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June 30, 2010

Jim Belushi visits the Ecumenical Patriarchate

On Monday, June 28, 2010, renowned Hollywood actor Jim Belushi visited the Phanar with his family to receive the blessing of His All Holiness. Belushi and his children are Albanian Orthodox Christians.


Why Penn and Teller Won't Cover Islam or Scientology on Their TV Show

Mark Frauenfelder
Jun 28, 2010
Boing Boing

In this excerpt from a Las Vegas Weekly interview, Penn Jillette explains why he won't cover Islam or Scientology on his TV show, Bullshit!

Let’s talk about your TV show Bullshit! Will you ever run out of theories to debunk and people to expose?

If you build a kingdom on bullshit, you're not in danger of running out of it. Our producer says that Teller and I can take any subject in the news and do a credible show on it. Sure, we like to have a villain, something to call "bullshit" on, but if we don't, we can depart from that model.

Are there any groups you won't go after?

We haven't tackled Scientology because Showtime doesn't want us to. Maybe they have deals with individual Scientologists —- I'm not sure. And we haven't tackled Islam because we have families.

Meaning, you won’t attack Islam because you’re afraid it’ll attack back ...

Right, and I think the worst thing you can say about a group in a free society is that you’re afraid to talk about it—I can’t think of anything more horrific. [...]

You do go after Christians, though ...

Teller and I have been brutal to Christians, and their response shows that they’re good fucking Americans who believe in freedom of speech. We attack them all the time, and we still get letters that say, “We appreciate your passion. Sincerely yours, in Christ.” Christians come to our show at the Rio and give us Bibles all the time. They’re incredibly kind to us. Sure, there are a couple of them who live in garages, give themselves titles and send out death threats to me and Bill Maher and Trey Parker. But the vast majority are polite, open-minded people, and I respect them for that.

Elder Gervasios Paraskevopoulos and the Miracle of the Cross

Elder Gervasios of Patras, who reposed on June 30, 1964

Inside the katholikon of the Convent of the Prophet Elias in Patras is a relic of a miracle associated with Elder Gervasios. Here is an account of what took place:

During the days of Meatfare, Father [Gervasios] used to take the catechetical school children and they would go up to the Hermitage, which is now the Convent of the Prophet Elias. On February 17, 1929, Father and his spiritual children devoted themselves to planting a few trees in the area near the aforementioned Hermitage. Father himself with a few of the children also planted a pine tree after reading a special prayer. From that time 31 years went by. In August of 1960, this pine tree was cut down together with other trees to serve as firewood at the children's camp of Sychainon. The woodcutter was amazed when he noticed that at the root of the tree a beautiful Cross had miraculously been formed with different colors. He immediately reported this to the Metropolitan of the time, Constantine (Platis), who hastened to the scene of the occurrence bringing a few chemists to confirm this phenomenon. The chemists used a few liquids to eradicate the Cross from the tree, but not only did they not achieve this, but the Cross became more and more distinctive. By means of the microscope they confirmed, as it is said, that at its four ends icons of the Nativity, the Baptism, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection were miraculously inscribed. After all these certifications they confessed that it was a supernatural phenomenon. The Metropolitan of Patras, convinced now that it was a miracle, gathered the people at the Church of Saint Paraskevi, Sychainon, where the children's camps were, and after he finished Vespers and a supplication of thanksgiving he addressed the people and made known to them the facts of the miracle. Father Gervasios, who was there, took the microphone and said, crying and thanking God: 'My brethren, this miracle did not happen for my sake, because I am a sinner. It happened for the sake of the good and sinless children, who also planted this tree.' What a height of humility! When the people heard the Elder himself confirming the miracle, they shed tears as they glorified God, who knows how 'to glorify those who glorify Him'. Such Crosses exist today in the Monastery of Gerokomeiou, at the Metropolis of Patras, at the Convent of Prophet Elias and at Saint Paraskevi, Sychainon.

The Cross that appeared in the tree Elder Gervasios planted, placed with other relics of Saints.
The spot on which the tree with the miraculous Cross was planted.

From the book by Hierodeacon Kyrillos Kostopoulos, Elder Gervasios (Paraskevopoulos) of Patras: His Life and Pastoral Work, Orthodoxos Kypseli, 1995.

Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles

The Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles of Christ appears to be an ancient Feast. The Church honors each of the Twelve Apostles on separate dates during the year, and has established a general commemoration for all of them on the day after the commemoration of the Glorious and First-Ranked among the Apostles, Peter and Paul. These are the names and the separate days of the celebrations of the Holy Twelve:

SAINT PETER June 29 and January 16

SAINT ANDREW November 30


SAINT JOHN THE THEOLOGIAN September 26 and May 8

SAINT PHILIP November 14

SAINT BARTHOLOMEW June 11 and August 25








Let us also mention how each one of these most holy and most beneficial men in the history of the world ended their earthly life:

St. Peter was crucified upside down.

St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross.

Saint James, the son of Zebedee was beheaded.

Saint John the Theologian died in a miraculous manner.

St. Philip was crucified.

St. Bartholomew was crucified, scraped and beheaded.

St. Thomas was pierced with five spears.

Saint Matthew the Evangelist was burned alive.

Saint James, the son of Alphaeus was crucified.

Saint Thaddeus or Jude, the Brother of James was crucified.

Saint Simon the Zealot was crucified.

Saint Matthias was stoned and then was beheaded after death.

Saint Paul was beheaded.

The holy God-crowned Emperor Constantine the Great (May 21) built a church in Constantinople in honor of the Twelve Apostles. It was second only to Hagia Sophia among the great churches of Constantinople. Most Emperors and many patriarchs and bishops were buried in the church and their relics were venerated by the faithful for centuries. The most treasured possession of the church were the supposed skulls of Saints Andrew, Luke and Timothy, but the church also held relics of Saint John Chrysostom and other Church Fathers, saints and martyrs. The church also held what was believed to be part of the "Column of Flagellation", to which Jesus had been bound and flogged. The basilica was looted during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The historian Nicetas Choniates records that the Crusaders plundered the imperial tombs and robbed them of gold and gems. Not even Justinian's tomb was spared. The tomb of Emperor Heraclius was opened and his golden crown was stolen along with the late Emperor's hairs still attached on it. Some of these treasures were taken to Venice, where they can still be seen in St Mark's Basilica. When Michael VIII Palaeologus recaptured the city from the Crusaders, he erected a statue of the Archangel Michael at the church to commemorate the event, and himself. In 1461, following the fall of Constantinople to Mehmed, it was taken over by the Ottomans and demolished to make way for the Fatih Mosque, which still occupies the site and houses Mehmed's tomb. Churches such as the Basilica of St. John, St Mark's Basilica, and Cathédrale Saint-Front are believed to have been modeled on Holy Apostles, but they differ from each other significantly. A possible reconstruction can be seen here. (Source)

For lists of the Apostles' names, see: Mt.10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 6:12, Acts 1:13, 26.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostles, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
O Lord, receive the steadfast and divinely voiced preachers, the pinnacle of Your disciples, unto their rest and the enjoyment of Your blessings. You received, above every offering, their labors and their life. You alone know what the heart holds.

The Apostolic Testimony to the Resurrection of Christ (Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos)

The following is an excerpt from a dialogue that Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos had with an atheistic Communist regarding the apostolic testimony to the Resurrection of Christ.

Do you have any historical facts that would confirm His [Jesus'] Divinity?

I told you at the beginning, that the proofs of His Divinity are the supernatural events that took place while He was here on earth. Christ did not rest on the proclamation of the above truths alone; He certified His statements with miracles as well. He made blind people see and cripples walk; He satisfied the hunger of five thousand men and manifold numbers of women and children with only two fish and five loaves of bread; He commanded the elements of nature and they obeyed; He resurrected the dead, amongst which was Lazarus, four days after his death. But the most astounding of all his miracles was His own Resurrection.

