Towards the end of the thirteenth century, in the region of Trnovo in Bulgaria, a great Saint was born—one who is rather unknown in our country: St. Theodosios the Hesychast.
From his youth he was most pious and devout, and at a young age dedicated himself to God, choosing the holy monastic life in a monastery near Vidin. At his tonsure he was named Theodosios. He was adorned with many virtues, but chiefly with holy humility, the foundation of all the others.
After the repose of his Spiritual Father, he began searching for a new guide to the godly way of life, aflame with desire for silence and prayer.
Then, in 1331, he heard of the arrival in Bulgaria of the renowned St. Gregory of Sinai, who, along with his disciples, brought the hesychastic tradition from Sinai, Crete, and the Holy Mountain—which he had left, owing to barbarian incursions—to Bulgaria. From there, hesychasm spread and gave rise to a significant spiritual blossoming throughout the Balkans in general, and later in Russia.
St. Theodosios hastened to unite himself with the newly arrived Byzantine Hesychasts, to whom he submitted himself with utmost humility, learning through experience the mystery of the knowledge of God (θεογνωσίας) and reaping the sweet fruits of watchfulness (νήψεως) and prayer of the heart.
Turkish invaders, however, began to make threatening appearances in this region of Paroria, as it was called, at the boundaries between the Roman Empire and Bulgaria. The Hesychasts were forced to seek aid and protection from the Bulgarian King, John Alexander (1331-1371). This was granted through the intercessions of St. Theodosios, whom the king knew and admired. Thus, the king readily placed the monks under his protection and, for their sakes, built four monasteries with defensive towers.
When St. Gregory of Sinai reposed in the Lord in 1346, the multinational brotherhood of monks requested St. Theodosios to assume the Abbacy. The Saint declined and departed with certain other brothers (among them the great Greek-Bulgarian Saint, St. Romilos, whom our Church commemorates on 18 September) for the Holy Mountain.
But there, too, their hesychastic sojourn was of short duration because the barbaric invaders obliged them to move yet again. St. Theodosios first went to Thessalonica, then to the Skete of the Venerable Forerunner in Veria, and later to Constantinople. Finally, the Saint returned to his homeland and between 1348 and 1350 built a monastery on Mt. Kilifarevo, near Trnovo, with generous aid and subsidy from the king.
At that time, St. Theodosios had a vision of a mountain covered with sundry flowers and a great variety of wondrous trees with diverse and beautiful fruit. A radiant man was ordered to pick the fruit. The Saint understood that the vision revealed the future glory of the place and that that wilderness would be filled with monks who would bear a rich crop of virtues for the Heavenly Cultivator.
And, indeed, for at least half a century the Monastery of St. Theodosios was distinguished as a beacon of faith and virtue and as a center of spiritual renewal. Fifty or so disciples gathered around the Saint—illustrious men adorned with virtues and talents and with godly and worldly wisdom, so that the Monastery of Kilifarevo would justly be characterized as the “University of Medieval Bulgaria”!
The monastery was founded on the spiritual precepts of St. Gregory of Sinai. Obedience, charity, good administration and management, the cultivation of silence and noetic prayer predominated. A great emphasis was also placed, however, on culture and education: the copying of manuscripts, the translation of Patristic texts into Slavonic, calligraphy, the teaching of the liturgical arts, etc.
Among the renowned disciples of St. Theodosios was St. Evthymios, who later became Patriarch of Trnovo (1375-1393). His memory is honored by the Bulgarian Church on 20 January. At the Monastery of Kilifarevo, Evthymios was deemed worthy of a wondrous experience, which revealed the sanctity of his Spiritual Father and teacher St. Theodosios:
Once, he went for his customary evening visit to the cell of his Abba. But despite the fact that he recited the usual prayer [“Through the prayers of the Holy Fathers...”—Trans.] and knocked repeatedly at the door, there was no answer. Then from a window he saw a marvelous and otherworldly sight: St. Theodosios was at prayer in his cell with his hands and eyes raised to heaven, bathed from head to foot in a heavenly flame, which made him radiant, but without consuming him! He was all Light, all Heavenly Fire! Evthymios withdrew in trembling, glorifying God.
The next day, Evthymios found the Saint sitting outside his cell shedding bitter tears. He anxiously asked him the reason for his mourning, and the Saint revealed that God had made known to him the impending Turkish invasion of the region and the destruction of his monastery. The grievous events which followed soon after confirmed the clairvoyance of the Saint. At the end of the fourteenth century, the Turks destroyed the Monastery of Kilifarevo. It was rebuilt in 1596, only to undergo further destruction and to be built anew in 1718 and then later on again, in the nineteenth century. It exists to this day, but bereft of its original glory and grandeur.
It is also worth mentioning that in the era of St. Theodosios, in the fourteenth century, a great struggle was waged for the purity of the Faith. A particularly dangerous heresy—one widely diffused throughout the region—was that of Bogomils. It consisted of a Slavic version of the combination of previous heresies: those of Manichæan Paulicianism and Messalianism. This frightful, twofold heresy, with its anti-social character, totally rejected the Church (the Hierarchy, the Mysteries, and the veneration of Saints) and the structure of society (marriage, political and legislative authority and organization, etc).
The Bulgarian Church decisively battled against the heresy of the Bogomils in the Synods of 1350 and 1359. St. Theodosios was present at these Synods, and by the power of the Holy Spirit and of his oratory, he refuted the untenable doctrines of the heretics, which were condemned.
The Saint, despite his infirmities and his age, went to Constantinople together with four of his faithful disciples, including Evthymios, in order to meet and converse with his old and beloved confrere and co-ascetic Callistos—who had also been a disciple of St. Gregory of Sinai and was now Patriarch of Constantinople—, for his spiritual benefit.
Interestingly enough, the Holy Patriarch Callistos I was also the biographer of St. Theodosios, though his lengthy Life of the Saint has been preserved to our day only in a Slavonic translation.
The Holy Patriarch Callistos granted the Saint a cell in the Monastery of St. Mamas. There, Saint Theodosios had a presentiment of his end. He partook of the Immaculate Mysteries, and the entire room was filled with a fragrance! On seeing the “army of the Heavenly King” coming to meet him, he gave up his holy soul to our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom he had been such a faithful and exemplary servant. This took place on 27 November 1363. The Saint was buried in an honorable manner, as befits a Saint, and Angelic hymnody was heard at his gravesite. He has been interceding ever since for the peace of the world, the good estate of the holy Churches of God, and the salvation of us all!
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Towards the end of the thirteenth century, in the region of Trnovo in Bulgaria, a great Saint was born—one who is rather unknown in our country: St. Theodosios the Hesychast.
Romeiko Ensemble performing a 17th century version of "Christ is Born" (Mode I) live at the Hellenic Library in Athens, Greece on December 13, 2006.
You can see this in high res video streaming at: http://www.liturgica.com/video/, as well as other hymns from this ground-breaking performance.
It should also be mentioned that the costumes worn for this performance were the same traditional costume worn by chanters in the Eastern Roman Empire prior to 1453.
