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November 28, 2011

Eldress Sophia, the Ascetic of Kleisoura, Canonized A Saint

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate approved on October 4th the canonization of Eldress Sophia, the holy ascetic of Panagia Kleisoura Monastery which is dedicated to the Nativity of the Theotokos. The official Act of Canonization by the Ecumenical Patriarchate is still awaited.

In honor of this wonderful news, the Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Kleisoura on Sunday 27 November 2011 celebrated by processing the holy relics and sacred icon of Saint Sophia during the Orthros Service and before the Divine Liturgy, where thousands were in attendance who came to venerate the newly-glorified Saint.

Her feast day will be on May 6th annually, the day of her repose in 1974.

Read more about Saint Sophia of Kleisoura at the following link I translated:

Eldress Sophia, the Ascetic of the Panagia

More will be translated in the coming days.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O blessed mother Sophia, you became wise, and the adornment of the Mother of God, and you lived your life in the Monastery ascetically, from which have spread the praise of your struggles, striking the ranks of the demons. And as you stand as an intercessor before Christ, do not neglect those who honor you with fervor.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
You became a treasury of Divine wisdom and all-consuming fear [of God], O mother Sophia; through your motherly intercessions, O blessed one, you offer to all the richness of grace.

Being made spiritually wise, O Mother, you passed the whole of your life in utter patience, and now you are made to dwell in the beauty of your Bridegroom, in His bridal chamber.


Below are included photos from the celebration on November 27th.

November 25, 2011

Better To Be A Faithful Christian Than A Social Butterfly

“It is essential in these days to be able to protect ourselves from the influence of those with whom we come in contact. Otherwise we risk losing both faith and prayer. Let the whole world dismiss us as unworthy of attention, trust or respect – it will not matter provided that the Lord accepts us. And vice versa: it will profit us nothing if the whole world thinks well of us and sings our praises, if the Lord declines to abide with us.” - Elder Sophrony Sakharov of Essex


"A time is coming when people will go mad and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying 'You are mad, you are not like us.'" - St. Anthony the Great


"He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." - Proverbs


‎"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." — Friedrich Nietzsche

November 24, 2011

Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving

By Rick Shenkman

MYTH # 1
The Pilgrims Held the First Thanksgiving

To see what the first Thanksgiving was like you have to go to: Texas. Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America actually took place in little San Elizario, a community near El Paso, in 1598 -- twenty-three years before the Pilgrims' festival. For several years they have staged a reenactment of the event that culminated in the Thanksgiving celebration: the arrival of Spanish explorer Juan de Onate on the banks of the Rio Grande. De Onate is said to have held a big Thanksgiving festival after leading hundreds of settlers on a grueling 350-mile long trek across the Mexican desert.

Then again, you may want to go to Virginia.. At the Berkeley Plantation on the James River they claim the first Thanksgiving in America was held there on December 4th, 1619....two years before the Pilgrims' festival....and every year since 1958 they have reenacted the event. In their view it's not the Mayflower we should remember, it's the Margaret, the little ship which brought 38 English settlers to the plantation in 1619. The story is that the settlers had been ordered by the London company that sponsored them to commemorate the ship's arrival with an annual day of Thanksgiving. Hardly anybody outside Virginia has ever heard of this Thanksgiving, but in 1963 President Kennedy officially recognized the plantation's claim.

MYTH # 2
Thanksgiving Was About Family

If by Thanksgiving, you have in mind the Pilgrim festival, forget about it being a family holiday. Put away your Norman Rockwell paintings. Turn off Bing Crosby. Thanksgiving was a multicultural community event. If it had been about family, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them.

MYTH # 3
Thanksgiving Was About Religion

No it wasn't. Paraphrasing the answer provided above, if Thanksgiving had been about religion, the Pilgrims never would have invited the Indians to join them. Besides, the Pilgrims would never have tolerated festivities at a true religious event. Indeed, what we think of as Thanksgiving was really a harvest festival. Actual"Thanksgivings" were religious affairs; everybody spent the day praying. Incidentally, these Pilgrim Thanksgivings occurred at different times of the year, not just in November.

MYTH # 4
The Pilgrims Ate Turkey

What did the Pilgrims eat at their Thanksgiving festival? They didn't have corn on the cob, apples, pears, potatoes or even cranberries. No one knows if they had turkey, although they were used to eating turkey. The only food we know they had for sure was deer. 11(And they didn't eat with a fork; they didn't have forks back then.)

So how did we get the idea that you have turkey and cranberry and such on Thanksgiving? It was because the Victorians prepared Thanksgiving that way. And they're the ones who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, beginning in 1863, when Abe Lincoln issued his presidential Thanksgiving proclamations...two of them: one to celebrate Thanksgiving in August, a second one in November. Before Lincoln Americans outside New England did not usually celebrate the holiday. (The Pilgrims, incidentally, didn't become part of the holiday until late in the nineteenth century. Until then, Thanksgiving was simply a day of thanks, not a day to remember the Pilgrims.)

MYTH # 5
The Pilgrims Landed on Plymouth Rock

According to historian George Willison, who devoted his life to the subject, the story about the rock is all malarkey, a public relations stunt pulled off by townsfolk to attract attention. What Willison found out is that the Plymouth Rock legend rests entirely on the dubious testimony of Thomas Faunce, a ninety-five year old man, who told the story more than a century after the Mayflower landed. Unfortunately, not too many people ever heard how we came by the story of Plymouth Rock. Willison's book came out at the end of World War II and Americans had more on their minds than Pilgrims then. So we've all just gone merrily along repeating the same old story as if it's true when it's not. And anyway, the Pilgrims didn't land in Plymouth first. They first made landfall at Provincetown. Of course, the people of Plymouth stick by hoary tradition. Tour guides insist that Plymouth Rock is THE rock.

