Sunday, March 24, 2019

Venerable Martin of the Thebaid

St. Martin of the Thebaid (Feast Day - March 24)


You were reared well fair old man Martin,
Dying you died and were delivered to your forefathers.

Venerable Martin of the Thebaid met his end in peace.

St. Gregory Palamas: The Wonder of Noetic Prayer

By Archimandrite Dionisios Karagiannis

During the Second Sunday of Great Lent, the Church celebrates the memory of the epitome of faith and life, St. Gregory Palamas, later Archbishop of Thessaloniki, who, according to the hymns, is the great teacher of the Church and the preacher of divine light.

The distinction of essence and energies of God involves all of those things God can share and those He cannot share. The essence of God is inaccessible and unknown to creation, including people. However, one can come into relationship and communion with God through His uncreated energies, and the grace offered generously.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Holy New Hieromartyr Macarius Kvitkin, Protopresbyter of Orenburg (+ 1931)

By Vladimir Kvitkin-Pawlenko
(Son of Saint Macarius Kvitkin)

Archpriest Macarius Kvitkin was glorified as one of the New Martyrs for Christ in 1981 by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and in 2000 by the Moscow Patriarchate. On February 9, the Russian Church triumphantly celebrates the memory of the Synaxis of New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia. Fr. Makary's son, Vladimir Kvitkin-Pawlenko set down the account of his life. In 1995 it was published in Orthodox Life.

New Martyr Fr. Makary was born in 1882 in the town of Orsk, Orenburg Province. He was the son of the pious Fyodor and Evdokia Kvitkin. At a very early age, he came to love Christ and the Church, and was a deeply religious youth, often attending church, and reading and singing in the choir. As a young man, he first completed a course of studies at a teachers' college, and taught in a school. In 1904 Makary married Evfrosinia Kondratievna Beznosovaya, a pious maiden from a prosperous family. One year later, their first son, Sergei, was born.

Holy Martyrs Victorian, Frumentius and Companions (+ 484)

Sts. Victorian, Frumentius and Companions (Feast Day - March 23)

Victorian, proconsul of Carthage, a native of Hadrumetum, was one of the wealthiest men in North Africa, and had held several important offices under Hunneric, the Vandal king, son of Genseric. Hunneric, being resolved to trample out the faith in the Godhead of Christ, and establish the Arian heresy throughout his dominion, offered Victorian the highest honors, and his own special favor, if he would regard Christ as a creature.

Victorian replied, "Nothing can separate me from the faith and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the confidence that I have in so mighty a master, I am ready to suffer all kinds of torments rather than to consent to Arian impiety. You may burn me or expose me to wild beasts, or kill me by other tortures; but never will you prevail on me to desert the Church in which I was baptized." This reply so exasperated the tyrant that he made the Saint undergo the worst and most protracted torments his ingenuity could devise. Victorian endured them all with a good courage, and gained the martyr's crown.

Friday, March 22, 2019

On the Veneration of Icons (2 of 2)

By St. Nektarios of Aegina

The use of icons in the Church dates back to ancient times.... The monuments with the engravings and the murals found in the chambers-cemeteries of the catacombs as well as the martyria where worship took place, testify to the use of icons and certify that in the second and third century icons were used in the Church.

The enemies of icons claim that Christians coming from the Jews as well as the nations could not have icons. The Jews because even when they became Christians did not alienate themselves from the Mosaic law, while Christians from the nations were afraid they might turn to idolatry.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

On the Veneration of Icons (1 of 2)

By St. Nektarios of Aegina

The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church from apostolic tradition continues to depict the Icon of the Savior, the Theotokos, the Holy Apostles and all the Saints who pleased God and were glorified by Him, and it teaches and confers the honor and veneration that suits them.

The veneration of Holy Icons is not opposed to the Second Commandment of the law in the Decalogue:

"You shall not make for yourself any idol, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not venerate them, nor worship them."

Extreme Positions in Theology and Life

Emeritus Professor of Theology George Mantzaridis offers profound insights on extremist positions in Life as well as in Theology.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

New Martyrs of Estonia Canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to include in the canon of the Orthodox Church of Estonia those who gave their lives in martyrdom and those who are accounted as confessors for the Orthodox Faith between 1944 and 1955, following a proposal by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Estonia and its President, Metropolitan Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia.

