The great renown of the Romanian elder Paisius (Olaru) (1897– 1990) resulted paradoxically from his struggle to live in obscurity: in meekness, simplicity, and humility. As one writer has stated, “One cannot say precisely what the specific gift of Fr. Paisius is. He does not work miracles. He does not preach; no one has heard him preach in church. Neither is he a good chanter; as a celebrant he is not gifted…. And yet, he has something which captivates. He has grace.”1 And this grace attracted thousands of the faithful to flock to him for counsel and comfort. His direct and unembellished teachings strengthened Romanians, including many of the country’s great spiritual fathers, during the dark years of Communism.
Fr. Paisius was born on June 20, 1897 in the Romanian village of Stroesti and was baptized with the name Peter. He grew up in a pious family in the region of Bucovina, renowned for the deeply rooted piety of its people. His father, John, was a forester and provided a comfortable life for his wife Catherine and five children. John Olaru was well known for his honesty, and the local men would often seek his counsel. His youngest child, Peter, was sent to the village school, where he completed the three grades available. In his youth, Peter was deeply moved with love for the monastic life through reading the Lives of the Saints. He was particularly affected by the Life of St. Sabbas the Sanctified. Peter served in the First World War and was at the front in Hungary.
In 1921 he was released from the army and entered a monastery close to his home village, Cozancea Skete. According to Elder Cleopa (Ilie), “The monks loved him greatly because he took care of all the sick and the elderly with complete love —visiting their cells, taking them food, bringing the priest to commune them, and staying by their side at the hour of death.”
He was tonsured a monk at the age of twenty-five and given the name Paisius. After becoming a monk, he visited the monasteries in the Neamts region, and at that time conceived the desire to become a desert-dweller in the Carpathian Mountains. Once, while praying in a meadow a few hundred yards from Cozancea Skete, he heard a heavenly choir beautifully singing church hymns. With a blessing from the Metropolitan of Moldavia, at the spot he built a chapel dedicated to the Holy Great-martyr Menas and, later on, cells.
During the day he carried out his obediences in the monastery— working in the church, the vineyard, and the garden—and at night he withdrew to his place of solitude. Fr. Paisius lived there for eighteen years as a simple monk. He was clothed in the great schema in 1933 at the age of thirty-six with the intention ofwithdrawing further into solitude. Fr. Paisius was ordained a deacon in 1943 and a priest in 1947. When he was ordained to the priesthood, he was also appointed abbot of Cozancea Skete. Due to some misunderstandings in the community, he was abbot for only six months.
In 1948 Fr. Paisius requested a blessing to move to Sihăstria Skete. Fr. Cleopa was then the abbot of Sihăstria, and went himself to Iasi to request this transfer before the bishop, and it was granted. Fr. Cleopa appointed Fr. Paisius to be the confessor both for the monks and for the faithful who would visit Sihăstria Skete. In August of 1949, Fr. Paisius and about thirty other monks moved with Abbot Cleopa to Slatina Monastery, where he continued to be the confessor for the community. During this time he lived for six months at Rarău Skete, a dependency of Slatina Monastery, before returning to Sihăstria Skete in about 1953. He considered these years at Sihăstria to be the most fruitful period of his life.
According to Elder Cleopa, “Next to silence, he greatly loved his spiritual children, whom he would receive for Confession at any hour of the day or night, and for whose salvation he took great care. He was not very harsh in applying the canons, for he kept account of the spiritual state of each one.… With his forgiveness, his patience, and his meekness, he won many thousands of souls, sacrificing himself for others.”
With the desire for greater quiet and solitude, Fr. Paisius moved to Sihla Skete, a dependency of Sihăstria, in 1972. However, great numbers of people made the effort to ascend the mountain to Sihla in order to receive his blessing and counsel. In 1985, due to illness, he moved back down to Sihăstria, where he could more easily receive care. He was confined to bed from September 1986 until his repose, still receiving and blessing those who came to him, though to a much lesser degree than before. At dawn, on October 18, 1990 at the age of ninety-three, Fr. Paisius reposed in the Lord, and on October 20 he was buried in the cemetery at Sihăstria.
1 Bishop Anthony Plamadeala, in Tradition and Liberty, pp. 216–18.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The great renown of the Romanian elder Paisius (Olaru) (1897– 1990) resulted paradoxically from his struggle to live in obscurity: in meekness, simplicity, and humility. As one writer has stated, “One cannot say precisely what the specific gift of Fr. Paisius is. He does not work miracles. He does not preach; no one has heard him preach in church. Neither is he a good chanter; as a celebrant he is not gifted…. And yet, he has something which captivates. He has grace.”1 And this grace attracted thousands of the faithful to flock to him for counsel and comfort. His direct and unembellished teachings strengthened Romanians, including many of the country’s great spiritual fathers, during the dark years of Communism.
By Matthew W. Dickie
Introduction: The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how difficult even the most highly educated and sophisticated Christians of the late fourth and early fifth centuries found it to rid themselves of the idea that envy lends a malign power to men’s eyes. The idea at issue is that the eyes of envious men are able, unaided, to inflict injury at a distance. This is the belief called the “evil eye” by speakers of English and other modem European languages, though that significantly is not the way in which most men in pagan and Christian antiquity would have referred to it. The difficulty that such fathers of the church as Basil, Jerome, and John Chrysostom had with freeing themselves from the idea is some indication of how deep-seated it must have been in the general population.
I shall also try to show that these church fathers, who do attack belief in the evil eye, address only one aspect of a much larger constellation of beliefs. They leave unquestioned the assumption that there are envious supernatural forces out there eager to destroy prosperity, virtue, and beauty. Their failure to deal with this larger issue is a further indication of just how much a part of men’s mental make-up must have been the conviction that life was beset by unseen envious forces. We see evidence of that fear in the many amulets that survive from this period. It is important to bear in mind that the fear reflected in these objects is not directed specifically at the evil eye as the fathers of the church construe it but at a much wider spectrum of dangers. In the case of Basil and John Chrysostom, and perhaps to a lesser extent Jerome, there is a further factor that has affected their thinking about the evil eye: the influence of pagan philosophy has made them concentrate their attention on a severely restricted conception of the evil eye to the exclusion of other related beliefs.
Click here to read/download this article from Dumbarton Oaks
Byzantine Magic, edited by Henry Maguire (Dumbarton Oaks, 1995)
by William Carroll
September 8, 2010
Scientists have begun to doubt whether there was a “Big Bang.” But in claiming that this disproves the existence of a Creator, they confuse temporal beginnings with origins.
“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God . . . to set the Universe going.” Such is the affirmation of Stephen Hawking found in his newly released book, The Grand Design. It is not unusual to hear a distinguished scientist make the claim that the universe and everything about it is, at least in principle, exhaustively explicable in terms of contemporary science. In his famous book, A Brief History of Time (1988), Hawking did admit that perhaps a god was needed to choose the basic laws of physics and that, accordingly, if a grand unified theory of scientific explanation were at hand we would come to know “the mind of God.” Now Hawking thinks that, more broadly, we can do away with an appeal to a creator, at least as he understands what ‘to create’ means. Citing a version of contemporary string theory, known as “M-theory,” Hawking tells us that the “creation” of a great many universes out of nothing “does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god.” Rather, these multiple universes “arise naturally from physical law.” Ultimate questions about the nature of existence which have intrigued philosophers for millennia are, so he claims, now the province of science, and “philosophy is dead.”
Hawking’s new book invites us to think again about what it means “to create” and what, if anything, the natural sciences can tell us about it. The assertion—which is broadly philosophical and certainly not scientific—that the universe is self-sufficient, without any need for a Creator to explain why there is something rather than nothing, is the result of fundamental confusions about the explanatory domains of the natural sciences and philosophy. What is often being affirmed is a kind of “totalizing naturalism” that eliminates the need for any appeal to explanations which employ principles that transcend the world of physical things. Whether we speak of explanations of the Big Bang itself (such as quantum tunneling from nothing) or of some version of a multiverse hypothesis, or of self-organizing principles in biological change (including appeals to randomness and chance as ultimate explanations), the conclusion which seems inescapable to many is that there is no need to appeal to a Creator, that is, to any cause which is outside the natural order.
Many cosmologists who now routinely speak of what happened “before the Big Bang” think that to reject some original Big Bang is to eliminate the need for a Creator. They deny the need for a Creator because they think that “to be created” means to have a temporal beginning. In such a scenario, accepting or rejecting a Creator is tied to accepting or to explaining away an original Big Bang. You might remember Hawking’s famous rhetorical question: “So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?”
