Friday, August 31, 2012

Elder Germanos of Stavrovouni (+ 1982)


Elder Germanos was born in the Cypriot village Avgorou of the eparchy of Ammochostos (Famagusta) in 1906 of pious parents Nicholas and Margaret, of the Hatzigeorgi family. Reading the life of Saint John the Hut-Dweller when he was young, he was inspired to make the decision to follow the monastic life.

At age 16 he entered the Stavrovouni Monastery. He showed exemplary zeal and noteworthy obedience as a novice monastic. He received the prayer to wear the cassock at age 24 and from his original name George was renamed Monk Germanos. He was ordained a Deacon the following year. He was tonsured a monk of the Great Habit at age 29 and was ordained a Hieromonk (Priestmonk) at age 38.

The purity of his life, his proven prudence, and administrative abilities served as the main cause for his election to abbot in the year 1952, when the abbot till then, the ever-memorable Elder Dionysios II, reposed. As abbot he was the first to set an example: first in guilelessness, in forgiving, in meekness, in patience, in service, in diligence, in silence, in participating in the Sacred Services. He very diligently cultivated ceaseless prayer in his soul.

One of his chief virtues was conscientious obscurity. He avoided any projection of himself towards the outer world, but also towards the people around him. He strove to hide his virtues with every diligence; for this reason as a rule very few were able to recognize the invaluable treasure hidden beneath his plain appearance. His ceaseless prayer with tears, his angelic standing before the dreadful Altar of the Lord during the time of the Divine Liturgy, and the unique and unrepeatable example of his whole life gave forth a most wealthy spiritual fruitfulness, not only in his own Monastery, but also in the female Monasteries of Cyprus, which blossomed and were supported thanks mainly to his own struggles.


He was an excellent Confessor and Spiritual Father, and guided a multitude of people to repentance and to genuine spiritual conversion to the Lord. His whole life was a real living witness of the living Jesus.

His earthly life was sealed with a martyric end. On the afternoon of August 31, 1982, on the last day of the Ecclesiastical Year and a day dedicated par excellence to the Panagia, whom the venerable Elder exceedingly venerated, while he was returning from a hard day's work in the olive fields, driving the tractor of the Monastery, he fell into a steep valley, where he found, on his own and unaided, a martyric death. With the end of the Ecclesiastical year the blessed Elder reposed, a genuine ecclesiastical personality, whose life essentially was a constant sacrifice, a ceaseless service. Undoubtledly he was transposed to the Altar above, where the unending Liturgy is served. The monks, who looked for him persistently all that afternoon, finally found him the next day, dead and in a prayerful position, with his feet and hands crossed, this also being a visible sign of his spiritual work, even during those last painful moments of his martyric death, which like the pains of childbirth, introduced him to eternal life.

"Do you want to not sin? Always remember your death!" - Elder Germanos

8 Miracles of the Holy Belt of the Theotokos


The miracles referred to below have been selected from the Vatopaidi Monastery archives.

1. It’s difficult to have kids

Fr Theotimos comes from Congo. He studied theology in Greece. He wished to have kids so much but had a problem. He asked for the ribbon blessed on the Holy Belt. He describes the result.

12/3/1995

Methonis 23, Athens

The name of God-Man Christ must always be glorified and the name of the Panagia, the Mother of God must be honored.

We received the Holy Belt on March 1992. In May 1992 my wife became pregnant and we had a baby son weighing 2.900 gr. He was born with a caesarian section and we baptized him Marios, to honor the name of the Panagia. The doctors had previously verified that it would have been difficult for us to have children.

In April 1993 my wife was eight months pregnant and had a problem. She had to have another cesarean before the end of the gestation period. My wife wore the Holy Belt on her for two days before the operation. The baby, a girl, who was weighing only 1400 gr. was born having doubled her weight.

Fr. Theotimos and Evangelia Tsala.

2. The time we have longed for arrived

Athens

I would like to mention a miracle which took place to my wife, when she was wearing the Holy Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God, which a priest from your monastery had given us in August 1992, when I had visited the Holy Mountain.

But before I go into this, I would like to refer to another miracle which happened to both of us and made us completely change the way we live. Our life was definitely secular. We were knee deep into the sludge of lies and sin which our society provides in abundance. We had been walking a path which was supposedly leading us to happiness and joy but basically it was causing faction and finally eternal spiritual death.

The All Merciful God showed mercy on us. He gave us a present which we thought at first that it was unbearable. My wife had been diagnosed with compulsive neurosis. She was prescribed twelve pills a day to deal with depression, sadness and suicidal tendencies. She was having attacks and was crying all day. We visited many doctors, until we found our spiritual father, Fr E. Everything has changed since then. We turned towards the right path.

Even though my wife’s problem did not completely disappear, the psychiatrist, in cooperation with our spiritual father, advised us to have a child. However, because of my wife’s problem, it was difficult for her to become pregnant. We had been expecting help from above.

And now I am going to refer to the second miracle.

During our veneration of holy relics, the priest talked about the miracles that our Panagia performs on childless women with the blessed ribbons. All those who wore them and lived with repentance, become pregnant. Then I was fighting the thought to get one for us, but I was embarrassed. I was ready to leave, but something pushed me and I got one.

My wife had been wearing it all the time. We were praying and waiting. In November the same year, the time which we have yearned for has arrived. Now that I am writing this, we have a daughter who is 9.5 months old and is called Irene.

With respect,

Vasilis and Panayiota Aslanides.

3. The doctors had disappointed both of them

11/20/94

Livadia Larnaca, Cyprus

In 1993 I celebrated the Annunciation of the Mother of God at the Holy Mountain. Besides my personal need for prayer, I asked the fathers to pray for two spiritual sisters who had not had the joy of becoming mothers. The doctors had disappointed both of them.

At the end of the Paraklisis made for B. and G, I took the ribbons, after they were being blessed by the Holy Belt. When I returned to Cyprus, I had invited both of them to receive the blessings, which I had brought for them. B came and kissed the icons at the iconostasi, but did not take the ribbon that day, she took it later on. In the meantime, she became pregnant.

It took G more time to receive the blessing because she was staying far away. She had adopted a child. When we met, she took the ribbon and a few days later the doctor confirmed that she was pregnant.