Saint Martin of Braga, Apostle of the Sueves (+ 580)

Little is known of his early life. Martin was born about 520 in Pannonia (today: Hungary, Croatia, Serbia). As a young man he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he became a monk. While living in Palestine, he met pilgrims from Spain who spoke to him about the need to convert pagans and Arians in their lands. With the encouragement of the pilgrims he traveled to Spain at about 550. He arrived in Galicia in the northwestern part of of the Iberian peninsula to convert the Suevi, a Germanic tribe that earlier had migrated into Spain. Many in the tribe were still pagans and others had accepted Arianism.

Holy Venerable Martyr Euphrosynus of Blue Jay Lake (+ 1612)

St. Euphrosynus of Blue Jay Lake (Feast Day - March 20)

Saint Euphrosynus of Blue Jay Lake (Sinozersky), in the world Ephraim, was born in Karelia near Lake Ladoga in the second half of the sixteenth century. His father's name was Simeon, but his mother's name has not come down to us. In his youth he lived near the Valaam Monastery, perhaps as a novice, until it was captured and ransacked by the Swedes. Later he moved to Novgorod the Great. After he spent some time there, the Saint then withdrew to one of the Novgorod outskirts, the Bezhetsk “pentary” [one fifth of the “Pyatiny Novgorodskiya,” comprising five outlying districts of Novgorod the Great].

Holy Martyr Emmanuel

St. Emmanuel the Martyr (Feast Day - March 20)


By the sword I shed forth a cup,
Emmanuel declared of his blood.

The Holy Martyr Emmanuel met his end by the sword.

This is probably the same Saint as the Holy Martyr Manuel commemorated on March 26th. Even though there he is known as Manuel, both Holy Martyrs have the same iambic verses.

Holy Martyr Lollion

St. Lollion the Martyr (Feast Day - March 20)


Lollion bore the punches standing,
Exerting neither groans nor moans.

The Holy Martyr Lollion, or Lollionos, met his end by punches with the fist.

It should not be out of the question that the Holy Martyr Lollionos commemorated on July 15th is the same person as this Holy Martyr. He is said to have been kicked to death by executioners.

Holy Martyr Aquila the Eparch

St. Aquila the Martyr (Feast Day - March 20)


You were seen as a sacrifice without blemish Aquila,
Offered without blemish to the Master by the sword.

The Holy Martyr Aquila (Akyla) the Eparch met his end by the sword.

Holy Martyr Rodianos

St. Rodianos the Martyr (Feast Day - March 20)


As a red rose Rodianos,
Brought to you Christ his bloody decapitation.

The Holy Martyr Rodianos met his end by the sword.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Relics of Sts. Chrysanthos and Daria in the Church of Santi Apostoli of Rome

After their martyrdom in Rome along the Via Salaria, Saints Chrysanthos and Daria were buried in the nearby Catacomba di Trasone. When the catacombs were abandoned in the ninth century, the relics of the two Saints were originally taken to Santi Apostoli. They are now claimed to be enshrined in several locations, most notably at the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia where a 2011 analysis found the human remains of an age and makeup corresponding to the documented origins.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyr Pancharios

St. Pancharios the Martyr (Feast Day - March 19)


Pancharios had all the riches of grace,
Anointed by God's grace on the way to being beheaded.

When the emperors Diocletian and Maximian reigned, from the years 286 to 305, which totaled nineteen years, the entire ecumene was full of the delusion of the idols, and every Christian that confessed Christ, was not only deprived of their property and belongings, but they even lost their lives, having first been tried with many and various tortures. At that time lived also Pancharios the Martyr of Christ, who was from the land of the Ousanon, from the city known as Villapati,* and was the son of Christian parents. He was tall and mighty in stature and handsome in appearance. Having gone to Rome, he became friends with Diocletian, became first of the ruling Senators, and was exceedingly loved by the emperor. Because of the exceeding love each shared for one another, Panacharios - alas! - disowned his faith in Christ, and became like-minded with the emperor. The emperor therefore arranged for Pancharios to receive provision-money every year from the empire, some by written apportionment, others by imperial edict, in order that by this he would have every manner of rest and relaxation. This bitter news reached the blessed mother and sister of Pancharios, and they wrote him a letter, advising him to first remember the fear of God, then to remember the fearsome judgment of God, at which time, those who recognized Christ, and boldly confessed Him before emperors and rulers, they will in turn confess on behalf of the Master Christ, and will receive the promise and rest of eternal good things. These were all things he knew very well. To the contrary, those who defied and denied the divinity of Christ, they will receive many judgments against them on that fearsome day of judgment. This also he knew very well. "Whoever confesses Me before others, I will also confess before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before My Father in heaven" (Matt. 10:32-33). These are the things they wrote him, as well as the other saying of the Lord which says: "What will it benefit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt. 8:36).

