Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fifth Sunday of Great Lent - Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt (Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos)

 

By Archimandrite Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

On this day we honor the memory of our Venerable Mother Mary of Egypt, who is celebrated on the 1st of April. As the Horologion says: "It was also established for today, as we approach the end of Holy Lent, to arouse the idle and sinful towards repentance, having as an example the celebrated Saint." From this same book we record the following about this holy woman.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Saint Makarios of Corinth as a Model for our Lives

St. Makarios of Corinth (Feast Day - April 17)

 By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Makarios lived in the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries (1731-1805). He was born in Trikala, Corinth, came from the famous Notaras family, and his parents were named George and Anastasia. His baptismal name was Michael. He was first educated in the Monastery of the Panagia, in his own homeland, by the teacher Eustathios who was from Kefallonia. He loved prayer and the hesychast life, and for this he went to the Holy Monastery of Mega Spelaion to become a monk, but his father had him return home. After his teacher reposed, he occupied himself with the work of a teacher successfully for some time. He was loved by the Corinthians for his learning, and especially for his ethos and the modesty of his life. For this reason, after the death of the Archbishop of Corinth, he was proposed to the Ecumenical Patriarch Samuel to be his successor. As Archbishop of Corinth he was devoted to the rational flock entrusted to him by Christ through the Church.

The Wondrous Meeting Between Two Saints Who Were Related: St. Makarios of Corinth and St. Gerasimos of Kefallonia


Loukas Notaras (1402–1453) was a Roman statesman who served as the last Grand Duke (commander-in-chief of the Roman navy) and the last Chief Minister of the Roman Empire, under emperors John VIII Palaiologos and Constantine XI Palaiologos. After the fall of Constantinople, a portion of the Notaras and Palaiologos family had settled in Trikala of Corinth. Saint Gerasimos Notaras of Kefallonia was born in 1570 in Trikala of Corinth. His father was a descendent of Loukas Notaras and his mother a descendent of Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos. Saint Makarios Notaras was born in Trikala of Corinth in 1731. Thus both Saint Gerasimos Notaras and Saint Makarios Notaras were related, but born about 160 years apart.

Saint Zosimas of Solovki (+ 1478)

 
St. Zosimas of Solovki (Feast Day - April 17)

Saint Zosimas, the Abbot of Solovki Monastery and great luminary of the Russian North, was the founder of cenobitic monasticism on Solovki Island. He was born in the Novgorod diocese, in the village of Tolvui near Lake Onega. From his early years he was raised in piety, and after the death of his parents Gabriel and Barbara, he gave away his possessions and received the monastic tonsure.

In search of a solitary place, he journeyed to the shores of the White Sea, and at the mouth of the Suma he met Saint Herman (July 30), who told him of a desolate sea island, where he had spent six years with Saint Sabbatius (September 27).

Synaxarion of Saint Makarios Notaras the Archbishop of Corinth


 Synaxarion*

On the 17th of this month [April], we commemorate Saint Makarios Notaras, Archbishop of Corinth.

Verses

Offspring of Corinth you are the brightest of Hierarchs,
An intercessor, joy and great aid to all the faithful.
Who is this, who was twice called and showed divine signs?
Splendid Makarios Notaras the most splendid orpyx.
In the middle of April he went to God, having breathed his last.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Elder Savvas Lappas and the Celestial Light of the Theotokos

Hermitage of the Honorable Cross in Kalymnos
 
Monk Nikephoros Lappas (1903-1992), who was later named Savvas, had been a disciple of Saint Savvas of Kalymnos and then Saint Amphilochios Makris, and for the last 32 years of his life lived alone in asceticism in the Hermitage of the Honorable Cross towards the western part of the island of Kalymnos, to the left of the coast of Kantouni.

Father Pavlos Nikitaras (1912-1999) reported that on one moonless night he had gone out with Father Nikephoros for fishing in the bay of Kouvari.

When at 11 o'clock in the evening they pulled out the nets and had to gather the fish, Fr. Pavlos asked Elder Nikephoros a question:

The Power of Saying the Salutations to the Mother of God


Many years ago there was a pious family that lived in a rural area. Because they were not very well educated, they used to pray aloud in the house with the Archangelic Salutation (Hail Mary Full of Grace), and this very Salutation was heard by the youngest son of the family from his childhood, who kept repeating it, whether he was in the house or playing out in the field.

One day when he was a little older, he went to play with the other children near the river that passed by their village.

Careless as he was he slipped and fell into the river.

