Monday, November 25, 2013

A Six-Month Update For All My Readers


Dear Readers:

Six months ago I made an appeal to all my readers to help me continue and expand this Christian Ministry by placing value on it and contributing accordingly. I believe that I've maintained this website long enough where my consistency can be evaluated to the point that a monetary value can be attached to my work, and if I found there to be no such value placed, then I would focus on other things. My request was for a $60 annual donation from each of my regular or semi-regular readers, either as a lump sum donation or as a subscription of at least $5 a month. I based this not only on what I needed to continue and begin to expand, but also on a fair evaluation of what I offer and seek to offer in the future in a bigger and better way. Though I did not meet my annual financial goal, the response was nonetheless amazing and moving. And for this I want to thank with all my heart everyone who did generously and sacrificially respond.

Ultimately everything I offer here on my site is free of charge for all to enjoy and benefit from, and I would like to keep it this way, so the fact that I got the response that I did speaks to the character and appreciation of my readers. Over five months ago I promised, due to the generous response, that I would continue to do what I do over the next six months and take things from there based on the feedback I get over that time. Though my desire was to send everyone a personal "thank you" note right away for their generosity, I decided rather to put my time into the work I promised and save those things for when the six months were accomplished. So everyone who contributed should be hearing from me shortly, and your names have been sent to Mount Athos to be commemorated daily in the Divine Liturgy.

Now that about six months have passed, I wanted to update everyone on the things I've been doing and plan to do in the short term.

One of the things I wanted to show over the passed six months was to give a small glimpse of my unique contribution as a website that is primarily aimed towards Orthodox Christians to help bring them a little deeper into the mysteries of our Faith. After all, this is what the word "Mystagogy" refers to. My aim is not only to bring a deeper knowledge of Orthodox spirituality and life, but a deeper and/or expanded knowledge of all things, or at least offer a new or little known twist on things that I find worth offering that may not be found elsewhere or are at least not easily discovered. One of the ways I do this is by offering quality translations of material that most of my readers would never be exposed to, such as my recent focus on texts from the official newspaper of the Sacred Metropolis of Nafpaktos known as Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, which I believe is the best monthly publication of any Orthodox Metropolis in the world today. Without my few translations so far, I wonder if anyone would ever be exposed to these great contributions in English. Another way is by offering news stories that not only contribute to faith and knowledge, but would likely not even be reported on in English to a wide audience. An example of this is in fact my most popular post of the past six months, when a month ago an icon of the Archangel Michael began to weep in Rhodes. This story was read by many thousands of people all around the world. Such are a few examples of what I call my unique contribution as a website by an Orthodox Christian in the English language.

Yet, only about a third of my time has been going into this website. Another third has been me working behind the scenes preparing for a better and more user friendly website, email correspondences, and preparing ways to better sustain this ministry financially (which will be revealed soon), all of which surprisingly take up a great deal of time when done alone. Among these things has also been addressing various issues, some of which are mentioned below. The final third of my time has been dedicated to the writing and translation of various books I have planned for publication in the near future, that I am not willing to reveal publicly at this time. In fact, as of right now I am almost done with five books, though none are fully completed, and once these are done I hope for a steady stream of annual high quality publications.

As for what I plan on doing in the short term future, let's say the next six months, is to continue what I have been doing, and a little bit more. For example, I have long wanted to go through all my posts and edit them, make them more searchable, categorize them, re-tag them under easier to find subjects, and even get rid of many of them. Personally I would like to delete about 500-1000 posts that are no longer relevant to what I have decided to do with this website. Unless I put what I currently have in some workable order, and we are talking about almost 7,000 posts since 2009, then it will only make it more difficult for me to build a better website. But this will take up a lot of time over the next six months, though I hope to get it done much sooner.

Since my Ministry is now completely publicly supported, I have also decided to make either monthly or bi-monthly progress reports and updates to hold myself accountable to everyone that the work I promise is being done and the steps towards expansion are being made. This will give me an opportunity to address some issues as well that I often encounter, as will be read below.

If you want to share in my vision and keep Mystagogy progressing to bigger and better things, then I will need the financial support to sustain this Ministry at least for another six months. As stated earlier, my annual financial goal has not been reached and there is a danger that my work will cease. I now completely rely on my reader's financial support to keep this Ministry alive and going, and this support is completely based on the value everyone places on it. For those that were unable to six months ago, I am asking to contribute the same amount as I requested then, or whatever is affordable. Over the past six months there have been some donors that have gone above and beyond what I asked for in a very generous way, so anyone able to do so that has already contributed over the past six months would be greatly appreciated.

To make a donation, please visit the link towards the top of this website that says DONATE, where you can make a safe and secure donation through Paypal (no account needed) or through mail-in. For your convenience, I have also provided the information at the end of this post, and it can always be found towards the bottom of this website.

Issues

I also wanted to address in this update a few issues of importance not mentioned above. I will be taking a few days off from posting this week to address some of these issues.

1. Due to many personal messages and emails, I have fallen behind in responding to them. Within the next week I will respond to all of them that I have yet to respond to.

2. The Mystagogy Bookstore offerings are just a means to help me generate some income for the support of this Ministry (see link at the top of this website). Unfortunately, there has been issues with the printing of a few of the offerings, and this week I hope to fix all those issues that have prevented orders from going out. In the very near future, many of these offerings will no longer be available, though some will be professionally published and offered through a revamped Bookstore through my Ministry.

3. I have received a bunch of feedback on the advertising that can now be seen on my website. The reason I decided to advertise is because six months ago, when I asked for my readers to help support my Ministry, many wrote to me saying they could not afford to contribute anything, but that if I decided to place advertisements on my site through Google then they would visit those websites and help me generate some income that way. Indeed this has helped, though I wouldn't say it offers substantial financial income. If it did, I would not be seeking contributions. My website is somewhat popular among Orthodox, but in order to make a good profit from advertising I would need many thousands of more visitors daily. There has also been a bit of negative feedback, understandably so, due to the fact that once in a while advertising shows up for something I would not normally endorse. The only control I have over this is to ban them when I see them, but since I can't see them all I ask my readers to email me the link for these sites and I will proceed to ban them so that they do not show up again. Despite this, I do everyone to visit these advertisors and at least check out to see what they have to offer. By doing so, you are contributing to this Ministry.

4. Another reason I decided to start advertising was to help me conduct a study in order to better valuate for other moderated advertising to show up on my site. I have received many requests from parishes, bookstores, iconographers and other ministries to advertise on my site. I am open now to doing this, so please inquire at mystagogy@aol.com to advertise on my site, and within the next month or so I will begin to evaluate and allow this. I hope in this way to also generate some income for this Ministry, as well as lead my readers to other Orthodox Ministries who seek to offer and receive support and benefit.

