"Above, the hosts of angels sing praise; below, men form choirs in the churches and imitate them by singing the same doxology. Above the Seraphim cry out the Trisagion Hymn; below, the human throng sends up the same cry. The inhabitants of heaven and earth are brought together in a common assembly; there is one thanksgiving, one shout of delight, one joyful chorus." - St. John Chrysostom
"The unceasing and sanctifying doxology by the holy angels in the Trisagion signifies, in general, the equality in the way of life and conduct and the harmony in the divine praising which will take place in the age to come by both heavenly and earthly powers, when the human body now rendered immortal by the resurrection will no longer weigh down the soul by corruption and will not itself be weighed down but will take on, by the change into incorruption, potency and aptitude to receive God’s coming. In particular it signifies, for the faithful, the theological rivalry with the angels in faith; for the active ones, it symbolizes the splendor of life equal to the angels, so far as this is possible for men, and the persistence in the theological hymnology; for those who have knowledge, endless thoughts, hymns, and movements concerning the Godhead which are equal to the angels, so far as humanly possible." - St. Maximus the Confessor
On the 25th of September, each year the Orthodox Church commemorates the miracle of the taking up into heaven by the angels of a child when Proklos was Patriarch of Constantinople (434-446) and Theodosios II was emperor.
"During Proklos’ reign great earthquakes were occurring in Constantinople for four months continuously. Being struck with fear, the Romans went out of the city to the so-called Kampos, and were supplicating God and processing with the bishop night and day. One day, when the earth was shaking and all the people were continuously crying out the 'Kyrie eleison' (Lord have mercy), at about the third hour, suddenly and in sight of all a young child was taken up into the air, and a divine voice was heard around it announcing to the bishop and the people to process and to say thus: 'Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us', nothing else being added. Our father among the Saints, Proklos, accepting the decision, processed the people chanting thusly and the earthquake immediately ceased. The blessed Pulcheria and her brother, supporting the miracle, established that this divine hymn be chanted throughout the entire ecumene; and from that day all the churches sing to God each day." [PG 108.244B-248A]
In his treatise The Orthodox Faith, Saint John of Damascus (8th c.) adds that “it is traditional that the Thrice-Holy Hymn was also sung in this manner at the holy and great Fourth Ecumenical Council — that which was held in Chalcedon, I mean — for so it is reported in the acts of this same holy council” . The Council of Chalcedon was held in 451, but it is clearly accepted that the hymn was inserted into the liturgy between the years 430 and 450. Since then, of course, its use spread throughout almost every service of the Orthodox Church. Today, it is intricately combined even with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, both in the Church and in private devotion in what are known as the “Introductory Trisagion Prayers” that begin the majority of divine services.
The hymn was probably so completely embraced by the Church due to the fact that the Monophysite Antiochian Patriarch Peter the Fuller (circa 470) interpolated into the hymn the phrase “who was crucified for us,” attempting to align his position with the Theopaschites (a particular group of Monophysites). In any event, Orthodoxy would not accept the change and it was eventually rejected by the 81st Canon of the Council in Trullo, in 692. It’s popularity also seems to be attested to by the early date of its appearance in the West, also, as we shall see below.
The mystagogical-anagogical interpretation of the Trisagion hymn by the Fathers of the Church is connected with the context of the Thrice-Holy, Angelic Triumphal Hymn we just examined [see source below]: the three holies of the Seraphic Hymn is expanded in the Trisagion as a hymn specifically to the three persons of the Holy Trinity. In discussing the hymn’s place in the Divine Liturgy, Saint Nicholas Cabasilas comments establish us in the choir of the angels (Cabasilas; 2002, 59ff. Cf. Symeon; 1984, 34ff.):
"Next [after the raising of the Book of the Gospels] we praise God himself, the Triune God, as the coming of the Saviour revealed him to us. The hymns which we sing comes to us from the angels, and is taken in part from the book of the sacred psalms of the prophet. It was gathered together by Christ’s Church and dedicated to the Trinity. For the Hagios [the Holy], which is repeated thrice, is the angelic acclamation [Is. 6. 3. Rev. 4. 8]; the words 'Strong and Immortal God' are those of the blessed David, who exclaims: 'My soul thirsts for the strong and living God' [Ps. 42. 2]. The Church which is the assembly of those who believe and profess the Trinity and Unity of God, played its part in gathering together these two acclamations, joining them, and adding the phrase, 'Have mercy on us'; she wished to show, on the one hand, the harmony of the Old and New Testaments, and on the other, that angels and men form one Church, a single choir, because of the coming of Christ who was of both heaven and earth. That is why we sing this hymns after the bringing in and showing of the Book of the Gospels; it is as if we proclaim that he, by coming among us, has given us a place amid the angels, and established us in the heavenly choir."
A number of structural liturgical factors, as well as the manuscript tradition for the Trisagion point to an origin outside the context of the Divine Liturgy. First, its structural hymnographic form—εὐφήμιον (refrain), glorification (Glory; both now.), ἀκροτελεύτιον (repeated last line), and περισσὴ (embellished, appendix repeat)—indicate its use as an antiphonal kanon, which would align itself well with its origin as a Constantinopolitan processional, as modern liturgiology has recently observed (Taft; 1977, 214ff.). Its use at the end of the Great Doxology and the witness of usage in the asmatic vespers of the cathedral rite in the Athos, Great Lavra MS Λ.165 shortly before the dismissal (Conomos; 1974, p. 70ff.) point to an origin in the Divine Liturgy as an entrance processional (introit) carried over from a wider processional, “stational” liturgical tradition (cf. Baldovin; 1987 and Mateos; 1971). Tradition has also preserved a special tidbit of information pointing to this processional origin. It is recorded that the point of the perisse (the appendix troparion at the end of an antiphonal psalmody) was when the Emperor and his court arrived in the Church (Conomos; 1974, 27 and Wellesz; 1961, 107). The highly formalized court rituals spilled over into the public worship life and we know that on great feasts the Patriarch and Emperor entered the Great Church together. The purpose of the highly melismatic perisse had the practical application of covering a multitude of liturgical actions, prayers and petitions establishing the Patriarch on the synthronon before the scripture readings, which in Byzantine times was the actual beginning of the Divine Liturgy (Taft; 1977, 214ff., and 1979, 287. Moran; 1979, 178ff. Baldovin; 1987, 218ff.).
Anyone familiar with the Divine Liturgies of the Orthodox Church knows that the Trisagion is still chanted today (without the antiphonal psalmic verses, which disappeared without a trace) and its psaltic tradition is still quite vibrant. The only time when it is not chanted is on the feasts of the Cross, 14 September and the Third Sunday of the Great Fast, and the Great Feasts of the Master (Despotikai heortai), when two special alternative hymns take its place—on the Great Feasts the baptismal hymn All those who have been baptized in Christ… (Ὅσοι εἰς Χριστόν) and on the feasts of the Cross the We venerate Thy Cross, O Master… (Τὸν Σταυρόν Σου), possibly originating in Jerusalem. The daily form is as follows: It is chanted three times followed by a glorification (Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.). The last phrase (ἀκροτελεύτιον) and then repeated a final time as a perisse, announced with the word δύναμις from the deacon. The word means “power” or “strength,” an obvious command to chant in a more intense fashion. All of this takes place just prior to the appointed scriptural readings for the day:
Right choir: Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.
Left choir: Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.
Right choir: Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.,
Left choir: Δόξα Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ καὶ ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι.
Right choir: Καὶ νῦν καὶ ἀεί, καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.
Left choir: Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.
Right choir: Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός.
Left choir: Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός.
Right choir: Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.
On Sundays and great feast days when there are many clergy serving the typika, euchologia and music manuscripts preserve a repeating of the hymn even more than three times, with the antiphonal chanting including the choir of clergy from within the holy altar (bema), something still practiced even today....
