Friday, January 31, 2014

Orthodox Bishop Answers 4 Questions on Science and the Theory of Evolution


Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki studied Physics at the University of Thessaloniki where he received his Bachelors in 1976, and after serving in the army he continued his studies at Harvard and M.I.T. where he received his Masters of Arts and Masters in Science, and then in a combined program of Harvard and M.I.T. (HST = Health-Sciences-Technology) he received his Ph.D in Biomedical Engineering. Upon completing his studies he worked simultaneously for New England Deaconess Hospital, NASA and Arthur D. Little. After teaching at Harvard and M.I.T., he went on to teach at the School of Medicine at the University of Crete as well as at the University of Athens. He then went back to Boston where he received both a Masters in Theological Studies and a Masters in Theology from Holy Cross School of Theology, and a doctorate from the University of Thessaloniki in Bioethics. In 2008 he received an Honorary Doctoral Degree from the University of Athens School of Theology in Science and Religion.

The following questions on science and the theory of evolution were presented to His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia and Lavreotiki:

The Myth of the Excommunication of Nikos Kazantzakis


There is a persistent myth that Nikos Kazantzakis was excommunicated by the Greek Orthodox Church. This is not true. Despite the very controversial topics he wrote about, it was eventually seen that he was a novelist and artist and not a theologian, and that what he wrote about was not doctrine but about his own personal struggles, no matter how vividly and shockingly it was portrayed. There was indeed a campaign for his excommunication, but it never fell through. Neither the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece signed it, nor did the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Upon his death, his body was viewed in the Cathedral Church of Saint Menas in Heraklion. Much can be written on this topic, but I think a good summary is given in the book Dialogic Openness in Nikos Kazantzakis by Charitini Christodoulou (the first 20 pages can be read online here, with citations that I did not include), so I am offering a few excerpts below that deal with this issue specifically. Below that are a few articles that delve a bit deeper into the issue.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Three Hierarchs and the History of the Celebration of Greek Education


Before the foundation of the Greek state

The autonomy of the feast of the Three Hierarchs from an eccleiastical context and its institutionalization as a school event is not listed before the 19th century. Preceding this, according to the historian Effi Gazi, was the memorial day celebration for the feast of the Three Hierarchs for the local schools in the Crossroads (Stavrodromi) district of Constantinople by Patriarch Kallinikos V in 1805. Another indication is the Evangelical School of Smyrna and the celebration on January 30th of the memory of the benefactors and subscribers of the School from 1812-1813. In the Ionian Academy the Three Hierarchs were considered and honored as the protectors of their Constitution (1824-1826).

The Three Hierarchs as Hierarchs of the People


Below is an excerpt of a lecture delivered on the feast of the Three Hierarchs, at the Sacred Church of Saint Demetrios in Nafpaktos.

By Christos Ioannou,
Theologian

The lives and deeds of the Three Hierarchs are timeless.

Seeing the simple monastic life of Basil the Great (whose personal fortune was only one book and his cassock), we ought to revise the model and mania of wasteful consumption.

Commemoration of the Miracle of the Great Martyr George in Zakynthos in 1688

Commemoration of the Miracle of the Great Martyr George in Zakynthos (Feast Day January 30)

The Great Martyr of Christ, George, is especially honored this day in Zakynthos, because he is linked to the salvation of the island from the plague that took place in the year 1688.

In 1669 Cretan refugees came to the island of Zakynthos after Heraklion fell to the Turks, among whom was Ioannis Papadopoulos who brought with him an old icon of Saint George, which was placed inside the Church of Saint Demetrios of Kola. Sacrilegious thieves, however, stripped it of its silver trim and threw the icon in a trough on November 13, 1688.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Some Personal Experiences From My Contact With Father Paisios


By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

I had a lot of contact with the blessed Father Paisios. I do not recall details of many of his words, but some incidents, and mostly his saintly personality, remain in my memory. It forms the picture of a holy ascetic, an anchorite of the 4th century AD. I did not try to save his phrases because his whole existence had stayed in my heart, and thus for me Father Paisios was a saint, beyond his words and deeds.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Saint Isaac the Syrian as a Model for our Lives

St. Isaac the Syrian (Feast Day - Janaury 28 and September 28)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The venerable Isaac lived in the sixth century. He was from Syria, specifically from the city of Nineveh. We do not have any information about his parents. What we do know is that the Saint received a good education and at a young age he withdrew from the world and entered a Coenobitic Monastery. Later, he withdrew into the desert, where he reaped the sweet fruits of hesychasm and then, in obedience to the Church, he was ordained Bishop of Nineveh.

Submerged 4-5th Century Church Under Lake Iznik Discovered


Iznik is the current Turkish name for the ancient city of Nicaea, where the First Ecumenical Synod took place. Interestingly, Senatus Palace built by Constantine the Great, which hosted the First Ecumenical Synod, is also submerged under Lake Iznik. The Seventh Ecumenical Synod took place in the Church of Hagia Sophia in Nicaea, which bears a resemblance to this newly-discovered submerged church. The latest research suggests that this church may have been from the fourth century and was dedicated to Saint Peter.

January 28, 2014

The remains of an ancient basilica have been discovered about 20 meters from shore in Bursa’s Lake Iznik, according to local archaeologists.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Contemporary Man and the Spiritual Life


On Thursday, 23 January 2014, over 600 people filled a room at Eleon Loft in Athens to hear a lecture by the Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Vatopaidi, Elder Ephraim, on the topic "Contemporary Man and the Spiritual Life".

Among those in attendance were His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Dodona, party members, community leaders, clergy, monastics, students and many people.