What place, indeed? Creation, as a metaphysical notion, affirms that all that is, in whatever way or ways it is, depends upon God as cause. The natural sciences have as their subject the world of changing things: from subatomic particles to acorns to galaxies. Whenever there is a change there must be something that changes. Whether these changes are biological or cosmological, without beginning or end, or temporally finite, they remain processes. Creation, on the other hand, is the radical causing of the whole existence of whatever exists. Creation is not a change. To cause completely something to exist is not to produce a change in something, is not to work on or with some existing material. When God’s creative act is said to be “out of nothing,” what is meant is that God does not use anything in creating all that is: it does not mean that there is a change from “nothing” to “something.” In the quotation cited at the beginning of this essay we find Hawking telling us that it is not necessary “to invoke God . . .to set the Universe going.” But creation does not mean “to set the Universe going”—as though some change occurred at a putative beginning. To deny such a change, as Hawking does, is not to deny creation.
Cosmology, evolutionary biology, and all the other natural sciences offer accounts of change; they do not address the metaphysical questions of creation; they do not speak to why there is something rather than nothing. It is a mistake to use arguments in the natural sciences to deny creation. But it is also a mistake to appeal to cosmology as a confirmation of creation. Reason can lead to knowledge of the Creator, but the path is in metaphysics, not in the natural sciences.
To avoid confusion, we need to note different senses of how we use the term “to create.” We often speak of human creations, especially with respect to the production of works of art, music, and literature. What it means for God to create is radically different from any kind of human making. When human beings make things they work with already existing material to produce something new. The human act of creating is not the complete cause of what is produced, but God’s creative act is the complete cause of what is produced. This sense of being the complete cause is captured in the expression “out of nothing.” To be such a complete cause of all that is requires an infinite power, and no creature, no human being, possesses such infinite power. God wills things to be and thus they are. To say that God is the complete cause of all that is does not negate the role of other causes which are part of the created natural order. Creatures, both animate and inanimate, are real causes of the wide array of changes that occur in the world, but God alone is the universal cause of being as such. God’s causality is so different from the causality of creatures that there is no competition between the two, that is, we do not need to limit, as it were, God’s causality to make room for the causality of creatures. God causes creatures to be causes.
Already in the 13th century the groundwork was set for the fundamental understanding of creation and its relationship to the natural sciences. Working within the context of Aristotelian science and aided by the insights of Muslim and Jewish thinkers as well as his Christian predecessors, Thomas Aquinas provided an understanding of creation and science which remains true. The distinction between creation and change—and hence between the explanatory realm of the natural sciences and creation—to which I have already referred, is a key feature of Thomas’ analysis. As he wrote: “Over and above the mode of becoming by which something comes to be through change or motion, there must be a mode of becoming or origin of things without any mutation or motion, through the influx of being.”
Creation is not primarily some distant event. Rather, it is the ongoing, complete causing of the existence of all that is. At this very moment, were God not causing all that is to exist, there would be nothing at all. Creation concerns the origin of the universe, not its temporal beginning. Indeed, it is important to recognize this distinction between origin and beginning. The former affirms the complete, continuing dependence of all that is on God as cause. It may very well be that the universe had a temporal beginning, but there is no contradiction in the notion of an eternal, created universe, for were the universe to be without a beginning it still would have an origin; it still would be created. This is precisely the position of Thomas Aquinas, who accepted as a matter of faith that the universe had a temporal beginning but also defended the intelligibility of a universe simultaneously created and eternal.
Thomas also thought that neither science nor philosophy could know whether the universe had a beginning. He did think that metaphysics could show us that the universe is created, but he would have warned against those today who use Big Bang cosmology, for example, to conclude that the universe has a beginning and therefore must be created. He was always alert to reject the use of bad arguments in support of what is believed. The “singularity” in traditional Big Bang cosmology may represent the beginning of the universe we observe, but we cannot conclude that it is the absolute beginning, the kind of beginning which would indicate creation.
The crucial point here is that to offer a scientific account of the Big Bang is not to say anything about whether or not the universe is created. Those contemporary cosmological theories which employ a multiverse hypothesis or an infinite series of big bangs do not challenge the fundamental feature of what it means to be created, that is, the complete dependence upon God as cause of existence. An eternal universe would be no less dependent upon God than a universe which has a beginning of time. For one who believes that the universe has a temporal beginning, any theory of an eternal universe would have to be rejected, but a believer should be able to ask what kind of universe God creates (e.g., one with or without a temporal beginning) while remaining secure in the fact that whatever kind of universe there is, God is its Creator.
When it came to how to read the opening of Genesis, Thomas Aquinas observed that what is essential is the “fact of creation,” not the “manner or mode” of the formation of the world. Questions concerning order, design, and chance in nature refer to the “manner or mode” of formation of the world. Attempts in the natural sciences to explain these facets of nature do not challenge the “fact of creation.” God causes things both to be the kinds of things which they are and to exercise the kind of causality which is properly their own. Even the reality of chance and contingency depends upon God as cause. God transcends the created order in such a radical way that He is able to be active in the world without being a competing cause in the world.
The interconnected, and one might say horizontal, world of changing things ought not to be confused with the vertical dimension of creation: a vertical dimension upon which the horizontal continues to depend for its very existence. Order, design, chance, and contingency all concern the horizontal realm, whereas it is the very reality of all things that depends upon the vertical dimension. We ought not to think that to create, in its primary sense, means to produce order. To explain order and design in terms of processes within nature does not eliminate the need for a Creator, a Creator who is responsible for the existence of nature and everything in it. Hawking thinks that modern arguments about design, especially those which refer to the remarkable coincidence of the initial conditions of the universe (the so-called strong anthropic principle), do not lead us to the existence of a Grand Designer. Rather, “the fine-tunings in the laws of nature can be explained by the existence of multiple universes.” We just happen to live in that universe (among perhaps an infinite number of other universes) which has the right environment for us. Indeed, he notes, “just as Darwin . . . explained how the apparently miraculous design of living forms could appear without intervention by a supreme being, the multiverse concept can explain the fine-tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit.” The Grand Designer rejected by Hawking is not the Creator, at least not the Creator which traditional philosophy and theology affirms.
In The Grand Design, Hawking grants a near omnicompetence to the natural sciences and writes: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” But there would be no gravity, indeed there would be nothing at all, were God not creating all that is as it is. God’s creative power is exercised throughout the entire course of cosmic history, in whatever ways that history has unfolded. God creates a universe in which things have their own causal agency, their own true self-sufficiency: a nature which is susceptible to scientific analysis. Still, no explanation of cosmological or biological change, no matter how radically random or contingent such an explanation claims to be, challenges the metaphysical account of creation, that is, of the dependence of the existence of all things upon God as cause. When some thinkers deny creation on the basis of theories in the natural sciences, they misunderstand creation or the natural sciences, or both.
Rev. Robert A. Vinciguerra
September 2, 2010
The Rev. Bob Times
Christianity is commonly held to be the predominate religion in the United States. According to the Association of Religious Data Archives (ARDA), 82.3 percent of Americans identify themselves as being Christian. The next largest group is Agnostics and Atheists at 11.6 percent.
However, when surveys are made that collect religious data, the pollsters never drill down to find out how religious the respondent really is. As it turns out, most people who identify themselves as a particular religion may not actually adhere to the tenets of their self-proclaimed belief.
In April 2003 the Barna Research Group did ask the deeper questions and determined that only 4 percent of American teenagers are “Bible believing” Christians.
Despite the fact that the percentage of teen Christians in the U.S. is close to that of the national average, Barna was able to come up with just 4 percent because, although many more teens identified themselves as Christians, they didn’t follow the tenets of Christianity.
The conclusion is that the vast majority of Christians do not follow Biblical law and other rules in order to ensure their salvation, or generally be a good Christian in the eyes of God.
This is an example of societal norms eroding religious doctrine. It’s not just Christianity that is affected either. The erosion can clearly be seen in American Islamic and Hindu (Brahmanist) communities as well.
Simple Biblical laws are broken by virtually everyone. Men who cheat on their wives aren’t stoned to death, and no one looks at the tag to check that their clothing isn’t made of two or more kinds of fibers. Mormons, who aren’t supposed to drink coffee or beer often do. Sen. John Kerry, who is a practicing Catholic, was famously denied communion for his belief in a woman’s right to choose. American Muslims seldom find themselves in a position to pray at the required times.
Western culture is simply not compatible religious doctrine.
So, who are all of these Christians identifying themselves as such but they really aren’t? They’re part of a growing group of society; the Egonovists.
The concept of fairness in America has been a moral driving force at every major point in history, from the Revolution, to the Civil War, both World Wars, the civil rights movement, and even in Iraq, and everything in between. Unfair punishments and nonsensical crimes don’t make sense in the mind of the average westerner, so they ignore them, and in the process, they become an Egonovist.
