April 6th – Saint Platonida of Nisibis [Syria, †308]

Saint Platonida was at first a deaconess,
but afterwards withdrew into the Nisibis desert,
where she organized a women’s monastery.
The Rule of her monastery was distinguished for its strictness.
The sisters partook of food only once a day.
When they were not praying,
they spent their time in monastic labours and various obedience’s.

On Fridays, the day commemorating
the sufferings of Christ the Saviour on the Cross,
all work stopped, and the monks were in church
from morning until evening,
where between services they read
from Holy Scripture and from commentaries on it.

The biographies of the great philosophers,
such as Descartes and Kant,
relate that these desert seekers
spent whole days and nights sitting in their armchairs, engrossed in their thoughts.
Philosophy is deep, but deeper still is Theologic meditation, the greatest form of prayer,
which the Holy Fathers call Noetic Prayer.
The depth of communion in Spirit
which the Saints have with God is inconceivably great . . . . .
In the ceaseless contemplation of God and of the fortunes of the world,
in deep communion of prayer with God,
their spirit grew and their understanding of the ways of Salvation increased,
to which they would teach the people, who were being lost in their sins.
They would have to change their thoughts
and the senses of the people, to make them deeper.
To urge them to repent
and to change their perverted and evil ways.

Saint Platonida was for all the fellow-sisters
a living example of strict Monastic Asceticism,
meekness, and Love for neighbour.
Having reached a great old age,
Saint Platonida died peacefully
in the year 308.

Orthodoxy & avoiding to fall as a prey to demons

Beware me for idleness“,
Saint Ephraïm the Syrian warns the hermits, for
without it a monk cannot fall
into the hands of those who strive to enslave him
“.
Saint Ephraïm warns hermits not to neglect psalmody nor prayer because in abandoning them,
the solitary opens a door to the demons.

Idleness is inactivity, as a Christian we have to be active.
The Judgement of God comes upon us not because we have neglected spiritual discipline,
as though God punishes us for legal omissions,
failing to accomplish our duty or
incorrect use of our resources;
but rather the judgement of God comes upon us through the torment of demons
because we ourselves have opened the door to them.
The spiritual disciplines help us shut the door;
without spiritual disciplines, our wandering mind, roaming lusts,
hidden fears and latent self-importance emerge, prying open the door
for the tormenting demons to enter.

“It is written,” Saint Ephraïm says,
He who is not subject to the will of God, is subject to his adversary“.
Spiritual disciplines are the primary way
we subject ourselves to the will of God.
For those in the Monastic life and especially for solitaries, those disciplines are all-consuming activities of prayer, reading, and work.
• But for us in the world, the spiritual disciples relate to our neighbour:
Love your neighbour, don’t kill him by words or behaviour,
don’t commit adultery, corrupt behaviour,
be kind, be content with what you have,
be generous to others, don’t judge, backbiting [slander],
weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

I imagine some of my readers are wondering:
Are these spiritual disciplines?
Yes. These are par excellence spiritual disciplines.
When we struggle to be kind or generous or content, we are struggling to be like Christ
and the door through which tormenting demons enter is pressed firmly shut.

Of course what we find out right away
when we seriously embark on the spiritual life
in the world is
that we fail miserably at keeping the spiritual disciplines that Christ and the Apostles commanded.
We find out right away that we cannot easily be kind,
even when we want to be kind
—> and then there are the many times
we don’t want to be kind!
We find out right away that within ourselves,
within the resources of our own will and desire,
we do not have what it takes
to practice the spiritual disciplines.
And because we fail to practice the disciplines,
the tormenting demons attack us
—> the door of our mind being left wide open for them.

Yet, it is the very suffering caused by the demons, the guilt, the confusion, the anger, the lustful passion, it is this very suffering that drives us to God in prayer.
It is our awareness of our great need
that turns us to God again and again for help.
But how do we pray?

Certainly, “Help, my Lord and my God!
is a good start.
However, in the same way that one might use home remedies for a minor cold or to mend a scratched knee,
yet will go to an expert in medicine for a serious condition;
so also in our spiritual life we go to the doctors,
the men and women who have spent a lifetime learning prayer.
We go to the Monastics,
and particularly to those Monastics [or Monastic Writings]
that have proven over time to be reliable
and helpful in producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit
in those who have heeded their advice.

– Remember, the goal is not to pray like a monk
while living in the world.
– The goal is to Love our neighbour as Christ
while we live in the world.
– Prayer rules and techniques are the means,
the means to transformation
so that we will be filled with the Holy Spirit
and show forth the love and life of Christ.
– We shut the door to the demons
and avoid God’s Judgment by actively pursuing the spiritual life.

This pursuit requires repentance and our own healing
and manifests itself in love of God and neighbour.
Prayer is a part of this, an essential part
—> I might even say an integral part of our pursuit of God
and of our shutting the door to the demons that torment us.
• But he who says the most prayers is not necessarily
[and not probably in my experience] the one
who is experiencing the most success
in the spiritual life in the world.
– The one who is succeeding in the spiritual life
is the one who is learning Love the unlovely,
– who is looking for opportunities to be generous to those who ask,
– who tries to shut down judgemental thoughts, and
– who is practicing kindness and mercy
even when he or she doesn’t feel like it.

Such a one will be heeding
the advice of Saint Ephraïm,
avoiding spiritual idleness
and therefore not becoming the prey
of his spiritual adversary.

April 1st – life & history of Saint Mary, Holy Mother of Egypt

From the Great Canon,
the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete,
heard in church during the service
at Wednesdaybefore the Sunday of Saint Mary of Egypt.

It is good to hide the secret of a king,
but it is glorious to reveal
and preach the works of God
” [Tobit 12: 7].
So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness.
Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul.
And I  [so says Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem ►],
in writing the life of Saint Mary of Egypt,
am afraid to hide the works of God by silence.
Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth. [Matth.25: 18-25];
I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me.
And let no one think [continues Saint Sophronius]
that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel
—> may I never lie about Holy things!
If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record,
do not believe it, may the Lord have Mercy on them because,
reflecting on the weakness of human nature,
they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by Holy people.
But now we must begin to tell this most amazing story,
which has taken place in our generation.

There was a certain elder in one of the monasteries of Palestine, a priest of the Holy life and speech,
who from childhood had been brought up in monastic ways and customs.
This elder’s name was Zosimas.
He had been through the whole course of the ascetic life
and in everything he adhered to the rule once given to him
by his tutors as regard spiritual labours.
He had also added a good deal himself whilst labouring to subject his flesh to the will of the spirit.
And he had not failed in his aim.
He was so renowned for his spiritual life that many came to him from neighbouring monasteries
and some even from afar.
While doing all this, he never ceased to study the Divine Scriptures.
Whether resting, standing, working or eating food
[if the scraps he nibbled could be called food],
he incessantly and constantly had a single aim:
always to sing of God, and to practice the teaching of the Divine Scriptures.
Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother’s breast,
he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training
as an ascetic till he reached the age of 53.
After that, he began to be tormented with the thought
that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone,
saying to himself mentally,
Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me
and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished?
Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?

Thus thought the elder, when suddenly
an angel appeared to him and said:

Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course.
But there is no man who has attained perfection.
Before you lie unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished.
That you may know how many other ways lead to Salvation,
leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham
and go to the monastery by the River Jordan
“.

Zosimas did as he was told. he left the monastery in which he had lived from childhood
and went to the River Jordan.
At last he reached the community to which God had sent him.
Having knocked at the door of the monastery,
he told the monk who was the porter who he was;
and the porter told the abbot.
On being admitted to the abbot’s presence,
Zosimas made the usual monastic prostration and prayer.
Seeing that he was a monk the abbot asked:

Where do you come from, my brother
and why have you come to us poor old men?

Zosimas replied:

There is no need to speak about where I have come from,
but I have come, father, seeking spiritual profit,
for I have heard great things about your skill in leading souls to God
“.

My brother“, the abbot said to him,
Only God can heal the infirmity of the soul.
May He teach you and us His Divine ways and guide us.
But as it is the love of Christ that has moved you
to visit us poor old men, then stay with us,
if that is why you have come.
May the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for our Salvation
fill us all with the Grace of the Holy Spirit
“.

After this, Zosimas bowed to the abbot,
asked for his prayers and blessing, and stayed in the monastery.
There he saw elders proficient both in action and the contemplation of God,
aflame in spirit, working for the Lord.
They sang incessantly, they stood in prayer all night,
work was ever in their hands and Psalms on their lips.
Never an idle word was heard among them,
they know nothing about acquiring temporal goods or the cares of life.
But they had one desire —> to become in body like corpses.
Their constant food was the Word of God
and they sustained their bodies on bread and water,
as much as their love for God allowed them Seeing this,
Zosimas was greatly edified and
prepared for the struggle that lay before him.

Many days passed and the time drew near when all Christians fast and prepare themselves to worship the Divine Passion and Resurrection of Christ.
The monastery gates were kept always locked and only opened
when one of the community was sent out on some errand.
It was a desert place, not only unvisited by people of the world but even unknown to them.

There was a rule in that monastery which was the reason why God brought Zosimas there.
At the beginning of the Great Fast [on Forgiveness Sunday]
the priest celebrated the Divine Liturgy
and all partook of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
After the Holy Liturgy they went to the refectory
and would eat a little Lenten food.

Then all gathered in church, and after praying earnestly with prostrations,
the elders kissed one another and asked forgiveness.
And each made a prostration to the abbot
and asked his blessing and prayers for the struggle that lay before them.
After this, the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing,
“The Lord is my Light and my Saviour; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the Defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” [Psalm 26: 1]
and the rest of that Psalm, all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan.
Only one or two brothers were left in the monastery,
not to guard the property [for there was nothing to rob],
but so as not to leave the church without Divine Service.
Each took with him as much as he could or wanted in the way of food,
according to the needs of his body:
one would take a little bread, another some figs,
another dates or wheat soaked in water.
And some took nothing but their own body covered with rags and fed
when nature forced them to it on the plants that grew in the desert.

After crossing the Jordan, they all scattered far and wide in different directions.
And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed
—> neither to talk to one another, nor to know how each one lived and fasted.
If they did happen to catch sight of one another,
they went to another part of the country, living alone and always singing to God,
and at a definite time eating a very small quantity of food.
In this way they spent the whole of the fast
and used to return to the monastery
a week before the Resurrection of Christ, on Palm Sunday.
Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labour
and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert.
Such were rules of the monastery.
Every one of them whilst in the desert struggled with himself
before the Judge of the struggle — God — not seeking to please men
and fast before the eyes of all.
For what is done for the sake of men, to win praise and honour,
is not only useless to the one who does it
but sometimes the cause of great punishment.

Zosimas did the same as all.
And he went far, far into the desert with a secret hope of finding
some father who might be living there and who might be able
to satisfy his thirst and longing.
And he wandered on tireless, as if hurrying on to some definite place.
He had already walked for 20 days and when the 6th hour came he stopped
and, turning to the East, he began to sing the sixth Hour
and recite the customary prayers.
He used to break his journey thus at fixed hours of the day to rest a little,
to chant Psalms standing and to pray on bent knees.

And as he sang thus without turning his eyes from the Heavens,
he suddenly saw to the right of the hillock
on which he stood the semblance of a human body.
At first he was confused thinking he beheld a vision of the devil,
and even started with fear.
But, having guarded himself with the sign of the Cross and banished all fear,
he turned his gaze in that direction and in Truth saw some form gliding southwards.
It was naked, the skin dark as if burned up by the heat of the sun;
the hair on its head was white as a fleece,
and not long, falling just below its neck.
Zosimas was so overjoyed at beholding a human form
that he ran after it in pursuit, but reform fled from him. He followed.
At length, when he was near enough to be heard, he shouted:

Why do you run from an old man and a sinner?
Slave of the True God, wait for me, whoever you are,

in God’s name I tell you, for the love of God
for Whose sake you are living in the desert
“.

Forgive me for God’s sake,
but I cannot turn towards you and show you my face, Abba Zosimas.
For I am a woman and naked as you see
with the uncovered shame of my body.
But if you would like to fulfil one wish of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so that I can cover my body and can turn to you and ask for your blessing
“.

Here terror seized Zosimas, for he heard that she called him by name.
But he realized that she could not have done so
without knowing anything of him
if she had not had the power of spiritual insight.