5. I no longer allow comments on this website. All who are familiar with social media know by experience that sometimes the people you encounter online show their true face, some would even call it an alter ego or doppelganger, and when you present serious and controversial topics this side of people becomes manifested. The only way I would allow comments in the future is if they contributed positively to what has been posted, or if they generated a respectable conversation. Yet it is extremely rare to get such comments. I would say that 80% of comments are usually negative in nature that contribute nothing to what is posted, and sometimes the length of these comments exceed my entire post. If people have opinions like this, then I would encourage them to have their own website (or hold their silence), because they are wasting my time here. Another reason I stopped is because I started getting a lot of spam, and this made me fear of getting hacked, which would only cause a nightmare. However, I do appreciate questions, and if anyone has any questions please ask by email, for as Basil the Great writes: "For we become more learned and wiser than we were before, merely by asking questions, because we are taught many things which we did not know; and our anxiety to answer them acts as a teacher to us." Because I have no editors I do appreciate corrections, so if anything needs to be corrected, please do not hesitate to email me. Which leads to my next issue.

6. Often I get requests to repost things I have posted. Personally, I would prefer my material not be reposted in its entirety unless I give permition for each individual post, but I would rather other sites copy a portion of my posting then offer a link to the complete article on my website. Unfortunately I have no control to monitor this without being mean and nasty, which I avoid. One of the downsides to this is that I often revisit my posts after I publish them and edit them, and this is not reflected on reposts. More and more I try to avoid reposting other peoples material, and if I do I do so on a rare occasion from the same site and never more than a handful of times. I think this is the most respectable way of doing things.

Though there are other things I would like to address, now that I will begin more regular updates beginning in January, I will save it for another time. I didn't want this post to be longer than necessary.

Having addressed the issues necessary, I again ask my readers, now that we are in the Nativity season and it is a season of giving and philanthropy, to support this Ministry and help keep it going. Please submit your contributions through the following means:

Click on the DONATE button to make a one-time donation (a Paypal account is not needed to make a one-time donation):




Click on the SUBSCRIBE button, after choosing an amount from the dropbox, to make regular monthly donations:



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To mail in your donation, please do so to the following address:

John Sanidopoulos
PO Box 320284
West Roxbury, MA 02132

With love in the Incarnate Lord,

John Sanidopoulos

NOTE: Though this fund-raising campaign is an ongoing process, we are currently seeking donations of at least $60 from all of our readers, if possible, or $5 a month. Of course, whatever amount you can give is helpful.

P.S. In honor of the canonization of Elder Porphyrios this week by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, whose official glorification will take place on Sunday 1 December 2013, the day before his first feast day, I have taken it upon myself to quickly translate his Apolytikion (Dismissal Hymn) in the meantime, since I will not be posting till that time.

Ἀπολυτίκιον. Ἦχος α΄. Τῆς ἐρήμου πολίτης.
Τῆς Εὐβοίας τὸν γόνον,
Πανελλήνων τὸν Γέροντα,
τῆς Θεολογίας τὸν μύστην
καὶ Χριστοῦ φίλον γνήσιον,
Πορφύριον τιμήσωμεν, πιστοί,
τὸν πλήρη χαρισμάτων ἐκ παιδός.
Δαιμονῶντας γὰρ λυτροῦται,
καὶ ἀσθενεῖς ἰᾶται πίστει κράζοντας·
δόξα τῷ δεδωκότι σοι ἰσχύν,
δόξα τῷ σὲ ἁγιάσαντι,
δόξα τῷ ἐνεργοῦντι διὰ σοῦ πᾶσιν ἰάματα.

Apolytikion. Tone 1. The citizen of the desert.
The offspring of Evia,
the Elder of All Greeks,
the initiated in Theology,
and the genuine friend of Christ,
Porphyrios, O faithful, let us honor,
who was filled with all the gifts of grace from childhood.
The demon possessed are redeemed,
and the sick are healed who cry out with faith:
Glory to Him who gave you might,
Glory to Him who sanctified you,
Glory to Him who operates through you healings for all.

Saint Katherine of Alexandria as a Model for our Lives

St. Katherine the Great-Martyr of Alexandria (Feast Day - November 25)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

A daily Athenian newspaper, as well as a major private television station, on the occasion of the National Holiday of October 28th, interviewed young people on the streets, among whom were students, and asked them: "What are we celebrating today, and why are there doxologies and parades?" Most pleaded ignorance, others said the most incredible things like "we are celebrating the Turks" or "we are celebrating the Germans", and other such comical tragedies. This situation is not so surprising, as painful as it is to open up the secret that education in our country is in a deep crisis and the responsibility lies more with us and less with the children. Certainly this is not the only piece of our history that we are ignorant of. For the Greeks of Ionia, who were rooted in that sanctified land for four thousand years where they blossomed and flourished, suddenly found themselves without a home, uprooted and hunted (for those who survived, of course), and very few young children know about this and learn it in schools. But education in our country is not so much an issue of the absence of knowledge, as much as what orientation it has and what sort of citizens we want to form. 

In Romiosini, or so-called Byzantium, education addressed the entire person and its purpose was to make them a complete person, namely to direct them from the petty and vile to higher things, since this is what it means to be human (άνθρωπος=anthropos), to look high (άνω θρώσκω=ano throsko). As Basil the Great very succinctly says: "What is the form of quadrupeds? Their head is bent towards the earth and looks towards their belly, and only pursues their belly's good. Your head, O man, is turned towards heaven; your eyes look up. When therefore you degrade yourself by the passions of the flesh, being a slave of your belly and your lowest parts, you approach animals without reason and become like one of them. You are called to more noble cares; seek those things which are above where Christ sits. Raise your soul above the earth; draw from its natural conformation the rule of your conduct; fix your conversation in heaven. Your true country is the heavenly Jerusalem; your fellow citizens and your compatriots are 'the first-born which are written in heaven'" (Hexaemeron 11). Education then addressed not only the brain but especially the heart. And when we speak of the heart we are not talking about the physical organ, but the spiritual heart, the center of the spiritual activity of man. An education that does not care about the whole person, their way of life, their character and their personality, but merely transmits dry knowledge, cannot be and is not a complete education. The life and state of being of Saint Katherine allows us to clearly see the purpose and orientation of a correct and true education.

In the synaxaria and liturgical texts, Saint Katherine is called "All-Wise", not just "Wise", but "All-Wise". She studied and knew almost all the sciences of her time, which was very rare even for those days. "She was highly trained in all the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans, such as Homer and Virgil the great Roman Poet; Asclepius, Hippocrates and Galen the Physicians; Aristotle, Plato, Philistionos and Eusebius the Philosophers; and all the Rhetoricians found throughout the world, and not only, but even every word of every language did she learn, that brought amazement not only to those who saw her, but also to those who heard of her fame and wisdom and education." But that which, par excellence, reveals the fullness of her education is not only the things mentioned above, but rather the wealth of her heart. She was a bearer of "wisdom from above", which does not inflate the mind, but it widens the heart to contain the whole world. Good and humble that she was she had simplicity in her manners, but firmness in her decisions, and this is shown clearly in her martyrdom. With true wisdom she humiliated the pagan orators and allowed it to be transparent that their faith was false and their words pure babble. "And the impious words of the orators you stopped, Great-Champion." In another hymn it says: "She offered Christ thanks night and day, she destroyed their idols and all their mindless worship, and she trampled on the knowledge of orators."

