Reading from the Synaxarion:
The great teacher and invincible defender of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, Saint Mark, was the offspring and scion of the imperial city, Constantinople. Reared by most pious parents, and instructed in secular and spiritual wisdom, he became preeminent in both. Saint Mark lived as an ascetic on the Prince's Islands and later in the monastery of Saint George Magana in Constantinople. He passed through all the degrees of the priesthood, and was finally advanced to the dignity of Archbishop and the lofty throne of the Metropolis of Ephesus. At the insistence of Emperor John Paleologos, the Saint was sent to the council of the Latins in Florence, to unite the churches that had been divided for so many years. He astounded the papal teachers with the divine wisdom of his words, and was the only one who did not sign the blasphemous decree of that false council. Because of this, the Holy Church of Christ has ever honored this great man as a benefactor, teacher, sole defender, and invincible champion of the Apostolic Confession. He reposed in 1443.
For a more complete life of Saint Mark of Ephesus, read here and here.
An honrable and wealthy man named Demetrios Zourbaios had a sister who had succumbed to a grave illness. At great cost, he summoned all the physicians of Mesolongion to treat her. However, his sister found no relief, and her condition even worsened. For three days, she was insensible, losing her speech and movement. The physicians diagnosed her as terminal, with death soon approaching. Her relatives began to prepare for her funeral. As this was taking place, unexpectedly, they heard her voice and a heavy sigh. She then turned, saying, "Why do you not change my dress which is drenched with water?" Upon hearing her speak, her brother was filled with unexpected joy. He then hastened to her, asking, "What is the matter and why are you soaked?" She answered, "A certain hierarch took me by my hand and led me to a spring. He placed me in a cistern and doused me, saying, 'Go now, you are no longer ill.'" The woman's brother then asked her, "Why did you not ask the name of him who healed you?" She then answered, "I did inquire the identity of his holiness. He told me that he was the Metropolitan of Ephesus, Mark Evgenikos."
Then - O, the wonder - she arose from her sick bed. All present beheld her soaked garments. Moreover, her bed, bed covers and blankets were saturated. Upon arising, she bore no trace of her former illness. The woman then commissioned an icon of St. Mark be made in commemoration of the miracle. This pious woman lived for another fifteen years and was translated to the Lord.
From The Great Synaxarion of the Orthodox Church (January).
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
By your profession of faith, O all-praised Mark the Church has found you to be a zealot for truth. You fought for the teaching of the Fathers; you cast down the darkness of boastful pride. Intercede with Christ God to grant forgiveness to those who honor you!
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Clad, O godly-minded one, with an invincible armor, thou didst dash to pieces the pride of the Western rebellion; thou wast brought forth as the champion of Orthodoxy, as the Comforter's own instrument and pure vessel. For this cause, to thee we cry out: Rejoice, O Mark, thou boast of the Orthodox flock.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Reading from the Synaxarion:
During the Old Testament readings of the Great Vespers, the Metropolitan decided to read the portion from the Wisdom of Solomon in the demotic vernacular language rather than the Septuagint original. Immediately people began to shout: "Your Eminence, not in the demotic. Read the reading in the ancient language." This was followed by yelling and tension within the church during the service. The Metropolitan in vain tried to resume the reading.
"You must know that some are videotaping at this time in order to create trouble. They want to show there is a reaction", said the Metropolitan over the microphone.
He continued: "I must tell you that the texts of the Old Testament are didactic and are not prayers of the Church. I, at this time, have yet to read prayers in the demotic, even though I could have done so as have done other bishops."
The voices of the protesters would not cease however. The Metropolitan then shouted over the microphone: "Please do not be agitated, do not be agitated."
A priest also standing at the Beautiful Gate then asked the people to isolate these matters and take them outside for the others to worship in peace.
The Metropolitan then said that he would read the text in both demotic and ancient Greek, but only during the reading of the demotic did there arise new tensions.
A video of the event can be seen below:
On Monday 17 January 2011 the Metropolitan said: "I have great distress. Not so much for those who have for years become familiar with worship and lived and live within worship, in a way that God blesses them. I have great distress especially for young people. It bothers me what church attendance will be like 10, 20 or 30 years from now. What will be the relationship of the youth to the liturgical life of the Church?"
He continued: "I share the views of young people who tell me that they do not understand the liturgical language and believe that we have not taught our children to love our language. This language is our treasure. The Gospel was written in it. And we today are losing it, forgetting it day by day. The developments in schools will become even more tragic it seems .... "
St. Makarios Kalogeras, the Teacher of the Nation, was born on Patmos in 1688, and was from a wealthy family. Later he went to Constantinople for studies and came into contact with noteworthy families and clerics of the Queen City. After many years of study he became a Deacon with the Metropolitan of Nikomedia. As St. Makarios placed great significance on the teaching and raising of the Greeks under oppression of the Turks, he returned to Patmos, and in 1713 he founded the Patmias School.
The lessons at the school were offered free to all students and in the beginning St. Makarios taught by himself. After a few years, the best students were selected as teachers of the school. These students were from Patmos and other areas under the Ottoman Empire. His chief co-workers were monk Kosmas from Lemno and St. Gerasimos Byzantios. The number of students increased to 100, and because of this they thought there was a need to create more buildings, which occurred through the help of generous gifts from Constantinople. The Patmias School became one of the most significant schools of Hellenism.
St. Makarios, who was weakened by an infection, reposed on Patmos in 1737. His name lives on through his intense activities and his work. His Sacred Service was never beyond the depth of a Deaconate, because he was much more pleased, as he said himself, to serve instead of being served.
Source: Translated by Full of Grace and Truth
For a more complete biography in Greek, read here.
To read one of the books of St. Makarios in Greek, see the work titled "Evangeliki Salpynx" which is a book of lessons on the Gospel readings for the entire Ecclesiastical year. Read here.
About the Patmian School of Theology
The Theological School of Patmos was founded by the Hierodeacon Makarios Kalogeras in 1713 AD and is situated on the hillside directly above the Cave of the Apocalypse. The school is a spiritual legacy of St. Christodoulos of Patmos who included it in his original plans for the island of Patmos; Emperor Alexios I issued a deed of title in which he mentions it to be "an abode of learning where local disciples will gather."
Makarios studied theology and philosophy at the Patriarchal School of Constantinople. He was supported by many well-known families such as the families of Mavrokordatos, Ipsilantis, as well as the Metropolitan of Nicomedia, who saw him as his successor. However, Makarios loved his teaching and he returned to Patmos in 1713 and created the School in the Cave of Apocalypse. His consultants and supporters were scholars of the nation and Emanuel Ipsilantis was one who supported the project financially. He built a few cells there for himself and his few students. The reputation of the School began to spread and very soon there were students arriving not only from the neighbouring islands, but also from Peloponnese, Athens, Bucharest, Asia Minor and Russia. These crowds of students arriving forced Emanuel Ipsilantis to build more cells. At the beginning, Makarios taught by himself. However, soon he began to receive help from his senior students. His student Gerasimos of Byzantium became his friend and co-operator, who continued the work after 1737, when Makarios died.
In 1769 the School was reformed into a "General School of the Nation" by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, similar to a small private college. Its reputation was excellent, and in 1731 when Fr. Basil Gregory Barsky visited from Kiev, he wrote, "For the Greeks who are under the Turkish yoke, this school took on the significance of ancient Athens." That the School played a role in the revival of the Greek nation is undeniable. Among its graduates are numbered Emmanuel Xanthos, one of the founders of the "Society of Friends" which worked for the liberation of Greece. More importantly, the founder Makarios Kalogeras, and two of the graduates, Gerasimos Byzantios and Daniel Karamares have been canonized as saints.
The course of the School of Patmos was extremely hard in the years to come. From 1902 it began to operate as a hieratic school and in 1907 it was forced to move to Samos due to financial problems. In Samos it continued to operate successfully only for a few years and it later closed down. Its activity continued after the liberation of Patmos in 1947. This is when it was rebuilt, only a few meters away from its old location.
The Patmos School is today a training school for young men throughout Greece taking in students from twelve years of age through high school, giving them a regular school curriculum, but concentrating on subjects such as church history, dogma, theology, and Byzantine chant. Young men who want to become priests can study a few additional years and be ordained without taking the full course of theology at the Theological Academy of Athens. These schools are often attended by priest's sons (who themselves frequently become priests), boys interested in monasticism or simply those whose pious families want them to have the benefit of a church-oriented education.
The official website of the school can be seen here.
