Many many thanks to all those who contributed to match a generous $3000 donation from an anonymous donor. The goal was attained this past weekend. It is because of people like you that the Mystagogy Resource Center can continue to offer unique material to all for free on a daily basis that I hope people find beneficial. For those who still wish to contribute, please do so, with much gratitude in return. God bless you all!

December 31, 2020

A Prayer for the Blessing of a Vasilopita (Composed by Elder Gervasios Paraskevopoulos)


The cutting of the Vasilopita is an annual New Year tradition among Greek Orthodox Christians. The circular cake or pie, depending on which region of Greece you are from, represents the circular year which is shared in unity, and inside each Vasilopita is a coin, representing the good fortune of the coming year especially for the one whose piece also contains the coin.

The procedure of the cutting is as follows: the man of the house makes the sign of the Cross three times over the Vasilopita with a knife and then starts cutting the pieces. The first is for Christ, the second for Saint Basil, the third for the house and then a piece for each member of the family, according to age. The last piece is for the poor. One could also add one for the animals and one for the occupation or business. If the coin is found in the portion of Christ or Saint Basil, the money is given to the Church. If it is in the portion of the poor, it is given to a beggar or charity.

Was the Christmas Star Really an Angel?

The Star of Bethlehem depicted as an Angel on horseback.

By Pseudo-Caesarius of Nazianzus

(Four Dialogues, Dialogue 2.107, P.G. 38)

Question 107: Since the stars do not contribute to the birth of humans, nor can we relate what concerns us to them, how did a star appear with the birth of Christ and become the guide of the Magi? And how did they realize that the star was royal and began their journey because of the star with the intention and haste to worship the "child"?

Answer: Because the Samaritans and the Sadducees did not accept the existence of angels, the divine evangelist [i.e. the apostle Matthew] apparently used the word "star" instead of the word "angel". After all, by referring to Christ and respecting the stars, that is, putting the star in the place of the angel, he not only removed people from the polytheist delusion, but also led them to worship [the divine infant]. Otherwise none of the magi would hasten to worship, but this was done based on the imagination of their own belief. But when [the magi] would have in mind the birth of the God-man, who established the stars and defined their order, the magic would fade. Thus, the wandering Chaldeans [i.e. the magi] for the sake of this fact understood their error and became evangelists and first preachers to the nations of the incarnation of the Word of God. They took up the prophecies of the exalted Isaiah, who cried out: "For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder, and his name is called the angel of great counsel, wonderful counsellor, mighty God, executor of authority, prince of peace, father of the age to come." Five hundred years from this divine prophecy, and having heard nothing of what they had received, the mindless Jews studied the law and the prophets, and their faith went on.

December 30, 2020

Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria Resource Page

Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria (1959-2020)











The Discovery of the Relics of Saint Anysia of Thessaloniki in 1980

Saint Anysia was born to a wealthy and pious Christian family in Thessaloniki. Upon the death of her parents, she dedicated herself to vows of chastity and poverty, praying and helping the poor. In 298, while she was on her way to church, a Roman soldier apprehended her. Discovering she was a Christian, he beat her, and intended to drag her to a pagan temple to sacrifice to the Roman gods. When she refused and confessed Christ to be the true God, she spit in his face, and he murdered her by driving a sword through her stomach. Devout Christians then buried her with honors and eventually a church was built over her grave.

Saint Anysios, Bishop of Thessaloniki (+ 407)

St. Anysios of Thessaloniki (Feast Day - December 30)

Saint Anysios was the disciple and co-worker of his holy predecessor, Bishop Ascholios of Thessaloniki (Jan. 23). Saint Ambrose of Milan congratulated him personally, as well as the clergy, and people of Thessaloniki on his succession to the see of Thessaloniki in 383 (Letters 15 and 16). He commended his zeal and expressed great hopes for his episcopate. In Letter 15, Saint Ambrose compares the succession of Anysios to the succession of the Prophet Elisha:

"Like Elijah he [Ascholios] was carried up to heaven, not in a chariot of fire, nor by horses of fire, (unless haply it was but that we saw them not) nor in any whirlwind in the sky, but by the will and in the calm of our God, and with the jubilation of the holy Angels who rejoiced that such a man had come among them. Surely we cannot doubt this, when all other particulars agree so well. For at the very moment when he was being taken up, he let fall so to speak the vestment which he wore, and invested with it holy Anysios his disciple, and clothed him with the robes of his own priesthood. His merits and graces I do not now hear for the first time, nor have I first learnt them from your letters, but I recognized them in what you wrote. For as if foreknowing that he would be his successor, Acholios designated him as such by tokens, though in open speech he concealed it; saying that he had been aided by his care, labour, and ministry, thus seeming to declare him his coadjutor, one who would not come as a novice to the chief office of the priesthood, but as a tried performer of its duties. Well does that saying in the Gospel befit him, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.'"

December 29, 2020

The Late Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria, My Friend who was a Friend of the Saints

Metr. Seraphim (left) at Name Day of Metr. Hierotheos (right) on 10/4/2019
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The repose of the Metropolitan of Kastoria, Seraphim (+ 12/29/2020), hurt me a lot. I closely followed the progress of his health, and every day I called him at the Hospital to find out about his treatment. Demonstrative as he was, he was overly emotional: “You enslaved me, Elder. I thank you from my heart."