Egonovism is the belief in a god and/or a religious structure that is not determined by holy text, organized religion, or religious leaders. It is the Egonovists themselves who determine the religious doctrine. Essentially, they make up the rules, and they decide how to follow them. It is likely that a statistically large number of self-identified Christians fall into the Egonovism category.
They may not even be aware of it, but they’ve reconstructed Christian doctrine in a way that makes sense to them. Ignoring some parts deemed bad or irrelevant, embracing other areas containing relevant wisdom, and then filling in the blanks with their own ideas. It’s not just Christians who do this; people from every major religion living in Western society do the same thing.
What is Egonovism?
The term “Egonovism” comes from the latin “ego,” meaning self, and “novo” to make new, rewrite, or invent. And it fits perfectly. The individual develops their own personal religions system and borrows ideas from established religions that they’re familiar with. Many Egonovists include the Christ figure in their religion, and hence they self-identify as Christians.
To better understand the concept, I sat down to interview an Egonovist who identified her religious preference as “Christian/Other.” She agreed to allow her age and location to be published, but not her real name. We’ll call her Sally Jones. She’s 28 years old from Phoenix, Arizona.
Rev. Rob Times (RRT): Describe for me how you define your religious belief of “Christian/Other.”
Sally Jones (SJ): Well, I really believe that all of gods known to man are the same god, just that he isn’t active in our lives today.
RRT: What is the virtue of believing in a god who you don’t feel is willing to intervene?
SJ: Well, what if I don’t believe and there’s an afterlife, and I don’t get in for not believing in him?
RRT: You understand that in every major religion, let’s take the three Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for example, you have to make certain sacrifices and believe specific things to get into the “good” version of the afterlife.
SJ: Well, I believe they’re all one god, and as long as I’m a good person and I believe then he’ll help me get into the afterlife. I’ll be allowed in.
RRT: Is the point of the god to simply create the universe and then preside over the afterlife then?
SJ: I believe in science, and I think that science and god don’t need to be in any kind of conflict…
RRT: So, you believe in human evolution and the big bang theory?
SJ: Yes, but I also believe that he (god) had a guiding hand in that process, and just wants us to be good people now.
RRT: If you don’t believe that the god you describe created the universe or all life in it, then why is he worth believing in?
JS: Because to me it’s better to have faith in something than noting.
RRT: Thank you for your time.
The Rev. Rob Times had conversations with twenty other Egonovists, ten of whom described themselves as Christians, three identified themselves as Mormon, one Muslim, two agnostics, and the remaining four classified themselves as simply “other.” Even in the case of the “others,” their religious beliefs are mostly constructed on Judeo-Christian religious concepts, because those are what they’re more familiar with.
Surprisingly, of the 21 people interviewed, most of them held the same, near-identical beliefs. A system where there is a god, who is not actively interfering in human lives, who oversees an afterlife, and will admit all who are good people.
Eighteen of the respondents indicated that god used known scientific theories, such as evolution and the big bang, as tools to create the life and the universe. The remaining respondents believed that the universe already existed through natural causes.
The idea that god will let people into the afterlife if they are essentially good people” is a reflection of fairness concepts from Western society. After all, it doesn’t sound fair for someone to be a good person only to suffer for not having accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savoir.
Furthermore, it’s telling that the concept of an afterlife is universal in Egonovistic beliefs. Like all humans, Egonovists are aware of their own mortality and desire an afterlife that’s better than the current world, one where deceased relatives await them, and one where they can await the arrival of those whom they left behind.
The Egonovist Scale
We have discovered that there are varying degrees of Egonovism as illustrated by the chart below. (The comparison is made to Christianity only because that is the predominate religion in the United States. The term “Christian” can be easily replaced with “Muslim” or any other religion.)
As the chart indicates, the number of actual Christians (position 1 on the chart) in the United States may be significantly less than the number of people who merely self-identify as being Christians (positions 3 and 4 on the chart). Some position 1 Christians even argue that position 2 Christians aren’t true Christians at all.
Unfortunately, without a proper national survey the likes of which have only ever been conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and one with accurate scientific questions, we’ll never know the difference between the numbers of people in the United States who follow their religion’s doctrine and those who are in actuality Egonovists.
As the country becomes more diverse, more educated, more connected to other cultures through the internet, and as religious leaders abandon en masse doctrines that are not compatible with Western idealism, more and more “religious” people are becoming true Egonovists every day, no matter if they personally chose to identify as a Christian, Muslim, Mormon, or as just “other.”
Frescoes from the island of Crete depicting scenes of Hell and the punishments of the damned are the focus of a new research project led by historians in England and Germany.
Angeliki Lymberopoulou of The Open University, and Vasiliki Tsamakda, from the University of Mainz, aim to place and assess these representations within a wider geographical and cultural context involving both Greek-Orthodox and contemporary western examples (the Balkans, Cyprus, Cappadocia and Italy). The material will be accessible to scholars and will provide a stepping stone for future research in key iconographic subjects for understanding their social and historic context.
Dr Lymberopoulou, Lecturer in Art History, said: “The island of Crete was ruled by the Venetians from 1211 until 1669. This extended period was culturally very prolific and provides one of the most prolonged case-studies in cultural interaction between two different groups – the native Greek Orthodox population and the Venetian colonists. One of the lasting monuments to this thriving era is formed by the surviving churches with fresco decorations. No fewer than 77 of these fresco cycles contain representations of Hell and these will form the basis of our study.”
The subject has a wide range of cultural connotations, since it reflects religious and moral beliefs, social structure and expectations and the most common illegal activities (e.g. live stock theft). Moreover, while customarily depictions of Hell and of the sufferings of the damned form part of the wider context of the Last Judgement, this is not always the case on Crete. Hell and the punishment of sinners can be depicted independently on the island – a fact which underlines the importance that such representations had for patrons and the faithful. Furthermore, the scenes of Hell reflect more than anything the complex interaction between (Byzantine) East and (Venetian) West that took place on Crete during its Venetian occupation, especially since they often include Orthodox as well as western sinners burning in the eternal flames. Therefore, the choice of this iconographic subject carries a wider appeal and interest for cross-cultural studies in general, including the way different cultures influence each other today.
Around 750 Byzantine and Post-Byzantine frescoes survive in Cretan churches, but the majority remain unpublished or appear in general surveys but with no intention or space for in-depth analysis. The research team has received £176,600 from The Leverhulme Trust to photograph, catalogue, examine and publish all frescoes with representations of Hell within these churches.
Dr Lymberopoulou writing in the Leverhulme Trust newsletter, states, “our team aims to create a corpus of material accessible to scholarship. We will provide a stepping stone for future research in key iconographic subjects for understanding their social and historic context by studying the examples in depth in order to determine the intentions behind their commission, the religious and political aspirations and the moral and legal parameters in contemporary cross-cultural Cretan society. Equally important is the aim to place and to assess these representations within a wider geographical and cultural context involving both Greek- Orthodox and contemporary western examples (the Balkans, Cyprus, Cappadocia and Italy).”
The original icon known as "Tselitel'nitsa," or "The Healer" was from the Tsilkan church in Kartali, Georgia. It was painted at the time of St Nino (January 14).
There is another icon with the same name in the Alexeev women's monastery in Moscow, and many miracles took place before it at the end of the eightheenth century. St Demetrius of Rostov (September 21 and October 28) relates a story about this icon in his book "The Bedewed Fleece".
A cleric of the Navarninsky church, Vincent Bulvinensky, was in the habit of venerating the icon of the Mother of God whenever he entered the church. He would also recite the following prayer before the icon: "Hail, Virgin Theotokos full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed is the womb which bore Christ, and the breasts which nourished the Lord God, our Savior."
In time, he found himself suffering from a dreadful affliction. His tongue began to putrefy, and he passed out from the pain. When he came to himself, he prayed his usual prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos.
As soon as he had finished his prayer, he saw a handsome young man at the head of his bed. The sufferer realized at once that this was his guardian angel. The angel looked at him with pity, calling on the Mother of God to heal him. Suddenly, the Theotokos appeared and healed the sick man who was so devoted to Her. He got out of bed and went to church, taking his place on the cliros for the service. Those present were astonished to see his recovery.
This miracle inspired the painting of "The Healer" icon depicting the Mother of God standing at the bed of the sick man.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
From your holy icon, O Lady Theotokos, salvation and healing is granted abundantly to all those who come to you with love and faith; visit also my infirmity and show mercy to my soul, O Good One, and heal my body by your grace.
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
The Lord said: "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40).
Similar things happen in almsgiving and in Holy Communion. In Holy Communion we receive the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of bread and wine; in almsgiving we give to the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of the poor and needy.
