Saturday, November 19, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
The Holy Martyr Plato, brother of the holy Martyr Antiochus the Physician (July 16), was born at the city of Ancyra in Galatia. While still a youth he left home and went through the cities, preaching the Word of God to pagans, amazing his audience with the persuasiveness and beauty of his speech, and his profound knowledge of Greek learning.
Because of his preaching he was arrested and brought for trial to the temple of Zeus before the governor Agrippinus. At first, the judge attempted to persuade the saint to turn away from Christ by flattery. He assured the youth that he might be on a par of intellect with the greatest of the philosophers Plato, if only he worshipped also the pagan gods. To this St Plato answered, that the wisdom of the philosopher, although great, was but ephemeral and limited, whereas the true, eternal and unbounded wisdom comprised the Gospel teachings. Then the judge promised to give him his beautiful niece for his wife if he would deny Christ. He also threatened him with torture and death if he refused. St Plato replied that he chose a temporal death for the sake of eternal life. The patience of the governor was exhausted, and he gave orders to mercilessly beat the martyr, and then send him off to prison.
When they led St Plato off to prison, he turned to the people gathered about the temple, and he called on them not to forsake the Christian Faith. Seven days later they again led the Martyr Plato for trial before Agrippinus in the temple of Zeus, where they had the implements of torture already prepared: boiling cauldrons, red-hot iron and sharp hooks. The judge offered the martyr a choice: either to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, or to feel the effects of these implements of torture on his body. Again the saint steadfastly refused to worship idols, and after his tortures they threw him in prison for eighteen more days without bread or water. But seeing that this did not shake the martyr, they offered him his life and freedom if he would only say, "Great is the god Apollo." The martyr refused to deny Chirst or to sacrifice to the idols. Therefore, Agrippinus ordered the holy Martyr Plato to be beheaded in the year 266.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Thine all-holy memory doth cheer and gladden the whole world, calling all to come to thine august and ven'rable temple; wherein now, with jubilation we have all gathered, and with odes we hymn thy triumphs, O Martyr Plato, and with faith, we cry out to thee: Rescue thy people, O Saint, from barbarous foes.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The Nativity Fast in the Orthodox Church begins on November 15th. From that time until December 17th (or some observe December 12th) we fast from meat, milk products, and eggs, though fish is allowed. After the 17th (or 12th) we fast also from fish. But fasting from food, according to the command of our Lord, must go hand in hand with spiritual fasting in order for it to be beneficial and have a deeper meaning. For this reason it must be coupled with prayer and almsgiving. Hence, with these fasting periods the Church calls us also to a deeper liturgical life and good works.
It is for this reason that during the forty day period prior to the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord it is a tradition for priests to celebrate daily the Divine Liturgy. The Forty Liturgies celebrated during this time are a great blessing not only for those who participate, but also for those commemorated among both the living and reposed. As St. Ignatius of Antioch writes: "Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith" (Eph. 13). The power of the Divine Liturgy isn't magical, but it is a manifestation of love and unity in Christ. It teaches us to forgive, to have love for one another, and to be united in Christ as one body. In such an assembly, where the living and reposed are commemorated, great blessings follow for all.
The Divine Forty Day Liturgies of the Nativity season on behalf of the living and reposed are a manifestation of the love we should have for one another as members of the Church. Nothing makes more real and present the love of Christ for mankind, who took on flesh for the salvation of sinners, then the daily offering of the Divine Eucharist for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting of the living and reposed. As St. John of Kronstadt writes: "In the Divine Liturgy is celebrated the Mystery of Love...perfect love.... This love is found in the sacrifice of Christ." And Elder Paisios advised regarding the need to pray for the departed: "Leave in your prayers room for the reposed. The dead can do nothing for themselves. The living can. Bring to the church prosphoro, and give the names of the reposed to be commemorated by the priest in the proskomede. Do also memorials and trisagia. But the trisagion without the Divine Liturgy is nothing. The greatest thing we can do for someone is Forty Liturgies. It would be good to tie it in together with almsgiving." St. Symeon of Thessaloniki writes of the commemoration of the reposed during the Divine Liturgy: "During the Liturgy their portion which is placed on the diskos invisibly partakes of God, they are cleansed through the Sacred Blood and commune,...and they are consoled...and they rejoice in Christ." And St. John Chrysostom writes: "You should not have any doubt whatsoever that the dead will benefit spiritually. The priest does not plead in vain in the Holy Prothesis or at the Holy Table for the reposed in Christ, with faith in the God-man Lord."