Both of them visited me to announce their good news. All together we gave glory to the Panagia, the Mother of God.

Lenos Skitinis

4. I was married for seven years and didn’t have a child

6/2/1995

M.Bogdou 18, Xanthi

I had been married for seven years and didn’t have a child. My husband and I had tried many times to have a child and had visited various doctors in Athens and Thessaloniki. Finally at the end of our tether, you sent me a ribbon blessed by the Holy Belt of the Mother of God. I got pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby boy on the 31st August 1993, on the feastday of the Holy Belt.

I certainly cannot express my gratitude enough and my adoration and awe for our Creator, who does great and wonderful things and continues to bless his worthless servant. I am pregnant again and the doctor told me that they are twins. Please write my son’s name, among the list of the miracles of our Panagia.

With a lot of respect and affection,

God’s servants,

Demetrios and Maria

5. Three healings

5/6/1995

Thessaloniki

We feel the need to express our gratitude for the great honor you have shown in bringing the Holy Belt to our home. It would be a great omission not to refer to the miracles we have seen being performed. We refer to some of them, fully realizing the magnitude of what we are about to write.

A military judge, who had a serious back problem and was walking bent, became well as soon as he left our home.

A fifteen year old child, who could never stand on his feet because of a congenital problem, began to walk as soon as he entered the house. It is important to say that his parents kissed the Holy Belt when you had already entered the car and were getting ready to leave. They told us about the miracle a few days later, because they had been afraid!

My husband’s colleague as soon as he put on some Holy Water on a funny spot which was suddenly growing and making him anxious, it disappeared immediately! This person did not come to our home to venerate the Holy Belt and the miracle had been performed just by the Holy Water.

May we have your blessing!

Paul and Fotini Papoulidou

6. We have been given two healthy boys

7/6/1995

Arch. Chrysostomos 1, Pafos, Cyprus

I am writing this letter as an indication of our gratitude to our Most Holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Maria, who has shown her magnanimity towards the sinful and humble servants of our Lord, once more.

She has performed a miracle on us, by giving us two healthy boys, after seven years of marriage. When I had visited your monastery in 1993, I prayed in front of her wonderworking icon and took the ribbon from her blessed Holy Belt. A year later the miracle happened. My wife became pregnant with twins.

I also extend my thanks to you because you have helped me find the true path of God which leads to eternal life. Please pray to our Lady that she grants health to the children, which she has given us so miraculously.

With the love of Christ,

Stelios and Eleni Kalli

7. Back pain stopped

9/20/1995

Themistokleous 31, Athens

During my visit to the Great and Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi on 8/25/1995, after the Vespers the priest brought out the body remains of saints and the Holy Belt of the Most Holy Mother of God for the visitors to worship. When this had finished, I asked the priest to read some prayers for me in the presence of the Holy Belt. He placed his stole and the Belt of the Panagia and started saying a prayer. While he was reading, I started feeling that I had been holding a great and very heavy load on my back, which was receding as the reading was progressing. When the prayer ended, I felt that the weight had disappeared. From that moment my back pain, which has given me so much trouble for so long, had disappeared.

I would like to express my infinite gratitude to our Panagia for the miracle she performed on me by completely curing my back pain.

With infinite thanks,

V. Papachristopoulos

8. The Holy Belt has miraculously given me 12 children

10/18/1995,

Patra

I have a 14-member family: myself, Fr Nicholas, my wife Anthi and twelve children. A crucial and great miracle of the Holy Belt is our having twelve kids.

When my wife was pregnant with our first child she had serious health problems. She was nearing her term but had no labor pains. The doctors had said that the baby was dead and that she had to abort it otherwise her life was in danger. However, she had placed her faith in God, was reciting Paraklesis and praying with the prayer rope. Our child in the end was born alive and healthy under the following miraculous circumstances.

A devout woman, when she heard about our problem, gave me a ribbon of the Holy Belt. She told me to tell my wife to wear it and everything would be all right. My wife did as she was told and after a while she gave birth to a graceful and blessed little girl.

My wife’s other pregnancies were also problematic, but with the grace of the Holy Belt, we have managed to have twelve kids, six boys and six girls.

And here is something else, which is also important. My wife had varicose veins on her legs and the doctors had advised her not to have another child since she was going to endanger her child’s life as well as her own during birth. Because she had placed her trust in the Mother of all people, she was never put in any danger.

With respect and love in Christ

Father Nicholas, Theologian and Teacher

Turkey Celebrates Victory Against the Greeks on Aug. 30


Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) on August 30 is a national holiday in Turkey to commemorate the victory in the Battle of Dumlupınar against the Greeks, one of the final battles and the most decisive one in the Turkish War of Independence in 1922.

Turks often rewrite history to make their battles noble and justified, and the commemoration of Victory Day is no exception. According to the Turks, Greeks were invaders of Turkey and occupied Turkish land, which is why they were expelled in 1922. More accurately, this battle was meant to be a Greek War of Independence after being occupied by the Ottomans for hundreds of years.

For a Turkish take on this celebration, read "Turkey Recognizes Victory Day Aug. 30".

For a general history of the Battle of Dumlupınar, read here. This battle marked the beginning of the end of the Greek presence in Anatolia.

2012 marks the 90th Victory Day in Turkey.

Mapping Russia’s Religious Landscape


For the first time, Russian sociologists have compiled an atlas of Russia’s religions. Given the current debate on relations between the church, state and society, this atlas offers a timely and valuable look into the nature of Russian worship.

Olga Filina
August 30, 2012

Ogonyok: You say that your Atlas is the first project of its kind, and yet surveys of religiosity in Russia are conducted on a regular basis. What has your team done that is new?

Roman Lunkin: For the first time, separate polls concerning a person’s religion and world view were conducted in every region of the Russian Federation. What is also new is the way in which the questions were formulated: in the past no one thought it was necessary to ask people about their particular denomination of Orthodoxy; was it Pentecostalism, say, or an Eastern spiritual type? If you look at world practice, then our Arena project, part of which is the Atlas of Russia’s Religions, has at least two foreign analogs: the European Values Survey, which is part of the World Values Survey, and the Pew Research Center in the United States, which regularly compiles indices detailing the religious make-up of different states. We are trying to do something similar, to the extent that we are able, that takes into into account Russia’s particularities.

