Saturday, August 13, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Mother Thekla, who died on August 7 aged 93, was the last surviving nun to have occupied the enclosed Orthodox Monastery of the Assumption in North Yorkshire, but became better known to the wider world as the spiritual muse of the composer Sir John Tavener.
August 12, 2011
A beautiful, Russian-born Cambridge graduate who co-founded the monastery near Whitby and latterly lived there in seclusion as the abbess, she furnished the words for some of Tavener’s most important religious works, and was the spiritual driving force behind one of his most popular pieces, The Protecting Veil (1987).
In 1993 she supplied the words for Tavener’s Song For Athene, originally written to commemorate Athene Hariades, a young half-Greek actress he knew who had died in a cycling accident. Tavener attended Athene’s funeral, and came away with the music fully-formed in his mind. “I rang Mother Thekla that same day,” he remembered, “and I said: 'I want words’.”
The next day’s post brought, from Thekla, the quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”, together with verses from the Orthodox funeral service .
Although it was retitled for the occasion, Song For Athene went on to become the music played when the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, was borne out of Westminster Abbey, in August 1997.
Mother Thekla was also Tavener’s librettist on his opera Mary Of Egypt (1992) and choral works including The Apocalypse (1993) and Fall And Resurrection (1999), which was dedicated to his friend the Prince of Wales.
She exerted a remarkable influence on Tavener, a Presbyterian who had flirted with Roman Catholicism before converting to the Orthodox Church in 1977.
He contacted Sister Thekla, as she then was, in 1984 after reading a religious book she had written. She subsequently became one of the composer’s principal spiritual guides: he called her his spiritual mother.
Thekla was brought up in England and worked as an actress and schoolmistress before taking her vows. Her relationship with Tavener was almost telepathic: she would send him odd words — “crucify” or “apple”, for example — which he would instinctively understand and interpret. He once described her as “the most remarkable woman I have ever met in my life”.
Yet in many ways the pair were complete opposites. It was Thekla, ever practical, who drilled the unworldly Tavener in the dynamics of a creative partnership. She never lost her volatile , thespian streak, and insisted on calling him “darling”. For all her devoutness, Tavener considered her “a pretty wild character, pretty formidable; she has a ferocious temper”.
He could not imagine working with another librettist: “It’s one of those very special relationships in life, which will not ever happen again.” When Tavener ventured to suggest some kind of professional collaboration, Thekla replied, typically: “Yes, darling, but behind the scenes.”
With another nun, Mother Maria, Mother Thekla founded the first Orthodox order in England, moving from a monastery they had founded in 1966 at Filgrave, Buckinghamshire, to a dilapidated farmhouse at Higher Normanby, outside Whitby, in 1971. It was the bleakest spot they could find, on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors.
The nuns would meet only at lunchtimes, for a frugal meal of home-grown vegetables and rice. At the hesychasterion (the hermitage or prayer-house) Thekla followed the simple routine of the 7th-century saint Hilda, rising at 4am, swathing herself in a loose black “shroud” that served as a habit and praying every three hours six times a day.
The farmhouse was divided into simply furnished “cells” in which the nuns slept and meditated; a former cowshed became their chapel . As well as the fixed routines of their daily offices and obligations, they translated religious liturgies, painted icons to decorate the chapel walls and cultivated the land around the farmhouse.
Tourists were not encouraged. A sign at the entrance warned: “Monastery enclosure, do not enter.” Originally there were five nuns at Higher Normanby, but Mothers Maria, Catherine and two others eventually died. Thekla remained there alone until 1994, hoping that a younger, American-born, sister nun, Mother Hilda, would take over. Ultimately, this was not a success. Some years ago Hilda unceremoniously delivered Mother Thekla to the infirmary at the Anglican Abbey of St Hilda in Whitby. Hilda did take over the monastery, but sold it, and died in Whitby in 2010.
The daughter of a barrister, Mother Thekla was born Marina Sharf on July 18 1918 at Kilslovodsk in the Caucasus amid the clamour of the Russian Revolution. She described being baptised in a flower vase because her parents were prevented from getting to the church by crossfire in the streets. Shortly afterwards they moved to England and she grew up at Richmond, Surrey, before moving to Chelsea.
Educated at City of London Girls’ School, she went up to Girton College, Cambridge, to read English, graduating in 1940. The following year she joined the WAAF and spent the war working for British Intelligence, partly in India, being mentioned in despatches in 1943, although she would never be drawn on this episode in her life.
After the war she worked for a few years as a civil servant in the Ministry of Education, and later worked as a teacher, becoming head of English at Bedford Girls’ School.
Her decision to become a nun was abrupt. “I went on a retreat and met Mother Maria and that was it. I was called to it. It’s a bit like a thunderbolt. You can’t deny it when it hits you. I used to love things like visiting second-hand book shops, but you can’t compare life now with life before. It’s like walking through a mirror backwards.”