He at once did as he was asked.
He took off his old, tattered cloak and threw it to her,
turning away as he did so.
She picked it up and was able to cover at least a part of her body.
The she turned to Zosimas and said:

Why did you wish, Abba Zosimas, to see a sinful woman?
What do you wish to hear or learn from me,
you who have not shrunk from such great struggles?

Zosimas threw himself on the ground and asked for her blessing.
She likewise bowed down before him.
And thus they lay on the ground prostrate asking for each other’s blessing.
And one word alone could be heard from both:
Bless me!“.
After a long while the woman said to Zosimas:

Abba Zosimas, it is you who must give blessing and pray.
You are dignified by the order of priesthood
and for many years you have been standing
before the Holy altar and offering the Sacrifice of the Divine Mysteries
“.

This flung Zosimas into even greater terror. At length with tears he said to her:

O mother, filled with the spirit, by your mode of life
it is evident that you live with God and have died to the world.
The Grace granted to you is apparent
—> for you have called me by name and recognized that I am a priest,
though you have never seen me before.
Grace is recognized not by one’s orders, but by Gifts of the Holy Spirit,
so give me your blessing for God’s sake, for I need your prayers
“.

Then giving way before the wish of the elder the woman said:

Blessed is God Who cares for the Salvation of men and their souls“.

Zosimas answered:

Amen“.

And both rose to their feet. Then the woman asked the elder:

Why have you come, man of God, to me who am so sinful?
Why do you wish to see a woman naked an devoid of every virtue?
Though I know one thing —> the Grace of the Holy Spirit
has brought you to render me a service in time.
Tell me, father, how are the Christian peoples living?
And the kings? How is the Church guided?”.

Zosimas said:

By your prayers, mother, Christ has granted lasting peace to all.
But fulfil the unworthy petition of an old man
and pray for the whole world and for me who am a sinner,
so that my wanderings in the desert may not be fruitless
“.

She answered:

You who are a priest, Abba Zosimas,
it is you who must pray for me and for all —> for this is your calling.
But as we must all be obedient, I will gladly do what you ask
“.

And with these words she turned to the East,
and raising her eyes to Heaven and stretching out her hands,
she began to pray in a whisper.
One could not hear separate words, so that Zosimas could not understand
anything that she said in her prayers.
Meanwhile he stood, according to his own word, all in a flutter,
looking at the ground without saying a word.
And he swore, calling God to witness,
that when at length he thought that her prayer was very long,
he took his eyes off the ground and saw
that she was raised about a forearm’s distance from the ground
and stood praying in the air.
When he saw this, even greater terror seized him
and he fell on the ground weeping and repeating may times,
Lord have mercy“.

And whilst lying prostrate on the ground he was tempted by a thought:
Is it not a spirit, and perhaps her prayer is hypocrisy.

But at the very same moment the woman turned round,
raised the elder from the ground and said:
Why do thought confuse you, Abba, and tempt you about me,
as if I were a spirit and a dissembler in prayer?
Know, Holy father, that I am only a sinful woman,
though I am guarded by Holy baptism.
And I am no spirit but earth and ashes, and flesh alone“.

And with these words she guarded herself with the sign of the Cross
on her forehead, eyes, mouth and breast, saying:
May God defend us from the evil one and from his designs,
for fierce is his struggle against us“.

Hearing and seeing this, the elder fell to the ground
and embracing her feet, he said with tears:
I beg you, by the Name of Christ our God,
Who was born of a Virgin,
for Whose sake you have stripped yourself,
for Whose sake you have exhausted your flesh,
do not hide from your slave,
who you are and whence and how you came
into this desert.
Tell me everything so that
the marvellous works of God may become known.
A hidden wisdom and a secret treasure
—> what profit is there in them?
Tell me all, I implore you.
For not out of vanity or for self-display will you speak
but to reveal the truth to me, an unworthy sinner.
I believe in God, for whom you live and whom you serve.
I believe that He led me into this desert so as to show me His ways in regard to you.
It is not in our power to resist the plans of God.
If it were not the will of God that you and your life would be known,
He would not have allowed be to see you
and would not have strengthened me to undertake this journey,
one like me who never before dared to leave his cell“.

Much more said Abba Zosimas. But the woman raised him and said:
I am ashamed, Abba, to speak to you of my disgraceful life, forgive me for God’s sake!
But as you have already seen my naked body I shall likewise lay bare before you my work, so that you may know with what shame and obscenity my soul is filled.
I was not running away out of vanity, as you thought,
for what have I to be proud of —> I who was the chosen vessel of the devil?
But when I start my story you will run from me,
as from a snake, for your ears will not be able to bear the vileness of my actions.
But I shall tell you all without hiding anything,
only imploring you first of all to pray incessantly for me,
so that I may find Mercy on the day of Judgment“.

The elder wept and the woman began her Story:
My native land, holy father, was Egypt.
Already during the lifetime of my parents, when I was twelve years old,
I renounced their love and went to Alexandria.
I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood
and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality.
It is more becoming to speak of this briefly,
so that you may just know my passion and my lechery.
For about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that.
I was like a fire of public debauch.
And it was not for the sake of gain —> here I speak the pure truth.
Often when they wished to pay me, I refused the money.
I acted in this way so as to make as many men as possible to try to obtain me,
doing free of charge what gave me pleasure.
Do not think that I was rich and that was the reason why I did not take money.
I lived by begging, often by spinning flax,
but I had an insatiable desire and an irrepressible passion for lying in filth.
This was life to me. Every kind of abuse of nature I regarded as life.
That is how I lived.
Then one summer I saw a large crowd of Libyans and Egyptians running towards the sea. I asked one of them, ‘Where are these men hurrying to?’
He replied, ‘They are all going to Jerusalem
for the Exaltation of the Precious and Lifegiving Cross,
which takes place in a few days’.
I said to him, ‘Will they take me with them if I wish to go?’
‘No one will hinder you if you have money to pay for the journey and for food’.
And I said to him, ‘To tell you truth, I have no money, neither have I food.
But I shall go with them and shall go aboard.
And they shall feed me, whether they want to or not.
I have a body —> they shall take it instead of pay for the journey’.
I was suddenly filled with a desire to go, Abba,
to have more lovers who could satisfy my passion.
I told you, Abba Zosimas, not to force me to tell you of my disgrace.
God is my witness, I am afraid of defiling you and the very air with my words“.
Zosimas, weeping, replied to her:
Speak on for God’s sake, mother,
speak and do not break the thread of such an edifying tale“.

And, resuming her story, she went on:
That youth, on hearing my shameless words, laughed and went off.
While I, throwing away my spinning wheel,
ran off towards the sea in the direction which everyone seemed to be taking.
and seeing some young men standing on the shore, about ten or more of them,
full of vigour and alert in their movements,
I decided that they would do for my purpose
[it seemed that some of them were waiting for more travellers
whilst others had gone ashore].
Shamelessly, as usual, I mixed with the crowd, saying,
‘Take me with you to the place you are going to;
you will not find me superfluous’.
I also added a few more words calling forth general laughter.
Seeing my readiness to be shameless, they readily took me aboard the boat.
Those who were expected came also, and we set sail at once.

How shall I relate to you what happened after this?
Whose tongue can tell,
whose ears can take in all that took place on the boat during that voyage!
And to all this I frequently forced those miserable youths even against their own will.
There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher.
I am amazed, Abba, how the sea stood our licentiousness,
how the earth did not open its jaws, and how it was that hell did not swallow me alive,
when I had entangled in my net so many souls.
But I think God was seeking my repentance.
For He does not desire the death of a sinner
but magnanimously awaits his return to Him.
At last we arrived in Jerusalem.
I spent the days before the festival in the town,
living the save kind of life, perhaps even worse.
I was not content with the youths I had seduced at sea
and who had helped be to get to Jerusalem;
many others — citizens of the town and foreigners — I also seduced.

The holy day of the Exaltation of the Cross dawned
while I was still flying about — hunting for youths.
At daybreak I saw that everyone was hurrying to the church,
so I ran with the rest.
When the hour for the Holy Elevation approached,
I was trying to make my way in with the crowd
which was struggling to get through the church doors.
I ad at last squeezed through with great difficulty
almost to the entrance of the temple, from which the life-giving Tree of the Cross
was being shown to the people.
But when I trod on the doorstep which everyone passed, I was stopped by some force which prevented by entering.
Meanwhile I was brushed aside by the crowd
and found myself standing alone in the porch.
Thinking that this had happened because of my woman’s weakness,
I again began to work my way into the crowd,
trying to elbow myself forward.
But in vain I struggled.
Again my feet trod on the doorstep over which others were entering the church without encountering any obstacle.
I alone seemed to remain unaccepted by the church.
It was as if there was a detachment of soldiers standing there to oppose my entrance.
Once again I was excluded by the same mighty force and again I stood in the porch.

Having repeated my attempt three or four times,
at last I felt exhausted and had no more strength to push and to be puched,
so I went aside and stood in a corner of the porch.
And only then with great difficulty it began to dawn on me,
and I began to understand the reason
why I was prevented from being admitted to see the life-giving Cross.
The word of Salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that
it was my unclean life which barred the entrance to me.
I began to weep and lament and beat my breast, and to sigh from the depths of my heart.
And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the icon of the most holy Mother of God.
And turning to Her my bodily and spiritual eyes I said:

‘O Lady, Mother of God, Who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word,
I know, O how well I know, that it is no honour or praise to You
when one so impure and depraved as I look up to Your icon, O ever-virgin,
Who didst keep Your body and soul in purity.
rightly do I inspire hatred and disgust before Your virginal purity.
But I have heard that God Who was born of You became man
on purpose to call sinners to repentance.
Then help me, for I have no other help.
Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me.
Allow me to see the venerable Tree on which He Who was born of You
suffered in the flesh and on which He shed His holy Blood
for the redemption of sinners an for me, unworthy as I am.
Be my faithful witness before Your Son
that I will never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication,
but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross
I will renounce the world and its temptations
and will go wherever You wilt lead me’.

Thus I spoke and as if acquiring some hope in firm faith
and feeling some confidence in the Mercy of the Mother of God,
I left the place where I stood praying.
And I went again and mingled with the crowd
that was pushing its way into the temple.
And no one seemed to thwart me, no one hindered my entering the church.
I was possessed with trembling, and was almost in delirium.
Having got as far as the doors which I could not reach before
— as if the same force which had hindered me cleared the way for me —
I now entered without difficulty and found myself within the holy place.
And so it was I saw the life-giving Cross.
I saw too the Mysteries of God and how the Lord accepts repentance.
Throwing myself on the ground, I worshipped that holy earth and kissed it with trembling.
The I came out of the church and went to her who had promised to be my security,
to the place where I had sealed my vow.
And bending my knees before the Virgin Mother of God,
I addressed to her such words as these:

‘O loving Lady, You have shown me Your great love for all men.
Glory to God Who receives the repentance of sinners through You.
What more can I recollect or say, I who am so sinful?
It is time for me, O Lady to fulfil my vow, according to Your witness.
Now lead me by the hand along the path of repentance!’
And at these words I heard a voice from on high:

‘If you cross the Jordan you will find glorious rest’. Hearing this voice and having faith that it was for me, I cried to the Mother of God:
‘O Lady, Lady, do not forsake me!’
With these words I left the porch of the church and set off on my journey.|As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gave me three coins, saying:
‘Sister, take these’.
And, taking the money,
I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey, as a blessed gift.
I asked the person who sold the bread: ‘Which is the way to the Jordan?’
I was directed to the city gate which led that way.
Running on I passed the gates and still weeping went on my journey.
Those I met I asked the way, and after walking for the rest of that day
[I think it was nine o’clock when I saw the Cross]
I at length reached at sunset the Church of Saint John the Baptist
which stood on the banks of the Jordan.
After praying in the temple, I went down to the Jordan and rinsed my face and hands in its holy waters.
I partook of the holy and life-giving Mysteries in the Church of the Forerunner and ate half of one of my loaves.
Then, after drinking some water from Jordan, I lay down and passed the night on the ground.          In the morning I found a small boat and crossed to the opposite bank.
I again prayed to Our Lady to lead me whither she wished.
Then I found myself in this desert and since then up to this very day
I am estranged from all, keeping away from people
and running away from everyone.
And I live here clinging to my God Who saves all|
who turn to Him from faintheartedness and storms“.

