March 31, 2017

The Theotokos as the Living Table

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

"Your womb became a Heavenly Table, bearing the Heavenly Bread - Christ our God. Whoever eats of Him shall not die, O Birth-giver of God, according to the word of the Nourisher of all."1

Blessing the person of the Most Holy Theotokos, which captivates and simultaneously moves the hearts of all of us, especially every Friday night during the joyous Service of Salutations, the God-bearer John of Damascus, repeating the Creed of our Orthodox Church, tells us that the Panagia is the peak and completion of the entire Old Testament. All of the foreshadowings refer to her. The prototypes and prophecies of the Holy Prophets are revealed in her.

Saint Blaise of Amorion (+ 909/12)

St. Blaise of Amorion (Feast Day - March 31)


Blaise sprouted forth the virtues as fruits,
Now he gathers them in the heavens with the Angels.

Saint Blaise (Blasios, Vlasios) was from the village of Aplatiane in Amorion (Amorium) of Asia Minor, and his name in the world was Basil. At the beginning of the ninth century he left his homeland and went to Constantinople, where he was ordained a Deacon by Patriarch Ignatios (Oct. 23) and served in Hagia Sophia with his brother who was a Priest.

Saint Akakios the Confessor, Bishop of Melitene

St. Akakios of Melitene (Feast Day - March 31)


Akakios the Angel on earth died,
Angels prepare for you a celestial place.

Our Holy Father Akakios was Bishop of Melitine* and lived during the reign of Emperor Decius (249-251). Because he taught the faith of Christ, he was caught by the idolaters and he was brought to the Roman consul Marcian. Marcian questioned him about his preaching, and Akakios related to him the whole economy of the incarnate Word of God. He also talked about the Cherubim and Seraphim and he criticized and mocked the worthless errors of the Greeks. Marcian sent a letter to the emperor concerning the case of the Saint. The emperor ordered that the Saint ought to be released from prison without insult or punishment. Thus, from that time on this thrice blessed father walked free, bearing on his body the scars and wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ. After he had taught the faith of Christ to many people and having shone brightly with his teaching and miracles, he departed to the Lord in peace.

Holy Hieromartyr Abdas of Persia and Those Martyred With Him

St. Abdas the Bishop and Those With Him
(Feast Days - September 5, March 31, May 16)


September 5

To Abdas.*
Abdas the Martyr bore rods with thorns,
And honored with the crown of thorns of the Master.

March 31

To Audas.
Audas, strengthened by the Word on high,
Brought down the might of the impious, and was beheaded.

To Benjamin.
An athletic removal, I call the stake,
Benjamin was altogether a soul devoid of weight.

To the Nine Martyrs.
The nine men received pointed reeds,
And were inscribed as slaughtered Martyrs.

To the many other Saints.
Alive in the chamber the flesh of the Martyrs,
Was food for mice and weasels in the pit.

May 16

To Audas.
Audas the Martyr had two things before his eyes,
The cutting off of his head and the reward of a divine crown.

By Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus

(Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 5, Ch. 38)

March 30, 2017

Is the Burning Bush Still Burning?

Ascent to Holy Mount Sinai

After the passage of fifteen centuries, does the Sinai brotherhood still feel the presence of Saint John Klimakos, author of the renowned Ladder of Divine Ascent?

“As though he were here yesterday!” says Saint Catherine’s Geronta Pavlos, adding that the saint’s words continue to guide the Monastery in modern times as of old.

Hundreds attended John’s enthronement as abbot – not least, Prophet Moses, who appeared once more tending God’s people in Sinai, directing servers in the Monastery refectory. And amidst the Arab conquests which roiled the region, pilgrims continued to arrive in large numbers to remove their shoes before kneeling on the holy ground where Moses met God at the Burning Bush.

The Ladder of Ascent to Spiritual Rebirth (St. Symeon the New Theologian)

By St. Symeon the New Theologian

Above all else you should strive to acquire three things, and so begin to attain what you seek. The first is freedom from anxiety with respect to everything, whether reasonable or senseless - in other words, you should be dead to everything. Secondly, you should strive to preserve a pure conscience, so that it has nothing to reproach you with. Thirdly, you should be completely detached, so that your thoughts incline towards nothing worldly, not even your own body.

Then sit down in a quiet cell, in a corner by yourself, and do what I tell you. Close the door, and withdraw your intellect from everything worthless and transient. Rest your beard on your chest, and focus your physical gaze, together with the whole of your intellect, upon the center of your belly or your navel. Restrain the drawing-m of breath through your nostrils, so as not to breathe easily, and search inside yourself with your intellect so as to find the place of the heart, where all the powers of the soul reside. To start with you will find there darkness and an impenetrable density. Later, when you persist and practice this task day and night, you will find, as though miraculously, an unceasing joy. For as soon as the intellect attains the place of the heart, at once it sees things of which it previously knew nothing. It sees the open space within the heart and it beholds itself entirely luminous and full of discrimination. From then on, from whatever side a distractive thought may appear, before it has come to completion and assumed a form, the intellect immediately drives it away and destroys it with the invocation of Jesus Christ. From this point onwards the intellect begins to be full of rancor against the demons and, rousing its natural anger against its noetic enemies, it pursues them and strikes them down. The rest you will learn for yourself, with God's help, by keeping guard over your intellect and by retaining Jesus in your heart. As the saying goes, "Sit in your cell and it will teach you everything."

Saint John Climacus and his Heavenly Ladder (Fr. George Florovsky)

By Fr. George Florovsky

The Paucity of Facts of his Life.

The biography of St. John — ό της κλίμακος — must rather be called an encomium. This is a description of him as one who prays and contemplates: "For John approached the mystical mountain where the uninitiated do not enter, and, elevated along the spiritual steps, he received the statute inscribed by God and a vision." He was some newly-appeared Moses.