MYTH # 6
Pilgrims Lived in Log Cabins

No Pilgrim ever lived in a log cabin. The log cabin did not appear in America until late in the seventeenth century, when it was introduced by Germans and Swedes. The very term"log cabin" cannot be found in print until the 1770s. Log cabins were virtually unknown in England at the time the Pilgrims arrived in America. So what kind of dwellings did the Pilgrims inhabit? As you can see if you visit Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims lived in wood clapboard houses made from sawed lumber.

MYTH # 7
Pilgrims Dressed in Black

Not only did they not dress in black, they did not wear those funny buckles, weird shoes, or black steeple hats. So how did we get the idea of the buckles? Plimoth Plantation historian James W. Baker explains that in the nineteenth century, when the popular image of the Pilgrims was formed, buckles served as a kind of emblem of quaintness. That's the reason illustrators gave Santa buckles. Even the blunderbuss, with which Pilgrims are identified, was a symbol of quaintness. The blunderbuss was mainly used to control crowds. It wasn't a hunting rifle. But it looks out of date and fits the Pilgrim stereotype.

MYTH # 8
Pilgrims, Puritans -- Same Thing

Though even presidents get this wrong -- Ronald Reagan once referred to Puritan John Winthrop as a Pilgrim -- Pilgrims and Puritans were two different groups. The Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower and lived in Plymouth. The Puritans, arriving a decade later, settled in Boston. The Pilgrims welcomed heterogeneousness. Some (so-called"strangers") came to America in search of riches, others (so-called"saints") came for religious reasons. The Puritans, in contrast, came over to America strictly in search of religious freedom. Or, to be technically correct, they came over in order to be able to practice their religion freely. They did not welcome dissent. That we confuse Pilgrims and Puritans would have horrified both. Puritans considered the Pilgrims incurable utopians. While both shared the belief that the Church of England had become corrupt, only the Pilgrims believed it was beyond redemption. They therefore chose the path of Separatism. Puritans held out the hope the church would reform.

MYTH # 9
Puritans Hated Sex

Actually, they welcomed sex as a God-given responsibility. When one member of the First Church of Boston refused to have conjugal relations with his wife two years running, he was expelled. Cotton Mather, the celebrated Puritan minister, condemned a married couple who had abstained from sex in order to achieve a higher spirituality. They were the victims, he wrote, of a"blind zeal."

MYTH # 10
Puritans Hated Fun

H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy!" Actually, the Puritans welcomed laughter and dressed in bright colors (or, to be precise, the middle and upper classes dressed in bright colors; members of the lower classes were not permitted to indulge themselves -- they dressed in dark clothes). As Carl Degler long ago observed,"The Sabbatarian, antiliquor, and antisex attitudes usually attributed to the Puritans are a nineteenth-century addition to the much more moderate and wholesome view of life's evils held by the early settlers of New England."


Read also: Orthodox Christians and Thanksgiving

November 23, 2011

Facts Prove The Existence Of St. Nicholas Of Myra

In The Footsteps Of St. Nicholas by Andreas George, Seaburn, 164 pp., $16.95.

Catherine Tsounis
The Queens Gazette

The detailed investigation of the existence of St. Nicholas of Myra by international scientist Andreas George is the final word on the subject. His scientific examination of sources and historical sites disproves the 1970’s action of the Vatican, demoting St. Nicholas as a major saint or characterization as a mythological figure. Mr. George’s says his goal is to “present reasonably, accurate historical information about his life. During my search for St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, who lived in the 3rd-4th centuries A.D., I tried to establish credibility in the face of conflicting information, distortion and exaggeration.”

The author visited places that influenced St. Nicholas’ character. His search through Greek documents in Byzantine Bari, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor and Cyprus reflects his scientific background for accuracy. He describes the evolution of St. Nicholas of Myra as Santa Claus, in its evolution in America, primarily in New York. His miracles are explained in detail. Relics of St. Nicholas were in several churches in New York. The customs, traditions, social and religious life of St. Nicholas Shrine Church in Flushing, New York are described in detail. I personally was touched to see some of the famous political figures of Queens such as Mark Weprin and Sheldon Leffler mentioned.

The life of St. Nicholas in Myra, modern Demre in Asia Minor, Turkey is not widely known. Mr. George describes his life in detail referring to many sources. His major source is Michael the Archimandrite of 842 A.D., Symeon the Translator, written five centuries after St. Nicholas’s death in 335 A.D. and others. The problem with his research, he admits is that it is not based on primary sources. There are no primary sources describing his personal life, only secondary sources centuries after St. Nicholas’ death. Alexander the Great’s life is based on the same secondary sources.

St. Nicholas’ ancestors were Greeks, descendants of Alexander the Great’s colonists or of Cretans. The author believes St. Nicholas’ ancestors were most likely from Crete, because of similar customs and traditions with the Greek island. Modern Greek sources on the Greek Cities of Asia Minor show that the Greek communities along the Asia Minor coast had up to 50 percent Cretans until the 1922 Catastrophe. Their dialect and customs were also similar to the Cretan culture. Mr. George’s research added information that St. Nicholas spent time in Cyprus through his visits to monasteries and study of Greek sources. His translations into English of these facts are invaluable to a serious reader.

