Dear Readers: A long time supporter of the Mystagogy Resource Center has informed me that they would like to donate $3000 to help me continue the work of this ministry, but they will only do it as a matching donation, which means that this generous donation will only be made after you help me raise a total of $3000. If you can help make this happen, it will be greatly appreciated and it would be greatly helpful to me, as I have not done a fundraiser this year. If you enjoy the work done here and want to see more of it, please make whatever contribution you can through the DONATE link below. Thank you!
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July 31, 2010

Patriarch Pavle: The Greatest Sin Is To Justify Sin

In the summer of 2003, Deacon Rados Mladenovic described a recent encounter with the head of the Serbian Church, Patriarch Pavle:

Pavle, our patriarch and holy man, recently visited the town of Vrnjačka Banja, and I went there to greet him. I asked him: "Your Holiness, how are you?"

"Very well," he replied, and he said to the nuns, "Serve the deacon and bring the refreshments."

The nuns from Zica knew that Bishop Stefan granted me the privilege of one glass of brandy each time I visit him at his cabinet. So they brought in the coffee and asked: "Your Holiness, how about a shot of brandy for the deacon?" The patriarch remained silent. "Your Holiness, shall we bring the brandy for the deacon?" Still there was no reply.

In order to break the uncomfortable silence, I said: "Your Holiness, in my village they say that a coffee without brandy is like a dead man without a candle."

"That is the point, deacon, my brother," the patriarch then said, "the greatest sin is not when you commit one, but when you seek to justify it!"

Elder Paisios on Philotimo and Leventia

By John Sanidopoulos

In ancient Greece, two virtues were particularly philosophized about and discussed for their unique value, and were summed up as "kalos k' agathos" or "beautiful and good". These were two internal characteristics that extended towards all their external ways of life. The singular balance of beautiful and good made up a man who was both healthy in soul and body, in other words, an Athenian gentleman who was a perfect and ideal man.

Though all cultures, to a certain extent, possess their own set of virtues that are unique, it is commonly held that modern Greeks are especially abundant in two virtues that are almost untranslatable in the English language, yet bear a certain resemblance on a deeper level to the virtues of the ancient Greeks. These two virtues are Philotimo and Leventia.

Whereas in ancient times more emphasis was placed on external beauty as a sign of virtue, Christianity helped the Greek people de-emphasize the external factor of personal beauty for a deeper internal love of beauty within one's soul. It removed a more "selfish" characteristic and emphasized instead, in imitation of Christ, a certain "selflessness" that places the welfare of others above that of one's self. Such self-sacrifice bordered on a particular form of martyrdom that was deemed heroic, noble and full of integrity. These are the characteristics of a person who possesses philotimo. It is a person who is filled with love, humility and hospitality.

The Greeks are also a suffering people who have had much acquaintance with being oppressed, especially in recent times under the Ottoman Turks. These times called for a special courageousness to behave bravely and with honor to overcome oppression. Even in the midst of hardships and humiliation, one was expected to develop an internal form of excellence that would not show one as ever defeated, but always show one victorious even in the midst of apparent defeat. This is best exemplified once again with self-sacrifice on behalf of others. These are the characteristics of leventia.

In his appeals to the Greek people who would visit him, Elder Paisios would invoke these two virtues in order to reach their "collective unconscious". It has been said that if you want to encourage Greek men to agree with you and bring them higher to a more lofty ideal, you have to appeal to their philotimo. Furthermore, if you want to give Greek men encouragement to fight for what is right and true, then you would appeal to their leventia. Though leventia is more commonly applied to young men, in truth it could apply to all men. Typicially when a child or teenager displays characteristics of being a leventis, he is called a palikari to show that he is in the preliminary stages of being a leventis through his determination in displaying a good and manly heart.

Elder Paisios was absolutely correct when he once said that "Greeks may have a pile of faults, but they also have a gift from God, philotimo and leventia; they celebrate everything. Other peoples do not even have these words in their dictionaries." Philotimo, according to Elder Paisios, means "the reverent distillation of goodness; the radiant love of the humble man bereft of himself, but with a heart full of gratitude to God and his fellow man; because of his spiritual sensitivity he tries to repay even the slightest good that others do to him." Leventia means courage, honesty, generosity of heart, directness, manliness and in general the willingness to lay down ones life for others.

Here are just a few ways Elder Paisios used the term philotimo to appeal to his listeners:

- "Those who have philotimo, because they move within the heavenly sphere of doxology, joyfully accept their trials as well as their blessings, and glorify God for them. Thus, they are continuously receiving God’s blessing from everything and are melting internally out of gratitude towards God, which they express in every spiritual way possible, like children of God."

- "Unfortunately, in our day, words and books have multiplied and experiences have diminished, because the worldly spirit, which pursues all conveniences and avoids all bodily effort, influences people. Most of us find rest in much reading but little or no implementation. We simply marvel at the holy athletes of our Church without realizing how much they’ve labored, for we have not toiled so as to be able to understand their toil, to love them and to struggle out of philotimo in order to imitate them."

- "Those, however, who struggle with philotimo and do not give themselves rest, removing their egos from every one of their actions, help very positively. For only then are the souls in need of help given rest, and only then will their own souls find inner rest, in this life as well as in eternity."

- "When one realizes one's sinfulness and the great mercy of God, the heart cracks, as hard as it may be, and real tears fall of themselves and then man prays and weeps without effort. This is because humility works continuously together with philotimo and drills on the heart so that the springs increase, and the hand of God continually strokes the hard-working and philotimo child."

Read also: Philotimo: Greece's Most Valuable Commodity

July 30, 2010

Dn. Andrei Kurayev: 'Why I Am Not An Atheist'

By Nadezhda Pronina
Feb 9, 2007
The Voice of Russia

Why I Am Not A Christian? — this is the title of the popular book by the celebrated English mathematician and philosopher Bertran Russell, which has been translated into many languages. For our program, however, we have chosen a title similar in form, but essentially opposite in meaning — "Why I Am Not An Atheist?" The guest of our program today is Andrew Kurayev, deacon at one of the churches in Moscow, lecturer at several institutions of higher education, professor, philosopher and theologian. But Father Andrei objects to being described as a theologian.

"A theologian? This sounds too high," says Andrei Kurayev. "The Orthodox tradition knows of only three theologians, namely, St. John the Theologian, the favorite disciple of Jesus Christ Himself, Gregory the Theologian of the 4th century and Symeon the Theologian of the 10th century. So it seems to me somewhat pretentious to call myself a theologian. A church journalist, though, would be a more proper description."

Well, whatever you say. Let it be church journalist. However, it is hard to argue with Father Andrei. A lifetime isn’t enough to study the wealth of wonderful words by Orthodox theologians. Books by Andrei Kurayev on comparative theology have sold like hot cakes. Some of them have already become bestsellers. Mark, by the way, the paradoxical fact that super-serious Orthodox books are in great demand in Russia today. Some have worked up even a boom. Well, it can't be helped, considering the rapidity with which Russians en masse are returning to Orthodox spirituality. And books by Andrei Kurayev have made a great contribution to this process.

Not only his books, though. Father Andrei gives lectures in Moscow and in provinces. Lecture-halls on these occasions cannot accommodate all those who wish to listen to him. Perhaps, the exceptionally intense activity of this priest has been warmed up by the healthy booming energy of young age. Indeed, Andrei Kurayev is a little over 30. His ascetic missionary activity has repudiated the old, unfair, opinion that Orthodox priests are poor missionaries.

A poignant detail has turned out: an unshakeable pillar of true Orthodoxy as Deacon Andrei Kurayev appears to be today was preparing himself for quite an opposite ministry. He was going to devote himself to atheistic propaganda.

The family to which Andrei Kurayev was born and in which he was raised had a stamp of elitism. His father, a celebrated philosopher, often went abroad to work there for long and to stay there together with his family. Unlike other people in the then Soviet society, those who went abroad were privileged. They enjoyed better living conditions, somewhat greater freedom and greater access to information. In the eyes of people who could not go out of the Soviet Union, those who could go abroad on business trips were people belonging to a different dimension, to a higher order.

As a child Andrei lived in Eastern Europe. Back home in the Soviet Union, he regarded his mates who did not have jeans or chewing gum as savages. That is how he himself recollects that time, stressing that he was not alien to the temptations of the so-called consumer society.

