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December 31, 2013

2001 Pastoral Encyclical for the New Year (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

My beloved brethren,

From Orthodox theology we know that time is closely linked to space, and the two, space and time, are creations of God. Time is the action that distinguishes beings and therefore not a simple movement of the stars, but it is the movement of all beings, especially living beings. And of course time is associated with created existence and indeed that which is mortal. Saint Gregory the Theologian aptly says that an age is time when it stops moving, and time is an age measured by movement. This means that as long as man lives in this life he is connected with time, and when he leaves this world then he enters another dimension of time called an age. Unfortunately contemporary people equate time with the eternal, or rather, they live biological life as if they are going to live forever, which is why they absolutize everything associated with material goods, pleasure and refreshment, and others despise this life completely, expecting everything only in the next life. However, when we completely identify time with eternity, when we exhaust the life of the future age in the herein, then this is called secularism. The Holy Apostles constantly lived with the feeling of the impermanence of things of this life, and nostalgia for eternal life, which they lived in this life. Indeed the Apostle Paul writes: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).

The time of each of our lives is very limited and small in relation to eternity. We will not live forever on the earth. We are patient through the various trials of our lives, because we believe that the way we live our relationship with God and with others, will determine our way of life after our departure from this life. Because, though our life will end at some point, there life will not end, since there is life also after death, after the departure of the soul from the body.

Unfortunately many Christians nowadays have turned their attention to dates, to time, and they turn away from the eternal and the exalted, and do not seek to acquire the knowledge of God. Relevant are the words of the Apostle Paul: "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and impoverished elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain" (Gal. 4:9-11). It is terrible to observe the changes of time and not to be inspired towards the true purpose of our lives.

The Apostle Paul recommends: "Let us redeem the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). We must strive not to buy shares in the stock market, but for the time market, for only then will we find it before us in the future eternal life. We observe, however, that in our life there is the so-called "pollution of time". Just like contemporary people pollute areas with the products of their passions, so they pollute time, since they spend it on unnecessary things, and even worse is that they squander it on sinful acts, actions that constitute the denial of the will of God. Although our era wants to be called modern and mature, it is rather full of old philosophical and ideological streams that increase the agony of humanity.

But how can paganism and messianism and modernism and post-modernism and religion and demonic systems fill modern man? Fortunately the Church today, on the first of the year, celebrates two great events. The first is Christ's circumcision in the flesh, which shows not only the philanthropy of God to the human race, but also the need to circumcise our passions from our lives. We must be purified and transformed, and to transform our passions because the energy of the passions makes our lives unbearable and disgusting. The second event is the commemoration of Basil the Great, this great personality, who "set in order a rule of life for man" by his teachings and works and even by his repose. His memory remains alive in the consciousness of the people. We need figures like Basil the Great in our difficult times, where neo-paganism, fanaticism, ambitionism, amorality, and the absence of an ecclesiastical ethos and an Orthodox mindset prevails.

We have entered a new year and many will celebrate it. Unfortunately, if one carefully observes modern life, they will see that many people are possessed by old habits, old manners and customs and a pagan mentality, even though they are called Orthodox Christians. Two thousand years after Christ and still many people in our day live like the time before Christ. Certainly in terms of science we have progressed, but in terms of character and conduct we are far behind. Many contemporary people behave as if Christ has not come to the world, as if they are not awaiting the resurrection of the dead and the future life.

For this reason, this year we will be given the ability on behalf of the Church, both Local and Ecumenical, to see the greatness of Christianity, the value of apocalyptic discourse, the importance of the life of the gospel, the prospect of the future age, but at the same time our failure to live according to the spirit of the Gospel and the Orthodox life. So, the entire time of this year is an occasion for hope and repentance, optimism and self-criticism, hope and resurrection.

With these thoughts I wish you all a blessed new year and that God will fill you with heavenly and earthly gifts.