Atheism! The great title and boast of contemporary man. Whoever receives it (to receive it you only need to be tonsured a monk of the faithless) appears to others as wise even if he is illiterate, serious even if he is ridiculous, official even if he is insignificant, important even if he is unimportant, a scientist even if he is incompetent.
I do not refer to the person who truly wishes to believe but cannot, even if the deep rooted reason of unbelief is always pride, this viper that hides so cunningly in man that he cannot understand. Whatever it may be, the people who struggle and fight against their faithless self, they have our sympathy. For them we, who believe, beg God to help them believe as He did to the father with his sick child, by begging Christ to heal him. And He replied “If you believe, everything is possible to the believer”. And the father cried loudly and with tears replied, “I believe Lord. Help me in my little faith”.
The unbelievers we refer to here are not so. They not only never cried before to open the closed door with pain and contrition, the door of repentance, as that tormented father did, as written in the Bible, but were not even moved neither felt any bitterness from their unbelief, nor assumed any responsibility or blame. All the blame is God’s who does not appear to them to tell them, “Come, poke me, touch me, talk to me as you talk between yourselves, analyze me with your chemistry, dissect me with your anatomy blades, weigh me, measure me, satisfy your faithless feelings, and satiate your insatiable logic”.
These self appointed unbelievers, when they show off their smartness, pumped up by airs of pride and the cunning agility of their brains, are not in a position to understand how silly and narrow minded they appear to those who believe. Because to believe, they demand certain proofs that make the believer pity them for their limited view they have on spiritual matters. The believer is well aware how far the pondering of the unbeliever can get, for he too as a person has the same logic, the logic of the flesh, worldly logic. While the unbeliever is unaware of what is within the believer, and what is beyond practical knowledge, namely the mysteries that are hidden from the eyes, and because of this he believes they do not exist. With his foolishness he feels smug, and talks with disdain for those that are in a position to feel the deeper meaning of the world, while the unfortunate one is blind and deaf and believes he can hear everything. The believer has spiritual sight and spiritual hearing as well as some type of “super feeling”. The unbeliever, how could he comprehend that mystical world with the coarse means at his disposal, namely his bodily feelings? How could he touch the fine and odd messages of the world, when the poor one does not have the aerials that are needed to receive them?
The Apostle Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, in his own way, writes about what is possible for a believer to sense and what can an unbeliever sense. We preach, he says, the wisdom of God that is embedded in mystery and is hidden, the wisdom that God destined before time, for our glory and none of the rulers of this world came to know (namely, the wise men of worldly wisdom), and He uncovers it, that which according to the Scriptures no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor has ascended to the heart of any man, the things that God prepared for those that love Him. For us God revealed them through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit probes everything, even the depth of God. What man knows the essence of man but only the spirit of man that is within him? Likewise the mysteries of God no one knows but only the Spirit of God. We did not receive the spirit of the world (namely that of philosophy and worldly knowledge) but the Spirit of God to understand all the things that He gave us. And these (the gifts) are not expressed with words that human wisdom uses, but words that the Holy Spirit teaches, speaking spiritually with spiritual people. Unfortunately men of worldly knowledge (the rational) do not accept what is spoken by the Spirit of God, because they believe them to be nonsense and are thus not in a position to understand how to examine it spiritually. The spiritual man examines every person while he cannot be examined by anyone.
Unbelief has always existed. However, today with the atrocious vanity that consumes us, we display it as if it accords us great value. Whoever believes in God and revealed truth is ignored as narrow minded and foolish and is the brunt of all jokes. He is looked at as “defective” by most people, especially the people that know how to achieve in this life “success”, by making money and having a good time, giving not a cent to anyone, according to the saying, “Let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die”. For this, he who believes in God needs to be courageous and ignore worldly honors and material interests. The one that boasts that he believes in nothing, 1) The world has him in high regard and respect, even so the more non-believer he claims to be, that much more regard and respect is shown to him by the clever and serious world. Such a man frowns upon others, is of few and heavy words, is short tempered and gruff, and is seen as a “positive man”, a “strong man”. 2) Everything happens to him conveniently and is neither bothered nor is he worried for anything. He has no responsibilities or is pestered by anything. “Down here", he says, "is both hell and paradise. Life is to be enjoyed, for us clever ones. Those sleeping or drugged let them die."
Besides there is no easier thing than be an unbeliever! Just press one switch and everything comes conveniently. The devil said to Christ, “Kneel and worship me and the stones will become bread”.
So says the smart one: “For man to sit with four hundred brains, waste time with stupidity like the old women, with gods, with hell and paradise, with lampadas (oil lamps), with censing, with chalices, with priests and nuns! And in what age? In our age where science sends men to planets! Listen my friend can you believe how stupid is the world?"
That’s what they say about believers, the smart ones and the honorable of this world, who are applauded by many, who regard them as sensible in everything because they do not chase shadows but are strong minded and succeed in everything they try.
Yes, they succeed for a short time, for unbelief is “a wide gate and a broad road”, which unbelievers do not believe “leads to perdition” as Christ said, but “to worldly prosperity”. Belief however is “a narrow gate and a grief stricken road” which the unbelievers do not believe “leads to life” but “to worldly unhappiness and disdain”. “Many are they that enter through the wide gate” according to our Lord, and “few are those who find the narrow gate”.
All the unbelievers say that if they witness a miracle they would believe. However, belief does not happen by force, but with the involvement of the soul. For this, to all who ask for a miracle to believe it is not granted, according to our Lord’s address to the Pharisees, “This evil and adulterous generation demands for a sign to be given it”.
However, even if an unbeliever witnesses a miracle, his pride would not allow him to believe, for he fears that he may be seen as gullible and become disdained.
Sometime ago I wrote five or six brief articles on the miracles that were happening in a village on the island of Mytilene, with the title “Amazing Mysteries”. Many readers were moved a lot, especially the humble and illiterate people, “the babes of the world and the weak ones”. The clever ones however paid no attention to it and a few of them mocked me and wrote me that I write nonsense. But “God is not mocked”. From then to now the miracles have not ceased and progressively became more numerous and terrifying. People that see them, write me about them in detail and I compile them in a book that will be like a hot iron for unbelieving mouths [it concerns the book “Great Sign” that was published by “Astir” regarding the miracles of Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene]. During this age, discoveries are made of ancient churches with relics of those who appear living to simple people, in their sleep or while they are awake or in icons and other heirlooms. Everything could have been found and could have quickly and completely uncovered this terrible crater, that would have swept the unbelievers with its sacred lava, if there were greater means at the disposal of the poor ones who dig with fire like faith.
However, whatever it may be, with God’s grace “the Healer of the sick and the Replenisher of those lacking”, it will come to a good end, this blessed task, and will triumph our indestructible faith, and it will be heard to the ends of the world with a thundering voice saying: “Who is so great a god as our God? You are the God who alone works wonders”.
Source: From the magazine, “Orthodox Philotheos Martyrdom" by Orthodox Kypseli Publication.
