Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year Resolutions and Time as an Opportunity

In this image, we see Death, represented by a skeleton, trying to extinguish the candle of life. On the opposite side of the candle is Father Time, hourglass in hand, attempting to prevent Death from putting out the candle. From the gravestone of Rebecca Gerrish, located at King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston.

By Dr. Nikolaos Koios

In the Western world there’s a continuing tradition of making resolutions at the turn of each year. In a sense, people want to commit to resolutions that’ll help them become ‘better’. We can see two aspects to this attractive custom: 1) the intention and the opportunity for people to keep their resolutions; and 2) the content of the resolutions and commitments. Both of these factors are of great importance. If you can’t keep to what you’ve promised yourself, then setting even the most noble ideal as a goal is pointless. And if the resolution’s something that, in the end, doesn’t make you any better, then committing to it might actually work against you rather than for you. But there’s also another factor: time. We’re under pressure from time. Our resolutions have to be kept within time. And people today are less willing than ever to allow time for the attainment of their goals, for keeping the promises they’ve made to themselves.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyr Zotikos the Feeder of Orphans

St. Zotikos the Feeder of Orphans (Feast Day - December 31)

Verses

Mules drag Zotikos running with leaps,
O earth you are the starting point, the track finishes in the heavens.

This Saint lived during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337). He was born in Old Rome to an honorable and illustrious family, and was educated in every form of wisdom from a young age. Because he was astute and sensible, he was invited by Emperor Constantine the Great to move to Constantinople, and he was honored by him with the office of the magistrate. In the company of Saint Zotikos there also went other leaders from Rome to Constantinople, including the so-called magistrate of arms, Paulinus his nephew, Olymbrios, Beros, Severos, Marianos, Anthimos, Urbicius, Samson and Stoudios, whose names until today are commemorated on the public buildings they themselves erected.

Saint Melania the Younger of Rome

St. Melania the Younger (Feast Day - December 31)

By Bishop Palladius of Helenopolis

(Lausiac History, Ch. 42)

Now inasmuch as I have already promised above to relate the history of Melania the Younger it is meet that I should pay my obligation, for it is not just that I should consign to oblivion a young woman who, though so very young in her years, by reason of her indefatigable zeal and knowledge was very much wiser than the old women, or that I should omit to make manifest by words the history of one who, though a girl in stature, was old in the mind of the fear of God.

Now therefore the parents of this maiden drew her by force into marriage, and they united her unto one of the nobles of Rome, but she kept in mind continually the words which had been spoken unto her by her aged relative, and kept herself as was fitting, and became strengthened especially in the fear of God. And she had two sons, and as both of them died she came to be possessed of such a hatred of marriage that she said unto her husband, whose name was Pinianus, the son of Severus, a man of consular rank, “If you wish to live with me a life of purity I will regard you as the husband and lord of my life; but if, inasmuch as you are a young man, this is too hard for you, take everything which I have and leave only free to me my own body, for in this way I shall be able to fulfill my desire which is in God, and I shall become the heir of the excellences of that woman after whose name I have been called. For if God desired me to lead the life of this world He would never have taken away the children to whom I gave birth.”

Rare Icon of the Virgin Mary and Christ in Egypt


A rare icon of the Virgin Mother of our Lord pampering Him like a baby and weaving clothes for Him from a spindle. This icon is located in the Patriarchal Monastery of Saint George in Cairo, where our Lord lived as a refugee.


The Word Became Flesh: The Inexpressible Mystery of Salvation (St. Symeon the New Theologian)


By St. Symeon the New Theologian

When God, the Son of God, entered the womb of All-Holy Virgin and took flesh from her, He was born a perfect person and perfect God, without confusion. When has anything more important ever happened for us? We all believe in this Son of God and Son of the ever-virgin Mother of God, Mary, which is why we confidently accept this information about Him and this event. If we confess Him and repent from the bottom of our heart then the word of devotion [to Him] is born within us like a seed, in exactly the same way as the Word of the Father entered the womb of the Virgin. Marvel at this great and astonishing miracle and accept it in all certainty and faith.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Prayer to the Lord Who Was Born (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)


Prayer to the Lord Who Was Born

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Jesus, Son of the Father without mother according to divinity, I glorify You the eternal one Who is above every cause and word.

