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Friday, January 21, 2022

Introduction to the Writings of Saint Maximos the Confessor in the 'Philokalia' (St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite)

 Introduction to Saint Maximos the Confessor 
By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

(The Philokalia, vol. 2)

Our Holy Father Maximos the Confessor lived during the reign of Constantine Pogonatos, around the year 670, and was, of all, the chief destroyer of the ill-famed Monothelite heresy.

At first he distinguished himself in the royal palaces and was honored with the office of Chief Secretary, then, leaving worldly endeavors behind, he engaged himself in ascetic combat. His mouth approached the fount of wisdom, and drinking incessantly from the fountains of the divine Scriptures which flow with life, he made to gush forth from his belly rivers of divine doctrines and writings which flooded the ends of the universe.  

Maximos Confessor on the Infinity Of Man (Panagiotis Chrestou)

 By Panagiotis Chrestou

I have chosen my subject for this conference, stimulated by my studies on the writings of Gregory Рalamas, which I have edited with the help of a group of my students in Thessaloniki.

Palamas in his attempt to emphasize the difference between knowledge of a thing and participation in it, pretended in one of his treatises that those who praise God through knowledge of his uncreated energies are merely pious, while those who participated in them become without beginning and without end by grace άναρχοι and ατελεύτητοι. He bases his optimistic perspective mainly on Maximos the Confessor, whose thought rules on a high level over his argumentation during the middle period of his literary activity. Gregory Akindynos, against whom that treatise was addressed, of course rejects this aspect and ironically questions how Palamas succeeded in becoming a man without beginning, since all men have a physical beginning. In the sequel he refers to that heresiarch, who was expelled from the Church on the grounds that he merely had said that the human body of Jesus Christ was without beginning and heavenly. He obviously meant Apollinarius.

Anna Comnena on Reading the Works of Saint Maximus the Confessor

In Book 5 of The Alexiad, Princess Anna Comnena (1083-1153) writes about her mother's love of reading the dogmatic texts of Saint Maximus the Confessor, and her desire to understand his writings. She writes:

And here I will tell a little tale, for the laws of oratory allow that. I remember the Empress, my mother, when breakfast was already on the table, carrying a book in her hands and poring over the writings of the didactic Fathers, especially those of the philosopher and martyr Maximus. For she was not so much interested in the physical disputations as in those about the dogmas, because she wished to gain true wisdom. And I was often seized with wonder at her and one day in my wonder I said to her, "How can you spontaneously rise to such sublime heights? for I tremble and dare not listen to such things even with the tips of my ears? For the purely abstract and intellectual character of the man makes one's head swim, as the saying goes." She smiled and said "I know that kind of quite laudable dread; and I myself do not touch these books without a tremor and yet I cannot tear myself away from them. But you wait a little and after you have dipped into other books, you will taste the sweetness of these." The remembrance of these words pricks my heart and I have plunged into an ocean, so to speak, of other tales. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Saint Peter the Publican as a Model for our Lives

St. Peter the Tax Collector (Feast Day - January 20)
 By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Peter the Publican lived during the reign of Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. He was responsible for collecting taxes in Africa, and in various ways he managed to get rich at the expense of others. He was greedy, hard-hearted and ruthless. Once a poor man visited him and asked for mercy and he expelled him abruptly. The poor man, however, would not leave and stood his ground still begging. Then, full of indignation and anger, Peter snatched a hot loaf of bread, which his servant happened to be carrying from the oven at that moment, and threw it with force, like a stone, at the poor man to injure him. He, however, took it, thanked him and left. After a few days, Peter became seriously ill and felt that he was facing a judgment seat, where he was asked to give a defense for what he had done in his life. He saw a scale and on its left side were gathered wild people with a dark face, where they placed his evil deeds. On the right side of the scale he saw white-clad men with bright faces trying to find something good he had done, to place it on the right side of the scale. They did not find anything, however, except that bread which he threw against the poor man. When Peter saw these things, he was moved with compassion, and came to himself, and as soon as he was healed, he distributed all his belongings to the poor, even the clothes he wore, and he dressed himself in the garments of the poor. After this act he saw Christ in his dream wearing the clothes which he gave to the poor. This led him to even sell himself as a slave and the money he received he gave to the poor.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

All the Churches Should Ring Their Bells on the Feast of Saint Mark of Ephesus

 By Dr. Nikolaos Baldimtsis

In Arta I served as an agricultural doctor for about two years, from 1979 to 1981. There I met spiritual people whose words and especially their lives were for me a teaching of faith.

In Arta I had as a spiritual father the archimandrite and preacher Fr. Iakovos Pachys, who was later chosen by God to be the Metropolitan of Argolis. This ascetic man lived in a simple room of the old boarding school in Arta. When I went and met him, we would sit in the yard under the trees, and in a happy mood he would tell me various incidents of his life and discreetly catechize me on serious matters of the spiritual life, as he experienced them.

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