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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Saint Porphyrios and the Holy Pantocrator Monastery of Ntaou Penteli

St. Porphyrios of Kavsokalyva

On March 9th 1963, as relates the current Abbess Styliani, we came to the Monastery according to the directive of Archbishop Chrysostomos of Athens. On March 14th, St. Porphyrios came to our Monastery for the first time. Then he was staying at Saint Nicholas in Kallisia, which was once a Metochion (Dependency) of our Monastery. He would come regularly with his spiritual children and many times served liturgy at our Monastery. He related to us that, when he left Mount Athos, after he was ordained a priest, he prayed to God to show him a holy place where men lived the ascetic life and had spiritual experiences. He went throughout many parts of Greece and in the end he came to Pantocrator Monastery. As he said, however, he went to the then Abbot of Penteli, Archimandrite Athanasios Kontogiannis, and asked him to give him that place, but he cast him away harshly. And because of this he came to Saint Nicholas in Kallisia nearby in order to come here to pray. From then he "saw" in his sleep and awake, as he related to us, what had occurred here.

"The Saint Heard Your Prayer" - A Miracle of Saints Raphael and Ephraim of Nea Makri


Mrs. D. P. saw in a dream that she was in the Church of Saint Raphael in Ano Souli of Marathon, together with a multitude of people. On the Holy Rock of Saint Raphael [where St. Raphael appeared and advised the fathers to build his Monastery there], he saw that there was a full body icon of St. Raphael, but there were some other pieces of velvet and other coverings of the Holy Altar before the icon of St. Raphael, and most of the people could not pass by to venerate St. Raphael. She thought: Why is there a Saint in front of them but people are not going to venerate him? And then she saw a small girl (it was St. Irene) in black clothes (it was during Great Lent when she had this dream) and she passed through the multitude of people to come up beside her and tell her: "Mrs. D., St. Raphael heard your prayer. That which you are seeking, he will do for you." And she awoke. What she was seeking was for her daughter to find an honorable husband, as she was still single. From then on she had faith in St. Raphael and his companions Sts. Nicholas and Irene that they would take care of her daughter that she would be married in the best way. She continued to pray daily to Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene, along with St. Ephraim [of Nea Makri], as his Monastery was nearby as well.

Synaxarion of our Holy Father Donatos, Bishop of Euroea

St. Donatos of Euroea (Feast Day - April 30)

Verses

How can we glorify you with words Donatos,
As have your deeds glorified you everywhere?

Our Holy Father Donatos was Bishop of the city called Euroea, which was in Epirus, whose Metropolis was located in Ioannina, during the reign of Theodosius the Great (379-395). The city of Euroea had a village called Soreia,* and in this village was a spring of water, which when drinking from it, would bring on a bitter death. When the most-holy Donatos learned of this, he went to the spring with his priests and clergy, and upon arriving immediately there was thunder, and after this thunder there came out of this spring a deadly dragon. The dragon approached the Saint, and tried to tangle its tail around the legs of the donkey the blessed one was riding. The Saint turned and seeing the dragon, he took the rope which he used to whip the donkey, and struck the back of the dragon, and this alone caused the dragon to receive a death wound. It therefore immediately fell down dead. O the greatness of God and His unutterable philanthropy! For with the Saints who are well pleasing to Him, He works together in order to do these wondrous and paradoxical works! The Christians who beheld this wonder then gathered wood, lit a fire, and burned the beast. No one however out of fear dared to drink from the spring of water. Therefore the Saint composed a prayer, and having blessed the spring, he was the first to drink the water, and told the others to drink without fear. Having done so till they were satisfied, they returned to their homes unharmed.

Holy Martyr Maximus of Ephesus

St. Maximus of Ephesus (Feast Day - April 30)

Verses

Within Maximus is found the syllable xi,
Indicating the sword within his belly.
*

According to the Synaxarion of Constantinople, the Holy Martyr Maximus met his end by being wounded with a sword within his belly. This is all the information we have about him.

Saint Clement the Hymnographer, who was a Composer of Canons

St. Clement the Hymnographer (Feast Day - April 30)

Verses

Clement gladdened the earthborn below with songs,
He departed gladdened like the songs and intelligences.