Ogonyok: Have you managed to prove that there are enough “originals”* to make it necessary to consider them?

R.L.: Of course these represent a small percentage of the overall population, sometimes within the margin of statistical error. But if you combine opinion poll findings with other factual material (field research by the Russian team at Oxford’s Keston Institute, open data bases at the Ministry of Justice, at Rosstat), then it is possible to understand which numbers fall within the margin of error and which represent real believers and the real situation in a region. Our Atlas aims to destroy the stage setting “Russia”, the myths and stereotypes, and to show instead the actual, living and highly diverse country that it is.

Ogonyok: Is that stage setting called “Russia” by any chance “Holy, Orthodox Rus”?

R.L.: The myth that 80-90 percent of Russia’s population is Orthodox is just one aspect of the generally superficial view of religious processes here. By our calculations, the number of Orthodox Christians in Russia is half that — 40 percent on average, in different regions of Russia. And of those, only 5 percent said they were parishioners in a specific parish and went regularly to church. These findings in no way diminish Orthodoxy’s role in Russia, they simply give one a real idea of the size and nature of the congregation of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ogonyok: The Gallup Organization recently published a survey of religiosity in the world that showed the number of believers to be declining. As compared to 2005, the number has decreased by 20 percent in France and by 13 percent in the United States. In Russia the decrease has been less significant, only 2 percent, but that is the direction things are going in. Do these observations coincide with yours?

R.L.: When you ask a person who believes in God but does not profess a particular religion whether or not they believe in God, they will most likely say that they do not. Our findings coincide with Gallup’s in that the role of traditional, ethnic religions in the life of society does appear to be diminishing. On the other hand, the role of faith is not shrinking, it is even growing. In the last 20 years of religious freedom in Russian, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a typically European religious variety has taken shape, with an abundance of different possible paths for those who want to find themselves. In the lists kept by the Ministry of Justice, the number of non-Orthodox, Christian organizations is second only to the number of Russian Orthodox Church organizations, and greater even than that of Muslim organizations.

Ogonyok: Islam is also a traditional religion. Is its congregation shrinking?

R.L.: In Muslim regions of Russia, young people’s interest in Islam is supported. Moreover, the congregation is amplified by migrants — this is no secret. It is, however, worth noting that 10 percent of Russian Muslims, who are neither Sunnis nor Shiites, are wary of such migrants.

Ogonyok: I was interested to learn that 44 percent of those who profess the “traditional” religion of their ancestors are Russians. And in central Russia you found not only Buddhists but also adherents of Eastern religious practices. Do you attribute this to a trend in nontraditional religions?

R.L.: In Russia there really are Slavic neo-pagans — people who take the “traditional religion of their ancestors” very seriously. Some are interested in the ideas of the New Age movement — various mystical practices in which there are elements of paganism, as well as of Eastern beliefs, astrology, theosophy, and Roerich’s teachings. In our survey, Russians who seek the “true faith” (not necessarily members of specific confessions) wound up in the same cohort as those who are shamanists, because of belonging to indigenous populations in Yakutia or, for example, Altai. There are Buddhists in Moscow and in St. Petersburg and in Kaliningrad: this is probably a result of the intelligentsia’s traditional interest in the East.

On the other hand, faiths that are considered “antiquated” by mass consciousness, such as the Old Believers faith, are not only alive, but thriving. When speaking of Old Believers, we tend to show dying villages that by some miracle are managing to preserve traditions that no one needs. For the expert, of course, this is nonsense: in fact, some 40 percent of Old Believers today earn in excess of 20,000 rubles a month, 26 percent live in cities of a million or more inhabitants, while 15 percent run their own businesses. Old Believers remain a very energetic and industrious group, one that attracts young people. The powers that be and the mass media, the Russian Orthodox Church and society will have to realize that in Russia, along with “traditional” churches, new churches are springing up, while old ones are being invigorated. Our religious map is too diverse to be painted in just one or two colors.


*“Originals” refers to poll responses that answer the question of denomination in any way other than “I am Orthodox”, “I believe in God”, or “I do not believe in God”.

More information about the survey can be found at research service Sreda web-site.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Elder Germanos Said About Sexual Sins


By Elder Germanos of Stavrovouni

Continence from fleshly passions is the natural state, whereas, on the contrary, falling into fleshly sins is in reality something unnatural. Today however the world has been led astray so much, that it calls light darkness, and darkness light. It characterizes the continent and chaste as `retarded' and `backwards,' whereas those who roll in the filth of fleshly pleasures it considers progressive! It admires and extols them! The age has come, which Anthony the Great mentions, when those who are foolish will see those who are chaste, and they will consider them as insane, not being able to discern that in reality it is they themselves who are insane!

The unnatural deviations of the Sodomites and Gamorrians God punished in an "unnatural" way: with rain, not of water, that is, but of fire and brimstone!

No person, neither a man nor a woman, has ever repented for keeping the command of Christ by keeping themselves in chastity and virginity until their wedding day, and in turn, in chastity and faithfulness towards their legal spouse within their marriage. They have every rich blessing of God that keep these! In contrast, those who do not keep them lose very much.

That which is called "libido" was given by God for an important purpose, and is connected with a "lure". The important purpose is to perpetuate the human race which makes man a co-creator with God, and the "lure" is pleasure.

When a couple walks together blessed with an Ecclesiastical Marriage, then marriage progresses in the will of God. Conversely, when they are deliberately and selfishly separated, then pleasure becomes an end in itself, and the true purpose canceled. This is an abnormal situation! It is an overthrow of what God has set forth, and it is a mortal sin. For such a sin God punished as an example Onan (see Gen. 38:1-10).

Fleshly sins are an exclusively grievous mark of the person of apostasy. When man falls into such sins, he ends up even worse than the animals!

Our body is "the temple of God" (see I Cor. 6:19). For this reason, when we hand it over to fleshly sins, we defile that living temple. And it is written that "if anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." (I Cor. 3:17)

Loving pleasure and loving the flesh cools and wipes out love for God.

In olden times people felt shame when they fell into fleshly sins. Unfortunately today these sins occur without shame. And, with the downhill path we have taken, the time will come when not only will they no longer be considered sins, but they will be praised! O woe and alas, when our society reaches that point!