Saint Innocent of Komel and Vologda (+ 1521)

St. Innocent of Komel and Vologda (Feast Day - March 19)

Venerable Innocent of Komel and Vologda was born at Moscow, and was descended from the Moscow princely family of Okhlyabinin. He became a monk in the Monastery of Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9), and was put under the guidance of Saint Nilus of Sora (May 7).

Holy Martyrs Diodoros the Presbyter and Marianos the Deacon

Sts. Diodoros and Marianos (Feast Day - March 19)


The cave was like an altar. Within is offered,
The sacrificer of Christ, and his levite with him.
The Holy Martyrs Diodoros the Presbyter and Marianos the Deacon suffered martyrdom after the martyrdom of Saints Chrysanthos and Daria.

In a cave near the place of execution of the Holy Martyrs Chrysanthos and Daria in Rome, Christians began to gather to honor the anniversary of the their martyrdom. They celebrated Church services and partook of the Holy Mysteries. Learning of this, the pagan authorities sealed the entrance to the cave, and those within received the crown of martyrdom.

Two of these martyrs are known by name: the Presbyter Diodoros and the Deacon Marianos. Their relics rest today in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Saint Nikolai Velimirovich, the Serbian Chrysostom (+ 1956)

St. Nikolai Velimirovich (Feast Day - March 18)

Saint Nikolai of Zhicha, “the Serbian Chrysostom,” was born in Lelich in western Serbia on January 4, 1881. His parents were Dragomir and Katherine Velimirovich, who lived on a farm where they raised a large family. His pious mother was a major influence on his spiritual development, teaching him by word and especially by example. As a small child, Nikolai often walked three miles to the Chelije Monastery with his mother to attend services there.

Sickly as a child, Nikolai was not physically strong as an adult. He failed his physical requirements when he applied to the military academy, but his excellent academic qualifications allowed him to enter the Saint Sava Seminary in Belgrade, even before he finished preparatory school.

After graduating from the seminary in 1905, he earned doctoral degrees from the University of Berne in 1908, and from King’s College, Oxford in 1909. When he returned home, he fell ill with dysentery. Vowing to serve God for the rest of his life if he recovered, he was tonsured at the Rakovica Monastery on December 20, 1909 and was also ordained to the holy priesthood.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyrs Trophimos and Eukarpios

Sts. Trophimos and Eukarpios (Feast Day - March 18)


Unending fruits and food were found in the furnace,
By the champions Eukarpios and Trophimos.

When a persecution against Christians ignited in Nicomedia, during the reign of Emperor Maximian in 298, many Christians were captured and imprisoned. After they were interrogated with many examinations and punishments, those who remained till the end in their confession of the faith of Christ, were put to death. At that time were also the Martyrs of Christ Trophimos and Eukarpios, who were at first powerful and daring and part of the imperial army, through which they were persecutors and extreme enemies of Christ and Christians, and they would gathered up Christians and imprison them. They had reached the point where the tyrants gave them all authority against the Christians, and whoever they wanted they punished, while they took care of whoever they wanted as well.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Homily for the Sunday of Orthodoxy (Metr. Athanasios of Limassol)

By Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol

On the first Sunday of Lent, we celebrate the Sunday of Orthodoxy, that is to say the feast of the restitution of the holy icons, as the Church once again, by the grace of God, vanquished the heresy of the iconoclasts and preserved with exactitude the faith and the tradition of the Holy Fathers of the Church, as it has been preserved throughout the ages.

This faith has as its result the healing of humankind, our salvation and deification. Reverencing the holy icons is proof that we confess that God became a describable person, that the Word of God was truly incarnated and became a person, but also that people truly become children of God and vessels of the Holy Spirit, temples of God and members of Christ. We reverence the holy icons of the Saints and their holy relics because God dwelt in them. So we celebrate the restitution of the holy icons and have the blessed custom of carrying them in procession, of honoring and embracing the icons of Christ and Our Lady and the Saints of the Church.