On Noetic Prayer (St. Amphilochios Makris)


St. Amphilochios Makris taught the following about noetic prayer:

When you cultivate the prayer, you are not disturbed by the winds of temptation. Its power is weakened, it can do nothing to you. Let prayer be for you a wall, a shield and armor. We must have patience and prayer. The end of my life draws near. I plead with you all to live a holy life, to walk along holy paths in order to help the Church and our Greece. May your hearts become censers, from where your prayer will ascend to the throne of God.

When I sit on the high rock of prayer, no matter how many waves may come they will do nothing to me, but when they find me somewhere low they cover me. Noetic prayer assimilates, connects, sanctifies. When the soul is ignited with the fire of prayer everything that is dry is burned up and disappears. Noetic prayer is the basis of perfection. The first stage of spiritual ascent is noetic prayer. At the beginning of prayer you feel joy, then sweetness and then finally tears are produced like a fruit. This is because you now feel the presence of Jesus. When you cultivate the prayer you will not tire, you will not be disturbed, you will not be sleepy during services, because your body will be as if it were a garment. What you wear does not become sad, does not become cold, nor does it tire. No matter how many hours I stand I will not get tired.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Holy Martyr Suchias and his Sixteen Companions in Georgia


 By Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze

The Holy Martyr Suchias (Sukia) and his Sixteen Companions in Georgia were illustrious dignitaries who served at the court of the Albanian (Hagbanite) ruler (i.e. “Caucasian Albania” on the present day territory of Azerbaizhan).

Escorting the Albanian ruler’s daughter Satenika, wife of the Armenian emperor Artaxar (88-123), Saint Suchias and his sixteen companions arrived in Artashat, the ancient capital of Armenia (the city was later destroyed by the Romans in the year 163).

Saint Ephraim the Great of Atsquri


By Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze

Saint Ephraim the Great of Atsquri—one of the most important figures in the Georgian Church of the 8th and 9th centuries—was a disciple and companion of Saint Grigol of Khandzta.

On his way from Klarjeti in southern Georgia to Abkhazeti in the northwest, Saint Grigol met the young Ephraim and immediately perceived in him a like-minded companion and the future wonderworker and bishop of Atsquri.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Holy Hiero-Confessor Alexander Orlov (+ 1941)

St. Alexander Orlov (Feast Day - April 14); photo taken in 1933

Alexander Vasilyevich Orlov was born in 1878 in the village of Makkoveevo (now the village Syntul) of the Kasimov district in the Ryazan province to the family of teacher Vasily Orlov. Soon after the birth of his son, Vasily Evdokimovich Orlov was ordained Deacon at the Holy Protection Church in the village of Makkoveevo. After graduating from a parish school and a theological school, Alexander from 1905 began to serve as a chanter in the Protection Church in his native village. After being married he was ordained a Deacon to this church in 1919.

Saint Abundius the Sacristan (+ 564)

St. Abundius the Sacristan (Feast Day - April 14)

We are informed about Saint Abundius from the Dialogues (Bk. 3, Ch. 25) of Saint Gregory the Great, where after mentioning a miracle of a certain Theodore who was the sacristan of the Church of Saint Peter in Rome, he goes on to mention another miraculous incident of another sacristan of the same church named Abundius. He writes:     

"Not very many years ago, as old men say, there was another keeper of the same church, called Abundius, a man of great humility, who served God so faithfully, that the Holy Apostle Peter did by miracle declare what opinion he had of his virtue.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Saint Arsenios, Archbishop of Elassonos and Archbishop of Suzdal and Tarus (+ 1625)

St. Arsenios of Elassonos (Feast Day - April 13)

Saint Arsenios was born in Evrytania of Thessaly, specifically in the village of Kalogriana of Karditsa, in the year 1548, and was baptized with the name Apostolos. His father was a priest named Theodore and his mother was named Christodouli, who was the sister of Metropolitan Neophytos of Larissa and the niece of Saint Bessarion of Larissa. He had four older brothers - Joasaph (Bishop of Stagon), Mark (Bishop of Demetriada), as well as Athanasios and Pachomios (both hieromonks).

The father of Apostolos died in 1560, and his upbringing fell on the shoulders of his elder brother Joasaph, who gave the young Apostolos his initial education. His writings, language skills and tenure as a teacher show that he was very educated, though we have no details about this.

