March 25th – Annunciation, Christ’s Birth announced to the Theotokos

Christ expounded unto the Disciples,
walking to Emmaus
in all the Historical Scriptures
the things concerning Himself“.
cf. Luc.24: 26-28

Man would never come to know the True God unless God Himself first became man,
thus the Coming of Christ has been foretold.

The promise that Christ would come can be read in:
Gen. 3: 15, 22: 18, 26: 4, 49: 10;
Num. 21: 6-9, 24: 17, Deut. 18:15;
Psalm 15: 8-10, 21: all, specifically: 21: 14-16-18, 131: 11;
Isaiah 7: 14, 9: 6-7, 40: 10-11, 50: 6, 52: 13-15, 53: all, 60: 21;
Jer 23: 5, Jer 33: 14-15, Ezek 34: 23, Ezek 37: 25;
Dan. 9: 25, Mic.5: 2 & 7: 20;
Zach.6: 12, 9: 9, 9: 10, 12: 8-10, 13: 7;
Mal.3: 1-4 & 4: 2-6.
This list is not complete by any means and if one were to take into account
the more complicated Scriptures, the compound Scriptures,
one would be able to enlarge this list geometrically, for the Old Testament
was a promise of that which was to come.
Jesus was that Promise Which did in fact come,
and the New Testament is the record of the Promise fulfilled
and the future Promises yet to come,
but they all revolve around Almighty God’s plan, purpose
and consummation of the eternal Union
between His children and Himself
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today’s Feast is indeed the Feast of
the True knowledge of God,
as foreseen by the Fore-fathers.
This is the Feast of the Formation of Christ in the flesh, announced by the Archangel Gabriel
and accepted by the Virgin,
and it occurs therefore nine months
before the Birth of Christ at Christmas.
It is, as the hymns of the Church tell us,
the Crown of our Salvation,
the beginning of everything.
This is why its Greek name is ‘Ευαγγελισμος’ [Evangelismos],
which comes from the word ‘Ευαγγελίων’ meaning ‘Good News’.
This is the feast of the Good News, the Feast of the Gospel.
Without this Feast, there would have been
no Good News, no Gospel.

Its usual English name is the Annunciation.
For it is the Feast not of an announcement,
but of the Announcement.
It is the ultimate Announcement, for it is the Announcement that God has become man,
the Announcement of the Presence of
the Wisdom of God amongst us,
not of the wisdom of man as before Christ,
but of the Wisdom of God.
It changes everything in World’s History,
overshadowing and surpassing all
that old human wisdom
of Ancient Greece, Egypt, India and China.

But however Divine this Highfeast is, it is also human.
The humanity of this Feast is not only in that today God becomes an embryo,
it is also in that today the Virgin becomes a Mother.
This is why today the Church is in blue,
the colour of the Virgin-Mother
and why this Feast is also known as ‘Lady Day’ in England.
Today, in accepting the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel, in accepting the Will of God, the Virgin becomes the most high of all mankind,
‘More honourable than the Cherubim
and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim’
.
Mp3: Megalynarion of Orthros [Greek & English]
She exceeds in her sacrifice all other men and women in human History,
past, present and future.
She becomes linked with all eternity
and surpasses humanity while remaining human.
In a word,
this earthly being becomes through her sacrifice the Mother of God,
which is why we, though still on earth,
commemorate her in Heavenly blue.

In accepting this cross of sacrifice,
the Mother of God also accepts
the approaching Cross of Victory of Her Son.
This is a very significant fact
and indeed this is a spiritual law.
For every sacrifice, for every cross
that we take on ourselves according to God’s Will,
we receive a spiritual reward.
It may not come at once, but it will inevitably come.
This is a spiritual law, just as, in the same way,
if we fail to make a sacrifice and take up our cross
when God calls us to do that,
there is also a price to pay,
the price of spiritual defeat.
Mp4: Anaphora – Divine Liturgy [English]

For example, at this moment,
and in more than one part of the world,
men are fighting, men are slaughtering one another.
This is because they are blind to Christ.
For when we are blind to Christ,
then we are also blind
to the meaning of Christ’s Cross.
Thus people make war, instead of making Peace.
For people cannot make Peace because
that involves a sacrifice,
the sacrifice of sharing.
If there is no Cross of Sacrifice,
then there is
– no Cross of Victory,
– no Cross of Resurrection,
just the constant cycle of wars.

The sacrifice of the Mother of God
in accepting to bear and nourish God,
giving Him her blood, bones and flesh,
and raise Him as a man is such
that she alone among all mankind
can take us outside the cycle of wars
and can lead us,
if we wish to follow her,
into Eternity,
to the Resurrection of Christ.

“Most Holy Mother of God, save us!”

And the Scripture is fulfilled which said,
Abraham [man] believed God,
and it was imputed unto him [us] for righteousness:
and he [we] is [are] called the friend[s] of God“.
cf. James 2: 23

Orthodoxy & Memorial service

Memorial service Mp4
•  Greek μνημόσυνον “memorial“:
ΕΙΣ ΜΝΗΜΟΣΥΝΟΝ ΑΙΩΝΙΟΝ ΗΧΟΣ Α Δ ΠΑΙΚΟΠΟΥΛΟΣ
• Slavonic: панихида, panikhída, from Greek παννυχίς, pannychis, “vigil“:
Panakhida Memorial Saturday Services Вечная память Vechnaya Pamyat
• Romanian: parastas, from Greek παραστάς, parastas
[Traditional folk funeral ritual [Transylvania, Sibiu county 1937]:
Cocosdaiul _ Funeral ritual
is a liturgical solemn service for the repose of departed
in the Orthodox Church.

Burial is a time-honoured and ancient Christian custom.
The modern multi-billion death industry is a historical novelty.
Today the usual burial involves practices with the deceased that are not traditionally Christian.
The loving care of the departed is an act of real Love.
As the Body of the Lord Jesus was cared for
by Saints Joseph and Nicodemos and the Myrrhbearing women,
washed, anointed, clothed and placed with prayer into a tomb,
so Orthodox Christians have traditionally buried their loved ones.
After Burial the Orthodox Church has her own Tradition:

Saturday is generally
a day dedicated to prayer for the departed,
because Christ, our Lord,
lay dead in the Tomb on a Saturday.
In some monasteries and large churches,
it is customary to serve a Panikhida on every Saturday.

The various prayers for the departed
have as their purpose to pray for the repose of the departed,
to comfort the living and to remind those who remain of their own mortality.
For this reason, memorial services have an air of penitence about them.

The Church’s prayers for the dead begin at the moment of death,
when the priest leads the Prayers at the Departure of the Soul,
consisting of a special Canon and prayers for the release of the soul. Then the body is washed, clothed and laid in the coffin,
after which the priest begins the First Panikhida [prayer service for the departed].
After the First Panikhida, the family and friends
begin reading the Psalter aloud beside the casket.
This reading continues until the funeral begins
[usually on the third day after death],
being interrupted only by more Panikhidas
[at least one per day].