Her new life was totally at odds with her privileged upbringing. As Mother Thekla, she baked loaves of bread, while her eggs were supplied by a local farm. Although the monastery was equipped with a microwave, a washing machine and a computer, such fripperies as television, radio, telephone and newspapers were banned.
“It is the monotony of our lives which frees the spirit; all the imminent things drop away,” Mother Thekla told a visiting journalist in 2002. “It’s quite painful being faced with your real self without the trimmings. There’s time here to pray for the world. That’s our work: it’s not something we do on our Sunday off.”
It was Thekla’s short book The Life Of St Mary Of Egypt (1974), about the famous prostitute-saint, that caught the attention of John Tavener and became the basis of his second opera, Mary Of Egypt (1992). In the meantime she had counselled Tavener following the death of his mother in 1985, after which he feared he would never write music again.
Having found his muse once more, Tavener was advised by Thekla to “return to the marketplace” — to write more commercially — and he did so with The Protecting Veil for cello and strings, which, for all its mystical content became a huge popular hit, thanks in no small part to Classic FM, which played it repeatedly. “It became ridiculous,” Tavener recalled. “I couldn’t even go to an airport without being accosted by people saying: 'I want to tell you now much your music means to us’.” The piece was so successful that it allowed Tavener to become self-sufficient as a composer.
When conventional critics dismissed his work, Thekla would encourage him with the mantra: “Be dead to it all, darling. Just be dead.”
She wrote the texts for Tavener’s visionary We Shall See Him As He Is (1993), drawing on the First Epistle of John, and for Let Us Begin Again (1995), which is mimed as well as sung. For Total Eclipse (2000), in which Tavener pitted an orchestra of baroque instruments against the soaring soprano saxophone of John Harle, Thekla compiled words from the gospels for soloists and choir which described St Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.
In 2003 reports of a “frightful bust-up” suggested that Mother Thekla and Tavener had fallen out, apparently over the composer’s growing interest in Eastern religions. Mother Hilda declared that if asked to explain what had happened, Thekla “would probably say, and pardon my French: 'Go to Hell’”. A reconciliation followed.
Mother Thekla was the dedicatee of John Tavener’s memoir The Music Of Silence: A Composer’s Testament (1999). Not only had she helped him spiritually, Tavener said, she had also “helped me put my music and my life together”.
Much to her distress, Mother Thekla left no surviving colleague. At her funeral at the Abbey of St Hilda a choir will sing a newly-written piece by Tavener, They are all Gone into the World of Light, as well as Song for Athene.
We believe that the souls of those that have fallen asleep are in repose or in torment, depending on their actions; because as soon as they are separated from their bodies, they immediately enter into a condition of either joy or sorrow and sighs, although they are admittedly not in perfect bliss or condemnation. After the general resurrection, however, when the soul will be reunited with the body, depending on whether it behaved with a good or evil disposition, every soul will obviously receive the completion of bliss or condemnation. Those who corrupted themselves with mortal sins and did not leave this life in a condition of desperation, but repented while they were still in the life of the body, without however producing any fruit of repentance (i.e. shedding tears, bowing the knee in prayer, grieving with full consciousness and showing their love toward God and neighbor in deeds), they will go with their souls to Hades and will receive the punishment that befits the sins they committed. These souls, however, will have the sense of their deliverance from this condition. They will be delivered by the infinite goodness of God, through the prayers of the priests, which are requested by the relatives of those who have departed from this life. Especially potent is the bloodless Sacrifice, which is offered by each of us for his relatives and daily by the Catholic and Apostolic Church. Naturally, we know that the time of the acquittal of each one that has fallen asleep is unknown to us. We only know, then, and believe and have no doubt at all that these souls will be delivered from the torments before the resurrection and the final judgment.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Both Anastasios Paneras, age twenty, and Demetrios Begiazis, age eighteen, were from the island of Mitylene. The former was born in the village of Asomatos while the latter hailed from the village of Hagiasos. They were probably related.
Anastasios was engaged in basket-weaving, which was a family craft. He used to sell baskets from door to door to earn enough to make a living. Later when he got older, he left the island for Asia Minor to better himself, something many Greek Orthodox Christians did from all over the Aegean Islands for many years.
Demetrios also was from a very poor family and was orphaned, together with his brother Vranas, at an early age. Later their mother remarried but matters did not get any better because their stepfather was very hard on them; he often deprived them of food and clothing. Consequently they often did not go home to sleep.