Few facts are given in the biography. He was also called “Scholasticus” — σχολαστικός — but he is not to be confused with John Scholasticus, the patriarch of Constantinople (d. 577). It even remains unclear when St. John lived and where he was from. From circumstantial data it is possible to hazard a guess that he died in the mid seventh-century. His life is usually given from about 570 until 649. He came to Sinai in his early youth and spent his whole life there. However, it seems that he spent some time in Egypt, in Scete, and in Tabennesis. For many years he contended in obedience to a certain elder. After the letter's death, St. John withdrew into seclusion and lived as a hermit in a cave, which was not far off but was secluded.

Synaxarion of Saint John of the Well

St. John of the Well (Feast Day - March 30)


John lived in a well here below,
Now he drinks from the living water of the well above.

In the olden days there was a very wealthy woman who feared God and her name was Juliana. At a young age she became a widow with two orphaned infants, whose names were John and Themistia.* Because at that time the pagan emperors issued an edict and order for Christians who revered Christ to be punished, the widow became afraid, so she took her two children and went to a house, where she hid and raised her children in the education and admonition of the Lord. Her son John, when the time came for prayer, would leave his mother and go to the church, and after praying there in hiding, he would return to his mother. At that time all the Christians hid for fear of the idolaters. Once John went to the church to pray as was his habit, and he was found there by a God-loving Christian, who advised him that it was better to go and pray on the mountain rather than the church, since by going there he was in danger of falling into the hands of the idolaters. John listened to this advice, and said to his mother: "My mother, a God-loving Christian told me to go to the mountain, but I determined it was proper to ask for your blessing before I go." His mother allowed him to go, thinking that he would soon return. John bid farewell to his mother and sister, and he went to the desert to an Egyptian monk, whose name was Pharmuthius, and receiving his blessing he went deeper into the desert. There he found a dry well, full of scorpions, snakes and other reptiles. After he prayed, he cast himself into the dry well. As he was going down the well, as Angel of the Lord received him, and this is how he remained protected and unharmed. The well was twenty cubits deep.

Holy Martyr Victor of Thessaloniki and the Eleven Martyrs With Him

St. Victor and the Eleven Martyrs of Thessaloniki (Feast Day - March 30);
icon depicts All Saints of Thessaloniki

Saint Victor was martyred with Saint Domninos and eleven others in Thessaloniki under Emperor Galerius Valerius Maximianus (305-311), at the time the emperor was building his royal palace in that city. In 301 the Roman Empire was divided into the Tetrarchy by Emperor Diocletian. This was a system of government designed to solve the severe military and political problems that the Roman Empire was facing. Thessaloniki became the capital of the new Prefecture of Illyricum and incorporated most of Greece as well as the entire Balkan Peninsula. Emperor Galerius Valerius Maximianus endowed the city with magnificent buildings during that period, including the imperial palace, the hippodrome, the triumphal arch, the Roman Forum, and a mausoleum. It was during this time, in 306, that Saint Demetrios was martyred.

March 29, 2017

The Teachings of Diadochos of Photiki (Fr. George Florovsky)

By Fr. George Florovsky

The blessed Diadochus, bishop of Photice in ancient Epirus, stands apart in the ranks of ascetic authors. The only thing we know of him is that he was bishop in the mid-fifth century — his signature is on a letter to the Emperor Leo, a letter by the bishops of Epirus after the murder of Proterius of Alexandria by the Monophysites in 457. Contemporary historians do not mention him. St. Photius says nothing about his life but does refer to his "outstanding" address and mentions him as one of the opponents of the Monophysites at the time of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 (Bibl. cod. 231).

Diadochus' works enjoyed a wide circulation — there are numerous manuscript copies which are frequently referred to by others, and excerpts from them were taken for anthologies and florilegiae. His most important work is the Capita centum de perfectione spiritualiOne Hundred Chapters on Spiritual Perfection. This is a concise and coherent manual of the monastic life. A polemical motif — the refutation of Messalianism — is very strong in this work. Diadochus helps us to understand the inner difficulties and dangers in the monastic life, in the life and "ordeal" of prayer, especially in chapters 76 to 80.

Holy Martyrs Jonah, Barachisios and the Nine With Them from Persia

Sts. Jonah, Barachisios and the Nine with them (Feast Day - March 29)


To Jonah.
You also Jonah are in all ways great on the earth,
Not being bound to the sea.

To Barachisios.
Barachisios was thirsty and died an athlete,
Drinking with an open mouth boiled pitch from a vessel.

To the Nine.
Nine men were beyond honored by Christ,
Together like the nine orders.

King Shapur II of Persia (309-379), in the eighteenth year of his reign (327), raised a bloody persecution against the Christians, and demolished their churches and monasteries. Jonah and Barachisios, two brothers of the city Beth-Asa, hearing that several Christians lay under sentence of death at Hubaham, went there to encourage and serve them. Nine of that number received the crown of martyrdom. Their names were Zanithas, Lazarus, Maruthas, Narses, Elias, Marinos, Habib, Sivsithina and Savvas.

Synaxarion of Saint Eustathios the Confessor, Bishop of Kio in Bithynia

St. Eustathios the Confessor (Feast Day - March 29)


Being stripped of this clay, all-blessed Eustathios,
You stand before Christ who became clay for us.

Our Holy Father and Confessor Eustathios threw off from himself the heavy load of the world and whatever is in the world, and became a Monk. He bore the yoke of Christ on his shoulders applying His commandments, and took care for the salvation of his soul. When he had been convinced by the many entreaties of the people, he became a Priest. He always thanked God, in Whom he had an unhesitating faith. He felt sincere love for everybody and he was instructive, humble, sympathetic, merciful, a zealot of good works. Because of these virtues of his, he became Bishop of Kio in Bithynia (which is commonly called Kio and called Gemlik in Turkish; in days of old it was called Kieros, then it was called Prousias and it formerly had an episcopal see under the Metropolitan of Nicaea). This was the diocese that the Saint governed for quite some years according to the canons and the traditions of the Holy Apostles.