To summarize regarding the Trisagion, its divinely revealed origin attests to its popularity, as does its use throughout the Church’s daily worship cycle. It looks to be an expansion on the Angelic, triumphal thrice-holy hymn, developing its Trinitarian character to address each person of the Godhead individually. The Trisagion prayers, the introductory prayers used to begin almost every service, just before the Lord’s Prayer, are among the first prayers learned by an Orthodox believer. The term Trisagion service has come to refer to the memorial service for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. For our purposes here, though, we emphasize the use of the Trisagion as a vehicle of anagogy.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
"Above, the hosts of angels sing praise; below, men form choirs in the churches and imitate them by singing the same doxology. Above the Seraphim cry out the Trisagion Hymn; below, the human throng sends up the same cry. The inhabitants of heaven and earth are brought together in a common assembly; there is one thanksgiving, one shout of delight, one joyful chorus." - St. John Chrysostom
The Life of our holy monastic father Sergius and accounts of his numerous miracles are to be found in a separate book printed in the royal city of Moscow. In this book the following miracle is recounted.
After the ungodly Council of Florence a multitude of pious hierarchs and priests did not wish to submit to the errors of the Latins and were put to death by the Romans by means of various tortures. Now there was a certain priest from the land of Great Russia who went to the council with Isidore, the Metropolitan of Kiev, who later fell from Orthodoxy. The presbyter’s name was Symeon, and he endured many afflictions and torments for piety’s sake at the hands of the apostate Metropolitan Isidore. When he was released from his bonds, he took counsel with Thomas, the envoy from Tver, and fled from the Latin city of Florence to his own land. Because of the hardships of the journey, he was troubled and cast into great sorrow. Once, when he laid down to rest, he fell into a dream and beheld a venerable elder standing above him. The elder took him by the right hand and said, "Did you receive the blessing of Mark, the Bishop of Ephesus, who follows in the footsteps of the apostles?"
Symeon replied, "Sir, I have indeed seen the wondrous and resolute Mark and received his blessing."
The elder said, "God’s blessing is upon that man, for the vain assembly of the Latins has utterly failed to prevail over him either by offers of wealth or flattery or threats of torture. As you have heard the blessed Mark’s teaching and instruction, proclaim to all the Orthodox wherever you go that, possessing the traditions of the holy apostles and the ordinances of the holy fathers of the Seven Councils and knowing the truth, they should be not deceived by the Latins. Moreover, do not be troubled by the journey’s difficulties, for I will remain with you and shall keep you from harm."
After the venerable elder had said this and much else, the presbyter asked him, "Sir, tell me, who are you, for it seems to me that it was God that sent you to lead us who are in despair out of this strange land."
"I am Sergius, to whom you once prayed and to whose monastery you vowed to come," replied the elder.
After seeing this vision the presbyter took heart and arose, and he told his companion Thomas that which he had seen and heard. Rejoicing, they continued along their way; and soon, by God’s providence and through the prayers of their intercessor, the godly Sergius, they reached the land of Russia unharmed. They told the people of the vision and the help they had received from the saint, proclaiming that which the presbyter had heard, and they related all that had occurred at the Council of Florence.
It is fitting that this account be retold at the present time when sacred piety is mocked and suffers persecution at the hands of the Romans. Seeing our venerable father Sergius standing unshaken like a pillar, even after his repose denouncing the Council of Florence as most iniquitous, the children of the Eastern Church should not be deceived by the vain arguments of the Romans concerning the faith. For our faith, according to the Apostle, is not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
By Kostas S.
In February 0f 2004 I visited the Elder [Ambrose] at the house of the monastery which is in Athens, the abbess welcomed me, and I asked how the Elder was doing. The abbess however told me that the Elder was not well...at that moment I heard the Elder in pain...I went to the room and I saw him lying down in bed covered in a heavy hair-filled bed spread. I received his blessing and asked him:
"Elder, what happened to you, where do you hurt?"
"Lift the bed spread up till the knees and you will see."
I did as he told me and that which I witnesses was traumatizing! I saw both his legs from the knee down to be bruised and blackened. I confess that I have never seen anything like it.
"Elder," I asked, "how did this happen to you?"
"Last night a leader with a fearsome plank of wood came in and began to beat me hard on my legs. When I said 'My Panagia' it disappeared out the window."
The previous day I had returned from Mount Athos, specifically from Vatopaidi Monastery, and I had brought with me a few cords from the Holy Zoni (Belt) of our Panagia given to me by the fathers. I told the Elder that I would bring him a cord and tie it on his leg. It so happened that after a few days I returned to see him and he told me that every Christian must have a piece of the chord of the Holy Zoni on him.
1672 - 1725 Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia
1709 - 1761 Elizabeth Petrova, Empress of Russia beginning 1741
1721 Birth of St. Dositheos
1722 Birth of Staretz Paissy (Velichkovsky)
1723 - 1730 Dositheos at the Monastery of the Ascension in Moscow
1730 - 1736 Dositheos at his family home
1736 - 1739 Dositheos a novice at the Lavra of St. Sergey of Radonezh
1739 Beginning of his life as a recluse in the Kitaev Caves, Kiev
1744 The Empress Elizabeth visits Kitaev; Dositheos becomes a monk
1759 Birth of St. Seraphim of Sarov
1770 - 1775 St. Dositheos at the Lavra’s Far Caves
1775 St. Seraphim (as a layman) visits Kitaev
1776 25 September: repose of St. Dositheos
Read the life of St. Dositheos here.
September 23, 2010
We're surrounded by superstitions every day -- don't walk under a ladder, don't step on a crack, avoid black cats -- but where do these beliefs come from and why do we follow them?
More importantly, are superstitions the real deal or just real silly?
British author Harry Oliver has just released in the U.S. "Black Cats & Four-Leaf Clovers" (Perigee), a book that explores the origins of superstitions and old wives' tales from around the world.
Today, AOL News delves into 13 of Oliver's weirdest and wackiest superstitions and how they came to be ...
1. Don't Walk Under a Ladder: After researching this superstition for a year at the British Library in London, Oliver says the belief's most-cited origin points to "a ladder forming a triangle with the wall and the ground, suggesting the Holy Trinity." Apparently, walking through that triangle would show disrespect to the Trinity and therefore bring bad luck. Another possible (and much simpler) origin: Where there's a ladder, there's usually someone working on top and walking underneath could lead to all sorts of cartoonish accidents, like a hammer falling on someone's head.
2. Black Cats Bring Bad Luck: Oliver says black cats are notoriously linked to witchcraft, which is why some people think they're unlucky. However, there are two sides to this one. Allegedly, if a cat crosses your path it's considered unlucky, but if a cat walks toward you, it's a good omen. Should the first scenario happen, though, Oliver says the "only way to avert the bad luck is to spit."
3. Never Light Three Cigarettes With the Same Match: This superstition originated in military circles and dates back to those long nights in the trenches during World War I. "If three soldiers smoked at once, enemy snipers would easily detect them," says Oliver. "If they used the same match to light all three cigarettes, snipers would notice the match burning after the first one and would have enough time to load guns, aim and fire at the unlucky third smoker."
4. Carrots Are Good for Your Eyesight: Though some studies have shown that the vitamin A in carrots is good for the eyes, the vegetable alone isn't enough to spark 20/20 vision. Oliver says this old wives' tale -- or smart attempt by parents to get their children to eat their veggies -- originated as a myth during World War II. "That's when British pilots where rumored to be eating enormous amounts of carrots to see from high altitudes and in the dark. The rumor was widely spread to throw the public off from the fact that radar had been invented and was being used against the enemy," he says.
5. Cross Your Fingers: If you look hard enough, you can see this superstition has religious roots. Oliver says that crossing your fingers is a type of holy protection because the two overlapping fingers form a "slanted cross." This "good luck" ritual varies around the globe -- in Switzerland, people fold their thumbs in and wrap their other fingers around them instead of the standard index-and-middle-finger combination.
6. Don't Open an Umbrella in The House: The origins of this belief are simple -- what's designed for the outdoors should remain outside. While today's version of the old umbrella superstition is said to simply bring "bad luck," Oliver says there used to be a much darker cloud hanging over the belief in ancient times. "In earlier versions, opening an umbrella inside was an omen of death," he explains.
7. Always Have Something in the Oven: This old Jewish superstition could be considered "family friendly." Supposedly, leaving an oven empty will cause one's family to go hungry in the future. To avoid famine, it's enough to leave a baking sheet or a pan in the oven at all times as a precaution. "This belief is linked to ancient rituals in which food was left for household gods in order to ensure protection of the family," Oliver explains.
8. Wear Underwear Inside Out: When having a bad day, superstition suggests that turning your underwear inside out can make it all better. Oliver isn't quite sure where this odd belief came from, but we wouldn't be surprised if originated on a wild college campus somewhere, perhaps during a post-party "walk of shame."