Knowledge about human achievements in all areas is helpful, as well as the study and engagement with books because this sharpens the mind and opens up new horizons. Especially it is necessary to know History and primarily the history of our country since, as it has been rightly said, "a nation that does not know its history is doomed to die". But man's so-called existential problems, such as the questions: Why were we born? What is the purpose of our life? Why do we die? What happens after death? Is there a Heaven and Hell? and so on, are not able to be solved by human knowledge, but only by Theology, namely the Truth revealed by the Triune God Himself and experienced in the Orthodox Church. Orthodox Theology offers solutions to all the problems of man. It provides substantial assistance, teaching us the way to treat them and eventually to exceed them.

Saint Katherine as a carrier of human wisdom and education, but first and foremost the wisdom according to God, clearly reveals with her brilliant life, that true education is not that which merely provides dry knowledge, but rather it forms souls, creating an ethos and ultimately transforming existence.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ο ΑΓΙΑ ΑΙΚΑΤΕΡΙΝΗ Η ΠΑΝΣΟΦΟΣ", November 1997. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saint Paisius Velichkovsky: A Great Hesychast Father (8 of 8)

Optina Monastery

Continued from part seven...

6. The Philokalic Movement in the Orthodox World (B)

A cause of particular impression is the communication between the three great figures of that era, namely the venerable Paisius Velichkovsky, Saint Makarios the former bishop of Corinth, and Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite. All three loved the hesychast tradition and life, and considered it the essence of Orthodox ecclesiastical life. They struggled to locate and discover the neptic writings of the hesychast Fathers and did all they could to publish and disseminate them. Above all, they loved noetic quietude and noetic prayer of the heart, and they understood its value in the union of the nous of man with God. This is what made them saints in the consciousness of the people and the life of the Church.

The venerable Paisius Velichkovsky wrote also of the contribution of the Greek Orthodox Church to the Russian Orthodox Church:

"With the inexpressible philanthropy of God, in these end times, our entire Russian Church was made worthy to receive the holy Orthodox faith and Orthodox baptism from the Greek Orthodox Church. With the holy faith the Holy Scriptures were received also, together with all the sacred books, the ecclesiastical teachers and fathers, translated from Hellenic-Greek. These are the sources of Slavic books, because otherwise there would be no Slavic books."

So the Philokalic Fathers, Saint Makarios Notaras and Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite among others, contributed to the rebirth of hesychastic monasticism and the hesychastic tradition, which resisted the stream of the Enlightnment, that sought to restore ancient Greece in modern Hellenism in defiance of the entire intermediate Byzantine-Romaic-Patristic period. In the same way the venerable Paisius Velichkovsky resisted in a thoroughly positive way the stream of the Enlightenment which had penetrated Russia and the surrounding region, as indeed he had encountered it in the Ecclesiastical School of Kiev as a seminarian.

Emeritus Professor Anthony-Emil Tachiaos in his study titled Paisius Velichkovsky and his Ascetical-Philological School, after investigating the sources, gives us important information regarding the publication of the Philokalia in the Greek language and its translation into Slavonic and, of course, he relates the parallel efforts of the venerable Paisius and Saint Makarios Notaras the bishop of Corinth.

The venerable Paisius, in order to cover up the absence of a spiritual guide and in turn guide his brotherhood, was interested in the study, discovery and translation of the neptic texts of the hesychast Fathers. This effort had previously been localized. When he departed Mount Athos and relocated to Moldova he was informed of the parallel movement of Saint Makarios Notaras to find and gather the texts of the neptic Fathers. This information was conveyed to him by his disciple the monk Gregory, who was close to Saint Makarios. When the Greek edition of the Philokalia was issued in 1782, then the venerable Paisius received a copy of this edition and then both he and his monks revised the translation with many of their texts. Having completed the translation of patristic texts, they then printed the Slavonic Philokalia at the Synodal Printer of Moscow in 1793, eleven years after the publication of the Greek Philokalia. However, the Slavonic Philokalia only included 24 of the 36 writings of the Greek edition. Later the Slavonic Philokalia was translated into the Romanian and Russian languages.

The same Professor in a separate chapter titled "Optina Monastery as an Heir to the Spirit of the School of Paisius Velichkovsky", documents how the Russian monks, disciples of the venerable Paisius, in 1779, after the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca and later after the repose of the venerable Paisius, repatriated to Russia and conveyed the hesychastic spirit of the venerable Paisius. They also conveyed the oral tradition, as well as the manuscripts of translated ascetic works that were done by the School of the Sacred Monastery of Neamt. These disciples of the venerable Paisius occupied various positions in Russian monasteries, becoming abbots and spiritual fathers, and this helped in the development of hesychastic monasticism.

It has been estimated that 103 monasteries in Russia were influenced by the spirit of hesychastic monasticism, as expressed by the venerable Paisius. But Optina Monastery was the one that proved to be eminently the "heir" of the great ascetical tradition of the School of Paisius Velichkovsky. The Sacred Monastery of Optina gained great glory in the days of Hieromonk Macarius (1788-1860). In his days the Sacred Monastery undertook the publication of ascetical writings "that were given as an inheritance to Russia from the school of Paisius".

This period in Russia was very important because the West was transferring German philosophy and a logicocracy that influenced many intellectuals. It was inevitable that the western Germanic Enlightenment develope parallel with the hesychast tradition of the Church, as expressed by the venerable Paisius. Thus there developed two streams in Russian society, namely the stream of the western Enlightenment and the stream of hesychasm by the Slavophiles, as we find manifested in the work of Dosteovsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

In Dostoevsky's novel he presents the streams prevailing in Russia in his time. The three children of Fyodor Karamazov, namely Mitya-Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha-Alexei express the three streams of Russian society. Mitya represents the old primitive and sensual Dionysian Russia. Ivan represents the Russian intelligentsia, which had been influenced by the western Enlightenment, and he himself was an intellectual, agnostic and a representative of thinkers. Alyosha represents the intellectual world that was affected by Orthodox spirituality and he express the way of thinking of the Slavophiles. And Starets Zosima, as presented by Dostoevsky, expresses Macarius and Ambrose of Optina Monastery and its tradition.

However, the 103 Russian monasteries, especially Optina Monastery, were a center of the study of the Philokalia and patristic texts. Indeed Optina Monastery affected tremendously the Russian social and intellectual world, since besides regular people visiting the Monastery there were also theologians, philosophers, writers and authors, such as Alexei Khomiakov, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, etc.

So from the tradition created by the amazing Venerable Paisius it affected monks and even Saint Seraphim of Sarov, who is considered a spiritual descendant of the venerable Paisius, as well as other theologians, writers and philosophers.


Epilogue

The course of the life of the venerable Paisius Velichkovsky (1722-1794) is wondrous and amazing. His mother wanted to lead him into marriage and the priesthood, so that by this way he would remain in history as an example of family. This is because his mother, as the venerable Paisius narrates, lost her priest husband and he remained her only child, "the only one to take care of her in her old age and the house and a comfort from God". But, the venerable Paisius followed another path and ultimately saved thousands of people, and emerged as a new Moses in Moldova, Wallachia, Russia and throughout the surrounding area, so that his named might remain bright unto the ages. Even his mother, after her initial grief, became a monastic and reposed as a nun.