In one of my phone calls he told me that every day at the Hospital he did the sacred Services, Compline and the Supplicatory Canon to the Panagia. In fact, he confided in me that one day a nurse entered the ward, before he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, and asked if they had lit incense, because the ward was fragrant. Then he found out that a small box with some relics that he had under his pillow was emitting the fragrance. This shows his love for the sacred relics, that he took them with him to the Hospital. Now that I think about it, I understand that perhaps this fragrance was an indication that God wanted him in the heavenly Divine Liturgy, because he was pleased with his life.

St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Massacre of the Innocents


 By St. Gregory of Nyssa

(Excerpt from his Homily on the Nativity of Christ)

But let us now gaze upon the celestial wonders. For behold, not only do Prophets and Angels announce the glad tidings of this joy to us; the heavens, too, proclaim the glory of the gospel through their own marvels. Christ “sprang out of Judah” for us, as the Apostle says, but the Jews are not illumined by Him Who thus sprang forth.

The Magi were strangers to the promise of the Covenants and without a share in the blessing of the Fathers; yet they surpass the people of Israel in knowledge, for they recognized the heavenly luminary and were not ignorant of the King in the cave. The Magi bring Him gifts, but the Jews plot against Him. The former worship Him, but the latter persecute Him. The former rejoice at finding Him Whom they were seeking. The latter are perturbed at the birth of Him Who was announced. For, when the Magi “saw the star” over the place where the Child was,” “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” “When Herod...had heard” the report, “he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Kollyva Art in Honor of the Holy Innocents


The kollyva art photographed here was done in honor of the Holy Innocents at the Monastery of the Prophet Elias in Erythres. Kollyva art is a monastic practice that goes back many years in which a Saint or a Church Feast is depicted to honor them. This particular kollyva art was offered by the monks to the nuns at the nearby Monastery of Holy Infants in Thebes for their feast in 2018. It depicts the Birth of Christ up top with the gruesome slaughter of an infant below as Rachel weeps for the dead children, with four slaughtered infants ascending to heaven as first martyrs on Christ's behalf. An interesting side note is the use of a wooden semantron as an elbow rest as the monks perform their task.

The Only Monastery in the Orthodox World Dedicated to the Holy Innocents

The Sacred Monastery of the Holy Infants was established in the year 2000 with the blessing of the then Metropolitan Hieronymos of Thebes and Levadeia (currently the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece). It is located between Oinoi of Attica and Panakto of Thebes. The katholikon of the Monastery was consecrated by Archbishop Hieronymos on the 17th of November 2007. There are currently a total of five nuns in the Monastery. Next to the katholikon is a cemetery exclusively for infants who died prematurely. There is also a playground for children.

Homily on the Bronze Serpent and the Nativity of Christ (St. Luke of Simferopol)


By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea
For many, many years, the people of Israel roamed the desert after their exodus out of the land of Egypt with the God-seer Prophet Moses at the head. The Lord God nourished His people with God-sent manna. It was a difficult path in the desert. It was very difficult for them to find water to drink. And the people of Israel began to complain to God and Moses, why they were uprooted from Egypt in the first place. And God was angry against the people of Israel for their complaining, and He punished them harshly.

By His order came a large number of poisonous snakes, which bit them so that thousands of people died. Let us remember this, too, how terrible and devastating it is for one to complain to God.

December 28, 2020

Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher and the Star of New Bethlehem

When Saint Simon the Myrrhgusher, founder of Simonopetra Monastery on Mount Athos, was living as hermit in a cave on the Holy Mountain, after many years of struggling there and subjecting himself to every form of hardship, he had the following vision as the feast of the Nativity of Christ drew near. One night, Simon exited the cave and beheld a bright star in the heavens above a large high rock opposite his cave. This star was seen frequently by Simon over the course of many nights, remaining in the same place above the high rock. Seeing that this was no ordinary star, Simon thought that perhaps it was a sign of the devil to lead him astray, so he ignored it.

Saint Ignatius of Loma and Yaroslav (+ 1591)

St. Ignatius of Loma (Feast Day - December 28)
The circumstances of his life while still in the world are unknown. He started his ascetic path at the Priluki Monastery of the Savior at Vologda, and he received monastic tonsure at the Saint Cyril of White Lake Monastery. Saint Ignatius then departed to the vicinity of Loma seeking seclusion and there founded a hermitage, which gradually attracted disciples.

The desire for an isolated hermitic life again compelled the Venerable Ignatius to leave the monastery he had founded. Having transferred the administration of his monastery to one of his disciples, the ascetic withdrew to the Vadozhsky volost, to the banks of the Darovitsa River, which flows into the Sarau River one mile from the place of the monk's settlement, and began to live there as a hermit. The place was silent, wooded, and the human settlements were five or six miles away. A barely noticeable path winding along the bank of the Darovitsa River was the only way to reach this place.

Three Rare Icons of the Virgin Mary as a Housewife and Mother

The first icon depicts the Virgin Mary spinning clothes for baby Jesus and pampering Him as He naps in a comfortable crib. This icon can be found in the Patriarchal Monastery of Saint George in Cairo, an area where Jesus was brought to escape persecution.

December 27, 2020

Abishag the Shunamite as an Image of the Wisdom of King David in his Old Age

Paris Psalter, David holding open Psalter flanked by Wisdom and Prophecy, c. 950.