The entire edifice of Christianity is supported on the event of the Resurrection. This is not my speculation. The Apostle Paul said it: “If Christ had not risen (from the dead), our faith would be futile” (I Corinthians 15:17). If Christ is not resurrected, then everything collapses. But Christ was resurrected, which means He is the Lord of life and death, therefore God.

Did you see all of this? How can you believe it?

No, I didn’t see any of it, but others did: the Apostles. They in turn made this known to others, and they actually “signed” their testimony with their own blood. And, as everyone acknowledges, a testimony of one’s life is the supreme form of testimony.

Why don’t you likewise bring me someone, who will tell me that Marx died and was resurrected, and that he is willing to sacrifice his life in order to testify it? I, as an honest man, will believe him.

I will tell you. Thousands of communists were tortured and died for their ideology. Why don’t you embrace communism in the same way?

You said it yourself. Communists died for their ideology. They didn’t die for real events. In an ideology, it is very easy for deception to seep through; and because it is a characteristic of the human soul to sacrifice itself for something it believes in, this explains why so many communists died for their ideology. But that doesn’t compel us to accept this ideology as something true.

It is one thing to die for ideas, and another to die for events. The Apostles didn’t die for any ideas. Not even for the “Love one another”, or any of the other moral teachings of Christianity. The Apostles died for their testimony of supernatural events. And when we say ‘event’, we mean that which is captured by our physical senses, and is comprehended through them.

The Apostles suffered martyrdom for “that which they heard”, “that which they saw with their own eyes”, “that which they observed and their hands touched” (I John 1).
Just like the clever speculation by Pascal, we say that one of the three following things happened to the Apostles: either they were deceived, or, they deceived us, or, they told us the truth.

Let’s take the first case. It is not possible for the Apostles to have been deceived, because everything that they reported, was not reported to them by others. They themselves were eye and ear witnesses of all those things. Besides, none of them were imaginative characters, nor did they have any psychological inclination that made them accept the event of the Resurrection. Quite the contrary – they were terribly distrustful. The Gospels are extremely revealing, in their narrations of their spiritual dispositions: they even disbelieved the reassurances that some people had actually seen Him, resurrected.

And one other thing. What were the Apostles, before Christ called them? Were they perhaps ambitious politicians or visionaries of philosophical and social systems, who were longing to conquer mankind and thus satisfy their fantasies? Not at all. They were illiterate fishermen. The only thing that interested them was to catch a few fish to feed their families. That is why, even after the Lord’s Crucifixion, and despite everything that they had heard and seen, they returned to their fishing boats and their nets. In other words, there was not a single trace of disposition in these men for the things that were to follow. It was only after the day of the Pentecost, “when they received strength from on high”, that they became the teachers of the universe.

The second case: Did they deceive us? Did they lie to us? But then, why would they deceive us? What would they gain by lying? Was it money? Was it status? Was it glory? For someone to tell a lie, he must be expecting some sort of gain. The Apostles though, by preaching Christ – and in fact Christ crucified and resurrected – the only things that they secured for themselves were: hardships, labours, lashings, stonings, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, nakedness, attacks from robbers, beatings, incarcerations and finally, death. And all this, for a lie? It would be undoubtedly foolish for anyone to even consider it.

Consequently, the Apostles were neither deceived, nor did they deceive us. This leaves us with the third choice: that they told us the truth.

I should also stress something else here: The Evangelists are the only ones who recorded true historical events. They describe the events, and only the events. They do not resort to any personal judgments. They praise no one, and they criticize no one. They make no attempt to exaggerate an event, nor eliminate or underestimate another. They let the events speak for themselves.

June 29, 2010

Great Vespers Where St. Paul Preached to the Athenians

H.V. Morton remarks in his book In The Steps Of Saint Paul that in appealing to their altars of the "Unknown God", St. Paul's teaching, as always, was tailored to his audience. He didn't quote the Hebrew Scriptures, which would have meant little to his listeners, but instead gave them something of their own: "It was an excellent beginning. It had the local touch, the right note of something surprising to follow. To everyone who listened to St. Paul, the altars inscribed TO AN UNKNOWN GOD were, of course, a commonplace. Everyone knew the story of the plague that visited Athens in the sixth century before Christ, and how, after sacrifices had been made to every known god and the plague continued, the services of the Cretan prophet, Epimenides, were requested. He drove a flock of black and white sheep to the Areopagus and allowed them to stray from there as they liked, waiting until they rested of their own free will: and on those spots were the sheep sacrificed 'to the fitting god'. The plague ceased, and it became the custom, not in Athens alone, to erect altars to unknown deities."

Below is footage from the June 29, 2007 Great Vespers Service for the Feast of the Holy Twelve Apostles at Mars Hill (Areopagus) in Athens, where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians. For photos from the ceremony in 2010, see here

 A recreation of the speech of the Apostle Paul can be seen here

Greek Ministry Sues Vatopaidi Monastery

Greek Ministry Sues Orthodox Monastery Over Land-Exchange Deal

June 28, 2010
By Natalie Weeks
Business Week

Greece sued an Orthodox Christian monastery over a land deal, seeking ownership recognition and a damages payment.

Greece’s State Legal Council filed its case against Vatopedi monastery on June 25th asking that an Athens court recognize the government as the owner of 180 stremmata (44.5 acres) in northern Greece that was part of a land exchange deal in 2007, according to an e-mailed statement from the Athens- based finance ministry today.

The government also asked for 10 million euros ($12.3 million) in moral harm payments, the statement said.

Two members of former Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis’s government resigned in the furor over the sale of state land to the monastery, a transaction that cost Greek taxpayers 100 million euros, according to media reports.

Calls to the monastery outside of normal operating hours weren’t answered. The Vatopedi monastery, on the autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos in northern Greece, is administered by Patriarch Vartholomeos, the spiritual head of the world’s estimated 250 million Orthodox Christians.

Vatopedi Legal Action Launched

June 29, 2010

Parliament was due to vote late last night in a secret ballot on whether to hold a preliminary judicial inquiry into the exchange of real estate between the state and the Vatopedi Monastery, just a few days after the government launched legal action against the Mount Athos monks.

Following a parliamentary inquiry at the end of which the five parties were unable to arrive at a common conclusion as to whether there was enough evidence to prosecute specific politicians in connection to the property deal, the House was due to vote on whether a more thorough probe should be launched with the aim of establishing if former ministers committed any crimes.

Members of both parties have been accused of working to set up a deal to give valuable public property to the monastery in return for land of much lower value. PASOK concluded that at least six members of the previous government – Theodoros Roussopoulos, Petros Doukas, Evangelos Bassiakos, Alexandros Kontos, Giorgos Voulgarakis and Giorgos Kiltidis – should face further investigation over their alleged roles in the exchange, which is estimated to have cost taxpayers at least 100 million euros. But it also accepted two of its ex-ministers – Giorgos Dris and Apostolos Fotiadis – had set the wheels in motion for the deal more than a decade ago by following up on the monastery’s claim to land around Lake Vistonida in northeastern Greece.

It was made known yesterday that the State Legal Council had filed a suit against Vatopedi on Friday, claiming that the government was the owner of one of the areas of land around Vistonida, a 1.8-hectare plot, that formed part of the swap carried out by the previous New Democracy government in 2007. The government is also asking for 10 million euros in moral damage payments.

Lady Gaga Answers Illuminati Rumors

Lady GaGa: "Isn't That An Illuminati Ritual?..."

The pop singer settles the rumours...

28 June 2010

Rumours about Lady GaGa's supposed ties to the Illuminati cult have been around for a while now.

Lady G has revealed that a bizarre dream was the cause of all of this. GaGa claims that her weird dress sense and stage shows are in fact inspired by an Illuminati dream.

