Orthodoxy & to come to yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 11th – Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem [560-638]

Saint Sophronius [Gr. Άγιος Σωφρόνιος ]
was the Patriarch of Jerusalem from 634 until his death,
and is venerated as a Saint in the Latin
and the Orthodox Churches.
He was born 560 in Damascus and died
on March 11th in 638 in Jerusalem.
Before rising to the primacy of the see of Jerusalem,
he was a monk and theologian
who was the chief protagonist for orthodox teaching
in the doctrinal controversy on
the essential nature of Jesus
and His volitional acts.

Sophronius was of Arab descent an a teacher of rhetoric.
Sophronius became an ascetic in Egypt about 580
and then entered the monastery of Saint Theodosius near Bethlehem.
Traveling to monastic centres in Asia Minor, Egypt, and Rome,
he accompanied the Byzantine chronicler Saint John Moschus,
who dedicated to him his celebrated tract on the religious life,
Leimõn ho Leimõnon [“The Spiritual Meadow”]
and whose feast day in the Orthodox Church,
is shared with Sophonius on March 11th .
On the death of Moschus in Rome in 619,
accompanied the body back
to Jerusalem for monastic burial.
Sophronius traveled to Alexandria, Egypt,
and to Constantinople in the year 633 to persuade
the respective patriarchs to renounce Monothelitism,
a heterodox teaching that espoused a single,
divine will in Christ to the exclusion
of a human capacity for choice.
Sophronius’ extensive writings
on this question are all lost.

Although unsuccessful in this mission,
Sophronius was elected patriarch of Jerusalem in 634.
Soon after his enthronement he forwarded
his noted synodical letter to Pope Honorius I
and to the Eastern patriarchs,
explaining the orthodox belief in the two natures,
human and divine, of Christ,
as opposed to Monothelitism,
which he viewed as a subtle form of heretical Monophysitism
[which posited a single [Divine] nature for Christ].
Moreover, he composed a Florilegium [“Anthology”] of some 600 texts
from the Greek Church Fathers in favour of the orthodox
tenet of Dyothelitism [positing both human and Divine Wills in Christ].
This document also is lost.

In his Christmas sermon of 634,
Sophronius was more concerned with keeping
his clergy in line with the Chalcedonian view of God,
giving only the most conventional of warnings
of the Muslim-Saracen advance on Palestine,
commenting that the Saracens already controlled Bethlehem.
Sophronius, who viewed the Muslim control of Palestine
as “unwitting representatives of God’s inevitable chastisement
of weak and wavering Christians
“,
died soon after the fall of Jerusalem to the caliph Umar I in 637,
but not before he had negotiated the recognition of civil and religious liberty
for Christians in exchange for tribute – an agreement known as Umari Treaty.
The caliph himself came to Jerusalem,
and met with the patriarch at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Sophronius invited Umar to pray there, but Umar declined,
fearing to endanger the Church’s status as a Christian temple.

Beside polemics, Sophronius’ writings
included an encomium on the Alexandrian martyrs Cyrus and John
in gratitude for an extraordinary cure of his failing vision.
He also wrote 23 Anacreontic [classical metre] poems on such themes
as the Saracen siege of Jerusalem and on various liturgical celebrations.
His Anacreontica 19 and 20 seem to be an expression of the longing desire
he had of the Holy City, possibly when he was absent from Jerusalem
during one of his many journeys.
The order of the two poems has to be inverted
to establish a correct sequence of the diverse subjects.
Arranged in this way, the two poems describe a complete circuit
throughout the most important sanctuaries of Jerusalem at the end of 6th century,
described as the golden age of Christianity in the Holy Land.
Themes of Anacreonticon 20 include the gates of Jerusalem [or Solyma],
the Anastasis, the Rock of the Cross, the Constantinian Basilica,
Mount Sion, the Praetorium, Saint Mary at the Probatica, and Gethsemane.
The Mount of Olives, Bethany, and Bethlehem come next in Anacreonticon 19.
Sophronius also wrote down the Life of Saint Mary of Egypt,
which is read on the fifth Thursday Lent in Orthodox Churches.

In 637, after the conquest of Jerusalem by Muslim armies,
the Muslim caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab came to Jerusalem
and toured the city with Sophronius.
During the tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,
the time for Muslim prayer came,
and despite Sophronius’s offer to Umar to pray inside the Church,
Umar chose to pray outside.
The caliph’s reason for declining to pray there
was because in the future Muslims might say
that Umar prayed here and use it
as an excuse to build a mosque there.
Therefore Muslims are not allowed to build a mosque there.
So appreciating the caliph’s intelligence he gave the keys of the church to him.
Unable to refuse it the caliph gave it to a family of Muslims from Medina
and asked them to open the church and close it;
the keys of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
still remain with this Muslim family.

Troparion           Tn 5
Patriarch Sophronius, you were glorious in the splendor of sobriety,
and through the radiance of your words
you revealed ineffable enlightenment from heaven.
For by your life you attained wisdom
and now you confirm the Church
as an illustrious hierarch
and intercessor for us with the Lord
“.

Kontakion          Tn 8
You were most wise among patriarchs, Sophronius of Jerusalem.
You struggled with divine zeal,
spreading the commandments of Truth with your lips.
You set right the foundations of the Church
and firmly established the monastic order.
You brought to light wise sermons,
and instructed by them,
therefore we cry out to you:
‘Rejoice, splendid boast of the Orthodox“.

 

2nd Sunday Of Lent – Sunday Saint Gregory Palamas

On the Second Sunday of Lent
the Orthodox Church commemorates
our Holy Father Gregory Palamas,
Archbishop of Thessalonica, the Wonderworker.
The feast day of Saint Gregory Palamas
is November 14th,
however, he is commemorated on this Sunday
as the condemnation of his enemies
and the vindication of his teachings by the Church [14th cnt] was acclaimed
as a second triumph of Orthodoxy.

The Life of this Saint
Our holy Father Gregory was born in Constantinople in 1296 of aristocratic parents who had emigrated from Asia Minor in the face of the Turkish invasion, and were attached to the court of the pious Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus [1282-1328].
Despite his official duties, Gregory’s father led a life of fervent prayer.
Sometimes as he sat in the Senate, he would be so deep in prayer as
to be unaware of the Emperor addressing him.
While Gregory was still young, his father died after
being clothed in the monastic habit; and his mother for her part
wanted to take the veil, but delayed doing so in order to
take care of the education of her seven children.

