Monday, August 31, 2015

Commemoration of the Restoration of the Church of the Theotokos in Neorion

The Restoration of the Church of the Theotokos in Neorion (Feast Day - August 31);
(Neorion Harbor is the second inlet from the bottom along the left side of the Golden Horn.)

Synaxarion

On this day we commemorate the restoration of 
the Church of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos in Neorion.

Verses

Your house in Neorion comes into existence Pure One,
Another Siloam pouring forth healings.

During the reign of Michael and Theodora in 842, there was a patrician named Anthony, who had an august house in Constantinople, in the yard and expanse of Neorion. At this place was a glorious Church of the Most Holy Theotokos, which was robbed of its holy icons, by the prior iconoclast emperor. This patrician renewed once again this church, and built beneath it a small bath for his physical assuagement; above the bath there was always done doxologies to God. Wherefore this church was overshadowed with the grace of the Most Holy Spirit, through the mediation of the All-pure Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and treatments began to take place for various illnesses. And some Christ-loving Christians gathered together and asked the patrician if they could bathe in that bath once a week, for the love of the brethren in Christ and for the sick. The sick Christians assembled together therefore, and bathed with faith, and they were healed. The time came for the patrician to die, and he left the Church of the Theotokos and the bath to those God-loving Christians for the salvation of their souls. Those Christians, because they were frugal and poor, and the bath did not have enough water, nor was there any funding, for this reason it slowly slowly ceased to operate together with the doxologies to God in the church, and the hot bath cooled, and so both remained uncared for. And the bath practically disappeared, because people would grab the vessel they needed from it. The Church of the Theotokos, because it was tall and high up, and it procured healings to the sick, for this reason one Priest remained who chanted and doxologized there, and he was richly sustained by divine grace, which dwelt in that church.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Synaxis of the Three Saints of Ypati


Ypati is a village and a former municipality in Phthiotis, Greece. The three Saints of Ypati are:

1. Holy Apostle Herodian, founder of the Church of Ypati, and who was martyred in Ypati (see Mar. 28 and Nov. 10).

2. Hieromartyr Gregory, Bishop of New Patras, who was slain during the Divine Liturgy in the Sacred Church of Saint Nicholas in Ypati, on the eve of the Akathist Hymn in the year 1711 (see the Sunday between Mar. 18 and 24).

3. Saint Athanasios, founder of the Monastery of Great Meteoron (see Apr. 20).

Saint John the Baptist as a Liturgical Forerunner


1. Yesterday, my Christian brethren, the 29th of August, our holy Church celebrated the beheading of the honorable head of the holy Forerunner and Baptist John. But his feast is also "pulled into" today, Sunday, which is why during the entrance of the Sacred Gospel, following the Resurrection hymn, we chanted the Dismissal hymn of the Honorable Forerunner. Thus, those who were unable to attend church yesterday, could listen today to his Dismissal hymn and honor him.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Forgotten Forerunner (Photios Kontoglou)


By Photios Kontoglou

Today as I write, August 29th, it is the commemoration of Saint John the Forerunner. Last night we chanted Vespers devoutly in a chapel, and there were only a few women and two or three men. This morning we chanted liturgy and again there were a few pilgrims. The shops were open, everyone worked as if it was not the feast of the greatest saint of our religion. In truth does the hymn say: "The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for you, O Forerunner."

Saint Arkadios, the Bishop of Arsinoe and Wonderworker

St. Arkadios the Wonderworker of Arsinoe (Feast Day - August 29)

Saint Arkadios was a great Hierarch of Arsinoe (today's Polis Chrysochous) in Cyprus, a brilliant luminary to the Christians of Paphos, and the brother of Saint Theosebios of Arsinoe (Oct. 12). He was born in the village of Melandra in Paphos and his parents were named Michael and Anna. These two Saints and brothers according to the flesh seem to have lived between the late fourth and early fifth centuries. In other words, they probably lived during the time of Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Epiphanius, Archbishop of Cyprus.

Synaxarion of the Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet John the Forerunner


Synaxarion

On the 29th of the month, commemoration of the beheading of the honorable head of the holy, glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John.

Verses

A murderous hand with a sword cuts off the head
Of him who placed his hand on the Lord’s head.
On the twenty-ninth the Forerunner was cut at the neck with a sword.


This great Forerunner of the Lord, according to the testimony of the Master Christ, was the greatest man to have ever been born of any woman, and the foremost of the Prophets. It was he who leaped for joy in the womb of his mother, and preached Christ to those people living on earth, and to the souls of the dead found in Hades.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Righteous Hezekiah the King (+ 686 B.C.)