With fatherly prayers and blessings,


† of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou HIEROTHEOS

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΠΟΙΜΑΝΤΟΡΙΚΗ ΕΓΚΥΚΛΙΟΣ ΠΡΩΤΟΧΡΟΝΙΑΣ", December 2000. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Saint Zotikos the Feeder of Orphans as a Model for our Lives

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

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Zotikos came from a noble family and lived in the fourth century. He was raised in Rome, in an environment of great piety, and he received a wonderful education. From a young age he was distinguished for his great love towards his fellow man, whom he wanted to serve with the same feeling as if he was serving Christ Himself, whose commandments he tried to apply in their entirety. Constantine the Great honored him for his many gifts, and invited him to Constantinople-New Rome, along with other pious men, where he became a privileged co-worker of his.

Saint Zotikos showed great love for the poor, and especially orphans and abandoned children, whom he took care of like an affectionate father. But he also showed great love and affection for lepers, who, as is well known, were exiled and lived away from society isolated and despised. The Saint approached them without fear, helped them economically, and above all took care of them personally, strengthening and comforting them. The lepers loved him and considered him to be more than their guardian angel. Yet after the repose of Constantine the Great, his son Constantius did not honor the work of Saint Zotikos as he should have, and sadly he mistreated him, with the result that this holy man faced hardships and tribulations, which caused him to leave this vain world prematurely. After the repose of the Saint, however, Constantius sincerely repented, and to honor him he built a Leper Hospital, in which lepers found affection and love. Indeed he endowed this Foundation with many properties, estates and incomes so as not to deprive even a little these distressed people.

The example of Constantius was imitated later by other emperors, such as Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos (913-959), John Tzimiskes (969-976), and Romanos III (1028-1034), who cared for the existence and proper functioning of the Leper Hospital which, thanks to the initial efforts of Saint Zotikos, served numerous lepers and made their lives as humane as possible.

His life and disposition give us the opportunity to highlight the following:

Leprosy is an infectious disease and was until the middle of the last century incurable. Unfortunately, for many centuries this created a racist mentality among people, which created also too many problems for the families of patients and for society at large. The aversion to patients with the disease of leprosy resulted in the isolation of lepers, with all that it entails. That is, it separated married couples and even parents from their children, and children from their parents forever, since they usually never saw one another. It was, that is, a singular death, since lepers in their isolation were in fact the living dead. When they left their homes they said goodbye to their loved ones knowing that there was no chance for their return. That is, there was no way for them to come out of quarantine unless some sort of miracle was done, or if in the meantime a drug was developed that would cure leprosy. Faint hope always existed, since hope dies always at the end, however reality was harsh, since daily life was intolerable and inhumane. This is why they accepted manifestations of love from healthy people, whenever it occurred, as if it was manna from heaven.

Saint Zotikos, steeped in selfless love, which is not simply sentimental, but the fruit of the Holy Spirit who resided in his pure heart, exceeded the mindset of many who abhorred lepers and were living far off from them, and he did not just approach them and socialize with them, but nourished them personally, as did Basil the Great. This fact, moreover, reveals that there are people that do not fear death, because they have exceeded it in the limits of their own personal lives, and also because "perfect love casts out fear". This is why they abolished by their way of life every kind of racism that divides people and sterilizes love. It even shows that faith in the Triune God, who "is love", creates true people, who are truly a blessing for humanity.

Nowadays, of course, leprosy is cured, but the racist mentality has not disappeared and continues to exist in another form. That is, people may not be separated today between the healthy and those with the disease of leprosy, but they are differentiated between the healthy and those with HIV or AIDS, between "locals" and "outsiders", between "ours" and "theirs", between rich and poor, etc. This mindset is unlikely to disappear as long as people are not reborn spiritually by the Grace of God and their own personal struggle, and it remains among us with all it entails, as long as a person is hermetically sealed to themselves and does not care for others. However, wherever one encounters people, true people that is, who are imbued with the spirit of sacrifice and selfless service for others, it affirms that there is abolished every form of discrimination and racist attitudes, for our fellow man is to be regarded as an image of Christ and as a true brother.

A true person is one who by the Grace of God and their own personal struggle transforms selfishness into selfless love. According to Saint Maximus the Confessor, selfishness is unreasonable love towards the body and it is this which impedes a person from encountering God in a loving manner, as well as other people. The existentialist philosophers would say: "I think, therefore I am." The Saints, however, who are true people, say: "I love, therefore I am."