Orthodox Christians offer particularly
fervent prayers for the departed
on the first 40 days after death.
Traditionally, in addition to the service on the day of death,
the memorial service is performed at the request of the relatives
of an individual departed person on the following occasions:
– 3rd day after death
– 9th day
– 40th day
– 1rst anniversary of death
– 3rd anniversary (some will request a memorial every year on the anniversary of death)

In addition to Panikhidas for individuals,
there are also several days during the year
that are set aside as special general commemorations of the dead,
when all departed Orthodox Christians will be prayed for together
[this is especially to benefit those who have no one on earth to pray for them].
The majority of these general commemorations
fall on the various “Soul Saturdays” throughout the year [mostly during Great Lent].
On these days, in addition to the normal Panikhida,
there are special additions to Vespers and Matins,
and there will be proper’s for the departed added to the Divine Liturgy.
These days of general memorial are:

Meatfare Saturday [two Saturdays before Great Lent begins]
– in some traditions families and friends will offer Panikhidas
for their loved ones during the week,
culminating in the general commemoration on Saturday
– The second Saturday of Great Lent
– The third Saturday of Great Lent
– The fourth Saturday of Great Lent
– Radonitsa [the second Tuesday after Easter]
– The Saturday before Pentecost
– in some traditions families and friends will offer Panikhidas
for their loved ones during the week,
culminating in the general commemoration on Saturday

Demetrius Saturday
[the Saturday before the feast of Saint Demetrius, Oct. 26th].
In the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
there is a commemoration of the dead
on the Saturday before the feast of Saint Michael,
the Archangel, Nov. 8th,
instead of the Demetrius Soul Saturday.

The most important form of prayer for the dead
occurs in the Divine Liturgy.
Particles are cut from the prosphoron during the Proskomedie at the beginning of the Liturgy.
These particles are placed beneath the Lamb [Host] on the diskos, where they remain throughout Holy Liturgy.
After the Communion of the faithful,
the deacon brushes these particles into the chalice, saying,
“Wash away, O Lord,
the sins of all those here commemorated,
by Thy Precious Blood,
through the prayers of all thy saints”.
Of this action, Saint Mark of Ephesus says,
We can do nothing better or greater for the dead than to pray for them,
offering commemoration for them at Holy Liturgy.
Of this they are always in need . . . . .
The body feels nothing then:
it does not see its close ones who have assembled,
does not smell the fragrance of the flowers,
does not hear the funeral orations.
But the soul senses the prayers offered for it
and is grateful to those who make them
and is spiritually close to them
“.

Normally, candidates for sainthood,
prior to their Glorification [Canonization] as a Saint,
will be commemorated by serving Panikhidas.
Then, on the eve of their Glorification
will be served an especially solemn Requiem,
known as the “Last Panikhida“.

• Saint Basil the Great [† 379], a saint of undivided Christianity, writes in his Third Kneeling Prayer at Pentecost:
O Christ our God . . .
[Who] on this all-perfect and saving Feast,
art graciously pleased to accept propitiatory prayers
for those who are imprisoned in hades,
promising unto us who are held in bondage great hope of release
from the vileness that does hinder us and did hinder them . . . . .
send down Your consolation . . . . .
and establish their souls in the mansions of the Just;
and graciously vouchsafe unto them Peace and pardon;
for not the dead shall praise You, O Lord,
neither shall they who are in Hell make bold
to offer unto thee confession.
But we who are living will bless You,
and will pray, and offer unto You
propitiatory prayers and sacrifices for their souls
“.

• Saint Gregory Dialogos [† 604]
in his famous Dialogues [written in 593] teaches that,
“The Holy Sacrifice [Eucharist] of Christ, our saving Victim,
brings great benefits to souls even after death,
provided their sins [are such as] can be pardoned in the life to come”.
However, Saint. Gregory goes on to say,
the Church’s practice of prayer for the dead
must not be an excuse for not living a godly life on earth.
“The safer course, naturally,
is to do for ourselves during life
what we hope others will do for us after death”.

• Father Seraphim Rose [† 1982] says,
The Church’s prayer cannot save anyone
who does not wish salvation,
or who never offered any struggle [podvig]
for it himself during his lifetime
“.

Remember, O Lord, the God of Spirits and of all Flesh,
those whom we have remembered
and those whom we have not remembered,
men of the “True Faith, from Righteous Abel unto to-day;
do You Yourself give them rest there in the land of the living,
in Your Kingdom, in the delight of Paradise,
in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our Holy fathers,
from whence pain and sorrow and sighing have fled away,
where the Light of Your countenance visited them
and always shines upon them
“.
Prayer for the departed – Liturgy of Saint James

Orthodoxy & Political Ideologies

Today’s Orthodox have forgotten
the meaning of life in the Holy Sacraments.
True membership in the Body of Christ
is grounded in a day-to-day Crucifixion of one’s sentimental, eudemonistic love.
Such a Crucifixion gradually replaces self-centered love with the kenotic love of the Cross, which “seeks not its own”.
However, this call to arms
bears no resemblance to the revivalism of the West,
because for Father John the spiritual ascesis of the individual Christian is
inseparable from life in the Holy Sacraments.
Sacramental life, in turn, is always presented as a literal union of love
between actual people who are waging unremitting warfare against Satan,
side by side with the Holy Angels as well as with the Saints of all eras.

When we look at the teaching
about purification, illumination and Theosis,
we are looking at a science.
But can we give this science a political character?
Can we Orthodox Christians claim, for example,
that only leftists are able to acquire noetic prayer
or that someone who possesses noetic prayer
is obligated to be on the Left or on the Right?

Of course, we cannot make such a claim.
So the science, which we call “Orthodoxy“,
should never be associated with politics,
because someone who loves his neighbour
cares for every human being,
no matter who he is and
no matter what convictions he might hold.
When it comes to questions of ideology,
Orthodox Christians are primarily concerned
about whether the Church has the freedom
to carry out Her work,
which is to heal the sick in Her care.
The Church must have this freedom.

So if an ideology hinders the Church
from carrying out Her work,
it is immaterial as far as the Church is concerned
whether it is called nationalistic like “atheistic Fascism & Marxism
or “right-wing Masonry“.
For the Church, they are both the same – hostile forces
from whom She is equally obligated to defend Herself . . . . .

So based on what we have just said,
is the Church obliged to support any specific ideology?
Of course not.
=> Medical science ought to support
whatever political party is interested in public health.
A doctor exercising his medical profession is
under an obligation to use medical criteria in this case.
Protopresbyter John Savvas Romanides [1927-2001]
Life in Christ” & “Patristic Theology“.

3rd Sunday of Lent – Veneration of our own Cross

And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also,
He said unto them, ’Whosoever will come after Me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it;
but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s,
the same shall save it.
For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me
and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation;
of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed,
when He comes in the Glory of His Father
with the holy angels’
.
And He said unto them,
’Verily I say unto you,
that there be some of them that stand here,
which shall not taste of death,
till they have seen the Kingdom of God
come with power’
“.
Marc.8: 34- 9: 1

For what will it profit a man
if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
For the Son of Man is going
to come in the Glory of His Father with His angels
and will then repay every man
according to his deeds
“.
Matth.16: 27

Jesus answered,
’If I want him to remain alive
until I return, what is that to you?
You must follow me’
Because of this,
the rumour spread among the believers
that this disciple would not die.
But Jesus did not say that he would not die;
he only said,
’If I want him to remain alive until I return,
what is that to you’?
“.
John 21: 22,23

’Men of Galilee’ they said,
’why do you stand here looking into the sky?
This same Jesus,
Who has been taken from you into Heaven,
will come back in the same way
you have seen Him go into Heaven’
Acts 1: 11

For the son of man, the True Disciple of Christ
shall come in the Glory of his Father . . . . .