Though we have little information on Saint Clement, we know from an anonymous canon dedicated to him that he "dwelt on the holy mountain," which at that time, most probably, was Mount Olympus in Bithynia. He was a zealous iconophile who venerated the holy icons and suffered on behalf of this as a Confessor. It is said that he died in peace while in exile. He was born, most likely, before 765 and he must have died sometime after 824, as we can conclude from his canon on Saint Niketas of Medikion, who died in the same year.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Second Paschal Oration of St. Gregory the Theologian


This Oration was not, as its title would perhaps lead us to suppose, delivered immediately after the first; but an interval of many years elapsed between them, and the two have no connection with each other. Chronologically they are the first (Oration 1) and last (Oration 45) of Saint Gregory's Sermons. The Second was delivered in the Church of Arianzus, a village near Nazianzus, where he had inherited some property, to which he withdrew after resigning the Archbishopric of Constantinople, and then, finding the administration even of the little Bishopric of Nazianzus too much for his advancing years and declining strength, he retired to Arianzus about the end of A.D. 383, dying there in 389 or 390. "The exordium of this discourse is quite in the style of the Bible; the Orator here describes and puts words into the mouth of the Angel of the Resurrection. His object is to show the importance of the day's solemnities, and to explain allegorically all the circumstances of the ancient Passover, applying them to Christ and the Christian life. Two passages are borrowed verbatim from the discourse on the Nativity, preached at Constantinople" (Benoît).

The Trophy-Bearer of Love


By Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi

Our Church today celebrates the feast of a martyr. If we try to pay any tribute to the celebrated martyr, we will demean him. This particular Saint is the glory of all martyrs, the boast of the Saints and the prestige of the Heavens and the Church Triumphant. He is the most-great George. No Christian exists who has not called upon George’s sweet name, be it a baby or a man on his deathbed. There is no Christian country which does not boast of a church dedicated to his name, even if it is now in ruins. This guiding light of a Saint hides a great mystery not properly deciphered yet. Why do people love him so much? His love for people is so great that he prevents us from forgetting him. Instead we are constantly calling on his name. There’s always someone called 'George' among any given three or four families. There is no family which has not received the assistance of the love of this Saint.

An Encomium on the Miracles of Saint George the Great Martyr


These are the mighty deeds and miracles which God wrought by the hand of St. George after his martyrdom and after the coming of his body into Diospolis his native city, and after the building of his shrine, which was completed and consecrated on the seventh day of the month Athor, and after the laying of his body within it. Theodosius, Bishop of Jerusalem, recited the mighty deeds and miracles which God wrought by Saint George, and the gracious acts which took place in his holy martyrium when he pronounced the following encomium on the day of his holy commemoration, which is the seventh day of Athor, when there was gathered together a great multitude of the orthodox to celebrate the festival of Saint George in his shrine and to praise our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Martyrdom of Saint George the Great Martyr


By Pasikrates, the servant of Saint George

Now in times of old there arose a severe and terrible storm, and a great and mighty storm and persecution came upon the church. In all places the governors had gone astray, and they dragged the preachers of the truth to the altars of the idols, and compelled them all to offer sacrifices to the devilish idols. Thus also did the governor Dadianus, who had acquired dominion and had obtained the rule over the four quarters of the earth. When Dadianus had become chief, he sat upon the tribune, and wrote edicts to be proclaimed throughout the whole world; and these are the things that were written in them. "Inasmuch as a rumour has come to my ears that He to whom Mary gave birth is the God who is alone to be worshipped, and that Apollo and Poseidon and Hermes and Astarte and Zeus and Ezabel (sic) and Uranus and Scamandros and the other gods are not to be worshipped at all, but that Jesus Christ whom the Jews slew is to be worshipped, - I, therefore, write to every place, and to the governors of every land, and to all rulers under the authority of my government to come to me speedily that they may know the decision of my power." Then seventy governors from all parts of the world were gathered together there with so great and mighty a multitude, that the land could not contain them for their number. And Dadianus the governor sat upon the tribune and made them bring forth all the instruments of the torture chamber and lay them before him; and these were they. The brazen bed, the bone smashing choppers, the iron rods (?), the wheels with knives fixed to them, the wooden horses, the wooden gloves, the iron gloves, the tongue slitting knives, the tools for drawing out the teeth, the iron bone borers, the sharp saws, and other implements of cruel torture. And Dadianus swore an oath, saying, "If I find any people of doubtful mind and refusing to worship the gods, I will reverse the commands of my fathers and will torture them with bitter sufferings, I will break in the towers of their hearts, I will smash their heads, I will cut out their brains with sharp knives, I will saw off their shin bones, I will tear open their bodies, and I will cut off their limbs from their bodies." When the multitude heard these things they feared the tortures greatly, and those who wished to become martyrs [refrained] when they considered the numbers of tortures which they ran the risk of suffering; and three whole years went by without anyone daring to say, "I am a Christian."