He who struggles to be pure, avoiding any kind of fornication and lewdness, tastes right now the incorruptibility of the future resurrection!


Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Machaerus: Beyond the Beheading of John the Baptist


August 24, 2012

Machaerus is the infamous setting of the beheading of John the Baptist. The historian Josephus corroborates a story from the Gospels in which John the Baptist condemned Herod Antipas’s marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias’s daughter Salome danced for her step-father, and when he offered to grant anything she asked, she demanded the beheading of John the Baptist. In “Machaerus: Where Salome Danced and John the Baptist Was Beheaded” in the September/October issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, excavation director Győző Vörös writes that “we can identify the very location of the party where Salome danced.”

While the beheading of John the Baptist lends the Herodian palace a special notoriety, Győző Vörös examines the archaeology and extended site history to show how the location of the Dead Sea fortress at Machaerus led to its special place in Herodian Judea. Looking across a longer expanse of history, the Hasmonean, Herodian and Zealot occupations at Machaerus tell the different stories of their respective periods, from regal luxury to the brutality of a Roman siege.

Machaerus was the easternmost of Herod’s renovated palatial fortresses. While Vörös insightfully notes comparisons to the other fortresses, Machaerus stands out because of its location east of the River Jordan. Rising majestically above the Dead Sea (see the cover of the September/October issue of BAR), the fortress could be seen from as far north as Alexandrium and as far south as Masada, and smoke signals from the citadel were visible in Jerusalem. In addition to its natural defensible position on a rocky hilltop, Machaerus served as the first line of defense—and warning—against any eastern invaders.

Machaerus was more than just a military outpost; the extensive renovations by Herod turned the originally defensive center into a lavish palace that set the stage for a (deadly) Herodian birthday party. In “Machaerus: Where Salome Danced and John the Baptist Was Beheaded,” Győző Vörös explores the archaeology, architecture and history of the site, telling Machaerus’s tale from the lower city to the citadel’s peaks, and from its Hasmonean origins to a cruel ending at the hands of the Roman army.

For more about Machaerus, read Győző Vörös, “Machaerus: Where Salome Danced and John the Baptist Was Beheaded.” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2012


Isaiah's Prophecy of John the Forerunner


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"The voice of one that cries in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3).

When a king wants to visit a certain place, he sends before him in advance his heralds. To an unusual king an unusual herald is appropriate. The herald of Christ the King in the wilderness was Moses; in Jerusalem, the Prophets; in Nazareth, the Archangel; in Bethlehem, the Magi of the East; on the Jordan, John. Not one king in the history of mankind has had such heralds.

St. John the Baptist was also as unusual and special as were the other heralds of Christ. He was the voice crying in the two-fold wilderness: in the wilderness of Jordan and in the human wilderness. Just as the wilderness of Jordan was fruitless and dry, so the wilderness of the human spirit, was unfruitful and dry. John was not able to make the human wilderness green and fruitful, but he cleared and plowed it and, in that way, was preparing the earth and leveled it [the earth] for the great Sower Who, by His coming, brings with Him the seed and the rain to sow the seed of knowledge and the rain of grace from on high to make it green and be fruitful.

By repentance, John prepared the way and by baptism in water, made the path straight. The way and the paths these are the souls of men. By repentance, the souls of men were prepared to receive the seed of Christ and by baptism in water to bury that seed deep in the earth of their heart. The proud and the lowly when they are immersed naked in the water are all as one, equal in their nothingness before the majesty of the All-glorious Christ the Savior: "Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Isaiah 40:4). The word here is not about earthly valleys and hills but of lowly and proud men. As corpses in the grave are all the same before the eyes of a living man, thus all sinners, lowly and proud, slaves and masters are equal before the living God.

Such a wondrous vision was seen by Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of the living God, the one and true God.

O Lord, Heavenly King, to Whom the heavenly hosts worship day and night, look down once again upon our nothingness and because of Your humiliation and passion for us, save us. Amen.

John is the Voice, Jesus is the Word


By St. Augustine of Hippo

John is the voice, but the Lord is the Word who was in the beginning. John is the voice that lasts for a time; from the beginning Christ is the Word who lives for ever.

Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound. The voice without the word strikes the ear but does not build up the heart.

However, let us observe what happens when we first seek to build up our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine.

In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word already in my heart may find place also in yours, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then passes away. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still also in mine.

When the word has been conveyed to you, does not the sound seem to say: The word ought to grow, and I should diminish? The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word, and has gone away, as though it were saying: My joy is complete. Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word conceived inwardly in our hearts.

Do you need proof that the voice passes away but the divine Word remains? Where is John’s baptism today? It served its purpose, and it went away. Now it is Christ’s baptism that we celebrate. It is in Christ that we all believe; we hope for salvation in him. This is the message the voice cried out.

Because it is hard to distinguish word from voice, even John himself was thought to be the Christ. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what it was, anxious not to give offence to the word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. And the question came: Who are you, then? He replied: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord. The voice of one crying in the wilderness is the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: “I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him”.

What does prepare the way mean, if not “pray well”? What does prepare the way mean, if not “be humble in your thoughts”? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

If he had said, “I am the Christ”, you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.

Source: (Hom. 293, 3: PL 1328-1329)

The Forerunner of the Lord, John the Baptist


By Venerable Bede 

As forerunner of our Lord’s birth, preaching and death, the blessed John showed in his struggle a goodness worthy of the sight of heaven. In the words of Scripture: Though in the sight of men he suffered torments, his hope is full of immortality. We justly commemorate the day of his birth with a joyful celebration, a day which he himself made festive for us through his suffering and which he adorned with the crimson splendour of his own blood. We do rightly revere his memory with joyful hearts, for he stamped with the seal of martyrdom the testimony which he delivered on behalf of our Lord.

There is no doubt that blessed John suffered imprisonment and chains as a witness to our Redeemer, whose forerunner he was, and gave his life for him. His persecutor had demanded not that he should deny Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth. Nevertheless, he died for Christ. Does Christ not say: I am the truth? Therefore, because John shed his blood for the truth, he surely died for Christ.

Through his birth, preaching and baptizing, he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ, and by his own suffering he showed that Christ also would suffer.