By St. Jerome

Excerpt from Letter LII: to Nepotian

Once David had been a man of war, but at seventy age had chilled him so that nothing would make him warm. A girl is accordingly sought from the coasts of Israel — Abishag the Shunamite — to sleep with the king and warm his aged frame. Does it not seem to you — if you keep to the letter that killeth — like some farcical story or some broad jest from an Atellan play? A chilly old man is wrapped up in blankets, and only grows warm in a girl's embrace. Bathsheba was still living, Abigail was still left, and the remainder of those wives and concubines whose names the Scripture mentions. Yet they are all rejected as cold, and only in the one young girl's embrace does the old man become warm. Abraham was far older than David; still, so long as Sarah lived he sought no other wife. Isaac counted twice the years of David, yet never felt cold with Rebekah, old though she was. I say nothing of the antediluvians, who, although after nine hundred years their limbs must have been not old merely, but decayed with age, had no recourse to girls' embraces. Moses, the leader of the Israelites, counted one hundred and twenty years, yet sought no change from Zipporah.

The Chapel of Saint Stephen in Kos and the Healing of a Fourteen Year Old Boy

On the Greek island of Kos, in the village of Amoniou, lies a chapel dedicated to Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen. It is built next to the ruins of an ancient monastery that was dedicated to Saint Stephen. This is the story of how the chapel came to be built, and which led archaeologists to discover the ruins of the monastery.

In Sydney, Australia lives the family of Anna Kourgiali, of the family Zamagia, who has two sons.

One morning in 1982 the youngest son, who was then fourteen, left for school. Suddenly something happened that he was unable to speak and unable to understand anything, then he lost consciousness and fell into a coma. An ambulance came and brought him to a hospital, where the struggle began to save his life.

Saint Stephen Rescues a Fisherman from an Octopus and a Chapel is Built to Commemorate the Miracle


On the Greek island of Syros, at the seaside village of Galissas, there is a cave with a white chapel overlooking the sea dedicated to the Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen. In fact, you can say that the chapel is located above the sea, in a location that enhances the beauty of an already beautiful place. Many even say this is one of the most beautiful cave chapels in the world.

In order to be built, only two walls were needed, to the right and to the left, since the rock cave itself provides both the floor and the ceiling.

The Appearance of the Holy Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen to a Hieromonk on Mount Athos

The wonderworking icon of Saint Stephen, which is in the Chapel of Saint Stephen, in the konaki of the Monastery of Dionysiou at Karyes, on the Holy Mountain.

 By Monk Lazarus of Dionysiou

Our holy abbot, Archimandrite Gabriel, had gone to Karyes for the Double Assembly which had been called by the Holy Community, and on his return told us about the appearance of the Holy Protomartyr Stephen, which occurred in the chapel in our representative’s house (konaki).

On the previous Sunday, 14 July, the feast of our Holy Father Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, the Monastery’s representative [at the Holy Community] invited the very devout Hieromonk Father Nikostratos to celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the konaki. He was also the representative of his own Monastery, the venerable Russian Monastery of Saint Panteleïmon.

Homily for the Sunday after Christmas (Archimandrite George Kapsanis)


 Homily for the Sunday after Christmas

Delivered on December 26, 2008

By Archimandrite George Kapsanis

We are still in the feast of Christmas, because even today, the second day of the feast, we have Christmas. But the Church especially honors today the Most Holy Theotokos, that is, the person who more than any other person collaborated in the Birth of our Savior Christ. That is why our Church today conducts a Synaxis, that is, it brings together the faithful. Christians gather to offer the divine Eucharist and to celebrate in honor of our Panagia and out of gratitude to the Most Holy Theotokos.

December 26, 2020

Pastoral Encyclical for Christmas 2020 (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Beloved brethren and beloved children in the Lord,

Today's feast is the feast of Christmas, a bright festival, from the point of view of the theology of our Church, as it is preserved in the homilies of the Holy Fathers and the hymns of the holy hymnographers.  What of it if everything outside of it is woeful? We celebrate "the Theophany" and our recalling and return to God. If all of humanity is trembling before death due to the pandemic of the virus, we Orthodox Christians celebrate by looking towards the incarnation of the Son and Word of God and the consequences it has for mankind.

Encomium to the Most Holy Theotokos (for December 25th)

Encomium to the Most Holy Theotokos 
For the 25th of December
(Edited by Fr. George A. Bouteris in 1902
based on Proclus of Constantinople and the
hymnography of the Church.)

God is brought forth by the Virgin Mother

Today, the gate of the King of glory is opened,
which the Highest alone traveled through.

Today the Beginningless begins
and the Word is noted down.

Today heaven and earth have united,
speaking of Christ.

Today God on earth has arrived,
and man to heaven has been raised.

Today fire has been made visible,
the nature of which is invisible to man.

Today the Virgin brings forth the Fashioner of all things;
the earth offers a cave, and the heavens a star.

December 25, 2020

Discourse on the Birth of our Savior in the Flesh (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

Discourse on the Birth of our Savior in the Flesh

(Sermon 2 on the Gospel of Luke)

By St. Cyril of Alexandria
Luke 2:8-18 -- And there were shepherds in that country, watching and keeping guard by night over their flock: and the angel of the Lord came unto them, and the glory of God shone upon them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for lo! I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which, shall be to all the people: that there is born unto you today, in the city of David a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord. And this is your sign; ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and among men good will." And it came to pass that when the angels had gone from them unto heaven, the shepherds said unto one another, "Let us go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which hath come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe laid in the manger. And when they had seen, they made known the word that was spoken unto them concerning the child. And all that heard wondered at what was told them by the shepherds.

