Tuesday, March 31, 2015

As We Prepare to Consciously Participate in the Passion of Christ


Sunday Encyclical of the Metropolis of Gortynos and Megalopoleos

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Consciously Participating in the Passion of Christ

1. This Sunday, my Christian brethren, is the Fifth Sunday of the Fast. When this week ends, Great Lent ends, as it says in the relevant hymn chanted on Friday evening: "Having completed the forty days that profit our soul." Next Sunday, which is Palm Sunday, we will enter Holy Week.

In today's Gospel reading the Lord spoke to us of His death, which He likens to a cup and to baptism. And what Christ said in today's Gospel reading to his two disciples, James and John ("can you drink the cup that I will drink and be baptized with the baptism that I will be baptized with"), He says to each of us. Our Lord Jesus Christ does not want us to merely observe His Passion, but He wants us to participate in them: to drink from the bitter cup of His death by crucifixion and to be baptized with the baptism of His blood and of His martyrdom. I pray, my Christian brethren, that this year you will consciously participate in this. For this reason, in my sermon today, I want to say two or three things about such a participation.

Concerning the Final Week of Great Lent


The sixth and final week of Great Lent is called "Palm Week".

For six days before Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday the worship of our Church urges us to follow Christ after He announces the death of His friend Lazarus and begins His journey to Bethany and Jerusalem.

The center of our attention is on Lazarus - his illness, his death, the grief of relatives, and the reaction of Christ to all this. The final week, therefore, passes in spiritual meditation on the upcoming meeting of Christ with death - first in the person of his friend Lazarus, and then the death of Christ Himself.

The "hour of Christ" approaches of which He so often spoke and towards this was directed His entire earthly ministry. The resurrection of Lazarus took place in order to confirm the "common resurrection of all".

Saint Innocent (Veniaminov), Metropolitan of Moscow and Missionary to Alaska

St. Innocent of Alaska (Feast Day - October 6 and March 31)

Our father among the saints Innocent of Alaska, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Enlightener of North America (1797-1879), was Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia. He is known for his missionary work, scholarship, and leadership in Alaska and the Russian Far East during the 1800s. He is known for his great zeal for his work as well as his great abilities as a scholar, linguist, and administrator. He was a missionary, later a bishop and archbishop in Alaska and the Russian Far East. He learned several native languages and was the author of many of the earliest scholarly works about the natives and their languages, as well as dictionaries and religious works in these languages. He also translated parts of the Bible into several native languages.

Life

St. Innocent, (secular name: Ivan (John) Evseyevich Popov-Veniaminov), was born on August 26, 1797, into the family of a church server in the village of Anginskoye, Verkholensk District, Irkutsk province, in Russia. His father died when John was six.

In 1807, John entered the Irkutsk Theological Seminary. In 1817 he married, and on May 18, 1817 he was ordained deacon of the Church of the Annunciation in Irkutsk. He completed his studies in 1818. He was appointed a teacher in a parish school, and on May 18, 1821 he was ordained priest to serve in the Church of the Annunciation.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Slander and Condemnation According to Saint John of the Ladder


By His Eminence Metropolitan Jeremiah of Gortynos

1. On the Fourth Sunday of the Fast our Church has established the commemoration of Saint John of the Ladder. In fact, the feast of this Saint is on March 30th. But since this feast often falls mid-week, and a Divine Liturgy is not permitted on weekdays during Great Lent, this is why the Church, in order to not lose out on this feast, moved it to the Fourth Sunday of the Fast. This means that he is a great saint for the Church to care that his feast not be lost. And truly, my brethren, Saint John of the Ladder is a great saint. He is an ascetic father of the sixth century, who wrote only one, yet very famous, treatise, which he called The Ladder to Paradise (Κλίμαξ του Παραδείσου). From this book he received the surname "John Climacus" or "John of the Ladder".

The fox, says one fable, would make fun of the lioness because she gave birth to only one lion. But she said to the fox: "Yes one, but it is a lion!" There are many authors of many books. John of the Ladder wrote only one book, but he "is a lion!" It is a strong book, powerful, gigantic! Such books you should read, my Christian brethren, to be educated theologically, as well as to be saved. Truly, the Ladder of Saint John has important remedies for the therapy of our soul. Saint John called the book the Ladder based on the vision of Jacob, as we read in Genesis (28:12). There we read that the Patriarch saw a ladder in his dream, which reached from earth to heaven. This book of Saint John has thirty chapters. These are the thirty steps of his Ladder that reach Heaven. Purposely John made the chapters of his book to number thirty, which is based on the years of the maturity of Jesus Christ, when He began His divine work.

Saint John of the Well as a Model for our Lives

St. John of the Well (Feast Day - March 30)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The venerable John lived as an ascetic in the wilderness and the last ten years of his life he spent inside a dry well, which is why he has become known to us as Venerable John of the Well.

At a relatively young age, after having received the blessing of his mother, he departed for the desert. Later, with the blessing of his Elder (Pharmutios), he fled to the interior desert where he found a dry well full of scorpions, snakes and other reptiles. After a fervent prayer to God, he descended into the well. An Angel of the Lord helped him descend, and by the Grace of God the venomous beasts did not hurt him. There he remained for ten whole years praying, until his death, and would be fed with the food given by the Angel of the Lord to his Elder.

When it was time for the Lord to call the venerable John to his eternal habitation, the Angel of the Lord led the hermit Chrysios to the well of the Saint. Having arrived he declared the purpose for his visit, that the Lord sent him to bury his ascetic body. Then the Saint came out of the well in a miraculous manner, and told Chrysios that his mother Juliana, who was widowed from a young age, was a pious woman who raised him and his sister Themistea "in the education and admonition of the Lord", and protected her children from the persecutors of Christians. And although rich in material goods, she taught her children that true wealth is in Christ, the "precious pearl". Lastly, he spoke to him of his life in the well, which for him was in actuality his grave, as well as his earthly Paradise.

Holy New Martyr Zacharias, Metropolitan of Corinth (+ 1684)

St. Zacharias of Corinth (Feast Day - March 30)

Verses

Receive crowns from God Zacharias,
As a Hierarch and Athlete of the Lord.