Such was the quality and strength of the man who accepted the end of this present life by shedding his blood after the long imprisonment. He preached the freedom of heavenly peace, yet was thrown into irons by ungodly men; he was locked away in the darkness of prison, though he came bearing witness to the Light of life and deserved to be called a bright and shining lamp by that Light itself, which is Christ. John was baptized in his own blood, though he had been privileged to baptize the Redeemer of the world, to hear the voice of the Father above him, and to see the grace of the Holy Spirit descending upon him. But to endure temporal agonies for the sake of the truth was not a heavy burden for such men as John; rather it was easily borne and even desirable, for he knew eternal joy would be his reward.

Since death was ever near at hand through the inescapable necessity of nature, such men considered it a blessing to embrace it and thus gain the reward of eternal life by acknowledging Christ’s name. Hence the apostle Paul rightly says: You have been granted the privilege not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for his sake. He tells us why it is Christ’s gift that his chosen ones should suffer for him: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Source: (Hom 23: CCL 122, 354, 356-357)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meteora's Prison for Monks


By John Sanidopoulos

I first travelled to Meteora when I was 15 years old with my mother and my grandmother. We only had a day and a half to visit all the monasteries there, so we hired a random taxi driver from neighboring Kalambaka to serve as our tour guide over our two day pilgrimage. The taxi driver was a very pious man, whose cab was decorated with many icons of saints, and he was very knowledgeable about all things Meteora. As we drove from one monastery to the next, one particular rock structure caught my eye that fascinated me. I asked the driver what it was. He told us that it was a prison for monks, where they repented for their sins. In my 15 year old immature imagination I thought of this as a place of punishment and exile. I imagined what life must have been like there, what sins would have brought them there, how they endured the harsh elements, how long they served their sentence, etc. It was a complete mystery, and to this day I never have come across any reliable texts concerning this prison of monks at Meteora, until recently after 21 years a speculation came to me that may not seem too improbable.

One of the most haunting and fascinating sections of The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Climacus of Sinai is recorded in Step 5, where he talks about the repentance of the monks, whom St. John called "convicts", in a harsh secluded monastery known as "The Prison". When one reads this section, you could hardly believe that this was ever a real place, but St. John stayed at the Prison for a month, and recorded for us what he saw that made an extremely deep impression on him.


The Prison that St. John visited was where monks who had gravely sinned lived in extreme ascesis and gave extraordinary proofs of repentance, straining by their labors to receive God’s forgiveness. Far from appearing as extreme and intolerable, this Prison seemed rather to the Saint to be the model of monastic life: “A soul that has lost its one-time confidence and abandoned its hope of dispassion, that has broken the seal of chastity, that has squandered the treasury of divine graces, that has become a stranger to divine consolation, that has rejected the Lord’s command…and that is wounded and pierced by sorrow as it remembers all this, will not only take on the labors mentioned above with all eagerness, but will even decide devoutly to kill itself with penitential works. It will do so if there is in it only the tiniest spark of love or of fear of the Lord.”

If you have not read about the Prison described by St. John, I would encourage you to do so. It can be read here, between pages 29-34.

In 1959 Thomas Merton wrote a review for The Ladder of Divine Ascent in Jubilee magazine, where he praised it in many ways. However, he took exception to one section, and that was towards the chapter which describes the Prison. To him, it insulted his intelligence that St. John praised this form of asceticism and repentance, and he accused these monks of having various mental disorders. This proves that those who think according to the worlds standards and have distanced themselves away from the ascetical tradition of the Church and the way of the pious, see such things as utter follishness, insane, demented.


Regarding the prison for Monks at Meteora, which is known also as the Rock of the Holy Spirit, there are various traditions surrounding it with no positive identification. For example, we know that in the last half of the 18th century the Turkish-Albanians occupied this area and may have used it as a prison. In the beginning of the 19th century the Turks used the monasteries of Meteora as prisons and places of exile for punished clergy from Constantinople, but there is no record they stayed at the Rock of the Holy Spirit. In fact, no one knows if they were really ever prisons at all. It could have just been a place for ascetics to stay. But why call it a prison? There must be something to that tradition. Perhaps there was a certain resemblance to the way of life here that there was in the Prison described by St. John. It's all speculation, but a valid theory nonetheless.

The “Explosion” of Orthodox Christianity in Guatemala


Jesse Brandow
August 27, 2012

Whenever someone speaks of “American Orthodoxy,” there is usually an unspoken understanding that the term refers to North American Orthodoxy: the United States, Canada, and sometimes Mexico. This way of speaking is indeed convenient, considering that the majority of Orthodox parishes in the Western Hemisphere are still located in North America. However, in the past few years a great change has occurred in Latin America that makes it increasingly inaccurate to focus on North America as the western outpost of Orthodoxy. Just two years ago, in 2010, the Orthodox Church received a large group of Guatemalan converts numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Now Guatemala, and possibly all of Latin America, holds tremendous promise of becoming fertile ground for the Orthodox Christian Church.

The seed of Orthodoxy in Guatemala was planted by the nuns of the Hogar Rafael Ayau, an Orthodox orphanage in Guatemala City. Many people are familiar with the incredible work of Mother Inés, Mother Ivonne, and Mother María. In fact, just this year a group of seminarians from St. Vladimir's Seminary traveled with the seminary Chancellor/CEO Archpriest Chad Hatfield to see the work of the nuns and to assist at the orphanage. It is through these nuns that the Guatemalan soil was first prepared for the Orthodox Church.

Now, with the recent chrismation of a new group of Guatemalan converts that numbers between 100,000 and 200,000, the Orthodox Church is ready to blossom in Guatemala. The magnitude of the event cannot be overstated. Almost overnight, Guatemala has become the most Orthodox country in the Western Hemisphere (by percentage of national population). Furthermore, the Orthodox communities in Guatemala continue to grow rapidly and attract attention throughout Guatemala. There is still, however, little information available to the broader Orthodox world on the history and character of these new communities. For this reason, I traveled to Guatemala this summer, spending two months visiting many of the Orthodox parishes, meeting the leaders of the communities, and accompanying the bishop of the Guatemalan Church—His Eminence, Metropolitan Athenagoras—as he made his historic first visit to the new parishes in Guatemala. I returned to the United States with the desire to share what I saw and the conviction that the Holy Spirit is at work with power in Latin America.

