Tuesday, July 3, 2012
We all know St Valentine’s Day, the festival of love. But how many people know that in Crete the day of love comes many months later, on 3 July, the feast of St Hyacinth, known here as Agios Yakinthos?
The day of Agios Yakinthos is not particularly promoted. What lover has given or received a gift, from a flower to a solitaire, on 3 July? Indeed, few people knew that there was a patron saint of lovers called Yakinthos until the late 1990s.
Agios Yakinthos is the Orthodox St Valentine. The patron saint of love, youth and loving couples, his feast-day, according to the Orthodox Church, is on July 3.
Agios Yakinthos became widely known in Crete in 1998 when the composer and singer "Loudovikos ton Anoyion" (Loudovikos of Anogia), founded the not-for-profit company “Agios Yakinthos” along with the inhabitants of the mountain village of Anogia, and persuaded Anthimos, the Metropolitan Bishop of Rethymnon, to build a small church in honour of Agios Yakinthos on Mount Psiloritis. The proposal was accepted by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the church was soon built.
The small, stone-built church was designed by architect Stavros Vidalis in the style of a traditional Cretan “mitato”, the round shepherds’ hut used in the mountains of Crete.
It is set at an altitude of 1200 m. on Psiloritis, the highest mountain of Crete in the centre of the island, in the Fourni area 12 km from Anogia. The surroundings have all the beauty of the Cretan mountains: a rough landscape of rocks and stones, with trees whose trunks are knotted by time, dotted with a few stone mitata.
Yakinthia festival in Anogias
On the feast-day of Agios Yakinthos on 3 July, various cultural events are held in Anogia each year. These are the “Yakinthia”, which are gradually becoming better known.
Agios Yakinthos was originally celebrated not in order to replace the imported St Valentine, but to form the opposite pole to the completely commercialised day of love.
One of the founders of the Yakinthia, the Anogian songster Loudovikos ton Anogion (PHOTO), says:
“...Agios Yakinthos as an ideology can be expressed in three words: the Saint of emotions, remembrance and expectation.
That’s why I tell them, when you go to Agios Yakinthos, light two candles, one to remembrance and one to expectation.
In this place of prayer I am bound, on the one hand, to remember a great love I have lost, but I can also, on the other hand, pray to be visited by the emotion again.
So Agios Yakinthos is not the Saint of Love, but the Saint of remembered and hoped-for emotions.”
Churches dedicated to Agios Yakinthos in Greece
Agios Yakinthos in Anogia is not the only church in Greece dedicated to this Orthodox saint of love:
Near Patras there is a Church of Agios Yakinthos at the 116 Fighter Squadron in Araxos.
There is also a church at the skiing centre of Kalavryta, and another on Mykonos, in the Panormos area, in a holiday resort of traditional houses.
PHOTO: The sign that points to Agios Yakinthos church on Mt Ida near Anogia in Crete
The Life of Agios Yakinthos
Agios Yakinthos (St Hyacinth) was born in Caesaria in Cappadocia in 98 AD. The ruler of the mighty Roman Empire was Trajan, who fought against the spread of Christianity. Yakinthos worked in Trajan’s service as a cubicularius or chamberlain.
When Trajan unleashed his persecution of the Christians, Yakinthos gathered up the courage to reveal to his lord and master that he had embraced the Christian faith. This was to cost him dearly. Trajan considered this a monstrous ingratitude by his hitherto trusted servant Yakinthos, and had him imprisoned.
Yakinthos would be released if he ate idol meat, i.e. meat which had been offered in sacrifice to an idol - in other words if he renounced Christianity. Yakinthos withstood 40 days in prison without food, until on the 41st he departed this life as a Christian martyr, at just 20 years of age.
The saint’s life does not seem to have any direct connection to love or lovers. But let us not forget that the young Yakinthos was martyred for his great love of Christ, “divine love” as it is described in religious writings.
The calendar of the Orthodox Church includes another St Hyacinth, who is honoured on 18 July. This Hyacinth was born in Amastris on the Black Sea, to devout Christian parents. His faith was so great that he is said to have performed his first miracle at the age of three, when he resurrected a little child. His end, however, was a tragic one and he is honoured as a martyr. One day he uprooted a tree which he saw being worshipped. The local lord, Castrinsius, had him punished for this sacrilege. He was beaten mercilessly and his teeth were pulled out before he was dragged outside the city with ropes and pierced with sharp canes. In the end he was thrown in prison, where he died.
Hyacinth in Greek mythology
Ancient Greek mythology tells of Hyacinthus or Hyacinth, a young and handsome prince of Sparta who lost his life due to the jealousy of his friends.
Legend has it that Hyacinth’s friendship was contested by Apollo, god of fire and music, and Zephyr, god of the West Wind.
One day when Hyacinth was throwing the discus with Apollo, Zephyr became jealous because he preferred Apollo’s company, and made the west winds blow the discus back at Hyacinth, striking and killing him.
From the blood of the young man sprang a beautiful flower, the hyacinth.
Agios Yakinthos, an unpublished song by Alkinoos Ioannidis
Agios Yakinthos wakes at noon
He takes Crete in his wings, love in his arms
Goes down the mountain along the path
As soon as the sun sees him, it smiles and sets.
Agios Yakinthos opens windows
He brings breasts and bodies together and builds the bridges
To make people fall in love and grace the world
To make basil, oregano and spearmint flower.
Agios Yakinthos wakes on Psiloritis
If only he could come and pass by your house too
To bring you and tell you his Holy Love
So that you’d wake at once and come near him.
Ο Άγιος Υάκινθος ξυπνάει τα μεσημέρια
Παίρνει την Κρήτη στα φτερά, τον έρωτα στα χέρια
Κατηφορίζει το βουνό, το μονοπάτι παίρνει
Κι ο ήλιος μόλις τον κοιτά χαμογελά και γέρνει
Ο Άγιος Υάκινθος ανοίγει παραθύρια
Σμίγει τα στήθια, τα κορμιά, και χτίζει τα γιοφύρια
Ν' αγαπηθούν οι άνθρωποι, να ομορφύνει ο κόσμος
Ν' ανθίσει ο βασιλικός, η ρίγανη, κι ο δυόσμος
Ο Άγιος Υάκινθος ξυπνάει στον Ψηλορείτη
Να 'ρχότανε να πέρναγε κι απ' το δικό σου σπίτι
Να σου 'φερνε, να σου 'λεγε τον άγιο έρωτά του
Να ξύπναγες απ'την αρχή, να 'ρχόσουνα κοντά του
On Holy Thursday of 2012 a symbolic crown of thorns decorated with flowers was placed on the Cross of the crucified Lord, at the Holy Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, located at the western foot of Mount Hymettus. As is common, the decorated crown over time became dry and died. However, after it had dried up and died, it suddenly came back to life, and is now blooming!