A Muslim saw what was happening and felt sorry for Demetrios whom he took under his wing. He had informally adopted the boy and supported him until he came of age when he hoped to marry him to his daughter once, of course, he became a Muslim. But Demetrios refused to change his faith and so to avoid the continuous pressure applied to him in this matter, he too left for Asia Minor, where he met Anastasios in the village of Kasampa and joined him in the basket-weaving work.
They usually worked outdoors where they were observed by many Muslims who admired their skill and industry. The Muslims thought it would be a good idea if they were to convert them to the Islamic faith and told the two Orthodox Christians as much. They also told them of the advantages of being Muslims, among which was the right to have many wives. To this the two Orthodox Christians answered that they were Orthodox Christians and that the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ did not permit such practices as did the Koran. Some of the Muslims got angry at this reply and accused them before the court of blaspheming against the religion of Muhammad.
In court Anastasios and Demetrios were initially flattered and were promised riches and honors, but when they would have none of that, they were threatened with torture, which was liberally applied to them. Finally the kadi gave up trying to convert them and sentenced them to death. They were both hanged from a plane tree. Their bodies were recovered by Christians from the village of Kasampa, where they were buried with great honor.
Thus Anastasios and Demetrios, the humble basketweavers from Mitylene, died for the love of Jesus Christ in the village of Kasampa, Asia Minor, on August 11, in the year 1816.
Their relics were sources of healing for those who came with faith to venerate them. In 1907 the residence of Hagiasos in Mitylene sought to bring the relics of St. Demetrios back home, but various events as well as the Asia Minor Catastrophe prevented this. In Asomatos and Hagiasos magnificent churches were erected in their honor.
From Witnesses For Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period 1437-1860 by Nomikos Michael Vaporis, pp. 306-307.
Saint Nephon, Patriarch of Constantinople, was born in the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece of mixed parentage, his mother being a noble Greek lady and his father a rich and learned Albanian lord. He was tonsured a monk at Epidauros by his elder Anthony, and from Nicholas his name was changed to Nephon. After the death of Elder Anthony, he met up with the wise Elder Zachariah where they visited many places and strengthened the Christians. They settled in Ochrid at a monastery dedicated to the Theotokos. When Zachariah was chosen to be Metropolitan of Ochrid, Nephon departed for Mount Athos.
He went to Mount Athos, where he occupied himself by the copying of books. It is said that "he could not read an ecclesiastical book without shedding tears". He visited Vatopaidi, Pantocratoros, Great Lavra and Dionysiou Monasteries. During this time he was ordained deacon and priest. He impressed all the Athonites with his simple wisdom and deep humility.
The saint was later chosen Metropolitan of Thessaloniki in 1482, which he accepted against his wishes, and four years later occupied the vacant Patriarchal throne in Constantinople until 1488. In 1498 he was enthroned Ecumenical Patriarch again, but he was banished by the Sultan to Jedrene where he lived in exile. The Wallachian [Romanian] Prince Radul (1496-1508) besought him from the Sultan and named Nephon as archbishop of the Wallachians, where "they accepted him as an apostle of the Lord". He especially helped the Romanians escape the traps of papal propaganda. For his wisdom they named him the "New Chrysostom".
According to St. Nikolai Velimirovich: "The Wallachian Prince Radul was a just man and performed many good deeds. He brought St. Nephon out of bondage in Jedrene and made him the Archbishop of Bucharest. But suddenly, Radul committed a dreadful transgression: he gave his sister to be the wife of the corrupt Prince Bogdan of Moldavia while Bogdan's wife was still living. Radul did not heed the protests of Nephon. Nephon prophesied an evil end for Radul, publicly excommunicating him from the Church and departed from Wallachia. Shortly thereafter, there was a drought and a great famine in Wallachia and Radul fell into an incurable illness and his entire body was covered with sores. And because of the stench, no one was able to approach him. When Radul was buried, his grave shook for three days, as once did the grave of Empress Eudoxia, the persecutor of St. John Chrysostom."
Nephon II served as Patriarch of Constantinople on three different occasions. His first term was from 1486 to 1488. He was then restored to the Ecumenical throne from 1497 to 1498, and was restored again in 1502, the last time serving only one year.
Banished under accusation, the saint went to Mount Athos, at first to the Vatopaidi Monastery, and then to the Monastery of St John the Forerunner (or Dionysiou). He concealed his rank and held the lowest position. By God's providence, his rank was revealed to the brethren of the monastery. The Athonite Gerontikon says the following details about this:
St. Nephon, the Patriarch of Constantinople, before he ascended the episcopal throne had been a monk at St. Dionysios' holy monastery (on Mt. Athos). After he had directed the Church of Christ for many years, he resigned from the throne and returned to the monastery where he toiled for his repentance, without revealing his identity.