Jesus, Son of a Mother without father according to humanity, I glorify You Who became man for us.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Big Announcement!!! (second update)


Dear Readers:

Christ is Born!

Now that Christmas has passed (for many of us) and the New Year is approaching, I wanted to send a final update on the progress of the initial announcement made exactly a month ago (read here) and follow up on the first update I made a few weeks ago (read here). I will not repeat here what this announcement was all about, so please read the links if you are not familiar with it. We are so far on track to move on to a subscription format on January 1st 2017.

First, the good news. Since I made this announcement a month ago, we have added a total of 180 paid subscribers to the already 150 or so. This puts us over the 300 paid subscriber mark.

Now the bad news. We are still about 170 paid subscriptions below the goal to keep these sites operating with open and free access by all.

However, there may be some good news on the way before I make my final decision on this. Because I ran into some obstacles a few weeks ago, I sent out my Christmas mailing a little late this year, so I'm hoping for more people to sign on. The potential is there to bring in about 150 more subscribers, therefore I will wait to make the final decision till the day after Theophany on January 6th, which is my name day on January 7th, to give time for the responses to come through. If things do not work out, then on January 8th we will be moving over to a paid subscription format. If things do work out, then it will all continue as is.

Many thanks to all those who have both kept their subscriptions going, and to those who are new to subscribing. I assure you, your gift is not only appreciated by me, but by many thousands throughout the world. Almost every day I receive sorrowful messages from almost every country around the world, sometimes even petitions from parishes begging me to not allow a paid subscription to happen. However, it will happen unless the 500 paid subscription goal is met by January 7th. This is the only way to keep this ministry from not shutting down for good at some point in the near future. But I am still optimistic no matter how things turn out.

A blessed new year to all!

John Sanidopoulos

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Holy Innocents Resource Page

14,000 Holy Infants (Feast Day - December 29)

Synaxarion of the Holy Infants Massacred by Herod

The Fourteen Thousand Holy Children of Bethlehem (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)

14,000 Infants (Holy Innocents) Slain by Herod in Bethlehem

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Saint Nephon the New Cenobiarch (1736-1809)

St. Nephon the New Cenobiarch (Feast Day - December 28)

By Aresteides G. Theodoropoulos

December 28th 2009 completed with the grace of the All-Good God 200 years from the venerable dormition of a worthy spiritual person of the Philokalic Renaissance movement, who shone forth as a new cenobiarch, becoming an example of austere ascesis and ceaseless prayer, meekness and discernment, philanthropy and humility.

The Venerable God-bearer Nephon, who was given the title cenobiarch, contributed to the growth of monasticism with the founding of hesychasteria and monasteries on the islands of the Aegean, struggling together with the other Kollyvades fathers for the preservation of the spirit of Orthodoxy, the spiritual regeneration of the people and the return to the ancient ecclesiastical tradition.

"On the Nativity of the Savior and the Vigorous Pursuit of our Ascetic Life" (St. Theodore the Studite)


On the Nativity of the Savior and the Vigorous Pursuit of our Ascetic Life

By St. Theodore the Studite

Catechesis 32

(To be Read After the First of the Royal Hours for Christmas.)

Brethren and Fathers, already the manifestation of God is near and the day of joy is at the doors; for it is a great joy, such as has not been since time began, that the Son of God has come to us, not through riddles and symbols, as he appeared of old to the fathers, but by coming to live with us and manifesting himself in his own person through his birth from a Virgin. There has been nothing more blest than this in generations of generations, nothing more wonderful among all the wonders that God has done since time began. For this reason Angels are proclaiming the good tidings of the mystery and a star revealing that the heavenly has been brought to birth on earth; for this reason Shepherds are running to see the salvation that has been proclaimed, and Magi are bringing gifts fit for a king; for this reason a new song is being sung for new events, because God, who is glorified in the highest, has appeared as peace on earth.

Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher, Founder of Simonopetra Monastery

St. Simon the Myrrhgusher (Feast Day - December 28)

Verses

With Peter you carried a common calling and rock,
Your myrrh surpassing the rock O Simon.