Sunday, April 28, 2019

An Interpretation of Certain Sayings of St. Gregory the Theologian Found in Paschal Hymns (Abba Dorotheos of Gaza)


In Abba Dorotheos of Gaza's Ascetic Works, Teaching 16 is "An Interpretation of Certain Sayings of Saint Gregory the Theologian Found in Paschal Hymns." These hymns are no longer sung at Easter, since they have been superseded by the famous Canon by Saint John the Damascene, though he may have used them for inspiration. Abba Dorotheos seems to be basing his remarks on a troparion which was, indeed, sung at Easter when he was alive and elements of which are to be found in a homily preached by Saint Gregory the Theologian on Easter day, 383 A.D. (S.C. vol. 92, p. 458). The troparion was published by S. Petrides in Byzantinische Zeitschrift 1904, 421-3).

Old Testament Prefigurations of the Resurrection in the Paschal Canon of St. John of Damascus


By Michael Tritos

No other hymnological text expresses the redemptive, existential and metaphysical dimension of the Resurrection with such completeness and power as does the incomparable canon by Saint John the Damascan.

It’s a masterpiece of Byzantine poetry and one of the most beautiful texts in world literature. Full of sublime spirituality, lyrical expressions and messages of salvation, the Damascene’s canon announces to people of every era ‘the glad tidings of the Resurrection’, the abolition of death, the fullness of life and the triumph of the last days. Above all, however, it stresses the quality and quantity of the joy of the Resurrection. It shows us the way and tells us what we need in order to see the Resurrection. It strengthens us in our efforts to overcome physical and moral evil with the vision and certainty of participation ‘in the unfading day in the kingdom’ of the Lord.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Homily on Holy Saturday by St. John of Damascus: A Summary


By Joseph Hirst Lupton

John of Damascus' sermon on Holy Saturday, or Easter Eve, is the longest of all, and is an important, though somewhat tedious one. About its genuineness, as Langen admits, there can be no doubt. Beginning with the question of the Psalmist, "Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can show forth all His praise?" the preacher replies that none can fully do so, though he should speak with the tongues of angels and of men. Such mysteries of divine love can only be accepted by faith; and to approach them becomingly, we need that purity of mind which the love and dread of God alone can give. This was symbolized by the putting off his sandals by Moses, a figure of the laying aside all dead and grovelling thoughts. "Let us then, my brethren," he proceeds, "purify ourselves from every earthly imagination, and from all the disturbance and confusion of life, that we may receive with unclouded vision the radiant splendours of the divine word, and have our souls nourished with the spiritual bread which is angels' food; and passing within the veil may learn clearly the divine passion of the passionless, even the salvation of the world" (c. i.). After a prayer for himself and his hearers that they may die unto sin with Christ, resting as on that day in the stillness of the grave, he takes occasion from this very pause and intermission, as it were, in the work of Christ, to pass in review the whole system of God's dealings with man. This, while adding to the importance of the present homily, as conveying to us the views of the Damascene on many doctrinal matters, leads to a somewhat tedious prolixity.

Holy Light of Jerusalem Resource Page


About the Holy Light

Skepticism and the Holy Light of Jerusalem

A Second Century Paschal Miracle in Jerusalem

The Torn Column and the Holy Light: Pascha 1579 AD

Regarding the Column That Was Split By the Holy Fire in 1579

Saint Tounom the Emir (+ 18 April 1579)

Holy Martyr Lollion the New

St. Lollion the New (Feast Day - April 27)

Verses

The Body of the Martyr Lollion was made into dust,
Having given his body to be mingled with the dust.

The Holy Martyr Lollion the New met his end by being dragged along the ground.


Holy Martyr Poplion

St. Poplion the Martyr (Feast Day - April 27)

Verses

You were slaughtered Poplion and shed your blood for Christ,
As you were once bought by the blood of Christ.

The Holy Martyr Poplion met his end by a knife.

A First Look at the Holy Light (Holy Fire) of Jerusalem 2019


Today in Jerusalem the Holy Light, known in the West as Holy Fire, once again descended into the Tomb of Christ as Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem knelt in prayer within the Holy Sepulchre. With 33 candles in each hand he distributed the Holy Light to all the faithful, amidst great joy and celebration. From Jerusalem it will be distributed throughout the world.

Friday, April 26, 2019

A Lamentation of the Lamentations


By John Sanidopoulos

Most Orthodox Christians consider the highlight of the Service of Matins of Holy and Great Saturday, which takes place during the evening of Holy and Great Friday, to be the singing of the Lamentations around the Epitaphios, which symbolizes Christ in His Tomb. What many do not realize, however, are the violations committed against the typikon, which reflects the authorized right order, when we chant the Lamentations.