The new Orthodox communities are in touch with the nuns of the Hogar, but they are an independent movement with a unique history. These communities are mostly made up of native Mayans and have roots in the Roman Catholic Church. They first began in the 1970s and 1980s as a Roman Catholic renewal movement called the “Charismatic Renewal in the Holy Spirit.” For various reasons, including the movement's charismatic prayer practices and emphasis on music in church services, the parishes of the Charismatic Renewal became estranged from the Roman Catholic Church. Many communities went decades without sacraments until, in the 1990s, a former Roman Catholic priest named Fr. Andrés Girón took the movement under his wing. A very prominent figure in Guatemala, Fr. Andrés had served in the Guatemalan senate, acted as an ambassador to the United Nations, and led a large movement for land reform among the rural poor of Guatemala. These activities were part of what caused Fr. Andrés to come into tension with the Roman Catholic Church, eventually leaving the Church before taking leadership of the parishes of the Charismatic Renewal.


It was through Fr. Andrés that the communities of the Charismatic Renewal began to move towards the Orthodox Church. Fr. Andrés first joined a non-canonical Orthodox group called the Society of Secular Clerics, and he was soon ordained a bishop in this group. However, as he became more familiar with broader Orthodox Christianity, Fr. Andrés sought out the canonical Orthodox Church. A number of priests from other countries came to evaluate the situation in Guatemala, and then in April of 2010, Fr. Andrés was received into the canonical Orthodox Church under the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

After Fr. Andrés entered the Orthodox Church, then began the process of ordaining priests, chrismating the faithful, and educating the hundreds of thousands of new Orthodox. Over the last two years, a total of eight priests who were originally ordained non-canoncially have now been ordained as priests in the Orthodox Church. One of those priests spent a year in Greece to learn about Orthodoxy and become an iconographer, and there are plans for other priests to spend time abroad growing in Orthodoxy. The priests have begun to train a large team of catechists to go into all the villages to teach the people about Orthodoxy. In addition, a missionary priest from Pennsylvania, Fr. John Chakos, has begun working in Guatemala to assist the Guatemalan leaders and teach the faithful.

While the eight priests of the Guatemalan Orthodox Church are familiar with Orthodox theology and history, the majority of the Orthodox faithful still have much to learn and need time to grow. Many parishes lack basic iconography and essential liturgical supplies, and the communities are still relatively unfamiliar with the Divine Liturgy and other Orthodox services. Nevertheless, the communities have the seed of powerful faith: parishes are always packed on Sundays, sometimes with close to a thousand people; lay leaders are well-versed in Scripture and deliver convicting sermons to the congregations; and many communities center all of their activities around the Church, with some villages faithfully tithing ten percent of their crops and money. The Guatemalan Orthodox are indeed still newborns in the Church, but they are already growing in the Orthodox Church and have reacted well to the changes that are being made to bring them closer to the fulness of the faith. These “little ones” of Guatemala, the newborn Mayan Orthodox, will not be turned away by the Lord.

As we continue to discuss the future of “American Orthodoxy,” we must not forget that the providence of God often guides the Church in unexpected ways, and His providence is now calling our attention to Latin America. When, in 1867, St. Innocent reflected on the sale of Alaska to the United States, he said, “I see in this event one of the ways of Providence whereby Orthodoxy will penetrate the United States.” These words are often recalled in discussions of American Orthodoxy, along with the stories of the rapid conversion of native Alaskans to the Orthodox Church. Now, in our lifetime, as many as 200,000 native Guatemalans have turned to the Orthodox Church—is this not the continuation of God's Providence in the Western Hemisphere? The Holy Spirit has opened a door for the faith to penetrate Latin America through Guatemala, and this event calls us to recognize and believe in the tremendous potential for the Orthodox Church to flourish in this hemisphere. We are called to stand with the Orthodox Christians of Guatemala: through prayer, through donations of liturgical supplies and monetary support, and through missionaries and teachers who will go to Guatemala to help the people learn and grow.

Finally, we are called to once again be inspired by the richness of “American Orthodoxy.” From the small wooden churches of Alaska to the large food festivals of Pittsburgh and Chicago, from the Orthodox parishes that dot South America to the Mayan communities that live under the volcanoes of Guatemala—the beauty of God's Church is alive and growing in the Western Hemisphere. Let us embrace the work of God's Providence, supporting the Guatemalan Orthodox Church and tending to the faith throughout all the Americas, so that the seed of American Orthodoxy will grow and blossom.

For more information on the Guatemalan Orthodox Church and my summer travels to the Guatemalan communities, see my blog, which has articles and pictures that give a fuller understanding of Guatemalan Orthodoxy. If you would like to know how you can support the Guatemalan Orthodox Church, please contact Fr. John Chakos, the missionary priest who is serving in Guatemala under the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC). You can also find articles by Fr. John Chakos about the Guatemalan communities on the blog of Pres. Alexandra Chakos.

Monk Moses of Platina Monastery


Maria Kirkulescu
February 2009

A frozen forest, a small church, few monks - all young Americans, smiling. The tomb of Fr. Seraphim Rose is a short distance away, behind the church.The February night comes quickly.

We learn that there is only one cell for women with two beds. For men there is also only one cell, but with many more beds. Fr. Moses appears, a black man...very black. In the night one can only see his teeth, smiling as he gives us hospitality. He is tall, around two meters! He leads us to the cell where he has started a fire. Then I suddenly associated him with the icon of St. Moses the Ethiopian that I saw in the Church of St. Herman in Platina. It was like a living answer to my perplexity when I saw the icon among dozens of Russian icons of saints, at a far away place in America. The young "colored" Orthodox American monk did not receive by chance his name at his tonsure.


The next day we had breakfast, and we saw the obedience of Moses was in the refectory: he cooked, he quickly served, he read from a book while we were all eating. His hospitality was done with much love, with simple non-pretentious movements, and joy given from heart to heart. The young Orthodox American had these like St. Moses the Ethiopian.

If in 21st century America, where 1% of the population is Orthodox, someone can have as an example the asceticism of St. Moses the Ethiopian, then all is not lost.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

The Desecration of Crosses in Russia and the Russian Church

Top-less activist group FEMEN uses a chainsaw to cut-down a WWII memorial cross in a demonstration of support for Russian female activist group Pussy Riot. 