He brought to Mount Athos the zeal for the hesychastic life, but benefited from the hesychastic tradition that already existed there, even though it was forgotten by many, but was preserved in libraries and individual ascetics. This shows that the patristic teachings are the same throughout the centuries, and it is essentially the theology of the Prophets, the Apostles and the Fathers, and nothing can overcome this Orthodox theology, neither scholastic theology, nor the so-called neo-patristic Russian theology.

Professor Anthony-Emil Tachiaos aptly writes in the foreword of the book:

"The study of the revival of hesychastic spirituality in the Orthodox world during the eighteenth century inevitably leads to the figure of the great ascetic and coenobiarch, Venerable Paisius Velichkovsky, who reintroduced to the Slavic and Romanian world the place of the spiritual life in this form. The venerable Paisius was the one who contributed to the revival of the coenobitic life in Romanian monasticism, based on an Athonite model, and with a shift towards hesychastic spirituality, as it had blossomed on Mount Athos in the fourteenth century. His work in this direction was a parallel effort to that which was being done in the Greek world by his contemporary Saint Makarios Notaras, whose work served as a model for Paisius."

And again I want to thank and congratulate Emeritus Professor Anthony-Emile Tachiaos for his overall contribution to the Church, but, especially, for the presentation of the life and activity of the venerable Paisius Velichkovsky, who is a bright child of the life that richly exists in the Orthodox Church.

Source 1, 2, 3: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ο όσιος Παΐσιος Βελιτσκόφσκι, ένας μεγάλος ησυχαστής Πατέρας, January-March 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Synaxis of the Saints of Agia

All Saints of Agia (Feast Day - Last Sunday of November)

Agia (Αγιά) is a village and a municipality in the Larissa regional unit of Thessaly, Greece. Agia is located east of Larissa and south of Melivoia. The Mavrovouni mountains dominate the south and the Aegean Sea lies to the east.

Agia, both by its name and etymology, refers to a region (where there flourished the monastic state of Kellion Mountain or Mountain of Cells [Όρος των Κελλίων]) where holy people live, because there were many monasteries and many monks who lived there. Indeed, the number of monasteries, churches, chapels and ecclesiastical treasures in Agia are very many.

This place has some of its own particular cultural and ecclesiastical characteristics. It was also made worthy to pull out its bowels Saint Symeon the Barefooted and One-robed, to accept within it Saint Damianos, to accept as a visitor the sacred preacher and hieromartyr Saint Kosmas Aitolos, and to honor for centuries in a unique way both Saint Anthony's, the Great and the ascetic of Beroia.

The biggest local celebration is that of Saint Anthony on September 1st. The establishment of a local celebration of all the Saints of Agia is to completely honor these great Saints, and it helps in the spiritual cultivation of the residents.

In the past, when the hierarchical commissioner of Agia was Fr. Ioannikios Varvarelis, the icon of All Saints of Agia was commissioned and there was an attempt to structure a certain liturgical service, but this was unsuccessful. Later, when the hierarchical commissioner of Agia was Fr. Nektarios Drossos, a special conference took place (18 May 2003) titled "Synaxis of the Saints of Agia" with seven relevant presenters.

Later, the priests of the region of Agia proposed and the Metropolitan of Demetrias accepted in 2008, for there to be established an ecclesiastical feast called "Synaxis of the Saints of Agia" for the last Sunday of November. The Saints to be honored on this day are:

- Saint Symeon the Barefooted and One-robed, who built the Sacred Monastery of Flamourion and died in 1594. His precious Skull is preserved in his Monastery and is celebrated on April 19.

- Saint Damianos of Kissavos, whose hermitage is preserved on the mountain of the same name near the village Anatoli. He celebrates on February 14.

- Saint Kosmas Aitolos, who celebrates on August 24.

- Saint Anthony the Great, who celebrates on January 17.

- Saint Anthony the New of Beroia. He is honored at Agia and his memory is celebrated on September 1.

- Saint Nicholas the New of Vounenis, who celebrates on May 9.

The center for this ecclesiastical ceremony and event is in the historic Sacred Church of Saint Anthony in Agia.

Source: Translated and edited by John Sanidopoulos.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saint Paisius Velichkovsky: A Great Hesychast Father (7 of 8)

St. Makarios Notaras

Continued from part six...

6. The Philokalic Movement in the Orthodox World (A)

The venerable Paisius Velichkovsky, without seeking it, became associated with an event of great significance that was observed in the eighteenth century Orthodox world, and it is called the Philokalic Renaissance, which played an important role in the revival of Orthodox Tradition and revealed new Holy Fathers and Neomartyrs.

It is known that in Europe in the eighteenth century there developed the ideological current known as the Enlightenment, which came out of the cosmic idol of western Christianity and established on ancient Greek philosophers and writers. Such enlightening ideas, transferred albeit in a more modest form to Greece, and Greeks like Adamantios Koraes even took interest in the publication of the works of ancient Greek philosophers and writers.

There appeared at this time in the Greek land the so-called Kollyvades or Philokalic Fathers, such as Saint Makarios Notaras, Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, Saint Athanasios Parios, and others, who moved in the opposite direction that the Enlighteners moved. They sought and published texts of the Fathers of the Church and especially texts referring to Orthodox hesychasm, which is the only method by which God can be known (theognosia).

Saint Makarios, formerly of Corinth, Notaras (1731-1805) worked diligently to discover and gather the writings of the neptic Fathers of the Church and gave them the title Philokalia of the Sacred Neptics. The venerable Paisius refers to this great hesychast Bishop who went to Mount Athos to find and collect these neptic texts. It is surprising that among other things the venerable Paisius writes: "When I came to the Holy Mountain."

We know, however, that Saint Makarios was on Mount Athos in 1775, while the venerable Paisius left Mount Athos in 1763. Thus, this "came" of the venerable Paisius shows that he felt and acted as an Athonite, although at the time he was living in Moldova.

However, the venerable Paisius refers to Saint Makarios, the former Bishop of Corinth, with very beautiful words, since they had the same desire and sought the same thing. He writes:

"The All-Sacred lord Makarios, former Metropolitan of Corinth, from yet a young age, worked with God, having such an indescribable love for the patristic writings, those referring to watchfulness, the attention of the nous, hesychasm and noetic prayer, namely the heart operating through the nous for the one who works at this; so that his entire life was dedicated to searching for them with his hand that loved to work, and as one experienced in secular education and unsparing in expenses, he ordered their copying."

He then tells us how Bishop Makarios investigated all the libraries of the Sacred Monasteries of the Holy Mountain, and how he discovered the "priceless treasure" at Vatopaidi Monastery, "namely a book on the unification of the nous with God, which was a collection from all the saints done in ancient times by great zealots," as well as other writings which were unknown at that time. Bishop Makarios copied them, with the help of expert copyists, and he read them while in custody of the originals and corrected them properly. He also wrote a quick biography of the saints who compiled them. "Then he departed the Holy Mountain with unspeakable joy, as if he found a heavenly treasure on earth, and then came to the glorious Asia Minor city of Smyrna, and sent them to Venice with a lot of money, which he acquired from the charity of Christians" for their publication. The venerable Paisius praises Saint Makarios for the important work he did, because he understood the value of these writings "and almost his entire life exhausted himself in an intense search for these writings everywhere, but especially on Holy Mount Athos." Indeed these writings, as he writes, are for the athletes of monastic life in the arena with invisible spirits "more necessary than breath itself."