A certain man in Constantinople was unusually merciful. Walking along the streets of the city, he would press his gift into the hands of the poor and hurry onward, so he would not hear their gratitude or be recognized. When a friend of his asked how he had become so merciful, he replied: "Once in church I heard a priest say that whoever gives to the poor, gives into the hands of Christ Himself. I didn't believe it, for I thought, `How can this be, when Christ is in heaven?' However, I was on my way home one day and I saw a poor man begging, and the face of Christ shone above his head! Just then a passerby gave the beggar a piece of bread, and I saw the Lord extend His hand, take the bread, and bless the donor. From then on, I have always seen Christ's face shining above the beggars. Therefore, with great fear I perform as much charity as I can."
Friday, September 17, 2010
It is told of this 14th century icon that it was damaged by the knife of a malcontent deacon-monk who was also the ecclesiarch, that is, he was in charge of preparing the church for services. Often this monk would arrive late to the common meals in the trapeza (refectory), and this would disturb the trapezaras (the person responsible for the refectory).
On one of these occasions, the trapezaras was angry and refused him food. The monk became furious and began to fight with the doorkeeper. The disturbed and enraged thoughts of the ecclesiarch then turned against the Theotokos. Going up to her icon, he said: "Every day I light your oil lamps, but you don't help me. I can't even get my food. I don't believe in you anymore!" After saying this he plunged a knife into the icon, into the right cheek of the Panagia.
From the wound which he inflicted, blood flowed and the face of the Virgin is said to have turned pale. The deacon was immediately blinded and fell to the ground, beating himself and driven out of his senses. According to the monks, he was possessed by demons. He remained in this state for three years. Then thanks to the prayers of the Abbot and the brotherhood, the Theotokos appeared to the Abbot and told him that the monk was cured.
The ecclesiarch spent the rest of his life in a stall opposite the icon bewailing his terrible sin, but before he died after seven years of this he received forgiveness from the Theotokos herself, who told him, however, as she had the Abbot previously, that his sacrilegious hand would suffer exemplary punishment after his death. It is kept today, uncorrupted and completely black, near the icon, which is in the narthex of the Chapel of St Demetrios.
by St. Dimitri of Rostov
During the reign of the impious Roman Emperor Hadrian, a widow of Italian ancestry called Sophia, whose name means "wisdom", lived in Rome. She was a Christian, and in accordance with her name, she lived wisely, showing that wisdom praised by the Apostle James, who says, "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits." This wise gentlewoman, Sophia, while living in honorable wedlock, bore three daughters, whom she named after the three great virtues. The first was named Faith, the second Hope, and the third Love, for to what does Christian wisdom give birth other than to God-pleasing virtues?
Soon after the birth of her three daughters, Sophia was widowed. Living piously, she pleased God by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. She reared her three daughters in a manner befitting a wise mother so that they, being the namesakes of virtues, might in truth acquire those traits, the names of which they bore. As they matured, they increased in virtue, and they learned well the books of the prophets and the apostles. They became accustomed to listen to the words of their teachers and earnestly occupied themselves with spiritual reading, prayer, and household chores. Moreover, they submitted themselves in all things to their holy mother, who was filled with divine wisdom. Thus, going from strength to strength, they were successful in all things. As they were exceedingly fair and perfect in wisdom, the eyes of all were soon upon them.
Word spread throughout Rome of the wisdom and beauty of the three sisters, and even the Eparch Antiochus wished to see them. When they were brought before him, Antiochus learned that they were Christians, for they did not hide their faith in Christ. Hoping in Christ, they did not doubt or falter in their love for Him, but before all they glorified Christ, showing disdain for the idols, hateful to God.
Antiochus related all these things to the Emperor Hadrian, who immediately sent his servants to bring the virgins before him. When the servants arrived at Sophia’s house, they found the mother occupied with instructing her daughters. They told her that she was to come, together with her daughters, to the Emperor. Realizing the purpose of this summons, they arose to pray and said, "0 Almighty God, do with us according to Thy holy will, and forsake us not, but rather grant us Thy holy aid, that our hearts be not frightened by the proud tormentor, that we be not terrified by his fearful tortures nor terrorized by bitter death, and that nothing might separate us from Thee, our God."
After praying and bowing down before God, all four martyrs, the mother and her daughters, took one another by the hand, forming as it were a plaited garland. They went forth, frequently looking up to the heavens, committing themselves with sighs and silent prayers to the help of Him Who commanded us to "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." When they arrived at the Emperor’s palace, they signed themselves with the sign of the Cross and said, "Help us, 0 God our Saviour, for the sake of the glory of Thy holy name!"
They were then led before the Emperor, who sat proudly upon his throne. They rendered him fitting honor but stood before him without fear, their faces radiant, their hearts steadfast, their eyes gazing gladly upon all as though they had been summoned to a banquet. Such was their joy with which they came to suffer torment for their Lord!
Seeing their honorable, fair, and fearless countenances, the Emperor questioned the mother as to their lineage, names, and faith. She, being most wise, answered so sagaciously that all were amazed at her prudence. Having spoken but briefly of the maidens’ ancestry and names, she began to tell of Him Whom she confessed and before Whose name every knee should bow. Having confessed her faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, she called herself His handmaiden and gave praise to His name. "I am a Christian," she said, "and in that honorable name I rejoice." She added that she had betrothed her daughters to Christ so that they might preserve their chastity for the incorruptible Bridegroom, the Son of God.
The Emperor, seeing that Sophia was a wise woman, did not wish at that time to speak further with her or pass judgment on her. He laid the matter aside for a time and sent all four martyrs to a certain noblewoman named Palladia, whom he charged to watch over them and to present them on the third day to be judged.
Staying in Palladia’s house, Sophia had sufficient time to instruct her children. She confirmed them in the faith day and night, teaching them with words inspired by God and saying, "My beloved daughters, the time has now come for you to contend for Christ; the hour has arrived for you to be betrothed unto your immortal Bridegroom. In accordance with your names, may you display firm faith, undoubting hope, and unfeigned and neverfailing love. The hour has come for you to rejoice, for you shall be crowned with the crown of martyrdom by your most beloved Bridegroom and will enter with gladsome voices into His bridal chamber.
"My daughters, for the sake of the honor in which you will be held by Christ, Who is more comely than the sons of men, do not spare your flesh. For the sake of life eternal, pity not the bloom of your youth nor hesitate to suffer the deprivation of this fleeting life, for your Beloved, Jesus Christ, Who dwells in the heavens, is eternal well-being and beauty inexpressible. When your bodies have been tortured to death for His sake, He will robe them in incorruption, and the wounds which you bear on your flesh will shine like the stars in heaven.
"When you have been deprived of your beauty for His sake, He will adorn you with heavenly beauty, such as the eye has not beheld. When you have laid down your souls for your Lord and suffered the loss of your temporal lives, He will grant you life eternal, and He will glorify you unto the ages before His heavenly Father and before His holy angels. You will be called Christ’s brides and His confessors by all the hosts of heaven; all the holy monastics shall praise you, and the wise virgins will rejoice over you and will receive you into their company.
"My sweet children, do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the enemy’s allurements, for the Emperor will entice you greatly and promise you rich presents, offering you glory, wealth, honor, and all the beautiful and sweet things of this corruptible and vain world. But love none of these things, for they all vanish like smoke and are scattered like dust by the wind and like a flower or grass wither and return to the earth. Neither be daunted by the prospect of grievous tortures, for having suffered them but a short while and having overcome the foe, you will rejoice forever.
"I believe that my God, Jesus Christ, will not forsake you should you resolve to suffer for Him, for He said, 'Even if a woman should forget her offspring, yet I shall not forget thee'. He will remain with you throughout all the tortures you will suffer, looking upon your struggles, strengthening your infirmity, and preparing a plaited crown for your reward.
"My good daughters, remember the pains which I underwent in bearing you! Remember the labors I endured in rearing you, remember my words by which I taught you the fear of God, and comfort your mother in her old age with your good and brave confession of Christ. When I am deemed worthy to be called the mother of martyrs and will behold you suffering bravely for Christ, confessing His holy name and dying for Him, I will have more happiness, joy, honor, and glory than any of the faithful. My soul will be magnified and my spirit will rejoice and I will be strengthened in my old age. Having obeyed the instructions of your mother you will truly be my daughters, if you contest for your Lord even unto the shedding of your blood and with fervor submit to death for Him."
Having hearkened with compunction to their mother’s words, the daughters were stricken in heart, and they rejoiced in spirit, awaiting the time of their martyrdom as though it were the hour of their nuptials. Being the holy branches of a sacred root, they desired with all their heart that which their most wise mother Sophia had taught them to thirst after. They stored her words in their hearts and prepared themselves for the contest of martyrdom as though they were to enter a bridal chamber. Girding themselves with faith, bolstering themselves with hope, and kindling in themselves the fire of love for the Lord, they strengthened one another and promised their mother that with Christ’s help they would translate into deeds her edifying words to them.