What Peter Should Have Said When He Denied Christ and Wept Bitterly (St. Maximos the Greek)


Discourse 44: An Account as to What Peter Should Have Said 
When He Denied Christ and "Wept Bitterly"

By St. Maximos the Greek

Woe is me! Woe is me! Woe, woe! With what rivers of tears will I purify my dishonor, wretch that I am? With what heavy sighs will I cleanse my injustice? Indeed, woe is me, for I denied Christ three times, woe is me! I was afraid of the insignificant servant girl and forgot all the gifts that I received from Him, He who is the light and life of all, my Creator, the Creator of Life and Lord, who came to save us and gave His life over to death for me. Woe is me! What unexpected thing happened to me? How great was the disbelief and ingratitude I showed towards You, O Savior, and I proved to be much worse than Your traitor! I was made worthy by You of much greater honor than all the rest of Your disciples, that You entrusted me even with the keys of the heavenly kingdom, and I was recognized by You, my Savior, as their leader and chief, and how will I now weep and what shall I say? Woe is me, the wretch! With what excuses will I beseech You to receive mercy from the strict Judge?

The Seven Phrases Christ Spoke on the Cross (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

You want to know the meaning of those seven phrases uttered by Christ on the cross. Aren’t they clear?

The first phrase: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34). With these words, Christ showed His mercy to His executioners, whose malice didn’t abate even when He was suffering on the cross. Besides this, the words He cried aloud from the top of the rock of Golgotha represent a proven but never well-understood truth: that those who do evil never know what they’re doing. By killing the Righteous One, in reality they’re killing themselves and, at the same time, are actually glorifying Him. As they’re trampling all over God’s law, they don’t see the millstone which is descending invisibly that will crush them. As they’re mocking God, they don’t see that their faces have become transformed into the snouts of wild beasts. Imbued as they are with evil, they never know what they’re doing.

Saint Leo, Bishop of Samos

St. Leo, Bishop of Samos (Feast Day - April 26)

Saint Leo was a simple, pious, humble and philanthropic man who was born a pagan and converted to the faith of Christ. He served the flock of Christ as Bishop of Samos some time before the seventh century, and reposed in peace. Before his death he became known as a wonderworker for his numerous miracles, including those after his death towards those who approached his grave with faith. In the early eleventh century his relic was taken to Venice. Originally his feast day was April 29th, but the people of Samos today celebrate his memory on April 26th.

Venerable Nestor

Venerable Nestor (Feast Day - April 26)

Verses

By his sweat Nestor purchased the heavens,
Having denied the thoughts of our tyrannical nature.

Venerable Nestor, leaving behind his parents and becoming a monk, met his end in peace.


Venerable Justa

Venerable Justa (Feast Day - April 26)

Verses

In the manner of the full light of the moon,
The memory of Justa's works shined through the cloud covering.

Venerable Justa met her end in peace.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Secret Supper, the Washing of the Feet, the Twelve Gospels, the Epitaphios and the Paschal Vigil


By Archimandrite Vassilios Papavassiliou

The Secret Supper

As we come to the end of Great Wednesday, we move on from the theme of the Bridegroom, and on Great Thursday we commemorate the Secret Supper and Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. In the morning, a full Eucharistic Liturgy of St Basil the Great is served in combination with Vespers. The relationship between the Secret Supper and the Eucharist is obvious, but many Orthodox talk about this Secret Supper as though its sole purpose was to establish the sacrament of Holy Communion. This is just silly. I am not trying to play down the reality of Holy Communion as the Body and Blood of Christ or its connection to the Secret Supper, but there is more to the acts and words of the Secret Supper than this.

Holy Eight Venerable Martyrs and Anchorites

Holy Eight Venerable Martyrs and Anchorites (Feast Day - April 25)

Verses

Eight men together who were cut at the neck,
Are brought under your yoke O Word.

The Holy Eight Venerable Martyrs and Anchorites met their end by the sword.


Holy Martyr Nike

St. Nike the Martyr (Feast Day - April 25)

Verses

Trophies of victory for decapitated Nike,
A trophy of victory is given to her as a victory-bearer.

The Holy Martyr Nike is said to have been converted to the faith of Christ after witnessing a miracle of Saint George before his martyrdom. She met her end by the sword.


Commemoration of the Consecration of the Church of the Apostle Peter Next to Hagia Sophia in Constantinople


On this day [25th of April] we commemorate the Consecration of the revered Apostoleion, namely the Church of the Holy Glorious and All-praised Leader of the Apostles Peter, located next to the holiest Great Church [of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople].

For three centuries the Chains of Holy Apostle Peter were kept in Jerusalem, and those afflicted with illness and approached them with faith received healing and release from their bondage. Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem presented the Chains to Eudocia, wife of the emperor Theodosius the Younger, and she in turn transferred them from Jerusalem to Constantinople in either the year 437 or 439.