A blog for the school is here.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
The pride of teachers, the boast of deacons, the glory of the island of Patmos and the adornment of monastics, let us honor Makarios, O faithful, in hymns and spiritual odes towards him in reverence harmonically saying and crying out, Glory to Christ Who glorified you, Glory to Him Who magnified you, Glory to Him Who showed you forth as our protector in these last days.
Russian Orthodox icon apparently shed tears of blood during Slaaviq, a weeklong Christmas celebration.
January 18, 2011
KTVA CBS 11
A Russian Orthodox icon reportedly shed tears of blood during Slaaviq, a weeklong Christmas celebration, in an Alaska village on the Yukon River.
Carol Stephanoff, a resident of Russian Mission, Alaska, captured the photo of a Virgin Mary icon reportedly crying bloody tears in the home of another resident, Michael Askoak.
The homeowner said he noticed the paper icon first began to stream tears of blood years ago and kept the icon in hiding.
More recently, Askoak said he noticed the red marks started to get longer and longer, creating a buzz in the small village.
He said there is no blood coming from behind the paper and that Russian Orthodox priests are examining the icon.
January 19, 2011
The Orthodox world celebrates Epiphany today. Baptism is a major Christian celebration of the Orthodox Church, in the old style on Jan. 19 and in the new style on Jan. 6.
According to Scripture, nearly 20 centuries ago, John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan River in Israel.
Catholicos Patriarch of All-Georgia Ilia II will hold a solemn service at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Today, he will baptize more than 500 children. The patriarch has about 7,000 godchildren.
The patriarch made the initiative of baptizing children on Jan. 19, 2007. He baptizes every third and subsequent child in families. Last week, according to the decision of the Patriarch, every fourth child in the family, which will be baptized by His Holiness, will be granted a new title - the Devoted Patriot of Homeland and the Defender of Patriarchate’s Throne.
Russian Orthodox Christians are marking Epiphany, one of their most important religious holidays. The tradition sees many people brave ice-cold water as they hope to wash away their sins. RT's Peter Oliver packed his swimming trunks and plucked up the courage to have a go himself.
And contrary to the report, no, Jesus was not baptized into the Christian faith.
St. Macarius tbe Great was born in the year 300 and died in 390. Thus his life was passed entirely in the fourth century, that exceptional and remarkable period in the history of the Church. At its very beginning the persecution of three centuries against Christians came to an end, and there was born the great Byzantine/Eastern Roman culture which gave to the whole world for all times the greatest spiritual treasures which Orthodoxy contains.
In the epoch of persecutions every Christian had to be prepared at any moment for the exploit of confessing the Faith and suffering martyrdom. Such a condition could be the lot of only a few chosen ones. Now religion became accessible to the masses and the former high spiritual level was inevitably lowered. It began to be difficult to live in a Christian way in the world. The new epoch required a new means for acquiring "heavenly crowns." In order to attain passionlessness, one had to traverse a long path of battling with the passions. The martyr's exploit was replaced by a voluntary martyrdom: self-renunciation and asceticism, life in the desert amidst labor and privations. There began a great exodus into the desert. The epoch of monasticism was born.
A marvelous and striking spectacle is to be seen in the astonishing spread of monasticism at its very beginning. Egypt, where paganism had its chief support, where superstition and idol-worship reached the highest degree, now assimilated such a throng of monks that there were no fewer dwellers in the desert than there were in the cities.
"I saw in Egypt," testifies Rufinus, "fathers who live on the earth but lead a heavenly life ... new prophets, of whose worth there is the testimony of their gift of signs and miracles. None of them is anxious over food and clothing, for they know that after all these things do the Gentiles seek (Matt. 6:32). They seek justice and the Kingdom of God, and all this, according to the promise of the Savior, will be added to them. Their faith is such that it can move mountains. Thus certain of them by their prayers stopped river torrents that were about to inundate neighboring villages, crossed over Waters as on dry land, subdued wild beasts, and performed numberless miracles; so that there is no doubt that it is by their virtues that the world stands."
"The heavens, speckled with a multitude of stars, are not as bright," says Chrysostom, "as the Egyptian desert, which displays everywhere the huts of monks ... It is better than paradise, where we see in human form numberless choirs of angels, throngs of martyrs, assemblies of virgins; we see the whole tyranny of the devil overthrown, and the Kingdom of Christ shines."
The founder of monasticism was the great Anthony. His disciple and continuator of his work was the great Macarius.
ST. MACARIUS was born in the Egyptian village of Ptinapor, which was situated not far from the Nitrian desert. The melancholy and solemnity of the place, the eternally clear sky, the majestic pyramids with their severe lines, the ruins of gigantic temples and buildings – all this earthly grandeur reduced to dust involuntarily called forth thoughts of the instability of everything earthly. In addition, these places were filled with remembrances of the great Old Testament events that had occurred here: all this disposed one to the contemplative life and to self-reflection.
The parents of Macarius, the Presbyter Abraham and Sarah, were of righteous life and, like the Old Testament forebears of the same name, lived to old age without having children. The birth of St. Macarius was foretold to his father by the Patriarch Abraham, who appeared to him in a dream, and then by an angel as well. Likewise in a dream an angel appeared to the Presbyter Abraham when he was sick, healed him and, predicting the birth of a son, said, "He will be a dwelling of the Holy Spirit and will bring many to God." The new-born son was given the name Macarius, which signifies "blessed."
This "chosen vessel" was distinguished by an extraordinarily sensitive conscience. The Saint himself related an incident from his childhood. His companions stole some figs from somebody's garden. In running away they dropped one. Macarius picked it up and ate it. For his whole life he grieved over his action and could not remember it without tears.
When Macarius grew up, he submitted to his parents’ will and, against his own wishes, entered into marriage; however, feigning illness, he evaded married life. Soon his wife died, and in a short time his aged parents also departed to the Lord.
Macarius prayed fervently that the Lord would send him a wise instructor in the spiritual life. By Divine inspiration there came to church an ascetic of fair appearance, with long hair and a beard, with a body weakened by ascetic labors. There Macarius met him. Spending the whole day in spiritual conversation in the cell of an anchorite, the exhausted Macarius fell asleep with the approach of night; the elder, however, stood at prayer and had a prophetic vision suddenly there appeared throngs of monks in white garments and with wings and began to walk around the sleeping Macarius, calling him to the service indicated to him by God. The elder advised Macarius not to postpone his intention to devote himself wholly to the monastic life. Macarius accepted the advice. Having given away all his possessions, he returned to the anchorite, who, accepting him with love, instructed him in the monastic life and in basket-weaving. He settled him in a separate: cell not far from himself where Macarius gave himself zealously over to ascetic deeds, advancing rapidly in the spiritual life.
Macarius acquired the love and respect of the residents of the nearby village, his native Ptinapor, and they persuaded the bishop who was visiting them to make Macarius a cleric of their church, despite: the fact that he was still very young. This was against the wishes of Macarius. A few days after his ordination as a deacon he left and settled near another village.
Here there came upon him a difficult trial which he bore with extraordinary good-heartedness, which testified of the already high degree of his spirituality. In this village a girl, being pregnant, under the influence of the evil spirit slandered Macarius, saying that he was the Cause of her sin. The enraged parents together with their fellow-villagers subjected him to beating and tortures. Leaving him scarcely alive, they obligated him to furnish support for the girl. Meekly and without murmuring, St. Macarius bore all this and began to work all the harder saying to himself: "Now Macarius you have a wife and children, and therefore you have to work day and night to furnish their support."
When it came time for the girl to give birth, the just judgment of God overtook her for several days she was in terrible torment and could not be delivered of her burden. Then she understood that this was a punishment for her slandering of an innocent man. She acknowledged everything and indicated the one who was really guilty. Heating this, all were greatly frightened, fearing God's chastisement for wronging the righteous one, and, bothered by their conscience, they decided to go to Macarius in order to obtain forgiveness for themselves. A friend of Macarius with joy forewarned him of this. But Macarius, who had willingly accepted dishonor, did not desire to receive honors and glory. At night he secretly left for the desert of Nitria.
There he lived and labored in asceticism in a cave for some time, and then went to St. Anthony in the desert of Pharan. For a long time Macarius had thirsted to see the great anchorite; the glory of his ascetic deeds and holiness had then' spread everywhere. Abba Anthony, trying the patience of St. Macarius, did not at once allow him into his cell. Then, opening the door, he greeted him, saying, "I have long desired to see you, Macarius!'' - and with love he accepted him, consoling and reassuring him.