The author explains that the lack of written information on St. Nicholas comes from the following historical events: suppression of information by Julius the Apostate; destruction of church documents by the 9th century Iconoclastic movement, the Crusaders, Moslems, Arab pirates and the Protestant Reformation. The 11th and 12th chapters provide facts that will open the reader’s eyes on the real St. Nicholas of Myra. The author’s pilgrimage to Demre in Turkey (Ancient Myra) shows the rediscovery of the Christian homeland.

I personally was fascinated by his portrayal of Bari, Italy as a Byzantine stronghold. In Modern Greek history books, the fall of Byzantine Bari to the Normans was a major catastrophe listed on every timeline. The relics of St. Nicholas were sent to Bari in the 11th century to save them from the Moslem invaders of Myra, Asia Minor. The history and the building of the Basilica of St. Nicholas of Bari give one a total view of this center of Byzantium in the west. The glory of Bari, unknown to many makes chapter 6 and 7 of major interest to all whose ancestors were from this major trade center. What did St. Nicholas look like? Unknown to many, the author describes the reconstruction of the saint’s bones in the 1950’s by Anatomy Professor L. Martino of the University of Bari and two doctors. Their scientific investigation showed the bones were of a man 1.67 meters (about 5 feet and six inches) tall with a broad forehead and large sunken eyes. This description is similar to the facial characteristics in Byzantine icons. Professor Martino explained the bones belonged to a Mediterranean, more likely a Greek from Asia Minor. Mr. Andreas George is a scholar, having written scientific papers on radioactivity and radiation exposure. His background as a scientific investigator and author makes this one of the finest books written on St. Nicholas of Myra. The book is available at Seaburn, 3318 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11106, (718) 784-2224,

7 Stolen Icons Returned In Eordaia After 31 Years

Last Friday, November 18th, residents in Eordaia (Greek: Εορδαία), a municipality of Kozani, celebrated the return of seven icons which were stolen 31 years ago in 1982 from the Folklore Museum of the Community.

These icons were brought by exiles from Pontus in 1922 and had adorned the iconostasis of the Church of Saint George in Argiroupoleos of Pontus.

The trial of the thieves took place in 1987 after being arrested in Germany, but the icons had been lost. But thanks to the effort of various presidents and the mayor, they were found in a warehouse of Larissa. Greek police in cooperation with Interpol in Germany and other countries in Europe were in search for years.

They are now in the Tower of Saint Minas which was built in honor of Patriarch Bartholomew's visit in 2005. The oldest icon dates to 1818 and the newest to 1908.

Jewish Public Figures Apologize To Jerusalem Patriarch For Spitting Incidents

Oz Rosenberg
November 23, 2011

Last Friday, a group of Jewish public figures and intellectuals paid a visit to the leadership of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem with one simple goal in mind, asking for forgiveness. The group took the step following a report in Haaretz about two weeks ago describing the practice of some ultra-Orthodox Jewish young people of spitting when passing church clergy on the street.

One member of the delegation, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who is general secretary of Rabbis for Human Rights, noted that on Yom Kippur, Jews traditionally atone for transgressions between themselves and God, but wrongs committed between people cannot be atoned for, even by God, until the wrongdoer asks forgiveness. Ascherman added that in contacts with Christian and Muslim clergy, his group of rabbis condemns the acts of spitting.

The delegation met in the Old City of Jerusalem with the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, Theophilos III, who spoke of the spitting phenomenon that he and his church colleagues have been confronting, but said in Christianity, it was considered a good deed to show restraint under such circumstances. In that spirit, he added, he also directed his colleagues to exercise restraint. He said the spitting was a reflection of ignorance on the part of people who don't really understand the significance of religion and faith.

Among the members of the Jewish delegation were Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yosef ("Pepe" ) Alalu of the Meretz faction and Meretz city council members Laura Wharton and Meir Margalit. "Since we love this city, we felt that anything that happens here affects us," Margalit said. "We came to apologize despite the fact that we had no part in the spitting, because we believe in mutual responsibility."

Margalit noted that almost all of the members of the delegation who visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarch were born abroad. "We fervently believe that what the ultra-Orthodox Jews are doing to Christians here, Christians do to Jews in the Diaspora. We know what they are feeling and we have vowed that in the Jewish state such things will not reoccur."

Next week, a similar delegation is due to visit with representatives of the Armenian Orthodox Church, whose clergy have also experienced the spitting phenomenon.

Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral In Sofia

November 23, 2011

The world-famous St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which is the landmark not only of Sofia but of all of Bulgaria, is marking Wednesday the day of its patron – the Pious Prince St. Alexander Nevsky.

The temple is the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedral on the Balkan peninsula. It holds, according to estimates, anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people and was built on the idea of Petko Karavelov.

The construction of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral started in February 1882, when the foundation stone was laid, but most of it was built between 1904 and 1912. Saint Alexander Nevsky was a Russian prince – knyaz, a national hero and Saint. The cathedral was created in honor to the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule.

In July 1240, the Knyaz, heading a small group of soldiers, defeated on the banks of Neva River the Swedish army advancing towards Moscow. The legend says that after the epic battle he was given the name Nevsky.