The greatness of the Church is manifested moreover in that it "manufactures" true people, who by their life and disposition abolish any notion of racial discrimination and are a source of blessing for society, and for the whole inhabited world.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Άγιος Ζωτικός Ο ορφανοτρόφος", November 2010. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

December 30, 2013

Magi and Magicians

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

And again we are made worthy by God to be festive and celebrate the great Despotic Feast of Christmas, or the birth of Christ, which celebrates the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who assumed human nature, became the God-man and was born among men to free us from the dominion of sin, the devil and death.

We again see all of creation glorify the newborn Christ, as we chant triumphantly in the Kontakion of Saint Romanos the Melodist: "Angels with the Shepherds glorify Him, Magi with the Star journey to Him." The center of all creation is Christ, who is glorified by it, and He illuminates all and everything.

Among those who were made worthy to worship the newborn Christ and whom we remember every Christmas are the Magi of the east who saw the Star, understood that a great event took place, and they followed it to reach Bethlehem to place their gifts before Christ - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Indeed, the Fathers saw symbolism in these gifts, since gold is a royal color, frankincense signifies divinity, and myrrh signifies death, and so the Magi honor Christ as King, God and as One who suffers and rises.

The Magi as wise astrologers and astronomers

The Magi, according to Herodotus, were the special priestly race of the Medes. Later, among the eastern peoples, the term "magi" referred to wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, and interpreters of dreams. At that time, astrology was associated with astronomy, and for this reason we can say moreover that the Magi were the astronomers of their day who observed the starry skies. Generally, the Magi were wise men, scientists, and so in their person the wise ones venerated the newborn Christ. The Magi, as the Fathers teach us, were made worthy to recognize Christ and to worship Him "through the knowledge of the mind", and having internal purity they were made worthy of this great theophany. We believe, therefore, that all ways of the life of man receive special value and importance from the relationship they have with Christ.

Today things have changed regarding this issue, since astronomy split with astrology, and magic acquired a bad reputation, while a magician is considered a deceiver and an impostor, even one who acts through the devil. We already encounter this when the Apostle Paul journeyed to Cyprus, according to the narration of the Acts of the Apostles:

"They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish magician and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 'You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.' Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord." (Acts 13:6-12)

Throughout the centuries we meet this dual mentality: wise men and scientists who believe in Christ, as well as magicians and astrologers who resist Christ. As can be seen, the crux of the matter lies in what is the center of reference. From this center all things receive their value and meaning. We do not reject anything, provided that they have a center, a goal, and do not object to Christ. When creation, science and wisdom according to the world operate within their own space, without denying their faith in Christ, they are not a waste, but to the contrary they are a gift and blessing from God. Who does not honor a medical scientist dealing with human health? Who does not recognize the value of different scholars concerned with the advancement of science, and their presence is in varying degrees and ways beneficial to people? But when people do different tricks and, according to the words of the Apostle Paul, use deception and intrigue, and are enemies of justice, then this cannot be accepted by the Church.

Contemporary "magicians"

Our age is filled with such atypical magicians seeking to mislead people, who are enemies of justice, and market hunger and misery, as well as the hope of the people. Sometimes such people, who have the characteristics mentioned above, and seek to pervert the paths of the Lord and deceive people, enter also into the intimate areas of the Church. For there are prophets and apostles who follow the teachings of the Church, and heal with love for mankind, and then there are false prophets and false apostles who mislead people and care for their own social standing, despite the people. Our Christian Mysteries, as Saint Gregory the Theologian says, are not the "sacrificial art of Magi, and their entrail forebodings" (Oration 39:5), but a true sacrifice to the living God.

We should not only view enemies as being outside the Church, but they are also within it and among us. There are those who do not have Christ as the center of their lives, but rather themselves, and they deceive people, disappoint them and charm them, that is, they try to captivate people with their charm. They do not seek the glory of God, but their own glory; they do not intend to serve people, but exploit the faith and hopes and aspirations of the people for their own benefit.