Holy Hieromartyrs Mark the Bishop of Arethusa, Cyril the Deacon and the Priests and Virgins of Ashkalon and Gaza

Sts. Mark and Cyril the Martyrs (Feast Day - March 29)


To Mark.
At first vigilant with much injurious treatment,
Mark awoke from the divine sleep of peace.

To Cyril.
Cyril the Levite takes the sword in his belly,
As one plows the earth, said David, and breaks it up.

To the Virgins.
Women outstretched in a trough like meat for swine,
Their bellies suffered bursting by the swine-minded.

On the twenty-ninth the Athletes went to the heavens.

Saint Diadochos of Photiki Resource Page

St. Diadochos of Photiki (Feast Day - March 29)

March 28, 2017

My Teacher Fr. John Romanides and my Spiritual Father Fr. George Florovsky

By Protopresbyter Fr. Stephanos Avramides,
Secretary of the Synodal Committee on Inter-Orthodox and Inter-Christian Relations

With this evening's book presentation of the Holy Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, you have given me the opportunity to outline a bright and outstanding personality who set a mark upon modern theological thought. I thank His Eminence the Holy Metropolitan of Nafpaktos for the honor he has given me to submit my simple and humble thoughts and memories of the late Fr. John Romanides.

My acquaintance with Fr. John goes back to 1959, when as a third year student of the Theological School of the Holy Cross in Boston I had him for the first time as a Professor of Dogmatics.

Saint Dionysios the Merciful, Metropolitan of Larissa (+ 1510)

St. Dionysios the Merciful (Feast Day - March 28)

Regarding Saint Dionysios the Merciful, Metropolitan of Larissa and founder of the Monastery of Saint Nicholas Anapausas at Meteora, there are no hagiographic texts, services, synaxaria or biographies.

Saint Dionysios is depicted in a fresco from 1627 on the left aisle of the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Trikala, where the seven "Holy Archbishops of Larissa" are depicted in chronological order from left to right: Saint Thomas Gorianitis, Saint Cyprian the Wonderworker, Saint Anthony the Most Erudite and New Theologian, Saint Bessarion, Saint Dionysios the Merciful, Saint Mark the Hesychast, and Saint Bessarion of the Savior.

Holy Apostle Herodion of the Seventy


Herodion is certainly a noetic rose,
Gathered by the sword, you bloom again in the heavens.

Herodion, also known as Rodion, is greeted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 16:11: "Greet Herodion." He accompanied the Apostles Paul and Peter. Herodion became Bishop of Ypati (New Patras), where he suffered greatly at the hands of the local pagans and Jews. After beating, stoning and stabbing him, they left him for dead, but Saint Herodion arose and continued to serve the Apostles. He was beheaded with the Apostle Olympas in Rome while they were serving the Apostle Peter on the same day that Saint Peter was crucified in 54. He is also celebrated on November 10th with other Holy Apostles of the Seventy.

Saint Hilarion the New, Abbot of Pelekete (+ 754)

St. Hilarion the New of Pelekete (Feast Day - March 28)


Bound to the earth was the earthly flesh of Hilarion,
A blessed earth he blissfully inhabits.
On the twenty-eighth Hilarion met his death.

From his youth, Saint Hilarion devoted himself to the service of God and spent many years as a hermit. Because of his holy and blameless life he was ordained to the holy priesthood, and later he was made Abbot of the Pelekete Monastery in Triglia of Bithynia. Due to his great purity and love he was granted gifts of clairvoyance and wonderworking by the Lord.

March 27, 2017

The Dialogue of the Church with the Left and the Right

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Recently there was a discussion in the ecclesiastical and broader area concerning the dialogue between the Church and the Left. I did not attend the Conference from up close, but only read some papers and related publications. Some of my thoughts are recorded here for wider discussion and clarification.

1. The Church is a place open to everyone, but with a certain purpose. It is a particular society which acquires theological significance as a Body, the Body of Christ, as a spiritual family, a spiritual hospital. The Church does not function as an ideology, but as a spiritual mother who gives birth and raises her children, regardless of color, class, gender and nationality. Whoever sees the Church as an ideology fails to see her deeper purpose, to see the capacity of her heart and how she delivers blood to all her members, even the most humble and despised.

Holy Prophet Hanani

Holy Prophet Hanani (Feast Day - March 27)


By the tripod of the Trinity you prophesied Hanani,
Foretelling the future before the end.

The Prophet Hanani was sent by the Lord to rebuke King Asa of Judah for entering into a league with Benhadad I, King of Syria (Aram), against the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Chr. 16:1-10). This Hanani was also probably the father of the Prophet Jehu (1 Kings 16:7).

Holy Martyrs Philetos, Lydia, Makedonos, Theoprepios, Cronides and Amphilochios

Sts. Philetos, Lydia, Makedonos, Theoprepios, Cronides, Amphilochios (Feast Day - Gr. March 27; Slav. March 23)

On the twenty-seventh of this month [March], we commemorate the Holy Martyrs Philetos the Senator, his wife Lydia, their two sons Theoprepios and Makedonos, Amphilochios the Duke and Cronides the Prison Warden.


To Philetos and Lydia.
Philetos and Lydia were of one flesh,
In this wise they had a peaceful end.

To Theoprepios and Makedonos.
Theoprepios died with Makedonos,
Singing divinely meet hymns to the Lord.

To Amphilochios and Cronides.
The Duke has the Prison Warden to die together,
Authoritatively submitting.

Holy Martyr Matrona of Thessaloniki

St. Matrona of Thessaloniki (Feast Day - March 27)


It is not meet for you to be unknown Martyr Matrona,
Even though you died secretly in prison.
On the twenty-seventh Matrona died in prison.