From 1645 to 1670, Venice was at war with the Ottoman Turks and, when peace was made in 1670, had to return many of the Greek lands that had been conquered. But in 1684, Venice joined the Third Holy League with Poland and Austria to fight the Ottoman Turks once more in an attempt to recover some lost territories. Consequently, the Ottomans were very apprehensive and suspicious of anyone who had anything to do with the Venetians. This was especially true of the people of the Peloponnese over many of whose coastal cities Venice once had control.

In 1684, Metropolitan Zacharias of Corinth, who was born in the diocese of Arta, was falsely accused by some Turks of sending secret messages to the Venetians. The Metropolitan was immediately taken into custody, beaten, and placed in irons. Brought before the kadi, he was asked to deny his faith and to become a Muslim. If he refused, the penalty would be death.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Ten Conditions of the Spiritual Life According to St. Diadochos of Photiki


In his "100 Gnostic Chapters", Saint Diadochos in the prologue to the book sets out "ten conditions" (or definitions, terms), which are the main points of the book and thus could be said to be the ten conditions of the spiritual life. They are as follows:

Condition 1: Faith. Dispassionate thoughts of God.

Condition 2: Hope. Departure of the mind in love towards the things hoped for.

Condition 3: Patience. To persevere unceasingly, seeing with the eyes of the intellect the invisible as visible.

Condition 4: Freedom from avarice. To want not to have just as someone wants to have.

Saint Diadochos of Photiki as a Model for our Lives

St. Diadochos of Photiki (Feast Day - March 29)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The life of the venerable Diadochos of Photiki is, unfortunately, largely unknown. What we know is that he was born in the first decades of the fifth century and that he became a Bishop, in the period between the years 451-458 in the District of Epirus in Photiki. The Diocese of Photiki, which is located in today's Paramythia, was important for many centuries.

He was a great Theologian of the fifth century, and the fact that he is not mentioned by his contemporaries, except only slightly, "can easily be explained," according to the late Fr. Theoklitos Dionysiatis, "if one considers the remoteness of Photiki at that time, not to mention that the education of Saint Diadochos remains unknown, in accordance with his desire as expressed out of humility, in the 13th chapter of the '100 Gnostic Chapters'."

The Holy Harlot and the Miracle of Repentance


By Monk Moses the Athonite

1400 years ago there was a girl, who had just turned twelve years old, somewhere in Alexandria of Egypt, and who became tangled in the nets of obscene love. She gave herself body and soul to the fall, sin and corruption.

Flesh worship, wild pleasure and insatiable lust dominate from a young age. For seventeen years she avidly lived this life without inhibitions, shame, doubts, guilt and remorse. She considered herself free, independent, uncontrolled and irresistible. She admired her beauty, her riches, her conquests and her provocations.

A wonderful event happened in Jerusalem where she was unable to enter the church and this brought her to her knees, to tears, to the remembrance of the innocence of her childhood. She began to cry. She began to turnaround. The lover of the flesh suddenly became a lover of God. She is being transformed, she is being unmasked, she is beginning to love that which is beautiful, and she is being resurrected. In her heart, after this unexpected existential change, divine eros prevails. Her life receives deep meaning. She is a hero, a martyr and venerable.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Theotokos as Fabric


By His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

Saint Theophanes the Branded, Bishop of Nicaea, praising the person of the Most Holy Theotokos, especially her ministry in the mystery "beyond reason and thought" of the incarnation of the Only Begotten Son of God, says the following:

"By your virgin blood was woven a fabric of heavenly clouds clothing you, Daughter, with a garment of incorruption clothe us who have been stripped naked by deceit."1

Saint Hesychios of Jerusalem

St. Hesychios of Jerusalem (March 28)

Our holy father was born in Jerusalem during the fourth century. As a young man, he was the pupil of Saint Gregory the Theologian. After the death of the august Gregory, Hesychios spent his life as a monastic in one of the hermitages in Palestine. Continuing his scholarly pursuits, he studied Christianity from manuscripts, in conversations with other spiritual men and from his own experience and insight.

In 412, the Archbishop of Jerusalem ordained him to the rank of the priesthood. As a profound theologian, Hesychios was also an enlightened preacher, proving to be one of the Church's most famous teachers. His extensive writings, mainly commentaries on Scripture, are extant, but in fragmentary condition. However, they are deserving of fuller research.

A Conundrum in "The Ladder of Divine Ascent"


In The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Saint John of Sinai presents us with a canonical conundrum that perplexed him and he left unsolved. Throughout the centuries publishers of The Ladder have inserted a note in an attempt to solve this problem and not allow it to go unanswered leaving readers confused. Below is the conundrum as presented by Saint John, and below that are some of the answers that have been added by commentators and scholiasts.

Saint John of Sinai, Ladder 15:48 - 

A certain learned man put a serious question to me, saying: "What is the gravest sin, apart from murder and denial of God?" And when I said: "To fall into heresy," he asked: "Then why does the Catholic Church receive heretics who have sincerely anathematized their heresy, and consider them worthy to partake in the Mysteries; while on the other hand when a man who has committed fornication is received, even though he confesses and forsakes his sin, the Apostolic Constitutions order him to be excluded from the immaculate Mysteries for a number of years?" I was struck with bewilderment, and what perplexed me then has remained unsolved.

Friday, March 27, 2015

O All-Praised Mother


By His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

Whenever our Holy Church honors the person of the Most Holy Theotokos with a feast, our minds and thoughts run to her who is the "Ark made golden by the Spirit", as we chant to her during the Service of Salutations, who brought to the earth not merely the heavenly rain, but the Lord of the clouds, the Only Begotten Son of God.

But how can anyone speak of the Panagia?

What human language can extol the wonders of the Theotokos?

How can the source of light be illumined?