The case of the Three Magi who worshipped Christ and offered their gifts to Him is to be a model for us, to have Christ as the center of our lives and offer Him our gifts and wisdom, and acknowledge Him as King, as God and as the One crucified and risen for us. This, besides giving meaning to our lives, will also benefit people. Anyone who believes in Christ, cannot be unjust and exploit people, as several modern magicians do, but to the contrary they would sacrifice their lives for them.

Beloved brethren, let us journey with the Magi and the Star towards Bethlehem that we may worship Christ and serve with sincerity and love the people of Christ, and people all over the world. Let us listen to the words of Saint Gregory the Theologian: "Run with the Star, and bear your Gifts with the Magi, gold and frankincense and myrrh, as to a King, and to God, and to One Who is dead for you" (Oration 38:17).

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Μάγοι και μάγοι", December 2006. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

A Christmas Card from Elder Sophrony Saharov

Archimandrite Sophrony
The Old Rectory,Tolleshent Knight
by Maldon, Essex

Christmas 1967

Beloved in Christ,

Sister Paraskevi!

May the grace and peace of the Lord multiply to you.

And first - I wish you a Good Christmas and a blessed New Year.

Pareskevi, has it ever occurred to you perhaps that you did something with my blessing, and the result was harmful? Or on the contrary, have you ever done something consistent with your ideas and having abandoned my words and my humble advice, that everything was done according to the good pleasure of God and successful? So also now listen to me like a crazy person, and do as I bless you to do.

The only way that will be beneficial to you and yours, is to complete your studies working as my monks work, from morning until evening - or rather night. Dispel now every care of life for [the third person the Elder speaks of here is left anonymous to not be known] and your family.

The unworthy Archimandrite Sophrony,

I send you the love of all who are to be found in our Monastery.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

The Christmas Tree of Virtues

On top it says:  

The Christmas Tree in the Courtyard of Karakalou Monastery

On the bottom it says:

In view of the Nativity of the Savior Christ ... if we need to decorate a Christmas tree, this would surely be the fruitless tree of our spiritual nakedness, which requires the needed decoration of the God-seeing, illuminating and incorruptible virtues...!

The tree is decorated with 40 ornaments of virtues, the top three being reverence for God, philanthropy and faith. It is then topped with the star of love.

(click on image to enlarge it)

Relic of Martyr Queen Ketevan Discovered in Goa

17th century depiction of Queen Ketevan

December 22, 2013
Past Horizons

DNA analysis has confirmed that a relic discovered by archaeologists amongst the ruins of St. Augustine’s Church in Goa, southeast India, is likely to be that of 17th century Queen Ketevan from the Kingdom of Kakheti in eastern Georgia.

Since 1989, various delegations from Georgia have worked together with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate Ketevan the Martyr’s relics within the Augustinian church which was founded in 1572. There have been several unsuccessful attempts at locating the relics, but finally the continued searching has paid dividends for the team.

In the year 1613, the emperor of Persia, Shah Abbas I led an army to conquer the Georgian kingdom and Queen Ketevan became his prisoner. The queen was held in Shiraz, southern Iran for approximately ten years, but in 1624, the emperor sent soldiers to convert her to the Islamic faith and to force her into his harem. However, she resisted his orders and as a consequence was tortured and strangled to death on 22 September 1624.

The royal citadel and Church of the Archangels is all that has survived from the 16th and 17th century city of Gremi, the capital of the Georgian Kingdom of Kakheti.

Remains taken to Goa

In 1623, a year before her death, two Augustinian friars had arrived in Shiraz to start up a mission and succeeded in gaining the queen’s trust, becoming her confessors. At some point after her death these same friars unearthed the remains of Ketevan and hid them. In 1627, some of these remains (the right arm) were taken to Goa and kept in a black box or stone sarcophagus on the second window along the Epistle side of the chapter chapel in the St. Augustine convent.

Over time the convent had been enlarged and rebuilt in places, but in 1835 the church underwent partial demolition, and in 1842 the main vault collapsed. After this episode, the convent rapidly became ruinous and valuable artefacts belonging to the religious complex had been either sold or lost.