Zosimas asked her:
How many years have gone by since you began to live in this desert?“.

She replied:
Forty-seven years have already gone by, I think, since I left the holy city“.

Zosimas asked:
But what food do you find?“.

The woman said:
I had two and a half loaves when I crossed the Jordan.
Soon they dried up and became hard as rock.
Eating a little I gradually finished them after a few years“.

Zosimas asked.
Can it be that without getting ill you have lived so many years thus,
without suffering in any way from such a complete change?“.

The woman answered:
You remind me, Zosimas, of what I dare not speak of.
For when I recall all the dangers which I overcame
and all the violent thoughts which confused me,
I am again afraid that they will take possession of me“.

Zosimas said:
Do not hide from me anything;speak to me without concealing anything“.

And she said to him:
Believe me, Abba, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts
—> mad desires and passions.
When I was about to partake of food,
I used to begin to regret the meat and fish which of which I had so much in Egypt.
I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much.
for I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water.
I used to burn and succumb with thirst.
The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and confused me greatly,
edging me on to sing satanic songs which I had learned once.
But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast
and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert.
In my thoughts I returned to the icon of the Mother of God which had received me
and to her I cried in prayer.
I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing.
And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see light at last
which seemed to shine on me from everywhere.
And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended.

And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication,
how can I express them to you, Abba?
A fire was kindled in my miserable heart
which seemed to burn me up completely
and to awake in me a thirst for embraces.
As soon as this craving came to me,
I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears,
as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience
and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime.
And I did not rise from the ground
[sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night]
until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me
and chased away the thoughts that possessed me.
But always I turned to the eyes of my mind to my Protectress,
asking Her to extend help to one who was sinking fast in the waves of the desert.
And I always had her as my Helper and the Accepter of my repentance.
And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers.
And since then even till now the Mother of God helps me in everything
and leads me as it were by the hand
“.

Zosimas asked:
Can it be that you did not need food and clothing?“.

She answered:
|”After finishing the loaves I had, of which I spoke, for seventeen years I have fed on herbs and all that can be found in the desert.
The clothes I had when I crossed the Jordan became torn and worn out.
I suffered greatly from the cold and greatly from the extreme heat.
At times the sun burned me up and at other times I shivered from the frost and frequently falling to the ground I lay without breath and without motion.
I struggled with many afflictions and with terrible temptations.
But from that time till now the Power of God in numerous ways
had guarded my sinful soul and my humble body.
When I only reflect on the evils from which Our Lord has delivered me
I have imperishable food for hope of Salvation.
I am fed and clothed by the all-Powerful Word of God, the Lord of all.
For it is not by bread alone that man lives.
And those who have stripped off the rags of sin have no refuge,
hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks [Job 24; Hebr.11: 38]”.

Hearing that she cited words Scripture, from Moses and Job,
Zosimas asked her:
And so you have read the Psalms and other books?“.
She smiled at this and said to the elder:
Believe me,
I have not seen a human face
ever since I crossed the Jordan,
except yours today.
I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert.
I never learned from books.
I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them.
But the word of God which is alive and active,
by itself teaches a man knowledge.
And so this is the end of my tale.
But, as I asked you in the beginning,
so even now I implore you for the sake of the Incarnate word of God,
to pray to the Lord for me who am such a sinner“.

Thus concluding here tale she bowed down before him.
And with tears the elder exclaimed:
Blessed is God Who creates the Great and Wondrous, the Glorious and Marvellous without end.
Blessed is God Who has shown me
how He rewards those who fear Him.
Truly, O Lord, You did not forsake
those who seek You!”.

And the woman,
not allowing the elder to bow down before her, said:
I beg you, holy father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our God and Saviour,
tell no one what you have heard, until God delivers me of this earth.
And how depart in peace and again next year you shall see me, and I you,
if God will preserve us in His great Mercy.
But for God’s sake, do as I ask you.
Next year during Lent do not cross the Jordan,
as is your custom in the monastery“.

Zosimas was amazed to hear
that she know the rules of the monastery
and could only say:
Glory to God Who bestows great Gifts on those who love Him“.

She continued:
Remain, Abba, in the monastery.
And even if you wish to depart, you will not be to do so.
And at sunset of the Holy day of the Last super,
put some of the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ into a holy vessel
worthy to hold such Mysteries for me, and bring it.
And wait for me on the banks of the Jordan
adjoining the inhabited parts of the land,
so that I can come and partake of the life-giving Gifts.
For, since the time I communicated in the temple of the Forerunner
before crossing the Jordan even to this day
I have not approached the Holy Mysteries.
And I thirst for them with irrepressible love and longing.
And therefore I ask and implore you to grant me my wish,
bring me the life-giving Mysteries at the very hour
when Our Lord made His disciples partake of His Divine Supper.
Tell John the Abbot of the monastery where you live.
Look to yourself and to your brothers,
for there is much that needs correction.
Only do not say this now,
but when God guides you.
Pray for me!”.

With these words she vanished in the depths of the desert.
And Zosimas, falling down on his knees and bowing down to the ground
on which she had stood, sent up glory and thanks to God.
And, after wandering through the desert,
he returned to the monastery on the day all the brothers returned.

For the whole year he kept silent, not daring to tell anyone of what he had seen.
But in his should he pray to God to give him another chance of seeing the ascetic’s dear face.
And when at length the first Sunday of the Great Fast came,
all went out into the desert with the customary prayers
and the singing of Psalms.
Only Zosimas was held back by illness — he lay in a fever.
And then he remembered what the saint had said to him:
And even if you wish to depart,
you will not be able to do so
“.

Many days passed and at last recovering from his illness he remained in the monastery.
And when attain the monks returned and the day of the Last Supper dawned,
he did as he had been ordered. and placing some of the most pure Body and Blood
into a small chalice and putting
some gifts and dates and lentils soaked in water into a small basket,
he departed for the desert and reached the banks of the Jordan
and sat down to wait for the Saint.
He waited for a long while and then began to doubt.
Then raising his eyes to heaven, he began to pray:

Grant me O Lord, to behold that which You has allowed be to behold once.
Do not let me depart in vain, being the burden of my sins
“.

And then another thought struck him:
And what is she does come?
There is no boat; how will she cross the Jordan
to come to me who am so unworthy?”.

And as he was pondering thus he saw the holy woman appear
and stand on the other side of the river.
Zosimas got up rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God.
And again the thought came to him that she could not cross the Jordan.
Then he saw that she made the sign of the Cross over
the waters of the Jordan
[and the night was a moonlight one, as he related afterwards]
and then she at once stepped on to the waters
and began walking across the surface towards him.
And when he wanted to prostrate himself,
she cried to him while still walking on the water:
What are you doing, Abba, you are a priest
and carrying the Divine Gifts!
“.
He obeyed her and on reaching the shore she said to the elder:
Bless, father, bless me!“.
He answered her trembling,
for a state of confusion had overcome him at the sight of the miracle:
Truly God did not lie when He promised that
when we purify ourselves we shall be like Him.
Glory to You, Christ our God,
Who has shown me through this Your slave
how far away I stand from perfection“.

Here the woman asked him to say the Creed and our Father.
He began, she finished the prayer and according to the custom of that time
gave him the kiss of Peace on the lips.
Having partaken of the Holy Mysteries,
she raised her hands to Heaven
and sighed with tears in her eyes, exclaiming:
Now let You Your servant depart in Peace, O Lord,
according to Your word;
for my eyes have seen Your Salvation“.

Then she said to the elder:
Forgive me, Abba, for asking you, but fulfil another wish of mine.
Go now to the monastery and let God’s Grace guard you. And next year come again to the same place where I first met you. Come for God’s sake, for you shall again see me, for such is the will of God“.

He said to her:
From this day on I would like to follow you
and always see your holy face.
But now fulfil the one and only wish of an old man
and take a little of the food I have brought for you“.

And he showed her the basket,
while she just touched the lentils with the tips of her fingers
and taking three grains said that the Holy spirit guards
the substance of the soul unpolluted.
Then she said:

Pray, for God’s sake pray for me
and remember a miserable wretch
“.

Touching the Saint’s feet and asking for her prayers for the Church,
the kingdom and himself, he let her depart with tears,
while he went off sighing and sorrowful,
for he could not hope to vanquish the invincible.
Meanwhile she again made the sign of the Cross over the Jordan
and stepped on to the waters and crossed over as before.
And the elder returned filled with joy and terror,
accusing himself of not having asked the saint her name.
But he decided to do so next year.

And when another year had passed, he again went into the desert.
He reached the same spot but could see no sign of anyone.
So raising his eyes to heaven as before, he prayed:
Show me, O Lord, Your pure treasure,
which You have concealed in the desert.
Show me, I pray You, the angel in the flesh,
of which the world is not worthy“.

Then on the opposite bank of the river,
her face turned towards the rising sun,
he saw the saint lying dead.
Her hands were crossed according to custom
and her face was turned to the East.
Running up he shed tears over the saint’s feet
and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else.

For a long time he wept.
Then reciting the appointed Psalms,
he said the burial prayers and thought to himself:
“Must I bury the body of a Saint?
Or will this be contrary to her wishes?”
And then he saw words traced on the ground by her head:
Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary.
Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me,
who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt,
called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord’s Passion,
after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries“.
[Saint Mary died in 522 A. D.]

Reading this the elder was glad to know the Saint’s name.
He understood too that as soon as she had partaken of the Divine Mysteries
on the shore of the Jordan she was at once transported to the place where she died.
The distance which Zosimas had taken twenty days to cover,
Mary had evidently traversed in an hour
and had at once surrendered her soul to God.
Then Zosimas thought:
It is time to do as she wished.
But how am I to dig a grave with nothing in my hands?“.

And then he saw nearby a small piece of wood left by some traveller in the desert.
Picking it up he began to dig the ground.
But the earth was hard and dry and did not yield to the efforts of the elder.
He grew tired and covered with sweat.
He sighed from the depths of his soul
and lifting up his eyes he saw a big lion
standing close to the saint’s body and licking her feet.
At the sight of the lion he trembled with fear,
especially when he called to mind Mary’s words
that she had never seen wild beasts in the desert.
But guarding himself with the sign of the Cross,
the thought came to him that the Power of the one lying there would protect him and keep him unharmed.
Meanwhile the lion drew nearer to him, expressing affection by every movement.

Zosimas said to the lion:
The Great One ordered that her body was to be buried.
But I am old and have not the strength to dig the grave
[for I have no spade and it would take too long to go and get one],
so can you carry out the work with your claws?
Then we can commit to the earth the mortal temple of the Saint“.
While he was still speaking
the lion with his front paws began to dig
a hole deep enough to bury the body.

Again the elder washed the feet of the saint with his tears and calling on her to pray for all, covered the body with earth in
the presence of the lion.
It was as it had been, naked and uncovered by anything but the tattered cloak which had been given to her by Zosimas
and with which Mary, turning away, had managed to cover part of her body.
Then both departed.
The lion went off into the depth of the desert like a lamb,
while Zosimas returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ our Lord.
And on reaching the monastery he told all the brothers about everything
and all marvelled on hearing of God’s Miracles.
And with fear and love they kept the memory of the Saint.

Abbot John, as Saint Mary had previously told Abba Zosimas,
found a number of things wrong in the monastery and got rid of them with God’s help.
And Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery,
almost attaining the age of a hundred and passed to eternal life.
The monks kept this story without writing it down
and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.

But I [adds Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem] as soon as I heard it, wrote it down.
Perhaps someone else, better informed, has already written the life of the Saint,
but as far as I could, I have recorded everything, putting truth above all else.
May God Who works amazing Miracles and generously bestows Gifts
on those who turn to Him with faith, reward those
who seek Light for themselves in this story,
who hear, read and are zealous to write it,
and may He grant them the lot of blessed Mary
together with all who at different times have pleased God
by their pious thoughts and labours.

And let us also give Glory to God, the eternal King,
that He may grant us too His mercy in the day of Judgment
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom belongs
all Glory, Honour, Dominion and Adoration
with the Eternal Father and the Most Holy and Life-giving Spirit,
now and always, and thought all ages.
Amen.