Fr. Evangelos Pitsoulakis, who celebrates the Divine Liturgy every Sunday at this female convent, is astonished. He says: "The crown of thorns for over three months was all dried up and ready to fall. It was a dead organism, and yet, a few days ago several small leaves and red flowers began to bud. I was shocked when I saw it. Those who do not believe in Christ and miracles, please come and take a look."
It should be noted that Abbess Christonymphi Spyropoulou prefers that this miracle not get too much attention in the media and that it remain an internal miracle for the monastics.
When asked if the Monastery had any previous miraculous phenomena, Fr. Evangelos responded: "I know very well that previously there existed in the Monastery a small icon of the Panagia which wept and gave off myrrh. I remember this icon. A nun who left the Monastery took the icon with her."
Is there a scientific explanation for this phenomenon? Can a dried up twig that is not watered and is dead, revive after being inside for three months? Mr. Sofianides, an agronomist, was asked, and emphatically stated that this was impossible. "There is no possible case in which a dry plant can bloom again alone."
It is hoped that this miracle will offer solace, hope and optimism that Christ is a living reality.
As for the Monastery, it is built on the ruins of an ancient Greek Temple dedicated to Artemis and later was an early Christian Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The main church of the present dates to the 11th or 12th century. Tradition says that St. Basil the Great would come here to study while he received his education in Athens. It has been an active female convent since 1971.
More than 750 food parcels are distributed each month to 260 large families from the Archdiocese of Athens, through the non-governmental charity organization "Apostoli". The program includes distribution of food parcels to be given on a monthly basis throughout the year.
In a meeting with Archbishop Ieronymos, the President of the Association of Large Families of Athens Mr. Vasilios Theotokatou and its Director Mr. Paul Charalambos were able to inform about the shortcomings of many children and their needs. The Archbishop stated: "We need to support large families."
The Archbishop stressed the need for support of large families and praised the effort of "Apostoli" to take on the needs of food distribution to large families. "The Church is in the arms of large families and we are proud when there are families like these that give the example. They also represent a jewel that adorns the institution of the family. In difficult conditions large families have needs and obligations which make it impossible to cope. Thanks to "Apostoli" there will be real help and relief for these people, and especially children, that need to grow in a balanced, healthy family environment, living without basic deficiencies."
Mr. Dimtsas in his statements said that "there is no doubt that large families are the sensitive part of our society that needs substantial assistance and support. It is the example for everyone who wants to create a family, that children are the inexhaustible source of strength to draw hope and bring life... We are delighted that we will be helpers in the daily lives of these people."
Moving was the statement of the mother of many children, Mrs. Mary Bairamidi, who said: "We could not believe the crisis would hit the Greek family, but unfortunately it came and knocked on the door, and we have families who have difficulty with dignity to ask for help." The mother of the large family was in the Archdiocese with her eight children, and thanked His Beatitude for the initiative "Apostoli" and the "support to families with many children suffering from the economic crisis."
Monday, July 2, 2012
In 2004, in the city of Mulino in Oregon, an astonishing and wondrous event took place. It concerns a God-fearing woman of Russian descent, a member of the Church of the New Russian Martyrs, where Fr. Sergios Svesnikov served as a priest. In this parish are preserved as a treasure the epimanikia (clerical cuffs) of St. John.
This woman, who was in her last week of pregnancy (actually a short time before her due date), went for her last general appointment. During the appointment, they were shocked when the doctor diagnosed that the child was dead in the mother's womb. Immediately they told her that she would experience contractions and that she would give birth to a dead baby. She fainted and was mourning. When she came to her senses, they prepared to give her medicine to speed up contractions and induce labor. She told them to stop immediately, and asked them to call her priest, Fr. Sergius. When he learned what occurred, he told them to not do anything, but to wait.
A short time later he arrived at the hospital, bringing the epimanikia of St. John. Holding the epimanikia he signed her with the sign of the Cross on her womb, and to the great astonishment of all, the baby's heart began to beat again, as the portable ultrasound showed!
The child was born a short time later, alive and healthy, and was named John in honor of the Saint.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos
July 2, 2012
A monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman period (ca. 4th-5th centuries C.E.) has been discovered in archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee.
The excavations are being conducted by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and David Amit and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, under the sponsorship of UNC, Brigham Young University in Utah, Trinity University in Texas, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Toronto in Canada. Students and staff from UNC and the consortium schools are participating in the dig.
Huqoq is an ancient Jewish village located approximately two to three miles west of Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala). Thissecond season of excavations has revealed portions of a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of the synagogue building. The mosaic, which is made of tiny colored stone cubes of the highest quality, includes a scene depicting Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15). In another part of the mosaic, two human (apparently female) faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refersto rewards for those who performgood deeds.
“This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq),” said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the department of religious studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes. This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.”
Excavations are scheduled to continue in summer 2013.
The IAA has released three photos of the mosaic floor, but none of them show Samson or the fox tails. Amit describes the scene: the "mosaic contains a description of the biblical Samson and two pairs of foxes with a flaming torch connecting their tails." The story is recorded in Judges 15:3-5.
With sadness I was informed that Fr. Peter E. Gillquist departed this life at 9:20 p.m. last night, 1 July 2012, surrounded by family, after a long battle with melanoma.
I first met Fr. Peter when I was 17 years old in 1993, after having read his book Becoming Orthodox, which chronicles his conversion to Orthodoxy from a leader of the Campus Crusade for Christ Movement and Evangelicalism to Orthodox Christianity, together with about 2,000 other Evangelicals. He had come to Boston on a speaking tour sponsored by Orthodox Christian Fellowship, where he was going to give talks at the various universities and colleges of Boston about his conversion and discovery of the original New Testament Church. I was in high school at the time and not involved with the youth activities of the Church, such as GOYA and camps, but I did take my faith seriously and was known to only take part in things where the faith was similarly taken seriously. For this reason I was asked by the Boston Diocesan Youth department if I wanted to attend these lectures. I jumped at the opportunity.
Of the five university lectures, I attended three of them that week, at Harvard, Boston College and Boston University, and the students there received him with much interest and curiosity. I don't know if they ever went to the next level of embracing Orthodoxy, but when I would speak with Fr. Peter behind the scenes I was most impressed by his zeal to reach these young people, and the passion with which he would relate his path of discovering the Orthodox Church.
A few months prior I was asked by the Diocesan Youth Director to write a few short pieces for the newsletter of the Diocese about Orthodoxy, and I was told that Fr. Peter, at the end of his five-day speaking tour, had read what I wrote. The two he read were titled "How Does Holy Tradition Convey the Fullness of the Orthodox Faith" and "Feeling God's Presence In Our Everyday Lives". I was informed that he was highly impressed and wanted to speak with me about them. We had lunch at his last talk at St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Cambridge and he told me how much he enjoyed my writings and encouraged me to continue. I brought along my Orthodox Study Bible for him to sign it for me, and he graciously did, along with writing a verse from the New Testament, that he told me to go home and look up. Unfortunately my books at the moment are packed away, but if I remember correctly it was Philippians 1:27, which says:
"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you."