Built in Neo-Byzantine style, since 1951 the cathedral serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria. It is also one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, as well as one of Bulgaria's and Sofia's symbols and primary tourist attractions.

The mural, the mosaics, and the icons are the work of some of the most famous Bulgarian and Russian artists at the time. The cathedral has 12 bells, including the tallest bell on the Balkans – 53 meters.

Inside the cathedral, to the left of the altar, is a case displaying relics of Alexander Nevsky, given by the Russian Orthodox Church in March 2010.

Just days ago, the Bulgarian National TV, BNT, reported that the temple has no owner to take care of it.

The top Bulgarian landmark is without a title deed, and at the same time is in a desperate need of repairs, the BNT investigation has indicated. According to the report, the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is not owned by the Bulgarian state, nor is it owned by the Sofia Municipality, or the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Thousands Wait Hours To Venerate Holy Belt of the Virgin Mary in Moscow

November 23, 2011
Associated Press

Braving freezing cold temperatures and ice-covered sidewalks, tens of thousands of Russians stood in line Wednesday to see and kiss a newly arrived relic of the Virgin Mary in Russia’s largest Orthodox cathedral.

The Virgin Mary’s Cincture, a belt that Christians believe was worn by Jesus’ mother, was brought to Russia last month from Mount Athos, a monastic community in Greece.

Kissing the relic, which is encased in an ornamental box, is believed to help barren women conceive and heal other ailments.

The line of people, mostly women, waiting to enter the golden-domed Christ the Savior Cathedral stretched for 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) along the Moscow River despite temperatures that dropped to below minus 5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit).

Police officers announced through bullhorns that it will take worshippers 24 hours to get to the relic as the line swelled to tens of thousands.

Hundreds of buses brought pilgrims from other Russian cities. Some 150 buses were parked along the embankment with their engines running so the faithful could get warm as they waited. The city provided free tea and food and put up portable toilets.

Some 1,500 police officers were deployed to prevent people from cutting in line.

Traffic in central Moscow has been snarled since the relic first went on display Saturday. By Wednesday afternoon, as many as 300,000 people had seen the relic, which will remain on display through Sunday.

The St. Andrew’s Foundation, which brought the relic to Russia, said it was viewed by 2 million people in 14 other cities before arriving in Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox Church withered under eight decades of Soviet rule, but has enjoyed a resurgence over the past two decades. Russians adopted Christianity in 989 from Byzantine Greeks, and the Russian Orthodox Church has maintained close ties with Greek clergy and monasteries.

Rev. George Papadeas Reposes At 93

Mark Harper
November 22, 2011
The Daytona Beach News Journal

The Rev. George Papadeas, the first Greek Orthodox man to become ordained in the United States, died Friday at Halifax Health Medical Center, Port Orange, at age 93.

Papadeas, who served his church in a varied and colorful career lasting nearly 70 years, was pastor of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Daytona Beach from 1975 to 1983. From his home in South Daytona in "retirement," he established two more Greek Orthodox churches, in the Inverness and Ocala areas.

He was born on June 5, 1918, in Altoona, Pa.

The year 1942 was momentous for Papadeas. He married Bess Matthews and graduated from the Greek Orthodox Seminary in Pomfret Center, Conn. He was ordained a priest in 1945.

Because of his background, he helped bridge the gap between the Greece-based church and its American-born attendees, many of whom were children who didn't learn the Greek language, said his son Tim, a family spokesman.

"He was like a Steve Jobs of religion," Tim Papadeas said Monday. "What Steve Jobs did for Apple, (Papadeas) did for our Greek Orthodox church."

When he was pastor of St. Paul's Parish in Hempstead, N.Y., Papadeas presided over the three Weeping Icons in the early 1960s. He later wrote a book about the experience, which brought much attention and thousands of people through the church to see the Weeping Madonna.

In the 1960s, he translated the Beautiful Orthodox Holy Week Services into English, as well as later completing other important translations. He helped establish a summer camp for American-born Greek Orthodox children in Greece, which in 1970 became the Ionian Village Camp, helping hundreds of people learn about their roots and their faith.

It was at St. Demetrios where he and parishioner Irene Koutouzis started the church's popular Greek Festival, held every November.

In 2004, Bess, his wife of 62 years, died. Together, the Papadeases had five children, nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Papadeas was a man who served his church in eight decades but felt he was the one who was blessed.

"If we believe in divine grace," he said in a 2010 interview, "God comes to people with open hearts."

His family is planning his services, expected to be held Nov. 29.

On the Operations of the Nous According to St. Basil the Great

St. Basil writes to St. Amphilochius of Iconium (Letter CCXXXIII) about the operations of the nous, which many falsely translate here as "mind" or as the reasoning faculty. Rather, the nous is a higher faculty within man than the mind, and is best described as the center, heart or spirit of the person referred to by Jesus in Matt. 5:8 and Matt. 15:19.