He said that his name was Nicholas and that he desired to be a monk. The abbot warned him first that it was customary in the monastery for every beginner to be assigned the task of caring for the monastery's animals. The saint accepted with joy and stayed outside where the stable was and took care of the mules, feeding, watering, and keeping them clean. He thus demonstrated insurmountable patience and humility.
Every night the monks saw a pillar of light rising from the stable to the sky. They told the abbot about it, and the abbot in turn prayed to God to reveal to him the meaning of this supernatural happening. And indeed it was revealed immediately to the abbot that this person whom he had assigned the task of animal care, who also had to carry firewood from the forest, was the Nephon the Ecumenical Patriarch who long ago had been one of the brotherhood of the monastery.
On the same night of this revelation to the abbot, who was overwhelmed by the Saint's total humility, he called all the priests and deacons and asked them to vest and to stand in line with the other monks carrying the liturgical fans, candles and incense, waiting to receive the Saint when he returned from the forest leading the animals and carrying firewood. When he arrived wearing his old raso and with dust on his uncombed hair, they all fell on their knees asking for his blessing and saying, "Our Patriarch, your humility is enough! Take your shepherd's staff and lead us all to the pasture of salvation!"
But even after this, the saint shared various tasks with the brethren. He died in peace on August 11, 1508 at 90 years of age.
The relics of St Nephon are displayed in a special crypt in the katholikon of Dionysiou Monastery. His skull and right arm are in a Romanian monastery. His relics are responsible for many miracles.
St. Nephon's biography was written in 1517 by his disciple Gabriel, the Protos of Mount Athos. John Komnenos wrote a Divine Service in his honor, which was supplemented by St. Nikodemos, especially with the Lamentation hymns. In 1782 a chapel at Dionysiou was dedicated to St. Nephon.
In 2008 the 500 year anniversary since the Falling Asleep of Saint Nephon was celebrated on Mount Athos, which Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew attended between 21-24 August 2008. Below are photos from this event with the Patriarch venerating the tomb of the Saint and visiting his cave at Dionysiou Monastery.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
The truth of things hath revealed thee to thy flock as a rule of faith, an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance; for this cause, thou hast achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty. O Father and Hierarch Nephon, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
St. Nephon also composed the "Prayer of Absolution" read at the Burial Service by the Bishop:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, by Thy divine grace, as also by the gift and power vouchsafed unto Thy holy Disciples and Apostles, that they should bind and loose the sins of men - for He said to them: "Receive ye the Holy Spirit; whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted, and whosoever sins ye retain they are retained. And whatsoever you shall bind or loose upon earth shall be bound or loosed also in Heaven." By the same power, also, transmitted to us from them, this my spiritual child, [Name], is absolved through me, unworthy though I be, from all things wherein, as mortal [He-She] have sinned against God, whether in word or deed or thought and with all [His-Her] senses, whether voluntary or involuntary; whether with knowledge or through ignorance. If [He-She] be under the ban or excommunication of a bishop or if a priest; or has sinned by any oath; or has been bound, as a man, by any sins whatsoever, but has repented thereof with contrition of heart: [He-She] is now absolved from all those faults and bonds. May all those things which have proceeded from the weakness of [His-her] mortal nature be consigned to oblivion and be remitted to [Him-Her]. Through Thy loving-kindness; through the prayers of our Most-holy and Blessed and Glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary; of all the holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostles and all of the Saints. Amen."
He also wrote the "Prayer For One About to Die":
"O Lord, the God of Powers, great and awesome, abundant in might and transcendent in goodness, full of mercy and compassion, incline and hear me who am vile and sinful. O my Christ, Who saved Jonah out of the belly of the whale and Daniel from the mouths of lions, deliver me at the time of death from the dreadful darkness of the prince of evil. Do not let the devil come over the deathbed of Thy servant. May my soul, O Lord, never see the darkness of the demons, neither in this life, nor in the future one, neither in the agony of death, nor at my ascent to heaven. May not the accursed dragon deride my miserable soul when it abandons this depraved body. Do not let the filthy spirit of fetor and stench snatch it, O my Lord, my Christ, my Jesus, my God, my Light, and carry it away to perdition. O my Master, God of Heaven and earth, may my eyes never see his hideous and darksome face. But at the time of my end, O my holy, thrice holy and glorified King, send me Thy mercy and truth. O my God, at that time send Michael, the commander-in-chief, over Thy servant. Send me Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, the great and