Now, as a student at the department of philosophy of Moscow State University, he was sitting for an exam in philosophy, his favourate subject. He got an "A" and a request from the examiner to convey best regards to his philosopher father. It was at that point that the young man decided that never again he would be presented as a celebrity's son. He would go into a field where the name of his brilliant philosopher father was of no consequence. Eventually he changed over to the chair of scientific atheism. Later he even made post-graduate studies at the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences.

As a result of all these studies he was steeped in the critical attitude to belief in God and stuffed with atheistic arguments. What happened then? How did the skeptical mind of a Soviet atheist make a turnabout? We shall try to explain it, but warn you straight away that all the words expressed will still leave behind them a MYSTERY — a MYSTERY of Divine influence on human life, a MYSTERY of the Holy Spirit Who breathes where He wills.

Let us open the book by Andrei Kurayev titled Is It All the Same How to Believe?

"One becomes a Christian not because somebody has driven one into a corner by pure arguments. Simply one's soul at a point comes in touch with the Divine. Or, as one Orthodox theologian put it, 'nobody would ever become a monk unless he once saw the shining of eternal life in the face of another person'. A believer differs from a non-believer simply in that the range of his experience is greater, just as a person with an ear for music differs from those who do not hear the harmony of music accords. If a person has the experience of an encounter with God, so much changes in this world for him! But if he loses it, so much gets darkened! One young man wrote at the dawn of the 19th century: 'If a person has been given this virtue of union with Christ, he meets the blows of fate with calmness and inner tranquility, opposing courageously the storms of passions and withstanding fearlessly the rage of evil. How can you fail to endure suffering if you know that by persisting in Christ and working zealously you glorify God Himself?!' Later, after rejecting Christ, the author of these remarkable words about a life-time union would write only about alienation. The name of this young man was Karl Marx."

There is an account of how exactly the conversion of Andrei Kurayev, a student of Moscow State University, happened in reality. In the same book Is It All the Same How to Believe? we read:

"For me a turning point occurred during one wordless encounter at the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Monastery. Sometime at the beginning of 1982, I happened to be there as a student of the chair of atheism and a Komsomol activist. I had to accompany a group of Hungarian student tourists. I did not remember the worship service and was little interested in architecture and history. But when we were coming out of the Cathedral of the Trinity, a miracle happened. Walking out in front of me was a young man from another group. Just two steps before reaching the threshold, he suddenly turned around briskly to face me. But he was not looking at me. He was looking at the icons in the heart of the church in order to make a sign of the cross at them and to receive a blessing before coming out. I just turned out to stand between him and the icons. For the first time in my life I could see the eyes of a believer so close. No, there was nothing mysterious or enigmatic about them. A similar impression is often put upon for some obscure reason by actors playing priests. The eyes of the young man, however, were just bright, meaningful and lively. And a thought penetrated me: why does this guy, who was taught the same stuff at school as I was, knows something completely closed to me for all my religious studies? Indeed, he knows whatever I was taught, but it is he who feels at home here, while I am a stranger. Does it mean that to become a believer one should know something that atheists do not know?

Then I came back to Moscow, a city where I had no believers among my acquaintances. But I found an access to Orthodox books and understood from them that I was not the first on the earth to search for a completely new spiritual experience. I also understood that I could find such people and stand next to them in church, as if saying: 'Let me too try…' Indeed, we do not have to create anew our own Church of the Apostles. It is there to join and to accept what is not made with hands, which is the joy of Communion, as a gift and a legacy.”

In the books by Andrei Kurayev there are many rare facts and penetrating observations concerning the tortuous ways of human spiritual life. They are brilliantly supported by references to Holy Scripture and writings by holy fathers of the Church. The author also takes resort to poetry. Here is an example:

"To know God one should be God.
To love and worship Him unknown.
One has to have the heart alone…"

We had an opportunity to meet Father Andrei and ask him questions. One of them was as follows: Didn't he, on his way to faith and the Church, feel a certain contradiction between his scholarly cast of mind, molded from childhood, and the need to take a religious doctrine on faith?

“Orthodox theology, too, is a world of very profound and sophisticated scholarship,” Father Andrei answers. “From the philosophical point of view, Orthodoxy is the most attractive faith for me. But not only from the philosophical point of view. Orthodoxy, whichever of its aspects you take, is the richest of all Christian confessions. In it you find the most developed art of worship, liturgies, and the wondrous beauty of ritual. And take church theology, or patristics, or, say, Russian religious philosophy. And on top of that I was born in an Orthodox country — a fact that makes me especially happy.”

Still how has your scholarly mentality manifested itself in the Orthodox environment?

“I don't think that the scholarly mentality should fade away when a person comes to church,” Andrei Kurayev says. “Approaching a church, one should take off his cap, not his head. Reason is the working horse of the heart. Reason will pasture in whatever field the heart sends it to. I will say to my reason: ‘Go and study the laws of physiology!’ And it will. I will tell my reason to study poetry, and it will go and study the development and laws of poetry. And if the heart says: ‘Heed the Lord and try to understand the Gospel's truths and the Holy Fathers’, reason may prove helpful here too. But one should bear in mind that reason cannot fathom everything in existence and in the very human being. Here we come to the field where problems end and mysteries begin…”

Orthodoxy has been often accused today of excessive conservatism, allegedly obsolete canons, long worship services conducted in an unintelligible Church Slavonic and exhausting fasts. What Deacon Andrei will you say to that?

“The Orthodox Christians in today's world are like mountaineers in a summer camp,” Father Andrei says. “Imagine a heat in a city when one feels hot even in linen slippers. Suddenly you see people walk, carrying at the ready warm caps, parkas and thick boots with spikes at that. What are ice-axes for in a city? What are spikes for on the asphalt? But if at least one of these things is left behind here below, the price of having it thrown out may prove to be very dear high up there. So it is in Orthodoxy. Everything is calculated for moving up in an arduous ascent. Once on the spiritual heights up there you will understand why the fasts, why Church Slavonic, why worship services are so long, and why no pews in churches; what the veneration of saints signify and what an icon offers to you… But however necessary the complex equipment may be for mountaineers, they themselves have to climb up, for the spikes and ice-axes will not carry them to the top. People carry whatever can help them to climb up. In Orthodoxy the truth is given with room for ascent.”

Amalfion Benedictine Monastery on Mount Athos

In his Amalfion Western Rite Monastery on Mt Athos , Fr Aidan Keller gives a fascinating history of a Benedictine monastery that existed on Mount Athos from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries. This monastery of Italian monks on the Holy Mountain used the Western rite and followed the Rule of Saint Benedict. Today only the tower remains amidst its snake infested ruins. Read the online text "Founding a Latin monastery on Mount Athos: the Challenge of Apothikon, later Amalfion".

Do Not Judge A Repentant Sinner

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

By true repentance with tears, prayer and good works the most defiled soul can be completely cleansed and changed. Therefore be careful that you do not maliciously mention the sins of a repentant sinner but offer thanksgiving to God and be astonished how from darkness, light is made and from slime, pure water.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Amasis was of lowly birth and when he became king, men respected him very little, remembering his origin. In order to outwit the people and to gain their respect, he took a metal basin in which, according to custom, the feet of the visitors to the palace were washed. He ordered the basin to be melted down and from it to make a likeness of a certain idol. The pharaoh then placed this idol on the street. Seeing this idol, the people began to worship it and to render it divine honor. Then the pharaoh revealed what this idol was made of. The people then understood that, by this, the pharaoh wanted to show that they need not think anymore about what he once was but what he is now. Then the people began to render the pharaoh the respect due to royalty.

One needs to distinguish a sinner from a penitent. If you have taken upon yourself the role to rebuke the sinner, guard yourself well, that you do not rebuke the penitent also. How dear the repentant sinner is to God; call to mind the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Therefore, let it be very dear for you, he who has become dear to God.

At one time it happened that a monk succumbed to sin for which he was banished from the monastery. This monk went to St. Anthony, confessed his sin, repented and remained with Anthony for a period of time. Then Anthony sent him back again to the monastery but they did not receive him and, again, they banished him. Again, the penitent came to Anthony. Again, Anthony sent him back to the monastery with a message to the fathers of the monastery: "One boat experienced shipwreck and lost its cargo; with great difficulty did that boat arrive in the harbor and you wish to drown even that which was saved from drowning!" Hearing this wise message, the fathers received with joy the penitent brother into the monastery.