After opening with a prayer, he said among other things the following:

Archbishop of Crete: "Every Hour I Live the Pain of the People"


Anna Konstadoulakis
January 23, 2014

"Give me money, I'm ready to kill myself."

"Give me money; if you don't give it I will steal."

People, mostly from Heraklion, who are distressed from debt, daily visit Archbishop Irinaios of Crete seeking financial assistance.

They are drowning in debt, have families to support, can't find a job, have lost their courage and hopes, and have stopped thinking rationally.

"Whoever comes here, we help. We do not turn them away," the Archbishop said to Patris. He further said: "Every day the numbers increase of our fellow citizens who ask for help. They are despondent people who tell me they will kill themselves, they will go and steal. Every day it gets worse."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Saints Xenophon, Maria, John and Arcadius as Models for our Lives

Sts. Xenophontos, Maria, Arkadios and John (Feast Day - January 26)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

In the chorus of saints we find not only those who lived in virginity in Christ, but also many who were married and even entire families. One of these is the family of Saint Xenophon. This holy man lived in the sixth century. He was of aristocratic descent with many material goods, but these didn't prevent him from living the spiritual life. With charity and love he saved them in the bank of heaven and acquired spiritual wealth. Together with his most pious wife Maria they raised their children, John and Arcadius, with the living teachings of the evangelical life. When the right time came, the two children, with the blessing of their parents went to Beirut to study law. Along the way their ship wrecked and many drowned. The two brothers were saved, by divine providence, and were eventually found in Jerusalem. There, without knowing what happened to each other, they met at the same monastery where they took up their habitation. When the parents learned about the shipwreck they began, as is natural, to look for them. With the joy of their meeting they took up the great decision of distributing their wealth to the poor and dressing up in the monastic schema. They lived the Orthodox evangelical life with zeal and obedience and all four were made worthy of communion with God. The "chorus of the saints" increased by four members and Orthodox families acquired another model and intercessors before God. In the list of saints of the Orthodox Church we find several such families, and many sanctified couples.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Elder Ephraim of Vatopaidi Interviewed Concerning the War With Sinful Thoughts


January 9, 2014

Are thoughts (logismoi) a part of ourselves? Is it part of our thinking? How are they born and how do we fight against them? How does a person succeed in conquering them or approach the derivatives of good and evil?

The known Russian magazine "Slavianka" conducted a substantial interview with the abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Vatopaidi, Archimandrite Ephraim, on the main theme: "Sinful Thoughts".

Elder Ephraim, who is known to all for the power of his spiritual words and the clarity with which he describes complex topics, now has given us a clear image on sinful thoughts, though he stressed that there are even thoughts which make us stronger spiritually.

The truth is that many of us do not know the state of our thoughts and how much they can damage our spiritual integrity or our efforts to move towards such spiritual integrity.

What are thoughts? How do they spring up daily in our lives? How do we recognize them and manage them? These are some of the issue that Elder Ephraim will illuminate for us.

We present below excerpts that were published in the Russian magazine "Slavianka":

Saint Gregory the Theologian as a Model for our Lives

St. Gregory the Theologian (Feast Day - January 25)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Gregory the Theologian was from Nazianzus in Asia Minor. His mother Nonna was a pious Christian, while his father was initially a follower of the system of the Hypsistarians, which merged Jewish and Gentile religious elements, and in which the worship of the Most High God was combined with the worship of fire. His wife through prayer and daily persuasion succeeded in returning him to the Christian faith. He was baptized by bishops of the area and received the name Gregory. Shortly afterwards he was ordained Bishop of Nazianzus. Saint Gregory the Theologian likens his parents to Abraham and Sarah because they had three children at an advanced age - Gorgona, Gregory and Caesarius.

Saint Gregory was ordained Presbyter by his father and Bishop by his friend Basil. He was a great theologian. In hymnography he is mainly praised as "the utmost theological mind". The Church honored him by awarding him the title of "Theologian", which it has reserved for only three Saints. The other two are John the Evangelist and the venerable Symeon the New Theologian.

Saint Gregory was chosen to assume the leadership of the Church of Constantinople at a difficult time, during which the heretical Arians prevailed for forty years and the imperial court favored the heresy. There, despite great difficulties, his theological charisma shined, as well as the greatness of his soul. He delivered his famous homilies on theology and the small church in which he spoke and liturgized was called "Anastasia" ("Resurrection"), because he resurrected the divine word. Eventually, the Emperor Theodosius handed over the cathedral and the Second Ecumenical Synod elected him Archbishop of Constantinople. His enemies, however, raised the issue of canonical irregularity upon his election to the throne of Constantinople, because allegedly he held another office. The complaint, however, was not correct, because he was never settled in the city of Sasima. But to prevent schism within the Church, he departed Constantinople, after delivering a moving speech at the headquarters of the Synod, which revealed the splendor of his spiritual power. He said that if he was the cause of division, then let him be thrown into the sea like Jonah, that the storm may cease. And he retired to find "his friend quietude".

His life and writings give us the opportunity to highlight many and important things, but the narrowness of space allows us to mention the following:

First, Saint Gregory was a Theologian both by name and reality, because he had the personal knowledge and experience of God. His homilies, especially his festive discourses on the great Despotic Feasts, have theological content, because Orthodox preaching is simultaneously a catechism and an initiation into the mystery of theology. Orthodox theology is a way of life and helps man to be purified of his passions, that he may acquire personal communion with God, who is not only a higher power or an abstract idea, but a Person. Saint Gregory the Theologian, like all the Holy Fathers, nourished and nourishes the people of God with the teachings of Orthodox Theology, which offers solutions to the great existential problems.