The Holy Martyr Matrona of Thessaloniki suffered in the early centuries of Christianity, when Christianity was a persecuted faith. She was a maidservant of the Jewish woman Pantilla (or Pautilla), wife of one of the military commanders of Thessaloniki. Pantilla constantly mocked her sservant for her faith in Christ, and tried to convert her to Judaism. Matrona, who believed in Christ from her youth, still prayed to the Savior Christ. When her mistress would go to the synagogue of the Jews, Matrona would not enter but she secretly sneaked away to the Christian church to worship there.

March 26, 2017

The Fourth Sunday of Great Lent Before the Thirteenth Century

By John Sanidopoulos

The Orthodox Church today commemorates Saint John Climacus on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent. However, his primary feast day is celebrated on March 30th. Saint John Climacus reposed in the seventh century, and the first time we hear of his feast celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent is in a manuscript from Vatopaidi Monastery dating to the thirteenth century. It then began appearing in many manuscripts of the fourteenth century. This leaves us wondering what the primary focus of the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent was prior to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Holy Hieromartyr Montanus and Maxima his Wife

Sts. Montanus and Maxima (Feast Day - March 26)

The Holy Martyrs Montanus and Maxima were a married priestly couple who lived in Singidunum (present-day Belgrade in Serbia) in the fourth century during the time of Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. The Emperor’s deputy, Galerius, issued an edict requiring Christians to offer sacrifices to the idols. The pious couple refused, and continued to conduct their lives according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They traveled to Sirmium (west of Belgrade) in order to distance themselves from the seat of power. However, in the year 304, they were seized by Roman soldiers and brought to stand trial before Governor Probus.

Holy Martyr Eutychios the Subdeacon of Alexandria (+ 356)

St. Eutychios the Subdeacon (Feast Day - March 26);
picture shows ancient Alexandria

By St. Athanasius of Alexandria

(History of the Arians, 7.59 & 60)

For [the Arians] made themselves formidable to all men, and treated all with great arrogance, using the name of the Emperor [Constantius], and threatening [the Christians] with his displeasure. They had to assist them in their wickedness the Duke Sebastianus, a Manichee, and a profligate young man; the Prefect, the Count, and the Receiver-General as a dissembler. Many Virgins who condemned their impiety, and professed the truth, they brought out from the houses; others they insulted as they walked along the streets, and caused their heads to be uncovered by their young men. They also gave permission to the females of their party to insult whom they chose; and although the holy and faithful women withdrew on one side, and gave them the way, yet they gathered round them like Bacchanals and Furies , and esteemed it a misfortune if they found no means to injure them, and spent that day sorrowfully on which they were unable to do them some mischief. In a word, so cruel and bitter were they against all, that all men called them hangmen, murderers, lawless, intruders, evil-doers, and by any other name rather than that of Christians.

Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Lent (St. Gregory Palamas)




By St. Gregory Palamas

I have spoken often to your charity about fasting and prayer, especially during these holy days. But so far I have imparted nothing to your devout ears and souls about the gifts with which they honour those who love them, and the many benefits they bring about for those who make use of them. These matters are confirmed above all by the Lord’s words in today’s Gospel reading. So what are these gifts? They are great, probably the greatest of all. Among other things, they can bestow authority against evil spirits, to cast them out and drive them away, and to free those possessed from their cruelty. When the disciples, referring to the deaf and dumb spirit, told the Lord that they could not cast him out, the Lord told them, “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17.21).

March 25, 2017

Documentary: "March 25 - Greek Independence Day"

The Conception of Christ Through the Ear of the Virgin Mary

In both Eastern and Western art of the Annunciation, we often find that the trajectory of the descent of the Holy Spirit is not to the womb of the Virgin Mary, but to her ear. In complete deference to her virginity, the conception had nothing to do whatever with her female sexual organs, which remained forever intact. She did not conceive through her womb, but through her ear (conceptio per aurem). This teaching was inspired by the insights of many Church Fathers.

The Analogy of Eve and the Theotokos (St. Irenaeus of Lyons)

By St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Against Heresies (Book III, Chapter 22)

1. Those, therefore, who allege that [our Lord Jesus] took nothing from the Virgin do greatly err, since, in order that they may cast away the inheritance of the flesh, they also reject the analogy [between Him and Adam]. For if the one who sprang from the earth had indeed formation and substance from both the hand and workmanship of God, but the other not from the hand and workmanship of God, then He who was made after the image and likeness of the former did not, in that case, preserve the analogy of man, and He must seem an inconsistent piece of work, not having wherewith He may show His wisdom. But this is to say, that He also appeared putatively as man when He was not man, and that He was made man while taking nothing from man. For if He did not receive the substance of flesh from a human being, He neither was made man nor the Son of man; and if He was not made what we were, He did no great thing in what He suffered and endured. But every one will allow that we are [composed of] a body taken from the earth, and a soul receiving spirit from God. This, therefore, the Word of God was made, recapitulating in Himself His own handiwork; and on this account does He confess Himself the Son of man, and blesses "the meek, because they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). The Apostle Paul, moreover, in the Epistle to the Galatians, declares plainly, "God sent His Son, made of a woman" (Gal. 4:4). And again, in that to the Romans, he says, "Concerning His Son, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was predestinated as the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 1:3-4).

The Secret Mysteries of the Annunciation

By St. John Chrysostom

And so having beforehand prepared the hearer to look for some ordinary piece of information, and by this laying hold of him, after all he amazes him by adding the marvelous fact, saying, "Before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit..." (Matt. 1:18). Proceed therefore no further, neither require anything more than what has been said. Neither say, "But how was it that the Spirit wrought this of a virgin?" For if, when nature is at work, it is impossible to explain the manner of the formation; how, when the Spirit is working miracles, shall we be able to express these? And lest you should weary the evangelist, or disturb him by continually asking these things, he has said who it was that wrought the miracle, and so withdrawn himself. "For I know," says he, "nothing more, but that what was done was the work of the Holy Spirit."