Macarius remained a long time with Anthony as his disciple. When Macarius had completely matured for an independent anchoretic life, St. Anthony commanded him to depart to the desert of Scetis. At that time the Mount of Nitria and the desert of Cellia that lay immediately beyond it were already peopled with monks, whose dwelling there, with the blessing of Abba Anthony, had been begun by St. Amoun. The desert of Scetis lay some days' journey beyond the desert of Cellia. It was a wild, sandy desert, where only rarely were springs to be found, and then with scarcely potable water. To this place no road had been laid out, and one directed one's course by sun and stars. It was in this unpopulated and somber locality that St. Macarius settled, giving himself over to ascetic labors, unceasing prayer, and contemplation of God.
St. Macarius, like his Abba Anthony, began to be subjected here to demonic attacks. He had to fight day and night with the demons. Sometimes they fell upon him in fury in the form of various monsters; sometimes in the form of enraged soldiers with a wild roar and cry they fell upon him, as if wishing to kill him; and sometimes they strove to unsettle him by means of trickery. Thus once at night demons, taking the: form of angels, surrounded him and woke him up and said: "Arise, Macarius, and sing with us and do not sleep" But he, recognizing the demonic attack answered them without rising from his bed: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for your father the devil and for you'" The demons continued to call him to prayer, but not succeeding in this they began to beat him. The Saint, however, called out to the Lord: "Help me, Christ my God, and deliver me from those who encompass me, for a pack of dogs has encompassed me and opened their mouths against me!" And the whole multitude of demons disappeared suddenly with a great roar.
When St. Macarius was gathering palm branches in the desert, a demon encountered him and said to him: "I suffer a great sorrow in being unable to conquer you. Everything that you do I do also: you fast, and I eat nothing at all; you keep vigil, and I never sleep. In one thing only do you surpass me -- in humility."
Soon after St. Macarius had settled in Scetis, disciples began to gather around him. The more terrible was the desert of Scetis, the more courage was required to settle in it. And it was only such that St. Macarius accepted. And all his disciples surpassed the other monks, as much by their zeal for ascetic labors as by the perfection of their life.
ST. MACARIUS was only 30 years old when he went off into the desert, and then he was already called "youth-elder" for his spiritual experience and wisdom. At about the age of forty St. Macarius was ordained priest. At this time he possessed already the gift of prophecy and wonderworking. He was always distinguished by exceptional emaciation, whether he had been fasting or not. When asked. the reason for this, the Saint replied: "As a poker used to turn burning logs and sticks in a stove is always being scorched by fire, so in a man who directs his mind always to the Lord and always keeps in mind the terrible torments of the fire of gehenna, this fear not only gnaws the body, but dries up the bones as well."
When the number of the brethren had significantly increased, St. Macarius erected four churches. Each church had its own priest. The monks lived in cells separately from each other. St. Macarius himself lived also separately far off in the desert and had with him only two disciples. Ham his ceil the Saint dug a subterranean passageway a half-mile long, and at its end a small cave. When he wished to hide from his numerous visitors, he went off to the cave, and no one knew where he was.
St. Macarius continued to visit his teacher, Abba Anthony, often and he was enabled to be present at his blessed repose. He received St. Anthony's staff. This gift he received as a precious holy object, and there with the spirit of the great Anthony reposed upon him, as once the Prophet Elisha bad accepted the spirit of the Prophet Elijah.
Socrates, the biographer of St. Macarius, speaks of how he performed numerous miracles and freed so many from evil spirits that to describe it all would require a whole book. Here are some of them.
A certain man was burning with passion for a married woman, but she had spurned him. Then he turned for help to a sorcerer. In order to make the husband put away his wife, the magician by means of demonic sorceries cast upon her such a spell that she began to appear to everyone like a horse. The husband surmised what was the matter and brought her to St. Macarius. Those around him took her for a horse and prevented him from entering the monastery. St. Macarius, however, said to them: "You yourselves are like animals if your eyes see the form of a beast; but she, created a woman, will remain one, and only seems an animal to your eyes which have been deceived by sorcerers." Having blessed water, he poured it out upon the woman, and she instantly resumed her natural appearance. And he told the woman that her trial had been allowed because she had not communicated of the Divine Mysteries for five weeks.
St. Macarius' gift of working miracles was so great that he could raise the dead. Once the heretic Hierax, who taught that there would be no resurrection of the dead, appeared in the desert and began to disturb the minds of the anchorites. He came also to Scetis and, in the presence of Macarius and numerous brethren, began to unfold his teaching, mocking the Saint's simplicity of speech. Seeing that the brethren were beginning to waver, Macarius proposed that all go to the cemetery; there, having prayed, he turned to the grave of a recently deceased monk and loudly called him by name. He answered from under the earth. The brethren hastened to dig him up and brought him alive out of the grave. Struck with terror, the heretic took flight and, pursued by the brethren, left their boundaries.
On two other occasions also St. Macarius raised a dead man: once (witnessed by Abba Sisoes) to exonerate an innocent man accused of murdering the dead man, and once (related by Rufinus) to save a woman about to be sold into slavery with her children.
A multitude of pilgrims and the sick flocked to St. Macarius. For them a guest-house was built in the monastery. The Saint had the custom of healing every day, anointing with oil, only one sick man, with the wise intention that the sick, remaining longer in the monastery, would receive spiritual benefit.
Once there came a priest with his head afflicted with gangrene, with open wounds on his neck. St. Macarius explained the reason for this: the priest had dared to serve Liturgy after committing the sin of adultery. The priest promised never again to serve, and St. Macarius healed him.
Of the Saint's extraordinary power of prayer and his clairvoyance the following incident will testify. His young disciple was selling baskets and mats in town. Here he was subjected to the peril of falling when a harlot, wounded by the beauty of the youth, by cunning, under the pretext of buying something, lured him to her. When she began to incline him to sin, the novice cried out to the Lord: "O Christ and King, Who delivered HIS servant from the belly of the whale, deliver me also from this sin!" And instantly he was carried off and found himself in his cell in the desert, where he saw St. Macarius, who with his spiritual eyes had seen his disciple in danger and had prayed for him to God.
ABBA Macarius constantly instilled the idea that the foundation of everything is humility: "If we see that anyone exalts himself and becomes haughty because he is a participant of grace, then even were he to perform signs and raise the dead, if he does not acknowledge his soul to be dishonored and debased, and himself poor in spirit and vile, he is robbed by malice and does nor know it." This feeling of humility in the presence of an abundance of the gifts of grace is explained by St. Macarius in an excellent comparison: "If a king leaves his treasure with a poor man, the one who receives it does not consider this treasure as his own property, but everywhere acknowledges his poverty, not daring to spend another's treasure, because he always reasons with himself: this treasure is not only not mine, but what is more has been left me by a powerful king, and he, when he wishes, will take it from me. Thus should those who possess the grace of God think of themselves. If they exalt themselves and their hearts begin to grow haughty, the Lord will take from them His grace, and they will be left the same as they were before receiving it." "If anyone says, 'I have enough and more than enough,' he is deceived and a liar."
St. Macarius related how once he had had a revelation that he had not attained as yet such perfection in virtuous life as two women who lived in town. Then he left immediately on the long journey to town and sought them out, and at his request they related to him the following concerning themselves: "We married two brothers and lived together in one house for fifteen years. During this time we did not utter a single malicious or shameful word and lived together in peace and harmony. We wanted to leave our husbands and go to a convent, but, even though we begged with many tears our husbands did not let us go. Then we made a covenant with God and among ourselves -- not to utter a single worldly word to our very death." And the Saint said; "In truth God seeks neither virgin nor married woman, neither monk nor layman, but a free intent, accepting it as the deed itself, and He grants to the free will of every man the grace of the Holy Spirit, which operates in a man and directs the life of everyone who desires to be saved."
"I am not yet a monk, but I have seen monks," said Abba Macarius to the Nitrian brethren, and related how once by inspiration from above he went to the inner desert and, coming to an immense marsh, saw wild animals who had come to drink water. Among them were two naked men. They informed the Saint that they had dwelt here for thirty years already and lived on the food of dumb animals. They informed the Saint that they suffered neither from frost in winter nor from heat in summer. "What must I do to be a monk?" Macarius asked them. They said: "If you cannot renounce the world as we have, then go to your cell and weep over your sins."