We do not know where Saint Simon came from or anything of his early childhood. What we do know is that Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher went to live as an ascetic on Mount Athos to save his soul. His intention was to first find an experienced spiritual elder to guide him and to submit himself under obedience. After much searching for not only a virtuous elder, but one who was strict as well, he found what he was looking for. This elder was a rough and harsh man, who not only would insult Simon but also he would strike him. Simon endured all these things with joy and gratitude, and considered it a loss when he was not abused. Moreover, Simon held no malice against his elder, but returned much love to him, as an innocent child with a parent. He showed such love for his elder, that sometimes at night he would go and kiss his feet as he slept, or when he was away, he would go to the empty bed of his elder and kiss it. For this reason Saint Simon would say that we ought to love God very much because He made us out of nothing, and likewise we ought to love our elder because he recreates us by renewing and restoring the image of God within us. Such was his humility and his lofty spiritual understanding.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Miracles Through the Relics of Saint Stephen as Recorded by St. Augustine of Hippo


By St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

When the bishop Projectus was bringing the relics of the most glorious martyr Stephen to the waters of Tibilis, a great concourse of people came to meet him at the shrine. There a blind woman entreated that she might be led to the bishop who was carrying the relics. He gave her the flowers he was carrying. She took them, applied them to her eyes, and immediately saw. Those who were present were astounded, while she, with every expression of joy, preceded them, pursuing her way without further need of a guide.

Lucillus bishop of Sinita, in the neighborhood of the colonial town of Hippo, was carrying in procession some relics of the same martyr, which had been deposited in the castle of Sinita. A fistula under which he had long labored, and which his private physician was watching an opportunity to cut, was suddenly cured by the mere carrying of that sacred fardel, — at least, afterwards there was no trace of it in his body.

Synaxarion of Saint Stephen the Protomartyr and Archdeacon

St. Stephen the Protomartyr (Feast Days - December 27 & August 2)

On the twenty-seventh of this month [December], we commemorate the Holy Apostle, Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen.

Verses

Crowned with words, such as precious stones,
Stephen is crowned, with his crown of stones.
On the twenty-seventh Stephen is taken away by stones.

Holy Martyrs Maurice, His Son Photinos and the Seventy Soldiers With Them

St. Maurice and the Seventy With Him (Feast Day - December 27 & July 1)

Verses

To Maurice
Naked Maurice was anointed with honey,
The bees considering this honey sweet to eat.

To the Seventy
Having as companions in the contest seven times ten men,
Maurice also receives fellow dancers.

Saint Stephen the Protomartyr Resource Page

St. Stephen the Protomartyr (Feast Day - December 26, August 2, September 15)

Synaxarion of Saint Stephen the Protomartyr and Archdeacon (December 26)

Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen as a Model for our Lives

Homily On St. Stephen the Protomartyr by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

Homily One: St. Gregory of Nyssa on St. Stephen the Protomartyr

The Icon of the Panagia of Bethlehem and Her Appearance to a Muslim Man


This is the story of the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary to a Muslim in Bethlehem on the first day of Holy Week 2012. The Orthodox monastic community of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem related this story to Mr. Lycourgos Markoudes who writes here as he heard it.

The story begins on Holy Monday afternoon when the Church of the Nativity was practically empty of pilgrims. The monks were in the area of the church where they attend to the needs of the church. This is a short distance from the steps that lead to the Cave of the Birth of Christ. At one point, they saw a man approach them and he appeared to be very emotional. He took two candles and with great emotion he approached the icon of the Panagia of Bethlehem. He lit the candles before the icon and with tears flowing from his eyes he turned towards the monks who were looking at him with concern. He told them that he was a Muslim from the area around Bethlehem and that during the previous day he saw the Holy Mother in his sleep. She invited him to visit the place where she had given birth to her Son and he was to enter the area through a low doorway. He was told to proceed to the right and then go to the area where he would find her and then light two candles before her icon.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Divine Kenosis


By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

The incarnation of Christ is said to even by a kenosis ("self-emptying"). Astonishing are the words of the Apostle Paul: "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he emptied himself, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross" (Philem. 2:6-8).

Holy New Hieromartyr Constantios the Russian (+ 1743)

St. Constantios the Russian (Feast Day - December 26)

Verses

You cast away the enemy, as he formerly caused your fall,
And you received the prize Constantios.