When the third day had come, the saints were brought to judgment before the impious Emperor. Thinking that they were but young maidens who could easily be brought to obey his deceptive words, he began to speak to them thus, "I see, children, that you are fair, and I feel pity for your youth. I advise you as a father to worship the gods who rule the universe. If you obey me and do what I command, then I shall call you my own children. I will summon the eparchs, governors, and all of my counselors and shall adopt you in their presence, and they all will hold you in the highest respect and praise you. But if you do not obey me and do not submit to my ordinance, then much evil will befall you, and you will bring much grief to your mother in her old age. You will yourselves perish at an age when you should be happy and dwell amid the sweet, good things and the joys of this world. I will cause you to perish miserably and will cast out your severed limbs to be food for dogs, and you will be despised by all. Therefore, obey me, that it might go well with you. I care for you and do not wish to destroy your beauty and to deprive you of this present life; rather, I desire to have you as my children."
The holy virgins answered the persecutor as though with a single voice, saying, "God, Who dwells in heaven, is our Father, Who takes care for our life and has mercy on our souls. His love we desire, and we wish to be called His true children. We keep His commandments, and we spit on your gods. Your threats do not frighten us, for we wish to suffer and bear bitter torments for the sake of our sweet God, Jesus Christ."
The Emperor, having heard them answer thus, questioned their mother Sophia as to their names and ages. She replied, "My eldest child is named Faith and is twelve years old. The second is Hope, who is ten years of age. My third child’s name is Love, and she is nine years old."
The Emperor marvelled at the maidens’ spirit, intelligence, and ready answers, especially since they were so young. He then began to attempt to force each of them to submit to his impiety, beginning with Faith, the eldest sister, to whom he said, "Sacrifice to the great goddess Artemis!"
But Faith would not agree to submit. Therefore, the Emperor had her stripped naked and ordered that she be beaten severely. The torturers thrashed her mercilessly, saying, "Sacrifice to the great goddess Artemis!" She remained silent, however, as though it were another’s body which bore the suffering. Since the tormentor accomplished nothing by flogging her, he had her virginal breasts cut off. Seeing milk instead of blood flow forth from her wounds, the people shook their heads and secretly reproached the Emperor for his foolishness and cruelty, saying, "In what has this fair maiden transgressed? Why does she suffer thus? What a pity! Such is the mindlessness of the Emperor and his beastly cruelty that he not only tortures to death the aged but young children as well!"
Then a metal gridiron was brought, which was placed on a great fire which had been kindled. When it had been heated red hot, giving forth sparks, the holy martyr Faith was placed upon it. She lay there for two hours, calling out to her Lord, but she was not burnt at all, to the astonishment of everyone present. Then she was cast into a cauldron filled with boiling pitch and oil, but there too she remained unharmed, sitting as though she were in cool water, singing to God. The persecutor, not knowing what else to do with her to weaken her faith in Christ, pronounced upon her the sentence of death by the sword.
When Saint Faith heard this, she was filled with joy and said to her mother, "Pray for me, Mother, that I may complete my course and arrive at the end which I desire, to behold my beloved Lord and Saviour and be filled with the vision of His divinity."
Then Faith said to her sisters, "You know, my dear sisters, to Whom we have promised ourselves and to Whom we have been betrothed. You know that we have been signed with the holy Cross of our Lord to serve Him to eternity. Therefore, let us endure unto the end. A single mother has borne us and has reared and instructed us, so let us accept a common death since we are sisters and share a single will. May I be an example to you, that you both might follow me to our Bridegroom, Who summons us to Himself."
Having said this, Faith kissed her mother, and embracing her sisters, she kissed them and then submitted herself to the sword. Her mother did not sorrow for her daughter, for her love for God overcame her maternal love and pity for her children. She only feared that one of her daughters might renounce the Lord, so she said to Faith, "My daughter, I bore you and on this account endured suffering. But you will redeem my suffering if you die for Christ’s sake, confessing Him and shedding the blood which you received in my womb. Go to Him, my beloved offspring, stained with your blood, as if clothed in crimson. When you appear most fair before the eyes of your Bridegroom, remember before Him your lowly mother and pray to Him for your sisters, that He strengthen them so that they might have the same patience which you possess."
And so Saint Faith’s honorable head was cut off and she departed to Christ God her Master. Her mother took her much-suffering body, and as she kissed it, she rejoiced and glorified Christ God, Who had received her daughter Faith into the heavenly bridal chamber.
Then the impious Emperor had the second sister, the holy virgin Hope, brought before him, and he said to her, "Good child, I appeal to you as a father who loves you. Heed my advice and worship the great Artemis so that you might not perish as your elder sister did. You have seen her bitter death. Do you wish to suffer likewise? Believe me, child; I pity your youth and would have you as my daughter if you would agree to obey my command."
But Saint Hope replied, "0 Emperor, was it not my sister whom you put to death? Were we not born of the same mother? Were we not fed with the same milk? Did I not receive the same Baptism as my holy sister? I grew up with her, and from the same books and the same maternal instruction I learned to know the one God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to believe in Him and to worship Him alone. Therefore, 0 Emperor, do not imagine that I shall reason, think, or desire other than as did my sister Faith. I am ready to follow her path; therefore, do not delay or weary yourself with much speaking, but begin that which you have resolved to do. You will see that I am of the same mind as my sister who has gone before me."
When the Emperor heard this reply, he handed Hope over to the torturers. His henchmen stripped her as they had Faith, and they beat her so long and mercilessly that they grew weary. But she remained silent as though she suffered no pain. She only gazed upon her mother, the blessed Sophia, who stood nearby and who valiantly looked on as her child underwent torment, fervently praying to God that He grant her daughter firm patience.
Then the wicked Emperor commanded that Hope be cast into fire, but she remained unharmed, praising God like the Three Youths. After this, she was suspended and scraped with iron claws. Her flesh was torn off, streams of her blood gushed out, and a wondrous fragrance came forth from her wounds. Her countenance shone with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and she mocked the persecutor because he was unable to overcome even a young maiden. She said, "Having Christ’s help, I fear no torments; rather, I desire them as I desire the sweet things of paradise, so sweet is my Lord to me. But unending fiery torments and the demons which you regard as gods await you in Gehenna."
These words greatly angered the tormentor, who ordered that a cauldron be filled with pitch and oil and heated over a fire and that the saint be cast into it. When the cauldron had come to a boil and the Emperor’s servants were preparing to hurl the saint into it, the kettle suddenly melted down like wax, and the hot pitch and oil poured forth from it upon all who stood nearby.
Such was the wondrous power of God which guarded Saint Hope. Although the persecutor saw all these things, he did not wish to know the true God, for his heart was ensnared by demonic darkness and pernicious error. Thus, seeing himself put to shame by a young maiden and not wishing to bear further humiliation, he condemned the saint to beheading.
When the maiden heard that she was to be put to death, she hastened joyfully to her mother and said, "Peace and salvation to you, mother: remember your child!"
Her mother embraced and kissed her, saying, "My daughter Hope, you are blessed by the Lord God on high in Whom you trust and for Whose sake you have not spared your blood. Go now to your sister Faith, to stand in the presence of our Beloved."
Hope then kissed her sister Love, who had been watching her torture, and she said to her, "Do not linger here, sister, but hasten, that we might enter the presence of the Holy Trinity together." Then she went to the headless corpse of her sister, Saint Faith, and kissed it lovingly. Nature compelled her to shed tears, but love for Christ turned her tears into joy. Then she bowed her head beneath the sword, and thus Saint Hope was beheaded. Her mother took her body and glorified God, rejoicing over the courage of her two daughters. She then inspired her third daughter with sweet words and wise counsels to contest in like manner.
The persecutor summoned Love, the third maiden, seeking to entice her to abandon the Crucified One and to worship Artemis, but the deceiver labored in vain. For no one has so desired to contend for our beloved Lord as did Love, even as it is written, "Love is as strong as death; many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."
The many waters of the world’s temptations did not quench the fire of love for God in that maiden, neither was it drowned in the floods of misfortunes and sufferings. Her great love was made manifest in that she was prepared to lay down her soul for her beloved Jesus Christ, for "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for another."
The persecutor, realizing that he was unable to accomplish anything with his flatteries, began to torture Love, hoping by various torments to separate Love from the love of Christ. But she replied with the words of the Apostle, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? "Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Nay, in all these things, I am more than a conqueror through Him that loved me."