The ancient Greek Orthodox women's monastery dedicated to Saint James (or Jacob) the Persian (Deir Mar Yacoub) is situated at the village of Deddeh in the district of El koura in Lebanon. The monastery is built high up on a plateau at the northern edge of the village and overlooks the coast of the city of Tripoli which is located about seven kilometers away. There are currently 29 nuns residing at the monastery and its Abbess is Gerontissa (Eldress) Fevronia. The Monastery of Saint James is estimated to be over 800 years old although historical investigations confirm that its construction expanded over different historical periods, as evidenced by the walls of the buildings, dam construction, roof construction, the thickness of the walls and more.
The Monastery of Saint James the Persian was originally a men's monastery, however there are no documents or manuscripts surviving in the monastery that can be dated from the time of its precise emergence because the monastery caught fire several times in its history, which destroyed many icons, books and manuscripts that could have been dated to the time of its foundation. Adding to the ambiguity of this history is the complete burning down of the Archdiocese in Tripoli during the Lebanese civil war. According to the Russian monk traveler Vasily Barsky, who visited the monastery around the year 1600, the monastery buildings were clustered around the church which included a dozen cells and a dining room added for travelers as well as other buildings.
In 1620, a Cypriot by the name Zacharias was living in the monastery and was its Abbot. He was appointed by Patriarch Ignatius III (1619-1634) along with five or six monks. The official historian of the Apostolic Church of Antioch, Dr. Asad Rustum in his book "The Church of the Great City of God Antioch" (part III, page 50), mentions that during a tour in the year 1648, Patriarch Makarios visited the monastery and he stated as follows: "In the twentieth of the same month (November?) he arrived to the Monastery of Saint James from Jerusalem and entered the church (of the monastery) on the feast day of the Virgin Mary". In a letter sent by the Bishop of Tripoli Sophronius to the Patriarch of Antioch, on April 29 in 1864, it is stated that the monastery was inhabited by monks in those days too, and that the military had come to the monastery and attacked the monks in order to obtain what is of value, and when the Abbot refused to deliver what was entrusted to him by God, he was beaten severely, and as a result he lost his sight and one of his hands.
Shortly after the events mentioned above, and possibly because of them, the Monastery of Saint James the Persian was abandoned. As a result, the monastery and its premises were exposed to looting and theft with the consequence of losing most of its ancient icons. With time, the buildings themselves fell into ruins and destruction. In 1956 the monastery was once again inhabited, this time by nuns, who under the guidance of their first Eldress, Irene, spent many years repairing and restoring it. In 2008, and after an illness crippled Eldress Irene, the nuns chose nun Fevronia as their new Eldress.
According to Romfea.gr, the middle aged woman who was going around Kalymnos with a "sacred" slipper which she claimed belonged to a Saint, has revealed her intentions. She is also known on the island of Kos as well as other islands outside of Kalymnos, since for the past 1-2 years she has been traveling around trying to raise money to build a church dedicated to Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri. For this she sells prayer ropes and icons and accepts donations, even though St. Ephraim has not been officially recognized as a Saint by the Church. Furthermore, the "sacred" slipper she has been traveling with and offering up for veneration, as it was revealed by her to Metropolitan Paisios of Kalymnos, was given to her by the Abbess of the Holy Monastery of Saint Ephraim in Nea Makri. The slipper was not worn by the Saint in life, but is more likely to be an offering made to the monastery by the faithful or it was worn over the incorrupt feet of St. Ephraim and given to her for a blessing.
The Metropolitan claims the woman has a "psychosis" with St. Ephraim, and has asked from the woman the slipper. The woman gave the Metropolitan the slipper since the issue caused much scandal and fuss among the people.
See also the previous story: Turmoil In Kalymnos Over "Sacred" Slipper
According to Romfea.gr, an internet debate has been ensuing in the Metropolis of Beroea between Archimandrite Paul Dimitrakopoulos and the clergy of the Metropolis. Fr. Paul has been criticizing Metropolitan Panteleimon publicly for being an "Ecumenist", that is, a heretic who believes the various Christian bodies should unite, dialogue and pray with one another. The clergy of the Metropolis as well as the Metropolitan himself are in turn criticizing Fr. Paul for his "scandalizing the faithful", anachronistic views, fanaticism, etc.
The link below contains the two letters (in Greek) written by Fr. Paul stating his case, which he claims to base his arguments on such eminent contemporary Holy Fathers, such as Elder Paisios the Athonite, St. Justin Popovich and Elder Sophrony of Essex. Below that in the same link is the text by the Clergy of the Metropolis of Beroea dated from October 29th, 2010 in which they clarify their position against Fr. Paul's text which is being distributed over the internet. They make clear that the clergy of the Metropolis respect Fr. Paul for his zeal for Orthodoxy, but that they cannot accept his fanaticism. They explain that they have never participated in any form of heretical Ecumenism, but that the measures of Fr. Paul have more to do with the fact that the Metropolitan of Beroea has not been outspoken against Ecumenism. Because of the unfounded harsh criticism issued against his hierarch and the scandalous messages he has been vocalizing throughout the Metropolis which have troubled many people, the clergy have asked Fr. Paul to take down his text from the internet, but he has not listened and thus been removed from the Metropolis.
The full text is here.
November 24, 2010
A group called the American Atheists has paid for a huge billboard on Route 495 outside the Lincoln Tunnel in North Bergen, N.J., that is raising some eyebrows.
The billboard shows a silhouette of the Three Wise Men approaching the Nativity, with the words: "You KNOW it's a Myth / This Season, Celebrate REASON!"
The group says the billboard is not designed to convert Christians to atheism. Rather, Dave Silverman, a spokesman for the American Atheists, says the sign is designed to encourage existing atheists who are going through the motions of celebrating Christmas to stop.
On its website, the group also states that the billboard is meant to "attack the myth that Christianity owns the solstice season" and to "raise the awareness of the organization and the movement."
The American Atheists said the billboard cost $20,000.
Blaise Pascal (June 19, 1623 – August 19, 1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher.
- We make an idol of truth itself; for truth apart from charity is not God, but His image and idol.
- All of our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling.
- All human evil comes from a single cause, man's inability to sit still in a room.
- As men are not able to fight against death, misery, ignorance, they have taken it into their heads, in order to be happy, not to think of them at all.
- Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.
- Do you wish people to think well of you? Don't speak well of yourself.
- Human beings must be known to be loved; but Divine beings must be loved to be known.
- If our condition were truly happy, we would not seek diversion from it in order to make ourselves happy.
- If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past and the future.
- It is good to be tired and wearied by the futile search after the true good, that we may stretch out our arms to the Redeemer.
- It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that he should not exist.
- It is not good to be too free. It is not good to have everything one wants.
- Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.
- Little things console us because little things afflict us.
- Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.
- Men blaspheme what they do not know.
- Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true.
- Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
- Noble deeds that are concealed are most esteemed.
- Nothing gives rest but the sincere search for truth.
- One must know oneself. If this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life and there is nothing better.
- Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything.
- Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.
- The charm of fame is so great that we like every object to which it is attached, even death.
- The consciousness of the falsity of present pleasures, and the ignorance of the vanity of absent pleasures, cause inconstancy.
- The gospel to me is simply irresistible.
- The greatness of man is great in that he knows himself to be wretched. A tree does not know itself to be wretched.
- The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.
- The immortality of the soul is a matter which is of so great consequence to us and which touches us so profoundly that we must have lost all feeling to be indifferent about it.