The gift of love in St. Macarius attained the highest degree. His love for his neighbor was revealed especially in his condescension to the weaknesses of others. By the testimony of the elders of Scetis, he was as it were an "earthly god" just as God, they said, while seeing the whole world docs not chastise sinners, so also Macarius covered up men's weaknesses, which as it were he saw without seeing, and' heard without hearing.
"Christians," he said, "should judge no one, neither an open harlot, nor sinners, nor dissolute people, but should look upon all with simplicity of soul and a pure eye. Purity of heart, indeed, consists in seeing sinful and weak men and having compassion for them and being merciful."
With meekness arid mildness Macarius directed his brethren, inspiring in them above all love for each other. He said: "If, in giving someone a reprimand, you come in irritation, then you are gratifying your passion. In this fashion, without saving others you cause harm to yourself as well."
Having received power over evil spirits, St. Macarius could see them with his spiritual eyes and enter into conversation with them. Once he saw a demon coming as if with gourd dishes hanging from him. Questioning him, the Saint discovered that he was going to a neighboring monastery to tempt the brethren. In the dishes various temptations had been prepared as if some kind of victuals. Finding out from the demon that a certain monk by the name of Theopemptus was to be subjected to temptations, Abba Macarius hastened to that monastery. All the brethren came out with palm branches to meet the great and renowned Abba. Each one hoped that he would stop at his cell, but the Saint went to Theopemptus. The latter was extremely gladdened and consoled by this. In conversation with Macarius this brother was ashamed to confess his impure thoughts, and even denied that they tempted him. Macarius said: "How many years I have labored in asceticism, and I, an old man, am troubled by the spirit of fornication." And Theopemptus replied: "Believe me, Abba, I am likewise troubled." The elder spoke also of other thoughts, as if they tempted him, and in this fashion brought the monk to complete avowal. Then, having given him instruction on the battle with thoughts and on fasting, he left him. And from that time [his brother labored in asceticism more than others.
With love and humility St. Macarius converted to Christ a certain pagan priest. A disciple of the Saint met him first and called him a demon. The indignant priest beat the monk almost to death. When, however, Macarius met him right after this and behaved kindly to him, this so affected him that he grasped Macarius' feet and said: "You are a man of God; I will not let you go until you make me a monk." Following the priest, many pagans too were converted to Christ. Recalling this incident, the elder said: "A bad word makes bad even the good, but a good word makes good even the bad."
One youth, desiring to become a monk, asked St. Macarius: “How may I be saved?" The latter sent him to the cemetery, at first to rebuke and then to praise the dead, and then asked him what they had replied. "They were silent both to praise and to reproach," replied the youth. "And so you too," said the elder, "if you wish to be saved, be dead like the dead: think neither of insults from men nor of human glory."
Let us cite several instructions of St. Macarius:
"If for you disgrace is like praise, poverty like wealth, insufficiency like abundance, then you will not die."
"If we shall remember the evil that men have done us, the remembrance of God will grow weak in us; but if we shall remember the evil brought upon us by demons, we shall be safe from their arrows."
Asked how to pray, he replied: "It is enough if you will often repeat from your whole heart: 'Lord, as it pleases Thee and as Thou knowest, have mercy on me.' And if temptation comes upon you: 'Lord, help me!' The Lord knows what is profitable for us and has mercy on us."
IF WE speak of Macarius the Great, we should make note also of his contemporary, St. Macarius of Alexandria. He was priest in a monastery in the desert of Cellia which adjoined Scetis and was a close friend in asceticism of Macarius the Great (known also as "of Egypt"). Like the latter he was a disciple of Anthony the Great and likewise was of lofty spiritual life. The two Macarii often met for conversation and prayer.
During the domination of the Arians in the reign of the Emperor Valens (364-378) there was a severe persecution of the Orthodox. After the death of Athanasius the Great his see in Alexandria was forcibly seized by an Arian, Lucius, who banished the canonical successor, Patriarch Peter. The Egyptian desert dwellers were zealous defenders of the Nicene Creed. Lucius attempted by cruelty and tortures to force them into Arianism, but he did not succeed in this. Then he began to send the holy desert dwellers into captivity. St. Macarius the Great and St. Macarius of Alexandria were among the first seized. Together with some of the brethren they were placed by soldiers in a ship at night and sent to an island where only pagans lived. But here also the Lord glorified His faithful slaves. The daughter of the local pagan priest was possessed by an evil spirit. Sensing the approach of the Saints, she ran out to meet them, calling in a loud voice: "Why have you come here? This island is our dwelling place from of old." The Saints drove the demon out of her. Then the father of the healed girl, and after him all the dwellers on the island as well, were baptized. When news of this reached Alexandria, Lucius, because of the danger of a popular uprising, was forced to return the exiles to their desert.
An extraordinary and irresistible impression was produced by St. Macarius on all who came into contact with him. Divine grace transfigured his whole being. It could be noticed in his glance, in his speech, and in that extraordinary love which poured out upon all around him. His word, even the simplest, was always uttered with authority. It created and built. Filled with divine wisdom and power, it penetrated to the very depth of the human spirit. Even those who didn't know St. Macarius recognized him instantly amidst other monks by his extraordinary appearance.
Not long before the death of Macarius, the desert dwellers of the Mount of Nitria appealed to him with a request: "Father, so as not to trouble: the whole multitude of the brethren with coming to you, do you yourself, before: you depart to the Lord, come to us." When the: Saint came: to them, all with great joy came out to meet him. The elders begged him to give them all instructions, and St. Macarius said: "Let us weep, brethren: let our eyes pour out tears before we depart for a place where our tears will burn our bodies." All burst out weeping, fell on their faces and begged: "Father, pray for us!"
St. Macarius possessed the grace-bestowed gift of tears. He often shed them and said : "You will become worthy of the vision of the wondrous and blessed images of the Jerusalem on high in no other way than by day and night shedding tears according to the example of him who said: Every night I flood my bed, I water my couch with my tears (Ps. 6:7). A tear shed from great sorrow and heartfelt distress is food for the soul, given from heavenly bread."
FOR SIXTY YEARS St. Macarius lived in his desert of Scetis, and at the age of 90 he departed to the Lord. Not long before his death, there appeared to him from the world above his Abba Anthony the Great, chief of the desert dwellers, and Pachomius the Great, founder of the coenobitic monasteries in Egypt. They said, "Rejoice, Macarius; the Lord Jesus Christ sent us to announce to you your joyful death. On the ninth day after today you will depart into eternal life. On that day we shall come again to you and with joy shall take you with us, so that together with us you might appear before the Lord's Throne and enjoy immortal life." St. Macarius summoned the brethren. He instructed them to preserve strictly the rules of the fathers and the traditions of the monks, placed the more experienced and advanced brethren as teachers among them, blessed all, bade farewell to them, and in solitude began t6 prepare for his departure.
On the day of his death a Cherubim appeared to him with a multitude of angels and said: "Arise, O follower of the Lord, and come with us into eternal life.” The Cherubim indicated to him the throngs of saints who had come out to meet him: "Behold the assembly of apostles, behold the throng of prophets, behold the multitude of martyrs, behold the choir of holy hierarchs, fasters, monks and righteous men. Give Unto me now your soul, which I was commanded by God to preserve during its earthly life." With the words, "Into Thy hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit," St. Macarius departed to the Lord.
The compiler of his life, Bishop Sarapion of Thmuis, relates how he heard from St. Paphnutius, the disciple of St. Macarius, that certain of the fathers saw with their mental eyes the ascension of the Saint's soul, as they saw also standing in the distance legions of demons who cried out: "You have escaped our hands, Macarius, you have escaped!" Only after having reached the gates of paradise did Macarius answer: "Yes, guarded by the power of my Christ, I have escaped your snares'"
ANTHONY THE GREAT, in his God-inspired insights, gave a direction to monasticism for all times, both by his instructions and rules for beginners and for those in various stages of spiritual development, and by his guidance for the accomplished. It remained for following generations only to discover and develop the possibilities which the great Anthony gave them.
Macarius the Great, the disciple and closest friend of St. Anthony, having attained the measure of his Abba, not only assimilated his teaching, but in his writings transmits also his own contemplations and insights. His Homilies are founded on personal experience, and therefore their language is clear, expressive, and possessed of an extraordinary imagery and power. His teaching is the writings of a dweller of heaven, a heavenly man. To him, who had attained perfection, the spiritual world and its laws were open. He beholds the soul and sees all that takes place in it. He indicates to it the path to perfection. He is entirely caught up in contemplation of God and in exaltation. To him the great Secrets of the world above are open.