bright generals, with all their immaculate and thrice-blessed army, to crush the insatiable dragon of Hades who gnashes his teeth and wants to snatch and devour anyone living piously. O my God, at the time of my departure, sink him and all his filthy army into the abyss, in Tartarus, into outer darkness and the 'gnashing of teeth.' At that time, O my Lord Jesus Christ, my delight, my Resurrection, send the merciful and philanthropic Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, to receive my own spirit in His incomparable sweetness and immortal holiness. Send him to strengthen me with a flaming sword preceding me and crushing the evil rulers of darkness. For, if these abominations of iniquity plunge into the fire, into darkness, into the abyss, into Hades, I will be able without pain to cross the ethereal spheres to come close to Thee, the Triune Sun, to fall before Thy compassion, to kiss Thy immaculate feet, to be filled with the Deity, with Thy Holy Spirit, and confess the countless wonders Thou didst for my sake: How Thou broughtest me to repentance, gave me life, "and out of the depths of the earth again Thou broughtest me up"! I will enumerate them all before the holy angels, that I may be overcome by the effulgence of the sweetest and most delightful divine pleasure. And transported by Thy ineffable fragrance, grace, and divine beauty, I shall chant to Thee then the great Song of Songs! Hear me, O my God, even though I may transgress Thy law before Thee every day. Hear me, my King, My Redeemer, and make me worthy to enter Thy glory, just as I beseech Thee night and day, and pray to Thee, and supplicate Thy immortal and life-giving majesty. O my Lord Jesus Christ, I ardently beg Thee again and always: at the time of my departure, send me the resplendent Virgin, the most pure temple, the sacred treasury of Thy wealth, O my Christ, to strengthen me. Send me at that time the holy Forerunner and Baptist John, the luminous stars - the Apostles - the prophets and the martyrs, the preachers and evangelists, confessors, ascetics, and righteous, that Thy creature may be glorified. Yes, immortal Lord, hear me, the sinner, and enable me to attain Thy inexpressible, never aging and thrice blessed glory. But, my Lord, give rest also to every servant of Thine in the throes of death, wherever this prayer will be heard, that the foul demons be disgraced. Crush them, O Master, with Thy mighty hand. Disperse them, O Mighty One, with Thy flaming sword. Burn them with the lightning of Thy fire-breathing power, O Thou Who art the plenitude of greatness, loftiness and awe. My God, may this prayer be for refreshment and comfort, repose and tranquillity, sweet fragrance and joy, support and refuge, courage and help to all those who are on their deathbeds. Yea, Lord, God of my holy Fathers, who pleased Thee from the beginning of time to the present, do not scorn my petition, O Holy One. Do not turn away from my supplication, O Compassionate One. But implant within my prayer a double-edged sword, divine, heavenly, deadly to the demons and vengeful against the spirits of wickedness; yet filled with sympathy, forgiveness, compassion and goodness. If by chance the one dying has many sins and this prayer is read over him, may Thou lighten his burden at that time, O Lord, have mercy on his soul, O Holy One, and sanctify his ascent toward Thee. Crown him with Thyr compassions, inscribe him in the book of Thy mercy, grant him the bliss of Paradise. Overlook his iniquities with the immensity of the wealth of Thy loving-kindness. Forgive him, have mercy on his miserable soul and save it. Have pity on him, help him, have mercy on him, shield and protect him according to Thy great mercy. Show him Thy love for man. Send him angels of peace. Send him Thy immaculate love. Open to him Thy glorious embrace, flood him with all the immaterial fragrances, that the loathsome and deceitful demons may flee from him in shame. O Lord, turn them into ashes in the fire of Gehenna, for they dare to disturb and frighten the poor soul. O Lord, let this take place wherever my poor supplication is heard. Yea, O Master, Jesus Christ, Light of light, hear me, O Good One, and impart grace and mercy to my prayer. Be a helper and protector for salvation to everyone who invokes the name of vile Nephon. Hear me, O Lord; Hear me, O Lover of mankind, Holy One, and grant my request beseeching Thy mighty Name. Amen!"
A Paraklesis to the Most-Holy Theotokos was celebrated in the evening of August 8th in the ruins of Panagia Paramythia Church in Vlach Saray of Constantinople after 40 years, attended by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The Church of the Panagia Paramythia, or "Panagia of the Palace", in Constantinople was the location of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople from 1587 to 1597. It was here that the autocephaly of the Russian Church was proclaimed in 1589. In the past the princes of Moldovlachia (Romania) were crowned here also, since in this area of Constantinople the rulers of Wallachia had palaces, and so the church came to be called Vlach Saray (Palace of Wallachia).
In the 1970's the church suffered severe damage from various fires.
At the event, the Ecumenical Patriarch stated: "It is our duty to deliver to the younger generation the buildings of our ancestors."
It is hoped that this church will soon be restored to resume parish activities in the area.
Ο ΟΙΚΟΥΜΕΝΙΚΟΣ ΠΑΤΡΙΑΡΧΗΣ ΣΤΗΝ ΠΑΡΑΚΛΗΣΗ ΣΤΑ ΕΡΕΙΠΙΑ ΤΟΥ ΒΛΑΧΣΑΡΑΪ ΜΕΤΑ ΑΠΟ 40 ΧΡΟΝΙΑ!