Apolytikion       Tn 8
“In you the image was preserved with exactness, O Mother;
for taking up your cross, you did follow Christ,
and by your deeds you did teach us to overlook the flesh,
for it passes away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal.
Wherefore, O righteous Mary,
your spirit rejoices with the Angels”.
Mp3 » Apolyticion Saint Mary of Egypt

Kontakion          Tn 4
Having escaped the gloom of sin, O blest Mary,
and shining brightly with the light of repentance,
You did present your heart to Christ, O glorious one,
bringing Him His Holy and all-immaculate Mother
as a greatly merciful and most bold intercessor.
Hence, You have found the pardon of your sins
and with the Angles rejoice for evermore
“.

The End and Glory Be to God!
Mp3 [english] »
Doxastikon – 5th Sunday of Lent; Mary of Egypt

Cf. The Great Canon,
the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete
,
Internet Medieval Source Book,
a collection of public domain,
copy-permitted and electronically
available texts related
to Medieval and Byzantine History

Psalms created on Truth – Orthodoxy & her Psalterion

Introduction
The Psalms are among the most hauntingly beautiful songs and prayers that this world possesses; they are poems whose appeal is permanent and universal.
As an anthology of 150 gems the Psalter is
a work of consummate art,
a thing of beauty which is a joy for ever;
its loveliness increases.
The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express that same delight in God
which made David dance“,
said the late C. S. Lewis.

The Bible is a presentation of the Divine Drama in which we are all taking part.
The theme of the Drama is
the great acts and interventions of God,
past, present and future.
The Psalms are a distillation of the Old Testament and especially of the teaching
of the Hebrew Prophets.
They sum up
the whole Theology of the Old Testament.
They are the quintessence of the faith and devotion of Israel.
Yet they express the feelings and reactions
not only of one nation but of all mankind.
They reflect timelessly the universal hopes and fears, love and hate, joys and sorrows
of the human heart.
Individually they are the outcome of someone’s personal experience, though not perhaps all of them.
They reveal the varying moods of the human spirit from awestruck wonder at God’s mighty acts and the marvels of creation to groping perplexity at the apparent prosperity
of selfish scoundrels, from calm trust and deep certainty to cries of frustration
and desperation bordering on despair.
In these ancient poems we see the fundamental unity of mankind
and of the Old and New Testaments.
The unity is that of Promise and Fulfilment.

If the relic of a Saint or loved one is dear to us,
how much more precious is everything
connected with Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life.
The Psalter was both His Prayer Book and Song Book.
While dying on the Cross,
the only portion of Holy Scripture
that Christ quoted was the Psalter.
Of His seven last words, four of them are echoes from the Book of Psalms:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
[Psalm 21: 2; Matth.27:46; Marc.15: 34];
I thirst” [John.19: 28; Psalm 41: 2; 62: 2; 142: 6];
It is done, accomplished, finished” [Psalm 21: 32; John.19: 30];
“Into Your hands I entrust My spirit” [Psalm 30: 6; Luc.23: 46].

Fullness and Fulfilment
We only realize the full significance of the Psalms
as we read them in Christ, the Truth,
through His eyes, and in His Spirit.
Faith is vision. Unbelief is blindness.
If the Good News is veiled,
it is veiled only to those
who have lost their way.
When the Old Testament is read,
a veil lies over their minds.
Only in Christ is the veil removed.
The minds of unbelievers are so blinded by the god of this world
that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ
cannot dawn upon them.
God Who told light to shine out of darkness
has shone in our hearts with the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2Cor.4-6].
So let all Israel know for certain
that God has made Jesus Whom you crucified
both Lord and Messiah [Acts 2: 36].

Israel failed to respond to the Divine call
and commission to give God’s light and love to the world.
The vine lifted out of Egypt (Psalm.79: 9; Matth.2: 15) is Jesus; the True Vine [John.15].
As the true Israel He fulfils Israel’s mission,
so that from the Cross and Resurrection
the New and True Israel is the community of those
whose hearts receive by faith the Divine Word spoken in Him [Hebr.1: 2].
His life is offered that it may flow in our veins as the Blood of the New Covenant,
the fruit of the vine [Marc.14: 24],
the love that conquers death [1 Cor.15: 54-57].
When the risen Lord walked and talked
with Lucas and Cleophas:
He began with Moses and all the Prophets
and explained to them the passages
which referred to Himself in every part of the Scriptures
“.
And at Emmaus He added,
This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses
and in the Prophets and Psalms was bound to be fulfilled

Luc.24: 27, 44

The songs of Israel find their full meaning only in the New Adam.
The Psalmist’s voice is his Master’s voice.
It was the Spirit of Christ in the Prophets foretelling the sufferings in store for Christ and the Glories that would follow.
And it was revealed to them
that it was not for themselves
but for you that they were administering those very Mysteries,
Which have now been announced to you through those who preached the Gospel
to you in the Power of the Holy Spirit [1Petr.1: 11].
Christ’s Birth, Sufferings and Death,
His triumphant Resurrection and Ascension, and His coming in Judgment,
are all clearly portrayed in the Psalms,
not merely as historical events but as perpetual and saving realities.
The eternal Spirit transforms history into Theology.
Saint Athanasius the Great says that the line of the Psalmist,
Open your mouth wide
and I will fill it
[80: 11] refers
to receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit
“.
The outpouring of the Spirit is the fulfilment of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms.

Correspondence and Recapitulation
The Christian Church accepted the
Old Testament as sacred Scriptures.
The Apostles and Christian preachers and teachers cited passages of the Old Testament
as Prophecies of the events of the Gospel.
They also saw correspondences between things and events under the Old and New Covenants.
The Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law and the Covenant have their counterpart in the redemption of mankind through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the giving of the New Covenant in His blood [1Cor.11: 25]
and the new commandment which fulfils the Law [John.13: 34; Gal.5: 14; Rom.13: 10].
The temple at Jerusalem has its counterpart in the temple of the Church
composed of living stones [Eph.2: 20-22; 1Petr.2: 5].
The Heavenly Manna has its counterpart in
Jesus as the heavenly bread of life [John.6: 32-58].
The Creation of the earthly man has its counterpart
in the New Creation born in the death and Resurrection
of the Heavenly Man Who is the Lord from Heaven
[John.12: 24; 1Cor.15: 47-49; 2Cor.5: 17].
Adam, the head of a sinful race of mortals,
has his counterpart in Christ, the second Adam, the New Man,
the head of a race of immortals [1Cor.15: 45-49].
In all these ways the New Covenant recapitulates the Old Covenant.

Similarly Christ was seen to be both [High-]Priest and Victim [Hebr. 8: 1 – 9: 15].
He is the Sacrificial Lamb and also the Victorious King [John.1: 36; 18: 37].
He is the Good Shepherd and also the Lion of the tribe of Judah [Psalm. 22; John.10: 11; Rev.5: 5].
He is the Son of Man foreseen by the Prophet Daniel [7: 13,14] destined to receive an eternal Kingdom
and also the Son of God foreseen by the Prophet David [Psalm 2] destined to reign over all Creation.
Jesus fulfils the role of Israel by attaining
the Triumph of His kingdom and Exaltation through Humiliation and Obedience to the point of death [Marc.14: 21; Hebr.2: 5-9; Isaiah 53].

The Church also understood that Jesus was the Word
(John.1: 14; 1John.1: 1; Rev.19: 13].
He was Himself the utterance of God’s Love and Grace,
Light and Truth in the world.
The utterances of the Old Testament had been
partial, incomplete, fragmentary, preparatory, Prophetic.
In Jesus we have the fullness and finality of the Divine utterance.
Jesus embodies the Divine utterance both in His teaching and in Himself.
The Word and the Person are completely identical.
The Word Who became flesh [John.1: 14] was in origin and originally God [John.1: 1),
ever at work with the Father and the Spirit in the creation of the world [John.5: 17],
ever giving life and light to men and angels [John.1: 9].
And so we see that the Word is a Person.
Life is not something but Someone [Gal.2: 20; Phil.1: 21].
The whole pageant of the past is recapitulated
in the Gracious Personality of Jesus the Messiah.
He recapitulates in His Person the whole destiny of mankind [Eph.1: 10].
God has predestined men to become
conformed to the image of His Son [Rom.8: 29].

The Church and the Bible
Under both Old and New Covenants the Church preceded the Bible.
The essential role of the Church, as of the individual Christian,
is to bear witness to experience, to what has been seen and heard
[Acts 1: 8; 4: 20; 22: 15].
Man’s vocation and destiny are supernatural
[Hebr.3: 1; Rom.8: 29; 2Tim.1: 9; 1Cor.1: 2].
Scripture is a communication of Divine Light
to guide us in the way of perfection [Matth.5: 48].
To know Christ (Truth) is to love Him and be free [1John.4].
So a supernatural Revelation of God’s Nature, Will and Purpose is essential.
Such is the Word of God contained in the Bible.
It is a love-letter written by our Heavenly Father
and transmitted by the sacred writers to the human race
on our pilgrimage towards our Heavenly country [Saint John Chrysostomos].
Readers of the Bible have the Church to guide them.
No Prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private interpretation,
nor can it be understood by one’s own powers.
For no Prophecy ever originated in the human will,
but Holy men of God spoke as they were prompted by the Holy Spirit [2Petr.1: 20].
It is the Church’s mission to interpret the Bible.
People who live humbly and honestly in the fellowship of the Church
have their minds conditioned
and attuned to understand the Scriptures
as the Revelation of the mind of God
[1Cor.2: 16; Phil.2: 5; 2Petr.3: 1]

The Nature of the Psalms
It would be a mistake to think that the Psalms
are a beautiful expression of nature Mysticism,
inspired by the natural beauty of the countryside
and the soothing sounds of softly murmuring streams.
They are rather the war-songs of the Prince of Peace,
the vigorous shouts and cries of the whole man,
responding or reacting with his whole being to the One Who comes to him in all the circumstances of life.
Jesus Himself tells us that we shall never see Him
until we say in every situation:
Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord” [Luc.13: 35].
In this matter of the Sanctification of the total man
made to love God with His whole nature
” [Luc.10: 27],
Israel was unlike the religions of the world.
The New Israel, the Church of Christ, inherits and continues this Tradition and
should develop it in an even more thoroughgoing manner.

The Jews prayed and worshipped with spirit, soul and body.
They beat their breasts, clapped their hands, stretched out their arms,
fell prostrate on the ground; they sang, they shouted, they danced;
they used drums, tambourines, cymbals, castanets, bells, horns, trumpets, pipes,
and various stringed instruments.
We find these features in the Psalms.
Saint Isaac the Syrian says:
Every prayer in which the body does not participate
and by which the heart is not affected
should be reckoned as an abortion without a soul
“.

Varieties of prayer are found in the Psalms:
Worship and Bowing Down, Love and Adoration, Meditation and Contemplation,
Stillness and Watching, Waiting and Listening, Hope and Desire,
Acts of Faith and Trust, Praise and Blessing,
Exaltation and Magnification, Repentance and Confession,
Weeping and Groaning, Exultation and Thanksgiving, Joy and Gladness,
Vows and Affirmations, Exorcism and Adjuration, Surrender and Submission,
Petition and Intercession.
We need to learn afresh the Christian use of the Psalter.
One reason for the neglect of the Psalms
in our devotional life is the disproportionate attention given
to critical and historical research in modern biblical study,
to the almost total exclusion of the Vital meaning
and Purpose of the Word of God.
To be ignorant of Scripture is not to know Christ“, says St. Jerome.

Practical Use of the Psalter
The Church never merely studied the Psalms.
They were her chief book of devotion.
Her divine Founder had quoted them,
had used them in prayer,
had explained them to His disciples,
and had died with them on His lips.
The Apostles ordered the faithful to use the Psalms both in their personal lives
and in community worship [Jac.5: 13; Col.3: 16; Eph.5: 19].
Saint Jerome tells us that at Saint Paula’s funeral in 404,
the Psalms were sung now in Greek, now in Latin, now in Syriac;
and this not only during the three days that elapsed before she was buried,
but throughout the rest of the week.
He also says that the Psalms sung in churches were also sung in the fields:
The toiling reaper sings Psalms as he works,
and the vine-grower, as he prunes his vines,
sings one of David’s songs. [so what are we doing during our daily work???]