Holy Venerable Martyr Christopher the Sabbaite

 
St. Christopher the Sabbaite (Feast Day - April 13); Icon depicts the slaughter of the Holy Fathers of the Lavra of Saint Savvas

Saint Stephen the Melodist, the nephew of Saint John of Damascus, was the eye-witness who recorded the slaughter of the Holy Fathers of the Great Lavra of Saint Savvas in the seventh century, whom we commemorate on March 20th. In his narration Saint Stephen also informs us of a Venerable Martyr named Christopher, whom he says had converted a few years earlier to the pious faith of Christ, "from a Persian and fruitless wild olive tree, he was grafted and became a fruitful olive tree." Having been baptized and received the monastic schema at the Lavra of Saint Savvas, Christopher was slandered by the chief councillor of the Saracens, and three days before Holy and Great Friday, on April 14th, he was killed by a sword.
 
 

Translation of the Sacred Relics of the Holy New Martyr George of Cyprus

Translation of the Relics of St. George of Cyprus (Feast Day - April 13)

The Holy New Martyr George was originally from Cyprus and later moved to work in Ptolemais in Palestine, which today is known as Acre. There he was martyred as a Christian by the Turks in 1752 by being shot and stabbed multiple times. The Christians of that city then buried his relic with honors, and for three nights a pillar of light shined over his grave. To commemorate this miracle, the Christians of Ptolemais would gather every Friday night at his grave for decades and offer prayers, candles and incense, and many miracles were reported to have taken place, according to his biography by Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite. His feast day was established for April 23rd.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Mystical Journey of the Christian, Through the Desert, Towards the Resurrection and Pentecost (2 of 5)

 

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

2. "On the Development of Intrusive Thoughts"

Intrusive thoughts [logismoi] are the initial suggestions that develop into a sin and passion, which is why an ascetic gives great importance in not developing intrusive thoughts.

"The first stage [of intrusive thoughts] is when some spiritual influence approaches from without, which may, to begin with, be quite vague and shapeless. The initial stage in formation is the appearance in the field of man's inner vision of an image - and as this does not depend on one's will, it is not regarded as a sin. Images in some cases appear to take on visible form, while others are mostly products of the mind, but more often it is a combination of the two. As visible images also generate some thought or other, ascetics label all images 'intrusive thoughts' [logismoi].

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent - Orthodoxy and Monasticism (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)


 By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting." (Mk. 9:29)

When asked by the disciples why they could not get the demon out of the young man who was being tormented "from childhood", the Lord answered that this kind, which according to Saint Gregory Palamas "was the terrible demon of licentiousness", cannot with any other means come out of man, except through prayer and fasting. And because for the one possessed by a demon it is difficult to pray and fast, those who want to heal the demon possessed must do so.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Saint John Climacus and the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (Archimandrite George Kapsanis)


 By Archimandrite George Kapsanis,
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos

(Delivered in 2008)

Saint John Climacus, whom our Church especially honors today, is a precious gift of God to our Church, because he left us a valuable legacy, the Ladder, with which he teaches us two great things.

First, progress in the spiritual life must be made like a science, not without a plan, not impromptu, not without consistency, but with care and effort to strive to shake off the passions and become acquainted with the virtues.

And secondly, in this struggle one cannot reach perfection from one moment to the next, but one must gradually ascend the virtues, pursue them, desire them, pray for them until one reaches the highest virtue, which is love.

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent - Sunday of Saint John Climacus (Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos)


By Archimandrite Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

On this day we celebrate the memory of Saint John, the author of the Ladder.

Regarding him the Horologion says:

"He was born in Palestine around 523. From an early age he was given over to asceticism. He was made abbot of the Monastery at Mount Sinai. Thirty discourses were authored by him regarding the virtues; upon acquiring each virtue one progresses from praxis to theoria, with man ascending each step to heavenly heights, which is why this book is called Ladder of the virtues. He died in 603 at the age of eighty."

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Holy Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople Resource Page

Synaxarion of the Holy New Hieromartyr Gregory V the Patriarch of Constantinople


On the 10th of this month [April], we commemorate Saint Gregory V the New Hieromartyr, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, who was martyred on this day by hanging, in the year 1821, on behalf of the freedom of pious Panhellenism, during the reign of the Asiatic Sultan Mahmud.

Verses

You died by hanging O Patriarch,
However you live eternally in divine Eden.
On the tenth the Patriarch was sacrificed on behalf of the Nation.


The Makeshift Coffin of the Holy Hieromartyr Patriarch Gregory V


In the Church of the Entrance of the Theotokos in Domato of Leivathos in Kefallonia is kept the makeshift coffin which was built inside the ship of the Kefallonian Nicholas Sklavos. In this coffin was placed the relic of Patriarch Gregory V, whose body was retrieved from the waters of the Bosporus on April 14, 1821. 
 