Divine Eros in "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" (2 of 2)



Divine Love as Passionate

Eros, passionate in its desire (cf. Dan. 9:23 and Wis. of Sol. 8:2), throws light on the notion of aberrant (cf. Is. 5:4; Jer. 2:21) or sinful passions: they are not to be suppressed or blotted out but transposed, moulded, educated, put on their correct and natural course. In the monastic context, passions are dealt with differently: they are transcended by the conquest of greater and divine passions.The monk turns all his passions towards the divinity (cf. Prov. 4:27) and offers all his loving effort at the feet of the Lord: "I have seen hesychasts who insatiably nourished their flaming desire for God through stillness, generating fire by fire, eros by eros, desire by desire." It is in this erotic context - eros as "complete union with God, now and always" - that dispassion can be properly understood. The monk who has reached dispassion continually longs to see the Lord's Person (Ps. 41:3) and can almost no longer endure the force of his desire for God; the Macarian Homilies refer to him as being "overcome by a heavenly longing." But, for John, it is God himself who moves the monk, who dwells and is active within him; God is the "tenant" (enoikos) of his person and his passion: it is no longer he who lives but Christ who lives in him (Gal. 2:20). Thus: "The body has been rendered pure and incorruptible by the flame of purity which has extinguished the flame [of passion]."

An Icon of the Archangel Michael Streaming Oil near Meteora


Thanos Chercheletzi
March 2015

A few kilometers outside the city of Trikala, in the shadow of the sacred cliffs of Meteora, a shocking event is taking place: From the wood of the sacred icon of the Archangel Michael, which was painted five years ago by the iconographer Father Panagiotis Pevkis, mysterious drops of oil are streaming, which, in a surprising manner, are not altering the iconography!

The priest iconographer felt overwhelming awe when he first saw the drops. Immediately he prayed to God. He avoided spreading the word to the people, fearing that the people might misunderstand the "message" of the Lord, as he says.

"The sacred icon of the Archangel Michael that I painted is a replica of an icon of the Chrysoloras school. I completed the iconography about five years ago. After some time I was surprised to discover oil streaming from the wood of the icon. I did my cross and wiped the drops with cotton. I feared that it would destroy the iconography. At that time I thought of nothing else. The oil, however, surprisingly continued to stream. It smelled like the oil from an oil lamp when it is lit and it has an amber color. It is curious that, even though it flows, it is not destroying the colors of the icon," Fr. Panagiotis Pevkis reveals to Orthodox Truth.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Divine Eros in "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" (1 of 2)


By John Chryssavgis

The true nature of dispassion emerges in Climacus' identification of it with love. The two, he says, "are only distinguished in name," and constitute the positive and negative sides of the same reality. In the words of Abba Isaiah:

"Blessed is the soul that has reached such love; for it is dispassionate."

John's Imagery

There are many ways in which one could describe the spiritual life of an ascetic, his aim and struggle. Dispassion is one; "passion", paradoxically, is another. Climacus delights in the imagery of erotic love and fire. The two images are closely connected: "love," he says, "is a source of fire," and he commands a love which he has personally experienced: "And now you have ravished my soul. I cannot contain your flame. So I will go forward praising you." It is appropriate that he should speak of eros in this way of sexual union (synousia), for there is a blessed madness (makaria mania) in love. To acquire virtue, for one thing, is not a mere addition to the human person: it is integral to him, at one with him as if in wedlock. Fire is for Climacus the most adequate image for expressing man's love of God: it conveys both the warmth of love and its luminous impress on life, the burning desire enshrined in it and its unquenchable quality, the searing or consuming effect it has on human passions and the power it has to test us, like silver or gold in fire, the swiftness with which it may both spread and be extinguished. Our thirst and the yearning of our love for God continually burns us.

Holy New Martyr George of Sofia, Bulgaria (+ 1437)

St. George of Sofia (Feast Day - March 26)

George, an Orthodox Christian soldier from Sofia, Bulgaria,* lived at a time (1402-1437) when the Ottoman Turks had established themselves in Europe and had made the former Byzantine city of Adrianople, which they named Edirne, their capital. Today this entire area, which includes the city of Constantinople, present day Istanbul, is referred to as European Turkey.

By the year 1437, the Ottoman Turks, who were originally from Central Asia, had come to Europe through Asia Minor. They arrived in Europe initially at the invitation of the Byzantines as allies and often as mercenary forces.** But before long, seeing the weakness and fratricidal attitudes of the Byzantines, they began subjugating areas for themselves and in a relatively brief period of time conquered most of what is today Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Serbia. A few Byzantine possessions remained precariously independent but were continuously under severe military pressure, as was the imperial city of Constantinople. In fact, by this time the Byzantine emperors had become vassals of the Ottoman sultans.

In addition, beginning in the previous century and continuing for at least another hundred years, many Orthodox Christians from various walks of life - royal princes, landed magnates, military personnel, townsmen, merchants and peasants - joined the Ottoman Turks without necessarily adopting their religion, Islam.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Germanos of Old Patras: The Hierarch of Freedom


We are publishing here a homily of Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos on Germanos of Old Patras (Palaion Patron Germanos), which was delivered in Patras at the "Protokliteion 2006" organized by the Sacred Metropolis of Patras and it was dedicated to the Hierarch of the Revolution.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Today's eucharistic gathering takes place on the occasion of events organized by the Sacred Metropolis of Patras with the inspiration and guidance of the Prelate of this Sacred Metropolis of Patras, Chrysostomos, for the great Hierarch of this Metropolis, Metropolitan Germanos of Old Patras, who brightened this hierarchical throne and loved the Church and people. And through the supplications of your Prelate and my beloved brother in Christ, Chrysostomos, I will refer to this wonderful personality, and we will especially see him through the perspective of the Hierarch of Freedom.

Homily on the Annunciation by St. Luke of Simferopol


By St. Luke, Archbishop of Crimea

Our Church celebrates today three important historic events.

The first is the Annunciation of the Theotokos, which we celebrate today with joy and love, along with awe before the majesty of this event, called the "capital" of our salvation.

Nine months after the Annunciation the second of the important events took place, the Birth according to the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The pinnacle and completion of our salvation was the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ after His horrible death on the Cross.