She told Rolling Stone Magazine: “I have this recurring dream sometimes where there’s a phantom in my home. He takes me into a room, and there’s a blond girl with ropes tied to all four of her limbs. And she’s got my shoes on from the Grammys. Go figure - pyscho. And the ropes are pulling her apart.”

If you think that sounded weird, it gets worse for the star:

“I never see her get pulled apart, but I just watch her whimper, and then the phantom says to me, ‘If you want me to stop hurting her and if you want your family to be OK, you will cut your wrist.’ And I think that he has his own, like, crazy wrist-cutting device. And he has this honey in, like, Tupperware, and it looks like sweet-and-sour sauce with a lot of MSG from New York. Just bizarre. And he wants me to pour the honey into the wound, and then put cream over it and a gauze.”

GaGa was confused by her dream and turned to other sources to find out its meaning.

“So I looked up the dream, and I couldn’t find anything about it anywhere. And my mother goes, ‘Isn’t that an illuminati ritual?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’ I do have morbid dreams. But I put them in the show. A lot of the work I do is an exorcism for the fans but also for myself.”

Icon Over Spassky Gate To Be Restored

Jun 29, 2010
Moscow Time

Work has begun to reconstruct the icon over the gate of Moscow Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower. According to historical chronicles, the tower housed the icon depicting the Savior with St. Sergius of Radonezh and St. Varlaam of Khutyn falling down at His feet. Now plaster and metal lathing should be removed from the icon ark above the Spassky Gate.

The Spasskaya Tower, with its chiming clock, is considered the main tower of the Moscow Kremlin. The icon of Spas Nerukotvorny (Divine Savior) appeared over its gate after some miraculous powers saved Moscow from the 17th century plague.

Works To Reinstall Icon Over Spasskaya Tower Gates Launched

Moscow, 29 June 2010, Interfax – Works on reinstallation of the icon over the gates of the Moscow Kremlin Spasskaya tower have started on Tuesday, St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation told Interfax-Religion.

The first stage of works consists in removing a layer of plaster covering a metallic grid and bars in ten centimeter distance from the icon. Expert will manage to evaluate state of the icon and decide on methods and terms of restoration in some days.

Works on reinstallation of the icon over the gates of the Moscow Kremlin Nikolskaya tower will be launched in several days.

St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation had initiated the reinstallation of icons over the gates of the Moscow Kremlin towers as far back as in 2007. The project received the government support and the blessing of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia.

In April 2010, experts of the Interregional Scientific and Restoration Office made probes of the icon-cases of the Spasskaya and Nikolskaya Towers. The research has confirmed the hypothesis that the icons were preserved under the layer of plaster.

Ancient icons were discovered on the Spasskaya and Nikolskaya Towers of the Kremlin. They were walled in during Soviet times and have been deemed lost for a long time now.

About The Saviour's (Spasskaya) Tower

The Gothic-turreted Spasskaya Tower, considered by many to be the most beautiful tower of the Kremlin, was built under the supervision of Pietro Antonio Solari in 1491, and stands on the north-eastern side of the citadel, bordering Red Square.

The gate of the Spasskaya Tower has been the official entrance to the Kremlin for centuries. Until the 17th century the tower was known as the Frolovskaya, due to its location not far from the St. Frol church and monastery. In 1658 an Icon of the Saviour was mounted above the gate facing Red Square, and the tower's name was changed to Spasskaya by decree of the Tsar.

The Russians have always regarded the Spasskaya Tower with great reverence. According to old legends, the tower was possessed with miraculous powers and was reputed to protect the Kremlin from enemy invasion. People passing through the gates would always observe the custom of crossing themselves and doffing their hats to show their respect, and horses passing under the gates of the tower were said to shy. In fact, legend has it that Napoleon himself could not prevent his horse from taking fright as he rode through the gates, having failed to show his respect, and the French Emperor's hat was said to have fallen from his head.

During the 16th and 17th centuries the tower was used by the Tsar and the Patriarch for ceremonial processions and for greeting foreign dignitaries, and even today world leaders on state visits are escorted through its gates on their way to an audience with the Russian President. The tower is crowned by an illuminated ruby-red star, which replaced the double-headed Russian eagle in 1937, raising the tower's height to 71 metres.

The tower is also famous for its chimes. The first clock upon the Spasskaya Tower appeared in the 17th century, after the addition of a multi-tiered turret to the top of the tower. Designed by the Englishman Christopher Galloway, the clock boasted gold numerals in Old Slavonic and Arabic upon a blue background decorated with silver stars, but it eventually broke and was replaced in 1707 with Dutch chimes.

The present-day Kremlin chimes were made in 1851-1852 by the Butenop brothers. During the October Revolution in 1917, a stray shell hit the clock, seriously damaging its mechanism. A year later it was repaired by order of Lenin, who decreed that it should be equipped with new chimes capable of playing the Communist Internationale. This unique clock has four dials, each 6.12 in diameter. The numerals are 0.72 metres in height, and the hour hand is 2.97 metres long, while the minute hand measures 3.28 metres. Their accuracy is ensured by a 32 kilogram pendulum. The ringing mechanism is equipped with 10 quarter-hour bells and one bell to chime the hour. The clock was originally wound by hand, but since 1937 it has wound itself automatically twice daily.

Today, just as 100 years ago, you can hear its ceremonial chimes, the sound of which rings out far beyond the surroundings of the Kremlin and Red Square below.


See also: Old Icons Discovered in Kremilin Towers

Venerable Macarius' Miracle of the Moose

Venerable Macarius' Miracle of the Moose is a miracle associated with the name of Venerable Macarius of the Yellow Water Lake and the Unzha (1349-1444), a Saint of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is thought to have occurred in June 1439 in the woodlands of what today is Semyonov District of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.

The Account of the Miracle in the Life of Venerable Macarius

During the invasion of Russia by the Khan Olug Moxammat of Kazan in 1439, Zheltovodsky (Yellow Lake) Monastery of Holy Trinity was destroyed. Venerable Macarius (Russian: Макарий, Makariy), the founder of the monastery, was taken prisoner along with a few other survivors. After meeting with Macarius, the khan was so impressed by the nonagenarian abbot's piety and love of his neighbor, that he released him and his disciples, on the condition that they leave the Yellow Lake site.

The Yellow Lake (which was located at the fall of the Kerzhenets into the Volga) being too perilously close to the invasion route taken by the Kazan Khanate armies invading Russian principalities and vice versa, the released survivors instead decided to go a few hundred kilometers to the north, into the fastness of the Galich forests, which are located along the Unzha River in what today is Kostroma Oblast. Taking the easy route along the Volga would not be a safe thing to do in this year of war; so the Saint and his followers chose to travel through the dense woodlands and swamps of the Kerzhenets basin — the land which even today is almost deserted by people.

After a few days of travel, the monks ran out of food. One day they somehow managed to capture a moose[1] (some later sources say that the moose had been trapped "at a narrow place", perhaps between trees[2]). The followers of Macarius wanted to slaughter and eat the animal. But as this was the time of the Fast of the Holy Apostles, Venerable Macarius prohibited them to do that. Instead, he told them to cut off the moose's right ear and to release the animal. He told them that they only need to wait for three days, until the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, and the moose will be theirs. "Don't be aggrieved", said Macarius, "but pray to the Lord. He who fed the people of Israel in the desert with manna for 40 years, can also feed you these days in a manner invisible. Have a strong faith in Him who fed five thousand people, not counting women and children, with five loaves and two fish!"

For the next three days of the fast the travellers marched along without fatigue. No one died of starvation; no one even felt hunger or thought of food.

On the Feastday of Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Venerable Macarius went away from his companions and praised the Lord, praying to Him that His people may be fed as had been the people of Israel in the desert or the five thousand people in the days of Apostles. When Macarius returned to his brethren, they saw the moose with no right ear approaching them. And this time, the animal was not wild: it behaved as if it was tame.