Sermon on the Nativity of Christ (St. Cyril of Alexandria)


On the Nativity of Christ

(Sermon 1: Luke 2:1-7)

By St. Cyril of Alexandria
Luke 2:1 - And it came to pass in those days,...

Christ therefore was born in Bethlehem at the time when Augustus Caesar gave orders that the first enrolment should be made. But what necessity was there, some one may perhaps say, for the very wise Evangelist to make special mention of this? Yes, I answer, it was both useful and necessary for him to mark the period when our Saviour was born, for it was said by the voice of the Patriarch: "The head shall not depart from Judah, nor a governor from his thighs until He come, for Whom it is laid up, and He is the expectation of the Gentiles." That we therefore might learn that the Israelites had then no king of the tribe of David, and that their own native governors had failed, with good reason he makes mention of the decrees of Caesar, as now having beneath his sceptre Judaea as well as the rest of the nations: for it was as their ruler that he commanded the census to be made.

December 24, 2020

The Second Christmas Canon of Saint John of Damascus

This Canon is listed as the "Second Canon" in the Festal Menaion of Bishop Kallistos Ware and Mother Mary, the "First Canon" being that of St. Gregory the Theologian.

First Canticle

Of old the Master that works wonders saved His people,
Making the watery wave of the sea into dry land;
And now of His own will has He been born from a Maiden,
And so He establishes a path for us whereby we may mount to heaven.
We glorify Him Who in essence is equal to the Father and to mortal men.

Plainly foreshadowed by the burning bush that was not consumed,
A hallowed womb has borne the Word.
God is mingled with the form of mortal men;
And so He looses the unhappy womb of Eve from the bitter curse of old.
We men give Him glory.

A star showed plainly to the Magi
The Word that was before the sun, who has come to make transgression cease.
They saw Thee wrapped in swaddling clothes, within a poor and lowly cave,
Who sharest all our sufferings,
And in joy they gazed upon Thee, who art at once both man and Lord.

Third Canticle

Graciously accept, O Benefactor, the praises of Thy servants
And bring down the despiteful and haughty looks of the enemy.
O blessed Lord Who seest all, raise us up far above sin,
And establish Thy singers firm and unshaken
Upon the foundation of the faith.

The choir of shepherds abiding in the fields was overwhelmed
By the strange sight they were counted worthy to behold;
For they looked upon the all-blessed Offspring of an all-pure Bride;
And they saw also the ranks of bodiless angels, who sang
In praise of Christ the King, incarnate without seed.

He who rules the heights of heaven, in His compassion,
Has become such as we are, born of a Maiden who has not known man.
The Word who before was wholly outside matter, in these last times
Has assumed the material substance of the flesh
That so He might draw unto Himself fallen Adam, the first-formed man.

Fourth Canticle

Of old Habakkuk the Prophet was counted worthy to behold ineffably
The figure and symbol of Christ's birth,
And he foretold in song the renewal of mankind.
For a young babe, even the Word, has now come forth from the Mountain that is the Virgin,
Unto the renewal of the peoples.

Of Thine own will, O Most High, Thou hast come forth equal to mortal men,
Taking flesh from the Virgin,
To purge the poison of the serpent's head.
God by nature, Thou leadest all
From the gates that know no sun to the life-giving light.

O ye people that before were sunk in corruption,
But now have escaped wholly from the perdition of the adversary,
Lift up your hands and clap them in songs of praise,
Honouring Christ alone, our Benefactor,
Who in His compassion is come into our midst.

O Virgin, sprung from the root of Jesse,
Thou hast passed beyond the boundaries of human nature,
For thou hast borne the pre-eternal Word of the Father.
According to His good pleasure, by a strange self-emptying,
He passed through thy womb, yet kept it sealed.

Fifth Canticle

From the night of deeds of dark error we watch vigilantly,
And sing to Thee, O Christ, as to our Benefactor.
Come to us and grant us cleansing:
Make the path easy for us,
Whereby we may ascend and so attain to glory.

The Master, by His coming in the flesh, has cut clean through
The harsh enmity of the flesh against Him,
And has destroyed the might of the murderer of our souls,
Uniting the world to the immaterial essences,
He has made the Father merciful to the creation.

The people that before walked in the darkness
This day have seen a light from the beacon on high.
The Son offers to God the nations as His inheritance, bestowing grace past telling
Where sin once flourished more abundantly.

Sixth Canticle

Enclosed in the uttermost depths of the sea,
Jonah entreated Thee to come and still the storm.
And I, O Christ, priced by the dart of the tyrant,
Call upon Thee, the Slayer of evil,
Beseeching Thee to come quickly and deliver me from my slothfulness.

God the Word, who was in the beginning with God,
Seeing our nature powerless to guard unharmed
Its ancient fellowship with Him, now grants it new strength:
Abasing Himself, in a second act of fellowship
He makes it once again free from the passions.

For our sakes He has come froth from the loins of Abraham,
To raise up as His sons those who were sadly fallen
Into the darkness of sin that bowed them down to the earth;
And He that dwells in light has now been pleased, despite His high dignity,
To dwell in a manger for the salvation of mankind.