Homily for the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov)

By St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

Orthodoxy is the true knowledge of God and reverence of God. Orthodoxy is the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth. Orthodoxy is the glorification of the true God, the knowledge of Him and worship of Him. Orthodoxy is the glorification of God by man, the true servant of God, given to him through the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the glory of the Christian (cf. Jn 7:39).[1] Where there is no Spirit, there is no Orthodoxy.

There is no Orthodoxy in human teachings and philosophies; false reason reigns in them—the fruit of the fall. Orthodoxy is the teaching of the Holy Spirit given by God to man for his salvation. Where there is no Orthodoxy, there is no salvation. "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic [meaning: universal] Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly" (from the Creed of St. Athanasius[2]).

Homily for the Sunday of Orthodoxy (Fr. Alexander Schmemann)

By Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rejoicing today in the triumph of Orthodoxy on this first Sunday of Lent, we joyfully commemorate three events: one event belonging to the past; one event to the present; and one event which still belongs to the future.

Whenever we have any feast or joy in the Church, we Orthodox first of all look back — for in our present life we depend on what happened in the past. We depend first of all, of course, on the first and the ultimate triumph -- that of Christ Himself. Our faith is rooted in that strange defeat which became the most glorious victory — the defeat of a man nailed to the cross, who rose again from the dead, who is the Lord and the Master of the world. This is the first triumph of Orthodoxy. This is the content of all our commemorations and of all our joy. This man selected and chose twelve men, gave them power to preach about that defeat and that victory, and sent them to the whole world saying preach and baptize, build up the Church, announce the Kingdom of God. And you know, my brothers and sisters, how those twelve men — very simple men indeed, simple fishermen — went out and preached. The world hated them, the Roman Empire persecuted them, and they were covered with blood. But that blood was another victory. The Church grew, the Church covered the universe with the true faith. After 300 years of the most unequal conflict between the powerful Roman Empire and the powerless Christian Church, the Roman Empire accepted Christ as Lord and Master. That was the second triumph of Orthodoxy. The Roman Empire recognized the one whom it crucified and those whom it persecuted as the bearers of truth, and their teaching as the teaching of life eternal. The Church triumphed. But then the second period of troubles began.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saint Ambrose the Confessor, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia (+ 1927)

St. Ambrose the Confessor, Catholicos of Georgia (Feast Day - March 16)

Saint Ambrose the Confessor (in the world Besarion Khelaia) was born in 1861. He received his primary education at the theological school in Samegrelo and graduated from Tbilisi Seminary in 1885. He graduated and was ordained to the priesthood in the same year. Fr. Ambrose served as a priest in Sokhumi (in northwestern Georgia) for eight years, at the same time teaching the Georgian language in schools and directing the activity of various philanthropic societies. In 1896 he was widowed, and in 1897 he enrolled at the Kazan Theological Academy.

While in Kazan, Fr. Ambrose followed both the literary-cultural life of the city and the Georgian national independence movement with great interest. Under the pseudonym of Amber, he published a series of articles denouncing the policy of Russification in Abkhazia and accusing local Russian officials of fomenting anti-Georgian sentiments among the Abkhaz people. He researched the history of Georgia from primary sources and composed several essays based on his findings. His essay, titled “The Struggle Between Christianity and Islam in Georgia,” was so compelling to one professor that he recommended that Fr. Ambrose continue exploring this theme and present his research for a Master’s degree.

Holy Ten Martyrs at Phoenicia

Holy Ten Martyrs at Phoenicia (Feast Day - March 16)


The chorus of ten male Martyrs by the sword,
Man-slayers by slaying became Martyr-slayers.

The Holy Ten Martyrs at Phoenicia met their end by the sword.

Holy Martyr Romanos at Parium

St. Romanos the Martyr at Parium (Feast Day - March 16)


Showing his affection for You in struggles,
Your Romanos O Savior rushed towards the sword.

The Holy Martyr Romanos at Parium met his end by the sword.

Venerable John of Roufianais

Venerable John of Roufianais (Feast Day - March 16)


We honor the departure of John,
Who appears to go dwell with God.

Venerable John of Roufianais met his end in peace.