At first the Psalter was the only hymnbook available.
Many both of the clergy and laity knew it by heart.
Saint Germanus in Constantinople and Saint Gregory in Rome
refused to consecrate as bishops men
who were unable to recite the Psalter.
A disused canon so ruled.
Even when the Church Services began to be compiled,
the Psalter was the Church’s first Service Book,
and it retains that position to this day.
All the services draw heavily upon the Psalms.
The Psalter is a quarry and treasury of Christian prayer and devotion.

Poetic Characteristics
The Psalms are poetry and this version retains the original poetic form
by printing the lines as in the Septuagint.
Much is lost when the Psalms are printed as prose.
Hebrew verse does not rhyme except occasionally and accidentally.
It is based on what is called parallelism, and is mostly in the form of couplets.
The second line of the couplet may be a repetition of the theme in different words,
or a contrast, or a heightened emphasis.
There is rhythm, but little metre.
Often there is a play on words, or assonance, or alliteration, or some figure of speech.
These are not reproducible in translation.
But the parallelism is clearly retained.
If the line endings occasionally rhyme,
that is quite incidental as in the original Hebrew.

It must not be thought that the parallelism of Hebrew poetry
merely means that the second line of every couplet
simply repeats the thought of the first line in different words.
Far from it. It may enrich or amplify the thought of the first line,
or it may modify it in other ways.
For example, the Prophet Isaiah writes [55: 7]:
Let the wicked forsake his ways and the sinful man his thoughts.
Or take the opening words of that wonderful outburst of praise
which the Holy Spirit put on Mary’s lips [Luc.1: 46]:
My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
“.
This does not mean that soul and spirit are therefore identical [cp. 1Thess.5: 23].
Rather it indicates that the second half of the couplet is a result of the first.
With my soul I magnify the Lord
[soul including understanding, intellect, memory, imagination, desire, will].
As a result of my growing consciousness and realization of the greatness
and goodness and glory of God,
my spirit is filled with joy and I exult in God my Saviour.
So the inspired lines are found to contain a simple technique
for the praise of God.

Divergences
Every new translation of the Psalter
has been made primarily for use in the Services
of the Orthodox Church.
It will be found to follow closely and often word for word previous versions made from the Hebrew.
It will also be found to differ widely in many places.
This is because the Orthodox Church
is committed to the Septuagint version of the Bible,
which was the Bible of the whole Christian Church
during the first thousand years of its existence.
It is also the version of the Bible that was used
and quoted by our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles, though they also occasionally referred to the Hebrew.
That is why it will be found that this version of the Psalms tallies in almost every instance
with the Psalms quoted in the New Testament whereas the Hebrew Psalms are often widely divergent.
For example, Psalm 4:5,
Be angry, yet do not sin, is quoted word for word by the Apostle Paul [Eph.4: 26].
The Hebrew gives quite a different reading.

If it is asked why the Septuagint often differs
so totally from the Massoretic text,
the answer probably is that Hebrew was a kind of shorthand,
entirely without vowels when the Psalms were written.
It is easy to see that a word like brd could be rendered
bread, bird, bard, brayed, broad, beard, bored, breed,
broody braid, bride, bred, buried.
It is not surprising that there are variant readings.
What is surprising is that the Septuagint
reproduces a vast amount of the Hebrew text almost verbatim,
so that we can often check the Massoretic.
Another reason for differences in the Septuagint
may be that the Seventy translators used a Hebrew version
that differed in many respects from the Massoretic text.

We cannot give footnotes to explain
how we arrive at every puzzling rendering of the Greek,
as it is not within our scope.
If we take a single instance, it will be seen
how lengthy and complicated such explanations could be.
In Psalm 101: 27, change them like clothing could be rendered,
roll them like clothing.
Actually there is a variant reading at this point,
some texts reading roll, others change.
As the thought suggested is
that of a person rolling or stripping off a worn-out garment,
we believe that the word change
faithfully conveys the sense of either Greek word
and also the meaning of the Hebrew original.
In fact, the idea of change and renewal and the rebirth of the soul
as a New Creation is a basic concept throughout Holy Scripture
[cp. John.3: 3-5; 2Cor.5: 17; Gal.6: 15; Eph.2: 10; 4: 24].

Songs with a Difference
The Psalms provide food for the fed up
and Heavenly bread in the wilderness.
But what about the stone-age ethics?
How does King Og aid
our Sanctification or help our prayer?
In some of the Psalms we seem to be thirsting not for God
but for our enemies’ blood.
Sometimes we seem to be howling war-cries with a tribe of savages.
How can we speak the Truth in love with Hebrew tribal’s
who even sink to sacrificing their sons and daughters to demons? [Psalm 105: 37]

 

The purpose of God’s written word of which the Psalms are a part is
to make known to men the saving Truths
that God has revealed to us about Himself in His eternal Being
and about His action in time and place and His plan for the new world order.
Christian Theology is essentially the knowledge of God
and His will revealed to man through God’s action in history, which is truly His story.
Orthodox Theology as a unity of knowledge
is a means to an end that transcends all knowledge.
This end is Union with God.
The Psalms sum up the whole Salvation history and theology of the Old Covenant.
The Lights and shadows of the total panorama are all here.

So the Psalms are unlike the sacred books of the world religions.
The Bible is the record of the life of a community
offered by the Church as divine revelation.
We see the living God in the movement of events.
It is not merely the history of a progressive revelation,
but history as Revelation.
The meaning of the events lies in man’s meeting with God.
The Prophet, like the Priest, is a public person.
His encounter with God is not merely private experience,
like that of the mystics and sages of the world religions.
The pressure of public events
is the normal occasion of the Prophet’s meeting with God.
The Truth which the encounter reveals to his mind is public property.
God’s Choice of the Prophet is not an act of favouritism,
but an invitation or call to special responsibility [cp. Amos 3: 2].
The word of God which gives the vital meaning to history always has a twofold action:
– it is the word of crisis and judgment,
– and it is the creative word of renewal and regeneration.
If anyone is in the Truth, there is a New Creation [cp. 2Cor.5: 17].
Judgment is followed by the New Heavens and New Earth [2Petr.3: 13]
and the Universal Restoration of all things  {Acts 3:21].
The Light that judges us, Transfigures and Saves us” [John.12: 47].
In Your Light we see light” [Psalm 35: 10].
The supreme message of the Psalter is that the Vision of God,
to know and love Him, to trust and obey Him;
and to offer Him the Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving
is eternal life and happiness [John 6: 40; 17: 3; Luc.10: 25- 28; 1Petr.1: 8f].

The Divine Initiative
The Psalms are the Bible in miniature.
By a kind of Divine tom-tom
they drum into our consciousness the Truth
that we meet God in the world of persons, things and events.
Here and now we are to pass through the visible
and transient to the Invisible and True.
Yet the initiative always rests with God.
The word of God comes out of the everywhere into the here
and breaks into our life from beyond us.
The Bible is a record of God’s search for man.
The people of God are not those
who have a special bent or natural genius for religion.
Far from it.
All the saints would agree
that they had a natural bent for unbelief and waywardness,
but for the Grace of God. “We love because He first loved us” [1John 4: 19].
When we were still sinners Christ died for us [Rom.5: 8].
It was when we were sick and powerless to help ourselves . . . . . when we were enemies
that we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son
” [Rom.5: 6, 10].
His was the first Birth out of death [Col.1: 18].
Last but not least, the Psalms remind us of our response
to God’s love which means life from the dead.
It is the response of obedient love and loving obedience.
“I love You, O Lord, my Strength [Psalm 17: 1].

In the Psalms David speaks as if he were not going to die,
as if God would not leave him in hell or allow him to see corruption [15: 10].
Yet David died and his Kingdom vanished.
Now hear the Apostle Peter at Pentecost:
Men and brethren, I can speak freely to you about the Patriarch David:
he died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
But being a Prophet, he foresaw and spoke of the Resurrection of Christ,
when he said that his soul would not be left in hell,
nor would his flesh see corruption.
This Jesus God raised to life
and we are all His witnesses
” [Acts 2: 29f].

The Psalms were the utterances of both David and Christ.
God Who spoke in David and Who became incarnate as the Son of David
was speaking of His own coming into visibility
as the Divine Messiah and of His plan of Salvation.
This plan is only fully revealed in its fulfilment,
when men are filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
The incarnation of the Word
as the visible image of the invisible God [Col.1: 15]
is the supreme demonstration of the Divine Initiative and Intervention.
It is the Climax of God’s search for man
and the discovery and redemption of the lost image
and likeness in the Saviour’s death and Resurrection.

The Messiah
A striking and mysterious figure looms larger and larger
and gradually takes shape, as we read and re-read the Psalms.
He is the Son of God, appointed King on Zion to rule the nations [Psalm 2].
He is addressed as God, His kingdom is to last for ever,
His Reign is gentle and just, yet strong as iron.
He is lovely with a Beauty beyond the sons of men
and because of His love of justice and goodness
He has a joy surpassing His fellow men [Psalm 44].
He is a King and Judge Who shares the Throne of God.
He is a Priest, not in the Levitical line,
but an Eternal Priest-King like Melchizedek [Psalm 109].
His reign will bring lasting Peace and Justice,
all kings and nations will worship Him,
He will take special care of the poor and destitute
and in Him all the families of the earth will be blessed [Psalm 71].
Yet this Sovereign Ruler of nations
Whom all mankind will worship will undergo terrible sufferings,
will be treated as an outcast, a worm
and not a man, will endure outrageous handling by men
who have become more like wild beasts: bulls, lions and dogs.
And they will strip Him and pierce His hands and feet
and will then stand and gloat over Him [Psalm 21].
Yet when He comes in Judgment to claim His Kingdom,
it will be a world-wide assembly, including rich and poor alike,
who will all worship Him and partake of
a sacrificial meal in His honour [Psalm 21, 93, 95].
Such is the King Messiah, portrayed especially in
5 Messianic Psalms: 2, 21, 44, 71 and 109.
They foretell the advent, Kingdom, Priesthood, sufferings, death,
Resurrection and Ascension of the coming Redeemer.
But different facets of the same Face and Person
are sprinkled throughout the Psalter
and we need them all to get the full Portrait.

Figures and Symbols
The Psalms foreshadow in figure and symbol,
the way of life and freedom
• fully revealed only in the New Adam
[Rom.5: 12f., 1Cor.15: 21f.],
the New Noah, father of the new race
• who rise from the baptismal waters [1Petr.3: 20f; 2Petr.2: 5],
• the Prophet like Moses [Deut.18: 15, 18; John 1: 21, 46; 6: 14, 32; Acts 3: 22].
• So He explains the miracle of the bronze serpent
which Moses fixed to a sign-post or standard
and which brought a change of heart [Num.21: 9]:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life [John 3: 14].

But the crucial and decisive event of
the old Covenant history was the Exodus from Egypt,
which the Psalms mention so frequently.
Just as the Christian remembers and relives the Sacrifice of Christ
by the celebration of the Liturgy, so the Jew recalls and re-enacts the Exodus
by the celebration of the Passover.
This act of Worship is not just an escape from the present into the past,
but a means of actual experience.
The Passover ritual says:
In every generation it is a man’s duty to imagine
that he himself has escaped from Egypt” [cp. Ex.13: 8].

As Moses led the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage
through the Red Sea towards the Promised Land
and celebrated their escape or deliverance by the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb,
so Christ the True Lamb of God by His Sacrifice on the Cross
leads men through the red sea of His life-giving blood
out of the real slavery of sin
into the Glorious freedom of the Children of God,
Which is Heaven on earth or the Promised Land.
The Great theme of history is the conflict between belief and unbelief.
Human societies like human beings live by Faith
and die when Faith dies [Rom.1: 17; Jac.2: 20].
Faith is the light in which we see God.
As we grow in faith and love,
the Mystery and Unity of the Exodus
and Christ’s Passover becomes more and more
a matter of personal experience.
Yet the experience is not the essential reality,
but only an effect of the reality
which is infinitely beyond experience, namely God in us:
Christ in you [Col.1].

By faith in Christ [John 5: 24]
and by the New Birth [John 3: 3-5]
we enter a new dimension of life and become amphibians, living at once in time and eternity.
We are at the same time in the wilderness and in the Promised Land.
Our life is in Heaven [Phil.3: 20].
God has enthroned us with Christ in Heaven [Eph.2: 6].
The Songs of Zion will tell us again and again that by faith
we are Christ’s Body in this world [1Cor.12: 27]
and that He lives in us [Col.1: 27; 2: 6; Gal.2: 20].
– Be what you are! they keep saying.
– Be forgiven, be reconciled, be friends with God,
– be clean, be free, be filled with the Spirit,
– be whole, be Holy, be Children of God,
– be citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven! [Phil.3: 20].