Not just once but many times have holy angels been manifested. Six months before the Annunciation of the All Holy Virgin Mary the Archangel Gabriel was sent to the priest Zechariah, who was serving in the Temple, to announce that from him would be born the greatest among men, the Forerunner of the Lord, John. And today this same Archangel brings the joyful message to the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, who lived in a humble and poor home of the carpenter Joseph.

Saint Senouphios and the Wondrous Icon of Christ of Latomos

The Wondrous Icon of Christ at Latomos

The following information comes down to us from the Narration of Ignatius of Smolensk, concerning the wondrous icon of Christ in Latomos Monastery of Thessaloniki, known today as the Monastery of Hosios David.

About St. Theodora and the Origins of the Icon of Christ at Latomos

St. Theodora was the Christian daughter of Maximian (286-305), co-emperor with Diocletian (284-305). She was baptized a Christian by the Bishop of Thessaloniki, St. Alexander (May 28), who was later a participant in the First Ecumenical Synod. Taking on her new Christian responsibilities, she was troubled by her idolatrous parents, so she told them that she suffered from some sickness, and she as a result sought (for health reasons) to build a house and a bathhouse for herself in the northern part of the city. The place was named Latomia because there were stones there that were used for building. Immediately after the workers finished the buildings, she converted the bathhouse into a church, under the guidance of the Bishop of Thessaloniki, St. Alexander. She ordered an iconographer to create a mosaic in the eastern apse depicting the Most-Holy Theotokos. When he was finishing the icon, he was struck with amazement, for the next day, the face of the Theotokos no longer appeared, but that of Christ on a light-bearing cloud, surrounded by the four symbols of the Evangelists, and the Prophets Ezekiel and Habbakuk.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 25th Resource Page


March 25th - Annunciation to the Theotokos

Synaxarion for the Annunciation of the Theotokos

The Annunciation of the Virgin Mary

'Homily on the Annunciation' by St. Nicholas Cabasilas

Homily on the Feast of the Annunciation (St. Theodore the Studite)

Homily on the Annunciation by St. Luke of Simferopol

Fasting Rules For Annunciation and Palm Sunday

The Annunciation In Early Christian Art

Healthy and Pathological Spiritual States


By Heracles Panagiotides, Ph.D
University of Seattle, Department of Neurological Surgery

PIETISM

Virtues have their opposites, but they also have their pseudo-virtue counterparts. Whereas faith or belief on the one hand is one of the most fundamental religious attributes, on the other hand, it is one of the most misunderstood concepts. Faith to most people is equated with a cognitive conviction that is based on acceptance of ideas that are communicated by others. The basis of acceptance is often either an emotional or a cognitive argument. It is an affirmative response to someone's saying "take my word for it". The cognitive mechanism behind this type of persuasion is a topic in itself, so I will not expand on it at this time. There is, however, another epistemological source of persuasion that is based on empirical knowledge.

This last element separates faith that comes from experience and belief that is the product of emotional or rationalistic persuasion. Subsequently, I will be referring to persuasion that is the result of a rationalistic or emotional argument as belief, whereas for empirically based conviction I will be using the term faith. This distinction is important because it represents the two different types of conviction that one finds in religion. In both cases the cognitive understanding might exist, but, while faith is the result of experience, belief comes through emotion or rational sounding arguments. Along this line of thinking, one often observes the phenomenon, where experience can produce knowledge that is beyond understanding and language. This would be the definition of a mystical experience. Another important yet difficult point is that of defining the authenticity and validity of empirical knowledge. This is a rather difficult task that also deserves a special treatment.

Holy New Hieromartyr Parthenios III, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 1657)

St. Parthenios, Patriarch of Constantinople (Feast Day - March 24)

Parthenios was born in the island of Lesvos to very pious Orthodox Christian parents who managed to provide him with a good education. Drawn to the work of the Church early in life, he became a cleric and in 1639 he was elected Metropolitan of Chios, where he was distinguished for his piety and good works. On 31 July 1656 he became Ecumenical Patriarch, succeeding Ioannikios II.

As Patriarch of Constantinople, Parthenios found the Church of Constantinople in great financial difficulties, which is why he turned to the Russians for assistance. He sided with the Russians in the clashes for the control of the Church in the Ukraine, and in 1656 denounced the 1643 Confession of Faith of the previous Metropolitan of Kiev Peter Mogila, which he deemed to be too close to the Catholic doctrine. The Confession of Faith of Peter Mogila had been however already approved by all the Greek-speaking Patriarchs in 1643, and it was again approved in 1662 by Patriarch Nektarios of Jerusalem and by the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem. Parthenios also held a burial for the remains, recovered on a shore, of his predecessor Cyril Loukaris, who was killed in 1638 on a ship in the Sea of Marmara and his corpse thrown in the waters.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Morality or Moralism?


By the Very Rev. John Breck
March 23, 2010

Today a great many people are entering the Orthodox Church from other, generally Western confessions. Their tendency, quite understandably, is to bring with them notions of sin and guilt, obedience and virtue (merits) that figure strongly in the way those confessions construe the means by which we attain salvation. Whether they remain in a lay state or become ordained, they often allow their "former delusion" to influence the way they conduct themselves and the way they expect others to behave within an Orthodox setting. They determine for themselves and for those around them just what degree of rigor is necessary in order to live a virtuous life. The upshot is that a quest for virtue and morality often results in legalism, moralism and self-righteousness.

Cradle Orthodox, laypersons and clergy, can also succumb to this temptation, of course. All of us, in fact, are susceptible of passing judgment on those whom we suspect of neglecting the rules or making choices that are not pleasing to God.

Holy New Martyr Luke of Adrianople (+ 1802)

St. Luke of Adrianople (Feast Day - March 23)

Verses

Venerable Luke by a sword became,
A partner in the chorus of Martyrs.

Luke was born in the city of Adrianople, Thrace, where his parents Athanasios and Domnitsa lived and were members of the parish of Saint Nicholas. When he was six years of age his father died, which plunged his mother into poverty. Consequently, she entrusted young Luke to a merchant from Zagor who was to bring him up and then take him into his business. Luke accompanied the merchant to Russia on a business trip then settled down with him in Constantinople where the merchant had a shop.