A True Disciple of Christ is one
that does follow Him in duty,
and shall follow Him to Glory.
He is one that walks in the same way Christ walked in,
is led by His Spirit, and treads in His steps, where ever he goes.
Let him deny himself.
If ’self-denial’ be a hard lesson,
it is no more than what our Master learned and practised,
to redeem us, and to teach us.
Let him take up his cross.
The cross is here put
for every trouble that befalls us.
We are apposite to think
we could bear another’s cross
better than our own;
but that is best which is appointed us
and we ought to make the best of it.
We must not by our rashness and folly pull
crosses down upon our own heads,
but must take them up
when they are in our way.
If any man will have the name and credit of a Disciple,
let him follow Christ in the work and duty of a Disciple.
If all worldly things are worthless
when compared with the life of the body,
how forcible the same argument with respect
to the soul and its state of
never-ending happiness or misery!
Thousands lose their souls for the most trifling gain,
or the most worthless indulgence,
nay, often from mere sloth and negligence.
Whatever is the object for which men forsake Christ,
that is the price at which Satan buys their souls.
Yet one soul is worth more than all the world.
This is Christ’s Judgment upon the matter;
He knew the Price of souls, for He redeemed them;
nor would He underrate the world, for He made it.
The dying transgressor cannot purchase one hour’s respite
to seek Mercy for his perishing soul.
Let us then learn rightly to value our souls,
and Christ as the only Saviour of them.

And He said to me,
’Do not seal up
the words of the Prophecy of this Book,
for the time is near.
Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong;
and the one who is filthy [
dirty], still be filthy;
and let the one who is righteous,
still practice righteousness;
and the one who is holy,
still keep himself holy.
Behold, I am coming quickly
and My reward is with Me,
to render to every man
according to what he has done.
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the first and the last,
the beginning and the end . . . . . ’
“.
Apocalypse 22: 11-13

Self-denial
Leonard Bernstein,
the celebrated orchestra conductor,
was asked,
what is the hardest instrument to play.
He replied without hesitation:
Second fiddle.
I can always get plenty of first violinists,
but to find one who plays second violin
with as much enthusiasm
or second French horn or second flute,
now that’s a problem.
And yet if no one plays second,
we have no harmony
“.

Self-denial is a summons to submit
to the authority of God as Father
and of Jesus as Lord
and to declare lifelong war
on one’s instinctive egoism.
What is to be negated is not personal self
or one’s existence as a rational and responsible human being.
Jesus does not plan to turn us into zombies,
nor does he ask us to volunteer for a robot role.
The required denial is of carnal self,
the egocentric, self-deifying urge with which we were born
and which dominates us
so ruinously in our natural state.
Jesus links self-denial with cross-bearing.
Cross-bearing is far more than enduring this or that hardship.
Carrying one’s cross in Jesus’ day,
as we learn from the story of Jesus’ own Crucifixion,
was required of those whom society had condemned,
whose rights were forfeit,
and who were now being
led out to their execution.
The cross they carried was the instrument of death.
Jesus represents discipleship as a matter of following Him,
and following Him as based on taking up one’s cross in self-negation.
Carnal self would never consent to cast us in such a role.
When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.
The cross is laid on every Christian.
It begins with the call to abandon
the attachments of this world.
It is that dying of the old man
which is the result of his encounter with Christ
“,
wrote Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Bonhoeffer was right:
Accepting death to everything
that carnal self wants to possess
is what Christ’s summons
to self-denial was all about.

And the Word was made flesh,
and dwelt among us,
[and we beheld His Glory, the Glory as
of the only begotten of the Father],

full of Grace and Truth . . . . .
And of His Fulness have all we received,
and Grace for grace.
For the law was given by Moses,
but Grace and Truth
came by Jesus Christ“.
John 1: 14, 16-17

3rd Sunday – Veneration of the Cross – We have a Great High Priest

Seeing then that we have
a Great High Priest,
that is passed into the Heavens,
Jesus the Son of God,
let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched
with the feeling of our infirmities;
but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the Throne of Grace,
that we may obtain Mercy, and find Grace to help in time of need.
For every high priest taken from among men
is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,
that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
Who can have compassion on the ignorant,
and on them that are out of the way;
for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people,
so also for himself, to offer for sins.
And no man takes this honour unto himself,
but he that is called of God, as was Aäron.
So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest;
but He that said unto Him,
You are My Son,
today have I begotten You.
As He said also in another place,
You are a Priest for ever
after the order of Melchisedec“.
Hebr.4: 14-5: 6

I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You
“.
Psalm 2: 7

The Lord has sworn
and will not relent,
’You are a priest forever
according to
the order of Melchizedek’
”.
Psalm 109: 4

The work and ministry of Jesus Christ in our behalf
The book of Hebrews was written
in order to help keep faithful
those who were tempted to fall away
from the faith.
What Christian, in what era,
hasn’t faced the same temptation?
Therefore the relevance of what Paul wrote to the Hebrews is for us, even today.
Hebrews points weary New Testament believers
– to Jesus,
– to His work on earth below and
– to His work in Heaven above.
The book reveals Jesus in various roles, each one helping us
understand the great Salvation that has been offered to the world through Him.
The Letter shows us a very heavy emphasis on the Old Testament,
on its history and on its sanctuary, and the book is written in a manner implying
that the Apostle knew the readers were known something about that history and sanctuary.

In looking at the richness and deepness
of Jesus in Hebrews, we must consider
the witness of both
the Old and the New Testaments,
which together form an indivisible unity
of the revelation from God,  a unity suggested by its main focus on one Saviour.
This letter is written by Paul because it seemed to be that these people were
in danger of falling away from Christianity and returning to Judaism.
They were losing faith in the Second Coming
[they thought Christ should have been back already];
and, as time progressed,
they were in danger of drifting away from the great Truths of the Gospel.
Thus, not only does Hebrews begin with Jesus as Creator,
it quickly moves to His role as our Saviour.
Instantly linked with His role as our Saviour is His role as our High Priest in Heaven,
a key element of the book of Hebrews.
This is seen in the final clause of
Hebrews 1: 3,  where, after talking about His purging our sins, it says:
that He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high“.
The apostle faces that the new system is better than [superior to] the old,
because its Mediator is the Divine Son of God [Hebr.8: 6; 9: 15].
Jesus, who is human [Hebr.2: 5-18] and Divine [Hebr.1: 1-4],
is able to bring God and humans into a special Covenant association.