Gregory, the eldest, was instructed by
the most highly reputed masters of secular learning and
after some years, was so proficient in philosophical reasoning that
on listening to him, his master could believe he was hearing Aristotle himself.
Notwithstanding these intellectual successes,
the young man’s real interest lay only with the things of God.
He associated with monks of renown in the city and
found a spiritual father in Theoleptus of Philadelphia, who
instructed him in the way of holy sobriety and of prayer of the heart.

About the year 1316, Gregory decided to abandon the vanities of the world.
His mother, two sisters, two brothers and a great many of his servants
entered upon the monastic life with him.
He and his two brothers went on foot to the holy Mountain of Athos,
where they settled near the Monastery of Vatopedi under the direction of the Elder Nicodemus,
who came from Mount Auxentius.
Gregory made rapid progress in the holy activity of prayer,
for he had put into practice since childhood the fundamental virtues of
obedience, humility, meekness, fasting, vigil and the different kinds of renunciation
that make the body subject to the spirit.
Night and day he besought God ceaselessly with tears saying,
Lighten my darkness!
After some time, the Mother of God, in Whom he had put his trust since his youth,
sent Saint John the Theologian to him with the promise of her protection
in this life and in the next.

After only three years, the early death of his brother Theodosius, followed by that of the Elder Nicodemus,
led Gregory and his second brother, Macarius,
to attach themselves to the Monastery of the Great Lavra [Athos].
Gregory was appointed chanter.
His conduct in the cenobitic life was beyond reproach,
and the brethren admired his zeal for putting into practice all the Holy Evangelic virtues.
He lived with such abstinence as to appear unburdened
by the flesh to the extent of being able
to go three months without sleep.
At the end of three years of common life,
his soul thirsting for the sweet waters of the wilderness,
he retired to the hermitage of Glossia, under the direction
of an eminent monk called Gregory of Byzantium.
With the passions purified, he was now able to rise up in prayer
to the contemplation of the mysteries of the Creation.
Solitude and inner stillness enabled him to keep his intellect
fixed at all times in the depths of his heart,
where he called on the Lord Jesus with compunction,
so that he became all prayer,
and sweet tears flowed continually from his eyes as from two fountains.

The incessant raids of Turkish pirates soon obliged
Gregory and his companions to leave their hermitage.
Together with twelve monks, he wanted to make the pilgrimage to the Holy Places
and to seek refuge at Mount Sinai; but this did not prove feasible.
Instead, he spent some time in Thessalonica,
where he joined the group around the future Patriarch Isidore,
who was endeavoring to spread the practice of the Jesus prayer among the faithful
so that they might profit from the experience of the monks.
In 1326, Gregory was ordained a priest,
having understood in a vision that this was indeed the will of God.
He then departed to found a hermitage in the area of Beroea,
where he practiced an even stricter Ascesis than before.
For five days of the week he remained alone,
fasting, keeping vigil and praying with abundant tears.
He only appeared on Saturdays and Sundays
to serve the Divine Liturgy, share a fraternal meal and converse on some spiritual subject with his companions in the ascetic life.
He continued thus to rise up in contemplation
and to enter into closer union
with God in his heart.

When his mother died,
he went to Constantinople to fetch his sisters,
whom he settled in a hermitage near his own.
But as Serbian raids in the region became more and more frequent, he decided to go back to Mount Athos.
He settled a little above the Lavra in the hermitage of Saint Savas,
where he lived in greater seclusion than before, and could converse alone with God.
He went to the monastery only infrequently and
would receive his rare visitors on Sundays and feast days.
Going on from that contemplation which is still outward,
Gregory then attained to the vision of God in the Light of the Holy Spirit
and to the Deification promised by Christ to His perfect disciples.

One day in a dream, he saw that he was full of a milk from heaven which, as it overflowed,
changed into wine and filled the surrounding air with a wonderful scent.
This was a sign to him that the moment had come to teach
his brethren the mysteries that God revealed to him.
He wrote several ascetic treatises at this time, and,
in 1335, was appointed Abbot of the Monastery of Esphigmenou.
But the two hundred monks who lived there understood
neither his zeal nor his spiritual expectations
so, after a year, he returned to his hermitage.

At that time, Barlaam, a monk from Calabria, won a great name for himself
as a speculative thinker in Constantinople.
He was particularly fond of expounding the mystical writings of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite,
which he interpreted in an entirely philosophical way,
making knowledge of God the object of cold reason and not of experience.
When this refined humanist learned of the methods of prayer of some simple monks of his acquaintance, who allowed a place to the sensory element in spiritual life,
he was scandalized.
He took occasion to calumniate then and to accuse them of heresy.
The hesychast monks appealed to Gregory
who then wrote several polemical treatises in which
he answered the accusations of Barlaam
by locating monastic Spirituality in a dogmatic synthesis.

He showed that Ascesis and prayer are the outcome of the whole mystery of Redemption,
and are the way for each person to make the Grace given at Baptism blossom within himself.
He also defended the authenticity of the methods which the Hesychasts used
to fix the intellect in the heart;
for since the Incarnation we have to seek the Grace of the Holy Spirit in our bodies,
which are sanctified by the Sacraments and grafted by the Eucharist into the Body of Christ.
This uncreated Grace is the very Glory of God which,
as it sprang forth from the body of Christ on the day of the Transfiguration,
overwhelmed the disciples [Matth.17].
Shining now in the heart purified from the passions, it truly unites us to God,
illumines us, deifies us and gives us a pledge of that same Glory
which will shine on the bodies of the Saints after the general Resurrection.
In thus affirming the full reality of deification,
Gregory was far from denying the absolute transcendence and
un-know-able-ness of God in His essence.
Following the ancient Fathers, but in a more precise manner,
he made a distinction between God’s imparticipable essence and
the eternal, creative and providential energies
by which the Lord enables created beings to participate in
His being, His life and His light without, however,
introducing any division into the unity of the Divine Nature.
God is not a philosophical concept for Saint Gregory:
He is Love, He is Living Person and consuming fire,
as Scripture teaches [Deut.4: 24],
Who does everything to make us godlike.

Saint Gregory’s brilliant answer to Barlaam was first accepted
by the authorities of Mount Athos in the Hagiorite Tome and
then adopted by the Church, which condemned Barlaam
[and with him the philosophical humanism
that would soon inspire the European Renaissance
],
during the course of two Councils at the Church of Saint Sophia in 1341.