One day, some years later, Luke quarreled with a Muslim boy whom he beat up outside of his master's house. Other Muslims who observed this incident ran after Luke to punish him. Anxious to avoid punishment, Luke shouted to them, "Let me be, I'll become a Muslim!" This stopped the Muslims in their tracks, and Luke saved himself from a beating.

The Demonology of St. John of the Ladder





Sunday, March 22, 2015

"The Ladder of Divine Ascent" and the Modern Reader


By John Chryssavgis

When already quite advanced in age, John the Sinaite wrote the Ladder at the request of John, Abba of Raithou. John did not at first wish to write anything, regarding himself as "a pauper and beggar as regards the virtues" and seeing the task as "beyond [his] strength," but he finally acceded to the request of Abba John, doing so under "the yoke of holy obedience, the mother of all virtues." He felt that John of Raithou should have asked this of the "well-experienced" because he believed that he was "still among the learners". The task was "beyond his power," and he only undertook it "with fear and love": "With my poor and scanty knowledge, and in my stammering way, I have sketched in ink alone the bare outline of living words." Humbly acknowledging his limitations and ignorance, his own work appears to him as rather clumsy and uninspiring. The fact of the case proved to be the precise opposite. True, until recently, such ascetic texts were not regarded as "serious" enough for academic study, but this has changed - a welcome change.

Synaxis of All Saints of Rhodes

All Saints of Rhodes (Feast Day - 21 Days Before Holy Pascha)

Verse

Dance O Rhodes for being guarded by the intercessions,
Of your saints, whom you have crowned with hymns.

On this day we celebrate all the Saints of Rhodes, namely, the Holy, glorious and all-praised Apostles Paul (June 29) and Silas (July 30); the Hierarchs Euphrosynos, Ellanikos, Theodosios and Isidore; the Martyrs Phanourios the Newly-Appeared (August 27), Clement and Agathangelos (January 23); the New Martyrs Euthymios the Bishop of the same (August 9), Cyril Loukaris Patriarch of Constantinople (June 27), Constantine of Hydra (November 14), Niketas of Nisyros (June 21) and Malachiah of Lindos (September 29); and the Venerable Meletios of Ypseni (February 12).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

An Outline of "The Ladder of Divine Ascent"


THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT

By St. John Climacus

A. THE BREAK WITH THE "WORLD"


1. Renunciation
2. Detachment
3. Exile


Saint Serapion the Scholastic, Bishop of Thmuis

St. Serapion of Thmuis (Feast Day - March 21)

The surname of "the Scholastic", which was given him, is a proof of the reputation which he acquired, by his penetrating genius, and by his extensive learning, both sacred and secular. He presided some time in the catechetical school of Alexandria, but, to apply himself more perfectly to the science of the saints, to which he had always consecrated himself, his studies, and his other actions, he retired into the desert, and became a bright light in the monastic state.

St. Athanasius assures us in his Life of Saint Anthony, that in the visits which Serapion paid to that illustrious patriarch, St. Anthony often told on his mountain, things which passed in Egypt at a distance; and that at his death, he left him one of his tunics of hair.

The Theotokos as the Light-Bearing Lantern


By His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

The God-bearing John the Damascene, the inexhaustible Nile of Damascus as he was called, chanting hymns and spiritual odes to "the Theotokos and mother of light", the Most Holy Theotokos, calls her "light-bearing lantern":

"Light-bearing lantern, my humble soul, which is completely darkened, fully brighten O good one with your light, as I cry out an ode of thanksgiving."1

The exact same acclamation we hear in the Service of the Akathist Hymn from the unknown yet Spirit-bearing poet of this sacred Kontakion:

"Viewing the holy Virgin, we see a light-bearing lantern that shone upon those who were in darkness."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Christian Perfection and the Mystery of the Cross (3 of 3)



5. The Distinction Between Direct and Indirect Knowledge of God

There is also a distinction between the immediate knowledge of God and of the spiritual life of the Prophets, Apostles and Saints who partake of the power of the Cross and the Resurrection, and the mediated knowledge of the believers who partake of the energy of revelation, salvation, sanctification, illumination and theosis of the Cross and the Resurrection granted in the Sacraments through the acceptance of the eyewitness testimony of the Prophets, Apostles and Saints. Infallibility, divine inspiration and theosis in the Old and New Testaments and in the Church does not belong indiscriminately to the whole people of God. It reaches the people and dwells in them by the energy of the Holy Spirit through the Prophets, Apostles and Saints in a state of theosis as well as through the Clergy who have Apostolic Succession (i.e. the ordination and true teaching of those who are in a state of theosis in Christ). Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament nor in the Church is there a spiritual democracy. Nor is there any order of wise theologians in a worldly sense, who have been called to their positions by themselves, and who place under the knife of criticism the teaching and catechetical method of those in a state of theosis in order to decide themselves which of the fruits of the Mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection they are going to keep, which they will throw away, and which they are going to add.

Holy New Martyr Myron the Tailor of Heraklion, Crete (+ 1793)

St. Myron of Heraklion (Feast Day - March 20)

Myron was born into a pious Orthodox Christian family in Mega Kastro (present day Heraklion), headed by his father whose name was Demetrios. Myron was a sober and serious young man who earned his living by working as a tailor.

Myron's habits and demeanor were such that he became the envy of the Muslims, who also thought he was extremely handsome. Therefore a number of Muslims set out to find a way to cause him to abandon Orthodox Christianity and accept Islam.

One day the Muslims found a young boy and convinced him to declare that Myron had molested him. This charge gave the Muslims the excuse they needed to apprehend and bring Myron before the kadi. Their concocted story was repeated before the kadi who asked Myron if the charge against him were true. Myron immediately answered it was false because he was not guilty of molesting the young Muslim boy. The Muslims present however shouted at the top of their voices that the charges were true and that Myron deserved to die.

Saint Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindesfarne, Wonderworker of Britain (+ 687)

St. Cuthbert the Wonderworker (Feast Day - March 20)

Saint Cuthbert, the wonderworker of Britain, was born in Northumbria around 634. Very little information has come down to us about Cuthbert’s early life, but there is a remarkable story of him when he was eight.