Orthodox preaching today has been influenced, unfortunately, by foreign standards and secularism. Of course, there are exceptions, but one mostly hears sermons that are societal, moralistic, colorless and tasteless of Orthodox theology, leaving people untouched and untreated. The Holy Fathers, as pastors, certainly grappled with various social issues and problems, but they did so as Theologians. They reflected on the issues and proposed solutions from the perspective of Orthodox theology.

Second, we are in the first month of the year, and as is known, we tend to wish each other "many years". And we do this because we love life and want to live as much as possible. Nobody wants death because we weren't created to die, but to live eternally. Death is something foreign and an intruder in our lives. It is a result of sin, the misuse of freedom, and disobedience to God's will. Human life has a higher purpose and thus is of great importance and value. It is worth reflecting on the value and purpose of human life through the theology of Saint Gregory. The Saint will tell us that man is "an animal residing here but transferring elsewhere, and the end of this mystery is to move towards God." In other words, man is not made for the herein, but for eternity. In this life, by economy, we live, breathe, eat, drink, work, become a monastic, get married, etc., but the purpose of our life is something else. It is deification, namely communion with the Holy Triune God. Our true citizenship is not here, but elsewhere. It is the Kingdom of the Holy Triune God. We live here, but we are transferring elsewhere, that we may become citizens in heaven.

It is worth rejoicing in Orthodox theology, which offers solutions to our daily problems, and helps us overcome the herein, namely death and the enjoyment of life, not just for "many years", but for eternity.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΓΡΗΓΟΡΙΟΣ Ο ΘΕΟΛΟΓΟΣ", January 2004. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Man and His Worth According to St. Gregory the Theologian


By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The ancient Greeks dealt with the problem of man. Alkmaion of Kroton said, as preserved by Theophrastos: "It is said that man differs from other animals because he has intelligence, while the others have senses but not intelligence". Menander's saying is also well known: "How graceful man is when he is a man".

The Holy Fathers studied extensively man and his worth as created in the image of God. St. Gregory the Theologian, to confine myself to him, is very expressive. In one of his sermons he says:

"What is this new mystery about me? I am small and great, humble and noble, mortal and immortal, earthly and heavenly". The first are of this world, while the second are of God, the first are attributes of the flesh, the second attributes of the Spirit. And he concludes by describing the purpose of man's existence, which shows his ontology and inner objective: "I must be buried together with Christ, be risen with Christ, inherit with Christ, become a son of God, this God".

In another sermon, St. Gregory the Theologian, after discussing man's creation, which followed the creation of angels and of the perceptible world, so as to be a kind of second world, a great one in his smallness, he then talks about man, as created by God:

"Another angel, pilgrim, combination, overseer of the visible creation, partaker of the invisible, king over earth, under the King of heaven, earthly and heavenly, temporal and eternal, visible and invisible, a measure of humbleness, spirit and flesh together".

He then gives another definition which is the summary of the entire Orthodox Anthropology and Christology and Soteriology. Man is "an animal residing here but transferring elsewhere, and the end of this mystery is to move towards God." That is, man resides on earth but moves elsewhere and the end of this mystery is for him to become God by grace. And, as he says subsequently, the dim gleam of truth he finds here on earth leads to the vision of God's brightness.

Abba Dorotheos: On Resentment


By St. Dorotheos of Gaza

This is like a person with a wound. He puts a plaster on it and temporarily heals it through that and it forms a scar. That spot remains sensitive and if one throws a stone at him it is more easily struck than the rest of the body and immediately starts to bleed. This is what happened to the person as well. He was wounded and put on a plaster, which is repentance, and he temporarily healed the wound, as in the example, that is to say, anger. He also started to take care of the resentment through trying to obliterate any bad memory from his heart. This is the scar of the wound. However, he was not perfectly healed. He still retained the problem of resentment that is like the scar from which the wound is easily reopened if it receives a small blow. Therefore, he has to struggle to completely blot out the scar so that hair grows again, no disfigurement remains and you cannot discern where the wound was.

But how is it possible to achieve this? By praying for the person that upset him, with his whole heart, saying, "God help my brother and through his prayers, me." Thus, he prays fervently for his brother, which is evidence of sympathy and love, and, at the same time, he humbles himself by asking for help through his brother’s prayers. Where there is sympathy, love and humility how can anger, resentment or any other passion prevail? As Abba Zosimas said, "If the devil should use all the tools of his evil and all his devils, all his efforts become ineffectual and are destroyed through humility according to the commandment of Christ." Another saintly father said that, "The person that prays for his enemies has no resentment."

Work at this and understand what you hear, for unless you work you cannot receive all this through the word. Who desires to learn an act and does so through words alone? Certainly, he always begins by doing and undoing and thus, gradually, labouring and enduring he learns the art through the help of God who sees his intention and his labour. How then can we seek to learn the art of arts without undertaking it through deeds? How is this possible? Therefore, brethren, let us be attentive and work with diligence while we have time. May God grant us to remember and maintain what we hear so that it should not be for our damnation on the day of judgment.

To Him belong glory and dominion to the ages of ages. Amen.

From Practical Teaching on the Christian Life.

A Greek Actor Who Visited Mount Athos and Had a Life Changing Experience


January 14, 2014

Well known Greek actor Yannis Aivazis strongly believes in God. Has his faith helped him?

"I used to say that religion is a human need to give a path for life, without doing harm to those around them. The first time I went to Mount Athos, I was suspicious. When I met my elder and he asked me to confess, I found myself crying for five minutes without realizing," he said to EGO.