Righteous Hezekiah the King (Feast Day - August 28)

Verses

Of old your tears Hezekiah,
Assisted you again to find life in the next.

By Robert I. Bradshaw

The Life & Times of Hezekiah

Hezekiah, son of Ahaz was born during the reign of his grandfather Jotham in 741 BC. Scripture tells us little about Jotham's reign, except that he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. After him came Ahaz, who abandoned the worship of the Lord in favour of the Ba'al (2 Kings 16:2-4; 2 Chron. 28:2-4), even going so far as to sacrifice at least one of Hezekiah's brothers in the fire (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chron. 28:3). Threatened by attacks from Aramean, Israelite, Edomite and Philistine (28:17-18) forces which resulted in the death of another of Hezekiah's brothers (28:7) Ahaz made a decision that was to have far-reaching consequences for his descendants: he made himself a vassal of the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-9). His action solved his short-term problem, according to the writers of Kings at least (cf. 2 Chron. 28:20-21), but further undermined the worship of the Lord. While he was visiting his new suzerain at Damascus he saw an altar there that fascinated him. On returning to Jerusalem he had a duplicate made and set up in the Temple and set aside the traditional furniture in its favour (2 Kings 16:10-16). Ahaz also removed some of the symbols of his power from the Temple (16:18) (Noth, 1996: 266). In many ways the life of Hezekiah stands in stark contrast to that of his father, but at times (as we shall see) his father's political practices influenced his own decisions.

The Life of Abba Moses the Ethiopian

St. Moses the Ethiopian (Feast Day - August 28)

Verses

You affirmed the saying and died, Moses the Black,
"Men see with the eyes, God with the heart."
You were buried on the twenty-eighth Moses the Ethiopian.

Moses was a black man, an Ethiopian by race, the slave of a certain prominent civic official. This official got rid of him because of his lax morals and thievery. Some say that he had even committed murder, and I must be quite frank about the depth of his depravity in order to emphasize the heroic virtue of his repentance.

They say that he became the head of quite a large band of robbers. Among his other evil deeds it is said that he became very hostile and vindictive towards a certain shepherd, who together with his dogs had become an obstacle in his way when he was trying to carry out a raid. He vowed to kill him, and went off to find out where the shepherd was feeding his flocks. When he was told that the shepherd was on the other side of the Nile he swam across holding his two-edged sword between his teeth and carrying on his head the tunic he had been wearing, even though the Nile was in flood at the time and over a mile wide. The shepherd had time to hide away in a cave while he was crossing, and when Moses could not find him he killed four prime rams, tied them together with a rope and swam back over the Nile. When he got to a certain small village he skinned the rams, ate the best parts of the meat, exchanged the skins for wine, drank about eighteen Italian measures of it and then set out to walk the fifty miles back to where he had left his band.

This robber chief later was overcome by remorse through something which happened to him, joined a monastery and did penance according to the measure of his crimes.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Traditional Greek Recipes for Phanouropita


Traditionally the Phanouropita is baked on the feast of Saint Phanourios on August 27th, at which time it is brought to church for a blessing either the evening before during Vespers or on the day of the feast during the Divine Liturgy. This is done to thank the Saint for whatever miracle he has done for us, most commonly in helping us to find lost items and for single people looking for a spouse. The Phanouropita can be baked any time of the year as well.

There is also a tradition that says the mother of Saint Phanourios was a hard-hearted and sinful woman who died unrepentant. Therefore, the Phanouropita is also baked on behalf of the mother of Saint Phanourios, to pray for her forgiveness. Alexandros Papadiamantis writes that whoever invokes the aid of Saint Phanourios must always say: "God forgive the mother of Saint Phanourios."

The Veneration of Saint Phanourios on the Island of Crete

Icon of St. Phanourios painted by Cretan iconographer Angelos Akotantos, mid-15th cent.

The veneration of Saint Phanourios began on the island of Rhodes in the mid-fourteenth century when his sacred icon was discovered in the ruins of an old church. Shortly thereafter, according to the synaxarion of the Saint, his veneration spread to Crete and became widespread ever since. According to the synaxarion of St. Nikephoros of Chios, the veneration of Saint Phanourios on the island of Crete began with a miracle, and is described as follows shortly after the discovery of the icon of the Saint in Rhodes:

"At that time the isle of Crete had no Orthodox hierarch, but a Latin bishop, for it was ruled then by the Venetians, who had shrewdly refused to permit an Orthodox hierarch to be consecrated whenever one died. This they did with evil intent, thinking that with time they could thus convert the Orthodox to the papal doctrines. If Orthodox men wished to obtain ordination, they had to go to Kythera.