I found these words to be very encouraging at the time, as I was struggling in high school with the atheism being shoved down my throat by some of my teachers. I went to high school in Belmont, Massachusetts, which is very conservative upon first impressions, being a Mormon-based town (popularly known as the home town of Mitt Romney) which did not allow alcoholic drinks to be sold or any sort of big business or chains that took away from the family-centered environment. But my high school ironically was nothing short of, what I called, a communist day care center, where atheism was strongly encouraged and religious belief ridiculed, to the point where I even shortly embraced atheism. My re-conversion made me more serious about my faith and I was in rebellion to my high school, hardly ever attending classes and doing just enough to slip by and get my diploma. So to meet Fr. Peter during these times and receive his encouragement was a big deal to me.
A few years later I saw Fr. Peter again on the campus of Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology, where he was to give a lecture during Missions Week. As he walked by me I happily greeted him, but he looked at me not having a clue who I was. I thought it was funny and just went on my way, since he seemed busy at the time. But I remembered him, and that's the important thing.
Eternal be his memory!
At this link you can see a video about his conversion; at this link you can read an interview; and at this link you can hear Fr. Peter talk about his discovery of the New Testament Church.
Dr. Athanasios V. Avramidis, a Cardiologist and Professor of Pathology at the University of Athens, writes about a controversial "miracle" attributed to Sts. Kosmas and Damian, popularly known in the West as the "transplantation of the black leg".
He refers to a book written by the Bioethics Committee of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, chaired by the now Metropolitan Nicholas Hatzinikolaou of Mesogaias and Lavreotiki, titled Church and Transplantation, which has a cover of an icon of Sts. Kosmas and Damian transplanting the leg of a black man onto that of a white man.
As for which of the pair of Sts. Kosmas and Damian referred to, as there are three pairs known by the same name and identified as "Unmercenaries" (commemorated on October 17, November 1 and July 1), the pair associated with this miracle are the ones celebrated on July 1st and known as "the Romans".
According to Metropolitan Nicholas, in the section of his book titled "The Role of Medicine" (pp. 120-123), he writes: "Characteristically there are attributed to the Holy Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damian several daring operations, even the first transplant."
This supposed miracle of the black leg has its origins in the West and is said to have taken place after Pope Felix IV built a church dedicated to the Unmercenary Saints in Rome around 530 AD. This church had a guardian whose leg became cancerous or suffered from gangrene. One night in his sleep this guardian saw Sts. Kosmas and Damian holding ointments and discussing the surgery and where they would find a leg to replace his rotten one. They figured that an Ethiopian was buried that day at the Cemetery of Saint-Pierre-aux-Liens, so they would take that leg and replace it with his rotten one. When the guardian awoke, he noticed he had one black leg and his original white one, and he was cured. He immediately ran to the tomb of the Ethiopian to confirm it was his leg, and indeed the leg of the Ethiopian was missing.
There are a few other versions of the miracle, one that deals with a slave instead of a guardian and another that deals with a deacon name Justinien instead of the guardian, but the one above is most popular.
This miracle has captured the imagination of artists in the West, and over 1500 paintings depict this event in various churches and museums. The oldest painting dates back to 1270. Also, in the church built by Pope Felix the relics of the Unmercenary Saints lie, and above the relics is the depiction of this miracle. The relics of the Saints were brought to Rome from Constantinople in the 6th century.
The depiction of the miracle of the black leg has recently become popular in Orthodox iconography as well, based on the Western depictions. One example of many can be found in the Church of Sts. Kosmas and Damian in Boeria, Greece. And the miracle is often referred to in medical manuals dealing with the history of transplantation.
The Professor of Nuclear Physics at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Dr. K. Karakatsanis, recently issued a book titled "Brain Death" and Organ Transplants, from a medical and philosophical approach. In the book he addresses the issue of this miracle of the transplantation of the black leg. On pp. 192-193 he specifically mentions that this mircle is not found anywhere in any Orthodox sources of the lives of the Saints. At Simonopetra Monastery there is a handwritten text, Codex Vallicellianus F 16 (U de Deubner), MCD. 48 (an unpublished dissertation by the French physician Jean Nourry), which refers to this miracle. Variations of the miracle can also be found as old as the Legende Dorée of Jacques de Vorragine (14th century). What he conclusively found however was that all sources date well after the Great Schism and are only referenced to in Western sources, though the miracle supposedly took place around 800 years before the first reference.
Because of these facts, many have called the miracle of the black leg a myth that should not be used in historical textbooks dealing with transplantation and should not be depicted in the iconography of Orthodox churches. Whether a myth or not, caution should be used based on this evidence.
Dr. Athanasios V. Avramidis concludes that he believes in miracles, but does not find it inappropriate to disregard a miracle that has no proper historical foundation in the books of the lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. He understands and appreciates however those who choose to believe in this miracle, and leaves the matter in "God's hands".
Sunday, July 1, 2012
On the first Sunday of July the Orthodox Church celebrates the Synaxis of All Saints who shined brightly in Crete. Crete, throughout its history, has been blessed by God to have had many holy Christian personalities that were either born there or taught there.
Christianity in Crete begins with the arrival of the Apostle Titus, the first bishop of Crete ordained by St. Paul, together with the Apostle Paul, around 62 or 63 AD.
Elder Jospeh of Vatopaidi was born on July 1, 1921 in Cyprus and reposed in the Lord on July 1, 2009 at Vatopaidi Monastery on Mount Athos. His three year Memorial Service took place on June 30, 2012.
Documentary: "One Day in the Life of a Men's Monastery"
About: Chronicles one day in the life of a Men’s Monastery in Abkhazia.
Length: 26 min.
With the blessing of: The Chairman of the Council of the Holy Metropolitanate of Abkhazia Dorofei (Dbar) and the Father Superior of the Monastery of St. Simon the Zealot Hieromonk Andrei (Ampar)
Director: Sergei Yazvinskiy
Director of photography: Sergei Yazvinskiy, Vyacheslav Ivanov
Managers of the project: German Marshan, Tengiz Tarba.
On Tuesday 26 June 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He was met by the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, Abbot Isidore, and other monks, and was accompanied by Berl Lazar and Adolf Shayevich, the chief rabbies of Russia according to Russia's two leading Jewish organizations.
Putin attended an early morning vigil at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Patriarch told President Putin, "Христос воскрес!", which means, "Christ is Risen!" The Russian President answered back, "Воистину воскрес!", which means, "Truly he has risen!" Putin knelt and prayed at the Anointing Stone and visited the site where Jesus Christ was buried and rose from the dead. He also visited Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion, as well as the Western Wall in the Old Town - a key place of pilgrimage and prayer in Judaism.