Jesus’ Human Nature
The letter to the Hebrews also sets forth the full Divinity and the full humanity of Jesus
in a special contrast:
But we see Jesus, Who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death,
crowned with Glory and Honour; that He by the Grace of God should taste
death for every man
“[Hebr.2: 9].
Jesus’ status as lower than the angels was in a limited manner.
A contrast is drawn between the nature of angels and that of the Son.
According to the laws of Hebrew parallelism,
the angels and the ministers must be related terms.
Angels are ministers, servants of God. Jesus, however, is Deity:
Your Throne, O God, is forever and ever;
a Sceptre of Righteousness is the Sceptre of Your Kingdom
“.
Psalm 44: 6
Jesus Christ took this position, because it was necessary for the plan of Salvation.
By becoming a human being, Jesus won for us the Victory
that could not have been possible had Jesus chosen
to remain eternally separated from humanity.
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the Heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession” and then “Let us therefore come boldly unto the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain Mercy, and find Grace to help in time of need.” (Hebr.4: 14,16).
In short here is said: Hang on to your Faith in Christ.
These words, of course, are so important for us today, as well.
Jesus died for us.
The Cross is the turning point of history and of our fate.
Jesus serves as our High Priest; He is intervening in Heaven in our behalf.
He is our great High Priest.
Therefore, we have confidence and assurance,
because Someone now stands in Heaven in our stead, Someone Who, in fact,
knows what it is to be tempted by sin [see Hebr. 4:15].
He knows how it feels to be human, to be tempted, to be hungry,
to be tired, to be assaulted, abandoned, and to face death,
because, as a human, He went through it all.

Therefore, we are called to draw close to God
and receive Mercy, Grace, and Help from Someone Who can relate to us.
The way to the Heavenly Sanctuary, the way to the Throne of God, the Kingdom is now open!
God is our Father, we are His children, and He treats us as such [Hebr.12: 7- 9].
Jesus’ Sacrifice is once-for-all and is sufficient for all.
We just have to accept it.
The book Hebrews may present the aim of the epistle:
Do not give up on Jesus! The best has come.
Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament types
and the guarantee of Salvation.

The Incarnation [becoming man] of Christ has ever been,
and will ever remain a Mystery.
That which is revealed, is for us and for our children,
but let every human being be warned from the ground
of making Christ altogether human,
such an one as ourselves;
for it cannot be.

3rd Sunday in Lent – Veneration of the Cross

Christ is the only sacrifice worthy to praise God
Our life sacrificed
is with our neighbour.
If we gain our brother,
we have gained God,
but if we scandalise our brother,
we have sinned against Christ“.
Saint Antony the Great

If any man will come after Me,
let him deny himself and
take up his cross and follow Me
“.
Matth. 16: 24

Here lies the great difference between the world’s Gospel and the Lord’s Gospel.
The world says, when it bids you goodbye,
Take care of yourself“.
The Lord says,
Let yourself go, and live for others and the Glory of God“.
The world says,
Have a good time. Look out for number one“.
Church says,
When something is bothering you,
say it with confidence, we are used to this
and this has do not be responded anyway
After all, we have the power and
require the letters that are sent to us
as not to be answered
“.

Man that lets go gets all and
man who holds fast
loses what he has and
the Lord’s words will come True:
Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it and
whosoever shall lose his life for My sake
shall find it“.
Matth. 16: 25

The law of Sacrifice is the greatest law in church
on earth and in Heaven.
It is written in every department of nature.
We tread on the skeletons of thousands of generations
that have lived and died that we might live.
The very heart of the earth itself is the wreck of ages and
the buried life of former generations.
All nature dies and lives again, and
each new development is a higher and larger life
built on the ruins [the death of the ‘wealthy’ church] of the former.
A grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die, or else be a shrivelled seed,
but as it dies it lives and multiplies and grows into the beautiful spring,
the golden future autumn
and the multiplied sheaves.
And so it is in the higher world as
you rise from the natural to the spiritual.

Everything that is selfish
is limited by its selfishness.
The river that ceases to run becomes a stagnant pool,
but as it flows it grows fresher, richer, fuller.

If you turn your natural eye upon yourself,
you cannot see anything.             It is as you look
out that the vision of the world bursts upon you.
The very law of life is Love,
caring for others by giving away and letting go.
It is self-destruction to be selfish.
The law of Sacrifice is the law of God and
so the church [by their clergy] is allowed to punish her people.
God, who lived in supreme self-sufficiency
as the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, gave Himself
and the clergy take the honours.
God’s glory was giving Himself, and
so He gave Himself in creation,
in the beauty of the universe,
so formed that every possible sort of happiness
could come according to a natural law.
An the clergy, they destroyed it,
because they are white stucco tombs.
so, be attentive,
when you enter a community
you will suffer!!!

God gave Himself in Jesus Christ;
God so loved the world that He gave“.
He gave His best, gave His all,
gave His only begotten Son.
The law of God is Sacrifice.
He so loved that He gave.
It is the law of Christ Himself.
He came through God’s sacrifice,
and He came to sacrifice.
He laid His honours down,
left the society of heaven for a generation,
and lived with creatures farther beneath Him
than the grovelling worm is beneath man.
He made Himself one of us, and
became a brother of this fallen race.
Christ was always yielding and letting go,
always holding back His power and not using it.
When people mistakenly treat Him, then He walks between them,
He goes up the mountain and prays to His father.
He was always being subject to the will of the men beneath Him,
until at last they nailed Him to the Cross.
His whole life was a continual refusing of Himself,
carrying our burdens and sharing our sorrows.
And so Sacrifice is the law of Christ,
Bear ye one another’s burdens and
so fulfil the Law of Christ, our Lord“.
The law of Christ is the bearing of others’ burdens,
the sharing of others’ griefs,
sacrificing yourself for another.

It is the law of Christianity.
It is the law of the saints of the Church.
It is the only way for the Church to be saved.
And the clergy?; they do it their own way.
From the beginning it has always been so.
It was so on Mount Moriah, where Abraham, the father of the faithful, gave up
his only child, the child of Promise.
All along the way was marked
by Blood and Sacrifice.

Not only did Abraham give up Isaac,
but Isaac gave up his life,
andall through his life he laid himself down for others.
We know how Jacob served for his wife,
and then did not get the one of his choice.
His was a suffering life, a passive life,
a patient life,
only in his solitude he could flourish.

And so Joseph died to his circumstances.
Because he was to rise so high he must go down as low;
down not only into banishment,
but into shameful imprisonment and almost into death.
When Joseph was out of sight,
and all God’s promises concerning him seemed lost,
and his prospects seemed hopeless,
then God picked him up and set him on the world’s throne.

Moses had to be a fugitive.
Moses had to try and then fail, and for forty years
God had to teach him and train him;
and when at last Moses was out of sight,
God gave him his desire.
At the very last moment, Moses had to let go
the prospect of entering the Promised Land,
but he didn’t lose communion with God.

The Master’s last message to Peter was,
When you was young you girded yourself, and
walked whither thou would; but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands and another shall gird you, and carry whither you would not.
This He spoke, signifying by what death
He should Glorify God
“.
And Jesus sent him to a life of crucifixion, to be yielded, submissive, surrendered and led about by others against his natural choice,
till at last he should be crucified with downward head upon his Master’s Cross.