Seventh Canticle

Caught and held fast by love for the King of all,
The Children despised the impious threats of the tyrant in his boundless fury;
And as the terrible fire withdrew before them,
They said to the Master, 'Unto all ages blessed art Thou.'

The seething and roaring furnace, heated seven-fold,
In its fury burnt up the servants of the king,
But spared the Children:
For as the flame encircled them, the Lord,
Rewarding their godliness, shed upon them abundant dew.

O Christ our Defender, Thou has put to shame the adversary of man,
Using as shield Thine ineffable Incarnation!
Taking man's form, Thou hast now bestowed upon him the joy
Of becoming godlike: for it was in hope of this
That of old we fell from on high into the dark depths of the earth.

Thou hast overthrown by Thine almighty power
The fierce sin that raised its head in wanton pride,
And raged with blasphemy throughout a world gone mad.
Those whom in times past it dragged down, today Thou hast delivered from its snares,
O Benefactor, who of Thine own will hast taken flesh.

Eighth Canticle

The Children of the Old Covenant who walked in the fire, yet were not burnt,
Prefigured the womb of the Maiden that remained sealed,
When she gave birth in fashion past nature.
It was the same grace of God that brought both these wonders to pass in a miracle
And rouses the peoples to sing in praise.

Shunning the guilt of its vain attempt to become as God,
The whole creation sings, like the three Children, in praise of the eternal Word, who now empties Himself:
Yet sings with trembling, afraid to bring
A prayer unacceptable to God, for it is subject to decay,
Even though the divine wisdom maintains it ever in being.

Thou hast come, O Resurrection of the nations,
To bring back the nature of man from its wanderings,
Leading it from the hills of the wilderness to a pasture rich in flowers.
Do Thou destroy the violent strength of the murder of man,
O Thou who in Thy providence hast appeared as man and God.

Ninth Canticle

Today the Virgin bears the Master within the Cave.

It would be easier for us, because free from all danger, to keep silence in fear:
While it is hard indeed, O Virgin, in love to devise songs harmoniously put together.

But do thou, O Mother, give us strength so we may fulfill our good intent.

Today the Master is born as a babe of a Virgin Mother.

Today shepherds behold the Saviour wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

Today the Master who cannot be touched is wrapped as a babe in swaddling rags.

We have seen, O pure Mother, the dim figures of the Word and the shades that are past;
And now that He has newly appeared from the closed gate,
We who are counted worthy to behold the Light of truth, as is meet and right, bless thy womb.

Today all creation rejoices greatly and makes glad, for Christ is born of a Virgin Maid.

The Powers of heaven declare unto the world that the Saviour, Lord, and Master has been born.

Magnify, O my soul, the power of the undivided Godhead in Three Persons!

The people that delights in Christ has attained its desire,
Being counted worthy of the coming of God,
And now they humbly pray for the regeneration that gives life.
O undefiled Virgin, grant them the grace,
To worship Christ in His glory.

90-Year-Old Woman from Kalymnos Chants Christmas Hymns


Katerina Makarouna, the "Nightingale of Palionisos" as she is known, is a 91-year-old (in the video she is 90) widow from Kalymnos, who has 6 children, 23 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, and lives in Palionisos, the most remote village of the island with only six inhabitants for the past 67 years (they only received electricity 6 or 7 years ago and a paved road in 2006). Below she chants with a sweet and melodic voice the Christmas Kathisma hymn "Deute Idomen Pistoi" ("Come ye faithful") which is followed by the Canon hymn "Christ is Born" from within the Chapel of Saint Peter, which she visits once or twice a week. 

Venerable Agapios the New (+ 1812)

Monastery of the Philosopher in Dimitsana

Venerable Agapios the New, known in the world as Antonios Antonopoulos, also known as Agapios Papantopoulos, was from Dimitsana, a mountain village of the Peloponnese, and was born in 1753. As a youth he was educated at the Holy Monastery of the Philosopher, where he was taught by such teachers as Agapios Leonardos and Gerasimos Gounas.

December 23, 2020

Encomium to the Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete (St. Andrew of Crete) - 1 of 3

Encomium to the Holy Ten Martyrs of Crete

(Commemorated on December 23rd)

By St. Andrew, Archbishop of Crete

To the Holy and Victorious Ten Martyrs, when in a time of a violent winter he returned from a sea voyage and planned this discourse.

1. Did you, my friends and brethren and children, long for my return? I felt some pray to see me again in this kathedra and to be with you on this glorious day of the feast, that of the Martyrs and that of Christ, the great and unique and first leader of all, which predominates on this day of bright garments, while others asked to learn something and to basically say: "Where is our father? Where is our shepherd? Where is he who makes our feasts brighter and with his presence makes the memories of the Saints shine and who especially nourishes us with his words, expounding the Holy Scriptures, and where he basically cries out, 'My children, it is the final hour, and we must approach God with awareness, and even more so to come near Him, as we see the day approaching,' just as the divine trumpet, Paul the discourser of God, cries out. Where is he, therefore, who explains to us the divine and sacred writings, and intensifies the tone of our longing by his own example? Maybe, perhaps, having gone far from his homeland, he got lost? Maybe some desire reminded him of the tender love he has for his flock, and this desire conquered the difficulties of the road and reminded him to return? Or, finally, some divine power brought him back once again and even for the day of the Saints, whom he honors with much care and fervent desire? And behold, now with more zeal from that which his strength allows, he hastened to attend to this spiritual festival. And very reasonably, because he happens to have with him the sacred larnax of their revered relics, which he brings everywhere he goes, because it makes his paths very easy and having them as fellow-travelers he journeys with security." I think many contemplated these things, when I was absent, because this is how grateful children behave towards their loving father, and this is their desire, to see me with their very eyes that I am physically present, and to hear my voice teaching them. This, therefore, is what you now see happening. I myself, hence, am to be found among you with the living word, embracing this sacred gathering here, and as a gift for my absence I offer this discourse to you and to the Martyrs of Christ. Receive him as if he had not come from a long journey, and accept with meekness that which I will offer to please the Martyrs, that you may joyfully depart the feast, adorned with flowers and having reaped from here rich fruits.