Roufianais, or Roufinianai, was a monastery established by Rufinus in the fourth century who had come to Chalcedon from Rome. This monastery in Chalcedon was populated by Rufinus with monks from Egypt. When Rufinas died, he was buried at this monastery, and the monks there left and returned to their homeland, causing the monastery to go to ruins. It was reestablished by Hypatios, who is commemorated on June 17th, in the early fifth century. The identity of Venerable John, whom we commemorate today, is not known.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Sloth: The Foundation of Wickedness

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

The period of Holy and Great Lent which we have once again entered this year by the grace and philanthropy of God, is not only a period of fasting and abstaining from certain foods, but it is primarily a period of fasting from the passions, that they may be changed by the uncreated grace of God into virtues, and be beneficial to both ourselves and our neighbors.

This is why Basil the Great describes true fasting as "being a stranger to vice, controlling the tongue, abstaining from anger, distancing oneself from lust, evil speech, lying, perjury."1

Further, it is a period in which we have to deal with ourselves and experience the forgotten virtue of self-knowledge. If we get to know it, then we will indeed be led to repentance and the vision of God.

Peasant Faith: Three True Stories of the Power of Simplicity

Saint Paisios the Athonite (+ 1994) spoke of a simple monk with child-like faith. He wrote: "A simple but holy man, when he once had to take care of a poor sick person, went down to the seashore to the Church of the Ascension and lifted up his arms and prayed: 'My Holy Ascension, give me a little fish for my sick charge.' And - O the miracle! — a fish came into his hands! He cooked it and thanked God and Holy Ascension." Not understanding the theological term "Ascension", which refers to the ascent of Christ into heaven forty days after His resurrection, this simple-minded monk believed he was invoking the intercessions of a female Saint named "Ascension". This story teaches us that a natural simplicity with deep faith becomes sanctification in a natural way.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Saint Theognostos the Greek, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia (+ 1353)

St. Theognostos the Greek (Feast Day - March 14)

Saint Theognostos was born in Constantinople, which is why he was called "the Greek". He succeeded Saint Peter as Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, with the blessing of Patriarch Isaiah of Constantinople, holding this office from 1327 until 1353. He settled in Moscow instead of Kiev.

It was his lot to reconcile Novgorod with the prince of Moscow in times of their mutual animosity. Theognostos managed to save all of the church's valuables and gave up all his personal property after he had refused to collect tribute from the churches to give to the Mongols. He was tortured by the Tatars for his audacity but never gave in. It was the khan who finally gave up and confirmed the existing privileges of the Church. After a fire swept through Moscow, Theognostos started to restore the churches despite the fact that he had had nothing left in his possession.

Synaxis of the Icon of the Mother of God of Saint Theodore

Synaxis of the Icon of the Mother of God of Saint Theodore
(Feast Days - March 14 & August 16)

The Theodore or Kostroma or Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God was allegedly painted by the Evangelist Luke, but more likely is a copy of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God which it resembles.

This icon received its name from Great Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich (+ 1246), the father of Saint Alexander Nevsky, and who in holy Baptism was named Theodore in honor of Saint Theodore Stratelates (Feb. 8).

According to one tradition, Prince Basil of Kostroma, the younger brother of Prince Alexander Nevsky, became lost in the forest while hunting game. This was on August 16, 1239. He saw an icon standing amid one of the spruces, but when he tried to take it down, it rose up in the air. Amazed by such a wondrous occurrence, Prince Basil returned to the city and told the clergy and the people of his vision. Everyone went out to the forest and, in truth, found the icon in the indicated spot and fell to their knees in prayer to the Mother of God. The clergy then took the icon and carried it to the church. The inhabitants of Kostroma observed that while the prince was hunting in the forest, a warrior in rich armor came up to the city with an icon in his hands. The warrior looked like the image of the Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates, in whose honor the Kostroma Cathedral was consecrated, and for this reason the icon was called Feodorovskaya. One time several people living in the vicinity of the Gorodetsk Monastery that had been destroyed by the Tatars came to Kostroma, and they immediately recognized the cathedral icon that used to be in their church.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Rise of the Recent Veneration in Cyprus of Saint Marios the Bishop of Sebaste

Church of Saint Marios in Lythrodontas

Saint Marios is a relatively unknown Saint of the Church, who is referenced in the Small Euchologion published by Apostoliki Diakonia in 1956. It is believed he was the Bishop of Sebaste that attended the First Ecumenical Synod at Nicaea in 325.

Despite being relatively unknown and not included in the synaxaria, there are two recent churches on the island of Cyprus dedicated to him. The first is a church in Lythrodontas of Nicosia consecrated in 2015 and the second is a church along the river Rodanos in Mitsero of Nicosia consecrated in 2017.