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite (1749-1809) helped in the publication of the Philokalia after the urging of Saint Makarios when he visited the Holy Mountain in 1777 and met him. Hieromonk Euthymios, the spiritual brother and first biographer of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, refers to this episode:

"In 1777 Saint Makarios of Corinth came, and after worshiping in the sacred Monasteries he came to Karyes and was given hospitality at Saint Anthony's by a fellow patriot, Elder David. So he called for Nikodemos and pleaded with him to consider the Philokalia. And in this way the blessed one began - what do I mean began? I wonder, for I do not know what to say; should I say spiritual struggle or excessive labor of his mind and flesh? It is not only these things which I said, but other things also, which my mind cannot contemplate - I say he began with the Philokalia. And there we see his most beautiful Introduction and the short honey-dripped biographies of the deified Fathers."

This original biographer of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, however, gives us the important testimony that Saint Nikodemos had heard of the venerable Paisius Velichkovsky and wanted to visit him.

"And being there [Dionysiou Monastery] he heard of the good fame of the coenobitic leader Paisius the Russian, who was in Bogdania [Moldova] and had over a thousand brothers in his fold, and that he taught noetic prayer. Loving also this divine work, he embarked on a ship to go in search of his beloved divine prayer. While sailing outside of Athos they were caught in a storm and they were in danger until they reached the port of the Panagia in Thasos. Disembarking there he changed his goal due to the phenomenon of the storm, though in truth the inclination of God turned him back, that he might undertake this great good in the Church of Christ." Of course he refers to the publication of various patristic texts.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.


Perhaps an Explanation for the Tears of the Archangel Michael in Rhodes?


Less than a month ago many thousands of people read my post about the wonderworking icon of the Archangel Michael that began unexplainably weeping in Rhodes, at the old cemetery of Ialysos. Today residents of Rhodes and in particular Ialysos are wondering if perhaps this was a sign that foretold the catastrophe that took place in Rhodes yesterday and today. For those who haven't heard, the story is below:

Heavy Flooding Causes Deaths on Rhodes Island

November 23, 2013

Heavy rain caused serious flooding on Rhodes over the weekend, killing at least two people and prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency on the Dodecanese island.

Rescue workers recovered the body of a 27-year-old school teacher off the coast of Kremasti, in the island’s north, in the early hours of Saturday, a few hours after the body of another woman, aged 40, was found in a river bed in nearby Ialysos. The 27-year-old was a Cypriot woman, according to local reports.

A Super Puma rescue helicopter and a 10-member EMAK rescue team with dogs was dispatched to the island to help with the search for a 50-year-old man reported missing and at least one more person who was unaccounted for.

The local fire service received nearly 300 calls to rescue islanders trapped in their cars on flooded roads and residents of basement apartments or stores that were submerged in floodwater.

The flooding was caused by an intense downpour on Friday, which hit the northern part of the island, close to Rhodes Town, particularly hard. The downpour prompted brief power cuts and caused minor damage to some roads, according to local reports.

In comments to Skai television, the regional governor for the Southern Aegean, Fotis Hatzidakos, said the flooding was “unprecedented” for Rhodes.

Saint Amphilochios of Iconium as a Model for our Lives

St. Amphilochius of Iconium (Feast Day - November 23)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Amphilochios lived in the fourth century. He was from Cappadocia and a friend of Basil the Great, which is evidenced by the letters of Basil the Great to him on the occasion of various events. Among the most important letters of Basil the Great to Saint Amphilochios is that which he sent on the occasion of the consecration of the latter as Bishop of Iconium.

When one reads the letters of Basil the Great to Saint Amphilochios the greatness of the personality of Saint Amphilochios can be perceived, his struggle to combat heresy and preserve the Orthodox Faith, his respect and love for Basil the Great, as well as the great love Basil the Great had for him. He attended the Second Ecumenical Synod in Constantinople where he was distinguished for his gumption and targeted placements. With the seniority he had he intervened and gave solutions to various problems arising in Local Churches and in this way ensured peace between them, as well as the unity of the Orthodox everywhere.

He produced a number of discourses relating to the Orthodox Faith. In 394 he reposed in peace, fifty years after his consecration as Bishop.

His life and times give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

First, Saint Amphilochios shunned ordination out of great humility and deep respect for this high office. But God, Who directs history, as well as the course of life for all those who love Him and place their hope in Him, led his steps to the sacred Place of Sacrifice - without of course infringing on his freedom - and even made him worthy of the highest honor of the Hierarchy. And as Basil the Great stresses, in addressing Saint Amphilochios, so it always happens with those people who desire that the will of God take place in their hearts. That is, God directs their footsteps "towards every good work". He writes: "Blessed be God Who from age to age chooses them that please Him, distinguishes vessels of election, and uses them for the ministry of the Saints. Though you were trying to flee, as you confess, not from me, but from the calling you expected through me, He has netted you in the sure meshes of grace, and has brought you into the midst of Pisidia to catch men for the Lord, and draw the devil's prey from the deep into the light. You, too, may say as the blessed David said, 'Whither shall I go from Your Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Your presence.' Such is the wonderful work of our loving Master. 'Asses are lost' that there may be a king of Israel. David, however, being an Israelite was granted to Israel; but the land which has nursed you and brought you to such a height of virtue, possesses you no longer, and sees her neighbor beautified by her own adornment." He also offers the following advice: "Play the man, then, and be strong, and walk before the people whom the Most High has entrusted to your hand. Like a skilful pilot, rise in mind above every wave lifted by heretical blasts; keep the boat from being whelmed by the salt and bitter billows of false doctrine; and wait for the calm to be made by the Lord so soon as there shall have been found a voice worthy of rousing Him to rebuke the winds and the sea" (Letter 161).

In another letter he makes the distinction between heresies, schisms and unlawful congregations. He writes: "The old authorities ... used the names of heresies, of schisms, and of unlawful congregations. By heresies they meant men who were altogether broken off and alienated in matters relating to the actual faith; by schisms men who had separated for some ecclesiastical reasons and questions capable of mutual solution; by unlawful congregations gatherings held by disorderly presbyters or bishops or by uninstructed laymen" (Letter 188). Basil the Great completes his advice with the following: "Only be exhorted ever to give heed lest you be carried away by wicked customs. Rather change all previous evil ways into good by the help of the wisdom given you by God. For Christ has sent you not to follow others, but yourself to take the lead of all who are being saved" (Letter 161).