The Patriarch had just been hanged by the Turks at the entrance to the Patriarchate in Constantinople on April 10, 1821. After his body had been left hanging for three days, three impious Jewish men gave the Turks money and took the body, dragging it throughout the city screaming "This is the King of the Christians", and cast it into the Bosporus. 
 

The Childhood Home of Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V

 

The Holy Ethno-Hieromartyr Patriarch Gregory V, who is commemorated on April 10th in the Orthodox Church, was born in the mountain village of Dimitsana in Arcadia of the Peloponnese in 1746 to a poor family. He was baptized with the name George Angelopoulos. His father was a shepherd named John and his mother's name was Asemina. It was here that young George worked and received a basic education, until he left for Athens in 1765 at the age of 19 to pursue further education.

Today the childhood home of Patriarch Gregory V operates as the Ecclesiastical Museum of Dimitsana. The sign at the entrance reads: "In this house was born Patriarch Gregory V, hanged on April 10, 1821 in Constantinople." The house was restored by the benefactor Panagiotis Angelopoulos (1909-2001) and the museum was created based on the idea and at the urging of Metropolitan Theophilos of Gortynos and Megalopolis in 1992. The building is two-storied, of traditional architecture and is located near the central square of Dimitsana. The floors are connected by an internal stone staircase.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Funeral Oration for Athanasios Sakarellos, A Good Brother


Athanasios Sakarellos, A Good Brother

(Delivered in Thermos on February 27, 2021)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

When we chant the funeral service for an Orthodox Christian, in the beginning we say verses from the 118th Psalm in three stanzas, where the "testimony of God" is spoken of, or the "covenant of God" is spoken of, or the commandments of God are spoken of. All of these have the same meaning. That is, when one reads the 118th Psalm of David, then one sees there that there is a lot of talk about the commandments of God and of course many times the name changes, where somewhere they are called the commandments of God, somewhere they are called the statutes of God, and elsewhere they are called the testimonies of God with the meaning that the commandments of God testify to who God is and what is His will.

The Mystical Journey of the Christian, Through the Desert, Towards the Resurrection and Pentecost (1 of 5)


By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

The period of Great Lent, which we have entered, is a period of intense spiritual life, with fasting, prayer, repentance, temperance and all the means that Orthodoxy has.

This intense spiritual and interior life is preserved by our Church in the Sacred Services that take place at this time and in the troparia which are chanted. When one carefully reads the book of the Triodion and participates experientially in the worship of the Church, one will find that in this way the Church wants to give us a sense of what the purpose of Christianity is and what the content of the Christian life is.

It is characteristic that all the Saints of our Church loved especially this period, which leads to Easter, and the period of Pentecost, because in this period they distinguish the inner breath of our Church.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Theophany During the Cholera Epidemic of 1909 in St. Petersburg


The Holy Hieromartyr Cyril (Smirnov) of Kazan was the Metropolitan of the Eparchy of Kazan in Russia from 1918 to 1922. Designated by Patriarch Tikhon as first locum tenens of the see of the Patriarchate, Metropolitan Cyril fought against Bolshevik control of the Church of Russia during the 1920s and 1930s. On July 7, 1937, Metropolitan Cyril was arrested in Yany-Kurgan and imprisoned in Chimkent on a charge of “participating in a counter-revolutionary underground organization of churchmen” together with Metropolitan Joseph of Petrograd. The two hierarchs were condemned by a troika of the South Kazakhstan region on November 19, and were shot together on November 20, 1937 in Lisiy ovrag, near Chimkent. They were buried in Lisiy ovrag. His feast day is November 20th.

The Cholera Epidemic That Struck Athens in 1854


In 1854 cholera struck Athens, brought by English and French soldiers during the Crimean War. Panic gripped the citizens, and those who were wealthy enough fled, but more so the politicians left the city. Most of the members of the Civil Protection Committee swiftly fled and there were only two left. Everything was paralyzed as many police, doctors, nurses, judges and even the prefect left the city to save their own lives, leaving the poor citizens, 1/3 of the population, at the mercy of the deadly cholera epidemic.

Metropolitan Neophytos of Athens prohibited the public from going to church, to prevent the spread of the disease, and one priest even published his weekly sermons and had them distributed so the people would not go to church while at the same time receive spiritual benefit. It was announced that it was not a sin at this time to avoid attending church.

The Cross of Saint Theophano the Empress


In the year 888, Empress Theophano, wife of Emperor Leo VI the Wise, had a monastery built in Halkidiki dedicated to Saint Anastasia the Pharmakolitria. 
 