Putin attended an early morning vigil at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Patriarch told President Putin, "Христос воскрес!", which means, "Christ is Risen!" The Russian President answered back, "Воистину воскрес!", which means, "Truly he has risen!" Putin knelt and prayed at the Anointing Stone and visited the site where Jesus Christ was buried and rose from the dead. He also visited Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion, as well as the Western Wall in the Old Town - a key place of pilgrimage and prayer in Judaism.
Read about the consecration at this link: Cathedral of the Resurrection in Tirana Consecrated
Saturday, June 30, 2012
By St. Cyril of Alexandria
"And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve, whom He also named apostles." (Lk 6: 13)
Choosing the Twelve Apostles
Our Lord Jesus Christ spent the night in prayer, conversing with His Father and God in heaven in a way indescribable and beyond our powers of understanding, a way which is solely known to Himself. He thus makes Himself an example to us of that which is necessary for salvation, for He taught us in what way we too may rightly and blamelessly offer our prayers. He then came down from the mountain, and appointed those who were to be the world’s teachers, according to the words He spoke, "You are the light of the world." (Matt. 5: 14) Of this appointment of the holy Apostles, the blessed David also makes mention addressing himself, as it were to Christ, "You shall make them princes in all the earth; I will make Your name to be remembered in every generation." (Ps. 45:16) For truly, while they were in the body, they make mention of the glory of Christ, telling His mystery both in cities and villages. Now that they have been called to the mansions that are above, they still converse with us about Him, by the most wise history which they have written concerning Him.
Gifts given to the Apostles
Indeed, those who were appointed priests according to the law of Moses, even Aaron and his company, were made beautiful to the senses by vestments suitable to their priestly dignity. But the divine disciples, being adorned with spiritual gifts, had entrusted to them the ministry of the Gospel oracles. For it was said to them, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons." (Matt. 10:8) Being thus invested with Christ’s power, they filled the whole world with astonishment. But notice the extreme moderation of the Evangelist. He does not simply say that the holy Apostles were appointed, but rather, by introducing the record of these chief ones each by name, takes care that no one should venture to enroll himself in the company of those that were chosen. For as Paul said, "No man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God." (Heb. 5: 4) Though the holy Apostles were called by name to this great and splendid dignity, yet from time to time, some men have gone to such a pitch of madness and audacity, as even to name themselves Apostles of Christ, and to seize an honor not granted unto them. Of these the divine disciples made mention, for they said, "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder; for Satan even transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness." (2 Cor. 11: 13-14) However, we neither acknowledge nor will receive any one, except those only so named in the Evangelic writings, and also the one who was appointed after them, the most wise Paul. The Savior Himself bore witness to him saying, "He is a vessel of Mine, to bear My name before all the gentiles." (Acts 9: 15)
Symbols of the Holy Apostles
The law pointed them out before in type, and the prophets also proclaimed them. As for instance, it is written in the Mosaic record, "And you shall take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes with it; and you shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial." (Lev. 24: 5-6) Who else can be the bread that came down form heaven and gives life to the world, except Christ, the Savior of the universe? In a similar manner the blessed disciples also are named loaves. Having been made partakers of Him, Who nourishes us unto life eternal, they also nourish by their own writings those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. As the Savior is the true light, He also called His disciples, "You are the light of the world."(Matt. 5: 14) Also being Himself the bread of life, He has bestowed upon His disciples to be ranked as loaves. Please, observe the marvelous art of the law: for you shall put, it says, upon the loaves of frankincense and salt. Now the frankincense is the symbol of a sweet odor; and the salt that of understanding and good sense. Both of them existed in the highest degree in the holy Apostles. Their life was one of a sweet savor, as they also said, "For we are to God the fragrance of Christ." (2 Cor. 2: 15) More over, they were also full of understanding, so that the prophet David sang of them in the Psalms, "There is Benjamin, their leader, the princes of Judah and their company, the princes of Zebulun and the princes of Naphtali." (Ps.68: 27) The blessed disciples were chosen out of almost every tribe of Israel, and were the bearers of light to the world, holding up the word of life. Indeed, the wonder is that the sages of the Greeks possessed eloquent speech, and an admirable beauty of language, but the disciples of our Savior were mere artificers (skilled craftsmen), boatmen, and fishermen, having no boast of words and no fluency of picked phrases. In expression they were indeed simple men, but rich in knowledge. The literature of the Greeks, with it eloquent phrases, is silent, while the power of the Evangelic preaching has possession of the world. God also make mention of them by the voice of Jeremiah, say of the enemy of all, Satan, "Woe to him who increases. What is not his-how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges? Will not you creditors rise up suddenly? Will they not awaken who oppress you? And you will become their booty." (Hab. 2: 6-7) Satan gathered unto him all the inhabitants of the earth, though they were not his, and had caused them to be his worshippers, making his collar heavy. But those who were to plunder his goods woke up; for the net of the apostolic teaching caught all those that were in error, and brought back unto God the whole world.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
"For such is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men" (1 Peter 2:15).
Brethren, it is difficult to argue with an atheist; it is difficult to talk with an unreasonable man; it is difficult to convince an embittered man.
It is difficult to convince the atheist, the unreasonable man and the embittered man with words. You will convince them easier by deeds. "They may through observing you by reason of your good works glorify God" (1 Peter 2:12).
Do good deeds to those who wish to argue with you and you will win the argument. One deed of compassion will bring the unreasonable man to his senses and will pacify the embittered man quicker than many hours of conversation.
If atheism, unreasonableness and bitterness stem from ignorance, that ignorance is as a fury, which can quickly be restrained by good works. If you argue with an atheist in his own rabid manner, you strengthen the fury of atheism. If you converse with the unreasonable by derision, the darkness of unreasonableness is increased. If you think you will overcome the embittered man with anger, you will stir up a greater fire of bitterness. A meek and good deed is like water over a fire.
Always remember the holy apostles and their successful methods of behavior with men. If an atheist provokes you, the man does not provoke you but the devil provokes you: man by nature is religious. If the unreasonable man scolds you, the man does not scold you but the devil scolds you: man by nature is reasonable. If the embittered one persecutes you, then it is not the man who persecutes you but the devil who persecutes you: for man by nature is good. The devil provokes you to lengthy arguments and unfruitful conversations and flees from good deeds. Do good work in the Name of Christ and the devil will flee and only then will you have dealings with men, with true men; religious, reasonable and good men. Therefore whatever you do, do in the Name of the Lord.