9. Kiss a Mustachioed Man, End Up a Spinster: There are more superstitions revolving around marriage than we can count, and that includes "kissing a dark-skinned man at a wedding." If a woman does this, she'll supposedly get a marriage proposal shortly thereafter. But watch who you're smooching, ladies. If a woman kisses a man with a mustache and finds a stray hair on her lip after, she's destined to be a spinster.
10. Don't Praise Babies in China: If you're in China and you come across an adorable newborn baby, do not under any circumstances compliment the little one. In China, it's considered "unlucky" to praise babies because it "attracts the attention of ghosts and demons." Instead, Oliver says it's customary to "talk badly about babies" to keep evil entities away. Rather than getting upset, parents are told to convert those insults into praise quietly in their heads.
11. Don't Chew Gum at Night in Turkey: Even if your breath stinks, popping in a stick of gum after dinner in Turkey is a bad idea. "It's thought that if you're chewing gum at night in Turkey, you're actually chewing the flesh of the dead," says Oliver. Gross.
12. Lucky Four-Leaf Clovers: Because of how scarce four-leaf clovers really are, just finding one in a field is lucky in and of itself. Oliver says the rare leaf represents everything one could possibly desire in life: "wealth, fame, love and health."
Unlucky 13. The number 13 -- and Friday the 13th -- are considered unfortunate in many places, and the reasons go back to the Bible. Remember, Jesus had 13 disciples until one of them -- Judas -- betrayed him.
Although some superstitions have ancient roots, skeptic Joe Nickell thinks it's all a bunch of baloney.
Nickell, senior researcher at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, N.Y., says superstitions aren't the least bit grounded in scientific evidence, so therefore, they can't be taken seriously.
"Superstitions work backwards from the way science works. People start out with a belief and then look for any little bit of evidence that may support it. In science, we start with evidence first and then draw a belief," he explains.
Because superstitious folks "select" their own evidence -- like when you see a black cat and then choose to harp on the worst part of your day -- Nickell believes superstitions are nothing but "a perversion of evidence."
In all his time as a skeptic, he's never once found a superstition grounded in "cause and effect" -- nothing that proves that certain actions cause "good" or "bad" luck.
And boy, has he tried.
From time to time, Nickell and his staff at the Center for Inquiry hold "Superstition Bashes" on Friday the 13th where they test out every common superstition to prove or disprove them.
They run through a "Superstition Obstacle Course" where they walk under ladders, open an umbrella indoors and even break a mirror into tiny pieces.
"We've never found any correlation between those events and alleged 'bad' luck afterward," Nickell says. "Superstitions are bad thinking. There's nothing rational about them, no matter where they come from. They're just a belief for which no scientific proof exists."
Every man who loves purity and chastity becomes the temple of God.
- St. Ephrem the Syrian
It is just as shameful for lovers of the flesh and the belly to search out spiritual things as it is for a harlot to discourse on chastity.
- St. Isaac the Syrian
Offer to the Lord the weakness of your nature, fully acknowledging your own powerlessness, and imperceptibly you will receive the gift of chastity.
- St. John of the Ladder
The good Lord shows His great care for us in that the shamelessness of the feminine sex is checked by shyness as with a sort of bit. For if the woman were to run after the man, no flesh would be saved.
- St. John of the Ladder
Those who are inclined to sensuality often seem sympathetic, merciful, and prone to compunction; while those who care for chastity do not seem to have these qualities to the same extent.
- St. John of the Ladder
Indeed, who was ever able to grasp Christ or His Spirit perfectly without first purifying himself? Chastity is the exercise which from childhood prepares the soul for glory by making it attractive and lovable, and with ease brings this adornment for her to the next world untried. It holds up great expectations as the reward for small toil and renders our bodies immortal. It is only fitting then that all should gladly praise and esteem chastity above all other things; some, because by practicing virginity they have been espoused to the Word: others, because by chastity they have been emancipated from that condemnation, "Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt return".
- St. Methodius of Olympus
Friday, September 24, 2010
At that time, a shepherd was tending his sheep in a deserted valley which was filled with myrtle bushes. On September 24, forty days after the Dormition, the Mother of God appeared to him and told him to seek her icon which had been brought to that place many years before.
The shepherd fell to the ground in amazement, praying to the Theotokos. As soon as he got up and turned around, he saw the icon in the branches of a myrtle bush. Weeping for joy, he brought the icon home and told his friends and relatives about how he had found it.
When he awoke the next morning, the shepherd found the icon missing, and thought that perhaps someone had stolen it during the night. With a heavy heart, he led his sheep back to the spot where he had found the icon. To his amazement, he saw the icon once again in the branches of the myrtle bush. Glorifying God, the man took the icon home with him once more. The next morning, it had disappeared just as it had before. When this happened a third time, the shepherd realized that the Mother of God wanted her icon to remain where it had first appeared.
A small church was built to house the icon, and was called "Of the Myrtle Tree," after the icon. The building was replaced and enlarged over the years, and many miracles took place there.
At the end of the sixteenth century Theodore Koumprianos, a descendant of the shepherd who found the icon, lived in the village of Kousoumari. He was a paralytic, and had an unshakeable faith that the Mother of God would heal him. Each year on September 24 he sent a family member to the church to light candles for him. One year he asked to be carried there by his family so that he might venerate the icon himself. During the Vigil, a great noise was heard coming from the direction of the sea. People fled the church, thinking that pirates were attacking. The paralytic remained in the church by himself, entreating the Mother of God for protection. Suddenly, he heard a voice from the icon telling him to get up and flee. He stood up, and then walked out of the church. Soon he was able to run and catch up with his relatives, who rejoiced upon seeing this miracle. As it turned out, there was no pirate attack, and the noise was regarded as a sign of God's Providence so that the paralytic could remain alone in church with the icon. Since that time the Koumprianos family has celebrated the icon's Feast Day with a special reverence, since Theodore had been healed on that day.
Some of the other miracles associated with the Most Holy Theotokos and her icon "Of the Myrtle Tree" include protection of the island from the plague, ending the barrenness of a Jewish woman from Alexandria, saving people from death, and many other great wonders.
Pilgrims come to venerate the icon on the Feast of the Dormition (August 15), and also on the day of its discovery (September 24).
About the Monastery
Panagia Myrtidiotissa is the protectress of the Kythirians. Though there are differences in the sources as to when the miraculous icon was discovered, the chronicle of the priest Daniel Varypatis states that the icon was found on the 24th of September, 1446. Today, the original chapel which housed the miraculous icon of the Panagia remains as it was, however, a larger church has been built above the chapel. This was built by Abbot Agathangelos in 1857. Surrounding this church are monastic cells which were quickly built soon after the discovery of the icon by Monk Leontios. The church features an impressive 26m bell tower, located at the northeastern part of the Katholikon (main church), a work of Kythirian Nikolaos Fatseas-Fouriaris (1888). There is also a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity. This monastery is today the largest in the Metropolis.
A Miracle of Panagia Myrtioditissa
A ship was traveling at sea, when there began a terrible storm. Frigid fear seized the captain and crew. It was not like today. Then the boats were wooden. And they had sails! And the old boat started leaking. The pump worked continuously, but it didn’t do any good, and the boat started to sink. If the ship was lost what good were lifeboats and life jackets? All felt that every hope was lost. And then their minds turned to the Virgin Mary, who is the "hope of the hopeless”.
"Come, Panagia Myrtidiotissa, patroness and protector of our island. Save us. Pity our children and our elderly parents, who are waiting for us!"
Just before the boat sank, suddenly there appeared among them an all-illumined woman who said:
"I’ve come! Don’t be afraid! Your ship will be saved!"
And she plunged into the sea with a sponge in hand and closed the hole that had opened on board! In a few minutes, the boat went quietly on its way. They arrived at the first port they reached for repair. And what a miracle they saw! They saw the hole, which was opened on board, blocked by the sponge that was held in the hands of the Panagia when she appeared in the boat! Everyone saw this miracle. Full of emotion, the captain bought clean wax and made a candle like the mast of the boat. He also brought the sponge that the Panagia had in a box. He also made a small silver boat. He returned to his homeland, the island of Chios. All went to the Monastery of Panagia Myrtidiotissa. And when he went to venerate the miraculous icon, filled with emotion he cried out:
"That's her! We saw her! My Panagia! My Panagia!"