March 24, 2017

Life and Sayings of our Holy Fathers Karion and Zachariah of Scetis

Holy Abba Karion and Abba Zachariah (Feast Days - November 24 & March 24)

The Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Karion

Karion was a married man, an Egyptian, with a wife and two children. He left his family in order to become a monk in Scetis. During a famine, his wife sent the boy, Zachariah, to his father and he was brought up in the desert. The presence of the boy caused some comment but he proved to be a monk of zeal and discernment and even of greater spiritual understanding than his father.

Saint Zachariah the Faster of the Kiev Caves

Saint Zachariah the Faster was an ascetic in the Far Caves of the Kiev Caves Lavra in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. He fasted so strictly that he ate nothing baked nor boiled, and he consumed only greens once a day at the setting of the sun. Demons trembled at the mere mention of his name. Often the monk saw angels, with which he deserved to live in Heaven.

Holy Hieromartyr Artemon, Presbyter of Laodicea in Syria

St. Artemon of Laodicea (Feast Day - March 24; April 13)


 For March 24.

Departing the world and approaching God,
I am yours and deem to save me Artemon.

For April 13.

Artemon found crowns,
Fitting for his cut off head.

The Hieromartyr Artemon was born of Christian parents in Laodicea, Syria in the first half of the third century. From his youth, he dedicated himself to the service of the Church. The Saint served the Church as a Reader for sixteen years.

Saint Artemon, Bishop of Seleucia in Pisidia

St. Artemon of Seleucia (Feast Day - March 24)


You cast off your body as a case Artemon,
Dispatching from the earth to the heavens.
On the twenty-fourth Artemon received Eden.

Blessed Artemon was born and raised in Seleucia of Pisidia during apostolic times. When the blessed Apostle Paul was wandering in that area, preaching the words of the gospel, he found the Saint and established him as the bishop, shepherd and teacher of that city, since it is not right to hide a lamp under a bushel.

March 23, 2017

The Discovery of the Relics of Saints Serapion the Sindonite and Thais the Former Harlot

In the Lausiac History by Bishop Palladios of Helenopolis, we read about two holy figures who were contemporary ascetics in the fourth century Egyptian desert. The first is Saint Serapion the Sindonite ("of the Girdle"), who is celebrated by the Church on March 21st, and the other is Saint Thais, or Taisia, who is celebrated on October 8th. It is believed by some that it was this Serapion who converted Thais and directed her in her repentance after living a life of harlotry.

Holy Hieromartyr Nikon and the 199 Monks With Him

St. Nikon the Martyr and the 199 With Him (Feast Day - March 23)


To Nikon.
Crowns of victory are made ready for you Nikon,
As the leader he crowns and dies by the sword.

To the One Hundred and Ninety-Nine.
The fifty times four minus one fellow martyrs,
Are put to death by the sword.

On the twenty-third Nikon gave his head to the sword.

Saint Nikon the Abbot of the Kiev Caves (+ 1088)

St. Nikon of the Kiev Caves (Feast Day - March 23)

Saint Nikon of the Kiev Caves was the first disciple and fellow-ascetic of Saint Anthony (July 10), the founder of the Kiev Caves Monastery, to which he came as a priest and experienced monk. At the monastery he was given the obedience by Saint Anthony to tonsure all the new monks, including Saint Theodosius of the Kiev Caves (May 3 and Aug. 14).

For tonsuring the favorites of the Great Prince Izyaslav, Saints Barlaam (Nov. 19) and Ephraim (Jan. 28 ), a boyar and eunuch of the Prince, Saint Nikon brought the wrath of the prince down upon himself, but he refused to force the new monks to leave the monastery. The princess calmed Izyaslav, and he left Saint Nikon in peace.

March 22, 2017

Emperor and Patriarch on the Sunday of the Holy Cross as Celebrated in 1437

The Sunday of the Holy Cross, which is the Third Sunday of Great Lent, was a special celebration in Constantinople, as recorded in a manuscript from 1437 describing the order (diataxis) by which the emperor was to participate in the ceremony. According to this manuscript, after Great Vespers on Saturday evening, the emperor and the patriarch went on procession from Hagia Sophia to the palace chapel of the treasury (presumably the Chapel of Saint Stephen) in which the reliquary of the True Cross was kept. Banners and liturgical fans accompanied them, while a double file of soldiers bearing spears dipped them in homage as the procession passed by. At the chapel, the emperor retrieved the relic and it was borne in its reliquary by both the emperor and the patriarch for the return journey to Hagia Sophia. Arriving at the Great Church of Hagia Sophia, the emperor and patriarch placed the reliquary on the Holy Altar.

Holy Hieromartyr Basil, Presbyter of Ancyra

St. Basil of Ancyra (Feast Day - March 22)


Indeed the Prophet spoke of pain in the belly,
Pierced the Martyr did not affirm pain.
On the twenty-second Basil was pierced with spikes.

Hieromartyr Basil was a Presbyter in Ancyra, Galatia when Marcellus was Bishop of Ancyra. On account of his zeal against the Arians, Marcellus was slandered by them as a Sabellian and he was banished by Constantius in 336. In his place another Basil, who was a Semi-Arian, was elevated to the bishopric of Ancyra. Saint Basil, a man of a most holy life, and unblemished conduct, and had been trained up by saints in the practices of perfect piety, fought against the Semi-Arian heresy, and he urged his flock to cling firmly to Orthodoxy. In 360 Arians had the Semi-Arian Bishop Basil deposed. That same year Saint Basil was deposed from his priestly rank by a local Arian synod, but a synod of 230 bishops in Palestine reinstated him.