On the Mystery of Christ’s Obedience (Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra)


By Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra

In a few hours, we will stand before the naked servant of the Lord, Who is crucified and Who at the same time has in His face majestic triumph, regal glory and serenity.

If we are to understand the love we should have towards other people, or our love towards God, or His towards us, we have to understand the love shared by the Father and the Son. Otherwise, we’ll never understand what is meant by the word ‘love’ and it will simply be something that calls to mind certain feelings, certain acts of tenderness and something human.

Everything starts with the Father. There is a monocracy in the Holy Trinity. It is not possible that this great moment in the divine dispensation could occur except through the Father.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Mystery of Holy Unction


By Fr. Andrew Agathokleous

The Orthodox Church is a hospital, where the faithful can be cured of their psychosomatic illnesses. Illness is a terrible situation for people, and it is due to the sin that came into the world after the fall of Adam and Eve.

God did not create people to be sick, but to live with a healthy soul and body. However all of us, as descendants of Adam and Eve, suffer from small or great, short or long, curable or incurable illnesses, because our human nature is ill.

The Church as a mother has a special interest in her children, whatever that may be. By various means she tries to cure them, so that they may have joy and glorify their Lord. One of the ways healing is offered, is through the Mystery of Unction or Anointing with Oil.

Holy New Martyr Nicholas at Magnesia (+ 1776)

St. Nicholas who was martyred in Magnesia (Feast Day - April 24)

Verses

Seeking Nicholas found marriage,
Finding one incorrupt in the heavens by his beating.

The Holy New Martyr Nicholas lived with his father Hatzi-Kanellos in Yayakoy, who was an overseer and superintendent of the country estates and flocks of Agha Kara-Osmanoglu, and was very much honored by the Turks. When Nicholas was twenty-two, he was betrothed to an upright woman, and their wedding date was set for Thomas Sunday in the year 1776.

Saint Elias Iorest the Confessor, Metropolitan of Transylvania (+ 1678)

St. Iorest the Confessor of Transylvania (Feast Day - April 24)

Saint Iorest the Confessor was born in 1600 into a peasant family of Transylvania (Ardeal), and received the name Elias in Baptism.

At an early age he entered the Puta Monastery and was tonsured with the name Iorest. He made great progress in the spiritual life, and was also a calligrapher and an iconographer. Because of his virtuous life, the abbot of the monastery recommended him to be ordained to the holy priesthood. Saint Iorest served in the altar with great compunction and fear of God, edifying others by his sermons.

In 1640, Prince Basil Lupu of Moldavia proposed Saint Iorest to succeed Metropolitan Gennadius of Transylvania, who had reposed. By God’s will, Saint Iorest was chosen to lead the Church in Transylvania, and was installed as Metropolitan in 1641.

Saint Thomas the Fool for Christ of Syria (+ 6th cent.)

St. Thomas the Fool for Christ (Feast Day - April 24)

Saint Thomas the Fool for Christ was a monk in one of the monasteries in Caesarea of Cappadocia. His obedience was to collect alms for the monastery. When the Thomas arrived in the city of Antioch, Syria he began the exploit of foolishness for the sake of Christ.

The steward of one of the churches, a certain Anastasios, became annoyed with the begging of Saint Thomas, and struck him on the cheek. Those present reproached Anastasios for his inappropriate manner of dealing with the fool, but Saint Thomas quieted them, saying, “From this moment I shall accept nothing further from Anastasios, nor will Anastasios be able to give me anything further.” These words proved prophetic. Anastasios died the very next day, and the Saint also died along the road to his monastery, at the Church of Saint Euthymius in the suburb of Daphne. They buried him at a place set aside for the burial of strangers.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyrs Pasikratos and Valention

Sts. Pasikratos andValention (Feast Day - April 24)

Verses

The head of Pasikratos was removed by decapitation,
Valentionos banished fear of the sword.

These Saints were from Dorostolum which was in European Moesia, which is called Durostorum and is now a village. They were in a legion consisting of six thousand soldiers, when the prefect of that place was Aulozanes. When the Saints saw the Greeks of that time given over to the delusion of idols, and how they were all in fear, being mislead by the orders of the idolatrous emperor, for this reason they presented themselves in their midst, and proclaimed themselves Christians. The idolaters therefore arrested them, and brought them before the governor. The governor sought to compel them to sacrifice to the idols, but the Saints disguised their acceptance. Thus when the idol of Apollo was brought before Saint Pasikratos, he went near to it and spit on it, saying, "This is the honor due to it." He was therefore immediately bound with chains, and cast into prison. Saint Pasikratos rejoiced that he was bound this way, and he clung on to the chain which he was bound in for Christ, as if it were a golden earring or a decorated stole. Because this chain was an instrument by which he could commune with the Passion of Christ, it brought him hope that he would be saved by means of it. They then took him out of prison, and had him stand again before the governor. The brother of Saint Pasikratos, whose name was Papianos, came weeping and advised his brother to only put some incense on the altar, and thus he would be freed from punishments, following his own example. For Papianos had turned away from future good things, out of his longing for temporal things, and because of his fear of torments, he earlier renounced - alas! - his faith in Christ.