Some Difficulties
Some people object to parts of the Psalms
because they seem to contradict
the Divine Law of Love taught by Christ.
But the Mystery of the Divine wrath and vengeance
reveals the total incompatibility of evil with the Divine Nature.
You who love the Lord, hate evil” [Psalm 96: 10; Rom.12: 9].
Judgment and vengeance belong to God and must be left to Him [Deut.32: 35].
God’s Judgment is His Appearance, Manifestation, Epiphany [Psalms 49: 1-4; 79: 2; 93: 1].
In its Fullness this appearing or manifestation refers to the Incarnation,
when Christ becomes the visible criterion in Whose Light we see light [Psalm 35: 10].
All the evil and malice of the world culminates in the Crucifixion of Christ.
When vengeance is left to God,
it takes the form of the agony and death of the God-man.
God takes His own medicine.
With Christ we are to hate the reign of evil, the vile spirits and passions
that prevent the reign of Christ in our hearts and in the world.
As we hate and forsake sin, we become free
to love and pray and labour for God’s Reign and Rule on earth.

Spiritual things must be spiritually understood.
People contrast spirit and letter.
But what letter is there in the Word of God
Who says Himself, My words are spirit and life? [John 6: 63].
Truly the letter kills [2Cor.3: 6].
To a literalist the message and meaning of the Bible
is bound to elude his most meticulous search.
The resident aliens whom God’s people are to drive out of Canaan
are the enemies of the human soul.
The harsh Psalms are the strong weapons used by the Church to exorcize
and drive out evil spirits from the souls and bodies of men.
The weapons of our warfare are not material,
but are powerful with God for the overthrow of the enemy’s strongholds [2Cor.10: 4].
The Word of God which is the Sword of the Spirit [Eph.6: 17]
is given us to expel evil and idle thoughts and replace them
by the Divine Light of the Beauty of Holiness and Truth.
Let the word of God dwell in you richly [Col.3: 16].

Other people object that they cannot sincerely say with some of the Psalms
that they are blameless, innocent, faithful, holy; it seems hypocritical.
Still others say that they do not share the agony and suffering of the Psalmist,
that their knees are not weak from fasting,
and how can they give thanks for joys and victories
they have never experienced?
The trouble with all these people is
that they have lost the sense of solidarity and unity with all mankind in Christ,
still less do they have a sense of the unity of all being in God.

After Pentecost when the Spirit restored men to unity, we read,
The whole Body of believers had one heart and soul, and none of them called any of his possessions his own, but everything was shared as common property“. Acts 4: 32
We cannot repeat too often that the Psalms refer to Christ and can be applied fully only to Him.
“But it is Christ in you Who is the hope of Glory for you”. Col.1: 27
He ever lives to make intercession in you,
with you, for you“. Hebr.7: 25
The Psalms teach us to enlarge our hearts or consciousness to embrace all mankind.
Remember those who suffer as if you shared their pain“.
Hebr.13: 3

Today we hear much of the priesthood of the laity.
The Psalms, if used aright, compel us to exercise our priesthood
and act as the voice of all mankind in Christ,
the one Mediator Priest and Intercessor.
We even act as the mouth of all dumb creation
to thank and glorify God for His Goodness.
The Angels in Heaven and all God’s creatures are invited to join the Divine praises.
To Him Who loves us and has washed us from our sins in His own blood
and made us a Kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father,
to Him be Glory and Triumph throughout endless ages [Rev.1: 5].
As we pray with and for all mankind,
we get a vision of hidden realities visible only to the eyes of faith
and we actually begin to see God’s New Creation taking shape.
When He appears, we shall be like Him,
for we shall see Him as He is [1John 3: 2].
If we are faithful, God will keep us till the end.
So Saint Athanasius explains Psalm 93:14 thus:
The Lord will guard His people in their troubles and afflictions
and He will direct and guide them until His Justice returns in judgment,
that is, until Christ judges the world;
for God has made Him our wisdom, our righteousness
,
our holiness and our redemption [1Cor.1: 30].
But disobedience always incurs God’s Judgment” [Jer.44].

The Cross is the Key
Og, Sehon, Pharaoh are so many troubles and trials.
“There is plenty of suffering and misery on earth”. 2Tim.3: 12
We make use of it aright when we offer it in union with the sufferings of Christ.
In union with Christ our sufferings assume infinite redemptive value,
just as a drop of water thrown into a great river does all that the river does“.
cf. Col.1: 24
In this way our sufferings are transformed into Light and Power and Joy.
We find true happiness by dying
because we can only enter Heaven
by dying to earthly things

cf. Acts 14: 22
That is why the Cross is the key to the Psalms, as it is the key to the Kingdom.
“Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies,
it remains alone, merely a grain of wheat”.
John 12: 24
It is when Christ is lifted up that He draws all to Himself into the Unity of the Spirit.
It is by dying that Jesus has drawn all into the triumph of His Resurrection.
So Caiaphas prophesied “that Jesus would die for the nation
and not for the nation only, but to re-unite into one family
the scattered children of God
“.
John 11: 51, 52

Importance of the Psalterion
All the Psalms have as their aim the Glorification of God.
They were sung in the Temple, in the Synagogues, and in Jewish homes.
Today they are used by both Jews and Christians, uniting us in praise.
The Psalter is the hymnbook of the universal Church.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Book of Psalms.
The Hebrew poets took these timeless religious experiences
and made them the theme of their songs.
The Psalms are poems intended to be sung.
The Hebrew title means Songs of Praise.
But they can be read with a song in the heart,
they can be prayed in Spirit and Truth.
The inspired poets of Israel reflect the spiritual experience of the human soul.
So the Psalms belong to all mankind.
As there is no book in the New Testament corresponding to the Book of Psalms,
the Psalter belongs to both the New and Old Covenants
and forms a bridge linking the Old and New Testaments.
It is eloquent proof of the Unity of the Bible.
The Psalms constitute one of the most vital forms of prayer for men of all time.
Their Inspiration is expressly stated [2Sam.23: 1-5].

At the time when the Psalms were written they were not of such use
to those among whom they were written as they are to us,
for they were written to foretell the New Covenant among those
who lived under the Old Covenant [Saint Augustine].
The one great theme is Christ in regard to His inner life as the God-man
and in His past, present and future relations with the Church and the world.
The Psalter is the expression of the heart of the True man.
It is the Prophetic portrait [Icon] of the mind and heart of the coming Saviour.
God speaks to men in human words.
What wonderful Beauty there is in the words,
Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening Sacrifice [Psalm 140],
when applied to the one great Sacrifice of our Redemption
which was offered in the evening of the world
and on the eve of the Passover by the stretching out of the Saviour’s hands
to embrace all mankind on the Cross!
This we sing daily at Vespers.
What profound significance we can see in the words,
I will not die but live and proclaim the works of the Lord” [Psalm 117: 17],
when we refer them to the morning of the Resurrection and that first Easter Day
and the commission to the Apostles to make disciples of all nations!
This we sing daily at Matins. On Easter Day itself we sing.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it!
” [Psalm 117: 24].
And every day is the New day fresh from the and
in addition of the living God, so let us keep festival [1Cor.5: 8].

Inspiration
The inspiration of the Psalms as an integral part of inspired Scripture
is vouched for and guaranteed by Christ the Truth, Who asked the Pharisees:
How is it that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Christ Lord, saying Psalm 109: 1:
The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I put Thy enemies under Thy feet’“.
If David calls Him Lord, how can He be his son? [Matth.22: 43-45].
Christ classes the Psalms,
the chief book of the Chetubim or Hagiographa,
with the Law and the Prophets [Luc.24: 44].
Inspiration is explicitly defined in 2Tim.3: 16 and 2Petr.1: 20, 21.

Date and Authorship
The title of Psalm 89 attributes it to Moses.
The psalm itself recalls how the first generation of Israelites
were doomed to die in the wilderness
for their infidelity and disobedience.
So about 1280 B.C. some of the Psalms were probably being sung.
The titles ascribe 84 of the 150 to David, who lived about 1000 B.C.
So the earliest of the Psalms are well over 3000 years old
and the compilation covered perhaps 1000 years.
There are indications of editing at different dates.
For instance, after Psalm 71 an editor has added:
The songs of David the son of Jesse are ended.
But later we meet more Psalms attributed to David,
evidently inserted by other editors [90, 92, 93 etc.].
The Book of Psalms was perhaps completed
for the Jewish canon by about 300 B.C.
The Greek translation was made in Egypt
about 250 B.C. by Jews of the dispersion.

We cannot summarize the matter of authorship
better than by quoting the words of Saint Gregory the Dialogist:
Who was the author?
A very useless question as soon as we believe
that the book was the work of the Holy Spirit
Who dictated what was to be written.
If we received a letter from a Great Personage,
would we be curious to know what pen he used to write it?
“.

Historical Coverage
Besides studying the past, we can sing songs about it.
That is what the Psalmists did.
The whole History of the world as recorded in the Old Testament,
from the Creation of the universe till after the Babylonian Exile,
is put into poetry by the Psalmists.
Psalm 136 looks back to the Babylonian Exile
as a thing of the past [cp. also Psalm 125].

Unity and Divisions
The Psalms form a single book.
So our Lord refers to them [Luc.20: 42]
and so do His Apostles [Acts 1: 20].
The Orthodox Church has divided the Psalter
into 20 kathismas or sessions
[perhaps because it is customary to sit during the reading of a kathisma].
Each kathisma is further divided into 3 sections, marked by a Glory.
At each Glory it is customary to stand and sing as follows:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and
to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You,
O God.
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and to the ages of ages.                                                                                            Amen
“.
Mp3:  Romanian Orthodox Chant – Psalm 1,2,3 at Putna Monastery

Effect of the Psalms
People talk of haunted houses.
The Psalter is a house of prayer haunted by the Spirit of Christ
Who inspired the Psalms.
Used aright, they cannot fail to lift us above and beyond ourselves.
They confront us with God and we find ourselves haunted
by His presence and gradually brought face to face with Him.
They bring our hearts and minds into the presence of the living God.
They fill our minds with His Truth in order to unite us with His Love.
The Saints and Holy Fathers of the Church,
like the Patriarchs and Prophets of Israel,
were haunted by the living reality of the Redeemer
revealed to the world in the Psalter.
He is the Word of God hidden in these words of God.
As you persevere in praying the Psalms,
you will be drenched with the Holy Spirit
as the trees are drenched with the rain [Psalm 103: 16],
you will be rapt in God and penetrated from time to time
with vivid intuitions of His action,
your mind and heart will be purified.
The pure in heart know God as the Father of mercies
Who has so loved the world as to give His only Son for their redemption [John 3: 16]
and they see Him making all things New [Rev.21: 5].
They see and know Him not merely by faith, still less by speculation,
but by Interior and incommunicable Experience.
As we sing His Glories, we are led by Faith to see His vast activity in every aspect of life.
By beholding the Glory of the Lord, we are transformed into His likeness
from Glory to glory by the Spirit of God [2Cor.3: 18].
But this will only happen if we see Christ
as the way, the truth and the life of the Psalms [John 14: 6],
the Great God in Whom we live and move and have our being [Acts 17: 28].
As we persevere in seeking His Face, we find that the Psalms stir and arouse in us
the will to Believe and the will to Love.
By Faith and Love we pass into the realm of Eternal Reality
and new vistas of experience open before us [John 5: 24].

The Voice and The Voices
The Church functions as a voice.
Its ministers are servants of the word [Luc.1: 2].
The Word of life was made visible. Life is a Person.
The eternal life that was with the Father was made visible to us.
What we have seen and heard we declare to you,
that you may share our fellowship,
the life we share with the Father and His Son in the unity of the Spirit,
that our joy may be complete [1John 1: 1-4].
In one who is obedient to His word,
the Divine love has indeed reached perfection [1John 2: 5].
In the Psalms many voices are audible:
• sometimes it is the Psalmist Who speaks,
• sometimes a fool, sometimes Israel,
• sometimes the soul, sometimes evil spirits,
• sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Spirit;
• sometimes the Messiah seems to be identified with Israel,
as in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.
With these swift transitions,
it is often difficult at first sight to tell who is the speaker.
As in the Psalms, so it is in our lives:
• “Be still and know I am” [Psalm 45: 11].
• “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening” [1Sam.3: 9].
The good Shepherd says,
• “My sheep hear My voice” [John 10: 27].
• The voice of the Psalmist is the Voice of Christ.
• The Voice of the bride is the Voice of the Bridegroom.
“He who hears you, hears Me” [Luc.10: 16].