Despite the fact that the exact location of the queen’s relics is mentioned in a Portuguese document, all efforts to find them had proved unsuccessful due to difficulties in the interpretation of the convent layout. However, a ground map of the convent was reconstructed on the basis of the literary sources and the help of local historians. After a topographical survey within the convent was carried out, the chapter chapel and window were finally located.

As per the literary sources, the relic box of Queen Ketevan was expected to be at the second window of the chapter chapel towards the Epistle side. Therefore, this area was systematically explored in 2004 for a stone sarcophagus, which was found broken into pieces due to the collapse of the wall. Whilst clearing the rubble the team also found an arm bone. Two other bone relics were recovered from outside the second window area, within intact stone boxes.

Ruined bell tower of the church of Our Lady of Grace within the St. Augustine convent in Goa. 

More proof

While the archaeological and historical data were consistent with the relic being the remains of Queen Ketevan, the archaeologists needed to somehow conclusively prove that the bone belonged to her. They approached the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad who isolated DNA from the bone. Based on the sequence variation in the mitochondrial DNA, they assigned a haplogroup U1b to the sample.

After surveying the mitochondrial DNA sequence of 22,000 individuals from the Indian sub-continent, none of them belonged to U1b haplogroup. However, two out of 30 Georgians analysed have the same haplogroup, suggesting that the bone excavated in Goa is likely to be the remnant of Queen Ketevan of Georgia.

December 29, 2013

A 2000 km Maritime Litany Dedicated to St. John of Kronstadt

Between June 1-14 in 2013, with the blessing of Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow, the first maritime procession was held in honor of St. John of Kronstadt.

The procession started from Kronstadt and ended in Sura, a small region near Arkhangelsk in the depths of Russia. This is the region where the great Saint of Orthodoxy, John of Kronstadt, was born in 1829.

The purpose of the procession is to revitalize spiritual life in this isolated region and enhance economically the female Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Sura, which was built by St. John of Kronstadt in the place he was born.

Men who participated crossed by boat and walked the distance of 2000 km. The women went by land and used the boat to reach the spot in Solovets, from where they returned to St. Petersburg. It was a route St. John did once a year when he would visit his homeland. At that time to cross this route was very dangerous and extremely arduous. The Saint did the route in the last years of his life via a steamer, forming an area in Sura specifically for the arrival of the Saint. The processional route passed through areas the Saint had visited.

It started from the Church of Saint Nicholas in Kronstadt and passed in turn from Lake Ladoga (the Monastery of Saint Alexander of Svir), Lake Onegka, then crossed the channel of the Baltic Sea - White Sea in order to reach the Monastery of Solovets. From there it went to Arkhangelsk to the Artemievo-Verkola Monastery, and through the Dvina River it arrived in Sura.

The project accomplished by twenty men was eventually much more difficult than anticipated, but through their prayers to Saint John they managed to carry out the project.

Everywhere they went they were well received by local officials and the people, everyone hoping to revitalize the tradition of the Russian Church.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

St. John of Kronstadt in Sura

The Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Sura

The Angel of Great Counsel in Iconography

Karakalou Monastery, Mount Athos

Monastery of Saint Clement, Ochrid

Monastery of Saint Paraskevi, Flamouria in Voiou

Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos, in Arbanasi, Bulgaria

Patriarchate in Pec, Serbia

Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, in Vasilopoulo of Xiromero

Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, in Amvrakia of Arta

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Angel of Great Counsel, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." - Isaiah 9:6-7