- The last act is bloody, however pleasant all the rest of the play is: a little earth is thrown at last upon our head, and that is the end forever.
- The last proceeding of reason is to recognize that there is an infinity of things which are beyond it. There is nothing so conformable to reason as this disavowal of reason.
- The only shame is to have none.
- The sensitivity of men to small matters, and their indifference to great ones, indicates a strange inversion.
- The strength of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts.
- The supreme function of reason is to show man that some things are beyond reason.
- There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous.
- There are two kinds of people one can call reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know him, and those who seek him with all their heart because they do not know him.
- There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.
- Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.
- We conceal it from ourselves in vain - we must always love something. In those matters seemingly removed from love, the feeling is secretly to be found, and man cannot possibly live for a moment without it.
- We never love a person, but only qualities.
- When we are in love we seem to ourselves quite different from what we were before.
- You always admire what you really don't understand.
- How vain is painting, which is admired for reproducing the likeness of things whose originals are not admired.
- If it is an extraordinary blindness to live without investigating what we are, it is a terrible one to live an evil life, while believing in God.
- If we do not know ourselves to be full of pride, ambition, lust, weakness, misery, and injustice, we are indeed blind. And if, knowing this, we do not desire deliverance, what can we say of a man...?
- In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.
- Instead of complaining that God had hidden Himself, you will give Him thanks for not having revealed so much of Himself; and you will also give Him thanks for not having revealed Himself to haughty sages, unworthy to know so holy a God.
- It is false zeal to keep truth while wounding charity.
- Sleep, you say, is the image of death; for my part I say that it is rather the image of life.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol Responds To Accusations That Monastics Are "Recruited" By Clergymen Behind Parents Backs
A Cypriot TV station "Sigma" interviewed Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol regarding the issue over why clergymen go behind parents backs to persuade their children to become monastics. The Metropolitan clearly responded to this harsh criticism by saying that all such accusations are "fantasies". He further pointed out that "94% of monastics, before they went to a monastery, had the consent of their parents, and often the same parents accompany their children."
Other cases involve such issues as when a 36 year old educated man desires the monastic life and parents oppose it, accusing their highly educated child of being weak-minded and being "recruited" by clergymen as if into some cult. The Metropolitan goes on to explain that it often happens parents come to see him to try to get him to even prevent marriages, such as when a parent disapproves of a spouse for their child. The Metropolitan sympathizes with parents who had other dreams for their children, whether in cases of marriage or monasticism, but also explains that sometimes things don't end up according to one's dreams. Furthermore, he emphasizes that the monastic life is very difficult and disciplined, and that if a weak-minded person were to come to the monastery and attempt to live its lifestyle, they would quickly fail and abandon it altogether. The monastic life requires a strong attitude and mindset and will, and this is based on one's changed disposition how they view the world and their desire to seek something greater than themselves and what the world has to offer.
The Metropolitan added that it does not benefit him to "recruit" monks or nuns. As a Metropolitan, he is too busy to deal with the affairs of monasteries and is not affiliated with any particular monastery. The accusation of "recruitment" into some sort of cult he finds extremely "fantastical" and beyond any type of logical thinking. He points out that 99% of the young people he sees that come to him for advice do so regarding their marriage, which he encourages and helps them to live godly family lives. The 1% who come to him expressing their desire regarding monasticism he also encourages, but does not recruit the 99% to join the 1%. As a Metropolitan of a large city, almost all his efforts go to helping families and marriages rather than monasteries. In the three monasteries of his Metropolis, maybe one or two people become monastics a year; Machaira has only 26 monks and the Precious Forerunner and Symvoulou Christou have only 7 monastics each.
When asked why monks are prohibited from seeing their parents, the Metropolitan emphasized the fact that parents are indeed allowed to visit their children, and even the child is allowed to visit the parent for as long as they would like. However, sometimes parents refuse to allow their children to live in monasteries (this is a percentage of the 6% or so that disapprove of their children becoming monastics) and refuse to accept the decision of their children. These will come to the monasteries screaming, issuing threats, and even hitting is involved. In this case, the Metropolitan says, parents would naturally be prohibited from entering the monastery. It is the children themselves who do not want to see these parents, because they are putting them in a difficult position.
The Metropolitan further brought up two examples where the bad behavior of relatives did not end there. At Machairas Monastery an intervention was devised by certain parents to abduct their child against their will out of the monastery, and to thwart this required police intervention. The second case involved a monk being kidnapped from his monastery.
The Metropolitan of Limassol further explained how in the last two decades there has been a greater interest in young people becoming monastics which "is not due to me, but people seek an authentic relationship with God." He quoted statistics, saying that one or two people become monastics every year in the monasteries. For example, when he took over the Convent of Saint Herakleidos there were 27 nuns, and now 17 years later there are 40 nuns. "So," he added, "in 17 years there have entered the monastery 20 nuns (given that some of them slept)."
The interview can be seen below (in Greek):
How Involved Was the Vatopaidi Monastery?
In October’s Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis tackled the wobbly Greek economy and the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi, the center of a parliamentary inquiry into its massive real-estate empire. The monastery itself now disputes some aspects of Lewis’s account; here, the author and Father Matthew, a Vatopaidi monk, debate the details of the monastery’s portrayal.
November 23, 2010
Fr. Matthew of Vatopaidi wrote:
My first read of Michael Lewis’s article on the Greek economic crisis and the role of the Vatopaidi Monastery was devastating—particularly after reading what is essentially his final remark about the monastery. There he states that, as he was on the road leaving Mount Athos, a monk of the monastery called him on his cell phone saying that Father Arsenios had asked him to call to find out what he thought about Bob Chapman, the monastery’s adviser for the American stock market. Unfortunately I was that monk, but what was printed in that paragraph had almost nothing to do with what was really said, yet this is the final image of the monastery that will be imprinted on the mind of the reader.
My heart dropped when I read that one paragraph. I couldn’t imagine how he could do this to us, especially as we had spoken several times afterward, and each time he assured me that the article was going to present us in a positive light. Our rapport had always been friendly—it still is. Yet every time someone brings it up, or anytime I imagine someone I know reading it, I feel ashamed, and I just want that paragraph not to be. Whatever positive thing may have been said before fades before this final image: Vatopaidi Monastery is all about money.
I did indeed make that phone call; I did ask about Bob Chapman; but the rest is a myth. Father Arsenios did not ask me to call him; no one in our monastery has ever even spoken to Bob Chapman; and we have never had anything to do with the U.S. stock market. But who is going to know this now? Though Mr. Lewis has agreed to a retraction—I called him a few days later and convinced him that I couldn’t have said this—the damage is done and the image set.
To be fair to Mr. Lewis, he seemed sure that I had said this, and I believe him. But for some reason he remained blind to the reality, even though in our initial phone conversation after his visit I had explained to him clearly about our interest in Bob Chapman, which had nothing to do with money, but about predictions he was making based on financial and political factors regarding Europe’s future on a tape that one of the monks had heard.
