine village, they built the Metropolitan Church of the Three Bishops in 1846 and placed the Icon there. The three Bishops are St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom and St. Gregory the Theologian.
There are two celebrations in honour of the Virgin Mary’s Icon. The first one is on the 21st November when we celebrate the dedication of the Virgin Mary to God by her parents when she was three years old. There is a procession on foot the previous day when the people of Skiathos carry the Icon through the mountains from the city to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, where an all night vigil and service take place. In the morning of 21st November the Icon is brought back by the same path so that it can be taken in a procession around the city. The second one is on the first Sunday after the 1st July, so that those people who are unable to come to the Island of Skiathos for the main celebration are able to glorify the Virgin Mary during the second celebration established in her honour. This feast is dedicated to the day of the finding of the miraculous Icon. There is a procession on foot on Saturday evening from the church of Three Bishops to the other church of the island, which is named after the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, where an all night vigil takes place. The following morning, on Sunday, a holy liturgy takes place in the churches and then the Icon is taken in procession around the city and brought back to the Metropolis church.
At about the 5 min. mark the video below speaks about Panagia Iconistria.
Στην Παναγία τήν Κουνίστρα
Εις όλην την Χριστιανοσύνη
μια είναι μόνη Παναγία αγνή,
κόρη παιδίσκη, Άσμα των Άσμάτων,
χωρίς Χριστόν, θείο παιδί, στά χέρια,
και τρεφομένη με αγγέλων άρτον!..
Εσύ' σαι η μόνη Παναγία Κουνίστρα,
που εφανερώθης στης Σκιάθου το νησί,
εις δένδρον πεύκου επάνω καθημένη,
κ' αιωρουμένη εις τερπνήν αιώραν,
όπως αι κορασίδες συνηθίζουν...
Εφανερώθης, κι όλος ο λαός
μετά θυμιαμάτων και λαμπάδων
εν θεία λιτανεία σε παρέπεμψε -
κ' εσήκωσεν ωραίον λευκόν ναόν,
που με πιατάκια ελληνικά σου στόλισε!..
Κι όλος ο ήλιος έλαμπεν εις τον ναόν σου,
και φως τον πλημμυρούσε μαργαρώδες,
όλα τ' άστέρια εφεγγοβολούσαν,
και η σελήνη εχάιδευε γλυκά
τα απλά της εκκλησίας σου καντιλάκια !..
Κ' είδες, η Κόρη, του λαού την πίστιν,
είδες και την πτωχείαν κ' ευσπλαχνίσθης,
όπως το πάλαι είχε σπλαχνισθή ο Υιός σου
τους προγόνους του ίδιου του λαού,
ως πρόβατα μη έχοντα ποιμένα...
Κι άρχισες να γιατρεύης τους αρρώστους
και να γιατρεύης τους δαιμονισμένους -
που ήρχετο ώρα κ' εις τους τοίχους εχτυπώντο
με φοβερόν συγκλονισμόν -
κι άρχισες, θεία, να θαυματουργής!..
Κ' η χάρη σου ξαπλώθηχε ως τα πέρατα
του ειρηνικού νησιού της Σκιάθου -
ω Παναγιά μου, κόρη πάναγνη, καλή!
...Κ' ίσως να φτάση κι ως εμένα και ν' απλώση
γαλήνη στην ψυχή μου, την αμαρτωλή...