O All-Good Lord, help us to do good and by good to conquer in Your Name. To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
Friday, June 29, 2012
The divinely-blessed Peter was from Bethsaida of Galilee. He was the son of Jonas and the brother of Andrew the First-called. He was a fisherman by trade, unlearned and poor, and was called Simon; later he was renamed Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who looked at him and said, "Thou art Simon the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)" (John 1:42). On being raised by the Lord to the dignity of an Apostle and becoming inseparable from Him as His zealous disciple, he followed Him from the beginning of His preaching of salvation up until the very Passion, when, in the court of Caiaphas the high priest, he denied Him thrice because of his fear of the Jews and of the danger at hand. But again, after many bitter tears, he received complete forgiveness of his transgression. After the Resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, he preached in Judea, Antioch, and certain parts of Asia, and finally came to Rome, where he was crucified upside down by Nero, and thus he ascended to the eternal habitations about the year 66 or 68, leaving two Catholic (General) Epistles to the Church of Christ.
Paul, the chosen vessel of Christ, the glory of the Church, the Apostle of the Nations and teacher of the whole world, was a Jew by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, having Tarsus as his homeland. He was a Roman citizen, fluent in the Greek language, an expert in knowledge of the Law, a Pharisee, born of a Pharisee, and a disciple of Gamaliel, a Pharisee and notable teacher of the Law in Jerusalem. For this cause, from the beginning, Paul was a most fervent zealot for the traditions of the Jews and a great persecutor of the Church of Christ; at that time, his name was Saul (Acts 22:3-4). In his great passion of rage and fury against the disciples of the Lord, he went to Damascus bearing letters of introduction from the high priest. His intention was to bring the disciples of Christ back to Jerusalem in bonds. As he was approaching Damascus, about midday there suddenly shone upon him a light from Heaven. Falling on the earth, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And he asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And that heavenly voice and brilliance made him tremble, and he was blinded for a time. He was led by the hand into the city, and on account of a divine revelation to the Apostle Ananias (see Oct. 1), he was baptized by him, and both his bodily and spiritual eyes were opened to the knowledge of the Sun of Righteousness. And straightway- O wondrous transformation! - beyond all expectation, he spoke with boldness in the synagogues, proclaiming that "Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 9:1-21). As for his zeal in preaching the Gospel after these things had come to pass, as for his unabating labors and afflictions of diverse kinds, the wounds, the prisons, the bonds, the beatings, the stonings, the shipwrecks, the journeys, the perils on land, on sea, in cities, in wildernesses, the continual vigils, the daily fasting, the hunger, the thirst, the nakedness, and all those other things that he endured for the Name of Christ, and which he underwent before nations and kings and the Israelites, and above all, his care for all the churches, his fiery longing for the salvation of all, whereby he became all things to all men, that he might save them all if possible, and because of which, with his heart aflame, he continuously traveled throughout all parts, visiting them all, and like a bird of heaven flying from Asia and Europe, the West and East, neither staying nor abiding in any one place - all these things are related incident by incident in the Book of the Acts, and as he himself tells them in his Epistles. His Epistles, being fourteen in number, are explained in 250 homilies by the divine Chrysostom and make manifest the loftiness of his thoughts, the abundance of the revelations made to him, the wisdom given to him from God, wherewith he brings together in a wondrous manner the Old with the New Testaments, and expounds the mysteries thereof which had been concealed under types; he confirms the doctrines of the Faith, expounds the ethical teaching of the Gospel, and demonstrates with exactness the duties incumbent upon every rank, age, and order of man. In all these things his teaching proved to be a spiritual trumpet, and his speech was seen to be more radiant than the sun, and by these means he clearly sounded forth the word of truth and illumined the ends of the world. Having completed the work of his ministry, he likewise ended his life in martyrdom when he was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, at the same time, some say, when Peter was crucified.
Saint Gregory Palamas' Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
Blessed Augustine's Sermon on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
Saint Leo the Great on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul
St. Nikolai Velimirovich on The Holy Foremost Apostles Peter and Paul
4th Century Icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul Discovered
The Apostle Peter, A Greater Philosopher Than Plato
The Apostle Peter and the Noetic Mount Tabor
The Primacy of Rome and the Apostle Paul
An Introduction to the Epistles of the Apostle Paul
The Shrine of the Apostle Paul In Samothrace
The Apostle Paul On the Island of Lesvos (Mytilene)
Great Vespers Where St. Paul Preached to the Athenians
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
First in prominence among the Apostles, and teachers to the Universe, intercede to the Master of all for peace in the world and for our souls great mercy.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
O Lord, receive unto the enjoyment of Your good things and Your rest, the steadfast preachers of Godly words, the pinnacle of Your Disciples. Receive their pain and death above every sacrifice, for You alone know the hearts of men.
From the Synaxarion, by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Brookline, MA).
By St. John Chrysostom
As I keep hearing the Epistles of the blessed Paul read, and that twice every week, and often three or four times, whenever we are celebrating the memorials of the holy martyrs, gladly do I enjoy the spiritual trumpet, and get roused and warmed with desire at recognizing the voice so dear to me, and seem to fancy him all but present to my sight, and behold him conversing with me.
But I grieve and am pained, that all people do not know this man, as much as they ought to know him; but some are so far ignorant of him, as not even to know for certainty the number of his Epistles. And this comes not of incapacity, but of their not having the wish to be continually conversing with this blessed man. For it is not through any natural readiness and sharpness of wit that even I am acquainted with as much as I do know, if I do know anything, but owing to a continual cleaving to the man, and an earnest affection towards him.
For, what belongs to men beloved, they who love them know above all others; because they are interested in them. And this also this blessed Apostle shows in what he said to the Philippians; "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel" (Phil. 1:7). And so ye also, if ye be willing to apply to the reading of him with a ready mind, will need no other aid. For the word of Christ is true which saith, "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 8:7).
But since the greater part of those who here gather themselves to us, have taken upon themselves the bringing up of children, and the care of a wife, and the charge of a family, and for this cause cannot afford to all events aroused to receive those things which have been brought together by others, and bestow as much attention upon the hearing of what is said as ye give to the gathering together of goods. For although it is unseemly to demand only so much of you, yet still one must be content if ye give as much. For from this it is that our countless evils have arisen -- from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this that there are negligent lives; from this labors without advantage. For as men deprived of this daylight would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must needs be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking the worst darkness.