1. I know that I have myself heard of this, and I am aware of the constitution of mankind. What shall I say? The nous is a wonderful thing, and therein we possess that which is after the image of the Creator. And the operation of the nous is wonderful; in that, in its perpetual motion, it frequently forms imaginations about things non-existent as though they were existent, and is frequently carried straight to the truth. But there are in it two faculties; in accordance with the view of us who believe in God, the one evil, that of the demons which draws us on to their own apostasy; and the divine and the good, which brings us to the likeness of God. When, therefore, the nous remains alone and unaided, it contemplates small things, commensurate with itself. When it yields to those who deceive it, it nullifies its proper judgment, and is concerned with monstrous fancies. Then it considers wood to be no longer wood, but a god; then it looks on gold no longer as money, but as an object of worship. If on the other hand it assents to its diviner part, and accepts the boons of the Spirit, then, so far as its nature admits, it becomes perceptive of the divine. There are, as it were, three conditions of life, and three operations of the nous. Our ways may be wicked, and the movements of our nous wicked; such as adulteries, thefts, idolatries, slanders, strife, passion, sedition, vainglory, and all that the apostle Paul enumerates among the works of the flesh. Or the soul's operation is, as it were, in a mean, and has nothing about it either damnable or laudable, as the perception of such mechanical crafts as we commonly speak of as indifferent, and, of their own character, inclining neither towards virtue nor towards vice. For what vice is there in the craft of the helmsman or the physician? Neither are these operations in themselves virtues, but they incline in one direction or the other in accordance with the will of those who use them. But the nous which is impregnated with the Godhead of the Spirit is at once capable of viewing great objects; it beholds the divine beauty, though only so far as grace imparts and its nature receives.

2. Let them dismiss, therefore, these questions of dialectics and examine the truth, not with mischievous exactness but with reverence. The judgment of our nous is given us for the understanding of the truth. Now our God is the very truth. So the primary function of our nous is to know one God, but to know Him so far as the infinitely great can be known by the very small. When our eyes are first brought to the perception of visible objects, all visible objects are not at once brought into sight. The hemisphere of heaven is not beheld with one glance, but we are surrounded by a certain appearance, though in reality many things, not to say all things, in it are unperceived; — the nature of the stars, their greatness, their distances, their movements, their conjunctions, their intervals, their other conditions, the actual essence of the firmament, the distance of depth from the concave circumference to the convex surface. Nevertheless, no one would allege the heaven to be invisible because of what is unknown; it would be said to be visible on account of our limited perception of it. It is just the same in the case of God. If the nous has been injured by devils it will be guilty of idolatry, or will be perverted to some other form of impiety. But if it has yielded to the aid of the Spirit, it will have understanding of the truth, and will know God. But it will know Him, as the Apostle says, in part; and in the life to come more perfectly. For "when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." The judgment of the nous is, therefore, good and given us for a good end — the perception of God; but it operates only so far as it can.

November 21, 2011

The Monastery of Panagia of Machairas in Cyprus

The Monastery of the Panagia of Machairas is built on the Troodos mountains beneath the foot of Machairas Hill where Pedaios River runs. This river is the most important on the island of Cyprus. Machairas Monastery is in second position in terms of prestige in Cyprus, after the Monastery of Kykkos.

Tradition says that the icon of the Panagia of Machairas is one of the seventy icons painted by the evangelist Luke. The icon of Panagia of Machairas is miraculous, and is known in Cyprus for producing many miracles. The Panagia of Machairas is especially known for healing wounds.

According to local tradition, the Monastery was visited in 1337 by Alix d'Ibelin, wife of the Lusignan King Henry IV in 1337. She did not show any respect towards the monks nor the Orthodox Faith and ignored their pleas not to enter the Monastery which was avaton and therefore inaccessible to women. Once she entered the Holy Sanctuary, she was hit by the Panagia of Machairas and remained mute for three years.

Tradition links the founding of the Monastery with Iconoclasm. According to an oral tradition during the time of Iconoclasm (716-843 AD), a hermit brought the icon of the Panagia Agiosoritissa, later Machairiotissa, to Cyprus from Constantinople, and settled in a cave at the site where the Monastery is now. After the death of the ascetic, the icon was forgotten and bushes covered the entrance of the cave until the 12th century, when the Virgin Mary miraculously gave a knife to the ascetic saints Neophytos and Ignatios, to cut the bush in order to find the icon (hence the name Machairas, which is translated as "of the knife"). After Saint Neophytos reposed, another monk came to live with Ignatios, an old monk by the name of Prokopios. When the brotherhood became too crowded, these two fathers decided to build a monastery, which would operate under the coenobitic model followed by the great monastic centers of the period. The two monks, were subsidized by the then emperor of Constantinople, Manuel Komnenos (1143-1180) and initially they built a small chapel and a few cells. The Monasteries of Machairas, Kykkos, and Saint Neophytos had acquired special privileges from the time of the Roman Emperors. For this reason, they are Imperial and Stavropegial Monasteries, which means that they have a Cross lying under their foundation stone, and that makes them autonomous from the Archbishopric of Cyprus.

The Monastery of the the Panagia of Machairas played an important role in the struggles of the Greek Nation. This Monastery is where important figures such as the Archbishop and Ethnomartyr Kyprianos and the revolutionary monk Ioannikios came from, while during the years of the armed struggle between 1955-59 against the British, the Monastery became a refuge for the hero Gregorios Afxentiou, and there is a small museum with the hero's belongings there.

In 1530, a large fire completely destroyed the Monastery, and only the icon was saved. During British rule, in 1892, the Monastery was burned again completely, but again, the icon of Panagia Machairiotissa survived. The icons of the iconostasis and the most important historical relics that were in the library of the Monastery were also saved. In 1905, the Monastery was rebuilt again.

Today the Monastery has 25 extremely active and modest monks. They mainly live from agriculture and the donations from Christians. It celebrates on the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple on November 21st.