All of them knelt in front of the Panagia. They did their cross in reverence. They thanked her from the depth of their souls, and offered their small gifts, which are kept up till the present day.
The Importance of This Feast
September 24th is forty days following the Dormition of the Theotokos. There is a tradition in which prior to this feast of Panagia Myrtioditissa a forty-day Memorial was served in honor of the Theotokos, but the revelation of her icon on this day replaced the older feast with this one.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O people now let us clap our hands in faith and sing songs to the Mother of God crying out with fervor: Rejoice, the protection of all those in danger, Rejoice, the salvation of those who honor you with longing, Rejoice, you who granted healing to the paralytic.
Sprinkle your people with divine myrrh, who in the myrtles shown forth wondrously, Holy Icon, wondrous and divine, and grant your grace, Myrtidiotissa.
The complete service and story of Panagia Myrtidiotissa written by Bishop Sophronios of Kythera in 1640 can be read here.
Ὕμνοι Δοξολογικοί καί Παρακλητικοί
εἰς τήν Μυρτιδιώτισσαν, εἰς τύπον τῶν μεγαλυναρίων,*
ὧν ἡ ἀκροστιχίς˙ Μητρόθεε διάσωσον
Μητρόθεε Ἄνασσα Οὐρανοῦ,
ὄντως Πλατυτέρα, καί Ἀγγέλων
φωτοειδῶν, τῶν ἀκαταπαύστως,
ὑμνούντων τήν σήν δόξαν, Δέ-
σποινα καί Κυρία, Θεομακάριστε.
Ηλίου τῆς δόξης τοῦ νοητοῦ, τῆς
Δικαιοσύνης ἀπαστράψαντος τοῖς
ἐν γῇ, τοῦ πάντων Δεσπότου, Κυρίου
καί Σωτῆρος, Μήτηρ ὑπάρχεις ὄντως,
Τεκοῦσα ἀφράστως τόν σόν
Υἱόν, τόν Παντευεργέτην καί Σωτῆρα
καί Λυτρωτήν τόν κόσμον λυτροῦσαι,
παθῶν καί καχεξίας, ὡς πάντων
Ρᾶνον θείοις μύροις τόν
σόν λαόν, ἡ ἐν μυρτιδίοις ἀνα-
τείλασα θαυμαστῶς, ἁγίᾳ Εἰκό-
νι, θαυματουργῷ καί θείᾳ, καί
δίδου τήν σήν χάριν, Μυρτιδιώτισσα.
Οἱ ἔχοντες σκέπην σήν κραταιάν,
σεμνύνονται πάντες καί καυχῶνται
κατά Θεόν, σέ ἔχοντες τεῖχος, καί
θείαν προστασίαν, σεισμῶν πυρός
καί βλάβης, διαφυλάττουσαν.
Θεράπευσον Κόρη σούς ὑμνητάς,
ψυχῶν τε τάς νόσους, καί σωμάτων
τάς χαλεπάς, καί ἴασαι Μῆτερ, κακῶν
καί ἀσθενείας, δεινῶν ἀρρωστημάτων,
Εκ πάσης ἀνάγκης καί πειρα-
σμῶν, χαλεπῶν κινδύνων ἐπῃ-
ρείας τοῦ πονηροῦ, ρῦσαι νεο-
λαίαν δεινῶς κλονιζομένην, καί
Εξελε τούς νέους Μῆτερ Θεοῦ,
παθῶν καί κινδύνων πολυτρόπων
παντοδαπῶν, κράτυνον τήν πίστιν
τά ἤθη καί τό σέβας, θείᾳ κληρο-
Δεσμῶν ἁμαρτίας φθοροποιῶν,
καί πάσης κακίας καταχρήσεων
συμφορῶν, καί λευκοῦ θανάτου,
ἐκλύτρωσαι Παρθένε, φιλτάτην
Ιλέῳ σου ὄμματι στοργικῷ,
καί σῇ εὐσπλαγχνίᾳ διαφύλαττε
μητρικῇ, τάς νήσους Κυθήρων
καί τῶν Ἀντικυθήρων, σεισμῶν
πυρός μαχαίρας, Μυρτιδιώτισσα.
Αγάπην ὁμόνοιαν καί στοργήν,
παράσχου συζύγοις καί γονεῦσι
Μῆτερ Θεοῦ, καί δίδου πλουσίως,
χαράν καί εὐφροσύνην, πιστότη-
τα εἰρήνην, Μυρτιδιώτισσα.
Σεισμοῦ διασῴζουσα φυσικοῦ,
σεισμικάς δονήσεις σύ ἀπότρεψον
ἠθικάς, καί ἐκ ναυαγίων, οἰκογε-
νείας σῷζε, φρίκης διαζυγίων,
Ω Μῆτερ τοῦ Λόγου καί Λυ-
τρωτοῦ, σήν χάριν αἰτοῦμεν
ἐκκαρδίας τε καί ψυχῆς, μετάνοιαν
δοῦναι, σοῖς δούλοις ἀναξίοις,
οἰνοποσίας πάθους, σύ ἀπαλλάτ-
Σωτῆρα ἡ τέξασα καί Θεόν,
παντοίων κινδύνων διασῴζεις
καί συμφορῶν, αἱρέσεως πλά-
νης, σχίσματος τῆς μανίας,
ἐν τάχει ἀπαλλάττεις,
Ο πάντων ἁγίων τάς ἀρετάς,
ἀεί ὑπερβαίνων ὡς ὁ Κύριος καί
Θεός, Μητέρα σου θείαν, σεμνήν
Ὑπεραγίαν, πρόσδεξαι δυσωποῦ-
Νεότητα σῴζουσα ὦ Ἁγνή,
ἀνθρώπους ὡρίμους, οἴκους
νέους θεοσεβεῖς, καί τίμιον
γῆρας, διαφυλάττειν σπεύδεις,
Κυρία τῶν Ἀγγέλων,
* This hymn was written by Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythera in June 2006 and is to be chanted following the Megalynaria of the Supplication Service during the litany of the icon of Panagia Myrtidiotissa. The primary aim of this hymn is to protect God's people from earthquakes and other terrible disasters.
The "Hymn To The Queen of All" is chanted by the monks of Vatopaidi Monastery on Mount Athos. The Hymn was written by Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi (+2009). It was written on May 26, 2004.
1. Ως Παντάνασσα φωνούμε ότι τούτο σου ταιριάζει,
κι όποιος θα σε αντικρύσει την αγάπη σου θαυμάζει.
2. Μόνη σου κατονομάσθης ως Παντάνασσα δικαίως,
αφού κάθεσαι σε θρόνο, κι είναι τούτο μάλλον χρέος.
3. Έστησες στο Βατοπαίδι της εικόνος σου την βάσι,
καί σκορπάς την ευλογία στους πιστούς όποιος προφθάσει.
4. Στην μορφή σου όπως είσαι στην θεόγραφον εικόνα,
ως Παντάνασσα ανήκει, ως αρμόδιον κανόνα.
5. Χαίρε έμβλημα και στέφος των πιστών Αθωνιτών,
χαίρε, μόνη απαλλάττεις καταδίκης το θνητόν.
6. Ως Παντάνασσα αφανίζεις του καρκίνου την πληγήν,
πού από την ενοχή μας ταλαιπώρησε την γήν.
7. Ως Παντάνασσα φωτίζεις ασυγκρίτως κάθε νούν,
καί στην δόξα υπερβαίνεις και αυτού του ουρανού.
8. Χαίρε μόνη πρόξενε σωτηρίας τοίς πιστοίς,
κι ως Παντάνασσα ανοίγεις είσοδον εν Ουρανοίς.
9. Ως Παντάνασσα στηρίζεις των παρθένων τους χορούς,
καί γλυκαίνεις τη στοργή σου τους δυστήνους μας καιρούς.
10. Χαίρε ότι ήστραψας τώ προσώπω σου Αγνή,
κι ως Παντάνασσαν φωνούσαν τους αφείται η ποινή.
11. Της Τριάδος επαξίως κέρδισες τα δευτερεία,
ως εσάρκωσες τον Λόγον κι έγινες παντός Κυρία.