Constantios was from "the glorious kingdom of Moscovy" and served as a chaplain of the Russian Embassy in Constantinople. There he conducted his priestly duties competently and led a quiet life. At that time, during the reign of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna of All Russia (1741-1761), war ensued between Russia and the Ottomans. While the Russian ambassador and his staff departed, Father Constantios remained behind and secluded himself from political concerns. From there he went to Mount Athos and spent a short amount of time at Great Lavra Monastery. He then went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem where he venerated all the sacred shrines. From there he returned to Great Lavra and remained there until peace was restored between the Russians and the Ottomans.

Synaxarion of Saint Constantine the Jew

St. Constantine, the Former Jew (Feast Day - December 26)

Verses

As a rose from the thorn of the Jews,
The divine Constantine blossoms and dies.

This Saint was from Synnada (which was a great and glorious city in Phrygia, honored with the throne of a Metropolitan, who had under him twenty Bishops), and was from the Jewish race.* When he was very young, he was following his mother and saw a Christian who made the sign of the honorable Cross over his mouth when he yawned. From that time he also would do the same, in imitation of the Christian. Not only this, but he would do other Christian acts with fervent faith. For this reason his face shined with a divine radiance. He was taught about God along with Christian doctrines, and he spent a period of some days fasting. Once a Jewish girl leaped on him in the manner of a harlot. The Saint made the sign of the honorable Cross, which brought death to her, but he raised her from the dead.

The Miraculous Icon of the Panagia of Bethlehem


The miraculous icon of the Panagia Bethlehemitissa (Παναγίας της Βηθλεεμίτισσας), or Panagia of Bethlehem, is located in the Basilica of the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem in a special place of veneration near the entrance to the Holy Cave in which Christ was born.

The icon is known for its sweet eyes and calm smile which brings joy and sweetness to the hearts of the faithful. It is of unknown origin, though it is said it has its origins in Russia and was probably brought to Bethlehem by Tsarina Catherine the Great. The Holy Virgin had performed a miracle for Catherine, so Catherine donated her imperial garments to adorn the "Mistress of the World". Also, according to tradition, she gave her imperial jewelry to adorn the icon, and since that time no Tsarina wore diamonds and such since it was reserved for the "Queen of Heaven" alone.

The holy icon of Panagia of Bethlehem celebrates the day after Christmas on December 26, which is the feast of the Synaxis of the Theotokos.



Apolytikion
You bless all those who hasten with faith to venerate your sacred image, O Mother of God, gushing forth healings, Bethlehemitissa, as a strong-flowing river. And do not cease to protect those who radiantly glorify your all-revered Son, Who did not depart from the Father's bosom, and, in an unspeakable manner, received mortal flesh from your blood.

The icon in Ptolemaida of Northern Greece in 2009


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Homily on the Nativity of Christ (St. Gregory Palamas)


On the Saving Birth According the Flesh of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ

By Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki

This is the festival of the virgin birth! Our address must be exulted therefore in accordance with the greatness of the feast, and enter into the mystery, as far as this is accessible and permissible, and time allows, that something of its inner power might be revealed even to us. Please strive, brethren, to lift up your minds as well, that they may better perceive the light of divine knowledge, as though brightly illumined by a holy star. For today I see equality of honor between heaven and earth, and a way up for all those below to things above, matching the condescension of those on high. However great the heaven of heavens may be, or the upper waters which form a roof over the celestial regions, or any heavenly place, state or order, they are no more marvelous or honorable than the cave, the manger, the water sprinkled on the infant and His swaddling clothes. For nothing done by God from the beginning of time was more beneficial to all or more divine than Christ's nativity, which we celebrate today.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Last Christmas Message of the Late Archbishop Christodoulos of Greece


A Christmas Message from Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece

Delivered on December 20, 2007

My beloved children,

"TODAY A SAVIOR IS BORN TO YOU." This phrase, which the Angel addressed to the shepherds of Bethlehem on the night of the Nativity, I fear that we have heard so many times that it no longer has a strong impression on us. Nevertheless the Church does not tire of repeating it and today she invites all of us, we the people of the 21st century, to receive our Savior, there in the manger of Bethlehem, God who was incarnate out of love, in our hearts, in our homes, in our cities, in our nations. Everywhere.

Saint Antiochus Pandektos

St. Antiochus Pandektos (Feast Day - December 24);
photo depicts the Lavra of Saint Savvas

Verses

Your life Antiochus was tumultuous with detestable things,
And after a full life, you passed pleasantly.