Barlaam’s condemnation and his departure for Italy
did not bring the controversy to an end.
No sooner had Gregory returned to his Athonite hermitage from Thessalonica
where he had been writing his treatises in seclusion than Akindynos,
an old friend of his, restated the substance of Barlaam’s arguments
and condemned Gregory’s distinction between essence and energies as an innovation.
Akindynos, who at first aspired to be an umpire between Barlaam and Gregory,
was the kind of rigid conservative who does no more than repeat set phrases
without seeking to enter into the spirit of the Tradition.
At the same time, a dreadful civil war broke out
as a result of the rivalry between the Duke Alexis Apokaukos and
Saint Gregory’s friend, John Cantacuzenus (1341-47).
The Patriarch, John Calecas, sided with Apokaukos and
encouraged Akindynos to bring a charge of heresy against Gregory,
which led to the excommunication and imprisonment of the Saint.

During the four years of Gregory’s confinement, there was no slackening of his activity.
He carried on a huge correspondence, and
wrote an important work against Akindynos.
When John Cantacuzenus gained the upper hand in 1346,
the Regent, Ann of Savoy, came to the defense of the Saint
and deposed the Patriarch on the eve of Cantacuzenus’ triumphal entry into the City.
He nominated Isidore as Patriarch (1347-50), and
summoned a new Council to vindicate the Hesychasts.
The controversy was not finally resolved until 1351,
at a third Council which condemned the humanist Nicephorus Gregoras.
In the Synodal Tome the doctrine of Saint Gregory on the uncreated energies
and on the nature of Grace
was recognized as the rule of faith of the Orthodox Church.

Among Isidore’s new episcopal appointments,
Gregory was named Archbishop of Thessalonica in 1347; but
he was unable to take possession of his see as the city was in the hands of the Zealots,
the party opposed to Cantacuzenus.
After finding shelter for a while in Lemnos, where
he showed heroic devotion during an epidemic,
Gregory was eventually able to enter the city acclaimed
as if Christ Himself were coming in triumph,
with the chanting of Paschal hymns.

During a voyage to Constantinople, he fell into the hands of some Turks,
who held him for a year in Asia Minor (1354-55), but allowed him a measure of freedom.
This, and his openness of spirit, enabled him to engage in amicable theological discussions
with the Muslim doctors of religion and with the son of the Emir Orkhan.
When he was set free, thanks to a ransom from Serbia,
he returned to Thessalonica to take up his activity again
as pastor and wonderworker.
He suffered a long illness and some time before his death,
Saint John Chrysostom appeared to him with the invitation
to join the choir of Holy Hierarchs immediately after his own feast.
And, indeed, on November 14, 1359 the Saint gave up his soul to God.
When he died, his countenance was radiant with a light like
to that which shone on Saint Stephanos [Acts 6: 15].
In this way God showed, through the person of His Servant,
the Truth of his doctrine on the reality of deification
by the uncreated Light of the Holy Spirit.
The veneration of Saint Gregory was approved by the Church in 1368.
The Saint works many miracles even to the present day and,
after Saint Demitrios, he is regarded as the Protector of Thessalonica.

Orthodox Commemoration – on The Sunday Of Saint Gregory Palamas
The feast day of Saint Gregory Palamas is November 14, the day of his repose,
however the Orthodox Church commemorates the Saint on the Second Sunday of Lent.
As a Sunday of Great Lent, the commemoration is celebrated
with the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great,
which is preceded by a Matins [Orthros] Service.
A Great Vespers is conducted on Saturday evening.

Hymns Of The Feast:
MP3:  Απολυτίκιο Β΄ Κυριακής Νηστειών – Γρηγορίου του Παλαμά
Apolytikion       plagal 4th Tn
Gregory the Miracle Worker,
light of Orthodoxy,
support and teacher of the Church,
comeliness of Monastics,
invincible defender of theologians,
the pride of Thessalonica,
and preacher of Grace,
intercede forever
that our souls may be saved
“.

Kontakion          plagal 4rth Tn
With one accord, we praise you
as the sacred and divine vessel of wisdom
and clear trumpet of theology,
our righteous Father Gregory of Divine speech.
As a mind that stands now before the Primal Mind,
do you ever guide aright and lead our mind to Him,
that we all may cry:
Hail, herald of Grace Divine
“.

March 8th – Saint Felix, Apostle of East Anglia, first bishop of East Anglia

Come up to Me, 
on the mountain
“.
Ex.24: 12

Saint Felix, the Apostle of East Anglia,
was the first bishop of East Anglia.
He died March 8, 647, at Dunwich, [translated to Soham, Cambridgeshire];
He is also known as Saint Felix of Dunwich and as Saint Felix of Burgundy

Saint Felix is commemorated in both the Anglican and Orthodox traditions,
with an Orthodox Church dedicated jointly
to Saint Felix and Saint Edmund in Felixstowe.

Saint Felix [meaning happy or joyful] came to East Anglia from Burgundian territory
[probably from one of the monastic houses
founded by the Irish missionary, Saint Columnbanus]
in the company of Sigbert [Sigeberht] the Learned,
whom he had converted to Christianity (while Felix was still in seminary).
Sigbert would later become an East Anglian King.
[In the eighth century a number of the English, most famously Boniface and Willibrord, would return to the continent to convert the heathen on the mainland].
Felix is renowned as a great missionary and
became the first Bishop of the East Angles.
He is said to have founded a monastery at Soham about A.D. 630.

Felix, having been consecrated about 631 A.D. by Saint Honorius,
held the first bishopric of the East Angles at Dommoc [Dunwich] for seventeen years.

Saint Honorius [c.630-653], was the fourth archbishop of Canterbury
in line from Saint Augustine who had brought Christianity from Rome
to King Aethelberht of Kent in 597.
Honorius sent Felix on to East Anglia, which had switched between Christianity and paganism several times since the East Anglian king Raedwald became a Christian at the Kentish court in the first decade or so of the seventh century.
[Bede tells the story that when Rædwald got home, his wife convinced him not to abandon his old gods so easily, so Raedwald had shrines to his heathen gods and the Christian god in the same temple].
Raedwald’s son Eorpwald succeeded sometime after 616, initially as a pagan but he was converted by the Northumbrian king Edwin sometime around 630.
Shortly after Eorpwald became Christian, he was killed, and the country turned pagan again.

It was after Eorpwald’s reign that Eorpwald’s brother Sigeberht came to the throne.
Sigeberht had grown up in exile in Gaul, and become a Christian there,
and returned determined to turn East Anglia into a thoroughly Christian kingdom.
According to legend, Felix landed at what is now Felixstowe
before going on to establish a Cathedral and school at Dommoc, or Dummoc-ceastre,
generally accepted as Dunwich, a seaport on the coast of Suffolk.
Dummoc had been a Roman station and, besides the advantage of its port, its walls may still have been strong enough to afford some protection for the new Bishop.
It was, moreover, connected with the interior by ancient roads, which led in one direction toward Bury St. Edmunds and in another toward Norwich.