Philistine Temple Uncovered in Goliath's Hometown

From Arutz 7:

"Bar Ilan University archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of a Philistine temple in the ancient city of Gath, home of the Biblical Goliath, buried in one of the largest tels (ancient ruin mounds) in Israel."

The article goes on to note this comment by Professor Aren Maeir, who lead the expedition:

“'Interestingly, the architectural design of this temple, with its two central pillars, is reminiscent of the architectural image that is described in the well-known Biblical story of Samson and the Philistines,' Maeir said. He added that the discovery could indicate that the story of Samson reflects a type of temple that was in use in Philistia at the time."

Read the rest of the article and see more pictures here.

Women Dance Again in Shiloh

From Arutz-7:

"Hundreds of women came out last night to celebrate the Tu B'Av (15th of Av) holiday on the biblical site of Shiloh in the Benjamin region, renewing an ancient tradition. For centuries, the young women of Shiloh would go out to the vineyards and orchards and dance on the joyous holiday of Tu B'Av. Last night, the women returned to the orchards in a multifaceted celebration of dance, organized by the Benjamin Regional Council."

The story of the women dancing is recorded in Judges 21. There the women didn’t fare so well when they were carried off by surviving scoundrels from the tribe of Benjamin.

The full story and photos are here.

The Rise of Right Wing Hate

July 29, 2010

The Historicity and Reliability of Acts of the Apostles

If Acts was written by Luke, the companion of the apostle Paul, it brings us right to the apostolic circle of those who participated in the events reported. If Acts was written by A.D. 62 (the traditional date), then it was written by a contemporary of Jesus who died in 33 A.D.

If Acts is shown to be accurate history, then it brings credibility to its reports about the most basic Christian beliefs of miracles (Acts 2:22), the death (Acts 2:23), resurrection (Acts 2:23, 29-32), and ascension of Christ (Acts 1:9-10).

If Luke wrote Acts, then his "former treatise" (Acts 1:1), the Gospel of Luke, should be extended the same early date (within the lifetime of apostles and eye-witnesses) and credibility.


1. There is no mention in Acts of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, an unlikley omission, given the content, if it had already occured.

2. There is no hint of the outbreak of the Jewish War in A.D. 66, or of any drastic or specific deterioration of relations between Romans and Jews, which implies it was written before that time.

3. There is no hint of the deterioration of Christian relations with Rome involved in the Neronian persecution of the late 60's.

4. The author betrays no knowledge of Paul's letters. If Acts were written later, why would Luke, who shows himself so careful on incidental detail, not attempt to inform his narrative by relevant sections of the Epistles. The Epistles evidently circulated and must have become available sources, but an early date is suggested by the silence.

5. There is no hint of the death of James at the hands of the Sanhedrin in ca. 62 recorded by Josephus (Antiquities 20.9. 1.200).

6. The significance of Gallio's judgement in Acts 18:14-17 may be seen as setting a precedent to legitimize Christian teaching under the umbrella of tolerance to Judaism.

7. The prominence and authority of the Saducees in Acts belongs to the pre-70 era, before collapse of their political cooperation with Rome.

8. Conversely, the relatively sympathetic attitude in Acts to Pharisees (unlike that in Luke's Gospel) does not fit well in the period of Pharisaic revival after scholars of Jamnia met, ca. 90. As a result of that meeting, a phase of escalated conflict with Christianity was led by the Pharisees.

9. Some have argued that the book antedates the coming of Peter to Rome, and also that it uses language which implies that Pater and John, as well as Paul himself, were still alive.

10. The prominence of "God-fearers" in the synagogues in Acts would seem to point to the pre-Jewish War situation.

11. The insignificant cultural details are difficult to place with precision, but may best represent the cultural milieu of the Julio-Claudian Roman era.

12. Areas of controversy within Acts presuppose the relevance of the Jewish setting during the temple period.

13. Adolf Harnack argued that the prophecy placed in Paul's mouth at Acts 20:25 (cf. 20:38) may have been contradicted by later events. If so it presumably was penned before those events occured.

14. Primitive formulation of Christian terminology is used in Acts which fits an early period. Harnack lists christological titles, such as Insous and ho kurios, that are used freely, whereas ho Christos always designates "the Messiah", rather than a proper name, and Christos is otherwise used only in formalized combinations.

15. Rackham draws attention to the optimistic tone in Acts, which would not have been natural after Judaism was destroyed and Christians martyred in the Neronian persecutions of the late 60's. [Hemer, 376-82].

16. The ending of the book of Acts. Luke does not continue Paul's story at the end of the two years of Acts 28:30. "The mention of this defined period implies a terminal point, at least impending" (Hemer, 383). He adds, "Its may be argued simply that Luke had brought the narrative up to date at the time of writing, the final note being added at the conclusion of the two years" (ibid., 387).

17. The "immediacy" of Acts 27-28: This is what we have called the "immediacy" of the latter chapters of the book, which are marked in a special degree by the apparently unreflective reproduction of insignificant details, a feature which reaches its apogee in the voyage narrative of Acts 27-28...The vivid "immediacy" of this passage in particular may be strongly contrasted with the "indirectness" of the earlier part of Acts, where we assume that Luke relied on sources or the reminiscences of others, and could not control the context of his narrative. [ibid., 388-89].


The Book of Acts contains:

1. Geographical details that are assumed to be generally known. It remains difficult to estimate the range of general knowledge that should be expected of an ancient writer or reader.

2. More specialized details that are assumed to be widely known: titles of governors, army units, and major routs. This information would have been accessible to those traveled or were involved in administration, but perhaps not to others.

3. Local specifics of routs, boundaries, and titles of city magistrates that are unlikley to have been known except to a writer who had visited the districts.

4. Correlation of dates of known kings and governors with the ostensible chronology of the Acts framework.

5. Details appropriate to the date of Paul or Luke in the early church, but not appropriate to conditions earlier or later.

6. "Undesigned conicidences" or connective details that connect Acts with Pauline Epistles.

7. Latent internal correlations within Acts.

8. Independently attested details which agree with the Alexandrian against the Western texts. Since there are differences between textual families, independant corroboration can help when changes were imported into the textual tradition of Acts. A secondary reading may refer to conditions of a later period, and so indirectly help discriminate time periods.

9. Matters of common geographic knowledge, mentioned perhaps informally or allusively, with an unstudied accuracy which bespeaks familiarity.

10. Textual stylistic differences that indicate Luke's use of different sources.

11. Peculiarities in the selection of detail, such as the inclusion of details that are theologically unimportant but that may bear on historical concerns.

12. Peculiarities in details from "immediacy" that suggest the author's reference to recent experience. Such details are not so readily explained as the product of longer-term refective editing and shaping.

13. Cultural or idiomatic references that suggest a first-century atmosphere.

14. Interrelated complexes combining two or more kinds of correlation. Such a range of connections makes it possible to accurately reconstruct a fragment of history from the jigsaw of interlocking bits of information.

15. Instances where new discoveries and expanded knowledge shed more light on the background information. These are of use to the commentator, but do not bear significantly on history.

16. Precise details which lie within the range of contemporary possibilities, but who's accuracy cannot be verified.


1. A natural crossing between correctly named ports (13:4-5). Mount Cassius, south of Selucia, stands within sight of Cyprus. The name of the proconsul in 13:7 cannot be confirmed, but the family of the Sergii Pauli is attested.

2. The proper river port, Perga, for a ship crossing from Cyprus (13:13).

3. The proper location of Lycaonia (14:6).

4. The unusual but correct declension of the name Lystra and the correct language spoken in Lystra. Correct identification of the two gods associated with the city, Zeus anf Hermes (14:12).

5. The proper port, Attalia, for returning travelers (14: 25).

6. The correct rout from the Cilician Gates (16:1).

7. The proper form of the name Troas (16:1).

8. A conspicuous sailors' landmark at Samothrace (16:11).

9. The proper identification of Phillipi as a Roman colony. The right location for the river Gangites near Philippi (16:13).

10. Association of Thyatira with cloth dyeing (16:14). Correct designations of the titles for the colony magistrates (16:20, 35, 35, 38).

11. The proper locations where travelers would spend successive nights on this journey (17:1).

12. The presence of a Thessalonica (17:1), and the proper title of politarch for the magistrates (17:6).

13. The correct explanation that sea travel is the most convienient way to reach Athens in Summer with favoring east winds (17:14).