The persecutor began her torture by ordering that she be stretched out upon a wheel and beaten with rods. The saint’s young body was stretched in such a way that her members were pulled from their sockets, and she was beaten until she had been dyed as red as scarlet by her blood, which watered the earth like rain.
The tormentor then showed the saint a furnace which had been heated white hot, and he said, "Maiden, say only that the goddess Artemis is great, and I will release you. But if you will not, you will without delay be burnt in the fiery furnace."
The saint said, "Great is my God Jesus Christ, but may you perish, together with Artemis!"
The persecutor became enraged, and he ordered those standing nearby to hurl Love into the furnace. The saint did not wait for another to cast her into the furnace, but she hastened to enter it herself. She walked into the furnace but was not burned, and she rejoiced as though she were in a cool place, singing and blessing God. And at once fire shot forth from the furnace, consuming the unbelievers standing nearby, burning some to ashes and scorching others. The Emperor himself was singed, and he fled far from the furnace. Within the furnace other radiant persons could be seen rejoicing together with the martyr. Thus the name of Christ was magnified while the impious were put to shame.
When the furnace was extinguished, the saint, Christ’s fair bride, emerged radiant and unharmed as though from a bridal chamber. The torturers, in accordance with the Emperor’s command, seized her and bored through her members with drills, but God’s help strengthened the saint as she endured these torments so that she did not die. For how could she otherwise bear such torments and not perish immediately? Her beloved Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, strengthened her so that the impious might be filled with shame and so that she might receive a greater reward and that God’s mighty power might be glorified in a frail vessel.
Finally, the persecutor, stricken with pain from being burned by the fire, commanded that the saint be beheaded by the sword. When she heard that she was to be beheaded, she rejoiced and said, "I sing to Thee, and I bless Thy much-hymned name, 0 Lord Jesus Christ, Who hast loved Thy handmaiden Love! Number me together with my sisters, and count me worthy to suffer for Thy name, even as they suffered."
Her mother Saint Sophia did not cease praying to God for her third daughter, that He grant her patience to the end. She said to Love, "My third offspring, my beloved child: endure to the end! You are travelling along the path which is good, and a crown has already been woven for you. The bridal chamber has been prepared and stands open for you. The Bridegroom awaits you, looking down from on high on your contest so that when you have bent your head beneath the sword, He might receive and embrace your pure and immaculate soul and grant you repose together with your sisters. Remember me, your mother, in the kingdom of your Bridegroom, that He might be merciful to me and not deprive me of an inheritance and portion with you in His holy glory."
At that moment Saint Love was beheaded by the sword. Her mother took her body and laid it in a beautiful coffin, together with the corpses of Faith and Hope, adorning their bodies as was fitting. She placed them in a chariot, took them several miles outside the city, and reverently buried her daughters there upon a lofty hill, weeping for joy. She sat by their grave, praying with compunction to God for three days, after which she slept the sleep of death in the Lord and was buried by the faithful in that same place, together with her daughters. She was deprived neither of an inheritance with them in the heavenly kingdom nor of a martyr’s crown, inasmuch as she suffered for Christ, not in the flesh but rather in her heart. Thus the most wise Sophia wisely finished her course, having brought as a gift to the Trinity her three virtuous daughters, Faith, Hope, and Love.
O holy and righteous Sophia! What woman hath been thus saved through childbearing as thou, who bore children who were betrothed to the Saviour and suffered for Him and now reign and are glorified together with Him? In truth thou art a wondrous mother, worthy of remembrance, for having beheld the cruel and bitter torments which thy beloved children underwent and their death, thou hast not, as is the custom with mothers, suffered grief, but thou dost rejoice, comforted by the grace of God. Thou didst encourage them to accept martyrdom and to pray, that they might not weaken and preserve their fleeting lives but that they should instead resolutely offer to shed their blood for Christ. And now exulting in the vision of His most radiant countenance, together with thy holy daughters, do thou enlighten us, that we may be preserved in the virtues of faith, hope, and love and be deemed worthy to glorify and stand in the presence of the most holy, uncreated, and life-bestowing Trinity, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The Relics of Saint Sophia of Rome
Ἑορτή τῆς Ἁγίας Μάρτυρος Σοφίας & τῶν τριῶν θυγατέρων αὐτῆς, Ἀγάπης, Πίστεως καί Ἐλπίδος στήν Πάτρα
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
The Church celebrates and rejoices in the feast of the three daughters: Faith, Hope, and Love and their Mother Sophia, named for her wisdom: for in them she gave birth to the three godly virtues. Now they eternally behold their bridegroom, God the Word. Let us rejoice spiritually in their memory and cry: O our three Heavenly Protectors, establish, confirm and strengthen us in Faith, Hope and Love.
Apolytikion in the Fifth Tone
You blossomed in the courts of the Lord as a fruitful olive tree, holy martyr Sophia; in your contest you offered to Christ the sweet fruit of your womb, your daughters Faith, Hope, and Love. Together with them intercede for us all.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Since Faith and Hope and Love were in truth sacred branches of ven'rable Sophia, the namesake of wisdom by grace they have shown all men that Greek wisdom is foolishness, and in contest they proved to be prizewinning victors; wherefore, they received a crown that never shall perish from Christ God, the Lord of all.
The relics of Saint Sophia and her three daughters were originally laid in a crypt on the Latin Way in the Cemetery of Gordianus and Epimachus outside the Latin Gate, where other 2nd century martyrs were laid.
Some of her relics were brought by St. Remigius of Strasbourg to the Abbey of Saint Trophime at Eschau, Alsace in 777 with the blessing of Pope Adrian. The Gothic sarcophagus (pictured) is said to contain relics of all four Saints. The Breviary of Strasbourg (1476) places the feast of St. Sophia and her three daughters to May 10, which was the day that the translation of their relics took place in Alsace and also is the feast day of Sts. Gordianus and Epimachus. The Orthodox Church honors St. Sophia and her three daughters Faith, Hope and Love on September 17th.
Pope Sergius II transferred her relics around 845 to the high altar of the church of San Martino ai Monti in Rome.
Fish aren't birds. Seems like a simple enough argument; one lives in the water, the other flies around and lives pretty much wherever it likes.
Then there are flying fish. Like flying squirrels and scuba divers, these animals appear profoundly confused about which element they belong in. They blur the lines about what it means to be a "fish." The thing is, they're good at it -- flying fish can remain aloft for up to 45 seconds and travel a quarter of a mile above the water.
How do they do it? Two engineers at Seoul National University in Korea, Haecheon Choi and Hyungmin Park, have just found out.
Read the rest here.
In the video above, flying fish fly to escape predators, and then deposit their eggs on a raft of palm fronds. Watch the entire "Fish" episode of LIFE on Animal Planet, Sunday, June 13 at 8PM e/p.
A group of 250 Greek-Americans decided not to go to Turkey.
17 September 2010
A group of 250 Greek-Americans who urged Turkish authorities to allow a religious service at the Aya-Sofya (Hagia Sophia) Museum in Istanbul -- which has been closed to religious worship for 75 years -- decided not to go to Turkey.
In an act of gesture towards Orthodox Christians, Turkey recently allowed an historic mass at the Sumela Monastery which was closed to worship for 88 years, which drew some 1,500 Orthodox Christians from the Russian Federation, Greece, Georgia and the U.S. to Trabzon, and is getting ready to open the historic Armenian Church on the Akdamar island to religious worship for a single day, as a symbolic gesture to the Armenian community around the world.
Chris Spyrou, head of the "International Congregation of Agia Sophia" and the leader of the group which has been waiting in Alexandroupoli to leave for Turkey early on Friday, told AA that they received a statement from Turkish authorities regarding their demand and actions as provocative.
Spyrou, who argued that their sole intention was to pray, said the statement was like a restriction of entry to Turkey. He said they changed their mind and decided not to go to Turkey upon this development.
The "International Congregation of Agia Sophia" was founded in 2005 and is a U.S. based non-profit organization. Its purpose is to restore the Hagia Sophia as a place of Orthodox worship despite the historical building has been used as a mosque during during more than 450 years.
Turkey's Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay made clear earlier today that any kind of religious worship at the museum was out of the question.
"Aya Sofya is one of the special places in the world. It has been serving humanity for 1,500 years. In the last century, we have been serving Aya Sofya," he said.
"If we allow it, we will have to meet demands of other communities and religions," Gunay was quoted as saying.
Aya Sofya is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the cathedral. The building was a mosque from May 29, 1453 until 1934. It was opened as a museum on February 1, 1935 and closed to religious service ever since.
Read also: Crisis Averted – Liturgy in Hagia Sophia Cancelled
Thursday, September 16, 2010
According to Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu: "Today the Steeler Nation has acquired a new citizen. Theodora, Paisios, and I welcome Ephraim Polamalu. Boy born 5:01 AM this morning."