Mint, Anise and the Phanouropita


By Fr. Demetrios Bokou

Christ once stigmatized many things of the behavior of the Scribes and Pharisees. Among other things, He mentioned that they dealt diligently and meticulously with totally secondary matters, while they were completely indifferent to the most important and basic matters requested by God.

"Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices -- mint, anise and cumin. But you have neglected the weightier matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former" (Matt. 23:23).

Your whole attention, He says, is given to contributing a tenth (or tithe) of the mint, anise and cumin to the Temple, while to the heavier matters of the law -- justice, love and honesty that makes you trustworthy, you give no interest! However, it is with the latter that you should primarily occupy yourselves, without neglecting of course the minor matters.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Saint Phanourios Resource Page

St. Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-Revealed (Feast Day - August 27)

Verses

Phanourios bestows light upon all the faithful,
Even though he long lay in the darkness of the earth.

Synaxarion of Saint Phanourios the Great-Martyr and Newly-Revealed

Saint Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-Revealed of Rhodes

The Life and Lore of Saint Phanourios

The Mysterious Hole in the Chapel of Saint Adrian in Nafplio


Located 5km northwest of the town of Nafplio is the small village of Agios Adrianos (which in Turkish times was called "Katsigkri" after a Turkish Pasha), where a beautiful chapel can be found on a hill dedicated to Saints Adrian and Natalia, who are celebrated on August 26th. In this chapel is an iconostasis with a mysterious hole below the icon of the Virgin Mary, and is considered by many believers to be a miracle of Christianity.

Saints Adrian and Natalia of Nicomedia and the 23 Martyrs With Them

Sts. Adrian and Natalia (Feast Day - August 26)

Verses

To Adrian
Adrian's hands and feet were cut off,
By wicked hands, and feet quick to murder.

To Natalia
In life she was a consort, in the heavens
Adrian dwells together with Natalia.

Adrian had his hands and feet cut off on the twenty-sixth.

To the Twenty-three Martyrs
The twenty-three men were cut off at their farthest points,
Namely the four - hands and feet.

Saints Adrian and his wife Natalia hailed from Nicomedia. During the second reign of Maximian (306-308), there were twenty-three Christians that he found in a cave and inflicted upon them diverse tortures. Adrian, who was twenty-eight years old and head of the praetorium, learned of this and inquired of them why they endured such torments. They answered him, saying, "We endure them so that we might gain those good things prepared by God in the heavens for those who suffer for His love; indeed, such things which no ear can possibly hear nor word can set before the mind." This response moved blessed Adrian to compunction, and he was filled with divine grace, igniting a flame within him to also undergo torment for the love of Christ.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Holy Apostle Titus of the Seventy and Bishop of Crete

St. Titus the Apostle (Feast Day - August 25)

Saint Titus, an Apostle of the Seventy, was a native of the island of Crete, the son of an illustrious pagan. In his youth he studied Hellenistic philosophy and the ancient poets. Preoccupied by the sciences, Titus led a virtuous life, not devoting himself to the vices and passions characteristic of the majority of pagans. He preserved his virginity, as the Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer (Dec. 20) testifies of him.

Saint John of Karpathos

St. John of Karpathos (Feast Day - August 25)

Verses

John was filled with divine grace,
As an ascetic and divine Hierarch.
On the twenty-fifth John's earthly life was noetically raised.

St. Nikodimos the Hagiorite says in the Philokalia that he has little information about St. John of Karpathos: "It is not known when he was active or where he underwent his ascetic struggles." Our knowledge today is only a little more extensive thanks to the efforts of Metropolitan Ambrose of Karpathos and Kasos in the mid-1980's, when he sought to include him in the official list of saints of the Orthodox Church with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. August 25th was designated as the feast day of Saint John of Karpathos in 1985, and a Divine Service was composed for the celebration.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Saint Kosmas the Aitolos, as an Enlightener of Orthodoxy


By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Saint Kosmas the Aitolos is a great personality with timeless value and importance. Many texts have been written about him, but he still remains inexhaustible.

His memory is celebrated on the 24th of August, because it was on this day he was martyred in Northern Epirus. But because his personality is timeless, this is why we can talk about this sacred figure any time. Besides, here in Roumeli, where he was born and raised, and taught also in schools and later journeyed, his memory remains strong.

I would now like to present some thoughts on the educational work of Saint Kosmas.