The Salvation of the Soul According to the Jerusalem Synod of 1672
On the Benefits of Forty Liturgies For the Departed
Saint George Karslidis On Forty Liturgies
On 14 November 2011, which was the feast of the Apostle Philip, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the ancient octagonal church built over the martyrdom site of the Holy Apostle Philip in Hierapolis. This was the first time the Ecumenical Patriarch celebrated the Divine Liturgy at this important Christian shrine, and has special significance since the recent discovery by Italian archaeologist Francesco D’ Andria of the tomb of the Apostle Philip next to this church. When the tomb was discovered this past summer, the Italian archaeologist visited the Ecumenical Patriarch at the Phanar to inform him of the find. It was then that the Ecumenical Patriarch organized this pilgrimage and Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Holy Apostle. Francesco D’ Andria was in attendance.
Read also: Ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης στην Ιεράπολη, τόπο μαρτυρίου του Αγίου Φιλίππου
This icon first appeared to a maiden named Anna in the village of Kupyatitich, in the province of Minsk, in the year 1182. Tending her flock, Anna saw a light in the forest. When she approached this light she beheld a medium-size cross on a tree, bearing the image of the Most-holy Theotokos. Anna brought this cross home, then returned to her flock. However, to her great amazement, she saw the same cross on the tree in the same place. She took it, placed it in her bosom and brought it home. When she tried to show her father the cross, she reached into her bosom, but the cross was not there. She related everything to her father and went out with him, saw the cross in the forest, and took it home. The next day, the cross was not in the house. They alerted the whole village, and all the villagers went and beheld the cross and venerated it. The people soon built a church there, and numerous miracles were manifested by this cross bearing the image of the Theotokos.
After some years, Tatars burned the church. The icon was found a second time after many years by a traveler named Joachim. Peasants transferred the cruciform-icon to the village church. Joachim remained at the church as church attendant, by God's will.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Kupyatitch Monastery was built next to the church, which the Roman Catholics seized at the end of the century, and later on, Uniate monks. Orthodox monks, when they abandoned the monastery, took with them the holy icon of the Kupyatitch Mother of God. They transferred the wonderworking icon to the Kiev Sophia Cathedral.
The Kupyatitch Icon is a small copper cross. On one side of the cross the Mother of God is depicted with the Pre-eternal Infant, and on the other side, the Crucifixion.
HYMN OF PRAISE: To the Most-holy Theotokos
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
O Most-holy Mother of God, Bride of God,
Thou wast the Bodily Throne of Christ God,
Thou didst bear the King of Glory in thy body,
Thou gavest birth to Him Who gavest life to a dead world.
By His Blood, His holy Blood, He redeemed the world,
Gloriously glorifying Himself and thee, O Virgin.
But thy true glory shines in heaven,
Where thou sittest on the right hand of Christ Himself.
And the rays of thy glory descend to earth,
And shine at night on the path of the sojourners.
Glory to thee, Mother of God, throughout the ages,
The first Temple, the wonderful Temple of the glory of Christ!
An Opening of the Doors ceremony was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria on 15 November 2011 for a Byzantine church dating back to 1401 dedicated to Saints Gurias, Samonas and Habibus (commemorated on November 15th). This was after 15 years of restoration work by the local archeological service. It is located in the historic center of Kastoria and contains unique and beautiful frescoes. Of particular significance is that this church is the only one dedicated to Saints Gurias, Samonas and Habibus in the world.
1. When he would Liturgize he would become another man. Those attending church would hear various sounds from the Holy Altar from his heavenly visitors. They would kneel and chant "Lord have mercy".
2. One day the Saint said to his chanter: "I had so many saints today that I didn't have enough room to fit them. We put Saint Panteleimon in one corner, because there was no room."
3. At one time demons bothered the Saint and would not allow him to do the proskomede. After the Liturgy he said: "I began these Forty Liturgies with stress. The demons would yell out the names so that I would not be able to commemorate them, and thus not allow them to be forgiven."
4. After a period of Forty Liturgies he was asked:
"Elder, were you tired to finish them?"
"No my child. It was a pleasure for me, as if I did one Vespers, because they were very good people. Your father had a rich table like Abraham."
Then the man thought: "We were so poor, to the point we were hungry, so where did our father find such a rich table?"
"Don't see things like that," the Saint corrected. "Maybe he did not have to give, but his soul wanted to give much, and God accounted it to him as if he did give it. Your mother is a servant of your father, because she was very tiresome and would sadden him, always complaining to him. But your father always wore a smile with much goodness. Among your relatives you had a blind girl, whom you forgot to write. She was pure and very good."
"But how did you know this?" asked the man in wonder.
"When I commemorate, she also comes to the kollyva, but she comes as a guest, and does not unite with the others. Now everyone went to their place and opened the road for you."