As a child, Cuthbert enjoyed games and playing with other children. He could beat anyone his own age, and even some who were older, at running, jumping, wrestling, and other exercises. One day he and some other boys were amusing themselves by standing on their heads with their feet up in the air. A little boy who was about three years old chided Cuthbert for his inappropriate behavior. “Be sensible,” he said, “and give up these foolish pranks.”

Cuthbert and the others ignored him, but the boy began to weep so piteously that it was impossible to quiet him. When they asked him what the matter was, he shouted, “O holy bishop and priest Cuthbert, these unseemly stunts in order to show off your athletic ability do not become you or the dignity of your office.” Cuthbert immediately stopped what he was doing and attempted to comfort the boy.

On the way home, he pondered the meaning of those strange words. From that time forward, Cuthbert became more thoughtful and serious.This incident reveals St Cuthbert as God’s chosen vessel (2 Tim. 2:20-21), just like Samuel, David, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and others who, from an early age, were destined to serve the Lord.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Christian Perfection and the Mystery of the Cross (2 of 3)



3. The Stages of Perfection and the Mystery of the Cross

What is said about servants and friends becomes meaningful when the general division of the stages of perfection is taken into consideration. The servant does the will of God for fear of punishment, the hireling works for reward, while the friend does everything as a fruit of selfless love. Through theosis, or vision of God, the friend of God approaches the condition of sinlessness, and finally arrives at this, and rises unceasingly to the stages of perfection above. Thus, he brings much fruit, and the fruit lasts. From the viewpoint of the world, however, this fruit can appear to be useful, above all whenever it is not accompanied by conspicuous and beneficial achievements which are serviceable to the benefit of the many. The world and God do not evaluate things in the same way. The Mystery of the Cross turns upside down the criteria of the natural man. For this reason, whoever attempts to interpret the Gospel of Christ and the Apostles with the spirit and the criteria of any particular epoch, according to the values and dictates of the world, is outside the reality which is in Christ, and becomes a perjurer with respect to his baptismal renunciation of the devil, and his appropriation of the Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection through Baptism and Chrismation, which bears fruit in the divine Eucharist.

Adaptations of Roman Catholic Texts for Orthodox Readers by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite


By Dr. Constantine Cavarnos

All the books of Nikodemos that have been discussed so far [Philokalia, Evergetinos, Concerning Continual Communion of the Divine Mysteries, Alphabetalphabetos, Handbook of Counsel, Extant Works of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Manual of Confession, New Theotokarion] show him thoroughly Orthodox, steadfastly attached to the Tradition of the Eastern Church. It would be a mistake to infer from this that he was religiously intolerant, closed to everything coming from Western Christendom. Actually, he was a broad-minded man, who abided by Paul's counsel to the Thessalonians: "Test everything; hold fast that which is good."1 While critical of the Western Church, St. Nikodemos was open-minded with regard to what in his judgement was good in it. His position is summed up in the following statement of the Heortodromion, one of his last works: "We must hate and detest," he says, "the misbeliefs and unlawful customs of the Latins and others who are Heterodox; but if they have anything sound and confirmed by the Canons of the Holy Synods, this we must not hate."2

That he took the second part of this statement seriously, and not merely the first, is evident from the fact that two of his works, The Unseen Warfare and Spiritual Exercises, are adaptations for Orthodox readers of works by Roman Catholics. The first is an adaptation of Spiritual Combat (Combattimento Spirituale) by the Italian priest Lorenzo Scupoli (c. 1530-1610) and of a little treatise titled Path of Paradise (Sentiero del Paradiso), which was considered Scupoli's work, but is now regarded as the work of some other author. The second book of Nikodemos is an adaptation of the Spiritual Exercises (Esercizi Spirituali) by the Jesuit Giovanni P. Pinamonti (1632-1703).

Holy New Martyr Demetrios the Tornaras (+ 1564)

St. Demetrios the Tornaras (Feast Day - March 19)

On March 19, 1564, a young man steadfast in his great love for Jesus Christ and the Orthodox Church was beheaded by the Muslims for refusing to convert to the Muslim religion. His name was Demetrios Tornaras.

Unfortunately, we know very few other details of Demetrios' life and martyrdom. What we do know is that he often kept company with Muslims, who one day decided he too should be a Muslim. Because of Demetrios' reluctance to deny Jesus Christ and change his faith, the Muslims proceeded to accuse him of having insulted the Islamic religion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Christian Perfection and the Mystery of the Cross (1 of 3)


By Protopresbyter John Romanides

1. Perfection and the Mystery of the Cross in the Bible and the Fathers

It should be stressed that in contrast to the Franco-Latin systems in general, the Biblical and Patristic teaching concerning perfection is not Stoic. After the first stages of theosis, or vision of God, the progress to higher conditions of perfections for angels and human beings are endless. Thus, angels and human beings were created relatively perfect, so that they may become eternally and endlessly more perfect.This means that the ages of the angels, as well as the time of human beings, will not be abolished in spite of the shining of the Glory of God, since there will always be a succession of conditions of perfection.

The necessary means of perfection is the crucifixion of all desires and through it the uprooting of self-love through the inherent faith and the unconditional obedience to the will of God. The perfection through obedience is applicable to the angels before the fall of the devil and the demons, since after the fall there is no repentance for the angels who fell. For human beings, obedience is the means of perfection before and after the fall. Obedience, however, is not an end in itself, so that through a servile attitude one may attain to a static condition of bliss, which leads to rendering permanent a servile or self-interested relation to God. In the stages of servant and hireling, the human being participates in the perfection of God through partaking of the purifying, illuminating and deifying grace of the Mystery of the Cross, which purifies the passions and illuminates and sanctifies the whole of man, making possible through man's collaboration (synergy) the obedience to the will of God unto death, through which the grace of God transforms this self-interested submission to selfless love, and as a result, man is granted theosis, becomes God's friend and collaborator, brother and co-ruler by grace with Christ and the adopted son of the Virgin.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Helen Machankova: A Neomartyr (+ March 15, 2013)


By Hieromonk Theologos

Last July a small group together with the Bishop, having heard the story about Helen, chanted a memorial service for her soul, near the sea, under the pine trees of a ruined ancient Christian church with beautiful mosaics, which we had just swept and were in amazement over.