Kosmas the Aitolos: The Liberator of Greece Without Weapons


By His Eminence Metropolitan Andrew
of Dryinoupolis, Pogoniani and Konitsa

Rarely do we think about how much Saint Kosmas the Aitolos contributed to the liberation of the Greek nation. He had no weapons. He led no troops. He was not involved in wars and battles.

But he did have the weapons of the spirit: holiness of life and preaching, by which he awakened the consciousness of the enslaved Greeks, who thus learned about their Orthodox faith and the glorious history of their homeland.

Saint Kosmas the Aitolos as a Model for our Lives

St. Kosmas the Aitolos (Feast Day - August 24)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

We know the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, as well as the confusion and misunderstanding that prevailed due to arrogance and haughtiness. The opposite of this incident happened in the New Testament, namely the day of Pentecost. There with the partitioning of tongues of fire on each of the disciples there disappeared confusion, fear and any dissent and there was exemplary unity and agreement. The sacred hymnographer, juxtaposing the two incidents, tells us: "When the Most High came down and confounded the tongues He divided the nations. When He dispensed the tongues of fire, He called all to unity, and with one voice we glorify the Most Holy Spirit" (Kontakion of Pentecost). In other words, when the Tower of Babel was being constructed, God brought confusion in the languages and divided people into nations, and now with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit He calls all to unity. Arrogance divides and separates people, while humility attracts the Holy Spirit, and unites all people and nations into a brotherhood. Unity without divine Grace will always remain a dream unfulfilled.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Saint Kosmas the Aitolos Resource Page


Verses

The people perceived you as graceful, O blessed Kosmas,
Your blood made your discourses to the people splendid.

Life and Veneration

Hieromartyr Kosmas the Aitolos (+ 1779) [1 of 2]

Hieromartyr Kosmas the Aitolos (+ 1779) [2 of 2]

Mega Dendron: The Birth Village of St. Kosmas Aitolos

Saint Kosmas the Aitolos as a Model for our Lives

Synaxis of Panagia Katholiki in Rhodes

Panagia Katholiki (Feast Day - August 23)

Verses

Leap for joy Rhodes for the divinely inspired Katholiki,
The honorable boasted icon.
On the twenty-third we sing to the Mother of God of Rhodes.

The wonderworking and grace-flowing icon of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary called "Katholiki" is kept in the sacred Temple of the same name of the Mother of God, which is located in the town of Kremasti in Rhodes. It took the name "Katholiki" during the sovereign rule of the island by the Knights of Saint John, because it received universal honor by both the Orthodox residents and the Latin conquerors.

It is an icon of large dimensions which dates to the end of the 14th or beginning of the 15th centuries, and it depicts the Most Holy Theotokos seated on a throne holding as an infant the incarnate Son and Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. On either side of the Mother of the Lord stand two Angels in reverence. According to local tradition, it is a replica of an older icon, called "Ktitorissa", which was a fresco on the wall of the first Temple, built after the miraculous finding of the icon of the Mother of God in that place.

Witnesses say that on the 25th of November in the year 1935 the shrine that contained the sacred icon burst into flames by an unknown cause and incinerated completely. The bells of the Temple rang without the intervention of human hands during the night and the residents ran to the Temple to see what happened. With horror they beheld the icon of the Theotokos on top of burning coals and, when they lifted it, they were amazed to see that while the wood on the back had been burned, paradoxically the colors remained unchanged. This was discovered with admiration by the maintainers of the icon in 2010.

During the last maintenance job the shrine was moved, revealing behind the icon the old fresco "Ktitorissa", affirming as true the local oral tradition of generations past. In 1926 it was dressed with a silver covering that was made in Smyrna.

Countless are the miracles performed over the centuries of the wonderworking icon by the grace of the Most Holy Theotokos, who is revered by all and ever-venerable, a sacred refuge and unmercenary clinic to the sick, a comfort of the oppressed and hope of those who resort with faith and reverence and seek the maternal provision and perception of the most blessed Mother of God.


Apolytikion in the First Tone
As a life-giving spring, is a your fervent compassion, and a divine treasury of miracles, is your holy icon; you showed to us the lowly ones, Lady Mariam Katholiki, that by your grace we gather gifts, crying out with one voice: Rejoice, the joy of the ecumene; rejoice, the boast of Rhodes and its joy.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Your revered icon today Theotokos, the wonderworking Katholiki do we honor, singing a hymn with gladness, as a source of life-bearing sanctification, springing forth streams of divine grace, to those who cry out: Rejoice, the boast of Rhodes.