After the dinner of bonfire-roasted venison, the travellers praised the Lord for His great kindness. Venerable Macarius told his companions not to worry about food anymore, but rely on God Who will give them food and everything else they need.

The Life of Venerable Macarius does not tell us whether everyone who had left the Yellow Lake with him reached the Unzha alive. But it is said that God had protected them from hunger and from wild beasts during their travel, delivering moose, deer, and other game into their hands.

Commemoration of the Miracle

The Miracle of the Moose appears on some of the icons of Venerable Macarius, sometimes as the main topic of the icon, sometimes as one of the episodes. It is also the topic of one of the new frescoes in the Refectory section of the Ascension Cathedral of Pechersky Ascension Monastery in Nizhny Novgorod (see icon above; note the clipped left ear of the animal: presumably, the fresco depicts the moment when the moose that had been marked by Macarius in this way returned to the Saint and his party).

The Kontakion of the Hymn for the Feast of Venerable Macarius (July 12/July 25) refers to this miracle when it says of Macarius:

You were revealed as the second Moses, O Venerable One. For he divided the sea with a staff, you have conquered the passions like Amalek, and you passed through the impassable wilderness with an unwavering mind, and in it you performed great wonders through your prayers. You abundantly fed the hungry people.[3]

Olenevsky Skete

The Kerzhenets River woodlands, where the Miracle of the Moose purportedly happened, became in the late 17th century one of the main areas of refuge for the Old Believers. According to their legend, the main community of the Kerzhenets Old Believers, known as the Olenevsky Skete (Russian: Оленевский скит) had been originally founded soon after the Miracle of the Moose by some of the monks expelled from Venerable Macarius' Yellow Waters Monastery, at the site where the animal was captured by the Venerable's prayers. The skete's name comes from the Russian: Олень (olen), which means "deer", thus commemorating the miracle. It is said that during the Raskol two hundred years later the Skete's hermits rejected Nikon's reforms, thus making it the center of attraction for Old Believer refugees from other parts of the country, who then founded numerous other sketes in the area.[4]

Olenevsky Skete was one of the centers of the so-called Beglopopovtsy ("those who accepted the fleeing priests"), the school of Old Believers who thought that, since the Old Believers had no bishops of their own who could ordain priests, it was acceptable for them to accept priests who had been ordained by the established church but later left it for the Old Believer sketes. It is reported that the Skete was mostly destroyed during one of the Old Believer suppression campaigns in 1737, but restored after Catherine II's "amnesty" of 1762. It was known as a women's skete, with 49 nuns reported as living there at the time of its official closure in 1854, pursuant to Nicholas II anti-skete executive order of 1853. A number of nuns in fact continued to live at the site long after the official disbandment.[4]

The former skete is now known as the village of Bolshoye Olenevo, and is located 24 km south-east of the town of Semyonov (Nizhny Novgorod Oblast). It remains the site of pilgrimage for the Old Believers of the area.


1. The animal species referred to as "лось" (loś) in the Russian sources is alces, which is known as moose in North American English and elk in British English. Considering that the events described in the Life of Venerable Macarius took place in Europe in the 14th century, and the earliest extant manuscripts of the Life are thought to have been written in the 17th century, it would be more historically and geographically correct to refer to the animal as an elk. However, the word moose is used in this article as less ambiguous for the majority of modern English speakers.

2. Count M.V. Tolstoy, Stories from the History of Russian Church (РАССКАЗЫ ИЗ ИСТОРИИ РУССКОЙ ЦЕРКВИ), vol.3.

3. S.V. Bulgakov, Handbook for Church Servers, 2nd ed., 1274 pp. (Kharkov, 1900) pp 0255-0256. Translated by Archpriest Eugene D Tarris.


A Hierarchical Concelebration In Cappadocia

On 27 June 2010, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria and All Africa, and His Beatitude Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens and All Greece. The Liturgy was celebrated at the Church of the Great Martyrs Ss Theodore Tyron and Theodore Stratelates in Malakopi (Derinkuyu).

The monastic choir of Xenophontos Monastery sang during the divine service.

In his homily delivered after the Gospel reading His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew welcomed Metropolitan Hilarion as a wonderful theologian who has dedicated his studies particularly to St. Gregory the Theologian and remarked that Metropolitan Hilarion and his suite have arrived for pilgrimage to the holy sites of Cappadocia with the blessing His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The Primate of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople added that in 2007 His Holiness, who was Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad at that time, took part in the similar pilgrimage.

His Beatitude Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens and All Greece and Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches, bishops, clerics, monks and laymen at the end of the service. Metropolitan Hilarion said:

“I wholeheartedly greet you all who have gathered in this holy church on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and on my own behalf.

“Cappadocia is a holy land to the members of the Russian Orthodox Church. Ss. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa, who were great fathers, pillars of the Church and universal theologians. Had shone forth in this land. Monks and nuns had lived here throughout centuries ‘in caves and holes in the ground’ (Heb 11:38); the blood of martyrs and confessors had been shed here.

“Cappadocia is a much suffered land, as its churches, once magnificent and beautiful, have fell in desolation.

“We were persecuted for our faith for seventy years of godless power in Russia. Many churches were blown up or ruined, monasteries were closed, and priests were shot to death or exiled. No one could imagine twenty-five or thirty years ago that church life in Russia will be revived, the churches of God will be built and adorned, and hundreds of new monasteries will open their gates to monks and nuns. Yet, God has performed a miracle, and the Orthodox faith that has lived in human hearts has been revived in Russia.

“We believe that the light of Christian faith will be rekindled in this holy land.

“I cordially greet all whose predecessors lived in this land and those who have come here to honour their memory.

“I join His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew in calling you to cherish memory of the land of your forefathers, to pass your love of this land to your children and grandchildren and to come here again and again. Do not let the churches in this land to turn into ruins even if they are not used for intended purposes at present.

“Give support to your Patriarch who come here every year to celebrated in the churches of this holy land,

“Your Holiness! I wholeheartedly thank you for an invitation to make pilgrimage to the churches and monasteries of this land together with you.

“Please accept a modest gift, my book about St. Gregory the Theologian in the French language, as a token of our pilgrimage. An ancient countenance of the Saint, survived at a church in Cappadocia by a miracle, is on the cover. May the prayers of St. Gregory, your predecessor at the Patriarchal throne of Constantinople, help you in your primatial ministry.”

Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, deputy chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’ Department for External Church Relations, was among the concelebrants.

The Divine Liturgy being over, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew conducted a requiem litia for Orthodox Christians who lived in Cappadocia.


Homily for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (St. Gregory Palamas)

By St. Gregory Palamas

1. The commemoration of each of the saints on the appointed feast day is an occasion for town and country, citizens and their rulers to share in rejoicing, and brings great benefit to all who celebrate. "The memory of the just is praised", says the wise Solomon (Prov. 10:7 Lxx), "When the righteous is praised the people will rejoice" (cf. Prov. 29:2 Lxx). If a lamp is lit at night, its light shines for the service and enjoyment of everyone present. Similarly, through such commemorations, each saint's God-pleasing course, his blessed end, and the grace bestowed on him by God, because of the purity of his life, bring spiritual joy and benefit to the whole congregation, like a bright flaming torch set in our midst. When the land bears a good harvest everyone rejoices, not just the farmers (for we all benefit from the earth's produce); so the fruits which the saints bring forth for God through their virtue delight not only the Husbandman of souls, but all of us, being set before us for the common good and pleasure of our souls. During their earthly lives, all the saints are an incentive to virtue for those who hear and see them with understanding, for they are human icons of excellence, animated pillars of goodness, and living books, which teach us the way to better things. Afterwards, when they depart this life, the benefit we gain from them is kept alive for ever through the remembrance of their virtues. By commemorating their noble deeds, we offer them that praise which, on the one hand, we owe them for the good they did our ancestors, but which, on the other, is also fitting for us at the present time, on account of the help they give us now.