At Dummoc, King Sigebert built a palace for himself and a church for Felix.
Elsewhere, says Bede, “desiring to imitate those things which he had seen well arranged in Gaul, he founded a school in which boys might be taught letters, with the aid of Felix, the bishop….who furnished them with pedagogues and masters, after the Kentish fashion“.
Bede gives no locality for this school; yet the passage, without the slightest reason,
has been looked upon as recording the foundation of the University of Cambridge,
a place which, at that period, was not even within the borders of East Anglia.

Four years after the establishment of the see,
the King resigned his crown in favour of his cousin, Egric,
and retired to a monastery which he had founded with the Irish monk, Fursey, at Burgh Castle.
Felix founded a third monastery at Soham
and it was here that he died, on 8th March AD 647, and was buried.
His relics were later translated to Ramsey Abbey (Hunts).

From Dommoc (Dunwich) Felix set about missionary throughout East Anglia, establishing churches and founding the monastery at Bury St Edmunds.
In 630 he founded another monastery, this time at Soham.
Bede records the success of Felix’s work in East Anglia,
known for his great piety and hard work, as both a missionary and educator,
Felix, in Bede’s words “delivered” East Anglia
from long-standing unrighteousness and unhappiness.
As a pious cultivator of the spirited field,
he found abundant faith in a believing people.
In no part of England was Christianity more favourably introduced
“.

According to the chronicler of the times the episcopate of Felix
was full of happiness for the cause of Christianity
and the admirable historian, Bede, described his work
with an allusion to the good omen of his name.
Bede wrote that St. Felix:
delivered all the province of East Anglia from long-standing unrighteousness and unhappiness.
As a pious cultivator of the spirited field, he found abundant faith in a believing people.
In no part of England was Christianity more favourably introduced
“.

Bede continues: “He [Saint Felix] did not fail in his purpose and like a good farmer reaped a rich harvest of believers.
He delivered the entire province from its age-old wickedness and infelicity and brought it to the Christian faith and works of righteousness, and in full accord with the significance of his own name, guided it towards eternal felicity
“.

By his presence at Soham all those decades ago
the town can take pride in its former importance
as a renowned Christian centre.
The great evangelist and educator
died on March 8th, 647 A.D.
and he was buried in his own city of Dunwich.
He is commemorated in the seaside town of Felixstowe
and also of a Yorkshire village, Feliskirk
[the church of Felix].
The mortal remains of St. Felix were later
exhumed from Dunwich and brought to Soham monastery which he had founded.
This was a precautionary measure for fear
that heathen flames would take possession of them.
In King Canute’s time, about 1031 A.D. the relic was removed a second time
for the same reason by a monk named Etheric to Ramsey in Huntingdonshire,
and there solemnly enshrined by Abbot Ethelstan.
While the relic was being carried across the water a miracle is said to have happened.

A chronicler at Soham or Ramsey wrote:
In those days [circa 1020] Saint Felix, formerly Bishop of East Anglia
lay buried in the royal manor of Soham for at this place the saint
while still alive had built and dedicated a beautiful church
and gathered together a goodly company of monks.
These monks subsequently, after their good father was dead . . .
carried away his precious remains from Dunwich
and laid them with great honour in their own church at Soham.
Afterwards, however, when this same church [or monastery] had been utterly destroyed
and the monks killed by the Danes, this saintly man had met with less reverence and honour.
This continued up to the time of King Canute, when Etheric, hearing of it,
pointed out to Abbot Athelstan and the monks of Ramsey how,
by the expenditure of a little labour, they might win for themselves inexhaustible riches
and so urged them by the spur of self-interest to carry out his purpose
“.

Athelstan therefore taking with him Agerinus,
his prior, set out by water for Soham which possessed the relic of such value,
and overawing by the combined authority of the King and bishop the resistance of those
who were for opposing him, he placed the sacred remains and bones of the saint on board
and began his voyage homeward to Ramsey amid the strains of joyous psalmody.
The men of Ely, however, on hearing of this, grudging us so valuable a relic,
manned their boats with a strong band, hoping by their large numbers to carry off
from the smaller party the remains which they had removed from Soham
“.

In order that it might be clearly seen
that the removal was taking place
by Divine than by human wishes,
it came to pass that just as the ships
of either party were approaching one another
under a bright and cloudless sky, suddenly,
to the discomfiture of the large force and the benefit of the smaller,
a dense fog arose which separated the two parties.
And so, while their adversaries were vainly wandering in different directions,
our boat was carried onward in a straight course
and safely deposited by the aiding waters on the bosom of our native shore
“.

You may find it hard to believe this miracle …
yet, reader, you are compelled to suspect it by no necessity
as long as you are at all events convinced of the undoubted fact
that the remains of Saint Felix were, on King Canute’s yielding to the prayers of Bishop Etheric, transferred from the aforesaid town of Soham to the church at Ramsey
and reburied with great reverence;  and there, even to this day,
does that holy man bestow on worshippers many benefits.

If you desire further to learn anything of his origin, his life or his good deeds,
you must consult Bede who has composed a history of the English in admirable style,
and among other men of the highest sanctity whom he there commends,
has deemed the praise of our Saint worthy of praise
“.

Holy Services at the Orthodox church:
Pdf
March 8th
– Commemoration of
the Holy Bisshop FELIX,
Apostle of East Anglia

0n the 8th of March 2014
we celebrated the nameday
of our grandson Felix,
born at february 17th 2014,
the heir of our family.
– Bearer of God, Felix
intercede to Christ, our Lord,
for the Salvation of his soul?

 

Psalms created on Truth – sitting at the rivers of Babylon [Psalm 136]

And the Lord humbled you
and suffered you to hunger
and fed you with manna,
which you didn’t know, neither did your fathers know;
that the Lord might make you know
that man doth not live by bread alone,
but by every Word that proceeds
out of the mouth of the Lord
man does live“.
Deut.8: 3

The Lord tests His children
in the wilderness for forty days [years]
– Eating manna taught them
that man lives by the Word of God.
– Their clothing did not wear out.
– The Lord humiliated them.
– If they serve other gods,
they will perish.

Other nations are driven out of the promised Land
because of their wickedness.
– Moses evaluate the rebellions of Israel
and tells how he mediated
between the people and the Lord.
On two occasions Moses went
without food and water for forty days.

The tables of stone
containing the Ten Commandments
are placed in the altar [ark].
All that God requires is
that we Love and serve Him
– How great and mighty is the Lord!

You shall Love and obey the Lord your God
– If the children of Israel obey,
they will be blessed with rain and harvests
and will drive out mighty nations
– We have to learn God’s laws and teach them
– Blessings flow from obedience;
offensive terms are present in dis-obedience.