Saint Antiochus was from Ancyra in Galatia and lived during the reign of Emperor Heraclius (610-641). He became a solitary, then entered the Lavra of Saint Savvas in Palestine, where he became renowned for his virtue and holiness. He witnessed the Persian invasion of Palestine in 614, and the massacre of forty-four of his fellow monastics by the Bedouins. Like another Prophet Jeremiah, he recorded his lamentation of the fall of the Holy Land, the destruction of the Lavra, and the seizure of the Holy Cross which was carried away into Persia.

Sayings of Holy Abba Betimius

Holy Abba Betimius (Feast Day - December 24)

Verses

You stripped yourself of your corruptible skin Betimius,
And will receive it incorruptible at the resurrection.

Abba Betimius lived a venerable life, and reposed in peace. In the Lausiac History, the following is written about him:

1. Abba Betimius said: "When I went down to Scete they gave me some apples to take to the brethren, and when I had knocked at the door of Abba Achilla, he said to me when he saw me, 'If these apples had been of gold I would not have wished you to knock at my door; and moreover, do not knock at the door of any other brother;' so I returned and placed the apples in the church and departed."

Christ Came to Pass Through All the Ranks of the Priesthood



The following is taken from the Saying of the Desert Fathers.

A certain elder who counseled against fornication said the following:

“Be like a man who passes through a street of taverns, and who smells the odor of boiling meats, or the whiff of something which is being roasted; he who wishes enters into one of them and eats, and he who does not wish to do so smells the meats as he passes by and then goes on. Drive away then from yourself the fetid smell of evil thoughts, and stand up and pray, saying, ‘O Son of God, help me.’ The same thing is also to be said about other thoughts, for we are not the roots of the thoughts, but are those who strive against them.”

The Beneficial Tale of Saint Nicholas the Soldier

St. Nicholas the Soldier (Feast Day - December 24)

Verses

Having set forth a temperate rule of life,
O Nicholas your life was most temperate.

Our Holy Father Nicholas became a soldier during the reigns of Emperors Nikephoros the Patrician (802-811) and Stavrakios (803-812). When the emperor had gathered soldiers to battle against the Bulgarians, he also went out with the army. As Nicholas was passing through a certain place, because it was night, he went to stay at an inn. After eating dinner with the innkeeper, he said his prayers and lay down to sleep.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Synaxarion of Saint Nahum the Wonderworker and Enlightener of Bulgaria


On this day (23rd of December) we commemorate our Holy and God-bearing Father Nahum the Wonderworker, the Enlightener and Preacher of Bulgaria.

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Verses

With your words you brightened and worked wonders Nahum,
The entire land of Bulgaria all-blessed one.

Our Holy Father Nahum (Naum) lived during the reign of the Roman Emperor Michael (842-867), the son of Theophilos the Iconoclast, when Saints Cyril and Methodios and Clement occupied themselves in the areas of Bulgaria, struggling to enlighten with the faith of Christ and Orthodoxy the mislead nation of Bulgaria. They were the first enlighteners of Bulgaria, and the divine Nahum followed them in all ways, wandering with them throughout all the cities of Bulgaria, preaching the word of piety, where he was beaten, reviled, oppressed, persecuted and flogged, enduring these things from unbelievers and enemies of Christ. Because the above-mentioned fathers, namely Cyril and Methodios and Clement the Equal to the Apostles, wanted to translate the Old and New Testament writings from the Greek language into the Bulgarian (Slavic), they developed an alphabet and words to be grasped by the Bulgarians. For this reason they considered it blessed to refer their work to the then Pope Hadrian of Rome (867-872), to receive from him authority and certainty to do so.

Saint Nephon, Bishop of Constantia

St. Nephon of Constantia (Feast Day - December 23)

Saint Nephon was born in Paphlagonia and was educated at Constantinople in the court of the commander Sabbatios. In childhood he was gentle and good, and he often attended church services, but in his youth he began to lead a prodigal and sinful life. He sometimes came to his senses, and he was horrified by the extent of his fall; but believing that he was lost and could not receive forgiveness, he despairingly resumed his impious life.

He once met a friend who gazed into his face for a long time with astonishment. When Nephon asked why he was staring, the friend replied, “I have never seen your face like this before. It is black, like that of an Ethiopian.” These words showed to Nephon his fallen state, and he began to cry out to the Mother of God, begging Her intercession.

The Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete and the Discovery of their Relics in 1898

The Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete (Feast Day - December 23)

SYNAXARION

On the twenty-third of this month [December], we commemorate the Holy Ten Martyrs who were martyred in Crete.

Verses

The ten cattle of the Archshepherd Christ,
Enter beheaded into the fold of the Martyrs.
On the twenty-third ten men from Crete were beheaded.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Commemoration of the Door Opening, Illumination and Consecration of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia


On the twenty-second of this month [December], we commemorate the Door Opening of the Great Church of Christ.

Verses

Men raise up the sacred pillars of Christ,
Modeled indeed by the design of David.

On the twenty-second of this month [December], we commemorate the Path of Light of the Great Church of Christ.

Verses

Today lights run around the Temple,
Making visible with light the entire divine path.

On the twenty-third of this month [December], we commemorate the Consecration of the Great Church of Christ, namely Hagia Sophia.

Verses

The consecration is beautifully eulogized,
The entire earth honoring as beautiful the beauteous Temple.

Saint Anastasia the Pharmakolitria Resource Page

St. Anastasia the Pharmakolitria (Feast Day - December 22)

Verses

Anastasia had as medicine great faith,
With all this medicine she was bound and burned.
Anastasia was violently burned in the fire on the twenty-second.

Synaxaria for Saints Anastasia the Pharmakolitria, Chrysogonos, Zoilos, Theodoti and Her Three Children

Holy Great Martyr Anastasia the Pharmakolitria

Holy Martyr Theodoti and her Three Children

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Homily in Preparation for the Celebration of Christmas (St. John Chrysostom)

Mosaic from the Church of Chora in Constantinople depicting the Journey to Bethlehem.

The celebration of the birth of Christ on December 25th began in the West after an investigation was conducted to uncover the actual birthday of Christ, while in the East it was celebrated according to tradition on January 6th with Epiphany. In 386, while preaching in Antioch, St. John Chrysostom delivered a homily in which he states that ten years earlier the date of December 25th for the celebration of Christmas also came to the East based on strong arguments that it was the actual date of the birth of Christ. It seems that St. John Chrysostom sought to rally support for this change by delivering a series of Christmas homilies, and he even urged Christians to begin preparing for this feast on December 20th. For this reason, while still a presbyter in Antioch, in a homily he delivered in honor of Saint Philogonios of Antioch, which was made on December 20th, the feast of the Saint, he devoted the second half of his homily to encouraging the Christians of Antioch to prepare to receive Christ, whose birth would be celebrated on December 25th, not invisibly, but physically through the Divine Eucharist in a worthy manner. Below is the second half of this homily.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas is Coming (Elder Aimilianos of Simonpetra)


By Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra

Christmas is coming. Do you know that the pre-festal troparia begin on the twentieth of December?

The Church has also wisely set the last day in which the night grows longer. On the twenty-first of the month the day begins to grow longer. The nights and noetic darknesses leave while light and days increase.

The Heresy Tackled at the Holy and Great Synod


By Archbishop Anastasios of Albania

I think it is useful to recall that the Holy and Great Synod is not an exact copy of the Ecumenical Synods, nor is it a facsimile of Assemblies of the Western Christian tradition. Adapted to the circumstances and possibilities of the 21st century it has its own characteristics. It remains however as a tangible and clear symbol of unity of the Orthodox and a valuable institution for its life and witness in the contemporary world. There are some who believe that only an exact repetition of Synods of the past are authentically Orthodox. But the Holy Spirit does not act only in one era. He remains the determinant guide of the Church throughout the course of time. "Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together" (Apolytikion for Palm Sunday)....

Saint Ignatius of Antioch Resource Page

St. Ignatius the God-bearer (Feast Day - December 20 & January 29)

Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer

Chrysostom's Homily on St. Ignatius of Antioch

The Translation of the Relics of Saint Ignatius the God-Bearer (Jan. 29)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Finding Christmas


By Alexis Alexadrou

I missed the point. For years now I've looked.

And you come and say to me:

"Do not look for Christmas in the snow, in the ornaments. Do not look for it in gifts and fat Santa Clauses; in decorated trees, in bags full of gifts, in red caps; in songs, festivities, and tables full of foods.

Saint Gregentios, Bishop of Ethiopia (+ 552)

St. Gregentios of Ethiopia (Feast Day - December 19)

Verses

Union with the flesh you left behind O Gregentios,
Departing to that place where there is no flesh.