To this Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Saint Anastasia she gave as gifts the sacred Skull and a portion of the right foot of Saint Anastasia, together with a Crucifix that contains a portion of the True Cross, the sceptre of Emperor Leo the VI the Wise, chrysobulls and other valuables. 
 
Unfortunately, the sceptre, the chrysobulls and other valuables were destroyed when the Turks set fire to the monastery in June of 1821. 
 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Elder Savvas Lappas, a Spiritual Child of St. Savvas of Kalymnos and St. Amphilochios Makris


Elder Savvas Lappas, born in 1903 and baptized with the name Nikephoros, was a spiritual child of Saint Savvas of Kalymnos (1862-1948) on the island of Kalymnos and then a spiritual child of Saint Amphilochios Makris (1888-1970) on the island of Patmos. After living in asceticism on the island of Patmos for about twenty years, in 1960, at the age of 57 he returned to Kalymnos, took the name of his first spiritual father, Savvas, and lived in asceticism in the Hut of the Elevation of the Honorable Cross in Kantouni of Kalymnos until his death in 1992, on the 7th of April, which is the feast of his Elder, Saint Savvas of Kalymnos.

Elder Anthimos the Agiannanites and the First Icon of Saint Savvas of Kalymnos

Left, Elder Anthimos Agiannanites (1913-1996); Right, Saint Savvas of Kalymos (1862-1947)
 
By Dr. Harlalambos M. Bousias

Saint Savvas of Kalymnos had been an ascetic at the Skete of Saint Anna on the Holy Mountain.

In fact, in the Hut of the Entrance of the Theotokos, where the charismatic Elder Anthimos the Agiannanites resided, is where Saint Savvas learned to be an iconographer.

When Saint Savvas reposed on the island of Kalymnos he appeared to Metropolitan Isidoros of Kalymnos and ordered him to transfer his relic. It was at that time that Elder Anthimos accompanied with four other monks arrived on the island.

Second Homily for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross (St. Luke of Simferopol)


 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea

Yesterday in Matins we brought out for veneration the honorable Cross of Christ. We all reverently sang the troparion: "We venerate your Cross, Master, and we glorify your Holy Resurrection," and we venerated the honorable Cross of our Lord. The veneration of the honorable Cross of Christ is very important because it testifies to our faith and the warm love we have for the Son of God who saved us from the power of the devil.

But there is another purpose for which in the middle of Great Lent we place for veneration the honorable Cross of Christ. This purpose is understood when we read the word of the Lord which says: "In your patience you will gain your souls" (Luke 21:19). If, according to this word of Christ, patience is so important that it saves man, then one of the most important goals in our lives is to learn patience. And there is no better teacher who could teach us patience than the Cross of our Christ.

Saint Kalliopios as a Model for our Lives

St. Kalliopios (Feast Day - April 7)
 
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas
 
Saint Kalliopios came from Perge of Pamphylia and lived during the reign of Emperor Maximian. His pious mother Theokleia raised him "in the education and instruction of the Lord". When the persecution against the Christians broke out, Kalliopios, who was distinguished for his spiritual courage and fighting spirit, presented himself alone before the ruler Maximus, who was then in Pompeiopolis.

Saint Kalliopios, therefore, boldly confessed his faith before the ruler and he subjected him to horrible tortures. He tied his hands behind his back, stretched his body on a wheel and lit a fire underneath. An Angel of the Lord, however, put out the fire and stopped the wheel. Then, full of wounds, he was taken to prison. His mother asked to visit him and she remained in prison with him. At midnight, while they were praying and chanting, the prison was filled with heavenly light and a voice was heard encouraging the martyr. Finally, because Kalliopios remained steadfast and unshakable in his faith, he was crucified, and thus he became a communicant of Christ's crucifixion. In fact, the day on which he was crucified was Holy and Great Thursday and the dawn of Holy and Great Friday. He was crucified with his head down, which is why the Holy Hymnographer, praising the martyr, exclaims: 

Kalliopios inverted is nailed to the wood,
Glorifying the Word who was nailed upright.
On the seventh Kalliopios found life without end.
 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

First Homily for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and Crimea

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

Great is the embrace of our Lord Jesus Christ. So big we can't imagine. The Lord has in His arms all those who suffer in their lives from sorrows and tribulations. How deep is His heart and how strong is His love if He can calm, comfort and empower all those who toil and are burdened to endure sorrows and not despair when wronged in their lives.