We have to destroy the worldly gods and places of worship
– The Lord will elect where His people will worship.
– The frustrating of blood is forbidden.
– Church’s worship have to be conform
to the Divine standard.

I told you before “How soon we forget!
That is more than just a clever saying, it is the truth.
Sports fans forget that their team won last year,
when they begin to lose this year.
Children forget the sacrifices their parents make for them.
Students forget what teachers taught them.
We forget faces, dates, places,
and even the names of old friends.
But fortunately, most of what we forget
is not all that serious.
For many of us forgetfulness
is just one of many signs of aging.

Remember Your God
Problems of memory though come not only through advancing age,
but are endemic in us all.
Scripture calls us to remember for an important reason.
The world does not need so much
to be informed as to be reminded
” [Thomas More]
The Bible says again and again
Forget not!” and “Remember!“;
and so we do during these days of Lent.
We are sitting at the rivers of Babylon
and we remember how we have to be:
– an Image of our Creator;
– rooted in the character of God.
And God does save us through
the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd.
It is Christ Who knows and experiences
the laments for and with us,
and it is Christ Who we find our confidence in
to praise Him in the storms of our life.

Moses at the Burning Bush
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”;
and He said,
Therefore you shall say to your sons,
‘I AM has sent me to you’
“.
God, furthermore, said to Moses,
Therefore you shall say to your sons,
‘The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you’
“.
This is My name forever
and this is My memorial-Name to all generations
Go and gather your elders together and say to them,
‘The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
‘,
has appeared to me, saying,
“I am indeed concerned about you
and what has been done to you in Egypt . . . . .

[in the desert/the wilderness].
cf. Ex.3: 14-16

The call to remember is a command to meditate on who God is.
To remember is not so much a warning to master a wealth of facts about God
as it is a reminder of the awful possibility
that we can forget our dependence upon Him.
The command to remember here is given
as Church is poised to possess their inheritance,
the promised land.
There existed the very real possibility
that we would cease to remember all God did for us
as we found we no longer had to depend on Him for everything we have.
When we enjoy the wealth of the land He provides for us,
we will forget it came from Him.
It is ironic that we may find ourselves forgetting Him
because of the many blessings that He has given us.
When our hands are full
we forget the lessons we learned
when our hands were empty.

Time of Investigation
Your Investment in family-live
during these days of Lent, pays benefits later!
Meekness has always been a characteristic of
the Godly [Ps.37: 11]. It’s the only quality
that Jesus ever ascribed to Himself:
– “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and you shall find rest
unto your souls

Matth.11: 29

Meekness
So what is meekness?
The Greeks used the word ”πραότητα” to refer to ‘the taming of a wild horse.
The animal hadn’t lost its strength,
but all of the power of that animal
had been brought under control.
To be meek is to be under
the controlling Power of the Holy Spirit.
It involves our submission to God’s authority
and it involves the yielding of our rights.
It is linked with what the Bible refers to
as by Grace being filled with the Holy Spirit [Pentecost].
If you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour
then you have all of the Holy Spirit that you’re ever going to get.
The Holy Spirit is one of the manifestations of God. You can’t just have a bit of Him.
Either you have the Spirit of God or you don’t.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,
he is none of His
”.
Romans 8: 9
The filling of the Holy Spirit
has nothing to do with getting more
of the Holy Spirit
but it has everything to do with
the Holy Spirit getting more of you.
The Holy Spirit wants to fill and control every area in our lives; but He does not force Himself upon us.
He wants us to yield to Him
the right to every single area of our lives
until they are under His control and Lordship.
This is the way of blessing and success.
The meeker we become
the less upset and angry we will be
when we don’t get our own way.
Meekness is the antidote to anger.

► ►► The contemporary spiritual, theological problem concerns the person [πρόσωπο] …
Revelation reveals that “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
If He says, “I AM” it means that He is a person.
The word “I” has great significance.
For it expresses the person. God says:
Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”.
Gen.1: 26
Science cannot say this. Only revelation can say this.
And we need to base ourselves on revelation,
which the Lord never refuted …

Theology is the content of our prayers.
And an example of this theology is the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great
[every Sunday served during Lent].
The whole anaphora is Theology and is expressed through prayer.
But then Theology comes as a state of being.
John the Theologian, from an academic point of view,
was not a theologian, but he says things simply.
His theology, however, is a state of being.
Whatever he says becomes dogma for everyone.
But the only study that enables us
to sense what God is like,
is the ascetic life according to
the commandments of the Gospel.
When our life is lived according to the will of God,
then we understand that there cannot be a difference
between the commandments and the mind of God Himself.
When we think according to the commandments,
then our mind gets used to thinking as God Himself thinks.
And regarding Theosis, they say: but what is theosis?
With obedience to the abbot from the beginning,
one’s will is cut off,
then in obedience to the Gospel commandments
one reaches this state.
We do small things but the results must become Great.
Through obedience we enter into the life of divine Being.
We have good descriptions of this in
the writings of Saint Nicodemus, the Athonite.
I have told others, as well, that
when they learn things from the world,
they are living in sin.
They need to free themselves through Asceticism.
This is how I tried to make them understand the need for patience.
[Just as the Incarnation was a great kenotic act,
where Christ God became man as one person
and bore our sins patiently with humility and love.
In following Him, we become true persons in Him
and realize our life and fully live our freedom.
It is here where personhood finds its greatest achievement:
in putting on Christ and His indwelling in us
by the Holy Spirit sent from God the Father.
The very essence of our life must become
constant personal encounter with Christ,
and in this we become truly persons, truly free, truly loving.
This is how personhood is understood in Theosis.
We fulfil our personhood in living in Christ
and His dwelling within us,
and inasmuch as He has perfected humanity,
He raises us in freedom, in love,
to the fulfilment of our humanity,
as true persons in Him].
father Sophrony [Sakharov 1896-1993]

Psalm 136 chanted during the Sunday liturgies
during Great Lent instead of the regular Communion hymn,
just before Holy Communion:
1.] Mp3  by George Papanikolaos from Samos, Greece.
Ἐπι των ποταμών Βαβυλωνος -By The Waters of Babylon [Psalm 136] – 3rd Tn
2.] Mp3 by Sirin (Сирин) Ensemble, Russia.
Sirin (Сирин) Ensemble – ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ [Psalm 136}

Tekst Psalm 136:
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down”, they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”.
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us“.

Wherever you go,
have God ever before your eyes“.
Saint Antony the Great

1st Sunday of Lent – Sunday Triumph of Orthodoxy

Lent was in origin the time of final preparation
for candidates for baptism at the Easter Vigil
and this is reflected in the readings at the Liturgy
today and on all the Sundays of Lent.
But that basic theme came to be subordinated
to later themes which dominated the hymnography
of each Sunday.