Holy Martyrs Africanus, Publius and Terence

Sts. Africanus, Publius and Terence (Feast Day - March 13)


Three martyrs together, were crowned through the sword,
Crowned with as many needed iambic crowns.

The Holy Martyrs Africanus, Publius and Terence suffered during the reign of Emperor Decius (249-251), after he issued a decree ordering all of his subject to sacrifice to the idols.

When the decree was received by the ruler of Carthage, Fortunianus, he had all the people gather in the square, showed them terrible instruments of torture, and declared that all without exception should sacrifice to the idols. Many who called themselves Christians, frightened by the prospect of torture, agreed to sacrifice, but forty Christians led by Saint Terence declared their loyalty to their Savior, Jesus Christ. Fortunianus had Terence and his three closest companions, Africanus, Publius and Maximus, imprisoned.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Special Announcements for March 2019

Dear Readers:

Now that we have entered the period of Great Lent, I wanted to send a brief update about the course of this ministry over the next couple of months. Specifically, I wanted to announce two things.

First, the total number of posts on this website alone has reached nearly 12,000. Having so many posts on one website requires a means by which to make them at least fairly easy to find when you are looking for them. For this reason, I am adding subject links to the top of the site, to be able to find each post by topic. They are not currently populated, but this is something I will be working on over the next few months. With this, I will also be deleting anything I no longer want on this site, so there will be a big editing process, in which I will probably delete about a thousand posts. Last month around 300 were already deleted.

Second, four new websites are coming. One of them is exclusively for a book I am translating titled The Salvation of Sinners, written in the 17th century by Monk Agapios of Crete. Another website will also be exclusively for a book I am translating, titled Know Thyself, written by St. Nektarios of Aegina in the early 20th century. These two books I consider essential reading for Orthodox Christians in the 21st century, so I will attempt to translate each one in their entirety and make them available. The third website will be devoted to unique Youth Ministry material and resources for both adults and children. Lastly, I am going to have a website exclusively devoted to my own personal thoughts on various subjects.

As for the subject links, it will be a fairly slowly process to populate them, but do check them often as I do. The new websites will be coming out very soon, and each one will be announced when it is live.

A blessed and spiritually fruitful Great Lent to all,

John Sanidopoulos

Monday, March 11, 2019

Why Orthodox Christians Fast (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

(Excerpt from his Homily on Cheesefare Sunday)

By fasting, a man lifts his soul above its earthly prison and penetrates through the darkness of animal life to the light of God’s Kingdom, to his own true homeland.

Fasting makes a man strong, decisive and courageous before both men and demons.

Fasting also makes a man generous, meek, merciful and obedient.

By fasting, Moses was made worthy to receive the Commandments from God’s hands.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyrs Trophimos and Thallos

Sts. Trophimos and Thallos (Feast Day - March 11)


Amazing sumptuous food was found in heaven,
By the two athletes Thallos and Trophimos.

In the days of Diocletian and Maximian the emperors, when Asclepius was governor in Laodicea, in the year 298, a persecution took place against the Christians. At that time there lived Saints Trophimos and Thallos, who were from a city called Stratonica, and now is called Stratoniceia, and can be found in the region of Karia. They had been arrested for their confession of Christ, were stoned for many hours, and by divine grace remained unharmed. Seeing this wonder, the governor and those with him were shamed, and they left the Martyrs for a time to live without punishment. Later they were again arrested, stood before the judgment seat, and confessed before all that Christ was the true God, while they ridiculed the idols, and rebuked the tyrant, thereby driving him towards rage. For this the Saints were suspended on stakes naked, and their flesh was harshly lacerated. The Saints prayed, and ridiculed the Greeks, thereby igniting more rage from the tyrant, who ordered for them to die by means of the cross.