Megalynarion
Rejoice, Theotokos Katholiki, the sweetest refuge of the hopeless; rejoice, the protection of your people and boast of Rhodes, most notable.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Saint Haralambos the Newly-Revealed of Crete (+ 1788)

Venerable Harlambos of Kalyviani (Feast Day - August 23)

Saint Haralambos was born in the village of Dafnes in the province of Temenous in Heraklion, Crete on August 3, 1723 and had three brothers. Since early childhood he showed signs of purity and devotion to the Church and his friends and relatives noticed that, as a child, he would retreat to a cave, during rest hours, and pray to God.

His burning desire for asceticism and conscious devotion to the commandments made him worthy of visions of the Virgin Mary. His visions led him in 1763, at the age of forty, to the Monastery of Panagia Kalyviani dedicated to the Holy Virgin where he became her faithful servant. When he reached the Monastery, near the Turkish occupied village of Kalyvia, he met a number of monks who were not dressed in the traditional black cassock for fear of the Turkish Janissaries. They were Cryptochristians and passed off as poor men.


As soon as the Saint established himself in the Monastery he took an active role in promoting the free practice of faith, uncompromising to his principles in spite of the threats from Janissaries. At that time, the lush and fertile valley of Messara was in the hands of the Turks. The Orthodox Christians were deprived not only of spiritual but also of corporeal nourishment. The presence of Venerable Haralambos soothed the pain, he alleviated the grief of the Christians in the area, and his intervention was very effective. Gradually the Christians acquired more and more concessions by the Turks.

Among his many miracles in life, he performed one for the wife of the Muslim Aga of Kalyvia, with the result that all the members of her family were baptized Christians.

Haralambos served here for 25 years until he fell asleep in the Lord on August 23, 1788 at the age of 65. Six months before his repose, Haralambos had asked another monk named Anthony to be his successor as abbot.


In 1957 Saint Haralambos "made his appearance and revealed himself" to Metropolitan Timothy of Gortynos and Arcadia, who came to the throne in 1956 and would become later Archbishop of Crete. This took place when the courtyard of the Monastery was being fixed next to the old church, and a grave was found from which a fragrance poured out and relics were discovered. Saint Haralambos then began to appear to many people in the village of Dafnes revealing details of his life. Metropolitan Timothy built a church in honor of Saint Haralambos, upon the request of the Saint, and it was consecrated by Metropolitan Makarios of Gortynos and Arcadia on 9/29/2012. Metropolitan Timothy commissioned a Service to be composed for Saint Haralambos by Monk Gerasimos Mikragiannanites, and he himself wrote a dismissal hymn in his honor.


Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Let us praise the venerable Haralambos, and let all the faithful with gladness and longing embrace his honorable relics. For he lived brilliantly the perfection of virtue and received the grace to work wonders. And he ever intercedes for the salvation of our souls.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
In the latter days Venerable One, you revealed yourself to mankind, and showed forth your grace, which was hidden to all, wherefore we sing to you, as a godly-minded friend of the Lord, and we celebrate your revered memory. Grant us your entreaties and your aid Father Haralambos.

Megalynarion
The faithful reverently celebrate, Venerable Haralambos, your holy memory. And with longing we ask for the grace of your relics, and the forgiveness of our offenses.


All Saints of Panagia Kalyviani Monastery


Saturday, August 22, 2015

How Six Places in Mainland Greece Celebrate the Dormition on August 15th


The Dormition of the Theotokos, the Mother of all Christians as well as the Mother of all those who run to her in need, is celebrated in every part of Greece on August 15th with special brilliance.

Her death, burial, resurrection and transposition in the heavens has led to the description of this period as the Summer Pascha, with the faithful approaching the Dormition of the Holy Mother with the same solemnity.

Statue Dedicated to the Discoverer of the Panagia Evangelistria Icon in Tinos


On August 10, 2015 His Eminence Metropolitan Dorotheos II of Syros and Tinos presided over Vespers and the Supplications Services in the village of Falatados on the island of Tinos in the Church of the Holy Trinity/St. John the Theologian. Present also were many other notable figures, including the Mayor of Tinos.

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (9 of 9)


...continued from part eight.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in the heavens, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12).

This beatitude is a continuation of the previous beatitudes of Christ which He made in His Sermon on the Mount prior to His activities. As can be easily seen, the previous beatitudes were addressed in the third person - such as "blessed are the poor in spirit", etc. - while this beatitude is addressed in the second person, which means that with this beatitude Christ turns to His Disciples and Apostles, saying "blessed are you."