March 21, 2017

Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Serapion the Sindonite

St. Serapion the Sindonite (Feast Day - March 21)


Your hands always bound by fetters Serapion,
In the end you gave your spirit to the Lord.

By Bishop Palladius of Helenopolis

(Lausiac History, Ch. 37)

There was another monk, Serapion, and he was surnamed the Sindonite, for apart from a sindon (loincloth; girdle) he never wore clothes. He practiced great detachment from possessions and, being well educated, knew all the Scriptures by heart. And through his great detachment and his meditation on the Scriptures he was unable to remain calmly in the cell; not because he was distracted by material things, yet none the less he traveled up and down the world and perfected this type of asceticism. For he was born with this nature; for there are differences of natures, not of substances.

The fathers used to relate how, taking an ascetic as his accomplice, he sold himself to some Greek actors in a certain city for twenty pieces of money. And having sealed up the money he kept it on his person. Then he stayed a long while and served as slave to the actors who had bought him, until he both made them Christians and induced them to leave the stage. All the time he took nothing except bread and water, nor did his lips rest from expounding the Scriptures. After a long period, first the man was stricken with compunction, then the actress, then the whole house. But it was said that as long as they did not know him he washed the feet of them both. So both were baptized and gave up the stage, and applying themselves to an honorable and pious life they revered the man exceedingly and said to him: "Here, brother, let us free you, since you yourself have freed us from disgraceful slavery." He said to them: "Since God has wrought this, and your soul is saved, let me tell you the mystery of my conduct. I pitied your soul, being myself an ascetic, a free man, an Egyptian by race, and I sold myself for this reason, that I might save you. But since God has done this, and your soul has been saved through my humiliation, take back your money, that I may go away and help others." But they used many entreaties and assured him: "We will have you as father and master, only stay with us." But they could not persuade him. Then they said to him: "Give the money to the poor, for it has been our first payment for salvation; but come and see us, if only once a year."

In the course of his incessant wanderings he came to Greece, and during a three days' stay at Athens no one thought fit to give him bread; he carried no money, no purse, no sheep-skin coat -- nothing of the kind. So when the fourth day came he was very hungry; for hunger unwillingly endured is terrible, if it has an ally in the fact that no one believes you. And standing on an eminence in the city, where the authorities were collecting, he began to lament violently, clapping his hands, and to call out: "Men of Athens, help!"

And all ran to him, wearers of the philosopher's cloak and laborer's smock alike, and said to him: "What is the matter? Where are you from? What ails you?" Said he to them: "By race I am an Egyptian. After I left my real country I fell in with three usurers. And two left me having got their debt in full, with no accusation to make. But one does not leave me." So, inquiring minutely about the usurers in order that they might satisfy them, they asked him: "Where are they? and who are they? Who is it that troubles you? Show him to us that we may help you." Then he said to them: "From my youth covetousness and gluttony and fornication have troubled me. From two am I freed, covetousness and fornication; they trouble me no longer. But I cannot get free from gluttony. For this is the fourth day that I have not eaten, and my stomach continues troubling me and seeking its habitual debt without which I cannot live." Then certain of the philosophers, supposing it to be acting, gave him money. And having received it he put it down in a baker's shop, and having got one loaf he resumed his journey and left the city at once and never more returned to it.

Then the philosophers recognized that he was truly virtuous, and giving the baker the price of the bread they took the piece of money. But having come to the country where the Spartans live, he heard that one of the first men of the city was a Manichaean with all his house, though virtuous in other respects. To him again he sold himself as he had done at first; and within two years he induced him to forsake his heresy, and brought him to the Church and his wife also. Then they loved him no longer as a servant, but treated him as a true brother or father and glorified God.

One day he flung himself into a vessel as if he had a right to sail to Rome. The sailors, thinking that either he had paid his fare or had the price of it in cash, received him without trouble, each thinking that another had taken his luggage. But when they had sailed away and got 500 stades from Alexandria the passengers began to eat about sundown, the sailors having eaten first. They saw that he did not eat the first day, and expected it was because of the voyage; similarly on the second, third and fourth days. On the fifth day they saw him sitting quietly while all ate and said to him: "Why are you not eating, man?" He said to them: "Because I have nothing." So they inquired one of another: "Who received his luggage or his fare?" And when they found that no one had they began to attack him and say: "How did you come on without paying? From what source can you give us the fare? Or from what source can you get fed?" He said to them: "I have nothing. Pick me up and throw me where you found me." But they would not willingly have relinquished their voyage, even for 100 gold pieces, but they wanted to get to their destination. So he remained in the ship and found that they fed him until they got to Rome.

So having come to Rome he inquired who was a great ascetic in the city, man or woman. Among others he met also a certain Domninus, a disciple of Origen, whose bed healed sick persons after his death. So he met him and was benefited, for he was a man of refined manners and liberal education, and learning from him what other ascetics there were, male or female, he was told of a certain virgin who cultivated solitude and would meet no one. And having learned where she lived he went off and said to the old woman who attended her: "Tell the virgin, 'I must meet you, for God has sent me.'" So after waiting two or three days at last he met her, and said to her: "Why do you remain stationary?" She said to him: "I do not remain stationary, I am on a journey." He said to her: "Where are you journeying?" Said she to him: "To God." He said to her: "Are you alive or dead?" She said to him: "I trust in God that I am dead, for no one who lives to the flesh shall make that journey." He said to her: "Then do what I do, that you may convince me that you are dead." She said to him: "Order me possible things, and I will do them." He answered her: "All things are possible to a dead person except impiety." Then he said to her: "Go out and appear in public." She answered him: "This is the twenty-fifth year that has passed without my appearing in public. And why should I appear?" "If you are dead to the world," said he to her, "and the world to you, it is all the same to you whether you appear or appear not. So appear in public." She did so, and after she had appeared outside and gone as far as a church, he said to her in the church: "Now then, if you wish to convince me that you are dead and no longer live pleasing men, do what I do and I shall know that you are dead. Follow my example and take off all your clothes, put them on your shoulders, go through the middle of the city with me leading the way in this fashion." She said to him: "I should scandalize many by the unseemliness of the thing and they would be able to say, 'She is mad and possessed by a demon.'" He answered her: "What does it concern you if they say, 'She is mad and possessed by a demon?' For you are dead to them." Then she said to him: "If you want anything else I will do it; for I do not profess to have reached this stage." Then he said to her: "See then, no longer be proud of yourself as more pious than all others and dead to the world, for I am more dead than you and show by my act that I am dead to the world; for impassively and without shame I do this thing." Then having left her in humility and broken her pride, he departed.