December 22, 2020

An Icon of the Mother of God Surrounded by Righteous Foremothers of the Old Testament


The Shuiskaya-Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God in a frame with images of foremothers and prophetesses can be seen on the iconostasis of the Kremlin's Annunciation Cathedral.

The image of the Mother of God itself dates back to the 15th century, and it is quite standard. But its frame is unique, although it was created later, in the late 16th - early 17th centuries.

It is unique, firstly, in that it depicts women of the Old Testament, who were usually never depicted in icons. And also the fact that one of these women is possibly a hidden portrait of Princess Sophia.

December 21, 2020

The Penthekti Ecumenical Synod, Brumalia and the Origins of the Forty-Day Period of Preparation Before Christmas

By George D. Panagopoulos,
Professor of Dogmatics at the 
University Ecclesiastical Academy of Vella in Ioannina

Anyone who reads the 62nd canon of the Penthekti Ecumenical Synod in Trullo (692) will be confronted with a manifestation of the struggle of the Orthodox Catholic Church against the survival of popular celebrations of a pagan nature. More specifically, the banning of the festivals of "Bota", "Kalends" and "Brumalia".

Because the question of this last celebration is relevant, since we have just gone through the period of the year during which its celebration took place in antiquity and the Middle Ages, I will deal with what follows with the clarification of the term "brumalia" and the accompanying calendar issues, saving the terms "kalends" and "bota" to deal with in the near future.

Catechesis on the Creedal Words "the Only-Begotten Son of God, Begotten of the Father Very God Before All Ages, by Whom All Things Were Made" (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)

Catechetical Lecture 11
On the Words, "the Only-Begotten Son of God, Begotten of the Father Very God Before All Ages, by Whom All Things Were Made"
By St. Cyril of Jerusalem

God, who at sundry times and in various manners spoke in times past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son (Heb. 1:1) 
1. That we have hope in Jesus Christ has been sufficiently shown, according to our ability, in what we delivered to you yesterday. But we must not simply believe in Christ Jesus nor receive Him as one of the many who are improperly called Christs. For they were figurative Christs, but He is the true Christ; not having risen by advancement from among men to the Priesthood, but ever having the dignity of the Priesthood from the Father. And for this cause the Faith guarding us beforehand lest we should suppose Him to be one of the ordinary Christs, adds to the profession of the Faith, that we believe In One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God.

Catechesis on the Creedal Words "Incarnate" and "Made Man" (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)

Catechetical Lecture 12 
On the Words "Incarnate" and "Made Man"
By St. Cyril of Jerusalem
And the Lord spoke again unto Ahaz, saying, "Ask you a sign," and
Behold! A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel. (Is. 7:10-14)

1. Nurslings of purity and disciples of chastity, raise we our hymn to the Virgin-born God with lips full of purity. Deemed worthy to partake of the flesh of the Spiritual Lamb , let us take the head together with the feet , the Deity being understood as the head, and the Manhood taken as the feet. Hearers of the Holy Gospels, let us listen to John the Divine. For he who said, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God John 1:1, went on to say, and the Word was made flesh. For neither is it holy to worship the mere man, nor religious to say that He is God only without the Manhood. For if Christ is God, as indeed He is, but took not human nature upon Him, we are strangers to salvation. Let us then worship Him as God, but believe that He also was made Man. For neither is there any profit in calling Him man without Godhead nor any salvation in refusing to confess the Manhood together with the Godhead. Let us confess the presence of Him who is both King and Physician. For Jesus the King when about to become our Physician, girded Himself with the linen of humanity , and healed that which was sick. The perfect Teacher of babes Romans 2:20 became a babe among babes, that He might give wisdom to the foolish. The Bread of heaven came down on earth that He might feed the hungry.

December 20, 2020

As We Approach the Nativity of Christ (St. John of Kronstadt)


By St. John of Kronstadt

We are approaching, beloved brethren, the world-saving feast of the birth in the flesh of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. For several days before the feast, the holy Church will celebrate this wondrous mystery in the spiritual hymns of her daily services. These hymns remind us of our divine birthright, and the squandering of our sonship through sin; of its restoration through repentance of our common spiritual kinship and of the spirit of love and care for one another.
In order that we celebrate this feast of God's limitless love and His extreme condescension, not in a worldly, but in a spiritual manner, let us briefly consider the following: Why did God become man while remaining God? And what does God's incarnation require of us?

December 19, 2020

"A Woman Died and the Whole Place was Fragrant"


There was a very poor woman in a small village of Aitoloakarnania who had three children. She managed to raise them with incredible deprivations and difficulties, while at the same time with a unique dignity! This, was Mrs. Vasiliki.