The Russian Orthodox Church said an antireligious campaign – in sympathy with Pussy Riot punk band – was under way after four large wooden crosses were destroyed over the weekend.

Fred Weir
August 27, 2012

The Russian Orthodox Church is warning of an organized antireligious campaign under way against Christians in Russia, after vandals in two widely separated regions took chainsaws to four large wooden crosses over the weekend.

Church spokespeople maintain the damage was done by people who are either in sympathy or in league with the Pussy Riot collective, three of whose members were sentenced to two years in a penal colony earlier this month for profaning an Orthodox altar with an obscenity-laced "punk prayer" that called upon the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin.

The four crosses were chopped down by unknown persons who left police no clues to their motives or identity. One was a large wooden crucifix erected to the memory of Soviet-era political prisoners in the far northern region of Archangelsk. Russian media reported three more wooden crosses were destroyed in Chelyabinsk region over the weekend, which is thousands of miles away in western Siberia.

A local priest in Archangelsk, Hegumen Feodosy, told the state-run Russia Today network that the destruction of the cross, just across the street from his church, was the latest in a series of arson and vandal attacks on religious symbols in his locality and around Russia.

"This comes in the context of all these incidents in recent months across the country, all this anti-church hysteria waged against our diocese, against the church authority, against everything sacred," he told RT.

But Pyotr Verzilov, a Pussy Riot activist and husband of one of the imprisoned women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, told journalists the group has no connection with the latest episodes of vandalism and doesn't approve of them. Two members of the group, which is a radical feminist "performance art" collective, reportedly fled Russia last week to escape police efforts to arrest them in connection with the Feb. 21 "punk prayer" in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

Two weeks ago, in Kiev, members of a Ukrainian feminist "performance art" collective, Femen, chainsawed a large wooden Orthodox cross as an explicit protest against the Pussy Riot verdict. The Femen women argued they were cutting down the symbol of "a corrupt church" whose actions prop up the "dictatorship" of Mr. Putin.

"What we're seeing here are copycat acts, people who take a signal from what Pussy Riot did, and it could be very dangerous," says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow.

"Having said that, however, it should be noted that the church leaders are not being entirely forthcoming here. They have a vested interest in portraying themselves as victims, especially since they failed so miserably in the Pussy Riot struggle," he says.

Church officials began seriously complaining of a wave of sacrilegious assaults early this year, citing the Pussy Riot affair and other acts of vandalism to suggest a wider conspiracy to undermine the church's prestige and authority in Russian society.

Pro-church commentators have been quick to argue that the weekend attacks on crosses, which are a fundamental symbol of Christianity, look like an unambiguous assault on religious believers and cannot be mistaken for a "political protest" as the women of Pussy Riot claimed they were carrying out.

"These actions clearly speak of the moral values ​​of those who are attacking the church," Father Vsevolod Chaplin, a leading church spokesman, told the independent Interfax agency. "With these symbolic actions they are seeking to impose their will on the majority of the population," he added.

At an April rally in Moscow of about 50,000 people called to defend the church from its enemies, Patriarch Kirill warned that individual acts of blasphemy and sacrilege presented a profound threat to social order.

"We are under attack by persecutors," Kirill said at the time. "The danger is in the very fact that blasphemy, derision of the sacred is put forth as a lawful expression of human freedom which must be protected in a modern society."

Some critics argue the main problem is not the acts of vandalism and profanity – however reprehensible they may be – but that the church has overstepped the bounds of secular society and is seeking to regain its traditional role as ideological gatekeeper of the Russian state.

In recent years, the church has been criticized for backing criminal prosecutions of artists and gallery directors who display allegedly blasphemous art works, for attempting to prescribe how Russian women ought to dress in public, and for being excessive in its demands for the return of historic church lands and artifacts that were nationalized and handed over to Russian state museums in Soviet times.

Several scandals have rocked the church in recent months, including blog-fueled revelations about the lavish lifestyles and wealth of Patriarch Kirill and other top clergy. This month, Russian media reported a still largely unexplained story about a senior priest at a leading Moscow church who, allegedly drunk and driving an expensive sports car with foreign diplomatic plates, plowed into two other cars, causing massive damage and several injuries.

During the presidential election campaign last winter, Patriarch Kirill publicly described candidate Putin as "a miracle from God," which many critics – including the women of Pussy Riot – took as a violation of Russia's strictly secular constitution and a sign of a growing political nexus between church and state.

"This is not a simple or one-sided issue," says Mr. Mukhin. "Now the church is trying to persuade everyone that there is a great monster menacing the church and society. Yes, vandalism is a threat, but the behavior and public actions of the church are agitating society and are part of the problem."

Great Vespers at St. Kosmas Monastery in Ontario



Great Vespers was held at St. Kosmas Greek Orthodox Monastery in Bolton, Ontario on August 23, 2012 (the feast of the Monastery). Led by His Eminence Metropolitan Sotirios, approximately 8,000 faithful participated. In addition to the many clergy who took part, also present was His Eminence Metropolitan Ignatius IV of Arta, who was visiting from Greece.








Coptic Movie About St. Moses the Ethiopian (video)













Monday, August 27, 2012

Scientists and the Fathers of the Church


By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

The Fathers of the Church studied the creation of the cosmos with a theological purpose. They renounced both materialism and metaphysics. Thus, the two philosophical orientations “in the beginning was matter” and “in the beginning was the idea” was contrasted with “in the beginning was the Word”. God is a person, He is love, because love is an uncreated energy of God. Therefore God is neither an idea nor matter. Later they say that God created the cosmos “out of nothing”, “without the existence of matter” but with His word which is His uncreated energy, which creates created beings.

Contemporary scientists are divided into two categories in interpreting new discoveries. In the first category are those who accept that some power outside of space and time created the cosmos. In the second category are the agnostics and atheists who interpret the creation of the cosmos without believing in the existence of God....

According to the Fathers, scientists can study the cosmos, examine what it is, how it happened, but they cannot enter into other areas, such as the existence or non-existence of God. Besides, the work of science is one thing and the work of Orthodox theologians is another and there should be no conflict or confusion between them. Science investigates the created world, matter, atoms, molecules, protons, particles, cells, genes, etc., while theology, which is empirical, deals with how man can know the person of God with His uncreated energies. Science progresses in various discoveries which should benefit and not harm people, and Orthodox theology gives answers to the spiritual matters of man and how he can acquire unconditional love towards God and his fellow man, at a time not only when the “death of God” is preached, but also the “death of one’s neighbor”.