Church of the Virgin Paramythia - 'Vlach Saray'
August 10, 2011
Riikka Köngäs, Head conservator at the Valamo Monastery, burst into tears in the monastery’s main chapel when she had to say goodbye to her ”dear child”, the miraculous icon of the "Theotokos of Kozeltshan", depicting the Virgin Mary.
Over the past six months, Köngäs has been restoring the work of ecclesiastical art to new glory.
The icon was stolen in June 2010 from Helsinki’s Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral, and in February 2011 the thief told police where the stolen icon was cached.
For six months, the icon had been covered in dirt under a layer of soil and snow.
Even though the pieces of jewellery that had been placed around the icon by parishioners had long since gone missing and the background of the painting had been tarnished, the picture itself looked bright.
Archimandrite Sergei, the Head of the Valamo Monastery, handed the priceless icon over to Markku Salminen, the Vicar of the Orthodox Parish of Helsinki, at a prayer service on Tuesday.
The ceremony was attended by more than 100 listeners, including a busload of tourists from the municipality of Joutsa.
Salminen considered it strange that thieves do not show any respect for the church and its sacred premises.
”However, the time of miracles is not over”, Salminen noted, alluding to the man imprisoned for the theft coming forward much later with information on where the icon was hidden.
The vicar praised the professional handling of the matter displayed by the police.
The icon was immediately returned to the congregation without waiting for the results of the investigation.
In this way, the 156-year-old icon of the "Holy Mother of Kozeltshan" could be sent quickly to the professional restorers for treatment.
The first night after the discovery the icon spent in the vicar's refrigerator, from where Riikka Köngäs came to fetch it. The most important thing was to wait and have patience to allow the icon to dry in the right temperature and humidity conditions.
In all, the conservation work went well, even though all details of the icon could not be restored.
The icon of the "Theotokos of Kozeltshan" will be formally returned to the Uspenski Cathedral in a procession moving through the centre of Helsinki on Saturday, August 13th at 18:00.
The Icon of the Theotokos of Kozeltshan Is Found
Orthodox Grateful For Return of the Theotokos of Kozeltshan Icon
August 10, 2011
Romania has added yet another free day for its working class. August 15, when Orthodox celebrate the Virgin Mary’s Dormition, has been declared a free day and included in the Labor Code.
If the employer doesn’t give the employees the time off to holidays under the Labor Code, he is forced to pay the employees who work a compensation of up to 100 percent for that day, or to give them a day off in the next 30 days. However, the employers may take advantage of a provision of the new Labour Code, that says the provisions of article referring to the public holidays does not apply to workplaces where the work can not be interrupted because of the specific production.
Romanian employees have this year the fewest days off, since January 1st and 2nd, May 1st and the Christmas Day are days of weekend, which means that only five of the 11 days off granted by law are not working days.
On 9 August 2011 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church glorified a local Saint, the Venerable Eutropia Isayenkova of Kherson in Crimea.
Little is known of St. Eutropia's childhood, but she was native to the Kherson region and born on 24 November 1863 to her parents Leontius and Agatha. Because she was born on the feast of St. Katherine, this was her name before becoming a monastic.
At the age of twelve she was sent to nearby Aleshkovskii Monastery. Together with her education, it was here that she learned to love prayer and sacred studies. Eventually she dedicated her life to the Monastery and took the name of Eutropia, inspired by St. Eutropia of Alexandria (Oct. 30). Her monastic obedience was singing in the choir and reading. To others, she was known for her kindness and modesty.
Eutropia witnessed the flowering of the Monastery, with the building of magnificent churches and a school for orphans. But soon revolution, civil war, famine, destruction, and the worst - the godless power of Communism interrupted the monastic life of the nuns. The Monastery was abolished, churches closed, the nuns dispersed. Eutropia, like many other nuns of the Monastery, went to Kherson. There she settled in the area of Kindiyskih near the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos. During this time she earned a living sewing quilts. She and the nuns would often go to the church there to pray, but in 1938 it was shut down and they were forced to pray in a private home. When the Germans and Romanians came to Kherson in 1941, the churches once again opened.
Many people would visit Eutropia and she eventually became renowned for her clairvoyance and commitment to praying for the dead who had no one to serve funerals or memorials for them due to the Soviets' closure of churches. God would reveal to her the names of the reposed in order for her to pray for them. A blank piece of paper near her bed at night was full of names by the morning for her to pray for. Many would visit her, even from great distances, so that the yard of her house seemed to always be full. Spiritual children testify that she wore fetters on her feet and in her hands was always a Bible which she studied. Though she received many gifts from the people, she only lived on unleavened bread and holy water, and everything else she gave to those in need. As she was near death her spiritual children would ask to whom they should now go to for their needs; Eutropia responded that they were to come to her grave as if she were among the living.