Did he cry out of guilt?

"I don't know. I can't explain it."

Did he revise things in his life?

"When I returned from Mount Athos, it created a tense situation at home between me and Maria. I haven't spoken of this before. I returned and I was a totally different Yannis. Maria was afraid she would lose me. I became very calm. There were people who did not treat me well, and instead of getting irritated - as I used to get - I would say 'never mind, may it be blessed'."

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Panagia Melikiotissa: The Icon Shot With 55 Bullets


Half a century later, the inhabitants of Melikis in Imathia are reliving the miracle.

It is a miracle of their Panagia, who saved the village and hundreds of souls from death during the period of the Greek Civil War.

The icon of Panagia Melikiotissa, which was "hidden" for more than fifty years, has "appeared" again.

This time in the hands of the new parish priest of the Church of Saint Paraskevi, Father George. The locals consider the reappearance as a sign from God that He has not abandoned them.

As they say, the icon still today remains miraculous. The folklorist and journalist George Melikis at one point wrote about the historic event and considers it in his survey as being an unexplained incident, which none of his protagonists ever forgot.


The miracle

The rare figure of the Panagia, which attracts anyone who sees it for the first time, is the second feature that makes the icon special. The first feature is what the locals of Melikis call a miracle: 55 bullets found throughout the icon, except on her face which remained intact.

It was the 17th of March in 1947. The Civil War made the region bloody. In the Sacred Church of Saint Nicholas, a few dozen soldiers (some say 55 souls together with the women and children) sought shelter to protect them from the fury of war.

Someone betrayed them. Before dawn arrived, the first shots were heard. This was followed by an attempt of the rebels to break down the wooden door of the old church. It was impossible. Then they began to shoot in bursts. When their guns were emptied, they entered the ruined church and were stunned by what they saw. None of the soldiers nor anyone else inside were injured in the slightest. All the bullets were found on the icon of the Panagia, which graced the icon screen. A unique point is that not one bullet hit the face of the Theotokos, which continued to stare at everyone with love.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Orthodox Nuns Who Protect Abused and Orphaned Children


January 4, 2014
Yahoo OMG! Greece

Lyreio Children’s Institution greets with love children who are victims of child abuse, among other things, and has operated for over forty years in Lyreio, which is between Rafina and Nea Makris outside of Athens.

There on the mountain top, four nuns, Sisters Dorothea, Maria, Parthenia and Kalliniki, operate a children's village as a refuge for abused or unwanted children, and all of them call the nuns "mothers".

As "Espresso" reports, the nuns have struggled for forty years to help the children who come here for shelter, and they, 15 nuns altogether, are currently caring for 76 children between the ages of just a few days old to 18 years old.

"We were twelve girls who were 20 years old, who attended the same school in Piraeus. We went everywhere together, including of course catechetical school. Our friendship was great and our dream was common. We wanted to dedicate our lives to God, but at that time who would dare say something like that to their parents, who, among other things, had their origins in Mani. But we were determined," explains Sister Dorothea to "Espresso", describing how they decided to dedicate their lives to God, and also protect innocent children's souls.

Sister Dorothea continued: "At that time no girl could wear a cassock, unless she had the consent of her parents or was over 21 years old. So we decided to run away. And there was panic! For years they searched for us, and the police chased after us. We were in hiding lest they find us and bring us back. We found refuge in Spata, in Pentelikon, and even Davelis Cave, in Pefki.

Terrible chaos. Sometimes they located us. The police put us in a patrol car and took us back to our homes. But we did not relent. We asked three times and for three year remained hidden.

Court proceedings took place, and more. They [the parents] gave us their blessing and we began our work. We wanted to begin our monastic life by raising orphaned children, something that would fulfill our dream of marrying Christ and being mothers.

Initially we found a small church, which we fixed and repaired, and some property. However, we did not fit. Eventually in 1967 there was bestowed on us by the Holy Monastery of Penteli and the Archdiocese of Athens this area here and we built our house and homes for our children."

Of the twelve nuns who originally left their homes, five remain. Some of the girls who were raised by the nuns stayed on and became nuns themselves.

A documentary is currently being made about the nuns and the children they care for titled Μάνα (Mana).

To read the rest of this article which covers recent stories of the children and how they operate daily, see here (Greek).

Read more about Lyreio Children’s Institution and donate at:




Terrorists Behead Christian in Syria for Wearing His Cross


According to Syrian Free Press Network, terrorists opened fire on a car on the Homs-Marmarita Road and then attacked the two passengers, beheading one of them.

Firas Badr Nader, who survived the attack, recounted at Al-Bassel Hospital in Tartous that he and his friend Fadi Michael Matta were coming back from work in a hotel in Homs when five terrorists intercepted them and opened fire on the car. Nader said that he was shot and lost control of the car, causing it to crash, and as the terrorists approached the car he played dead, and then the terrorist dragged him and his friend out of the car and tied the latter's hands.

He then heard one of the terrorists instructing one of his accomplices to "slit his throat" at which point they decapitated Matta, then they stole all the documents and money they had and fled after trying to burn the car and failing.

After he was sure that the terrorists had left, Nader opened his eyes and saw that Matta was lying down covered in blood and decapitated. He said he ran until he reached a friend's house in al-Meshtaye area where he called the authorities, and an ambulance arrived soon at the scene of the crime and transported Nader to Al-Bassel Hospital and took Matta's body to a hospital in Marmarita.