It is so easy to talk about this, even in church
but a few are able to practise this.
The longer I live, the longer I know myself and
who are my friends, the more thoroughly I am satisfied
that this is the great secret of failure in our Christian life.
We go a little way with Jesus, but we stop at Gethsemane and Calvary.
They followed Him in His ministry in Galilee.
The Sermon on the Mount was a splendid morality.
They loved the feeding of the five thousand, and said:
“What a blessed King He would be!”
They would not have to work as they used to do.
But when He talked about Calvary and the Cross, for them as well as for Him,
and how they must go with Him all the way,
they said:
This is a hard saying; who can bear it?
And a few days after you could count them on your fingers, because most authorities do not do what they preach themselves.
They have nice words and wear nice clothes,
but when it comes firm down to, they let it fail.
They are not willing to go to the Cross;
they are silent.

I am sure this is where multitudes have stopped short.
They say “yes” to self and “no” to God and neighbours,
instead of “no” to self and “yes” to God.
Oh, it is so much easier to talk than to live!
A writer has said that there are three baptisms to be baptized with.
► First, the baptism of Repentance,
when we turn from sin to God.
► Second, the baptism of the Holy Spirit,
when we receive the Holy Spirit to live in us.
► Third, the baptism into death,
after the Holy Spirit comes in.
The Holy Spirit makes your heart His home,
and then you have to go with Christ into His own dying.
If any man will come after Me,
let him deny himself and take up
his Cross daily and follow Me
“.
And so He said about Himself,
I have a Baptism to be baptized with,
and how am I straitened until it be accomplished“.
He was going out into deeper death, and
His heart was all pent up with it,
until He went down into Gethsemane,
down to Joseph’s tomb, down into Hades
and passed through the regions of the dead
and opened first the gates of Heaven.
That is what Jesus saw before Him
after He was baptized
on the banks of the Jordan.

Who have received
the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,
it is you who have to go down into His death.
I know that in a sense we take all that by Faith
when we consecrate ourselves to Christ,
and we count it all real and God counts it all real too;
but now we have to go through it
step by step.
I know God treats us as though it was accomplished
and we were sitting yonder on the throne.
But we must go through the narrow passage
and the secret place of the stairs;
silent, in the back of the church and
let every man take its own course.
There must be no trifling here.
You may count it all done by Faith,
but step by step it must be written
on the records of your heart
and you will feel it.

Now, what does all this mean in our practical life?
First, it is dying to self-will.
After you consecrate yourself to God,
then will come the tug of war,
and tomorrow morning you will have the battle of your life.
Just because you have given up your will
the devil will want you to take it back.
He will try to show you how unreasonable it is,
how right it is that you should have your Christian way.
It will be a life-or-death struggle,
perhaps, for days, for years until physical death do us depart.
Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days.
The devil tried to have Him choose His own way,
but He stood the test. He let His own will go.
I came not to do Mine own will,
but the will of Him that sent Me“.

God could make Him a leader because He had been led.
No man can govern until he has been governed.
If God is going to make anything of you,
you must let your will go into His hands.
You will find a good many tests after the first surrender,
but these are just opportunities for allowing the work to be done.

Then comes self-indulgence [pleasure-seeking], doing a thing because you like to do it.
No man has a right to do a thing because he enjoys it.
I have no right to take my dinner merely because I like it.
This makes me a beast. I take it because it nourishes me.
Doing things because they please you,
seeking your own interest, is wrong.
Seek all first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness
Matth.6: 33
We have no divine warrant to seek ourselves in anything.
Seek God, and God will seek your good.
Take care of the things of God and He will take care of you.
Look not any man on his own things, but every
man also on the things of others
“.
Again, there is self-complacency [self-satisfaction],
dwelling on the work that you have done.
How easy, after performing some service or gaining some victory,
to think, “How good!”
How quickly this runs into vainglory!
How many are more interested in what people think and
say of them than of what they are themselves!

In the work of God there is nothing we need so much to guard against as vanity.
The Seraphim covered their faces with their wings;
they covered their feet with their wings.
They covered their faces
because they did not want to see their beauty, and
their feet because they did not want to see their service,
nor did they wish that any one else should see them.
They used only two to fly.
Take care how you put temptation in another’s way.
It is all right to encourage the people with a “God bless you and go all in peace”.
But don’t praise. God does not say, How beautiful! how eloquent! how lovely! how splendid!
That is putting on a human head the Crown that belongs to Jesus.
We have no more right to take Christ’s honours here
than we have to sit on His throne and let angels worship us.
We have to be careful when God uses us to bless human souls.
Philip, as soon as he led the eunuch to Jesus, got out of the eunuch’s way.
There are subtle spells that come between man and man,
and between woman and woman, and between man and woman.
They seem sweet and right,
but you need much of the Holy Spirit to keep your spirit pure.
I am not talking here of sinful love.
Surely, it is not needful to speak of that.
I am thinking of a far more subtle and refined spell,
which is at once dishonouring to God and dangerous to you.
God keep us from every service, and every friendship, and
every thought that is not in the Holy Spirit
and not to the honour of Jesus alone.

Then there is self-confidence [self-assurance], that which feels its strength,
spiritual or mental self-righteousness, power to be good or do good.
We must lay all that aside and realize our utter nothingness.
There is the self-life of sensitiveness, susceptibility to be wounded.
There is selfish affection, wanting people to love you
because you like to be loved.
Divine Love loves that it may bless and do good.
You ought to love others, not because it pleases you
but because it blesses them.

Paul could say,
I am glad to spend and be spent for your sakes;
notwithstanding the more earnestly I love you,
the less I be loved“.
2Cor.12: 15
He does not say
I will help you as long as you love your tears.
You are weeping because you say
I will help you as long as you love me.
No, I gladly spend my last drop of blood to bless you at any cost,
even when I know you do not appreciate me the least bit.
That is what is the matter with you.
People and the clergy will hurt you;
they do not appreciate you.
Well, spend and be spent all the more
when you are the less loved.

Time would fail to tell of selfish desires, covetousness,
selfish motives, selfish possessions,
our property, our children, our friends and
they give us loads of trouble, and care, and worry,
just because we insist on owning them.
There are selfish sorrows.
There is nothing more selfish than the tears we often shed.
When God saw Israel weeping, He was angry, and said,
You have polluted My altar with your tears.
You are weeping because you have not better bread.
You are weeping because something else is dearer to you than God.
You are weeping because you are not pleased or gratified
“.
John 16: 16-33
Even our sacrifices and self-denials may be selfish.
Yes, our sanctifications may be selfish.
A sarcastic friend of mine used to say
when he heard people testifying about their sinlessness:
Poor old soul, she committed the greatest sin of her life,
she foretold the biggest lie
“.
Self can get up and pray, and sit down and say,
What a lovely prayer!
Self can go to church and say,
What an Angelic service!, what a beautiful sound of the Choir“.
Self can preach a sermon and save souls and go home,
pat itself on the back and say, or let the devil say through him,
You did it splendidly; what a useful man you are!
Self can be burned to death and be proud of its fortitude.
Yes, we can have religious selfishness as well as carnal selfishness.

How can we get rid of this?
Well, above everything else,
we must see the reality of the thing,
we must see its danger, we must see that it is sin.
We must look at it frankly and choose that it shall go.
The worst is that it deceives us. It says,
“How that fits somebody else, not me”. God means you.
Pass sentence of death upon it, or else it will pass sentence on you.
You may keep it as long as you like.
It is like the lovely little serpent with little spots on it like jewels.
Ah, at the last, how it stings!