2. When we call to mind what they accomplished we add nothing to their good deeds. How could we, given that we are not even competent to depict their virtue as it really is. For the sake of the sublime rewards promised by God, they strove honourably to the limit of human nature and showed us a way of life that was equally sublime. We certainly do not augment their treasures by praising them. Not at all! But we do increase their bounty to us by looking up towards them as lanterns aglow with divine light, and by understanding better and welcoming the beautifying power which comes from them.

3. If, as we have said, we commemorate each of the saints with hymns and appropriate songs of praise, how much more should we celebrate the memory of Peter and Paul, the supreme Leaders of the pre-eminent company of the Apostles? They are the fathers and guides of all Christians: Apostles, martyrs, holy ascetics, priests, hierarchs, pastors and teachers. As chief shepherds and master builders of our common godliness and virtue, they tend and teach us all, like lights in the world, holding forth the word of life (Phil. 2:15-16). Their brightness excels that of the other radiantly pious and virtuous saints as the sun outshines the stars, or as the heavens, which declare the sublime glory of God (cf. Ps. 19:1), transcend the skies. In their order and strength they are greater than the heavens, more beautiful than the stars, and swifter than both, and as regards what lies beyond the realm of the senses, it is they who reveal things which surpass the very heavens themselves and indeed the whole universe, and who make them bright with the light "in which there is no variableness neither shadow of turning" (cf. Jas. 1:17). Not only do they bring people out of darkness into this wonderful light, but by enlightening them they make them light, the offspring of the perfect light, that each of them may shine like the sun (Matt. 13:43), when the Author of light, the God-man and Word, appears in glory.

4. The appearance to us this day of both these luminaries together brightens the Church, for their meeting produces a wealth of light, not an eclipse. It is not the case that one has a higher orbit and is placed above, while the other is lower down and passes under his shadow. Nor does one rule the day, the other the night, such that one would overshadow the other if they appeared opposite each other. Light is not produced by one and received by the other in such a way that the latter?s radiance would vary sometimes depending on the distance between them. Rather, both share equally in Christ, the everlasting Source of eternal light, and have attained to the same height, glory and radiance. That is why the coming together of these lights signifies their solidarity and support for one another and illuminates the souls of the faithful twice over.

5. The first traitor, who incited the first man to desert God, saw Him Who had earlier made Adam, the father of the human race, later re-creating Peter as the father of all true worshippers. He not only saw, but also heard the Creator saying to Peter: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). Once the prince of evil found this out, being the epitome of wicked envy, he tempted Peter, the first leader of God's faithful people, as he had previously tempted Adam, the founder of the race of men. Realizing that Peter was endowed with intelligence and afire with love for Christ, he did not dare make a direct attack. Instead he came upon him from the right flank, cunningly deceiving him into being excessively eager. At the time of the saving Passion, when the Lord told His disciples, "All ye shall be offended because of me this night" (Matt. 26:31), Peter disobediently contradicted Him. He also exalted himself above the others, saying that even if everyone else were offended, he would not be (Matt. 26:33). Because he had been beguiled into arrogance, he fell further than the rest, so that by humbling himself more than them he might eventually appear more radiant. Unlike Adam who was tempted, vanquished and completely brought down, Peter, having been tempted and led astray a little, overcame the tempter. How? Through his immediate condemnation of himself, his intense sorrow and repentance, and the medicine which brings forgiveness, tears. "A broken and contrite heart", it says, "O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17), and "Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of" (2 Cor. 7:10), and "They that sow their supplications in tears shall joyfully reap forgiveness" (cf. Ps. 126:5).

6. Anyone who looks at Peter will see that through repentance and painful grief he not only adequately healed the denial into which he had been drawn, but he also completely rooted out of his soul that passion which had made him fall behind the others. Wishing to demonstrate this to everyone, the Lord, after His Passion in the flesh for our sake and His rising on the third day, used those words to Peter which we read in today's Gospel, asking him, "Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me more than these" (John 21:15), meaning, "more than these disciples of mine". But see how much humbler he has become. Whereas before, even without being asked, he set himself above the rest and said that even if all forsook the Lord, he would not; now, on being asked whether he loves Him more than the others do, he affirms that he loves Him, but leaves out the word "more", saying "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee" (John 21:15, 16, cf. 17).

7. What does the Lord do? Since Peter has shown that he has not lost his love for Him and has now acquired humility as well, He openly fulfils the promise made long before and tells him, "Feed my lambs" (John 21:15). When He was referring to the company of believers as a building, He promised to make Peter the foundation stone, saying, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). On the other hand, when He was talking in terms of fishing, He made him a fisher of men with the words, "From henceforth thou shalt catch men" (Luke 5:10). But when He speaks of His disciples as sheep, He sets Peter over them as a shepherd, saying, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). It is clear from this that the Lord's desire for us to be saved is so great, that He asks of those who love Him only one thing: to lead us to the pasture and fold of salvation.

8. Let us long to be saved, and obey those who lead us in that direction through their words and deeds. As long as each of us wishes to take the road leading to salvation, the teacher, prepared by our common Saviour, is at hand, together with the Giver of salvation, Who, in His overwhelming love for mankind, is more than ready without being called or beseeched. Christ asks Peter three times so that three times he can reply affirming his faith, thus healing his threefold denial with his threefold confession. Thrice Christ appoints him over His sheep and lambs, placing under him the three categories of those being saved: slaves, hirelings and sons, or, alternatively, virgins, chaste widows and those honourably married. But when Peter was asked again and again if he loved Christ, the Scripture tells us he was grieved by the repeated questioning (John 21:17), supposing that the Lord did not believe him. Knowing that he loved Christ, aware that his questioner knew him better than he knew himself, and feeling under pressure, Peter not only confessed that he loved Him, but also proclaimed that the Lord he loved was "God over all" (Rom. 9:5), by saying, "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee", because only "God Who is over all" is all-knowing.

9. Once Peter had made this heartfelt confession, the Lord ordained him Shepherd and Chief Pastor of His whole Church, and also promised to encompass him with such strength, that he who previously was unable even to stand being spoken to and questioned by a young girl (John 18:17), would endure unto death, even death on a cross. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast younger", both physically and spiritually, "thou girdest thyself", meaning, you used your own strength, "and walkest whither thou wouldest", doing what you liked and living according to your natural inclinations. "But when thou shalt be old", having reached the peak of your physical and spiritual age, "thou shalt stretch forth thy hands". With these words, Christ indicates that Peter will die on a cross, and bears witness that his crucifixion will not be involuntary. "Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee", meaning strengthen, "and carry thee whither thou wouldest not", that is to say, out of this life (cf. John 21:18). Our nature is unwilling to be dissolved in death, and Peter's superhuman martyrdom also demonstrates our attitude as human beings to life. "Strengthened by Me", Christ tells him, "you will willingly endure all these things for my sake and bear witness to me; for the desire to do so is not natural but supernatural to human nature".

10. Peter was the sort of man who can be described in a few words. As for Paul, on the other hand, what tongue, or how many and what sort of tongues, can depict even to a limited extent his endurance unto death for Christ's sake? He was put to death every day, or rather he was always dead, no longer alive himself, as he tells us, but having Christ living in him (Gal. 2:20). For love of Christ he not only counted everything in the present world as dung (Phil. 3:8), but even put things to come in second place compared to the Lord. "For I am persuaded", he says, "that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (cf. Rom. 8:38-39). He had zeal for God, and was jealous over us with divine jealousy (2 Cor. 11:2). The only one to equal him in this was Peter, but hear how humble he is when he says of himself, "I am the least of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an Apostle" (1 Cor. 15:9).