Hymn of Kassiani (Live Performance by Nektaria Karantzi)


This beautiful rendering of the Hymn of Kassiani (Doxastikon of the Aposticha from the Matins Service of Holy Wednesday in Plagal of the Fourth Mode) was performed live by Nektaria Karantzi in 2016 in Spain at the Cathedral of San Isidoro el Real, set to the music of Konstantinos Priggos.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

An Anacreontic Hymn of St. John of Damascus


An Anacreontic Hymn

By St. John of Damascus

From my lips in their defilement,
From my heart in its beguilement,
From my tongue which speaks not fair,
From my soul stained everywhere,
O my Jesus, take my prayer!
Spurn me not for all it says,
Not for words and not for ways,
Not for shamelessness endued!
Make me brave to speak my mood,
O my Jesus, as I would!
Or teach me, which I rather seek,
What to do and what to speak.

Why Are Holy Week Morning Services Celebrated in the Evening and Evening Ones Celebrated in the Morning?


By John Sanidopoulos

The Services of Holy and Great Week are initiated with the Service of Matins on Sunday evening, in what is called the Bridegroom Service. The Matins Bridegroom Service is repeated with different themes in the evenings of Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday. Holy Thursday evening is the Matins Service of the Passion containing Twelve Gospel Readings, while Holy Friday evening is the Matins Service of the Burial of Christ. On Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday and Holy Wednesday mornings are Presanctified Divine Liturgies, which are connected with Great Vespers. Holy Thursday morning is a Vesperal Liturgy to commemorate the First Divine Liturgy, and Holy Saturday morning is the Vesperal Liturgy of the First Resurrection. The only services done in real time during Holy Week are the Services of the Hours on Holy Friday, where no liturgy takes place that morning.

Holy Martyrs Donatos and Therinos

Sts. Donatos and Therinos (Feast Day - April 23)

Verses

Therinos was reaped by the sword with Donatos.
Both becoming a strange sheaf of God.

The Holy Martyrs Donatos and Therinos met their end by the sword.

Holy Martyr Valerius

St. Valerius the Martyr (Feast Day - April 23)

Verses

The divine head of Valerian was removed,
By the wicked head executioner by the sword.

The Holy Martyr Valerius met his end by the sword.


Monday, April 22, 2019

The One Who Wrongs Us Is Our Benefactor (St. Paisios the Athonite)


- Elder, how should we consider someone who treats us in an unfair way?

- How should we consider him? We must treat him like a great benefactor who makes deposits on our behalf in God's Savings Bank. He is making us eternally wealthy. This is not a matter of minor importance. Are we not sup­posed to love our benefactors? Shouldn't we express our gratitude to them? In the same way, we must love and feel grateful to the person who has treated us unjustly, because he benefits us eternally. The unjust receive etern­al injury, whereas those who accept injustice with joy will be justified eternally.

Who Sold Joseph? (Abba John the Dwarf)


Abba John asked, ‘Who sold Joseph?’ A brother replied saying, ‘It was his brethren.’ The old man said to him, ‘No, it was his humility which sold him, because he could have said, “I am their brother” and have objected, but, because he kept silence, he sold himself by his humility. It is also his humility which set him up as chief in Egypt.'

Abba John the Dwarf
(Sayings of the Desert Fathers)


The Meaning of the Withered Fig Tree of the Gospel (St. Maximus the Confessor)


On Difficulties in Sacred Scripture:
The Responses to Thalassios

Question 20

What is the meaning in the Gospel of the fig tree that to all appearances withered contrary to reason? And what is the inordinate hunger of Christ that sought for figs out of season? And what is the meaning of a curse placed upon something that is devoid of sense?