14. The abundance of images in Athens (17:16), and a reference to the synagogue there (17:17).

15. Depiction of philosophical debate in the agora (17:17). Use in 17:18-19 of the correct Athenian slang epithet for Paul, spermologos, and the correct name of the sourt (areios pagos); accurate depiction of Athenian character (17:21). Correct identification of altar to "an unknown god" (17:23). Logical reaction of philosophers who denied bodily resurrection. Areopogites the correct title for a member of the court (17:34).

16. Correct identification of the Corinthian synagogue (18:4). Correct designation of Gallio as proconsul (18:12). The bema (judgement seat) can still be seen in Corinth's forum (18:16).

17. The name Tyrannus, attested on a first-century inscription (19:9).

18. The cult of Artemus of the Ephesians (19:24, 27). The cult is well attested, and the Ephesian theater was the city meeting place (19:29).

19. Correct title grammateus for chief executive magistrate and the proper title of honor, Neokoros (19:35). Correct name to identify the goddess (19:37). Correct designation for those holding court (19:38). Use of plural anthupatoi in 19:38 is probably a remarkably exact reference to the fact that two men jointly exercised the functions of proconsul at this time.

20. Use of precise ethnic designation beroiaios and the ethnic term Asianos (20:4).

21. Implied recognition of the strategic importance assigned to Troas 20:713).

22. Implication of the danger of the coastal trip in this area that caused Paul to travel by land (20:13). Correct sequence of places visited and correct neuter plural of the city name Patara (21:1).

23. The appropriate rout passing across the open sea south of Cyprus favored by persistent northwest winds (21:3). The proper distance between Ptolemais and Caesarea (21:.

24. Purification rite characteristic of pious Jewish (21:24).

25. Accurate representation of the Jewish law regarding law regarding Gentile use of the temple area (21:28).

26. The permanent stationing of a Roman cohort in the Fortress in the Fortress Antonia to suppress disturbances at festival times (21:31). The flight of steps used by guards (21:31, 35).

27. The two common ways of obtaining Roman citizenship (22:28). The tribune is impressed with Paul's Roman rather than Tarsian citizenship (22:29).

28. The correct identifications of Ananias as high priest ( (23:2) and Felix as governor (23:34).

29. Identification of a common stopping point on the road to Caesarea (23:31).

30. Not of the proper jurisdiction of Cilicia (23:34).

31. Explanation of the provincial penal procedure (24:1-9).

32. Agreement with Josephus of the name Porcius Festus (24:27).

33. Note of the right of appeal by a Roman citizen (25:11). The legal formula of de quibus cognoscere volebam (25:18). The characteristic form of reference to the emperor (25:26).

34. Correct identification of the best shipping lanes at the time (27:4).

35. Use of the commonly joined names of Cilicia and Pamphylia to describe the coast (27:4). Reference to the principle port at which to find a ship sailing to Italy (27L5), Note of the typically slow passage to Cnidus in the face of a northwest wind (27:7). The locations of Fair Havens and neighboring Lasea (27: and correct description of Fair Havens as poorly sheltered for wintering (27:12).

36. Description of the tendency of these climes for a south wind to suddenly a violent northeast, the gregale (27:13). The nature of a square-rigged ship to have no option but be driven before a gale correctly stated (27:15).

37. Precise name and place given for the island of Clauda (27:16). Appropriate sailers' maneuvers at the time for a storm (27:16-19). The fourteenth night judged by experienced Mediterranean navigators, to be an appropriate time for this journey in a storm (27:27). The proper term for this section of the Adriatic Sea at this time (27:27). The precise term , bolisantes, for taking soundings. The position of probable approach of a ship running aground before an easterly wind (27:39).

38. Correct description of the severe liability on guards who permitted a prisoner to escape (27:42).

39. Accurate description of the local people and superstitions of the day (28:4-6).

40. The proper title protos (tes nesou) for a man in Publius's position of leadership on the islands.

41. Correct identification of Rhegium as a refuge to await a southerly wind to carry a ship through the strait ( 28:13).

42. Appii Forum and Tres Tabernae as stopping -places along the Appian Way (28:15).

43. Common practice of custody with a Roman soldier (28:16) and conditions of imprisonment at ones own expense (28:30-31).

The best evidence is that this material was composed by A.D. 60, only twenty-seven years after the death of Jesus. This places the writing during the lifetime of eyewitnesses to the events recorded (cf. Luke 1:1-4). This does not allow time for an alleged mythological develpment by persons living generations after the events.

The Roman historian Sherwin-White has noted that the writings of Herodotus enable us to determine the rate at which legends develop. He concluded that:

"tests suggest that even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core of the oral tradition" (Sherwin-White, 190).

Julius Muller (1801-1878) challenged the scholars of his day to produce even one example in which an historical event developed many mythological elements within one generation (Muller, 29). None exist.

Bibliography: A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament C. J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, C.H. Gempf, ed. J. Muller, The Theory of Myths, in It's Applications to the Gospel History, Examined and Confuted W. L. Craig, The Son Rises


Death of Infant After Baptism in Moldova

There are indications now that the child was sick. Priest in Moldova, Father Valentin, Allegedly Drowns Baby During the Child's Baptism July 28th 2010 New York Daily News It all went so very wrong. A priest in Moldova has been accused of accidentally drowning a 6-week-old baby during the boy's baptism, according to London's Daily Mail. The baby's relatives said he died Friday after the priest, who is referred to only as Father Valentin, did not cover the tot's mouth and nose when he immersed the child in water three times. The priest said he isn't to blame for the child's death in the Eastern European country. But the child's family thinks otherwise. "We couldn't believe it but we thought the priest must know what he's doing, but he didn't. When we got him back there was nothing that could be done anymore," the baby's godmother, Aliona Vacarciuc, 32, told London's Sun. "We all saw it. The priest didn't put his hand over the baby's mouth to stop water going in as he should have done and as they do at every other baptism," said the child's father, Dumitru Gaidau, 36. The baby died on the way to the hospital, Gaidau told a local television station. Dr. Sergiu Raileanu said the cause of death was drowning. Police have launched a manslaughter investigation. If the priest is found guilty, he could spend up to three years behind bars. Read more here and here.

Holy New Hieromartyr Bessarion, Bishop of Smolyan

St. Bessarion of Smolyan (Feast Day - July 29)

In the second half of the seventeenth century, during the reign of Mahmud IV, when the Ottoman Empire was cruelly oppressing all of those subjugated to it and was persecuting Orthodox Christians, the holy Bishop Bessarion of the small city of Smolyan, in the Rhodope Mountains in the southern part of modern day Bulgaria, was shining by the light of his sanctity.

The persecution of the Orthodox by the savage inhabitants had intensified in this region, and numerous slaughters and expulsions took place. In order to escape the wrath of the invaders, the pious Faithful took refuge in the forests and mountains, and found protection and comfort under the shelter of their affectionate spiritual Father, the holy Bishop Bessarion.

In 1669, the persecuted Christians of Smolyan and their Bishop crossed into the region of Raykovo, in the Rhodope Massif. On 29 July, 1670, while the Bishop, together with ten of his spiritual children, was making a round of visits to the Faithful in the region, he was taken captive by a band of fierce Ottomans after an unsuccessful attempt by his spiritual children to defend him in the clash that had broken out.

The martyric Bishop’s calvary had begun...

The Ottoman leaders in Smolyan, where they took him, proposed to the Saint that he change Faiths and accept the Muslim religion in order to save his life. If they had succeeded in their attempt, the heroic resistance of his Flock, which was persecuted, but nonetheless steadfast in the Orthodox Faith, would have been broken as well.

The Saint boldly replied: “A person who loves the Divine Truth is unmovable in his Faith. My death will make me immortal before God.”

The Turks then stripped him and began to pierce his body with specially pointed instruments and to rip out chunks of flesh. The Saint remained silent and in prayer, while his blood poured unceasingly from his holy body. After that, they beat him savagely with iron rods until he lost consciousness. They then began to hack him to pieces with knives, placed a flaming iron on his head, and ridiculed him in every way.

Indeed, in order to degrade him, they carried him, naked and bloody, through the streets of Smolyan. Then, one of the Turks from the fanatic mob thrust a sharp knife into the Martyr’s chest, and the rest stoned him until they had completely mutilated him.

Thus, through this frightful martyrdom, did the Saint give up his soul to God. The Turks ordered the Saint’s followers to dig a grave in a garden near the Smolyan town square and to bury his holy relics there.