Source: Athonite Flowers (vol. 14). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
November 14, 2011
Archimandrite Onuphrius leads the publishing department in Volyn Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (additionally, he is the senior priest at the Holy Great Martyr Paraskeva Church in Ratniv village near Lutsk); he recalls that he was moved with the tears of an almost chained to her wheelchair Tania Kononovych when she donated part of her modest income for the publication of the ancient holy book’s copy. This was her own decision, as well was the decision of a man who preferred to remain anonymous; through a friend of his, whom he trusted, he passed... 100,000 hryvnias in cash. This money was brought to the eparchy.
Generally, nearly 200 patrons have joined the publishing of the manuscript art monument, one of Ukraine’s oldest liturgical books, which was preserved to the present time. Archimandrite Onuphrius had learnt about the 14th century gospel (named the Lutsk Gospel) back in 2002, when by the order of archbishop Nifont he researched the history of an already nonexistent Orthodox Krasnosilsky convent in Lutsk’s region, which is still called Krasny. In this very area, the eparchy was going to take a plot of land in order to build a dormitory for the students of theological seminary. They still received no land, but they have found out that the original Lutsk Gospel, which is 200-250 years older than the famous Peresopnytsia Gospel, is being kept at the Russian State Library in Moscow. Today, the holy book was restored in form of facsimile edition.
Archbishop Nifont says that he sometimes wonders how many manuscripts, icons and other church, as they say, implements (which are in fact priceless relics) were destroyed only in Volyn temples in times of atheistic theomachism. One of the researchers of the gospel text Lidia Zhukovska once put herself a question: how many books there were in Old Rus’? She detected that their amount should be about the same as the number of settlements, monasteries and churches (and each of them had the Gospel, the Apostle and the Psalter). Due to historical reasons, few of the 14th-15th-century manuscripts have survived, which makes the Lutsk Gospel even more priceless. And it is the church that plays today an important role in preserving cultural heritage, which, according to archbishop Nifont, is not just a noble mission, but the mission of Ukrainianism, proclaiming us as cultural people.
Funds from the realization of the Lutsk Gospel will be used for the construction of the All Saints of the Volyn Land Church. Recently, its presentation took place in the Volyn region with participation of the head of Volyn Regional State Administration Borys Klimchuk, the head of Volyn Regional Council Volodymyr Voitovych and the mayor of Lutsk Mykola Romaniuk, who all received copies of this rarity. Father Onuphrius says that, for example, in Iceland, each couple, which registers a marriage, receives a volume of Old Icelandic literature on behalf of the state, so that they would know their ancient language and history. Maybe some day Ukraine will also have such tradition, and the ancient Lutsk Gospel, which can be read by scholars as well as by ordinary people, will truly become a good gift for each family.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
On November 15th Orthodox Christians begin a forty day preparation period to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. Below are a few links which explore the themes and way of life emphasized during this period.
The Nativity Fast, Otherwise Known As Advent, Has Begun
Why the Nativity Fast Has Been Established
The Nativity Fast
The Nativity Fast and Orthodox Tradition
Reflections On The Nativity Fast
On the Benefits of Forty Liturgies For the Departed
Orthodox Christmas Resource Page
Monday, November 14, 2011
The following vision was recorded by Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos, the biographer of Saint Gregory Palamas, and was also later repeated by Hieromonk Athanasios of Paros in his biography of Saint Gregory Palamas.
At the Great Lavra of St. Athanasios on the Holy Mountain there dwelt a perfected anchorite. Spending his time in solitude and prayer, the hesychast was neither seen nor heard by anyone, save for one or two monks. He once had a desire that God reveal unto him the state of the divine Gregory, that is, where and with whom of the elect of God is the saint to be found. After supplicating God day and night, for a long while, he beheld the following vision.
It seemed to the hesychast that he was in the capital City of Constantinople, standing inside the wonderful and huge Church of the Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia), though he never had seen the capital or the church before in his life. In the middle of the church he observed that a holy synod was in session. Among the Fathers present, he recognized the great Athanasios, Basil and Gregory, John the Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa, the wise Cyril, and a multitude of holy theologians. As their discussions progressed, the aforementioned pious hesychast attempted to ascertain the subject of their discussions, but was unable to learn anything. It then appeared that the participants were then coming to the close of their talks. He finally heard all unanimously declare, "It is impossible for us to ratify or vote on the present decision without Gregory, the Hierarch of Thessaloniki".
Forthwith, a minister was dispatched to invite the hierarch to the holy synod. After a short while, the minister returned saying that it was impossible to approach and speak with the hierarch at that time, because he was standing by the King's throne, conversing privately with the King. The theologians again ordered the minister to return and tarry until the appropriate moment to speak with the hierarch. When he communicated the matter to him, he said, "It is not possible for the synod to ratify their decisions, since thy presence is lacking".
As soon as the hierarch heard these words, he betook himself to the synod. Those who caught sight of the holy Gregory approaching stood and welcomed him. He was then brought in to sit in their midst at the chief place, together with the august threesome of Sts. Basil the Great, John Chrysostom and Gregory the Great. The saint then added his learned vote, sanctioning their decisions.