And that this fall not be, let us hold our eyes open to the bright shining of the Apostle's words; for this man's tongue shone forth above the sun, and be abounded more than all the rest in the word of doctrine; for since he labored more abundantly than they, he also drew upon himself a large measure of the Spirit's grace (I Cor. 15:10). And this I constantly affirm, not only from his Epistles, but also from the Acts. For if there were anywhere a season for oratory, to him men everywhere gave place. Wherefore also he was thought by the unbelievers to be Mercurius, because he took the lead in speech (Acts 14:12). And as we are going to enter fully into this Epistle, it is necessary to give the date also at which it was written. For it is not, as most think, before all the others, but before all that were written from Rome, yet subsequent to the rest, though not to all of them. For both those to the Corinthians were sent before this: and this is plain from what he wrote at the end of this, saying as follows: "But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints: for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem" (Rom. 15:25, 26). For in writing to the Corinthians he says: "If it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me" (1 Cor. 16:4); meaning this about those who were to carry the money from thence. Whence it is plain, that when he wrote to the Corinthians, the matter of this journey of his was in doubt, but when to the Romans, it stood now a derided thing. And this being allowed, the other point is plain, that this Epistle was after those. But that to the Thessalonians also seems to me to be before the Epistle to the Corinthians: for having written to them before, and having moved the question of alms to them, when he said, "But regarding brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren" (I Thess. 4:9, 10): then he wrote to the Corinthians. And this very point he makes plain in the words, "For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago, and your zeal hath provoked very many" (2 Cor. 9:2): whence he shows that they were the first he had spoken to about this. This Epistle then is later than those, but prior to those from Rome; for he had not as yet set foot in the city of the Romans when he wrote this Epistle, and this he shows by saying, "For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift" (Rom. 1:2). But it was from Rome he wrote to the Philipians; wherefore he says, "All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Cæsar's household" (Phil. 4:22): and to the Hebrews from thence likewise, wherefore also he says, "all they of Italy salute them" (Heb. 13:24). And the Epistle to Timothy he sent also from Rome, when in prison; which also seems to me to be the last of all the Epistles; and this is plain from the end: "For I am now ready to be offered," he says, "and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim. 4:6). But that he ended his life there, is clear, I may say, to every one. And that to Philemon is also very late, (for he wrote it in extreme old age, wherefore also he said, "as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner in Christ Jesus") (Philem. 9), yet previous to that to the Colossians. And this again is plain from the end. For in writing to the Colossians, he says, "All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, whom I have sent with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother" (Col. 4:7). For this was that Onesimus in whose behalf he composed the Epistle to Philemon. And that this was no other of the same name with him, is plain from the mention of Archippus. For it is he whom he had taken as worker together with himself in the Epistle to Philemon, when he besought him for Onesimus, whom when writing to the Colossians he stirreth up, saying, "Say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received, that thou fulfil it'" (Col. 4:17). And that to the Galatians seems to me to be before that to the Romans.
But if they have a different order in the Bibles, that is nothing wonderful, since the twelve Prophets, though not exceeding one another in order of time, but standing at great intervals from one another, are in the arrangement of the Bible placed in succession. Thus Haggai and Zachariah and the Messenger prophesied after Ezekiel and Daniel, and long after Jonah and Zephaniah and all the rest. Yet they are nevertheless joined with all those from whom they stand so far off in time.
But let no one consider this an undertaking beside the purpose, nor a search of this kind a piece of superfluous curiosity; for the date of the Epistles contributes no little to what we are looking after. For when I see him writing to the Romans and to the Colossians about the same subjects, and yet not in a like way about the same subjects; but to the former with much condescension, as when he says, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations; for one believeth that he may eat all things, another, herbs" (Rom. 14:1, 2): who is weak, eateth weak. But to the Colossians he does not write in this way, though about the same things, but with greater boldness of speech: "Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ," he says, "why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not, taste not, handle not), which all are to perish with the using, not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh" (Col. 2:20-23); -- I find no other reason for this difference than the time of the transaction. For at the first it was needful to be condescending, but afterwards it became no more so. And in many other places one may find him doing this. Thus both the physician and the teacher are used to do. For neither does the physician treat alike his patients in the first stage of their disorder, and when they have come to the point of having health thenceforth, nor the teacher those children who are beginning to learn and those who want more advanced subjects of instruction.
Now to the rest he was moved to write by some particular cause and subject, and this he shows, as when he says to the Corinthians, "Touching those things whereof ye wrote unto me" (1 Cor. 7:1). And to the Galatians too from the very commencement of the whole Epistle writes so as to indicate the same thing; but to these for what purpose and wherefore does he write? For one finds him bearing testimony to them that they are "full of goodness, being filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish others" (Rom. 15:14). Why then does he write to them? "Because of the grace of God," he says, "which is given unto me, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ" (ib. 15, 16). Wherefore also he says in the beginning: "I am a debtor; as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also; for what is said -- as that they are able to exhort others also" (Rom. 1:14, 15), -- and the like, rather belongs to encomium and encouragement: and the correction afforded by means of a letter, was needful even for these; for since he had not yet been present, he bringeth the men to good order in two ways, both by the profitableness of his letter and by the expectation of his presence.
For such was that holy soul, it comprised the whole world and carried about all men in itself thinking the nearest relationship to be that in God. And he loved them so, as if he had begotten them all, or rather showed a greater instinctive affection than any father; for such is the grace of the Spirit, it exceedeth the pangs of the flesh, and displays a more ardent longing than theirs. And this one may see specially in the soul of Paul, who having as it were become winged through love, went continually round to all, abiding nowhere nor standing still. For since he had heard Christ saying, "Peter, lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep" (John 21:15); and setting forth this as the greatest test of love, he displayed it in a very high degree.
Let us too then, in imitation of him, each one bring into order, if not the world, or not entire cities and nations, yet at all events his own house, his wife, his children, his friends, his neighbors. And let no one say to me, "I am unskilled and unlearned." Nothing were less instructed than Peter, nothing more rude than Paul, and this himself confessed, and was not ashamed to say, "though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge" (2 Cor. 11:6). Yet nevertheless this rude one, and that unlearned man, overcame countless philosophers, stopped the mouths of countless orators, and did all by heir own ready mind and the grace of God. What excuse then shall we have, if we are not equal to twenty names, and are not even of service to them that live with us? This is but a pretence and an excuse -- for it is not want of learning or of instruction which hindereth our teaching, but drowsiness and sleep (Acts 1:15; 2:41). Let us then having shaken off this sleep with all diligence cleave to our own members, that we may even here enjoy much calm, by ordering in the fear of God them that are akin to us, and hereafter may partake of countless blessings through the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ towards man, through Whom, and with Whom, be glory to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, now, and evermore, and to all ages. Amen.
By St. John Chrysostom
Why then, it is asked, did not Christ exercise His influence upon Plato, and upon Pythagoras? Because the mind of Peter was much more philosophical than their minds. They were in truth children shifted about on all sides by vain glory; but this man was a philosopher, one apt to receive grace.
If you laugh at these words, it is no wonder; for those aforetime laughed, and said, the men were full of new wine [Acts 2:13]. But afterwards, when they suffered those bitter calamities, exceeding all others in misery; when they saw their city falling in ruins, and the fire blazing, and the walls hurled to the ground, and those manifold frantic horrors, which no one can find words to express, they did not laugh then.1 And you will laugh then, if you have the mind to laugh, when the time of hell is close at hand, when the fire is kindled for your souls.