The entire coast of Asia Minor testifies to the eternal life of our faith and language. There Helen's friend Anna recounted to us her last days. Later the priest added his testimony. Let this brief narration be a Memorial that we dedicate these days to Helen.

Helen Machankova was born in the great city of Barnaul in Siberia on August 18, 1977. She went to southern Asia Minor to work, like many of her compatriots, in the tourist shops where millions of Russians visit every year. She was an accountant and beautiful. There she met a local whom she married, according to the Islamic custom, in a mosque. Her family in Russia were atheists. Her husband considered her a Muslim and was proud of her, but she began to despise him when he was glad to hear that Muslims were killing Christians in Syria.

Saint Theosteriktos the Confessor, Author of the Small Supplication Canon to the Theotokos

St. Theosteriktos the Confessor (Feast Day - March 17)

Theosteriktos the Confessor, abbot of Pelekete Monastery near Prusa, suffered for the Holy Icons under the impious emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775). His feast day is February 29th in the Slavic Churches and March 17th in the Greek Churches.

Theosteriktos was born in Triglia of Bithynia and became a monk at a young age at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, known also as Pelekete Monastery, where he later became abbot. During the persecution of Emperor Constantine V Copronymos, his general in Asia Minor, Michael Lachanodrakon, began a fierce persecution especially against the monastics who venerated the Holy Icons.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Saint Patrick and the Flesh-Meat that Changed into Fishes


By Jocelyn of Furness

But Patrick, having now become a monk, forgetting all things that were past, applied to the future, and, as if little accounting his former conversation, hastened to the height of perfection. For by incredible abstinence, by his lengthened fasts, and by the exercise of his other virtues, he afflicted himself, and continually bore in his heart and on his body the mortification of that cross which his habit displayed. But the most high Pastor, who intended to raise him to the head of the holy Church, that he might learn to think humbly of himself, to walk with the lowly, and to bear with the weak, permitting him to feel his own inferiority; so that the more deeply he was fixed on the foundation of true humility, the more firmly he might stand in the height of perfection. For a desire of eating meat came upon him, until, being ensnared and carried away by his desire, he obtained swine's flesh, and concealed it in a certain vessel, thinking rightly that he might thus satisfy his appetite privily, which should he openly do he would become to his brethren a stone of offence and a stumbling-block of reproach.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Holy New Martyr Manuel of Sphakia, Crete (+ 1792)

St. Manuel of Sphakia (Feast Day - March 15)

After the Ottoman Muslim conquest of Crete, the Orthodox Christian Cretans rose on a number of occasions seeking to expel the Ottoman Muslims from their island. After each uprising many Orthodox Christians fled the island and others were enslaved and forced to convert to Islam. Among those Orthodox Christians enslaved at a very early age was a young man named Manuel from the town of Sphakia who was taken and circumcised against his will.

When the opportunity presented itself, Manuel escaped from Crete and landed on the island of Mykonos where he went to an Orthodox priest and confessed. Manuel was given a penance and later was received back into the Orthodox Church through Chrismation.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Akathist to the Honorable Cross


Kontakion 1

Thrice-blessed and all-worshipful Cross of Christ, we the faithful venerate and magnify you being joyous at your divine Exaltation. But since you are the trophy and unconquered weapon, by your grace protect, cover, and shelter those who cry to you:

Rejoice, O Wood most blessed.

Ikos 1

Angels from Heaven invisibly circle the life-bringing Cross in fear, and seeing it now brilliantly shedding light-bestowing grace upon the faithful, amazed they stand and cry to you such words as these:

Rejoice, O Cross, guardian of the world;
Rejoice, the glory of the Church;
Rejoice, you that bountifully gush forth with healings;
Rejoice, you that enlighten the ends of the earth;
Rejoice, Wood fragrant with life, and treasury of wonders;
Rejoice, fitly-joined, thrice-blessed, and bestower of graces;
Rejoice, for you are the divine footstool;
Rejoice, for you were ordained for the worship of all;
Rejoice, bowl of nectar, full to the brim;
Rejoice, torch of the radiance above;
Rejoice, you through whom the creation is blessed;
Rejoice, you through whom the Creator is worshipped;
Rejoice, O Wood most blessed.

Kontakion 2

Perceiving the longing within her Queen Helen spoke to the Emperor boldly: "The great desire of your soul corresponds to my zeal; therefore, seeking for you that most excellent trophy, the Most Holy Cross, I cry,

Alleluia!


The Cross, the Support of Christians


By Archimandrite Gregory Constantinou

We are already in the middle of Great Lent and our Church sets before us our primary symbol, our Christian emblem, the blessed, honorable and life-giving Cross.

For us Orthodox Christians the Cross of Christ is the flag, the banner, the badge, the scepter, the rod of power.

The language of the Cross is silence, pain, deprivation, elimination, humiliation and dishonor; it comes to erase and eliminate any element of haughtiness, verbosity, glory and boasting in various appreciative applause.

The crucified Christ continuously speaks to us through His blood, His pain, His shame and His humiliation.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Theotokos as the Fleece of Gideon


By His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

When the Fathers of the Church speak of the person of the Panagia, on the one hand they are possessed with great respect and reverence because they know that it is the mystery of mysteries, on the other hand, as having knowledge of Holy Scripture which they interpret through their experience of the illumination of the Holy Spirit, they find various prefigurements of the miracle of the earthly presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such an event is invoked by the God-inspired sacred hymnographer Saint Joseph in his Canon of the Akathist Hymn:

"Rejoice, bedewed fleece, which Gideon, O Virgin, foresaw."