In re-reading the article, excepting that paragraph, the article is more balanced than initially perceived, particularly in comparison with what the Greek media has done with the monastery over the past two years. Still it contains many unverified and incorrect “fact,s” distortions, and, in a couple of places, a complete disregard of the truth, which present the abbot, Father Arsenios, and the monastery as something they are not. Monks tend not to defend themselves when personally affronted or slandered, following the example of Christ before the Sanhedrin and Pilate; but when it affects others, and especially the church itself (which it has), then sometimes the silence must be broken. The monastery has therefore asked me to set some of these things straight.
Though he sees them as sincere monks, Michael tries to paint an image of Abbot Ephraim and Father Arsenios as a dynamic duo of shrewd and forceful businessmen (which he himself does not see as incompatible with being a monk) trying to take advantage of a dysfunctional political system in order to build a powerful monastery with a “real-estate empire.” Unfortunately, he frequently uses half-truths and unverified facts to build this image. As one example, he says that a group of young Cypriot monks led by Father Ephraim saw a rebuilding opportunity and came here to take over the monastery, even though I explained, in a fact check that V.F. had sent me, that many of the monks were not Cypriots (7 of the 17, to be exact, including Father Arsenios) and that they were led not by Father Ephraim (who was just another one of the monks right up to the day three years later when the brotherhood elected him abbot) but by our Elder Joseph. In fact, they had been asked to come to the monastery to try to help it out of its derelict condition; nobody had their sights set on anything except trying to be good monks and, having been called upon to do so, helping the monastery get back on its feet. But these facts were ignored in favor of the “preferred” ones.
His insistence that the abbot had used the singer and the past crimes of the Catalan mercenaries to manipulate the Catalan officials into restoring a building flies in the face of reality. Here too, in the fact check, I had given him an Internet link that presents the entire story in relative detail. Sadly again, it was completely ignored.
Neither the abbot nor Father Arsenios would ever just show up unannounced at a minister’s office, especially one they had never met, and “accost” him, as claimed about their first meeting with Mr. Doukas. They had made an appointment ahead of time, as they always do. If the Ministry Office keeps records of appointments, this can be verified. Besides, for such savvy businessmen, it would hardly be good business practice to just go barging in on government officials.
The list goes on. The “two bosses” are not as linked as the article would like us to believe. Father Arsenios does not sit “next to the abbot” in the refectory, but at a completely different table. He is by no means a second-in-command figure for the brotherhood. Neither is Father Arsenios the worldly businessman Michael tries to portray, in spite of his capabilities. His desk did not have “two computers,” but only a miniature laptop—unless the monitor somehow counts as a separate computer (Father Arsenios is barely above computer illiterate). The “brand-new fax cum printer” is four or five years old. A perceptive eye would have discovered that beyond the “single icon” distinguishing his 16-by-18-foot office from a modern business office, there are at least seven other icons in plain view, three portraits of monastic elders, a bookcase filled with spiritual texts, and a host of other small items scattered about that belie the religious inclinations of the person who sits at that desk.
There is so much to be said about the lake and the exchanged properties, but time and space must limit this. The “worthless” lake owned by the monastery basically since the 11th century (the 14th-century imperial document mentioned simply verifies the monastery’s rights to the lake) is valued at €55-67 million and provides €500,000 to €1,500,000 income for the monastery per year from the fisheries. The lake has been confiscated and the monastery’s rights to it challenged numerous times during the past 900 years, but each time it has eventually been returned to the monastery and its rights ratified. It is still an internationally protected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, but approved interventions and uses of the land are possible. This status was not “allowed … to lapse” so the monastery could get full deed. Only the wildest estimates of the properties received have reached the billion or more euros of the article. Throughout most of the proceeding, a figure of between 100 and 150 million has been most common. The monastery still maintains that it is less than that, and that independent assessors will eventually verify this, as they did with the value of the lake.
The article does not touch on (the Greek media has avoided it as well) the Gregorian Foundation set up by Vatopaidi, before the land exchange, that had earmarked a major portion of the projected income for a rehab center for the disabled in Athens, a nursing care home in Cyprus, and a drug-detox and treatment center in Mesogeia, to mention a few, which were to be available for those unable to pay. The proposal for this foundation was first presented to a parliamentary committee in 2007. Needless to say, it will now be nearly impossible for the monastery to provide these things.
Finally, we find appalling the implication that we would use something as sacred as confession—which for Orthodox Christianity is an integral part of our journey toward God and spiritual healing—as a tool to gain control over influential figures. It is a much underused sacrament—or mystery, as we call it here—of the church, and we encourage all of our guests here and others to take advantage of it, regardless of their station in life. Since there are so many Orthodox who misunderstand and don’t appreciate the sacredness and importance of confession, I would hardly expect that Mr. Lewis, an atheist, would. I believe much of the problem with his article stems from this. I had several phone conversations with Michael, and in spite of everything, I like him as a person, and I know he has kind feelings toward the monks. In his own way, he was trying to do right by us—half-truths, botched facts, and artistic “liberties” notwithstanding. He was really quite shocked when I expressed our displeasure with the article and that we had had negative feedback about it. He truly believes he has shed a positive light on us (in some ways he has), and I believe this is because he, as a man of modern humanistic values, regardless of religious orientation, really can’t understand us because of his spiritual orientation—or disorientation, as we would see it. Unless that should change, he may like us, he may be fascinated by us, he may respect us—but he will never get us. Consequently, whatever he writes, no matter his intention, is somehow going to miss the mark. He should also know that we would never have turned him away from our gates because of his atheism, as he assumed we would—an assumption that prompted him to use deceit in order to get his story. Today he would still be welcome here, and we have not ceased praying for him and his family.
Is it too much to ask of journalists, and consequently the periodicals and newspapers they write for, to be conscientious about facts? We had asked to review Mr. Lewis’s material about the monastery to make sure he got it right. He told us that it was unethical in journalism to do so and that it might, understandably, make it look like a collaboration. Then we read in the article that he was surprised that, unlike Mr. Doukas, we had not wanted to check our quotes! How much trouble it would have saved us, and him, if he had allowed us to check the quotes and all the facts, rather than just the few they sent to us, whose corrections were more or less disregarded anyway. What more can we say? Take whatever you read, not only in this periodical, with a grain of salt—and make that a big grain.
For another view of the monastery, or of the land exchange, try vatopaidi.wordpress.com and hit the “English” button. In particular, see the PDF pamphlet. —Father Matthew
Michael Lewis response:
I’m in no position to dispute Father Matthew’s account of the history and decoration of Vatopaidi’s buildings, as what little I know about them I know from him and his fellow monks. We differ, however, on just about everything else in his letter. Bob Chapman, for instance. Father Matthew recalls asking about Chapman in relation to his knowledge about “financial and political factors regarding Europe’s future,” but in his phone call to me he expressed an interest in hearing my views on Chapman’s market judgment. Mr. Chapman is neither a historian nor a political analyst; he is a former stockbroker, who for 28 years specialized in the analysis of gold and silver prices. His financial newsletter, International Forecaster Weekly, is directed mainly at investors. I do not know whether the Vatopaidi monks have financial accounts in the United States, but I take Father Matthew’s word that they do not.