Second, in most of the letters to Saint Amphilochios, Basil the Great closes with a prayer/wish that Saint Amphilochios be healthy and joyful. He writes: "May you be strong and joyful in the Lord" or "May you by the grace of the Lord be kept in good health and joy in the Lord, praying for me and for the Church of God", etc. This prayer/wish is very important for everyone, especially, however, for Spiritual Fathers, as well as for all leaders generally who have enormous responsibilities and daily face many serious problems. Furthermore, it is important that they have physical and spiritual health, because in this way they will be able to withstand the difficulties. It is also important that they have inner peace and joy, and in this way they will pacify, make joyful and create a good mood to all those who come before them and are found near them. Saint Seraphim of Sarov advised the Abbess of the Sacred Monastery of Diveyevo to have a joyful mood before the sisters of the Sacred Monastery. He also urged her to welcome the sisters, who come from the fields tired, calmly and with a smile. He pleaded with her to sit with them when they are eating, even if she is not hungry. This is because, as he told her: "When you sit with them and talk courteously they will take courage and will eat joyfully and with a good mood ... joy is not a sin, Matushka."

True joy, however, is an internal affair. This means that it is not connected to external events, but it springs from within the heart; inside a heart which is filled with the Holy Spirit, and for this reason (true joy) is not whisked away due to everyday difficulties and many temptations, but it is still there even in the harshest conditions, and in the most saddest events of life.

May the prayer/wish of Basil the Great, "may you be strong and joyful in the Lord", be applied to all of us.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Άγιος Αμφιλόχιος, Επίσκοπος Ικονίου", October 2012. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Saint Paisius Velichkovsky: A Great Hesychast Father (6 of 8)


Continued from part five...

5. His Venerable End

The end of such a Saint was worthy of his life. Throughout his life he lived in hesychastic quietude and noetic prayer, and in such also did his life have to end and pass on to eternity.

According to the testimony of his biographer Metrophanes: "Several days earlier he received notification from the Lord regarding his death, for which he stopped the translation of patristic works." He visited his cell and saw him "extremely happy". He asked him "four difficult theological questions" for which he received good responses. When he left the cell, then the brother that served the Saint "locked the door and did not allow anyone to enter. The next day he fell ill. Then it was not allowed for anyone to even knock on the door, to worsen his situation."

He suffered three days and on Sunday felt better and went to the Divine Liturgy. With much difficulty he returned to his cell. "From then his illness worsened and no one was allowed to visit him. The blessed one desired to complete his life in quietude."

"When the end was near he communed of the Immaculate Mysteries, and after inviting two spiritual fathers, through whom he transferred to all the brethren blessings and peace, he departed as if he slept and he gave his soul into the hands of God, leaving the brotherhood, according to the judgement of the common gathering, to elect an Elder and shepherd."

When the passing of the venerable Paisius became known "a multitude of monastic and married priests gathered, together with ordinary people, and there was a common lament from everyone, from ourselves and them, and we buried him with honors inside the church."

He reposed on November 15th in the year 1794. A venerable life, venerable also was his repose. A hesychast life, his repose and burial to the Lord was also hesychastic.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Elder Epiphanios Faces Challenging Fasting Questions


Fasting and Dieting

The Elder (Epiphanios Theodoropoulos) often responded to challenges regarding fasting. He was once asked:

"Father, who fasts better during a fasting period, the one who eats two dishes of fasoulada without oil, halva and other such fasting foods, or one who eats one boiled egg?"

The Elder replied bluntly:

"The first! The second is simply dieting."

He justified his response by saying:

"Fasting has two objectives: the ascetic pursuit of abstinence for the body by limiting nutrient-rich foods, and conformity to the commands of the Church, which is an ascetic pursuit for the soul.

The one who eats one egg during a fasting period, for no reason of health, undeniably violates the mandate of the Church. It is like those who seek to find a good reason to pursue a certain diet that tells them to eat legumes and vegetables on Tuesday and Thursday, while Wednesday and Friday should be non-fasting days. Such contempt for the Church is challenging, since compliance of this kind is introduced because it is inexpensive and easy. Rather, Tuesday and Thursday they should eat non-fasting foods and they should fast on Wednesday and Friday. In this way the results in terms of the diet would be the same and there would be no violation of the fast. Clearly there is great ignorance and indifference to what has been established by the Church, if not worse, a Luciferian conceit."

It is understood that the Elder did not favor binging on fasting foods, or luxurious and sophisticated dishes during periods of fasting, even if they rank among the Lenten foods.

He always recommended austerity, whether or not it was a fasting period, both for the monks and the laity. Indeed, he emphasized often to control the excruciating self-restraint on food, which secular people regularly undergo to retain their figure, and certainly not for health reasons but rather for display.

Fasting and Name Days

The issue has often come up if the offering of non-fasting foods on a persons name day, during an exceptional event, a meeting with friends, etc., is allowed during fasting periods.

The Elder said that to take care of people is a great virtue, the practice of which cannot be suspended during fasting periods. However, at the table there will necessarily be offered fasting foods. With certain limits they can be better prepared or more delicious if we want to honor someone, but they must of necessity be for fasting.

Fasting and Hospitality

It is prevalent among many that for reasons of hospitality the abolition of the fast is allowed. As an example from the history of the Church there is brought forward the tactic of the Desert Fathers who stopped fasting in order to accommodate someone or to give hospitality to a certain brother when they were traveling.

The Elder cleared things up:

"Nowhere in the Gerontikon does it praise an ascetic or display them as an example because they abolished the fast for the sake of hospitality. What it does mention is that certain holy hermits abolished their personal ascetic fasting, which was much more austere than what the Church required.

For example, they ate a little uncooked food, soaked beans or raw greens, or soaked dry bread, and not every day, but every two or three days or even less often.

If they happened, then, to give hospitality to someone, then they boiled legumes or grasses, and if it was a day when oil and wine were allowed then they added a little oil and drank a little wine. They may have even added a little more effort to prepare their unassuming food to honor their guest.

Out of humility the same did not allow such hospitality for themselves the minimal times they left their place of asceticism.

Once the reasons for hospitality disappeared, they reverted to their strict fasting and possibly even more austerely to regain lost ground, just in case, for example, they fool themselves and consider hospitality an excuse to relax their fasting.

When a hermit was traveling and visited other ascetics in the desert, they would offer him a little wine (whether or not it was a day wine was allowed because a certain oikonomia was practiced for those who took the trouble to travel). He would drink this with sincere thanks, but when he returned to his cell, he would go for a certain amount of days without water for every glass of wine he received while traveling.

One of his disciples, who pitied him when they traveled together, would secretly beg the hosts not to offer any wine."

Source: From the book ΥΠΟΘΗΚΕΣ ΖΩΗΣ: από τη διδασκαλία του πατρός Επιφανίου, Έκδοσις Ιερού Ησυχαστηρίου Κεχαριτωμένης Θεοτόκου Τροιζήνας (σελ. 127-130). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

C.S. Lewis on Scientism, Darwinism and Design (Documentary)


Today, November 22, is the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis in 1963. There have been attempts in recent years to turn Lewis into one of those all-purpose good guys who always fronted the tenured status quo; for example, claims that he was a good Christian Darwinist. In fact, he wasn't. Here are researched facts on the subject.

Below is a documentary inspired by the book The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism:







Thursday, November 21, 2013

Saint Paisius Velichkovsky: A Great Hesychast Father (5 of 8)

Neamt Monastery

Continued from part four...