The Veneration of the Saint

The holy Hieromartyr Bessarion, Bishop of Smolyan was immediately venerated by his Flock as a new Saint of our Faith. This veneration, however, did not extend outside of the local boundaries of the region of Rhodope, nor was he commemorated, at the very least, in the hagiology of the Bulgarian Church.

Bishop Parthenios of Levka included him in his work, The Lives of Bulgarian Saints in the middle of the twentieth century, publishing selections from the unique manuscript of his martyrdom, which bears the title “A Historic Record.” A copy of the manuscript is preserved, today, at the Library of Philippopolis.

The Cathedral of Saint Bessarion of Smolyan in Smolyan, Bulgaria, was inaugurated on 2 July 2006. It is the second largest church in the country (after the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia) and the largest church in southern Bulgaria. It is the first new Orthodox church in the city in the Rhodopes for 130 years.

May the intercessions of the holy Hieromartyr Bessarion of Smolyan strengthen us in our adherence to the Orthodox Faith and protect us!

Source 1 and 2

Holy Places and Relics of Georgia

Sermon by Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia

Every nation, as well as each person, has its own treasure. Our great Saint Ilia the Righteous (Chavchavadze) preached that the Georgians protect three sacred treasures: faith, tongue and the native land.

Numerous holy places speak to the might and strength of our nation’s faith, which represents Georgia’s greatest single treasure.

I would like to remind you of the story of Moses the Prophet, when he delivered his people from slavery in Egypt. Before reaching Palestine, the Jews were compelled to wander through the desert for forty years. On Mount Sinai, Moses saw a blackberry bush engulfed in flames, but which did not burn. Moses, who was exceedingly surprised, heard God’s commandment: “Take off the shoes from thy feet, for the place on which thou standest is a holy ground.” Moses immediately did so. Truly, this was a place where God’s power dwelt and continues to dwell, the everlasting realm of Almighty, which is divine for all Christians. As the holy fathers put it, the unburned bush represents a pre-Savior and Redeemer of humanity.

His Eminence Archbishop Constantine (Melikidze) and I have had the privilege of putting our feet on the blessed land of the Sinai Desert and seeing this bush with our own eyes. As the monks of the Saint Katherine Monastery told us, they had attempted to replant the sprouts of the bush but they could not succeed in growing it anywhere else. The given spot is the only location throughout the whole Sinai Desert where the bush grows. People from different countries of the world come in endless waves to see the holy place and the Biblical burning bush; they all desired to pick at least a small leaf from this sacred plant and therefore, the monks were obliged to build a huge protecting wall around it.

It is true that God dwells everywhere, yet there are places where the grace of the Holy Spirit and God’s might are manifested in a particularly palpable way.

The same spirit is conveyed in the Psalms of the Prophet David, in which we read: “For the Lord has chosen Zion, He has desired it for His habitation” (132, 13).

We had these words inscribed on the iconostasis of the Sioni Cathedral.

Why the Georgians have called this holy cathedral “Sioni", and what does “Sioni” mean? This word needs some clarification. “Sioni” is of Hebrew origin and translates as “sunny.” There is a mountain in Jerusalem of the same name that is a sacred place particularly distinguished and loved by God. David the Prophet often mentions it in his psalms and King David himself, as well as his son Solomon, are buried on that very mountain. This divine place is the spot on which the Savior held the Last Supper. Right next to the hall where the Last Supper took place, stood the house of Saint John the Apostle, who after the crucifixion brought the Holy Virgin, Mother of God there. Jesus appeared twice before his disciples here; the Garden of Gethsemane is also nearby.

Therefore, it is after this blessed place that the Georgian people have named the holy cathedral where our kings and the Catholicos Manglisi, who by the Georgian Church has been canonized as a saint, also rests in the Sioni Cathedral. History tells us that the last King of Georgia, Giorgi XII, while ill, after touching the holy remains he recovered from his illness. The Holy Cross of Vine [given to St. Nina by the Virgin Mary], the greatest sacred object of the Georgian Church, bringing with it the blessings of the Virgin Mary, is placed here; the skull of the Apostle Saint Thomas is also kept in this church.

I am telling you all this because on entering the Cathedral we must feel the presence of all these relics, just like Moses the Prophet was aware of it when he bared his feet thus expressing adoration for the holy place. We must make our entrance into the Cathedral with great spiritual humility and as one of the psalms commands, on entering this sanctuary we must abandon all the worldly routines outside, while inside the Cathedral we need only to contemplate on how to establish contact with the Almighty.

You have certainly noticed an inscription above the gates of the Cathedral:

“Let me enter your house, worship your holy temple with awe and reverence to you.”

Let us remember Svetitskhoveli, the most precious and holy place for our nation and our church. Here lies the robe of our Lord Jesus Christ and the mantle of Elijah the Prophet.

Lake Paravani in Javakheti is yet another place of worship for our nation. It was at this very spot that God appeared before Saint Nino and delivered to her a book, “containing ten words, like the ones on the stone tablets before” (The Chronicle of Conversion of Kartli). The virgin saint was ordered to deliver this book to the King of Kartli in Mtskheta. Saint Nino, who is equal to the Apostles, asked the shepherds the way to Mtskheta and they instructed her to follow the route along the river, which took its source from the Paravani Lake. This route, they said, would bring her to her destination. Therefore, the road from Paravani to Mtskheta, taken by Saint Nino is considered a holy road too. I am deeply convinced that our ancestors have trodden this route with prayers more than once.

The Georgians, fully imbued with the Orthodox faith, have developed a love for sacred things from ancient times. It is for this reason that even at the cost of their lives our ancestors defended and protected these spiritual treasures, which shed their divine light and God’s grace onto the whole country. In different epochs, through God’s miraculous will, more than one sacred object has been brought to Georgia, remaining with us as a true sign of a very special honor granted to Georgia, which is a country of the oldest Christian culture and traditions.

Back in the epoch of the Old Testament, in the 6th century BC, the Jews who came to Mtskheta brought with them the holy mantle of Elijah the Prophet which had been delivered by him to Elisha the Prophet, exactly at the time of the Ascension. Right after the Crucifixion, in the 1st century AD, Elioz of Mtskheta brought the sacred robe of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem, which is also buried in Mtskheta. It is on this very spot where the holy robe is now, that one of the first Georgian Christian Cathedrals, with the name of Sioni (or Svetitskhoveli) was erected, which is titled as the Mother Church of all other churches existing in Georgia.

The icon of the Virgin Mary, brought to Georgia by the Apostle Andrew, and the arrival of Saint Nino with the Vine Cross in her hands, was followed by the introduction of numerous other holy objects into our country and thanks to God’s grace, this has proved to be an ongoing process for our country even at present.

In Saint Nino’s times, in order to baptize the Georgian people, Emperor Constantine sent John the Bishop and other clergy; together with the icon of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Cross of Life, they brought with them the footboard and the nails of our Savior. Later on, Georgia has become rich with other sacred objects too. Among the most significant are the robe of the Holy Mother of God, the finger of Christ’s forerunner John the Baptist, the knee bone of Saint George, the holy parts of Saint Barbara the Martyr, the skull of Saint Eugenia, the “Stone of Grace” brought from Jerusalem to Georgia by Saint Father David of Gareji and many other sacred objects including a number of unique crosses and holy icons. The graves of the Saints who met their glorious death in Georgia, the tombs of God’s Apostle Simon the Zealot, Saint Maximus the Confessor, holy kings and queens, the radiant sepulchers of Georgian martyrs and Assyrian Fathers established churches and monasteries with their holy treasure in which our nation and the church truly take pride.


Saint Bogolep: Child Schema-monk of Cherny Yar

Venerable Schema-monk Bogolep, Wonderworker of Cherny Yar (Feast Day - July 29)

The editors of RUSSIAN PILGRIM* have obtained a copy from an ancient manuscript of the Life of the divinely-wise child, Schema-monk Bogolep, Wonderworker of Cherny Yar (Astrakhan). In the printed catalogues of Saints there is only very brief information about him. Thus, in the work of N. Barsukov, SOURCES OF RUSSIAN HAGIOGRAPHY, it is said only that the holy child Bogolep died in the year 1632. In the Manual of Icon painting, under July 29, it is said that the child Bogolep "in appearance is young, on his head a cowl, garments of a monk" (Filimonov). In the book of Archimandrite Sergius there is a brief account of the Blessed Child in Volume 3, Appendix 3, page 60; and in Archimandrite Leonid's book, HOLY RUSSIA, it is said that Bogolep, Wonderworker of Cherny Yar, was buried in the city of Cherny Yar in the province of Astrakhan.