To the universal glory of the Church of Christ, their discussions concerned the doctrines which the holy Fathers had taught in the earlier years of Christianity. In full accord, they pronounced these doctrines to be correctly formulated. Then they confirmed that St. Gregory Palamas, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had diligently collected their writings, studied them and expounded upon them excellently, successfully combating and putting to shame newly-manifested heresies. Then, in unison and individually, they offered their admiration for a long while. At the end, they all rose from their seats and the synod was dismissed.
(Praises of the Second Sunday of Great Lent, Tone One)
Thou standest now in worship before the throne of the all-merciful God with the theologian saints, for thou wast their equal in thy way of life, O wise Gregory, hierarch of Thessaloniki, glory of the episcopate, adorned with the dignity of the high priesthood.
(Matins Canon of the Second Sunday of Great Lent, Tone Four, by St. Gregory of Nicomendia)
From The Pillars of Orthodoxy by Holy Apostles Convent, pp. 579-581.
It is not a history of the Jews. It is the history of our Lord Jesus Christ. They must understand this. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob may have been ancestors of the Israelites according to the flesh, but according to the spirit they are ours. Saint Paul says this (Gal. 3:7-9). And the Lord said to the Jews: "And think not to say within yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father': for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt. 3:9).
The Christian people are Israel according to the spirit. Whichever Christian imitates the faith of Abraham, such is a child of Abraham. Not the Jews, who put the Messiah on trial, whom Abraham believed in and expected. All the righteous of the Old Testament expected the Messiah, including Jacob and all the Patriarchs. As well as the God-seeing Moses, who said: "A prophet from among your brethren...the Lord your God will raise you" (Deut. 13:15).
The saints of the Old Testament are, therefore, our ancestors according to the spirit. The notion that the Old Testament is a history of the Hebrew people is distorted. The truth is that it is a history of Christianity. It is the history of our Lord Himself.
The Jews have now become against Christ. They are not a chosen people. They fell. Do we not sing on Pentecost: "The Jews...suffering from disbelief, fell from divine grace."
Translated by John Sanidopoulos
In the village of Ljuljaci of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, white flowers have bloomed from a whithered branch since June from an icon of the Mother of God.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"In time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).
This is all one and the same path - the path to destruction. According to the course of this world means inclination toward sinfulness; according to the prince of the power of the air means according to the will of those chiefs of the demons who inhabit the air; in the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience means that in the same way that the opponents and adversaries of God now live, all men lived before the advent of Christ, including those to whom the Apostle writes the epistle.
What is this power of the air, brethren? This is the order of evil spirits who exist in constant movement in the air. They make the air lethal and they impede the souls of the departed as they make their way to heaven. They deceive the spirit of man to work every evil; they tempt it with every sin. Yet, they do not command the spirit to sin, for they lack the power to do that; they can only tempt and corrupt. They acted more strongly and directly on the pagans than on the Israelites. They fell upon the pagans as a swarm of flies on a carcass, but the Israelites they watched from a distance, corrupting and tempting them more subtlely. They stood at a distance from Israel because of the name of God, which was preserved and spoken among the Israelites. The Lord Jesus Christ scattered them all and plucked out their poisonous stings, so that they remained only as empty phantoms, as miserable, inconstant shadows that vanish instantly at the mention of the name of Christ or at the tracing of the sign of Christ's Cross.
O Lord Jesus, our Commander and Deliverer, help us to live in Thy freedom. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
The Belt of the Virgin Mary In Russia For the First Time
Thousands Line Up To Venerate Holy Belt of the Theotokos
Video: The Holy Belt of the Theotokos in Russia
The Holy Belt (Zoni) of the Theotokos
Friday, November 11, 2011
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"By grace ye are saved" (Ephesians 2:5, 8).
Who can comprehend and acknowledge that we are saved by grace - that we are saved by God's grace, and not by our merits and works? Who can comprehend and acknowledge that? Only he who has comprehended and seen the bottomless pit of death and corruption in which man is engulfed by sin, and has also comprehended and seen the height of honor and glory to which man is raised in the Heavenly Kingdom, in the realm of immortality, in the house of the Living God-only such a one can comprehend and acknowledge that we are saved by grace.
A child was traveling by night. He stumbled and fell into hole after hole and pit after pit, until he finally fell into a very deep pit from which he could in no way escape by his own power. When the child gave himself over to the hands of fate and thought his end was near, there was suddenly someone standing over the pit, lowering a rope to him and telling him to grab the rope and hold firmly to it. This was the king's son, who then took the child home, bathed him, clothed him and brought him to his court and set him beside himself. Was this child saved by his own deed? By no means. All he did was to grab the end of the rope, and hold on. By what, then, was the child saved? By the mercy of the king's son. In God's relationship with men, this mercy is called grace.