According to dmc-sy.org, a priest in Homs further reported that the reason why they decided to behead Fadi Michael Matta was because he was wearing a cross around his neck. When the gunman noticed the cross, they beheaded him and planted the cross into his chest.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Elder Vissarion: A Saint in the People's Consciousness


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

On 22 January of the year 1991, the humble and merciful Hieromonk of the Sacred Monastery of Agathonos, Elder Vissarion, reposed in the Lord, and sealed a life of asceticism, love, humility and sanctity, having moved imperceptibly and unsuspectingly among us. His funeral took place at his Monastery amid a crowd of believers. All day the prestigious Monastery of the Theotokos was covered with a thick layer of snow and there was a smell of an unusual fragrance. Along with the tears of the people for having been deprived of their benefacting Spiritual Father there also flowed the tears of the Panagia from the Icon which was next to the grave of the Elder. On the same day there occurred heavenly wonders and signs. For this reason the ever-memorable Metropolitan Damaskinos of Fthiotidos, who led the Funeral Service, said in his homily: "Today we are burying a saint."

His memory remained vivid even after his death. Everybody was talking, in every village and town of Fthiotidos, of the good Elder, who walked around with the icon of the Panagia, confessed the faithful, stayed overnight in their homes, taught with his love, with his simple life, with his acts of mercy and with his sanctity. In the consciousness of the people he is confessed to be a saint. Many spoke of miracles, which he did after death, and his grave became a shrine for all the pilgrims to the Sacred Monastery of Agathonos.

On 3 March of 2006 God confirmed the hidden holiness of the venerable Elder. With the translation of his relic, which took place out of necessity due to work being done at the east wing of the Monastery, God who glorifies His Saints revealed at the grave of the Elder his incorrupt and fragrant sacred relic, which after 15 years remained incorrupt and whole as it was on the day of his burial.

The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Church of Greece characterized the event as a "sign from heaven". That is, it was a message to our people and to our time, and the faithful people of our Church in these difficult times were strengthened in their faith.

Only militant atheism, which stealthily and methodically employed the ravenous hunger for gain in some media sources and naive journalists, began an unprecedented attack on the miracle and more generally against the Church with unique weapons of misinformation and falsehood. For a whole month they "chewed on their tongues" and "deceived" with headlines in all the Greek channels about Elder Vissarion. So the weak-voiced Elder became the loudest herald of sanctity and many became grounded in their faith and spiritual life.

23 years have passed since the day of his Dormition and 8 years from the day of his Translation. The venerable Elder is in the place of his rest, where throughout his priestly life he confessed the faithful, in the chapel behind the miraculous Icon of the Panagia Agathonos. And with the peace of God painted and embossed on his incorrupt and holy Relic, he accepts those who come to find rest for their souls and to teach everyone that "wondrous is God in His Saints".

The faithful people ascribe to him honors of a saint and all of us, the clergy and laity of Fthiotidos, expect God to show clearly what should be done about this hidden spiritual treasure, which has spiritually enriched and enriches with the gifts of Divine Grace the souls of those who seek the Lord.

The blessed Elder Vissarion the Agathonitis rests among the Saints "in ageless blessedness".

"Saint of God, intercede for us."

THE METROPOLITAN

† Nicholas of Fthiotidos

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.


The Holy Shrine of Panagia Eleistria in Koroni


At the southwestern edge of the Venetian castle of the historic town of Koroni, in the Municipality of Koroni, stands the Shrine of Panagia Eleistria, upon holy land within an enchanting wood, overlooking the entrance to the bay of Messini, defined to the west by the cape of Akritas and Isle Venetiko and to the east by the imposing Mount Taygetos. The beautiful stone-built church is dedicated to the Most-Holy Theotokos and the True Cross and celebrates on the Friday of Zoodochos Pigi (the first friday after Easter) and on January 22nd, which is the anniversary of the discovery of the sacred icon of Panagia Eleistria (as well as March 25 and September 14).

The Icon of Panagia Eleistria was miraculously discovered in 1897 due to the continuous visions of the pious and venerable Maria G. Stathakis from Koroni, to whom the Theotokos herself appeared in dreams, urging her with the words: "Tell your townspeople to come and dig in this place and they will find three small icons within a rock crevice. In that place they are to build a church. The foundations of the church should be on this wall that I have protected from earthquakes, wars and natural disasters.”

Despite the old woman's initial fears and the distrust of the people of Koroni, it finally happened that on January 21, 22 and 23 of 1897 the three icons were found consecutively, one depicting a Crucifix, the other the Theotokos and the third probably Luke the Evangelist (due to his artistic connection to the Mother of God). During the 1950s the Metropolitan of Messenia, Chrysostomos Daskalakis, framed the icons of the Crucifix and the Theotokos in silver and separately the icon of Luke the Evangelist.

The opening ceremony of the church took place on December 26, 1900 and was attended by a great multitude in the presence of the Metropolitan of the Former Nikopolis and Preveza Gabriel Petroudakis from Leros, who traveled from Athens for the occasion.

Today the Shrine of Eleistria is gradually being renovated thanks to the love and interest of the Metropolitan of Messenia, Chrysostomos Savvatos. The first act of this great Shepherd was the compilation of a set of rules for the operation and administration of the shrine, which was validated by the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece.

According to this regulation, part of the Holy Shrine’s income will be assigned to the benevolent Scholarship Fund for the poor university students from Messenia.