In the manuscript which we have obtained, the Life begins with a text from the book of Tobit: "It is good to keep the secret of a king, but it is glorious to preach the works of God" (Tobit 12:11); and further it says, "Therefore, remembering the miracles of this righteous and divinely-wise child, one must not think that God, Who is wondrous in His Saints, will fail to glorify this righteous one also, for the sake of the miraculous glorification of His Most Holy Name."

IN THE REIGN of Tsar Alexei Michaelovich there lived in Moscow a certain pious nobleman by the name of Jacob Lukin Ushakov, who had a wife, just as pious, whose name was Catherine. The Lord God blessed their virtuous married life with the birth of a son, who was called in Baptism Boris, in honor of the Passion-bearer, the Russian Prince Boris, who is commemorated on May 2/15.

Soon after the birth of Boris, Ushakov was sent from Moscow to the outpost of Astrakhan for government service by order of the Tsar. The place of Ushakov's residence was to be the city of Cherny Yar, which was on the river Volga, 256 kilometers from Astrakhan.

Having entered upon the governance of the post assigned to him, Ushakov, faithful to his character, exercised the authority given him by God and the Sovereign wisely and virtuously. His wife was completely occupied with rearing the child. Boris, while still in his swaddling clothes, revealed in himself an extraordinary inclination for ascetic labors, which were completely un-childlike, and evidently he was foreordained by God's Providence to be a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, for the glorification of the Almighty Lord.

The first extraordinary manifestation of the glorification of the Name of God in the child was the fact that on the days established by the Holy Church for fasting, Wednesday and Friday, in remembrance of the sufferings and death of the Saviour, Boris would not drink milk from his mother's breast and spent these days without food. The second extraordinary manifestation of piety in the child was expressed in his striving to hear the Divine service, so that no sooner would the bell begin to ring in the local belfry for the Divine service than Boris would begin to cry very loudly, and his childish cry would cease only when he was brought to church; and so his mother and their servants soon became accustomed to brining him to church immediately after the bell would ring. In the church a joyful feeling would be expressed in the child's face, and only at the end of the Liturgy would he accept food. Then, with every day, Boris was strengthened more and more by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to the joy of his parents and the astonishment of all who knew him and heard about him.

In one of the sorrowful years when the plague had seized with its death-dealing poison the whole extent of the Russian land, from the royal city of Moscow to the boundaries of Astrakhan, the son of the Commander Ushakov, the pious child Boris, also became ill. His right leg was covered with deep sores, and the intolerable pain gave him no rest either day or night, but, faithful to his calling, the child Boris, limping, did not cease to go to the temple of God to offer his holy child's prayers, acting according to the Psalmist: "I have chosen to be an abject in the house of my God, rather than to dwell in the tabernacles of sinners" (Psalm 83:11). By the zealous concern and car of his parents and physicians, the disease of the legs finally passed. But following upon this disease it was pleasing to God to send the young righteous one a different temptation: on his face there appeared a form of leprosy. But behold, during the time of this illness a certain monk came to the house of Jacob. Being hospitably received by the Commander, the Elder blessed all who dwelt in the house and visited the Commander's sick son. Seeing the monk, Boris became yet more inflamed with love for God. Seeing in him one sent from God, he began to entreat his parents that he be allowed immediately to be clothed in the Angelic habit. The desire of their beloved son was strange, but feeling beforehand that their dear child was not fitted for life in this present world, and knowing from the Lives of the Saints examples of children receiving the Angelic habit, they decided to give their seven-year-old son this great joy. In the cathedral church of the Resurrection of Christ, Boris was tonsured in the monastic habit and called Bogolep. Then, soon after receiving the monastic habit, the righteous child was clothed also in the Schema (great habit).

The newly-made Schema-monk was not long to rejoice his parents and astonish everyone by his labors and his example of divinely wise life. Two days after receiving the Schema, the righteous boy grew ill, and on the third day he was already called into the heavenly kingdom for the eternal glorification of the Lord, together with the Angels and all the Saints who have pleased God. The parents of the newly-reposed one experienced a double feeling: great sorrow, expressed in lamentation and weeping over their beloved son, and also an inexpressible joy at the thought that the Almighty Lord had chosen the boy from their family for the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom.

With great honor the blessed child was buried in the same city of Cherny Yar near the very church of the Resurrection of Christ where he had received the Schema, at the left side of the Altar, so that form their mansion his parents might daily see the place of their son's repose and might pray to the Lord Who glorifies His Saints, that He, being All-merciful, might not fail to glorify also this God-pleasing child, the Schema-monk. For did not the Lord Himself say, "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven?" (Matthew 19:14).

The Lord Who is wondrous in His Saints soon glorified His new chosen one. In the reign of the same Sovereign, the Tsar and Great Prince Alexei Michaelovich, the rebellion of Stenka Razin infected the whole of Russia with a great turmoil. Having laid waste a multitude of cities and villages, Razin came also as far as Cherny Yar, where he destroyed many houses and took many inhabitants captive for his own evil purposes. On leaving Cherny Yar, however, he remembered that he had not yet destroyed the city completely and that the soldiers from Moscow might find a point of support for their pursuit of him. Therefore, he sent a regiment of Tatars who had surrendered to him, so that they might destroy utterly the unfortunate city. But what were the astonishment and confusion of the Tatar regiments when, approaching the city, they saw, walking on the walls, a boy Schema-monk! Those who succeeded in going closer to the wall heard the voice of the holy Monks saying, "Depart from here, wretched ones! You cannot do anything to this city, because God has placed me to guard this city." Nevertheless, there were stubborn ones found among them who, despite everything, wished to enter the city, but an invisible power held them; finally, being struck by blindness, against their will they were forced to depart, and only a mile away from the city walls did they receive their sight back, by God's power, after having done nothing to the city because of the prayers of the righteous child Bogolep, being pursued by holy guards of Angels. They returned in disgrace to their Ataman, Razin, in the city of Astrakhan. But the outlaw did not believe the tale of the disgraced regiment and became extremely angry at them, sending another regiment to lay waste the city. This regiment met the same fat, and so the Moscow troops under the leadership of Ivan Bogdanovich Milaslavsky could enter the city and firmly establish themselves in it.

During the reign of the next Tsars, John and Peter Alexeivich, by the help and intercession of the child Bogolep, Cherny Yar was saved from the Kuban Tatars. When they came up to the city to lay it waste, there suddenly appeared before them a Child-monk on a white horse who strictly commanded them to go away. The Tatars were seized with an indescribably fear and returned without doing any harm to the city.

In 1695 a priest at the church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in the city of Astrakhan, whose name was John, was struck by an affliction of the eye. Praying to the Lord to grant him healing, he had the joy after prayer one night to see the child, Schema-monk Bogolep, who commanded him to paint his image and send it to his tomb in the city of Cherny Yar, adding, "When you will have fulfilled this command, you will be healed of your affliction." Rising from sleep, the priest, who was also an icon painter, was perplexed as to how, being almost blind, he was to paint an icon of the child Schema-monk whom he had seen. However, using all his strength so as to depict the righteous one, he took a board and made a sketch on it. It was to his astonishment when, after undertaking the work, he began to feel that with every minute he was getting better, and at the end of the work he was almost completely healed! Having received help for his affliction, the priest began, day by day, to put off the finishing of the work, and he did not send the icon to the designated place; and finally he forgot about it altogether. Thus a year passed. The priest again became afflicted, even more severely than before, with a disease of the eyes. A second time the child Bogolep appeared to him, reproaching him for his negligence, and a second time commanding him to finish painting the icon which he had begun and not completed, and to send it to his tomb in Cherny Yar. Then the priest promised with an oath to fulfill the commandment of the blessed child if only he would receive healing. Immediately after this he undertook the completion of the work and, having finished it, with the blessing of Archbishop Sabbatius he set out with the icon for Cherny Yar, where, with a procession and the ringing of bells, the icon was triumphantly greeted and placed on the tomb of the child Bogolep.

In the manuscript which we have there are set forth several miracles received from the holy child. Without giving them all, we cannot fail to make a remark about the following extraordinary manifestation of the miraculous power of God through His chosen one.