A. "Rejoice, Bedewed Fleece"

This miracle is mentioned in the book of Judges. Gideon, wanting to verify the promise given to him by God for the salvation of his people from their various enemies, asked at one point: "I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” When in the morning Gideon picked up the wool, it was so wet that the water filled the water bowl. But he persisted for a second time, to test God. And God condescended again. Now he asked for the wool to remain dry, while the ground be covered with dew, and the sacred writer notes: "That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew."1

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Saint Gregory Palamas, Father of the Ninth Ecumenical Synod (3 of 3)


...continued from part two.

The Theology of Theosis

Saint Gregory Palamas, on this point, continues the work of Photios the Great. The first to become aware of the alienation of western Christendom - that it is something else, beside the Christianity of the Fathers - was Saint Photios, in his famous work "On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit", which until today is a source for the teachings and writings of all the Theologians on the Holy Spirit. Saint Gregory Palamas opened the road even further. With the challenges of Barlaam the Calabrian, he captured the complete alienation of western Theology. What is the essence of the teaching of Saint Gregory, who continued in the tradition of the Holy Fathers? Saint Gregory Palamas recapitulates the Holy Fathers of all ages, and he restates and re-expresses this faith with the means given to him by his era. Saint Gregory Palamas expresses the same Orthodoxy, in his own language, in his own way, yet remained faithful to the theological confession of the Fathers of the previous centuries. First he makes the distinction between the essence and energies of God, which he calls the "distinction of the divine-befitting and the unspeakable", which is the condition of theosis.

St. Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome (According to Venerable Bede)

St. Gregory the Dialogist (Feast Day - March 12)

By Venerable Bede
(from The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, written before 731 A.D.)

In the year of our Lord 605, having ruled the apostolic Roman Church most illustriously for thirteen years, six months, and ten days, the blessed Pope Gregory died and was taken up to his eternal home in heaven. And it is fitting that he should receive special mention in this history, since it was through his zeal that our English nation was brought from the bondage of Satan to the Faith of Christ, and we may rightly term him our own apostle. For during his pontificate, while he exercised supreme authority over all the churches of Christendom that had already long since been converted, he transformed our still idolatrous nation into a church of Christ. So we may rightly describe him as our own apostle, for while others may not regard him in this light, he was certainly an apostle to our own nation, and we are the seal of his apostleship in the Lord.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Saint Gregory Palamas, Father of the Ninth Ecumenical Synod (2 of 3)


...continued from part one.

The Institution of the Ecumenical Synods

In the title we spoke of the Ninth Ecumenical Synod. What is the Ninth Ecumenical Synod that connects us with Saint Gregory Palamas? It is known from history that we officially have Seven Ecumenical Synods. The Ecumenical Synod is the supreme criterion of ecclesiasticity. For us Orthodox, the highest form of ecclesiastical polity is the Ecumenical Synod. Our pinnacle is not a man, such as the Pope - which is our core dispute with the papacy. Protestants abolished everything, because they did not want to keep anything from the tradition of the Church and they distort it. The papacy replaced the Ecumenical Synod with the Pope and made Ecumenical Synods an institution of the papacy, a handmaid of papal plans.

In Orthodoxy there exists and will exist until the end of history, the Ecumenical Synod as the supreme institution in its life. By "ecumenical" is meant a synod of the entire state. According to Xenophon and Greek Byzantium, or Greek Romania, the term "ecumenical" essentially meant the state (ecumenical teacher, ecumenical father, etc.). An Ecumenical Synod, therefore, is a Synod of the entire state, and it addresses major problems of faith and order within the Church. Ecumenical Synods require a crisis in the Body of the Church, which means that salvation is threatened. Then the mouth of the Church, the Ecumenical Synod, proclaims, in every instance, salvific Truth, in accord with the Fathers, the Apostles, the Prophets and the Mothers of all ages. As an example we have the First and Second Ecumenical Synods of 325 and 381, which dealt with the problem, or rather the scourge, of Arianism and the Trinitarian problem. In 381 we thus have the confession of faith, known as the "Creed", which we recite during the Divine Liturgy and in many other services. The Creed is a confession of faith that saves, that leads to theosis, based on the heresies arising from Arianism. It is not the entire faith of the Church.

Saint George of Sinai (6th cent.)

St. George the Sinaite (Feast Day - March 11)

Our holy father, George of Mount Sinai, lived at the time of Justinian I (527-565), and during the tenure of Patriarch Peter of Jerusalem, who served for twenty-eight years (524-552).

According to Saint Sophronios (also celebrated this day), the venerable George lived and struggled virtuously in asceticism on Mount Sinai. It is said that once he had a desire to receive Holy Communion in the Church of the Resurrection of our Lord in Jerusalem and - lo, the miracle! - he found himself in that very sacred place. Indeed, a twelve-day journey was traversed in seconds! He arrived just when they were celebrating the Divine Liturgy, and received the Holy Mysteries at the hands of Patriarch Peter. (Some say that Saint George had this holy desire on the Day of the Holy Resurrection).

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Saint Gregory Palamas, Father of the Ninth Ecumenical Synod (1 of 3)


By Protopresbyter Fr. George Metallinos

Revered fathers, beloved brethren! The commemoration of Saint Gregory Palamas is concurrent with the 14th of November. The Synod of 1368, however, which proclaimed the holiness of Saint Gregory Palamas to the world due to the miracles he performed, and not because of his education nor his writings, which were of the highest standard of his time and in accordance with the holy patristic theological tradition, moved the commemoration of Saint Gregory Palamas to the Second Sunday of Great Lent. It is a symbolic and decisive act, because in our day he is honored by Orthodox throughout the world as an extension and continuation of the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The victory of the Church as the Body of Christ and a society of Christ against error continues. It is not a victory of one person against other persons, nor the victory of one faction against another faction, but it is the victory of Faith. The triumph of Faith as a way of thinking, a way of life and a holy spiritual experience, that can lead man to theosis. It is thus a victory of salvation, which was introduced into history by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was fleshless in the Old Testament and incarnate in the New Testament.

To understand the importance of Saint Gregory Palamas, who in tonight's speech we call a Father of the Ninth Ecumenical Synod, I wanted to delineate the components of this title.

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