12. Χαίρε μόνιμος Παντάνασσα της αχράντου παρθενίας,
καί των μοναζόντων στήριγμα της βεβαίας σωτηρίας.
13. Των παρθένων είσαι πάντα η ελπίς και προστασία,
καί στηρίζεται μονίμως η σεπτή μας Εκκλησία.
14. Στην Μονή Βατοπαιδίου θέλησες να έχεις θρόνον,
καί εις την επίκλησίν σου απαλλάσσονται των πόνων.
15. Στής προνοίας σου πού ήρθες σωτηρία του παιδίου,
τούπες νάρθης να με εύρης στή Μονή Βατοπαιδίου.
16. Στον κλαυθμόν σεπτής κυρίας πού ζητούσε χωρισμόν,
τής εχάρισες παιδίον κι έφυγε τον πειρασμόν.
17. Κατοικώ στο Βατοπαίδι να το μάθ’ η κοινωνία,
καί θα σώζετ’ ο καθένας τη δική μου τη προνοία.
18. Την σεπτή μου την εικόνα πού Παντάνασσαν καλούνε,
αφού κάθομαι στον θρόνο, τί αρμόδιον θα πούνε;
19. Ως Παντάνασσα ενδύεις τους γυμνούς με παρρησίαν,
καί με λειτουργούς στηρίζεις την σεπτή μας Εκκλησία.
20. Σύ γάρ εί η τετοκυία τον σωτήρα τοίς ανθρώποις,
κι έμεινες ελευθερία πανταχού τοίς αιχμαλώτοις.
21. Ποιός Παντάνασσα δεν είπε και εσώθη πειρασμού,
καί σταμάτησε δικαίως του συνέχοντος κλαυθμού;
22. Χαίρε γή και τόπος ούσα της Χριστού μας Βασιλείας,
καί το κέντρον και η βάσις της Χριστού επαγγελίας.
23. Εις το Βατοπαίδι μένει της εικόνος σου η χάρις,
καί καλεί τον δυστυχούντα, δεύρο μόνιμα να πάρης.
24. Χαίρε κτίσεως η έννοια εις του Πλάστου την βουλήν,
Και εφόρεσας Παρθένε Θεού Λόγου την στολήν.
25. Ως Παντάνασσα ακούεις των πενθούντων του κλαυθμού,
καί παρέχεις σωτηρίαν αμετρήτου αριθμού.
26. Χαίρε μόνη ηλιόμορφε λαμπροτέρα του φωτός,
κι εκπληρώθη σή γεννήσει του Γενάρχου ο σκοπός.
27. Χαίρε γέννημα και σφράγισμα των πατέρων της ευχής,
χαίρε της αποκαλύψεως τέλος και ακροστιχίς.
28. Χαίρε της Τριάδος οίκημα ένθα μόνιμον το φώς,
χαίρε μόνη αειπάρθενος ένθα ουχ υπάρχει ΠΩΣ;
By Steven Crowder
September 22, 2010
Sex. Some of us do it, most of us like it and we all think about it…. A lot. I know I do (though I was told that it’s normal). Gettin’ busy really isn’t the taboo subject that it once was.
Whereas once upon a time the conversation was relegated to whispers behind closed doors, nowadays it’s discussed openly and without shame. As a stand-up comedian, I’ve seen hacks openly depict the most depraved, explicit sexual acts they can think of just to get a laugh out of the audience. Clearly, telling wiener jokes is no longer the treading of new territory that it once was.
Funnily enough, today there is one area of sex that when discussed, still makes people’s posteriors pucker with discomfort… abstinence.
The idea of abstinence has become somewhat of a punchline in this country. From the myth of unrealistic “abstinence only” education, to the media’s constant portrayal (and mockery) of young, nerdy, out of touch Christians riddled with chastity pendants, the message on abstinence being pumped through pop-culture is clear; If you’re abstinent it’s either because A) you’re ugly or B) you’re a loser. In my case, it was often both.
Maybe it’s just the lack of fun-factor, or maybe it started with harlotry being misused as a fulcrum for women’s liberation, but if you so much as suggest to someone that abstinence might be beneficial, you’ll often find yourself vilified as a judgmental jackass faster than Bill Maher can throw up his dainty hands.
Sure, Michelle Obama can run around the country and condemn little fatties for inhaling Little Debbies, but if you try and apply that same helpful, healthful concept to sex, it’s seen as pushy and/or prudish.
Listen, one doesn’t need to be religious (nor a rocket scientist) to see the value of abstinence. Let’s disregard the immediately eliminated risk of increasingly popular STD’ and STI’s. Heck, let’s even discount the statistical data showing that sexual exclusivity seems overwhelmingly conducive to a successful marriage. Abstinence also provides an incomparable bond of trust in a relationship.
Yes, I admit it, I’m in a long-term relationship and I’m abstinent. Scandalous, I know. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do (mostly for me, because she’s way out of my league), and that’s what makes it so important.
I can tell you beyond any doubt, that my lady is able to control herself and stick to her values regardless of circumstance. Just as surely, she can say the same about me (Ben&Jerry’s benders notwithstanding). It is that display of self-control, that tangible example of living your principles through your life’s walk that ensures her that I won’t be jumping on the first well-proportioned opportunity that comes my way.
By the same token, I can rest easy knowing that my dame won’t be trying to bed Jersey Shore’s “The Situation” anytime soon. -- Though he does have great abs.
Strong trust is the result. Constantly we hear cries of women aimed at their supposedly overly jealous boyfriends, “What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me?”
No, he doesn’t. You slept with him on the first date and there is no reason for him to think that you wouldn’t do the same when a better offer comes along.
While we’re on the subject, has the whole floozie shtick really empowered any women out there? I would imagine that immediate sexual gratification being assumed in modern relationships would do more damage to your gatekeeper status than good. I’d also have to imagine that sex with someone whom you share trust, loyalty and open communication would be far more liberating than the thrill of any one-night stand you could enjoy.
Then again, what do I know? I’m just a young, sexless, STD-free-moron in love. You should try it sometime...though I’m not here to judge.
Steven Crowder is a comedian, actor, writer and Fox News contributor.
On this day we keep the memorial of our sacred father Silouan whom God inspired, who lived the monastic life upon the Holy Mountain in the Russian Monastery of the Holy and Great Martyr Panteleimon, and who died godly in the Lord on the twenty-fourth day of September in the year of our salvation 1938.
Once, in this life, thou didst see Christ, O Saint;
And now thou beholdest Him face to face,
Not darkly as in a glass.
Thine earthly country delights that thou wast born in her;
Athos rejoices in the Spirit; for in thee she nurtured a saint;
And from that sylvan mountain heaven has now received thee.
Saint Silouan, that citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, was born of pious parents in the land of Russia in the village of Shovsk in the diocese of the Metropolitan of Tambov. He came into the world in the year of our Lord 1866, and from a young man was called to repentance by the All-Praised Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary.
When he had reached his twenty-seventh year, he renounced the things of this life, and, with the prayers of Saint John of Kronstadt to speed him on his way, he set forth for Greece and the illustrious Holy Mountain. Here, in the cloister of the Holy Great Martyr and Physician Panteleimon, he took upon him the yoke of the monastic life.
Thus he gave himself to God with all his soul, and in a brief while he not only received the gift of unceasing prayer from the Most Holy Mother of God, but was also granted ineffably to see the living Christ in the chapel of the Holy Prophet Elijah that was next to the monastery’s flour mill.
But this first grace was taken away, and the saint was constrained by anguish and great grief, and with God’s permission for fifteen years he was given over to manifold temptations of spiritual foes, and so he followed in the footsteps of Christ, having offered up prayers and strong supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save him from death (Heb. 5:7), being taught by God through a voice from above that gave him this commandment: "Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not." This he observed as an infallible rule, and so ran the way of Anthony, Makarios, Poemen and Sisoes, and the other celebrated preceptors and fathers of the desert, to whose measure and spiritual gifts he also attained, and was manifested an apostolic and inspired teacher both living and after death.
The saint was wondrously meek and lowly in heart, a fervent advocate before God for the salvation of all, and unequaled among teachers: For he says that there is no surer proof that the divine Spirit dwells within us than that we love our enemies.