In Cherny Yar there was a city guard whose name was Gerasimus, who was deaf and dumb from birth. Once at night, when as usual he was on guard at the tower which is called Zaklikusha, he saw before him the child Bogolep surrounded by an extraordinary light. Gerasimus was frightened and signed himself with the sign of the Cross and, not moving, with piety and reverence he looked at the light-bearing righteous one who said to him, "Do not fear, Gerasimus, but bow your head"; and when he had bowed his head, the holy child touched him with his hands and became invisible. From this hour Gerasimus was completely healed and was not deaf and dumb any more, and he began loudly to glorify the Lord and His servant, the child Schema-monk Bogolep.

The illustration of the righteous child which is here presented (below) is taken from a rare copy of the above-mentioned icon which was painted by the Priest John.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
REJOICE, O BOGOLEP, divinely wise child, thou didst appear on a white horse, showing youth an example of purity, and all who revere thee, God's Schema-monk, thou dost protect from foreign invaders and unbelievers. Pray for us now that we may prosper in true faith and piety and obtain from the Lord great mercy.

* This whole article is translated from RUSSIAN PILGRIM (Russky Palomnik), 1893, no. 10. Bogolep is the Russian translation of the name Theoleptos. Reproduced from The Orthodox Word Vol. 10, No. 1 (54) January-February, 1974. 

Saint Eustathius of Mtskheta in Georgia

St. Eustathius of Mtskheta (Feast Day - July 29)

Eustathius or Eustace of Mtskheta (Evstat'i Mtskhet'eli; Georgian: ევსტათი მცხეთელი) (died c. 550) is an Orthodox Christian saint, executed for his apostasy from Zoroastrianism by the Persian military authorities in Georgia. His story is related in the anonymous 6th-century Georgian hagiographic novel The Passion of Eustathius of Mtskheta.

One of the earliest extant works of the Georgian literature, The Passion of Eustathius of Mtskheta (მარტჳლობაჲ და მოთმინებაჲ წმიდისა ევსტათი მცხეთელისაჲ) was written by an anonymous author later in the 6th century, within thirty years of Eustathius' reported death. The morphology of the work as well as some theological phrases also supports this dating, although the earliest surviving manuscript dates from c. 1000 (Georgian National Center of Manuscripts, MSS H-341). The text is also interesting for the first Georgian formulation of the Ten Commandments, an account of the life of Jesus which recalls Tatian's Diatessaron (a Gospel harmony of the 2nd century), and traces of influence of the 2nd century Apology of Aristides. The Passion was first published by Mikhail Sabinin in 1882.

Saint Eustathius, a Persian by descent, was a fire-worshipper named Gvirobandak prior to his baptism into the Christian Faith. When he arrived in Georgia and settled in Mtskheta, he was deeply drawn to the morals and traditions of the Georgian people, and he resolved to convert to Christianity.

His decision entailed a great risk, as the Persians dominated eastern Georgia, persecuting Christians and forcing all to worship fire, as they did. Catholicos Samoel himself baptized Gvirobandak and called him Eustathius. The new convert soon married a Georgian woman and was fully assimilated into Georgian society and the life of the Church.

Once the Persians who were occupying Mtskheta invited Eustathius to a celebration, but he declined, saying, “I am stamped with the seal of Christ and far removed from every darkness!”

After the celebration the fire-worshippers reported Eustathius to Ustam, the chief of the Mtskheta Fortress. The chief summoned Eustathius and threatened him, saying, “You will not remain a Christian without punishment. If you do not voluntarily turn back from this way of misfortune, severe tortures will await you!”

St. Eustathius calmly answered him, saying, “For the sake of Christ I am prepared to endure not only torture but even death itself with rejoicing!”

Since he himself did not have the authority to punish Eustathius, Ustam sent the accused to the marzban Arvand Gushnasp. Then the informers appeared again before Ustam and reported that seven more fire-worshippers had converted to Christianity. All eight of them were bound in chains and escorted to Tbilisi.

The furious marzban ordered his servants to shave the captives’ heads and beards, bore holes in their noses, hang weights round their necks, fetter their bodies in chains and cast them into prison.

Anyone who denied Christ was to be pardoned. Two of the victims, Bakhdiad and Panagushnasp, could not bear the suffering and denied Christ. The marzban freed them, while the six holy men—Gushnaki, Eustathius, Borzo, Perozak, Zarmil and Steven—remained in confinement.

Six months later Arvand Gushnasp was summoned to Persia, so Catholicos Samoel, the chieftain Grigol of Mtskheta and the nobleman Arshusha took advantage of the opportunity and requested that he release the imprisoned Persian Christians. Arvand Gushnasp yielded to the request of the Georgian dignitaries, but warned that the Christian converts would soon meet their deaths.

Meanwhile, the betrayer Bakhdiad fell ill with epilepsy and died, while Panagushnasp lived on in terrible poverty.

Three years later Vezhan Buzmir was appointed the new marzban of Kartli, and the pagan priests again reported on Sts. Eustathius’s and Steven’s conversion. St. Eustathius asked to see his family and said to them: “Farewell, for I am not destined to return home again. I will not betray Christ, and for this they will not forgive me. Imprisonment and beheading await me in Tbilisi. My remains will be brought here according to God’s will.”

Eustathius and Steven were escorted to the new marzban, and Eustathius declared before him that he would not deny Christ. The enraged marzban ordered that he be cast into prison and that his head be chopped off that night and his body thrown behind the fortress wall, to be torn to pieces by the birds. As directed, the marzban’s servants beheaded the saint and cast his body into the abyss behind the fortress wall.

But a group of faithful Christians located St. Eustathius’s body and carried it in secret to Mtskheta. Catholicos Samoel met the holy relics when they arrived, and with great honor they were buried in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral under the altar table.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr Eustathius, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Source 1 and 2

Jordan River 'Too Polluted' For Baptism Pilgrims

By Judith Sudilovsky
July 28, 2010
Huffington Post

Concerns about pollution and water quality have prompted an environmental advocacy group to call for the banning of baptisms in the lower Jordan River, where the Bible says Jesus was baptized.

"For reasons of public health as well as religious integrity, baptism should be banned from taking place in the river," said Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Israeli authorities said on Tuesday (July 27) that tests done on the water of the lower Jordan River show the popular site for baptismal ceremonies at Qasr el Yahud on the West Bank meets health ministry standards.

Bromberg, however, said the ceremonies should not take place until pollutants are removed from the water.

The site, inside an Israeli controlled military zone, faces another baptismal site on Jordan's side of the river. Both sites attract pilgrims who come to the Holy Land, and both are claimed as the authentic site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

"Our call is to halt baptisms on both sides of the river. It is exactly the same polluted water," said Bromberg.

Bromberg's group says the river suffers from "severe mismanagement," including the diversion of 98 percent of its fresh water to Israel, Syria and Jordan, as well as the discharge of untreated sewage and agricultural run-off.

The baptismal site on the Israeli side of the river was closed for one day on Monday but reopened on Tuesday, Bromberg said, while the Jordanian side was never closed; Jordan has not responded to the environmental group's claims.

"If the same thing were happening to a Jewish or Muslim holy site there would be a public outcry," Bromberg said.

Read also: Tour Operators, Israel Reject Claims That Jordan River Is Unsafe for Baptisms

How the Rich and the Poor Help Each Other

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

If you give alms to the poor, know that as much as you do good works for your fellow man so much you do for yourself, and even more for yourself. St. Anthony says: "Both life and death comes to us from our fellow man."

St. Peter of Damascus writes: "As the poor should give thanks to God and love the rich who do them good, so even more should the rich give thanks to God and to love the poor because they are saved by the Providence of God both now and in the future ages [life to come] because of their alms. For without the poor, they not only cannot gain salvation of their souls but they cannot avoid the temptations of wealth."

Alms which are given out of vanity or with disdain do not benefit anything. In earlier times, the wealthy ones brought gold to the hermits and begged them to accept it. It is a rare occurrence that the hermits gladly accepted alms and, when they did accept it, they accepted it out of compassion toward the wealthy ones giving it. The most destitute of men received alms out of compassion!