I also like Father Matthew, at least as much as he likes me. I would like also to take him at his word, and am fairly sure he believes what he writes. If so, he has no idea about what the monks who run Vatopaidi’s commercial affairs get up to when they are away from their monastery. I didn’t accuse the monks of bullying an official inside Greece’s Ministry of Finance: the official himself did, on the record. I have no reason to doubt his account, as it was buttressed by the accounts of several others, including a former finance minister, who told me that the two monks had threatened him when he refused to give them what they wanted. There was a great deal more of this sort of thing that never found its way into the article as it seemed superfluous, and it seemed plain to everyone who dealt with them that these monks were also shrewd businessmen. A prominent Greek real-estate agent told me of sitting through a meeting with Father Arsenios, for instance, in which Arsenios went on at length about how he had found a bank to offer him no-money-down loans to finance a spending spree in downtown-Athens commercial real estate.
I’m not sure what a “miniature laptop” is. The computer on Father Arsenios’s desk appeared to my eyes to be an ordinary machine, as did the fax machine behind it. Nothing about the office appeared old and worn: it gleamed. I am sure that Father Arsenios has religious texts on his shelves, but those texts aren’t the featured attraction. That would be the many rows of binders that contain—by his own account—his business transactions. When I told Father Arsenios that his office struck me as far more like the office of Greece’s Minister of Finance than the office of the actual Minister of Finance did, he laughed and said he wasn’t surprised, and so I’m not sure why this judgment of mine has so gotten under the skin of Father Matthew. I stand by my account of the interaction between the monks and the Catalan government. And I never wrote that all the monks were Cypriots. Many of Father Matthew’s suggested corrections during the fact-checking process were, in fact, made.
Estimates of the value of the disputed real estate vary wildly, as the piece clearly stated. I did not speculate what the monks intended to do with their real-estate revenues beyond restoring their historic monastery, and indeed gave them the benefit of a great deal of Greek doubt on this score. Just a week ago, three former government ministers were indicted for their dealings with Fathers Ephraim and Arsenios.
At any rate, it remains clear that the monks once possessed a real talent for getting their way with Greek government officials—a fact that I do not begrudge them one bit. For that matter, I see nothing reprehensible in their commercial and financial acumen. How on earth is a monk to live, much less generate tens of millions of dollars to restore his plant and equipment, if not shrewdly? I only wish they themselves did not feel ashamed and conflicted about their own gifts.
I certainly did not intend to imply that the monks would consciously or crudely violate a holy sacrament. I’m not sure they would ever need to. —Michael Lewis
Our holy Father Alypios was born in the city of Adrianople in the province of Paphlagonia during the reign of Heraclius (610-41). When he was only three his father died, and his mother placed him in the care of Bishop Theodore to study sacred literature and to be brought up for the service of the Church. The child’s remarkable ability as well as his great piety commended him to the Bishop’s successor, who made him steward of the church and ordained him deacon when he reached the canonical age. He fulfilled this double office admirably, but he longed to follow the eremitic life. As a result, he gave away his goods to the poor and told his pious mother of his intention to leave for the Holy Land and to embrace the monastic life.
Taking to the road in secret lest the Bishop and people of the city hold him back, he went as far as Euchaita, when the Bishop caught up with and insisted on his returning home. Forced back to the world, Alypios was consoled by a vision of the holy places of Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and Golgotha where God would have him engage in the blessed contests of ascetic life. He began looking for a remote spot to live in, and he was brought by a vision to a place with a spring of water, on an arid mountain. Here he dedicated a chapel and built a cell. But the Bishop wanted Alypios to serve in the world to which he was a stranger, so he blocked up the spring to oblige him to come down to the plain where he would be more accessible.
Undaunted, the Saint fixed on a demon-haunted spot, full of old tombs and pagan sanctuaries that everyone kept well away from. His relatives tried in vain to dissuade him from climbing up one of the derelict monuments on which was a pillar surmounted by the statue of a fabulous animal, half bull, half lion. ‘Here is my resting place!’ he exclaimed, and went back to the town to fetch a Cross and a crowbar. He dislodged the statue and threw it to the ground, setting up the life-giving Cross in its place, determined henceforth to rout the demons in their own lair.
Having business that required his attending on the Emperor, the Bishop constrained Alypios to accompany him to court. When they reached Chalcedon, the Saint hid in the oratory of St. Bassa by the sea, and was asleep when the Bishop embarked for Constantinople. Saint Euphemia, the patroness of Chalcedon, appeared to him as he slept and she told him to go home, assuring him of her protection. On returning to his hermitage, Alypios built a chapel dedicated the Saint Euphemia at a place miraculously pointed out to him in a vision. As he possessed nothing himself, some of his friends provided everything necessary for building the chapel, and they all set about the work of construction. Despite his desire to settle on the pillar, Alypios followed the advice of the Elders with due regard for their discernment, and he withdrew to a narrow cell not far from the chapel in order to give himself ardently to the purification of his soul by fasting, vigil and prayer. He was thirty years old at the time, and spent two years in this cell waging relentless war against the demons. Their evil suggestions could not shake him, and he drove them off by the sign of the Cross and the fire-bearing words of Holy Scripture.
So fast did word spread of the servant of God that, much as he wished to persist in his holy work without distraction, he was under the necessity of welcoming many of the faithful who came to receive his blessing. Gentle, easy to speak to, attentive to all alike, young and old, rich and poor, he would have no one leave him except filled with spiritual joy. But becoming aware that such involvement was harmful to his soul, and having by then sufficient skill in the ascetic art, he decided to make his abode on top of the pillar, protected from the weather by a small, rough, wooden roof. Since there was not room enough on the pillar to lie down or to sit, Alypios was always on his feet, like a living column, year in year out exposed to the elements, struggling against heat and cold, wind and rain. Whereas the sufferings of the Martyrs lasted for a little while, Saint Alypios offered himself to this daily martyrdom for fifty-three years, doing violence to nature each day in order to gain everlasting life.
He was ferociously attacked by demons jealous of his progress. When they began hurling stones at him, he asked his mother, who lived at the foot of the pillar, for an axe, intending to show them that soldiers of Christ rate their attacks no more than juvenile insults. Throwing the roof that sheltered him to the ground, he faced without protection the hail of stones, prepared to die like Stephen the first Martyr, if that were the will of God. Alarmed by his boldness and unshakeable faith in God, the demons took flight from the place, bewailing their discomfiture.
Set in the sight of all like a lamp on its stand, the Saint gave light to all by his virtues (Matt. 5:14-16). He had overcome self-love and self conceit and offered himself like the Apostles as a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men for love of Christ (1 Cor. 4:9). Crowds of people made haste to the pillar, asking for the Stylite’s intercession. The first of these was Euphemia, who was soon joined by another women Eubula, who became abbess of the convent, which was established at one side of the pillar. Some time later, Alypios founded a monastery on the other side of the pillar for the men who wanted to stay by him. It was wonderful to hear the choir of virgins and that of the monks chanting the praises of God responsively seven times a day, and to behold the Saint, that earthly angel and heavenly man standing between the two, joining his voice to theirs and raising his hands to the Triune God in intercession for the salvation of the world.