The dominant theme of this Sunday since 843 has been that of the Victory of the Icons.
In that year the iconoclastic controversy,
which had raged on and off since 726,
was finally laid to rest, and icons and their veneration were restored on the first Sunday in Lent.
Ever since, that Sunday been commemorated
as the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”.

Orthodox teaching about Icons was defined at
the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787,
which brought to an end the first phase
of the attempt to suppress Icons.
That teaching was finally re-established in 843
and it is embodied in the texts sung on this Sunday.

From Vespers:
►”Inspired by your Spirit, Lord,
the Prophets foretold your Birth as a child incarnate of the Virgin.
Nothing can contain or hold you;
before the morning star you shone forth eternally
from the spiritual womb of the Father.
Yet you were to become like us and
be seen by those on earth.
At the prayers of those your Prophets in
your mercy reckon us fit to see your light,
for we praise your Resurrection,
Holy and beyond speech.
Infinite, Lord, as Divine,
in the last times you willed to become incarnate
and so finite;
for when you took on flesh
you made all its properties your own.
So we depict the form of your outward appearance
and pay it relative respect,
and so are moved to love you;
and through it we receive the Grace of healing,
following the Divine traditions of the apostles
“.

►”The Grace of Truth has shone out, the things once foreshadowed now are revealed in perfection. See, the Church is decked with the embodied image of Christ, as with Beauty not of this world, fulfilling the tent of witness, holding fast the Orthodox faith.
For if we cling to the Icon of Him Whom we worship, we shall not go astray.
May those who do not so believe be covered with shame.
For the image of Him who became human is our Glory:
we venerate it, but do not worship it as God.
Kissing it, we who believe cry out:
O God, save your people, and bless your heritage
“.

►”We have moved forward from unbelief to True Faith,
and have been enlightened by the Light of knowledge.
Let us then clap our hands like the Psalmist,
and offer praise and thanksgiving to God.
And let us honour and venerate the holy Icons of Christ,
of His most pure Mother, and of all the Saints,
depicted on walls, panels and sacred vessels,
setting aside the unbelievers’ ungodly teaching.
For the veneration given to the Icon passes over, as Basil says, to its prototype.
At the intercession of Your spotless Mother, O Christ, and of all the Saints,
we pray you to grant us Your great Mercy.
We venerate your Icon, good Lord, asking forgiveness of our sins, O Christ our God.
For You freely willed in the flesh to ascend the Cross,
to rescue from slavery to the enemy those whom you had formed.
So we cry to you with thanksgiving:
You have filled all things with joy, our Saviour,
by coming to save the world
“.

The name of this Sunday reflects the great significance which Icons possess for the Orthodox Church. They are not optional devotional extras, but an integral part of Orthodox faith and devotion.
They are held to be a necessary consequence of Christian faith in the incarnation of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Jesus Christ.
They have a sacramental character, making present to the believer the person or event depicted on them.
So the interior of Orthodox churches is often covered with Icons painted on walls and domed roofs, and there is always an Icon screen, or Iconostasis, separating the Sanctuary from the nave, often with several rows of Icons. No Orthodox home is complete without an Icon corner, where the family prays.

Icons are venerated by burning lamps and candles in front of them,
by the use of incense and by kissing.
But there is a clear doctrinal distinction between
the veneration paid to icons and the worship due to God.
The former is not only relative,
it is in fact paid to the person represented by the Icon.
This distinction safeguards the veneration of Icons from any charge of idolatry.

Although the theme of the Victory of the Icons is a secondary one on this Sunday,
by its emphasis on the Incarnation it points us to the basic Christian Truth
that the one whose Death and Resurrection we celebrate at Easter
was none other than the Word of God
Who became human in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

At the centre of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ
and His Resurrection from the dead.
As such, the Icon of the Resurrection is the most celebrated,
the most common, the most cherished, the most instructive.
It is all of these things because the Orthodox Icon of the Resurrection
is not content with simply showing us the Risen Christ, or the empty tomb;
the Victory shown in the Icon of the Resurrection is complete.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
“.
                                                       Paschal [Easter] Hymn

Jesus Christ was not content with laying in the tomb
for three days after His Crucifixion.
Instead, while His body was entombed,
Christ’s soul descended into Hades, or Hell.
Christ descended there not to suffer,
but to fight, and free the souls trapped there.
Just as bringing a light into darkness
causes the darkness to disappear,
the Source of all Life descending into the abode of the dead
resulted in Jesus’ victory over death,
and not death’s victory over Jesus.
This is the full reality of what Christ’s death
and Resurrection accomplished.

Orthodoxy, Lent & The Akathist Hymn to Theotokos

 

The Akathist Hymn is a profound, devotional poem or chant,which sings the praises of
the Holy Mother and Ever-Virgin Mary [Theotokos].
It is chanted in all Orthodox Churches
throughout the world during the five Fridays
in the Great Lent,
and constitutes a very concrete spiritual preparation
for the Holy Week and Easter Services.

Devotional Hymns to the Theotokos
are as ancient as the original Christian Church.
The Byzantine Empire from its very inception
at Constantinople during the fourth century,
closely allied itself to the Virgin Mary
and always sort Her protection or intercessions.
This we see from the Prayer Services to the Theotokos
between the fifth and eighth centuries,
and the reference to Constantinople as the ‘Queen City’.

The Akathist Hymn, which in its present form was added to
by many Ecclesiastical Hymnographers,
existed for most part even before it was formally accepted
by the Church in 626 AD.
The Kontakion
To the Invincible Champion… we ascribe the Victory
was added then, and came to be recognized as the Akathist Hymn,
because of the following described miracle attributed
to the intercession of the Theotokos.

While the Emperor of Byzantium Heracleios was on an expedition to fight the aggression of the Persians on their own grounds,
there appeared outside the walls of Constantinople barbaric hordes, mostly Avars.
The siege lasted a few months,
and it was apparent that the outnumbered troops of the Queen City were reaching desperation.
However as history records,
the Faith of the people worked
the impossible.
The Venerable Patriarch Sergius with the Clergy and
the Official of Byzantium Vonos, endlessly marched along
the great walls of Constantinople with an Icon of the Theotokos in hand,
and bolstered the faith of the defenders of freedom.
The miracle came soon after.
Unexpectedly, as the chronicler narrates,
a great storm with huge tidal waves destroyed most of the fleet of the enemy,
and full retreat ensued.