11. Given that Paul made the same confession of faith as Peter, and had the same zeal, humility and love, surely they received the same rewards from Him Who measures everything with completely just scales, yardstick and plumbline. Anything else would be unreasonable. That is why the Lord told Peter, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18), whereas He said to Ananias of Paul, "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings" (Acts 9:15). Which name? Clearly the name we have been given, the name of Christ's Church, which rests on the foundation stone of Peter. Notice that Peter and Paul are equal in prominence and glory, and both hold up the Church. Consequently the Church now bestows one and the same honour on both, and celebrates them together with equal esteem. As we consider the outcome of their lives, let us imitate how they lived, or at least how they were restored through humility and repentance, even if we cannot attain to their other great and exalted achievements, which are appropriate to great men and fitting for great men to emulate. In fact, some aspects of their lives are probably impossible for anyone to imitate. Amendment through repentance, however, is more appropriate for us than for the great, since we all sin many times every day, and unless we lay hold of salvation through continuous repentance, we have no hope of it from any other source.

12. Repentance is preceded by awareness of our sins, which is a strong incentive to mercy. "Have mercy upon me", said the Psalmist and Prophet to God, "for I acknowledge my transgressions" (Ps. 5 1:1, 3). Through his recognition of sin he attracted God's compassion, and through his confession and self-condemnation he obtained complete forgiveness. "I said", the Psalmist tells us, "I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart" (cf. Ps. 32:5), because acknowledgment of our sins is followed by condemnation of ourselves, which in turn is followed by that sorrow for our sins which Paul calls "godly sorrow" (2 Cor. 7:10). After godly sorrow confession and prayer to God with a contrite heart come naturally (Ps. 51:17), as does the promise to keep away from evil from now on. This is repentance.

13. This is how Manasseh escaped being punished for his sins, even though he had fallen into many great and serious transgressions, and wallowed in them for years on end (2 Chr. 33:1-20). As for David, the Lord set aside his sin because of his repentance, nor did he deprive him of his Prophetic gift. When Peter resorted to repentance, he not only recovered from his fall and obtained forgiveness, but was also appointed to protect Christ's Church. As you see, Paul too was rewarded with this role after his conversion, once he had made progress and become more closely God's own than the others. Repentance which is true and truly from the heart persuades the penitent not to sin any more, not to mix with corrupt people, and not to gape in curiosity at evil pleasures, but to despise things present, cling to things to come, struggle against passions, seek after virtues, be self-controlled in every respect, keep vigil with prayers to God, and shun dishonest gain. It convinces him to be merciful to those who wrong him, gracious to those who ask something of him, ready with all his heart to bend down and help in any way he can, whether by words, actions or money, all who seek his assistance, that through kindness to his fellow-man he might gain God's love in return for loving his neighbour, draw the divine favour to himself, and attain to eternal mercy and God's everlasting blessing and grace.

14. May we all attain to this by the grace of the only-begotten Son of God, to Whom belong all glory, might, honour and worship, together with His Father without beginning and the all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

From The Homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas, Volume Two, translated by Christopher Veniamin (St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, 2004).

Saint Leo the Great on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

By St. Leo the Great
Sermon 82

I. Rome owes its high position to these Apostles

The whole world, dearly-beloved, does indeed take part in all holy anniversaries, and loyalty to the one Faith demands that whatever is recorded as done for all men's salvation should be everywhere celebrated with common rejoicings. But, besides that reverence which today's festival has gained from all the world, it is to be honoured with special and peculiar exultation in our city, that there may be a predominance of gladness on the day of their martyrdom in the place where the chief of the Apostles met their glorious end. For these are the men, through whom the light of Christ's gospel shone on you, O Rome, and through whom you, who wast the teacher of error, wast made the disciple of Truth. These are your holy Fathers and true shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly kingdoms, and built you under much better and happier auspices than they, by whose zeal the first foundations of your walls were laid: and of whom the one that gave you your name defiled you with his brother's blood. These are they who promoted you to such glory, that being made a holy nation, a chosen people, a priestly and royal state 1 Peter 2:9, and the head of the world through the blessed Peter's holy See you attained a wider sway by the worship of God than by earthly government. For although you were increased by many victories, and extended your rule on land and sea, yet what your toils in war subdued is less than what the peace of Christ has conquered.

II. The extension of the Roman empire was part of the Divine scheme

For the good, just, and Almighty God, Who has never withheld His mercy from mankind, and has ever instructed all men alike in the knowledge of Himself by the most abundant benefits, has by a more secret counsel and a deeper love shown pity upon the wanderers' voluntary blindness and proclivities to evil, by sending His co-equal and co-eternal Word. Which becoming flesh so united the Divine Nature with the human that He by lowering His Nature to the uttermost has raised our nature to the highest. But that the result of this unspeakable Grace might be spread abroad throughout the world, God's Providence made ready the Roman empire, whose growth has reached such limits that the whole multitude of nations are brought into close connection. For the Divinely-planned work particularly required that many kingdoms should be leagued together under one empire, so that the preaching of the world might quickly reach to all people, when they were held beneath the rule of one state. And yet that state, in ignorance of the Author of its aggrandisement though it rule almost all nations, was enthralled by the errors of them all, and seemed to itself to have fostered religion greatly, because it rejected no falsehood. And hence its emancipation through Christ was the more wondrous that it had been so fast bound by Satan.

III. On the dispersing of the Twelve, St. Peter was sent to Rome

For when the twelve Apostles, after receiving through the Holy Ghost the power of speaking with all tongues, had distributed the world into parts among themselves, and undertaken to instruct it in the Gospel, the most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostolic band, was appointed to the citadel of the Roman empire, that the light of Truth which was being displayed for the salvation of all the nations, might spread itself more effectively throughout the body of the world from the head itself. What nation had not representatives then living in this city; or what peoples did not know what Rome had learned? Here it was that the tenets of philosophy must be crushed, here that the follies of earthly wisdom must be dispelled, here that the cult of demons must be refuted, here that the blasphemy of all idolatries must be rooted out, here where the most persistent superstition had gathered together all the various errors which had anywhere been devised.

IV. St. Peter's love conquered his fears in coming to Rome

To this city then, most blessed Apostle Peter, you dost not fear to come, and when the Apostle Paul, the partner of your glory, was still busied with regulating other churches, entered this forest of roaring beasts, this deep, stormy ocean with greater boldness than when you walked upon the sea. And you who had been frightened by the high priest's maid in the house of Caiaphas, had no fear of Rome the mistress of the world. Was there any less power in Claudius, any less cruelty in Nero than in the judgment of Pilate or the Jews' savage rage? So then it was the force of love that conquered the reasons for fear: and you did not think those to be feared whom you had undertaken to love. But this feeling of fearless affection you had even then surely conceived when the profession of your love for the Lord was confirmed by the mystery of the thrice-repeated question. And nothing else was demanded of this your earnest purpose than that you should bestow the food wherewith you had yourself been enriched, on feeding His sheep whom you loved.

V. St. Peter was providentially prepared for his great mission

Your confidence also was increased by many miraculous signs, by many gifts of grace, by many proofs of power. You had already taught the people, who from the number of the circumcised had believed: you had already founded the Church at Antioch, where first the dignity of the Christian name arose: you had already instructed Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, in the laws of the Gospel-message: and, without doubt as to the success of the work, with full knowledge of the short span of your life carried the trophy of Christ's cross into the citadel of Rome, whither by the Divine fore-ordaining there accompanied you the honour of great power and the glory of much suffering.