"By grace ye are saved." The Apostle Paul repeats these words twice in a short span, that the faithful might recognize and remember them.
Brethren, let us comprehend and remember that we are saved through grace by the Lord Jesus Christ. We were in the jaws of death, but have been given life in the courts of our God.
O Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, by Thee are we saved. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
An open letter written by Fr. Anthony Moschonas to His Grace Bishop Anthony (+2004) of San Francisco:
Your Grace, with respect and reverence, I kiss your right hand. Christ is Risen! With great humility and fear of God I am writing to you to confirm our telephone conversation on Good Friday, concerning the miracle that occurred in our church.
On the evening of April 27th, Holy Thursday, at 7:30 p.m., we started the service of the Holy Passion (the Service of the "Twelve Gospels"). Before I started the reading of the twelve Gospels, I placed a stand at the Holy Door and laid the Holy Gospel upon it. The Gospel is in two languages, Greek and English, and the cover is gold-plated, with a small enamel on it. According to the holy tradition of our Church, one side has the Crucifix of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the other side has the Resurrection.
During the reading of the prescribed passages of the Holy Gospel, I left it at the Royal Door, on the stand. Father Anthony Sipsas, a retired priest, and I alternated reading the holy passages, one in English and one in Greek. When I finished the reading of the fifth Gospel, I picked it up to place it on the Holy Altar, while preparing ourselves for the procession of the crucified Christ on the Cross. When I picked up the Holy Gospel, it appeared heavier than usual. I did not pay much attention to it, thinking to myself that I was tired from the work of the day. With Fr. Sipsas, the altar boys, and the reader, we started the procession of the crucified Christ chanting the hymn, "Today is hung upon the Tree, He who suspended the land in the midst of the waters".
After I placed the cross in the center of the Church, in the solea, we returned to the Holy Altar to continue the Service. As I stood in front of the Holy Altar, my eyes focused upon the Holy Gospel's Icon of the Crucifixion. With great astonishment, I clearly observed blood on the Holy Body of our Lord. Fear came all over me. After looking at it for a long time, I called Fr. Sipsas and asked him to tell me what he saw. "Blood, my son, blood ... I don't know," he replied. The blood was on the Holy Icon of Christ, on the right side of His body, at the place where he was pierced. Some blood also appeared on the left side of His chest.
For the reading of the sixth Gospel, I used a different Bible. After I finished reading the Gospel, I announced the miracle to the faithful that were present. When the services finished, I called a few men to come into the Holy Altar to witness the phenomenon. Some of the ladies asked me if they could say a prayer to the Almighty God that His sign, a miracle, be for the best intended use of the world and to thank Him for the great and marvelous things that happened among us, the unworthy servants and sinners. It was during such a prayer, I remembered, that our Lord appeared to the Myrrhbearers. As I finished, with great fear and tremor, because of my unworthiness, I proceeded towards the Holy Altar. I picked up the Holy Gospel and placed it in the solea for all people who were present to exalt and venerate.
The next day, Good Friday, before the procession of the Epitafio, I announced the miracle to the congregation once again. After the procession, all of the faithful drew near and venerated it.
The Holy Gospel remains on the Holy Altar and in the near future we will place it in a case. We will put it in the church for the glorification of our Almighty God and for the strengthening of the faith among His flock.
Asking humbly and with reverence that you pray for me, the sinner, and for the faithful of my community, I wish that the resurrected Lord grant you health, happiness and long life.
Your spiritual child in Christ, Fr. Anthony Moschonas May 2, 1989
Source: Orthodox Heritage Vol. 09, Issue 09-10
Thursday, November 10, 2011
St. Arsenios of Cappadocia reposed on November 10, 1924. In 1958 his relics were brought from Kerkyra to Konitsa by Elder Paisios, and in 1970 the same Elder Paisios brought them to the female monastery dedicated to St. John the Theologian in Souroti. On February 11, 1986 he was glorified as a Saint by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. His relics have become a source of many miracles.
Below is a photo of a portion of his relics in the Church of Panagia Nafpliou in Nafplion, his skull in the monastery of Souroti, Elder Paisios with the skull of St. Arsenios, his tombstone, and a video of Farasa where St. Arsenios served as a priest in Asia Minor.
The train is a mobile medical hospital with a consultaion and diagnostic center. A priest travels with doctors and nurses throughout Russia who serves in the church on the train dedicated to St. Olga. Both doctors and priest offer medical services and spiritual help to those in need. Admission is free for all.
The Church of Hagia Sophia was built by Justinian I in the middle of the city of Nicaea in the 6th century (modelled after the larger Hagia Sophia in Constantinople), and it was there that the Second Council of Nicaea met in 787 to discuss the issues of iconography.