May God show us everything in us that will not stand the searching flames.
Above everything, do not let us have a larger Gospel than we have a life.
Having passed sentence of death upon ourselves,
then let us take Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to do the work.
Don’t try to fight it yourself.
And then, when the test time comes, and
God leads you out to meet it, be True.
The test will come, but when the battle comes
do not defend yourself, but say,
Lord let me die, let me suffer“.
Perhaps some one will try to provoke you.
Perhaps someone will try to praise you.
Just say again, “ Lord let me die, let me suffer
The Holy Spirit is able to take everything we dare to give,
and give everything we dare to take.
Shall we dare to take Him for the death of our subtlest foe,
and truly pray:
Jesus, slay the self in me
By Your consuming breath;
Show me Your Heart, Your Wounds,
Your Shame and love my soul to death.
When the Shekinah flame came down,
[When the tabernacle was ready, Moses consecrated it, together with all its fittings, with holy myrrh. While this was taking place, the glory of the Lord covered the tabernacle in the form of a cloud
which accompanied the Hebrews on their journey through the desert]
and Moses could not stay;
so let Your Glory fill my heart,
and self for ever slay
“.

Or like we are used to pray in our silent chamber:
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy upon me, simple sinner“.

March 19th – Saint Hilaria, Martyr under Roman Emperor Numerian [†3rd Cnt.]

The Holy Martyrs Hilaria, her husband Claudius the Tribune,
and their sons, Jason and Maurus,
Diodorus the Presbyter and Marianus the Deacon,
suffered with Saints Chrysanthus and Daria in Rome
under Emperor Numerian in the third century.

Claudius came to believe in Christ and accepted holy Baptism
together with his wife, Hilaria, their sons, Jason and Maurus,
and all his household and soldiers.
When news of this reached Emperor Numerian,
he ordered that they be executed.
Claudius was drowned in the sea,
and his sons and soldiers were beheaded.

Christians buried the bodies of the holy martyrs in a nearby cave, and
Saint Hilaria constantly went there to pray.
The pagans followed her and led her off for torture.
The saint asked that they give her a few moments to pray, and as soon as she finished, she gave up her soul to God.
A servant buried Saint Hilaria in the cave beside her sons.

Troparion                           Tn 1
Let us honor the like-minded pair of Martyrs Hilaria, scion of purity,
and supremely her modes husband Claudius.
United in holiness of faith,
they shone forth as communicants of God the Word.
They fought lawfully for Him and now save those who sing:
“Glory to Him who has strengthened you!
Glory to Him who has crowned you!
Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!”

Kontakion                          Tn 1
In the sweet fragrance of holiness, Claudius,
you drew Hilaria to saving knowledge.
Together in contest you routed the serpent,
the author of all evil,
and were worthily taken up to the heavenly realms.

Orthodoxy & to come to yourself

And when he came to himself, he said,
How many hired servants of my father’s
have bread enough and to spare,
and I perish with hunger!“.
Luc.15: 17

If the Orthodox Churches are able
to strengthen their unity,
to dialogue with each other
than this is obedient and beneficial to their basics;
the original Christian Church.

You are probably motivated by Orthodox churches, and perhaps noticed that they often bear titles like
“Greek Orthodox”, “Russian Orthodox”, “Serbian Orthodox” or even “Ukrainian Orthodox”.
Are they simply different denominations that cater to particular ethnicities?
You could be excused for thinking so,
though this is – less and less – true today,
there is indeed a great deal of overlap
between the ethnic composition of many parishes
and these ‘titles‘.
Some nominations have even the impression
that one possesses a greater degree of importance than the others,
even this is heresy, because it encourages
a further breakdown of the original Christian Church.
In Truth, the Orthodox Church is one unified Church [of 300 million people],
and belongs to no nation at all.
Instead, it is the ancient church, and is unique in that it traces its roots
— in unbroken succession! — all the way back to the 1stcentury
founding by Christ and His Apostles.
It zealously holds to and preserves all the Teachings and Traditions
– including Holy Scripture – that were held by all Christians for the first ten centuries.
The word orthodox
– “right Belief and right Glory” –
has traditionally been used to designate communities [or individuals]
which preserved the True Faith.
The Orthodox Church still
— after thousands of years —
believes and adheres
to these ancient Teachings and Traditions,
and it will continue to do so for thousands more, or in other words until our Lord’s return.

The Masters voice
By the time of Jesus,
Aramaic was the most common language in Judea, though Hebrew may have been dominant in certain areas, such as Jerusalem or the Qumran community by the Dead Sea.
It’s most likely that in Galilee,
where Jesus was raised and where He began His ministry, Aramaic was the most common language of the people, though many would have been able to understand Hebrew
and to get along in Greek as well.
Also Christ spoke the language of the people He met, ‘the language of the region‘.
The languages in which the disciples were speaking were known foreign languages
and dialects of the region they visited.
It was given by the Holy Spirit that they visited a lot of countries and regions
and preached the message of God,
the Gospel of Love.

Just because you call yourself Orthodox Christian it doesn’t mean that you are real Orthodox Christian.
It seems that the infection that has affected other streams of Christianity has also hit the Orthodox community,
that plague is what I call misuse of memberships.
Orthodoxy is much more about image than
anything else and if you want to roll in our performance you have to abide by certain rules.
If you break ‘original‘ norms and customs
which are visible within authentic Christianity
you may call yourself Orthodox all you want,
but within Orthodoxy
you will not be considered as such.

And all the publicans and sinners drew near unto Him to hear Him.
And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured saying,
This man receives sinners and eats with them
“[Luc.15: 1,2].
And this is what it make painfully to a lot of Young growing up people,
who took the decision that their child
wouldn’t be baptized and educated in those communities, because
– the children don’t understand the services;
they hear another language than in their schools
– it gives such squabbles in those Orthodox communities
– we are “Russian”, so we only use Slavonic in our services,
– we are “Greek” and so we only us Greek in our services
– and so on.
It’s indeed that the Lord eats with sinners,
but when he is eating with them He is eating out of Love and
not because they are Pharisees and Scribes.

As therefore the Pharisees and Scribes made this outcry at His gentleness
and Love to man,
and wickedly and impiously blamed Him for receiving and teaching men
whose lives were impure,
Christ very necessarily set before them
the parables,
to show them clearly this very thing,
– that the God of all requires even him
– who is thoroughly steadfast, and firm,
– and who knows how to live Holily,
– and has attained to the highest praise for sobriety of conduct,
– to be earnest in following His will,
so that when any are called unto repentance,
even if they be men highly blameable,
he must rejoice rather,
and not give way
to an unloving vexation on their account.

For we also sometimes experience something of this sort.
For some there are who live a perfectly honourable and consistent life, practising every kind of virtuous action,
and abstaining from everything disapproved by the Law of God, and crowning themselves with perfect praises in the sight of God and of men:
while another is perhaps weak and trodden down,
and humbled unto every kind of wickedness,
guilty of base deeds, loving impurity,
given to covetousness and stained with all evil.

And yet such a one often in old age turns unto God,
and asks the forgiveness of his former offences:
he prays for Mercy, and putting away from him his readiness to fall into sin,
sets his affection on virtuous deeds.
Or even perhaps when about to close his mortal life,
he is admitted to Original Divine Baptism,
and puts away his offences, God being merciful unto him.