This blessed Saint Silouan passed over from death to life, full of spiritual days on the twenty-fourth day of September in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 1938: To Whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.
Through his prayers and those of all Thy Saints, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
By prayer didst thou receive Christ for thy teacher in the way of humility; and the Spirit bare witness to salvation in thy heart; wherefore all peoples called unto hope rejoice this day of thy memorial. O sacred Father Silouan, pray unto Christ our God for the salvation of our souls.
In thine earthly life thou didst serve Christ, following in His steps; and now in heaven thou seest Him Whom thou didst love, and abidest with Him according to the promise. Wherefore, O Father Silouan, teach us the path wherein thou didst walk.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
The village of Ein Kerem, on the west side of Jerusalem, is according to tradition the birthplace of John the Baptist.
In ancient times, the village was a Canaanite site which evolved around the spring that gave its name (Ein Kerem - "the spring of the vineyard"). The site is identified as "Beit Hakerem" from the Israelite period (Jeremiah 6:1): "O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Beit Hakerem."
According to Christian tradition, the village was a summer house for Zacharias and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist. The village was called "city of Judah" in the description of the visit by Luke.
Elizabeth (Elisheva) was the cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus. As per Luke, Mary visited Elizabeth when both were pregnant (hence the name of the shrine - Church of the Visitation). During the visit, the baby leapt with joy in Elizabeth's womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, knowing that Mary was about to give birth to the Son of God. Mary then stayed with her cousin for three months until John was born, and returned to Bethlehem.
The village and the spring is holy for Christians, and several churches and monasteries were built during the Byzantine period. The Crusader Church of the Visitation, on its "upper" floor, was built over one of them. The Church of St. John the Baptist was also built over ruins of Byzantine period.
The Franciscan monks started to settled here in 1674. They purchased lands and houses. After the village expanded, more Christians established their presence in the popular pilgrimage site. The churches and monasteries were reconstructed in the late Ottoman period and Modern times:
- St. John Ba Harim was built in the end of the 19th century and completed in 1920.
- The Monastery of the Sisters of Zion was built in 1860/1.
- The Greek Orthodox church was built at the end of the 19th century, and was reconstructed in 1975.
- The Visitation church was reconstructed in 1955.
- The Russian church started construction in 1905.
The Franciscan Church of Saint John the Baptist is built over the traditional spot where St. John was born. It was mentioned in the the accords "De situ Terrae Sanctae" of the pilgrim Archdeacon Theodosius (530 AD). The Byzantine chapels were destroyed in the Samaritan revolt against the Byzantine Empire (529 and 556 AD). The church is also mentioned in the Book of the Demonstration, attributed to Eutychius of Alexandria (940): "The church of Bayt Zakariya in the district of Aelia bears witness to the visit of Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth." After regaining Jerusalem in 1104, the Crusaders rebuilt the chapel above the Byzantine ruins. The "Hospitallers" - the order of the Knights of the Hospital of Saint John - where behind the reconstruction, and are named after St. John. It was destroyed in the 12th century and remained in ruins until the late Ottoman period.
The Franciscan monks started to settled here in 1674. They purchased lands and houses, including the area of the monastery. The monastery was completed in 1895. The modern church was built in the end of the 19th century and completed in 1920. The construction was financed by the Spanish monarchs and since then the monastery is headed by the Spaniards.
In 1941–1942 they conducted excavations in the area immediately west of the church and the adjoining monastery. Several rock-cut chambers and graves were found, as well as wine presses with mosaic floors and small chapels with mosaic tiling. The southern rock-cut chamber contained pottery of a type found elsewhere in Jerusalem, probably from the first century CE.
A stairway leads down to the so-called Grotto of the Benedictus, considered to be the place where John the Baptist was born. A marble star beneath the altar bears a Latin inscription: "Hic precursor Domini natus est" (Here was born the precursor of the Lord).
The Russian Orthodox Monastery also claims to have a grotto where St. John the Baptist was born.
The cave of St. John the Baptist is a relatively new place of pilgrimage in the Holy Land – Israel. Many archaeologists have researched the place and its data for its authenticity. Archaeologist Shimon Gibson is the one who discovered the place and also the one supporting its authenticity.
Shimon Gibson discovered the place in 1999, through extensive archaeological research. To get here, pilgrims can take the bus from Jerusalem to Ein Karem and the holy cave is about four kilometers from Ein Karem in Tzuba.
St. John the Baptist – the last prophet of the Old Testament – had a divine mission hard to imagine: he, the servant of God, had to baptize his Master, Jesus Christ. But until the time of the Baptism of our Lord, St. John had lived an unspeakable ascetic struggle in the wilderness.
The Gospel does not tell us much about the life of Saint John. The Gospel of Luke, however, referring to St. John, says: “The child grew up and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Luke 1:80).
It is believed that the Cave of St. John the Baptist is a place in the “wilderness” where the saint lived up to the time of his preaching and the baptism of our Lord. The rocky place that still preserves today the ancient cave, is in the land of Tzuba, which is the nearest settlement to the famous Ein Karem (the place where St. John the Baptist was born), slightly west of Jerusalem.
In a legend about this place, it is said that Elisabeth had fled with baby John, the night when crazy King Herod ordered the killing of all infants from his land, two years and younger (Matthew 2:16). A cave similar to this one was portrayed on a souvenir from the Byzantine era that was found in the Holy Land and brought later to Italy; it is a disc engraved with a picture and the words: “God’s blessings for the refuge of St. Elizabeth.”
In mid 4th-5th centuries, the Byzantine monks blessed the cave and used it as a holy place dedicated to St. John the Baptist. On the interior walls of the cave are found some of the oldest Christian mosaics (scenes from the life of the saint, the saint's body, a disembodied head, crosses, and other Christian symbols).
The man is portrayed standing, with one arm raised and a pastor rod in another hand, wearing very poor clothes. The hagiography drawings still preserved today on the rocky walls of the cave, indicate that a great Christian preacher lived there, which is believed to be St. John the Baptist.
In the 800’s, the cave was first used as a water storage tank. It was found as late as the first century, that the cave was used as a place of ritual bathing and cleaning. This is one of the largest of its kind in the entire Israel.
Cave Linked to John the Baptist
Cave of John the Baptist
New Discoveries Point to 'Cave of John the Baptist' as Important Site in the Time of Isaiah
The Cave of John the Baptist Virtual Tour
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
On this day the mercy, miracles and wisdom of God are celebrated: His mercy toward the devout and righteous parents of St. John, the aged Zacharias and Elizabeth, who all their lives had wished for and begged a child from God; His miracle, that of John's conception in the aged womb of Elizabeth; His wisdom, in the dispensation of man's salvation.
God had an especially great intention for John: namely, that he be the Prophet and Forerunner of Christ the Lord, the Savior of the world. Through His angels, God announced the births of Isaac to the childless Sarah, Samson to the childless wife of Manoah, and John the Forerunner to the childless Zacharias and Elizabeth. All of these were those for whom He had special intentions, and he foretold their birth through his angels.
How could children be born of aged parents? If someone desires to understand this, he should not ask men about it, for men do not know; nor should he study natural law, for this is beyond natural law. Rather, he should turn his gaze upon the power of the Almighty God, Who created the whole world from nothing, and Who needed no parents - old or young - for the creation of the first man, Adam.
Instead of being curious, let us give thanks to God, Who often reveals His power, mercy and wisdom to us in ways that are beyond natural law-in which we would be imprisoned without these special miracles of God, and would fall into despair and forgetfulness of God.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Rejoice, O thou barren one who hadst not borne until now; for lo, in all truth thou hast conceived the lamp of the Sun, and he shall send forth his light over all the earth, which is afflicted with blindness. Dance, O Zacharias, and cry out with great boldness: The one to be born is the blest Prophet of God Most High.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Great Zacharias now doth rejoice with resplendence; Elizabeth his glorious yoke-mate exulteth; for she hath conceived divine John the Forerunner worthily, whom the great Archangel had announced with rejoicing, whom, as it is meet, we men revere as a sacred initiate of grace divine.
By St. John Chrysostom
They say: "We can pray at home". Thou art deceiving thyself, O man!
Of course, one can pray at home. But it is impossible to pray there as in church, where such a multitude of hearts are uplifted to God, merging into one unanimous cry.