Response

The Divine Word, who governs everything with wisdom for the sake of human salvation, first trained human nature with a law requiring a more corporeal observance, because humanity's ignorance of, and estrangement from, the archtype of divine realities was preventing it from receiving the truth free of figurative veils. Afterwards, manifestly becoming man by taking on flesh possessing an intellective and rational soul, He redirected the course of human nature - insofar as He is the Word - toward immaterial and cognitive worship in the Spirit. Once the truth was made manifest to human life, the Word did not want a shadow to hold sway over that life, a shadow whose very type and figure is the fig tree. This is why Scripture says that He encountered the fig tree "while returning from Bethany to Jerusalem." In other words, after His figurative, shadowy, and hidden presence in the law, He becomes present anew to human nature through the flesh (for this is how one must understand "returning"), for it was then that "He saw a fig tree on the way of having nothing but leaves." It is evident that the tree is the corporeal observance of the law, existing in shadows and figures, having an unstable and transient tradition, which is why it is found "on the way," being a sign of passing figures and precepts. Seeing that, like a fig tree, it was ostentatiously and extravagantly adorned by the outward leaves of the corporeal observances of the law, but finding no fruit on it - clearly no fruit of righteousness - He cursed it, since it did not provide nourishment for the Word. Or rather He commanded that the figures of the law should no longer hold sway over and conceal the truth. And this was subsequently proven to be the case through actual deeds, when the beauty of the law, which exists merely in external forms, was completely withered, and the pride that the Jews took in it was extinguished. For insofar as the truth of the fruits of righteousness was now visibly displayed, it was neither reasonable nor seasonable, that the appetites of those who travel on the road of life should be beguiled and deceived by mere "leaves," and in the process neglect the edible fruitfulness of the Word. This is why it says: "It was not the season for figs." In other words, the time when the law prevailed over human nature was not the time for the fruits of righteousness, but was rather a prefiguration of those fruits and in some way indicative of the future divine and ineffable grace that is able to save all. Since the ancient people did not arrive at this grace, they were lost through unbelief. For the divine Apostle says that: "Israel, which pursued righteousness based on the law" - referring, of course, to the law in shadows and figures - "did not arrive at the righteousness of the law," that is, the law fulfilled in the Spirit through Christ.

Saint Gregory the Gravanos of Nisyros (+ 1812)

St. Gregory Gravanos (Feast Day - April 22)

Our Venerable and God-bearing Father Gregory was born on the Aegean island of Nisyros, and was a member of the Kollyvades movement. Having lived in asceticism for many years on Mount Athos, he followed his elder Venerable Nephon (+ 1809) to the islands of Naxos, Samos and Patmos, until they finally settled in Leipsos in the Dodecanese. There they founded an hesychasterion in honor of the Annunciation to the Theotokos in the village of Romani. Due to the threat of pirate invasions, they went to Fournoi and then to Icarus.

Commemoration of the Recognition of Christ by the Holy Apostle Nathanael

Commemoration of the Recognition of Christ by the Apostle Nathanael
(Feast Day - April 22)

Verses

The Nazarene was recognized by Nathanael the great,
Nazareth was reckoned useless in its silence.

The Holy Apostle Nathanael, elsewhere known as Simon the Zealot or Bartholomew, was from Cana of Galilee, where our Lord Jesus Christ was invited to a wedding together with His all-blameless Mother, and performed His first miracle, changing water into wine. He awaited the incarnate presence of Christ, since he was a student of the Mosaic Law, and learned from the Prophets that the Messiah, namely Christ, was to come. The Holy Apostle Philip, having first followed Christ, went and told his friend Nathanael about Him.

Holy Martyr Nearchos

St. Nearchos the Martyr (Feast Day - April 22)


Verses

No fire will separate me, Nearchos said,
From my fiery divine zeal for you O Savior.

The Holy Martyr Nearchos was a Roman soldier in Armenia under the emperor Decius (249-251), and he later suffered for Christ under the emperor Valerian (253-259). He had a close and friendly bond with Saint Polyeuktos (Jan. 9), a fellow soldier, though Nearchos was a zealous Christian and Polyeuktos, while virtuous and nearly a Christian, was still a pagan.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Homily on the Entry of the Lord Into Jerusalem (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)


Homily on the Entry of the Lord Into Jerusalem

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

One of the most miraculous details of our Savior’s life was foreseen by the Prophet Zacharias through the dark glass of time, and described thus:

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to thee, just, and a Saviour; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him." (Zach. 9:9).

Homily on Palm Sunday (St. Ignatius Brianchaninov)


Homily on Palm Sunday

By St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to thee, just, and a savior; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal" (Zach. 9:9).

The prophet of God pronounced this prophecy over four hundred years before the event that we commemorate and celebrate today. Having completed His preaching on the earth, our Lord Jesus Christ made His triumphant entry into the royal city of Jerusalem, into the city where the true God was worshipped, a city in most ways Godly. The Lord made this entry as the King and victor, in order to finish His service by a decisive exploit: destroying death by death; removing the curse from the human race by taking this curse upon Himself. He made His entry into the royal city on the colt of an ass, "whereon yet never man sat" (Lk. 19:30), in order to restore to mankind the royal dignity which our forefather had wasted; to restore this dignity by ascending the cross. The unbroken colt was tamed beneath the wondrous Rider. The Apostles placed their garments upon the colt; great multitudes of people ran ahead to meet the Lord and walk alongside Him, shouting in their ecstasy, "Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest" (Mt. 21:9). The Lord is proclaimed King in the name of the Lord at His own beckoning—not accidentally, and not by conscious human will. In the course of four days, those same people who that day proclaimed Him King will cry, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him… We have no king but Caesar" (Jn. 19:15).