But why do I speak of the future? Shall I show you what Peter is, and what Plato, the philosopher? Let us for the present examine their respective habits, let us see what were the pursuits of each. The one wasted his time about a set of idle and useless dogmas and philosophies, as he says, that we may learn that the soul of our philosopher becomes a fly. Most truly said, a fly! Not indeed changed into one, but a fly must have entered upon possession of the soul which dwelt in Plato; for what but a fly is worthy of such ideas! The man was full of irony, and of jealous feelings against every one else, as if he made it his ambition to introduce nothing useful, either out of his own head or other people's. Thus he adopted the metempsychosis from another, and from himself produced The Republic, in which he enacted those laws full of gross turpitude. Let the women, he says, be in common, and let the virgins go naked, and let them wrestle before the eyes of their lovers, and let there also be common fathers, and let the children begotten be common. But with us, not nature makes common fathers, but the philosophy of Peter does this; as for that other, it made away with all paternity. For Plato's system only tended to make the real father next to unknown, while the false one was introduced. It plunged the soul into a kind of intoxication and filthy wallowing. Let all, he says, have intercourse with the women without fear. The reason why I do not examine the maxims of poets, is, that I may not be charged with ripping up fables. And yet I am speaking of fables much more ridiculous than even those. Where have the poets devised anything so portentous as this?
But (not to enter into the discussion of his other maxims), what say you to these — when he equips the females with arms, and helmets, and greaves, and says that the human race has no occasion to differ from the canine! Since dogs, he says, the female and the male, do just the same things in common, so let the women do the same works as the men, and let all be turned upside down. For the devil has always endeavored by their means to show that our race is not more honorable than that of brutes; and, in fact, some have gone to such a pitch of (κενοδοξίας) absurdity, as to affirm that the irrational creatures are endowed with reason. And see in how many various ways he has run riot in the minds of those men! For whereas their leading men affirmed that our soul passes into flies, and dogs, and brute creatures; those who came after them, being ashamed of this, fell into another kind of turpitude, and invested the brute creatures with all rational science, and made out that the creatures — which were called into existence on our account — are in all respects more honorable than we! They even attribute to them foreknowledge and piety. The crow, they say, knows God, and the raven likewise, and they possess gifts of prophecy, and foretell the future; there is justice among them, and polity, and laws.
Perhaps you do not credit the things I am telling you. And well may you not, nurtured as you have been with sound doctrine; since also, if a man were fed with this fare, he would never believe that there exists a human being who finds pleasure in eating dung. The dog also among them is jealous, according to Plato. But when we tell them that these things are fables, and are full of absurdity, "You do not enter (ἐ νοήσατε) into the higher meaning," say they. No, we do not enter into this your surpassing nonsense, and may we never do so: for it requires (of course! ) an excessively profound mind, to inform me, what all this impiety and confusion would be at. Are you talking, senseless men, in the language of crows, as the children are wont (in play)? For you are in very deed children, even as they.
But Peter never thought of saying any of these things: he uttered a voice, like a great light shining out in the dark, a voice which scattered the mist and darkness of the whole world. Again, his deportment, how gentle it was, how considerate (ἐ πιεικὲς); how far above all vainglory; how he looked towards heaven without all self-elation, and this, even when raising up the dead! But if it had come to be in the power of any one of those senseless people (in mere fantasy of course) to do anything like it, would he not straightway have looked for an altar and a temple to be reared to him, and have wanted to be equal with the gods? Since in fact when no such sign is forthcoming, they are forever indulging such fantastic conceits.
And what, pray you, is that Minerva of theirs, and Apollo, and Juno? They are different kinds of demons among them. And there is a king of theirs, who thinks fit to die for the mere purpose of being accounted equal with the gods. But not so the men here: no, just the contrary. Hear how they speak on the occasion of the lame man's cure. "You men of Israel, why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made him to walk?" [Acts 3:12]. "We also are men of like passions with you" [Acts 14:14]. But with those, great is the self-elation, great the bragging; all for the sake of men's honors, nothing for the pure love of truth and virtue (φιλοσοφίας ἔνεκεν). For where an action is done for glory, all is worthless. For though a man possess all, yet if he have not the mastery over this (lust), he forfeits all claim to true philosophy, he is in bondage to the more tyrannical and shameful passion. Contempt of glory; this it is that is sufficient to teach all that is good, and to banish from the soul every pernicious passion. I exhort you therefore to use the most strenuous endeavors to pluck out this passion by the very roots; by no other means can you have good esteem with God, and draw down upon you the benevolent regard of that Eye which never sleeps.
Wherefore, let us use all earnestness to obtain the enjoyment of that heavenly influence, and thus both escape the trial of present evils, and attain unto the future blessings, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and to all ages. Amen.
1. Refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.
From Homily 4 on the Acts of the Apostles
Thursday, June 28, 2012
His Eminence Meletios (Kalamaras), who was Metropolitan of Nikopolis and Preveza in Greece, passed from death to life on 21 June 2012 (see here). Metropolitan Meletios, who had lately faced several serious health issues, was 79.
His Eminence was born in 1933 in Alagonia, Kalamata, and was a graduate in theology and in classical literature-philosophy from the University of Athens. He was chosen and ordained Metropolitan of Nikopolis and Preveza in 1980, having been ordained both deacon and priest by the Metropolitan of Messenia, His Eminence Chrysostomos (Daskalakis).
Metropolitan Meletios was especially well known for his transformative work in the Metropolis of Messenia, which was captured in the book, Beauty for Ashes: The Spiritual Transformation of a Modern Greek Community, by Stephen R. Lloyd-Moffett (SVS Press, 2009).
The book covers the political history and religious character of the region of Nikopolis, from time of the Apostle Paul in AD 63 to the arrival of Bishop Meletios in 1980. With great sensitivity, the book deals with the issue of sexual misconduct within the church, the restoration of the local church to spiritual health, and the renewed trust between church leaders and the laity. The book recounts how Bishop Meletios, along with the local monastic community, applied his ancient faith in a modern context to bring about social and religious change.
His Eminence was also well known for his preaching in the Holy Metropolis of Messenia, and, in a broader ecclesial context, he served as secretary to the Holy Synod on matters of Interchurch Affairs. He himself authored several books, and he received an award from the Theological Academy of Athens for his book The Fifth Ecumenical Council.
Below is testimony in his own words of how he came to embrace Christianity:
By Metropolitan Meletios of Nikopolis
A. The Problem
1. When I was a teenager, I always wanted to be happy. I wanted to be the happiest person in the world! Still I wanted my life to have meaning! I looked for answers to the following questions:
• Who am I?
• Why was I born?
• Why am I live?
• Where is the path of my life leading me?