When she reposed on 29 March 1968 she was 105-years old. The funeral took place in the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos with thousands in attendance. She was buried in the cemetery Kindiyskom. At her grave many received her grace-filled help and healing. The Saint's relics now rest in Kherson's Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
В Херсонской епархии обретены мощи монахини Евтропии (Исаенковой)
ХЕРСОН. Відбулося прославлення у лику святих монахині Євтропії (Ісаєнкової)
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
On August 15th a monastery south of Kamaron on the island of Sifnos that goes by the strange name of "Toso Nero" ("So Much Water") is celebrated. According to tradition in Sifnos, a family on the island is chosen which they call "Panigyrades" to hold the old icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos in their home for the year. When the time for the feast arrives they take care of all the expenses for the festival. A procession takes place throughout the streets of the island and some Panigyrades even hold a dinner for the people that follow the procession. Chickpea soup accompanied with meat and wine is the traditional meal for this feast. Following the meal there is dancing and traditional music.
The Chapel of Panagia Makrini in Samos is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos. It is found on the western side of Kerki, the Holy Mountain of Samos, and built within a cave probably during the days of St. Paul Latrinos in the 10th century. Frescoes from the 14th century decorate the church, among which are depictions of birds, plants and animals. The groin vault bears the building date of 16 August 1764. At the bottom of the cave there are small pits and earthen pots which fill from the water from the stalactites. Inside the cave were found human bones, probably of monastics who formerly resided here.
In olden times this church was part of a larger monastery. In the caves of the mountain, ascetics used to live, which is why the area is known as "askitaria". According to a Patriarchal Sigillion from 1816, this monastery belonged to the Monastery of Saint George Sinai in Monidrion of Kastania.
This monastery, seen from almost every part of the island of Nisiros, is located on the northwestern side of the harbour of Mandraki on a 30m high rock and dates from around 1600 AD. Around the monastery retained sections of the Paleokastro wall still exist, whereas the castle is protected by the "Castle of the Knights of Rhodes" built by the Knights of St. John in the early 14th century. During the Turkish occupation it issued currency for the transactions of the Nissyrians and in 1823 it took part in the General Assembly of Greece. There are 270 steps that lead up to the holy cave which still contains the miracle-working icon of the Blessed Virgin. There are two churches; one has been dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos and the south church is dedicated to St. Haralambos.
According to tradition, a local farmer discovered a small cave, around 1400 AD, with an icon of the Virgin Mary inside this cave, near the hot springs of Mandraki on the island of Nisiros. He took this icon to the Church of Panagia Potamitisas ("of the Rivers"). The next day, the icon was missing. They supposed it to be stolen but after a few days it was rediscovered by the locals in a cave on a 30m high rock. Again they took the icon to the church of Panagia Potamitisas but again the icon went missing and was rediscovered in this same cave on the rocks. This happened three times until the locals decided to transform the cave into a church and leave the icon in its preferred location. This cave has been called Panagia Spiliani ("of the Cave") and the monastery is built immediately above this cave. The locals of Nisiros (aka Nissyros, Nisyros, Nissiros) acknowledge this icon as the protectress of the island.
The island of Nisiros offers a unique devotion to the Panagia, with the celebration of its feast day lasting nine days from August 6th to the 15th. The "nine days of the Panagia" have been celebrated here for about a century. During this time the monastery invites women to stay there to dedicate this special time to the Mother of God. These women are called "Nine-Dayers" (Νιαμερίτισσες) and are not only from Nisiros, but from the surrounding islands as well, whether married or unmarried. During these nine days these women keep a strict fast, do 300 prostrations a day, and on their knees before the icon of Panagia Spiliotissa they chant the Lamentations of Her Who Is Great With Grace with each prostration, as well as various Supplication Services. On August 15th there is a procession with the icon on the island as well as a great feast with dancing and food.
Below are some of the Lamentations chanted during this period:
Το Μοιρολοι Της Παναγιας
Καλοναι τ Αγιος ο Θεος καλοναι κι ας το πουμε
οπου το λεει σωνεται κι οπου τ ακουει αγιαζει
Κι οπου θα το καλοφραστει παραδεισον λαβαινει
παραδεισο και λουτρουγια μεσ τ Αγιο Μοναστηρι
Εκει αγγελοι λουτρουγουν και αποστολοι ψαλουν
στη μεση στεκη ασωματος και το χαρτιν εγνωνει
Ποιος εχει ποδια να σταθει και χερια να τανισει
και στομα ν απολογηθη στιν φοβεραν την κρισην
Μεα και Ταξιαρχη μου μεα και φοβερε μου
σαν θα σε στειλη ο αφεντης μου να παρεισ την ψυχη μου
Μην ερθεισ μ αγριο ταραγμα μην ερτεισ μ αγριο πνευμα
ελα με την ταπεινωσιν να σου την παραδωσω
να την επας τ αφεντη μας κι ως θελει ας την κρινη
τα ειδε και τα επραξε και τα χει καωμενα
Αγγελε μου ευλογημενε χαιρε κεχαριτωμενε
ακριβοπαρακαλωσε και με δακρυα προσκυνωσε
Ν αγκαλιαζεισ το καλο μ να ξορκιζεισ το κακο μου
να μη ημπορει εχ8ρος μου να περνα ποτ απο μπρος μου....