Read also: Neophytos, Ignatios, Prokopios and Neilos, Founders of Machairas Monastery

November 20, 2011

Native Athonite Monk To Establish Monastery In New England

Theodore Kalmoukos
November 16, 2011

Vasilis Bakos, born in a suburb of Boston by Winthrop by a pious family, was a diligent student at the Theological School of the Holy Cross in the 1980's, of a courteous nature and devoted to the Orthodox Faith. He followed and assisted the then Bishop Anthimos Drakonaki of Boston, who is now assistant Bishop with the title of Olympus.

When Vasilis finished the School in 1985 he fell off the radar for some time, until it became known that he had gone to Mount Athos and had become a monk at the Monastery of Simonopetra.

Today he is a monk, has been renamed Iakovos, is the dentist of the Monastery of Simonopetra and the rest of Mount Athos, and these days, after 26 years, is found in Boston invited by Metropolitan Methodios with the permission of the abbot, Fr. Elisha. He is exploring the possibilities of establishing a Monastery in New England.

To the questions of the "National Herald" as to when, how and why from the beautiful and scholarly Boston he became a monk on Mount Athos, he said that "immediately after graduating from the Theological School in June 1985 I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, then I spent three months in Greece and went to the Monastery of Simonopetra to the vigil for the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos. I stayed five days and I decided to become a monk there."

When asked if he decided this suddenly, he replied: "No, I always desired to become a monk especially after I read the life of St. Anthony the Great, when I was at the Theological School." He added, "and I was in a search where I can find this monastic life, this relationship with God where I wanted to give more of myself."

Regarding Dentistry, Fr. Iakovos said that "this was a necessity that existed in the Monastery and because I had some practical knowledge from my childhood. When I became a Novice in the Monastery I went to a dentist with whom we started talking, so eventually I said 'it's a shame because the fathers need to leave the Mountain for simple procedures, for a cleaning, a filling.' And so we started in 1993, and there was professor at the University who came to the Monastery. I was an assistant for two years after which he sat in his chair and left me to do work on his own teeth, so slowly slowly I started, actually I was self-taught since I was now a monk, and it would not be appropriate to go to University."

For being here today, Father Iakovos said, "His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston for a long time wanted to establish a monastery in the Metropolis of Boston to equate with Simonopetra. In the summer he visited the Monastery, he asked the Elder for me to come here to investigate what can be done."

On whether it will be a male or female monastery, Fr. Iakovos replied: "At the moment it is male, but if there is demand from females we will be able to think for a female as well."

Regarding whether it is a Metochion (dependency) of the Monastery of Simonopetra on Mount Athos, he said, "It is too early to discuss this, for now we live according to the desire of His Eminence and respond positively to help him in this way; it is still too early."

When asked where the Monastery would be established, he said: "As you know, we have a large area of ​​land of 200 hectares at the Camp and it can be done in a more remote place to avoid hindering the life of the Monastery by the Camp, nor the Monastery to prevent the life of the Camp."

About a Roman Catholic Monastery sold near Worcester, he said that "I went and saw it and I think that it is feasible to do there."

Father Iakovos sees as the most likely place the land in Camp Contoocook of New Hampshire because, he said, "there is space," while to the question of how to populate the staffing of the Monastery he said that "this is God's work" and added "because God needs to speak in the hearts of men."

To the question of how they will maintain the Monastery financially from the Metropolis, by literally the people, Father Iakovos said: "Everything is a synergy by which the people will certainly give, and yet God will put his hand and there will be a blessing of the Lord."

Translated by John Sanidopoulos

A Miracle of the True Cross (video)

The video above shows a monk from Mount Athos displaying what he calls a miracle of the True Cross. He places the splinter of the Holy Wood in a glass of water, which naturally floats, and following some prayers he places it in the water again and it sinks to the bottom.

He also displays a fragrant relic of St. Haralambos towards the end for veneration.

60% of Serbs Vote For the Canonization of Patriarch Pavle

Amilios Polygenis
November 17, 2011

A poll for the canonization of the late Patriarch Pavle of Serbia was conducted by the Serbian News Agency on the occasion of two years since his repose.

According to the poll which was submitted to the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Church, 60% of Serbs said he should be declared a saint, 20% said no, and 20% said indifferent.

The Serbian Church stated that there should be no rush, even though according to the canons of the Serbian Church there is no time limit to begin the process of canonization.

Bishop Lawrence of Sabac in his response to the survey, responded saying: "Patriarch Pavle was one of the brightest personalities of contemporary times."

"None of us contemporaries can compete with his spirituality. We believe that some day the Church will rank him among the saints. Patriarch Pavle still lives in our hearts as a living member of the Church", added Bishop Lawrence.

It should be indicated that the late Patriarch of Serbia was Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church for 19 years.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos

Read also: Serbian Church Mulls Making Patriarch Pavle A Saint

The Christian Calling - Lowliness, Meekness and Longsuffering

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"… that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering" (Ephesians 4:1-2).

Be not proud, be not angry, be not faint-hearted; for these are unworthy of a Christian calling. This calling is so elevated and wonderful that it is difficult for a man to safeguard himself from pride; yet it is difficult to keep oneself above faint-heartedness when dangers and losses occur.