His writings speak to us chiefly of deification. He develops the philosophy of communion with God, although he built no philosophical system. "Genuine philosophy is ascetical doing, the acquisition of the Spirit of Wisdom and Reason. A God-bearing contemplator or seer of mysteries is a true wise man or lover of wisdom (philosopher)." He speaks of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. External labors -- fasting, vigil, prayer -- are only means to this and are not in themselves an end. This teaching of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit comes down through the centuries to our own great Seraphim. In the renowned Conversation with Motovilov St. Seraphim reveals to our whole contemporary world this ancient yet all-but-forgotten teaching.
As a precious heritage of the spiritual wisdom of St. Macarius, there remain to us fifty of his Homilies and seven Ascetic Treatises.
Several prayers written by Macarius the Great have entered into Church use. These are:
From the Prayers before Sleep, the first prayer, “O Eternal God," and the fourth, "What shall I offer Thee."
From the Morning Prayers, the-first prayer, “O Lord, cleanse mc," the second, "Having risen from sleep," the third, "To Thee, O Lord," the fourth, “O Lord, Who in Thy abundant goodness," and according to Greek manuscripts the ninth also, "O Holy Angel."
The relics of St. Macarius the Great repose in Italy, in the city of Amalfi on the Gulf of Salerno, not far from Naples.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Makarios, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
The Lord God established thee, O great ascetic, in the house of abstinence, like an unerring star that lit the farthest regions with guiding light, Father of Fathers, O righteous Macarius.
January 16, 2011
A new assessment of global earthquake fatalities over the past three decades indicates that 83 percent of all deaths caused by the collapse of buildings during earthquakes occurred in countries considered to be unusually corrupt.
Authored by Professor Nicholas Ambraseys of the Imperial College of London and Professor Roger Bilham of the University Colorado at Boulder, the study also found that in some relatively wealthy countries where knowledge and sound business practices would be expected to prevail, the collapse of many buildings is nevertheless attributable to corrupt building practices.
A commentary piece on the subject is being published in the Jan. 13 issue of Nature.
Corrupt building practices -- which are generally covert and hard to quantify -- can include the use of substandard materials, poor assembly methods, the inappropriate placement of buildings and non-adherence to building codes, said the authors.
Ambraseys and Bilham used data gathered by Transparency International, a global organization based in Berlin that operates through more than 70 national chapters around the world. Transparency International annually generates a Corruption Perception Index, or CPI, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.
The CPI index -- which defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain -- is determined by an aggregate of 13 opinion polls averaged over two years from 10 institutions monitoring the frequency and extent of bribes paid within various countries, said Bilham, a professor in CU-Boulder's geological sciences department. A CPI score of 0 indicates a highly corrupt nation with zero transparency, while a score of 10 indicates an absence of perceived corruption with total transparency.
The authors determined that there is roughly a one-to-one relationship between a nations' wealth and its perceived level of corruption. "Less wealthy nations are the most corrupt," said Bilham, also a fellow in the CU-Boulder based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. "We found that fully 83 percent of all deaths from earthquakes in the last 30 years have occurred in nations where corruption is both widespread and worse than expected."
Relative wealth is the most obvious parameter that influences a country's corruption, according to the authors. Bilham and Ambraseys chose the gross national income per capita to compare the relative wealth of the countries. High wealth is strongly linked to countries with a stable government conducive to the rule of law, they said.
The authors noted that while a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck in New Zealand in 2010 resulted in zero fatalities, an identical 2010 quake in Haiti resulted in a death toll reaching six figures. "Widespread anecdotal evidence points to the collapse of structures in devastating earthquakes as a result of corrupt building practices," said Bilham. "In this study we have attempted to quantify that perception.
"Corruption is found to be far worse in some countries than others, despite a measure of wealth that tells us they should do better," said Bilham. "It is in the countries that have abnormally high levels of corruption where we find most of the world's deaths from earthquakes."
The global construction industry, currently worth $7.5 trillion annually and which is expected to double in the next decade, is recognized by experts as being the most corrupt segment of the world economy, said the authors.
Since 1980, deaths due to an absence of effective earthquake engineering activity have averaged about 18,300 per year, according to the authors.
Poverty and poor education also contribute to building collapse through a lack of strong, available building materials and a lack of education that otherwise would help guide safe building practices, the authors said.
The number of deaths attributable to collapsed dwellings is influenced both by the population density and the vulnerability of buildings near earthquake epicenters, said the authors. In the past 30 years, the rapid increases in urban populations -- particularly in developing countries -- have been adversely affected by building quality.
The authors said even if corrupt building practices were halted today, those residing in impoverished nations would inherit at least some structures and dwellings that were constructed while corrupt construction practices were under way.
"The structural integrity of a building is no stronger than the social integrity of the builder, and each nation has a responsibility to its citizens to ensure adequate inspection," the authors wrote in Nature. "In particular, nations with a history of significant earthquakes and known corruption issues should stand reminded that an unregulated construction industry is a potential killer."
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
In Kafsokalivia of Mount Athos there lived a simple layman who was a fool for Christ by the name of Agathon during the decades of the 1920's and 1930's.
He likely lived in abandoned monastic cells, but no one was ever able to visit him nor to know his method of prayer or his struggles. No one knew what he ate either, since the only time he ate cooked food was when it was offered to him by his fellow ascetics.
In the summer he had only one garment and was hatless and shoeless. In the winter he wore a thick and heavy winter outfit and a monastic skoufi on his head, making him look more like an Eskimo than Elijah the Tishbite.
By Rev. Dr. George Dion Dragas
Born and raised in Alexandria, St. Cyril succeeded his uncle Theophilus as bishop of the city in 412. His early career (412-428) was dedicated to the exposition of the Scriptures and the refutation of heretics and unbelievers. The second period of his episcopate (428-433), more intense and fruitful than any other, was marked by his opposition to Nestorius. Cyril's stand, strengthened by his alliance with the Church of Rome, led to the summoning of the Council of Ephesus (431) which ended with Nestorius' condemnation. The last period of Cyril's life (433-444) was reasonably peaceful, though he had to explain his teaching to critics from both the Alexandrian and the Antiochian sides.
Cyril is one of the most distinguished theologians of the early Church, recognized by his contemporaries and his successors in the East (Chalcedonian Orthodox and anti-Chalcedonian Monophysites) and in the West (Roman Catholics and Protestants). He is the first father to establish firmly the patristic argument, which appeals to the earlier fathers of the Church for the right understanding of the apostolic preaching and the gospel of Christ.
Following Athanasius and the Cappadocians, Cyril accepted the Nicene homoousios, the three hypostaseis of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and the unity of the divine ousia seen in the three hypostaseis and expressed in their common will and activity. He is not as original in the content of his triadology as in the presentation of it, and he is not so much interested in the "essential Trinity" as in the "economic", because of his soteriological interest which he inherited from Athanasius. As far as the essential Trinity is concerned, Cyril emphasizes both the co-inheritance of the three hypostaseis or persons and the primacy of the Father from Whom the Son is born and the Spirit proceeds. Yet Cyril does speak of the procession of the Spirit from both the Father and the Son, but with reference to the common essence of the Spirit with the Father and the Son.
Christology is the key to Cyril's theology and the topic to which his contribution became decisive for the early Church and subsequent generations. His terminology initially presented certain problems, because it was flexible and equivocal, but his thought was clear and helped to clarify and eventually settle problems related to linguistic formulations. He followed Athanasius' principle that theological disputations were not about terms but about the meaning embedded in them. This is why Cyril could use the term physis (nature) as equivalent to both hypostaseis or person and ousia (substance, essence) and so speak of "one nature of God the Logos incarnate" and "one person of God the Logos in (from) two natures". Thus, it is unfair to argue that he changed his mind in Christology from a monophysite to a dyophysite standpoint. Cyril has been unfairly accused of Apollinarianism both by his Nestorian opponents and by modern patristic scholars who wish to stress the humanity (or, specifically, the psychology) of Christ almost independently of the Logos/Son of God. Equally unfair is the modernist charge that Cyril's Christology is only a Christology "from above". The doctrine of the two births of Christ does not imply the either/or schema "from below" and "from above", but brings the two together in the mystery of Emmanuel, His kenosis, His economy, His hypostatic union of the two natures, His communication of idioms (properties) and, above all, in His Virgin Mother, who is true Theotokos (God-bearer).