See also: The Miraculous Discovery of the Icon of Panagia Eleistria in Koroni in 1897








Holy Apostle Timothy as a Model for our Lives

St. Timothy the Apostle (Feast Day - January 22)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Apostle Timothy was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. He was born in Lystra of Lycaonia of a Greek father and Judean mother. Very early on his father departed this temporary life and Saint Timothy grew up with his mother Eunice and his grandmother Loida, who raised him with the pure milk of faith and taught him from his childhood to pray and study the word of God. When the Apostle Paul passed through Lystra he acknowledged the spiritual gifts of the young Timothy and saw him as a worthy missionary worker. He took him on his second apostolic journey and later placed him in Ephesus, to shepherd the flock of that Local Church as its Bishop. The Apostle Paul sent him two epistles, which can be found in the New Testament. They are wonderful texts of advice which should be studied by all believers, but especially by spiritual shepherds.

After the martyric end of the Apostle Paul in Rome, the Apostle Timothy continued his pastoral work in Ephesus until his own martyric end. According to tradition, he was martyred by angry pagans because he criticized their orgies during a series of celebrations of Artemis in Ephesus.

In his two epistles to Saint Timothy, the Apostle Paul gives him advice for his personal advancement, but also for the advancement of his flock. He writes among other things:

- "...nourished on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed" (1 Tim. 4:6).

He teaches him to be nourished on the words of the faith and the good teaching which he has followed, that he may hence be in a position to nourish as a good shepherd his reasonable flock.

The word of God is truly spiritual food that sustains and strengthens while relaxing and comforting man, but it is also living spiritual water that cools and quenches the thirst of the soul. Of course, this is when it is transmitted clearly and without distortion, because today, like it was in the time of the Apostle Timothy, and as it is in every era, heretics exist who distort the faith and with spiritual food they offer spiritual poison.

In today's age of overconsumption human societies are plagued mainly by spiritual hunger. Although many spiritual books are currently circulating and many sermons heard, in almost every part of the earth, spiritual hunger still exists: "There will be a famine of hearing the word of the Lord" (Amos 8:11). On the one hand because the majority of people unfortunately do not study, a fact of which many factors are responsible, such as television, the loosening of morals, indifference to spiritual life because of the abundance of material goods, etc. On the other hand, because most of the time, even where there abound books and sermons, that which is offered as the word of God and spiritual food is nothing but a theology of the passions. Namely, passionate human words that do not have the power to comfort, support and cause regeneration in people.

We live in an age where secularism has taken dangerous proportions and devours the marrow of Orthodox theology and life. Many sermons are, alas, colorless, odorless, tasteless and anything but the word of God. Also, words about God are one thing, but the word of God is another, the latter being the fruit of experience and the vision of God. And if the preacher of divine words does not have much personal experience and expertise, then he has the ability to "exploit" the experience and expertise of the God-seeing Saints, and he must do this and not offer his own thoughts and reflections, because there is the possibility of making serious mistakes. And certainly no one has the right to play with their own salvation, as well as the salvation of others. "So it is necessary to emphasize how it is possible for anyone to carry out the purpose of their life and obtain their salvation, in what way and by what method they should follow" (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos).

- "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7).

He urges the Apostle Timothy to rekindle the flame of the gift of God, given to him by the laying on of hands of the Apostle Paul, because God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but power and love and soundness of mind.

There is a widespread impression among many people that all those who struggle to experience God's will in their lives are timid, antisocial, cut off from society, losers of life who are without the strength to cope with everyday life and its problems. But what takes place is quite the contrary, because one needs to have at their disposal great bravery, inner strength and spiritual manliness to renounce one's own will, to live in obedience to the will of God, and to live with virginity, purity and soundness of mind in the difficult and adverse conditions of the world, whether it be in marriage or as an ascetic in the desert with voluntary deprivation, with asceticism and prayer, far from beloved faces, "alone except for God". "To pray for the entire world is like spilling blood" (Saint Silouan the Athonite).

Those who have learned to feed on the pure milk of the faith from the living breast of the Church rather than spoiled substitutes, will acquire spiritual antibodies, spiritual health, courage, valor and true manliness.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ ΤΙΜΟΘΕΟΣ", January 2005. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Historic Monastery in Asia Minor in Danger of Collapsing


For clarification, Kursunlu is the Turkish translation of the Greek Molivdoskepasto, which in English means "Lead-covered". Kursunlu Monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and called "Panagia Molivdoskepasti". Though the article below says it is an 11th century Monastery, there is evidence it may date to the late 9th century. The Monastery appears to be built as a place of refuge, possibly during Iconoclasm, as it is located in such a remote and high area (600m above sea level) and covered by trees. Some have also identified the Monastery with Megas Argos, which was founded by Theophanes the Confessor in the 780's, where he lived for over a quarter century until returning to Constantinople. He was said to have been buried here in 819. If this theory is correct, then this Monastery may contain the oldest example of cross-in-square church plans in existence.

December 16, 2013

The historic Kursunlu Monastery, in the Samson Mountains of the western province of Aydın, is in danger of collapsing. Growing trees are pressing against the top of the 11th century monastery, in the Kusadası district of Aydın, and damaging the building.

The monastery’s surroundings are not regularized, which is why the stone walls and the ceiling are now shattering, alarming associations that are seeking to protect historical structures in the area.

The monastery is perhaps the second most important ancient building in Aydın, after the Stylos (Arapavlusu) Monastery in the nearby Besparmak Mountains.


Condition of the monastery

The condition of the monastery is controlled by the Ecosystem Protection and Nature Lovers Association (EKODOSD), which provides information on the condition of the monastery every year.

EKODOSD President Bahattin Sürücü said the monastery desperately needed restoration and could collapse at any time. The trees surrounding it are the most critical problems facing the monastery, shattering some of its stones.