We know that Troy, a devout Orthodox Christian, named his first child after Elder Paisios the Athonite. Seeing that he is a regular parishioner of Elder Ephraim's monastery in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, we can probably guess his newborn son is named after Elder Ephraim of Arizona.
In an interview last year, Troy was asked what his greatest wish was for his first son, and we can suspect that his answer below applies to Ephraim as well:
"Without a question, my greatest wish would be for him to understand the spiritual struggle and to be a pious Orthodox Christian. That’s what I want for myself, as well. Sometimes parents want their children to be what they never were. And that’s one thing that I am gracious for Paisios to have: that he’s able to grow up in the Orthodox church around monastics and priests that I was never able to experience as a kid - to grasp that, not take it for granted and really culture that."
Orthodox Glad To Claim Polamalu As One Of Their Own
A Wild Interview With Troy Polamalu
NFL Players Still Turn To Religion For Solace
by St. Dimitri of Rostov
During the reign of the impious Diocletian, Chalcedon was governed by the proconsul Priscus, who was appointed to his position by the Emperor. Priscus, wishing to celebrate a feast in honor of the demon called Ares, sent a decree in the Emperor’s name to the cities and villages roundabout, commanding that all should gather together in Chalcedon for the feast and that each, according to his means, should offer a sacrifice to Ares. In his decree, Priscus threatened with great torments those who refused to obey his command to come to the feast, which was to take place in eight days.
When the day appointed for the demonic feast arrived, a great multitude of people gathered together with the beasts which they had brought for sacrifice. They celebrated the feast riotously, sacrificing sheep and oxen and worshipping the lifeless idol – or rather, the demon that dwelled within it. The Christians who lived in Chalcedon and near that city denounced the festival, which was hateful to God, and hid themselves, fearing the Proconsul’s dreadful threats. Gathering together in secret places, they offered up prayer to the true God, our Lord Jesus Christ. The persecutor ordered that a diligent search be made in order to discover whether anyone had failed to comply with his decree and had not worshipped the idol of Ares. He learned that the Christians had not fulfilled his command, refusing to render a demon the honor which is due the true God alone. The tormentor was angered that the Christians had not obeyed him, and he ordered that they be found and brought to torture.
In a secret place there were forty-nine Christians concealed who offered up prayer to God. Among them was a fair and noble maiden Euphemia, the daughter of illustrious parents, Philophronus the Senator and his wife, Theodorosia. These Christians were betrayed t the persecutor, who ordered that they be seized and brought before his tribunal. In accordance with the tormentor’s instructions, his cruel lackeys with their weapons in hand fell upon the rational flock of Christ in their hiding place like beasts eager for the kill. They surrounded the house in which the faithful served God in secret and blocked its doors so that no one could escape. Mercilessly they dragged them out one by one, and mocking and insulting them, they brought them before the Proconsul. Having been led like sheep to the slaughter, the humble servants of Christ stood before the proud persecutor. Seeing that they were ready to profess their Lord, even to the shedding of their blood, the haughty magistrate said, “Do you oppose the edict which the Emperor and I have enacted? Do you refuse to sacrifice to the great god Ares?”
They answered, “If your decree and the Emperor’s is not contrary to the commandments of God of heaven, we will obey it. If it stands in opposition to God, then not only will we disobey it, but we will seek to overturn it. If you were to command us to do that which we are obliged to do, we would render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. However, inasmuch as your ordinance is opposed to God’s commandments, and you, in a manner hateful to God, require us to honor that which is created rather than the Creator, worshipping and offering sacrifice to a demon rather than to the most high God, we shall never obey your decree; for we are true worshippers of the one God, Who dwells in the heavens.”
Then the persecutor spoke. Having sharpened his false tongue like a razor, he sought to entice the Christians with flatteries and promises of gifts and honors. He hoped that by his cunning speech he could lead those whom Christ had acquired by His precious blood away from the right path to the pernicious idolatry which he espoused. At the same time he threatened them with bitter torments should they refuse to do what he demanded of them.
The saints answered him thus, “Gifts and honors such as those you promise us we have long since renounced and come to despise, counting them as dung, for we await heavenly reward, which are greater and better than all the good things of the world. The good things of this world are transitory and fleeting while that which is heavenly is eternal and unchanging. We do not fear the cruel torments with which you threaten us; on the contrary, we greatly desire to undergo them so that the power of our God may be made manifest in us and that you might be filled with amazement and put to shame when you see that your gods, hateful to the true God, are powerless. But why do we need to prolong our speech and multiply our words? Do what you have resolved to do. Try us, and you will find that our zeal to suffer surpasses your ability to torment us.”
Then the persecutor handed them over to torture, wounding them and placing them in shackles. For nineteen days the saints underwent various torments: each day wounds were added to their wounds, and they suffered hunger and thirst. Among their number was the holy virgin Euphemia, who was young and fair. To strengthen her, her companions said, “Labor for the sake of the Heavenly Bridegroom; labor so that by your sufferings, you will please Him. Labor to meet Him together with the wise virgins so that He, loving you as His bride, will lead you into His bridal chamber.”
On the twentieth day the saints were brought to judgment and questioned thus by Proconsul: “Now that you have been punished, will you obey our edict?”
Saint Euphemia, together with the other holy martyrs, answered, “Do not think that you can lead us away from the right path. The mountains would sooner be reduced to dust and the stars fall from the sky, than our hearts turn from the true God.”
The persecutor was enraged by these words and ordered that the prisoners be beaten in the face, but seeing that this had no effect, he decided to send them to the Emperor. In the meantime they were cast into prison.
The Proconsul had observed that Saint Euphemia was young and beautiful and that she shone forth among the other holy martyrs like the moon amid the stars. Therefore, as the saints were being led to the dungeon, he snatched her out from among the flock of Christ like a wolf which singles out a sheep. Lifting up her eyes and hands to heaven, she cried out, “Forsake me not, O my Bridegroom, Jesus Christ; in Thee do I hope! Deliver not unto wild beasts the soul which loveth Thee and which confesseth Thy holy name. Let not mine enemies rejoice over me, but do Thou strengthen Thy frail handmaiden, that iniquity might not overcome me.”
The persecutor, hoping to incline Euphemia to the godlessness which he espoused, tried by every means to entice her by kind words, numerous gifts, and various promises, attempting to lure her virginal heart. But she said manfully, “Do not think that you will easily exploit my frailty, turning me to wickedness and impiety by your enticements. Although I am a woman by nature, by heart is more manly than yours, and the power of my faith is greater than any power you possess. By the grace of Christ I am wise beyond all your heathen sages, whom you regard as learned but who are truly more ignorant than any illiterate, for they do not desire to acknowledge the true God but have the devil as their god. Do not think that you will entice me with your crafty words as once the serpent beguiled our ancestor Eve. And do not imagine that you will make this hateful world seem sweet to ne my offering its allurements, for I regard all these things as bitter herbs, for the sake of m sweetest Jesus. By all your tortures you will not overcome my strength, which is made perfect in weakness. For I place my hope in Christ, Who will not forsake me nor withdraw trample the proud head of the devil underfoot.”
The persecutor, having been brought to shame, was greatly angered. His vile love for the martyr was transformed into hate, and he ordered that a wheel be prepared for her torture, on which were fixed many sharps knives. These knives were sharpened so that all her flesh might be cut and sliced to the very bone. The saint was fastened to this wheel, and the Proconsul’s henchmen began to turn it; her body was cut up and her members mangled. But Euphemia prayed fervently to God, saying, “O Lord Jesus Christ, the Enlightenment of my soul: the Fountain of Life, Who granteth salvation unto those who trust in Thee! Come now to mine aid, that all might know that Thou alone art God, the certain hope of those who put their trust in Thee, and that no evils and no scourge shall come nigh unto those who make the Most High their refuge.”
When she had said this, the wheel immediately stopped, and the Proconsul’s henchmen collapsed, exhausted. An angel of God came down and wrecked the wheel, from which the holy virgin descended, healed of her wounds and made whole. Joyfully she chanted, giving thanks to God and glorifying His all-powerful might.
When the torturer and all those present saw these things, they were perplexed and marveled greatly at this miracle. Nevertheless, since the eyes of their mind were blinded by wickedness, even this great wonder brought them no benefit. They were unable to perceive the workings of the mighty hand of the true God, for seeing, they did not perceive, and hearing, they did not understand; for their hearts were hardened, and they ascribed that marvelous wonder to sorcery.