The Saint received the gift of prophecy; he healed the sick, reconciled enemies, gave instruction in the mysteries of divine wisdom, either directly or in letters; he became all things to all men that he might by all means save some for Christ (1 Cor. 9:22). One day, having thrown down his tunic to a poor man in need, he remained shivering on the pillar until a recluse of the men’s monastery saw his state and came to his assistance.
After fifty-three years of such ascetic contest, paralysis seized half his body, and his feet gave out. He could now only lie on one side, all but immobile, for the remaining fourteen years of his earthly life. Afflicted at the same time with a painful ulcer, he blessed the name of the Lord like righteous Job (Job 1:21). When he gave us his soul to God at last, aged ninety-nine, the people hastened to venerate his body and a possessed man was healed in its presence. St. Alypios reposed in the year 640, at age 118. The body of the venerable stylite was buried in the church he founded in honor of the holy Martyr Euphemia. His head is preserved in the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on the Mount Athos. The feast day of Saint Alypios is celebrated on November 26.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou becamest a pillar of patience and didst emulate the Forefathers, O righteous one: Job in his sufferings, Joseph in temptations, and the life of the bodiless while in the body, O Alypius, our righteous Father, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Today the Church doth glorify and hymn thee, O Alypius, as a foundation of virtues and comeliness of the ascetics and the monks. By thy prayers, as the namesake of true freedom from sorrow, free from their grievous sins all them that praise and honour thy struggles and deeds of excellence.
Portions of the preceding text are from “The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church” by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, and translated from the French by Christopher Hookway.
Saint Nikon Metanoeite ("the Preacher of Repentance") was born at Pontus Polemoniacus at the beginning of the tenth century. He was the son of a wealthy landowner, and he was given the name Nicetas in Baptism.
Since he had no desire to take over the management of his family's wealth and estates, Nicetas entered the monastery of Chrysopetro, where he shone forth in prayer and asceticism. When he received the monastic tonsure, he was given the new name Nikon. The new name symbolizes a new life in the Spirit (Romans 7:6), and the birth of the new man (Ephesians 4:24). A monk is expected to stop associating himself with the old personality connected to his former life in the world, and to devote himself entirely to God.
St Nikon had a remarkable gift for preaching. When he spoke of virtue and spiritual matters, his listeners were filled with heartfelt compunction and love for God. His words produced such spiritual fruit in those who heard him that he was asked to travel through the eastern regions to preach. He visited Armenia, Crete, Euboea, Aegina, and the Peloponnesus, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
"Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." This was the message of St John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), and of Christ Himself (Matthew 4:17). This was also the message of St Nikon. Wherever he went, he would begin his sermons with "Repent," hence he was called "Nikon Metanoeite," or "Nikon, the Preacher of Repentance."
At first, people paid little heed to his message. Then gradually he won their hearts through his preaching, his miracles, and his gentle, loving nature. He stressed the necessity for everyone to repent, warning that those who utter a few sighs and groans and think that they have achieved true repentance have deluded themselves. St Nikon told the people that true sorrow for one's sins is cultivated by prayer, self-denial, almsgiving, ascetical efforts, and by confession to one's spiritual Father.
After sowing the seeds of piety, St Nikon began to see them bear fruit. People started to change their lives, but he urged them to strengthen their souls in virtue and good works so that they would not be overwhelmed by the cares of this world.
Eventually, St Nikon settled in a cave outside Sparta. Soon he moved into the city, because so many people were coming to hear him. In the center of Sparta, he built a church dedicated to Christ the Savior. In time a monastery grew up around the church.
St Nikon never ceased to preach the Word of God, and to lead people back to the spiritual life of the Church. He also healed the sick, and performed many other miracles.
St Nikon fell asleep in the Lord in 998, and his memory was honored by the people around Sparta. During the Turkish occupation of Greece, however, he was all but forgotten, except in Sparta. After the Greek Revolution in 1821, a service to St Nikon was composed by Father Daniel Georgopoulos, and was based on the saint's Life, which had been written by Igumen Gregory of St Nikon's Monastery in 1142.
St Nikon was recognized as the patron saint of the diocese of Monemvasia and Lakedaimonia in 1893 when the cathedral church in Sparta was dedicated to St Nikon, the Preacher of Repentance.
Testament of Nikon the Metanoeite for the Church and Monastery of the Savior, the Mother of God, and St. Kyriake in Lakedaimon
Φώτης Κόντογλου - Ἅγιος Νίκων ὁ «Μετανοεῖτε»
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Lacedaemon doth rejoice with gladness in the godly shrine of thy blest relics, which doth make streams of healings to overflow and doth preserve from affliction and sore distresss all them that hasten, O Father, to thee with faith. Righteous Nicon, intercede with Christ God in our behalf that His great mercy may be granted unto us.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Emulating the life of the Angels, thou didst esteem the world's delights as dross, while showing us the paths of repentance, O righteous and God-bearing Nicon. Wherefore, as we now celebrate thy memorial, we honour thee; for thou in truth art a fountain of healings.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
The Monastery of Saint Katherine of Sinai, to the northeast of Saint Minas, was formerly a dependency of the Monastery of Mount Sinai, which bestowed the church to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Minas in 1924.
The Monastery of Saint Katherine was founded around the 10th century and the building preserved today was its main church (katholikon). The church was built in the 16th century and is obviously influenced by Venetian architecture.
The Monastery of St Katherine had an income sufficient to support a large monastic community. In the period between 1550 and 1640, the School of St Katherine of Sinai became a school of university learning, teaching Ancient Greek authors, Philosophy, Theology, Rhetoric and Art. Many graduates of the school distinguished themselves in Greek literature.
After the fall of Heraklion to the Turks in 1669, the church was converted into the Zulfikar Ali Pasha Mosque. It remained a mosque until the last Muslims left Heraklion in 1922, at the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey.
From 1967 to the present, the church of Saint Katherine has housed an important exhibition of Byzantine icons and religious objects including manuscripts, vestments, and wall paintings, representing six centuries of Orthodox history (14th-19th century).
The atmospheric church is also home to six unique works by the famous icon-painter Michael Damaskinos, a major exponent of the Cretan School.
A service is held in the church every year on 25 November, the feast of St Katherine. The exhibition is open daily from 9.30 to 15.30, with an entry ticket.
Read more here.
The magnificent and imposing Metropolitan Church of Panagia Odigitria was erected between 1867 and 1874 through the personal work of the people of the island of Kimolos who, without pay, worked zealously for seven years.
Among the numerous old and beautiful icons, the most cherished is the icon of Panagia Odigitria which dates to the Paleologan era (15th century) and possibly came from either Constantinople or Thessaloniki.
The artistic wealth of Panagia Odigitria Church is impressive and in order for a visitor to really appreciate it, one must devote ample time.
Panagia Odigitria is celebrated annually on November 21st for the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos Into the Temple.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Katherine was the daughter of King Constus. After the death of her father, she lived with her mother in Alexandria. Her mother was secretly a Christian who, through her spiritual father, brought Katherine to the Christian Faith.
In a vision, St. Katherine received a ring from the Lord Jesus Himself as a sign of her betrothal to Him. This ring remains on her finger even today.