“The roots of the trees are damaging the walls and shattering the monastery’s stones. The monastery is situated at the top of the mountain, which is why it’s particularly vulnerable to nature,” Sürücü said, adding that strong winds and winter conditions were badly affecting the monastery.

With the wind, the trees pressing against the monastery’s domes are shaking and causing damage, he also said, adding that a significant part of the dome had already seen serious damage.

The monastery has stood since the 11th century, and was still used until 200 years ago. Tourists trekking and running in Aydın often visit the monastery during the summer. On the other hand, during winter, the monastery is visited by people collecting mushrooms in the region.

“With the current situation the monastery is a danger for everyone,” said Sürücü, warning that it may even collapse when people were inside visiting. In order to avoid this, officials should see to it that the monastery is restored as soon as possible, he added.


About the monastery

The Kursunlu Monastery is situated in an area that became an outstanding religious center for education in the aftermath of the immigrations of early Christian believers. Overlooking the Aegean Sea, the monastery has an excellent view of the coastal towns of Kusadası and Davutlar, and is hidden from view as it is located among thick trees and plants.

The monastery consists of a dining room, a cellar, a kitchen and bedrooms for monks, a small chapel and a necropolis. The ceiling of the across-planned chapel was ornamented with the geometrical decorated frescoes from the Iconoclastical period. The rest clearly represent religious events and personalities. Painted either on an overcoat or directly on the walls, the frescoes are based on the life of Jesus Christ and scenes from the Gospel.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Saint Maximus the Confessor as a Model for our Lives

St. Maxmus the Confessor (Feast Day - January 21)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The venerable Maximus the Confessor was born in 580 A.D. in Constantinople to a noble family and made brilliant philosophical and theological studies. Around 610 Emperor Heraclius entrusted him with the position of his first secretary, which the Saint honored and brightened with honesty and integrity of character. After three or four years, however, he abandoned this much sought after position and became a monk at the Monastery in Chrysoupoli (Skoutari), on the other side of the Bosporus, opposite Constantinople. In 618 he became a devoted disciple of Monk Anastasios, staying with him throughout his life and even was with him at his martyric death.

Saint Maximus spent all his life as a simple monk, although he was the most brilliant intellect of his time. He fought with bravery and zeal against the Monothelite heretics. The convening of the Lateran Synod in 649 by Pope Martin I condemned Monothelitism, due to the struggle and efforts of Saint Maximus, who went to Rome for this purpose. The decisions of this Synod were sent throughout the world. Saint Maximus, however, was arrested, tortured and exiled to Vizye in Thrace. Then they cut off his tongue and right hand and sent him to another exile to Lazica, on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. There he left his last breath at the age of 82, exhausted by his sufferings and old age. But he continues to teach and inspire through his writings, which exude the fragrance of the Holy Spirit. The most important of them are: "Ascetic Discourse", "400 Chapters on Love", "Questions and Responses", "100 Chapters on Knowledge", "Regarding Various Questions on Saints Dionysius and Gregory", On the Our Father", "Mystagogy" and more.

His life and deeds give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

First, important and noteworthy is all that Saint Maximus writes in the preface to his "400 Chapters on Love", which he addressed to "Elpidius the Presbyter", who, as it appears, asked him for this discourse: "I request that you not be annoyed by anything that is said; I have simply fulfilled an obligation."

At first he clarifies that everything mentioned in this text are not reflections of his intellect, but selections from the wisdom of the Holy Fathers, whose words he investigated, and then tells the recipient of this discourse the way it should be studied to be benefited spiritually. While studying it, he will need to look for the benefit which comes from the words, overlooking the style which lacks charm, and to pray for the author. Out of humility he adds that the author of this essay is bereft of spiritual profit. Further, he emphasizes that the study of this essay must not be out of curiosity, but with the fear of God and love, because without the Grace of God one cannot see the depth of what is read to benefit from it.

"Perhaps it might happen that something useful to the soul will be revealed out of them. This will happen completely by the Grace of God to the one who reads with an uncomplicated mind, with the fear of God and with love. But if someone reads this or any other book whatever not for the spiritual profit but to hunt for phrases to reproach the author so that he might then set himself up in his own opinion as wiser than he, such a person will never receive any profit of any kind."

The same, of course, happens with audiences of spiritual discourses. Those wishing to be fed spiritually, to be supported and comforted, should listen with humility and fear of God. Further, they should pray for enlightenment from above to the one giving the discourse, and that God may open their minds that they may understand everything they hear. Conversely, if you are trying to hunt for phrases to isolate and thus criticize the speaker, they will never be benefitted.

Second, characteristic is all that Saint Maximus refers to regarding the word of God, at the end of the first hundred Chapters on Theology: "The manna which was given to the Israelite people in the desert is the word of God, which is sufficient for all those who delight to eat and changes taste depending on the difference of their desires, because it had every quality of spiritual food. That is why to those who are regenerated spiritually it becomes reasonable guileless milk. To the sick it becomes cabbage and enhances the strength of the soul that is sick. And to those who have trained the senses of their souls to distinguish good and evil, they are given solid food." He concludes saying: "The gifts one receives in this present life, even if they receive it at a perfect level, still it is something minimal and modest compared to future goods."