Thus, this beatitude is a continuation of the previous beatitude that refers to persecution, but it applies to His Disciples. This is why it is not a different beatitude, but it is counted together with the previous one.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Religion and Life


By Professor Panagiotis Asimakopoulos

In school we learned that the word "and" connects similar things. Wrong!

Usually people use it to reveal dichotomies which they strive to balance.

"You and I," "body and soul," "God and man."

As a child I remember people asking to choose between two things: Religion or life? They would "help" make the choice as follows:

"Do you laugh? Do you go out? Do you wear make-up? Do you listen to music? Do you dress this way? Do you depart from what is acceptable? Then you are not a good Christian. God does not love you. You sadden God. God is angry. Therefore, choose."

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (8 of 9)


...continued from part seven.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:10).

In the fourth beatitude Christ blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Here in the eighth beatitude Christ blesses those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Everything in life has value and people depending on their options collect the positives and negatives of each action.

The term "righteousness" is very important in Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church. Righteousness is the prevalence of the authority of justice, as well as the prevalence of love, therefore it is "beyond all virtue".

Christ affirms that those who work towards righteousness will be persecuted by people, because societies rely on injustices, they adopt injustices and, despite the apparent legitimacy, injustice prevails. Whoever, therefore, wants righteousness to exist, who will speak of righteousness, and who desire to live according to the will of God, will be persecuted.

Holy Martyrs Vassa and Her Three Sons Theognios, Agapios and Pistos

St. Vassa of Edessa and Her Three Sons (Feast Day - August 21)

Verses

One mother and three fair children,
Vassa as a mother was beheaded with them as one soul.
Vassa and her children were beheaded by a sword on the twenty-first.

Vassa was born in Edessa and flourished during the years when Emperor Maximian reigned (286-305). She married a man named Valerian, who was a priest of idols, and gave birth to three sons, Theognios, Agapios and Pistos. Being a Christian, she raised her children in godly piety.


Due to her Christian faith, Vassa suffered much at the hands of her pagan husband, who hauled her and her three sons before the Proconsul Vicarius. After she confessed that she was a Christian, he cast her and her two eldest sons into prison. Theognios, the eldest, was suspended aloft and his flesh was cruelly lacerated in his chest. They also tore out his nails, but he suffered everything bravely and boldly called upon God. His mother Vassa encouraged him to endure to the end.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (7 of 9)


...continued from part six.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God" (Matt. 5:9).

The peace which peacemakers have and is blessed by Christ, is not a social or worldly peace, but a peace that is the result and fruit of the purification of the heart and union with God. This is when a person becomes a peacemaker, savoring the peace of God "which surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7), which guards people's hearts.

Peacemakers are not only peacekeepers of those who are alike, but reconcile people who oppose each other. Whoever has tasted within themselves the peace of God, then they become by all means a peacemaker.

Synaxarion for the Holy Prophet Samuel

Holy Prophet Samuel (Feast Day - August 20)

Verses

Even the Seer Samuel finally shut his eyes,
But sees the everlasting light after his demise.
Seeing the future, Samuel went hence on the twentieth.

This most holy man, a Prophet of God from childhood and the last Judge of Israel, was from the city of Ramathaim, of the tribe of Levi, the son of Elkanah and Hannah the Prophetess, born around 1155 BC. His mother gave him the name "Samuel", which means "asked of God", because, having previously been childless, she asked God for a child, with many supplications and fervent tears.

When she had given birth to him and weaned him, she took him to the town of Shiloh, where the Ark of God was then, and, although he was still an infant, she dedicated him, in accordance with her promise, to the service of God, and she gave thanks to Him, singing the Third Canticle of the Old Testament: "My heart is strengthened in the Lord...." She then returned to her home and later gave birth to three more sons and two daughters. Samuel, however, stayed in Shiloh under the protection of Eli, who was High Priest of the Hebrews at that time, and served in the Tabernacle of God. On account of his reverent behavior he was well-pleasing to God and to other people, according to the testimony of Holy Scripture: "But the child Samuel led his life and he grew and matured and found favor both with the Lord and with men" (1 Kings/1 Samuel 2:26).

Saints Reginos and Orestes of Cyprus

Sts. Reginos and Orestes (Feast Day - August 20)

Saints Reginos and Orestes are not included in the official lists of saints of the Church, but they are commemorated and celebrated particularly in Cyprus, where they were martyred by pagans.

Reginos and Orestes came from Chalcedon in Asia Minor during the persecution of Christians by the Roman authorities. They were friends who were perhaps of noble lineage, though we do not have any information of their parents, youth or upbringing. What we can assume however was that they were raised Christians by their parents.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (6 of 9)


...continued from part five.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

The beatitude of purity of heart is very important and is at the center not only of the Beatitudes, but of the entire spiritual life. With purity of heart people know God, they see God.