And perhaps sometimes persons are indignant at this,
and even say,
“This man, who has been guilty of such and such actions,
and has spoken such and such words,
has not paid unto the Judge the retribution of his conduct, but has been counted worthy of a Grace thus noble and admirable:
he has been inscribed among the sons of God,
and honoured with the Glory of the Saints
“.

Such complaints men sometimes give utterance too
from an empty narrowness of mind, not conforming
to the purpose of the universal Father.
For He greatly rejoices when He sees those
who were lost obtaining Salvation, and raises them up again
to that which they were in the beginning,
giving them the dress of freedom,
and adorning them with the chief robe,
and putting a ring upon their hand,
even the orderly behaviour which is pleasing to God
and suitable to the free.

It is our duty, therefore, to conform ourselves to that which God wills: for
– He heals those who are sick;
– He raises those who are fallen;
– He gives a helping hand to those who have stumbled;
– He brings back him who has wandered;
– He forms anew unto a praiseworthy and blameless life
those who were wallowing in the mire of sin;
– He seeks those who were lost;
– He raises as from the dead those
who had suffered the spiritual death.

Let us therefore rejoice:
let us therefore in company with the Holy Angels by heart,
praise Him as being good, and loving unto men;
as gentle, and not remembering evil.
For if such is our state of mind,
Christ will receive us
“.
Cf . Cyril of Alexandria [ca.376-444] – sermon 107 on Saint Lucas’ Gospel.

If the devil has got that ability to knock you down
from your exalted virtue to such great limits of evil;
so how much more would be God’s ability to restore
you to your previous confidence?
He would not only get you back to what you used to be,
but to a far better status
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

Orthodoxy & the Mystery of Knowledge

Man has always been fascinated by ultimate things
— life, death, the origin of the world —
and his discoveries in other fields of knowledge
have given him confidence to assume
that someday these mysteries
will also yield to the power of his intellect.
Such pride of mind, however,
can only lead away from the truth,
which, according to Orthodox teaching,
is the aim and foundation of all true knowledge.
How is such knowledge acquired?
Here we have part of a longer essay
by the renowned Serbian theologlan of blessed memory, Archimandrite Justin Popovich [†1979],
in which he distils the writings of Saint Isaac the Syrian
on the Orthodox theology of knowledge.

Briefly, he explains that because
man’s understanding became darkened through sin,
through consorting with evil,
he became incapable of True knowledge.
Man can come to this knowledge only
when his soul [the seat of understanding] is healed.
This is made possible by means of the virtues,
and the primary virtue in this remedial process is Faith.
Through faith, the mind,
which was previously dispersed among the passions,
is concentrated, freed from sensuality,
and endowed with peace and humility of thought ….
It is by the ascesis of faith that a man conquers egotism,
steps beyond the bounds of self, and enters into a new,
transcendent reality which also transcends subjectivity
“.

In separate sections, Father Justin discusses Prayer, Humility, Love and Grace, all requisite
companions of Faith,
before leading the reader into
“The Mystery of Knowledge”,
which we have reprinted below with slight abbreviations.

According to the teaching of Saint Isaac the Syrian,
there are two sorts of knowledge:
that which precedes Faith
and that which is born of faith.
The former is natural knowledge
and involves the discernment of good and evil.
The latter is spiritual knowledge and is
– “the perception of the mysteries“,
– “the perception of what is hidden“,
– “the contemplation of the invisible“.

There are also two sorts of faith:
the first comes through hearing and is confirmed
and proven by the second,
– “the faith of contemplation“,
– “the faith that is based on what has been seen“.
In order to acquire spiritual knowledge,
a man must first be freed from natural knowledge.
This is the work of Faith.
It is by the Ascesis of Faith that there comes to man
that “unknown power
that makes him capable of spiritual knowledge.
If a man allows himself to be caught in the web of natural knowledge,
it is more difficult for him to free himself from it
than to cast off iron bonds,
and his life is lived “against the edge of a sword“.

When a man begins to follow the path of Faith,
he must lay aside once and for all
his old methods of knowing,
for faith has its own methods.
Then natural knowledge ceases and spiritual knowledge takes its place.
Natural knowledge is contrary to faith,
for Faith, and all that comes from Faith, is
the destruction of the laws of knowledge
–> though not of spiritual,
but of natural knowledge.

The chief characteristic of natural knowledge
is its approach by examination and experimentation.
This is in itself “a sign of uncertainty about the truth“.
Faith, on the contrary, follows a pure and simple way of thought that is far removed
from all guile and methodical examination.
These two paths lead in opposite directions.
The house of faith is “childlike thoughts and simplicity of heart”, for it is said,
Glorify God in simplicity of heart” [cf. Col.3: 22],
and:
Except ye be converted and become as little children,
ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven
“. Matth.18: 3
Natural knowledge stands opposed
both to simplicity of heart and simplicity of thought.
This knowledge only works within the limits of nature,
but Faith has its own path beyond nature“.

The more a man devotes himself to the ways of natural knowledge,
the more he is seized on by fear
and the less can he free himself from it.
But if he follows Faith, he is immediately freed
and “as a son of God, has the power to make free use of all things“.
The man who loves this Faith acts like God in the use of all created things“,
for to faith is given the Power
to be like God in making a new creation“.
Thus it is written:
You desires, and all things are presented before you” [cf. Job 23: 13].

Faith can often
bring forth all things out of nothing“,
while knowledge can do nothing
without the help of matter“.
Knowledge has no Power over nature,
but Faith has such Power.
Armed with Faith, men have entered into the fire and quenched the flames, being untouched by them.
Others have walked on the waters as on dry land.
All these things are “beyond nature“;
they go against the modes of natural knowledge
and reveal the vanity of such modes.
Faith “moves about above nature“.
The ways of natural knowledge ruled
the world for more than 5,000 years, and man was unable to
lift his gaze from the earth and understand the might of his Creator
until
our faith arose and delivered us from the shadows of the works of this World
and from a fragmented mind.
He who has Faith “will lack nothing
and, when he has nothing,
“he possesses all things by faith,”
as it is written: “All things whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive [Matth.21: 22];
and also;
The Lord is near; be anxious for nothing” [Phil.4: 6].