By Gamon McLellan
Several Turkish newspapers reported on Monday that the Hagia Sophia in İznik (Nicaea) is now open for regular worship as a mosque. The building was full to capacity with worshippers for the dawn prayers (namaz) of the Kurban Bayramı (Feast of Sacrifice/Eid al Adha) on Sunday morning – the first time the building has been used as a mosque for some 90 years.
The prayers were led by the Müftü of İznik, and were attended by the Mayor, several AK (Justice and Development) Party Members of Parliament for Bursa (the province in which İznik is located) and by Adnan Ertem, Director General of Religious Foundations.
A floor has been constructed on which carpets and prayer rugs have been placed, a minber (pulpit) has been installed, and a loudspeaker system attached to the minaret. The sign "Ayasofya Müzesi" (müze means museum) outside the building which has been there for some years has been removed. In its place a new sign was put up on Saturday: "T.C. Başbakanlık Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı: Ayasofya Camii (Orhan Camii)" or "Presidency of Religious Affairs, Prime Ministry of Turkish Republic: Ayasofya Mosque (Orhan Mosque)", with the date 1331 (when Orhan Gazi converted the building into a mosque and endowed it). An imam has also been appointed to the mosque.
Photographs of the opening prayers can be seen in the following two press reports:
Ayasofya Camii ibadete açıldı
İznik Ayasofya Camii'nde 90 yıl sonra ilk namaz
This development is not without its critics, who point out that the building has been operating as a museum under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and is described as such on the Ministry website and on the website of the Governorate of the Province of Bursa:
Bursa - İznik Müzesi Müdürlüğü
Ayasofya Müzesi (İznik)
However, Adnan Ertem said the building had been used as a mosque for 680 years and had never functioned as a museum, and he did not believe it would be right for it to become a museum and thereby be closed to worshippers. There were, he said, four Ayasofyas in Turkey: two in Istanbul, one in Trabzon and this one in İznik. The Küçük Ayasofya (SS Sergius & Bacchus) in İstanbul had been opened for worship. Now the İznik one had as well. However he said he could not say anything about the Ayasofya Museum in Istanbul, "which had become a museum as a result of a decision of the Council of Ministers in 1934". (In fact the decision was taken in 1935).
Read also: Nicea, A Church Transformed Into a Mosque
Throughout history, butterflies have fascinated artists and philosophers, scientists and schoolchildren with their profound mystery and beauty. In Metamorphosis you will explore their remarkable world as few ever have before.
Spectacular photography, computer animation and magnetic resonance imaging open once hidden doors to every stage of a butterfly's life-cycle. From an egg the size of a pinhead to a magnificent flying insect. It is a transformation so incredible biologists have called it "butterfly magic."
The butterfly's superbly engineered body is magnified hundreds of times to reveal compound eyes made of thousands of individual lenses, wings covered with microscopic solar panels, and navigational systems that unerringly guide Monarch butterflies on their annual migration from Canada to Mexico.
How did these extraordinary creatures come into being? Are they the products of a blind, undirected process? Or were they designed by an intelligent cause?
Filmed in North, Central, and South America, Metamorphosis is an unforgettable documentary filled with the joys of discovery and wonder.
Read more and buy the DVD here.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Saint Nektarios was born in Selyvria of Thrace on October 1, 1846. After putting himself through school in Constantinople with much hard labour, he became a monk on Chios in 1876, receiving the monastic name of Lazarus; because of his virtue, a year later he was ordained deacon, receiving the new name of Nektarios. Under the patronage of Patriarch Sophronius of Alexandria, Nektarios went to Athens to study in 1882; completing his theological studies in 1885, he went to Alexandria, where Patriarch Sophronius ordained him priest on March 23, 1886 in the Cathedral of Saint Sabbas, and in August of the same year, in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Cairo, made him Archimandrite. Archimandrite Nektarios showed much zeal both for preaching the word of God, and for the beauty of God's house. He greatly beautified the Church of Saint Nicholas in Cairo, and years later, when Nektarios was in Athens, Saint Nicholas appeared to him in a dream, embracing him and telling him he was going to exalt him very high.
On January 15, 1889, in the same Church of Saint Nicholas, Nektarios was consecrated Metropolitan of the Pentapolis in eastern Libya, which was under the jurisdiction of Alexandria. Although Nektarios' swift ascent through the degrees of ecclesiastical office did not affect his modesty and childlike innocence, it aroused the envy of lesser men, who convinced the elderly Sophronius that Nektarios had it in his heart to become Patriarch. Since the people loved Nektarios, the Patriarch was troubled by the slanders. On May 3, 1890, Sophronius relieved Metropolitan Nektarios of his duties; in July of the same year, he commanded Nektarios to leave Egypt.