Purity of heart, so that a person can know God, is at the center of Orthodox theology as well as so-called neptic-hesychastic theology, expressed especially by Saint Symeon the New Theologian, Saint Gregory Palamas and the Fathers of the Philokalia, the so-called Philokalic Fathers.

First, this beatitude has particular importance, because there are people who do not steal nor take the property of others, and may even be merciful, applying to their person the beatitude "Blessed are the merciful," yet they have unclean hearts and commit various carnal sins. Thus, the most important of all is for a person to have a pure heart.

Saint Andrew the General and the 2,593 Soldiers Martyred With Him

St. Andrew Stratelates (Feast Day - August 19)

Verses

To Andrew
Andrew was a true general,
He was beheaded and his manliness endures.

To Those Martyred With Him
There stood with the beheaded mass of soldiers in a pool of blood,
You who produced the pool of water.

On the nineteenth Andrew was beheaded radiantly.

1. During the reign of the most impious Maximianus* there was a great persecution of Christians, especially in the territories of Syria. At that time a superstitious man by the name of Antiochus held command of the military force stationed there, and he was extremely hostile towards pious men because of his idolatry. Many soldiers who shared in this error were assigned to his command. Among these, like a rose among thorns or incense among foul smells, there shone in secret the martyr and faithful servant of God, Andrew. Because of his zealous ardour he was deemed worthy of the work of Almighty God and Jesus Christ Our Saviour, and he defeated in battle those who opposed him, and was conspicuous for his many brave deeds.

Saints Timothy, Thekla and Agapios of Gaza

Sts. Timothy, Thekla and Agapios (Feast Day - August 19);
Aerial photo of the Hippodrome in Caesarea

Verses

To Timothy
Brought in the midst of the fiery furnace,
Timothy became an exceedingly fragrant aroma.

To Thekla
You Thekla were called, from your fatherland in Vize,
To the theatre of Gaza, contesting against the bite of a beast.

To Agapios
Agapios bore the bite of the beast,
And the soul-biter bites the beast of the heart.

By Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea

The Confession of Timothy, in the City of Gaza

In the Second Year of the Persecution of our Days (304 A.D.)

It was the second year of the persecution, and the hostility against us was more violent than the first; and Urbanus, who at that same time had superseded the governor Flavianus in his office, was governor over the people of Palestine.

There came then again the second time edicts from the emperor, in addition to the former, threatening persecution to all persons. For, in the former, he had given orders respecting the rulers of the Church of God only, to compel them to sacrifice; but, in the second edicts there was a strict ordinance, which compelled all persons equally, that the entire population in every city, both men and women, should sacrifice to dead idols, and a law was imposed upon them to offer libations to devils; for such were the commands of the tyrants who, in their folly, desired to wage war against God, the Supreme King.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

An Interpretation of the Beatitudes of Christ (5 of 9)


...continued from part four.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

As we have repeatedly said in our analysis of the Beatitudes, there is a sequence and succession between them. Therefore, whoever is humble, has repented and is meek, and whoever hungers and thirsts for righteousness, will also be merciful. This is an ongoing evolution towards virtue, a constant journey to a life in God, a continuous ascent up Mount Sinai and Mount Tabor.

Thus, mercy is closely related with righteousness, as well as righteousness with mercy. One may have great zeal for the prevalence of justice between people, but this can be done without mercy, without love and without philanthropy. According to the Fathers of the Church righteousness is closely associated with love and sometimes they are identified with each other. The incarnation of Christ took place to restore the injustices of fallen humanity, and this restoration was done with the love and philanthropy of God.

The Holy Kollyvades Agapios (+ 1844) and Porphyrios (+ 1852) the Ascetics of Santorini

Sts. Agapios and Porphyrios of Thera

By Archimandrite Nektarios Pettas

The founders of the steep Hermitage at the edge of Mesa Mountain (or Mesa Vouno) in Santorini (or Thera), between the bays of Perissa and Kamari, are the venerable Kollyvades Agapios and Porphyrios.

In 1822 the ragged monk from Mount Athos, Agapios Metaxas, arrived in Santorini, having been born in Constantinople. He became an evangelist on the island with his pure and unpretentious preaching. Initially he lived as an ascetic in a cave of Monolithos. This hermitage was immediately converted into a spiritual spring where those who thirsted for an authentic word and prayer would go.