The faithful of Constantinople
spontaneously filled the Church of the Theotokos
at Vlachernae on the Golden Horn,
and with the Patriarch Sergius officiating,
they prayed all night singing praises to the Virgin Mary without sitting.
Hence the title of the Hymn “Akathistos“,
in Greek meaning not seated.

The Akathist Hymn is a very important
and indeed an integral part of our religious and ecclesiastical life.
When we are present during the first Friday Service,
we firmly realize that we commence to ascend
the spiritual steps of the lengthy Lenten period,
to finally reach the peak with our Lord’s Glorious Resurrection.

The Akathist Hymn was not strange to the Latin West
even though apart from the Eastern Church.
Pope Benedict XIV granted on May 4, 1746
an indulgence of 50 days to the Latin and Eastern Rite Roman Catholics,
for each recitation of the Hymn.

Father Vincent McNabb, a Roman Catholic Priest in London,
translated the Hymn into English in 1934.
In his forward remarks he stated
“No apology is needed for introducing the Akathistos to the Christian West. Indeed the West might well be apologetic
about its neglect, or ignorance of such a liturgical
and literary masterpiece”.

In any of our Service Books we can readily see
that our glorious and Ever-Virgin Theotokos
is the center of many of our Orthodox Services
in which prayers abound for Her interceding
to Her Son, and our God, for our Salvation.
The Virgin Mary is the most exalted
and most honoured person by God.
She is the most revered and most loved by humans.
She is a binding force for all Christians.
She is the Unique Personality of the world,
because of the unique fact of the Lord’s Incarnation.
She is the daughter of Grace and the Crystal Vessel
of the Grace of the Holy Spirit [see Luc.1: 26-56].

Faith in the Almighty God is primary and all important
to the Holy Orthodox Church.
Our dependence on God is always beyond question,
and from this faith we should strive not to stray.
Therefore, Services, like the Akathist Hymn,
should be a must and attended by all.
Moreover, this particular Service links us
so beautifully with a great and glorious period of our Christian history;
it is also a very live tradition,
which has never ceased in the Orthodox Church
since its official acceptance in 626 AD.

Living in these trying times,
when we are besieged by many forces of evil,
it is hoped that the Akathist Hymn
as well as our other Services may become
the bulwark to withstand,
and indeed to overcome these forces.

The Akathist Hymn is divided into 4 main parts, and briefly the content is as follows:

1 Stanzas 1 – 6
recount:
a. The Annunciation to the Virgin Mary.
b. The Virgin Mary’s purity.
c. The Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.
d. The doubts of Joseph the protector, and his joy upon learning of the supernatural Conception.
2 Stanzas 7 – 12
tell us of:
a. The shepherds hearing the Angels praising the birth of the Lord and their visit to the manger.
b. The adoration of the Magi.
c. The flight of the Holy Family to Egypt and the falling of the idols.
3 Stanzas 13 – 18
relate:
a. The new Creation which was wrought by the Incarnate Lord through the Theotokos.
b. The call for the uplifting of our minds to Heaven from where God descended.
c. The Lord’s Omnipresence, that while He came to earth, He was no less in Heaven.
d. The confounding of the philosophers and orators, who were at a loss to explain God’s condescension.
4 Stanzas 19 – 24
speak of:
a. The Theotokos as a protector of all the devout, and those who choose to flee unto Her.
b. God coming as one of us, amongst us, to draw us near to Him.
c. Our inability to adequately sing the praises of God, whose mercies are countless.
d. The Lord cancelling all the ancient spiritual debts, and the granting of His Grace to all. Our prayers and petitions to the Holy Mother to protect us from misfortunes and save us from the future condemnation.

pdf: Akathist Hymn to the Theotokos
[English tekst]

February 26th -Saint Photini [Svetlana (Russian), Ellen (Dutch)], the Great-Martyr and those with her

Today we celebrate the Great-Martyr, }
and Equal-to-the-Apostles,
Saint Photini, together with her family martyred with her.
Saint Photini was the Samaritain Woman who spoke
to Christ at Jacob’s Well
(told in John 4, and also celebrated the Fifth Sunday of Pascha).

quote on the Gospel of Saint John:
“The woman then left her water pot,
and went her way into the city,
and saith to the men,
Come, see a Man which told me all things
that ever I did;
is not this the Christ?”
Saint John Chrysostom

1.] We require much fervour and uproused zeal,
for without these it is impossible to obtain the blessings promised to us.
And to show this, Christ at one time saith,
Except a man take up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me”.
Matth.10: 38
at another,
I am come to send fire upon the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled?”.
Luc. 12: 49
by both these desiring to represent to us a disciple full of heat and fire,
and prepared for every danger.
Such an one was this woman – Saint Photini.
For so kindled was she by His words, that she left her water pot and
the purpose for which she came, ran into the city,
and drew all the people to Jesus.
Come”, she said,
see a Man which told me all things that ever I did”.

2.] Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water,
and when she had lighted upon the true Well,
she after that despised the material one;
teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters
to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them.
For what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also.
They when they were called, left their nets;
she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot,
and winged by joy performs the office of Evangelists.
And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip,
but having aroused a whole city and people,
so brought them to Him.

3.] “Observe too how prudently she speaks; she said not,
“Come and see the Christ,”
but with the same condescension by which Christ
had netted her she draws the men to Him; “Come,” she saith“,

see a Man who told me all that ever I did”.
She was not ashamed to say that He “told me all that ever I did”.
Yet she might have spoken otherwise,
“Come, see one that prophesieth”;
but when the soul is inflamed with Holy fire,
it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame,
but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it“.
Saint John Chrysostom – Homily 34

She left her sinful life and immediately preached Christ to her family and community.
After Pentecost, she, her five sisters [Anatole, Phota, Photis, Paraskevi, & Kyriaki]
and her two sons (Victor, who later was renamed by Christ “Photinos”, and Joses] were baptized.
They all became great preachers of Christ
in many different places, including Smyrna in Asia Minor, Carthage in North Africa, and finally in Rome, where they stood up to the Emperor Nero’s endless tortures
[including beatings, poisonings, blindings, imprisonment, temptations, crucifixion, burning in a furnace, etc.],
all while managing to convert one of his Dukes [Saint Sebastian], his daughter [Saint Anthousa], and his magician [Saint Theoklitos],
who all were martyred and are celebrated also on this day.
Their entire Martyrion is found in the Neon Eklogion by
Saint Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, and
most of the important details can be found in various places.
Saint Photini is considered a Patron Saint for those repentant and those suffering carnal temptations, for those with physical or spiritual blindness, and
for those suffering diseases of the head and trembling disorders.
The people of Smyrna in Asia Minor have great love and devotion to the Saint,
so much so that they constructed her magnificent Metropolis Church in only 40 days.
She has worked and continues to work endless miracles
throughout the world by the Grace of Christ.