Saint Gregentios lived in the sixth century and came from Mediolanum (Milan) in Italy. His parents were called Agapios and Theodotia, and were very devout. From a very early age Gregentios was distinguished for his eloquence and for his great virtues, and the Providence of God led him to hierarchical service.

While still a Deacon at Mediolanum, he heard the foretelling of his destiny from a hermit, and then he received confirmation of these words from another spirit-bearing Elder, who lived an ascetic life in the mountains.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Homily on the Genealogy of Christ (St. Gregory Palamas)


On the Saints of the Old Testament

By St. Gregory Palamas

David indicates that our Lord Jesus Christ has no genealogy with regard to His divinity (Ps. 110:4), Isaiah says the same (Isa. 53:8), and later so does the apostle (Heb. 7:3). How can the descent be traced of Him "who is in the beginning, and is with God, and is God, and is the Word and Son of God" (cf. Jn. 1:1-2, 18)? He does not have a Father who was before Him, and shares with His Father "a name which is above every name" and all speech (Phil. 2:9). For the most part, genealogies are traced back through different surnames; but there is no surname for God (cf. Gen. 32:29), and whatever may be said of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they are one and do not differ in any respect.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos and the Dead Woman Under Excommunication


One one occasion, when Saint Dionysios found himself in the city, a funeral was being conducted in the cemetery of the Church of Saint Nicholas of the Strangers. The church was named this way because many strangers were buried in that plot of land. This church was also the Metropolitan Cathedral of Zakynthos. It happened that the people opened a certain grave, so that they might bury someone else inside. There they discovered a woman who had long been dead, but whose body and clothing had not decomposed. The reason for this was because this wretched woman had died under the ban of excommunication.

Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos Resource Page

St. Dionysios of Zakynthos (Feast Days - December 17 & August 24)

Verses

Leaving the earthly, now he dwells in the heavens,
The boast of Zakynthos, Dionysios the New.

Synaxarion of Saint Dionysios the New of Zakynthos (Dec. 17th)

Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos (1)

Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos (2)

Saint Dionysios of Zakynthos (3)

Prophet Daniel Resource Page

Holy Prophet Daniel (Feast Day - December 17)

Synaxarion of the Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Children Ananias, Azarias and Misael

The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Youths: Ananias, Azarias and Misael

A Homily on the Steadfastness of Daniel the Prophet

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Church that Contained the Relics of Saint John the Russian in Prokopi of Cappadocia


Saint John the Russian was born approximately in 1690 in Ukraine. He is one of the most renowned saints in the Orthodox Church. Being a prisoner of war and a slave to a Turkish Agha, he became famous and respected even by his Muslim master for his humility, steadfastness of faith and benevolence. He reposed on 27 May 1730, some time after receiving Holy Communion, in Prokopi of Cappadocia.

Holy Prophet Haggai

Holy Prophet Haggai (Feast Day - December 16)

Verses

As a vessel, Haggai was seen to be full of grace,
As matter, he is crushed by time.
On the sixteenth Haggai inhabited the land of his fathers.

The Holy Prophet Haggai, pronounced as Aggaios in Greek, was of the priestly tribe of Levi, and was born in Babylon when the Jews were held there in bondage. While he was young in age, he left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem with the Jews. He became the first prophet to rise up after the exile (ca. 538 B.C.). For thirty-six years he prophesied with the Prophet Zechariah in the sixth century before the coming of Christ.

Holy Martyr Marinos of Rome

St. Marinos of Rome (Feast Day - December 16)

Verses

The sword is made ready for the head of Marinos,
While his crown is made ready by the Lord.

The Holy Martyr Marinos lived during the reign of Emperors Corinus (283-285) and his younger brother Numerian (283-284). He was from Rome and at an early age shared in the deliberations and honor of the imperial senate. Accused of being a Christian, he was brought to trial. Choosing not to sacrifice to idols, he was suspended and beaten with wooden swords. He was then laid out over a fiery gridiron, then a heated frying pan, and then in a cauldron full of boiling water. From all these things he was kept unharmed, for the fire was amazingly changed into dew.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Synaxarion of the Holy Hieromartyr Eleutherios and Saint Anthia his Mother



On the fifteenth of this month [December], we commemorate the Holy Hieromartyr Eleutherios.