There are many other marvelous acts which he did in the direction of impassivity. He died in the sixtieth year of his age, and was buried at Rome itself.*

From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

1. One day Abba Serapion passed through an Egyptian village and there he saw a courtesan who stayed in her own cell. The old man said to her, 'Expect me this evening, for I should like to come and spend the night with you.' She replied, 'Very well, abba.' She got ready and made the bed. When evening came, the old man came to see her and entered her cell and said to her, 'Have you got the bed ready?' She said, 'Yes, abba.' Then he closed the door and said to her, 'Wait a bit, for we have a rule of prayer and I must fulfill that first.' So the old man began his prayers. He took the psalter and at each psalm he said a prayer for the courtesan, begging God that she might be converted and saved, and God heard him. The woman stood trembling and praying beside the old man. When he had completed the whole psalter the woman fell to the ground. Then the old man, beginning the Epistle, read a great deal from the apostle and completed his prayers. The woman was filled with compunction and understood that he had not come to see her to commit sin but to save her soul and she fell at his feet, saying, 'Abba, do me this kindness and take we where I can please God.' So the old man took her to a monastery of virgins and entrusted her to the amma and he said, 'Take this sister and do not put any yoke or commandment on her as on the other sisters, but if she wants something, give it her and allow her to walk as she wishes.' After some days the courtesan said, 'I am a sinner; I wish to eat every second day.' A little later she said, 'I have committed many sins and I wish to eat every fourth day.' A few days later she besought the amma saying, 'Since I have grieved God greatly by my sins, do me the kindness of putting me in a cell and shutting it completely and giving me a little bread and some work through the window.' The amma did so and the woman pleased God all the rest of her life.**

2. A brother said to Abba Serapion, 'Give me a word.' The old man said to him, 'What shall I say to you? You have taken the living of the widows and orphans and put it on your shelves.' For he saw them full of books.

3. Abba Serapion said, 'When the soldiers of the emperor are standing at attention, they cannot look to the right or left; it is the same for the man who stands before God and looks towards him in fear at all times; he cannot then fear anything from the enemy.'

4. A brother went to find Abba Serapion. According to his custom, the old man invited him to say a prayer. But the other, calling himself a sinner and unworthy of the monastic habit, did not obey. Next Abba Serapion wanted to wash his feet, but using the same words again, the visitor prevented him. Then Abba Serapion made him eat and he began to eat with him. Then he admonished him saying, 'My son, if you want to make progress stay in your cell and pay attention to yourself and your manual work; going out is not so profitable for you as remaining at home.' When he heard these words the visitor was offended and his expression changed so much that the old man could not but notice it. So he said to him, 'Up to now you have called yourself a sinner and accused yourself of being unworthy to live, but when I admonished you lovingly, you were extremely put out. If you want to be humble, learn to bear generously what others unfairly inflict upon you and do not harbour empty words in your heart.' Hearing this, the brother asked the old man's forgiveness and went away greatly edified.


* Dom Cuthbert Butler wrote of Palladius' account of Serapion in 1898: "I had looked upon Palladius' account of Sarapion's life and travels as extravagant and impossible, until a little time ago I met a Hindu Renunciant, a well-educated high-caste Brahmin, who on a religions mission travelled from India to Europe clad in what may be described as pyjamas and a brown dressing gown, with shoes and skull-cap, carrying no money nor anything besides the clothes he wore and an umbrella: he arrived in London with no money, no luggage, no friends, no introductions; yet he managed to effect the purpose of his journey, and said he had no doubt he would get back to India somehow. What Palladius tells of Sarapion's adventures is hardly more wonderful than this."

** Though it is said in Syrian texts Bessarion converted St. Thais, in Greek the name is Serapion, indicating that this story relates the history of St. Thais. Some believe they were later buried together in Egypt, and their relics were discovered in 1901 near Antinoe and exhibited at the Musée Guimet in Paris.

Saint James the Confessor and Bishop

St. James the Confessor and Bishop (Feast Day - March 21)


Enduring sorrows on behalf of your shadow (namely image) O Word,
James was delivered from this life of shadows.
On the twenty-first James was hidden under the earth.

Regarding the life of Saint James, we have incomplete information. Neither the place of his birth nor the place where James served as Bishop are known. We known that from the time of his youth he was inclined toward the ascetic life, and he purified himself through fasting and prayer. Due to his great virtue he was elected Bishop.

Saint Thomas I, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 610)

St. Theodore I of Constantinople (Feast Day - March 21);
icon depicts All the Holy Patriarchs of Constantinople


Thomas departed this life which was numbered,
In a befitting manner finding life without number.

Saint Thomas lived during the reigns of the Emperors Maurice and Phocas and at the time of the Patriarchs John the Faster and Kyriakos. Thomas attracted the attention of Patriarch John by his great virtue, sensible mind and piety, so he was ordained by the Patriarch as Deacon of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia and was Sakellarios to the Patriarch. Following the repose of Patriarch John, Thomas remained in his position throughout the patriarchate of his successor Kyriakos.