At the same time I always wanted to be free. Even the most free person in the world! For me freedom was not about doing whatever I wanted (this is something we can all do, and most people do this.) I wanted to have the strength to do what I was indebted to do. Because many people know what they have to do, but they do not have the strength to do it, that is, they do not have the strength of will to say no to irrational tendencies, which pushes them into "other things". For an addict knows how tragic is his situation. He wants to correct it. But an internal tendency makes him into a wreck! The same happens with various other passions of the "flesh".
2. What a terrible thing, for a young person to be totally free, to have a philosophy of absolute freedom, and ultimately determine that he is a slave - indeed, in chains!
B. The Crooked Path
1. So I started looking for an answer to this issue of internal freedom. And what do you say I found? I found that all (or almost all) those who had some inner freedom, also had some religiosity. So I had a big decision. I too took a similar step: I went to church! But I did not like it. There I found nothing to comfort my soul. Instead I felt very constricted!
I am a very practical man. So when I see something that does not suit me, I put a full stop! In the matter of "religion" I did something more. I not only put a full stop, but something more. I put on a cross (. - +)!
2. Then I thought that the most important thing is to succeed in life. To strive. To become famous. To become a leader....
At university I realized that the presidency of different years had many means, and played an important role in the lives of university students and its life. So I decided to be a candidate. I became president of the first year! I became an agent! Everyone knew me! I organized Speeches, Lectures, Games, Sit-ins, Strikes. I participated in meetings. And what was the benefit? After a while I began to get bored.
One Monday I awoke with a terrible headache. Sunday I had gone to bed too late. I thought: Five days on the treadmill! I'm waiting for Friday to come! Why was "pleasure" the three "free" nights: Friday, Saturday and Sunday! And "ptooey" from the beginning!
3. Until then all the young men thought of me as the "personification" of determination and joy! But things were not so. I knew that I was like a boat on the ocean waves. Circumstances, situations and emotions, not being in control of them at all, were taking me where they wanted. And my life was hell! And the worst? Then I did not know anyone who could give me beneficial words. And even if there was, his words would not benefit. They would not suffice! Because more than nice words I needed the strength (which is needed!) to put them into practice. And this strength I could not find anywhere.
In this situation, I began to think to myself:
"Is there a more honest man than me trying to find the right way, trying to find the truth?"
C. A New Finding
1. One time it caught my eye that in our university there is another "circle": Few students and two teachers. It was a "Christian circle." They stood out from the others. Because their members appeared to know: what they believe and why they believe it. They had peace. And consistency.
I decided to approach them. I was not bothered if they agreed with me. I learned to have "understanding." To calmly watch the beliefs of others. And to respect them. I was working in harmony and friendship with: leftists, anarchists, rightists and others.
2. But - as I said - this group was somewhat different. This forced me to work with them seriously. And what I found! What they said was more little than they needed. They spoke of nothing but love. They had love. And, unlike everyone else, they were not bothered by the circumstances. They did not victimize their authorities. They were not boats that were tossed by the waves. They looked as if they had a deep joy. Not coming from outside pleasant circumstances: games, fun, love, etc. They had the joy within. A deep joy. They were happy to an extent, which made me angry. They had something that I did not have.
May we all be jealous of what we do not have. In this way I was jealous of their inner joy. And I made the decision to join with them.
"I will have benefit!" I thought.
3. And after a few days, I was in their company. We were six students and two teachers. And the debate began. About God.
Until then, every time I heard talk about God, the yelling began. To show how I was somehow "smart". As you know in such cases, a "smart" person yells as hard as he can.
"Just think, my child! He is Christian! Ha-ha-ha ... And he runs behind the priests! ... Ha-ha-ha ... As an old lady! ... A young man! ... A student of the positive sciences! ..."
And it took a long time until I realized that the more one yells, the more empty-headed one is!
The debate did not attract my interest. I was devoted to looking at a beautiful girl, who was on their team. Until then I had the idea that Christians are all foul. I found that I had this wrong. And wanting to hide my thoughts, I began to squirm in my chair. And then I asked, as if desiring to have her words capture my interest wholeheartedly.
"You had the goodness to tell me what it was that brought the greatest influence on your life. Why is your life unlike other students and teachers?"
The female student which I spoke about, must have known what she believed. She looked at me in the eyes with a quiet seriousness and said only two words, which I did not expect to hear.
I replied somewhat angry:
"Oh, in the name of God! Let these things go! I'm sick of religion! I'm sick of the Church! I'm sickened of religious books! Because everything that is related to religion causes wilting! ..."
"But I was not talking about religion! I said: Jesus Christ! ..."
This distinction I had not heard!
And the girl went on:
"Christianity is not a religion. Religion is the attempt made by man to find the way to God. Christianity is not a religion! Christianity tells us to the opposite: Of the attempt God makes to find man."
I had not heard this before. The views circulating are tragically simple. And usually with its fixed-form simplistic simplifications we imagine they solve scientific problems!
Lastly I came to know a professor of the university, who said seriously:
"Everyone who goes to Church is a Christian!"
I could not hold it in, but said:
"According to this reasoning, every man who goes to the garage is a car! What does the physical presence of a person in church have with the Christian faith? A Christian is one who believes correctly in Christ!"
D. Great is the Truth!
1. Once, while in this circle, they instructed me to say a word about Christ. Namely: How did He become man? How was He crucified? Why was He crucified? How was He buried? How was He resurrected? And what can this offer a youth in the twentieth century?
I thought of all these things then as stupidities. I had the idea that people who were involved in these things were whacks, cretins. In student gatherings until then I lurked furiously to hear anyone say something about religion and Jesus Christ, to rush on him, to pulverize him, to dust him away! My opinion was: To be a Christian believer, one should not have a stone, nor a molecule of gray matter. But the time came and I realized that this was for me!
I tried to avoid it. "What business did I have in such matters?" I would say to myself. But I could not. The young people of the Christian circle would not let me! And so I took on the matter. But with a selfish attitude. With the thought: "I will dust them off! I will thunder at them! And then I will go!"
But things did not evolve that way.
2. When I set about the matter, I heard something mentioned about evidence, which I took to study, to appreciate their seriousness. Why would I risk becoming the laughingstock in their eyes, immediately after the young people would have made me dust! So I threw myself into the study of this "evidence" with the sole objective in warding it off. But I did not succeed. I concluded that the books used by believers give the most accurate picture of the person of Christ. This finding terribly impressed upon me.
I understood that the question of our relationship with Christ is the greatest issue of our lives. I sacrificed everything. And I paved my way to study. I read all kinds of atheistic and all kinds of Christian apologetic books that I could find. And my conclusion was always the same:
The truth is in the books of the Church. Christ is the one of Whom the Church says: our God and Savior.
3. And I became a Christian.
Source: From the book, What Is Christ? Translation by John Sanidopoulos.