Without seeking to avenge or even to defend himself, the innocent Metropolitan left for Athens, where he found that accusations of immorality had arrived before him. Because his good name had been soiled, he was unable to find a position worthy of a bishop, and in February of 1891 accepted the position of provincial preacher in Euboia; then, in 1894, he was appointed dean of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School in Athens. Through his eloquent sermons his unwearying labours to educate fitting men for the priesthood, his generous alms deeds despite his own poverty, and the holiness, meekness, and fatherly love that were manifest in him, he became a shining light and a spiritual guide to many. At the request of certain pious women, in 1904 he began the building of his convent of the Holy Trinity on the island of Aegina while yet dean of the Rizarios School; finding later that his presence there was needed, he took up his residence on Aegina in 1908, where he spent the last years o
f his life, devoting himself to the direction of his convent and to very intense prayer; he was sometimes seen lifted above the ground while rapt in prayer. He became the protector of all Aegina, through his prayers delivering the island from drought, healing the sick, and casting out demons. Here also he endured wicked slanders with singular patience, forgiving his false accusers and not seeking to avenge himself. Although he had already worked wonders in life, an innumerable multitude of miracles have been wrought after his repose in 1920 through his holy relics, which for many years remained incorrupt. There is hardly a malady that has not been cured through his prayers; but Saint Nektarios is especially renowned for his healings of cancer for sufferers in all parts of the world.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
The offspring of Selyvria and the guardian of Aegina, the true friend of virtue who didst appear in the last years, O Nektarios, we faithful honour thee as a godly servant of Christ, for thou pourest forth healings of every kind for those who piously cry out: Glory to Christ Who hath glorified thee. Glory to Him Who hath made thee wondrous. Glory to Him Who worketh healings for all through thee.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In joy, let our hearts praise the latest shining star of the Orthodox, the newly erected rampart of the Church. For, glorified by the work of the Spirit, he abundantly pours forth the grace of healing to those who cry out, "Hail, Father Nektarios".
Source: Holy Transfiguration Monastery - Brookline, MA
Saint Theoktiste was born in the city of Methymna on the island of Lesvos. At an early age she was left a complete orphan, and relatives sent her to a monastery to be raised. The girl was happy to be removed from the world of sin, and she liked the monastic life, the long church services, monastic obedience, the strict fasting and unceasing prayer. She learned much of the singing, prayer and psalmody by heart.
In the year 846 when she was already eighteen years old, she set off with the blessing of the abbess, on the Feast of the Resurrection of Christ, to a neighboring village to visit her sister and she remained there overnight. Arabs invaded the settlement, and they took captive all the inhabitants, loaded them on a ship, and by morning they were at sea.
The brigands took the captives to the desolate island of Paros so that they might examine them in order to assign a value to each when they were sold at the slave-market. The Lord helped the young maiden to flee, and the Arabs did not catch her. From that time St Theoktiste dwelt on the island for 35 years. An old church in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos served as her dwelling, and her food was sunflower seeds. All her time was spent in prayer.
Once, a group of hunters landed upon the island. One of them, pursuing his prey, went far off from the coast into the forest and suddenly he saw the church. He went into the church so as to offer up a prayer to the Lord. After the prayer the hunter saw what looked like a human form in a dim corner, not far from the holy altar table, through thick cobwebs. He went closer and heard a voice, "Stay there, fellow, and come no closer to shame me, since I am a naked woman." The hunter gave the woman his outer clothing and she came out from concealment. He beheld a grey-haired woman with worn face, calling herself Theoktiste. With a weak voice she told of her life fully devoted to God.
When she finished her story, the saint asked the hunter, if he happened to come to this island again, that he should bring her a particle of the Presanctified Gifts. During all her time of living in the wilderness she not once was granted to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
A year later, the hunter again arrived upon the island and brought a small vessel with a particle of the Holy Mysteries. St Theoktiste met the Holy Gifts in the church, fell down to the ground and prayed long with tears. Standing up, she took the vessel and with reverence and in the fear of God she received the Body and Blood of Christ.
On the following day the hunter saw the dead body of the nun Theoktiste in the church. After digging a shallow grave, the hunter placed the venerable body of the nun in it. As he did so, he impudently cut off her hand, so as to take with him part of the relics of the great saint of God. All night the ship sailed upon a tempestuous sea, and in the morning it found itself at the very place from which it began. The man then perceived that taking the relic was not pleasing to God.
He returned to the grave and placed the hand with the body of the saint. After this the ship sailed off unhindered. On the journey the hunter told his companions everything that had happened on the island. Listening to him, they all decided immediately to return to Paros, to venerate the relics of the great ascetic, but they could not find her holy body in the grave.