Katherine was greatly gifted by God and was well educated in Greek philosophy, medicine, rhetoric and logic. In addition to that, she was of unusual physical beauty.
When the iniquitous Emperor Maxentius offered sacrifices to the idols and ordered others to do the same, Katherine boldly confronted the emperor and denounced his idolatrous errors. The emperor, seeing that she was greater than he in wisdom and knowledge, summoned fifty of his wisest men to debate with her on matters of faith and to put her to shame. Catherine outwitted and shamed them. In a rage, the emperor ordered all fifty of those men burned. By St. Katherine's prayers, all fifty confessed the name of Christ and declared themselves Christians before their execution.
After Katherine had been put in prison, she converted the emperor's commander, Porphyrius, and two hundred soldiers to the true Faith, as well as Empress Augusta-Vasilissa herself. They all suffered for Christ.
During the torture of St. Katherine, an angel of God came to her and destroyed the wheel on which the holy virgin was being tortured. Afterward, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared to her and comforted her.
After many tortures, Katherine was beheaded at the age of eighteen, on November 24, 310. Milk, instead of blood, flowed from her body. Her miracle-working relics repose on Mount Sinai.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Holy Great-Martyr Katherine
The wise Katherine, an earthly princess,
Became a martyr for Christ the Savior.
Foolish Maxentius offered her life:
If she would consent to become his wife!
The holy Katherine, pure as gold,
Replied to the emperor thus:
"My betrothed is the Risen Christ,
And I desire not the love of a corrupt man.
You seek my body: the rotten seeks corruption,
Even as the incorrupt spirit seeks immortality.
The physical covering must wither away,
The true man takes care for his immortal soul.
Do what you wish, and torture me -
Burn me in the fire, turn me on a wheel;
I cannot renounce my own soul,
Nor worship any but Christ as God.
Remember, O Emperor, soon you will die,
And worms will erupt from your corpse -
Worms will glorify you, worms will eat you,
A curse will accompany you, and a curse will meet you:
For you dare wage war against Christ, Who is mightier than death.
You stand under the Rock, and He will crush you."
Holy Katherine, Christ's virgin,
You despised the throne for eternal truth's sake;
And thus now reign in the Kingdom without end,
And sing with the angels, in the midst of sweet Paradise.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Let us praise the most auspicious bride of Christ, the divine Katherine, protectress of Sinai, our aid and our help. For, she brilliantly silenced the eloquence of the impious by the sword of the spirit, and now, crowned as a martyr, she asks great mercy for all.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
O friends of martyrs, now divinely raise up a renewed chorus, praising the all-wise Katherine. For, she proclaimed Christ in the arena, trampled on the serpent, and spat upon the knowledge of the orators.
It is said of St. Peter of Alexandria (Nov. 24) that he never climbed the steps and sat on the patriarchal throne in church, but rather stood or sat before the steps of the throne. When the faithful complained that their hierarch did not sit in his place, he replied: "Whenever I approach the throne, I see a heavenly light and power upon it, and that is why I do not dare climb and sit on it."
- St. Nikolai Velimirovich
One of my favorite female musical artists, PJ Harvey, visited St Catherine's Chapel in Abbotsbury, England (she grew up and lived nearby) which has a wonderful acoustic quality and sang there. The chapel is situated on a hill, as are most chapels to St. Catherine (Katherine) in the West, probably in reference to her shrine on Mount Sinai. It dates to the 13th or 14th century, but it is probably built on an earlier Christian church, which was probably built over pagan ruins. Her album Is This Desire? (EMI 1998) has a track "The Wind", inspired by her thoughts about the lonely, forgotten Saint - the chapel no longer functions and St. Catherine was abandoned and removed by the Catholic Church from its list of Saints in the 1960's. The song ends in a prayer for a husband for St Catherine to appease her loneliness, a touching reversal of the usual invocation of unmarried girls praying there for a husband. Read about the chapel here and see the video below, which transposes the ancient city of Alexandria with modern New York City.
The lyrics are:
Catherine liked high places,
High up on the hills
A place for making noises
Noises like the whales
Here she built a chapel
Her image on the wall
A place where she could rest
A place where she could wash
and listen to the wind blow
She dreamt of childrens' voices
And torture on the wheel
Patron saint of nothing
A woman of the hills
She once was a lady
Of pleasure and high-born
A lady of the city
But now she sits and moans
And listens to the wind blow
I see her in her chapel
High up on the hill
She must be so lonely
Oh Mother, can't we give
A husband to our Catherine
A handsome one, a dear
A rich one for the lady
Someone to listen with
Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving today, a long-standing tradition going back to the earliest European settlers in North America, the Pilgrims. Up until recently, the tradition included giving thanks to God. Now, the trend is to thank one another. The NASA Director put out a thanksgiving message Wednesday basically thanking all the NASA employees for their hard work over the past year. Are we supposed to thank ourselves on Thanksgiving? Live Science put together a list of “10 Science Discoveries to be Thankful for.” Should you be thanking God, or your local scientist?
There is no question that science has brought us many blessings, as their list shows: vaccines, understanding of the causes of disease, the Hubble Space Telescope, and more (although their inclusion of SETI at #9 is bizarre, since there have been no results). We can certainly thank scientists for these and many other discoveries. But do scientists work in a vacuum, issuing their good things out of themselves? Or are they dependent on other sources? If you thank a scientist, who is he or she to thank?
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Of course, Thanksgiving as we know it today did not originate with the Pilgrims, though their feast is the model for it. This is one of the mythologies surrounding Thanksgiving. Another myth of Thanksgiving is that it is traditional for Americans to have a feast on days proclaimed by U.S. Presidents as days of Thanksgiving. In fact, Thanksgiving in early America called for a day of prayer and fasting, not family gathering, football watching and feasting on turkey and all the other good stuff. Read more here, here and here.
Orthodox Christians in America are in a unique position regarding the celebration of Thanksgiving, which is our patriotic duty. Thanksgiving is no longer a time of fasting, but of feasting with family and friends (something which began to take shape after the Civil War in the 19th century and the Lincoln proclamation). For those who follow the New Calendar especially, the giant feast associated with Thanksgiving coincides with a period of 40-day fasting prior to Christmas, though it sometimes falls within the Old Calendar fasting period as well (when fasting begins on November 28th). Generally, however, a dispensation is granted by local bishops and priests to allow the Orthodox faithful to participate in this traditional American holiday as a harvest festival, a time for families to come together and celebrate, and to offer thanks to God for all He grants to us both individually, as a family and as a country. The Advent season is usually a lenient fasting time also, so such "economia" should not be looked upon as a big deal (see here). Ideally it is recommended for Orthodox to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Thanksgiving morning prior to feasting, since the Eucharist is the ultimate offering of thanksgiving to God.
Below are a few helpful articles written by Orthodox Christians regarding the holiday of Thanksgiving:
Dispelling Confusion About Fasting During Thanksgiving
What is So Orthodox at Thanksgiving?
A Meal of Unity: Christian Reflections on Thanksgiving Dinner
Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios For Thanksgiving Day 2010
The Final Divine Liturgy of Fr. Alexander Schmemann
Akathist of Thanksgiving
A Happy Thanksgiving to all!