Verses

To Saint Eleutherios
Eleutherios as a liberated nature,
Beholds the blade and is not enslaved to error.
On the fifteenth divine Eleutherios was struck by the sword.

To Saint Anthia
Mother gave her child to the world of the dead,
And she went there cut up by the sword.

To Saint Coremun
Coremun did not contest to satiety,
Until the sword cut at his neck.

To the Two Holy Executioners
The two executioners perceived you as God O Savior,
Other executioners slaughtered them with a sword.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Big Announcement!!! (first update)


Dear Readers:

On November 29th I made a big announcement about the future of Mystagogy Resource Center (read here). The announcement was that on January 1st the five websites and all future ones will be available and viewable only through a subscription service, which will cost $5 a month or $60 a year. Though this was supposed to begin December 1st, I extended it one month to allow for feedback in the form of seeing how many respond by subscribing. If I have a total of at least 500 subscribers, then I would give serious consideration to keeping things the way they are, knowing that I have enough supporters to help keep this ministry going and more importantly to push it forward as well.

It has now been about two weeks and I wanted to offer an update, and most of it is positive news. First, I was very happy to see that many people have come forward to subscribe, and for this I am very grateful. Second, though some of these have contributed before, about half have never contributed at all before, which tells me that this campaign is working to help bring in supporters, which is the only possible way of reaching the 500 subscriber goal. Third, there have been some that have taken it upon themselves to contribute even more than the subscription amount, in order to push forward the amount of subscriptions, so that instead of 500 individuals subscribing, less can subscribe and the financial goal can be met; this may be the only way the 500 goal will be met. Fourth, we are about half way towards our goal, which means we are about half way there with another half month to go to reach the goal.

However, there is also some not so positive news. First, the goal has yet to be met, which means that as of right now the subscription service is still going forward on January 1st. Second, I have received a lot more feedback from around the world begging me not to allow this because circumstances do not allow them to subscribe. Third, the great majority of my regular readers have yet to contribute anything. Fourth, we are only half way towards our goal, which means we have half way to go towards our goal, and feedback in the form of subscriptions is slowing down day be day.

A few people have asked me what I plan on doing with this money. I assume these are people that have not read my appeals I have written twice a year for the past three years. I will quickly and briefly summarize what I have written before. First, to request for 500 subscribers a month at $5 a month does not come to any significant amount of money for anyone to worry about me trying to get rich at the expense of others - just do the math. Second, to do what I am doing requires full time work, and I am already putting at least an average of ten hours a day into this ministry seven days a week. Third, what I do on my websites is only half of what I do a day for this ministry, which consists of many other things and requires all my own doing, since I am a one man team. Fourth, 500 subscribers will only allow this ministry to survive, and my hope is that the subscription service will prompt this ministry to grow; its the only viable way I can think of.

Here is some more good news. Since there have been some who have contributed more than $5 a month or $60 a year, sometimes doubling or tripling or quadrupling the amount and even more, I have decided that if these websites go to a subscription service because the goal has not been met, those who are legitimately unable to make the payment for the subscription will be signed on at the expense of these generous contributors. By this I also hope to encourage many to do the same, as a further contribution not only to this ministry directly, but to those who daily receive much benefit by it.

I will make my next and last update some time between December 26th and January 1st. Hopefully it is all good news. I understand it will take a Christmas miracle to reach the goal, but I choose to be hopeful and accepting of whatever the outcome. Many have been astounded by the fact that there aren't 500 people out there ready to subscribe and contribute to this ministry, despite its wide reach. I try to explain that this is the consequence of offering a free service, but free services without contributions always die young, unless they have a financial back up, of which I assure you I have not even one, unlike most other active Orthodox ministries and websites which are backed by parishes, monasteries, dioceses, metropolises archdioceses, and large grants. This ministry has always depended on my readers to exist, and it will remain so as far as I can tell.

Thank you to all those who have contributed. You will be receiving something in the mail from me very soon, as long as your address is up to date (you won't believe how much returned mail I get every year, so please update your addresses with me). For those who have not yet contributed, please do so as soon as possible, as the window is almost closed. To all who celebrate Christmas on December 25th with the New Calendar, I pray you have a joyous and blessed Christmas.

With love in Christ,

John Sanidopoulos

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