Cyril understands salvation in terms of both "participation" in and "imitation" of the human nature in relation to the divine nature, objectively in Christ and subjectively appropriated by human beings through the Holy Spirit who acts in and through the Sacraments. The objective aspect of salvation in Christ is particularly stressed in his doctrine of justification by grace developed in a masterly way in his evangelical interpretation of the law in On Worship in Spirit and in Truth. Cyril's theological legacy has been influential in all Christian contexts in the East and in the West. A contemporary positive reassessment of his legacy would prove especially beneficial for the current ecumenical dialogue, since it affirms the basic dogmatic perceptions of classical Christianity.
Cyril was a prolific writer who wrote in Attic Greek and had an extensive knowledge of the Classics, the Scriptures and the Fathers, especially Athanasius and the Cappadocians. his many Commentaries demonstrate his biblical orientation. He employed the typological and historical methods of interpretation which are most clearly set out in his writings On Worship in Spirit and in Truth and the Glaphyra on the Pentateuch. Cyril's anti-heretical dogmatic works are numerous, the most substantial being: Thesaurus on the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, Dialogues on the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity and Five Books of Negation Against Nestorius' Blasphemies. in the last-named he argues for a true and personal (kath hypostasein) union of the divine Logos/Son with the flesh born from Mary, against Nestorius' Christology based on a conjunction (synapheta) between the divine Logos and the man born from Mary. Cyril also argues for two births of one and the same (divine) Son, one (divine) in eternity and one (human) in time, whereas Nestorius' argument implies two Sons, one divine and one human, who are conjoined in Christ.
From Hagios Kyprianos magazine, 3rd issue, 1997.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Athanasius was born in Alexandria in the year 296 A.D. and from his early childhood had an inclination to the spiritual life.
He was a deacon to Archbishop Alexander and accompanied him to the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.]. It was at this Council that Athanasius became renowned for his learning, devotion to and zeal for Orthodoxy.
He contributed greatly to destroy the heresy of Arius and to strengthen Orthodoxy. He wrote the Symbol of Faith [The Creed] which was adopted at the Council.
Following the death of Alexander, Athanasius was elected Archbishop of Alexandria. In his calling as Archbishop of Alexandria, he remained for forty years, although not for the entire time on the archepiscopal throne of the archbishopric.
With few exceptions, throughout his life he was persecuted by heretics. Of the emperors, he was persecuted mostly by Constantius, Julian and Valens; of the bishops, by Eusebius of Nicomedia and many others; and by the heretic Arius and his followers. Athanasius was forced to hide from his persecutors, even in a well, in a grave, in private homes and in the deserts. Twice he was forced to flee to Rome.
Only before his death, did he live peacefully for a while as the good shepherd among his good flock who truly loved him. Few are the saints who were so mercilessly slandered and so criminally persecuted as St. Athanasius. His great soul patiently endured all for the love of Christ and, in the end, emerged victorious from this entire, terrible and long-lasting struggle.
For counsel, for comfort and for moral support, Athanasius often visited St. Anthony, whom he respected as his spiritual father. For a man who formulated the greatest truth, Athanasius had much to suffer for that truth until in the year 373 A.D., the Lord gave him repose in His kingdom as His faithful servant.
A Reflection From His Theology On the Incarnation
To the question: "Why did the Son of God appear on earth in a human body and not in another form of creation?", the brilliant St. Athanasius replied in this manner: "If they ask why did He not appear in some other better form of creation, for example: as the sun or the moon, or the stars or fire, or the wind but just as a man? Let them know that the Lord did not come to show Himself but to heal and teach sufferers. For, to reveal Himself only to amaze the viewers would mean to come for a show. It was necessary for the Healer and the Teacher, not only to come, but to serve for the benefit of the suffering ones and to reveal Himself as such so that this revelation would be bearable for the sufferers. Not one single creature was in error in the eyes of God, except man alone: neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the sky, nor the stars, nor water, nor wind did betray their ranks but, on the contrary, knowing their Creator and their King - The Word [The Logos], they all remained as they were created; only human beings separated themselves from good and replaced truth with deceit, and the honor belonging to God, as well as the knowledge about Him, they transferred to devils and to men carved out of stone [idols]. What is, therefore, so unbelievable in this, that the Logos [The Word - The Son Of God] appeared as a man to save mankind?" Indeed, even as we ask the unbelievers of our day: In what form would you wish God to appear, if not as a man?
Source: Prologue (January 18)
By Rev. Dr. George Dion Dragas
The entire pastoral ministry of the great Athanasius lasted 46 years, 16 of which were spent in exile. His spiritual fame and radiance made him the spokesman of orthodoxy par excellence. His fearless battles against heresy resulted in the identification of Christianity with Athanasian orthodoxy, which was centered on the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as the Inhominated Son and Word of God. This is exactly what shines through the pages of his inestimable writings and is sealed by his last prayer, which has been preserved in an ancient Coptic text. According to this text, which is based on the personal witness of his Archdeacon, who stood by him at the moment of his departure from the present life, and was uttered shortly before he delivered his sanctified soul to the angels who came down to receive it, recalls the entire course of the divine economy for the salvation of mankind and concludes with a doxology to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thou art Jesus, the Son of the Father, Yea, Amen.
Thou art He who commandeth the Cherubim and the Seraphim, Yea, Amen.
Thou has existed with the Father in truth always, Yea, Amen.
Thou rulest the Angels, Yea, Amen.
Thou art the power of the heavens, Yea, Amen.
Thou art the crown of the Martyrs, Yea, Amen.
Thou art the deep counsel of the Saints, Yea, Amen.
Thou art He in whom the deep counsel of the Father is hidden, Yea, Amen.
Thou art the mouth of the Prophets, Yea, Amen.
Thou art the tongue of the Angels, Yea, Amen.
Thou art Jesus my life, Yea, Amen.
Thou art Jesus the object of the boast of the world, Yea, Amen.
Athanasius as the defender of orthodoxy was characterized as one who fought against the whole world (contra munum), because he fought through suffering the darkness of the world with the light of Christ. His suffering continued the redemptive work of Christ. The Church honors his memory on May 2 (day of his falling asleep) and on January 18, along with his great successor St. Cyril of Alexandria (day of commemorating their triumph).
Source: Saint Athanasius of Alexandria: Original Research and New Perspectives, pp. 92 and 204.
January 18, 2011
The Romanov dynasty met its unhappy end almost a century ago in a bunker in Yekaterinburg – but descendants of the last Tsar hope they can still exercise some political influence.
On Monday Russia’s investigative committee announced that it was closing the case on the murder of the royal family, who were shot in the Ural city amid fears it would fall to the Whites as the Civil War raged in 1918.
For many the news merited little more than a shrug: the fall of the Tsar feels like ancient history, and Russia’s cops have rather more pressing contemporary killings to investigate.
But the scions of the Romanov family are not convinced and have demanded the files be reopened.
Bones of contention
A major problem revolves around identifying the royal remains. During Soviet times they were officially hidden, but an amateur archaeologist uncovered them in 1979. Two years later the Orthodox church in exile recognized the imperial family as martyred saints.
After the fall of the USSR the Romanovs’ last resting place was confirmed as Ganina Yama, a woodland district about 20km from central Yekaterinburg.
A monastery was built on the site, and the relics were transferred to the Tsars’ mausoleum in St. Peter and Paul cathedral in St. Petersburg, where they were given a full state burial in 1998.
But the family – and the Russian Orthodox Church – is doubtful that the bones in Petersburg belong to the Romanovs.
“Until now the church has found no grounds to accept the Prosecutor General’s conclusion that the remains belong to members of the Tsar's family, canonized by the church,” Alexander Zakatovym, director of the office of the House of Romanov, told Komsomolskaya Pravda.
“If these are the true remains, they automatically become holy relics to the Orthodox people, but while questions remain and there is no complete clarity, neither the Church nor the Imperial family can make such a statement.
“The investigative committee wants to leave everything as it is, simply to agree with its version. That is not entirely correct, and indicates a certain contempt for the Church and to society.”
Investigators have already been ordered to re-open this case once before – last year Moscow’s Basmanny District Court overturned a previous bid to close the books.
And Zakatovym hopes that history will repeat itself in the likely event of an appeal launched by Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and her lawyers.