How Catholics Celebrate Easter in Orthodox Majority Greece


In a recent interview, Roman Catholic Archbishop Sevastianos Rossolatos of Athens spoke to Skai.gr about how Catholics celebrate Easter in Greece. In Greece, because the great majority of the population are Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics do not celebrate Easter with the rest of the Catholic world according to the Gregorian calendar reckoning, but according to the reckoning of the Julian calendar with the rest of the local population.

Excerpts from the interview are translated below:


Black Easter of Thrace (April 6, 1914)


Beginnings in 1906

The beginnings of the persecutions of Thracian Hellenism can be found in the area of the North Thrace in 1906, when the Bulgarians with their nationalist rage organized the massacres and persecutions in Anchialos and other cities at the expense of the Greek element that forced many Greeks to flee to Turkish-occupied Eastern and Western Thrace and most in free Greece.

Documentary Trailer: "People of Mount Athos" (Andrei Oprescu)


 

 


Monday, April 5, 2021

Third Sunday of Great Lent - Sin and the Cross (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)


By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mk. 8:38)

The Lord wants His disciples to follow Him, lifting up their cross. Christianity is an army of crusaders. The first crusader is Christ and He is followed by those who lift up their cross. With today's homily, however, we will not try to explain what "take up his cross" means. We believe that another opportunity will be given to develope it, because this point is a view that expresses the Orthodox ethos.

Today we want to emphasize the power of the Cross of Christ, which is the glory of the Church and of man, since with His power man lifts his own cross. The Cross of Christ that we especially venerate today is the supernatural and glorious Holy Altar, on which there is the Crucified Lord, Who, as a great High Priest, made the great sacrifice, which was the occasion for the return of all creation to God. Indeed, the Cross is the central point of all creation, the unity of the whole world. We must examine this great truth today, in as little time as possible.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Apostolic Tradition of Venerating the Holy Cross (St. Nektarios of Aegina)

Detail of the Sarcophagus of Domatilla: Symbolic Representation of the Crucifixion and Resurrection (Mid-4th century, Museo Pio Christiano, Rome)

By St. Nektarios of Aegina

Great  was  the  veneration  of  the  Lord's  Life-giving  Cross  by  the  faithful directly from the beginning. The Apostle Paul commends the sign of the Cross to the  faithful  as  the  power  of  God,  declaring: "For  the  message  of  the  Cross  is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the  power  of  God"  (1 Cor.  1:18).  Faithfully  preserving  the  Apostolic  teaching, Christians  revered  the  sign  and  image  of  the Honorable  Cross,  believing  in  its redemptive  and  life-giving  power. The  depiction  and  sign  of  the  Cross  was attested  to,  and  was  for  them  an  unconquerable  weapon  against  the  attacks  of visible  and  invisible  enemies. From  that  time,  and  from  the  first  centuries  of  the Church, particular reverence and honor were rendered to it.

Homily for the Sunday of the Veneration of the Honorable Cross (St. Damaskinos the Studite)


 By St. Damaskinos the Studite, 
Bishop of Liti and Rendini (+ 1577)

This present Sunday of the Holy Cross is a day of preparation, similar to the one that takes place when a nation prepares to welcome back its king who is  returning  victorious  from  war.  Just  as  a  king  who  has vanquished his enemies sends heralds to inform his people and announce to them the joyous news of his victory, prior to returning to his homeland, similarly our Lord Jesus Christ,  the Great King, has sent us the Honorable Cross today as a herald instructing us to prepare to receive Him — because shortly He will come to show us how  He  conquered the  devil through His death and His Holy Resurrection.

The Liturgical Context of the Veneration of the Cross


 By Georgios Zaravelas

On the Third Sunday of Lent, and, indeed, throughout the Fourth week, a time within the reverential climate of the fast which is so beneficial to the soul, the Church displays the Honorable Cross of the Lord, for the support of the faithful. The display of the veneration of the Cross on that day, the mid-point of the fast, was also made for another, practical reason. The commemoration of the finding of the Honorable Cross by Saint Helen is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on 6 March, as is clear from the corresponding date in the Feasts of the Month.

That day, 6 March, almost always falls in Great Lent. Given that the atmosphere of those days is one of mourning, and that, in accordance with canons 49 and 51 of the Synod of Laodicea and 52 of the Penthekte Ecumenical Synod, a full Divine Liturgy is not to be held on weekdays, so the feast cannot be celebrated with fitting splendor. The fathers of the Monastery of Studion, in Constantinople, who re-organized the services of the Triodion in the ninth century, transferred the feast of the Cross to the Third Sunday of Lent, the mid-point of the fast, and established the practice of placing it in the middle of the church for the faithful to venerate.