March 20, 2017

Synaxarion of our Holy Father Niketas the Confessor, Bishop of Apolloniada

St. Niketas the Confessor (Feast Day - March 20)


On behalf of Your image Niketas bore suffering,
Now he sees Your face O Christ in the heavens.

Our Holy and God-bearing Father and Confessor Nikitas lived during the time of iconoclasm, and he was made Bishop of Apolloniada, a city of Bithynia, which is also called Apollonia, and was once under the Metropolitan of Nicomedia. Not only was he faithful, pious and most Orthodox, but also merciful and compassionate, and very learned in his studies of Scripture, more so in his words and speech.

Holy Martyrs Alexandria, Claudia, Euphrasia, Matrona, Juliana, Euphemia and Theodora of Aminsus

Holy Seven Virgin Martyrs of Aminsus (Feast Day - March 20)


The virgin number of seven,
Was manifested in the seven virgin women who were set on fire.*

These Saints lived during the reign of Emperor Maximian (286-305), who began a great persecution against Christians. At this time men and women of all ages confessed Christ, and were put to death by various means of torments. Since this much-distressful persecution also took place in Aminsus of Cappadocia, where the governor inhumanely put to death the Christians, these seven holy virgins boldly stood before the governor, they confessed Christ as true God, and called the governor inhumane and monstrous and the enemy of truth.

March 19, 2017

The Third Sunday of Great Lent Before the Seventh Century

By John Sanidopoulos

The Third Sunday of Great Lent today maintains the most ancient liturgical practice of all the Sundays of Great Lent, dating back to the seventh century. However, before the seventh century, the Third Sunday of Great Lent was very similar to how we celebrate the First Sunday of the Triodion today. The Gospel reading before we began honoring the Veneration of the Cross was the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. This went along with the previous Sunday Gospel reading, which was dedicated to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, emphasizing repentance and humility, not only for the faithful, but also for the catechumens who were preparing for Holy Baptism on either Lazarus Saturday or Holy Saturday. Today only the Doxastikon of the Praises during Matins and many Idiomela remind us of the Publican and the Pharisee.

Homily on the Third Sunday of Lent (St. Gregory Palamas)




By St. Gregory Palamas

The Cross of Christ was mysteriously proclaimed in advance and foreshadowed from generations of old and no one was ever reconciled with God except by the power of the Cross. After our First Parents transgressed against God through the tree in paradise, sin came to life, but we died, submitting, even before physical death, to the death of the soul, its separation from God. After the transgression we lived in sin and according to the flesh. Sin “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8.7-8).

March 18, 2017

A Greek Orthodox View of Ecumenism (2 of 2)

...continued from part one.

A Greek Orthodox View of Ecumenism (Part Two)

By Rev. John S. Romanides

(Orthodox Observer, December 1964)

In contrast to these developments in the West, the Churches of the East were not confronted with the problems of a feudal society, since the East Roman Empire continued to exist for almost a thousand years after the Western half of the Empire collapsed. Even within the areas conquered by Islam the basic administration of Church affairs remained that were established during Roman times. Whereas the emperor showed effective concern in the election of the bishops of the capital cities, he did not interfere in the election of the bishops of the provinces, and there were no feudal lords to interfere either. The several autocephalous and autonomous Churches of the East continued to administer their own ecclesiastical areas by means of local synods of all the bishops of each respective grouping. Apart from certain of the Slavic Churches the more or less democratic character of Church administration continued, and there was nothing like the Church-State crisis which shook the foundations of medieval Western society. The Churches of the East Roman Empire could not even evolve theories, let alone dogmas, concerning centralized Church administration, since the very numerous Churches of apostolic origin were careful to preserve their ancient customs and privileges. One is reminded of the insistence of the Third Ecumenical Council of 431 that the Churches of the Island of Cyprus had been independently self-governed or autocephalous since ancient times. Then there is the peculiar phenomenon of St. Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai, which is a self-governing autocephalous Church headed by an Archbishop elected by the monks and enjoying a status equal to the other autocephalous Churches and higher than the autonomous Churches.

The Theotokos as the Rectification of Humanity

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

The person of the Panagia, much more so her ministry in the unexplainable mystery of the Incarnation of the Son and Word of God, is truly a miracle. How did God become man in the womb of a woman and how did a woman carry God in her immaculate womb and in her warm embrace?

The God-bearing Damascene, the great dogmatician of our Church, describes it as a miracle. In one of his homilies he writes: "O Virgin full of divine grace, holy temple of God which the Spiritual Solomon, that Prince of Peace, constructed and inhabited; you are not adorned with gold and lifeless stones, but in place of gold you shine with the Spirit. Instead of precious stones you have Christ, 'the pearl of great price', the coal of divinity."1 Thus she became "the rectification of our foremother Eve" with the descent of God to the human race and the ascent of man to God. The new Eve rectifies the erroneous action of our foremother Eve and at the same time lifts the human race from corruption and sin. With particular astonishment at this rectification the sacred hymnographer of the kontakion of the Akathist Hymn chants: "Rejoice the rectification of humanity."

Synaxarion of our Holy Father Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Feast Day - March 18)


Offering your talents you enter gain,
In the joy of your Lord O Cyril.
On the eighteenth Cyril was seized by murky death.

Our Holy Father Cyril lived during the reign of Emperor Constantius (337-361), son of Constantine the Great. Being the son of pious and orthodox parents, he was educated by them and raised with piety and correct doctrine.

Holy Ten Thousand Martyrs of Nicomedia

Holy Myriad of Martyrs in Nicomedia (Feast Day - March 18);
photo depicts the ruins of Nicomedia


A myriad of men were beheaded,
Departing where there are a myriad of intelligences.

According to the Roman Martyrology for March 18th: ""At Nicomedia ten thousand holy martyrs who were put to the sword for the confession of Christ." This refers to the veneration of a number of those who gave their lives for Christ at the beginning of the persecution of Diocletian in the city of Nicomedia, in 303.