Note: Monk Symeon of Paros, a biographer of St. Theoktiste, noting similarities within her life with St. Mary of Egypt, authored her life according to the pattern of St. Sophronios' biography of St. Mary. Details are probably thus imagined for literary purposes.
The Holy Monastery of Saint Theoktiste in Icarus
On the island of Icarus is found the Holy Monastery of Saint Theoktiste (Lefkados Monastery), in the village of Pigi, where in an unknown manner her holy relics were discovered. It is not known when the monastery was founded, but probably existed before 1688. An inscription says it was founded by Hatzi Panteli from Chios in 1688.
According to tradition, the holy relics of St. Theoktiste, upon being discovered, were brought to a cave called "Theoskepaste", where they prayed for the identification of the relics.
November 8, 2011
Finnish Lutheran Church pastor Juha Molari converted to the Orthodox faith at a ceremony conducted by Archpriest Nikolay Voskoboinikov at Helsinki's St. Nicholas Church, which belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church, on October 30.
"It is a very important decision in my life, but it cannot be called difficult. The Russian Church is not some sect, but a multi-million community of worshippers living in different countries," Molari told Interfax-Religion.
Molari said that his wife and children are Russian citizens and belong to the Moscow Patriarchate.
"That is why it is quite normal for me to belong to the same Church," Molari said, adding that he was supported by Orthodox priests.
"I realized that it is easy to be within the Church where you are loved," he said.
The Lutheran Church earlier defrocked Pastor Molari for openly criticizing the Kavkaz-Center website, which was recognized by Russia as extremist.
"Molari has been punished because he demanded Finnish law enforcement agencies' reaction to the activities of Kavkaz-Center, organized a picket against this website and spoke out against this mouthpiece of Chechen terrorists led by Doku Umarov," Finland's Antifascist Committee head Johan Backman told Interfax.
Molari has been campaigning for the website's shutdown for spreading propaganda supporting terrorism. He turned to the police in October 2010 and complained he had been threatened by Chechen terrorists and separatists.
The police, however, dismissed the priest's demands as groundless and refused to launch a criminal investigation into these threats.
Molari also advocated the interests of Russian national Rimma Salonen, criticized the Pro Karelia anti-Russian organization, which demands a review of the post-World War II border and the return of Karelia's territory to Finland, as well as protested against the public demonstration of the Soviet Stori anti-Russian film in Finland organized by Pro Karelia.
In April, the Human Rights Center of the World Russian People's Assembly called on Molari to convert to the Orthodox faith.
"Orthodox people really need such brave people like you today," it said.
I Chose the Russian Orthodox Church
Juha Molari's blog can be read here.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The Archangel Michael Panormitis, apart from the countless confirmed miracles that he has done and is doing for hundreds of years in this Holy Monastery of Symi, performs (as we shall see below) a timeless (over the centuries), while globally unique, miracle for those who are believers in various parts of the world and are unable to bring themselves to the monastery.
The monastery is located in the southern tip of the island and is built on the beautiful bay of Panormos, which even from the first Christian centuries was one of the central locations of devotion to the Angels. Todays holy church (in which rules the miraculous icon of the Archangel Michael) was built in 1783, and the iconography was done in 1792 by two indigenous painters, the monks Neophytos and Kyriakos Karakosti. Lastly, above the main gate of the monastery is the famous Belfry of Panormitis (built in 1911), which resembles Russian Bell Towers.
So the great and timeless miracle mentioned above has happened and is happening to anyone with true faith in the only true God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He who is unable at present to visit the monastery, can in a small bottle, either from bottled water or juice (preferably plastic, to be more resistant), place incense, a paper with a list of names of whoever one wants prayers for under "For the Health of the Living" and "For the Repose", and a piece of paper with the name, address and telephone number of the sender. It may also include a letter to the monastery, on any matter of concern which the petitioner would like to become a matter of prayer in the holy monastery.
Having placed all these offerings to the Archangel and closed the bottle, the petitioner can, either from a port or a ship found in the open waters, throw the bottle into the sea, after praying to the Archangel Michael Panormitis and asking him to lead it himself to the Monastery of Symi.
The Panormitis will receive the bottle with the offerings contained within and it will eventually reach Symi in the bay of the Monastery, or otherwise become entangled in fishing nets off the island. In every case, however, the final destination will be to land intact in the hands of the people of the monastery, who in turn (as confirmation of the miracle, "to the glory to God") will send back a thank-you letter to the faithful who sent it, thanking him for the offerings.
In the holy monastery are kept till our day offerings, which traveled alone for the Panormitis from around the world (for example from Australia) and from different eras.
In the old days, the faithful sent in the way mentioned above their offerings in glass bottles, and even boxes!
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
Read also: Holy Panormitis Monastery of the Archangel Michael in Symi