4. The Experience of Hesychastic Monasticism

The reading and translation of neptic and hesychast books put the venerable Paisius on a quest from a young age, but simultaneously, it still lit up for him an even greater desire for the neptic-hesychastic life.

His biographer and disciple Hieromonk Metrophanes in his text presents the spirituality of the venerable Paisius. I will quote a few indicative passages that show this reality.

From his youth the venerable Paisius "was a chosen vessel of God and a perfect observer of His commandments. This is why his words were strong and perfect, full of Grace, incisive in his soul, such that he separated the evil from the good, uprooting the passions and cultivating the virtues in the souls of those who hear with faith." "The Grace of the All-Holy Spirit dwelt within him from the womb of his mother", and this Grace later increased with the observance of the commandments of God.

From his youth he was wise. "While a young child in age, he was old in his mind and in wisdom. He subdued anger and desire to reason, alienated his senses from all the beautiful and pleasurable things of this world and he considered it all as corrupt." "He locked himself in his house and lived in quietude, as if he was in the desert of Sinai." From a young age he was inflamed with "unspeakable zeal" to love the Lord and abandon everything in the world, "even his mother".

The venerable Paisius loved noetic quietude and the neptic tradition of the Church and served with zeal to acquire this method, by which a person acquires unity with God.

The natural gifts he had, as well as the fruits of hesychasm and prayer were noticeable. "His bright mind and memory, which grace kept intact, no one can describe. He was rapid in understanding the higher doctrinal matters and, if he read something once, he treasured it always in his memory." "Indeed, this wonderful man, our blessed father, assimilated in all things with the ancient Holy Fathers."

He resembled the ancient hermits. "If we compare him with the holy hermits, who practiced the same type of hesychasm, then we would not be surprised how he rejoiced at prayer and in the union with God." "His mind was always serene" and "inflamed with the love and union of God." He could not hear anything that took place outside of his cell. He kept vigil in his cell with noetic prayer and watchfulness. "Just as the holy hermits remained vigilant brides, so throughout his life at night he was a vigilant bride, lacking nothing of the athleticism of the God-bearing Fathers."

He even resembled "the ancient holy coenobitic Fathers" in many points. The Holy Spirit resided within him and from his lips there "flowed the honeyed source of divine teachings, that soothed and healed souls and eliminated passions. He had a divine nous, which correctly understood the canons of the holy Ecumenical Synods and the traditions of the Church."

He was "steadfast in faith and hoped in the providence of God", having "the fear of God by which he kept the commandments of God as the daughter of his eye". "Within him was fiery love" towards Christ and "completely inflamed he poured himself out towards all, loving, animating and teaching all, sympathizing with everyone, embracing with his soul his spiritual children, as well as everyone who came to him." "He was always at peace with everyone, never at war with or embittering anyone". To a large degree he was humble, chaste. "While his innocence and simplicity were childlike, his nous was divine and not childish." His face was "in the form of an angel".

Metrophanes, who lived near the venerable Paisius, writes about his whole presence, since even his body was transformed by the Grace of God that dwelled in him.

"His face was bright as angel of God, his look was calm, his words were humble and a stranger to insolence, he greeted everyone with love, responded with affability; he was full of kindness, keen on charity, brought everyone near him like a magnet which naturally attracts iron. He had deep humility, gentleness and forbearance in all things. This great man was entirely God-like and a vessel of Grace. His nous was always united with God and his tears testified to this. When he spoke about Theology, then his heart vibrated with love, his face shined with joy, his eyes teared up, confirming the truth. When we stood before him, our eyes never tired of seeing him but wanted to see him avidly, nor were we tired of hearing him, nor bored, because out of the joy of our hearts, as I said, we completely forgot about ourselves."

His biographer also describes some miraculous events that he experienced watching the venerable Paisius.

Once he walked into his cell and was speaking to him, but he was still lying down and motionless, hearing nothing. Then, as recounted by Metrophanes, "I remained standing, looking at him and seeing his face as if it was blazing." Because, however, he was by nature "white and pale faced, I realized that the flame of his heart, out of love for prayer, passed through to his face."

Another time he saw his face shining. "The same out of spiritual joy spoke while smiling with unspeakable love, with spiritual words coming out of him, and it was as if he instilled joy in our souls."

The venerable Paisius had "also the gift of foresight and whatever he foresaw happened". While he was in his cell, he knew the moods of all the brothers of the Monastery. Not even miracles were missing from him. "Our blessed father did many miracles for us, but, because he did not want to even hear about this subject he attributed everything to the most-honorable Theotokos, and for this reason I will stop so as not to oppose him, although I know of many miracles both before his death and after."

Such a personality that had many spiritual gifts, quietude and noetic prayer, as well as teaching, attracted many monks near him and in this way he reconstructed the monasticism of his time, bringing to it the neptic tradition of the Fathers of the Church.

Most of the monastics of his time, apart from notable exceptions he himself recognized in the Kiev Caves Lavra and elsewhere, had altered so much that they only retained the outer form of monasticism. "They did not know what monasticism was and what the mystery of obedience was and how much benefit it offers the novice who approaches with awareness, what work was, and what is divine and noetic prayer that takes place in the nous through the heart. The same was taught these things by God and by the teachings of the Holy Fathers, through the study and translation of their works."

Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Homily on the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple (St. Gregory Palamas)


By St. Gregory Palamas

If a tree is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit (Mt. 7:17; Lk. 6:44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself, She who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above? Therefore, the coeternal and identical Image of goodness, Preeternal, transcending all being, He Who is the preexisting and good Word of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image, that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven. For this purpose, He had to assume a flesh that was both new and ours, that He might refashion us from out of ourselves. Now He finds a Handmaiden perfectly suited to these needs, the supplier of Her own unsullied nature, the Ever-Virgin now hymned by us, and Whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate. God predestined Her before the ages for the salvation and reclaiming of our kind. She was chosen, not just from the crowd, but from the ranks of the chosen of all ages, renowned for piety and understanding, and for their God-pleasing words and deeds.

In the beginning, there was one who rose up against us: the author of evil, the serpent, who dragged us into the abyss. Many reasons impelled him to rise up against us, and there are many ways by which he enslaved our nature: envy, rivalry, hatred, injustice, treachery, slyness, etc. In addition to all this,he also has within him the power of bringing death, which he himself engendered, being the first to fall away from true life.

The author of evil was jealous of Adam, when he saw him being led from earth to Heaven, from which he was justly cast down. Filled with envy, he pounced upon Adam with a terrible ferocity, and even wished to clothe him with the garb of death.Envy is not only the begetter of hatred, but also of murder, which this truly man-hating serpent brought about in us. For he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruin of that which was created in the image and likeness of God. Since he was not bold enough to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit. This truly terrible and malicious plotter pretended to be a friend and useful adviser by assuming the physical form of a serpent, and stealthily took their position. By his God-opposing advice,he instills in man his own death-bearing power, like a venomous poison.

If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the divine commandment, then he would have shown himself the vanquisher of his enemy, and withstood his deathly attack. But since he voluntarily gave in to sin, he was defeated and was made a sinner. Since he is the root of our race, he has produced us as death-bearing shoots. So, it was necessary for us, if he were to fight back against his defeat and to claim victory, to rid himself of the death-bearing venomous poison in his soul and body, and to absorb life, eternal and indestructible life.