Authenticity of Nicholas II's Remains Indisputable - Investigator
Too Early to Put Final Dot in Russian Emperor Execution Case - Lawyer
Norris J. Chumley and V. Rev. John A. McGuckin, Ph.D
January 17, 2011
The Huffington Post
In ancient times, as early as the late second and early centuries of the Common Era in Egypt and Syria, more than a few people abandoned their civic responsibilities, relationships and personal crises in order to seek relief and commune solely with God. It was the beginning of a new and distinct social movement among the early Christians (a society which hitherto had been spreading in urban sites) and came to be known from this preference for solitariness (Greek: monachismos) as "monasticism." These early solitaries fled to the desert and took up residence in caves and near the oases of the Red Sea desert, putting their worldly comforts and egos aside, seeking a goal of spiritual enlightenment. Some of them lived in strict separation (hermits and cave-dwellers) others lived in loose associations -- the somewhat paradoxical idea of a community of solitaries. Such communes based around ascetic and celibate ideals had already been known in antiquity (such as the Therapeutae at Alexandria or even the Qumran community by the shores of the Dead Sea in the time of the Roman War in 70 C.E.). But this emergence of Monasticism among the Christians was something new and extraordinarily popular. News of the desert hermits even became popular best-seller material in imperial Constantinople, with titles such as Palladius' Lausiac History, or Theodoret's History of the Monks of Syria.
The early ascetics take their name from their training in ascesis, the Greek word for "athletic discipline," but now it came to be chiefly a term applied to early Christian spiritual renunciation and obedience. New Testament precedents surely sparked some of the inspiration for this movement. The idea of asceticism was first used by Paul (cf. 2 Tim. 4.7) to signify the need of Christians to train themselves by rigorous observances (sexual renunciation, fasting and deprivations) to observe the commandments with exceptional zeal. Many lead-ideas of the Christian ascetical movement can already be seen as prevalent in the New Testament literature, which developed apocalyptic themes by contrasting the radical life that ought to be lived in accordance with the Kingdom of God with the ease of a worldly existence.
The ascetical message also resonated well with Hellenistic ideas about the "sober life" of the wise man or woman (sophrosyne), and much of late first and second century Christian literature, such as the Didache, the Clementine Letters or the Shepherd of Hermas, began to stress the need for this wise lifestyle kind of sobriety as a fundamental character of general Christian discipleship. It is a powerful impetus in the second century writings of the African theologian Tertullian who already reports large numbers of male and female lay ascetics in the Carthaginian Church of his day. It is in the mid-third to fourth centuries, however, that the ascetical movement really became a powerful and distinctively organized movement in Christianity.
The same movement of spiritual training and obedience to a life of faith still exists today, so many centuries later, and its core themes crop up once more in the growing popularity of meditation and prayer. Many of the desert monasteries that first sprung up with the early ascetics are still around and functioning. There are many examples in Egypt, Syria, Greece and Eastern Europe -- some erected as early as the late third century (the first buildings at St. Katherine's Sinai date to this era) -- still active as centers of monastic spiritual training. Interest in, and the practice of, silence and prayer spread to the West long ago; there are many monks and nuns living the solitary life of Christian obedience and renunciation all over the world. The ascetical life is thriving. It would be a great mistake to think that because the Reformation world turned its back on it, it either went away or had nothing left to say. There are many contemporary hermits, monks and nuns, some of them highly educated and accomplished, leaving the civilized world behind to seek God in silence and prayer.
Does it take leaving the world behind to become spiritually enlightened? Does one need rigorous ascesis to encounter God? It may be argued that many of us already lead solitary lives in our own modern equivalent of caves and monasteries: the cells of modern apartment buildings found in impersonal high rise buildings and desert caverns of urban avenues. While there has been an exodus away from churches and "organized religions" in recent decades, record numbers of spiritual seekers are meditating and praying on their own, in new churches, on yoga retreats or in non-denominational meditation centers.
There is much value in simply taking time to be silent and still. There is tremendous power in setting oneself aside and letting the likeness of God inside you shine through. Settling down and quieting the frenetic stimuli of modern multitasking not only brings peace and calm, it may also be a revelatory experience (something the ancients expected and called "epiphanic").
From this revelation of God found in silence and prayer -- one may remember the "still small voice" that Elijah recognized as the authentic medium of divine experience after the brash "false avenues" of the whirlwind and the fire (1 Kings. 19.12) -- all real spiritual life and theology can be said to derive. At the heart of prayer is the celebration of the glory of the divine transcendent: the "hallowing of the Name." Central to it also is the deep human experience of petitioning and experiencing God from the basis of human need and limitation. In the fourth century, St. Basil the Great talked about the ascetic life as being nothing less than "the life of the Gospel." St. Paul encouraged Christians to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Prayer and silence are the vocation of Christians and spiritual seekers. This spiritual way, this task, can be done anywhere, not just in caves or monasteries. Take a moment at the office or job just to be quiet, acknowledge God, and say a prayer of peace and understanding.
Ascesis is compassionate and empathic. We set ourselves aside in a peaceful attitude looking to God for guidance, understanding and acceptance. We do our best to love and recognize others, to see the likeness of God in them, learning to tolerate, even to accept, them in compassion. Prayer and silence are always inclusive; they never act divisively or exclusionary. Whether practiced alone or within a spiritual group, this simple inner movement unites us all. Whether a simple exercise of thankfulness ("glorification") or asking for specific help or instruction -- or even not as structured as this -- silent prayer and the spiritual practice of peaceful awareness offers each of us a veritable oasis in the daily sea of stress and stimulus. Anytime, anywhere, one can experience the heart and spirit's repose in companionship with God. You need not leave all behind for the rest of your life. For some spiritual rest in your life, let yourself be alone for a short while with God.
Dr. Norris and Father John briefly left their families and work behind to encounter God studying the words and actions of contemporary ascetics in the caves and monasteries of Egypt, Greece, Romania, Ukraine and Russia. Join them in their spiritual travels in the new film and book, "Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer." Visit their website for more information and to join the mailing list.
Monday, January 17, 2011
On March 26, 1965 Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America was featured with Martin Luther King Jr. on the cover of LIFE magazine. We have all seen the photo, but how many have actually looked through the entire magazine. For example, the first in a series of articles began in this issue titled "The Hermitage" which featured splendid photos of the treasures of the Russian Czars held in the Leningrad Museum.
The entire magazine is online and can be read here.
Perhaps the most effective tactic adopted by the adversary of man's salvation has been to blind man to the reality of the spiritual warfare being waged for possession of his soul. We have consequently become spiritually flabby and easy prey for the enemy. To escape such a perilous condition we would do well to contemplate more often the examples of the saints who engaged in direct combat with the Evil One, unmasking his deceptions and thereby disarming him. Nowhere is this illustrated more dramatically than in the life of St. Anthony the Great. Written by St. Athanasius who personally knew St. Anthony, this Life is a spiritual classic with which all Christians should be familiar .
St. Anthony was an Egyptian, born c. 251 of noble Christian parents who provided well for their son's future by educating him in the fear of God. His parents left this world when Anthony was 18 or 20, and he inherited a substantial fortune in terms of earthly wealth. But although he was at the age most attracted by fortune's delights, he aspired only to amass the riches of virtues.
Anthony was reflecting one day upon how the Apostles had forsaken all to follow after Christ. when he heard in church the words of the Gospel: "If thou wishest to be perfect, go and sell everything thou hast...and come and follow Me" (Matt. 19:21). Thus confirmed in his desire to do likewise, Anthony sold his estate and distributed the money to the poor, persuading his younger sister to be likeminded, he gave her into the care of some virgins.
Now free of all earthly attachments, the young man began to lead a life of great abstinence and self-denial on the outskirts of his village. He gave his mind no occasion to think back upon the affairs of this world but led it into a desert that it might be occupied with thoughts of pleasing God alone. He delighted in visiting the dwellings of righteous men and studying their virtuous habits which he proceeded to adopt for himself, exercising himself in their practice. Indeed, he was like a bee which gathers nectar from various blossoms and creates out of it a fragrantly sweet honey. With his concentrated desire Anthony rapidly ascended the ladder of perfection. The enemy, however, could not endure to behold the likeness of Christ shining forth from this creation of dust and ashes, and he determined to destroy this 'house of virtue.'
The Unseen Warfare
The first campaign was waged on the battlefield of the mind. Anthony experienced a barrage of unsettling thoughts--flattery, the allurement of the world and all the pleasures his former wealth could buy, concern for his sister's welfare, the difficulties of the path he had chosen. The vicious net was craftily woven, but the Saint recognized it as the handiwork of his adversary and tore it apart by means of intense prayer and vigilance, deflecting any and all disturbing thoughts before they took hold in his mind. The battle grew more intense when the Enemy', taking advantage of the Saint's youth, assailed him with lustful thoughts, inflaming the natural appetites of the flesh until the Saint was burning with his own lust. He manfully fought back by mortifying his body with increased fasting to quench the passions of the flesh, and by meditating on death and the eternal torments which await those who give themselves over to the spirit of fornication. And so be escaped unharmed, even strengthened by this experience.