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saint Alexander of Oshevensk (+ 1479)

St. Alexander of Oshevensk (Feast Day - April 20)

Venerable Alexander was born on 17 March 1427, 80 versts from Belozersk in the Vysheozersk region, several months before the death of the Venerable Cyril of Belozersk (+ 9 July 1427) – with whom he was bound together by later spiritual connections for his whole life.

Alexios (the name of Alexander in the world) was the fifth son of the rich landowner Nikephoros Osheven and his spouse Photini; he was a long-awaited child and was born through the fervent prayers of Photini. The Mother of God Herself together with the Venerable Cyril of Belozersk appeared to her and promised the birth of a son through the intercession of the Venerable Cyril. Although Alexios was the youngest son, his parents hoped to see in him their successor and someone to care for them in their old age. In childhood they taught the boy his letters and spoke of him as an enterprising landowner. At 18 years of age they sought to marry off the youth. With the permission of his parents, he went off to pray at the Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery and remained there.

Saint Theotimos, Bishop of Tomi in Scythia (+ 410)

St. Theotimos of Tomi (Feast Day - April 20)

Saint Theotimos was a native of Dacia Pontica, and was part Roman. He is believed to have been the teacher of Saint John Cassian (Feb. 29) and Saint Germanos, because he was once living in the same monastery as they were.

Some time between 385-390, Theotimos succeeded Saint Germanos as Bishop of Tomis. Saint Jerome mentions him in his book On Illustrious Men (164), where he writes: "Theotimos, Bishop of Tomi, in Scythia, has published brief and epigrammatical treatises, in the form of dialogues, and in olden style. I hear that he is now writing other works."

In his writings, Saint Theotimos speaks of the role of the nous and the heart in prayer. Perhaps because of this he is considered to be the Father of the Romanian Philokalia.

Saints Anastasios I and Anastasios II, Patriarchs of Antioch

St. Anastasios of Antioch (Feast Day - April 20)

Verses

What shall I write on your behalf Anastasios,
You who hastened to die by the sword on behalf of Christ?

There is some confusion concerning which Saint Anastasios we commemorate today. Though the Synaxaria and the Menaia tell us that on April 20 we are to commemorate an Anastasios who was Patriarch of Antioch and died by being martyred with a sword, we are not given any other details. However, the only two Patriarchs of Antioch with the name Anastasios were Anastasios I, who served twice as Patriarch from 559-570 and 593-599, and he was succeeded by Anastasios II who served from 599-609. Neither of these Patriarchs are recorded as having been martyred with a sword.

Christ as Resurrector and Life-Giver (Homily of St. Nikolai Velimirovich)


By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

"I am the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25).

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke these holy words. Not only did He speak them, but also proved them by His actions. By raising Jairus's daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, and His friend Lazarus, He proved that He is the Resurrection and the Life, the Resurrector and Life-Giver. Even so, He proved this best by His own Resurrection from the dead. For, to be alive and then to help the dead - this is something that has been heard of. But to be dead and buried, and lie in the grave for three days and to give yourself life - that was unheard of until Christ's Resurrection. It is the miracle of miracles, and the proof of a power above every other power. This miracle was performed by our Lord. Our Lord manifested this power. Therefore, true are His words, "I am the Resurrection and the Life," - true and holy, and comforting to all of us who are traveling toward the inescapable death of the body, and who hope to live beyond the grave and see our Living Lord in glory.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Correspondence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Saint Amphilochios Makris


Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is not only responsible for the canonization of numerous saints of the Church, but he had a personal relationship with some of them as well. One way he had a personal relationship with these saints was through correspondence.

Metropolitan Ignatios of Berat published a book about the recently canonized Saint Amphilochios Makris in 1993 titled Ο Γέροντας της Πάτμου: Αμφιλόχιος Μακρής (1889-1970), Βίος – Υποθήκαι – Μαρτυρίαι (The Elder of Patmos: Amphlochios Makris (1889-1970), Life - Maxims - Testimonies). Inside this biography is a series of six Letters from 1957 to 1962 by Saint Amphilochios addressed to the then young student Demetrios Archontonis (future Patriarch Bartholomew), who was between 17 and 22 years old.

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