Against these three unhealthy states, the Apostle emphasizes three healthy states: against pride, lowliness; against anger, meekness; against faint-heartedness, longsuffering. It must be said that these three virtues - lowliness, meekness and longsuffering - do not express in full measure the loftiness of the Christian calling. But then, nothing in this world can fully express the height of the Christian calling. The preciousness and richness of this calling cannot be seen here on earth: it is like a closed chest that a man carries through this world, but only opens it and avails himself of its riches in the other world. Only someone who could raise himself to the highest heavens and see Christ the Lord in glory with the angels and the saints could assess the loftiness of the Christian calling; for there is the victorious assembly of all God's chosen ones from earth who were made worthy of this exceedingly high honor.

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Thy name is the name most dear to us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

An Unbelievable Ark Of The Covenant Announcement

November 10, 2011
The Huffington Post

Reports are cropping up that the fabled Ark of the Covenant, said to contain the remnants of the Ten Commandments, has been discovered along with the Tomb of Alexander the Great on the Greek island of Thasos.

The Focus Information Agency, a Bulgarian outfit not exactly renowned for accuracy, is reporting that, a Russian web portal that purports to be an "official information partner of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Greece," has claimed that a group led by Nikolaos Kumardzis, an archeologist apparently unaffiliated with any other dig, has identified one of the world's great treasures. At least one Armenian newspaper is running a similar story.

What more confirmation could anyone possibly want?

Thasos, which is near Macedonia, has long been rumored as the potential resting place of Alexander the Great, who died in Babylon in 323 BC after conquering Persia and consolidating Eurasian power. The connection between the great military leader and the ten commandments -- none of which he could truly be said to have followed -- is unclear, which makes the news that they were discovered together even less credible.

November 18, 2011

Saint Plato the Great Martyr of Ancyra

Saint Plato the Great Martyr (Feast Day - November 18)


Plato passed on to us small errors,
Plato is he who largely is slain by the sword.
On the eighteenth Plato was slain by the sword.

The Holy Martyr Plato, brother of the Holy Martyr Antiochus the Physician (July 16), was born in the city of Ancyra in Galatia. While still a youth he left home and went through the cities, preaching the word of God to pagans, amazing his audience with the persuasiveness and beauty of his speech, and his profound knowledge of Greek learning.

Because of his preaching he was arrested and brought for trial to the temple of Zeus before the governor Agrippinus. At first, the judge attempted to persuade the Saint to turn away from Christ by flattery. He assured the youth that he might be on a par of intellect with the greatest of the philosophers Plato, if only he worshiped also the pagan gods. To this Saint Plato answered, that the wisdom of the philosopher, although great, was but ephemeral and limited, whereas the true, eternal and unbounded wisdom comprised the Gospel teachings. When the governor counseled him to avoid death and save his life by worshiping the idols, Plato said: "There are two deaths, the one temporal and the other eternal; so also are there two lives, one of short duration and the other without end." Then the judge promised to give him his beautiful niece for his wife if he would deny Christ. He also threatened him with torture and death if he refused. Plato replied that he chose a temporal death for the sake of eternal life. The patience of the governor was exhausted, and he gave orders to ten soldiers to mercilessly beat the Martyr, and then send him off to prison.

When they led Plato off to prison, he turned to the Christians gathered about the temple, and he called on them not to forsake the Christian faith. Seven days later they again led the Martyr Plato for trial before Agrippinus in the temple of Zeus, where they had the implements of torture already prepared: boiling cauldrons, red-hot iron and sharp hooks. The judge offered the martyr a choice: either to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, or to feel the effects of these implements of torture on his body. Again the Saint steadfastly refused to worship idols, for which he was laid out over a bed of heated brass and flogged with heated iron balls which burned his under arms and sides. They then cut strips of skin from his back. He was so beaten and bruised, that he was unrecognizable. "Torture me more harshly," the Martyr cried out to the torturers, "so that your inhumanity and my endurance may be seen more clearly." After his tortures they threw him in prison for eighteen more days without bread or water. When the guards were amazed that Plato was able to live in hunger for so long, he told them: "You are satisfied by meat, but I, by holy prayers. Wine gladdens you, but Christ the True Vine gladdens me." Seeing that this did not shake the Martyr, they offered him his life and freedom if he would only say, "Great is the god Apollo." The Martyr refused to deny Christ or to sacrifice to the idols. Therefore, Agrippinus ordered the Holy Martyr Plato to be beheaded in the year 266.

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

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The renowned pair of prizewinners glorified the Trinity. They both fought valiantly and destroyed the enemy. Glorious Plato and godly Romanos, pray for us to the Lover of mankind.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Thine all-holy memory doth cheer and gladden the whole world, calling all to come to thine august and ven'rable temple; wherein now, with jubilation we have all gathered, and with odes we hymn thy triumphs, O Martyr Plato, and with faith, we cry out to thee: Rescue thy people, O Saint, from barbarous foes. 

November 16, 2011

The Sacred Forty Liturgies and the Nativity Fast

The Nativity Fast in the Orthodox Church begins on November 15th. From that time until December 17th (or some observe December 12th) we fast from meat, milk products, and eggs, though fish is allowed. After the 17th (or 12th) we fast also from fish. But fasting from food, according to the command of our Lord, must go hand in hand with spiritual fasting in order for it to be beneficial and have a deeper meaning. For this reason it must be coupled with prayer and almsgiving. Hence, with these fasting periods the Church calls us also to a deeper liturgical life and good works.