Thou wilt not be so quickly heard while praying to the Master by thyself, as when praying together with thy brethren, for here in church there is something greater than in thy room: agreement, unanimity, the bond of love, and finally here are the prayers of the priests. The priests stand before us, then, so that the prayers of the people, being weak, would be united to their more powerful prayers and together with them ascend to heaven.
The Apostle Peter was freed from prison, thanks to the common prayers offered for him.... If the Church's prayer was so beneficial for the Apostle Peter and delivered such a pillar of the faith from prison, why, tell me, dost thou disdain its power and what kind of justification canst thou have for this.
Hearken unto God Himself, Who says that the multitude of people who pray to him with fervor moves Him to have mercy. He says to the Prophet Jonah: "Shall I not spare Nineveh, that great city, in which dwell more than 120 thousand people." He did not simply mention the multitude of people, but that thou mightest know that prayer together has great power.
By St. John of Kronstadt
Here in church is the one thing needful; here is a refuge from vanity and the storms of life; here is the calm harbor for souls seeking salvation; here is incorrupt food and drink for souls; here is the light, which enlightens every man who comes into the world; here is pure spiritual air; here is the well of living water springing up into everlasting life; here the gifts of the Holy Spirit are distributed; here is the cleansing of souls.
The reading and singing in church are performed in a sacred language; all Orthodox Christians must learn it, in order to comprehend the sweet sayings of their mother, who is preparing her children for heaven, for eternal life....
Here in church, a man will come to know the true nobility of his soul, the value of life and its aim or his assigned path; here he dispels the fascination of worldly vanity and worldly passions by acquiring sobriety in his soul; here he comes to know his destiny, both temporal and eternal; here he comes to know his bitter, profound fall and seduction by sin; here the Savior is to be found, particularly in His holy and life-creating Mysteries, and His salvation; here a man comes to know his true relationship with God and his neighbor or with his family and the society in which he lives.
The church is an earthly heaven, the place where the closest union with the Divinity occurs; it is a heavenly school which prepares Christians for heavenly citizenship, teaching them about the ways of heaven, about the dwellings of heaven; it is the threshold of heaven; it is the place for common prayer, for thanksgiving, for glorifying the Triune God, Who created and preserves everything; it is unity with the angels.
What is more precious and more honorable than the church? Nothing. During the divine service, as on a chart, the whole destiny of the human race is depicted, from beginning to end. The divine service is the alpha and omega of the destiny of the world and of men.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Sep. 21 2010
The Christian Post
Some questions we ask today would simply baffle our ancestors. When Christians ask whether believers should practice yoga, they are asking a question that betrays the strangeness of our current cultural moment - a time in which yoga seems almost mainstream in America.
It was not always so. No one tells the story of yoga in America better than Stefanie Syman, whose recent book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, is a masterpiece of cultural history. Syman, an engaging author who is also a fifteen-year devotee of yoga, tells this story well.
Her book actually opens with a scene from this year’s annual White House Easter Egg Roll. President Barack Obama made a few comments and then introduced First Lady Michelle Obama, who said: “Our goal today is just to have fun. We want to focus on activity, healthy eating. We’ve got yoga, we’ve got dancing, we’ve got storytelling, we’ve got Easter-egg decorating.”
Syman describes the yoga on the White House lawn as “sanitized, sanctioned, and family-friendly,” and she noted the rather amazing fact that a practice once seen as so exotic and even dangerous was now included as an activity sufficiently safe and mainstream for children.
In her words:
"There certainly was no better proof that Americans had assimilated this spiritual discipline. We had turned a technique for God realization that had, at various points in time, enjoined its adherents to reduce their diet to rice, milk, and a few vegetables, fix their minds on a set of, to us, incomprehensible syllables, and self-administer daily enemas (without the benefit of equipment), to name just a few of its prerequisites, into an activity suitable for children. Though yoga has no coherent tradition in India, being preserved instead by thousands of gurus and hundreds of lineages, each of which makes a unique claim to authenticity, we had managed to turn it into a singular thing: a way to stay healthy and relaxed."
In her book, Syman tells the fascinating story of how yoga was transformed in the American mind from a foreign and “even heathen” practice into a cultural reality that is widely admired and practiced.
In telling this story, Syman documents the ties between yoga and groups or movements such as the Transcendentalists and New Thought - movements that sought to provide a spirituality that would be a clear alternative to biblical Christianity. She traces the influence of leading figures such as Swami Vivekananda and Swami Prabhavananda, along with Pierre Bernard and the now lesser-known Margaret Woodrow Wilson. Each of these figures played a role in the growing acceptance of yoga in America, but most were controversial at the time - some extremely so.
Syman describes yoga as a varied practice, but she makes clear that yoga cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. She is also straightforward in explaining the role of sexual energy in virtually all forms of yoga and of ritualized sex in some yoga traditions. She also explains that yoga “is one of the first and most successful products of globalization, and it has augured a truly post-Christian, spiritually polyglot country.”
Reading The Subtle Body is an eye-opening and truly interesting experience. To a remarkable degree, the growing acceptance of yoga points to the retreat of biblical Christianity in the culture. Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding. Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God - an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation - not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.
Nevertheless, a significant number of American Christians either experiment with yoga or become adherents of some yoga discipline. Most seem unaware that yoga cannot be neatly separated into physical and spiritual dimensions. The physical is the spiritual in yoga, and the exercises and disciplines of yoga are meant to connect with the divine.
Douglas R. Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary and a respected specialist on the New Age Movement, warns Christians that yoga is not merely about physical exercise or health. “All forms of yoga involve occult assumptions,” he warns, “even hatha yoga, which is often presented as a merely physical discipline.” While most adherents of yoga avoid the more exotic forms of ritualized sex that are associated with tantric yoga, virtually all forms of yoga involve an emphasis on channeling sexual energy throughout the body as a means of spiritual enlightenment.
Stefanie Syman documents how yoga was transformed in American culture from an exotic and heathen practice into a central component of our national cult of health. Of course, her story would end differently if Americans still had cultural access to the notion of “heathen.”
The nation of India is almost manically syncretistic, blending worldviews over and over again. But, in more recent times, America has developed its own obsession with syncretism, mixing elements of worldviews with little or no attention to what each mix means. Americans have turned yoga into an exercise ritual, a means of focusing attention, and an avenue to longer life and greater health. Many Americans attempt to deny or minimize the spiritual aspects of yoga - to the great consternation of many in India.
When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.
There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, and yoga positions in themselves are not the main issue. But these positions are teaching postures with a spiritual purpose. Consider this - if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.
The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church. Stefanie Syman is telling us something important when she writes that yoga “has augured a truly post-Christian, spiritually polyglot country.” Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a “post-Christian, spiritually polyglot” reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
He who gives to the poor, gives to Christ. This is the meaning of the Gospel teaching, and it has been confirmed in the experience of the saints.
Upon his repentance, Peter the Merciful gave alms to the poor wherever the opportunity presented itself. On one occasion Peter encountered a shipwrecked man who had barely managed to save his naked body from the wreck. The man begged him for some clothing. Peter removed his costly cloak and clothed the naked man with it. Shortly afterward, Peter saw his cloak in the shop of a merchant, who had it displayed for sale. Peter was very saddened that the shipwrecked man had sold his cloak instead of using it for himself. Peter thought: "I am not worthy; the Lord does not accept my alms."
But later, the Lord appeared to him in a dream. He appeared as a handsome man, brighter than the sun, with a cross on His head, wearing Peter's cloak. "Peter, why art thou sad?" asked the Lord. "My Lord, why would I not be sad, when I see that which I gave to the poor being sold at the market?" Then the Lord asked him: "Dost thou recognize this garment on Me?" Peter replied: "I recognize it, Lord; that is my garment with which I clothed the naked man." Then the Lord spoke to him again: "Therefore do not be sad; thou gavest it to the poor man, and I received it, and I praise thy deed."
A Reflection by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Read also: Saint Peter the Merciful - A Prototype of Ebenezer Scrooge
Saint Kosmas, Hermit of Zographou, was a Bulgarian. In his youth he avoided entering into marriage, and secretly left his parents' home for Mount Athos. Then as he was on his way to the Holy Mountain, the devil tried to shake the yearning of the youth, vexing him with a vision of the infinite abyss of the sea surrounding the Holy Mountain. The fervent prayer of the youth dispelled the demonic temptation.