When the Evil One found himself so disgraced, he took on a human voice and complained bitterly to Anthony: "I have deceived and conquered m a n y in my time; but now in your case, as in that of many others, I am defied by your ascetic labors."
Knowing that his antagonist would continue to stalk him as a roaring lion after his prey, Anthony did not allow himself to relax his vigilance on account of his victory. He passed many night s without sleep, en grossed in prayer, and limited his bodily nourishment to bread and water, of which he partook once a day at evening. For, he said, by weakening the pleasures of the body the mind is strengthened. Such disregard did he have for the body as to imitate the nature of the fleshless ones, i.e., the angels. The severity of his labors and his accumulated virtues astonished the older ascetics, but Anthony never thought about his spiritual progress and regarded each day a s the beginning of his spiritual journey, thereby shielding himself from pride and vainglory.
For the sake of greater solitude, Anthony moved further from the village to a burial place at the edge of the desert, where he locked him self up in a sepulchre; only allowing a servant to come at rare intervals with a supply of bread. The enemy, embittered by his previous defeat, attacked with vengeance. This time the assault was physical. A whole troop of demons came one night and beat the Saint until the very breath of life was ready to leave him. But even as he lay on the ground, covered with bruises and unable to stand, he said in a loud voice:
"Here, devils, here am I, Anthony, ready for more of your wounds. Try your worst, for you shall never separate me from Christ." He fortified himself by singing the words of the Psalmist: "Though a host should encamp against me, yet my heart shall not fear."
Incensed by the audacity of Anthony's challenge, the Devil gathered his minions: "Don't you see now? This fellow could not be restrained either by the spirit of fornication or by bangs and bruises,.. We must assail him by other means."
That night, as Anthony was still lying on the ground recovering, a hoard of demons shook the walls of the sepulchre and rushed in to terrorize the Saint. For this purpose they had taken on the forms of hideous wild beasts--hissing snakes, roaring lions, ferocious wolves, a bull which threatened to gore the victim. But Anthony was not frightened by what he perceived to be mere spectral creatures, and he made bold to mock his enemy's impotence: "What is the use of all this vain uproar? If ye have power to hurt, why don't you? But you can't, for the Lord is my shield and my wall of safety." The demons could only gnash their teeth in reply.
When Anthony had thus manfully proven himself as a champion athlete in the spiritual arena, he was granted to experience the comforting presence of the Lord. Lifting his eyes heavenward he saw a roof-curtain drawn aside and a ray of light descending upon him. Straightway the demons vanished, and Anthony felt his bodily pains melt away. Consoled by this outpouring of Divine Grace, he rested briefly from the fatigue of battle before addressing his Master aloud:
"Lord, where wast Thou when these sufferings and tribulations came upon me? Why didst Thou not help me?" He heard a voice in reply:
"I was here, Anthony, but I wanted to witness your combat. Having seen that you withstood your adversary without retreating, I shall from now on be your Helper and shall make your name celebrated far and wide as My faithful servant."
Anthony knelt in prayer to give thanks to God for this promise and for the peace and newfound strength which filled his soul, the grace-given rewards of his victory. He was then about 35 years old.
With Demons in the Desert
The next day Anthony left the place of the sepulchres to live as a hermit in the desert. Even as he journeyed, the enemy continued to lay all kinds of traps for him, but the Saint was not to be outsmarted. Seeing a large silver disk in his path, he immediately surmised that it was a ruse of the devil, for had some traveler passed that way and lost it, surely he would have retraced his steps to recover such a valuable object. "O Devil," he cried out, "you will not so easily draw me away from my purpose. May you take your silver and go down to perdition together." No sooner had he said this than the silver disk disappeared in a cloud of smoke, proof that it was indeed the devil's creation.
At length Anthony settled in a cleft of some rocks beside a river, blocking the entrance so as not to be disturbed. For twenty years he remained there in solitude, admitting no visitors but only a supply of bread three times a year. It must not be imagined, however, that he enjoyed a blissful life of uninterrupted peace. Those who came in hopes of seeing or hearing a word from the far famed ascetic were often perplexed by the raucous din coming from the cleft. They sup-posed a band of angry men had somehow gained entrance, for they could make out shouts of: "Depart from us! Why have you come to our country to cause our death?!" Through a fissure, however, they saw that the Saint was quite alone, and they understood that the tumult was made by demons.
Indeed, the demons quite exhausted their bag of tricks in their frantic efforts to deter the Saint from his course, for fear that his example would inspire others to invade their desert domain with fasting and psalm-singing which they found intolerable. And this is just what happened. Whole multitudes began coming to the desert to lose their lives, like Anthony, for the sake of the Kingdom. Persuaded by their entreaties, the Saint relinquished his solitude to share the light of his accumulated experience with these eager new recruits in Christ's army. By word and example he fanned such zeal for the ascetic life that many monasteries--the first in the history of Christianity--were founded under his influence, for which reason he is known as the Father of Monasticism.
In guiding these warriors of Christ, St. Anthony exhorted them to pursue their aim with diligence, for "the promise of eternal life is bought with a small price.., and the work is easy, if we be only willing." He warned them of the subtle craftiness of the demonic powers, exposing their numerous tricks and guises whereby they seek to trip and destroy the Christian whom they find laboring on the path of salvation. He spoke of the evil and impure thoughts they try to instigate and of the fearful appearances they assume, of their pretention in foretelling future events. "Sometimes, too, they appear in the habit of monks, and talk very religiously in order to gain our confidence and then to seduce us." At the same time, he encouraged the brethren not to fear when they came under attack, but to fortify themselves by faith and the sign of the Cross: "If they find us rejoicing in the Lord, and meditating or conversing on divine things, then demons have no power over the Christian...for when they see the soul secured by such thoughts, they turn away deeply ashamed of themselves."
Besides his extraordinary skill in discerning spirits, St. Anthony had other gifts --of healing, of casting out demons, of foretelling future events. And although he was illiterate he readily outwitted many philosophers. Once, when some 'wise' men came thinking to mock his Christian faith, St. Anthony brought forward several people who were troubled with demons, and said, "Can you heal these men by your reasoning? or by any art or magic, calling upon your idols?" The Saint then called upon the name of Christ and marked the demoniacs with the sign of the Cross, a first, second and third time. Immediately the men were healed of their insanity, and the philosophers departed amazed by the miracle and by Anthony's wisdom.
Treasury of Good Gifts
Crowds flocked to this heavenly-born physician of the Egyptian desert, and no one left without being enriched from St. Anthony's store of gifts. "For who," writes St. Athanasius, "went to him in sorrow, and did not come back rejoicing? Who went to him in anger, and was not converted into a friend? What poor man met him, with a dejected heart, who, after he saw and heard him, did not go away despising riches and content with poverty? If a monk was remiss, he excited him to diligence. If a young man went to the mountain and beheld Anthony, he straightway renounced pleasure and embraced a life of temperance. Whosoever came to him, tempted by a demo n, was relieved; or if troubled with evil thoughts was tranquilized."
Even when St. Anthony had attained the heights of perfection, he never hesitated to learn from someone else. Nor did he, in his humility, ascribe his spiritual gifts to his own achievements, but exhorted those who benefited by his prayers to thank God Who is the source and cause of all that is good.
St. Anthony reached the venerable age of 104, still sound in mind and body notwithstanding his severe mode of life, Foreseeing the approach of death, he gave a final word of instruction to the brethren, warning them to beware of schismatics and the Arian heretics, and urging them to diligently guard their hearts and not to fear the demons. He died in peace after a short illness, welcoming his journey into eternity as et foreigner returning to his homeland. His life, once hidden in the desert, became famed throughout the Roman Empire, not on account of worldly wisdom or riches or political power, but because of his profound piety, towards God, to Whom he brought glory and honor.. Amen.
Source: (Quotations from the Life by St. Athanasius)
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Father Anthony, you imitated the zealous Elijah. You followed the straight paths of the Baptist and became a desert dweller. By prayer you confirmed the universe. Wherefore, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Forsaking the uproars of life O venerable one, you completed your life in quiet, fully imitating the Baptist. Therefore, we honor you with him, O Anthony, Father of Fathers.