VI. Many noble martyrs have sprung from the blood of SS. Peter and Paul

Thither came also your blessed brother - Apostle Paul, the vessel of election (Acts 9:15), and the special teacher of the Gentiles, and was associated with you at a time when all innocence, all modesty, all freedom was in jeopardy under Nero's rule. Whose fury, inflamed by excess of all vices, hurled him headlong into such a fiery furnace of madness that he was the first to assail the Christian name with a general persecution, as if God's Grace could be quenched by the death of saints, whose greatest gain it was to win eternal happiness by contempt of this fleeting life. Precious, therefore, in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints : nor can any degree of cruelty destroy the religion which is founded on the mystery of Christ's cross. Persecution does not diminish but increase the church, and the Lord's field is clothed with an ever richer crop, while the grains, which fall singly, spring up and are multiplied a hundred-fold. Hence how large a progeny have sprung from these two Heaven-sown seeds is shown by the thousands of blessed martyrs, who, rivalling the Apostles' triumphs, have traversed the city far and wide in purple-clad and ruddy-gleaming throngs, and crowned it, as it were with a single diadem of countless gems.

VII. No distinction must be drawn between the merits of the two

And over this band, dearly-beloved, whom God has set forth for our example in patience and for our confirmation in the Faith, there must be rejoicing everywhere in the commemoration of all the saints, but of these two Father.' excellence we must rightly make our boast in louder joy, for God's Grace has raised them to so high a place among the members of the Church, that He has set them like the twin light of the eyes in the body, whose Head is Christ. About their merits and virtues, which pass all power of speech, we must not make distinctions, because they were equal in their election , alike in their toils, undivided in their death. But as we have proved for ourselves, and our forefathers maintained, we believe, and are sure that, amid all the toils of this life, we must always be assisted in obtaining God's Mercy by the prayers of special interceders, that we may be raised by the Apostles' merits in proportion as we are weighed down by our own sins. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.

Sermon on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (St. Augustine of Hippo)

By St. Augustine of Hippo

Today the Holy Church piously remembers the sufferings of the Holy Glorious and All-Praised Apostles Peter and Paul.

St. Peter, the fervent follower of Jesus Christ, for the profound confession of His Divinity: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God," was deemed worthy by the Savior to hear in answer, "Blessed art thou, Simon ... I tell thee, that thou art Peter [Petrus], and on this stone [petra] I build My Church" (Mt.16:16-18). On "this stone" [petra], is on that which thou sayest: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God" it is on this thy confession I build My Church. Wherefore the "thou art Peter": it is from the "stone" [petra] that Peter [Petrus] is, and not from Peter [Petrus] that the "stone" [petra] is, just as the Christian is from Christ, and not Christ from the Christian. Do you want to know, from what sort of "rock" [petra] the Apostle Peter [Petrus] was named? Hear the Apostle Paul: "Brethren, I do not want ye to be ignorant," says the Apostle of Christ, "how all our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ" (1 Cor.10: 1-4). Here is the from whence the "Rock" is Peter.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the final days of His earthly life, in the days of His mission to the race of man, chose from among the disciples His twelve Apostles to preach the Word of God. Among them, the Apostle Peter for his fiery ardor was vouchsafed to occupy the first place (Mt.10:2) and to be as it were the representative person for all the Church. Therefore it is said to him, preferentially, after the confession: "I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in the heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth: shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt.16: 19). Therefore it was not one man, but rather the One Universal Church, that received these "keys" and the right "to bind and loosen." And that it was actually the Church that received this right, and not exclusively a single person, turn your attention to another place of the Scriptures, where the same Lord says to all His Apostles, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit" and further after this, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, are retained" (John 20: 22-23); or: "whatsoever ye bind upon the earth, shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosened in heaven" (Mt.18:18). Thus, it is the Church that binds, the Church that loosens; the Church, built upon the foundational cornerstone, Jesus Christ Himself (Eph 2:20), doth bind and loosen. Let both the binding and the loosening be feared: the loosening, in order not to fall under this again; the binding, in order not to remain forever in this condition. Therefore "Iniquities ensnare a man, and everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins," says Wisdom (Prov 5:22); and except for Holy Church nowhere is it possible to receive the loosening.

After His Resurrection the Lord entrusted the Apostle Peter to shepherd His spiritual flock not because, that among the disciples only Peter alone was pre-deserved to shepherd the flock of Christ, but Christ addresses Himself chiefly to Peter because, that Peter was first among the Apostles and as such the representative of the Church; besides which, having turned in this instance to Peter alone, as to the top Apostle, Christ by this confirms the unity of the Church. "Simon of John" -- says the Lord to Peter -- "lovest thou Me?" -- and the Apostle answered: "Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee"; and a second time it was thus asked, and a second time he thus answered; being asked a third time, seeing that as it were not believed, he was saddened. But how is it possible for him not to believe That One, Who knew his heart? And wherefore then Peter answered: "Lord, Thou knowest all; Thou knowest that I love Thee." "And sayeth Jesus to him" all three times "Feed My sheep" (John 20:15-17).

Besides this, the triple appealing of the Savior to Peter and the triple confession of Peter before the Lord had a particular beneficial purpose for the Apostle. That one, to whom was given "the keys of the kingdom" and the right "to bind and to loose," bound himself thrice by fear and cowardice (Mt.26:69-75), and the Lord thrice loosens him by His appeal and in turn by his confession of strong love. And to shepherd literally the flock of Christ was acquired by all the Apostles and their successors. "Take heed, therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock," the Apostle Paul urges church presbyters, "over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of the God, which He hath purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28); and the Apostle Peter to the elders: "Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when is appeared the Prince of pastors, ye will receive unfading crowns of glory" (1 Pet. 5:2-4).

It is remarkable that Christ, having said to Peter: "Feed My sheep," did not say: "Feed thy sheep," but rather to feed, good servant, the sheep of the Lord. "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor.1:13). "Feed My sheep". Wherefore "wolfish robbers, wolfish oppressors, deceitful teachers and mercenaries, not being concerned about the flock" (Mt.7:15; Acts 20:29; 2 Pet 2:1; John 10:12), having plundered a strange flock and making of the spoils as though it be of their own particular gain, they think that they feed their flock. Such are not good pastors, as pastors of the Lord. "The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11), entrusted to Him by the chief Shepherd Himself (1 Pet 5:4). And the Apostle Peter, true to his calling, gave his soul for the very flock of Christ, having sealed his apostleship by a martyr's death, is now glorified throughout all the world.

The Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, was changed from a robbing wolf into a meek lamb. Formerly he was an enemy of the Church, then is manifest as an Apostle. Formerly he stalked it, then preached it. Having received from the high priests the authority at large to throw all Christians in chains for execution, he was already on the way, he breathed out "threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1), he thirsted for blood, but "He that dwells in the Heavens shall laugh him to scorn" (Ps 2:4). When he, "having persecuted and vexed" in such manner "the Church of God" (1Cor.15:9; Acts 8:5), he came near Damascus, and the Lord from Heaven called to him: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" and I am here, and I am there, I am everywhere: here is My head; there is My body. There becomes nothing of a surprise in this; we ourselves are members of the Body of Christ. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me; it is hard for thee to kick against the goad" (Acts 9:4-5). Saul, however, "trembling and frightened", cried out: "Who art Thou, Lord?" The Lord answered him, "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest."

And Saul suddenly undergoes a change: "What wantest Thou me to do?" -- he cries out. And suddenly for him there is the Voice: "Arise, and go to the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:6). Here the Lord sends Ananias: "Arise and go into the street" to a man, "by the name of Saul," and baptize him, "for this one is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9: 11, 15, 18). This vessel must be filled with My Grace. "Ananias, however, answered: Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints in Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Thy Name" (Acts 9:13-14). But the Lord urgently commands Ananias: "Search for and fetch him, for this vessel is chosen by Me: for I shall show him what great things he must suffer for My name's sake" (Acts 9:11, 15-16).