On Athos, St Kosmas was accepted in the Zographou Monastery. There he was a novice for a long time, and then he was tonsured, and was appointed ecclesiarch. St Kosmas received a special mercy to see the heavenly abbess of Mount Athos Herself, Who on the Feast of the Annunciation at the Vatopaidi Monastery deigned to reveal to him a glimpse of Her care for Her earthly appanage. He saw a Woman of royal majesty and grandeur, Who attended to both in church for services and in the trapeza. All the monks served and obeyed Her.
Soon the saint was ordained as deacon, and then as presbyter, which inspired him to new exploits. Zealous for salvation, the saint through fervent prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos was granted a particular sign of Her special favor. He heard the voice of the Mother of God issuing from Her holy icon and asking Her Son, "How will Kosmas be saved?" The Lord answered, "Let him withdraw from the monastery into silence." After obtaining the blessing of the Superior, St Kosmas withdrew into the wilderness, and there in a cave cut into a cliff, began his new deed of silent seclusion. God did not forsake the faithful man of prayer, for the saint was granted the gift of clairvoyance.
Just as at the start of his ascetic life, the Enemy of the race of mankind again tried to dissuade the saint from his intended path, and so the final days before the righteous one's death were also a grievous trial for him.
Not long before the death of God's chosen one, he was granted a vision of Christ Himself, Who informed the saint that before his soul would depart to the heavenly Kingdom, Satan himself with his hosts would beat and gnash at him. Prepared for the suffering by this divine solace, the saint bravely underwent the terrible demonic assaults, and on the third day after furious beatings, he received the All-Pure Mysteries. With words of praise on his lips, he peacefully departed to the Lord.
God, "Who glorifies those who glorify Him," also glorified St Kosmas miraculously at his death. At the time of the saint's burial a multitude of beasts and birds flocked to his cave, as though sensing the common loss of the Holy Mountain. When they placed his body in the grave and began to cover it with ground, each of the speechless creatures let out a mournful cry, bestowing final respect to the saint of God.
Forty days later, when the brethren opened the saint's tomb after the all-night Vigil (as was customary), in order to transfer them to the monastery with honor, they were not to be found. The Lord hid them in a miraculous manner. This occurred in the year 1323.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
In the cave where you have settled, you have been imitating by deeds He Who was born in a Cave, O Kosmas, most blessed one. You have endured even to the very death the demonic struggles and have, through grace, become a model. Your body immortal lasts for ever in the secret treasure until the Second Judgement and the Resurrection. Glory to Him Who had granted you firm strength, glory to Him Who had exalted you, glory to Him Who had made you famous in the Heavenly Kingdom.
When a man clearly senses God's mercy toward him, he is startled, as from a dull and senseless dream, and becomes ashamed of his long blindness to God's unceasing compassion.
In the time of Emperor Justinian (527-565), the chief imperial tax collector in Africa was a certain Peter, a very wealthy but very hard and merciless man. The beggars grumbled among themselves, that not one of them had ever received alms from Peter. Then, one of them bet that he would succeed in getting alms from Peter. He persistently begged alms of the miser until Peter, in a rage, hit him with a loaf of bread, since he had nothing else close at hand. Joyfully the beggar took the bread and fled.
Immediately after this Peter became seriously ill and had this vision: He was being interrogated by demons in the other world. There was a scale, and on one side of it, the demons heaped Peter's sins, making that side extremely heavy. On the other side - which was empty - angels stood, sorrowing that they had not even one good deed in Peter's life to help balance the scale. One of them said: "We have nothing to place on the scale except one loaf of bread, with which he struck a beggar the day before yesterday." The angels placed this one loaf of bread on the empty side of the scale, and that loaf of bread outweighed the other side of the scale, laden with all of Peter's sins.
When the vision was over Peter said to himself: "Indeed, this was not an apparition but the living truth, for I saw all my sins from my youth. And when I can be helped so much by one loaf of bread that I threw at a beggar, how much help would I receive from many deeds of almsgiving, performed from the heart and with humility?"
And from that time, Peter became the most compassionate man in his town. He distributed all of his possessions to the poor, and when he had finished distributing his possessions, he sold himself into slavery for thirty gold pieces and distributed even his own price as a slave to the poor as alms in the name of Christ. He was, thereafter, called Peter the Merciful.
The account above was written by St. Nikolai Velimirovich. The Life of St Peter was passed along by St John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria (November 12), who in turn knew it from a man personally acquainted with Saint Peter.
Read also: St. Peter the Merciful: By Giving to the Poor, He Gave to Christ
September 19th, 2010
Three months ago I spent a fascinating few days in a villa opposite Cap Ferrat, France, taking part in a seminar with a dozen very bright scientists, some world authorities in their field. Although most had never met before, they had two things in common. Each had come to question one of the most universally accepted scientific orthodoxies of our age: the Darwinian belief that life on earth evolved simply through the changes brought about by an infinite series of minute variations.
The other was that, on arriving at these conclusions, they had come up against a wall of hostility from the scientific establishment. Even to raise such questions was just not permissible. One had been fired as editor of a major scientific journal because he dared publish a paper sceptical of Darwin’s theory. Another had not yet worked out how to admit his scepticism to his fellow academics for fear that he too might lose his post.
So embedded in our culture is the assumption that Darwin was right that few realise that it was Darwin himself who first raised some of the most basic objections to his own theory. If each form of life gradually evolved through tiny variations, as he asked in The Origin of Species, why does every fossil we find so identifiably belong to a discrete species? Where are all the “intermediate forms” between one species and another? How could his gradualist theory account for all those complex organs, such as the eye, which require so many interdependent changes to take place simultaneously? How could it account for those startling “evolutionary leaps”, when all sorts of changes emerged together in an improbably short time, such as those needed to transform land mammals into whales in barely two million years?
As Darwin himself raised each of these objections, it is almost comical to see how he could not give any coherent answer. The fossil record, he argued, was incomplete; one day we would find those “missing forms”. And however sophisticated our latter-day neo-Darwinians such as Richard Dawkins imagine themselves to be, they have no more been able to prove their theory as fact than Darwin himself. They are simply “believers” taking a leap of faith, just like those Biblical “Creationists” they love to despise. And nothing better reveals the hole at the heart of their belief system than the fanaticism with which they turn on anyone who dares question the assumption on which it rests, who must be anathematised with all the venom once turned on heretics by the churches.
Some years back, a number of expert scientists came together in America to share their conviction that, in light of the astonishing intricacies of construction revealed by molecular biology, Darwin’s gradualism could not possibly account for them. So organisationally complex, for instance, are the structures of DNA and cell reproduction that they could not conceivably have evolved just through minute, random variations. Some other unknown factor must have been responsible for the appearance of these “irreducibly complex” micro-mechanisms, to which they gave the name “intelligent design”. But the response of the Darwinians has not been to debate these very serious questions but simply to scorn them, caricaturing anyone who raises them as a “neo-Creationist”, no different to those zealots who take Genesis as literally true.
To some of us taking part in that seminar in the south of France, another instance of this pattern of intolerance was equally familiar.
Right from the start, one of the more conspicuous features of the global warming cause has been the way its adherents felt the need to elevate their belief system into a rigid orthodoxy, a “consensus” not to be challenged. They deal with challenges not through scientific debate, but by denouncing the dissenters as being beyond the pale.
The “sceptics” are demonised as Flat Earthers, equivalent to Holocaust deniers, who could only hold the views they do because they have been paid to do so by “Big Oil”. The only debate which can be allowed, as we saw confirmed by those Climategate emails, is that between the believers themselves, while anyone outside the faith, however knowledgeable, must be vilified as a dangerous heretic, excluded from scientific journals, forbidden to examine the often highly suspect data and condemned as being “anti-science”.
Such fanatical intolerance, in defence of pseudo-scientific causes which reflect the prejudices of the age, has become only too common. A notorious example was the ruthless attempt to suppress the most rigorous study ever carried out into the effects of passive smoking. When this mammoth 40-year project by two non-smokers found the health risks of environmental tobacco smoke to be negligible, its sponsors, the American Cancer Society, withdrew their funding. Their findings only saw light of day when the editor of the British Medical Journal decided, in the name of scientific principle, that such scrupulous research should no longer be suppressed.