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Great Lent (St. Theophan the Recluse)


By St. Theophan the Recluse
 
"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34).

It is impossible to follow the Lord as a crossbearer without a cross, and everyone who follows Him, unfailingly goes with a cross. What is this cross? It is all sorts of inconveniences, burdens and sorrows — weighing heavily both internally and externally — along the path of conscientious fulfilment of the commandments of the Lord, in a life according to the spirit of His instructions and demands. Such a cross is so much a part of a Christian that wherever there is a Christian, there is this cross, and where there is no such cross, there is no Christian. Abundant privileges and a life of pleasure do not suit a true Christian. His task is to cleanse and reform himself. He is like a sick person, who needs cauterization, or amputation; how can this be without pain? He wants to tear himself away from the captivity of a strong enemy; but how can this be without struggle and wounds? He must walk counter to all practices surrounding him; but how can he sustain this without inconvenience and constraint? Rejoice as you feel the cross upon yourself, for it is a sign that you are following the Lord on the path of salvation which leads to heaven. Endure a bit. The end is just around the corner, as well as the crowns! 


Third Sunday of Great Lent - Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross (Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos)

 
By Archimandrite Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

On the Third Sunday of Great Lent our Church sets before us the veneration of the Honorable and Life-Giving Cross. For what reason? See what the Horologion says:

"Every work of labor has great difficulty, but the size of its difficulty appears in the middle of it; for the labor that wears you down brings weakness, and weakness makes the rest of the work harder. Because we also, by divine grace, have arrived at about the middle of the fast, and weakness has surrounded us and the difficulty has increased, for this reason our holy Mother, the Church of Christ, sets before us as a most-mighty aid the all-holy Cross, the joy of the world, the strength of the faithful, the support of the righteous and the hope of sinners; so that we being broken may reverently receive grace and strength to complete the divine struggle of the fast."

Saturday, April 3, 2021

The Grass of the Grandmother


By St. George Karslides
 
A church was being built in a village and everyone was helping as much as they could.

Whoever had an animal had them carry stones and those who were strong worked.

There was also a very poor grandmother in the village, who had nothing to give for the church. Her soul ached for this and as the animals carrying the stones passed by, she would pick up grass and throw them so they could eat to gain strength.

When the church was finished, they consecrated it and wrote the name of the Bishop on an inscription.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Recent Repose of the Lay Theologian Athanasios Sakarellos


Few Orthodox Christians in the English-speaking world know who Athanasios Sakarellos was, which is one reason why I have neglected to write anything about his recent repose, which took place on Friday 26 February 2021. He was a lawyer by profession and a lay theologian out of Athens who wrote many things about the Orthodox faith. Those who do know him probably know him either for his close friendship with Fr. John Romanides or from his strong stance against anything that he perceived as a compromise against authentic Orthodoxy. It is the latter where many say he either went too far or did not go far enough.

My own thoughts of Athanasios Sakarellos have been very confused since I first learned of him, and they still are a bit. I had always thought he became an Old Calendarist at some point after the repose of Fr. Romanides, as his writings reflect he at least had strong leanings towards Old Calendarism and seemed to judge everyone he met based on how they approached the issue, but now that he died and some information about him has come to light, I have noticed that at least at the time of his death he was looked upon by other Old Calendarists as having been deluded and that he died unrepentant; of what I have no idea, though it may have something to do with him not fully becoming an Old Calendarist. Many Old Calendarists in Greece even seemed surprised when they found out that his private funeral was presided over, by request of Sakarellos himself before he died, by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, who follows the New Calendar. When I found this out, not only was I happy to hear it, but it also inspired me to write something in his memory.

How the Greeks Outsmarted the British Missionaries During the Greek Revolution

 
London Greek Committee

Without the Philhellenes of the West, it would have been much more difficult for the Greeks to have gained their independence, some would say even impossible. And though the Greeks were very grateful for their contribution in helping them gain their freedom, they also knew from experience to not trust them completely. They looked upon the French and even more so the English as either being mad or very very devious.

The London Greek Committee (1823–1826) was a Philhellenic group established to support the Greek War of Independence from Ottoman rule by raising funds by subscription for military supplies to Greece and by raising a major loan to stabilize the fledgling Greek government. Its first meeting was held on 28 February 1823 in the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand. The committee was established by John Bowring and Edward Blaquiere. Its early members included the reformer Jeremy Bentham and Lord Byron. Colonel Leicester Stanhope, a soldier with experience in India and an enthusiast for liberty of the press, established printing presses throughout Greece.