Holy New Hieromartyr Agapios of Galatista (+ 1752)

St. Agapios the Hieromartyr of Galatista (Feast Day - August 18)

The Holy Hieromartyr Agapios of Galatista was born in the town of Galatista in Halkidiki around 1710. Galatista at that time was an episcopal see. There Agapios received a well-rounded education. At that time Galatista, like other places in Halkidiki, "had plenty of good schools with trained and personal teachers providing a formidable education." The same town was the birthplace of the hagiographers Galatsanoi, who painted many icons and murals in Mount Athos and are preserved at Vatopaidi Monastery.

As a young man he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Jerusalem, where he remained and was tonsured a monk, joining the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. He was ordained a priest of the All-Holy Sepulchre by Patriarch Parthenios (1737–1766).

Holy New Martyr Matthew of Crete (+ 1697)

St. Matthew the Neomartyr (Feast Day - August 18)

Verses

Matthew's head was cut off with a sword,
Rejoicing he entered into the fold of Athletes.
On the eighteenth Matthew's head was cut off.

Matthew was born in 1670 in Gerakari in the Amari valley of Crete which is in the Diocese of Lambis and Sfakion. Crete at that time was enslaved to the Turkish conquerors, who persecuted and tortured Christians. The father of Matthew was a priest, and this helped bring him up with Christian values and virtues.

This was the cause for the envious devil, who hated the virtues of Matthew, to lead him to impiety. Hence the Muslims chose him to marry the Ottoman Ayse to embrace Islam.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Saint Elias the New of Sicily

St. Elias the New (Feast Day - August 17)

Saint Elias was born in Enna, Sicily in 823 where he was given the name Giovanni. His anonymous biographer reports that at the age of twelve he wisely taught those who were older than him, having himself the mind of an old man, and they listened to him like a prophet. His childhood coincided with the first period of the Arab occupation of Sicily, and he himself suffered its disturbance.

Twice he was captured as a prisoner, once in a Saracen raid and another time by Hagarenes who sold him to someone that transported him to Africa, to Tunisia and Algeria. There he was resold to a wealthy tanner, who held him in honor and trusted him. Then the life of Giovanni seems to imitate the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. John refused to give in to the invitations of the wife of his master and this caused a conspiracy against him. The injustice was corrected when the master caught his wife with another man. Therefore he payed for his release, and leaving that house he went to live alone in prayer.

He decided to go to Palestine to receive the monastic schema. He arrived in the Holy City in April 878, and Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem dressed him in the monastic schema giving him the name Elias.

Commemoration of the Miracle of the Theotokos Against the Saracens in 716 A.D.

Commemoration of the Miracle of the Theotokos Against the Saracens in 716 (Feast Day - August 15th)

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Verses

You are seen as a Champion by the citizens,
Shattering the unbelieving enemy Hagarenes.

At the beginning of the reign of Leo the Isaurian, who was also called Konon, in the year 716, there came a multitude of Saracens with boats numbering one thousand nine hundred, wanting to battle against the magnificent and God-protected Constantinople. Having overcome the kingdom of the Persians, who for many years fought against the kingdom of the Romans, they then went to Egypt and Libya. And deceiving with false promises the Christians there, that if they submitted to them they would not bring violence against the Orthodox faith, the unbelievers did not keep their promise. Thus many Christians were punished for refusing to deny Christ, making them Martyrs, because they did not want to trample on the honorable Cross of Christ. The Saracens, having dominated various nations, such as the Indians, Habeshas, Mongolians, Libyans and the Spanish, went then to Constantinople, wanting to conquer it. Emperor Leo was willing to pay them a tax, but the Saracens did not consent, rather they wanted his word to set guardians to protect Constantinople. Wherefore because the citizens came to a bypass, and did not know what to do, for this reason they fled to the Theotokos, the guardian and protectress of Constantinople, begging her to help and save her city that was in danger. And so the Theotokos heard them, and she taught the unbelievers a lesson, as she knows how.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Saint Diomedes the Physician and Martyr of Tarsus


The Holy Martyr Diomedes was born in Tarsus of Cilicia. He was a physician, and a Christian, and he treated not only ills of the body but also of the soul. He enlightened many pagans to believe in Christ, and baptized them. The Church venerates him as an unmercenary healer and mentions him during the Mystery of Holy Unction.

Diomedes traveled much, converting people to the true Faith. When he arrived in the city of Nicaea, the emperor Diocletian (284-305) sent soldiers to arrest him. Along the way from Nicaea to Nicomedia, he got down from the cart so as to pray, and he gave his soul to God.

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