She died on the eve of the Dormition of the Panagia in 1998. The next day, August 15, the cheap coffin with her body, which was on the wagon of the small farm truck of the priest, was headed to the cemetery.

Elder Eumenios Saridakis: The Saint Who Had the Gift of Laughter


By Monk Simon

Our Father always laughed, he laughed a lot. He would laugh with us people and conveyed this joy to us. He laughed with the Saints, with our Lady the Theotokos, with the Angels, which is why whenever we went to him, whether we were in distress or mentally or physically tired, we would all leave as if were flying.

Father Eumenios also laughed during the services, while reading the Holy Gospel or while censing the Lady Theotokos during the "More Honorable".

Portrait of a Philanthropist

Without my asking, Elder Ambrose (Lazaris) told me at one point: "Stavros, your mother is in Paradise."

I was shocked. It had been fifteen days since I slept. To learn from this life that my mother is up there - I was sure, almost sure, about my mother. My mother was an ascetic in her life. Always smiling.

In the last thirty years of her life she never left her house.

She had seven children.

She treated her father-in-law, who reposed at the age of 94, as if he was her own father.

She was very merciful.

She would steal money from my father's pants and would secretly give it to the poor.

She hosted beggars at home almost every day and made a table for them. Then she would pack food for them in a bag.

She shined with joy.

Seventeen years after her death, we her children found out, by chance, that she was awarded by the Metropolis of Demitriados and Almyros for her philanthropic work when she was younger.

She was anxious to give hospitality to others and only by force would she sit at the table to eat herself.

We have a farm of fifteen acres. During the German occupation it was full of fruit trees. From the 100 chickens we had in those days, without reservation she would take fifty eggs a day and together with fruit she would distribute them to the poor. She would also constantly give to her relatives in Volos. It made her happy to give.

May the Lord grant her soul rest.

This is what I learned from Elder Ambrose. Let us not forget the souls. They ask for our help. 
Source: Translation by John Sanidopoulos.

An African Neomartyr

By Archimandrite Seraphim Demopoulos

In 1985 an African - who was then a deacon - named Nicholas narrated to us the following circumstance.

In Uganda, Archimandrite Nikodemos Sarikas (1878-1941) preached for the first time (in 1933). Among those who heard him preaching was a young African boy.

That night, when the boy and his family sat to eat, he did his cross first.

December 18, 2020

Saint Eubiotos as a Model for our Lives

St. Eubiotos of Kyzikos (Feast Day - December 18)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Eubiotos was from Kyzikos of Asia Minor, and lived towards the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth century. He was a famous ascetic and confessor. Having been arrested by pagans he endured with great courage horrible tortures, from which, miraculously, he remained unharmed. Because of the miracles that took place during his martyrdom, many well-meaning pagans believed in Christ and became confessors and martyrs. When Maximian saw that the Saint remained unharmed by the horrible tortures, he ordered the executioners to behead him. They, however, because it suddenly became dark, slaughtered each other. Thus, the Saint remained unharmed again, for this reason he was thrown into prison, where he remained twenty-two days. He was then released, at the behest of Maximian, when he was informed that Constantine the Great was ascending from the western parts of Europe to the east. He lived another five years in asceticism and prayer. Many people hastened to his hermitage, mainly people in pain, whom he received with great love and supported, strengthening and comforting them with his divinely inspired and comforting words, but also with the miraculous healings of various diseases that took place with his divinely-entreating prayers.

Synaxis of the Holy Family of Saint Gregory Palamas

In 2009, at the recommendation of the Metropolis of Berea, Naousa and Kampania, the Ecumenical Patriarchate established a feast day in honor of the family of St. Gregory Palamas. His father's name was Constantine, his mother Kalloni, his brothers were Makarios and Theodosios, and his sisters were Theodote and Epicharis. The day chosen for the feast is December 18th or the Sunday after November 14th.

St. Philotheos Kokkinos, a disciple of St. Gregory and his biographer, writes the following of his father:

"Gregory was the offspring of noble and pious parents. So virtuous was his father that the emperor Adronikos II Palaiologos, made him one of his counselors. And not only the earthly king, but also God the Heavenly King, honored and glorified him even while he was still alive with miracles. Foreknowing his death, Constantine – that was his name – took the Angelic Habit, that is, he became a monk, and was named Constantios."

Holy Spring of Saint Sebastian in Constantinople


Saint Sebastian is especially revered at the holy spring that bears his name, which is located next to the Church of Saint Demetrios in Sarmasik, Istanbul.

During the centuries before the Fall of the Queen City in 1453, the memory of the Saint was honored with brilliance, where many people found a cure to their mental and physical ailments. Due to the destruction of the city, the holy water was seized and destroyed. But the Saint at the beginning of the nineteenth century appeared in a vision to a woman and indicated to her the place and existence of the holy spring.