Come you also
– And the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come’.
– And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come’.
– And let everyone who is thirsty come,
– and let everyone who has the will to do so take the water of life as a free gift [Rev.22: 17].
– Here the Spirit of God and the Church with one voice
invite every living soul to come to the only fountain of life and happiness.
– Then every listening soul is told to cry out of the depths of his hunger and need, Come!
Finally the thirsty and needy and willing are told to come
and receive the Water of Life freely.

Here we have two comings:
– the final coming of Christ to the world and
– the coming of each soul to Christ.
In fact, Christ comes to us continually in all the changes and chances of our lives,
supremely in the Mystery of Communion [1Cor.11: 23-30; John.6: 31-58],
and in many special Manifestations of His real Presence [John.14: 19-23].
The Psalms tell us that we cannot find
satisfaction in sin or work or riches or culture or honour and glory.
But in Jesus we find here and now Satisfaction and Happiness, Pardon, Purity and Peace:
Happy are those who hunger and thirst for Righteousness [Christ],
for they will be satisfied [Matth.5: 6).
Pardon: In Him we have the forgiveness of our sins [Eph.1: 7].
Purity: He has washed us from our sins in His own blood [Rev.1: 5].
Peace: My peace I give you (Jn. 14:27). He is our Peace [Eph.2: 14].

And so we watch in eager expectation
for the coming of the Son of God in power and glory,
praying and working for that golden age foreseen and foretold
by the holy Prophets where God’s Will of perfect Love is done on earth
as it is in Heaven.
Let us take as our motto the words of the Psalmist:
I will live to please the Lord in the land of the living [Psalm 114: 9],
the Promised Land, the honeycomb of the earth [Ez.20: 6 LXX],
peace beyond all understanding [Phil.4: 7],
the joy of the Lord [Matth.25: 23],
Heaven within you [Luc.17: 21],
Divine life in the soul of man [2Cor.5: 15],
sharing the Divine Nature [2Petr.1: 4].
He who has the Son has the Life [1John 5: 12].
Come, Lord Jesus, come [Rev.22: 20].

Panegyric on the Psalms [from Saint John Chrysostom – Extract]
If we keep vigil in Church, David comes first, last and central.
If early in the morning we want songs and hymns, first, last and central is David again.
If we are occupied with the funeral solemnities of those who have fallen asleep,
or if virgins sit at home and spin,
David is first, last and central.
O amazing wonder!

Many who have made little progress in literature know the Psalter by heart.
Nor is it only in cities and churches that David is famous;
in the village market, in the desert, and in uninhabitable land,
he excites the praise of God.
In monasteries, among those holy choirs of angelic armies,
David is first, last and central.
In the convents of virgins, where are the communities of those who imitate Mary;
in the deserts where there are men crucified to the world,
who live their life in Heaven with God,
David is first, last and central.
All other men at night are overcome by sleep.
David alone is active, and gathering the servants of God into Seraphic bands,
he turns earth into Heaven, and converts men into Angels”.
cf. Father Lazaros Moore – 1st printed 1966

March 28th – Saint Stephen, the wonderworker of Triglia

Saint Stephen, Confessor was Igumen of Triglia Monastery.
He suffered under the iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian [813-820].
From a young age, the holy ascetic dedicated his life to God
and received monastic tonsure.
He later became head of the Triglia monastery near Constantinople.

When persecution again began against holy icons,
the Saintly Igumen was summoned for questioning
and they tried to force him
to sign a document rejecting the veneration of icons.
Saint Stephen steadfastly refused to betray Orthodoxy
and he boldly denounced the emperor for his impiety.
They subjected the Saint to cruel torments,
after which they sent him to prison in the year 815.
Weakened and sick,
the holy Confessor Stephen
soon died in prison from his sufferings and received the Crown of Martyrs.

– Tirilye is a town in Bursa Province, Mudanya, Turkey,
situated 12 km west of Mudanya.
It is a township along the Marmara Sea shoreline.
Trilye has been an important religious center for Orthodox Christians for a long time.
The area, which was inhabited since 5th Century BC,
was formerly known as Τρίγλεια [Trigleia] or Βρύλλειον [Brylleion].
The most important historical structure in Τρίγλεια (Triglea) is
that of the Byzantine Aya Todori Church, known today as the Fatih Mosque.
The Monastery of Saint Sergios of Medikion [Μονή Αγίου Σεργίου του Μηδικίου],
established in 780, commonly simply known as the Medikion monastery [Μονή Μηδικίου],
and later as the Monastery of the Holy Fathers [Μονή των Πατέρων]
is a ruined Byzantine-era monastery near modern Tirilye in Turkey.
It is best known for the role its founders played
in opposing Byzantine Iconoclasm.
The monastery was burned down in 1800, and was rebuilt in 1801,
but was in a derelict condition during Hasluck’s visit later in the century.
Hasluck described the katholikon as “magnificent” and wrote
that it was ornamented with originally arched and black and white mosaics in the courtyard. Pancenko, who came here in 1910, drew the attention to the old icons
and likened it to “a museum where Greek Church pictures are exhibited“.
Evangelides [1889] defined the church as a large rectangle and he added:
It has no roof and columns,
it is almost like a large inn
deserted by its owner…
“.

4th Sunday of Lent – Sunday of our Righteous Father John Climacos of Sinaï

Let us honour John, that pride of Ascetics,
that angel on earth, that man of God in Heaven,
that adornment of the world,
and that bliss of virtues and good deeds;
for, planted in the house of God, he flourished with justice;
and, like a cedar tree in the wilderness, he caused the flock of Christ to grow,
those sheep endowed with speech, in righteousness and justice“.
Hymn of the Vespers
The Lord said to His Apostles
about the evil spirits,
This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting“.
Marc.9: 29

the new aspect of fasting
Fasting is acceptable to God when it is preceded by the great virtue of Mercy;
fasting prepares a reward in Heaven
when it is foreign to hypocrisy and vainglory
Fasting works when it is joined with another great virtue—prayer.

How does it work?
It not only tames the passions in the human body, but it enters into battle with the spirits of evil and conquers them.
How can fasting, which is actually a bodily podvig [Подвиг, russian for secret ascetical labour], work or coöperate with prayer in a war against spirits?
Why do the bodiless spirits submit to the power that fasting has over them?

The reason fasting works against the evil spirits lies in its powerful influence upon our own spirits.
When the body is tamed by fasting, it brings freedom, strength, sobriety, purity,
and refinement to the human soul.
Our spirit can withstand its unseen enemies only when it is in such a state.
But as for me“, said the God-inspired David,
When they [the demons] troubled me, I put on sackcloth.
And I humbled my soul with fasting, and
my prayer shall return to my bosom

Psalm 34: 13

►Fasting gives the mind sobriety,
while prayer is the weapon the mind uses
to drive away the invisible adversary.
►Fasting humbles the soul, and frees it from the callousness
and inflatedness brought on by satiety;
►while the prayer of one who fasts
becomes especially strong.
Such prayer is not just external, but comes from the very soul,
from the depths of the heart.
Fasting directs and carries prayer to God.

The dark and evil spirits committed two serious crimes:
[John Cassian, Discourses 8, 9, 10]
the first crime caused their expulsion from the hosts of holy angels;
the second crime was the cause of their irrevocable banishment.
They lifted their heels against God in Heaven.
Their chief, blinded by conceit,
wanted to become equal to God.
For their crime they were cast out of heaven to the earth below, and there they began to envy the blessedness of newly-created man.
Then they committed a new crime: seducing man, and luring him into his fall.
This latter crime of the fallen angels finally decided their lot
– they impressed themselves into evil by it;
God’s Grace entirely departed from them because of it;
they were given over to their own selves,
to their own evil, and to their own sin
that they had conceived and borne in themselves,
and which they allowed to penetrate their nature.
Now, a good thought or feeling will never come to an outcast angel.
He is entirely submerged in evil, desires evil, and invents evil.
Scorched with an unquenchable thirst for evil,
he seeks to be sated with evil, but cannot.
All the evil he does or can perform seems to him little
next to the evil that he imagines and which his insufferable thirst for evil seeks.
Created as ‘a light-bearing angel,
he was cast down lower than all the beasts of the earth for his crimes.
Because you has done this murder of a man“,
said God in His wrath to satan when He caught him
at the scene of the crime in paradise,
near the man and woman whom he had caused to fall,
you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field;
upon thy belly shall you go, and
dust shall you eat all the days of your life

Gen.3: 14

A bodiless spirit is condemned to thoughts and feelings
that are only earthly and passionate; his life and treasure is in them.
A spirit, he has lost the ability to do anything spiritual
– he is completely engrossed in fleshly works.
A spirit who lives a mental life is demoted from the hosts of spirits to a fleshly state,
and he takes a place lower in rank than all cattle and beasts of the earth.
Cattle and beasts act according to the laws of their nature,
while the fallen spirit, who is mingled into the nature of cattle and beasts,
is mingled into a nature that is foreign to his own, and humiliating.
He neither wants nor is able to act correctly in this nature
– he continually abuses this nature.

This sinful materiality of the fallen angel makes him subject to the effect of fasting,
which frees our spirit from the flesh’s reign.
When the fallen angel approaches a person who is fasting,
he does not see the material domination that he needs and desires;
he cannot stir up the blood that has been beneficently cooled by fasting;
he cannot arouse the flesh that is not inclined to play, for it has been restrained by fasting;
the mind and heart are not obedient to him,
for they have felt an especial spiritual vigour due to fasting.
Seeing this resistance, the proud, fallen spirit departs,
because he cannot endure being resisted or contradicted.
He loves unhesitating agreement and submission.
Despite the fact that he crawls upon his belly,
despite the fact that he eats only dust,
the thought of being like God has not left him,
and he looks for people to worship him.

He audaciously showed the Son of God all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time and  promised to give him all power over them and the glory of them,
demanding to be worshipped in return [Luc.4: 5-7].
Even now, he does not cease to present to those
who follow the Son of God all the beauty of the world,
painting it in their dreams with the most tempting features [big cathedrals]
and colours in order to extract worship of himself by whatever trick.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, said the Apostle James [Jac.4: 7];
and another Apostle said,
Above all, taking the shield of faith,
wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked [Eph.6: 16].
Let us raise our eyes to eternity through the Power of Faith,
to the unspeakable blessedness that awaits the righteous in eternity;
likewise let us observe the equally unspeakable torments
that await the serpent’s unrepentant and stubborn followers.
We can have such contemplation when the body is put in order
and maintained within the order of fasting;
when with the pure prayer that is only obtainable through fasting,
we cleave to the Lord, and become of one spirit [1Cor.6: 17] with Him.
The serpent crawls continually upon the ground
as he was sentenced to do from on High
” says Saint John Chrysostom.
“If you wish be to safe from his poisonous bite,
let your mind and heart be always above the earth”
John Chrysostomos‘Homily  of the letter to the Romans
Then you will be able to resist him,
and that proud serpent who cannot endure resistance will flee from you.