Natural laws do not exist for Faith.
Saint Isaac emphasizes this very strongly:
All things are possible to him that believes [Marc. 9: 23],
for with God nothing is impossible …. “.
To step beyond the limits of nature
and to enter into the realm of the supernatural
is considered to be against nature,
as something irrational and impossible ….
Nevertheless, this natural knowledge, according to Saint Isaac, is not at fault.
It is not to be rejected.
It is just that Faith is higher than it is.
This knowledge is only to be condemned in so far as,
by the different means it uses, it turns against faith.
But when this knowledge
“is joined with Faith, becoming one with her,
clothing itself in her burning thoughts”,
when it “acquires wings of passionlessness” then,
using other means than natural ones,
it rises up from the earth
“into the realm of its Creator”,
into the supernatural.
This knowledge is then fulfilled by faith
and receives the power to “rise to the heights” to perceive him
who is beyond all perception
and to “see the brightness that is incomprehensible
to the mind and knowledge of created beings
.”
Knowledge is the level from which
a man rises up to the heights of Faith.
When he reaches these heights, he has no more need of it – for it is written:
We know in part, but when that which is perfect is come,
then that which is in part shall be done away
” [1Cor.13: 9-10].
Faith reveals to us now the truth of perfection,
as if it were before our eyes.
It is by faith that we learn that which is beyond our grasp
– by faith and not by enquiry and the power of knowledge.
/… /

There are three spiritual modes in which knowledge rises and falls,
and by which it moves and changes.
These are the body, the soul, and the spirit ….
At its lowest level, knowledge “follows the desires of the flesh”,
concerning itself with riches, vainglory, dress, repose of body,
and the search for rational wisdom.
This knowledge invents the arts and sciences
and all that adorns the body in this visible world.
But in all this, such knowledge is contrary to Faith.
It is known as
“Mere knowledge, for it is deprived of all thought of the Divine
and, by its fleshly character, brings to the mind an irrational weakness,
because in it the mind is overcome by the body
and its entire concern is for the things of this world
“.
It is puffed up and filled with pride,
for it refers every good work to itself and not to God.
That which the Apostle said, “knowledge puffs up” [1Cor.8: 1].

Faith presents a new way of thinking,
through which is effected all the work of knowing in the believing man.
This new way of thinking is Humility ….
It is by Humility
that the intellect is healed
and made whole…
The humble man is the fount of
the Mysteries of the new stage of development.

Obviously said of this knowledge,
which is not linked with faith and hope in God,
and not of true knowledge.
True, spiritual knowledge, linked with humility,
brings to perfection the soul of those who have acquired it,
as is seen in Moses, David, Isaiah, Peter, Paul,
and all those who, within the limits of human nature,
were counted worthy of this perfect knowledge.
Saint [Archimandrite] Justin Popovich

Pdf: Prayer of the Three Holy Children

March 16th – Saint Christodoulos Latrinos of Patmos, Saint of the Dodecanese [1020-1111]

Our father among the Saints Christodoulos Latrinos lived at Patmos and is also known as Wonderworker.
He is remembered for the establishment of
the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian at Patmos
and the re-settlement of the island
after the Saracens had de-populated it.

John, the son of peasants Theodore and Anna,
was born in Nicea of Bithynia
in Asia Minor in the 11nth century.
John was a self-taught man who developed a love for books.
As a young man, he followed an ascetic life,
living as a hermit on Mount Olympus of Asia Minor
as well as in the Palestinian desert
before he assumed the monastic habit
and received the name Christodoulos [Gr. “slave of Christ“].
He then served as abbot of the Monastery of Mount Lamos
in Caris in western Asia Minor.
After the incursion of the Saracens in 1085,
abbot Christodoulos and the monks of the monastery fled to the island of Kos
in the southeastern Aegean Sea.

On Kos, Abbot Christodoulos established
a monastery dedicated to the Mother of God.
Also on Kos, Christodoulos met an ascetic, Arsenius Skinouris,
the son and heir of a wealthy landowner of Kos,
who became the abbot’s spiritual son.
Together, they dreamt of re-establishing monastic life
on the nearby island of Patmos that had been de-populated
following attacks by Saracens forces.
During the following several years,
Abbot Christodoulos also established a monastery on the island of Leros, dedicated to Saint John the Theologian.

In 1088, Father Christodoulos presented himself, with Arsenius,
at the court of emperor Alexius I Comnenos in Constantinople
and presented his plan to repopulate the island of Patmos with monastics.       The emperor agreed with his request.
Father Christodoulos was granted sovereignty over the island of Patmos in exchange for the holdings on Kos
that were tied to the inheritance of Arsenius.
In August 1088, Father Christodoulos took possession of
the “deserted and uninhabited island” of Patmos.

When he returned from Constantinople,
he brought masons and other craftsmen
and began the construction, in 1091,
of the monastery dedicated to Saint John the Theologian.
The new monastery
was built over the ruinsof the Basilica of Saint John
of the fourth century and of an earlier temple to the pagan goddess Diana and included a defensive structure that he called the “the Fortress“.
The structure of his monastery remains in use to today.

In 1093, however, raids on the island by Emir Dzaha forced Father Christodoulos and the monks
to flee to the island of Euboia where Father Christodoulos died on March 16, 1093.

Patmos was governed spiritually and administratively by the monastery,
which provided for both the economy of the island and the defense of its inhabitants.
Father Christodoulos had originally envisaged Patmos
as a monastic enclave exclusive of women,
and it was with difficulty that the craftsmen had been able to induce him to set aside a small piece of land
at the far end of the peninsula where
they could build a village and settle their wives
while the monastery was being constructed.

Inside the Katholikon of the Monastery
is a small chapel in the narthex dedicated to Saint Christodoulos.
There his relics are enshrined, having been brought back to Patmos after his death.
Originally placed in a marble sarcophagus,
the relics now rest in a gold and silver plated wooden chest that sits atop the sepulchre for veneration.

Apolytikion       1st Tn
Let us, O brethren, honour godly Christodoulos,
offspring of Nicea, protector of Patmos and boast of monks.
Let us venerate his relics and so receive healing of soul and body,
and cry out with hymns,
Glory to Him Who has strengthened you;
Glory to Him Who has crowned you;
Glory to Him Who through you works healings for all.

Kontakion          4rth Tn
Since we possess your relics
as a holy place of healing for all our diseases and afflictions,
we are redeemed and cry aloud to you,
Rejoice, O Christodoulos.

The Grounds of Saint Christodoulos, the wonderworker
The oral tradition concerning the Grounds of Saint Christodoulos is as follows:
When Saint Christodoulos was living in Patmos,
he planted a garden to supply vegetables for the monks.
The monks who had worked very hard building the Monastery were very tired.
They refused when Saint Christodoulos asked them to dig for water.
Saint Christodoulos then fell to his knees
and prayed all night long for God’s intervention.
His prayer was so warm that at the place where he had dug,
which was in the shape of a cross, a clear, pure spring emerged.
The monks then realized their bad behaviour
and acknowledged the Holiness of Saint Christodoulos.
The garden has been kept up since the 11th century
and is named the “Kipos of the Saint“.
The spring was covered with an arch
and since then it has been called “Holy Water”
or “Water of Saint”
or “Water of the Holy Father”.

Today, only the foundation from the time of Saint Christodoulos remains.
The upper part was reconstructed at a later date.
Besides the Spring of the Saint, other springs have come up near the first one.
These are still in existence from those days.
Near each spring, a reservoir was built to store the extra water.
Once there was a huge boulder on the side of the cliff
overlooking the “Kipi” which rolled down threatening the destruction of the garden.
Saint Christodoulos again prayed warmly and deeply
and this prayer was able to stop the boulder
and made it so secure that it remains in the same place today.
This was truly another miracle.

During the times when people were more pious and believing,
they would go to the boulder and lean on it
for healing purposes on the same spot
where Saint Christodoulos had leaned on it
to stop it from rolling down to the gardens.

There is another story that once a Byzantine Princess lived in Patmos
and that she had hidden a treasure near the boulder.
It has never been found,
or so it was found [by a Dutch sailor ?],
it was never reported.