Finally, no matter how many discoveries science makes, man hungers and thirsts for a personal God, for unconditional love, inner peace and freedom, for spiritual completeness. He wants to know what exists beyond creation, what happens after death, what is eternal life, etc.

Man is not an unreasonable being, but develops culture, nurtures spiritual principles, searches for God and seeks to experience His love. Hence, science is trying to give an explanation for creation and the establishment of the cosmos, but that which has great significance is Who created the cosmos and man. God is not an irrational force, nor a blissful being, but a person. He is the Logos who created the cosmos and within all of creation there are “logoi of being”, the energies of God.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Επιστήμονες καί Πατέρες τής Εκκλησίας", July 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Pateritsa (Staff) of St. Savvas the Sanctified


By John Sanidopoulos

When St. Savvas the Sanctified was near the end of his life (6th century), he told his monks to watch for one day in the distant future when an archbishop, a man of God bearing the same name as his, would come from a far-off western land. The monks were to give this man St. Savvas' pateritsa (pastoral staff) and a certain icon of the Panagia. They would know it was the right man when at the moment of his paying veneration at his tomb the tied up staff would fall to the ground. Two hundred years later, St. John of Damascus added his own wonderworking icon of the Panagia Tricherousa (Three Hands) to this inheritance to fulfill the prophecy of St. Savvas.

When St. Sava of Serbia visited the monastery of his namesake some 700 years after St. Savvas the Sanctified's repose, the monks still remembered the prophesy of their founder, and now found its fulfillment in St. Sava of Serbia. While he was paying veneration to the Saint’s tomb, the staff fell down. The miracle repeated the next day, and all doubts of the monks were gone. They knew for sure then that the Serb Sava was the one they had been waiting for. This is how the much-revered icon of the Panagia of Three Hands (through which the miracle of the restoration of St. John of Damascus' hand was accomplished), as well as the pateritsa, came to reside at the Serbian Hilandari Monastery on Mount Athos.

Today in Karyes there is a Cell which belongs to Hilandari Monastery that goes by the name Pateritsa. The ebony staff of St. Savvas, made from the tusks of an elephant, is within a cabinet of the north aisle of the Chapel of the Transfiguration of the Cell.




Saturday, August 25, 2012

Metropolitan of Aitolia: Encyclical On the Old Calendarists


Press Release

In the Holy City of Messolonghi, the 20th of August 2012

Metropolitan Kosmas of Aitolia and Arkanania visited on Sunday 19 August 2012 Paliambela Vonitsa, where he liturgized in the parish of the Holy Church of Saint Athanasios and informed the faithful of the recent issue created in the region because of the desertion from the Orthodox Church and the transition of Archimandrite Anatolios Psychogios to "Bishop" of the schismatic Old Calendarists.

His Eminence, speaking on the issue of the Old Calendarists, said among other things: "I ask God to enlighten Fr. Anatolios to return. I have the responsibility as a Bishop to inform everyone and I encourage everyone to have no spiritual communication or relationship... And of the same I ask that he come to repentance."

Metropolitan Kosmas of Aitolia and Arkanania, having previously contacted and informed the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, and explained the events competently to the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, issued an Encyclical Note to inform the population, which was read in the Holy Churches of the region during the Divine Liturgy on 19 August 2012.

Also, the Metropolitan with the decision of Act no. 55/16.8.2012 revoked the granted license to liturgize in the private Holy Church of Saint Kosmas the Aitolos in Paliambela Vonitsa and "prohibits its liturgizing hereafter, duly ordering its closure."

Please find enclosed the text of the Encyclical, as well as the Act of the Metropolitan.

From the Press and Communication Office of the Holy Meteropolis.

+++

Encyclical

THE GREEK REPUBLIC

The HOLY METROPOLIS OF AITOLIA AND AKARNANIA

Archbishop Damaskinou 10

302 00 Mesolongion

Tel: 26310-22322, 22421

Fax: 26310-28701

Website: www.imaa.gr

E- mail: imaa@otenet.gr

In the Holy City of Messolonghi, the 17th of August 2012

Number Reference: 743

To All and Especially to the Parish Priests of the Most Sacred Regions of Amphilochia, Vonitsa and Katounes.

For the present, as your spiritual father, who loves you and ministers your salvation, I wish to inform you on a topic that arose recently in our region, and I ask that you listen carefully. I sincerely want to say and assure you that I am not moved by any agenda or personal ambition.

The only thing that stimulates me to update you is the glory of our Triune God and your salvation. Archimandrite Anatolios Psychogios is known to all. He originates from our region, and he previously founded and operated the "International Academy of Saint Kosmas Aitolos" in Paliambela Vonitsa, and many times we co-liturgized in various Holy Churches of our Holy Metropolis.

We honored him and received him with love in our Holy Metropolis. Unexpectedly however he joined the schismatic Old Calendarists, and was elected and ordained "Bishop" in the sectarian faction of "Archbishop" Auxentios.

We do not have the time right now to explain his joining the schismatics of the Old Calendar. But I have to acknowledge to you that the "Bishops" of the Old Calendarists neither have apostolic succession, nor canonical ordination, nor do their Mysteries have validity. So the salvation of Christians following them is dubious and weak.

Besides this, I ask and urge you all paternally, to have no spiritual relationship or dependence with the severed from our Church, Fr. Anatolios.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos



The Divine Liturgy is the Greatest Mission of the Church


By Elder Sophrony of Essex

Our greatest missionary work in life takes place in the Divine Liturgy. The Fathers of the Church would always build an Altar of Sacrifice in whatever country or city they traveled to. And this is so, because when the heart is sweetened by the Divine Liturgy, it then seeks God. It then desires to live an Orthodox ecclesiastical life, the heart of which is the Holy Eucharist.

I told the brotherhood that it should always be a priority for it to perform the Divine Liturgy in the Monastery. The prayers of the Divine Liturgy should not be intoned for personal gratification because at that moment the priests are expressing the prayers of all those praying in Church. And for this reason the priests should not be praying with self-centered feelings. We do not celebrate as individuals.

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