The Fathers of the Church, such as Athanasius the Great, responded to the Arians in their writings, who claimed that in the Old Testament there was no vision of God, rather what the Prophets saw was the created Word of God. The Fathers wrote that the Word (Logos) of God revealed to the Prophets in the Old Testament as the Angel of Great Counsel, was indeed the uncreated Word of God. Thus the debate between the Arians and the Orthodox was whether or not the Angel of Great Counsel revealed to the Prophets in the Old Testament was created or uncreated. The Arians argued he was created, while the Orthodox said he was uncreated. The answer to this question would reveal whether or not the Word of God was consubstantial with the Father, and thus God. If the Angel of Great Counsel is indeed the uncreated Word of God, then the Prophets had a vision of God. The Fathers of the Church, who experienced the vision of God, knew that the Word of God shared the same glory by nature with the Father, while the Arians, who did not have an experience of God but rather philosophized about God, did not come to this understanding. Thus when we say that the Word of God is consubstantial with the Father, it means He is uncreated and shares in the same glory as the Father. Athanasius the Great drew from his experience of the glory of God, and argued his position from both the Old and New Testaments.

The Veneration of the Magi in Iconography

Church of Saint Apollinaris in Ravenna, c. 561

Cappadocia, 12th century

Cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Kremlin, 1481

Ferapontov Monastery in Russia, 1500

16th century Russian icon

Fourth century sarcophagus. The Virgin with the Child and Joseph are at the bottom right, and are brought Persian gifts from the Magi.

Daphni Monastery in Athens, late 11th century

Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere, 12th century

Chora Monastery in Constantinople, 1315-1320

Old Church of Saint Minas in Herakleion, painted by George Kastrofylakas in 1746

Church of Saint Katherine in Herakleion, 16th century

Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin, with detail of the Angel-Star of Bethlehem, 8th century

Church of Saint Nicholas Orphanos in Thessaloniki, 1310-1320

The Return of the Magi from Bethlehem. Monastery of Saint Neophytos in Paphos, painted by the Constantinopolitan iconographer Theodore Apseudes in 1183.

Magi being led by an Angel, in the Chapel of the Akathist Hymn of the Monastery of Saint John Lambadistis in Kalapanagiotis, 1500

Three Magi before Herod. Basilica of Saint Mary Maggiore in Rome, 5th century


December 28, 2013

Christmas with Holy Elder Porphyrios 23 Years Apart

By Fr. Andrew Konanos

When on Christmas day, in 1990, I visited the Holy (now officially!) Elder Porphyrios in Oropos, he told me the following quote, and I still remember it after 23 years. I believe it is a phrase of Saint John of Damascus. So Saint Porphyrios told me: "For the knowledge of God's existence has been implanted by Him in all by nature."

In other words, to know and conceive that God exists with your mind, is seeded and planted, archetypally, in a natural and simple way within all of creation. Everything in the universe, in a mysterious way, speaks of the existence of God.

He said this to me while holding my hands within his, and he spoke slowly, meaningfully, and he lived it. And he transferred it to our soul.

May we have his prayers and warm love.

Venerable One of God, pray for us, your children, siblings and friends. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos

On December 24, 2013 the first mural of Holy Elder Porphyrios was completed in the Archdiocese of Belgrade-Karlovac in the Church of the Ascension of our Lord, under the direction of master artist Vladimir Karanovića of Zarka. (photo above)


An Athonite Monk Digs His Own Grave (photo)

The Cave of Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher (photos)

On the 28th of December we celebrate the memory of our Venerable Father Simon the Myrrhgusher, who founded New Bethlehem Monastery on Mount Athos, which later came to be known as Simonopetra Monastery.

The cave where St. Simon lived in asceticism can be found on the outskirts of Simonopetra, at about a four minute walk to the east of the Monastery.

According to tradition, it was in this cave that the devil appeared as a dragon trying to devour the Saint while he was praying, however the Saint did not become frightened, and through prayers and psalms he conquered the devil and overcame the temptation to be frightened away from his divine task.

It was from this cave that the Saint saw a star above the place where the Monastery he founded stands today. The star stood motionless there for some days, and St. Simon thought that perhaps it was the star of Bethlehem. But when he began to think that it may be a demonic delusion, God revealed to him that it was where he was to build a Monastery, which came to be known originally as New Bethlehem Monastery.

The cave is covered today by a house-built shelter for protection from the rain and high humidity.

In the cave there is an oil lamp and icon of the Saint to remind the visitor of the ascetic struggle of the founder of Simonopetra Monastery.

See more photos here.