It is for this reason that during the forty day period prior to the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord it is a tradition for priests to celebrate daily the Divine Liturgy. The Forty Liturgies celebrated during this time are a great blessing not only for those who participate, but also for those commemorated among both the living and reposed. As St. Ignatius of Antioch writes: "Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith" (Eph. 13). The power of the Divine Liturgy isn't magical, but it is a manifestation of love and unity in Christ. It teaches us to forgive, to have love for one another, and to be united in Christ as one body. In such an assembly, where the living and reposed are commemorated, great blessings follow for all.

The Divine Forty Day Liturgies of the Nativity season on behalf of the living and reposed are a manifestation of the love we should have for one another as members of the Church. Nothing makes more real and present the love of Christ for mankind, who took on flesh for the salvation of sinners, then the daily offering of the Divine Eucharist for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting of the living and reposed. As St. John of Kronstadt writes: "In the Divine Liturgy is celebrated the Mystery of Love...perfect love.... This love is found in the sacrifice of Christ." And Elder Paisios advised regarding the need to pray for the departed: "Leave in your prayers room for the reposed. The dead can do nothing for themselves. The living can. Bring to the church prosphoro, and give the names of the reposed to be commemorated by the priest in the proskomede. Do also memorials and trisagia. But the trisagion without the Divine Liturgy is nothing. The greatest thing we can do for someone is Forty Liturgies. It would be good to tie it in together with almsgiving." St. Symeon of Thessaloniki writes of the commemoration of the reposed during the Divine Liturgy: "During the Liturgy their portion which is placed on the diskos invisibly partakes of God, they are cleansed through the Sacred Blood and commune,...and they are consoled...and they rejoice in Christ." And St. John Chrysostom writes: "You should not have any doubt whatsoever that the dead will benefit spiritually. The priest does not plead in vain in the Holy Prothesis or at the Holy Table for the reposed in Christ, with faith in the God-man Lord."

Read also:

The Salvation of the Soul According to the Jerusalem Synod of 1672

On the Benefits of Forty Liturgies For the Departed

Saint George Karslidis On Forty Liturgies

Ecumenical Patriarch In Hierapolis, Where the Apostle Philip Was Martyred

On 14 November 2011, which was the feast of the Apostle Philip, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the ancient octagonal church built over the martyrdom site of the Holy Apostle Philip in Hierapolis. This was the first time the Ecumenical Patriarch celebrated the Divine Liturgy at this important Christian shrine, and has special significance since the recent discovery by Italian archaeologist Francesco D’ Andria of the tomb of the Apostle Philip next to this church. When the tomb was discovered this past summer, the Italian archaeologist visited the Ecumenical Patriarch at the Phanar to inform him of the find. It was then that the Ecumenical Patriarch organized this pilgrimage and Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Holy Apostle. Francesco D’ Andria was in attendance.

Read also: Ο Οικουμενικός Πατριάρχης στην Ιεράπολη, τόπο μαρτυρίου του Αγίου Φιλίππου

Icon of the Theotokos of Kupyatitich on the Cross

Icon of the Theotokos of Kupyatitich (Feast Day - November 15)

This icon first appeared to a maiden named Anna in the village of Kupyatitich, in the province of Minsk, in the year 1182. Tending her flock, Anna saw a light in the forest. When she approached this light she beheld a medium-size cross on a tree, bearing the image of the Most-holy Theotokos. Anna brought this cross home, then returned to her flock. However, to her great amazement, she saw the same cross on the tree in the same place. She took it, placed it in her bosom and brought it home. When she tried to show her father the cross, she reached into her bosom, but the cross was not there. She related everything to her father and went out with him, saw the cross in the forest, and took it home. The next day, the cross was not in the house. They alerted the whole village, and all the villagers went and beheld the cross and venerated it. The people soon built a church there, and numerous miracles were manifested by this cross bearing the image of the Theotokos.

After some years, Tatars burned the church. The icon was found a second time after many years by a traveler named Joachim. Peasants transferred the cruciform-icon to the village church. Joachim remained at the church as church attendant, by God's will.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Kupyatitch Monastery was built next to the church, which the Roman Catholics seized at the end of the century, and later on, Uniate monks. Orthodox monks, when they abandoned the monastery, took with them the holy icon of the Kupyatitch Mother of God. They transferred the wonderworking icon to the Kiev Sophia Cathedral.

The Kupyatitch Icon is a small copper cross. On one side of the cross the Mother of God is depicted with the Pre-eternal Infant, and on the other side, the Crucifixion.

HYMN OF PRAISE: To the Most-holy Theotokos

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

O Most-holy Mother of God, Bride of God,
Thou wast the Bodily Throne of Christ God,
Thou didst bear the King of Glory in thy body,
Thou gavest birth to Him Who gavest life to a dead world.
By His Blood, His holy Blood, He redeemed the world,
Gloriously glorifying Himself and thee, O Virgin.
But thy true glory shines in heaven,
Where thou sittest on the right hand of Christ Himself.
And the rays of thy glory descend to earth,
And shine at night on the path of the sojourners.
Glory to thee, Mother of God, throughout the ages,
The first Temple, the wonderful Temple of the glory of Christ!

15th Century Church of Saints Gurias, Samonas and Habibus Open Again

An Opening of the Doors ceremony was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria on 15 November 2011 for a Byzantine church dating back to 1401 dedicated to Saints Gurias, Samonas and Habibus (commemorated on November 15th). This was after 15 years of restoration work by the local archeological service. It is located in the historic center of Kastoria and contains unique and beautiful frescoes. Of particular significance is that this church is the only one dedicated to Saints Gurias, Samonas and Habibus in the world.