Then the tormentor ordered that a furnace be prepared so that the saint might be cast into the fire. As the furnace was being heated and the fire was being stoked, the holy martyr arrayed herself in the armor which the Three Youths had worn, that is, prayer. She withstood the burning of the material fire with the power of the fire of her love for God, and as she lifted up her eyes to heaven, she said, “O God, Who art exalted, yet lookest upon the lowly; Who protected the Three Youths in Babylon, who had been delivered unto fire for the sake of the Law, keeping them whole and unharmed by the flames, preserving them by Thy holy angel and sending down dew upon them: be Thou my Helper, for I am Thy handmaiden and I enter this contest for the sake of Thy glory, O my Christ!
When Euphemia had said this, she signed herself with the Cross, arming herself in this way as though with a weapon. She stood ready for the fire, waiting for them to cast her in. At that moment two of the soldiers, Victor and Sosthenes, who had been ordered to hurl the martyr into the flames, saw a wondrous apparition in the fire: they beheld an angel of God in the furnace, who parted the flames and forbade them to touch the bride of Christ. Having seen this marvel, they said to the persecutor, “Proconsul, we cannot touch this honorable virgin with our defiled hands and cast her into the fire even if you were to cut off our heads, for we have seen a most extraordinary wonder, which your eyes cannot see. It would be better for us to suffer your wrath than the wrath of the luminous man in the fire.”
When the tormentor heard this, he was angered at the soldiers, and thinking that they did not wish to cast the maiden into the furnace because they were Christians, he imprisoned them and had two others, Caesarius and Barus, do what had been commanded. They seized the virgin and hurled her into the furnace, and as they did this, great flames leaped forth toward their faces, burning them to ashes and causing the other servants to take flight. But the saint, rejoicing in the furnace as though she were in a bright chamber or in refreshing dew, chanted the hymn of the Three Youths: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and supremely praised and supremely exalted unto ages." Truly, this was a most glorious miracle! The fire did not touch her nor even her garments, for her immortal Bridegroom Himself, Jesus Christ, mystically came to His holy bride in the furnace and covered her with dew. When the furnace was extinguished, the saint emerged unharmed, to the astonishment of all. The persecutor, not knowing what to do next, had her cast into the dungeon and said, “Tonight I will determine what to do with this sorceress.”
He also had Victor and Sosthenes brought to him. He became enraged with them and vowed that he would kill them if they did not worship the idols. But they answered him, “Until today, we were in error. We did not know the true God, but now we have come to know Him Who alone created heaven and earth. We believe in Him and worship Him, and we will no longer bow down before your gods, whom we formerly worshipped, not perceiving the demon’s deception. Do with us what you will. Our bodies are in your power, but our souls are guarded by God.”
And so the persecutor condemned them to be consumed by wild beasts. As the saints went to the place where they were to be eaten by the beasts, they prayed fervently to God that He be merciful to them and that He remit the sins they had committed while yet in their former error and that He cause their souls to dwell with those who believe in Him. Immediately a voice from heaven summoned them to repose. Hearing the voice, they joyfully surrendered their souls into the hands of God. Their bodies were never touched by the beasts but were secretly buried by the faithful.
When the night had passed and morning came, the tormentor sat upon his tribunal, and Saint Euphemia was brought from the prison, chanting joyously as she came, “O God, a new song shall I sing unto Thee, I shall glorify Thee, O Lord my strength. I shall chant unto Thee among the nations and glorify Thy name, for Thou art the only true God, and there is none like unto Thee.” As she chanted, she was brought before the tribunal where she was questioned and tortured in an attempt to make her sacrifice. When the persecutor saw that her heart could not be moved to worship the demons and that she would not submit, he ordered that she be suspended and that her flesh be scraped with sharp knives; nevertheless, after undergoing this torture, her body, by the power of God, was found to be unharmed. Then a deep pit was dug and filled with water, and a multitude of snakes, vipers, and venomous serpents were placed in it. When the hole had been filled, the torturer commanded that Saint Euphemia be cast into it. Signing herself with the Cross, she said, “O Jesus Christ, my Light! Thou didst preserve Jonah unharmed in the belly of the sea monster; Thou didst deliver Daniel from the jaws of the lions. Guard me by Thy mighty hand, that Thy holy name may be glorified in me!
Having said this, the saint threw herself into the pit. The snakes and vipers drew near her but did her no harm. It seemed, rather, that they were solicitous for her, for they bore her on their backs so that she would not sink into the water which filled the hole. Thus, by the grace of God, the saint emerged from the pit altogether unharmed.
The persecutor was uncertain what to do with her next. He still wished to put her to death and concluded that the sorcery which he ascribed to the saint could only overcome the direct application of torture and not covert schemes. Therefore, he ordered another hidden pit to be dug with sharp spears, swords, and daggers were placed, driven into the ground with their pointed ends upward. After the top of the pit had been covered with branches and earth, he commanded the martyr to walk across the concealed pit, hoping that, unaware of the existence of the pit, she would fall upon the sharp weapons and die of the wounds she would thus suffer. But the saint crossed over the mouth of the pit nimbly, like a bird flying over a net, while certain pagans, who did not know of the pit’s existence, fell into it and perished. When the persecutor saw this he was aghast, and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "He opened a pit and dug it, and he shall fall into the hole which he hath made".
Meanwhile, the saint praised God, singing, “Who shall tell of the mighty acts of the Lord? Who shall make all Thy praises to be heard, O Lord? For Thou hast preserved unharmed by wounds Thy handmaiden who suffereth torment. Thou hast saved her from fire; Thou hast shielded her against wild beast, water, and the tortures of the wheel; and Thou hast brought her up out of the pit. And now, O Lord, deliver my soul out of the hands of him who from the beginning hath been Thy foe. The sins of my youth and mine ignorances remember not, but may the drops of Thy blood, poured forth upon me, cleanse the defilement of my flesh and spirit, for Thou art the cleansing and sanctification and enlightenment of Thy servants.”
The Proconsul attempted yet again to entice Euphemia with kind words, saying, “Do not dishonor your family, do not destroy the flower of your youth, do not deprive yourself of life. Be converted to the worship of the great Ares, and you will be honored and praised, and greatly glorified by all of us, and will possess much wealth.”
In this manner the Proconsul sought to deceive the saint with his words, but she laughed at him and reviled him as a fool. Then he resorted again to torture. After having her beaten severely with rods, he ordered that she be cut in half with a sharp saw, but the saw would not cut her body. Next he commanded that she be seared in a heated pan, but the pan was made cool, for an angel preserved the bride of Christ amid all these torments.
Finally, Euphemia was handed over to be consumed by wild beasts. As the saint was being led into the arena where she was to be fed to the beasts, she prayed to God that He put an end to her suffering, the He receive her soul into His hands, and that He summon her spirit to come forth from her long-suffering body to the land for which it longed, and she said, “O Lord of all the hosts of heaven, Thou hast made manifest in me Thine invincible power and Thine unconquerable right hand. Thou hast revealed the feebleness of the demons and the mindlessness of the persecutor and hast made me impervious to all torments. Wherefore, as Thou hast formerly accepted the slaughter of the martyrs who preceded me and the shedding of their blood, so receive my sacrifice, which if offered to Thee with a contrite soul and in a spirit of humility. Grant my soul repose in the habitation of the saints and the choirs of the martyrs, for blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.”
When Euphemia had prayed thus, bears and lions were released upon her, but when they approached her they merely licked her feet. One she-bear, however, wounded her foot slightly, causing blood to flow. When this took place, a voice came from above, summoning her to heaven, and immediately she surrendered her spirit to the Lord, for Whom she had resolutely suffered. As her soul departed, the earth trembled, the city was shaken, its walls tumbled down, and its temples were razed to the ground. The people were terror-stricken, and all fled from the arena in fear as the saint’s holy body lay dead in the sand.
Euphemia’s parents came and took their holy daughter and reverently buried her near the city, giving thanks to God and rejoicing that they had been deemed worthy to be the parents of such a daughter, who by the shedding of her blood became the bride of Christ, the Heavenly Bridegroom and King of all.
Η ΑΓΙΑ ΕΥΦΗΜΙΑ ΣΤΙΣ ΣΧΕΣΕΙΣ ΠΑΠΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΑΥΤΟΚΡΑΤΟΡΩΝ
The Relics of Saint Euphemia the Great Martyr
Saint Euphemia's Conversation With Elder Paisios
More on the Relationship Between Elder Paisios and Saint Euphemia
The Holy Monastery of Saint Euphemia in Kerkyra
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb Euphemia doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great in mercy.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou strovest valiantly in thy sacred contest; and even after death, thou makest us holy with streams of healings, O all-praised Euphemia. For this cause we venerate thy most holy dormition and with faith we stand before thine all-venerable relics, that we be freed from illness of the soul and also draw forth the grace of thy miracles.