"Meatfare Has Passed, Gone Also Is Cheesefare" (Greek folk songs to welcome Great Lent)

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:16-18)

In the Greek tradition, one of the strictest fasting days of the year, Clean Monday, is also a day of festivity, where families eat a fasting-appropriate meal together and go fly a kite, among other things. Among these other things are singing special folk songs to welcome in the period of Great Lent. Many of these customs and songs are being forgotten by younger generations, being replaced by newer customs and the modern way of life. One of the traditional songs sung on Clean Monday comes from the region of Megara in Attica, called "Meatfare Has Passed." Another song included here is called "Now is Holy Lent" which comes to us from Asia Minor. Both come with a rough translation, and can be heard back to back in the video below.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

How I Discovered the Power of Forgiveness

By John Sanidopoulos

When I was ten years old, my temperament was somewhat nihilistic and angry. My mind was often occupied with death and the meaning of life. Though I was born and raised a Greek Orthodox Christian, theologically what made most sense to me was that life was but a dream within a dream, and my real self was some cosmic entity who imagined my present reality; it was nothing but a figment of my imagination. Trouble often found me, and if my parents punished me for it, then all I could feel was hatred for them. They were even ready to send me to military school, since to them my future was bleak. If left unchecked for long, no doubt I would have grown up to be a model rebellious teenager.

At the time I was forced to attend Greek school twice a week after regular school. The previous year I had a horrible Greek school teacher, who was very verbally abusive to me. This eventually got her fired after it was exposed, but my experience with Greek school was not that great before this, and it just made a bad situation worse. Now I was in the fifth grade, and my teacher was a young seminarian named Yianni (he never gave us his last name) from Greece that was studying at Holy Cross School of Theology. He was actually very kind, patient and had a particular fondness for me. This was because every week for one of the two days he never taught us the Greek language, but instead talked about our Greek Orthodox faith and heritage. To me this was refreshing, and I always listened attentively, while everyone else was practically snoring. This I think is why he liked me so much.

The Traditions and Customs of Cheesefare Sunday in Greece

The celebrations of Apokries (Greece's Carnival) culminate on Forgiveness or Cheesefare Sunday. It is the last day that Orthodox Christians traditionally eat dairy products and celebrate before the first day of Lent. In Greece, this day is redolent of traditions, customs, and, of course, delicious recipes that bring community and family together.

The advent of the carnival season, a period known in Greece as Apokries, marks the peak of indulgence in food and festivities. This period, however, ends with the start of the longest fasting period of the Orthodox calendar: the forty-seven-day pre-Easter Lenten fast. The Greek word "apokria" refers to the weeks of the gradual change in diet prior to the discipline of Lent, also known as Great Lent or "Sarakosti." This period of Apokries spans the three weeks before the onset of Great Lent. The popular tradition of celebrating Apokries culminates during the weekends with masquerades, parades, parties, and of course, the abundance of traditional foods. While the most popular carnival today is that of Patras, other cities and smaller towns carry out their own regional traditions

Holy Martyr Markianos

St. Markianos the Martyr (Feast Day - March 10)


Those who pounded you with wood were amazed by the gore,
Amen I say to you Markianos with the intelligences.

The Holy Martyr Markianos met his end by being pounded with wood.

Sunday of Cheesefare: Forgiving and Fasting

By Protopresbyter Nicholas Patsalos

The time of preparation for the Fast ends with the Sunday of Cheesefare and so we pass into great and blessed Lent, which is full of mixed experiences and feelings transmitted to us in a mystical way by its penitential services. Today’s Gospel reading brings us to the introductory period of our preparation for the Passion and Resurrection and reminds us of the golden rule for our progress, which begins with the virtue of forgiveness. Hence the Vespers of Forgiveness.

Our forgiveness of others is presented to us as a precondition for God’s forgiveness of us. Unless we break down the hardness of our heart by forgiving our neighbors for whatever they’ve done to us, then we can’t expect or seek God’s forgiveness. It’s in the faces of our neighbors, our friends and our enemies that we’ll recognize our Lord and God. This is the virtue that the Church has been trying to teach us over the past two Sundays, pointing to love for our neighbor as the path to Heaven.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Why the Date for the Feast of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste Needs A Change

By John Sanidopoulos

On the 9th of March every year, since the fourth century, the Church has celebrated the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste without interruption. This date was established so early after their martyrdom, that it was probably the actual day on which their martyrdom took place. Eventually when the forty-day fast was established in the Church for Great Lent, March 9th always fell within the period of Great Lent, due to the Paschalion reckoning under the Julian Calendar. However, when many Churches updated their calendar to the New Julian Calendar, March 9th would sometimes fall during Great Lent, but other times it did not.

Most would not see this change under the New Julian Calendar as a big deal, since when the Forty Martyrs were martyred, we did not have the forty-day period of Great Lent anyway. This is true. However, in time the Forty Martyrs commemoration during Great Lent became a staple in the life of the Church for many centuries, and because of this the number of martyrs became associated with the number of days in Great Lent. Their feast, since it fell during Great Lent, served as an example to the faithful to persevere to the end of the fast in order to attain the heavenly reward (participation in Pascha, the Resurrection of Jesus), just as the Forty Martyrs endured in the frozen river and were crowned by Christ.