Σημερον ειναι του Χριστου το νηαμερο αρχιζει
κι η Παναγια η Σπηλιανη πολλες καρδιες δροσιζει
Οταν ακουμε να χτυπα χαρουμενη καμπανα
ναρχωνται νηαμεριτισσες για σε γλυκεια μας μανα
Μεγαλη (ν) συγκινησης που νιωθει η ψυχη μας
πουρχονται νηαμεριτισσες για σενα Σπηλιανη μας
φουρτουνα ναν το πελαγος βουνο νανε το ρεμα
πεφτουνε εις την θαλασσα ναρθουν κοντα σε σενα.
Εμπρος σου γονατιζουνε και σε παρακαλουνε
δωσε τουσ παναγια μου οτι καλο ζητουνε.
Δινε χαρα στα σπιτια των δροσια εις την καρδια των
και να καλοστρατιζουσι επισης τα παιδια των.
Βλεπε τις νΠαναγια μου τις νιαμεριτισσες σου
του ψαλτες και τους ιερεις και τις επιτροπες σου.
Ω Παναγια μου Σπηλιανη πως λαμπει ο ναος
βλεπε την την ξενολογια και τον ηγουμενο σου.
Βοηθα σ οσους ερχονται εις τις παρακλησες σου
παντα υγειαν και χαρα ναχουν οι δωριτες σου..
Βλεπε τα Νισυροπουλα που λειπουν εις τα ξενα
κι αξιωσε τα με καλο ναρτουν κοντα σε σενα.
Οπου και αν εβρισκονται περα στης γης την ακρη
ανημερα στη χαρη σου χινουν πικρο το δακρυ.
Αν ειναι και στην ξενητεια ο νοθς των ειν μαζι σου
στελλε των Παναγια μου παντοτε την ευχη σου
Εισαι για ολους μας χαρα καυχημα και λατρεια
παντα ελπιδα μας γλυκεια καλη μας Παναγια.
Ω ΠΑΝΑΓΙΑ ΜΟΥ ΣΠΗΛΙΑΝΗ ΕΒΓΑ ΑΠ ΤΟ ΘΡΟΝΙ ΣΟΥ
ΚΑΙ ΥΛΟΗΣΕ ΤΟΝ ΚΟΣΜΟ ΣΟΥ ΕΙΣ ΤΗΝ ΠΑΝΥΓΙΡΗΝ ΣΟΥ.
Ξενες μας καλως ηρτατε Στης Παναγιας το Σπηλιο
στο Μοναστηρι το ψηλο που λαμπει σαν τον ηλιο
Ελατε ολες σασ κοντα μαζι να προσκυνουμε
την Παναγια την Σπηλιανη να την παρακαλουμε.
Ω Παναγια μας Σπηλιανη νοικοκυρα μεγαλη
μ ευλαβεια αρχιζομεν το νηαμερο σου παλι.
Βλεπε την την ξενολογια που προσκυνα εμπρος σου
δειξε των μεσ τα σπιτια των απο τον θησαυρο σου.
Οσες κι αν εχουνε παιδια να ζουν να τα χαρουνε
στην σταδιοδρομια τουσ παλλα καλα να δουνε.
Οσες κι αν ειναι λευτερες μοιρες καλες να δουνε
κι οσοι ειναι εις την ξενιτεια με το καλο να ρθουνε.
Βλεπε την την ξενολογια ποθ ρχεται για τα σενα
κι ολα τα νισυροπουνα που βρισκονται εις τα ξενα.
αξιωσε τα ναρ8ουνε και κεινα στον ναο σου
και να βρεθουν στην χαρι σου ναψουν κερι εμπρος σου.
Βοηθα καθε αρρωστο κθε φτωχο και ξενο
την χηρα και το ορφανο καθε απελπισμενο.
Βοη8α στους θαλασσινους και εις τους αιχμαλωτους
στην καθε δυσκολη στιγμη σε ολους τους ανθρωπους.
Βοηθα Παναγια μου στον κοσμο περα ως περα
σπασε τουφεκια και σπαθια να γαληνεψη η σφαιρα....