Saint Sebastian and the 1576–78 Plague of Milan

Saint Sebastian Interceding for the Plague Stricken, 
 Josse Lieferinxe, 1497–1499, The Walters Art Museum
According to surviving chronicles, plague entered Milan in either late July or early August of 1576 and reigned until the city was declared ‘liberated’ on 20 January 1578, meaningfully coinciding with the Roman Catholic feast day of St. Sebastian, who was already known by then as one of the premier protectors against pestilence. Over those eighteen months, the city lost over 17,000 individuals, roughly 15% of her citizens. No one knew for certain how plague could have breached the city’s walls, given that Milan was already on alert. Trent, the ground zero for the epidemic, was struck just a year earlier. From there, the disease progressed first to Venice and Mantua in the early part of 1576 before finally reaching Milan. Within a month of the outbreak, most of Milan’s nobility had fled. Even more distressing for the Milanese, ‘the evils produced by this state of things were increased’ when the Governor, the Marquis of Ayamonte, likewise abandoned his city and took refuge in nearby Vigevano. Conditions deteriorated throughout the autumn on both the medical and the civic fronts. Trade and commerce faltered, and it became difficult for the government to provision the city with goods from uninfected regions. The city’s plague hospital quickly filled to capacity, and more temporary straw huts for the sick were needed than could be built. Increasingly draconian measures were enacted – such as the purging of infected homes, closure of non-essential shops, and a general quarantine – all of which further exacerbated the city’s financial troubles.

The Skull of Saint Sebastian in Bavaria

Saint Sebastian was martyred during the Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians, around the year 288. Nearly 80 years after his death, around 367, his remains were moved to a basilica in Rome, built by Pope Damasus I. His body, or at least some relics from his body were reportedly removed and shared with a community of monks in France. His skull was sent to a German monastery in Ebersberg in 934. This monastery became one of the most important pilgrimage sites in southern Germany, as people flocked to venerate the skull of Saint Sebastian, which was believed to have miraculous power. 

December 17, 2020

A Summary of the Old Testament (St. Jerome)

By St. Jerome
(Excerpt from Letter 53 to Paulinus of Nola)

Genesis, we shall be told, needs no explanation; its topics are too simple — the birth of the world, the origin of the human race, the division of the earth, the confusion of tongues, and the descent of the Hebrews into Egypt!

Exodus, no doubt, is equally plain, containing as it does merely an account of the ten plagues, the decalogue, and sundry mysterious and divine precepts!

The Veneration of Saint Dionysios in Zakynthos


By Dionysis Flemotomos

The memory of Saint Dionysios, as everyone knows, is celebrated on December 17. It is, as it is typically called, the feast of "our Saint", without any other elaboration.

Veneration and Honor

Much could be said about his veneration and the honor bestowed on him by his fellow-natives, and endless disagreements were created, especially by the fanatical theologians, since the Saint often substitutes even God in the conscience of Zakynthians. Thus the expression "I do not believe in gods and religions, but I believe in the Saint" is an additional example of local uniqueness and shows the bond of all the inhabitants of the island with the "native" Saint, who lived on their soil and understands them like nobody else. In fact, he is completely theirs and that is why they supplicate him as: "Agios mou Kormaki" (my Holy Body) which is a beautiful expression emphasizing his physical presence among them, or the more humane: "Agios mou Sigouros" (my Saint Sigouros), invoking his surname.

December 16, 2020

An Interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos Regarding Issues with the Pandemic

On Sunday, December 13th, the newspaper Eleutheros Typos published an interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, who replied to questions by the journalist Valias Nikolaou concerning issues related to the pandemic and the response of the the Church of Greece.

Question: Your Eminence, we are experiencing an unprecedented crisis due to the pandemic. There are believers who reverently follow the measures of the competent health authorities for their protection from covid-19. There are, however, believers who deny its existence and believe in conspiracy theories. What would you say to the deniers of the pandemic?

Thessaloniki Hosts the Largest Manger Scene in Europe for 2020

The Greek city of Thessaloniki hosts the largest manger scene in Europe for 2020.

What makes the scene unique is that it does not only include the Holy Family, the Angels, the Three Magi, the animals and the shepherds, but also the palace of Herod and the scene where the Archangel Gabriel offers a lily to the Virgin Mary.

The Incorrupt Relics of the Holy Empress Theophano at the Phanar


The Holy Empress Theophano was the pious wife of Emperor Leo VI the Wise, who reposed at the age of 31 around the year 894 after she dedicated her life to God as a nun. Her husband considered her to be a Saint, and as a memorial to her he built the Church of Saint Theophano next to the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, probably within a year after her death. When Theophano died, her body was likely placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles then transferred to the adjoining Church of Saint Theophano. However, certain bishops objected to Leo building a church dedicated to his wife, so Leo was forced to change the name of this church, which he then dedicated to All Saints, so as to still include his wife as one of many Saints that could be commemorated there. 

December 15, 2020

Saint Nektarios of Bitel (+ 1500)

St. Nektarios of Bitel (Feast Day - December 15)

Venerable Nektarios was born in the small town of Bitel (or Butili) in Bulgaria around the year 1430. In the world he was named Nicholas. Before the Turkish invasion his mother had a vision: the Most Holy Virgin herself appeared and told her to flee and go into hiding with her husband and children. They immediately got people together from Bitel – children, women and weak old people left the city, while the men remained to defend the city from the Turkish invader with weapons. The Turks conquered the city and spread devastation, slaughter and atrocities. When the Turks passed and the situation was calmed down, many of the residents returned, but Nicholas’s father, who was now old and after making an agreement with his wife, withdrew to a monastery dedicated to the Holy Unmercenaries Saints Kosmas and Damian, not far from Bitel, where he became a monk with the name Pachomios. Young Nicholas often visited his father there, and received an education.