From the above it is clear that the word of God is spiritual manna, which has the potential to nourish all people without exception, having the ability to change milk into solid food, depending on the spiritual state of the one who listens to it or studies it. The Holy Fathers of our Church, who interpret Holy Scripture infallibly, we do not judge, but we listen to them or study their words with humility, fear of God and love. Thus we have the ability to feed ourselves spiritually, to support ourselves, and to gain spiritual antibodies that we may endure difficulties.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΣΙΟΣ ΜΑΞΙΜΟΣ Ο ΟΜΟΛΟΓΗΤΗΣ", January 2008. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Saint Agnes the Martyr as a Model for our Lives

Virgin-Martyr Agnes of Rome (Feast Day - January 21)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Agnes was indeed pure,* both in body and soul. She was from a noble family of Rome and lived in the first Christian era. With divine zeal she preached faith in the Triune God without the slightest fear, despite living during a period of harsh persecution against the Church. Her joy was indescribable when she saw those who were benevolent embrace the true faith. Soon her missionary zeal and spiritual accomplishments were made known and thus she was arrested and brought before the pagan ruler, who was demonically inspired, and when he saw her boldly confess her faith in Christ, she was brought to a brothel to be humiliated. But with her God-persuading prayer the Saint caused an earthquake in that area and whoever dared to approach her to corrupt her fell dead. Then those unfortunate women who lived there sent her away frightened, and the ruler full of rage ordered for her to be burned alive. Soldiers threw her into the fire, and thus she was "perfected by fire". Her pure and immaculate soul soared to the heavenly mansions, and pious Christians collected her charred relic and buried her with great reverence.

Her life and deeds give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

In an age like ours, in which there is a crisis of values ​​and standards, and many mock those who choose to live in chastity and purity, the holy Agnes with her bright example comes to cause an earthquake to shake and wake up consciences, and to stimulate the morale of all those who choose to tread the path of virtue, which is the genuine evangelical life.

In the Euchologion of the Orthodox Church, after the Wedding Service, there is a "Prayer for the Removal of Crowns on the Eighth Day", which is read by the priest before the newlyweds on the eighth day after the celebration of their Mystery of Marriage, or at the end of the Mystery, depending on the order of the local Churches. In this prayer there is said among other things:

"Lord our God, Who hast blessed the crown of the year, and permittest these crowns to be laid upon those who are united to one another by the law of marriage, which Thou grantest unto them as a reward of chastity; for they are pure who are united in the marriage which Thou hast made lawful."

This means that the newlyweds receive crowns from God, through the priest, as a reward for the struggle they have conducted and for the trouble they went through in order to preserve their purity until the hour of marriage. Moreover, as in all competitions, the victors are those who are crowned. Of course, the Church shows condescension and crowns all couples during the Mystery of Marriage, but in actuality the crowns only belong to the victors.

The Church teaches and inspires with her way of life both chastity and purity, and her purpose is to shield people and especially young people from a variety of temptations, bitterness and grief, which has its source in the life of unchastity. This way of life was lived by the Saints, and all those who desire their personal sanctification also struggle to live it. And certainly, this way of life does not bind human freedom, but it preserves it, since those who are truly free prevail over their passions and not those who are overcome by their passions and therefore relinquish their freedom.

Nowadays, the percentage of young people coming to the wedding under the right conditions, that is, with chastity and purity, is rather small, nevertheless this fact is encouraging and comforting, because we live in an era dominated by libertarianism and the lack of morals. Moreover, in every era those who choose the life of virtue and perfection are those who have spiritual bravery and manliness. And they are always among the few, representing the "little leaven", of which "a little leaven works through the whole batch of dough".

Those who love the Church and aspire to tread the path of God's commandments, are those who truly enjoy life. Of course, this path is called narrow and grievous, but according to the Holy Fathers, who are the infallible interpreters of Holy Scripture, a person feels this way, because when they are at the beginning and at the middle of the path they are enslaved to their passions, and especially the catastrophic passion of pride. When, however, by the Grace of God and their own personal struggle they defeat their passions and acquire humility, and through the Holy Spirit they come to truly know God, then the path of the divine commandments becomes pleasant and causes spiritual joy and jubilation. And as Saint Diadochos, the Bishop of Photiki, says, humility is acquired in two ways. When someone is found at the beginning and middle of the path, then they are humbled by their thoughts and falls into sins and they experience pain and sorrow. When, however, they progress towards the end of the path, when they mature spiritually and taste divine knowledge, then humility becomes for them a way of life and invites great joy.

Today, unfortunately, most people have forgotten to smile and do not truly enjoy their lives. They have lost hope and have faded away, because they do not know "the path that leads to life", or they abandoned it and are trapped inside the prison of the senses and sensual pleasures and for this reason they are tried with uncomfortable pain.

The exit out of this prison usually takes place after a strong internal earthquake, which destroys all that is friable and old and creates the conditions for escape and survival in the "new life in Christ", which is true freedom, perfect joy and genuine love.

* Agnes, or Αγνή, means "pure" in Greek.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Αγία μάρτυς Αγνή", December 2011. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Forty Day Memorial for Elder Anastasios of Koudoumas


On Saturday, 11 January 2014, at the Holy Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos Koudoumas in the Sacred Metropolis of Gortynis and Arkadia, the forty day memorial for the Blessed Elder Anastasios of Koudoumas took place.

His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou officiated over Matins and the Divine Liturgy with His Eminence Metropolitan Makarios of Gortynis and Arkadia.

The Abbot of the Sacred Monastery, Archimandrite Makarios, spoke of the life of the ever-memorable Elder Anastasios, the Holy One of Nafpaktos spoke of the ecclesiastical mindset of the Elder, and the Holy One of Gortynis spoke of the venerable repose of the Elder which he witnessed.

Numerous pious Christians who had the blessing to know the Blessed Elder Anastasios surrounded the katholikon and the courtyard area of the Sacred Monastery.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.



















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