Apolytikion      3rd Tone
All illumined by the Holy Spirit,
You did drink with great and ardent longing of the waters.
Christ Saviour gave unto you;
and with the streams of Salvation was you refreshed,
which you abundantly gave to those a-thirst.
O Great Martyr and True peer of Apostles,
Photine, entreat Christ God to grant
great mercy unto us.

Απολυτίκιο
Θείω Πνεύματι καταυγασθείσα,
και τοις νάμασι, καταρδευθείσα, παρά Χριστού του Σωτήρος,
πανεύφημε, της σωτηρίας το ύδωρ κατέπιες,
και τοις διψώσι αφθόνως μετέδωσας,
Μεγαλομάρτυς και Ισαπόστολε Φωτεινή,
Χριστόν τον Θεόν ικέτευε, σωθήναι τας ψυχάς ημών.

Kontakion       3rd Tn
Photini the glorious, the crown and glory of the Martyrs,
hath this day ascended to the shining mansions of Heaven,
and she calleth all together to sing her praises,
that they might be recompensed with her hallowed graces.
Let us all with faith and longing extol her gladly
in hymns of triumph and joy.

February 26th – Saint Porphyrios the paralytic of Gaza [346 – 420]

Continue intently in prayer,
being vigilant in it
with thanksgiving“.
Col.4: 2

Saint Porphyrios, Bishop of Gaza, was born in
about the year 346
in Thessalonika  [Macedonia – Greece].
His parents were people of substance,
and this allowed Saint Porphyrios
to receive a optimal education.
Having the inclination for monastic life,
at twelve years of age he left his native region
and set off to Egypt, where he was an ascetic in the Nitrian desert
under the guidance of the monk Makarios the Great [January 19th].
There also he met Blessed Jerome [June 15th],
who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries;
he set off with him to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places and  to reverence
the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord [Sept. 14th], after which he resettled into the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds.

There Saint Porphyrios fell
under a serious malady of paralysis.
Unable to walk, he would have to crawl to the divine services.
For healing he decided to go to the Holy Places of Jerusalem.
One time, when fully paralysed, as
he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha,
the Lord sent His servant into a salvific vision in his sleep.


Saint Porphyrios beheld Jesus Christ, descending with the Cross
and turning to him with the words:
Take this Wood and preserve it“.
Awakening, he sensed himself healthy.
The words of the Saviuor were soon fulfilled:
the Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained Saint Porphyrios to the priestly dignity
and appointed him curator of  the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord.
And it was during this time that Saint Porphyrios received
his portion of an inheritance from his parents
– four thousand gold coins.
All this he gave away to the needy and  for the embellishing of the churches of God.

In 395 the bishop of the city of Gaza [in Palestine] died.
The local Christians set out to Caesarea to Metropolitan John  with a request
to provide them a new bishop, who would be able to
contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and
were harassing the Christians there.
The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to summon the Jerusalem presbyter Porphyrios.
With fear and trembling the ascetic accepted the dignity of bishop, and
with tears he prostrated himself before the Life-Creating Wood
and then set off to fulfill his new obedience.

In Gaza he found all of only three Christian churches, but of the pagan temples and idols there were a great many.
During this time there had occurred a long spell without rain, causing a severe drought.
The pagan priests brought offerings to their idols, but the woes did not cease.
Saint Porphyrios imposed a fast for all the Christians;
he then had the all-night vigil,
followed by going around all the city in a church procession.
Immediately the sky covered over with storm clouds,
thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down.
Seeing this miracle, many a pagan cried out:
Christ is indeed the One True God“!
As a result of this, there came to be united to
the Church through Holy Baptism 127 men, 35 women and 14 children,
and soon after this, another 110 men.

But the pagans just like before still harassed the Christians,
passed them over for public office, and
burdened them down with taxes.
Saint Porphyrios and the Metropolitan of Caesarea John set off to Constantinople,
to seek redress from the emperor.
Saint John Chrysostom [November 14th, January 27th and 30th] received them
and rendered them active assistance.

Saints John and Porphyrios were presented to
the empress Eudoxia who at that time was expecting a child.
“Intercede for us”, – said the bishops to the empress -,
and the Lord will send thee a son, who shalt reign during thine lifetime“.
Eudoxia very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters.
And actually through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial family.
In consequence of this, the emperor in the year 401 issued an edict directing the destruction of the pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of privileges to Christians.
Moreover, the emperor bestowed on the saints the means for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on the locale of the chief pagan temple there.

Saint Porphyrios to the very end of his life upheld Christianity in Gaza and
guarded well his flock from the vexatious pagans.
Through the prayers of the saint there occurred numerous miracles and healings.
Over the course of 25 years the arch-pastor guided his veritable flock and
reposed at an advanced age, in the year 420.

Hymn of Praise to Saint Porphyrios, the Paralytic
Monk Marcos asked Saint Porphyrios:
You were paralytic, holy father,
On your knees, to church you crawled,
My hand in yours, you held
Yesterday thus and today otherwise
At night you were ill, behold healthy you dawned
So suddenly, who healed you?
Of the rare physician, tell me the name“.

To Marcos, Porphyrius replied:
My Healer, is my Creator,
Last night on Golgotha, I fell asleep
By severe pain, completely overpowered,
As though in person, I saw clearly in a dream
On the Cross, my Lord hanging,
and on the other cross, the good Thief.
as I saw, so I cried out!
‘O God and Lord, remember me,
in Your Kingdom, remember me!’
The Good Lord, said to the thief:
‘Go down and heal his body,
as I healed your soul’.
Quickly the thief, the cross descended,
embraced me, kissed me, and raised me up,
saying: ‘To our Savior, draw near!’
At that moment, the Lord also descended the Cross,
lifted the Cross and  He placed it on me.

As soon as I, with my hands, grabbed the Cross,
immediately I stood and was immediately made whole.

To God my Creator, all the Glory will be,
To Christ my Saviour, all the Glory will be!”.
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich

Apolytikion    4th Tn
“The truth of things has revealed you
to your flock as a rule of faith,
an icon of meekness, and a teacher of temperance;
for this cause, you have achieved the heights by humility, riches by poverty.
O Father and Hierarch Porphyrios,
intercede with Christ God that our souls will be saved.

Kontakion              2nd Tn
Arrayed with a most sacred life,
you was adorned with the priestly vestment,
O all-blessed and godly-minded Porphyrius;
and you are conspicuous for miracles of healing,
interceding unceasingly for us all.