Holy New Martyrs Christos the Priest and Panagos (+ 1716)

Sts. Christos and Panagos the Neomartyrs (Feast Day - March 9)

Saint Christos was from Gastouni in Eleia of the Peloponnese, while Saint Panagos was from the village of Andravida in Eleia. Both came from parents who had abandoned their Orthodox Christian heritage and embraced Islam, but against their wishes both Saints decided to remain faithful to the faith of Christ. In fact, they were distinguished among their compatriots, and were held in great honor. Panagos on several occasions, when under Venetian rule, was voted into the council of Gastouni. Christos however did not care much for politics, instead he had a great desire to serve the Lord as a priest, teaching people to not seek after what can be gained in the world, for it is a vain pursuit, and instead to seek that which is eternal and beneficial to the soul. Eventually he was married, had two children, and ordained a priest in Patras.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyr Urpasianos

St. Urpasianos the Martyr (Feast Day - March 9)


Urpasianos cast off his cloak,
Shaming the impious emperor.

+ + +

The cage was a chariot of fire, by means of the lamps,
Urpasianos, with four horses you went up.

When the most impious Maximian reigned in the year 278, he terrorized the entire region of Nicomedia, being a fiery champion of the idols. This rage was lit up against the Christians, like a great fire, by like-minded and messmate Greeks. He therefore gathered all the senators and rulers of his empire, and cried out to them: "Whoever among you fell for the evil religion of the Christians, and does not want to return to our gracious gods, and does not want to atone with repentance, let them remove their belts of rank that they wear, and flee from the imperial palace and this city. For this city worships great gods from the time of her ancestors, and not one crucified God."

Holy Grandfather, Grandmother, Father, Mother and Two Children Martyrs

Holy Grandfather, Grandmother, Father, Mother, and Two Children Martyrs
(Feast Day - March 9)


Generations of a family contested by the sword,
Grandfather-Grandmother Father-Mother-Children.

The Holy Grandfather, Grandmother, Father, Mother and Two Children Martyrs met their end by the sword.

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Road to Heaven is Three Miles Long

"Many call the road to heaven 'three miles long.' The first mile is the mile of correction, the second mile is the mile of illumination, and the third mile is the mile of union with God."

- St. John of Tobolsk (1651–1715)

Saint Lazarus of Murom (+ 1391)

In his autobiography Saint Lazarus calls himself a Roman, born at Constantinople around 1286. In his native city he became a monk at a monastery under the Elder Athanasios Diskotes, builder of many monasteries. Eight years later, Lazarus was under the guidance of Bishop Basil of Caesarea. In the year 1343 Bishop Basil, wanting to encourage the Russian Church, sent Saint Lazarus as a noted iconographer together with monks and gifts to Saint Basil, Archbishop of Novgorod.

Saint Lazarus made a copy of Novgorod’s Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (Aug. 15) for the Caesarea diocese, and compiled an account of Novgorod churches and monasteries. Meeting the monk, the Novgorod hierarch bowed to the ground to his guest and blessed him to remain in a monastery he built. For ten years Saint Lazarus faithfully served Saint Basil, and in 1352 upon the death of the holy archpastor, he “dressed the holy body in the prepared clothing and shed many tears.”

Saint Pontius of Carthage

St. Pontius of Carthage (Feast Day - March 8);
Image is a fifteenth century woodcut of Pontius
witnessing the martydom of St. Cyprian.

Saint Pontius served as a deacon under Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200 –258).

There is only one surviving account of Pontius, a brief mention in Jerome's On Illustrious Men (68):

"Pontius, Cyprian's deacon, who up to the day of his martyrdom endured exile with him, wrote a remarkable book of the life and passion of Cyprian."

Venerable Dometios

Venerable Dometios (Feast Day - March 8)


The final debt of Dometios,
Was payed off by being exalted by Angels.

Venerable Dometios met his end in peace.

Holy Martyr Dion

St. Dion the Martyr (Feast Day - March 8)


Although terribly slaughtered by the right hand of the deceiver,
You were crowned Dion at the right hand of the Maker.

The Holy Martyr Dion met his end by a knife.

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