The London  Greek  Committee  had  a  distinctly  Christian  bias.  Greece  was  not  only  to  be  regenerated  in  terms  of  English  utilitarianism  but  converted  to  English  Christianity  as  well.  As  Stanhope  himself  declared  when  the  first  consignment  of  Bibles  arrived:  "They  will  save  the  priests  the  trouble  of  enlightening the darkness of their flocks. Flocks indeed! With the press and the Bibles, the whole mind of Greece may be put in labour." An alliance was formed   between   the   London   Greek   Committee   and   various   Christian   groups,  principally  the  missionary  societies,  to  propagate  in  Greece  the  eternal truths of Christianity as understood in contemporary England.

Rare Film Footage of Notable Russian Orthodox Thinkers at the St. Sergius Institute of Paris Between 1926 and 1934


While all the seminaries in Russia were closed, the Saint Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris stood as the only Russian seminary for the training of future Russian priests. The video shows many well-known Russian Orthodox thinkers from the Parisian School, the Russian Student Christian Movement, and the journal The Way. The film was done by the YMCA between 1926 and 1934. Among the notable figures you will see are:

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Virginity of the Theotokos and the Repentance of Saint Mary of Egypt


By Andreas Christophoros

The Virginity of the Theotokos is not only her physical purity and moral integrity from the bottom of her heart, but above all the fact that she never separated from the Love of the Triune God, from the time of her Conception to her Dormition.

Then, as soon as I admired the modern Saints Porphyrios Paisios, Iakovos, Joseph the Hesychast, Ephraim of Katounakia and others, that they also had this Virginity, I realized that those who repent do not separate from the Love of the Triune God and they do not lag behind in the Life of God, like Saint Mary of Egypt.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Best of March 2021 by the Mystagogy Resource Center (MRC)

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Commemoration of the Negligent Monk who Joyfully Died Because He Did Not Condemn Anyone


In Slavic Churches there is included in the festal calendar the commemoration of an unnamed negligent monk who died joyfully because he had victoriously passed his entire life without ever condemning or judging anyone and forgiving those who wronged him in any way. His feast is on March 30th and is based on the following story as recorded by Saint Anastasios of Sinai:

A certain monk, living in a monastery, spent his days carelessly, not caring about his salvation, but indulging all his life in idleness. Having lived to his advanced years, he was approaching death. When he fell ill with a serious illness and was already at his last gasp, he was not at all afraid of death, but prepared to be parted from the body with joy, praising and glorifying God. The brothers and the abbot of that monastery who surrounded him said to him:

The Origins of John Climacus: Was He the Son of Saints Xenophon and Maria?


In his Life of John of the Ladder, Daniel, a monk of Raithu and contemporary of John, writes: "I cannot say for certain in what memorable city this great man was born and reared." For a man whose book The Ladder holds such a special place in the life of the Church, to not know anything of his origins, is most unfortunate, though it has helped monastics through the ages to focus more on what he wrote rather than the writer himself.

While it gives Saint John Climacus somewhat of an aura of mystery, there still have been speculations. Perhaps the most popular speculation is that which is recorded by Saint Dimitri of Rostov in his Life of Venerable John of the Ladder, where he presents the case that John Climacus was the son of Saints Xenophon and Maria and the brother of Arkadios, who are commemorated by the Church all together as a family on January 26th. Saint Dimitri writes the following information in a footnote:

Monday, March 29, 2021

Great Lent Is An Extraordinary Time To Learn To Truly Pray


By Monk Moses the Athonite

The main elements of Great Lent are prayer and fasting. Prayer presupposes faith. A person who does not pray is helpless, insecure, blind and alone.

They are attached to the earth, to matter, they do not know how to fly high, to sail in the heavens, to have necessary celestial assistance. They are magnetized, bound, clinging to the perishable earth. They do not detach easily. They try to treasure the earth. They are constantly looking for pleasures, to make them happy, but rather they give them pain. It is sad and worthy of lamentation to see them seeking joy in the mud. The ascent to heaven begins with repentance, sincere repentance, compunctionate remorse. It is worth feeling that you were not created for the dirt. Empathy does not really make you happy. Adherence to the hereafter is a serious mistake and has costs with bitter consequences. It is not impossible to climb higher than the peaks. It is possible for everyone. As long as they want it, they love it. At first we are hesitant, cowardly, scared, we do not want to risk it.

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