Where are the people who are possessed by evil spirits?
Where are those people whom he would tear and torment, like he tore and tormented the youth mentioned today in the Gospels?
Apparently there aren’t any, or they are very rare
– thus reasons the person who sees everything superficially, and brings his life as a sacrifice to distractions and sinful pleasures.
But the holy fathers saw things differently.
They say,
From the moment they caused man to be exiled from paradise
and separated from God through disobedience,
the devil and the demons received the freedom
to mentally stir any person’s rational nature, both day and night“.
Saint Symeon the New Theologian,
Homily of Nicephorus the Monk’ Philokalia

Very similar to those torments and tearing of the Gospel youth’s body by the evil spirit
are the sufferings of the soul that wilfully submits itself to the influence of the evil spirit,
and who accepts as truth that murderous lie which the devil ceaselessly shows to us
in order to make us perish, hiding it behind a façade of truth
to more easily deceive us, and to succeed in his wickedness.
Be sober, be vigilant, the Apostle Peter warns us,
Because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion,
walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
Whom resist steadfast in the faith
“.
1Petr.5: 8–9
What does the fallen angel use against us?
Mostly sinful thoughts and fantasies.
He runs from those who resist him,
but he sways, torments, and destroys those who do not recognize him,
who enter into conversation with him,
and entrust themselves to him.
He himself crawls on his belly and is incapable of spiritual thought.
He vividly depicts this transitory world with all its allurements and pleasures;
meanwhile he enters into conversation with the soul
about how it can make its pipe dreams come true.
He offers us earthly glory, he offers us riches,
he offers us satiety, and delight in fleshly impurities.
As Saint Basil the Great expresses it,
the devil not only received a feeling for fleshly impurities,
but since he was created as a bodiless spirit, he gave birth to them
“.
the Canon Book‘the first prayer against defilement.
He presents all this as a fantasy,
but he also provides illicit [criminal] ways [building churches from criminal money]
to realize these illicit [dishonest] dreams.
He casts us into sorrow, depression, and despair.
In a word
– he tirelessly works to obtain our destruction
in seemingly decent as well as indecent ways:
by obvious sin, by sin hidden behind a good façade,
and by waiving the bait of pleasure in front of us.

“This is the victory
that overcomes the world,
even our faith”
1John.5:4
Faith is our weapon of victory over the world;
it is also our weapon of victory over the fallen angels.
Who has looked with the eye of faith
to the eternity proclaimed by God’s Word
and not cooled to the world’s quickly-passing beauty?
What true disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ
will want to trample upon His all-holy commandments
for the sake of sinful pleasure,
which seems alluring before it is tasted,
but is vile and murderous after tasting?
What power over the disciple of Christ has
the enchanting picture of earthly benefits and pleasures,
or even the horrifying picture of earthly calamities,
which the evil spirits draw in order to bring the viewer to depression and despair,
when magnificent pictures of eternity are impressed
upon his soul through the power of God’s Word,
before which all earthly scenes are pale and insignificant?
When Saint John the Theologian proclaims that
the victory that overcomes the world is our faith,
he salutes the true children of Christ
who have overcome the world on their victory over the fallen angel and his minions:
I write unto you, young men,
because you have overcome the wicked one

1John. 2: 13
Here “young men” is what
he calls Christians who are renewed by Divine Grace.
When a servant of Christ shows courage and constancy in his struggle
against the evil spirits as he should, then
Divine Grace descends into his soul and grants him victory,
and his youth shall be renewed as the eagle’s

Psalm 102: 5
– youth which never ages,
with which he was adorned by the Creator when he was created,
and which he exchanged for incurable agedness at his voluntary fall.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world [even when it is in church].
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passes away, and the lust thereof:
but he that does the will of God abides for ever
“.
1John.2: 15–17

Brethren!
Why shouldn’t we also be victors over the world and over its prince?
People like us have overcome them, people clothed in flesh and human weakness.
Not only valiant men have been victorious over them,
but also frail elders, weak women, and little children;
they won, and left us no excuse for losing
if we give ourselves up to them.
The same world with all its allurements was before them,
the same invisible serpents crawled around them,
applying every effort to taunt out their souls
and make them to live in the dust.
The hearts and thoughts of the conquerors were raised up!
Guarding their bodies with fasting,
they tamed them and stopped the impulse for earthly pleasures in them!
Through fasting, they gave their spirit the opportunity
to abide in ceaseless sobriety and vigilance,
and the opportunity to unsleepingly heed
and watch out for the multifarious snares of the devil!
By lightening their bodies – and even their very spirits – with fasting,
they gave the spirit the opportunity
to cleave to the Lord with pure and constant prayer,
to receive Divine aide, to enliven their faith from hearing [conf. Rom.10: 17],
from hearing to make their faith substance [conf.Hebr.11: 1 and spiritual strength
– and by this strength to obtain decisive victory over the world and the evil spirits.
Saint John the Theologian calls such faith
the confidence that we have in God,
and he teaches us from his own holy experience
that it is attained through prayer that is heard
[by God]”.
1John.5: 13–15
The righteous as if see the invisible God through such faith
Hebr.11: 27
Naturally, the world hides from view at the sight of God!
The transitory world becomes as if non-existent,
and the prince of the world has no support in his warfare.
Be sober, be vigilant; because
your adversary the devil,
as a roaring lion, walks about,
seeking whom he may devour:
Whom resist steadfast in the faith
“.
1Petr.5: 8–9,
Taking the shield of faith“.
Eph.6: 16
– faith that is active, living, Grace-filled.
Only the ascetical labourer of Christ is capable of such faith.
He has prepared himself for warfare with the evil spirits
by forgiving his neighbours’ sins
– that is, through mercy and humility –
and has entered the fight
bearing the weapon of fasting and prayer.

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.

March 14th – Saint Benedict of Nursia [ca. 480 – ca. 547]

Saint Benedict was not the founder of Christian monasticism,
since he lived two and a half to three centuries
after its beginnings in Egypt, Palestine, and Asia Minor.
He became a monk as a young man
and thereafter learned the tradition by associating with monks
and reading the monastic literature.

He was caught up in the monastic movement
but ended by directing the stream into new and fruitful ways.
This is evident in the Rule which he wrote for monasteries
and which was and is still used in many monasteries and convents
around the world.

Tradition teaches that Saint Benedict lived from 480 to 547,
though we cannot be sure that these dates are historically accurate.
His biographer, Saint Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, does not record the dates of his birth and death,
though he refers to a Rule written by Benedict.
Scholars debate the dating of the Rule though they seem to agree that it was written in the second third of the sixth century.

Saint Gregory wrote about Saint Benedict in his Second Book of Dialogues,  but his account of the life and miracles of Benedict cannot be regarded as a biography in the modern sense of the term.
Gregory’s purpose in writing Benedict’s life was to edify and to inspire,
not to seek out the particulars of his daily life.
Gregory sought to show that Saints of God, particularly St. Benedict,
were still operative in the Christian Church
in spite of all the political and religious chaos present in the realm.
At the same time it would be inaccurate
to claim that Gregory presented no facts about Benedict’s life and works.

According to Gregory’s Dialogues Benedict was born in Nursia, a village high in
the mountains northeast of Rome.
His parents sent him to Rome for classical studies but he found the life of the eternal city too degenerate for his tastes.
Consequently he fled to a place southeast of Rome called Subiaco where he lived as a hermit for three years tended by the monk Romanus.

The hermit, Benedict, was then discovered by a group of monks
who prevailed upon him to become their spiritual leader.
His regime soon became too much for the lukewarm monks
so they plotted to poison him.
Gregory recounts the tale of Benedict’s rescue;
when he blessed the pitcher of poisoned wine,
it broke into many pieces.
Thereafter he left the un-disciplined monks.

Benedict left the wayward monks and established twelve monasteries with twelve monks each in the area south of Rome.
Later, perhaps in 529, he moved to Monte Cassino, about eighty miles southeast of Rome; there he destroyed the pagan temple dedicated to Apollo
and built his premier monastery.
It was there too that he wrote the Rule for the monastery of Monte Cassino though he envisioned that it could be used elsewhere.

The thirty-eight short chapters of
the Second Book of Dialogues
contain accounts of Benedict’s life and miracles. Some chapters recount his ability to read other persons’ minds;
other chapters tell of his miraculous works, e.g., making water flow from rocks,
sending a disciple to walk on the water,
making oil continue to flow from a flask.
The miracle stories echo the events of certain Prophets of Israel
as well as happenings in the life of Jesus.
The message is clear:
Benedict’s Holiness mirrors the Saints and Prophets of old and God has not abandoned his people;
he continues to bless them with Holy Persons.

Benedict is viewed as a monastic leader, not a scholar.
Still he probably read Latin rather well,
an ability that gave him access to the works of Cassianos
and other monastic writings, both rules and sayings.
The Rule is the sole known example of Benedict’s writing,
but it manifests his genius to crystallize
the best of the monastic tradition
and to pass it on to the European West.

Gregory presents Benedict as the model of a Saint
who flees temptation to pursue a life of attention to God.
Through a balanced pattern of living and praying
Benedict reached the point where he glimpsed the Glory of God.
Gregory recounts a vision that Benedict received toward the end of his life:
In the dead of night he suddenly beheld a flood of light
shining down from above more brilliant than the sun,
and with it every trace of darkness cleared away.
According to his own description,
the whole world was gathered up before his eyes
“in what appeared to be a single ray of light” [ch. 34].
Saint Benedict, the monk par excellence,
led a monastic life that reached the vision of God.
Pdf: The Rule of Saint Benedict

He is not indignant, nor provoked,
but with that extreme gentleness He reasons
with him again from the Scriptures, saying,
‘You shall not tempt the Lord Your God‘:
teaching us that we must overcome the devil,
not by miracles, but by forbearance and long-suffering,
and that we should do nothing at all
for display and vainglory
“.
Saint John Chrysostom

• “Listen with the ear of your heart“.
•  “No one is to pursue what is judged best for oneself,
but instead, what is better for someone else“.
•  “Let Peace be your quest and aim“.
Quotes from Saint Benedict’s Rule

March 13th – Saint Gerald of Mayo [Ire †732]

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God
Matth.5: 9

Gerald was born in Northumbria, England
in the latter half of the 7th century.
So Saint Gerald of Mayo was not Irish at all, but Anglo-Saxon.
Nothing is known of his early life except that he had a sister,
Segretia, whom tradition tells us, he placed in charge of a monastery of women.
Gerald was a novice at Lindisfarne under Saint Colman
when the Council of Whitby prohibited the observance of Easter on the Celtic date.
Saint Colman went to Inishbofin, an island off the coast of Mayo.
He brought with him all of the Irish monks from Lindisfarne
as well as about thirty English novices.

– Known throughout the Christian world
as ‘Mayo of the Saxons’, Mayo Abbey is
a small rural village in South Mayo.
It is located 10 miles south of Castlebar,
6 miles from Claremorris and 3 miles from Balla -.

There was those days a difficulty between the English and the Irish monks,
so Saint Colman founded a second monastery on the mainland at Mayo.
Initially Saint Colman was abbot of both communities,
but later Gerald succeeded him as abbot
and the community at Mayo flourished.

Gerald is sometimes referred to as a bishop,
but this has been strongly questioned.
Many miracles are attributed to Gerald.
The monastery at Mayo was the forming ground
for many saints in the Middle Ages.
Gerald was considered a very wise,
prudent and charitable leader.
Tradition tells us that Gerald lived to a very old age,
so it is likely that he saw the introduction of the Roman date
of the observance of Easter.
His death was at Mayo about the year 732.

Several of the legends about his life may be doubtful,
but they do give a history of the relationships
between Christians and Druids in those early centuries.
We don’t know very much about Gerald,
but what we do glean from the writings about his life,
is the picture of a strong but gentle abbot
whose absolute faith and trust in God enabled him
to keep peace between factions and
to encourage his monks to a life of simple holiness.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

The Venerable Bede praised the new Irish monastery of the Anglo-Saxon monks,
especially the fact that the abbots of Mayo were elected,
rather than following Celtic custom as a “hereditary” monastery,
but studiously avoided reference to Colman and the Irish monks,
whose simplicity of life and diligence in preaching the Gospel at Lindisfarne
he had previously commended.

Saint Gerald is also believed to have founded
the abbeys of Tempul-Gerald in Connaught,
as well as Teagh-na-Saxon,
and a convent
that he put under the care of his sister.
Mayo of the Saxons“, as it came to be known,
had a great reputation for learning.

Pdf: Saint Gerald of Mayo  part of Ireland’s Ancient Schools and Scholars

Alcuin of York corresponded with
it’s abbot and monks.
The monastery’s importance was enhanced
when it became a diocese after
the Synod of Kells in 1152 AD.
A Norman town was founded there, and
an Augustinian abbey was built ca.1400,
ruins of which are still visible today.
The town Mayo was of such sufficient size and importance at the end of the sixteenth century
that it gave it’s name to County Mayo,
during the composition of Connacht carried out by Sir Henry Sidney in 1595.
In 1617 the Abbey was sacked and it’s lands were confiscated by the Crown.
The Diocese was finally merged into Tuam in 1630.