And actually the Lord did show the Apostle Paul what things he had to suffer for His Name. He instructed him the deeds; He did not stop at the chains, the fetters, the prisons and shipwrecks; He Himself felt for him in his sufferings, He Himself guided him towards this day. On a single day the memory of the sufferings of both these Apostles is celebrated, though they suffered on separate days, but by the spirit and the closeness of their suffering they constitute one. Peter went first, and Paul followed soon after him. Formerly called Saul, and then Paul, having transformed his pride into humility. His very name (Paulus), meaning "small, little, less," demonstrates this. What is the Apostle Paul after this? Ask him, and he himself gives answer to this: "I am," says he, "the least of the Apostles... but I have labored more abundantly than all of them: yet not I, but the grace of God, which was with me" (1 Cor.15:9-10).

And so, brethren, celebrating now the memory of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, remembering their venerable sufferings, we esteem their true faith and holy life, we esteem the innocence of their sufferings and pure confession. Loving in them the sublime quality and imitating them by great exploits, "in which to be likened to them" (2 Thess 3: 5-9), and we shall attain to that eternal bliss which is prepared for all the saints. The path of our life before was more grievous, thornier, harder, but "we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12: 1), having passed by along it, made now for us easier, and lighter, and more readily passable. First there passed along it "the author and finisher of our faith," our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Heb 12: 2); His daring Apostles followed after Him; then the martyrs, children, women, virgins and a great multitude of witnesses. Who acted in them and helped them on this path? He Who said, "Without Me ye can do nothing" (John 15: 5).

From Sermon 295; PL 38.

June 28, 2010

Simon Peter and Simon the Magician: A Battle of True and False Miracles

Simon Magus offers to buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit from the Apostle Peter

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The enemies of Christianity frequently like to cite examples of great miracle-workers among the pagans in order to deceive the gullible, to humiliate the Christian Faith and to elevate paganism, sorcery, soothsaying, Satanism and every other charlatanism. There is no doubt that Satan through his servants also attempted to perform miracles, but all of the miracles of his servants do not emanate out of love for man, compassion and from faith in God, but rather from pride, selfishness, vanity and hatred for mankind.

A Christian should learn from the history of the apostles to differentiate divine miracles from satanic deceits and fantasies. Let the Christian only remember the Apostle Peter and Simon the Magician. Let the Christian compare the miracles of Peter with the so-called miracles of Simon. The apostle converted the stony hearts of men into noble hearts, cured the sick and raised the dead, and all of this by prayer and faith in the Living God. However, Simon the Magician amazed men with the devil's illusions. The Apostle Peter was a friend of God and Simon the Magician was a friend and protege of the perverted Emperor Nero who ended his life by suicide.

The miracles of the pagan fakirs belong to the category of illusions and deceits of Simon the Magician. Just as from a distance hot sand resembles water so also the "miracles" of the fakir resemble the life-creating miracles of Christianity.

The fall of Simon Magus

Documentary on Alexandros Papadiamantis

Alexandros Papadiamantis was born in Skiathos on the 4th of March 1851 and was the son of the priest Adamantios Emmanouil and Angeliki who was the daughter of Alexandros Moraitidis. He completed the primary school and the first two grades of the Hellenic school in Skiathos. He later attended a school in Skopelos and in Piraeus and finally he graduated from Varvakio in 1874. In the same year in September, he registered in the Faculty of Philosophy in the University of Athens but he never graduated from it. At that time he wrote his first lyric poem about his mother. In 1879 he published his novel "The Immigrant" in the newspaper "Neologos". In 1882 he started publishing his novel "The Merchants of the Nations" in the newspaper "Mi hanese" (Don't vanish). At the same time he started working as a translator.

In 1884 he started publishing in the newspaper "Akropolis" his novel "Gypsy Girl". From 1892 to 1897 he worked as a regular correspondent in the same newspaper. From 1902 to 1904 he lived in Skiathos where he published his novel "The Female Assasin". On March 13, 1908 in "Parnassos" a celebration of his 25 years in the Greek letters was held under the patronage of the Princess Maria Vonaparti. Immediately after that he returned to Skiathos where he lived until the end of his life. He died because of pneumonia in the morning of 3rd January 1911. His funeral was held on the same day and the funeral oration was delivered by G. Rigas. On 22nd November 1912 his grave was visited by Maria Vonaparti and in 1925 his bust, which was created by Th. Thomopoulos, was erected.

The work of Alexandros Papadiamantis which is today internationally acclaimed, was influenced directly by his island; the island where he was born and died; the island which he loved and praised as much as nothing else. It was also influenced by the people of his island whose life-stories he recreated and enlivened in his writings. He was a perfect observer and student of human psychology and of the morals and manners of his time. His unparalleled, full of lyricism writing style gave birth to masterpieces of moral novels in modern Greece. As a result, his name reminds us of Skiathos immediately. At the same time, on hearing the word "Skiathos" we cannot help thinking of this great literary figure whose personality marked indelibly both his island and his work.


Occultist Tries To Kill Patriarch Kyrill With 'Mind Powers'

Occult Enthusiast Charged in Patriarch Plot

29 June 2010
By Alexandra Odynova
The Moscow Times

A former Nizhny Novgorod doctor faces criminal charges for seeking co-conspirators online to help him kill Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill through a ritual using their “collective mind,” investigators said Monday.

Dmitry Shubin, a 42-year-old former pediatrician, has been charged with inciting hatred for statements he made on the social network.

The charges were filed after a local resident reported the comments to police, and investigators turned the case over to a Nizhny Novgorod court Friday, a spokeswoman for the local branch of the Investigative Committee said Monday.

If convicted, the defendant faces a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($9,700) or a sentence of up to two years in prison.

A local police source told The Moscow Times that Shubin was investigated in connection with a 1998 murder involving a satanist ritual.

For nearly a year, from March 2009 through this January, Shubin posted statements on his page calling on Internet users to gather at his apartment at a set time to use the occult concept of the collective mind, known as egregore, against the patriarch.

In his pleas for support, Shubin wrote that only a large number of people can form a strong collective mind.

“I don’t consider myself guilty,” Shubin told The Moscow Times by phone on Monday. “I just wanted to express my opinion against the government’s policy on religious issues,” he said.

Shubin said he was targeting the state’s tacit support of the Russian Orthodox Church, rather than the church itself. He said he had no supporters and was acting alone.

His page on was still accessible Monday evening, including invitations to meetings dating back to at least September.

In his profile, Shubin lists his main interests as “cabala, magic and women,” and among the pictures he posted were scans of a 1992 diploma from the Moscow School of Hypnosis and a 1993 certificate from the School of Practical Psychology.

Cabala is a school of thought emanating from mystical rabbinism.

Shubin, who lists himself as an atheist, is also a member of the group “Cabala and Magic,” which contained a survey he created asking visitors whether they considered the “topic of killing the patriarch relevant.”

About three-quarters of the more than 300 who voted said “no.”

Shubin first came to prominence in connection with a bizarre murder more than a decade ago. In 2000, a Nizhny Novgorod court sentenced Yevgeny Platov, then 17, to 10 years in prison for stabbing to death a 12-year-old member of their group as part of an occult rite.

A second suspect, 16-year-old Alexei Shevaldin, was found mentally unstable and ordered to receive psychological treatment.

At that time, investigators learned that Shubin, who was working at a city hospital, recruited the teens to join his sect though ads in a local newspaper, according to news reports from the time.

Shubin was not charged in the crime because police were unable to prove that he was involved in the killing, the reports said, but prosecutors warned him against trying to organize groups in the future. He has denied that he ordered the killing.

The Moscow Patriarchate said the case was another reminder of the danger occult groups pose to society.

“We look at their leaders with pity and pray for them,” a spokesman said Monday, asking that his name not to be mentioned because he was not aware of the Nizhny Novgorod case.

Patriarch Kirill conducted a liturgy on Monday in the Kremlin’s Uspensky Cathedral, the patriarchate said.