It was necessary for us to have a new root for our race, a new Adam, not just one Who would be sinless and invincible, but one Who also would be able to forgive sins and set free from punishment those subject to it. And not only would He have life in Himself, but also the capacity to restore to life, so that He could grant to those who cleave to Him and are related to Him by race both life and the forgiveness of their sins, restoring to life not only those who came after Him, but also those who already had died before Him. Therefore, St. Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, exclaims, “the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).

Except for God, there is no one who is without sin, or life-creating, or able to remit sin. Therefore, the new Adam must be not only Man, but also God. He is at the same time life, wisdom, truth, love, and mercy, and every other good thing, so that He might renew the old Adam and restore him to life through mercy, wisdom and righteousness. These are the opposites of the things which the author of evil used to bring about our aging and death.

As the slayer of mankind raised himself against us with envy and hatred, so the Source of life was lifted up [on the Cross] because of His immeasurable goodness and love for mankind. He intensely desired the salvation of His creature, i.e., that His creature would be restored by Himself. In contrast to this, the author of evil wanted to bring God’s creature to ruin, and thereby put mankind under his own power, and tyrannically to afflict us. And just as he achieved the conquest and the fall of mankind by means of injustice and cunning, by deceit and his trickery, so has the Liberator brought about the defeat of the author of evil, and the restoration of His own creature with truth, justice and wisdom.

It was a deed of perfect justice that our nature, which was voluntarily enslaved and struck down, should again enter the struggle for victory and cast off its voluntary enslavement. Therefore, God deigned to receive our nature from us, hypostatically uniting with it in a marvelous way. But it was impossible to unite that Most High Nature,Whose purity is incomprehensible for human reason, to a sinful nature before it had been purified. Therefore, for the conception and birth of the Bestower of purity, a perfectly spotless and Most Pure Virgin was required.

Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation. He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Coeternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity, He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, “practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips” (Is. 53:9). He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50/51:5). Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.

God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin. She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to Her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word” (Lk. 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.

Turn your attention then, to where this choice began. From the sons of Adam God chose the wondrous Seth, who showed himself a living heaven through his becoming behavior, and through the beauty of his virtues. That is why he was chosen, and from whom the Virgin would blossom as the divinely fitting chariot of God. She was needed to give birth and to summon the earth-born to heavenly sonship. For this reason also all the lineage of Seth were called “sons of God,” because from this lineage a son of man would be born the Son of God. The name Seth signifies a rising or resurrection, or more specifically, it signifies the Lord, Who promises and gives immortal life to all who believe in Him.

And how precisely exact is this parallel! Seth was born of Eve, as she herself said, in place of Abel, whom Cain killed through jealousy (Gen. 4:25); and Christ, the Son of the Virgin, was born for us in place of Adam, whom the author of evil also killed through jealousy. But Seth did not resurrect Abel, since he was only a foretype of the resurrection. But our Lord Jesus Christ resurrected Adam, since He is the very Life and the Resurrection of the earth-born, for whose sake the descendants of Seth are granted divine adoption through hope, and are called the children of God. It was because of this hope that they were called sons of God, as is evident from the one who was first called so, the successor in the choice. This was Enoch, the son of Seth, who as Moses wrote, first hoped to call on the Name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26).

In this manner, the choice of the future Mother of God, beginning with the very sons of Adam and proceeding through all the generations of time, through the Providence of God, passes to the Prophet-king David and the successors of his kingdom and lineage. When the chosen time had come, then from the house and posterity of David, Joachim and Anna are chosen by God. Though they were childless, they were by their virtuous life and good disposition the finest of all those descended from the line of David.And when in prayer they besought God to deliver them from their childlessness, and promised to dedicate their child to God from its infancy. By God Himself, the Mother of God was proclaimed and given to them as a child, so that from such virtuous parents the all-virtuous child would be raised.So in this manner, chastity joined with prayer came to fruition by producing the Mother of virginity, giving birth in the flesh to Him Who was born of God the Father before the ages.

Now, when Righteous Joachim and Anna saw that they had been granted their wish, and that the divine promise to them was realized in fact, then they on their part, as true lovers of God, hastened to fulfill their vow given to God as soon as the child had been weaned from milk. They have now led this truly sanctified child of God, now the Mother of God, this Virgin into the Temple of God. And She, being filled with Divine gifts even at such a tender age, … She, rather than others, determined what was being done over Her. In Her manner She showed that She was not so much presented into the Temple, but that She Herself entered into the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love. She considered it desirable and fitting that she should enter into the Temple and dwell in the Holy of Holies.

Therefore, the High Priest, seeing that this child, more than anyone else, had divine grace within Her, wished to set Her within the Holy of Holies. He convinced everyone present to welcome this, since God had advanced it and approved it. Through His angel, God assisted the Virgin and sent Her mystical food, with which She was strengthened in nature, while in body She was brought to maturity and was made purer and more exalted than the angels, having the Heavenly spirits as servants. She was led into the Holy of Holies not just once, but was accepted by God to dwell there with Him during Her youth, so that through Her, the Heavenly Abodes might be opened and given for an eternal habitation to those who believe in Her miraculous birthgiving.

So it is, and this is why She, from the beginning of time, was chosen from among the chosen. She Who is manifest as the Holy of Holies, Who has a body even purer than the spirits purified by virtue, is capable of receiving the Hypostatic Word of the Unoriginate Father.Today the Ever-Virgin Mary, like a Treasure of God, is stored in the Holy of Holies, so that in due time, (as it later came to pass) She would serve for the enrichment of, and an ornament for, all the world. Therefore, Christ God also glorifies His Mother, both before birth, and also after birth.

We who understand the salvation begun for our sake through the Most Holy Virgin, give Her thanks and praise according to our ability. And truly, if the grateful woman (of whom the Gospel tells us), after hearing the saving words of the Lord, blessed and thanked His Mother, raising her voice above the din of the crowd and saying to Christ, “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps Thou hast sucked” (Lk. 11:27), then we who have the words of eternal life written out for us, and not only the words, but also the miracles and the Passion, and the raising of our nature from death, and its ascent from earth to Heaven, and the promise of immortal life and unfailing salvation, then how shall we not unceasingly hymn and bless the Mother of the Author of our Salvation and the Giver of Life, celebrating Her conception and birth, and now Her Entry into the Holy of Holies?

Now, brethren, let us remove ourselves from earthly to celestial things. Let us change our path from the flesh to the spirit. Let us change our desire from temporal things to those that endure. Let us scorn fleshly delights, which serve as allurements for the soul and soon pass away. Let us desire spiritual gifts, which remain undiminished. Let us turn our reason and our attention from earthly concerns and raise them to the inaccessible places of Heaven, to the Holy of Holies, where the Mother of God now resides.

Therefore, in such manner our songs and prayers to Her will gain entry, and thus through her mediation, we shall be heirs of the everlasting blessings to come, through the grace and love for mankind of Him Who was born of Her for our sake, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory, honor and worship, together with His Unoriginate Father and His Coeternal and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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