July 28, 2010

Miracles, Icons and Photos of St. Irene Chrysovalantou of Lykovrisi

The Life of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou from the Synaxarion:

Saint Irene, who was from Cappadocia, flourished in the ninth century. Because of her great beauty and virtue, she was brought to Constantinople as a prospective bride for the young Emperor Michael (842-867); however, as Saint Joannicius the Great foretold, it was God's will that she assume the monastic habit instead. She shone forth in great ascetical labours, and suffered many attacks from the demons; while yet a novice, she attained to the practice of Saint Arsenius the Great, of praying the whole night long with arms stretched out towards Heaven (see May 8). God showed forth great signs and wonders in her, and she became the Abbess of the Convent of Chrysovalantou. She was granted the gift of clairvoyance and knew the thoughts of all that came to her. She appeared in a vision to the king and rebuked him for unjustly imprisoning a nobleman who had been falsely accused. Through a sailor from Patmos to whom he had appeared, Saint John the Evangelist sent her fragrant and wondrous apples from Paradise. She reposed at the age of 103, still retaining the youthful beauty of her countenance. After her repose, marvelous healings beyond number have been wrought by her to the present day.

The following three miracles, of the hundreds regularly reported, come from the periodical published through Saint Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Lykovrisi, Athens. These are but a tiny portion of the reports that reveal the care and love and power of Saint Irene for those who call upon her with simple faith.

Miracle 1:

My name is Stamatia Zarbala and I live in Canada. In the past I was a subscriber of your magazine and I want to continue now. I have great love and respect for Saint Irene Chrysovalantou and I want to subscribe another five ladies as subscribers to your magazine thanking her for hearing my prayers.

One of these five ladies is very ill. For many years she suffered from serious illnesses and every so often she goes to the hospital for therapy. Her name is Athanasia Nidelkou. Saint Irene has helped her in the past.

Two years ago she had cancer of the knees. It had probably spread as she had cancer of the kidney, stomach, breast and her left hand. She had technical support on her heart twice a week and fluid was removed from her body. Her bones were deteriorating and her nails were falling off. There was not a place on her body where the doctors had not injected therapies which they did daily.

On Holy Thursday in the afternoon the great miracle was worked as will be explained. As usual the doctors were removing the fluid from her body. The door was closed as no one was allowed in.

Suddenly while the doctors were in the ward a priest came dressed in white. Nobody could make him out from the rays of light shining from his face which looked like sun rays. A Jewish doctor who was now a Christian for a long time asked him who he was and what he wanted as visitors were not allowed.

The priest answered in Hebrew that he was Father Christos and he had come to give Holy Communion to the patient Athanasia, He then turned to the other doctor and spoke to him in English to stop the treatment as it was enough for the day and to press well the place where he would remove the drip as he was giving Holy Communion and it was not allowed to lose blood.

He then spoke to Athanasia in Greek. He introduced himself as Father Christos and that he had come to offer Holy Communion. He had brought with him the Holy Chalice. He gave her Holy Communion and then wiped her with the Holy Cover of the Chalice which had on it an embroidered silver cross. He then gave her some Holy Bread and asked her: "What do you want now my child?"

Athanasia answered: "Father, pray to Christ to give me again the use of my legs so that I can walk."

Immediately he gave her his hand and said: "Come my child, get up and walk."

The doctors, who were afraid, said in one voice that she could not walk, as they were afraid she would fall. He assured them that she would not fall, and on leaving her hand he disappeared, leaving behind an icon of Christ. From that moment she walked as before with no difficulty. She still had the other problems though.

Glorious be God's holy Name, who through the intercessions of the Holy Virgin and His Saints takes pity on us. Athanasia is really a Christian as I have never heard her complain in spite of all her problems. What I often hear her say is: "Thank God. It's His will. There is worse around."

Many times I have asked myself how much worse there can be. God forgive me and have pity on me. I have known Athanasia for thirty-four whole years and she is always ill with something. The worst of all is that six years ago her husband died and he left her alone not having even the necessary money for a funeral. She is totally alone with no relatives and I feel very sorry for her. Please pray for her not to lose courage and for God to relieve her from her pains which are terrible. Her faith is great and strong until now. I hope it will remain like this until the end with God not allowing it to weaken and to reward her in heaven, which she deserves.

To thank God for working this miracle for Athanasia I have enrolled five subscribers to your magazine, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, amongst which is Athanasia, so that she can have courage and strength from the miracle of the Miraculous Saint Irene Chrysovalantou.

I will always thank Almighty God for the miracles which He works for us and generously takes pity on us.

Your humble servant,

Stamatia Zarbala
Toronto, Canada

Miracle Two:

I thank you, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, for your kindness towards us. Our little girl had burned herself to a great degree and the doctors had not given us much encouragement, telling us that her recovery would take long.

With your help and your Holy Oil from your Holy Lambada which I smeared on her day and night, our little girl after two months was completely well.

The doctors could not believe it. Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, we thank you and ask that you will always be near us and protect us.

Thousands of thanks,

The parents George and Theodora Skanavi
Neohorion, Artas

Miracle Three:

With great faith I thank you from deep in my heart, Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, for the miracle which you also worked for us.

For eighteen months I had a problem with my kidney. I went from doctor to doctor and there was no therapy until they decided to remove the kidney. When my mother heard this, she cried and prayed to Saint Irene Chrysovalantou to cure me.

The next day I came to your Monastery with my brother-in-law at Lykovrisi and I prayed with all my heart. That night my mother dreamed of you and you told her not to worry as you would help me get better. After two days I was well and I did not feel any pain in my kidneys. After three months I dreamed that you gave me two children and you asked me to name one of the children after you. That is what happened.

With great faith and thousands of thanks I prayed before your miraculous icon thanking you for your double miracle. You first gave me my health and secondly my two children, bringing happiness to my home. I will pray to you and tell of your miracles forever.

Maria Vasileiadou
Yannitsa, Pellis

Advice On Naming Your Child After Saint Irene Chrysovalantou

As in the last miracle above, it is customary that when Saint Irene helps a childless couple bear a child through her miraculous intervention, to name the child after Saint Irene. However, because the primary feast day for those named Irene falls on May 5th when Saint Irene the Great Martyr is celebrated, it is necessary to distinguish between the two. For this reason, it is customary to name boys Chrysovalantis and to name girls Chrysovalantou. The double name of Irene Chrysovalantou should not be given, since this alone belongs to the Saint. It is for this reason in the Orthodox Church that we do not name our children, for example, as John the Forerunner, John Chrysostom, Mary Magdalene, John the Theologian, John of Damascus, and many others. Rather, according to custom, out of reverence we only give the second name if the primary name is occupied by another Saint. This is why for those who want as their patron John Chrysostom, the name of Chrysostomos is given; for those who want Mary Magdalene, the name Magdalene is given; for John the Theologian, the name Theologos is given, etc. I believe this will help parents name their children accurately according to Orthodox custom when they want to offer their children to particular Saints.

Read also:

The Miraculous Icon of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou in Lykovrisi, Attica

A Tour of St. Irene Chrysovalantou Monastery in Lykovrisi

Saint Irene Chrysovalantou's Power Over Demons

The Hand of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria, NY

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Not a temporal kingdom on earth didst thou obtain, but Christ, thy most comely Bridegroom, vouchsafed thee heavenly crowns, and thou reignest as a queen with Him eternally; for thou didst dedicate thyself unto Him with all thy soul, O Irene, our righteous Mother, thou boast of Chrysovalantou, and mighty help of all the Orthodox.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Leaving all the world behind with its impermanent glory, thou wast wedded unto Christ, the King immortal and holy, bringing Him as precious dowry thy maiden beauty and thy trophies won through abstinence over demons. O Irene, our righteous Mother, entreat thy Bridegroom to show His mercy to us.

The Monastery in 1961

The Katholikon and Courtyard

The Crucifixion Scene on Golgotha

Cells and Hospitality Rooms

Katholikon of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou

The miraculous icon of Saint Irene with its many tokens showing its miraculous power.

The icon without the jewelery.

2007 procession of the feast day of Saint Irene.

St. John the Theologian giving the miraculous apples to the sailor.

Saint Irene distributing the apple slices to her nuns.

Sketch of Saint Irene from 1957 by Metropolitan Gabriel, co-founder of the Monastery.

Sketch of Saint John the Theologian from 1957 by Metropolitan Gabriel, co-founder of the Monastery.

Entrance of the Katholikon

Holy Altar of the Katholikon

Iconostasis of the Katholikon

Abbess Meletia (+1977), founder of the first Monastery dedicated to Saint Irene Chrysovalantou

Metropolitan Gabriel of the Cyclades Islands (+1998), co-founder of the Monastery

Abbess Paisia (+1998), second abbess of the Monastery